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: Poisonfeather by Matthew FitzSimmons

Poisonfeather is book 2 in the Gibson Vaughn series by Matthew FitzSimmons.  In other books like this (Jack Reacher books, Lucas Davenport books, etc.), you don’t have to read the other books in the series to understand what’s going on in this book.  While that is somewhat true of this book, there are so many allusions to what happened in Book 1 that it gets annoying if you haven’t read it.  Actually, most of the first chapters are about Gibson dealing with what happened in Book 1.  Since I hadn’t read Book 1, it was somewhat of a slow start, but once the story got going, the book was interesting.

Poisonfeather is about a billionaire investor who cheated many people and was sent to jail for 8 years.  Many people lost their life savings by investing with him.  Just before his release, he did an interview for a magazine in which he hinted that he had a lot of money stashed away somewhere.  This, of course, brought many people out of the woodwork who wanted to get a piece of the money.

Gibson gets drawn into the mess because he wants to repay a judge who lost everything by investing with the crook.  Gibson pairs up with an ex-con and a girl named Lea who is out for revenge.

I wish that the author had spent more time on the ending because it felt like there were a lot of loose plot strings.  Maybe it’s supposed to be a cliffhanger for book 3?  I hate waiting, which is why I avoid reading series books until the author has completed writing the series.

Look at the Patrick Rothfuss books.  I’ve been waiting for something like 3 years for Book 3 to come out!

I’ll have to go back to read Book 1 so that I know what happened with the former VP and his wife. If you like the Jack Reacher and the Lucas Davenport books, the Gibson Vaughn books are similar.

Side note: the author made a note that writing the second book was harder than the first book because there were so many expectations.  With the first book, there weren’t any deadlines, but with the second book, there were deadlines and more pressure.  This made me smile because there would be less pressure (from readers) if the author didn’t write cliffhanger endings.

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary e-copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.

book review: Maggie Dove by Susan Breen

I keep hoping that I’ll get a good mystery book to read as part of the Monthly Mystery package through Chatterbox.  So far, I got one that was okay because the author imitated Stephanie Plum.

This is yet another mystery through Chatterbox that I can’t bring myself to recommend to anyone.  The plot itself was okay, but it wasn’t enough to save this book.  A 60-something-year-old woman has a disagreement with her neighbor about her oak tree and the neighbor ends up dead.  Then, one of her closest friends also ends up dead and the autopsy reports show that both of them died of the same cause.

The biggest problem I had with this book is that the main character, Maggie Dove, was judgmental, hypocritical, and just all around annoying.  She was a Sunday school teacher and tried to convince herself that she was a good person, but she didn’t seem to get along with anyone, even the people to whom she was supposedly closest.  For example, she constantly argued with one of her closest friends, Winifred.  The way the arguments unfolded in the book revealed how Maggie was both prissy and judgmental.  She claimed to love “Peter” but basically described him as a troublemaker. She was constantly above everyone else.  She describes another “friend,” Agnes, whom she was cruel to when she was younger.  When another character compared her to Agnes, she became offended and the reader was subjected to a paragraph about how she was so much better looking than Agnes. The author made was very clear that Maggie was part of the popular crowd when she was younger and she is much more beautiful than her friends.  Of course, she’s rich, too. This is the character that has it all – looks, money, “friends,” – she’s better than all of us!  Quite frankly, the more I read, the less I liked Maggie, not because of the author’s generous endowments, but because of the little that she did with those endowments and her petty mindedness, which the reader was subjected to for over 200 pages .  Agnes and Winifred seemed like much more interesting (and likeable) characters.

There were a few interesting characters in this book so it wasn’t a total loss.  It’s just too bad that the focus was on the annoying one rather than the interesting ones.

book review: Mug Shot

Mug Shot is a mystery that is part of the Java Jive mystery series by Caroline Fardig.  If you are a fan of the Stephanie Plum books by Janet Evanovich, you’ll probably like this book.  The book’s main character is a redhead named Juliet (Jules) Langley who runs a coffee shop with her best friend, Pete.  Like Stephanie Plum, Jules is caught between two men – Pete and cop named Ryder.  Pete and Jules have a mostly platonic relationship, but the sexual tension is always there, with Pete often eyeing Jules when she wears revealing clothing.  Jules even has a feisty grandmother, like Stephanie.  There are other personality similarities between Stephanie and Jules.  They both have a knack for getting into dangerous situations and sort of are bumbling detectives, yet somehow manage to solve the case in the end.  Like the Stephanie Plum books, you don’t have to read the entire series to understand what is going on in this book because there is just the right amount of back story explained without it becoming tedious for people who have read the other books.

In this book, Jules has to play detective to rescue Pete, who is arrested for the murder of his snobby socialite girlfriend, Cecilia.  Pete’s DNA is all over Cecilia and in the tent where her body was found.  To complicate matters, Jules is casually dating Cecilia’s brother, the black sheep of the family.  Break-ins, jail time, and love interests keep this mystery going at a decent pace.

This mystery is an easy, light read that would be perfect for lazy summer days by the pool or beach.

Disclaimer:  I received this complimentary e-book as part of #RHMysteryPack from Chatterbox.

Book Review: The Skeleton Garden

The Skeleton Garden is part of a series of mysteries, but I hadn’t read the other 3 books in the series before reading this one.  It can be read as a stand alone book, but if you’re interested in trying out this author, I wouldn’t recommend starting with this book.  This mystery was very slow moving.  It was also pretty obvious to me what had happened way before the end “reveal.”  I felt like I was waiting and waiting for something to happen and nothing happened until the end of the book.

There are other problems with this book.  First, it could have been maybe 1/2 the length that it was.  There was so much extra junk in the book that really didn’t add anything to the story.  There isn’t even any mention of a body until around chapter 9 or 10 … and then it’s another 10 chapters or so before there’s some action.  You could probably skip the first 15 chapters of this book and be just fine with understanding the plot line.  The characters are boring.  I found myself not liking Pru, the main character.  Her brother, Simon, was supposed to be old, but he acted like a 12-year-old spoiled brat throughout the book until the end.  I was hard pressed to find a character that I liked.

The characters were all pretty flat.  They all acted basically the same.  There are conflicts between the characters, but none of them had strong, distinguishing characteristics or personalities that made them stand out.  The younger characters (Oliver and his sort-of girlfriend) didn’t talk like younger people.  They way they were portrayed was what you would expect from an older person trying to pretend to be a younger person.  They way they talked and acted were either ridiculously adult-like or stereotypically ridiculous.   For instance, Oliver’s big claim to fame were his geeky abilities – hacking computers and being interested in some science fiction books.  He’s young – he must be into computers and hacking!  There was one line in the book where his girlfriend said something that made me roll my eyes – I can’t find the exact location now, but it was at the part where they’re talking about how her grandmother, Kitty, might have mistakenly thought that a duck or goose was a person.  It wasn’t realistic at all.  That’s probably my main complaint about this book. The characters just weren’t believable.  Pru goes from being annoyed with Oliver because he keeps messing things up for her to wanting him around.  There isn’t much of a transition in between.  She suddenly decides that she likes him, even though she has to spend all of her time fixing everything that he does.  Oliver, too, at first hates everything and then suddenly doesn’t want to leave.  The problem is that not only did I find the characters flat and unbelievable and unlikeable, I didn’t dislike any of the characters much either.  I simply didn’t care about any of them.

I can’t recommend this book.

I received a free e-copy of this book through NetGalley as part of #RHMysteryPack from Chatterbox by HouseParty.

Book Review The Cuckoo’s Calling and The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith

I read The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith and The Silkworm (same author) a few months ago, but haven’t had a chance to write the review until now.  In case you haven’t heard it yet, Robert Galbraith is actually a pseudonym for J. K. Rowling.  It was kept top secret, but one of the lawyers at the firm used by J. K. Rowling told his wife who then told a friend of hers and pretty soon it was leaked that J. K. Rowling was Robert Galbraith.  She has since publicly acknowledged this.  The book was already doing pretty well on its own, but once the real author got leaked, it skyrocketed on the ratings charts.

I was a little hesitant to read it because I really didn’t like The Casual Vacancy.  I needn’t have worried.  This mystery/detective novel was good.  I liked the characters (the main character is Cormoran Strike).  I liked that Cormoran wasn’t perfect – it took him time to realize things sometimes, like how his off again-on again relationship wasn’t good for him.  His flaws made him a more realistic and like-able character.  The characters in this book had different personalities – the good guys weren’t all super smart and perfect.  I especially liked his secretary, Robin, who plays a bigger role in The Silkworm.

The gist of the plot for The Cuckoo’s Calling is that a famous model appears to take a flying leap from her balcony.  Cormoran Strike is a private detective (nearly broke) who is hired by the model’s brother to investigate.  Everyone thinks that she committed suicide, including the police, but as Cormoran takes a closer look, he has some doubts.  He has to figure out whether there was any foul play and, if there was foul play, how it happened.

Even though The Silkworm is the second book in the series, it’s not necessary to read the first one first.  The benefit is that Robin is introduced in the first one so you have some background on her.  In The Silkworm, people are showing up murdered and the murders resemble the plot of an unpublished manuscript.  Cormoran has been hired by the author’s wife to find the author, who has gone missing.

The plots themselves were okay (I liked the plot of the first book better than the second book).  I enjoyed the characters in the book and their interactions more than the actual plot.  Actually, the ending of the second book was a let down – the actual storyline was okay up until the ending.  I would recommend these books to anyone who enjoys reading mysteries/detective stories.

Book review: Catch Me by Lisa Gardner

I read Catch Me by Lisa Gardner this weekend.  It’s a part of a series by Gardner about D.D. Warren, a detective in the Boston area.  This was the first book I’ve read by Lisa Gardner, and it wasn’t the first book in the series, but it doesn’t really matter a whole lot.  Some of the characters appeared in earlier books, but you don’t have to read the other books to know what is going on in this book.

In this book, D.D. Warren has to solve two crimes – one involves a girl whose two best friends were murdered on the same day exactly one year apart and the other a vigilante who has been killing pedophiles.  The girl, Charlie, believes that she will die on January 21st because her friends’ murders had the same MO.  In both cases, the women were murdered in their homes, with clean crime scenes and no signs of struggle.  This leads Charlie to believe that the murderer is someone that she knows.  She flees from her home and goes to Boston in the hopes of being able to flee from the murderer.  In Boston, she locates D.D. and explains why she thinks she is going to die, giving D.D. details about her preparations in case she is murdered so that D.D. will have a better chance of finding the murderer.  In the case of the pedophile-shootings, there was also no sign of a struggle and the victims were shot at close range.

This book caught my interest quickly because it reminded me of John Sandford’s books and because it deals with mental illness (I seem to be on a mental illness kick lately).  It was interesting to hear about how pedophiles lure their victims and how easy it is, despite kids being taught by their parents about staying away from strangers.  Even though the book is fiction, the author did her research.  If you look up information about internet safety for children, you’ll find that the book is accurate, even if the situation in the book is a dramatization.  Check out the FBI’s Parent Guide to Internet Safety for more information on protecting your children.

The plot was interesting and I learned information about pedophiles on the Internet.

I also read another book by the same author called The Seventh Month, which was really more like a novella or a short story, also starring D.D.  It was cute so after reading two books that I liked by the same author, I looked up the her website.  She has a sweepstakes on her site where you can submit a potential victim to be killed off in her next book.  Fun!  If you like crime novels or mysteries, I would recommend checking out some of Lisa Gardner’s books.