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review 2019-12-26 09:39
Owl be Home for Christmas (Meg Langslow, #26)
Owl Be Home For Christmas - Donna Andrews

This was the only Christmas story I read this year, and I started it just as everything started going pear shaped in RL, so it took me forever to read it.  I know this is a 'me' problem, but the longer it takes me to finish a book, the more scattered the story feels to me, so this entry by one of my favorite current authors got short shrift from me this year.  Still, it was good; the mystery was well constructed and the holiday spirit was high.  The Christmas dinner almost made me misty eyed and made me love Donna Andrews as an author just a little bit more than I already did.

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review 2019-09-20 11:12
Murder in the Reading Room (Book Retreat Mystery, #4)
Murder in the Reading Room - Ellery Adams

I can't believe I finished this.  It got a star for the plot's premise, half a star for being relatively well edited and a half star as a bonus because I didn't DNF it.


Where to start...


I liked the series premise, about a secret library that holds the rarest, secret or unknown manuscripts from around the world, but as the series progresses, the author falls into the common trap of writing herself into corners from which she can't escape without abusing a reader's ability to suspend disbelief.  This book has the manager of the Storyton Inn haring off to the Biltmore Estate to rescue her lover from a dungeon.  Where he's being held by a renegade faction of the Templars.  Along side her:


long-thought dead (9 years) husband,

(spoiler show)


who's being held in the dungeon next door.  Give. me. a. break.  I hate this trope so much, I almost DNF'd it on the spot. 


Then I had to endure constant philosophical musings about love, the power of love, the power of family, more crap about love.  And the villain was supposed to be super evil, but I just didn't feel it.  I mean, he was definitely without redeeming qualities, but evil?  Eh.


The ending ... was eye-rolling.  I'm sorry, but it involved blow darts, and the most insanely insincere scene where the MC confronts her ignorance about cultural insensitivity that I've ever read.  Honestly, it's so badly done I'm tempted to quote it, but to do that I'd have to read it again.


The author would have gotten a tiny bonus for not taking that spoiler above to the most nauseating conclusion possible, or stringing it painfully over several books, but by the time it was resolved I'd lost the will to give any bonus points.


What kept me reading this farce was the idea of Hemingway's lost suitcase being hidden in the Inn and the search through letters and correspondence for clues to find it.  And that 10% of the book was kind of good, though the eventual conclusion was a bit deflating as it was so predictable.


I think it's safe to say I'm done with this series, but I read it for the Black Cat square in Halloween Bingo, so it wasn't a complete waste of time.

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review 2019-07-25 09:52
Aunti Poldi and the Sicilian Lions (Aunti Poldi, #1)
Auntie Poldi and the Sicilian Lions - Mario Giordano,John Brownjohn

I bought this book one day, because I was busting for the bathroom and the Library was the closest public one; I felt a little bad about just going in to use the facilities, so I popped into the FOTL shop (again) and picked this one up.


Meh.  It wasn't bad or great; it had it's moments, but while I liked the narrator (Aunti Poldi's nephew), and Poldi's sisters-in-law, I didn't really care for Aunt Poldi, probably because she was a drunk.  The author attempts to make her desire to drink herself to death sound romantic, and–weirdly–funny, but it just comes across as: she's a bleeding drunk.


The mystery was good though; I didn't see the solution coming at all and it held my attention when the MC failed to.


I read this for space #19 as the cover is easily 50% blue.

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review 2019-02-23 06:57
To Catch a Witch (Wishcraft Mystery, #8)
To Catch a Witch: A Wishcraft Mystery - Heather Blake

Everything about the books in this series shouts "TWEE!" - from the cover, to the series name, the setting, and premise, but they aren't at all twee.  Even though I know this, they still sit on my TBR for too long because ... twee.


In spite of the facade, these mysteries are well written and almost always go quite a bit deeper than your average cozy; this one was no different.  To Catch a Witch confronts the alarming dysfunction that sometimes exists behind the doors of the healthiest looking families, as well as the ones that advertise their dysfunction for all and sundry.


The mystery plot here revolves around a woman who was universally loved (aren't they all?) who is killed during a running through Salem village.  Abbey truly had no enemies, was actually loved by everyone, and had a moral compass that pointed true north and didn't waver.  So how did she end up dead at the bottom of a gorge, killed by a branch to the back of her head?


This is why I love Heather Webber/Blake; she can write about love and heartbreak and redemption without making me roll my eyes or want to gag.  She somehow manages to do it without the emotional melodrama ... and she writes a cleverly plotted mystery to boot.  Was it fiendishly clever? No. Did I ever suspect the murderer? No.  Yet it was entirely plausible and had me thinking, of course.


It wasn't perfect; the plot twist was transparent to me early on - at least most of it was.  She did get me with the bit about ... never mind.


I'll never rave madly about these books, but they're solidly written and always make me feel a little better for having read them.  The characters are wonderfully likeable, and for those that look for books with strong female friendships, they're bountiful between these pages.  I'll happily read the next one, no matter how twee it looks.

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review 2019-01-27 22:54
Mardi Gras Murder (Cajun Country Mystery, #4)
Mardi Gras Murder: A Cajun Country Mystery - Ellen Byron

Cozy mysteries are perfect when life feels hard and you want to escape somewhere that feels fairly uncomplicated, even if people are being murdered.  This series, set in small town Louisiana, is one of the stronger ones to come out in recent years.  It's not perfect by any stretch, but it's got good bones, so to speak.


Mardi Gras Murder takes place very soon after a fairly catastrophic flood sweeps through, one that leaves behind the body of a John Doe.  At first presumed to have been a victim of the flood waters, an autopsy reveals he was shot.  As the town rebuilds and focuses on their Mardi Gras celebrations, a judge of the local beauty contest is also shot and killed, and in spite of any evidence, our MC Maggie has a gut feeling the two are related.  Of course they are.  After attempted murder is tried on another judge, Maggie starts looking for connections to the John Doe.


The beauty contest is a total red herring; that's not a spoiler either, as it's pretty obvious from the get go that it's meant to be.  The real ties that kill are much more investing that a vapid beauty contest, though the ultimate motivation behind them is just as shallow and meaningless. 


Still, the author writes a solid setting with strong characters - all of them, men and women, good and bad.  If the plotting and murder motivations aren't as strong as they could be, they're surrounded by a lot that is.  The backdrop and characters are why I probably rated this higher than I should, objectively speaking.  But I got happily lost in backwater Louisiana for a day or two, and I'll happily get lost in it again, should the author write another.

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