Showing posts with label mysteries. Show all posts
Showing posts with label mysteries. Show all posts

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Catnip by Valerie Tate: A Book Review

Catnip: A Hilarious Cat Mystery


What happens when a cat does really run the house? If, in fact, the cat owns the house? Find out in this first book of the Dunbarton Mystery series that stars the orange cat named, of course, Marmalade.

 Catnip by Valerie Tate:  A Book Review
Photo Courtesy of Pixabay, Text Added in PicMonkey
Though the title of this book is not unique, the book is.

The Characters 


Lawyer Christopher Mallory narrates the story, which begins in his office in the fictional city of Dunbarton on the shores of Lake Huron, as he reads a will. The family of longtime widow Amanda Dunbar has gathered to see how rich they will become. All that remains of the family are son James, daughter-in-law Alice, and granddaughter Alicia.The one most concerned about the inheritance is Alice. She had pressured Mallory to read the will right after Amanda's burial.

The deceased, Amanda Dunbar, had been widowed for twenty-six years. Her husband had been a prominent citizen and financier, descended from the town's founder. Among other assets, he had owned a furniture factory. Robert Allen Dunbar had been very wealthy and had left everything to Amanda. When he died, he had meant for his sons James and Robert to take over the factory.

Robert was as talented as his father in handling finances and James loved creating the fine furniture. Then Robert died in an auto accident and James had to handle everything. He was not good at business and the factory was not in good financial shape. James was hoping his inheritance would help save it.

James had married Alice against the  wishes of his mother, who couldn't stand  her. Alice dominated him, but James still adored her. Their daughter Alicia had gone off to college as a strong independent woman and came home broken, a shadow of her former self. We later find this was because of unrequited love.

The family had lived with Amanda and her cat Marmalade for twenty-six years. When she became crippled and confined to a wheelchair, they had to help out with her care. From Alice's point of view, she had waited on Amanda hand and foot while Amanda made Alice's life miserable. There was definitely no love lost between the two. Alice also hated Marmalade. Alicia loved Marmalade, and Marmalade at least tolerated her.

Those are the major characters, all of whom will suddenly find their lives changing after the will is read.

The Plot (without spoilers)  

The Reading of the Will


Amanda knew her family well. Christopher (henceforth called Chris) described Amanda this way as he remembered the day she called him to her home to witness her signing a new will she had written. He sized her up as "an autocratic lady with a shrewd expression and an underlying core of steel... a person not to be trifled with."  She had insisted her new will must be kept secret from everyone -- especially her family.

At the beginning of the book when Chris describes the family members entering his office, he recalls that James "seemed to fade into the wallpaper beside his more flamboyant spouse." He recalls that Alicia "drifted in behind her parents, gazed around with a disinterested air, and melted gracefully into a chair by the wall." Alice had "sailed into his office...with the assurance of the flagship of the fleet...about as warm as a Huron January....A gleam in her Ice Queen eyes...said she was about to get everything she had been waiting for." She showed no signs of grief.

 Catnip by Valerie Tate:  A Book Review


Chris knew an emotional storm was about to break in his office when he read the will. The old lady had made him executor and trustee and explained what his duties would be when she died. She had made her intentions very clear. He knew she was using the will to tell her family what she really thought of them. She admits in the will that living together had been uncomfortable for all of them.  She stated it was a wonder "That I have chosen to tolerate the chronic irritability of my daughter-in-law, the infuriating ineptitude of my son, and the vague placidity of my grand-daughter (sic)."

Chris proceeded to read the will. Here's what each got:

  • Alice: two gallons of vinegar with the hope it would sweeten her disposition
  • James: a can of starch to stiffen his backbone that hadn't been firm since he married Alice
  • Alicia: her jewelry "in the hope that one day she may prick her finger and awaken from that perennial slumber she now enjoys."
 Alice had then turned purple with rage and exclaimed with fury: "That old witch!...She made our lives a living hell for almost thirty years and now this...outrage!....When I think of how I waited on her!"

At this point, Chris called his secretary to bring in the last beneficiary -- Marmalade, who immediately spat at Alice, scratched his way out of the secretary's arms, and proceeded to rub against Alicia's leg. She stroked his head. He seemed totally in command of the proceedings. And he actually was. After all, he, as Amanda's "only true friend," was inheriting the entire estate.

 From the will: "since I know my family only too well, should anything happen to Marmalade that even suggests foul play" that anyone in the family had a part in, the estate will go to the Animal Protection Society. The will further stipulates that if Marmalade should die of natural causes, the estate would revert to Alicia "the only member of my family I have any use for."

Amanda appointed Chris as executor and Marmalade's trustee. The family would be allowed to continue to live in the house and care for Marmalade (who would have full run of the house) with all house expenses paid. Each person would get  a monthly allowance which Chris would determine. Chris would check on Marmalade at both scheduled and unscheduled times to make sure he was being cared for properly. If anyone mistreated him, they would lose their allowance and have to leave the house. Then Chris would hire a new caregiver and companion.

Living With Marmalade

 Catnip by Valerie Tate:  A Book Review
Photo Courtesy of Pixabay


As you can imagine, the Dunbar household was very tense living with a cat who was the boss. Nowhere in the house was off limits for him. He seemed to delight in destroying things Alice valued. The last straw was reached when she was carrying a family heirloom tea service that had belonged to her grandmother to the table during one of Chris's visits. Marmalade tripped her, and the china broke spilling tea all over Alice's gown. She grabbed him, intent on doing him violence when Chris shouted a warning to remember the will. She told Chris to get the cat out of her sight for a while.

Before the death of Amanda, Marmalade had been a cat-about-town visiting his neighbors at night as he pleased. He had usually let himself in and out through the window in Amanda's room.

When Amanda died Chris took Marmalade to the vet to get a microchip inserted and obtain a DNA sample from him.  For obvious reasons the family and Chris were reluctant  to let him start roaming free again.  But the cat was getting into so much mischief indoors, they decided his confinement in the house might be a contributing factor. So they began to let him roam when he wanted to again. That seemed to help calm things down in the household.

Marmalade Goes Missing

Once the information got out to the public that Marmalade was rich, he was in danger. Although he was pretty good at defending himself, he finally was abducted. This put the family into a panic, since family members were the first suspects. And if Marmalade wasn't found safe and sound, they would lose their home and their allowances. Chris did not believe they were guilty, and he and Alicia began to search for him with help from some of their friends. You will have to read the book to see what happens to Marmalade and all of them. 


My Review and Recommendation


I loved this book! It's not just about solving a mystery. It's about how people can change when they are motivated. Amanda's strange will was intended to help her son become all he could be by motivating him to take leadership. Amanda also hoped it would help Alicia regain her spirit and independence. And Alice? I don't know if Amanda had any hope that she would ever be good for James. But even she changed for the better by the end of the book.

I laughed all the way through this book as the characters interacted with each other and the cat. I enjoyed watching the romance begin to develop between Chris and Alicia. Although the book is a mystery, I felt the development of the characters was the heart of the book. And, of course, Marmalade behaved as you might expect a pampered cat to behave. He seemed to know he was in control and flaunted it.

I would recommend this book to anyone who loves cats or mysteries and likes to laugh. I was glad I was able to discern who kidnapped Marmalade by using the author's clues. This was just the book I needed to read when I didn't feel up to working and wanted to completely relax. I think you will find it a fun, relaxing read, as well. Why not get it now?







Note: The author may receive a commission from purchases made using links found in this article. “As an Amazon Associate I (we) earn from qualifying purchases.”


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Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Book Review: That's Weird! Awesome Science Mysteries

Science Mysteries Motivate Kids to Learn!


I will confess that when I was in school, I didn't like science. I hated memorizing science voabulary, scientific facts, names of scientists, and dates of inventions. I hated experiments, dissecting dead creatures, and watching test tubes. I was more interested in plants and how they grew, but not so much in listing and memorizing the names of their parts. I wish my teachers in middle school or high school had been using That's Weird! Awesome Science Mysteries as a teaching resource instead of tiresome textbooks. I've always liked trying to solve mysteries!

Book Review: That's Weird! Awesome Science Mysteries
Photo Courtesy of Pixabay. Text added on PicMonkey


Science Doesn't Have All the Answers Yet


Author Kendall Haven states in his introduction to this book that "science is the process of turning mystery into knowledge." This is done through observations in the field and in laboratory experiments. Scientists form hypotheses from these observations and then test them as theories until time finally gives these tested theories the status of facts.

But not all theories have been proven yet. There are still some mysteries science hasn't been able to explain and the theories surrounding them haven't been verified. Instead these mysteries feed our imaginations and inspire fiction and movies. That's Weird! motivates and helps students in middle school and above use science research to explore sixteen of these mysteries:

  • The Sunken City of Atlantis
  • The Bermuda Triangle
  • Black Holes
  • What Really Killed the Dinosaurs
  • Easter Island and its Stone Giants
  • Surviving Firewalks and Beds of Nails
  • Ghosts: Real or Not
  • Lightening: Killer or Resource
  • Lock Ness Nessie: Real or Myth
  • Life on Mars or Not
  • The Birth of the Universe
  • Sea Serpents
  • The Origin and Mystery of Stonehenge
  • Will We Ever Travel Through Time?
  • What Exactly Are UFO's?
  • Will Humans Ever Be Able to Travel Faster than Light?



How That's Weird! Is Organized


Each mystery in this book is presented in seven different parts

  1. At a Glance: This creates a historical context for the mystery by introducing major players and historical events that play an important part in the story. Information in this section is as factually reliable as it can be, as far as it goes. 
  2. The Mystery: This is an actual story that engages the reader by drawing him into a scenario related to the mystery. I'm much older than the target age and I still very much enjoyed the stories. The subjects were all ones I've often wondered about. Some of the events in the stories actually happened, but many have not been verified. The author has given many his own interpretations based on known facts and tells you that up front. 
  3. About this Story: The author deals with the likelihood of whether the story may be true or not.
  4. The Science: Since this book was designed to help science teachers hook their students on science through mysteries, he explains any known evidence, hypothesis, or theory scientists use to evaluate the truth of the mystery. He explores some of the controversies that surround the subject of the story. 
  5. Fact or Fiction: A presentation of the evidence for and against the truth of the mystery. Students will see the conclusions scientists have drawn from their current knowledge. 
  6. Follow-up Questions to Explore: These interesting questions help students explore the science concepts that relate to the mystery and encourage them to see how the opinions they've formed stack up against the known evidence. They are much more fun than the questions at the end of science textbook chapters I had to write out answers for when I was a student.
  7. Follow on Activities: These activities help bring the themes of the stories to life with discussions and demonstrations. They serve as starting points for teachers to run with. There is also a list of references for further reading related to the mystery. 

Who Would Find this Book Useful?


It is recommended for for students in grades four and up. I would say that it's more appropriate for teaching classes of gifted students at that age. For regular classes I'd not introduce this until grade six or seven. Homeschooling parents should also find this a wonderful resource they can use in a number of ways. Once they read it, they can determine when and how to use it with their own children. I'm guessing if it's left around where children can see it, older children will pick it up on their own. 

That being said, I thoroughly enjoyed the book even though science has never been my favorite subject. The stories really grabbed my attention and made me want to read the evidence for and against their being true. I considered it recreational reading. I think anyone who enjoys mysteries might enjoy reading this book. 





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Saturday, March 17, 2018

Bone Box by Faye Kellerman – A Book Review

Latest Decker/Lazarus Novel by Faye Kellerman
 A Decker/Lazarus Novel

I just finished reading the latest Faye Kellerman novel starring the team of Peter Decker and Rina Lazarus.  Bone Box is the 24th book in the series which Kellerman began in 1986. 

Peter Decker, an LAPD homicide detective and his keen-witted beautiful wife, Rina Lazarus, have dazzled mystery fans as a riveting investigative duo for over 30 years. Through most of the series the action takes place in Los Angeles.  By the last 3 or 4 books, Peter has semi-retired and taken a job as a detective in a small Upstate New York area.  The town may be small, but it has its share of crimes to solve and keeps Peter and his partner, Tyler McAdams busy enough. 



Synopsis of Bone Box


One September morning, Rina takes a walk in the nearby woods and stumbles upon human remains once buried deep in the forest. Naturally, she immediately calls her husband, Peter, at  the local Greenbury Police Department. They discover that the skeleton is that of a young man who has been buried for at least ten years, thus there is almost no  physical evidence at the gravesite.  With further investigation, Decker and his partner, Tyler McAdams soon realize they are probably dealing with a missing student from the nearby Five Colleges of Upstate.

It's not long before more human remains are found in the same area.  The rest of the bodies all appear to be college age women and the investigators suspect they will match up with some missing women from the colleges.  Decker and McAdams, along with Rina’s help, find a number of suspects among the academics at the colleges and it becomes increasingly apparent that the killer is still around.

This police mystery fiction story starring Peter and Rina, with a few side stories of their family and friends from earlier books, will thrill all Decker/Lazarus fans. 


Author Faye Kellerman



Faye Kellerman
Born in St. Louis in 1952, Faye is a mystery novel writer married to Jonathan Kellerman, also a fiction writer well known for his Alex Delaware novels. They have four children and oldest son, Jesse, is now a published author in his own right.

Faye Kellerman and her family are practicing Orthodox Jews and Faye's writing often deals with Jewish themes and characters, incorporating them into the framework of the traditional mystery.  I have found this fascinating. 

Enjoy Faye Kellerman's latest offering in Bone Box!







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Book review of Bone Box by:

Wednesday Elf







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Monday, February 19, 2018

The Guilty Book Review

In The Guilty, David Baldacci takes you on a non-stop, action packed adventure in Cantrell, Mississippi.

When a top ranked government assassin is unable to perform his job, he heads home to deal with unresolved issues from his past and winds up embroiled in his father's murder investigation.

Making matters more difficult is the fact that he has been estranged from his father for 20 years. Talking to his father is no easier now than it was when he was a lad and his father's life being on the line does not seem to make a difference. His father wants no help from his son and is resigned to his own personal situation.

Robie, however, refuses to let his father take the murder charge without fighting back. His efforts, combined with those of an equally skilled coworker, to save his dad eventually help him start a proper relationship with his father. Better late than never, as they say. It turns out that his book is about murder and about family.

I was amazed at the action that took place in the first half of the book, which meant that there was lots more still to come. It was fast paced and hard to put down.

Yes, The Guilty is HIGHLY RECOMMENDED by me. Read more about it or order your copy from Amazon by clicking right here.

As it turns out, The Guilty is number four in a series called Will Robie and David Baldacci has written many other books, which I look forward to checking out. It is always great to find a new author that you enjoy and if all of Baldacci's books are as good as this one, I will have some more sleep deprived nights ahead.

See you
At the bookstore!
Brenda
Treasures By Brenda

Quick Links:

Order The Guilty from Amazon here.
See David Baldacci's author biography on Amazon.




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Saturday, November 4, 2017

The Coffeehouse Mysteries - A Series Review

The Coffeehouse Mysteries - a cozy book series review
Buy the Coffeehouse Mysteries by clicking here!
If you love reading murder mysteries in coffee shops then Cleo Coyle's Coffeehouse books are ideal for you. Well maybe not the one where the caramel chocolate latte is poisoned, but.....

I do like murder mysteries - both the easy to read cozy mysteries (which Cleo Coyle's ones are) and the grittier ones by the likes of Ruth Rendell or Kathy Reichs.

The Coffeehouse books are a little different in that they involve coffee - yes a whole series of books that unite both coffee and murder, want to know more?

Let's review the series of The Coffeehouse Mysteries, be warned this could become almost as addictive as your morning cup of Joe!

Clare Cosi is the Star of the Coffeehouse Mysteries

A Coffee Lover & Sleuth Too!

Clare Cosi is the heroine of these murder mysteries and she works as manager (soon to be partner) of The Village Blend a coffee shop that has been in Greenwich Village, New York for decades as it was started by her ex-mother-in-law, referred to simply as Madame!

As well as being the manager Clare seems to somehow have a connection to murder on a regular basis and then wants to solve the case - her ex-husband (and soon to be partner in The Village Blend) claims she has a Nancy Drew fixation ........and he might not be wrong.

Throughout the book Clare shares little tidbits about coffee - making it, the differences between beans, coffee folklore and more. To give you some background Clare moved away from New York with her daughter Joy when her marriage ended and only recently returned to New York for the first book in the series - On What Grounds. During the time she was away she worked as a food and coffee writer so has all of this knowledge which gets sprinkled through the books.

Clare has a good relationship with her ex, but the man she'd like in her life is a Police Detective called Mike Quinn which is pretty handy when you're after details of a case as well. Clare also has a good relationship with her ex-mother-in-law who is also a little nosy and loves to help Clare out when she's trying to solve a case.

Reviewing the Coffeehouse Mysteries
Image from Pixabay, adapted by Lou of Lou's Designs

Why I Like The Coffeehouse Mysteries Book Series

The murder mysteries always seem to have a connection to The Village Blend Coffeehouse which could give you pause before drinking there ....... unless you like puffer fish that is. For those of you who don't 'get' that sentance then you need to read book #3 - Latte Trouble!

What sets these books apart from other whodunnits is the coffee. As I mentioned before sprinkled throughout the books are little bits of coffee trivia which I found really interesting. The trivia didn't detract from the story line, but it did add another layer to the story which I enjoyed.

To further seal the coffee influence with these books you'll find recipes from the stories at the end of the book. If you're in a book club you could recreate a Caramel Chocolate Latte to drink while you discuss the ins and outs of Latte Trouble to really get in the mood.

Who is Cleo Coyle?

The Author of the Coffeehouse Mysteries

Cleo Coyle is actually two people, husband and wife writing team - Alice Alfonsi and Marc Cerasini. They released the first book - On What Grounds - in September 2003 and now they even have their own website with recipes and a forum for fans - The Virtual Village Blend.

Cleo Coyle Books in Order

I'm linking to books here for you, but I should mention that I've been reading the kindle editions of these books and am thoroughly enjoying reading them that way.

On What Grounds (Coffeehouse Mysteries, No. 1) is the first of these books and it's where Clare Cosi returns to take over as the manager of The Village Blend.

I actually haven't read this book yet as I started off reading book 2, then book 3 and I haven't looked back! I will read it once I've finished the rest of the series though.


 Through the Grinder (Coffeehouse Mysteries, No. 2)
Through The Grinder is cool because you get to see inside the murderer's mind without it revealing who the person is.

In this book we also see Mike Quinn's jealous side as Clare gets herself a love interest who (rather predictably) turns out to be a main suspect in a rash of murders made to look like suicides and all customers of the Village Blend.


 Latte Trouble (Coffeehouse Mysteries, No. 3)
Latte Trouble is the third book in the coffeehouse mysteries and this time the murder hits even closer to home with the murder weapon being a poisoned latte poured by the lovable Tucker - can Clare's chief barista be a murderer?

This book could be the end for Clare as she's taken into the seedy underworld of the fashion industry and drugged, but wait I know I have more of these books so it'll turn out okay!


 Murder Most Frothy (Coffeehouse Mysteries, No. 4)
Murder Most Frothy doesn't actually take place in Greenwich, but at the Hamptons.

In Latte Trouble we were introduced to David Mintzer, celebrity restaurant owner, who was impressed by Clare's coffee knowledge.

In this the fourth book in the series, David has brought Clare, Joy and Madame to stay at his Hamptons' home to help train his staff up as baristas and of course this means that someone is going to be murdered while they're partying their way through a Hamptons' summer.


 Decaffeinated Corpse (A Coffeehouse Mystery Book 5)
Decaffeinated Corpse is the fifth book in this series and is the one I'm currently reading.

One of the interesting things I've found with this book is about how decaffeinated coffee is made because this book is all about a new coffee bean that is grown as a decaffeinated bean.

I was surprised by the first body that we 'meet' in this book (although it's the second murder in chronological order and the first wasn't a surprise to me), when the body fell onto the sidewalk I thought I knew who it was going to be and I was wrong which is always a good start to solving a whodunnit!


The following books are the rest of the series in order. I haven't read these yet, but will add a short description to them as I do.


  • French Pressed 
  • Espresso Shot 
  • Holiday Grind 
  • Roast Mortem 
  • Murder by Mocha 
  • A Brew to a Kill 
  • Holiday Buzz 
  • Billionaire Blend 
  • Once Upon a Grind 
  • Dead to the Last Drop 
  • Dead Cold Brew 
 Due to be released in April 2018 - Shot in the Dark

Do You Love Cozy Mysteries? We Do!

The contributors here at Review This often review books for you and I've found that a lot of us really enjoy a cozy mystery or two, in fact one of our contributors, Bev Owens, has actually published a couple of her own cozy mysteries which are awesome. 

So, if you want a break from the fast pace of New York (where the Coffeehouse Mysteries are set) then why not take a trip to Beaver Falls with Beverly Owen's Up cycling mysteries.

Here are a few of the other cozy mysteries we've reviewed for you..


Cozy Mystery Series ReviewMystery Series Review: Cats, Cupcakes and Killers
Author Sylvia Selfman has done just that with her Izzy Greene series in Cats, Cupcakes and Killers. All seven mysteries are published together ...

Cozy Mysteries and women sleuthsReviewing Cozy Mysteries and Favorite Women Sleuths
Like cozy mysteries starring smart, female sleuths? ... My favorite genre is mystery and right now I'm particularly attracted to easy-to-read cozy mystery stories

Mrs fix it mystery seriesMrs Fix-it Mystery Series Reviewed
A very enjoyable series of mystery books with Mrs Fix It as the female sleuth. ... I was a little sad when I came to the last page of the 15th book.

Reviewing The Mystic Notch Cozy Mystery SeriesReviewing The Mystic Notch Cozy Mystery Series
I recently read the Mystic Notch Cozy Mystery Series by Leighan Dobbs and enjoyed it immensely. It was pretty easy to get attached to the ...

Chef at the Water's Edge by Kee Patterbee - A Mystery ReviewChef at the Water's Edge by Kee Patterbee - A Mystery Review
A celebrity chef is found dead in a lake. Was it an accident as the police reported? Or was it suicide or murder? Can you solve the mystery ...


We're not all a 'murderous bunch' and we review plenty of other books too, but at the moment I just can't get enough of the cozy mysteries that are out there and I'm sure that you'll love them too.

 If you're not into the more grisly murder mysteries then the cozy mysteries are for you. I once heard them described as the Mills and Boon of mystery books and that made me smile because they are light reading and in general they don't contain descriptive violence (although obviously there is murder involved). I think of them as 'genteel murder mysteries' similar to Agatha Christie's books, but without the nostalgic feel of a different era.

Grab a coffee and let me know what you think of this series of books and don't forget to check out some of the other cozy mysteries too.


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