Review: Déjà Dead

Deja Dead, Kathy ReichsDr. Temperance Brennan believes in justice, particularly for those who cannot speak for themselves. As the resident forensic anthropologist at Montreal’s Laboratorie de Médecine Légale, it’s her job to identify skeletal remains, giving them names and causes of death.

When a set of neatly dismembered female remains is discovered stashed in plastic bags, Temperance uncovers a frightening pattern: a history of similar murders spread out over almost a decade.

As Temperance digs deeper into the case, she brings herself and those closest to her ever nearer to an incomprehensibly evil foe — one who will do anything to remain undiscovered.

A case of clashing expectations

Oh boy. I really wanted — and expected — to love author Kathy Reichs’ Déjà Dead, and the fact that I didn’t may be my own fault.

For those of you not obsessed with FOX’s series Bones (starring Emily Deschanel and David Boreanaz), allow me to share this factoid: the television show’s Dr. Brennan is based off Reichs’ novels.

When you read that a book is “from the author who inspired the FOX television drama Bones,” it tends to set certain expectations. I incorrectly assumed that the two would have more in common than the character’s name and unflinching belief in justice.

Bones is by no means a sitcom, but it does incorporate moments of levity, particularly about Temperance’s lack of social skills and her team’s interactions. None of this was present in Déjà Dead, and the novel really could have used it.

In contrast to the show, Déjà Dead is incredibly graphic and very serious.

Thoughts on the novel

It’s difficult to decide if I didn’t like Reichs’ novel because it differed so widely from my expectations, or because it’s not enjoyable all on its own. Upon reflection I think the former didn’t help, but that the latter is the truer reason.

Once again an author has beelined directly to creating a sexually violent criminal, my least favorite and something I’m admittedly a little over-sensitive about — at this point it’s almost a trope, and I think is used often as a way to sell more books and titillate those who read them. I don’t mean to be glib, but what’s wrong with an old-fashioned robbery gone wrong or a random beating?

I did like Reichs’ writing style, particularly her descriptions of locations and things.

When summer arrives in Montreal it flounces in like a rumba dancer: all ruffles and bright cotton, with flashing thighs and sweat-slicked skin. It is a ribald celebration that begins in June and continues until September.

Unfortunately the novel falls into the same trap as does Katia Fox’s The Copper Sign: the author did a lot of research on a topic and decided to put all of it into the book.

Déjà Dead has pages of descriptions of saw marks, bone structures, and other medical ephemera. It’s hard to provide enough information so that the plot and deaths make sense without overloading the reader, and I think Reichs’ novel leaned a little more towards overload.

The long and short of it

Some of my dislike of this book has to do with my own misplaced expectations, as well as my general mood; however, the writing itself is just as much to blame. It was a good mystery, I suppose, but too sexually violent and heavy on the exposition.

For those of you who do think you’d like the series, you’re in luck: the 18th book, Speaking in Bones, is set for release in September 2015.

Anyone read this novel and think I’m completely crazy? Drop a comment below!

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Review: D is for Deadbeat

D is for Deadbeat, Sue GraftonWhen Alvin Limardo hires Private Investigator Kinsey Millhone to deliver a $25,000 check to a 15 year-old kid, Kinsey smells a rat. She knows something is off, but Limardo’s $400 retainer is too good to pass up.

Things go wrong almost immediately. First Limardo’s retainer check bounces, then the man himself is found floating in the California surf. The police rule it an accident, but Kinsey’s own investigation turns up a startling amount of people who want Limardo — real name John Daggett — dead.

Everyone’s got a grudge, and it’s up to Kinsey to discover the truth. But what she finds is even more disturbing than she ever could have imagined.

A gritty Whodunit

D is for Deadbeat is the fourth in author Sue Grafton’s Kinsey Millhone series — by all accounts it’s a popular series, and I can understand why.

If you’re looking for a well-crafted Whodunit, this is your next read. The mystery is solid, the twists unexpected and nicely done.

The story stays firmly within the typical genre stereotypes — feisty, nosy main character, misdirection, seedy bars and run-down apartments. This could be a pro or a con, depending on what you like. Personally, I enjoyed the story, but don’t think I could read the entire series (Grafton is up to #23). If you’re looking for a murder mystery that breaks any kind of mold, I’d recommend looking elsewhere.

This was a fun book, but not really my cuppa.

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Mini-Reviews: Sexy & Sweet

Best Friend was gone for a week, which meant I spend six days not getting enough sleep, eating junk food, and reading the kind of books I call “brain candy.” They’re sugary, light, bad for you in large amounts — and it’s impossible to stop reading them.

First, the sexy

Dragon Bound, Thea HarrisonMy history of naughty novel-reading is well-established, but I hadn’t read a true “bodice ripper” in a long time, mainly because my Inner Feminist is a gigantic bitch and thinks reading novels with such pronounced female stereotypes means immediate suspension of my Feminist Card.

There’s always an inciting incident — this time it was reading The Husband List. Around that time I also perused Book Riot’s article, “47+ of Your Favorite Books About Dragons” and started investigating Thea Harrison’s Elder Races series.

The first novel, Dragon Bound, was everything cliché and dirty and ridiculous and awesome as its cover art suggests. It was a fun fantasy read, and I loved every second of it.

Then, the sweet

One Good Knight, Mercedes LackeyOne Good Knight is the second in Mercedes Lackey’s Five Hundred Kingdoms series, and ended up being more sweet than sexy. It was more story-focused and far less stereotypical, and had some great twists that took the story in directions I didn’t expect. Lackey has also built a much more interesting world, and I plan to continue reading the series.

And I’m gonna read more of Harrison’s series too. Because in the end, I love candy.

Have you read either of these series?

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Review: The Husband List

The Husband List, Janet Evanovich and Dorien KellyIt’s the heyday of the Gilded Age, and American heiress Caroline Maxwell is about to go postal. Her mother’s efforts to marry her off — preferably to creepy almost-duke Lord Bremerton — are growing more desperate by the day…as do Caroline’s attempts to thwart the wedding plans.

What Caroline wants is passion — something Jack Culhane appears to have in spades. He’s unconventional to be sure, an Irish-American with a great deal of new money and no title. But there’s something about him that makes Caroline’s heart beat just a little faster, and it appears the feeling is mutual.

Will true love prevail, or is Caroline doomed to spend the rest of her life in a passionless marriage?

You gotta love a good romance novel

Best Friend’s grandmother reads about as much as I do, and she loves passing books back and forth. Over the holidays she gave me a couple mystery novels and The Husband List (by Janet Evanovich and Dorien Kelly).

I had Holiday Brain for most of December (okay, and I’ve technically still got it now), so reading this silly, sweet little story was just what I needed.

Yes, Caroline is a bit of a foot-stomping, chocolate-cake-sneaking, bluestocking stereotype; and yes, Jack is your typical devastatingly handsome, upstanding, unconventional-but-not-crazy Prince Charming…but you know what? Who cares! They’re good people, they love each other, and they end up living happily ever after.

With its mix of humor, a whiff of mystery, and a heaping spoonful of heaving bosoms and secret assignations in carriages, The Husband List is a fun, light read that left me feeling happy. What more can you ask for from a good book?

What’s your guilty reading pleasure?

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Review: Froggy Style

Froggy Style, J.A. KazimerJean-Michel La Grenouille is handsome, disgustingly rich, and an actual hand-to-god prince, but he’s got a dirty little secret: he spent the first few years of his life as a frog. It was only a chance meeting with a hungry little girl that released him from his slimy prison.

If Jean-Michael wants to keep his handsome human form (and his money and title), he needs to find that girl — The One — and marry her before he turns 30…in just 10 days. Trouble is, the girl he’s pretty sure is The One has a touch of narcolepsy, and seems so much less interesting than Lollie Bliss, a tattooed, smokin’ hot biker who may be dating a hit man.

Will this prince-less-than-charming find his happily ever after, or will he be doomed to life among the lily pads?

Not as exciting as I’d hoped

I thought with a name like Froggy Style: A F***ed Up Fairy Tale, this book would be a little more…well, f***ed up. There were lots of fairy tale creatures and people, but there wasn’t much else to it.

The story was basically your standard fairy tale — not a bad thing on its own, but I thought the point of Kazimer’s novel was to turn that stuff on its head, and make it different and cool. But Froggy Style wasn’t any of those things. I didn’t really care about any of the characters, and the “twist” was anything but.

By far the biggest flaw was the ending: the deus ex machina is my biggest literary pet peeve, and this one flew in on a flaming chariot with guns blazing. It didn’t even make a whole lot of sense.

Kazimer’s book is part of a series (the second, but it read fine as a standalone), but not one that I think I’ll continue. Oh well. Next!

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