What I Read in October 2016 Part I. . .Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone by J.K. Rowling, illustrated by Jim Kay--Young Adult Fantasy
The illustrations by Jim Kay are a treat. Each page resembles parchment paper with ink blots and stains, indicating use and old age. Kay fully brings the wizarding world to life with full color illustrations. I loved Dumbledore, who looks a lot like Richard Harris, who was perfect as Dumbledore. I also loved the Dursleys and the family photos on the wall. The very best part was the full-page book diagrams of trolls and one of dragon eggs. The troll page was especially fascinating. It's not clear in the novel there are two types of trolls and how one tells the difference so that was neat to see. The dragon egg page illustrates other types of dragon eggs than the ones in the novels in addition to the Norwegian Ridgeback and dragons mentioned in Goblet of Fire.
Some of the style choices were more gothic than I imagined them. Hogwarts doesn't look very inviting and the Hogwarts Express has a dragon figurehead instead of being the normal scarlet steam engine I'm used to. My biggest complaint is that Hermione changes in every illustration of her! Some look very realistic and others more cartoonish.
This is a nice addition to every Harry Potter collector's library. Go for the original British edition and not the translated American edition.
Miss Dimple Rallies to the Cause by Mignon F. Ballard--Historical Mystery
The citizens of Elderberry, Georgia are doing their part to support the war effort with a war bond rally. Miss Dimple's friend Virginia has been roped into helping out by Emmaline Brumlow, who is insisting her nephew Buddy Oglesby be allowed to assist. Buddy has been a bit of a drifter and Virginia does not relish the prospect of working with him and his tyrannical aunt. While the school children and their teachers are helping with the cotton picking, Miss Dimple's fellow teacher Annie discovers the remains of a human washed up by recent rains. The police identify the woman as Cynthia Murphy, a local woman who ran off two years ago, leaving her husband bereft and her child without a mother. Everyone knew Cynthia was "fast" but who would want to kill her? Something is bothering Miss Dimple's friend Phoebe and she is determined to get to the bottom of it. Could Phoebe's problem be connected to the murder? Annie and her best friend Charlie are caught up in wartime romances but Charlie's mother Jo and Aunt Lou are curious enough to check things out and Miss Dimple is on hand to ask all the right questions.
This is a pretty good mystery. I was expecting it to be slow, like the first book, but the body was discovered early on but not identified right away. That kept the mystery going. I thought I had it all figured out. Phoebe's problem was incredibly obvious and why Miss Dimple never figured it out before, I don't know. I also thought I knew who the murderer was. I had two suspects and I thought I knew what had happened. I was totally wrong about the identity of the murderer but right about what had happened. I was largely intrigued by the romantic plots. I want to keep reading the series to find out which young men make it home. The author is a skilled writer. The first book in the series is recapped as part of the story instead of just dumped in for recap purposes. The author also works in numerous historical details as seamless parts of the story. I did question where they would get coffee when it was rationed but that was sort of answered at the end. I also wondered at a Hershey bar wrapper but it's October 1943 and such things may have been left over from before rationing or from a serviceman passing through town. I also liked the autumnal details, being set this time of year. It was a little jarring to read about 80 degree weather and peach harvests but that worked to set the scene firmly in the south.
Miss Dimple is a little too matter-of-fact for me. She likes to read mysteries and I suspect she is a throw back to the golden age mystery novel characters. She's not in this book as much as I expected and she doesn't have a lot to do except ask questions. She's more in the background to support her friends and ask the right questions. This is more of an ensemble piece with several people working to put together the clues and solve the mystery. I especially felt sorry for Phoebe and Virginia, who were unwittingly dragged into the mystery. They're both kind people who didn't deserve to be unhappy, especially Phoebe whose husband was not so nice.
I really liked Charlie and Annie and their youthful romances but found them interchangeable. They're both intelligent young women who remain sensible despite being in love during wartime, though they consider giving in to desire. Charlie's Aunt Lou is totally crazy. Not only is she nosy, she comes up with dangerous schemes and drags her sister into them. Charlie's sister Delia and her baby make more of an appearance in this book. Delia is a young mother, lonely and missing her husband. She is torn between missing her carefree youth and being a responsible adult. I think even non-mothers can relate. I felt horrible for Reynolds since everyone knew his wife was fast but he seemed to not know what she had been up to.
There were numerous secondary characters. There are some newcomers to Elderberry: Buddy Oglesby, who I wasn't crazy about but he turned out to have some depth. I even liked him in parts but he is a bit immature for a middle-aged man. There's also Coach MacGregor and his wife Millie. I don't know what to make of them. I was surprised at the direction their story took. There's also a new deputy, H.G. Dobbins who seems to be a creepy womanizer. He doesn't respect Annie at any rate and doesn't understand women. He may also be a murderer... or not.
I liked this book enough to want to keep reading, but I don't have the time right now. Maybe this winter I will return to this series.
To Fudge or Not to Fudge by Nancy CoCo--Cozy Mystery
The McMurphy is finally up and running and Jen is booking programs left and right. It's so busy, Allie has to hire part-time help. Allie loves creating fudge and telling stories just as Papa did when he was alive. She loves bringing that magic to people. She also loves her puppy Mal, but when Mal digs up a sock, with a foot bone still inside, Allie is not thrilled. Mal and a St. Bernard named Daisy keep digging up human bones in gardens all over town. The person seems to have been chopped up and put into mulch. This creates numerous complications for local gardeners as well as Trent Jessop's company, who supplied the mulch. Allie is determined to stay out of this investigation. Then Allie's mentor, Peter Thomas, asks her to participate in a reality show fudge-off. Allie refuses, saying she's too busy and isn't interested in TV. Peter points out the show will be good publicity for the McMurphy. When Allie agrees, she never dreamed that the show's publicity turns negative when one of the contestants ends up dead with Allie's fudge next to her. Allie becomes the chief suspect. Will the nightmare never end and the business of business begin? Jen is on Allie's case to have some kind of life outside the hotel and Trent Jessop seems to agree!
This is a MUCH better story than the first book in the series. The mystery is complicated and I never guessed who the murderer was or connected the dots. Mal and Daisy provide some light hearted humor to balance out the mystery. The behind-the-scenes of a reality baking show was eye-opening and I hope not true. The fudge-off complicated the story unnecessarily. There was the mystery of the body, then the mystery of the reality show contestant and another mystery besides. There wasn't much to connect the dots. There's just no way anyone could figure it out. I absolutely loved the fudge making parts. The recipes sound delicious and I want to try most of them. There is a bit of gore in the story and some violence but it wasn't enough to give me nightmares and I am very sensitive.
I liked Allie better in this book. She's a little more friendly and less intense now her business is working out. We also find out why she's somewhat estranged from her parents- in a very Gilmore Girls sort of way. That part was rather corny. Allie has bonded with Mal, finally, and Mal plays a big role in the story. I just love Mal! She's so cute! Daisy is a fun character too. Jen plays a bigger role in this book too. She's just a little too unbelievably good at her job. Why is she holding events for charity so soon after the McMurphy's opening? That part was a bit too much. I liked Trent a little better here, now he's not so Mr. Darcy rude but he isn't in the story much. The romantic plot moves forward a tiny bit. Rex is too busy solving murders for romance. He's a little too hard and tough for my taste.
New characters include Mrs. Finch, a cranky old lady. I didn't like that she wasn't a responsible dog owner but she doesn't seem that awful, for the most part. She loves dogs even if she doesn't look after Daisy as she should. Sandy is a chocolatier who needs a job. She seems a little too desperate and a little too eager to please to be realistic. I'm not sure what to make of her yet. Another new character, Peter Thomas, is Allie's former mentor in culinary school. He's a stereotypical tough teacher who bellowed at his students but forced them to do their best. The fudge show competitors are Bruce, Cathy, Tony, Jabar, Emily, Erin, Mark, and Tim. Not too many of them appear in the plot of the story. The competition moves quickly. None of the competitors seemed likeable. They were pretty much stock characters but no one is who they seem in the reality TV world. Other people associated with the show are completely awful and make me never want to appear on reality TV.
This is a decent cozy mystery but not the best I've ever read. I love the fudge so I'll keep reading when I have the time.