Midnight Line
March 16th, 2018 by diane92345

Skip Midnight Line and save $15 and a wasted six hours. Instead paint a room in your home and then literally watch the paint dry. It would be a better use of your resources and equally entertaining.

The plot of this 22nd book in the Jack Reacher series moves slower than a snail.  If the over 200 pages of irrelevant travel information (route numbers, bus lines, how to hitchhike) were cut out, this would have been a three star novella.  As it is, it rates only 1 star.

#ReadThisNotThat

  1. Don’t Let Go
  2. Look for Me
  3. Night Moves

#FrugalFridays

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Purloined Puzzle
March 13th, 2018 by diane92345

Amusing quick cozy mystery read! The Purloined Puzzle is the 19th book in the Puzzle Lady series but still feels fresh.

Cora Felton has a problem. Her least favorite ex-husband Melvin is in town doing another shady real estate deal. Also, there is a pesky teenager first losing, then finding, a crossword that she wants Cora to solve. Unfortunately, Cora is the face, but not the brains, behind the wildly popular Puzzle Lady syndicated column. The brains being her niece Sherry.

Accused of murder, Melvin has his own problems. Cora and her friend/sometimes boss, attorney Betsy take Melvin’s case.

This is a pleasantly different cozy read. Cora is in late middle age but still has a sex drive. She is no Miss Marple. Cora is perfectly willing to bend and even break the law. The text is 90% dialogue, which makes for a very fast read.

You had me at corpse. Where’s the body? [said Cora]

Middle of Main Street. [stated the Police Chief]

Are you kidding me?

I wish I were.

Never mind, I’ll see for myself.

The Purloined Puzzle is recommended for cozy fans. However, I have just one complaint. This series started in 1999, when I was substantially younger than Cora. Now it appears that we are the same age. How do I sign up for this fictional fountain of youth, hopefully before I’m Miss Marple’s peer? I took off one star because the murderer was too easy to guess.  That leaves this book at 3 stars.

Thanks to the publisher, Minotaur Books, and NetGalley for an advanced copy.

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People vs Alex Cross
March 9th, 2018 by diane92345

#FrugalFridays short review for March 9, 2018.

Alex is accused of shooting unarmed people and blondes are being abducted for a dark web snuff film.

Interesting technology, dramatic courtroom scenes and great sound effects in the audiobook enliven the 25th entry in the series. The only Patterson series I still read is a quick and entertaining listen or read. 3 stars for the book alone but 4 stars for the audiobook due to the great narration.

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Again Vol 1
March 7th, 2018 by diane92345

With dyed blond hair and a hostile resting face, Imamura is finally graduating from his high school as Again Vol 1 opens. He transferred to the high school three years previously but had neither made friends nor joined a club. Imamura has also made no plans for his future career or schooling after high school ends. After the graduation ceremony, Imamura is thinking about the Ouendan (pep) club that he could have joined but didn’t.  When he tries to climb through a window into the old Ouendan club room, he is seen by Akira, who is meeting her boyfriend.  When Akira sees Imamura, she runs in fear and trips down a staircase.  Imamura also trips and lands on top of her, knocking them both out.

Imamura wakes up with his mother calling him to go to school. He realizes that it is three years earlier and he is reliving his entire high school career.  He realizes that this is his chance to make better choices including joining the Ouendan.  Akira’s tale is also told but in less detail. While berating Imamura for forcing her to fall down the stairs, she accidently joins the Ouendan too. The rest of the novel addresses typical high school rivalries and romances.

The cover artwork using pastels and watercolors is beautiful. The interior art uses cross hashing to make various shades of gray. However, the drawings appear somewhat muddled. There is nothing within the plot to mark it as original. The abrupt end of Again Vol 1 forces me to give this volume 3 stars.  Hopefully, Vol 2 will have a more complete story.

Thanks to the publisher, Kodansha Comics, and NetGalley for an egalley.

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Lethal Licorice
February 27th, 2018 by diane92345

Characters that feel like family and a deliciously different setting make Lethal Licorice a wonderful way to spend an afternoon.

The small, mostly Amish, town of Harvest, Ohio is finally hosting the annual Amish Confectionery Competition (ACC). Bailey is competing for her grandparent’s Amish Candy Shop, Swissmen Sweets, along with her sous chef Emily. The fact that Bailey is not Amish brings some discord to the competition. Josephine, another competitor and owner of Berlin Candies, angrily denounces Bailey’s inclusion in the contest. One of the judges seems determined that Bailey cannot win the competition. When one of them is found dead and stuffed in the back of the church’s grand organ, Bailey must defend her cousin from murder charges by solving the crime herself. Besides competing in the ACC and solving a murder, Bailey is helping locate a prized pet pig who disappeared shortly before the ACC began. She is also trying to limit the expectations of family and friends about her pairing up with handsome Deputy Sheriff, Aiden.

This is the second entry in the Amish Candy Shop series. I’ve read both. While you don’t have to read them in order, I would recommend it. This book contains major spoilers for the first.

I love the characters within this book series. All seem genuine. There are also some charming Amish lifestyle details subtly included. The author cleverly modernizes the setting by including an unwed pregnancy in one of the Amish’s backstory. However, this entire novel is definitely G-rated and appropriate for Christian readers. In addition, old-fashioned candy-making is described and a recipe for black licorice is included.

Lethal Licorice is highly recommended for cozy lover’s looking for something different with a small town feel. The mystery is good but it’s the characters that will make me impatiently await the next book in the series. 4 stars!

Thanks to the publisher, Kensington Books, and NetGalley for an advanced copy.

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Carbs and Cadavers
February 26th, 2018 by diane92345

A quick cozy mystery read with a male point of view that is not recommended for readers that struggle with weight loss.

James Henry’s ex-wife is marrying a rich lawyer. His mother has just died. He decides to quit his dream job as an English professor and move back home to take care of his father. He finds a job as the public librarian in his hometown of Quincy’s Gap, Virginia. When one of the library’s customers, Lindy the high school’s art teacher, wants to announce a new supper club for dieters, James decides to attend. Lindy, James, Lucy, Bennett and Gillian meet weekly for Sunday supper and begin a low carb diet together. Lindy and James just want moral support in their battle of the bulge. Lucy is a clerk in the Sheriff’s office who wants to be a Deputy. However, her excess weight prevents her from passing the physical. Bennett is a mailman, who wants to regain his former wrestler’s muscular form. Gillian is a vegetarian new age type who wants to fit into a tank top. They name their group the Flab Five. Oh, and former football star Brinkley Myers is murdered by bleeding out in the town’s bakery. Who stole the lone bottle of Coumadin, a blood thinner, in town? The police arrest Whitney, a part-time waitress in the local diner. The Flab Five decide to investigate.

James is an interesting character. However, most of the other folks in Carbs & Cadavers are not fully formed but seem more like stereotypical placeholders. This may have been the author’s intention with the goal of moving to different character’s point of view in each book in the series. There are a few recipes in the book: Phony Mashed Potatoes made with cauliflower and Guiltless Crustless Pumpkin Pie along with a “Good” Carb Snack List.

I enjoyed reading a cozy from a male point of view. The setting of Quincy’s Gap with its small town parades, haunted hayrides and helpful neighbors was great. However, some of the scenes didn’t seem real. A staunch vegetarian who goes on a low carb diet and begins eating meat while complaining extensively? A mail truck that can’t carry the weight of four overweight people without squealing tires and groaning axles? The attraction between James and Lucy seems one-sided and forced. Worst of all the murderer’s motive is absurd. A lot of the supposed humor is at the expense of thick people like splitting pants, gross underwear exposures and cheesy puff handprints indicating diet cheating. Creating a series about dieting would appear to be attractive to readers with their own weight issues so why is the author making fun of fat people? I know the author can write better. Her Books by the Bay Mysteries are one of my favorites. But I think an opportunity was missed here. Hopefully, a thicker writer will try to write a more empathetic mystery series about dieters. 1 star.

Thanks to the publisher, Beyond the Page Publishing, and NetGalley for an advanced copy.

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Raspberry Danish Murder
February 23rd, 2018 by diane92345

Where is Ross, Hannah’s husband?

As the Raspberry Danish Murder opens, Hannah’s new husband, Ross, has left town with no explanation. Has he left Hannah or has he been a victim of foul play? Ross’ assistant, P.K., is drugged with candy addressed to Ross. Was Ross or P.K. the intended victim?

Hannah’s whirlwind romance and marriage to Ross detailed in previous books in the series is briefly described here. However, this book can be read as a stand-alone.

Ross seems like an arrogant jerk who was always putting Hannah down. I am surely not alone in wishing Ross was found dead just to get him out of Hannah’s life. There are plenty of enigmatic clues before the surprising conclusion. And, of course, twenty-eight delicious recipes:

 

  • Raspberry Danish

  • Cherry Chocolate Bar Cookies

  • Neverfail Fudge Frosting [microwavable]

  • Pineapple Crunch Cookies

  • Mixed Berry Muffins

  • Chili-Cheese Omelet Squares

  • Pineapple Raisin Whippersnapper Cookies

  • Oatmeal Lemon Cookies

  • Irish Potato Cookies

  • Jambalaya

  • Cheesy Garlic Crescent Rolls

  • Ultimate Fudgy Chocolate Bundt Cake

  • Cool Whip Fudge Frosting

  • Upside Down Pear Coffee Cake

  • Maple Crunch Cookies

  • Sweet and Salty Strawberry Bar Cookies

  • Chocolate Cashew Bar Cookies

  • Milk Chocolate Fudge Frosting

  • Chocolate Butterscotch Crunch Cookies

  • John’s Hockey Playoff Pizza Dip

  • Crunchy Salty Cheesy Prosciutto and Asparagus Rolls

  • Almond Custard Pie

  • Raspberry Jam Glaze

  • Raisin and Almond Crunch Cookies

  • Butterscotch Marshmallow Bar Cookies

  • Piccadilly Cheese Mini Muffins

  • Orange Marmalade Filled Oatmeal Muffins

  • Chocolate Caramel Bar Cookies

This book is recommended for series fans. The recipes sound delicious as usual. Hopefully, Hannah will get her groove back in the next series entry. She is confused, depressed and self-deprecating throughout the Raspberry Danish Murder, which is not what I want in a quick cozy mystery read. Because of that sad tone, this book only receives 3 stars from me.

Thanks to the publisher, Kensington Books, and NetGalley for an advanced copy. This book will be published February 27, 2018.

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Night Moves
February 20th, 2018 by diane92345

Milo and Alex are back in a twisty and compelling tale.

The body was found in a quiet suburban Pacific Palisades neighborhood with its head disfigured by a shotgun blast and its hands removed. The residents, a family of four, claim to not know the victim. When Milo feels a strange vibe within the family, he calls on clinical psychologist, Alex Delaware, to informally evaluate them. After meeting the overbearing salesman father, the overprotective mother, the athletic son and possibly autistic daughter; Alex agrees that something is simmering just under the surface.

I loved this twisty tale. People that I pinned as the murderer came up dead. Motives were shuffled multiple times as I tried to solve the crimes before Alex and Milo. The ending totally blindsided me though looking back I could clearly see the red herrings and clues that I failed to identify correctly. The last few books in this series have been rather lackluster but Night Moves is one of the best! Highly recommended for series fans and also anyone wanting a good challenging mystery to solve from their armchair. 5 stars!

Thanks to the publisher, Ballantine Books, and NetGalley for an advanced copy.

Posted in Diane's Favorites, Mystery & Thrillers Tagged with: ,

Cat of the Baskervilles
February 16th, 2018 by diane92345

Good cozy mystery with Holmes setting.

Gemma Doyle is co-owner of the Sherlock Holmes Bookshop and Emporium and Mrs. Hudson’s Tea Room next door. Located in the small touristy town of West London Massachusetts, the bookshop sells all manner of Holmes books and miscellany. The Tea Room is run and co-owned by Gemma’s best friend Jayne.

West London is also home to a small repertory company rehearsing Hound of the Baskervilles. The company has brought the famous (30 years ago) actor Sir Nigel from England to star. While hosting a pre-premiere tea party, Gemma finds Sir Nigel dead.

With suspects and motives aplenty, this cute cozy keeps the reader guessing until the end. The Cat of the Baskervilles is the third in the Sherlock Holmes Bookshop series. However, it can read as a stand-alone. This book would have rated 4 stars except for two issues. The Cat in the title and even the Bookshop play almost no part in the story. Both held a more prominent role in the two earlier series entries. Secondly, a major clue to the denouement is reserved until the final few pages making it difficult for the reader to prove, rather than just guess, what happened to Sir Nigel. 3 stars.

Thanks to the publisher, Crooked Lane Books, and NetGalley for an advanced copy.

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Look for Me
February 12th, 2018 by diane92345

Boston Sergeant D.D. Warren and her partner Phil are back at work in this excellent addition to the series.

A family of four are shot in their home while their teenage daughter is walking their dogs. D.D. and Phil are called in to investigate. Sixteen-year-old Roxanna never returns to the house. Is she guilty of the crime? Or is she running scared from the killer?

Flora Dane is an abduction survivor who runs an unofficial survivor group online. Roxanna had joined the group shortly before the murders. She seemed scared but of who or what? Flora decides to look for Roxanna on the dark side of the law while D.D. and Phil follow official channels.

Roxanna wrote a multi-part story of her “perfect” family. Her mother and step-father’s drinking lead the three children to be placed in foster care. Something happens to the two girls, then 11 and 8, that changes their personalities forever. Lola, the younger and prettier sister, begins to act flirtatious to older men. Roxanna acts even more protective of her sister. The family reunites after a year but that alone can’t save this fractured family.

The story structure of D.D.’s police procedural, Flora’s coloring outside the lines approach and Roxanna’s apparent fear merge well into a coherent and pulse-pounding plot. Look for Me is a thrilling look into how a family can be ripped apart by well-meaning government officials. Simple decisions can spiral into life altering results.

Look for Me is highly recommended for its mystery but also for its realistic characters and family dynamics. 5 stars!

Thanks to the publisher, Dutton, and NetGalley for an advanced copy.

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Curses Boiled Again
January 30th, 2018 by diane92345

Curses, Boiled Again! is a great old fashioned small town cozy mystery.

Allie is a ballerina in Boston who recently broke her foot. While recuperating, she is helping her Aunt Gully with her lobster shack in New England. As the book opens, Aunt Gully is appearing on a YUM network competition pitting her lobster roll against three other restaurants. When the judges get sick with the first bite of her competitor’s roll, Aunt Gully is suspected of doctoring their lobster rolls.  Allie won’t let her broken ankle or the metal boot on her foot stop her from clearing her Aunt’s name and investigating the crime herself.

There are so many cozies these days that it is difficult to find a fresh angle for a new series.  However, the new Lobster Shack series has done it. The characters are genuine and different than most.  Allie’s job as a ballerina, the setting in a small coastal town in Connecticut, and the lobster profession’s details all make this series unique.  As Allie’s best friend, Verity, states, “We have to stop playing Jessica Fletcher.”  Please don’t as Jessica Fletcher from Murder She Wrote is beloved by many cozy readers. The information about how to pick lobster, make lobster rolls and even catch lobsters is interesting.

Plenty of red herrings and an unexpected twist at the end makes Curses, Boiled Again! an unconditionally recommended read. This reviewer is anxiously awaiting the next book in the series. 4 stars!

Thanks to the publisher, St. Martin’s Press, and NetGalley for an advanced copy.

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January 16th, 2018 by diane92345

Veronica and Stoker are back! The Tiverton Egyptian Expedition digs up a cache of Eighteenth Dynasty goods including a sarcophagus. A series of misfortunes make the public assume the Expedition is cursed. When a former friend of Stoker disappears along with the diadem, or jeweled crown, of the dead Egyptian princess, Stoker and Veronica investigate. The friend’s wife tells investigators that the night her husband vanished, his hotel room vanished too. There are mysterious sightings of Anubis in both Egypt and England.

This is the third book in the series. While I enjoyed the first, this one was rather slow moving. Despite the disappearance and theft being set in Egypt, the pair never leave England during their investigations. There are endless interviews with the parties involved in the Expedition. There is a lot of talk about the two previous books’ plots. Basically, there was much too much telling rather than showing in the plot. I was expecting more Evil Under the Sun but received more The Curse of King Tut’s Mummy. I wanted more mystery, adventure, and romantic involvement between the characters. For someone with such free sexual morals, Veronica is not moving very fast with Stoker. There is a bit more of Stoker’s backstory. I recommend the first book, A Curious Beginning with 4 stars but this one only gets 3 stars from me.

Thanks to the publisher, Berkley, and NetGalley for an advanced copy.

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January 16th, 2018 by diane92345

When the first decapitated corpse was found in a Queens garage, it seemed like just a “routine” murder in New York City. However, when the next victim was found, the press is convinced someone is targeting the ultra-rich. Pendergast is pulled into the case by his NYPD friend, Vincent D’Agosta. Can Pendergast determine the motive of the person committing the crimes?

Missing the paranormal backstory of Pendergast, Constance and Procter entirely, the first 3/4 of City of Endless Night seems like an effective and intriguing police procedural. However, the excellent twist towards the end quickly propels this plot to 5 stars. City of Endless Night‘s evocative scene-setting compels an executive producer somewhere to make a great movie from this book. I can’t wait! City of Endless Night is recommended for all thriller lovers. It is a great ride well worth the read!

Thanks to the publisher, Grand Central, and NetGalley for an advanced copy.

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January 8th, 2018 by diane92345

Good solid cozy with authentic characters.

Kate owns a yoga studio. Michael, her live-in boyfriend, owns a pet store. Together they are renovating the house they live in that Kate inherited in Seattle.

After not getting the engagement ring she was expecting, Kate asks Michael why they aren’t moving forward in their relationship. Michael tells Kate that he is already married to Gabriella who is still living in his hometown in Oregon. He insists that it is a sham marriage to get her a green card but agrees to ask her for a divorce. Kate, Michael and their dog go to Oregon though Kate has not forgiven Michael for his deception. Michael stays with his sister Shannon. Kate stays with her best friend Rene with husband Sam, 3 month old twin daughters and two labradoodle puppies.

Kate, Michael and their 100 pound German Shepherd, Bella, confront Gabriella, who is reluctant to speak to Michael. During a doggy beach run the next day, Bella finds Gabriella dead. Kate and Rene have solved four murders in the past two years. To clear Michael’s name, they begin investigating the crime.

Kate, Rene and Shannon are delightful characters. Each have their own quirks and personalities. Kate and her dog Bella suffer from pogonophobia, the irrational fear of beards. Bella also has a stomach disorder, which is how Kate and Michael met. Shannon is a hoot and is the perfect person to have at Michael’s back. Rene is the perfect partner in detection. Even though she calls herself Watson to Kate’s Sherlock, she can hold her own when interrogating suspects or investigating clues.

Overall, Pre-meditated Murder is a good choice for cozy mystery fans. It would especially appeal to dog fans. The yoga is minimized and all terms are explained so even readers that are not into yoga will enjoy this book. 3.5 stars rounded up to 4.

Thanks to the publisher, Midnight Ink, and NetGalley for an advance copy.

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Agatha Raisin and the Terrible Tourist
January 4th, 2018 by diane92345

Next book following the PBS/Acorn mystery series. 

Agatha’s fiancé, James, dumps her in the previous book in the series, Agatha Raisin and the Murderous Marriage. In Agatha Raisin and the Terrible Tourist, Agatha chases after him all the way to North Cyprus, where he has gone on their honeymoon trip by himself. While out at a nightclub with six other tourists, a murder occurs. Agatha cannot stop herself from investigating.

Agatha’s sarcastic wit is always delightful even when demeaning herself to get James back. James acts even most inexplicably than usual in this unimpressive entry in the series. The story was filled with Cypriot history and read like a tour guide. The solution to the murder was too obvious and the mystery plot was too simplistic. 3 stars for an interesting romantic subplot and some of the ‘it sucks to be over 50’ comedy.   

Agatha Raisin and the Terrible Tourist is recommended only for series readers. Skipping this volume will make the next one confusing so at least skimming it is suggested. However, reading the former volume or watching the series entry, Agatha Raisin and the Murderous Marriage, is highly recommended.

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Murder has a Motive
January 3rd, 2018 by diane92345

Something wicked this way comes.

Something evil is loose in small British village of Dalmering. A woman is stabbed in a wood right before her wedding. What could be the possible motive for killing someone liked by the entire village? Could the murderer be her last dinner companion with whom she didn’t share romantic feelings? A mysterious stranger seen lurking about the village? Why didn’t her roommate of many years call the police when she failed to return after her dinner?  

The village is putting on an amateur production of a play called Murder has a Motive. Could the murderer be only acting like a concerned friend or neighbor?

Murder has a Motive was written in 1947. It is the first Mordecai Tremaine detective series but second to be republished, after Murder for Christmas (review here). Between the two books, this is clearly the lesser story. Murder for Christmas had a twisty pseudo-Christie plot that this book did not. The ending was not surprising and the clues were too obvious to be missed by most readers. Murder has a Motive is a good, not great, lesser golden age mystery. 3 stars.

Thanks to the publisher, Sourcebooks Landmark, and NetGalley for an advanced review copy.

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