Thursday, March 5, 2015

Book Review: Double Fudge Brownie Murder by Joanne Fluke (Hannah Swensen #18)

Stars: 3 out of 5
Pros: Hannah and the rest of the cast; mouthwatering recipes
Cons: Very slow plot
The Bottom Line:
Hannah goes to court
Finds another dead body
Cooks up solution

Judge Not, Least You Be Murdered

One of the first series I started reading when I started reading cozy mysteries was Joanne Fluke’s Hannah Swensen series.  It even got me baking for a few years before I got lazy and stopped again.  I always look forward to each new book in the series, although the series does seem to be declining.  Unfortunately, Double Fudge Brownie Murder, the newest in the series, isn’t the strongest.

If you are new to the series, Hannah owns The Cookie Jar in the small town of Lake Eden, Minnesota.  Despite it being a small town, she is always stumbling upon murder victims, usually next to her latest culinary creation.  Each book is filled with recipes as well as clues, and this book resolves a mini-cliffhanger from the previous book in the series.

Doc has a surprise for Hannah’s mother Delores.  He’s decided that they should elope to Vegas for their wedding with Hannah, Andrea, and Michelle along for the vacation.  The only other addition to the party is Doc’s best man.  It’s a wonderful vacation that gives Hannah the room to face what is coming.

Because when Hannah returns to Lake Eden, it’s time for her trial for vehicular manslaughter.  Despite the fact that her lawyer is still telling her that she has nothing to worry about, she can’t help but be nervous, especially when Judge Colfax asks for a pre-trial meeting.  While waiting for that meeting, Hannah hears a thump from his chambers and goes in to find the judge dead next to one of her double fudge brownies.  Since she was about to stand trial in his court, the police consider Hannah a suspect.  Can she find the real killer and clear her name?

So what is my problem with this book?  Pacing.  As much as I love these characters, I do read the books for the mystery.  Here, the mystery doesn’t come close to starting until the second quarter and even then it never progresses quickly thanks to lots of talk about cooking.  Yes, this series always has lots to do with cooking, but here I felt like it overwhelmed the mystery.  In the end, it does reach a logical ending with a suspenseful final scene.

However, the characters are still wonderful.  After so many books in the series, it’s hard not to feel like these characters are old friends, and each visit does give me a chance to see what is happening with them.  I laughed a few times and generally enjoyed spending time with them.

There has been a long running love triangle in the series, and it looks like that particular plot is winding down.  I won’t say any more about it but to say I like the direction it is heading.  I’ll leave it for you to discover just what that might be.

And, yes, there are recipes.  By my count, there are 23 of them in this book plus a couple of variations and frosting recipes, and all of them sound good enough to make you drool.  Really, deciding to give up sweets right before this came out was so stupid.  And all the recipes provide enough detail that even a novice baker like me can pull them off.  It’s almost enough to make me want to bake again.  Almost.

Double Fudge Brownie Murder is a book that fans of the series will want to read to catch up with favorite characters.  However, it is not a book to entice new comers to start reading about Hannah.

Looking for more delicious food with a hint of murder?  Check out the rest of the Hannah Swensen Mysteries in order.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Ornament Review: Shower Season - Year of Disney Magic #9 - 2015 Hallmark Ornament

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Finally, we get Pluto!  Fun details
Cons: Does tip forward
The Bottom Line:
Trying to stay dry
From little April showers
Another cute piece

Pluto and His Ducky Pal are Enjoying a Little April Shower

It’s a little hard to believe that we are still seeing characters for the first time even though we are on the ninth ornament in the Year of Disney Magic series.  (And there’s even one more characters we haven’t seen yet!)  Shower Season marks the first and only appearance by Pluto in this series of Hallmark ornaments.  Fortunately for Pluto’s fans, it’s a very cute ornament.

Since April can be known for spring rain, that’s the theme that was used here.  Pluto is propping up a purple umbrella.  He’s got his left ear up and sticking out just enough to see if it is still raining.  It looks like it must have been raining quite a bit since we can see a ring of water around the brown dirt that Pluto and his umbrella are keeping dry.

Pluto isn’t the only one hunkered under his umbrella.  There’s also a little duck there with him.  Since ducks live in water, this must be quite the rain storm to make the duck flee to dry ground.  Yet I like the idea of Pluto welcoming and protecting this new friend.

Last year’s Peanuts series went with Easter for the April ornament, but that group of characters has an obvious tie in with Snoopy as the Easter Beagle.  I’m trying to picture something Easter related with this series that wouldn’t seem forced, and I’m drawing a blank.  It does give us two generic spring ornaments in a row with the Disney series, but I don’t really mind since both of them look great.

Plus this ornament is just so cute.  As always, it’s the little details like Pluto’s ear sticking out checking for rain and the rain around the dry umbrella zone that just make these ornaments so perfect.

As with all the ornaments in the series, this one has a nice, flat base, so you can set it out anywhere.  You’ll also find the 9 in a Christmas tree on the bottom.

I’ve already got mine hanging in the stand that was sold separately to display this series.  The loop is on the top of Pluto’s umbrella, and you’ll find the ornament tips just slightly forward.  It actually allows you to see the details of the ornament better.  It’s not as bad as Donald was last month, but it is noticeable.

Even though we rarely get rain in April here in Southern California (but I am praying we get lots of it since this winter has been so dry again), the idea of April showers still makes me think of spring.  Shower Season is a great addition to a magical series.

Original Price: $12.95

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Book Review: The Edge of Dreams by Rhys Bowen (Molly Murphy #14)

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Strong characters and a compelling historical mystery
Cons: None
The Bottom Line:
Train crash as murder?
If so, was Molly target?
Fast moving, fun book

Molly’s Latest Case is a Dream for Readers

If I could find the time to read more historical fiction, I know I would love it.  I enjoy visiting another time and place via fiction.  Fortunately, I do get occasional historical fiction fixes with some mystery series I love, and one of my favorite historical mysteries in the Molly Murphy series.  The Edge of Dreams is our fourteenth visit with Molly through 1900’s New York, and it’s another winner.

Life is coming back together for Molly.  Her husband Daniel has been working hard on rebuilding their home which was burned in a fire in the spring.  They are almost ready to move back in, and Molly is heading there one day with their son Liam when the elevated train they are riding on has an accident and derails.  Worse yet, Daniel thinks it ties in to a case he’s been working on stretching back months.  This case involves a series of unrelated murders, and he fears that Molly might have been the target of what the killer is claiming wasn’t really an accident.

Meanwhile, Molly’s friends and neighbors Sid and Gus have returned from Vienna where Gus was studying with Dr. Freud and learning his radical new interpretation of dreams.  As a result, Gus is asked to help with a young girl who survived a fire that destroyed her family’s home and killed her parents.  Naturally, Gus asks Molly to get involved as well.  Can Gus figure out what the girl’s dreams mean?  Can Molly help Daniel on his case behind the scenes while also helping Gus with this girl?

Outside of a few references to past events, there is nothing here that would keep you from enjoying this book if you aren’t familiar with the rest of the series, and nothing from previous books is spoiled.  You might not fully appreciate the character development here, but you’d still be able to follow everything that happens.

It is nice to see the characters still growing as the series goes along.  Molly has come a long way as a detective and her relationship with her husband Daniel continues to evolve as well.  She’s maturing, and I love it see it.  The rest of the main cast continues to be their normal charming selves, and the new characters are just as strong.

The plot starts quickly and continues at a good pace all the way through the book.  I figured a few things out before Molly, but she was never far behind me in making those connections and advancing the story.  The climax is wonderful and shows again how much Molly has grown as a person.

I was especially interested to note how Rhys Bowen drew from a real life incident and made it the basis of her book.  Be sure to read the Historical Note at the end and get a bit of a glimpse into how authors can get their ideas.

Whether you are new to Molly’s historical world or a longtime fan, The Edge of Dreams will leave you turning pages.  Rhys Bowen has long been a favorite authors because she is a wonderful storyteller, and this book proves it yet again.

NOTE: I received an ARC in exchange for my honest review.

You can travel back to the beginning and read the Molly Murphy Mysteries in order.

Monday, March 2, 2015

TV Recap: Once Upon a Time 4-12 - Darkness on the Edge of Town

So here’s a little irony for you.  I had to wait to watch last night’s Once Upon a Time because I was out watching Wicked last night while it is here in LA.  You know, last spring’s villain on the show.  No, that has nothing really do to with last night’s episode or recap (other than explaining why it is going up on Monday night instead of Sunday night).

And what a great episode it was.  I’m hooked all over again.  Our heroes are in serious trouble (and yes, I’m including Regina in that heroes mix).

So let’s start with the flashback, shall we?  We start out at Maleficent’s castle as Ursula shows up for a meeting.  Then along comes Cruella.  However, none of them know what this meeting is about.  Heck, the first Maleficent knew about it was when the other two showed up.  That’s because Rumpelstiltskin called it.  It seems that Rumple has a plan for getting them all their happy endings.  It seems there is a curse, and he needs all their abilities to get it.  It takes a little smooth talking on his part, but he soon talks them in to going along with his plan.

And a light bulb immediately went off in my head.  This is why Mal had the curse in the second episode of the series.  Well, not quite, as we learn later since she didn't wind up with it, but at least it is a potential start to that part of the story.

Movie Review: Big Hero 6

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Animation, characters, Baymax
Cons: Darker than expected, slow start, Fred
The Bottom Line:
Animated film
With Marvel superheroes
Slow start, late action

Heart and Superheroes

Confession time – this DisNerd missed going to see Big Hero 6 in the theaters.  I know, I know, I’m considering having to turn in my certification.  I just don’t seem to be making it out to the theaters much these days.  But based on the high recommendations the movie was getting, I did buy it and watched it this weekend.

For those who have missed it, the movie is based on Marvel characters and tells the story of Hiro (voiced by Ryan Potter).  He’s a boy genius who is wasting his talents and time on illegal robot battles.  However, after a tragedy, he finds himself connecting with Baymax (Scott Adsit), the medical robot that his brother created.  Together the two get caught up in an adventure when they realize that something Hiro had created has fallen into the wrong hands.  Can they defeat this villain?

If I knew this animated movie was based on Marvel characters, I’d forgotten about it.  In fact, when I sat down to watch it, I think I knew less than what I just put in that teaser, so I didn’t go into the film with any expectations at all.

So when I say I found the first third a little slow, it means I really did find it slow.  It wasn’t that I was waiting for the story to get to the point I didn’t know what was going to happen next, it was that it seemed to be moving slowly.  Now, I do realize they had to establish the characters and set up the plot, and stuff from that first third came into play later on, but it still felt slow to me.

However, once the story got going, I really did get into it.  The action was great and the mystery was well done.  I thought I had things predicted early on, but I didn’t.  A couple twists caught me by surprise and I like that.

I will say the film is darker than I was expecting.  I probably would have known it was coming if I had realized it was Marvel.  It’s within normal superhero story realm, but a bit darker than I was expecting from a Disney animated movie.  It is rated PG, and that rating should be taken seriously, but most kids will probably be fine with it.

On the flip side, one attempt at comic relief is a character named Fred voiced by T. J. Miller.  Unlike the geeky rest of the main cast, he’s supposed to be a slacker.  However, many of his lines and antics annoyed more than amused me.

However, the laughs we get from Baymax are genuine.  This robot is pretty funny as he is going well outside his original programming, and that clash if wonderful.  Plus there’s a scene as his battery is dying that is hysterical.  Disney was smart to market the movie around him because he is wonderful.

As the movie progresses, we get some more dark and emotional moments, but the film has earned them by this point because of the story and characters we’ve gotten to know.  The mix of light and dark winds up working well here to further pull us into the story.

The voice cast is wonderful.  While I do recognize a few names, most of them are unknown to me, but that doesn’t make their work any less impressive.  In fact, I like the fact that Disney casts the best voice for a part and doesn’t rely on big names to bring in an audience.  Anyway, you will get lost in the story as the actors do amazing jobs bringing their characters to life.

Likewise, the animation is top notch.  There are a few beautiful shots and another few wonderfully fun sequences.  A lot of work went into making this movie, and it shows.

While this movie is not part of the official Marvel Cinematic Universe, it does have a final scene after the credits, so be sure to sit through them.

If I’d realized this was Marvel going into the film, I would have had different expectations and might have loved it as much as everyone else seemed to love it.  As it is, I did enjoy Big Hero 6 even if I didn’t love it.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Monthly Reading Summary for February 2015

Wow, hard to believe it's time to talk about the books we read in February already, isn't it?  Here's my list with links to the full review.  And the index is updated with all the reviews, book and non-book, as well.

All ratings are on a scale of 1 (bad) to 5 (great).

A Dragon’s Guide to the Care and Feeding of Humans by Laurence Yep & Joanne Ryder – 3
Miss Drake is not looking for a new pet, but when 10-year-old Winnie comes into her life, the girl just will not leave her alone.  So the dragon takes her on as a project.  But a mysterious book will give them more danger than they might be able to handle.

I found this fantasy novel for middle graders inventive and funny.  The two main characters were great.  Unfortunately, the plot was a little slow for my tastes, although I can imagine the target audience enjoying it.

NOTE: I received a copy of this book via Amazon’s Vine program.

License to Dill by Mary Ellen Hughes (Pickled and Preserved Mysteries #2) – 5
Piper’s ex-fiancee arrives in town hoping to get back together even though she has told him repeated they are over.  However, the attention soon turns to the soccer team visiting from Italy and the mini-tournament against a team of locals.  The Italian team’s manager was an exchange student when he was in high school, and his reappearance has opened old wounds from back then.  When he is murdered, it becomes a question of which of those deeds from the past came back to haunt him in the present?

I really enjoyed this book.  The characters were just as fun and charming as they were in the first in the series.  The plot was wonderful with so many suspects and twists to the story I had a hard time putting it down.  Yet things came together for a logical climax.

NOTE: I received an ARC of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Great Smokies by Sandy Dengler (Jacek Prester #4) – 4
Jack and Ev are sent to Great Smokey Mountains when the superintendent is poisoned.  Then someone shoots at her replacement.  What do these women have in common and why is someone out to kill them?

A couple of sub-plots take over a little bit in this one, but overall it’s a solid mystery.  Things do come together at the end, which is nice.  What I really love are Jack and Ev and how their relationship continues to grow and change.  Ev’s journey especially continues here.  And the thoughts on prayer woven through the book are great as well.

NOTE: This book was published in the 90’s as The Quick and the Dead and recently rereleased as the ebook Great Smokies.

Bartholomew and the Oobleck by Dr. Seuss – 5
King Derwin of Didd is tired of the same old four things coming down from the sky, so he decides to get his magicians to create something new – Oobleck.  However, his page Bartholomew things something is dangerous about it.  Is he correct?

One of Dr. Seuss’s older books, it can be long and isn’t told in his typical rhyme.  Still shows his creativity, however, and there are some good lessons worked into the story without preaching as well.  Fun for older kids and adults looking for a longer picture book.

A Tine to Live, a Tine to Die by Edith Maxwell (Local Foods Mysteries #1) – 4
Cam Flaherty has taken over her great-uncle’s farm and is hoping to adjust to her new life as a farmer in her first growing season.  However, things take an unexpected turn when she finds her recently fired farm hand, Mike Montgomery, dead in the hoop house with a pitchfork in his neck.  Can she figure out who killed him?

The book starts a little slowly, but once the story really gets going, it builds to a suspenseful climax.  Cam is an introvert and a little blunt, which is a nice change for a series heroine.  I wish more nuance had been given to an issue brought up in the book, but overall this is an enjoyable debut.

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley (Flavia de Luce #1) – 4
11-year-old Flavia is most concerned about the tricks her sisters are playing on her during the summer of 1950 until the day their housekeeper finds a jacksnipe with a postage stamp attached to his bill on the doorstep.  This really upsets her father, but Flavia is shocked to stumble across a stranger dying in their cucumber patch a few hours later.  How are these two events related?

This is a well plotted mystery with an unusual (at least for an adult audience book) main character.  Flavia can act her age at times and she does drone on in the narration about chemistry (her passion) on a few occasions, but for the most part she leads a cast of fun characters.  The plot is very entertaining with some nice surprises along the way to a suspenseful climax.

Story Thieves by James Riley (Story Thieves #1) – 5
Owen lives in the world of his favorite books – at least in his mind.  But when he meets Bethany emerging from a book, he realizes he might be able to do that for real.  Despite Bethany’s strict rules, Owen tricks her into going and changing the outcome of the sixth Kiel Gnomefoot book.  However, the consequences are more than he bargained for.  Will he and Bethany be able to return things to the way they should be?

Having dreamed of jumping into books myself, I loved the premise of this book even before I read it.  It delivered on the promise in spades.  I wasn’t super impressed with the Kiel Gnomefoot story within the story, but that was a minor complaint.  The plot overall was very engrossing and the characters were fun.  I can’t wait to see what happens to Owen and Bethany next.

Hearse and Buggy by Laura Bradford (Amish Mysteries #1) – 5
After her divorce, Claire has settled into the town of Heavenly, Pennsylvania, thanks to her aunt.  She’s begun to make friends among the Amish and even opened a store that sells the items her new friends make.  However, the potential peace of her new life is shattered when a man is found murdered outside her store.  He left town recently after being accused of stealing from the Amish.  Even though murder is not in their beliefs, might one of Claire’s new friends killed him?

The characters in this book are already fully developed and alive.  They drew me into the story and made me care about several sub-plots that do slow down the mystery early on.  Still, once the mystery takes center stage, it is well plotted with clues and red herrings along the way.

Buttercream Bump Off by Jenn McKinlay (Cupcake Bakery Mysteries #2) – 5
Love is in the air as Valentine’s Day approaches.  Even Mel’s widowed mother is getting back into the dating game.  But Joyce calls part way through the evening when she finds her date floating face down in his pool.  Baxter was despised by all who knew him, but who actually decided to kill him?

It had been a while since I read the first in the series, but the characters came back to me very quickly.  I enjoyed seeing them again and meeting the fun cast introduced here.  The plot was a little thin at times, but Mel’s antics as she investigated the case more than made up for it.  This was fun, and I will be visiting these characters again soon.

Cyrus is a bit bored with his life as a sea serpent, so he takes a dare from a shark to attack a passenger ship about to leave the dock.  Will he go through with his plans?  Or will he wind up helping the sea?

While Cyrus’s reasons for being near the ship aren’t good, the end result is great.  There is a very subtle lesson in peer pressure vs. doing the right thing near the beginning.  Adults will pick up on the outline early, but everyone will enjoy watching Cyrus in action.  Bill Peet’s illustrations add some great humor to an enjoyable story.

Murder in the Mystery Suite by Ellery Adams (Book Retreat Mysteries #1) – 3
Jane Steward is trying to get more income to her family’s Storyton Hall, already famous as a retreat for readers.  But her idea of a Mystery and Mayhem Week begins with a murder and a stolen book.  What secrets will she uncover?

This book attempts to do something a little different with the cozy genre, and I’ll admit it took me a little while to get on board, but once I did I found I liked the idea.  I also really did love the characters.  Unfortunately, the plot came up short, leaving us with some loose threads and a plot hole or two along the way.  I wanted to like this book more, but the weak plot really does bother me.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

February 28th's Weekly TV Thoughts

Yes, I'm finally getting my TV Recap for the week posted.  Just now got a chance to finish last night's Amazing Race.  Here you go.

Castle – Back to light and fun Castle with a locked room episode to boot.  Or maybe I should say locked planet.  I was a little disappointed they included the evil computer cliché, but for the most part I really did enjoy the episode.  Now, I’m wondering if Martha will really move out this time, and if so for how long.  You can read my full recap here.

Agent Carter – An action packed climax, and a great one, too.  Overall, I enjoyed this series, although they could have tightened up a couple of those middle episodes.

Arrow – This show is on fire.  Another great episode with so many wonderful character moments and twists and suspense.  However, I am wondering, do we know why Sara was killed?  The motive behind that seems to be missing, and since that is what is driving the season, it is rather important.  I probably missed it somewhere.

Melissa & Joey – Honestly, I think the characters made it longer than I would.  Having said that, I can go without when I’m camping or something else like that.  But at home?  I spend so much time on my phone, or at least my computer, it isn’t even funny.

Baby Daddy – From the promo, it sounded like they were ending the triangle last night, yet it felt like a cliffhanger to me.  I think I’m actually rooting for Danny, but I don’t have all the history since I just started part way through the last season.  Very interested to see how this all resolves.

Survivor – I guess I give in to stereotypes, too, but I really didn’t figure that White Collar would be the first to lose.  And really, you never start off lying on day one, especially about something so obvious.  However, that one guy on the No Collar team sure is insecure.  That’s going to come back to bite him.

Amazing Race (Wednesday) – I’d actually read that they started this season near me, but I would have known anyway.  I recognized it in about 2 seconds.  Plus they had them doing a mud run!  How cool is that!!  I’m surprised at how well the blind date teams are doing.  I will be interested in seeing if that stays for the entire race.  So far, there aren’t any teams I’m rooting against.

Suits – Donna is in hot water.  I thought for a minute they were going to drop it in one episode, but no, that is continuing into next week.  So how are they going to get her out of that?  And is this really it for Jessica’s love interest?  Because that would be a bit of a surprise in a way.  However, he is just a guest star, but that is probably all we will get from him.

The Big Bang Theory – I was a little surprised about how much Penny and Sheldon did share.  That was by far my favorite part of the episode since I love their relationship.  Oh, I don’t want them as any more than friends, but they can be very sweet together.  The zombie was pretty funny, especially with how quickly they got out of there.  I don’t know that I would have been that quick about it, but I didn’t quite catch what the first couple of clues where.

The Odd Couple – Not quite as much fun as the first episode, and I guess the sister isn’t a main character.  Still, not a bad episode, and I’ll keep watching.

The Amazing Race (Friday) – What is with all the selfies this season?  Seriously, I’m already over it.  And really, you pay attention to the train times and then mug for the camera.  Still, I was sorry to see them go since they seem like a nice couple.  My guess is the blind daters current at the bottom are the next to go.  They seem to be having some difficulty getting along, but we shall see if I’m right or if they get it together and surprise me.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Ornament Review: 1939 - Disney Studio Opens in Burbank - Moments that Made Disney #5 - 2014 Disney Store Ornament

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Another great looking ornament commemorating a Disney milestone
Cons: Can think of one thing that would have been more fun
The Bottom Line:
New, permanent home
Creates much Disney magic
That’s remembered here

Mickey’s Ready to Yell Lights! Camera! Action! at the New Studios

Up through the release of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, the Walt Disney was renting space for his artists to work.  And they were working in various nearby buildings.  That’s why Disney took the profits from his first film and put them into a new permanent studio space in Burbank – space the company is still using.  This is the event commemorated in the fifth Moment that Made Disney ornament from The Disney Store, appropriately enough entitled Disney Studio Opens in Burbank.

The ornament shows Mickey as director at the new studio.  He’s dressed in brown and tan with a tan cap on his head.  He’s sitting in a director’s chair and is holding a megaphone.  He’s smiling and all ready to yell for the action to start.

This had to be a hard ornament in the series to create.  Yes, it was a milestone for Disney, so it should have been included.  However, how exactly do you mark the occasion?  A building would just be boring.  I must admit that a replica of the street signs that have popped up every so often on behind the scenes specials would have been fun.  But that’s about the only thing I can think of that would top this.  Yes, Walt often referred to the studio as the studio that Snow White built, but as he also said, it all started with a mouse.  Somehow, I can picture Mickey directing animation; heck, I’d love to see what he’d come up with.

As with the others in the series, the details are great.  There aren’t quite as many of them, but it is fun to look at the ornament.  And somehow, Mickey dressing in brown makes him appear more serious than normal, which is appropriate for his new job as director.  Even the grin on his face doesn’t completely diminish that look.

The ornament sits on a circular base, meaning you can leave it out all year long in a Disney display.  In this case, the circle is silver and there is a star under Mickey’s chair.  It’s just enough to invoke a bit more of a Hollywood feel, which really adds to the ornament.

The Disney Store has included a red ribbon for hanging the ornament on your tree.  The ribbon attaches to a loop in the top of Mickey’s head, and he hangs perfectly straight.  As with other ornaments that Disney has created, it’s a little larger and heavier than your typical ornament, so plan placing it on your tree accordingly.

Like most DisNerds, I would love to tour the Disney studio some time.  So much magic has come from that place.  Disney Studio Opens in Burbank is a great way to commemorate the opening of a place that has created so many wonderful stories.

Original Price: $19.95

February 27th's Book Beginning and Friday 56

Well, look at this.  It's finally time for Book Beginning and Friday 56.  Yes, it's been one of those weeks.  But any week that starts after two days at Disneyland is definitely going to suffer in comparison.

But I'm not here to whine.  I'm here to tease you with a couple of excerpts from The Edge of Dreams by Rhys Bowen.

This is the newest in her Molly Murphy series set in early 1900's New York City.  It actually comes out on Tuesday, but thanks to an ARC, I've actually read the book.  Come back on Tuesday to see what I thought of it.  (Here's a clue - I love this series.)

For today, here's how it begins:

"Don't open your eyes until I tell you." - His hand gripped my forearm as he half-lifted, half-dragged me down from the hansom cab.

Page 56 doesn't give me too much to work with since it is the ending of a chapter.  But there are several great lines on it.  I decided to go with this one:

Daniel took the papers from me and examined them, frowning.  "That's an acute observation, Molly.  But if there was one murder he couldn't commit, how would we ever find out about it?"

That's a good question, wouldn't you agree?

As I said, come back on Tuesday to read my full review.  In the mean time, have a great weekend.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Book Review: Murder in the Mystery Suite by Ellery Adams (Book Retreat Mysteries #1)

Stars: 3 out of 5
Pros: Wonderful characters; something different for the plot
Cons: Loose threads and holes in the plot
The Bottom Line:
Book resort, murder
Weak plot but great characters
Wanted to love it

Some Loose Threads in the Mystery Suite

There are many popular cozy authors I don’t get around to reading much.  Too many books and all that.  One of the names I haven’t kept up with at all is Ellery Adams, but I decided to give her a try.  Since I am so far behind, I decided to go with her latest series since there’s only one book in the series.  That means I’m up to date on this series at least, right?  That’s how I came to read Murder in the Mystery Suite.  Unfortunately, a weak plot kept me from loving it like I had hoped I would.

Jane Steward enjoys her life as the manager for Storyton Hall, the family estate located in the country in Virginia.  This resort is a reader’s paradise with libraries and libraries of books, and people come from all around to spend time in solitude reading.  However, the estate is beginning to need some repairs, and so Jane hits on the idea of hosting themed weeks with more events to draw in crowds.

The first such weekend is a Mystery and Mayhem Week with costume balls, scavenger hunts, and other fun activities.  The scavenger hunt is held on opening night, and the prize is a first edition book about the letters of mystery author Adela Dundee, creator of the beloved Umberto Ferrari.  However, soon after awarding the prize, Jane’s great-aunt insists that they gave the winner the wrong book.  When Jane goes to switch out the copies, she finds the winner dead and the book missing.  What was in that particular book that made it worth killing over?

The author tries hard to break out and do something different with this book, and I applaud her for that.  At first I wasn’t sure what to think about that twist, however, by the time I reached the end, I was on board with it.  In fact, I could see how it would lead to lots of fun in further books in a series.  Likewise, the mystery is complex and has some twists to it I wasn’t expecting at all.

However, the more I’ve thought about the ending, the more I’m disappointed with it.  The majority of the story is wrapped up in a satisfactory manner, but there are some questions left outstanding that are bugging me.  I can guess what the answers might be, but I’d really like to know for sure.  Additionally, there’s a plot hole or two out there.

That’s a shame because I really liked the characters.  I can see plenty of potential for fun and growth with them in future books.  My only nitpick here is that Jane’s twin sons occasionally seemed to act about eight or nine, while other times they acted their true age of six.  Still, the large staff of the resort and many members of the town were so much fun, and I would love to visit them again.

There were so many references to famous detectives past and present that it was a blast to read.  Many of them I am familiar with only by reputation, but I still got a kick out of seeing their names pop up here.  However, my favorite mention was of Mrs. Polliax.  (And if you don’t know why I would especially love that, click on the Carstairs? link on the top of the page.)

Still I will probably pass on future visits to Storyton Hall.  The weak plot was enough to keep me from returning, so I will not find out what happens after Jane solves the Murder in the Mystery Suite.