Archive | November 2017

Review: Mr. Owliver’s Magic at the Museum, written and illustrated by Carolyn Bracken. Schiffer Publishing Ltd.

Book Description (from NetGalley)

 

Mr. Owliver loves his job as nightwatchman for the Animaltown Art Museum, partly because he’s an owl and is up at night anyway, but mostly because he’s proud to protect such beautiful works of art. His friends think he must be lonely, but he has the company of the all subjects in the paintings. One in particular, the lovely Ms. Wren in Auguste Wrenoir’s The Loge, is his favorite. One night on his birthday he has a feeling things aren’t as they should be. That’s when he makes a startling discovery that begins a night full of surprises. This is definitely a birthday Mr. Owliver will never forget! This book is designed to introduce children to some famous masterpieces while entertaining the adult reader with visual puns.

 

 

 

My Review:

 

This is an utterly captivating book. The art is clever and amusing, the story is charming. This would be a marvelous way to introduce young children to the world of fine art. It would also be a great birthday book, as Mr. Owliver does have a most entertaining birthday party.

 

I do wish that images of the original versions of these art works might be included in the informative appendix that provides information about the art works and where the originals are to be found. Perhaps it was too challenging to get approval to show these images? But this book offers a great opportunity to provide children with some quality education in an appealing way. What a great gift!

 

My thanks to author, publisher and NetGalley for providing an advance copy to read and review.

Review: Accessories to Die For (A Mystery), by Paula Paul. Random House Publishing Group – Alibi.

Book Description (From NetGalley)

 

Good old-fashioned murder lurks behind the Old World charm of Santa Fe, New Mexico. And nobody knows that better than former attorney turned consignment-shop owner—and part-time amateur sleuth—Irene Seligman.

When New York assistant DA Irene Seligman moved home to take care of her demanding mother, Adelle, she thought she was leaving a world of corruption and violence behind. But after opening her store, Irene’s Closet, and getting reacquainted with the locals, she learns that something’s rotten in sunny Santa Fe. Even upstanding citizens like her friend Juanita Calabaza, a Native American artisan, can’t seem to escape the decidedly unfashionable surge in crime.

Juanita’s handcrafted jewelry has been known to catch the eye of many a tourist on the plaza in Santa Fe’s historic district. But lately she’s been attracting the wrong kind of attention . . . from the police. With her son missing after falling in with a bad crowd, Juanita foretells the death of one of his associates—which comes back to haunt her when the scumbag actually turns up dead. Now Juanita’s trading in her turquoise beads for an orange jumpsuit, and Irene will need to call upon all her old investigative skills to clear Juanita’s name—before her friend pays the ultimate price.

 

My Review:

 

This is actually my second review of a Paula Paul Irene Seligman mystery. I reviewed the first book in this series, A Killer Closet, which introduced Irene and described her move from Manhattan Assistant DA to Santa Fe, New Mexico seller of gently used haute couture.

 

I was impressed with that debut book, and I am delighted to see that Irene’s adventures are continuing. I found myself surprised by the book–from the title, I expected an entertaining, witty mystery filled with fashionistas. But this book rises far above that. It is filled with the world of the Native Americans of the Santa Fe area, and their long history and significant culture. Ms. Paul wastes no time setting the stage for this episode, and we are swept along through an adeptly related saga. I found this book absorbing and thoroughly entertaining. I look forward to reading more in this series.

Review: The Corpse in the Snowman (A Nigel Strangeways Mystery) by Nicholas Blake. Ipso Books. Kindle Edition.

Book Description (from Amazon.com)

 

In middle of a cold snap, with snow swirling round the imposing Easterham Manor, Nigel and Georgia Strangeways enter the warmth of the Victorian estate. But upon their arrival, the couple quickly learn that all is not as cozy as it seems. The whole house is pervaded by a sense of foreboding: a room is haunted, the cat is possessed, and the specter of the enigmatic Elizabeth Restorick looms.

Confounded by the guests’ strange reactions to the very mention of Elizabeth’s name, Nigel never gets the chance to form his own opinion of the young woman. The next morning, Elizabeth Restorick is found hanged and naked in her room, a hint of a smile playing on her painted lips.

Could her apparent suicide be more than just that? Would this beautiful girl, sensuous, compassionate, full of vitality, have taken her own life? Or did someone take it from her?

With too many loose ends to count, planted evidence, and motives mounting, Nigel must delve into Miss Restorick’s colourful past to solve this tragic mystery.

 

About the Author (from book introduction)

 

Nicholas Blake was the pseudonym of Poet Laureate Cecil Day-Lewis, who was born in County Laois, Ireland, in 1904 and raised in London after his mother’s death in 1906. He was educated at Sherborne School and Wadham College, Oxford, from which he graduated in 1927. Blake initially worked as a teacher to supplement his income from his poetry writing and he published his first Nigel Strangeways novel, A Question of Proof, in 1935. Blake went on to write a further nineteen crime novels, all but four of which featured Nigel Strangeways, as well as numerous poetry collections and translations.

 

During the Second World War he worked as a publications editor in the Ministry of Information, which he used as the basis for the Ministry of Morale in Minute for Murder, and after the war he joined the publishers Chatto & Windus as an editor and director. He was appointed Poet Laureate in 1968 and died in 1972 at the home of his friend, the writer Kingsley Amis.

 

My review:

 

Well, I must say I was surprised by several elements of this book. For one thing, although set in England in 1941, the World War raging at that time warrants only the occasional passing mention. The people in this story seem little affected by the war’s events. The second thing I found intriguing was the prominence of a drug culture in that day and place, as marijuana use figures prominently in the plot.

 

Oh, there’s actually one more thing. The title is by way of a spoiler of sorts.

We do indeed meet the corpse in the snowman early on, but it takes the rest of the book to offer an explanation for this gruesome discovery.

 

It is frequently the case, especially in the “golden age” books, to offer alternate theories and comment on each of them at some length before finally getting to the solution. This device is, I expect, to allow the reader to attempt to arrive at a solution before the author gets around to providing one–perhaps it gives them a chance to exercise their “little grey cells.” But this is a process that I do not enjoy, and in this book I felt there was rather too much of this if … then exploration.

 

Still in all, there is much to like about this book and I found it an enjoyable read. It is inventive, the characters are well-drawn, and the story is masterfully told.

 

My thanks to Crime Classics Advance Readers Club for providing a copy to read and review.

Review: Much Ado About Murder: A Shakespeare in the Catskills Mystery, by Elizabeth J. Duncan. Crooked Lane Books.

Description (from NetGalley)

 

The show ruthlessly goes on as costume designer-turned-amateur sleuth Charlotte Fairfax investigates the death of a disagreeable director in award-winning author Elizabeth J. Duncan’s third Shakespeare in the Catskills mystery. Costume designer Charlotte Fairfax has another murder on her hands as she prepares for the latest performance of the Catskills Shakespeare Theater Company, Much Ado About Nothing. The company’s steady growth enables them to cast star British actress Audrey Ashley, who arrives on scene to play the lead role of Beatrice. But things immediately get more complicated when Audrey insists the company replace the current director with new, up and coming British director Edmund Albright. Edmund plans to change the popular romantic comedy, which alienates several people associated with the production. And the list of people he upsets only grows: the laid off former director, the hotel owner’s secretary, and even Audrey herself. Just as Edmund’s plans are about to come to fruition, his body is discovered on his sofa, holding a gun in his hand. His death is quickly ruled a suicide but Charlotte thinks otherwise. Why would Edmund, on the brink of greatness, kill himself? And in such an American way? With a whole cast of characters to investigate, Charlotte is determined to unmask each one before it’s final curtain call on the whole production in award-winning author Elizabeth J. Duncan’s third Shakespeare in the Catskills mystery, Much Ado About Murder.

 

My Review:

 

I find this is the third book in a series, but this is the first that I have read. The setting is refreshingly different–I’m afraid I knew very little about the Catskills so I have expanded my horizons a little while being entertained. I love the theatrical setting, and also that the characters are a bit more mature. I’m going to have to look at the earlier books in this series!

My thanks to author, publisher, and NetGalley for providing an advance copy to read and review.

 

Review: A Deadly Éclair: A French Bistro Mystery, by Daryl Wood Gerber. Crooked Lane Books

Description (from NetGalley)

It’s always been Mimi Rousseau’s dream to open her own bistro, but it seems beyond her grasp since she’s been chased back home to Nouvelle Vie in Napa Valley by her late husband’s tremendous debt. Until her best friend Jorianne James introduces her to entrepreneur Bryan Baker who invests in promising prospects. Now, working the bistro and inn until she’s able to pay it off and call it her own, Mimi is throwing the inn’s first wedding ever. The wedding will be the talk of the town, as famous talk show host Angelica Edmonton, daughter of Bryan’s half-brother, Edison, has chosen the inn as her perfect venue. Anxious, Mimi is sure things are going to turn south, especially when Edison gets drunk and rowdy at the out-of-towners’ dinner, but by the evening, things begin to look up again. That is until six AM rolls around, and Bryan is found dead at the bistro with an éclair stuffed in his mouth. And the fingers point at Mimi, whose entire loan is forgiven in Bryan’s will. Now it’s up to Mimi to clear her name and get to the bottom of things before the killer turns up the heat again in A Deadly Éclair, the scrumptious series debut by Agatha Award-winning author Daryl Wood Gerber.

 

My Review

We live just south of the Napa Valley, close enough to visit it and savor its beauty. It’s nice to have one of my favorite places become the setting for a tantalizing cozy mystery. There is a fine array of characters and a number of gourmet red herrings to keep us guessing and lots of lovely food to tempt our palates. All in all, this is a delicious tale. For us locals, though, just now the setting is bittersweet, as our treasured Wine Country has been through trying times with a destructive earthquake and, more recently, a truly heartbreaking cluster of deadly wildfires. But we, like our heroine Mimi, are a resilient bunch.

 

My thanks to author, publisher, and NetGalley for providing an advance copy to read and review.

Review: Of Spice and Men: A Pancake House Mystery, by Sarah Fox. Random House Publishing Group – Alibi.

Description (from NetGalley)

Lights. Camera. Murder? Wildwood Cove’s star turn is soured by a sneaky killer in this delicious cozy mystery from the USA Today bestselling author of The Crêpes of Wrath. Bonus content: includes original recipes inspired by the Flip Side Pancake House menu!

With a Hollywood film crew in town to shoot a remake of the horror classic The Perishing, the residents of Wildwood Cove are all abuzz. Even Marley McKinney, owner of The Flip Side Pancake House, can overlook the fact that the lead actress, Alyssa Jayde, happens to be an old flame of her boyfriend. After all, the crew loves Marley’s crêpes—so much so that Christine, the head makeup artist, invites her onset for a behind-the-scenes tour. But when Marley arrives, the special-effects trailer is on fire . . . with Christine inside.

The cops quickly rule Christine’s death a murder, and Alyssa a suspect. Marley’s boyfriend insists that the actress is innocent, but when Marley sticks her nose into the complicated lives of The Perishing’s cast and crew, she discovers more questions than answers. It seems that everyone has a hidden agenda—and a plausible motive. And as the horror spills over from the silver screen, Marley gets a funny feeling that she may be the killer’s next victim.

My Review:

This is my third review of a Sarah Fox Pancake House mystery; the first two were The Crepes of Wrath and For Whom the Bread Rolls. I’ve enjoyed them all!

 

Ms. Fox has done it again–given us an intriguing, tasty mystery with a side of romance. She has a way of involving us early and retaining that interest through the story.

 

Our heroine Marley just can’t seem to stay out of trouble–it’s likely a combination of her unquenchable curiosity and genuine caring for the people around her. This time Marley’s relationship with handsome detective Brett gets shaky when beautiful actress Alyssa Jade seems to have a past with Brett and a disturbing tendency to cling to him in times of stress. So Marley not only has to solve a mysterious death, but also must deal with her self-doubts and keep Brett solidly on her side. For extras, we have the mischievous kitty Flapjack and several mouth-watering recipes at the end of the book. All in all, a fun read.

 

My thanks to author, publisher, and NetGalley for providing an advance copy to read and review.

Review: It’s All In Your Head: Brain Storms, Gray Matter, and What Makes You You, by Keith Blanchard. Wicked Cow Studios.

Description (from NetGalley)

 

Your brain just wants to be understood. It wants you to know how it works. Well, you’re now holding the key to your brain’s—and, by extension, your own—happiness. This book will unlock a world of deep insights, juicy rewards, and game-changing power.

It’s All In Your Head is the story of what makes up your mind—why you dream, how you form a thought, why lying makes you uncomfortable, how music stirs you, and how religion can reconfigure your brain. This is the ultimate user’s manual to what makes you you. It’s brain science for everyone, with answers to the questions that keep you up at night.

 

Marketing Plan (from NetGalley)

 

The colorful 7.5″×10″ paperback is the centerpiece of a fun, illuminating content franchise—spanning digital, museum, TV, and beyond—devoted to the awesomeness of your brain.

 

TIME Inc. is launching a bookazine into mass channels 10/13/17 completely devoted to It’s All In Your Head. Wicked Cow will announce soon other significant, multimedia adaptations of the book, as well as the author’s speaking tour.

 

My Review:

 

As I have mentioned in some previous reviews, I am a licensed psychotherapist. In recent years, much has been learned about the human brain, and that knowledge has greatly affected the field of psychotherapy. Helping patients to understand some basic information about the brain can be most helpful. One problem encountered is that much of the information available is highly clinical in nature, and difficult for a non-clinician to comprehend.

 

So, I asked to read and review this book in the hope that it would represent a usable resource I could make available to patients wanting to know more about the brain. And indeed, this book is ideal for that purpose. It is well researched, and written in understandable language.

 

One problem I had with the book I was reviewing was that it was in Kindle format, and on my Kindle it was in black-and-white. There are a good many graphic illustrations and sidebars that appear to be helpful. But in the Kindle edition I was reading, these graphics and sidebars were scrambled in with the text, making it difficult to follow these illustrations. Also, it would appear that some text is in other colors for emphasis, and this did not show up well on my Kindle.

 

Nevertheless, this is a book I can recommend to those who want some basic, understandable information about the brain. I plan to make copies available for my patients.  My thanks to author, publisher, and NetGalley for making this advance copy available to read and review.