Mystery, Reviews

Review: Sunset Beach

Sunset BeachSunset Beach by Mary Kay Andrews

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Mary Kay Andrews is one of my go-to authors for a fun beach-type read so I am grateful to NetGalley for the opportunity to read her latest novel, Sunset Beach. I am a fan of Andrews’s southern fiction that combines elements of chick-lit, romance, and mystery with a healthy dose of humor and beach community atmosphere to create a fun, light read.

Sunset Beach, which is the story of Drue Campbell who is having a rough year – a horrific injury ends her kiteboarding career, her beloved mother passes away, and she loses a boyfriend and her job as a beach bar waitress. When her estranged father reenters her life and offers her a lifeline in the form of a job at his law firm and a home that had once been her grandparents’, Drue takes him up on it when she runs out of options. She ends up getting caught up in two mysteries. This all seems like a pretty good setup for a fun Mary Kay Andrews novel. What it was was a disappointment. It lacked most of Andrews’s trademark humor and romance to focus instead more on the mystery (or mysteries in this case). As a mystery, it wasn’t even that well executed and the heroine, while as capable as some of Andrews’s others, wasn’t endearing, just whiny.  I really had a difficult time getting into this one but that probably had more to do with my expectations of a Mary Kay Andrews than the novel’s quality.

If you enjoy fun southern fiction, I recommend Mary Kay Andrews’s the first book in Weezie and Bebe Mysteries novels, Savannah Blues .  If what you want is a thrilling mystery with a healthy sense of humor and a feisty heroine, I recommend Janet Evanovich’s extremely popular Stephanie Plum series (at least the first four books, which is as far as I’ve gotten so far, are a lot of fun).
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Mystery, Reviews, Romance

Review: Midnight in Austenland

Midnight in Austenland (Austenland, #2)Midnight in Austenland by Shannon Hale

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The original Austenland novel was a light, fun romance – my fantasy put down to paper. With Midnight in Austenland, Hale attempted to add a bit more weight with a genuine murder mystery set in this make-believe world. At times it worked well as an homage not just to the novels of Jane Austen – particularly Northanger Abbey – but also to the mysteries of Agatha Christie, of which Charlotte is so fond. Other times Charlotte’s wishy-washy nature and repetitious inner dialogue. By the time I got halfway through, every time I saw the words “Inner Thoughts”, I wanted to scream. These little aggravations and the mind-boggling explanation of the motive for murder took away from the romance, which is the real reason I read these books.

If you enjoy Jane Austen fanfiction type novels, I recommend reading Austenland, which is light and sometimes silly but so much fun to read.  If it’s the gothic mystery/romance you love, read Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey, which I love for its sense of humor

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Mystery, Reviews

Review: Broadchurch (Broadchurch #1)

BroadchurchBroadchurch by Erin Kelly

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I absolutely adored the Broadchurch television series. I couldn’t get enough of it. So when I spotted this novelization of the show’s first series while browsing through my local library, I snatched it up. I worried, however, that having watched the show I would know all of the twists that lead to the surprise ending that I would be bored. What the book offered, though, that the show didn’t was a further insight into the inner turmoil and hidden emotions of the characters. This added another dimension to the complex characters and the story. The actors did a brilliant job of conveying many unspoken thoughts and emotions but there are some things that cannot always be seen. It was an enjoyable read especially for a fan of the original show who, like me, miss the series. I think those who never watched the show but enjoy a good police procedural and family drama would also enjoy reading Broadchurch.

I don’t read a lot of mysteries aside from the occasional cozy mystery so I don’t

landscape-uktv-broadchurch-s02e05-02
David Tennant (Alec Hardy) and Olivia Coleman (Ellie Miller) in Broadchurch.

really have a book to recommend if you enjoy reading Broadchurch but if you haven’t yet, I highly recommend watching the original show.  There are three (much too short) series and each is brilliantly acted and thought-provoking.  

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Mystery, Reviews

Review: Agatha Raisin and the Quiche of Death (Agatha Raisin #1)

Agatha Raisin and the Quiche of Death (Agatha Raisin, #1)Agatha Raisin and the Quiche of Death by M.C. Beaton

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I discovered the Agatha Raisin mystery series through the TV series that aired here on PBS. Like the show, the first book in M.C. Beaton’s Agatha Raisin series of mystery novels, Agatha Raisin and the Quiche of Death, is lighter on mystery than it is on the fun. Agatha is a flawed character who lends a bit of believability to what is essentially an entertaining romp through the Cotswolds. This kind of cozy mystery is the perfect read for these chilly winter nights. Just throw on a warm blanket and disappear into rural England.

Agatha’s new life is full of interesting and eccentric characters my favorite of which is Bill Wong. I look forward to getting know more about each of them as I read more the delightful series. I only wish I understood more of the particularly English elements in the story such as the unique accents and some of the pop culture and historical references.

If you enjoy cozy mysteries like Agatha Raisin and the Quiche of Death with its amateur sleuth and rural setting, I definitely recommend reading Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple series of novels.

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Mystery, Reviews, Woman's Fiction

Review: Big Little Lies

Big Little LiesBig Little Lies by Liane Moriarty

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Big Little Lies is brilliantly written. Liane Moriarty certainly knows how to use a red herring. Though I did figure out a few of the book’s major twists, I was left guessing and second-guessing and third-guessing the main mystery of the novel. Even after it was revealed I didn’t believe it. It happened so suddenly and I was certain it was another of Moriarty’s diversions.
Not only is Big Little Lies a well-written novel with a razor-sharp sense of humor and utterly real (this is so unfortunate in many cases) characters; it is also an important novel. Moriarty tackles themes of bullying, domestic violence, marriage and parenthood, complicated structures, and friendship in a way that is so entertaining that the issues somehow seem to sink it more deeply. Big Little Lies not only makes you think about these issues but lets you think about them from different angles. Are we all capable of violence given the right circumstances? Why are some people able to control that urge better than others? When does the violence start? Why?
I’m not just thinking about all of these questions thanks to Big Little Lies. This book has changed the way I view the world. Every song on the radio suddenly sounds like a potentially abusive relationship. “If I tell you I love you, will you come back?” (I’m paraphrasing here) Why did she leave in the first place?
One of my favorite things about the novel was the little snippets of the interviews with the parents/witnesses throughout the story. Not only did they provide smoke screens, they deftly demonstrated how perceptions can be skewed and half-heard conversations can cause big problems. It was like the most ridiculous game of telephone ever. The adults were so much worse than the children.

If you enjoy Big Little Lies, you may also enjoy Joshilyn Jackson’s Gods in Alabama or Ian McEwan’s Atonement.

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