Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Book Review: The Other Side by J. D. Robb, et al

J.D. Robb's Possession in Death - Eve finds herself compelled more than is usual to stand for the dead. 

I LOVE Nora Roberts' alter-pen-ego J.D. Robb and her In Death books.  I love the near-future she's created, I love the regular characters, many of whom make an appearance in this short.  I love the relationships these characters have created, which evolve over time, ebbing and flowing with the vagaries of life in the 2050s and 2060s.  I love that she just pitches right in to the story without worrying about explaining every single damn thing about the Eve-verse.  A frequent visitor to the 2060s will note a few nods to long-time readers.  A first-time visitor won't be put off by inside jokes she doesn't get.  Possession in Death is a perfectly-sized bite of Eve Dallas' universe.  And that's all I'm gonna say.

Mary Blayney's The Other Side of the Coin - that sparkly little coin with a mind of its own weaves a little more magic into some mischief.  An earl and his countess get to know each other (and each other's friends) a whole lot better than they imagined was possible. 

This is a funny and intriguing look at life in another century, and the relationships between husbands and wives.

Patricia Gaffney's The Dancing Ghost - a ghost draws a very early paranormal investigator and a forward-thinking woman into a partnership to prevent a house from selling.

This particular story failed to capture my attention.  It's the longest of the five stories in this collection, and the two main characters just never gelled for me.  They seemed vaguely out of character, not comfortable in their own skins.  I just can't explain it better than that.

Ruth Ryan Langan's Almost Heaven - a couple watch their son and daughter cope with the aftermath of the parents' unexpected death.

Almost Heaven was a short and sweet glimpse into the stopoff between dying and going into the light and the desires of good parents to see their offspring happy.  Ted and Vanessa devise a plan to find the right Mr Right for their daughter, who's already engaged to another man.  It was the tiniest bit convenient how the right ghosts kept showing up to help them at the right moment, but cute and enjoyable, nonetheless.

Mary Kay McComas' Never Too Late to Love - a grown woman with lots of better things to do has to visit her deceased mother's last home herself to find out why no one can clean it out.

M.J., who uses those initials so no one, but no one, finds out her given name, is extremely put out to have to make the trip from Alexandria to Loudon County to unlock the house her mother died in.  How hard can it be to get a few things out for shipping, give away the rest and demolish the eyesore?  She gets into the house, only to find that the house has its own ideas about what's going to happen to it. 

This is a funny and touching little romp with the demons of MJ's relationship with her mother, and her memories of her mother's sisters.  Along the way, she meets a little boy who gets really put out when his father won't let him go to the house next door to visit the lady who bakes apple pies.  She thereby meets little boy's father, who doesn't pay any attention to MJ's bitchy attitude.  The ending is sweet, not a bit sappy, and leaves room for the imagination to take the story farther (or for the author to do so), and is true to the personalities of both people.

Stories ranged from about 70 pages to just at 100 pages, so it was easy to put the book down to do something else that needed to be done without stopping in the middle of a good read.  That's one of the things I love about these story collections.  Another is that while I get a taste of familiar universes (I almost always get a book with an In Death story), there's nothing plot-impacting about them.  I can miss them if I don't find them without fearing I'm missing a birth or death or planet exploding.  When I do find them, I can place them anywhere in the universe, no matter what year is mentioned.

This book was a gift from my little sister VC.

The Other Side