Friday, July 1, 2016

Middle Sister's June Reads

You might think I haven't been reading much this past June, but I am in the middle of a thick non-fiction book I'll review next month. I did manage to take a few breathers with some cozy mysteries:

Final Fondue by Maya Corrigan Val Deniston has had to start her life over again on the Eastern Shore of Maryland after an unpleasant encounter cost her her job. She's moved in with her grandfather and is running the cafe at a local athletic club. Her new hometown hosts a festival every year and Val convinces her grandfather to rent his spare bedrooms to tourists to earn some money. Naturally, one of the renters ends up murdered in Granddad's backyard. I loved the setting, as this is one of my most favorite parts of the country, but I was a bit more ambivalent about Val. I think her interactions with her new boyfriend colored my opinion of her. But Granddad is adorable and I hope we see more of him. There was plenty of evidence that the book needed editing: bridesmaid's parties are called hen parties in England, but I'm from New Jersey; we don't use that term in the mid-atlantic or anywhere else in the US. Granddad is happy Val will be staying with her cousin and out of danger, but Val seems to be unconcerned with his safety, sleeping in the house with a murderer (and basically says so, twice). The police chief told her, twice, not to talk about the murder, so what does Val do straightaway? Tells her cousin all about it. Okay, this isn't an editing complaint, it's a character complaint, but it's symbolic of many of the little things that bothered me about Val. Big editing mistake: a supposedly high-powered New York City chef threatens Val that he will send a photo of her cafe "to Monsieur Michelin" so she can get a star. Umm, there is no Monsieur, just a publishing house that reviews restaurants. We know he's obnoxious, but this is not a threat to a chef and cookbook publicist nor a joke a high-powered chef would make; wouldn't both know what Michelin ratings are. Doesn't the author? Who gets severance pay when fired, Gunnar? You get that when you're laid off. And what amateur-trying-to-be-a-professional wedding photographer owns face-recognition software? Too many niggling things like this ruined my enjoyment of the book, so I'll conclude this by saying there are some potentially interesting characters (although Gunnar and Val both need to grow up), a lovely setting, and with some tighter editing and better character and mystery development, this could be a nice series. (NetGalley)

Murder Has Nine Lives by Laura Levine Laura Levine's Jaine Austen series is reliably laugh-out loud funny, and this entry in the misadventures of Jaine doesn't disappoint. Jaine's latest mystery centers on a cat-food commercial for which Jaine's cat Prozac has been hired. The cat food producer is murdered, and Jaine gets involved. Her bumbling detective work is punctuated by hilarious dates with a man who's not what he seems, her attempts to write the copy for Toiletmasters revolutionary new toilet, and her parents' emails re: the Big Scrabble Tournament and an Alex Tribek sighting. There's a little bit of Jaine and her zany folks in all of us. Granted, I'd figured out the whodunnit halfway through but that in no way affected my enjoyment of the book, and that is the hallmark of a fine mystery writer, when the reader doesn't even mind having figured out the murderer because the story is so much fun. Enjoy Jaine's latest misadventure with a cocktail and some ice cream.