Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Confessions of a Shopaholic

By Sophie Kinsella

Becky is a writer for a financial magazine. She doesn't like her job. She would rather be working in fashion.
Becky loves to shop. So much so that she is overdrawn at her bank and has maxed out her credit cards.  Oddly, even though she is a financial writer, she doesn't really try to manage her own finances. She throws letters from the bank and overdue bills in the garbage. Out of sight, out of mind, eh?
Becky is young and a bit silly. She rationalizes her purchases, telling herself she is saving money by shopping sales for things that she actually doesn't need.  She buys clothes and then never wears them. She buys things just to be buying something. She will spend £25 to get 50 pence on her Club Card, a kind of customer rebate program.
But fortunately for Becky, all her problems will be solved because she is young and attractive and well spoken. And all her lies will be forgiven and money will be thrown at her and the millionaire males will be lining up to wine and dine her.  Which only goes to show that being a liar pays off big time. Just look at Donald Trump.

I was more than a little put off by the endless stream of lies that flow from Becky's mouth. She lies to her coworkers, her boss, her parents, the bankers, her friends, just about every one. Mainly, she lies to herself. I was about 100 pages into the story when I decided to go back and keep track of every lie she told, including lies on paper, lies to herself, and lies she plans to tell if the occasion arises. I counted 124 lies. At 250 pages, that is a lie every other page. The book ought to be called, Confessions of a Habitual Liar.
Becky is supposed to be sympathetic and charming. But to me, she was just another damned liar. I can't really say that I like a story in which the main character is so dishonest and unappealing.
I pass. I will not be reading another story in the saga of Becky the Liar.

A review by Publishers Weekly.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Night Magic

By Karen Robards

Clara Winston writes romance novels. John McClain is a CIA agent in possession of vital national security information. His girl friend left one of Clara Winston's novels at John's place. For some strange reason, KGB agents who are after John find the novel and decide Clara is John's girl friend. (This part of the story didn't make any sense to me) So they come looking for Clara and grab her, thinking they can use her for leverage against John, once they get their hands on him, which they do. Of course, Clara and John are total strangers but the KGB thugs refuse to believe it.
Clara and John manage to escape and are on the run together. The relentless KGB are close behind, along with the police and the CIA who are now convinced John is a rogue agent and a murderer. And that Clara is involved too.
So Clara and John are being chased pretty much by everyone and find themselves escaping from the bad guys and the good guys by turns. Of course they end up naked and having sex in between escaping from their various pursuers. Clara's cat Puff is an important character in the most of the first part of the book, but gets put aside in the second half, which was too bad.

This was an OK book. Typical romance novel with the two strangers falling head over heals in love and who manage to have sex despite being constantly on the run and despite John being shot in the chest and nearly dying.

Friday, March 02, 2018

Unorthodox Practices

By Marissa Piesman

"Well, in  nutshell, this is what's happened to date," Ida said. "I've had a cockroach problem that I've been battling for years. My neighbor Mrs. Gross, on the other hand, never seemed to have any roaches. After she died, my son-in-law wanted to take a look at her apartment. He thought he might want to buy and resell it."        "Did Mrs. Gross own it?" asked Grant?          "No, she was a non-purchasing tenant. A few years after the building converted, the original landlord sold her apartment to a Netherlands Antilles corporation. Anyway, I went with my son-in-law and a real estate agent to look at the apartment and noticed that there was absolutely no evidence of roaches. There was also a white powder spread around the place that was clearly a method of exterminating. That reminded me of the fact that this Netherlands Antilles corporation had always sent a special exterminator to Mrs. Gross's apartment. They never used the regular building exterminator."      "How did you know that?" asked Grant.          "As a member of the board of directors, I am in close contact with the managing agent who had mentioned it to me over the years. Also, I had discussed the matter with Mrs. Gross. We were friendly." ......       "Anyway," Ida continued, "after I saw Mrs. Gross's empty apartment, I was very impressed with how roach-free it was. I decided to call that exterminator to see if he would do my apartment also. But the lawyer who is the contact person for the owner of the apartment refused to give me the name. He was surprisingly hostile and defensive to my innocent request. So Nina and I went back to the apartment with the real-estate agent and stole samples of the white powder. ...... Then we gave the samples to my son-in-law to have them chemically analyzed. He called today to tell me that the samples taken from the kitchen contained digitalis in a fairly high quantity." .....        "The digitalis was only in the kitchen sample....Clearly Mrs. Gross was meant to eat it. I'm sure she was poisoned....I don't know how she ingested it. But I'm convinced we have a murder on our hands."

 And that is the plot, as it says, in a nutshell. Someone is killing off old ladies. It will be up to Nina and Ida to figure out exactly who and why.

This was a good read. I enjoyed it tremendously. It is a murder mystery, but the emphasis is really on Nina and her life in New York City. It is not your typical murder mystery, no blood is shed and no one ever threatens or attempts to kill Nina or her mom, Ida. It is just a really good story.

Friday, February 16, 2018

Dust City

By Robert Paul Weston

Henry is a wolf, an anthropomorphized  wolf. He usually walks upright but can also go on all fours. His front paws are hand-like and he talks.  That is true of all the animalia of his world. Frogs, fox, goats, ravens, cats, hedgehogs, they all are people. They have jobs, live in houses, drive cars and such.
Henry's dad is in prison and Henry has been sent to a reform school for breaking a window. He finds out that his father has been sending him letters, but the letters were never given to Henry to read.
Dust is fairy dust. The fairies used to live in their fairy city above Dust City. Fairy dust is powerful magic and can be used to do virtually anything. But the fairies have disappeared and no one knows why or where they have gone. But in the letters, Henry's dad says that the fairies are being held captive and harvested for their fairy dust by the illegal fairy dust suppliers. And the dad wants his son to find out where the fairies are and expose the  conspiracy. But how can Henry do anything locked up in reform school?

This was an OK story. The fairy tale connection was at times a little overbearing. Cinderella is an administrator. Snow White is a hard-boiled detective. Rumplestiltskin is a gangster. Jack and the beanstalk are there too. It was all a bit much.
Basically it is the story of a teenager who infiltrates a drug operation and discovers that the truth about a big business and its connection to organized crime, dressed up in a fairy tale setting. Also, the ending was a bit weak.

Review by Kirkus Reviews.

An Ice Cold Grave

By Charlaine Harris

Harper Connelly has a talent. She can locate dead bodies and tell how they died. She is helped in this by her stepbrother, Tolliver, with whom she is madly in love but won't tell him because she fears he only sees her as his sister.
They have been asked to investigate the disappearance of several teen boys in a small rural town. Paid by the wealthy grandmother of one of the missing teens, Harper soon locates the burial site of the boys, putting herself and Tolliver under suspicion by the local law enforcement.  Even though they couldn't possibly have had anything to do with the crime, the fact that Harper knows where all the graves are and exactly how they died has to be investigated. So, stuck in the small town by the demands of the police and then by bad winter weather, it isn't long until the killer seeks Harper out and tries to add her to the long list of victims.

This was a pretty good story. However, the subject matter is very gross and disgusting. So much so, that I very much doubt I will be reading another story in this series. This just went too far for my taste.

The Copy Shop

By Evelyn E. Smith

Ted is a weird guy. For one thing, he glows in the dark. For another, his dad is an alien who communicates with him through his computer monitor. The dad is also the one responsible for the disappearances and deaths of several people in the neighborhood. According to the dad, humans were put on this planet to serve as a food supply and a "terraforming" force to prepare the planet for its eventual owners by polluting the air and water and putting radiation into the environment.
His neighbors have their doubts about Ted. The cops have their doubts about Ted. His "girl friend" has her doubts about Ted. His new girl friend has her doubts about Ted. They all suspect Ted is some how related to or involved with the deaths. The reader has their doubts about Ted, as he is a very suspicious character. Even Ted admits he is a suspicious character and he begins to dispose of certain items that might reflect badly on him if they fall into the wrong hands. Like all those checks for old, dead guys. And his mother's clothing and the wigs and makeup.
Yes, Ted is a really squirrelly fellow. But all he really wants to be is just another regular guy.

This was an enjoyable read. The mysteries of Ted are amusing and fun and, even though he comes off as rather sinister, he turns out to be not a bad fellow at all.

Saturday, February 03, 2018

The Family Plot

By Cherie Priest

Dahlia is in charge of the salvage of an old mansion. It is a make or break situation for her father, who owns the salvage company. If it isn't successful, then the whole business is going under. So it is really important that Dahlia and her team of three men do a really good job of removing anything of value before the mansion is demolished.
Problem is, as they all soon discover, the mansion is haunted. There are four ghosts and one of them is crazy and evil. It fastens its sights on Dahlia because it identifies with her. Dahlia is recently divorced. She and her ex were friends from childhood and the collapse of their marriage came as a surprise to Dahlia who apparently never picked up on her husband's discontent.  The divorce left her feeling angry and it is her anger that has attracted the deadly lunatic ghost.
But Dahlia and the crew soldier on and strip the old mansion of all its most valuable and beautiful features, trying to cope as best they can with the uncanny occurrences plaguing them, mostly at night. But before it is all over, blood will be shed and lives nearly lost.

This was an OK story. Kind of a slow starter and the ghostly occurrences are few and far between until the last quarter of the story. Truly, just a typical ghost story, nothing very special at all and not really all that scary. But it does give one a good look at the salvage business, if that is what floats your boat. It didn't float mine.

Review from Kirkus Reviews.

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Morality for Beautiful Girls

By Alexander McCall Smith

Things are changing at the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency. The biggest change is that the agency is moving into a room at  J.L.B. Matekoni's garage, Tlokweng Road Speedy Motors. For another, Mma Ramotswe, founder of the agency, has given her assistant Mma Makutsi a raise and a promotion from mere assistant to assistant detective.
Mma Makutsi even ends up managing the garage and the detective agency. Mma Ramotswe has to leave town on a case and J.L.B. has become overwhelmed with guilt about something in his past and has lost interest in the garage and is under the care of a doctor after some persuasion and management by Mma Ramotswe.
Mma Ramotswe is out of town of a case brought to her by an  important government man who is worried about his brother. The brother, recently married, manages the family farm and the government man thinks his new wife wants the farm for herself and is trying to poison her husband.  So he arranges for Mma Ramotswe to pay a visit to the farm to see if his suspicions are correct.
Meanwhile, back in town, Mma Makutsi is managing both the agency and the garage and seems to be doing very well. The two apprentice mechanics seem to enjoy being under her eye and business is booming.  She also has an important to case to investigate all on her own. The owner of a beauty pageant ran into a little disgrace with the previous contest when one of the girls turned out to be an unsavory character. So this time, he wants the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency to do some sniffing around and make sure the five finalists are upstanding and virtuous.

This was a pretty good read, if a little thin on plot. Three of the story lines are left open-ended. Mma Makutsi makes her recommendations about the beauty contest girls but we are not told definitely that her judgments are correct. J.L.B.'s guilty secret is not revealed. And the story of a little lost boy who appears only briefly is only hinted at and made not plain. So those unfinished plot lines were quite annoying.
But despite the obvious cliffhangers designed to lure the reader into opening the next book in the series, this was still an enjoyable read. Reading one of these No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency books is like taking a little mini-vacation to a foreign and different land. They are a breath of fresh air.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

How to Murder Your Mother-In-Law

By Dorothy Cannell

Mother-in-law trouble.
Ellie has invited her husband's parents, Magdalene and Elijah, to visit and to celebrate their wedding anniversary. Ben, the husband, warned her that his parents weren't all that keen to celebrate their anniversary, but Ellie perseveres. She even invites a very old friend of Magdalene's, Beatrix, to dinner, only to find out that the Beatrix and Magdalene have not been on speaking terms for forty years. When they were young adults, Beatrix talked Elijah into skinny dipping and Magdalene has never forgiven her for doing so.
Magdalene is the cliché mother-in-law, overly critical and nitpicking at Ellie. Having her in the house is a real burden for Ellie. But it turns out that Ellie is not the only one having mother-in-law troubles. Beatrix lives with her son and his wife. Beatrix is a bit eccentric. At one point she puts hair remover in the shampoo bottle without bothering to tell anyone. She also accidentally cooked her granddaughter's pet goldfish.
Two other friends are dealing with difficult mothers-in-law. Pamela and her husband live with his mother and she calls all the shots. The husband has to turn his paycheck over to his mother and she gives him a small allowance. She also requires that no one speaks during meals, among other overbearing and controlling behaviors.
Ellie's other friend Eudora's mother-in-law is a thorn in her side. Eudora is the vicar of the local church and a nonsmoker. Her mother-in-law is an atheist who constantly pokes fun of the Bible and, despite Eudora's requests not to, continues to smoke her cigarettes in the house, evenutually sparking a small fire in the house.
The friends get together one evening and jokingly plot ways to murder their mothers-in-law, all in good fun. That is until one of the old ladies is pushed off a cliff, one is poisoned and one's brakes on her bike are tampered with. The four friends begin to doubt each other and, to make it worse, Ellie is being blackmailed.

I had a hard time getting into this story but it began to grow on me after awhile.  I guess what I didn't like was Magdalene being such a cliché and Ellie being such a doormat. But I warmed up to the story and by the end I quite enjoyed it.

Review from Publishers Weekly.