Saturday, June 29, 2013

Chapter and Hearse

Chapter and Hearse (A Booktown Mystery, #4)Chapter and Hearse by Lorna Barrett
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Tricia's sister Angelica has finally published her cookbook, but when her boyfriend Bob Kelly doesn't show up for the book launch party, Tricia offers to go track him down for her. His car is parked nearby, so Tricia walks down the street looking for him in the shops, and just as she approaches the town's history bookstore, she's knocked off her feet by an explosion. Bob is injured, and the store's owner is killed, but strangely enough, Bob is unwilling to speak to anyone about what happened and so becomes the main suspect. Strange incidents keep occurring, and soon it becomes clear that Jim isn't the only target, and Bob isn't the only suspect.

What's most surprising to me about the 4th book in this series is the amount of character development. The third installment in the series has quite a bit, too, and this one builds on that foundation. Tricia's love life is kaput, with Captain Baker backing off to take care of his ailing ex-wife, and newspaperman Russ Smith turning into a stalker. You also get more glimpses into Tricia's family dynamics that have led to her people-pleasing tendencies. Her loneliness really comes through in the tone of this book. I am looking forward to seeing her continue to develop, and I'm hoping Captain Baker's wife goes into remission soon!

For readers' advisors: character and story doorways, no sex or bad language.

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Friday, June 28, 2013

Bookplate Special

Bookplate Special (A Booktown Mystery, #3)Bookplate Special by Lorna Barrett
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

When Tricia Miles, owner of the Haven't Got a Clue mystery bookstore in Stoneham, New Hampshire, finally hits the breaking point and tells her houseguest and former college roommate, Pammy Fredericks to leave, she never imagines she'll find Pammy dead in the dumpster behind her sister's cafe a short time later. Thankfully, this case gets assigned to a handsome deputy, Captain Baker, and not Tricia's nemesis, Sheriff Adams. Nevertheless, Tricia can't resist nosing about, searching for information that might help uncover why Pammy was killed and by whom. Pammy wasn't well-liked, and her death turns out to be quite the complicated puzzle.

There were some surprising twists and turns in this fast-paced cozy mystery. I was able to figure out a couple of them in advance, but I definitely did not guess correctly as to exactly who had done what, to whom, when, and why. This would make an excellent beach read.

For readers' advisors: character and story doorways, no sex or bad language. This is book 3 in the Booktown Mystery series.

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Thursday, June 20, 2013

Gluten for Punishment

Gluten for Punishment (A Baker's Treat Mystery, #1)Gluten for Punishment by Nancy J. Parra
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

2.5 stars for the strange detail issues. For example, in my reality, flour bombs + people coated in wheat flour + open bakery door = no-longer-GF-certified premises, but that didn't happen in this case. She kept serving the food that she'd put out, and it didn't sound like she had to decontaminate the bakery. At the very least, she allowed all the people--including herself--who'd gotten coated in flour to enter and touch things in her store, which astonished me to the degree that I was completely distracted from the point of this early scene.

Somewhere near the beginning of the book, Parra says Toni lived in Chicago for 15 years, but then later on in the book, she says 10 years. Again, the inconsistency yanked me out of the story.

And finally, the scene where Toni is kneading & proofing the dough to work through her anger: I have been gluten-free for about seven or so years now, and I have NEVER kneaded any gluten-free dough. The purpose of kneading is to develop the gluten and evenly distribute yeast gases. Gluten-free dough is usually more like thick cake batter, or at the very least too sticky to do much more than spread or drop into a baking container. Did Parra not consult ANY gluten-free bakers before writing & publishing this book? But then, she includes recipes at the end of her book, which implies that she--or someone she knows--does bake GF foods. Perhaps Parra should have consulted this website (or one of hundreds like it) before writing this scene: (Scroll down to the section on bread baking)

However, I did find someone who created a GF bread dough that does need to be kneaded: Which means it is possible, if not probable, that Toni could have sort of kneaded her bread dough. Probably not long enough to work off her anger, though. And then there is the issue of how long the character "proofs" her dough vs how long GF dough can/should be proofed. But I'm tired of focusing on all the things that annoyed me about the book and pulled me away from the story.

Irritations aside, I enjoyed the basic story of a newly divorced woman who'd inherited her mother's house in her hometown in Kansas and who'd therefore moved back home and opened a gluten-free bakery in the heart of wheat country. A local farmer sabotages her grand opening, and when she later finds him dead in front of her store, she becomes the main suspect in his homicide. When the police seem disinclined to search elsewhere for the culprit, she takes matters into her own hands and agrees to assist her eccentric grandmother by asking around, gathering information to locate the real murderer, despite the increasingly personal threats she receives.

I was correct in my suspicions as to one of the guilty parties, but I didn't solve the whole thing.

For readers' advisors: story and character doorways, no sex, and if there was any swearing, I don't remember it.

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Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Secrets of an Organized Mom: How to Declutter and Streamline Your Home for a Happier Family

Secrets of an Organized Mom: How to Declutter and Streamline Your Home for a Happier FamilySecrets of an Organized Mom: How to Declutter and Streamline Your Home for a Happier Family by Barbara Reich
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Two and a half stars, actually, but I'll round up because not everyone will be as horrified as I was at the instruction to organize your books by size. BLASPHEMY! And also only appropriate for people who own about 2 shelves of books. For the rest of us, that's a truly idiotic thing to do--a complete time waster, both on the "organizing" end as well as on the "finding ever again" side. *shudder* That concept deeply offends my librarian soul.

On the plus side, many of her ideas are pretty practical, particularly her overarching rules of Purge, Design, Organize, Maintain, and nine of her ten "commandments." The exception being #9: "Use one kind of hanger, storage container, etc." That's all well and good if you've got loads of extra cash to spend, but it's definitely not something I'd put right up there as one of the most important rules. And I do not share her love affair with plastic, handy as it is in some cases. I'd much prefer non-toxic alternatives whenever possible. However, she is correct that when purchasing containers, having them all the same (or coordinating) shapes and sizes does usually make the best use of your available space because they fit together well, stack efficiently, and are visually pleasing.

I like that she takes you through each area of the home, as well as seasonal things like holidays, vacations, and even moving. (Her story of losing luggage when her twins were babies cracked me up: the queen of organizing hadn't packed a change of clothes for everyone in the carry-ons? Ha!) I also liked how she advocated labeling things...perhaps to an extreme...because it makes me even more thankful I talked my husband into buying me a label-maker last summer. I love my label-maker!

I didn't find any concepts in this book especially earth-shattering, but they were good reminders of ways to break tasks down and to look at your space with new eyes, and most importantly, to be persistent in getting through your problem areas. Like Commandment #1 says, "Do the thing that is most distasteful to you first." Home office, here I come!

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Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Out of Circulation

Out of Circulation (Cat in the Stacks Mystery, #4)Out of Circulation by Miranda James
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Book #4 in the Cat in the Stacks series is just as delightful as the first three. This time, librarian Charlie Harris is back in the thick of things when he finds his housekeeper trapped in a dark stairwell with the body of the most loathed woman in town. Since her mother is the primary suspect, Chief Deputy Kanesha Berry is taken off the case, and she asks for Charlie's help in proving her mother's innocence. With his enormous Maine Coon cat, Diesel, by his side, Charlie obliges, enlisting the help of his household to ferret out decades-old secrets and grudges.

For readers' advisors: character doorway is primary, story secondary. Once again the pace is relaxed, with the murder occurring relatively late in the story. It's a cozy mystery, so no sex, bad language, or on-screen violence.

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Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Classified as Murder

Classified as Murder (Cat in the Stacks Mystery, #2)Classified as Murder by Miranda James
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

In the second book in the Cat in the Stacks mystery series, librarian Charlie Harris lands in the middle of another murder mystery when he discovers James Delacorte dead at his desk in the middle of his locked home library. Mr. Delacorte had hired Charlie to do a complete inventory of his rare book collection because he suspected one of his relatives had been stealing valuable volumes. Chief Deputy Sheriff Kanesha Berry requests that Charlie complete the inventory as quickly as possible, before anything else goes astray...and while he's at it, to please keep his eyes and ears open and report back his observations to her. This puts Charlie, and his son Sean, who's temporarily moved back in with him and is acting as Charlie's assistant, at the center of the deadly family drama.

What a light, fun read! I did actually guess the murderer fairly early on, but I didn't figure out the mystery of the missing books until the end. For a mystery novel, this was much more a character-driven story about a father and son trying to reconnect after an estrangement that began with the loss of a wife/mother. I really enjoyed that aspect of the book.

For readers' advisors: character doorway, with story as secondary. No sex or onscreen violence. Nor any bad language that I can recall, although occasionally it's implied.

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