Thursday, October 12, 2017

REVIEW: Death by Eggnog

Death By Eggnog
Author: Alex Erickson

Krissy Hancock is looking forward to an entire week off from her bookstore cafe, Death by Coffee. She plans to spend the holidays with her father in California. But at the last minute things change....she isn't going to sunny California after all. So, she has a week off in Pine Hills, Ohio. All of her friends are busy with their own holiday plans, so Krissy decides just to relax and enjoy her time off.  Her zen just isn't meant to be, however. Krissy gets roped into taking the place of a sick elf in the annual holiday musical extravaganza. Her peaceful holiday soon turns into drama.....the director is too demanding, the performers are all gossiping backstage and there are fights over who will play the lead role. It all comes to a head when Chuck, dressed as Santa Claus, is murdered in the dressing room. Krissy steps in to investigate after her ex-boyfriend Robert is seen fleeing from the scene. Who killed Santa? Robert is a bit of a jerk, but Krissy is convinced that he didn't murder Chuck.

I really enjoy this series. Krissy is an enjoyable, intelligent, and capable main character. I like the mix of humor and murder mystery. The characters are all likeable and realistic. The coffeeshop/bookstore side theme is also one I enjoy. It gets used quite a bit in cozy mysteries, but I don't mind another series from that angle. I wish Death By Coffee was a real shop near where I live! I'd be there all the time! :)

Death By Eggnog is the 5th book in the Bookstore Cafe Mystery series. The mystery moved along at a nice pace. There were plenty of suspects, twists and turns. The holiday theme was well done. I have a weakness for holiday themed cozies -- so I really enjoyed this book! The Christmas theme was great, and the cover is adorable. All in all, another great book in this cozy series! The next book, Death by Espresso, will be released in June 2018!!

To find out more about the author and his books, check out his website: https://alexericksonbooks.com/

REVIEW: Trixie Belden & The Mysterious Visitor

Trixie Belden & The Mysterious Visitor
Author: Julie Campbell

Trixie Belden and her best friend, Honey Wheeler, notice that a friend from school seems quite unhappy. Di Lynch's family recently came into money and they now own a large home and have a new, luxurious life. So what does Di have to be sad and depressed about? To cheer her up, they invite her to spend the night at the Wheeler's estate. Di tells them that she is unhappy with some of the changes in her family's life (like servants controlling when she can see her little sisters and brothers). And she also explains that suddenly her mother's long lost brother Monty has appeared. Di doesn't like him and says she doubts he is really her uncle. The girls are on a mission to help Di cheer up so they get together and plan a Halloween party. At the last minute, Uncle Monty swoops in and takes over everything, to the chagrin of the girls. Trixie starts to think that maybe Uncle Monty really is an imposter. But, the man is such an impressive emcee at the party that Trixie can't get Honey, Di or any of their friends to listen to her suspicions. She needs to find evidence that proves Uncle Monty is a fake. Can she sneak around and find proof without getting caught, or hurt?

Trixie Belden & The Mysterious Visitor is the 4th book in the series and was first published in 1954. There are 39 books in all. This was my favorite book series in middle school. I had the entire set! I remember this book was one of my favorites. The storyline has great suspense -- Trixie really does get herself into some major hot water with all her sleuthing and sneaking about this time! I thoroughly enjoyed re-reading this book!

Set in the 1950s the series is a bit dated, but still one of my favorites. With the help of OpenLibrary, I'm reading my way back through the series. So enjoyable to re-visit my old friends from Sleepyside, NY! I always liked Trixie better than Nancy Drew! I happily babysat my spoiled nephew back in the day to earn the money I needed to buy new paperbacks in this series. Nice memories!

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

REVIEW: Death On Tap

Death On Tap
Author: Ellie Alexander

Sloane Krause loves her Bavarian themed hometown - Leavenworth, WA. The town goes all out for authentic atmosphere from German foods to locally brewed beers. There are several breweries in the small town. Sloane has worked for her in-laws' family brewery for years and loves it.....until she catches her husband Mac with his pants down. Literally. Reeling from getting an eyeful of her husband and a young bar maid, she gets a job at a new, rival brewery in town. Her new boss, Garrett Strong, says that he always wanted to open his own nano-brewery, and his recipe for a new citrus beer is amazing. Sloane helps him prepare for the grand opening of the Nitro Brewery. Everything is perfect. Their event is a total success. The next morning, however, things take a dangerous turn. Sloane comes in to work and finds a rival brewer dead in Nitro's fermenting vat. It only gets worse when Mac is arrested for the murder. Sloane is really really mad at her husband.....but she knows he isn't a murderer. For the sake of their teenage son and her inlaws, and because she knows Mac isn't guilty, Sloane jumps in to investigate.

This book is a great start to a new series, Sloane Krause Mysteries. I liked the brewery theme. The book contains many details about brewing, different types of beer, and the ingredients required for a quality beer. Although there are lots of details about brewing, the background theme didn't overpower the mystery....it added to it. This start to a new series is a cozy with a bit more bite to it....this isn't themed around a cute dog or cat, or knitting, but brewing beer and philandering husbands. Sloane is a tough, intelligent woman.....and cutesie just wouldn't be her style. The book is still a cozy though.....there is no spurting blood and no cursing. Just the implication of a 2/3 naked husband and lots of great beer. :) I liked the fact that the author didn't just include information on making the beer, but also details about regulations and restrictions on breweries and establishments that serve alcohol. I didn't realize some of the restrictions that pubs or breweries have to follow. Very interesting!

The mystery moves along at a nice pace. There are some great clues and twists along the way. The ending still caught me by surprise though -- I love it when that happens! I didn't see it coming! :)
Sloane is a capable MC, and all the side characters helped support the plot. I liked all the characters....even the cheating husband Mac (although I did want to seriously punch him a couple of times).  All in all, a well-written mystery that is enjoyable to read! I learned a lot about beer and gave me a new respect for micro-breweries.

Ellie Alexander also writes the Bakeshop Mysteries. For more information on the author and her books, check out her website: http://www.elliealexander.co/  I am definitely going to check out her Bakeshop series while I wait for the next Sloane Krause book. Death on Tap is the best cozy I've read in a long time. Excellent writing and research!

**I voluntarily read an advanced readers copy from St Martins Press via NetGalley. All opinions expressed are entirely my own.**


REVIEW: Rescued

Rescued
Author: Peter Zheutlin

I've been a humane society foster parent for years. I've seen many cases of abuse, neglect, and abandonment turn into happy endings. As a foster, the worst case I remember involved a litter of kittens dumped at the local landfill in winter. Some wonderful example of humanity had stuffed an entire litter of newborn kittens into a box filled with garbage, then put several trash bags on top of the box. The kittens were left outside in the cold to die, covered in rotting garbage. Landfill employees miraculously found the kittens, taking them across the street to the animal shelter. Shelter staff called the humane society. My family and I were having breakfast at Waffle House when I got the emergency call. We had our food boxed up and went to get the kittens. I was pissed -- whoever the ass was who abandoned them drove right past the county animal shelter that would have taken them in to sneak into the landfill and dump them to freeze instead. I thought the entire litter would die. They were ice cold and barely moving. Newborn kittens do not react well to being cold and hungry. Usually their organs shut down and they die. But I had to try. I brought them home and started warming them up. They were starving, but I knew not to feed a cold kitten. Using a heating pad, and having my family hold cold kittens next to their skin while petting and rubbing their limbs and talking to them, we warmed them up and I got formula ready. I warned my son not to get attached because there was a good chance that most or all of the litter would die within 24 hours. If they made it through the first day, their chances would improve. Surprisingly, not only did they make it through the first day, but every cat from that litter survived to be adopted out to homes from here in North Carolina clear north to Vermont. And the Karma bus is coming for the person that thought it was ok to leave a litter of kittens outside to freeze to death. They knew they were doing wrong, or they wouldn't have tried to hide what they had done. Not to mention the fact that they went right past the damn animal shelter to do it.  How callous can a person be? There is a soul cost to doing something that wicked. They will pay the price, eventually.

All of my pets are rescues. Our lab dog, Ted. E. Bear, was found as a puppy under a burned out house after a fire. Roxie, a pit mix, was one of my first fosters. She was adopted by a family in West Virginia, only to be returned 4 months later, overweight and hyper. We declared her a foster fail at that point. Ted was ecstatic. He had missed Roxie badly, and was happy to have his pal back. Then we have Princess the Pomchi and Belle the chihuahua. Belle was hit by a car, and after weeks of taking care of her while she recovered from a broken pelvis and other injuries, I just couldn't part with her. And little 4 lb grandma is the last -- she's 16, no teeth and very little eyesight. She was abandoned at the animal shelter to be euthanized after her owner passed away. I was asked if I would give her a home until she passes....of course I will. She was someone's beloved pet for years. I will honor that bond and give the old gal a good home until it's her time to go. She is hilarious and just full of beans most of the time, running around with her tongue hanging out because she's toothless.

I love all my dogs. And they all have stories that should have made them dislike humanity. But they don't. Dogs have an endless capacity to love. They want to belong. They want a home. Rescue dogs more so than any others. That's what drew me to read this book....

Peter Zheutlin shares the stories of his personal pets and those adopted by others. Some rescue animals are easy to love -- others are destructive, untrained and take a lot of work. But, in the end, it's all worth it. When an animal who started out with behavior or fear issues settles down and feels at home....it's just a beautiful thing to see.

This book is a great read for anyone involved in pet rescue, either running a rescue, fostering animals or anyone who has adopted, or is thinking about adopting, a rescue animal. I've had many fur faces come through my life in the past few years....spent many nights rocking and feeding kittens with a bottle, setting alarms to check on sick puppies and kittens, and training my foster babies to be good pets. I am overjoyed every time I receive a photo of one of my fosters in their new furever homes looking contented and loved. This book contains all of that joy. Every story was wonderful, and I found myself reminiscing about my experiences as I read.

At times, the writing style and the amount of time the author spent talking about himself was not really my cup of tea, but overall I enjoyed this book. I think everyone involved in pet rescue should take the time to read it. From saving animals in dangerous situations to putting them on transport to their new homes, animal rescue is an emotional and rewarding experience. 

After I finished reading this book, I went and hugged my dogs....and my 4 cats (all rescues as well). 

For more information on the author and his other books, check out his website: http://peterzheutlin.com/

REVIEW: Ten Little Indians

Ten Little Indians
Author: Agatha Christie

Agatha Christie has been my favorite author since I was 9 and bought a box collection of old Hercule Poirot novels at a garage sale in my neighborhood. I still have those books, and many others by Christie in my personal library.

Ten Little Indians (or And Then There Were None) is a fabulous locked room mystery. A group of 10 people receive invitations to visit Indian Island off the Devon Coast. They arrive by boat, only to find out that none of them actually know the host, a Mr. U.N. Owen. While enjoying drinks and conversation, a recorded voice accuses each of them, one by one, of murder. The recording gives the name and date of each killing, leaving the group stunned and groping for excuses. Little do they know that they are all going to be picked off one at a time by an unseen killer.  As the group gets smaller and smaller, the survivors scramble to figure out where their host might be hiding, or if it's one of their group doing the killing.

Agatha Christie wrote this book in 1939, wrapping the plot around an old poem. The poem figures prominently into the plot, giving away the mode of death for each guest in order. Originally the poem used a racist term -- the N word. In fact the original title of the book was Ten Little N-----s.  In subsequent versions of the book, the wording has been changed to indians, soldiers and other terms, and the title of the book was changed to Ten Little Indians and also And Then There Were None. I prefer And Then There Were None....but my old copy of the book from the 80s is titled Ten Little Indians. The recent miniseries with Sam Neil changed it to Soldier Island and the 10 statues on the table with one disappearing after each death were little soldiers. My modern sensibilities can't wrap around the fact that the title of this book originally had the N word in it.....I am glad that the world has changed enough that the word was removed, allowing the mystery to remain classic without being offensive.

Offensive language aside, this mystery is acknowledged as one of the best ever written, and it has been imitated many times in the nearly 80 years since its publication. The language and situations are a bit dated now, but the story is still enjoyable and surprising. I can't imagine the panic and desperation that the characters felt, trapped on an island while a killer murders them one by one. Re-reading this book for the first time in years, I had to say that I was a bit incredulous that a group of people would accept an invitation without doing any checking on the person it came from.....but then again, modern people often trust strangers they meet on social media and dating sites. It's the same sort of situation. I guess we all feel that murder and dangerous situations happen to other people.....and I'm sure that's how this group of 10 characters felt. They were flattered to be invited to the estate on this island and didn't think there would be any danger. Boy, were they ever wrong.

I enjoyed re-reading this book, and now that I'm finished I'm going to watch the miniseries again. It stays closer to the book than the classic Black & White movie does (20th Century Fox, released 1945).

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

REVIEW: The Persian Always Meows Twice

The Persian Always Meows Twice
Author: Eileen Watkins

Cassie McGlone is a cat groomer, and runs her own business, Cassie's Comfy Cats. She deals with finicky felines all day and loves her job. Her job gets a lot more serious when she makes a house call to groom a client's pampered persian, only to discover the dead body of George DeLeuw. Reeling from the shock of finding her best client murdered, Cassie receives permission to board his cat, Harpo, until the will is probated. That's where the real trouble begins. Suddenly, everyone seems to want the cat for reasons that have nothing to do with the fact that Harpo is a gorgeous persian. Who killed George DeLeuw? And where does his orphaned kitty figure into it? Cassie knows for both George and Harpo's sake she needs to discover the killer's identity.

This is a great start to a new cozy series -- The Cat Groomer Mystery series! I enjoyed this book from beginning to end. The mystery is very well written with some real surprises. Cassie is an intelligent and fun main character. The background theme of cats and cat grooming added to the plot, and made the book more interesting. I do not envy people who choose a career that involves bathing cats on a daily basis -- so Cassie is not only smart, but BRAVE. :) There were a couple side plots that helped with character development, but not in such a way as to overwhelm the mystery elements of the story.

I did have to laugh at one point though...Cassie is thoroughly against cats being allowed to sleep in her bedroom at night. BUT....she is ok with them being on the table when she eats. I think I would much rather have a warm kitty cuddled with me at night than have them on the table near my food while I'm eating. :)

All in all, a great cozy mystery that I very much enjoyed. The cover is awesome. Who can resist a sweet persian punim! :)

A second book in the Cat Groomer Mystery series, The Bengal Identity, will be released in March 2018! :)

**I voluntarily read an advanced readers copy from Kensington via NetGalley. All opinions expressed are entirely my own**

REVIEW: Halloween Carnival Volume 2

Halloween Carnival Volume 2
Authors: Various

Halloween is my favorite holiday. Put that together with one of my favorite pastimes - reading - and I'm in heaven.

Throughout the month of October 2017, Random House is releasing a series of five Halloween short story anthologies. One will come out each week. The stories are subtle horror....the sort that sneaks up then creeps the bejeezus out of you. That's my favorite type of horror tale. I'm not much into the slasher, blood-spurting, gore fest sort. I prefer the more slow building, atmospheric, creepy kind. This series of short stories has put me in the mood for Halloween this year!

Halloween Carnival Volume 2 contains 5 stories:

Mr. Dark's Carnival by Glen Hirshberg. A college professor in Montana asks for primary source proof of Mr. Dark's Carnival - a horrific spectacle that appears only on Halloween. Ask and you shall receive, Professor Roemer! I loved this story from start to shocking finish! Excellent pace and suspense. Just creepy fun to read! This one is my favorite from this anthology.

The Facts in the Case of My Sister - Lee Thomas. A young boy hypnotizes his sister to protect her from her fear of monsters....with disastrous consequences. Sometimes believing in monsters is a good thing. This is a great story....what a powerful ending!

Mischief Night - Holly Newstein.  A Mischief Night prank goes awry. This one was just ok for me...a good story, but not really horror.

The Ghost Maker - Del James.  A career criminal dislikes Halloween. After all, you never know who might come knocking at your door.  This story really wasn't my cup of tea either....not that it isn't well-written. Just not my style. I have the feeling that it might be a bit hair-raising for others though. Always be careful when you open the door on Halloween. Be prepared.

The Pumpkin Boy - Al Sarrantonio. Children start disappearing, and rumors start about a strange Pumpkin Boy seen roaming the area. Detective Len Schneider is on the case, frantically searching to find whoever is behind the disappearances. He discovers there are some things worse than a dead child.  This story has great creepy vibes to it. Nice pace, scary atmosphere and a whopper of an ending!

Great Halloween story collection! There were a couple that just didn't work for me....but the beauty of a story anthology is that the writing, subjects, and characters are varied. Each of these stories is different....not just the same old spooky setting. What didn't gel for me, might be perfect for another reader!

I definitely love the fact that one anthology ebook is coming out each week in October. Great idea! These scary tales are definitely bringing out the Halloween spirit in me! Halloween Carnival Volume 2 will release October 10th, 2017.

**I voluntarily read an advanced readers copy of this book from Random House via NetGalley. Opinions expressed are entirely my own.**