Saturday, April 9, 2016

Dream House by Marzia Bisognin, Killing the Poormaster: A Saga of Poverty, Corruption, and Murder in the Great Depression by Holly Metz, and The Semester of Our Discontent by Cynthia Kuhn

I received ARCs of these three books from the publisher in exchange for honest reviews. This did not affect my opinions of the books, or my reviews themselves.

In Dream House, Bisognin introduces readers to Amethyst, who stumbles onto the house of her dreams while caught in a storm. The owners invite her inside out of the rain, but when she wakes up the next morning, the owners are gone, and she is alone in the house. Or is she? And why does she feel such a strong compulsion to stay?

I was intrigued by the premise of this book, particularly the mystery surrounding the house, and the promise of the paranormal. However, the book was merely okay.

The writing style was fine, but the book seemed to stretch on longer than needed, with repetitive descriptions of the house and its rooms. I also predicted the big twist ending about halfway through the book, and while there were still some minor twists that were surprising, I felt the main reveal was telegraphed pretty obviously throughout the story. This could be because I read so many mysteries, and watch a lot of paranormal TV and movies-this book did feel a bit familiar, like something I had read or seen before.

I wouldn't necessarily recommend this book, but I also wouldn't tell readers not to pick it up. Just go in knowing that it most likely won't be the mysterious, surprising young adult horror novel you were hoping for.

Killing the Poormaster recounts the tragic tale of Joe Scutellaro, a man accused of killing his city's poormaster, who was in charge of handing out relief aid to the unemployed. But this book is also about the time in which Scutellaro found himself, the time of the Great Depression, when a person could starve to death because they were denied relief aid to buy food, when a man was looked down upon for needing help from the state, when those in power had a strangehold over the lives of those with no power.

These are issues that still haunt America today, and Metz makes their relevance then and now felt. She has clearly done her research, and is able to lay out the murder, the trial, and the overarching themes and events with a clear, concise, and illuminating writing style.

Give me a cozy mystery with a literature professor as the protagonist, and I'm in, especially when it's one who is researching mystery authors and teaches a Gothic Literature course, going as the woman in the wallpaper (from The Yellow Wallpaper) to a faculty Halloween party.

This was a really fun read, full of unique and differentiated characters, a mystery that began almost right away and didn't let up, and lots of great literary and teaching references.Kuhn captures both the fun and the work of being in the teaching profession, and highlights the sometimes-cutthroat (quite literally in this book) world of academia.

Lila Maclean, a very likable and strong protagonist, is a new hire at a college, and is immediately thrust into a mystery when she stumbles on the body of a colleague. The mystery is unpredictable, and well-written, and as the bodies pile up, the stakes get higher.

This is a series I definitely want to read more books in.

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