Book Review: The Cat Who Played Post Office

The Cat Who Played Post Office
Book #6
by Lilian Jackson Braun

My rating: 5 / 5
Genre: Cozy mystery

Now that he’s inherited more money than he could possibly spend, former crime reporter Jim Qwilleran sets to work figuring out how not to let it ruin his life. As he settles into the mansion full of antiques and hires some staff to make his life easier, he begins to uncover some secrets about a former employee of the manor. Is the maid missing, or did something more sinister happen to her? Could it be a coincidence that other people connected to her are starting to die?

Another great installment of the series, this book is a good example of how this series doesn’t necessarily follow the mystery format of: crime happens, investigation happens. You can get through a good amount of the book before really understanding that Qwill has been investigating a possible crime the whole time. While he’s settling in to his new home, meeting his lawyers and the local interior designer, and learning how the local diner crowd provides a lot of (mostly useless) gossip, he’s bringing to light a mystery that had been swept under the rug. Of course, this ruffles some feathers and causes some problems by the time it’s clear whether or not he’s really uncovered something important.

I loved the way the cats would play with the mail pouring through the slot, hiding some and bringing some directly to Qwill. Other antics of Koko’s were fun to see come into play too. I’m still really enjoying this series and would recommend this book for fans of the classic whodunit & cozy mystery genres.

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Book Review: The Cat Who Played Brahms

The Cat Who Played Brahms
Book #5
by Lilian Jackson Braun

My rating: 5 / 5
Genre: Cozy mystery

When an old friend of his mother’s, a nearly 90-year-old woman he’s always called Aunt Fanny, offers him use of her cabin on a lake for the summer, former crime reporter Jim Qwilleran decides that a few months away from the bustle of city life and his newspaper job that keeps changing assignments on him might be just what he needs. Moose County, though, is practically a whole different country, and Qwilleran experiences culture shock, even as his old familiar instincts kick in when he’s certain he’s found evidence of a murder occurring.

I keep saying this, but I think this might be my new favorite in the series. Qwill out of his element was pretty great, and the introduction to the area I know he’ll be living for the rest of the series was comical in many ways. The inclusion of Koko’s latest quirk as hinted at in the title was might have been my favorite so far, and I really liked the little bit of emotion near the end of the book. I loved seeing real friendships begin to develop with people he’ll be living amongst soon, and especially enjoyed the few interactions he had with the managing editor of the local paper. Overall, the clash of a true city man trying to understand the far north country made this book different than the previous in a lot of ways, but I really liked it.

To be honest, until I started reading through this series recently, I wondered if I only liked them when I was younger because…well, I was younger. I thought I’d find them silly, pedantic, boring, etc. now. Apparently my reading tastes haven’t changed all that much, because I’ve been enjoying them a lot. I would recommend this book for fans of the classic whodunit & cozy mystery genres.

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Book Review: The Cat Who Saw Red

The Cat Who Saw Red
Book #4
by Lilian Jackson Braun

My rating: 5 / 5
Genre: Cozy mystery

Former crime reporter Jim Qwilleran starts a new diet just before he’s made the newspaper’s first ever gourmet reporter. In typical Qwill fashion, he immerses himself in the culture by moving into a boarding house where the owner is a gourmet chef and requires all boarders to have some sort of connection to food. Part of the reason for moving there (okay, maybe most of the reason) is that Qwill’s old flame lives there, and when she disappears, he starts to question if foul play is involved. Still, she’s always been flighty, as Qwill knows well enough. Then a houseboy vanishes, and Qwill kicks his investigation into high gear.

My experience with this book is probably a bit tainted by the fact that I’ve read it before, many years ago. It’s actually one I remember most from whichever ones of this series I read when I was younger. So that being said, I really liked the story and the mystery, even though I was pretty sure I knew what was going on the entire time. Because even with that past experience, I couldn’t quite decide for sure if my theory was correct or not. In the end, the mystery was interesting and maybe even a bit more sensational than normal for this series.

I always enjoy the antics that the cats get up to, and this book was no exception for me. Qwill even has a bit of a scare involving them, and it’s very touching to see his reaction. One particular side character amused me quite a bit too, even down to a comical description of the car that he drives. I only wish there would have been more of him. Overall, this was an entertaining read that I do believe beat out the previous to be my favorite in the series so far. I would recommend this book for fans of the classic whodunit & cozy mystery genres.

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Book Review: The Cat Who Turned On and Off

The Cat Who Turned On and Off
Book #3
by Lilian Jackson Braun

My rating: 5 / 5
Genre: Cozy mystery

TCW 1-3

Former crime reporter Jim Qwilleran takes on a new challenge–writing something worthy of a cash reward about the much-disdained part of town known as Junktown. When he begins to sniff around the haven for antique dealers, a mystery is already afoot. A beloved dealer has recently fallen and died, but Qwilleran quickly begins to suspect foul play.

This is my favorite so far, finding the trio of Qwill, Koko, and Yum Yum really beginning to feel like a family. The characters are a lot more engaging, the mystery is interesting and a little easier to follow and potentially solve by the reader, and the interactions between man and cats are cute and whimsical.

I felt like Braun really hit her stride with this story (and then stopped writing for 20 years), as Qwill seemed less grumpy and more open to new things. I loved his misunderstanding about Junktown near the beginning of the book. I really appreciated what Yum Yum added to the investigation, considering that she always seems to take a backseat to Koko when it comes to laurels. And there was a character introduced in this book that I’m pretty sure is going to be around later, because her name is very familiar. Other than some of Qwill’s fellow newsmen, no characters have recurred yet, so that’ll be interesting to see in the future.

Overall, this was a nice, quick read, and the best of the first 3 in the series. I would recommend this book for fans of the classic whodunit & cozy mystery genres.

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Book Review: The Cat Who Ate Danish Modern

The Cat Who Ate Danish Modern
Book #2
by Lilian Jackson Braun

My rating: 4 / 5
Genre: Cozy mystery

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Former crime reporter Jim Qwilleran is ready to get off the art beat, though he doesn’t expect to move on to interior design. But the work isn’t boring, when the first subject of the newspaper’s new interior design magazine is burglarized, and there’s even a death involved. And it won’t be the last death in the interior design world.

The first full adventure of Koko and Qwill has a lot of charm, as Qwill takes to cat ownership with aplomb. Koko’s antics lead Qwill to question whether the cat is somehow psychic or it’s all just a big coincidence. The interactions between man and cat are always my favorite thing about the books in this series. And now we have Yum Yum to add to the fun in future books.

The mystery itself was better done than the first book, in my opinion. I was more interested in it and felt I had a chance of solving it. I didn’t, not really, but there was at least one crime I had pretty much figured out correctly.

In my review for the first book, I mentioned the male chauvinism, which is still present in this book, but not as heartily. Unless you count Odd Bunsen, a married father of six, who makes somewhat suggestive comments about other women all throughout this book. But hey, at least he only talks about looking, and nothing more…a distinction I’m sure his wife would appreciate.

Overall, it was a fun read, and I would recommend this book for fans of the classic whodunit & cozy mystery genres.

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Book Review: The Cat Who Could Read Backwards

The Cat Who Could Read Backwards
Book #1
by Lilian Jackson Braun

My rating: 4 / 5
Genre: Cozy mystery

TCW 1-3

Jim Qwilleran is working his way back into the newspaper world after some personal struggles led to a dark time for him. He’s given the art beat, which has him completely out of his element, but at least it’s work. After meeting various members of the local art community, the death of one of those people has Qwilleran’s large mustache quivering. Accompanied by his landlord’s highly intelligent and quirky Siamese cat, Qwill does a little investigating while still reporting the news.

This first book in a 29-book-long series takes a while to really get started. Qwill is new in the area and has a lot of people to meet, and so do we. The murder comes quite a ways into the book, but it’s not like everything before that is pointless and boring. It’s a little slower than I might have liked, yes, but since I know this is going to be a murder-mystery, I’m guessing who the victim will be up until the point that someone dies (I was wrong, by the way…and then I was right). There were some downsides, especially near the end, but overall, I enjoyed the book.

I loved the way Qwill and Koko (the cat) began their relationship, how Koko was introduced by his owner, and Koko’s little visits to Qwill. Having read some of this series years ago, I knew that in every book, Koko has a new quirk, usually related to the title, that is somehow involved in the solving of the murder. This one was no different, though I felt it wasn’t as involved as I remember. Maybe that’s also due to it being the first book in the series, or maybe I’m over-selling it in my remembrance. Either way, it was still fun.

One downside is that one of the common elements of cozy mysteries, the way clues to the mystery are usually sprinkled into the story enough that the discerning reader could solve it before the detective, was not there in this book. I don’t think there was any real way to figure out who did it before it was suddenly revealed at the end. Though this book was published in 1966, and I doubt “cozy mysteries” were really a thing…Braun probably didn’t know she was supposed to follow a formula. It doesn’t bother me personally, as I’ve never been all that great at solving mysteries before being given the answer anyway.

Also being written in the 60s, there’s a definite vein of male chauvinism throughout the book. At first I thought it was strange, considering the female author, but the truth is, this is probably exactly what she was seeing back then.

As a stand-alone mystery, this book is lacking a bit. As the beginning to a series, it shows a lot of promise. I personally can’t wait to see what Koko (soon to be joined by another Siamese, but I can’t remember which book) gets up to in the future. At this time, I would recommend this book for fans of the classic whodunit & cozy mystery genres.

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Top Ten Tuesday: My Spring TBR

It’s time for another Top Ten list from That Artsy Reader Girl. Today’s topic is my spring TBR. I don’t choose books based on the season (except at Christmas time), but I do keep a short list of the next 5-10 books I want to read out of the longer TBR. In the 3 months since posting my winter TBR, the way that I choose my next few books has become more structured. I didn’t want to leave any books on the list too long, or leave a series sitting too long before going on to the next book. And I’m not a mood reader. So I decided that whenever my short list gets down to 5 books, I’d add 5 more to it based on specific criteria. Each addition of 5 will include:

1 book recommended to me by family/close friends OR a book that was self-published
1 book I own
1 book to continue a series
1 book that’s oldest on my full TBR list
1 book that’s an ARC, if needed (and it always is)

Based on past experience, the below list of my next 10 planned books should be approximately half of what I read during spring. (I don’t think the social distancing will affect how much I read by a lot, since I tend to stay home a lot anyway, and I already work from home, so don’t see a lot of extra time to read in my future. Note: I’m not complaining.) The actual order in which I read these will probably change as I go (plus more will probably be added in amongst some of these):

1. The Cat Who Could Read Backwards by Lilian Jackson Braun
I read a bit of the Cat Who… series when I was a teenager and really liked them. Straight mystery was my favorite genre back then, but I’ve barely read any since coming back to reading. I’ve picked up 1/3 of the 29 books in the series over the years, from garage sales and bargain bins. It’s finally time to get back to my mystery roots, start at #1 (which I own), and go through the whole series.

2. The House at the End of the Moor by Michelle Griep
This is a Netgalley ARC. I read my first Michelle Griep book back at Christmas time and really liked it, so I’m looking forward to reading a non-holiday book of hers.

3. Landry Park by Bethany Hagen
When I first started to get back into reading seriously, before I built my TBR list up to even what it is now, I found this book at Half Price Books and decided to buy it, with no knowledge of it whatsoever. So this book is currently the oldest one on my TBR list.

4. The Outcast by Taran Matharu
This book qualifies as one that continues a series. It’s technically a prequel to a trilogy, but I’ve read the trilogy and don’t feel like it’s complete until I read this. So not only will this book continue a series, it will actually end a series for me, and let’s be honest–how often do we actually finish series we start?

5. The Treasure Map by Tyler Scott Hess
This self-published novelette is apparently a Christmas book, but I probably won’t have Kindle Unlimited for much longer, so I want to read it while I can do so with that service.

6. The Dandelion Killer by Wanda Luttrell
I’ve had this book since probably not long after it came out (2003) and read it a couple of times back then. Along with the criteria mentioned above, I also want to re-read at least 1 book a month, because I do have a lot of books I haven’t read in years that I want to read again and write reviews for and will ignore them if I’m not intentional about it.

7. Star of Persia by Jill Eileen Smith
This is also a Netgalley ARC, the story of Esther, who saved her people from extermination in Persia in around 486 BC. I’m pretty excited to read it.

8. Storm by Evan Angler
This is book #3 in the Swipe series. I wasn’t terribly excited with the series at first, but it really picked up with book #2, so I’m anxious to see what happens next.

9. The Wounded Spirit by Frank E. Peretti
I’ve had this book for a long time, but haven’t read it yet, even though it’s written by my favorite author. That’s probably just because it’s non-fiction, which I’m not usually very interested in. But I do plan to read it soon, checking off another book that’s been on my TBR for a while.

10. Anne of the Island by L.M. Montgomery
I’ve enjoyed the Anne of Green Gables series so far, and I’m looking forward to continuing with book #3.

Have you read any of these? What do you plan to read over the next few months?