Murder by Fireworks (A Kay Driscoll Mystery #3) by Susan Bernhardt

Murder by Fireworks (A Kay Driscoll Mystery #3) by Susan Bernhardt

It’s summertime in Sudbury Falls but the living is far from easy for Kay Driscoll. Her son, Andy, is getting married in under a week and the reception is being held at Kay’s home. Her husband, Phil, isn’t doing all that much to help with all the chores that need to be done. If anything, he’s adding on to Kay’s work load.

Phil’s cousin, Loren, is in the hospital and someone has to take care of his 12 year-old daughter, Janey, until Janey’s mother arrives in town to pick her up. Of course Phil agrees to take the girl into their home but Kay knows she will be the one watching her for the time she’ll be with them.

Janey is not the easiest of kids to like but then again most 12 year-old children are hard to deal with. But Kay is expecting two hundred people for the wedding reception and has to make sure the house is in good order, decorations are in place, and the catering will be perfection. All Phil has to deal with is rehearsals for his band because they will be entertaining.

A few days after the wedding Kay, Phil, Janey, and her friends are at the July 4th fireworks display when they they think they hear gunshots. A book club member, James, is found dead in the sand. The police think he killed himself but Kay believes otherwise.

No one loved James as much as James loved himself. He was having affairs with numerous women who adored him and he also just started a new job that he loved. Life seemed to be going his way. Kay felt that James had absolutely no reason to commit suicide no matter what the police thought.

But James was not well liked. He was rude to people, made crude comments, basically stole his new job from another man, and many of his love interests were married women and their husbands probably didn’t appreciate James showing that kind of attention to their wives. In other words, there’s a huge list of people who would love to see James dead.

Kay didn’t like James either but she did want justice to be served so she started investigating his death along with her friends Deidre and Elizabeth. Investigating came easy to Kay and she helped solve other murders in her town but asking questions made her a target to the murderer and put her life in danger.  

Between weddings, taking care of 12 year-old Janey, being a loving wife and mother, and watching out for her life Kay has her hands full this summer. It was summertime but the living was far from easy.

“Murder by Fireworks” is the third Kay Driscoll novel is this excellent series by Susan Bernhardt. I’ve read them all and each book is better than the previous one. This is my favorite of the three.

Ms. Bernhardt is becoming a wonderful mystery writer. Through reading all her books, not only the Kay Driscoll series, I’ve seen how the author honed in on her craft. It’s obvious that she takes her time thinking about story lines and how the plot leads to the bad guy. The stories are well-thought out and complicated. The murderer is not someone you would suspect by page 50 and her explanations for why the murder was done forms a near perfect murder/mystery.

Do not expect a simple cozy while reading this. “Murder by Fireworks” is up there with most any other good mystery novel. The book isn’t just for women and I’m sure it would appeal to any mystery lover.

The characters are wonderful and that includes the character of the Town of Sudbury Falls. It makes city dwellers, like myself, wish they lived in a small town where everyone knows your name, people you can share the joy of holidays with and are willing to help out with a crises at a moment’s notice.

While Reading any of Susan Bernhardt’s books you’ll find yourself engrossed in a good mystery and you won’t want to stop it reading until the mystery solved.

Do yourself a favor and grab a copy of any book in the Kay Driscoll Series and discover what a good writer this author is.

For more about Susan Bernhardt’s books please see Susan’s section on my blog.

murder fireworks

The House of Memory (Pluto’s Snitch #2) by Carolyn Haines

The House of Memory (Pluto’s Snitch #2) by Carolyn Haines

Raissa James is a very progressive woman living in the deep south during the early 1900’s. She can’t wait for women to finally get the vote, she smokes a little, drinks a little, knows how to drive a car, is a writer whose first story will shortly be published in the Saturday Evening Post, and she sees dead people. In fact, she owns a private investigation firm, Pluto’s Snitch, where she and her partner in investigations, Reginald Proctor, help people figure out why they’re being haunted.

Raissa’s reputation is so well known that Zelda Fitzgerald, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s new wife, has asked Raissa to look into a problem that her friend, Camilla, is having.

Camilla is due to marry, David, the love her life. But twice when David and Camilla were alone Camilla turned violent and tried to kill David.

Camilla’s mother has sent her to Bryce Hospital asylum  and wants Camilla to have a lobotomy so she will be a docile wife for David. Zelda knows that her friend would never hurt anyone, especially David, and believes there’s a lot more that’s going on than meets the eye.

Raissa and Reginald travel to Montgomery, Alabama and discovers that for some reason Camilla turns violent because of the new house she will be living in once she and David marry. Now all Raissa and Reginald have to do is figure out what evil lurks in the house and why Camilla is being haunted by it. They also have to somehow keep themselves alive since someone is trying to murder them.

“The House of Memory” by Carolyn Haines is the second in the Pluto’s Snitch mystery series and it’s terrific. I thoroughly enjoyed the first Pluto’s Snitch novel, “The Book of Beloved” and if possible “The House of Memory” is better.

There’s a lot of evil beings, both dead and alive, lurking throughout the pages, not to mention a plot line that involves the people living in Montgomery and the surrounding area. The ghostly portions are intertwined beautifully with the reasons why Camilla, and other young women in the asylum, have to be silenced.

Ms. Haines definitely knows her history and all of the books in her different series are filled with historic events that make the stories very believable.

I’m a huge fan of Carolyn Haines and have read so many of her novels that I don’t have enough fingers and toes to count them all. She’s a talented writer that knows how to get her readers so fully immersed in her tales that you don’t want to put the book down.

Plan on meeting Raissa, Reginald, Camilla, Zelda, and actress Tallulah Bankhead who is also featured in “The House of Memory.” It is a little chilling at times because of the evil house and the evil people at the mental institution so keep the lights on as you read but do not miss this new installment of this ghostly series.

To see other reviews of Carolyn’s books go to Carolyn’s section in my blog.

house of memory

The Blue Virgin (Nora Tierney Mysteries #1) by M.K. Graff

The Blue Virgin (Nora Tierney Mysteries #1) by M.K. Graff

Nora Tierney is an American writer living in England. She’s single and pregnant but don’t feel sorry for her about that. Nora is a strong woman who not only has a book to finish but is also looking for a murderer.

Her close friend, Val Rogan, is the main and only suspect of a recent murder. Former model, Bryn Wallace, was found killed in her apartment. The police believe that Val is the sole suspect because she and Bryn were lovers and were about to move in together. The two had a small argument, more like a disagreement, that night but they solved the problem within minutes. Val left Bryn’s apartment but shortly after wards someone else came in and killed Bryn. Unfortunately, Val was the only person witnesses saw or heard with Bryn that evening so the police believe that she’s the killer.

Nora is infuriated with the police department and plans on finding out who the real murderer is. The police are not happy with Nora interfering, the new man in Nora’s life isn’t thrilled with Nora’s involvement, and everyone is concerned about the pregnancy but Nora is not going to allow her good friend to wind up taking the blame for a murder she had nothing to do with. Val loved Bryn and would never harm her and all Nora has to do is to prove that to the police which is easier said than done. But when more murders happen Nora has to do something to get Val off the hook so she plans to investigate on her own no matter the objections of her friends and the police.

The Blue Virgin by M.K. Graff is the first in the Nora Tierney Mystery Series and it’s a wonderful beginning. The plot line is well thought out and you will not figure out who the bad guy is until the very end.

Nora is a good lead character along with all her friends who are willing to help her out and protect her when she needs them. England is also a wonderful character. Author M.K. Graff knows the history of this country, especially Oxford, and takes readers on a tour of the magical land. Learning a little history within a murder mystery is always fun and gets me into the feel of the area.

I’d say that the novel is cozy-like but much more complicated than your usual run of the mill cozy. Nora is not an investigator by trade but is doing it, like all cozy heroines, to help out a friend in need. M.K. Graff is a  wonderful writer and adds so much more to the novel’s narration than the typical cozy writer, not that I have anything against cozy writers. I’m a true fan of the genre.

Visit Nora is jolly ol’ England, have a spot of tea and a few shortbread cookies and let yourself be swept away into this captivating series.

Humans, Bow Down by James Patterson

Humans, Bow Down by James Patterson

Robots have won the war against humans in just a few days and now the human race lives in despair and poverty. If they’re lucky, or really unlucky, they can make it to age 50. Many of them are put in prison for any infringement of the law like not bowing down to the Hu-Bots when they’re told to do so. But the human species never goes down without a good solid fight and even after ten years of the Hu-Bots ruling over them, humans are still determined to fight and get rid of the robots that man had created.

Six and Dubs are two teens who do whatever they can to get back at the robots including stealing a car from the Hu-Bot Elite Police. Soon the robots are after them, determined to kill the two teens. But Six and Dubs hide from the Hu-Bot Police and find a trusted friend in MikkyBo an Elite Hu-Bot Police Detective. Together they plan to somehow rid and reprogram the world of the robot tyrants so the world will be safe for humanity again.

“Humans, Bow Down” by James Patterson is a dystopian novel so I thought I’d enjoy it. I kind of didn’t care for it much. First of all it reads like a Young Adult book. I have nothing against YA I’m just not a fan of them.

In “Humans Bow Down” you have a teen girl, Six, who gets the best of adults and robots and knows more than they do too. Of the few adult figures in the book the closest one to Six is the Hu-Bot MikkyBo. At first MikkyBo is a strong adult character but eventually she ends up being almost child-like and acts younger than Six. The reasons for the change in the character is explained but I think the authors take the change too far.

I say authors because Patterson wrote this book with Emily Raymond and it’s illustrated by Alexander Ovchinnikov. Yes, there are pictures in the book. They’re nice but I have to wonder why an adult book needs a half page picture on every other page.

This is far from one of Patterson’s best stories. The novel ends too fast without really explaining how things occurred. I mean, how did the humans gain control over the robots? And worse yet, I think Patterson might be planning a sequel to “Humans Bow Down.” If that happens I doubt if I’ll read it.

“Humans Bow Down” is not a good science fiction book or a good dystopian novel. Not really worth the time to read.

Stick to Patterson’s earlier novels before he started writing with others.

Change of Seasons by John Oates – Needs Some Flavor

Change of Seasons by John Oates – Needs Some Flavor

I’m reading John Oates’ book, “Change of Seasons” right now. I was looking forward to reading it and was happy when I was the first person on the hold list for it at the library. I’ve since learned that I was the only person on the hold list. Guess Brooklynites aren’t into John Oates.

At the stroke of midnight on March 28 I downloaded the book and then dug into it. So far I’m not sure about what I think. Maybe John’s early life was too normal to be real interesting. His grandmother took care of him, he loved music, race cars, and wrestling. He went to Coney Island a lot to record Italian songs that his grandma taught him. That got my interest up since I live and have always lived within walking distance of Coney Island. Maybe I saw him there when I was a kid. Nah, I doubt it. What I’m trying to say is that so far this memoir is too bland for me.

Would any of you want to read stories about my life growing up? Well, actually some of you have already. The difference is I can kind of write. Wait, wait, wait, John can write too. He’s in the Songwriters Hall of Fame, or whatever it’s called, but there’s a difference in writing songs and writing a story. I can’t write a song to save my life and it kind of looks like John can’t write a story to save his life so he wrote his memoir with the help of Chris Epting. Chris is a writer but even with his help so far the book is lacking flavor, spice, entertainment, or something. John, if you’re reading this, and why should you be, I’m sorry.

I know this is not a book about him and his good buddy Daryl Hall. It’s John’s memoir and I do like John a lot. My North Carolina “sista” calls him “the other one.”  I guess she isn’t much of a John Oates fan along with Brooklyn. Maybe the book would be more inviting if John wrote about the Daryl Hall and John Oates story stressing John’s point of view of course.

So far, “Change of Seasons” is a little slow going which is why I haven’t finished it yet and am reading three other books along with it. The pace is dragging.

But Oates has included some nice pictures. I especially like the one with his parents.

I will finish this book and will post full review of it. Maybe it will perk up later on.

In the meantime, here’s a good video interview with John and Salon.com about “Change of Seasons” for your listening pleasure.

Oh, and if you want to borrow the book (e-book) from the Brooklyn Public Library they only have one copy and I still have it. But the good news is that the hold list is still empty so you’ll get it when I return the book.

What does Brooklyn have against John Oates anyway?

change of seasons

 

How To Lose A Marathon: A Starter’s Guide to Finishing in 26.2 Chapters by Joel H. Cohen

How To Lose A Marathon: A Starter’s Guide to Finishing in 26.2 Chapters by Joel H. Cohen

The closest I’ve ever come to running a marathon is the seven block walk to my library, sitting in the library for an hour or so, and then walking the seven blocks back home. Does that count as running a marathon? How about if you consider I’m holding at least a book or two as I walk not to mention my Kindle? Does it count as running a marathon now? No? How about of I say that I kind of walk fast and it only takes a “short” ten minutes to walk the seven blocks; a little longer if there’s snow and ice on the ground, or if it’s summer and it’s too hot out (I hate the heat), or if I stop and window shop a little? Okay, I never ran a marathon or even thought about running one. Why would someone torture their body into doing something like that? Why run 26.2 miles when there are buses?

Apparently, Joel Cohen, author of “How To Lose A Marathon: A Starter’s Guide to Finishing in 26.2 Chapters” felt the same as I do until one day, in the midst of some kind of fever I assume, decided he wanted to start running. Here’s this pudgy Jewish guy (his words not mine) who loved his couch and cushy job as a writer for The Simpsons where his biggest concern was which of the many snacks to choose from at the job. Sounds like a good deal to me but Joel ruined it all by wanting to run.

In this pretty funny book, Joel takes readers on his step on step journey explaining how he got himself out of the house at 5:00 AM and started running. Let me say what I like about this nonfiction book is that Joel did run a marathon but he did not win it. Don’t expect a winning “Rocky” moment here although Mr. Cohen trained just as hard as Rocky did.

He had his inspirations to keep him training like vowing to beat Oprah’s marathon’s race time. I’ll keep you guessing instead of telling you if he did or not.

Now, I know not everyone wants to train for this torture or even partake in an adventure like this but it was fun and pretty interesting to understand what goes through someone’s mind when a decision like this is made.

Mr. Cohen tells readers how he decided on which marathon to run and why he didn’t want to partake in most of them. There’s quite a few marathons including one that has to do with burrows. He also tells us what to avoid while training like not to fall and get embarrassed by a good soul who keeps asking, loudly, if you’re alright.

His favorite part of training was when he finished running for the day. Joel hated getting up in the morning but felt like he achieved something when he ran his ten miles a day. Heck, if I could walk ten miles a day I’d also feel as if I achieved something. Have no fear fellow couch potatoes, I’ll never walk more than a mile, maybe two miles a day at most, unless the zombies come and I’m forced to walk further. Even then I might not. I’m pretty sure I can hide from some slow poke zombies. I think.

Anyway, Joel also tells us that you have to eat while running to keep your calories up. Apparently you use up a lot of calories running. I have to take Mr. Cohen’s word for that because I’ll never know if that’s true or not. If you do want to run and eat the author will inform you about some “yummy” gel like substance that you can pin to your running shorts and just squeeze the gel into your mouth and you run along.

If you are considering training to run a marathon I ask you to please tell me why but if you are actually thinking of running “How To Lose A Marathon: A Starter’s Guide to Finishing in 26.2 Chapters” is a pretty good book. Mr. Cohen tells you that it isn’t easy to do and most likely you won’t win, but I guess it can be fun to try.

But if you’re more like me who rolls their eyes at runners asking them as they run past you, “Hey bub, what’s the rush? Where’s the fire? You have somewhere important to be in the next five minutes?” the book is enjoyable and you will get a chuckle or two out of it. Oh, and there are pictures in it, sketches that the author drew himself. A Picasso he isn’t, he’s better at writing than drawing.

It’s short enough to get through in a day or so, about 170 pages. It wouldn’t be wasting your time to read it even if you sit on your couch eating some chips. I’ll never tell Mr. Cohen about your love for the couch.

Kneaded to Death (A Bread Shop Mystery #1) by Winnie Archer

Kneaded to Death (A Bread Shop Mystery #1) by Winnie Archer

Ivy Culpepper returned to her home town of Santa Linda, California after living in Texas for a while. Her mother, a school teacher, was run over by a car in the school’s parking lot and Ivy wanted to be back home with her father and brother to mourn their loss. Things weren’t all that great in Texas where she divorced her cheating husband and the death of her mother was more than she could stand.

For six months Ivy didn’t know what to do with herself. All she thought about was her mom until she decided to take a bread baking class at Santa Linda’s best Mexican bread bakery, Yeast of Eden. There she found a good friend in the bakery’s owner and the rest of the women who loved bread as much as she did that they also wanted to learn the secrets of baking it.

But as she became more involved in the community she also found out some secrets. One husband and wife were trying to bully the people on their street to make changes in their houses to suit the historicalness of that block. This couple has also been breaking into houses looking for something but no one knows exactly what.

Ivy has also met a man who co-owns a shop across from Yeast of Eden and is threatening the bakery’s owner.

And she’s also met her first true love who left Santa Linda when he and Ivy were dating when they were teens thus breaking her heart. He has returned to California to help his mother in running their family restaurant after his father died.

At the first bread baking class one of the women gets a phone call and excuses herself to take it. A few minutes later she is found dead in her car, poisoned according to the police. Everyone is devastated with their friend’s murder and Ivy, the bakery owner, and another women, decide to investigate. But the investigation makes a big turn when Ivy discovers that somehow the death of her mother, six months earlier, is connected to this recent murder. Was Ivy’s mother intentionally killed to cover up something? No one knows for sure but now, more than ever, Ivy is going to find out the truth no matter what anyone says, even if it puts her life in danger.

“Kneaded to Death” by Winnie Archer is the first in the Bread Shop Mystery Series and let’s just say I’ll be reading the second. This is a good cozy with a complicated murder mystery. The plot line is well thought out and the characters are great especially Yeast of Eden’s owner and her sisters.

Ms. Archer did a terrific job in making readers to first not trust some of the suspects and then having us change our minds about them. And even when you find out what actually happened you don’t hate the murderer.

I’ve read my fair share of cozies and have seen main characters baking cakes, cookies, and donuts but never a bread baker. I liked it. Who doesn’t like bread? Author Winnie Archer knows her bread and describes the bread and the baking techniques so beautifully I wanted to run out and take a bread baking course while stuffing my face with a crispy baguette.

“Kneaded to Death” is one good story and shouldn’t be missed especially if you’ve read your share of cozies like me. The story is good, the writing is excellent, and the plot is complicated enough to keep you wondering what happened and why. Don’t miss out on this novel.