Sunday, December 30, 2018

Book Review - The Secluded Village Murders

The Secluded Village Murders
By:  Shelly Frome
Boutique of Quality Books
Publication Date:  September 01, 2018
2 Stars

Emily Ryder lives in Lydfield, Connecticut.  There she runs her travel business which provides guided excursions to tourists to destinations in the UK including Lydfield’s sister village, Lydfield-in-the-Moor.  Her mother is also in the tourist business and runs a Bed and Breakfast in Lydfield.  Emily’s life is turned upside down when the Gordon Development Corporation comes to town with the intention of putting in an apartment and entertainment complex.  Not only is Emily worried that the development will ruin the quaintness of the town, she is also worried about her mother’s bed and breakfast because it will be adjacent to the new development.  A father-like figure to Emily, Chris Cooper, appears to be the only member of the Village Planning Commission openly opposed to this development.  When Chris dies in a sudden accident, Emily immediately suspects that the development company had something to do with his death.  Emily’s sleuthing take her across the pond and back in an attempt to sort through all the clues.

For me, Emily’s instant distrust of the Gordon Development Corporation’s deed seemed a little over the top for me.  I can see why she would be wary of the company because it could have a direct impact on her mother’s livelihood.  However, what was hard to believe, was how quickly she believed that they were willing to take out Chris Cooper to get him out of the way.  Before anything even happens to him, Emily is rushing off to save him.  It just felt like the action built too quickly.

Once the characters have a chance to realistically catch up with the action, the author builds a good story with interesting plot twists.  The whodunit was a surprise, but looking back there were cleverly hidden clues throughout the story for the reader to catch.

The characters themselves fell a little flat for me.  They seemed underdeveloped which made it hard to care for them and to understand their actions.

The ending of the book left it open for a follow up to this book.  If the author improves on his characters, he may have a good series on his hand.

Thanks to Net Galley and the publisher for an ARC of this book.  #NetGalley #TheSecludedVillageMurders

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Book Review - A Birder’s Guide to Murder

A Birder’s Guide to Murder
By:  J. R. Ripley
Kensington Books
Publication Date:  November 13, 2018
2 Stars

Amy Simms is the owner of Birds & Bees that is located in Ruby Lake, North Carolina.  An unexpected opportunity arises for Amy to attend the American Birding Expo as a vendor.  Amy thinks the publicity will drum up some business and extra cash flow.  She takes along her “assistant manager”, Esther, and three other members of her close knit group:  Karl, Floyd, and Derek.  They all set out for Philadelphia, the location of the bird expo.  Shortly after arriving at the expo, JJ Fueller, the guest speaker, is found dead.  Esther was seen in the vicinity near the time of his death and becomes the prime suspect.

This is the 8th book in the Bird Lover’s Mystery series, but the first one I’ve read.  I sense that really put me at a disadvantage because I feel like I didn’t know the gang or understand their group dynamics or individual personalities.  Without knowing them better, some of their actions seemed unreasonable. After JJ Fueller is killed, is when the plot goes awry for me.  Somehow we go from a murder at a birding expo to a spy themed plot.  It just didn’t work for me.  If you are a fan of the series, however, I suggest you read the reviews of those who’ve read through the series themselves.  You might get a better idea if this book is your cup of tea.

Thanks to Net Galley and Kensington Book for an ARC of this book.  #NetGalley #ABirdersGuideToMurder

Saturday, December 15, 2018

Book Review - Wreath Between the Lines

Wreath Between the Lines
By:  Daryl Wood Gerber
Beyond the Page Publishing
Publication Date:  November 08, 2018
4 Stars

Christmas is fast approaching in Crystal Cove, California.  Jenna, her aunt Vera, and the rest of the staff at the Cookbook Nook are getting it all set up for Christmas.   Things seems to be going great until Jenna’s older sister, Whitney, shows up in town unexpectedly.  Whitney comes loaded with drama as she is having trouble with her teenage daughter, Lacey, and she is worried that her marriage is in trouble.  Things, however, become tragic when Jenna’s friend and neighbor Jake, comes over to ask for help because he had found his friend Geoffrey murdered.  Jenna not only feels bad for Jake’s loss, but she would also like to help him find out what happened to his friend.  When Jenna realizes though how much Geoffrey and Jake look alike, she is afraid that Geoffrey’s death may the case of mistaken identity.  This makes Jenna even more determined to get to the bottom of things.

Wreath Between the Lines is a great Christmas cozy mystery, and it is the 8th book in The Cookbook Nook mystery series.  This book is filled with all the right ingredients to make it a great Christmas mystery story: the mystery itself, the christmas lights, the plethora of baking, Christmas music and carols, Santas, Elves, and most importantly friendship and love.

As a new reader to the series, I found it easy to jump right in and mingle with the story’s characters.  There was enough background information given that I was able to understand and enjoy the characters and their storylines.

The story is complex, but in such a delicious way.  The author has many different pots simmering with different dishes and is able to bring them altogether at once to serve up a delectable Christmas meal.

On top of a really great story, the reader is also treated to wonderful descriptions of cookbooks.  I have sworn away from cookbooks as I already have too many, but I had to go and look up many of the cookbooks described.  They sounded so wonderful.  If the cookbook recommendations aren’t enough, there are also yummy recipes included at the end of the story.

Thanks to Net Galley and Beyond the Page Publishing for an ARC of this book.  #NetGalley #WreathBetweenTheLines

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Book Review - A Christmas Revelation

A Christmas Revelation
By:  Anne Perry
Random House Publishing Group – Ballantine
Publication Date:  November 6, 2018
3 Stars

A Christmas Revelation is a Victorian Era mystery.  The plot revolves around a poverty-stricken population.  Worm, an orphan boy, sees a woman who appears to be forcibly taken away by two men.  Even after his hard years on the streets, he has a remarkably big heart and is immediately concerned about her.  At once, he sets out following the trio with the hopes of rescuing the woman.  He soon realizes he will need help, and sets back off to the clinic where he lives.  There he finds Squeaky, the clinic’s accounts’ keeper, and enlists his help.  Squeaky is reluctant to assist, but ultimately agrees.

The two set out to try and find the woman.  When they find her, she informs them that she doesn’t want to be rescued.  The men she is with are responsible for the death of her father, and she wants to keep them close so she can find a way to bring them to justice.  Worm and Squeaky volunteer to help her.

Although this is a mystery that revolves around a murder, it is easy to forget that.  It seems like it is a story about the heart.  We have Worm who sets out to help a complete stranger simply because of the kindness in his heart.  He doesn’t think twice about his own safety, but only that of the woman and Squeaky.  Squeaky agrees to help because he feels protective of Worm, and that relationship deepens as the novel progresses.  Squeaky also sets out to plan a Christmas celebration at the clinic in the truest meaning of the season.  The benefactor heartily agrees to fund the Christmas celebration.  Then we are left with the “kidnapped” woman who must decide what the right (moral) thing to do is.

This is a great Christmas story with facets that truly speak of the Christmas spirit.  It will leave you with feelings of goodness and warmth.

Monday, December 3, 2018

Book Review for a Shot in the Dark

A Shot in the Dark
By:  Lynne Truss
Bloomsbury USA
3 Stars

At the beginning of the story the author vowed to “play fair with readers, Making no use of divine revelation, feminine intuition, mumbo jumbo, jiggery-pokery, coincidence, or acts of God.”  And the author follows through with her promises, and plays fair with the readers.  She sets out a very methodical plot, and does so in a very clever way.  She introduces us to the three main police characters Captain Stein, Sargent Brunswick, and Constable Twitter.  All three have very different personalities.  When a loathsome theater critic, A. S. Crystal is killed during the production of A Shilling in the Meter, they all set out to try and solve the case.  Each, however, does so on their own path.  Stein would rather the whole incident just go away so he can concentrate on his radio show.  Sargent Brunswick seems to want to prove himself, but isn’t exactly sure where to begin.  Constable Twitter, a self-proclaimed genius, is new the station, and he knows exactly how he wants to solve this case.

The investigation felt like they were on three separate mine cars with no individual steering controls.  At times it even felt like they were jumping tracks.  I kept waiting for the cars to crash and have the investigation end up in shambles.  However, the author was carefully able to control these mine cars behind the scenes.  She leads them down twisting and turning paths, and even paths that the reader doesn’t expect (though not far fetched).  She is able to slow these cars down so they stop right before the point of collision. None of the paths hav led down the wrong track, and in fact all three seem to intertwine.  The ending is surprising, but still within the author’s own words of “…play(ing) fair with the readers.”

This book felt like an old time mystery, and I would highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys that genre.

Thanks to Net Galley and Bloomsbury USA for the opportunity to receive an arc of this book.  #NetGalley #AShotInTheDark