Jessica’s Cranky Corner: Fourth of July Fizzles

I’m seriously striking out on beach reads this year.  Not one—but two—of the Fourth of July-themed books I selected on Audible turned out to be major turkeys.  You know that feeling when you light up a cheap sparkler expecting to see a glorious nimbus of glittery light, only to find that you got a big fat, fizzled-out dud? Well that pretty much sums up my disappointment with these cozy mysteries. Here’s hoping that my bad luck streak is over and that my next post will be filled with some fabulous summertime reads!

Dead White and Blue by Carolyn Hart

15808349In a word, this book is tedious. The constant questioning, the massive list of suspects, the never-ending red herrings—everything about this book exhausted me. I don’t understand what happened here. I have always loved the Death on Demand mystery series. I love that the amateur sleuth runs a mystery book store in a quaint little tourist town, and that she’s married to a handsome private eye. Her old biddy sidekicks are always a little annoying, but in this book they’re downright intolerable. Thankfully they were on a cruise and only popped up here and there via Skype. The Agatha Christie-esque plots always keep me guessing, but there were WAY too many pieces in this jigsaw puzzle.  There were SO many characters and they were all equally despicable. Lock them all up in jail for all I care!  Seriously, the author should’ve drawn up a character map so I could keep up with the tangled web of twisted townies.  Aside from the jumbled mess of suspects, the story is all work and no play. I found myself constantly pleading with Annie and Max to take a breather from their quest here and there. Go build a sandcastle, host a book signing party, drink some wine and watch the sunset—just take a break for Pete’s sake and let the reader come up for air! Keeping up with the herky jerky lines of inquiry just felt like work, work, work. At the end of the day, I just want to kick up my feet and enjoy a light mystery with cute kitties and hot detectives. But hey, if you enjoy formulaic math problems with factors and square roots coming out of the yin yang, this might be your cup of tea.

All Fudged Up by Nancy Coco

17381897This review might be just a little unfair on account of the fact that I returned this sucker after suffering through the first few chapters. It was just way too slapstick silly for my taste, which is really a shame considering that Mackinac Island the perfect setting for a cozy fudge-filled mystery. So why did I hit the return button so early in the game? Well you might think I’m a sourpuss, but I just can’t deal with over-the-top silly hijinks. My funny bone was not tickled when the mentally-challenged police dispatcher could not comprehend the words: “I found a dead body in my house.” When the hilarity of the dispatcher’s stupidity caused the caller to shake uncontrollably in laughter, I realized that there was no way I could ever connect with the story or the ridiculous characters. If I want a corkscrew comedy, I’ll watch Blazing Saddles. But when it comes to mysteries, there needs to be some sort of grounding in reality. Scooby Doo is a rare exception. What happened after the inept dispatcher eventually connected the dots and sent out a unit to inspect the crime scene? I’ll never know. Nor will I care. Thankfully, Audible immediately restores my precious monthly credits when I accidentally buy a book without doing some homework. A word to the wise: Always read the first chapter before taking the plunge.

Short & Sweet Sundays: The Ghost and the Dead Man’s Library by Alice Kimberly

Sundays are a day of rest. So in honor of this one day of the week when I can legitimately loaf around in my Garfield jammies in front of the DVR, I bring you this new feature that I like to call “Short and Sweet Sundays.” This is a fun way for me to write up a quick and dirty book blog without getting too overambitious.

1332918Summary (from the publisher): Bookshop owner Penelope Thornton-McClure has just received a rare collection of Poe’s complete works. Rumor has it a secret code, trapped within the pages, leads to buried treasure. But it seems everyone who buys…dies. Now Pen will need resident ghost P.I. Jack Shepard to help crack the case.

Why I picked it up: I found this book at a haunted used book store in a small little college town outside of Dallas, which used to be a grand old opera house. When I came across this fun little mystery series among the rubble of old paperbacks, I knew it had to be mine!  How could I go wrong with a whodunit set in a haunted bookstore?

Why I liked it: Do you remember that old series on the Hallmark channel called Mystery Woman? Well, I’m obsessed with that show, probably because I’ve always fantasized about owning a cute little bookstore while solving mysteries on the side. This series, along with Carolyn Hart’s Death on Demand mysteries, is tailor-made for book nerds, such as myself, who love the quaint, cozy setting of a mystery bookstore.

Favorite scene: I just loved the opening chapter, where Penelope and her quirky Aunt Sadie drove through a thunderstorm to old Mr. Chesley’s haunted mansion on the hill.  I kind of wish I saved this book for Halloween because it’s super campy and atmospheric. Scooby Doo fans, eat your heart out!

Need a Mystery Woman fix? Look no further than the Haunted Bookshop Mystery series!
Need a Mystery Woman fix? Look no further than the Haunted Bookshop Mystery series!

The mystery:  Since I’m a fan of Alice Kimberly’s works, I knew this would be a quality read. And, of course, I was right. I had a lot of fun solving the “Poe Code” and tearing through the pages until the fearless protagonist found the hidden treasure. With a wealth of eclectic characters and fascinating trivia facts about Edgar Allen Poe, it’s a real winner for fans of jigsaw puzzle mysteries.

In addition to solving the “Poe Code” murder mystery, readers are also taken back in time to the events leading up to Jack Shepard’s death. Of course, we only get a little glimpses here and there, and we probably won’t find out whodunit until the end of the series.

Favorite character: This series is full of loveable characters, but I have to say that Jack is the most intriguing. For some inexplicable reason, he’s bound to Penelope and the bookshop. I got a lot of chuckles out of his old-timey wisecracks and detective banter. It’s a mystery to me how he and Penelope are ever going to make something out of their budding romance. What’s going to happen when he crosses over into the white light? Will he and Pen ever find each other again? The suspense is killing me!

This book is best pared with: A frothy vanilla latte, a pudgy cat and a plush wingback chair.

If you like this book, you’ll also enjoy titles by: Carolyn Hart, Jen McKinlay, Carolyn Haines – and last but not least – Agatha Christie.