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Tag: "mystery"

Review: No One Else Can Have You by Kathleen Hale

[ 3 ] May 18, 2014

18052934Reviewed by Cal Cleary

Small town life is very different. There are a great many ways in which this is true, but few are as extreme – or as dramatic – as crime. It’s not that it’s less common, though it is; it’s the way it affects the town. The way a mob mentality can take over and turn a quest for justice into a personal attack on the town’s reputation. The way vendettas and phobias against outsiders can blind the people to things they know. No One Else Can Have You takes a look at all those issues and more… through a farcical dark young adult comedy. I have mixed feelings about this.

Crime and comedy are tough to blend. It’s been done and done well plenty of times, but it requires a deft balance – and even stories that hit that balance perfectly are going to turn some readers off. Writer Kathleen Hale tries to downplay a lot of the genre’s darkness, which I’m fine with because Hale never quite feels comfortable with darkness. The book’s best bits lean more towards elaborate, off-kilter farce, set-pieces of sublime ridiculousness that find our heroine stumbling haphazardly into problems (and, occasionally, solutions) that would be incredibly easy to avoid. But, of course, the townsfolks’ tacit agreement to avoid uncomfortable truths is why Kippy is the only one who stands a chance to solve this case.

Make no mistake: No One Else Can Have You is a mess. It veers between broad comedy and dark procedural, with neither element every really meshing. The book has drawn a lot of comparisons as a young adult Fargo for its combination of crime, comedy, and small town life, but it lacks the Coens’ razor-sharp satirical precision and depth of character. It needs its Marge Gunderson, its sympathetic, human character navigating the mess; instead, the central character is just one of a cast of crazies. In its worst moments, No One Else Can Have You seems loudly condescending of its small-town cast and dismissive of its story-driving investigation.

And yet, despite its flaws, despite the many ways in which the book doesn’t really work, I still kind of really liked it. The novel’s strongest segments eventually develop a darkly manic slapstick energy stemming from Kippy’s odd, loopy worldview. It never quite lost the stink of condescension to me, but the bizarre twists of Kippy’s investigation became more and more a gleefully fun reflection of Kippy’s loopy inner life. While I would have liked a more controlled pace, stronger character development, a more interesting plot to go along with the unpredictable sense of fun, I can at least say this: No one else could have written No One Else Can Have You.

Rating: ★★½☆☆ 

Cal Cleary is a librarian, critic and writer in rural Ohio. You can find more of his work at read/RANT and Comics Crux.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by HarperTeen. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.

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Blog Tour & Giveaway: The Dirty Book Murder by Thomas Shawver

[ 4 ] May 1, 2014

The-Dirty-Book-Murder-225x300Please welcome Thomas Shawver, author of The Dirty Book Murder, as he tours the blogosphere with TLC Book Tours!

Enter to win a $30 egiftcard to the ebook retailer of your choice, and a First Prize Mystery Prize Pack of three mystery mass market paperbacks!

Reviewed by Lindsay Yocum

Micheal Bevan lived a good life until a tragic accident made him a widower, and he was left grasping for air from being consumed with grief. He was so consumed that he sent his then 6-year-old daughter to live with her grandparents, and while he drowned himself in anything that made him feel better for the time being, he was disbarred from practicing law.

He seemed to get his life together and was running a book store, and was even successful at it. Everything seemed like it was falling into place, even his now 20-year-old daughter was back in town for a visit, (with her famous Hollywood director boyfriend, Bob Langston) and he had high hopes of a reconciliation happening.

After scouring ads in the paper, Mike comes across an ad for a local book auction, in which a very rare Japanese erotica book collection is included. Mike does not want to be outbid by his rival, Gareth Hughes, so they come to an agreement–neither will bid against the other and they will divide the books between them for profit. They are, in fact, very high dollar books and the two men stand to make a pretty penny out of this deal.

Alas, they are outbid by a stranger and instead of letting this stranger take his prize, Gareth pockets two books from the collection without Mike’s knowledge. Annoyed with the loss, and after having a complete throw down of words in a fight with his daughter over her much older boyfriend, Mike heads out to a local pub to nurse his wounds. Little does he know that these wounds are just the tip of the iceberg for him.

Gareth turns up dead the next day, having been beaten to death, and while Mike ponders about what could have possibly happened, his world falls apart when he notices the weapon used to murder Gareth.

Mike is up against Lt. Buford Higgins, a nemesis from his past work as a lawyer, who Mike knows will do anything to nail him for this crime. But can Mike really uncover the truth of what is going on to prove his innocence? Even as more murders arise?

I’ll admit, this book was hard for me to read, although it was extremely well written. I felt it moved incredibly slow in the beginning, and when it started to pick up the pace, I found myself trying to wrap my head around the very dark place this book was taking me into. Some parts were shocking, and others were expected (as most mysteries are). Even though I had a hard time with this book, I would recommend it to anyone who loves a good mystery. The wild ride it took me on was endless. I look forward to reading more from Thomas Shawver.

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

Lindsay Yocum resides in California with her 5 year old firecracker daughter, Bear, and her hilarious husband. She spends her free time traveling, baking, ruining DIY crafts she finds on Pinterest, and running, when she isn’t nose deep in a book.

Review and giveaway copies were provided free of any obligation by Alibi. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.

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Review: The Perfect Game by Stephen Paul

[ 0 ] April 21, 2014

The Perfect Game Final (Small)Reviewed by Lauren Cannavino

Kyle Vine is a psychologist and college professor who is, as his friend Eddie calls him, a “goody two shoes”, whose life takes a strange turn when he goes against his normal behavioral patterns. Kyle has been texting one of his much younger students and when they finally agree to met out for a drink, the night takes a salacious turn and not in any fashion that Kyle could have planned for or imagined. When his student, Allie, is rendered unconscious almost invisibly in an alley, all Kyle can do is panic and watch as a man runs away from the scene. After calling 911, Kyle has no way to realize that at stake is more than just his reputation.

Kyle is soon contacted by Allie’s eccentric Uncle Liam who owns a comic book shop and Liam insists that two meet in order to discuss Allie’s condition and how she may have ended up in a coma after all. Kyle thinks the girl’s uncle is aware of the nature of their relationship and panics but agrees. Ultimately, that would have ended up being a better outcome for the two men. Liam wants to discuss theories on energy transfers between humans, a theory Kyle knows a little about, but Liam is interested in the darker side of the exchanges; essentially when someone is responsible for stripping someone else’s energy by killing them in order to harvest their energy. Liam tells Kyle that Allie is lucky to be alive, but others in New York City have not been so lucky lately. The men meet and Liam shares his findings and opens up an entire world of information and mystery to Kyle. There are discussions of secret government contractors, murders across the city that all involve young people dying of strokes, little police help and more. Liam becomes an unlikely friend and ally to the polished Kyle, and when his theories on a popular Yankees pitcher being connected begin to appear true, a new series of secrets and information is pushed to the surface.

Kyle and Liam join up with Kyle’s friend Eddie to get to the bottom of the mystery and the dynamic between the three is entertaining. The twists that they endure are far from expected and everything from kidnappings, to night watches and mystery underground networks seems completely possible. Stephen Paul’s thriller has mysterious and almost supernatural undertones yet he presents his story in an exciting, well-paced way that makes all of the actions seem believable and plausible. Kyle and Liam grow as individuals and friends and while Kyle is the main character, Liam is an excellent foil to his character and their relationship makes the action and the drama of the book even more enjoyable. The ending of the book wrapped up the story nicely and completely, but all of the secret happenings in the story are not given away, leaving The Perfect Game on the brain long after completion.

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

Lauren Cannavino is a graduate student, freelance writer, wine lover, and avid reader. Random musings can be found over at www.goldiesays.com.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Stephen Paul. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.

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Review: Lady of the Bog by Peter Hayes

[ 1 ] April 17, 2014

18619311Reviewed by Amanda Farmer

My Lady of the Bog was the first book I have read by Peter Hayes. After reading it, I have mixed feelings. The story opens to Xander Donne, an American anthropologist finding a mysterious lady buried in an English bog with her body staked, treasures buried with her, and a book that he is unable to translate without help. He becomes obsessed with finding out her identity and why she was buried in the bog seven hundred years ago. What he doesn’t realize is that his Lady of the Bog is not just any ordinary sacrifice. She may well have been a witch or something greater, possibly a Deshi princess–no one really knows. He is determined to uncover her identity at all costs.

As Xander strives to uncover his Lady, he soon finds himself transported to medieval India, with his complicated love, Vidya. Vidya has her own complicated past and quite a lot of baggage. Xander believes that no matter what, the two of them will find out his Lady’s identity and have a life together. The book he found with his Lady seems to be enchanted and has the ability to really pull the reader into its pages, literally. As he deciphers the book, he realizes there is more at stake than just his need to find out who his Lady is–his life and career are at stake.

I found the book’s summary to be interesting in that it had mystery, love, sacrifice, intrigue and history all in one. Unfortunately I found the book itself to be too long winded and confusing at times. I felt like there were too many plot holes to the story and that everyone just took whatever they saw as fact without questioning anything. All the pieces seemed to fall too neatly into place as the story progressed and became to unbelievable for me. I didn’t feel a connection to any of the characters and I wanted to. I wanted to like this story but had a hard time finishing it because of the inconsistencies. Towards the end, I found myself losing interest in who the Lady of the Bog was and why she was buried in the English bog all those years ago.

Rating: ★★½☆☆ 

Amanda loves spending time at home with her husband and their dog, Oreo. She loves reading, playing puzzle games, beading and watching movies. When she’s not reading, she’s working on her Bachelor’s Degree in Nursing.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by The Permanent Press. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.

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Review: Regency Detective by David Lassman & Terence James

[ 1 ] April 8, 2014

the-regency-detective-2013-x-200Reviewed by Caleb Shadis

The Regency Detective was written by two authors, David Lassman and Terence James, and I’m fairly certain that I could point out who wrote which parts. There was the story that was the driving force of the book, and there was the history which gave background and ambiance. There was lots of cool history but there was also the ‘ya, ya, let’s get on with the story’ history. At times, it really felt like the mystery was just a way for them to convey their knowledge of the location where the story was taking place. That got irritating.

As far as I can tell this is the first book in the series but it feels like the second or third. This is supposed to be a mystery series and we get three separate mysteries in this book alone. Who killed Jack Swann’s father, who does Lockhart work for (the man courting Jack’s sister) and who committed the murders. The first is an obvious several book arc and I didn’t really expect it to end in this one. The second has some kind of overlap with the first. The third is where I dropped the stars down to 3.5. The third mystery – the one that gets solved – doesn’t even begin until almost two thirds of the way through the book. It felt like “Oh ya! We need to give them a mystery that is actually solved in THIS book!” In many ways this book felt like an episode instead of a full book.

Jack Swann is a man on a mission. When he was 12 he witnessed the murder of his father, and he has been trying to find the murderer ever since. He was adopted by the family his father worked for and grew up with his “sister”, Mary. When Jack was old enough, he set himself up as a detective (along the lines of Sherlock Holmes, without the chemical dependencies). He has made a name for himself and is doing quite well with the business. He can pick and choose his cases, but he never passes up a case that might relate to the murder of his father. This is how he ends up going to Bath.

Wherever Jack goes, trouble seems to be able to find him. He also has been practicing the art of observation and thus has a very good memory. He also has the remarkable ability to put together odd clues–even ones that are not apparently related. I like Jack and I am certainly willing to try the next book in the series. I hope by then the writing has evened out a bit and the story flows smoothly.

Rating: ★★★½☆ 

Caleb is a software engineer and amateur woodworker living in southern Minnesota. He has more hobbies than he has time or money for, and enjoys his quiet time reading.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by The History Press. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.

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Review: The Secrets She Carried by Barbara Davis

[ 4 ] March 24, 2014

16056382Reviewed by Colleen Turner

After losing her job in the print magazine publishing world of New York City two years previously, Leslie Nichols is quickly running out of money and options for making any. After receiving a message that the time limit for her to accept her claim to her grandmother’s estate is fast approaching, Leslie thinks this might be the perfect opportunity for her. Yes, she has refused to return to her family home of Peak Plantation for thirty years after her mother’s tragic death and has no wish to relieve the painful memories that tragedy stirs up. But she has nothing better to be doing right now and selling the plantation might solve her money issues. And with her ex-con father – the man everyone believes was responsible for her mother’s death – recently released from jail and sure to be tracking her down for money soon, returning to Peak Plantation also offers her a way of avoiding him. She can swallow her fear of the past, sell the plantation and move on for good.

Getting rid of Peak Plantation doesn’t prove to be as easy as she hoped, however. Someone else has a claim as well. Jay Davenport, the caretaker of Peak who took care of Leslie’s grandmother before she died, has been cultivating the land Leslie’s grandmother left to him in the hopes of turning it into a prosperous winery. For better or worse, Leslie and Jay will have to work together to do what is best for Peak as well as themselves. But as Leslie and Jay continue long buried secrets of the plantation and Leslie’s family begin to surface, including the life and death of a lady’s maid, Adele Laveau, who came to the plantation in the 1930s. As the two restore Peak and delve into its various mysteries they will be forced to face shocking truths – about Adele, Leslie’s family and each other – that will change their lives forever.

The Secrets She Carried does that wonderful thing so many books I’ve enjoyed lately do: effortlessly combine the past and the present, swirling the secrets and truths of the two timelines together until all the connections are laid open for the reader to marvel at. The modern day story of Leslie and Jay was very enjoyable, showing a slow but sweet love affair open up for these two characters that have been hurt in the past and need each other’s perspectives and honesty to move on from the pain they have been harboring. Without giving anything away the way the conflict between Leslie and her father is brought to a head is incredibly touching and I think the way both Leslie and Jay learn to open up and let other people in was spot on.

As usual the story line set in the past was my favorite part, however. Adele is such a captivating character and what she does for love is heartbreaking. While some of the secrets we learn were easy to see coming, other aspects were a total surprise for me and had me going back and rereading earlier passages to see how I could have possibly missed it. That, for me, made The Secrets She Carried that much more entertaining and a book I will remember for some time.

The Secrets She Carried is a touching look at the damage secrets can cause and the redemptive power of facing your demons, letting go of the past and opening yourself up to others. None of the characters are perfect which makes them easily relatable and sympathetic. Even thought the novel wraps up neatly by the end I enjoyed the characters so much that I have a secret hope the author writes a sequel so I can continue with the story of Leslie, Jay and Peak Plantation. That, to me, proves how enjoyable this novel is.

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

Colleen lives in Tampa, Florida with her husband, son, their dog Oliver and their fish Finn. When not working or taking care of her family she has her nose stuck in a book (and, let’s face it, often when she is working or taking care of her family as well). Nothing excites her more than discovering a new author to obsess over or a hidden jewel of a book to worship.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by NAL. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.

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