Friday, April 26, 2013

When in Doubt, Add Butter

By Beth Harbison

Gemma Craig is a personal chef. She has five clients she cooks for every week. One of her most difficult clients is Angela Van Houghten, who claims to have a lot of food allergies. She requires foods with no diary, no onion, no soy, no nuts, no honey, no warm spices, no garlic, and so on. Plus she makes her husband and son adhere to her strict diet. Gemma cooks for the Van Houghtens on Mondays.
Tuesday is Paul McMann, a lawyer, who Gemma has never met in person, but who seems to appreciate her cooking judging by the kind and often humorous notes he leaves for her. Wednesdays in Lex Prather, who is also enjoyable to cook for, a pleasant man who enjoys fine cuisine. Thursdays are the Oleksei family, Russian immigrants who Gemma suspects of being gangsters. She is cooking recipes from their grandmother's cookbook and really enjoying learning about Russian foods. Friday is Marie Lemurra, who is almost as difficult to cook for as Angela, but not because she is so picky, she is just an unpleasant person to work for. Gemma soon loses Friday's client when she accidentally runs over Marie's pet peacock.
Money is tight so losing a client is bad news. So Gemma's friend takes her out drinking and Gemma hooks up with a man from the bar. They retire to her friend's place and have sex. He gives her his name and she promptly loses it. They run into each other at a store and he tries to give her his business card but hands her the wrong one and she doesn't realize it until he has left. Seems like they are fated to never connect again.
The weeks go by and Gemma comes to realize she is pregnant. The condoms they used were way past their use-by date. Now it is more important than ever that she locate Mr. Wonderful, if only to let him know he is going to be a daddy. But it turns out not to be that hard to find him, he has been right under her nose all the time.

I really enjoyed this story a lot, despite its rather contrived premise. It has a lot of humor, although it is not really a funny novel. Gemma has a lot of problems to deal with, including some unknown person trying to sabotage her career. Plus she has a lot of baggage from some poor decisions in her past. But I liked Gemma and liked this book. It was a good read. And the sex is not graphic, which I really appreciated. When they started to take each other's clothes off in the friend's apartment, I thought to myself, "OK, be prepared to skip ahead." But no skipping was required!

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Savannah Blues

By Mary Kay Andrews

Weezie Foley doesn't have it so good. Recently divorced, the judge awarded her the carriage house located in back of the house in which she used to live with her now ex-husband. He got the main house and she got what was basically the garage. And to make matters worse, the other woman promptly moved in with the hubby. So not only did Weezie get gypped  in the divorce settlement, she also has to put up with the girl friend's constant complaints about Weezie and her dog.
Weezie earns her living as a "picker." Not of fruit or vegetables, but of antiques. She goes around to garage sales and estate sales and buys items to resell. It's not a great living, but she gets by. Her dream is to turn her carriage house into an antiques store but that requires cash she doesn't have. All she needs is one big antiques score and she thinks she has found it at an estate sale. An old cupboard could be worth many thousands if she can only beat all the other pickers and dealers to the item. She sneaks into the estate one night just to scope the place out but she finds her husband's girlfriend in an upstairs closet, shot to death. And of course the police think Weezie is the prime suspect.

This was an OK read, kind of a murder mystery slash romance. Weezie reconnects with a boy she knew in high school, but their relationship becomes rocky when he thinks she is carrying a torch for her ex. The on-again, off-again romance was kind of boring and repetitive. The killer turned out to be a very minor character. And the ex-husband who had been such a placid spouse through ten years of marriage suddenly and implausibly turned into a drunken wife-beater.  Those things rather spoiled it for me. Plus it was too long.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Angel with Attitude

By Michelle Rowen

Valerie Grace is a fallen angel, recently kicked out of heaven for the sin of pride and splashing down naked into the killer whale tank at MarineLand. Now she is alone in Niagara, New York and working at a run-down motel. Her task is to live a good life and hopefully, when she gets old and dies, she can get back into heaven. Of course, it isn't going to be all that easy, especially when  Nathaniel shows up, just in time to save Valerie from a brutal assault. Nathaniel is a Tempter Demon, his task is to tempt Valerie to join him in Hell. Nathaniel is very tempting to Valerie but she manages to resist his charms, to his dismay.
Then Valerie finds out that Lucifer had in his possession a key to heaven. And this key could be her ticket back to her former life in the clouds. But the key is now in the possession of a very nasty demon and this demon thinks using the key is just the thing that will finally win him his demon father's approval. Yes, he is a demon with daddy issues. Valerie gets a very talented witch, who works at a burger place, to summon Nathaniel. Now Nathaniel is under Valerie's control and they are going to the Underworld (along with the witch's ex-boyfriend whom she turned into a rat as punishment) to track down the stolen key and hopefully get Valerie back to her home. Or not.

Lots going on in this fun and lively read. It's pretty light reading but I found it quite enjoyable and amusing. And pretty innocent too, as the romance is understated and not at all X-rated, which I appreciated, not being a fan of detailed and implausible sex scenes.

How to Tame a Wild Bore & other Facts of Life with Lewis

By Kathy Grizzard Schmook

Kathy Schmook was Lewis Grizzard's third wife. Lewis was a humorist and author and was married four times. In this book, Kathy describes her life with Lewis and apparently it was not that great. She goes into great detail about Lewis's faults and shortcomings. I felt kind of sorry for Lewis, living under that critical eye of hers.
It's a pretty lopsided picture of their life together, as she completely leaves out any complicity she may have had in the failure of their marriage. (Although she does kind of hint that she had a fondness for expensive jewelry.) But even though the hate comes through loud and clear, this is still a funny read. I just hope that Lewis wasn't quite as disgusting as his ex-wife made him out to be.

My Wilderness Wildcats

By Mike Tomkies

I didn't really know anything about the wildcats of the England, Scotland and Wales. I didn't even know there were wildcats or what a wildcat was exactly. Turns out the wildcat is a small cat, about the same size as the domesticated house cat, but with a much different temperament. They truly are "wild cats" and cannot be tamed, unlike many large wild cats, such as tigers and lions. They are native to Europe but are rare.
Wildcats have pretty disappeared from England and Wales but can still be found in the more remote areas of Scotland. Tomkies was given two small wildcat kittens who had either lost their mother or been abandoned by her. Tomkies lived in such an isolated area of Scotland that there were no roads leading to his house, it could only be reached by boat. Being a naturalist, and not really knowing much about wildcats, Tomkies felt the two kittens would make interesting study subjects. He named them Cleo and Patra and built pens for them and raised them on meat and milk. In time he also acquired a rather elderly male wildcat, a refugee from a zoo, and was able to successfully breed him with one of the females who produced two kittens, Fred and Mia. Eventually, he released all the wildcats back into the wild, in the fullness of time.

This was quite an interesting read, although at one point it became a bit repetitious as he described his routine of giving the wildcats some freedom, while continuing to feed them, then capturing them and once again placing them in pens. He was worried that they couldn't make it on their own, but they proved him wrong. Even the elderly male who had spent most his life in a zoo eventually became a skilled and successful hunter. But besides the wildcats, this book is an interesting glimpse of a life lived in the back country, without electricity or central heating, just a man and his dog and a some wildcats.

Merrill Markoe's Guide to Love

Merrill Markoe goes on a journey of discovery to see if she can figure out how to improve one's love life. She goes to the places and takes the classes that others might be too fearful, embarrassed or frugal to do. She takes the weird classes,  including one where the attendees are given instruction on how to perform oral sex on men, visits psychics, attends meetings purporting to have the secrets that will assure success in the mating game. She meets some pretty iffy types but uses her friends for moral support as she talks them into attending many of these functions with her. She must be a pretty brave woman, in my opinion. She is also pretty funny and so is her book: not only funny but actually informative too.

Tuesday, April 09, 2013

The Husband Hunters

By Barbara Cartland

Andrina Maldon was the oldest of three sisters. They had been left without much to live on after their father died. They only really had three assets: the old house, a necklace that had belonged to their deceased mother, and their looks. All three girls were outstandingly good looking, but living in such an isolated, rural location meant that eligible bachelors were not abundant.
So Andrina hatched a plan to get her two sisters suitably established. She would take the necklace to London, and with the help of her godfather (a man she had never met) use the proceeds from the necklace to rent a home for a couple of months and introduce her lovely sisters to society. An excellent plan except Andrina really doesn't know what she is up against and has her first reality check when she is accosted by a man at an inn, a man who has the audacity to give Andrina her first kiss.
Things go even further downhill when, upon arriving at the godfather's house, she finds out that said godfather died years ago and that his son, the Duke, is the very man who accosted her at the inn.
But the Duke saves the day when he agrees to help Andrina with her quest of suitable husbands for the sisters. Chaperons are acquired, balls are given,  and the men start piling up, smitten by the girls' good looks and winning personalities. The only thing that can mess this up is the girls themselves, including the scheming, mercenary Andrina!

This was a pretty good read, with the Andrina character set on acquiring rich and respectable husbands for her two sisters. She is clearly impressed by wealth and privilege and thinks that those two criteria are the only ones that matter. Needless to say, she finds out  eventually that other things matter more and it all works out for the best. A light read but still fairly enjoyable.

Monday, April 08, 2013

Old Man's War

By John Scalzi

When human knowledge had increased to the point where immigration to other planets was possible, mankind quickly discovered that the galaxy is a very crowded place, full of other intelligent and advanced beings, who were in competition with humankind for habitable planets to colonize. So the Colonial Defense Force was founded.
The CDF has an odd approach to recruiting soldiers: they don't want young people, they want old people. Their promise to oldsters who join: they'll receive the best medical care and made young again and, after they have served, they will be given a homestead of their own.
So after his wife passed, John Perry joined the CDF. He thought he would receive some kind of rejuvenation treatments but what he got instead was way beyond what he had been expecting. As was the duty he was now required to perform. It was all a lot better and a whole lot worse than he had ever imagined.

This turned out to be an interesting read. After I got past the part where the oldsters found out what their new lives would really be like, I feared the story would  just turn out to be one of those sci-fi action novels with lots of battles and fighting. And it does have some battles and fighting, but that is not the main feature of the story. It is mainly a story about a man coping with the demands of his profession and trying to keep himself sane and human and alive. It turned out to be quite a good read. Looking forward to others in the series.