Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Antique Blues - Cozy Mystery Review

Rating: Very Good
Source: NetGalley

When amateur sleuth and antiques expert Josie Prescott is called in to appraise a Japanese woodblock print and vintage guitar for her friend Mo, she’s thrilled—until Mo is murdered.

It doesn’t take her long to pinpoint one suspect: Mo’s sister’s manipulative boyfriend, who sold her the print—and has now, conveniently, disappeared. Josie’s antiques know-how and detective skills soon lead her down an increasingly perplexing trail, scattered with gamblers, extramarital affairs, and under-the-table purchases.

Readers will relish a return to Rocky Point with Josie as she works together with her friends—the ambitious young reporter Wes Smith, and Rocky Point’s savvy police chief, Ellis Hunter—to sift through the conflicting stories around them and find Mo’s killer.

Genre: Mystery - Cozy

Why I Picked This Book:
  I think I read the first one in this series years ago and enjoyed it.  As well I love antiques so a series set around an appraiser really appealed to me.

My Impression:
  It's no big secret that I'm a fan of cozy mystery but what do I love almost as much?  Art related mysteries!  If there's a theft or a forgery to be had or a sketchy provenance there is no way I can resist.  Now combine a cozy mystery with an art related mystery and the book is pretty much written for me.  This series pretty much proves that point.   While I don't remember if I read the 1st book I can guarantee you I'll be tracking it and the rest of the series down from this point on.

So what was so great?  For starters Josie's business as an antiques expert and appraiser isn't just window dressing.  She shows up at work and the reader actually sees some of the work that goes into determining if a piece of art is the real thing or not.  I liked this investigation mixed in with just who the murderer was and why had Mo been killed.  The murder investigation does take a starring role and I was pretty clueless for quite some time as to just who had done it.  I spent a lot of time trying to deduce just what was a red herring and what wasn't which added to my enjoyment of the reading experience.  As well there's a team work element between Josie, Wes and Ellis which I loved.

Needless to say I thoroughly enjoyed this book as it had a lot of elements that I personally adore.  This is a great mystery with likable characters that work well together.  If you love antiques, art or mysteries this is a fun series that shouldn't be missed.  

Would I Read More of this Series/Author?
  Absolutely!  I need the first 11 books immediately!

Would I Recommend this Book?
  Yes, especially if you enjoy cozy mysteries AND Antiques Roadshow.  This was  a lot of fun and I had no problem starting the series with this book.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

The Nancy Drew Project: The Secret of the Old Clock

When I was a kid I was a huge Nancy Drew fan.  I remember anxiously searching library shelves to find mysteries I hadn't read yet and being completely outraged that my Grandmother had donated my mother's collection during one of their movies.  What I didn't know is that the version my mother read was most likely not the same version that I was read.  I learned in the last few years that the Nancy Drew series was given a "refresh" starting in 1959 and I couldn't resist trying the original version and comparing it with the newer "modern" version.

1930 Version:

Page Count:  210
First Sentence:  "It would be a shame if all the money went to the Tophams!  They will flyer than ever!"

1959 Version:

Page Count: 180
First Sentence: Nancy Drew, an attractive girl of eighteen, was driving home along a country road in her new, dark-blue convertible.

Notable Differences: 
In the original version Nancy is 16 versus 18 in the later versions. 

Nancy's friends Bess and George are nowhere to be found and are replaced by Helen Channing who is described as a long time friend of Nancy's.  

The housekeeper Hannah Gruen is still there but she is the maid not the housekeeper and it's made very clear that Nancy is in charge of running the house which includes meal planning, ordering groceries, and working with a budget.

The harrowing scene where a little girl runs into traffic which leads Nancy to meet the two elderly aunts, learn of a theft and discover the whole missing will in the first place is completely missing.  Instead Nancy is already aware of the issues regarding the will and the questions surrounding it and comes into contact with two sisters who were expecting the inheritance on her own.

Nancy herself is completely different.  Instead of being constantly nice and charitable, Nancy can be a bit blunt.  She dislikes the two Topham girls who seemed to be the beneficiaries of the will and doesn't really pull her punches.  Instead of judging a store clerk for being gossipy she is interested and quick to encourage her confidences.  And at one point she even withholds evidence from the police.  To be honest I liked the 1930s Nancy way better.

The writing style in general.  The newer version is very simplistic and has an almost lecture-y tone at times whereas the original version is faster paced and more exciting.  The lecture-y tone is gone in favor of just telling a good story.  As well there was quite a bit about daily life that I found interesting.  We see more of how Nancy runs the house as well as seeing the difficulties that two sisters she becomes friends with better explored.  

The basic plot and outcome is pretty much the same.  Nancy is intelligent and pretty much left to her own devices to solve the mystery.  

My Overall Thoughts:
I tried to read the two books 5 chapters at a time to really compare the two but the newer version was so simple and childish compared to the original version that I ended up stopping that.  I'm not really sure what version I read but considering it was off library shelves I wonder if it was a mix.   There are some that are really stuck in my head but others that have faded into nothingness.  I wonder if the ones I vividly remember were the originals.  

I really enjoyed this reread of a old favorite and am so glad I took the time to revisit the world of the Nancy Drew and River Heights.  If you're a fan of Nancy Drew I definitely recommend a revisit though maybe try and get your hands on the original version.  I don't think you'll be disappointed!

Monday, April 23, 2018

Sleeping Murder - Buddy Read Mystery Review

I'm super excited about today's book partly because it's one of my absolute favorites and partly because this is a buddy read with Emma from One Reader's Thoughts.   Since she let me pick for this round I couldn't resist picking Sleeping Murder by Agatha Christie

The Blurb:  Soon after Gwenda moved into her new home, odd things started to happen. Despite her best efforts to modernize the house, she only succeeded in dredging up its past. Worse, she felt an irrational sense of terror every time she climbed the stairs.

In her fear, Gwenda turned to Miss Marple to exorcise her ghosts. Between them, they were to solve a "perfect" crime committed many years before.

Behind the Scenes:  While this book was published in the mid 1970s it was actually written during the 1940s.  Christie had kept in a safe deposit box as a gift for her daughter Rosalind and grandson Matthew.  She had done the same with the final Poirot book Curtain.  If you are reading the Miss Marple books in order of publication this one is a little amusing because a number of characters come back to life and Miss Marple's health dramatically improves.

Why It's One of My Favorites:   The premise is probably the main reason I love this one so much.  Any mystery that involves digging into the past - especially one that is personal for one of the characters - is automatically going to be a winner for me and this is no exception.  I have the scene where Gwenda opens the corner cabinet in the bedroom pretty much memorized yet I'm still gasp in surprise right along with Gwenda.

I also love Gwenda and Giles.  They're sweet and work together wonderfully.  They don't dismiss Miss Marple's insights just because she's elderly though the do doubt her occasionally.  Miss Marple shines in this one as well.  She's not the primary focus her but is a significant side character and her insights are of course brilliant.  She is also trying not to take over the investigation though she does encourage the couple to really think about different issues.

The book was written during a period of time where Christie was writing some of my favorites and best plotted mysteries and you can see it here.  While the mystery is kicked off by a fairly large coincidence (which do happen occasionally as Miss Marple patiently explains) the mystery itself is fairly simple yet brilliantly obscured.  It's one that when the reveal is finally done makes perfect and complete sense.

I think this is a fantastic mystery to start reading Agatha Christie - especially if you are a cozy mystery fan as it does have the similar likable characters/amateur detective feel.   And it has been and continues to be one of my absolute favorites.  But what did Emma think?  Go check out her review on One Reader's Thoughts to find out.

Sunday, April 22, 2018

This Week in Reading - April 22

It's Sunday Post time!  This is hosted by the awesome Caffeinated Book Reviewer and gives us all a chance to recap our week.

What I Got:

She Was the Quiet One by Michele Campbell - The sitting is an upscale boarding school and the blurb promises lots of twists and turns so there was no way I could resist!  (Publisher)

Till Death Do Us Tart by Ellie Alexander - I've been reading this cozy mystery series set around a bakery in Oregon since the beginning and now it feels like revisiting old friends.  I'm really looking forward to seeing what happens with the characters - and find out who got murdered!  (Publisher)

Murder at the Mansion by Sheila Connolly - Connolly is a favorite cozy mystery author and I couldn't resist this new series involving a woman returning to her home town and a huge Victorian house that's turned into an inn!  (Publisher)


Reading:  Murder in the Bowery by Victoria Thompson, Antique Blues by Jane K. Cleland, and The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton

Listening:  I'm almost done with Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty.  I've been enjoying it and surprised by how much I connect with the characters.

Watching:  We got a new cable provider (because I wanted internet that actually worked more than half the time) so I've mostly been trying to figure out how to make everything work in the new over complicated box.

Off the Blog:

I haven't been feeling great lately which has really been affecting my reading.  It's nothing serious just really tired and headachey and focusing on a book seems harder than it should be.  I've been up and down like this the last couple of months and it's starting to get beyond annoying!  The past few weeks have been really crazy but I think this week is going to be different and I'm hoping that I can catch up on my rest.

I had a nice visit with my grandparents.  The weather cooperated and we watched some really wonderful movies.  I'm growing my list of movie essentials that I'm looking forward to sharing.  I've also got a new feature starting this week involving Nancy Drew books.   I'm comparing the original version with the one that was rewritten in the 50s and 60s.  So far it's been really interesting to me at least.

On the Blog:

What Happened:

What's Coming Up:

Monday:  Sleeping Murder - Buddy Read with Emma from One Reader's Thoughts
Tuesday:  The Nancy Drew Project - Secret of the Old Clock
Wednesday:  Antique Blues - Cozy Mystery Review
Thursday:  Murder in the Bowery - Historical Mystery Review
Friday:  Friday Linkups with Current Book
Saturday: TBD

What do you have going on this week?  What are you reading?

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Ready Player One -Science Fiction Review

Rating: Good
Source: Library (Audio)

In the year 2045, reality is an ugly place. The only time teenage Wade Watts really feels alive is when he's jacked into the virtual utopia known as the OASIS. Wade's devoted his life to studying the puzzles hidden within this world's digital confines, puzzles that are based on their creator's obsession with the pop culture of decades past and that promise massive power and fortune to whoever can unlock them. When Wade stumbles upon the first clue, he finds himself beset by players willing to kill to take this ultimate prize. The race is on, and if Wade's going to survive, he'll have to win—and confront the real world he's always been so desperate to escape.

Genre:  Science Fiction

Why I Picked This Book:
  I heard this was a science fiction book for people who didn't really like science fiction and I was curious about Wil Wheaton's narration.

My Impression:  This one took awhile to figure out how to rate.  There were several times throughout the book where I really just didn't care and was seriously thinking about DNFing it and then there were other times where all I wanted to do was find out what happened next.  To be honest I'm not sure I would have made it through if I wasn't listening to the audio version.  There's a lot of world building and setup at the beginning and it took forever for me to get into the story.  I think this is one of those "it's not you, it's me" moments as the world building is really excellent and well done but that aspect in general just doesn't hold my interest.  There's a reason why I've only read a handful of dystopian and science fiction books.  When the quest starts up I was fully in and started enjoying the story.  Then around halfway through it stalls and it seems like Wade does a LOT of whining for awhile.  Just as I was about to give up it starts back up again and for the last third or so I was completely hooked and couldn't wait to find out just what happened next.  

I enjoyed the 80s pop culture references though not being super into arcade games I didn't get quite as much enjoyment as I would have otherwise.  The friendships between Wade, Aech, Art3mis and Shoto, and Daito was one of my favorite elements of the story and I loved the moments where they were working together.  The quest itself was my favorite part.  I enjoyed being inside Wade's head as he figured out the different clues and came up with different plans.  While the ending was satisfying I would've loved an epilogue to get a little glimpse about what happens next but that's more the fact I like my endings overly completed.

While there were lots of slow parts for me I ended up enjoying this story very much.  If you're not sure it's for you I highly recommend the audio as Wil Wheaton does a spectacular job and just his voice and interpretation alone got me through a few times where I really felt the story was dragging.

Now the big question now - will I go see this in film form?  Answer - probably not.  While I did enjoy this in book form I don't really have a desire to revisit this world.  If it came on HBO I'd probably give it a try but I won't go out of my way.

Would I Read More of this Series/Author?
  Probably.  I did enjoy this one and if Wil Wheaton was narrating another book I'd give it a try.

Would I Recommend this Book?
  Yes with reservations.  If you like quest type books I think you'd enjoy the bulk of this book.  And I highly recommend the audio version. 

Friday, April 20, 2018

Friday Linkups - Murder in the Bowery


It's Friday linkup time!  I'm linking up with the Book Blogger Hop hosted by Coffee Addicted Writer, Book Beginnings of Fridays hosted by Rose City Reader, and the Friday 56 hosted by Freda's Voice

This Week's Book Blogger Hop Question:
How do you organize your books for review?  Does it work for you or have you had to change it?

My Answer:
For ebooks I have a list of reading order based on review commitment dates.  For print books I have kind of a stack filing system.  The next 5 upcoming books are stacked in order that they need to be read and I also have a list for them as well.  It works pretty well but for the print books especially I'd like to have a neater system.

This week's book is a historical mystery in a series that I've been wanting to read for quite some time.  I loved a book from another series by Victoria Thompson but I've bene wanting to read her long running Gaslight Mystery series so I'm starting with Murder in the Bowery.

The Beginning:
"I need you to find my kid brother, Mr. Malloy."

My Thoughts:
I love a missing persons case!

The 56:
The room was dark and dank, lit by feeble electric lights and cooled by the water they kept dripping over the bodies to slow decay until they could be identified.

My Thoughts: 
Well that's a bit gruesome!  I never thought about how they slowed decay before there was refrigeration but it does make sense.

So what do you think?  Keep reading?  How do you keep track of all your books?

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Chicken Culprit - Cozy Mystery Review + Giveaway

Chicken Culprit: Backyard Farming Mystery Series by Vikki Walton

About the Book

Chicken Culprit: Backyard Farming Mystery Series Cozy Mystery 1st in Series Setting - Colorado Morewellson, LTD Print Length: 251 pages Digital ASIN: B079SS1C4S
Finally healing after her heart-breaking divorce, Anne Freemont is ready to put the painful past behind her. Discovering an old Victorian for sale in the small mountain town of Carolan Springs may be just what she needs. The beauty of Colorado beckons, so Anne heads west to start her new life. Yet, before Anne'scompletely settled in, her neighbor is found dead in his compost pile. What’s worse is that Anne’s quirky young neighbor, Kandi Jenkins, could be the killer. When Kandi begs for her help, Anne feels she has no choice but to help the young woman. However, she finds herself quickly at odds with the local sheriff. And while she uncovers more of the community's secrets, she's also exploring her awakening feelings for Sam Powers, the town's deputy coroner. Once Anne starts looking at who could be the real killer, the suspect list keeps getting longer and longer. It seems that Carolan Springs is a place of many secrets. But who would want to murder Ralph and who’s willing to kill again to keep their secret?
My Thoughts:  This was a lot of fun!  I liked Anne Freemont quite a bit and her excitement and trepidation about moving and get a fresh start were very relatable.  I loved all the bits about the small town and the farming though it did make me desperately want a fresh heirloom tomato and those won't be in season for a few months!  The quirkiness of the characters was sometime a bit over the top but never fell to slapstick levels so it made for an entertaining read.  This was a solid mystery with a likable and slightly older than usual main character and a fun new setting.  This is a book I really enjoyed and a series I'm looking forward to continuing.  Rating: Good!

About the Author

Vikki Walton is a suburban homesteader aka the Havensteader. She has chickens, gardens, and bees and is a certified permaculture designer. She’s also the author of nonfiction books. She loves to travel, is a global house and pet sitter and when not out in the garden or hiking in beautiful Colorado, is plotting her next mystery.
Author Links: Website:
Purchase Link Amazon

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