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Off we go again for another delightful one of your favorite Bandit Queen’s “This is my brain on books” jaunts. Ready? Here we go! Prepare to meet the Bookie Monster, insatiable devourer of all (good) things literary.

This month, the pickings have been lean, which = hangry Bookie Monster. (Get it? Hungry + angry  . . . coughnevermind)

Let’s kick it off with “Hidden Agenda”, Southern Crimes series #3, by Lisa Harris. The Bookie Monster hasn’t read many crime thrillers, so she thought she’d give this one a try and expand her genre horizons. The plot revolves around Michael Hunt (undercover agent working to expose a drug cartel), Olivia Hamilton (daughter of the man Michael is hunting down), and numerous supporting characters. Olivia and Michael are thrown together in the crossfire and must fight for their lives to escape the deadly tentacles of danger from all quarters. The $64,000 question being not “will they die horrible deaths at the hands of evil people” but “WILL they end up being an item at the end?” (Answer: no duh 😉 )

The Pros:

– It was fast-paced, and the action kept rocketing along. The suspense and the tension were quite engaging.

– It was clean. The Bookie Monster doesn’t like trashy books, so she was happy to find that the romance was the clean and wholesome kind.

The Cons:

. . . Oh dear, where to start? The book was riddled with errors that yanked me out of the story – errors that should have been cleaned up LONG before it reached the printing press.

– Misspelled words. (“chauffer” instead of “chauffeur” on page 235.)

– Misplaced modifiers. The Bookie Monster also happens to be your friendly neighborhood Grammar Nazi, so this did not make for a good read. For example, page 159: “After losing her husband in the line of duty, [Michael] was glad to see Avery had finally come to the place where she could remarry.” Umm . . . Michael did not lose the husband. This should have been something like “After she’d lost her husband in the line of duty, Michael was glad to see . . .” Similarly, on page 162: “Michael’s anger spiked, hating the fact that he needed to defend Olivia and Ivan.” Anger doesn’t hate. This should have been “Michael’s anger spiked. He hated the fact . . .” or something along those lines.

– Minor but distracting inconsistencies popped up like unwelcome walnuts in a piece of fudge. Page 87: “She’d read the medical examiner’s report….There might not have been enough left of Michael to identify, but she’d never doubted her brother was dead. [Several sentences later] “The M.E. was able to positively identify his remains.” So…did they identify him or did they not? Perhaps I missed something somewhere.

– Other errors made it distracting as well: (lost the page number) “Olivia shot [her gun] into the concrete, six inches from Tomas’s foot.” Um . . . these must be magic bullets that don’t ricochet.

– Sentence fragments are overused. They work wonderfully for emphasis (and the Bookie Monster sometimes uses them in her writing), but after the fifteenth paragraph ending with three fragments, it loses the impact. Seriously. Every other paragraph ends with fragments. That repeat themselves. For emphasis. Which quickly gets old.

– The author tells a lot when showing would be better. Page 44: “Emily shot Charlie,” [Kendall said]. “Emily?” Michael’s mind spun at the information.” The last three words need to be cleanly excised with a scalpel. We know he just got information. You don’t need to tell us. Here again on page 111: “She threw her napkin into her empty bowl, clearly upset.” The context of the scene is an argument. Show me her upset-ness by the napkin-flinging combined with perhaps a scowl, or crossing her arms defensively, rather than just saying “she’s upset.”

Now, mind, this has been one of Bookie Monster’s besetting sins to overcome in her writing. So be assured, dear reader, the scalpel has been used on her own darlings.

– There is a lot of info-dump in the first chapter. Michael’s backstory could be sprinkled throughout the rest of the book. We don’t need to know it all right at the start.

– The dialogue felt stilted and lackluster. It could be just personal preference; it just didn’t seem to flow very well.

Overall, the Bookie Monster wouldn’t highly recommend this book.

Moving on to:

Romancing Your Better Half: Keeping Intimacy Alive in Your Marriage, by Rick Johnson. Obvious title is obvious. 🙂 This is your basic garden-variety marriage help book. (No, the Bookie Monster’s marriage is doing just fine. But that whole thing about an ounce of prevention . . .)

On a scale of 1-10, 1 being approximately equal to the appeal of a sinkful of food-encrusted dishes . . . let’s just say the Bookie Monster was reaching for her SOS pad and a bottle of Dawn.

The Pros:

– The poor author tries. He tries so hard.

– He actually says flat out that marriage should be a concept of *GASP!* (the evil M-word alert!!) Mutual Servanthood. This is great. But the rest of the book doesn’t follow through.

– One valuable concept gathered from this book: insults reflect the person insulting, not the person being insulted.

The Cons:

– He repeats himself a lot. Like, A LOT. He says the same thing in fifty different ways. The first chapter should be called “How Many Ways To State The Eight-Word Phrase ‘Married People Are Happier Than Not-Married People’”. Did I mention he repeats himself?

– He falls prey to the trap of traditional assumptions about women. According to page 41 and elsewhere, women don’t need or want respect.


Don’t even know where to start. The book should be titled “For Men: Being A Pretentious Asshat and Pretending To Know Everything About Women”.

– Then we come to the traditional idea that mothers don’t matter, only fathers. How dare single mothers think they can raise healthy well-adjusted children without a big bad man’s help! Heresy! (Single fathers needing a healthy female role model for children goes mysteriously unmentioned.) However, the author’s discussion about why this is always and forever the case actually backfires (page 42). He organized a big camp for single mothers to let their kids play with a bunch of random men, but afterward, everyone told him the part they enjoyed most was being around the MARRIED COUPLES at the camp. GASP! Teehee. In all seriousness, besides being ridiculous, the rampant minimizing of women and mothers is very much not Biblical. BOTH PARENTS are important, PERIOD. Mkay pumpkin? End of discussion.

– In the chapter on sex, the author says, in a nutshell, “Women, don’t stress so much about your appearance! Looks don’t matter! Oh wait, yes they do. Always worry about how you look because otherwise your husband will get bored and leave you.”

[A portion of this review has been censored due to excessive sarcasm]

I think it’s safe to say the Bookie Monster doesn’t recommend this book either. As far as marriage books go, though, “Sacred Marriage: What if God Designed Marriage To Make Us Holy More Than To Make Us Happy?” by Gary Thomas, would be a STELLAR choice.

And now, since the Bookie Monster has had her rant for the day, she will go gently back into her good hidey-hole until next time, and leave you with . . . not a Bookie Monster . . .

. . . but . . .

. . . a Cookie Monster In The Snow. ‘Nuff said. We shall all go squee!

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I see you, you little sassbucket ❤ (Yup, I own this one with glee)