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Of Mutts and Men–a tired tale

Of Mutts and Men

by Spencer Quinn

Although I really enjoyed reading the first book in the Chet and Bernie Series, I was a little disappointed as I read Of Mutts and Men, the tenth book in the series. I felt like I was reading a clone of the first book, sporting a different cover and title and with the same jokes, but repeated too often. The mystery concerning a murder, an aquifer, and big business is fresh but somehow did not thrust me into a page turning mode. Chet, a K-9 school failure but faithful sidekick to P.I. Bernie, is always devotedly at Bernie’s side, but his role in capturing the “perps” in this book is less than I think he deserves. He has valuable deductions, but as a dog can not share them effectively in this tale. The story includes a personal side of Bernie’s life as a former flame reenters the picture, but there is no deep examination and it doesn’t seem believable.

I recommend this book if you like mysteries that involve canines and you want a light read. Unfortunately, although it reads well as a standalone, it does not compel me to read the eight books that I skipped over in the series. I am planning to read the next book in the series to inspire me to read more or to convince me that the series is not worth investing more time.

I would like to extend my thanks to NetGalley and to Macmillan—Tor/Forge for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 3/5

Category: Mystery

Notes: 1. #10 in the Chet and Bernie Series, but can be read as a standalone.

  2. Contains some profanity.

  3. Link to my review of the first book in the series, Dog On It.

Publication:   July 7, 2020— Macmillan—Tor/Forge

Memorable Lines:

“Sometimes I don’t understand you.” Well, right back at ya. Which didn’t change how I felt about him, not the slightest bit. And just to show him, I put my paw on his leg and pressed down firmly, so he’d know how much I cared. We shot through the intersection, the light luckily turning green at that moment, or just about to. 

The big heat of summer was coming very soon, and the back of Bernie’s shirt—one of his nicest, with the flamingos drinking at a bar pattern—was getting sweaty, and he was huffing and puffing a bit. I followed him up the slope, first from behind and then from in front, where I do my best following.

I started feeling very good about the case. As for what it was about, exactly, those details would come to me soon, or later, or not at all. But the important thing was that we were cooking, me and Bernie.

The Thursday Murder Club–new life in cold cases

The Thursday Murder Club

by Richard Osman

Richard Osman’s first novel, The Thursday Murder Club, is a stellar mystery. Definitely not a thriller, the solving of a cold case or two gets mixed in with several current murders as four residents of a retirement community band together to solve crimes that have stumped law enforcement in the past.

The main characters stand out as individuals—Ron, a former trade union leader; Joyce, a retired nurse; Ibrahim, a psychiatrist occasionally still consulted by former patients; and the quite competent Elizabeth who has contacts all over the world from her secretive profession.  All play into the sleuthing with their personal strengths and break down stereotypes of senior citizens who have given up on life. Elizabeth is the leader as the one with the best skills at recognizing motives and relationships, understanding how a crime might have been committed, and devising plans to reveal  criminals.  Everyone recognizes that if Elizabeth wants something to happen, a meeting perhaps, she can indeed make it happen.

Even the law enforcement, PC Donna De Freitas and her boss DCI Chris Hudson, find themselves manipulated into cooperating in the investigations by Elizabeth and the other seniors. Since the plot is complicated, there are many characters including a priest, some gangsters, real estate developers, a sheep herder, and a famous boxer. There are even more, and some careful reading is involved as minor characters can have a bigger role than you might anticipate. For example, one important character never says a word: look for Penny in the story.  It is fascinating to watch the Thursday Murder Club pick at the threads of the various crimes until they unravel. There are some crimes that you don’t even realize occurred until they were solved. Now, that’s magical writing because there is nothing artificial about the way author Richard Osman makes it all come together.

The style of the writing is fantastic with lots of British humor to make you smile and a few absolutely laugh out loud scenes. Joyce records her views on the investigation and reflections on her personal life in a diary that we get to read; it is set off in bold print and interspersed with the other chapters which are written in the third person. None of the chapters are very long and some are less than a page making this many chaptered tome move quickly. The chapters change their focus from one crime and set of characters to another, and that also seems appropriate to the complexity of the plot. This is not a book with a lot of red herrings; it is replete with good solid clues. The reader is in for many surprises but discovers them as the characters do. With its intricate plot and characters with depth, The Thursday Murder Club gives you much to contemplate above and beyond the mystery itself. There are many ethical questions to ponder, but the author lays out the facts and leaves judgement up to the reader.

Rating: 5/5 

Category: Mystery, Humor

Notes: This award winning book has a sequel in the works: The Thursday Murder Club 2 is set for publication on September 16, 2021.

Publication:   September 3, 2020—Viking

Memorable Lines:

It looks out over the bowling green, and then farther down to the visitors’ car park, the permits for which are rationed to such an extent that the Parking Committee is the single most powerful cabal within Coopers Chase.

I think that if I have a special skill, it is that I am often overlooked. Is that the word? Underestimated, perhaps?…So everyone calms down through me. Quiet, sensible Joyce. There is no more shouting and the problem is fixed, more often than not in a way that benefits me—something no one ever seems to notice.

“I don’t think you’re supposed to use your mobile telephone in here, Elizabeth,” says John. She gives a kindly shrug. “Well, imagine if we only ever did what we were supposed to, John.”  “You have a point there, Elizabeth,” agrees John, and goes back to his book.

Dog On It–funny K-9 mystery

Dog On It

by Spencer Quinn

Dog On ItHave you ever looked at your dog and wondered what in the world he or she (Chet says, “no ’it’s’ please”) is thinking? In Dog On It, you will be treated to author Spencer Quinn’s take on the imagined inner workings of a dog’s thoughts and personality. His vehicle for sharing these insights is the very likable and competent K-9 sidekick named Chet. The story is humorously told from his point of view.

I figure my dogs have the mentality of a two-year-old. They have a little understanding of the English language, even a smattering of Spanish, but I’m sure most of what I say goes over their heads. In a similar way, P.I. Bernie Little of Little Detective Agency talks over his cases with Chet. Chet picks up on the tone of the conversation, and over the years they have developed cues and routines that make them an outstanding team. When it comes to expressions like “wild good chase,” however, Chet is excited but confused.

We get to know Chet very well as he tells the story emphasizing what he and his “tribe” can do and how they are different from humans. Seen from his perspective, we learn the importance of scents, what delights Chet, and how easily distractible he is. Bernie does the thinking, but Chet’s role is equally important in following even the faintest whiffs and intimidating criminals.

Chet says that Bernie often has a cash flow problem although he doesn’t understand what that is. The source of the problem seems to be undercharging and an abundance of pro bono work. Bernie works to control his smoking and drinking. He has a combat past that Chet only shares a little about. Bernie is divorced and has a young son he adores. The detective displays intelligence, courage, and physical prowess. He isn’t perfect, but he is a very likable character.

Although this book truly brought a smile to my face throughout, don’t be deceived. Packing a good solid mystery with plenty of leads and some adventure as well, Dog On It is much more than a humorous book. On the other hand, don’t expect a deep plot exploring heavy issues; that’s not what this book is about. It is a quick read because it is so entertaining. I never tire of hearing what Chet is thinking or even why he is not thinking at all. This work is the most exquisitely funny example of anthropomorphism I have read in a very long time. I am looking forward to more reading pleasure with this series which currently has ten books.

Rating: 5/5

Category: Mystery, Humor

Notes: 1. This book does not contain much in the way of casual inappropriate language, but it does take God’s name in vain multiple times.

2. #1 in the Chet and Bernie Mystery Series

Publication:  February 10, 2009—Atria Books

Memorable Lines:

At that moment I heard a funny swishing sound. Susie glanced over. “Getting close to home, huh?” I realized the funny swishing sound came from my own tail, whipping back and forth against the seat.

The woman’s mouth opened and closed, but no sound came out. I loved when Bernie made that happen. We walked outside feeling like winners, at least I did.

I’d been in a few car chases like this—one of the very best perks in our line of work, car chases—and they always ended the same way, with some perp’s pant leg between my teeth.

Eats MORE, Shoots & Leaves: Why, ALL Punctuation Marks Matter!

Eats MORE, Shoots & Leaves: Why, ALL Punctuation Marks Matter!

by Lynne Truss

illustrated by Bonnie Timmons

Eats MORE, Shoots & LeavesHaving enjoyed the adult book Eats, Shoots and Leaves years ago, I knew I would love Lynne Truss’ book Eats MORE, Shoots & Leaves: Why, ALL Punctuation Marks Matter! It is written and illustrated appropriately for children but could also be helpful for teenagers and adults who just don’t understand that a few tiny punctuation marks can change the whole meaning of a sentence. Bonnie Timmons’ drawings are hysterically funny and illustrate so well the concepts.

The pages are set up so the differences in meaning are clear. On one page, for example, the words are “Eat here, and get gas.” The illustration shows cars getting gas at a place that also sells food. On the facing page, the reader is admonished: “Eat here and get gas.” with the illustration depicting a restaurant where a patron flies through the air with a tremendous burp. (Now what grade school boy is not going to laugh at that?) Under each picture, upside down, is an adult explanation of the effect of punctuation or lack of it. The inserted punctuation is always clearly indicated in red. This book is a winner. It achieves its purpose of explaining why punctuation is so important. Who knew grammar could be so funny?

I would like to extend my thanks to Edelweiss and to G.P. Putnam for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 5/5

Category: Children’s Nonfiction

Notes: Ages 6-9

Grades 1-4

Publication:  October 22, 2019—G.P. Putnam

Mr. Finchley Discovers His England–going on holiday

Mr. Finchley Discovers His England

by Victor Canning

Mr. Finchley Discovers His EnglandEdgar Finchley, a clerk in a law firm, has not had a vacation in ten years when his new boss surprises him with a three week holiday. This mild-mannered, middle aged bachelor anticipates trading his typical, longstanding daily schedule for a different holiday routine, but is surprised to find himself wrapped up in a series of adventures.

Victor Canning’s Mr. Finchley Discovers His England was originally published in 1934 before WWII when the author was twenty-three. A best seller upon publication, it is a humorous work reflective of a more innocent time and makes a fun read. I enjoyed all of Finchley’s exploits. Despite the light-hearted nature of the book, the character of Finchley develops as he finds courage and flexibility he never knew he had. This book is full of well written, vivid descriptions and many British terms. I enjoyed learning words such as “roach” (a type of fish)  and “rean” (a varian of reen, an irrigation ditch). Mr. Finchley Discovers His England is a delight to those who enjoy an author who can craft superlative descriptions and has an extensive vocabulary.

I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Ferrago for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 5/5

Category: General Fiction (Adult), Humor

Notes: 1. The first in a series.

2. There is a chapter which devotes itself to a cricket match This part of the book  would be more interesting to a reader who is familiar with the game and terminology.

Publication:   April 18, 2019—Ferrago

Memorable Lines:

The sun tipped the edge of the hills in a blazing tiara and every copse and thicket, each barn and cottage, sprang into a bold relief, white wall vivid against chestnut green, and a church clock, black and gold against the grey of the stones.

…he came slowly to see what until now he had never realized; that danger, the wonder of the unexpected, the exhilaration of living and not knowing what one would be doing or where one would next be were the only thing that gave colour to life.

He was beginning to see that McGrath was the type of man who bullied and stormed at people—and was surprised when they accused him of losing his temper.

THE CURIOUS SPACE QUEST

Hunt with Newton: What are the Secrets of the Universe?

by Julia Golding with Andrew Briggs and Roger Wagner

Illustrated by Brett Hudson

Hunt with NewtonHunt with Newton is interesting and informative at the same time.  Part science fiction, part theological inquiry, and part historical information about science, Julia Golding’s book takes children on a time travel adventure with a tortoise and a cat. The writing in that part of the story is somewhat strained. Anecdotes about the scientists are more interesting. Readers will also appreciate the inclusion of fun do-it-at-home science experiments. There is a timeline of 17th and 18th century discoveries that might have been better placed as an addendum, because it is dry without the depth needed to hold the reader’s interest. In discussing the scientists, the author jumps about a bit in time periods making the book somewhat disjointed. The connections made between science and religious thinking are interesting.

I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Lion Hudson Limited for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 3/5

Category: Children’s Nonfiction

Notes: 1. No grade level indicated for intended audience

  2. Part of a series: The Curious Space Quest

Publication:  February 1, 2019—Lion Hudson Limited

Memorable Lines:

“The point I’m trying to make, Milton, is that, like many people at the time, he didn’t see a difference between science and magic.”

“The big step forward for science is that Pascal decided you could test if this idea is correct…”

Rocky Road to Galileo: What is Our Place in the Solar System?

by Julia Golding with Andrew Briggs and Roger Wagner

Illustrated by Brett Hudson

Rocky Road to GalileoIn a previous book, Harriet, a time traveling tortoise, was “tortoisenapped”by an Alexandrian scientist. As Rocky Road to Galileo opens, Milton, her feline time traveling companion, sets about to rescue her using the time machine. He discovers a Muslim invasion of Egypt has caused a dispersion of scientists, and with them Harriet.

There is a discussion of the Islamic Golden Age extending into Spain, a timeline of science in medieval Europe, and a look at the development of the scientific method along with a number of new technologies. Featured in this book is “Milton’s Notebook” in which the cat records some of his thoughts about what he is seeing and learning on their time travels.

The time traveling duo visit Friar Roger Bacon who emphasizes experimentation over reasoning and debate. Most of the scientists, both Muslim and Christian, had ideas about science and its relationship to religion. The cat and tortoise continue to jump about in time and land in Germany in time to see the first book printed on the Gutenberg press. They later go to Poland in 1510 to meet Copernicus who challenges rational earth-centered thinking. Other thinkers visited along the way are Martin Luther, William Shakespeare, and Galileo.

I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Lion Hudson Limited for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 4/5

Category: Children’s Nonfiction

Notes: 1. Includes website suggestions for more information

  2. Part of a series: The Curious Space Quest

Publication:  February 1, 2019—Lion Hudson Limited


 

Lessons from Lucy–LOL funny

Lessons from Lucy

by Dave Barry

Lessons from LucyLessons from Lucy has to be the funniest self-help book ever written. Dave Barry, the humor columnist, takes his lessons on aging from his also aging, happy, contented dog Lucy. There are indeed words of wisdom in these pages but in making his points Dave, in his typical fashion, goes off in side splitting fashion with outrageous opinions and funny anecdotes that combine to provide the reader with an outrageously funny good time. From the man who is famous for saying “I did not make this up” are totally fabricated footnotes for nautical terms and tales of marching with the World Famous Lawn Rangers of Arcola, Illinois, in the Broom Corn Festival. They are a “precision” drill team complete with lawn mowers, brooms, and silliness. Those members with a higher rank even have toilet plungers. No one takes themselves seriously, and they all have a blast. I had to do an Internet search to confirm the truth. Yes, the Lawn Rangers do exist and Dave Barry has more fun than a three year old when he can participate in their good-natured nonsense. 

Lessons from Lucy is a fast read, and you may hope it won’t end. I think it would probably be fun to read again and just as funny the second time around. Dave Barry is an unexpected introvert who never fails in the humor department. At age seventy he proves he still has what it takes to keep us laughing.

I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Simon & Schuster for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 5/5

Category: Humor, Self-Help

Notes: There are a few instances of profanity and more instances of bathroom words that three year old boys would find funny. Neither kept me from enjoying this book.

Publication:   April 2, 2019—Simon & Schuster

Memorable Lines: Please note that there is no way for me to truly share the humor of this book because so much is lost when it is taken out of context, but here are some comments that make me nod and smile.

That’s what Lucy does: she makes the best of things. She’s way better at this than I am. I know much more than she does, but she knows something I don’t: how to be happy.

Even if you can’t travel, you can still find ways to have genuine fun. The key, I think, is to stretch your boundaries, to escape the numbing routine that old age so easily decays into, to take a chance, get out of your comfort zone, maybe risk making a fool of yourself.

1. Lucy spends every second she can being as close as she can be to the people she loves. This makes her a happy dog. 2. Mike Peters, who is a busy guy facing constant deadlines, still makes a point of making time for, and jumping on the trampoline with, the people he loves. and he is the happiest person I know over the age of three.

The whole world is way too angry these days. If you want proof of that, don some eye protection and take a look at Facebook. In case you just woke up from a coma, I should explain that Facebook is a social-media website that literally billions of people visit regularly for the purpose of making some person named Mark Zuckerberg insanely rich.

English Humor

SO FUNNY! Share this with all of your English nerd friends and those English teachers you love to hate. History teachers will love it too! 😂😝🤓

Midnight Snacks are Murder–humor shares the spotlight with mystery

Midnight Snacks are Murder

by Libby Klein

Midnight Snacks are MurderAs Poppy McAllister struggles to renovate a Queen Anne Victorian into a B & B to support herself and her aunt who raised her, she finds herself in the thick of a lot of situations. Personally, she is torn between her old flame Tim, a local chef, and Gia who owns a coffee shop and has commissioned Poppy to make gluten-free treats for his shop. Poppy is also juggling some pretty quirky characters on the home front: Smitty, a handyman reminiscent of the Three Stooges; Aunt Ginny, an eightyish aunt determined to live life to the fullest; Georgina, her domineering mother-in-law; and Figaro, her cat who is always in the middle of things. Unfortunately, Poppy, recently returned to Cape May, finds herself embroiled in the second murder in less than a year. This time, however, she is not a suspect, but has to clear her rather kooky aunt of charges.

Libby Kein’s Midnight Snacks are Murder is a very funny cozy mystery with lots of amusing zingers sometimes addressed to others, but more often what Poppy is thinking. The plot moves along quickly as blame passes to a number of characters and the victim is shown in various lights ranging from evil to saint. Poppy has to find out the complex truth about him in order to vindicate her aunt. The first book in the series was lots of fun and so is this one. 

I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Kensington Books for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 5/5

Category: Mystery

Notes: #2 in the Poppy McAllister Mystery Series but works well as a standalone.

Publication:   July 31, 2018—Kensington Books

Memorable Lines:

I had a better chance of teaching a badger to ride a bike than winning an argument with Aunt Ginny.

Her supermodel good looks made me feel more schlubby the moment she floated into the kitchen. But then I was too tired to grouse this morning about what God had given me and Betty Crocker had perfected, so I moved on to acceptance faster than usual.

Those kids could text the Constitution in thirty seconds using just emojis.

Double Dog Dare–humorous cozy mystery

Double Dog Dare

by Gretchen Archer

Double Dog DareI was surprised to see that Double Dog Dare, a cozy mystery, is also classified by the publisher as humor…until I read it. It is hilarious; all the way through from one complication to another. The storyline starts out simply enough as Davis Way, who is part of the security team at a Biloxi, Mississippi, casino anticipates the arrival of her sister Meredith and Meredith’s friend Vree, a nonstop, stream of consciousness talker with her dog who will be competing in a canine competition at the casino.

From the moment Davis opens the door to the early arriving Vree instead of Meredith, absolutely nothing goes as planned. Author Gretchen Archer creates fun characters and really amusing dialogue. The plot is intricate and when you are not laughing, you will be saying “What???” over the latest development. There are a variety of crimes including kidnappings, impersonations, and thefts. Meredith has a moral dilemma and in trying to help her, Davis also explores ethical and legal boundaries.

While all of these complications are occurring, Davis has to role play the wife of the casino’s owner, care for her twin 20-month old daughters, manage several dogs, and not tell her husband what is going on at home while he is attending a conference in Nashville.

If you want a nonstop mystery that will keep you smiling, laughing, and shaking your head, you’ll want to grab Double Dog Dare. It is now available in Kindle format.

I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Henery Press for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 5/5

Category: Mystery, Humor

Notes: #7 in the Davis Way Crime Capers series, but works well as a standalone

Publication:  March 20, 2018 —Henery Press

Memorable Lines:

Vree could talk the stars out of the sky. I believed she talked so she wouldn’t have to listen; there was always something Vree didn’t want to hear.

We’d wasted the half hour before that racking our brains for a doctor, a medical examiner, an EMT, a mortician, or even a Girl Scout with her Corpse Badge who owed us a favor…

“It was our constellation prize to them since our dog drew blood.”

I always thought she was just mean, as opposed to otherworldly. As it turns out, she’s neither. She wants what everyone else wants. Someone to love who loves her back. That’s it.

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