Saturday, January 23, 2016

Book Review: Swan Dive by Kendel Lynn

Swan Dive (An Elliott Lisbon Mystery #3)Swan Dive by Kendel Lynn
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This was a hard review to write. Because the mystery was good, I went with three stars rather than two. Over about a seven day period, I read all three of the Elliot Lisbon mysteries, starting with the third book, Swan Dive, then moving to the first book, Board Stiff, then Whack Job. Elliot Lisbon is the Director of the Ballantyne Foundation in Sea Pine Island. As part of her job, she frequently handles minor “problems” for Ballantyne Board members and donors and is thus working toward her PI license. She’s 40 and single and trying to get through life, which I appreciate. Apparently, not a model, but average, which, again I like. That’s about all that I liked about Elliot.

The mysteries were good, with Swan Dive probably being the best. I chose it to start with it because I wanted a Christmas themed mystery for the holidays. This book revolved around the murder of Lexie Allen, Sugar Plumb Fairy in the Sea Pine Island production of the Nutcracker, which is about the only thing that was Christmasy. Turns out, she had a passion for food and was in the process of becoming quite the chef, rather than a dancer. However, that is not what led to her death. The clues lead everywhere, but the author pulled in quite another story line related to Lexie’s mother that ended up being the root cause. I never would have pegged the killer, but it tied up nicely and wasn’t over the top.

While the mystery was well done, there were problems. The characters weren’t well developed, she should run from both potential boyfriends, especially the detective. The detail on driving around the island, complete with every street she went on anytime she went anywhere, drove me batty.  What do I care about the streets she drove on? Unless it ties into the mystery, which it didn't.  The writer also had a thing for expensive cars, including having the boyfriend drive a half million dollar car I've never heard of and several others drive high end cars.  Elliot drives a Mini Cooper, which you will never forget because she's always referring to it as the Mini.  Most people refer to their cars as their car.  Elliot was also always grabbing her "hipster" before heading out.  It's a purse and it's okay to call  it that.  In fact, it's okay not to always have the character tell you she got her hipster/purse before leaving. If the author had dumped these not needed details, maybe the characters could have been a little more developed.

I think Elliot is supposed to be smart, but she just comes across as a scattered dingbat. Add in that no one, I mean absolutely no one, at the police department appears to want to work with her and there was very little that I found engaging about these characters.

In addition, her personality is incongruent with someone who wants to be a private investigator. She hates blood and is a germaphobe. She also hates guns. Seriously? She doesn’t like going online to do research. I’m assuming that includes databases that would allow her to really research her suspects. She drives all the way to a neighboring town because she thought she’d get better information in person. They referred her online. She breaks the law (i.e. breaking and entering, but believes she should be allowed, because she’s investigating). She claims to be discreet, but everyone knows what she’s doing. Nothing she does is smart -- she just bumbles about, but thinks she's better than the police or more specifically her former boyfriend, who apparently she’s carried a torch for for over 20 years (personally, I don’t think he was worth torch carrying), who is now a detective with the Sea Pine Island Police.

She is working toward her PI license and has about 4000 hours left to go. Because the police are so anti working with her, yet they “sign off” on her hours, I looked up what it would take to be a PI in South Carolina. I doubt this would meet the requirements. The point would be to work with the police in a training capacity, not just signing off on her “investigation.” And, since they don’t want her investigating anything, I can’t see why they would sign off on anything. Yet, apparently they do, which makes no sense to me.

I do like her friend Sigrid (Sid). Sid appears to be very involved in various activities and charities on the island, which made me wonder why the Director of a charitable foundation wasn’t. That's about her only close friend.  While, she claims that she misses the close friendship she had with her friend Matty before they started dating, you don’t see any evidence of the friendship.  I also like that it's set in South Carolina, near Charleston, with Savannah, GA thrown in.

The reviews for this book are all good, which baffles me. I’ve read the previous two books and can’t really recommend them. Since, I’m in the minority, if you’re into mysteries set in the South, give it a try, but be prepared.  I don't plan on reading any other books in this series, unless they're free.

View all my reviews

Sunday, January 17, 2016


It's a new year and with that come resolutions.  We all make them, though it's hard to keep them.  I'm starting out easy.  Sorta.  I joined a challenge at a gym to get back in shape and that is working.  More weight lifting/strength training, which I enjoy.  It also has the added benefit of giving me an "appointment" in the evening, so I leave work on time.  Fortunately, it's not far from the house, about 10 minutes, so that's good.  While the days are getting longer, it's still dark when I drive home and I don't see well at night, so short drive and street lights make it easier.

Another resolution was to bake my own bread.  A while ago, I found a recipe for English Muffins, which was something I'd never thought to bake/make myself.  But, I wanted to try it.  I got the English Muffin rings for Christmas, plus a mix.  I did them about two weeks ago and they were good.  This weekend, I'm will be making them totally from scratch.
Toasted English muffin (home made)

English Muffins (home made)
Based on the success of the English Muffins, I decided to start baking my own bread.  Quite a leap.  A while ago, I got the King Arthur Flour Baker's Companion.  In addition to recipes, it gives the how's and why's of baking just about anything, which prompted the decision to bake bread.  So, today, I gave it a go and am pleased to say it was a success.

Vermont Oatmeal Maple-Honey Bread
The bread I chose was Vermont Oatmeal Maple-Honey Bread.  Based on the advise in the book, I used the bread machine to knead, then used the traditional method to bake.  The first rise was okay, but the second rise in the pans took a little longer than their estimate.  I suspect this was because the weather is cooler and so was the house.  Still, I let it rise to where it needed to and then baked it.  I will probably never go back to store bought bread.  The big challenge now is slicing.  Even with a guide, I can get a crooked slice.