Wednesday, January 29, 2014

The Ghoul Next Door

Title: The Ghoul Next Door
Author: Victoria Laurie
Publisher: January 7th 2014 by Signet
Format: Paperback, 352 pages
Genre: Paranormal Mystery
Series: Ghost Hunter Mystery #8

Like the main characters, three quarters of the way through the book I too was ready to pull out the index cards to make notes of what was going on. Trying to keep which killer was responsible for which victim was enough to do me in.

I had already been bewildered since this book started out less hectic than the previous books. Both M.J. and her trusty sidekick Gilley were just a little off. Thinking that I had missed something, I started the book over and this time I read the preface. Now I understood. Victoria Laurie lost a dear friend, and somehow, it left a somber note in the book.

Newly back in the states after filming their Ghoul Getter’s show, M.J., Heath and Gilley are asked by M.J.’s ex-boyfriend Steven, to help in the investigation of a haunting involving Steven’s fiancée’s brother.

This is where everything gets very confusing since there are multiple hauntings, many dead bodies, names in a closet, a reporter searching out an exclusive, visits to prisons, deceased relatives coming in to lend a hand, and Gilley going all howler monkey when he is stressed.

I swear I look forward to these books, but they frustrate the heck out of me.

You would think that after all the people that Ms Laurie thanked for helping her with this book, one of them would have stepped forward to let her know that cell phones do not work in subbasements, that police investigators would not fully accept anything that a psychic says at face value and that for the sake of her readers, cut down on some of the characters.

As I said, I do look forward to these books, Gilley is now reasonable and downright funny, the plotlines are twisty and you have to pay attention, and though you have to suspend all sense of reality, they can be very entertaining.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Due or Die

Title: Due or Die
Author: Jenn McKinlay
Publisher: March 6th 2012 by Berkley
Format: Paperback; 304 pgs
Genre: Cozy Mystery
Series: Library Lover’s #2

Be patient, there is a mystery in there but you have to work through an abandoned dog, a storm, a mentally unbalanced woman and a budding romance before Jenn McKinlay gets back to the task at hand and the reader is allowed to resume the mystery behind the murder of Markus Rushton.

Having been found dead in his recliner, the authorities seem to spend endless time interviewing his wife Carrie, the newly elected Friends of the Library president, but that is where it seems to end. There was no investigating from the police side, just the clumsy questions of the town’s librarian.

Lindsay Norris is the town’s newest transplant and the town’s head Librarian, much to the chagrin of Ms. Cole, a fellow library employee, but that does not stop Lindsay from nosing around. Even if it does put her life in peril and “the love interest” must ride to her rescue more than once.

The ending seemed rushed and if possible out of place. There was no real run to up the ultimate killer, just there with a bit of back peddling and filling in of the blanks to make it fit.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Undiscovered Goddess

Title: The Undiscovered Goddess
Author: Michelle Colston
Publisher: Michelle Colston; 1 edition (August 15, 2012)
Format: ebook
Genre: Memoir
Source: NetGalley

After reading the first 25 pages of this book, I was ready to throw it against the wall and move on. Who has time for a 30somthing mother of three that cannot seem to parent her children without opening a bottle or three of wine just to get to the end of the day?

This whiney, lazy, selfish and self-obsessed stay at home mother takes yet another “me” break and decides to take a quiz in Cosmo magazine. Shock of all shocks, it comes up that she is “Stylish but Shallow”. Really, did we need to take a quiz to see that coming?

Holly is jolted by this. So what does a “Stylish but Shallow” person do? Retakes the quiz of course and when that does not give her the result she was looking for she runs right out and purchases a workbook and journal. What ensues is an awakening of sorts. Lesson by painful lesson, Holly learns a little more about herself and the world around her; taking the reader right along until she feels that she has mastered or at least has a greater understanding of what each lesson has to offer. A day, a week, a month, it is all at her pace.

By the time I was a third of the way though, I started liking Holly. This woman is funny but still a bit annoying and in need of a major reality check.

Two thirds of the way and I adore the woman that she is becoming. I am just hoping that she can keep on the right track and not give in to those voices that she, and every woman, hears.

By the end, I realized how much l liked who she had become and now I think I just might need to reread the book so I can fully appreciate the journey that she has undertaken. Plus, rereading the first third without being overly judgmental would not hurt.

She learned, she laughed, she cried, but most importantly, she had become aware.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Cinders: A Chicken Cinderella

Title: Cinders: A Chicken Cinderella
Author and Illustrator: Jan Brett
Publisher: Putnam Juvenile (November 5, 2013)
Format: Hardcover; Pgs 32
Genre: Children's
Ages: 3+ / Kindergarten and up

Cinders is the basic Cinderella story with the variations being chickens and a Russian Winter theme.

Jan Brett’s illustrations are magnificent. In the center of the book, there is a large fold out section that shows all the hens and pullets in their costumed finery. You could spend half the evening just looking at these four pages.

Tasha, the young girl in the story, cares for her hens and one evening she is closed into the tower that houses the birds. As she falls asleep, Largessa pulls out an invitation to a ball for Prince Cockerel. Following the same storyline as the original Cinderella, Cinder must get her sisters ready for the evening leaving no time for herself. That is until a beautiful Silkie appears with her magic wand.

The story is quiet familiar, but the phenomenal illustrations are what make the book. Jan Brett is a truly gifted illustrator and even if your young reader is not interest in the story, just let them look at the pages and tell you the story that they see.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Billionaire Blend

Title: Billionaire Blend
Author: Cleo Coyle
Publisher: Berkley Hardcover (December 3, 2013)
Format: Hardcover; Pgs 386
Genre: Mystery
Series: Coffeehouse Mysteries #13

Was it just a coincidence that Billionaire Tech Whiz Eric Thorner was in the Village Blend when a bomb went off or was that the plan all along?

Eric credits Clare with saving his life and in return, he takes care of her most pressing needs. A new espresso machine is delivered and a long dreamed of trip is made a reality. Matt Allegro, Clare’s ex-husband and co-business owner does not like this Eric guy one bit, that is until Matt is offered a business opportunity that he cannot pass up. Eric Thorner is trying to create the world’s most exquisite and costly coffee blend. Matt cannot pass up this challenge and with Eric’s billions and Matt’s talent and contacts they are soon jetting around the world.

Back home, Clare is trying to figure out why the bomb exploded and who was the true intended target. That car should not have been parked where it was when the bomb exploded. Was Eric the intended target or the destination that he was headed to? When you are dealing with high tech games and apps, the rules do not apply and the last man standing is the true winner.

As Clare begins to untangle the web of wealth and rivalry, she soon discovers that it does not matter how far you travel, it is the people at home that you must concern yourself with.

I look forward to the Coffeehouse Mysteries, but if truth be told, a week after I read them, I cannot remember what they are about. The main characters stick with me only because they are familiar, but any new character is quickly forgotten. Plot lines seem tired and predictable and as the page counts increase, I do not feel that substance was added.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Bookmarked for Death

Title: Bookmarked for Death
Author: Lorna Barrett
Publisher: February 3rd 2009 by Berkley Prime Crime
Format: Mass Market Paperback, 297 pages
Genre: Cozy Myatery
Series: Booktown Mystery #2

I almost put this book down after the first chapter. Ten plus characters were introduced and Lorna Barrett has the most annoying habit of overly describing the surroundings. Does the reader really need to know the type and texture of the wallpaper or even the color of the bungee cord wrapped around the victim’s neck?

On the evening of a book signing at Haven’t Got a Clue, a bookstore owned by lead character Tricia Miles, the body of local author Zoe Carter is found. After having a spat with her niece and a revelation that there was a blackmailer, no one is quite sure what to make of the death or who could be behind it. To add more confusion -- is possible that the two crimes are not related.

As Tricia once again plays amateur sleuth, interesting questions arise as to whom Zoe Carter really was. Why was she so reclusive and what did she have to hide – beside that whole embezzlement thing a few years prior.

As clues are dropped all over town, Tricia begins to weave an intricate pattern that will lead to who really was behind the murder and who will be avenged in the process.

As I said, the character count is excessive. There were a couple that I kept confusing and a couple that might not have a place in this book, but I am sure they will reappear in future installments.

Overall, I did not like how the book ended. Suddenly there was information in the conclusion that was not even mentioned in the preceding chapters and the overall solution seemed to have been woven out of nothing.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Pleating for Mercy

Title: Pleating for Mercy
Author: Melissa Bourbon
Publisher: Signet (Aug 2, 2011)
Format: Paperback; Pgs 303
Genre: Cozy Mystery
Series: Magical Dressmaking #1

Recently, the cozy genre has been bogged down with less than appealing offerings. When I was told about the Magical Dressmaking series by Melissa Bourbon, I put it off for as long as I could. There was no way that I wanted to suffer through yet another rehash of books that I have already read.

That actually turned into a mistake for me. The series debut was very entertaining. The characters are just quirky enough without being annoying. The “who-done-it” was not obvious from the first chapter and the inevitable love interest, though predictable, was not too in your face.

Harlow Cassidy, a New York fashion designer returns home to Bliss, Texas to an old home that her great grandmother had left to her. It was time for a change, time to return to family, but she was unsure if she wanted to return to a small town where gossip rules the day.

According to lore, Harlow Cassidy is a descendant of Butch Cassidy and with this pedigree comes special charms. Apparently, it was wished that the female decedents each be granted a special gift. Great Grandma, Meemaw and even her mother have their abilities, but Harlow is still looking for hers.

Trying to get her small dressmaking business off the ground, the first family of Bliss chooses Harlow’s shop for the bridal dresses. When one of the bridesmaid’s is found murdered in the flower garden of her boutique, Harlow, with the help of her deceased Great Grandmother, start answering a few nagging questions.

The plot line is a bit on the silly side, but that is what cozies are all about. A nice escape from heavier, more intense books.

An entertaining debut that will have me searching out future books in hope that Bliss, Texas is a place that I will like returning to time and again.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Stalking Susan

Title: Stalking Susan
Author: Julie Kramer
Publisher: Doubleday; 1 edition (July 15, 2008)
Genre: Mystery
Series: Riley Spartz #1

Having long grown bored with the Stephanie Plum series, I was told to check out Riley Spartz. The humor was there, the escapades are there without those stupid fumbling romantic parallelograms.

Riley Spartz, a television reporter in the Twin Cities, is handed two files from a retired Minneapolis homicide detective that show a connection between two dead women named Susan and the date of their deaths. With that pattern set, the deeper she digs, more bodies appear and the killer is leaving clues.

As the November 19th anniversary date looms, Riley must find this serial killer before he can claim his next target. All the while doing additional research work to placate the higher ups at the station with what appears to be a silly little story emanating from a veterinarian’s clinic.

As Riley is still reeling from the death of her husband, she is fighting for her job and her next 40-audience share. Reporting is a cutthroat business and with November also being a sweeps month, she must solve this crime before her news director cuts her out altogether.

During an on air interview, Riley plays one last card in hopes of drawing the killer out. Little did she know that she might be the next victim.

There are a few “could be’s” in the story. The reader bounces back and forth not wanting it to be one but at the same time admitting that it was a possibility. Without it being obvious all along, the conclusion makes perfect sense. If it were not for Riley’s suspect board, the answer would not have been so clear.

I really liked this book; Julie Kramer did not talk down to her readers, but slowly revealed just enough to keep each chapter interesting.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

The Cold Nowhere

Title: The Cold Nowhere
Author: Brian Freeman
Publisher: May 9th 2013 by Quercus
Format: Hardcover; Pgs 400
Genre: Suspense
Series: Jonathan Stride #6

When it comes to Brian Freeman’s books, I have to put down all other reading material and distractions and concentrate fully on the story that is being told. Not that it is a complicated storyline, but the subtext is just as important, and in some cases, more important than the top layer that the reader is deeply focused on.

There is nothing simple in Jonathan Stride’s life, so the day he comes home and realizes that someone is in his home, his life takes a dramatic turn. To understand this turn, you have to go back ten years to when Stride found a terrified six-year-old hiding under the porch of her family’s home.

Catalina Mateo was a witness of sorts to the murder of her mother and the death of her father.

Since that time, Cat’s life has been a struggle - foster homes, an aunt with a drug problem, running away and now a life of prostitution. When a party goes wrong and a killer is chasing her, Cat has nowhere to go, that is until she remembers what her mother told her, “find Stride, he will protect you”. Now Cat is hiding out at Jonathan’s home and a killer is determined to find her.

Brian Freeman brings a bevy of likely suspects to the table. Each has a reason to want this young woman dead, but when the last snowflake falls, I was surprised as to who was behind this twisted story. I cannot say it was the last person that I would have suspected, but definitely not in my top five.

Freeman does an incredible job of moving the story forward even though most of it takes place in the past. You have to know Stride’s history and the past of all the characters to know how they intertwine in the future and to realize that no one can completely walk away from the choices that they have made.

Jonathan Stride is a great series and even though each book has a stand-alone quality, you really should start at the beginning so you can understand the relationships between the recurring characters.