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review 2018-10-15 17:19
Thoughts: Front Page Fatality
Front Page Fatality - LynDee Walker

Front Page Fatality

by LynDee Walker
Book 1 of A Nichelle Clarke Crime Thriller

A fiery crash kills two young police officers. A horrific accident? Or something more sinister?

Crime reporter Nichelle Clarke is covering the deaths of two young police officers near Richmond, Virginia. On the surface, it looks like a tragic accident. But as she digs deeper into the investigation, Nichelle realizes that all is not as it seems.

Evidence goes missing.

A prosecutor vanishes.

Someone is trying to cover their tracks.

Nichelle is struggling to put the pieces together, until a seductive Mafia boss shows up with the headline tip of a lifetime. But each step closer to the truth becomes exponentially more dangerous. And her investigation soon transforms into a murderous game of cat and mouse.

 

 

On a side note:  I like the newer covers for this series.  It's been noted that LynDee Walker was able to get the rights to all of her books, thus giving her the opportunity to repackage her series.  Each book gets a brand new, grittier looking cover illustration, and the whole series gets a brand new title as well, having previously been known as A Headlines in High Heels Mystery, which I can see why it had been given this series title in the first place, but doesn't really show you that there's so much more to the story than Nichelle's love for fancy heels of all kinds.

 

Now, moving right along to the review:

 

 

Front Page Fatality is an extremely enjoyable and strong start to the Nichelle Clarke Crime Thrillers, and definitely has a lot of potential to continue on being great if the rest of the books follow along the same vein.

The story is fast-paced and the murder investigation keeps you on your toes.  To be honest, I really didn't know what to think and who I thought would end up the ultimate culprit of the murders, and of the drug evidence disappearing.  I wasn't surprised at the ending, but was kept guessing throughout.  As others have mentioned, this book feels much grittier than your typical cozy mystery, with constant action from the beginning, all the way till the end, and even a darker atmosphere than your typical, humorous cozies.  The characters are all interesting in their own way, and I hope to see more of them in the rest of the series.

I especially loved our heroine, Nichelle Clarke, who isn't the typical badass independent woman, nor is she a giggling, swooning damsel either.  Nichelle is resourceful, smart, and doesn't spend her time pining after the first man who gives her a mega-watt smile.  I also love that she's not out to be TSTL material, even though she DOES manage to get herself into trouble a couple times--at least she openly admits that getting herself killed was never the plan.

She also reacts appropriately when she finds a strange man in her home who shouldn't be there... sort of.  I would have liked a lot less talking and a lot more dialing of 9-1-1, but I'm guessing Nichelle had her reasons; though I don't really approve of her still finding Mr. "Call me Joey" attractive after he'd just broken into her home.  I DO appreciate her then spending the time searching her home and locking all of her doors and windows following that little incident, and keeping vigilant about it even a day or two later.

I also love Nichelle's relationship with Bob, her boss--a pseudo-father-daughter relationship, if you will.  I like how they kind of take care of each other.  I hope to see more of that in upcoming books.

The side characters could have been fleshed out a little more.  Grant Parker felt like he should have been more interesting than he actually comes off.  Nichelle's best friend, Jenna also feels like another tangent waiting to be told.  And then Nichelle's police detective source, Aaron ended up disappearing for a good portion of the book.  So, ultimately, as I'd mentioned already, I DO hope to see more of these people in future books, if only because there is SO much potential going on there.

The only one thing that DID bug me about this book were the constant commentary about Nichelle's co-worker, Shelby--it felt in bad taste, honestly.  What people do in their romantic and/or sex lives is no one else's business, and using that as an attack against Shelby so much was uncalled for and unnecessary.  No matter that Shelby was a big bitch to Nichelle all the time--you can dislike her for her general attitude and rude behavior, but there's no need to stoop to attacking her bedroom habits.

I had figured Nichelle to be above that, considering she'd been able to hold her tongue against Les, the temporary stand-in when her boss, Bob has a heart attack.  Les was a standard asshole who kept the insults coming and I had so, so wanted her to retort back at least once.  But she held her tongue every single time, even after he kept insinuating that she was playing hooky and not taking her job seriously enough.

Nichelle's behavior towards Shelby is a different matter, however, from the fact that Shelby's "sleeping with the boss to advance her career" side-fact had to be brought up at all.  Truthfully, I had been so ready to be happy about Nichelle and Shelby's relationship being one of friendly rivalry of some sort when Nichelle mentions how Shelby is good at what she does, and could even potentially work the police and crime beat if she got the chance.  But then we pull the slut-shaming card and I just felt a bit frustrated.

I appreciate that Nichelle and Charlie, a television news reporter, have the friendly rivalry going on, but Charlie barely makes an appearance in the book.  It would have been nice to see more of this between Nichelle and Shelby, rather than just making Shelby out to be the stereotypical "Mean Girl."

But anyway, this book was overall entirely enjoyable, and I was very satisfied with it.

 

 



 

Halloween Bingo 2018
(a subgenre of crime fiction in which sex and violence are downplayed or treated humorously, and the crime and detection take place in a small, socially intimate community)


Other possible squares:  Amateur Sleuth; Terrifying Women; Murder Most Foul

 

 

Source: anicheungbookabyss.blogspot.com/2018/10/thoughts-front-page-fatality.html
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review 2018-10-13 02:28
Thoughts: Sick of Shadows
Sick of Shadows - Sharyn McCrumb

Sick of Shadows

by Sharyn McCrumb
Book 1 of Elizabeth MacPherson

 

 

When delicate Eileen Chandler is set to marry, her family fears the man is a fortune hunter.  Thank goodness, Eileen's cousin Elizabeth MacPherson comes early for support.  Unfortunately, Elizabeth also has some detecting to do, as a dead body is found, and none of the wedding party is above suspicion....



First of all, the only summary blurb I can find for this book is extremely misleading, in spite of the fact that it's mostly true.  Because as you find out from the beginning of the book, Elizabeth does not actually "come early for support," and actually spends the first two pages of the book making fun of her cousin and her cousin's family in a letter to her brother.

This was a little off-putting since we learn that Eileen Chandler had been admitted into a mental care hospital not long ago in her life.  The fact that Elizabeth spends even an ounce of time poking fun of that was quite tasteless and unnecessary.  I'm not sure if this has to do with the time this book was written in 1984, but I didn't care for it.  It was a bad first impression of the main heroine in this series.

Secondly, Elizabeth doesn't so much do the detecting, as let clues fall into her lap at intervals.  In fact, there is a set of policeman in this book who probably have more book time than Elizabeth, and who actually do the detecting.  This is a bit of a change from what I'm used to in cozy mysteries--at least the cozy mysteries I've read--wherein the police force is either missing, incompetent, or the asshat of a main male love interest.  Instead, the two police detectives are definitely there to investigate and they kind of edge Elizabeth out of the book's limelight.

Then there's a twist in the end, pertaining to the murder investigation, that bugged me a lot because it didn't make sense, really.

Sick of Shadows wasn't a terrible book--it wasn't even a bad book, to be honest, and was actually written quite well.  But the writing was really all that it had going for it.  Well, all except for the part where the dialogue read like British instead of Southern U.S.A.  I'm not sure if the perception was my fault since I'd been listening to an Agatha Christie mystery in audio book, narrated by Hugh Fraser, but aside from Aunt Amanda, I could not formulate a southern drawl for anyone else in the book.  When I tried to "hear" the dialogue of any other character that way, it just slowly morphed into something more British.

I don't think I'd ever had that problem before with books that took place in the U.S. south.

But moving along...

Truth be told, the rest of the story was pretty flat.  The characters were a little hard to grasp, and our main heroine--of whom the series is named for--doesn't really play much of a role in this book, as I've mentioned already.  Instead, Elizabeth spends time doing the stereotypical feminine chores around the house to be helpful, interrogates people around her about future career prospects, and kind of just fades into the background.  All of her cousins are described as eccentric, despite the fact that she describes them as crazy, and yet they come off as entirely too over-the-top, in my opinion.  And you never really get to know them, any of them, well enough to care about their emotions or even their existence.

This is a pretty mediocre start to a cozy mystery series that, according to other reviewers, will pick up in the next book.  So I'm not writing it off immediately, but I'm not going to hit up a store just to get a hold of the next book.  I will wait patiently until my library picks up an e-book copy, or barring that possibility, I might give inter-library loan another go... another time from now.

I DO wish that Elizabeth had had more of a direction and some development to her character.  As it is, she's really just another side character in a book full of side characters.

As I already mentioned, I'll give this series another spin some other time and hope that things are a little better outlined.

 

 



 

Halloween Bingo 2018
(mystery, supernatural, suspense, or horror set in the Southern part of the United States)

 

Other Possible Squares:  Genre: Suspense; Country House Mystery; Terror in a Small Town; Cozy Mystery; Amateur Sleuth; Terrifying Women; Murder Most Foul

 

 

Source: anicheungbookabyss.blogspot.com/2018/10/thoughts-sick-of-shadows.html
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review 2018-10-02 20:09
Solid Follow-up to First Book
Dim Sum of All Fears - Vivien Chien

I definitely enjoyed this one more. Mostly because with Lana being forced to run her family's restaurant, we get to see her take charge more. She and her sister still squabble a lot, but you can see where they are both coming from while reading. Due to the murder of two of the owners (Isabelle and her husband Brandon) in Asia Village, many customers and owners are starting to think that one of the storefronts is unlucky. Lana was close with Isabelle and is determined to identify her murderer. Will say there seems to be a hard pause in Lana's barely there relationship with Detective Adam Trudeau. I got to read an excerpt of the next book, and there may be another love interest that I hope we see Lana get excited about. She and Adam have zero chemistry. 

 

"Dim Sum of All Fears" has Lana dealing with her parents leaving her in charge of the noodle shop while they fly back to Taiwan to see about her grandmother. Though Lana has an opportunity to interview for a new job, she realizes she won't be able to have both. To make matters a little worse, her sister is bent of out shape she's been put in charge, there is a lot of things going on since Chinese New Year is around the corner, and oh yeah, two people were found murdered in their store. These new murders touch Lana a lot more than the last one since she was close to one of the victims, Isabelle. Lana felt ambivalent about Brandon since the guy was never around. And even Isabelle started to notice it. I really loved the twists and turns this book takes with finding out about Brandon's past. 

 

I did like Lana and Megan more in this one. They really are becoming a fascinating duo of amateur sleuthing. Lana I think felt more sure of herself in this one, even with her blue hair. I do wish that she and her sister would quit fighting. I think Lana's sister is jealous of her, though I get why Lana is annoyed her sister keeps making snide remarks.

 

Also Lana's relationship with Detective Trudeau seems to be cooling. They have zero chemistry. Lana at one point asks him why did he become a cop and he refuses to tell her. I was fed up with him. I also didn't like Megan saying she would investigate him to find out what is going on. Just ignore the guy if he isn't interested in having a real relationship. Their dates sounded lame too. 

 

The writing was good and so was the flow. I do think there wasn't any problems that I could see off the top off my head. 

 

I am friends with a lot of Taiwanese people and I know that Chinese New Year is a very big deal. I wish that Ms. Chien had gone into that more. I know that you are supposed to clean I think three days before the start of Chinese New Year. I think you are supposed to cook the day before. Things like that would have made the book more interesting to a lot of people. 

 

I do hope that we don't always get someone pulling a weapon on Lana, that kind of stuff will get old in a series really quick. 


 

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review 2018-10-01 20:34
Solid First Story in Series
Death by Dumpling: A Noodle Shop Mystery - Vivien Chien

Cute, but room for improvement is my overall comment on "Death by Dumpling."

 

I liked the main character, Lana Lee. Her family sounds great though she has a pain in the butt older sister. Her best friend Megan supports her no matter what and even helps out with trying to solve the crime in this one. That said, I needed more details. We hear about Lana's ex, but not his name, or what exactly was said to him when they break up. We get her memory of her quitting her job, and then that's it. I just felt like I needed more background on everyone and also her before jumping right into, we found a dead body and now need to solve the crime. Also I would thank the Book Gods if we didn't always have the main character falling for the lead detective on the case. Especially since Lana is a suspect in this first book. 

 

"Death by Dumpling" has 27 year old Lana Lee back in Ohio and working at her family's restaurant. Lana is dealing with the set-backs to losing her job and her boyfriend. Going back to work at her family's restaurant makes her feel like she's a loser. It doesn't help that she has a successful older sister. Between her mother nagging her about getting a boyfriend/married and her sister's snide remarks, Lana is just waiting until she can find another job. That is until someone the property owner of all of the stores in Asia Village is found dead. Mr. Feng recently had a lot of arguments with Lana's family's restaurant cook (Peter), a mysterious woman, and Kimmy (the daughter to another set of storefront owners). When the police find out that the dumplings that Peter cooked and Lana delivered to him were the culprit of Mr. Feng's death, she and Peter move up on the suspect list. Lana and her best friend Megan decide to investigate to prevent the police from charging Peter or her with murder. 

 

Lana feels a bit lacking in development to me at times. For example, I don't know what she went to school for at all. She supposedly loves books, but doesn't mention who her favorite author is. She dyes her hair different colors that gets a rise out of her mother, but doesn't really say why she likes to do that. She seems super passive and allows other characters to walk all over her (her mother, her sister, Ian, Mrs. Feng, etc.) Lana initially is also quite taken with the lead detective on the case. But then thinks he is a jerk when he won't discuss the case with her, but then finds herself attracted to him again. And he is beyond ridiculous with doing his whole I must take care of you every time he sees Lana and expressing mild jealously about her going out with another character. They have zero chemistry and no I don't care how many times Lana talks about his green eyes. I already said this in one of my updates, but I hate the cozies that always have the main character and the lead detective get together. It doesn't feel realistic and it just annoys me since every author sets it up as an antagonistic relationship at first. 

 

There's not a lot of development with characters besides Lana's mother and father and her roommate Megan. Hopefully everyone gets more developed as the series goes on. 

 

The setting of this book is Cleveland, Ohio, but there's not a lot of details about Cleveland to make me feel like the author has even been there. We hear about the Asia Village where all of the Chinese vendors/owners work and about Lana's apartment and that's about it. It was interesting to read about a separate side to Cleveland that many people may be unfamiliar with, but I wanted it to be integrated to the overall city. 

 

The ending was fine. I called the murderer early, but that was just because it was the only person that made sense in the context of what Lana was finding out. 

 

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text 2018-09-30 23:48
Reading progress update: I've read 49%.
Death by Dumpling: A Noodle Shop Mystery - Vivien Chien

So far a very cute cozy mystery! I love the character of Lana and how she gets mixed up in a murder. My only quibble is that I wish cozy authors would stop having the MC catch feelings for the lead detective. Lana is being romanced by a local businessman and now the remaining partner to a plaza where her family and others run their businesses is interested in her. Detective Trudeau just seems insufferable.

 

Will say that I wish we had more details on Lana’s last job and ex. The details are very scattered in this book.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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