A Note About My Goodreads’ Reviews

… she could hear the gold pick up the music of the dragon’s name … she could identify every piece of gold within that enormous chamber by its separate sounding” from Dragonsbane by Barbara Hambly (official fan page and author blog).

Books are dragon’s gold to me.

Although I’m working hard to catalog and sift through my books, I am distracted by those I want to re-read, those I don’t remember reading and must read, and those that lead me to more loverly have-to-reads.

NOTE: Because I don’t know which of my reviews would not fall within Goodreads’ new Amazon-mandated standards, as of January 1, 2015, all of my reviews will be mirrored on my blog Solitary.

That said, I agree that in general book reviews should be about books. Oftentimes books are an extension of an author. Books are influential. Authors must take responsibility for that. Reviewers and readers are the ones who must hold authors to that ideal. But we must do it thoughtfully and intelligently.  Scatological and personal attacks on authors are unforgivable, but any censorship is frightening in its possibilities for misuse.

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Review: The Whole Enchilada

The Whole Enchilada
The Whole Enchilada by Diane Mott Davidson
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Although this is a review of book number 17 in the Goldy Bear Culinary Mystery series, this will address the series as a whole as well. Mild Spoilers!

When this series first came out, with Catering to Nobody in 1990, I found it quite fun and enjoyable. Goldie and I shared similar backgrounds and interests and there was an element of humor that lifted my spirits. By the third or fourth book, however, several things about the series became tiresome and downright annoying.

Let’s not forget this entire series takes place in a span of about 6 years (Archie is 11 in book 1 and 17 in book 17).

Let’s start with Aspen Meadows, vying for “Murder Capitol of the World.” They ought to make a reality series called “The Real Housewives of Aspen Meadow” because there is more backstabbing, gossip, lying, treachery, adultery, illegitimacy, nastiness, alcoholism, shallowness, and sheer bitchiness than any reality series out there. NEVER go to a doctor or lawyer in Aspen Meadows. They sleep with their patients/clients, do more “mal” than practice, overcharge, over-prescribe, embezzle, boondoggle, lose rights to practice, and even switch babies (I’m pretty sure that figured in one book). How about the bizarre weather and the road department’s lack of preparedness. It is always snowing/flooding/burning in Aspen Meadows. Dangerous roads are never repaired, closed or cleared. The police are kindly and well-intentioned but useless to abused spouses and unable to solve simple crimes. Perhaps they spend too much time looking after Goldie.

Goldie is obsessed with her abusive ex-husband. She never gets past her victim mentality and continues to allow his emotional abuse as she whines and complains for several years after his death. It’s as if Davidson cannot let her character grow.

Archie is an obnoxious spoiled brat and needs a (figurative) smack upside the head. Goldie caters (no pun intended) to him in a way that insures he will never have a healthy relationship with a woman. And what’s up with not hugging or showing public affection for Archie because he’s a boy and will be embarrassed? Geeze, Goldie, embarrassing your kids is part of parenting.

The supporting characters are one dimensional, including Goldie’s detective husband Tom, who is a caricature of the romance hero. He’s the handsome guy in the background providing support, superlative love-making, handy in the kitchen, with coffee and massages at the drop of a towel. Tom has no needs, no life outside of Goldie and his job to get in the way of the plots. Goldie constantly takes and Tom gives. Even to the ludicrous point of including her in police investigations.

And a word about the recipes. The Dungeon Bars and Gourmet Spinach soup from early books are favorites in my home. But later recipes have become so convoluted, snooty and pretentious I don’t even bother to look at the recipes anymore.

In 6 novel-years (24 real-time years), 17 novels and good Lord I’ve lost count of the deaths, Goldie has learned nothing. She is headstrong, stubborn, careless, unthinking, and selfish. Her curiosity and need to do what she wants to do when she wants to do it comes before anything else in her life. Despite being a supposedly talented and competent caterer who exercises and does yoga, her clumsiness is frequently a plot device. She is constantly falling, having auto accidents, being assaulted, shot, knifed, poisoned, and … have I left anything out? She spends so much time in the hospital she is probably uninsurable at this point.

The review of this book: Predictable, repetitious, and uninteresting. Tom wants to have a baby.

View all my reviews

BOOK REVIEW: The Mortal Instruments – City of Bones

city of bonesHarlequin Romance for (makes finger quotes in air to show disdain for the term) “young” “adults”.

MILD SPOILER!
Or maybe you didn’t see it coming so it’s a
MAJOR SPOILER!

This book has it all! Mom with mysterious past! Vampires! Werewolves! Fallen Angels! Warfare between super secret super naturals! It’s Star Wars with the whole “Luke! I am your father. And by the way, she’s your sister” thing going on. It’s Harry Potter only with hormone rampant teenagers. It’s LotR-the-movie with hot young elven-types. It’s Monty Python and the Holy Grail! There’s even a pitch to the LGBT bi-curious contingent. And don’t forget the boy-next-door who gets hot when he takes off his glasses (Go Buffy!) Is there ANY cliché Cassandra Clare did not toss into the mix?

And just who ARE these “young” “adults” for whom this is targeted. The teenagers I’ve known are much smarter than this.

I’m just gonna finish this one and forget the rest of the series. And probably not see the movie.

As a note of interest, The Mortal Instruments series is a reworking of Cassandra Clare’s Harry Potter fanfic The Draco Trilogy (published as Cassandra Claire). Internet readers documented and reported instances of plagiarism committed by Clare, charging she lifted entire passages from movies, television shows, and books. The moderators of FanFiction.Net investigated, found that Cassandra Claire had plagiarized, and deleted her account. Clare has repeatedly denied charges of plagiarism, stating that she “borrowed quotes, and quite intentionally paraphrased … and was quite clear in stating that I was doing so.”

I dunno. I read it. She copied. If I’d been her teacher, she would have failed.

P.S.

Clary

Review: Original Sin

Original Sin
Original Sin by Mary Monica Pulver
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I enjoy Mary Monica Pulver so I can tolerate her idiosyncrasies, including re-hashing the clues forty ‘leven times and people being stupidly uncommunicative.

That said, despite several editing errors in the Kindle edition, this was an enjoyable summer read. The traditional snowstorm that traps everyone (very English country manor murder-y), the traditionally lovely Christmas trappings, and the oh-too-short and why-didn’t-she-include-recipes traditional English fare made this a very traditional, and enjoyable, cozy.

View all my reviews

Book Review: The Divine Circle of Ladies Digging the Dirt (A Cass Shipton Mystery #9)

Ladies_Digging-330In this latest of the the Cass Shipton and friends series, author Dolores Stewart Riccio perfectly balances the everyday ordinariness of real Wicca with the touches of coincidental magic that those in tune with their surroundings experience daily.

The mysteries are good too.

And the vegetarian cassoulet is really yummy.

House Keeping!

Apologies to any of my followers who notice. I’m consolidating posts from blogs I no longer keep up with. So you may be notified of posts from the past.

Book Review: Ghost Story (The Dresden Files, #13)

Ghost Story (The Dresden Files, #13)
by Jim Butcher

Ghost StoryIt is perhaps understandable that after several graphic novels, short stories, novelettes, and 12 novels in as many years, Jim Butcher would feel the need to take stock of his hero, supporting characters, and the world he created. As a writer, he might like to spend some time exploring his hero’s thought processes and how he’s grown, changed, and matured over the years and experiences. Figure out where all his characters have come from, where they are now, and where they are going. It would be good to review the world he created, develop the physics and magical landscape, and reconcile inconsistencies. Now would be the time too look at all the loose ends and find a way to weave them together satisfactorily.

This is good for a writer to do so that he can write from conviction, belief in his creation, and a consistent worldview. Most good writers do this. Great writers of series are very organized about it.

To do so, however, and pass it off thinly clothed as a novel in the continuation of the storyline is lazy and cheap. It cheats the reader. This novel is a 500 page narcissistic ramble and excuse for the writer to flesh out some of his personal philosophy. And it occurs, like a bad traffic accident, at a critical point in the overall story arc.

Most of this book is Dresden beating himself up over his past actions and decisions, ruminating on the nature of life, death, and magic, and defying all of the Laws and laws Butcher laid out in previous books. Harry’s whining and self-flagellation gets repetitive, monotonous, and boring. He whines so much that I had to check that this wasn’t a Thomas Covenant book.  Butcher uses Harry to mull over personal philosophies that are at odds with much of what Harry has expressed as his personal beliefs in the past. The intrusion of these monologues disturbs the flow of the story significantly.

For instance, late in the book in the middle of a critical action sequence, Butcher has Dresden spend two full pages explaining to himself why he is crazy. This is bad on two accounts. One – it is in the middle of an action sequence and lasts so long and is so rambling that the reader loses track of what the action is, where it is happening, and why it is happening (sort of like this sentence). Two – it is the third or forth or in some cases the fifth or more time Harry has gone over this same material.

Fer chrissakes Harry, quit moaning about how bad your life has been and about how the whole world is going to hell in a hand basket all because you a) can not control your anger, b) make stupid, uninformed decisions, or c) do not think your actions through.

Another thing that bothers me about this novel is how Butcher has treated the secondary and tertiary characters. In an attempt to flesh them out and expand the cast, he introduced inexplicable changes in appearance, personality and abilities. For example, a minor character in some of the early books is a major character here. He was portrayed a dumpy, balding man in his late forties. He had a small single talent for communicating with the dead and made his living as a medium. In <i>Ghost Story</i>, he has lost weight, buffed up physically and emotionally, and has a sizeable magical talent he’s somehow hidden from the Wardens for 40 years. Similar transformations occur in other minor characters.

There were so many things Butcher could have done, so many ways to go … and this is what he chose? This was such a disappointment. Butcher has many times expressed that the Dresden series was not what he wanted to write, that it wasn’t his “serious” work. But he has gathered a loyal following and owes them more that this.

How Punny Can You Make It?

The lovely Illy Brownlee and the Meridian Embroiders Guild sponsored an embroidery focused competition at the SCA event Fool’s War “Quest for the Holy Grail” over the weekend of April 13th.

  • * Best of Theme
  • *Members Category
  • *Non-Guild Members Category
  • *Populace Favorite

This was my entry, which won Best of Theme.

The original embroidered cross stitch piece.

The original embroidered cross stitch piece.

The frontispiece with the clew!

The frontispiece with the clew!

Page the First

Page the First

Page B

Page B

The last page

The last page

Find Joy in the Journey

find joy in the journeyMusing on the last day of 2012

Some one once said that there are two kinds of journey, one is only for reaching the destination, which makes life a matter of two points, birth and death; the other involves vision and mind in the scenery and events along the way, which results in a rich life.

I kinda like that … the idea of moseying along life taking in the scenery, pausing for a bit in a really nice spot then taking up the trek again paying more attention to what is around you than what is behind or ahead.

My mother had a tradition we all considered a bit of a nuisance as children. She believed that the way you spent the first day of the year set the pattern for the rest of the year. So bright and early on the morning of January 1 Mom would pop her head in the door, flip on the light, and sing slightly off-key “You are my sunshine, my only sunshine! Time to wake up sleepy heads!”

We’d grumble out of bed and follow Mom to the bathroom to wash, wee, and brush before putting on bathrobes and heading to the kitchen. Mom would have set the table with cloth napkins and place mats and with a vitamin and a glass of juice already poured at our places. And right next to the juice would be a small wrapped gift or card she picked just for us.  After a breakfast of French toast and bacon we’d head back to our rooms to get dressed in clean clothes, strip our beds for fresh linens and do a chore picked by Mom.

We started our day with cheer and laughter, cleanliness, a good breakfast, a bit of work, and above all the  thoughtfulness and unconditional love of another person. Not a bad start for the year.

This year, I want to start my New Year off the right way by getting up at a reasonable hour and having a good breakfast (with a vitamin!). After a bit of motivational reading and writing, Molly-dog and I will take a walk. Family and friends are important, so I’ll call or maybe even write a card or letter (I actually have stamps left over from the holiday cards I didn’t send).  I’ll pick up after myself and sort through some paperwork and actually discard something because order and simplicity is vital to my ability to function.  I’ll plan my meals and “write my bites”  to get back on track after the holidays. And at the end of the day, I’ll journal my gratitude.

Maybe it’s ambitious to do it all in one day, but it is just one day … just today.

And all we really have to do is one day at a time.

“It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end.” said Ernest Hemingway

A Birthday Gift for Mom

This is the birthday gift I made for my mother for her last birthday, November 1, 2006. I really loved the button that came with this kit. Mom loved the idea of red hat ladies and appropriated my personal red-hat for her own. Since my sister destroyed most of what I made for Mom after her death, I  have been wanting to recreate this but cannot locate the button.

Red Hat Lady Box November 2006 003

Red Hat Lady Box November 2006 007 Red Hat Lady Box November 2006 008

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