Wednesday, June 25, 2008

A Plethora of Reviews

I was trying to decide whether it was more annoying to post a half dozen reviews in one entry, or to post six entries one after the other. Any thoughts? I've decided to compromise by doing a separate review for the juvenile fantasy, a separate review for the chick lit/Stephanie Plum-ish book, and then group the mysteries, but put the titles in bold to make it easier to tell when one ends and the next begins. Here are the mysteries:

Carrot Cake Murder by Joanne Fluke: I like the Hannah Swenson series, which starts with Chocolate Chip Cookie Murder. I recently re-read them from the beginning, then picked up where I left off. This is how publishers hook you: after years of releasing a series in paperback, they suddenly switch to hardback, knowing how difficult it is for a die-hard series fan to wait a year for the new book to come out in cheaper paperback form. I generally balk at paying hardback prices, but for my very favorites, I sometimes cave. Carrot Cake Murder is #10 in the series. Although there's still no resolution of the Mike-Norman-Hannah love triangle, we do find out Mrs. Swenson's secret project (I guessed right!), and we have some mystery concerning Moishe behaving oddly again (I love that cat). Carrot Cake Murder is set at a family reunion for Lisa and Herb's family. Lisa's long-lost uncle (? Seriously, I lost track of how everyone was related, much as one does at an actual family reunion) Gus shows up. He had disappeared in the middle of the night a couple of decades before. The unlikeable Gus (who refuses to explain his long absence, and flashes money around) turns up dead, with Hannah's carrot cake on the floor beside him. It will surprise no one that Hannah decides to investigate. I have a good time visiting the folks in Lake Eden, so I always enjoy a new Hannah Swenson. There are always concerns this late in a series as to whether it's getting stale, and especially with a love triangle that's been dragged out this long. It didn't bother me, because I like Fluke's formula. The love triangle is a little silly (Norman and Mike are pretty darn nice to each other, considering they've both proposed to Hannah), and the chaste relationship she has with each man stretches credibility a bit. But whatever. It doesn't intrude on the fun for me! I recommend starting this series from the beginning if it sounds like it might be up your alley. And cozy fans who like a rich small town setting with a well-drawn cast of secondary characters will probably enjoy this one. Here's my review of Key Lime Pie Murder, #9 in the series.

Goodbye, Ms. Chips by Dorothy Cannell: Yes, another hardback mystery. Sigh. I waited and waited patiently for Withering Heights to come out in paperback (and it was a long wait between the previous novel and WH), but once I'd read it, I couldn't wait any longer for Goodbye, Ms. Chips, which takes place at a girls' boarding school--Ellie's alma mater, as a matter of fact, and the school Ariel (from WH) attends, AND the school where Dorcas is the new games mistress. As Withering Heights gently parodies gothic novels, Goodbye, Ms. Chips takes on the boarding school novel. Dorcas asks Ellie to investigate when the Loverly Cup (awarded to the winning lacrosse team) disappears. Ellie stays at an alumnae retreat house with three other women, one the bully from her own school days, another the girl who lost the chance at the Head Girl spot when Ellie failed to speak up to clear her name. One girl seems the likely culprit, but Ellie doesn't believe it. A full cast of vaguely suspicious characters (alumnae, staff, students, and more) makes this a fun read, with some entertaining twists. The first in this series is The Thin Woman, possibly my favorite all-time mystery novel. I always enjoy seeing what Ellie & co. are up to.

Paint by Murder and Berried Alive by Kate Kingsbury: These are #5 and 6 of the Manor House mystery series. The first is A Bicycle Built for Murder, and they take place in the village of Sitting Marsh during WWII, where Lady Elizabeth keeps her tenants happy while hosting a contingent of American soldiers. The mysteries are always fine, but the real fun is in the village life. In Paint by Murder, one of Lady Elizabeth's tenants is murdered amidst talk of a spy in Sitting Marsh, and in Berried Alive, three American soldiers have mysteriously died. Both were fun entries in the series.
Here's my review of A Bicycle Built for Murder

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