Wednesday, November 25, 2015

BOOK LOG 50: TWO LEFT FEET


BOOK LOG 50: TWO LEFT FEET
by Lori Lyn

First of all, the details: I received this book free, and since I was between previously scheduled books for reading, the timing was perfect for me to dive in. I’ve also known the author for a number of years through my RWA chapter, so there was that factor.

What did I expect when I started to flip the pages? Honestly, my mind was blank (as it so often is when I begin something); I hadn’t checked to see if the book was a mystery or a historical romance or contemporary sweet, or something else. So when the first chapter was almost pitch-perfect satire stemming from a certain tween phenomenon, I was immediately confused and had to read further. Was this parody, humor, satire? Turned out (immediately), it was not. I had to keep reading to find out what.

It turned out to be a mystery, and here’s the thing. Two Left Feet is parts graphic mystery and cozy mystery, sweet and not, and overall so very readable. The style seemed to indicate cozy (think Agatha Christie), but then when the story revealed a serial killer working quickly and efficiently (so very efficiently!), I kept getting flashbacks to Cabot Cove. Really, as the situation escalated, I kept thinking of how Jessica Fletcher, the lady detective of the TV show Murder, She Wrote, secretly had to be a serial killer, considering how many mysterious deaths kept cropping up in her little town. Same here. But it’s not our lady detective in this case, Abbey Rhoads (and me a lover of puns, her name tickled my fancy too). Who is it? The ex-FBI agent has to find out fast, because it’s not a very big town and corpses are being found every day!

Truthfully, I don’t read many mysteries any more -- too easy to figure whodunnit, although I’m told that’s part of the joy of ‘em -- but this one kept me turning the pages to find out what happens next, and that’s what you want them to do. Kudos to Lori Lyn. And hope that the small town has transplants for the next book, because it sure needs it!

COMING UP: I have a few candidates. What will it be?

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

BOOK LOG 49: NAMED OF THE DRAGON


BOOK LOG 49: NAMED OF THE DRAGON
by Susanna Kearsley

It seems to be inevitable that every British author, even the Canadian ones, has to produce at least one book involving the Arthurian legend. I guess it makes sense in that those stories are part and parcel of who they are, and in fact they also make up a large part of what Americans are. The difference, of course, is that Americans, by dint of being a combination of many different traditions, have more to choose from (and if you’re someone like me, you spend a lot of time gleefully looking at as many as you can and comparing and trying to focus on origins and…but back to our subject at hand). Anyway, Arthur Pendragon and his tragedies and triumphs make up a large part of the English-speaking imagination, so as I was saying, it was inevitable that Kearsley would take on a snippet of the classic story and spin it into one of her own.

And when I say “snippet,” I truly mean it. In Named of the Dragon, our heroine, a literary agent, comes to a small village in Wales in which to spend Christmas with one of her authors, and encounters odd folk (but isn’t that par for the course in these small-town stories?) and odd mysteries involving a spacy young widow (compared with our heroine, an older, balanced widow) and her defenseless baby. Like in all of Kearsley’s stories, her descriptions make me want to go find the town and walk its streets, but in this case, I would want to do in broad daylight, because things seem to happen in the evening and during the night in this sweet little village. Sinister, disturbing things.

Of course, since this is a holiday story (y’know, Christmas, lights, tokens of appreciation, and so forth), there is a heart-warming denouement. So what’s my problem? This story has all the pieces of a holiday story and yet I walked away unsatisfied. Part of it may be that this is a reprint of an early Kearsley story, basically released (as far as I can figure) to fill in the long months between newer works from the author. The pace is slower, and the writing and twists not as stunning crisp as the earlier works from her I’ve read. (And in the case of The Rose Garden and Every Secret Thing, actual sniffles. Although the latter is not yet available in the US from the author’s current publisher, so that too is an earlier work.) Heart-warming, yes. But a tad slower getting there.

Here’s what it comes down to. Is it a lovely holiday story? It is. Is it memorable? It is. Will I reread it? Yes. Is it worth your while? Absolutely!

COMING UP: Two Left Feet by Lori Lyn!

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

BOOK LOG 48: POLDARK: Demelza


by Winston Graham

So after I finished reading the first book about Ross Poldark, I had to hunt down for the second book in the Poldark series, Demelza. The first two books roughly make up the first season of the new Poldark show, so I knew sort of what was coming up, even though the show deviates from the books. And the description of Demelza in Graham’s original works also deviates from the TV show, so as I was reading this, the second book in the series, I had to replace my memory of the red-haired actress in the show with the image of the dark-haired pixie described in the books. Maybe it’s just me, but the combination of the impossibly handsome actor (who played the dwarf Kili in the Hobbit movies) and the beautiful “flame-haired” actress (really, that’s a good description) brought to mind an Irish family saga. Same approximate part of the world (although not necessarily origins, but that’s a whole ‘nother blog post), though. The dark-haired petite young woman whom Graham describes somehow seems more fitting for the Cornish coast.

Anyway, Demelza the novel covers the story of the former ragamuffin turned young wife and mother, and how her rough upbringing comes to blows, basically, with the slightly snootier world of the Poldarks. But her motives are good, and what she does in her attempt to make others happy I found both heartening and finally heartbreaking. If you’ve seen the series, if you didn’t tear up at that point, you are heartless. Honestly.

So far, these two books are good for the soul. The smugglers’ havens of the natural caves and the wild coasts of Cornwall remind us of how hard a living could be for those who weren’t the dukes and earls and barons about whom there are so many books, and how even while life hangs in balance, it has joys and sorrows.  

COMING UP: Whatever catches my eye next!

Wednesday, November 04, 2015

BOOK LOG 47: POLDARK (Ross)(the books)


BOOK LOG 47: POLDARK (Ross) (the books)
by Winston Graham
Decades ago, when I was but a child (so last year), my older brother and sister watched a British series called Poldark. Now, I wasn’t interested in it at all (I was more into comic books), but they were captivated by it, enough that they would talk about it in animated tones about the latest episodes. Over the years, I’d think about the series from time to time and consider tracking down either videos (or even, later, DVDs) of the show and even read the books (gasp!), but something would always come up and I’d forget.

Many decades later, I discovered there was a remake afoot. Hey, it was time for me to find out what was so interesting about the stories! Turned out it was a soap opera, a historical one, about a British soldier coming home from the American Revolution and finding that his life in Cornwall was in pieces, his father dead, his sweetheart about to marry another, and the worthless servants selling off family items to keep themselves in a drunken stupor. And it was great.

After the first episode, I started to track down the books but of course, since I had started by watching the series, I couldn’t read the first book until the season was finished. So I was patient; I waited, and watched the series enthusiastically, gasped at the right places, and cried out, “Holy Toledo!” (or equivalent) at the end. And then I rushed to the first book. The books themselves are fun to read, the style quite different from the modern-day style, and I don’t know whether it’s the period difference, the cultural difference (because of course the books were written by a Brit), or gender difference (this one’s self-evident). With few words and scant descriptions, Graham deftly described a remote part of England, one more famous (for someone like me) for Victoria Holt romance suspense stories and pixies and even smuggling.

In Ross Poldark, he created a character who is sympathetic and likable, yet manages to have enough flaws that make him more interesting. His decision to take in the teenaged ragamuffin Demelza when she’s defending her beloved (equally ragamuffin) dog from local ragamuffins is the big turning point for him personally, of course. The way in which she grows up and becomes less of a ragamuffin and more of a possible mate for well-blooded but poor Ross is well done, and I only wish the gradual and logical progression, and the blowback from his decision to marry her, were plotwise in romances I’ve read. I can’t wait to read the next book!

COMING UP: Demelza!