Trashy Mystery Romp

12012294Death, Taxes, and a French Manicure by Diane Kelly
My Rating: 3/5 Stars

From the first page to the last this was pure white trash. Not the kind that involves lawn implements, although a pink flamingo made a cameo appearance, but the kind that involves Kid Rock concerts, sucking on Buds, with half-naked women prancing around on stage and gyrating in cages with red thongs protecting the merchandise. Well, maybe not that extreme, but it felt pretty darn close, with red thongs and polka-dotted panties receiving more than just a cursory mention.

Tara and Christina would make any redneck proud with sprayed hair at its fizziest max, derriere showing shorts, tube tops, spandex, and enough makeup for the stage. Both come with enough spunk and junk-in-the-trunk to chase away scam artists and pencil-thin drug dealers. The antics left zany in Pinky’s rearview mirror, the ice cream was always plentiful, and even the ones with money ended up being whores and miscreants.

Britney and Chelsea proved to be the kind of women that made other trophy wives look good, with their ample, enhanced assets, bottled-blond hair, tight miniskirts, and enough drunken antics to rival certain childhood actresses, crotch flashing and yelling at the gardeners in nothing more than a pair of panties, after sleeping one off, notwithstanding.

But the voice was what really made DEATH, TAXES, AND A FRENCH MANICURE work for me. The following is how the character first learns about sex (at the age of nine):

I knew a little more about sex than most girls, what with growing up in the country and all. The first time I saw our neighbor’s Black Angus bull mount an unsuspecting heifer, my two older brothers explained it all to me.

“He’s getting him some,” they’d said.

“Some what?” I’d asked.


The mystery may have been a bit underdeveloped, the characters totally off-the-wall, and the frolics tipped my believability factor a bit over the edge, but Tara’s voice was friggin’ fantastic, and that’s most certainly why I kept reading. If you like your mystery romps trashy and larger than life (this is Texas after all), you may just find yourself enjoying this screwy read.

So Help Me God

18754147Double Dip by
My Rating: 3/5 Stars

So Help Me God, this was a funny novel. Not the kind of funny where I was clutching my side while rolling on the sidewalk, threatening to breach the threshold of oncoming traffic, and end up as a hood ornament or flattened to the road to the point where I needed to be peeled off the pavement with a shovel. But it was certainly funny in an amusing, quirky sort of way where the characters often surprised me with either their next line of dialogue or the situations that they managed to find themselves in the middle of, often with very little effort on their part.

Davis “Don’t you dare call me, David” Way has a heart of gold, a friend named Fantasy, a lover named Bradley, a job as a body double, and sometimes lends her hand as casino muscle in the middle of Biloxi, MS. That’s Mississippi, y’all, home of the third largest concentration of casinos in the lower forty-eight, and previous stomping grounds of Hurricane Katrina, which left her thumbprint and watermark long after she blew out of town. Just as Davis does when the story takes her to Beehive, AL, and she finds herself in the middle of a holier-than-thou slot tournament scandal that threatens to take every dime from the blue-haired and blue-eyed church going folk. Sure, the job may not be for everyone, but Davis Way is about to have her day.

The long list of misfits and miscreants include ex-ex-husbands (it’s a long story and don’t get her started), an elderly woman that can’t shoot for shit (popping a cap in the ceiling and another one in her own foot), and more than a few scam artists. If you’d like to end up on your own two feet (as opposed to having your feet up on a hospital bed), you’d better watch out for the banana pudding when you’re around this crew. You might want to take your job a bit more seriously, and you’d better walk around with a smile in this town, or you just might find yourself outside the glass doors looking in.

In the interest of full disclosure, I should probably mention I sent a manuscript to Henery Press approximately two weeks ago. Which means in four more weeks, I’ll receive a polite but firm rejection via email, and in four weeks and a day, Henery Press will have forgotten who the hell I am. Just so you know.

I received this book for free through NetGalley.

Mouth Full Of Sweet Teeth

17381897 by
My Rating: 3/5 Stars

If you have a mouth full of sweet teeth, then ALL FUDGED UP might just be a novel you should bump into at some point in your life. With no less than ten fudge recipes, this book could kick start any hypoglycemic heart in 30 seconds flat. Sure, you could overdose and still end up comatose in the backseat of your mom’s station wagon and find yourself with a one-way ticket to the big house, but that’s a chance any sugar lovin’ fiend should take. If you’re going to end up dead someday anyway, you might as well do it in style and enjoy the ride out of town.

Even the dog Marshmallow aka Mal enjoys her prance around the fudge station and will just as surely lick your face as she’ll smile at you or bark her head off. She’s tiny, but she’s ferocious tiny with a big heart and a penchant for fire hydrants and spinning in circles. Despite her youth, she’s trainable as well, if given the proper time and devotion.

While I’ve never been to Mackinac Island, I feel as though I have this small town figured out where roots run as deep as radishes and if you’re not a third-generation native, you might as well have grown up in Seattle, WA or Austin, TX. The kooky-eyed locals added a level of interest to this particular tale that might not have otherwise been there.

The voice proved entertaining and quirky and even a bit starry-eyed at times, but I still found myself turning my head to the side at some of the dialogue and a few of the phrases. While I realize cozies aren’t exactly known for their detective endeavors and crimes-solving expertise, I would have preferred a few more criminal elements, as the climax and ending felt a tad rushed. Instead of meandering along and enjoying the ride to the top, the train sped up and jerked me to the side as we reached the top of the hill.

With a sequel TO FUDGE OR NOT TO FUDGE already planned and slated for 2014, Allie McMurphy has more tales to tell, and if my teeth can face the onslaught, I may just come back to find out what happens next.

I received this ARC for free at Bouchercon.

Political Scandals Pale In Comparison

16158196Really Dead by J.E. Forman
My Rating: 2/5 Stars

The movie industry is filled with sons-a-bitches. Whenever you mix a sense of entitlement, trunks filled with money, nubile young women willing to show their breasts on a whim, kinky old men, and drugs, you’re bound to experience plenty of problems. Political scandals pale in comparison to the seedy atmosphere underlying the entertainment industry where the grime and slime covered me faster than a coal mine.

While Ria Butler did hold a certain appeal, most of it was lost on me. REALLY DEAD managed to cut scenes too soon, the jumps proved more jarring than a wave smacking me in the face, and the story lacked the flow that would have kept me really engaged. The voice hurt my ears worse than nails on a chalkboard. The dialogue proved a bit cheesy, and a few of the characters a bit too dimwitted for me to truly sing their praises. Others proved to be royal asshats.

The mystery lacked a certain sophistication and complication that I would have otherwise preferred, with the subplots receiving more screen time than the main show. The ending wrapped a bit too quickly, and the villain needed to insert hand in mouth and bite down, instead of utilizing a megaphone.

However, I did enjoy the behind-the-scenes look at reality TV show production. I just wish the price of admission wouldn’t have been so steep, as the story and writing weighed me down and kept me submerged beneath the surface of the water. My boycott of all reality television shall continue unabated, so the book did have that going for it, even if I had trouble finding much else to enjoy.

I received this book for free through NetGalley.

Cute And Somewhat Lighthearted

18564178Now You See It by Jane Tesh
My Rating: 3/5 Stars

This novel certainly checks all the mystery boxes: a likeable, stubborn, and persistent main character; interesting and somewhat intriguing secondary characters, many of whom are either magicians or somehow involved in the magical universe; a dead body in a box; a steadfast main plot and side-stepping subplots; and adequate dialogue, although there were a few too many exclamation points for my taste; and a logical, albeit a tad too convenient and probably slightly overcooked, climax followed by an equally convenient eureka moment to wrap up a dangling subplot before we moved on to the final curtain. To be immediately followed by crowd cheering, adoration, and kisses tossed in the magician’s direction.

NOW YOU SEE IT was cute and somewhat lighthearted, if you can forgive the corpse, and it checks boxes left and right and sideways and upside down. There’s no doubt in my mind Jane Tesh can capture an audience before her next disappearing act, but this novel filled me up about as well as Styrofoam peanuts. Instead of running a race fast and furious from the pistol start to the photo finish, edging out her competition by a nose hair and a sneeze, and pummeling the pages until pockmarks plastered the white space, it’s almost like Ms. Tesh shrugged her shoulders and said, “Well, that’s good enough.”

Just good enough works well for many a novel and many audience members, but I always go into every novel hoping to be razzled and dazzled and wowed in some form or fashion—an amazing character, an amazing plot, or a double-dip twist with a perfect backflip—and unfortunately, that just wasn’t the case here. Does that make this a bad novel? Absolutely not. Does that mean this is a good novel? I can’t really say. Instead, like the author, I’ll just shrug my shoulders, and move on to the next read, hoping at some point to be so hyped up on endorphins and amphetamines that I forget who I am for about five or six hours.

I received this book for free through NetGalley.