Review: The Dinner Lady Detectives by Hannah Hendy

 

Title: The Dinner Lady Detectives

Author: Hannah Hendy

Published: 18th November 2021, Canelo

Status: Read January 2022 courtesy Canelo/Netgalley

+++++++

My Thoughts:

 

When the body of Caroline Hughes is discovered in the walk-in freezer of the Summerview secondary school kitchen, her colleagues are stunned. The police are quick to reassure the dinner ladies that their elderly kitchen manager’s death was simply a tragic accident, but when long time employees Clementine Butcher and Margery Baker, espy the coolroom’s bloodied innards, they disagree. With little more than a hunch and a stray earring to go on, Clementine and Margery begin their own investigation, determined that whoever is responsible will get their just desserts.

Having enjoyed a number of cozy mysteries featuring elderly amateur sleuths recently I had quite high expectations for The Dinner Lady Detectives, but unfortunately I felt its potential was unrealised.

I thought the basic premise for the story was appealing, and I enjoyed several scenes, but I found the way in which the mystery played out was disappointing. It almost seemed as if several of the mystery plot elements were an afterthought, and the clues felt disjointed. The plot was also hampered by slow pacing and there was a lack of suspense generally expected in a mystery.

I did like Clementine and Margery, a couple of some thirty years living quietly in the tiny village of Dewstow, South Wales, but I sometimes had difficulty distinguishing between them. The rest of the cast was problematic in that few held much appeal, including the victim who had a fondness for mean-spirited pranks.

While I wouldn’t consider The Dinner Lady Detectives to be a terrible read, I’m afraid I did find it lackluster at best.

+++++++

Available from Canelo

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Review: Love and Other Puzzles by Kimberley Allsopp

 

Title: Love and Other Puzzles

Author: Kimberley Allsopp

Published: 2nd February 2022, HarperCollins Australia

Status: Read January 2022 courtesy HarperCollins Au/Netgalley

+++++++

My Thoughts:

 

In the delightful romcom, Love and Other Puzzles from debut Australian novelist Kimberley Allsopp, Rory Byrnes impulsively turns to the New York Times crossword puzzle for inspiration to change her life.

‘7A A bovine Baskin treat = icecream’

With her career stalled and her relationship failing, Rory, who has always relied on order and routine, decides that three times a day for the next week she’ll let the answers to The New York Times crossword puzzle guide her decisions.

‘34A What do you do before you speak in class = raise your hand’

To revitalise her journalistic career at ‘The Connect’ Rory, raises her hand, and volunteers to arrange an interview with elusive newsreader, Elle Chambers, who is rumoured to be launching a bid for a political seat. The only problem is Rory has no idea how to deliver on it.

‘12D A 2010 Steve Martin novel = An Object of Beauty’

The first step Rory takes to reconnect with her live in boyfriend, artist Lucas, is to agree to attend a gallery opening, despite generally avoiding such events, where she ends up spending most of her time talking with the bartender, Harry, and goes home alone.

As the week progresses, the crossword inspires a little more chaos than Rory expects but she’s determined to follow through.

Allsopp’s protagonist is easy to like. Rory is sweet and warm-hearted, just a little lost amid her quarter-life crisis. Her need for order is mostly a form of self defence, the result of a somewhat chaotic upbringing with her free spirited single mother, which her grandparents did their best to ameliorate.

I was also a fan of Rory’s loyal and funny best friend, Kitt, and charmed by several of the other characters, including Rory’s mentor Dave, and bus driver, Ted. Rory’s boyfriend, on the other hand, is a jerk, but this is a romcom so there is a worthy man waiting in the wings.

The writing is witty and sharp. I loved the many pop culture references, most of which relate to Hollywood romcoms.

Love and Other Puzzles is a captivating uplifting read, sure to satisfy any hopeless romantic.

++++++

Available from HarperCollins Australia

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2022 Nonfiction Reader Challenge Inspiration #Language #MedicalMemoir

I’m delighted to welcome you to the 2022 Nonfiction Reader Challenge.

The challenge asks participants to read up to 12 books over the year, each from a different category.

This years categories are: 1. Social History; 2. Popular Science; 3. Language; 4. Medical Memoir; 5. Climate/Weather; 6. Celebrity; 7. Reference; 8. Geography; 9. Linked to a podcast; 10. Wild Animals; 11. Economics; 12. Published in 2022

Click here to learn more about the 2022 Nonfiction Reader Challenge, sign up and join in the fun.

For the next three weeks I will post some titles for each category that might inspire your own selections.Use your best judgement as to whether a book fits a particular category or not, this is supposed to be a challenge, not a chore, and you only really need suit yourself.

Please feel free to comment with your own recommendations or suggestions . You can find more inspiration via other participating bloggers, and lists such as Goodreads Listopia, Library Booklists.


Click the covers to learn more at Goodreads


LANGUAGE

A deliberately vague category

 
 

 


MEDICAL MEMOIR

A memoir written by a health professional


Just a reminder, it is helpful when you post your review if you indicate which category it fulfils for when I put together the monthly Spotlight.

And don’t forget to share your review posts in the Linky

I’ve also put together these two PDF printable files for you.
Click an image to open the file in a new window, you can then save the PDF file to your device.

 

2022 Nonfiction Reader Challenge Inspiration #SocialHistory #PopularScience

I’m delighted to welcome you to the 2022 Nonfiction Reader Challenge.

The challenge asks participants to read up to 12 books over the year, each from a different category.

This years categories are: 1. Social History; 2. Popular Science; 3. Language; 4. Medical Memoir; 5. Climate/Weather; 6. Celebrity; 7. Reference; 8. Geography; 9. Linked to a podcast; 10. Wild Animals; 11. Economics; 12. Published in 2022

Click here to learn more about the 2022 Nonfiction Reader Challenge, sign up and join in the fun.

For the next three weeks I will post some titles for each category that might inspire your own selections. Use your best judgement as to whether a book fits a particular category or not, this is supposed to be a challenge, not a chore, and you only really need suit yourself.

Please feel free to comment with your own recommendations or suggestions . You can find more inspiration via other participating bloggers, and lists such as Goodreads Listopia, Library Booklists.


Click the covers to learn more at Goodreads

SOCIAL HISTORY

Social history focuses on how and why social groups and relationships are formed, develop, interact and function, with an emphasis on lived experience.




 


POPULAR SCIENCE

Popular science explores or explains scientific concepts and topics in a manner appropriate for, and appealing to, a layman audience, often with an emphasis on personal relevance.




 

 

Just a reminder, it is helpful when you post your review if you indicate which category it fulfils for when I put together the Monthly Spotlight.

And don’t forget to share your latest read/review in the Linky

 

I’ve also put together these two PDF printable files for you.
Click an image to open the file in a new window, you can then save the PDF file to your device.

 

Review: Would I Lie To You? by Aliya Azi-Afzal

 

Title: Would I Lie To You?

Author: Aliya Ali-Afzal

Published: 6th January 2021, Head of Zeus

Status: Read January 2021 courtesy HarperCollins UK/Netgalley

+++++++

My Thoughts:

 

“At first, I thought it must be a mistake, that I was reading the statements incorrectly. I ran my nail across the line, following the string of numbers with my fingertip. However many times I checked it though, the figure remained the same.”

Would I Lie To You? is a sharply observed, entertaining and thoughtful novel from Aliya Ali-Afzal.

When Faiza’s husband, Tom, is unexpectedly retrenched from his high paying banking job, neither believe he will be unemployed for long. Thankfully Tom’s redundancy payment will provide them with a six week buffer and if needed, Tom suggests, they can always draw from their ’emergency’ fund. The mention of their nest egg makes Faiza uncomfortable, she’s dipped into the account a time or two over the years. Raising a family in London is expensive, and fitting in is important, especially when, as a brown skinned, Pakistani Muslim, Faiza stands out among the other mothers at the gate of her children’s private school. Faiza is aghast when she checks the bank balance and realises that there is nothing left of their savings, she can’t possibly admit to her fiscally responsible husband that she has unintentionally frittered away £75,000, and so she lies.  Now Faiza has six weeks to put things right, but as her desperation grows so do the lies she has to tell, threatening to destroy everything she is trying to protect.

Some creative accounting and questionable decisions allows Faiza to juggle each immediate crisis, but repeatedly makes her overall predicament worse. It’s inevitable her lies will eventually be found out, and the anticipation of the consequences, not just for Faiza but also others, creates a genuine sense of tension in Would I Lie To You?. There are several themes and subplots that add to the drama too, including prejudice, an alleged theft, depression, an acute illness, and workplace sexual harassment. It’s a lot really, verging on too much at times, but I think readers will find elements to relate to, and there are lighter moments that provide needed warmth and  humour.

Despite Faiza’s poor decision making, her desire to assure her family’s well being is always what’s most important to her and I empathised with her concerns about her husband, her children, and her ageing parents. As the story progresses Ali-Azful reveals how Faiza’s sensitivity to her lower class background and her parent’s disagreements about finances feeds into her uncomfortable relationship with status and money, while her insecurities about acceptance given her racial and cultural background, are often reinforced by micro-aggressions among her, mostly white, social group. Though I can’t directly relate to Faiza’s issues on these matters (given I’m white and broke, with no status to speak of), I could understand how they influenced her decisions, which made Faiza a more sympathetic character who I really grew to like.

++++++

Available from HarperCollins UK

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Review: A Marvellous Light by Freya Marske

Title: A Marvellous Light {The Binding #1}

Author: Freya Marske

Published: 26th October 2021, Tor UK

Status: Read January 2022 courtesy Pan Macmillan Australia 

+++++++

My Thoughts:

Blending fantasy, romance and mystery A Marvellous Light is a delightfully entertaining novel, the first in a new series, from Freya Marske.

As Mr. Edwin Courcey conjures a snowflake from glowing string above his office desk, it’s clear to Sir Robert (Robin) Blythe that his assignation to His Majesty’s Civil Service as Assistant in the Office of Special Domestic Affairs and Complaints has been a mistake, even more so when he is cursed by a group of faceless men in search of a document his missing office predecessor, Reggie Gatling, hid. It’s a rather harrowing introduction to a world of magic concealed from most of ordinary society, an unbusheling Robin would prefer to forget, but in order to have the painful curse devouring him lifted, Reggie, or the secreted contract, must be found.

When Edwin and Robin are unable to locate Reggie quickly, Edwin, who has a talent for understanding magic but is a weak practitioner, attempts to devise a way to lift the curse himself. Meanwhile the pair continue to seek more information about the magical artefacts demanded by the shadowy thugs, despite being assaulted by vicious swans, and a murderous maze.

Set in Edwardian England, Marske captures the period credibly, from the behaviour and attitudes of the characters to her descriptions of London and country manor estates. The magic system sits well within the world Marske has created, and I thought the basics were adequately explained. I really liked some of the more unique elements, such as using the movements of a Cat’s Cradle to cast spells, and the sentient nature of the magic that imbues family estates.

A Marvellous Light unfolds from the alternating perspectives of Edwin and Robin. Edwin presents as aloof, cautious and fastidious, while Robin is easy-going, and charming. Both men are from dysfunctional aristocratic family’s, though only Edwin is part of the magical community.

I really liked the dynamic between Edwin and Robin. While neither is particularly impressed with one another initially, they slowly become friends. Given the illegal status of homosexuality during the period, both men are wary of expressing their growing sexual attraction though. I thought Marske built the romantic tension between Edwin and Robin very well, and the mix of tenderness and heat in their relationship was appealing, though I wasn’t expecting the sex to be quite so explicit.

A Marvellous Light isn’t perfect but I fell into the story so easily, it’s charming, witty and fun and I’m already looking forward to the next.

+++++++

Available from Pan Macmillan Australia

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Review: The Maid by Nita Prose

 

Title: The Maid

Author: Nita Prose

Published: 20th January 2022, HarperCollins Australia 

Status: Read January 2022 courtesy HarperCollins/Netgalley 

+++++++

My Thoughts:

 

“Today at work, I found a guest very dead in his bed. Mr. Black. The Mr. Black. Other than that, my work day was as normal as ever.”

 

The Maid is a quirky dark comedy cozy murder mystery from Canadian book editor turned debut author, Nita Prose.

Molly Gray is a maid at the Regency Grand Hotel, a five-star boutique hotel. Completing every task with the good humour, efficiency and attention to detail her late grandmother encouraged in her, she loves everything about her job from donning the crisply laundered uniform to fluffing pillows. Discovering a VIP hotel guest very dead in his bed not only disrupts Molly’s daily routine but very quickly her whole life when the police name her as a suspect.

Told from her point of view, twenty-five year old Molly is an endearing character, sweet and artless but also socially awkward. Raised by her grandmother, who recently passed away, Molly clings to her routines, struggling to adapt to a life without her. Her work is all she has, and though she is generally content to be invisible as she carries out her duties, Molly, who has trouble interpreting nuance, is susceptible to people willing to take advantage of her.

It seems absurd that anyone would consider Molly capable of murder, it appears obvious that she’s unwittingly been manipulated into a vulnerable position by a desperate wife and a roguish barman. In fact there doesn’t seem to be much to the mystery of Charles Black’s death at first, so disclosures later in the story came as a brilliant surprise. There is unexpected depth to The Maid which is easily overlooked, reflecting the complexity of Molly’s own personality. It’s with her Gran’s advice echoing in her head, and the help of a few true friends at the Regency Grand, that Molly begins to blossom, and find a way out of her predicament.

Prose seems to have been partially influenced by movies such as Clue, and Knives Out, the former obvious given the character’s names associations with colour, and the cozy eccentricity of the latter. Already optioned for development The Maid will translate well to the screen.

Clever, heartwarming and charming, The Maid is an absolute delight to read.

++++++

Available from HarperCollins Australia

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2021 Nonfiction Reader Challenge: End of Year Spotlight 

I want to thank all of you who participated in the 2021 Nonfiction Reader Challenge,

There were 52 readers who signed up to the challenge, and while the continued pandemic scuppered some reader’s plans, most of you hung in there!

Over 150 links have been shared via the Linky during the year (and I’m sure there were more books actually read/reviewed that people forgot to add).

Congratulations to those of you who met your goal as a Nipper, a Nibbler or a Know-It-All. You can celebrate your achievement with the Completed Challenge badge.

And even if you didn’t quite make it, congratulations for making the attempt!

The Linky for adding your wrap up post will remain open for another week or so, at which time the challenge post will be archived (under Challenges >Archived Challenges 2021).

I hope you will decide to join me for another year and sign up for the

2022 Nonfiction Reader Challenge.


***
A look back

 

About the challenge 

2021 Nonfiction Reader Challenge Inspiration Part #1

2021 Nonfiction Reader Challenge Inspiration Part #2

2021 Nonfiction Reader Challenge Inspiration Part #3

2021 Nonfiction Reader Challenge Inspiration Part #4

2021 Nonfiction Reader Challenge Monthly Spotlight #1

2021 Nonfiction Reader Challenge Monthly Spotlight #2

2021 Nonfiction Reader Challenge Monthly Spotlight #3

2021 Nonfiction Reader Challenge Monthly Spotlight #4

2021 Nonfiction Reader Challenge Monthly Spotlight #5

2021 Nonfiction Reader Challenge Monthly Spotlight #6

2021 Nonfiction Reader Challenge Monthly Spotlight #7

2021 Nonfiction Reader Challenge Monthly Spotlight #8

2021 Nonfiction Reader Challenge Monthly Spotlight #9

2021 Nonfiction Reader Challenge Monthly Spotlight #10

2021 Nonfiction Reader Challenge Monthly Spotlight #11

Review: A Little Bird by Wendy James

 

Title: A Little Bird

Author: Wendy James

Published: 30th November 2021, Lake Union Publishing

Status: Read January 2022 courtesy Lake Union Publishing/Netgalley

++++++

My Thoughts:

A Little Bird is an intriguing, character-driven mystery from Australian author Wendy James.

When the end of her relationship coincides with learning her father is ill, journalist Jo Sharpe reluctantly returns to her home town of Arthurville in western New South Wales to take up a position at the town’s local newspaper. Her father, a grumpy alcoholic, bitter about his wife’s desertion over twenty years ago, hasn’t changed much but the town, in the grip of drought, is in obvious decline.

One of Jo’s first assignments for the Arthurville Chronicle, which is really not more than a community newsletter, takes her to Pembroke, her wealthy grandmothers estate on the outskirts of town. The Beaufort’s are little more than strangers to Jo, given they disowned her mother, Miranda aka Merry when she married Jo’s working class father, and failed to reach out even after Merry vanished, taking Jo’s baby sister Amy with her, in 1995.

Confronted with her past, Jo is motivated to re-examine her mother’s disappearance, and makes a shocking discovery that changes everything.

Shifting between the past and present, as Merry’s history unfolds, exposing her frame of mind prior to her disappearance, Jo’s narrative, set in 2018, is related in the first person.

Jo is a well-developed, likeable character. She presents as resilient, smart and determined, though her vulnerabilities, stemming from her mother’s abandonment, her father’s neglect, and the collapse of her long term romantic relationship, are evident.

The small community of Arthurville is realistically portrayed, a conservative rural town affected by drought and the subsequent economic downturn. Of its residents I was fond of local vicar Shep, with whom Jo rekindles a relationship, as well as the teens he is mentoring.

Jo’s investigation begins as she reconnects with the people from her past, most notably her mother’s friend, Kirsty, who provides Jo with some information that prompts her to look at Merry’s disappearance differently. While I felt the pacing was a little slow through the first half of the novel, there is a gradual increase of tension during the second half. I really liked the way the mystery played out, I thought James’ plotting was clever, and I was anxious to understand Merry and Amy’s fate.

A slow-burning, but gripping domestic thriller, I enjoyed A Little Bird.

++++++++

Available from your preferred retailer via

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Review: The Sorority Murder by Allison Brennan

 

Title: The Sorority Murder

Author: Allison Brennan

Published: 28th December 2021, MIRA

Status: Read December 2021 courtesy Harlequin/Netgalley

+++++++

My Thoughts:

The Sorority Murder is a gripping novel of loyalty, betrayal, and murder from Allison Brennan.

For his college Capstone Project, Forensics student, Lucas Vega has launched a podcast in the hopes of solving the cold case murder of popular nursing student, Candace Swain. Three years ago Candace left the Sigma Rho Spring Fling after an argument with a few of her sorority sisters, and disappeared, her body was discovered a week later in a nearby lake. The podcast isn’t gaining the traction Lucas hoped, even with some bombshell revelations, until his advisor connects him with former US Marshall, Regan Merritt. As listeners finally begin to respond to his pleas for information, Lucas and Regan attempt to make sense of the secrets they uncover, but someone is determined that the truth remain buried, even if it means more die.

Though the story is a little slow to get moving, I soon found myself engrossed in The Sorority Murder. The mystery surrounding the disappearance and murder of Candace  is intriguing. Though the police believe an alcoholic, homeless vet known to trespass on the University grounds is likely responsible, as additional details surface, it becomes clear that the circumstances of the crime don’t support the theory.

Short diary entries by Candace placed through the narrative hint at a dark secret she carried, which Lucas and Regan slowly piece together, bringing them closer to exposing the killer. I had an inkling of the ‘who’ early on, that was proved correct, though I didn’t fully grasp the ‘why’ until Brennan chose to reveal it. There’s not a lot of suspense in the novel until Lucas begins receiving threats, and then the tension rises sharply when another young woman dies.

Lucas is an appealing character, while his motive for the Sorority Murder podcast isn’t quite as it seems, his intentions are good, he’s just a bit naive to the realities of what he is trying to achieve. Former US Marshal Regan Merritt tends to overshadow Lucas once she is introduced. She’s a more well rounded and capable character, and I found her, and her backstory, to be interesting. There is a suggestion that The Sorority Murder will be the first in ongoing series to feature Regan, which I think could work well.

Entertaining and absorbing, I enjoyed The Sorority Murder.

+++++++

Available from Harlequin

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