Review: A Scandal in Scarlet by Vicki Delany

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Walking her dog Violet late one night, Gemma Doyle, owner of the Sherlock Holmes Bookshop, acts quickly when she smells smoke outside the West London Museum. Fortunately no one is inside, but it’s too late to save the museum’s priceless collection of furniture, and damage to the historic house is extensive. Baker Street’s shop owners come together to hold an afternoon auction tea to raise funds to rebuild, and Great Uncle Arthur Doyle offers a signed first edition of The Valley of Fear.

Cape Cod’s cognoscenti files into Mrs. Hudson’s Tea Room, owned by Gemma’s best friend, Jayne Wilson. Excitement fills the air (along with the aromas of Jayne’s delightful scones, of course). But the auction never happens. Before the gavel can fall, museum board chair Kathy Lamb is found dead in the back room. Wrapped tightly around her neck is a long rope of decorative knotted tea cups—a gift item that Jayne sells at Mrs. Hudson’s. Gemma’s boyfriend in blue, Ryan Ashburton, arrives on the scene with Detective Louise Estrada. But the suspect list is long, and the case far from elementary. Does Kathy’s killing have any relation to a mysterious death of seven years ago?

Gemma has no intention of getting involved in the investigation, but when fellow shopkeeper Maureen finds herself the prime suspect she begs Gemma for her help. Ryan knows Gemma’s methods and he isn’t happy when she gets entangled in another mystery. But with so many suspects and so few clues, her deductive prowess will prove invaluable in A Scandal in Scarlet, Vicki Delany’s shrewdly plotted fourth Sherlock Holmes Bookshop mystery. 

My first introduction to this series was by an online mystery reading group earlier this year.  Although I hate not starting a series at the beginning, the book they were buddy reading was Body on Baker Street, the second in the series.  I figured that was close enough to the beginning that I wouldn’t be too lost so I dove in.  I am so happy I took that chance.

As much as I enjoyed that first book, Gemma Doyle annoyed me quite often.  I liked her, but I didn’t, if that makes any sense.  However, since the story had been a good one, I moved on to the next in the series, The Cat of the Baskervilles.  I was pleasantly surprised with the character development Gemma experienced in that third novel.  This fourth novel, Scandal in Scarlet, gives Gemma even more needed character development plus a good dose of self-awareness.  She’s still very much Gemma, but takes the time to think about things before she says them.  Gemma finds herself saying, “Jayne tells me…” quite often, which made me happy because she was finally taking her friend’s cautioning words and adapting them into her actions.  Now, she doesn’t always do what Jayne suggests, but she’s not being as abrasive and annoying as she was in earlier books.

The mystery portion of this novel was also stepped up as well, giving us a lot more to think about as we move through the story.  Gemma, for once, is willing to listen to Ryan and not get involved, but Maureen from the shop across the street, doesn’t give her much choice in the matter.  It was fun seeing Gemma stumped as far as who the culprit was.  Too many suspects and not enough information kept her from putting it all together until the last minute.  Even when I like a character, it’s good to see them stumbling and doubting themselves on occasion. Of course, you don’t want them to be like this all the time, but in Gemma’s case, it was time.  She’s always so self-assured and confident that she’s right that it could get annoying.  This case was a bit humbling for her, even if she did figure it all out in the end – plus an added bonus at the very end.

For me, this has been the best book in the series to date.  I’m happy that Gemma and Ryan are working things out and trying to have a relationship again.  I think that them being together gives her a reason to try harder.  Also, he’s kinda loveable, right?  In future books, I hope we get to know more about Grant and Donald because they both interest me.  Oh, and please let Jayne find a boyfriend worth her effort so Gemma can leave that alone as well.  Although I know she means well, she’s driving Jayne nuts.

Whether you’re a Sherlockian or not (I am), this is a fun little series full of exciting and engaging characters and well-written mysteries.  For me, there’s always the added bonus of Gemma’s book recs as well as her allusions to older Sherlock-related television shows and movies I’ve never heard of before.  If that’s not your thing, then sit back and enjoy Gemma and Jayne getting themselves into trouble all for the sake of solving the mystery.

4.5/5

Thanks to Netgalley, the author, and the publisher for an advanced copy in exchange for an honest review.  

Review: In Peppermint Peril by Joy Avon

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This Christmas, Callie Aspen returns to her childhood hideout Heart’s Harbor, Maine where her great aunt runs Book Tea, a vintage tearoom where every sweet treat contains a bookish clue. Upon arrival in the fairy-tale snowy town, Callie is drawn into the preparations for a special tea party at Haywood Hall, the rambling house of Heart’s Harbor’s oldest resident, rich but lonely widow Dorothea Finster, who invited her estranged relatives, old friends and the elite of the town to make a mysterious announcement about her will.

Believing they can touch a part of her fortune, everybody is determined to come, despite not liking each other or even their hostess. And Callie’s old friend Sheila complicates things by using the tea party to announce her daughter’s engagement, even though her daughter isn’t sure she’s in love with the young lawyer her mother thinks so perfect for her.

Catering to people who each have their own agenda isn’t easy for the Book Tea crew, especially once the valuable engagement ring goes missing and a dead body turns up in the conservatory. Can Callie and her great aunt use their love of clues to dig into the crimes and show their unhappy hostess and squabbling guests the true Christmas spirit?

Going home isn’t ever easy.  It’s even harder when your old friend has married the man you once loved.  Callie doesn’t let this stop her, coming back to Heart’s Harbor to spend the holidays with her great aunt despite it all.  Honestly, Callie handled it well, considering she wasn’t really sure what she felt for Stephen in the present day.  She is a great sleuth, however, and made me think of the old show, Murder She Wrote, more often than I’d like to admit.

In Peppermint Peril has a great set of characters and a steadily moving plot.  The players are just shady enough that you suspect them all at one time or another and there were plenty of surprises to keep me going.  Of all the characters, I think I liked Aunt Iphy the best.  Although she’s older, she has a great sense of humor and a love of mystery that overflows out of her tearoom and into her everyday life. I would have loved an aunt like her.

This is an excellent start to a new series by a new author.  I’m eagerly awaiting the next in the series, due to releas in the summer.  It’ll be fun to see what Callie, Iphy, and the rest have gotten up to in the meantime, as well as whether Callie’s budding relationship goes anywhere.  I highly reccommend this book to anyone who loves cozy mysteries.  As an added bonus, for you theme readers, this is set during the Christmas holidays so there’s plenty of snow and festivities to go along with a cute mystery.

4/5

*Thanks to Netgalley, the author and publisher for a copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Remember November Update

You can find my original post, with more information, here.

Challenge #1: Goodreads’ Annual Challenge.

Goal: 50 books

Current: 84 books – COMPLETE!

Challenge #2: Clean Up Your TBR Challenge

On the TBR:

1. Dates from Hell by Kim Harrison, Lyndsay Sands, Kelley Armstrong, and Lori Handeland

Status: Finished

2. Thriller: Stories to Keep You Up All Night by various authors, edited by James Patterson

Status: In progress.  Three of thirty stories read. 10% complete.

Challenge #3: Clean Up Your Currently Reading Challenge

So, last time, I posted everything on my currently reading list over at Goodreads.  What I’m doing today is culling my list of books I know I’m never going to read.

1.  Promise of the Witch King by R. A. Salvatore

2. Mental Floss Presents Forbidden Knowledge: A Wickedly Smart Guide to History’s Naughtiest Bits by Will Pearson

3. Hades’ Daughter by Sara Douglass

4. The Casual Vacancy by J. K. Rowling – I may not ever finish this book.  I’ve tried to read it twice and gave up both times.  Might try it one last time and if I still can’t get into it, I’m DNF’ing it.  –> REMOVE. I gave it two shots and, since I almost never abandon a book, I’m throwing in the towel on this one.

5. The Returned by Jason Mott  –> REMOVE.  I’ve lost interest in this.  Which is sad because it was an interesting premise.

6. My Evil Valentine by Debra Webb and others – I’ve read Debra Webb’s story in this anthology because it’s the story of how she became involved with The Player – Eric Spears’ – case.  I think I’ve read a second one, too, but gah.

7. Chainfire by Terry Goodkind

8. Light of Day by Jamie M. Saul –> REMOVE.  I don’t even know what this book is about any longer.  I can’t even remember if I liked it or not.

9. Fic: Why Fanfiction is Taking over the World by Anne Jamison – this was actually really interesting and somehow… it fell by the wayside.

10. If I love You, Am I Trapped Forever? by M. E. Kerr – Hm… this one I actually finished.  Why didn’t I ever mark it read? –> FINISHED

11. Dog Eat Dog World: Limited Edition Bundle by Hailey Edwards

12. Break No Bones by Kathy Reichs

13. The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss

14. The Kind Worth Killing by Peter Swanson

15. Heir of the Dog by Hailey Edwards – this is actually part of #11.  Probably ought to remove this one.

16. Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House by Michael Wolff – eh, I was excited about this when I started it and it kind of fizzled out.  REMOVE?  I’m not sure.  I started this right after it came out but I may have lost interest.  I’ll pick it back up and give it another chance before I decide.

17. How to Marry a Cowboy/Reckless in Texas by Carolyn Brown and Kari Lynn Dell – picked this back up recently and am enjoying it a lot.  Only about 4 chapters into How to Marry a Cowboy but it’s been fun.

18. Every Shattered Dream Part One by T. A. Chase –> FINISHED.  Contemplating picking up the next part.

19. And I Darken by Kiersten White

20. A King of Infinite Space by Tyler Dilts

21. The Cuckoo’s Calling by J. K. Rowling – currently listening in audio.  Might take me a bit.  –> I’m closing in on finishing this finally.  It’s such a long audiobook and I don’t really get much listening time so it seems like it’s floundering when it’s not.

22. Red Horizons: The True Story of Nicolae and Elena Ceausescus’ Crimes, Lifestyle, and Corruption by Ion Mihai Pacepa – had to send this back to the library.  I knew this man was corrupt AF, but I seriously had no idea how bad it was.  It got a bit too heavy and I needed a break.

23. Dodging and Burning by John Copenhaver

24. A Scandal in Scarlet by Vicki Delany – an ARC via Netgalley that I need to get read and post a review by November 13th.  –> FINISHED!  And my review will post tomorrow.

25. Thriller: Stories to Keep You Up All Night by Various, edited by James Patterson.

So, with edits, I’m now down to 22 books on my ‘currently reading’ list, with another possible book to be booted, and two books close to being finished.  That’s good progress for a week, I think!

 

Mini Review: Read Bottom Up by Neel Shah & Skye Chatham

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Madeline and Elliot meet at a New York City restaurant opening. Flirtation—online—ensues. A romance, potentially eternal, possibly doomed, begins.

And, like most things in life today, their early exchanges are available to be scrutinized and interpreted by well-intentioned friends who are a mere click away.

Madeline and Elliot’s relationship unfolds through a series of thrilling, confounding, and funny exchanges with each other, and, of course, with their best friends and dubious confidants (Emily and David). The result is a brand-new kind of modern romantic comedy, in format, in content, and even in creation—the authors exchanged e-mails in real time, blind to each other’s side conversations. You will nod in appreciation and roll your eyes in recognition; you’ll learn a thing or two about how the other half approaches a new relationship . . . and you will cheer for an unexpected ending that just might restore your faith in falling in love, twenty-first-century style.

Read Bottom Up is a love story for the internet age.  Told strictly through emails and text messages, it’s a cute and sometimes sad love story for today’s world.  Although I haven’t been single in many, many years, I could easily relate to the struggles on both sides of the conversation.  Honestly, I could even relate to the best friends and how they sat, patiently listening to their best buddies be absolute idiots.  It doesn’t end like I expected it to, however, I think that it’s a very fitting finish to this novel.

I’ve only read one other novel written in this manner – Holly’s Inbox – and loved that book so much that I couldn’t resist picking this one up as well.  I’m thankful I did!

5/5

Library Find

More like a library oh my god how old is this book?  But whatever.

I have a bad habit of browsing lists on Goodreads and adding them to my TBR without paying much attention to whether or not I can actually get my hands on the book or not.  Generally, I can find them in my library system somewhere, but not always.  I got lucky with this one.  However, when I opened it up this morning, I got a shock.

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My first surprise was seeing an actual loan card – with stamps! – inside.  Most of the books I get in physical copy have been published over the last ten years or so and my library has been digital for at least that long.  So, this was a nice bit of nostalgia for me this morning.

However, look closer.  The first stamp is January 9, 1971.  Guys, that’s THREE YEARS before I was even born.  Holy guacamole.  Even more surprising is how good of condition the book is in.

And now that I’ve outed myself as being old, I’m going to go back to work.  Oh, and if you’re curious, the book I borrowed is called Gypsies: Wanderers of the World by Bart McDowell.  Oooh… and cool side note: I didn’t realize until I looked this up on Goodreads that it’s a National Geographic book.  Score!

Review: Like Never and Always by Ann Aguirre

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On a hot summer night, a screech of brakes and shattering glass changes two lives forever.

Liv wakes in the hospital, confused when they call her Morgan. She assumes it’s a case of mistaken identity, yet when the bandages come off, it’s not her face in the mirror anymore. It’s her best friend Morgan’s.

Morgan always seemed to have the perfect life, yet Liv must navigate endlessly disturbing secrets of the criminal and murderous variety—and a romance that feels like a betrayal. Torn between the boy she loved as Liv and the boy she’s grown to love as Morgan, Liv still has to survive Morgan’s last request.

If you’ve ever wanted to live someone else’s life, this is the book for you.  For the entirety of their friendship, Liv was in awe of what she assumed was the perfect life. Morgan had her own car, money, and all the freedom that came along with it.  What Liv didn’t realize was that with all that freedom came a ton of responsibility.

For the most part, Liv was the girl next door.  She had loving, involved parents, an annoying younger brother, and your average middle class life.  Waking up in Morgan’s body changed all of that drastically.  Compared to Morgan, her life was boring, but predictable.  The deeper she gets into Morgan’s secret life, the more Liv comes to understand that boring and predictable have a comfort all their own.

The premise behind Like Never and Always was a good one.  I think I may have watched entirely too many soaps with my grandmother as a child, but the whole idea of waking up in someone else’s body immediately attracted me to this novel.  I’ll be honest, I first thought that it was due to a brain injury or some kind of selective amnesia, but I was wrong.  While the reason for Liv being in Morgan’s body wasn’t explained well enough for my curious mind, you are at least given a somewhat decent reason for the swap.  The way Liv stumbles into Morgan’s secret life is interesting and true to the teens I know.  And while the sort-of-maybe love triangle could have been left on the editor’s desk, it did work out well in the end.  Overall, a well-written young adult thriller suitable for teens or adults.

3.5/5

*Thanks to Netgalley, the author and publisher for a copy of this book in exchange for a review.

Remember November

Kathy at Books and Munchies has the best monthly challenges.  This month, it’s OWNtober.  Next month, it’s Remember November – a time to catch up on and/or reevaluate all those bookish goals and challenges you set for yourself earlier this year.  You can find her original post here.

I don’t usually set many challenges for myself, so this ought to be an easy post.  Hah.

Challenge #1: Goodreads’ Annual Challenge.

Goal: 50 books

Current: 84 books – COMPLETE!

2018 Reading Challenge

2018 Reading Challenge
Aymee has
completed her goal of reading
50 books in
2018!
hide

Challenge #2: Clean Up Your TBR Challenge

When I found this challenge, it suggested you pick a year and try to read as many books from that year as you can.  I figured, why not start at the beginning with the first year I had any books on my TBR at Goodreads.  Plus, there was the additional advantage of only being two books on that list.  Hah.

1. Dates from Hell by Kim Harrison, Lyndsay Sands, Kelley Armstrong, and Lori Handeland

Status: Finished

2. Thriller: Stories to Keep You Up All Night by various authors, edited by James Patterson

Status: In progress.  One of thirty stories read.

From here on out, however, this challenge will be monstrous.  Hahaha.

Challenge #3: Clean Up Your Currently Reading Challenge

I have this bad problem of starting books and either not finishing them or moving onto another book before going back.  This leaves me with quite an unwieldy ‘currently reading’ list on Goodreads.  So, my main focus for November is getting some of these books knocked off the list. I’d like to mark ten off, but I will be happy if I can clear off five.

1.  Promise of the Witch King by R. A. Salvatore

2. Mental Floss Presents Forbidden Knowledge: A Wickedly Smart Guide to History’s Naughtiest Bits by Will Pearson

3. Hades’ Daughter by Sara Douglass

4. The Casual Vacancy by J. K. Rowling – I may not ever finish this book.  I’ve tried to read it twice and gave up both times.  Might try it one last time and if I still can’t get into it, I’m DNF’ing it.

5. The Returned by Jason Mott

6. My Evil Valentine by Debra Webb and others – I’ve read Debra Webb’s story in this anthology because it’s the story of how she became involved with The Player – Eric Spears’ – case.  I think I’ve read a second one, too, but gah.

7. Chainfire by Terry Goodkind

8. Light of Day by Jamie M. Saul

9. Fic: Why Fanfiction is Taking over the World by Anne Jamison – this was actually really interesting and somehow… it fell by the wayside.

10. If I love You, Am I Trapped Forever? by M. E. Kerr – Hm… this one I actually finished.  Why didn’t I ever mark it read?

11. Dog Eat Dog World: Limited Edition Bundle by Hailey Edwards

12. Break No Bones by Kathy Reichs

13. The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss

14. The Kind Worth Killing by Peter Swanson

15. Heir of the Dog by Hailey Edwards – this is actually part of #11.  Probably ought to remove this one.

16. Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House by Michael Wolff – eh, I was excited about this when I started it and it kind of fizzled out.

17. How to Marry a Cowboy/Reckless in Texas by Carolyn Brown and Kari Lynn Dell – picked this back up recently and am enjoying it a lot.  Only about 4 chapters into How to Marry a Cowboy but it’s been fun.

18. Every Shattered Dream Part One by T. A. Chase

19. And I Darken by Kiersten White

20. A King of Infinite Space by Tyler Dilts

21. The Cuckoo’s Calling by J. K. Rowling – currently listening in audio.  Might take me a bit.

22. Red Horizons: The True Story of Nicolae and Elena Ceausescus’ Crimes, Lifestyle, and Corruption by Ion Mihai Pacepa – had to send this back to the library.  I knew this man was corrupt AF, but I seriously had no idea how bad it was.  It got a bit too heavy and I needed a break.

23. Dodging and Burning by John Copenhaver

24. A Scandal in Scarlet by Vicki Delany – an ARC via Netgalley that I need to get read and post a review by November 13th.  So, it’ll probably be the first I finish.

25. Thriller: Stories to Keep You Up All Night by Various, edited by James Patterson.