Monday, February 21, 2022

A Right Royal Revenge (Highland Horse Whisperer, #2) by R.B. Marshall

A Right Royal Revenge (Highland Horse Whisperer #2)A Right Royal Revenge by R.B. Marshall
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A winning return to the high-stakes competition and culture of the horse world in the Scottish highlands.

When Isobel “Izzy” Paterson finds a potential client, Pat McDade, dead in his office before their first meeting and herself a prime murder suspect, she leaps into action to clear her name. However, as she didn’t get the chance to discuss the matter the man wanted her to investigate, she has few suspects to look at other than Pat’s wife, Francine, and the all too chummy show-jumper for Francine’s horse, Darcy.

Roommate and business partner, Trinity Allen, is busy with her very successful salsa class in town, its popularity boosted by a timely newspaper article written by the besotted local reporter, Neil Etherington. Izzy, too, has continued her friendship with Police Sergeant Dean Lovell yet finds herself still thinking about her recent beau, Craig MacDonald. He is still in Windsor temporarily replacing their ailing stable manager.

Meanwhile, Izzy is preparing the queen’s stallion, Eagle, a Highland Pony, and Lady Letham’s mare, Allegra, for competition in the upcoming Royal Highland Show. Princess Anne will be there to present the awards. But, as strange acts of vandalism, some annoying but others that could have hurt someone, are discovered, the list of suspects quickly expands.

A Right Royal Revenge is an excellent cozy mystery, and Izzy is a dedicated and intelligent sleuth. This time, Izzy’s having to work outside the police investigation as she is one of their suspects, and I liked that the author included how this puts a crimp in her budding relationship with the hunky Sergeant Lovely. The mystery is not easy to figure out, but Izzy gets right down to business, asking the right people the right questions, so the resolution makes sense.

Reading this second book in the Highland Horse Whisperer series was like putting on a much-loved pair of slippers: cozy and comfortable. I felt almost as if I knew these people personally, and I was anxious to see how things were going for them. I have missed these characters.

An extra entertaining aspect to me is that the author laces the story with the everyday activities of caring for and training horses. Wow. It is more complex than I ever imagined: both eye-opening and interesting.

As the series progresses, readers learn more about the local community of Glengowrie. I like continuing characters, in general, and many of the Glengowrie crowd are real stand-outs: some offering stability, others humor and quirkiness. It’s nice to see familiar faces.

I recommend A Right Royal Revenge to readers who enjoy cozy mysteries, horse-themed stories, appearances by royals, and tales set in Scotland.

View all my reviews

Thursday, February 17, 2022

Viking Private Investigation: Season Two (Viking P.I., #2) – Tommy Ueland

Viking Private Investigation: Season Two (Viking P.I. Book 2)Viking Private Investigation: Season Two by Tommy Ueland
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The quirky Viking P.I., Tommy Ueland, returns with more entertaining private-eye tales from Norway.

Tommy Ueland returns with more stories of private investigations in the “Land of the Midnight Sun.” As he writes his novel, Tommy keeps hearth and home together by working as a private investigator. While his bread & butter is checking on husbands and wives doing suspicious things, he has also caught a couple of exciting and different types of cases.

In Season Two, Tommy helps a man imprisoned for 50 years determine whether or not he actually committed the crime he’s been incarcerated for almost his entire life. In another, he helps stop some pretty blatant pilfering in a charity shop. During the course of his work, Tommy may have also met the woman of his dreams.

Viking Private Investigation: Season Two was delightful and easy to read. The author has a comfortable, self-deprecating writing style that is funny and very engaging. I particularly liked how matter-of-fact and straight-to-the-point his investigations were. I’ve already gotten the next book in the series; I enjoyed this one so much.

View all my reviews

Tuesday, February 15, 2022

Viking Private Investigation: Season One (Viking P.I., #1) by Tommy Ueland

Viking Private Investigation: Season One (Viking P.I. Book 1)Viking Private Investigation: Season One by Tommy Ueland
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A fun collection of stories about a quirky Norwegian private eye!

After our writer-hero makes an unforgettable mistake in his marital relationship, he finds himself out on his ear and divorced. Trying to keep body and soul together while he writes his first novel, he turns to working as a private eye.

Viking Private Investigation: Season One is a collection of short stories recounting cases from the Viking P.I.’s past, including some ghost-chasing, saving a dentist being trolled on social media, and even helping one of the most famous porn stars in Norway.

I am so glad I picked this book up! You know, every now and then, you just randomly come across a book that turns out to be a little gem? Viking Private Investigation: Season One was one of those gems for me. The book was easy-to-read, and the author has a comfortable, self-deprecating writing style that is funny and engaging, and I liked how matter-of-fact and straight-to-the-point his investigations were. Despite the lack of complexity, the stories were still very entertaining. I’ve already gotten the next book in the series; I enjoyed this one so much.

I recommend VIKING PRIVATE INVESTIGATION: SEASON ONE in the Viking P.I. series by Tommy Ueland to mystery readers that don’t want unnecessary complexity in their stories and don’t want to take anything too seriously.

View all my reviews

A Little Dog’s Adventures in a Big Dog’s World: Following Winnie on the Path of K9 Scent Work and Life by Suzanne Catalano

A Little Dog's Adventures in a Big Dog's World: Following Winnie on the Path of K9 Scent Work and LifeA Little Dog's Adventures in a Big Dog's World: Following Winnie on the Path of K9 Scent Work and Life by Suzanne Catalano
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This love letter from a dog owner to her beloved pets, both past and present, is a wonderful recounting of partnership and healing!

A Little Dog’s Adventures in a Big Dog's World is author Suzanne Catalano’s personal experience narrative about her introduction and participation, with her dog Winnie, in the canine sport of scent work. Not a how-to manual, but more a loving tribute to an activity in which she and her puggle (Beagle-Pug mix) have had a successful and satisfying partnership. I was not familiar with this sport, but I have dogs, and I found Catalano’s stories warm, engaging, exciting at times, and always inspirational. Many of her thoughts mirrored precisely how I felt about my relationships with my dogs. Often, I felt like she was reading my mind!

The stories she shared about the actual nose work training and trials were as engaging as they were fascinating. The descriptions of how odor works and travels were new to me and eye-opening. Who knew?!

I liked reading about the AKC events, which I’ve seen promoted in their newsletters but didn’t know what they were. But I was even more surprised to learn about how the sport originated with the National Association of Canine Scent Work.

I recommend A Little Dog’s Adventures in a Big Dog’s World to readers who love dogs, have dogs, or just like dogs. Anyone that has dogs will recognize many of the dog behaviors Catalano talks of as those of their own pups, and smile. But the pure joy of the author’s relationship with her dog, Winnie, clearly comes through in every aspect of this book and is, perhaps, the best part of the reading. Winnie and Suzanne are a delightful pair.

By the way, Peaches and Stoli, the resident basset hounds and security team here in Texas, say “Tell your dog ‘Hi!’”

I voluntarily reviewed this after receiving an Advanced Review Copy from Reedsy Discovery.

View all my reviews

Wednesday, February 09, 2022

Tales from the Café (Before the Coffee Gets Cold, #2) by Toshikazu Kawaguchi

Tales from the CafeTales from the Cafe by Toshikazu Kawaguchi
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

If you enjoyed Before the Coffee Gets Cold, Tales from the Café is right up your alley.

In this second volume of the series, Before the Coffee Gets Cold, readers are presented with the stories of four new time travelers seeking the chance to make something in their lives right. While most are seeking a second chance at something they failed to do in the past, one travels to the future to help someone in their present move on and find happiness.

The stories are similar in nature to those in the first book, and characters from that one reappear along with some new faces. We learn more about the mysterious woman in the white dress who is consigned to spending her afterlife forever anchored to the café seated at a specific table in a specific chair.

The travelers’ stories, why they decided to move about in time, and the results of their travels are all touching and satisfying. However, my favorite revelations were about the women in Kazu’s family and how the task of pouring the coffee to send a traveler on their way is transferred from woman to woman.

If you enjoyed the premise and lovely tales from Before the Coffee Gets Cold and just weren’t ready to say goodbye to the patrons and staff of Funiculi Funicula, Tales from the Café is right up your alley.

View all my reviews

Tuesday, February 08, 2022

Calliope: The Gods We Dreamt of as Children by Scott Mari

The Gods We Dreamt of as ChildrenThe Gods We Dreamt of as Children by Scott Mari
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Calliope's latest story fairly bristles with dire threats from all sorts of newly discovered alien beings!

The Gods We Dreamt of as Children is another exciting entry in Scott Mari's Calliope series, picking up with Calliope's rescue of her mother and arch-nemesis, Mattias. Calliope continues to innovate and build. Friends and enemies, old and new, make their appearance. But we're back in space, and the discovery of even MORE alien races prepares the groundwork for future story development.

Mari does a stellar job developing the alien cultures of the Barovaults and the Larvaltics. They are suitably terrifying, and I enjoyed the plotlines told from their points of view. But the author doesn't stop there. Mari continues to introduce other intriguing and imaginative alien cultures to the mix. Readers will learn, right along with the characters themselves, a lot more about the aliens who practically destroyed the Earth of Calliope's past.

I'm suspicious of Calliope's mother's motives and actions. But I liked her storyline and inclusion in this series, and I want to know more about her time as a captive of the aliens. I'm super curious about how her teaming up with the experienced pilot, Shepherd, will work out because I liked that curmudgeonly character, too. I'm looking forward to more of these characters and their work assignment in intelligence.

Eylana and her family are some of my famous characters in the series. Eylana is fun, sassy, and sexy, and I liked that she has a prominent role in this series. Her sisters are up to their old tricks and, even though they had little "screen time," I found even the mention of them and what they are up to entertaining.

I did have an issue with dialogue in this book; it was confusing and hard to follow at times. I found this especially true when Calliope is talking with her mother. I often felt that their responses didn't make sense and didn't quite follow the conversational thread. I had to re-read passages several times to understand what they were saying, and I often wasn't successful. I had to forget it and move on.

The requisite climactic space battle doesn't occur until the very end of the book. Honestly, I felt like I really had to work for the pay-off this time. Battle scenes can often be confusing, and Mari is usually great at laying things out for the reader, but this time, the action seemed to stay chaotic. There's just a lot going on, and it covers a lot of territory. I'll admit I got lost with who was doing what where and whether or not things were working out or not. Still, the action is heart-pounding and exciting as it unfolds.

The Gods We Dreamt of as Children is the fourth book in Scott Mari's Calliope series. There is an emphasis on the development of space stations, expansion of the Space Force, and new ships and weaponry as the humans prepare for the aliens to bring the battle to them. There is little time spent on the characters' backstories, so the reader will need to be familiar with the characters beforehand. The author absolutely reinvigorates Calliope's story with all sorts of new and dire threats. This novel is a meaty addition to the series and not a standalone book, and I recommend it to readers who have enjoyed books 1 – 3 already.

I voluntarily reviewed this after receiving an Advanced Review Copy from Reedsy Discovery.

See my original review on Reedsy Discovery!

Monday, February 07, 2022

The Bothy (Highlands & Islands Detective, #2) by G.R. Jordan

The Bothy (Highlands & Islands Detective Book 2)The Bothy by G.R. Jordan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Bothy quickly became one of those books I didn’t want to put down.

Since successfully closing their first case together, DI Seoras Macleod and DC Hope McGrath have become solid partners on the job and good friends off. Hope helped him pull out of the tailspin that began with his wife’s sudden suicide some 20 years before. Macleod has even started dating Jane Hilsop, a woman he’s beginning to form a close connection with. But now their team has been assigned to an ugly double homicide in the north on Black Isle, and he must leave just as their relationship is heading to the next level.

These latest murders turn out to be particularly heinous: a man and a woman, beheaded and left in a remote bothy* on the beach which has been doused in petrol and set ablaze. On-the-scene police personnel have yet to ID the two bodies when a well-known DJ at the local radio station is reported missing. As the investigation unfolds, they soon discover any number of suspects had a bone to pick with the dead man, and when they learn the identity of the young woman found with him, things really take a bizarre turn.

The Bothy quickly became one of those books I didn’t want to put down. It was exciting and easy-to-read; the author’s writing style placed me in the story right along with the two detectives and their investigation.

Macleod is an interesting character: almost as if he was frozen in time when his wife took her own life – both emotionally and historically. He still deeply loves his dead wife and has only recently begun to release himself from the tragic relationship. At the same time, the world, social norms, and mores have long moved on without him, and although he is aware of the changes around him, he remains an anachronism in his way of thinking about men and women and modern relationships. DC McGrath is helping him catch up with the times, but his very attitude will help them with this case.

The plotline with the Carlton family and their religious belief in a total patriarchy was fascinating. I liked how Hope and Macleod balanced out each other’s reactions to the whole bizarre family situation.

Several great suspects took prominence at different stages of the case, and I’ll have to say my money was definitely on one of the red herrings through most of the book. I enjoyed finding out that it was someone else entirely.

I did have a couple of story continuity issues, which is why I rated this book four stars and not five. In one instance, the detectives race off from a suspect’s home because another suspect’s car has been found and that person has gone missing. They get ambushed inside a dark bothy, and a scuffle ensues, yet both detectives feel their attacker is the man whose home they had come from in the first place. Another problem arose when Hope followed a suspect into a hidden passageway with a trapdoor located in a closet under a stairway. The suspect just went through the trapdoor but was somehow able to replace a vacuum cleaner back on top of the opening?

I enjoyed the first book in the series, Water’s Edge, but I liked this one even more! I’m so glad there are already more books in the series available. I recommend THE BOTHY, book two in the Highlands & Islands Detective series, to mystery readers who enjoy stories of good detective work set in remote, wild locations such as the Scottish Highlands can offer.

• Bothy – a simple, basic structure that can be used as a shelter, usually left unlocked and available for anyone to use without charge.

View all my reviews