Monday, January 25, 2016

What I Read in June 2015 Part V

What I Read in June 2015 Part V ...

Beaglemania by Linda O. Johnston --Contemporary cozy mystery

Beaglemania (Pet Rescue Mystery, #1) Widowed and then Divorced, single mom Lauren Vancouver saw her kids off to college and became devoted to animal rescue. She runs HotRescues, a private shelter in the Los Angeles area. She gets a tip-off about a puppy mill raid and discovers one of her volunteers, Efram Kiley, shoving beagle puppies down a storm drain. To say Lauren is livid is an understatement. She's so angry, she could commit murder. She wants those dogs and sound and she wants Efram fired. When Efram makes threatening remarks, Lauren has him arrested. Out on bail, Efram continues to be a nuisance until one night when Lauren wakes up to the dogs barking and finds Efram lying dead with a knife in his back. The LAPD automatically consider Lauren the chief suspect since she had the motive and opportunity. Her sudden notoriety brings her in contact with several suspects who knew Efram well and it also brings her into the orbit of Captain Matt Kingston, a sexy animal control officer. He shares Lauren's passion for animals and is determined to protect her. She knows she is innocent and is determined to prove it and make sure everyone knows Efram was a lying jerk.

I loved the concept of this novel. Animal rescue is near and dear to my heart. I didn't like HotPets all that much because they are a shelter and they let their animals dirty their enclosures overnight. Those animals should be in foster homes. I liked that they had a trainer on staff, a vet friend and they require a lot of paperwork before adoption. I did not like that they require a potential adoptive family only to show photos of their home and where the dog would sleep and hang out. Um ... how do you know they're not lying? There's no way of knowing until after the animal is placed and they do a home visit. Then what? They take the animal back if it's not in the right home? Stupid.

I didn't care for the author's writing style. I guessed she was a journalist but the blurb says she was a lawyer and a novelist. She writes like a journalist and not like a creative writer. The descriptions of people were so trite: "Tall African-American man," "Young Asian couple" - ick - tell me more without restoring to stupid generalizations about a person's race or ethnicity. Also the whole thing just sounded too real like it was a script for Animal Cops or some kind of reality show. It didn't read like a novel until more than halfway through. I knew right away who the killer was and I was surprised it took Lauren the whole book to figure it out. Who else had the motive and opportunity? I suspected a few others along the way but I was fairly certain I was right and I was. It was too obvious.

I also thought Lauren was a little too intense. She's a micromanager and doesn't think that's a bad thing. While her ex was a jerk, Lauren is partially responsible for their relationship problems yet never acknowledges she's a control freak. She also goes overboard when it comes to the animals at times. I'm passionate about animals and animal rescue but Lauren is so crazy passionate she makes a lot of enemies. She's a bit of a bully when it comes to animal welfare. I think she could catch more flies with honey than vinegar; even when she's trying to reign in her temper she is tense. I wouldn't want to cross her. I didn't really buy her relationship with Matt. The chemistry was told rather than shown and there just wasn't enough there. I liked Matt and I think he can do better than Lauren!

The other characters are boring and the potential villains flit in and out of the story.

I'm not too interested in reading any more books by this author but I will be looking up SmART and D.A.R.T.

The Final Reveille (Living History Museum, #1)The Final Reveille by Amanda Flower--Contemporary Cozy Mystery

Kelsey Cambridge loves her job as director of Barton Farm, a living history museum. She's done a great job bringing the museum up-to-date with what today's visitors want to see, as evidenced by the 400 Civil War reenactors staying at the farm for a weekend. Casey also loves the museum's generous benefactor, Cynthia Cherry, which is why it comes as a shock when Cynthia's nephew Maxwell informs Kelsey he's taking over the Cherry Foundation from his ailing aunt. Kelsey gets an even bigger shock the next morning when she finds Maxwell's body in the mud pit! Also on the scene is Chase Wyatt, a flirtatious reenactor and EMT. Kelsey finds herself suspect #1 on the detective's list. Her father is also a suspect and Casey's newly engaged ex-husband wants full custody of their son. Wyatt wants to team up to solve the mystery but Kelsey isn't sure she can trust him. Kelsey is determined to find the murderer on her own and protect her family and the museum at all costs.

This mystery was fairly formulaic as far as cozy mysteries go, but I enjoyed the story. The pacing was pretty good and there are several red herrings thrown in. I did not figure out the murderer until late in the story though still before Kelsey. The ending was very rushed and some loose ends didn't really get resolved. The setting is the best part of this book. I love history and living history museums. They're always fun to visit and I wish I could visit Barton Farm. I especially love the Civil War era and have been to a reenactment at a farm. I could easily picture Barton Farm with 400 Civil War reenactors.

I liked Kelsey a lot. I can identify with her love of history and her dedication to Barton Farm. I thought she was a bit too intense at times, delegating menial tasks to her assistant while she sparred with Chase or poked around trying to solve the murder when she should have been working. I also found her a bit too overprotective of her son and unnecessarily nasty about her ex's fiance, but I'm not a mother or ex-wife so I can't relate. Her romantic plot suffers and just doesn't really go anywhere. It would have made the book a little more enjoyable if Kelsey wasn't so snotty to Chase.

Most of the secondary characters are really flat. They suffer from the book having too many suspects. There is another character who is killed and that mystery doesn't really gel with the rest of the book. Chase Wyatt is a manchild and I don't blame Kelsey for not liking him at first. Obviously he reminds her of her ex, another manchild. Kelsey's dad is the best minor character. An actor, he's always walking around quoting Shakespeare or dressed in 15th century costume. He provides a lot of comic relief. The other secondary character who was fleshed out nicely is Cynthia. She is a sweet, little, old lady who loves her community and wants to give back as much as she can. I felt horrible for her that she couldn't see her nephew's true nature and that she truly mourned him when he died. I also liked Benji, the brickmaker and Laura, Kelsey's best friend who tells it like it is.

If you enjoy cozy mysteries and love history even nearly as much as I do, you will like this book.

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