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My Progress:

11 / 30 books. 37% done!

2024 Literary Escapes Challenge

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My Progress:

23 / 51 states. 45% done!

2024 Historical Fiction Reading Challenge

My Progress:

16 / 50 books. 32% done!

2024 POPSUGAR Reading Challenge

21 / 50 books. 42% done!

Booklist Queen's 2024 Reading Challenge

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43 / 50 books. 86% done!

2024 52 Club Reading Challenge

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38 / 52 books. 73% done!

2024 Build Your Library Reading Challenge

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25 / 40 books. 63% done!

2024 Pioneer Book Reading Challenge

15 / 40 books. 38% done!

2024 Craving for Cozies Reading Challenge

My Progress:

9 / 25 books. 36% done!

2024 Medical Examiner's Mystery Reading Challenge

2024 Mystery Marathon Reading Challenge

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6 / 26.2 miles (second lap). 23% done!

Mount TBR Reading Challenge

My Progress

22 / 100 books. 22% done!

2024 Pick Your Poison Reading Challenge

My Progress:

58 / 104 books. 56% done!

Around the Year in 52 Books Reading Challenge

My Progress

42 / 52 books. 81% done!

Disney Animated Movies Reading Challenge

My Progress

60 / 165 books. 36% done!
Saturday, December 31, 2016

Mormon Mention: Laura McNeal

If you're not sure what a Mormon is, let alone a Mormon Mention, allow me to explain:  My name is Susan and I'm a Mormon (you've seen the commercials, right?).  As a member of  The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (commonly known as the Mormon or LDS Church), I'm naturally concerned with how my religion is portrayed in the media.  Because this blog is about books, every time I see a reference to Mormonism in a book written by someone who is not a member of my church, I highlight it here.  Then, I offer my opinion—my insider's view—of what the author is saying.  It's my chance to correct misconceptions, expound on principles of the Gospel, and even to laugh at my (sometimes) crazy Mormon culture.


In The Incident on the Bridge by Laura McNeal, police officer Elaine Lord says this about her partner:

"Skelly was just like her nephews.  Money was for buying nice cars, plain and simple.  She hadn't wanted to work with him at first because of his various childlike views and because he was a twenty-five-year-old Mormon the size of Sasquatch.  It had turned out, though, that he gave her a little of the old hope and ardor.  Not a lot of hope and ardor, but a little" (38).

-- Not only did I not expect a Mormon Mention to crop up in a YA mystery novel set in California, but I was surprised by its positive nature.  After a little sleuthing (including an email to the kind and patient Laura McNeal), I discovered that the author grew up LDS.  Although she now considers herself a secular humanist, she respects her Mormon family and friends and "the grace and strength their faith gives them."  This respect is definitely reflected in her portrayal of Skelly.  

YA Mystery-That's-Not-A-Mystery Falls Flat

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

Thisbe Locke isn't the kind of girl who would commit suicide.  Sure, she was upset about breaking up with her user boyfriend.  And she was definitely feeling humiliated after an embarrassing incident at a party.  Still.  The 17-year-old was a good student with a bright future.  She wouldn't have thrown that all away, would she?  It's hard to imagine any other scenario, though, since Thisbe was last seen alone on a bridge.  One thing is for sure: Thisbe Locke is missing, presumed dead. 

Ted, Thisbe's 14-year-old sister, refuses to believe Thisbe killed herself.  She's determined to prove the police's theory wrong, to find out what really happened to her sister.  With the help of newcomer Fin and other invested parties, she'll have to fit together the scattered pieces of a confusing puzzle to find the truth about Thisbe's fate.

You all know I like me a good whodunit.  A YA whodunit is even better since they're so few and far between.  The weird thing about The Incident on the Bridge by Laura McNeal is that although it sounds like a mystery, it isn't.  Not really.  Why?  Because McNeal tells us what happened to Thisbe very early on in the book.  An odd storytelling device, this sucks all the suspense out of the story making it feel dull and anticlimactic.  Another problem is the narration by multiple characters (some of whom are adults—not something you usually see in teen fiction).  By not focusing on one person's point of view, it makes it difficult to really know or care about any of them.  I did like the book's atmospheric Coronado Island setting.  Overall, though, The Incident on the Bridge just wasn't a very fulfilling read for me.  Ah well.

(Readalikes:  Hm, I can't really think of anything.  Can you?)


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

for language (a handful of F-bombs plus milder expletives) and depictions of underage drinking and the use of illegal drugs

To the FTC, with love:  Another library fine find

Dark, Disturbing Daisy in Chains My Least Favorite From a New Favorite

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

Hamish Wolfe has everything a woman could ask for in a man.  The 38-year-old cancer surgeon is successful, wealthy, handsome, and in great physical shape.  He's charismatic, bursting with natural charm.  In spite of his imprisonment, the convicted serial killer has a whole fan club of women writing him letters, sending him money, and begging for conjugal visits.  Many of them believe what Hamish has always insisted—he's innocent of the murders he's been accused of committing—while others couldn't care less.  A prison romance isn't what Hamish wants, however.  All he desires is for his story—the real story—to be told.

A defense attorney who writes true crime books, Maggie Rose is known for her astounding success rate at overturning solid convictions.  When Hamish first asks her to write his story, she ignores his pleas.  The more he contacts her, though, the more her resolve crumbles.  Like the so-called "Wolfe Pack," Maggie doesn't seem able to resist the alluring inmate.  Although his case seems airtight, she finds enough cracks in it to investigate further.  With the help of DS Pete Weston, she follows some puzzling clues to discover the strange and twisted truth about what really happened to the four overweight women allegedly murdered by Hamish Wolfe.  

If you've been hanging out with me here at BBB this year, you already know about the great author discovery I made this year.  After reading Little Black Lies by English mystery writer Sharon Bolton, I knew I had to read everything else she'd ever written.  So I did.  Although her novels are dark, violent, and chilling, they never fail to pull me in.  Bolton's clever plotting always keeps me reading, wide-eyed, until I reach a book's shocking finale.  What can I say?  I'm a fan.  So, when I heard about Bolton's newest book, Daisy in Chains, I was naturally excited to read it.  Like the author's previous work, this one boasts a compelling plot with lots of twists and turns.  Although I saw the big surprise ending coming (at least in part), I still found the novel wholly engrossing.  That being said, I also found parts of Daisy in Chains extremely disturbing and difficult to read.  And yet, I could not put it down.  Overall, this was definitely not my favorite Bolton novel (that would be Little Black Lies)—in fact, I think it's my least favorite.  Still, it's a taut page turner that will keep thriller fans whipping through it until way past their bedtimes.  If they can stomach its more unsavory aspects, that is.

(Readalikes:  Other books by Sharon Bolton, including the Lacey Flint series [Now You See Me; If Snow Hadn't Fallen (novella); Dead Scared; Lost; A Dark and Twisted Tide; and Here Be Dragons (novella)] and Sacrifice; Awakening; Blood Harvest; and Little Black Lies)


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

for language, violence, sexual content, and disturbing subject matter

To the FTC, with love:  I received a finished copy of Daisy in Chains from the generous folks at Minotaur Books (a division of Macmillan/St. Martin's Press).  Thank you!
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