Thursday, March 7, 2019

One Bear's Opinion on: The Inheritance and Gone Before Christmas

The Inheritance
Gone Before Christmas
by Charles Finch

I'm combining the reviews of The Inheritance and Gone Before Christmas together because I read them back-to-back and the stories follow each other in the timeline of the Charles Lenox series.

The Inheritance is a bit of a disjointed mystery in which the subplots feel like them may come together at the end of the book but never intersect beyond involving the characters in the book. As far as the mysteries go, the main one was interesting and did keep me guessing as a reader, though it was not nearly as interesting as the subplot. The subplot was treated as a secondary or even tertiary storyline, but was the far more interesting plot in the book. I do hope the author comes back to that story to wrap it up a bit better, as we felt there were some loose ends.

I liked learning more about Charles and his early life, and perhaps this book was to set the reader up for the next-in-series which are actually prequels to the current story rather than a continuation of the timeline in this book. I have no objection to the prequels, but I do hope the overarching story is brought back to the current timeline soon, as I said it felt like there were some loose ends, not exactly a cliffhanger ending, but definitely some unfinished threads.

Gone Before Christmas was an easy to read short story following on from The Inheritance. It was a fairly easy to solve mystery, but it was fun to read. I was pleased with the story, though I found faults with it as well. Carrying on from the events in The Inheritance, it seemed the author had completely forgotten a bit of the story in The Inheritance which impacted one character greatly. I was disappointed by that. It was a big point in the subplot of the previous novel, and should not have been either forgotten or easily glossed over without mention.

Overall they were fun books, and quite enjoyable visits with friends, which is what I want in series books. And maybe I am being too picky a reader; maybe I just pick out things others miss. I am looking forward to the next-in-series prequels and learning more about Charles Lenox in his early days as a detective.

One Bear's Opinion: Four Cups of Tea with a plate of Christmas Seed Cakes

Happy Reading Everyone, 
Oliver

Sunday, February 24, 2019

One Bear's Opinion on: The Last Chance Olive Ranch

The Last Chance Olive Ranch
by Susan Wittig Albert

The Last Chance Olive Ranch was an interesting read, if only for the tidbits and trivia about olives and olive oils. I enjoys the visit with friends, but felt the book was unfinished somehow. The mysteries were wrapped up and solved, but because the book dealt with two very different plots, it felt disjointed and incomplete.

The idea of two different storylines and two different leading characters was good, but both fell flat in the execution. Neither storyline felt worthy of their own full books, but they didn't feel like they worked well together. All through the book, I kept waiting for the storylines to be tied together by more than just the characters talking about their adventures to each other. I felt until almost the end that the author really should have woven the stories together rather than running them as independent stories simultaneously.

This is not to say that I did not enjoy the book, I did. It's always fun to visit with China and Ruby, but this one did feel like a rushed visit where the people are distracted, instead of a nice visit with old friends.

Overall the book was good, but there was something missing.

One Bear's Opinion:  Four glasses of Shiraz and a hearty slice of Olive Oil Cake

Happy Reading Everyone, 
Oliver

Sunday, February 17, 2019

One Bear's Opinion on: Chocolate Chip Cookie Murder

Chocolate Chip Cookie Murder
by Joanne Fluke

I had seen and heard about Joanne Fluke's Hannah Swensen mysteries for a while. Not everything I had heard was good, so it was harder for me to go into the series with an open mind.

I have only read the first book in the series, but that was a good introduction and I am happy to continue with the series, which is good because I have a fair number of them on my Kindle (picked up when they were on sale for $1.99) and I would hate to waste space on terrible books.  I am trying not to be influenced by things I have read about the way the author takes the series. I really want to learn that for myself and see if I agree with the comments.

Anyway, to this book, Chocolate Chip Cookie Murder. It was a fun mystery, and the amateur detective has a job, which she seems to actually do more than she investigates. That's very good, as in a lot of amateur detective series, the sleuth spends far more time sleuthing than working at the job they hold. It was refreshing to see the sleuth spend time at work...and more than just popping in to check on how the employees are managing.

The mystery was interesting and while I had the motive picked fairly early, I was surprised by the murderer. It was a fun read, and the cookie recipes were a nice bonus. I may even try one or two.

One Bear's Opinion: Four plates of Chocolate Chip Crunch Cookies and a cup of good coffee (not tea!)

Happy Reading Everyone, 
Oliver

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

One Bear's Opinion on: Blood Orange

Blood Orange
by Susan Wittig Albert

It's time for an adventure with China Bayles. Blood Orange was a very good mystery, and I enjoyed it very much. I thought I had the murderer pegged pretty early on, but that guess was incorrect. My second guess was closer, but still not the murderer, so it was fun to read through to the.

I do have to admit to flipping to the end of the book about a third of the way through, because one of the subplots was making me quite nervous about the characters. Even having read the last chapter, I was still in the dark about the murderer, which made it both reassuring and fun to read to the end.

I always enjoy the information at the opening of the chapters about plants. The author, and China Bayles, take great care to research the plants mentioned in the books.  I also appreciate the warning at the end to do your own research into using the plants mentioned, particularly in the case of herbs mentioned for medicinal uses.

Overall it was a fun read, but not quite as good as others in the series. I am a bit worried about the paranormal element that has been introduced going forward in the series. I am not a fan of the current trend toward magical/ghost mysteries and I hope that my favorite series are not jumping on the bandwagon, especially when the ongoing series already have their own, unique, draws.

One Bear's Opinion:  Three Glasses of Strawberry Shrub with a plate of shortbread cookies

Happy Reading Everyone, 
Oliver

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

One Bear's Opinion on: The Math Inspectors #1

The Math Inspectors #1: The Case of the Claymore Diamond
by Daniel Kenney & Emily Boever

Okay, this was a Kindle freebie, and the editing showed that it was. I didn't get notice there was an updated version of the book until after I had read it, so I do not know if the errors I picked out were corrected.

Bad part out of the way, let's move on to the fun bits, because this was a fun book to read. The premise is a group of children from a detective agency, but use math to figure out the mysteries. And the reader cam play along with the kids. The word problems are there and all the reader has to do is figure them out.

I really enjoyed the characters. I enjoyed the math aspect and the mystery was clever, though I figured it out well before the kids or adults in the book. On the whole it seems to be the beginning of a fun series. I will have to check out the rest of the series, even if they are not free!

Just in case you're worried about the math, there were no daunting word problems and the characters walk the readers through working them out, so you will not be stumped for long.

One Bear's Opinion:  Four Mondo Milkshakes and a giant chocolate cupcake

Happy Reading Everyone, 
Oliver

Monday, January 28, 2019

One Bear's Opinion on: All Fudged Up

All Fudged Up
by Nancy Coco

This was the second mystery in a row I've read that was set around a candy shop. It was hard not to compare the two as I was reading them. This one was set on Mackinac Island, Michigan, which I have heard of, but never visited. And I certainly didn't know it was known for fudge, but I guess it must be in some way, as "Mackinac Island Fudge" was the 6th suggestion when I started typing "Mackinac Island" into the Google Search Window. You learn something new everyday.

Anyway to the mystery. The opening idea for the series is that the main character has inherited a combination hotel/fudge shop and is trying to figure out how she can keep the family business open, which, as it turns out is very similar to the overarching plot of the candy shop mystery I read before this one.  It's not a unique overarching plot.

I started out disliking the main character, but I think the author intended readers to start out disliking her. At one point, I was actually rooting for the townspeople to get to her and send her back to Chicago with her tail between her legs. As the book went on, I grew to like Allie a bit more, but the only really endearing character in the book to me was her pet dog, Mal (Marshmallow), and that was only because she was a dog. It's very hard to not like a puppy.

Even though the murder was introduced on the first page of the book, the real investigation did not start until well over two-thirds into the book. It was a long slog to get to the mystery part of the book, and setting up a romantic triangle, haggling with the insular townspeople and historical committee, and crate training a dog were not enough to carry the majority of the mystery for me.

I was even a bit disappointed in the fudge recipes provided in the book. I would have though that a graduate of the Culinary Institute would be able to make real fudge, not just the "foolproof" condensed milk fudge. And I would hope that the Fudge Shop the main character hopes to keep open sells something better than the cheater's fudge anyone can make in their kitchen. Though on further reflection, the easier fudge recipe might be so anyone can make them, but still, I expected better.

I know this is not really a nice review of the book, and I don't want to leave you with the impression the that book was terrible. It was not. there were some good parts of the book. The motive for the murder was rather ingenious. And the author dropped enough hints in the book that I had the murderer pegged relatively early, so it was nice to read to the end and have the satisfaction of figuring it out, even if the motive was not revealed until the end. Overall, I didn't dislike the book, I just didn't really like it either. It's a perfect book to read on vacation and leave at the hotel's paperback exchange.

One Bear's Opinion:  Three cups of espresso and a plate of non-alcoholic condensed milk fudge

Happy Reading Everyone, 
Oliver

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

One Bear's Opinion on: Assaulted Caramel

Assaulted Caramel
by Amanda Flower

Assaulted Caramel was recommended by a group of cozy mystery readers. The history of the group's recommendations has been pretty good, so there was no reason not to give this one a try.

It took a while to get into the book, and a bit longer to come to like the main character. Bailey King is not initially a likable character. But as the book goes on, she becomes more and more likeable, which is good, because books where the main character is unlikable are hard for me to read. Nobody wants to spend their leisure reading time dragging themselves through a book where the main character aggravates the readers.

Once Bailey becomes a friend, the book takes off. But there are a few issues with the book, namely that the solution comes from no-where and Bailey figures it out with clues that were not presented to the reader. That is a problem with mystery novels, if only because it's unfair to the reader. It also makes the solution seem to make no sense with the characters as the author has presented and crafted them.

Overall it was an easy read, with some fun parts - the polka dot pig was very fun - but it has some issues as well. I've put the rest of the series on my to-check-out list, but I will probably wait until they go on sale, either at remainder shops or on Kindle.

One Bear's Opinion: Three Cups of Regular Coffee, with a packet of generic shortbread cookies

Happy Reading Everyone, 
Oliver