Monday, October 26, 2015

Off the Bookshelf: DODGER, by Terry Pratchett

Literary parody or homage or expanding on characters created in a famous author's famous stories seems to be the "in" thing nowadays. Such as Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.

DODGER, by Terry Pratchett, revises the world and times of Charles Dickens, so that the famous author actually interacts with the Artful Dodger, known as Dodger by everyone around him. Dodger is our hero -- as indicated by the title. He makes his living by going through the sewers of London, scavenging what other people lose or throw away, and making use of them, or getting the found items to people who can make use of them. He knows the underground of London like the back of his hand.

This comes in handy when he witnesses a young lady being brutalized and intervenes. Suddenly he is a hero, and in protecting the helpless young lady who happened to marry the wrong prince and get on the wrong side of his powerful father and interfere in the wrong way with political machinations and alliances and marriages ... well, Dodge finds himself suddenly in the spotlight and interfering with a lot of other things going on above ground, and meeting famous people, such as Charlies Dickens and Disraeli.

The Pratchett wit and social commentary and tongue-in-cheek humor are still there, just *sigh* toned down from what we're used to in the Discworld books. Still a fascinating story, and further proof positive that the late, great Sir Terry Pratchett was a master of his craft. He shall be greatly missed.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Off the Bookshelf: BLOSSOM STREET BRIDES, by Debbie Macomber

Blossom Street stories -- at least, the ones I've read so far -- always take us back to A Good Yarn, a knitting/yarn shop run by Lydia, whose story first brought Debbie Macomber's readers to Blossom Street.

I love stories set in a familiar setting, that keep taking us back to see what else is happening in the lives of old friends, and introduce us to new friends we've met along the way. While we watch Lydia and her husband deal with the emotional problems of their adopted daughter and the heartache of her mother's slowly deteriorating physical and mental health, we also get to peek into the life of another old friend, Bethanne, who remade her life when her husband walked out on her and their children.

Bethanne's life is good. She is now married to a man she met while on a road trip -- another story -- and their long-distance commuter marriage is taking a toll on them. Not to mention that her ex-husband is willing to do anything, no matter how underhanded and manipulative, to win her back. It isn't that the selfish jerk really loves her, but now that she's successful and has proven she can live without him, she has value again. She's nothing more than a prize. It doesn't matter that she's married -- if he wants her, he's going to get her back. Or so he thinks ...

Then there's Lauren, who has decided she has waited long enough for her local celebrity boyfriend to grow up and marry her. She can see that he will never put their life together ahead of his career -- and of course, as soon as she breaks up with him, he's willing to pop the question. Too late! Lauren has found someone else, and they "click" from the moment they see each other from across the jewelry store where she works. Of course, the ex-boyfriend doesn't know how to take "go away" for an answer, and then there is all the baggage both of them are carrying. But this is Debbie Macomber, and once her characters grow up and learn their lesson, they earn their happily ever after.

Always a treat to return to Blossom Street!

Monday, October 12, 2015

Off the Bookshelf: HAND ME DOWN HUSBAND, by Rosanna Huffman

It's not often I get to read a book written by a friend. I have a number of books in my to-be-read stack and my wish list written by friends in ACFW. Slowly, I'm working my way through the stacks -- and making room to buy the ones on the list.

It's even more rare when I chuck all the items on my do list for the day and just lie down on my couch and read the whole day away. What makes the experience even sweeter is when it's a book I heard about when it was just a twinkle in the author's eye, and a chuckle in her voice as she talked about her idea!


Rosanna's story could have taken place in the next county. The farming community has its share of characters -- the oblivious, the caring, the self-important, the interfering, the ones who can't say no, the grieving, the lonely, and the ones who care to the point of frustrating the ones who really don't want their help. Yeah, you've been in a community like that. Then there are the people you just want to grab by their ankles and slap them against the wall until they straighten out.

Which just proves Rosanna knows how to write characters that are real, and make you care about them.

Suzanne is a teacher in a small church-run school who cares about her students, adored by her students, and overlooked and unappreciated by everyone else -- her family, the school board, and people in church who only see her when they need help but never notice when she needs help. She has had to fight -- quietly -- for what she has in life, and has made some resolutions she sticks to, no matter how inconvenient. Such as no hand-me-downs -- she's not taking anyone's discards anymore, in terms of clothes, furniture, and even boyfriends.

Mitch is a widower, going on two years when the story starts. When he is talked into taking over as principal of the school, he notices Suzanne and really sees her like no one has in her entire life. He appreciates her, he sees how she is taken advantage of, As they change from co-workers to friends to something deeper and sweeter, they face a number of obstacles -- the difference in their ages, interference from his family, matchmaking friends who want Suzanne with someone else, and their own still-healing wounds.

Lovely debut novel -- and I'm not just saying that because she's my friend.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Off the Bookshelf: MAGGIE FOR HIRE, by Kate Danley

This one was just for fun. It was a Free Book Friday book on Nook a few weeks ago, and I got it just because it looked like fun. And it was! A fast read, lots of grins, and reminiscent of "Buffy."

MAGGIE FOR HIRE: Maggie MacKay, Magical Tracker #1

Maggie MacKay is, as the series title says, a Magical Tracker. She jumps back and forth between Earth and the Other Earth, working as a bounty hunger for magical creatures -- like vampires and ghouls and such. Think a smarter, more talented Stephanie Plum with black leather, stakes, and holy water.

Told in first person, there's plenty of snark, and snippets of Maggie's background and memories. She has an interesting family -- including the evil uncle she never knew about until she has to keep him from tearing down the border between the ordinary Earth we all know and the Other Earth -- which could make a lot of problems. One tough chick with an attitude, a seer for a mother, an ordinary, almost too cute twin sister, and other assorted problems. Then there's the too-gorgeous Elf she's forced to accept as her partner on this mission ....

Lots of fun. I plan on reading other books in the series, just for fun. Or maybe a reward for finishing major writing projects. After I get about 20 books off my to-be-read shelf ...