Tag Archives: reviews

Christmas Cocoa Murder- a Review

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This was an anthology of three stories. Carlene O’Connor wrote Christmas Cocoa Murder;   Maddie Day wrote Christmas Cocoa and a Corpse; and Alex Erickson wrote Death by Hot Cocoa.

All three stories were enjoyable. I liked the Death by Hot Cocoa one the best. I enjoyed the escape room concept and the set up was clever. I did guess who-dun-it pretty quickly, but that didn’t interfere with my enjoyment of the story and the rooms set up in a holiday theme in the escape room. 

The Christmas Cocoa Murder was also a really cool set up. As a fan of dunking tanks in my younger days, I loved how the author used that concept in her story—I can’t even imagine how sticky it would be to be dunked in cocoa though- *shudder* — The characters in this one were well drawn and intriguing. The mystery was well done and the nutcrackers were a neat addition to the puzzle.

My least favorite was Christmas Cocoa and a corpse. Not because the story lacked anything, it was a good concept and execution. What I didn’t care for was the nicknames – every single character had a nickname- which just seemed off-putting to me. I also didn’t enjoy the overuse of descriptions- too much detail on everything the characters wore and the settings. I know some people enjoy that, but it wasn’t my thing at all.

Overall, this was a cute set of stories and very holiday—if your holidays include murder by cocoa. 🙂

Double Identity- by Alison Morton- a Review

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I received a copy in exchange for a fair review. I give this one 3.5 stars for being readable and having a good plot. It’s clear the writer knows London, France and the military and she used that knowledge well.

Melisande, nicknamed Mel, is an unlikeable heroine. She’s a poor judge of character, quick to overreact and attack people (including slapping a colleague across the face in a moment of uncontrolled rage), and thoroughly annoying.

Despite that, I found myself drawn into the tale. It was a good story with a compelling plot.

The heroine is also a mass of contradictions. Some were hard for this reader to reconcile such as her compassion for the domestic partner of one of the villain’s while she was undercover living in the same home as the villain and his mate, all while scheming to bring down the villain and destroy the life of this man she seemed drawn to and befriended on a visit to the market. I know she was undercover and had to lie, but the way the author wrote the villain in the beginning and how she wrote him while the heroine was living with him (as well as his partner) was also a big contradiction. The man seemed like two different characters in places. Kind when he was in his apartment or car and ruthless and cruel when he was at his office or in the street. It was a little off-putting and odd. On the one hand, he seemed like he could kill the heroine without a thought and then, on the other, he was chatting with her as if they were cordial colleagues.

The heroine was also a contradiction in her dealings with her colleagues and other law enforcement members. Disrespectful to orders even though her actions ended up saving lives and just overall, someone who rubbed me the wrong way. I liked her partner, Jack McCracken as he reminded me of heroes who grow on the reader during the course of the story. He was unkind and annoying at the beginning, but he had motivation as he was investigating a murder where the heroine was a potential suspect. He eventually changed and softened.

I liked the intricacy of the plot, starting with the death of Mel’s fiancé and heading into the adventure of her working with the agency to solve not only his death, but an international intrigue involving a large cast of characters. The ultimate villain was easy to figure out as the author seemed to bang the reader in the head with his behavior.

This book made me angry in parts—mostly due to the heroine’s behaviors and attitudes—but ultimately, she seemed to have a straight moral compass and I liked that. She was adept at her job, a great shot, and savvy when it came to her military training, but she didn’t offer much in the way of interpersonal skills. She also didn’t appear to have any character growth at all during the course of the story. And I guess that was all right as I kept reading…

The Family Upstairs – Lisa Jewell- a Review

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I went to a wedding a week ago in Tallahassee and, on my drive back, stopped at a couple of Goodwill Stores as they always seem to have a good selection of used books. One of the ones I purchased was The Family Upstairs. I hadn’t read any of this author before, but I’m a fan now. The book was intriguing as well as a quick read. A house with dark secrets is at the center of the tale.

The story is told from three points of view and I enjoyed all of them. Each had a distinctive voice and were compelling in different ways. The movement from each voice to the other was smooth and kept me turning pages.

In the author note, she stated her inspiration for the book came from seeing a woman in Nice, France sneaking her children into the public baths near the beach. From that, a tale of family terror, loss, and lives shattered was born. I loved how all the threads of the story came together. I figured out most of it, but a surprise or two in the pages made this reader happy as I usually solve it all before the end.

Each of the three protagonists were dramatically affected by their upbringings and the way the author showed how those experiences carried over into their adult lives was genius. It’s a dark tale, but moments of light and love shine through. I throughly recommend this one for a few hours of entertainment mixed with a little anxiety for the characters.

Sunflowers Under Fire by Diana Stevan

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Perseverance, grit and sheer pluckiness describe the heroine of this fictionalized story about the life of author’s grandmother. What a lady she was. From the opening sequence when she gave birth by herself on the kitchen floor, got up and cooked for her husband who just joined the army and then walked the food a number of miles while half a day post-partum, to her bravery when she decided to move her family to an unknown land where they didn’t know the language, Lukia is someone to admire. She was an amazing human being and the author captured the spirit of this lady in a way that made this reader relate to her (even though I’ve never been faced with anything like the situations Lukia faced).

The heroine handled herself well and kept her family fed and with shelter in all kinds of adversity. The losses she suffered were horrible, but she didn’t let them daunt her or cause her to lose her faith.

I very much enjoyed reading this book even though it was dismal and heartbreaking in parts. My admiration of Lukia grew throughout the book. She was just not going to sit down and take it when life didn’t go her way.  If you like tales of fortitude and overcoming tribulation, I recommend this one highly. 4.5 stars

Something Wicked by Tom Williams- A Review

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I was given a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Detective Chief Inspector Galbraith is called to the home of Lord Penrith when the lord’s body is found dead. The strangeness of the death is that the body has been drained of all its blood but the room is not covered in blood.

The investigation begins and soon, DCI Galbraith is joined by a mysterious visitor from Section S—a section no one in the precinct has heard of before. This mysterious officer is John Pole and he explains his section deals with issues of national security and the investigation of the death of Penrith flagged in their office.

They team up to try to figure out who killed the lord and how. DCI Galbraith learns some things about an unknown group who operate in the dark in London. There are some scenes of the past that are intriguing and enjoyable to read.

I enjoyed this book and it seems there may be additional stories involving this crime solving duo in the future. Both have good qualities and seem to have a great working relationship. The way they deal with the crime is clever and a bit surprising. I, for one, am hoping for more adventures with these characters.  I give this one 4 stars.

Saint Vandal’s Day by D. E. Haggerty- A Review

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I read this book in about an hour and a half. There was a breeziness about it that was appealing. It had a lot of fun parts and I definitely loved the recipes in the back. The cupcakes all sounded really, really good.  I may have to break out the cupcake tins! 🙂

The main character, Callie, was charming and likeable and I enjoyed her relationship with her friends and her fiancée. Most of the characters seemed to be people you’d actually meet on the street and enjoy a chat with. The mystery of the whodunit wasn’t that hard. I pegged the culprit from the first scene the character appeared in. The reason for the actions wasn’t as easy to figure out, though. I had a different motive in my mind, so credit to the author for that.

I did not care for some of the behavior of the character who owned the bakery with the main protagonist. She was the one who baked the cupcakes and she was very volatile and almost unbelievable as a character—she seemed almost like a caricature instead. She truly became annoying before the end of the story.  Out of control, having to be held back from attacking people, stalking, and threats of violence when anyone criticized her cupcakes seemed over the top to me. The parts where she was trying to help the protagonist not cheat on her pre-wedding diet seemed unkind and almost rude the way she snatched food from her friend’s hand. It may just be me, but that rubbed me the wrong way.

This was the last of the series of seven stories, and while I enjoyed the time I spent reading it, it didn’t appeal enough for me to go back and read the others in the series.  There were a number of allusions to the other stories in this short book, but the references were enough for me to guess at how they unfolded so I don’t find it necessary to read them. And sadly, I’m not sure I could handle that baker in other tales. She was the one part of this book that made me bring this rating down to a 4 rather than a 5.

Penny Pinching Tips for the Morally Bankrupt by Libby Marshall– a Review

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Let me first say, I think I would love to spend a day with this author. She has a very vivid imagination, a clear love for Cold Stone Creamery, and a disturbing way of looking at many regular occurrences in all of our lives.  And I don’t say that in a bad way.  🙂

This book is a collection of short stories and some even shorter views of things we all experience, but certainly don’t think about in strange ways. At least not until they’re pointed out by Libby Marshall.  Then it’s so obvious that she observes events and normality in a different way than most of us.

Some of the stories are poignant and some are really funny in a twisted way. I won’t say which I felt was which lest I be judged for my giggles.  

I enjoyed these little tales and vignettes during my lunch hour and on small breaks from work. They are just short enough to fill in gaps in the day when you need a little smile….or a bit of melodrama. 🙂

Some of my favorites—by no means an exhaustive list—are “Witnesses of Historic Moments Who Missed the Point; 90 Day Fiancé: Dracula; A Man Goes on His First Date Since His Wife was Hanged for Witchcraft; Please Continue this Conversation as Normal or I’ll Be Forced to Assume it was About me; Yes, of Course I’m satisfied by just the Tip of this Piece of Cheesecake; and Yelp Reviews of the Chuck E. Cheese Haunted by the Spirit of Princess Diana.

There are so many more awesome little tales in this book. I recommend it highly for its sense of fun as well as the author’s sense of humor and her appreciation for the ridiculous. I really enjoyed this one.

Ghost: Justice Chronicles Book 1 by Michael Jack Webb, a Review.

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This book had a good story, buried in way too much minutiae and exposition. The characters had interesting backgrounds and the premise of the story was great. Sadly, the action was interrupted constantly by overlong descriptions and encyclopedia “dialogue” being inserted way too often. The periods of natural dialogue were good, but there was not enough of that to satisfy this reviewer.

The heroine’s parents disappeared, and rather than being upset and focused on finding them (she’s an FBI profiler), she’s more concerned with what the local cop is wearing when he shows up and that he looks like Chris Pratt. There’s a long section on Chris Pratt and how she binged watched his movies in grad school. This was the first of many such interruptions in the flow of the story.

At one point, the main characters are driving along investigating the case of the serial killer that takes her attention away from finding her parents. She mentions a winery and stopping to get a bottle of her favorite wine. She then goes into a long one-sided discussion of the history of the winery. This totally took the reviewer out of the story and was not the only time such exposition did so.

Each time the characters went to another location, one of them would go into great detail about the history of the area (to the point it was laughable as it appeared whole sections of the encyclopedia were cut and pasted into the text.)

Another time, they ate at the Stanley Hotel in Estes Park and we got the whole history of the hotel as well as the town. These numerous interruptions of the actual plot of the story—that added nothing to moving the tale along—began to grate on this reviewer’s nerves and caused the focus of the tale to meander off on tangents.

I kept reading as I was interested in how the story would turn out, but sadly, the author seemed to get in his own way. What could’ve been a tight, taut, thriller turned into a slog of too much information. Research is important to add richness to the story line, but telling the reader everything that was learned in the research for the novel takes away from the pacing and excitement of the story unfolding in a thrilling manner. Little tidbits sprinkled in to add authenticity to the settings/circumstances is good, but wholesale chunks of research take the reader out of the story.

I’d give this one three stars.  If it was tighter and there was not so much dialogue that sounded more like recitation from the encyclopedia, I would’ve rated it much higher. I most likely won’t read the next in the series even though I like the storyline. The information-dump style is not for me. I much prefer a tightly written, fast paced story. For those who like an intense history lesson while reading a novel, this one may be right up your alley.

Book Review- Murder DeJa Vu- Polly Iyer

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Murder Deja Vu by Polly Iyer was an enjoyable read. It started a little slow for me. The hero in the story spent fifteen years in prison for a murder he didn’t commit and once he’s out and an investigator for his lawyer is trying to uncover the truth, another murder occurs. This murder is of a local woman and is carried out in the same manner. This is when the action picked up considerably in the story.

The villains in this story were very evil, especially the former husband of the heroine. He’s the local prosecutor and has an agenda of his own and while I enjoyed the story, the only part that I didn’t like is that we didn’t get to see him get his comeuppance. It was almost an aside at the end of the book. I really, really would have liked a scene where we, as the readers, could watch as he went down.

I recommend this one. The writing is clean and clear and the author will take you on an adventure.

Dilemma

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It’s a dilemma when you read a book by someone you like and want to do a review for but there was actually more you didn’t like in the story than you did. I’ve recently had this experience again and I did leave the review but it’s very short and incomplete since i didn’t want to hurt this person’s feelings. Now, don’t get me wrong, I know that not all books will appeal to every person and I also know that there are probably some of my stories that people don’t like but I still don’t want to say things that would cause someone angst about their work.

This book I read had a great story premise but I didn’t like the heroine. She was one of those that did some really dumb things and seemed weak. I have a real hang-up about heroines like that. I actually think it’s because I’m strong myself and have zero patience for reading about someone who isn’t.

One of the other issues with the story, I blame on the editor. One of the big reasons for editors is for them to find repetitive words and/or phrases that the writer uses. I always, always have what I call a crutch word in each of my stories (and they are usually different for each one). I try to catch them myself but sometimes I don’t. This book I just read had a crutch phrase and it was used 25 times in a story that was less than 200 pages long. It started to feel like I was being bopped in the head with it. I even at one time said out loud, “Okay, I get it.”

So, what do you do if asked to do a review and there’s not much to say?