Tag: Book review

Book Review: Cart Before the Corpse by Carloyn McSparren

**I received an e-book version of this book as part of my participation in LibraryThing’s Early Reviewers program.**

The Cart Before the Corpse
by Carolyn McSparren

Cart Before the Corpse is a cozy mystery, with Merry Abbott trying to figure out who killed the father who she was estranged from for the majority of her life. It comes as the first spin off of a collectively written series called the Mossy Creek Hometown Series. I’ve not read the latter, but they’re floating around the system, so I might try to get through at least the first one.

Merry, a horse/carriage trainer and show manager who won’t herself drive, learns at the end of a show that her father has been murdered. She drives down to where she had planned to meet her father on his new horse training farm in rural Georgia and, as the heir, must sort out who did it along with deciding whether or not to stay on the farm she now owns.

Overall the book was okay, not something I’d have picked up otherwise and not something I’m particularly interested in continuing to read. McSparren, in my opinion, was way too hung up on the idea of reconciliation between father and daughter. Merry felt a whole lot of guilt about picking up her life and moving on after repeatedly being abandoned be her father. It felt overly forced for her to spend nearly the entire book blaming herself for not reaching out earlier to a man who had rejected her. But that could just be my cynical opinion. 

As the local law is never enough in these books, a GBI agent was brought in to provide the cop side of the story as well as being the potential love interest for Merry. The voice of the character was decent, though I didn’t feel like we got enough of his story to really care about him. He seemed like a potentially interesting character.

Probably the best character was Peggy Caldwell, Merry’s father’s landlady and friend. She was well developed enough that it wouldn’t surprise me to find that she’s the character McSparren has already fleshed out in the Mossy Creek books. Her voice was very strong and she seemed like someone who would be fun to know. 

Mixed voice narrative made it occasionally confusing but it was generally clear when I’d move away from the book and return.    

If you’re interested in carriage riding, it’s a light fun read. I particularly struggled with trying to read it in e-book/on screen format (no, still no e-reader at Chez Hedgehog) and I can only hope someone did a final edit–as there were quite a number of errors in the text, particularly as the story progressed. I had trouble sticking with the narrative and really getting involved with the characters and overall, it wouldn’t be a first recommendation.

Book Review: Oh. My. Gods.

Oh. My. Gods.
by Tera Lynn Childs

One of my coworkers has this on hold so I had to sit down and plow through it last night lest I wrack up more overdue fines. I’d been meaning to read this for somet ime, it’s come home with me at least twice, been consigned to the library basket, and wistfully waited for me.

Short version of the plot: Just before her senior year of high school, Phoebe’s widowed mother remarries after a shockingly short courtship and hauls her to her new husbands home on a small Greek island. Stepdad is the headmaster of a small exclusive school where everyone is descended from the Greek Gods. So now instead of just the usual trials and tribulations of high school, she’s facing senior year with the major disadvantage of simply being a normal human.

The book is a nice piece of escape fantasy and has the added advantage of turning things that sound like a dream come true on their head. Moving halfway around the world to a beautiful Greek island? NOOOOOOO Being surrounded by incredibly gorgeous descendants of Gods? BAD Having the super hot guy paired with you as your running partner? extra horrible

The plot is light and fluffy and slightly predictable. The evil stepsister was a nice, classic fairytale touch. What I found most believable were Phoebe’s interactions with her mother. Still mourning her father, ripped with almost no notice from everything she’s grown up with, she’s angry, hurt, and frustrated. Lashing out at her mother is a perfectly understandable and normal response. Phoebe’s irritation at her therapist mother’s attempts to “therapy” her through these major changes is incredibly realistic and is the best dialog in the book. While the other relationships in the text seem a little too convenient or contrived or happy ending–I think most girls could identify the well-scripted mother daughter relationship.

And the final revenge on the stepsister wasn’t bad either…

Book Review: NERDS by Michael Buckley

by Michael Buckley

Buckley’s pretty well known for his charming Sisters Grimm series, which brings to life the rather frightening reality that fairy tale characters live in a small town in upstate New York. So it was with high anticipation that I grabbed NERDS off the shelf.

Meet Jackson Jones, your typical super-popular star athlete at the middle school. Kids want to be like him or at least in his circle of friends, even adults emulate him. Charm and style and amazing skill at football should see him through fifth grade trials, tribulations, and time spent picking on geeks and nerds, right?

That is–until a fatal dental appointment–where Jackson learns he has an unusual number of teeth and is slapped into braces and headgear. Highly magnetized headgear. Instantly gone is his popularity

But then he begins to notice something about the classmates he picked on before. When he follows them, he stumbles upon a secret world of spies, missions, and a very unusual Lunch Lady.

Inadvertently joining the team, Jackson has to prove himself to teammates who hate him, deal with super special braces, and try not to flunk out of fifth grade–oh, and save the world from a supreme evil doer and his hired assassin (who is also in fifth grade).

Buckley provides a very realistic hero in the stereotypical popular boy who has fallen from grace. Jackson sees himself as a good kid and is startled to realize he is a bully. A little self-realization and sadness and growth comes but not one of those sudden 180 turn arounds. At random the reader does have to provide retina scans and pass other security clearances…with a typical does of tween humor.

First in a series, this is another one to keep high on the ordering list and make sure it’s face out on the shelves. The guy taking my order at the sub shop the other day grabbed it off the counter for a quick perusal–so I think we can safely say the cover appeals to all ages.

Book Review: White Witch by Janet Graber

The White Witch
Janet Graber

There just aren’t enough good plague books for kids. Fortunately, Graber steps up to the plate, addressing a devastating point in history and confronting the belief system of the time.

In a small English village, Gwen has a reputation of being a witch because of her pale coloring and ability to commune with animals. While she doesn’t seem to be albino, she has light hair and skin and the village people both respect and fear her.

Her father, a trader, brings news of the plague from London and warns the villagers that they must not allow the refugees fleeing the city to come down the river and dock with them. Believing that God will protect them and choosing to believe the illness a sign of retribution for sinfulness, they choose to ignore his warning.

Gwen’s father knows they will blame her for the illness. He hides her in a secret room in the church, formerly used to hide riches, and leaves the village, promising to return. Time passes and refugees, rats, and ultimately the plague arrive. Gwen watches as people flee or die, with deaths outpacing the rate the bodies can be buried.

Silence falls on the village, and then one of the villagers returns from hiding in the woods, a young woman who knows where Gwen is hiding.

Gwen risks getting the plague herself to help her friend, even when she knows it means losing the boy she loves to that friend. But those aren’t the only villagers around, and now Gwen faces a witchcraft trial.

While not making inappropriately light of the death and the superstitions that surrounded healing and people who were different, Graber presents an interesting glimpse of a time not often addressed in children’s literature. A thoughtful read.

Book Review: Sworn to Silence by Linda Castillo

Sworn to Silence
Linda Castillo

Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book as part of the LibraryThing Early Reviewers Program. Early Reviewers get copies of books from publishers in exchange for reading and providing an honest review on LibraryThing.

Castillo presents a thriller mystery when a serial killer re-appears after an absence of sixteen years to start murdering young women in a small town with a large Amish community.

Kate Burkholder has returned to her childhood hometown as the chief of police, bringing a history of growing up Amish and larger city police experience. When a serial killer returns and begins to escalate after an absence of sixteen years, Burkholder is caught between attempting to do her job and trying to deal with her own past. For, we learn, she believes she killed the Slaughterhouse Killer as a young woman, an act that caused her to leave the Amish community and become an outsider to her immediate family. Now, with a burnt out former rogue state officer sent to help out, she has to juggle local politicians, other law enforcement departments, and the unknown of whether the killer is back or if she has a new problem to deal with.

Castillo does an admirable job of setting up a town with believable politics, history and personality. I particularly liked the night dispatcher, whose obsession with current crime scene television shows is treated with a gentle humor and teasing of readers who are similarly interested. Her scenic descriptions are distinct enough to give a clear image, though she makes the ones involving the victims sparse enough to keep the stomach from churning. She provides interesting insight into the Amish community and their behavior towards Kate, showing believe instances where love for family takes precendence over cultural rules.

Tomasetti, the rogue cop in state agency sent to help, was stereotypical–rugged, good looking, has a tragic background. They never send the happily married average looking guy. And of course there was the seeming obligatory romantic angle. I was a little disappointed that two people had to fall into bed together. Yes, traumatic situation and all sparking romance and celebration of life, but it didn’t add anything for me.

Overall, it was well done. I probably should have figured out the killer a little earlier, but I didn’t mind that I hadn’t. And it was nice to see more realistic time lines (something will take 2-3 days to get, etc). Thrillers aren’t a genre I read often, but I recommend Sworn to Silence for someone who likes to watch Bones, CSI, Criminal, etc.

And it’s apparently going to be part of a series, about which I feel ambivalent.

Cross posted to my account on LibraryThing.