Sunday, April 13, 2014

What I've Read This Week Part III

What I've Read This Week Part III . . .

Leave it to PsmithLeave it to Psmith by P.G. Wodehouse -- Historical Romantic Comedy

Eustace Psmith (he 'P' is silent, as in psychic and ptarmigan) is down and out. He quit the family fish business where he had been obliged to start from the bottom up. He hopes his friend Conrade Jackson will help but Jackson is not as wealthy as he appears because he's wife's stepfather is married to Lady Constance Threepwood, who holds the purse strings. Eve Halliday is also down and out. She turns to her friend Phyllis Jackson for support and Phyllis confides in her friend that her husband wants to buy a farm in Lincolnshire and he applied to her stepfather for a loan but her wicked stepmother, Lady Constance hates her and won't float the loan. Eve is outraged when she discovers that Phyllis' stepfather lives at Blandings Castle, the very place she has been engaged as librarian/cataloguer. Freddie Threepwood too is in need of money and applies to Joe Keeble. Uncle Joe is terribly upset about not being able to help Phyllis so Freddie hits upon the perfect scheme: steal Lady Constance's necklace and tell her she'll get a new one, then instead reset the stolen necklace so it looks new and use the money for the replacement to help the young people who need it. Psmith places an ad in the paper looking for work, not opposed to crime, just no fish and is approached by Freddie Threepwood about stealing Aunt Connie's diamond necklace. He would do it himself, but he's afraid he would mess up. Before Psmith can get any particulars, Freddie dashes off. When Psmith next encounters the Threepwood family, he finds himself sitting with Lord Emsworth who mistakes Psmith for a Canadian poet McTodd. Emsworth has invited McTodd to stay at Blandings Castle and unknown to Lord Emsworth, the man felt snubbed by the absentminded Earl so stormed off in a huff without taking his train ticket. There's nothing to do but for Psmith to travel to Blandings Castle. He loves the village, the castle grounds and most especially Eve, whom he had fallen in love with at first sight in London without knowing her name. Left to her own devices, Eve is all work and no play but Psmith is determined to cure her of that. Rounding out the guests is a dreamy poetess, a Miss Peevy. Then someone claiming to be McTodd shows up but is actually another imposter. Lady Constance's necklace actually does get stolen but who stole it and where did they put it? Baxter is determined to solve the mystery and rid Blandings Castle of the imposters.

This isn't the best Wodehouse story. The plot is almost identical to Something Fresh with the exception of Psmith. The story moves very slowly towards the inevitable screwball conclusion. The screwball scene is funny but not quite at the level of the later Blandings Castle novels. The scene where Baxter tries to prove all is nearly identical to the scene in Something Fresh but not as funny. I can tell from the pacing of this story that P.G. Wodehouse wrote for the stage. It lacks stage directions but otherwise this story reads like a play.

Psmith is a socialist who calls everyone Comrade (last name) which really annoyed me because it was hard enough to keep everyone straight as it is without having them called by one name. He thinks he's very clever and witty. His sense of humor is a bit too dry for me, I guess. I didn't like his lack of morals and his carefree attitude. His dialogue is off the wall crazy and very intellectual in a Wodehousian way. He stalks Eve to convince her they belong together al while lying to her. I didn't find him charming in the least bit. I did enjoy him in the screwball scene though. He was very clever and witty. I found Eve difficult to like too. We don't get to know much about her except that she's a loyal friend. I don't really get a sense of romance brewing on her end. She spends much of the book fending off Psmith and Freddie and going about the grounds with Psmith until the end when she finally has something to do. I didn't like Joe Keeble at all. He's too weak and unable to stand up to Constance. He's loving and kind but not strong.

The Threepwoods are some of my favorite literary characters now. Freddie Threepwood is a lovable idiot. He really doesn't have much in the old brain box. He seems to have traded detective novels for silent films. He has a love of the melodramatic all the same. I give up a lot of credit for remembering the plots of every film he's ever seen and how he can apply it to the situation at hand. Maybe he's not so stupid after all. He thinks he's in love with Eve and doesn't understand why she keeps rejecting him, other than money. He's so innocent and simple that I can't help but love him. Maybe the apple doesn't fall far from the tree because Lord Emsworth is incredibly absent-minded for most of this novel. He isn't in it very much, too preoccupied with his gardens to be interested in the goings-on inside the Castle. Lady Constance isn't in the story much either and Gallahad doesn't appear at all, unfortunately.

Baxter was his usual annoying self, trying to rule the Castle and set everything on the straight and narrow. He goes from being a minor character to being a major one at the end. He isn't as crazy as Lord Emsworth makes him out to be but maybe craziness rubbed off on him. The best characters are two who would spoil the plot if I said who they were. Their dialogue is pure cheese and very funny. They came as a real surprise to me and while I didn't find them very appealing as people, as characters in a comedy, they were great. Only P.G. Wodehouse could write characters like that.

I've noticed P.G. Wodehouse had a formula and stuck to it. It gets kind of repetitive after awhile. This isn't my favorite Wodehouse novel and I would have been fine not reading it except I wanted to know about Baxter and the flower pots.

Charms and Chocolate Chips (A Magical Bakery Mystery, #3)Charms and Chocolate Chips by Bailey Cates -- Paranormal Cozy Mystery

It's been four months since the events of Samhain when Katie Lightfoot learned her true destiny. She's keeping busy with the bakery, book club, volunteering with Georgia Wildlife Refuge and "going steady" with the right man. The GWR is trying to save a local swamp where there may have been sightings of an extinct species of bat. Katie is shocked when one of the GWR employees is murdered. Autumn was found with an origami maroon bat in her hand and Katie senses something wrong with it. She's determined to leave the investigating to Detective Quinn, but when first Katie's friend Wren is threatened and then Katie herself, she decides to take matters into her own hands. She has to rely on help from some unexpected people. Meanwhile business at the bakery is a bit slow and Lucy is trying to figure out how to help people; Cookie is ignoring Katie and Bianca is looking for love again and may have found it in the eccentric professor living in the swamp Katie is trying to save.

The subject of this mystery is interesting because it involves environmental protection, something I'm interest in. I liked the sound of GWR and their work. I liked learning how a non-profit operates and their struggles to stay afloat. The mystery itself was a bit lacking. The murder happens very randomly in the beginning of the book and it didn't take me long to figure out who did it despite the red herrings. Why was a lot more complicated than first guess. The final confrontation didn't make any sense. I read it twice to figure out what had happened and still didn't get it. There is a lot of magical jargon I didn't understand and wasn't explained. I was confused as to what had happened and why. Katie also doesn't understand her power and no one is explaining to to her, let alone the reader. This contributed to my confusion.

The other parts of the story were somewhat interesting. As always I like seeing behind the scenes at the bakery but there weren't many scenes there. There wasn't a lot about the other ladies of the coven. I still can't tell them apart based on their dialogue. Katie finally chose to date one of her two potential boyfriends. I understand her choice but don't necessarily agree with it. It seems like she chose the wrong man. She tries too hard to justify the relationship and please everyone, yet she seems to be holding back a bit. Her romance is perfectly clean. Her guy spends the night to be with her when she's scared, but it's more platonic than anything. I liked her unexpected visitor and how their story progressed. Katie's personal confrontation was realistic but then resolved too quickly. I thought the other person's reaction was natural to start with and they should have needed more time. I also liked the explanation of Imbolic and how they celebrate it but the rest of the magical stuff had me lost. As always, Mungo steals every scene he's in. I just love him!

This is a nice, quick read for something different.

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