Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Cozy Mystery Review: Smugglers and Scones, by Morgan C. Talbot


Title: Smugglers and Scones (Moorehaven Mysteries Book 1)
Author: Morgan C. Talbot
Publisher: Red Adept Publishing, 2016
Source: I was given an electronic review copy by the author in exchange for my honest review.

Publisher's Blurb:
Pippa Winterbourne runs Moorehaven, the Oregon Coast’s quirkiest bed-and-breakfast and former home of world-famous mystery writer A. Raymond Moore. Guests come there to write their own crime novels. When a real-life murder takes a local’s life and washes a handsome boat pilot into her arms, Pippa is yanked into a deadly plot of her own. A tangle of secrets crashes past into present, and Pippa must uncover clues dating back to Seacrest’s Prohibition days, including a secret Moore himself hid from the world.

Juggling her book-writing guests, small-town intrigues, secret club agendas, and a possibly fatal attraction, Pippa must sort fact from fiction to know who to trust before a desperate killer claims a final revenge nearly a century in the making.

My Review: 
When I was approached to review this first book in a new series, I knew I had to do it. A writer's retreat on the Oregon coast, with smugglers and a touch of romance? What could go wrong? Plenty, of course, but not with the book--it was a highly enjoyable read. For Pippa, though, plenty goes wrong before she reasons her way to the solution of this fun cozy.

There is a nice mix in the story of adventure (we open with a shipwreck and rescue and go on from there), romance, and thoughtful assessment of the clues, along with some crazy guesses, idiotic adventures, and finally helpful intervention by the authors who are in residence at the inn.

Now, about those authors: since I'm a mystery writer myself, I can't say that they struck me as being totally life-like. But since I myself write books with over-the-top characters, I won't kvetch. They are entertaining, and probably not a huge exaggeration of what writers can be like. And since the biggest thing in a good book is good characters, I'll take this lot. Besides, when she has those authors turning everything that happens to and around them into something in their book...yeah. Nailed it.

And what of the mystery and the writing? The mystery is well constructed, though I had an inkling well before Pippa did--I've been too well trained to see the invisible person. I had others in my sights, too, and didn't settle until very nearly the end. The writing is solid, engaging, and well-edited. I look forward to a second installment, and may check out the author's other series, as well.

My Recommendation:

If you like a good adventure with your mystery, along with a touch of romance and some complex characters, go for it. It doesn't hurt to enjoy a bit of damp coastal weather, too.

About the Author:
Morgan is an outdoorsy girl with a deep and abiding love for the natural sciences. Her degrees involve English and jujitsu. She enjoys hiking, camping, and wandering in the woods looking for the trail to the car, but there isn’t enough chocolate on the planet to bribe her into rock climbing.

When she’s not writing, she can be found making puzzles, getting lost on the way to geocaches, reading stories to her children, or taking far too many pictures of the same tree or rock.

She lives in Eastern Washington with her family. 

FTC Disclosure: I was given an electronic review copy by the author, and received nothing from the writer or publisher for my honest review.  The opinions expressed are my own and those of no one else.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising." 


The 3rd book of my own occasionally over-the-top mystery series is getting closer! Be sure you are ready for the release of the Pismawallops PTA Mystery #3--pick up your copies of 1 & 2 today!

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

#Fi50: Lucky Charms

This month's prompt is:

Lucky Charms

Somewhere out there, someone is celebrating their ill-gotten gains. Finding an unlocked bike must have looked like a bit of luck.

I wonder if they’ll think so in a day or two. That’s when the charms will wear off and the demon returns.

I hope they have asbestos bike shorts.


Sadly, this one's inspired by someone stealing my bike this morning.* Just a bit of a revenge fantasy, that's all. Nothing to worry about.

*That is, Saturday morning, as I wrote this Saturday night.

Here's a memorial photo. RIP, Swift Ripe Banana.
For over 24,000 miles my backside was welded to that bike. I wonder how many thousands of feet we climbed together?

Monday, March 27, 2017

Middle Grade Fiction: Gangsta Granny


Title: Gangsta Granny
Author: David Walliams
Publisher: Harper Collins Children's Books, 2011. 297 pages.
Source: Library

Publisher's Blurb:
Another hilarious and moving novel from David Walliams, number one bestseller and fastest growing children’s author in the country. A story of prejudice and acceptance, funny lists and silly words, this new book has all the hallmarks of David’s previous bestsellers.

Our hero Ben is bored beyond belief after he is made to stay at his grandma’s house. She’s the boringest grandma ever: all she wants to do is to play Scrabble, and eat cabbage soup. But there are two things Ben doesn’t know about his grandma.
1) She was once an international jewel thief.
2) All her life, she has been plotting to steal the Crown Jewels, and now she needs Ben’s help…
My Review: 
I got this book thanks to our March 2017 Goodreads GMGR group read. It was a bit different this time: we were all supposed to pick books we thought had a particularly regional appeal, and might not do so well in other places. I flopped at thinking of something from my region, and I loved the blurb on this one chosen by Jemima Pett, so I read it.

First off: Though this is a distinctly British book, the fact that I find it, and most of Walliams' books, in my county library system in California suggests that maybe it's not *too* much limited to a local appeal! And I delighted in the fact that it bucked the recent trends, and the "Britishisms" in the book weren't translated for the poor, stupid American kids (can you tell that's a pet peeve?).

So, was it a good read? You bet! I enjoyed the well balanced humor and action, the valuable messages hidden inside the humor, and the generally just slightly absurd take on life. In that sense, I think it is definitely a British book, in the tradition of Douglas Adams and Terry Pratchett, even P. G. Wodehouse. So if you think those folks are just too weird for words, maybe this won't be your book. But if you're open to a fun romp with some life lessons wrapped up in absurdity, go for it.

What else can I say? The plot is absurd, but it knows it and it means to be. I laughed aloud more than once as I zipped through this in a single sitting (despite the page count, the font and layout means it's not a terribly long book. I read it in under 2 hours). And I cried a little, too. Oh, and squirmed like crazy when poor Ben found himself on stage. The writing is at times self-reflective, with asides to the reader that also bring a smile or a laugh. I felt like Walliams has a pretty good idea what makes kids tick.

My Recommendation:
Like I say, good for those who appreciate the absurd. I think it's a book that will appeal to reluctant readers, maybe especially boys but also a lot of girls. There are lots of great pictures, by Tony Ross, and great adventures with Granny! Reading level struck me as being about 8 and up, and interest level similar--the older the reader, the more they will get from it, but young kids will enjoy the romp.

FTC Disclosure: I checked Gangsta Granny out of my library, and received nothing from the writer or publisher for my honest review.  The opinions expressed are my own and those of no one else.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."