Dogs and Goddesses

Dogs and GoddessesDogs and Goddesses by Jennifer Crusie
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Goofy, funny (the talking dogs are hysterical, and the narrator of the audiobook did a WONDERFUL job with them), interesting characters (although a couple of them were very similar) – just right for a beach read or when you need to clear your brain after a hefty/intense/intellectual read. Now I’m ready to tackle some of the medieval non-fiction I’m taking on for a library conference later this year…

Lots of explicit sex if you like that sort of thing. It didn’t make me cringe, so I guess that’s a plus. It’s a little disjointed with three different authors. I assume they each wrote one of the three main “goddesses.” My favorite was Shar, the middle-aged heroine and her dog Wolfie. The other two women and their romantic interests were not as well developed (and as I said, at times hard to tell apart.) The mythology was okay, but don’t expect anything historical (it was made up.) The romances really didn’t have enough tension (will they, won’t they?) to create a very satisfying ending (endings?) And the fate of Kamani Gula (the Mesopotamian goddess) and especially Mina (the evil priestess) was just silly. Like cotton candy – fun once in a while, but I wouldn’t want a steady diet of it.

Book description: Abby has just arrived in Summerville, Ohio, with her placid Newfoundland, Bowser. She’s reluctantly inherited her grandmother’s coffee shop, but it’s not long before she’s brewing up trouble in the form of magical baked goods and steaming up her life with an exasperating college professor. And then there’s Daisy, a web code writer, and her hyperactive Jack Russell, Bailey. Her tightly-wound world spins out of control when she discovers the chaos within and meets a mysterious dog trainer whose teaching style is definitely hands-on. Finally there’s Shar, professor of ancient history at Summerville College, who wakes up one morning to find her neurotic dachshund, Wolfie, snarling at an implacable god sitting at her kitchen table, the first thing in her life she hasn’t been able to footnote. What on earth is going on in this unearthly little town? It’s up to Abby, Daisy, and Shar to find out before an ancient goddess takes over Southern Ohio, and they all end up in the apocalyptic doghouse…

Miracle and Other Christmas Stories

Miracle and Other Christmas StoriesMiracle and Other Christmas Stories by Connie Willis

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I will generously give this 3 stars. It was okay, but nothing special. I kind of expected more from Connie Willis. It’s an interesting variety of stories, and even styles, but I think I will be hard-pressed to remember any of them two months from now. My favorite was probably “Adaptation” in which a book-store clerk encounters the ghosts from Dickens’ Christmas Carol. “Inn” was interesting – the plight of Mary and Joseph displaced out of time to the parking lot of a modern-day church. And “Newsletter”, which was a fun spoof of both Christmas newsletters and movies like The Body Snatchers.

Book Description: Connie Willis capture the timeless essence of generosity and goodwill in this magical collection of Christmas stories. These eight tales-two of which have never before been published-boldly reimagine the stories of Christmas while celebrating the power of love and compassion. This enchanting treasury includes:

“Miracle,” in which a young woman’s carefully devised plans to find romance go awry when her guardian angel shows her the true meaning of love
“In Coppelius’s Toyshop,” where a jaded narcissist finds himself trapped in a crowded toy store at Christmastime
“Epiphany,” in which three modern-day wisemen embark on a quest unlike any they’ve ever experienced
“Inn,” where a choir singer gives shelter to a homeless man and his pregnant wife-only to learn later that there’s much more to the couple than meets the eye

The Valcourt Heiress

Valcourt Heiress, TheValcourt Heiress, The by Catherine Coulter

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I am not at all sure I want to dignify this book with a review. I am utterly perplexed by all the 5-star reviews out there, and all I can say is this is SO not my genre. Romances (not the same thing as love stories in my categorization) are silly. This book is sillier than silly. I can’t call this historical fiction by any stretch of the imagination, so I have settled on fantasy. As far as romances go, this one was pretty tame with one utterly unbelievable sex scene. If I hadn’t been listening in the car, this would have been a did-not-finish at that point. It started out as a not bad adventure story, some cute characters, some humorous dialogue. But then it seemed to completely change direction in the second half with the appearance of Merry’s mother, a witch. Not just herbs and potions – but actual magic seemed to be involved. There’s a bit of mystery, and a twist at the end that I didn’t see coming. So two stars. Adequate entertainment if you just want a light read, but don’t set your expectations too high. There are apparently recurring characters from previous books in the “series”. I read this thinking it might be a fun read for my book club, as the library has it as a bookclub-in-a-bag kit. But no, I won’t be recommending it.

Book Description: When Garron of Kersey returns home from the king’s service to claim his title as Baron Wareham, he’s shocked to find Wareham Castle very nearly destroyed by a man called the Black Demon. According to the last starving servants still clinging to life inside the castle walls, the Black Demon was looking for silver belonging to Garron’s brother Arthur. Among his remaining servants is the enigmatic Merry, said to be the bastard child of the castle’s priest. Garron quickly realizes that she is much more than a servant: She reads and writes and makes lists, just as he does. Together they bring Wareham back to its former splendor. But this is only the beginning. Did Arthur have a cache of silver? Who is the Black Demon? And the biggest question of all: Who is Merry?

The Crane Wife

The Crane WifeThe Crane Wife by Patrick Ness

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

An interesting blend of contemporary story about a man having a mid-life crisis, his socially inept single mother daughter, and the fairy-tale, mystical woman who comes into their lives offering love? forgiveness? redemption? It is also a philosophical look at storytelling and the nature of truth vs. myth. Lots of gorgeous prose and quotable lines. A strong beginning, but then a tendency to lose itself in the shifting points of view and time. The mystical and the real didn’t always intersect very smoothly, and the ending is hopeful but not necessarily convincing.

First line: “What actually woke him was the unearthly sound itself — a mournful shatter of frozen midnight falling to earth to pierce his heart and lodge there forever, never to move, never to melt — but he, being who he was, assumed it was his bladder.”

Book Description: George Duncan is an American living and working in London. At forty-eight, he owns a small print shop, is divorced, and lonelier than he realizes. All of the women with whom he has relationships eventually leave him for being too nice. But one night he is woken by an astonishing sound—a terrific keening, which is coming from somewhere in his garden. When he investigates he finds a great white crane, a bird taller than even himself. It has been shot through the wing with an arrow. Moved more than he can say, George struggles to take out the arrow from the bird’s wing, saving its life before it flies away into the night sky.

The next morning, a shaken George tries to go about his daily life, retreating to the back of his store and making cuttings from discarded books—a harmless, personal hobby—when through the front door of the shop a woman walks in. Her name is Kumiko, and she asks George to help her with her own artwork. George is dumbstruck by her beauty and her enigmatic nature, and begins to fall desperately in love with her. She seems to hold the potential to change his entire life, if he could only get her to reveal the secret of who she is and why she has brought her artwork to him.

The Hollow City

Hollow City (Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children, #2)Hollow City by Ransom Riggs

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I’ll continue to be generous with this series and give it 3 stars, which is still a huge drop from the first book. I didn’t dislike it, but it had none of what made the first book such a memorable experience. I suppose for one thing, the world-building has been established, so we don’t have the mystery of figuring out what is going on. And while I still find the odd photos intriguing, the story is too much contrived by the photos instead of being an accompaniment to the story. While Jacob seems a little older and wiser in this book, there is not really any character development. The whole love story angle is very flat. I’m not a fan of cliff-hanger endings. It worked in the first book, and despite being a cliffhanger there was a sense of completion. This book just feels like “filler” material to me – enough to make a movie out of, but a pretty shallow plot for a book. Ransom Riggs writes well enough, and the historical setting is good, but I hope he will give more attention to plot and characters in the 3rd installment.

Description: Jacob Portman and his newfound friends journey to London, the peculiar capital of the world. There, they hope to find a cure for their beloved headmistress, Miss Peregrine. But in this war-torn city, hideous surprises lurk around every corner. And before Jacob can deliver the peculiar children to safety, he must make an important decision about his love for Emma Bloom.

A Conspiracy of Kings

A Conspiracy of Kings (The Queen's Thief, #4)A Conspiracy of Kings by Megan Whalen Turner

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Well, I guess this completes the series in a satisfactory way, since we were left with the disappearance of Sophos in a previous book. Perhaps I was getting tired of the series, but this just didn’t hold my interest very well. Yet another point of view – Sophos this time – but he is nowhere near the hero that Eugenides was in the first three books. In fact, there seems to be very little of him here at all. So unless you are dying to know what happened to Sophos, this book seems like just an afterthought to tie up the loose threads. There is none of the trickster quality that made Gen so endearing. Just a lot of political maneuvering. Sophos seems a bit plodding, and I’m not sure what Gen and the Queen of Eddis saw in him. It did pick up again toward the end when Sophos finally decides to fight for his right to rule Sounis.

Book Description: Sophos, under the guidance of yet another tutor, practices his swordplay and strategizes escape scenarios should his father’s villa come under attack. How would he save his mother? His sisters? Himself? Could he reach the horses in time? Where would he go? But nothing prepares him for the day armed men, silent as thieves, swarm the villa courtyard ready to kill, to capture, to kidnap. Sophos, the heir to the throne of Sounis, disappears without a trace. In Attolia, Eugenides, the new and unlikely king, has never stopped wondering what happened to Sophos. Nor has the Queen of Eddis. They send spies. They pay informants. They appeal to the gods. But as time goes by, it becomes less and less certain that they will ever see their friend alive again. Across the small peninsula battles are fought, bribes are offered, and conspiracies are set in motion. Darkening the horizon, the Mede Empire threatens, always, from across the sea. And Sophos, anonymous and alone, bides his time. Sophos, drawing on his memories of Gen, Pol, the magus—and Eddis—sets out on an adventure that will change all of their lives forever.

The King of Attolia

The King of Attolia (The Queen's Thief, #3)The King of Attolia by Megan Whalen Turner

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It is fun to have a new perspective here – someone who does not know Eugenides. Of course, if you have read the first two books in the series, then you know that Eugenides is not the buffoon that he seems to be. Just as much fun as the other books in the series.

Book Description: By scheming and theft, the Thief of Eddis has become King of Attolia. Eugenides wanted the queen, not the crown, but he finds himself trapped in a web of his own making. Told from the point of view of a naive young guard awaiting execution for striking the despised new king. Inexplicably, Eugenides pardons the young squad leader on one condition: Costis must faithfully serve as his personal assistant and bodyguard. But it’s not until assassins unsheathe their glittering blades that Costis realizes how much the quirky king means to him.

Audio version: Jeff Woodman’s superb narration highlights all the compelling action and subtle humor of a spellbinding novel with enough twists to suggest that things aren’t always what they seem to be.