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review 2018-08-05 11:37
Scratch the Surface
Scratch the Surface - Susan Conant

I don't know how this book ended up on my TBR; at a guess it was a freebie a bookseller threw into one of my orders, but it's about cats and I'd read the author's dog series years ago, and remembered enjoying it.

 

At first I didn't think I'd get through it - the mc struck me as shallow - but there's a strong satiric vibe to the story; a lot of tongue-in-cheek fun poked at cozy mysteries, their authors, and the preponderance of cats involved in mysteries.  The flagrant use and acknowledgement of all the cliches, as well as serious name and title dropping, kept me going.  And the cats of course.  They don't talk, thankfully, but there are a few chapters told in the third person, but from the cats' perspective.  Nothing unreasonable, but contributing to the plot's resolution.

 

The mystery of who killed the dead guy ends up solved accidentally - although the cats' get some credit, or course - and the solution didn't feel all that plausible.  Or, maybe it felt plausible but too abrupt to work for me.  Regardless, it was a decent read and I enjoyed it, just probably not enough to make any wild efforts to buy any further books (if there are any).

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review 2018-08-04 09:53
Buried in Books (Bibliophile Mystery, #12)
Buried in Books - Kate Carlisle

I used to love this series, but at this point it's more a nostalgic fondness.  I love reading about books, book binding, and book restoration, and the characters are all just ... awesome.  Quirky, kind, strong, and the friendships and family dynamics are amazing.  There was a stupid nemesis character for awhile at the beginning, but Carlisle dumped her, an action with did nothing but improve the story lines.

 

Alas, this book centered around Brooklyn and Derek's wedding, and I don't like weddings much.  On top of this, while there is a book at the center of the mystery, there's only one scene about bookbinding/conservation and it was brief and had little to do with the plot.

 

Speaking of plot it was ... scattered.  Even with an epilogue that tied things up it never felt like the criminal solution ever came together.  Everything is answered, but there wasn't a sense of satisfaction about it.  Carlisle does get a bonus point for incorporating every bibliophile's secret fear: death by book avalanche.  

 

Buried in Books struck me as more about Brooklyn and Derek's romance than about plotting out a great murder mystery.    This is a letdown, but the characters go a long way towards staving off complete disappointment.  Hopefully if there's a next book, it'll be more focused on the dead bodies and books.

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review 2018-07-29 02:00
Goose in the Pond (Benni Harper #4)
Goose in the Pond - Earlene Fowler

Reading this now - 7 years after the first read - I wonder if Fowler's editor convinced her she'd overplayed Gabriel's machismo in the last book and recommended toning it down.  Gabriel isn't perfect, in this 4th book, but he's nothing like the horse's ass he was previously.  

 

There's a lot of family drama in this one - some of it amusing (I love the bible verse war Bennie's grandmother and great-aunt engage in), some of it not.  The mystery plot itself stretched itself though; definitely not her best murder plotting.  Too far beyond the realm of believability for a series that is so firmly and deeply rooted in reality.

 

-------old review below-----------

 

I haven't found a book I don't like yet in this series. A bit 'angst-y' but I think the author does a good job of balancing that, so it doesn't weigh you down. I'm looking forward to continuing with the series.

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review 2018-07-28 00:00
Kansas Troubles (Benni Harper #3)
Kansas Troubles - Earlene Fowler

Re-reading this 7 years later, this book did not hold up as well as the others.  My impatience with series books with 'away' settings reared its ugly head and I struggled with impatience.  And Gabriel was an ass throughout most of this book.  Not a misogynist, not a men-are-smarter-than-women ass, but just a closed off, overprotective one.  I'd have left him in the middle of a wheat field more than once. 

 

The writing continues to be solid though, as does the mystery plotting.  Harper doesn't pull any punches in her plots; people are devastated, lives ruined, very little in the way of true happy endings.  But compelling reading nonetheless.

 

---------old review below---------------

 

I think this series just keeps getting better and better. I normally dislike books within a series that "travel" - take place outside the normal setting. This book was an exception. Really, the mystery was just excellent and the character development, the relationship between Benni and Gabe, is outstanding. The author writes these stories with thought, deliberation, and authenticity. 

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review 2018-07-27 06:00
Irish Chain (Benni Harper #2)
Irish Chain - Earlene Fowler

I could have done without the massive relationship angst in this one, but in spite of this my original rating stands.  I loved the tie-in to the history of Japanese Americans during WWII; a part of American history that needs to be remembered and acknowledged.  

 

The mystery plot of this one was excellently crafted and ultimately tragic.  Overall it's a very well-written mystery and a generally well written, if somewhat dated in its gender dynamics, story.

 

I find myself eager to continue binging and moving on to book 3.  They just really don't write them like they used to.

 

----------Old review below------------

 

I found this to be a very enjoyable read - I loved the story line delving into the WWII issues with Japanese-Americans. I didn't see where the plot was going until the end and was quite surprised by the murderer. Outstanding character development as well. Looking forward to the next one, Kansas Troubles.

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