cozy mystery

Review: Crunch Time

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Crunch Time
Crunch Time by Diane Mott Davidson

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Diane Mott Davidson‘s “Goldy Bear Culinary” mystery series is one of my early favorites, and I’m sad that the author isn’t writing anymore. There were about 20 books in total, but this review is for #16, Crunch Time. This was the second or third cozy mystery series I took on, and only the second where I’ve been able to finish reading all books. (LJB’s “Cat Who” series is the other one).

In this book, the crime action comes right to Goldy’s home, which makes for even more fun. Friends are staying with Goldy after their house burns down, and Goldy knows they are keeping secrets. She pushes her way in and tries to figure out how to help them, keep her business running and ensure her own home and family aren’t impacted. But of course, Goldy falls prey to the culprit at one point, too.

I enjoy this series because she is such a real character. And the supporting cast feel like people you’d love to be around. Humor, sarcasm, love… Goldy’s husband and son are very real people.

As far as books in the series, this one falls somewhere in the middle. Not the best, not the worst. The recipes seem fairly easy to follow, if you like that sort of thing.

Some folks thought this was a bit long. I can see why, but it’s still a fast read.

It’s a fun series to read, but you probably only need to read a few throughout to get the gist… unless you can commit to all ~20. Then by all means…

About Me
For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I read A LOT. I write A LOT. And now I blog A LOT. First the book review goes on Goodreads, and then I send it on over to my WordPress blog at https://thisismytruthnow.com, where you’ll also find TV & Film reviews, the revealing and introspective 365 Daily Challenge and lots of blogging about places I’ve visited all over the world. And you can 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. Vote in the poll and ratings. 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.

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Review: The Cat Who Ate Danish Modern

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The Cat Who Ate Danish Modern
The Cat Who Ate Danish Modern by Lilian Jackson Braun

My rating: 4 of 5 stars



Background

The summer after I graduated from college, I started missing regular reading… during school, I had less personal choice and recreational reads, as all the college textbooks and novels were the priority. I was an English major and rarely had time for adding in my own particular interests. The last course I had taken was an independent study that one of my professors and I had built the curriculum on together: Murder Mysteries. I learned all about the genres and sub-genres, authors and styles. One in particular I grew fond of was the cozy mystery. I also had a thing about wanting a Siamese cat. And so… my love affair with Lilian Jackson Braun began. Finding myself without required reading, I selected a few books, including this cozy mystery series, and I read through a huge amount in the first few years.

Review
People either love or dislike the cozy mystery book. Sometimes it’s too simple. I get that. But sometimes, it’s exactly what you want to read before bed, when you need to relax, or because it’s just fun and charming humor and easy story.

Braun started writing in 1960s and published a few of these books, then stopped writing for 25 years before re-igniting the series in the 1980s… producing another 25+ in the collection. This is book number two, and it is where Qwill, the main character, adopts his second Siamese cat when its owner… for reasons I cannot disclose… can no longer care for YumYum. And thus begins the life of these 3 primary characters in the entire series.

Qwill is a really likable character. He’s about 60, a bit ornery, highly intelligent, very set in his ways, and the object of every woman over 60 in town. There are less male protagonists in cozy novels than female leads, which make this a bit of a unique series. It was one of the very first series that put the cozy sub-genre on the market. And the world that Braun creates in Moose County is just amazing.

In this book, Qwill hasn’t yet moved to Moose County, so you’re still learning background about him and his prior life before becoming sober and everything changing post divorce. And he’s asked to write a story and column about home design, something he has very little knowledge of.

It’s a very cute story with a cast of strong characters, a few of which move with him to Moose County along the path. This book establishes his relationship with the two cats, including their extra-strong senses when it comes to helping him solve crimes.

Yes, the cats come up a lot. Always funny. But the mystery is the focus, I promise. It’s worth a shot to see if you’re hooked on the series, but if you do… you have to read the first 3 or 4, so you can see his initial move to Moose Country where 90% of the books take place.

About Me
For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I read A LOT. I write A LOT. And now I blog A LOT. First the book review goes on Goodreads, and then I send it on over to my WordPress blog at https://thisismytruthnow.com, where you’ll also find TV & Film reviews, the revealing and introspective 365 Daily Challenge and lots of blogging about places I’ve visited all over the world. And you can 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. Vote in the poll and ratings. Thanks for stopping by.


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Review: The Mysterious Affair at Styles

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The Mysterious Affair at Styles
The Mysterious Affair at Styles by Agatha Christie

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

If you’ve read my reviews before, you know I love mystery fiction, and in particular, the classics. Agatha Christie died in 1976, and I was born the following year. Two things come to mind… (1) It’s a good thing I wasn’t alive when she died because I would have been so miserable to be around. (2) Since I was born just about a year later, I’m wondering if maybe a small part of her lives on… as I love her genius and her works of literature… and I can re-read her books over and over again without ever getting bored.

There are tons of reviews of all her major works, and I don’t need to be repetitive in my review. What I’d really try to get across is why you need to read ANY of her works, and then why I’d suggest this one:

1. This was one of her first books, and I believe the first published one, in 1920, which means she was probably writing it exactly 100 years ago. And though some of the language is a little different, and it takes place with a different cultural atmosphere, the crux of the story — its plot, is appropriate at any point in time. People don’t love Christie for her beautiful language or her great ideas… yeah, she had some of those… but it’s her plots and characters that stand out. And those transcend time.

2. Who else can create such a puzzle that you are constantly trying to guess what’s going on? True, tons of writers today, but not 100 years ago. And even with modern writers, it’s often in a suspense and thriller type of novel, where it’s all about the chase. Christie was all about the calm approach to solving a murder. She didn’t try to end each chapter with a big WOW and heart-wrenching scare tactic. It’s simple evolution of a timeline, collections of clues, conversations with people… and then you start to see the puzzle come together. But at the last minute, you get the unexpected twist.

3. With this first book, you meet Hercule Poirot, one of her two popular detectives. Poirot is annoying. He’s painful. He will make you angry while you are laughing. And that’s the cool part. Columbo is the best comparison I can come up with. And I’m certain Columbo was based on large part by Christie’s Poirot.

So why this book???????

It’s the first in the series. It’s a prime example of why her stories work. It’s the ultimate tale – a family with secrets. It takes place in the UK… the best place to visit and perhaps live. I don’t live there, only visited it. :}

But it’s really the slow build-up of the clues that will have your mind working overtime. So… if you need a Christie stand-alone book, go to “And Then There Were None.” If you like female investigators, choose a Miss Marple. If you like a Belgian male detective, flip a coin and pick between Murder on the Orient Express or The Mysterious Affair at Styles. Both will be a great read. But if you need to start at the beginning, go with this one to see what an author’s first book looks like. Because if I didn’t have my Christie… I’d be like…

About Me
For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I read A LOT. I write A LOT. And now I blog A LOT. First the book review goes on Goodreads, and then I send it on over to my WordPress blog at https://thisismytruthnow.com, where you’ll also find TV & Film reviews, the revealing and introspective 365 Daily Challenge and lots of blogging about places I’ve visited all over the world. And you can 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. Vote in the poll and ratings. Thanks for stopping by.


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Review: Smokin’ Seventeen

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Smokin' Seventeen
Smokin’ Seventeen by Janet Evanovich

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Stephanie Plum certainly has a lot of people in her life who want to tell her what to do. I’m not sure I’d handle it as well as she does… and she doesn’t always handle it well. But that’s why we all love her. Two key things about this particular book:

1. Dead bodies keep popping up. A detective’s dream… I mean, yeah, it’s bad for the person who was killed, but at least Stephanie is making some money off it, right? (I’m totally joking… she doesn’t get paid enough to deal with it).

2. The relationship spin-o-wheel is on over-drive this time. Not only has everyone stuck their nose into whether she should have Ranger or Morelli, she’s being setup on blind dates now… and her friends are making bets on what will happen.

You know it’s bad when it gets to that degree. And if you’re on book 17, do you really want a regular review on this one? If you’ve never read the series before, go back and read 1 thru 3. They set everything up… and by then, you’ll know if you have the hutzpah to handle ’em all. And my bet is she will NEVER choose one man.

And oh yeah… when I’ve got 18 books in the series I’ve read, and only done 2 reviews, and it’s been 5 to 10 years since I’ve read them… it’s gonna be hard to remember everything to finish these reviews. Yikes, why do I feel so much pressure to have a review for every rating when I’ve read a book. I’m such a type A over-achiever who needs a good swift kick in the…

And I bet that’s how Stephanie feels too!

About Me
For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I read A LOT. I write A LOT. And now I blog A LOT. First the book review goes on Goodreads, and then I send it on over to my WordPress blog at https://thisismytruthnow.com, where you’ll also find TV & Film reviews, the revealing and introspective 365 Daily Challenge and lots of blogging about places I’ve visited all over the world. And you can 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. Vote in the poll and ratings. Thanks for stopping by.


View all my reviews

Review: Edited Out: A Mysterious Detective Mystery

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Edited Out: A Mysterious Detective MysteryMy rating 3.5 out of 5 stars to E.J. Copperman‘s novel Edited Out: A Mysterious Detective Mystery, the second in Jeff Cohen’s (author’s real name) “Mysterious Detective Mystery” series of books. It was really a 3.4999999 and I had to unfortunately round down. Now that I’m reviewing more ARCs, I find myself starting series in the middle, which is never a good idea… And though this was a good book, you should definitely read the first one before you take on book two. I’ll explain why later on in this review. Onward we go…

Why This Book
I belong to an advanced reader group on Facebook for cozy mystery books, where I entered a contest to win a copy of this one. I won the book, and I’d like to thank E.J. Copperman, Crooked Lane Publishers and the ladies who run the Facebook group for the opportunity. And as expected, my review is an honest response to the book. It was the last open ARC I had before jumping on to some NetGalley awards, so it’s good to feel caught up on at least one site.

Overview of Story
Rachel is a mystery writer living in NJ, and she has several books penned about a detective named Duffy Madison. She makes a decent living at writing, but her life is turned upside down when a man named Duffy Madison claims to be her character brought to real life. (Note, this all happened in the first book… we’re now on the second book…) In this one, Duffy’s research leads him to Damien Mosely who has been missing for 5 years. Despite her concerns, Rachel agrees to help Duffy investigate Damien who lived in Poughkeepsie, NY. During their investigation, they meet 4 or 5 people who are all telling some level of lies about who Damien was and what kind of relationship they previously had. No one believes he is dead, but then a body is discovered, and it matches Damien’s and Duffy’s description. After a few days of checking out all the leads, they are all starting to believe Duffy can’t be Damien, as Damien is definitely the dead body; however, Damien’s supposed wife turns up dead, throwing suspicion onto Duffy. Rachel and Ben, a friend who works in the DA’s office, dig even further and learn a few secrets that bring the murderer to the forefront. In the end, the case is solved, with a few mishaps and a few near-death experiences.

Approach & Style
1. “Edited Out” is book 2 in the series. Book 1 was “Written Off.” The entire premise in the series is that an author meets a man who claims he is the character in her books. Duffy has no memory before 5 years ago, when the first book was published, and he’s determined to prove that he’s not someone with memory loss. Meanwhile, the author, Rachel, is trying not to get close to him, as she thinks he might be a little crazy; however, she’s drawn to helping him figure out his identity, as she is struggling to write the character now that she’s seeing some of his characteristics come to life in front of her. What if she makes a mistake?

2. It’s a first-person narrative, told from Rachel’s perspective and point of view. It does not jump around, which is a good thing for some readers. It helps keep a little bit of suspense, especially given how important of a character Duffy Madison is to both the real book and the books Rachel writes within the book we are reading.

Strengths
1. This could have been tremendously confusing, but the writer does a good job at being very clear when we’re talking about Duffy the character and Duffy the real-life person, and rarely without it feeling repetitive. It’s a great concept – a character comes to life – if that’s what it turns out to be. Reminds be a little of Jasper Fforde‘s series with Thursday Next.

2. The writing is relaxed and easy, makes you laugh and crosses that line a little between the writer and the reader, but in a good way. A few times, I’m like:

Open Questions & Concerns
Though the mystery was good, it wasn’t superb. The book starts off in a place where it would have been really valuable to have read the first book previously. You’re left guessing how did Duffy meet Rachel, what kind of intros did they have, what was going on just before this all happened. But that was book 1 and you don’t know unless you read it. As a result, the mystery in this one isn’t like normal mysteries… Step 1, you have a character you get to know, Step 2, the character dies, Step 3, you search for the killer. Here, it’s… Step 1, let’s figure out who I am, Step 2, oh, I’m this guy possibly, Step 3, oh wait, he might be dead, Step 4, let’s figure out who killed him. So I’m left thinking…

“Yeah, I know if you investigate this murder, you might get some info on who you really are, but I don’t care about that murder… I just want to know if you really came to life from the book.”

BAM. And then the book ends with no further information on who the real life Duffy Madison is, other than he may have gone to school with the dead guy. Whaaaaat?

Final Thoughts
It’s a great concept. I like the story. I may go back to read book 1. But I’m not sure where the series will go at this point… will it be 10 books trying to figure out who the real life Duffy is, or did he really spring out of the book and this becomes a fantasy series. I might be able to go with it…

As I really enjoyed the author’s writing style, I’ll likely give some of his other series a chance. He has “The Haunted Guesthouse Mystery” series with 8 books and “Asperger’s Mystery” series with 4 books. I’d never heard of him or his books before, so I’m really glad I won this ARC.

About Me
For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I read A LOT. I write A LOT. And now I blog A LOT. First the book review goes on Goodreads, and then I send it on over to my WordPress blog at https://thisismytruthnow.com, where you’ll also find TV & Film reviews, the revealing and introspective 365 Daily Challenge and lots of blogging about places I’ve visited all over the world. And you can 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. Vote in the poll and ratings. Thanks for stopping by.

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Review: Explosive Eighteen

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Explosive Eighteen
Explosive Eighteen by Janet Evanovich

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

After 18 books in this series, I can’t always give out a 4 just because I laugh so hard I nearly pee myself. Evanovich has to work harder and harder to keep the high mark stars… but in all honesty, this was a hysterical edition in the series.

I read it about 5 years ago but still have vivid memories of many character escapades. And when it’s a trip to Hawaii (partly), who wouldn’t love it. I’m going back to add small review and thoughts on any book I never actually wrote up a review for. And this is one of them.

Reading about Stephanie Plum’s inability to accurately describe someone in a picture she saw briefly is pure gold. She is so goofy sometimes… I can’t believe she hasn’t gotten herself wasted at this point by some of the criminals she’s dealt with over the years.

And Lula is my favorite character, at least whenever she appears more prominently in a book. Watching her training, and eating, is laugh-out-loud funny. I always picture Gabourey Sidibe playing her… not sure why, but that’s who’s in my head.

I’m not a huge fan of Joyce but we all need a Moriarty of sorts, right? For those who haven’t read the series, Joyce is a fellow PI and former girlfriend of Stephanie’s on/off again relationship with Joe Morelli.

I think I stopped here with this book and still have the last 4 or 5 to catch up on. The series stalls every so often, but within each book, there’s a treasure of fun somewhere hidden if not the entire thing. They can be read in 3 to 4 hours… I would like to listen to one if they actually make an audio book. I wonder what accents everyone has, given it takes place in Newark, NJ.

Basically, you’ve got a woman everyone finds something they love about, but also a few annoying habits. You may want to date her, but then you’d want to kill her. She’s a good bestie, but even then, too many favors just to keep up with her antics.

Nonetheless, it makes for a fantastic read. So if you’ve never read the series, don’t start with this one. Go back to #1 and give it a shot. And then tell me if you’re a Ranger or a Morelli fan. (I’d pick Ranger, btw… isn’t it always better when the object of your affection also scares the hell out of you????)



About Me
For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I read A LOT. I write A LOT. And now I blog A LOT. First the book review goes on Goodreads, and then I send it on over to my WordPress blog at https://thisismytruthnow.com, where you’ll also find TV & Film reviews, the revealing and introspective 365 Daily Challenge and lots of blogging about places I’ve visited all over the world. And you can 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. Vote in the poll and ratings. Thanks for stopping by.

View all my reviews

Review: Jeopardy in July

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Jeopardy in JulyMy rating: 4 of 5 stars to Barbara Venkataraman‘s Jeopardy in July, the fifth book in her Jamie Quinn mystery series. I’m starting to love this series! It’s simple, direct and easy-to-read, but it makes for such a fun experience.

 

Why This Book
The author and I connected months ago and I began reading her series. When the newest one came out, we chatted again and I was quick to jump on this read. I added it to TBR in late March when it was released and found myself propelling it to the must-read rather quickly. And I sat down at the end of my day today and finished it in less than 3 hours!


Overview of Story
Jamie Quinn has been a family law attorney for about ten years, growing tired of the boring cases that pass her desk. Though she’s had fun working on the unexpected murder cases over the last few years, those aren’t ones she comes across very often. And her boyfriend is stuck in Australia for a month longer than they expected, leaving her facing the world on her own. When she takes on some extra work at the local senior facility, providing advice about wills, inheritances and long-term care. But when something seems amiss with too many deaths at the facility, Jamie’s hot on the trail again.

South Florida. Forged paintings. An artist with a potential passion to do the right thing. Unfamiliar family connections. A mysterious flower that causes death, appearing as though it’s a foaming mouth. And that’s just 1 of her newest cases. How will Jamie figure it all out? With the help of bestie Grace, and Grace’s state senate candidate boyfriend, who annoys the heck out of Jamie. As she gets closer to the clues, along with PI sidekick Duke, Jamie’s sure to find a future in crime fighting this time!

Approach & Style
Barbara Venkataraman‘s style is absolute ease. The main character is a fun and quirky lawyer, one who has a witty and snappy tongue, but always comes across as someone you wish you knew. The book has so much humor, it’s hard to stop giggling sometimes. It’s not all-out crazy laughter, but a subtle hint of “this chick is cool and I wanna know her” type humor. And her banter with her favorite PI, ladies’ man Duke Broussard, is dynamic. I love their scenes together, even if it’s not about the case. Long-term, I kinda want them to end up together.

I read this as an e-read on my iPad through Kindle. The point of view stays on Jamie the whole story, following her antics across her own family drama and her various cases. In this one, two of her cases collide when art forgery meets death at the senior care facility. Chapters are short, quick to ingest… always humorous… and they leave you constantly wanting to click forward to the next one. And the author publishes a few a year, which should be enough, but I’m always wanting more!

Strengths
Jamie’s a true heroine. She’s funny. She’s smart. Flawed. Tragic. Strong. And represents us all.
Duke’s such a hoot. He’s over-the-top and warrants a good slap in the face… or a little fun on the side… hard to tell sometimes.

The plot is straightforward, but has a few fun jaunts along the way. It is easy to follow, leaves you wanting to solve it on your own with all the information at your fingertips.
Jamie’s search for her own love and family hops along throughout the story, and with each of the five books, she gets a little closer. I love following this side-story.

Open Questions & Thoughts
I wish these were longer. Barbara Venkataraman‘s gonna hate me for saying this, but it always ends a little too soon. I wish the plots were a little more complex and a little longer, just to draw out the fun.

Jamie just falls into her situations all the time. I think it’s a good thing, but it can also be a problem… as in too coincidental; however, the way book 5 ends shows a lot of promise for changes to Jamie’s life that I think could be of a great benefit.

Final Thoughts
When I first started the series, I thought it had potential. As I read each story, my biggest concern was they were too short (about 200 pages). As I made the journey from book 1 thru book 5, I found myself really looking forward to reading each book. It’s an uncomplicated and focused read, taking you on a fun journey through a likable character’s personal and career growth. It’s not about how complex the plot is or how much the author can shock you. It’s just a good laugh-out-loud read for a few hours. And I’m quite fond of them!

About Me
For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I read A LOT. I write A LOT. And now I blog A LOT. First the book review goes on Goodreads, and then I send it on over to my WordPress blog at https://thisismytruthnow.com, where you’ll also find TV & Film reviews, the revealing and introspective 365 Daily Challenge and lots of blogging about places I’ve visited all over the world. And you can 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. Vote in the poll and ratings. Thanks for stopping by.

View all my reviews