Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Witch Way to Murder by Shirley Damsgaard

Book: Witch Way to Murder by Shirley Damsgaard

Series: An Ophelia and Abby Mystery

Published: 2005

Extras: None

Plot (Goodreads):

Bewitched meets Murder She Wrote in this delightful new cozy mystery series featuring Ophelia Jensen, small town librarian and reluctant psychic, and her grandmother Abby, a benevolent witch.

Thirty something Ophelia Jensen wants to live a quiet life as a small town librarian. She's created a comfortable existence with her kooky, colorful grandmother Abby, and if it were up to her, they could live out their days—along with Ophelia's dog Lady and cat Queenie—in peace and quiet. But, to Ophelia's dismay, she and Abby aren't a typical grandmother/granddaughter duo. She possesses psychic powers, and Abby is a kindly witch. And while Ophelia would do anything to dismiss her gift—harboring terrible guilt after her best friend was killed and she was unable to stop it—threatening events keep popping up, forcing her to tap into her powers of intuition. To make matters worse, a strange—yet devastatingly attractive—man is hanging around Ophelia's library, and no matter how many times she tells him she's sworn off men forever, he persists. Soon this handsome newcomer reveals he's following a lead on a local drug ring, and then a dead body shows up right in Abby's backyard. And much as Ophelia would like to put away her spells forever, she and Abby must use their special powers to keep themselves, and others, out of harm's way.

My four-sentence or less take on the plot: Ophelia Jensen is a small-town librarian with some major issues with her family, her paranormal abilities, and her personal relationships. When a mysterious and nosy "chemical salesman" comes to town and a body is found, Ophelia's world is turned upside-down. Ophelia knows she's involved (through her grandmother's visions) and is pulled in to the investigation.

Rating: B

What worked: I'm from Iowa and I can tell the author is from Iowa too. The characters are well portrayed and it never falls into the "generic hick" stereotype of so many books. The mystery, centered around a methamphetamine ring, makes a lot of sense in the setting (meth production is a major problem in Iowa).

I thought the characters of Rick (the love interest), Darci (Ophelia's friend and co-worker), and Abby (Ophelia's grandmother) were well fleshed out and interesting.

What didn't: It took me a long time to warm up to Abby. She seemed rather obnoxious and it was hard to understand why anyone would want to get to know her. I also thought her paranormal abilities were a bit confusing and could have been more fleshed out.

Keep reading? I will absolutely keep reading the series.

The Missing Ink by Karen E. Olson

Book: The Missing Ink by Karen E. Olson

Series: A Tattoo Shop Mystery

Published: 2009

Extras: None

Plot (Goodreads): Brett Kavanaugh is a tattoo artist and owner of an elite tattoo parlor in Las Vegas. When a girl makes an appointment for a tattoo of the name of her fiancé embedded in a heart, Brett takes the job but the girl never shows. The next thing Brett knows, the police are looking for her client, and the name she wanted on the tattoo isn't her fiancé's...

My four-sentence take on the plot: Brett Kavanaugh is a tattoo artist and owner of a fancy Las Vegas tattoo parlor. She consults with a woman (who is not as she appears) about a tattoo and gets wrapped up in a missing person/murder mystery, all the while getting harassed and stalked by an unknown assailant. And, of course, romance is in the air with a Pierce Brosnan-style English casino manager.

Rating: A

What worked: I loved this book! LOVED it. First off, it was something different. I liked the whole tattoo artist/tattoo shop/almost circus theme. I have a lot of tattoo artist and piercer friends and the characters really rang true.

The mystery was solid. Sometimes "mistaken identity" plots get sort of a Scooby Doo feel but The Missing Ink managed to avoid that. Nobody was too-stupid-to-live, which is always a plus. Brett has believable relationships with her co-workers and her brother, all who are interesting characters on their own.

Brett is the daughter of a cop and the sister (and roommate) of her cop brother, which gives her a real reason to have knowledge about police work and procedure, as well as leads. This is something that greatly annoys me in some cozies--how can some of the protagonists get involved in murder after murder, assault after assault, and not have the cops throwing them in jail for something (anything)?

Plus, the cover is gorgeous.

What didn't: I actually really liked this whole book. It was an easy, breezy read but it's a cozy mystery and that's expected. I'm on board for the next one.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

2011 TBR Pile Challenge


I'm joining another reading challenge! The 2011 TBR Pile Challenge put on through the Roofbeam Reader.

The rules:
The Goal:

To finally read 12 books from your "to be read" pile, within 12 months.


1. Each of these 12 books must have been on your bookshelf or "To Be Read" list for AT LEAST one full year. This means the book cannot have a publication date of 1/1/2010 or later (any book published in the year 2009 or earlier qualifies, as long as it has been on your TBR pile - I WILL be checking publication dates). Caveat: Two (2) alternates are allowed, just in case one or two of the books end up in the "can't get through" pile.

2. To be eligible, you must sign-up with Mr. Linky below - link to your list (so create it ahead of time!) and add updated links to each book's review. Every listed book must be completed and must be reviewed in order to count as completed.

3. Your list must be posted by Friday, December 31st, 2010.

4. Leave comments on this post as you go along, to update us on your status. Come back here if/when you complete this challenge and leave a comment indicating that you CONQUERED YOUR 2011 TBR LIST! Every person who successfully reads his/her 12 books and/or alternates (and who provides a working link to their list, which has links to the review locations) will be entered to win a $50 gift card from either Amazon.com or The Book Depository!

5. There may be mini-challenge "check-ins" throughout 2011, to award and recognize those participants who are progressing through the challenge, such as a "Spring Break Check-In!" or a "6 Month Pit Stop!" Participants who are making equal progress to-date (6 books at the 6 month check-in, for example) could win a prize!

6. Crossovers from other challenges are totally acceptable, as long as you have never read the book before and it was published pre-2010!

*Note - You can edit your list through Dec. 31st. As of 1/1/2011, the posted list needs to be final. Also, you can read the books on your list in any order; they do not need to be read in the order you have them listed. :)
My 12 choices! Most of these are either traditional fantasy (which I typically don't like) or have been recommended to me by a friend and I haven't made it to them yet.

1. A Hitchhikers guide to the galaxy by Douglas Adams
2. Shades of Gray by Jasper Fforde--he's my favorite author but I haven't made it through this book yet
3. American Psycho by Bret Ellis--I've pretended to have read this book for years, time to actually do it
4. Outlander by Diana Gabaldon
5. Furies of Calderon by Jim Butcher--I don't like traditional fantasy but I love Jim Butcher
6. The Gunslinger by Stephen King
7. The Devil in the White city by Erik Larson
8. The Hot Zone by Richard Preston
9. Self-made man by Norah Vincent
10. The Marioka Sisters by Tanizaki
11. Lamb by Christopher Moore
12 The Color of Magic by Terry Prachett

And my alternates:
1. The Host by Stephanie Meyer--I'm sure it's going to be awful but I need to return it from the friend that lent it to me
2. Ariel by Steven Boyett

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Accessory to Murder by Elaine Viets

Book: Accessory to Murder by Elaine Viets

Series: Book 3 in the Josie Marcus: Mystery Shopper series

Published: 2008

Extras? Yes, information about mystery shopping, as well as details about shopping for accessories.

Plot (Goodreads):
Someone has killed Halley Hardwicke, the hot young designer of thousand-dollar Italian silk scarves, in the mall parking lot-and police have their eye on Jake, the husband of Josie's best friend Alyce. The couple lived near the wrap maven, but it seems Halley and Jake were a little too neighborly.

So Josie decides to do what she does best to help out her friend-go undercover and see if she can find some clues. Because this time, there's a lot more at stake than a scarf, even if it's to die for...

Rating: B

What worked: Elaine Viets knows how to write a cozy mystery. The characters are fleshed out and I particularly like the female relationships (Josie and her best friend Alyce, Josie, her mom Jane, and her daughter Amelia). The story was interesting--there were so many potential villains I honestly had no idea who did it until the very end of book.

Oddly, I used to occasionally mystery shop a few years ago. Viets does a good job pointing out the pluses and minuses. It would have taken a TON of work to make a full-time jobs worth of money but I did enjoy it. My favorite jobs were mystery shopping a local bank for mortgage brokers--they always did excellent (so I could write positive reviews) and I learned a lot about mortgages. The best part, as Viets points out, is the spy-like experience and the feeling that you can make a difference.

What didn't: The books (the Mystery Shopper and the Dead-End jobs) are starting to feel a little formulaic. I almost feel some reverse snobbery oozing through the books--rich and expensive equal phony and poor or middle-class are superior. Plus every man ends up being a crook or a loser.

Caution: SPOILERS! (Whited out for those who don't want to be spoiled)

And how did Amy the Slut know an important plot point? I just couldn't figure that piece out (although, admittedly, that is a small detail). It was also very difficult for me to believe that a middle-aged white woman could pass as a teenaged African-American without anyone noticing. I mean, really.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Reading challenges!

I've decided to join a few challenges to see if that can motivate me on this blog! I'm starting with two, we will see if I get interested in any other challenges throughout the year.

First off, the Mystery and Suspense Reading Challenge by Book Chick City seems perfect.

Other Details
  • Timeline: 01 Jan 2011 - 31 Dec 2011
  • Rules: To read TWELVE (12) mystery & suspense novels in 2011 (12 is the minimum but you can read more if you wish!)
Books I've read:

I like the looks of this challenge too through A Few More Pages:

I'll be shooting for a Series Fanatic with 20 books: