Monday, July 16, 2018

Bath Bookshop's Seattle Inspiration, Colette Movie, The Cinderella Deal by Jennifer Crusie, The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper by Phaedra Patrick, Love & Gelato and Love & Luck by Jenna Evans Welch

Wow, this bookshop, which was inspired by Seattle's Elliott Bay book store, sounds like a wonderful place. I have always wanted to visit England, and now I have an excuse to visit Bath, England once I get there!

Bath Bookshop's Seattle Inspiration

Nic Bottomley, who owns Mr B's Emporium of Reading Delights in Bath, England, with his wife, Juliette, and is president of the Booksellers Association of the U.K. and Ireland,
told the Guardian why the two quit their jobs
as lawyers to open the bookshop in 2006: "We wanted to spend our lives
doing something we loved. We were on our honeymoon and got the idea
after visiting one of the world's greatest independent bookshops, the
Elliott Bay Book Company in Seattle."

According to the Guardian, the bookshop features "claw-foot bath book
displays, toilets illustrated by former children's laureate Chris
Riddell, bibliotheraphy rooms, and the Bookshop Band, who play songs
that they've written inspired by the books of guest authors."

I've been a fan of Colette since I was a teenager, and read some of her scandalous work. I eagerly await this movie.

Movies: Colette

Bleecker Street has released the first trailer for Colette
Variety reported that "Keira Knightley stars as the eponymous Parisian
novelist struggling through an abusive and exploitative marriage to
Henry Gauthier-Villars, played by Dominic West. During their marriage,
Gauthier-Villars forced Colette to write her famous Claudine novels
under his name, reaping the fame and financial rewards that came with
the novels' success."

In a recent interview, Knightley told Variety that screenwriter Richard
Glazer and director Walsh Westmoreland "labored for 15 years to get the
film financed" and that the timing of the movie's release in the midst
of the #Time'sUp and #MeToo movements "isn't coincidental. She said the
pic's plot revolving around Colette's revolt against her abusive husband
and her affair with Marquise de Belbeuf, a notable gender-defying
lesbian artist of the time, draws parallels to the stories being told
today." Colette premiered at the Sundance Film Festival and is set to
hit theaters September 21.

The Cinderella Deal by Jennifer Crusie was a book I felt compelled to read after last weeks book of hers that I enjoyed (and reviewed). Crusie's books are just perfect for summer, they're like beach reads, even for those of us who burn too easily and like to stay indoors in the air conditioning. You can finish most Crusie books in a day, and I read Cinderella Deal in an afternoon. It was, like all her novels, rife with witty banter and lighthearted prose that compliments a zippy plot with at least one good sex scene (thankfully, Crusie knows how to write a hot sex scene without cringe-worthy euphemisms and sexist cliches). Here's the blurb: Daisy Flattery is a free spirit with a soft spot for strays and a weakness for a good story. Why else would she agree to the outrageous charade offered by her buttoned-down workaholic neighbor, Linc Blaise? The history professor needs a makeshift fiancée to secure his dream job, and Daisy needs a short-term gig to support her painting career. And so the Cinderella Deal is born: Daisy will transform herself into Linc’s prim-and-proper fiancée, and at the stroke of midnight they will part ways, no glass slippers attached. But something funny happens on their way to make-believe bliss, as a fake engagement unexpectedly spirals into an actual wedding. Now, with Linc and Daisy married and under one roof, what started as a game begins to feel real—and the people who seem so wrong for each other realize they may truly be just right.
Though the names of the main characters are a bit stereotypical, I still felt that they were well drawn and interesting, and their story worth telling. Crusie says in her intro to this novel that it was an early work of hers, and that her previous books had main characters that were seen as a little too removed and cold. So she created an especially warm and voluptuous protagonist in Daisy, and in so doing realized that putting more emotions into her characters was/is a good thing. I'd give this funny romantic romp an A, and recommend it to anyone who is looking for a light summer read.

The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper by Phaedra Patrick is the August novel for my library book group. Recommended by our librarian Jen, this book is often compared to the Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry. As it turns out, the comparison was rather astute, because both novels are about older men finding themselves by traveling and exploring what life has to offer. I actually thought that the title referred to Mr Pepper's charming personality, but it refers, instead, to an actual charm bracelet of his late wifes. Here's the blurb: In this hauntingly beautiful story of love, loneliness and self-discovery, an endearing widower embarks on a life-changing adventure.
Sixty-nine-year-old Arthur Pepper lives a simple life. He gets out of bed at precisely 7:30 a.m., just as he did when his wife, Miriam, was alive. He dresses in the same gray slacks and mustard sweater vest, waters his fern, Frederica, and heads out to his garden.

But on the one-year anniversary of Miriam’s death, something changes. Sorting through Miriam’s possessions, Arthur finds an exquisite gold charm bracelet he’s never seen before. What follows is a surprising and unforgettable odyssey that takes Arthur from London to Paris and as far as India in an epic quest to find out the truth about his wife’s secret life before they met—a journey that leads him to find hope, healing and self-discovery in the most unexpected places.Featuring an unforgettable cast of characters with big hearts and irresistible flaws, The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper is a joyous celebration of life’s infinite possibilities. 
This book also reminded me a lot of A Man Called Ove, in that both older male protagonists were lost without their wives, who died before them, leaving both men to fend for themselves when they were accustomed to being cared for by a woman (which is horribly sexist, but these are men of my parents generation, where sexism was the norm). Arthur Pepper is fortunate enough to have a neighbor lady who cares enough about him to bring him food and check up on him, and instead of being grateful for her care, he hides from her like a little kid, and treats her with cool indifference. He realizes he's been a bonehead later on in the book, but I found myself (as I did with Ove) wanting to smack him over the head and tell him to stop being such an immature jerk. Arthur also becomes jealous of his wife's old flames and her life previous to meeting him, which is equally ridiculous. Just because he had a boring and unsatisfying love life before he met her doesn't mean that there is something wrong with his wife because she went places and had affairs and friendships and lived!  Anyway, Arthur finally makes peace with his wife's past, and then uses her bracelet to help others, which makes for a sweetly satisfying ending. I'd give the book a B+, and recommend it to those who liked Harold Fry and Ove. 

Love & Gelato  and Love & Luck by Jenna Evans Welch are two delightful YA novels that really could be enjoyed by women of any age. They were recommended to me by some people in author Gail Carriger's Facebook group, who routinely post book recommendations that are either YA, Urban Fantasy or Steampunk or Paranormal Romance. Love & Gelato is set in Italy, when our protagonist Lina travels to meet the father she never knew about after her mother dies of cancer. While there, she encounters two handsome ex-pats like herself, and spends the summer being wooed by them while also learning her mother's secrets via a diary her mother sent to Italy ahead of her. Here's the blurb: A summer in Italy turns into a road trip across Tuscany in this sweeping debut novel filled with romance, mystery, and adventure.

Lina is spending the summer in Tuscany, but she isn’t in the mood for Italy’s famous sunshine and fairy-tale landscape. She’s only there because it was her mother’s dying wish that she get to know her father. But what kind of father isn’t around for sixteen years? All Lina wants to do is get back home.

But then Lina is given a journal that her mom had kept when she lived in Italy. Suddenly Lina’s uncovering a magical world of secret romances, art, and hidden bakeries. A world that inspires Lina, along with the ever-so-charming Ren, to follow in her mother’s footsteps and unearth a secret that has been kept from Lina for far too long. It’s a secret that will change everything she knew about her mother, her father—and even herself.
People come to Italy for love and gelato, someone tells her, but sometimes they discover much more.
Though (SPOILER) Lina inevitably discovers that Howard isn't her biological father (which readers will spot within the first few chapters,easily), I felt that her journey through the places her mother loved in Italy allowed her to grow up and realize that family of the heart is much more important than "blood" relations. Because she's grieving, I was willing to give her the benefit of the doubt in terms of whiny and adolescent behavior, but I still don't understand why it is so important for teenage girls in every YA book to have a "perfect" boyfriend by the end of the novel. Still, this was a solid read with fluid prose and a fast plot. A B+ and a recommendation to anyone who is fascinated by Italy.

Love & Luck is the story of Lina's best friend Addie, who is visiting Ireland for her relative's destination wedding with her three idiotic brothers and her tyrannical mother, who seems to expect Addie to be like a second mother to them and keep her youngest brother in line. Having visited Ireland back in 2000, I was delighted to read the brilliant descriptions of the places and people that Addie and her bizarre brother Ian (who seemed to me to be on the autism spectrum, like someone with Aspergers) visit and think about my own time there, looking at all the colors of green and interacting with the marvelous Irish people. Here's the blurb: Addie is visiting Ireland for her aunt’s over-the-top destination wedding, and hoping she can stop thinking about the one horrible thing she did that left her miserable and heartbroken—and threatens her future. But her brother, Ian, isn’t about to let her forget, and his constant needling leads to arguments and even a fistfight between the two once inseparable siblings. Miserable, Addie can’t wait to visit her friend in Italy and leave her brother—and her problems—behind.

So when Addie discovers an unusual guidebook, Ireland for the Heartbroken, hidden in the dusty shelves of the hotel library, she’s able to finally escape her anxious mind and Ian’s criticism.

And then their travel plans change. Suddenly Addie finds herself on a whirlwind tour of the Emerald Isle, trapped in the world’s smallest vehicle with Ian and his admittedly cute, Irish-accented friend Rowan. As the trio journeys over breathtaking green hills, past countless castles, and through a number of fairy-tale forests, Addie hopes her guidebook will heal not only her broken heart, but also her shattered relationship with her brother.
That is if they don’t get completely lost along the way. 

I was not a fan of Ian or his friend Rowan, who both make it clear that they are going to do anything and everything to get to the musical concert for this weird band they're enamored of, even if it compromises Addies chances for a college soccer scholarship. Once again, the female in the story must compromise her dreams and desires for those of the males in the story. Sexist and so wrong on many levels. Plus, again inevitably, Addie finds herself falling for Rowan, though after the crap he and her brother pull, I wouldn't want anything to do with him, as he's a liar with a crappy car (which Addie has to repair on the fly, because, again, the males have to be cared for by the females). Still, their journey, though fraught with near-encounters with the parents and car debacles galore, seemed to change Addie's outlook on herself and the jerk at her high school who sent her semi-nude selfie to all of his friends, because he's a stereotypical jock. Addie gets courageous and finally seems to take stock of herself. The ending was slightly less satisfying than Love & Gelato, as we are left with Addie walking up to the front doors of her school, not knowing how much harassment and bullying she will face upon entering. One hopes that her dipshit brothers will prove to be worth something and help her out for a change. Anyway, I'd give this book a B-, and recommend it to anyone who enjoyed Love & Gelato, and wants more of Addie and Lina.


Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Orange is the New Black Season 6, Books to Film in the UK, The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker, Want by Cindy Pon, Passing Strange by Ellen Klages, and Maybe This Time by Jennifer Crusie

I've been a big fan of Orange is the New Black since its debut, largely because it stars one of my favorite actresses, my fellow Iowan Kate Mulgrew, who also played Captain Katherine Janeway on Star Trek Voyager. Mulgrew plays Red Reznikov, a tough mother figure to some of the other inmates, with a fabulous Russian accent. It's something to see,and the episodes are packed with drama, comedy and pathos. I am looking forward to Season 6!

TV: Orange Is the New Black Season 6

"The women of Litchfield have entered a completely new world" in the
Orange Is the New Black
season 6 trailer, Entertainment Weekly reported. "When we last checked
in with Piper (Taylor Schilling), Taystee (Danielle Brooks), and the
rest of the gang, they were waiting for the S.W.A.T. team to storm their
underground pool hideout. Based on the trailer above, the new season
picks up some time after that and we'll find most of the women in
maximum security, a change that causes Suzanne (Uzo Aduba) quite a bit
of anxiety in the promo. But, she isn't the only one feeling the
pressure." In addition to the trailer, EW featured first-look photos
from the next season of Orange Is the New Black, which is based on Piper
Kerman's memoir.

This is a report for the United Kingdom, (England and Ireland, mainly) but I would bet that the USA's report on how many books are turned into movies and TV shows would show equally large statistics. Good storytelling is good in any medium.

Report: Book-to-Film Adaptations Are a Box Office Hit

Films based on books
take in 44% more at the box office in the U.K. and 53% more worldwide
than original screenplays, according to a recent study released by the
Publishers Association. The Bookseller said that the report,
"Publishing's Contribution to the Wider Creative Industries
explores what impact a book has when adapted for film, TV and theater,
in terms of critical and commercial success.

Data was collected through a combination of qualitative interviews, case
studies, publicly available information, data drawn from creative
industry bodies such as the British Film Institute (BFI), the BBC, UK
Theatre and Nielsen BookScan.

The research found that 43% of the top 20 box office-grossing films in
the U.K. between 2007 and 2016 were based on books, with a further 9%
based on comic books.

"In short, published material is the basis of 52% of top U.K. films in
the last 10 years, and accounts for an even higher share of revenue from
these leading performers, at 61% of U.K. box office gross and 65% of
worldwide gross," according to the study. "This share changes somewhat
over time: in some years such as 2011 and 2015, two-thirds of the
highest-grossing U.K.-produced films were adapted from published
The effect on book sales was also explored. The Bookseller noted that
"the Hollywood adaptation of My Cousin Rachel was shown to have a
significant impact on the sales of the Daphne du Maurier thriller. The
sales of the book in 2017 alone accounted for nearly a quarter (23%) of
all sales since 1992, both in terms of value and volume, according to
the report."
Regarding TV adaptations, the study found that "almost a quarter of
dramas were based on literary sources and attracted a 56% larger share
of the audience than those based on original scripts, according to data
from the four major free-to-air U.K. TV networks between 2013 and 2017,"
the Bookseller wrote.

"Storytelling is at the heart of the creative industries and often the
best stories begin with a book," said P.A. CEO Stephen Lotinga. "This
research shows the hugely positive commercial impact British publishing
is having on film, television and theatre as our incredible authors'
ideas are the source of so many successful productions."

The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker was a massive (800 plus pages) tale of historical fantasy that sounded much more light hearted than it actually was. With all the ancient Jewish magic and the desert magic of the Bedouins and old mystics, I thought that there would be a number of magical battles or transformations,but the magic was presented as primarily used for evil purposes by a greedy old wizard who wanted life eternal, and was willing to make a golem woman for an equally evil man who wanted a sexual slave. The women in the time periods within this book, ancient times in the Middle East and turn of the century (19th to 20th) New York, didn't have many good choices, and were treated like possessions by men and parents. Escaping marriage and servitude as a wife and mother was dangerous and difficult. Still, the women in the book managed to find moments of freedom and they played an integral part of the story. Here's the blurb: 
In The Golem and the Jinni, a chance meeting between mythical beings takes readers on a dazzling journey through cultures in turn-of-the-century New York.
Chava is a golem, a creature made of clay, brought to life to by a disgraced rabbi who dabbles in dark Kabbalistic magic and dies at sea on the voyage from Poland. Chava is unmoored and adrift as the ship arrives in New York harbor in 1899.
Ahmad is a jinni, a being of fire born in the ancient Syrian desert, trapped in an old copper flask, and released in New York City, though still not entirely free
Ahmad and Chava become unlikely friends and soul mates with a mystical connection. Marvelous and compulsively readable, Helene Wecker's debut novel The Golem and the Jinni weaves strands of Yiddish and Middle Eastern literature, historical fiction and magical fable, into a wondrously inventive and unforgettable tale.
An inventive and swirling plot combines with well-constructed characters and elegant yet muscular prose to create a story that is complex and unforgettable.I was fascinated by the portraits painted of New York at the turn of the century, since the author takes us into the bowels of the city, where immigrants from many lands around the world mixed and mingled and raised their children to be something new; Americans. I'd give this beefy tome an A, and recommend it to anyone who enjoys historical magical romance.

Want by Cindy Pon is a YA science fiction novel set in a dystopian Taiwan of the future.Because I've read other adventure-oriented YA SF in the past, this book was recommended to me by Barnes and, though I borrowed a copy from the library. The prose was full of sharp slang and quick wit, and the plot was brutally swift, but after you fasten your metaphorical seat belts, it's a fairly smooth ride to the end. Here's the blurb: Set in a near-future Taipei plagued by pollution, a group of teens risk everything to save their city in this thrilling novel from critically acclaimed author Cindy Pon.

Jason Zhou survives in a divided society where the elite use their wealth to buy longer lives. The rich wear special suits, protecting them from the pollution and viruses that plague the city, while those without suffer illness and early deaths. Frustrated by his city’s corruption and still grieving the loss of his mother who died as a result of it, Zhou is determined to change things, no matter the cost.
With the help of his friends, Zhou infiltrates the lives of the wealthy in hopes of destroying the international Jin Corporation from within. Jin Corp not only manufactures the special suits the rich rely on, but they may also be manufacturing the pollution that makes them necessary.

Yet the deeper Zhou delves into this new world of excess and wealth, the more muddled his plans become. And against his better judgment, Zhou finds himself falling for Daiyu, the daughter of Jin Corp’s CEO. Can Zhou save his city without compromising who he is, or destroying his own heart?
Though I liked Zhou as the protagonist, it seemed to me that some of his friends/team mates, especially Lingyi, (who looked after all of the teens, including Zhou, making sure they weren't starving and setting up plans for their take down of Jin Corp) should have played a more prominent role, because Zhou was, emotionally, a hot mess, while the gals stayed calm and cool in the face of any road blocks that arose. My other problem was that the CEO of Jin Corp, Daiyu's evil father (Daiyu is Zhou's girlfriend) managed to escape the scandal of all his murder and misdeeds, and set up shop in China to do the same terrible things all over again. Why was there no one willing to make him pay for all that he'd done? Wasn't that the whole point of the take-down that Zhou and his friends fought so hard to complete? Still, spicy and well written, I'd give this fast-paced novel a B+ and recommend it to anyone who likes dystopian YA science fiction.

Passing Strange by Ellen Klages was also recommended by an author who writes LBGTQ fiction and wanted to pass along some recommendations in fantasy fiction that has a lesbian protagonist or two. Though it's a slender volume at barely over 200 pages, I found the story rich and satisfying. Here's the blurb:
Inspired by the pulps, film noir, and screwball comedy, Passing Strange is a story as unusual and complex as San Francisco itself from World Fantasy Award winning author Ellen Klages, and a finalist for the 2017 Nebula Award for Best Novella

San Francisco in 1940 is a haven for the unconventional. Tourists flock to the cities within the city: the Magic City of the World’s Fair on an island created of artifice and illusion; the forbidden city of Chinatown, a separate, alien world of exotic food and nightclubs that offer “authentic” experiences, straight from the pages of the pulps; and the twilight world of forbidden love, where outcasts from conventional society can meet.

Six women find their lives as tangled with each other’s as they are with the city they call home. They discover love and danger on the borders where magic, science, and art intersect. Publisher's Weekly:Klages (Portable Childhoods) draws a loving portrait of 1930s queer San Francisco in this deftly crafted tale of love, solidarity, and magic brought full circle. In the present day, Helen Young sells the last, lost work of famous pulp cover artist Haskel to an unethical art dealer who’s due for a comeuppance. Haskel was famous for art showing evocatively gruesome villains threatening lovely young ladies, but his last painting instead depicts the heroine of a romantic story. The narrative then goes back in time to cover the events leading up to Haskel’s final painting and abrupt career end, introducing a charming cast of queer women working as lawyers, singers, mathematicians, and witches. Emily, a newcomer to the group, crosses Haskel’s path by coincidence; the two fall into a whirlwind romance that ultimately requires the support and skills of all their friends to see through. Klages folds history and the modern world into a thoroughly satisfying novella that’s rich in detail, warm in regard, and clever in execution.
I completely agree with Publisher's Weekly's reviewer, in that I found Passing Strange to be a warm and luscious novel with many characters that I'd like to see more of. Unfortunately, at the beginning of the novel, we see one of the more fascinating characters, Helen Young, commit suicide at an advanced age, after duping a collector out of his ill gotten gains. But Haskel and Emily's story is put on hold as the duo are painted into stasis within Haskel's own artwork. Therein lies the potential for a new tale, if only Klages can be persuaded to create one. Still, it was well worth the afternoon it took to read through this engaging tale. I'd give it an A, and recommend it to anyone who wonders about the power of love and art. 

Maybe This Time by Jennifer Crusie is the 5th or 6th book of hers that I've read,and while some of them seemed to be the same general idea rehashed and rebooted, Maybe This Time was a refreshing change of pace, as Crusie delves into the supernatural in this ghost story/romance. Here's the blurb: Andie Miller is ready to move on in life. She wants to marry her fiancé and leave behind everything in her past, especially her ex-husband, North Archer. But when Andie tries to gain closure with him, he asks one final favor of her before they go their separate ways forever. A very distant cousin of his has died and left North as the guardian of two orphans who have driven out three nannies already, and things are getting worse. He needs a very special person to take care of the situation and he knows Andie can handle anything.
When Andie meets the two children she quickly realizes things are much worse than she feared. The place is a mess, the children, Carter and Alice, aren't your average delinquents, and the creepy old house where they live is being run by the worst housekeeper since Mrs. Danvers. What's worse, Andie's fiancé thinks this is all a plan by North to get Andie back, and he may be right. Andie's dreams have been haunted by North since she arrived at the old house. And that's not the only haunting.
What follows is a hilarious adventure in exorcism, including a self-doubting parapsychologist, an annoyed medium, her Tarot-card reading mother, an avenging ex-mother-inlaw, and, of course, her jealous fiancé. And just when she thinks things couldn't get more complicated, North shows up on the doorstep making her wonder if maybe this time things could be different between them.
If Andie can just get rid of all the guests and ghosts, she's pretty sure she can save the kids, and herself, from the past. But fate might just have another thing in mind.

Though there's plenty of romantic comedy to be had, the chilling ghost/possession aspect of the story puts a large, shivering damper on any laughter that readers might express. The fate of two starving, traumatized children also makes laughter seem cruel, as their pathetic and dire need for a decent parent figure becomes obvious before you're a third of the way through the book. Andie (or Andromeda, as she was awesomely named by her wacko hippy mother) is a bit too naive and falls back in love with her neglectful and somewhat cruel ex-husband North a bit too quickly, while shoving off her fiance with unseemly dispatch. though the book seemed headed for a swift HEA, Crusie adds a final few paragraphs with the old,creepy housekeeper that will freak out even the heartiest of readers (unless you're a fan of Stephen King, in which case, you'll see this coming a mile away, and be glad of it.) Crusie's prose is clean and strong, and her plots always move like a dance. Still, I find myself always hoping that her female protagonists could be strong without being paired up with a man at the end. But I'd give this novel a B, and recommend it to anyone who likes paranormal romances set in modern times, with a frisson of fear woven throughout.

Wednesday, July 04, 2018

Tonight Show Summer Read, The House With a Clock in It's Walls movie, Stay Sweet by Siobhan Vivian, When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon, By the Book by Julia Sonneborn and This Side of Murder by Anna Lee Huber

Happy Independence Day/4th of July to all my fellow bibliophiles and authors in America!

I am so excited that Jimmy Fallon has chosen a science fiction/fantasy novel for the Summer Reading program on his show! Well done, Mr  Fallon! I have this book in my TBR!

Tonight Show Summer Read: Children of Blood and Bone

On Friday,
Jimmy Fallon revealed that Tomi Adeyemi's Children of Blood and Bone
has been chosen as the Tonight Show Summer Reads
Fallon launched his book club last week
on viewers to select the first pick from a list of five titles.

More than 140,000 votes were cast, with Children of Blood & Bone
garnering 47%, followed by Joe Ide's IQ (23%), Chloe Benjamin's The
Immortalists (16%), Caroline Kepnes's Providence (8%) and You-Jeong
Jeong's The Good Son (7%).

Participating readers can follow Fallon's Instagram and the Tonight Show
on Facebook for updates throughout July, using #tonightshowsummerreads.
Fallon and the show will give feedback on the book, answer questions and
hear what readers have to say about it.

The Tonight Show is teaming up with publisher Macmillan to donate
3,000 copies through First Book
provides books to classrooms, shelters and community programs across the

Author Adeyemi tweeted

I loved this book, and I can hardly wait to see the movie, which looks fantastic!

Movies: The House with a Clock in Its Walls

Jack Black and Cate Blanchett "welcome you to a world of witches,
warlocks, demon pumpkins and creepy puppets" in the new trailer for The
House With a Clock in Its Walls
based on the books by John Bellairs, Entertainment Weekly reported.

Directed by Eli Roth from a screenplay by Eric Kripke (TV's Timeless,
Supernatural), the film also stars Owen Vaccaro, Kyle MacLachlan,
Colleen Camp, Rene Elise Goldsberry, Vanessa Anne Williams and
Sunny Suljic. It will hit theaters September 21.

"When I was 10, I fell in love with this book," Kripke tweeted when the
first trailer came out. "The only fan letter I ever wrote was to its
author. It's one of the main inspirations for [Supernatural]. Now we got
to make it into a movie. Dreams do come true. If you like
[Supernatural], see where it all began."

I found a few summer reads myself this past week, and they proved to be lighthearted, fast and fun, which was just what the doctor ordered!

Stay Sweet by Siobhan Vivian is a fun YA beach book, the kind with light and dialog-driven prose and a fast-moving plot that goes directly from point A to point B without any twisty bits to make you wonder where things will end up. You can read it in an afternoon and still have time for volleyball and a picnic with hot dogs and watermelon. Here's the blurb: Summer in Chickadee Lake isn’t complete without a trip to Meade Creamery—the local ice cream stand founded in 1944 by Molly Meade who started making ice cream to cheer up her lovesick girlfriends while all the boys were away at war. Since then, the stand has been owned and managed exclusively by local girls, who inevitably become the best for friends. Seventeen-year-old Amelia and her best friend Cate have worked at the stand every summer for the past three years, and Amelia is “Head Girl” at the stand this summer. When Molly passes away before Amelia even has her first day in charge, Amelia isn’t sure that stand can go on. That is, until Molly’s grandnephew Grady arrives and asks Amelia to stay on to help continue the business…but Grady’s got some changes in mind… 
Though Amelia has ambition and pretty good management skills, she seems to lack the backbone, until late in the book, to actually tell her friend Cate that she is in love with Grady and that Cate is a lousy manager and an even worse friend. Sadly, most of the adults in this cool novel come off as jerks, including Grady's horrible and abusive father. Still, via letters, we get a glimpse back at the origins of the Molly's ice cream and the ice cream stand, and we learn that while things may look one way on the surface, when you dig a little deeper you often find that war stories and romances didn't have a happy ending, or even an ending at all. I'd give this book a B,and recommend it to anyone looking for a fun YA book that can be read in a day at the beach.

When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon is another YA summer read, this time a diverse romance that follows two teenagers who are first generation Americans whose parents are from India. Dimple, our fine female protagonist, is desperately seeking an independent life as a computer software developer by attending college far away from her parents and also attempting to attend a summer workshop in California where she can develop an application and compete to win an audience with a famous female coder. Dimple's parents, who are a traditional "arranged marriage" couple, have a different future planned for their daughter, as Dimple's mother, who seems like a terrible one-track-mind person, goes behind her back and arranges for the son of a friend, Rishi, to meet and marry Dimple at the same summer workshop, without explaining to him that she's not gotten her daughters approval for this match. 
Here's the blurb: Dimple Shah has it all figured out. With graduation behind her, she’s more than ready for a break from her family, from Mamma’s inexplicable obsession with her finding the “Ideal Indian Husband.” Ugh. Dimple knows they must respect her principles on some level, though. If they truly believed she needed a husband right now, they wouldn’t have paid for her to attend a summer program for aspiring web developers...right?
Rishi Patel is a hopeless romantic. So when his parents tell him that his future wife will be attending the same summer program as him—wherein he’ll have to woo her—he’s totally on board. Because as silly as it sounds to most people in his life, Rishi wants to be arranged, believes in the power of tradition, stability, and being a part of something much bigger than himself.
The Shahs and Patels didn’t mean to start turning the wheels on this “suggested arrangement” so early in their children’s lives, but when they noticed them both gravitate toward the same summer program, they figured, Why not?
Dimple and Rishi may think they have each other figured out. But when opposites clash, love works hard to prove itself in the most unexpected ways. 

I found that I liked Dimple's ability to stand up for what she wants and to believe that she doesn't need a romance or marriage to define her as a young woman. 

What I didn't like was Rishi's ridiculous blinders that made him follow everything his parents wanted him to do, and to believe that tradition and towing the line of family expectations was more important than doing what he loved and was meant to do (be a comic book artist).  I was also not a fan of how the book eroded Dimple's yearning to lead an independent life, without marriage and children to tie her down to a traditional life. Of course Rishi is handsome and adorkable, and Dimple inevitably falls for his charms, because this book was primarily a romance, but in the end they both admit they are in love and can't bear to be apart from one another, which will, inevitably lead to Dimple having to leave her career aspirations behind and become a wife and mother. If that author didn't intend for that to be the case, she should have outlined how the two were going to go through college and have careers and not follow the traditional path, so Dimple wouldn't have to pay the price that so many women have had to pay in the past for love: that is, to lose your self and your independence while the male half of your partnership gets to have it all, career and family, at your expense. Still, the prose was clean, clear and bright, and the plot moved at a clip. This is another book that can be read on one long summer day, purely for enjoyment. I'd give it a B, and recommend it to anyone interested in YA  diverse  romances. 

By the Book by Julia Sonneborn is, I think, a book written under a pen name (because Sonneborn is an anagram of Sorbonne,the famed university in Paris) by a gay man who loves reality TV shows, fabulous fashion, celebrity gossip magazines and Jane Austen novels. The prose is funny to the point of being goofy and ridiculous at times, and the plot reads like something from an old 80s nighttime soap opera, like Dynasty, or an over the top melodrama like As the World Turns, but set in the hyper-vigilant media world of today. For being an educated woman with a doctorate, I found the protagonist to be willfully naive and stupid when it came to men, fashion or any aspect of her life except for teaching. Here's the blurb: An English professor struggling for tenure discovers that her ex-fiancé has just become the president of her college—and her new boss—in this whip-smart modern retelling of Jane Austen’s classic Persuasion.
Anne Corey is about to get schooled.
An English professor in California, she’s determined to score a position on the coveted tenure track at her college. All she’s got to do is get a book deal, snag a promotion, and boom! She’s in. But then Adam Martinez—her first love and ex-fiancé—shows up as the college’s new president.
Anne should be able to keep herself distracted. After all, she’s got a book to write, an aging father to take care of, and a new romance developing with the college’s insanely hot writer-in-residence. But no matter where she turns, there’s Adam, as smart and sexy as ever. As the school year advances and her long-buried feelings begin to resurface, Anne begins to wonder whether she just might get a second chance at love.
Funny, smart, and full of heart, this modern ode to Jane Austen’s classic explores what happens when we run into the demons of our past...and when they turn out not to be so bad, after all.

Because her dad dies and she discovers that a writer in residence (who everyone else can see is a scumbag and a liar and a plagiarist) with whom she's having an affair is actually a complete con artist, Anne pretty much loses her sh*t and is unable to function as a normal human being. Fortunately, this book is full of cliche's and stereotypes, so Anne's best friend and fellow professor Larry, who is flamboyantly gay (and who steals every scene he's in with witty one-liners and quotes from Oscar Wilde), comes riding to Anne's rescue. All things being equal, if the author hadn't have been selling this book as "chick lit" I think Larry would have been the protagonist/main character,no question. I nearly snorted a sandwich laughing while reading about Larry's exploits with an action movie star who is gorgeous, but dumb as a box of rocks and married to an heiress. Of course, to protect his career he must keep his life as a gay man firmly in the closet, so he sneaks around with Larry and eventually dumps him in favor of reconciling with his rich and influential wife. Larry's reactions to all of this are hilarious and classic farce. Since the prose is dialog heavy and written in a light and fluffy 'magazine feature' style, the plot of the book moves at lightening speed, and once you've picked up the novel, you'll finish it in record time,because there's nothing to really think about or ponder with this novel. It's all farcical entertainment, all the way through. I'd give it a B-,and recommend it to those who don't want demanding or thought-provoking books, but are just looking for something fun to read at the airport. 

This Side of Murder by Anna Lee Huber is the first "Verity Kent" mystery, set in the post WW1 era in England. I was eagerly looking forward to reading this book, as I usually love historical mysteries with a female sleuth. Unfortunately, this book's plot moved so glacially that I was tempted to toss it aside several times. The prose was stuffy and the characters dull and predictable. Nothing really happens until after the first 130 stultifying pages of characters blathering and sniping at one another, which got tedious after the first two chapters. Here's the blurb: England, 1919. Verity Kent’s grief over the loss of her husband pierces anew when she receives a cryptic letter, suggesting her beloved Sidney may have committed treason before his untimely death. Determined to dull her pain with revelry, Verity’s first impulse is to dismiss the derogatory claim. But the mystery sender knows too much—including the fact that during the war, Verity worked for the Secret Service, something not even Sidney knew. 
Lured to Umbersea Island to attend the engagement party of one of Sidney’s fellow officers, Verity mingles among the men her husband once fought beside, and discovers dark secrets—along with a murder clearly meant to conceal them. Relying on little more than a coded letter, the help of a dashing stranger, and her own sharp instincts, Verity is forced down a path she never imagined—and comes face to face with the shattering possibility that her husband may not have been the man she thought he was. It’s a truth that could set her free—or draw her ever deeper into his deception.

Of course Verity is beautiful but haunted by her husband's death, and of course (SPOILER ALERT) said husband turns up on the island, not dead at all, but determined to find out who tried to kill him and several other officers from his battalion. Though Sidney makes it clear that her grief and sorrow are secondary to his machinations, she still swoons over him and gets together with him in the end, which I thought moved her IQ points way down south. Women who automatically become fools and idiots when they're in love is one of those tropes that I continually find to be sexist and annoying. Authors can't seem to stop using these cliches, however, which, as a feminist and a human being, really hacks me off.
Romance should not always be the primary motivation of any or all female protagonists. Women are human beings, first and foremost, and not all of us aspire to getting married, settling down and having children. There are women who live completely fulfilling lives with a career and no husband/partner or children in sight. I had a great aunt who lived such a life, and was never bored or boring, nor did she regret her choices. At any rate, I'd give this mystery a C, and only recommend it to those who find WW1 mysteries set on English Islands irresistible.

Saturday, June 30, 2018

RIP Donald Hall, Harlan Ellison and Nina Baym, Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society Movie, Witchmark by C.L.Polk, Momo by Michael Ende, and Rock Paper Scissors by Devon Monk

This has been another bad week for the death of authors, as we lost poet Donald Hall and the bad boy of science fiction, Harlan Ellison. We also lost Nina Baym, whose book on American women in literature I read in high school. 
I was a big fan of Hall in my 20s, when I was introduced to his work in college. I remember wanting to visit his birthplace in New Hampshire back when I was in grad school and staying in Kittery Maine for the summer. Kittery was on the border of Maine and New Hampshire. I read his interview with the Globe the year I graduated from the master's program at Lesley College in Cambridge, MA. RIP, Mr Hall.

Obituary Note: Donald Hall

Donald Hall
"a giant of American poetry," died June 23 at Eagle Pond Farm in Wilmot,
N.H., "where he hayed with his grandfather during boyhood summers and
later cultivated a writer's life," the Concord Monitor reported. He was
89. Hall was "a literary dynamo, writing poetry, memoir, criticism,
magazine articles, plays, short stories and children's books." In
addition to winning numerous awards and honors, Hall was appointed U.S.
poet laureate in 2006 by President George W. Bush. President Barack
Obama awarded him the National Medal of the Arts in 2010.

He wrote almost to the end of a career that spanned more than 60 years,
beginning with the publication at 26 of his poetry collection Exiles and
Marriages and continuing through his Essays after Eighty (2014) and
soon-to-be-published A Carnival of Losses: Notes Nearing Ninety. His
last poetry collection, The Selected Poems of Donald Hall, was released
in 2015.

In 1972, five years after a divorce, Hall married Jane Kenyon, his
former student at the University of Michigan. They eventually moved to
the New Hampshire farm his family had owned for a century, a decision
that "transformed his poetry," beginning with Kicking the Leaves (1978),
as well as his life, the Monitor noted, adding that the "Hall-Kenyon
literary household peaked in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Kenyon
wrote two popular collections--Let Evening Come in 1990 and Constance in
1993. Hall turned his poem 'The Ox-Cart Man' into a children's book that
sold well for years. His book-length poem, The One Day, won the National
Book Critics Circle Award and was a finalist for the Pulitzer."

After Kenyon's leukemia diagnosis in 1993 and death at 47 in 1995,
Hall's "grief ran long and deep," the Monitor wrote. He shepherded her
book Otherwise to publication, appeared at events celebrating her life
and work, and wrote poems (Without, 1999; The Painted Bed, 2003) and a
memoir (The Best Day the Worst Day: Life with Jane Kenyon, 2006) about
losing her. "Twenty years later, he still teared up talking about her,"
the Monitor noted.

"One does write, indeed, to be loved
Hall told the Boston Globe in 1985. "Fame is another word for love, an
impersonal word for love. One wants people 200 years from now to love
your poetry. The great pleasure of being a writer is in the act of
writing, and surely there is some pleasure in being published and being
praised. I don't mean to be complacent about what I have some of. But
the greater pleasure is in the act. When you lose yourself in your work,
and you feel at one with it, it is like love." 
In 2012, he announced that his poetry-writing days were over, and in a
New Yorker essay, "Out the Window
observed: "New poems no longer come to me, with their prodigies of
metaphor and assonance. Prose endures. I feel the circles grow smaller,
and old age is a ceremony of losses, which is on the whole preferable to
dying at forty-seven or fifty-two. When I lament and darken over my
diminishments, I accomplish nothing. It's better to sit at the window
all day, pleased to watch birds, barns, and flowers. It is a pleasure to
write about what I do."

From his poem "Affirmation
Let us stifle under mud at the pond's edge
and affirm that it is fitting
and delicious to lose everything.

Goddess bless Nina Baym for writing books and articles about overlooked women in American Literature. Back in the 70s, it was a huge task to get people to understand the importance of women's literature, and she didn't shy away from it at all. RIP Ms Baym. 

Obituary Note: Nina Baym

Nina Baym
a scholar "who asked why so few women were represented in the American
literary canon, then spent her career working to correct that
imbalance," died June 15, the New York Times reported. She was 82. Baym
taught English at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign for
more than 40 years. In 1975, while writing a book about Nathaniel
Hawthorne she began to wonder why 19th-century American literature was
so male-dominated, noting that even Hawthorne himself had complained in
1855 that "a damned mob of scribbling women" was cutting into his sales.

"I wanted to know where these women were," she said in a 1987 Times

Baym's 1978 book, Woman's Fiction: A Guide to Novels by and About Women
in America, 1820-1870, was "a foundational work in the field of feminist
literary history and criticism," the Times noted. Her other titles
include Women Writers of the American West, 1832-1927; Feminism and
American Literary History; Shape of Hawthorne's Career; and The Scarlet
Letter: A Reading.

Baym also "had a chance to have a direct impact on the literature
presented to students when she served as general editor of several
editions of The Norton Anthology of American Literature," the Times

In response to the news of Baym's death, University of Illinois English
professor Catherine Prendergast tweeted: "Very sad to hear of the
passing of Nina Baym, a titan of American literature, who mentored me at
many points during our time together at Illinois. Please read some
American woman's literature

Neil Gaiman noted that every writer he's ever encountered has a Harlan Ellison story to relate. I think that is an understatement. Ellison, as author John Scalzi noted, was a controversial figure, loved and loathed in equal measure, and while I must admit that he was a brilliant storyteller whose prose was fantastic, I also have to admit that his misogyny, as evidenced by his famed story "A Boy and His Dog" infuriated and nauseated me. (the story was about a dystopian future where roving boys used dogs to hunt down women/girls and rape/enslave them or kill them after they'd been abused). The story came out when I was in junior high school, and after reading it, two lumpen farm boys who were enormous and stupid, took the story as a blueprint for how to assuage their burgeoning hormones, and raped two girls in my class. One committed suicide and the other moved to another state. I vowed at that point to never read anything else by Harlan Ellison, though by that time I'd already read Dangerous Visions, I'd seen The City on the Edge of Forever and read "I have No Mouth But I Must Scream." Ellison, who was a rude, crude and loud crank, would never apologize for anything he'd written, so I have no doubt that hearing about the fate of two 13 year old girls in Iowa would have meant nothing to him.So it is with conflicting emotions that I say rest in peace in Hades, Harlan.

Obituary Note: Harlan Ellison

Harlan Ellison
"who emerged as a major figure in the New Wave of science fiction
writers in the 1960s and became a legend in science fiction and fantasy
circles for his award-winning stories and notoriously outspoken and
combative persona," died June 28, the Los Angeles Times reported. He was

"Ellison was immensely talented, immensely argumentative and immensely

controversial, all in equal measure," said author John Scalzi. "Loved or

loathed, he was undeniably one of the great figures in science fiction."

Ellison won multiple awards from the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers
of America, the Mystery Writers of America and the Horror Writers
Association. The L.A. Times noted that he was the third most
anthologized science fiction writer behind Ray Bradbury and Isaac
Asimov. In 2006, Ellison received the SFWA's Grand Master Award for
lifetime achievement. He also won four Writers Guild of America Awards
for TV work.

"He's one of the major post-World War II American writers of science
fiction," said Rob Latham, a professor of English and a specialist in
science fiction at UC Riverside, which awarded Ellison the university's
Eaton Award for Lifetime Achievement in Science Fiction in 2011.

Ellison's story collections include Strange Wine; The Beast that Shouted
Love at the Heart of the World; Harlan Ellison's Watching; Deathbird
Stories; I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream; and Stalking the Nightmare:
Stories and Essays.

"There was no one quite like him in American
letters, and never will be. Angry, funny, eloquent, hugely talented,"
Stephen King tweeted. "If there's an afterlife, Harlan is already
kicking ass and taking down names."

At, Ryan Britt observed
it "would be a bizarre disservice to write an obituary for Harlan
Ellison, and not mention his most famous story, ' "Repent, Harlequin!"
Said the Ticktockman.' In this one, a future enslaved under strict
schedules is invaded by a rogue figure intent on destroying the
'system.' If Harlan Ellison was constantly presenting his middle finger
to the establishment--whether that was science fiction, writing schools,
Hollywood, or just an authority in general--then he is well represented
by the trickster Harlequin, who flings jellybeans into the cogs of the
Orwellian machines. Jellybeans!

"We can only hope, when Ellison approaches the gates of the afterlife,
that they know what they're in for. After he basically wrestled the
future to the ground, how could the afterlife possibly prepare for
Harlan Ellison? And what will they do if he's armed with a bag of

I am really excited for this movie, which is based on one of the best WWII books I've ever read. 
A trailer is out for The Guernsey Literary & Potato Peel Pie Society
novel by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows. People magazine also
from the movie, which will be available for streaming on Netflix
starting August 10.
Directed by Mike Newell (Four Weddings and a Funeral, Harry Potter and
the Goblet of Fire), the film stars Lily James, Michiel Huisman,
Katherine Parkinson, Matthew Goode, Glen Powell, Penelope Wilton,
Jessica Brown Findlay and Tom Courtenay.

Witchmark by C.L. Polk was recommended to me as a fan of Gail Carriger's Soulless series, and though I had my doubts, I was pleasantly surprised by this supernatural adventure/mystery fantasy with a gay protagonist. Though I thought he was way too afraid of his evil father and his sister, I liked Dr Miles Singer, who only wants to use his magical powers to heal people, instead of being enslaved as a "magic battery" to his sister, who is a weather witch. Here's the blurb:
In an original world reminiscent of Edwardian England in the shadow of a World War, cabals of noble families use their unique magical gifts to control the fates of nations, while one young man seeks only to live a life of his own.
Magic marked Miles Singer for suffering the day he was born, doomed either to be enslaved to his family's interest or to be committed to a witches' asylum. He went to war to escape his destiny and came home a different man, but he couldn’t leave his past behind. The war between Aeland and Laneer leaves men changed, strangers to their friends and family, but even after faking his own death and reinventing himself as a doctor at a cash-strapped veterans' hospital, Miles can’t hide what he truly is.
When a fatally poisoned patient exposes Miles’ healing gift and his witchmark, he must put his anonymity and freedom at risk to investigate his patient’s murder. To find the truth he’ll need to rely on the family he despises, and on the kindness of the most gorgeous man he’s ever seen. Publisher's Weekly:
Polk’s stellar debut, set in an alternate early 20th century in an England-like land recovering from a WWI-like war, blends taut mystery, exciting political intrigue, and inventive fantasy. Miles Singer’s influential family of mages wants to turn him into a living battery of magic for his sister to draw on. Fearing this fate, he runs away to join the army and make use of his magical healing abilities, although—like all magic-users—he must hide his powers or risk being labeled insane and sent to an asylum. When Tristan Hunter, a handsome, suave gentleman who’s actually an angel in disguise, brings a dying stranger to Miles’s clinic, the two pair up to uncover the reason for the man’s mysterious death. The devastating war has left most young men shell-shocked, and many veterans are inexplicably killing their families. Miles struggles to find a socially acceptable physiological explanation for the veterans’ dark auras, while Tristan hopes to understand why no souls from this country have moved on to the afterlife. A sudden reunification with Miles’s social-climbing, deceitful sister upends progress on solving the riddles (and on the gently developing romance between Miles and Tristan) as she pulls him back into the secretive and manipulative world of powerful mages. Polk unfolds her mythology naturally, sufficiently explaining the class-based magical system and political machinations without getting bogged down. The final revelations are impossible to see coming and prove that Polk is a writer to watch for fans of clever, surprising period fantasy.

I loved the clean and dramatically pristine prose that helped along the swift and decisive plot, which never flagged,even for a moment. The characters were well wrought and the book itself a page-turner, which would have been called a "ripping good yarn" in the real Edwardian England. I'd give it an A, and recommend it to fans of Gail Carriger and those who love a good romantic supernatural fantasy.

Momo by Michael Ende, the German author who wrote The Never Ending Story (which was made into a wonderful, classic movie) has written many other books that are apparently famed as classics in other parts of the world, but have only recently been translated and produced here for an American audience. I was skeptical that I could love any of his works as much as I loved Never Ending Story, but my fears were laid to rest after the first 25 pages of Momo, which is a truly delightful tale of a little girl who changes the world by being able to listen. Here's the blurb: At the edge of the city, in the ruins of an old amphitheatre, there lives a little homelss girl called Momo.

Momo has a special talent which she uses to help all her friends who come to visit her. Then one day the sinister men in grey arrive and silently take over the city.

Only Momo has the power to resist them, and with the help of Professor Hora and his strange tortoise, Cassiopeia, she travels beyond the boundaries of time to uncover their dark secrets. School Library Journal:
A reissued classic celebrating its 40th anniversary from the author of The Neverending Story. This is a classic fantasy novel whose title character is a young girl of mysterious origin, a most loved orphan living in present-day anywhere (but probably a small village in Italy). Momo doesn't know how old she is but says, "As far as I remember, I've always been around," and she has built strong friendships with her fellow villagers based on her extraordinary listening ability. Around the time the mysterious men in gray start appearing, Momo's friends start to have less time to spend enjoying life or hanging out with her. Momo sets out to get her friends and their time back. The tale of Momo is driven by its plot and moves at a comfortable pace, engaging readers as if they are villagers in the story. Ende is a captivating storyteller, and this edition of the book includes occasional illustrations, adding a bit of shaping and mood to the descriptions. Some mild profanity may make this selection unsuitable for more sensitive readers. Sure to delight readers of classic fantasy.—Sara Jurek, Children's English Library, Stuttgart, Germany 
This really is a classic, beautiful tale of the power of play, of joy and stories and of connecting with people in your community everyday to make life worth living in the face of consumerism and greed. I found the prose to be simple but not silly, and the plot was twisty but not slow. It had me laughing and crying and wishing I could meet Momo and the other real-seeming characters. A well wrought tale that deserves an A, and a recommendation to anyone who needs to remember why life is worth living, and the real value of our time here on earth.

Rock Paper Scissors by Devon Monk is basically three paranormal romance stories written with each Reed sister as the protagonist of their own novella. Here's the blurb:
Three novellas now in paperback! Rock Candy, Paper Stars, Scissor Kisses have been previously published in ebook format.
Just an Ordinary Halloween...
Police officer Jean Reed doesn't normally mind pulling the graveyard shift in Ordinary Oregon. But one mob of cursed gnomes, one haunted harbor festival, and one chilling visit from Death makes this October stranger than most.
One magical holiday. Some assembly required...
Police Chief Delaney Reed loves the holidays in Ordinary, Oregon. But when a demon, a dragon, and a god bearing unusual gifts get thrown on top of her to do list, Delaney must roll up her sleeves and make this holiday unforgettable.
This Valentine's Day there's more than hearts at risk...
Police officer Myra Reed prefers her life orderly, predictable, and logical. But she must take on a stalker, a crossroads deal, and a dangerous spell that could reveal the one secret she's buried deep: she might be falling in love with a demon.

I have loved all the Ordinary Magic books right from the outset, but then, I've not read anything by Monk that I haven't adored. She never disappoints with her outstanding and witty prose, her swift and clean plots and her charming protagonists who are so well drawn they seem like some one you could meet for coffee at your local cafe. I think my favorite of the three stories was Delaney's tale, which was set during Christmas, so the shenanigans were that much more festive and fun. But really all of the stories were riveting and marvelous. I'd give them an A, and recommend this book of three stories to anyone who has read any of the other books in the series and wants to know more about the Reed sisters love life and relationships.