Book Review: Rhythm and Clues by Sue Ann Jaffarian @SueAnnJaffarian @midnightinkbook

Rhythm & Clues
An Odelia Grey Mystery #11
Sue Ann Jaffarian
Midnight Ink, November 2016
ISBN 978-0-7387-1885-9
Trade Paperback

This is the eleventh in Sue Ann Jaffarian’s popular Odelia Grey mystery series.  Odelia is a 220-pound, 5 ft. 1inch paralegal/amateur detective who, as far as I can  tell, doesn’t actually work at her paralegal job very much.  The story begins with Odelia having coffee at a Starbucks (where else?) with Shelita Thomas whose father, Art Franklin, lives in the Seaside Retirement Community where Odelia’s mother, Grace, also lives.  Shelita asked to meet with Odelia to discuss a phone call she received from the management at Seaside complaining that Grace and Art were repeatedly complaining to them about another resident, Bo Shank, who appears to have gone missing.  In fact, they have gone so far as to file a missing person report with the police.  Shelita wants Odelia to do something to stop her mother whom she believes is goading Art into taking action.  Odelia, quite sensibly it seems to me, believes they are both adults and there is nothing she can or should do to stop them from looking for their friend.

However, Odelia is drawn to the problem because Bo Shank happens to be the former lead singer of Acid Storm, a band Odelia adored when she was a teenager.  So, she agrees to help look for Bo.  And therein lies the story.  Odelia is assisted in her search not only by her mother and Art but also by her niece, Lorraine, a somewhat ditzy young woman who is visiting from Chicago.  When Grace and Lorraine go off without Odelia to sleuth they find a dead body and the chase is on.

Despite the dead body, this is an amusing mystery, fast-paced and full of memorable characters with the obligatory detective that Odelia does not get along with.  Rhythm & Clues is a great summer read!

Reviewed by Melinda Drew, July 2019.

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Book Review: Road to Nowhere by Cy Wyss @CyWyss @partnersincr1me

Road To Nowhere by Cy Wyss Banner

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Road To Nowhere

by Cy Wyss

on Tour September 1-30, 2019

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Road To Nowhere by Cy Wyss

Synopsis:

PJ Taylor, the feline shapeshifter, is back! Someone is kidnapping people’s pet cats and holding them for ransom. When PJ’s beloved niece is catnapped, the trail leads PJ to Nowhere, a tiny hamlet north of her hometown of Mayhap. What intrigues will PJ find among the inhabitants of this minuscule community? You can bet it involves at least one person up to no good and flushing this person out could be…murder!

Book Details:

Genre: Cozy Mystery Published by: Nighttime Dog Press, LLC Publication Date: September 1, 2019 Number of Pages: 222 ASIN: B07WCHL75J Series: Eyeshine, 2 Purchase Links: Amazon, Goodreads

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My Review

For anyone who has read the first book, Eyeshine, fair warning—this volume opens with a major, and appalling, development. About that I’ll say no more.

Road to Nowhere brings us up to date with PJ Taylor’s story, that of a photojournalist who morphs into a cat every night and has figured out how to use that advantageously in her work. This time, prompted by her best friend Clara’s loss, she’s looking into a spate of kitty kidnappings. Quite naturally, the police haven’t been overly interested in these particular crimes but PJ is willing to stake out the ransom drop in hopes of identifying the bad guy(s).

As it turns out, much more is involved here than mere greed and PJ gets a lot of help from Robert and Nanci, her brother and niece, as well as local cop, Jake, and an enigmatic newcomer, Blake. Besides the catnappings, the author touches on the difficulties faced by those who question their sexual identity and takes us to some dark moments while still maintaining the somewhat lighthearted core story. Kudos to the author for offering a nice blend of grit and fun.

Occasional editing errors were not very distracting but I do have to express my disappointment that this is exclusive to Amazon, unlike the first book. I wish that a broader audience could enjoy PJ and her story 😉

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, September 2019.

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Read an excerpt:

Robert Taylor entered the brownstone via the back door, closing it quietly behind himself. He was in a landing of pale green and gray with tan carpet and stairs leading upward and a sandwich board on the wall with office numbers. The woman he was looking for was in 303, two stories above him. He ascended the two flights, his heart leaden with reluctance. He considered himself a unicorn – someone special and rare. Not only was he smart and successful (head of his own one-man FBI office in Mayhap, Indiana), the women in his family had the unusual proclivity to turn into cats when the sun set. This made them particularly effective operatives, although in fearing for their safety he often restricted their usefulness. His sister, PJ, had been his most important informant up until her recent death. He couldn’t believe she was gone. It didn’t seem real. Didn’t cats have nine lives? He somehow expected PJ to rise from her grave and come back to him. Instead, here he was, about to attempt to convince a psychotherapist of his sanity in the face of his recent tragedies. All he wanted was to get back to work. They wouldn’t let him back without the sign-off from this woman, Ms. Julia Herzenberg. Her name conjured images of some ancient Freudian presence, maybe someone who looked like Dear Abby or Ruth Bader-Ginsberg, with copious wrinkles and a severe bun. He shivered at the idea of exposing his inner life to this person. On the third floor, the stairwell opened into a larger space of muted pastels that smelled of rose and mint. Three doors greeted him, and he pushed through the one whose frosted glass proclaimed it 303. Inside, soft new age music played, and the floral scent was stronger. The culprit was an incense burner on a small table near the door. Thin smoke wafted from a glazed, bulbous pot in gray ombre. The walls of the suite were a soothing blue and the furniture worn leather in earthy browns. Striped pillows and throw blankets abounded, and health magazines lined the coffee table. Robert perched on the edge of a fat armchair and crossed his legs, interlacing his fingers around his knee. He waited, with the demeanor of a man about to face something dire and unwanted. His first impression of Julia Herzenberg when she opened the inner door was that she looked nothing like an old psychiatrist or supreme court judge. Her hair flowed around her head in generous curls, spilling from her shoulders in waves of auburn silk. Her eyes were a crystalline green the likes of which he had only seen previously on actresses or fashion models. She was tall and thin, with slender, manicured fingers and long legs beneath a plaid wool skirt. She reminded him of a willow – inscrutable and eternal, with Nature’s grace and strength. “Robert Taylor?” she asked. It took him a moment to shut his flapping mouth and recover his aplomb. “Yes,” he finally said, extending his hand. She shook it firmly, her hand warm and dry. She led him into a brown hallway, and to an office at one end. The room contained the same homey furniture as the waiting area, in neutral shades of soft leather with woven and plush accompaniments. “Have a seat,” she said. He stared at the wide couch before him. “Do I need to lie down?” he asked. “Only if you want to,” she said. She sat in an armchair across from the couch with her knees pressed together and her hands folded in her lap. She studied him, an entirely unassuming expression on her porcelain face. Awkwardly, he perched on the edge of the couch and rested his weight on his elbows on his thighs. He let his hands dangle. She remained still and silent as he took in his surroundings. The paintings on the walls were interesting but not distracting and consisted of abstractions that reminded him of natural surroundings. The lights were incandescent, and the shades partially drawn, rendering the space as comforting as a forest nook where sunlight filtered through the branches above. Dr. Herzenberg even had a small fountain on one side table and the faint sound of running water complemented the illusion. Robert could feel his tension recede, despite his natural wariness and dark mood. Still, she said nothing. Robert felt her watching him and found he couldn’t meet her gaze directly. Rather, his eyes roved over their environment, never settling for more than a few seconds. Behind and beside her was a narrow bookcase with glass panels and something about it bothered him. He kept returning to it, until he realized why. On the very top of the bookcase was an old-fashioned globe and a statue that looked like a very realistic black cat. It could have been PJ. He stared at the cat, and almost jumped out of his seat when the statue blinked. “God, that’s a cat!” he said. Dr. Herzenberg smiled. “That’s Bella.” “Wow,” Robert said. “I thought she was a statue.” “She likes to sit up there,” Dr. Herzenberg said. “Many of my patients don’t ever notice her.” “I’m amazed. You bring your cat with you to the office?” Dr. Herzenberg shrugged. “She doesn’t like to be alone.” “You could get her a companion.” “She doesn’t like other cats.” Robert chuckled. “Typical difficult feline.” “Tell me,” Dr. Herzenberg said. “Are you a cat person?” He remembered his sister, and the fact he’d never see her again. His eyes burned, though he willed himself not to tear up. “You could say that,” he said. PJ had turned into a cat every night since shortly after she had hit puberty. He still remembered the first time she’d shapeshifted. He was a rookie cop at the time and looking after her since their parents had died, as her much older brother and legal guardian. They’d been playing video games on the couch when she howled and writhed in pain. He had thought she was dying and called 911. Imagine his chagrin when they arrived and found no sign of the girl that he’d insisted needed an ambulance. Instead, a black tabby cat watched him explain that he’d had a nightmare and called emergency services by mistake. His colleagues ribbed him for weeks afterward. Robert was so traumatized, he confined PJ to her room after sundown from that time forward, and he somehow managed to convince himself her transition hadn’t happened. It was only recently, with his own daughter, Nancy, entering puberty, that he’d finally opened up to PJ about her wonderous ability. He had been terrified that Nancy would become a shapeshifter as well. Be the status of that as it may, at least one outcome had been that he had become significantly closer to PJ, a relationship long overdue. His memories of PJ ran through his mind, and guilt stabbed his heart. If only he hadn’t been so pigheaded, he could have showed his love for her sooner. He could have had years of closeness instead of mere months. They could even, perhaps, have– No. He wouldn’t let himself think about that. Regret was a demon that ate you alive. It was what it was. He couldn’t change the past any more than he could draw castles in the sky. “What are you thinking about?” Dr. Herzenberg asked. Robert blinked several times, his reverie broken. “Nothing,” he said. She stared at him. His gaze dropped to the coffee table between them. “I was thinking of my sister,” he said. “Tell me about her.” Robert took a deep breath and let it out slowly. He crossed his arms over his chest and studied the carpet under their feet, a confetti-patterned collage of woodland hues. He found himself telling Dr. Herzenberg the truth – something he hadn’t done in decades. “She’s not actually my sister,” he said. “Oh?” She raised a delicate eyebrow. “Well, she wasn’t, I mean,” he said. “My father was her mother’s cousin.” Dr. Herzenberg appeared lost in thought for a moment. “So, your ‘sister’ was actually your second cousin?” “Yes,” Robert said. “Why do you call her your sister?” “Our parents married,” Robert said. “Legally, PJ was my sister.” “I see,” she said. Another wave of regret washed over Robert. He clasped his hands together and hung his head so she wouldn’t see the sheen of tears in his eyes. “I did read your employment record,” Dr. Herzenberg said. “You’ve had quite the last couple of weeks.” Robert snorted. “Yeah. You could say that.” “You failed the bureau’s lie detector test, separated from your wife, shot and killed a man, and your sister – your second-cousin, I mean – died. I’d say all of that qualifies you for a little paid leave.” Then there was the business with his daughter, which he couldn’t talk about, as well as the thing concerning his infidelity, which he likewise couldn’t bring himself to talk about. His shoulders drooped. “I don’t want paid leave,” he said. “I want to get back to work. All I do is sit around and mope. If I can work, I’ll feel better.” He looked up, into her concerned face. “What can I do to convince you I’m fit for returning to work – that, in fact, it’ll help me recover?” She tilted her head and scrutinized him. He fidgeted under the weight of those amazing green eyes. “You can’t run from your grief, Robert. Turning your attention elsewhere will only cause it to fester and grow into something uncontrolled.” He sighed. “I was afraid you’d say that.” On top of the bookcase, the cat stood and stretched elegantly, her back a deeply curved S. She sat on her haunches and used her paw to clean her snout. Robert watched, fascinated. “Tell me more about your sister,” Dr. Herzenberg said. Another wave of regret reminded Robert of his failures, and, with it, a twinge of fear piqued his soul. He’d already said too much. “You were close, I take it,” the psychiatrist said. “Yeah,” Robert said. Dr. Herzenberg waited. Robert looked around the room again, his gaze settling on the quarter-height of window, through which a gray fall sky was visible. “What bothers you most about her death?” she asked. Robert’s eyes lost their focus as his attention turned inward. Guilt weighed heavy in his heart as he remembered the past two weeks and his role in the whole mess. “I never…” He couldn’t bring himself to say it. Dr. Herzenberg perked up. “You never what?” He stared at the cat, who stared back unblinkingly. The odd sense of unreality overtook him again and he found himself speaking the truth once more. “I never told her how much I loved her,” he said. “I’m sure she knew,” Dr. Herzenberg said. Robert shook his head. “No. She didn’t.” “What makes you think that?” “I pushed her away. She wanted more from me. I should have given it to her.” Dr. Herzenberg’s brow furrowed and her eyes darkened. “What are we talking about, Robert? You’ve told me she wasn’t your blood sister. How did you see her? As your little sister? Or, as something more than that?” Robert ground his teeth. How did they get onto this topic? He was here to get back to work, not to get himself fired for inappropriate feelings toward PJ. “I shouldn’t have said it that way,” he said. “Of course, I meant it platonically.” She studied him. “You know that everything you tell me is confidential.” He frowned. “I know you have to report what I say to my superiors,” he said. “No,” she said. “I have to report my overall opinions. Your disclosures are entirely between us alone.” Robert stared up at Bella, whose golden gaze had never seemed to leave him. He was pretty sure the cat saw right through him, and he wondered how much of that ability Dr. Herzenberg had. He said nothing. *** Excerpt from Road To Nowhere by Cy Wyss. Copyright 2019 by Cy Wyss. Reproduced with permission from Cy Wyss. All rights reserved.    

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Author Bio:

Cy Wyss Cy Wyss is a writer based in Indianapolis, Indiana. They have a Ph.D. in computer science and their day job involves wrangling and analyzing genetic data. Cy is the author of three full-length novels as well as a collection of short stories and the owner and chief editor of Nighttime Dog Press, LLC.

Before studying computer science, Cy obtained their undergraduate degree in mathematics and English literature as well as masters-level degrees in philosophy and artificial intelligence. They studied overseas for three years in the UK, although they never managed to develop a British accent.

Cy currently resides in Indianapolis with their spouse, daughter, and two obstreperous but lovable felines. In addition to writing, they enjoy reading, cooking, and walking 5k races to benefit charity.

Catch Up With Cy Wyss On:
cywyss.com, Goodreads, BookBub, Twitter, & Facebook!

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Book Review: The Body in Griffith Park by Jennifer Kincheloe @jenkincheloe @SeventhStBooks

The Body in Griffith Park
An Anna Blanc Mystery Book 3
Jennifer Kincheloe
Seventh Street  Books, July 2019
ISBN 978-1-63388-540-0
Trade Paperback

From the publisher—

Los Angeles, 1908. Anna Blanc is a former so-so socialite, a flailing police matron, and a killer detective.

Ex-heiress, Anna Blanc, is precariously employed by the Los Angeles Police Department, reforming delinquent children and minding lady jailbirds. What she really wants is to hunt criminals and be alone with Detective Joe Singer–both no-nos that could get her fired. On a lover’s tryst in Griffith Park, Anna and Joe discover the body of a young gambler. Anna can’t resist. She’s on the case.

With a murder to solve and her police matron duties piling up, a young girl shows up at Central Station claiming to have been raped by a man from Mars. The men at the station scoff, but Anna is willing to investigate. Meanwhile, Anna begins getting strange floral arrangements from an unknown admirer. Following the petals leads her to another crime–one close to home. Suddenly pitted against Joe, Anna must examine her loyalties and solve the crimes, even if it means losing the man she loves.

With sentences like this, it’s impossible not to love this book:

Anna arranged her face matrimonially—that is, she
tried to look grown-up, haggard, and a bit sour.

Doesn’t that bring a visual right to mind?

Anna Blanc is a young woman determined to find a place for herself in a time and society that doesn’t encourage women’s independence and she’s chosen to do so in the LAPD, decidedly a bastion of male privilege and dominance. Anna’s boss and only female colleague, Matron Clemens, is a hard taskmaster (taskmistress?) but Anna has proven her detecting skills several times now.

Meanwhile, Anna is carrying on a clandestine romance with Detective Joe Singer and, if they’re caught, Anna could be fired. Knowing that, the lovers go to extraordinary lengths to keep their liaison a secret and they may or may not be entirely successful; in fact, we know they’re not but the powers that be are still in the dark. Regardless, their efforts are inventive and frequently amusing.

On one of their trysts, while Anna and Joe are ostensibly looking for a truant, they discover a corpse. Joe immediately thinks it’s a suicide but Anna is not so sure and her detective talents kick in and, once she points out several observations to Joe, he can’t help but agree. Before all is said and done, a variety of cases will have Anna going in all directions, albeit surreptitiously, and we’re also treated to more of her family drama while Joe continues to support her as best he can in his 1908 manly way.

And who keeps sending Anna bouquets of beautiful flowers?

This is the second book I’ve read in this series—not sure how or why I’ve missed the first one—and I’m an ardent admirer of Ms. Kincheloe‘s obvious research into the early part of the 20th century. More than that, she brings Anna and her surroundings to life, making me want more. I guess I’ll have to go pick up The Secret Life of Anna Blanc while I’m waiting for book #4 😉

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, September 2019.

Book Review: Jealousy Filled Donuts by Ginger Bolton—and a Giveaway!

Jealousy Filled Donuts
Ginger Bolton
Kensington Books, September 2019
ISBN 978-1-4967-1191-5
Trade Paperback

It’s the Fourth of July and Emily Westhill is loving it. Not only does she get to drive her 1950 Ford “donut car” in the parade, with the King and Queen as passengers, her Deputy Donut Café is providing the donuts for the picnic later in the day. How fantastic can life get for a small-town girl making good?  Of course, it can only go downhill, at least in the immediate future. The Queen, a lovely diva named Taylor, decides that the “donut car” doesn’t meet her high standards and pitches a major fit (after the minor fit about how her hair was done) in front of God and everyone until she gets to ride in an acceptable car. Her best friend has some words to say about Taylor, although not where Taylor can hear her. Then Taylor is killed during the fireworks after the picnic. Emily’s donuts were stacked on a rocket-like firework in order to disguise it, and the rocket was deadly at close range. The pictures provided by a convenient photographer place Emily squarely in the frame, at least for a little while. This kind of in-your-face manipulation ups the ante and Emily becomes determined to find out who killed Taylor as well as why she was picked as the scapegoat.

Emily lives in a small town, with all the ramifications of small town life front and center. She’s a small business owner, sharing Deputy Donut Café with her deceased husband’s father, a former police chief. It’s great to have built-in clientele, and also connections that perhaps another amateur sleuth might not possess. It also means she has demands on her time, demands that can’t be ignored too often or for too long. Not to mention she does have a personal life, albeit one that could use a little help. Anyone who runs a business knows how much of a life it can overtake. Emily does her best within these constraints.

Bolton’s third entry in the Deputy Donut series is pretty good, for being as open to the whole “cops and donuts” humor. She doesn’t succumb to the obvious, although there is humor in the book. This is definitely a character-driven story, and Bolton knows how to drive this wagon. There are plenty of by-ways and side roads, although a perspicacious reader should have no trouble finding her way to the correct solution. The small-town insider solution is shared early enough for astute folks to catch on. And there is knitting involved – not enough to warrant a pattern at the end, to go with the recipes, and still a little bit of needlework is usually a good thing.

Reviewed by P.J. Coldren, June 2019.
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To enter the drawing for a print
advance reading copy of

Jealousy Filled Donuts by Ginger Bolton,
leave a comment below. The winning
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August 27th. This drawing is
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Book Reviews: The Pros of Cons by Alison Cherry, Lindsay Ribar & Michelle Schusterman and Trapped in Room 217 by Thomas Kingsley Troupe

The Pros of Cons
Alison Cherry, Lindsay Ribar & Michelle Schusterman
Point, March 2018
ISBN 978-1-338-15172-5
Hardcover

This quintessential Young Adult read is quirky, cubed. A mad mash-up of three (and a half) conventions under one roof results in a delightfully amusing tale that is not without substance. And it has a pretty great title, you know I love it when something can mean two things.

It isn’t Phoebe’s first time. She’s come before with her high-school percussion ensemble, to participate in the Indoor Percussion Association Convention. Perhaps there is a bit more pressure this time, though.

Vanessa is very excited to finally meet her girl-friend, face-to-face, for the first time. Sweetly naïve, she really does not know what to expect from the We Treasure Fandom con.

Callie came as her dad’s assistant for the World Taxidermy & Fish Carving Championship, but she’s only here hoping he will see her as his daughter, instead.

The story starts properly, with a literal bang. A collision in the lobby leads to a shuffling and unnoticed exchanges of carrying cases. From that point forward, nothing goes as planned.

Phoebe finds that her mallet bag is actually filled with tools for Buchannan Taxidermy, definitely not the mallets she needs. But, she’s only thrown for a second. Since she has the xylophone solo, she has to improvise. She uses the scalpels.

Vanessa is feeling confused and out-of-place. People are different in real-life than online and she’s just beginning to figure that out.

Callie is bummed that her dad continues to treat her like a disappointing assistant, but when she realizes his cold-shoulder is just the tip of the ice-berg; she plots sweet, public revenge.

I learned a lot from The Pros of Cons. I hadn’t heard of half of the percussion instruments played, nor did I know that “critical listening” is different from “analytical listening. “Fan-fic” and “cons” were familiar terms, but I had no inkling of the depth. Or that it gave way to its own language. By the way, I also know what sock-puppeting means now. Oddly, I did know a bit about taxidermy.

Reviewed by jv poore, September 2018.

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Trapped in Room 217
Haunted States of America Series
Thomas Kingsley Troupe
Jolly Fish Press, September 2018
ISBN 978-1-63163-215-0
Hardcover

A father seldom has spare time when single-handedly raising a seventh-grade daughter and second-grade son. Jayla and Dion get that, and the late-night call did wake the whole house only hours ago. They won’t razz their dad, too much, just because the place they are staying during their impromptu Spring Break get-away doesn’t have a pool.

First sight of the historical hotel in Estes Park, Colorado, had them both second-guessing their generosity. Check-in was only slightly less than creepy. Jayla could not have imagined the murmurs when “Room 217” was spoken. But, The Stanley is beautiful and possibly interesting. Two bright and resourceful kids will find plenty to do. Although, assisting a spirit was not an item they would have imagined.

Seemingly strange occurrences compelled the siblings to research their current residence. After reviewing reading material spread throughout the common rooms, it was time to for a self-guided tour of the tantalizing tunnels below. There, Jayla and Dion may just be in over their heads.

I have always loved ghost-stories so, I was thrilled to hear about this historical-fiction series, The Haunted States of America by Thomas Kingsley Troupe. Trapped in Room 217 gave me exactly what I wanted. Cool characters (Dion packed his own suitcase, with books only, and he is my hero now) caught up in a mystery, moving at the perfect pace. Absolutely appropriate for younger readers, I will be introducing it to my favorite HS students because I believe they will dig it as much as I do.

Reviewed by jv poore, September 2018.

Book Reviews: Fairest of All by Sarah Mlynowski and Fiction Can Be Murder by Becky Clark

Fairest of All
Whatever After #1
Sarah Mlynowski
Scholastic Press, April 2013
978-0-545-48571-5
Trade Paperback

I am a fan of the fairy-tale re-tell.

It is always delightful when a familiar story gets a fresh twist. But, to take an already awesome creation to a totally new height—in the same way that Jimi Hendrix covered Bob Dylan’s “All Along the Watchtower”—well, that really rocks my socks. So, it will come as no surprise to anyone that I absolutely adored Ms. Mlynowski’s Whatever After: Fairest of All.

And, you can well imagine my enthusiasm upon discovering that the author has already written an entire series of these treasures. I’m going to have to buy the whole set for some classroom library, but I should probably read them quickly, before turning them over.

In the meantime, I happen to have Special Edition: Whatever After: Abby in Wonderland in my hot little hands right now…

Reviewed by jv poore, February 2019.

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Fiction Can Be Murder
A Mystery Writer’s Mystery #1
Becky Clark
Midnight Ink, April 2018
ISBN 978-0-7387-5332-4
Trade Paperback

Semi-successful mystery writer, Charlee, has penned the perfect murder. At least according to her critique group, beta readers, boyfriend and agent. And yes, even if she does say so herself. But before it goes to print, her diabolical plan is implemented in the real-life murder of her agent.

Melinda Walters wasn’t well-liked. Maybe not even respected. Actually, not even an awesome agent. Few will weep when hearing of her untimely demise. The apparent automobile accident is instead, the result of a properly executed plan. Although there may be many with apparent motive, the suspect pool shrinks to only those who could have set the scene exactly as it was written.

Charlee has no reason to doubt the local law enforcement. Her father died in the line of duty. There was some speculation, but she assumed it must be normal and willfully blocked it out. Besides, her brother is a policeman and he is successful, trusted and well-liked. Probably.

Regardless, it’s clearly best if she conducts her own investigation. Charlee kicks relationships to the curb and treats everyone in her inner circle as a suspect. Turns out, even when not involved in criminal activity, there are a plethora of reasons to maintain privacy.

I found Ms. Clark’s Fiction Can Be Murder to be a very quick and (this must sound strange) but…light read. I quite enjoyed the moment that Charlee spent writing anything-but-murder-mysteries. Although this novel falls into the Fiction: Mystery genre, as opposed to my usual Young Adult, I’ll be passing it on to my favorite classroom library where I’m sure it will be well-received.

Reviewed by jv poore, July 2018.

Book Review: The Secret Diary of Lydia Bennet by Natasha Farrant

The Secret Diary of Lydia Bennet
Natasha Farrant
Chicken House, October 2016
ISBN: 978-0-545-94031-3
Hardcover

First a confession. I have never read anything by Jane Austen, so I wasn’t encumbered or biased by feeling as though I had to compare the plot and characters to those in her work. Lydia is the youngest of five daughters. While their bloodlines are good and of a quality to allow the girls and their parents a place in English society, the family finances are such that there’s a push for all five sisters to marry well and into wealth. Each sister has a distinct personality. Mary is bookish and could care less about a husband. Kitty qualifies as boy crazy, while Jane is the ‘adult in training’ as the eldest. Kitty is easily led, particularly by Lydia. As for Lydia, I found myself alternating between admiring her free spirit and wanting to shake some sense into her.

Shortly after the story opens, Redcoats come to encamp in a nearby town. As soon as the sisters learn of this, they finagle a visit to their aunt in town so they can view these new young men. While their parents admonish the girls about soldiers not being suitable husband material, for Lydia, at least, the warning slides off like water on a duck. As a result, she meets and begins a connection to a handsome fellow named Wickham. He’s dashing and suave, but his tendency to lose frequently when gambling, coupled with an instinctive sense of which females to con, make him doubly dangerous.

Fast forward to Lydia getting invited to spend time with her new friend Harriet in Brighton on the seashore. When Harriet takes her to the beach where they are to try the bathing machines (contraptions where ladies change and are hauled into the water where they jump in and freeze), Lydia not only takes to swimming, but she’s entranced by a red haired girl and her brother who strike her as extremely exotic. She soon learns they’re survivors of the war with the French and have spent time in India where their stepfather still lives. Enter Alaric and Theo. Theo is determined to make a name for herself as a dressmaker, while Alaric is rather flighty and somewhat of a romantic.

It isn’t long before Lydia has herself convinced that Alaric is her soul mate, but what ensues makes for a neatly twisted plot that involves her getting ever deeper in a swirl of untruths, acting completely unlike a single lady of her time is expected to, followed by an inevitable return to reality. When that happens, it is of a magnitude that would break many ladies of her time, but Lydia, for all her faults, is a resilient lass. Read the book and find out exactly what did happen. You won’t be disappointed.

Reviewed by John R. Clark, MLIS, January 2019.