Author: chewietellsall

Book Review: Ghost Light by Jane Tesh

I’m a big fan of author Jane Tesh, so of course I was delighted to have the opportunity to read her new standalone mystery “Ghost Light”. Not surprisingly, I loved it!

First, the main character of Teddy (short for Theodosia) was excellent! I enjoyed seeing the events of the book through her eyes, and getting to know her as a character. Teddy is smart, intuitive, kind, and loyal. She also has a touch of OCD that turns out to be quite helpful when it’s time to commit herself to solving a mystery. Her need for order and closure propels her to a find the answer when a local theater employee is murdered.

As an added bonus, Teddy provides the mystery world with something that is much needed: diversity! During the course of the novel, Teddy realizes that she is asexual, and it was wonderful to see a less-stereotypical heroine. Her discovery was treated in a straightforward, non-judgemental manner that I found refreshing. Teddy is a unique voice, and I was thrilled to have had the opportunity to witness her journey of self-discovery and acceptance.

The main focus on the book is Teddy’s attempt to solve the murder of Paula, the former theater stage manager. Since “the show must go on”, Teddy quickly finds herself taking over Paula’s job, despite having no theater experience beyond enjoying the shows. Watching her learn the ins and outs of her new job was almost as enjoyable as watching her investigate the mystery! Both threads were well-written and seamlessly interwoven, and the story flowed perfectly.

As for the mystery itself, there were plenty of clues for Teddy to follow and suspects for her to question and investigate. I liked the way her natural methodical nature helped in her pursuit of the guilty party. The reader follows the leads along with her, and I loved every minute of it!

Sadly, the author has indicated that this is a stand-alone mystery. I hope she reconsiders making it the start of a new series! Teddy has a lot more to offer as a leading character, and with the theater as a backdrop, there’s no limit to the adventures she could have and mysteries she could investigate!

Definitely 5 out of 5 perfect chunks of my favorite sharp cheddar!

Book Review: Grounds for Divorce by Remy Maisel

I have so many good things to say about this book! First, main character Emily is a joy! She finds herself in an unprecedented situation, and handles it with good humor, intelligence, and a lot more common sense than most people would have.

The story is told in three parts, with parts 1 and 3 focusing on Emily’s present-day situation and challenges, and part 2 revisiting her past and her parents’ divorce. All three parts were so well done that I was torn between wanting more of that timeline and being excited to see what happened next in the other one. Both stories were incredibly well-told and interesting. I particularly liked the way the childhood storyline was presented at just the right time to fill in some back story details I was starting to wonder about.

As an added bonus, much of the story is set in Israel. I haven’t read many books set there, and was interested to follow along with Emily as she explores various parts of the country. (She also explores various parts of her hotel, but that’s another issue…)

Honestly, this book has everything: family drama, revisiting a past romantic relationship, career issues, horses, and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Someone, the author skillfully weaves all of that into one cohesive story, and everything works perfectly.

Side note: Read the acknowledgements at the end. The last bit is hilarious!

Second side note: If Ms. Maisel happens to read this review, I’d love to read sequels about:

  1. Zara’s college experience
  2. Rabbi Gold’s memoirs
  3. A children’s book about the adventures of Poco

Definitely 5 out of 5 superb cheese blintzes!

A Hint of Mischief by Daryl Wood Gerber

I was thrilled to have the opportunity to read and review “A Hint of Mischief”, the third book in Daryl Wood Gerber’s “Fairy Garden Mystery” series. I have to say that I loved everything about it….this installment definitely lived up to the high standards set by the earlier books, and I eagerly await the next book in the series.

Main character Courtney comes across as a genuine, real person. She’s smart, hard-working, kind, and loyal; she seems like the kind of person you could meet (and really like) in real life. The fact that she can see and talk to fairies adds a fun element to her character, and to the story. It’s a tribute to the author that these magical realism elements fit right in with the narrative, and feel believable within the parameters of the story.

The mystery element (in this case, the murder of a famous actress in town for a friend’s birthday) was very well done. I enjoy Courtney as an amateur sleuth, because she actually makes an effort to investigate. She is methodical and focused in her approach, and talks openly to the police. (Of course, they want her to stay out of things, but since she’s finding clues they didn’t, they can’t complain too much.) Due to the victim’s disagreeable personality, there is no shortage of suspects and motives for Courtney to research. The mystery takes front-and-center stage in this book, which I really appreciated.

In addition to the main mystery, there are several enjoyable side plots regarding a string of small-scale local thefts, an author’s missing manuscript, and the question of who is responsible for a series of fairy doors that are appearing around town. While this may sound like a lot for one book, I found that all the threads ties together perfectly. These side stories were all interesting, and added a touch of realism to the book. (After all, in real life, aren’t lots of things happening at the same time?) I especially appreciated new insights these stories provided into Courtney’s character and relationships, both past and present.

All the normal cozy elements are represented as well. The reader will spend time at work with Courtney in her shop, and as she interacts with her friends and pet. There are plenty of lighter moments to offset the murder investigation, and I enjoyed them very much.

All in all, an EXCELLENT cozy mystery with a bit of magical flair. Five out of five slices of perfect provolone!

Five Belles Too Many by Debra H. Goldstein

“Five Belles Too Many” is the fifth book in the Sarah Blair series by Debra H. Goldstein. This book definitely lives up to the high standards set by the previous books in the series; in fact, it’s my favorite installment so far! This book provides more of everything I love about the series and adds another of my favorite things: reality television programming!

This time around, Sarah’s mother is competing on a reality show to win the perfect wedding, and Sarah has been roped into participating as a chaperone. I really enjoyed the amount of attention paid to the various aspects of filming a reality show, and appreciated the behind-the-scenes glimpses into the process.

Overall, my favorite thing about this series is main character Sarah, who is a caring woman with common sense who approaches cooking (and life) with a philosophy of “the quicker and easier, the better”. She is also not a perfect size 2, and still seems to like herself, which is nice to see in any book. Minor characters (including twin sister Emily and mother Maybelle) are also well-drawn, with distinctive personalities. Even thought they are “temporary” characters, the cast and crew of the reality show are each given enough distinguishing traits to make them easy to keep straight. As always, Sarah’s pets Fluffy and Rah-Rah are adorable, even if they’re fairly off-screen this time around.

Once again, Ms. Goldstein manages to avoid a major cozy mystery romance trope. Five books into the series, and our heroine is still single, and perfectly happy without a serious romantic relationship in her life.

By the end, I had a pretty strong suspicion as to the identity of the “bad guy”, because Sarah is so detail-oriented and organized with her investigating. The final reveal was exciting, and everything made sense based on all the clues.

I have only good things to say about this book, this series, and this author. I think this book could stand alone, but you’ll miss out of some lovely character development. It’s up to you…start with Book 1, or dive right in with this one. You can’t go wrong either way!

Five out of five slices of delectable provolone!

When the Meadow Blooms by Ann H. Gabhart

I have so many good things to say about “When the Meadow Blooms”! Ann Gabhart is a new author to me, and after reading this amazing story, I’ll definitely be seeking out more of her work.

This is the story of Rose, a young single mother in the 1920s. Rose is forced to leave her children in an orphanage while she undergoes treatment for tuberculosis. This book covers Rose’s time in the sanatorium, what her children had to deal with at the orphanage and (most importantly) what happened after they were reunited.

First, I appreciated the historical accuracy of the book. The author obviously did significant research into the various locations portrayed in the story, and provided an accurate account of what those places were like in the 1920s. I definitely learned some things about medical care and the treatment of children that I didn’t know before. As always, I appreciated the chance to discover new things.

The story of how this fractured family was reunited was beautiful to read. The girls and their mother are finally allowed to be together again, but only through the help of Rose’s brother-in-law Dirk. I enjoyed how all four of these characters found emotional growth and healing through each other.

Each of the four major characters was very well-drawn and detailed. They all felt like real people, and I empathized with each of them for different reasons. Calla, the older daughter, was probably my favorite. Her loyalty to and love for her younger sister was beautiful, and she showed maturity well beyond her years.

Overall, this was an incredibly interesting and inspirational story. I was invested from the very beginning, and left with a sense of closure at the end.

Definitely five our of five slices of perfect provolone!

Black Hat/White Hat by Glenn Della-Monica

“Black Hat/White Hat” is the action-packed story of two lovable sociopaths, Alex and Lara Cutter. It is also the story of the law enforcement officials who try to catch them. The story moves quickly as it covers the Cutters origin story, their exploits, and the efforts of FBI officer Cody and his colleagues as they try to uncover the identities of the culprits.

There is a lot going on in this book. The major focus is on the elaborately planned actions of Alex and Lara. I appreciated seeing all the details that are considered in order to pull off each scheme. If you enjoy intricately-plotted covert actions, you will absolutely love this book. It was also interesting to see the story from the other side, that of law enforcement in multiple countries trying to track down the mysterious people or group behind the string of bizarre events. (The intricacy and level of detail put into this book was truly impressive. After reading this book, as well as the author’s bio, I am definitely glad that he decided to put his knowledge and experience to work for good instead of evil!)

Character development never takes a back seat to the action. Main characters Alex/Lara, Cody, and Haley are each provided with enough background and unique personality traits to seem like true individuals. The reader can easily understand each person’s mindset, and this makes the choices they make and actions they take seem entirely realistic.

There was a surprise near the end that I didn’t see coming. I won’t say more to avoid spoilers, but I loved the way things came together. I also liked the semi-open ending, and hope that it means more adventures to follow in future books.

This book is much more than just an exciting adventure novel, however. It also gives the reader something important to think about, both during the reading and afterwards. What truly is good or evil? How does the motivation behind an action affect the rightness of that action? How much should long term benefits offset short-term “bad” actions? If you’re familiar with the DeathNote series, this book provides more to ponder about the good vs. evil dynamic.

Overall, an exciting, fast-paced, incredibly well-written story!

Book Review: Babouc’s Vision by Glenn Searfoss

“Babouc’s Vision” is a fascinating look at a futuristic dystopian society. At its most basic, this is the story of Harl Babouc, who is chosen by supernatural beings to evaluate a nearby city to see if there was anything there worth saving. If a deeper look is given, it’s actually a great deal more.

The story is told in a series of slice-of-life vignettes about moments in the lives of various city residents. There is occasional overlap, and occasional returns to previously-mentioned characters. For the most part, however, each section stands alone. I found each chapter intriguing, as I learned more about life in this society. I enjoyed reading about the various citizens, what their lives were like, and the challenges they faced in navigating the day-to-day business of living. I found it particularly gratifying when connections were made between the stories.

It doesn’t take long for the reader to realize that this is NOT a future society to which we should aspire. I think it’s safe to say that most people wouldn’t want to live there. What truly invites contemplation is that the world depicted in this book is NOT overwhelmingly far-fetched. Author Glenn Searfoss invites the reader to think hard about our own society, and draw potential parallels. There is a lot to consider in terms of our world verses this fictional one, and in decisions humanity might need to face sooner rather than later.

In the end, does Babouc find anything in the city worthy of redemption? Is the city saved or doomed by his observations? Of course, I’m not going to reveal that….please do yourself a favor and read the book to find the answers for yourselves!

Five out of five wedges of yummy blue cheese!

Book Review: The Master Craftsman by Kelli Stuart

“The Master Craftsman” by Kelli Stuart is a dual-timeline historical novel set during the early 1900s in Russia and the present. The author skillfully weaves in a lot of information about historical events, daily life, and the mindset of various parts of society. I enjoyed the new things I learned, and the book never felt like a history text. All of the information shared was a natural and easy-to-read part of the story.

The story itself was fabulous! I enjoyed both timelines equally, and found myself eagerly awaiting the newest developments in one timeline even as I was reading the other one. I especially enjoyed the way the two stories/timelines eventually connected.

The character of Ava was particularly well-written. She felt like a real person to me, and was very relatable. I felt that her actions and speech were appropriate to her age and situation, and very much enjoyed following along on her quest.

Honestly, this is one of my favorite books of the year so far. The mix of fantastic characters, historical information, and treasure hunting is absolutely perfect.

Five out of five chunks of my favorite sharp cheddar!

Book Review: Roscoe and Muldoon: The Mayor is Mad by Don Mayhew

“Roscoe and Muldoon: The Mayor is Mad” is the delightful first book in a new canine detective series geared toward middle-grade readers. As you may have guessed, Roscoe and Muldoon, as well as their friend Jackson, are dogs. The author brings them to life with color photos on the cover, and plenty of sketches throughout the book. Other animals are also part of the story.

Even though they’re all animals, each character in the story has a distinct personality, and it’s easy to understand the choices they make based on what the reader has learned about them. I particularly enjoyed Jackson the maltipoo puppy and his friend Penny the cat. These two had some great dialog, and it was fun watching them meet, get to know each other, and become friends.

The story is told in alternate POV chapters, with the Jackson/Penny antics interspersed with the Roscoe/Muldoon chapters dedicated to solving the mystery. In this case, it’s the Mystery of the Disappearing Dog Toys/Clothes/Etc. These two are diligent in tracking down clues, and each brings something unique to the crime-solving table. It was fun to follow their investigation to its ultimate conclusion.

Everything in the book is entirely appropriate for the middle-grade readers for which it is intended. There is some positive messaging about how all animal lives matter that could lead to good discussion about the similar issue in real-world society.

Great characters, a fun story, and delightful animal antics…what more could you ask for?*

Five out of five chunks of yummy cheddar.

*Personally, I could ask for a mouse character in an upcoming book! Mouse lives matter!