Tuesday, February 2, 2016

What I Read in December 2015 Part III

What I Read in December 2015 Part III ...

Bloody Lessons (A Victorian San Francisco Mystery #3) by M. Louisa Locke--Historical mystery

Bloody Lessons (A Victorian San Francisco Mystery, #3) Annie Fuller and Nate Dawson have spent the last few months getting to know each other better. Now Nate's sister Laura is staying in Annie's boarding house while she works as a teacher at the local high school. Laura has big dreams to go on to university and become a lawyer like her big brother. She shares those dreams with her dear friend Hattie from Normal School. When Laura is attacked in the alley behind the house, her confidence is shaken. She is too proud to tell her new friends and her brother what has spooked her. Dandy the dog senses something is wrong and will protect his friends at any cost. When Laura finally meets with Hattie, the other woman has new hopes and dreams and Laura is perplexed and hurt that her friend has abandoned everything for a MAN and not just any man, an teacher and administrator at the school where Laura works. Then Laura learns that someone has been sending threatening and accusatory letters about some of the teachers and Hattie has a terrible accident, it seems like Laura's nightmares are coming true. She must trust Annie and Nate enough to let them help her get to the bottom of the mystery. Annie is secretly thrilled to be investigating with Nate again but it's not enough for her. She wants more from their relationship but isn't sure that's what Nate still wants. Will she allow herself to trust him enough to tell him her fears and her dreams?

On the mystery side, this book is nowhere near as compelling as the last volume. The murder happens a couple of chapters in and at first I was in doubt as to whether there even was going to be a murder. I didn't care about the notes at all and it just took too long to put it all together. I knew who it was almost right away but I didn't know how to connect the dots. I also guessed who it was that attacked Laura though how that played out was a bit of a surprise. The writing style isn't very good in this book. As a former professor, the author should know some basic rules of grammar, like never start a sentence with "And" or "But." However, she seems to ignore that rule even though most of the book is all about teaching and the curriculum at a San Francisco High School in 1879! There was rather too much of that. I could tell the author was an educator and passionate about the subject but as someone who absolutely does not want to teach, I could care less. It was somewhat interesting to learn what women were studying at that time and the gains women in the west were making towards women's rights but other than that I was completely uninterested. On the romance side, I had wished for more kissing. I got my wish and then some. With kissing comes Annie's dreams of someday having children with Nate and his fantasy of watching her undress at night. There was a bit too much of that and not enough talking. I had hoped that by now Annie would have opened up to him or at least this book would have her trusting Nate and opening up and the next one would proceed to full on courting mode.

I really did not like Annie in this novel. Not EVERY woman dreams of having a husband and family. I could relate much more to Laura, at least at first. It seems like her plot was going to change a bit though and that disappointed me. My education, with the goal of supporting myself has always been my main focus. I have zero interest in children - can't stand babies at all and could relate to Laura's feelings about Hattie's future. Probably I would have acted the same way at her age if my friends had started getting married that young. I hope Laura stays strong and accomplishes her goals without any silly complications like romance, marriage and children. I share Laura's opinion of Hattie's new dreams and I also jumped to the same conclusions Laura did about a certain man. He didn't seem like a romantic figure or a killer. I don't see what Hattie saw in him. I didn't like any of the other new characters and had a hard time keeping them and their schools straight. There was just too much going on to remember. The introduction of Seth was stupid and pointless except to complicate Laura's plot and the whole thing with Buck kind of fizzled out with him being a stereotypical character.

This is the worst entry in the series so far. I can't get the 4th volume or short stories at this time but I would like to read them anyway.

Little Beach Street Bakery by Jenny Colgan- contemporary romance

Little Beach Street Bakery After Polly Waterford's business and relationship failed she needed to be by herself for awhile. The only way she could afford to do that was move to a crumbling flat in Palberne, a tiny place in Cornwall 50 miles from her native Plymouth and connected to the mainland by a causeway that floods at high tide. At first her only friend is her adopted Puffin, Neil. Polly is dismayed to discover the only sandwiches available in town are made with awful commercial bread. She starts baking bread as a therapeutic exercise to alleviate tension and loneliness. When she starts feeding the local fishermen, they soon become good friends and news of Polly's skill at bread baking soon spreads through the village. Polly also befriends the local beekeeper, an American man named Huckle who seems oblivious to her charm. Unfortunately for Polly, her bread also earns her the enmity of the local bakery owner, Gillian Manse. Gillian is convinced Polly will ruin Palberne and then leave but Polly believes deep down inside, Gillian has a softer side. As weeks n into months, Polly is no closer to winning over Gillian until a near tragedy brings them together. When Polly's best friend comes to bring her back to civilization, will Polly be ready to go?

The book cover and description were rather misleading. Polly only bakes bread and savory bread at that. I am not sure I would have picked up this book without the enticing cupcake on the cover. The plot bears a strong resemblance to Rosie Hopkins' Sweetshop of Dreams with a seaside setting and bread baking. I would have rated the plot a little higher if the story had been more original. The emotional part comes a little late to make the story very compelling. I loved the setting. I hate the beach but I grew up spending summers on Cape Cod, which I imagine was once like Palberne before the canal was built. Even the more populated place where my grandparents had their house has gotten more built up over the years. I could identify with the locals and felt torn about which side I was on. I was kept guessing which of the two men Polly would end up with until it became clear which one she wouldn't end up with. The romance is technically clean though there's a lot of dialogue about sex, one implied love scene that went right past me until Polly mentioned it. There's another more sensual love scene later on but it fades to black. There's more implied love making towards the end. As a result I am not rating this kisses only. My biggest complaint was the shift in point-of-view mid-paragraph. It switches between Polly and other characters without warning and is very jarring.

I didn't feel super connected to most of the characters the way I did in some of the author's other novels. My favorite character was Neil, the Puffin. I love animal sidekicks and he was so cute. I liked Polly a lot and could identify strongly with her feelings of failure and difficult job search. I also love to bake and this book made me go bake some sweet yeast bread! I also liked Jayden, the young fisherman who was so enthusiastic about Polly's bread and always stuck his foot in his mouth. He was sweet and endearing, like a puppy. I really liked the fishing fleet and how they helped Polly feel at home. Tarnie was the only other one with a fleshed out personality and plot. I had a hard time keeping them all straight in my head. The love interest comes across as brooding and a bit immature. The BIG misunderstanding was very silly and immature, at least on his part. He managed to save himself in my eyes and become more appealing a little later on but I was actually rooting for Polly to stay single. She needed a little more time alone to figure out her life.

I liked this novel for the most part. I needed something light and breezy and this fit the bill.

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