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Posts Tagged ‘Book Suggestions’

Fantasy Review – Midnight Crossroad

Friday, May 24th, 2019

Midnight Crossroad (Midnight, Texas, Bk 1)

Midnight Crossroad by Charlaine Harris

Review by Mirah W (mwelday)

I really didn’t need to start a new series. I am already reading numerous series and I sometimes forget when new books are released, and then I get behind in my reading! But here I am, writing a post on Midnight Crossroad, book one of the Midnight, Texas series by Charlaine Harris.

Midnight, Texas is what could be described as a ‘one horse town’.  Midnight has seen better days, but now businesses are boarded up and residents have to go to other towns to take care of basic errands.  When Manfred Bernardo moves to town he is welcomed by a few of the locals, but he quickly realizes things are ‘different’ in Midnight.  There is a diner, a convenience store/gas station, and a pawn shop; these three locations are where most of the action takes place in this small town.

Bobo owns the pawn shop and is heartbroken that his girlfriend Aubrey has left him.  But did she just leave Bobo or did something more sinister happen?  Manfred Bernardo is new to town and works as a psychic.  But does he truly have a gift or is he a fake?  Fiji has a New Age shop in her home and describes herself as a witch.  But does she really have any powers? These characters are just the tip of the iceberg of the quirky residents in Midnight.

Now strangers are coming into Midnight and they’re asking questions about Aubrey and attacking the residents.  Who are these strangers and what are they really after? And can the locals all be trusted?  It seems the residents of Midnight all have secrets, and none react well when they believe their secrets will be exposed.

This book had its downfalls, but overall, I enjoyed it. I found it to be fast-paced and a fun escape, but I don’t think the plot was as exciting or as well-developed as previous Harris books. I think the characters were rather two-dimensional, but I am hoping there is more character development in the next books of the series because the characters were likeable and had redeeming qualities. There are obviously more secrets and true identities to be revealed and I’m curious what else can happen in this sleepy town.  One of my favorite things about this book was the inclusion of Lily Bard from Harris’s Lily Bard mystery series.

 

 

 

 

Mystery Monday – Rear Window and Other Stories

Monday, May 20th, 2019

Rear Window and Other Stories by Cornell Woolrich

Review by Matt B. (BuffaloSavage)

 

Among fanatics of noir, Woolrich is up there with Hammett, Chandler, and Cain, though most admit, I gather, that his prose is the most purple and pulpy of the founding bunch. Among non-fans of noir, Woolrich is probably best-known through movie adaptations: The Bride Wore Black is a 1968 French film directed by François Truffaut and Rear Window, a 1956 fun fest by Alfred Hitchcock.

It Had to Be Murder was the original title of Rear Window, which he published in 1942 in the late lamented pulp Dime Detective. Left obscure in the story is why the narrator is trapped in his Big Apple apartment and so idle that he takes to secretly observing the lonely city lives of his neighbors through their windows. He realizes that the man across the way has very likely done away with his invalid wife. And he enlists the help of his “houseman,” an African-American, to break into the possible killer’s apartment. It’s a solid story that’s fun, though allowances must be made for the casual racism of the time and all of us readers know the reveal, more or less.

Though the fanatics seem to regard Post-Mortem (1940) as a mediocre story, I think the over-the-top premise redeems it. A widow wants to have her recently deceased husband disinterred so that a pocket of the last suit he’ll ever wear can be checked for a missing but winning sweepstakes ticket. Hey, $150K back then had the purchasing power of $2.5 million today, so I don’t think many people would think twice on this unique problem. The oddity is that her current husband puts his foot down, refusing to go along with the disinterment. Why?

The story Three O’Clock made its first appearance in a 1938 issue of Detective Fiction Weekly. A concussion turns a mild-mannered watch repairman into a deviser of infernal engines of death. He rigs up a homemade bomb to blow up his house with his wife in it. What these nimble-fingered handy guys will get up to. But circumstances prove that Creation is not above having its little joke on the unwary makers of infernal engines. The suspense in this story is so killing that the smart reader slows down to get the maximum effect.

Change of Murder (Detective Fiction Weekly, 1936) is the shortest story of this collection. It is a noir story with gangster characters, one named Brains and the other Fade (as in the craps term). What makes it worth reading in our jaded day is Woolrich’s surprise ending, which will call to mind the tradition of H.H. Munro (Saki) but a lot grimmer, as befits the period between the wars.

Momentum was originally published as Murder Always Gathers Momentum in 1940. In a story with a persuasive Depression-era bleakness, an ordinary guy, half of a young married couple, has the wolf baying at the door. He runs into a peck of trouble when he accidentally yet fatally shoots a conscience-free rich guy who owes him money. This fast-moving, ironic story will persuade even the most optimistic reader that doing a bad thing once makes it more likely to do so again. And again. And again.

In Woolrich’s view, the universe has endless space, time, flux, and hostility. In other words: so many people are bouncing off so many other people – especially in cities, the usual setting of his stories – that mischief and turmoil and irony are inevitable. The characters in Woolrich stories think to get across muddy roads they are walking safely on planks but really they are on tightropes over abysses. With no pole.

 

 

 

 

Christian Fiction Review – An Amish Reunion

Tuesday, May 14th, 2019

 

An Amish Reunion: Four Amish Stories

Review by Nancy B. (niceladywithglasses)

 

First story:  Their True Home, by Amy Clipston Let me say, if this had been the first book I’d ever read by Mrs. Clipston, I wouldn’t have read any more.  Now, with that being out in the open, this short story was barely Christian, in my opinion.  Sexually suggestive phrases were constantly being used.  This story just doesn’t help anyone draw closer to Jesus.   I don’t recommend it.   What I don’t understand is why did Amy Clipston go so far away from decent Christian writing in this story? It’s about 2 young adults, Marlene and Rudy, who develop a friendship that becomes more.  You can tell they are “falling in love” by the increased sexual innuendos.  The characters had no depth.  Not much of a plot, either.

Second story:  A Reunion of Hearts, by Beth Wiseman.

Gideon and Ruth, formerly Amish, have returned to their Amish hometown for a family reunion. Beth Wiseman did a good job of exploring SOME the depths of depression, sadness, anger, and denial, that must go along with the loss of a child.  Yes, it was a serious book, to a point,  but then it rather unraveled when the author decided to talk about the sexual attraction the husband and wife still had for each other.  Kind of a bizarre turn to take from the path I thought she was on in this story. It could have accomplished so much more if she had stayed true to the original storyline.   Most of her story is decent, but I don’t recommend it for anyone but MARRIED adult women, because of the focus on the sexuality between husband and wife, who had been separated but not divorced, for about 5 years.  Mrs. Wiseman  could have taken a cleaner path, but  kept focusing on the fleshly nature, instead of the spiritual nature.  So far, this book has left me feeling cheated out of a good read.    Let’s see if A Chance to Remember, by Kathleen Fuller, is better than these two.

Third story: A Chance to Remember, by Kathleen Fuller

Such a good story, I didn’t want it to end so soon!  Clean Christian fiction about the Amish and an Englishcher.   This is about an 80 year old Amish woman living in Birch Creek, and a man from her past, who comes by for a visit, after not having seen each other for decades. Cevilla and Richard enjoy old memories, and find they have an attraction for each other, after many visits.  Meghan, Richard’s granddaughter, watches over him and drives him to see Cevilla. They are on a little vacation away from California, and Meghan has some issues of her own she needs to settle.  All in all, this novella was highly enjoyable, and the characters had depth, and real personality.  I hope to be able to read more books by Kathleen Fuller.

Fourth Story in “An Amish Reunion

Mended Hearts, by Kelly Irvin 

I was very happy to see this story is a continuation of  some of the character’s stories I read in “With Winter’s First Frost”.

So nicely written, and clean!  Kelly Irvin really does a good job of writing Amish fiction.  She did a great job of writing about the struggles of a young unwed mother, who, after going through a bann, repented and was forgiven by most of her community, although as we know, there will always be those who like to keep gossiping about someone, and tearing them up.  Such  was the case in this story too, but it wasn’t the main focus.  The main story is about Hannah, the unwed mother, her friend Philip, and her ex-boyfriend, Thaddeus, the father of her child.  Thaddeus refused to marry Hannah, and he skipped town,  which embittered Hannah towards him.  The story is truly about forgiveness, and about recognizing that we sin, when we refuse to forgive others.  It’s a great story.

 

 

 

 

Mystery Monday Review – The Hound of the Baskervilles

Monday, May 13th, 2019

The Hound of the Baskervilles by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Review by Matt B. (BuffaloSavage)

This novel stars the detective duo of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. John Watson. The story uses country superstitions, a fiendish hound, and an old family curse. Sir Charles Baskerville is found dead with a rictus of terror on his face. And near the corpse, in one of the most famous lines in detective fiction, “… the footprints of a gigantic hound!”

Conan Doyle skillfully piles up weird little incidents that unnerve the heir to the vast estate, Henry Baskerville. Even the unflappable Holmes is concerned for the safety of Sir Henry. He sends Watson with the heir to his remote Dartmoor mansion. Watson therefore is particularly active in this story and tells his story in letters, diary extracts, and straight exposition.

On the up side, Conan Doyle skillfully describes dreary landscape in order to capture an overall grim tone. Turning a conventional Victorian creepy novel into a Sherlock Holmes tale the plot feel fresh. What Conan Doyle called “female interest” is fostered in the story, mainly due to indirectly describing the hard lot of women, married and not, at the hands of men. There are melodramatic passages but they are a lot of fun.

On the down side, there are is a plot hole so large that even Holmes himself acknowledges it in the reveal when, provoked by questions, he says, “It is a formidable difficulty, and I fear that you ask too much when you expect me to solve it.”

 

 

 

 

Thriller Review – Fear to Tread

Thursday, April 25th, 2019

Fear to Tread by Michael Gilbert

Review by Matt B. (BuffaloSavage)

British writer Michael Gilbert passed away at 93 in February, 2006. He wrote a couple dozen mysteries and many radio and TV scripts. He was a full-time solicitor (in the UK, an attorney who advises clients on legal matters and prepares cases for barristers to present in the higher courts). But he wrote during his train commute to and from his London office. Writing about two-and-a-half pages a day, he was able to finish a novel in five or six months. Gilbert’s writing is tight and focused.

In the 1953 thriller Fear to Tread, he relates the story of a school headmaster who turns detective, plausibly putting a bookish guy into menacing circumstances. Readers are taken into the dangerous worlds of public schools and the black market, which was a going concern in the UK after WWII. The characterization is persuasive, and the action rocks, so much so that this is more an adventure novel than a mystery.

 

 

 

 

 

Mystery Series Spotlight – Kate Mulcay

Monday, April 15th, 2019

The Kate Mulcay Series by Celestine Sibley

By Cheryl G. (Poncer)

Celestine Sibley, one of the first female, and longest lasting journalists, she wrote for the Atlanta Constitution for over 50 years. When I lived in Atlanta, I remember when she passed away. Her life and career was celebrated for a whole week.

Recently I ran across her Kate Mulcay Mystery series here on PaperBackSwap and ordered the first book, Ah, Sweet Mystery. I enjoyed it so much I ordered the other 4 that were available.

The series spotlights Kate Mulcay, a journalist who works for an Atlanta newspaper (coincidentally enough). She is the widow of an Atlanta Homicide detective who finds herself in the middle of a murder in her neighborhood, north of the city, where there are still woods and wildlife.

Any author who can develop characters, tell a story and solve a murder within 300 pages is tops with me. There is no gratuitous sex or violence, but I would not call them cozy mysteries. There is enough reality in the pages to keep one’s interest. They are not cutesy, but they are very enjoyable.

With the help of Kate’s elderly neighbor Willie Wilcox, Kate celebrates doing things the old-fashioned country way. When Willie is accused of killing her son, Kate, with the help, or maybe hindrance of the police, figures out the real murderer.

Since Sibley started this series late in life, there are only 5 books. I am halfway through the fifth one, Spider in the Sink, and have slowed way down reading it, because I don’t want the series to end.

I suggest reading them in order, getting to know the characters as they are developed through the series. I highly recommend this series.

 

                     

 

 

 

Mystery Monday Review – The Case of the Baited Hook

Monday, April 8th, 2019

The Case of the Baited Hook by Erle Stanley Gardner

Review by Matt B. (BuffaloSavage)

 

This exciting murder story stars the redoubtable Perry Mason, aided and abetted by his efficient PA Della Street and canny PI Paul Drake. Indeed, this is a familiar plot to hardcore readers of Perry Mason stories. A rich architect brings a masked woman to Mason’s office for a midnight meeting. He warns Mason to keep an eye on the newspapers because the architect may find himself and the woman in a vulnerable position. He also cautions against trying to find out who the masked woman is, not even allowing her to speak. Mason accepts half a $10,000 bill that has been cut as part of his retainer.

A parallel plot involves the financial future of an adult who was illegally adopted as a toddler. Her advocate is middle-aged Mrs. Tump, the kind forthright astute woman that Gardner must have admired since he used the archetype so often in his novels.

The action is mainly Mason interviewing evasive sneaks in offices, but Gardner makes talking, mere interviews, fascinating. Gardner makes strong efforts to describe a complex stock swindle and explain a technical legal concept (law of agency) to challenge readers to keep thinking. Focusing on ideas is key in this outing. Easily bored and confused readers should stay away from this one, probably in the top five Most Intricate Mason Novels.

And there are numerous surprises. For one, Mason alludes to the aphorism ‘Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof’ which appears in the Sermon on the Mount. Highly unusual in a Mason novel to see a Biblical reference. Even moreso, in his last appearance in a Mason novel, Homicide Sgt. Holcomb, consistently portrayed as a brute and booby, expresses admiration and shakes Mason’s hand:

All right Mason … I don’t like your methods. Someday I’m going to throw you in the can, but I do appreciate good detective work when I see it and I’m enough of a cop to pull for a guy who solves crimes, even if I don’t like the way he goes about it.

This novel also places Della Street right in the thick of the action so fans of Della will be pleased.