Wishful Drinking

Carrie Fisher

8247122

Carrie Fisher in person was a force to be reckoned with. Now at least, we have her memoir to enjoy. I saw her one-woman show in person in Berkeley before she took it to Hollywood, and it was a hoot. Out of her pain and suffering, she crafted a light-hearted account of growing up the daughter of Debbie Reynolds, which enough to make anyone crazy. Add  in all the dysfunction of her life, and it is a wonder she was able to cope at all.

Underneath all the laughter, there is a serious tale of substance abuse and mental illness. Through it all, it was her own innate honesty that made it possible for Carrie to  hold it together.

Lord of Scoundrels

Loretta Chase

5948657

I bought this book on a whim, persuaded that I had read it before. I was mistaken and pleasantly surprised by the book. For a change, it features a hero with body image issues and a heroine who is intelligent and active. The titular character is big. And dark. And ugly. He broods about this, not believing that anyone can look beyond this and see the beauty and love that lies beneath, just waiting to be awakened. Until he meets Jessica Trent, that is. She has the insight to realize what is hidden beneath the cover of a devil, and the ability to waken the angel buried inside.

A truly delightful read, with enough spice to make the readers’ hearts flutter, and enough smartness never to insult their intelligence. This is the first Loretta Chase novel I’ve read, but it is far from the last.

Chain of Evidence

Cora Harrison

15850573

This most satisfying addition to Harrison’s series about Mara, the Lady Judge to three kingdoms, has at its heart the clash between English law and Brehon law. Stephen Gardiner is in Ireland to stir up trouble and to find Irish lords willing to bend the knee to Henry VIII in exchange for titles of nobility. He finds eager listeners among clansmen who are nor familiar with Mara and her grasp of men and laws. Mara has to reassert her authority in the case of a mysterious murder.

Also troubling Mara is the persistent problem of Nuala, her best friends daughter. A competent physician and independently wealthy young women, she is desperately unhappy. The man she loves seems entangled by the pretty blue eyes and curly blond hair of one of Mara’s students.

Mara is able to solve the mystery of a murdered and and see the result of her lack of meddling in affairs of the heart as both problems come to their solution. The problem of English encroachment is put to rest for the time being, but bodes ill for the future.

In Praise of the Bees

Kristin Gleeson

26096994

This would have been a better story if the author had tied up the loose ends and had skipped a few plot twists. I found the use of Irish words intrusive without any translation or explanation. I did have a glossary in the back, but it’s not complete. The ending was abrupt and unbelievable, with little foundation laid for the character’s decisions.

All in all I found it unsatisfying.

 

 

Conversations with Rabbi Small

Harry Kemelman

https://images.gr-assets.com/books/1438664648l/25948961.jpg

While on vacation, Rabbi Small’s wife is called away to care for a sick relative. This leaves Rabbi Small on his own at a resort hotel. His stay is livened by the questions of a young woman involved with a Jewish man. She is interested in the young man’s religion and turns to Rabbi Small for answers to her questions.

On their return to Barnard’s Crossing, the couple makes plans to marry. This upsets both sides of the family equation. They turn to Rabbi Small to sort out their dilemma, and he can be trusted to come up with an solution that satisfies everyone. On the way, his answers to both of the young people’s objections to Judaism give him the opportunity to impart the essential of his religion to them and to the reader.

City of Darkness, City of Light

Marge Piercy

29914965

Marge Piercy obviously did a boatload of research for this novel. Unfortunately, that didn’t result in a good novel. Although there were only six main characters, it seemed like a lot more, and their lack of interaction or relation to each other was confusing. I wanted to know more about the events leading up to the French Revolution, but I’ll try Hilary Mantel to learn what I want to know.

Scales of Retribution

Cora Harrison

9915533

This time murder is personal. When Nuala, 14-year-old doctor in training, is suspected of killing her father, Mara rises from her childbirth bed to find the killer. She has a long list of suspects to choose from. Malachy the physician was hungry for silver and less than competent. Mara has many suspects to choose from, but she refuses to believe Nuala guilty of this murder. In spite of her own weakness, she must pull herself together and use all her investigative skills to find the real murderer.

 

Deed of Murder

Cora Harrison

11815103

I like Cora Harrison and have been enjoying Mara, Brehon (high judge) of the three kingdoms very much. Life wasn’t easy for a working mother in the 16th century, even if she was the wife of the king. There’s her duties as wife, as judge in a murder case, as head of a law school, and as a mother, all vying for her attention.

Unlike the stories set in the Burren, western Ireland, this takes place mostly in her husband town and is less enjoyable that those set in her home. Mara seems scattered and distracted, pulled in too many directions. One of her students goes missing for several days, and aside from a spare thought now and then, she does nothing about it.

An unbelievable flash of insight enables her to solve the mystery and the puzzle of her missing student’s whereabouts. It’s all rather to be taken on faith rather than Mara working it out clue by clue. That being said, this is a satisfying read, with lots of insight into Brehon law and Irish history.

The Yellow Wallpaper

Charlotte Perkins Gilman

8217236

I first read this horrific tale when I was in high school. It is just as horrific, maybe even more so, this time around. A young woman, newly married, is labeled ‘nervous’ by her loving husband. Denied all stimulation, especially writing or visitors, she gradually sinks into madness. Distracted by the unattractive wallpaper in her bedroom, she starts to see patterns and women in the design. Finally, she becomes completely fixated on the wallpaper, to the point where she smells and tastes it continually.

The horror is not from the wallpaper but the way she is treated by a loving husband who has complete power over her. He doesn’t listen to her telling him she needs stimulation, but insists on depriving her intellectually. I surprised, actually, that he doesn’t turn to drugs to control her.

I remember what a powerful impact this story made on me as a young woman. I’m sure it contributed to my determination never to put my happiness completely in the hands of another person.

Unsettled Spirits

Alice Duncan

28020700

The lovely Daisy Majesty is unsettled when she sees images in her crystal ball. She uses it as a prop in her spiritualist act, and she knows it isn’t real. The images, however, lead to the recovery of a lost man and the breaking up of an illegal distillery. Daisy is shaken by the experience but not enough to quench her detective leanings. She sets out to solve the mystery of people dropping dead at communion at her church, and the disapproval of  Det. Sam Rotondo is not enough to dissuade her from poking her nose into police business. Besides, the widow of one of victims has asked for her help.

The delight cozy mystery is the ninth in the series, and I will be sorry when I catch up to the author’s output and have to wait for the next one. The setting, 1920s Pasadena, is as charming as the characters who inhabit the books. Daisy is a delight.