Review: Witch Way to Murder

Title: Witch Way to Murder
Author: Shirley Damsgaard
Place/s visited:

  • Summerset, Iowa

Thoughts:
I was quite excited to read this one as it presented a great, new opportunity for me to enjoy a new book. The story had a slow start but the action and mystery sure did pick up right towards the later part of the novel.

Ophelia Jensen is a librarian at a small public library in Summerset, Iowa. Unbeknownst to other residents, Ophelia and her grandma Abby possess psychic gifts although Ophelia is quite adamant about not using it after it had seemed to fail her by not preventing her friend Brian’s murder when she was still working at the University of Iowa.

Fast forward four years, her talents started manifesting again following a murder whose victim Ophelia and one of the other main characters, Rick, found. What ensued was a bizarre mix of petty crimes and incidents which dropped hints and clues here and there leading towards the big finish, some romance, which, although quite obvious, did not develop that naturally to my taste, some humor provided by the protagonist’s sidekick, Darci, and a quite satisfactory ending.

The mystery in itself was a bit convoluted although the author tried her best to tie things up at the end. While I like that Ophelia did finally want to move past her reticence and reluctance in using her gifts, there were times when she was just a tad irritating in insisting on locking away her potential. Her moments of helplessness were quite maddening, too. Rick, on the other hand, while described as charming by the author, was just annoying at the start after dogging Ophelia and the others with his questions. He later mellowed and started redeeming himself in my eyes. Trust me, it took a really long time before I started to be okay with him. Haha!

My favorite characters would have to be Darci and Abby. Though they weren’t as fleshed out as Ophelia in characterization, they’ve more than made up for it with their spunk, wit and humor.

For my final notes, I would gladly return to Summerset and revisit these characters but that may take a while as I have decided to explore other books for the Paranormal Reading Challenge 2017. (I have just updated the list of what books I’ll be reading and reviewing for that particular challenge so you might want to check that out. ^_^)

If you’re into witches and cozy murder mysteries, then Witch Way to Murder is a good choice to pass the time especially on a cold, rainy afternoon like we’re having in Cebu today. 🙂

Verdict: A light carry-on luggage / a fun start to a new series; okay enough while waiting for your flight to be called for boarding

I’m reviewing this book as part of the Paranormal Reading Challenge 2017.
Sign-ups open throughout the year– http://www.wholelattebooks.com/2016/12/the-2017-paranormal-reading-challenge.html!


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Book image owned by the author and publisher.
Original image of the world map from www.drodd.com.
All other images in this post are copyrighted by The Traveling Reader, 2017.

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Review: Maman’s Homesick Pie: A Persian Heart in an American Kitchen

Title: Maman’s Homesick Pie: A Persian Heart in an American Kitchen
Author: Donia Bijan
Place/s visited:

  • Tehran, Iran
  • Majorca, Spain
  • Fresno, California, USA

Thoughts:
Why do we chronicle our lives? Is it because we have accomplished so much that we want people to know just how good our lives have been? Or is it because we are vain and we just can’t resist a little bit of boasting? Or is it because deep down we know we have a good story to tell that other people would learn some from?
Probably a little bit of everything of those. And that’s what this book is about and more.

Connecting anecdotes and snippets of the Bijans’ lives through food and recipes learned at her mother’s kitchen and recipe books, author Donia Bijan has crafted a memoir suffused with happiness, contentment and a yearning for an easier time in the past. These tales are nothing short of mesmerizing as they paint in your mind a tableau worthy of a five-course meal in a five-star restaurant. My favorite scenes were of the author’s younger self picking sour cherries from the trees they have grown at the back of the hospital that their family has built and their travel to Majorca where their explorations of the local cuisine has induced some hunger pangs in me. Oh, to have the means to take off for some time just to soak in a new culture and what they have to offer on the table and not be bothered to hurry from one tourist spot to another but I digress.

More than just a foodie book (and a really good one at that based on the salivating I was making while trying to finish it), the accounts told of her parents’ sacrifice and exodus and eventual stay in America were what made this book solid for me. While I did enjoy all the food discussions, I sometimes found myself losing focus because I couldn’t relate to the author’s experience. There was just a slight tinge of “haughtiness” appearing here and there, probably because the narratives are told in a light and breezy manner despite the seriousness of some of the topics, though that didn’t distract me much as all the food things reeled me back in. I couldn’t help but feel that with stories like this, some of the events that happened tended to be romanticized rather than viewed and reported through the hard lenses of reality. This is not a perfect tome but since I wasn’t looking for one, this was still totally enjoyable to me.

Verdict: A jetsetter’s must-have — Quite right when reading through flights / learning more about Persian cooking

I’m reviewing this book as part of the Foodies Read 2017 Challenge.
Sign-ups for January still available until 1/31 — http://www.spiritblog.net/january-2017-foodies-read/!


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Book image owned by the author and publisher.
Original image of the world map from www.drodd.com.
All other images in this post are copyrighted by The Traveling Reader, 2017.

Mystery Monday #3: Million Dollar Baby

Million Dollar Baby by Amy Patricia Meade

For any reader, it’s fairly easy to get sucked into a new series just for the sheer joy of enjoying the characters so much that they cease to exist within the confines of a paperback and start leaping all over the page. And in the case of Amy Patricia Meade’s cozy mystery Million Dollar Baby, oddly enough, it wasn’t the main female lead – author Marjorie McClelland – that caught my attention but rather the rich, urbane and somewhat eccentric hero and reluctant sidekick Creighton Richard Ashcroft III. But before I get ahead of myself and spew adulation about the funny British debonair, I’d tell you the rest about the book first.

In post-Depression 1930’s, Marjorie McClelland has just published her new book Death in Denmark when she met Creighton Ashcroft, who moved in to Ridgebury, Connecticut after leaving his multimillion business in New York in pursuit of some other things in life. Marjorie asked Creighton to be her editor as he “doesn’t seem to be occupied much” with the latter agreeing not because he was the altruistic type but rather he finds the blond, green-eyed minx easy on the eyes. When the pair decided to check out Creighton’s new crib, Kensington House, the duo stumbled upon the bony remains of someone who might have been murdered in the mansion grounds (making Marjorie immediately suspicious of the British millionaire). Apparently, the famed abode boasts not only of a (describe place) but rather a sinister history of murder or suicide as well (just take your pick).

MY VERDICT:

One word: fun. Because Creighton made it so. He was charming, witty, and a little bit of maverick that hours spent on staking out potential criminals seem like adventures in themselves. To be honest, he made Marjorie tolerable. Not that she was bad; She was actually a colorful character. She’s smart, inquisitive and tenacious. However, her being kind of silly at times is something I couldn’t really appreciate (it works well in other female leads I’ve read about though; maybe it’s just hard to reconcile that idea with Marjorie McClelland). Plus, I can’t believe how she liked the police officer over Creighton, granting that the former is way handsomer than Creighton. For me, it’s not just about how handsome the guy is (though that will give you a better first impression); it’s much about how he can be fun, smart, kind, and resourceful when necessary. And Creighton’s cute, too, not to mention very witty (haven’t I mentioned that yet?). While reading, I couldn’t help thinking that maybe Marjorie needed prescription glasses in order to see that she and Creighton are more suited to each other (if their easy and at times prickly banter isn’t evidence enough). Sometimes, one can’t help but think that authors devise these “forks in the road” in order to make these female leads “redeem themselves” eventually.

On the other hand, I’d have to commend Amy Patricia Meade’s elegant world-building of the 1930’s Ridgebury community. I am not an expert on nor an enthusiast about the Depression era but the feelings evoked in the book somehow communicate how it was like living in a time when money has become a precious commodity many times over (I’d say it’s pretty much like how America and the rest of the world nowadays is). People were scrambling to find jobs, even taking a part-time just to augment the family income. And the book was spot on about that. The secondary characters which we meet in this series are rather remarkable in their steadfastness despite the economic crisis they were all facing. In fact, they give a distinctive color to the book and ultimately, the series.

As for the mystery, it wasn’t too easy to guess nor was it very hard to infer. I would have loved it to be just a teeny weeny bit complicated but since it has served its purpose then it’s all good. I would love to read more about Marjorie’s and Creighton’s deductive reasoning in the next books of the series though. Nothing like a new mystery to hone an amateur detective’s observation (and probably staking out) skills. 😀


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Mystery Monday Logo and Art © The Traveling Reader, 2011. Book cover image © Amy Patricia Meade and Midnight Ink.

You can find out more about this book and the rest of the series on:
Series Info – Marjorie McClelland Mystery Series
Author’s Website – http://amypatriciameade.com
Author’s Blog – http://amypatriciameade.com/homepage-fade-slider/blog/
Twitter – @amypmeade
Goodreads – Amy Patricia Meade on Goodreads

Mystery Monday #2: The Ghost and Mrs. McClure

I know it took me a long time to produce a follow-up to my Mystery Monday #1: Secondhand Spirits post and I apologize for that. But here’s post no. 2 and hope you’ll like it as much as you did post. no. 1. 🙂

The Ghost and Mrs. McClure by Alice Kimberly

The first novel in this “hauntingly good” cozy mystery series by the hubby and wife writing tandem of Marc Cerasini and Alice Alfonsi, under the pen name Alice Kimberly, has introduced us to Penelope “Pen” Thornton-McClure, co-owner of Buy the Book, a quaint bookstore in an even quainter town of Quindicott, Rhode Island. Pen is a single mom eager to make a new life for her and her seven-year old son Spencer back in her hometown after witnessing her husband’s suicide and leaving her publishing job in NYC and her late husband’s elitist family.

But going back to Quindicott is no picnic in the park. The bookstore needed immediate renovations and inventory problems that had to be sorted. Without much hesitation, Pen cashed in her late husband’s life insurance policy to breathe new life into the bookshop that has been in her family for years. Pen also bought and annexed the “cursed” establishment next door making Buy the Book twice as big with enough room for book-related events that could house a sizable crowd.

And it was during the first affair organized by Pen that the mystery started. Timothy Brennan, author of the famed Jack Shield series, chose Buy the Book as the first stop in his Shield of Justice book tour. It was a calculated move as the spot where Buy the Book’s community center is located was the site of the unsolved murder case involving Jack Shepard, the real life hard-boiled detective for whom the Jack Shield books are modeled after. Tim Brennan had known the real Jack back when he was still a reporter and he wanted to cash in on that notoriety. But Jack Shepard the ghost was not happy. Yup. The infamous PI has been trapped in the premises of the bookstore since 1949 when his life was unfortunately snuffed out before he could crack the case he promised his friend he would solve. Quite baffling how only Pen could hear him in her thoughts even though he had played pranks with the construction workers as the bookstore renovations were going on. What started as a getting-to-know-you between our heroine and our ghostly gumshoe quickly became an unlikely partnership in solving the murder case of Tim Brennan’s untimely demise while promoting his latest opus.

MY VERDICT:
I like it. I like how the book was able to make me feel part of that darling Rhode Island community. Alice Kimberly was keen on painting vivid details so it was quite easy to picture myself going around Buy the Book and the other locations. Unlike other cozies when it was the main character who’s responsible for solving the crime, with the Haunted Bookshop Mystery Series, it’s actually a ghost who aids and ultimately solves the mysteries (I’m on to the third book now). So this kind of premise requires a suspension of belief on the reader’s part for him/her to accept certain circumstances like how Jack and Pen are able to communicate telepathically even if Pen acknowledged herself to be a skeptic about things psychical. But I’m rather imaginative so it wasn’t that hard to believe how a ghost could interact with the living in that singularly peculiar manner.

The only stumbling block maybe for me was Jack’s language that hailed all the way from the 1940’s Americana. English is not my native tongue so I consulted the Kindle Touch’s built-in dictionary more than a few times in order to better understand the context. Some of the slang weren’t even decipherable. But other than that, the book was really fun. The relationship between the MC and the secondary characters were hilariously charming. I sure want to feel that camaraderie again in the next books as I’m planning to read them. But what sold me in on the series is my burning curiosity as to what will become of Jack as the story progresses. Will the mystery behind his death be solved? Or will he remain an immaterial entity longing to have a slice of life that was inopportunely snatched from him? Maybe it’s kind of creepy how I think he and Pen could have something going on but I’m a romantic at heart so I’m hoping (and I’m crossing my fingers on this one) the authors would be able to provide something to satiate my wants for a hot romance between the lovable single mom and the supernatural investigator.

P.S. Read my review of the second book in this series – The Ghost and the Dead Deb on BookTrib:

http://mauiehernando.booktrib.com/reviews/the-ghost-and-the-dead-deb/


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Mystery Monday Logo and Art © The Traveling Reader, 2011. Book cover image © Alice Kimberly and Berkley Prime Crime, New York.

Alice Kimberly is the pseudonym employed by the popular writing couple Marc Cerasini and Alice Alfonsi in penning The Haunted Bookshop Mystery Series. They pair also go by Cleo Coyle in writing the very popular Coffehouse Mystery Series.

You can find out more about this book and the rest of the series on:
Series Info – Haunted Bookshop Mystery Series
Author’s Website – http://www.coffeehousemystery.com/cleos_haunted_bookshop.cfm
Author’s Blog (with other mystery authors) – http://www.mysteryloverskitchen.com/
Twitter – @CleoCoyle
Goodreads – Alice Kimberly on Goodreads

Review: Kindle Touch (Part 6)

WISHLIST

  1. Array of recently viewed items in the home screen (maybe of the last 5-10 books accessed). This would be a big help to any reader who is reading more than 1 book at the same time (yes, some of us need palate cleansers). Currently, when you are in the home screen of the KT, you need to scroll through to wherever your book is (read: category). Kind of tedious to find the book again and again. Yes, the KT allows the typical search function (can be accessed on the menu bar) but why do you have to do that when a handy shortlist is already available on the home screen much like in B&N’s Nook.
  2. Last page read should be bookmarked especially when you have returned to the home page. The basic Kindle has this feature up but I don’t know why they removed it in the KT. I miss being able to go back to the book at exactly the last sentence I’ve read. When you view options for a book (tap on the book title for at least 1.5 sec for the options menu to load), they should include “last page read”, too.
  3. Option to view books as list or as covers. I kind of envy (alright, super envy) Nook’s way of displaying their books – in a grid format with the book covers that look so enticing. Would love for the KT (or all of the kindle lines) to have this feature also.
  4. Physical buttons for page-turning. I can’t stress enough how much I miss this.
  5. Space/feature for notes-taking (those random stuff that have nothing to do with books being read) + the ability to “doodle” notes using a stylus or by hand (Sony e-reader PRS 600 has this one). Aah. This will be a welcome feature especially to compulsive note-takers like me. It would be even cooler to export outputs as jpegs. What I did to be able to add miscellaneous stuff is to create my own “blank sheet” with an ordered list of numbers and had it converted to mobi format using Calibre (that big hunk of genius). I have yet to perfect it as one sample has the first ten numbers even spaced in one line after the after; however, the next numbers are just right next to each other. Sample number two behaved in another way as all the numbers are lumped together with only a space separating them from each other. I have yet to fathom Calibre’s conversion behavior so that might take a while.
  6. Built-in light to be able to read in the dark or in low-light situations. Of course, there are plenty of external reading lights; some you can even just clip-on to your e-reader cover (I have a MightyBright Light myself). Amazon is also selling their own hard covers with patented swing-out light that draws power from the reading device that no batteries are needed. But that one’s way too expensive for me right now. So I think any Kindle aficionado who is looking to upgrade his device or a newbie to the ebook reading business would be happy to have a device that allows you to read in bright sunlight (without the glare) and be able to read at night using the device’s own capabilities (kindle night light, anyone?). B&N recently came out with the Nook with GlowLight technology and as per the reviews, the GlowLight is a handy dandy feature that will keep any avid reader glued to the page late into the night without bothering their bedmates.
  7. The activation of the social networking feature for those Kindle owners who are not in the US. When you come to the end of a book, you’d be asked to rate it and even share it to your friends. Essentially, it would be like “tweeting” to your followers how much you enjoyed/hated a particular book. However, it didn’t work when I tried it. A few google returns after, I found out that this feature is disabled by Amazon when the device is not registered in the US. What the…? Didn’t Amazon know that some of the most voracious readers in the world are abroad? And that people often read books based on the recommendations of their friends or colleagues? Hmm. Amazon really needs to put this stuff up as they want to generate as many book sales as possible.
  8. Real page numbers rather than “locations”. I cannot for the life of me explain how the locations work to anyone who asks. Frankly, because I don’t understand the concept myself. I just say that it’s Amazon’s algorithm in re-paging the book especially when the font sizes are being adjusted. Yeah, we understand that it would be kind of difficult for Amazon to do that but not entirely impossible. Really. Plus, it would just be cooler to get page numbers as they need no explanations.
  9. Kindle games be made available for those outside the US. I tried downloading some free games for the KT but it said that the software is not available for Asia and the Pacific. Why not? I want answers and possibly those games. After all, readers need to relax once in a while. Hehe

So there you have it, friends. My full review of the Kindle Touch and a bit of comparison there with the basic Kindle. Hope I was able to answer some of the questions you’ve always wanted to ask about electronic readers in the perspective of a consummate reader. Now the big question would be:

Will I buy a new kindle if the ones on my wishlist would be carried over?

Hmm. I honestly don’t know yet. As much as I want to upgrade and get everything I’ve wished for for an ereader. I doubt if it will be easy for me to get acclimated to a new device. Ziva (my KT, and yup, its name’s from that Ziva) has got me hooked because of the sentimental value she carries. And I’m big on being sentimental. Hehe So let’s see. Amazon just might surprise me. 😉


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Images © The Traveling Reader, 2012.

Review: Kindle Touch (Part 5)

We’ve come to part 5 of my kindle review and we’re going to talk about some challenges I’ve met since I was introduced to this baby. If you want to read about the first four (4) parts of this review, here are the links: part 1, part 2, part 3 and part 4.

ISSUES

Aah. You knew there would be some or even a couple such as:

  1. Charger Adapters Not Included – Kindles do not come with wall chargers. A bit of a putout, really, considering how useful it is to a traveling reader like me. I know that these can be bought separately; somehow I would have wanted that it was there in the first place.
  2. Trickle Charge Not Working – As per Amazon, Kindles can be charged through the USB and this is called “trickle charging”. A portion of current passes through the micro USB cable thereby charging your Kindle. However, this didn’t work for the Kindle Touch (KT). It worked out okay though with the Kindle. I don’t know if it’s because my KT is fairly new and it has yet to “settle”. Most forums advised to wait it out ‘til a few weeks hence and check again if it works or not. Others also say that loading books will likewise contribute to the draining of battery. Wanted to take their word for it, but I thought it would be better if I get an adapter. And since I didn’t want to shell out $14.99 for just a generic adapter that I can get locally, I decided to buy an imitation charger for ipods. Yeah, I’m a cheapskate. Haha. Surprise, surprise (or not really), it works. My sister even charged her ipod touch and her bf’s ipod shuffle using that one and it works just fine.

    UPDATE: After using the KT for over 2 months now, I’d say the trickle charge is working just fine. Though it might not charge your unit as much as you expected it too if you’re also loading a lot of books into the device while charging your unit at the same time.

  3. Battery Status Indicator – Now this is a part that confuses me even until now. When charging, the light indicator at the bottom will turn amber and green when the kindle is fully charged. So if it is already fully charged, you’d expect for the Battery Status Indicator (top right portion of the menu bar) to be at 100%. However, that’s not the case. The KT’s battery indicator is only at 96% or something; making me think that the KT is defective (though it really isn’t). Sigh. Methinks this could be remedied with a firmware upgrade.

    UPDATE: With the software update on _____, this problem has already been resolved with the battery icon showing a full charge when it is 100% fully charged.

  4. Ghosting – Ghosting is defined the “residue” of the e-ink whenever the page refreshes. By design, the Kindle only makes a “full refresh” every six pages, so in the interim, a bit of e-ink is “left behind” thereby causing slightly discernable letters from the previous pages viewed. This is not too much of an issue for me but it might be for others.
  5. KT has no physical buttons for reading. That, for me, is the biggest drawback since I was quite used to reading through the Kindle using the physical buttons. I would hold the Kindle with my left hand and that same hand would be able to go between pages. And I miss that. With the KT, you have to press the left side of the screen when you want to move to the previous page and the center area if you want to move forward. While that’s really not a problem, I find the physical side buttons much easier to use (or maybe it’s just me. Haha)

Perfect little gadget that Kindle Touch is, there are still plenty of rooms for improvement. Plenty of opportunities for Amazon and like-minded companies to improve on their designs and create the best products for us readers. That’s why tomorrow I’m going to let you take a peek at my wishlist for the next Kindle upgrade (some I have “gathered” from the best features of other e-readers).


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Images © The Traveling Reader, 2012.

Review: Kindle Touch (Part 4)

To continue with my series of reviews for the Kindle Touch (read about Day 1, Day 2 and Day 3), today, I’m going to share how I find the Kindle 2011 and the Kindle Touch similar and at the same time different.

KINDLE VS. KINDLE TOUCH

Since I mentioned that I was able to use a Kindle even before I got a KT, I think it’s only fair to give a brief comparison of the two.

Kindle 2011 vs. Kindle Touch

SIMILARITIES
CRITERIA KINDLE KINDLE TOUCH
1 E – Ink Technology E – Ink Pearl
2 Aesthetics Gray body with matte finish;

Screen is depressed about 1/8 of an inch from the surface with a dark-colored bezel surrounding it;

The prominent Kindle logo at the top and at the back of the device;

3 Refresh Rate Full refresh every 6 pages
4 Data Transfer Through the micro USB provided (or even a generic one works fine)
5 Battery Charging By connecting the USB (“trickle charging”) to your desktop or laptop or by using an adapter
6 Reading Experience Makes reading-on-the-go a delight like no other.

Continue reading