The Big Over Easy Re-read (Nursery Crimes, #1)

The Big Over EasyThe Big Over Easy
by Jasper Fforde
Rating: ★★★★★
Series: Nursery Crimes #1
Publication Date: January 1, 2005
Pages: 398
Genre: Fantasy, Fiction, Mystery
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton

 

My original review pretty much sums up my general feelings about this book.  I still think it’s the most highly quotable book I’ve read, I still think the satire is spot-on, both of the media and murder mysteries and I still think Prometheus adds just that little something of surprise depth to the narrative, if only briefly.

Re-reading it, it’s held up perfectly.  Fforde’s amazing at writing these intricate plots and clever dialog, but it’s all the small details that continue to leave me gobsmacked.  The excepts at the opening of each chapter, the small jokes and wordplays scattered in the text, and the “ads” at the back of the book all are unnecessary to the plot, but make the book all the richer for their inclusion.

Though I gave it, and stand by doing so, 5 stars, the heinous plot revealed in the mystery is gross in that way that British humor excels at.  Gross and sublimely silly.  Which makes the story better, in spite of the “UGH, yuck!” moments towards the end.

 

I read this for Halloween Bingo 2021’s Noir square.  It’s not a traditional fit, but there’s a clear argument that along with satirising mysteries and the press, there’s a very noir-satire vibe in the story,

Agnes and the Hitman re-read

Agnes and the HitmanAgnes and the Hitman
by Jennifer Crusie
Rating: ★★★★½
isbn: 9780312363048
Publication Date: August 21, 2007
Pages: 368
Genre: Fiction
Publisher: St. Martin's Press

 

I recently read Wild Ride by the same two authors for a Halloween Bingo square, and it made me want to re-read my very favorite Crusie of all time.  I reviewed it back in 2014, which can be found here, but even then it was a re-read and I don’t have any notes from my original reading.

But it really doesn’t matter, because this book is just as good the 5 or 6th time as it was the first time.  Hilarious, not at all realistic, yet believable, and at its heart, endearingly sweet in a way that only a mafia related killing spree can be.

Agnes is engaged and they’ve bought the house of her dreams from her BFF’s mother, where she and her soon-to-be are going to write cookbooks and cater fabulous events.  The first event is part of the mortgage contract: throw a fabulous wedding at the house for Agnes’ goddaughter and the previous owner’s grand-daughter in exchange for the first 3 months of payments.

Easy, until someone comes in one night to steal her dog at gunpoint.  Agnes, who has a history of anger management issues, hits him with a frying pan, knocking him through the wall into an unknown (to her) basement.  She calls her old friend Joey (the Gent) who, hearing what happened and seeing the basement, calls in his nephew, Shane, a government black-op.  He comes to protect Agnes and find out who wants the dog, and why.

Meanwhile, the bride’s grand-mother seems determined to relocate the wedding to the country club, and everything that can go wrong with the wedding preparations does.   Through it all Agnes just keeps cooking and planning and fixing, refusing to allow anything to stand in her way of having this wedding, not even the dead bodies.

It’s a fast paced read, with no slow spots.  It’s a huge amount of fun, and as I said before it’s not at all realistic, but the relationships are feel believable.  Even the instant attraction between Shane and Agnes.  I continue to absolutely love this book as one of the ultimate comfort reads on my shelves.

 

I re-read this just because I wanted to, but it fits for Halloween Bingo’s Terror in a Small Town square, so I’m going with that.  It’s set in Keyes, South Carolina a tiny (fictional) town that’s home to half the Jersey mob’s family (the retired half) and is beset with a string of murders that leaves a body count somewhere around 7.

Wild Ride

Wild RideWild Ride
by Bob Mayer, Jennifer Crusie
Rating: ★★★½
isbn: 9780312533779
Publication Date: March 15, 2010
Pages: 351
Genre: Fantasy, Fiction
Publisher: St. Martin's Press

 

This was the last book Jennifer Crusie wrote that I hadn’t yet read (except for the Temptation books; I started Welcome to Temptation  and something turned me off and I never finished it).  It’s a co-wriiten book with Bob Meyer, and their previous effort Agnes and the Hitman is one of my all time favourite good-time reads.

But I avoided this one for years because I’m not a fan of carnivals and amusement parks as story settings.  Stephen King might have ruined this for me, but there’s just something WAY too creepy and seedy about them in books.  Nevertheless, I had bought this and after years of languishing in a forgotten corner of the TBR, I found it just in time for Halloween Bingo, and the setting was perfect.

Mary Alice (Mab) is just finishing up a massive restoration of an early 1920’s amusement park, putting on one of the last touches, when she’s attacked by a giant iron clown that calls her by name.  The owners of the park seen unsurprised, though they pass it off as a hallucination.  Soon, however, there’s no escaping the truth:  the park is the prison for 5 untouchable demons (all from the Etruscan mythology, it seems) and two have escaped.  It’s up to Mab and her fellow Guardia to re-capture them and keep the other three from escaping.

Believe me when I say there is nothing deep or philosophical about this book.  It’s pure silliness and funnel cake fun.  It’s not nearly as well plotted or written as Agnes and the Hitman, but it’s well written enough that it kept me reading and the eye rolling only happened a few times.

I doubt I’ll ever re-read this again, though it did make me want to climb that ladder to grab Agnes for a re-read.

 

I read this for Halloween Bingo 2021.  It’s a perfect fit for the Creepy Carnivals square, which is really my Stone Cold Horror square – I used my Transfiguration Spell card,  as it’s chock full of demons (including minions that possess teddy bears and characters ripped completely from Small World) and it takes place entirely within the grounds of the Fun Fun Amusement Park.

Fortune and Glory – Tantalizing Twenty-seven (Stephanie Plum, #27)

Fortune and Glory: Tantalising Twenty-SevenFortune and Glory: Tantalising Twenty-Seven
by Janet Evanovich
Rating: ★★★★
isbn: 9781472246196
Series: Stephanie Plum #27
Publication Date: November 10, 2020
Pages: 304
Genre: Fiction
Publisher: Headline Review

When Stephanie's beloved Grandma Mazur's new husband died on their wedding night, the only thing he left her was a beat-up old easy chair... and the keys to a life-changing fortune.

But as Stephanie and Grandma Mazur search for Jimmy Rosolli's treasure, they discover that they're not the only ones on the hunt. Two dangerous enemies from the past stand in their way-along with Gabriela Rose, a dark-eyed beauty with a taste for designer clothes.

Stephanie may be in over her head, but she's got two things that Gabriela doesn't: an unbreakable bond with her family and a stubborn streak that will never let her quit.

She'll need both to survive because this search for "fortune and glory" will turn into a desperate race against time with more on the line than ever before.


Let’s take it as read that this 27th instalment is in most ways exactly like the first 26th.  Nowadays, there’s something comforting in a series being an ‘old reliable’ and the Plum series can always be counted on for Grandma Mazur defying her age, Lulu doing something outrageous, and at least one FTA that’s a total nut-job.

But I especially enjoyed this one because there was 100% more Ranger than there have been the past however many books, and while I like both of the male characters, I especially like Ranger and his ability to allow Stephanie to fly her flag of tenacious ineptitude with an astonishing degree of equanimity.  He never tries to change her or thwart her and he supplies her with an endless number of cars to destroy in new and creative ways.  You have to like that in a man.

I also enjoyed the treasure hunt, though it often got lost in the larger scheme of Stephanie’s what-am-I-doing-with-my-life rift, which if anything in this series is getting old, it’s this.  I’m not one that insists she chose one man over the other, or that she even choose at all, but I would be exceedingly happy if she’d just come to terms with who she is and own it.  I have faith that Evanovich could make this happen without altering the foundation of the series.

I enjoyed the ending quite a bit and I enjoyed the parallels to Indiana Jones, even though realistically they were weak; I love that Stephanie chose Indiana Jones over Lara Croft, though I can’t exactly say why, as I like and admire both characters.  Probably the academic bent is what puts IJ in the lead, though I’m digressing.

Anyway – another fun book in a series that’s dependable in the best ways; I have other series to read when I want to be surprised, or challenged, but I love Plum because I can count on a laugh or three, endearing characters, and a rollicking fun adventure.

Murder by Death: The book that was based on the movie that inspired the blog name

Murder by DeathMurder by Death
by H.R.F. Keating, Neil Simon
Rating: ★★★★½
isbn: 0352397276
Publication Date: January 1, 1976
Pages: 176
Genre: Mystery
Publisher: Star Books

Novelization of the screen play by Neil Simon. Various "famous sleuths" (or their somewhat thinly disguised copies) are invited by a mysterious millionaire to stay at his house and solve a who-dun-it, with the winner getting millions.


 

I re-read this almost perfectly brilliant book, based on the absolutely brilliant movie, for Halloween bingo’s Dark and Stormy Night square.

If you haven’t seen the movie, written by Neil Simon and released in the 1970’s, and you’re a fan of classic mysteries and oddball humor, you’re missing out on a classic.  It’s brilliantly written and brilliantly casted.  It’s an homage and a spoof, so if spoof’s aren’t your thing, skip it, you’ll be disappointed.  It’s the original Clue! only the characters are based on Nick and Nora, Miss Marple, Sam Spade, Hercule Poirot, and Charlie Chan.

The book was written to be a faithful reproduction of the movie, though H.R.F. Keating uses the opportunity of the written word to name drop additional authors like Conan Doyle and Sayers.  And it is an exact, faithful reproduction of the movie – until the last 5 short paragraphs where Keating, apparently, couldn’t help himself and changed the ending.  It’s a small thing, but it sets my teeth on edge because it’s a sop.

Still, I cherish this book as I do the movie.  I just need to stop at the fifth to last paragraph.

Ink & Sigil (Sigil Agents, #1)

Ink & SigilInk & Sigil
by Kevin Hearne
Rating: ★★★★
isbn: 9781984821256
Series: Ink & Sigil #1
Publication Date: August 25, 2020
Pages: 336
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Publisher: Del Ray Books

Al MacBharrais is both blessed and cursed. He is blessed with an extraordinary white moustache, an appreciation for craft cocktails—and a most unique magical talent. He can cast spells with magically enchanted ink and he uses his gifts to protect our world from rogue minions of various pantheons, especially the Fae.

But he is also cursed. Anyone who hears his voice will begin to feel an inexplicable hatred for Al, so he can only communicate through the written word or speech apps. And his apprentices keep dying in peculiar freak accidents. As his personal life crumbles around him, he devotes his life to his work, all the while trying to crack the secret of his curse.

But when his latest apprentice, Gordie, turns up dead in his Glasgow flat, Al discovers evidence that Gordie was living a secret life of crime. Now Al is forced to play detective—while avoiding actual detectives who are wondering why death seems to always follow Al. Investigating his apprentice’s death will take him through Scotland’s magical underworld, and he’ll need the help of a mischievous hobgoblin if he’s to survive.


The first book in a new series that takes place in the same world as the Iron Druid Chronicles, I’d heard two completely opposite views on it before I picked it up: one saying it was great, and hilarious, and the other calling it woefully juvenile.

Having read the book myself I can say: yes.   Maybe not woefully juvenile, but the humor is heavily scatalogical in places and it’s clear the author prefers his jokes to be of the earthier, less-sophisticated variety.  They weren’t my definition of funny, but I didn’t find them offensive either.

The story itself was enjoyable, though a little heavy handed thematically.  It’s a credit to the author that he uses his story space to confront a problem that gets very little serious time: the trafficking of humans, using both the fae-trafficking plot line, as well as the sub-plot of Al learning more about the human side, and doing his part to stop it and advocate for its victims.  But it, like the humor in the book, isn’t subtle.  He has a point, and a message, and he’s going to make sure his readers don’t miss it.

There’s a lot of story-building in this first book, with a couple of chapters devoted just to how Al met his business manager/battle seer, Nadia, and the flow is a bit wandering.  It works, but I noticed it; I was never actively bored while reading it, but I had mind space to notice that the story wasn’t very linear or fast-moving.

I have this 4 stars because the sum is greater than its parts.  The things I spoke about above, taken by themselves, would be turn-offs, but as a whole, the story was enjoyable.  I don’t regret buying a hardcover copy, and I’ll happily read the next one.  Though I will also hope the humor that the humor, along with the whiskey Al so dearly loves, matures.

I read this for Halloween Bingo 2020, to fulfil the Spellbound square, which is not on my card, but I used my transfiguration spell card to change from American Horror Story.

The Tao of Martha: My Year of LIVING; Or, Why I’m Never Getting All That Glitter Off of the Dog

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and I laughed so hard I shook in several places.

 

I’m not quite sure what I expected this book to be – funny, I knew – but I think I was expecting more of a piss-take; Jen would try some specific Martha project, mayhem would ensue and she’d write about it. While some of that took place (Easter Eggs – which make me laugh so hard I almost fell off the bed), I was delightfully surprised that this was a year-long project that she took seriously and with the sincere hope that seeing the project through would improve her life in some tangible way.

 

I loved her conversational style of writing and as I am within a year or so of her age-wise and our lifestyles are similar, I could relate to a lot of what she was writing about. I was really angry when I realized what was happening to Maisie, as I don’t read books that make me cry. I’ve been where they were with our cats and have gone to extraordinary lengths to see them well. I’ll just leave off by saying that was truly the only low point of the book and I give her props for being able to write about the whole thing with grace and sincerity without being overly maudlin.

 

This was the first book I’ve read by Jen Lancaster, but it certainly won’t be the last.

Nearly Departed in Deadwood (Deadwood Mystery, #1)

Nearly Departed in DeadwoodNearly Departed in Deadwood
by Ann Charles
Rating: ★★★★
isbn: 9780983256809
Series: Deadwood #4
Publication Date: January 8, 2011
Pages: 376
Publisher: Corvallis Press

This is going on my cozy-mystery shelf, even though it really doesn’t belong there, but I’m not sure where else this genre jumping book (and series) should go.

What I do know is that this book is a really fun read! Humour, a good mystery, lots of creepy, and oh wow the sexual chemistry going on! This little voice in the back of my head nailed the bad guy early on, but I was certain I was wrong. The author makes some very bold moves for a book that comes close to cozy. I have a mental picture of the ending that I’d dearly pay a bit extra to get rid of – I suspect it will stick with me awhile.

Great characters and a great setting. For those who dislike language – it’s here in all it’s glorious colours. So is the sexual chemistry – no graphic scenes, but nothing prim and proper either.

I read the Kindle edition because it was a freebie, but I’ve since ordered the paperback of all the books available in the series.

Wicked Business (Lizzy and Diesel Series #2)

This book is the equivalent of a funnel cake – it has no redeeming nutritional value, but it tastes so good and is so fun to eat!  

 

Diesel and Lizzy are on the hunt for 7 stones – each embodying a deadly sin. In this book, it’s the stone for Lust. So it’s a treasure hunt, complete with puzzles, clues and required objects. I love this kind of stuff – pure Goonies.  I like Lizzy; she’s no Lara Croft, but she’s got moxie.

 

I found the comedy to be laugh-out-loud as only Janet Evanovich can write – she can make me laugh at the rudest boy humour! A bit of danger, a bit of frustrated romance. Great supporting characters who are all interesting and likeable – Glo and her spells are always good for a chuckle.  

 

Many will find this series to be silly beyond the pale, but I knew going into this series exactly what I was in for – I’d read the Plum between-the-numbers books starring Diesel and I enjoyed them for the light, fun reads they were designed to be. If you enjoyed those, you’ll have the right expectations for this series. I just loved reading this book and I had an absolute blast until the end, and unlike the funnel cake, it’s calorie free. I sincerely look forward to the next Diesel and Lizzy adventure.

Trail of the Spellmans (Spellman Files Series #5)

I can’t say anything except this is an excellent book. Funny, endearing, interesting. As with all the previous ‘documents’ there are quite a few plot lines and Izzy Spellman does her usual excellent job at getting to the bottom of all of them. The evolution of character development throughout all the books has been interesting, humorous and at times painful to witness and bittersweet.

 

I’d have given this book 5 stars, but was personally disappointed with the resolution of one of the story lines.

 

A definite recommendation for anyone who enjoys some hilarity with their sincerity.