Friday, November 29, 2013

Review - The Best American Mystery Stories 2013

Title: The Best American Mystery Stories 2013
Author: Lisa Scottoline, Otto Penzler (Editors)
Publisher: Mariner Books (October 8, 2013)
Format: Paperback; Pgs 448
Genre: Mystery Short Stories
Source: Amazon Vine

This is my first foray into a book specifically of short stories. I have wandered across a few here and there but never gave them much thought. What I found in these pages really surprised me. For the most part, they are well thought out and plotted without the usual tangents that some authors tend to wander into while trying to run up word counts so they can call it a novel.

The stories run about 15 to 20 pages, which makes it a perfect lunchtime read. Each day I would grab my lunch and book and would find myself absorb, start to finish, in a plotline that by the end had me filling in a couple of my own blanks – wondering aloud, did the author mean this or that. Did my presumed antagonist really do that? I loved the fact that not all questions were answered. That the authors drew nice black and white lines and it was up to the readers to filling in their own colors.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Review - Christmas Crumble

Title: Christmas Crumble
Author: M. C. Beaton
Publisher: St. Martin's Paperbacks (August 28, 2012)
Format: Print Length 36 pages; Kindle eBook 156KB
Genre: Holiday Mystery
Source: Amazon Purchase
Series: Agatha Raisin #23.5

Not having any real plans of her own, Agatha decides that having a Christmas party at home in the Cotswold’s is just what she needs. Apparently, she has forgotten the fiasco of the last holiday party and Mrs. Bloxby is convinced that Agatha is trying to chase a romantic dream of Christmas, but this is something that Agatha wants to do for the old crumblies in town.

Apparently, one of the invited guests is feeling a big frisky and when he makes an inappropriate move toward Agatha, the Christmas pudding is brought down on his head. That was too much for the Viagra junkie to handle and soon his heart give out and there he is, dead on the floor with a slimly pudding on his face.

As the rest of the pensioners stare in disbelieve they all agree that the death could not be Agatha’s fault, that is all but one, Freda Pinch. Freda decides that she is going to sue Agatha. With Freda now being an outcast of the group, one of the members of the holiday party takes the matter into his own hands and decides to rectify the situation in a way that Agatha cannot abide.

This was a nice little short story to begin the holiday season. Not too over the top, just enough Agatha and her friends to keep you in touch with the on goings in the village of Carsley.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Review - The End of the Road

Title: The End of the Road
Author: Sue Henry
Publisher: NAL Hardcover (November 3, 2009)
Format: Hardcover; Pgs 244
Genre: Travel Mystery
Source: Library
Series: Maxie and Stretch Myster #4

You know an author is desperate to run up their word count when they rely on naming all the shops on Main Street, mileage destination on a local pole, items in a closet or even the name on whiskey bottles. That should have been my warning to close the book and move on, but no, this is the last book in the series and since I began with number one, I was determined to see it through to its end.

Instead of packing up her RV and heading south for the winter, Maxine McNabb and her faithful dog Stretch have decided to stay home in Homer, Alaska for the winter. The weather can be harsh, but feeling a bit homesick, this is where she wants to be.

After meeting John Walker on her visit to the spit, she invites him to her home the next day to have dinner with friends. All is well until she is called as a contact since John has been found dead by an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound.

John Walker is not his real name and there are very few clues as to his real identity. Of course, that has Maxie on full alert and she is determined to help solve this mystery. It does not end there, you will now have to add in a murder, a stalker and a weird twisted end that seems to have been rushed and not well rounded.

Usually, when a series ends, I somewhat mourn the characters, but unfortunately, that is not going to be the case with Maxie and Stretch. The books were always more along the lines of travelogues than murder mysteries. That might work for some, but I like a bit more meat in my who-done-its and this series just never fit the full bill.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Review - Hiss and Hers

Title: Hiss and Hers
Author: M.C. Beaton
Publisher: Minotaur Books (September 18, 2012)
Format: Hardcover; Pgs 304
Genre: Cozy Mystery
Series: Agatha Raisin #23

If only the Agatha Raisin books did not run so hot and cold with me.

For the most part, I enjoy the series, I like the recurring characters and Agatha’s annoying temperament, but sometimes the storylines just are not as fulfilling as I would like.

Once again, there is a new man in the neighborhood, George Marston is the area gardener and fix-it man. Determined to catch his eye Agatha agrees to arrange a charity ball in hopes of dancing with this man. When he does not appear, Agatha is crushed. That is until she discovered his dead body in a compost heap and the cause of death is the bite of an asp.

As Agatha begins her investigation, she realizes that she was very wrong about this man and that an asp bite just might be vengeance for the old snake himself.

The list is long on who might have wanted this man dead, but with Agatha’s investigations, she has managed to put herself in the path of a psychopath.

Now Agatha is determined to keep herself and her investigators safe all the while hiding listening devices and running all over the Cotswold’s in hopes of staying one-step ahead of the real killer.

Agatha has a way of making her life more complicated than necessary and that is what I like best about her. She has good intentions, but somehow always seems to mess things up. I do cheer her on and hope that one day she will get it right.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Review - Drop Dead Beauty

Title: Drop Dead Beauty
Author: Wendy Roberts
Publisher: InterMix (May 21, 2013)
Format: Print Length 220 Pgs; Kindle 569 KB
Genre: Paranormal Mystery
Source: Amazon Purchase
Series: Ghost Duster Mystery #5

If anyone saw that ending coming, I commend you. That one hit me out of nowhere and I thought I was good at picking up clues.

Sadie Novak is a crime scene cleaner, which mean when an unattended death occurs and biohazard material is left after the body is removed, Sadie is the person that you call for a clean up. A very messy job, but yet one that has to be done. Since the suicide of her brother, Sadie has found this work cathartic in a way. It is her way of helping family members deal with trauma.

An unexpected side to this work is her ability to see the spirits of the dead. That is those that died at the hands of others and not suicides. For some reason, those souls do not appear to her.

In the past, Sadie has helped Detective Dean Petrovich solve homicides in the Seattle area, but this time there is a change. Dean has been accused of killing his ex-wife and needs Sadie’s help in finding the real killer. This is proving to be a problem since a situation has arisen in Sadie’s life that is preventing her from communicating with the dead without feeling the full extent of how the murder took place.

Wanting to help, but without putting her own life in peril, Sadie and her best friend head out to find a potion of sorts that will take the deadly effects away and yet still allow Sadie to communicate. If only there was a similar potion that could help Sadie in her personal life.

Poor Sadie, with her life in a muddled mess, she must deal with spirits that want to communicate, an annoying detective that needs his own answers, spa owners that want her dead, a potion bag that smell like excrement and two men that need to find out where they now fit in Sadie’s life.

As I said, the ending surprised me. I loved how Wendy Roberts included just enough without foretelling the ending, making me want to go back and reread the book wondering what I had missed. Much like the movie The Sixth Sense showed what you had missed, I wished that there were a final chapter that showed me the errors in my thinking.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Review - The Rosie Project

Title: The Rosie Project
Author: Graeme Simsion
Publisher: Simon & Schuster (October 1, 2013)
Format: Softcover; Pgs 305
Genre: Fiction
Source: Amazon Vine

It all boils down to Occam’s Razor. The simplest answer is usually correct.

Don Tillman is wired differently, completely oblivious to social cues and tact. He is a geneticist at a distinguished university in Melbourne and he decided that it is time to find a wife. Thus, the Wife Project. Set in his ways, Professor Tillman does not set out in a usual manner. He has devised a questionnaire. Important qualifications include items like mathematical acuity, the ability to distinguish ice cream flavors, punctuality, non-smoker, non-drinker, a proper body mass index, etc. Obviously, not a standard dating profile. Then again, Don is not your average person.

After 250 or so responses, with no candidates, Don asks his best friend Gene, a world-class lothario, for help with the project. One day Rosie knocks on his door. Don is a bit taken aback since she fits no set perimeters. Maybe Gene knows more since he has a project of his own – involving bedding one woman from every country. To Don’s lack of experience, that makes Gene more aware of women.

Turns out Rosie has a project of her own. The Dad Project. Rosie is convinced that her dad is not really her biological father and Don, being a geneticist, just might be able to help her.

Of course, that does not come out right away and as Don is trying to figure out how Gene would find Rosie to be “wife material”, Rosie is becoming more obsessed with finding dear old dad and Don is becoming infatuated - since falling in love and empathy is not on his Autism Spectrum capability wheel.

Thus begins their humorous odyssey of tracking down and DNA testing the possible men that could be Rosie’s father. Don trying desperately to figure out a complicated world that involves emotions and love. Gene and his wife Claudia trying to find a common ground and the Dean of the University coming to the end of her rope.

You will laugh, especially at the part involving the skeleton from the anatomy department; you will become frustrated, and you will begin comparing people that you have met with Don. I do not know if you will become more empathetic to Don’s plight or not, but you just might see the world involving a Standardized Meal System and to the minute scheduling a bit differently. Much like Don has to see his world differently.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

First Chapter First Paragraph - Doctor Sleep

Title: Doctor Sleep
Author: Stephen King
Publisher: Scribner (September 24, 2013)
Format: Hardcover; Pgs 544
Genre: Supernatural Thriller
Series: Sequel to the Shinning

Hosted by Diane at Bibliophile by the Sea

Chapter 1

On the second day of December in a year when a Georgia peanut farmer was doing business in the White House, one of Colorado’s great resort hotels burned to the ground. The Overlook was declared a total loss. After an investigation, the fire marshal of Jicarilla County ruled the cause had been a defective boiler. The hotel was closed for the winter when the accident occurred, and only four people were present. Three survived. The hotel’s off-season caretaker, John Torrance, was killed during an unsuccessful (and heroic) effort to dump the boiler’s steam pressure, which had mounted to disastrously high levels due to an inoperative relief valve.

Two of the survivors were the caretaker’s wife and young son. The third was the Overlook’s chef, Richard Hallorann, who had left his seasonal job in Florida and come to check on the Torrances because of what he called “a powerful hunch” that the family was in trouble. Both surviving adults were quite badly injured in the explosion. Only the child was unhurt.

Physically, at least.


On highways across America, a tribe of people called The True Knot travel in search of sustenance. They look harmless—mostly old, lots of polyester, and married to their RVs. But as Dan Torrance knows, and tween Abra Stone learns, The True Knot are quasi-immortal, living off the “steam” that children with the “shining” produce when they are slowly tortured to death.

Haunted by the inhabitants of the Overlook Hotel where he spent one horrific childhood year, Dan has been drifting for decades, desperate to shed his father’s legacy of despair, alcoholism, and violence. Finally, he settles in a New Hampshire town, an AA community that sustains him, and a job at a nursing home where his remnant “shining” power provides the crucial final comfort to the dying. Aided by a prescient cat, he becomes “Doctor Sleep.”

Then Dan meets the evanescent Abra Stone, and it is her spectacular gift, the brightest shining ever seen, that reignites Dan’s own demons and summons him to a battle for Abra’s soul and survival. This is an epic war between good and evil,

Monday, November 4, 2013

Review - Practice to Deceive

Title: Practice to Deceive
Author: Ann Rule
Publisher: Gallery Books (October 8, 2013))
Format: Hardcover; Pgs 352
Genre: True Crime

When I first started reading this book, I was confused. I thought I had picked up a large print book by accident. No, it was just a publisher trying to stretch a two hundred manuscript into a full-length book.

Repeated information, repeated descriptions, repeated conversations and truly unnecessary information are what fill this book. Why would the murder of a first spouse that happened prior to the birth of the later convicted accessory to a murder matter? No facts were shown, or even hinted at, that would make this a contributing factor. Just another way for Ms Rule to run up the page count.

On Whidbey Island in the Puget Sound of Washington state, Russel (yes, that is how his name is spelled) Douglas is found with a single bullet hole to his head. Though he and his wife are having apparent marital issues, the authorities cannot put his wife there. Ten years later the case comes to trial with a rather twisted reason for the murder. Two people that have had little to no contact with the victim decide that he must die based solely on possible hearsay.

A “she said, she said” scenario with a conniving dominating woman, a beguiled man and a wife that swears she knows nothing about it yet is the only one to benefit.

Ms Rule lays no foundation and very little fact in her book. There are very few true interviews of substance and from my perspective, only half a job was done. I remember her earlier books that came across to me as well researched and questions answered before the book was published.

To me the oddest part, which is sad because it is the only thing that stands out, there is a photo in the book of Ann Rule with the prosecuting attorney and the sheriff that looks like her head and face were photo-shopped in.

Skip this book, reader her earlier works.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Review - Yoga for Strength & Flexibility

Title: Yoga for Strength and Flexibility
Instructor: Ashley Turner
Production: Element - The Mind and Body Company
Format: DVD 76 minutes (September 24, 2013)
Genre: Exercise
Source: Amazon Vine

I think it will be a life goal to be as flexible as Ashley Turner is. What she makes look easy is still a work in progress for me. Thanks to this video, I am getting there, but that nose to knee thing is still a challenge.

I have never tried yoga before, but when I saw this video offered sections on both strength and flexibility, I figured why not. My aging body is starting to protest and just stretching and moving seems to help grease the sticky parts.

Having read prior reviews I was concerned, was I supposed to know more about yoga going in or was, as I was hoping, this a good jumping off point.

In the beginning of the video, Ashley explains how you can do the two sections either together or separately, well, I voted for separately. I wanted flexibility. So here we go.

What I love is that she emphasizes the need to listen to your body by listening to your breath, work at your own pace and take breaks when you need to. This was a great “permission” so I did not feel overwhelmed and intimidated. Three or four times per week for optimal health – I could do that.

You are easily walked through each movement, by using both the “official” yoga terminology and the easier to understand descriptions.

After the first session, I was not sure that I had gotten anything out of it. That was until I tried to get out of bed the next morning. I was sore from shoulders to ankles. I had received more of a workout then I had thought.

I have only been using this video for a couple of weeks, and am a long way from moving like her, but I can definitely feel the difference that this video is making.

After the exercises, the guided meditation section is a nice way of ending the session.

If you are an advanced yoga aficionado this might be too basic for you, but for us beginners, it was perfect.