Monday Book Review: A Trifle Dead

I’m really going to get back to reviewing cozy mysteries… I’ve said this before, a dozen times over, and this time I’m a bit more serious about it. I've so many on my virtual bookshelves and my Unread list spans... well, you know, the usual number.

This week, we're covering A Trifle Dead.

My summary: Tabitha is a 20-something who bakes blue muffins*, tries to wrangle the local police force into new cuisines, and gets pulled into a murder mystery.

Plot: Zips along like it's had a few too many of the coffees poured at Tabitha's cafe. She spends a good portion of her time concocting new recipes and culinary inventions, and the murder investigation tends to be information and places she stumbles across. There's no list-making brain-storming malarkey going on here. I'm not sure how much sleep these characters actually get, but it doesn't look or sound like much. A suitable mix of seriousness and frivolity happens. Layered well, like the titular trifle.

The murderer: Now I'm rereading the book, I have remembered who it was. First time I read the book, I didn't guess. I actually guessed wrong, which I like in a mystery. If the reader is guessing wrong then the author is doing something right in misdirection.

Characters: You get to know them bit-by-bit. Tabby, as the narrator, does tend to give you chunks of information about herself but they're digestible. Others around her are introduced and given life a little more slowly, but I find this method works. Comfortable. Eases you into it.

Cover and title: Each in the series has a food-pun, which I like. The covers themselves are simple, just one image which is a visual representation of the punny title.

I chucked out the Netflix scale, but this is a book you can put down and pick up a few times without really losing your place. I have read it maybe three times and remember bits and pieces of it well enough to be constructing this review.

Overall 4.1 stars. The murderer is a bit of a backgrounder, but not so much that they blend into the cafe's wall art. Food descriptions aren't just cake, which is good, and they're lingered over a little longer than in other cozies I've read. They don't take centre stage though, which is good. Random little threads of amusing anecdotes make this cozier to read, like you're stepping in to Tabby's life. She's not just going here, there and that other place: she's doing interesting wacky things that manage to not be OTT.

*not a euphemism

Food comparison: Ooh, tough one. A plate of good sushi that you select yourself, with a hot green tea. It's not wildly expensive, but good nonetheless.

weather + life + opaque

the weather has turned
nasty, driving rain sheeting
down over city
streets. below my boots, puddles
form, little rivers running.

 

it becomes habit
to prepare coffee or tea
in a travel flask,
still hot and ready to drink
no matter the conditions.

 

life is paused as rain
opaque in its heaviness
whips at the window.
later, the clouds clear and the
sun gleams harsh on glossy glass.

Monday Book Review: It Cannoli Be Murder

Today, the third installment of Karoline Barrett's "Bread and Batter" series: It Cannoli Be Murder. Possible spoilers ahead.

In short, Molly and her baking partner Olivia get sucked into a new mystery when a dude with alleged mafia ties shows up in town, buying up a winery and wine-and-dining their good friend Emily. When a Senator - and then her twin sister - show up dead, all fingers point to the mob. Needless to say, theories run wild, and Molly gets drawn into the mystery. Again.

At around 417 pages, there's a bit of heft, more than I expected in a story like this. Normally I'd expect it to sort of hover around 300, maybe the low 300's at a stretch. Either way the length is pretty good, I don't think I remember there being much that could be cut. I may've skimmed in a place or two, but then that might have had more to do with being on a train and near my stop than actual, you know, plot impatience. I read this over 2-3 days, because this sort of word count doesn't fit into one of my evenings. Good for a weekend, I imagine, or a slow rainy day.

So. The plot. I really enjoyed the way it moved at a quick clip, taking no prisoners with who gets it and how. Molly's involvement became a little more above-board, with her getting permission from the authorities to do a bit of noseying around - with the blessing of her detective boyfriend. Typically cozies have the MC sneaking and snooping around, so it was a nice change of pace to twist that around.

The mystery was solved quite near to the end, I was starting to get a little nervous. Have to say, I didn't cotton on to whodunnit. There were also a few snazzy twists added into the mix, making me slow down (normally I tear through a book like... like how I tear into a cookie) and the final reveal was something I wasn't expecting. At least two of my clever theories were wrong. (Side note - one of the theories was mistaken identity. Spoilers.)

There was also development of the bakery further (reading about the baking experiments is always fun, I don't recommend it on an empty stomach though), and some of the background/supporting characters from earlier books stuck around and made themselves at home. It's always nice to see when that happens. It's also good to see when the backgrounders get their own smaller storylines tucked in, not just the main.

If I were to say one thing, I'd like the page count to have come down a bit further. While the length did work, and the longer story meant longer suspense, I found that time constrictions meant I was picking it up and putting it down. Made it a bit harder to stay in it - however, like I said, that's my own time-poor self talking. Overall I really enjoyed it.

4 stars.

the deluge

she is the
deluge,
one you never
see coming.

not until it's
too late,
that is.

watch out for her.
she will wreck a
mansion
with a
thought,
lay waste to a city
in a heartbeat.

and she won't
think twice before
she does.

she sweeps through
the world.
it is no more than
a playground to her.

she dances in the
street, careless and
wild and
unchallenged.
(none will challenge
her)

watch her hair
tangle in the
air, a Gordian
knot of nature's making.

watch her twirl,
wildness in her
blood
unrepentant and
casually destructive.

she is a
hypnotist
and you
cannot
look away.

ovation (150)

the red curtain falls, hem skimming the stage; the play ends, and the doe-eyed ingenue looks briefly unsure of herself. she recovers quickly, swirling curls over her shoulder and hastily rearranging the line of her dress over her knees.

it's her last performance of the year and she listens, tries to pinpoint the exact moment when the applause starts. it's been a game she plays with herself since the first night, and she never wins. tonight is no exception, but when she peeks out from the edge of the curtain, people are starting to rise to their feet.

from the other curtain there's a tiny motion, barely noticeable if she wasn't looking for it. standing ovation, mouths her co-lead. the words sparkle through her brain, shimmer in the air as if she's written them with a firework.

the curtain rises just as the cast finish lining up.

purple detriment (150)

she stitches the gown in layers of purple, four different shades of dark and hand-dyed to suit her exact criteria. it all but ruins her eyes; she stares so long, so hard at the stitching in fading light, rousing herself when she truly cannot see any more.

embroiders patterns across in gold, luscious patterns crafted in her mind but failing to come across on fabric. the embroidery makes the fabric stiff, awkward to wear. she wears it anyway, so stubborn to think she's finally created something for herself. wears it daily, for pride and delight, ignores all the sarcasm that bleeds through others' comments.

she cares for it tenderly; launders it all by hand, painstakingly works loose threads back into place. doesn't notice the dye staining the water.

the gown becomes aged, progressively shabbier; gold threads get muddied, dark purple turning pale sickly gray.

embarrassed one day, she burns it.

vortex

this happens again and again.

you are the scrawl, the
faded dull white writing on
a murky piece of blackboard.
i am the silent scribe.

this is my duty, you
see to always write and
keep our records for posterity.
always drawn back to you.

magnetised we are not, but
still we gravitate towards one
another as if we were.
these records won't keep themselves.

time for a new ledger.

Monday Book Review: Oh Yeah, Audrey!

Right. I feel like you ought to know the reader before you know the book, so: I read this YA novel through Grown-Up Adult glasses. Wait, no, I don't wear glasses. Oops. I also read YA novels because I once came up with a NaNoWriMo which, when I do something with it, will be geared at young adults. Writer's cap on. Also, I'm a young adult.

Anyway. Oh Yeah, Audrey! by Tucker Shaw.

Summary: 16-year-old Gemma runs an Audrey Hepburn fan-blog, with a few others she has encountered. They decide to visit New York and do an Audrey Hepburn Tour Day in honour of the anniversary of her death. It does not go as planned.

The story is told on the clock: 4am, wakes up and does her elaborate costume. On the one hand I kind of liked the journal-type way of recording this, but on the other hand it made me want to keep score of what the time was on each chapter so I knew how much time had passed. (Overall, about a day) And on the one foot, since I've got two hands, I disliked it because I felt it made the story feel like things that happened and when they happened.

The plot was lean. They went here and did this; went somewhere else for a while; hung around some other place. The schedule gets ripped up fairly early - saw that one coming. It almost seemed more like a diary of events and - spoiler alert - Gemma doesn't end up making the one commitment. Spent ages just on getting in character, thinking about Hepburn and once the plot does inch along, the one thing they have all been going on about gets chucked aside.

Character development. Thin - four people, already in their roles. Midway enters the fifth too-good-to-be-true dude. Guess what, he is too good to be true.

I will concede there was a bit of growth with Gemma, but that's more regarding the Thing That Happened To Her. The rest of them were already placed in their roles, and there was no time or space for them to grow any further. Kind of like when you want a toasted sandwich and don't have time to do the toasting, so you just have a soggy sandwich and it falls apart when you eat.

Title and cover: title I guess is a nod to the Tumblr blogs you may find, entitled F--- Yeah X. Cover is cute, font's a bit girly for my liking and maybe a bit too monochrome. Reminds me a bit of pop-art.

I ran through it in the span of a night. I read (skimmed in places), with Netflix in the background and sporadically going back to repeat a line of dialogue. It barely slowed me down.

Overall? I'd say 2 stars. The whole thing about a pack of teens running off to a busy city to meet up also bugged the hell out of me, I guess because I was taught Stranger Danger as a kid. Not to mention how this girl shares her blog login detail with total strangers. Gah. Thin plot and not-really developed characters took away a lot of the appeal. The premise is cute, the reality is not.

Food comparison: Something like marshmallow. Light, fluffy, but haphazardly topped with a bit of peanut butter for substance (and something that sticks in your teeth two hours later).