The Butler Did It

4.5 Stars
Lost Legacy-Family secrets are no fun
Lost Legacy - Annette Dashofy

Lost Legacy is the story of hidden family secrets. Since everyone has a family of some sort, I think most people will find that intriguing. Zoe Chambers, EMT in Monongahela County PA, didn’t realize there were any family secrets in her family until a farmer turns up dead in a barn that her uncles use to own. When the investigation into the death begins, it gets very personal for Zoe very quickly. Her mom and stepdad coming to visit from Florida don’t help the situation.


This is the second mystery in the Zoe Chambers series and I am really enjoying them. In the first one, Circle of Influence, we met our characters, Zoe, Pete, Sylvia, the Krolls, and they became people we could relate to instantly. There wasn’t any of that first-book-in-a-series awkwardness. Now we meet Zoe’s mom and Pete’s dad. The characters become even more 3-dimensional. Annette Dashofy knows how to write realistic characters.


This is what I classify as a Contemporary Traditional Mystery. It’s not a cozy but it’s not gritty. The mystery is the focus and it’s well done. There are believable red herring and the answer makes sense with what we’ve read. I’m definitely ready to move on to the next one!


Book provided by Netgalley but my reviews are always honest and written for other readers like me.

4.5 Stars
My favorite piece of British drama
Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead - Tom Stoppard

This play is brilliant and I'm sure it deserves 5 stars.  My only reason for knocking it down half a star is that you really can't read it in a vacuum.  You have to have some knowledge of Hamlet for it to work. 

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Hamlet's two childhood friends. This play is written about the time that they are off-stage in the play.  Not the time the actors playing these parts are off-stage but the times that the characters are off-stage.  Essentially, at those times they have no purpose because the playwright hasn't given them anything to do.  This is their search to figure out who they are when there is no script.  It's like looking at the back of a piece of tapestry.  What matters is what's on the front and everything on the back is just a jumble of seeming meaninglessness. 

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern aren't even sure who they are when they have no scripted parts.  When their parts are on, they speak in brilliant Elizabethan English.  When they are off, they struggle to figure out what's going on in the world and the dialogue can get confusing, deliberately so.  It's very funny and quite clever.  It deals with issues of reality and identity.  I don't usually enjoy modernist literature but this is one of my favorite British dramas I've ever read. 

If you were to read this cold, with no background, you'd probably give it up like I did years ago when I first had the book.  I couldn't make heads or tails of it but with the right bit of knowledge going into it, it's just really fun and thought provoking.  Tom Stoppard himself put out a movie version that's available on Youtube with Gary Oldman as Rosencrantz.  It doesn't follow the play in every detail but it is great fun to watch. 

4 Stars
Death of a Liar-Another fun visit to the Highlands
Death of a Liar - M.C. Beaton

Another trip to the Scottish Highlands is always a pleasure for me.  Hamish MacBeth is an old friend and so are his weird neighbors.  Death of a Liar is the 30th book in this series so I know them pretty well.

Hamish is going about his usual business when a new couple moves into town.  The residents of Lochdubh don't expect newcomers to last long in the Highlands but they don't expect them to end up murdered in their yard.  As that investigation is proceeding, with all the usual interference from Detective Blaine, a known liar in the next town is found murdered in her garden.  MacBeth assumes the murders are related but no one else does so he goes to work on it.

Hamish does some solid police work in this book. In the end, you'll see who the murderer is before it's revealed but there are plenty of interesting plot turns and twists along the way.  I've read some reviews that say this series is more about the characters and less about the mysteries.  I don't know.  The characters are always integral to the mysteries and to the atmosphere of a very insulated society.  The atmosphere of the Highlands comes through strongly. 

If you haven't read the others in the series, I wouldn't start with this one.  I'd go back to the beginning because Hamish does have a lot of history by now.  His inability to have a lasting relationship with women is well established and many of these women float through this book.  A lot of that history is talked about.  For me, it's discussing well-known history but if you hadn't read the others, it might be a little distracting. 

I love Hamish MacBeth and Lockdubh.  I'll keep reading about them as long as M.C. Beaton keeps writing about them. 

I was thrilled to win this book through Goodreads First Reads program and I appreciated the opportunity to give my honest review.

5 Stars
Beneath the Heart of the Sea-Completely engrossing
Beneath the Heart of the Sea: The Sinking of the Whaleship Essex - Owen Chase

This is the same book that was originally published in 1821 as Narratives of the Wreck of the Whale-Ship Essex. It's fantastic. I'm immediately recommended it to my husband as a quick and engrossing non-fiction book.  Herman Melville based a good deal of Moby-Dick on this narrative.  I read it because I'm doing a historical presentation on Moby-Dick.  I'll probably read it again just for the fun of it.

This is the first-person account of the disaster of the Essex by the first mate.  The Essex was sunk by a whale and all hands had to escape in the whale boats 1000 miles from land.  Chase's narrative is straight forward but wow, he has you in the boat with him.  The hardships they endured are astounding but so is the ingenuity and will to live that the sailors displayed.  They dealt with hunger, thirst, heat, sharks and eventually had to make very tough decisions to stay alive.  Eight of the initial crew of 20 made it home.  If you love a good adventure story or a good survival story or just a good story, this is it.  For having been written in 1821, the language is very accessible.  Highly recommended.

I was fortunately able to get this book from Netgalley in exchange for review.

3.5 Stars
Death by Didgeridoo-A pleasant short mystery
Death by Didgeridoo (A Jamie Quinn Mystery) - Barbara Venkataraman

I was given this audiobook for review by the author and I quite liked the story.  I did not like the narrator and would probably not listen to anything read by this particular person again but I did like the story. 

The plot revolves around the death of a former rock star who is found murdered in his music store.  Standing over him, holding the murder weapon which happens to be a didgeridoo, is a young student of his who happens to be autistic.  The heroine of the story, Jamie Quinn, is the cousin of the student and a lawyer.  She's not been practicing for a while due to the death of her mother but she's willing to do anything she can to protect her cousin.  This involves going into the victim's past and dealing with ex-band members, fans, and associates.  She's not a criminal lawyer so she also has to get plenty of advice from her friend who is. Cozy mysteries tend to have a quirky character and in this case it was Duke, a private investigator that comes off just a little too weird for me.  It could have been the weird voice the narrator was using for Duke but I could have done without him.  The mystery isn't terribly difficult but this is the debut of a series and not very long so that's not surprising.  It's a pleasant read and I would enjoy learning more about Jamie in future books. 

4.5 Stars
Vertigo 42-I love traditional British mysteries
Vertigo 42: A Richard Jury Mystery - Martha Grimes

This is the first Martha Grimes novel I've read and it's number 23 in the Richard Jury series.  I almost never read a series out of order but I had, of course, heard of this series so when this came up on NetGalley, I requested it.  I'm so glad I did.  I loved this book.  Since I haven't read the others, I have no idea how it compares but I will find out because I immediately went to my shelves to see what else I had by Martha Grimes.  Happily, it turns out that I have three more from this series so I'm very excited to get started.

This is the traditional British mystery that I have loved since 5th grade.  If it hadn't been for the modern technology, I could have thought I was reading Ngaio Marsh or Dorothy Sayers.  The story begins with Jury being approached by a friend of a friend to re-investigate his wife's murder, which happened 18 years ago.  She fell down the stairs of their terrace and since she was known to have vertigo, an accidental fall seemed reasonable.  Her husband hasn't ever believed it.  Other dead bodies begin to turn up, killed far more recently, but they sure seem connected to the 18 year old death.  Jury begins to tie it all together in the best traditions of the British Inspector. 

There are a good many characters who I assume are regulars in the series.  Only Melrose Plant plays a significant role but the others add color and community.  There is at least one plot point that seems to have been missed by the editor because it seems to be a clear contradiction from one page to the next and the wrap-up is a bit fuzzy to me and those are why it lost a one-half star but the excitement of finding such a fantastic writer of traditional British mysteries overcame every other feeling.  Why have I waited so late to start this series? 

I actually won the hardback from Goodreads and got the eArc from Netgalley both in exchange for an honest review. 

4 Stars
Circle of Influence-If you like your mysteries just a little grittier
Circle of Influence - Annette Dashofy

Henery Press is certainly on a roll with interesting, smart, readable mysteries.  Circle of Influence continues that roll.  It's not a cozy, it's a straight mystery.  It goes somewhere I didn't really need it to go.  But that only slightly lessened my enjoyment.  Overall, this is a very good read with a good plot and likeable characters.

The main characters are Zoe, an EMT and Pete, the police chief. After a very contentious city counsel meeting which ended with a shouting match between Jerry McBirney, Chairman of the town supervisors, and pretty much everyone else. Ted Bassi is particularly upset because McBirney has Ted's mother fired as police secretary.  Later in the evening when Ted is found dead in McBirney's car, everyone from Ted's wife Rose to Zoe herself are considered suspects.

The small town setting of this book ensures that there are a lot of overlapping relationships and deep dark secrets.  Zoe does keep information from the Pete that she should have turned over immediately and I don't care for that but she doesn't do it out of contempt for the police.  She has all the respect in the world for Pete and a growing romantic interest but she feels the need to protect another character.  The atmosphere is winter in Pennsylvania and Dashofy does a great job writing atmosphere that you can feel. Another plus for me is that there is no sign of a triangle!  If you don't mind your mysteries a little grittier than cozy, this is a good one.

Provided by Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

5 Stars
The School for Scandal-Fabulous British drama
The School for Scandal and Other Plays: The Rivals; The Critic; The School for Scanda (Classics) - Richard Brinsley Sheridan, Eric Rump

This play starts out with a scene between Lady Sneerwell and Snake, discussing the malicious stories they are planting about other members of society.  You have no doubt what kind of play you are getting yourself into with a beginning like this.  This is a comedy of manners and "manners" are pretty much the last thing most of the characters have. 

If you've never seen or read a classic British comedy of manners they all have a few things in common.  They center around the behaviors, good and more often bad, of the upper class.  They have lots of plots and subplots interweaving.  They have to do with amorous adventures and they don't always end with people getting their just deserts.  Some times, the wicked aren't punished. (See The Country Wife for a good example of that.)  They are funny and enjoyable to watch.

Joseph Surface wants to marry Maria for her fortune but he wants to look like a good guy so he makes himself known as a "man of sentiment" which seems to mean that he goes around quoting proverbs all the time.  Maria wants to marry his brother Charles Surface, who is known as a profligate and all-around bad boy.  Lady Sneerwell want Charles, even though he is a bad boy.  Sir Peter Teazle, a bit of an older fellow, has married Lady Teazle who is younger and quite pretty.  She thinks that Joseph wants her because he is trying to get on her good side so she won't oppose the match between him and Maria, who happens to be the Teazles' ward.  Lady Teazle mistakes his intentions and thinks he wants her so she begins a flirtation with him.  Sir Peter, however, thinks she's carrying on with Charles because of a letter planted by Snake.  Sound confusing?  It's really not when you read or watch it but you see what I mean about plots and subplots.  It's just a lot of fun.  As it turns out, the Surface brothers have a rich uncle who returns from India in disguise to see which of them is worthy of inheriting his fortune. 

There are intrigues, disguises, concealments, big reveals, everything a playgoer could hope for.  But there are a few moments when characters have to make big decisions based on their principles that are turning points in the play.  Charles as one and so does Lady Teazle.  Whether they choose to be true to themselves or follow the fashion of the day changes the direction of the story.  It's very satisfying.  I'd love to see this one performed live some day.  For me, this is as good as classic British drama gets.

5 Stars
Nell Hill's Rooms We Love
Nell Hill's Rooms We Love - Mary Carol Garrity

This is an inspiration book. I've been looking at several of these lately.  They aren't things I would necessarily do but they are things that make me think about how I live.  Decorating is not a talent of mine so I need guidance and these type of books make me look at my stuff in new ways.  This particular book focuses on 4 houses specifically.  While they are different types of houses, they are all decorated in what I would consider "traditional." To me that means partly elegant, partly cozy. 

What I always notice is the little reading retreats that most of these houses manage to work in somewhere.  I envy a little private place to read.  Several of the pictures in this book make me reconsider a few places in my house where I might be able to create one.  The pictures are beautiful and there are plenty of them.  The decorating looks above my pay grade but again, it's inspirational.  I enjoyed looking through this and dreaming.

This was provided to me through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

4.5 Stars
Tiny Homes
Tiny Homes: Simple Shelter - Lloyd Kahn

I'm not sure why I'm so fascinated by little houses but I am.  This book about them is a beauty. 

This is not a how-to manual.  You'll have to look elsewhere for blueprints.  this is more of a dream book.  It shows lot of tiny houses, all under 500 sq ft.  It has detailed photographs of interiors and the descriptions of many of these houses are written by the builders themselves. They tell how they were inspired to build, what techniques they used, how it's working for them, etc.  It is full of inspiration.  These range from houses built out of scrap material to high-end homes but they are all under 500 sq ft.  Buildings from all around the world are found here and a number of them aren't full time houses.  Some of them are weekend cottages or workspaces or buildings just used as a bedroom.  They even show the Capsule Hotel in Tokyo.  A number of the companies that manufacture these homes are features also.  It's fun to read.

If I have any complaints about the book it's that at times the tone from some of the builders gets a little self-righteous. Sorry, you're not going to guilt me into leaving my big ol'1905 Victorian but I sure do love to look at the pretty little houses.

Book received from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

4 Stars
Killer Image-Good cast of characters
Killer Image - Wendy Tyson

Killer Image is about Allison Campbell, an image consultant.  I find that to be a fascinating profession.  I think I could use one. 

This is not a cozy mystery.  It's grittier than that. Allison Campbell gets involved with a murder investigation when her former mother-in-law's divorce attorney is killed.  That seems a long way around to get involved but the divorce attorney has also represented a number of Allison's clients and she had worked with his ex-wife.  There are a lot of overlapping relationships.  I'm finding it hard to describe the plot for some reason but it wasn't because I didn't enjoy the book.  I really did.  I will put out the warning that there is quite a lot of discussion of Wicca.  I know there are people that will want to know that before reading.

I liked the secondary characters as much as I liked Allison.  Her employee, Vaughn, and his brother were two of my favorite.  All of what will probably make up the regular cast of characters in this series were likeable.  The bad guys were definitely dislikeable.  There was a too much amateur investigating without bringing the police in on their suspicions which is why it is 4 stars instead of 5.  It had good atmosphere and I'll be anxious to see where these characters go next.

I received this from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

5 Stars
Saving Grapes-Fun and clever
Saving Grapes - J.T. Lundy

Everyone needs a good laugh now and then and you will find that in this book.  I had a fun time with it!  Along the lines of a contemporary Wodehouse, it is just a really enjoyable read.

Jason Barnes is a perennial screw-up. When his aunt dies and leaves him a French vineyard, he has a problem.  He can only inherit it if he isn't in trouble with the law, which his ex-stepbrother makes sure he is.  It turns into a mad romp in the French vineyards with nuns and beautiful French women and lawyers in disguise.  I won't recount the plot here, you can see that above.

This is a comic novel with a lot of heart.  It's clever and has a few unexpected twists.  The characters are fun and likeable.  The writing is excellent. You feel yourself in the hands of a very talented wordsmith.  Very fun!

I received this from the Librarything Early Readers program in exchange for an honest review.

4 Stars
Academic essays on Douglass and Melville
Frederick Douglass & Herman Melville: Essays in Relation - Robert S. Levine
This is a book of scholarly essays relating the writings of Frederick Douglass and Herman Melville. I had never related these two writers to each other until I had a class about them this semester.  I'm still not sure they relate as well as some scholars would like to think they do but both writers are excellent and fascinating.  This type of book is really only for someone who wants to do academic research.  The essays are not fun but they are enlightening.  Plenty of subjects and thoughts I would never have come up with on my own are presented for consideration.  Some fairly dense reading. 

1.5 Stars
The After House-A book looking for an editor
The After House - Michael Phillip Cash

The cover of this book is so beautiful and so intriguing.  Unfortunately, it all goes down hill after that. 

I'm not sure exactly what this book is trying to be.  Is it horror?  Cause it's not scary or even creepy.  Is it romance?  Cause there is no chemistry.  Is it a mystery?  Cause there could only be one person that is causing the mischief.  It's just a badly written book. 

The plot line is that a recently divorced mother of one, Remy,  moves into a house haunted by a long-dead sea captain.  Her ex is a jerk but she is determined to take the high road. Some annoying things happen to her along the way, evidently they were supposed to be attempts on her life but they were all just juvenile delinquent stuff.  She meets a guy and I won't go further in case someone is planning to read this.

The book is a hot mess.  Remy's emotions and reactions swing like a pendulum.  There are pop culture references that feel very out of place.  Cliches abound.  What this reminds me of is when I write a paper and I think it's pretty good. Then I take it to my professor for a conference and he tells me everything that's wrong with it so I rewrite it.  After you do this two or three times, a decent paper emerges.  This book needed a smart and tough editor.  Maybe something good could have emerged.  As it is, well, it least the characters' names remained consistent through the story.

I received this from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

4 Stars
Buyer, Beware-And the dead bodies keep coming
Buyer, Beware - Diane Vallere

Buyer, Beware is another fun and well-written cozy mystery from Diane Vallere in her Style and Error series.  I'm enjoying them thoroughly. Samantha Kidd is an out-of-work department store buyer who has moved back from New York to her hometown in Pennsylvania.  Unfortunately, as we learned in the first book of the series, the job she moved back for didn't work out, mainly due to dead bodies.  Now, she and her friends are trying to win a contest from the new department store in town to make some money for paying bills.  The new department store is called Heist and the contest is to steal a particular piece of artwork and deliver it to the store.  On the night of the reception to deliver the artwork and receive their prize, Samantha finds another dead body.  Like most cozy heroines, they seem to follow her.

The owner of Heist hires Samantha as the handbag buyer because of her past experience with murder investigations. Yeah, I know, that's a little lame. Amazingly, she goes straight to the police and tells them what she is doing.  Yay!  Someone who realizes that maybe tracking down murderers on your own is a dumb idea!  It shows one of the things I like about Samantha, she's smart.  I like her and I like her friends.  I like the descriptions of the vintage clothes she wears.  I like that she lives in her parents old house and hasn't changed anything so it still has it's 70's decor.  I didn't guess the mystery until it played out so that's another reason to like it. Now if she could just find a job that doesn't involve dead bodies.

Diane Vallere's mysteries are smart and fun.  I'm pretty hooked on them right now.  Fortunately, she has three series out so I have a few more of her books left to read. 

Book provided by Netgalley for review.

2 Stars
Mercy Killing-A miss for me
Mercy Killing - Kathryn  Johnson

I'm not sure if I can explain this but it felt like everything that should be in a good book was there but it still wasn't a good book.  Not sure if that really makes sense.  I guess what I'm trying to say is it felt like someone said, "Let's throw in all the elements, beautiful woman, sexy bad boy, international intrigue, exotic setting, that should do it." Unfortunately, the execution just wasn't there.

Mercy is the name of the heroine so the book gets to have a clever title.  She is the gorgeous and talented-at-everything-she-touches type who's father was a Senator.  Hate her already?  Yeah, me too.  She is absolutely written as too perfect and too good to be true.  Having a flaw here or there would make her a little easier to like.  Her husband is a handsome diplomat who runs around on her and is a weasel.  Hate him already?  Yeah, me too.  Not one thing to like about him.  So you see the dilemma already.

The husband, Peter, is being sent to Mexico.  At the reception celebrating this, Mercy is approached by a shady character who eventually lets her know that her globe-trotting celebrity photojournalist mom is missing and if Mercy will help him get info on Mexican smugglers, he'll help her find her mom.

She gets to Mexico and starts sniffing around and there's the sexy bad boy and his super-sweet daughter and kidnappings and embassy parties and stuff like that. It became hard for me to care because Mercy was too perfect to be real and the idea that her celebrity mom would be missing for months with no one noticing was too hard for me to get past.  I felt no connection to anyone in the book, no atmosphere or emotion.  But I will say, it was well edited and proofread.  It was produced in a professional manner.

This was provided to me in exchange for a review through the Goodreads Early Reader program.