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review 2019-08-31 07:35
By Book or By Crook by Eva Gates
By Book or By Crook: A Lighthouse Library Mystery - Eva Gates

I finished this back in June, so some details are fuzzy.

Lucy previously worked at the Harvard Library and is now a new librarian at Bodie Island's public library, which is housed inside a lighthouse. There are a few folks who aren't thrilled that she got the job, but for the most part Lucy loves her new position. She's particularly excited about the Jane Austen first editions the library currently has on loan. That excitement turns to dismay and horror as one of the first editions goes missing and the chairman of the library board is found murdered.

I tend to be drawn to book and library-themed cozy mysteries, so I snatched this one up when I spotted it in a used bookstore. Unfortunately, it turned out to be terrible.

The author's bio doesn't mention any sort of library background, although she thanks a librarian in her acknowledgements, so I assume she spoke to that person as part of her research. Either her research wasn't very thorough or she didn't ask the right questions, because this book was filled with mistakes and difficult-to-believe details.

Cozy mystery authors seem to be fond of 30-year-old librarians who somehow already have 10 years of librarian experience under their belts. Library experience would be believable, but becoming a librarian by age 20 would really be pushing it, particularly a librarian at the Harvard Library. You need a bachelor's degree first (approximately 4 years), and then a Master's in Library Science (or Library and Information Science, depending on the school), which can take 1-2 years depending on what sort of course load you can handle. Lucy would have had to graduate early in both high school and college early in order to be a librarian by age 20.

But what really bothered me was the author's glaring lack of knowledge about library security. On page 129, there was this discussion between one of the library's employees and a police officer:

"'I don't suppose y'all have security on the door?'

'I do some crowd control,' Charlene said.

'Stopping little old ladies from stepping on each other's sensible shoes. I meant like a bar-code detector. Alarm. Things like that.'

'This is a library. Not a jewelry store. And we're in the Bodie Island Lighthouse, not the Bronx. No, we do not have alarms.'"

There's so much wrong with this passage that it's hard to know where to start. Yes, there are lots of small libraries out there that don't have much in the way of security - but those libraries would never be loaned a collection of Jane Austen first editions for a temporary display. And libraries that don't have any sort of security systems in place likely don't have them because they can't afford them, not because they think they don't need them - all libraries, even ones in small towns, are better off with some sort of security system in place (alarms, security gates, panic buttons, etc.), for the safety of their users and staff as well as to reduce the likelihood of theft. Charlene saying that this was "the Bodie Island Lighthouse, not the Bronx" struck me as both naive and potentially racist. Also, library security gates are not called bar-code detectors - I'll forgive that one because it was the police officer character who said it.

If I remember right, the above passage occurred after the first book went missing. That left five books and a notebook that could still be stolen. In addition to keeping the books locked up and only removing them when a staff member could be on hand to make sure it stayed safe, I'd have bought a webcam or two off Amazon and set them up. Instead, library staff felt that keeping the books locked up as much as possible (with the key easily accessible in the head librarian's unlocked office) was good enough. Considering how the story progressed (more thefts!), the continued library security issues were maddening.

Although I was able to figure out the murderer's identity a little early, I did think the murder mystery aspect was decent. It's too bad that everything was overshadowed by the glaringly awful library security details. No one in their right mind would lend a library like this anything even remotely rare and valuable. I very much agreed with the cop who said this: "I wouldn't want y'all guarding my doghouse." (226)

Sometimes terrible cozy mysteries can be at least somewhat saved by their characters. That wasn't the case here. Lucy annoyed me. Her views on books and library struck me as being old-fashioned, and she seemed to be very judgmental of everything from other people's tastes in recreational reading to the kind of music they listened to. Her two potential love interests (yes, there's already a love triangle in the works) were both bland and uninteresting. I'm assuming Connor (the guy Lucy had a crush on as a teen, and who is now the mayor) is being set up as the guy who appears to have the best chance with Lucy, while Butch (a local cop) is the guy Lucy's actually going to end up with. If she ever ends up with anyone.

I don't plan on reading more of this series.


(Original review posted on A Library Girl's Familiar Diversions.)

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url 2018-08-10 19:50
Library Mailing Lists | Bookstore Email List | Public Library Directory

Our library email address is one of the most beneficial lists for marketers to reach out to decision making bookstore owners from across global.

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review 2018-06-02 23:07
Book, Line, and Sinker by Jenn McKinlay
Book, Line and Sinker - Jenn McKinlay

I'll start by saying ignore the back of the book. The publisher's description is incorrect - although Charlie found the body, he was never one of the prime suspects.

Briar Creek is in an upheaval after a salvage company arrives with plans to dig up Captain Kidd's buried treasure, which can supposedly be found somewhere on Pirate Island. It sounds too amazing to be true, except that Mr. Riordan, the owner of the salvage company, has Captain Kidd's very own treasure map. The treasure hunt could turn Pirate Island into a huge tourist attraction, but it would also cause ecological damage. While Milton Duffy, a well-known and well-liked member of the Friends of the Library, tries to protect the island, Trudi Hargrave, the head of Briar Creek's tourism department, does everything she can to help Riordan's work move forward. Then Trudi turns up murdered, and Lindsey finds herself in the thick of things as usual.

This is probably the best book in the series so far. I loved the way the mystery tied in with Briar Creek's history. If I had one complaint about the way things worked out, it was that it took a lot longer than I expected for Trudi to finally be murdered. Which sounds terrible, but waiting so long for the death I knew was supposed to happen made the book drag a little. Plus, Trudi was kind of annoying.

The fact that Sully and Lindsey were finally dating didn't lessen Sully's appeal. I was happy to see that Sully was still giving Beth rides and waiting to make sure she got into her house okay before driving off. Little things like that really demonstrated that he wasn't just being nice in the previous books in order to spend more time with Lindsey. He also handled the sudden appearance of Lindsey's ex-fiance, John, surprisingly well. I expected aggravating amounts of jealousy, and instead he opted to trust Lindsey, stand back (mostly), and let her deal with John in her own way. Unfortunately,

McKinlay opted to throw all of this out the window at the end of the book. It was very sudden and felt out of character for Sully, even taking into account the amount of stress he was under.

(spoiler show)

I continued to like Officer Emma Plewicki - I hope she gets more page-time in future books. The real surprise, however, was Chief Daniels. In the first book he was a stereotypical small town cop, too focused on his initial assumptions to even consider other possibilities. In this latest book, he had visibly mellowed, and I actually found myself liking him.

This was a great entry in the series, although I'm worried about what the ending will mean for the next book. Crossing my fingers that McKinlay doesn't drag this development out too long.


  • The Briar Creek Library Guide to Crafternoons
  • Readers Guide for The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  • Lindsey's pattern for her cross-stitch sampler ("Books are my homeboys.")
  • Recipe for Charlene's cucumber cups stuffed with feta


(Original review posted on A Library Girl's Familiar Diversions.)

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review 2018-05-09 22:13
Public Library by Ali Smith
Public Library and Other Stories - Ali Smith

I’m not going to write a long review for Public Library as I posted my thoughts as I read the individual stories, but I’ll give you my overall impression.


Funnily enough I picked up Public Library when I was in the library. It’s a short story collection and my first encounter, but definitely not my last, with Ali Smith.


This collection was seemingly put together in protest of the under funding of our public services, here in the UK. Since 2008 the country has been the subject of austerity and libraries are suffering hugely because of it. Either their funding is being cut or they’re shutting down. Interspersed between each story is a real account of how libraries have affected individuals. I liked these snippets as they helped to remind the reader what the collection was really all about.


Because I haven’t previously read any of Ms Smiths books I can’t comment on whether or not this collection was a good example of her work, but I can tell you that I thoroughly enjoyed my first encounter with her. I loved the whimsical style, her frequent rumination and depicting of words and her ability to really see inside of a situation. I was particularly impressed with how she can craft a story from a fragment of an event and shape it until it really means something.


I liked some stories better than others, particularly the first one about a disabled woman stranded on a train. The last one was very memorable as well, where she likened a friend who had died to a stolen piece of art.


Even though there are some stories I will likely not remember in time, the collection as a whole created an impression on me and I’m eager to read more of her work.

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review 2018-04-15 04:43
Books Can Be Deceiving by Jenn McKinlay
Books Can Be Deceiving - Jenn McKinlay

Lindsey used to be an archivist at the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Yale until about six months ago, when she was laid off. She's now the director of the Briar Creek Library. She's just starting to feel more comfortable with small town life and her new position. It helps that one of her employees, Beth, is also her friend from back when they were both getting their library science degrees.

Beth is a children's librarian who's been working on a children's book of her own for several years. Lindsey thinks Beth should show her work to a New York editor who's vacationing in Briar Creek, but Beth is hesitant - her horrible boyfriend, Rick, keeps telling her it isn't good enough and needs a lot more work. Since he's a famous author whose first book won the Caldecott Medal, he'd know, right? When Beth tells Rick about her plans to meet with the editor, things rapidly sour between them. They break up, but the situation only gets worse after Beth hears what the editor has to say. She attempts to go to Rick's island and give him a piece of her mind, only to discover that he's been murdered. Unfortunately, Chief Daniels seems to consider Beth his top suspect.

A coworker of mine highly recommend this series to me. She basically inhaled what's been published in the series so far. She enjoyed the library aspects, the romance with Sully (she mentioned the love triangle that pops up in a later book, so I already know to expect that), and the fact that Lindsey is fairly similar in age to her (and me, too!).

My feelings about this book are more measured, but I enjoyed it too. The library aspects were great, even though there were a few things that made me raise an eyebrow. The odds of Lindsey getting an archivist job at Yale right out of library school seemed incredibly slim, based on what my job hunt 9 or 10 years ago was like. Then again, this was published in 2011, so maybe such a thing would have been more likely in the early 2000s. I also raised an eyebrow at the way Lindsey handled Beth's situation. I couldn't help but wonder if she'd have been as quick to promise Ms. Cole, aka "the lemon," she wouldn't suspend her if she had been the one accused of murder. Having your best friend as one of your employees can mess with your judgment.

That said, most of the details were great, like the random phone call from a vendor selling a database the library neither needed nor could afford, the couple arguing over which movie to check out right before closing time, and Lindsey's "crafternoons" idea. I can add this to my short list of books that star librarians who actually do occasional on-page library work.

The mystery itself was good, with a few twists I absolutely did not expect. I did wonder about the bit where Lindsey and Beth left town to do some investigating on their own. Would Beth have been allowed to leave like that?  Detective Trimble seemed more open to other possibilities, but Chief Daniels certainly considered her a suspect.

I'm looking forward to more developments in the romance between Lindsey and Sully, although I'm already dreading the love triangle. Sully seems like a great guy, and I could think of a lot of things that could complicate his and Lindsey's relationship without a love triangle being added to the mix. For example, Lindsey is still dealing with the hurt and betrayal of discovering that her fiance was cheating on her, which unfortunately happened at around the same time she was laid off.

All in all, this was an enjoyable and quick read. I definitely plan on reading the next book. In fact, I already have a copy in via interlibrary loan.


At the end of the book there are several extras, including "The Briar Creek Library Guide to Crafternoons," a reader's guide for The Last Time I Saw Paris by Lynn Sheene, a knitting pattern for the rolled hat Lindsey made (which was originally supposed to be a sock), a recipe for Sully's hot chocolate, and a recipe for Mary's clam chowder. The crafternoons guide could come in handy for public librarians looking for adult programming ideas.

For my part, the only extra I've used is the recipe for Sully's hot chocolate, which I've now made several times (with powdered cinnamon instead of sticks, and no nutmeg). I disagree with Lindsey's assessment that it isn't too sweet - after my first time making it, I cut the sugar back by half. I suggest halving the recipe if you just want to make enough hot chocolate for yourself. It's a very rich drink, and halving it makes enough for one good-sized mug.


(Original review posted on A Library Girl's Familiar Diversions.)

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