Sunday, February 28, 2021

Killer Content by Olivia Blacke

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Killer Content
by Olivia Blacke


ISBN-13: 9780593197882
Paperback: 288 pages
Publisher: Berkley
Released: February 2nd 2021


Source: ebook review copy from the publisher through NetGalley.

Book Description, Modified from Goodreads:
Bayou transplant Odessa Dean has a lot to learn about life in Brooklyn. So far she's scored a rent free apartment in one of the nicest neighborhoods around by cat-sitting, and has a new job working at Untapped Books & Café. Serving craft beers is easy for Odessa, but making new friends might take her a little extra time.

But things turn more sour than an IPA when the death of a fellow waitress goes viral, caught on camera in the background of a couple's flash-mob proposal video. Nothing about Bethany's death feels right to Odessa--neither her sudden departure mid-shift nor the clues that only Odessa seems to think are significant. Determined to prove there's a killer on the loose, Odessa takes matters into her own hands. But can she pin down Bethany's killer before they take Odessa offline for good?


My Review:
Killer Content is a cozy mystery. There were some clues about whodunit and why, but it's not a puzzle mystery. You can't solve the mystery from the clues until the main one at the end, when Odessa also made the connection. Since there was no proof that the death wasn't an accident, she managed to get a recorded confession from the killer...which is better than many cozy mystery heroines.

However, Odessa didn't come across as "real" to me. The cozy aspect was partly her waitressing job but mainly the difference between her rural, southern upbringing and life in the big city. Even though she had only lived in Brooklyn for a relatively short time, she was never thrown by the differences. When a truck (gently) hits her and the driver yells at her, she's not confused, angry, and in need of someone to tell her why he yelled at her. Instead, she immediately told us why she was actually in the wrong and didn't seem bothered by the incident at all. As in, she's never the "fish out of water" but always the confident, knowledgeable guide to Brooklyn culture. And while I love nice heroines, she seemed almost inhumanly, effortlessly nice and understanding (except when it came to her boss).

There was no sex or bad language. Despite the problems I mentioned, I'd still recommend this enjoyable mystery.


If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.


Friday, February 26, 2021

The Nature of Fragile Things by Susan Meissner

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The Nature of Fragile Things
by Susan Meissner


ISBN-13: 9780451492180
Paperback: 384 pages
Publisher: Berkley Books
Released: February 2nd 2021

Source: ebook review copy from the publisher through NetGalley.

Book Description from Goodreads:
April 18, 1906: A massive earthquake rocks San Francisco just before daybreak, igniting a devouring inferno. Lives are lost, lives are shattered, but some rise from the ashes forever changed.

Sophie Whalen is a young Irish immigrant so desperate to get out of a New York tenement that she answers a mail-order bride ad and agrees to marry a man she knows nothing about. San Francisco widower Martin Hocking proves to be as aloof as he is mesmerizingly handsome. Sophie quickly develops deep affection for Kat, Martin's silent five-year-old daughter, but Martin's odd behavior leaves her with the uneasy feeling that something about her newfound situation isn't right.

Then one early-spring evening, a stranger at the door sets in motion a transforming chain of events. Sophie discovers hidden ties to two other women. The first, pretty and pregnant, is standing on her doorstep. The second is hundreds of miles away in the American Southwest, grieving the loss of everything she once loved.

The fates of these three women intertwine on the eve of the devastating earthquake, thrusting them onto a perilous journey that will test their resiliency and resolve and, ultimately, their belief that love can overcome fear.


My Review:
The Nature of Fragile Things is that they break. This book is women's fiction set in 1906 in San Francisco. The main character was Sophie, who already had survived a hard past and so didn't question too carefully what her new husband was up to when things didn't quite add up. After all, he's given her a pleasant home, he doesn't abuse her, and she loves his young child. But, on the eve of the massive earthquake, she's forced to face that her husband has wronged many people and that her comfortable life must change.

The characters were likable, complex, well-developed, and reacted realistically to events. The historical details about the time period and about the earthquake were woven into the story and brought events vividly alive in my imagination. The point of the story seemed to be that evil people don't know how to love but good people do know how to love and are willing to do the right thing even when it's hard. The story was morally murky in that Sophie committed a crime, but she's not held accountable for it because it's done to stop someone who's evil.

There was married sex, but the scenes were very brief and only vaguely described. There were a couple uses of bad language. While the story was well-written, interesting, and I always understood why the characters were doing what they were doing, the story felt rather bleak and not really uplifting. The wronged women's actions were more about protecting themselves than truly stopping evil. I prefer stories were evil is clearly defeated rather than were questionable actions taken to survive against evil are justified.


If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.


Wednesday, February 24, 2021

The Plague Court Murders by John Dickson Carr

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The Plague Court Murders
by John Dickson Carr


ISBN-13: 9781613161968
Hardcover: 416 pages
Publisher: American Mystery Classics
Released: February 2nd 2021

Source: ebook review copy from the publisher through NetGalley.

Book Description, Modified from Goodreads:
Plague Court is old and crumbling, long neglected after its lord, hangman’s assistant Louis Playge, fell victim to the black death hundreds of years before. Famously haunted by Playge’s ghost, the property finally has an owner set on banishing the spirit. When the medium employed with this task is found stabbed to death in a locked stone hut on the grounds, surrounded by an untouched circle of mud, the other guests at Plague Court have every reason to fear an act of supernatural violence—for who among them would be diabolical and calculating enough to orchestrate such an impossible execution?

Enter Sir Henry Merrivale, an amateur sleuth of many talents with deductive powers strong enough to unspool even the most baffling crimes. But in the creepy, atmospheric setting of Plague Court, he encounters a seemingly-illogical murder scene.

Reissued for the first time in thirty years, The Plague Court Murders is the first novel in the Sir Henry Merrivale series. Originally published under the name Carter Dickson, it is a masterful example of the “impossible crime” novel for which John Dickson Carr is known.


My Review:
The Plague Court Murders is a mystery set in 1934 in England. Just a warning: Sir Henry Merrivale is a rude, arrogant man who uses a lot of bad language. He's not actually the point of view character, but he's in half of the book. A con man sets up quite a show to prove that he can banish an evil spirit, but he ends up dead instead and the newspapers claim it was the evil spirit. Despite this being a locked room mystery, the police are certain that human did it. They just don't know how.

Well, from the clues given, I soon came up with a theory that would've worked. Despite the fact that Merrivale hid the critical clues, I did correctly guess some of what happened. However, I'd be seriously surprised if anyone guesses the full identity of the murderer before the reveal. With a lot of misdirection and Merrivale doing a little reveal here and a little reveal there, it was hard to keep things straight. Some things didn't even make sense to me. Like why did the victim do some things ahead of time to set the stage for an apparent fight with an evil spirit but delay a critical part that could have been done more easily and privately ahead of time until there were plenty of potential witnesses around? But then we wouldn't have a mystery.

It was an interesting puzzle mystery, but I didn't really care for the characters as they never really seem to "come alive." There was some descriptive gore. There was no sex. There was some bad language.


If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.


Sunday, February 21, 2021

Shadows of the White City by Jocelyn Green

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Shadows of the White City
by Jocelyn Green


ISBN-13: 9780764233319
Paperback: 384 pages
Publisher: Bethany House
Released: February 2nd 2021

Source: ebook review copy from the publisher through NetGalley.

Book Description from Goodreads:
The one thing Sylvie Townsend wants most is what she feared she was destined never to have--a family of her own. But taking in Polish immigrant Rose Dabrowski to raise and love quells those fears--until seventeen-year-old Rose goes missing at the World's Fair, and Sylvie's world unravels.

Brushed off by the authorities, Sylvie turns to her boarder, Kristof Bartok, for help. He is Rose's violin instructor and the concertmaster for the Columbian Exposition Orchestra, and his language skills are vital to helping Sylvie navigate the immigrant communities where their search leads.

From the glittering architecture of the fair to the dark houses of Chicago's poorest neighborhoods, they're taken on a search that points to Rose's long-lost family. Is Sylvie willing to let the girl go? And as Kristof and Sylvie grow closer, can she reconcile her craving for control with her yearning to belong?


My Review:
Shadows of the White City is a Christian historical romance set in the summer and fall of 1893 in Chicago. The historical details were largely focused on the World Fair hosted in Chicago, including details about the exhibits and layout as well as some of the dangers caused by the fair. These details were woven into the story, and they did slow the pacing. Frankly, there were so many storylines going on that the pacing seemed slow even if the story was interesting.

The main characters were likable, reacted realistically to events, and matured as people as they had to make difficult choices. At about 40%, it was obvious to me where Rose was, but the characters didn't even consider this option for another 20% of the story. Even if their lack of suspicion was natural, it felt drawn out to have them keep searching places that were less and less likely when I knew that they were looking in the wrong places. Kristof also had to deal with the fact that his brother's bad choices were impacting others and potentially putting others in danger. Sylvie wrestled with allowing her attraction to Kristof when it meant that he would have control of her life and her business. Their feelings grew as they spent time together and supported each other through the difficulties.

Several characters struggled with the need to belong or feel valued and were reminded that God counted them as precious. There was no sex or bad language. Overall, I'd recommend this book to fans of historical romances, especially those interested in what the World Fair was like.


If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.


Excerpt: Read an excerpt using Google Preview.

Friday, February 19, 2021

Obsession by Patricia Bradley

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Obsession
by Patricia Bradley


ISBN-13: 9780800735746
Paperback: 384 pages
Publisher: Revell
Released: February 2nd 2021

Source: ebook review copy from the publisher through NetGalley.

Book Description from Goodreads:
Natchez Trace Ranger and historian Emma Winters hoped never to see Sam Ryker again after she broke off her engagement to him. But when shots are fired at her at a historical landmark just off the Natchez Trace, she's forced to work alongside Sam as the Natchez Trace law enforcement district ranger in the ensuing investigation. To complicate matters, Emma has acquired a delusional secret admirer who is determined to have her as his own. Sam is merely an obstruction, one which must be removed.

Sam knows that he has failed Emma in the past and he doesn't intend to let her down again. Especially since her life is on the line. As the threads of the investigation cross and tangle with their own personal history, Sam and Emma have a chance to discover the truth, not only about the victim but about what went wrong in their relationship.


My Review:
Obsession is a Christian romantic suspense. This is the second book in a series, but it works as a standalone novel. Emma accidentally uncovered new evidence in an old case where her missing twin brother was accused of murder. She and Sam worked together to discover the true murderer since it may be connected to the person who kept shooting at them and leaving Emma creepy messages. Since we know more than the main characters, the reader has a better chance of guessing whodunit before Emma and Sam, but I must admit that I wasn't absolutely certain until nearly the end.

The suspense came from the physical danger as well as uncertainty about their childhood friends, who were suspects. The main characters were complex, likable, and reacted in realistic ways to events. They asked good questions as they investigated. Emma was generally sensible and resourceful, even though she didn't like needing help. Emma tended to cut and run whenever there was tension in a relationship, but she did still care for Sam, so they needed to work through this and some past issues. Both Emma and Sam needed to forgive people in their lives. There was no sex or bad language. Overall, I'd recommend this novel to suspense and mystery fans.


If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.


Excerpt: Read an excerpt using Google Preview.

Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Undercover Kitty by Sofie Ryan

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Undercover Kitty
by Sofie Ryan


ISBN-13: 9781984802354
Paperback: 352 pages
Publisher: Berkley
Released: January 26th 2021


Source: ebook review copy from the publisher through NetGalley.

Book Description from Goodreads:
Sarah and Elvis can always be found at a charming secondhand shop in the village of North Harbor, Maine. Despite the small-town setting, the daring duo often find themselves wrapped up in murder, but luckily they have help--a quirky group of senior citizens runs an amateur detective agency called Charlotte's Angels out of the store.

The Angels are hired to look into who is sabotaging cat shows in the state, and they decide the best way to do that is to send Elvis the cat undercover as a contestant. But then one of the cat show volunteers is murdered just before the latest competition, and Sarah and the Angels have to catch a killer in two shakes of a cat's tail!


My Review:
Undercover Kitty is a cozy mystery. It's the eighth book in the series, but you don't need to read the previous books to understand this one. This book did not spoil any of the previous mysteries. The main characters were nice, engaging people. The cat was mainly the excuse for being at the cat show and played little role in the detection of whodunit. More time was spent describing the cat show than on doing actual detection.

The mystery was a clue-based puzzle mystery. The amateur detectives asked questions and looked into various alibis. My main problem was that the fire didn't seem to actually destroy anything, even allowing the investigators to determine the exact type of "kindling" used to start the fire. Also, the initial clues greatly restricted the possible suspects for the murderer, though none of the investigators seemed to notice this. They also seemed especially dense when a major clue was dropped by a suspect. The readers' were going, "Oh, whodunit!" but Sarah's going "um, seems like I should be able to put this together by now, but I'm just not sure..."

There were no sex scenes. There was only one use of bad language. Overall, I'd recommend this enjoyable mystery, but it's my least favorite of the series.


If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.


Excerpt: Read an excerpt using Google Preview.

Sunday, February 14, 2021

Forever Phoebe by Chalon Linton

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Forever Phoebe
by Chalon Linton


ISBN-13: 9781524416881
Paperback: 224 pages
Publisher: Covenant Communications
Released: February 8th 2020

Source: ebook review copy from the publisher through NetGalley.

Book Description, Modified from Goodreads:
At the dignified age of eighteen, Phoebe Jamison knows she should behave in a manner befitting her station, as her three loving elder brothers often tease. Unfortunately, the lively young woman has a personality every bit as outgoing as her red hair, a fact brought to her attention in the criticism from the gentleman she has long pined for. But not every man is of the opinion that a woman should be decorous above all else. The newest resident of Somerset, Mr. Franklin Everly, is considered a most eligible bachelor, and he is immediately drawn to Phoebe’s honest, outgoing nature as he becomes acquainted with the delightful Jamison siblings of Primly Park.

Franklin embarks on a friendship with Phoebe that quickly deepens into a warm and thrilling connection. But even as he fights for Phoebe’s attentions, a very real danger is revealed: girls in neighboring villages have gone missing, and the kidnapper is moving ever closer to Primly Park. Despite the guard of her fiercely protective brothers and Franklin, Phoebe must rely on her own strength when she finds herself in the sights of the Bride Snatcher.


My Review:
Forever Phoebe is a romance set in 1814 in England. Phoebe has longed after one of her brother's friends for ages, but he hardly notices her except to criticize her. When a new neighbor becomes friends with her brothers, she enjoys how he complements her, appreciates her outspoken, honest nature, and is not put off by her sometimes impulsive choices. His attention sparks the interest of the other man, though, and now both wish to court her.

I liked the romance as both Phoebe and Franklin admired the character of the other, built each other up, and even sacrificed for each other and others. They got along well, and their love grew as they got to know each other better. The historical time period was a vague backdrop for the story rather than a distinct part of the setting.

My main problem with the story was the mysterious Bride Snatcher, who boldly kidnapped well-bred, pretty young girls to sell to men as their wives. Because...English men who can afford to buy someone don't need a dowry, don't fear the law, and are somehow unable to attract someone willing to be their wives? It just didn't make any sense. Especially when he threatened to kill his valuable wares. Also, if you have one bullet, know how to shoot, and someone is threatening you and your best friend, naturally you will shoot the bullet into the air rather than at the threat? Though sometimes not very realistic, it was an enjoyable read. There was no sex or bad language.


If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.