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review 2018-09-24 21:35
The Xibalba Murders / Lyn Hamilton
The Xibalba Murders - Lyn Hamilton

Lara McClintoch, her marriage ended and her antiques business sold, eagerly embarks on a trip to Mexico to help an old friend solve a mystery. On arrival, her friend puts off their meeting and then disappears. After Lara witnesses a brazen robbery of a valuable statue of the ancient Mayan civilization and stumbles on a corpse in a museum of antiquities, she becomes a police suspect. Afraid of the police and unsure whom to trust, Lara follows clues pointing to black marketeers and zealous revolutionaries. This dangerous trail takes her to remote archaeological ruins, lush jungles, and bustling streets filled with revelers. Lara engages in a thrilling battle of wits and courage to unmask a killer and stop a tomb-robber in the shadowy world of Xibalba, the Lords of Death.

   

I guess that the purpose of various reading challenges is to get us to read outside our comfort zones. I chose this book to be my “title beginning with X” choice for this year. Although I am a sometimes mystery reader, I’m generally not a big fan of the cozy mysteries and that is how I would have to categorize this one.

What I did really like in this book was the emphasis on Mayan mythology and culture. I hope that the author did her research, as I’d like to believe that I learned a few things about both. However, this is very much a first book as well as the first book in a series. Not too bad for the first novel of a bureaucrat (Hamilton was director of the governmental branch responsible for licensing of archaeology in the province of Ontario) and it did get nominated for the Arthur Ellis Award for Best First Crime Novel in 1998. Apparently Ms. Hamilton visited the sites where she set her books—what a wonderful way to choose your travel destinations!

I can’t say that I feel impelled to read the further adventures of Lara McClintoch, despite the fact that there are ten more books in the series. I suppose that if one of them fit into another reading challenge, that I could be convinced to pick it up.

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review 2018-09-24 16:10
Judgment Day / Wanda L. Dyson
Judgment Day - Wanda L. Dyson

The weekly cable news show Judgment Day with Suzanne Kidwell promises to expose businessmen, religious leaders, and politicians for the lies they tell. Suzanne positions herself as a champion of ethics and morality with a backbone of steel—until a revelation of her shoddy investigation tactics and creative fact embellishing put her in hot water with her employers, putting her credibility in question and threatening her professional ambitions..
           
Bitter and angry, Suzanne returns home one day to find one of her sources unconscious on her living room floor. Before the night is over, the woman is dead, Suzanne has her blood on her hands, and the police are arresting her for murder. She needs help to prove her innocence, but her only hope, private investigator Marcus Crisp, is also her ex-fiancé–the man she betrayed in college.
                       
Marcus and his partner Alexandria Fisher-Hawthorne reluctantly agree to take the case, but they won’t cut Suzanne any slack. Exposing her lack of ethics and the lives she’s destroyed in her fight for ratings does little to make them think Suzanne is innocent. But as Marcus digs into the mire of secrets surrounding her enemies, he unveils an alliance well-worth killing for. Now all he has to do is keep Suzanne and Alex alive long enough to prove it.

 

I read this book to fill the Genre: Suspense square of my 2018 Halloween Bingo card.

2 stars, my reading experience was okay. It’s strange what one finds oneself reading to fulfill certain reading challenges. One of the prompts this year was to read something by an author with whom you share a first or last name. So I checked my public library’s database for things written by other Wandas. I could read this or an Amish romance. This book won that competition, but it certainly won’t be a highlight of my reading year. Since it was supposed to be a thriller, I also scheduled it for Halloween Bingo.

I found the characters to be very stereotypical, either very bad or very good. I guess this is to be expected in something classified as “Christian fiction.” There were quite a few details that really strained my willing suspension of disbelief—for example, Alexandria, the rich man’s daughter turned private investigator, was known for shooting the ears of those who annoyed her. I’m thinking that would be a pretty tricky manoeuvre and wondering how many people she shot in the head before mastering that particular skill.

The framed TV host, Suzanne Kidwell, is morally and ethically bankrupt, hosting a show called Judgment Day—revealing corruption and supposedly rendering judgment on the high & mighty. The author obviously had verses from the Book of Matthew (7:1-2) in mind while writing it: “Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.” Suzanne gets her comeuppance and is judged for her shoddy reporting on these matters. Of course, she comes close to death and gets her “come to Jesus” moment.

The book isn’t awful, but I would be hard pressed to recommend it to anyone besides people who only read Christian fiction.

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review 2018-09-19 21:15
The Wife Before Me - Laura Elliot

 

 

Before Elena Langdon's mother is lowered into her final resting place, she senses someone staring at her.  As Nicholas Madison offers his condolences to Elena, she's captivated by his handsome looks and charm.  Still grieving the death of her mother, she learns Nicholas is also grieving the death of his wife.  Soon their relationship blooms and they become inseparable.

 

Elena is so happy to have fallen in love with a man who's so thoughtful and attentive to her every need.  However, when she inquires about his dead wife, his personality turns frightful and grim.

 

The Wife Before Me is dark and disturbing.  There is nothing unique about the story line which I've read many times however, the author saturates the pages with lots of unforseen situations which kept me turning the pages for more.  At times some of the scenes were so brutal causing my body to wince.

 

As the story is told in different perspectives, it smoothly moves from the past to the present.  I was able to understand and get a feel of the characters as they expressed the mindset they were in at that time.

 

Betrayal, manipulation and lies drip on every page in The Wife Before Me by Laura Elliot.  Because the subject matter in this book is quite disturbing, I did enjoy it and look forward to reading more of Ms. Elliot's books.

 

Thank you Netgalley and Bookouture for an ebook ARC in exchange for my honest review.

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review 2018-09-17 22:28
Killer Librarian / Mary Lou Kirwin
Killer Librarian (Thorndike Press Large Print Mystery Series) - Mary Lou Kirwin

Champion of the mystery section at a small-town Minnesota library, Karen Nash is about to embark on a dream trip to London, a literary tour inspired by every murderous intrigue, wily suspect, and ingenious crime found in the pages of the British mysteries that she devours. But she's clueless why the love of her mid-life, Dave, would dump her hours before takeoff, until she spies him at the airport with a young honey on his arm! She decides the best revenge (for now) is to get on that plane anyway . . . and entertain schemes for Dave's untimely demise while crossing the pond.
After touching ground in the hallowed homeland of Christie, Sayers, and Peters, she checks into a cozy B & B run by charming bibliophile Caldwell Perkins. Soon she's spilling tears in her pint at the corner pub, sharing her heartbreak saga with a stranger. That night, a B & B guest drops out of circulation permanently. And when Dave and his cutie turn up in London, Karen realizes they are an assassin's target. With the meticulous attention to detail that makes her a killer librarian, Karen sleuths her way through her own real-life mystery in which library science meets the art of murder.

 

I read this book for the Cozy Mystery square of my 2018 Halloween Bingo card.

I’m not usually a tremendous fan of the cozy mystery genre—I tend to like things a bit darker and more threatening--but I was charmed by this librarian-reluctantly-turned-sleuth tale that also incorporated a gentle romance.

Karen Nash is a successful librarian who has always dreamed of visiting England, the land of all of her favourite authors. She has carefully planned her upcoming vacation, trying to indulge her passion for literature while not boring her plumber boyfriend Dave. But the course of true love never did run smooth and Dave dumps Karen just days before they are to embark on this adventure. What’s a girl to do? Karen buys her own plane ticket and goes anyway, finding at the airport that Dave has replaced her with a younger woman. Understandably angry, Karen conceals herself as best she can on the flight, then follows the couple upon landing in London.

Who hasn’t been dumped and fantasized about taking revenge on the former object of our affection? Karen books into her B&B and is pleased to find that the owner loves books as much as she does. When she goes looking for some juice in the middle of her first night, she stumbles over the body of a fellow customer, complicating her situation.

The remainder of the book deals with meeting the other denizens of the B&B, being touristy in London, causing trouble for the disloyal Dave, pursuing the new man in her life, plus solving the murder mystery. A very full schedule. Karen is a woman after my own heart, a planner, a reader, and a very competent woman.

Perfect if you want a warm, fuzzy reading experience with a very gentle mystery attached to it. Truly, the story is much more about Karen and how she sorts out her life after it’s been shaken up. Very enjoyable.

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review 2018-09-17 21:55
Jaws / Peter Benchley
Jaws - Peter Benchley

It was just another day in the life of a small Atlantic resort until the terror from the deep came to prey on unwary holiday makers. The first sign of trouble a warning of what was to come took the form of a young woman's body, or what was left of it, washed up on the long, white stretch of beach. A summer of terror has begun.

 

I read this book for the Fear the Drowning Deep square of my 2018 Halloween Bingo card.

This is purportedly a book about a monster shark. I would beg to differ—the shark is just a catalyst for the very human drama that became the main thing for me. Police chief Martin Brody is a conscientious policeman—he isn’t perfect and he knows it, but he is striving to do the right thing. He’s not up against the shark really, he’s up against those with money who want to make more money. Shutting down the town beach during the July 4th weekend is going to hurt the community economically, but powerful people seem to value money over human life.

We get a good look at “the old boys club” in action in Jaws. Their indifference to potential deaths is far scarier than the enormous Great White that is cruising the shore. They are as indifferent as the beast itself. We also get a glimpse back in time to society in the 1970s—women are still mostly housewives, maybe with a side job to help with family finances. Only the elderly woman who runs the post office seems to be able to speak her mind without reservation, as she has no husband to police her behaviour.

The icthyologist who admires the shark, but has a sexual liaison with Ellen Brody, ends up self-destructing—it’s unclear which issue he’s being punished for, siding with nature against humanity or breaking societal expectations with another man’s wife.

I’m pretty sure that I read this back in junior high school (at the time it was originally published), but the only familiar thing was that cover! I’m pretty sure that my teenage self was reading entirely for the sharky bits, not so much for the human stuff.

 

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