Strictly My Husband by Tracy Bloom

30750114  I received a free ebook of this title, Strictly My Husband, from NetGalley in exchange for a fair review.

I was drawn to request this book by the description, not the reference to the popular TV show.  The book is about a marriage between the practical, analytical, data driven Laura and the more free spirited, creative, dancer Tom.  It seems like an opposites attract situation until Carly twirls into their lives.  Tom is on the staff of a theme park running the entertainment side of things and Carly is a new performer.  Not only is Carly with Tom at work, but she is renting a room in Tom and Laura’s home for the performance season and it goes without saying she is beautiful.  The plot also involves other mismatched couples, jobs in peril, laughter and friendship.  The story is on the surface about marriage and how to have a good one.   But it is also about asking for what you want or need, not just expect you partner to know and finally accepting that dreams change.  Your dream life at 20, may not be what you want or need at 40.

So, do marriages between opposites last?  Will Laura take that dance with Tom?  Who is Will secretly pining for?  To find out the answers you will have to pick up a copy of your own to read.  A fun romantic story and you don’t have to be a fan of Strictly to enjoy it!

Three Mysteries

 

I just finished these three mysteries, two cozies and a thriller novella.  Arson and Old Lace is the first in the Far Wychwood Mystery series.  I had already read the second one and there are no others.  Here we meet Catherine Penny, a recent divorcee who just relocated to Far Wychwood, England to live her dream life in an English village close to where her  married daughter lives.  The mystery surrounds an elderly man, who is Catherine’s neighbor and also the village pariah due to some old suspected criminal activity.  Catherine gets involved in his life and  his death.  She is a bright but impulsive sleuth and hurtles herself headlong into solving the mystery.  Well written mystery plot, charming setting and great cozy feel to it… think Agatha Raisin with an American twist.  I really liked both books in this series and am sorry that there were not more.

Be Careful What You Hear by Paul Pilkington is a very short novella.  I should be up front and admit that I am not a big fan of mystery novellas in general so I want to be as fair as possible reviewing this.  Georgina Adams has a new infant son and a husband and has been weathering a particularly bad case of Post Partum Depression.  She overhears something in a half asleep state and due to her recent medical history doubts herself. Did she hear it?  Does it mean what she thinks?  Who can she trust?    I don’t want to to say too much more because it will give too much away.  Here is my issue: (and this may just be my own preferences) the main character is fully fleshed out, the premise is scary and definitely engaging, the plot is well thought out and timely, and  the tension building is great,  but it is just too damn short.  This book racks in at just 77 pages and there was clearly enough going on here for a full length novel.  The short length makes it seem rushed and it is a shame that such a good idea was not explored fully.

To Sketch a Thief is the second book in the Portrait of a Crime series.  Here we welcome back the unusual partnership of Zeke and Rory, now joined by a canine sidekick, Hobo.  Rory and Zeke’s PI business is up and running and they are hired to look into a series of widespread dognappings.  While the dog nappings are what they were hired to solve, the murder is related.  There are lots of suspects and dogs here, so multiple crimes to consider.  Detailed investigation work  is shown here, with Zeke and Rory looking for connections and following leads.  There are also snippets of Zeke’s last case and his murder, which Rory is also trying to solve.

I enjoyed the first book in this series a great deal and I will read the the third and final? book as well.  I had one small complaint with this one and that had to do with Rory’s seeming animosity towards Zeke.  I felt she was harsh at times and she even seemed to acknowledge that.  Friendly bickering is one thing but this seemed off the mark.  Still a solid cozy mystery read and great premise!

On the Chopping Block by Jenny Kales

30063546  I have had this on my Kindle for a little while and randomly chose it last night.  I remember buying it because I found the cover so enticing!

The theme behind this cozy is a meals from scratch business with a Greek flavor, ran by the Callie of Callie’s Kitchen.  Callie is the protagonist and has a sidekick in the form of a lawyer pal, a curmudgeon of a father, a thorn in her side Detective, and a dead boyfriend.  Detective Sands is trying to leave no stone unturned, but Callie is determined to help solve the case because the future of her fledgling business might just depend on clearing her name.

The mystery had quite a few suspects and motives for Drew’s murder, enough to keep you guessing. The chemistry between Callie and Detective Sands was well done and speaks well for future development. The relationship between Callie and her ex was a breath of fresh air.  Too often in novels,  exes are demonized or were abusive or committed some crime or abandoned the protagonist.  This was handled very realistically, just two people trying to co-parent after divorce. The townspeople provide a colorful background cast and the setting of Wisconsin is new to me.

Enjoyable, quick cozy with a fun theme and well drawn characters.

To Helvetica and Back by Paige Shelton

25361854  This is the first in a new series revolving around a vintage typewriter and book repair shop, The Rescued Word, in Star City Utah.  Clare works with her grandfather in the shop alongside a cat named Baskerville.  An old friend of her grandfather’s brings in a typewriter to be repaired and it kicks off the mystery.  Soon there is a murder in the alley behind the shop and Clare finds herself involved in the investigation.   Her best friend is a police officer, which gives her an inside track as she gets follows the clues.  There is also a  romantic subplot developing along with the mystery.

A really engaging theme, at least to me having learned to type on a manual typewriter in Heidelberg Middle School back in the dark ages and I would think to lovers of anything vintage to do with books and writing.  The story starts slowly, it took a little bit to draw me in as the background was developed, but then it took off.  The last 2/3 of the book was great, fast paced and really interesting with references to the old mines, former crimes, mistaken identity and old secrets.  I enjoyed reading this and would recommend it to readers of cozy mysteries.

Master of the Moor by Ruth Rendell

419611  This is a stand alone Ruth Rendell novel, not part of the Inspector Wexford Series.  This is a psychological mystery focused on Stephen Walby, a man emotionally stunted by traumas of his childhood, his wife, his father and a series of murders that occur on Stephen’s beloved moor.   Stephen spends a significant part of his life simply walking the moor leaving his wife to her own devices.  During one of his long rambles he stumbles across the body of a murdered young woman and thus the story begins.

The search for the serial killer seems to focus on Stephen, this and the fact that he sees the murders as an intrusion on to his moor, and make no mistake it is his moor, leads Stephen to investigate on his own.  I will say that for as much as the moor is so central to this story, the book is not as atmospheric as say Ann Cleeves or Elly Griffiths, both who do a much better job at developing a sense of place.

A good psychological mystery with a twist at the end.

A Certain Justice by P.D. James

29204   This is the 10th book in the Adam Dagliesh series.  This was masterfully written.  The development of the character of Venetia Aldridge allows the reader to feel as though they “know” her, as much as you could anyone.  Dagliesh himself is not really the focus of this particular book.  Venetia and her unfortunate situation with her daughter and the daughter’s fiance, other members of the Middle Temple, and D.I. Kate Miskin, who struggles with demons from her own past, are more front and center in this book and it works superbly.  We hear from Dagliesh almost as a voice in the background questioning and guiding but allowing others to take center stage.

A Certain Justice starts by introducing us to Venetia Aldridge in criminal court as she successfully gets a suspected murderer a “Not Guilty” verdict. We then delve in to the interesting British legal system of courts and solicitors and barristers and the things that occur behind closed doors in Chambers.  We know from the start that Venetia will die, we spend the rest of the exploring how, why and who.  There are some very unlikable characters and some that are pitiable for various reasons.

This is one of my favorites of the Dagliesh series so far.  So well written and engaging, not written as a thriller, but rather as a book for immersing yourself in the world that P.D. James created.

Would Like to Meet… by Polly James

27265415  I received a free ebook copy of Would Like to Meet….by Polly James from NetGalley in exchange for a fair review.

The cover first drew me to Would Like to Meet..., but what is inside hooked me on this “new to me” author, Polly James.  Hannah and Dan have been married a long time, long enough to have an adult son and long enough to not really remember why they were together in the first place.  It is one those moments that seem small, a flippant comment over a TV show, and then by the time it is over, so is a marriage.

The book follows Hannah as she tries to figure out what went wrong, who she is now, who Dan is now, what she is supposed to do next, how to navigate the treacherous currents of online dating, how to make friends when you’re a grown up and how to row a boat.  The book has both laugh out loud and tissue box moments.  The emotional tone of the story rings true even through some of the more outrageous adventures that Hannah embarks on.

I really enjoyed reading this and will keep an eye out for more books by Polly James.

Summer of Love by Katie Fforde

10022673  I received a free ebook of this title, Summer of Love, by Katie Fforde from NetGalley in exchange for a fair review.

This is another great summer read from Katie Fforde including a charming cottage, quaint village, summer romance, gardens, and picnics.  Now throw in a long lost dad and a young mum trying to do what is best for child, a grandma eager to love her grandchild, and a romantic interloper (or two) and you have the makings of a lovely summer romantic story.  Sian moves to lovely, but damp, little cottage trying to make a go of single parenthood with her son Rory.  Richard wants to step in and be the father figure he thinks Rory needs.  Fiona is welcoming a long gone son back to her nest, while also trying to dip her toe in the dating pool.  Angus is coming home to some surprises and isn’t quite sure what to do about them.

Sian’s love story is the central plot here, but I really enjoyed the humor and affection in Fiona’s search for, if not love, then companionship.  Engaging and fun read, giving the reader just what they expect and want in a summer romance story.

Between Sisters by Cathy Kelly

26243853  I received an ebook copy of this title, Between Sisters by Cathy Kelly from NetGalley in exchange for a fair review.

I requested this book from NetGalley because I have read other Cathy Kelly books and found them well written, even when the characters are frustrating at times!  It is so easy to immerse yourself in the world created here that you get caught up in the characters lives.  I felt that the  story line involving each of the sisters, Cassie’s and CoCo’s, lives was the most fleshed out and the others were hovering around the periphery.  In the end the character’s stories converged and after much angst,  we had a happily ever after.

The major themes explored here are abandonment (by a mother), mental illness, and addiction (including alcoholism).  The sisters were abandoned by their mother as children and it skewed the lens they view the world through.  Although they have different lives, one is a “perfect” wife, mother and employee and the other is a single entrepeneur, the effect of their mother’s addiction and subsequent abandonment comes shining through in their interactions with others and their life choices.  I felt this was very well done and was the shining star of the book.  The behaviors exhibited by Adult Children of Alcoholics were very true to form, especially in Cassie.  My only issue with this is that I felt that Shay was given a free pass, just based on the fact that Cassie, his wife, exhibited these behaviors.  Don’t want to spoil it, so I won’t say more!

I was not as connected to the other stories, Phoebe’s, Pearl’s, Ella’s or even Jo’s, except as in how they intersected with the sisters’.  The plot does tie all the threads together to make for a  good ending.  Nicely done women’s fiction, not my favorite Cathy Kelly book, but still a good read!

Christmas at Lilac Cottage by Holly Martin

26052279  I received a free ebook of this title, Christmas at Lilac Cottage by Holly Martin, from NetGalley for a fair review.

As I have said before I am a huge fan of Christmas stories and this one is no exception.  Penny lives alone in the house she grew up in, just outside her village.  It is a somewhat lonely life for her as all her agemates marry and have children and she is still single and alone. She supports herself by carving ice sculptures, a metaphor for her heart perhaps?   She decides to rent out the annex of her house to hopefully find some companionship.  The story takes off once Penny’s new tenants arrive.

Can two people who have been hurt in the past find love together?  Can a family be constructed from broken pieces?  Will the Christmas season works its magic?  I liked all the characters and the setting was lovely.  The misunderstanding was a little contrived in the beginning, but I could just roll with it as a set up for a charming Christmas romance.

Lovely Christmas romance that draws you into Penny’s world and has you cheering for her all the way!