Sunday, October 7, 2012

Charlaine Harris and Cinda Williams Chima

These two authors have dominated my reading list in the last two weeks, although their styles are certainly quite different. I read the first of the Sookie Stackhouse books a few years back and while I enjoyed them, the casual sex got to be a bit much for me. However, I've enjoyed some of Harris' other series.

In the last couple of weeks, I've read:

The rest of the Aurora Teagarden books:
1. The Julius House: Aurora ("Roe") receives the old Julius house as a wedding gift from her new husband. While remodeling the house, she becomes intrigued by the mystery of the three people who disappeared from the house six years earlier without a trace. The mystery here was decent, and, of course, I like Roe.
2. A Fool and His Honey: This book was hard for me--partly because Martin's niece shows up with a new baby (2 months old) and then disappears. As the mother of a small baby myself, this particular plot twist was horrifying for me. Their search to figure out what happened (and to find caregivers for the baby) takes them back to Martin's hometown and lead to a shocking denouement. I can't say more about that without spoiling it, save that this is definitely the darkest and most depressing of the Teagarden books.
3. Last Scene Alive: Aurora is more than a little annoyed to find that a movie is being made of her experience in the first novel (Real Murders), especially as this brings her rather obnoxious stepson into town. However, it also brings back the elusive Robin (from Real Murders), whom I rather like. This was a fun, quick read--a nice return to the cozy mystery genre.
4. Poppy Done To Death: when Aurora's step-sister-in-law is murdered just before her induction into an exclusive women's society, Aurora takes it on herself to figure out what happened to her. In the process, she uncovers some secrets about Poppy (and about herself). I loved that Aurora ended the series in a very good place, personally and professionally. While I'd read another one, I'm also happy to let the series rest here.

I started Marc Fitten's Valeria's Last Stand, about a sixty-ish Hungarian woman in late 1990s Hungary. I was intrigued by the premise--after all, I lived in Hungary in the late 1990s and I could just picture the type of woman who would star in this. However, the story itself was vulgar (more vulgar than I remember most Hungarians being, but then, my grasp of the language was far from perfect) and I couldn't see anything in it of the Hungary I remembered, so I stopped reading.

I also read the next two books in Cinda Williams Chima's Seven Realms series (note that it's a series not a trilogy as I'd subconsciously expected):

5. The Exiled Queen: This wasn't the best of the series, but as a novel that mostly sets up the remainder of the series, that's to be expected. Princess Raisa, Han, Dancer, and the rest of the group struggle as first year students at the various academies in Oden's Ford (Raise at the Warrior's school and Han and Dancer at the wizard's school). The most interesting thing--from my perspective--was the meeting and budding romance between Raisa and Han.

6. The Gray Wolf Throne. I was initially under the impression that this was the last of the series--when I finished the book, there were still so many loose ends (Chima introduces a new mystery in the epilogue) that I went immediately to Amazon and was immensely reassured to find that there is, in fact, a fourth book, and it's coming out this month! In this book, Raisa returns to chaos in the realm: the queen is dead; the wizards want to make her younger sister the new queen; the clans are threatening war if the wizards succeed. Raisa finds she doesn't know whom to trust, but with Han's reluctant help, she may be able to claim her throne.

Also read:
Meg Cabot's Mediator #2 and #3. I remember enjoying them, but not many of the individual details (a hazard of reading so many books).

Tera Lynn Child's Sweet Venom (I enjoyed her mermaid series a lot, so I snatched up this book when it came up free on Amazon). This tells the interwoven stories of Gretchen, Grace, and Greer, three vastly different young ladies who discover that they are united by two startling facts: 1) they are triplets, separated at birth and 2) they are the human descendents of Medusa, and hence, Monster hunters extraordinaire. For the genre (YA urban fantasy), this was pretty good. The three sisters were all distinct and sympathetic (well, Greer needs some work), but I didn't find myself caring enough at the end of the book to wonder what happens next.

Monica McInerney, The Alphabet Sisters. Like all her books, this involves tangled family dynamics, in this case, of the Alphabet Sisters (so named for their childhood singing group) Anna, Bett, and Carrie, who haven't spoken in three years, after Carrie married Bett's fiance. The story starts when their grandmother, Lola, maneuvers them all into showing up for her 80th birthday celebration. The novel chronicles the subsequent fights and slow healing for the three sisters, although I have to admit I didn't see the final plot twist coming (if I'd known about it, I might have avoided the book because I typically dislike that kind of sentimental book).

Kathryn Williams, Pizza, Love, and Other Stuff that Made Me Famous. I liked the premise of this story: sixteen-year-old Sophie wins the chance to attend a seven week course at a famous culinary institute in California and compete on a reality TV series, Teen Test Kitchen. I liked Sophie, who knew what she wanted. And I was impressed by Williams' culinary knowledge (I watch enough Food Network to understand most of the terms). The story itself, though, could have had a little more depth: I struggled to remember all the characters competing in the reality competition and the romantic element felt just a little thin. Still, it was a pretty cute book overall.

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