ST:Discovery – Bored now

So CBS debuted Star Trek: Discovery last night, finally. They’ve been talking about it for – what, over a year? Two? I’ve lost track; it was supposed to debut back in May, and they never really gave an adequate reason why it didn’t. It came on my radar again when Sonequa Martin-Green’s character was killed off on The Walking Dead – right about at the same time it was announced that she was going to be the lead in Discovery. Huh. Coincidence!

I haven’t been overwhelmingly excited about this … ever. Never liked the look of the ship Discovery, nor of whatever that ship was in the premiere (what’s with the unlit bridge?); not a huge fan of Ms. Martin-Green; hated the uniforms; do we really need another prequel? And once I found out that CBS was only going to air the first episode, streaming the rest of the series behind a paywall? Pfeh. Not interested. Why on earth would I pay … *checks* Holy crap, that’s worse than I thought:
• Limited Commercials Annual Plan: $59.99/annually with a 1 Week Free Trial
• Commercial Free Annual Plan: $99.99/year with a 2-Day Free Trial
That’s appalling. (And I thought you got at least a month’s free trial – two days?!) Why would I pay that – on TOP of the ridiculous amount I already pay my cable company, plus Netflix which I can never give up because of Stranger Things – just to watch old episodes of CSI (which – give it a minute, it’ll pop up on ION Television) and Discovery? The latter would have to be pretty spectacular to make me do that.

It’s not.

I was frankly bored last night.

For one thing – this is the big debut, held back for four months? One hour, packed with what seemed like more commercials than usual, no fanfare? Really?

And … Yeah. Bored. My attention drifted like a spacewalker off her tether, and when it snapped back I … just didn’t much care what I had missed. And when I was paying attention, I was frowning about the show’s place in the timeline. SM-G’s “Number One” – Michael, which apparently does not mean she’s trans but people are running with that idea anyhow – gives the date “back on Earth” or whatever as 2280-something, if I recall correctly. Interesting; from what I’m finding the original series was set in the 2260’s. So I kept thinking things like “well, the sound effects are nice – very TOS – but why are the uniforms totally unlike anything we’ve seen before? (And what’s with the lame?) Why is the technology so different? Why introduce a brand new alien we’ve never seen before (apparently called Kelpiens) when they’ve never been heard of before in TOS, TNG, DS9, VGR, ENT, or any of the films, most of which take place after this? You’re really going to try slapping a whatever-that-generation-is tractor beam on a human being? Since when can a human being do the Vulcan neck pinch? McCoy couldn’t. Oh, lord, they injected Sarek into it… Wait. According to whatever website I found last night Sarek adopted her? So she’s apparently Spock’s adopted sister? Oh please. I am deathly tired of TOS characters’ never-before-mentioned siblings popping up.

Why are these people incapable of branching out into new space, new timeline, new storylines with no umbilical cords to what’s gone before? It’s Star Trek. It’s space. It’s the future. There are literally no boundaries (except for that purple barrier at the edge of the galaxy, of course). Why do they keep tromping over roughly the same ground?

The storytelling was … uninspired. The special effects seemed fine – but I was watching on a fairly small tv in standard definition. This was made for a bigger screen and hi-def, and I’ll bet it looked a lot better that way – but to me it was murky and I had no idea what they wanted me to be looking at in places. The acting was adequate. It got old for that one guy – *checks* Saru – to keep whingeing (yes, fine, prey species, dandy. Shut up) while the rest of the crew hardly got a word in edgewise. And … there’s an elephant in the room.

The “Klingons”.

They actually looked a little more like elephants than Klingons, didn’t they?

I have always hated the “Klingon” episodes of Trek. TOS not so much – they had a lot of great personalities playing Klingons in TOS. But when we got to TNG, I quickly came to hate Worf with the burning passion of sixty suns. I’ve been re-watching over the past several months, and it’s all coming back to me: every few weeks something terrible would happen to Worf, and then by the end of the episode he’d be all better, and I would be hacked off about yet another missed opportunity to get rid of him. He broke his neck – but was fine by the next episode. He almost died more, I think, than any other character on the show – not to mention the times he left the ship, or should have had his butt fired – and yet still he endured. And then imagine my disgust when he was transferred to Deep Space 9.

And every time TNG decided to focus on the bloody Klingons, I zoned out. There’s just no there there – and they kept returning over and over to that barren ground so that a bunch of leather-clad burly guys could bleat about honor and be generally annoying with their growly ugly speech-impeding teeth. (Yes, I’m racist against Klingons. So sue me.)

So here comes this new series – and of course they’re going to plop the Klingons in the middle of it. Well, sure – it makes sense. At the time they were the Enemy, and if you’re going to face a big danger they ought to be it. And – okay, it makes sense that they’re not going to go back to the original makeup. Sort of. But – no, damn it, no it doesn’t – it doesn’t make sense. If it’s within twenty years of the original series, how the hell have they evolved? Or – what? What is the explanation? And when do they plan to give this explanation? DO they plan to give an explanation, or will it be just the same as what they did last time, where for almost ten years there’s no enlightenment, not even a mention of what’s going on, until someone says “??” and Worf says that the matter is not discussed with outsiders?

“The lack of hair is empowering and logical”

They looked ridiculous. They sounded muffled, like – oh, gosh, like they were speaking through layers of latex or foam. And while I get that they shouldn’t be speaking English, the show had already lost my attention – so entire scenes where all dialogue was in Klingon were a bit lost on me, since I couldn’t be bothered to look up to read all the subtitles. And did I mention that they looked ridiculous? (Good lord, this was all driven by Neville Page and Glenn Hetrick? I’m so disappointed in them.) Was this another “Hey, we’ve got money to burn! Let’s hire a TON of makeup artists!” (Hetrick and Page don’t come cheap, I’m sure.) What in the name of Sto-Vo-Kor were they wearing? Why was that dead guy wrapped up like a mummy? In fact, why was there a whole quasi-Egyptian theme going? Is it really wise to have open flame on a starship? Do I have any real reason to care?

No. No, actually, I don’t.

And it’s all kind of a relief, in a way. I was a bit resentful that if I wanted to see the rest of the series I’d have to cough up. And now – I don’t have to, because I don’t care. I am completely uninterested. So now the resentment is cleared away, and I can go back to forgetting about it.

And I’m kind of sick of being disappointed by my fandoms. The new Doctor had better be superlative – but I’m not optimistic…

I would have liked to have seen Jason Isaacs, though. I do love Jason Isaacs. Ah well. I’ll get over it.

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A Cold Day For Murder

Marguerite Gavin gives this book a fantastic narration. She doesn’t attempt to replicate the way Dana Stabenow probably hears Kate Shugak’s ruined voice in her head, doesn’t attempt to constantly “do” ruined, for which I was grateful for the five and a half hours of the book. I’m sure it’s a good read, but it’s a great listen.

This takes place in a part of the world I’m just not that familiar with, that weird and wonderful great state of Alaska. I’ll admit it – I think my only real “experience” of it is from “Northern Exposure” and [book:To Start a Fire]. It’s someplace I think I’d have liked to go – but, after listening to this (and from what little else I know), I don’t think I’d be very welcome.

It was a little startling to hear the contempt that goes into some characters’ discussion of “greenies”… I am so enveloped in “save the planet or we die – duh” that it’s … truly weird to read about this alien mindset, valuing money – and, yes, I understand, jobs, but primarily money – far above the idea that … well, if you cut down all the trees, it will be hard to still be cutting down trees in five years, because … they will all have been cut down. Even just the simple enjoyment of the beauty of nature – meh. Let’s go for a lunar landscape – people like the moon.

Great sense of humor which for some reason I didn’t expect – Bobby is a terrific character, funny without being comic relief. And the fact that a lot of the book is funny doesn’t mean that the rest of it isn’t heartbreaking. From the general poverty and misery of so many and rampant alcoholism, to the very specific pain of Kate with her trauma (physical and in memory), the disappearances she’s investigating, to the wounded yearling moose being chewed on alive by a wolverine.

I enjoyed listening to the cadences of the names. Chick Noyukpuk, the Billiken Bullet; the Kanuyaq River; Niniltna; etc. And the other names – the Lost Chance Creek, the Lost Wife Mine, Squaw Candy Creek…. It all adds to the atmosphere.

Mutt’s awesome and I want one.

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Park Bench

Wow. Just … wow.

Say you’re a park bench. A nice, traditional, roomy seat – big enough for two, or three, or four if you’re friendly, shaded by a tree in a park. Every day dozens of people go by – you see joggers taking a favorite route, or people on their way to work. Some pause to tie a shoe or take a call or catch their breath – and there’s that one bloody dog … And then there are the regulars, who come to enjoy the weather and maybe read or watch people go by – or stretch out on you to sleep, since they have nowhere else to go. Sun and rain and snow and starlight, through the four seasons, until …

The saying about pictures and thousands of words is a cliché – but it’s a cliché for a reason. As someone who has handled pencils, pens, and brushes, I know how tiny the difference is between a line that evokes an emotion or plays its part in a story, and a line that is … just a line. Christophe Chabouté is French – but that’s the other cliché about art, isn’t it? It’s universal. I didn’t have to blow the dust off my high school language course, because without a word a very clear and achingly beautiful story is conveyed – a story with a beginning, a middle, and an end, a climax, a denouement – and an epilogue. Sometimes funny, occasionally heart-rending… the only small weakness I can think of in the book is that one of the threads of the story seemed far too predictable – I had a terrible feeling I knew what would happen. And I was right. And it hurt.

I love this book. In fact, I think I’ll go and start it over again.

The usual disclaimer: I received this book via Netgalley for review.

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Basic Witches

I’m a bit older than the target audience for this book (actually, quite a bit older) (all right, a lot older), but the note in the description about exorcising a toxic friendship was made the decision to request it. I was curious. I’ve always had an interest in how people integrate spirituality of whatever flavor into their lives – and I ended up being deeply impressed by this book. It’s not a deep and in-depth guide to how to practice wicca, not a hardcore spellbook or grimoire or whathaveyou, as such; the prevailing opinion I’ve always encountered is that it’s flat-out dangerous to mess around with something like that on your own, especially when very young and inexperienced. (I mean, it’s the sort of thing which, even if you don’t believe in any of it, still – a bit of common sense never hurts. Never go jogging wearing earphones that render you deaf to your surroundings (especially if you’re a woman alone), be aware of your surroundings, never ever play with a Ouija board, and never mess around with spells when you don’t know what you’re doing. The demon you prevent from entering this dimension may be your own.

What this actually is is a positive, warm, funny guide to how to handle situations that are bound to come up in everyone’s life. For example, that note that got my attention about toxic friends? I’ve got two, people I work with who used to be friends who knifed me when I wasn’t looking, and whom I can’t avoid. Will the section on what to do about it make it all better? Nope. But it serves as proof that I’m not alone – I’m not the only one who is going through something like this. And it does serve as a pretty good guideline of how to manage the way I think about it.

I’m not entirely thrilled with the light tone with which demons are discussed, but maybe I’ve been listening to too many funky podcasts lately. And nothing in here seems at all dangerous – quite the opposite.

In a lot of ways this is more therapy or counsel than Magick. Well, maybe it comes to the same thing, in the end.

The usual disclaimer: I received this book via Netgalley for review.

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Happy Baggins Birthday!

Reblogging an earlier Hobbit Day post – enjoy.



Today, September 22, marks the birthday of both Bilbo and Frodo Baggins. Here’s a little bit of why that matters so much …

If it’s not too late where you are, enjoy second breakfast and elevensies, and make sure to keep an eye out for Entmaidens.

My dear People, began Bilbo, rising in his place. ‘Hear! Hear! Hear!’ they shouted, and kept on repeating it in chorus, seeming reluctant to follow their own advice. Bilbo left his place and went and stood on a chair under the illuminated tree. The light of the lanterns fell on his beaming face; the golden buttons shone on his embroidered silk waistcoat. They could all see him standing, waving one hand in the air, the other was in his trouser-pocket.

My dear Bagginses and Boffins, he began again; and my dear Tooks and Brandybucks, and Grubbs, and Chubbs, and Burrowses, and Hornblowers…

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I Hear She’s a Real Bitch – Jen Agg

Uh oh. I just remembered how very much Jen Agg hates those amateur reviewers, those damned bloggers who can’t stop spouting their uninformed opinions.

Well. I’m sure she only meant obnoxious food bloggers who take bad photos of their plates and give her restaurants bad reviews. Right?

If not, she can blame her publisher for putting her book up on Netgalley and opening it up to us damned bloggers.

Jen Agg is a Toronto restaurateur – not a chef, but the owner of several very successful spots where her unique vision has been made reality. This memoir plunges right into what service at “The Black Hoof” is like – “exactly the type of service I want but so rarely get when dining out” – and that (along with a very early reference to Star Trek) is a big part of what sucked me in. Ms. Agg comes at service much the way I do, and for much the same reasons: I started out my working life in retail, and my first real office job was intensive trial-by-fire customer service, so I know how it’s supposed to be done. That can make me a hard customer, because I have little tolerance for apathy or stupidity. And Ms. Agg is the same. “You can’t teach someone to give a s***.” Oh – she has a list of phrases she never wants to hear a server say, and one of them is straight out of the training I had way back when: “No problem”. Well, yeah, if I’m calling customer service, there is a problem. And I don’t care if it’s a problem for you – if I’m the customer, that’s not my problem. It’s really interesting to see someone else echoing my pet peeves.

Oh, and the customer? NOT always right. Truly.

One point she makes, which is similar to something I’ve been saying forever, is that everyone – sorry, she used all caps (as she often does): EVERYONE should work in a restaurant for at least six months. I’ve been saying retail, but it comes to the same thing: “it changes your perspective”. Everyone. I’m looking at you, you giant Cheeto.

The book is chatty and colloquial, feeling like you the reader are sitting with Jen Agg over a cocktail or three. I can only think she talks exactly like she writes, and it’s fun to read (“especially stabby violence”; ” I don’t want to be all old-man-shakesfist-at-cloud”; “fundamentally it-getty”). She over-shares about her childhood and (compared with mine) wild teenage years, her sex life and political opinions (three guesses how she feels about the current administration). I loved when she – who embraced sex, drugs, rock and roll, smoking, and especially booze at a very early age and with all her heart – clucked softly over what kids today go through – after which she invariably acknowledged what she had just done. Oh, and she’s absolutely a Trekkie. It’s a hoot.

I’ve noted before how interesting it is to read something written by a person who is utterly and totally enveloped in a particular world; I’ve seen it mostly in Food People. They are so steeped in the ins and outs and intricacies of the food business, and maybe have never known any other world, never worked in any other field, that it’s startling to see their point of view on … well, people like me, outsiders. The attitude toward non-insiders is illuminating; being Other isn’t just a matter of race or class, what you drive or what you believe in or whether you prefer wine or beer – the food business seems to be an insular universe that looks upon the uninitiated with, often, distaste. The little passage about Saturday diners was … surprising to me.

I have a feeling I’m going to get myself in trouble with this, but here goes: Ms. Agg talks throughout her story about the extra difficulties she faces being a woman in charge, and about the caustic sexism of “the bro-chef way of life”. She’s a hero in her take-no-prisoners put-up-with-no-guff attitude toward life and work, breaking down barriers and glass ceilings and stereotypes. But … I have to note that at none of the restaurants she talks about opening in her career has she hired a woman chef. Let me hasten to add that I loathe the idea of someone being given a job or acceptance at a college or anything else solely because they’re male, female, black, white, Indian, Martian, or born with six toes – but I just found it surprising that she has evidently never found a female candidate for any open chef position.

So – yeah. I enjoyed this, very much. I like the author’s story – and I truly wish her well. I laughed, I cried, I learned the difference between salami and salumi, and how to say “better than yours” in Creole (Pan pi bon). And I learned to stop stacking my dishes when I go out to eat. I … always thought it was helpful. I’m a middle-class New Englander, and therefore uncomfortable with being waited on – I always wanted to clean up the table a bit under the illusion that it would save the server a bit of work – and apparently it does exactly the opposite. Damn. Sorry, all my past servers ever. I’ll stop.

Great quote:
“…My knowledge of art up to that major turning point was mostly based on ‘Do I like this?’ ‘Do I want it in my house?’ Which, as it turns out, is exactly how to care about art.”

While I’m mildly intrigued by the theme of The Black Hoof, no. Absolutely no amount of chili flakes could ever make me forget I was eating horse – I would never eat horse. And I’m disturbed by its inclusion on an upscale (or any) menu. Sourcing, please?

The usual disclaimer: I received this book via Netgalley for review.

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Four Kings – M.D. Elster

One night – in 1945, long before Harvey, long before Katrina – a hurricane came to New Orleans. A tree fell on a house, a girl was– and a man, the girl’s stepfather, was shot. As Macbeth says, “It was a rough night”.

The girl, 14-year-old Anaïs Reynard, wakes up in an asylum, and soon learns that she is the only witness to her stepfather’s shooting. He’s not dead, but he’s still unconscious, and Anaïs is needed to testify so that the person they have in custody can be put away; unfortunately, she remembers nothing, and so undergoes intensive daily therapy to try to bring the memories back. The doctor keeps talking about electroshock therapy, which has the girl desperate to dredge up something. (I couldn’t help wondering if she should have been as terrified by the prospect of electroshock as she was. Were the probable terrible effects known in 1945?)

Anaïs begins to see a strange man about the asylum – very strange: he is a man with the head of a fox. One night she chases him through the halls, clutching a key that she found in her bed, and ends up letting herself through a door in the basement, emerging into a landscape that does not belong to New Orleans: the Land of the Four Kings. Her pursuit of the fox-man leads her to a glade filled with animal-headed people; come to find out, the fox led her there on purpose. Human girls are being found dead and drained of blood in this land, human blood having powerful properties, and the fox – Mr. Fletcher – hopes that she will be the key to finding out who’s responsible. (That never really made solid sense to me.)

I started the book expecting to be blown away by a surreal, darkly beautiful tale; something about the description warned me that this was a book with claws, which would leave marks. Well … a few folk in the book have claws, but really this was a rather earnest cross between Alice in Wonderland and Nancy Drew. There were aspects of the correlations between the world of the asylum and the fantasy world that I liked: the echoes in the animal-headed people to the background cast of Anaïs’s life; things like the “Hall of Chequers” when “only hours earlier I was watching my fellow asylum patients play this very game” – basically, the more subtle touches. It was when the book came right out and told me “hey! Look at the parallel!” that I was put off. “She reminds me of Colette”. OK. Thanks for spelling it out.

From very early on, I had a prime suspect in both the human world – and very shortly after, based on Anaïs’s reactions, in the fantasy world. It seemed obvious, though obviously not to the book’s characters. I can’t say I was right – but I can say that I was absolutely manipulated into being wrong. (At one point Anaïs states that one person is beyond suspicion, so I immediately suspected that person more than anyone.) Based on the way the characters were described by the narrator there was no way I could have guessed the truth. In other words, the author didn’t play entirely fair.

I wish there had been hints scattered somewhere in the text as to whether Anaïs is really slipping away into this fantastical world, or whether it’s all a stress-and-terror-induced hallucination. Something that happens to her in the other world is referenced in the asylum, but it’s shrugged off by Anaïs and ignored by everyone else; just once I wanted someone to remark on her grass-stained clothes or scratched-up feet. Actually, it’s pretty clear that it is all in her mind, as three of the four kings whose palaces she visits send her off to be given attire more appropriate for court – yet, without changing into her hospital clothing (or, if she does, without taking off the outerwear she didn’t have on when she went to bed), still she wakes up wearing attire more appropriate for the asylum. I really don’t understand the corollary between several dead girls – including fellow patients – in the fantasy world and one uncle with a gunshot wound in the real world; and of course the perpetrators don’t correlate at all. So … what was the point?

I was also a bit disappointed in how easily Anaïs adapts to others’ suspicions in both worlds. Jules, with whom she had a budding romance in this human world, is the person under arrest for shooting her stepfather? Oh. Gosh, I wouldn’t expect him to have done it. Oh well. Someone she began to like and trust in the Land of the Four Kings is about to be executed for the killings there? Oh. Never saw that coming. Oh well.

In the writer’s very brief biography she (she?) boasts of being a best-selling traditionally-published writer, and it surprised me. There was a lot about the writing in this book that smacked of a much less experienced writer: painful homophones, weird almost-right words (“I can still smell the shaving lather that was inevitably washed from his face only minutes earlier” – inevitably?), tense slips, wrong pronoun use, too-close echoes of phrases – and, most of all, absolutely improbable vocabulary from a fourteen year-old girl in 1945. The girl knowledgeably talks about extraverts and body language and the dynamics of her relationships and air molecules and adrenaline…

At one point she talks about being able to identify the killer in the real world – when, in fact, no one was killed in the real world. And I’m pretty sure that you can’t tourniquet a chest wound, as Anaïs helps to do at one point.

(I don’t even want to talk about “collared greens”.)

The girl readily identifies all the animals represented in the fantasy world: the basics like owls and rabbits and ravens were believable to me, but I question whether this 40’s teenaged girl would be able to pick out a civet or a Rhesus macaque (I couldn’t, and I grew up with Wild Animal Cards). I’m not even sure a girl who grew up in Bavaria and only recently came to the US via England would know a cougar from a panther.

And it’s just odd that the idea of animal-headed people is tossed out there, but little real detail is given. These folks stand about with wine glasses – but how do they drink from them? For that matter, how do they speak? At one point a “troop of children” is mentioned, but absolutely no description is given. Do they age like human children, needing supervision for several years, or are they like animal young, able to run within a short time of birth? And how did the Old Cwen, a harpy with the head of an elderly woman, give birth to the Young Cwen, who is a sphinx? (I could absolutely be wrong, but I don’t remember harpies being any part of Egyptian mythology; they’re Greek, no?) It’s not vital to the plot, any of this – but it’s an interesting gimmick, and I wish there had been more depth to it.

One moment struck a deeply odd chord with me, as an emine-headed female is depicted “in the middle of the stage in a very tight, low-cut silk robe, singing into a microphone. …She is, in her own curious, animal-headed fashion, very sexy.” And all I could think of was Marilyn Monroe singing “Happy Birthday” to JFK.I wonder if that was intentional.

Anyway. The book did not live up to the fascinating, creepy-cool animal-head images scattered throughout the book. I really wish it had. Disappointing. And … well, was there a reason that the Raven King’s image (used on the cover) is a manipulation of a famous photo of Edwin Booth? It’s in the public domain, it seems, but … I don’t know. I’d like for there to be some sense to it.

One final note on something which people seem to get wrong more and more often, and it drives me insane: Please, please, please, anyone who is writing anything, I’m begging you to learn the difference between “lay” and “lie”. You lie down. You don’t lay down. Unless you’re laying something down, or it’s past tense, “lay” is wrong. You lay your book on the table. When you go to bed you lie down. Yesterday you lay down. At least pretend to care.

The usual disclaimer: I received this book via Netgalley for review.

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The Cheltenham Square Murder – John Bude

It’s funny. With all the exploration of how murder was committed in this book, how an arrow can cause death by “entering the fleshy part of the skull” (?) and all that good stuff – still, what grossed me out the most with this book was the fact that the victim, once the arrow was removed from his head, was carried away from the scene of death to be laid out in his own room, on his own bed. And all I could envision was how horrific that bed is going to be. And who’s going to have to clean that up?

In a way, this is an inverse locked-room mystery.

It’s been a long time since I pulled a bow, and I was never an expert of any sort, but there were a few things that just didn’t sit right with the handling of archery and how it was considered in the investigation of the mystery. Like the fact that it came as a great surprise that there were no fingerprints on the arrow. “What the devil do you mean—there must have been. A chap couldn’t pull an arrow without handling it, could he?” Well … sure. Gloves. Thin leather gloves, to provide a grip while still allowing the ability to feel the string, would be no impediment in using a bow, as best I can remember.

Now and then there’s a confluence of names in a book which is just fun. A recent cozy had a character with my first name as his last and my last name as his first; a historical mystery had a character named Betty Draper, which brought back happy memories of Mad Men. (Not of the character, but the show.) Here there were two detectives who as partners came together to make me snort softly: “Long and Shanks then got into the police-car” made it sound like Aragorn had come on the scene.

So … according to this book, it’s impossible to crack a safe in the classic movie tradition of listening for the fall of the tumblers? *Paging Mythbusters*

Cheltenham Square is very much a product of its time. “Will there be anybody in next door? I had an idea that Captain Cotton lived alone.” “He does—except for his man, Albert.” My eyebrows popped up at the failure to count Albert as a person living in the house, added as little more than an afterthought. Of course he’s not, in this period – he’s staff. The problem with that is that, of course, that afterthought could have as easily been the murderer as anyone else in the book.

An other thing that especially dated this book to its moment was the attitude toward Miss Boon’s dogs. She’s a spinster of a certain age who has pack of dogs (she’s not a crazy cat lady, she’s an eccentric dog lady). She has a moment in the sun as a strong suspect in the murders which occur, but after all, her only motive for killing one of them is that he killed one of her dogs. The police pooh-pooh it – come, now, that’s no reason to murder a man. It’s not a read motive. Perhaps “an eccentric woman with an overwhelming, single-minded passion for dogs” might … nah. Not likely. And there I beg to differ. I’m fairly pacifistic – but anyone who ever laid a finger on any of my dogs would have paid. In blood. In my world it’s a more than sufficient motive.

I had some guesses about how the murder (that is, murders) happened, and also about the motive. I was on the right track with the why (mistaken identity for the first murder: it seemed so obvious to me when it was pointed out that all that was visible of the first victim was the back of his head, easily mistaken for someone else’s. It also seemed like a very cool idea for the second killing to then be a red herring, making it seem as though the first one was a mistake and therefore any motives or opportunity that applied to the first one could be washed out…, but what seemed absolutely obvious to me was that what everyone thought was the method – an archer’s shot from across the square – was, in point of fact, not. (I was convinced that what actually happened was that the person in the room with that first victim, who claimed to have just turned away for a minute during which the victim was shot, actually had an arrow on him and simply stabbed the victim. I still like my idea better … mostly. Oh! I also glommed onto the fact that golf came into play, so to speak – a golf bag would, after all, be a great place to hide arrows.)

Some of the procedural moments seemed a little off, which I imagine is due to the age of the book. Or maybe I was just totally wrong when I was surprised that the police didn’t retain the key to the building from which they thought the arrow was shot?

The writing was entertaining, and the characters got the job done. I’m still not enamored of the plot, but it did keep me guessing (even if I grumpily muttered that at least one of my ideas was more fun). But … seriously? Someone kills your dog and you won’t at least wish that person a little dead? Really? Huh.

The usual disclaimer: I received this book via Netgalley for review.

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Cheers to the Publican: Repast and Present

This is a gorgeous book, unabashedly enthusiastic and wonderfully friendly. The detail is terrific – had I the resources to tackle any of the recipes included I have absolute confidence that I would be walked through it safely and successfully from start to finish.

I love the warmth of the book, the sheer contentment that breathes through the pages in the lives the authors have made for themselves, for the place that they’ve made and the community they’ve formed. It’s lovely. There’s even photographic proof throughout – the obligatory “here we are eating the things we’re telling you about” shots, as enviable and admirable as any I’ve seen. It all makes me want to become a regular at the Publican, and if I ever get to Chicago I’m definitely seeking it out.

One of my favorite things about the book is the series of profiles of “Friends of the Publican”, suppliers and other allies, each given a full page with a photo and a warm essay. It’s credit where credit’s due, in spades.

The poems are fun, too.

As a cookbook, though, it is largely aspirational. It isn’t tremendously useful to me, because as a foodie I’m frankly low-class. Between my paycheck and my lack of space, I won’t be following the directions (however clear and concise) to make my own sausage anytime soon. All throughout the text, the authors direct the reader to go to farmers’ markets, the finest suppliers, basically anywhere but the grocery store … Buy tomatoes from the guy who charges the highest prices. Don’t buy strawberries at the grocery store. Don’t buy eggs at the store. Don’t you dare buy fish at the store. In fact, have your trout flown in from San Francisco. Even the recipe that perked me up (I might be able to make this one!), calling for Yukon gold potatoes (I’ve heard of those!) specified “size C” potatoes, which … I didn’t know they were classified like that. Makes sense, I suppose, but …

I might be able to do the pork pies …

They do here and there almost apologetically bend, and say or the dates you get at the grocery store would be fine or something. And I find it delightful that in amongst the ingredients sourced from across the country and the world (not afraid of a carbon footprint, these chefs), they profess their loyalty to Hellmann’s mayonnaise. It’s adorable.

It’s actually kind of fun to read this point of view; it’s a little like reading a fantasy novel. These are people who live in as completely different a world from mine as Pern or Arrakis, and it’s all they know. Their first and only priority is food and feeding people, and they’re apparently unfamiliar with a lifestyle in which going out to eat is a rare luxury. I’m not condemning this – bless their hearts, long may they cook meals which cost what I get in a week’s paycheck. “As Herb says, it’s all about life, liberty, and the prosciutto happiness.” Cheers.

The usual disclaimer: I received this book via Netgalley for review.

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Murder in Mayfair – D.M. Quincy

I don’t usually bother with too much plot summary in my reviews; it seems a bit pointless when it only takes a couple of clicks or a scroll to read a blurb. But this time I’m going to make an exception. Copied from Goodreads:

In 1810, Atlas Catesby, a brilliant adventurer and youngest son of a baron, is anxious to resume his world travels after a carriage accident left him injured in London. But his plans are derailed when, passing through a country village, he discovers a helpless woman being auctioned off to the highest bidder–by her husband.

In order to save her from being violated by another potential buyer, Atlas purchases the lady, Lilliana, on the spot to set her free. But Lilliana, desperate to be with her young sons and knowing the laws of England give a father all parental rights, refuses to be rescued–until weeks later when her husband is murdered and Atlas is the only one who can help clear her name of the crime.

I mean – come on. Look at that. That’s mildly awesome. That’s a series of bombshells. That sounds like a book that you’d remember for years.

And yet … the reason I had that summary saved on the document where I write my reviews is that I had no memory of the book when I went to do this. None. The description helps – but what happened after and around that basic outline I have almost no idea. I didn’t even take notes or highlight anything while I was reading.

I do recall that, while this was a perfect setup for an historical romance, there was actually very little along those lines in the plot – this Lilliana, the rescued damsel, is single-minded in her quest to get her children back, and in that quest she does some really stupid things. Her protector, Atlas, is an anachronism of feminist support and aggrieved patience. Apart from this … it’s pretty much a blank.

At least this means the writing wasn’t terrible – that I would remember, right? But I do wonder if three stars is a bit generous for something that is such a … lacuna. Ah well. I’ll go with my first instinct and leave it.

The usual disclaimer: I received this book via Netgalley for review.

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