Amazon discontinued the ability to create images using their SiteStripe feature and in their infinite wisdom broke all previously created images on 12/31/23. Many blogs used this feature, including this one. Expect my archives to be a hot mess of broken book cover images until I can slowly comb through 20 years of archives to make corrections.

Sunday, January 29, 2023

Mini-Reviews: Suspense Round-Up

While my reading mojo has been pretty decent for the start of 2023, my blogging mojo is still on life support. I used to be the girl who would write up to three blog posts a week and these days getting one done feels a bit like climbing Mt. Everest. So in a bid to not let this blog stagnant, plus provide proof that I have been reading, it's time for another round of mini-reviews - the all suspense edition!

Monkey in the Middle byLoren D. Estleman is the 30th book in the author's Amos Walker series, which began back in 1980. Amos was old school back then, which means in a modern digital age he's practically a dinosaur. I've got a thing for hardboiled PI types working "the mean streets" and Amos' beat is Detroit - which is a pitch perfect setting for crime novels given that the truth is usually more bizarre and corrupt than any fiction writer could cook up.  This time out Amos is hired (sort of) by a greener than grass would-be journalist who is in way over his head with an on-the-run government whistleblower. Complicating matters for Amos are a bestselling author with connections to the case, a media savvy (and hungry) defense attorney, and an assassin who Amos has a history with. Oh, and his ex-wife just passed away. 

I read Estleman for the writing (the man can turn a phrase) and the world-building. I stay to see how many jabs he can take at the Detroit Tigers and Detroit Lions.  This was a really solid read that kept me guessing and, per usual, I was sucked into Amos' world.  Then I got to the ending, which just didn't work for me. Out of the all the possible whodunits, Estleman went with the one that made the least amount of sense to me. I just didn't "get" the motive - and I'm a tidy reader who likes motive.  Also, by book #30 it's expected that stand-alone might be a bridge too far, but I've hop-scotched around this series so there was some series baggage here I didn't entirely "get." I still understood what was happening and who people were, but I think that aspect will work better for folks caught up on the series.

Final Grade = B-

Ghost 19 by Simone St. James is a novella that released on audio back in October 2022, and was published in eBook this month. I'm a major St. James fangirl and couldn't believe I lost track of the audio debut, and not wanting to wait for the eBook that's the format I went with.

Meh. I was disappointed in this.  St. James employs the slightly unhinged heroine trope which I've made no bones about admitting to the entire world I REALLY DO NOT LIKE IN SUSPENSE NOVELS I WANT ALL THE COMPETENT HEROINES GIVE THEM TO ME NOW!  

Ahem.  Anyway.  It's 1959 and middling actress Ginette Cox leaves New York City on the advice of her doctor who suggests she needs less "excitement" in her life. She rents a house upstate where she takes to watching her new neighbors a la Hitchcock's Rear Window. She's not in residence at 19 Howard Avenue for long when she starts hearing unearthly noises coming from the basement.  Oh, and she's trapped - she literally cannot leave the house. Is it a ghost or is it her own madness?

Look, I'm not a complete dunderhead. I get what St. James was doing with the whole misogyny late 1950s "hysterical" woman living an unconventional life society disapproves of thing - but I just couldn't with Ginette. She annoyed me. Oh and did I mention this mess of nerves somehow bags a man at the end of the book? The ghost story was suitably creepy and the crime compelling in a heinous way - but otherwise this left me cold. 

Final Grade = C-

Death by Smoothie byLaura Levine is the 19th book in the increasingly problematic Jaine Austen cozy series. Much like Stephanie Plum, these books follow a distinct pattern: 1) wacky antics by Jaine's parents who live in a condo community in Florida 2) Jaine's "mean girl" next door neighbor and Neiman Marcus shoe salesman, Lance, will be snide to her 3) Jaine's cat, Prozac, will get up to hijinks that taxes her patience 4) a dating disaster of epic proportions and 5) Jaine's incredibly unhealthy relationship with food and various food related jokes.

This time out Jaine lands a job as a script doctor for a new play based on the cult classic TV show, I Married a Zombie. The producer is a geek obsessed with the TV show and he and his equally geeky girlfriend are calling the shots. It's a dismal script, but it's a well-paying job and as a freelancer Jaine can't be picky. She starts second-guessing her choices though when Misty arrives on the scene and is cast in the lead role despite the fact that she's a terrible actress and more so a terrible person. Everyone (justifiably) hates her guts, but it's still a shock when her like-clockwork 3PM smoothie is poisoned.  Now everyone in the production is a suspect and it's up to Jaine to find the real murderer.

Look, I start each new book in this series knowing exactly what I'm going to get - which is why I picked up this entry when I did (after a particularly gut-wrenching romance read).  I wanted mindless brain candy fluff and that's what this book delivered. Also, Levine has a knack for keeping the mystery humming along, providing plenty of suspects and motives to choose from.  Unfortunately she chose poorly in this entry.  Nearly every secondary character has a reason to want Misty dead and yet the culprit is the one with the least believable motive of all.  Like, any other choice would have been better.  A solid entry that didn't stick the landing.

Final Grade = C

1 comment:

azteclady said...

I am so glad you are reading, even if the blogging/reviewing is hard.