The Whole Enchilada–Diane Mott Davidson

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If you’ve been reading this blog, you know that I’m not so much a fan of Diane Mott Davidson as a person but I feel a weird compulsion to complete the series that I started before I knew that I didn’t like her.

The excellent news about this particular book is that it’s got to be the last in the series. *fingers crossed*

This book is nonsense. Pure, complete nonsense.

Yet another “dear, close, personal friend” of Goldy’s that has never been mentioned previously has died and it’s up to Goldy to investigate.

Over the course of the series Goldy has become less likable and more abrasive and aggressive and nosy. She’s not someone I would socialize with. Nor would I socialize with her friends or compatriots.

And if her law enforcement husband existed in real life he’d have been fired years ago for the liberties he takes with the investigations and which he allows her to take.

Anyway, the question is who of the many people who might have wanted to kill this lovely human being (who, FYI, cheated on her husband, blackmailed her lover, and passed someone else’s work off as her own on a regular basis) actually did poison her dinner.

Her ex-husband who had recently discovered he was not the father of her child, his mom, his new wife? The artist she was stealing from? The person she was blackmailing?

Pray to the Gods of publishing that this really is the last of this series. I don’t know if I can do this again. And the recipes are, I SWEAR TO GOD, duplicates. At least some of them were in previous books, I’m sure of it.

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The Temptation of the Night Jasmine–Lauren Willig

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This is part of a series of romance novels. They shift back and forth between a contemporary romance, between a historical researcher and the owner of the materials she’s using, and the people she’s researching.

All the people she’s researching are English spies during the Napoleonic period, all with floral code names, obviously inspired by the Scarlet Pimpernel.

In this outing, the researcher has finally bagged her man and so the drama isn’t as much whether they’ll get together so much as it is the very annoying “minor misunderstandings as plot devices” stage. I refuse to discuss these plot devices, as a protest against the entire concept.

Moving right along to the historical plot line.

Robert, the Duke of Dovedale, has returned to England after an extended period as a soldier in India. He doesn’t feel like the duke–he inherited in a more or less unexpected way–and doesn’t want to do duke things. The only reason he’s home is to track down a former acquaintance who has been selling British intelligence in India and who killed his mentor.

However, he’s blindsided by his little cousin Charlotte, all grown up and attractive. He gets a little bit involved but then distances himself because he’s on a quest, dammit.

In order to track down his quarry, he has to join the Hellfire club, which apparently involves hallucinogenic drugs and orgies. Not exactly edifying.

He (apparently?) resists the hallucinogens and hookers while investigating.

Obviously by the end Charlotte gets involved, despite his best attempts to protect her. She’s trying to save the King, and surprise surprise, the same bad guys are responsible for both nasty situations.

They all survive and she resists the urge to marry him, wanting him to choose her and not run away to India again, but of course, in the end she relents and they live happily ever after.

These are fun, fluffy books if you like a historical romance with a tinge of mystery.

The Eye of the World–Robert Jordan

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I’m finally doing what I always say I’ll do, going back and reviewing earlier books in a series.

I’ve read this book three or four times, each time when re-starting the series again. I’ve never gotten beyond book seven or eight before getting frustrated but I swear to God this time I’ll finish it.

The Wheel of Time series, which this book started, is possibly the most famous fantasy series in recent memory.

Fair warning from the outset, if you haven’t read it:

1) DETAIL. Have you ever read  Tolstoy? Jordan has a similar commitment to detail.

2) Insane cast of characters. Do you read the Game of Thrones books? We’re talking a similar number of characters.

3) They WILL drop characters for chapters….books…and then come back to them. If you have a favorite character, hold on, because you might not see them for the better part of 1000 pages.

Ok. If you’re still prepared to move forward, here’s the lowdown on the first book.

Emond’s Field is a tiny farming village in the hills, far from any city or town of reasonable size. One day a Aes Sedai–magic worker–comes to town. She singles out three young men: Rand, Mat and Perrin.

That night, Trollocs (yes, very like trolls, as you might have guessed) come and attack the place. She uses her magic to save the town and then leaves, taking the three young men, plus a girl (Egwene) with her. The girl can learn to do magic as well, which is why she’s going.

Turns out all three men are ta’veren, which means they effect fate. Or as the book puts it, they twist the pattern of the world around them. Not intentionally, of course.

At some point they get separated and then bad things start happening.

Perrin, as it turns out, has a rare affinity for wolves and can communicate with them, first in dreams and later while awake.

This leads to trouble as he kills two “Children of the Light” who kill a wolf. The Children are an army and are reminiscent of the Inquisition. They think all Aes Sedai are allied to the Dark One, and they have no issues hanging people for minor offenses.

The Aes Sedai, Moiraine, is taking them to Tar Valon, where the Aes Sedai are headquartered, but they become diverted. They have to pass through a town cursed by the Shadow, the Shadow being “evil” or a close approximation. While there, Mat picks up a dagger which is evil and which begins to turn him evil. Not ideal.

Along the way they also pick up another girl from Emond’s Field, Nyneave, who eventually comes along with Egwene to become Aes Sedai.

Eventually, they make their way to the far north, the Borderlands, the place where the Shadow originates and meets the world of regular people. They’re searching for the Green Man, a man made of forest and plants, who guards the Eye of the World.

They’ve heard from several sources that there is a threat to the Eye of the World. When they get there, the Eye turns out to be a pool of pure saidin, which is the male half of magic power.

Thousands of years ago men could use the power just as easily as women, but the evil corrupted it and now any man who uses the power eventually goes insane, usually taking out others in his insanity. As a result, an entire section of the Aes Sedai is dedicated to finding those men and severing them from the ability to channel the power.

Anyway, whilst there they are attacked by two Forsaken, high ranking evil people from the last great age who have been in a sort of hibernation for thousands of years. In the attack, Rand manages to use the pool of saidin to defeat them, which tells us that he can use the power and will eventually go insane.

It also fulfills a prophecy, which means that he’s the Dragon Reborn, the reincarnation of the hero that defeated the evil one thousands of years ago and who much do so again if the world is to be saved.

This post is twice as long as a usual one and I’ve left out SO MUCH. This is what I’m talking about with these books.

The later books get wonky, I’m not going to pretend they don’t, but this one is good.

 

Cockatiels at Seven–Donna Andrews

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This is part of the Meg Langslow series, which is in the “absurd” humorous mystery family.

I like an absurd mystery, and recommend them to people who can handle the randomness.

My all time favorite book in this series is “Owl’s Well That Ends Well” which I promise to review at some point. Eventually.

In this book, Meg is minding her own business when a friend she hasn’t seen in years drops off her two-year old, insisting it would be just for a little while and she doesn’t have anyone else.

Meg, like any normal person, assumes that means a few hours.

By the next morning–with no apparent way to get in touch with the mom–she’s panicking.

As it turns out, the mom has gone missing, and is being investigated by the police because of accounting irregularities in the college financial aid department, where she worked.

Meg pokes around and finds out that the kid’s dad, her friend’s ex-husband, was fired from the college IT department because he was trying to sneak in a program that would skim money into his own account.

Meg theorizes that her friend is being erroneously roped into suspicion of her ex’s crimes, and sets out to find the real embezzler. While keeping a small child alive and fending off suggestions from her family that she should have one of her own.

Side note: I do not understand relatives who are pushy about other people’s reproductive systems. Having a child is a major life commitment, and no person of sense is going to jump into it because their Aunt Ida hassles them at Thanksgiving. So what are you trying to achieve, Aunt Ida? Mindless annoyance? *sigh*

Anyway, in traditional Meg Langslow fashion she figures it out just in time to have her life threatened by the culprit and then manages to escape, to live to fight another day and so on.

The early books in this series are also tremendous. I think like most series, this one is losing a little fire as it goes along, but they’re still solid, and the absurdity is the point of these anyway.

The God of the Hive–Laurie R. King

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This book actually serves as the second part of a 2-book series, so…you’re going to want to go ahead and read the first one,”The Language of the Bees” which I promise I will review eventually along with all the earlier books in these series that I’m finishing up, before you commit yourself to this one. Fair warning.

This series is the continuing adventures of Sherlock Holmes, or more accurately, the adventures of his much younger wife which sometimes include Sherlock.

In this book, they start where they ended at the previous book, stranded on various parts of Scotland and the Orkney Islands, where they tracked a devious murderer/crazy person who was planning to sacrifice Sherlock’s son (with Irene Adler, naturally) and possibly the son’s 3 year old daughter. At the end of it, they think (erroneously) that the murderer is dead, but the son is injured.

So we ended last with Sherlock and his son on a tiny boat looking for medical help, and Mary (the wife) trying to get the little girl to safety.

What’s complicating this is that back in the last book, when the son was a suspect in his wife’s murder, and no one would give Lestrade (junior) information, he responded by issuing warrants on ALL of them, Sherlock, his son, Mary, and Mycroft as well.

Obviously, they can’t just wander into town looking for transport to London, or call the police, or call Mycroft. Or even wander into town for a doctor.

Instead, they improvise. Mary takes the child back on the rickety airplane, which the murderer’s henchman fires at, wounding the pilot and forcing an eventual crash landing in the middle of the woods somewhere in England. My English geography is NOT excellent, so that’s the best I can do.

They’re rescued by what appears to be the caretaker of a large manor house and they take refuge with him in his cottage while the pilot recovers. Until the bad guys find them and they have to flee. He sets them up with his family’s house in London, and Mary goes in search of whoever is still trying to take them out.

MEANWHILE, back in Mycroft world, one of his co-workers, in an attempt to stage a coup, has kidnapped him and is keeping his hostage. It’s not ideal.

Sherlock has kidnapped a doctor from a coastal town, talked her into doing surgery on his son (on the open sea, which I’m sure was super fun for her) and then stashes his son with her at her family’s place in Holland.

From there, eventually Sherlock makes his way back to London and while the pilot watches the little girl and the doctor watches his son, Mary and Robert the caretaker work on tracking down what happened to Mycroft, who has been reported dead, and finding out who is still after them.

Sherlock eventually finds them, and OF COURSE Mycroft isn’t dead, it takes more than an international conspiracy to kill Mycroft, and eventually it comes to a final showdown with the man who arranged all of this.

I love these books. So fun. Less deduction, more action, and Mary is a worthy partner for Sherlock, despite the age difference.

The Good Earth–Pearl S. Buck

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Aha, I bet you thought I only read pulp fiction. Au contraire, mon ami, I do indeed read real literature as well.

This is the best known book by Pearl S. Buck, and it won the Pulitzer. She also won the Nobel prize for literature, so you know she’s good.

This book, oh boy. I didn’t have any idea what was happening when I started it, I didn’t go online and look at discussions about it or anything, I just read it cold.

It is really something.

The writing is exquisite. I wish I had the lyricism to describe it more extensively than that, but I don’t. It’s just beautiful, achingly beautiful.

The plot, too, is intense.

It follows a family of Chinese peasants in the time before the Communist Revolution.

At the beginning, it’s a man and his old sick father, living alone in a little house on the edge of their land. Aside from an uncle and his family the next town over, they’re alone in the world.

But it’s all about to change because he’s getting married. They worked a deal with the rich family in town to give them one of their ugly female slaves. They wanted ugly so she wouldn’t expect much. Lovely.

They get her and she spends her wedding day cooking the wedding feast for his friends, eventually falling asleep in the kitchen with the ox.

She spends the next several months fixing up the house, cleaning and repairing and just generally improving the quality of life for them both, while caring for the old man and doing all the cooking and cleaning. When the house is done, she starts spending her days working in the fields with her husband.

When she has children, she’s back in the field that same day or the next day.

Still doing all the cooking and cleaning. Never complaining. This woman is a freaking saint.

Then comes the terrible drought. They’re all literally starving to death. She stops her husband from selling the land and they move to a bigger city down south where they survive living in a hut made of mats, the wife and kids begging on the streets while the husband pulls a rickshaw.

Eventually the revolution hits the rich family in that town and their home is thrown open for looting. The husband gets a hefty purse of gold and the wife gets a handful of jewels.

Thus enriched, they return home and use the money to get themselves set up again, new seed and oxes and whatever else they need. With the jewels, they buy more land.

All except two jewels. She begs to keep two pearls, not to have made into earrings or anything, just so she has something beautiful.

The lands prosper. They hire workers, they build a bigger house, they have enough money that they can survive a couple of bad years. It’s everything the husband has ever wanted.

He educates his two older sons, and trains the youngest to be a farmer and stay on the land.

Then there’s a terrible flood and there’s no work to do. He starts visiting the brothel in town and falls in love with one of the women there. He spends endless money on her, even taking his wife’s two precious little pearls for her. Eventually he builds an addition on his house and moves the whore into his own home.

Still, his wife bears it without complaint.

Then she gets sick. The doctors can’t save her. She mutters in her fever that she knows she’s too stupid and ugly to be loved, and her husband, sitting with her, agrees that he never loved her.

I think it bears noting that his entire success was built on her. Her hard work, the jewels she found that bought the extra land, her ability to produce strong children. I cry even now thinking that all of that is not enough to compel love and affection from her husband.

She dies.

His kids convince him to buy the big house in town and move them there. They marry daughters of town people, they live a merchant’s existence. The youngest son refuses to be a farmer and goes away to be educated.

Eventually he gets old and moves back to his small house on the land while he waits to die. And overhears his two older sons talking about selling the land when he dies. He begs them not to, reminds them that the land is what cushions them from droughts and famine, but of course, as soon as he dies, they sell the land anyway.

*sigh*

There are other things, relationships with servants the courtesan and his uncle’s family who are total jerks, but that’s the main story.

Beautiful. Sad. But terribly beautiful.

U is for Undertow–Sue Grafton

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Ok, so obviously I kept reading the Sue Grafton even after the unfortunate “S is for Silence” situation.

And this was good. I liked this one, it felt more like classic Sue Grafton.

We know–if you’ve been following along with the series or even with this blog–that the premise of this series is that there’s a female private investigator in Southern California in the 80s, and the books follow her cases.

In this book, someone wanders into her office with a random story. When he was six, some twenty-odd years ago, he was wandering around the woods alone and saw two people burying something. He talked to them and they played it off but when he saw a blurb in the paper recently about unsolved cases, he realized that it was two days after a local little girl went missing and now he thinks he saw them burying her body.

Of course, he was 6. He was staying with someone he didn’t see often and he has no idea where he was, so he can’t go find the spot and see if the girl’s body is there.

Her mission: find the grave, see what’s there.

She does find the grave, but there’s no little girl in it, just the body of a dog.

Which is random, right? Because the people burying the dog were doing it on the edge of someone else’s property. Who buries a dog on someone else’s property?

She tracks down the dog using his tag and the owner is baffled, he had the thing cremated after it was put down.

The vet in question says, well, we put them in a storage box and the city would come get them.

Essentially someone stole the body of the dog and buried it there, so that’s not normal and it gives credence to the initial idea that those were bad guys.

No one really believes her client–he has a history of false memories and his grasp of dates is shaky–but she perseveres and eventually finds the killers and the body.

This one is good.