19 September 2016

Here Today, Gone Tamale (A Taste of Texas Mystery, Book 1)


Synopsis from back cover: After losing her newspaper job in Austin and having her former fiancé unfriend her on Facebook, Josie Callahan scoops up her Chihuahua, Lenny, and slinks back to Broken Boot, Texas. Maybe working as head waitress at Milagro—her aunt and uncle’s Tex-Mex restaurant—isn’t exactly living the dream, but it is a fresh start.

And business is booming as tourists pour into Broken Boot for its famous Wild West Festival. But when a local jewelry designer is found strangled outside Milagro after a tamale-making party, Josie’s reporter instincts kick in. As suspects pile up and alibis crack faster than taco shells, Josie needs to wrap up this case tighter than her tía’s tortillas—before another victim calls for the check…

Stats for my copy: Mass market paperback, Berkley, 2015.

How acquired: Bought.

My thoughts:  When I was offered an ARC of the second book in this series, I had to rush out and buy the first book so I could read them in order. I believe these books are what are commonly called “Cozy Mysteries”, a genre I have no real experience with as of yet. But HERE TODAY, GONE TAMALE was a good introduction.

The story is told in first person POV by Josie Callahan, an ex-newspaper reporter whose career pretty much went down in flames. She moved back home and works in her aunt and uncle's Mexican restaurant, and she and her dog, Lenny, live in an apartment above the restaurant. When a local jewelry maker is found dead outside the restaurant, her reporter instincts can't help but kick in, and she makes it her mission to solve the murder, despite the fact that the local police would prefer she mind her own business.

Josie is a fun, fresh and somewhat self-deprecating narrator. She describes her friends, family, and other townsfolk in vivid colorful detail, which is good because there are a lot of characters to keep up with. Her love and loyalty to both her family and the town shine through. The restaurant, Milagro, sounded like a place I'd enjoy visiting. I definitely began to crave some good Mexican food, especially tamales (and I generally prefer enchiladas), while reading.
Some people catch all the breaks, and the rest of us eat too many tamales.

I particularly enjoyed Josie's interactions with her ex-boyfriend's beauty queen girlfriend, as well as with her aunt's mother-in-law, Senora Mari. Not to mention the stoic Deputy Quint Lightfoot, who Josie's best friend practically falls all over and who Senora Mari practically tries to pimp Josie out to. 
Of course,” Senora Mari continued, “if you decide you want to try something new before you settle down and have babies, you could ask Josie. She'd give you a run for your money.”
Great. Now I was a racehorse.

The mystery at times was a little confusing to me, though I usually managed to catch up again within a page or two. That probably had more to do with me being tired all the time and only able to concentrate for short stretches at a time than with the writing and/or plotting.

Fun and breezy, despite being about a murder investigation. I'm looking forward to the second book. 

05 September 2016


Synopsis from back cover: Following the death of his wife, Crawford Hunt, a Texas Ranger, fell into a downward spiral that left him relegated to desk work and with his five-year-old daughter in the custody of her grandparents. But Crawford has cleaned up his act and now the fate of his family lies with Judge Holly Spencer. Ambitious and confident, Holly temporarily occupies the bench of her recently deceased mentor. With an election upcoming, she must prove herself worthy of making her judgeship permanent. Every decision is high-stakes. When a masked gunman barges into the courtroom during the guardianship hearing, Crawford reacts instinctually, saving Holly from a bullet. But his heroism soon takes on the taint of recklessness. The cloud over him grows even darker after he uncovers a horrifying truth about the courtroom gunman and realizes that the unknown person behind the shooting remains at large – and a threat.

Stats for my copy: Mass market paperback, Grand Central Publishing, 2015.

How acquired: Borrowed from my mother. I usually buy Sandra Brown's books as soon as they come out, but somehow I missed this one.

My thoughts:  I knew I would love this book because I've come to expect that from Sandra Brown. She writes incredible heroes, men who often appear on the surface to be dangerous, threatening, villainous, but who in reality are good, honorable, charismatic men who love fiercely and take huge risks to protect others, to fight the real bad guys, to make justice prevail.

Crawford Hunt is a Texas Ranger who is in a custody battle with his in-laws, who have raised his young daughter since his wife died. Holly Spencer is the judge presiding over the custody proceedings, but before she can give her ruling a gunman bursts into the courtroom and begins shooting. Crawford throws himself on top of Holly to protect her, and their lives become intertwined from that moment on.

FRICTION was very much more Crawford's story than Holly's, which was fine by me because I adored him. I liked Holly too, of course, but for much of the book she was more of a secondary character as Crawford dug deeper and deeper into the mystery of who the shooter was, who hired him, and why. The mystery unravels slowly, and then ravels, and then unravels some more. However, the last chapter, after the mystery of the gunman was revealed, was a little bit of a let down, neatly and abruptly tying up all the remaining loose ends almost as an afterthought.

If you're already a fan of Sandra Brown, you'll enjoy this book. If you're new to her writing, you'll probably still enjoy it, and then you should seek out LETHAL, MEAN STREAK, and THE WITNESS, which are her best books in my opinion.


Mini Reviews


Somehow I reached my fifties without ever having read this children's classic! And it is such a delightful read. I was of course already familiar with the story (who isn't?), but I very much enjoyed reading it. I was a little surprised when Heidi first goes to live with her grandfather, as I expected him to be much more ogre like, frowning, taciturn, etc. I'm thinking maybe he was portrayed more that way on screen? Anyway, classics are classics for a reason, and HEIDI is a wonderful story.  

TEEN IDOL, by Meg Cabot

Filled with Meg Cabot's trademark humor and teen pathos. Like The Princess Diaries, the plot is a bit fairytaleish, as a mega movie star decides to spend two weeks at a typical midwestern high school as research for an upcoming movie role. He's undercover as a transfer student, and Jenny, a high school junior and secret author of the newspaper's Ask Annie column, has been recruited by the staff to be his student guide. She has to help him blend in while keeping his true identity a secret.

It's not all just light fluffy fun though. The story touches on the serious issue of not just bullying, but of standing by and doing nothing to try and stop the bullying. Through Luke's eyes Jen begins to see the things that go on in a new light, and by the end she has grown as a person and a human being. 


During her school years my youngest daughter was very much into soccer, and this was one of her books from those days. I'm donating it to a school, and read through parts of it. A lot of it is technical and motivational instructions for young girls about the game and the different positions and different moves, and I skimmed over those parts and just focused on the more personal stories about Mia's own life and her childhood and experiences. I enjoyed those parts, but the other parts were boring to me, which is to be expected as I am not the intended demographic for this book.