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Hummus and Homicide–mystery with a side of hummus

Hummus and Homicide

by Tina Kashian

Hummus and HomicideI read and reviewed more nonfiction books in February than I usually do. While I enjoyed most of them, I emerged from the month a little drained. Just as the month was ending, however, I read a review written by prolific book blogger Betty of Hummus and Homicide. Her review made this cozy mystery appealing, and I was able to request it as an ARC shortly before the deadline. It was just the relaxing break I needed. You can go to Betty’s blog to see her review by clicking here:

MYSTERIES GALORE AND PHOTOS

Now, on to my review:

Hummus and Homicide is the tale of patent attorney Lucy Berberian’s return from Philadelphia to her hometown Ocean Crest, New Jersey. For eight years she had devoted her life to her career but had hit her head on the metaphorical glass ceiling for women. She bounces back to her family’s Mediterranean restaurant in the small New Jersey beach town. Unfortunately, a former classmate meets an unfortunate demise after Lucy serves her food at the restaurant, making Lucy a prime suspect.

To save her parents’ restaurant from closure and herself from jail, Lucy sets out to discover the killer. There are many possibilities including rival restaurant owners, a famous author, and the boss of a crime family. Along with solving the mystery, Lucy has some personal romantic entanglements to resolve as well as decisions about her career choice to make. Hummus and Homicide is a fun, relaxing read that moves quickly and has interesting, likable characters.

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: 1. This is the first book in the new Kebab Kitchen Mystery Series.

 2. There are recipes included at the end of the book.

Publication:   February 27, 2018—Kensington Books

Memorable Lines:

If curiosity killed the cat, what would it do to an out-of-work lawyer sticking her nose where it didn’t belong?

Her eyes slid shut as she bit into the hot pastry. the crunch of the thin layers of buttered pastry, the sugar, cinnamon, and walnuts, blended together in a sweet ballet.

She knew how fast news traveled in town. The Internet had nothing on Ocean Crest when it came to the information superhighway.

Accessories to Die For–Santa Fe settings

Accessories to Die For

by Paula Paul

Accessories to Die ForPaula Paul has written a cozy mystery set in Santa Fe and tribal lands near there. As a New Mexican resident for many years, I find her use of this setting well done and effective in Accessories to Die For. She incorporates the drug problems that are all too prevalent there and the Native American culture that binds Catholicism with ancient religious beliefs. Paul showcases the tourist impact and the artisan craftsmanship.

If the author did all of that so well, why am I not excited about this book? I think it is the characters; they are just not very likable. Irene has given up her law career to be with her aging and still self-centered mother Adelle. There is a potential love interest with P.J. an attorney. Both lawyers make bad choices and do stupid (illegal) things along with jewelry artist Juanita who is looking for her druggie son Danny. There is a murder, several assaults, and a major theft. When it is all sorted out, the person who is able to lay out the facts and relationships is realistically the least likely to be able to do so.

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

Rating: 3/5

Category: Mystery

Notes: #2 in the Irene’s Closet Series

Publication:  December 5, 2017—Random House (Alibi)

Memorable Lines:

Danny Calabaza gave the flute its voice as he sat on a low hill that was sparsely carpeted with the brown and white grass of his tribal land. He had crafted the instrument himself from a piece of cedar wood in the manner of his grandfathers—hollowed from a branch, not split and glued together as some men did now.

The sweet scent of piñon fires wafted around her. It was a seductive scent, promising chile stew and fry bread cooked over the fires as well as warm loaves of bread pulled from the piñon-stoked hornos.

P. J. cleared his throat—something he never did in front of a prosecuting attorney. When a lawyer cleared his throat in a courtroom, it made him appear nervous. But there was something about this woman that threw him off balance. No, he wouldn’t go there. He would just look her in the eye and speak.

Raisins and Almonds–even the title is a mystery

Raisins and Almonds

by Kerry Greenwood

Raisins and AlmondsRaisins and Almonds is a typical Phryne Fisher mystery, but somewhat more cerebral. Evidence of that is found in the inclusion of a bibliography reflective of the author’s research and a glossary of Yiddish words. This mystery is strongly tied into the Jewish community that settled in Australia, the politics of Zionism, and a sub-sect focused on alchemy. Phryne has to do a lot of research in addition to her usual methods of sleuthing in order to find the murderer of a young Jewish scholar and free an innocent bookseller from prison.

Greenwood excels in this book in three ways. She uses the supporting characters to good advantage in solving the mystery as she sends her adopted daughters, her assistant Dot, and friends Bert and Cec out on different missions which play to their strengths. Phryne and Jack agree on the bookseller’s innocence enabling them to cooperate in their separate missions to solve the mystery. The ending of Raisins and Almonds is a fun surprise which wraps up the mystery and the title quite satisfactorily.

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

Rating: 5/5

Category: Mystery, Historical Fiction

Notes: #9 of Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries

Publication:   June 6, 2017—Poisoned Pen Press

Memorable Lines: 

Phryne smiled guilelessly into the policeman’s face. He winced. Miss Fisher was at her most dangerous when she was smiling guilelessly. It was a sign that someone, somewhere, was about to be shaken down until their teeth rattled and the Detective Inspector was uneasily aware that he was the closest available target.

Bert was nervous because he didn’t know what to look for in this big bustling market. Neither did Cec, but his Scandinavian ancestors had bequeathed him some Viking fatalism. If they were meant to find out, they’d find out.

Kadimah was as ordinary as a church hall, and as extraordinary as a landing of Well’s Martians. It was as sane as porridge and as lunatic as singing mice.

Ruddy Gore–a mix of Chinese, Welsh, and Australian

Ruddy Gore

by Kerry Greenwood

Ruddy GoreThe inimitable Phryne Fisher and her friend Bunji find themselves in the middle of a very physical Chinese family dispute, which is only a subplot in this tale, as they are on their way to the theatre to enjoy a presentation of Gilbert and Sullivan’s comic opera Ruddigore. Following that initial conflict, they make their way to His Majesty’s Theatre in Melbourne, and the reader is presented with the one weak portion of the novel. In the guise of encouraging Bunji, a very minor character in the book, to stay and enjoy the opera, Phryne summarizes the plot of the opera for her. Greenwood is attempting to share background for her unfolding story which centers around an old and a new murder and mysterious occurrences at the “Maj.” Both the cast and the characters they play are important in Ruddy Gore’s storyline, but this portion of the book, really only part of a chapter, was more extensive than necessary.

With the background sufficiently established, the plot moves quickly as Phryne is initially mystified, and then gradually peels off the layers of this puzzle.  As always with a Phryne Fisher novel, there are descriptions of her delightful ensembles and her romantic encounters. Dot, her companion, is called in to help with the investigation. Detective Inspector Jack Robinson views Miss Fisher as more likely to obtain information from the cast than he is, and so they cooperate and share information.

The Chinese connection through her love interest, Lin Chung, presents the thread of racial intolerance and prejudice from both sides. Lin and Phryne discuss the history of the Chinese in Australia and how the Chinese have adapted and coped. Phryne is the subject of discrimination herself from the Chinese and handles it well.

Phryne Fisher is undoubtedly rich as evidenced by her spending and lifestyle. She is not selfish, however, and her magnanimity occurs on a personal level. In this story she identifies a situation in which a stage boy with few options but much promise is being abused by his alcoholic father. Phryne doesn’t try to change the world, but she does change this boy’s world by providing him with opportunities. She doesn’t make him a charity case, suggesting that he repay her at a future date. She is also resourceful in engaging the cooperation of others in helping him.

Ruddy Gore is a wealth of incidental information about the theatre, actors, technical people, and management. All of these play a role in the mysteries which are resolved in the end, quite satisfactorily, leaving the reader anticipating further adventures starring Phryne Fisher.

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

Rating: 4/5

Category: Mystery, Historical Fiction

Notes: #7 in Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries but reads well as a standalone

Publication:   April 4, 2017—Poisoned Pen Press

Memorable Lines:

“He will always get everything that he wants and never get the one thing which he really desires—that’s how it works with bounders,” observed Phryne.

No harm in him but as self-centred as a gyroscope.

“Have you ever heard of hiraeth?” he asked, his eyes staring sadly across endless seas. “No, what is that?” “A Welsh thing, hard to translate. ‘Yearning,’ perhaps. ‘Longing’ is more like it. All of us have it, however happy we are. The yearning for home, even if we shook the dust off our shoes in loathing and swore never to return to the cold damp streets and the cold narrow people and the flat beer and the chapels fulminating endlessly against sin.”

Easter Pictures (Fotos de semana Santa)

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It only took TWO WEEKS (24/7) to synchronize all of my pictures with iCloud, but it did work as far as I can tell. While that was happening, I was afraid to touch my pictures. Now I am ready to share some more of Mexico, starting with this past weekend. A few of these pictures were taken previously, but I did take all of them in Mexico.

Saturday Night Empanadas–perfect with a game of Scrabble!

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Delicious Empanadas–Poblano and cheese; Beef and so much more!

The cross is a symbol of Jesus’ death, but Easter celebrates His resurrection!

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Cross in front of a house in my neighborhood

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Cropped, the stonework in the plaza of Erongarícuaro makes a beautiful cross

Perfect Blooms Just in Time for Easter

No Way Home–abundant suspense!

No Way Home

by Annette Dashofy

No Way HomeNo Way Home combines elements of a cozy mystery with elements of a thriller, and the result is an excellent read. As a cozy, No Way Home’s main character is Zoe Chambers, a county EMS paramedic and Deputy Coroner, who gets involved in trying to solve a murder when a riderless horse returns to the stable she manages. She is also trying to help her friend Rose find her missing son Logan. Meanwhile, several young people have overdosed in her county, and Zoe’s boyfriend Pete, Chief of Police, is driven to find the dealer. In this book, there are all the components of a good cozy: a likable heroine, a love interest, and a fascinating mystery with lots of threads. In addition, we are exposed to Native American culture as found in the Four Corners area.

No Way Home is also a thriller, however. A crucial characteristic of a thriller is suspense. This book kept me interested and wanting more from start to finish and fearful of what  might happen next. The book has two contrasting settings as it bounces back and forth from Pennsylvania to New Mexico in such a way that the reader wants to keep going with each plot thread in turn, a thread which is dangling just out of reach. It is a book you won’t put aside easily or for long.

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, General Fiction (Adult)

Notes: #5 in the Zoe Chambers Mystery Series, reads well as a standalone

Publication:   March 14, 2017–Henery Press

Memorable Lines:

He had an easy smile, a hearty laugh, and a talent for putting everyone at ease, whether they agreed with his politics or not. In addition, Dale was always happy to help with chores even if it meant getting dirty. Not what Zoe had expected from a well-to-do politician.

He held the phone away from his ear. At Rose’s current decibel level, Pete could almost hear her from New Mexico without the device.

Postal Service in Mexico

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I think everyone from North of the Border who lives in Mexico has a postal service story to tell. Today I saw a post on Facebook from a friend who lives in Ajijic, Jalisco. This week she received two Christmas cards, one from Canada and one from the U.S., that were sent in December. Not bad. Lots of mail doesn’t ever arrive. We discourage anyone who has a notion of using the postal service, but I have used it twice in ordering some pills from a Mexican company. BOTH times they arrived in good shape in about 2-3 weeks. I consider that a success. So today I am posting a picture of the beautiful stamps that were on the last package (in December) in honor of the brave young men in Mexico who ride little motorcycles laden with letters and packages and negotiate the roads filled with drivers with “interesting” driving habits. Salud!

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Of Hats, Pockets, Ears, and Hidden Messages

I read so many fascinating tales and review them in my blog, but probably none outshine the real story of Esther found in the Bible. Here my blogging friend Dolly (KOOLKOSHERKITCHEN) shares the original tale along with traditions that have developed and are part of the celebration of Purim. Don’t miss the funny video and delicious recipe she shares as well.

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These pastries are called Hamantaschen. We can no more imagine the holiday of Purim without them than without the graggers – noisemakers gleefully shaken by children and adults alike to drown the name of the evil villain Haman.

That’s a story of Purim in a nutshell. Once again, the Jewish people, marked for wholesale slaughter, were saved through the good offices of the beautiful and pious Queen Esther and her uncle, the wise and righteous Mordechai. To commemorate this event, we read (or at least listen to) Megillas Esther (the Scroll of Esther) where the entire story is recorded in minute details. Every time when Haman (may his memory be erased forever) is mentioned, we make all kinds of noises, and not necessarily by using traditional graggers that look like this:

purim-gragger

…but also anything that makes loud noises. I play castanets. A friend of mine, a very reserved lady…

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We Were the Lucky Ones–Jewish Family in Poland, WWII

We Were the Lucky Ones

by Georgia Hunter

we-were-the-lucky-onesWe Were the Lucky Ones tells the story of a family of Polish Jews during what was arguably the most difficult time for Jews in European history. This work of historical fiction is written by Georgia Hunter, a descendant who spent years researching, traveling, and interviewing family members to uncover this amazing story of rare survivors. As the author notes, “By the end of the Holocaust, 90 percent of Poland’s three million Jews were annihilated; of the more than thirty thousand Jews who lived in Radom, fewer than three hundred survived.” Although it is fiction, it has been closely based on facts. The author also intersperses short paragraphs summarizing the historical events of World War II as they relate to this family and notes at the beginning of each chapter the date and location of the events in that section. We Were the Lucky Ones begins in March 1939 and concludes in 1947.

The novel moves through history by telling the story of each family member at various times through an excruciating eight year period. Some experience prison and the torture of interrogation; others endure Siberian work camps, life in a Polish ghetto, extermination by pogrom. The family members are subjected to various extremeties: death, disease, starvation, persecution, betrayal. Through all of these trials, one of their greatest pains is not knowing the fate of their loved ones. A constant theme is their unending love of family.

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

Rating: 5/5

Category: Historical Fiction, General Fiction (Adult)

Publication: February 14, 2017–Penguin Group (Viking)

Memorable Lines:

But after a few days, they found they had little left to talk about. The chatter ceased and a funerary silence settled upon the train car, like ash over a dying fire. Some wept, but most slept or simply sat quietly, withdrawing deeper into themselves, encumbered by the fear of the unknown, the reality that wherever they were being sent, it was far, far away from home.

And suddenly, the consequences of this war were undeniably real–an understanding that sent Halina spiraling as she wrestled with the knowledge she both feared and loathed: she was powerless.

Nechuma used to reassure herself that they had lived through pogroms before, that in time, the fighting, the bloodshed would pass. But with the news from Lodz she’s come to understand that the situation they are in now is something entirely different. This isn’t just being subjected to profound hunger and poverty. This isn’t persecution. This is extermination.

The Green Mill Murder –witty, sexy, intrepid private eye

The Green Mill Murder

by Kerry Greenwood

the-green-mill-murderI am delighted to belatedly discover that Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries were novels before they were films.  Usually I find that in such cases the book is better than the movie. This is true in The Green Mill Murder which is the fifth in the series by this prolific, award winning Australian author.  I should add, however, that I have very much enjoyed the films and having seen them added to my ability to visualize the setting and beautiful dresses and accessories that the heroine, Phryne Fisher, wears.

Phryne Fisher is quite a character. She is rich, but down to earth. She shares her wealth and offers personal help to those in need. Her morals are outrageous (in the 1920’s); and although she is clearly a lady, she never lets her gender limit her actions.

The Green Mill Murder has a basic mystery: a man is killed by unknown means in a dance hall during the waning hours of a dance marathon in plain sight. Phryne is there and so is able to help the detective Jack with his investigation. In the process, several more mysteries arise, which include issues of a missing husband, blackmail, and inheritance.

I so enjoyed this mystery starring a witty private investigator who can conceal a flask or a small gun as needed in a sexy outfit one day and fly a Gipsy Moth the next. The Australian English (e.g. collywobbles) and the 1920’s laws and customs add to the interest.

Phryne’s independence is exhilarating, and I look forward to more of her adventures. Greenwood says she will keep writing Miss Fisher mysteries as long as readers want more. Currently there are twenty mysteries in this series, thirteen of which have been made into movies for television.

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

Rating: 5/5

Category: Mystery & Thrillers

Notes: There were various earlier publications of this book

Publication of Current Edition:   February 7, 2017–Poisoned Pen Press

Memorable Lines: 

“She enjoys bad health, Dot. the woman hasn’t been well since 1915, and she’s as strong as a horse.”

Vic had been delightful, but he and his surroundings were a passion to be indulged in sparingly, like absinthe, which sooner or later sent the drinker mad.

“Oh, how clean I am and how lovely hot water is! Great invention. No wonder the Romans ruled the world.”

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