Book Reviews

Book Review: Breakdown by Sara Paretsky

Posted on Updated on

Breakdown  (V.I. Warshawski, #15)Breakdown by Sara Paretsky
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The ‘V.I. Warshawski’ books by Sara Paretsky were one of the first mystery series that I began reading years ago. I’d stopped reading for a few years, then when I picked ’em up again, I’d somehow forgotten this one. I added it to my TBR and recently decided to get caught up this summer. After the first chapter, I thought… ‘oh no, this isn’t very good.’ But I persisted and forced myself to finish it while procrastinating about packing for a trip. By about 10% in, I was hooked again. I’m happy to share my feedback on this book, and if you’ve struggled with the first few chapters, push yourself to get past them. It’ll be worth it.

Warshawski is a tough-as-nails Chicago private eye, reminiscent of the Golden Age detectives from nearly a century ago… with one difference: V.I. is a woman! Tougher than Kinsey Millhone but with a feminine side and a tenderness for some of her family, Victoria Iphigenia is the person you’d want to find the killer. It doesn’t matter if she gets beaten up, shot, drugged, tortured, or stabbed, V.I. always pulls through in the end. In this novel, her cousin, Petra, is running a book group for preteens, and the latest craze is a YA vampire / paranormal series. When some of the girls act out a ritual in the nearby cemetery, they’re unfortunately in for a lot more than expected. Another private eye is stabbed with a stake by a murderer who reminds the girls of a vampire. Throw in a few parents with political ambitions, a wealthy international business mogul, some Nazi / Polish immigrant histories, and a few vengeful but loving mothers, and you’ve got quite a story.

At first, the vampire angle threw me off. I felt like it was gimmicky and silly, not the Warshawski I knew. But once it began settling out, and I ignored the way the preteen girls behaved (seriously, one was just a witch because she didn’t want to get in trouble–and with a murder ten feet from her, what kind of parenting led to that abomination of a child who thought it acceptable to act so spoiled and lie for such reasons!) Then the subplots began to take over, and I felt like the meat and substance were front and center. I enjoyed the twisty path, the historical connections to wars of the past, and the methodical approach to solving the crime.

I’m glad I picked up the series again and will order the next one when I return from vacation. There are 4 more before I’m current, so I can finish them this summer… then what will I read if all my tough female detective series are up to date!?!?! If you haven’t read these before, you don’t necessarily have to go in order, as V.I.’s life is fairly low-key. A few people that die in later books might be alive in earlier ones, so the order could be confusing, but never in regard to the main mystery. Onward I go…

View all my reviews

About Me
For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I’m Jay, an author who lives in NYC. My stand-alone novels, Watching Glass Shatter and Father Figure, can be purchased on Amazon as electronic copies or physical copies. My new book series, Braxton Campus Mysteries, will fit those who love cozy mysteries and crime investigations but with a twist. There are four books: Academic CurveballBroken Heart Attack, Flower Power Trip, and Mistaken Identity Crisis. I read, write, and blog A LOT on this site where you can also find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Thanks for stopping by. Note: All written content is my original creation and copyrighted to me, but the graphics and images were linked from other sites and belong to them. Many thanks to their original creators. Follow my blog with Bloglovin.

Advertisements

Book Review: Vengeance on Tyneside by Eileen Thornton

Posted on Updated on

Vengeance On Tyneside (Agnes Lockwood Mysteries Book 3)Vengeance On Tyneside by Eileen Thornton
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Vengeance on Tyneside is the third book in the ‘Agnes Lockwood Mysteries’ written by Eileen Thornton. I’ve previously read the first two installments in this cozy series and was excited to devour this third one during the last few days. The books revolve around Agnes, a ~50ish widow with two grown sons, who has moved back to a place she once lived in years ago. In the past two books she had a flirtatious relationship with a detective on the police force, but in this one, they’ve officially become a couple. The only problem… Agnes feels an obligation to meddle, and she’s often the one to stumble upon a body in the oddest of places. It makes for a good read!

In Vengeance, she’s walking near the river when a faint voice calls out for help. By the time Agnes calls for an ambulance, the woman is too injured to further help. Agnes tries to let the situation go, and she takes a room in a hotel that she has been frequently living in while looking for a new flat to buy. It’s then she realizes some of the employees at the hotel might be involved in the murders. Two more people are killed, and a third is seriously injured. Who is behind these awful killings? And what are they trying to accomplish? Agnes works with her taxi cab driver to travel all around town collecting clues and following the police, including her detective boyfriend, Alan.

Alan tries to be understanding, but he just wants her to stop interfering in his case, especially when the Superintendent wants a quick arrest. Agnes believes they’ve arrested the wrong guy and sets out to prove it. Unfortunately, it kills much of the romance between her and Alan and almost drives them apart. By interviewing hotel employees, some passersby and a few friends of the victim, Agnes begins to piece together the gravity of the situation but puts herself in danger. Luckily, someone comes to her rescue before she ends up the final victim. I would never stay in that hotel if I valued my life. Phew, she is one lucky dame when it comes to visiting that storage room. Ouch!

Thornton has created quite an elaborate protagonist. She could match Poirot and Marple with her eccentricities, and there are moments I’m dumbfounded at how she gets away with getting so involved in a murder investigation. At the same time, it creates such clever tension, I enjoy all the impacts she creates with her insinuations and prying ways. I’m not confident this police force would solve the crimes without her help. Thornton’s simple but direct dialog and personalities find fun ways to clash, leaving readers shaking their head at all the antics. While it’s not outwardly funny / sarcastic, sometimes it comes across that way purely by body language or what isn’t being said between Agnes and whomever she’s chatting to. It’s a great technique from this savvy writer.

The books are easy to read… easily devoured in 3 hours. I split it in two sessions, but I could’ve quickly and happily read through it all at once. Agnes is clearly pictured–Thornton ensures we know who she is and what she is capable of. While she has minimal cohorts, the few who do help always make for good entertainment and action. We haven’t met her family yet, and I’m hoping in the future, Thornton throws us a visit or two to see if anyone can possibly put Agnes in her place. So far, she gets away with everything… but every hero needs an antagonist. I’m dying to meet Agnes’s future friendly foe!

Kudos to Thornton for delivering another fine installment in the series. It’s light reading, more about the process a nosy woman goes through to solve a crime with minimal access to technology and evidence. She relies on her intuition and old-fashioned techniques to break a case. I like those kinds of mysteries, and I recommend this one to anyone else who does too.

View all my reviews

About Me
For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I’m Jay, an author who lives in NYC. My stand-alone novels, Watching Glass Shatter and Father Figure, can be purchased on Amazon as electronic copies or physical copies. My new book series, Braxton Campus Mysteries, will fit those who love cozy mysteries and crime investigations but with a twist. There are four books: Academic CurveballBroken Heart Attack, Flower Power Trip, and Mistaken Identity Crisis. I read, write, and blog A LOT on this site where you can also find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Thanks for stopping by. Note: All written content is my original creation and copyrighted to me, but the graphics and images were linked from other sites and belong to them. Many thanks to their original creators. Follow my blog with Bloglovin.

Book Review: The Mirror Pond Murders by Ted Haynes

Posted on Updated on

The Mirror Pond Murders (Northwest Murder Mysteries #2)The Mirror Pond Murders by Ted Haynes
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Mirror Pond Murders is the second book in the ‘Northwest Murder Mysteries’ and was published by Ted Haynes in 2019. I enjoyed the first book, Suspects, last year and said yes when offered an opportunity to read this follow-up in the series. While there are elements of suspense and thrills, the book falls under the classic mystery genre, offering deep insight into the characters and a grave look at the past. Let’s chat a bit about the story.

A skeleton is dug up in the Mirror Pond in former Native American territory in Oregon. Based on an agreement with the tribe, the state must make every effort to properly address remains that might belong to them. An autopsy is performed, citing potential Cherokee or Asian heritage; not enough is left behind to be sure. However, they do know a few things about the victim, and when Sarah Chatham, an attorney handling the case, hears those facts, she’s stunned. It’s her long-lost sister, and Sarah wants answers.

Haynes has a simple but direct storytelling style. The POV and perspective of this book changes by chapter to cover several key characters, including the local police, the representative of a local tribe, a few involved lawyers, and a couple of others who I will leave out for now (no spoilers). While several of these characters continue from the first book, we find unexpected connections in the stories that provide a fantastic surprise and “ah-ha” moment. I am really fond of the way the author connected the two books, as it’s not obvious at first. I remembered some of the names and the key plot elements, but I’d forgotten a few of the details that were important to this case. Luckily, Haynes does a superb job at covering the past info without it feeling repetitive or unnecessary.

While the book touches on Native American culture, it’s primary focus is on a spiritual religion that was popular in the 1980s in Oregon. See more here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rajnees…. I was unfamiliar with the history of Rajneesh but glad to learn more about it. Haynes takes some of the facts from these events and uses them as a backdrop to his murder mystery. When he connects the death of Sarah’s sister to this cult and to someone else we’ve met before, it becomes quite a spiderweb. One of my favorite things about the book is how methodical Haynes’s characters are; the 2 or 3 primary ones searching for Sarah are lawyers, so they are required to do certain things in order to ensure they can convict someone of the crime. Haynes makes it easy to follow but intriguing.

Another cool aspect of this story is a sub-plot revolving around a main character’s wife, who we met in the prior book, and her disinterest in conversing with the not-so-nice father who abandoned her years ago. He’s got a connection to the main story, which makes everything fit together nicely. Haynes has a clear and consistent writing style. A few times, a new chapter starts off with some time having passed. I wanted to know more about how he got from A to B, but that’s just my reading style and preference. It was certainly an opening shocker when he revealed something out of the blue, but it drew me further into the book too. On a few other occasions, I felt a slight distance between the characters and me as a reader. It might be an effect of the author’s writing style for lawyers processing a case, but I would have liked a bit more emotional connection in those few instances. For example, Sarah is obviously hurt over the loss of her sister and something else that happens, but she handles it too stoically for me. I understand who she was as a character and why Haynes probably took that approach, but at the same time, a bit more would’ve endeared her to me at the right level.

All that said, the mystery is strong. The tone is even and procedural in a good way. There are several surprises I hadn’t expected. I really loved the way the two books were connected. I’m definitely interested to read more from the author in this series or anything else he starts. It’s a different kind of read in some ways, but also a very easy one to digest and understand. Kudos for a solid follow-up that I believe was stronger than his debut in this series.

View all my reviews

You can pre-order now via Amazon and it will launch June 17th!

About Me
For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I’m Jay, an author who lives in NYC. My stand-alone novels, Watching Glass Shatter and Father Figure, can be purchased on Amazon as electronic copies or physical copies. My new book series, Braxton Campus Mysteries, will fit those who love cozy mysteries and crime investigations but with a twist. There are four books: Academic CurveballBroken Heart Attack, Flower Power Trip, and Mistaken Identity Crisis. I read, write, and blog A LOT on this site where you can also find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Thanks for stopping by. Note: All written content is my original creation and copyrighted to me, but the graphics and images were linked from other sites and belong to them. Many thanks to their original creators. Follow my blog with Bloglovin.

Book Review: Sad Cypress by Agatha Christie

Posted on Updated on

Sad Cypress (Hercule Poirot, #21)Sad Cypress by Agatha Christie
My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

Sad Cypress is the 21st book in the Hercule Poirot series written by Agatha Christie. The book was published in 1940, but this series can be read out of order. I chose this book with my friend Medhat as a buddy read this month. I’ve seen several film and tv adaptations of Christie’s books, but I’ve never caught this one. I’m on a kick to read them all in the next year.

Sad Cypress is your classic tale. An elderly woman dies of seemingly natural causes. She was about to change her will, possibly naming a local girl who visited her from time to time as her beneficiary. She might have still included her niece and nephew by marriage, but we’re uncertain. Then, the local girl ends up dead even if she didn’t get to inherit any money because the original will was never finished. What’s going on? Who wanted the money? And how does everyone fit together? Throw in two nurses, a housekeeper, a gardener, a doctor, and the niece and nephew… and those are all your suspects. Christie isn’t usually someone to bring in a random at the end, so we are fairly certain it’s one of these folks.

What a clever tale! I was immediately drawn into the plot from the beginning. We divided it into thirds so we could read over three days. I actually had to read it early in the morning because I wanted to get back to it quickly each day. While there was a bit of repetition during the deduction phase, Poirot always makes you laugh, so it’s easily ignored. Christie makes you believe her characters are telling the truth only to shock you later with a lie and a twist. It always makes sense, and you wonder how the truth could hide in plain sight. Of course, it’s a little over-the-top, but that’s this style in general. I love it, so I’m not complaining — just pointing it out for others, so they know what they’re getting themselves into. It’s over 75 years old!

How does Poirot figure it out! He has a few off-screen conversations and relays them to us later, which is helpful. The imagery is powerful, and the concept of the cypress is simple but strong. The dialog is strong even for being formatted differently than modern readers are used to. It’s full of fantastic suspense and drama moments, urging you to keep reading until you stop. While not in her top 5 for me, it’s certainly a compelling story with a lot of meandering paths that lead back to a conclusion. 4.5 stars. I think I want to read Mouse Trap next, as I’ve not seen the play or read the story.

View all my reviews

About Me
For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I’m Jay, an author who lives in NYC. My stand-alone novels, Watching Glass Shatter and Father Figure, can be purchased on Amazon as electronic copies or physical copies. My new book series, Braxton Campus Mysteries, will fit those who love cozy mysteries and crime investigations but with a twist. There are four books: Academic CurveballBroken Heart Attack, Flower Power Trip, and Mistaken Identity Crisis. I read, write, and blog A LOT on this site where you can also find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Thanks for stopping by. Note: All written content is my original creation and copyrighted to me, but the graphics and images were linked from other sites and belong to them. Many thanks to their original creators. Follow my blog with Bloglovin.

Book Review: The Silence of the Library by Miranda James

Posted on Updated on

The Silence of the Library (Cat in the Stacks, #5)The Silence of the Library by Miranda James
My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

The Silence of the Library is the 5th book in the ‘Cat in the Stacks’ cozy mystery series written by Miranda James. The books take place in Athena, Mississippi and focus on Charlie, a ~50ish male librarian, who solves crimes while attending to his Maine Coon cat, Diesel. In this book, a 100-year-old author is going to do a book signing and interview at Charlie’s library, but all is not what it seems. The crazies come out to see their favorite girl sleuth author, and her family is very protective of the woman’s reputation and health. As Charlie gets drawn into the web of confusion, one of the fans is murdered, forcing our indomitable librarian to assist the Deputy Chief of Police, Kanesha, find the criminal.

Miranda James has an eloquent writing style where lively and memorable characters guide the story to completion. Each story feels like a separate universe but it also have strong connections to the others and the folks around Athena. It’s not as heavily populated with secondary characters as other book series, which can be a good thing. We have 4 or 5 central supporting folks in Charley’s life, and we enjoy getting to know them more deeply. In this book, the fans were crazy! I like to think the author took a few of his (yes, in case you didn’t know, this is a pseudonym) favorite fan-encounters and created wonderful characters in his books… and while I doubt any murders have ever happened in reality, it’s a great way to involve and connect with readers… especially in the world of girl detectives and the origins of the mystery series.

Overall, I give this a 4.5 star rating… it was a clever and intricate story, and I loved so much of it. Even my faves, the Ducote sisters, were mentioned. Readers are treated to a bonus story embedded in this book. James weaves a secondary tale written by the author appearing in the book, then publishes the full story on his website. How cool! I plan to read it this summer. I also realized that I never read enough Nancy Drew, so I have been inspired to read more again. With 5 down, I have 5 more in this ‘Cat in the Stacks’ series to finish before I get to the current one the author is about to publish… I can’t wait!

View all my reviews

About Me
For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I’m Jay, an author who lives in NYC. My stand-alone novels, Watching Glass Shatter and Father Figure, can be purchased on Amazon as electronic copies or physical copies. My new book series, Braxton Campus Mysteries, will fit those who love cozy mysteries and crime investigations but with a twist. There are four books: Academic CurveballBroken Heart Attack, Flower Power Trip, and Mistaken Identity Crisis. I read, write, and blog A LOT on this site where you can also find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Thanks for stopping by. Note: All written content is my original creation and copyrighted to me, but the graphics and images were linked from other sites and belong to them. Many thanks to their original creators. Follow my blog with Bloglovin.

Book Review: Fractalistic by Gerardo Delgadillo

Posted on Updated on

FractalisticFractalistic by Gerardo Delgadillo
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The title and the cover of this book are the initial reasons someone would feel compelled to pick it up and learn more. I say that because it’s eye-catching and pushes a person to wonder more deeply what it could be about. Would there be the potential for science-fiction or fantastical elements? I had little knowledge of the subject matter of fractals, but I was familiar with the author’s work, as I’ve read (and very much enjoyed) two of his other books. I assumed the tale would have something to do with a ‘broken’ young adult and that it would focus on Mexican heritage (based on cover and past styles — the author excels in these settings)! But what I read was so much more… and I’m excited to share my thoughts on it today.

Winter, ~17ish American girl, moves to Mexico with her parents, searching for a cure for her mother’s illness. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work, and her mother passes away. Winter and her father struggle to overcome the pain and loss. The book starts after the death, so we learn much of this in back story. The struggle is clear and obvious through the lack of words and emotion, brittle arguments, and abrasive moments between the two characters — all done in a beautiful and heartfelt way. Winter then meets some new friends at school, something she was reluctant to allow because the last time she trusted her friends, they all abandoned her when her mother had gotten sick. She’s been through a lot, but she is strong and pushes through the swirl around her. Winter is a fine balance of a young girl in need of love and guidance and a soon-to-be adult who is mature beyond her years.

Delgadillo lets us stir in confusion for a little while, trying to understand the mysterious fractals that her father is working on. All we know is that they are a way to communicate with his deceased wife, Winter’s mom. They both want to see her again, whether it’s real or spiritual, but we can clearly tell it’s affecting them differently. Her father is angry and forceful to get Winter on board with trying harder to connect with her mom. We think he’s being too aggressive, but there are reasons beyond what we know at the time. This is where we feel the fantastical elements, and it’s a startling and beautiful moment of bliss and pain — what if it actually works?

By midway, Winter’s developed friends, even a boyfriend of sorts. He has his own issues. It’s with her new best girl friend that Winter finds an intriguing connection, as her mother is also interested in the research Winter’s father is conducting. We see the relationships grow among each of the people in Winter’s life, all the while knowing something else is going on beyond what we’ve been told. It’s not easy to figure out, and when it hits you about 75% through the book, you’ll stop and need to take a breath. Our beloved characters are far worse off than we realized, but we feel even more enamored with them, hoping they can make the fractals work.

Delgadillo tells a poignant story. With several parts using Spanish (and enough English translations in the text to make the points clear), we have a different layer to the story. It’s not just a typical family we might know; it’s a family with different cultural beliefs, heritages, stories, and interpretations of life and death. I loved seeing these aspects in the book, as I felt it made the story even stronger. Winter is not a typical young adult, but in many ways, she is exactly the type of kid we’ve all seen somewhere along the path. Take away the science-fiction and ‘death’ turbulence in her life, she is going through all the normal things teenagers do… relocation, making new friends, dating a boy/girl for the first time, dealing with parental issues, etc.

Kudos to Delgadillo for a multi-dimensional story with tons of emotional peaks that will make you quite glad you took a chance on this one!

View all my reviews

About Me
For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I’m Jay, an author who lives in NYC. My stand-alone novels, Watching Glass Shatter and Father Figure, can be purchased on Amazon as electronic copies or physical copies. My new book series, Braxton Campus Mysteries, will fit those who love cozy mysteries and crime investigations but with a twist. There are four books: Academic CurveballBroken Heart Attack, Flower Power Trip, and Mistaken Identity Crisis. I read, write, and blog A LOT on this site where you can also find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Thanks for stopping by. Note: All written content is my original creation and copyrighted to me, but the graphics and images were linked from other sites and belong to them. Many thanks to their original creators. Follow my blog with Bloglovin.

Book Review: Harvest of Secrets by Ellen Crosby

Posted on Updated on

Harvest of Secrets (Wine Country Mysteries, #9)Harvest of Secrets by Ellen Crosby
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Harvest of Secrets is the 9th book in the ‘Wine Country Mysteries’ written by Ellen Crosby. This series focuses on the Montgomery Vineyard in Virginia, not too far from Washington DC, where historical and current mysteries intermix and revolve around politics, family history, and wine. In this caper, Lucie, a ~30ish engaged and disabled vineyard owner, runs into a guy she had a crush on in France many years ago. He’s been exiled by his father to learn how to grow up, but the man can’t stop finding trouble. This time, trouble leads to his death.

Who killed him? His current girlfriend, a past girlfriend, friends who finally had enough, or something more sinister? Meanwhile, Lucie’s farm team accidentally digs up another dead body from many years ago when a hurricane approaches. She quickly realizes she must be related to the victim, who was definitely murdered. How does it all fit together? Between Civil War beliefs and tension, modern day interracial relationships, and turning grapes into wine, this book is full of subplots and wonderful side stories.

Crosby is definitely inching her way into my top ten favorite authors. Although potentially considered a cozy mystery, it’s not the typical type. While there are limited graphical images and profanity, there’s an edge to these tales; they are also not overly fun and lighthearted. The Wine Country Mysteries are full of history, analytics, descriptions, and relationships. Lucie may be an amateur sleuth, but she’s not your typical heroine.

I am fully caught up on the series and looking forward to the tenth one which will be published in the fall of 2019. I hope to get an ARC or be part of the publisher’s launch team, but it’s months away. Until then, I will wait patiently for the next release. I might even take a gander at any of the author’s other books to see if there is something of interest.

View all my reviews

About Me
For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I’m Jay, an author who lives in NYC. My stand-alone novels, Watching Glass Shatter and Father Figure, can be purchased on Amazon as electronic copies or physical copies. My new book series, Braxton Campus Mysteries, will fit those who love cozy mysteries and crime investigations but with a twist. There are four books: Academic CurveballBroken Heart Attack, Flower Power Trip, and Mistaken Identity Crisis. I read, write, and blog A LOT on this site where you can also find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Thanks for stopping by. Note: All written content is my original creation and copyrighted to me, but the graphics and images were linked from other sites and belong to them. Many thanks to their original creators. Follow my blog with Bloglovin.