Always the First to Die by R.J. Jacobs

Always the First to Die by R.J. Jacobs

Always the First to Die has a lot of good components - a category 4 hurricane, an island with no power, and a dilapidated estate. It makes for a very atmospheric novel. As a teen, Lexi was cast in the now-iconic horror movie Breathless filmed in the Florida Keys at Pinecrest Estate. It’s a summer she’ll never forget: falling in love with the son of the legendary movie director and learning the “curse” of Pinecrest is real when someone dies on set. Years later, Lexi finds herself racing back to the Keys in the wake of a hurricane to find her daughter who is visiting her grandfather at Pinecrest, the place where her husband died in mysterious circumstances just a year ago. Now Lexi’s life will turn into a real-life horror movie as she reckons with her past and avoids ending up dead. The story alternates to the present and back to 1998 when Breathless was being filmed. The horror movie theme is...
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Daisy Darker by Alice Feeney

Daisy Darker by Alice Feeney

The setting of Daisy Darker is amazing. The family is gathered at Seaglass, a lovely (spooky) old Victorian on a tidal island, to celebrate Nana's birthday. The house is isolated at high tide and there is no cell phone service. It's a dark, stormy night, of course, and when the 80 clocks in the hall strike midnight, Nana is found dead in the kitchen, with a creepy poem written in chalk on the wall. The reader is sure it's murder, even if the family isn't. The setting was the high point though. The family, while definitely eccentric, is not likeable. The story is narrated by granddaughter, Daisy Darker, Nana’s favorite, who was born with a heart condition. The narrator does a great job of telling us the story through Daisy's voice. Events unfold hour by hour, in the wee hours of Halloween morning, with chapters from Daisy’s childhood interspersed throughout. The Darker family is hiding secrets and they are all...
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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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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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