Poppy Done to Death (Aurora Teagarden #8)
There’s not really any way I can properly comment upon this (final?) entry in the Aurora Teagarden series without getting into extensive spoiler territory. So for anyone who thinks they might want to read it in the future, please keep reading so I can dissuade you from wasting your time. The eighth installment of Ms. Teagarden’s adventures picks up the story only a few weeks after the events of the previous book, Last Scene Alive. But the excitement of the movie filming is long over, as no one ever really mentions or refers to this recent change of pace. Instead, we are thrown into a meeting of some kind of women’s club/town sorority called the “Uppity Women”. Roe is a member, but apparently so also is her stepbrother’s wife, who seems to have no qualifications of the sort that Roe lists as required for membership. Her other stepbrother’s wife is about to be inducted into the club, but she does not show up to the ceremony. Because she’s been MURDERED!! Roe and her sister-in-law discover the body at which point the mystery begins. Who killed Poppy? The mystery itself is filled with a bazillion red herrings, which is important, because it’s not really much of a mystery otherwise. Unfortunately, the red herrings are of an increasingly ridiculous and irritating nature. Poppy and her husband John David, it turns out, had an open marriage, and they both had any number of lovers. Why John David chooses to sleep with other women is taken as his nature, but of course we must have an explanation for why Poppy, a WOMAN, would choose such an outrageous lifestyle. Tada, she was molested as a child! Explanation achieved. And of course it’s impossible to have an open marriage and be responsible in any way, so of course Poppy is uncertain as to the paternity of her son. Aurora spends most of the book sputtering and musing on how messed up this all is. I’m sure the reader is supposed to share Roe’s view, but I just ended up wanting to smack her for being such a judgemental bitch.

And it wouldn’t be an Aurora Teagarden book without millions of things happening to Aurora in her personal life. One must keep in mind that as this book takes place only about six weeks after the previous book (a fact which Harris keeps forgetting, or else in the south the month of October is much longer than it is elsewhere) — she moved to a new house and was in the middle of moving at the end of that book. So she’s only just settled in. She has a new boyfriend, who also just moved to town. Then her teenaged half-brother shows up having run away from home. And apparently her friend Sally (who seemed ok in the last book) now has Alzheimers or something.

This has the air of a final book, as Harris makes some effort to wrap up storylines and punish the series ‘villains’. Roe’s dad, who cheated on her mom and spent years being a dick to Aurora, is caught cheating on his second wife. She leaves him and as previously mentioned, his son runs away from home. Roe’s ex, Arthur-the-cop, who cheated on her while they were dating, turns out to have been one of Poppy’s boyfriends. He goes completely unbalanced at the end of the book and is assumed to be facing disciplinary action from the police force. Aurora gets a proposal, and, in the most stupid twist of the entire book, her “infertility” which she spent ages whining and moaning about, magically disappears and she is pregnant. And even though she’s just 6w along you know it’s all going to be perfect!

In short, if you like your mysteries with a heaping side of small-minded judgement and stereotypes, this is the book for you. If not, I’d give the entire series a complete pass and try something less actively moronic.

Dear Deluded Wannabes American Voters

Congratulations! You’ve managed to elect more Republicans! Because they have a plan for the economy. This is true! They plan to jigger around the laws and taxes to make themselves and their friends as rich as possible. Won’t that be fun!

Thanks,
The rest of us

PS. Did you really think they liked you? Sorry, but their friends (you know, the ones they’ll make rich) do not actually include the likes of you. They were just using you for your pool car hot sister beer votes

I also started the manga Cross Game, but I want to finish vol 3 before I write about it.

Henry and Ribsy (Henry-Ramona #3)
Henry and Ribsy continues to follow the antics of Henry Huggins, his neighbors and his dog. The overarching plot of this book is Henry’s desire to accompany his father on a salmon fishing trip in the fall. In the past he’s been too young to go, but this year his father has agreed as long as he manages to keep the neighbors from complaining about Ribsy’s behavior. Henry has mixed results, as one might respect, as Ribsy does not always follow human logic in his decisions. In the end this is another cute and pleasant tale, but never having been a boy or having owned a dog I don’t identify as much with Henry.

Chapter & Hearse (Booktown #5)
This book picks up some months after last year’s entry, Bookplate Special. Tricia Miles, our mystery bookstore owner, has had little change in her life since then. Literally, as the man she seemed to be getting close to as the last book drew to a close had to pull back, so their relationship is basically at the same level as before. Tricia finds herself drawn into yet another mystery when the shop across the street from hers is destroyed by an explosion — an explosion which kills the shop’s owner and injures her sister Angelica’s boyfriend, the realtor Bob Kelly. The mystery here is not bad, and the explanation doesn’t come entirely out of left field the way it does in some novels. I’m less enamored of the rest of the story, the goings on with Tricia, her employees, and her personal life. There are some developments there which are pretty strange and borderline silly. I’ll keep reading these, of course, since they aren’t bad and they take place (in a fictional town) near where I live. But I’m not salivating for the next one.

Earth (The Book)
The Daily Show writers have labored again and bring forth a new book more ambitious than the first. This one purports to introduce the human race to aliens who have come upon our ravaged and unpopulated planet at some point in the future. There’s not much to say here especially — it’s clever, it’s funny, it’s witty. Everything you’d expect from a Daily Show publication. I don’t think it quite rises to the level as America (The Book); there was probably just too much ground to cover.

A Fool and His Honey (Aurora Teagarden #6)
The Aurora Teagarden series is a light mystery series from Sookie Stackhouse creator Charlaine Harris. Aurora (or Roe, as she is called) predates Sookie, though these last two books may have been written overlapping with the start of the Sookies. I initially blew through most of these books way back in June, and I’ve had the last three sitting around since then: partly because I got distracted by the Sookies, and partly because I really don’t like Roe. She begins the series as a librarian (with vague qualifications, though in book #7 it’s suddenly declared she has a library degree), a job which she promptly quits after coming into money. Then when she gets bored, she tries to become a realtor instead of going back to it. She quits that, and then, suddenly, she is back to work at the library because she just loved it so much and couldn’t stand to be away. Uh. Sure. This book involves her job not at all (in fact, she takes off and leaves town for several days without any warning). Aurora’s niece by marriage arrives at her door with a baby in tow, followed shortly by the babydaddy Craig who is promptly hacked to death on the steps of Roe’s garage apartment. She and her husband set out to find out where the niece Regina disappeared to and who killed Craig. In between we’re treated to whining about how hard it is to take care of a baby and information on infertility and surrogacy which ranges from fishy-sounding to flat out incorrect. I’m honestly not sure why I’m finishing this series, except to be done with it.

Last Scene Alive (Aurora Teagarden #7)
As with most of the Aurora Teagarden books, this one picks up about a year after the previous one ended. A movie crew has come to town to film a tv miniseries based on a true crime book written about the murders which occurred in Harris’s book Real Murders (Aurora Teagarden #1). When the somewhat bitchy leading lady (who was playing Roe in the movie) turns up dead in her trailer, Roe finds herself embroiled in the investigation in spite of herself. The mystery here is much better than the last one, and Harris provides an update on characters who were in previous books, which is generally nice. This book came out a year after the first Sookie Stackhouse, and the sexier nature of those books has definitely seeped into the Aurora series. They were never as chaste as Hannah Swensen, but this one felt more explicit. But that’s not really the biggest problem with this book — or a problem at all. The biggest problem is this: in a lot of series, the books start to feel the same because nothing ever happens or changes for the main character. Hannah Swensen and Stephanie Plum are top examples of this. Aurora has exactly the opposite problem. Too many things happen to her! In this book alone we have 3 separate plots in addition to the ongoing saga of Roe’s life. As a result stuff happens way too fast and there’s just no depth.

The Plot
Elementary school students Alex Parakeet and Yasmeen Popp are good friends, in spite of the fact that Alex is a boy and Yasmeen is a girl. They’re also inclined to solve mysteries, and already have one successful solved puzzle under their belts. Now the cat of a schoolmate has gone missing, and there’s a distinct possibility that Halloween the cat may have been kidnapped by a ghost!

My Thoughts
I would never have discovered this book (and this series) had I not been looking for books with Halloween in the title. And frankly, that would have been a shame. As a mystery, the book was well-constructed and age-appropriate, with just exactly enough clues that an engaged reader would have been able to solve the two main puzzles only just ahead of our dynamic duo of Yasmeen and Alex. The result makes sense and doesn’t feel as if it came out of nowhere, as can sometimes be the case in more poorly plotted books.

But deft plotting isn’t the only thing the book has going for it; Martha Freeman has managed to create an interesting and diverse cast of characters without feeling the need to use them to drive home lessons about race and religion. Alex, our narrator, is an only-child who lives with his stay-at-home dad and his police officer mother. His parents are wacky as parents must be in kids’ books, but they are also responsible adults who listen to their kid and take him and his concerns seriously. Alex’s best friend, Yasmeen, is black. Her family is a slight contrast to Alex’s, being a bit less permissive and also Christian — but not opressively so, and it’s not really a plot point, it’s just the way things are. Her parents are professionals, her mom being a librarian and her dad a college professor. They live in a racially and culturally diverse area, as Alex mentions in passing that among the parties the adults on his street attend are Christmas, Passover and Chinese New Year. On top of this, we also meet Alex’s frenemy, Sophie Sikora, a spoilt rich girl who also happens to be a genius with electronics.

As mentioned before, the mystery doesn’t disappoint the characters and vice versa. Yasmeen and Alex hear that the cat of their schoolmate, Kyle Richardson, has disappeared, and they decide to rescue the missing Halloween. From Alex’s mother, they find out that Halloween isn’t the only cat to have disappeared lately. It all seems to tally with an old ghost story in town about a man who was murdered by his cat, and whose spirit now revenges itself upon any cat that crosses its path. Yasmeen doesn’t believe in ghosts, though Alex is not so sure, and they’re determined to find out one way or another if it’s a ghost or a human catnapper.

This mystery is the second one for Alex and Yasmeen, who previously appeared in the book Who is Stealing the 12 Days of Christmas? Unusual for me, I didn’t read that first book before reading this one, so I can evaluate this book not as part of a series, but as a stand alone. And as a stand alone it works very well. Freeman makes occasional reference to events of the first book, but never presumes the reader is familiar with it or the characters. But neither does she go overboard with introductions and descriptions that would likely bore someone who already knew the setting and characters.

In Short
I find it rather ironic that the best Halloween book of the lot is the one that isn’t actually about Halloween (though it involves a ghost and the kids do go trick-or-treating toward the end of the story). The characters are both diverse and believable, while the mystery is very well plotted — the clues are there, but not thrown in the reader’s face, and everything comes together in a satisfying fashion. I’ll definitely be picking up the rest of the books in this series for another visit with Alex and Yasmeen.

As yet another election season draws to a close, I’ve been thinking again about what I like to call ‘cultural osmosis’. Which is that merely by growing up in an area, you tend to absorb how things work — schools, local government, public services, that sort of thing. And because these things are never actually taught, but just sort of acquired through gradual exposure, it can be really difficult to imagine anything different. Culture shock, which is a term most people are probably familiar with, is related to this, though my guess is that finding out a little thing is not how you imagined is more of a culture jolt.

To bring myself to an actual point, it took me a long time to realize how very weird NH politics are as compared even to the rest of New England, let alone the rest of the country. Illustration one: the local paper just published a guide to the election. Not a guide to the candidates, but a guide explaining what the hell some of the positions actually are. Because no one knows. I certainly didn’t, though I wondered.

For people in the rest of the country, New England may seem strange. To me, a county is something you have to remember so you can fill it on on forms. The county provides few to no services and is completely invisible otherwise. Towns border each other and there is no unincorporated land anywhere. (Note: there is some up north, and maybe more in Maine, but in southern New England nada.) In NH, the state government is “weak”; most services people are familiar with are tied to your town, because the state has no income or sales tax with which to provide for large state-wide programs. The first time I saw a county road was when I went to visit my in-laws in Wisconsin — I was surprised, because I’d never heard of such a thing. My view of government was Town->State->Federal.

The New England tradition is for the majority of monetary business to be conducted at Town Meeting. This is just what it sounds like: a big meeting where all the voting age persons in town get together and vote on stuff, like the budget and warrant articles and new rules. As the population grew, especially in some of the southern towns, this became really impossible to continue, so NH instituted a variation. Towns that vote to become “SB2” towns have a meeting where the ballot is decided and all the warrant articles set up. Everyone can come to this meeting and have their say on things, and modifications can be made to submitted items. (Which means if you have something you’re interested in, you better go — or you may suddenly find that your request was slashed and all the money diverted to a new fire truck) Once the ballot is set, the town votes, not at a meeting, but just like normal voting with polls that are open all day.

The state government has its own weirdness. Our governor is elected every two years. Because you can’t trust a politician for longer than that. We have a 5 person Governor’s Council, which has some power over budgetary stuff and is elected, but you almost never hear about them. They are a shadowy group. We have a senate consisting of 24 senators, who get paid a whopping $100/year. No, I did not forget a 0 or a k at the end of that.

Where things get weird and awesome is the House of Representatives. We have 400 members of the House, which is like 1 for every 3000 residents. Most adults who are at all active in the community will almost certainly know one (or more) representatives personally, if not well. It means that thinking you might like to take a spin someday as a legislator is not a completely unreasonable plan. They are also paid the big bucks, pulling down $100/year just like the senators. The lack of pay and the vast number of people in the state legislature means that people can’t really make a career out of it the way they can in other states. Interestingly, the state seems to accomplish as much by way of legislating as other states do with their full-time members. (Could it be that legislating really doesn’t need to take up all that time and money? Hmmm.)

I really enjoyed the Ramona Quimby books when I was little, but somehow they never entered the list of children’s books I felt the need to repurchase as an adult, or even to reread.

Until I read A Newbery Halloween and an excerpt from Ramona the Pest was included. I needed to reread them! The desire was very sharp, and it was all I could do to stop myself from popping on amazon and buying the whole set. I may yet do that, but the library has taken the edge off.

As it turns out, I’ve never actually read all of them, just the 4 or 5 that my home library had and that I was able to search out.

Henry Huggins (Henry-Ramona #1)
Crazy completist that I am, I had to start with Cleary’s first book, though Ramona shows up in it only for a couple of pages and says approximately 4 words. Henry Huggins is an episodic book about an elementary school boy who lives in small town Oregon in the middle of the 20th century. His adventures in this book center around his pets and school. Aside from the amazingly low prices for everything, the book doesn’t feel dated at all — in spite of being a depiction of childhood 60 years ago. Its quality goes a long way to explaining why it’s still in print. For anyone with an Audible subscription, I believe Neil Patrick Harris reads the audiobook. Bonus.

Henry and Beezus (Henry-Ramona #2)
The second installment of the Henry Huggins series sees the Quimby sisters taking a larger role. Beatrice “Beezus” Quimby is a girl in Henry’s class who also happens to live nearby, and she and he are friends, though he often wonders if it’s really worth it to be friends with a girl. Ramona, who is about four, he does not really care for, finding her pretty useless. The adventures in this book are very similar in tone to the first, and it’s just as engaging as the one that came before.

Wicked Appetite (Diesel #1)
Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum series has been humming along for many years now. For several of those years, a bonus book was released in the late winter — a ‘between the numbers’ novel which featured Stephanie and this otherworldly character Diesel. Based on a survey of the Plum readers I know (under ten), most of them disliked the intrusion of Diesel and his strange magical adventures into the Plum series, which is supposed to take place in the real world. Evanovich has now spun Diesel off into his own series. I was somewhat nervous about this, as the Diesel books weren’t my favorite either, but I’m pleased to report that Diesel works much better in his own setting. If you’re going to have magic, then you shouldn’t have it intruding into a series where most of the time there isn’t any. It looks to me like the plans are for a seven book series which so far has the action centered around Salem, MA. I will be reading them.

Gingerbread Cookie Murder (Hannah Swensen #13.5)
As noted in my post ‘Too Many Christmases‘ this novella takes place in December following book #13, which occurred in the summertime. Interestingly, Hannah’s sister Michelle isn’t even mentioned in this book, even though it’s timed so that theoretically she could be there. Because this is a novella rather than a novel, there’s little time to focus on much more than the mystery, featuring as it does several new characters who must be introduced and given some backstory. As a result, most of the developments in Hannah’s personal life from #13 are either not addressed or sort of postponed until the next full length novel — we’re told right from the start that the potential conflict involving Norman is going to arrive ‘on January 15th’. The mystery itself involves the murder of a neighbor of Hannah’s, a man who fairly recently won $8 million in the lottery. Unfortunately, there are several missteps here, and I again have to wonder where Fluke’s editor was. Leaving out the entire climax, which was borderline silly, the biggest issue was the victim’s ex-wife, who completely flipped out after the murder and started spouting nonsense. She claimed ‘there’s no way I would have killed him, he was going to pay for our kids to go to college and now their futures are destroyed’! Uhh. What? The kicker here is that this woman WORKS FOR A LAWYER. How does she not know that if her ex died intestate, as she does believe, her kids inherit EVERYTHING?! In fact, assuring her kids’ futures before her ex could spend all the money makes her a very GOOD suspect indeed. Except Hannah and the police(!) accept this explanation and look elsewhere for the murderer. Gah. The police especially are getting stupider and stupider over time, completely incapable of solving even the smallest crime without Hannah’s assistance.

Invitation to the Game
I had never heard of this YA sci-fi book until it was recommended to J and then she suggested I read it too. The first thing I noticed about the book was that there was an actual person of color on the cover. This was especially interesting after I read it, because it never actually registered with me that any of the characters were specifically mentioned as being black. In fact, the only character I recall anything about description-wise, besides the boy described as ‘pudgy’ is the redhead. I’m not sure why authors always make a point of repeatedly calling attention to someone’s red hair, but it’s extremely common. Anyway, the book made a good first impression even though the artwork on the cover is extremely dated (it was published in 1990, so I’m guessing the cover was drawn sometime in the 80s and possibly not even for this book, though that’s harder to say.) The story itself was less impressive, though not bad. The action begins in an unlikely future US where robots have replaced almost all workers and unemployment has been institutionalized — people are assigned jobs at age 16 when they finish school, and if you aren’t assigned one then, you are unemployed for the rest of your life. The unemployed are then sent to live in particular areas, provided with the bare necessities of life, and left to their own devices as long as they don’t get violent. This isn’t a new idea; it’s been explored in many different venues, including several episodes of Deep Space Nine. But it doesn’t seem all that likely to me. The parents especially are baffling — later in the book several teens who were assigned jobs and went back to live with their parents are fired due to robotization and brought to join the unemployed. Would parents really allow this? To say bye to their children at age 6 with no expectation or promise of ever seeing them again, to let them be removed randomly from their care at age 16 again without any expectation of seeing them again? The whole situation just doesn’t ring true. And when there’s what I consider a fundamental flaw with the world-building, it colors the entire story. In any case, our group of intrepid and crazily unhormonal teens end up living on their own. Eventually they hear of ‘The Game’, which may be a way out of the numbing unemployed holding zone. They’re eventually asked to participate, and from there must solve the mystery of what The Game really is. (Though they don’t, actually, until the answer is thrust upon them.) So… like I said, I’m a bit torn on this one. There were good points and there were ridiculous points. The good didn’t quite outweigh the ridiculous, but the end result wasn’t terrible.

Hex Hall (Sophie Mercer #1)
I borrowed this from the library for someone else, but the cover didn’t make it look unreadable, so I held onto it to have a look for myself. This is the first book of what’s obviously intended to be a series (I see Amazon has book #2 listed as coming out in March). The book is set in a world where fairies and werewolves and shifters and vampires and witches all exist — they call themselves as a group ‘Prodigium’ — but exist in hiding. Anyone who threatens this secrecy is subject to punishment, and for teenagers that punishment is generally being sentenced to go to school at Hecate Hall, the Prodigium reform school located in Georgia. (The state, not the country.) Sophie, the daughter of an absentee warlock father and a regular non-magic mother, knows next to nothing about magic or the Prodigium when she finds herself sentenced to Hex Hall after a spell gone bad. Her ignorance about her people and their secret world proves a big problem for her when she arrives at Hex, though like Harry Potter before her, she shows very little initiative in actually correcting her lack of knowledge. And, of course, as this is a book featuring a 16 year old girl as a main character, there’s an inevitable love interest and a passle of “Mean Girls” who bother Sophie. The author handles these apparently necessary plot elements without allowing them to become too annoying. This book isn’t bad as a whole, and also does a pretty good job setting up what one expects will be the central arcs of the series itself. There were a few elements that felt very Charlaine Harris (the whole were/shifter distinction and rivalry, plus the vampirization of a RL icon) but I’m not sure if they were plagiarism so much as an homage.

Cryoburn (Miles Vorkosigan #15)
The first Vorkosigan novel since 2002’s somewhat disappointing Diplomatic Immunity, Cryoburn finds Miles away from home investigating some shady corporate practices on the planet Kaibou-daini. I much prefer the novels set within the Barrayaran Empire to the ones which take place elsewhere, but any Miles is better than no Miles at all. The main plot is not uninteresting, involving political intrigue, vote stealing, and corporations attempting to take over the government. It draws a lot of sharp parallels to the subprime mortgage crisis as well as other real life corporate shenanigans. Miles is accompanied here by Armsman Roic, who I still don’t love, but who is finally beginning to grow on me. In addition to the cryogenics based action, we also get some very brief updates on most of the characters in the ongoing Vorkosigan saga. The ending suggests (or perhaps this is wishful thinking) there may be another Vorkosigan book coming sooner rather than later, as things are left with an untidy feeling.

Wanna Get Lucky (Lucky O’Toole #1?)
This book was recommended to me by one of the other people where I work as being much better than the Hannah Swensen books. It’s certainly different. Lucky is not a prude — she couldn’t be: she works in Las Vegas as the head of customer service at one of the big resort/casino hotels. Plus, her mom is a famous prostitute/brothel owner. And her best friend stars in a drag show. So, definitely not Hannah. Lucky’s big headache of the book begins when one of the hotel’s staff falls from a helicopter into the hotel’s pool. Naturally she is dead. The question is who killed her and why. In the meantime, there’s also someone attempting a hostile takeover of the business, a hot new security guard who may have ulterior motives, and all sorts of demanding hotel visitors with issues. Once I finally got into the book, it moved along well, the characters were engaging, and it certainly had a sense of place. I’m assuming it’s intended to be the first of a series, so we’ll see if another book appears.

The Plot
This book is a collection (anthology?) of (loosely) Halloween related short stories by authors who won the Newbery Medal. Some of the stories are actually chapters excerpted from longer works, while others are stand-alone stories republished here. I did not do extensive research, but I don’t believe anything original beyond the introduction was created for this book.

My Thoughts
I had a tough time finding full-length books with the word ‘Halloween’ in the title. There were lots of picture books and lots of early reader books, but to my great surprise, there were pretty much no adult books (with the exception of Agatha Christie’s Halloween Party) and even more shocking, no YA books either! Children’s chapter books supplied a few, including this one. I was attracted by the star-studded author list and the promise of stories from said authors which I probably hadn’t read.

I was disappointed to discover that quite a few of the tales in this book are actually just chapters pulled bodily from longer works – “The Baddest Witch in the World, “A Halloween to Remember”, “The Witch’s Eye”, “The Ghost in the Attic”. As a taste of the books they serve well, but they’re clearly just parts of a longer story which isn’t present in this book.

The remaining stories varied in setting and quality. The worst of the lot, the nearly incomprehensible “Witch Girl”, is the story of a family traveling to a new home who encounter a ‘young girl’ who claims to be a witch and to be entrapped by witches. After the previous story, which featured a five year old Ramona Quimby, I was primed to assume that a ‘young girl’ was probably ten or less years in age. Imagine my surprise when one of the adult(?) male characters in the story abruptly announced his intention to marry the ‘young girl’ he’d met a mere ten minutes prior. I certainly hope she wasn’t actually ten! The rest of the story was poorly plotted with no real sense of danger or… anything. It was just blah.

Of the others, the two which stood out in my mind are Madeleine L’Engle’s “Poor Little Saturday”, a weird little tale which seems to involve magic, but which also felt a bit to me like an hallucination on the part of the narrator; and Paul Fleischman’s “The Man of Influence”, about a sculptor who accepts a commission from a man who may not actually be a man.

In Short
Newbery-winning authors, however much I may disagree with the taste of the selection committee, are usually good writers. Certainly this book, which is about 20 years old and seemed to focus on writers with well-established careers, has plenty of good stories in it. But a large number of them were simply book excerpts, and none of them seemed to be ‘new’. As something to read aloud to a class it may be good, but otherwise I’d recommend reading the actual full-length books by these authors rather than this compilation. In the end, the only thing I really took away was an intense urge to reread all of the Ramona books.

I’ve mentioned in a couple of my Swensen series reviews that the timeline is showing cracks. This problem is more common than not in longer series, and it’s something that’s so incredibly easy to fix, it drives me absolutely batty.

The cracks occur when the author is making explicit reference to the fact that the series is flowing in ‘real time’ — the seasons change, people get older, and time is acknowledged to pass. Now, there are many series where this isn’t the case. Example: Nancy Drew. The world may change around her, but Nancy remains her teenagery self. I have no issue with a series like that, where clearly the detective is in a bubble. But if you’re going to have time pass, then you need to make an effort to keep track of it. It’s really not that hard.

The Hannah Swensen cracks developed because there are too many Christmases in her universe. Some of them are novels (or were marketed as such, even if they turned out to be novellas with a pile of recipes to pad out the book), some of them are novellas in a book with additional stories by other authors. And their existence has messed up the timeline in Hannah’s world.

    Y1

  • 3rd week of October – Chocolate Chip Cookie Murder
  • December – Strawberry Shortcake Murder
  • Christmas – “Candy for Christmas” (in CCC Murder Special Edition)
    Y2

  • February – Blueberry Muffin Murder
  • June – Lemon Meringue Pie Murder
  • Mid-October – Fudge Cupcake Murder
  • Pre-Christmas – Sugar Cookie Murder
  • Christmas – “Twelve Desserts of Christmas” (in Sugar and Spice)
    Y3

  • February – Peach Cobbler Murder
    • Herb and Lisa’s wedding
  • March – Cherry Cheesecake Murder
  • June – Key Lime Pie Murder
  • December – “Candy Cane Murder” (in Candy Cane Murder)
    • Lisa referred to by her married name
    Y4

  • August – Carrot Cake Murder
  • November – Cream Puff Murder
  • December – Plum Pudding Murder
    • mentions Candy Cane murder ‘last
      year’
    • Lisa and Herb married ’10 months’??
    Y5

  • June – Apple Turnover Murder
  • December – Gingerbread Cookie Murder

So you can see where the problem crept in. That extra Christmas (which must be that Christmas, since Lisa was married) bumped a bunch of stories forward. Hannah’s sister should have graduated by now, and you can see how crazy it makes Hannah’s boytoys seem (though even reducing the timeline by a year doesn’t really make them look any better…)

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