Crooked Staircase
May 9th, 2018 by diane92345

Cabals be caballing. In The Crooked Staircase, Jane Hawk is hunting more of the cabal that used brain nanobots to force her husband to kill himself.

In this series entry, Simon Yegg is the so-mean-it-is-unbelievable type of villain. He tortures his ex-wives up to, and including, gang rape to get them to give him more than 50% of their money during the divorce.  Simon is independently wealthy so it appears he tortures just for fun.  Jane is coming for him as she works up the org structure of the cabal. In an alternate story arc, two twins are being chased through Northern Orange County California by the brain-controlled police and a NSA agent. The twins are young authors who have an unbelievable ability to drive and hide in plain sight almost as well as Jane.

This, the third book in the series, is beginning to wear me out. I don’t see a light at the end of Jane’s tunnel. How can one woman take on an entire cabal of rich men and their brain-controlled subordinates? The Crooked Staircase reads like a movie thriller. It is easy to picture the scenes up on a darkened movie screen. However, the characters’ motivations are increasingly murky. I still sympathize with Jane but at some point before this book’s end, I would have just taken my son and run away to Uruguay or someplace.  Move on, Jane!

The second in the Jane Hawk series was recommended with 4 stars. However, this one left me cold.  3 stars! Mr. Koontz, I know this is a bestselling series. I can see by the teaser at the end that there will be a fourth Jane Hawk book. But please write some more of those excellent horror/paranormal novels like Watchers and the Odd Thomas series.

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

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Sixth Day
April 11th, 2018 by diane92345

A complicated and engaging thriller incorporating modern technology, a real-life unreadably manuscript and Romanian legends. The fifth in the Brit in the FBI series, The Sixth Day brings together a serial killer, drones, computer viruses, falconry and Dracula.

 Nicholas, Mike and the Covert Eyes team return in the latest Brit in the FBI series entry. Someone is killing powerful men in public with an unknown weapon. A rich and eccentric billionaire tech mogul is building a drone army against ISIS. A real 15th century manuscript may be decoded using twin speak. A serial killer, nicknamed Dracula, is moving across Europe killing and then removing the blood of his victims. As the novels moves to its conclusion, these disparate threads come together in a powerful conclusion.

I have never read any other book in this series. I selected The Sixth Day because it sounded like the DaVinci Code meets Dracula. It does contain true parts just manipulated enough to move the plot forward. The Voynich manuscript is real and has not yet been translated. Vlad III (Dracula) did exist but did not have twin sons. He did have a younger brother named Radu the Beautiful though. Overall, I enjoyed the many sub-plots within this book. Other readers who like overstuffed plots will also appreciate this book. 4 stars!

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

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The Cutting Edge
April 9th, 2018 by diane92345

Any new Lincoln Rhyme book is a cause for celebration. However, too much information about diamonds makes The Cutting Edge one of the least interesting books in the long-running series.

Lincoln Rhyme and Amelia Sachs are chasing a serial killer targeting engaged couples in The Cutting Edge, the 14th book in the series. A diamond cutter and the engaged couple in his shop are killed but only a few diamonds are stolen. The diamond cutter appears to have been tortured. In addition, there is evidence that someone walked in on the scene and was wounded by the killer and then left the scene. The novel just adds more and more plot twists and turns until its conclusion.

Usually I adore Mr. Deaver’s books. I was so happy to have received the digital ARC of The Cutting Edge. However, this particular book in the series left me shrugging my shoulders. Some of the motivations seemed contrived. I saw the final twist coming about 100 pages before it was revealed. The author obviously did a lot of research into diamond mining, cutting and grading. While that is great, I don’t need to read all of it. There was a large quantity of information that I just skimmed because it didn’t interest me. I realize that the author wouldn’t necessarily know what would interest me personally (like the US spends $40 billion on diamonds each year, which is a full 50% of the world’s sales). However, 30% of the book reads like a non-fiction book about the diamond trade and none of that information is needed to solve the mystery.

Without revealing any spoilers, there were several twists in the book that I was genuinely surprised by and the characters were different from the usual police procedural suspects. Overall, The Cutting Edge deserves 4 stars.

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

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Scot Free
April 6th, 2018 by diane92345

Cozy mystery Scot Free is my #FrugalFriday short review this week! 

Marriage counselor Lexy Campbell moves to California to marry and quickly divorce. The husband of her client, Visalia, is murdered by fireworks. Visalia is arrested. Lexy decides to solve the crime since she co-signed Visalia’s bail bond.

Born and living in California all my life, I hoped this series would be a Elmore Leonard/Tim Dorsey-type book about California. Unfortunately, it is neither zany nor California-specific enough. However, the characters, mystery and ending were good so 3 ½ stars.

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

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Lonelyheart 4122
April 5th, 2018 by diane92345

The fourth in the Flaxborough Mystery series is much better than the third. Lonelyheart 4122 is the anonymous number of the enigmatic man who possibly murdered two lonely women and may be working on his third.

Inspector Purbright and Sergeant Love are searching for two missing middle-aged ladies. Mrs. Bannister is a relatively wealthy widow. Miss Reckitt is a spinster with some savings too. Their only connection is a lonely hearts club (think 1960s match.com), where both were looking for love and companionship. There is a parallel story line of Miss Teatime’s meeting with the mysterious 4122, who got her name from the club.

I read the previous entry in the series and didn’t like the spy part of the plot. Here is my review of Hopjoy was Here. However, I liked the small village of Flaxborough and its citizens enough to read this one, the next book in the series. I’m glad I did. The mystery was much better especially the ending. People are still looking for love so this felt both modern and quaint in its methods.

“It would be quite in character for a latter-day courtship to be conducted by correspondence.”

I can’t imagine what the villagers would think of Tinder and sexting! Overall, Lonelyheart 4122 earns 4 stars.

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

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Tart of Darkness
April 2nd, 2018 by diane92345

The characters and romances are better than the mystery in Tart of Darkness.

Dani Sloan inherits a Victorian half-finished bed and breakfast. A former Human Resources executive, Dani really wants to be a chef. She decides to share her house with three college students: Ivy, Tippi and Starr. In return for reduced rent, all three promise to help Dani launch her new business, Chef-to-go.  The business offers catering, personal chef and lunch drive-thru service from her kitchen window.

When Dani is asked to cater queen bee Regina’s luau, she thinks it may be her ticket to more business from the area’s wealthy customer base. Instead both Dani and Ivy are suspected of murder. Ivy’s uncle Spencer is head of campus security. He and Dani decide to solve the case by looking into who had motive and opportunity. Bliss, Regina’s best friend, Laz, Regina’s boyfriend, and Vance, Regina’s ex and Bliss’ current boyfriend are all suspects.

I liked the interaction of Dani and Spencer better than the mystery within Tart of Darkness. The mystery threw a lot of information in the last few pages that was needed to solve the crime making it difficult for armchair detectives to solve. All of Dani’s meals sound delicious but where are the recipes? I will read the next in the series to see where Dani’s romance leads rather than expect a captivating mystery. 3 1/2 stars.

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

There is a giveaway for this book here through April 27, 2018.

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Hopjoy was Here
March 30th, 2018 by diane92345

Droll rather than humorous, Hopjoy was Here is definitely different from the standard English village cozy.

Inspector Purbright receives an anonymous letter from a neighbor of the male roommates Hopjoy and Periam about a fight in their bathroom. Hopjoy is working for a mysterious (CIAesque) agency. Was Hopjoy or Periam murdered using acid in their own bathtub?

Unusual murder method, spies, formal British language, and passé humor, the book is not for everyone. The village characters are the best part.  Difficult to rate but 3 stars–onto the next in the series.

Thanks to Farrago and NetGalley for a copy.

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Double Dog Dare
March 22nd, 2018 by diane92345

Double Dog Dare is a comedy caper with all female leads. Set in a high-rise casino in Biloxi Mississippi, the complications keep coming throughout.  First, Davis’ sister Meredith and her best friend’s dog are kidnapped by her hometown preacher. Then the best friend’s mother-in-law comes to make sure that the one million dollar ransom is paid.  She might also be a witch. How will Davis and Vree find a million dollars?  It helps that Davis in part of a four-person security team in the casino and also a computer expert. Oh and she is also a mother of infant twin girls and has a husband who is luckily out of town. This is literally less than 10% of the hilarious plot.  It just goes downhill for Davis, but uphill for comedy caper fans, from there.

Double Dog Dare is the 7th book in the Davis Way Crime Caper series.  I haven’t read any of the previous books and had no trouble following the plot and characters in this one.

I chose this book on NetGalley because of the quote “It’s ‘Best in Show’” by Janet Evanovich, whose Stephanie Plum series I love. This book gave Stephanie a run for best comedy caper series (though Ms. Archer should add a Lula-esque character to this series too). Overall, this zany book is highly recommended. 4 stars!

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

Posted in Humor, Mystery & Thrillers Tagged with: , , ,

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.

Posted in Mystery & Thrillers Tagged with: ,

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.

Posted in Graphic Novel, Teen & Young Adult Tagged with: , , ,

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: ,