Happy 2017

Happy 2017

I’d like wish all my blog followers, all the authors who write some wonderful books that I have the honor of reading and reviewing, my friends and family a wonderful happy and healthy 2017!

 

n-y-2017

Advertisements

Eggnog Murder (Lucy Stone #23.5) by Leslie Meier, Lee Hollis, Barbara Ross

Eggnog Murder (Lucy Stone #23.5) by Leslie Meier, Lee Hollis, Barbara Ross

This is a fun little book with three Christmas stories by three of my favorite authors. I had the book on hold at the library for months until it finally came to me which happened to be Christmas week. What luck!

EGGNOG MURDER by LESLIE MEIER is first up. Lucy Stone and all the residents at Tinkers Cove are horrified when some bad eggnog turns up as a gift, supposedly, from the Real Beard Santa Club. When someone drinks some of it at Lucy’s newspaper’s party and immediately dies, Lucy knows she has to find out what was in the eggnog, who was really meant to drink it, and who sent this alleged gift. No one is drinking any more eggnog until all questions are answered and Lucy, professional newspaper investigator that she is, will be the one to find the criminal and bring him, or her, to justice.

DEATH BY EGGNOG by LEE HOLLIS is the second story. Newspaper food columnist,  Hayley Powell, is investigating the poisoning of Bar Harbor’s librarian, Agatha Farnsworth. No one in Bar Harbor really cared much for Agatha in all the many years that she ran the town’s library. Hayley herself still has bad memories of Agatha yelling at her when she was a child for talking too loud in the library. The whole town knew that Agatha had various food allergies, including a nut allergy. Someone intentionally made some eggnog with nut milk, purposely labeled it incorrectly, and got Agatha to drink some which caused her immediate death. But who? Haley, since her children would be away from home for Christmas, has plenty of time on her hands and plans to help find the murderous culprit and discover the reason for their dastardly deed.

NOGGED OFF by BARBARA ROSS is the third tale in this mini Christmas anthology. Julia Snowden goes back to New York City to get the rest of the things she left at her apartment when she moved back to her family home in Busman’s Harbor, Maine. Imogen Geinkes was supposed to continue subletting Haley’s apartment but Imogen left her job because she served her fellow employees some bad eggnog at the Christmas party and the whole office ended up at the emergency room. Now Imogen has no money, no job, and nowhere to go so Julia invites her back to Bar Harbor for Christmas. But Julia notices some strange things about Imogene as they drive back to Maine and she really gets suspicious when Imogene’s ex boyfriend shows up murdered near the town. Julia doesn’t like this one bit and doesn’t trust Imogene. All she can do is help investigate and figure out why Imogene’s boyfriend was killed and what is going on with Imogene.

“Eggnog Murder” is a nice book to read to top off your holiday season. Fans of these authors will recognize all the characters and if you haven’t read any of the books this will be a good introduction to them. Just, kind of, stay away from the eggnog. It seems to be one dangerous drink.

Nothing Is Predictable by Adalina Mae

Nothing Is Predictable by Adalina Mae

Main character, Zara, is a complicated woman of Lebanese descent. The book opens up when she was 8 years old with a very realistic scene showing the terror she, her mom, and older siblings had to go through while they were young. Their dad was a drunk, abusive man, who took his anger out on Zara’s mother but only when he was drunk which was almost all the time. The first chapter pulls you in with the fear that young Zara and her mom feel as they run to hide in a barn from the drunken man who is threatening to kill them.

When Zara’s dad dies in a drunken brawl she and her mom leave Lebanon and move to America where her older married brother was living. Her two older sisters remained in Lebanon at that time because they had their own families.

Without a father, Zara takes on the responsibility of the man of the house. She takes care of her mother and does her best to earn enough money to keep them both in a reasonable living condition. But all throughout her adult life Zara is plagued with a dream of the time when her father went after Zara and her mom as they hid from him in the barn.

During the course of the novel we see how Zara tries to come to grips with how her dad acted and how it relates to her relationship with men.

Zara married at a very age and within a year she was divorced. Trying to get over her doomed marriage and the nightmares about her father, Zara continued to work hard to maintain being a famous Lebanese singer within the Lebanese American community. When she left the entertainment world she worked equally as hard to start her own successful business. She struggled to become her own woman and to eventually come to terms with her father’s behavior.

“Nothing Is Predictable” by Adalina Mae is a unique type of book. I don’t know for sure but I suspect there are some autobiographical accounts here. The writing seems very real to me, so much so that it has me believing that Ms. Mae went through similar tragedies that her character, Zara, had experienced.

Each chapter is almost like a vignette. There are no long spiels about Zara’s life. Instead readers are told briefly, but with enough description, to let us know what’s going on and I appreciated that. I like a good story that doesn’t slow me down by rehashing something that was said two chapters earlier and filled with flowery language. Hey, that’s just me. But on that note I do have to say that I loved all the countries that Zara visited and the short but thorough descriptions that the author gave. I kind of would like to visit Lebanon now because Ms. Mae makes it sound so beautiful and yet still dangerous.

As for Zara, I’m not sure if I like her. I admire her for taking care of her mother and making sure she was always safe but I feel like Zara didn’t care for herself. She jumps from man to man seeming to fall “in love” at the first sight of some hunky male. Maybe 20 and 30 year old’s are like that, I don’t know. I might have been the same way in my younger days, I don’t remember but it bothered me that Zara was like this. She’s a smart woman who could take care of her mom, her business, her singing career, become successful, and yet let herself become spineless at the sight of a man. The only time you saw the real Zara come out was when the man hurt her and only then did she’d become the bulldog she was in her business life. There were times I wanted to shake this young woman and scream, “Open your eyes!”

I will say that some of the problems that Zara encountered with the men were of a religious aspect. Her family did not want Zara to date pr marry anyone who wasn’t Christian. Zara didn’t see a problem being with someone of another faith but her family interfered on many occasions with Zara’s love life because of their beliefs. Religion does have a big part of the story and pushes the tale forward.

Saying that I’m not sure if I like the main character or not doesn’t really mean much except for the fact the author did a wonderful job in creating such a complicated, smart, yet weak woman. Many authors create their protagonists into the perfect specimen of the human race: beautiful, witty, fun, successful, and everyone adores them. But no one is really like that. To me it’s a sign of a great author who can create a main character who can do great things but is far from perfect. That’s Zara. It’s okay that I’m not sure how likable she is because she makes me think and not resent her because she’s perfect.

Would I read another book about Zara? Heck yes. I’d like to travel with her some more. I’d like to see what she’s done with her life. I‘d like to learn how her family’s doing.

“Nothing Is Predictable” is one good book. I breezed through it in a little over a day. The hard part was getting my thoughts together to write this review. It took me longer to write about it than to read it.

Author Adalina Mae is a fine author who weaves a good tale, be it fictional or a bit autobiographical. It never hurts to try a new a writer. You just might discover a gem, like I did, in Ms. Mae.

Christmas Donut Murder: A Donut Hole Cozy Mystery – Book 31 by Susan Gillard

Christmas Donut Murder: A Donut Hole Cozy Mystery – Book 31 by Susan Gillard

Finally, Christmas has arrived at Hillside, Texas and donut baker, Heather Shepherd is busy baking donuts at her donut shop, Donut Delights. She’s also getting presents and preparing for the big day’s festivities for her family and many friends. Life might be hectic but Heather is happy.

As Heather was serving her best and favorite customer, Eva Schneider, she noticed that Eva seemed concerned over something she was reading in the newspaper. There was yet another murder in their town. A Hillside entrepreneur, Victor Hardbody, was murdered in his home with his whole family right  there. Having another murder in town was bad enough but Heather’s husband, Detective Ryan Shepherd, didn’t tell her about it. Heather works for the Hillside Police Department as a private investigator and she wanted to know why Ryan kept her in the dark.

Ryan explained that even though he wanted her help he also wanted to give Heather a little extra time for other things she had to do for Christmas. Even though his heart was in the right place Heather still insisted that she and her best friend and assistant, Amy Givens, look into Victor’s death.

Victor was strangled with the holiday lights. The thing that might give the murderer away was that Victor was burned around the neck by them and the killer might have burns on their hands too.

The main suspects are of course the immediate family. Victor’s wife, Jennifer “Softie” Hardbody, and sons Kenny and Junior Hardbody. Even though they all had an alibi of sorts they all also has some kind of burns on them.

Upon investigating some more it was discovered that Victor was killed in the basement and the area was made to look as if someone broke into it but there was no evidence of an intruder.

A few other interesting things were discovered like Softie Hardbody hired a private investigator because she believed that Victor was cheating on her. Victor was also having some financial problems and owed a lot of money on his business.

And making matters even worse is that the FBI is now on the case with agent Orchard, who does not want the Hillside Police Department, and especially Heather, interfering.

Victor’s wife thought he was cheating on her, his sons hated him, and the FBI is involved. This is not going to be an easy case for Heather to solve.

“Christmas Donut Murder” by author Susan Gillard is the 31st book in the  donut hole cozy mystery series. It’s yet another short fun novel to spend an evening reading. I have to say that Ms. Gillard’s characters have some funny names – Softie Hardbody. Well, I think it’s funny.

If you’ve been reading this series this the most recent installment and it’s as yummy as all the others. It’s always fun to see how Heather solves the many murders that happen in Hillside, Texas.

To see my other reviews of Susan Gillard’s books go to Susan’s page on my blog.

 
“I voluntarily reviewed an Advance Reader Copy of this book.”

The Ghosts in Apartment 513

The Ghosts in Apartment 513

I’ve lived in this apartment building in Brooklyn, New York my whole life, over six decades. Apartment buildings have a load of strange noises, I’m used to them. Pipes are always rattling, radiators are always banging, someone is always stomping around in the apartment above, babies crying, kids screaming, noises coming from the alleyway, there’s always some kind of noise in an apartment building. I’ve learned to live with it. I don’t really hear the noises anymore. Noise is easy to get accustomed to.

When I was a little girl Mrs. Feldstein lived right next door to me in apartment 513. We shared a wall that separated the two apartments. When my sister and I ran around Mrs. Feldstein would bang on the wall. My father would tell my sister and myself to stop running and that other people lived in the building and we had to respect them.

Mrs. Feldstein died when I was maybe 10 or 11. She was close to 90 then, maybe older. Then a younger woman moved into apartment 513 with her boyfriend. They lived there for a year or so.

Mrs. Wolfe was the next tenant. She lived in apartment 513 until she passed some 30 years later.

After Mrs. Wolfe died a Russian man in his 60’s moved in. He couldn’t speak much English and my Russian is limited to “spasibo” which means, “thank you.” Every time I’d see the man he’d say, “Hello, my neighbor, my friend.” I think that’s all the English he knew. Which is far more than the Russian I knew then or even know now.

After 10 years of so the Russian man died and for the last year the apartment next door to me has had three different sets of tenants. I never saw them but I’d hear them cough, sneeze, talk on the phone. I’d smell what they were cooking for dinner at night. I knew there was someone living there but never met any of them. Living in an apartment building with 90 units can be lonely and you can be isolated.

A few months ago, the apartment next door, apartment 513, became really noisy. A baby crying, kids running up and down the apartment banging on the walls, pulling furniture on the hardwood floors, a man and woman arguing all the time. I just assumed a family moved it. Strange though, I didn’t really remember hearing any furniture being moved into the apartment. But it’s possible that I just ignored hearing it. Who knows?

When Mrs. Wolfe had the apartment it was very quiet and when the Russian man moved in he was pretty quiet too. Well, they were older and only had visitors who were around their age. Very similar to me. I’m older, very quiet, I don’t even watch television. I read a lot. But next door to me now is a family with a baby and a little boy, I think, who’s about five years old. The noise is astonishing. But as my pal Jill said, “They’re kids, they run, they cry.” Okay Jill, I get your point.

The noise starts at 4:45 am. The baby starts to howl. She, I think it’s a she but I don’t really know, howls for a solid ten minutes until mom comes in to quiet her. I feel like screaming, “Your baby is crying, do something!” You have to understand something, the kids sleep in the neighbor’s living room and their living room and my bedroom share a wall. When that baby starts to scream it wakes me up! But okay, like Jill says, “Baby’s cry. That’s their job.”

Then the older brother, I think it’s a five year old boy, starts to cry because baby sis woke him up. Finally mom finds her way to the living room and tries to calm the kids down. “Woo, woo, woo,” mom coos to the baby. She and the little boy sing some songs to calm baby sis down. Most of the time the song is “Happy Birthday.” Mom and son take turns singing. While he sings “Happy Birthday” she “woo, woo, woo’s” the still howling baby girl.

Me, I’m in my bed trying to stop myself from screaming because Jill’s words are echoing in my mind.

The baby cries all day. I asked my friend Janette if babies cry all the time. Janette had three kids of her own so she would know better than me who has no children. “Well,” Janette said, “not usually but maybe the baby has colic or something. When I was taking care of my granddaughter she didn’t cry at all. She was perfect.” Yes, Janette’s granddaughter is perfect. All children are “perfect” where their moms and grandma’s are concerned. Except, Janette’s granddaughter probably is as close to perfection as they come. Ahem.

I spoke to my friend, Cathy, and told her that “I’ve become a grouchy old woman. The kids next door are driving me out of my mind.” “No, no,” Cathy loyally answers. “You’re not grouchy.” Her words say that I’m not a grouch but I’m pretty sure Cathy’s thinking that I really am.

Apartment 513 gets quiet for a short period of time. Peace at last. No crying, no screaming, ahh. But comes 6:00 pm it all start again but worse.

The baby is screaming and the little boy invites his little friend over every evening and they start running up and down the apartment. It sounds like two little elephants running amok. Then they grab furniture and start pulling it against the wall, the wall that their apartment shares with my apartment.

Then I hear a bang, one of the boys fell and then he starts to cry. The crying lasts for two minutes then the two boys are up and running again. I think the boys take turns falling and crying because this goes on for hours. More than anything I want to pound on the wall or ring their doorbell and ask mom to PLEASE control the boys. But she’s still woo, woo, wooing the baby girl who is still crying. But I don’t pound on the wall, I don’t confront mom because I still hear Jill’s words in my head.

This goes on until 10:00 pm. The little boy’s visitor leaves but the son now jumps around all over their living room. He bangs furniture up against the wall, he jumps off the furniture, falls a few times, cries a few times, and mom is still woo, woo, wooing the wailing baby.

I’ve become a child myself trying to figure out what to do. So instead of knocking on their door to talk to mom I turn the radio on, LOUD! Music from the 80’s blasts through my apartment, the walls shake because the volume is up so high. After five minutes of this I turn the radio off. Woo, woo, woo, cry cry, cry, run, run run, bang, bang, bang. It doesn’t stop. Did they even hear my radio blasting? One of my favorite local disc jockeys, Michael Maze, would be insulted that they didn’t pay attention to him.

In desperation I go to my super’s apartment and beg him to speak to this woman about all the noise. Sorry, Jill, I pay rent and I no longer care that a child’s job is to run around making noise. It’s the mom’s job to control her uncontrollable kids.

I bang, bang, bang on Joe, my super’s door. “Joe, you have to talk to that woman next door to me. The kids, especially the boy, stampedes around that apartment shaking my walls and giving me a headache. It goes on all day long, non stop!”

Joe looks at me like I’ve hit the Manischewitz heavy malaga wine a bit too early. “Uh, what woman next door to you?” Joe asks.

“You know, Joe, that woman in apartment 513, with the husband who beats her, and the uncontrollable little boy, and howling baby, that woman!”

“Uh, that apartment is empty. We haven’t rented it out yet.”

“Give me a break, Joe, someone is living there.”

I’ve been a tenant in this building for over 60 years, 30 of which Joe has been the super. I pay my rent on time and keep to myself, in other words, a perfect tenant. Because of this he feels obligated to investigate my complaint. So we both go apartment 513. Joe knocks and no one answers. He takes out the key, opens the door and we both enter. Nothing there. No kids, no furniture, empty except for a stray dust ball or two. We go through the three rooms looking around for something, anything. Nada.

We leave the apartment and Joe asks if I’m feeling okay and if want him to call my cousin Marty to stay with me for awhile, at least until I sober up. “No thanks, Joe, I don’t need cousin Marty.” I then storm into my apartment.

Within five minutes the crying, banging, and woo, woo, wooing start again. I leave my apartment and put my ear to the door of 513. Nothing, not a sound. I go back into my apartment and hear the loud commotion. Now what should I do? There’s nothing.

I’m afraid of ghosts. I don’t even like to read a book about ghosts because they frighten me. And ghost movies terrify me even more. Once, though, I saw the movie, “The Others” starring Nicole Kidman.

Nichole rents a house for her and her two kids but they soon discover there are ghosts living there. SPOILER ALERT, in case you haven’t seen this 2001 movie. Nicole learns that the ghosts are previous tenants of the house who are dead but the ghosts think they’re still alive and visit the home. Something like that. By the time the movie ended I was too afraid to pay much attention but that twist at the end got me wondering. The ghosts making all that noise in apartment 513, are they previous tenants from before Mrs. Feldstein? Could they have lived in that apartment when the building was first built, or, and this is what scares me the most, am I the ghost, not knowing that I died and am now haunting the people who live in apartment 513?

So, it’s 5:30 am now. I’m laying in bed listening to the usual sounds coming from next door. The baby is howling, the boy is singing “Happy Birthday”, and mom is trying to calm down her children preparing them for another day of chaos.

 

Cousin Marty And His Hanukkah Miracle

Cousin Marty And His Hanukkah Miracle

I talk about my cousin Marty a lot. He makes sure he calls me almost everyday to make sure I’m feeling good and offering to go shopping for me when the weather is bad.

Marty is a filmmaker and also has a ton of stories about things that have happened to him during his life. He visited me this evening toting shopping bags filled with Hanukkah gifts. He also told me his Hanukkah Miracle story.

A few years ago on the second day of Hanukkah his friend, a dentist, invited Marty to his house to celebrate his son’s third birthday. Marty’s friend lives in Long Island and Marty is here in Brooklyn. The party was on a Sunday and as any New Yorker can tell you Brooklyn to Long Island is a long schlep and trains don’t really have any kind of schedule on Sunday’s. Marty doesn’t have a car so he would have to take a train to Manhattan, then switch to the Long Island Rail Road, then grab a taxi to his friend’s home. This would take close to three hours and that’s just to get there and then three more hours to get home. So Marty called his friend thanking him for the invitation but explained that he wouldn’t be going to the birthday party. His friend really wanted Marty to go so eventually Marty agreed.

At the party Marty was offered a slice of cake but refused it because he was watching what he ate but the mother insisted that Marty take some cake. Instead of eating it Marty wrapped it up and thought he’d give it to the first homeless person he was sure to meet on his way back back to Brooklyn.

Marty was on his way home and in a train station in Queens where he was going to grab a train to Brooklyn when he spotted a homeless man sitting with a blanket over his head. Marty went over to him and asked if he would like the slice of birthday cake. The man shook his head no. Then Marty heard a little voice say, “I’d like some cake.” He saw a little girl sitting by her mother and a sibling on one of the benches. The mom said that the little girl couldn’t have cake because she hadn’t eaten yet. Marty told her to keep the cake and let the girl eat it after her dinner. The woman told Marty that she and her children were homeless and she appreciated the cake. Marty explained that he got the cake at his friend’s son’s three year birthday party. The woman then told Marty that it was her little girl’s third birthday that day as well. The woman wondered if her daughter and Marty’s friend’s son was born at the same time too. Marty said he would find out and call the woman and let her know. Not wanting to leave the little girl’s sibling out Marty gave the little girl and her sibling $10.00 each as a Hanukkah gift.

A few days later Marty called his friend and found out the two three year old’s were not born at the same time. Marty then called the woman to tell her. When she got on the phone she told him that she took two dollars from the ten dollars he gave the little girl to get to a job interview. She was excited to share with him that she got the job and things were going to be much better for her family because of Marty’s kindness.

The strange, or maybe not so strange about this, is that Marty has helped many people during his life. He’s never afraid to go to someone’s aid if needed and believes that helping people is what he is meant to do.

I have to say in the last couple of years where Marty and I have become close he has done many wonderful things for me and I just don’t mean all the gifts he gives me when he comes over.

If only more of us were like my cousin Marty maybe then miracles wouldn’t just happen during Hanukkah and Christmas.

To see other videos by Marty Novitsky see Marty’s section on my blog.

menorah

Peanut Butter Fudge Murder: A Donut Hole Cozy Mystery – Book 30 by Susan Gillard

Peanut Butter Fudge Murder: A Donut Hole Cozy Mystery – Book 30 by Susan Gillard

Christmas is so close to arriving in Hillside, Texas that Heather Shepherd, owner of Donut Delights, can barely stand it. Heather can’t focus too much on the holiday season because she has donuts to bake, a daughter to care for, and a husband, Hillside Police Detective Ryan, to worry about.

But there’s always time for some fun though so Heather, her daughter Lilly, and best friend Amy Givens go to the gingerbread workshop run by fellow local baker, Julie Brookes. It’s a fun day of making gingerbread houses at the workshop and then taking them home to demolish them by eating. The fun quickly came to an end when Julie was found murdered in her office. Julie was stabbed by a sharpened candy cane.

Heather had gone to the office to ask Julie a question when she heard Julie arguing with another woman. Then there was a thud as if someone fell on the floor. Heather went in and found Julie lying on the ground but the other woman was gone.

Yet another murder in Hillside and private investigator Heather and her friend Amy plan to find out who killed Julie and why.

The duo discover some very suspicious characters to put on their suspect list. One is Kate Laverne, an old nemesis of Heather’s. Kate owns Laverne’s Velvet Cupcakes. Kate hates Heather and is jealous of any other baker in town. Maybe she stabbed Julie to get rid of some competition.

Then there’s Larry Houston owner of butcher shop Houston’s Meat. Larry delivered all of Julie’s meat to her and cut her steaks in the shape of a heart. How cute is that? More strange than cute. Was Larry threatening Julie?

Penny Childe is also on the suspect list because she accused Larry of selling her rotten meat and expected him to be in his shop whenever she came in for her steaks. If he wasn’t there she would throw a tantrum. Was she angry at Julie, went into a tantrum, and killed her?

There’s also Carla Giotto who worked for Julie. Heather saw Carla in Julie’s office and she seemed to be hiding a collection of pictures and newspaper clippings. Why and what were they?

Heather knows that she has her job cut out for her but she’s sure, with Amy’s help, she will find the culprit that murdered Julie Brookes.

“Peanut Butter Fudge Murder” is the 30th installment of Susan Gillard’s A Donut Hole Cozy Mystery Series. All the usual characters are here and we learn a little more about all of them.

Fans of this series, including myself, like that Ms. Gillard doesn’t have any violence in her books, shows a loving family life with the Shepherds, talks about real friendship between the townspeople, is not offensive, and has plenty of conversations about donuts. It’s a nice series for readers of all ages and I do appreciate that aspect.

This is definitely a good series to start reading especially during these chilly winter day.

“I voluntarily reviewed an Advance Reader Copy of this book.”