Sophie Mae and her best friend decided to join a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) as soon as the opportunity popped up in their small town. One day when they’re volunteering at the farm, a dead body is found in the compost heap. Sophie Mae is determined not to get involved this time, after all, she’s got enough on her plate with her soap making business and trying to make a baby with her husband, Detective Barr. But Barr’s boss asks her to help identify the body by talking to the folks in the community , and she just can’t say no.
Cozy mysteries consist of a mystery (that’s not too explicit or bloody) paired with an unlikely investigator, some sort of crafting, a good dose of humor, and a punny title. In other words, they were basically made for me. (Some even come with recipes!) So when this one popped up on NetGalley, I snatched it up, and I’m so glad I did! McRae successfully pulls together everything that makes a cozy great.
The plot is excellent. The murder mystery isn’t too gory, but is also realistic. The body is found in a compost heap, yes, but it’s just a dead body. There aren’t slashed off heads hanging out in tea kettles or something. Everyone is appropriately disturbed by the finding. There’s no ho-hum just another day element at play. Although I admit I had figured out whodunit before the end, the why and when were still a mystery. Plus I never felt that Sophie Mae was being stupid and just missing something. Why it was taking her a bit to see whodunit made total sense. I also really appreciate that GLBTQ people are included in the plot without a big deal being made out of it. They are just another character, which is just how I like my diversity in genre literature.
The characters are fairly three-dimensional for a cozy. Everyone had something I liked and didn’t like about their personality, even the heroine, which is key to characters seeming realistic. There were also a wide variety of people present from Sophie Mae’s best friend’s daughter to an elderly friend of the family. This range is something that is often missing in literature, and I liked seeing it here.
What I really come to cozies for, though, I admit, is the integration of crafting. In this case the theme is participating in a CSA, so parts of the book are devoted to how a CSA works from acquiring your weekly allotment to figuring out how to use it to cooking with it. I really appreciated the quips about having so much of a certain produce that they’re coming out your ears. I also really enjoyed the scenes that discussed taking real time out to cook dinner and what that feels like, such as talking about how garlic smells when you first throw it into a hot pan. I know not all readers enjoy this, but honestly that’s part of the point of a cozy. Taking the time to linger on crafts and talents that take time to cultivate but are well worth it, and McRae incorporated this element very smoothly into the book. I do wish some recipes or CSA tips had been included, but it’s possible I just didn’t see them since I had an advanced copy.
Overall this book has a dash of everything enjoyable about a cozy mystery. Recommended to cozy fans, particularly those in or considering a CSA.
4 out of 5 stars
We catch up with Yorick, 355, and Dr. Mann on board a freighter headed for Australia by way of Japan. They seem to have abandoned their hunt for Ampersand the monkey for now. The captain of the ship is gorgeous and has the hots for Yorick, but trouble arrives in the form of an Australian submarine. Is it the freighter or the submarine that is the pirates?
So the title is sort of a double entendre. We do get an excellent lesbian sex scene (inter-racial no less!), but we also have the war between the submarine of women and the ship of women. Haha, well played, Vaughan!
The great thing about this entry in the series is that by itself it has a lot of very cool elements, but it also moves the plot forward. We find out some about what’s been happening on the other side of the globe since the men died, characters hook up, and we get some really good action. It gets us places (specifically moving across the ocean), but it doesn’t feel like a filler book the way #4 did.
Plus, the Pacific Islander ship captain is really hot and badass.
Overall, this is an excellent entry in the series that is entertaining and moves the plot forward. Fans will not be disappointed.
5 out of 5 stars
Source: Public Library
Previous Books in Series
Y: The Last Man: Unmanned (review)
Y: The Last Man: Cycles (review)
Y: The Last Man: One Small Step (review)
Y: The Last Man: Safeword (review)
Y: The Last Man: Ring of Truth (review)
The group continues to slowly lose their collective minds, although it is quickly made evident that they haven’t gone as crazy as some groups when they find themselves stalked by living cannibals. Toss in a preacher who failed to protect his flock and what turned out to be a pack of lies from the scientist, and it’s no wonder the group is suspicious when a couple of men approach and offer them refuge in an idyllic community just outside of DC. They in their state of PTSD can’t stop seeing danger around every corner and don’t even realize the dangerous ones just might be themselves.
You know how they say you can always find someone in the world worse off than you? Well, the first part of book 6 seems to be all about proving that’s true, perhaps in a way to humanize the group prior to how abundantly evident their loss of humanity is in contrast to the DC compound. That isn’t to say I particularly enjoyed the cannibalism plot-line. I can see its value, yes, but I also feel like we’d already seen how bad humanity can go in Woodbury, and if people are going to be eating people, that’s what you have zombies for. So the first half of the book is kind of meh to me.
On the other hand, seeing our group in the DC compound is delicious. I think one of the pieces of artwork in the appendix at the back explores the contrast eloquently. Michonne is dressed up talking to a group of women at a party, but she’s hiding a sword behind her back. The group has become so used to constantly being turned on and at war with the zombies and other survivors that they cannot relax. Classic PTSD. It’s fascinating to see how even Carl can recognize that they are no longer like these people who’ve been able to have downtime in the zombie war. Anybody who understands war and trauma at all would know that these people need special care. Even just the way they clump up and sleep all together in spite of being offered separate quarters is a symptom of PTSD, and yet the DC group makes Rick a cop. Um….ok. A seriously questionable choice there, but then again, the mayor of DC did used to be in politics. And we all know how smart those types can be. *eye-roll*
In any case, it’s obvious that this book is setting things up for a show-down between our traumatized group and the DC folks. I’m enjoying seeing our main guys turn slowly evil, and I’m curious to see how far Kirkman is willing to take it. That said, the first half of the book with the cannibals seemed kind of unnecessary to me. I’d rather have seen more zombies. Overall, it moves the plot forward, but that plot momentum is left mostly to the second half of the book. Worthy of the series and hopefully book 7 will live up to the build-up.
4 out of 5 stars
Source: Public Library
Previous Books in Series:
The Walking Dead, Book One (review)
The Walking Dead, Book Two (review)
The Walking Dead, Book Three (review)
The Walking Dead, Book Four (review)
The Walking Dead, Book Five (review)
All of Ayla’s unique life situations–from being adopted by the Clan to living in a valley by herself to her long Journey with Jondalar–have been combining to make her into a great, powerful woman. In this final entry in the Earth’s Children series we witness her transformation from Ayla to Zelandoni shaman of the Zelandonii.
As a fan of the Earth’s Children series since the age of 15, there is just no way I can review this epically disappointing, long-awaited finale to the series without spoilers. So, be warned, this whole post is going to contain spoilers, because there is just no way I can possibly not talk about everything that went horribly awry here.
First there is the incredibly huge issue of plot. The book is divided into three sections. The first section is entirely Ayla wandering around looking at caves with Zelandoni. Which would be fine. If the caves had anything particularly unique about them or anything exciting happened in the caves or if we weren’t told repeatedly “here’s a horse painting, here’s a cave lion painting, here are dots that mean something to the Zelandoni but I won’t ever tell you what they mean because where would the fun in that be?” Oh sure, there are hints that something more exciting might happen, but nothing ever does. It’s like Auel thought about putting action in, but then decided it’d be way easier to talk more about the badly painted and scratched in horses in these caves that for some reason the Zelandonii think are so incredibly sacred. Oh yeah. I remember why. Because they’re supposedly the vagina of the Earth Mother. Think about that for a second. These people are worshiping in sacred vaginas.
Then we have the second section which mysteriously jumps forward four years in Ayla’s acolyte training because for some reason we couldn’t possibly be interested in that, oh no, there’s nothing interesting about ceremonies or studies. Instead, we get to jump ahead four years and go on Ayla’s Donier tour. Do you know what Ayla’s Donier tour is? Going around Zelandonii territory to look at MORE CAVES. This traveling could possibly be interesting. We have foreshadowing multiple times that something bad is going to happen to Ayla, particularly that a band of evil bad rapist men are going to kidnap her and drag her off. But no. They grab her and Jondalar somehow miraculously goes from in front of the evil band of rapist men to behind them, breaks the leather-thong assisted choke-hold the dude has on Ayla, and saves her from them. Then the Zelandoni beat them to death in an instance of mob justice. Well. At least something sort of happened?
The third section jumps ahead two more years (skipping almost all the rest of Ayla’s acolyte training) to yet another summer meeting, which Ayla has to come to part-way through because she had to stay back to complete her final assignment of training. Ayla has a vision in a cave (oh, we’ll get to that in a minute) and then goes to the summer meeting where she walks in on Jondalar getting naked sexy head from the one woman in the Ninth Cave of the Zelandonii immune to liking Ayla. No, I am not joking. Jondalar, the oh I am Ayla’s soulmate and we will be together forever and I love her so much has totally been cheating on her for almost the entire last two years of her acolyte training. Because she was busy. Because a man has needs. Because the ho offered herself to him and why on earth would Jondalar say no? I am not joking, that is the tone of the book in the whole revelation of cheating thing. PLUS, the whole cave knew about it and hid it from Ayla to protect her feelings. Ayla, naturally, knows jealousy is taboo in Zelandonii society, so instead of confronting the cheating bastard she first has sex at a Mother Ceremony (ahem, orgy) with the dude Jondalar hates most in the Ninth Cave, and then she decides life isn’t worth living and tries to kill herself with the Clan root. This from a woman who has three horses, a wolf, and a freaking 6 year old daughter to look after. The only thing that saves her, naturally, is Jondalar’s undying love. It took all of my self-control not to throw my kindle across the room. Well, and also my intense love for my kindle.
So for two-thirds of the book nothing really happens, and then in the last third our two heroes both turn into loathsome people. Good. Times.
Ok, so, the plot takes a complete nose-dive off Niagara Falls without a barrel while holding your beloved kitten. What about the supposedly key element of the book and series? What world-changing thing does this special woman, this powerful shaman, bring about? Allow me to quote the new verse of the Earth Mother’s Song that is revealed to Ayla at the climax:
Her last Gift, the Knowledge that man has his part.
His need must be spent before new life can start.
It honors the Mother when the couple is paired,
Because woman conceives when Pleasures are shared.
Earth’s Children were blessed.
The Mother could rest. (page 540)
Yes. That is right, people. The reason for this woman existing is to reveal to these dim-wits that sex, not the Earth Mother mixing spirits, causes babies. Allow me to repeat that. Ayla’s big contribution to pre-historic society is to teach these people the birds and the bees.
I wish I could say it gets better from there, but it doesn’t. First Ayla has to convince the other shamans (Zelandoni) that this is true. They, naturally, don’t want to believe it. The lead Zelandoni convinces them that they must tell the people in a huge ceremony, because this will be life-changing. Then we have, quite possibly, the most eyeball-widening, face-palming, head:desk inducing passage I have ever read. The ceremony, meetings, and Mother’s Celebration that go along with it. I won’t put you through the pain of all of it, but allow me to show you a good sample. The passage in which the lead Zelandoni explains what to call the men who are also parents:
He is a far-mother, a fa-ther. It was also chosen to indicate that while women are the Blessed of Doni, men may now think of themselves as the Favored of Doni. It is similar to ‘mother,’ but the fa sound was chosen to make it clear that it is a name for a man, just as ‘fa’lodge’ is the name for the men’s place. (page 676-7)
I just…..there are no words for the inanity of it all.
Then, of course, all the men overnight turn into possessive, abusive, over-aggressive douchebags since now they know that their sperm has magical powers. The book ends with the very heavy-handed suggestion that this revelation is what caused the move from matriarchy to patriarchy.
Oh, but it gets better. To put one final touch of absurdity on the whole thing, we also finally get to find out what happened to the Neanderthals (Clan). Ayla still has the black stone that contains a piece of every Clan member’s spirit in it from when she was a medicine woman for them. A vision reveals to her that when Broud cast her out with the death curse, she forgot to leave the stone behind and thus caused the death of the entire Clan. Yeah. Really. That’s what happens. All of this build-up, and we find out that Ayla reveals the birds and the bees, kills matriarchy, and kills the Neanderthals. What. The. Fuck.
As if the meandering plot and completely inane and horrifying huge reveals weren’t bad enough, something happened to Auel’s writing style. I like to call it “let me give everything really long names and repeat myself a lot” Just one example of the plethora of overly long names is “Zelandoni Who Was First Among Those Who Served The Great Earth Mother.” That would be less painful, maybe, if Auel didn’t also repeat herself all the time. Almost every time the lead Zelandoni shows up, we are reminded that she is a very large woman. Almost every time Ayla speaks, someone notices her foreign accent. Almost every time someone sees Jonayla (kill me now with that name), someone notices that she has Jondalar’s eyes. Enough already! We know! Stop telling us!
Between the meandering plot, completely what the fuck ending, and simply bad writing, I can’t recommend this book to anyone. My best advice to fans of the series, or those interested in it, is to pretend that it ends with The Mammoth Hunters and Jondalar riding off into the sunset with Ayla. Just pretend it stops there. Ignore his people. Ignore Ayla’s calling. Ignore the Journey. Just ignore the whole thing. Take the characters and world back from Auel who completely mistreated them and let them exist in your mind the way they were at the end of The Mammoth Hunters. Do not waste your time or hurt your brain reading this book. Just…..don’t.
1 out of 5 stars
Previous Books in Series:
The Clan of the Cave Bear
The Valley of the Horses
The Mammoth Hunters
The Plains of Passage
The Shelters of Stone
The ka-tet faces three challenges: keep the chap from the Crimson King, save Susannah, and get Tower to sell them the rose. With the help of the Manni, they get the door to open two final times, and it sends Eddie and Roland to Maine to see Tower and Jake, Pere, and Oy to NYC in a final desperate attempt to save Susannah and the chap. Meanwhile, Susannah must face not only the foreign woman inside her, Mia, but also the figurative demons of her past and her personality in her mind.
There are elements of this book that are beautiful and quite literary, primarily everything to do with the title. There are of course two songs about Susannah. One is immediately evident. Each chapter ends with a stanza of a song, remarkably like the commala songs sung in the previous book, but of course the content of the stanza references what happened in that chapter. There’s also a song from Susannah’s past that winds up showing more about who she is and what her life has been than anything else in the books has done. What makes that beautiful is that it’s just a traditional folk song and wasn’t written by King for her at all.
Of course I’d consider this book a failure if all it did was develop Susannah’s character. The Dark Tower is about characters and the quest equally. Thankfully, this entry in the series addresses both. Various mysteries are addressed such as what the Low Men are, who Mia is, how Pere wound up in a book from another one of the worlds, and more. Plus a few new mysteries are added. But in the end the main questions remain: will the ka-tet make it to the Dark Tower and will the Dark Tower fall?
In spite of the well-written action sequences and character development, there is one aspect of this book that rubbed me the wrong way. King writes himself in as a character, but not just any character. He is the Crimson King’s opposite. In other words, he’s the essential good guy. For some reason when he writes his stories they have an impact on the worlds, so he must stay alive and keep writing the Dark Tower series if the ka-tet is to have any hope. The whole thing just reads as egotistical. Plus it forced me out of the story. I can suspend my disbelief for other worlds, but to suspend it enough to believe that the author is not only vaguely aware of these worlds but also his writing impacts them, well, it leaves you going “huh?” and kind of takes the escapism out of it. So I skimmed over the parts featuring King and tried to just focus on the ka-tet. It wasn’t that hard to do, so the King bits definitely didn’t ruin my experience; they just dulled it a bit.
Overall, this is a very good entry into the series. The characters and the plot move forward, and there are some wonderfully memorable scenes that will stick with you for a long time. If you’ve stuck with the series and enjoyed it this far, you’ll definitely enjoy this book.
4 out of 5 stars