Monday, April 19, 2021

The Duke Undone

The Duke Undone by Joanna Lowell, 370 pages

Art student Lucy Coover is understandably frustrated by the Royal Society's prohibition on women taking classes with live nude models, so when she literally stumbles across a passed-out, drunken, and completely naked man in an alley, she has to take the opportunity to observe his body with an artistic eye. Eventually, she uses those observations as the basis for a painting that is immediately sold to an aristocrat for hanging in her boudoir. Never did Lucy expect that the drunken man was the Duke of Weston, or that he'd clap eyes on the painting before it was even hung! This unusual situation brings the two together in a way that both feel will be to their advantage: poor Lucy can use the duke's influence to stop her aunt's shop from being destroyed for a new warehouse, while the duke can use Lucy's lower status and anonymity to search for his lost sister. But when these circumstances keep drawing the two together, their attraction becomes more and more palpable.

This is a well-researched historical romance novel with complex characters and situations, all of which seem genuinely possible, given their personalities. While the chemistry between the duke and Lucy is certainly hot, there's a lot simmering below the surface of this novel. Very good indeed!

The Ruthless Lady's Guide to Wizardry

The Ruthless Lady's Guide to Wizardry by C.M. Waggoner, 371 pages

Delly Wells is a scrappy firewitch from the bad side of town, weeks behind on the rent for her sad little apartment, and constantly hunting down her drug-addled mother. She's getting pretty desperate when she answers an ad seeking magically-abled women to escort a posh bride to her fiance's castle, figuring that she can handle traveling for some cash. But the trip introduces more complications to Delly's life, including the hunt for a murderer, busting a drug cartel, and the growing affection between Delly and her new wealthy friend Winn.

In this inventive novel, Waggoner has created a complex set of characters dealing with some complex problems, and she manages it all magnificently. Delly's struggles and personal growth, the romance between her and Winn, the commentary on the cycles of's all so well done and so captivating! And it's funny! Highly recommend this wonderful mix of romance, adventure, mystery, and fantasy.

Murder Mysteries

Murder Mysteries by Neil Gaiman, art by P. Craig Russell, 64 pages

This graphic adaptation of Gaiman's short story focuses on what may be the original murder, back before Cain and Abel, to the angels who were creating the concept of death. The tale of this angelic death comes to the story's narrator via a wandering possibly homeless man during the narrator's weeklong forced layover in Los Angeles. The wanderer claims to be the angel that investigated the murder, and tells the story as payment for a cigarette.

In less capable hands, this whole story could be put down to a crazy man's ramblings. But when Gaiman tells this sort of story — actually, any sort of story — the impossible becomes possible and the unbelievable becomes likely true. While Russell's artwork doesn't really detract from the story, it doesn't add much either, particularly because so much of the angelic environment cannot be shown. I would love to hear this as the radio play that Gaiman originally created though.

Chilling effect


Chilling Effect / Valerie Valdes, 434 pgs.

This is a fun adventure set in space that include inter-species romance, some kidnapping and high spy level intrigue.  Oh yea, and then there are the cats.  It seems like this is a book written specifically for me.  And, I did enjoy it.  Somehow, it was difficult for me to really get into the story.  I expected reading this to take days but it took me weeks.  Once again, I don't really know why.  If you are looking for an adventure and a crew of kind of wise-ass adventure seeking space hooligans, this could be your book, give it a whirl.

Sunday, April 18, 2021

Spackled and Spooked

 Spackled and Spooked, by Jennie Bentley (2009) 309 pages

Spackled and Spooked
is a new-to-me mystery series featuring Avery Baker, a textile designer, and her boyfriend, Derek Ellis. Derek has bought a house that has been empty since a murder-suicide 18 years ago. The only family member who escaped was a five-year old boy who ran away during the horrific event. Avery and Derek have high hopes for renovating the house and reselling it, hoping that it won't be  considered tainted by the long-ago events. From the very start, though, the house seems to be haunted, and soon, when Derek is digging under the crawl space to prepare to put in new floors, he discovers human bones. More sinister events happen, and it's hard to tell who in this small college-town of Waterfield, Maine is responsible for the latest murder attempts, and whether there is any tie-in to the murders of the past. Avery and Derek try to help the police solve the murders so they can get back to renovating the house.

There were also  renovation tips at the end of the book, which described how to get various effects that were described a bit in the story.

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

We Could Be Heroes

We Could Be Heroes by Mike Chen, 330 pages

Jamie has zero memories from before two years ago, when he woke up in an apartment with the ability to read and manipulate people's memories, which he eventually puts to use robbing banks as the Mind Robber. Zoe is in a similar predicament, though instead of the ability to change memories, she woke up with super strength and speed, as well as the ability to read heat signatures, all of which she uses to become the vigilante hero Throwing Star. Both are aware of the other's presence in San Delgado, but it isn't until a memory loss support group meeting that they meet and unexpectedly join forces to save the day. Soon, the new friends decide to investigate their past, and uncover a sinister plot to destroy the city they both love.

The premise of this story is delightful — who would think that a support group would bring together a superpowered team? — as are Jamie and Zoe as characters. I also thought that the relationship between superhero and the local police force was more accurately portrayed here than it is in a lot of superhero stories. My main complaint with this book is that the villain needs to be a bit more fleshed out, as do Jamie and Zoe's histories, once they're discovered. That said, it's a fun book, and I think we all need a cat like Normal. (Bonus: I had Bowie stuck in my head for the whole time I read it. That's never a bad thing in my book.)

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

The Postscript Murders

The Postscript Murders by Elly Griffiths, 315 pages

In the quiet seaside town of Shoreham, 90-year-old Peggy Smith's carer finds her dead in her apartment. While the peaceful death of an elderly woman shouldn't cause suspicions, the subsequent death of a mystery writer has detective Harbinder Kaur beginning an investigation into both deaths, helped by an odd crew of Peggy's concerned Ukranian caretaker, Peggy's neighbor, and the former monk that owns the local coffee shop, all of whom are convinced that there's a link between the deaths — and that other authors may be next on the murder list!

This is a wonderful cozy-ish mystery, with plenty of nods to golden age mysteries, modern problems, and a truly fresh set of twists and turns. So much fun!

Monday, April 12, 2021

First Comes Like

First Comes Like by Alisha Rai, 414 pages

YouTube makeup guru Jia Ahmed has been chatting online with Bollywood star Dev Dixit for almost a year when she finally gets the chance to meet him IRL. But when she approaches him at a party, he doesn't know who she is. With both of them facing pressure from their families to settle down with a nice partner, the pair decides to pretend to date... which goes about as well as you'd think. Soon, they're head over heels in love with one another, but completely afraid to share that with each other.

The third in Rai's Modern Love series centered on couples who meet online before hooking up IRL, and while I love the way Rai has translated the meet-cute and mistaken-identity tropes of romance to a modern social media-based world, this one falls a bit flat for me. Both Jia and Dev's cultural backgrounds shine through (I particularly like how Jia marries fashion and makeup with traditional Muslim attire), but something about their relationship seems a bit lacking to me. The previous entry in this series, Girl Gone Viral, is far superior, so give that one a read instead.

Sunday, April 11, 2021

The Encyclopedia of Kitchen Tools


The encyclopedia of kitchen tools / Elinor Hutton, 287 pgs. 

When I picked this up, I thought I would page through it and return it in a day or so...instead I found myself reading every entry as if I needed to truly understand the origin and uses of such things as plates and bowls.  Hutton has such and interesting style and way of adding a tiny bit of bait - a little bit of history or commenting on the most popular type of thing, I ended up going through it all with a fine tooth comb. Not a lot of plot but great information for the casual cook.

Brain Storm

 Brain Storm, by Elaine Viets (2016) 305 pages

Angela Richman is a death investigator who has a stroke. While she's recovering, even as her thinking waxes and wanes, she's trying to vindicate Dr. Jeb Tritt, the brash surgeon who saved her life. He is the prime suspect in the murder of another doctor, Dr. Porter Gravois. Dr. Gravois is the smug doctor who sent Angela home from the emergency room, telling her that she was too young to have a stroke. She wasn't, and the stroke would have killed her, if not for the bold surgical intervention of Dr. Tritt.

The author, Elaine Viets, grew up in St. Louis, the setting for this mystery novel. What I had forgotten was that some years ago, Viets herself had had a stroke that nearly killed her. This novel draws upon her experiences during her own health crisis and its aftermath.

I definitely plan to read the other books in this series.