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: 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 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: 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.

 

Book review: The Changeling by Victor LaValle

This book seems to fall into that magical realism category, right next to The Underground Railroad.

The Changeling by Victor LaValle is an odd and quirky blend of realism and fantasy.  The first part of the book was somewhat realistic, describing Apollo’s life from the mysterious disappearance of his father, Brian, to the struggles he faced being brought up by a single mother.  I was starting to think that the “changeling” was a metaphor.  Nope.  The latter part of the book was where everything became very strange with witches, trolls, and real changelings.

The problem that I have is that there are such serious issues brought up in the book in  realistic scenarios , but when you throw in trolls, it just doesn’t work for me.  It’s  as though those fantasy creatures detract attention from the very serious issues.  I don’t have a problem with monsters and magic in general and I quite enjoy fantasy books.  For me, the blending of the real world and the fantasy world just didn’t quite work.  As a reader, I felt cheated.

That being said, the book is well written and I was very interested in the story.  The author did a great job of portraying strong characters while still showing that they had flaws.  I enjoyed most of the story.  The eye rolling came in with the appearance of the witches and the changeling.

I lean towards liking this book because of the characters and would hesitantly recommend it to people who enjoy books like The Underground Railroad.

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary review e-copy from NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.  This book will be published June 13, 2017.

Book review: The Barrowfields by Phillip Lewis

I find that books and food have a lot in common.  Some books are nourishment and comfort for your soul, reminding us about what is important in life.  Some books are fun to snack on and taste good, but provide little nourishment.  Other books are exotic adventures, asking our noses and tongues to try something we haven’t tasted before.

The Barrowfields was comfort food that someone tried to recreate from a childhood memory.  It never comes out quite the same as when your mom/dad/grandmother/grandfather made it even if you follow the recipe exactly, but that doesn’t mean that it is bad.  It just has a hint of something that is different … That is how I felt when reading this book.

The book itself followed 3 generations of men in a family in North Carolina told through the point-of-view of the youngest male.  On the surface, this book is about family, about growing up, about the South.  It’s also about going through life with mysteries that aren’t solved or that shouldn’t be solved.  It’s about finding oneself and where one fits in relation to others.  It’s about having the self-assurance or character to know who you are without others’ approval.  It’s about separating from your family in order to become the person that you need to willingly accept obligations.

As you may have guessed, I liked this book, but there were parts of the book that I found unnecessary.  There was a little too much thrown into the book.  The whole subplot with the Henry’s girlfriend was a bit much for me.  The book would have been just fine if that whole part had been edited out.  The sinister house portrayal was also a bit much.

When I finished the book, I was left with that quiet contentment after having comfort food.  I just wanted to sit and savour it for a while.

It’s a wonderful first book and I look forward to reading more from the author.

Disclaimer: I received an electronic unedited reader’s proof from Blogging for Books NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.

 

 

Book review: The Marriage Pact

The Marriage Pact by Michelle Richmond looks at what lengths couples will go through to ensure that their marriage stays intact.  In this book, newlyweds are introduced to a group that promises commitment to the idea of marriage.  The group does whatever it has to to preserve marriages.

Predictably, at first, the newlyweds like the idea and see the group as a force that helps make their marriage stronger.  For example, one of the rules is that couples have to give each other a gift every month.  The gifts don’t have to be expensive, but they should mean something.  Another rule is that couples have to plan a vacation together.  When Alice starts working long hours after their marriage, the group stepped in to make her focus on her marriage.  Alice wore a bracelet so the group could monitor her location.  The group’s involvement varies from benign to extreme intervention.  On the mild side, it involves counseling or coaching.  Other times, it involves sending members off to a “prison.”  Actions that are seen as infractions include things like gaining more than a certain number of pounds per year to flirting with someone other than your spouse to cheating on your spouse.

My favorite part of this book is the realistic look at marriages.  No one ever gets married thinking that they are going to get divorced.  Everyone wants their marriage to last.  Yet, there are always those insecurities that we all feel – did I somehow trick this person into marrying me?  Are they going to fall out of love with me?  Especially in a new marriage, there’s a lull after the initial honeymoon period.  You spend so much time planning and getting ready for the wedding and then have this great party and go on your honeymoon.  When you return to “normal” life after all the adrenaline highs, it may be a bit of a letdown.

There’s always a suspension of belief when reading fiction, but some parts of the plot went beyond a reasonable suspension of belief (for me).  I don’t want to spoil the book so I’ll leave it up to you to read the book for yourself.

This book was an easy, quick read and would be great for a summer day at the beach.  There were some twists that made it interesting.  The book will be published on July 25, 2017.

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary electronic preview of this book from NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.