Friday, November 27, 2015

review: the puffin of death by betty webb

When Teddy’s boss unexpectedly sends her on a trip to Iceland to pick up a polar bear for the zoo where she works, she’s far more concerned about the weather than getting involved in another murder investigation but that’s exactly what the California native does. Teddy did try to stay out of it this time, but she just couldn’t resist when two others asked her to help. Although The Puffin of Death is the fourth in a series centering on Teddy, it works well as a standalone (I haven’t read the first three). Betty Webb clearly did her research here and includes fine details about Teddy’s Icelandic adventure. The characters are colorful and Iceland comes alive on the page. The reveal of the killer was also well done and unexpected. Webb even came up with a reasonable way for the killer to inform Teddy of the motive and method.
4/5
Review copy provided by the publicist, MM Book Publicity.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

review: the witch of lime street by david jaher

The well-researched The Witch of Lime Street documents the Spiritualism movement of the 1920s and the related contest sponsored by Scientific American with a focus on the role Harry Houdini played in it all. Houdini and many others spent much time disproving claims of those who purported to be mediums, but David Jaher writes of how the most time was spent testing Mina “Margery” Crandon, the wife of a Boston doctor. Jaher also includes how Houdini’s obsession with proving Margery to be a fraud put him at odds with Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Jaher’s telling is a highly readable and revealing history of 1920s Spiritualism in America though it does get bogged down at times in the repetitive testing of Margery.
4/5
Review copy provided by the publisher, Crown.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

review: supermarket healthy by melissa d'arabian

I spend a lot of time in the kitchen (that is, when I'm not at work or reading!), so I love trying out new recipes. I generally bring what I make to work (people working in newsrooms love baked goods) and the recipes I tried out from Melissa d'Arabian's Supermarket Healthy were tested on my coworkers. Although my coworkers said they enjoyed everything I brought in from Supermarket Healthy, I was disappointed at times. With the Cinnamon Popovers, for example, I felt there was too much butter.
If I try these again in the future, I won't use butter to grease the muffin tin. The recipes that were cooking rather than baking were much better. The Grilled Zucchini Pizza Bites were a huge hit (one person told me I should bring them in again) and I loved them too. This cookbook's angle though is "eating well without spending a lot." While the recipes do go for a healthier take by using low-sodium broth and the like, low-cost ingredients are not necessarily being used.
3/5
Review copy provided by Blogging for Books.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

review: the sundown speech by loren d. estleman

Amos Walker has a new case—this one involves the disappearance of a scam artist. When Amos finds a body in the home of the man who stole his clients’ money, the cops immediately suspect the clients; Amos, however, isn’t so sure. The quirky Amos (he refuses own a cell phone) continues to investigate and discovers a few twists that lead not only to the real murderer, but to a much bigger threat. The Sundown Speech starts slowly, but builds to an exciting finish that positions Amos as a hero.
4/5
Review copy provided by the publisher, Forge.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

review: never broken by jewel

Part memoir and part self-help manual, Never Broken by singer-songwriter Jewel reveals the struggles she went through as a child growing up in Alaska, as a homeless high school student, as an emerging artist, and as a mother going through a divorce. At times the self-help portion went on too long, but thankfully Jewel always shifts the narrative back to the events of her life. And those events are pretty outrageous at times. From singing in bars with her father as a young girl to losing her earnings in a terrible deceit, Jewel’s life has been far from what many would consider normal; yet, she comes across as level-headed and determined to make her son’s life better than her own. While her devoted followers may already be familiar with some of the tales here, Jewel’s remarkable history gives her songs more meaning. Like the subtitle says, the songs are only half the story.

About the audiobook: Never Broken is one title that really should be listened to rather than read on paper. Jewel’s folksy tone makes it feel like she’s sharing a story directly with the reader. She also incorporates many of her songs into Never Broken. In the print version, the lyrics are simply there whereas Jewel sings for the audio version. The audio version runs 10 and a half hours and was released September 2015 by Blackstone Audio.
4/5
Review copy provided by Audiobook Jukebox.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

review: broken dolls by tyrolin puxty

Note: This review contains spoilers for a different book—The Doll Maker by Sarban.

A few months ago, I read The Doll Maker by Sarban which finds a recent high school graduate falling for a man who carves dolls. The girl eventually discovers girls like her are being used to make the dolls. Broken Dolls changes things up by having one of the “dolls” be narrator as the professor turned doll maker controls her life, brings in another doll, and introduces her to his sick granddaughter. Just like The Doll Maker, Broken Dolls is a haunting tale, but Tyrolin Puxty wisely introduces a sympathetic motivation for the professor. Rather than remaining a dark story, Broken Dolls becomes an account about the lengths one will go to for a loved one. The pacing is excellent—I rapidly turned the pages needing to know what would happen as the dolls rebelled—and the various plot developments pay off nicely in the end.
5/5
Review copy provided by the publisher, Curiosity Quills.

review: the wrong man by kate white

After splitting with a nice man who just didn’t have that spark, interior designer Kit is looking for a little adventure while on a working vacation in Florida. So when she runs into a man (literally—the hazard of walking with an iPad) who invites her to dinner and his room, Kit goes for it. When she arrives back in New York, Kit is surprised to hear from the man who said his name was Matt, but agrees to meet with him again. From there, Kit is plunged into an insider trading investigation that has deadly consequences.

Kate White’s The Wrong Man is filled with intrigue and mystery. There are plenty of twists, but White sets them up well right from the start. Although the setup made it fairly easy to guess where the tale would head, Kit’s adventures are thrilling. The characters seemed real while also fun, especially Kit’s partner Baby.

About the audiobook: The Wrong Man is read by Erin Bennett. Her voice is pleasing and while she doesn’t go to great lengths to distinguish character voices, it was easy to tell who was speaking. The audio version runs 11 hours and was released June 2015 by DreamscapeMedia.
5/5
Review copy provided by Audiobook Jukebox.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

review: shriver by chris belden

Shriver just might be the most brilliant novel I’ve read all year. Chris Belden has created a world in which it’s difficult to tell what exactly is real. As a man with the same name as a renowned author travels to a writers’ conference after having been mistaken as the author, hilarity ensues and questions abound. Is Shriver indeed the reclusive author, but suffering from memory loss? Are some of the events taking place here actually part of Shriver’s hailed novel, Goat Time? Whatever the case, Belden’s novel is an entertaining send-up of academia and writers’ conferences.
5/5
Review copy provided by the publisher, Touchstone.