Another very smart story, it's just fun to watch her puzzle it all out. It's kind of a mix between cozy mysteries and traditional detective stories in...moreAnother very smart story, it's just fun to watch her puzzle it all out. It's kind of a mix between cozy mysteries and traditional detective stories in that it's a regular girl who becomes a "perditorian" or finder of lost things. The steps she follows and the process she takes is actually very believable. She gets scared, she flips out occasionally, she's clever but not insanely so, brave but not a superhero. Yes, it's a stretch to believe she's so independent at fourteen, but she is a Holmes after all. I just really like this girl, she's a great mix of clever and vulnerable, witty but not snarky. I also like the believable way that she's discovering the world, she's very well-read but there are so many things that a young girl of her time just has no way of knowing, books she can get her hands on may mention things like ladies of the night or white slave trade, but they don't say what they actually are, so Enola is in the dark about these things still. Even now that she's living in London and has seen some of the worst the city has to offer, she's still an innocent fourteen year-old girl in many ways and seeing how she grows into her new situation is going to be fascinating.
I'm also enjoying the way the historical lessons are layered into the story without being too preachy. I think kids (and adults) will absorb a lot of information along the way while just reading an enjoyable story. It's hard as a woman not to root for Enola and her mother in their quest for freedom from society's strangling (literally) restrictions. And this book had a lot of interesting information about what was going on at the time in London regarding the labor movement. "And after we withdrew bloodied and defeated, this is what one member of Parliament had to say, 'It is in bad taste for people to parade their insolent starvation in the face of the rich and trading portions of the town. They should have starved in their garrets.'" And another good quote, "Yet one could speak the truth and still be a villain." Just coming off of a rough election season those ideas resonated through the centuries with me.
Enola is a great hero, someone you can really root for. The books are a definitely a bit dark, the London portrayed in these stories isn't glamorous, it's poor, cold, and hungry. But kids who love the Hunger Games and heroes like Katniss for her cleverness and bravery might admire Enola as well. Her situation certainly isn't quite as desperate, and there's no thrilling romance in this one. The big difference is that Enola is taking control and doing the manipulating instead of being controlled by everyone else. That's what makes her so interesting. I'm definitely looking forward to seeing how she manages to stay safe and free in the next book and what mysterious puzzle she solves next.(less)
Sadly, this book totally didn't work for me. I loved the first two books in this series, they were eerie and haunting and a lot of fun, but this one j...moreSadly, this book totally didn't work for me. I loved the first two books in this series, they were eerie and haunting and a lot of fun, but this one just fell apart in almost every way for me.
It started out weird that instead of being absolutely horrified by what she found out about her past in Asher Falls, Amelia was somehow inspired by it. She always felt like a loner but now she says knows why she is the way she is so its OK. But it's horrible, it's not just a family trait she got from her "Papa," the circumstances of her birth should put anyone in therapy. She wants to believe it's a gift, not just a dangerous legacy. Fine, if that keeps her sane. But it's really glossing over the whole heart of the last book, which was disappointing to me, I wanted to see it addressed. Amelia refers to the guy in book 2 a lot but not the big news of how awful her background is. Instead she's just mooning after Devlin. It was just bizarre to me that she never once mentioned the horrible things she found out. It should have profoundly changed her.
And then there's that whole big secret I just can't tell you trope. Whether they can't tell for someone's own good or they think they'll never be believed, it always gets carried too far in every book it's used in and it's so annoying. If Amelia can't have a relationship with Devlin anyway, why not risk telling him and taking a chance that he'll be able to use the knowledge to get over what he's been clinging to for so long? Worst case is that he doesn't believe her and they have no relationship, status quo.
One thing that really bugged me was the big use of coincidence in this book. Amelia kept "just having a strong feeling" and there are lots of coincidences that she thought were suspicious but chalked up to fate because nothing is really a coincidence. She keeps repeating that she no longer believes in randomness, everything happens for a reason, but the reason is the author, it's all too convenient, it felt lazy and just irritated the heck out of me. Plus Amelia repeatedly said that something or someone was trying to direct her actions, and that took away from her intelligence and free will and spirit. she ended up looking weak and silly.
And what was with that mystery powder? How many times was Amelia sneaking around where she didn't belong and got some mysterious powder blown on her and then bad stuff happened to her? It was totally overused, it made her look like an idiot cozy mystery snoop who just should have stayed home, and made me wonder why the author couldn't come up with a few different ways for the girl to get in trouble this time around.
I think what bugged me the most is that it felt like Amelia was being victimized. In the other books there were human villains of course, but the supernatural elements were really strong and so surreal that they took center stage. But now clearly Amelia was being hunted by a human. This wasn't about ghosts, although a lot of ghosts certainly had their hands in the puzzle and had stakes in the outcome. And even though Shani was still intriguing, she wasn't scary anymore, she was just sympathetic and sad. And Mariama was pathetic and a villain but since she was clearly Amelia's opposition she wasn't wasn't really scary. And Fremont didn't present as scary. So even if Goodwine was scary, it was a human scary, manipulative and evil but not eerie the way a cemetery full of drowned ghosts ringing bells and reaching out for Amelia in the night were eerie in Asher Falls.
Plus I hated the romance. She doesn't know this guy. Everyone, including the guy, kept telling her that she doesn't know this guy. She has never had a real conversation with him, hasn't seen him in months. This isn't love. I had high hopes after the first book that this was a relationship that was going to develop slowly and have some depth, but it's still insta-love all attraction no interaction. Reading about an otherwise mature woman moping around after a guy like a teenager wasn't fun.
I have to give the author a lot of credit for one thing, she wasn't one of those authors who had the character have a dog or car and then just forget about them. Amelia adopted a fabulous dog in book 2 and she took good care of him. She remembered to let him out and walk him even when it wasn't just a key part of the plot. He was there in the house with her, responding to whatever went on. A lot of authors like having their characters have a pet but then forget that if their character is out all night or the house gets trashed, what happens to the animal has to be addressed, the fans are attached to the pet and will notice. But of course it has to be done without being obsessive too, no one wants to read about every potty break, just like we don't want to read about every shower or cup of coffee or bite to eat like some books seem to detail. Providing realism is a balancing act that Stevens manages really well.
The whole tone of the book was just off for me. It wasn't spooky or eerie or particularly interesting, I didn't like the romance, I didn't like the coincidence-filled cozy mystery and half way through I was bored and didn't even want to pick it back up. It was a very unexpected total turn-around from the first two books, which I really enjoyed.(less)
3.5 stars. It's a cozy mystery, it's fun if you like that sort of thing, and I do. But it does have all of the failings of the typical cozy too. Chef...more3.5 stars. It's a cozy mystery, it's fun if you like that sort of thing, and I do. But it does have all of the failings of the typical cozy too. Chef Charlotte keeps saying that she knows that the situation is problematic and that she probably should walk away, but she doesn't because she doesn't let anyone lie to her and that she can handle any situation. Miss Attitude, even though she does keep referencing that she did almost die the last time she "played Nancy Drew," she barely considers that she might be in danger in this time or that she might get in over her head. Even though again she's involved with witches, warlocks and mind-controlling vampires who have reason to dislike her. And all she has is a spray bottle of garlic-infused holy water and her wits. I know chefs are arrogant, but come on. If she was more concerned with the money that she needs to keep her restaurant open or the fact that her getting the job was already in the press and that backing out would be a PR disaster, then it would have made more sense than just curiosity and ballsiness. But it's typical cozy behavior and you do just have to accept that kind of thing when you read the genre.
The mystery was generally good, but it got overly complicated by the end, too messy. And there was some way too convenient plotting. Like when Charlotte's friend Minnie was introduced just in time to get a job at Oscar's restaurant and then was able to pass Charlotte the key to his office. Plus what was a regular cook doing with keys to the dead owner's office after one day on the job?
And now that I think about it, we never did find out why someone picked Charlotte for the job. Did I miss it? Deanna said she liked the restaurant, but Charlotte didn't think that was it, she thought there was a deeper, more suspicious reason. Huh.
The romance was pretty typical too. Charlotte likes Boy 1, Brendan, the handsome warlock, but they're both super busy with their jobs and she's afraid to commit or get at all serious. And she also likes Boy 2, Anatole, the charming vampire, but he's a restaurant critic and an association with him would make his good review of her restaurant look suspicious, But she keeps stringing him along too. Both relationships are very mild, it's not a hot, sexy romance novel. It's really much more about the mystery than the romance, but publishers love that love triangle, so, check!
As for the paranormal aspects, for a book with so many vampires, witches and warlocks in it, not much paranormal behavior happens. Don't expect any huge magical battles or wild vampire orgies. Paranormals have been integrated into this society, they're mostly just people like everyone else, or at least that's the tone. Figuring out what the witches or vampires might do, or what threat they might present, is part of the story, but it's mostly pretty civilized. I'm not expressing it very well. But if you're reading the book just because you love paranormals then you might be disappointed, the book is really about the chef trying to solve a mystery involving the paranormals.. On the other hand, if you like cozy mysteries about chefs and normally don't read paranormal romances, give this a try, I bet you find it a fun crossover. There, that's what I'm trying to say, it should appeal to both crowds because it's not crazy wild paranormal, just full of interesting characters with understandable motivations, a few of whom might have a few different abilities is all.
The depiction of the restaurant business continues to be very interesting and detailed without feeling cumbersome. The author definitely works the business and cooking aspects into the story in a lot of nice ways to both move the tale along and flesh out certain scenes to make them feel comfortable and real. The writing overall is very vivid and readable, it's a very enjoyable read. I just keep hoping for more from this author because I know she's capable of it. A cute little formula/checklist cozy mystery is nice, but she could do better.
Annoyed little note: would a guy like Brendan text l8tr? Seriously, he can't be bothered with one more letter to write a real word? He's kind of a formal guy. Especially the second time when he was home and not in a rush. (p260) It's not important to the story, obviously, just one of those things that annoys me in general and also didn't feel genuine to the character. I get when he was in a rush or maybe in danger and did the whole ...wish u wr here thing, but l8tr from an educated guy in an otherwise complete sentence irritated me.(less)
3.5 stars. So what happens when a really great author decides to write a formula genre novel? You get A Taste of the Nightlife, a cute but uninspiring...more3.5 stars. So what happens when a really great author decides to write a formula genre novel? You get A Taste of the Nightlife, a cute but uninspiring mystery/paranormal romance. I really adored Sarah Zettel's Fool's War, I gave it one of my very few five star reviews, so I was hoping for more from this book, despite having my doubts when I read the description. I'm a fan of this genre, so I hoped she'd write something a bit more special than the typical book, but it was really checklist cozy mystery/paranormal romance. Charlotte is a very typical average woman heroine who is a bit grouchy, isn't beautiful, is short and curvy, and hasn't had a date in a year, and yet of course the two absolutely stunning guys she meets are instantly head-over-heels for her after they've exchanged maybe five words. And this is despite the fact that one is a super powerful and very old vampire who could be a king among his kind. And the other is a powerful warlock who on the surface has every reason to dislike her and is in the middle of a family crisis and shouldn't be interested in romance at all right now. But both are completely charmed by her, are willing to risk danger to help her, and aren't bothered by competing with each other to boot. Because love triangles are the staple of paranormal romances, gotta have 'em, check! Anyway, the characters are cute, the mystery was fine, all of it was enjoyable, but none of it was especially unique. It just felt like a good author having fun with a genre that she enjoys (putting a positive spin on it) without making any great impact.
If you like cozy mysteries, this is a good bet for you. The romance is mild, just a few kisses, but the guys are very handsome. It's definitely not going to be a hot sexy series. I think the subtitle sums it up when it says that it's, "A Vampire Chef Mystery." So expect cute cozy paranormal mysteries with a dash of romance.(less)
Much better than the previous book, which I gave only 1 star too, I must have been really discouraged that day. This had a more solid story, carried i...moreMuch better than the previous book, which I gave only 1 star too, I must have been really discouraged that day. This had a more solid story, carried it through, had some humor and that will either strike you as funny or not but was appropriate for Stephanie books (the vampire, the chickens, Mooner, the bear). There was good use of the past with the rerun of a guy from the past with a vendetta against Steph, but I'm pretty sure we already read a variation of that story before. Really, the big problem is still that it's all been done before, so while it was generally a pleasant book, it was a retread, been there, done that. Why do I care to keep reading books that are episodes in her life that always end up the same? It's mildly enjoyable but I still want to see progress, see a woman who's growing and changing and Steph doesn't seem to be going in any direction. Except maybe on vacation with her girlfriends.
My big problem is the random violence, it's just not funny. Lula shoots a guy's toe off, Steph and Lula taser more people than I can remember, and not on cases, they're more of a crime spree than anyone they're apprehending. And stun guns are prohibited in Jersey anyway. So even if Steph is allowed to use it as part of her job, Lula is not, it's just random violence. It's not funny me. There have to be other way to have humor in the story without that. I don't mind violence for a purpose. But trivializing it and making it a joke feels inappropriate and unrealistic.
Finally, how about the price of this book? $28! It is more book than the last. It's still double spaced and with wide margins, but there is more story here. And the stickers are a cute addition. Many buyers will get the book from a major retailer that will have it listed for 30%-40% off list price, so maybe that's why the exorbitant price, but that really makes it even more impossible for any remaining indie booksellers to compete. And a lot more people will find themselves like me, waiting in line for our copy at the library. Assuming they can afford the $28 price as well. (less)
2.5 stars. I keep reading this series because I like the DC and White House setting, but Ollie keeps getting more and more annoying. She's the worst k...more2.5 stars. I keep reading this series because I like the DC and White House setting, but Ollie keeps getting more and more annoying. She's the worst kind of cozy mystery heroine, she didn't get involved in this situation by accident, she went after the investigation with singleminded determination and consistently rationalized her involvement. After she broke up with her Secret Service Agent boyfriend, Tom, she said, "Was I being selfish with my need for the freedom to poke my nose where I wanted to poke it?" Yes! You're a chef, not an investigator, was it really worth giving up the man who you described as, "...more than just lovers. We'd reached a level of comfort and intimacy..." but she dumped him so she could snoop in the case. She rationalized everything as being right according to her rules and her life, but she works at the White House in his world, that's what she signed on for, it's part and parcel to her job. And my credulity just doesn't stretch far enough to believe that the White House chef is so clever that she's consistently a better investigator than the Secret Service. It's just gotten to the point where it's ridiculous, by the end of the book it felt like a major Mary Sue situation. It would just be more fun if it was somehow more realistic, it's such an idealized fantasy at this point. And Ollie is just so eye-rollingly sure that she's right all of the time when she's obviously insanely wrong to anyone in the real world, it's just hard to buy into it all. All that being said, I did like having her mom and Nana in town, it added a nice layer to the story.(less)
3.5 stars. A fun book, quite a bit better than the first one. Ollie's involvement in the mystery was much more believable this time and I wasn't shaki...more3.5 stars. A fun book, quite a bit better than the first one. Ollie's involvement in the mystery was much more believable this time and I wasn't shaking my head at her stupid cozymysteritis. It was just a nice, fun little mystery with the assed bonus of lots of behind the scenes White House scoop. (less)
3.5 stars, quite a fun book overall. I loved the DC and Northern Virginia location, and of course the White House. Those locations were all as real as...more3.5 stars, quite a fun book overall. I loved the DC and Northern Virginia location, and of course the White House. Those locations were all as real as possible, but the foreign delegations were from fictional lands, an interesting choice that I'm sure could be debated, but felt like the right choice for this book which wasn't meant to be political commentary but primarily entertainment.
The only problem is that the Ollie suffers from cozymysteritis, closely related to the dreaded TSTL (too stupid to live disease). People with cozymysteritis just can't help getting involved with things that are clearly none of their business and are horribly dangerous, and then handle those things in ways that prove that they may, in fact, be TSTL. But it is a standard in the genre, so I generally only pick at the degree to which my suspense of disbelief made my enjoyment of the story less. Sometimes I can shake my head and move on, other times I throw the book across the room on annoyance. This was much more the former.
The book is really kind of half way between a fluffy cozy and a more serious mystery, well written and with some more serious elements, but also with recipes and office politics and lighthearted elements. I like the middle of the road approach of not being too silly or too scary or suspenseful, but it does make for a balancing act. It makes me expect more solid follow-through on plots and for Ollie to be more mature. I would have preferred a more solid reason for Ollie to have gotten involved with this mystery all together. The opening really fun chase scene across the White House Lawn, ending in the big Pan Slam, was a great way to start things off, but the idea that this guy needed the assistant chef's help never made sense. Her nosiness made perfect, if irritating, sense! But she was idiotic to follow-up with him and not trust the Secret Service to take care of matters. What did she think she could do? And when she did the normal cozy novel mistakes to draw things out and add to confusion on their end (but having already giving hints to us as readers) of not giving complete information because she was too embarrassed or didn't want to involve her boyfriend or whatever (like not reporting an attempted break-in to the Secret Service), it was infuriating because it wasn't just her life on the line, it was the President's and possibly many others, not a topic you can just be casual about and certainly not her call to make. I seldom get that worked up in reading about dog walkers or caterers, their mistakes won't change the fate of the world. But in general, she did get caught up in something way beyond her "pay grade" as they say and other than a few idiotic moves managed to conduct herself well. The overall story was very readable, with an intelligent and welcoming style that made me feel comfortable with the characters and their world rght away, like I really was getting a peek into backstairs at the White House. (less)
While I still enjoy the author's writing style, it's just time to put the series to bed. There are only so many times one woman can meddle in police i...moreWhile I still enjoy the author's writing style, it's just time to put the series to bed. There are only so many times one woman can meddle in police investigations in a lifetime, much less during one book, without it being ridiculous. It's just too silly! There's just no attempt to have any respect for the law anymore. This book felt frantic throughout and then wrapped up suddenly and disappointingly. I like Goldy and her friends and family, but there is no compelling reason to read about them over any other good cozy mystery; Davidson could easily move on to to stories about someone else. If she wants to build on her fan base, make them about Julian building his vegan catering business in Denver, and then mention news about Goldy sometimes. I stopped buying these books a while ago. This was still a fun read for a library book, but I'd have been pretty frustrated if I'd paid hardback prices. (less)
A nice, solid cozy, less fluffy and silly than most. Again, Hannah's reason for getting involved made more sense than in many cozy mysteries; she was...moreA nice, solid cozy, less fluffy and silly than most. Again, Hannah's reason for getting involved made more sense than in many cozy mysteries; she was trying to protect her friend from being railroaded. Hannah and her sister, Andrea, make a good investigating team. They screw up all of the evidence, of course, but manage to get enough to catch the villain so all's well that ends well. (less)
Barely a 3 star book. It was fine, but extremely typical. And the heroine's constant excuses for why she was involving herself in something so dangero...moreBarely a 3 star book. It was fine, but extremely typical. And the heroine's constant excuses for why she was involving herself in something so dangerous were absurd. Every cozy mystery lead character stretches the bounds of good sense by investigating murders, but this was just silly. She barely knew the guy. Spending about 1/5 of the book on excuses was just annoying. The recipes are fun but a bit excessive as well. It was fine, but nothing special. (less)
It is a very tame and grown-up little mystery. It was a surprisingly fast read, perhaps because although exhaustive details were given about Charlie's...moreIt is a very tame and grown-up little mystery. It was a surprisingly fast read, perhaps because although exhaustive details were given about Charlie's day and activities, not much actually happened. There was a lot of charm, I enjoyed my visit with Charlie, but there wasn't much of a story here. Diesel is clearly the star and the reason the book was published, he's an adorable side-kick. I predict a rise in Maine Coon Cat adoptions as a result of this book.
What I liked best was how relatable Charlie was, he feels like a guy I'd know or a lot like the person I'm growing in to (even though I'm a woman). I also liked that he knew he was being snoopy and was out of his league, but he had some pretty solid motivations (helping Justin and even Kanesha). I didn't like that nearly everyone mentioned in the book, even small supporting characters, went to high school with Charlie; apparently everyone in this small college town except the students is within a 7 year age range. And the one guy who was from out of town had a ridiculously coincidental connection to the murdered guy that was chalked up to his bad luck, just an awkward excuse to bring in another suspect.
It was a nice first book from this author. I hope it finds its audience. I like having mystery options that are somewhere in the middle of the range from silly comedies on one side to thrillers on the other. (less)
Just awful. I didn't care for even a moment about what was going on. The story is so shallow, there's no emotion, no suspense, nothing interesting. Th...moreJust awful. I didn't care for even a moment about what was going on. The story is so shallow, there's no emotion, no suspense, nothing interesting. The women wander around, describing every building, street, turn, and calorie (eaten or craved). Lula's diet covers more words in the book than the search for Vinnie. She's the real star of the book, but it's all one liners. If Evanovich has realized that Lula is the draw, write a story that showcases her in a substantive way instead of just a barrage of dumb jokes. Some were funny the first time, or the third time, but not ad nauseum.
And Stephanie is completely stalled, her life is exactly the same in every book now. It's boring, I want to read about a real woman, not a sketch of a character who never grows or changes. Her lines in this book, her encounters with Morelli, Ranger, her parents, Lula and Connie, Grandma Mazur, all could have just been copied from previous books. Nothing new happened. Fine, she can't choose between Morelli and Ranger. So be a writer and introduce a new man. Give Steph another crazy job to try for a while. Do something, anything, to make the book more than a retread of every other book, but continually more boring and insubstantial.
And don't forget the stuff that's just absurd. Running jokes from previous books are usually fun, but out of context and taken to the extreme, it's just rediculous. By page 23 Lula had been involved in 2 incidents where she unloaded her gun, once shooting 6 bullets at guys who came on too strong, and soon after unloading the rest of the clip at a guy who stole her doughnuts. And the cops could care less; the ladies just continue on about their day. Why is that funny or interesting? Lula has been turned into a total clown. She had a lot more depth in early books, and potential to be a great long-term character. The humor wasn't always, and doesn't have to be, her entire representation. Now she's just one long joke. What a waste.
But the book is supposed to be about Stephanie, right? But there's nothing new to say, everything is completely status quo with her. Same old, same old.
Finally, once again the book is printed in large print, with double spacing, huge margins and full pages between chapters (which start half way down the page). It's a 140 page book masquerading as 309 pages. Great disguise, I bet it would have fooled Stephanie. (less)
It was quite good. The thing I liked best is also my biggest complaint. I like when an author provides a lot of details to make the people and setting...moreIt was quite good. The thing I liked best is also my biggest complaint. I like when an author provides a lot of details to make the people and setting seem real. But this book has way too many details, many of which are unrelated to the story. I didn't need to see the entire outgoing message on her answering machine, of the name of the guy soliciting her for a time-share condo, or musings on radio and TV stations having W or K names, or how many chairs or laundry baskets or books there were in a suspect's house, etc., etc.. See? Boring. Somewhere between 1/4 to 1/3 less detail would have been great. It felt to me like it was because it was her first book and many authors just can't stand to edit down they way they should at the beginning. I'll be interested to see how the next book is.
Other than that it was a good cozy. Hannah's involvement made more sense than in most books of this type, even though it did make her brother-in-law the cop look very weak. Yes, many of the leads she unearthed should have been followed up on by him instead of her, but working the gossip network was an effective technique for this small town cozy. Plus, I liked Moishe the cat, pets are always a plus for me.
I forgot to mention that the recipes all look very good and seem easy enough to try. There aren't too many, as with some of these cooking mysteries now that try to substitute recipes for story. The chocolate crunch cookies with the corn flakes looked especially good, as did the chocolate covered cherries cookies. I think the recipes are all on the author's website.(less)
A good Goldy book, but not great. The mystery was too predictible and the end unfolded abruptly, but Goldy and Tom, Marla, Arch and Julian are still g...moreA good Goldy book, but not great. The mystery was too predictible and the end unfolded abruptly, but Goldy and Tom, Marla, Arch and Julian are still good friends with whom it was nice to visit.(less)