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Ari owns a knitting shop, ‘Ariadne’s Web’, and this is where the first body is discovered strangled with some handspun yarn, spun by her best friend Diane. Eventually Josh the new detective clears her as a suspect and reluctantly concedes to work together to find the murderer.
As the dead bodies pile up, she discovers that her patterns have been sold online, but is it connected with the deaths? Her life is also made a little more difficult thanks to her irritating ex husband and issues with her young daughter.

This was a well written book that had consistent and swift pacing, making it an enjoyable page turner. There is a large cast of characters which helped the mystery bed to down and hid the murderer. I also liked the connection between Ari, Joel and Diane. As a knitter, I enjoyed the knitting and spinning references too, as well as the descriptions of the shop and contents. I did have an inkling of who the murderer was, which was a little disappointing.

From what I understand, the author has primarily written romance books and it was clear that murder mysteries were a departure. I wasn’t entirely sure that she knew much about knitting and in particular online pattern sharing and selling, as there seemed to be some inconsistencies. All in all, this was a fun cozy mystery which also had the bonus of some knitting patterns as an added extra. All in all this was a great book and an interesting start to a series, which I will look forward to reading.

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Dr. Angela Hunter is an archaeologist and works with her Dad in Mississippi retrieving Indian artefacts.  She is asked to look into an ancient codex that could help unlock the mystery of the Mound Builders who had no written language.

The story alternates between Angela’s progress and an Aztec family in the 1300’s.  I don’t know much about this time or the area, but what I do know is that it is very bloody.  In fact the description of the live sacrifice of a young girl who thought that she was going to get married tested my gore limits.  It is this incident that prompts a judge to go against the tradition of human sacrifice and instead offers his own blood.  Unfortunately the community doesn’t like this and not helped with his son’s behaviour, they are forced to go on the run where they settle in Migaduha (Cahokia Mounds in Illinois).

It is a very clever way to proceed with the story, but I did find myself wanting to skip the details about 1300 Aztecs to learn more about what is going on with the rest of the story.  This could be because I don’t really have as much connection (or interest – sorry) with this time periods and long descriptions about Aztec sports didn’t really do it for me.

Back in modern time, Angela is forced to work with Franklin Oettendorf, her former professor and lover and the handsome workaholic Joseph Edgewater who is a head honcho of a secret Native American society.  Of course Franklin is bad news, more concerned with his own fame and career path, and using anyone and anything that gets in his way.  In the end he gets his comeuppance when it turns out that the codex is actually a curse.

It is clear that this book has been researched in depth and even if the subject matter is a little difficult for me, I respect the author for putting in the hours.  There weren’t that many twists with the ending, the good guys won and the bad guys were quashed, but it certainly left the reader wondering what would happen in the next book.

This book was sent to me as part of Elle Marie’s virtual tour in return for an honest and fair review.

 

So here we are again, book 5 in the Sookie Stackhouse series.  There are two threads to this storyline.  The first is that shape shifters are being shot and Jason, who has recently been bitten, is considered the main suspect supposedly wanting revenge.  Of course, this is completely wrong as Jason is having fun with his were-pantherism, so Sookie takes it upon herself to go searching for the culprit.  In the course of the story, both Sam and Sookie get shot, but what is frustrating is that the perpetrator(s) were so easy to pick out.

The second thread is based on werewolf politics, which is just as brutal as vampire politics.  Alcide wants Sookie’s help, but doesn’t want to ask for it (more about that in a bit).  She is forced to see the real nature of the people around her when her house is burnt down and who would be prepared to help her and more importantly, who wouldn’t.

So what is happening to the main characters?

Alcide is now obsessed with manipulating Sookie.  He asks her to come to the funeral of the head wolf as she is “friend of the pack”; but what he really wants is for her to read the minds of the pack as his Dad wants to run for head wolf position.  When he tells her his plan minutes before the ceremony, he adds that he knows that Debbie had been at her house and guesses (rightly) that she murdered her.  Sookie tells him that he doesn’t have to resort to blackmail as she’s happy to help, but that doesn’t stop him.  Throughout the book, he just gets worse, I am surprised that he didn’t walk up to her and pull her pigtails to show that he likes her as he’s resorting to such playground tactics.  Clearly on the rebound, he invites Sookie to live with him after her house burns down and seems to think that because he fancies her (get in line, pal) that her gifts are his to use as he wishes.  Big mistake.  Not even the vampires blackmail Sookie to get her to do stuff (yet).  She attends the wolf leader battle for him and didn’t leave when she found out just how brutal it would be (although some warning would have been nice, what with the whole fighting until the death and celebratory public sex, ick).  Given his personality change, of course he will blame her for not saving his Dad and will go back to dating insane were-ladies in the next book.

He is almost like a male version of Sookie, he has terrible taste in women and keeps on returning to them, only to be manipulated by them again.  He’s also fickle with his affections.  Sure, he’s attractive and you know, alive, but he’s also a supernatural being.  I think that part of this book is showing Sookie that there’s more to weres than them being in touch with their fuzzy side every month.  Their animal side is always there and their brutality is on a par with vampires, maybe even more so as their leadership battle and ‘celebrations’ show.

Jason is getting used to being a were-panther and as he has fewer brains than a panther, he seems to enjoy this side of him.   The Hotshot crowd are willing to keep an eye on him thanks to his relationship with Crystal and her Uncle Calvin’s crush on Sookie.  It’s clear to everyone but Sookie that Hotshot is rife with inbreeding and Calvin is mating with any pure blood to try and stop the genetic faults like some kind of Hapsburg King, clutching at straws.  He really wants to mate with Sookie so she can dilute the bloodline too and he’s not afraid to use Jason as leverage.  He gets shot and spends most of the book in hospital, so initially Sookie visits him to keep on his good side, but then continues more than necessary and even kisses him.  With the naivety of someone blessed with good looks, great tan, big boobs and short skirts, she muses how nice it was to bring pleasure to him just because she was pretty.  Agggh, this is what makes me so furious with these books.  Just when I think that she finally starts to get a grip and she’s not completely brain dead something like this happens, showing that she has as much depth as a puddle. Of course, Calvin won’t be impressed when he realises that all the ‘affection’ is just the Sookie brand of friendliness.

Tara has landed herself with a dodgy vampire thanks to her boyfriend, allowing another vampire, Mickey, “use” her.  Sookie, asks Eric (who is still in the dark as to what happened when he was cursed) to sort it as a favour to her.  This is an easy fix for him and after a quick phone call and some fisticuffs, Mickey is sorted out.  Now Sookie has to explain what happened to Eric and makes a big deal about the amazing sex, as well as how he wanted to run away with her, which shocks Eric.  It turns out that part of the curse was that he was to be near the person that he loves, but not know her.  The aim of the showdown with Mickey was to show the power that sires have over their creations and how they can’t fight it (take note for further books)

Bill’s back and is displaying his true colours with pride.  Even when he hurts Sookie (again) she still believes that ‘he doesn’t really mean it’, not wanting to accept how horrible he is because she loved him.  At some point, she  is going to have to face up to that.  He’s a vampire. Duh.  He walks in on her and Sam kissing (which doesn’t mean that much as she seems to be kissing everyone), causing another fight.  Regardless of all the kissing, neither man seems to realise that they are both in the friendzone.

We have a new character too, Quinn the were-tiger who was MC/referee in charge of the werewolf battle for leadership.  Of course he immediately has lusty feelings towards Sookie (which is getting so boring now) and I expect that we’ll see him again.  There’s also a new vampire, Charles who is a pirate bartender on loan to Sam from Fangtasia when he got shot (really? Couldn’t the author think of anything better than a Jack Sparrow clone?)

The storylines were ropey and full of holes, I think (I hope) that the author was establishing some groundwork for future books with the complexities of the werewolf /shapeshifter communities, and showing that the vampires don’t have the monopoly on being a vicious breed.  If this book was to have a theme, it would be loyalties.  Sookie is still naïve enough to think that she can go along and do ‘good deeds’ to all and sundry and people will return the favour.  It doesn’t work that way.  No matter how she acts, the supernaturals will always want her to join their gang because of her talents and because they want to get into her knickers.  At some point, she will have to pin her colours to the mast and have done with it.  It is almost as if this book is a watershed, things just can’t carry on any longer.

I wish that I liked Sookie more, but she continually does things that negate any kind of personal growth.  On one hand she is wittering on about how she wasn’t going to rebound, but then she’s kissing every supernatural being she meets.  There are constant references to her reading books and that sodding word of the day calendar as if that in itself indicates her intelligence and common sense, but based on her actions she comes off as a brainless idiot, never mind the fact that she can use a new word.  I want her to become more savvy and aware of what is going on.  She chose to immerse herself in this life, yet she is unwilling to truly appreciate the laws and regulations and instead she is insisting on applying human rules to them which just doesn’t work.

After a good book in Book 4, this one was a disappointment I really hope that the next one will be better.

Hooked on Murder

Molly Pink co-ordinates events at Shedd and Royal books, but ends up stumbling upon the body of Ellen Sheridan, leader of the crochet group and her late husband’s old business partner.  Soon she is being targeted by the policewoman in charge of the investigation whose judgement is clouded by jealousy over Molly’s relationship with Detective Barry and feels like the only way she can get herself out of the sticky situation is to do some investigating herself.

What I liked about this book was that she takes up crochet and it documents her journey into learning different techniques and the slippery slope into yarn addiction.  As a way of de-stressing she joins a crochet group who are struggling to make a blanket which is to be auctioned off for charity, as with most groups there’s a huge amount of politics to be tip toed around, not to mention the rivalry between crocheters and knitters.

I found Molly quite a tragic figure, while she was doing her best to carve out her own life, it seemed like the world couldn’t help but give her a few kickings along the way, not to mention a boyfriend who just wanted a housekeeper and a cook on tap.

The murder mystery part itself was cleverly made (even though the murderer was a peripheral character that was barely mentioned, which as a reader sometimes feels like a cop out) and it was only when there was a face off between the characters that everything fell into place and it went into scary movie territory – the ‘don’t go into the basement on your own’ kind of thing 😉

I would say that it was an enjoyable book that was OK, but didn’t necessarily hit all of the buttons.  Still, as a crocheter I liked the descriptions about the way that they made the blanket and the crochet vs knitters show down.   Let me know what you think!

Betty has her own website http://bettyhechtman.com/and Facebook page as well as photos of the crochet patterns – so get your hooks out!!

I have a soft spot for the Mrs Murphy books as this was the series that got me addicted to cozy mysteries, but the last five books haven’t been so great – a trend that has continued with this recent addition.

The plot is that Aunt Tally is turning 100 and there are an abundance of celebrations, mostly centred around William Woods University alumnae association, one of whom gets murdered.  She is joined by her best friend and Fair’s mentor, Inez, who is a vet and an active member of the University alumnae activities and they try to figure out the murder.

I cannot say how much of a let down this book was for me.  It seems that it is just a vehicle for political soap boxing about the environment, the government, politics, culture and drugs.  While some authors bring up certain issues as a way of educating the reader and broadening awareness (for example the Booktown mysteries), I get the feeling that Rita Mae Brown likes a damn good rant, but forgets that there is a time and a place for such things.  I’d like to think that I am informed in political and environmental matters, but I don’t read cozy books to have a lecture and it seems that the mystery part of Cat of the Century is just a tenuous link between rants.

There was an absence of the usual characters  such as Miranda, the Rev, Blair and Susan, with just the briefest appearance of Coop, Little Mim and Mim.   The bulk of the story centred around the alumnae association, all of whom were instantly irritating.  One of the benefits of a series is that the reader has a connection and invested interest with the characters which works in the favour of the author when forming the different strands of a mystery.  Introducing a new cast of characters means that you need a really strong plot line to maintain this connection,  which this book didn’t have and when it came down to it, the new characters were so one-dimensional that I didn’t care who got murdered, who was falsely accused or who the murderer was.

Frustratingly I had figured out who the murderer was half way through the book.  When this happens I always feel a little cheated and the whole ‘white sand’ nonsense as a concept was just idiotic.  If only Rita Mae Brown put as much effort into creating a decent mystery plot as she did with her heavy-handed political lectures.

What it boils down to, is that every book in a series that is substandard, takes the shine off of the other books that were good and after a while, the whole series becomes tainted.  It doesn’t feel like Rita Mae Brown actually likes writing these books anymore and if that is the case, then she should just move on.

With great sadness, I am not sure that I’d want to read any future books in the series, and if I did, then I’d get a copy from the library – there are far better books for me to spend my money on.  Fans of the series, stay away.

http://www.ritamaebrown.com

Sophie is a freshly divorced party planner who is currently planning a family Thanksgiving and taking part in a turkey stuffing competition.

Within the first pages of this book  you are introduced to Natasha, a glamorous, perfect, Martha Stewart type and Sophie’s nemesis since her school days.  It seems that her family are completely enchanted with Natasha, her column and TV show – which only seems to give the most impractical of advice for Thanksgiving, guaranteed to make any regular woman feel like a failure.  Oh, and she has also set up house with Sophie’s ex-husband, Mars.

On her way to the supermarket, Sophie is approached by a man with a kitten asking if she would like to have it.  Sophie says no, but while shopping decides to accept the kitten if he is still there.  She is also approached by Dean Coswell, the editor of a newspaper who is frustrated with the Natasha insanity (his wife injured herself trying to make Natasha’s Thanksgiving decorations), and asks if  Sophie would write a column as the voice of reason – an anti-Natasha.  Hooray

When she reaches her car, she finds the kitten as well as the body of the man .  As the person who found the body, the police are suspicious of her especially as she is covered in residual blood (from the kitten? bin?) and the dead man had a picture of her in his car.  After taking her statement, one of the policemen, Wolf, turns up at her house with her groceries and kitten food – he seems to have taken a shine to her and the kitten 🙂

At the stuffing contest, Simon, a judge who is obnoxiously rich presumes that Sophie would go on a date with him,  as he is a judge, Natasha is the first (and only person) to shriek about cheating, even though Sophie hadn’t agreed to the date.  When Simon is found dead, it is Natasha again who accuses Sophie of killing him.  Good grief, this woman bugs me, to top it all Sophie doesn’t do anything, she just benignly accepts Natasha and her antics.  “Oh, you’ve just accused me of cheating and murder… that’s nice”, also her family and friends do nothing either!  Gah.

In the run up to Thanksgiving, her house (which seems like the Tardis) fills up with her own family including her sister Hannah (who is almost as irritating as Natasha) and her insipid fiance Craig, as well as Mars’ relatives who  Natasha has pissed off and alienated.  This includes his Mum, June and his best friend Bernie.  After Natasha has a fire in her house (which she blames on June and consequently tries to convince Mars to put her in a residential care home), Sophie’s Mum and June invite Mars and Natasha to Thanksgiving in the hope to get Sophie and Mars back together.  There is so much talk about Southern hospitality, but surely there is Southern etiquette for being a good guest too?

During Thanksgiving lunch, which includes several neighbours and Wolf, a guest is poisoned and guess what, there are more accusations by Natasha which prompts Sophie into figuring out who the murderer is.

I am split about this book, I really like it, but there are some elements that truly bug me.  The main characters are all one-dimensional.  Natasha is as irritating as a flea bite on your ass and Sophie has saint-like patience that makes her seems like a doormat.  It is frequently commented that Natasha and Sophie are friends, but I see no friendship between them.  Really, would a friend be the first person to accuse you of cheating and murder?  With friends like those, who needs enemies! It’s not even a rivalry, just a woman who is so used to getting her own way that she just tramples over everyone.  I suppose the author has done a good job, because Natasha’s character makes  my blood boil, I just wish that I could see Sophie stand up to her.  Or if they are friends, show me why they are friends, not simply because they went to the same school.

On the positive side, at the start of every chapter is an excerpt of a column or TV programme by Natasha or Sophie.  It is not only interesting, but a clever way of setting the tone for the chapter and highlight the differences between Natasha and Sophie.

It is also a great mystery, there are so many twists and turns – and so many characters that it is hard to keep track of who is who which is a clever way of concealing who the murderer is.  I also liked the characterisation of the animals and her next door neighbour Nina, who comes across as a real friend.

Of course I am going to read the next books, but not straight away – I can’t handle another Natasha filled novel, not just yet which is sad because in the end you want a reader to want to read your books, not read them while despising a character.

I am a huge fan of Kate Collins and her Flower Shop Mystery books.  I love her characters, especially the heroine Abby Knight.  Abby owns a flower shop after leaving her law degree and like all the best characters she is full of light and shade.  She often finds herself in sticky situations because she wants to do the right thing – defend the defenceless and right wrongs – a true knight.  If you were ever in trouble, you’d want Abby fighting in your corner!

Of course things don’t often turn out how they should and she needs to have someone to rescue her.  This rescuer comes in the form of her hunky boyfriend, Marco.  A former Army Ranger who now owns the bar down from her flower shop, he loves the way that she always wants to do the right thing – even if it causes more than one headache for him!

The book starts out with Abby on one of her crusades, protesting against the cruel farming practices of Uniworld Food and managing to tick off big wigs at every turn.  She is exhibiting at a home and garden show where she is also collecting signatures for her petition.  The only problem is that Uniworld is sponsoring the event and soon security is called to escort her out.  unfortunately she has other problems in the form of her mother’s sweets that she was giving out as a promotion (her Mum has great ideas, but often ends up with not such a great product) which lead to a dramatic and hilarious show down that had me laughing out loud.

When she returns to the shop, a burning brick is thrown through the window and it turns out that it wasn’t just the security at the garden show that were ticked off with her.  Things escalated when her truly irritating cousin Jillian and her teenage niece were kidnapped.   This final kidnapping and the body linked to it was the final straw and Marco takes it upon himself to be a permanent body guard.  Unfortunately such close quarters makes her question whether or not they should marry.  Poor guy, he is really put through the ringer keeping an eye on Abby.  She is obviously feeling suffocated and it is her nature to rail against unnecessary rules, so she decides that the only way she can get back her freedom is to sort everything out and get to the bottom of the kidnapping, which means finding ways to escape Marco.

In true Kate Collins style, there are several intertwining plot lines.  One minute you think that you have an idea of what is going on, only for it to be turned on its head.  In the end, you never see the whole picture until Abby does – which also means you go along the same dead ends too.

As well as the scene in the home and garden show, my favourite part of the book (which also had me in floods of tears) was the final scene with Abby and her Dad.  You can see where she gets her strength from and it was a beautiful moment between father and daughter.  Throughout the series, you get the feeling that Abby’s tendency to search for the truth is as a result of her Dad’s accident (a former policeman, shot in the line of duty and  now in a wheelchair) and that she often mourns that with the accident he also lost the part of him that was the policeman.  This is proved wrong with the final showdown.  Even though he is in a wheelchair, her Dad still has a heart and head of a policeman, because of this I think that she has a growing realisation of who her Dad is.

I wish this book lasted a little longer, even though I tried to eek it out I still finished it within a day, but I am so excited about the next one.  There was  comment in passing about her Dad using crutches to get to Marco’s apartment which makes me wonder if he is getting ready to walk Abby down the aisle!  Of course the final page with the checklist was a brilliant way to end the book, with just enough romance to warm your heart.

Visit http://www.katecollinsbooks.com/ to see a plan of the flower shop and other snippets of information that aren’t in the book. Abby also has her own Facebook page too – I love these extras, with the internet it seems a fairly simple way of giving fans of the books a little added extra.

I was in the disturbing quandary of not having any new books left to read, so I went onto the various online booksellers to see which books have been recommended and this was one of them

Brenna moves from Boston to a small town where she works in her friend’s paper shop specialising in decoupage.  She soon discovers the mayor’s body shoved in a trunk and her friend and landlord is being accused of the murder, so to save him and her sanity, she decides to do some investigating herself along with her best friend.

In some books, rather than establishing a character that the reader has an immediate affinity for, sometimes author do the opposite and introduce a character that is so annoying and infuriating that it serves just as well as a tool to feel empathy for the main character.  In this book, we are introduced to Ella and Marie Porter, senior citizen twins who are bent on bickering, one-upmanship and behaviour that would warrant them to me put on the naughty step and have their toys confiscated.  I am not sure if I actually felt empathy for Brenna with having to deal with these monsters and instead sped read over those paragraphs instead.

I liked this book, the story line was interesting with a good twist at the end (even though it felt a little rushed).  I am not sure if this was a deliberate ploy by the author, but  you often felt like an outsider to the community like Brenna – instead of say, the Hannah Swensen books where you are thrown into town life and enveloped by the characters – and so I wasn’t too keen on this, but I am interested enough in the characters to get the next book.

Author’s Website

I love books.  I can’t remember a time when I didn’t have my nose in a book.  At school, I could escape the horrors of the playground; during the holidays I was transported off to different times and places; as an adult I collect old and battered books and  try to restore them, but they hold even more importance for me.  Seven years ago I developed nerve damage on my back which caused me to suffer constant chronic pain.  Often awake at night, feeling miserable and totally befuddled with pain killers I went back to my old favourite books by Agatha Christie, like a comfortable jumper, I found a distraction to the world I had found myself in.  When a friend talked about the Rita Mae Brown Mrs Murphy mystery books, I thought I’d give them ago and I haven’t looked back.  My name is Nicola and I collect mysteries!

There is a genre of books that are written in a similar form to Agatha Christie, often set in a small town where the hero (or more often heroine) is a valued member of the community – a post mistress, a PR whizz, a baker, bear makers, florists, a chocolatier, a barista, tea shop owner, pet sitter, psychic, ghost hunter, witch, a needlework shop owner, a journalist – spurred to look into the murders.  Sometimes they are even helped by talking animals like Joe in the Shirley Rousseau Murphy books, or the cats/dogs play a part in discovering clues like Louie in the Carole Nelson Douglas and Rita Mae Brown books.

Whoever the heroine and wherever they are set, they feature a complex web of plots, a huge cast of characters, not too much gore, but a lot of fun.  A modern Agatha Christie novel, but often dismissed as cozy books.

I was given a book journal for Christmas and have been writing my own reviews, but I soon filled the book and decided to detail what I have read here.  As well as the books I am reading at the moment (Ghouls Gone Wild – Victoria Laurie), I’ll add reviews of those that I have already read too.

Crafty Book Worm

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