Thursday Reviews: Death of a Cad, Special Agent Rylee and Quiche

As you know I’m gobbling up books by M.C. Beaton at the moment. My first review is for the second book in her Hamish MacBeth series, which I enjoyed every bit as much as the first. The third review is for the first book in her Agatha Raisin series. I’m not as crazy about this series-so far-but it is extremely well-written. I listened to it as an audio-book.

Mimi Barbour is a prolific, multi-genre, New Times and USA Today bestseller. I thoroughly enjoyed her latest Rom-Sus, which is the second book I reviewed.

I gave all three books 5 stars on Amazon, Goodreads and Bookbub.

Death of a Cad, by M.C. Beaton

Description

From the author of the Agatha Raisin television series…
DEATH OF A CAD: A Hamish Macbeth Mystery
When Priscilla Halburton-Smythe brings her London playwright fiancé home to Lochdubh, everybody in town is delighted . . . except for love-smitten Constable Hamish Macbeth. Yet his affairs of the heart will have to wait. Vile, boorish Captain Bartlett, one of the guests at Priscilla’s engagement party, has just been found murdered-shot while on a grouse hunt. Now with many titled party guests as the prime suspects, each with a reason for snuffing out the despicable captain, Hamish must smooth ruffled feathers as he investigates the case. When the hidden culprit strikes again, Hamish will find himself trying to save Priscilla from a miserable marriage-and catch a killer before he flies the coop.

My Review – A Cozy Masterpiece

In this second book in the Hamish Macbeth series, we get to know Hamish better. He’s a richly drawn, red-headed, anti-hero with a humble view of the world and his own sense of justice. Who wouldn’t love Hamish? He sends all his money to his family, deeply cares for people, and serves his community. For all of this, he wants no credit. When he helped a boy on a train, I thought my heart would break. Most people would not notice the boy or his abuse, but Hamish sees it and takes care of him.
The other characters in the story are also richly drawn. In as little as one sentence Beaton creates a total image, “Mrs. Halburton-Smythe was a faded blonde woman with quick, timid movements.” She usually writes at least a paragraph to describe each new character, but I was never bored. They are entertaining vignettes on their own.
Beaton also brings the expansive Scottish Highland setting to life. When I’m reading her books I feel as if I’m breathing the damp air and swatting the flies, as I look down on the loch.
The book is a cozy masterpiece, the story of a cad meeting his end. The pace is fast, the story seductive and the writing exemplary. I’m in awe.
I highly recommend this book to readers who enjoy cozy mysteries, stories where bad guys get their due and/or the austere Scottish landscape.

Amazon.com Link


Special Agent Rylee, by Mimi Barbour

Description

Rylee couldn’t believe her rotten luck…

Being chosen as one of the agents to play bodyguard to a spoiled billionaire while sailing on a Caribbean cruise, depresses her… a lot. The dude – so important to the government that they’re willing to provide the best to protect him – won’t even know they’re in place. The big question – why her? She prefers work that matters, the dirty jobs, on the streets, in the trenches, and her boss knows it. Keeping Mr. Fancy Pants out of the clutches of a worshipping stalker, mercenaries and a man out to seek revenge for an old injustice just annoys her.
Not excited about his pending cruise, before boarding the ship, Jake Andrews sees an enticing woman on the pier and decides it might not be so bad after all. Becoming landlord to two stowaways – one being a tiny kitten – isn’t at all in his plans for this vacation either. His goal is to finish his phone app for the Pentagon, have a good long rest to heal from recent stress and take a break from being threatened, stalked and attacked.
But if he can spend some of the voyage romancing this chick, that might add enough spice to his days… and nights for the trip to prove eventful.
Surprise!
Eventful doesn’t even come close…

My Review

I love this story. It has everything I look for in an entertaining read: fast-paced suspense, an exotic locale, interesting characters, unexpected plot twists, and love. It’s masterfully written. I highly recommend it for readers who enjoy a good suspense story with a satisfying love story.

Amazon.com Link


The Quiche of a Death, by M.C. Beaton

Description

The first book in M. C. Beaton’s beloved Agatha Raisin mystery series—now a hit show on Acorn TV and public television.

Putting all her eggs in one basket, Agatha Raisin gives up her successful PR firm, sells her London flat, and samples a taste of early retirement in the quiet village of Carsely. Bored, lonely and used to getting her way, she enters a local baking contest: Surely a blue ribbon for the best quiche will make her the toast of the town. But her recipe for social advancement sours when Judge Cummings-Browne not only snubs her entry—but falls over dead! After her quiche’s secret ingredient turns out to be poison, she must reveal the unsavory truth…

Agatha has never baked a thing in her life! In fact, she bought her entry ready-made from an upper crust London quicherie. Grating on the nerves of several Carsely residents, she is soon receiving sinister notes. Has her cheating and meddling landed her in hot water, or are the threats related to the suspicious death? It may mean the difference between egg on her face and a coroner’s tag on her toe…

My Review

I love this book. Agatha is truly original and yet I found myself relating to her. It takes a great writer to create such a character. All the characters were wonderfully detailed and the plot was intriguing. I highly recommend this book to readers who enjoy cozy mysteries.

Thursday Reviews – Death of a Gossip and Act of Survival

Death of a Gossip, by M.C. Beaton

I have a new favorite author. I fell in love with the character Hamish Macbeth on Apple Prime TV, so I downloaded M.C. Beaton’s first book in the Hamish Macbeth series, Death of a Gossip, and was knocked off my chair with her writing. Below is my review, which I’ve posted with 5 stars on Amazon, Goodreads, and Bookbub:

Description

Travel to the Scotland Highlands with this classic Hamish Macbeth cozy mystery where an unladylike gossip columnist meets an untimely and watery death. From the author of the Agatha Raisin series.
When society widow and gossip columnist Lady Jane Winters joined the fishing class, she wasted no time in ruffling the feathers–or was it the fins?–of those around her. Among the victims of her sharp tongue and unladylike manner was Lochdubh Constable Hamish Macbeth. Yet not even Hamish thought someone would permanently silence Lady Jane’s shrills–until her strangled body is fished out of the river.
Now with the help of the lovely Priscilla Halburton-Smythe, Hamish must angle through the choppy waters of the tattler’s life to find the murderer. But with a school of suspects who aren’t ready to talk and dead women telling no tales, Hamish may be in over his head, for he knows that secrets are dangerous, knowledge is power, and killers usually do strike again.

My Review

Phenomenal Writing

I loved this book. Beaton is a master storyteller. Her characters jump off the page and her wit kept me smiling page after page. I finished it in one afternoon because I couldn’t stop reading it. I recommend this book for people who like cozy mysteries, the Scottish highlands or dead gossips.

Amazon.com Link


Act of Survival, by Marsha R. West

I met Marsha R. West online eight years ago. We were excited new writers in the Romantic Suspense genre. This is her latest book. I gave it 5 stars on Amazon, Bookbub, and Goodreads.

Book Description

Encouraged by her friends to protect herself, Kim Mason Dennison is determined to divorce her abusive husband. Cooper Wray, an attorney, assures Kim that her husband, Hunter, can’t keep the proceedings from moving forward because Texas is a no-fault divorce state. But why is Hunter doing everything he can to stop the divorce? And will that even include murder?   

Here is my review.

Filled with Suspense

I loved Marsha R. West’s latest romantic suspense, Act of Survival. It’s a second chance story about an abused woman leaving her husband steeped in suspense and intrigue. I highly recommend it for readers who like suspenseful tales.

Amazon.com Link

 

Thursday Review – Plantation Shudders

ellenI love Ellen Byron cozies. They take me away to the charm of the American South and immerse me in a mystery that keeps me turning the pages as fast as I can to find out whodunit. Her characters are richly drawn. In this story, I particularly enjoyed Gran. My dream is to one day be as gracious, kind, wise and wiley as this grand dame. It’s a great read and I highly recommend it to readers who enjoy cozy mysteries.

I gave it 5 stars.

 

Amazon.com Link

The Power of Storytelling

dannyFollowing the dramatic ending of HBO’s Game of Thrones, a tsunami of raw emotion poured through Social Media. This  GoT me thinking.


Why do some stories rock our world?

Yeah, yeah, I know the textbook answers:ice king

  • Emotion, emotion, emotion
  • Strong characters we care about
  • well constructed plots
  • suspense
  • fresh writing
  • yada, yada

But, I gotta say, it has to be more than that. There’s a magic to a good story that cannot be deconstructed into a neat parcel. And Game of Thrones has that magic.


Stories that Stand Out

While I have an English degree and have read widely for years, I’ve witnessed only two storylines that garnered this kind of attention:

  1. The Harry Potter stories by J.K. Rowling
  2. The Game of Thrones, books, created by George R.R. Martin and TV adaptation written by David Benioff and D.B. Weiss

What Makes Them Different?

Oh, if I could figure out their secret sauce! I can’t, of course. They are so brilliantly written. Still, I’ll muse about this …

  • GoT has fire-breathing dragons, zombies, evil monarchs, innocent bystanders, scandalous sex and a wise dwarf, who tap our emotions, imagination and collective unconscious. A lot of these elements can be identified in the textbook things-to-do list I wrote above, but Martin goes beyond the normal realm of storytelling. To my mind, far beyond. He touches us intimately with stories of heroism, horror, and love. His world is not always kind, but it is always real within its own terms.
  • Harry Potter stories revolve around the little boy who we meet living underneath the stairs in his uncle’s home, feeling unworthy, unloved and helpless in a world that has discarded him. Who doesn’t relate to this guy? I know that sounds absurd, but it’s true. Everyone relates to Harry.

The Importance of Story

Since the beginning of time, humans have told stories. It’s the way we pass information along. It’s one of our earliest recollections. Storytelling is an important part of all cultures. You could say it is part of our human DNA.

There is a lot of power in a good story. Scientists have found that stories stimulate different parts of the brain as they progress from beginning to end. They engage us emotionally. They entertain, and inspire.

Tell a stranger a piece of information and he might remember it. Tell the stranger a story about that information and chances are he’ll remember it (especially if there is a dragon involved.).

So What Did I Learn from GoT?

  • greater respect for the genre of epic fantasy
  • any fantastical creature can seem real if you create a believable world
  • the textbook list is right, but there still is a magic touch

That’s what I’m pondering on this sunny morning. I wish you all a wonderful week.


Thursday Review – Murder Misunderstood

51nWzwZXF+LI’m a fan of Susan Bernhardt’s stories and I’ve enjoyed every Kay Driscoll book, but this one, Murder Misunderstood, is by far the best.
The characters, Kay, her three best friends, their husbands, her husband … her community is coming more to life with each book and they add flavor and texture to the story. For example, I always enjoy catching up with young Janey a pizza-loving teenager who likes to shadow Kay, and the trips to the pastry shop with her besties make me drool.
But besides all of that, at the core of the story is a really good mystery. I loved hating the eccentric newcomer to town who grows her own poison garden. I loved how the whole community hated her and then had to come to terms with her murder.
A great read, filled with action, colorful characters and a touch of humor. I highly recommend it to readers who enjoy cozy mysteries. I gave it 5 stars.

Amazon.com link

 

My May Newsletter is Out

tulip-4191962_1920

Here is a link to my May newsletter:

https://preview.mailerlite.com/u5n5n5

Title Troubles

I seem to have lost this post. I wrote and published it, but all I have now is a lonely title, which ironically is about title troubles. Are there cyber title gremlins out there? Is there such a thing? My apologies to any readers who opened the post and got a whole lot of nothing.

And a title:)

So here I go again, without the pretty picture of a Japanese pear tree in bloom that was in the first post.

My “Trouble”

I’m working on a trilogy that crosses the cozy mystery and urban fantasy genres. The first book is called, The Perfect Brew, the third, A Triple Shot of Trouble. I had planned to call the second one, Deja Brew, but I’m already tired of putting in the accent marks and I haven’t started the first chapter.

As I wandered along the sun-drenched harbourfront this morning listening to ocean waves gently lapping the shore, I considered new titles.

Here’s my List:

  • A Second Cup of Warlock
  • A Second Cup of Wicked
  • A Double Shot of Dead

I’m favoring the third, A Double Shot of Dead. Any comments? You can reach me in all the usual ways.

I hope you’re having a spectacular Monday.

See you between the lines,

Jo-Ann

 

J