Thursday, June 20, 2013

What I've Read This Week

What I've Read This Week . . .

Murder at Longbourn: A Mystery (Elizabeth Parker Mysteries) by Tracy Kiely -- Austenesque/ Contemporary Mystery

Elizabeth Parker is a former English major turned fact-checker at a newspaper. Her boyfriend turned out to be a two-timing jerk and her roommate Bridget is about to become engaged to her boyfriend Colin (love the name associations!). Elizabeth has every reason to believe her New Year's Eve will be boring and uneventful, spent only with her beloved books. Then her Aunt Winnie sends an invitation to a murder mystery party at her new B&B on Cape Cod. Elizabeth drives up to help out and discovers that Aunt Winnie has also asked a family friend, Peter McGowan, to help out too. Peter is Elizabeth's childhood nemesis and she is not interested in spending time with a man who calls her Cocoa Puff! The guests assembled for the party are an eclectic bunch and bear a strong resemblance to characters in Jane Austen's novels. When the party takes a deadly turn, Aunt Winnie is accused of murder. Elizabeth knows her aunt is innocent and she's determined to prove it. Peter is determined to befriend Elizabeth and help her stay out of trouble, but Elizabeth stubbornly refuses to accept his overture of friendship. Only if he's lying bleeding to death somewhere will she ever admit she has feelings for him. If she doesn't solve the mystery, her imagined scenario might just come true. Janeites rejoice! Here is fan fiction done right. Many of the characters contemporary versions of Austen characters (I picked up on Mr. Collins and Charlotte; Emma, and of course Mr. Darcy). Literature lovers will also like the other literary references sprinkled throughout the novels. I liked the modern interpretations of the characters a lot. Elizabeth and Aunt Winnie quote Pride and Prejudice to each other which is a little weird, but not overdone. Sometimes Elizabeth sounds like she's from Jane Austen's time which doesn't make her very realistic. I couldn't put the book down once the murder occurred. There are so many twists and turns and clues that I couldn't figure out the mystery at all. I did suspect something towards the end but the reveal came as a huge shock. The murderer's confession is a little confusing. I'm not certain that the motive was really strong enough to warrant murder. It didn't seem to fit the direction the story had been taking up until then. Elizabeth is a strong and independent woman. She's a bit prickly but I think once I get to know her, she'll be a kindred spirit. Peter is more Gilbert Blythe than Mr. Darcy. He seems kind and caring. Aunt Winnie is a bit annoying in an Emma sort of way, but she's endearing as an eccentric old aunt you can't help but love. This first book is the series is excellent. I enjoyed it much more than one of the later books I read. 

Notorious Nineteen : A Stephanie Plum Novel by Janet Evanovich -- Contemporary Mystery

Stephanie is hard up for money, she desperately needs a high bond skip. Her best option is to look for Geoffrey Cubbin, who disappeared from a hospital after embezzling millions from an assisted living home. Cubbin is proving elusive and Stephanie enlists the aid of Raymond Briggs, security officer to look for Cubbins. Grandma uses her age to advantage to sniff out information on Cubbins. There's no trail on Cubbins so Stephanie and Lula head out to look for some easier skips like Logan, who bashed in a police car after the cop took a tiki that Logan plans to return to Hawaii because it gives bad juju. There's also a nudist to apprehend... easier said than done. Meanwhile, Ranger needs Stephanie's help. Some crazy guy is targeting Ranger's friend Kinsey and his bride Amanda. Ranger needs female security to be in the wedding party and that leaves Stephanie as the likely candidate. When the nutter starts harassing Ranger, he feels Stephanie is in danger but she intends to follow through anyway, much to Morelli's dismay. This story felt very formulaic. How many cars can Stephanie get blown up? How many naked guys can she try to apprehend? How many stoners? Something has to change and/or the series end. There are some funny moments, especially with Grandma (my favorite character) but there weren't enough to really keep the story fun. There are two big mysteries to solve. One I thought that at least Morelli or Ranger or someone could have figured out. I guessed something else but I think someone could have solved the mystery. The other mystery is very dark and creepy. The villain has serious mental issues and Stephanie finds herself in danger yet again. There are some sizzling moments between Stephanie and Ranger and a few domestic scenes with Joe but her man problems really bore me now. I'm rooting for Joe to grow up and Stephanie to mature more so they can finally get married. Sorry ladies, I like Ranger but he's not the type you marry. Imagine if she brought him home to her parents? No... that wouldn't go over well. If you liked the last few books, then you will probably enjoy this one, but if you prefer the witty dialogue and amusing scenes of the first 10 or so books, then you may want to skip this one. I was bored waiting for the bus and picked this up in the bookstore to look at while I waited. I finished it at home with the e book from the library.

Sweet Stuff (Cupcake Club 2) by Donna Kauffman-- Contemporary Romance

 Riley Brown, full-figured, klutzy and with giant slobbery dog in tow arrived in Sugarberry about a year ago to escape her past. She left behind an ex-fiance, his new bride and a job she loved staging food to start over. Now she stages houses instead of food. She's good at what she does and likes the work. Even more she enjoys the friendship of the other "Bitch and Bake" club members but she's hesitant to open up to them, fearing they will betray her trust. During a routine house staging, Riley accidentally makes a fool of herself in front of the hunky New York Times best selling author Quinn Brannigan. Quinn is a true southern gentleman and helps Riley through her predicament, but he can't help but fantasize about Riley and cupcake frosting. The more they get to know each other, the chemistry becomes obvious to everyone but Riley. Miss Alva even tries to find out what's going on and give Quinn a little encouragement. He holds back because he thinks that's what Riley wants. Can she finally move on with her life to trust another man? This sizzling romance has a little less depth to it than the last two in the series, but it's still a good read. The story is paced nicely. The love scenes come at the right time and the story ends in the right place. There's a lot of dialogue, almost too much, at times. The love scenes seemed like they were pretty steamy so I skipped ahead. All I really wanted were the cupcake recipes. The cupcakes are better than the romance. I like Riley best of the heroines so far.. I can relate to her the most and she has a fabulous dog. Brutus is my favorite character. His scenes always made me chuckle. The author really knows (and must love) big, slobbery dogs. Quinn is a little more human than some of the other heroes. He spends a lot of time lusting after Riley but he's also caring, hard working and passionate about writing. I liked the development of his novel and how he had to choose whether to write the story he knew would sell well or write the story that was in his heart, that the characters wanted him to tell. This is a nice summer read for romance fans. Food lovers.  skip ahead to the to-die-for cupcake recipes instead. (check out Donna Kauffman's cupcake blog. It's like food "Pr0n!")

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