Bad Monkey

Bad Monkey

by Carl Hiaasen

Bad Monkey

Carl Hiaasen is back doing what he does best: spinning a wickedly funny, fiercely pointed tale in which the greedy, the corrupt, and the degraders of pristine land in Florida–now, in the Bahamas too–get their comeuppance in mordantly ingenious, diabolically entertaining fashion.

Andrew Yancy–late of the Miami Police, soon-to-be-late of the Key West Police–has a human arm in his freezer. There’s a logical (Hiaasenian) explanation for that, but not for how and why it parted from its owner. Yancy thinks the boating-accident/shark-luncheon explanation is full of holes, and if he can prove murder, his commander might relieve him of Health Inspector duties, aka Roach Patrol. But first Yancy will negotiate an ever-surprising course of events–from the Keys to Miami to a Bahamian out island–with a crew of equally ever-surprising characters, including: the twitchy widow of the frozen arm; an avariciously idiotic real estate developer; a voodoo witch whose lovers are blinded-unto-death by her particularly peculiar charms; Yancy’s new love, a kinky medical examiner; and the eponymous Bad Monkey, who earns his place among Hiaasen’s greatest characters with hilariously wicked aplomb.

I haven’t felt up to reading or writing the last two weeks…stupid grown up problems.  The good thing is that I am totally hooked on listening to an audiobook when running errands so I still managed to read a book.  I needed something funny, summery, and mysterious and the local library delivered with a borrowed copy of Carl Hiaasen’s Bad Monkey.  My friend Jen has recommended Hiaasen in the past and I’m glad I finally took her advice!

First: never turn down a chance to listen to Arte Johnson read a book.  His voice reminds me of a toned down Lewis Black, which means he’s perfect for the job!  His snappy tone and constantly changing inflections just emphasized Hiaasen’s blunt sense of humor.  I am a fan, Arte, and I will be begging you to read my books when I get published!

Life is not going as planned for Detective Andrew Yancy.  First he loses his job, then his girlfriend, and now he is saddled with an arm in his freezer next to his popsicles.   He is demoted to health inspector and all he wants to do is get off roach patrol.  He knows the owner of that arm was murdered and he’s determined to figure out who-dunnit so he can get his job back.  Its a wild adventure that involves a half bald monkey who starred in the Pirates of the Caribbean movies, a motorized wheelchair insurance scam, and a hurricane named Francois.

The characters and story are completely over the top, so you probably wont enjoy Bad Monkey if outlandish antics leave your eyes rolling.  I thought it was hilarious, and it was the perfect read for my current mood.  I liked Yancy.; he is blunt, odd, determined, and I developed a surprising soft spot for the opinionated screw-up.  All the characters where eccentric and just fun to keep up with.  I particularly like how the story is laid out and was equally invested in both the mystery and the numerous subplots.  The subplot involving the spec house constructed next to Andrew’s bungalow left me laughing so darn hard that I often couldn’t breathe!  I suggest reading Bad Monkey just for this subplot.

The female characters left much to be desired.  Rosa was the only almost redeemable woman in the entire story.  The rest included a gold-digger, a sex crazed voodoo priestess, a former heroine addict, and a insane pedophile…yeah, I have a feeling Hiaasen isn’t too fond of women.  It didn’t do anything to lessen my enjoyment of the story but I’m sure it will bother other readers, so you are now forewarned!

Bad Monkey is the perfect hilarious beach read to get you ready for the summer.  Are you a Carl Hiaasen fan?  Which novel is your favorite?

Lindsay

Second Grave on the Left

Second Grave on the Left

by Darynda Jones

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If you hang around with dead people, life can get pretty complicated. Take it from Charley Davidson, part-time private investigator and full-time Grim Reaper. Complicated is her middle name. The deceased find her very sparkly. Demons find her irresistible. And one entity in particular wants to seduce her in every way possible.

When Charley and Cookie (her best friend/receptionist) have to track down a missing woman, the case is not quite as open and shut as they anticipate. Cookie’s friend Mimi disappeared five days earlier. Mimi then sends Cookie a cryptic message telling Cookie to meet her at an nearby coffee shop. The coffee is brewing, but Mimi’s still missing. There is, however, a clue Mimi left on the bathroom wall: a woman’s name. Mimi’s husband explains to them that his wife had been acting strange since she found out an old high school friend had been murdered. The same woman whose name Mimi had scribbled on the bathroom wall.

Meanwhile, Reyes Alexander Farrow (otherwise known as the Son of Satan. Yes. Literally) has left his corporeal body and is haunting Charley. He’s left his body because he’s being tortured by demons who want to lure Charley closer. But Reyes can’t let that happen. Because if the demons get to Charley, they’ll have a portal to heaven…well, let’s just say it wouldn’t be pretty.

Can Charley handle hot nights with Reyes and even hotter days tracking down a missing woman? Can she keep those she loves out of harm’s way? And is there enough coffee and chocolate in the world to fuel her as she does?

Here is your signpost for the most hilarious read of the year: Second Grave on the Left.

I’m always needing a good laugh and I picked up Second Grave on the Left, book two in the Charley Davidson series, because I enjoyed First Grave on the Right.  The story picks up mere weeks after the events in book one; Charley is slowly healing from her beatings and is doing her best to find her mysterious lover, Reyes Farrow.  But, her life doesn’t stay quiet for long and she is soon involved with a politically driven missing persons case while desperately trying to save Reyes from the depths of Hell.

Second Grave on the Left was enjoyable because readers are provided a more complex picture of the snarky grim reaper.  Charley is hardheaded, sometimes judgemental, and always quick to jump to conclusions, but she is still willing to sacrifice herself for others.   She has a great relationship with Cookie and a strained partnership with Swopes, but we also get a better understanding of Charley’s family connections.  The first book emphasized Charley’s positive relationship with her dad and Uncle Bob, but pointed out her disdain for her step-mother.  Violent events force the family to work on their issues, which adds depth to our stubborn heroine while also highlighting her shortsightedness.  These all seem like negative traits but I like that Charley is a properly flawed individual.  She manages to realize her faults, embraces her issues, and still proceeds full steam ahead with unwavering confidence and plenty of snark.  I like her.

The mystery progressed at a nice rate and Charley’s snarkiness reads smoother and much funnier this time around.  I like learning more about Reyes through his best friend, Amador Sanchez, and the creepy prison fan club leader.  And I love the ghosts!  Jones’ kills me with the overly personable ghosts and I found myself giggling each time the evil little Strawberry Shortcake showed up!  As for Dead Trunk Guy…yes!  The final scene with him was just perfect!

There is one point that really irked me; I couldn’t stand the relationship building between Charley and Reyes.  The two have a deep, and passionate, connection and yet they are completely incapable of communicating.  Sex will only get you so far and these two spent the whole book arguing because they are both so darn stubborn.  Charley selfishly ignores Reyes’ pleas to be left alone and Reyes tells her NOTHING about the situation.  Really?  Tell a hardheaded woman not to save you when she knows you’re dying and she’s definitely going to ignore your demands.  I felt like so many issues would have been solved if they actually talked to each other instead of constantly squaring off like charging bulls.  This issue is just annoying and had me hesitant to pick up book three.

I will continue reading the Charley Davidson series because I like the snarky grim reaper and the ghostly sub plots.  It’s a different series and I love the fast pace of the stories.  Are you a fan of the series?  What do you think about the Charley/Reyes relationship?

Lindsay

Latte Trouble

Latte Trouble

by Cleo Coyle

Latte Trouble (Coffeehouse Mystery, #3)

Greenwich Village coffee shop manager and amateur sleuth Clare Cosi is faced with her most perilous mystery yet in Latte Trouble, the third Coffeehouse Mystery by Cleo Coyle (On What Grounds and Through the Grinder).

It’s Fashion Week in New York City — and Clare’s shop, the historic Village Blend, is the location of a prestigious insider’s party for loyal customer and iconic designer Lottie Harmon, who is about to launch a collection of coffee-inspired accessories aptly named Java Jewelry. But the event, which is attended by the city’s most zealous fashionistas, goes terribly wrong when a customer is poisoned and dies from cyanide in his latte. A barista, who coincidentally was recently dumped by the victim, is arrested and charged with murder. But Clare knows in her heart that her employee is innocent and begins to investigate the people surrounding the enigmatic Lottie Harmon. When Clare uncovers a scheme to blackmail one of Lottie’s business partners and then that partner suddenly turns up dead, she knows that there is trouble brewing

Sorry for the lack of reviews the last two weeks!  I’m back and ready to talk about the third book in the Coffeehouse Mystery series, Latte Trouble.  Clare Cosi is still managing the Village Blend, which is hosting the launch party for Lottie Harmon’s Java Jewelry line.  Fashion Week has taken over the quaint coffeehouse and everything is running smoothly until someone tries to kill Lottie.  Clare will do anything to clear the name of a trusted employee, so once again, she hits the streets searching for clues.

Latte Trouble is much better written than the two previous books in Coyle’s Coffeehouse Mystery series.  It seems as if the husband and wife writing team have finally smoothed out their style because the plot was better developed, the characters a tad deeper, and the flow perfect for a cozy mystery.  The coffee confection instructions were less forced and melded seamlessly with the mystery plotline, and I remained pleasantly surprised at the end despite picking out the killer by chapter two.  I even found the main subject interesting despite never being one to follow the trends of high fashion jewelry.  The series seems to be getting better!

I was a tad irked about some of the character development.  The hints about Madame’s time in prison was a dangling carrot that just pissed me off; you cant mention that and then not explain!  And poor Quinn.  We finally learn some concrete details about his tormented marriage and I hope he leaves his wife in book four.  I’m not one to push divorce but its difficult to sympathize with a wife who constantly cheats on her husband and then kidnaps their children to keep him from leaving her.   Clare and Matt’s progression from exes to friends develops realistically, but I was sick of Clare constantly bouncing between ‘Matt has changed!’ and ‘Matt will never change.”  She just needed to have an epiphany and realized that her ex-husband has definitely matured but is not a totally different person.  All these things are just irksome little things I would have pointed out during editing; they do nothing to diminish the story.

The only real complaint I had was over the subplot involving Joy and her clubbing activities.  I expected more from Clare concerning her daughter’s lies and extra curricular activities.  I expected her to confront Joy instead of just asking Matt to talk to their daughter.  Really?  Expect your irresponsible ex-husband to handle the ‘are you crazy? don’t do drugs’ conversation with your grown daughter?  The ex-husband that you’re convinced hasn’t changed his wild ways?  Nope.  I hope this point is resolved in the next book because it definitely wasn’t here (grumble, grumble, grumble).

Latte Trouble is a fun cozy mystery (just ignore the Joy subplot).  This series is still quite enjoyable despite some irksome qualities and I am having fun tagging along on Clare’s mystery filled life.  Have you checked out the Coffeehouse Mystery series?  What do you think?

Lindsay

Retro Review: Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH by Robert C. O’Brien by Emily Meixner

A wonderful review of one of my favorite childhood stories. I didn’t actually read the book until college but I did watch the Don Blush film on repeat during my early years. This review had me wanting to reread the book.

Nerdy Book Club

mrs. frisbyAt some point last year, a colleague popped by my office and handed me a large plastic bag of children’s books his teenage daughter had decided she no longer needed.  Knowing that I often take these discarded books and distribute them among my English education students who are beginning to build their classroom libraries, he was happy to find them a good home with readers who would love them as much as his daughter had.  As I rifled through the bag, there near the bottom, I glimpsed a yellowing copy of Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH by Robert C. O’Brien.  “Oooh!” I thought to myself.  “I loved this book!  Maybe my son would enjoy it, too.”

For several months thereafter, I unsuccessfully suggested it as a bedtime read-aloud to my 8-year old. “Really,” I promised, persistent. “This is a good book.  I think you’ll like it.”  Finally, he…

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What to Expect – MARCH

What to Expect – MARCH

Maybe I will actually get the ‘What to Expect’ post out on the first of April.  Sorry about the delay; we are stuck playing catch up until then!  In wordpress news: I started a sister site to Sand Between the Pages where I document my writing progress and post personal musings.  Check it out here!  Now, on to the rest of the post!

March arrived like a breath of fresh air.  Cold foggy days were suddenly replaced with sunshine and warm afternoons.  Florida’s first warm sunny weekend had arrived, and I spent most of Saturday lounging in my bathing suit in the backyard with a good book and happy tortoise for company.  It was wonderful, until I realized my choice to forgo sunscreen was just plain stupid.  I am now rocking raccoon eyes and a slight pink hue.  I don’t regret any of my sunny reading time, though, and happily await the next sunny day.

Beach Burnt animated GIF

March will be spent finishing the two novels I was supposed to review last month:

1. Fairest by Marissa Meyer

2. A Time to Live by Jonas Lee

You can expect a few straggling winter survival stories this month.  The spring sun means that my book settings will also make a seasonal change.  Expect a few mystery novels.  I love the mystery genre and I am reading a number of them, analyzing how each mystery plays out.  Just research for my WIP!  And who knows, a fantasy story may even appear in the lineup!

Its going to be a fun month and I hope you enjoy!  What are you reading in March?

Lindsay

The Cuckoo’s Calling

The Cuckoo’s Calling

by Robert Galbraith

The Cuckoo's Calling (Cormoran Strike, #1)

A brilliant debut mystery in a classic vein: Detective Cormoran Strike investigates a supermodel’s suicide. After losing his leg to a land mine in Afghanistan, Cormoran Strike is barely scraping by as a private investigator. Strike is down to one client, and creditors are calling. He has also just broken up with his longtime girlfriend and is living in his office.

Then John Bristow walks through his door with an amazing story: His sister, the legendary supermodel Lula Landry, known to her friends as the Cuckoo, famously fell to her death a few months earlier. The police ruled it a suicide, but John refuses to believe that. The case plunges Strike into the world of multimillionaire beauties, rock-star boyfriends, and desperate designers, and it introduces him to every variety of pleasure, enticement, seduction, and delusion known to man.

You may think you know detectives, but you’ve never met one quite like Strike. You may think you know about the wealthy and famous, but you’ve never seen them under an investigation like this.

We all should know by now that Robert Galbraith is a pseudonym for J.K. Rowling, the famous author of the Harry Potter series.  I enjoyed the Harry Potter novels and was excited to see that Rowling has continued to write, but in a completely different genre.  The best compliment that I can give Galbraith/Rowling is that I didn’t think of Harry Potter once while reading The Cuckoo’s Calling! 

Cormoran Strike is a down-on-his-luck private investigator who is hired to prove that legendary supermodel, Lula Landry, did not commit suicide.  The investigation thrusts Strike in to the world of the rich and famous; a world where lies are far more common than the truth.  I listened to the audio version of The Cuckoo’s Calling and found myself sitting parked in my driveway long after I had arrived home because I couldn’t stop listening!  Galbraith has done a fantastic job with the mystery genre.

The characters are complex and well developed; I had no problem visualizing each individual.  The setting was equally developed, and I can still smell the lime air freshener Cormoran uses in his office.  I loved Cormoran Strike; of course, I have a thing for burly cop characters…so yeah.  Cormoran and Robin’s relationship still makes me smile.  The mystery progressed at a realistic rate and I was kept guessing until the very end.

I only had a couple of issues.  The first is how Strike reveals the reason behind his breakup with Charlotte.  He just spits it out.  It is an important moment and I felt it should have been rehashed for the readers.  I could have used one extra paragraph where Strike relives the moment one last time before he lets it go.  The second is when Strike meets with the killer.  I felt Strike should have actually had a plan in that moment.  I won’t say anything else because of spoilers, but you’ll know what I’m talking about when you read it.

The Cuckoos Calling is a great read!  Kudos Rowling; you’re a good mystery author.  Book two, The Silkworm is on my TBR list.  Have you read The Cuckoo’s Calling?  What do you think about Robert Galbraith/JK Rowling’s mystery novels?

Lindsay

Through the Grinder

Through the Grinder

by Cleo Coyle

Through the Grinder (Coffeehouse Mystery, #2)

Business is booming at Clare Cosi’s Village Blend, until her female customers start to die. Lieutenant Quinn is convinced that someone has an axe to grind, and, unfortunately, his prime suspect is the new man in Clare’s life.

Now Clare will risk her heart–and her life–to follow the killer’s trail to the bitter end.

I am on a cozy mystery kick, you know, for research.  I sped through the first Coffeehouse Mystery novel, On What Grounds, last week and immediately picked up book two.  Through the Grinder takes place just weeks after On What Grounds, and we find Clare, Matt, and Joy entwined in a new murder mystery!

Sorry guys; I have to start with the negative points this time.  There a number of small details that made Through the Grinder irksome.  Obvious red herrings should only be used in a comedic setting; that didn’t happen here.  There were far too many red herrings and they overpowered the story.  Plus, they were annoying.  There are a number of passages written from the killer’s point of view.  I am sure these were included to develop suspense but they only serve to diminish it because these sections destroy the story’s flow.  Through the Grinder would have been stronger if both elements were left out.  It pains me to admit this, but the coffee information was overdone and felt forced the entire book.  I liked the coffee making lessons; they are an integral part of the story.  But in the middle of an interrogation?  Really Clare?

Now, don’t let those points keep you from reading Through the Grinder.  The story was still fun, suspenseful, and interesting.  It was the perfect cozy mystery to read on a rainy day and I enjoyed the relationship development between numerous characters.  I also like how Clare lucky blunders through her investigations.  Coyle does a wonderful job of painting relatively realistic characters and almost all the relationships develop along a reasonable timeline.  Plus, Clare has a blunt outlook on life that somewhat mirrors my own.  Labeling potential dates like she does her coffee?  Nice.  It was fun and I already have book three in my TBR lineup.

Side note:  I wanted more Detective Quinn.  I have a weakness for cops and I love his gruff personality.  I was not thrilled that he is still married, but hopefully he’ll get everything worked out in the next book.  The friendship between Quinn and Clare is progressing realistically, and I will be irked if he ends up with her immediately after his divorce.  Just saying.

On to book three!!!  Who else enjoys the Cleo Coyle Coffehouse Mystery series?  What do you think about the characters?

Lindsay

What makes a Nerd?

Hey everyone! My monthly writing updates pushed me to develop a separate site dedicated to my writing journey. This new site will document my writing, as well as, be a platform for my every day musing. Sand Between the Pages will continue to exist but only as a book review site. So check out the new page and let me know what you think!

Lindsay