Gourmet Holiday Murder: Patti Benning

(Papa Pacelli’s Pizzeria #6)

It’s Christmastime in Maine & as Ellie Pacelli prepares to celebrate the season, she assumes there will be peace on Earth. Shopping & decorating take a temporary backseat to restaurant renovations. Ellie has her heart set on a drive thru window being installed at the pizzeria. Hoping it’ll encourage time-crunched patrons to continue to buy pizza.

After she picks a contractor, she assumes the project will continue. But, soon after he starts work, he’s found dead in the snow. At the most wonderful time of the year, who’s the murderous Grinch?

Although it is still technically a mystery, Book 6 seems more like regular fiction. We find out much more about Ellie & her friend, Russell. For most of the book, it’s a feel good story. The mystery portion is pretty routine. I won’t take much for readers to figure it all out.

It’s a good read no matter which genre it’s filed under. It certainly is better than the last one and hopefully will continue in this fashion throughout the series. I give it a solid 3 stars.

To Hell in a Handbasket: Willow Rose

Two senior citizens driving a powder blue Cadillac may not be what you think of as typical villains. In fact, they’d probably overlooked as suspects in anything. For Tim Robertson, they are evil incarnate.

As a child, Tim’s best friend went to sell cookies to two older ladies who’d lived on their street. Once he entered the house, the boy never came out again. Fast-forwarding twenty years, a grown-up Tim and his family are living far from the neighborhood he’d grown up in. Imagine his surprise when a moving truck shows up across the street carrying the belongings for two very familiar faces.

Taking up residence in their new house are the exact same little, old ladies who’ve haunted his dreams. They haven’t changed a bit. When unfortunate occurrences begin to plague Tim’s neighborhood, he knows exactly who to blame. But, no one believes him. After all, they’re the picture of innocence. To stop the madness, TIm needs to confront his worst nightmare head-on.

This novel is one of the few that Willow Rose has penned that isn’t attached to a series. Horror fans will notice that she crosses over a number of sub-genres in this one- shape shifting, murder, and paranormal among others. Unfortunately, this is not her best work.

The original encounter with a younger Tim is the best part. Once he enters adulthood, things become jumbled and hard-to-follow. It zig zags through introducing insignificant characters while neglecting any development with the main ones. Although most horror novels require the readers to suspend belief in realty for a while, this one goes beyond that to the point that I was ‘seriously? That doesn’t even make sense in horror’. It isn’t unreadable, but if I was to recommend one of her books, it wouldn’t be this one. I give it 3 stars.

Better Watch Out: Willow Rose

The title of this novella may be from a popular Christmas tune, but the story is far from it. Sara has a phobia about Santa. According to her, he isn’t a jolly, cookie-loving elf. No, to her, he’s a vicious killer. Her story is relayed to the reader as she is telling it to a psychiatrist.

Warning: this is not one for sensitive readers. You’ll never view Santa the same way again.

Full of mayhem and the antithesis of Christmas cheer, Willow Rose does what she does best- scare the pants off of her readers. At only 55 pages, it’s definitely a quick read that you’ll finish in one sitting. Other than the synopsis above, telling anything more would ruin the novella.

It was a fun read. I can tell you that much, though. I give it a 4 star rating and encourage those who enjoy a good scare to try this one.

The Man in the Lighthouse: Erik Valeur

New Year’s Day, 2015, most folks celebrated. However, in Denmark, the Prime Minister & his brother were receiving devastating news. Their mother, known as the Widow Blegman, had vanished from her nursing home. Investigating the case is Denmark’s premiere police official known simply as the Homicide Boss. But, in order to solve her very peculiar disappearance, he’ll need to work backward. Delving into the past is seldom a pleasant task. But, the Widow is tied to a number of very shady events and these events will rock Denmark to its core.

Meanwhile, a man named Viggo Larssen, who lives in a lighthouse is struggling with a peculiar mystery of his own. He is haunted by a mysterious dream and the unsolved death of his own mother. During his childhood, he was tied to the Blegman Dynasty by geography, having been their longtime neighbor. His childhood was far from pleasant and he has suffered for most of his life as an outcast, persecuted for his appearance and eccentricities. None of his memories are fond ones. When he hears of the Widow’s disappearance, he’s taken back to that time via memory lane.

By exploring the years of Viggo’s life, from the 70’s to the present, we see how his life crosses with the Widow’s and her family. Transferring from past to present, we meet Viggo’s four closest childhood friends. Each has a reason to hate the Blegmans & to seek revenge. Each also has good reason to hold a grudge on one another. While Viggo tries admirably to find his own mental stability, the Homicide Boss most work quickly to discover how an elderly woman disappeared from a locked room without a trace.

In ‘The Man in the Lighthouse’, Erik Valuer does a masterful job of blending multiple storylines together, creating a perfectly plausible, yet mystifying mystery. Using a different character to narrate each chapter worked elegantly here. It’s a risky move to write this way, but Valuer had no trouble making it work. Our author tackled so many different social issues it makes your head spin. Mental illness, economic prejudice, struggles of single parents- you name it & it’s more than likely discussed in some form.

Viggo is our main character for the most part. He’s the classic, flawed hero. As readers catch up with his life, they find themselves cheering and cringing on a literary roller coaster. It’s easy to see a piece of ourselves in him- good or bad. Although there were many theological points with which I wholeheartedly disagree with the author, I can’t say that this novel was anything less than fantastic. From the writing style to the characters to its ‘wow’ moment ending, it deserves a 5 star rating. Even if one wasn’t a huge fan of the plot, the author deserves applause for the seamless time switches & narration changing.

I’d recommend taking time for this one. It isn’t a light, take-it-to-the-beach read. But, it is worth the time investment.

Ripper: The Secret Life of Walter Sickert: Patricia Cornwell

London in the 1800s was terrorized by an unknown assailant who stalked & killed his prey. ‘Jack the Ripper’ was what he’d called himself in his numerous letters to the police. Without DNA, computers, or even fingerprinting abilities, the authorities were stumped. Most of their investigations led them to think a low-income, laborer was to blame.

Over the many years since the first Ripper murder, conspiracies and opinions have abounded. Author Patricia Cornwell was lead to and became obsessed with finding the truth. Taking the route of processing the Ripper case with modern technologies, she virtually time traveled to the Ripper’s era. It’s no secret that she has decided she knows his identity.

Walter Sickert is mostly remembered as an angst artist who depended on his wives’ generosity to live. Because he is held in high regard by the art community, her investigation was less than well received. Accusations against her and conflicting theories were tossed about when the first edition of this book was written. Now, with additional pictures, evidence, and information, Cornwell has re-written her case. Within the 570 page, non-fiction work, Patricia Cornwell provides her entire theory on why Walter Sickert was Jack the Ripper.

Whether or not readers agree, and based on the reviews of this book the opinions are mixed, one has to say that her research is impressive and her case is sound. Without a confession or some other such proof, we can never bang the gavel on these murders. Circumstantial evidence, in my opinion, does side with our author. No doubt, this is the most complete, modernized account of the entire case and all the murders involved.

Patricia Cornwell has invested an immense amount of time, energy, and her own money to complete this investigation. No one can argue that she wasn’t all in. That said, it is a one-sided book. Even the title is adamant that Sickert was the Ripper. Although other avenues were briefly mentioned, they all led her directly back to Sickert. Readers won’t find any other plausible Ripper theories in this book.

This specific edition does contain maps & photos to aid in the case. The autopsy photos should make readers grateful that our medical field has advanced! However, there is a lot of repetition in the pages. Many times, Cornwell hammers the point home by reasserting opinion and by providing way too many details about Sickert’s routines. It definitely could have filled less than 570 pages.

I cannot argue her theories and if asked, I’d probably side with her based on the info she’s provided. It’s a compelling case that could be prosecuted in today’s courts. But, there was too much opinion, too many mundane passages and it just lacked a ‘Wow’ factor. If someone chooses to read ‘Ripper’, they must be either very into non-fiction, specifically true  crime, or very into the Ripper in general. It is a time-consuming read that took me much long than usual to finish. I give it 3 stars.

On a separate note, the Kindle edition of this book contained ‘Kindle in Motion’. Basically, this is an interactive feature where pictures and maps move and can be moved. I enjoyed this feature and more Kindle books should utilize it.

Book Spotlight: Lose Your Fat, Not Your Mind: Adrian Padula

Lose Your Fat, Not Your Mind
By Adrian Padula
Genre: Non-Fiction
Losing weight can often be an uphill battle for most people. Are you looking for a simple yet effective way to drop those excess pounds? After many years of working in the health and fitness industry, Adrian decided that there had to be certain principles that when followed, produced guaranteed weight loss and better health for anyone who followed them. Principles that were so simple to use and easy to implement, yet still produced remarkable results. After years of research and testing, Adrian finally discovered the 7 ‘secret’ principles that must be followed in order to achieve the kind of body and level of health that most people desire. Moreover, this method of eating is enjoyable, easy to sustain, and can be adapted to YOUR specific lifestyle! Finally, a plan that you can actually stick with and a way of eating that WILL produce the results you have always wanted, and quickly! *Learn how to recognise which foods literally force your body to burn body fat *Discover which superfoods you must include in your diet to fast track your results *Learn how to use intermittent fasting as a powerful weight loss tool *Learn how to switch on your fat-burning hormones *Lose 3-4 pounds every week *Discover the biggest mistakes most people make when trying to lose weight *Learn how to destroy your sugar cravings using a simple 4-step process *Discover how you can finally gain control over the food you eat *Learn how Adrian’s proven 7-step method, which has helped hundreds of his clients, can also give you amazing results *Find out which supplements can help you to lose weight and which ones are a total waste of your money *Discover how you can activate your ‘skinny gene’ *Have access to nutritious and easy to prepare recipes that are guaranteed to taste amazing! About the Author

Adrian Padula is a certified nutritionist, wellness coach, chef, author and blogger. Working in the health, fitness and hospitality industries over the past 20 years ignited his passion to help others to look and feel their best through healthy lifestyle choices. Working closely with food also gave him an understanding of how people’s eating habits and lack of awareness was not only leading them further away from their goals, but also down the path to self-destruction. His ‘worthy ideal’ is to help educate people and assist them in living a happier, healthier life.
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On Amazon: myBook.to/LoseYourFat

The Girl At The Bar by Nicholas Nash

Bright, ambitious Rebecca Chase is in New York for a medical conference. As a cutting edge researcher, she is on top of her game and a hot commodity. During a break from the conference, she stops in a bar where she meets Ragnar Johnson.

A discussion on his unusual name leads to a late night rendezvous in his apartment. Ragnar believes his recent run of bad luck has changed. That is until he wakes up the next morning to an empty bed and a missing Rebecca. What initially appeared to be a young woman regretting a drunken choice becomes a true missing person’s case when the police knock on his apartment door. It seems that Rebecca isn’t just missing from his apartment. She’s gone without a trace.

Shady scientists, sketchy friends, and scary secrets all come into play in the search for Rebecca. It seems that everyone wants to find her- or do they?

‘The Girl At the Bar’ is Nicholas Nash’s first book. The basic premise is good. His plot is well thought out and shows promise. However, there are a number of things that I didn’t care for throughout the book. Character to character dialogue seemed much too scripted. Rarely do ‘real’ people speak without using any slang or consistently speak in full sentences. Here, our characters repeat themselves -often- and use the word ‘Uh’ constantly.

In a mystery that involves cancer research, a good bit of medical jargon is to be expected. However, some benefit of the doubt should be given to readers. Not all terms need a paragraph long explanation. For example, carcinogens is a pretty common word for most readers. It comes off as condescending and elementary to leave the plot’s action & define it. The same can be said for historical references. If it isn’t essential to the plot, leave it out. It’s distracting.

That said, my opinion is that ‘The Girl in the Bar’ is simply missing the ‘WOW’ factor. A little over halfway through, I’d reconciled what I thought the finale would be and I was spot on. With so much competition in fiction, a book really needs to stand out in its genre. Sadly, this one does not. I give it 3 stars, which is being generous, and hopefully, Nicholas Nash will come with his ‘A’ game in his next book.

*Sensitive readers: Contains sex and violence

**I received a copy in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are mine. As always, read for yourself and draw your own conclusion.