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Murder by Death

I read cozy and historical mysteries, a bit of Paranormal/UF, and to mix it up, I read science and gardening books on occasion.

Assault and Beret (Hat Shop Mystery, #5)

Assault and Beret - Jenn McKinlay

Well that was all kinds of awful.


This series stared out so strong with a fun setting (a hat shop in London), and fun characters, but just got progressively weaker with every book.  The duel tracks that the mc's (Scarlett) mind constantly ran on:  "I'm so attracted to Harrison!" and "No! I can't get involved with any man for 1 year!" were petty and immature, especially as their repetition through 5 books just got more and more frequent.  Scarlett also never seemed to really mature in any other way either.  By the end, she was, if anything, more shallow and childish that she was when the series began.


But the plot of this one really just takes the cake for silliness, implausibility, and just... it was crap.  I don't even know what the author's goal was with Will and Alistair but it was a fail.  I didn't want to DNF the book because I was in it for a resolution for Scarlett and Harrison, and I may have gotten it but it was soured by the pure stupid of the plot itself.


This was the final book in the series, to which I can only say thank goodness.  It was a concept with a lot of promise that was treated badly and I'm glad to see the backside of it.







Total pages: 279

$$: $6.00

A Most Novel Revenge (Amory Ames, #3)

A Most Novel Revenge - Ashley Weaver

Well, that was almost a Greek tragedy.


1930's England and Amory's cousin begs her by letter to join a house party at the Lyonsgate Estate; the first house party the estate has seen since a tragic weekend 7 years prior and with the exception of Amory and her husband, it's the same roster of guests.  They've all been brought back together by one woman who is determined to rake up all the secrets of the past and what really happened on that 'lost' weekend.


The series started with Amory estranged from her playboy husband, but instead of taking the obvious route - divorce and future romantic entanglements - the author brings Amory and her husband Milo back together for reconciliation.  Frankly I didn't think I'd like it and she sure didn't do much to sell Milo's legendary charm to the reader.  But three books in and I've warmed to Milo and find I don't mind him sticking around at all.


The plotting was amazing, frankly.  I never had a hint of where she was taking this story until the very end and when I read it, had to do a double take to make sure I'd read the right name.  I don't often trot out comparisons, but really, this was a mystery worthy of the era it's set in; very Christie-esque.


I rated it slightly lower than I usually would for such an outstanding mystery because the pacing was a bit slow; I never got bored or distracted, but neither did I feel antagonistic about being interrupted.  I might, upon further consideration, up it to 4.5, but for now it's a very, very solid 4 stars.






Total pages: 349  (qualifies for x3 location multiplier)

$$: $12.00

Body in the Bayou (Cajun Country Mystery, #2)

Body on the Bayou - Ellen Byron

The writing could be a little bit tighter, but as it is, this was a good cozy mystery that kept me reading pretty much non-stop.


The start was a little slow, and the writer forced the reader to endure a romantic conflict a la tortured silence that I could have done without and she drove me crazy with all the silly euphemisms for swearing, but the ending had me reaching for the kleenex.  That last page bumped my rating up to the full 4 stars both because it was touching and unexpected without being at all overplayed.  


The mystery plotting was well done; I was inclined at first to criticise the author for taking the route of fingering the least involved character, but thinking about it, the clues were there and I just didn't put them together.  My bad, not hers.


A fun cozy with a heart warming sweet side, a little zaniness, and a pretty good murder mystery.



Total pages:  310

$$: $6.00   

(Lots of crying on the pages; a little teariness off the pages.)

Free Friday Read #6

Take the Cannoli: Stories From the New World - Sarah Vowell

Given the way my rolls went last night (3 books!), they might represent my final moves of the game, although I'm going to power through and squeeze as much as I can in before the 31st.  So I'm going ahead with a Free Friday read too.  It's a shorter one and promises to be fun.

Booklikes-opoly: Turn 41 (July 27)

I can't seem to escape my pattern of finishing a book and being ready to roll again just as I'm off to bed, so once again, here are my rolls from last night:



My first thought here was UGH!  It was also my second and third thoughts too.  I finally found Body on the Bayou by Ellen Byron  and chose it out of desperation; there wasn't any water on the cover but the title has a 'bayou' in it and there's a wedding in the plot - surely someone is going to cry??


I started reading last night and sure enough by page 7 the bride to be has "burst into hysterical sobs".  MT thought I'd gone round the bend when I suddenly shouted "YES! WE HAVE TEARS!!!".  


Rolling again for my doubles:


This one was easy - I went with A Most Novel Revenge by Ashley Weaver, a "Christie-esque 1930's romp'.   This is, by the way, the first square I've landed on that qualifies for the "3rd Visit Multiplier*", so this one will be worth $12.00.  Woot!


I purely hate getting double doubles.  It would be just my luck to land in jail at the very end of the game.  But rolling again: 



Much better than jail, but sill - not a carnival fan, so I went with the title beginning with a letter found in PIXAR and chose Assault and Beret by Jenn McKinlay, the last book in this series, so I can finally get it read and off the shelf and off my active series list.


Body on the Bayou - Ellen Byron  A Most Novel Revenge - Ashley Weaver  Assault and Beret - Jenn McKinlay  



*Third finish:

0 to 100 pages: $4.00
101 to 200 pages: $8.00
201 to 400 pages: $12.00
401 to 800 pages: $20.00
over 801 pages: $40.00

Fatal Forgeries (Bodies of Art Mystery, #4)

Fatal Forgeries - Ritter Ames

First of all, these books definitely do not work as stand-alones.  It's been awhile since I read the last book in this series and I was really floundering as I struggled to remember characters and previously revealed plot twists that are all part of the series arc plot line.


The story is pure adventure from first page to just about the last and the number of characters involved, the different sides playing off each other, and all the bad-guy-or-good-guy stuff, along with writing that can sometimes be a tad confusing, makes this a book you have to be invested in to enjoy.


But it is fun.  Sometimes it's over-the-top, and the battle of the sexes angle is tiresome, although thankfully not overdone, but mostly it's just a fun action/adventure mystery revolving around art and forgeries and thieves and international intrigue.  A great type of book when you're looking for a quick light read.






Total pages:  246

$$: $6.00


(Story involved travel between France, UK and Spain, and the character lived out of her luggage, which was frequently stolen.)

Breach of Crust (Charmed Pie Shop, #5)

Breach of Crust  - Ellery Adams

Boy has this series gotten 'out there'.  It's almost more fantasy than cozy mystery.


I liked the characters and setting as much as ever, but the plot of this one was just too much for me.  The murder mystery was well plotted, but the whole climax at the end was just too melodramatic and over-the-top; if it had been written to be an urban fantasy, it would have worked much better; as a cozy, it just comes across too cute to take seriously.


I loved the very end though; it was believably sweet.






Pages read:  278

$$: $6.00


(Book's characters have a direct connection to Camelot)

Booklikes-opoly: Turn 40 (July 24)


A new one for me and I'm going for a cozy that's total fantasy: Breach of Crust by Ellery Adams, about a woman with magic that's expressed in the pastry she bakes.  Cliche'd I know, but there's this whole hidden grotto, a fairy-tale magical tree, and definite Camelot allusions, so i'm going with it.


Because I rolled doubles, my next roll:


Another new one for me - amazing how many new ones there still are even after 3.5 months of play.  I thought I was really going to struggle with this one after searching all my paperbacks for a suitcase, but I found Fatal Forgeries by Ritter Ames tucked into a pile under the hardcovers and the MC and her partner are forced to go on the run across Europe.  I know she's based in NYC, so I'm going with this one.


Fatal Forgeries - Ritter Ames  Breach of Crust  - Ellery Adams  

Please, Mr. Einstein

Please Mr. Einstein - Jean-Claude Carrière

I feel like I hit the book lottery.  I hate hyperbole, and perhaps after the book hangover has faded I'll find myself backtracking or offering qualifications, but as of right now, this last minute impulse buy, at a used book sale for $1, might be the best book I've ever read.  




I didn't think so when I started it, because the back-cover had me expecting an historical fiction; a what-if look back. I was not pleased to start that first chapter and find myself confronted with a speculative fantasy told in first person omnipresent POV.  I found the narrative voice a bit condescending and supercilious and I didn't see how this was possibly going to be anything other than a pretentious attempt at literary fiction.


Thankfully that only lasted for 4 pages or so, before it became obvious what the author was setting up, and I suddenly found myself totally hooked.


Imagine the chance to step outside of time and place to have to opportunity to speak with one person in history; not only about themselves and their work, but about their entire field as it spans time and events; to be able to learn and explore ideas with a hero of the discipline, someone who changed the world.


This is the setup for the book.  A nameless young woman 'finds' Einstein in a place that transcends time and she is gained admittance to his study for an 'interview'.  What follows is a conversation to which we are invisible observers.  This conversation spans all of Einstein's theories, what his work started; its repercussions; the emotional fall-out and the consequences of his overnight celebrity and the cost of his Jewish background.


What can I say?  It's beautiful, this odd what-if of a book.  The science isn't for those disinterested in physics but it isn't incomprehensible either.  The personal element is ... the author made you feel like you were there and made you feel Einstein's wonder, amazement, melancholy, regret, betrayal and pensiveness; the 'doors' were an incredibly vivid way to bring the times and events to life, and a drop-in visit by Newton was both funny and heart-wrenching.


I loved this book, I loved it so much.  It's so good I'm overlooking the times the author tried to argue against concepts by using the very same assumptions that he claims makes those concepts false.  Everything else was so overwhelmingly good that the fallacy isn't worth a 1/2 star demerit.  I closed the book wanting to hug it.


It's obviously a work of fiction but only in its construct; 85% of this book is factual representation of Einstein's and his contemporaries' theories, so if you're partial to science, philosophy, and think Einstein is a legend, definitely check this book out.  I honestly just wanted to stay in that room with him forever.


(This is a English translation of the book Einstein, s'il vous plait.)






Pages:  185

$$:  $6.00  (location multiplier)

Science Buddy Read Book Club: Vote for the name!

 I have NO idea at all if this is going to work - but here goes...


If it doesn't I'll redo it as a link somewhere else.  Please note it might work from the blog page but not the dashboard.  UPDATE:  Definitely does NOT work from the dashboard.  If you view it from my blog page, it works great!  Also, voting doesn't start until Sundaythe 23th of July (Australia time) and will run through 7 August.  


If you've joined the group, or would like to join the group, please vote for your favourite name from the 3 below (which are the three that seemed to draw the most interest in our discussion group).


Results should show up as votes are made.  We'll see.  ;-)



Favorite name for the group?
Science for Poets
The Flat Book Society
Scintillating Science: Indulging Our Inner Geek

Booklikes-opoly: Turn 39 (July 22)


FINALLY!  I've landed on Electric Company organically, instead of relying on Free Parking each time.  Conversely, because of the Free Parking move earlier this month, the location multiplier is in effect.


The options I have for STEM are many in non-fiction, but as we're gearing up to start our Science Book Club, I'm hesitant to start any of them until our books have been selected.  BUT,  I have Please Mr. Einstein by Jean-Claude Carrière that I bought on a whim at the last church book sale, and nobody's more STEM than Einstein, right?  ;)


Please Mr. Einstein - Jean-Claude CarrièreA young woman enters a building in a nameless contemporary European city. She walks into a waiting room where a dozen people, with briefcases or sheaves of documents, are gathered. She is ushered into a large office where she meets Albert Einstein who is engaged in trying to figure out the equation that explains the universe.


He is charmed by her, and agrees to answer her questions. He seems very used to receiving visitors. Among them, Isaac Newton is certainly the most regular and the most argumentative, desperately trying to prove Einstein wrong.


Einstein and the student start discussing the concepts of time and space. He explains his theories about relativity and his responsibility in the creation of nuclear weapons. Einstein also talks about the difficulty of being famous, about his relationship with other scientists and how his dreams of worldwide peace were shattered. He appears bright, witty, hugely sympathetic but also tormented and dreamy.


This is a remarkable book that makes complex concepts of physics and philosophy accessible to the non-scientific reader in a captivating and utterly charming manner.  

Murder in the Rue Dumas (Verlaque and Bonnet, #2)

Murder in the Rue Dumas - M.L. Longworth

The second in a (so far) 6 book series, this one started off much more slowly for me, as the author takes the time to set the murder scene, introduce the suspects, and hint at motivations before we ever hear from our two MCs.  I recognise the value of this, but I mostly find it tedious.


Once the body drops, the pace starts to pick up, albeit slowly, and Bonnet makes very few appearances until the last half of the book.  From this point on, I once again fell into Aix-en-Provence - and Umbria Italy! - and lost myself in the mystery, the setting and the characters.


The mystery plotting was very good, although I think Longworth could be accused of over-complicating it.  But I totally didn't see that ending coming and when it came it was tense.


Murder in the Rue Dumas wasn't quite as good as the first one, but it was still better than most cozies available now - it's got a much more 'traditional mystery' feel and I can't wait for book three to arrive in the post.


This was my Free Friday Read #5 and was 296 pages long. 

Death, Taxes, and a Chocolate Cannoli

Death, Taxes, and a Chocolate Cannoli - Diane Kelly

Not my favourite of the series, but not bad.  It had fewer mini-plots running concurrently, in fact, there was only one, and I missed them.  Kelly is really good at those multiple mini-plots and they keep the story moving and lively.  Without them, this one dragged a bit.


Tara is undercover here, working directly for the mobster's wife in her restaurant and the scenes with the wife were probably the best in the book.  I liked the dynamic between her and Tara.  Unfortunately, the rest of the storyline failed to catch my complete interest.  Tara didn't do much in the way of investigating at all and that's some of my favourite parts of past stories.


It was still a solid read and hopefully in the next book the author will have Tara back to juggling her usual caseload.






Total pages:  325  

$$: $9.00 (location multiplier)



Other-Wordly: Words Both Strange and Lovely from Around the World - Kelsey Garrity-Riley, Yee-Lum Mak

I'm a sucker for words; especially unusual words, or foreign-language words that have no straight translation into English, and the beauty of this book's cover made it impossible to resist it, even though I already have similar books.


Luckily this small but beautifully illustrated collection of words are almost entirely different from those found in the books I already have and the author also included English words that are rarely used or hardly known (Deipnosophist, n, someone skilled in small talk or in conversing around the dining table).


Bonus points to the author and publisher for including not only an index of the words themselves, but an index of the words by language.  Demerit points because once again nobody thought to include a pronunciation guide, and figuring out how to pronounce cwtch (Welsh, n, hug or cuddle; a safe place; the cupboard beneath the stairs) is beyond my meagre abilities to even guess.

Free Friday Read #5

Murder in the Rue Dumas - M.L. Longworth

I've been itching to get back to Aix-en-Provence since reading the first in this series, Death at the Chateau Bremont a couple of weeks ago.  My Free Friday read is the perfect opening.

Booklikes-opoly: Turn 38 (July 20)


I was on this square the last go-around, so the multiplier is in effect.  I'm also sticking with the same series for this one, and reading Death, Taxes, and a Chocolate Cannoli by Diane Kelly, since it's such a perfect fit: someone almost always gets shot and the MC's finesse with firearms is always mentioned.  This gets me caught up with the series too; at least as far as the books I already own - likely there are more out there published and waiting, I've gotten so far behind with this series.



Death, Taxes, and a Chocolate Cannoli - Diane Kelly TRUE CRIME DOESN'T PAY...TAXES.

IRS Special Agent Tara Holloway has risked her life to take down drug cartels and other dangerous tax frauds. But going after the mob is one offer she can't refuse...

He's no Tony Soprano. Still, local crime boss Giustino "Tino" Fabrizio is one shady character that Tara would love to see behind bars. He operates a security business-or so he claims on his tax forms-but his clients don't feel so secure when it's time to pay up. Problem is, no one can get close enough to nail this wiseguy for extortion. No one, that is, except Tara...   
(Page count:  325)