This summer is off to a great start as far as reading goes. Kinda sucks in the television and weather departments, though. I’ve learned a valuable vocational lesson, too. While I read a lot of mysteries and thrillers, I can only fit one piece of the puzzle into any given story. I may be able to figure out who did the deed, but not how or why. Or how but not who or why. I virtually never get all three pieces lined up. So police officers, homicide detectives, and private detectives, your jobs are completely secure from this incompetent and only slightly desperate housewife. On to the reviews!
Recommended. Seriously, read these books
World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War by Max Brooks (paperback from kid #2’s bookshelf) I was reminded that this book existed by Brad Pitt’s recent cover of Vanity Fair (to which I scored a one year subscription for $4.99, because I am cheap frugal). Kid #2 had it on her bookshelf and gave what amounted to a two teenaged thumbs up, so I gave it a whirl. I expected a zombie story, for cryin’ out loud. I was completely taken by surprise by what was more a sociological autopsy of the fall of human civilization and its ultimate resurrection.
In case you’ve been living under the same rock I’ve occupied, this book isn’t a linear story; it reads like a Ken Burns documentary with lots of individual perspectives on the zombie pandemic and its effect on people and society. I enjoyed the longer stories the most. The author thought of everything. There’s even an interview with an astronaut on the International Space Station during the zombie war. It was fascinating, thought-provoking, and depressing, but mostly fascinating.
Favorite quote: “The truth was, neither the Central Intelligence Agency nor any of the other official and unofficial U.S. intelligence organizations have ever been some kind of all-seeing, all-knowing, global illuminati.”
Really? Somebody start a phone tree and let the NSA know.
Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloane (library book) I picked this up from the library solely because of Words for Worms review. And she really wasn’t wrong. It was appealing on so many levels. There was mystery: WTH is going on with Penumbra and the library patrons? The bookstore is a front for wha’ ? There was love. Clay and Kat, yes, but also the love of books and knowledge, and friendship that spans decades. There was the battle between old and new, books versus technology and the blindness of strict adherents to only one way of thinking. This story reminded me of The Night Circus (also awesome) with a little of the wonder and spunk of the Harry Potter series. It’s brilliant and nuanced and I loved it. Highly recommend.
How To Murder A Millionaire (#1 in the Blackbird Sister Mystery Series) by Nancy Martin (on my bookshelf for who knows how long from I have no idea where) When this book finally poked its way to the front of the shelf, I almost stuck it back. “Oh, another riches to rags story. Ho hum.” But I read it anyway and loved it. There are three sisters, all widowed young, one remarried. Their parents are on the run from the IRS (who hasn’t considered that?) and only one sister, Nora, seems to have any sense of responsibility. She’s our sleuth. I didn’t care for Nora at first, her sense of propriety made her standoffish, but then her sense of humor began to shine through.
This is an enjoyable cozy mystery with a hint of romance and some zany characters and action. I appreciated Nora’s grace under pressure and look forward to reading more books in the series.
Chasing Darkness (An Elvis Cole Novel) by Robert Crais (99 cents at Goodwill, can you believe it?) I used to read the Elvis Cole/Joe Pike thrillers all the time, until my library ran out of money for new books (circa 2007) and the publisher started charging $9.99 for paperbacks, so I lost track. I was thrilled to pick this up from the 99 cent bargain rack at Goodwill.
A thriller that kept me guessing (not always difficult, I admit) all the way through. The twists just kept coming and I was taken completely by surprise by the murderer’s identity. Dark and atmospheric, the city of Los Angeles was almost a character itself. Would’ve like more Joe Pike, though. Recommend.
Long Lost by Harlan Coben (Goodwill) A multi-continent thriller starring Myron Bolitar with terrorists, geneticists, and super-scary teenagers (and I have three, so that’s sayin’ something). Gave me heart palpitations and reminded me that Coben’s books freak me the hell out. He really gets under my skin. Read this if you like roller-coasters.
Cat Sitter Among the Pigeons (A Dixie Hemingway Mystery) by Blaize Clement (another 99 cent Goodwill find) #7 in a series, but the first I’ve read. Maybe that’s why the tone and characters seemed distant for at least half of the story. The author filled in the broad strokes of character and relationship backgrounds, but I was missing the details and heart.
Dixie is a former cop, now pet sitter with a tragic backstory. She stumbles into the middle of a kidnapping and Ponzi scheme court case. There’s arson and a rescue by an unlikely crew, complete with a high-speed car chase through Florida swamps. The solution was a bit light on details, but overall I liked Dixie (and Cheddar and Cupcake, the pets) and would read more by this author.
Dead Girls Don’t Wear Diamonds (#2 in the Blackbird Sisters Mystery series) by Nancy Martin (paperbackswap.com) Another fun installment in this cozy mystery series. I enjoyed Nora’s adventures. She’s classy and real, plus she’s got a little dance going with bad boy Michael that’s sweet without being obnoxious. Whodunnit and why were a complete surprise to me.
Meh, You Could Do Worse, I Suppose
Wicked Business (A Lizzy and Diesel Novel) by Janet Evanovich (99 cents at Goodwill, thank the stars) This is part of Ms. Evanovich’s contribution to the paranormal craze, which started as a spin-off of her Stephanie Plum series. I don’t know why I keep reading her books, if you’ve read one, you’ve pretty much read them all. She follows her (very successful) formula fairly rigidly. This one’s as “screwball” as her others. Not terrible, but don’t go out of your way or pay full retail for it.
The Chocolate Pirate Plot by Joanna Carl (99 cents at Goodwill) #12-ish in a cozy mystery series, but the first I’ve read. That may be why this one left me cold. With no background and bare minimum details from the author, the characters were one-dimensional and the relationships were complicated (a lot of divorces and remarriages), especially among secondary characters which just confused me. I’m still not completely sure of the motivations of the criminals. I just couldn’t get into it. Skip it unless it’s all you’ve got.
Grimoire of the Lamb (An Iron Druid novella) by Kevin Hearne (kindle edition) It pains me that I didn’t love this novella, because I really enjoy this urban fantasy series. I picked it up in anticipation of the release of the sixth book of the series and I thought it was an “in-between” story that would tie #5 and #6 together. Uh, no. In fact, the events seem to take place somewhere back around book two or three. Confusing.
Anyway, this one finds our druid, Atticus, and his faithful hound, Oberon, up against a couple of old Egyptian gods, Bast and Sobek. Fair warning to cat lovers that I wish I’d had: this author isn’t one of us. There’s cat gore that really pissed me off and was so unnecessary. Other than that, it was ok. Because it’s a novella it moves fast — almost too fast, with a quick finish that left me a bit nonplussed. It almost felt like an excuse to do a story with Egyptian gods, since he hadn’t before. Just kinda hangs there without a tether to the rest of the series. And Oberon pretty much naps through the main section, so not a lot of comic relief.
Crops and Robbers (A Farmer’s Market Mystery) by Paige Shelton (99 cents at Goodwill) #3 in a cozy mystery series about Becca Robins who makes jams, jellies, and preserves for a living. Stands alone. In typical cozy fashion, the murderer comes out of a left field filled with red herrings and possible suspects. The wrap-up was a little too quick and neat. There’s a romantic sub-plot between the “perfect” boyfriend and the friend with zing that ends on a cliffhanger — who does Becca choose? I don’t care enough to read the next book, but I’d pick the zing over the perfect.
My kindle spent most of the month in the kitchen while I made a new green smoothie every day or two, but that didn’t stop me from adding more freebies to it, heaven help me. How many books can that little device hold? I’m gonna find out. And Charleen convinced me to try the Sigma Force series by James Rollins, so I’m waiting for those to arrive from paperbackswap.com. (If you’re interested in papberbackswap.com, let me know and I’ll write a post. I’ve been swapping books for about five years with them and love it.) What’s up next on your book pile?