Book Reviews

Book Review: What’s in a Name? (Volume 2) by Sally Cronin

Posted on Updated on

What's in a Name? Volume 2: Stories of Life and RomanceWhat’s in a Name? Volume 2: Stories of Life and Romance by Sally Cronin
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Sometimes the second book in a series or multi-volume collection of short stories doesn’t live up to the first. I can say with certainty that’s not the case with volume 2 of ‘What’s in a Name?’ by Sally Cronin. In this collection of stories of life and romance, following names that start with the letters K through Z, Cronin delivers a plethora of immersive, delightful, and intense characters.

I truly don’t know how she manages to pack such distinct and complex drama in a story that’s usually under ten pages. From the first few lines to the closing words, I was drawn in by each of the tales in this collection. There is something about the power an author chooses in certain words which helps create the proper ambiance for a setting, draw out the intrigue in the plot, and ignite a reader’s passions.

From the descriptions to the connections between a few of the stories (not in terms of characters but themes and approaches to decisions), Cronin provides us with a bevy of situations to consider… how would we react if such a problem found its way into our lives? Would we get revenge? What kind of sacrifices could we live with? What does love mean when it comes with strings?

I highly recommend both collections, as you’ll see some growth and evolution from volume one to two. Now I’ll have to look over her canon of other books to see what might be something else I want to read.

View all my reviews

In case you missed last week’s review of volume 1, check it out here.

ABOUT SALLY CRONIN -- Smorgasbord - Variety is the Spice of Life.
My name is Sally Cronin and I am doing what I love.. Writing. Books, short stories, Haiku and blog posts. My previous jobs are only relevant in as much as they have gifted me with a wonderful filing cabinet of memories and experiences which are very useful when putting pen to paper. I move between non-fiction health books and posts and fairy stories, romance and humour. I love variety which is why I called my blog Smorgasbord Invitation and you will find a wide range of subjects. You can find the whole story here. Find out more at https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/about-me/

Her Latest book: Tales from the Irish Garden
Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Sally-Cronin/e/B0096REZM2
Blog: https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com
LinkedIn: http://uk.linkedin.com/in/sallycronin1
Twitter: https://twitter.com/sgc58
MeWe: mewe.com/i/sallycronin

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 three books: Academic CurveballBroken Heart Attack, and Flower Power Trip. 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: Leave It to Cleaver by Victoria Hamilton

Posted on Updated on

Leave It to Cleaver (Vintage Kitchen Mystery #6)Leave It to Cleaver by Victoria Hamilton
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Leave It to Cleaver is the 6th book in the ‘Vintage Kitchen Mystery’ series written by Victoria Hamilton. All I can say is… this series keeps on getting better. Jaymie and her sister are cleaning out a friend’s home when they discover a body trapped in a trunk for over 30 years. Who killed the missing teenager? It seems to be one of their friends who fought back in high school with the girl, except a second body turns up days later. That girl disappeared from high school around the same time. Someone was up to no good… what kinda shady characters was Becca hanging out with!?!?

Hamilton’s mystery itself is complex and full of believable suspects. I liked the way Jaymie went back and forth with her suspicion cast upon several people she knew and was close with. As she learns the truth about adoption, abuse, cheating, and hidden tempers, everything comes to a blow. What excelled in this story was the structure and approach. In alternating chapters, we see exactly what happened to different characters thirty years ago, all in third person perspective. We also see Jaymie’s current investigation, and decide for ourselves how the details will play out.

On the personal side, Jaymie is engaged, which we knew from the last book… but her wedding is finally here and it’s a double one with Becca, her sister. We meet more members of Jakob’s family – he’s such a good influence and match for Jaymie. And Grandma Leighton comes for a visit. Another wonderful edition in this series. I’ve already got the next one in my queue to order.

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 three books: Academic CurveballBroken Heart Attack, and Flower Power Trip. 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: Eaves of Destruction by Kate Carlisle

Posted on Updated on

Eaves of Destruction (Fixer-Upper Mystery #5)Eaves of Destruction by Kate Carlisle
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Eaves of Destruction is the fifth book in the ‘Fixer-Upper Mystery’ cozy series by Kate Carlisle. In these books, Shannon, a ~30ish construction business owner, solves crimes as an amateur sleuth while helping renovate a wonderful seaside town in California. In this edition, the local town inspector causes trouble at several of her job sites and finds himself murdered in the neighbor’s orangery (sun room / conservatory). Whodunit!?!

Shannon is a fun protagonist. She pokes fun at herself but also knows when to be serious, just like the series itself. Obviously, if this many murders occurred in a small town, and the same person found the body all the time, she’d be locked up for some sort of charge to prevent anything else from happening! But this is a book, and there needs to be some level of recognition for that fine line of reality versus fiction. Of all the cozies I’ve read, this one is near the top of the list of those that manage that balance quite adeptly.

The victim was mean and ruthless, he just invaded people’s homes to inspect work even when it wasn’t time or he didn’t have permission to enter. The culprit was semi-believable, but I wish it had been someone else. The family we’re focusing on is interesting, and I liked the addition of Amanda, a new contractor who helps save the day when too many jobs turn up. I liked that we saw more of Shannon’s friends and their personal relationships with the men and/or families in their lives. I was glad to see the connection between the sheriff and Shannon turning into something much more easy-going.

The ending was a little over-the-top, but it made me laugh and I enjoyed how it all came together. I have already ordered the next one in the series and will read it in early April. My goal is to be caught up as soon as possible because the seventh book comes out later this year. BTW, it was adapted into a TV series in case anyone is interested in watching it. Maybe then I can shift over to the author’s other series.

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 three books: Academic CurveballBroken Heart Attack, and Flower Power Trip. 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: One Little Secret by Cate Holahan

Posted on

One Little SecretOne Little Secret by Cate Holahan
My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

One Little Secret is the second novel written by Cate Holahan that I’ve read. Part mystery and thriller, it tells the story of six neighbors (three couples) who rent a house on the eastern shores of Long Island for part of the summer. As each chapter unfolds in third person perspective, we learn of the drama transpiring in their individual and combined households.

This book was a very easy read. I devoured it in two chunks over a twenty-four hour period, finding myself unwilling to put it down except for meals and priorities that I couldn’t skip out on. The characters are vivid, realistic but with a slight caricature-like tendency, and will clearly show their motivation for each move they make. Holahan has weaved clever tension beyond just the normal marital problems of infidelity and monotonous boredom. At times, I thought these people were all horrible, yet at others, I saw moments of intimacy and pain that provoked sentimental feelings for them.

Given where they rented a summer home, it’s obvious they came from money, though some try to indicate they do not. Doctors, lawyers, tech start-ups, and sports reporters earn a lot in this world, so be prepared for a high amount of affluence and the drama that comes with it. From the start in the prologue where someone is being pushed under water, you know there is a secret worth protecting, but which of the six is the victim and which is the murderer is the game you’ve signed on to play when you picked up this book. Love it!

By 15% in, all the major clues are dropped. We know the victim’s hair color or body type, then one by one the author described the six people so that it became obvious who died. The detective from the Suffolk County police force is also a key focus, as she’s called to scene of this crime and another one which has a connection we’ve yet to realize. It’s also personal for the detective given her young daughter was innocently sucked into a party gone wrong, and that party was attended by one of the six house guests.

My favorite aspect of the book is how the story alternates across three days–day before, day of, and day after. There are flashbacks, and information dropped about the past, but the critical elements are what’s not being said in conversations and which neighbor has a connection we don’t understand to someone else. I adore that suspense, especially trying to guess not only who but what happened.

Overall, I waffled between a 4 and 4.5 stars, but settled on the higher rating. There were a few items that needed a better closure or clarity, so I couldn’t give it a perfect rating. The ending was apropos, but I felt like the detective lingered in the story and made too many mistakes. I didn’t always believe she was smart enough to solve the puzzle and felt like a distraction to the story. It was minor, but enough that I noticed it. Also, we didn’t get enough time with the victim to understand exactly who (s)he was as a person and parent. I felt bad for the death, but one or two more scenes to show the vibrant life and charisma once held would’ve made it pop even more.

Holahan’s writing style is engaging and has a stellar fluidity that makes you believe you’re standing in the rental house or on the beach as everything occurs around you. I look forward to her next book as it will be at the top of my reading list.

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 three books: Academic CurveballBroken Heart Attack, and Flower Power Trip. 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 Champagne Conspiracy by Ellen Crosby

Posted on Updated on

The Champagne Conspiracy (Wine Country Mysteries, #7)The Champagne Conspiracy by Ellen Crosby
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Champagne Conspiracy by Ellen Crosby is the 7th book in the ‘Wine Country Mysteries’ series that takes place in Virginia. So far, this is my favorite and earns 4.5 star. What a roller coast ride for an avid genealogist, historian, wine-lover, and cozy fan.

Three families, all connected to Lucie Montgomery, the main character in the series. A secret affair with President Harding in the early 20th century. A famous California winery with a potential change in ownership. A death from a century ago, then another one happening in current times. Chock full of mystery and connections, I couldn’t put this one down. At times, the overly complex set of relationships and time period needed some additional attention and re-read, but that’s what happens in a genealogical mystery. I loved it!

Between the explanation for how champagne (or sparkling wine) is created and the extra-marital affairs President Warding had (I hadn’t been familiar), I felt like I learned so much in this book. It pushes the line from cozy mystery into mid-range mystery, but I was totally fine with it. It added a little something extra this time, and that can be a fun change.

The characters evolve in this book, too. Quinn and Lucie’s relationship reaches a new level. Her cousin, Dominique, is presented with an amazing opportunity. Her brother, Eli, grows up. It’s such a fascinating family… I really want the youngest sister to come back for a visit again.

Already ordered the next one… can’t wait to read it.

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 three books: Academic CurveballBroken Heart Attack, and Flower Power Trip. 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: What’s in a Name? (Volume 1) by Sally Cronin

Posted on Updated on

What's in a Name?What’s in a Name? by Sally Cronin
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

There are many topics that will draw my attention to a book. In Sally Cronin’s collection ‘What’s in a name?’ I found a whole bunch that piqued my curiosity: short stories, genealogy, and how first names are chosen. On top of that, it’s the first volume in this series, which means I have another to read soon. Now this made my weekend!

Cronin shares ~20 short stories covering the letters A through J in volume one. She lists a male and a female name for each letter, then contributes a story ranging from five to ten pages each. Short, but not simple, and I mean that in a good way. Cronin packs an immense amount into each brief tale… whether it’s personality traits, complex plots, or comparisons between two people over different periods of time, I found everything from nuggets of glory to hilarious banter.

One of my favorite aspects of this work was the varying time frames, locations, and genres of each short story. Cronin deals with normal life events, everything from death to pregnancy, marriage to sickness. How she manages to pack such a punch with so many characters in so few pages is astonishing! I kinda want a sequel to cover what ends up happening to many of the people we’ve met.

If you’re looking for something fun, clever, and easy-to-digest in short samples, this is definitely for you. I recommend it for those interested in learning about how personalities sometime echo the name chosen for an individual… and perhaps vice versa. Kudos to the author for finding a new fan… and I’ll be reading volume two next month, so be prepared!

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 three books: Academic CurveballBroken Heart Attack, and Flower Power Trip. 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 Cracked Altar by Timothy J. R. Rains

Posted on

The Cracked AltarThe Cracked Altar by Timothy J. R. Rains
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Cracked Altar, a fantasy novel by Timothy J. R. Rains, first interested me because of its intriguing title. Would it have a religious theme? What dastardly action would happen, as when something says cracked, it usually has a clever twist. As soon as I dove in, Hinkle’s near-capture captivated me. I’m not typically a reader in this genre, but the more I sample some works, I find myself becoming a fan.

Hinkle’s family tree is complex. We immediately learn that her mother is gone. She’s been living with a grandmother in a world where her family has suffered. There’s an uncle who’s a mystery and aunt who’s either a pious nun or a nefarious witch. Which will it be? Hinkle is rescued by her own special brand of knight, and her grandmother engineers a solution that will benefit them all in the future. It’s a powerful scene and sets a fantastic tone for the book. We follow Hinkle’s path with her new protector only to learn nothing we’ve thought true is indeed accurate. In this world, what’s gray is more important than what’s black and white.

Rains builds a fascinating and well-developed world where the rich are rich, and the poor are poor. Part-fairy tale and part mystical quest, the novel will engage your visual senses as each scene and action are vividly described. The battle scenes were strong but not over-the-top. The secrets were revealed at timely moments. And the clues were in abundance. The story is gripping, and I’m hopeful there will be a sequel. Kudos to the author for gaining a new fan in the fantasy genre.

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 three books: Academic CurveballBroken Heart Attack, and Flower Power Trip. 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.