Yet Another November Review!

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Amber Here!

Happy Almost Thanksgiving!? Is that a thing?

(And btw how is it Thanksgiving time already? Next thing you know it will be Christmas! I swear someone pushed the fast forward button on the calendar.)

Well to celebrate this tangential holiday I give you a beer…..mystery review!

Hope you guys enjoy reading reading it, and don’t forget to check out this week’s installment in Finder Of Lost Things! This week Morticia (aka Phoebe) meets the Lavender Lady!

Oh and if you like listening to podcasts and drinking beer check out the Pico Dudes! A couple of home brewers who brew & then review their beers (with hilarious results).

Ellie Alexander – Death On Tap

When I was a kid, my family would head over to my grandparent’s house for burgers and fries every Saturday night. And every Saturday night unlabeled, blue capped, brown bottles of beer would be ingested by my grandfather and any other adult who wanted one. I thought the no label thing was weird, but since I wasn’t allowed to drink it, the question didn’t bother me often. Eventually, I did ask why my grandfather why his bottles didn’t look like the ones I saw in the store. That’s when he took me downstairs into the basement and showed me his homebrew & bottling set up.

Trying to instill the passion for homebrewing into me early, we brewed several batches of root beer together. Unfortunately for my grandfather, I was (and am) a cream soda & sarsaparilla girl and my attention soon wandered onto other unsolved mysteries in my universe.

I’d completely forgotten about this early episode of my life until I read Ellie Alexander’s Death On Tap! Then it all came flooding back to me, the light turquoise wall, buckets, tubes, yeasty smell and stacks of brown bottles in the corner of the laundry room. So I must thank the author for helping me recall good times with my grandparent!

Now, why did this mystery remind me of my grandfather’s beer (which FYI I never got a taste of, because he stopped brewing by the time I was old enough to drink)?

The clue is in the title of the book.

This cozy mystery is set around the word of brewing, both macro & microbreweries, hops, and beer. Which really works, since the book is set in Leavenworth, Washington where Octoberfest is bigger than Christmas (but not by much)! So it’s easy to meld the brewing theme in without distracting the reader from the mystery, which is the most important part.

Now here’s the thing, it doesn’t matter if you’re into beer or not (I’m a vodka & juice box girl myself) because Alexander gets just technical enough to keep a brew enthusiast interested while not boring the pants off non-brewer cozy aficionados. Plus after reading so many cozies themed with – books, baking and candlestick making (okay I made up that last one – I liked the rhythm of it), it’s nice to read a mystery which deals with a different kind of craft!

I also appreciate the deftness which Death On Tap deals with a cheating husband (and the complications which arise from said deed), motherhood (and trying to stay adult about the aforementioned zipper challenged spouse with your kid), a new job (because working at the family business, even if you love his parents to pieces, is out of the question since the ex and his partner The Beer Wench both work there) and solving a mystery (aka clearing your ex-husband’s name, despite what he did)!

Plus I was pleasantly surprised with the complex layering of mysteries which Alexander was able to achieve in just one book – while still hoodwinking the reader and having them make complete sense in the end!

Death On Tap is a well written themed mystery which I would recommend to anyone looking to read a mystery on the lighter side to escape (for even a moment) from these uncertain times. The characters are well rounded, the plot’s engrossing and the beer isn’t overwhelming. In fact, after I finished the first book, I went immediately out and purchased the second installment, The Pint of No Return.

That’s how much I enjoyed it.

Stan Lee ~ thanks and rest in peace!

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That cover is from 1941. It was Stan Lee’s first job in comics, writing an issue of “Captain America”.

Sometime in the mid-60s, I discovered Spiderman and the Fantastic Four and Captain America and began collecting the back issues. I subscribed to them as well and each month they arrived in the mailbox. It was heaven. I was a member of the Mighty Marvel Fanclub, too. Somewhere around here I have a couple of sheets from a notepad sent to members.

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Excelsior!

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That’s the earliest Spiderman issue that I have that has an intact cover. From there they go up to around #100. The Ditko years were the best.

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That’s the return of Captain America, found frozen in the ocean, revived and back to fight the bad guys – Kirby and Lee!

Lee was the last of those greats. Jack Kirby died in 1994 at the age of 76. Steve Ditko died last Summer, June 29th, at 90.

But we’re left with their creations.

‘Nuff Said ….

~JB

An Additional November Review

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Amber Here!

Seriously this Fall is full of wonderful new releases which cannot wait for our monthly newzine! So here a great historical mystery I couldn’t wait until December to share.

Don’t forget to check out my original mystery blog, Finder of Lost Things

Shelley Noble – Ask Me No Questions

One interesting fact about readers of the nicer (but not cozy) mysteries – they are a bloodthirsty lot. If a body doesn’t drop within the first three chapters of a mystery, they are often disappointed. Many readers confessed to quitting book entirely if the mystery didn’t smack them in the face immediately. Which seems counter-intuitive I know, they want the mystery, just not the blood and gore associated with it.

For those of you who count yourselves amongst this lot, I found a book for you!

Shelly Noble’s Ask Me No Questions, an excellent historical mystery which deposits its first body on page five – right into the lap of a bottled blond chorus girl. Which is extremely embarrassing for his wife, who ends up witnessing the entire tableau, screeching mistress and all, while picking up her old school chum (and our heroine) from the docks (as she’s just arrived from England). From this point onwards the book continues at a brisk pace, making it extremely hard to put down – because you want to know what twist is coming next!

Noble does a wonderful job of making you feel like your in the time and place of Ask Me No Questions, tackling the challenges of the day. Such as staring down the barrel of a police investigation (for the murder of Reggie Reynolds) in 1907 New York. Meaning? Our heroine Lady Philomena must contend with the two opposing faces of the NYPD. The honest cop, who believes in Teddy Roosevelt’s vision of what the police body needs to espouse to serve New York to its fullest potential, whose conducting the investigation. Then there’s the old guard, which Roosevelt only partially excised during his stint as police commissioner, famed for their corruption and thuggish methods – who horn in on the case. This dichotomy provides exciting plot points and heightens the underlying tension to the story. Plus, if your interested in the history of New York, gives you a nice (fictional) first-hand taste of what this situation may have looked like, which I thoroughly enjoyed!

Then there’s our amateur sleuth herself, Lady Philomena Dunbridge (Phil to her friends), whose witty, savvy, sophisticated, clever and rankles under the title of Dowager at the ripe old age of twenty-six. Who absolutely refuses to be pigeonholed, for the rest of her life, by her first (bad) marriage. Also, thru her internal and external dialogues, exposes the reader to the realities of marriage in 1907 for women amongst the upper class – so their families can gain wealth, prestige or a title. Then expectations foisted onto them if they become widows. But never fear, while this theme is present, Noble does a beautiful job of working it seamlessly into the plot! Making it propel the book forward without ever bogging it down!

About the only real criticism, I can level at this Ask Me No Questions is the with Phil’s maid Lily. And not at the girl herself, but at the fact that Phil repeatedly, hammers at the fact that Lily’s past is a complete enigma. She can speak at least three languages, refuses to tell Phil her real name and knows how to pick locks. Yes, these all add up to a mystery, but to bang on about them was unnecessary. I know this sounds nit-picky (because it is, I think I need to eat something) but it is the only flaw I found in the book!

But really, other than a trivial (and superficial flaw) this book was a lovely read, and I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys reading historical mysteries who are looking something a bit different from the English country house mysteries (this one is a New York brownstone mystery). Or looking for something to read between Rhys Bowen’s Royal Spyness series (only set a bit earlier) or Dianne Freeman’s Countess of Harleigh series (just set a bit later). I cannot wait (fingers crossed) for the next book, as I adored Phil and the other cast of characters!

November 2018

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      Word of the Month

infra dig: “beneath one’s dignity, unbecoming to one’s position in society,” 1824, colloquial abbreviation of Latin infra dignitatem “beneath the dignity of.” See infra- + dignity. (thanks to etymonline.com)


Opening this month is Widows, a heist movie. It’s got a stellar cast (Viola Davis, Michelle Rodriguez, Daniel Kaluuya, Carrie Coon, Colin Farrell, Liam Neeson, and Robert Duvall to name a few). It’s directed by Steve McQueen and it is based on a 1985 Lynda LaPlante TV series (“Prime Suspect” was 1991) of the same name. Besides all of this, we mention it because of the co-writer of the screen play with Steve McQueen – Gillian Flynn. Gonna have to see it now!


      Links of Interest

October 2nd: Disney ‘graffiti drone’ tags walls

October 2nd: Bottle of whisky sold for world record

October 2nd: Thieves steal entire vineyard

October 2nd: Like Noir? Like Horror? Have You Met Sandman Slim? (this is an author that Fran and Amber both adore!)

October 4th: George Pelecanos and the Prison Librarian

October 4th: The Last Big Bookstore

October 4th: Cottingley Fairies photographs make £20,000 at auction

October 4th: Fitbit data used to charge US man with murder

October 5th: Girl, 8, pulls a 1,500-year-old sword from a lake

October 5th: Washington Post blanks out missing Saudi writer’s column

October 6th: The Reykjavik Confessions

October 7th: Library hours across England slashed by austerity

October 7th: Jogger in Netherlands finds lion cub

October 8th: Spy agencies are worst at learning from past, say experts

October 10th: Tour de France trophy stolen

October 10th: Mexico’s Morgues Are Overflowing As Its Murder Rate Rises

October 10th: Stephen Carter’s Book Tells How His Grandmother Helped Convict A Mob Boss

October 10th: Growing up in a house full of books is major boost to literacy and numeracy, study finds

October 12th: 5,000 Rare bird eggs found in hoarder’s house

October 12th: How the Secret Service Foiled an Assassination Plot Against Trump by ISIS

October 13th: The Wild History of Poison Rings

October 14th: New Bond 26 Rumor Say Barbara Broccoli And Co. May Have Found New Bond

October 15th: Was Gary Hart Set Up? (the Nixon crew termed it “ratfucking”…)

October 15th: 12 Authors Write about the Libraries They Love

October 16: Missing pianist believed to be buried by wrong family

October 17th: A Former CIA Officer’s Tips for Avoiding Death, Prison, and Hospital While You Travel

October 17th: Columnist and novelist David Ignatius on holding Saudi Arabia accountable

October 18th: The One Writing Skill You Must Master

October 20th: Trust no one: how Le Carré’s Little Drummer Girl predicted our dangerous world

October 20th: Not My Job: Legal Thriller Author John Grisham Gets Quizzed On (Men’s) Briefs

October 22nd: Inside the bookshops and libraries of Scotland

October 23rd: Dutchman’s ‘pure shock’ after winning Cardigan bookshop

October 24th: Why author Judy Blume’s classic novel still inspires fans

October 24th: What’s fact and fiction about working as a British spy?

October 25th: Did one novel written in 1839 inspire a lurid murder and an assassination attempt on Queen Victoria? 

October 25th: Searching For the Truth About the Actual Murderer in The Exorcist

October 29th: Tiny Books Fit in One Hand. Will They Change How We Read?

October 29th: Southampton bookshop enlists human chain to move to new store

October 31st: Halloween Surprise at the Vatican: Bones Discovered in Backyard

October 31st: Edward Gorey was Eerily Precient

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      Signings

November 7th: Suzanne M. Wolfe, 7pm, Third Place Books/Ravenna

November 14th: Warren C. Easley, 7pm, Third Place Books/ LFP

November 16th: Martin Limón, 6pm, Third Place Books/ LFP

November 19th: Joe Ide, 7:30pm, Powells

November 30th: Jonathan Lethem, 1pm, Third Place Books/Ravenna

      Word of the Month – Continued

dignity (n.): Circa 1200, “state of being worthy,” from Old French dignite “dignity, privilege, honor,” from Latin dignitatem (nominative dignitas) “worthiness,” from dignus “worth (n.), worthy, proper, fitting,” from Proto-Indo-European *dek-no-, suffixed form of root *dek- “to take, accept.”

From circa 1300 as “an elevated office, civil or ecclesiastical,” also “honorable place or elevated rank.” From late 14th C. as “gravity of countenance.”

(thanks, again, to etymonline.com)

      R.I.P.

October 3rd: Juan Romero, The busboy who tried to help a wounded Robert F. Kennedy in 1968 dies. His life was haunted by the violence

October 7th: Scott Wilson – In Cold Blood, GI Jane, “Walking Dead” – dies at 76

Oct 27th: Victor Marchetti, disillusioned CIA officer who challenged secrecy rules, dies at 88

October 30th: James “Whitey” Bolger, who hated to be called “Whitey” and was a proven ghoul, was murdered in prison. Whitey was the Irish crime lord of Boston and had, in return for ratting out other criminals,  Whitey suborned FBI agents into telling him who his enemies were. If you’re interested in the whole, lurid story, JB recommends T.J. English’s Where the Bodies Were Buried. And, of course, there was Johnny Depp’s portrayal of Whitey in Black Mass, supported by a stellar cast.

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If you were a fan of the Netflix series, “The Keepers”, the story is being continued in a podcast called “Out of the Shadows”. On of the main women “investigators” of the TV series is part of the duo doing the podcast. There are seven episodes so far and there’s much new info, and it is still all heartbreaking and infuriating. JB recommends.

      Word of the Month – Lastly

imprecation (n.): Mid-15c., “a curse, cursing,” from Latin imprecationem (nominative imprecatio) “an invoking of evil,” noun of action from past participle stem of imprecari “invoke, pray, call down upon,” from assimilated form of in- “into, in, within” (from Proto-Indo-European root *en “in”) + precari “to pray, ask, beg, request” (from PIE root *prek- “to ask, entreat”). “Current limited sense is characteristic of human nature” [Weekley]. (thanks to etymonline.com)

       What We’ve Been Doing

    Amber

Don’t forget to check out my original mystery! Finder Of Lost Things

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Francis Duncan – In At The Death

Chief Inspector Jonathan Boyce of Scotland Yard has given Mordecai Tremaine his heart’s desire – Mordecai will shadow his friend on his next murder investigation (with the strict understanding that Mordecai is to stay under the radar). While Mordecai may be an amateur, our favorite retired tobacconist has proven his skill to the Inspector and his boss.

So when the phone rings summoning Inspector Boyce to Bridgton, to discover who murdered a local doctor, he makes sure his murder bag is packed, and Mordecai is seated next to him.

Thrilled that he’s no longer an outsider in the investigation, Mordecai throws his not inconsiderable knowledge of human nature into discovering the secrets of the Doctor’s life which lead to his death. Starting with why the good doctor was carrying a gun in his Gladstone bag the night of his death…

Do you enjoy reading classic mysteries? Do you enjoy reading from an amateur detectives point of view? Did you enjoy reading Miss Marple?

Then I think you’d enjoy reading the Mordecai Tremaine mysteries (in many ways he’s Miss Marple’s male counterpart)!

He is a man of a certain age, retired from running his shop, who’s now able to focus on his not so secret passion, murder and the solving of it (Mordecai’s actual secret passion, which isn’t as secret as he’d like, is his weakness for “the heart-stirring fiction” supplied by the magazine Romantic Stories). Something else which I also find endearing about Mordecai is the fact, that while he finds a certain amount of zest from tracking a murder to ground, he never loses sight of the heinous act they’ve committed.

With that said I must encourage you to read this series, starting with A Murder For Christmas (which is set during the Yuletide season, with the trimmings of the season but isn’t a cloyingly saccharine holiday affair, I assure you) thru to this latest installment. Though it isn’t strictly necessary to read them in order, I think in this case you get more out of the books if you do! There’s one last book releasing in January, and I can’t wait! Seriously I finished In At The Death the same day I bought it – much to the amusement of my husband – who suggested I not to inhale it in one sitting. Silly husband.

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Barbara Cleverly – Fall of Angels

Detective Inspector John Redfyre is a rare creature – he’s the fourth (and therefore penniless) son of an aristocratic family, with a good university education and a clear sense of service. What makes him rare jewel in the eyes of his superiors? He’s a Detective Inspector who can rub shoulders with the Cambridge’s elite or pub thugs with equal ease.

This ability to skate between worlds comes in handy when Redfyre literally has front row seats to an attempted murder on the University campus! A female musician is pushed down the stairs following her performance (which was very controversial since it’s 1923 and she’s playing the trumpet – an instrument deemed only fit for male musicians) and lands pretty much in his lap (Redfyre’s Aunt had given him tickets to the performance). This piece of skullduggery is quickly followed by an actual murder which unexpectedly dovetails with the previous evening’s sabotage, much to Redfyre’s surprise.

With no shortage of suspects, it’s up to Detective Inspector Redfyre to suss out the motive behind these callous crimes before the murderer strikes again!

So, on the whole, I really enjoyed this book, I’d give it four out of five stars. The murder mystery, the Detective Inspector and the characters were all lovely and well constructed. In fact, the last two-thirds of the book was an excellent read…The problem with this book is the central red herring, which is a hair overcomplicated (or overexplained – I can’t decide – because Cleverly gave voice to simply everyone’s views at some point), which muddies up the narrative until the Detective Inspector unravels it.

That being said this mystery is well worth your time (because while the first bit might have been overly done – I never once entertained the thought of putting it down!). The mystery itself is well thought out, well executed and has a climatic conclusion.

FYI – don’t let the cover fool you, the crimes happen to occur during Christmas time, but this book is not a holiday-themed mystery. There is no syrupy sweetness to be found anywhere between the covers, I promise!

I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys historical mysteries sprinkled with strong (opinionated) characters!

    Fran

“You find that kernel of madness at an early age, and if you’re lucky you start building up a 9780525522478callus around it, a tough layer of humanity that holds it at bay, because it’s just too dangerous to allow to escape. Your family can’t ever see it, your friends can’t ever see it, no one must ever see it – but it’s there, waiting to burn the protective covering away that has taken a lifetime to build and burst open like a volcanic canker of maniacal emotion.”

JB wrote up Craig Johnson’s latest Longmire novel, Depth of Winter, last month but of course I have to add my two cents. Depth of Winter may go down as one of Craig Johnson’s best.

It wasn’t an easy read for me, but it was brilliant. Oh sure, it had the trademark Walt observations and humor, and it’s a page-turner extraordinaire, but it’s also bleak and grim and violent and sad. You see, Cady’s been kidnapped by Bidarte and has been taken into the wilds of Mexico. It’s a trap – you know it, we know it, Walt knows it, hell, the federal government knows it – but that doesn’t matter. Cady’s down there, so Walt is going after her.

Part of what’s unsettling about Depth of Winter is that we don’t have our usual complement of characters backing Walt up. No Vic, no Lucian, no Henry. It’s weird and feels wrong somehow. And yet…if they were there, we might not meet the fantastic people Walt gets to know: the Seer, Alonzo, Bianca, Buck Guzman, Isidro. I’ve gotta say, I smiled at the idea of Henry and Isidro teaming up. They’d be damned near unstoppable.

But Depth of Winter is a defining book for Walt Longmire, and I can’t see how things are going to play out once he’s back home. It’ll be interesting and of course I can’t wait, but something changed with the telling of this tale, and I’m not sure how the pieces will come back together again, what picture will emerge.

And I can’t wait!

9780451458506Anne Bishop wrote a trilogy (that has stayed a trilogy, oddly enough) called “The World of the Fae” or the “Tir Alainn” series – The Pillars of the World, Shadows and Light, and The House of Gaian.

Okay, this is straight-up fantasy, nothing urban about it. It has nothing Earth-based except concepts, but those very concepts are what made me write this. They’re oh so relevant today, even though she wrote the series back at the turn of the century (and let me tell you, typing that was fun!).  

I don’t want to get into too much detail, mainly because there’s SO MUCH in it, but the basic gist is that the human world is linked to Tir Alainn, the Fae world, but those links are vanishing, and no one knows what happens to the Fae when the links are broken. But the links seem to be tied in some way to witches, who tend to keep low profiles because they’re often misunderstood. And it’s just their way.

And there’s the Witch’s Hammer, a man who devoutly believes all witches must die, although he does consider himself to be a humane man, and leaves time for repentance. 
The characters are myriad and well defined, obviously, because that’s one of my major criterion, as you know, and because Anne Bishop is incredibly talented. But the sense of impending doom, the incredible time crunch, and the beautiful interactions make this trilogy fantastic. I do think the ending was a bit rushed, and I think she still could expand on this world, but even if she never does, this is a series well worth reading!

    JB

New Reacher: Past Tense9780399593512

Author: Lee Child

Plot: Reacher hitchhikes into town. Something hinky is going on. Everyone underestimates Reacher. Bad guys want Reacher to go away. He Doesn’t. Reacher defeats bad guys.

Great fun. Can’t stop reading. Gotta get to the end. Please leave me alone. Do I have to go to work?

Reacher leaves town.

Sound familiar?

 




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Another October Review!

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Amber Here!

Yup you guessed it another book review! There is so much good stuff coming out this fall I can’t contain my reviews to just once a month. 

Don’t forget about my other penny dreadful mystery blog – Finder of Lost Things! Phoebe gets her second ever job and an invitation!

Edgar Cantero – This Body’s Not Big Enough For Both Of Us

How long does it take to learn Spanish? Seriously. A couple of years?

Why am I keen on learning a second language? I need to become absolutely fluent because if Cantero’s Spanish language books are half as zany, unconventional, inexplicable and hilarious as their English counterparts I need to have the language down pat.

If you can’t tell I am a huge fan of this man’s writing.

One reason? He takes traditional mystery tropes and turns them on their heads. Meddling Kids (his second English Language book) takes a group of young sleuths (who bear a striking resemblance to the Scooby Doo gang) and tells the story of what happens to them after their last extraordinary and unsettling case.

In This Body’s Not Big Enough For The Both Of Us, he takes a multitude of noir & mystery themes and adds his unique twist to them. Like our detective – A.Z. Kimrean – a brother & sister, twins, who didn’t completely split from each other in the womb – so they occupy the same body and have very different thoughts on how to execute their cases.

And let me tell you their very divergent styles make this book move at lightning speed! This adventure finds them called in by the L.A.P.D to help investigate the murder of a crime boss’s son, stop a gangland war and safely extract an undercover detective while dodging thugs, a ninja, and requests by femme fatals…

Now here’s one thing you need to know when you start the book – I think Cantero took Elmore Leonard’s Rules for Writers as a challenge and set out to break every one of them while writing the prologue(he also left Raymond Chandler’s set in tatters as well).

This piece of trivia is important to know, so you can fully appreciate it (looking up Leonard’s ten rules of writing also helps).

Don’t make my mistake! I didn’t bother reading the flyleaves, I just read the author’s name and thrust my money into the cashier’s hand and ran out of the store to start the book. Which left me a bit confused while reading the opening – so I’m trying to help you all out! (The rest of the book follows a much more sequential order to events, so don’t worry.)

This above is not a criticism of the book – it’s just a helpful hint.

This book is well written and surprisingly dense given the irreverent nature of it and stands up to multiple rereadings. Because there is so much going on and so many layers written into the story you get something new out of the mystery each time. I absolutely loved this book, and if you enjoy a twisted sense of humor and the warping classic mystery motifs, you’ll love this book. (BTW there isn’t any magic, fantasy or alternate realities at play here – A. Z. Kimrean’s condition is based in science, not science fiction – I promise)