Finlay Donovan is Killing It

Finlay Donovan is Killing ItFinlay Donovan is Killing It
by Elle Cosimano
Rating: ★★★★
isbn: 9781472282248
Series: Finlay Donovan Mystery #1
Publication Date: February 9, 2021
Pages: 359
Genre: Mystery
Publisher: Headline Review

When struggling crime writer and single mum Finlay Donovan accidentally finds herself employed as a local hit-woman, she suddenly finds herself living the life of crime previously reserved for her characters.

'It is a widely known fact that most mums are ready to kill someone by eight-thirty AM on any given Monday. . . ' Finlay Donovan, single mum and floundering crime writer, is having a hard time. Her ex-husband went behind her back to fire the nanny, and this morning she sent her four-year-old to school with hair duct-taped to her head after an unfortunate incident with scissors.

Making it to lunch with her literary agent is a minor victory but, as she's discussing the plot of her latest crime novel, the conversation is misinterpreted by a woman sitting nearby as that of a hit-woman offering her services to dispose of a 'problem' husband.
And when the woman slips Finlay a name and a promise of a large sum of cash, Finlay finds herself plotting something much bigger than her novel.
And, after all, they do always say: write what you know. . .

Finlay Donovan really is killing it . . .

I’ve seen this title thrown around a few sites, but honestly, the cover turned me off because it was such an obvious knock off of Where’d You Go, Bernadette? that it felt like the publisher was trying to ride some coat-tails.  But Irresponsible Reader sang its praises in one of his posts, and I decided to give it a try.

At first, I thought maybe I’d run up against my first IR recommendation dud, because I don’t enjoy reading about people who are hanging onto life by a thread, and Finlay is definitely a big, hot mess at the beginning of this book.  But I kept reading, because I couldn’t figure out how the author was going to pull off a protagonist mother-of-two who kills for money and still call the book a comedy.

When the answer to that started becoming clearer, the book started to click for me, because the deeper Finlay found herself in it, the more interested and invested I became.  Coincidentally, the less of a hot mess she became.  The introduction of the nanny-partner also helped, because her pragmatic personality was one I could identify with (although she takes her pragmatism further than I ever could).

What I was left with was a very well written, well plotted mystery that entertained me.  Cosimano gets the bonus points for pulling off a very-plausible-for-fiction explanation for all the events that take place, and for dovetailing it all nicely together at the end.

This is the first of at least 3 books (so far) and I’m definitely interested in reading the next one.  Thanks again to Irresponsible Reader!

A Good Day for Chardonnay (Sunshine Vicram, #2)

A Good Day for ChardonnayA Good Day for Chardonnay
by Darynda Jones
Rating: ★★★★½
isbn: 9781250233110
Series: Sunshine Vicram #2
Publication Date: July 27, 2021
Pages: 416
Genre: Fiction, Mystery
Publisher: St. Martin's Press

Running a small-town police force in the mountains of New Mexico should be a smooth, carefree kind of job. Sadly, full-time Sheriff—and even fuller-time coffee guzzler—Sunshine Vicram, didn’t get that memo.

All Sunshine really wants is one easy-going day. You know, the kind that starts with coffee and a donut (or three) and ends with take-out pizza and a glass of chardonnay (or seven). Turns out, that’s about as easy as switching to decaf. (What kind of people do that? And who hurt them?)

Before she can say iced mocha latte, Sunny’s got a bar fight gone bad, a teenage daughter hunting a serial killer and, oh yes, the still unresolved mystery of her own abduction years prior. All evidence points to a local distiller, a dangerous bad boy named Levi Ravinder, but Sun knows he’s not the villain of her story. Still, perhaps beneath it all, he possesses the keys to her disappearance. At the very least, beneath it all, he possesses a serious set of abs. She’s seen it. Once. Accidentally.

Between policing a town her hunky chief deputy calls four cents short of a nickel, that pesky crush she has on Levi which seems to grow exponentially every day, and an irascible raccoon that just doesn’t know when to quit, Sunny’s life is about to rocket to a whole new level of crazy.

Yep, definitely a good day for chardonnay.

I really vacillated between 4.5 and 5 stars with this one.  Overall, I loved the book from start to finish, and that last .5 of a star is really nit-picky personal tastes.

A Good Day for Chardonnay picks up where A Bad Day for Sunshine leaves off with a multi-story arc surrounding the mystery of Sunshine Vicram’s abduction when she was a teen-ager.  It also introduced too new parallel plots: Sunshine’s investigation of an apparent bar fight gone bad involving her romantic interest, Levi, and a cold case discovered by her daughter in the attic (in the form of newspaper clippings) surrounding the unsolved disappearances of several transients that took place decades previously.  There’s also a racoon wreaking havoc, a blind date gone bad, and another multi-story arc concerning Levi’s family.

There’s a lot going on, but this is Jones’ forte.  She excels at writing fast-paced, multi-plot stories told with a lot of humour and only slightly less heart.  After reading almost 20 of her titles, I can say while I didn’t love all of them, I was never, ever bored by any of them.

This particular book though, was amongst the best.  Good mysteries, yes.  Humor, yes.  But this book was also an emotional roller coaster at the end; between the events of Sunshine’s daughter Auri and her friends coming to a rather explosive climax, and Sunshine’s life-long mystery coming to a satisfying conclusion, a tissue (or three) were required during the reading of this book.

Why didn’t I end up going the full 5?  I was aggravated with the last page; the story ended WAY too abruptly.  And Auri’s storyline.  I really like Auri, and Cruz and love Auri and Cruz together as a team, but her story line was, perhaps, a tiny bit too precocious.  It was handled realistically, in the sense that, IF teenagers in real life were to decide to take it upon themselves to investigate a cold case involving a serial killer, it’s easy to imagine they’d go about the same way Auri did.  But as much as I like Auri, Jones walks a razor fine edge between Auri being likeable and Auri being cloyingly sweet and earnest.  Her selflessness is not entirely realistic, and I can’t say I wouldn’t skim her story where I to re-read this.

And re-read it I shall, because it’s going to be a long year, or however long it takes, before the next book.  And I already can’t wait.

Seven Kinds of People You Find in a Bookshop

Seven Kinds of People You Find in BookshopsSeven Kinds of People You Find in Bookshops
by Shaun Bythell
Rating: ★★★★½
isbn: 9781788166584
Publication Date: November 5, 2020
Pages: 137
Genre: Memoir
Publisher: Profile Books

In twenty years behind the till in The Bookshop, Wigtown, Shaun Bythell has met pretty much every kind of customer there is - from the charming, erudite and deep-pocketed to the eccentric, flatulent and possibly larcenous.

In Seven Kinds of People You Find in Bookshops he distils the essence of his experience into a warm, witty and quirky taxonomy of the book-loving public. So, step inside to meet the crafty Antiquarian, the shy and retiring Erotica Browser and gormless yet strangely likeable shop assistant Student Hugo - along with much loved bookseller favourites like the passionate Sci-Fi Fan, the voracious Railway Collector and the ever-elusive Perfect Customer.

Having read his first two books, I was surprised when this arrived at how small it was.  But good things / small packages and all that.  It may be a small, slim volume, but it’s spot on and hilarious.  I’ve never owned a bookshop (yet) but I recognise these people from time spent in bookshops – and a library or two – everywhere.  I found myself reading most of it aloud to my husband, and we took turns naming those we know who fit Bythell’s descriptions a little too well, inside or outside a bookshop.

MT self-identified with type 3 of the Homo qui desidet or Loiterer, sub-type The Bored Spouse (though in his defense, he just buys his books way too fast).  I was relived not to have identified with the American sub-type of Family Historian, since I leave all that stuff to my mom, who is a first generation American, so comes by it honestly, at least.  I’d like to think I fall firmly in the bonus category of Cliens Perfectus as I generally enter a bookshop, talk to nobody, browse everything, and almost never leave without a stack, and the idea of haggling is one I find personally abhorrent, but then, doesn’t everyone think they’re the Perfect Customer?

All in all, a fun way to spend a few hours as long as you have a healthy sense of humor about humanity.

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.

Fourth Grave Beneath My Feet (Charley Davidson #4)

Fourth Grave Beneath My FeetFourth Grave Beneath My Feet
by Darynda Jones
Rating: ★★★★
isbn: 9781250014467
Series: Charlie Davidson #4
Publication Date: November 4, 2012
Pages: 308
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Publisher: St. Martin's Press

Sometimes being the grim reaper really is, well, grim. And since Charley's last case went so awry, she has taken a couple of months off to wallow in the wonders of self-pity. But when a woman shows up on her doorstep convinced someone is trying to kill her, Charley has to force herself to rise above . . . or at least get dressed. It becomes clear something is amiss when everyone the woman knows swears she's insane. But the more they refute the woman's story, the more Charley believes it.

In the meantime, the sexy, sultry son of Satan, Reyes Farrow, is out of prison and out of Charley's life, as per her wishes and several perfectly timed death threats. But his absence has put a serious crimp in her sex life. While there are other things to consider, like the fact that the city of Albuquerque has been taken hostage by an arsonist, Charley is having a difficult time staying away. Especially when it looks like Reyes may be involved.

Just excellent. Have I mentioned how much I love this whole series? and this book was fabulous.

Truly great snark making for excellent readability. Fabulous characters with depth. No relationship in the book is perfect, but realistically messy – with the exception of Charlie and Cookie and, please, just don’t mess with that!

The main(ish) plot point of this book was an interesting one with a creepy twist at the end that I only half liked (and that’s all I can say without spoilers), but the entire story and all the plots had my undivided attention. I literally devoured this book in one sitting. It’s going to be a very long year waiting for the next book…

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.

Death, Taxes, and a Skinny No-Whip Latte (Tara Holloway Series #2)

I took a break from reading this book after about 6 chapters because it wasn’t holding my attention. I picked it back up after a few days and found myself much more interested in the rest of the book.


Slow start or short attention span, the book picked up quickly afterwards and while you pretty much always know who the bad guy is, I found myself looking forward to finding out how they catch him in the end. Lots of action, a few slapstick moments and great characters. I’ll be on the lookout for the third book.

Nice Girls Don’t Have Fangs (Jane Jameson Series #1)

I had so much fun reading this book! The author’s wit and humour clicked with me and I absolutely loved the dialogue.


The mystery was, while not the main focus of the story, well thought out and not obvious. The only part of this story I didn’t like was just how nasty the women in her family are to her but at least the author allowed the main character, Jane, to have a spine and she didn’t take being treated like crap as though she deserved it. Jane gives as good as she gets and I love reading about her. I’m really looking forward to reading the next book.

No Nest for the Wicket (Meg Langslow Mystery #7)

No Nest for the WicketNo Nest for the Wicket
by Donna Andrews
Rating: ★★★★★
isbn: 9780312329402
Series: Meg Langslow #7
Publication Date: August 8, 2006
Pages: 259
Genre: Fiction, Mystery
Publisher: St. Martin's Minotaur


Donna Andrews’ Meg Langslow series is one of my all time favourites and a series I re-read with regularity.

No Nest for the Wicket is one of the best (extreme croquet – really!), as I really enjoy the ones where Meg’s wacky family plays their part (and boy they are the best sort of whack-jobs!). I’ve read no author who can so perfectly write such three-dimensional characters – even the most out there of the relatives seems believable (ok, almost believable).

I think the plot was solid, with lots of red herrings and the murderer ultimately not easy to guess.

I hope Ms. Andrews finds many, many more plots within her as I’ll be devastated when this series ends. (This review reflects the third time I’ve read this book.)