Sunday, July 31, 2011

Summer Giveaway Hop

Summer Giveaway Hop

As a part of the Summer Giveaway Hop, you can enter to win one of the two novels below. This contest is for USA & Canada residents only.

book coverPieces of Light by Julie Cave.

Washington D.C. is gripped with fear at the hands of a deadly serial bomber. Churches are being bombed during their Sunday morning services, and lives have been lost. Former FBI agent Dinah Harris is asked by her old FBI partner to act as a consultant on the case.

Read my review to learn more about this Christian suspense novel.

book coverDouble Take by Melody Carlson. I have not read or reviewed this book, but it's a Christian book and so likely clean of sex scenes and bad language.

Madison Van Buren is stressed over Ivy League pressure, her parents' marital problems, and her boyfriend's neglect. Meanwhile, eighteen-year-old Anna Fisher wants to escape her so-called simple life--caring for younger siblings, sewing, cooking, and gardening. Her future will simply be more of the same with a man she doesn't love. Madison and Anna meet in a small town, realize they look uncannily similar, and switch places when they decide the grass is definitely greener on the other side.

To enter the giveaway:

1) you can twitter me saying "Hi @genrereviewer. Enter me in the giveaway for [title of the book you wish to win]."


2) You can leave a comment to this post asking to be entered and naming which book you'd like to win. Please also leave some way for me to contact you--or follow this blog so you can see the winner announcement.

This giveaway ends August 7th at midnight. The winner will be randomly selected. I'll announce the winner on August 8th on this blog.

If you entered using twitter, I'll send you a @ or DM telling you of your win and asking where to send the book. If you entered using the blog comments, you'll need to leave your e-mail address so I can contact you or check back to see if you won so you can e-mail me your mailing address. If the winner hasn't responded with a mailing address within seven days, I reserve the right to pick a new winner.

I hope everyone has fun with this!

The blogs participating in the Summer Giveaway Hop:

Forsaken by James David Jordan

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by James David Jordan

ISBN-13: 9780805447491
Trade Paperback: 400 pages
Publisher: B&H Books
Released: October 1, 2008

Source: Bought from

Book Description, Modified from Back Cover:
When Simon Mason, the world’s best-known televangelist, receives threats from Muslim terrorists, he hires Taylor Pasbury, a former Secret Service agent, to take charge of his security. Taylor is thrilled to receive the high-profile assignment.

When the terrorists strike, they kidnap Simon's daughter and demand Simon publicly deny his faith in Christ if he wants her back alive. He's torn: surely God will forgive the denial, like He did Peter's, but Abraham was commended for loving and trusting God so much that he was willing to give up his son. He feels that either decision will destroy him inside, but he has to choose one or the other. Afterward, as he deals with the fallout and the guilt he feels from his decision, Taylor learns of flaws in his past, including a mistake he made that touches her present in a surprising way.

My Review:
Forsaken is a Christian general fiction novel with some suspense. It wasn't really what I expected. Though I fully agree that some things are worth dying for, I felt like the characters missed why Christ is worth dying for. The ending didn't inspire me like I think it was meant to.

The characters were varied, complex, and dealt with realistic struggles (alcoholism, adultery, kidnapping, etc.) in realistic ways. I think a lot of Christians would sympathize with the "human side" of this "great preacher." However, I didn't agree with his view that Peter and Paul (of the Bible) were so willing to suffer and die for Jesus because of profound guilt they felt over denying Jesus/persecuting Christians earlier. The preacher said he understood grace, but I don't think he really did. He had noble ideas, but he did them for the wrong reason (in my opinion, and--it seemed--the opinion of some of the characters in the book), and I found that sad.

The suspense was created mainly by physical danger to the main characters. The descriptions were vivid though not highly detailed.

Most of the characters were Christians, though some were more nominal and others more devout. The Christian faith was a major theme of the story, but the main character (and the reader) were never "preached" at. There were no sex scenes. There was a very minor amount of fake bad language. Overall, it was an interesting, well-written book.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

Excerpt from Chapter One
Even in high school I didn't mind sleeping on the ground. When your father is a retired Special Forces officer, you pick up things that most girls don't learn. As the years passed, I slept in lots of places a good girl shouldn't sleep. It's a part of my past I don't brag about, like ugly wallpaper that won't come unstuck. No matter how hard I scrape, it just hangs on in big, obscene blotches. I'm twenty-nine years old now, and I've done my best to paint over it. But it's still there under the surface, making everything rougher, less presentable than it should be, though I want more than anything to be smooth and fresh and clean.

Sometimes I wonder what will happen if the paint begins to fade. Will the wallpaper show? I thought so for a long time. But I have hope now that it won't.

Read more using Google preview.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Perfectly Invisible by Kristin Billerbeck

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Perfectly Invisible
by Kristin Billerbeck

ISBN-13: 9780800719739
Trade Paperback: 270 pages
Publisher: Revell
Released: July 1, 2011

Source: Review copy from the publisher.

Book Description, my take:
It's Daisy Crispin's final three months of high school, and she craves being known at her private school for rich kids--but not for her homemade clothes, "geek" status, or how her friend's house burned down at the first party she hosted.

One handsome boy is pursuing her, but she knows he attempted date rape once, so she's not interested...except in a kiss that would show the school how desirable she is. The hot boy she's interested in is refusing to talk with her, humiliates her in public, and is leaving the country at the end of high school. Yet she feels she had something special with him during the one date they had, so she still hopes he'll change his mind.

Then she loses her job and can't get another one because she's "a snob." She can't afford the expensive business college of her dreams, so she gives up trying for anything. But bad things keep happening until she will, indeed, be remembered forever at her a humiliating away. But she decides that's okay. Somehow that leads to her getting a chance at everything she wants, yet in a way that forces her to decide between one dream future and another.

My Review:
Perfectly Invisible is a young adult romance. This is the second book in the series, and I really think you need to read the first book first in order to really understand this one. I didn't, so I was missing some important information. Halfway through, I was surprised to learn that she attended a Christian private school. I kept wondering how she ever became friends with Claire and why Daisy was so loyal to her since Claire treated Daisy pretty badly throughout this whole book.

I also felt like I was missing out on why the various characters acted the way they did. We never really got to know them. Even with Daisy, I didn't realize that she was deeply ashamed of being poor until halfway through, when I also got a few other important clues to her previous behavior.

While the characters were varied, I didn't really like them. Daisy was a hypocrite who was all about appearances. She was good at getting what she wanted while still technically playing within the rules. She's so needy and desperate about the boy that she sets herself up to be humiliated. If she couldn't get her dream of success--no matter how unrealistic the expectation--then nothing else was good enough for her. Though we're told she's had some grand revelation at the end that has changed her, I don't actually see that in her behavior.

I will grant that much of the behavior was what you'd see in teens (though more like Freshman behavior than Senior, according to my observations). However, I didn't like how the romance was handled at the end. Daisy and her "true love" hardly spent any time together and were hurtful toward each other. But at the end they were saying how they had a special connection that adults just couldn't understand and Daisy was willing to throw everything away to go running after him (though she claimed she was doing this to "find herself" and not really running after him). That's not what I'd expect in a Christian novel.

Daisy was a Christian, as supposedly were most of the characters. However, the occasional references to God and bits of moralizing felt tagged on. They could have been removed without the story changing. While characters would frequently say, "I'll pray about that," it didn't seem like they expected God to answer, just that saying that was expected of them. Daisy had an annoying habit of saying things like, "I don't hate her. I'm a Christian" when she clearly did "hate" the person. And she apparently thought doing this would make the few non-Christians around her eager to convert.

The story was written in first person, present tense ("I sidle" instead of "she sidled"). There was a very minor amount of explicit bad language and a minor amount of fake bad language. There were no sex scenes or graphic sex talk.

Personally, I wouldn't recommend this to young adults. They're confused enough about love as it is. I know a 14-year-old girl (incoming Freshman) and a 15-year-old girl (Sophomore). Both are really "boy crazy" and romantics. Like Daisy, both are very into appearances and are thinking in terms of what they get out of a relationship.

The younger one, when 13-years-old, got engaged to a boy. Yes, engaged. This boy repeatedly got her into serious trouble at school by hugging her when both knew they'd get in trouble if they did (kind of like what happened to Daisy in the book). Her boyfriend proposed to her right before he moved a far distance away. If she had read this book, I'm sure she would have said (like Daisy) that they had "something special that adults just couldn't understand." And the book would encourage her to follow after her boyfriend all in the name of "finding herself." We were lucky that she met another cute boy shortly afterward who treated her much better than her "fiance." She was very confused by how quickly her feelings changed, and books like this would have made something natural for her age seem like high betrayal of her "true love." Love is confusing enough without introduction unrealistic expectations.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Harrowing Hats by Joyce & Jim Lavene

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Harrowing Hats
by Joyce and Jim Lavene

ISBN-13: 9780425242773
Mass Market Paperback: 304 pages
Publisher: Berkley Prime Crime
Released: August 2, 2011

Source: Review copy from the publisher.

Book Description from Back Cover (modified):
Life in the Renaissance Faire Village is pretty sweet for Jessie Morton--until one of the Three Chocolatiers is found drowned in a vat of chocolate in his shop. When a hat pin is discovered sticking out of the dead man's eye, it seems someone is trying to pin the murder on hatmaker Andre Hariot.

But Andre is just one name on a long list of knaves, knights, and wenches. The dearly departed and double-dipped chocolatier, Cesar Rizzo, made many enemies in the Village due to his reckless romancing. As Andre's apprentice, Jessie feels a special obligation to clear his good name...and it'll also help her boyfriend, the Bailiff, wrap up the case so that he'll have more time for her.

My Review:
Harrowing Hats is a cozy mystery set in a permanent Renaissance Faire attraction. The vivid setting details take you into daily life as a worker/actor at a Renaissance Faire. The varied, memorable characters were engaging. Jessie and her boyfriend dealt with realistic relationship uncertainties and problems, especially considering the general bed-hopping behavior of the other characters and in their own past.

Suspense was created by physical danger to Jessie and by wondering how her relationship troubles with her boyfriend (the Bailiff) were going to work out. One of the mysteries could be solved through clues before the "reveal." Jessie solved the main mystery as quickly as the clues were uncovered, and it was a well-developed mystery.

My only problem was with the "prank" done near the end. I've been to several Renaissance Faires and had friends who worked at them. I've never seen a sharpened sword allowed on a worker/demonstrator. It's not something I think could have gone unnoticed in those circumstances, either. It makes for a great scene, but it's not realistic. Not to mention that knowledge of how to use a sword doesn't make a heavy sword any lighter for a woman to use.

There was a minor amount (8 words) of explicit bad language. (Unmarried) sex was implied and was mentioned in a "she's sleeping with him" fashion, but there were no sex scenes. Overall, I'd recommend this enjoyable, engaging mystery.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

Excerpt from Chapter One
"How many frogs do I get for a dollar?" The boy asking was about ten years old. He had a buzz cut that almost made his blond hair invisible in the sun. His attitude was exactly what one might expect from a young male of noble blood.

I plastered a smile on my face and shifted my corset under my low-cut blouse for the hundredth time in the last hour. Whoever thought it would be a good idea to make all the women in Renaissance Faire Village and Market Place look like floozy tavern wenches needed to be out here doing it instead of me.

"You get five frogs for five dollars, young sir." I managed to keep my tone civil. It wasn't easy.

"That's not many frogs for a lot of money," he said.

"I do not make the rules. I only take the money and give you the frogs to put on the catapult. Dost thou wish to throw frogs or not?"

He looked at the targets that could net him some of the prizes above them.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Die Buying by Laura DiSilverio

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Die Buying
by Laura DiSilverio

ISBN-13: 9780425242735
Mass Market Paperback: 278 pages
Publisher: Berkley Prime Crime
Released: August 2, 2011

Source: Review copy from the publisher.

Book Description from Goodreads:
Emma-Joy Ferris likes mall cop work, even though it's a bit more humdrum than the military policing she did in the army. But there's no time to be bored when someone 'liberates' a 15-foot python from the Herpetology Hut, and a mannequin turns out to be a very real corpse.

My Review:
Die Buying is a cozy mystery. There was a nice amount of detail about the setting and job. Suspense was created by the mystery of whodunit and by wondering who was going to die next.

There might have been enough clues by the end to figure out "whodunit" before the reveal, but I lost track of who was who by the last third of the book. The most likely suspects were all similar enough to me as to be hard to keep track of. It also kind of felt like the author had written the story up until then in a way that anyone could have been the "whodunit," then, at the end, randomly chose "whodunit" and came up with an explanation to make it work.

There were a variety of characters, but we didn't get to know any of them very well. While I felt like I should like the main character, E.J., I didn't really care for her. If she wanted to solve the murder to show that she could still do police work with a bad knee, I would have felt sympathy for her. Instead, she did it because she wanted to solve the case before the detective did to make him regret slighting her. That made her seem petty.

Also, the detective was very rude to her, but the first thing E.J. did was check his left hand to see if he was married. He was repeatedly rude to her, yet she was delighted when he showed a flash of appreciation for her physically when she accidentally answered the door to him while wearing nightclothes. Yet a handsome, kind man who showed some attraction to her didn't get a similar response from E.J. It was like E.J. secretly was attracted to be treated badly.

Sex was referred to (as in, "they had an affair"), but there were no sex scenes. There was a minor amount of fake bad language and a fair amount (~70 words) of explicit bad language. Overall, this was an interesting mystery with a unique setting. I'm sure a lot of people will enjoy it.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

Excerpt from Chapter One
It amazed me how a few hundred feet of tile floors and narrow halls amplified a scream.

With the Fernglen Galleria empty of shoppers at this early hour, the terror-stricken wail ricocheted off the tiles, so I couldn't quite tell where it was coming from. The fear in the sound got to me, though, and I pivoted my Segway, the two-wheeled electric vehicle I used to patrol miles of mall corridors and parking areas, and zoomed past the fountain, the frozen escalator by the food court, and a wing of stores with their grilles down.

"Ai-yi-yi!" came the screech again.

I turned down the narrow hall that led to the restrooms. Fernando Guzman, a member of the mall's maintenance staff, danced wildly around his wheeled gray trash can, flailing a mop this way and that. He looked like a demented warlock performing an incantation around an outsized rubber cauldron. He caught sight of me.

"EJ! Por Dios! Get it off me."

It was then I spotted the dragon on his head. Bearded dragon, that is. An Australian lizard. I only knew that because Kiefer, owner of the mall's reptile store, Herpetology Hut, made a point of instructing me about a different critter every time I stopped to check up on things.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Shadow of a Quarter Moon by Eileen Clymer Schwab

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Shadow of a Quarter Moon
by Eileen Clymer Schwab

ISBN-13: 9780451233288
Trade Paperback: 400 pages
Publisher: NAL
Released: July 5, 2011

Source: Review copy from the publisher.

Book Description, Modified from Goodreads:
1839, North Carolina. As the daughter of a plantation owner, Jacy has been raised in privilege. Then she discovers that she's the offspring of her father with one of his slaves. The revelation destroys Jacy's sense of who she is and where she belongs in the world. Equally shocking, her biological mother and brother are still slaves on the property. As she gets to know them--and Rafe, the handsome slave and horse trainer--she begins to see life in the South with fresh eyes. And soon Jacy will have to make a treacherous journey North that she hopes will end in freedom for them all...

My Review:
Shadow of a Quarter Moon is a historical set in 1839 in North Carolina. It also contained some romance. Vivid historical and setting details were woven into the story, and they brought the story alive in my imagination.

The characters were varied, complex, and realistic. They struggled with realistic problems for the time period. Emotionally, though, I had a hard time with how helpless and powerless Jacy was throughout much of the book. Things just kept getting worse and worse. It wasn't very pleasant to read. But if you aren't bothered by the first few pages, then you'll probably be alright with the rest of what happens.

Suspense was created by physical danger to Jacy and to her slave family. It was also created by relationship tensions that raised curiosity about just how this was all going to work out.

There was a minor amount of explicit bad language. Jacy was repeatedly molested (through her clothing) by her betrothed. This was described in just enough detail that you knew what was going on without it getting very graphic. Overall, though the story was well-written and had interesting historical details, I really didn't enjoy reading it.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

Read an excerpt from chapter one using Google Preview.

[Please note that a molestation scene occurs in the first few pages. It's not highly graphic--just enough information is given so you know that's what is happening. But if I'd read those pages, I probably wouldn't have requested the book.]

Sunday, July 10, 2011

A Woman Named Damaris by Janette Oke

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A Woman Named Damaris
by Janette Oke

ISBN-13: 9780764220180
Trade Paperback: 219 pages
Publisher: Bethany House
Released: June 28, 1991

Source: My personal library.

Book Description, Modified from Back Cover:
Damaris was almost fifteen on the night she dared for the first time to think of what life might be like away from home. Pa again had come home drunk and mean; that usually meant physical abuse unless he happened to pass out quickly. Her mother subtly suggests to Damaris that maybe she's old enough to manage on her own and can get away from this life. She plans her escape carefully and reluctantly leaves her mother behind.

Damaris flees to the West in hopes that her father won't be able to track her down if she goes so far. In a small, primitive town, she finds work with a woman who helps her find her name in the Bible. Surely that Damaris was special. Her mother had said that she was named for someone from the Bible though she couldn't remember the significance of it anymore. At first, Damaris is disappointed with the brief passage about her namesake, but she comes to realize the significance of what her namesake did as Damaris makes a new life free from old fears.

My Review:
A Woman Named Damaris is a Christian historical novel with some romance. It's set after train travel was available but while a few wagon trains were still active. Some historical and setting information was woven into the story and helped bring the story alive in my imagination.

The characters were interesting, varied, and had realistic struggles and reactions. A low level of suspense was maintained by curiosity about just how things were going to work out for Damaris as she ventured out on her own at age 15. She's a hard worker, but her timidity--especially around men--sometimes got in her way.

There were a few Christian characters and some talk about what Damaris was reading in the Bible as she searched for her name. However, the Christian element flowed naturally from the story. There was no sex. There was a very minor amount of "he cussed" style of bad language. Overall, I'd highly recommend this well-written, engaging novel.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

Excerpt from Chapter One
"Damaris! Damaris!"

Damaris Withers shrank back against the hard boards of the attic wall that supported her back. Pa was home, and she knew by his voice that he had been drinking. She wondered where he had found the money. She wished there was no such thing as money. It brought nothing but woe to the household.

"Damaris!" the man hollered again. "Where is thet girl?" he demanded, a nasty string of profanity following his second outburst.

Damaris shivered. She knew her pa would never find her in her attic retreat, but she never considered staying there. If she didn't go when called, things would not go well for her mother. Her pa would become angry and abusive. If she hurried, he might do no more than lash out with words, but if he became angry... The thought made Damaris shiver again.

Read more from chapter one using Google Preview.

Friday, July 8, 2011

New Girl in Town by Nancy Rue

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New Girl in Town
by Nancy Rue

ISBN-13: 9780310243991
Trade Paperback: 176 pages
Publisher: Zondervan
Released: February 1, 2004

Source: Bought through

Book Description, Modified from Back Cover:
After moving with her parents away from the town where she grew up, 16-year-old Laura Duffy is not fitting in well at Panama Beach High School. Still wearing braces and having no one to eat lunch with, she feels like a big-time loser. It doesn't help that she wasn't able to get the classes she wanted because they moved after school had started, and the one advanced class she was able to get is so confusing that she's in danger of losing her all-important straight-A average.

After defending herself against a female bully, Laura ends up in the school councilor's office. Finally, here's someone who really understands what she's going through! The councilor asks her to join a session group with four fellow misfits to work through the problems they're having at school and at home.

Join Laura Duffy and her new friends as they encounter conflicts, breakthroughs, romance, and some mysterious visits from a Secret Admirer.

My Review:
New Girl in Town is a fast-paced Christian young adult novel. The characters were complex and realistic and dealt with realistic struggles. Laura, the main character, is very frightened and feels like she's a Nobody who has lost all control of her life. She defines being Somebody by her activities, her grades, and having a boyfriend, but all of that is taken away and she has to come to terms with who she is without them. The story even made me cry in sympathy for Laura.

There was some God talk, mainly about surrendering your circumstances to God and about listening to Him. I liked the overall message, but the story got a little supernatural at the end (like her 'hearing' a mysterious but real vine whisper God's words in her mind).

The were no sex scenes. There was a very minor amount of both explicit and fake bad language. Overall, I'd highly recommend this touching novel.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

Excerpt from Chapter One
I, Laura Duffy, made a decision on October 20th of my junior year. It was a decision that rocked my world.

After three days at Panama Beach High, it was obvious that I was essentially the biggest loser in Panama City, if not on the planet, and that nobody was ever going to speak to me. Period.

My decision: I couldn't spend another lunch period pretending I didn't CARE that I was being ignored. I knew kids believed being a loser was contagious; I believed it too. I wouldn't want to be friends with me either.

Decision: I was going to go to my locker, get a book, and eat my peanut-butter-and-sweet-pickle sandwich oblivious to all because what I was reading was so utterly stimulating...

Okay, so it was still pretending, but at least with a book in my face nobody would see my awkward expression. You know the one people get when they feel like a large second thumb?

And the winner is...

It's time to announce the winner of the Freedom Giveaway Hop cozy mystery giveaway. Including Twitter entries, 55 people entered. Using a random number generator and numbering the entrants in the order I received them, the winner is:

Booklady (a.k.a. Beverly)
who won: "Louisa and the Missing Heiress," "Dire Threads," "A Killing in Antiques," and "Lets Play Dead."

Congratulations! I'll be contacting you for your address.

For those who didn't win, you can always buy a copy of these books from your favorite bookstore or see if they have them at your local library.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

The Square Root of Murder by Ada Madison

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The Square Root of Murder
by Ada Madison

ISBN-13: 9780425242193
Mass Market Paperback: 304 pages
Publisher: Berkley Prime Crime
Released: July 5, 2011

Source: Review copy from the publisher.

Book Description, Modified from Back Cover:
Dr. Sophie Knowles teaches math at Henley College in Massachusetts. Between teaching, publishing puzzles and brainteasers, and beading at the local bead shop, Sophie has a full schedule, but her students adore her because she always finds a way to make the most intimidating math seem fun.

When Dr. Keith Appleton--the most disliked professor on campus--is found dead, all of the evidence points toward Sophie's assistant, Rachel. But it seems like a setup. It's clear that other people are keeping secrets, and Rachel's not the only one with motive enough to kill. Sophie decides to do some digging of her own in case the police overlook something that someone like her, who's familiar with the people involved, would see.

My Review:
The Square Root of Murder is a cozy mystery. The setup was one where any character could have done the murder, and Sophie was able to spot pertinent clues as fast as the reader. I didn't spend much time guessing whodunit, but, at one point, I did think (without much conviction), "Huh, I bet such-and-such did it." Turns out, I was right. So it is guessable.

Details about the various jobs (professor, emergency worker, beading store owner, detective) and the setting were woven into the story and brought the story alive in my imagination. The characters were interesting and dealt with realistic problems. The one thing that kind of confused me was that Sophie, who's analytical and works math puzzles to calm down, had such a vivid imagination that she was almost paranoid. Granted, she realized when her response was foolish, but that didn't stop her from acting on her paranoid feelings. However, she acted more logically as the story progressed, so I felt comfortable with her by the end.

Since the characters didn't seem religious, I'm assuming the minor use of "God" (usually in the phrase--written out--of OMG) was swearing. The was one use of borderline bad language and one use of fake bad language. There were no sex scenes. (There was one instance where kissing or more was probably being implied.) Overall, I'm recommend this well-written, enjoyable novel.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

Excerpt from Chapter One
Who thought summer school was a good idea? Especially in Massachusetts, where the humidity can take your breath away, never mind frizz up your hair.

I loved teaching in one of the oldest buildings on the beautiful campus of Henley College. Today, however, with the temperature hovering around ninety-five degrees, I'd have been willing to give up the magnificent collegiate architecture of Benjamin Franklin Hall for a sleek, modern, air-conditioned building.

But I had only myself to blame for the fact that I was teaching on a wretched Thursday morning in July. I'd persuaded the dean to fund a learning center in Franklin, the building that housed Henley's mathematics and science departments.

I was the go-to person for a program that provided tutoring sessions, online problem sets, videos, and classes in special topics for students at every level of achievement in math.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Let's Play Dead by Sheila Connolly

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Let's Play Dead
by Sheila Connolly

ISBN-13: 9780425242209
Mass Market Paperback: 304 pages
Publisher: Berkley Prime Crime
Released: July 7, 2011

Source: Review copy from the publisher.

Book Description, my take:
Nell Pratt, new to her position as president of the Pennsylvania Antiqarian Society, is focused on hiring new staff to fill some vacancies, including her old position. Then Arabella, the head of the children's museum called Let's Play, calls to congratulate her on her new position. She invites Nell over to see the soon-to-open exhibit at Let's Play.

While Nell is watching a demonstration of how the interactive, animated characters work, someone is shocked with electricity when he touches the weasel character. Nothing is found wrong, but soon after, another worker is shocked and he dies.

Nell knows what bad publicity can do to a museum, so she tries to help Arabella deal with the publicity angle. But what parent would let their kids use the exhibit when no one's sure how things went wrong--twice? Nell decides to help Arabella by discovering for herself how the fatal shock happened and who caused it.

My Review:
Let's Play Dead is a cozy mystery. It's the second book in a series, but you don't need to read the first novel to understand this one. Also, I don't think this novel "spoiled" anything in the first novel if you read them out of order.

There was a nice level of setting detail and woven in information about running museums. The characters were interesting, varied, and complex. Yet there was a "warm-fuzzy" feel to the whole thing that made the situations seem not entirely realistic. The low level of suspense was created by curiosity about how the murder was done, by who, and why.

"Whodunit" was guessable. I thought it was obvious from the start. The two others reading the book weren't convinced by my argument and thought that other characters were just as likely (which was true). I didn't correctly guess why "whodunit," though.

In my opinion, the ending left something to be desired. We're left with a feeling of "but we're not sure that's really what happened." Not to mention that it's not a "normal murder mystery." I think I would have been more okay with having a "realistic" whodunit solution if the interesting, complex situation hadn't been wrapped up with as many warm-fuzzies as possible.

There were no sex scenes. There was a minor amount of fake bad language and potentially offensive language (some people will consider it bad language, others won't) as well as some explicit bad language. Overall, it was an enjoyable novel even though not quite what I was expecting.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

Excerpt from Chapter One
I wanted to lay my head down on my desk and weep. Or pound my head on it. Neither was appropriate treatment for the lovely eighteenth-century mahogany desk that I had inherited from my recently departed predecessor. Somehow I had ended up with his position, a turn of events that I was still trying to figure out more than two months after it had happened. In a moment of dazzled weakness, I had said yes when the board had asked me to take over as president of the Pennsylvania Antiquarian Society. Why they had asked me was another matter altogether. That had been before Thanksgiving, and ever since I had accepted their offer, I'd been running around like a headless chicken trying to keep the Society on course. Luckily nobody had paid much attention during the holidays, but now it was January, a whole new year, and it was time to get things done.

So here I was, trying to wrap my hands and my head around running a historical institution with a creaking hundred-plus-year-old building in Center City Philadelphia, filled with literally millions of priceless objects relating to Pennsylvania history. I'm Nell Pratt, former fundraiser, currently crazy.