Monday, November 25, 2013

Review: The Seance Society by Michael Nethercott

It's 1956, and Lee Plunkett has taken over the family business as a private investigator despite his reluctance to follow in his father's footsteps.

When murder intrudes on a group of ghost seekers, Lee is asked to solve the case by a cop on the verge of retirement. At the urging of his perpetual fiancée Audrey, Lee enlists the help of Mr. O'Nelligan, a scholarly Irishman with a keen eye for solving mysteries. The duo is drawn into a murder investigation involving the “Spectricator," a machine designed to communicate with the dead.

Soon, Plunkett and O'Nelligan are knee-deep in a suspect pool that includes a surly medium, a former speakeasy queen, a mysterious Spanish widow, and a whole slew of eccentric servants. Engaging, charming, and smart, The Séance Society by Michael Nethercott is a fresh take on the traditional mystery genre for readers who love original characters, witty dialogue, and a great whodunit.

E-galley received for review.

I always enjoy a good mystery so I was intrigued to read this one.  I was initially drawn in by it but it very quickly became rather wearying.

The setting was 1956 but the author seems to take every opportunity to mention that.  It became almost annoying.  It was as if he were trying to write an Archie Goodwin and just not doing it very well.  The details of the time didn't flow in the story and felt almost forced, not effortless at all.

The main character himself, Lee, was also too fake feeling.  He was a caricature of a sidekick and really rather on the annoying side.  He had none of the charm of Archie or Captain Hastings to offset his annoyances either.  His "assistant" (a.k.a. the guy who actually solves the crimes) Mr. O'Nelligan was Irish, as was mentioned at every available point.  Mr. O'Nelligan was marginally more tolerable than Lee, but not by much.  His literary references were annoying to both the main character and the reader, although he seemed like a nice enough guy.

The story was marginal, and extremely predictable at points, despite the addition of the ghostly element (which wasn't as well done as a Mary Roberts Rinehart by any means) and lead up to the inevitable finale in the library (living room, whatever).  The big reveal had none of the panache of Poirot and really wasn't even that good anyway.  The reader could deduce the how as soon as investigations began so it was really the why that was in question and that reveal wasn't even that great either.

Overall, it was an acceptable book.  There was nothing outstanding about it by any means but it was readable and decent enough to finish just rather bland.  I wouldn't go out of my way to pick up a copy, but if you see it at the library you may want to check it out.

★★☆☆ = Liked It

Monday, November 18, 2013

Review: Mister Max: The Book of Lost Things by Cynthia Voight

Newbery medalist Cynthia Voigt presents a rollicking mystery in three acts!

Max's parents are missing. They are actors, and thus unpredictable, but sailing away, leaving Max with only a cryptic note, is unusual even for them. Did they intend to leave him behind? Have they been kidnapped?

Until he can figure it out, Max feels it's safer to keep a low profile. Hiding out is no problem for a child of the theater. Max has played many roles, he can be whoever he needs to be to blend in. But finding a job is tricky, no matter what costume he dons.

Ironically, it turns out Max has a talent for finding things. He finds a runaway child, a stray dog, a missing heirloom, a lost love. . . . So is he a finder? A detective? No, it's more. Max finds a way to solve people's problems—he engineers better outcomes for them. He becomes Mister Max, Solutioneer.

Now if only he could find a solution to his own problems . . .

E-galley received for review.

I'll admit it, it was the cover art that initially attracted me to this.  I'm shallow like that.  :)  The book, thankfully, turned out just as well as one could have hoped from a great cover.

On the subject of great artwork, the illustrations by Iacopo Bruno were quite lovely and really helped you to imagine Max and his world.

As for the story, I'm so glad that this will be a series.  It turned out to be quite a fun series of adventures and I look forward to seeing what Max and Company are up to next.

Max and his parents and grandmother are easy to identify with, and people you'd probably actually like to be friendly with in real life.  The supporting characters, Pia, Joachim, Ari, Gabrielle, etc. are just as enjoyable.  While you may not immediately like them they do have redeeming qualities.

The setting is the early 20th century so adds an extra flavor to the story, but isn't so overwhelming as to become annoying as in so many other books.

The way the various adventures are woven together is so well done as to feel almost effortless.  Even after figuring out several pieces of the puzzles you are still left wanting to see how it all works itself out.

Frankly, although this is a young adult book it's also a fun read for adults as well.  I genuinely highly recommend this!

★★★★ = Really Liked It

Friday, November 15, 2013

Featured Book: What's In Your 24? by Dana Simone Stovall

About the book:

What's in Your 24? is a book for women who want to create a "new normal" in their lives. 

24 is the guide to living happier, getting fit from the inside out, taking control of your destiny, and living life without excuses. 24 will empower you, make you laugh, teach you how to love yourself more, how to prioritize your thoughts, how to be more selfish with your time, and how to quiet the chatter around you. 24 intentionally consists of 60 pages and three chapters that will change your life forever. 

It contains 24 Time Efficiency Tips that Simone promises will help you maximize your day more effectively and help you exercise at least three times a day with little effort. 24 is a concise and radical lifestyle guide that shouldn't take you more than 60 minutes to read it, more than 60 seconds to make the decision to change your life, and no more than 24 hours to begin making that transformation.

About the author:

Dana Simone Stovall is a bank examiner with the FDIC, founder of Destiny's Door consulting company, a basketball/cheer/dance/PTA/track mom, an active & life member of the National Alumni Association at Wiley College, a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., a dedicated mentor, an officer of a Toastmasters International club, and a 25-year supporter & volunteer of UNCF. She has created a daily routine to stay healthy and physically fit-without excuses and without allowing others to hijack her To Do list. Simone resides in Aurora, Illinois, with her daughter, Destiny Subira Stovall, and her cat, Dominion ShakaZulu Stovall.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Review: You Knew Me When by Emily Liebert

Best friends forever… until life got in the way.

Katherine Hill left her small New England hometown in pursuit of a dream. Now, twelve years later, she’s a high-powered cosmetics executive in Manhattan and a much glossier version of her former self, unrecognizable to her family and old friends. Not that she would know—she hasn’t been home in over a decade.

Laney Marten always swore she’d never get “stuck” in Manchester, Vermont. No, she was destined to live out her glamorous big-city dreams. Instead, she wound up a young wife and mother. That was when her best friend ran out.

When Katherine receives word of an inheritance from former neighbor Luella Hancock, she reluctantly returns home to the people and places she left behind. Hoping for a second chance, she’s met by an unforgiving Laney, her former best friend. And there’s someone else who’s moved on without her—someone she once loved.

Tethered to their shared inheritance of Luella’s sprawling Victorian mansion, Katherine and Laney are forced to address their long-standing grudges. Through this, they come to understand that while life has taken them in different directions, ultimately the bonds of friendship and sisterhood still bind them together. But are some wounds too old and deep to mend?

Received for review.

I'm not a giant Chick Lit fan, but this just sounded so fascinating that I had to try it.

I'll admit that Katherine, although she did grow on me a bit by the end of the book, was not my favorite character and I kept thinking "Oh my god, what a bitch!" throughout.  It was extremely difficult to sympathize with her at all, especially not over the entire Grant situation.

On the other hand Laney was a more sympathetic character but really not any more likable as she was all high and mighty that she was a mother and how wonderful that was, blah, blah.

The story itself, about two former friends reuniting and rekindling their friendship, was very good.  Granted, I would never want to actually be friends with either of these women in real life, but as characters they worked well.  There was a lot of genuine emotion in the book that either came from a very imaginative writer or someone who has actually been through the situation described.  Either way, it was wonderfully written.

I highly recommend this to those who have gone through losing a long time friend and wondered "what if", and especially to all Chick Lit fans.  You will not be disappointed!

★★★★ = Really Liked It