Friday, May 31, 2013

Review: Still Life in Brunswick Stew by Larissa Reinhart

 Larissa Reinhart's Still Life in Brunswick Stew came out May 21st from Henery Press.

Take one sassy, southern, persistent heroine add one friend dead of possible poisoning, sprinkle in a bunch of viable suspects, a pickup that won't start consistently, 2 disapproving policemen, and a murderer that's hard to pick out before the end of the book and you have a recipe for a nice humorous, cozy starring CherryTucker.

Cherry Tucker and her friend Eloise are spending the weekend at the
Sidewinder Annual Brunswick Stew Cook-off selling their arts when Eloise suddenly gets sick and dies. Cherry is convinced it is because of all the stew that Eloise consumed. Surely someone must have poisoned her. Then food poisoning breaks out at the festival, and the police dismiss her death as just a bad case of food poisoning.

Cherry can't take that easy dismissal of her friend's death. She starts investigating on her own. The police start getting irritated with this habit of hers, especially her boyfriend Luke and her Uncle Will. Repeatedly she finds herself in more danger than she thinks the situation merits. And of course, the closer she gets to the murderer, the more danger she finds.

I give this book 4 out of 5 stars. It really is a humorous cozy mystery. Cherry is a little off the wall at times in the choices she makes, for example climbing down a rose trellis wearing a dress and flip flops, but she is loyal, sassy and persistent when it counts. Most of the time her train of thought and behavior seem mostly reasonable. And Larissa Reinhart does small towns well.

If you like mysteries with the elements of a cozy, small town south, strong female protagonist and humor, then you will probably like this book.

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book for my unbiased opinion.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Waiting on Wednesday #3 - Babayaga by Toby Barlow

Babayaga: a novel by Toby Barlow is on my To Be Read list and definitely on my Waiting to Read list. How can you not be intrigued by a book that says in it's blurb that it is : "a novel of love, spies, and witches in 1950s Paris—and a cop turned into a flea."

I'm also generally interested in fairy tale and folk tale characters and what authors do with them. So, I find putting Baba Yaga in Paris in the 1950's of particular interest. Somehow I think you can take the girl out of the evil hut, but you can't take the evil hut out of the girl.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Review: The Penguin Pool Murder by Stuart Palmer

Miss Hildegarde Withers is just in time to see a body slide into the penguin pool while on a field trip to the New York Aquarium with her third grade class. She rushes around the corner to the stairway to the behind-the-scenes to see if she can help, but it's too late. Homicide detectives are called, and the place is put on lock down until everyone can be interviewed. Detective Piper arrives; the person who normally takes notes doesn't. Miss Withers volunteers to take notes as he interviews. And so begins her association with the investigation and with Detective Piper.

The Penguin Pool Murder was recently released on May 14th, 2013 by This mystery was originally released in 1931. It is a historical sort of cozy with a setting of a few weeks after the stock market crash. Some of the language is interesting slang from the time period as well. For example, one line refers to derbies as tin hats. And at 185 pages, it is a short mystery.

I gave this book 3 stars. It was good. I liked it, but I wasn't crazy about it. There were repetitions and some slow parts to the investigation as they got different people's views of what happened. It was interesting to read a cozy set in this time period though. Many of the books I've read in this time period are noir instead. And this mystery did have a sort of understated sense of humor to it as well. For example, Piper is having a conversation with his housekeeper when the phone rings and she wonders who that can be. "You'll never know by standing there. Leap thither," he responds.

If you enjoy The Penguin Pool Murder, there is a whole line of Hildegarde Withers mysteries.

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book in exchange for my unbiased opinion.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Free Kindle Copy: "How to Talk to Girls at Parties" by Neil Gaiman

If you're like me and you're looking forward to the Ocean at the End of the Lane  by Neil Gaiman, now is your chance to get a free Kindle copy of the short story "How to Talk to Girls at Parties". Also included is a generous helping of a preview of the novel to come. I don't know how long this is available, but last time I checked, 6/11/13 12:30am. it was still available.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Waiting on Wednesday #2 - The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

This week I am looking forward to getting my hands on The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman.

Booklist gave it a starred review and said some wonderfully intriguing things about it.

In Gaiman’s first novel for adults since Anansi Boys(2005), the never-named fiftyish narrator is back in his childhood homeland, rural Sussex, England, where he’s just delivered the eulogy at a funeral. With “an hour or so to kill” afterward, he drives about—aimlessly, he thinks—until he’s at the crucible of his consciousness: a farmhouse with a duck pond. There, when he was seven, lived the Hempstocks, a crone, a housewife, and an 11-year-old girl, who said they were grandmother, mother, and daughter. Now, he finds the crone and, eventually, the housewife—the same ones, unchanged—while the girl is still gone, just as she was at the end of the childhood adventure he recalls in a reverie that lasts all afternoon. He remembers how he became the vector for a malign force attempting to invade and waste our world. The three Hempstocks are guardians, from time almost immemorial, situated to block such forces and, should that fail, fight them. Gaiman mines mythological typology—the three-fold goddess, the water of life (the pond, actually an ocean)—and his own childhood milieu to build the cosmology and the theater of a story he tells more gracefully than any he’s told since Stardust(1999). And don’t worry about that “for adults” designation: it’s a matter of tone. This lovely yarn is good for anyone who can read it.

I especially like the idea of his exploring the mother, maiden, crone concept as guardians. I've always enjoyed what he's done with mythologies and religions in the past, and I don't expect it to be any different this time. 

What book are you looking forward to reading this week?

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Waiting on Wednesday #1 - The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker

I know it's Thursday, but I didn't decide to participate until today. And even though most people will list a book that's yet to come out, I am listing one that's out that I haven't been able to acquire and read yet.

The  book I am most waiting on reading right now is The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker. Chava - a golem whose maker died at sea on the trip over to the States and Ahmad a jinni who is free, but not entirely so, meet in turn of the century New York City. "Like their immigrant neighbors, the Golem and the Jinni struggle to make their way in this strange new place while masking the supernatural origins that could destroy them," says GoodReads.

Also according to GoodReads, "Marvelous and compulsively readable, The Golem and the Jinni weaves strands of Yiddish and Middle Eastern literature, historical fiction and magical fable into a wondrously inventive and unforgettable tale."

Turn of the century New York City was a fascinating place. Not that I would ever have wanted to be there, but I know one of  my great-grand fathers was there not long after that. All the immigrants settling in to life in the United States would make for confusion, miscommunication, and opportunities for friendship in the shared struggles. Throw in the 
Yiddish and Middle Eastern literature and fable with the history and you get an interesting blend that sounds like a winner to me. I am so looking forward to reading this. It's on my wish list for now. Waiting on the library to get it.

And thanks to Breaking the Spine for hosting Waiting on Wednesday!

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Review: 14 by Peter Clines

I was drawn to 14 by Peter Clines by the blurb. In particular by,   "Because every room in this old Los Angeles brownstone has a mystery or two. Mysteries that stretch back over a hundred years. Some of them are in plain sight. Some are behind locked doors. And all together these mysteries could mean the end of Nate and his friends. 
Or the end of everything"

I was expecting a haunted apartment building. Or possessed tenants.  Or some combination of both. What I got was a lot weirder than that. I can't say too much or else it will give away spoilers. 

Nate and his friends in the building start to explore.  They discover that no two apartments are the same and that each apartment has it's own unique weirdness. Their impromptu Scooby gang continues to explore looking for explanations and finds much, much more than they expected. 

My favorite characters in the book were Nate and Veek. Veek is the one who gets Nate turned onto exploring the weirdness in the building. Until he meets her, he thinks it's just in his apartment. Many of the other characters lack depth, but they aren't playing big parts either, so it feels okay. 

It was hard to suspend my disbelief at some points until I realized which other famous author's universe Clines was playing in. That said, Clines keeps it original. And he keeps it moving for the most part. I read the first 80% of the book very quickly. I actually missed some sleep because I needed to know what happened next. Some of the last part of the book though, where there was the most action, moved the slowest. And there was a plot line near the end that seemed to be tacked on as if the author thought the main problem was solved too easily or quickly and needed one more complication.

Still, overall it's a good book. I enjoyed reading it. I could easily see it as a movie. I gave it 4 out of 5 stars. I think you would like it if you like urban fantasy type horror. It is not a paranormal. 

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book in exchange for my unbiased opinion.