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review 2017-08-13 11:39
The Decorator Who Knew Too Much (Madison Knight #4)
The Decorator Who Knew Too Much - Diane Vallere

This series has always been oddly compelling to me - I can't say I ever really loved it, but yet I keep coming back for the next one.  Part of the problem, I think, is that of the three permanent characters in the books, Hudson, Tex and Madison, I really only like Hudson and Tex. I don't have patience for Madison; she's not written to be a warm or likeable character, in my opinion.  Vallere touts Madison's independence to much, she ends up being off-putting, and her independence isn't really independence at all; her heart got broken so she shut everyone out.  That's a bitter cage, not real independence.

 

Anyhow, I like the two males and generally the mystery plots are pretty good.  But this one just failed for me.  I'm tired of the lack of growth in Madison, even when she's supposedly growing, and the plot was just too twisty and convoluted.  At several points, it reads as though the author confused herself trying to make the plot too labyrinthine.  And what am I supposed to do to with that damn ending?  Are she and Hudson breaking up?  If so, over what?  It was as clear as mud and I'm not in the mood for obscure endings.

 

I also have to say that while Henery press generally has a stellar record regarding publishing quality, this one was a hot mess.  Grammatically it was, I think, nearly flawless, but the timeline was messed up in places (Madison referring to things happening the day before that happened that morning) and there were more than a few places where she'd start out inside at the beginning of a sentence only to suddenly be outside by the end of it.  Lots of evidence of a major re-write without a final read through for consistency.

 

Not sure I'll read another if it's published.  Not because of the editing but because I'm just over Madison's issues and the emotional cages she keeps creating for herself.

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review 2017-08-13 11:22
Sticks and Bones (Sarah Booth Delaney, #17)
Sticks and Bones - Carolyn Haines

For whatever reason, as much as I love this series in general, this one failed to pull me in completely at the beginning.   Maybe it was the movie backdrop, or the over-the-top nastiness of one of the characters, or the batshit insanity of one of the others, but it just didn't grip me.  Jitty the ghost was also back to her nagging, irritating ways.

 

The mystery plot though was a big old snarl of a puzzle.  So many suspects, so many red herrings, but a plot twist that was supposed to shock but was telegraphed early on.  But still, a very good mystery.

 

I am though, for the record, thoroughly jacked with the way Haines is yanking her readers and Sarah Booth around over Coleman.  This is the book where it stopped being moving and starting just being ridiculous.  Either put them together or kill one of them off already.  The suspense has officially been over-played.

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review 2017-08-09 09:59
Death in the Vines (Verlaque and Bonnet Mystery, #3)
Death in the Vines: A Verlaque and Bonnet Provencal Mystery - M.L. Longworth

Better than the last book; the multiple POVs here work better and Death in the Vines didn't feel as slow to start as book 2.

 

Three brutal murders just 1 week apart, all women.  Two of them identical attacks of young women, but the third is an old woman showing signs of dementia.  Proximity and timing make all three related but no one can find the connection.  This series is, at its heart, a police procedural so the story moves along in stops and starts as new evidence is collected and more information is run-down.  The unmasking was a little bit abrupt, but perhaps that's how some cases end up, who knows?

 

In the midst of this we have little vignettes of the supporting characters that are mostly charming; an odd twist with Marine Bonnet didn't quite work for me, but I suppose it worked to move their relationship a bit.  But the biggest non-plot news is Verleque's mysterious secret in his past is revealed - and it's a doozy; in a completely unexpected way.  Very interesting ground the author is treading here; the big reveal doesn't really happen until almost the end, and it's not followed up on, so I don't know where she's going to go from here, if anywhere.

 

But I have book 4 ready to go, so I won't have to wait long to find out.

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review 2017-08-04 10:34
Of Books and Bagpipes (Scottish Bookshop, #2)
Of Books and Bagpipes - Paige Shelton

Definitely not as good as the first one, but if you're looking for a mystery steeped in a Scottish setting, you might be able to overlook a few weaknesses.

 

As much as I love the setting - Edinburgh, in a bookshop - and I generally like all the characters a lot, the tone of the MC's 'investigating' didn't work for me at all.  Her need to know came across feeling super entitled; even when a thread to the mystery was tenuous at best, she'd just bluntly expect people to divulge their deepest secrets.

 

And the secrets behind this mystery plot are pretty deep and definitely dark, in spite of the bright cozy feel of the story overall.  The plotting of the mystery was excellent as the author wove a very intricate and detailed plot that went back 50 years.

 

There's a lot to like here, but I do wish the author could find a better balance for her main character, or at least create a backstory that justifies her invasiveness.  Doing so would elevate these mysteries a clear step above the average.

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review 2017-08-03 01:21
Lowcountry Bonfire (Liz Talbot, #6)
Lowcountry Bonfire - Susan M. Boyer

I really do love this series; reading it is like visiting a home town.  The settings and characters feel familiar (especially Liz's daddy).

 

I also really love Boyer's choices when she writes; she'll start with a predictable, out-there cozy cliche, but take it in a different direction.  She'll have fun with it, but not take it seriously.  Unlike another cozy author I read recently who took her story in a similar direction but tried to make it work, only to make a hash out of the entire thing.

 

Lowcountry Bonfire starts off with a woman setting her husband's car and his clothes on fire; retaliation for the affair he's been having.  When the firefighters pop open the trunk to control the fire they discover more than his clothes.  But Zeke was killed with strychnine and his wife didn't have access to any and she's devastated that he's actually dead.

 

Liz and Nate start investigating and Liz finds a 20 year off-the-grid gap in Zeke's history that opens up a viable channel for investigation.  What she discovers is fun for the reader in a Jason Bourne-ish kind of way, but ultimately it's the investigation closer to home that yields more results - realistic ones that are far more horrifying and heartbreaking.

 

Colleen's ghost doesn't get a lot of airtime here, although there was at least one scene where I thought she was just cruel; I like that she later had to face the consequences of taking a thing too far.  

 

I like where the author has Nate and Liz too; they're an old married couple now ::grin:: but they have a nice affectionate balance in their relationship that is believable and I've always liked that Nate respects her independence and ability to take care of herself.

 

This book might not have had all the gasps that previous books have had, but it was a very solid mystery with a red herring that was sort of fun to explore.  And if I ever have any renovations done on my house I am SO getting a secret compartment put in!  

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