Thursday, June 21, 2012

Book: Death of a Serpent by Susan Russo Anderson

I received a copy of this book for review through Reader Spoils.

Having never read any of the other Serafina Florio mysteries, I don't know if in one of the earlier books, more background is given. In this one, the writer just jumps on in to Serafina's life, including a summons from her close friend to view the scene of a murder at her place of business. Many, MANY people are introduced in the first few chapters - so many that I was very confused about pretty much anybody except Serafina and Rosa. Most baffling of all were the conversations Serafina had with Maddelina (?). I'm still not sure whether she's alive or dead.

It's never established how or why Serafina Florio is particularly qualified to solve a mystery, aside from the fact that she's willing to keep looking and is perfectly willing to nose into other people's lives. I didn't find the character of Serafina, or any of the characters, for that matter, especially appealing, nor was the mystery compelling.

I disliked the writing style, with its short, choppy sentences and weird frequently-backwards dialogue. Perhaps this type of dialogue is in keeping with that time period for Sicily, but it was pervasive and got annoying. Death of a Serpent was well-written, technically, thus the three stars. I found few grammar errors outside of dialogue (where I give it a pass, for the most part), and no spelling or homonym errors that I recall. In addition, because some local words and phrases were thrown in randomly, I learned some Italian in context (though truthfully, some of it, I wouldn't have known what the word meant except that I already knew a very similar word or phrase in Mexican).

Other people will enjoy (and obviously have enjoyed) the book, the dialogue, the syntax, the characters, the mystery. I didn't, but I can't really hold that against Ms. Anderson. The writing was good enough technically that I will probably look for other works by Ms. Anderson, but I doubt I'll read any more period pieces.

Book: Let Me In by Callie Croix

I am reviewing a copy I received through NetGalley.

Let Me In is a very short story about Marine Talia coming home from the Middle East for a three-week break. I enjoyed this story, and could have enjoyed it more.

There was some slight inconsistency/confusion regarding how long Talia had been friends with Angie, and that took me out of the story a bit too much from the beginning. Talia's issues with her mom didn't warrant so much attention. I found it difficult to believe that a woman, a Marine, as squared away as Talia is in her professional life would be so profoundly insecure about her mother's illness and how other people would see it. The romance moved a bit too fast for me - fast is somewhat of a necessity with such a short story, but in this case, the move from crush to submissive sexual behavior to a possible HEA was just too much for me. And I definitely had to suspend my disbelief on how fast her mother went from 60 back down to 0.

On the good side, Croix's descriptions of Talia's response to her mother's situation, and the interactions between them were stunningly well done. Angie and Talia's friendship and connection was easy to feel, though I never got how they met, since Talia's pretty much been out of the country the entire time they've known each other. I completely understood her attraction to Liam - he sounds all around like a really good guy. The sex was steamy enough, though there was very little of it. The characters, all of them, are interesting enough that I'd like to revisit them, get to know them better, hopefully in a longer story.

It was a fast, fun read, and I'll look for more by Croix.

Book: Improper Relations by Juliana Ross

Widowed Hannah, who serves a distant family member as a lady's maid, is in the family library working on something and since she wishes to remain alone, hides when she hears someone enter the room. She is both mortified and titillated to witness Leo, the youngest son, having a sexual encounter with a housemaid. Turns out, Leo knew she was there and approaches her with a proposition.

While the premise is a bit salacious, Improper Relations ends up being a sweet, albeit short, love story. What starts out as a learning experience for Hannah blooms into a romantic and emotional relationship for both Hannah and Leo.

As with any romance, there are obstacles, and the roadblocks in this story necessitate a tissue or two.

The ending was a bit too pat and the resolution was handled much too quickly, but other than that, this was a really enjoyable story, and I'll probably add it to my keeper folder to reread when I need a certain kind of HEA.

I am reviewing a copy of Improper Relations provided to me by NetGalley.

Book: The Siren by Tiffany Reisz

I am reviewing a copy of The Siren I received through NetGalley.

When I finished The Siren, my only thought was "Wow."  I'm still not convinced I can adequately convey what I think about this book.

First, I can't really classify it.  It is NOT a romance.  It does contain graphic sexual scenes, and yet I wouldn't consider it erotica.  It is a love story, but not a romantic love story.

Nora, Zach, Soren, Wesley are the four major characters - basically three male characters whose lives revolve around Nora's life and activity.

The very basic gist is that Nora is a well-known erotica writer who has something more personal she wants to write and hunts out a better publishing house.  Zack is a high-falutin' editor who looks down his nose as something so trashy as erotica, but decides to edit her book, as long as she does it his way and only his way.  Soren is Nora's past, her old Dom.  Wesley is a pre-med student, living in Nora's house and serving as her houseboy, to be politically incorrect, in exchange for room and board.

Some of Nora's past life is revealed to us in glimpses through her writing.  In addition to editing the book to Zach's exacting specifications, she writes pseudo journal entries, which she subsequently erases without saving.  These journal entries almost entirely relate to her past relationship with Soren, and it is in her relationship with Soren that I find my only real disappointment with The Siren.  Though she and Soren are presented as a sub and her Dom, their interactions strike me (in my admittedly limited understanding of the "alternative" lifestyle of BDSM) as closer to Master/slave than D/s, and Soren's power over her fear-based rather than love-based.  I never doubt that she loves him, even now, but I just don't see his love for her.  Maybe this is a failing in me that I am simply unable to really connect with the deep level of physical pain he "gives" her - how this can possibly be love.

There is a plenitude of sexually graphic scenes in the book that I did not find erotic.  Emotionally impactful, yes.  Erotic, no.  I felt like I had found a diary full of intimate passages about people I knew, describing how they came to be so connected.  I had no trouble at all envisioning Nora's love for each one of these men, and she did love them, though each one entirely differently.  And Zach's and Wesley's love for Nora was equally accessible.

The Siren is emotionally uncomfortable, in a good way, and the story continues unrelentingly to the end, and resolves in the only way it can.  It's not a Happily Ever After.  It's not even a Happily Enough For Now.  It's just the only way this book could end, the heartbreakingly right way for this story, or this piece of the story, to conclude.

I unashamedly admit to grabbing my box of tissues and blowing my nose through several minutes of "Wow." I will most definitely be looking for more work from Tiffany Reisz.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

BzzCampaign: Sobe Lifewater with coconut water

I got to be in the Sobe BzzCampaign for their new Lifewater with coconut water flavors. I received coupons, a free bottle of Lifewater with coconut water, and a cute little lip balm, which sits by my computer. It gets used, of course. lol

Since I've been having transpo issues, I didn't get to the grocery store right away, but when I did, I found Kroger having a sale on Sobe, so I stocked up for my house-sitting gig.

While most of the flavors were tolerable when ice cold, I found that I didn't really enjoy the coconut water flavors. The sugar free ones, as usual, leave a funky taste in my mouth, but I did particularly like the fruit punch flavor of Sobe, and already knew that I liked the green tea flavor.

A successful campaign for me, just because now I know there are two flavors of Sobe that I really like, so I can keep both on hand for when I need a pick-me-up.

Review: Tampax Radiant tampons

I got a sample pack from Vocalpoint of Tampax Radiant tampons.

These particular tampons come in resealable packets, and are contained in colorful insertion tubes.

My period is less regular these days, and so I didn't get the opportunity to try them out as quickly as I planned.

Though I like the idea of the resealability, I don't like it in reality - the seal has a mind of its own, and closes itself randomly, making one-handed disposal of the used insertion tube pretty much impossible.

The insertion tube colors are pretty, though I really don't get the need to make them all pretty.  I mean, it's my period.  Who cares what color the damn things are?

I have the same issues with these Radiant tampons as with other Tampax tampons - they expand only sideways, in panels, rather than in one contained more or less tubular pattern.  For me, this expansion has two problems:  it makes them uncomfortable to wear (whoever says you can't feel tampons when you're wearing them is lying like a rug), and makes one more difficult to extract when a change is necessary.  In addition to that, the samples I tried didn't have a knot in the string.  This made a tampon change take nearly five minutes, most of which was pulling at, and losing my grip on, the extraction string.  Not fun!  And grrrrr!

They are usable, and will do in a pinch, but I won't be running out to buy them, and I'll be passing the coupon on to someone else.

For comfort and fit and leakage protection, Playtex Sport is still tops on my list.  Of course, not having a period anymore would be the very top, but.....

Five Passions

I have many more than five things about which I am passionate, but in no particular order, I'll share the top five.

My grandbabies.  Understand, right now, I just have the one, but if my love for him is any indication, I will be plenty passionate about all of them.  Being a gramma is unquestionably one of my purposes in life.

Babies in general.  I love babies.  I love babies of all shapes, colors, sizes and species.  In human babies, I'm fascinated by their facial expressions, the ways in which their burgeoning personalities express themselves, and I adore the way babies just love everything around them.  No holds barred.  I love holding them, talking to them, listening to them, watching them sleep (in a nonstalkery way, naturally), just everything!

Books.  I have been having a sizzling love affair with books for well over forty years now.  My mother read to me in utero, and I learned to read for myself well before kindergarten.  I love the way books smell and feel, and how a good one can take me someplace I've never been and make it seem as familiar as my own back yard.  I won a Kindle Fire in January, and despite my personal belief that I would never really be able to love an e-reader like I love books, I have to say that I am won over.  That little tiny thing currently holds the text of or links to over three thousand books, the vast majority of which were free, giving me the opportunity at any given time to read whatever genre or length of book I want, in complete privacy.  I'm astounded by how much I now put off reading actual print books in favor of reading "just one more" of my e-books.

Reading.  You might think this is cheating, listing it separately from books.  No.  I read anything I can get my hands on, from magazines to blogs to book reviews to product descriptions.  I've been known to read a cereal box is nothing else is available.  Granted, having that Kindle Fire makes it much less likely that I will not have a book available to read at any given time, but still, reading encompasses so much more than just books.

Movies.  I love action movies in particular, but I just love movies.  I love watching them, having rousing discussions about their merits, sharing my opinions about them, learning things about myself and my fellow humans through movies.  I am easily entertained, but still hate stupid movies.  I want smart entertainment, not that lowest-common-denominator crap that Hollywood churns out on a fairly regular basis.  I love movies that make me feel something - make me laugh or make me cry, make me wonder or question, make me change my mind.