The Christmas Murder Game by Alexandra Benedict

The Christmas Murder Game by Alexandra Benedict

I am a sucker for a country house Christmas murder mystery. Lily and her cousins have come to Endhouse for the annual Christmas game, but this time the grand prize is Endhouse itself. But Lily is there to find out the truth about what happened to her mom years ago. The Christmas Murder is a fun book. The riddles are given in the form of sonnets and they are rather clever. Of course, the group is snowed in and when the first person is killed, they can't reach the police by phone (the lines are down), by care (there is a tree down across the driveway), or by cellphone (they were confiscated at the beginning of the game so no one could cheat). It's a claustrophobic atmosphere where you can't trust anyone. Yes, the premise is a bit unrealistic and the killer obvious, but it kept me entertained throughout. It would make a good seasonal read. ...
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Babel by R.F. Kuang

Babel by R.F. Kuang

Babel is a fantasy world of the early 1800s offering an exploration of race, historical imperialism, literature, and language. The Industrial Revolution is powered by silver working, magic involving silver and words and translation. We follow the four characters Robin, our main characters, Ramy, Victoire, and Letty. All have been pulled out of their lives and sent to Oxford's Royal Institute of Translation, known as Babel, to learn translation and silver working. Each is an outsider and they form a kind of family for each other, providing comfort and camaraderie, but also disappointments and arguments. Babel is engrossing. First, I do love words and meanings, and Kuang goes into details and long-winded interludes about language and etymology that some may rather scan past but that made the book memorable for me. The politics of language is fascinating. The characters grow and learn and reevaluate their outlooks through the book. It's hard to both love Oxford and hate the British Empire for...
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The Big Lie by John Mankiewicz

The Big Lie by John Mankiewicz

The Big Lie centers around the filming of "Salt of the Earth" in 1954 in New Mexico. The FBI wants it shut down, believing it to be nothing more than Communist propaganda. The performances are solid and the sound effects evoke the period well. The story itself is a bit predictable, but since it's based on a true incident, that's probably not surprising. It turns out the world isn't as black and white as FBI Special Agent Bergin would like to believe. ...
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Heroes Ever Die by J. A. Crawford

Heroes Ever Die by J. A. Crawford

I thoroughly enjoyed Jove Brand Is Near Death, so was looking forward to Heroes Ever Die, the second in the Ken Allen series. And I'm happy to report it was just as fun. This time around, superheroes are our theme, both in comic books and movie franchises. Ken Allen is now officially a private investigator, but this time around he's still working for a friend, Ray Ford. We met Ray in the first book. He's a special effects expert- stunts, vehicles, gadgets, he does it all. But when a stunt goes wrong and someone dies, he turns to Ken to help clear his name. And outfits him with all the weaponry and vehicles he might need. This was a blast. Ken gets a chance to show off his intelligence and his martial arts skills. The dialogue is snappy and funny. The situations are over the top but in a good way. It's all a little ridiculous, funny, and action-filled, like the movies...
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The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman

The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman

The Thursday Murder Club is charming. Elizabeth, Joyce, Ibrahim, and Ron meet weekly to hash out cold cases, happily figuring out who the killer was that the cops missed. Then the part owner/builder of The Coopers Chase Retirement Village is found bludgeoned to death, and the four are determined to try their hand at solving a current case. They just need an in with the cops - maybe that nice PC Donna de Freitas. It's fun to watch the four finagle their way into the case. They manipulate, coerce, and call in as many favors as they can in the search for who dunnit. The actual murder mystery itself was not as stellar as the cast. It was convoluted, with more than enough red herrings and false trails. I guess I adored the characters but wish the mystery had been a little tighter. ...
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You’re Invited by Amanda Jayatissa

You’re Invited by Amanda Jayatissa

When Amaya is invited to her former best friend Kaavi’s extravagant wedding in Sri Lanka, she decides to attend. Her plan is to make sure the wedding does not happen - Kaavi is marrying Amaya's ex-boyfriend Stephen. The tale goes back and forth in time from the day of the wedding to three months earlier and several times in between, especially the week of the wedding. The points of view switch between Amaya in the beginning, an unreliable narrator at best, and Kaavi through the second part. There are also transcripts of interviews with various guests on the day of the wedding. None of the characters are actually likable. Yes, Amaya has been hurt, clearly, and she has some major issues, but listening to her inner dialogue can be too much. Kaavi is a spoiled brat in a lot of ways, but she runs a charity that she clearly believes in. Stephen seems to be charming, but we all know...
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