Friday, February 24, 2017

Review: Death by Chocolate Lab

Death by Chocolate Lab Death by Chocolate Lab by Bethany Blake
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I wanted to like this book. I really did. The problem was that hardly anything, from the plot points to the main character, was believable. When I read the majority of the time I am able to suspend disbelief and sink into the story. That was not the case here. I was constantly jerked out of the story by the thought “that doesn’t make any sense” which means I wasn’t able to enjoy this read at all.
The story is about a pet sitter named Daphne, who sets out to solve the murder of a local dog trainer when her sister is implicated in the murder. She has two adorable sidekicks, a basset hound and a Chihuahua whose antics make for some adorable moments. And of course there is the essential tall, dark and handsome detective with a past that hides some secrets. Sound a bit cliché to you? It did to me too.

*Mild spoilers ahead*

What I didn’t like about this book was that I just didn’t believe in Daphne as a character. For one thing I own a pet sitting business and she is a horrible example of the profession. She doesn’t keep a calendar, doesn’t advertise at all, doesn’t seem to have a website, and her cell phone doesn’t work, so how would clients even contact her? This drove me nuts throughout the entire book. She has a PhD in philosophy so she must have had the drive and intelligence to get that accomplished and yet she can’t manage to figure out the basics of running a business? Unlikely.

One of the key plot points that the author uses to move the plot along was that Daphne was extremely worried about a missing chocolate lab named Axis. So much so that she is willing to break into the dead mans house to look for him. The only problem is that Daphne only seems to care when its convenient to move the plot along. She doesn’t put up flyers or ask anyone who may have seen the dog. She doesn’t even search the property for him. Which make no sense for someone who is supposedly concerned.

The other main thing I took issue with was the detective himself. He is an ex-navy seal, good looking and intelligent. Yet he misses several clues which allow our leading lady to find them. He is observant when the plot calls for it but completely misses things when it doesn’t. He also allows Daphne to remove a piece of evidence from the victims house without stopping her. Again – unlikely.

While there were quite a few plot issues the writing itself wasn’t bad and the author shows promise. I think that in future books Daphne would make a much better fresh pet food maker than a pet sitter, especially since the author included recipes. I might consider checking out book two to see if the story gets any better.

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Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Review of Dead in the Water by Annelise Ryan

Dead in the Water is the 8th book in the Mattie Winston Mystery series and it was a delightfully engaging and funny read. This story delves further into the background story between Mattie’s mother and father and offers a bit more insight into how she grew up and why. Though the beginning is a little slow, due to an overabundance of background information that long time readers of the series will find tedious, it picked up a couple of chapters in and kept up the pace until the last page.

This installment in the series finds Mattie living with Hurley and his daughter Emily, as well as their son Matthew. This portion of the book was a welcome surprise. Many of the previous books have had a lot of emotional issues between these characters but they seem to have settled into a wonderful family unit. Emily’s character has clearly grown and matured and it was nice to avoid the teenage angst I feared might be coming. Matthew, who is around 2 in this story, was hilarious and very well written. I enjoyed his antics and the way he keeps his parents on their toes.

The mystery in this story felt a little overly complicated and too far reaching but I appreciate the fact that it can easily Segway into future books. The mystery kept me guessing for most of the book until some of the larger clues became apparent. Though I was left without a full resolution to the questions raised in the book it does leave me excited for the next book, as I’m sure the author intended!

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Review: The Art of Vanishing by Cynthia Kuhn

The Art of Vanishing was an enjoyable, easy read that had me chuckling at parts and surprised me at others. Although no one dies in this cozy mystery there are still plenty of mysterious happenings and a culprit to sniff out to keep the reader engaged in the story. This book was the second book in the series but it could be read without having read the first.

I did truly enjoy the story but there were a couple things that bothered me. I felt like Lila doesn’t really do all the much to solve the crimes. Most of the stuff that happens in the story happens around or to Lila rather than her actually doing anything about it. I really like Lila as a character, I just wanted her to have a more take charge attitude about everything. She had some moments of actions, but each of them seemed to be reactions to her surroundings or what others had said or done. I hope that in future books she takes charge of the story a bit more.

Overall I give the book 4 out of 5 stars. Even without an actual murder it was a great read. I am looking forward to reading more stories from the author.

*I received a copy from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review*

Monday, February 13, 2017

Review of Ensnared by Rita Stradling

I love the idea of this book far more than the execution. While it was well written and had an interesting premise, it lacked in several other areas to much to overlook. The basic story is a retelling of Beauty and the Beauty with a futuristic, sort of I-robot, vibe to it. I enjoyed the main story points and the romance. The romance in this version is better than most retelling because Lorccan, the “beast”, isn’t actually the captor. This make the relationship more consensual and less creepy. I also like Alainn for the most part however I found that I missed the book loving aspect of Belle though. That is such an integral part of that character in every retelling I have ever read that to leave it out felt wrong somehow.

The problems that I found with the book were issues of pacing, a lack of world building and extraneous characters. The relationship between Lorccan and Alainn was slow and then very suddenly sped up. It felt unnatural between them. They were so hesitant before that the quick build up felt off.

The world in which this story takes place is barely explained at all. It seems to be just the same as the world we live in today. Except there are AI robots that apparently can pass for human in nearly every aspect. In addition Alainn’s dad and brother apparently make these robots in their garage. What kind of world is it where a man can just make a robot with Artificial intelligence in his garage? There really should have been a significant amount of time spent explaining the world and a brief history of how the robots developed would also have been nice.

There were several side stories that could have been entirely left out. The story of Alainn’s job and Greg felt like it was just tossed into the book. It jarred me out of the story and I found it boring so I barely read that section. In addition the story of Alainn’s friend Cara wasn’t necessary either. While it seemed to be used to give reason’s for Alainn’s behavior I felt like it wasn’t needed and she would have behaved the same way without that backstory.

There was a little talk towards the end about ethics and the humanity of the robots but it wasn’t fleshed out much. There is something there that could have brought a lot more depth to the story but was glossed over and too simply and neatly resolved.

This book is an enjoyable enough read and might be right for some people but it wasn’t the story for me. 

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Review of The Fifth Petal by Brunonia Barry

The Fifth Petal, by Brunonia Barry, is a mystery with wisps of magic and witchcraft and a healthy dose of Salem history. While the story focuses in large part on the murder of three girls in the year 1989, and a police detectives quest to finally uncover the truth, it is also a story of the people who were affected by the murders and the ways that the past bleeds into the future.

The characters in this book brought interesting things into the story that helped keep my interest. For example, Callie, who is one of the main characters, is a sound healer and uses singing bowls to treat people. I found this fascinating and felt that the author did a wonderful job describing this. I have no idea how accurate it is to true sound healers but it made for an interesting addition to the story.

Though I truly enjoyed this book there were a couple of faults. The beginning of the story is a bit slow and it took a little while for the story to really grab me. It took me a couple days to make it through part one and only a few hours to finish parts two and three. There were times when I felt like there was too much going on, too many storylines in one section, but it was easy to overlook that.

If you have an interest in witchcraft and the occult, then this would be a good read for you. If you like mystery with only a small bit of romance thrown in this will be a good choice. In addition, it is not necessary to have read the first novel by the author, The Lace Reader, to enjoy this one.

My overall rating for this book is 4 out of 5 stars. One star removed for the slow beginning. 

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Review: Rest in Peach

Rest in Peach Rest in Peach by Susan Furlong
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I really enjoyed this cozy mystery. It had a good mystery and a lot of southern charm. If you enjoy cozy mysteries this is worth the read!

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