Monday, June 8, 2009

Well, that was fun!

I really enjoyed my day reading yesterday, despite the freezer problems and having to do all that cooking. That's why God gave us crock pots. I'm sure of it!

I didn't get to do as much reading as I had wanted, but at least the Read-a-thon gave me the an excuse to sit around and read most of the day. I'm one of those who grew up in a home where reading was considered 'doing nothing' and 'doing nothing' was terribly, terribly wrong. So to this day, I feel really guilty for sitting around and just reading for the fun of it. Come to think of it, I felt guilty reading for school when I was working on a master's in religious studies. Because, you see, a degree in religious studies is useless, especially when you're working on it late in life so that there's no hope of any career moves. Therefore any related reading is not at all a practical way to spend my time and/or money. SIGH! I'm 62. You'd think I'd be over that by now, but I still feel guilty when I read pretty much anything.

What I've Been Reading Lately:

State of the Onion by Julie Hyzy
I'm so glad I belong to the DorothyL list. They are a chatty bunch and I have trouble keeping up with all the emails sometimes, but whenever the members praise a book to the heavens, I pay attention. This one was one so praised and I was tickled pink to finally able to get it through PaperBack Swap.

White House Assistant Chef Olivia Paras may be petite, but she is big on character and moxie. How else could she have the presence of mind to whack a White House intruder with a silver frying pan when the Secret Service can't even catch the guy. Ollie's occasional patriotic speeches were a little cloying, but that aside, I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Hyzy kept me entertained and I even laughed out loud a few times, starting with the frying pan incident. I also learned a lot about the nightmare logistics of planning for even the simplest White House dinner, let alone some of the larger gatherings. And the politics of food never crossed my mind before, but now, when I read about visiting dignitiaries, I'll be thinking about cultural, religious and regional differences and the importance of food in those social equations.

Surprisingly, I barely felt even a twinge of guilt for spending time reading this book. I did, however, feel a twinge of guilt for staying up late to finish it, but I got over it. It was worth the guilt.


A Dilly of a Death by Susan Wittig Albert
Susan Wittig Albert is one of my favorite writers. I love herbs and herb lore, so her series hooked me long ago when I first came across Wtiches' Bane at the KU bookstore. I loved the book and rushed out to the bookstore to pick up Thyme of Death. From then on, I tried to read each book as it came out. At one point, I can't remember which book or books in particular, I grew a little tired of China and Ruby so I stopped reading the series for a while. But when I came across this one on PaperBack Swap I decided to order it. I'm glad I did.

I discovered I still like the basic cast of characters: China, her hubby McQuaid, her step-son Brian (but not Brian's lizards and tarantulas - ick!), their dog Howard Cosell and China's best friend Ruby. Ruby's mellowed a bit, which is nice, though she still dresses with delightful flair. In this book, her daughter has recently discovered she is pregnant and she and Ruby are fighting about it. Amy refuses to name the baby's papa and Ruby is determined to sneak around and find out. She's way off base, of course. There's the irony of seeing how free-spirited Ruby deals with her own history repeating itself in her daughter. She had Amy out of wedlock and gave her up for adoption. Apparently I missed the book in which the two are reunited. Suddenly Ruby finds herself giving Amy all the arguments she herself received adn resented from her own parents and family. And, of course, China is caught in the middle, but handles it pretty well.

The only thing I found unbelievable was that no one suspected foul play in the disappearance of Phoebe Morgan, Pecan Springs' Pickle Queen. She was painted as such a control freak over not only her pickle business, but also all her charitable and civic duties. So I find that her absence during the crucial week before the Pickle Festival should have raised everybody's little alarms. People should have been scouring the countryside looking for her body. But other than that, the story is basically well told and the characters believable.

All in all A Dilly of a Death was entertaining and makes me want to make a trip to the library to catch up on what I've missed in China's and Ruby's lives.


Work of the Angels, Kat Goldring
This is my first Willi Gallagher novel, but it won't be my last. I got it from PaperBack Swap, of course. I was intrigued by the notion of a small town high school English teacher as amateur sleuth. The two novels I started for NaNoWriMo feature a retired English teacher as amateur sleuth, so I ordered this book to see how the author dealt with teaching. The novel was set during the two weeks of prep time before the start of school, a situtation with which I am quite familiar. There are all the requisite small town characters. I like the sheriff better than some I've encountered. His speech patterns don't ring true to this Southern gal, but I'm from Louisiana, not West Texas. He's a West Texas version of Columbo who's a lot sharper than he appears to be with his bumbling, aw shucks attitude. And I am so thankful that he's not the typical small Southern town jackass of a redneck good old boy! That would have me throwing the book against the nearest wall. Which would be bad, because I'd damage it and then couldn't re-post it to PaperBack Swap! I like Sheriff Tucker and look forward to meeting him again in other books in the series. I also appreciated the good relations between Sheriff Tucker and Willi. Right now I'm just tired of the mysteries in which the amateur sleuth and the local constabulary are at each other's throats all the time. And as the daughter of a State Trooper, I really hate novels, movies and TV shows in which the cops are always and forever bumbling boobs. Especially the Southern guys and gals.

I also enjoyed meeting Willi's elderly neighbors, the Tarot-reading white witches who faithfully attend the local Methodist church. What a hoot those two are. They provide a bit of comic relief, but also play an important part in this novel.

I don't have a problem with what DorothyL folks call the "woo-woo" effect in my mysteries as long as it's done well. Work of the Angels does it well. One of the background stories is about the relationship between Willi, who is part Native American and part Scotch-Irish, and her fiance Quannah, a Lakota law enforcement officer who is apparently trying to help Willi get in touch with her Native cultural roots. One of the things I especially liked about this book was the blending of all those cultural backgrounds in helping Willi solve the crime.


That's not everything, but it's all I'm writing about today. Happy guilt-free reading, y'all!

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