01 June 2012

As a cozy mystery series, Beth Groundwater's Rocky Mountain mystery series is standard fare.

I have to admit, I am one of those people who really enjoy a good cozy mystery and feel that these cozies certainly have a role to play in the reading spectrum.  Sure, they are not known for their complex plots, plot twists, or multi-layered characters, but as a quick, fun read, they certainly fit the bill.  In fact, I have several cozy series that I enjoy and read avidly.

Deadly Currents is the first in a new cozy mystery series by author Beth Groundwater. As most cozys do, this series has a focus -  the town of Salida, Colorado on the banks of the Arkansas River and the types of sports that are prevalent in that area. In the first edition of the series the backdrop is the white water rafting tourist industry. The main character in the book, Mandy Tanner,  is a seasonal river ranger on the Arkansas and a former river rafting guide whose uncle runs a rafting company.  As a character Mandy is interesting, mostly for her confrontational style and, like most cozy mystery heroines, ability to stick her nose in to everyone else's business.  And while some of the other characters were interesting, some of them were just plain annoying. An example is Rob, the love interest of main character Mandy Tanner. I found Rob overbearing and smarmy and, after reading the first two books in the series, I still don't trust him or understand what Mandy sees in him.  In Wicked Eddies, the second title, the recurring characters are given a bit more depth which makes it easier to become invested in them.  In addition, Mandy and Rob's plans to expand their business promises many new opportunities for Mandy to practice her sleuthing skills in the future.  I still didn't particularly see what Mandy saw in Rob, but by the end of this book even he was starting to grow on me. 

IWicked Eddies, the second title in Beth Groundwater's RM Outdoor Adventures series we again find Mandy, Rob, and their various cohorts, employees and employers embroiled in the thick of a mystery as murder once again hits Salida, Colorado. In this case, it is one of the town's fly fishing aficionados, who just happens to be the uncle of Mandy's bartending friend Cynthia. I actually felt this book was a bit better than the first book in the series.

IF you are a cozy mystery reader who likes outdoor adventure sports, these books should have plenty to interest you. In both cases, the author certainly did her homework where both the rafting industry and fly fishing competitions are concerned.  The information included in the books on both white water rafting  in the first book, and fly fishing in the second are spot on and interesting.  In fact, in my opinion, that has been  the best part of both books. The plots were standard for a cozy mystery and as such they get  good marks from me. On the other hand,  while I really enjoyed the detailed information about the adventure sports and the descriptions of the river, when that same attention to detail was used to describe a cup of coffee I felt it was just a little too much. I will say, though, that I did read the second book in the series and found that the author's use of description was more balanced.

If you are an Outdoor Adventure fan and like cozy mysteries, this series will probably appeal to you. I would give the first book 3 stars.  The second one gets 3.5 stars and I consider it a good entrant into the cozy mystery genre.

29 May 2012

A listing for Young Adults and Not so Young Adults

Over the weekend I was at a BBQ with a group of friends that my husband and I have known forever.  While catching up with some of the folks a discussion of books started and that lead into a discussion of books in the Young Adult genre.  First, let me say, this genre and it's title always make me smile as a book that is classed as YA can be for anyone from middle school age to older.  At least it seems that way to me, so the moniker Young Adult book seems sort of misleading.  Adding to the confusion (for want of a better word) is the fact that so many of our youngsters are reading at different levels.  In discussions with other mom's, I have continually been amazed at what books some students are reading at certain ages, but some readers are able to handle more mature subject matter at one age, while others may not.  In the end, it is up to the reader, and most importantly, the parent for the younger readers, to determine what topics they are ready to explore in their reading.  With all that said, below is a list of some of my favorite books in the Young Adult genre.  So Beth, this list is for you.  :)

But first....a few caveats.
CAVEAT 1: Very few YA books have gotten a 5 star rating from me.  I am sure that is due to the fact that they are written for a younger audience, and while I enjoy a lot of them immensely, not may have the complexity that I usually look for in a five star book.

CAVEAT 2: I am leaving some of the most popular YA books off of the list and there are two reasons for this. First, most of those books have been written about profusely, including by me in the past, so there is a myriad of information regarding them.  Secondly, if I included ALL of the YA books that I have read and liked, this list would go on so long that no one would ever read it.

So without further ado, the books:

1.  Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro - This book is a classic that I count as one of my favorite books of all time.  I really enjoyed this book about a society where all is not what it seems.  In the end, this book is about friendship and the choices we make in life.  I would class this one in the upper edges of Young Adult reading, but it is definitely a book that could give a young adult reader something to ponder on.

2. Yellow Crocus by Laila Ibrahim - Perhaps the best YA book that I have read recently.  Although there are many books about Slavery and the South,  what sets this one apart is that the story is largely told from the perspective of the young daughter of the plantation owner and keys on the relationship between her and the black women that is her Mammy.  This perspective is fresh and new, and is what makes this book well suited for the young adult reader.

3. Things Not Seen by Andrew Clemmons - I was on a quest for a book with a blind main character that was not portrayed totally as a victim, and my son's best friend from high school (who happens to be blind) turned me on to this story about a boy who wakes up invisible one day and how he learns to adapt to his new disability.  Also, his best friend turns out to be a young blind girl who, I must say, is a wonderful character.

4. Hold Still by Nina LaCour - This story about dealing with the aftermath of suicide is well written and poignant, but ultimately hopeful.  There is a lot here to explore and discuss with the YA reader.

5. If I Stay by Gayle Foreman -  If you have a reader on the younger side of the YA spectrum, this is one of those books that you would need to evaluate the reader's readiness for.  I loved this beautifully written story about grieving, relationships, and the ultimate choice that the main character must make regarding her own life.

6. Holding on to Max by Margaret Bechard - What I particularly like about this book is that it is about a high school boy who decides to keep his baby, even though the mother wants to give it up.  Again, this gives a different and fresh perspective to the issue.  Also, I loved the author's treatments of the decisions that the young father had to make along the way, and ultimately, the way the book ended.

7. Rebellion and Revolution by Rachel Cotterill  - These two book are the first two in a trilogy, with Rebellion being the first and Revolution being the second.  While they are mostly the typical fantasy books, they are, in my opinion, worth reading as the heroes and heroines must use mostly their intellect and their knowledge as they go through their adventures.  There is very little magic in these books.

8. Lily of the Nile by Stephanie Dray - For those young readers who love historical fiction, this first book in a trilogy about the life of Cleoptatra's daughter Selene is very well written and gives one some insight into life in Ancient Rome.  The second book to this trilogy, Song of the Nile is also out, but I have not had the chance to read it yet.

9. The King's Rose by Alissa M. Libby - Another historical fiction, this book is about Katherine Howard, the youngest of Henry VIII's six wives.  It is a well written book and would be enjoyable to young readers interested in the Tudor era.

10. By The Time You Read This by Lola Jaye - While this book is not strictly a YA book, I think there is a lot here to appeal to a YA reader, especially one of high school or college age.  In this story, a father who died when his daughter was young,  writes a journal for his daughter to read, one entry every year on her birthday.  As she grows up and becomes an adult, what she learns from her father's writings about him, herself, and life is really quite good.

I hope that you are able to enjoy some of the books mentioned here.  They are all, in my opinion, worth the read.