Book Notes Review: Ill-Fated Fortune by Jennifer Chow

Ill-Fated Fortune
Book One in the Magical Fortune Cookie series
by Jennifer J. Chow

From the publisher:

The first in the heart-warming and deliciously mysterious Magical Fortune Cookie series from Lefty Award-nominee Jennifer J. Chow.

Felicity Jin grew up literally hanging onto Mom’s apron strings in their magical bakery in the quaint town of Pixie, California. Her mother’s enchanted baked goods, including puffy pineapple buns and creamy egg tarts, bring instant joy to all who consume them. Felicity has always been hesitant in the kitchen herself after many failed attempts, but a takeout meal gone wrong inspires her to craft some handmade fortune cookies.

They become so popular that Felicity runs out of generic fortunes and starts making her own personalized predictions. When one customer’s ill-fated fortune results in his murder, Felicity’s suspiciously specific fortune has the police focusing on her as the main culprit. Now Felicity must find a way to turn her luck around and get cleared from suspicion.

My Thoughts

Ill-Fated Fortune is the first book in the Magical Fortune Cookie series. I wanted to like this book, but I struggled with it. The characters didn’t really hold my interest, and the mystery didn’t keep me guessing. The magical elements were in the book, but they didn’t hold my interest either.
Having said all of that, though, I would read a second book. Many times, I’ve read a second book in a series that was far stronger than the first.
If this sounds like book you want to read, but are hesitant to buy, borrow it from the library and give it a try.

3/5 stars

Publishing Information

Publisher: St. Martin’s Press, Minotaur Books
Genre: Mystery
Pages: 320
ISBN: 9781250323033
Pub date: 02/20/2024

Book Notes Review “The Tainted Cup” by Robert Jackson Bennett

Thanks to Netgalley and Ballentine Publishing for providing a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

 

Book cover for The Tainted Cup

 

The Tainted Cup
by Robert Jackson Bennett

 

Summary

A Holmes and Watson–style detective duo take the stage in this fantasy with a mystery twist, from the Edgar-winning, multiple Hugo-nominated Robert Jackson Bennett

“Superbly blends mystery and fantasy . . . Give me more of this world and these characters ASAP!”—#1 New York Timesbestselling author Meg Gardiner

In Daretana’s greatest mansion, a high imperial officer lies dead—killed, to all appearances, when a tree erupted from his body. Even here at the Empire’s borders, where contagions abound and the blood of the leviathans works strange magical changes, it’s a death both terrifying and impossible.
Assigned to investigate is Ana Dolabra, a detective whose reputation for brilliance is matched only by her eccentricities. Rumor has it that she wears a blindfold at all times, and that she can solve impossible cases without even stepping outside the walls of her home.
At her side is her new assistant, Dinios Kol, magically altered in ways that make him the perfect aide to Ana’s brilliance. Din is at turns scandalized, perplexed, and utterly infuriated by his new superior—but as the case unfolds and he watches Ana’s mind leap from one startling deduction to the next, he must admit that she is, indeed, the Empire’s greatest detective.
As the two close in on a mastermind and uncover a scheme that threatens the Empire itself, Din realizes he’s barely begun to assemble the puzzle that is Ana Dolabra—and wonders how long he’ll be able to keep his own secrets safe from her piercing intellect.
By an “endlessly inventive” (Vulture) author with a “wicked sense of humor” (NPR), The Tainted Cup mixes the charms of detective fiction with brilliant world-building to deliver a fiendishly clever mystery that’s at once instantly recognizable and thrillingly new.

Thoughts

Ana and Din are Bennett’s take on the Holmes/Watson relationship with Ana in Sherlock’s role and Din’s in Watson’s and it’s a pairing that works really, really well. Din, Ana’s new assistant, is an engraver, meaning he’s been altered to remember everything, much like Sherlock’s own mind. But he lacks the ability, and the knowledge, to put what he sees together. (Not like Sherlock) That’s Ada’s job. She takes his detailed reports and, at a rapid speed, can see patterns and connections that evade everyone else. Ada knows how to push Din’s buttons and takes great delight in doing so. She’s a strong character, but also morally grey at times in her pursuit of justice.
Din is an engraver, but also someone who has much to learn about himself. He remembers everything he sees and hears. As the story plays out, it becomes clear he’s more than an engraver. And that he harbors a secret that could cost him everything.
The murder mystery is well-written. The initial murder sets off a chain reaction with horrific unintended consequences. Even though the murders may be solved, what they set in motion may be impossible to stop.
It took me a bit to get into this book, but once I settled in, I had trouble putting it down. The ending was satisfying.

4/5 stars.

Read an excerpt

Publishing Info

Genre: Epic Fantasy, Murder Mystery
ISBN 9781984820709
Release Date: Feb. 6

 

 

 

 

 

Book Notes Review: The Lost Dresses of Italy by M. A. Mclaughlin

Back of woman in blue dress walking down Italian street. book cover for The Lost Dresses of Italy

The Lost Dresses of Italy
by M. A. Mclaughlin

The Lost Dresses of Italy is a historical fiction book and a murder mystery. The story is told in two points of view and with two timelines. In October 1947, widow Marianne Baxter, a textile historian, travels to Italy to help prepare three dresses for an exhibit. The dresses were owned by Christina Rossetti and found in a trunk in a museum undergoing restoration. In 1865, Christina Rossetti is almost late to a meeting with a potential donor. Christina volunteers at a halfway house for women, and the potential donor had contacted her. It turns out the donor is an old friend of her father’s from their revolutionary days in Italy.  He will meet her again in Italy during a trip planned by several members of Christina’s family. The trips for both women, Marianne in 1947 and Christina in 1865, become far more than they initially planned. Both trips involve mysteries, deception, and betrayal.
As I read, I found myself looking up information about Rossetti because the book piqued my interest. The author also starts each chapter with the beginning lines from Monna Innominata: A Sonnet of Sonnets, written by Rossetti. There are several mysteries in the book. The book opens with a murder that is still unsolved. No one knows how Christian Rossetti’s expensive dresses ended up in Italy; her home was in London. It seems these two events are unrelated, but as the story continues, the answer to smaller mysteries leads to bigger ones. I enjoyed reading this book. Recommended.

Thanks to #NetGalley for providing a free copy of #TheLostDresses in exchange for a review. All opinions are my own.

Publishing Info:
Publisher: Alcove Press
Genres: General adult fiction, historical fiction
Pages: 304
ISBN: 9781639105649
Pub date: Feb. 6, 2024

Book Notes: Lost Hours by Paige Shelton

Lost Hours
Book Five in the Alaska Wild series
by Paige Shelton

Beth’s past collides with her present when a kidnap victim arrives in Benedict.

Summary

In this fifth book in Paige Shelton’s Alaska Wild series, readers return to Benedict, Alaska, an isolated town on the edge of the Alaskan wilderness. Beth Rivers has made Benedict her home to recover from a violent kidnapping months earlier. She’s decided to take a boat tour to see glaciers, but before she and her “man-friend” Tex can reach their destination the tour is diverted by a woman in distress on the shore of one of the islands in the area. She’s covered in blood and it’s obvious she needs help. Once she’s brought aboard, Beth finds out Sadie Milbourn, the rescued woman, is a kidnap victim. Her story is similar to Beth’s and it’s through that similar experience the two women establish common ground. Sadie reveals to Beth that Sadie is in witness protection and has lived in Juneau for the last six years. As the investigation into Sadie’s case continues, more questions than answers arise. Another kidnapping takes place. Beth suspects the two cases are connected but can’t find the answers she needs.

Lost Hours-Likes

The characters. Benedict is a small, isolated town on the edge of the Alaskan wilderness. The only ways in or out are either plane or ferry. Internet is spotty at best and any emergency help is hours, if not days, away. Because of the isolation, the people in and around Benedict are self-sufficient, but also ready to help anyone needing it. Beth’s estranged father has also moved to Benedict, and she’s still trying to figure out what kind of relationship to have with him. The relationships are complicated, changing, and greatly influenced by the setting.
The setting. The Alaskan wilderness. It’s beautiful but potentially deadly. Alaska is one of my favorite places, ever. (At least in the summer. I haven’t experienced winter. Yet.)

The mystery. The twists and turns in Lost Hours kept me on my toes and the ending was one I didn’t see coming. Well-done.

Lost Hours-dislike

The plot line that has been running through the series took a predicable turn. As I read the book, my hope was that particular plot point wouldn’t come into play, but it did, and I was disappointed.

Recommendation

I’ve read all the books in the series, usually ordering them as soon the pre-orders are available. The mysteries keep me guessing, the Alaskan setting and characters draw me into the books, the covers are gorgeous, and I’m looking forward to the next book in the series.
If you haven’t read any of the other books in the series (Thin Ice, Cold Wind, Dark Night, and Winter’s End) you can read this as a stand-alone, but I would recommend starting with Thin Ice and working your way through the series.
4/5 stars.

 

Publishing Info

Imprint: Minotaur Books
Pub date: 12/5/2023
ISBN: 9781250846617
Genre: Mystery
Pages: 288

Thanks to #NetGalley and #StMartinsPress for a copy of #LostHours. All opinions are my own.

Book Notes Review: Some of Us Are Looking

Book cover For Some Of Us Are Looking by Carlene O'ConnorSome of Us Are Looking
Book Two  in the County Kerry Series

By Carlene O’Connor

 

Set in Ireland and Irish culture, O’Connor weaves a tight, tense tale of murder and revenge.

Description

In late summer, the Dingle peninsula is thronged with tourists drawn to County Kerry’s dark mountains and deep, lush valleys. For Irish vet Dimpna Wilde, who has returned to run her family’s practice after years away, home is a beautiful but complicated place—especially when it becomes the setting for a brutal murder . . .  

In Dimpna Wilde’s veterinary practice, an imminent meteor shower has elevated the usual gossip to include talk of shooting stars and the watch parties that are planned all over Dingle. But there are also matters nearer at hand to discuss—including the ragtag caravan of young people selling wares by the roadside, and the shocking death of Chris Henderson, an elderly local, in a hit-and-run.

Just hours before his death, Henderson had stormed into the Garda Station, complaining loudly about the caravan’s occupants causing noise and disruption. One of their members is a beautiful young woman named Brigid Sweeney, and Dimpna is shocked when Brigid later turns up at her practice, her clothing splattered in blood and an injured hare tucked into her shirt.

Brigid claims that a mysterious stranger has been trying to obtain a lucky rabbit’s foot. Dimpna is incensed at the thought of anyone mutilating animals, but there is far worse in store. On the night of the meteor shower, Dimpna finds Brigid’s body tied to a tree, her left hand severed. She has bled to death. Wrapped around her wrist is a rabbit’s foot.

Brigid had amassed plenty of admirers, and there were tangled relationships within the group. But perhaps there is something more complex than jealousy at play. The rabbit’s foot, the severed hand, the coinciding meteor shower—the deeper Dimpna and Detective Sargeant Cormac O’Brien investigate, the more ominous the signs seem to be, laced with a warning that Dimpna fears it will prove fatal to overlook.

Some of Us Are Looking-Likes
The characters.
First is Dimpna Wilde. Dimpna is a veterinarian and she’s returned home to take over her ailing father’s practice. Dimpna has had a hard life (the story is in No Strangers Here), but she is well on her way to rebuilding it. Her practice is thriving. She may or may not have a potential relationship in the works with Detective Sargent Cormac O’Brian.

Detective Sargent Cormac O’Brian isn’t sure what to make of his relationship with Dimpna either. There’s an attraction there, he thinks, but he’s not sure. He does know he is attracted to her and really doesn’t want her to find out about his latest indiscretion, one he needs to tell Sargent Barbara Neely about and the sooner the better.

Then there’s Sargent Barbara Neely. Instead of retiring, she transferred to the Tralee Garda Station from Dingle and is now regretting her life choices. Elderly Chris Henderson, on his third visit of the week, barged into her office and announced he caught a pervert. Inspector O’Brian obviously has something he needs to tell her, but Henderson interrupted O’Brian before he had a chance to start, and now she has a circus in her office. All before lunch. She has her hands full at the start of the book, but her life is about to get much more difficult when the murders start.

The Murders
First, Chris Henderson is killed in a hit-and-run and witnesses say he was targeted. Then Dr. Wilde discovers the body of Brigid Sweeny. The beautiful young woman had been in the news and in contact with the police as a member of a caravan. Her death is a gruesome one.
Someone has also vandalized shops in Dingle. They’ve chalked messages across several of the shops referencing a cold case from 1944, in England.
The murders take place against the backdrop of the Perseid meteor shower, giving Dr. Wilde, Sargent Neely, and DS O’Brien an endless pool of suspects and a short time to solve the murders. Once the meteor shower is over, the crowds will disperse all over Ireland, the killer going with them.

I really love the immersion into Irish culture and life.

Dislikes
I didn’t really buy into the gravity of O’Brien’s indiscretion, but that didn’t keep me from enjoying this book.

My Thoughts

If you’re familiar with O’Connor’s writing through her Irish Village cozy mystery series, the County Cork series is not that. Some of Us Are Looking is darker in tone than a cozy; the murders are more brutal and more detail is on the page (but not excessive, just enough to give this reader chills). To me it has more of a traditional mystery/thriller slant, but still has Connor’s distinctive sense of humor and complex characters found in her other books. I fell in love with this series with the first book No Strangers Here, and quickly read this one. Recommended.

Thanks to #NetGalley and #Kensington for providing a copy of #SomeOfUsAreLooking for review.

Publishing Information

Published by: Kensington
Imprint: Kensington
368 Pages, 6.00 x 9.00 in

ISBN: 9781496737557

ON SALE: 10/24/2023

FICTION / MYSTERY & DETECTIVE / INTERNATIONAL MYSTERY & CRIME