Title: CATastrophic Connections
Author: Joyce Ann Brown
Genre: Cozy Mystery
First of all, I was given this book in exchange for an honest review. Second, however, I chose it out of a long list of options from a ton of authors because 1. I’m a sucker for cozy mysteries 2. I’m a sucker for cozy mysteries that feature pets 3. I’m a sucker.
In this case, I’m totally ok with being a sucker. I’ll admit there’s a tad more “psycho cat” than I enjoy – but I’m not a big cat lover and the few cat mysteries I’ve read involved the cat being a swanky background character, not a constant topic of discussion. Die hard cat lovers, though, would probably love this book. (I’m a dog person. *Gasp*) I imagine that Lilian Jackson Braun fans will be the best fit for this series, but I haven’t actually read her books yet. (I tend to lean toward the Cleo Coyles of the genre.)
The mystery is fun an upbeat, which fits the bill for a cozy; and a lot of the action is driven by dialogue.
What won me over, in the end, were the quotes at the beginning of every chapter. I’m a sucker for that as well and love jotting down references for me to find and read later. Better than that, I love already knowing the reference and nodding my head along with the witticisms and wisdom of Agatha Christie, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Edgar Allen Poe, J.R.R. Tolkien, and the rest of them.
Brown has an easy breezy writing style, appropriate for a summertime cozy. I’d recommend this series for a road trip or plane ride, something to dive into to pass the time that won’t take too much energy or focus to read while things are going on around you. If your attention strays just the slightest bit, you have a friendly nudge back into the story: “Must I remind you? We are essentially in the middle of a detective mystery.” I tend to enjoy a little meta-fiction every now and then. Also, there are many short chapters, rather than fewer long ones, which I find makes for better vacation reading because it’s easy to find appropriate stopping points at a moment’s notice.
I already downloaded the second book in the series to my kindle and look forward to spending some time with Joyce Ann Brown’s characters again.
Most people dive into their drug induced literature in the high school and college years. I didn’t have time for all that – I was in school, a lot of school, back then. So now, in my early thirties – I’ve stumbled into a curiosity I didn’t really have before. I’m not curious enough to DO the drugs – just enough to read about people doing them. Sure, I read James Frey’s A Million Little Pieces back in the day. Requiem for a Dream… Fight Club… I’ve read the usual suspects. But sparingly, and not in the same year.
This year, however, I noticed a trend. And it wasn’t purposeful. First, Philip K. Dick and then some. Then, this week, City of Dark Magic by Magnus Flyte and Screw-jack by Hunter S. Thompson.
What is real? What is not real? These are the hard questions for a fiction writer from a long line of dementia patients. But for all my solid grounding in cold hard facts and realism, I’ve always steered pretty clear of drugs and enjoyed the fantastic staying between the pages of a book and not parading around my living room.
City of Dark Magic is weird. Really weird. The storyline travels and veers and rants, and I love that about it. No strictly linear annoyingly plot pointed story here. So much so, I refused to shelve it in Fantasy at work, instead I placed it in the literature section, hoping someone would pick it up for the same reason I did – historical dives into Beethoven. Time-travel? Is it? You’ll have to read and find out. I can’t say without spoiling it, but I will warn you, it involves ingesting the genius musician’s toe nails.
Screw-jack was a nice little taste of Hunter S. Thompson. I’d never read anything by him, and obviously I know who he is and what he stands for – because I don’t live *entirely* under a rock – but I’ve managed to never finish any of the stellar movies made about him or his work either. A fan over heard this at work, and handed me Screw-jack to devour over lunch. What a trip! It’s about a 45 minute read (it’s only three short stories), and let’s just say, I hope that last one was really about his cat or I might have some trouble digesting his bio later.
The curse of cozies is that they completely suck you into worlds of absolute silliness, and mid-read, you’re totally ok with that. Why? Because, inevitably, there’s coffee, fuzzy pets, books and knitting, and a few dead bodies that require you to summon your inner Nancy Drew for.
My latest cozy mystery read was Victoria Abbott’s The Christie Curse, the first in a book collector series – that I now, of course, have to collect. It can share shelf space with my Laura Childs and Cleo Coyles, with my Alice Kimberly series, and D.R. Meredith books… as they all tilt ther hats to their parents: Arthur Conan Doyle and Agatha Christie – who have inadvertently become the founders of the genre though they weren’t known for knitting or cooking themes.
The Christie Curse has proven itself to be one of the better books of the genre, especially if you count the other book themed cozies I have already read. Homicide in Hardcover by Carlisle is another bibliophile cozy mystery, and I enjoyed it, but the story didn’t hold a candle to Abbott’s book. Researching Agatha Christie, chasing top secret book industry scoops, browsing personal library collections filled with first editions… The Christie Curse is simply full of all my favorite things, including the Irish uncles who aren’t exactly on the up and up. Add some bipolar cats and an adorable pug – of course I thought this was a great book. Abbott didn’t pull any punches either, there’s a fabulous Italian lady who constantly shouts “Eat! Eat!” at our protagonist, and recipes in the back so that we, too, may partake in the deliciousness.
Currently, I’m reading CATastrophic Connections by Joyce Ann Brown and look forward to having an official review posted for you soon.
What cozies have you read lately?
Title: Casey of Cranberry CoveAuthor: Susan Kotch
Genre: Teen Fiction
Publisher: Hibernian Publishing
Length: 207 pages
Ice Cream Parlours, boogie boarding, kayaking, sail boat racing, pizza, high school parties, and hunky life guards… mix some teen angsty romance in and you’ve got a cute beach read that is perfect for summer. Susan Kotch delivers the perfect one with surfer girl Casey Whitman playing the role of Gidget.
Casey of Cranberry Cove is a fun read and my only regret while reading is that I wasn’t doing it in the sand, baking on the beach. I love reading on the beach and Casey is a girl after my own heart – a sun-baking reader and go-getter who isn’t afraid to get dirty.
I’m looking forward to future adventures of Casey’s, but I’m hoping she keeps her head on straight and doesn’t turn into a ninny. I’m also hoping she doesn’t leave her beach life behind in all the excitement of growing up. Casey reminds me a bit of the Robin Jones Gunn Christy Miller series my older sister had on her shelf growing up, I think girls that like one series would enjoy the other.
I have a cousin I’ve never met. She married my actual cousin that I grew up playing with on a good chunk of our weekends when we were kids – and special holidays – so she’s not really MY cousin, but I have a habit of adopting people that way. My family is weird, he’s the great grandson of my Grandfather’s sister, but I spent more time with their family than a lot of people spend with first cousins. Unfortunately, he flitted away out of state and I haven’t had a chance to spend time with his lovely bride.
She’s been a published author for quite awhile now, longer than I’ve been running this blog, but I had conveniently lodged that information into some lost corner of my brain – until recently, as he and I played Scrabble over Facebook.
Anjali Banerjee is the lovely woman my awesome cousin chose to spend the rest of his life with and I’m so pleased to finally read one of her books. While reading Haunting Jasmine, I felt like perhaps we were kindred spirits, as we have both written about bookstores, and clearly have a mutual passion for the written word.
She’s just way better at using those words than I am!
Author: Anjali Banerjee
Genre: Women’s Fiction
If you’re in the mood for a haunted bookshop, a fabulous Indian aunt, a god hanging out with Dr. Seuss, Jane Austen, Beatrix Potter, and a number of other ghosts – then you might need to find yourself a copy of Haunting Jasmine. Set in the north west, there’s a nice bit of ocean, some chilly weather, rain, hot tea, and a divorcee you might want to spend a day with in Seattle.
The writing is easy to get into, and she made lucky choice to use the word wafted – we all know how much I love that word, I think.
There’s a bit of a romance, but nothing too over the top to actually place it in the romance genre – it’s more about Jasmine and her journey to understanding herself and the nature of her aunt’s shop.
It’s definitely worth a bubble bath or day off, and I’m not just saying that because I’m biased. :-)
Author: Lorena Glass
Genre: Fantasy/ Romance
Length: 408 pages
I was sent a free copy of Echo by the author in exchange for an honest review. (I am not otherwise associated with the author.) In my honesty, I must say, I’m not a fan. However, that wouldn’t keep me from recommending it to people I’m sure would be. (That’s one of the joys of being a bookseller, I can find all sorts of things to put into people’s hands that will make them happy even though it’s not my particular cup of tea.)
Other reviewers refer to this as a young adult fantasy story, but I didn’t get that from it at all. The main character is in her twenties and her lover is in his fifties. That’s not really young adult material in my book. There is, however, time travel, undying love, and a number of other fun details that might call to teenage readers these days. I think more than the young adult crowd, though, romance readers who favor Diana Gabaldon’s work or historical fiction gurus that enjoy Bernard Cornwell’s Stonehenge might find Glass’s work enjoyable.
I appreciate all the characters went through to stay committed to each other, but I’m not a fan of the whole soulmate concept – that only one person in the world is meant for you ever. I think that people decide to be soulmates, and that is not just fine, but a beautiful thing. But overall, I found the story awkward and the telling of it a little awkward as well.
The setting is definitely original – you don’t get a lot of Gaul and people speaking Latin in most historical fiction. It was a nice touch to keeping me flipping through to take a look around, so to speak, but I was not as riveted as I would have preferred for such a tale.
Just because it wasn’t for me, doesn’t mean it can’t be for you – check out some other reviews: https://bernieandbooks.wordpress.com/2015/06/06/requested-review-echo-lorena-glass-read-6615/
The Bookshop Hotel has a new face! And back. And inside for that matter. It’s been re-edited and fine tuned and re-published by the marvelous Grey Gecko Press.
And right now, you may download this updated version for FREE: http://store.greygeckopress.com/products/the-bookshop-hotel
Title: The Martian
Author: Andy Weir
Genre: Science Fiction
The Martian is freaking amazing. Just as amazing, it seems, is the author Andy Weir, as I was just as entertained by his essay and interview in the back of the Broadway Books edition I was reading.
In addition to being clever and snarky, the book has a fun history. Originally it was self-published on a website. It got such a following that it was then released for kindles… and was so popular there that Weir got a book and a movie deal practically at the same time.
Oh, and, Weir loves Doctor Who, so there’s that.
I’m a little late to the game, I wish I had discovered him sooner so I could say something original and exciting about The Martian (I would have loved to interview him) – so this review will be short and void of spoilers. But if you’re in the mood for some suspenseful comedy set in space, all MacGyver style with the science, you need some Andy Weir in your life.
I can’t wait to see what he writes next. If you’ve already read The Martian, you might also want to check out the work of Heinlein and/or George Wright Padgett.
In case you haven’t seen it yet – here’s the movie trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ue4PCI0NamI
Sometimes a girl just feels the need to read some check-lit. I read two novels this week that I think fit the bill – one more Anne Tyler – esque and the other a little more Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus.
Title: A Scattered Life
Author: Karen McQuestion
Genre: Women’s Fiction
A Scattered Life embraces the art of telling a story from three different women’s viewpoints. When done well, this is a nice way to allow things to unfold like an onion but still maintain a linear storyline. McQuestion does it well. Time your reading to finish the book right before bed so you can sleep after, because you’ll feel like you’ve lived three lives all at once when you turn the last page; it won’t exhaust you, it’s just nice to immediately fall into a slumber after living so much. McQuestion writes for young adults as well, and I’m looking forward to see what she has to offer when she crosses genres.
Title: Vanity Fare
Book references, pastries, coffee… umm, yeah that’s right up my alley. Except there’s definitely a romance novel chronology to the book that distracted me from my book envy, pastry drooling, and coffee binging. (Ironic, I know, as I am the author of The Bookshop Hotel and the characters totally tried to get romancey on me while I put them to paper.) All in all, good stuff. It’s something I will definitely recommend to lit-snobs who need a break from heavy reading and chronic romance readers who are looking for something less pornographic that will gently encourage them to dip into the classics.
Author: Susan Hood
Illustrator: Melissa Sweet
Genre: Picture Book
Ay, caramba!, we just read this before bed this evening and we love it! First off, I’m a sucker for an axolotl. I discovered them about two years ago when an avid reddit surfer sent me some images they had found. Strange but cute creatures are kind of our thing, and an axolotl definitely fits the bill.
I remember thinking there should be a picture book about them. I love kids picture books featuring the odd ducks of the planet and offer educational value at the end of the story. I have tons of them lined up in my head that I haven’t written yet. My favorite thing about Hood’s book is that she incorporates Spanish words through out the story and the last few pages include research about the creatures who made an appearance. There’s so much educational value to this book and I can’t wait to own a copy. (We read from a library book.)
Referred to as a water-monster by the Aztecs, I was introduced to these tiny creatures as Mexican Walking Fish. Either way, they are super cute, come in all different colors, and if ever there was an animal worthy of a picture book it would be this one.
I absolutely adore Melissa Sweet’s illustrations. They are bright and spunky and the kiddo was riveted by each and every page. Sweet captured the essence of the story with care and finesse and I look forward to seeing more of her illustrations on picture books in the future.