CB Strike Update

I love JK Rowling’s Cormoran Strike mystery series written under her pseudonym, Robert Galbraith. I actually prefer this series over Harry Potter….(there. I SAID IT. I love this series. Its fantastic)

So you can only imagine how excited I was to find the books had been turned into a tv series and that it was available on Cinemax/Amazon Prime. Guys…I full on fan-girled and then subjected my husband to three books worth of episodes. He was less than thrilled but I am one happy girl who is ready to binge watch the entire series again. (I reshared by initial reviews of The Cuckoo’s Calling, The Silkwormand Career of Evil before watching the show.)

So how does it hold up to the original books? I think the tv adaption is awesome!

The tv adaptation stays relatively true to the stories. The setting is visually spectacular; the gray/blue lighting emphasizing the darker aspects of both the crimes and Strike’s personal struggles. I felt the cast was well picked. Tom Burke played the perfect Strike and I was happy with Holliday Grainger’s representation of Robin. Even the secondary characters, such as Shanker and Matthew, were just well done. And the best part….they didn’t change the storylines too much! (that’s always a big deal in my opinion)

I wish the episodes were longer. I felt that each book could have had an additional episode devoted to the story because there were so many fantastic details that you miss if you haven’t read the books. This includes the details of both Strike and Robin’s pasts, the minutia of the investigations, and Strike’s investigative relationships.

My one actual complaint….Matthew was too nice. The Matthew of the books is an insecure, controlling jerk. I can’t stand him. I finished the last book wanting nothing more than for Robin to leave him. The Matthew of the series was a more reasonable shadow of the man in the books. Sure he was still insecure and self centered but he’s no where near as whining and controlling as he should have been portrayed. It left me annoyed that he was more likable than he should have been.

WATCH IT! READ THE BOOKS! And then let me know what you think! In the meantime…I think I’m going to watch it again. Happy Reading!

Lindsay

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Too Many Cooks

Too Many Cooks

by Rex Stout

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The guest at a gathering of the greatest chefs in the world, Nero Wolfe must practice his own trade–sleuthing–when he discovers that a murderer is in their midst.

Nero Wolfe must travel to South Carolina to provide the keynote speech at a gathering of the world’s greatest cooks. Nero Wolfe leaves the brownstone….he takes a TRAIN…and then of course has to solve a murder far from home.

The best part of every Nero Wolfe story is the relationship between the eccentric detective and his mouthy right-hand-man, Archie Goodman. Too Many Cooks is no exception, as Wolfe is struggling with the uncomfortable aspect of being outside his home while Archie is doing his best to accommodate Wolfe’s demands. Comedic banter fills the pages as Wolfe stoically deals with the irritations surrounding him. These two characters keep me coming back time after time.

I will say that Too Many Cooks offered a unique murder but one I found less than interesting thanks to the irritating cast of supporting characters. Many pages were dedicated to extensive descriptions of grand meals (which was cool) and listening to the self important ramblings of the cooks (boring…). I have to add that a surprising number of background characters were less developed than usual. There were a number of cooks and spouses (spouse of cook was pretty much their claim to fame) that I couldn’t describe if my life depended on it. They were just there, which isn’t normal for a Rex Stout story.

I must also warn people the book was written in the 1960s and is set in South Carolina, so of course there are conversations concerning racial tensions. I felt Stout handled it well, highlighting the negative actions of both races while utilizing Wolfe to present options of equality to the readers. Too Many Cooks presented an objective conversation that focused on perspective and social growth; but, the story still contains period racial slurs. I just want readers to be aware of this before picking up the book. I will say the scene where Wolfe interrogates the kitchen scene is my favorite!

Too Many Cooks was good but it definitely isn’t my favorite Nero Wolfe story. The Black Orchids still holds that title and the book I recommend to anyone interested in the series. Too Many Cooks still was the perfect read to pull me out of a month long reading slump; a solid Nero Wolfe/Archie Goodwin story never fails to make me smile.

Let me know which Nero Wolfe story is your favorite. What series do you turn to when you’re struggling with a reading slump? Let me know and happy reading!

Lindsay

Blood and Circuses

Blood and Circuses

by Kerry Greenwood

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Phryne Fisher’s life has grown boring. Perfectly… boring. Her household is ordered, her love life is pleasant, the weather is fine. And then a former lover, knocks on her door, begging assistance. He works for Farrell’s Circus and Wild Beast Show, where suddenly animals are being poisoned and ropes sabotaged. The injury of a trick rider provides Phryne the perfect cover to join the troupe, and to exercise her equestrian skills.

Abandoning her name, her title, her comfort, and even her clothes, Phryne must fall off a horse twice a day until she can stay on. She must sleep in a girls’ tent and dine on mutton stew. And she must find some allies. Mr. Christopher, the circus’ hermaphrodite, has been found with his throat cut, making it all-too-clear how high the stakes might be.

Blood and Circuses is the sixth installment of the Phryne Fisher Mystery Series, and I just want to start by saying that I really struggled with this one. I had finished the previous story, The Green Mill Murder, at the end of September (review posted last November) and I forced myself to take a break from the series. This wasn’t due to series burn out; instead, I had enjoyed The Green Mill Murder so much that I was worried the next book would run ruin that book high. Now, I know this is a negative outlook, but it was justifiable. Blood and Circuses is not my favorite episode of the TV adaptation. I was worried the book would leave me just as disappointed.

So I waited a month before picking it up. I thought it would be a perfect read since I enjoy reading about circuses in October. I read half it and put it down.

So, I am going to start with the negative points and then move on to the positive. (I promise I have positives!) My first negative, is the difference between Sampson in the TV version and the book version; the TV Sampson was infinitely better. So I was disappointed in that. The first half of the story is focused on a number of  Miss Fisher’s very unflattering traits. She only takes this case because she is bored, and makes this very clear to the friend coming to her for help. Phryne then gets a big dose of reality when she must take on the persona of an uneducated, meek woman in an intensely regulated community. She is used to walking into a room and having the undivided attention; however, at the circus no one knows who she is and no one cares. She is treated like an outsider, and her insecurity in the face of apathy is pathetic and petty. All she does is whine for 150 pages. I pushed myself to read through her physically and mentally draining days learning to stand upon a horse. The interesting mystery was drowned out by her crying herself to sleep in her dust covered bunk. Where was the fiery, intelligent woman who flew her Gypsy Moth into uncharted mountains? Why did this have to be such a hard read?

I put it down, and didn’t pick it back up until the following March. It was the best thing I could have done.

So, this is a little more personal than I tend to get into my reviews, but I think my personality can be too much for some people. I am honest, blunt, and uncompromising at times. I love every bit of myself, the good and the bad, and I like to believe that I am self-aware enough to make the changes needed to be a better person each day. But most people don’t appreciate my brand of honesty, so I spend most of my day ‘editing’ myself. This can get very, very lonely. I was especially struggling with this during March, and I finally understood Phyrne was feeling when I picked Blood and Circuses back up. I understood what it felt like to be surrounded by people who can’t see the real you. I knew what it was like to constantly question your self worth.

Did I still find Phryne’s lamentations annoying? Yep. Did I still think it unhealthy that a man’s romantic gestures are what brought her out of her self depreciating funk? Oh yeah. But I finally understood  Greenwood was trying to show readers that Phyrne isn’t perfect. That even she struggles with picking herself up out of the dirt. And I’m so grateful that I read this book at the right time in my life

So, I recommend Blood and Circuses, but only to readers who are already acquainted with the Honorable Miss Fisher. It provides a good mystery with outstanding supporting characters, and gives a great insight on how a strong woman can still struggle with positive self worth. Please read it, and let me know what you think!

Happy Reading.

Lindsay

Death in a Deck Chair

Death in a Deck Chair

by K.K. Beck

Death in a Deck Chair (Iris Cooper, #1)

Young, innocent Iris Cooper, awarded a round-the world cruise by her doting and wealthy Aunt Hermione, is on the final lap of her voyage home . Her travels have prepared her for many of the types she meets on board: participants in a Balkan political intrigue, a vampy screen star, a muck-raking writer for a tattle-tale publication; a professor given to lecturing on the mind of the criminal lunatic; a prince who wants to be a jazz pianist. But she is not prepared for a murder. The captain recruits a reluctant Iris to take shorthand notes during the investigation, and soon Iris is on the trail of a dangerous murderer.

May found me struggling with a pretty epic book hangover after rereading my favorite mystery, Every Secret Thing. I’ll go into more detail about book hangovers later in the week, but I eventually found a cure while watching A Book Olive’s video, Spring 2017 Book Haul, Part 2: Fiction. (please check out her site as she is one of my favorite booktubers) Olive talked about picking up a few historical cozy mysteries by K.K. Beck and my interest was peeked. I started the first in the series, Death in a Deck Chair, on my Kindle that very night!

I am a fan of Beck’ Iris Cooper series. Death in a Deck Chair, finds 19 year old Iris returning to America via cruise ship after a around-the-world tour with her hilarious Aunt Hermione. I found Iris to be rather relatable and extremely likable; I enjoyed her intelligence, snarky whit, and unflapable curiosity. And I adore Aunt Hermione as well. I would have jumped at the chance of traveling the world with this woman and it’s obvious Iris inherited her spunk from her aunt. And don’t even get me started on Jack Clancy (you’ll hear more about him in the next few days!)

Each character was unique, with vibrant well developed personalities and each hiding their own secrets. It was easy to picture each of them sauntering along the upper ship decks by day and sneaking around the corridors by night. What’s even better is the lack of an insta-love story for Iris. Sure there is some flirting and the swapping of steamy kisses, but Iris doesn’t lose her cool over some good looking chap. She is there to find a killer!

My only negative point is that I wanted more. You will be able to read my review of the rest of the series, Murder in a Mummy Case and Peril Under the Palms, this week and my main complaint will be that I wanted just a little more from each story. I related with the characters and Beck provides decent descriptions, but I feel these stories would have better longevity just a few extra pages worth of detailed descriptions and enhanced development. The could just be a flection of the times as the book, though set in the 1920s-1930s, was written in the early 80s. *shrugs shoulder* Readers should also know thateven though I  didn’t figure out who-dunnit before the end, there were times where I easily guessed what would happen next. So, those wanting a novel that will keep them guessing at every turn should probably steer clear of this series. 

Death in a Deck Chair is a great start to a fun cozy mystery series and the perfect read for a racing summer day. Go ahead and pick up all the books, cause you won’t be able to put them down once you join Iris in solving the mystery! 

Are you a fan of K.K. Beck? Have you read any of the Iris Cooper stories? Let me know what you think!

Lindsay

Murder on the Ballarat Train

Murder on the Ballarat Train

by Kerry Greenwood

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When the 1920s’ most glamorous lady detective, the Honourable Miss Phryne Fisher, arranges to go to Ballarat for the week, she eschews the excitement of her red Hispano-Suiza racing car for the sedate safety of the train. The last thing she expects is to have to use her trusty Beretta .32 to save lives. As the passengers sleep, they are poisoned with chloroform.

Phryne is left to piece together the clues after this restful country sojourn turns into the stuff of nightmares: a young girl who can’t remember anything, rumors of white slavery and black magic, and the body of an old woman missing her emerald rings. Then there is the rowing team and the choristers, all deliciously engaging young men. At first they seem like a pleasant diversion….

I think it is safe to say that I am officially hooked on the Phryne Fisher Mystery Series! Murder on the Ballarat Train is the third novel in this mystery series (check out the reviews for Cocaine Blues and Flying too High) and the scene opens with Phryne and Dot on a train bound for the town of Ballarat. Phryne awakens to the overwhelming stench of chloroform filling the first class car and barely manages to flush the fumes before being overcome with by its effects. The spunky young detective is too insulted at the attack to let the culprit go unpunished and soon she is up to her neck investing the murder of a cruel woman, the identity of a lost little girl, and the truth behind a certain sex trade operation.

Honestly folks, Greenwood’s writing improves with each novel. I will admit that Murder on the Ballarat Train does start slow, but the pace picks up after the first few chapters. The plot flows together seamlessly, and we get a better glimpse of Phyrne’s ‘devil may care’ side. Her character development is progresses with each novel and it almost feels as if you are slowly getting to know a new friend. We get to see Dot excel in her quiet strength, and learn even more about Phyne’s go to street men, Burt and Cec. Plus, we are provided a couple of interesting mysteries that twist and flow together perfectly.

Like Cocaine Blues, Murder on the Ballarat Tran was turned in to an episode for the Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries tv show (which can be found on Netflix). So fans of the tv show will know who-dunnit well before the reveal of the killer, but this didn’t hamper my enjoyment of the story. Murder on the Ballarat Train was just a fun read, and the Phyrne Fisher Mystery Series has quickly become my go-to when I am in need a fun, historical murder mystery. Is anyone else a fan yet!?

Lindsay

On What Grounds

On What Grounds

by Cleo Coyle

On What Grounds (Coffeehouse Mystery, #1)

Introducing a delightful new series featuring Clare Cosi, manager of the historic Village Blend coffeehouse…

Clare arrives at work to discover the assistant manager dead in the back of the store, coffee grounds strewn everywhere. Two detectives investigate. But when they find no sign of forced entry or foul play, they deem it an accident. Still, Clare is not convinced. And after the police leave, Clare can’t help wondering…If this was an act of murder, is she in danger?

I have wanted to read On What Grounds for months, and I finally developed a decent excuse to pick it up.  I am currently working on my own mystery story, more on that tomorrow, and wanted to research the small details that make characters real.  Yep, I read On What Grounds for research 😉

I’m not going to provide my own summary because it would make my review way too long.  So lets jump right in!  Cleo Coyle is the husband and wife writing team of Marc Cerasini and Alice Alfonsi.  On What Grounds is a debut novel and the first in the extensive Coffeehouse Mystery Series.  The writing style may feel a little underdeveloped for many readers, but I was pleasantly surprised by their detailed descriptions and scenery building.  The writing was so fluid that I was shocked that two people wrote it together!  I felt like I was in the Village Blend and I fell in love with the unique coffee shop.  I also had no problem connecting with Clare, the intelligent and stubborn Blend manager.  The mystery is different, with a few surprising twists, and Coyle had me guessing until the very end.  All the characters feel real despite their eccentricities.  You can expect to see more Coffeehouse Mystery Series reviews this year.

I was surprised to find that On What Grounds had received a few ‘beat down’ reviews on Goodreads.  I checked these out and was just plain irked at the reoccurring list of complaints.  Here are the three most common and what I have to say about them:

1. Too much description about the different coffees and how to prepare them:  I personally loved these details!  I learned so much and was ready to run out and buy everything I needed to make these drinks.  It is stupid to read a book centered around a coffee shop and be annoyed to read about coffee.

2. Clare is an idiot for hooking up with her cheating ex-husband:  She doesn’t hook up with him; she just makes-out with him for a second.  Plus, there are passages dedicated to describing their convoluted relationship and Clare’s continual attraction and love for her ex.  She spends the whole book fighting off his advances and her own demons.  Come on people; she’s only human!

3.  Stuff just happened too easily/Clare’s detective skills are unrealistic:  Ok, I agree that Clare’s detective skills are unrealistic at the beginning of the book, but it evens out as the story progresses.  Stuff should happen relatively easily in cozy mysteries.  That is why they are cozy mysteries and not extensive criminal dramas.  They need to be quick and fun to read; any so-called fan of the genre would know this and shouldn’t whine about it.

So, that ends my Goodreads review rant.  My negative points of On What Grounds are short and sweet.  I did not like the prologue.  I understand why it was used but I feel it hurts the flow of the story instead of helping it.  And it was very difficult to like Madame.  Nothing pisses me off more than family members, such as mothers and mother-in-laws, butting in on matters that do not concern them.  Her brazen attempts to get Matt and Clare back together just irked me.  There is no way I would have been as sweet and kind as Clare if it was me.  But that’s it!

I really enjoyed On What Grounds.  It is a fun cozy mystery that places readers in a unique setting, a coffee shop instead of an antique or clothing shop, with an enjoyably stubborn female lead.  I cant wait to start the next book in the series, and I have to schedule a writing day at the local coffee shop next week!  What do you think of the Coffeehouse Mystery series?

Lindsay