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Mark Baker RSS Feed (Santa Clarita, CA United States)

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Space Case (Moon Base Alpha)
Space Case (Moon Base Alpha)
by Stuart Gibbs
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $12.84
51 used & new from $8.45

5.0 out of 5 stars Murder on the Moon, October 15, 2014
Dashiell Gibson has been living as one of the first humans to colonize the Moon for six months now, and he’s bored. There aren’t that many kids his age, and there is even less to do. In fact, he’s found he actually enjoys school since it gives him something to do.

All that changes one night when he overhears Dr. Holtz planning to reveal a big discovery the next morning. Only when morning arrives, Dr. Holtz is found outside the base dead. He’d gone out alone, breaking one of the biggest rules – one he always made sure others followed. Dashiell is certain that foul play was involved, yet no one else believes him, even going so far as to suggest that Dr. Holtz was beginning to go crazy. Is that why Dr. Holtz was outside? Or did someone really kill him?

Since I’ve long been a fan of the author’s books, starting this new series was an obvious choice. It’s one I’m glad I made because this is another winner. The characters are fun and the story is good. We really get to know what life on the colony would be like, yet the story is always entertaining with a nice dash of humor. And the ending? I never saw it coming.

This book will appeal to those who enjoy mystery of science fiction from the targeted middle grade age range on up. Personally, I’m already booking my rocket trip for the next entry in what promises to be another winning series.

Speaking of Murder
Speaking of Murder
by Tace Baker
Edition: Paperback
Price: $11.19
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4.0 out of 5 stars Who Would Kill a Student?, October 15, 2014
This review is from: Speaking of Murder (Paperback)
Lauren Rousseau is a linguistics professor at a college in Massachusetts. While many of her students don’t seem to care, the exception is Jamal Carter. He’s older than the traditional students that fill most of Lauren’s classes, and he’s very enthusiastic for the subject.

One night while going to her car after a night class, Lauren finds Jamal’s body at the edge of the parking lot. From there her life start spiraling out of control as her best friend disappears and other strange things start happening around town. How are they connected? Can Lauren find the truth?

Despite an early murder, it took a bit for this book to really get rolling as time was spent introducing characters and other things. Frankly, I think it took longer than it really needed to. But once the book got going, I was intrigued by all the things that seemed to be happening. Things came together for a great climax. The characters were very interesting as well, and I enjoyed getting to know them.

So I am glad I got past the slower start and kept reading. This was an enjoyable debut, and I look forward to reading the sequel soon.

NOTE: Tace Baker is no relation but actually the pen name of author Edith Maxwell.

Homicidal Holidays
Homicidal Holidays
by Linda Lombardi
Edition: Paperback
Price: $11.84
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Year of Holiday Crime, October 7, 2014
This review is from: Homicidal Holidays (Paperback)
For their latest collection of short stories, the members of the Chesapeake chapter of Sisters in Crime have focused on holidays. And the first few stories might just surprise you. We get stories set on Groundhog Day, Valentine’s Day, President’s Day, St. Patrick Day, and even Talk Like a Pirate Day. Of course, the majority of the book is set on the holidays you probably expected – Halloween and Christmas.

And quite a collection of tales there are, too. We’ve got a plot to kidnap a rodent. There’s a story of a spooky late night phone call that just might not be a dream after all. A mother goes to her son’s in an attempt to reconcile. A group of teens stumble upon clues to a decades old murder. Working at a zoo on Christmas can be murder. And you’d be surprised by what guilt can drive you to do.

I don’t usually read short stories, but this collection sounded like too much fun to pass up. I’m glad I gave it a chance because I enjoyed it. There are quite a variety of stories in the book, and all of them are well written with engaging characters and plot. Being short stories, it is a little easier to figure out where they are going, but that doesn’t really detract from the fun. The one thing that did bother me were several stories set up as revenge tales. Don’t get the wrong, the punished deserved to be punished, but I never like it when we are supposed to root for someone taking the law into their own hands.

That aside, this is a collect that will put you in the holiday spirit – no matter what holiday you are celebrating.

NOTE: I received an ARC of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Raging Heat (Nikki Heat)
Raging Heat (Nikki Heat)
by Richard Castle
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $15.51
55 used & new from $13.49

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beware Falling Bodies, October 7, 2014
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It’s been a couple of years since Nikki Heat finally solved the murder of her mother, and the resulting years have provided a routine to her life. All that is about to change when a body falls into her case load – literally.

The man falls from the sky into the local planetarium. There’s no ID, and very little of him left to identify. Yet slowly Nikki begins making her case, a case that seems to be leading to a commissioner for the Port Authority. Meanwhile, her boyfriend Rook has developed some leads that point in other directions. Whose intel is correct? Can Nikki make a case against a man so well connected? And will Nikki and Rook’s relationship survive this case?

While I had realized that the original few books in the series took place in a compressed time frame, I wasn’t sure if they were playing into that on purpose or not. Obviously they are since even with the two year time leap, this book takes place in the run up to Hurricane Sandy. That makes an interesting backdrop that adds to the story.

As always, the story is strong, and the added conflict over the competing theories heightens the tension of the book. It also allows for some interesting character development, which I really enjoyed. Fans of the TV show Castle will enjoy seeing the nods to the show, but anyone who enjoys a good mystery will still find the case presented here to be very compelling reading.

I have definitely come to look forward to these books, and this one didn’t disappoint. If you are a fan of the show, you really should give the books a try.

The Very Nearly Honorable League of Pirates #2: The Terror of the Southlands
The Very Nearly Honorable League of Pirates #2: The Terror of the Southlands
by Caroline Carlson
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $12.95
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fun and Kidnapping with an Unlikely Pirate, September 29, 2014
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Hilary Westfield is relishing her new life as the Terror of the Southlands. Unfortunately, she hasn’t found much adventure in the last few months. In fact, this has come to the attention of Captain Blacktooth, the president of the Very Nearly Honorable League of Pirates. He gives Hilary a warning and issues an ultimatum – do something piratical or be kicked out of the league.

Before Hilary can head off on one of her appointed quests, she finds a letter from Miss Pimm asking for assistance. While Hilary left Miss Pimm’s Finishing School for Delicate Ladies without finishing, the two have become friends, so naturally she goes to help. However, when she arrives, she learns that Miss Pimm has been kidnapped. Can Hilary find her? Will Blacktooth consider this piratical enough?

Since I loved the first book, I was looking forward to this one. All the characters we loved from the first one are back, and we make some fun new friends as well. The humor is back as well, especially in the between chapters letters and excerpts from other publications. Unfortunately, the plot did drag a bit in the middle, but it livened up for a memorable finish that points to more trouble for Hilary to come.

With magic, pirates, and humor, this is a fun combination that kids will love. Heck, I’m counting down the days to the next entry already myself.

Mrs. Pollifax and the Second Thief
Mrs. Pollifax and the Second Thief
by Dorothy Gilman
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
Price: $7.19
209 used & new from $0.01

4.0 out of 5 stars Mrs. Pollifax and Blasts from the Past, September 29, 2014
Mrs. Pollifax was looking forward to a few days at home alone when she gets the call from Bishop. Farrell, a friend from two previous adventures, is in trouble in Sicily and he has specifically requested Mrs. Pollifax. But first, she needs to go to a funeral and take pictures of the attendants.

That weird request out of the way, Mrs. Pollifax flies to Sicily, but she’s hardly made contact before she, Farrell, and their contact are being followed by multiple cars. Farrell was in the country to confirm a signature reported to be from Julius Caesar, but after he glimpsed an old foe both he and Mrs. Pollifax know, he found himself in danger. Was he correct in his ID? Is that why he is being followed? And what about that funeral?

This book starts out with quite a few seemingly random elements, but they all come together quickly for a story that is entertaining as always. Unfortunately, the climax doesn’t quite work as well as it could, but overall this is still a fun book. The characters are vivid and charming. Plus there is just enough of a dash of humor to really liven things up.

While not the best the series has to offer, this is still an adventure that Mrs. Pollifax’s fans will enjoy. I do recommend starting with earlier books since there are spoilers for them included here.

Do Or Diner: A Comfort Food Mystery
Do Or Diner: A Comfort Food Mystery
by Christine Wenger
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
Price: $7.19
68 used & new from $0.01

4.0 out of 5 stars Owning a Diner Can Be Murder, September 23, 2014
Looking to change her life, Trixie Matkowski has agreed to buy out her aunt from the family diner. Located in the town of Sandy Harbor, New York, the diner is a popular place for those looking for old fashioned comfort food.

Her first day as the owner, the health inspector comes to call and dies from poisoned mushrooms in a complementary meal he was eating. However, the diner has never served mushrooms. With her new business losing customers fast, Trixie springs in to action to find out who really killed Marvin Cogswell. Being relatively new to town, can she do it?

I was actually surprised at how much I enjoyed this book. The plot moved along at a steady pace, getting better as it went along. The characters could have been a little stronger, but they were developed enough to hold my interest and distinguish themselves from one another.

I do have a few nitpicks. Trixie’s constant discussion and then rejection of how attractive Ty, the deputy, is, was annoying. Likewise, Trixie gets so little sleep in the book she wouldn’t be able to function in real life, and the timeline feels like it is a bit more fluid than it should be as well (although that one could be me distracted by Trixie’s lack of sleep).

These aside, I still did enjoy this book and am willing to visit Trixie and her new friends again.

Foul Play at the Fair (A Celebration Bay Mystery)
Foul Play at the Fair (A Celebration Bay Mystery)
by Shelley Freydont
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
Price: $7.19
73 used & new from $0.01

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Juggling a Murder, September 22, 2014
After the mill closed down, Celebration Bay, New York, decided to live up to its name. The residents keep the local economy going by putting on big events to celebrate the season, no matter what the season might be. These events have gotten so big that they’ve hired a full time event coordinator, Liz Montgomery, who has gladly moved out of Manhattan and is looking forward to settling in and enjoying her new life.

Unfortunately, her first big event is marred by murder when one of the juggling troop brought in for the harvest festival is found murdered – stuffed in an apple press on a local farm. Even more shocking is the victim’s true identity. With ties to the local community, suddenly everyone is looking at each other with suspicion and the future of the festivals is under attack. Liz knows the only way to save the town she wants to call home is to find the killer. But can she get anyone to open up to her so she can learn the truth?

When this series popped up on my radar, it sounded like fun. After all, who wouldn’t want to visit a place where every month was a time to celebrate? I am so glad the hook drew me in because this was an excellent debut. The characters are already richly developed, and that made me care more about the outcome than I normally do. In fact, I was dreading finding out who the killer was. That made the suspense as Liz worked through the clues even higher because I felt she, and I, had a stake in the outcome, hoping it would be someone we didn’t like, yet having very few of those possibilities. The result was absolutely wonderful, hitting the right notes.

I am kicking myself for not starting this series sooner. If, like me, you haven’t visited Celebration Bay yet, book your first reservation today. You’ll be making returns plans before you know it.

Well Read, Then Dead (Read Em and Eat Mystery)
Well Read, Then Dead (Read Em and Eat Mystery)
by Terrie Farley Moran
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
Price: $7.19
50 used & new from $1.79

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Well Read, but Slow Plotted, September 18, 2014
When life threw them lemons, Sassy and Bridgy headed south. The lifelong friends went from New York to Florida and opened a combination café and bookstore called Read ‘Em and Eat on the Barrier Island of Fort Myers Beach. Over the last few years, they’ve made friends, especially through the book clubs that Sassy runs.

Which is why it is upsetting and shocking when Delia Batson turns up dead one morning. Even more surprising is that it was murder. Delia was a quiet woman who would never cross anyone if she could help it. When her cousin, Augusta, asks Sassy to look into the murder, she begins to stick her nose into the investigation. But what will she find?

I’d been hearing great things about this debut, and many of them are deserved. The characters are strong and the setting is brought to life. I loved spending time in the book.

Unfortunately, the plot is rather slow. We get a lot of time with the results of a death, but not as much investigation or twists as I would have liked. The twists that were there I did enjoy, and the ultimate solution was logical. I just wish the pacing would have been better.

I’d heard so much praise that I am glad I read this debut. I hope the pacing issues are resolved in the next book in the series.

Guys Read: True Stories
Guys Read: True Stories
by Steven Sheinkin
Edition: Paperback
Price: $6.29
51 used & new from $3.36

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Interesting Non-Fiction, September 18, 2014
This collection of ten non-fiction essays/stories covers quite a spectrum and will have something to appeal to just about everyone. The collection starts with an amazing tale of survival when a ship was wrecked off the coast of Africa during the early 1800’s. We also get the story of a man who survived a bear attack from nearly the same period and memories of a small river canoer and growing up as the youngest sister with six older brothers in 1970’s South Vietnam.

One of my favorite sections was actually a series of humorous poems about various scientific principles. After each one, there was a paragraph that summarized the facts the poem was talking about.

While a couple of stories made me uncomfortable, they are exactly the kind of things that boys would love. The details of the shipwrecked men’s survival and some of the details of the history of dentistry were not excessively crude, but still enough to make my skin tingled a little. But as I said, most guys will love it.

I’m not usually a non-fiction reader, but I absolutely enjoyed this book. Filled with entertaining and fascinating stories, I can see it being a book anyone will race through.

NOTE: I won an ARC of this book in a contest. No review was promised in exchange.

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