No Escape Claws (Second Chance Cat Mystery, #6)

No Escape ClawsNo Escape Claws
by Sofie Ryan
Rating: ★★★½
isbn: 9781101991244
Series: Second Chance Cat Mystery #6
Publication Date: January 29, 2019
Pages: 287
Genre: Fiction, Mystery
Publisher: Berkley

It’s fall in North Harbor, Maine, where Sarah owns a charming secondhand shop and sells lovingly refurbished items of all kinds. The shop is always bustling–and not just because a quirky team of senior-citizen detectives works out of it and manages to get in even more trouble than Sarah’s rough-and-tumble rescue cat, Elvis.

A cold case heats up when young Mallory Pearson appears at the shop. Mallory’s father is in prison for negligence after her stepmother’s mysterious death, but Mallory believes he is innocent and asks the in-house detectives to take on the case. With Sarah and Elvis lending a paw, the detectives decide to try to give Mallory’s father a second chance of his own.


 

A so-so entry.  Good character, great cat, small-town setting.  Sophie Ryan (who also writes as Sophie Kelly) is a decent writer, too, but the plotting was weak in No Escape Claws.

View Spoiler »

 

Overall, this is an enjoyable cozy series, as current cozies go.  This one just wasn’t one of the strongest.

The Lost and Found Bookshop

The Lost and Found BookshopThe Lost and Found Bookshop
by Susan Wiggs
Rating: ★★★½
isbn: 9780008358754
Publication Date: September 16, 2020
Pages: 359
Genre: Fiction
Publisher: HarperCollins

Heartbroken Natalie Harper inherits her mother’s charming, cash-strapped bookshop and finds herself the carer for her ailing grandfather Andrew. She thinks it’s best to move him to an assisted-living home to ensure his care, but to pay for it, Natalie will have to sell up the bookshop. However, Grandpa Andrew owns the building and refuses to budge.

Moving into the studio apartment above the shop, Natalie hires a contractor, Peach Gallagher, to do some repairs. His young daughter becomes a regular at the shop, and she and Natalie begin reading together while Peach works. Slowly, Natalie’s sorrow begins to dissipate as her life becomes an unexpected journey of new friendships. From unearthing hidden artifacts in the bookshop’s walls, to learning the truth about her family, the bookshop is full of surprises. Can Natalie reveal her own heart’s desire and turn a new page…?


 

I’m in a general fiction sort of reading mood, and this book, my second attempt, was much better than the first (The Last Bookshop in London).  Although, it didn’t start out that way; this book is broken down into 6 parts and the first part is absolutely wretched.  The writing is solid, but the story is wretched.

Once the story moves into part 2, it becomes a more enjoyable read.  Natalie starts moving forward, Peach (sorry, I don’t care if you do look like a pirate, that nickname is ridiculous) starts working on the building and things move forward, albeit slowly.  This is a sedately paced story, though there are intermittent moments that are fun, like when they find stuff hidden in a wall, or out in an old shed.  The history of families, and of San Francisco, are threads that run through the book, woven through the plot, becoming pivotal to the resolution.  I’ve only ever spent a day in San Francisco, but I swear the bookstore in this story was smack in the middle of our self-created walking tour, as I kept recognising landmarks and places the author dropped into the text, an occurrence I always enjoy.

Overall, an enjoyable read if you can get past the first part and like a general fiction sort of book.  It has a happy ending and there’s a very small but potent romance that takes almost the entire book to develop.  I’m not altogether sure Andrew’s altruism is entirely realistic; I’d like to believe it’s possible but given the pressure the author puts him and Natalie under, it’s sadly improbable.  Still, I like books that show us our best possible selves (penchant for murder mysteries aside), so it didn’t really hinder my ability to buy into the story, although it did occur to me that by the end, around the clock security would probably be necessary to ward off the treasure hunters.

 

Halloween Bingo Update, October 20: 4th and 5th (and 6th) Bingo!

The Splatter square call gets me my 4th and 5th bingo, and it seems I missed seeing a 6th at some point.

They’re dropping like flies now.

I’ve had so much fun this year, and I think next year is going to be even better.

Accumulative reading table with links to reviews below the card.

The spreadsheet:

Bingo Square Date Called Book Title Date Read
Row #1
X Mad Scientists and Evil Geniuses Sep. 7 Naked Brunch Aug. 30
X Stone Cold Horror/Creepy Carnival Sep. 29 Wild Ride Sep. 1
X Vintage Mystery Sep. 23 The Filigree Ball Sep. 16
X Dem Bones Oct. 2 Independent Bones Sep. 14
X Read by Candlelight/Flashlight Oct. 9 The Ex Hex Oct. 4
Row #2
X Murder Most Foul Oct. 11 Charleston Green Sep. 18
X Lethal Games Oct. 18 No Nest for the Wicket Sep. 1
Spellbound The Once and Future Witches Aug. 31
X Black Cat Sep. 15 Thornyhold Sep. 13
Relics and Curiosities On the Edge Sep. 8
Row #3
Shifters Naked Brunch Aug. 30
X Terror in a Small Town Oct. 14 Agnes and the Hitman Sep. 3
X FREE SPACE Like a Charm Sep. 7
X Psych / Highway to Hell Oct. 6 Archive of the Forgotten Sep. 3
X Truly Terrifying Oct. 1 The Cannonball Tree Mystery Sep. 5
Row #4
X Noir Sep. 24 The Big Over Easy Sep. 22
X Genre: Mystery Oct. 5 The Alchemist’s Illusion Sep. 2
Country House Mystery Murder Most Fair Sep. 16
X Tropical Terror Sep. 4 The Mimosa Tree Mystery Sep. 4
X Locked Room Mystery Sep. 28 Black Lizard’s Big Book of Locked Room Mysteries Oct. 5
Row #5
X Splatter Oct. 20 Carpe Jugulum Sep. 9
X Cryptozoologist Oct. 10 Bayou Moon Sep. 11
X Plague and Disease Scourged Sep. 3
X In the Dark, Dark Woods Oct. 17 Paper & Blood Sep. 12
X Gallows Humor Sep. 25 Murder Most Fowl Sep. 10
  Wild Card Spell
  Amplification Spell
  Bingo Flip Spell
  Cell Conversion Spell
  Transfiguration Spell
  Double Trouble Spell

Halloween Bingo Update, October 18: 3rd Bingo!

I got my third bingo!

Lethal Games was today’s call and that gives me my third bingo.

There are only 13 days or so, of bingo left, and I’m down to 5 squares yet to be called, and only one of those calls won’t give me bingos.

I’ve had so much fun this year, and I think next year is going to be even better.

Accumulative reading table with links to reviews below the card.

The spreadsheet:

Bingo Square Date Called Book Title Date Read
Row #1
X Mad Scientists and Evil Geniuses Sep. 7 Naked Brunch Aug. 30
X Stone Cold Horror/Creepy Carnival Sep. 29 Wild Ride Sep. 1
X Vintage Mystery Sep. 23 The Filigree Ball Sep. 16
X Dem Bones Oct. 2 Independent Bones Sep. 14
X Read by Candlelight/Flashlight Oct. 9 The Ex Hex Oct. 4
Row #2
X Murder Most Foul Oct. 11 Charleston Green Sep. 18
X Lethal Games Oct. 18 No Nest for the Wicket Sep. 1
Spellbound The Once and Future Witches Aug. 31
X Black Cat Sep. 15 Thornyhold Sep. 13
Relics and Curiosities On the Edge Sep. 8
Row #3
Shifters Naked Brunch Aug. 30
X Terror in a Small Town Oct. 14 Agnes and the Hitman Sep. 3
X FREE SPACE Like a Charm Sep. 7
X Psych / Highway to Hell Oct. 6 Archive of the Forgotten Sep. 3
X Truly Terrifying Oct. 1 The Cannonball Tree Mystery Sep. 5
Row #4
X Noir Sep. 24 The Big Over Easy Sep. 22
X Genre: Mystery Oct. 5 The Alchemist’s Illusion Sep. 2
Country House Mystery Murder Most Fair Sep. 16
X Tropical Terror Sep. 4 The Mimosa Tree Mystery Sep. 4
X Locked Room Mystery Sep. 28 Black Lizard’s Big Book of Locked Room Mysteries Oct. 5
Row #5
Splatter Carpe Jugulum Sep. 9
X Cryptozoologist Oct. 10 Bayou Moon Sep. 11
X Plague and Disease Scourged Sep. 3
X In the Dark, Dark Woods Oct. 17 Paper & Blood Sep. 12
X Gallows Humor Sep. 25 Murder Most Fowl Sep. 10
  Wild Card Spell
  Amplification Spell
  Bingo Flip Spell
  Cell Conversion Spell
  Transfiguration Spell
  Double Trouble Spell

Halloween Bingo Update, October 17: Second Bingo!

I got my second bingo!

Some might’ve wondered if I’d given up updating my Halloween Bingo, but it’s just taken this long to get the call that got me my second bingo, which was In the Dark, Dark Woods.

There are only 13 days of bingo left, and I have 6 squares yet to be called, so the bingos should be coming in thick and fast any day now.

Accumulative reading table with links to reviews below the card.

The spreadsheet:

Bingo Square Date Called Book Title Date Read
Row #1
X Mad Scientists and Evil Geniuses Sep. 7 Naked Brunch Aug. 30
X Stone Cold Horror/Creepy Carnival Sep. 29 Wild Ride Sep. 1
X Vintage Mystery Sep. 23 The Filigree Ball Sep. 16
X Dem Bones Oct. 2 Independent Bones Sep. 14
X Read by Candlelight/Flashlight Oct. 9 The Ex Hex Oct. 4
Row #2
X Murder Most Foul Oct. 11 Charleston Green Sep. 18
Lethal Games No Nest for the Wicket Sep. 1
Spellbound The Once and Future Witches Aug. 31
X Black Cat Sep. 15 Thornyhold Sep. 13
Relics and Curiosities On the Edge Sep. 8
Row #3
Shifters Naked Brunch Aug. 30
X Terror in a Small Town Oct. 14 Agnes and the Hitman Sep. 3
X FREE SPACE Like a Charm Sep. 7
X Psych / Highway to Hell Oct. 6 Archive of the Forgotten Sep. 3
X Truly Terrifying Oct. 1 The Cannonball Tree Mystery Sep. 5
Row #4
X Noir Sep. 24 The Big Over Easy Sep. 22
X Genre: Mystery Oct. 5 The Alchemist’s Illusion Sep. 2
Country House Mystery Murder Most Fair Sep. 16
X Tropical Terror Sep. 4 The Mimosa Tree Mystery Sep. 4
X Locked Room Mystery Sep. 28 Black Lizard’s Big Book of Locked Room Mysteries Oct. 5
Row #5
Splatter Carpe Jugulum Sep. 9
X Cryptozoologist Oct. 10 Bayou Moon Sep. 11
X Plague and Disease Scourged Sep. 3
X In the Dark, Dark Woods Oct. 17 Paper & Blood Sep. 12
X Gallows Humor Sep. 25 Murder Most Fowl Sep. 10
  Wild Card Spell
  Amplification Spell
  Bingo Flip Spell
  Cell Conversion Spell
  Transfiguration Spell
  Double Trouble Spell

Stargazy Pie (Greenwing & Dart, #1)

Stargazy PieStargazy Pie
by Victoria Goddard
Rating: ★★★½
isbn: 9781988908045
Series: Greenwing & Dart #1
Publication Date: October 9, 2016
Pages: 369
Genre: Fantasy
Publisher: Underhill Books

 

My friend over at Tannat Reads reviewed the second book in this series awhile back and it sounded like fun, in spite of the caveats she shared with me.

She was right about the caveats, and it was a fun read.

The story takes place in an alternative universe I kept trying to plop into the UK because so many of the names of towns and characters, and so much of the atmosphere, felt British.  I was never really able to get past this, so I found it a bit difficult to imagine this world.

And speaking of this world, the author proves here, by it’s complete absence, that a little info dumping can be a good thing.  I spend a third of the book trying to figure out what was going on and it kept me from getting lost in the book until pretty much the last third of the story.  It’s alternate-universe fantasy – a little explaining would have been welcome.

So. much. sneezing.

The main character, Jemis Greenwing, has had a rather shitty life, in spite of having all the necessary ingredients for a charmed one.  It takes way too long, but eventually you figure out that his father was branded a traitor, then a war hero, though nobody remembers that, and his mother a bigamist who went through her inheritance trying to support her and her son.

Both parents die when he’s still young and he goes to university, falls in love and excels at his studies, only to find out his true love betrayed him and his professor flunks him on his final paper.  He ends up in hospital sick with a flu he can’t shake, and the confrontation he and his girlfriend had results in such an uproar, he’s run out of town, and while he’s on a walking tour (hiding), misses his step-father’s death and funeral. He’s back home, trying to hide from everyone who thinks he’s the son of a traitor, and working in a bookshop.  His memory is hazy, he loses his train of thought, he’s certain he’s unworthy of any kindness, and omg, so much sneezing.

All of this is pretty much all the information you don’t get until about half way through the book, and only then in dibs and dabs.  It made it very difficult for me to click with the main character.  He was always unsure of himself, scattered, and, well, moist.

But once Mr. Dart arrived on the scene, and to a lesser extent Violet and Mrs. Etaris, things started picking up.  By the halfway mark I was reasonable certain – as much as the plot allowed, which isn’t much – of what was going on.  Mr. Dart was all the things Jemis wasn’t and it was a much needed boost to my enjoyment. The repartee between the two life-long friends made me feel like I could eventually like Jemis, and by the last third, I was completely hooked on the characters, if not the plot.

The plot came together all too chaotically and rapidly for my liking.  I suppose that’s because Jemis was the MC, and not Mrs. Etaris.  Had Mrs. Etaris been the MC of this book everything would have been far clearer, more organised, and events handled far more efficiently.

But in spite of all of that, there was something fun about this book.  It was quirky, the dialog was smart and amusing, and interesting things happened at a fairly even pace.  So, while I didn’t think I was going to like this book all that much at first, I ended it with a desire to read the second book.

Alls well that ends with another book to read…

Halloween Bingo Update, October 9: BINGO!

I got my first bingo!

I’m doubly happy I’ve blacked out my card as I’ve been sucked into a rabbit hole on a new project, so at least now it’s just about waiting on the calls.

Squares on my card that have been called: (this list is getting long so I’m putting it in a spoiler tag)
View Spoiler »

Accumulative reading table with links to reviews below the card.

The spreadsheet:

Bingo Square Date Called Book Title Date Read
Row #1
X Mad Scientists and Evil Geniuses Sep. 7 Naked Brunch Aug. 30
X Stone Cold Horror/Creepy Carnival Sep. 29 Wild Ride Sep. 1
X Vintage Mystery Sep. 23 The Filigree Ball Sep. 16
X Dem Bones Oct. 2 Independent Bones Sep. 14
X Read by Candlelight/Flashlight Oct. 9 The Ex Hex Oct. 4
Row #2
Murder Most Foul Charleston Green Sep. 18
Lethal Games No Nest for the Wicket Sep. 1
Spellbound The Once and Future Witches Aug. 31
X Black Cat Sep. 15 Thornyhold Sep. 13
Relics and Curiosities On the Edge Sep. 8
Row #3
Shifters Naked Brunch Aug. 30
Terror in a Small Town Agnes and the Hitman Sep. 3
X FREE SPACE Like a Charm Sep. 7
X Psych / Highway to Hell Oct. 6 Archive of the Forgotten Sep. 3
X Truly Terrifying Oct. 1 The Cannonball Tree Mystery Sep. 5
Row #4
X Noir Sep. 24 The Big Over Easy Sep. 22
X Genre: Mystery Oct. 5 The Alchemist’s Illusion Sep. 2
Country House Mystery Murder Most Fair Sep. 16
X Tropical Terror Sep. 4 The Mimosa Tree Mystery Sep. 4
X Locked Room Mystery Sep. 28 Black Lizard’s Big Book of Locked Room Mysteries Oct. 5
Row #5
Splatter Carpe Jugulum Sep. 9
Cryptozoologist Bayou Moon Sep. 11
X Plague and Disease Scourged Sep. 3
In the Dark, Dark Woods Paper & Blood Sep. 12
X Gallows Humor Sep. 25 Murder Most Fowl Sep. 10
  Wild Card Spell
  Amplification Spell
  Bingo Flip Spell
  Cell Conversion Spell
  Transfiguration Spell
  Double Trouble Spell

Window on the Square re-read

Window on the SquareWindow on the Square
by Phyllis A. Whitney
Rating: ★★★★
Publication Date: January 1, 1962
Pages: 297
Genre: Fiction, Mystery, Romance, Suspense
Publisher: Appleton-Century-Crofts

 

I got about 3 pages into The Stone Bull, and suddenly needed to re-read this, imo, classic of romantic suspense.

Of all the Whitney books I’ve read so far, this one remains far and away the best; the romance is still silly insta-love in that way so popular in the 60’s, but the suspense story is fabulous.  The writing is much tighter than her later works and the action clips along.

Eventually I’ll read the rest of her works just because I really want to know if anything she wrote is better than this one.

My tea arrived! Let the black tea auditions commence.

A couple of years ago, I discovered Tao of Tea would deliver to me in Australia, so I started buying my organic spearmint and chamomile from them in bulk, along with tea bags that make 1 gallon of tea, so I could make the iced tea that runs in my veins, and is thus necessary for life.

When I needed to re-order, I decided it was time to find a black tea I actually like drinking hot.  I used to love English Breakfast, but it’s become too tannic to my taste buds.  I mostly drink my chamomile, spearmint, and lavender blend, changing up the proportions depending on time of day, and I’d really like to add a pinch of a nice black tea to it in the mornings, along with an occasional mug of all-black.

So I went to Tao of Tea, loaded up every black tea they had in stock, read the descriptions and chose 4 that were all described as light, or fruity, or whatever (when did tea tasting get so posh?).  They arrived today! And thank goodness too, because I was down to one teaspoon of chamomile.

Added my favorite tea pot, bought from a local potter, and one of my favorite tea cups and my favorite tea strainer balls, bought at our local tea chain called T2.  For ambiance.

They are:
Wild Lapsong (the bamboo container):  Smooth and rich with sweet aroma and notes of Peach and roasted yam (?!)
Basic Orange Pekoe (that’s my baseline): Light bodied with balanced sweetness and astringency. Aromas of turbinado warm brown sugar
Neela Green herb, floral and citrus aromas. Full smooth taste with a subtle turbinado sweetness
Ceylon Black Tips Deep, full-bodied tea with balanced sweetness and astringency. Aromas of raw sugar and molasses give way to black cherry and dark fruit.

Uh huh.

So staring tomorrow, they’ll be getting auditioned, both alone and in my normal herbal blend.  I’m excited and hopeful that I’ll find one (at least) I love.

The Stone Bull

The Stone BullThe Stone Bull
by Phyllis A. Whitney
Rating: ★★★½
Publication Date: January 1, 1977
Pages: 304
Genre: Fiction, Romance, Suspense
Publisher: Doubleday

 

Even when Whitney’s books aren’t great, her sense of setting and atmosphere never falter.  This is true of The Stone Bull.  The pacing is slow, but atmosphere abounds.  She plays with timelines in the narrative – as if someone was writing a diary retrospectively, jumping between present and just-past events, then skipping ahead another day and looking back.  It sounds like a disaster, but it worked and took me very little effort to get used to.

The characters are typical of Whitney; a bit shallow; capricious; prone to instant love and romance.  What’s different here from the other books of hers I’ve read so far, is that this one starts where the rest usually end – after the wedding and in the throes of honeymoon giddiness.  Of course the honeymoon isn’t going to last.   Let’s just say the story feels progressive for a romantic Suspense novel written in 1977, by a woman who was 74 years old at the time of publishing and had lived the bulk of her life under a different set of social norms.

Definitely not her best, but still readable, if a little tedious.