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review 2017-01-07 05:34
Dye Hard
Cozy Mystery: Dye Hard (Australian Amateur Sleuth Book 3) - Morgana Best

See this and all of my reviews at Mystereity Reviews

Obnoxious ghost hunters descend on Cressida Upthorpe’s boarding house, convinced it must a source of paranormal activity given that three murders have occurred there in a short space of time.
After one of the ghost hunters is murdered with poisoned hair dye, Sibyl does her best to keep well away from the investigation, that is, until Cressida almost falls victim. With the bumbling detectives back in town and on the scene, Sibyl races to solve the murder before the body count rises.
-Via Goodreads

I really enjoyed this one, it was one of those books where I tried to read it slower to savor it, but it was so good I had to read it all the way through in one sitting. The great plot, involving another poisoning at Cressida's boarding house kept me guessing, and and I liked the just-a-wee-bit sardonic view of ghost hunter shows (which I love, but can't help but view sardonically.) There were so many misdirections and red herrings that I changed my opinion on whodunit several times, and the ending was very satisfying. I may have uttered a soft yaaay but I'll never admit to it publicly.

I love all the characters, but it's Mr. Buttons and his eccentricities that I love the most. I laughed out loud about the dog agility course, it was hilarious! And Cressida's paintings! I confess, I'd probably buy one, probably the shipwreck. Who wouldn't? Sibyl had a great idea there.

Overall, Dye Hard was fun and enjoyable, and a great addition to the series. I definitely recommend it for any cozy mystery fan.

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review 2016-11-14 04:34
Review Natural Born Grillers
Natural-born Grillers (Australian Amateur Sleuth Book 2) - Morgana Best

When one of the new boarders, an eminent professor of Socratic philosophy, is found poisoned by hemlock in a meal of grilled quail, eccentric boarding house owner Cressida Upthorpe soon becomes the main suspect. Sibyl Potts, with the help of Mr. Buttons, launches herself into the investigation, much to the consternation of stressed police officer Blake Wessley. As the body count mounts, will Sibyl be able to clear Cressida’s name and find the real killer?

 

I liked the first book in this series, but I loved this one! It can be read as a standalone, as the references to the previous book are few and not very important to understanding the story. A great plot, lots of humor and the unique location in the outback of Australia combine to create a very enjoyable cozy series.

 

Mr. Buttons is just hilarious! When Sibyl enters the boarding house and finds someone dead at the bottom of the stairs, I yelled “IT BETTER NOT BE MR. BUTTONS!” I like Sibyl and the other characters, but Mr. Buttons really makes the books that much better, and I can’t wait to find out more of his back story.

 

The plot was engrossing and very well crafted, with lots of misdirections that kept me turning pages. I really enjoyed the ending, especially Mr. Button’s gold medal performance.

 

Just a small thing I want to point out; there was one chapter of the book where Cressida and Sibyl were talking about a bushranger named Thunderbolt and a parade in his honor, and it had absolutely no introduction or context. Finished one chapter and the next was like walking into the middle of a conversation about Thunderbolt being gay. While it was really funny, it completely baffled me a nd I’m not quite sure why it was in the book, except perhaps as comic relief.

 

With that aside, it was an excellent book and I definitely recommend it to cozy mystery fans or anyone looking for a light, funny read.

 

Natural Born Grillers is available at book retailers or online at Amazon | Barnes & Noble

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review 2016-10-17 01:07
Review: Live and Let Diet
Live and Let Diet (Australian Amateur Sleuth Book 1) - Morgana Best

See my full review at Mystereity Reviews

Sybil Potts, recently divorced from her cheating husband, is starting over in Little Tatterford, a tiny town in middle-of-nowhere Australia. The minute she arrives at her new cottage, she finds herself in the middle of a mystery when a man is found dead next door.

Do they have cool names for cozy mysteries in Australia? Like Cozy-Dozies or anything? If so, that would be enough to draw me in, but if not, the plot was more than enough, with a big plot twist that set up a satisfying ending that left me wanting more.

I really enjoyed this, a very promising start to a new series. I loved Sybil, she's smart, likable and a little naive. Mr. Buttons was by far my favorite character, he made the story for me, from "straightening" up the crime scene because the cat shed on the carpet to his bath scene, he was the standout character. The landlady, Cressida and her cat, Lord Farringdon (who talks to Cressida) were also enjoyable but not developed as much as I wanted. How, exactly, does Lord Farringdon talk to her? I'd love to know how that came about.

Overall, a quick, light read and very recommended for cozy mystery fans.

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review 2016-08-03 10:01
Review: Tears of Pearl
Tears of Pearl - Tasha Alexander

Even before Emily steps off the Orient Express in beautiful and decadent Constantinople, she's embroiled in intrigue and treachery. The brutal death of a concubine in the sultan's palace allows her first foray into investigating a crime as an official agent of the British Empire--because only a woman can be given access to the forbidden world of the harem. There, she quickly discovers that its mysterious, sheltered walls offer no protection from a ruthless murderer.

 

"I don't think I could survive if anything happened to her. She's been beside me my whole life."
"You would. I'd make you."
"I'm not sure I'd thank you for it."
"You forget how persuasive I can be."

In which Emily is worried about her best friend dying and Colin is slightly creepy. Don't get me wrong. I'm sure he means well...but couldn't he have said how he'd help her through it instead of 'I will make you survive'? Also, two lines later they are talking about their sex-life again in that cutesy Victorian wink-wink-nudge-nudge way that did have me grin the first two or three times they did it but once every private conversation they head led to the same I wanted to yell 'Can you screw each other without constantly talking about it?'.

The mystery was just ridiculous. It involved so many coincidences that I just couldn't stretch my suspension of disbelief that far. And yes, cozy mysteries are books in which the main characters just keep stumbling over dead bodies or met people who just have but even for that genre the coincidences were over-the-top. 

 

I did like that death in childbirth was a topic since I can't remember many novels that are set in an era where that is an issue that talk about it. (No matter if they were written in that era or in the present day). But the way it was discussed left me mostly unmoved. Emily's fear of it was told rather than shown. Its only result were some long internal monologues and her not telling Colin about the fact that she thinks she might be pregnant. (And even that can just as easily be attributed to the fact that she fears Colin would stop her from doing more dangerous things once he knows). 

Ivy's storyline again did nothing for me. This book makes it painfully obvious that Ivy is just the foil to Emily. Ivy is the 'good Victorian woman' in the eyes of her contemporaries, while Emily is the one with too many strange ideas for her pretty little head. Ivy will always do what she is told and she'd never dream of demanding answers. Even if the answers concern her and even if she's scared. Ivy is there to tell the reader who 

Ivy is there to tell the reader how Victorian women were expected to behave and how much the good old days sucked. Ivy is there so that Emily can worry about her. Ivy is not in any way a character in her own right with interests, hopes or anything. She's a symbol, somebody Emily can angst over and occasionally a plot device.

 

Talking about characters that aren't really characters: Every single woman from the harem. They were there so that Emily could have discussions with them about whether women in the West are better or worse of than their counterparts in the ottoman empire. 

And while I think that that it's not intentional, it has some unfortunate implications that the only woman who is unhappy in the harem is the one who is secretly Christian. Because only if your religion tells you it's wrong, you'd be unhappy in such a place. Now that brings me to my biggest gripe with the book.

Spoiler alert. It's not directly about the mystery part but it is intertwined with it and it concerns events at the very end of the book so read at your own risk.

 

Roxelana, the unhappy Christian in the harem wants to flee. Because she hates her life in the harem and because she has a lover outside. And she wants Emily's help. After some reluctance Emily agrees. The escape fails and Roxelana has to return to the harem but - for contrived and absolutely nonsensical reason - she won't be punished further. Her lover (who is an idiot and screwed up badly in the course of the book) considers that a fitting punishment for his screw ups. Yes, you read that right. He will now suffer the punishment of not being able to screw the hot chick.

 

 

Meanwhile, the girl (full disclosure: she was also was stupid and screwed up...she was also terrified) is going to remain a sex-slave. Which she will hate because her religion tells her it leads to eternal damnation. (So does suicide so that wouldn't be a way out either). And she will be so popular with the other women after her attempt to flee, I'm sure.

But it's important that the guy has accepted that he has to put his dick somewhere else and this is going to be a bit bad for him.

 

(spoiler show)
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review 2016-05-28 15:10
Revenge, death, family and an endings of sorts
Running on Emptiness (Time, Blood and Karma Book 4) - John Dolan

I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

I’ve read all the novels in the Time, Blood and Karma series by John Dolan and have enjoyed them enormously. I read many genres, but I am quite partial to mystery/thrillers. And these ones have a very special protagonist, David Braddock, and amateur detective (or rather a not professionally recognised and trained detective, but he is pretty good and gets paid for his efforts) and again a non-professional therapist, a British man but who lives in Thailand, an amateur philosopher who regularly visits an old Buddhist monk (his best friend), who has interesting an complex relationships with many women and a past full of ghosts.

Whilst the third book in the series, A Poison Tree explored and explained David’s back history and his life in the UK, Running on Emptiness continues with the adventures of Hungry Ghosts where we, the readers, were privy to some information that left us hanging and waiting for disaster to strike. We have a gangster determined to avenge his brother’s death (the only meaningful thing he has left to do in life), a dying woman who before ending her life in her own terms (remaining in charge of her meaning) reveals a dangerous secret, another woman who after losing her job realises she’s been living a lie and tries and find meaning by coming clean, an old man who, disappointed by his children, decides to revisit a shady past he thought he’d left behind to do the right thing. Each chapter is told from a different point of view, and that includes the characters whom we might think of as the good guys (but nobody is blameless, honest and truthful in this novel, at least none of the characters whose points of view we follow), but also the gangsters, corrupt policemen and killers. The action takes place in England (we start with a wedding and we end with a funeral) and Thailand, we have political unrest, and there is also a murder case to solve with magic trickery thrown in, where Braddock (and Dolan) follow on Agatha Christie’s footsteps and pull off a brilliant piece of sleight-of-hand engineering.

The story is told at a good pace, the writing is impeccable and lyrical at times (particularly on the parts from David Braddock’s point of view. He is witty and forever quotable), I must confess I cheered at a point towards the end (but I’ll keep my lips sealed as I don’t want to spoil it for anybody), and in the end, although there are some questions and unresolved issues, I felt we’d reached the end of an era. The complex and alternative life Braddock had built for himself, in an attempt at escaping reality, comes crushing down around him, taking no prisoners.  By the end, although Braddock might not know everything, he’s lost a lot and learned a fair deal about himself, about the people he cares about, about his friends, and about life itself.

I recommend this book to lovers of thrillers and mystery stories with great main characters, those who have a penchant for philosophy and reflections on the nature of life, particularly if you’re intrigued by Thailand, and in general those who love good and memorable writing. But, do read the whole series in the right order, because the sum of its parts is much greater than the individual novels. Congratulations to John Dolan on his epic series. I won’t forget Time, Blood and Karma any time soon. And I’ll be waiting eagerly for more of novels, in the same or other series.

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