Dean James

Book Review: No Cats Allowed by Miranda James

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No Cats Allowed (Cat in the Stacks, #7)No Cats Allowed by Miranda James
Author Miranda James has done it again with the seventh book, No Cats Allowed, in the ‘Cat in the Stacks’ series. When you have a ruthless new executive overseeing the library, and this man annoys nearly everyone in town, I can’t wait to see him die in a perilous ‘accident.’ At least in books, of course. I certainly wouldn’t wish what happens to Oscar in this book on anyone in reality. I will say… I felt a certain kind of justice to know he was off’d in such a manner. Gone, but not forgotten, because of James’s fantastic writing and storytelling abilities.

Charlie Harris is our main character. Diesel is his Maine Coon cat, somewhere around 35 lbs. My dog, who is hard to manage, is 25 lbs. I can only imagine! Charlie has two grown children and a girlfriend. His wife passed away years ago but he pines away for her lovingly. I wish we’d had a chance to meet her, perhaps one day in a “historical story.” In this caper, everyone at the library is a suspect when it comes to who killed Oscar. We also meet a few other folks, namely his abused wife and her protective brother. Did they finally have enough of the man’s damage?

The best part of this story… when Oscar dies… Charlie has to step in to oversee the library. I love watching him manage other people, especially someone who treats him rather poorly because she wanted the job. James cleverly covers the HR side of the organization, and often, it hit too close to home for me. I’ve had many of the conversations he’s had with the HR department about staff, so I felt a nice kinship to the book. As always, the mystery is strong and the dialog rocks. I encountered the Ducote sisters again, albeit briefly, but it makes me smile.

And with that ending, Charlie has some stuff to deal with in the future: grandchildren, pets, and new boarders. What’s a guy to do? Well… this one will be ordering the 8th book so I can read it next week. Three more to catch up, then I’m current and waiting for his next release. YAY!

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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.

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Book Review: Arsenic and Old Books

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Arsenic and Old Books (Cat in the Stacks, #6)Arsenic and Old Books by Miranda James
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Archives. Genealogy. History. Rare journals written in specific ink and on unusual paper. Of course, I’ll love it. I’m talking about the 6th book, Arsenic and Old Books, in the ‘Cat in the Stacks’ cozy mystery series written by Miranda James. It was published in 2015 but I’m catching up on this series so that I’m ready for the 11th book, which I received via NetGalley last month. The author is a fantastic guy, and the series is always enjoyable to read; hence, it’s a definite recommend for those who love southern stories, even-paced investigations by a lovable amateur sleuth, and witty dialog.

Charlie works at a library in Athena, Mississippi. The mayor brings in a collection of her husband’s ancestor’s journals for cataloging and repair. Her son believes something in them will help showcase why he should be elected to the state senate that year. Unfortunately, as soon as the journals are left with Charlie, tons of people come out of the woodwork to steal them. What exactly did an ancestor write about that’s worth all this trouble? After a few chapters, we find out who knows the potential reason, but before we actually discover it, the journals are stolen and one of the potential thieves is killed in a hit-and-run accident. Charlie and Diesel are on the case.

One of the Ducote sisters makes an appearance, which made me quite ecstatic. There was a friendlier relationship between Charlie and the deputy, Kanesha Berry, whereas in the past, it was a bit cantankerous. James delivers a strong story dating back to Civil War times, a wealth of information on how people wrote journals ~15o years ago, and a lovely change in many of Charlie’s relationships. I appreciate the writing style and tone, and it always makes me relax and focus on the actual story. It’s an easy read but full of complexity in the mystery.

In this book, the mayor looks very suspicious, and we don’t get to meet her husband despite lots of conversations surrounding him and their son’s hope for politics. Throw in a news reporter, some professors, an opponent in the election, and some people with grudges against the family, and you’ve got a lot to work with. Diesel is misbehaving in this book, but he seems to learn his lessons. I need to introduce him to my dog, Baxter, so that behavior is transferred. On to the next one…

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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: Out of Circulation by Miranda James

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Out of Circulation (Cat in the Stacks, #4)Out of Circulation by Miranda James
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Out of Circulation is the 4th book in the ‘Cat in the Stacks’ cozy mystery series written by Miranda James, a pseudonym for Dean James (and he has other ones too). I began reading the author’s work a few years ago and completed one of the other series (Southern Ladies) before finding my way back to this one. I am determined to catch up to the current book (#11) before the summer starts since I was recently awarded the latest on NetGalley. I’ve grown very fond of the author’s writing style, plots, and characters, and I look forward to each new one when it’s next in my queue.

Charlie Harris is ~52 and works at a library in the small town of Athena, Mississippi. He has two grown children and lost his wife years ago. He inherited a large home from an aunt who passed and continues to use it as a boarding house. Charlie also has a few pets, most prominently, Diesel, a ~35 lb. Maine Coon cat. I’ve been around the breed before as a friend of my father’s had one years ago — they do get huge! In this caper, we meet Dickce and An’gel, the two spinster sisters who become the focal point of the ‘Southern Sisters’ cozy series that Miranda James also writes. I really hope he publishes another one there, but… I was pleasantly surprised to see them as the main characters in Out of Circulation. Had I read the books properly in order, I would’ve been introduced to them before I read their separate series. Oops! You can do it this way, but I recommend reading in order.

This was my favorite book in this series so far. I love genealogical mysteries, and when I learned we’d be exploring the background of the Ducote sisters, I was psyched. A woman in their social circle is annoying everyone around her when it comes to various volunteer efforts in Athena. Of course, she winds up dead. I really didn’t like the woman, but there was a lovely call/letter with Charlie that made her seem a bit nicer. Did the sisters kill her? Doubtful, but Charlie must investigate. Unfortunately, it’s his housekeeper Azalea who looks most guilty. We learn what happened between the two women in the past, and since the normal deputy solving these crimes is Kanesha, Azalea’s daughter, she’s been removed from the investigation. Charlie and Kanesha had some run-ins in the previous books, so this was a great change of pace.

Author James is truly gifted at transporting readers to Mississippi and the southern lifestyle. Coming from the north, it’s a completely different way of life for me (although my other half is from Louisiana, so I do have some exposure). James has created vivid characters who leap off the pages either as friends or enemies right away. While I adore Diesel the cat, I’m possibly more fond of the various house guests at Charlie’s place. They provide a great deal of balance and color to the intensity of the crimes, but we also experience a variety of personalities to bring in some laughter.

The secret we learned in this book was fantastic. The hidden relationships were even better. I actually think there could be a sequel to understand more about the woman who died… what happened to her growing up to make her the way she was. We get some details, but it was so fascinating, I wanted more. I’m excited to find out what happens to Charlie’s kids in the next adventure given how this book ended – a nice small cliffhanger without rustling the boat too much. I’ll be reading the fifth one early next month. Kudos for a wonderful series that insists I finish it ASAP!

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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: File M for Murder by Miranda James

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File M for Murder (Cat in the Stacks, #3)File M for Murder by Miranda James
My rating: 4+ of 5 stars

After finishing the ‘Southern Ladies’ mystery series by Miranda James, it was time to catch up on the ‘Cat in the Stacks’ mystery series, beginning with the 3rd of eleven books to date, File M for Murder. Miranda James is a pseudonym for the author who has several other series under a couple of names. I haven’t gotten to those yet, but I will in time. I really enjoy the author’s writing style, tone, and voice, so I’m apt to pick up any novels that have been written.

The ‘Cat in the Stacks’ books focus on Charlie Harris, a college librarian in Athena, Mississippi (among other roles too), and Diesel, his Maine coon cat. Charlie has two adult children in their 20s, and in File M for Murder, his daughter, Laura, comes home from Hollywood to teach at the college for a semester. Unfortunately, her ex, a famous writer, looms over her and then ends up dead. Charlie has to protect his daughter, which means going up against ruthless Deputy Kanesha Berry, also his housekeeper’s daughter. Laura protests her innocence, but which member of the college or town of Athena had it in for the famous writer? We learn he lived there once before, he’d been having an affair with someone else, and he was researching a past death. Just how did it all catch up to him finally?

A few reasons why you might love this series: (1) a southern setting with charm and true heritage, (2) a cat who takes over everywhere he goes, (3) a rivalry between the key cop and the amateur sleuth, (4) an older male protagonist in a cozy, and (5) a strong cast of characters who will keep you guessing for many pages. James always packs a nice punch with the reason why the killer murders someone. When it’s related to Charlie’s past, it’s even better. Knowing the author lives in a town probably not too unlike the main village in his books makes it feel even more authentic.

I already have books 4 and 5, but once I get through those, I’ll order the next group, as I intend to finish them all by this summer. Anyone want to join in?

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Book Review: Fixing to Die by Miranda James

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What’s not to love about two elderly spinster sisters who are more spry than many fifty-year-olds I know? Between the amazing southern charm, the ghost-hunting, the family drama over an inheritance, and a potentially new line of relatives, the fourth saga in the Southern Ladies Mystery series by Miranda James, Fixing to Die, has it all. Kudos to this fantastic series and author… 4.5 stars for this latest edition published in 2017. I’m sad to say I’m all caught up on this series, and the author has put it on hold per the publisher for a few years (2020?) to focus on another series about a Cat in the Stacks… I’ve finished 2 of 8 in that series but will pick up the rest this fall and winter. I’m very excited for both.

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So… ‘Fixing to’ anything is quite an expression. My family in Louisiana uses it all the time. I try to, but I fail given I can’t really claim southern roots just because I was born in Florida. Miranda James does not have to worry or extrapolate – it’s right on! These characters are fixing to do a lot of things that likely lead to murder. In this mystery, the Ducote sisters travel to Natchez to help the granddaughter of a friend who’s having some trouble in her bed and breakfast with objects moving around and mysterious temperature changes. Is there a ghost or a human causing all this drama? When her relatives show up trying to claim ownership over the house due to a long-lost will, it gets quite complicated. But then… a psychic randomly appears claiming the house is haunted. What do they all have to do with one another?

Miranda James excels at ambiance and captivating settings. The characters are also quite good, but in this one, it’s the ghost aspects that really pop. I really knew it was a human, as the series isn’t about ghosts, but there were quite a few characters who looked guilty. A major clue / red herring was thrown out about 50% thru and I thought for a moment, hmm… what’s going on here, why was this so easy. Well, I won’t give away any spoilers but there’s more going on across a few levels. It gets quite interesting and the pay-off in the end makes it worth it.

The addition of Benjy has been a fantastic story line. And the pets have such personality. It’s carefully woven into the story without any over-the-top aspects. A fine balance where it’s the story and the characters who keep drawing you back for more fun in this easy-to-picture world. I’m impressed by the variety in James’ world and look forward to reading more soon.

 

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. The debut book, Academic Curveball, in my new mystery series, Braxton Campus Mysteries will fit those who love cozy mysteries and crime investigations. I read, write, and 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 find the revealing and introspective 365 Daily Challenge –and multiple Readathons. 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: Digging Up the Dirt by Miranda James

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After clearing a major hurdle in my TBR with reading books I had promised reviews on, I’m now able to split my time with several existing authors and book series that I absolutely love to read and catch up on. One of those is the Southern Ladies cozy mystery series by Miranda James. This week, I read Digging Up the Dirt, published in 2016, where Dickce and An’gel are back in action sleuthing around… who wouldn’t love two ~80ish year old sisters in Mississippi with a penchant for discovering murderous drama and a flair for keeping things in order?

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When Hadley Partridge returns after a ~40 year absence, something is bound to happen in this small Mississippi town. Which of the grand bevy of older woman will win his affections? Or which of the women potentially killed his brother or sister-in-law years ago? In this truly cozy and enthralling caper, there’s a cast of wonderful and unique characters, gorgeous southern estates, and several liars! But which one is lying about more than a few ordinary things… Miranda James strikes gold in this series for me in this book by delivering a clever and hilarious plot that twists several times before you finally learn what really happened forty years ago.

James is a gifted writer who can transport you to a setting quite adeptly. I enjoy the difference yet similarities in the two sisters, but it’s the combination of their wit that makes these books sing. Often we have a single main character leading the investigation, but here, he’s got to handle two clever women who each approach the mystery from different angles. Throw in a dog, a cat, and a ward… you’ve got plenty of action going on besides the main mystery. I’m excited to catch up on this series and will be reading the 4th one next week.

If you need a fun new series with the perfect balance of mystery and town shenanigans, this is it!

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. The debut book, Academic Curveball, in my new mystery series, Braxton Campus Mysteries will fit those who love cozy mysteries and crime investigations. I read, write, and 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 find the revealing and introspective 365 Daily Challenge –and multiple Readathons. 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.

Review: Dead with the Wind

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Dead with the Wind3 out of 5 stars to Dead with the Wind, the 2nd book in the “Southern Ladies” cozy mystery series, written in 2015 by Miranda James. I enjoyed reading about the two sisters and their rather rude family, feeling almost glad to see the character who died meet her maker this time.

Why This Book
I’d started reading another series by this author, also known as Dean James, and gave the first book in this series a chance earlier in the year. I enjoy the cozy mystery and try to incorporate one in the reading list every three books, just to have something a bit lighter. I’d ordered a couple through Amazon and this one was sitting on the shelf, calling to me. After a few thrillers, it sounded like a perfect comfy book to relax with for a day or two.

Overview of Story
An’gel and Dickce Ducote, two southern sisters, often referred to as old biddies who stick their noses into crimes around the lovely town of Athena, Mississippi, travel to a small Louisiana town to visit their cousin Mireille for her granddaughter’s upcoming wedding. They bring along their ward, Benjy, a 20ish young guy who lost his own family in a previous mystery, and their new pet cat and dog. When they arrive, they find the house in a bit of an uproar. Mireille seems to be aging too quickly. Her daughter Jackie cannot control her own daughter, Sondra. Sondra, about to marry a man who has the intellect of a 6-year old, but the face a God, apparently has a 4-year old daughter no one knew about. And the help around the house seem to have an attitude about everything going on.

Sondra, a wicked woman who throws temper tantrums and treats her mother and grandmother quite poorly, suddenly falls off the balcony during a major thunderstorm. It looks like an accident, but when the police learn she had a car accident the previous day, due to the brake lines having been cut, murder is the new game in town. An’gel and Dickce try to keep things calm while figuring out all the mysterious goings-on around the house the last few weeks, but unfortunately, their poor cousin Mireille falls ill and is taken the hospital. Another murder happens. And the Ducote sisters find enough clues to realize between all the wills, someone stood to inherit a lot of money. Could that be the secret killer? As they wind down the mystery, eliminating each suspect, they’re left with only one — and a trap is needed to capture a confession.

Approach & Style
The book is told in past tense by a third person narrator. The narrator changes point of view from focusing on An’gel to Dickce across each chapter, sometimes throwing in a few scenes from the perspective of Benjy, their ward. The language reflects that of an upper-class southern family with historical roots and ties to the area. It’s easy to understand and has a few laughs at the differences in sayings and expressions, at least from this northerner. Chapters are around ten pages each, stopping with a scene or perspective change between characters.

Strengths
James does a great job at portraying the two elderly sisters. At 82ish, they seem a little more spry than I’d expect, but you also get a certain southern charm and wit from them. Occasionally, I find them a bit too sensitive or rude, but seeing them slap a few characters around is always a hoot. I’m beginning to see enough differences between the two sisters in this second book, whereas in the first, I felt they were the same character.

The background setting, the description of the house and the extended family, and the dialogue are all good. You feel transported to the southern part of the country and enjoy the removal from every day life.

Benjy is a fun character. He’s on the sidelines, but used very well to help with transitions or provide information the sisters wouldn’t normally have access to obtain. He’s great with kids and animals. I’m sure it’s a setup for him to marry into their family down the line in a future book.

Open Questions & Concerns
The mystery had some complexities to it, but it wasn’t as strong as it should have been. I liked the various family characters, as well as the extended help with the lawyer, neighbor, maid and butler; however, the reveal of the killer was too weak. The killer’s motive wasn’t strong, but making it any of the characters who seemed to have a strong motive would have been way too easy. It felt like the plot needed to be flushed out a tiny bit more to have some additional connections between various characters.

Author & Other Similar Books
It’s a typical cozy mystery, and a bit similar to an American Miss Marple, in terms of characters. It’s not as complex as an Agatha Christie book. The sisters seem like the female version of a James Qwilleran from Lilian Jackson Braun’s Cat Who series.

Final Thoughts
I enjoy the characters and the setting, which means I’ll come back for more. It’s less about the mystery and more about watching how everyone interacts, seeing different parts of the south and exploring the depths of the two sisters’ personalities. Given how you feel dropped into a great setting, the books are a good read, especially when it’s about 4 hours of your time. Your mind works a little to solve the mystery, and you can usually figure them out on your own.

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.

View all my reviews