Dec 30, 2007

Fright of the Iguana, book review

"And when the heck was I going to stop asking questions and do something useful?

So asks Kendra Ballantyne as she goes about solving the mystery of pet-nabbed pets while she takes care of a host of other animals and also works as a lawyer and conflict resolver.

This is from Linda O. Johnston's newest book in her Pet Sitter Mystery series featuring Kendra Ballantyne - The Fright of the Iguana.

Dogs and cats and an iguana have disappeared while under the care of members of the Petsitters Club of Southern California. Two of Kendra's charges, a 3-foot iguana and a Sharpei pup, have disappeared from the property of their owner, a high profile Hollywood film producer. Kendra is frantic to find the pets and soon discovers that other petsitters have had similar experiences - disappearing animals under their care. When one of the petsitters is found killed in one of the homes, things begin to get very serious.

The plot of the novel is clever and the sub plots are entertaining as well as informative. Conflict resolution in the legal world, the business of petsitting and pet daycare, and interesting characters made this an enjoyable cozy.

Dec 18, 2007

Garden Mysteries Revisited

Found a list of mystery books with a Garden theme that I had made some time ago after scrolling through the web. Most I haven't read, but they might be worth a look.

*Winter Garden Mystery by Carola Dunn

*The Garden Club Mystery by Graham Gordon Landrum

*The Hanging Garden by John Sherwood (have read most of his books and recommend them).

*Three Dirty Women and the Garden of Death by Julie Wray Herman

*Garden View by May Freeman

*Deadly Garden Tour by Kathleen Gregory Klein

*Murder in the Garden by Veronica Heley

*Samurai's Garden by Gail Tsukiyama

Dec 16, 2007

Book Review: The Hunt by Jennifer Sturman

The Hunt (Rachel Benjamin, #4)

The Hunt by Jennifer Sturman, December 1, 2007

Set in San Francisco, a mystery by Jennifer Sturman, The Hunt, is the fourth Rachel Benjamim mystery novel, published in 2007. It involves a series of puzzles that the main character Rachel and her friends must race against time to decipher if they are to find their missing journalist pal, Hilary. Hilary had been last seen with The Igster, nickname for a former classmate who has made it big in Silicon Valley and who is on his way to becoming a billionaire with a new software.

Hilary may have found a flaw in this software, however, and is planning a major story to reveal this fatal flaw. Motive for murder? Rachel and her pals think so after Hilary disappears and sends them an SOS text message suggesting she is in danger.

A very enjoyable book with an interesting, witty, and somewhat unconventional main character, Rachel would rather follow puzzles and clues to find her friend than pick out crystal and plate settings with her future mother-in-law, or play tennis with her fiance's friends.

The Hunt could be considered Chick Lit Mystery, a new and burgeoning genre in the mystery field, except for Rachel's unconventional tastes. Though she carries a Blackberry and mixes with people in high finance and in the computer and public relations business, she considers herself odd in a world full of "normal" people. There are no bodies in this mystery, but lots of clues and of course, affairs of the heart, to add romance to the mystery mix.

Dec 14, 2007

Book Review: Grave Apparel: A Crime of Fashion Mystery by Ellen Byerrum

, July 3, 2007

Wearing colorful Christmas sweaters at this time of year seemed to be a bone of contention for an editorial writer in the new mystery, Grave Apparel by Ellen Byerrum. Someone disliked the writer's column dissing merry Christmas clothing so much, he clobbered her with a giant candycane just before an office holiday party, leaving her unconscious with a head injury and dressed in guessed it, a jingling Christmas sweater!

Fashion writer Lacey Smithsonian tries to find out whodunnit in this Crime of Fashion "Sweatergate" mystery set in Washington D.C. Too humorous to be a traditional cozy, this mystery seems to be all about fashion Scrooges and fashion tastes.

Dec 11, 2007

Book Review: Meow is for Murder by Linda O. Johnston

Meow is for Murder, Petsitter Mystery by Linda O. Johnston, published 2007 by Berkley

Finished that cozy mystery, Meow is for Murder, and couldn't have guessed ahead of time the person who "dunnit" or how those two Bengal cats were used to find the murderer. Clever little plot, although the deal that petsitter and lawyer Kendra makes with a suspect is unusual and somewhat unrealistic, I thought.

The suspect, Amanda, is charged with the murder of man who has been stalking her. Amanda is the ex-wife of Kendra's current love, Jeff, and a bit of a stalker herself, always showing up at Jeff's door with various and sundry requests for help and assistance. She promises to stay out of Jeff's life for good if Kendra, an amateur sleuth on top of everything else, will find the real killer and get her off the murder hook.

Here's the weird part. Amanda signs a "legal" and "binding" document saying she will be out of Jeff's life forever if Kendra proves her innocent.

In the end, Kendra finds that Jeff may not have been worth all the trouble after all and accepts a date with, here it comes....., a vet that she meets on one of her other lawyerly cases. Now, like so many of the mystery heroines these days, such as Stephanie Plum in Janet Evanovich's books, this main characer has two love interests to add sauce to the mystery.

Catch Kendra in the next book in the series to see how the new guy works out. That's how the mystery series sometimes works - a thread of romantic intrigue leads you on to the next book. Curiousity doesn't always kill the cat, but it sure makes some writers Fat Cats.

Dec 9, 2007

Book Review: A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers. a novel by Xiaoulu Guo

A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers
A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers: A Novel by Xiaoulu Guo
Published 2008 by Vintage

A student from China arrives in London for a year's study of English so she can return home and help her parents with their expanding shoe factory business. Zhuang is 23 and a reluctant student, who nevertheless carries around a Concise Chinese-English Dictionary and looks up and writes down almost every new word she comes across for the entire year in London.

A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers, a new novel by Chinese writer Xiaoulu Guo, takes us in the heart and mind of a foreign student suddenly exposed to a strange culture. The student Zhuang tries to understand all the inconsistencies and contradictions of her new surroundings and the paradoxes of the English language as well.

She must also deal with her newfound sexual freedom and her relationship with an Englishman she meets and falls in love with but who is her opposite in many ways. Though they live together for almost the entire year, they remain very different. More Buddhist in his outlook on life, he finds her need for commitment and security too demanding and unnecessary. She, on the other hand, is frustrated by his apparent lack of concern for the future.

At the end of the year, Zhuang's student visa is not renewed, and she returns to China while her lover moves to Wales, a place he finds restful and peaceful but which she had found beautiful but cold, rainy, and gloomy.

I recommend the book for anyone interested in East versus West perspectives.

A poem by a young man who also values dictionaries with foreign words:


Dec 4, 2007

Book Review: Hounded To Death by Laurien Berenson

I'm reading Meow Is for Murder, a pet sitter mystery with a ball python named Pythagoras and a dog called Stromboli, not to mention two Bengal cats cutely named Cherise and Carnie. I noticed that the author, Linda O. Johnston resembles another pet mystery writer, Laurien Berenson, whose latest mystery, Hounded to Death, I've just finished.

These two writers could be sisters or even twins, I thought. They both have the same kind of hair, same length, and style, and their features are similar. One parts her hair on the right, the other on the left, however. One wears glasses, the other doesn't. Well, I don't think they are the same person, writing under pseudonyms as some writers are wont to do.

Besides, one likes King Charles Spaniels and lives in California, and the other loves poodles and writes in Kentucky.

Their writing styles are also different.

Meow is for Murder is full of alliterative fun. Johnston loves to play with words, which she does all through her book. Berenson in Hounded to Death has amusing characters though she also has a pun in her book title. They write about different personalities altogether - a pet sitter cum lawyer versus a special needs tutor cum dog trainer. (Seems dealing with pets isn't nearly enough - main character must also have a respectable profession),

Both authors however have a great time creating zany or colorful characters to move their mystery plots along - one about pet sitting two Bengal cats, the other about dog show personalities and a dog show symposium.

Both involve murder, of course. And, naturally, the pets are not among the guilty parties.

Dec 2, 2007

Book Review: Death of a Maid by M.C. Beaton

Death of A Maid by M. C. Beaton, another in the Hamish McBeth "Cozy"series that features the adventures of a quirky Scottish policeman in a small Highland village. A light mystery novel? I recommend it.

The mystery of a maid "done in" is the latest that Hamish the policeman must solve, looking for anyone with "means, motive, and opportunity." And the motive for murder is a popular one in British cozies - blackmail. But which of the ones being blackmailed did the dirty deed. The popularity of the series lies as much in the plots, I think, as with the pictureque Highland setting and the character of the policeman himself.

In every book in the series, Hamish sidesteps being drawn into marriage by a girlfriend or pushed into the arms of someone by the villagers who want to see him happily married. He also avoids notoriety, letting his boss take the credit for all the crimes he solves, and avoiding promotion and being sent from the quiet of his beloved village.

Hamish's quirkiness endears him to his readers. He likes living alone with his wild lynx-like cat, his dog, and the sheep and hens he raises in his backyard. He has a perfect view of the ocean and the rough landscape from his living quarters in the police station. And he is known and liked by just about everyone in the village and the nearby towns. Thr maid in question is not missed by many, even by those she works for. But Hamish solves the crime, once again removes an offender from the village scene, and sends the perpetrator off to prison elsewhere. At the end of each novel, peace descends again on the village, thanks to Hamish. As it should, in a Cozy mystery.

Finished reading Beaton's Death of a Gentle Lady, again with Constable Hamish Macbeth of the Scottish highland village of Lochdubh (fictional). Hamish tries to help save his police station and a Russian maid by proposing marriage, with grave consequences. Marriage eludes the policeman once again, though he does solve two or three murders.

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