Sunday, June 22, 2008

Beginner's Greek

By James Collins

This is a story of star-crossed lovers that, despite a plethora of obstacles, manage to find true love, a modern romance with an old-fashioned happy ending.
Peter Russell falls in love at first sight when he meets Holly on board an airliner. The attraction is mutual and he leaves the plane with Holly's phone number in his shirt pocket. In his hotel room later on, Peter is dismayed to discover he has lost the phone number and he doesn't know Holly's last name or where she lives.
Years later and Peter's best friend Jonathan shows up with a new girl friend. Surprise, the new girl friend is Peter's Holly. Too late for Peter because Holly is now involved with his best friend and they end up getting married. Peter gives up and marries Charlotte, a woman he doesn't really love but he does care for her and figures they will have a good life together. At their wedding reception, Jonathan is killed by a bolt of lightning. Now Holly is a widow and Peter is a newlywed. Once again it seems the fates are against them. As much as he would like to, Peter doesn't abandon his new bride and run after Holly. He feels it would be too cruel to treat Charlotte thus.
Meanwhile, things are not going well for Peter at work. He unknowingly ticks off his boss and his boss goes after him for it. He forces Peter to assist a marginal employee's nutty plan to turn cereal box tops into the new worldwide currency. To make things worse for Peter, the wealthy owner of the business starts dating Peter's true love, Holly. Seems like Peter just can't get a break.

This is fun story, and you find yourself pulling for all the many decent characters that populate the book. It's hard watching Peter and Holly just miss each other all the time. Will Peter stand by his wife? Will Holly find love with another man? Will poor Charlotte discover that her husband is in love with another woman? Will Peter's rat bastard boss succeed in destroying Peter's career? Will Holly let herself be swept away by a rich man's charm and wealth? It's really enjoyable reading about these charming people and their struggles to find true love and to do the right thing.

New Words
Cicatrix: a scar; an elevated, rigid spot. "All the while that Jonathan spoke, Peter had been staring at a tear in the back of the taxi's front seat...The cab, making the usual sudden starts and stops, jounced Peter around, but he kept staring at this cicatrix.
Trig: clean-cut; neat and smart in appearance. "Jonathan managed to look both more trig and less stiff than Peter."
Démarche: a diplomatic representation or protest. "M. Becqx denied it and threatened an angry démarche from his government."
Soignée: polished and well-groomed; showing sophisticated elegance. "She was dressed and made up, and she looked soignée, Peter thought."
Dolmen: a prehistoric megalithic tomb typically having two large upright stones and a capstone. "She loved the nearby castles, villages, churches, ruins, dolmens, and caves."
Putti: winged cherubs. "A painting or fresco containing innumerable gods and putti, all twisting and turning dramatically, covered the ceiling."
Epigone: an heir, descendant, or successor, frequently an inferior successor. "'I thought that after so many generations of having so much money, families were supposed to decline and produce weak, effete, coupon-clipping, zillionth-copy epigones of the founding titan.'"
Apposite: being of striking appropriateness and pertinence; an apt reply. "Having gone shooting once in his life, he was able to discuss with Thorndale the tricks of working setters and retreivers together; he made an apposite comment when Bernard, a philatelist, mentioned that he had just acquired a misprint from the Kingdom of Naples."
Predella: Spanish footstool or kneeling stool. Also foot of an altarpiece for kneeling. "Holly and Arthur talked about a couple of people at their table; Holly asked Arthur about the predella she and Peter had admired earlier, and he said that it was funny she should have noticed it because it had always been on of his favorite pieces."

Darkfever

By Karen Marie Moning

MacKayla is a typical young American woman, enjoying life, working on her tan, when it all changes with the murder of her sister in Ireland. When the police investigation bogs down for lack of evidence, Mac goes off to Ireland to try to convince the police to not give up. But the police just don't have the time or resources as they are dealing with an epidemic of murders and disappearances.
Mac has a message on her phone from her sister, telling her that she must find the Sinsar Dubh. Not only does Mac not know what the Sinsar Dubh is, she doesn't even know how to spell it. Trying to discover just what it is, she runs into Jericho Barrons, a shady and threatening character with a bunch of secrets. He knows what the Sinsar Dubh is. In fact, he wants to find it for himself.
As she stays in Ireland, trying to chase down her sister's killer for herself, she starts seeing strange, terrifying creatures, creatures that apparently no one else can see. Jericho enlightens her as to what she is seeing and enlists her reluctant help in his efforts to contain these creatures by finding the Sinsar Dubh.

This is a romance story, although it is also a horror story. I don't read romance novels for the most part as they just don't appeal to me. So I wasn't familiar with a branch of romance fiction known as paranormal romance. It was kind of disconcerting to be in the middle of a horror story, only come across a detailed description of the outfits Mac and Jericho are wearing. Despite these typical romance novel aspects, this is a pretty creepy story full of scary monsters and vile characters. I found the story rather depressing and I don't know if I will read the next in the series. This is not surprising since I don't generally enjoy either romances or horror. People who like paranormal romances will probably like reading this series which is exciting and inventive although a bit too much for me.

New Word:
Metempsychosis: a philosophical term in the Greek language referring to the belief of transmigration of the soul, especially its reincarnation after death. "They believed day followed night, and held to a credo of metempsychosis in which the human soul does not die but is reborn in different forms."

Saturday, June 07, 2008

The Girl Who Stopped Swimming

By Joshilyn Jackson

Laurel loves her life. She loves her beautiful home, her teen daughter Shelby, her sometimes distant husband David, and her work designing and sewing artistic quilts. She especially loves the fact that since she moved to her new house in Victorianna, she never sees the ghost of her Uncle Marty anymore.
Her cozy life is turned upside down the night she sees a new ghost, Molly, a friend of her daughter. Turns out Molly is dead, drowned in Laurel's backyard swimming pool. Drastic times call for drastic actions, and Laurel undertakes the drastic action of inviting her sister Thalia to visit to help Laurel cope with the death of Shelby's friend Molly. The trouble with Thalia is that she is trouble. She criticizes Laurel's life, as she feels Laurel is stifled by her marriage, and Laurel's husband, who Thalia refers to as a robot, a guy that is all brain and no heart. Thalia really doesn't have room to criticize though, she comes off as supremely selfish, as evidenced by the night Laurel was sleep walking and Thalia let her walk out of the house and into a rain storm just so Thalia could follow her and observe how a sleepwalker behaves. Thalia is a serious actor and will do anything for her art, including endangering her sister's life. This episode caused a serious rift between the two sisters and put Thalia on David's shit list.
As Laurel looks into Molly's death, which has been ruled accidental by the authorities, she is certain there is more to the story. She suspects her daughter knows more than she is saying and she also suspects the local creepy guy may be involved too. But as she looks closer, with Thalia's prickly help, she finds that many of the things she assumed were true are not, past and present.

Although I did enjoy this story, I can't say that liked most of the characters, especially Thalia, Laurel and Shelby. About the only character that made sense to me was the husband David, and Shelby's cousin, Bet. I thought Laurel was a flake, Thalia is just mean and Shelby seemed pissed off all the time for no good reason. David was the real rock in the story and all my sympathy was with him and the pathetic hanger-on, Bet. Despite not caring much for the main characters, I still liked the book, which is really the story of two deaths, that of Uncle Marty and the teen girl, Molly.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Adam

By Ted Dekker

FBI agent Daniel Clark is on the trail of an unusual serial killer known as Eve. Eve didn't stab, shoot, torture or abuse any of his sixteen victims, he infected them with an unknown form of meningitis. The FBI knows very little about Eve, yet Daniel Clark is determined to stop him, anyway he can.
They finally get the break they are looking for and manage to get to Eve's latest victim before she has died. Daniel and a coworker, Lori Ames, are driving the woman to the hospital when their vehicle is waylaid by a man with a gun. The man, Eve, shoots Daniel and tries to shoot Lori but only wings her. He then grabs the victim and makes off with her. Lori starts CPR on Daniel and he is revived later at the hospital. Lori didn't get a look at Eve, as she was trying to give medical aid to the victim, who was already dying of the meningitis-like illness. Daniel was the only one who saw Eve's face, but he cannot remember it due to the trauma of his near-death experience.
Eve knows Daniel Clark is on his case and starts leaving scary messages with Daniel's ex-wife, Heather. Daniel must be getting closer to catching him and Eve snatches Heather, knowing Daniel will come after her. Daniel falls into his trap and finds himself locked in a cellar with the very creepy killer, a killer who demands that Daniel open himself to the same dark spirit that has possessed Eve for so many years, a spirit named Eve.

I did enjoy this story, although I found the unprofessional behavior of the two FBI agents, Daniel and Lori, a bit unbelievable. Also, although I didn't know this when I picked up the book, it is a story about demon possession, which is a subject I generally avoid due to a folk saying I read long ago, "Touch the devil and you can't let go." That's my philosophy, don't mess with the devil and hopefully the devil won't mess with you. Nonetheless, by the time I realized where the book was heading, I wanted to see how it came out. Like I said, I did enjoy the story, which I found compelling and involving. I think I read this book in two days, which says a lot about it.