Teeny Reviews: Rattus New Yorkus by Hunter Shea and Burglars & Blintzes by Morgan C. Talbot

Rattus New Yorkus
Hunter Shea: One Size Eats All #2
Hunter Shea
Lyrical Underground/Kensington, August 2018
ISBN 978-1-5161-0794-0
Ebook

TONIGHT’S DINNER SPECIAL: US

They were either some kind of rat council of elders, or the rodent world’s version of a repugnant Moe, Larry, and Curly.

Benny and Chris—divorcing but still working together—are exterminators but even they are overwhelmed by what they’re seeing in the rat population, ever since they distributed a new kind of poison a few weeks earlier. Suddenly, the horrible creatures are much bigger and way more aggressive. Worse, they seem to be reproducing like crazy and working together, planning, strategizing.

And then they disappear but we know they haven’t really disappeared.

I’d yet to meet a man more intimidating than five-foot Sister Veronica.

I confess, I love creepy horror stories that are full of black humor and this one has it in spades. One liners abound and I just couldn’t resist chuckling even while I was reading about nasty rats:

I never said I wasn’t a world-class dumb-ass.

I’m beginning to think that Hunter Shea is a master of high camp as well as “normal” horror and Rattus New Yorkus was every bit as entertaining as the first of the One Size Eats All series. The third story, The Devil’s Fingers, will be released in October but, in the meantime, I’m happy to say there are plenty of older books to romp through and a new novel, Creature, coming in September.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, August 2018.

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Burglars & Blintzes
Moorehaven Mysteries Book 2
Morgan C. Talbot
Red Adept Publishing, July 2018
ISBN 978-1-948051-14-9
Trade Paperback

When treasure is discovered on a construction site in Seacrest, Oregon, word spreads fast and treasure hunters soon descend on the beach town followed by a marine salvage company. Unfortunately, the treasure came with a dead body and it turns out to be a long-missing man who Pippa’s uncle Hilt knew well.

Pippa Winterbourne loves her B&B, Moorehaven, and all the work that goes with it but she still has time to pull her friends and guests (mystery authors) together to find out what’s going on when accidents begin to happen and old secrets come to light. She’s also a bit distracted when her boyfriend, Lake, is hired as a boat pilot by the salvage company and one of the crew takes a special interest in Lake.

Any mystery reader will be intrigued by the collection of mystery authors who are staying at Moorehaven and the townspeople are equally as interesting and vividly drawn. To add a little drama, Lake’s ex-wife, Mallory, is the police chief and she and Pippa have a strained relationship at best. Needless to say, Mallory would just as soon Pippa stayed out of the investigation but Pippa can’t help herself.

That investigation is two-fold with the old case of the dead man and his pocket full of Spanish doubloons and a present-day murder so Pippa and her cohorts are kept busy. I have to say I didn’t figure it out till near the end, the best kind of mystery, and I enjoyed the investigation a lot. I’ll look forward to the third entry in the series.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, August 2018.

A Few Teeny Reviews

thrice-the-brinded-cat-hath-mewdThrice the Brinded Cat Hath Mew’d
A Flavia de Luce Mystery #8
Alan Bradley
Delacorte Press, September 2016
ISBN 978-0-345539960
Hardcover
Audible
Unabridged Downloaded Audio Book
Narrated by Jayne Entwistle

From the publisher—

In spite of being ejected from Miss Bodycote’s Female Academy in Canada, twelve-year-old Flavia de Luce is excited to be sailing home to England. But instead of a joyous homecoming, she is greeted on the docks with unfortunate news: Her father has fallen ill, and a hospital visit will have to wait while he rests. But with Flavia’s blasted sisters and insufferable cousin underfoot, Buckshaw now seems both too empty—and not empty enough. Only too eager to run an errand for the vicar’s wife, Flavia hops on her trusty bicycle, Gladys, to deliver a message to a reclusive wood-carver. Finding the front door ajar, Flavia enters and stumbles upon the poor man’s body hanging upside down on the back of his bedroom door. The only living creature in the house is a feline that shows little interest in the disturbing scene. Curiosity may not kill this cat, but Flavia is energized at the prospect of a new investigation. It’s amazing what the discovery of a corpse can do for one’s spirits. But what awaits Flavia will shake her to the very core.

My favorite pre-teen sleuth (although this is not a series targeting young readers) is back home in England at her beloved Buckshaw but her return from Canada is not a completely happy one what with her father lying very ill in the hospital. At loose ends, Flavia goes in search of something to occupy her mind and a dead body is just the ticket. As precocious as ever, Flavia sets out to prove that this was murder but she’s unprepared for a shattering event. Not precisely a cliffhanger, this event makes me want the next book yesterday.

As always, narrator Jayne Entwistle is Flavia de Luce to a “T” and kept me captivated from beginning to end.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, December 2016.

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michelangelos-ghostMichelangelo’s Ghost
A Jaya Jones Treasure Hunt Mystery #4
Gigi Pandian
Henery Press, October 2016
ISBN 978-1-63511-069-2
Trade Paperback

From the publisher—

A lost work of art linking India to the Italian Renaissance. A killer hiding behind a centuries-old ghost story. And a hidden treasure in Italy’s macabre sculpture garden known as the Park of Monsters… When Jaya’s old professor dies under eerie circumstances shortly after discovering manuscripts that point to a treasure in Italy’s Park of Monsters, Jaya and her brother pick up the trail. From San Francisco to the heart of Italy, Jaya is haunted by a ghost story inexorably linked to the masterpieces of a long-dead artist and the deeds of a modern-day murderer. Untrustworthy colleagues, disappearing boyfriends, and old enemies—who can Jaya trust when the ghost wails?

Jaya Jones is one of the most appealing protagonists I’ve come across in recent years and each book is better than the last. She’s an academic, an historian interested in unique artifacts, and she loves chasing after treasures even though she’s usually reluctant at first. In short, Jaya is a modern-day Indiana Jones, just not quite as much over the top, and I love her for that. Adventure is just around every corner and I happily go along with her on every treasure hunt.  Of course, there’s a mystery or two or three to be solved, including the question of how her former professor died, and having her brother and his girlfriend along this time adds to the entertainment. Oh, and the cherry on top is the secret romance between Jaya and Lane, the man with a thieving past. All in all, Michelangelo’s Ghost is a tale not to be missed.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, December 2016.

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the-stranger-gameThe Stranger Game
Cylin Busby
Balzer + Bray, October 2016
ISBN 978-0-06-235460-0
Hardcover

From the publisher—

When Nico Morris’s older sister mysteriously disappears, her parents, family, and friends are devastated. But Nico can never admit what she herself feels: relief at finally being free of Sarah’s daily cruelties.

Then the best and worst thing happens: four years later, after dozens of false leads, Sarah is found.

But this girl is much changed from the one Nico knew. She’s thin and drawn, when Sarah had been golden and athletic; timid and unsure, instead of brash and competitive; and strangest of all, sweet and kind, when she had once been mean and abusive. Sarah’s retrograde amnesia has caused her to forget almost everything about her life, from small things like the plots of her favorite books and her tennis game to the more critical—where she’s been the last four years and what happened at the park on the fateful day she vanished. Despite the happy ending, the dark details of that day continue to haunt Nico, and it becomes clear that more than one person knows the true story of what happened to Sarah. . . .

There isn’t anything more devastating than the disappearance of a child, the not knowing and the endless questions, but how much worse is it when a family member is not entirely sorry that child is gone? Nico is a normal young girl who misses Sarah and yet can’t help feeling relief that she doesn’t have to contend with her sister’s bullying and meanness anymore but, of course, that natural reaction is loaded with guilt. How Nico and her parents cope and her feelings of inadequacy because she can’t fill the gaping hole are an engaging study in how the ones left behind handle…or don’t…such a terrible scenario. When Sarah miraculously returns, Nico’s search for the truth ratchets up the tension and leads to almost unbearable suspense.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, December 2016.

Book Review: Murder at Midnight by C.S. Challinor—and a Giveaway!

Murder at MidnightMurder at Midnight
A Rex Graves Mystery
C.S. Challinor
Midnight Ink, August 2014
ISBN 978-0-7387-3976-2
Trade Paperback

From the publisher—

When barrister Rex Graves and his fiancée Helen d’Arcy host a New Year’s Eve party at Gleneagle Lodge, friends and colleagues alike enjoy the evening with drinks flowing freely. Despite the oncoming storm, unlucky number of guests, and argument over long-lost treasure, Rex has high hopes that it will be a memorable and murder-free night of celebration.

But as the clock strikes midnight and the power goes out, Ken and Catriona Fraser are found dead. Suspecting they were murdered for money or revenge, Rex starts to investigate. Will his formidable intellect and detection skills be enough to uncover the culprit?

Rex Graves is comfortable for me. Especially thrilling? No, but I could gladly spend an afternoon with him whenever he’s available and Murder at Midnight filled my wants just fine, even though I think this particular entry in the series is a little weaker than previous books. So, let me tell you first what I think those weaknesses are:

1. One particular clue-gathering scene by the police seems very unlikely as to whether it would be possible at all but especially in a country locale and with power out.

2. The denouement is kind of boring because of its manner with no real confrontation, and the resolution is thin.

Yep, that’s it, not a whole lot to complain about 😉

What we have here is almost, but not quite, a closed room mystery and I really love such scenarios. The potential killers are limited in number and the snow, plus the remoteness of the manor, make intruders unlikely but not impossible so Rex and the reader can’t get too complacent. The guests at this New Year’s Eve party are a strange bunch, perhaps a reflection that we all have friends and colleagues that aren’t the most compatible, and even their idea of a New Year’s Eve party is a bit odd, downright sedate for such an occasion.

The Scotland locale is ideal for this kind of mystery, one that doesn’t include overt violence, gore, vicious behavior and the like. Ms. Challinor creates understated puzzles that require thinking and Murder at Midnight is a pleasure for a rainy—or snowy—afternoon’s read. As for the characters, the country house setting is the perfect place to get to know such a diverse collection because they’re almost forced to be in one another’s company and actually talk among themselves, dropping little tidbits about their lives. I enjoyed them all, just as much as my old friends Helen and Chief Inspector Dalgerry.

This latest Rex Graves story  is a nice example of the traditional mystery and fans of Agatha Christie will most certainly be entertained.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, October 2014.

************

I have an elderly but unread print copy of the
the first in this series, Christmas Is Murder. Just
leave a comment below to enter the drawing.
I’m about to go on vacation so this will be a
“quickie”, drawing to be held tonight, October 16th.

Open to residents of the US and Canada.

Book Reviews: Forevermore by Cindy Miles and Summer of the Woods by Steven K. Smith

ForevermoreForevermore
Cindy Miles
Point, July 2013
ISBN 978-0-545-42622-0
Trade Paperback

Ah, the quintessential love story.  This is the Hershey’s chocolate bar.  It is the song that makes you grin, pump up the volume and dance.  It is, in a word, awesome.

Ripped from her home in sultry South Carolina to start a new life in an ancient Scottish castle, Ivy exhibits courage and strength as she grimly strives to accept her fate.  This reader couldn’t help but fall in love with this spunky, violin-wielding character.  She is pretty much everything I wanted to be as a teen-aged girl.  Her admirable qualities include confidence, a remarkably open mind and a quiet, but unmistakable, resolve as she is forced to face unknown adversaries.  Who doesn’t want to be a tough, cool chick with a huge (hidden) romantic streak?

Speaking of romance, enter Logan Munro.  From the author’s amazing descriptions, I know he is no less than dreamy.  With his rugged good looks, charming Scottish brogue and fierce loyalty and protectiveness towards Ivy, I fell for him immediately.  Of course, life is never so simple.  Despite the obvious attraction and compatibility, Logan and Ivy know that they can never be together, in a conventional sense.  Ivy is alive and well and Logan is…………not.  Being young, they don’t fight their feelings, they simply strive to accept the companionship that they can have…..at least for as long as Logan’s soul is lingering in limbo.

This unique relationship is not the biggest problem Ivy faces.  The malevolent force that seemed determine to destroy her has shifted its focus to her beloved mother.  Ivy must stop the evil quickly or she will lose her mom forever.   Figuring out how to end the black madness is one thing; knowing that her success may cost her Logan is quite another.

With her enchanting words, Ms. Miles paints a gorgeous picture of Scotland and its magnificent architecture.  Feeling emerged in the scenes, the story seemed to wrap around me….almost like falling into a dream.  This is the only book that I can recall that warmed my heart as is simultaneously chilled me to the bone.

**Sidebar regarding Labeling:  I appreciate that this book falls into the Middle Grade genre, as it is most certainly appropriate for that age group; however, I fear that this limits the potential audience.  I have celebrated my 40th birthday (and then some) and I often dig into very serious and heavy non-fiction, “adult-themed” books.  This does not preclude me from enjoying a great story that is told amazingly well.  Forevermore is such a story.   Please, put the label aside and enjoy.**

Reviewed by jv poore, August 2013.

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Summer of the WoodsSummer of the Woods
Steven K. Smith
MyBoys3 Press, May 2013
ISBN 978-0-9893414-1-7
Trade Paperback

If Mr. Smith’s first book is an indication of things to come, he will quickly become one of my son’s favourite authors.  Mine too, actually.  Although The Boy, an 8-year old 3rd grader, loves to read on his own, he still indulges my Mommy Moments and allows me to occasionally read a book with him.  To me, Summer of the Woods is the ideal book for this, because it has something for adults, as well as for children.

As if by magic, Mr. Smith presents the perfect combination of nostalgia and modern day.  This exemplifies the summers I remember.  Freely roaming all around, turning over rocks in creeks, exploring woods and caves while our imaginations provided limitless adventures.  Kids being kids.  Good times, good stuff.

On the other hand, there are some pretty cool tools that we, as parents, have today, that I bet my folks would have welcomed.  Google.  Oh, how I love Google, as a mom.  Kids will always be curious, and the “new” advantage of quickly answering their questions with information and pictures at your fingertips allows their little minds to just keep going and going.  Which is why they are so darn smart, as brilliantly demonstrated in this story.

Two young boys move to Richmond, Virginia; into a large, old house, backed by woods and a winding creek.  So, yes, I am a bit biased, but only because Mr. Smith captures the essence of my home so accurately and vividly.  In no time at all, young Sam finds an old wheat penny, which leads them to the discovery of the legendary mystery.  Supposedly, a valuable and rare coin collection was stolen from the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts many, many years ago and was never recovered.  As all good boys would do, the brothers make it their mission to solve the crime and recover the treasure.  What follows is a classic adventure that you simply must experience.

I admit that I went into this book with high expectations.  Not only was I not disappointed, but I was quite surprised to find so many things that I love about this book.  The dialogue and teasing among the family is spot-on.  The mystery was fun, interesting, and authentic.  The boys’ emotions and actions are more than credible—these are typical 8 and 10 year old boys.  The story flowed so smoothly that I actually read this in one sitting, although that wasn’t my plan when I picked it up.

**Sidebar:  For the 3rd consecutive year, all of the students in my son’s elementary school (K-5) will be reading the same book, at the same time, with their families.  The first year was E.B. White’s The Trumpet of the Swan and last year was George Selden’s The Cricket in Times Square.  Both books were fine, but not necessarily captivating.  Neither The Boy nor I had any desire to quickly seek out more books by these authors (because I had already read Charlotte’s Web about 100 times).  Summer of the Woods is this year’s book.  Yes, I cheated.  I read ahead, and on my own.  I am not even sorry.  But, there is one issue that I foresee.  With the other two books it was very easy to read one chapter each day and then put the book down.  I don’t see that being the case with this page-turner; but, as a reader, I honestly can’t see that as a bad thing. 

I can’t wait to see what the kids think of this story, and I’m already very excited about Mr. Smith’s next book: Mystery on Church Hill. **

Reviewed by jv poore, October 2013.

Book Review: Kusanagi by Clem Chambers

Kusanagi
Clem Chambers
No Exit Press / Trafalgar Square, May 2012
ISBN 978-1842433676
Trade Paperback

An exciting thriller with a touch of woo-woo, the title, Kusanagi, refers to an ancient sword that is part of the Japanese royal treasury. In theory, an emperor cannot legally be crowned without these items being present. The treasures include a mirror, a necklace, and the sword. Imagine the consternation of palace bigwigs when a team of ex-Navy Seals discovers a vast storehouse of gold and jewels on the ocean floor, and when they bring them up and offer them for sale, it’s determined the goods are supposed to be safe in the vaults. Turns out the ship carrying these items went down centuries ago, which means the heads of state were crowned without proper accoutrements and ceremony. Perhaps not even legally.

With the find kept under wraps, the Navy Seals offer a golden box for sale at an auction house in London that deals with ancient artifacts. This is when Jim Evans, possibly the richest man in the world due to his business acumen, gets involved. He bids for and wins the the box, then he, and his butler who is a bodyguard and someone high-up in government, have the challenge of opening the box. When they succeed, the sword, necklace, and mirror are revealed. Of course, everyone wants the treasure. Some are willing to pay for it. Others would rather kill.

The action is swift in this story. Most of the characters are appealing if not downright loveable, and the villain is someone you’re certain to hate, if for nothing else, his attitude toward his zoo. Better yet, the title sword, Kusanagi, is not just a piece of metal, but a truly magical artifact with an active role in the story. Thumbs up on this one.

Reviewed by Carol Crigger, June 2012.
Author of Three Seconds to Thunder.