Wednesday, February 27, 2013

The Ghost and Lady Alice

Author: Marion Chesney
Genre: Historical Romance

2 Stars

Alice Lovesey is a  16-year-old innocent servant girl who is being sexually pursued by one of her employers.  One night she sees a portrait of the deceased Eighth Duke of Haversham and makes a wish that she could change her life.  She somehow, through that wish, brings the duke back as a ghost.

At first the ghost refuses to help her, then, on a whim, he decides he will not only help her to escape, but also help her find her way to an advantageous marriage, by 'reinventing her' as someone else. He succeeds in this to such an extent that he, himself, begins to fall in love with her (since this is a romance from that wonderful writer Marion Chesney, of course he would, so I am not really giving anything away.

I read this book because I thought it would be interesting; ghosts and castles somehow just belong together.  The book itself was a quick read, and had a different premise (ghost and living person fall in love).  The storyline was interesting, but there are a few things I would have preferred differently, including the ending (which I won't reveal here, but if you're interested, please check out my review on Goodreads to view the spoiler).

The Koala of Death

Author:  Betty Webb
Genre: Mystery

3 Stars
In this second installment of the zookeeper Teddy Bentley novels, she finds the body of Koala Kate (another zookeeper) in Gunn Landing Harbor.  She soon finds out that Kate didn't drown and was strangled.  Suspects in the murder include not only other animal keepers at the zoo, but also people who live on boats at the same harbor Teddy does.

Teddy also needs repairs to her boat and agrees to appear on Koala Kate's weekly television show with some of her animals, albeit reluctantly.  When Teddy starts to go through Kate's journals, she finds out some things about her fellow zookeeper, and the killer begins targeting her.

There were some very funny moments with the television show when the host of the show wouldn't follow her instructions not to touch the animals (obviously, this host didn't realize that just because they're in a zoo, it doesn't mean they're not wild animals). 
I thought the mystery in this book, as in the first one, was pretty good.  Hence the 3 stars.  I like the information about, and interaction with, the animals.  But I still find Teddy herself annoying, and all the problems she has.  Usually in books the protagonist has one or two "problems" somewhere about; but Teddy seems to have them everywhere she looks.  Again, it's almost as if she has a black cloud somewhere over her head.

Monday, February 25, 2013

The Anteater of Death

Author:  Betty Webb
Genre: Mystery

3 Stars
This is the first of this series.  Lucy is a pregnant Giant Anteater who is suspected of killing a man found dead in her enclosure.  Teddy Bentley, her zookeeper, doesn't believe Lucy did it and sets out to find the real killer.  On top of that, she is going to be evicted from the houseboat she lives in, her father is running because he embezzled millions from the feds, and numerous other problems plague her, including the fact that being a single woman her mother keeps trying to set her up with eligible men.
I believe that the author did a good job in this book of showing zoo animals interacting with people, and I really liked that, and I also enjoyed the fact that they were made part of the mystery.
What I didn't like:  There was just "too much at once."  Too many things being thrown at me that could have been stretched out into several books.  It came off seeming that Teddy (the main character) was walking around with a black cloud over her head.  I am going to read the next book in this series and see if it is perhaps not so "busy". 
I guess it bothers me because this book was sort of like the person you first meet who tells you everything about their life right away - their kids, marriage, job, home, etc. I find it annoying to meet people like that. I prefer to spend time with them, and then learn things about them gradually, as they learn things about me. Of course, in a stand-alone novel that's different; but since this is the first in a series, why would you want to know everything about the character right away?

Working Stiff

Author: Annelise Ryan
Genre: Mystery

4 Stars
Mattie Winston is a nurse who catches her husband, David, cheating on her with another nurse.    David Winston is a doctor at the same hospital she works at, so, not wanting to work at the same place he does, she quits her job and  goes to work as assistant coroner for her friend Izzy, the coroner, who also gives her a place to live.
Her first homicide is the woman that her husband was cheating on her with.  Not exactly a good way to start a new job, I'd bet.  Not wanting her soon-to-be ex-husband the murderer (not that she ever thinks he is), she decides to investigate herself and find out who the killer is.
There were a few things that bothered me, but not enough to detract from the book.  Example (not too much of a spoiler since it's only one scene): Mattie goes to a party wearing pantyhose that only go partly up her rear end, and she somehow expects them to miraculously stay up. A normal person couldn't even walk like that, considering you'd know they never would.   You'd waddle (pantyhose are a little tight, and supposed to be that way).  At this same party, her dress splits in the back and she doesn't even know it happened - I think I would know since the dress would be loose, not fit the same, and you'd definitely feel a breeze.
Aside from a few episodes like this, the book was pretty good.  It was pretty funny and had a good mystery, which is why I rated it 4 stars.  Definitely worth the read.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Good or Bad Book?

I read an article recently where an author had his book reviewed, and it must not have been very good, since he responded with the thought that he was a better writer than the person was a reviewer, and that his writing was far above what the reviewer could understand.  (Not exactly a quote, but pretty much what it said).  I don't know personally whether the reviewer attacked the book or the author, but it is NEVER okay to attack the author.  They have put their heart and soul into writing, and while it is perfectly fine to not like a book, or the style of writing, you should never make a personal attack on the author.

That being said, the bottom line is this:  Everyone is different. Every book was not meant for every person. Everyone will read a book and come away with something different. Every reviewer is different, and they will all see books differently. Would you really want everyone in the world to read a book and like only certain ones, and not others? What a boring world it would be. What a dearth of authors we would have. If you choose to write a book, you must also take the risk of having it criticized or loved. If you want all people to love your book, then you really have no business writing one in the first place.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Murder Passes the Buck

Author: Deb Baker
Genre: Mystery

1 Star
The story itself seemed interesting:  Gertie Johnson is a 66-year-old widow who lives in the UP (Upper Peninsula)  of Michigan. She has a friend who is killed while in a deer blind (which, for those who don't know, is the place hunters sit while they wait for deer). 

Her son, Blaze, is the police chief, and he decides it's an accident, but she doesn't think so.  After unsuccessfully trying to convince her son the man was murdered, she decides to solve it herself, along with her friends, Cora and Kitty.

The Cat Who Talked to Ghosts

Author: Lilian Jackson Braun
Genre: Mystery

4 Stars
Mrs. Cobb is a friend of Jim Qwilleran (Qwill).  One night she hears noises in her antique-filled farmhouse and calls him for help. When he gets there, she's dead.  Everyone thinks that she has been frightened to death, but no one seems to know how or why.  Since they don't want to leave the farmhouse unattended, Qwill moves in with his cats, who set about finding the murderer.

I really liked this book; I liked the mystery, I liked Qwill, I liked the cats. What I didn't like:

Qwill, who is a billionaire, is Morally Cheap. By that, I mean the guy has money, but he doesn't want to spend it. He has to buy a suit for a funeral, and doesn't want to pay the tailor. Does he think the tailor is free? Does he think the tailor has no employees to pay? He has the money, he should at least not begrudge the guy a living. I sure hope he's not this cheap in the rest of his books (I'm not saying give the money away, I'm saying recognize other people have to make a living).

His girlfriend(?): She could be his girlfriend, but I don't know. She's a librarian and wears grey tailored suits. I've yet to meet a librarian who dresses like that. That's odd enough, but then she drives a separate car to their 'dates' because she doesn't want people to know. Really? They're both in their 50's and they have to hide it like one of them is married or something? If I was dating the richest guy around, I'd want everyone to know so that he wouldn't be chased by other women.

He eats at places that have 'meat you have to gnaw at but has really good flavor'. I'm sorry, but if the meat is chewy, it DOESN'T have really good flavor. It's a bad cut of meat and the people don't know how to cook. He's got the money, he can afford to eat at a decent restaurant. And a restaurant with 'chewy' meat wouldn't be in business long.

Other than that, a good book.

Getting Old is Murder

Author: Rita Lakin
Genre: Mystery

4 Stars
Gladdy Gold is a Fort Lauderdale, Florida retiree.  When one of her friends, Selma Beller is dies, nobody at the retirement complex things anything out of the ordinary.  But then another senior dies in a way quite similar, and they all start beginning to think of murder.  There is a young detective who won't listen to anything they say, and a retiree, Greta Kronk who keeps trying to make herself one of the suspects.

I really liked this book. The old people were hilarious. They all had their problems, as old people do; (health, dementia, etc.), but I still found most of them likeable. I didn't really care for Hy, who kept telling dirty jokes (I know he would have been reprimanded severely in the retirement home my aunt lives in - they would have told him to 'knock it off' a long time ago); but other than that, the people faced real problems - one taking care of his wife, who has Alzheimer's, another losing their family in the Holocaust, to name two.

The characters were written well, and they were believable.  Sometimes, I find it is hard to write seniors true-to-life unless you have spend some major time with them.  Most think seniors are dull, crabby people who want nothing to do except play bingo, but that's not the case; and this Ms. Lakin does this well.  So, I will read others in this series, as it's easy to get involved with all of them.

A Case of Imagination

Author: Jane Tesh
Genre: Mystery

2 Stars
Madeline Maclin "Mac" is a former beauty queen turned private investigator who just isn't doing any business.  She has been friends forever with Jerry Fairweather, who goes around telling people he's psychic.  He tells Mac that his Uncle Val has died and left him a house, and convinces her to drive out to Celosia, a half an hour away, where they find that a local beauty pageant is in trouble.  Jerry also decides that the house is perfect for him to set up a psychic shop.  When there is a murder, Mac, being a former beauty queen herself,  is hired to investigate.
The heroine, is an ex-little-girl beauty pageant winner, and soooo gorgeous that she cut her hair and wears no makeup so people will take her seriously as a private detective.  Really?  Is being unattractive a requirement for an investigator?  I hadn't heard that one.  In fact, throughout the entire book everyone keeps telling her how gorgeous she is (so I guess it doesn't matter that she has short hair nor wears makeup; so she might as well grow her hair long again for all the good it did.
That alone, unfortunately, made this book difficult to read, mainly because none of the characters had any depth or made me care about any of them. I wasn't even sure if it was a mystery or a romance, since it kept veering back and forth.
However, I gave it two stars because I thought it could have been an interesting book with more character development.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

This is the Stuff Dreams Are Made of.....

The greatest gift my parents ever gave me was the love of reading. I have been reading books as far back as I can remember. The very first book I ever remember reading was Black Beauty by Anya Seton. I still remember the book itself, with its glossy paperback cover and picture of a beautiful black horse. I barely remember the book now, since I was really small, but I still remember reading it on my bed with daylight shining through the window.

Once, when I was young, I read the dictionary (yes, every word), because I wanted to know what everything meant. I used to come home from school, sit on the floor of the living room, and continue reading right where I had stopped the evening before. It seems silly now, but at the time I thought it was a good idea.

I also remember, when I was only nine, reading Gone With the Wind. My parents never told me I couldn't read a book because I was too young, or wouldn't understand it, or anything else. If I wanted to read it, they let me. I read authors like Frank Yerby, (The Foxes of Harrow, The Golden Hawk, and The Saracen Blade); Edison Marshall (Yankee Pasha); gothic novels by Victoria Holt (Mistress of Mellyn, Kirkland Revels), and tons of mysteries by various authors, most out of print by now. I don't remember ever reading childrens' books, although I am sure I must have; but it was the novels, the glorious, wonderful novels, that stuck with me through the years and I still remember.

Those were the books that sent me to the wonderful world of reading; to different lands and different cultures; other years and centuries; beautiful heroines and handsome heroes; villains who were sometimes evil and othertimes redeemed. Places I've been without physically travelling there.

As Dashiell Hammett said, "This is the stuff dreams are made of."

Death in a Turkey Town

Author: Melanie Jackson
Genre: Mystery

3 Stars
In the third book in this series, it is nearing Thanksgiving, and a truck entering Hope Falls overturns, leaving wild turkeys running all over town.  Chloe Boston, the meter maid, is assigned the task of rounding them up.  It isn't too long before she finds a murder, and the chief wants the turkeys and the murder solved by the Thanksgiving holiday.
Chloe is a meter maid who wants to be a police officer, but because she's only 5' tall, she won't pass the physical examination; although if it were me, and I knew this for a fact, I think I would find another profession, since I wouldn't spend my life wanting to be something I knew I never would be.  That would be like staying a busboy even though you wanted to be a chef but knew you just didn't have what it takes.  Why torture yourself?

Still, it was a decent read, but a few things didn't make sense (and I don't think I'm giving anything away here:)
1) Chloe mentions how pumpkins that were not turned into jack-o-lanterns would be made into pies (there are pie pumpkins and those raised specifically to be jack-o-lanterns, you can't turn a jack-o-lantern pumpkin into a pie);

 2) She's a meter maid.  Why are they assigning HER the task of cleaning them up instead of a team of police officers?  (This town isn't that busy, so I don't see why they couldn't spare the manpower;

 3) She states that she couldn't accept banana bread as a gift because it cost more than what she was allowed to receive in gifts per year, but then later on it reads "he threw in a loaf of banana bread for free". So I guess if he 'throws it in', it's not a gift as when she earlier declined it?  These are the kinds of things I notice in books, unfortunately (sigh).  Also, since banana bread is probably about $4 a loaf, what sort of gift is she allowed to accept?  A soft drink?  A few paper clips?  That in itself seemed odd.  Giving a loaf of banana bread isn't really a gift - it's like offering someone a sandwich.  You can eat it, it's food; it's not going to go in a trophy case.

Still, it was a breezy read.  I also would have liked it better if it had kept me guessing; but I figured out the killer early on in the book and wondered what took Chloe so long to figure it out. Other than that, it can be read in a few hours.

Stamped Out

Author: Terri Thayer
Genre: Mystery

1 Star
April Buchert returns home to Aldenville, Pennsylvania after the breakup of her marriage.  She has not been home for years and needs money, so has accepted a job working with her father.  She is a professional rubber stamper who is going to help her father restore the famous Winchester mansion.

Soon a human skull is found in the rubble of what they are tearing down, and April's father is considered a suspect because he oversaw the original construction twenty years ago.  Soon, there are more deaths and April tries to find the truth so she can clear her father.
Okay, here's another book that's hard to review without a lot of spoilers, but I'll try:  This book just didn't make any sense. April is hired to help restore the Winchester mansion to 'its former glory'.  Now, she is hired to rubber stamp the walls, but from everything I've ever known, I don't think any mansions had rubber stamped walls, and I can't imagine anyone wanting to do that to their walls.  Especially if you have a stately mansion.  It just didn't seem right, and the author never said anything about why the owner wanted the walls done that way.

I ordinarily try to find positive things to say about every book I read, but unfortunately, personally I think the heroine, April, is bipolar. She's angry about everything and angry at her parents; then, just as suddenly, she's nice to people.  She returns home after 14 years away, and her parents act as if she were just on vacation and returning home.  No long discussions about her time away, or why.  Her relationships with her parents just don't ring true.  The people she knows act like they haven't seen her since yesterday.  No one questions WHY she hasn't come home in 14 years.  April herself just isn't a likeable person.

A Deadly Snow Fall

Author: Cynthia Gallant-Simpson
Genre: Mystery

2 Stars
There is a late snowstorm in Provincetown, Maine, which is at the very tip of Cape Cod.  Then a body is found at the base of the famous Pilgrim Monument, and the police assume that an elderly man, Edwin Snow III jumped to his death.

Liz Ogilvie-Smythe, a British transplant who owns an inn, suspects it might have been murder.  She tries to convince the chief of police to reopen the case, and she continues searching for clues on her own.
This book was decent as far as the mystery goes; but I think the author went too far in that she kept reiterating Liz' circumstances. We get it: she's rich, her parents ignore her; etc. And, according to her, if anyone knows she's rich, they'll pretty much dislike her. What shallow people she thinks live in the USA. There are also times the dialogue is stilted and cliche, and I felt that I was not really allowed to know too much about Liz at all except for what I have already stated above.

The mystery itself was pretty good, but the main thing I thought was wrong with this book was that it was supposed to be a cozy - as the author pointed out repeatedly through the book via the narration of Liz, who constantly referred to the fact that everything was happening just like the cozy mysteries she liked to read - and since I was constantly reminded of that fact, it was the only way I knew it was a cozy.  If you're going to write a cozy mystery, your reader will know that fact without it being told to them many times throughout your book.  It was as if the author needed to keep reminding everyone because they would have forgotten.

The Christmas Shoppe

Author: Melody Carlson
Genre: Romance

4 Stars
Matilda Honeycutt moves to the small town of Parrish Springs and opens a new shop on the town's main street.  Matilda has scraggly hair and dresses like a gypsy.  The residents of the town think she is opening a second hand shop, and decide it doesn't fit in, they think her "junk shop" must go.  Especially believing this is George Snider, who wanted the building for himself but it was bought by Matilda.  Eventually, the townspeople start going into the shop, and things begin to change for them all as they find things they didn't even know they were looking for.
 When I first started reading this book, it was not what I expected.  When authors write about small towns, usually everyone is happy, they all like each other and know what is going on in everyone's lives.  These people were nothing like that.  It seemed they were petty and self-centered.  That is because they were supposed to be that way, so as the book progresses, you can see the changes in the people themselves.  They learn things about themselves, how to let go and move on, and all I can add is that this is a lovely book, about people who have lost who they were and found themselves again, through the magic of "The Christmas Shoppe".
It's a story of redemption, forgiveness and hope; all wonderfully done. This is the first book I have read by this author, but I am definitely looking forward to reading more.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Town in a Blueberry Jam

Author: B. B. Haywood
Genre: Mystery

2 Stars
After a breakup, Candy Holliday moves back home with her father in Cape Willington, Maine.  He has a farm, Blueberry Acres, which she now helps him run.  But soon a playboy and then the new Blueberry Queen are killed (in separate incidents), and Candy and her friend Maggie decide to investigate to clear the name of Candy's handyman.
The book opens with the death of Jock, an aging playboy.  We actually get to hear his thoughts, which is something different.  The first few pages are devoted to his murder, and then.....well, that's how I felt.  No more is said about it until toward the end of the book.

I'll admit I chose this book because of the title.  I read the blurb and it sounded like it might be a pretty good book, but there were too many things that just seemed "wrong." As mentioned above, the murder of Jock, who is pushed off a cliff (and I'm not giving anything away because that's the first few pages so you find out about it right away).  People speculate a little bit about whether he jumped or not, but then there's another murder and it's like, 'oh, this one is so much better let's just concentrate on her'. Admittedly, they think Jock's might be a suicide, but you'd think they'd investigate to make sure, and no one does.
The police arrest a Candy's handyman for the second murder, because his truck was seen at the woman's house, and since Candy doesn't think he committed the murder, she enlists the help of her best friend Maggie to investigate who really committed it.

This is where the book starts to go wrong.  Candy and Maggie get into situations that just aren't realistic nor believable.  One example is that Candy and Maggie break into a home.  Who does that and expects to get away with it?  I'm sure the author could have come up with something else, but there are similar situations that just don't ring true.

I do like the idea of Candy living on the blueberry farm and the setting of Maine (and recipes!)  The author can do a lot with that in future books, but in this book not so much.  I will probably read the second in this series, because I'm hoping it's an improvement over this one.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Murder Ole!

Author: Corinne Holt Sawyer
Genre: Mystery

3 Stars
Several residents from Camden-sur-Mer retirement home decide to take a trip to Mexico for Halloween, and while there, one of them dies of a heart attack.  No one thinks too much of it, because of the victim's age.  But then, on a following trip to Ensenada, someone else dies, and two senior sleuths, Angela and Caledonia, decide to investigate what they are sure is murder.
This had a decent mystery, and I liked the fact that the local police didn't treat the two women like they were merely indulging them in their 'whims'.  That was a nice change.  However, personally I didn't findthe book all that funny.
Some of the reasons were that most of the people were just plain annoying, including the two main characters.  I know there are grumpy people out there (yes, many think all elderly people are grumpy, but not me); yet almost all of them carped about one thing or another constantly.  It was beginning to get on my nerves.  Not one of them seemed like anyone I would have wanted to spend more time with.  All they did was complain.  In fact, I don't remember any of them being nice at all.  Since this was a later book in the series, I may try starting with the first one.  Perhaps if I start from the beginning, Angela and Caledonia may not seem so much a pain as they do in this book.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Not in My Backyard

Author: Susan Rogers Cooper
Genre: Mystery

1 Star
Romance writer/suburban mom E.J. Pugh doesn't want Michael Whitby for a neighbor.  He is a convicted criminal who has been in prison and now moved to the quiet Texas town where she lives.  Despite her fears, E.J. thinks he is being harassed by the townfolk, which affects his family, and this bothers her.  The locals have decided that Whitby must go.  But on Halloween, when a dead body is found on his lawn, she starts looking for the killer.
Unfortunately, I found this novel Not Believable.  I tried to get through this, I really did.  Even though I don't want to give anything away, and I will try very hard not to; the premise is Just Not Believable (to reiterate). 

If you read the book, hopefully you will find out for yourself why I say that.  If you want the reasons I say this summed up, you can always read my review on Goodreads.   There were just too many things wrong with this book, starting with why he was in prison.  Because that, my friends, explains why I found the rest of the book to not make any sense.

A Dead Ringer

Author: Al Stevens
Genre: Mystery

4 Stars
Someone takes a shot at private detective Stanley Bentworth in a drive-by, and he has no idea who wants him dead or why.  Soon, he discovers a stranger who resembles him has been gunned down in broad daylight, and he begins to wonder which of them was the intended victim.  He is drawn into the murder investigation when the stranger's widow, Georgia, asks him to take on the case.  She thinks that the killers will be after her next.  Against his better judgment, his curiosity gets the better of him and he accepts the case and soon himself becomes the target.
I really enjoyed this book.  Mr. Stevens writes as if he were Stanley, as if he had lived this life himself, which is a very good thing.  You are drawn into the book from the very beginning, which has quite a humorous scene that made me laugh out loud.  From then on, I kept reading and didn't put it down until I was finished.
This book had different tones throughout: In the beginning it was rather humorous and lighthearted, (especially the parts with his nephew, who wants to be a P.I. like his uncle); but as the book progressed it became more serious, until the final chapters, when there was very little humor at all.  It were as if I were watching a child progress into an adult - which isn't a bad thing - and it seemed correct for the book.  The characters were written so that you were engaged with them and cared about their lives, which is how a book should be.  Kudos to Mr. Stevens and I look forward to reading more of his work.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Witches' Bane

Author: Susan Wittig Albert
Genre: Mystery

3 Stars

In this second China Bayles mystery, someone is murdered on Halloween, and the police think China's friend Ruby is involved.  Then, when a minister accuses Ruby of witchcraft, China gets involved.

Things are happening in Pecan Springs, the small Texas town where China lives.  People are finding dead animals in their yards with piles of coins near them.  China's friend Ruby has started teaching Tarot classes, and a preacher accuses her of witchcraft.  After spending the evening with someone, that person is discovered dead the next morning, and the preacher accuses Ruby of having something to do with it. 
Three stars for the mystery, only one for China herself.
Again, it is very hard to say anything about the book without giving too much away.  China is undoubtedly one of the most selfish and mean-spirited women I have ever come across in literature.  I do not say that lightly, and I put a great deal of thought into it before I wrote it.  Selfish because she is only considering her own needs in the book, not those of others; and mean-spirited because she is just plain mean to her own mother.  The author tried to explain why China was this way, but still, I can't see that if someone tries to reach out to you, you won't at least try and reach back.  It is never explained exactly what horrific act her mother must have done to have China treat her this way; for I am sure it must have been.
Again, Ruby dresses like an escapee from a circus.  Either she does it for shock value or she just doesn't have any taste in clothes.  (Believe me, you can be a 'new ager' and dress normal).  I guess that Ruby just doesn't appeal to me at all.  At ;east where I live, the new agers dress and act like normal people.  I'm waiting for Ruby to eventually wear a sign proclaiming that she is a 'new ager' and we all had better get used to it.
I can't say whether I will read another book in this series or not.  (At least I haven't crossed it off my list).  If I do, and China's attitude toward people does not change, then I won't waste my time reading any past the third one.
Oh, and again, no one says 'y'all'.  Everybody in Texas says that except the people in this town, obviously.

Thyme of Death

Author: Susan Wittig Albert
Genre: Mystery 
3 Stars 
This is the first book in the China Bayles series.  She is an ex-attorney turned herb shop owner in the small town of Pecan Springs, Texas.  When her friend, Jo, dies of suicide, China doesn't believe it and thinks that perhaps one of the town's residents killed here, so she starts looking for the murderer.

This book had a pretty good mystery, but I found the people to be either stereotypical or just wrong.  Her best friend, Ruby, is a New Ager - and always trying to get people around to her way of thinking.  She's also pretty weird.  By that, I mean she has 'orange frizzy hair' and likes to wear red.  Not a good choice.  Also, her outfits are pretty "out there".
I will also state that it is very hard to review this book without giving away too much.  I will say this:  She was a lawyer but drives an old, beat-up car.  I know I wouldn't hire a lawyer who didn't have a decent car.  Did she sell a nice one and buy the beat-up one because she moved to a small town?
 My main problem is the people don't talk like Texans.  My father was a Texan, and many relatives, including my sister, live there.  Example:  Hearing a noise, a man comes out of his house and says, "Want I should call the police?"  No Texan would use that phrase; they'd be more likely to say, "Y'all okay out here?"  Also, China herself carries a 'torch' in her car.  No, not a torch like what you'd light with a lighter, but a flashlight.  What Texan calls it a torch?  Maybe by way of Great Britain, but not Texas.  And here's the biggie - not one of these people ever say 'reckon' or 'y'all'.  My relatives are reckoning all over the place (I reckon I'll go to the store); and ('y'all fixin' to go to the store?)  These people all talk like transplants.  Use some regional idioms, for goodness' sake.

Hopefully, the next book in the series will be better, since I'll give it another chance.

The Bumblebroth

Author: Patricia Wynn
Genre: Romance, Regency

3 Stars

The Duchess of Upavon, Mathilda, begins to worry when her fifteen-year-old daughter is paid particular attention to by Lord Westbury, a near neighbor.  Mathilda herself was once wed to a much older man, and knowing what she had to endure, she decided that she would do whatever necessary to see that the match would not take place.  What Mathilda did not know was that Lord Westbury had been put up to it by his mother, who wanted to reclaim some land that is now owned by the duchess.
The young dowager duchess, Mathilda, does not go into society.  She had a bad experience when she was married to her Duke that left her feeling unwelcome and unhappy.  Now comes a neighbor, Lord Westbury, who starts paying attention to her young daughter, and she is naturally upset, since she herself married a much older man.  What she does not know, is that Lord Westbury's mother has put him up to it, figuring if her son can marry the Duchess' daughter, then the land she has craved for so long will finally find its way back into her fold.
The book was pretty decent, but I found it a little unbelievable in the fact that the heroine tries not to get involved with the hero because she is "so much older than him". The age difference turns out fo be about six years or so. (I believe he is 30 and she is 36 or 38).  That is not much of an age difference, and I doubt that it would have made any difference then as it does not make much difference now. 
Actually, considering some of the things that go on in Regencies (bedhopping by unmarried women, for one), I can't see where this should be a problem for her, since it wasn't a problem for him.  Although the age difference thing seemed to be silly in my opinion, the rest of the book was pretty good.  Worth a read.

Murders on Elderberry Road

Author:  Sally Goldenbaum
Genre: Mystery

2 Stars

Po Paltrow belongs to the Queen Bees quilting group, and was jogging in the Kansas town she called home.  She was on Elderberry Road, and when she heard a cat's howl, she turned and saw a body inside Selma Parker's quilt shop.  Soon everyone in the quilt group knew of the murder, and Po and her friends set about finding the killer.
The first thing wrong with this book is the beginning. The author has (literally) drawn pictures of the characters, along with mini-bios. I thought the idea of a book was to describe the characters, and allow you to picture them in your own mind as you see them. As a matter of fact, none of the 'drawn characters' fit their later descriptions in the book; (i.e., the drawing of Phoebe looks a lot older than she is supposed to be in the book). It really spoils the enjoyment of reading. Note to author: You can leave in the bios, but eliminate the pictures. Allow the reader to have the enjoyment of 'seeing' the characters themselves.
I suppose she could have done this for two reasons: 1) She wanted to save herself time in having to describe the characters so just decided to give the information beforehand; or 2) She knew what the characters looked like in HER mind and wanted the reader to have that view.  Of course, I could be wrong on both counts and there may have been another reason to do so.  It's been said that Margaret Mitchell had Clark Gable in mind when she wrote Gone With the Wind.  I don't know if it's true or not, but I do know that she didn't draw pictures of him inside the book and take away the pleasure the reader has in 'seeing' how the characters look to her.  For me, that's a big turn-off and takes away my pleasure at reading the book.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Abby Cooper, Psychic Eye

Author: Victoria Laurie
Genre: Mystery

4 Stars

This is the first book in the "Abby Cooper" series.  Abby Cooper is a P.I., psychic intuitive. When one of her clients is killed, she wondered why she didn't foresee their death.  It doesn't help that the lead investigator on the case is a recent blind date, who is very suspicious of her abilities, and a there is a killer who is out to silence her.  Being a psychic intuitive, when she sees clients, she gets vibes from her spirit guides and tells the clients things they should know right away.
I really liked this book. It had a good plot and was interesting, although in the first part of the book it was all talk for many, many, many pages.
But then she goes on a blind date with a man named Dutch.  She says some things during the date (due to a television news program in the background - guess they weren't at a fancy restaurant - and because of what she says, she is visited by the police the next day.  It turns out the investigating officer is her blind date from the night before.  So begins the real story.  He wants to know how she knew what she did and seems to think she has something to do with the crime.

Soon, one of her clients turns up dead, which doesn't help her try and convince the police that she knew nothing about the crime at all.

The only real problem I had with this book is Dutch, her kind-of-maybe-boyfriend, who had a really hard time believing she was a psychic, even after she proved it numerous times. Either the guy is really dense, or, if he's going to question her all the time, she might want to rethink having anything else to do with him.  Maybe he'll figure it out later in the series; but all in all, a good read.

The Hunger Games

Author: Suzanne Collins
Genre: Fantasy

1 Star

What was once North America is now Panem, the Capitol, with twelve outlying districts.  The Capitol has decided to keep the districts in line by forcing each one to send one boy and one girl between the ages of twelve and eighteen to participate in the annual Hunger Games, a fight to the death on live TV.  When Katniss Everdeen's younger sister is chosen to participate, she offers to go in her stead.
Okay, I know there are people out there who really like this book (and I mean really like this book) and are going to disagree with me on this one (again, no getting nasty, it's just my opinion here).  But I honestly don't know how this could be good for kids to read.  And this is why I gave it one star only:  It's violent, unrealistic (what parent would let a society send their children out to be killed?), and badly written. 
Alas, It's a pretty dark book listed for kids to read.  And it's about kids.  I don't find this 'great' or 'entertaining'.  Yes, I know it's a book, but there's nothing 'entertaining' about kids being sent to their deaths.  In fact, that's rather sick.  And I'm not giving away any spoilers here, since I figure anyone who's going to read it already has, given all the hype and the movie.

But there are questions:  I don't think it's plausible that people who supposedly love their children would allow this to go on year after year.  If you knew your kids were going to be sent to their death (or there was even a chance), then why would you have kids at all?  What kind of a person does that make you?  Why didn't the 'districts' rise up against the Capitol and win?  Surely there were more people everywhere else than this one area? Why couldn't they overthrow them?  Small nations  overthrow governments all the time.  It didn't make any sense and is something worth thinking about.....

A Good Day to Pie

Author: Carol Culver
Genre: Mystery

2 Stars

Hanna Denton has returned home to Crystal Cove, California, after a breakup to take over her Grannie's pie shop.  Her Grannie has now moved to a  retirement community and Hanna is is trying to maintain the shop's reputation for the best pies in the state.  When there is a murder and her Grannie is accused, she looks for the real killer.

This book was just okay.  There is a death at a retirement home, and Hanna's grandmother is suspected of murdering a rival bridge player (Mary), who was very rich. Hann's grandmother is suspected because Mary ate some of grannie's pie just before dying.   Hanna sets about finding the real killer so her grannie won't be sent to jail.  (We already know that there's no way her grannie could have done it, that would be to easy).
Since Hanna now runs grannie's pie shop, everywhere she goes she brings a pie with her - not any pie, but different pies each time.  A lot of pies.  She even makes pies for lunch (asparagus, spinach, etc.).  I was beginning to wonder if she ate anything else.  I've said this before, and I will again:  Just because the character sells a certain product, it doesn't mean they can't eat other food.  If you have an Italian restaurant, you are entitled to eat other cuisines.  It's not a requirement or a rule.
Her high school crush has also moved back from wherever and is now chief of police. I guess he was supposed to be the love interest, but he acted more like she was a cousin he didn't like until the last couple of chapters (you know, the one you have to talk to but really don't want to spend any time with). In fact, it seemed he was only spending time with her because he thought SHE might be involved in the murder somehow.
There also were too many questions that seemed to be left unanswered by the end of the book (to me, anyway; you might actually not care at all).  In my opinion, the characters were boring and I really didn't care about any of them.  I may do the "two book rule" I usually (but not always) follow: read the second one and see if it improves (because sometimes the author doesn't 'get it right' in their first time out; and although this author writes Harlequins, this is her first mystery and could fall into that category).  However, I sure hope the next book is better than this one.

Monday, February 11, 2013

The Alpine Betrayal

Author: Mary Daheim
Genre: Mystery

3 Stars

A local girl-made-good, Dani Marsh, comes home to Alpine to shoot a Hollywood film.  While she is there, during the annual Loggerama, Dan's former husband, Cody Graff is found dead.  Emma Lord, the owner of the local newspaper, the Advocate, reports on everything and soon suspects that there is more going on than is apparent.
After reading the first Alpine novel (Alpine Advocate), I almost didn't finish it because I thought it was a little slow, but a good mystery so hoped the second would be better.
Three stars for the mystery only, because you really don't figure it out right away. However, for the first 80 pages (!!) there is nothing but descriptions (again) of everyone in the town, and everything going on during the Loggerama Festival.
In the first book, she described everybody/everything for so long that it got boring fast, with the murder coming late into the book. She does it again in this one, and I can only wonder if this will continue throughout the series. I'm not sure if I will continue reading these, since it really runs slow until the murder (drags on, if you will), and only then are you given a chance to see where the book will lead you.
I prefer novels that get you interested in the first couple of chapters, and for me, that means something significant should take place, not just descriptions of everything in town.  I realize that Ms. Daheim probably does this to draw you into the town and its people, but while others may be interested in that sort of thing, I can do very well if the descriptions are throughout the book, not at the very beginning.

The Alpine Advocate

Author: Mary Daheim
Genre: Mystery

3 Stars

This is the first in the Emma Lord murder mystery books.  Emma has moved to this town in the foothills of Washington's Cascade Mountains and bought the local newspaper.  When the grandson of a local rich man, Mark Doukas, is murdered, Emma tries to get to the truth, but nobody is talking.
This book started off slow and boring, and I almost didn't stick with it; but I'm glad I did, if only for the plot.  The murder mystery itself was done very well.

However, at the same time, it seemed there were so many characters that I couldn't remember who was who.  Everyone was related to everyone, and there were so many of them. It felt like she was telling us about everyone in town, but after awhile I didn't even care anymore.
Also, the characters in the book just seemed to grate on my nerves, including Emma.  I won't tell you why; you will have to read the book and find out for yourself.  (I really do try not to give any spoilers on this site).

But, since I always try and be fair to an author, I will continue to read this series and see if the next book is any better.  Only because of the mystery did I give it 3 stars.

Edited for Death

Author: Michele Drier
Genre: Mystery

4 Stars
Amy Hobbes left Southern California when her husband told her he was leaving her and moving to Chicago with his pregant girlfriend (whom Amy did not know about).  Now needing a job, and as an ex-journalist, she received an offer to be the Managing Editor of the local newspaper.  When a World War II hero dies, and two others soon after,  Amy finds the deaths are linked and sets out to solve the murders.

I liked the mystery, and it was surprisingly good.  It kept me guessing throughout.  The fact that she intertwines the present day with World War II was extremely intriguing.  Going back and forth between the eras and seeing how they tied together in the mystery was quite different from most mysteries, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.   The book also gives some insight into the world of art and art collecting, which I found interesting in itself.

Aside from a few typos (which was probably the formatting since this was a Kindle book), and a couple of F-bombs thrown in (that weren't necessary to the story), it had a very good plot and again, I enjoyed the fact that it was a modern/historical mystery.
I look forward to reading more from this author.  Recommended reading.

Moving is Murder

Author: Sara Rosett
Genre: Mystery

3 Stars

Ellie is an Air Force wife who knows something about moving, since she's done it four times in five years.  She and her husband Mitch live off-base for privacy, but she soon discovers that half of their neighbors are in the Air Force.  While she is coming home from a barbeque, she finds one of her neighbors, Cass Vincent, dead on the side of the road.  The police are convinced it is an accident, but Ellie is not so sure.

I really liked the mystery, but there were things that were starting to irritate me not too long into the book.  For one, there seemed to be too many people to keep track of. 

The second thing that irritated me were the many parts that were centered on her daughter.  Yes, I know that she's a baby.  Yes, I get that you breastfeed her.  Yes, I understand that you're a new mother and worry about her.  But I don't need to hear about her diaper changes or feedings.  I don't need to know every single thing that you do for her.  Ellie is like the mother who, when you have lunch with them, take out their thousand pictures of their child and expect you to 'ooh' and 'aah' over every one and tell them that this is the best-looking baby you've ever seen.  It makes you want to hit your head against the wall.

When Ellie wasn't trying to solve the murder, it seemed the rest of the book was all about her daughter.  So much so, that it should have been titled, "Moving is Murder But It's All About My Daughter."  You'd think if she were so concerned about her daughter, that when someone tried to kill her, she would have stopped trying to solve the murder; but no.....

Still, I will probably continue to read this series to see if it is less about her daughter and more about any murder that might occur.

Friday, February 8, 2013

That Holiday Feeling

Author: Debbie Macomber, Sherryl Woods, Robyn Carr
Genre: Holiday, Romance

4 Stars

This is a compiliation of three Christmas novellas:  Silver Bells by Debbie Macomber; a story about the Manning family; The Perfect Holiday by Sherryl Woods, about bachelor Trace Franklin whom Aunt Mae wants to marry her neice Savannah Holiday; and Under the Christmas Tree by Robyn Carr, which takes place in Virgin River and is about a box of puppies that the townspeople all try to care for.

I really liked this book, and the three novellas were quick reads, which is what I needed at the time I read it (Christmas), being busier than usual.
I especially liked Debbie Macomber's, partly because the couple didn't jump into bed with each other to realize they were in love. They actually fell in love just by talking and being with each other, which was nice. I just get tired of authors writing books about sex (usually every few pages or so) and masking it as a romance; and thankfully, the sex scenes weren't graphic. (It takes more than sex scenes to make a good book, in my opinion).  These three stories were all quite nicely done.

There really isn't anything else to say about them, but if you want something sweet and romantic to read on a winter's evening when you're settled in front of the fireplace and warm cup of tea, this is the book I would recommend.

Desperate Housedogs

Author: Sparkle Abbey
Genre: Mystery

3 Stars

Caro Lamont is a former psychologist turned pet therapist, and she makes a house call to help a client with his two misbehaving German Shepherds. But two hours later the police find him dead, impound his dogs, and discover she was probably the last person to see him alive.  She becomes 'a person of interest' in his murder; and when another client, and friend, is arrested, she tries to help find the real killer.

This book had a really good mystery, and I liked that.  It was well written and thought out, to a point, that being:

What I didn't like: the lead detective, Judd Malone (and probably potential love interest, but you wouldn't know it in this book) walks around wearing leather. In southern California. In the summer. No wonder he's always in a bad mood. The humidity probably had him sweltering.

Caro is supposed to be a pet therapist, but it seems all her 'clients' are dogs.  There are references to other animals, but everyone in the book owns a dog.  So, is she a pet therapist or a dog therapist?  Hmmm.....

Then there's The Brooch. The subplot concerns an ugly brooch that was left by Grandma Tillie to 'her favorite granddaughter'.  There is interaction between Caro and her cousin Mel that I found extremely annoying, and I thought it detracted from the story.  Because of this, I rate it 3 stars, since it's still worth reading.

More Thoughts on Reading.....

There was a time when I was growing up that we lived practically next door to a library branch.  You could see the building from the living room window, and I had to walk past it to get home.

So, often I would come home from school, drop my books, change clothes and head to the library.  I spent many hours there reading anything I could get my hands on.  I would choose books by the title, the cover, but not often by the author.  I enjoyed browsing the aisles and looking, touching the spine of each book as I went by.

I loved that library.  It was circular, and had windows all around it.  Even the librarian's table was circular.  Maybe it was the unusual shape that first drew me in, but it did the job.  Oh, this wasn't the first library I had ever been in; but it is the one I remember most.

I would check out my books and bring them home to read.  There was an area off the kitchen, a small room if you will, that had a window seat where I could sit and read quietly without interruption.  With five of us children at home, there was always a radio or TV on, and it was the one quiet place I could read.  I think that is the only thing I miss most about that house: the access to that lovely library, and the windowseat where I spent countless hours.


Author: Monica Ferris
Genre: Mystery
4 Stars

Betsy Devonshire owns a needlework shop in Excelsior, Minnesota. It's Halloween, and a practitioner of Wicca, Leona Cunningham, is blamed because a bunch of 'accidents' have happened in town. When a man is killed, everyone thinks she is the murderer. But Betsy thinks someone is setting her up, so, having had success in solving murders before, decides to solve this one, too.
Again, I initially read this book because it takes place around Halloween (I'm reading books according to the holiday season). I have never read anything of hers, but always meant to, and knew I would get around to it eventually. It was a pretty decent read, if a trifle boring in places (I could care less how beer is made and there were descriptions of different types throughout). I guess if you care about the types and their names, then this would be important to you, but to me, not so much.

I also thought it was odd that there was a bar in this town that served only beer (which is brewed on premises). That's it. Just beer, no mixed drinks or wine. I'm sure there are plenty of people who like beer, but I wouldn't think that a bar could stand on its own without at least serving wine. It would seem that the bar is only catering to one type of clientele - the beer drinker. Yet Betsy is not a beer drinker, but goes there for lunch, which seems odd. I'd rather go to a restaurant than a bar, where it must surely smell like beer, for lunch. But to each his own. I guess there are a lot of people in this town who like beer, but I sure don't want anyone to get the wrong idea about Minnesota. It's a cultured state, and more than just a bunch of beer drinkers.

I won't (and never will on this site) give clues to the identity of the killer, but I figured out how the murder was done before she did, and it was interesting to see her figure it out.

The chart at the end was a nice touch for myself and other crafters.

Sketch Me If You Can

Author: Sharon Pape
Genre: Mystery
5 Stars

Rory is a police sketch artist who inherited her private investigator uncle's home - and the ghost that comes with it. He also leaves her a letter to be opened in the event of his death. She doesn't open the letter, and in the middle of the night she sees someone staring at her from across the room. Well, it turns out the "someone" is a ghost named Ezekiel Drummond, an 1870's lawman; and when he finally gets her to read the letter, it is revealed that he was her uncle's 'partner', and he is in the house because he was murdered there and can't leave until he finds out who did it.
Well done, Ms. Pape. Although the beginning started out slow (and I mean so slow, I thought about giving it up); after around forty pages or so, I'm glad I stuck with it.  The story started to pick up, and we began to learn more about her Uncle and how and why he died.  

I will not add to that. I will say that I was more interested in the backstory - that of Ezekiel Drummond's - more so than Rory's. (who was hired by a man to find out about his sister's death). Which is not to say that the main plot was not interesting; but that I don't think without Mr. Drummond it would have been much of a book. Just another murder mystery with similar motives for the same. Indeed, it was the addition of the colorful ghost which brings the story to life. Highly recommended.

Dance of the Scarecrows (A Jonathan Wilder Mystery #1)

Author:  Ray Sipherd Genre:   Mystery Hardcover; Paperback; ISBN #:  9780312143060; 9780373262878 Worldwide Mystery 252 Pages Various...