Karen S. (CacaoBear) - Reviews

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Antiques Bizarre (Trasn 'n' Treasures, Bk 4)
Antiques Bizarre (Trasn 'n' Treasures, Bk 4)
Author: Barbara Allan
Book Type: Hardcover
  • Currently 4.2/5 Stars.
 14
Review Date: 1/29/2011


Love, love, LOVE this series! The characters are a little wacky, with a lot less eye-rolling TSTL antics than many cozies. And Brandy actually *GASP* ... THINKS ... about the solution, rather than tripping over it through gossip .... Don't miss these books!


Are You a Miserable Old Bastard?
Are You a Miserable Old Bastard?
Author: Andrew John, Stephen Blake
Book Type: Hardcover
  • Currently 4/5 Stars.
 2
Review Date: 11/25/2009


Let your inner curmudgeon have free reign. This books is a wonderful collection of quotes from famous curmudgeons across all walks of life, from Groucho Marx and W.C. Fields to Shakespeare.

Enjoy their views on such diverse subjects as technology, politics, entertainment, culture, and more. Or not. As a curmudgeon, it's up to you ....


The Body in the Gazebo (Faith Fairchild, Bk 19)
The Body in the Gazebo (Faith Fairchild, Bk 19)
Author: Katherine Hall Page
Book Type: Hardcover
  • Currently 4/5 Stars.
 10
Review Date: 9/7/2011


While I enjoy the Faith Fairchild mysteries for the most part, this was not one of the better stories. I found there were too many things going on in this book. In the beginning, Ms. Page tended to "spoon-feed" us back history a little too much, and by the end, she was glossing over situations that really could have been expanded upon. There seemed to be a lack of focus in this story, and found myself wondering if I was supposed to be solving a mystery, or if I was just along for the ride ...

I really am starting to have a Love/Hate relationship with this series.

I LOVE the character development that has taken place (and continues to take place) throughout the entire series. Not just the main characters, but the supporting cast as well. Ms. Page's characters are well-drawn, and they experience personal growth on a normal (beleivable) scale.

I HATE that the author can't seem to help herself when it comes to including social and political commentary in her stories. In MY opinion, her setting does not lend itself easily to this subject matter. Although she does not seem to be "pushing" a particular point of view in this book, she relies rather heavily on references to "today's situation" ... which is all well and good if one is reading the book around when it was written, and is socially aware enough to make the connection. However, two years from now (if a reader were to pick up this extensive series) the references could be meaningless.


The Body in the Ivy (Faith Fairchild, Bk 16)
The Body in the Ivy (Faith Fairchild, Bk 16)
Author: Katherine Hall Page
Book Type: Hardcover
  • Currently 3.8/5 Stars.
 26
Review Date: 3/9/2008


This installment in the Faith Fairchild Mystery series marks a return to top form. The characters are fully developed, and the story is intricately woven. Faith is level-headed and intelligent, dealing with a difficult situation in a believable manner.


The Body in the Snowdrift (Faith Fairchild, Bk 15)
The Body in the Snowdrift (Faith Fairchild, Bk 15)
Author: Katherine Hall Page
Book Type: Hardcover
  • Currently 3.5/5 Stars.
 12
Review Date: 7/1/2007
Helpful Score: 1


I love Faith Fairchild, and I have not missed any of her books so far. But I must admit that this was one of my least favorite books in the series. Maybe I was imagining it, but it seemed like there were more than a few political and environmental "digs" sprinkled throughout the story line. ("Global warming is killing the ski industry.", "I hate to think what the state of the world will be [when my kids are old enough to enlist].") I don't read cozy mysteries to be preached at, even if they ARE about a preacher's wife. I'll go on to read the next one, but if Katherine Hall Page continues in this vein, she may just lose this reader ... for good!


Brain Droppings
Brain Droppings
Author: George Carlin
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.9/5 Stars.
 109
Review Date: 10/31/2009
Helpful Score: 1


George Carlin was a funny guy, and this is a funny book. If you want to get reacquainted with "A Place for My Stuff" and "Baseball vs. Football" ... this is the book for you.

Be warned, though, that he is EXTREMELY PROFANE! ... A little profanity can add a humorous edge to comedy, but this book went too far in that vein (IMHO) ... I wish some comedians would realize that they can leave out the profanity and still be funny ...


Carrot Cake Murder (Hannah Swensen, Bk 10)
Carrot Cake Murder (Hannah Swensen, Bk 10)
Author: Joanne Fluke
Book Type: Hardcover
  • Currently 4/5 Stars.
 80
Review Date: 8/12/2009
Helpful Score: 4


UGH! I really don't know WHY I continue to torture myself by reading this series! It's a good thing I'm getting them via PBS, and NOT paying for them!

Where to begin ...

In the early Hannah Swensen mysteries, the characters were interesting, even engaging. By about book #7, they became plastic and flat. Now they are getting beyond annoying! Hannah is a whiny, waffling waste of good ink and paper.

I'll admit to not figuring out who the killer was. But I think that was because the author didn't know herself until she wrote the final scene. The "evidence" was just that "manufactured" ...

And ... there wasn't much to the mystery part of the story .. so it was filled with a lot of pointless, meaningless stuffing. I kept wondering what this scene or that scene added to the story ... a whole lot of nothing!

Save yourself the time and money (or PBS credit) .. don't bother!!


The Case of the 2nd Seance (John Darnell, Bk 3)
The Case of the 2nd Seance (John Darnell, Bk 3)
Author: Sam McCarver
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 4.1/5 Stars.
 9
Review Date: 2/19/2008
Helpful Score: 1


I really didn't expect to enjoy the John Darnell mysteries .. but even after this third one, I have to admit that I've found nothing not to like. John is down-to-earth and level-headed. His "cases" involve debunking paranormal occurences, and the stories are thoughtfully constructed - they have a paranormal aspect, but don't take the reader outside of their normal comfort zone.

In this book, the young daughter of the (new) British PM disappears during a seance. Darnell, with the help of his good friend, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, is asked to invistigate the medium who led the seance, and to help find the missing girl, while keeping the truth away from the superstitious public.

The period setting, early 20th-Century London, is skillfully portrayed. The author's use of real and fictional characters lends a certain believability to tales that might otherwise tend to the bizarre.

I actually think the John Darnell mysteries are a hidden gem. I hope there are many more.


The Case of the Missing Books (Mobile Library , Bk 1)
The Case of the Missing Books (Mobile Library , Bk 1)
Author: Ian Sansom
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 2.9/5 Stars.
 78
Review Date: 11/17/2008
Helpful Score: 11


I just LOVE mysteries about books. Usually.

Unfortunately, the characters and storyline in this book were so woefully underdeveloped that the only reason I finished it was sheer cussedness!

Four days after finishing it, I can't call to mind a single memorable scene.


The Case of The Ripper's Revenge
The Case of The Ripper's Revenge
Author: Sam McCarver
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.8/5 Stars.
 3
Review Date: 5/24/2008


I'm a fan of Sam McCarver's John Darnell, but I found this story to be a bit too contrived. The actions of the characters seemed a bit stilted, and much less than believable. A disappointment, to be sure ... but not enough to keep me away from future John Darnell stories.


The Cat Who Had 60 Whiskers (Cat Who...Bk 29)
The Cat Who Had 60 Whiskers (Cat Who...Bk 29)
Author: Lilian Jackson Braun
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.5/5 Stars.
 69
Review Date: 1/29/2008
Helpful Score: 6


The characters in Moose County are always fun and interesting, but this series is losing a bit of its charm. The mysteries are becoming less an integral part of the story, and I feel that Braun might be heading towards writing general fiction, rather than cozies.

This book seemed very disjointed. I was left wondering if the author had strung together several small snippets, in an attempt to make a deadline.


Cherry Cheesecake Murder (Hannah Swensen, Bk 8)
Cherry Cheesecake Murder (Hannah Swensen, Bk 8)
Author: Joanne Fluke
Book Type: Mass Market Paperback
  • Currently 4/5 Stars.
 258
Review Date: 8/7/2007
Helpful Score: 4


Maybe I was just in a bad mood when I read this, but it seems like Hannah's vehement refusal to share information with the police (her boyfriend) is both ridiculous and unlikely. The fact that she, her friends and family have turned murders in small-town Lake Eden into a competition to see who is more clever, the police or the baker ... is absurd.

There were soo many things in this story that I found totally implausible, that it distracted from the story, itself. A movie production comes to town to shoot some "small-town local color" and they end up casting half the town in credited roles. The producer throws money and "screen credits" around, and the masses fawn at his feet. UGH! Also, the solution was (too me, anyway) almost blatantly obvious.

Fluke's recipes, normally one of the strongest and most enjoyable parts of her writing, were, IMHO rather "pedestrian" .. and I'm sure I've seen at least one of them printed up in the grocery coupon flyer of my Sunday paper. Hardly the thing professional bakers flaunt. And the way she had to stretch the storyline to introduce the recipes in the first place seemed forced and contrived.

All in all, I'd not call this Fluke's best work ... and I despair that Hannah's actions and attitude may soon consign her to the same fate as Claudia Bishop's "Hemlock Falls Mysteries" -- recurring characters who experience no personal growth cease to advance the story line, and before long, I cease to advance the author's paycheck .... :-(


Chick with a Charm (Babes on Brooms, Bk 2)
Chick with a Charm (Babes on Brooms, Bk 2)
Author: Vicki Lewis Thompson
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.7/5 Stars.
 70
Review Date: 10/21/2011
Helpful Score: 3


I'm a big fan of Vicki Lewis Thompson, and I thoroughly enjoyed Blonde With A Wand, so I had high expectations for this book. Sad to say, I was really disappointed. :-(

Where the first book was charming, the characters engaging, and the solution believable, this book was annoying, the characters self-absorbed, and the solution ridiculous. Blech.


The Christmas Sweater
The Christmas Sweater
Author: Glenn Beck
Book Type: Hardcover
  • Currently 3.7/5 Stars.
 221
Review Date: 11/16/2008
Helpful Score: 36


This was a fantastic Christmas story. I wish I could give it more than 5 STARS!!

It grabbed me from the start, and I couldn't put it down. The style is quite readable, the characters believable, the story riveting.

When I finished, I passed it along to my Mom, who also couldn't put it down ...

For those of you who've watched Glenn Beck on CNN or listened on the radio, his humor comes through, but without any political overtones. Don't let his politics keep you from reading this fabulous story!!


Cream Puff Murder (Hannah Swensen, Bk 11)
Cream Puff Murder (Hannah Swensen, Bk 11)
Author: Joanne Fluke
Book Type: Hardcover
  • Currently 4/5 Stars.
 76
Review Date: 12/12/2009


Perhaps the dumbest in a long, pathetic line of dumb cozy mysteries.

Each Hannah Swenson book is more ridiculous than the last ....

Hannah is asked by 4 different cops to investigate a murder??? Get real!! Hannah's boyfriend (who loves her dearly and has proposed to her) admits to tomcatting with another woman, and Hannah doesn't chuck him out the nearest window? REALLY?!?!

How is it that everything Hannah touches turns immediately "perfect"?? Every recipe. Every friend's problem she resolves. Every outfit she tries on.

In this installment, Hannah goes on a diet. Anyone who's ever had any success at losing weight will throw this book across the room after listening to Hannah whine about how horrible it is, and how she can't/won't be able to do it ..

I solemnly swear that this is THE LAST Lake Eden-UTOPIA, MN book I will EVER read. They are getting THAT BAD. :-(


Cross Your Heart and Hope to Die (Blackbird Sisters, Bk 4)
Cross Your Heart and Hope to Die (Blackbird Sisters, Bk 4)
Author: Nancy Martin
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.9/5 Stars.
 111
Review Date: 6/4/2008


I love, love, love Nora Blackbird and her sisters!! Characters with some backbone, but belivably (well, except for Libby) written!

The mysteries are well crafted, and the insights into high-society are engaging.

I hope to see many more Blackbird Sisters stories!!


Dead Air (Talk Radio, Bk 1)
Dead Air (Talk Radio, Bk 1)
Author: Mary Kennedy
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.6/5 Stars.
 37
Review Date: 4/18/2010
Helpful Score: 6


Not my favorite cozy ... The heroine is "supposed" to be a psychologist who left her practice to be a radio talk show host. However, for a psychologist, this woman has absolutely NO IDEA about reading people, how to deal with people, anything ...

Every once in a while, the author tossed out a psychological term, but never in any useful context. The clincher for me was when the character's mother (an actress) hypnotized a witness, while the main character watched in awe ...

This book made so little sense, that I'm wondering how it made it past the slush pile ... Don't waste your time or PBS credit ...


Dead Men Don't Get the Munchies (Cooking Class, Bk 3)
Dead Men Don't Get the Munchies (Cooking Class, Bk 3)
Author: Miranda Bliss
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.7/5 Stars.
 89
Review Date: 5/3/2008


This was a cute addition to the Cooking Class Mystery Series. It wasn't the most intricately crafted mystery, but the characters are, as always, fun and engaging.


Dead Men Don't Lye  (Soapmaking, Bk 1)
Dead Men Don't Lye (Soapmaking, Bk 1)
Author: Tim Myers
Book Type: Mass Market Paperback
  • Currently 3.4/5 Stars.
 69
Review Date: 1/24/2010


I've read books from 3 or 4 different series by this author, and I must admit that most of them leave me gritting my teeth at his overbearing characterizations.

This one is the exception. I only rolled my eyes in exasperation a couple of times ... for the most part, the characters were level-headed and believable. Bravo to Tim Myers for finally getting it right.


A Deadly Cliche (Books by the Bay, Bk 2)
A Deadly Cliche (Books by the Bay, Bk 2)
Author: Ellery Adams
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 4.1/5 Stars.
 73
Review Date: 6/27/2011
Helpful Score: 4


I thought this second-in-series was better than the first, in that the characters are growing nicely. I like that Ellery Adams seems at least as interested (if not more so) in bringing life to her characters, as she is to solving the mystery. If there was one weak spot in this engaging tale, it was the premise of the cliches ... I think it was a great idea, but I'm not sure it was developed quite as much as it needed to be ... All in all, I'm more interested to continue reading the series to know the characters than to solve the mysteries ...


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