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review 2018-10-15 07:41
Peachy Flippin' Keen
Peachy Flippin' Keen - Molly Harper

A short story about one of the cousins in the Southern Eclectic series, the coroner for Lake Sackett, Frankie McCready.  This story outlines the history behind the battle between her and an over privileged teen age boy who didn't get his way during a school trip.  This battle becomes a sub-plot in the longer novel Ain't She a Peach.

 

It's moderately amusing, but doesn't reach full Harper potential for laugh out loud gags, likely because of the short story format.  Still, it was an amusing way to spend a couple of hours in the car, and Amanda Ronconi does a fantastic job with the narration.

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review 2018-10-15 07:30
The Lost Carousel of Provence
The Lost Carousel of Provence - Juliet Blackwell

I've always enjoyed Juliet Blackwell's cozy mysteries, so once she started writing these stand-alone, general contemporary fiction stories, all set in France, I've made sure to pick them up.

 

I'm not sure this is going to be helpful to anyone but myself, but - and maybe because I don't read a lot of general fiction - I find these stories kind of weird.  Apparently, I'm a little genre-dependent because I'm never sure what the point of the story is.  I mean, I do; personal journeys, growth, blah, blah, blah, but I'm hard-wired to look for dead bodies, I guess.  Plus, the author uses multiple timelines and POVs in the France books, a device that generally drives me nuts.

 

That's not to say I didn't enjoy the story though; I did.  Blackwell captures France and I enjoyed the 'mystery' behind the carousel figure and the box inside.  I might have liked the secondary characters more than the main character, Cady, but chalk that up to personal tastes, as in, mine don't run towards broken characters.

 

As in the previous 2 stand-alones set in France, the romance is iffy, if non-existent.  This is a good thing; if Blackwell has a weakness, it's writing romance with any sexual spark (except the Witchcraft series, where the romance was very sparky).  There is a love interest here, and characters are getting lucky, but it's mostly an afterthought, with only an implied possibility of a HEA.

 

So, after all that rambling, I'll just say:  it's a good book.  It's a quiet, well-built, interesting story that I enjoyed escaping into for a few hours on a sunny Sunday afternoon.

 

(I feel weird not assigning this to a bingo square.)

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review 2018-10-06 00:09
The Thirteenth Tale
The Thirteenth Tale - Diane Setterfield

Not the book I was expecting based on reviews I'd read.  I was mentally prepped for a darker, somewhat more manipulative, maybe almost a templaric tale.  It wasn't any of those things, but it is an excellent story.

 

The MC is contacted by an author who is both very reclusive and famous to an almost unholy degree, to write her biography; her true biography, not one of the dozens of made-up tales she's told over the years.  She's finally ready to reveal who she is and what really happened at Angelfield Hall.

 

I didn't like the MC much (Margaret); her level of personal drama/victimisation irritated me to distraction.  As someone who is neither a romantic nor a twin, I found the level of pain and mourning to be, if I'm being kind, too far removed from my experience to fully empathise.  If I'm not being kind, I found it heavy-handed and unrealistic.  Someone should have shoved both Margaret and her mother into counselling decades ago.

 

I liked Vida Winter though (the author whose biography she is writing).  This character is where Setterfield's talent as a writer over-shined my irritation with the soppy MC.  Vida Winter kept me reading, even when I'd have rather not.  (There are some twisted family dynamics in this book.)   Her ability to weave a tale borders on magic, and she used language to enthral, manipulate and trick her reader, and did it in a way that made me bump my rating up a 1/2 star.  Her crafting of the plot was outstanding and I did not anticipate that twist; I was so busy anticipating a different twist - one that would have ruined the book in my eyes - that I was rather blindsided by this one. Well played.

 

My favorite quotes from the book:

"I have always been a reader; I have read at every stage of my life and there has never been a time when reading was not my greatest joy.  And yet I cannot pretend that the reading I have done in my adult years matches in its impact on my soul the reading I did as a child. [...] I still forget myself when I'm in the middle of a good book. Yet it is not the same. Books are for me, it must be said, the most important thing; what I cannot forget is that there was a time when they were at once more banal and more essential than that.  When I was a child, books were everything.  And so there is in me, always, a nostalgic yearning for the lost pleasure of books.

 

and this scene (which I've edited for brevity):

 

"Doctor Clifton came. [...] He took a thermometer and instructed me to place it under my tongue, then rose and strode to the window.  With his back to me, he asked, 'And what do you read?'

 

With the thermometer in my mouth I could not reply.

 

'Wuthering Heights - you read that?'

 

'Mm-hmm.'

 

'And Jane Eyre?'

 

'Mm'

 

'Sense and Sensibility?'

 

'Hm-m'

 

He turned and looked gravely at me.  'And I suppose you've re-read these books more than once?'

 

I nodded and he frowned.  'Read and re-read? Many times?'

[...]

I was baffled by his questions, but compelled by the gravity of his gaze I nodded once again.

[...]

He removed the thermometer from my mouth, folded his arms, and delivered his diagnosis. 'You are suffering from an ailment that afflicts ladies of romantic imagination.  Symptoms include fainting, weariness, loss of appetite, low spirits.  Whilst on one level the crisis can be ascribed to wandering about in the freezing rain without the benefit of adequate waterproofing, the deeper cause is more likely to be found in some emotional trauma. [...] You'll survive.'

[...]

'Treatment is not complicated: eat, rest, and take this ...' he made quick notes on a pad, tore out a page and placed it on my bedside table, 'and the weakness and fatigue will be gone in a few days.'  [...]

 

From the door, he saluted me and was gone.

 

I reached for the prescription.  In a vigorous scrawl, he had inked:   Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, The Case-book of Sherlock Holmes.  Take ten pages, twice a day, until end of course."

 

Sherlock Holmes: the cure for what ails you.

 

 

I read this book for the 13 Square in Halloween Bingo.

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review 2018-10-02 01:30
The Fourth Bear (Nursery Crimes, #2)
The Fourth Bear - Jasper Fforde

What can ever be said about a Jasper Fforde book that would make sense to anyone that hasn't read one?  This is the second in what is, so far, a two book series about what crime would look like if Nursery Characters lived in the real world.  Jack Spratt, the head of the Nursery Crimes Division, investigates several seemingly unrelated crimes:  Porridge smuggling, a missing Goldilocks, the escape of the Gingerbread man, and his new car that never ages, with a painting in the boot that does.  All while fighting suspension based on a pending psych evaluation after being swallowed by the Big Bad Wolf.

 

It's not all Mother Goose either, side characters include Spratt's daughter Pandora and her soon to be husband, Prometheus and at least one character from Shakespeare.  Oh, and an alien.  Because, why not?

 

In spite of sounding (and mostly being) silly, it's not an easy/breezy book to read.  There are layers in the writing and the jokes and the references that are easy to miss.  There's a subtle - very subtle - disregard for the fourth wall, where the characters not only recognise they're in a book (a la Thursday Next), but will make subtle reference to the author and the reader.  So not only is it a book where the overload of satire is best enjoyed in small doses, but one that if carefully read will give more humorous dividends than a quick read would.

 

Generally it's just a hell of a lot of fun to read.  The puns get punnier towards the end and there was at least one *snort*chuckle in the last 30%.  It might have been it was late and I was tired, but 

 

cuculear power 

(spoiler show)

 

made me laugh.

 

I read this for the Modern Noir square in Halloween Bingo.  It's a gimme for the Grimm Tale square, but I've already read that terrible retelling of Snow White and it's not going to have been for nothing, and Spratt's attitude and methods are definitely noir-ish.

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review 2018-09-24 00:24
Vermilion
Vermilion - Phyllis A. Whitney

Another one of my finds from my Friends of the Library book sale trail I did while on holiday back home; this one I had to pay a bit more for, as it was at a retail used book store, but I'm determined to collect Whitney's work, and it was still priced cheaper than a new mass market paperback.

 

Vermilion is set contemporary to the time Whitney wrote it - the 80's - and at first glance of the book jacket I was left with the impression that the cane was going to be central to the story in some slightly paranormal way.  This would make it perfect for the bingo square Relics and Curiosities.  Unfortunately, while it is central to the plot, it's not an object of superstition or paranormal power.  BUT, the setting in Sedona, with the red rock formations, and Vermilion herself - who turns out to be an imaginary friend the MC created as a child that has rather more personality than your standard issue imaginary friend - offer enough superstition, object fear, and possible paranormal activity to more than qualify this book for the square.  (Otherwise, it's dripping with romantic suspense, and it's a murder mystery that takes place amongst a closed set.)

 

The one thing about Whitney's female characters that bugs me is that she portrays them as strong, intelligent and independent (at least in the contemporary books), but then allows them to get rolled over by events or other characters.  Lindsay agrees to things, or rushes into things that are the cliche'd equivalent of don't go into the basement!  

 

Readers of Whitney's Window on the Square will find familiar ground here with the character setup, but it's not re-tread ground.  The dynamics are similar, but Whitney isn't repeating herself; I get the sense that she was taking the opportunity to take that dynamic down different paths.

 

The mystery plotting was excellent - not quite as shocking as Window on the Square but still better than average, and Whitney uses the Native American history and culture, woven with plain old anglo evilness to really ratchet up the suspense and create a tense atmosphere where the reader really doesn't know who's doing what to whom.  

 

The romance was ... absolutely unsurprising, but I continue to admire Whitney for daring to trod on morally shaky ground.  Yes, the hero and heroine always get an easy out, but she was writing her heroines into morally shaky situations back in the 50's and 60's that few authors have the courage to put their heroines in today.

 

Vermilion is not amongst her best, but I'd definitely put it above her average and definitely better than Woman Without a Past.

 

I read this book for the Halloween Bingo square Relics and Curiosities 

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