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It is friday again and I am slowly but surely writing up the reviews of the books that I have been reading.  I was undecided about the Diva series, which was why I didn’t read the second book until now.

In this book Sophie’s sister, Hannah, is marrying creepy Craig and she is organising the wedding.  Of course, this also means that the oh so delightful Natasha is doing all she can to muscle in on the action at every opportunity.

What I like about this book is that on every chapter there is a Q and A or an article snippet from either Sophie’s or Natasha’s column.  It is a really clever way of highlighting the difference between the characters and also set up the theme of the chapter.

Natasha set up home with Mars in the same road as Sophie, which means that Sophie has a constant stream of people who are seeking refuge, including the dog.  The first victim turns out to be connected to Craig, which throws the wedding party into chaos.  Hannah on the other hand is doing a perfect impression of an ostritch sticking her head in the sand, so Sophie decides to poke around a bit to try and find out more about Craig’s life – and more importantly, what he is hiding.

Along with the murder, the other main theme running through the book is the constant interfering of Natasha.  What an awful woman, I don’t know whether Sophie is the most gracious hostess on the planet or is an impressive doormat.  She seems to just accept the meddling and blatant attempts of Natasha to seize every element of her life. I wonder if she actually has a backbone.  Halfway through the book she finally told Natasha not to interfere, but did she listen?  Of course not, and Natasha carried on regardless.  What I don’t understand is that Sophie considers her as a friend, yet there is no indication of a friendship, just some nutty woman who wants to hijack anything that she does.  When it comes down to it, Natasha is just a whisker away from assuming Sophie’s identity.

Like the previous book, the storyline was very complex and with all the relatives and friends floating around Sophie’s house, it was reminiscent of an Agatha Christie novel.  All these different characters kept you on your toes because you were constantly trying to figure out who was doing what and who was connected to who, not to mention several red herrings. There was also the non-romance between Sophie and the Wolf, with the classic lack of communication between them, made worse by guess who? Natasha, of course.  Again in what way is this woman showing friendship?

As much as I hated Natasha, I did enjoy the book.  The complex plot and all the characters meant that you never got ahead of yourself in trying to predict what was going to happen.  It would be a great book if Natasha wasn’t such a pantomime villain.  If she was toned down, or if we could see why there is this friendship, then it would be easier to tolerate such a vivid character.  Just because she is the antagonist, doesn’t mean that you can’t see the good parts in her –   many of the characters that I love the most are the ones where you get to see all shades of their personality.

Again, like the first book, I am going to wait a while before I read the third in the series to de-Natasha-ise, otherwise the book would certainly end up being thrown across the room!

Domestic Diva Mysteries Website – this is a great website, you even get the layout of Sophie’s neighbourhood and some of her recipes

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Sophie is a freshly divorced party planner who is currently planning a family Thanksgiving and taking part in a turkey stuffing competition.

Within the first pages of this book  you are introduced to Natasha, a glamorous, perfect, Martha Stewart type and Sophie’s nemesis since her school days.  It seems that her family are completely enchanted with Natasha, her column and TV show – which only seems to give the most impractical of advice for Thanksgiving, guaranteed to make any regular woman feel like a failure.  Oh, and she has also set up house with Sophie’s ex-husband, Mars.

On her way to the supermarket, Sophie is approached by a man with a kitten asking if she would like to have it.  Sophie says no, but while shopping decides to accept the kitten if he is still there.  She is also approached by Dean Coswell, the editor of a newspaper who is frustrated with the Natasha insanity (his wife injured herself trying to make Natasha’s Thanksgiving decorations), and asks if  Sophie would write a column as the voice of reason – an anti-Natasha.  Hooray

When she reaches her car, she finds the kitten as well as the body of the man .  As the person who found the body, the police are suspicious of her especially as she is covered in residual blood (from the kitten? bin?) and the dead man had a picture of her in his car.  After taking her statement, one of the policemen, Wolf, turns up at her house with her groceries and kitten food – he seems to have taken a shine to her and the kitten 🙂

At the stuffing contest, Simon, a judge who is obnoxiously rich presumes that Sophie would go on a date with him,  as he is a judge, Natasha is the first (and only person) to shriek about cheating, even though Sophie hadn’t agreed to the date.  When Simon is found dead, it is Natasha again who accuses Sophie of killing him.  Good grief, this woman bugs me, to top it all Sophie doesn’t do anything, she just benignly accepts Natasha and her antics.  “Oh, you’ve just accused me of cheating and murder… that’s nice”, also her family and friends do nothing either!  Gah.

In the run up to Thanksgiving, her house (which seems like the Tardis) fills up with her own family including her sister Hannah (who is almost as irritating as Natasha) and her insipid fiance Craig, as well as Mars’ relatives who  Natasha has pissed off and alienated.  This includes his Mum, June and his best friend Bernie.  After Natasha has a fire in her house (which she blames on June and consequently tries to convince Mars to put her in a residential care home), Sophie’s Mum and June invite Mars and Natasha to Thanksgiving in the hope to get Sophie and Mars back together.  There is so much talk about Southern hospitality, but surely there is Southern etiquette for being a good guest too?

During Thanksgiving lunch, which includes several neighbours and Wolf, a guest is poisoned and guess what, there are more accusations by Natasha which prompts Sophie into figuring out who the murderer is.

I am split about this book, I really like it, but there are some elements that truly bug me.  The main characters are all one-dimensional.  Natasha is as irritating as a flea bite on your ass and Sophie has saint-like patience that makes her seems like a doormat.  It is frequently commented that Natasha and Sophie are friends, but I see no friendship between them.  Really, would a friend be the first person to accuse you of cheating and murder?  With friends like those, who needs enemies! It’s not even a rivalry, just a woman who is so used to getting her own way that she just tramples over everyone.  I suppose the author has done a good job, because Natasha’s character makes  my blood boil, I just wish that I could see Sophie stand up to her.  Or if they are friends, show me why they are friends, not simply because they went to the same school.

On the positive side, at the start of every chapter is an excerpt of a column or TV programme by Natasha or Sophie.  It is not only interesting, but a clever way of setting the tone for the chapter and highlight the differences between Natasha and Sophie.

It is also a great mystery, there are so many twists and turns – and so many characters that it is hard to keep track of who is who which is a clever way of concealing who the murderer is.  I also liked the characterisation of the animals and her next door neighbour Nina, who comes across as a real friend.

Of course I am going to read the next books, but not straight away – I can’t handle another Natasha filled novel, not just yet which is sad because in the end you want a reader to want to read your books, not read them while despising a character.

Crafty Book Worm

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