The Sisters Grimm: Magic and Other Misdemeanors by Michael Buckley: I've gushed about this series before, and I'm about to do it again. In this, the fifth installment, the Red Queen has raised taxes to an outrageous extent, trying to force out all the human residents of Ferryport. The girls must help raise funds to pay the taxes while investigating their first solo case, a rash of magical thefts plaguing the town. Something I like about the series is its complexity. The Grimms are neither universally loved nor loathed by the town's Everafter residents. It's a complicated situation--the great-great-etc-grandfather both imprisoned them and protected them, so many Everafters are of two minds about the Grimms, with some fervent supporters and the Red Hand fervently opposed. I was glad I had book 6 on hand, because this one ends in a doozy of a cliffhanger.
The Sisters Grimm: Tales From the Hood by Michael Buckley: This is Book 6, and the most recent. I'm very bummed that I have to wait a year for more Sisters Grimm. Darn Buckley and his cliffhangers. In this installment, the Big Bad Wolf is put on trial in a kangaroo court for his past crimes. Granny and the girls (with the help of Puck) try to save him, first by hiring Robin Hood (sue the rich to give to the poor) and his Merry Litigators, then by seeking out a witness who can exonerate the Wolf. The trial has funny moments that are tempered by the desperation of the situation. It actually makes for an interesting examination of what to do when the justice system falls apart and no longer acts to protect citizens. I can't wait for book #7!
My reviews of Sisters Grimm books 3 & 4 (with links to my reviews of 1 &2)
Mr. Knightley's Diary by Amanda Grange: This is fluff reading for the Jane Austen fan, but what fun! Your favorite scenes are still here, but we learn more about Mr. Knightley's feelings as they develop. The "I love Emma, blah blah blah" gets a bit repetitive, but the scenes with Knightley and his brother and friends are quite enjoyable. I wouldn't call it required reading, but if you're a Jane Austen fan looking for a beach read, I think you've found it.
Captain Wentworth's Diary by Amanda Grange: The older I get, the more I like Persuasion. And, interestingly, I am more understanding of Anne's breaking the engagement, and her godmother's interference. Because Wentworth is young, and he spends his prize money as soon as he earns it, without regard to the future. Even if he is in love, he's not the surest prospect, and Austen shows us what happens when a woman marries imprudently for love (Mansfield Park-Fanny's mother). What would have happened to their love if Wentworth had failed to make his fortune? Anyway, enough of that. This was even better than Knightley's Diary, in my opinion, although I would have liked some diary entries from the eight years of separation. I really enjoyed the scenes with Wentworth and his brother, and with his friends. Another good beach read for Austen fans!
My review of Mr. Darcy's Diary
Gilding the Lady by Nicole Byrd: With nothing else at hand, I grabbed a Regency romance from my mom's shelf. I've never actually read one before, but this one sounded like it was My Fair Lady with a murder. I found it surprisingly good, although the My Fair Lady angle (one gentleman bets another that he can turn the heroine into a lady) is sort of dropped. Byrd seemed to be writing tongue-in-cheek, and it was actually rather funny. Compared to racier contemporary romance novels, all the furtive hand-kissing and gazing at ankles was actually refreshing, and the hero and heroine were kind of sweet. This would be another beach read for Jane Austen fans :)
How To Knit a Wild Bikini by Christie Ridgeway: This wasn't exactly what I was expecting, and I admit, I picked it up mostly for the knitting reference. It wasn't great. It takes place in Malibu, where Nikki moves to be personal chef to Jay, who runs a men's magazine and is called Hef, Jr. Nikki bonds with Jay's teenaged niece, Fern, over their respective abusive relationships and heads into the knitting shop to learn. More knitting and fewer "love" scenes would have made it more interesting. I frankly thought the subplot about Nikki pretending to be a lesbian was stupid, and the Fern subplot was dark for a fluff book, not to mention the suicide subplot. This is obviously the start of a series, because there were a lot of relationships that were shallow and poorly developed. I assume they'll be the focus of future books. Nora Roberts and Susan Mallery do the same thing with trilogies, but somehow manage to make their books stand alone better. Look elsewhere for a good beach read.