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Let's Talk About Books

An out of practice reader discussing the books I get around to reading. 

Currently reading

The Corn Maiden and Other Nightmares
Joyce Carol Oates
Progress: 70/365 pages
The Hunting Grounds (Hidden Sins)
Katee Robert
Progress: 160/318 pages
Evil Under The Sun
Agatha Christie
Progress: 30/213 pages
SPOILER ALERT!

File M for Murder

File M for Murder - Miranda James

Okay, let's get to it!

 

In File M for Murder, Charlie and his beloved cat Diesel are thrilled when Charlie's daughter, Laura, comes home to teach at the college for a semester. The only downside? Genius but asshole play write, Connor Lawton, is also teaching AND he happens to be Laura's ex boyfriend is also teaching at the school. When Connor ends up dead, Charlie works to solve the mystery before Laura becomes the prime suspect. 

 

So, a lot of the things that were good about this one are pretty similar to what I praised in Murder Past Due (which you can read here). We get to see more of Charlie's expertise as a librarian help him sleuth, which was cool. I like the idea of incorporating Connor's work in progress with the mystery itself and the motive behind his murder was definitely original. There was a lot of danger in this one two with higher stakes than I'm used to from cozies. I knew who the murder was almost from the beginning but I wasn't disappointed with the outcome. The way the puzzle pieces fit together at the end was really quite brilliant and I think, as I did with the first book, that James is pretty skilled at crafting mysteries. 

 

Unfortunately, unlike the first book, James did not craft this novel very well. Let's start with the mystery. It took FOREVER for any detective work to actually begin. I think at least one hundred pages. I could be wrong but I thought the MPD got to the mystery much quicker. Not much of FMfM was actually devoted to the mystery and Charlie's investigation but rather drama. If you dissect the book, more time is spent on Laura's relationship problems, Charlie's budding romance, and Charlie and Sean being overprotective than any sleuthing. When the who-done-it was finally revealed, it was crammed into the last ten pages and very anti-climactic. It made sense but it didn't feel earned which led me to feel disappointment. 

 

Another big issue with this book is the characters themselves, specifically the new ones. They all just felt so hollow and underdeveloped. Many of them were very stereotypical, like Connor as the chauvinist writer or Demitra Vane as the vapid LA actress. Vane in particular got on my nerves since, aside from being another suspect, she had almost nothing to do with the story and James never does explain how her earring was left at the scene of the crime or why she was murdered. There are a lot of problems with Vane but I'll talk more about that in a moment. Overall I couldn't really like the newer characters since there wasn't much presented to actually like. It's disappointing, again since I know James can write characters better.

 

Now, as I've mentioned twice already, I noticed a lot of sexism in this book that was rather hypocritical considering how much James decried it in MPD and with his "bad guys" tending to be chauvinists. Laura, for example, really annoyed me as a character since she was (and I know people hate this term) a Mary Sue. There was no fault to her, everyone loved her, and even though she tampered with a crime scene/withheld evidence, nothing actually happened. The way Sean and Charlie fawned over her was obnoxious and when they went to the party the way Charlie described her was just down right creepy. I literally though, dude you're talking about your daughter. She was supposed to be someone we cared about but instead I found myself skimming past her scenes. She just wasn't interesting.

 

Demitra Van was more blatantly awful. I get why she was supposed to be there. A jealous ex makes for AMAZING suspect material. The problem is, she a) wasn't original and b) was really offensive, in my opinion. James copy and pasted the stereotype of the stupid Hollywood bimbo and expected us to buy it. Well I wasn't. She came across as a bimbo from a stereotypical porno but I really don't think there are people like that in real life. Not that people aren't stupid but how stupid he made her was just ridiculous. And it bothers me that he goes for "voluptuous girl is obviously the vapid snob" stereotype. As a rather voluptuous gal myself with a rather voluptuous sister, I'm tired of this stereotype and it's one of the few that really offends me. And as mentioned, the only reason she seemed to be in the story was to provide another suspect and then just die. For someone who looks down upon the way mystery novels treat women, he sure treated Demitra like trash. It's disappointing, it really is. 

 

Final rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars. I dunno. Maybe it's because I can't help but compare it to MPD. But overall this one was just disappointing. I'd skip this one if you're interested in the series. 

 

Final note: You might not find the characters in this story particularly offensive. Normally I don't get too chuffed by portrayals of women, at most rolling my eyes. But as I said, he used a stereotype people have applied to me and women I know and it boiled me over. So just keep that in mind. 

File M for Murder - Miranda James

At work so I’ll do a full review when I get home. Here’s the short and simple: 

- hollow, stereotypical characters 

- sexism that made me uncomfortable

- too quick and undeveloped resolution

- Diesel is amazing

 

Reading progress update: I've read 150 out of 294 pages.

File M for Murder - Miranda James

I’ll explain more in my final review but I wanted to get it written down before I forget. For a writer who critiques misogyny in mystery novels so much (it came up a lot in Murder Past Due), I’m finding this one to contain quite a few sexist tropes itself. Frustrating.

Reading progress update: I've read 56 out of 294 pages.

File M for Murder - Miranda James

I’m having a lot of feelings about this one, mainly not good. Gonna keep reading for Deisel but so far I’m disappointed in this one.

SPOILER ALERT!

One Was Lost

One Was Lost - Natalie D. Richards

Okay, time for a proper review. 

 

One Was Lost follows Sera as she and three others - Jude, Lucas, and Emma - are stranded in the woods on a school campout. When they wake up with cryptic words written on their arms and their supplies shredded, it's made clear someone is following them and wants them dead. What was supposed to be a simple backpacking trip soon turns into a fight for survival with a lot of teen angst. 

 

Overall it was a fun book. There was suspense and I enjoyed trying to unravel the mystery. There were a lot of parts where I didn't want to stop reading due to how intense parts of it were, such as with the bears. Sera was a good main character and I liked watching her react to things. In particular, she felt real in her reactions. Like, freaking out when she sees a finger? That's totally what a normal person would do and I like that Richards went for making her normal rather than trying to make her this steely badass like some other writers might. 

 

The biggest flaw to the book is it felt very drawn out. Like, when you actually look at the events, not much actually happens. Most of the book is either the teens arguing or Sera dealing with her sexual frustration over Lucas. By the time I finished the book, I realized just how hollow the story really was. 

 

Similarly, while the mystery wasn't horribly constructed, it wasn't developed as much as it should have been. The identity of the bad guy wasn't totally out of left field but the method they were employing didn't make as much sense. It reads like Richards knew who she wanted her antagonist to be and just thought we could put it all together. The problem with this is we didn't get to know the antagonist well enough to recognize the significance of all the events. They can be linked together, it's just by a very feeble thread. 

 

Final rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars. It's a cotton candy read and really more about Sera's relationship with Lucas than an actual mystery. But if you go in knowing that and your expectations are appropriately adjusted, I think you'll enjoy it. 

One Was Lost - Natalie D. Richards

At work so the full review will have to wait. It’s all right though. Not spectacular but all right.

The Whale Wins Again

It - Stephen King

Gonna have to put this one on hold again. The loaning library wants it back and a bunch of people are requesting it. I COULD abuse my powers to renew it but I just don't have the time right now. One day I will slay it. One day. 

Ghostland

Ghostland: An American History in Haunted Places - Colin Dickey

I can't decide if I was mis-sold on this book or not. It was about what I expected to read, I suppose, but not in the way I expected to read it. I dunno. I feel a little cheated but can't quite put my finger on why.

 

Ghostland is an exploration of American history through some of the countries most haunted locations. Houses, hotels, graveyards, and even whole cities are discussed because really, if you look hard enough, everyone has a ghost story to tell. Locations discussed include The Winchester Mystery Manor, Danvers Mental Hospital, Gettysburg, and the entire city of Detroit. It's definitely a different way to look at American history, especially if you're interested in the paranormal.

 

I think the biggest reason I feel cheated by this book is it did end up being more of a review and critique of American history than a book about haunted locations, which was what I expected and haunted. Some chapters, mainly in the beginning, were what I expected. For example, I found the chapter on the Winchester Mystery Manor fascinating due to it going quite in depth into ghost stories and the spiritualist movement while also discussing their historical significance. That to me was exactly what I wanted to read. An annoyingly large part of the book though was more like, "slavery is bad" and "ghost hunters are ridiculous." I'll talk more about that in a moment but it was not at all what I wanted to read. 

 

This book was really interesting. It explored a lot of aspects of American history I was unaware of and when it did connect to ghost stories it was incredible. For example, in one chapter we learn how ghost stories in part inspired the formation of the KKK in that early members pretended to be specters of fallen soldiers to scare the newly emancipated slaves. That's something I never learned in history class. 

 

There were some chapters that even if they weren't connected to ghost stories per say the history was presented in a new way that was fascinating. I particularly liked the chapter on haunted asylums since, even though the ghost stories were few and far between, Dickey a) didn't demonize psychology the way many people I know do when criticizing past practices and b) explored a completely fresh angle of the haunted asylums: why they were built they way they were. As a psych graduate I find the thought processes behind their architecture fascinating and I'm glad Dickey focused so much on that element, rather than just going "lobotomies are bad" and leaving it at that. 

 

Also worth noting is the fact that Dickey explores ghost/creepy stories that don't always make it into the mainstream. I was particularly pleased to see that he included the stories of Elisa Lam and the history of the Cecil Hotel as well as the Lalaurie Manor in his explorations. 

 

The biggest critique I have of this novel is that Dickey comes across as being incredibly full of himself throughout the entire thing. His writing style came across very much so like those "I, an Intellectual" memes and it was obnoxious. I think what got me the most is he came across as VERY disparaging of ghost hunters and tourists. His condescension towards those groups was unbearable. Judging only by the way he writes, he reminds me of the bullies from my English classes who never hesitated to inform you of how enlightened they were and how beneath them you were for not being as enlightened. That was definitely not what I signed up for and it made getting into the book very difficult. 

 

Final rating: 3 out of 5 stars. The book has a lot of interesting information, but the author gets in his own way with his ego. Would recommend for those interested in haunted history but check it out, don't buy it. 

 

Final thought: You can disagree with something without being a dick about it, Colin. 

Bingo Update

If we're just going by called squares I'm close to having a Bingo. XD Petsitting this weekend and I have Saturday off so hopefully I can get myself to do a lot of reading then. 

 

SPOILER ALERT!

Cold Never Bothered Me Anyway

The Snowman - Jo Nesbø

Okay, home and cozy so time for a review!

 

The Snowman follows detective Harry Hole as he tries to figure out who is killing women and building snowmen. A weird connection but one that exists and becomes more and more sinister as the story goes on. Harry must decide who he can trust, figure out who is lying, and maintain his sobriety before the Snowman claims the one victim Harry cares about most. 

 

As a mystery, I liked this one quite a bit. I predicted who the Snowman was fairly easily and wouldn't say I was surprised by any of the big revelations, but the smaller details really impressed me. For example, the significance of the third beheaded chicken. Seeing how all the little details came together to form the big picture was really fun and the climax of the story was very satisfying. I had a hard time putting the book down and in fact only did so to pick up Sean Bean and make her cuddle. So from a mystery perspective it was awesome. 

 

As a book, though, I wasn't a big fan. I find Nesbo's style overstuffed. As we say in my family, you ask him the time and he tells you how to build a clock. There were so many parts of the book that were just so dull to me since they were just description or overstuffed story telling. There were also many parts that were like, why is this important? Which, to Nesbo's credit, almost everything in the book was used at some point later in the story and so it was important. It was just a pain in the ass to read, which is obviously not something I care for. There was also a lot going on and it became difficult to keep track of characters sometimes. 

 

Final rating: 3 out of 5 stars. Nesbo can craft an awesome mystery, he just needs some work on the storytelling aspect. 

 

Final thought: Reading the book does make me very excited for the movie coming out next week. Michael Fassbender is a perfect choice for Harry and I think this is one of the cases where it will make a better movie than book. JK Simmons is an odd choice for Støp though. So we'll see. 

 

 

The Snowman - Jo Nesbø

I'll review this fully but I wasn't too thrilled with it. I'd say it's a great story but with less than fun execution. Does make me very excited for the movie though.

Attention!

 

This is Sean Bean. She is the runt of the litter of fosters my mom just got, four in all. I love her. 

 

That is all. 

Reading progress update: I've read 236 out of 550 pages.

The Snowman - Jo Nesbø

I'm hoping to finish this by the end of the week. It's not bad but it's dragging. I'm ready to be done.

Reading progress update: I've read 17 out of 1090 pages.

It - Stephen King

This book is something of a whale to me. I'm ready to conquer it.

Reading progress update: I've read 67 out of 336 pages.

Ghostland: An American History in Haunted Places - Colin Dickey

I'm debating not finishing this one. It's not bad, but with Halloween Bingo I'm not sure if it's where I want to put my reading energy, especially since it's not as interesting as expected. I have time so I guess I'll just wait and see.

Cozy Mystery Suggestion

If anyone is looking for a cozy mystery for Halloween Bingo or just because and you want to support a fellow Booklikes member, check out Demon Spirit, Devil Sea. Its the second in Charlene D'Avanzo's Mara Tusconi clifi mystery series. I haven't read it myself, but as many of you know I do social media for Charlene and am always happy to recommend it. 

 

Also if you read it, please review it on Amazon. Either of her books really. Pretty please. :D 

 

It's available for Kindle here: http://amzn.to/2xYKkGI

 

If nothing else, it's a bingo square! Just saying!