Book Review: Death by Chocolate

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These books are as guilty a pleasure as a box of Russell Stover’s (especially if they’re full of Roman nougats).  Death by Chocolate was the first book I’d read in this series (I’ve since read three), and they’ve all been entertaining.

Being a lover of Southern fiction, I was a bit disappointed these were set on the West Coast.  However, I think if the author added a few extra details besides the types of flowers that grow in San Carmelita, California, and what the buildings look like (such as naming some actual haunts, fictional or otherwise), that might endear me more to that side of the country.

The way these books are “teased,” I was led to believe that food (especially the sweet kind) would play more of a central role, but sweets just happen to be what the main character likes to make and eat.

I love that the Savannah Reid character is a plus-sized woman who is comfortable in her own body (and is still attractive to other men); what’s more, I love that she happens to be single and not worried about old maidenhood or her biological clock ticking (even though the latter I could relate to).  Her “partner-in-law,” Dirk Coulter, is a loveable curmudgeon without coming across as a stereotype. These two characters are well-developed, even though Savannah’s calling people “boy,” “girl,” and “sugar” and such can be a bit much sometimes (a la Paula Deen).

Savannah’s assistant, Tammy, is like a carbon copy of Nancy Drew; she’s rather bland and uninteresting, not to mention a bit of a broken record, calling everything Savannah eats “crap” because it isn’t healthy like her crap.  But, people who are really into clean eating tend to be annoyingly vocal about it, so that’s realistic. Of all the five main characters, she adds the least but just enough.

Ryan and John are loveable–who wouldn’t want them for friends?  Even though they’re almost too perfect, they are way more believable than Savannah’s siblings, who are more caricatures than characters; I think the author tries too hard to show that Savannah comes from a dysfunctional Southern family because damn, are her siblings over the top (a la Peg Bundy).

I do enjoy the references to Granny Reid (though she needs more unique adages).  I hope I will read a book where Savannah goes back home to McGill, Georgia, and gets some “sage wisdom” (pardon the cliche) or unravels some interesting yarns.

As for Savannah’s cats, Diamante and Cleopatra (why do all single women have to have “fur babies,” though thank God, that phrase isn’t used in these books, though Savannah does refer to herself as their mother), they’re about as interesting as most cats (which is not very).

The author’s ideas of The Deep South seem to come from books and movies and her imagination rather from actually living there.  I’ve read up on Sonja Massie/G.A. McKevett, and, according to several bios, she has never lived anywhere near the South. I think it takes an exceptionally skilled writer to be able to capture Southern culture without having lived in it (visiting doesn’t count), but maybe that’s why the books aren’t actually set in the South, so that was a good call.

If the author would keep Savannah’s relatives in Georgia (with the exception of Gran), the books would be better because those storylines add absolutely nothing.  The real fun is in the relationships that Savannah has with her friends and the mysteries themselves, which are pretty good, even though they lack that “twist” element we Americans have almost come to expect (thanks a lot, O’Henry).

What I like about these books is that the quality of each one has been consistent.  Maybe that’s because this is a series, but still, that’s important.

I hope Savannah will eventually stop being a doormat when it comes to her family (like kicking her sister out of her house for ordering porn and making her pay for it).  This might be the reason why I don’t like her family in the books. Are they all as screwed up as Savannah isn’t? I guess I’ll find out when I catch up.

When it comes to Savannah’s parents, I’m finding it hard to believe that the same woman and the same man bred nine children, only to have them taken away by the State as being unfit.  Usually, women like that have a ton of kids by different dads, so that’s one redeeming quality her parents had.

The profanity in these books is pretty mild, which I appreciate.  These are stories I’d feel comfortable with my teenage daughter reading–when that time comes.  

#Micropoetry Monday: The Lighter Side

Chaos & Control were 2 of a mother,
Chaos, preferring the surf side any day,
Control, poolside & the sound side
only on green flag days.
Control retained her hourglass figure,
whereas Chaos had been as shapely
as every fruit in the basket.

Sir Benedict was a good egg,
always on the sunny side,
though sometimes he got scrambled
when he came out of his shell.
He could also be hard-boiled when unwell,
when his chicken-hearted mother,
who was bit on the overly easy side
would coddle him,
basting him with soup–
courtesy of one of his relatives.

Mr. Ruffles was known for his candies—
his chocolaterie being a real jimdandy.
Yet he was pounded into mincemeat,
when he dipped the shroomy truffle sweets
into the magic that made him randy.

Sweet Little Nothings

Build a bridge with chocolate

Cookie thought Brownie was stuck up,
& Brownie thought Cookie was stuck on himself,
so they were stuck in their unfriended state,
until along came Candy,
who, distressed at their unfriendliness,
offered them each a hand,
building a bridge of commonality.
When Cookie & Brownie realized
they were better together,
Candy melted
from the fresh-out-of-the-oven warmth
that radiated between them,
only for another battle to begin:
Cookie thought their new alliance should be Crownie,
& Brownie, Brookie,
but both couldn’t have top billing.

Poem-a-Day November 2018 Writer’s Digest Challenge #24. Theme: Salty

Tasty

When Ms. Pepper met Mr. Salt,
she saw him as her equal—
until Miss Sugar came along
& invited him
to sprinkle his crystals
atop her silky caramel.
It was then,
& only then,
that Ms. Pepper realized
there wasn’t anything
Mr. Salt could not do,
for he complemented
the savory,
as well as the sweet,
perfectly.

Poem-a-Day November 2018 Writer’s Digest Challenge #23. Theme: I Can’t (Blank)

I Can’t Eat That!

I can’t eat gravy out of a packet or jar (no MSG, please),
I can’t eat potatoes out of a box (why, when the real thing
is so much cheaper, pound for pound?),
or margarine in any form (I can totally believe it’s not butter);
I can’t eat cranberry sauce out of a can (no jiggly, ribbed silos for me),
I can’t eat green bean casserole (concocted with Campbell’s chemicals),
or sweet potato casserole (because I just don’t like orange potatoes);
I can’t eat “whipped cream” made of oil (as if spun into white gold
by the nemesis of Rumpelstiltskin),
and I am thankful to be fortunate enough to be able to make that choice.

2018 November PAD Chapbook Challenge: Day 23

Writer’s Digest Wednesday Poetry Prompt #460: Nourishment

Kandi Barr’s Quandary

When a beau broke up with her
(it was never the other way around),
she turned to Mr. Goodbar.
When she lost another job
(always a dead-end one),
she found a Payday.
When she needed a break from the world
(a world where size 28W was hard to find),
she opted for a Milky Way.
When she didn’t know what the hell she wanted,
she went for a Whatchamacallit.
Then she met the man
who gave her a 100 Grand–
a man who knew she was the one–
even though he couldn’t wrap his arms around her.
The fact that she was king-sized & marshmallow-soft
appealed to him,
so when she became happy,
the stress (& the fat) melted away,
but so did his fat fetish-based love.

Wednesday Poetry Prompts: 460

Writer’s Digest Wednesday Poetry Prompt #446: Cooking

The Baker’s Manifesto

Betty Botter was a lousy cook,
but a swell baker,
for working with butter, sugar, flour, & eggs
was easy as pie,
a piece of cake,
a ginger snap even.
Throw chocolate chips into the mix,
& she was unstoppable.

The feel of raw meat made her sick,
& whoever referred to their kiddo
as Bacon or Hamburger?
It was always Cupcake or Sweetie Pie,
just as wretched men were pigs,
women, cows,
& dumbasses of both sexes were sheep—
mooing, oinking, bleating meat.

What’s more,
the smart cookies knew when
to shut their pieholes & cakeholes,
& stick a baguette in them,
for it was better to eat carbs
than to part your lips
& say something stupid.

http://www.writersdigest.com/whats-new/wednesday-poetry-prompts-446

#Fiction Friday: #Novelines from the Book

Mormoni

Mother said my testimony would become stronger every time I bore it, but was that not just because I would be convincing myself?

Mother would sometimes slip into the habit of speaking in old English, as that was how we were supposed to conduct ourselves in prayer.

Mormons loved fat-laden casseroles & water to drink at every function. It was thrift at both ends of the spectrum.

Funeral potatoes & lime-green Jell-O with shredded carrots no longer sounded strange to me. I was in their world, but not of it.

He went on & on about how wonderful his wife was, just as she went on & on how blessed she was to have a worthy priesthood holder in the home.

The Mormon garments had been the fabric that miracles were fabricated of, for they guarded one from fires, rape, & all manner of weaponry.

Sister Bear catching on fire seemed to appeal to more people than finding out Brother Schafer had once been a rake, & not of the gardening kind.

The bearing of testimonies was an exercise in mesmerism, cloaked in religious language, the brain lighting up in spiritual socialization.

Writer’s Digest Wednesday Poetry Prompt #441: Notice

When This Little Twiggy Went to Meat Market (Notice: All Sales Final)

Twiggy Piggy, a foxymoronic sow,
went to look for a smokin’ hot mammalian beefcake
with whom she could cook up something tasty
(like a litter of mini meatloaves).
She turned down Monsieur Filet Mignon
after he made the piggist comment
that his preference was Kosher.
When Ground Biff said he needed a little pink slime
to beef him up,
she sunk her teeth into Sir Porterhouse–
liking the largeness & tenderness of him.
But she realized her haste
when he cornered her in her sty
& said
that after he was well-done,
all that would be left would be her squeal.

Wednesday Poetry Prompts: 441