Book review: Death in the Stacks by Jenn McKinlay

In Death in the Stacks is part of the Library Lover’s Mystery series, but this book works as a stand alone.  Olive Boyle, the new Library Board member, is horrid towards Lindsey Norris (the protagonist) and her staff.  Olive is found dead at the big fundraiser at the library and the main suspects are Paula, one of the staff that Olive particularly didn’t like, and Lindsey.  I would consider this book a cozy mystery (I’ve recently discovered this), which is not my favorite genre, but this book was better than several of the cozy mysteries I have read.

I wanted to read this book because I love mysteries and books (obviously) and I thought it would be fun to read a “Library Lover’s Mystery.”  While the murder takes place in a library and the characters work in a library, there isn’t much else relating to libraries.  The library wasn’t important to the story – the murder could have been anywhere.  The fundraiser could have been for any non-profit organization.  I guess I was hoping that the library would be more pivotal to the story.

The plot is okay and the story progresses reasonably quickly.  The characters are a bit flat.  Olive is the stereotypical villain from children’s cartoons.  Even though Lindsey was the protagonist, I didn’t much care for her.  It was hard to develop any sort of rapport with the characters.  Paula, whom the reader was supposed to feel sorry for, was an odd character.  Her appearances were outlandish, which is why Olive didn’t like her, but her personality was extremely shy and submissive.  The ending of the book was a bit of a wild free-for-all.

This is an easy, light read.  If you like cozy mysteries, this would be up your alley.  I received an advanced readers copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

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book review: Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet is (as the title suggests) a bittersweet novel about conflicts that come between the love of a young Chinese American, Henry Lee, and a Japanese American, Keiko Okabe, during World War II.  At first, their conflicts were closer to home, with  Henry Lee’s father’s bigotry towards the Japanese being their biggest obstacle.  Then, with the development of the war, Japanese Americans were sent to internment camps.

I loved the way this book was written because it dealt with many complex issues without detracting from the story.  Everything seemed so natural and realistic.  From the way Henry was treated by the other boys at the predominantly white school he attended and at home by his parents, the reader learns about growing up as an outsider.  Henry doesn’t fit in at school because the other boys are more well off and are white.  It doesn’t matter whether Henry and Keiko were born in China, Japan, or the United States because if you’re not white, you will always be a foreigner to some people.  Henry also doesn’t fit in at home because his Chinese parents don’t understand English but won’t let him speak Chinese at home so that he will be more American.  They think that not allowing him to speak Chinese at home will allow him to better assimilate into American culture.  The resentment towards Japanese people borne by Henry’s father shows that it’s not just white people who are racist – people of color are racist, too.  It also serves to show the generational gap between father and son, with his father clinging to old resentments, and Henry, having grown up in the United States, being more willing to accept people for who they are rather than where their ancestors came from.

Through it all, we see love.  There is the persevering, first love between Henry and Keiko.  But there is also love for America.  When Henry asked Keiko’s parents why Japanese Americans went along with the internment, the reply was that it was their way of showing their patriotism.  It made my heart ache.

book review: Convicted by Jameel McGee, Andrew Collins, and Mark Tabb

Convicted is a spiritual story about how Jameel McGee and Andrew Collins found (or maybe rediscovered) God and learned to forgive.  The book’s chapters alternate between Jameel’s point of view and Andrew’s.  It’s obvious where the book leads since the cover and even the extended title basically tell you what the book is about.  I don’t think I’m really going to give anything away with my review, but just in case, don’t read anymore  if you don’t want any spoilers.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the first part of the book, Jameel tends to blame his circumstances.  He reiterates that he was in the wrong place at the wrong time on several occasions.  For example, Jameel’s first brush with the law is when he goes for a ride with some friends.  It turns out that the friends had stolen the car so when they get busted, he gets busted along with them.  It’s not until he rediscovers God in prison and learns to let go of his hatred that Jameel starts to see that it’s not just all chance.  Yes, he was in the wrong place at the wrong time, but he put himself into that place.  His dad told him not to get into the car with his friends, but he wanted to go anyway.  When he got a ride with Will, which led to his second arrest, he admits that Will was taking a while to get going and he could have walked to the store and back in the time it took for Will to actually drive him to the store.  Jameel learns not to blame external factors for all of his circumstances, but at the end of the book, he is still somewhat of a victim.

As for Andrew, he only found religion after he was arrested.  There were times when Andrew felt guilty about the things he had done, but never guilty enough to confess or to stop.  If he hadn’t been caught, I doubt that he would have stopped.

The writing was okay – a bit stilted at times.  I’m glad that both Jameel and Andrew are friends now and that they have a nice ending but I didn’t particularly like the book.  Jameel seems too naive and trusting and Andrew was just a jerk for most of the book.  The book was short and an easy read, but it read more as a promotional story for a church.

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Blogging for Books.

Book review: The Wife Between Us by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen

This suspense/thriller was a fast read with some twists and turns that kept the book interesting.  The story alternates from the first person point of view of Vanessa, the ex-wife, and third person through Nellie.  Vanessa appears broken, jaded, and a bit desperate to stop the impending marriage between her ex-husband and his new wife.  Nellie, on the other hand, is young, full of vitality and seems to have finally found her Prince Charming.

Don’t read any spoilers and don’t read other reviews about this book.  Go into it blind and you will enjoy it more.

I really enjoyed the creative plot and the way the story was told through different points of view.  Some of the plot was a bit of a stretch for the imagination, but not enough to dismiss the story altogether as ridiculous.

This book will be published January 9, 2018.  I received an electronic ARC thanks from Net Galley for my honest review.

Book review: The Templar Brotherhood by James Becker

It is obvious that the author has spent a lot of time researching the Knight Templars.  The book itself, though it contains a lot of action, at time acts as a textbook to teach the reader about the various Templar sites through the conversations of its characters, Robin Jessop and David Mallory.  While I found it interesting, it also slowed down the pace of the story.  Also, the characters are supposed to be experts in the field so I don’t think they would be explaining this stuff to each other.  Several of their long conversations were purely for the benefit of the reader.

The book mentioned previous run-ins that Jessop and Mallory had with the Dominicans so I’m pretty sure this book is part of a series (I haven’t looked it up to confirm this).  This may also explain why I didn’t quite bond with the characters.  The author may have developed the characters in the previous books and hadn’t felt it necessary to do so in this book.  I didn’t feel that there was anything special about these characters.

Some of the highlights of the book included the historical bits about the Templars and the puzzles that Jessop and Mallory have to solve.  My favorite part of the book was the author’s notes at the end about how the some of the settings in the book were real places related to the Templars.

This is a decent book and while the book was a fun read, I am not motivated to read the other books in the series.

This book will be published October 3, 2017.  I received an electronic ARC from First to Read in exchange for my honest review.

Book review: The Final Hour by Tom Wood

The Final Hour was a fun read.  This book is a part of a series about an assassin named Victor.  I haven’t read the other books in the series, but I was able to understand what was going on in the plot and  I felt there was enough character development.  The author did a great job of creating a cold assassin that was actually likeable.

Victor’s unapologetic efficiency at his profession is part of what makes this book great.   There is a sort of honor-among-thieves mentality, but only slightly, because assassins can’t really have long-term allies.  It’s hard to pinpoint exactly what makes Victor likeable since he acts in his own interest, but I did like him.

I won’t give too much away, but in this book, Victor dodges both the CIA and other killers.  He teams up with Raven, another likeable assassin.  (Raven actually comes through as a bit more compassionate because she at least has family that she cares about. ) I enjoyed reading about how Victor and Raven managed sticky situations.

There isn’t anything too profound in this book.  Like its character, it is an unapologetic for what it is and I, for one, appreciate it.

I will be checking out more books in the Victor series.

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this book from First to Read.

book review: The Invisible Library by Genevieve Cogman

The Invisible Library is the first in a series about librarians who travel to parallel universes to retrieve books.  The librarians sometimes retrieve books to preserve them or sometimes to strengthen the bond between the the universe and the Library.  The exact purpose is a bit murky and since Irene, the main protagonist, is only a junior librarian, she doesn’t get the whole story.  The reader doesn’t either since the story is told through Irene.  The book blends fantasy and science fiction and reminded me a lot of the movie, The Librarian.

Just like in the movie, Irene travels to the other locations by using doors to the library.  Librarians in the book have tattoos on their backs which allow them to understand a special language, which allows them to use powers.  They have to be precise in how they use the language in order for their powers to be effective.  Irene and Kai, her new apprentice, are sent into a world with chaos, which means that the world doesn’t always behave according worlds that don’t have chaos.  In this world, werewolves, faeries, and vampires thrive … and it turns out, many other weird things such as cyborg alligators.

I was torn about this book.  On one hand, I loved the premise, the characters were creative, and the writing was decent.  However, I felt that the author was trying to put too much into the novel and there were too many things that weren’t explained.  It felt like I was reading a book with ADHD, if that makes sense.  I will be reading at least 1 more book in the series to see if it gets better.  If the second book is overly-full of protagonists/events, I will probably move on to a different book or series.

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for my honest review.

 

 

 

book review: The Fallen by Ace Atkins

The Fallen is another book in the Quinn Colson series.  For those new to the series, Quinn Colson is a sheriff in Tibbehah County, Mississippi.  The other main characters in the series include Lillie Virgil, Quinn’s deputy, and Caddy, Quinn’s sister.  You don’t have to read the other books in the series to understand this one, but you develop more of a liking for Quinn if you read the earlier books in the series first.

The main plot centers around Quinn trying to capture some bank robbers who are in and out of banks in roughly 2 minutes with military precision.  I think the author stole the idea of the bank robbers from Point Break, down to the masks that they wear (Donald Trump instead of other ex-presidents).  There is a bit of a side plot with Caddy trying to find two missing girls, and of course, the side plot ends up being related to the main plot.

Even though this book takes place in the South, I kept getting images of Country/Western while reading it.  When I think about the South, I think of scenery invoked by To Kill a Mockingbird.  With this book, I was picturing a saloon-type atmosphere, big hats, and boots.  Here’s where I admit that I don’t know much about the South or Country/Western so I could be totally off.

There is a lot of swearing in the book and the language used is pretty derogatory towards women in general so don’t read it if you’re going to get offended.  I don’t get offended by that kind of stuff, but the swearing did get tedious after a while.  I was just tired of reading some of it.

If you’re a Quinn Colson fan, I’m sure you’ll enjoy the book.  I will admit that it wasn’t my favorite crime/suspense, but I did finish the book.

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary e-copy of this book from First to Read by Penguin.

Book Review: Hag-Seed by Margaret Atwood

Hag-Seed by Margaret Atwood is a re-telling of Shakespeare’s play The Tempest.  It was done as part of the Hogarth Shakespeare Project, which I had never heard of until after reading this book and looking it up.

If you have never read The Tempest, here is a summary of the plot:  Prospero, a magician, and his daughter are stranded on an island after losing his dukedom to conspirators.  After many years, the people who plotted against him are caught in a big storm and end up on the island.  Prospero, with the help of his fairy, Ariel, has his chance for revenge.

Atwood’s book makes no secret that is a re-telling of The Tempest.  The book itself revolves around characters putting on The Tempest at a prison.  Several characters take on characteristics of The Tempest characters.  Felix not only plays Prospero in the play, he identifies with Prospero in his quest for revenge.  Felix uses the play The Tempest to live out The Tempest.

It was a very clever way to do the re-telling.  The Tempest is not my favorite Shakespearean play, but I enjoyed this book.  It was fun trying to figure out which of Atwood’s characters matched up with Shakespeare’s characters.  Hint: Miranda, Felix’s daughter, is not Miranda from the play.

Like Shakespeare’s play, Hag-Seed is at times comedic and at times tragic, which is yet another clever way that the book imitated the play.

If you like Shakespeare, definitely give this book a try.

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for my honest review from Blogging for Books.

book review: Ewan Pendle and the White Wraith by Shaun Hume

I finished Ewan Pendle and the White Wraith several weeks ago, but I wanted to take some time to think about how I wanted to review it.

This book is about a misfit boy who finally feels at home when he starts attending a magical school.

If this sounds like Harry Potter, that’s because there are many similarities between Ewan Pendle and Harry Potter.  Ewan doesn’t fit in with the other children because of his ability to see monsters and is often bullied by his foster siblings.  Like Harry, Ewan is an orphan.  However, instead of living with an aunt and uncle, Ewan has been passed from foster home to foster home until Enola, the Grand Master at Firedrake Lyceum, takes him into her care. There are hints throughout the book that perhaps Ewan is known to some people in this new world, as Harry was famous in the wizarding world.  There is a Master at the school who seems to strongly dislike Ewan, as Snape disliked Harry.  Unfortunate events happen to Ewan, often outside of his control, that land him into trouble, just as Harry had a penchant for getting into mischief at Hogwarts.  The similarities don’t end there.  The white wraith conjures memories of the dementors.

This book is an okay book, but it could be a good book.  The magical world of Ewan Pendle was interesting, the characters were likeable, but I found myself thinking that this book needs a good editor.  It took me a little while to get into the story because of the repetitive descriptions.  There were some inconsistencies in the story, too.  First, the Does (Ewan’s foster parents at the beginning of the book) have four foster sons, besides Ewan.  The four pick on Ewan and though the Mr. and Mrs. Doe are not nasty to him specifically, the reader is told that he is their least favourite foster child.  Given the unwelcome behaviour, it is a wonder that Ewan is so hesitant to leave their care.  Another inconsistency has to do with Ewan seeing monsters.  He first starts seeing them at age 5 and the book states that having been passed off from foster home to foster home due to his babbling about monsters, Ewan quickly learned not to tell anyone about them.  Ewan himself is perplexed by why he is bandied about, but blames his special ability.  However, if he has learned to keep his mouth shut about the monsters, why is he being passed around yet again if his foster parents and siblings have no knowledge of his special ability?  Why are his foster brothers bullying him?

I think that readers who enjoyed the Harry Potter series and the Charlie Bone series would also enjoy this book.  Be warned that this book is the first in what will be a series, but there are no plans for the release of the second book yet.  The end of this book contains an impassioned plea from the author  to help with funding so that he may finish writing the next book .

Disclaimer: The author provided me with a complimentary copy of this e-book in exchange for my honest review.