Category Archives: mystery

Book Review: A Study in Charlotte by Brittany Cavallaro

Young Adult Book Review

A Study in Charlotte by Brittany CavallaroA Study in Charlotte by Brittany Cavallaro
Published: March 1st 2016 by Katherine Tegen Books
Format: Paper Book
Length: 336 pages
Genre: Mystery, Crime, Romance, Retelling
Rating: 3 stars
Goodreads | Amazon

The last thing Jamie Watson wants is a rugby scholarship to Sherringford, a Connecticut prep school just an hour away from his estranged father. But that’s not the only complication: Sherringford is also home to Charlotte Holmes, the famous detective’s great-great-great-granddaughter, who has inherited not only Sherlock’s genius but also his volatile temperament. From everything Jamie has heard about Charlotte, it seems safer to admire her from afar.

From the moment they meet, there’s a tense energy between them, and they seem more destined to be rivals than anything else. But when a Sherringford student dies under suspicious circumstances, ripped straight from the most terrifying of the Sherlock Holmes stories, Jamie can no longer afford to keep his distance. Jamie and Charlotte are being framed for murder, and only Charlotte can clear their names. But danger is mounting and nowhere is safe—and the only people they can trust are each other.

A Study in Charlotte is the first in a trilogy.

I have a love for all things Sherlock Holmes. You can thank PBS and Jeremey Brett for that. I spent many a Saturday morning watching Holmes reruns when I was a teenager. A Study in Charlotte by Brittany Cavallaro is not the first time I’ve come across a book inspired by the great detective and his faithful doctor or even the first time I’ve read one that changed one character’s sex to female. I always dread when this happens because, inevitably, the author uses it to create some sort of awkward and unappealing romance between the pair. Such happens in A study in Charlotte.

In this world, Sherlock Holmes and John Watson were real. Arthur Conan Doyle was Watson’s literary agent. Both of the men have descendants and those (poor) descendants are where our story focuses. First of all, the characters themselves. I adored our female Holmes. Charlotte is everything you might want in a Holmes character and I love how Cavallaro works with young Charlotte, how growing up under the shade of THE Sherlock Holmes can leave a person worse for wear. The Holmes family grooms their children to be like Sherlock. For Sherlock, it was nature, but for Charlotte is was nurture. She was forced into this and that abuse (let’s face it, it’s abuse) has molded her into a strange homage to her ancestor but has left Charlotte herself with a bevy of mental problems. Can Charlotte deduce and reason crimes and murders? Yes. Is she mentally sound? No.

The Watson character has it no easier. James (for some reason his nickname is Jamie but it’s barely used in the text, confusing more than a couple of people reading the book jacket blurb) is basically manipulated into meeting Charlotte , has anger issues, and has the unfortunate fate of trying to save the heroine with the power of his love. (gag) James is really brainwashed into loving Charlotte by his father, who himself is obsessed with the Holmes family. Seriously obsessed. Watson Sr. is crazy cakes, people. Charlotte and James are two very troubled kids drowning under the weight of their famous predecessors. They are both so broken that it’s hard to look away.

I was enjoying A Study in Charlotte immensely until it became clear that Cavallaro was angling to have them end up in a relationship. Because a boy and a girl have no ability to be anything other than romantic lovers. (That was sarcasm right there.) I liked Charlotte and James’ friendship. They are both trying so hard (and mostly failing) to cope, that finding a kindred spirit is surprising to both of them. Then it derailed into relationship land. I did enjoy the rest of the book. The use of actual Sherlock Holmes stories to pattern the murders after was fun. The tongue in cheek bashing the characters do over the inaccuracies in the original stories was entertaining.

The actual mystery is so-so. It started out really tight and griping and then sort of peters out. Charlotte is touted as being really good at solving crimes, Scotland Yard asks her to solve crimes even though she’s a teenager, but then it turns out she’s really not all that great at it here. I don’t know. Maybe I was just frustrated and annoyed that the plot didn’t seem to be going anywhere about 3/4 of the way through the book. I don’t know how a non-Holmes fan will take this book. If you don’t know what to expect with a Holmes character, Charlotte will come across as unlikeable. Most of the draw here is the Sherlock Holmes angle. Other readers might not like this as much. I think most of my enjoyment of A Study in Charlotte by Brittany Cavallaro was derived from my fondness for the Sherlock Holmes stories rather than any quality of this book.

Thank you for reading!

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Book Review: The Children’s Home by Charles Lambert

Adult books but not erotica. Supposed to be ages 18 and over but I’ve known mature teens to be fine with adult books. Adult books have mature situations, maybe non-graphic sex, and are not meant for young kids.

The Children’s Home by Charles LambertThe Children’s Home by Charles Lambert
Published: January 5th 2016 by Scribner
Format: Paper Book
Length: 210 pages
Genre: Horror, Mystery, Gothic, Creepy
Rating: 2 stars
Goodreads | Amazon

For fans of Shirley Jackson, Neil Gaiman, Roald Dahl, and Edward Gorey, a beguiling and disarming debut novel from an award-winning British author about a mysterious group of children who appear to a disfigured recluse and his country doctor, and the startling revelations their behavior evokes.

In a sprawling estate, willfully secluded, lives Morgan Fletcher, the disfigured heir to a fortune of mysterious origins. Morgan spends his days in quiet study, avoiding his reflection in mirrors and the lake at the end of his garden. One day, two children, Moira and David, appear. Morgan takes them in, giving them free reign of the mansion he shares with his housekeeper Engel. Then more children begin to show up.

Dr. Crane, the town physician and Morgan’s lone tether to the outside world, is as taken with the children as Morgan, and begins to spend more time in Morgan’s library. But the children behave strangely. They show a prescient understanding of Morgan’s past, and their bizarre discoveries in the mansion attics grow increasingly disturbing. Every day the children seem to disappear into the hidden rooms of the estate, and perhaps, into the hidden corners of Morgan’s mind.

The Children’s Home is a genre-defying, utterly bewitching masterwork, an inversion of modern fairy tales like The Chronicles of Narnia and The Golden Compass, in which children visit faraway lands to accomplish elusive tasks. Lambert writes from the perspective of the visited, weaving elements of psychological suspense, Jamesian stream of consciousness, and neo-gothic horror, to reveal the inescapable effects of abandonment, isolation, and the grotesque – as well as the glimmers of goodness – buried deep within the soul.

Have you ever felt like you’re are just too dumb to understand a book? The Children’s Home by Charles Lambert made me feel like that. The first half was interesting. A disfigured recluse, Morgan, suddenly finds his home full of mysterious children, who come to him in ways he can’t quite figure out. They offer Morgan acceptance through their innocence and a connection to the world beyond his estate and the high walls that surround it. But the children are peculiar and seem to have an objective that Morgan cannot figure out. They do not act as he thinks children should act and have an uncanny ability to know when their noise is not wanted and when danger is near. Then the story takes a sharp left into weirdville and lost me.

The Children’s Home had a lot of elements that I enjoyed. I really loved Morgan. He is an interesting main character. He drifts through the house like a ghost until events force him to reattach to the world. The kids are creepy. We’re not sure if they are or aren’t a product of Morgan’s lonely imagination. It has a gothic setting in a world apparently ravaged by some disaster or war, a world we’re not sure still exists outside the estate’s walls. There was a period where I thought the world had ended and Morgan was the last person alive, everyone in the manor a product of his mind. The tense and eerie atmosphere is chilling and a delight. But the second half is incomprehensible.

For the life of me, I can’t figure out what the second half is supposed to mean. Is there a wider meaning to the vague World War 2 gas chamber reference? Is it commentary on how we are (literally in this case) sucking the life out of the younger generations just to keep functioning as a society? Is there something with parallel universes going on that is in no way explained at all? Is David some sort of messiah? Are the children some work of a magical source? As Morgan asked himself many times in the story, who are these children?

The Children’s Home by Charles Lambert has some compelling and violent imagery. The events are unsettling and memorable. It is a sinister gothic horror but lacks resolution into a satisfying whole. The reader becomes impatient with the children’s evasiveness and we have no resolution by the end. We are left just as clueless as we started. We are given no context during the story and learn no details of the state of the world or the source or purpose of the puzzling children. In all, The Children’s Home by Charles Lambert left me confused and unsettled, wondering, like the characters, if I had somehow missed the point.

Thank you for reading!

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Book Review: Take The Fall by Emily Hainsworth

Young Adult Book Review

Take The Fall by Emily HainsworthTake The Fall by Emily Hainsworth
Published: February 16th 2016 by Balzer + Bray
Format: Paper Book
Length: 368 pages
Genre: Murder Mystery, Crime
Rating: 2.5 stars
Goodreads | Amazon

WHO KILLED GRETCHEN MEYER?

Fear grips the residents of Hidden Falls the night Sonia Feldman and her best friend, Gretchen Meyer, are attacked in the woods. Sonia was lucky to escape with her life, but Gretchen’s body is discovered at the bottom of a waterfall. Beautiful, popular, and seemingly untouchable, Gretchen can’t be gone. Even as Sonia struggles with guilt and confusion over having survived, the whole town is looking to her for information…could she have seen something that will lead the police to the killer?

At the top of the list of suspects is Gretchen’s ex-boyfriend—and Sonia’s longtime enemy—Marcus Perez. So when Marcus comes to Sonia for help clearing his name, she agrees, hoping to find evidence the police need to prove he’s the killer. But as Gretchen’s many secrets emerge and the suspects add up, Sonia feels less sure of Marcus’s involvement, and more afraid for herself. Could Marcus, the artist, the screwup, the boy she might be falling for have attacked her? Killed her best friend? And if it wasn’t him in the woods that night…who could it have been?

With a friend like Gretchen Meyer, who needs enemies?

We have another murder mystery with Take The Fall by Emily Hainsworth. We start the story off with our heroine running for her life from some unseen attacker and it goes kind of downhill from there. The beginning is exciting and interesting but the rest of the plot is repetitive and monotonous. It was frustrating and annoying. I was not impressed with Sonia’s lackluster Nancy Drew impression. The more we learned of Gretchen, the less I cared about her death. It seemed she’d fucked her way through every male in town and had blackmail material on everyone else. As more of Gretchen’s horrid personality was revealed, I was wondering why everybody was bothering to investigate her murder. The whole town was probably thinking “good riddance”.

So many freaking characters. Several times, somebody would pop up and I’d be like “Wait? Who was that again?” I had a theory about who the killer was before the half way point and was disappointed to find I was right. Hainsworth was trying for shock factor and originality but fell short. I had no sympathy for Gretchen and thus had no problem figuring out the killer. If Gretchen had not been so universally horrid to everybody in Hidden Falls, including her own sister and best friend, I might have been more mislead.

The first half of Take The Fall was enjoyable to read but as the book progressed, the plot became too circular and I became bored. An unsympathetic murder victim left me uncaring about finding the perpetrator. I did like the use of POC characters, including a Latina main character and a Middle Eastern supporting character. Take The Fall was dark and twisted, showcasing the worst of teenage humanity. Some may find the open-ended conclusion disappointing. I was fine with it but others disliked it. I didn’t love Take The Fall by Emily Hainsworth, it lacked a spark to really make it fantastic, but it was an entertaining read. If you really like murder mysteries, you should give it a try.

Thank you for reading!

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Book Review: A Pocket Full of Murder by R.J. Anderson

middlegradeBook Review: A Pocket Full of Murder by R.J. AndersonA Pocket Full of Murder by R.J. Anderson
Published: September 8th 2015 by Atheneum Books for Young Readers
Format: Paper Book
Length: 340 pages
Genre: Mystery, Magic, Fantasy, Poverty
Rating: 3.5 stars
Goodreads | Amazon

In the spell-powered city of Tarreton, the wealthy have all the magic they desire while the working class can barely afford a simple spell to heat their homes. Twelve-year-old Isaveth is poor, but she’s also brave, loyal, and zealous in the pursuit of justice—which is lucky, because her father has just been wrongfully arrested for murder.

Isaveth is determined to prove her innocence. Quiz, the eccentric eyepatch-wearing street boy who befriends her, swears he can’t resist a good mystery. Together they set out to solve the magical murder of one of Tarreton’s most influential citizens and save Isaveth’s beloved Papa from execution.

But each clue is more perplexing than the next. Was the victim truly killed by Common Magic—the kind of crude, cheap spell that only an unschooled magician would use—or was his death merely arranged to appear that way? And is Quiz truly helping her out of friendship, or does he have hidden motives of his own? Isaveth must figure out who she can trust if she’s to have any hope of proving her Papa’s innocence in time. . .

A Pocket Full of Murder by R.J. Anderson was a predictable but enjoyable read. The main character, Isaveth, was a touch annoying to me; too much of a goody two shoes and a special snowflake. The identity of Quiz was fairly obvious, as was the ‘bad guy’. I liked the world building and the magical system Anderson created. The creation of a kitchen witchery system with spells baked into cakes was neat and inventive. (Magic cookies!) The book centers on a lot of politics, which is interesting to see in a middle grade book. This is also the second book I’ve read lately with strong themes of racism and prejudice; this time focusing on the religious. Isaveth and her family are Moshite; a fantasy parallel used in place of Judaism and, in my mind, Islam. The Moshite are treated as lower class and denied jobs and resources due to their religion, even among the other poor people living in the same slums they are living in. Like The Lightning Queen by Laura Reasu, this book is an examination of class, poverty, and racism, this time in a magical setting.

My favorite part is Isaveth using fanfiction as a coping mechanism. Deprived of her favorite mode of entrainment and relaxation when her family is forced to sell their radio, Isaveth writes her own stories for the radio play she usually listens to. I was tickled to see fanfiction represented here. I also liked the moral implications of Annagail and Isaveth denying their religion just to be treated fairly. By merely hiding the most visible indication of their religion, their Mother’s prayer scarf, Annagail is able to get a better job as a maid, rather than slaving away in a sweatshop. It brings into harsh light how irrational and arbitrary racism and prejudice is. Meggery, the head maid, likes Annagail but as soon as she finds out she is Moshite, Meggery fires Annagail, although Annagail is the same person she always was. It shows how ugly bigotry is.

The downside to A Pocket Full of Murder was a messy plot and an unsurprising outcome. I don’t see why a second book is necessary. It should have ended with Quiz retrieving the recording bracelet and the bad guy being exposed, his political ambitions ruined. This book would have worked perfectly as a stand-alone, had it been finished properly, and now I fear it’s going to be beaten to death as a series. The magical system, while neat, is not really important to the overall story and the pace can be a bit slow in places. In all, A Pocket Full of Murder by R.J. Anderson had good bones but just an ok performance.

Thank you for reading!

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Review: Curtsies & Conspiracies by Gail Carriger

youngadult

curtsiesconspiraciesCurtsies & Conspiracies by Gail Carriger
Published: November 2013 by Hachette Little, Brown & Co
Format: Paper Book
Length: 310 pages
Genre: Steampunk, Spy, Espionage, Paranormal, Young Adult, AU Historical
Goodreads | Amazon

Does one need four fully grown foxgloves for decorating a dinner table for six guests? Or is it six foxgloves to kill four fully grown guests?

Sophronia’s first year at Mademoiselle Geraldine’s Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality has certainly been rousing! For one thing, finishing school is training her to be a spy (won’t Mumsy be surprised?). Furthermore, Sophronia got mixed up in an intrigue over a stolen device and had a cheese pie thrown at her in a most horrid display of poor manners.

Now, as she sneaks around the dirigible school, eavesdropping on the teachers’ quarters and making clandestine climbs to the ship’s boiler room, she learns that there may be more to a field trip to London than is apparent at first. A conspiracy is afoot–one with dire implications for both supernaturals and humans. Sophronia must rely on her training to discover who is behind the dangerous plot-and survive the London Season with a full dance card.

I have no idea why I like Curtsies & Conspiracies so much when nothing really happens. I had the same problem with this book’s predecessor, Etiquette & Espionage. The first book of the Finishing School Series felt like set up with a little bit of action thrown in at the end. The second book, Curtsies & Conspiracies, is a hunt for clues with a little bit of action thrown in at the end. And yet, I enjoyed it a lot. It is cleverly written, quirky, and amusing. It was interesting to watch Sophronia navigate her lessons as an intelligencer, move about the dirigible at night, and piece together a conspiracy plot while taking tea. It’s entertaining and I couldn’t put the book down but I kept waiting for things to come together, for that big climax. Instead, we’re left with a bit of a mess.

It would probably be correct to say that if you like spy novels and steampunk worlds, you’ll like the Finishing School Series. The steampunk setting adds a nice flavor to the book. I really like all the little funny names for the machines. (Like the oddgob.) It’s a little like the Disney Little Mermaid song Part of Your World – “I’ve got gadgets and gizmos aplenty; I’ve got whozits and whatzits galore”. The toys, as they say, are awesome. The world building is vivid. I especially like the mechanical maids and robots and the fact that the school is a huge dirigible. The characters are varied and unique but the cast may suffer from overpopulation. Some of the characters don’t really add anything to the story and just prove to be confusing with an already large cast to keep track of.

But the big draw for the Finishing School Series is that it is funny. There is widespread ridiculousness with everything from the names of objects to the names of people, the lessons the girl’s take, and the tongue in cheek foolery between the visiting Bunson’s evil genius boys and Mademoiselle Geraldine’s young ladies of quality. There is a steam powered metal sausage dog named Bumbersnoot, for heaven’s sake. Curtsies & Conspiracies is hilarious.

It is that humor and absurdity that saves the book. I’ve read both the first and second book of the Finishing School Series and have yet to see a cohesive plot the entire time. We don’t know what the mystery is and there is no plot resolution at the end of the books. Our characters are just mucking about in pretty dresses and being overly clever for 15 year old girls. We are presented with facts and events but with no ability to arrange them into a pattern and very little is really settled or revealed at the end of the books. About 3/4 of Curtsies & Conspiracies is Sophronia going about being ‘very special indeed’ and more than a bit of a Mary Sue perfect girl. Curtsies & Conspiracies was a witty, funny, and quick read. But that’s about it.

Thank you for reading!

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Book Review: Truly, Madly, Deadly by Hannah Jayne

youngadult

trulymadlydeadlyTruly, Madly, Deadly by Hannah Jayne
Published July 2nd 2013 by Sourcebooks Fire
Format: Paper Book
Length: 262 pages
Genre: Murder Mystery, Thriller, Drama, Psychological
Goodreads | Amazon

They Said It Was An Accident…

Sawyer Dodd is a star athlete, a straight-A student, and the envy of every other girl who wants to date Kevin Anderson. When Kevin dies in a tragic car crash, Sawyer is stunned. Then she opens her locker to find a note:

You’re welcome.

Someone saw what he did to her. Someone knows that Sawyer and Kevin weren’t the perfect couple they seemed to be. And that someone—a killer—is now shadowing Sawyer’s every move…

Truly, Madly, Deadly by Hannah Jayne is a murder mystery. It is a whodunit and as more people die one after the other, it is a who-is-doing-it. I don’t care who you are, when you pick up a murder mystery we are all transformed into Sherlock Holmes. When I read a mystery I build and discard theories. That’s half the fun! You have to look at what clues the author is giving you and also think about what mystery clichés the author might be using. ? Is it an evil twin? The once childhood friend turned enemy? The confidant? The seemingly betrayer? What pattern is the author using to build their story? Nobody and nothing are what they seem. As my theories come and go, I try to pay attention to everything. Nothing pleases me more than getting to the end of a murder mystery and having my theory proven right. Unless, of course, I’m proven very wrong in a very original way.

What I Liked

blackdot I went through several theories while reading Truly, Madly, Deadly. About half way through, I settled on one theory that persisted all through the rest of the book. I was sure I knew what was going on. I was all pleased with myself for figuring it out. But when I reached the end, I was dead wrong. (Oh, look. A pun.) The killer turned out to be someone I wasn’t even considering and that is a mark of a great murder mystery.

blackdot Truly, Madly, Deadly is well crafted. I loved Sawyer and the rest of the characters. Sawyer’s voice and how she reacted to events were believable. Some people might see Sawyer as a bit of a wimp but you have to remember that she’s a kid. Sawyer is confused, doesn’t know what’s happening to her, if she’s losing her mind or not, has no support, and I think she reacts appropriately to events. That is, she freaks out and makes things worse.

blackdot This book is creepy. I felt the rush of anxiety as the notes kept coming and Sawyer didn’t know what was happening. I felt the fear as Sawyer was chased while out running and wonders who is watching her every move. Truly, Madly, Deadly is at its heart a stalker story and as a woman, I find that very upsetting and unnerving.

What I Didn’t Like

blackdot There was one point where I nearly threw the book across the room in disgust. Near the beginning, Sawyer gets talked into going to a party by Chloe and while there, mind you this is soon after her boyfriend dying and just after finding the note implying he was murdered and not killed by accident, she meets a boy she hasn’t given two looks at before and, suddenly unable to control herself, kisses him and has a lovely make out session in the backyard of the party house. You have got to be kidding me! This is what annoys me about the characters in YA books. Scenes like that make it seem like nobody can control themselves and just want to f*ck all the time. It’s ridiculous.

blackdot I have to express my righteous fury for how Sawyer’s parents deal with her depression. Tear a teenager’s whole life and family apart, her mother abandoning her and moving half way across the country, and popping down some stranger as her new mommy? Just buy her a new car and give her a bedroom with her own private bath! Kid still not acting like everything is hunky-dory? She must be broken! Send her to the shrink and put her on sleeping pills. Yeah, that’s A+ parenting there! Assholes. No wonder Sawyer has rock bottom self-esteem. Her parents are treating her like some sort of failed experiment whose existence is now nothing more than an inconvenience.

blackdot I would have liked some more explanation on how the killer accomplished what they did. How did they get into the house, into Sawyer’s locker, kill Kevin and the teacher? Details were a little thin on that. And I think with one of the murders, quite impossible for the killer to do.

blackdot I felt like some of the secondary characters were just there to give us other people to suspect as the murderer. They really don’t add anything to the story. They are merely functional. There are also a lot of high school character troupes in use. It made the book feel like the author had used a checklist for the characters.

This was a creepy and fun read. It was super quick. I read it in a day and really enjoyed it. It had a few problems and I was left with some confusion after the end but I still liked it. The romance between Cooper and Sawyer added nothing to the book and was actually slightly irritating. The messages to Sawyer really made the creep factor for me and I think it was what made the story so unsettling. I probably would have died on the spot if I found the ‘You’re Welcome’ message in my locker. As the deaths pile up, it seems like everyone is in danger and nobody is safe and all the evidence is pointing right to Sawyer. The reader is kept on their toes. Truly, Madly, Deadly by Hannah Jayne was a good murder mystery but just an okay YA book.

Thank you for reading!

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Book Review: Game by Barry Lyga

youngadult

GameGame by Barry Lyga
Published April 16th 2013 by Little, Brown Young Readers
Format: Paper Book
Length: 517 pages
Genre: Young Adult, Crime, Murder Mystery, Horror
Goodreads | Amazon

I Hunt Killers introduced the world to Jasper (Jazz) Dent, the son of the world’s most infamous serial killer.

When a desperate New York City detective comes knocking on Jazz’s door asking for help with a new case, Jazz can’t say no. The Hat-Dog Killer has the Big Apple–and its police force running scared with no leads. So Jazz and his girlfriend Connie hop on a plane to the big city and get swept up in a killer’s murderous game.

Meanwhile, Jazz’s dad Billy is watching…and waiting.

Have you ever read a book where it feels like the book attacked you, mauled you, and left you sitting stunned at the end wondering what the hell just happened? Game by Barry Lyga is that book. It chewed me up and spat me out. Its predecessor, I Hunt Killers, was one of my favorite books of 2012 and I was so excited when the sequel came out in mid-April. I was a bit daunted when I got my copy of Game and saw the book was huge at over 500 pages. I thought for sure Game couldn’t merit such length and that I would get bored or annoyed with it eventually. That was not to be. I couldn’t put it down.

I’m trying to make my reviews more interesting, so bear with me while I try a few things. (Lists!)

Things I Liked

blackdot Jazz Dent – Jazz makes the whole series. He’s crazy and disturbing and probably the most interesting teen character I’ve ever read. His powers of observation rival Sherlock Holmes, both in behavioral analysis and crime scene investigation. Jazz is the bomb, as they say. (Or time bomb, as the case may be.)

blackdot Connie and Howie – Game has awesome secondary characters and it was awesome to see Jazz’s girlfriend and best friend bust a move and really drive the plot along with their own actions rather than just being swept up along in Jazz’s wake.

blackdot Creepy to the max! – I’ve read a few murder mysteries in my time but Game has managed to make my skin crawl in a way that hasn’t happened in a while. I think this is mostly due to Jazz’s unique insight into serial killers and his often deadpan way of delivering those details as if it’s nothing special. It shows that Jazz himself is cracked in a very special way. We’re getting to see into the motives and minds of the killers in a way I haven’t read before. There is also a new sexual aspect to Game that wasn’t focused on in I Hunt Killers. As a female, this focus is both frightening and fascinating.

blackdot Never slowed down! – When I saw Game was over 500 pages long, I was sure it would lag and bog down. But the novel maintained a swift pace that hurries a reader along to the next big event and those 500 pages just flew by. I couldn’t turn pages fast enough!

Things I Didn’t Like

blackdot Repetitive – After a certain point, Jazz can get repetitive. Look, I get that Jazz’s big thing is trying to keep himself from turning into his Dad, king of the killers. Jazz struggles with two parts of himself, the part that was created by Billy Dent and the part that society tells him he is supposed to act and think like. He’s worried that having sex with Connie will trigger him into violence and he’s constantly analyzing his every action against the sliding scale of crazy. But after a while, you just kind of want to slap him.

blackdot Jazz is a genius/Everyone else is dumb as a rock – I said before that Jazz’s powers of observation are impressive. Unfortunately, Jazz’s powers are shown by making everyone else, the NYPD and the FBI, look like idiots. This is a common flaw with teen characters in adult situations. But the men and women of the NYPD and the FBI are trained professionals and having Jazz constantly one up them is ridiculous. Jazz may have an unique insight into serial killers growing up under Billy Dent’s tutelage but he has not been trained and it’s really quite annoying when he does that continually, like the whole of the police force are idiots and couldn’t catch fish in a bucket.

blackdot Believability – The NYPD and the FBI seek a teenage kid for help with a murder investigation. Yep. Uh huh. I believe that. Not. While I could believe Jazz getting mixed up with G. William and everything in small town Lobo’s Nob because it honestly fell into his lap, I can’t accept that people from New York would seek Jazz out for help in the same situation, no matter who his father was.

blackdot Stupid Girl Syndrome – Connie, what the hell do you think you are doing? Are you nuts? You seem like a smart cookie, so I can’t understand why you are suddenly acting like the dumb blond in the classic horror movie. What the hell?

Game by Barry Lyga is my first 5 star rating of this year. It has problems but the amount of awesome in this book makes up for any flaws. My biggest beef is the ending, in which we are left completely hanging with no resolution at all and all the characters in dire situations. I think I may die of frustration before the next book becomes available. I rarely enjoy a sequel as much as I liked Game. There is no second book slump for this series. I Hunt Killers was great but Game bumped it up to a whole new level of intense. I have to advise readers to read cautiously if you have triggers for violence or gore. It’s a little gross in some places. Game is also more sexualized than I Hunt Killers was and that might put some readers off. Mature readers only, people.

Thank you for reading!

Book Review: The Secret Tunnel by James Lear

erotica

secrettunnelThe Secret Tunnel by James Lear
Published October 1st 2008 by Cleis Press
Format: Kindle ebook
Length: 325 pages / 1842 KB
Genre: Erotica, Gay Erotica, Gay, Mystery, Historical Fiction
Reading Level: Adults Only
Goodreads | Amazon

The Flying Scotsman, one of the world’s legendary train journeys, has many attractions for Edward “Mitch” Mitchell, from the obliging porter to the mean guard to a troop of rough-and-ready soldiers in easily lifted kilts in the third-class carriage. But Mitch may not have time for them all before they arrive in London. When the train gets stuck in a tunnel, a dead body is found in the first-class toilet! Ever-ready Mitch decides to intervene and solve the crime. With his new Belgian sidekick Benoit, he pursues the killer through a crazy kaleidoscope of movie stars, drug dealers, royal scandals, and queens of every description. Can he finger the villain before the villain fingers him? What is the connection between Buckingham Palace and a bunch of backstreet pornographers? And what is the mystery of the secret tunnel? Mitch intends to go all the way to figure it all out.

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Book Review: Haunting Violet by Alyxandra Harvey

Haunting Violet by Alyxandra Harvey
Published June 21st 2011 by Walker Childrens
Length: 342 pages
Genre: Paranormal, Historical Fiction, Mystery
Reading Level: 12 & Up
ISBN 080279839X (ISBN13: 9780802798398)
Goodreads | Amazon

Violet Willoughby doesn’t believe in ghosts. But they believe in her. After spending years participating in her mother’s elaborate ruse as a fraudulent medium, Violet is about as skeptical as they come in all matters supernatural. Now that she is being visited by a very persistent ghost, one who suffered a violent death, Violet can no longer ignore her unique ability. She must figure out what this ghost is trying to communicate, and quickly because the killer is still on the loose.

Afraid of ruining her chance to escape her mother’s scheming through an advantageous marriage, Violet must keep her ability secret. The only person who can help her is Colin, a friend she’s known since childhood, and whom she has grown to love. He understands the true Violet, but helping her on this path means they might never be together. Can Violet find a way to help this ghost without ruining her own chance at a future free of lies?

This October seems to be full of ghosts and mediums. I have a thing for the paranormal and my DVR is full of Ghost Hunters and Paranormal Witness episodes. Halloween is a yearlong thing for me. Young adult books and authors are more than happy to feed my obsession with the paranormal. There are no shortage of YA books that deal with ghosts and ghouls. Haunting Violet by Alyxandra Harvey is one such book.

Haunting Violet is not a completely original idea, as plots go, but it is an enjoyable story. Violet herself is a great character. Colin is okay. The fledgling love between them is bearable. I’m rarely wowed by the love aspect of most YA books and while Violet and Colin succeed in not annoying me, I feel the book would have been just as good without it. It always confuses me that YA authors insist on having some sort of love story happening in their books and often one that really doesn’t make sense. Violet and Colin grew up together, shocking each other with spiders in their shoes and frogs in their beds, but now that they are teenagers, they are suddenly in love. I don’t think two people who grew up as sister and brother suddenly fall into romance love. It’s a little “ew” worthy, when you think about it.

Haunting Violet is set in Victorian times but I don’t get that type of vibe from the story. The only part that truly seems Victorian is the huge class distinctions, very upstairs/downstairs. Violet herself seems like a very modern girl and I can’t accept her being low born as the reason she is so capable and sensible. She’s very different from Elizabeth and Tabitha and even her own mother. Violet has a 21st century type of voice and tone that just doesn’t fit with the supposed Victorian setting. It’s hard to believe she’s only 16 years old in the book either. I thought she was at least in her early 20’s before the book revealed differently. Haunting Violet is a murder mystery but the murderer is obvious and even clichéd. The plot is classic ghost story, so don’t expect any surprises, but while the end result is unremarkable, the journey there is pleasant.

Looking at all I just wrote you’d think I didn’t like the book! But you have to remember that while the plot in Haunting Violet by Alyxandra Harvey has been done before; it’s still well-written with likeable characters and is very entertaining. It’s a good book but just with a common story. The situation between Violet and her mother is interesting and it’s great getting a look into Victorian con practices. I’m a bit of a history buff and the height of the paranormal craze during Victorian times is fascinating. Haunting Violet won’t shock you with anything new but it’s still a good ghost story to read on a chilly autumn night.

Rating: 4 out 5

Book Review: It Takes a Witch by Heather Blake

It Takes a Witch by Heather Blake
Published January 3rd 2012 by Signet
Length: 299 pages
Genre: Mystery, Paranormal, Contemporary fiction
Reading Level: Teen & Up
ISBN 0451235525 (ISBN 13:9780451235527)
Goodreads | Amazon

Until three weeks ago, Darcy and Harper were working dead-end jobs and trying to put their troubles behind them. Then their aunt Velma delivered a bombshell: They’re actually Wishcrafters – witches with the power to grant wishes with a mere spell. Wanting a fresh start, they head to their aunt’s magic-themed tourist town to master their newfound skills.

But their magic fails them when a wannabe witch turns up dead – strangled with Aunt Ve’s scarf – and Ve’s sweetheart, Sylar, is found looming over the body. Ve is standing by her man, but Darcy overheard Sylar wish that the victim would disappear – forever. With Harper distracted by her handsome new crush, Darcy is determined to sleuth her way to the truth. But it’s takes more than a wish to unravel this mystery…

I don’t read many mysteries. For one thing, I suck at them. My brain just doesn’t work like that and I often find myself fumbling after the main character, wondering how they made that intellectual leap. I feel like I should be taking notes or making some sort of flow chart. I have a horrible time keeping track of so many clues and facts. But there have been a slew of witchy mysteries coming out lately and I finally decided for October to bite the bullet and read some. I’m glad I did! I still fumbled but it was an enjoyable fumbling. For my first witchy mystery I read It Takes a Witch by Heather Blake.

First of all, cover love. Look at all the pretty! Secondly, kudos to Blake for such an original witchy power. Darcy can grant other people’s wishes. Sort of like a genie, only with a pointy hat. Another reason I don’t read many mysteries is because there is often a love story threaded through the rest of the plot. Of course, by ‘love story’ I mean basically ‘he’s cute/hot and does funny things to my body just by standing there’. For which my response is ‘They have medication for that. You should probably see a doctor’. The point is, it’s never believable and is almost always one-dimensional. I love Darcy. Her reaction to Nick, however, falls under ‘eye-roll’ for me.

I adored the setting. The Enchanted Village sounds like my type of place and all of the characters are awesome and quirky. Just like you would think a town full of secret witches would be. The murder mystery was okay. (Not that it’s hard to trick me or anything.) Of course, with a mystery anybody and everybody is a viable suspect. Throw in some witchy powers and general confusion and you have one sparkly mystery to solve. So, of course the real killer is the one person neither the reader nor Darcy thought it would be. I’m a tad disappointed because a really great mystery has the killer up front and center but still manages to make the audience think they are innocent. This killer isn’t a suspect because she is only mentioned in passing in the book. It could have been tighter and more ‘under your nose’ than it was presented.

It Takes a Witch by Heather Blake was a cute and fun read. It’s not very long but a light read that introduces a fantastic new heroine and an amazing location that I can’t wait to read more of in future books. The romance was a touch cliché for me but the characters themselves more than made up for the lack. As my first foray in witchy mysteries I think I picked a winner and will definitely be reading some more for October.

Rating: 3.5/5 (Between Okay and Good)

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