Thursday, April 29, 2021

Book Review: A High-End Finish by Kate Carlisle

A High-End Finish (Fixer-Upper Mystery, #1)A High-End Finish (Fixer-Upper Mystery #1). Kate Carlisle. Obsidian (2014). 311 pages. Genre: Cozy Mystery.

First Line: "'You could've warned me that installing drywall would be hell on my manicure.'"

Summary:  Shannon Hammer runs a successful home-renovation and repair business that specializes in restoring Victorian homes. She has lived in Lighthouse Cove most of her life.  Like many small towns, everyone knows everyone else's business.  Shannon doesn't mind.  She sees it as part of the charm of living in a small town.  Shannon's good friend, Lizzie, is happily married and wants all of her friends to be too, so she routinely sets them up on blind dates.  Shannon finally succumbed to Lizzie's persistence and has agreed to meet Jerry Saxton for dinner.  After a nice dinner with good conversation, Jerry suggests a walk on the beach.  

After strolling along the beach for several minutes, Jerry's demeanor suddenly changes and he becomes aggressive.  He insists that Shannon owes him something since he paid for dinner.  Shannon disagrees and tries to fend him off.  When Jerry doesn't take "no" for an answer Shannon kicks him hard in the shin.  Fortunately, there are some people on the boardwalk not far away.  Shannon yells for help and finally two men come to her aid and lift Jerry up off the sand.  Shannon and Jerry continue to hurl insults at one another as the men attempt to drag Jerry from the beach.  The last thing Shannon says is, "I'll kill you if you ever come near me again."

After a fitful night of sleep, she gets a phone call from one of her clients.  He and his wife are out of town and a neighbor called them to let them know they could hear water running inside the residence.  The client asks Shannon if she could go check it out.  She goes immediately.  As she enters the house she hears the water running in the basement.  As she makes her way to the basement, she trips over something.  That something was the arm of a man - a dead man.  Unfortunately, that arm belongs to Jerry Saxton.  

My thoughts:  I really wanted to like this one.  I liked the idea of a charming lighthouse town filled with Victorian homes worked on by our protagonist.  However, I didn't find the town or the protagonist all that charming.

Shannon Hammer took over her father's business after he had a heart attack.  She is a hard worker, her employees respect her and she knows quite a bit about construction and restoration.  However, in her interactions with others she is crass and petty.  She often resorted to name-calling. This book contains more profanity than many cozies and much of it came from Shannon's mouth. This did nothing to endear her to me.  It wasn't until more than half-way through the book that I found myself liking her at all. 

The mystery itself had me curious.  I wondered who had killed Jerry and if his behavior with Shannon was an isolated incident or a regular practice.  As the story unfolded, there were several people who may have had a motive. I did pinpoint the culprit before Shannon and the police put things together. 

The one character that I did like as soon as he came on the scene was Mac.  He is an author who is new to town.  He is friendly, curious and goes out of his way to help Shannon.  

Unfortunately, this book wasn't for me and I won't be continuing the series.  However, other reviewers have enjoyed this book and the characters in it.  So, if it sounds intriguing to you, don't hesitate to give it a try.

Monday, April 26, 2021

Book Review: The Solid Grounds Coffee Company by Carla Laureano

The Solid Grounds Coffee Company (The Supper Club, #3)The Solid Grounds Coffee Company (The Supper Club #3). Carla Laureano. Tyndale House (2020). 432 pages. Genre: Contemporary Fiction, Christian Fiction, Romance. 

First Lines: Prologue: "By all accounts, Suesca was haunted.  From everything Bryan Shaw had seen, he believed it.  But for him, it wasn't the spirits of the dead that hovered over this small Colombian town.  It was the memory of the living."

Summary:  Bryan Shaw is a professional climber with a sponsorship.  That means he spends his time doing what he loves most without needing a day job to support himself.  As much as he loves traveling and climbing, he is beginning to realize that something is missing from his life.  Three years ago, he asked the woman he loved to marry him.  She said, "No".  Since that day, he has made one bad decision after another trying to fill the void in his life. He often thinks about Vivian and wonders what went wrong.  So, when she shows up unexpectedly in Suesca, Bryan is happy to see her. Unfortunately, his happiness is short lived.  After spending the night with him, Vivian reveals she is engaged to be married to Bryan's friend and CEO of his largest sponsor.  It is not long before his sponsorship is dropped and Bryan is without the means to make a living. A chance encounter in a bar leads Bryan to become a translator for a coffee import company that helps farmers shift from growing coca to growing coffee.  

Most would describe Ana Sanchez as beautiful, bold and efficient.  These traits come in handy in her work as crisis management associate at Denver's largest publicity firm.  She spends her days cleaning up messes and creating images for her high profile clients. She is good at what she does.  But when she makes the decision to involve the authorities in one of her client's situations, her boss decides she needs to take an extended leave of absence.  

When Bryan returns to Denver looking for a place to set up a coffee roastery, he asks Ana to help him out.  Ana has nothing better to do with her days, so she agrees to help Bryan.  He is the best friend of her best friend's fiancee.  Unfortunately, his reputation precedes him.  Ana is determined to keep her distance while helping him get his company going.  But, as she gets to know him better, she realizes that he has changed.  There is more to him than she has given him credit for.  

My thoughts:  This is the third book in the Supper Club series.  However, it could be read as a stand alone.  The Saturday Night Supper Club and Brunch at Bittersweet Cafe tell the stories of Ana's two best friends, Rachel and Melody.  You would miss their stories, but while they both make appearances in this book, you don't need to know their stories to enjoy this one. 

This was an interesting, multi-layered read.  One of the layers is the process of setting up a coffee roastery from scratch.  This involves finding a warehouse to house the roastery, obtaining a roaster, finding a supplier of good quality coffee beans, and then learning to roast the beans.  Once you have figured out all the nuances of roasting, you must market your product and figure out how to get it into the hands of customers. It is a complicated, intricate process that I enjoyed learning something about. I love to have a good cup of coffee in the morning, so I really appreciate all of the people and processes that make this possible! 

Another layer is the lives of Bryan and Ana.  Bryan is truly a good guy, with great parents, who was deeply hurt and didn't know how to deal with that.  He turned to a lifestyle of living loosely, hoping this would fill the void in his life.  What he found, however, is that he felt even emptier.  I appreciated the way he took responsibility for his actions and was willing to pay the consequences while also making better choices moving forward.  

Ana has a tender heart underneath her exterior of highly driven, perfectionist personality. She works hard to keep herself in shape, she is one of the best crisis management associates in her office, she always looks flawless.  The only time she slows down is when she occasionally gets together with her best friends for camaraderie and some kind of indulgent pastry.  While most would think she has it all together, she realizes she is trying to portray an image that may not truly be her.  I found her to be very relatable. 

The bulk of the story takes place in Denver.  The author gives us a glimpse into the hipster, foodie scene there.  I enjoyed this in the other two books as well.  Denver is another place I have never been, but feel like I have a sense of it after reading these novels.  Bryan and Ana take a trip to St. Louis, which is somewhere I have been, and it was fun to see some of the places I have visited through their eyes. 

The story takes several twists and turns, both in the roasting business and Bryan and Ana's personal lives, before the conclusion.  I have enjoyed all three books in the series.  If you enjoy flawed characters who try to live better lives, if you are looking for a contemporary story set in the US or you would like to learn something about the process of growing and roasting coffee, I recommend you give this book a try.

Thursday, April 22, 2021

Book Review: Here Comes the Body by Maria DiRico

Here Comes the Body (Catering Hall Mystery #1)Here Comes the Body (Catering Hall Mystery #1). Maria DiRico. Kensington (2020). 293 pages. Genre: Cozy Mystery.

First Line:  "At 6:45 A.M., Mia Carina woke up to Frank Sinatra singing 'New York, New York' from the alarm on her phone, a happy reminder that she was in Queens, not Florida, and no longer a 'person of interest' in her adulterous husband's disappearance."

Summary:  Mia Carina has returned to New York to help her father run a catering business.  Her father, Ravello Carina, received the catering hall from a gambler who couldn't pay his debts.  He has decided to try the catering business as a new career, rather than returning to the work he used to do for mob boss Donny Boldano.  

The first function the hall is catering is a bachelor party.  The groom's friend has hired a DJ as well as a large cake with a surprise.  When the cake is rolled out to the party, they receive a surprise indeed.  When the expected woman doesn't jump out of the cake, someone takes a look inside.  There is definitely a woman in there, but she has been stabbed.  That is not the surprise the friend of the bachelor had in mind, but it also isn't the woman he had expected to see.  Instead, the woman who has been stabbed is someone who had been at the catering hall the day before accusing Ravello of owing her money.  Did Ravello take revenge on her?  Or is someone trying to set him up?

My thoughts:  When I first saw reviews for this book I didn't think I would be interested.  There were just some things that I thought might not be for me.  But, as I continued to see positive reviews for the book and the second one in the series, I changed my mind.  Unfortunately, this one fell flat for me.  

As I read the book I got the feeling that I had been dropped into the middle of a conversation.  Something was going on, but I didn't have the whole story.  Also, the characters felt a bit two dimensional.  I just didn't warm up to them.  The humor wasn't funny to me.  Maybe that is because I am from the Midwest and I don't get Queens humor, but I don't think so.  The characters felt over-the-top and not genuine. 

However, the mystery was good.  There were plenty of suspects who would want revenge on Ravello Carina.  But, there is also the idea that Ravello is/was a mobster and his own daughter doesn't know what to believe. I was kept guessing until the killer was revealed.  When things were wrapped up, it all made sense. 

Even with the good mystery, I will not be reading the rest of the series. Other reviewers have really enjoyed this series, especially because it is unique for a cozy mystery with the mob influence.  If this sounds interesting to you, give it a try.  

Tuesday, April 20, 2021

The Bookworm's Tag: #BookTagTuesday


I was tagged by Kathy  Thanks Kathy! 

The Rules:

*Thank and link to the blogger who nominated you.

*Include the tag graphic in your post.

*Answer the ten questions the blogger asked.

*Nominate between five and ten bloggers.

*Ask your nominees ten book-related questions!

*Don't feel bound to these rules.

*(Most importantly) Have fun!


1.) Have you ever read a book that kept you awake at night with a light on? What was the title of the book?

I have a hard time staying awake past my bedtime regardless of how good a book is!  

2.) Have you read a book that made you jump and toss the book in the air? What was the title of the book?

Hmm..., I don't recall having that reaction to a book.  But, when I was in high school I was working at a dry cleaner and was in the store by myself.  During down times I was reading Misery by Stephen King.  That was not the best book to read alone in a large dry cleaning store.  That was also the last horror book I read.  

3.) How many bookmarks do you own?

Maybe around 20.  When my kids were small they would make me bookmarks.  I have kept many of those.  Often they contained a little note to me.  It is so sweet to read them now that they are all grown up.  I also have some that I have made.  These are paper bookmarks usually with stamped designs on them.  And I have bookmarks that others have made for me.  The one I use in the current book I am reading was crocheted by my mom.  

4.) Do you have a little free library in your area? Did you ever get a book from said library, read it and enjoy it thoroughly?

I have several Little Free Libraries on my walking routes.  I usually only take books from them that I know I want to read.  I have enjoyed most of them.

5.) What was the name of the last book you read, that excited you so much, you still talk about it?

God's Hotel by Victoria Sweet

6.) Did an antagonist ever cause you to rant and rave? Who?

I don't recall a particular one.

7.) Has there been a character who caused you to cry out in disbelief? Who?

That is a really good question.  I wish I could think of someone.

8.) Do you have a favorite animal in a book you’ve read? Who and what book?

I loved Tricki Woo in the All Creatures Great and Small series by James Herriot.  I also liked Misty in Misty of Chincoteague by Marguerite Henry.

9.) Do you enjoy romantic comedy?

Occasionally.  Especially after a heavy book.

10.) Favorite non-fiction?

ESV New Inductive Study Bible.

I also like memoirs.  A couple of favorites from the last couple of years are God's Hotel by Victoria Sweet and Brain on Fire by Susannah Cahalan.

Well, there you have it.

I am choosing to not be bound by the rules by not tagging anyone.  However, if you think it would be fun to answer these questions, consider yourself tagged!

Monday, April 19, 2021

Book Review: The Scent of Murder by Kylie Logan

The Scent of Murder (Jazz Ramsey, #1)The Scent of Murder (Jazz Ramsey #1). Kylie Logan. Minotaur Books (2019). 320 pages. Genre: Cozy Mystery.

First Lines: "It had rained that afternoon and the sidewalks were still wet.  When the last of the evening light hit them, the slate squares reflected Jazz Ramsey's neighborhood - streetlights, and the neon signs that flashed from the windows of the trendy pubs, and a watery rendering of St. John Cantius church, an urban Monet masterpiece, its tan brick walls and bell tower blurred."

Summary:  Jazz Ramsey spends her days working as an administrative assistant to the head of an all-girls school.  In her free time, she trains human remains detection dogs. She is a little out of practice as it has been several months since her dog, Manny, passed away.  Tonight she is training the dog of a friend.  She has gained permission to use an abandoned building that will soon be turned into upscale apartments.  Now, it is the perfect place to train a dog to detect human remains.  Before bringing the dog over, Jazz hid a human tooth in a room on the third floor.  Jazz is excited to see what her friend's dog, Luther, can do.  She gives the command for him to begin the search.  She is impressed with his ability. He is fast and thorough.  So, Jazz is surprised when Luther alerts that he has found human remains in one of the last rooms on the first floor.  Jazz knows she put the tooth on the third floor.  She begins to get a sinking feeling as she catches up with Luther.  Unfortunately, Luther has not made a mistake.  He has discovered the dead body of a young woman. When Jazz first sees the body, she thinks it might be a mannequin, but as she gets closer, she realizes the woman has thick white makeup on.  She also realizes she recognizes her. 

My thoughts: I was immediately drawn into this story and the life of Jazz Ramsey.  The way she spends her free time is unique, but I also loved that her daytime job was as an administrative assistant.  She is a woman who is used to paying attention to details and this makes her especially well suited for detection work. 

As the story unfolds, we effortlessly learn about her past.  She recently lost her father, who was a firefighter and was killed in the line of duty. Her mother and brothers live nearby and they are a close family who is still grieving.  Her dad also trained dogs, but he trained them in search and rescue.  His dog is retired and still lives with her mom.  

As the police arrive at the abandoned apartment building, we are introduced to Detective Nick Kolesov.  Jazz also has a history with him.  They dated for a while, but that was months ago. They couldn't seem to make things work. As Jazz sees him again, she can't help but remember some of the good times they had and what it was like not to spend every evening alone.  Nick also seems interested in seeing her again. 

Some of the other supporting characters are great as well.  Her best friend, who teaches art at the all- girls school, Sister Eileen, who runs the school and Loretta Hardinger, who is in charge of the cafeteria at the school, are all people I would like to get to know better.  

The mystery is excellent with lots of secrets to uncover. Jazz involves herself because she thinks that if she is just able to figure out what happened, it might ease the pain of finding the dead girl.  Detective Kolesov is usually several steps ahead of her, which I found to be a good thing. While the young woman who was murdered seemed to be well liked, she also had some enemies and had taken up some unsavory practices which led to plenty of suspects. 

I enjoyed the way the author gave the reader a taste of the Cleveland area.

"But then, there was a lot about Tremont that was a little different from the rest of Cleveland.  The neighborhood had once been home to thirty-six different churches, and the why of it was no surprise - many of the immigrants who flooded the area to work in the nearby factories kept the customs and the languages of their home countries. They stayed within their own ethnic groups and, street by street, the South Side grew up around them." 

Another series I am reading also takes place in Cleveland, but in the Asian section.  This is a totally different perspective and gives me a wider view of a part of the country I have never visited. 

The Scent of Murder was a great start to a series I look forward to reading more of.

Thursday, April 15, 2021

Book Review: A Mosaic of Wings by Kimberly Duffy

A Mosaic of WingsA Mosaic of Wings. Kimberly Duffy. Bethany House (2020). 368 pages. Genre: Historical Fiction.

First Lines: "Ithaca, New York. May 1885. Nora Shipley's ears buzzed as though a thousand bees were trapped inside her head. Her back stiffened against the dining chair."

Summary:  Nora Shipley will soon be receiving her bachelor of entomology from Cornell University.  She will be graduating at the top of her class along with Owen Epps.  There is really no other student that can compete with them.  Nora is not sure what she will do after graduation, but she knows that it will somehow involve saving her father's scientific journal.  Her father died six years ago.  Shortly afterward her mother married Lucius who took over the journal.  However, he has begun accepting articles from non-scientific people.  He is allowing anyone willing to pay the price to write an article.  This angers Nora.  Her father would never have allowed this to happen.  So, her plan is to convince Lucius to let her run the journal so that she can save it from demise.

However, when Professor Comstock, a friend and colleague of her father's, offers her a position studying insects in India, she is torn.  She realizes this is a once in a lifetime opportunity.  She also realizes that it would give her a good chance at getting a scholarship to extend her studies.  However, she fears what will happen to the journal while she is gone.  She feels it is her duty to save the journal, that by doing so she would have made her father proud.  She also feels a duty to her mother. She has been ill and Nora feels her mother needs her.  She has made up her mind.  She will let someone else have the opportunity to study in India.  But, when a tragedy occurs, Nora decides to take the internship after all.  

My thoughts:  A female entomologist studying insects in India is what enticed me to pick up this book.  I expected to follow the protagonist on her studies as well as get a taste of life in India.  I was not disappointed.  There was a lot to like about this novel.

 Kimberly Duffy says in the author's note, "I've loved India for decades.  I had the opportunity to live there after high school, as well as visit more recently with a nonprofit I volunteer with."  This definitely came through in her writing.  India was vibrant and exotic through her eyes.  Her descriptions of the markets, as well as the countryside made me feel like I was there.  

There was plenty of nature study as well.  Both in New York and India.  I appreciated how the author used the Latin names for the insects studied, but also gave the common name.  This felt very realistic. Her descriptions of the insects, as well as Nora and Owen's love for the study, made them come to life.  

The plot is very complex.  There are many layers.  There is the historical aspect in which women didn't study insects or go to college.  Nora feels this on many fronts.  There is her friendship with Owen which may be growing into something more. There is Nora's relationship with her stepfather which is not good.  There is her sense of duty and love for her mother. And there are the beliefs and traditions of a culture different than her own.  All of this, along with a theme of choosing what is right even when it means you will suffer for it, makes for a multi-layered story.

The inclusion of Professor Comstock and his wife Anna, was a fun surprise.  As a homeschooling mom  using the Charlotte Mason method with my children, I was familiar with Anna Comstock and her Handbook of Nature Study.  I owned a copy and used it when doing nature study with my children.  I found it interesting to learn a little more about her. 

I do need to mention that I had mixed feelings about Nora.  For the first third of the book, I really didn't like her very much.  She had strong opinions and took many opportunities to voice those opinions.  I don't disagree with her opinions, I just really disliked the way she was constantly expressing them and causing discord.  However, I kept reading hoping that the author was doing this with a purpose.  That eventually Nora would see the error of her ways and try to change.  She did eventually see how her words were always getting her in trouble, but change came very slowly.  I was often frustrated with her brashness and stubbornness.  However, I am glad I didn't stop reading because of this.  I would have missed a good book if I had.

If you enjoy historical fiction, an exotic setting and a multi-layered plot, I recommend this book.

Monday, April 12, 2021

Book Review: Killer Kung Pao by Vivien Chien

Killer Kung Pao (A Noodle Shop Mystery, #6)Killer Kung Pao (Noodle Shop Mystery #6). Vivien Chien. St. Martin's Press (2020). 304 pages. Genre: Cozy Mystery.

First Line: "'Lana Lee, you're the only person in this world who would choose to dye their hair gray,' my sister, Anna May said, scrutinizing the photo of a sassy model with the hair color I wanted for myself."

Summary:  As Lana Lee, manager of Ho-Lee Noodle House, is leaving her family's restaurant one evening, she is startled by a loud crunch.  When she looks in the direction of the sound, she sees that a car has just backed out of a parking spot and slammed into another car.  Unfortunately is was June Yi who backed into the other car owned by Millie Mao.  The two woman have a long standing dislike of one another. Neither one of them is known for being easy to deal with. Millie is carrying on about how she has whiplash and the two women are arguing in the parking lot.  Millie calls the police and while she is waiting for them to arrive, she calls everyone she knows to tell them what June did.  When the police arrive, the women continue to argue. 

The next day Lana has an appointment at Asian Accents, just a few doors down from her family's restaurant in Asia Village.  She is going to try a new color in her hair.  As she is waiting for her stylist, June Yi arrives at the salon.  The previous day June had read Lana the riot act about hanging around the scene of the accident.  For some reason June has never liked Lana and it shows when she sees her at the salon.  As Lana is waiting for the bleach to work in her hair, she sees Millie arrive at the salon.  Before long the two women begin arguing.  Lana's hairdresser asks them to stop and things quiet down.  Before the hairdresser can rinse the bleach out of Lana's hair the electricity goes out.  As one of the salon employees makes her way to the breaker box, she discovers Millie Mao dead in the manicure chair, apparently electrocuted. 

My thoughts:  The rivalry between June and Millie is pretty intense.  June is just a nasty person and has been unkind to Lana for as long as she can remember. She is not sure why June took a dislike to her, but the feeling is mutual.  Millie is looking for any excuse to get back at June and not just for backing into her car.  The rivalry has spanned many years.  So, it was a relief when Millie was removed from the situation.

I enjoy the characters in this series.  Lana continues to grow in each book which is something I appreciate.  She does like to dye her hair strange colors, but it works for her.  She handles the management of her family's restaurant well and is always on top of things.  We learn a little more about her sister, Anna May, in this installment. It was good to see their relationship grow and we were left with a bit of a cliffhanger regarding something in Anna May's life.  

There are bits and pieces of Asian culture that come through in each book.  The majority of the characters are Asian and many of the older ones spent some of their lives in the Asian country they are from.  There are lots of little things to pick up.

The mystery was good.  It was a locked room mystery as it had to be someone in the salon that killed Millie.  There were plenty of suspects.  Lana hadn't planned to get involved but more than one person came to her and asked her to.  Not to mention, several people were more than willing to give their opinion on matters along with bits of information.  Surprisingly, Detective Trudeau doesn't discourage her involvement.  

This was another great addition to the Noodle Shop Mysteries series.  

Wednesday, April 7, 2021

Book Review: A Royal Affair by Allison Montclair

A Royal Affair (Sparks & Bainbridge Mystery #2)A Royal Affair (Sparks & Bainbridge #2). Allison Montclair. Minotaur Books (2020). 320 pages. Genre:  Mystery.

First Line: "'Men find me intimidating,' boomed Miss Hardiman. 'That's the problem.'"

Summary:  Iris Sparks and Gwen Bainbridge, proprietors of The Right Sort Marriage Bureau, are paid a visit by Gwen's cousin.  Lady Matheson works for the Queen in some capacity and she is in need of the services of The Right Sort.  Well, she doesn't need help finding a husband exactly.  Princess Elizabeth has recently taken a liking to Prince Philip and Lady Matheson would like to hire Iris and Gwen to vet him.  This usually involves looking into the person's past and making sure there is nothing lurking there that is unseemly.  In this particular case, there is something specific that needs to be looked into. A letter was sent to the Princess telling her that the sender had something and knew something relating to Philip's mother and that he would require payment.

Iris and Gwen are reluctant to take the case as it sounds dangerous.  However, the pay is excellent, so they decide it is worth the risk.  As they begin trying to discover who might have sent the letter, they realize this case is larger and more complicated than they had anticipated.  They must use all their skills and talents to discover who is trying to blackmail the Royal Family.

My thoughts:  I thoroughly enjoyed my visit to The Right Sort Marriage Bureau!  One of the things that makes these books a delight is the banter between the characters.  It is quick and witty and keeps you on your toes.  

The other thing that makes these books wonderful is the characters.  Iris and Gwen come from very different backgrounds.  Gwen grew up among the wealthy.  She is thoroughly versed in the ways of society.  She was presented at the age of sixteen and understands what is proper and right.  She fell in love, married and had a child.  Then her husband was killed in the war.  Her grief was so deep that her in-laws thought she was mentally unstable and had her committed to an asylum.  Meanwhile, they took custody of her son.  She is still trying to show them that she is very capable of caring for her son.  

Iris, on the other hand, did not grow up among the wealthy.  She always disdained those who did.  She spent the war years as some kind of spy.  Most of her past is a secret.  She throws caution to the wind and knows how to have fun.  She was almost married once, but fortunately that never happened.  She has had many beaus and is always open to someone new.  

Iris and Gwen have a beautiful friendship.  I have enjoyed watching their relationship grow in these two books.  Iris sees something in Gwen that is missing in her life.  Gwen emanates goodness and always chooses what is right.  In some ways this makes Iris uncomfortable, but in other ways she truly wants to be that kind of person.  Gwen has a hard time imagining what it would be like to live as loosely as Iris, but she also wishes she could occasionally throw caution to the wind.  They both respect one another.  They spur one another on toward changes in their lives that will make them happier without putting pressure on one another.  The balance of their personal lives with the mystery is just right.

The mystery was interesting with many layers that needed to be peeled away.  The involvement of the Royal Family made things extra complicated and interesting.  It often felt like they were making little progress, but everything was unraveled by the end.

If you are not acquainted with Sparks & Bainbridge, I urge you to change that immediately.  However, be sure to start with the first book in the series, The Right Sort of Man.

Calendar of Crime: April (A word that starts with A in the title)

Monday, April 5, 2021

Book Review: My Family and Other Animals by Gerald Durrell

My Family and Other Animals (Corfu Trilogy, #1)My Family and Other Animals (Corfu #1). Gerald Durrell. Penguin (2004) (Originally published 1956). 273 pages. Genre: Non-fiction, Autobiography, Travel. 

First Lines: "This is the story of a five-year sojourn that I am my family made on the Greek island of Corfu.  It was originally intended to be a mildly nostalgic account of the natural history of the island, but I made a grave mistake by introducing my family into the book in the first few pages."

Summary:  When Gerald Durrell was ten, he and his two older brothers, one older sister and their mother, moved from England to the island of Corfu.  This book chronicles their five years there, the interesting people they met, the beauty of the island and, of course, the animals that Gerry found so intriguing.

My thoughts:  Gerald Durrell's style of writing makes this book easy to read.  He has a way with words that makes you laugh.  

I love his portrayal of his siblings.  His older brother, Larry, tends to over exaggerate most things.  He does most things big.  Whether it is his reaction to something or the number of people he invites to a party, the bigger the better.  Leslie is more down to earth and logical.  He prefers to spend his time with a gun in his hand hunting for prey.  Margo can be overly dramatic.  She prefers to spend her time reading magazines or sunbathing wearing very little clothing. 

Gerald's mother is a saint.  She tolerates with patience each of the quirks of her children and especially a house full of unlikely pets.  I tolerated my children's quirks as well, but having a house full of scorpions, snakes and large birds would have driven me crazy.  While she is tolerant, she is also not afraid to tell it like it is.  When the children are arguing, she tells them that they argue about the stupidest things.  

I loved the descriptions of the island and the beautiful things that grow there.  The animal life and Gerry's interest in them was fascinating as well.  I'll admit there were a few situations that had me squirming though.  

If you like to visit exotic places from your armchair and meet interesting people and animals, I recommend this book.  


"Upstairs Margo was in a state of semi-nudity, splashing disinfectant over herself in quantities, and Mother spent an exhausting afternoon being forced to examine her at intervals for the symptoms of the diseases which Margo felt sure she was hatching."

"'A dreadful journey!' Mother agreed.  'When we came out of the cinema I thought we were going to get a car, but no, he hustled us into a cab, and a very smelly one at that.  Really, I think he must be mental to try and come all that way in a cab.  Anyway, it took us hours and hours, because the poor horse was tired, and I was sitting there trying to be polite, dying to scratch myself, and longing for a drink.  All the fool could do was sit there grinning at Margo and singing Turkish love songs.  I could have cheerfully hit him.'"

"So Dodo settled in, and almost immediately showed faults in her make-up which caused us more trouble than all the other dogs put together.  To begin with she had a weak hind-leg, and at any time during the day or night her hip joint was liable to come out of its socket, for no apparent reason.  Dodo, who was no stoic, would greet this catastrophe with a series of piercing shrieks that worked up to a crescendo of such quivering intensity that it was unbearable.  Strangely enough, her leg never seemed to worry her when she went out for walks, or gambolled with elephantine enthusiasm after a ball on the veranda.  But invariably in the evening when the family were all sitting quietly, absorbed in writing or reading or knitting, Dodo's leg would suddenly leap out of its socket and she would roll on her back and utter a scream that would make everybody jump and lose control of whatever they were doing."

Friday, April 2, 2021

Book Review: Boo by Rene Gutteridge

Boo (Boo #1)Boo (Boo #1). Rene Gutteridge. Audiobook.  Books in Motion (2005). Genre: Christian Fiction, Romance.

Summary:  Skary, Indiana has made a name for itself by taking advantage of the fact that horror novelist, Wolfe Boone, aka Boo, lives in the town.  People come from far and wide hoping to get a glimpse of him.  They also come for the unique atmosphere of the town.  The local diner is called The Haunted Mansion and serves things like Bloody Fingers and Creepy Corn.  The local bookstore specializes in horror novels and sells little else.  

Ainsley Parker works at the Haunted Mansion.  She remembers when the diner served normal food, now all they serve are strange concoctions with strange names.  She despises Wolfe Boone because he is the reason for all of this.  Also, she thinks horror is horrible.  When Wolfe comes to the restaurant, she asks one of her co-workers to wait on him.  

Wolfe is a loner.  He rarely comes down the hill to the town.  There are plenty of rumors about him, but he prefers to keep to himself.  But, he begins to realize that there must be more to life.  Writing horror novels doesn't seem so thrilling anymore.  He begins to think that he has been focused on evil for too long and it hasn't been good for his soul.  He begins to realize he needs what Ainsley Parker has.  So he decides to go visit Reverend Peck.

The local gossip, eighty-seven-year-old Missy Peeble, has heard the news.  Wolfe Boone has given his life to Jesus.  This could be a problem for the town.  If Wolfe stops writing horror, the town will become nothing more than a speck on the map.  Missy sets out to discover whether Wolfe's conversion is genuine.  But, she is going to need some help.  She convinces several people in town to help her which leads to lies, tricks, deception and poisoning. 

My thoughts:  This book had me laughing out loud repeatedly.  The concept is unique and made for a compelling read.  The author's way with words was my favorite thing about the book.  Rene Gutteridge is head writer for Skit Guys Studios.  If you are familiar with them, her humor is similar, just in written form.  She is able to take everyday occurrences and phrase them in a way that makes you laugh.  But it is not all laughs, there is depth to the characters and the story.

Wolfe Boone is an interesting character.  He is very down to earth, but never feels like he fits in.  So, he mostly keeps to himself.  He lives on a hill outside of Skary with his two dogs.  He was perfectly content with his life, until he wasn't.  After becoming a Christian, he comes to the conclusion that he will need to stop writing horror.  He loves to write. In fact, he would love to write poetry.  Maybe he will take that up.  As you can imagine, his agent is not happy.  Wolfe has been a very successful horror novelist.  His fans are not going to like poetry.  Wolfe has been watching Ainsley from afar for years.  He knows she can't stand him, but he would love to get to know her better.  She is the kind of person he wants to be.  I liked Wolfe's character.  He is not just a horror novelist.  As the story progresses, we learn more about him and his past. 

Ainsley lives with her father, Sheriff Parker. She always intended to move away, but when her mom died she stayed on to care for her father.  She does not like what the town has become.  People are infatuated with horror and with Wolfe Boone.  She thinks it is disgusting. When she hears that Wolfe has become a Christian, she doesn't believe it.  But, when he arrives at the diner with Reverend Peck, Ainsley begins to wonder if it might be true.  She decides to wait on him for the first time.  He seems nice enough and is rather handsome. I liked Ainsley.  She is kind to everyone except Wolfe, and tries to help whoever she can.  She has strong convictions and stands up for what she believes in.  I liked that she was unkind to Wolfe.  It showed her humanity.  But, I also appreciated that she gave him a chance eventually. 

I listened to the audiobook version of the book read by Michael Taylor.  He did a great job with each of the voices.  This story was well suited to audio.

This book has a little of everything - small town life, romance, and mystery.  It was just what I needed after reading a couple of heavier books.  


"You could also call him your bankroll, Mr. Tennyson.  He's the reason you can wear those fancy shoes and that fancy watch and slick your hair back like you are someone special.  Am I right?  Without Wolfe Boone, you are merely another editor, graveling at the feet of those more powerful than you." (Said by Missy Peeble)

"Melb realized she had said too many words in a row, depleting her brain of oxygen and causing the room to spin for a moment."

"But, before she got a chance, Garth walked by and Melb got a whiff of his cologne, which he always wore way too strong and cheap.  It gagged her and then made her sneeze with such force that if she'd been pointed toward the fireplace, she might have blown out the fire.  'Bless you', she heard from several people including Wolfe and the Mayor.  The sneeze brought Melb a new found sense of freedom that she couldn't immediately identify.  She could breathe for one thing.  And had someone left the door open?  There seemed to be a breeze in the house.  Then, with utter terror, she realized she had blown out the t-shirt's side seams and now wore what looked like a knit poncho flapping in the breeze of the nearby conversation.  She gasped, jumped up and threw her coat on."