Review: Bonobo Handshake: A Memoir of Love and Adventure in the Congo by Vanessa Woods

Bonobo Handshake: A Memoir of Love and Adventure in the CongoBonobo Hand­shake: A Mem­oir of Love and Adven­ture in the Con­go by Vanes­sa Woods
My rat­ing: 4 of 5 stars

I near­ly put this book down after the first chap­ter, because I want­ed to learn about Bono­bos, not atroc­i­ties in the Con­go. I stuck with it because it was the most inter­est­ing of the audio­books that were already on my phone when I was mak­ing a long dri­ve, and I got halfway through it dur­ing that dri­ve. I was hooked by then, and need­ed to know what hap­pened to the­se par­tic­u­lar Bono­bos and the humans around them. 

Now, I still don’t feel that I need­ed the explic­it descrip­tions of vio­lence. I could have under­stood what was going on with­out that. But then, I’m par­tic­u­lar­ly sen­si­tive to such things, and I did already have a pret­ty good idea of what was going on in that part of the world. I sup­pose some read­ers may have need­ed those descrip­tions to “get it.”

I real­ly loved the rela­tion­ships that devel­oped between Woods and the var­i­ous Bono­bos, and how her net­work of friends and fam­i­ly grew over time. I am envi­ous of the con­nec­tion she has with her hus­band, Bri­an Hare. The infor­ma­tion shared about the exper­i­ments is tru­ly fas­ci­nat­ing, and the competition/coöperation the­me that runs through the book is vital to under­stand­ing not just chim­panzees and Bono­bos, but humans.

I was lis­ten­ing to the book in the car the oth­er day, and heard the fol­low­ing at the end of chap­ter 34. It caused me to cry.
“If there are those you love, who­ev­er or wherever you are, hold them. Find them and hold them as tight­ly as you can. Resist their squirm­ing and impa­tience and uncom­fort­able laugh­ter, and just feel their heart throb­bing again­st yours. Give thanks that for this moment, for this one pre­cious moment, they are here, they are with you, and they know they are utter­ly, com­plete­ly, entire­ly loved.”

All in all, yes, I rec­om­mend the book. Just be warned about those descrip­tions, and if you choose the audio­book ver­sion, don’t lis­ten with lit­tle ones around.

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Belated Windows 8 Review

I’ve told a few peo­ple that I don’t real­ly see any advan­tage to Win­dows 8 over Win­dows 7. I have to eat my words now.

Before I put Win­dows 8 on my four-year-old HP lap­top, I checked with HP to make sure that it was 8-com­pat­i­ble, and they said it was. AFTER I did the upgrade, I learned that they aren’t putting any Win­dows 8 dri­vers out for it! So some of the hard­ware func­tions don’t work prop­er­ly. The hard­ware man­u­fac­tur­ers say, “We only deal with HP, go to them.” Now, I was dual boot­ing with 7 any­way, but hadn’t actu­al­ly boot­ed into 7 on the sys­tem until this week. And dang, it’s slow in com­par­ison, even with the prop­er dri­vers. I thought that may­be dual boot­ing was part­ly to blame — not like­ly, but may­be.

Because of issues with my employer’s soft­ware, I’ve decid­ed to ded­i­cate the lap­top as a work-only com­put­er, and that means it has to run Win­dows 7. I’m fin­ish­ing up a clean install of 7, then I’ll image it, and every time the work stuff caus­es a prob­lem, I can recov­er and move on quick­ly. Any­way — I was right. Before I blew away the 8 par­ti­tion (recent­ly upgrad­ed to 8.1), I timed how long it took to boot. And I just timed the boot on the clean 7 install. Even though I had been using 8 for may­be six months, with­out all the prop­er dri­vers, it boots three times as quick­ly as 7. (Both OSs are Pro-64 bit ver­sions.) For what it’s worth, I am boot­ing from an SSD with both — that, of course, makes more of a dif­fer­ence than ANY oth­er upgrade.

So yes, Win­dows 8 IS a pos­i­tive dif­fer­ence on a sys­tem that can han­dle it. I haven’t found any­thing that I can’t do com­pared to Win­dows 7 (except access my employer’s VPN, and that’s due to their restric­tions). I do find the lack of the start menu to be a nui­sance, but it’s eas­i­ly fixed with the addi­tion of Clas­sic Shell or one of the many oth­er util­i­ties designed to fix that prob­lem. I am told that 8 does not play well with vir­tu­al machi­nes, if that’s impor­tant to you.

I don’t have a touch screen and haven’t missed it. I nev­er use the Metro inter­face for any­thing, and I’m whol­ly unim­pressed with the native Win8 appli­ca­tions. I don’t like the app store. I don’t need my com­put­er to be like a phone or tablet, but it seems that’s where things are con­verg­ing.

Big Surprise — Rich Guys Say Rich People Are All-Around Better Than Poor People!

A friend, Kather­ine Shec­o­ra, post­ed a link to an arti­cle on Dave Ramsay’s site about 20 Things the Rich Do Every Day along with her own excel­lent com­men­tary. I start­ed to com­ment on her post, but my remarks got so long that Face­book wouldn’t let me post the com­ment. Then I was going to write my own Face­book post, but as I was doing it, I real­ize that it has been far too long since I post­ed any­thing to my own blog, and this would real­ly be bet­ter here any­way.

Let me just say right up front that I’ve nev­er liked Dave Ram­say. I think he’s a self-right­eous ass­hat. I know that lots of peo­ple swear by him, but I think his meth­ods are too sim­plis­tic and dis­miss many of the bar­ri­ers to suc­cess that peo­ple who are tru­ly poor or in abu­sive sit­u­a­tions have to deal with, not to men­tion those with chron­ic ill­ness­es and oth­er issues.

So — on with the­se sup­posed habits of the rich. I have some ques­tions regard­ing Ramsay’s claims. Where did he get the­se fig­ures? What sort of method­ol­o­gy was used? How many peo­ple were sur­veyed, by whom, and what are the cre­den­tials of the peo­ple doing the study? What is con­sid­ered “wealthy” and “poor” for the pur­pos­es of this study? Where is this study pub­lished? Is it peer-reviewed?

Ah — Ram­say got his infor­ma­tion from anoth­er “guru” mak­ing a liv­ing sell­ing advice on how to get rich, Tom Cor­ley. I didn’t find wherever it is that Cor­ley makes all the claims that Ram­say cites, but I found SOME of them, thanks to some­one else’s blog post. It’s pos­si­ble that the rest of the claims are in Corley’s book, and I’m cer­tain­ly not about to buy it to find out. Cor­ley talks about “sta­tis­ti­cal data” and says, ” I spent five years study­ing the dai­ly habits of over 200 wealthy peo­ple and over 100 poor peo­ple. I tracked over 200 activ­i­ties that sep­a­rate the wealthy from the poor.” The study sup­pos­ed­ly result­ed in his book, Rich Habits — The Dai­ly Suc­cess Habits of Wealthy Indi­vid­u­als.

So no, there’s no peer-reviewed data here. And he isn’t a sci­en­tist of any sort, nor does he have any train­ing in doing soci­o­log­i­cal research. He’s a CPA. He doesn’t give any infor­ma­tion that I could find on his method­ol­o­gy or def­i­n­i­tions. Very slop­py. There were a total of approx­i­mate­ly 300 peo­ple involved in the study, but it doesn’t say that they were all involved for five years — just that he was doing his “research” (I use that term loose­ly) for five years.

So, let’s get on with the­se habits that sup­pos­ed­ly set the rich apart from the poor!

  1. “70% of wealthy eat less than 300 junk food calo­ries per day. 97% of poor peo­ple eat more than 300 junk food calo­ries per day. 23% of wealthy gam­ble. 52% of poor peo­ple gam­ble.”
    How is “junk food” defined here? Con­ve­nience foods? Fast food? Any­thing oth­er than the sort of organ­ic, gluten-free, free range, non-GMO stuff you have to go to Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s to buy for mucho dinero, then have the knowl­edge, resources, and time to pre­pare? (That’s assum­ing you can GET to Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s, since they aren’t in poor neigh­bor­hoods.) If you haven’t already done so, please go read Lin­da Tirado’s won­der­ful arti­cle, This Is Why Poor People’s Bad Deci­sions Make Per­fect Sense. And let’s be hon­est here — by “gam­bling” we’re talk­ing “buy­ing lot­tery tick­ets” right? The only peo­ple I know who buy those reg­u­lar­ly are at least mid­dle class, but I don’t go around ask­ing peo­ple about their gam­bling habits, to be hon­est. The one per­son I know who had an online gam­bling addic­tion would have been upper mid­dle class. Poor peo­ple don’t usu­al­ly have com­put­ers and inter­net access, and there aren’t that many legal ways to gam­ble in most of the coun­try.
  2. “80% of wealthy are focused on accom­plish­ing some sin­gle goal. Only 12% of the poor do this.”
    What con­sti­tutes a “sin­gle goal” here? Sur­vival, as Kather­ine point­ed out? Get­ting your kids raised safe­ly? How about keep­ing a roof over your head, or keep­ing your job so you can do that? I guess the only things that count as “goals” by the­se guys’ stan­dards are things like “make part­ner with­in X years” or “buy a vaca­tion home”?
  3. “76% of wealthy exer­cise aer­o­bi­cal­ly four days a week. 23% of poor do this.”
    The tru­ly “wealthy” don’t have to work, so of course they have time to do aer­o­bic exer­cise four times a week! They can afford per­son­al train­ers, too, not to men­tion gym mem­ber­ships. Far more of the “poor” have phys­i­cal­ly demand­ing jobs, have to spend extra time get­ting to and from work because they don’t own their own vehi­cles, work more than one job, can’t afford ANY extra child­care in order to spend time at a gym IF they could afford a gym mem­ber­ship, and cer­tain­ly can’t afford per­son­al train­ers!
  4. “63% of wealthy lis­ten to audio books dur­ing com­mute to work vs. 5% of poor peo­ple.”
    Audi­ble is great! But how many of the poor can afford audio­books? Bor­row them from the library, you say. Well, more and more library branch­es are being closed every­where — it isn’t as if libraries were the high­est pri­or­i­ty in most coun­ty bud­gets in the first place. Branch­es in poor areas are often closed first. Even when they aren’t closed out­right, their acqui­si­tion bud­gets are sliced to rib­bons. But let’s say our poor peo­ple are able to get access to a library that has audio­books avail­able. Okay, SOME of them have smart­phones on which they could lis­ten to audio­books, if the books are the right kind — I don’t know about your library, but mine has a lot more of the old­er books on CD than Over­drive audio­books that you can down­load to a smart­phone. If you don’t have your own car, you can’t lis­ten to those so eas­i­ly. If you don’t have your own com­put­er and tech­ni­cal know-how, you can’t rip them for lis­ten­ing on your phone (of course, doing that is of ques­tion­able legal­i­ty any­way). That’s assum­ing you have a smart­phone or oth­er mobile device on which you can lis­ten dur­ing a com­mute. Some peo­ple don’t have them, par­tic­u­lar­ly poor peo­ple.
  5. “81% of wealthy main­tain a to-do list vs. 19% of poor.”
    I call bull­shit on this one. Seri­ous­ly? I’m just not believ­ing it. To-do lists, gro­cery lists, chore lists, you name it — I know plen­ty of peo­ple who cer­tain­ly aren’t WEALTHY who make lists ALL the time. Does it only count if they’re on dead trees or some­thing?
  6. “63% of wealthy par­ents make their chil­dren read two or more non-fic­tion books a mon­th vs. 3% of poor.”
    See above regard­ing libraries. Also — HA! I want to see proof that the­se rich kids actu­al­ly READ two non-fic­tion books a mon­th. Is this stuff actu­al­ly required by their pri­vate schools? I am a BIG fan of read­ing, and the encour­ag­ing there­of, but I don’t think any­body can effec­tive­ly “make” kids read any­thing and have it do any good.
  7. “70% of wealthy par­ents make their chil­dren vol­un­teer 10 hours or more a mon­th vs. 3% of poor.”
    I’m call­ing bull­shit again. Was there any proof of this sup­posed vol­un­teer work? Was it time spent at church, or some sort of actu­al ser­vice to the com­mu­ni­ty? I can tell you how I was spend­ing my hours as a child/​teen — being forced to go to church every time the doors opened. Tak­ing care of sib­lings. House­work. Going to my own jobs (mul­ti­ple). How many of the rich kids have to work, or take care of younger sib­lings, or clean house?
  8. “80% of wealthy make Hap­py Birth­day calls vs. 11% of poor.”
    Birth­day calls, real­ly? Did they count oth­er forms of con­tact, or only phone calls — are those some­how mag­i­cal? Did any­body con­sid­er that some of the poor DON’T HAVE PHONES??? Or that they might need to use asyn­chro­nous com­mu­ni­ca­tion due to the dif­fi­cul­ty of mak­ing con­tact due to their work sched­ules?
  9. “67% of wealthy write down their goals vs. 17% of poor.”
    How can the wealthy write down their goals, mul­ti­ple, when item two says that 80% of them are work­ing towards a SINGLE goal? Does writ­ing a goal down invoke some kind of mag­ic?
  10. “88% of wealthy read 30 min­utes or more each day for edu­ca­tion or career rea­sons vs. 2% of poor.”
    It’s a lot eas­ier to find time to read if you have leisure time in which to do it, and access to relevant/​interesting read­ing mate­ri­al! So we have the library/​money issue again, in addi­tion to the time issue. How many of those “wealthy” peo­ple are just spend­ing time online, any­way — are they actu­al­ly read­ing in a direct­ed man­ner, or just surf­ing, like most peo­ple do? (Most of the poor don’t HAVE inter­net access.)
  11. “6% of wealthy say what’s on their mind vs. 69% of poor.”
    This is one of the things that make me say “HA!” I just don’t believe it was a ques­tion on a sur­vey. The wealth­i­est peo­ple I’ve known were VERY out­spo­ken! The poorest were far more afraid to speak up! I think this item is sup­posed to imply that poor peo­ple are poor because they don’t know when to shut up, or when it’s appro­pri­ate to be out­spo­ken, or how to use tact.
  12. “79% of wealthy net­work five hours or more each mon­th vs. 16% of poor.”
    Again, the wealthy have far more time to devote to such things than the poor do — and they are gen­er­al­ly in pro­fes­sions that ben­e­fit far more from doing so. If you’re doing menial work, net­work­ing doesn’t mean a whole hell of a lot. You don’t improve your work at the fast food joint by net­work­ing with oth­er burg­er flip­pers or cashiers.
  13. “67% of wealthy watch one hour or less of TV every day vs. 23% of poor.”
    I bet they spend every bit as much or more screen time, though. The poor are just less like­ly to have com­put­ers and inter­net access.
  14. “6% of wealthy watch real­i­ty TV vs. 78% of poor.”
    The wealthy have access to a greater vari­ety of enter­tain­ment, so they aren’t stuck with the crap that’s broad­cast. What per­cent­age of what’s on broad­cast tele­vi­sion any more IS real­i­ty TV, any­way? The few times that I’m exposed to it, it all seems like real­i­ty shows. How much time are the wealthy spend­ing using smart­phones, tablets, com­put­ers, and oth­er devices? How much time do they spend watch­ing oth­er things on tele­vi­sion?
  15. “44% of wealthy wake up three hours before work starts vs. 3% of poor.”
    How many jobs are the poor work­ing? How many hours of sleep are they actu­al­ly get­ting? Again, I refer to Lin­da Tirado’s arti­cle, in which she said, “Rest is a lux­u­ry for the rich.”
  16. “74% of wealthy teach good dai­ly suc­cess habits to their chil­dren vs. 1% of poor.”
    What kind of “good dai­ly suc­cess habits” are we talk­ing about here? How to make it to payday/​the end of the mon­th when there isn’t enough to eat? How to fix all the things that don’t work in the crap­py place you can afford to live in, because the land­lord sure as hell won’t do it? How to reduce your chances of being a vic­tim of crime in the shit­ty neigh­bor­hood you have to live in? How to read tran­sit maps and fig­ure out how to get to school/​work/​the store/​the clin­ic? How to take care of fam­i­ly mem­bers rang­ing in age from infan­cy to old age? How to do the bud­get dance to try to keep all the util­i­ties turned on?
  17. “84% of wealthy believe good habits cre­ate oppor­tu­ni­ty luck vs. 4% of poor.”
    That isn’t even a sen­tence. I don’t know what they’re try­ing to say. They think their good habits cre­at­ed their opportunities/“luck” ? I think that in most cas­es, they inherit­ed cap­i­tal, or at least got a solid start and good edu­ca­tion, that gave them those oppor­tu­ni­ties and “luck.” Yes, good habits can help — but nobody does it alone.
  18. “76% of wealthy believe bad habits cre­ate detri­men­tal luck vs. 9% of poor.”
    See above.
  19. “86% of wealthy believe in life­long edu­ca­tion­al self-improve­ment vs. 5% of poor.”
    How many of the poor had a decent edu­ca­tion to start with? How many of them were given any rea­son to think that edu­ca­tion had ANY val­ue? How many of them have had any real oppor­tu­ni­ty to get a good edu­ca­tion? How many edu­ca­tion­al oppor­tu­ni­ties are avail­able to the poor? They cer­tain­ly have far less time than the wealthy do to spend in self-improve­ment, and a hell of a lot less mon­ey to spend on it.
  20. “86% of wealthy love to read vs. 26% of poor.”
    I won­der how many of those poor are tru­ly lit­er­ate? I won­der what we would see if we com­pared the schools in which they were edu­cat­ed to the schools in which the wealthy were edu­cat­ed? I know, per­son­al­ly, that you CAN get a decent edu­ca­tion in a shit­ty school — but you have to work at it hard­er, and you need SOME sort of sup­port, some­where. You also need some kind of encour­age­ment to devel­op a love of read­ing. You need access to read­ing mate­ri­al at some point. You do real­ize, don’t you, that some schools don’t have libraries — things that many peo­ple take for grant­ed in their schools? (I attend­ed one of them.) How are the kids in those schools sup­posed to devel­op a love of read­ing with NOTHING TO READ? I’m also won­der­ing how many of the­se peo­ple report that they “love to read” but haven’t actu­al­ly picked up a book for leisure read­ing in years, or couldn’t dis­cuss a book to save their lives (I find that’s often the case with peo­ple who claim that they “love to read”).

Over­all, NO. Just no. The entire thing reeks of self-right­eous bull­shit, and a poor­ly-designed set of ques­tions that doesn’t prove any­thing oth­er than that the per­son who came up with this stuff doesn’t under­stand a bloody thing about sci­ence or sta­tis­tics. But it cer­tain­ly gives the peo­ple who want to do so lots of excus­es to sprain a mus­cle while pat­ting them­selves on the back.

Review: Bleeding Out by Jes Battis

Bleeding Out (OSI, #5)Bleed­ing Out by Jes Bat­tis
My rat­ing: 2 of 5 stars

Woof, I made it. I wasn’t sure that I would, as this nov­el start­ed out nor­mal­ly and devolved into a stream-of-con­scious­ness mess. I was seri­ous­ly moti­vat­ed to keep going, though, because I read the rest of the series and this is the last book in it. 

So I pushed on through, got to a bit of light in the tun­nel, and then there was more muck. Real­ly, Mr. Bat­tis — this is a pop­u­lar work! Or did you just feel like, “Hey, this is the end of my con­tract, I can do what­ev­er I want…” That’s the feel­ing I got, hon­est­ly. It doesn’t moti­vate me to pick up what­ev­er Bat­tis pub­lish­es in the future.

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Review: Endgame by Ann Aguirre

Endgame (Sirantha Jax, #6)Endgame by Ann Aguir­re
My rat­ing: 5 of 5 stars

Endgame is the final book in the Sir­an­tha Jax series, accord­ing to Aguir­re, and it def­i­nite­ly shows. Every­thing gets wrapped up very sat­is­fac­to­ri­ly. Noth­ing new is intro­duced. Jax’s rela­tion­ships with March and Vel are both expand­ed in a delight­ful man­ner, and I love the way that works out. She also gets to devel­op a not-quite-moth­er­ly rela­tion­ship with Sasha, March’s adopt­ed son.

The entire vol­ume takes place on Laheng, home of the Lahen­grin. We’ve only met the race through Loras so far in the series, but their sto­ry is touch­ing. This is Loras’ sto­ry as much as any­thing, the sto­ry of the fight to free the Lahen­grin from the Nicuans and from the need to be owned (or “pro­tect­ed” as it is called). The action is bru­tal — Aguir­re doesn’t hide the real­i­ties of war. She doesn’t dwell on it in an obscene man­ner, though, so the book is read­able.

Read­ing the end­ing of a won­der­ful series is also bit­ter­sweet, but at least Aguir­re has stat­ed that she’ll revis­it this uni­verse.

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Review: Gunmetal Magic by Ilona Andrews

Gunmetal Magic (Kate Daniels World, #1)Gun­metal Mag­ic by Ilona Andrews
My rat­ing: 4 of 5 stars

I’m fair­ly sure that I missed a Kate Daniels book, because I don’t recall some of the events referred to in this book. That annoys me, and I’ll have to go back and read what­ev­er the last one was out of order now. It’ll be worth it, though, because Ilona Andrews’ writ­ing is always fun. Gun­metal Mag­ic is no excep­tion.

This is the first nov­el to focus on Andrea Nash, Kate Daniels’ best friend. Exposed as a shapeshifter, she’s been kicked out of the Order. She had just cho­sen to obey orders from a supe­ri­or offi­cer instead of fight­ing with the Pack, which led to a breakup with her lover Raphael. Now she has to rebuild her life from a shat­tered ruin.

Andrea is a fas­ci­nat­ing char­ac­ter, abused repeat­ed­ly in her ter­ri­ble child­hood and raised to be ashamed of and hide her shapeshift­ing nature. Her rela­tion­ship with Raphael is informed by their bouda nature, but her human side isn’t left out by any means.

I par­tic­u­lar­ly enjoy the part that Atlanta plays in Andrews’ books, but as a near-native Atlanta I’m bound to be biased in that respect.

This vol­ume and the bonus novel­la “Mag­ic Gifts” are def­i­nite­ly worth­while read­ing for any fan of the Kate Daniels series. 

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review: In Session by M.J. Rose

In Session: Dr. Morgan Snow with Steve Berry's Cotton Malone, Lee Child's Jack Reacher & Barry Eisler's John RainIn Ses­sion: Dr. Mor­gan Snow with Steve Berry’s Cot­ton Mal­one, Lee Child’s Jack Reacher & Bar­ry Eisler’s John Rain by M.J. Rose
My rat­ing: 4 of 5 stars

I’ve nev­er read any­thing by any of the­se authors before, so my per­spec­tive on this piece is prob­a­bly going to be skewed com­pared to that of most readers/​listeners. How­ev­er, it was free on Audi­ble briefly and looked inter­est­ing, so I added it to my library. I hap­pened to be in the car a long time today and this is what I had down­load­ed on my iPad, so this is one of the things that I lis­tened to. 

I found all three sto­ries to be very engag­ing, and found myself inter­est­ed in read­ing more about each char­ac­ter involved in the sto­ries. What fas­ci­nat­ed me the most, though, was Rose’s account of how the sto­ries were writ­ten — the dif­fer­ent ways the authors chose to work with her, how she pre­pared to write from the point of view of oth­er authors’ very well-known heroes, and so on. I would rec­om­mend this to any­one inter­est­ed in writ­ing as a cre­ative endeav­or for that por­tion in par­tic­u­lar.

The fact that the nar­ra­tors who nor­mal­ly per­form the voic­es of each char­ac­ter in their own series appeared in this per­for­mance adds an addi­tion­al touch of pro­fes­sion­al­ism to the record­ing, as well.

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Review: Forever Werewolf/​Moon Kissed

Forever Werewolf: Forever Werewolf\Moon KissedForever Were­wolf: Forever Werewolf\Moon Kissed by Michele Hauf
My rat­ing: 1 of 5 stars

Full dis­clo­sure: I was given a copy of this book to review. I’m glad I didn’t buy it. I imag­ine I might have been harsh­er.

In Forever Were­wolf, Tryst is just deliv­er­ing a pack­age to Wulf­siege on behalf of his father’s secu­ri­ty com­pa­ny when he gets trapped there by an avalanche. He doesn’t mind, though, because the recip­i­ent of that pack­age has a lus­cious daugh­ter, Lexi. 

Female were­wolves are rare, and those few are pro­tect­ed like the pre­cious trea­sures they are. Even though Tryst wasn’t brought up in a pack, he knows that much. He also knows there’s some­thing very strange about the fact that Lexi isn’t claimed by any of the males in the pack — in fact, they seem to give her a wide berth. She’s obvi­ous­ly high­ly intel­li­gent and com­pe­tent, and she’s beau­ti­ful. She’s far more allur­ing to him than her spoiled, pam­pered princess sis­ter could ever be.

Lexi is fas­ci­nat­ed by Tryst, despite being warned away from the half-blood­ed wolf by her ail­ing father. He seems inter­est­ed in her, as well, but she fears that’s only because he doesn’t know her crip­pling secret: she hasn’t ever shift­ed. A were­wolf who can’t shift can’t mate, so she’s use­less in the eyes of the pack.

Tryst is warned away from Lexi by her father, head of the pack, as well, but he can’t seem to stay away from her. She’s like no oth­er wom­an, were­wolf or mor­tal, he’s ever encoun­tered. What is it that draws them to each oth­er? Is it worth risk­ing their lives for?

It was obvi­ous to me from the first pages of the book that Tryst and Lexi would get togeth­er, and that it would cost Tryst many bruis­es and much grief. The bad guy was all too obvi­ous, as well — if the aver­age read­er can’t iden­ti­fy him in the first men­tion, I’ll be shocked. (Per­haps I should be more speci­fic and say “expe­ri­enced romance read­er” instead.)

As for Moon Kissed, it was so for­get­table that I’d have to look up the main male’s name. The female was Bel­la, some­thing I only recall due to bad mem­o­ries of Twi­light. Oh, wait, the male was Severo! Right then. Severo saves Bel­la from vam­pires who chase her, while fright­en­ing the hell out of her him­self, grop­ing her, and offer­ing absolute­ly no expla­na­tions of the strange new real­i­ties her world is sud­den­ly encom­pass­ing.

After that event, Bel­la learns that her best friend Seth’s new girl­friend is a vam­pire, some­thing Seth just hadn’t quite got­ten around to men­tion­ing. Seth explains that Severo (whose name she doesn’t yet know) is prob­a­bly a were­wolf, from her descrip­tion of him and his actions. Severo has, in the mean­time, start­ed stalk­ing Bel­la to pro­tect her from the vam­pires he’s sure will con­tin­ue to hunt her (for rea­sons unknown to him when he starts on this plan of action). After see­ing Seth with vam­pire Evie, with whom Severo has his­to­ry, Severo real­izes that Evie prob­a­bly sic­ced the vam­pires on Bel­la due to jeal­ousy.

One of the many, many things that both­ered me about this book is that Bel­la is sup­pos­ed­ly a web design­er, but she nev­er seems to work. She cer­tain­ly doesn’t have a lap­top, which would be de rigeur, and she lives in a ridicu­lous­ly upscale place (an apart­ment with its very own heat­ed pool?) for some­one in that pro­fes­sion. She can afford a lot of dance lessons, too — but her real source of income or cap­i­tal is nev­er explained. Appar­ent­ly Hauf was just look­ing for a pro­fes­sion that could be “done any­where” and some­one sug­gest­ed “web design­er” so she grabbed that and ran with it.

Of course, Severo is also sup­posed to “do some­thing with real estate” — how believ­able is that as a char­ac­ter detail? I guess we’re sup­posed to just accept that he’s rich, can spend his time as he pleas­es, and let every­thing else go with­out ques­tion. How is it that he has a Brown­ie for a house­keep­er? What’s the rela­tion­ship between Faery and were­wolves and vam­pires? Who knows?

The sto­ry does not get more believ­able as it goes on. Of course Bel­la falls in love with her stalk­er and trusts him com­plete­ly. There are evil vam­pires. There’s one good vam­pire, just to show that they aren’t uni­form­ly bad. But you can tell where Severo and Bella’s rela­tion­ship is going in the ear­li­est sce­nes, and that’s the most impor­tant part of the book, because it’s a romance. There are com­pli­ca­tions but they’ll be over­come, or it wouldn’t be a romance.

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Review: Reese by Lori Handeland

ReeseReese by Lori Han­de­land
My rat­ing: 3 of 5 stars

And now for some­thing COMPLETELY dif­fer­ent. Yes, this book is out of char­ac­ter for me, but I like Lori Han­de­land, and since I received a free copy I felt oblig­at­ed to read it and write a review. I’m keep­ing the fact that it is a west­ern romance in mind, and judg­ing it accord­ing­ly.

I don’t know from west­ern tropes, but I do know the stan­dard romance tropes, and Han­de­land hits them all. Mary is a spin­ster school­marm who is con­sid­ered too plain and too out­spo­ken to ever be attrac­tive to any man — in fact, anoth­er char­ac­ter (a real jerk) says so. It’s her char­ac­ter, more than her looks, that is the prob­lem, accord­ing to the jerk.

But the hero, Reese, finds her beau­ti­ful in her inno­cence, her igno­rance of her effect on him, and espe­cial­ly in the fact that she’s as stub­born as he is. The fact that they have to butt heads is an impor­tant romance trope, as I under­stand the­se things.

Mary believes she isn’t the kind of wom­an any man would want, and Reese believes he isn’t good enough for Mary, so they hold back from reveal­ing their feel­ings to each oth­er, pro­vid­ing the main con­flict in their rela­tion­ship.

There’s a plot that goes beyond Mary and Reese, obvi­ous­ly, explain­ing why the town of Rock Creek need­ed to hire Reese and his lit­tle troop of gun­men in the first place. That larg­er plot sets up the entire Rock Creek Gang series. I found noth­ing to laud or com­plain about in the main plot. It’s prob­a­bly a stan­dard accept­able west­ern, to be hon­est, and it doesn’t read so dif­fer­ent­ly than any oth­er sort of adven­ture sto­ry. It worked to set things up, but obvi­ous­ly wasn’t the main focus of the book. The ener­gy is in the romance.

I think per­haps romance fans read books like this because they’re com­fort­ably pre­dictable, like an old friend wear­ing new clothes. In any case, Han­de­land has writ­ten a sweet lit­tle love sto­ry that I didn’t mind read­ing. I could see her hand in the details, and while I would have pre­ferred read­ing more of one of her para­nor­mal series, she did a nice job with this book. Fans of west­ern romances will prob­a­bly enjoy it.

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Review: This Case Is Gonna Kill Me by Phillipa Bornikova

This Case Is Gonna Kill MeThis Case Is Gonna Kill Me by Philli­pa Borniko­va
My rat­ing: 5 of 5 stars

This book was an unex­pect­ed delight. Lawyers? Meh. Even lawyers with para­nor­mal spice. 

But Lin­net Ellery is no ordi­nary lawyer, even for a young lawyer in a White Fang law firm. She has no end of back­bone and smarts, not to men­tion luck — or should I say Luck? Because for­tune swirls around her like nobody else, mak­ing her a nexus of events and a lit­tle too con­spic­u­ous for her very dis­creet employ­ers.

That’s not to say that she doesn’t make her share of mis­takes — that wouldn’t be any fun, now would it? She sur­vives and learns from them, then helps oth­ers avoid the same. 

Liv­ing in a world of vam­pires, were­wolves, and Alfar (elves) might be intim­i­dat­ing to most humans, espe­cial­ly when those beings (Pow­ers) are essen­tial­ly in charge. Lin­net doesn’t let them intim­i­date her. She uses her con­tacts and plays to her strengths, win­ning more and more sig­nif­i­cant bat­tles every time she goes to bat. 

Borniko­va sets things up very nice­ly for a sequel, and I am per­son­al­ly hun­gry to read more. I strong­ly sug­gest this book to any­one who enjoys para­nor­mals, urban fan­ta­sy, or sim­ply good, humor­ous fic­tion with a dol­lop of sus­pense and a strong hero­ine.

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