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review 2018-02-17 19:42
Death by Dumpling
Death by Dumpling: A Noodle Shop Mystery - Vivien Chien

What a charming book! This will definitely appeal to any cozy mystery reader, but I can see it being a hit with younger readers (and by younger, I mean younger than my creaky middle aged bones! Young people in their 20s or perhaps even teenagers (there's no bad language or sexual situations) would really like this.) With a sprinkle of romance, a bit of intrigue, adorable characters, a cute setting and a captivating mystery, what more can you ask for in a cozy? The Asian venue was a fresh and unique setting for the mystery. This isn't your average everyday cozy!

 

I loved Lana and her roommate Megan, they made a great team and their enthusiasm caught me up and rolled me right along with them. The cute Asia Village plaza with its Chinese shops sounds like such a great place to visit and browse for a day. Is this a real thing? Is there an Asia Village I can visit somewhere? Hmmm. And the plot! All the twists and turns and red herrings kept me guessing and I was completely turned around upside down by the time I got to the exciting ending. Can't wait to read more from Lana and the gang!

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review 2018-02-15 20:22
Disposable kids, human selfishness, and deadly irresponsibility
Unwind - Neal Shusterman

Well, it's official. Shusterman is obsessed with death. Or perhaps more accurately, with our social, systematic, and personal relationships with death.

 

It's crazy reading through his backlist having been introduced to his work through Scythe, because so many of the same ideas that he's developed so wonderfully in the Arc of a Scythe series pop up in his earlier work.

 

The Unwind Dystology uses the two camps of abortion activists as a jumping off point to develop a dystopian future where both have lost and population control is dealt with by harvesting unwanted teens for their organs. There is some exploration of the perspectives on abortion and what it says about human beliefs and human nature, including: unwanted babies are a burden on society, no one can prove when (or if) a soul exists in a human, adults are frequently irresponsible and want to be freed of the consequences of their actions, teens are a hassle to deal with, organ harvesting is big business, it sucks how much women have to take on, everyone wants to not be the last one left holding the bag. But really, what this first book, at least, leaves you with is not an argument for one camp or the other (women's rights vs. infant rights), but rather that humans are mostly trash.

 

I mean, that makes it sound more depressing than it is as a read. It's fast-paced and entertaining, with well-developed characters and oodles of conflict. I basically read it in a sitting (hello 3 am, my old friend!) But what comes out clearly is that no one wants to deal with nasty chores and the burden of being responsible for someone else. There's the time adults in a community passed around an unwanted baby in a weeks-long game of "hot potato" until it died of neglect. There are the parents who went nuts with having kids and adopting unwanted babies, ultimately to decide to "tithe" the 10th one as a human sacrifice out of some twisted interpretation of their religion. There's the young teen mother who abandons her infant on a doorstep, assuming the wealthy family there will be better able to care for it. There are the parents of teens who, for various reasons, choose to give up troublemakers and disappointments. There's the state, which harvests orphanage kids to finance raising the younger ones. We're told that the demand for organ donation is so high because the adults en masse are more comfortable with kids being "unwound" to parts than they are signing organ donation cards in the event of their own death.

 

So basically, people treat people like trash most of the time. And teens are the least likely to get any sympathy. And most of our bad behaviour comes down to economic reasons, comfort, and convenience.

 

There are heroes, of course. The troublemaking teen who escapes, channels his anger and discontentment into leadership and rescues others. The father who tries to make up for the sacrifice of his own son to save others. The "underground railroad" that works to save fleeing kids because they still believe in something besides convenience and passing the buck. The brainwashed religious (cult) kid who learns his own life and the lives of others have value after all. But those heroes are few - greatly outnumbered by the careless masses.

 

And the series continues. Maybe there's hope for the rest of humanity. Maybe if they're forced to confront the ugly reality of the cost of their normalcy, they'll choose to sacrifice something of their own, and not just tap off kids to sacrifice for them. Or maybe not. Maybe they'll just shift the blame once more to a population without the power to protect themselves. The unborn. The elderly. The damaged. Another nation. Another skin colour. Another religion. Because without something big enough to believe in and convince us to sacrifice our comfort and convenience, most of us subside into willfull ignorance. But hey, idk, maybe that's not where the series is headed. After all, fiction is all about the escapist happy endings, right?

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review 2018-02-14 12:20
A Death in Live Oak by James Grippando
A Death in Live Oak: A Jack Swyteck Novel - James Grippando

This review can also be found at Carole's Random Life in Books.

This really was a fantastic book. I have been a fan of James Grippando for a long time so I was really eager to get my hands on this newest installment in his long running Jack Swyteck series. This is the fourteenth book in the series but each book in the series works well as a stand alone novel. I expect good things from both this author and this series and that is exactly what I got with this book. I really had a great time reading this wonderful story.

This book opens with a bang and I quickly found myself both heartbroken and angry. There are a lot of things in this book that made me angry and broke my heart because the subject matter is just really emotional. The mystery involves the apparent lynching of a young black man at a local university which sparks a lot of racial tension in the community. 

Jack becomes the lawyer for the young white man that has been accused of the murder. I thought that this was a really interesting perspective into the crime. There really doesn't appear to be a whole lot to tie the young man to the crime besides a racist text the his client denies sending. The case ends up being a whole lot more complicated than anyone realizes. 

I really liked how we get to see each stage of the legal process in this book. Each stage is represented from initial questioning of the suspect, indictment, and bail hearing. We see how difficult it can be for a lawyer to represent a client that doesn't always share what they should or take the advice given. I felt the fear of the his client, Mark, as he goes to prison and fears for his future. 

I liked the characters in this book. I think that this series has been focusing less on Jack's personal life in later books. There is still some scenes with Jack and his wife and daughter which I enjoyed. Theo makes an appearance but doesn't play a big role and I have to say that I missed Theo working alongside Jack. Andie, Jack's wife, does get some of her own action in this one to keep things interesting. There were a few characters that were easy to hate such as the prosecutor who is more focused on his re-election than justice.

I do highly recommend this series to others. This was a book that really kept me thinking and glued to the pages. It really was a great story with twists and turns that kept me guessing until the very end. I can't wait to read more from this talented author.

I received an advance reader edition of this book from HarperCollins Publishers - Harper via Edelweiss.

Initial Thoughts
This was excellent. The mystery was very strong and quite complex. I couldn't figure out how everything would come together until the very end. I had a really hard time putting this book down.

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review 2018-02-11 14:08
First in a great series
Tackling Death - Bud Craig

This murder mystery kicks off a series of three books that form the SALFORD MURDERS trilogy, also available in paperback.

 

Gus Keane's boss is murdered and when he falls under suspicion he takes it upon himself to find the killer.

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review 2018-02-11 14:06
Blood, Dirt and Lies (Death Witch #3) by Rachel Graves
Blood, Dirt, and Lies (The Death Witch ... Blood, Dirt, and Lies (The Death Witch Series Book 3) - Rachel Graves

Mallory the Death Witch can talk to ghosts which should really help her as a murder detective. But cryptic messages from a drowned ghost aren’t that helpful in actually solving their murder

 

When a second almost murder happens nearly right in front of her - and both victims seem to be heavily politically connected which brings even more of a level of pressure and complexity - and personal risk. These are powerful enemies to make

 

This book adds nicely to the world building in nicely gentle, non-info-dumpy ways. I really like how the book expanded on Selkies, giving us lots of hints about their culture without necessarily sitting us down for a lecture. Similarly the references to how magical beings had obviously faced brutal persecution and predation was referenced - and by referencing it we got the full history and ideal without actually having to lay it all out there. Similarly we have references to different magical creatures beyond the immediate ones we’ve seen as well as the different gods of the witches: and how those can blend with other traditions (one of Mallory’s friends is Jewish and a witch)

 

I really like how the world building is done in this book - in this series - this general gentle build, the exposure to many elements of the world time after time but never actually throwing a lot of it at us in a way that is false or confusing or irrelevant, making it all grow naturally


And I really like its depiction of police work, complete with so many red herrings, frustrations, complete lack of leads, going back, trying again, and again, looking for some clue. No easy fx, not quick answer with lots of wild theories on the way. And at the same time the police actually have lives, none of this idea that they should all spend every waking moment on the job. Yes they have lives and friends and hobbies and exercise and go running on a full moon through werewolf haunted woods (hey I didn’t say they did sensible things in their free time. Though, honestly, while I this is the kind of decision that would normally make me roll me eyes, I really like how this was portrayed. With mallory planning her perfect day, having it disrupted and promising herself that she could still salvage it, she could still get in that run, even as it increasingly became obvious she couldn’t, she promised herself it and couldn’t let it go. I can see that - because it’s the sort of thing people who do. Who like running, I guess. I mean, i find the whole thing quite bizarre, but if you sub in “pizza” for “run” then it makes a lot more sense). And they don’t spend all their time focusing on one case either. This murder matters - but there’s a lot of crime out there!

 

The plot just works with all this, her friends work with this and I love the world building

 

An element about Mallory and Jakob’s relationship - it is rare and interesting to have a series start with a relationship rather than have them fall in love and build a relationship during the series. I like the idea of that as it starts us in a very different place and also avoids fast forwarding the relationship. We also have Mallory and Jakob living very different lives which is also very different from most of the genre. Jakob is a vampire but he’s also a businessman, he has his own life and job and it doesn’t really intersect with Mallory’s job as a police detective. This is, again, really unique and I like it - I like that they have a relationship and don’t constantly live in each other’s lives and Mallory doesn’t have to fall back on Jakob’s woo-woo, resources or anything else. It’s surprisingly unique and I like it a lot

 

 

But… and I feel nitpicky saying it… I don’t have a huge sense of their relationship. Certainly not that they’re in love to the point of her moving in with them because they don’t seem to spend a lot of time together… I mean they spend time together - and have sex. He cooks for her - which is nice; and I really like how this goes into his past about how he faced famine and lost family members. This is excellent on several levels because it stops romanticising the past and adds an extra level of pathos to what living hundreds of years means and how it can leave long lasting scars. I mean it’s great about his development - but for their relationship? The one thing they willingly share together is now kind of pathologised… and it was all they had was sex (and they have a lot of sex - and I’m not against sex but they need something other than sex, desperate feeder obsession and Painful Conversations About Vampires). The few social occasions they spend together - going to his church for mass (she’s not religious), a birthday party for E (which Mallory spent all evening being kind of a less than pleasant grump), watching the super-bowl (which Jakob isn’t really interested in). I get tolerating your partner’s hobbies, believe me, I’m endured a lot of inept attempts to learn how to play musical instruments - but your relationship needs to be more than sex, deep-seated insecurity and then tolerating each other.

 

I really like that they have seperate lives and we didn’t see the beginning of the relationship - but now we need to see that actual relationship

 

 

 

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Source: www.fangsforthefantasy.com/2018/02/blood-dirt-and-lies-death-witch-3-by.html
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