Monday, December 31, 2018

Sharon McCone NEW YEAR'S CLEAN UP



Allllllll DONE.  From books 4 [Games to Keep Away the Dark 1984] all the way to 33 [The Breakers 2018] (and with the exception of 3 partial DNF's and one completely uninteresting reading entry), I've read my way through the entirety of Marcia Muller's Sharon McCone mysteries.  The pillar titles, though.  No short story collections or Kindle singlets.

It's been fun going throughout Sharon's MANY adventures.  I'll have to do a little list of my favorite entries, favorite villains, favorite Sharon quotes, etc.  But all of that has to come later.  

Anyway, I thought I was going to give the series up.  Thankfully, that has since changed.  While Muller is no Grafton.  And Sharon is certainly no Kinsey Millhone.  They're both something special for a guy who just loves tough female characters solving crimes her way.

Ready for a lifetime of McCone?  Indeed.  I'm in for the long haul–whichever direction Muller goes.

2018 End of the Year Goodreads Reading Stats, I Guess




Sunday, December 23, 2018

CHOP IT UP: Crewel World by Monica Ferris

 ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ 
"When Betsy arrived in Excelsior, Minnesota, all she wanted was to visit her sister Margot and to get her life in order.  She never dreamed her sister would give her a place to stay and a job at her needlecraft shop.  In fact, things had never looked so good–until Margot was murdered... 
In a town this friendly, it's hard to imagine who could have committed such a horrible act.  But Betsy has a few ideas.  There's an ex-employee who wants to start her own needlework store.  And there's the landlord who wanted Margot out.  Now Betsy's putting together a list of motives and suspects to figure out this killer's pattern of crime..."
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ 
Let me tell you what made this book worth the read. What kept it interesting and kept me glued to the pages with all the cozy mystery components aside. Well, I mean sure I could go into all the cozy mystery loving stuff. It had the traditional charming, small town setting. One that's populated with a host of uniquely illustrated characters. Some of those characters were obnoxious, like the always-around-the-corner-to-be-extra-helpful cop named Jill. As well as the town’s potato sack eccentric (named Irene) looking to secure her own business, while giving off chilling vibes to Betsy. Two helpful shop hands who would’ve been better off as the mystery's murderous villain were present as well. And I wished one of the two to have been the culprit in consideration of how the actual culprit of the crime was pretty damn clear. So, as far as mysteries go, there were no surprises there.

Anyway, the needlework hook delivered. The writing was “cozy” and “light,” per the sub-genre's fashion. And it all came together and sold itself nicely. If not anti-climactic in its resolution.

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

SNARKY DNF: Knit One, Kill Two by Maggie Sefton

"Despite the fact that her aunt was an expert knitter, Kelly Flynn never picked up a pair of knitting needles she liked—until she strolled into House of Lambspun. Now, Kelly is about to learn how to knit one, purl two, and untangle the mystery behind her aunt’s murder... 
Kelly would be the first to admit her life in Washington, D.C., is a little on the dull side. But coming back to Colorado for her beloved aunt’s funeral wasn’t the kind of excitement she was seeking. The police are convinced that her Aunt Helen’s death was the result of a burglary gone bad, but for the accountant in Kelly, things just aren’t adding up. After all, why would her sensible, sixty-eight-year-old aunt borrow $20,000 just days before her death? With the help of the knitting regulars at House of Lambspun, Kelly’s about to get a few lessons in cranking out a sumptuously colored scarf—and in luring a killer out of hiding..."
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Kelly (the main character and somewhat new girl in town). Jennifer (cafe waitress). Lisa (slender blonde with a friendly smile). Mimi (shopkeeper plus mommy aura). Megan (perfect teeth and fair skin). All sitting in a knitting room tittering over knitting, with a potluck combing a taco casserole WITH pizza. All the ladies are as slender and divine in frame and shape. Each are corny as all get out with their jokes–or attempts at humor. All, well, should be at work somewhere making money.

Monday, December 17, 2018

CHOP IT UP: Mayhem & Mass by Olivia Matthews

"A Los Angeles transplant, Sister Louise “Lou” LaSalle feels right at home in Briar Coast, New York. After all, her beloved nephew, Chris, works at the college founded by her congregation. But while Sister Lou has always played by the rules, she’s about to have her faith in herself tested—by murder . . 
Sister Lou expects some pushback when she invites her friend, Maurice Jordan, to be the guest speaker for the St. Hermione of Ephesus Feast Day presentation. The theology professor is known far and wide for his controversial views. What she’s not prepared for is finding him dead in his hotel room, bashed over the head. 
When the local deputies focus on the members of her congregation as suspects, Sister Lou takes matters into her own hands. Against Chris’s wishes, she teams up with a cynical local reporter to delve into Maurice’s life. The unlikely partners in crime-fighting uncover a litany of both devotees and detractors. And though it might take a miracle to find the killer, Sister Lou vows to carry on until justice prevails . . ."
7 HEAD TILTING THINGS I GOT OUT OF MAYHEM & MASS
1. The victim was murdered in a hotel room. Yet, not one time did anyone suggest anything about checking the cameras for who entered his room. This is 2017, right?
“’There wasn’t any sign of a struggle.’  Fran sat back in her seat.  A faraway look entered her eyes as she seemed to recall the scene in Maurice’s room.  ‘He must have let the person into the room.  The perp hit him when his back was turned.’”
2. The culprit was obvious. And it’s all telling in the repeated emphasis on hair color. Only two individuals share the same hair color. This is vague. But my point is that there is little challenge for those diving into this book to beat Sister Lou to the culprit.

Friday, December 14, 2018

(PART 2) Short Days/Cold Nights Cozy Reading TBR

PART ONE OF MY TBR LINK IS HERE

I have been nailing these cozy mystery reads to “close out” 2018–having read 8 books since the 19th of November. And the weather has definitely been instrumental in my success. It has kept me closed off and anti-social (just the way I like it). And the house is warm and too cozy to get out and brave the elements for no good reason other than food and work. Nonetheless, to keep matters going, I'm continuing ONLY to pick the cozies I already own. Pulling them off the shelf to extend my Short Days/Cold Nights Cozy Reading TBR. And here remains the last three I have in mind.

1. The ever-popular Rhys Bowen is finally getting a fair turn. I picked up Her Royal Spyness–book one in her Lady Georgiana series–a few years back. It never got a proper turn until now. I spent a few hours reading Her Royal Spyness by candlelight and reading light alone. Oh, while dealing with a nasty electric meter and switchboard replacement problem. Anyway, fifty pages in and I found myself hooked. When I first bought the book, I didn’t want to go into all the Swing music, banjo sleeves, Grapes of Wrath décor of the 1930s. I knew the series was popular and knew I would get there one day. That has recently changed. I’m loving the voice of this book.
Forget Sleeping.  Let's READ!

2. Gunpowder Green, by Laura Childs, is the second book in her Teashop Mystery. The series features a cozy mystery favorite amateur sleuth, Theodosia Browning. I read the first book (Death by Darjeeling) this past summer. I was looking for a Susan Wittig Albert China Bayle fix at the time. It more or less provided, but was promising enough to come back for more.


3. 1966’s The Unexpected Mrs. Pollifax by Dorothy Gilman will close this TBR out. And I’m going to keep this list short because I have coffee brewing, while I’m ready to read!


PART ONE OF MY TBR LINK IS HERE

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

SNARKY DNF: Hollywood Homicide by Kellye Garrett

"Actress Dayna Anderson's Deadly New Role: Homicide DetectiveDayna Anderson doesn't set out to solve a murder. All the semi-famous, mega-broke actress wants is to help her parents keep their house.

So after witnessing a deadly hit-and-run, she pursues the fifteen grand reward. But Dayna soon finds herself doing a full-on investigation, wanting more than just money―she wants justice for the victim.

She chases down leads at paparazzi hot spots, celeb homes, and movie premieres, loving every second of it―until someone tries to kill her. And there are no second takes in real life."
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Granted I had hesitations to begin with, considering the book's Hollywood setting.  You know, all the superficial and stereotypical stuff I would have to get through as a reader.  Still, I wanted to trust this would be different.  That, alongside the mystery, the leading character would be levels above the Hollywood hype.  I got 60 pages before I bailed.  Here's the list as to why...

1.  Opening Topic of Breast Implants?

Now I get it. Dayna is an actress working in Hollywood, where her image is her livelihood. Looks often take precedence to talent. Looks put food on the table. Aesthetics and specific enhancements lead to acting jobs–to receiving gigs. Yet, I would be lying if it didn't cause me to question the author’s course, introducing a lead sporting bazooka breast implants. What it signaled to me was how Dayna was a character willing to follow instead of lead. A character who was comfortable falling right into the pressures of her Hollywood profession, instead of resisting leftward to rely on her brain/talent. I needed a confidence vibe straight out the gate. A self-acceptance and reassuring leader in control feel.

So, from the jump, I couldn't take Dayna seriously. She came across as another shallow, Hollywood sheep. Stereotypical actress fluff who was–sadly in my mind–about to play detective for a day for quirks, shits and giggles.

No, for real. Her exposition delivery on her breast implants in the opening chapter made me cringe. Nothing against it. But as a mystery lover who loves and adores having more black writers filling the genre, I felt disappointed with a realization that this book wasn't going to attempt to soar above the Stephanie Plum-level tone type flouncy silliness. And this topic–stigma or not–set its tone. No disrespect.

2.  Half-Naked Barista? Cute?

Sooooo.  Y'all thought this scene was "cute"?
To make up for her lack of acting-related gigs, Dayna enters the novel applying for a job at a café. A cafe where the baristas are semi-nude women serving lattes and such. Now I know this is an actual, real thing. Yet, once again, I couldn’t help but flinch at the author’s course with Dayna. I kept asking myself, “couldn’t she think of anything better than this to–I suppose–humble the character? Why cheapen her to this degree?” And if the author intended to make her character despondent and relatable; it only caused me to question the character’s skills, judgment, and resourcefulness. Dayna seriously contemplated the job and dressed down to "audition" for a position. And I wasn’t feeling the objectivity of this character. It was disappointing how the author could write her in such a situation.

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Some In Death J. D. Robb Eve Dallas STUFF



I must’ve put my name, email address, and home address down somewhere recently. I got this neat-o supreme-o In Death/Eve Dallas/J. D. Robb t-shirt in the mail the other day. Along with the cute Connections in Death Pop Out Christmas Tree ornaments. I kept trying to wrack my brain on any recent activities I’ve participated in about my fave, J. D. Robb. Anyway, super surprised and super gleeful. And, most of all, I’m ready for Connections in Death. Though I rather live in the present and not press the future, February 5th seems too far away for its release. UGHHHHHHHHHHHH! Waiting is a BITCH! Equally stressful now that I know the following book is titled Vendetta in Death. And we won't see that one until September 2019!

By the way. The books featured in the image DID NOT COME WITH THE SHIRT. LOL. Wanted to make that clear. I ordered the hardbacks from Turn the Page Bookstore earlier this year. I placed them here for decorative... or... festive... purposes...?

So thanks to the publishers St. Martin's Press. J. D. Robb. And my girl, Eve Dallas.
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"Homicide cop Eve Dallas and her billionaire husband, Roarke, are building a brand-new school and youth shelter. They know that the hard life can lead kids toward dangerous crossroads―and with this new project, they hope to nudge a few more of them onto the right path. For expert help, they hire child psychologist Dr. Rochelle Pickering―whose own brother pulled himself out of a spiral of addiction and crime with Rochelle’s support. 
Lyle is living with Rochelle while he gets his life together, and he’s thrilled to hear about his sister’s new job offer. But within hours, triumph is followed by tragedy. Returning from a celebratory dinner with her boyfriend, she finds Lyle dead with a syringe in his lap, and Eve’s investigation confirms that this wasn’t just another OD. After all his work to get clean, Lyle’s been pumped full of poison―and a neighbor with a peephole reports seeing a scruffy, pink-haired girl fleeing the scene. 
Now Eve and Roarke must venture into the gang territory where Lyle used to run, and the ugly underground world of tattoo parlors and strip joints where everyone has taken a wrong turn somewhere. They both believe in giving people a second chance. Maybe even a third or fourth. But as far as they’re concerned, whoever gave the order on Lyle Pickering’s murder has run out of chances…"
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Thought for the Day


Monday, December 10, 2018

CHOP IT UP: Stealing Shadows by Kay Hooper

"What if you can enter a madman's cruel mind as he plans his vicious crimes? 
What if you can see the terrified face of his prey as he moves in for the kill -- but you can't stop his frenzy once he strikes? 
Psychic Cassie Neill helps the L.A. police catch killers -- until she makes a terrible mistake and an innocent child dies. Cassie flees to a small North Carolina town, hoping that a quiet life will silence the voices that invade her unwilling mind. But Cassie's abilities know few boundaries. And she's become certain -- as no one else can be -- that a murderer is stalking Ryan's Bluff. 
It's his fury that Cassie senses first, then his foul thoughts and perverse excitement. Yet she doesn't know who he is or where he will strike. The sheriff won't even listen to her -- until the first body is found exactly where and how she predicted. Now a suspect herself, she races desperately to unmask the killer in the only way she knows: by entering his twisted mind. Her every step is loaded with fear and uncertainty... because if he senses her within him, he'll trap her there, so deep she'll never find her way out."
Stealing Shadows is the first book in Kay Hooper's Noah Bishop series. And the hook to her Bishop series is he’s a psychic detective. Specifically, one who runs a division of psychic detectives thriving as FBI agents. Interesting and exciting stuff, right? Well, in Bishop's 2000 debut, he played a secondary role to a pretty stringent romance.

Which almost stuck an ice pick in my poor balloon of new series hope.

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

SNARKY DNF: An Uneasy Death by Charlaine Harris

"The beloved #1 New York Times bestselling author of the Sookie Stackhouse series, the inspiration for HBO’s True Blood, and the Midnight Crossroad trilogy adapted for NBC’s Midnight, Texas, has written a taut new thriller—the first in the Gunnie Rose series—centered on a young gunslinging mercenary, Lizbeth Rose.  
Set in a fractured United States, in the southwestern country now known as Texoma. A world where magic is acknowledged but mistrusted, especially by a young gunslinger named Lizbeth Rose. Battered by a run across the border to Mexico Lizbeth Rose takes a job offer from a pair of Russian wizards to be their local guide and gunnie. For the wizards, Gunnie Rose has already acquired a fearsome reputation and they’re at a desperate crossroad, even if they won’t admit it. They’re searching through the small border towns near Mexico, trying to locate a low-level magic practitioner, Oleg Karkarov. The wizards believe Oleg is a direct descendant of Grigori Rasputin, and that Oleg’s blood can save the young tsar’s life. 
As the trio journey through an altered America, shattered into several countries by the assassination of Franklin Roosevelt and the Great Depression, they’re set on by enemies. It’s clear that a powerful force does not want them to succeed in their mission. Lizbeth Rose is a gunnie who has never failed a client, but her oath will test all of her skills and resolve to get them all out alive."
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ 
(Originally posted on Goodreads)

I. Could. Not. Love. Nor. Appreciate. The. Voice. And. Tone. Of. This. Book.

Dry. Static. No flavor. No personality. No salt. No cinnamon. Not even a little gun-toting gristle and marrow–despite its promise of such. Unnecessary rape to heighten an already inert story. And each "gunnie" bullet fired may as well been a sponge cake thrown. I DNF'ed at page 22. Grateful I had the forethought to check it out from the library. You see, I learned from my last investment in a Harris series post Sookie.

THIS BOOK ISN'T ENGAGING ENOUGH!  TAKE IT!

Monday, December 3, 2018

CHOP IT UP: The Plot is Murder by V. M. Burns

"The small town of North Harbor on the shores of Lake Michigan is about to have a new mystery bookstore. But before the first customer can browse its shelves, the store’s owner is suspected of her own murder plot . . .   
Samantha Washington has dreamed of owning her own mystery bookstore for as long as she can remember. And as she prepares for the store’s grand opening, she’s also realizing another dream—penning a cozy mystery set in England between the wars. While Samantha hires employees and fills the shelves with the latest mysteries, quick-witted Lady Penelope Marsh, long-overshadowed by her beautiful sister Daphne, refuses to lose the besotted Victor Carlston to her sibling's charms. When one of Daphne's suitors is murdered in a maze, Penelope steps in to solve the labyrinthine puzzle and win Victor.  
But as Samantha indulges her imagination, the unimaginable happens in real life. A shady realtor turns up dead in her backyard, and the police suspect her—after all, the owner of a mystery bookstore might know a thing or two about murder. Aided by her feisty grandmother and an enthusiastic ensemble of colorful retirees, Samantha is determined to close the case before she opens her store. But will she live to conclude her own story when the killer has a revised ending in mind for her?"
I promise I’m not trying to sound like a book snob when I write what I have to write. Hell, I don’t believe I could write a book any better. So I don’t want to sound ostentatious when I say The Plot is Murder was weak. It's one of those books you wished someone had let you at months before the final edit. Still, my resounding observation is this: the book reads like someone attempting to write a contemporary cozy mystery. While attempting to write a 1930's English mystery. Simple as that.

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

CHOP IT UP: Them Bones by Carolyn Haines

"No self-respecting lady would allow herself to end up in Sarah Booth's situation. Unwed, unemployed, and over thirty, she's flat broke and about to lose the family plantation. Not to mention being haunted by the ghost of her great-great-grandmother's nanny, who never misses an opportunity to remind her of her sorry state--or to suggest a plan of action, like ransoming her friend's prize pooch to raise some cash.
But soon Sarah Booth's walk on the criminal side leads her deeper into unladylike territory, and she's hired to solve a murder. Did gorgeous, landed Hamilton Garrett V really kill his mother twenty years ago? And if so, what is Sarah Booth doing falling for this possible murderer? When she asks one too many questions and a new corpse turns up, she is suddenly a suspect herself...and Sarah Booth finds that digging up the bones of the past could leave her rolling over in her grave."

This.  Book.  Was.  Hard to put down.  Really, this buster was hard to let go of once I got started.  It was nothing like I'd anticipated when I initially picked it up at my public library used bookstore.  The Mississippi setting, I wanted. A poor and single and interestingly unconventional Southern Belle playing detective, delivered me. Old family murders to uncover, I needed. Good ole boy threats, a plus. But an actual and active ghost communicating with the protagonist in a blase fashion took me completely off guard.  And it was soooo good. 

Monday, November 26, 2018

CHOP IT UP: Fool's Puzzle by Earlene Fowler

"Leaving behind memories of her late husband, Benni Harper is making a fresh start...Moving to the trendy California town of San Celina, she takes an exciting new job as director of a folk-art museum. While setting up an exhibit of handmade quilts, she stumbles upon the body of a brutally stabbed artist. Hoping to conduct an investigation on her own, she crosses paths with the local police chief, who thinks this short and sassy cowgirl should leave detecting to the cops and join him for dinner. But it's hard to keep a country girl down, and soon Benni uncovers an alarming pattern of family secrets, small-town lies--and the shocking truth about the night her husband died..."
The minute I finished the book and marked it as READ (two stars) on Goodreads.  Using my phone, I wrote this about the book just to "get it out".

Started out with a fair amount of promise, but devolved the further it progressed. All the excitement of a cozy mystery with a quilting and folk-art hook was removed and flushed early on. Instead the focus was on a MC who was not only boldly immature, but adolescent-level illogical in her reasoning and investigative prowess. It did not make her cute. It did not make her relatable. It made her unreliable and irritating to be around during the experience. Further frustration with the story arrived when the author kept (and I mean KEPT) insisting on ushering in a romance between her MC and a moody cop. Cliches. Cliches. Cliches. I kept rolling my eyes, as it was all so desperate to the point of nausea. Yes, there was a mystery. Yet, apparently, the mystery wasn't the book's real point.
   

It just so happens I bought the second book in the series for a dollar the other day.  She's getting one more shot, dude.  

One more...

SHOT...

Friday, November 23, 2018

Hmmm. Help Me Figure This Out, Ebay?




Could've sworn I'd ordered a HARDBACK copy of this book.  Strangeeeeeeeeeeeeeee.


Monday, November 19, 2018

Short Days/Cold Nights Cozy Reading TBR


I don’t know about you, but I have a love/hate relationship with this time of year. You know how it can be; daylight savings, long nights, cold nights, all the drain board attention of the holidays. Then I like this time of year for the complete "cozy comfort next to a heater" thing. Cutting all social interactions out for a period of time being the biggest plus. Because if I’m not out of the house before 5pm, I’m not going anywhere unless necessary. Luckily I can read at work which is from 10pm to 6am. That's the roll of the DICE, girl! Who can beat that? Anyway, lots of coffee, comfort, Korean dramas, and reading.
Which is why I decided to pull some cozy mysteries off my shelves to composite a little TBR for the season. Because, for sure, I can also get lazy this time of year and opt to just chill if I’m not careful. As for the books, some I bought years ago and haven’t gotten into. Some newly acquired. Some staple authors/series. And maybe one is the second book in a series I started some time ago.
So my list is... (the book's links are Amazon affiliate)

Of course, I couldn’t get everything. I still have The Unexpected Mrs. Pollifax by Dorothy Gilman and Gunpowder Green (book 2 in Tea Shop Mysteries) by Laura Child are waiting in the "alternative" wings.
As for The Long Quiche Goodbye by Avery Aames. Yes, I’m tempted to DNF it–having read 50 pages. Yet, instead, I’ll put it on the side for another day. Too many characters too soon. And all which seem forced to exude like and relatability.

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