Book Review: Blonde Ice

Blonde Ice (Gil Malloy #3)Blonde Ice by R.G. Belsky
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I picked up this book on the advice of a friend. “You’ll love it.”

I did.

I confess that I sometimes saw where the plot was going. I didn’t care. The writing “voice” and the main character were so compelling that I just had to keep reading. The start and end dates on this Goodreads review indicate it took five days but that’s really a little misleading, as I read most of it yesterday.

If you like grittier thriller-type books, you’re going to like Blonde Ice. But fair warning: you have to be okay with serial killers.

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Book Review: A Disguise to Die For

A Disguise to Die For (Costume Shop Mystery, #1)A Disguise to Die For by Diane Vallere
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a cute first book in a cozy series. It has all the traditional cozy elements – small town (this time in Nevada, which I haven’t seen before), amateur sleuth, an eclectic cast of characters and, of course, a cat.

Margo Tamblyn is smart and observant. There’s an interesting twist with the potential romantic interest being Japanese (Tak) – that could lead to some interesting cultural differences. It mostly avoids my pet peeve of the police being totally inept as the reason the amateur gets involved in the mystery.

Overall, if you’re a cozy fan, you won’t be disappointed with this book.

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Book Review: Only Ever You

Only Ever YouOnly Ever You by Rebecca Drake
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The industry is buzzing with the term “domestic thriller.” And I’m not really sure what that is. But I do know I enjoyed this book.

Drake has created a good story that will resonate especially well with parents, but should strike a chord with anyone (unless you have a heart of rock). The characters were realistic and, being from Pittsburgh myself, I enjoyed the local setting, which was spot on.

The plot was well-paced and twisty (full disclosure: I did guess most of the ending, although I had the wrong letter-subject; I put that down to all the studying of thrillers I’ve done, but this did not diminish my enjoyment of the book).

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Book Review: With a Vengeance

With a VengeanceWith a Vengeance by Annette Dashofy
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I was able to read an early version of this book.

It’s kind of trite to say that the latest book in a series is “the best one yet.” But in this case, it’s true. Dashofy has clearly hit her stride with these characters and her skill as a writer is unquestionable.

The fear in these characters – and not just Zoe and Pete – is clear and palpable, yet it isn’t overdone. And none of them act the victim. Despite the danger to first responders, everybody acts true to their natures and calling. Which just makes you root for them more.

The climax of the book deftly recalls details given earlier. And if your heart isn’t pounding by the end, you are truly missing something.

Annette Dashofy deserves all of the honors she’s gotten thus far in her career and I wouldn’t be surprised if she’s on award slates next year with this latest book.

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Review: Chalk’s Outline

Chalk's OutlineChalk’s Outline by J.J. Hensley
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I finished this book last night, and I had to mull it overnight before I could write the review.

Ultimately, because of the inability to do half-stars, I’m going to round up and give this one four. Despite using characters from his first two books, Hensley has crafted a compelling story that pulls from that history, but doesn’t require the reader to have read the previous stories (I read MEASURE TWICE, but have not yet read RESOLVE). He’s also put together a cast of primary characters who are deeply flawed, but yet compelling and – dare I say it – likable.

The story will make you question the concepts of “right” and “justice,” and making you think is always one of my hallmarks of a good book.

I was able to figure out the name of the “mentor” and the motive, but hey – this is a thriller, not a mystery, so that’s okay. I still wanted to see how it all played out.

My need to think was occasioned by the ending. I will admit it. Like any good American, I tend to prefer happy endings. But I also don’t like trite endings, where everybody goes home completely unscathed by their brush with evil and they go merrily about their lives. After pondering overnight, I think the ending of this book was perfect for the characters – hopeful, but not completely tied off.

The book does suffer from a few flaws in editing, but I lay those flaws at the feet of the publisher and its editor, not the author.

Whether you’ve read the previous books or not, you’ll be able to understand and enjoy this one.

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Review: The Question of the Unfamiliar Husband

The Question of the Unfamiliar Husband (An Asperger's Mystery, #2)The Question of the Unfamiliar Husband by E.J. Copperman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I struggled with this rating. I wanted to love this book. I first read about in on the Jungle Red Writers blog, and when I received a copy I was thrilled because I was really looking forward to it.

I didn’t love it. Not as much as I hoped. But I’m rounding up to four stars because the good outweighed the not-so-good (for me).

I enjoyed the character of Samuel. Yes, he brought to mind Monk, but with a twist. I think casting a person with Asperger’s and making that syndrome an asset instead of a liability is brilliant. And while he’s occasionally a little left of center, he’s a lovable guy and aware that his “personality characteristics” might put others off and tries not to do that. And I love how he insists he doesn’t “solve cases” he “answers questions.” Really, aren’t they kind of the same thing? =)

I think the character of Janet Washburn could have been a little more fleshed out, but that may be a series character arc goal. She certainly has a lot of potential.

The thing that rubbed me wrong was Detective Dickinson. I won’t give away the action that irritated me (with regards to Samuel), but no detective would do that. Even given suspension of believe for the sake of the story, I thought Dickinson was arrogant, condescending and bordered on the “incompetent cop” trope. I think the reason he goes to Samuel could have been handled differently, even if Dickinson had to be a bit irritating. The story wouldn’t have suffered for it.

All in all, an interesting main character and a story worth a read.

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Review: Spider Woman’s Daughter

Spider Woman's Daughter (Leaphorn & Chee, #19)Spider Woman’s Daughter by Anne Hillerman
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I met Ms. Hillerman at Bouchercon in 2015. Although I’d never read one of her father’s books, she was a delightful person and the description of this book intrigued me so I gave it a read.

A big plus is that I was never confused. As I said, I’d never read a Tony Hillerman novel, so all these characters were new to me. Perhaps the fact that Ms. Hillerman was using a secondary character (Bernadette Manuelito) as the primary protagonist helped. But I didn’t feel my lack of knowledge about the Hillerman universe hindered me in any way.

I also thought the descriptions of setting were fantastic and, while I am certainly no Navajo expert, the Navajo experience felt very authentic. It spoke of a very high degree of dedication and research, which I appreciated.

I did find the pace lagged a bit in the middle. There seemed to be a lot of going places and wonderful description, but not a lot of motion on the mystery-solving. However, when the mystery was the focus, the story stepped right along.

I think anyone who is already a Tony Hillerman fan will appreciate this new book – and anyone who hasn’t read Tony will not feel lost if they start with his daughter.

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