Friday, November 20, 2015

DUCK THE HALLS - Donna Andrews [Book recommendation]

Book obtained from: Library, audio book [2013]

Description: The week before Christmas, someone is playing pranks on the churches [most denominations are included] of a small Virginia town, including placing a cage of skunks in the choir loft of one and several hundred ducks in the main sanctuary of another. Meg Langslow, the protagonist, has the task of helping all of the churches find alternate space to hold all their pre-Christmas activities. After a small fire at one church, someone is found murdered.

Plot: The main plot starts with Meg scheduling a church's activities at other churches' facilities, because the first prank leaves skunk stench permeating the entire church. All the churches in this small town are accommodating to their needy neighbors. As the number of churches “out of commission” grows, Megs job of creating the master schedule becomes complicated. Then after one prank, a fire in the basement of a church, the plot changes because a church elder is found dead near the fire. Meg doesn't necessarily “investigate” the murder, but in her efforts to schedule everything, she talks to lots of people regarding the pranks and the murder.

Characterization: The characters are reasonably developed and had their own personalities. Meg, the main character, might be a little “too good” in that she doesn't really have negative character traits. In fact, many of the people in the story are somewhat two-dimensional in that respect. Meg has 4yo twin sons. Each boy has his own personality, which was nice to see, but their language development was much younger than most of the 4yo boys I know. In fact, I was expecting a sub-plot on speech therapy. I would guess the boys had the speech skills of 2-1/2 to 3yo boys. Once I pictured them as early 3yo, their speech and roles became more believable.

Setting: Small town in Virginia. The descriptions were good, I was able to picture every scene. Some scenes were a tad over-described.

Other: The narrator was a good match for Meg's character. A good person, mild, easy-to-get-along-with. This book taught me what a “slow moving” story was like. Lots of description, possibly too much. Meg had quite a bit of interior thought throughout the story, which slowed it down a bit. At several points I almost stopped reading because there wasn't much action on the page. Some humor. Some of the chapter breaks were in strange places, like right in the middle of conversations but the end of one chapter didn't seem like a cliff-hanger, so it seemed odd to break the chapter there. Almost like “here's 12 pages, time for a new chapter” randomness.

Overall: A good holiday mystery, somewhat slow paced. I would read more by this author, but anything slower than this story I might stop reading.

Grade: B+

Friday, November 13, 2015

DEATH OF A LIAR - MC Beaton [Book Recommendation]

Book obtained from: Library “new books” shelf, large print edition

Description: Police Sergeant Hamish Macbeth investigates the report of an attack on a village woman. He soon discovers the woman was lying. Later, she reports another attack but Macbeth admonishes her to seek help for her compulsion to lie. The next day he finds her murdered. He investigates her murder, encountering other murders and illegal activity in the process.

Plot: This is a murder mystery set in the Scottish Highlands. Sub-plots include Macbeth's personal life filled with his dog and cat and disappointment with his love life, and his relationships with the constable who works for him and the other people in the village. The main plot of the murder investigations grew rather broad, with several new developments and a lot of suspects that sometimes made it a bit on the complicated side to try to keep everything straight.

Characterization: The characters are reasonably well-developed, altho this may be because I've read quite a few Hamish Macbeth mysteries already, but it did appear to me that if a reader was starting the series with this newest release, she would still have a good idea of the different personalities of Macbeth and the other regular characters.

Setting: Scottish Highlands. The descriptions were good, I was able to picture every scene without it being over-described.

Other: The main storyline was more complicated than most of the other Macbeth stories. I don't know that I would recommend a reader start with this book, which is probably number 30 in the series. Better to start with previous books and work your way up to this one.

Overall: A good Scottish cozy mystery, altho a bit on the complicated side. I would read more by this author [in fact, I've read a lot by this author].

Grade: B+

Friday, November 6, 2015

LUNATICS - Dave Barry and Alan Zweibel [Book Recommendation]

Book obtained from: Library, audio book [2012]

Description: Philip Horkman is a pet shop owner, family man, and kids' soccer referee. Jeffrey Peckerman is a forensic plumber [LOL yes I checked, it really is a profession] with an attitude. They have a “slight” disagreement which results in them being pursued by the police, terrorists, revolutionaries, bears, and assorted other bad guys.

Plot: The book is a farce - an exaggerated and improbable comedy. I've read all of Dave Barry's non-fiction, but this is my first time reading his fiction. After an initial disagreement at a kids' soccer game, the MCs [love those names] end up pursued by the police, mistaken for terrorists, and they either encounter or cause an escalating set of situations which get more and more improbable. Occasional chapters are television news reports and newspaper articles. The final situation is supposed to be the most improbable, but oddly it appears the authors did have a prophetic vision because one of the final improbabilities is actually historically accurate here in 2015. I imagine the authors had a WTF moment when that situation actually occurred.

Characterization: The characters are well-developed. Horkman is a true straight man, loves his family, good father, etc. Peckerman is wild and crazy, also a family man but makes you wonder about his sanity. Definitely reminiscent of the Odd Couple. They don't live together, but they end up relying on each other to get themselves out of their various predicaments.

Setting: South Florida and several other states and countries. The descriptions were good, I was able to picture every scene without it being over-described.

Other: The book is narrated by the authors, alternating telling the story from their character's point of view. Dave Barry used a lot of F-bombs, which was definitely in character but sometimes I thought was a bit much. It ended just when I was getting tired of the slapstick, so it was the perfect length, possibly one chapter too long. The end wrapped up all the loose ends in a very humorous way.

Overall: Laugh-out-loud funny. Sometimes a bit too over-the-top improbable. I would read more by these authors.

Grade: B+