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Children's 2021 Tails & Tales

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The Shadows
by Alex North

Listening to a book can really enhance them especially if you have the right people reading it. The Shadows by Alex North is read by Hannah Arterton and John Heffernan. While Arterton’s voice worked fine for this novel, Heffernan is the one who really shined for me. He was subtle with his change of tempo or inflections when it came to the various characters and I thought he really pulled out the creepiness and “dead eyes” feel to Charlie Crabtree. When I mentioned that Arterton’s voice was fine, I think it had more to do with her character, Det. Amanda Beck, who for the most part I felt the story could have been written without. It seems strange to say a novel could do away with an entire main character, and there were a couple of parts where I could see her being needed, but for the most part whenever the story went back to her, I felt like I was being pulled out of it. As for the storyline itself, it was very good, but I never got the scare factor that a lot of other readers talk about, but this could be due to watching and reading a lot of horror. So while this might be classified horror, and others may call it a thriller, for me it was more of a suspense, or even a mystery. The Shadows kept me going from chapter to chapter at a steady pace, but at the same time I was never rushing ahead to see what was going to happen next. And it definitely has a strong Stephen King vibe in regards to a group of kids facing a horrific event and then seeing how they are reacting to it years later. So if you enjoy King, there’s a good chance you’ll like The Shadows. There were a few interesting twists and one I am still thinking about days after finishing the book. It did wrap up everything very well and goes to show how adults are not infallible and when children grow up and realize that their parents make mistakes and had lives without them, it can be a very disturbing realization.

Sprinkles Of Suspicion
by Kim Davis

Kim Davis, author of Sprinkles of Suspicion, knows a thing or two about cozy mysteries. Davis runs a cozy mystery review and giveaway site called Cinnamon and Sugar and a Little Bit of Murder, and this is her second published mystery. Her website is also filled with dessert recipes and video tutorials to help assist you in making the eye catching sweets. Sprinkles of Suspicion is the first cozy in the Cupcake Catering Mysteries, featuring the unsuspecting protagonist, Emory. While some may find her a bit too naive, I found the lack of her knowing what was going on with her husband’s extramarital affairs and their finances to be realistic. Emory got married at a young age and came from a middle-class life where she seemed to be sheltered, so I can see her not being as cynical or wise to the world as others who had a harder life. Emory does grow in confidence throughout the book, and when she meets Tilly towards the end, you just know those two are going to have some crazy adventures and Tilly is going to teach Emory to open her eyes to the world around her. Davis does an excellent job with character development, and Tilly alone would have me coming back to read more books in this series. A cozy has to have characters that I could see myself being friends with, and Sprinkles of Suspicion certainly does. I am also looking forward to meeting Tilly’s friends and reading about their wild times in Las Vegas. Besides great characters, Davis also does a fantastic job with the vivid pictures she paints of the town, architecture, and all the food. Some food cozies barely mention recipes, but Davis weaves the baking and eating into the story seamlessly. As for the mystery itself, it was very well done. There were lots of suspects, different subplots tying into the murder, and a few red herrings. A great start to a new cozy mystery series and I’m looking forward to seeing Emory grow more and Tilly terrorizing her son with her “I’m old, so I’ll do whatever I please” exploits.

I Am Malala
by Malala Yousafzai

Eye opening book. I had meant to read this book some time ago and am a bit embarrassed to admit I'm only getting to it now. Of course l had heard of Malala and especially how she was outspoken for girl's education. Hopefully everyone knows she became the youngest Nobel Peace prize winner. This book was so personal and really gave a vivid account of her young life and especially the impact of the Taliban and the increasing restrictions and dangers under their fundamentalist views that impacted the lives of Malala and her family and the others in her area of the Seat valley. I do not know a lot about the Muslim faith but reading this book offered me glimpses into a very different country and culture. This was a book of hope, but also determination and resolve. It is difficult at times to hear about the view of United States and especially our tragic mistakes, but it is good to hear the other side of the story. It is unusual for me to read a book that feels they need to declare how proud they are of their country and religion over and over. What frightens me is knowing that our government is negotiating a peace deal with the Taliban and that there are few mentioning the rights of girl's to education.

A New Earth
by Eckhart Tolle

Opens you up to higher consciousness. Brings awareness to everyday life. Promotes unity, not separation.

The Rightful Queen
by Isabelle Steiger

If you are a reader of epic fantasy or enjoyed watching Game of Thrones and want to read a book like it, then I think you will really enjoy The Rightful Queen by Isabelle Steiger. This is the second book in the Paths of Lantistyne, and unlike other series, I really recommend that you read the first book, The Empire’s Ghost, before diving into this one. If it’s been awhile since you’re read The Empire’s Ghost then I also highly recommend that you read the list of characters at the beginning of The Rightful Queen to help you remember the characters… unless you have a great memory, then you may not need to, but I definitely did!! Steiger begins right where the first book ended and continues to weave various characters into each other’s paths while keeping others apart when all you want for them is to meet up again. There are events that are happening in about four different regions and they all tie together, some of the adventures come together in this book, while Steiger writes up even more circumstances that will carry us into the next book. To me, this makes for an excellent writer, someone who can manipulate the story seamlessly and leave the reader wanting more. Another thing that is great about this epic fantasy series is the female characters not only being in true power, but not being written into the story scantily dressed and only waiting around in the wings as a love interest. Having read epic fantasy since the 90’s I read a lot of books where this happened, and I didn’t even realize it since this was the only type of story that was available, or at least that I knew about. Another cool thing, not only is Steiger introducing us to new characters, but she even gives us a new plot line in this book. Not just a subplot, but something entirely new from the first book. And I love the direction it is going. A new mythology that I am interested to see how it plays out and if it will end up crossing into any religions/myths that I am aware of. I highly recommend The Rightful Queen (and The Empire’s Ghost), and since epic fantasies take longer to write then other genres, I will be patiently waiting for book three… hopefully not as long as for George R. R. Martin’s next book. ;)

A Good Girl's Guide To Murder
by Holly Jackson

As soon as I saw the title to Holly Jackson’s debut, A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder, I knew I wanted to read it. And that was before I read the synopsis and before I started seeing everyone raving about it on social media! And I have to say that it’s very good for a debut novel and first in a series. I really enjoyed all the extras that Jackson added to the story like interviews, maps, text messages, etc… It added an interesting layer to the novel that made you feel like you were included in solving the mystery, like you were a detective following the clues. Jackson also did a fantastic job with character development. These felt like kids I was friends with in high school, or at least I knew in passing. It was a bit strange how Jackson kept switching back and forth from first to third person. I really can’t see any reason that this was necessary and at times it was a bit jarring and threw me out of the story for a couple of paragraphs. I found myself going back a bit to see if I had missed something. And I always appreciate a story that lulls me a bit into thinking I’m so smart and know what is going on. I did know some things that were coming, but then, Bam!, Jackson would throw a twist that added more depth to the story. There was one reveal towards the end that I thought was a bit out there and was expecting it to go a different way. I think if it had gone the way I was thinking, it would have been more believable. But since it’s a work of fiction, the writer can do whatever she pleases. A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder would make a great beach read and I am looking forward to the second book in the series, Good Girl, Bad Blood.

Three Treats Too Many
by Debra H Goldstein

Having read the first two books in the Sarah Blair Mysteries, I was excited to read Three Treats too Many by Debra H. Goldstein, and it’s another good cozy mystery fitting of the genre! We are introduced to a lot more characters in this book, especially those of the local motorcycle group that Sarah had no idea existed and three veterinarians who are also Vets that have their practice right next door to Jane’s (Sarah’s arch nemesis) new restaurant. Jane is not a likeable character, but she gets a bit of comeuppance later on in the book when Sarah finds there’s something rotten in regards to Jane’s vegan dishes. We also get to interact more with Jacob and his sister, Anne, who shows a bit of her softer side. One of the things that draws me to cozy mysteries is the characters; how well they are developed and if I want to come back book after book to see what is new with their lives, and Goldstein does an excellent job in regards to this. Even Sarah’s pets, RahRah and Fluffy have unique personalities and they add a warm and fuzzy layer to the books. Riley isn’t as sweet as she seemed, which slowly gets discovered, that combined with all the red herrings and lots of suspects makes for a great whodunnit. The end does come pretty fast and there seems to be a lot of this type of killer lately in cozies, but it doesn’t take away from a great book. The Sarah Blair Mysteries is a series I highly recommend, and although you don’t have to, you may want to start with book one, One Taste too Many, so you can enjoy how the characters grow and get even more of RahRah and Fluffy.

A Case for the Yarn Maker
by Candace Havens

Having read and enjoyed the first book in the Ainsley McGregor Mysteries, A Case for the Winemaker, I was eager to give A Case for the Yarn Maker a read, and Candace Havens has continued with the excellent character development and with the wonderful descriptions of the small, picturesque town of Sweet River, Texas. We get to know Mrs. Whedon more, although it’s still a mystery as to why she wears dark green all the time! Ainsley is getting closer to starting a romantic relationship with a man that can handle the heat. And George is even more adorable in book two, which I didn’t think was possible. As for the mystery, it could be a bit difficult to solve because there are a lot of nasty people who make for great suspects. But if you read really carefully and have watched a certain movie that stars Daniel Craig, you may be able to figure out whodunnit pretty quick. All in all, another great addition to the cozy mystery genre, and I am excited for A Case for the Toymaker, which comes out on October 26, 2020.

It Cannoli Be Murder
by Catherine Bruns

I really enjoyed the first book by Catherine Bruns in the Italian Chef Mystey series, Penne Dreadful, and It Cannoli be Murder was another winner… which is not always the case with the second book in a cozy mystery series, so I was very happy! As with the first book Bruns does a fantastic job with the scene descriptions, character development, and the mouth watering scenes with food. We got to know the characters very well in the first book, so in It Cannoli be Murder not only do we get some new insights into the main characters, but the new characters receive just as much detail. Tessa and her cousin, Gabby, have a fantastic relationship. Although they are cousins, it’s more like they are sisters and both of them are people I would love to have as friends. There’s a new detective in town that is a jerk so I’m interested to see if there will be a heartwarming story in future books that sheds a light on why he’s so mean, or to find out if that’s just the way he acts all the time. Tessa’s landlord, Vince, is looking awful good to me and I hope something starts to happen with them in the romance department. I would jump on… ummm… I meant, at, a chance to be with him. Tall, dark, handsome, romantic, and owns a winery, Yes, Please. Then there’s her long time friend, Justin… while he’s attractive too and has been very sweet to Tessa, I’m still rooting for Vince. There were lots of suspects as to who the killer could be and plenty of red herrings to keep one guessing. I thought I had figured out whodunnit, but I was wrong, which I always enjoy in a cozy mystery. Some of the suspects were vile people so it goes to show that Bruns can write a variety of characters very well. Another great addition to the Italian Chef Mysteries and I am excited to see where book three leads. If you enjoy cozy mysteries, you should definitely give this series a try!

The First to Lie
by Hank Phillippi Ryan

I kept seeing lots of four and five star reviews for The First to Lie by Hank Phillippi Ryan, so I kept putting off writing this review, rethinking what I had read and if I really should be giving it more stars. But reviews are just one person’s opinion, so take that into account before deciding if you’ll be reading this book after reading my review. Who knows, you may end up being one of the people raving about The First to Lie. I love the concept since I enjoy reading about Big Pharma getting its comeuppance. And the way the ladies went about their investigation was very intriguing and kept me wondering if they would get caught. I had no problem going back and forth between the characters, or even into the past with other characters. I actually enjoyed the flashbacks because I thought it added great character development and another interesting layer to the story. What went wrong for me with the story was all the “secrets”. If only one character had done it and it was presented in such a way to be a cool reveal at the end, I would probably be giving The First to Lie five stars. But numerous characters did the secret numerous times and it was far too unrealistic. Now I know fiction doesn’t have to be realistic, and I love reading Fantasy, Urban Fantasy, Epic Fantasy, and Sci-fi so I enjoy books with lots of imagination in them, but for a suspense novel this was way over the top.
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