Book Review: Sister Eve, Private Eye by Lynne Hinton

sistereveprivateeyeTitle: Sister Eve, Private Eye
Author: Lynne Hinton
Genre: Mystery
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Source: ARC from the publisher
Number of pages: 336
First line: Chaz Cheston grabbed his keys and quietly made his way out the back door.

Goodreads blurb: Sister Eve knows God moves in mysterious ways. And Eve adores a good mystery. Especially a murder.

Two decades into her calling at a New Mexico monastery, Sister Evangeline Divine breaks her daily routine when a police officer appears, carrying a message from her father. Sister Eve is no stranger to the law, having grown up with a police captain turned private detective. She’s seen her fair share of crime–and knows a thing or two about solving mysteries.

But when Captain Jackson Divine needs her to return home and help him recover from surgery, Sister Eve finds herself taking on his latest case.

A Hollywood director has disappeared, and the sultry starlet he’s been running around with isn’t talking. When the missing man turns up dead, Captain Divine’s case escalates into a full-blown murder case, and Sister Eve’s crime-solving instincts kick in with an almost God-given grace.

Soon Sister Eve finds herself soul-searching every step of the way: How can she choose between the vocation in her heart and the job in her blood?

First, the disclosure. I know author Lynne Hinton, at least a little bit. I know her through my mom. Lynne and my mom were the only two female ministers in the tiny town of Chewelah, Washington, for a period of time, before Lynne moved on to other ventures. They forged a friendship, and I had the pleasure of meeting Lynne through Mom. I then read and reviewed her book, Friendship Cake, which I enjoyed very much. Lynne writes about real women with real struggles, and she doesn’t sugar coat it. Her characters may be faith-filled, or faith-struggling, or faith-seekers – and having been in each of those categories myself, I relate to them and empathize with them. When I heard that she was starting a new mystery series about a Benedictine nun, I was happy to accept a review copy.

Sister Eve, Private Eye is a mystery that you might consider a “cozy,” although I think sometimes cozy mysteries get a bum rap as being “light” and “insubstantial.” That is not the case with this book. While the mystery aspects are not too gritty or gory, the storyline isn’t fluffy. Lynne uses the bones of the mystery plot to fill in the flesh of the characters. Eve and her father, Jackson, have a relationship that is prickly and complicated, and when they are forced to work together, they are unable to avoid dealing with their history. I love both characters. I completely related to Eve’s inner struggle to be a better, more patient, more centered woman. Jackson is gruff and harsh, but only on the outside. The two of them together make a terrific team, and I hope the series continues, especially since I want to see how Eve resolves her passion to solve mysteries with her vocational calling.

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Audiobook Review: We Are Not Ourselves by Matthew Thomas

wearenotourselvesTitle: We Are Not Ourselves
Author: Matthew Thomas
Genre: Literary fiction
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Rating: 2 out of 5 stars
Source: Review copy from the publisher
Audiobook reader: Mare Winningham
Audiobook length: 20 hours 51 minutes
First line: Instead of going to the priest, the men who gathered at Doherty’s Bar after work went to Eileen Tumulty’s father.

Goodreads blurb: Born in 1941, Eileen Tumulty is raised by her Irish immigrant parents in Woodside, Queens, in an apartment where the mood swings between heartbreak and hilarity, depending on whether guests are over and how much alcohol has been consumed.

When Eileen meets Ed Leary, a scientist whose bearing is nothing like those of the men she grew up with, she thinks she’s found the perfect partner to deliver her to the cosmopolitan world she longs to inhabit. They marry, and Eileen quickly discovers Ed doesn’t aspire to the same, ever bigger, stakes in the American Dream.

Eileen encourages her husband to want more: a better job, better friends, a better house, but as years pass it becomes clear that his growing reluctance is part of a deeper psychological shift. An inescapable darkness enters their lives, and Eileen and Ed and their son Connell try desperately to hold together a semblance of the reality they have known, and to preserve, against long odds, an idea they have cherished of the future.

The fact that I finished listening to this monstrously long audiobook is a huge indication that my decision to no longer accept review copies is the best possible decision. If I had picked this up to listen to on my own, rather than receiving a review copy through Audiobook Jukebox, I would not have finished it. Because I requested the book, I felt obligated to slog through. And it was a slog.

I realize that I am in a teeny weeny minority when it comes to my opinion on this book. It seems that everyone else absolutely adores it. I don’t know why I requested it to begin with; I know that I have a hate-hate relationship with “literary fiction.” And yet, I see all the shiny reviews of the latest literary darling, and I think, “This time it will be different!” And sometimes it is, and I end up loving the book. But that happens maybe one out of ten times; the other nine I’m left wondering what I’m missing. Or else I find myself asking why authors with such breathtaking writing skills have no sense of plot movement or story development.

Matthew Thomas can write; that is not in any doubt. But he writes and writes and writes. This audiobook was about seven hours longer than it needed to be. There were times when the story would go off on yet another rabbit trail that I would actually find myself rolling my eyes. And when one of the rabbit trails finally catches my attention, it is dropped and never to be seen again. (What happened to Sergei?!)

I also don’t think Mare Winningham should read audiobooks. I like her as an actress, but she has a monotone, sleep-inducing drone of a voice – which is definitely not a good match for a book that already feels way too long.

So, bottom line: If you already like literary ficton, read this in print; if, like me, you don’t really get it, then give it a miss.

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The Sunday Salon – November 23, 2014

sundaysalon2Can you believe November is almost over?! And I haven’t done a Salon post for three weeks. It is sometimes hard to find time at the computer on the weekends, since Kevin and I share one now – and he was working on a pretty big web site project for the city of Chewelah. (You can check out the finished project here, if you’re interested. Remember, he does blog designs, too!)

The past couple weeks have been absolutely crazy and I am so glad that I have no reason to leave the house today. Natalie had her wisdom teeth out on Monday, and so far has had a fairly easy time of it. A little bit of tummy issues from the antibiotics they prescribe just in case, but she’s done taking them today, so hopefully that will clear right up. The boys spent two afternoons this week splitting and stacking wood for a friend. They earned some extra money, which is great for them, but the friend lives about 25 miles away, and Mom is chauffeur. So I had two busy afternoons. Throw in an orthodontist appointment in Spokane (Nan’s oral surgery was in Spokane, too), and you have a very busy week. I am planning on doing nothing but reading and watching TV and cross-stitching today (except making dinner, because for some reason, these people I live with still insist on being fed) and nothing but church and football and movie night tomorrow. (I’m writing this on Saturday.) Then Monday, my sister and her family arrive for the week and the holiday nuttiness commences.

With all of these appointments and other stuff going on, though, I have had lots of time to read, and November has been a good month so far. I read The Deadly Dance by M.C. Beaton, a fun Agatha Raisin mystery. I finished How To Be a Good Wife by Emma Chapman, which was good until the end. Sigh. I describe so many books that way – endings can either make or break a book! Us by David Nicholls was freaking fantastic – I love that man. I read a novella in Mira Grant’s Newsflesh series, How Green This Land, How Blue This Sea, which reminded me how much I love the world she created in that series. I promptly downloaded the rest of her novellas onto my Kindle app. I didn’t love The Paying Guests as much as everyone else did, but it was still enjoyable. We Are Not Ourselves – well, you’ll see; my review goes up next week. And Josiah and I finished our latest read-aloud just in time for Thanksgiving break: Steelheart by Brandon Sanderson. We both enjoyed it. Kind of X-Men-slash-Red Dawn-ish.

Last weekend, Natalie treated me to a Mother-Daughter Movie Night, and we saw Gone Girl. Wow. They really got it right – the creepy, twistedness of the book came through perfectly on screen. And that cast?! Perfect. For our at home movie nights, we’ve had quite the variety: Thor: The Dark World (meh); Holes (a family favorite); and Behind Enemy Lines (pretty good). Not sure what Jon is choosing for tomorrow night.

On TV, my favorite shows this season so far have been The Blacklist – James Spader is all kinds of awesome; The Walking Dead – oh, my gosh, it’s been good this season!; and How To Get Away With Murder, which is totally a guilty pleasure. The only bad thing is that no one I know is watching it, too, and this is definitely the kind of series you want to talk to someone about!

Well, I am going to sign off before my day gets away from me. I am reading three really good books (The Divorce Papers; The Bone Season; and A Passage to India), and I’m hoping to finish at least one of them today. I hope all of you are enjoying your November, and staying safe in this crazy weather. For those of you who live somewhere where the weather is currently warm and toasty, I hate you. No, just kidding. Kind of.

Recently on the blog:
~ Book Review: Us by David Nicholls
~ Adding to my TBR list: Bookmarks Magazine – November/December
~ Book Review: How To Be a Good Wife by Emma Chapman

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