The Twisted Ones

By T. Kingfisher

You got hickory with you, you got a piece of the world that’s normal. It’s so normal it’ll cancel out some of the weirdness. You follow?” Clearly I was losing my mind, because that actually made a kind of sense. I went back to the house with a hickory rosary and a bag of dried roots draped around my neck.

I struggle between 3 and 4 stars for this one. I am going with 4 because of the entertaining humor and likability of our heroine, Mouse. Not to mention her cohort, Foxy. It also has one of the most adorable dogs I have ever read about, Bongo.

I have no idea what he’d actually do if he caught a possum—lick it to death, probably. Coonhounds usually get dumped when they turn out not to be very good hunters. Bongo is an excellent watchdog, by which I mean that he will watch very alertly as the serial killer breaks into the house and skins me.

Yep. 4 stars for this triumvirate. The story itself is not my cup of tea. I do love an occasional horror book and/or movie, but this folk-horror genre is not for me I guess. It was not scary, but bizarre and kind of nuts. I am glad I familiarized myself with The White People and Other Weird Stories by Arthur Machen of which this book is a kind of a sequel. What other reviewers found tedious in its exploration of Cotgrave’s journal, I found very interesting. 

Rating: 4 out of 5.

December 30, 2019

How to Train Your Husband (or How to Pick Your Second Husband First.)

Dumb and Dumber

I thought this might be a remake of the funny and charming If a Man Answers with Sandra Dee and Bobby Darin. No such luck. The only thing it had going for it was the change of pace from the usual Hallmark tropes. The couple was already married and working to save their marriage. No festivals! Yay! However the female lead character was an incompetent marriage counselor and stupid and clueless to boot with her own marriage. Her mother was toxic and not in a fun way. The black couple was sensible and well adjusted. Not sure why they were friends with the idiot main couple.

Rating: 2 out of 5.

May 19, 2020

Crazy for You

By Jennifer Crusie

This light and funny romantic comedy is about a beloved and successful high school coach’s descent into madness and hurting little puppies. Sigh. Jennifer Crusie’s’ great writing skills are very much here: It kept me turning the pages although I had to start skipping a bit because it did get repetitive towards the end. I felt that there was really only enough material for a category romance, but I think she had to stretch it out because the serious nature of the content didn’t fit the usual template of a category. The coach’s character and that of his cohort, the principal of the school, was chilling. They were absolutely hateful. And the puppy was ok at the end.

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

September 30, 2019

Getting Rid of Bradley

By Jennifer Crusie

“You know who you remind me of? The kid cop in Lethal Weapon 3. You know, the one who says, ‘it’s my twenty-first birthday today’, and right away you know he’s dead meat?”

This is a 5 star short category romance, and a 3 star mainstream novel. As many romances, it’s been both. As soon as Lucy divorces her louse of a husband, a cop shows up looking to arrest him for embezzlement. Also, she gets shot at and her car gets blown up. The cop moves in to protect his star witness. Likable H/h, good secondary characters, and nicely done funny banter. Very well written, it is no surprise Crusie went on to write bonafide women’s fiction. Great choice if you want a nice romance you can read in a day with a little mystery and danger thrown in.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

April 17, 2019

Troublemaker

By Linda Howard

“Oh, how sweet. Let me check my give-a-shit meter to see where that registers. Nope, nothing there. Sorry.”

Linda Howard used to be one of my favorite authors, but after a few disappointments, she slipped off my radar screen. I thought I’d revisit her again, hoping that she had regained her appeal. As mentioned by many reviewers, there was way too much dog in this. Even the dog’s toy (a ball) had over 120 mentions. I skipped through the last half. There were some good parts, here and there, and some good characters. Enough that I will probably check out the next in the series that this one begins. The clue to the mystery was in plain sight and I just didn’t see it. I felt very stupid. So good on her.

Rating: 2 out of 5.

July 07, 2016

The Stranger Diaries

By Elly Griffiths

“It’s a quote,’ I say. ‘From The Tempest.’ ‘What’s the next line?’ says Harbinder though I’m sure she’s looked it up. ‘Hell is empty,’ I say, ‘and all the devils are here.”

I loved the 4 narrator format on this audio. There were many things I liked about the book: The literary theme, the characters, the old-fashionedness, the creepiness, the light humor. I liked the characters seeing themselves from the different perspectives of the others and the changes of attitudes from the first impressions. There were also some amusing references to Harry Potter and Georgette Heyer. However, the murderer proved something of an anticlimax. Looking back I should have guessed (which I didn’t even suspect, my bad) because there was no one else it really could have been as motivation or opportunity was lacking in everyone else. Actually, the motive was pretty obscure to me. The Stranger, the story within the novel wasn’t very good either. And much to my annoyance and confusion, since I was listening to it on audible, the last 30 minutes is a telling of the whole story all over again and just tacks on an ending. There was a ghostly presence near the end but I feel like it was a loose end. I feel like there should have been more links between the story, The Stranger. and the mystery of The Stranger Diaries.

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

May 19, 2020

The Blue Sky of Spring

by Elizabeth Cadell

..but life was too full—she decided—to worry about whether you looked like a monkey or whether you didn’t. It didn’t matter much until you grew up and wanted to stun some man into marrying you.

A continuation of the gentle English romance and chronicle of the Wayne family of the 1950’s and 60’s. There was a difficult and disturbing scene involving the lovable family dog that struck a discordant note. It ended on a bitter-sweet chord, though we know there is a third book in the series for all to find their happy endings. I didn’t enjoy the main couple as much as the first one. I was annoyed by Estelle, and thought she treated both of the men who loved her rather shabbily due to her wimpiness. First, because she didn’t want to hurt Nicholas, and ended up prolonging his pain, and then kept Cliff hanging way too long and only committed when he finally got tired of waiting for her and told her he was moving on. She was lucky to get him. He was way too good for her.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

June 27, 2016

Looking Forward

by Marcia Willett

“It had given [Freddie] a kind of fierce satisfaction to reject his faith, to mock at him; yet how little satisfaction he’d given her.
‘I don’t think you care about saving my soul,’ she’d said to him [Theo] once.
‘Your soul is God’s affair, not mine.’ he’d answered ‘It’s not a contest, Freddy. You have free will.’
She’d felt snubbed, considering her soul to be something rather special that God was waiting for with bated breath, as an ornament to add to His glory.”

The book begins with three children waiting alone at a train station for their grandmother to pick them up and take them to their new home, the Keep, in Devon, England. We soon learn that they are orphans. Their parents and beloved older brother have been hideously slaughtered in Africa during the Mau-Mau rebellion. Right away, we are invested in the fates of serious and responsible 10-year-old Fliss and her psychologically damaged 6-year-old brother Sam (Mole.) There is also Susanna who is just a toddler. We come to intimately know their new family: their strong and loving Grandmother, the wise and kind Great Uncle Theo, an Anglican priest, and the two devoted retainers, Ellen and Fox. Later, Caroline is hired to be their Nanny. She quickly becomes an invaluable part of the family circle as well. We soon meet 3 other key characters: their older twin cousins, Hal and Kit (children of their father’s twin brother), and their mother, widowed Aunt Prue, who is good-hearted but rather flighty and silly.

The book is divided into 4 parts, each approximately 3 years apart. Marcia writes poignantly, amusingly, and sometimes beautifully of the lives and relationships, growing pains, love affairs, and dramas of all 3 generations. In her deft characterizations, she often does not take the easy obvious path. Your expectations are set up for one thing to happen, but things don’t go according to the way they might have if the characters were not as kind, smart, and sensitive as they are. Oh, they are flawed. They struggle. There is plenty of heartbreak as well as joy. And the reader is right there with them. We are not on the outside looking in. Marcia Willett is a talented writer.

By the end of the book, two marriages are in the offing, and Mole has gone a long way to gain control of his fears and become a successful adult. Free-spirit Kit is footloose and fancy-free, and Susanna is a charming and popular teenager. We are left a little doubtful about the prospects of Fliss and Hal. There are still some questions as to whether their chosen paths are going to work out. There is still a secret between the two of the seniors. It definitely leaves us anticipating the continuation of the Chadwick’s stories.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

July 2, 2021

The Love Story of Missy Carmichael

By Beth Morrey

What was this fear, this terror of being alone, when I was never a particularly gregarious being and in fact used to go out of my way to avoid social engagements?

I don’t know why I’d allowed myself to become so maudlin. The wine, probably. Two glasses, which sounded better than half a bottle.

Not unattractive, as dogs go, but I’ve never been keen on them. Too dim and needy.

This book. Who would have thought I would so enjoy a book about an 80 year old “withered old shrew” as Missy describes herself? This is a triumphant debut novel by Beth Morrey and I am most anxious and curious to read the next book by this talented new author. Her transformation to a vital, popular, heroic, beloved woman is full of laughter, tears, and wonder. How did this happen? She reluctantly agreed to temporarily foster a dog.

Throughout the book, my opinions and judgments I made about Missy and her family changed and developed. My disapproval turned to love and back again and then back still again. The revelations in the final chapters moved me to no end as I finally understood everything.

In England, this book is called Saving Missy. I don’t know which title is more appropriate. This is a wonderful wonderful book. **5 stars out of 5**

October 27, 2020

A Loyal Companion

by Barbara Metzger

Please note that I consider myself a companion, not a pet to be pampered and sheltered, smothered and caged for another’s pleasure. I accept my soft bed, my regular meals, but I work for them, training Miss Sonia.

I read a Barbara Metzger many many years ago. I must have not been impressed because I never wanted to read another one until an online discussion intrigued me enough to give this one a try. I thought it was a cute idea to have the story told by the heroine’s dog. Afterall, I loved Flush by Virginia Woolf and Thomasina by Paul Gallico. It happened to be available for download from my library so I decided to give it a whirl. And what a delight it was! It had the intimate lighthearted vibe of a Marian Chesney novel and was just as free-wheeling. It was funny and wise and the romance was sweet. It was peopled with well rounded and likable secondary characters and hiss-worthy villains.

Fitz the dog ends each chapter with a teaser for the happenings in the next chapter. The beginning of each chapter is his musings, on the foibles of the humans around him, social conditions, religion, and suchlike but also advances the plot, which is then taken over by an omniscient third-person narrator.
The structure was unusual. I hope her other books are just as good and it wasn’t just the unconventionality of this book’s approach that charmed me. I’ve already got my eye on another one.**4 stars out of 5**

July 17, 2019