2 Mysteries that I have recently finished

Recently I just haven’t had as much time to read as I would like, yet I have just finished 2 mysteries that were quite good! I enjoyed both, but for different reasons & and will give a mini review on both.

First, Mycroft and Sherlock by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar & Anna Waterhouse.

Genre – Mystery, Historical fiction

Series – Second book in the Mycroft and Sherlock series

Rating – PG -13 for violence & drug use

Synopsis – Mycroft has just started working high up in the British government and has saved the queen on a previous occasion when a series of murders occurs. At first he is not interested, but when Sherlock’s professor becomes involved and a few close calls, Mycroft begins to suspect that something is brewing. Sherlock meanwhile has secretly taken on this case as his budding investigative powers lead him into the lion’s den. Mycroft and Sherlock work together to find out who is behind these awful murders.

My Thoughts – First, I really liked the authors take on younger versions of Mycroft and Sherlock. I haven’t read the first book as I had no idea this was series, but there was enough information that I didn’t feel too lost. I preferred Sherlock’s escapades for I found Mycroft’s character not as interesting. Plus Sherlock has always been a favorite character of mine. 😉 I liked Douglas with his orphanage for boys & appreciated his values. Nice to see Douglas endeavoring to keep his son’s memory by helping others in need. Charles and George were sweet and wanted to hear more of their story.

While the beginning was a wee bit slow, it began to pick up midway through. The action was spread out and did a decent job keeping the pace going, Although the conclusion felt a little off to me. It felt just a little anti-climatic. Oh, well. Overall I enjoyed it and liked several of the characters.

Content – Only a handful of mild uses of language. Really pretty minimal. Violence was mostly characters seeing an already dead body or a description of how they were killed. A couple mentions of genitals getting cut off. Later we learn this is a ritual done in Asia to teach others a lesson. There is a fight scene were a couple characters get beat up. The other content issue is drug use. It is a main theme as the bad guys test drugs on young children before shipping it to users. Sherlock enters a drug den and is injected multiple times.

Now for the second mystery!

The Religious Body by Catherine Aird

Genre – Mystery, Historical fiction

Series – First book in the C. D. Sloan mysteries

Rating – PG – Mild violence

Synopsis – When a nun is thought to have been murdered in the convent of St. Anselm, Inspector Sloan is called in. Sister Anne is found at the bottom cellar. The problem for Sloan is that the Nuns are a very quiet group and have given up everything worldly to live for God. Sloan begins diving into Sister Anne’s past and interrogating the others in the convent. Will Sloan be able to get to the bottom before anyone else dies?

My Thoughts – This was a well done mystery. For the longest time, I thought someone was the culprit, but I was proved wrong. 😉 Anyway, this was really clean and breath of fresh air. Set after WWII, it has a lot going for it. I like Sloan and his partner Crosby. They were a good pair that reminded me of a couple characters from the show Foyle’s War. While there isn’t much character development, the focus was on introducing the characters and solving the mystery. It was a pretty short book less then 200 p. We also get to see things from the sister’s perspectives and what their life was like. So pacing was pretty quick and it flowed really well for my tastes. I think that I will probably continue this series and see where it goes.

Content – Rare mild language, violence was again after the character had died. She is hit on the back of the head. The villain tries to kill another nun, but is stopped by inspector. Maybe a couple mentions of blood on her clothes. Other then that it is really clean.

Conclusion – So these are a few books that I have finished. It feels so good to finish a book!! Slowly, but surly I am ticking off books on my list. I think I only have maybe 2 or 3 left!! Yea!!! My next book will be My Dog Skip. I recently watched this movie and really enjoyed it! Then found out there was a book behind it so yeah, looking forward to that!!

What books have you read recently? Do you enjoy mysteries? Read any Sherlock Holmes pastiches? What is your favorite?

Anna

Review for Nine Coaches Waiting

Nine Coaches Waiting by Mary Stewart

Genre – Suspense, Mystery, Romance

Series – No, it’s a stand-alone novel

Rating – PG – Attempted murder, mild language throughout

Synopsis –

Linda Martin has just accepted a job in France as a nanny for a nine year old boy. In order to acquire the job, Linda has omitted the fact that she grew up in France before she came to England. She is eager to return and looking for something fresh. Yet, upon her arrival, the aunt and uncle are giving off some strange vibes. Linda dismisses them and endeavors to settle herself in her new environment. As the weeks turn into months, there occurs several “accidents” involving, her charge, Philippe. Who is causing these accidents? And why?

My thoughts –

This was a reread for me as I had read it several years ago and thoroughly enjoyed it. It was wonderful to return to France and the Chateau Valmy. The book was written in the 50s and has a cozy air about it. I loved this book so much that I bought it to add to my ever growing collection. 😉

Alright, let’s get down to business. The characters are superb and have a depth to them. Linda is a plucky and courageous young women who you can easily root for as she faces the dangers surrounding her young charge. I liked Philippe; he has wisdom beyond his young years. He experienced what no child should have to experience as both of his parents died suddenly. These events have lead to Philippe’s quietness and thoughtfulness. Then you get to Raoul. I have to say that I really liked Raoul. Now, he can be an idiot at times, but he cares both for Philippe and Linda. Although, I do have say that he falls for her rather quickly, but oh well. You can’t have everything.

Honestly this was a hard book to put down, despite having read it before. There were a few scenes that I remembered like the Easter Ball, but I couldn’t remember how everything turned out. Stewart does a great job dragging you into story, yet also moving the plot along at a decent pace. Also, Stewart does a job creating beautiful descriptions that she uses throughout the novel. They reminded me a bit of the descriptions in The Blue Castle.

The one thing I didn’t care for was the ending. There was a whole misunderstanding that occurs and it is only resolved on like the last few pages. I wish there could have been a bit more to tidy things. I would have loved to see where Linda ends up and how Philippe handles the whole situation.

Language – Mild language throughout, mostly kept to what you would hear in PG TV show. 1 use of God’s name in vain.

Violence – Stewart keeps the violence down to a minimum. Mostly, the threat is what you can’t see. There is a shooting accident out in the woods where they try to shoot at a character. The character is not hurt though. Also, they try to cause him to fall off balcony. Again though a character’s ingenuity, she protects him. Lastly, at the very end a character commits suicide (although a character thinks he was murdered at first). It isn’t described in detail.

Innuendo – Two characters fall in love. They kiss twice. Some talk of falling in love. Gossip gets out that two characters run off together, but in reality they didn’t.

Conclusion –

Overall for a cozy mystery, this one is really enjoyable. Yes, there is a bit of love at first sight, but the romance is secondary to the mystery. I love cozy mysteries that have that old fashioned feel to them. So many cozy mysteries today feel over done or have cardboard characters. Its always refreshing to find a mystery that is different and unique. This would make for a great summer read as it is relatively short, but enjoyable. I would say that this book is aimed at adults.

How are your summer’s going? What have you been reading?

Anna

Review for The Tale of Briar Bank

The Tale of Briar Bank by Susan Wittig Albert

Genre – Historical fiction, Mystery, Fantasy

Series – 5th book in The Cottage Tales of Beatrix Potter

Rating – PG – Peril and mild violence

Synopsis –

Beatrix Potter has returned to her house at Hill Top farm. She is looking forward to spending some time in the country. Yet, when she arrives, the town is in an uproar. Mr. Wickstead has met an untimely death by the form of a tree. The villagers believe it is a curse, while Constable Braithwaite is not so sure. He has noticed some unusual marking on the tree. One of the witnesses to the event is a badger named Bailey, but of course he has no way of telling the humans what exactly he saw. Will Miss Potter be able to get to the bottom of this mystery before it is too late?

My Thoughts –

I have so enjoyed this series!! And this book is one of the better ones. The previous book, The Tale of Hawthorn House, was bit odd and disjointed. The Tale of Briar Bank flowed much better and the animals were much more likeable. There was Norse theme throughout which I liked. I have always enjoyed Norse history/mythology. One of the animals we are introduced to is a dragon named Thorvaald. He was so sweet and odd. It was hard not to like him.

Another new element is Miss Potter and Mr. Heelis’s blossoming friendship. Many years before Miss Potter’s fiance had died quiet suddenly and ever since she has been grieving her loss. So it was wonderful to see her start to move on after four books. 🙂

The villagers are so quirky and odd. You have the usual gossip that spreads like wildfire and villagers falsely believing characters are a couple. They complement their town so well. The author does a wonderful job bringing this English countryside to life. You can picture the lakes and hills in your head. It reminds me a bit of the characters in the BBC show Doc Marin.

The author also breaks the third person wall and speaks right to the reader. She does this frequently throughout the book which I enjoyed. It made it seem like we were co-conspirators invading the town. 😉 Albert would tell the reader that, “So you and I shall not stand idly by and wait whilst Will examines the photographs and eats his lunch. Instead we shall take ourselves up to The Brockery. . .” (Albert, p. 144). I think this is a great way to connect to readers, especially when done the right way.

Albert, Susan Wittig. The Tale of Briar Bank. Berkley Publishing Group, New York. 2008.

Language – None

Violence – A character is killed by the top of a tree. A dragon tries to hurt a badger by its fire. Badger gets singed arm.

Innuendo – The villagers believe that 2 characters are a couple and possibly engaged. (all false). Two different characters begin to develop a romantic relationship. Very mild.

Conclusion –

This was a lovely addition to the series. It was delightful to be able to visit the small town of Near Sawrey again. I highly recommend this series as it is something the whole family could enjoy. The author does a great job of keeping them pretty clean which is wonderful. Plus you get to learn some of the history surrounding Beatrix Potter.

Have you read any book in this series? What are you currently reading? Cannot wait to hear from you all!!

Review for At Home in Mitford

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At Home in Mitford by Jan Karen

Genre – Christian fiction, Mystery

Series – 1st in Mitford series

Rating – PG – for thematic elements

Synopsis –

Father Tim is an aging bachelor who is just worn out from life. He has ministered to the Mitford parish for 25 years. Yet, now that he is in his 60s, his life seems to be throwing him several curve-balls. First, a large dog follows him around town. Then an 11 year old boy needs a home while his grandpa recovers from pneumonia. Later on food is disappearing from the church refrigerator. Lastly, a new neighbor has moved in and the Father begins to like her. Will Father Tim figure out a way to juggle these things?

Summary –

Since I haven’t been able to go to the library for a while, I have been catching up on reading books that have been sitting on my bookshelf for way too long. This was a gem!! I have never read anything by this author before so it was a complete surprise. I had recently finish Christy, which was OK in its own right, but this blew it out of the water.

To start the characters felt like people who you would meet walking down the street. They all had flaws and issues they were working through. Father Tim was a gentle shepherd. It was interesting to see him take his flock so seriously. Each week he would visit just about his everyone in his church. Dooley was quite a handful, but he provided some needed humor. Father Tim takes him under his wing and provides a home. Also the character Emma is a hoot.

There were a few twists I didn’t see coming which I appreciated. The mystery is just a small portion of the book, but it pays off hugely in the end. Also, I laughed out loud several times. The novel uplifted me, plain and simple. It was refreshing to have a clean, wholesome story.

There are some theological discussions sprinkled throughout the story. Several characters come to know the Lord which is always neat to see. The Father is an Episcopalian, which is a denomination that I didn’t know much about. So I learned a few things along the way like gospel side vs. epistle side.

Language – Only one foul word used by someone who wasn’t a believer

Violence – A character is shot off the page. Also there are characters who were ill. Mention of a heart transplant.

Innuendo – As Father Tim falls for Cynthia, they talk about going steady. A few mentions of wanting to hold her. One kiss on the cheek.

Conclusion –

If you are looking for a wholesome story that is not dark, I would recommend this book. I loved the small town community as it felt like I had stepped back in time. Its the type of book that will make you laugh and then cry as the story unfolds.

Have you read any books in this series? How is your March going? Cannot wait to hear from you!

Anna

Review of The Tale of Hawthorn House

The Tale of Hawthorn House by Susan Wittig Albert

Genre – Mystery, Historical fiction, Adult

Series – 4th in The Cottage Tales of Beatrix Potter

Rating – PG – for mild language and drama

Synopsis –

During a summer festival, baby Flora suddenly appears on Miss Potter’s doorstep. The villagers begin a search for the Flora’s parents, but to no avail. Meanwhile, Jemima Puddle-duck tries her hand at motherhood. Will Miss Potter be able to get down to the bottom of the mystery?

My thoughts –

Compared to the first three books, this one felt a little repetitive. There was a lot of recapping what had happened in previous books. From the start of the book, you have a pretty good idea where its headed. Not really any surprises.

Now, its not all bad. There is still some magic to the quaint village of Sawrey. I enjoyed the bit about the town’s meddling in personal affairs and chuckled at how the inhabitants had decided on who Miss Potter would marry.

Now I did struggle with the whole Thorn Folk. In The Tale of Holly How, the fairies felt real and not pushed on you. While here, I feel forced to believe that these Thorn Folk exist. Maybe it was the way the author used them, but I did not care for it.

To me the whole animal side-plot works for me. I enjoy hearing the animals talk among themselves about the big folk. I enjoy hearing about their adventures. Although Jemima could be annoying at times. I struggled to believe that she would run off with a fox. It connects the stories Beatrix Potter wrote to this series.

Violence – None

Innuendo – At the beginning, it is insinuated that a character had a baby out of wedlock, but that turns out not to be the case.

Language – A few mild curse words, maybe 4 at the most.

Conclusion –

I appreciate having a series of books that are clean and aren’t filled with a bunch of superfluous content. Although, this addition to the series wasn’t up to par as the previous books were, it still had that small town charm. I’m hoping the rest of the series will improve.

Review for The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Riddle of Ages

The Mysterious Benedict Society and The Riddle of Ages by Trenton Lee Stewart

Genre – Middle-grade fiction, science fiction

Rating – PG for mild peril

Series – 5th book in The Mysterious Benedict Society

Synopsis –

It has been several years since we last met with the society. They have now grown up and matured. Yet, there is a new crisis arising. The Ten Men have escaped and are looking for revenge, and they have teamed up with another telepathic individual. Will the society be able to come together once more?

My Thoughts –

I was so excited when I first heard this was coming out!! I read this series back when I was in middle-school. So this was a sweet treat to be able to visit with some old friends. The older kids are roughly 16 years old, maybe 17. While, Constance is now 8.

This book had a different feel to it then the previous four. (I’m included The Extortionary Education of Nicholas Benedict in the count.) The writing style has changed. The riddles are still there, but the focus has shifted more to how they have all changed.

A key component to this book is growing up and how that affects friendships. I think this one will resonate with kids and adults alike. There are some great moments in there between Reynie and Mr. Benedict which really got to me. I loved that we get an idea of where the kids will go in the future.

I will mention a couple downsides that I feel detract from this book. First, less action and less mystery. I do with there would have been a bit more mystery for the kids to solve. It spent much more time focusing on interpersonal communication.

Secondly, the adults where for the most part are out of the picture. I remember when I first read this series, how positive the adults were portrayed. So, many books these days have awful parenting. This was always a series I could count on showing positive parent-child relationships. Not to say that the parents were portrayed negatively, but their influence was minimal at best. I guess this is due to the kids needed to grow up and take on more responsibility.

Language – None

Innuendo – A character who can read thoughts heard that a some characters had crushes on each other. There is no mention of who crushes were on.

Violence – This series for the most part tries to handle things without relying on violence. Several characters talk about how they do not want to hurt anyone. A bad character throws pencils at other characters, and talks about hurting them. Also a character shoots tranquilizer darts, but overall no one is hurt.

Summery –

I loved being able to return to this fantastic series. The whit and charm were still there, but the characters themselves have changed. While, there is less action, we get a deeper look at friendship and the lengths one would take to keep it going. This would be a great read-aloud!

What are your thoughts? Have you read this series? Which book is your favorite?

Anna

Review for The Oath

The Oath by Frank Peretti

Genre – Thriller, dragons, Christian fiction

Standalone

Rating – PG-13 for violence

Synopsis – I am just going to quote the book as I won’t do it justice.

“Something sinister is at work in Hyde River, an isolated mining town in the mountains of the Pacific Northwest. Something evil. Under the Cover of darkness, a predator strikes without warning- taking life in the most chilling and savage fashion. The community of Hyde River watches in terror as residents suddenly vanish. Yet the more locals are pressed for information, the more they close ranks, sworn to secrecy by their forefathers’ hidden sins.” (Peretti, Backcover).

My thoughts –

Hmm where to start?? This book has a lot going for it. The plot was an intriguing one. Basically it asks the question of what would happen if sin manifested itself as a dragon. As with Peretti’s other books, the action scenes are sprinkled into the enfolding drama. Not necessarily a slow start, but it took me a while to really connect with this book. I liked the characters in Peretti’s book Monster better and read it in about two days! Part of this book’s slower pace is that Peretti lays the foundation in the beginning and takes time to set the stage. It pays off hugely in the end.

Ok, lets talk about the characters. Honestly, it took me a while to warm up to the characters. At first I did not like Steve, the main character, until well over half way into the book. For some reason he just rubbed me the wrong way. As time went on, I did grow to understand where Steve was coming from. I did like Levi, the town’s crazy mechanic who spoke words of wisdom to those who needed to hear it. I was not a fan of Tracy, but I did want her to change and help Steve solve the mystery.

If you have ever read a book where the character makes a bad choice that is cringe worthy, take that and multiple it by ten. Much of the book is the characters making poor choices. It showcases how sin can be quit the master of our lives. It was sad seeing some of these characters trade their live away for a few pleasant moments on earth. This is definitely a heavier book that will leave you thoughts to ponder. I sort of stumbled upon this book by accident after finishing Monster. This is a book I will probably need to reread in a couple years.

There was one scene that brought tears to my eyes. A character eventually realized how sin has affected him and the only way to stop the dragon was submitting to Jesus. He does this as chaos erupts around him and then defends his conversion as another character tries to prevent him doing it. It was a touching scene and was well written.

Violence –

Because this book deals with sin, it does not hold back when it comes to violence and gross descriptions. Many people die/vanish throughout this tale. At the beginning of the book, half of a person is found at a camping site. Several characters just simple disappear and are assumed dead. Many characters are described as having black fluid that oozes from a sore near their heart. The dragon eats several characters. A character shoots another character during a fight. One character begins a mob that evicts people from their homes and then sets the houses on fire. The dragon tries to hurt a character by breathing fire. You kind of get the picture.

Language –

One unfinished name calling someone son of a -. No language actually used.

Innuendo –

We learn that several affairs have occurred – most happen before book started so we just hear that it happened. A character watches as a woman swims in a lake and watches her grab clothes. There is a brief mention that two characters spend the night together when they are not married. We find out after the fact.

Conclusion –

I really enjoyed this book, more then I thought I would. It has given me thoughts to ponder like how sin can start of very little, but as we give in to it, it can become quite the dragon in our life. The only way we can conquer sin, is by submitting to Jesus. Now, I would recommend this for adults not sure about teens. There are some difficult themes, and that would make this a great discussion book. As a Christian thriller, this was quite good. So, go grab a copy!

Have you read this book? Do you like it or hate it? Cannot wait to hear from you guys!

Anna

Review for Greenglass House

Greenglass House by Kate Milford

Genre – Middle-grade mystery/fantasy

Rating -PG – mild peril and a few choice words

Summary –

It is Christmas time, and all Milo wants to do is relax with his parents, but unexpectedly guests start arriving at the inn. Then items start disappearing from the guest’s rooms. Who is the thief, and is it connected to the guests sudden appearance?

My thoughts –

This is a tough book to write up as I have mixed feeling about it. It combines fantasy with a mystery, yet in a very down to earth way. First, there are many things that I liked about this book. The main character Milo is an upstanding hero who loves his parents, but struggles with being adopted. He and another character work together well as they try to figure out the puzzle. I thought the mystery part was well written, and did not know who the thief was until the reveal.

The author did something unique for middle grade fiction by making most of the characters adults. At the start of the book, I struggled keeping track of who everybody was as they arrived all at once, but later on you get to know the characters. The two kids are respect the adults and Milo will ask his parents for help when he needs it.

Another part of the plot revolves around Milo pretending to be a character in a campaign game which assists him in the investigation. Their campaign is based entirely on the events that have occurred at the inn. I think the game is somewhat similar Dungeons and Dragons in that there are a variety of characters to pick from, and they each have special abilities (I have not played D &D just heard of it). This also helps him imagine what his real parents might have been like.

Also, I should mention that part of the story involves thieves and stealing items. Milo’s parents own a inn where smugglers frequently visit. Some characters tell stories about a famous smuggler who supposedly hide his treasure.

Language – Milo’s parents and other guests say Oh my G a couple times. Five or six uses of the H word mostly used in a common phrase. Still I was surprised to see it in a middle grade book

Violence – A character pulls out a gun and waves it around. He tries to shoot someone, but nobody gets hurt.

Innuendo – None

Other –

Now, we come to the final odd bit of the book. I am going to try to be as spoiler free as possible, but it gives the surprise away. So, if you want to be surprised skip this next paragraph. Ok, to start a couple characters talk about having seen a ghost and tell the story. Later, we come to realize that one character is a ghost. Honestly, I was not expecting this. It came towards the end. It knocked the book down a couple notches for me. I think it could have been a perfectly fine book without sticking ghosts in it.

Conclusion –

I am still on the fence with this book. There are many good things that I enjoyed about this book. I loved the characters which were all quirky. The plot never dragged. I read it within a couple days. Despite other thing mentioned, I enjoyed this one. It reminded me a bit of the Mysterious Benedict Society. Age wise not sure. I think it would depend on the child, but middle school on up. Adults can enjoy it as well.

Have you read this book and or the sequel? What did you like/dislike?

Anna