Dolls Behaving Badly – a review

Thank you Susan Toy for posting another one of my reviews! This one is not a “different kind of review,” but it is about a book I truly loved: Dolls Behaving Badly by Cinthia Ritchie.

reading recommendations reviewed

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Dolls Behaving Badly
by Cinthia Ritchie

Purchase copies here

Ritchie has written a uniquely structured novel that uses a diary format, employing first-person narration, letters, and recipes. The structure adds considerable depth to what would otherwise be an ordinary story of a single mom trying desperately to support herself and her young son in an economically depressed small Alaskan town. Much of the novel reminded me of the TV show, Northern Exposure, except there is no outsider to pass judgment on the quirky, eccentric characters. Instead, the reader immediately feels the normality of the community: the bill collectors demanding payment often do so with dry humor; the crisscrossing of romantic relationships raises few eyebrows; and seeing and talking to ghosts seems a natural result of stress and loneliness.

Ritchie draws an Alaskan territory that is otherworldly beautiful and yet cruel at the edges. The cold darkness of winter seeped…

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Town Father – a review (2)

Thanks to Susan Toy, I get to reread one of my favorite book reviews! I hope you enjoy the read as well. And by the way, I believe Town Father by Kevin Brennan (subject of the aforementioned book review) is on sale!

reading recommendations reviewed

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Town Father, Or, Where Graceful Girls Abound
by Kevin Brennan

Purchase copies here

A Different Kind of Book Review

Maggie assayed the kitchen table, using her index finger to count the settings. There were only the four of them tonight, but still she wanted to count and be sure she hadn’t overlooked anything. It was her night to “host” the book club she and her cousins had formed. The core of the club included herself and her two cousins, Melissa and Mary. Lately, Randy, Mary’s boyfriend, had been joining them.

Well, he’d been joining them because he was already there, already spending weekends at Mary’s house. Maggie smiled. She was looking forward to hearing Randy’s take on Town Father, Or, Where Graceful Girls Abound, the latest novel by Kevin Brennan. She had thought of him a lot while reading the novel, imagining him as Henry. Strangely, though, she didn’t…

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You’ve Got A Friend #CaroleKing #ShaniaTwain #CelineDion #GloriaEstefan

A classmate in my online course, Literature and Mental Health (FutureLearn) shared this YouTube video with me. I love, love, love Carole King and love, love, love this song.  Just have to share it with all my friends.

A Different Kind of Book Review: His Revenge by John W. Howell

Hello, dear friends.  I have it on good authority there’s another book sale for you to take advantage of. Yep, John W. Howell, hero author of My GRL is having a SALE on the latest novel in his trilogy, His Revenge.  Go ahead, run over and get yourself a copy if you’ve been procrastinating.  I can wait.  Or if you want to procrastinate just a little bit longer, maybe the following review will be the kick in your reading butt that you need.

***

Randy swore as hot water splashed against his fingers. He heard a muffled snort and turned around. Mary was braced against a kitchen chair, her right hand covering her mouth and nose in a vain attempt to restrain her laughter. Randy grimaced and then ran cold water over his burnt fingers.

“I’m sorry,” said Mary as she came over to the counter to resume making the tea. But not sorry, she thought to herself as she carefully poured hot water into the teapot. She knew Randy was nervous. He had chosen the book they were going to discuss. She knew it wasn’t fair that he was the only male—so far—in their book club, but, still, she thought it was entertaining.

Before Randy could retort that he doubted Mary’s sincerity, her cousins Maggie and Melissa burst through the front door, buoyed by their acquisition of hot powdered beignets. Randy rolled his eyes. It was enough to be drinking tea instead of coffee, eating vanilla scones instead of chocolate chip cookies, but now powdered beignets? How can he seriously discuss a thriller with powdered sugar all over his face?

The three women set the kitchen table with Mary’s preferred fine bone china, Maggie and Melissa enthusiastically describing their coup in getting to the bakery just before it closed and nabbing the beignets. Randy grabbed his rather plain but sturdy mug and sat down at the head of the table. Mary had put tonight’s topic near Randy’s chair. The rest of the club was ready with their Kindles.

Randy gazed at the cover, waiting for the cousins to finish extolling the virtues of the new bakery. The woman on the cover was beautiful, just the sort of young, blond woman with flawless skin that any man could fall in love with. He glanced over at Mary, taking in her short salt-and-pepper hair, the fine lines around her eyes and mouth, the perceptibly sagging skin around her neck. The woman on the cover of tonight’s book was beautiful, but to Randy, Mary could outshine her any day. He cleared his throat and three sets of dark brown eyes turned toward him. He swallowed.

“So, tonight we’ll be talking about His Revenge by John Howell. Ah … this is the second novel in his trilogy about John Cannon, a lawyer who suddenly finds himself involved in a number of terrorist plots. You all read his first novel, My GRL, right?”

Mary and Maggie nodded as they sipped their tea. Melissa looked pensive. “That one had a blue cover, right? Like the photo was shot in the water, looking up? God, I loved that cover!”

“And the novel?” Randy didn’t want to derail their discussion, but they never did get a chance to discuss My GRL even though they all had read it.

“Oh, it was entertaining!” Mary chimed in. “Great set-up with a lawyer who just wants to have a vacation, sail around for a while, and then inexplicably finds himself in the middle of a terrorist plot. And he’s not perfect, he makes mistakes, but his heart in the right place. I love that kind of hero.” Mary winked at Randy and he could feel his face flush with embarrassment and a little bit of pride.

“Even if his head sometimes gets bogged down with minutiae. I do like the character of John Cannon, but he’s a little OCD, don’t you think?” Maggie was rummaging through her knitting bag as she talked so she didn’t see the knowing glances exchanged between her cousins and Randy. Melissa stifled a temptation to say, “It takes one to know one …”.

“But that’s part of his appeal, don’t you think? It’s what makes him loveable.” Mary smiled at Maggie as her cousin pulled her needles and yarn onto her lap, holding all with one hand while, with the other, she carefully brought a beignet to her mouth.  Maggie shrugged at Mary’s comment, more concerned with making sure she didn’t dribble any powdered sugar on to the black shawl she was knitting.

“The author carries those qualities through to the second novel, His Revenge. I suppose you could say Cannon is kind of eccentric, but he’s consistent.”  Randy tried again to take the lead as the book club host.

“Consistently focused on food and drink,” mumbled Maggie as she laid a napkin over her lap in a futile effort to keep her knitting pristine.

Melissa laughed and shook her head. “Yeah, but are we calling these eccentricities because we don’t expect a hero to be thinking about the quality of food he’s being served by terrorists? I mean, again, that’s part of what makes these novels so interesting and surprising. I mean, he’s in danger, right? Threats are being made against people he cares about, but he’ll still be particular about how his drinks are made. You want to shake him but you want to hug him too.”

“Okay, but what did annoy me, and you might be surprised by this, is in this second novel, he has sex with not just one, but two women. Maybe I’m old-fashioned, but I wasn’t comfortable with how easy he seemed to fall in love and in bed with two completely different women.  At least it wasn’t at the same time.” Randy took a big gulp of his tea, momentarily closing his eyes to what he knew would be shocked looks. When he opened his eyes, he saw he wasn’t wrong.

Maggie and Melissa sat with their heads cocked like two little confused puppies. Mary’s eyes were wide, but so was her smile. They had already had this discussion.

“Now, Randy, darling, you really want us to believe that if you were in Mr. Cannon’s shoes, with two beautiful women practically throwing themselves at you, that you would have just said ‘thanks, but no thanks.’ Seriously? I mean, you wouldn’t take advantage of such a situation. Come on, darling. You’re only human.” Mary leaned forward, resting her chin on her hand, a mischievous glint in her eyes.

Randy sighed. “Point taken. I’ve never been in that situation, so I guess I can’t really say what I would or would not do. Still, I’d argue that in My GRL, he was more of a gentleman when it came to women. Here …” Randy picked up the novel as if to emphasize his point. “Here, he’s more cavalier.”

“Maybe the terrorists were starting to be a bad influence on him,” Maggie quipped as she pushed back from the table so she could knit more comfortably.

Melissa snorted. “No, I disagree. I think Cannon is still a gentleman, but when you’re in extreme situations where you could literally die tomorrow, well, I just think people behave differently then.”

“But not so differently that he doesn’t pay attention to every detail of his clothing or bathing.” Maggie smoothed out her knitting, seeming to look for a dropped stitch. Melissa shrugged and threw Mary a knowing smile. The three of them had lived together for a while and they knew only too well how meticulous Maggie was about her showers.

“Well, Cannon is a different kind of hero, and I like that about him and the novels in general. And he doesn’t even think of himself as a hero. He’s humble that way.”

“Exactly,” Mary interrupted Randy. “This is no one-man-saves-the-day kind of thriller. It’s a team effort. Other people, other otherwise regular people, work with Cannon to thwart the terrorists. Everyone has some kind of skill, like Cannon using his lawyering skills to negotiate, to try to save lives. It’s not effective by itself, but in working with the other hostages, they have a real chance.  You really don’t know how or whether they can get out of these traps.”

Randy marveled at Mary. He didn’t think she much cared for thrillers, but she had definitely warmed to this series by John Howell. And he could guess why. After reading Howell’s first novel My GRL, Mary had told him that Cannon reminded her of him: his manners, his old-fashioned sense of propriety, his attention to detail, and his shunning of the limelight. Any time Randy and his deputies solved a case, it didn’t matter how much work Randy put into the effort, he always gave credit to his deputies, keeping himself in the background.

“So there will be a third novel, right?” Maggie looked up from her knitting when her question was met with silence. “Oh, right. It’s a trilogy.” She gave Randy and her cousins a big smile, which disappeared as soon as she saw the empty plate where there once had been a pile of hot, powdery beignets.

“Well, I give His Revenge five stars.  Who’s with me?”  Mary looked around the table.

“I give it a five,” said Maggie as she played with the remains of powered sugar on her plate.

“Five for me,” said Melissa. Randy nodded his assent and sat back, feeling some pride about the discussion.  They were done for tonight, but they weren’t done reading and talking about John Cannon, a different kind of American hero.

***

Oh, dear Reader, are you still here?  Well, what are you waiting for?  Head on over to Amazon and pick up a copy of His Revenge!

 

 

 

 

 

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