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Designed for Haunting
by Sybil Johnson
I just finished Designed for Haunting by Sybil Johnson, and the first thing that came to my mind was “Well, I enjoyed that!” It isn’t particularly humorous and doesn’t need to be. It isn’t paranormal despite its title. It is a good, basic cozy mystery with a plot that evolves nicely with twists and turns, interesting characters, and a background of Halloween and tole painting.
Like the author, main character Rory works in the tech industry but also loves tole painting. Her friend Zelena notifies her through an automated digital service that she is being stalked and is perhaps dead. Rory determines that Zelena is indeed missing. There are many complications from Halloween pranks to serious crimes. Zelena’s disappearance sets in motion a lot of amateur sleuthing by Rory and her friend Liz. Meanwhile, both ladies are participating with their painting chapter in hosting a local Halloween Holiday Boutique in support of a charity. All of the loose ends are tied up nicely at the end, but there are plenty of characters with unclear motivations along the way to keep you guessing. Enjoy!
I would like to extend my thanks to Edelweiss and to Henery Press for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
Notes: #4 in the Aurora Anderson Mystery Series, but works well as a standalone
Publication: October 9, 2018—Henery Press
“Who was it?” “Some old lady.” As far as the teenager was concerned that could mean anyone from thirty to ninety.
Getting Old Can Hurt You
by Rita Lakin
This is my first opportunity to read a book in the Gladdy Gold Detective Agency Mystery Series. I found it amusing, but not hilarious. The main characters in Getting Old Can Hurt You by Rita Lakin are a group of seniors who consider themselves a detective gang under the leadership of Gladdy. Just as young people are not all alike, neither are these seniors. They run the gamut from down to earth to not quite all there. They are generally up for an adventure even if it is limited by arthritis, pee breaks, and walkers and canes.
A long-lost granddaughter arrives at the senior apartments looking for the grandmother she hates. It seems, however, that she has other plans in mind besides reconnecting with her grandmother. Having survived a difficult childhood, she travels across the country to solve her personal mystery, hiding the fact that she is being followed. Will Gladdy’s gang be able to help her? They are determined to try!
I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Severn House for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
Notes: #8 in the Gladdy Gold Detective Agency Mystery Series. I had no problem understanding the story as a standalone, but readers might enjoy it more with additional background on the characters.
Publication: October 1, 2018—Severn House
We know we’re all in the checkout line for the big deli in the sky, but until then we are totally involved in the Gladdy Gold detective agency. Our motto, “Never Trust Anyone Under Seventy-Five.” Senior Sleuths to Senior Citizen. Our slogan—“We Take Care of Our Own.”
Lola never says much when Hy’s around. There’s only room for one ego.
“When I got older I found my happy hobby. Stealing do-re-mi to help old folks who needed surgery.” Sophie adds, gushing, “You were so good at it. Loved the plastic gun in the pastrami sandwiches.” Izzy blushes, pleased with the compliment. He shrugs. “Jail time reformed me finally, and now you’re caught up. Here I am. I’m looking into another happy hobby.”
Dark Tide Rising
by Anne Perry
I know that Anne Perry is a celebrated author with two main series and many other books to her credit. Therefore, I was really looking forward to reading this work of historical fiction, a genre I have come to enjoy recently. Unfortunately, I was disappointed. A lot of Dark Tide Rising centers around a betrayal that is central to understanding the kidnapping and murder of Kate Exeter. When I say “a lot,” I mean Perry belabors the points to the extent of redundancy. Also, I figured out the identity and motive of the murderer early on in the book. The last courtroom scene of the book is interesting as it establishes proof of the murderer and motives for the actions of some of the minor characters. Another overly emphasized point is that Monk’s wife Hester served with Florence Nightingale in the Crimean War. Although Nightingale has long had my admiration, I do not think any and every association with her needs to be touted as proof of a woman’s fortitude. On a positive note, I did enjoy learning about the Thames River Police.
Although I was anxious to bring this book to a close, I am open to reading another by this author. I want to determine if the problem is this particular book or if Perry’s books are just not a good fit for me.
I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Random House (Ballantine) for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
Category: Historical Fiction, Mystery
Notes: #24 in the Monk series, but works as a standalone
Publication: September 18, 2018—Random House (Ballantine)
Monk himself ached in every bone, but how much was bruising and minor cuts, and how much the torture of utter failure, he did not yet know.
And what other secrets would the search lay bare? Perhaps it was selfish in the face of such grief to think of personal fears, not yet realized, but he could not discard them. When he lay alone and silent in the dark, there was nothing to hold them at bay.
Field of Bones: A Brady Novel of Suspense
by J.A. Jance
It was all I could do to get through the first half of the book. Don’t get me wrong. Field of Bones, set in Arizona, fulfills its promise of being a suspenseful novel, and it is very well written. The characters are appropriately developed, and I certainly understand the appeal of Sheriff Joanna Brady, mother of three, as the main character of the series. She is a strong woman, but portrayed realistically, not as a superwoman. Part mystery, part thriller, part police procedural, and all suspense fiction, Field of Bones runs the full gamut.
The “but” you can hear coming is because of the topic: violent, horrible, sex slavery. It makes for a combo of “I can’t stop reading, leaving characters in this torturous situation” and “I can’t read anymore; it is just too painful.” Kudos to the author J.A. Dance for the skills to put me in this situation. At the same time, I have to say Jance does not include details of the violence, but offers enough information that anyone with an imagination will get the picture. Given the number of books she has published, I think a lot of people admire her storytelling talent. This book is just too terrifying for me, and I doubt I will read any more of her books.
Although some of the tension is relieved in the last half of the book, the story is far from over. At that point, I did enjoy watching how the professionals from various fields perform their duties and work to put the pieces of the puzzle together.
I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to HarperCollins Publishers for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
Category: Fiction, Thriller, Suspense, Mystery
Notes: #18 in the Joanna Brady Mystery Series, but despite the number of books that preceded this one, I had no trouble following the personal interactions because they were limited compared to the suspenseful storyline.
Publication: September 4, 2018—HarperCollins Publishers
At the end of this long, difficult day, he was in over his head. She needed a kind way to encourage him without undermining his confidence.
The pressure Latisha applied during the required three-minute wait hurt like crazy, but Garth was grateful for that. You had to be alive to know that it hurt.
“…did you ever get around to having that baby? The last time I saw you, you were big as a barn.” Randy Trotter was a lot of things, but politically correct wasn’t one of them. He was known for putting his lizard-skin Tony Lamas in his mouth, sometimes both of them at once.
by Jo Bannister
Gabriel Ash, formerly a security analyst with the British government, has recently been released from mental health care. He has opened a second hand book shop, Rambles with Books. He has also been reunited with his two sons after a four year separation as a result of his wife’s illegally taking the boys. All should be relatively smooth sailing in the Ash household, but that is not the case. Ash’s good friend, Constable Hazel Best, drives to school to pick up the boys, and she sees them and their nanny being accosted in what appears to be a kidnapping attempt.
The plot of Kindred Spirits rapidly becomes complicated as the older boy, Gilbert, insists that only the nanny was being forced into the van. This fast-moving police procedural by Jo Bannister puts on display not only how the police investigate crimes, but also the behind-the-scenes politics. Neither Hazel nor Detective Inspector Dave Gorman are armchair detectives. The same can be said about Ash when those he cares about are personally threatened. All three are motivated by doing what is right. When an old case clashes with the events of a new case, they refuse to turn a blind eye. The results are dangerous, and you won’t want to stop reading until the mystery is resolved.
I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Severn House for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
Category: Mystery, Police Procedural
Notes: #5 in the Hazel Best and Gabriel Ash Mystery Series. This was the first book in the series for me to read, and I had no problem catching up with the background.
Publication: September 1, 2018—Severn House
Perhaps he was the last man in England—the last man in the civilized world—to enjoy the sensation, both sensual and intellectual, of paper pages curling away under his fingers. Of words, and the ideas they encoded, waiting for him to find them—and staying close at hand after he’d read them, in case he needed to flick back a page or two to check something.
She had less and less patience with hard feelings and petty jealousies. She did her job, and did it well; being liked was an optional extra. It wasn’t something that she’d ever struggled with before, but if it came to a choice between being popular and doing what she believed to be right, she had broad shoulders.
Gorman knew that Jerome Harbinger was sixty-eight. If he hadn’t known, he’d have thought he was ten years older than that. His craggy face was savaged by deep lines that had nothing to do with laughter and everything to do with bitter unhappiness.
Crux: A Cross-Border Memoir
by Jean Guerrero
Crux: A Cross-Border Memoir attracted my attention because I live part of each year in Mexico and part in New Mexico, U.S.A. After five years of cross-border experiences, I have such mixed feelings because I love the U.S. with its fairly balanced mixture of freedom and order, but I also have enjoyed the kindness and diverse cultures of the Mexican people.
Crux, however, addresses cross-border experiences on a whole different level. The author Jean Guerrero is the daughter of a Puerto Rican mother and a Mexican father. Guerrero survives a dysfunctional childhood to become a journalist. This book is an effort to understand herself through an attempt to understand her father, a brilliant man who at various times is addicted to drugs, and alcohol, believes the C.I.A. is performing experiments on him, and is schizophrenic according to her mother, a medical doctor.
Guerrero longs for her father’s affection. She received it when she was very little, but most of her memories are of an unpredictable and often hateful man who occasionally dropped in and out of her life. Guerrero tries to win her mother’s affection and approval through scholastic achievement. In the process of becoming an adult, she is always introspective but she experiments in dangerous arenas—drugs at raves, trips to dangerous areas of Mexico, bad boys and sexual exploration, and the occult. The occult is tied in with her heritage as she had a great-great grandmother in Mexico who was a healer and diviner and other Mexican relatives who were involved in similar activities.
Crux contains a lot of family stories: Guerrero’s own memories, interviews with her father and his mother, and trips to Mexico to discover the truth of her roots. It also includes some of her philosophical thinking at various times in her life as well as information from her neurological studies in college. She minored in neurology as a part of her efforts to understand her father’s schizophrenia and her genetic predilection to become schizophrenic herself.
As a cross-border tale, Crux is sprinkled with Spanish, some of it translated, some not. I am not fluent in Spanish, but I appreciated the authenticity added to Crux by including Spanish. I do wonder, however, if understanding the book would be affected by a reader’s not being able to translate as they read. One could, of course, use an online Spanish dictionary to help, but that would definitely interrupt the flow.
Crux is a very personal memoir exploring the raw feelings of the author. The point of view changes in the latter part of the book as Guerrero addresses her father. There is also a maturity and cohesion in that part of the book not present in the first. Perhaps that is appropriate as she was initially relating experiences as remembered from a child’s point of view. Readers who enjoy history will receive historical background to provide context; it is interesting and succinct. All in all, Crux is a good read. There are very few heart-warming moments, but that was her life.
I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to One World (Random House) for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
Notes: There are some sexually explicit portions and offensive language in Crux. The treatment of women is particularly disturbing.
Publication: July 17, 2018—One World (Random House)
Life was not turning out as we had hoped. Creativity was a crime. Innocent creatures were mortal. Fathers left their daughters and broke their mother’s heart.
I had grown accustomed to the idea of my father as dead. If he was dead, he wasn’t willfully ignoring us. This belief had become a sinister source of comfort.
He persisted without pausing for protest, the same anger he had directed at me when he was driving me to my riding lessons as a teenager. I stared at the table, steeling myself. The numbness came naturally—a habit of my adolescence.
Beaches in Paradise
by Kathi Daley
When you read a book in the Tj Jensen Mystery Series, you can count on a solid cozy mystery with likable main characters, strong family ties, and a good plot. Beaches in Paradise is a no exception. Maggie’s Hideaway is a family owned resort on Paradise Lake where Maggie works part-time when she is not busy as the local P.E. teacher and soccer coach. Maggie is also raising her two half-sisters and slowly developing her relationship with Kyle. Both enjoy functioning as a team to help solve local mysteries. What Maggie doesn’t enjoy is her confrontational encounters with Paradise’s new deputy Kate who warns Maggie off of amateur sleuthing and displays subtle hints of interest in Kyle.
Maggie involves herself in a murder and disappearance when an unpopular businessman is found dead in a wrecked car and her friend Gina is nowhere to be found. I had to suspend belief a little in considering the lengths Maggie went to find Gina. The action would have been more convincing if more background on Gina and Maggie’s two year friendship had been provided. Gina teaches math and Maggie P.E. at the local high school.There are no further details to support the strong bond they are supposed to have.
Plot is one of the main strengths of Beaches in Paradise. Three-fourths of the way through the book, after many interviews and lots of twists and turns, a huge part of the mystery is solved and everyone breathes a sigh of relief. There is more suspense to come, however, and it extends quite engagingly all the way to the second surprise ending. This is a solid series and one you will enjoy.
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.
Category: General Fiction (Adult), Mystery
Notes: #9 in the Tj Jensen Mystery Series, but is OK as a standalone.
Publication: July 17, 2018 — Henery Press
Once we were ready, Kyle and I climbed into the van with our troupe of geriatric sleuths. I hated to put the men in danger, but I knew they were clearheaded adults able to make up their own minds.
“More than anyone I know, you always make sure the people you care for are all right.”