The Dog Who Came In From the Cold

The Dog who Came in from the Cold (Corduroy Mansions, #2)The Dog who Came in from the Cold by Alexander McCall Smith
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

As might be expected from the title, Freddie de la Hay, our Pimlico terrier living at Corduroy Mansions, finds himself on loan to MI6 for some espionage work. Fortunately, we know that whatever might befall, all will be well in the end. These characters are beginning to grow on me: Freddie, of course, and his owner William French -having turned 50 he is having a bit of a midlife crisis, especially where romance is concerned – Barbara Ragg, who seems to have found true love with the Scotsman she met in the last book, and escaped from her former lover Rupert, who covets her comfortable home – Berthia, the sensible sister of Terrence Moongrove, whose innocence and gullibility never fails to get him into trouble – Caroline and her “sensitive” friend James – is he gay or isn’t he? – and the mysterious and elusive Yeti. What all of them come to realize at the end is “There’s no place like home.”

Audiobook narrated by Simon Prebble.

Book description: In the elegantly crumbling mansion block in Pimlico called Corduroy Mansions, the comings and goings of the wonderfully motley crew of residents continue apace. A pair of New Age operators has determined that Terence Moongrove’s estate is the cosmologically correct place for their center for cosmological studies. Literary agent Barbara Ragg has decided to represent Autobiography of a Yeti, purportedly dictated to the author by the Abominable Snowman himself. And our small, furry, endlessly surprising canine hero Freddie de la Hay—belonging to failed oenophile William French—has been recruited by MI6 to infiltrate a Russian spy ring. Needless to say, the other denizens of Corduroy Mansions have issues of their own. But all of them will be addressed with the wit and insight into the foibles of the human condition that have become the hallmark of this peerless storyteller.

Advertisements

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…

Wild Ride

Wild RideWild Ride by Jennifer Crusie

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I thought this was a hoot! Wonderfully silly and the narrator did a terrific job with the voices. It’s a great send up of the whole paranormal romance genre, with plenty of action: Think Luke and Leia fighting demon-possessed teddy bears, a character described as Army Barbie, and a government homeland security agent that reminds me of Dolores Umbridge in the Harry Potter stories. Oh yes, and the Devil himself who lives locked up in a statue. There’s also a Hellmouth ala Buffyland….

Book Description:
Mary Alice Brannigan doesn’t believe in the supernatural. Nor does she expect to find that Dreamland, the decaying amusement park she’s been hired to restore, is a prison for the five Untouchables, the most powerful demons in the history of the world. Plus, there’s a guy she’s falling hard for—and there’s something about him that’s not quite right.

But rocky romances and demented demons aren’t the only problems in Dreamland: Mab’s also coping with a crooked politician, a supernatural raven, a secret government agency, an inexperienced sorceress, an unsettling inheritance, and some mind-boggling revelations from her past. As her personal demons wreck her newfound relationship and real demons wreck the park, Mab faces down immortal evil and discovers what everybody who’s ever been to an amusement park knows: The end of the ride is always the wildest.

The Knights’ Tales Collection

The Knights' Tales Collection: Book 1: Sir Lancelot the Great; Book 2: Sir Givret the Short; Book 3: Sir Gawain the True; Book 4: Sir Balin the Ill-FatedThe Knights’ Tales Collection: Book 1: Sir Lancelot the Great; Book 2: Sir Givret the Short; Book 3: Sir Gawain the True; Book 4: Sir Balin the Ill-Fated by Gerald Morris

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Easily 5 out of 5 stars, this is one of the most delightful reads of the year. Arthurian tales for ages 8 and up, told with much tongue in cheek humor, and very capably narrated by Steve West. These four tales are laugh-out-loud funny. Steve’s voices are perfect. I wanted to immediately start over and listen to them all again. Also available as individual stories, the books could be used as a read along for reluctant readers or adult learners. Not just for children!

Description:
Many years ago, the storytellers say, the great King Arthur brought justice to England with the help of his gallant Knights of the Round Table.

Sir Lancelot the Great
Of these worthy knights, there was never one so fearless, so chivalrous, so honorable, so…shiny as the dashing Sir Lancelot, who was quite good at defending the helpless and protecting the weak, just as long as he’d had his afternoon nap.

Sir Givret the Short
Poor Givret: his size makes him so easy to overlook. But there’s more to knighthood than height, and before long, Givret’s quick thinking lands him a place at the famous Round Table!

Sir Gawain the True
The knights didn’t always act quite as gallantly as a true knight should. Even King Arthur’s nephew, known at that time as Sir Gawain the Undefeated, was too full of himself to accept a token of thanks from a rescued princess! Someone needed to teach Sir Gawain that courtesy and friendship are just as important as strength and courage.

Sir Balin the Ill-Fated
While most of King Arthur’s knights freely chose a life of duty, for Sir Balin the Ill-Fated, destiny was foretold in a prophecy. Still, no matter how dire the task, a loyal and gallant knight never refuses adventure!

Mrs Queen Takes the Train

Mrs. Queen Takes the TrainMrs. Queen Takes the Train by William Kuhn

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was a little slow to start, but once I got into it I very much enjoyed the characters. It’s about the Queen, but it’s also about the people around her. A more thoughtful book than Alan Bennett’s The Uncommon Reader, I could actually imagine the Queen doing these things, even yoga. Along the way, the author manages to comment on Britain’s class structure, the generation gap, homosexuality, animal abuse, sexual abuse, post-war trauma, physical disabilities, and more. It is humorous without making fun of the monarchy, and maybe even a little poignant as the Queen wrestles with her own identity and wonders if she is just a “useless” figurehead.

Book description: After decades of service and years of watching her family’s troubles splashed across the tabloids, Britain’s Queen is beginning to feel her age. An unexpected opportunity offers her relief: an impromptu visit to a place that holds happy memories—the former royal yacht, Britannia, now moored near Edinburgh. Hidden beneath a skull-emblazoned hoodie, the limber Elizabeth (thank goodness for yoga) walks out of Buckingham Palace and heads for King’s Cross to catch a train to Scotland. But a colorful cast of royal attendants has discovered her missing. In uneasy alliance a lady-in-waiting, a butler, an equerry, a girl from the stables, a dresser, and a clerk from the shop that supplies Her Majesty’s cheese set out to bring her back before her absence becomes a national scandal.

Comic and poignant, fast-paced and clever, Mrs Queen Takes the Train tweaks the pomp of the monarchy, going beneath its rigid formality to reveal the human heart of the woman at its center.

Pride and Prejudice and Kitties

Pride and Prejudice and Kitties: A Cat-Lover's Romp Through Jane Austen's ClassicPride and Prejudice and Kitties: A Cat-Lover’s Romp Through Jane Austen’s Classic by Jane Austen

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Pride and Prejudice told from a cat’s point-of-view, interspersed with passages from the actual Pride and Prejudice. The retelling was clever – Kitty doesn’t just cough, she coughs up hairballs; the balls are the kind you bat around, maybe extra special with a bell inside; the estate has been end-tailed; etc. This is obviously a contemporary adaption – otherwise references to pill pockets and Fancy Feast would be anachronistic. If you like comparing the changes to the original, you will like the juxtaposition of the two texts. I thought it made the story a bit repetitious. The photos were obviously carefully staged with Jane Austen props. I loved the little inside jokes, and featuring other P&P related books like “Jane Austen for Dummies,” “The Jane Austen Cookbook,” and “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.” I would have liked the “kitty” adaptation to have been illustrated using the same cats for Jane Austen’s characters and to have been separate from the other type of photos. All in all, I think it could have been less story, more photos.

From the inside flap:
“If I can but see one of my kittens happily purring at Netherfield,” remarked Mrs. Bennet to her husband, “and all the others equally well-mated, I shall have nothing to yowl about.” Pride and Prejudice and Kitties juxtaposes wacky photos of cats with the wicked humor of Jane Austen. Soulful Mr. Darcy gazes at Elizabeth Bennet in fascination; hysterical Mrs. Bennet yowls that no one understands her; somnolent Mr. Hurst passes out on the sofa after dinner; arrogant Lady Catherine hisses at Elizabeth. Each photo includes a hilarous caption that goes along with the text of Pride and Prejudice, told from a feline perspective.

Opening chapter:
“Netherfield Park is marked at last.”
The news caused much romping at the Bennet household for, as every cat knows, a handsome young tom in possession of his own territory must be in want of a mate.

Austenland

Austenland (Austenland, #1)Austenland by Shannon Hale

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I thought this was great fun, but great literature it is not. Jane is a thirty-something woman with the emotional IQ of an 18-year-old. She is obsessed with the idea of having the perfect boyfriend, yet she doesn’t really have a clue what she wants in a man. I love the idea of Pembroke Park – does such a place actually exist? The characters are shallow stereotypes, and the novel lacks any real depth, but for sheer escapism you don’t want anything that actually makes you think. The ending is predictable, but one wonders if Jane’s experience has really taught her anything in the end.

Description: Jane is a young New York woman who can never seem to find the right man — perhaps because of her secret obsession with Mr. Darcy, as played by Colin Firth in the BBC adaptation of Pride and Predjudice. When a wealthy relative bequeaths her a trip to an English resort catering to Austen-obsessed women, however, Jane’s fantasies of meeting the perfect Regency-era gentleman suddenly become more real than she ever could have imagined. Is this total immersion in a fake Austenland enough to make Jane kick the Austen obsession for good, or could all her dreams actually culminate in a Mr. Darcy of her own?