Image

The Undoing of Saint Silvanus

Are we ready for our first Christmas Countdown mystery? Let’s celebrate 20 days until Christmas with:

The Undoing of Saint Silvanus: A Novel by Beth Moore

Thoughts Before Reading:

This is Beth Moore’s first novel after years of nonfiction. It was something new, but something she had been thinking about doing for a while.

It was suggested by my sister blog after she read it for book club. It isn’t a Christmas centered mystery, but does have important scenes that take place at Christmas, so I thought I would set it out for our first review.

Jillian Slater is living in San Francisco in an controlling and very bad relationship. But when she discovers that her boyfriend is cheating on her she is hit hard and unsure of what to do.

Then she receives a call that her long estranged father is dead.

And that her grandmother, the ice queen, who she also hasn’t seen in over twenty years is offering to pay her way to New Orleans so she could attend the funeral.

As her life is currently in shambles, Jillian decides to take it.

However, there is a lot that was kept from her. It turns out that the housekeeper, Adella Atwater, came up with the idea for a family reunion, not her grandmother, Olivia.

It also turns out that she lives in an church turned boarding house-full of all kinds of characters. There is David a forty-year old bachelor and music teacher; Carrie a student in medical school and always studying or working; and an elderly dementia suffering woman.

With no money, no reason to go back to San Francisco, and not sure what to do…she remains in the house.

Meanwhile, the New Orleans Police Department have been looking into the murder of Jillian’s father, Raphael. But while they try to uncover a killer, a lot of other strange things start happening. Baby things are left outside the house, someone tries to break into the house, things go missing, etc. The NOPD spend a lot of time coming to the house trying to figure out what does this all mean? A sentiment shared by the rest of the residents.

Besides that Saint Silvanus holds a secret from its first beginning as a church. Will it be revealed?

Will Jillian ever learn the truth about her fathers death? Will she grow to enjoy living in Saint Silvanus? Will her family rifts be mended? Or torn further apart?

Through in a life changing Christmas concert and last supper, and this book has everything.

Thoughts After Reading:

I didn’t love this book.

Jillian bugged me, a LOT. First she is unsure what to do when she comes across the homeless. She has never had to deal with such things and finds the “sour smells” of the city unbearable. Come on now. I am from California and have been to San Francisco many times. I have been everywhere from the high price areas to the touristy ones and there are homeless EVERYWHERE. They hide in bushes and jump out to surprise you; walk out into traffic; are on every street corner along with “sour” smells. I don’t know what San Francisco Moore encountered but that sounds nothing like the one in California. Jillian should have experienced this numerous times and know how to deal with it.

And what happened with the church?

So throughout the novel, Moore has the story of the church’s beginning and the first pastor intersecting with the story of Jillian. But she never really says why this matters to the characters as they have no connection to each other and they never say who killed the minister. Was it suicide or murder?

There were also a lot of little details missing as Moore doesn’t always describe her characters. For instance she calls Jillian “dark”. Dark hair? Dark skin? Mexican? African-American? Greek? Spanish? Italian? Black hair? Brown? Chestnut? I know it is her first time writing a “novel” so it makes sense there are a few kinks.

The mystery also isn’t very mysterious. I knew as soon as the character entered the picture. It was extremely obvious the way they acted was not normal.

But there was something I did like: the characters.

The characters were amazing! I loved every single one and each felt extremely lifelike and ones you would meet in real life.

They all had their own hangups, issues, and backgrounds that were relatable-either to you or reminded you of someone you know. They made the book interesting, a page turner, and had you feel at home in Saint Silvanus.

This in itself made the book worth reading.

For more Christmas mysteries, go to Gingerbread Cookie Murder

For more mysteries not in a series, go to The Manchurian Candidate

For more Christian mysteries, go to Everbody Loved Roger Harlan

For more mysteries set in New Orleans, go to Triple Six

Cherry Cheesecake Murder

Cherry Cheesecake Murder

Cherry Cheesecake Murder (Hannah Swenson #8) by Joanne Fluke

So Lake Eden is up for quite a few interesting weeks. It’s headed for stardom as it will be the set for an independent film.

serv_filming-v2

So this book starts out a bit different from the others. We have a flash forward told by a different narrator than Hannah; cruel, rude, and hated by everyone: Director Dean Lawrence. As he acts out a scene for the actors; taking the unloaded prop gun to his head; he shoots it. And himself.

gunshooting

So we flashback to before that all happened,

flashback

Hannah’s double proposal from Mike and Norman have torn the town apart. People are split between which they believe Hannah should marry; and are not above using any pull they have to try and sway Hannah’s opinion.

what have i gotten myself into star trek next gen

Hannah on the other hand will not be swayed. Instead she determines that she will propose to her choice when she is ready to marry, and when she knows who she wants to marry.

That time is a long way off...

That time is a long way off…

But the town is not focused on her for long, as the film coming to town has set up an epidemic of movie mania. Hannah is hired to cater dessert for the crew, along with a cheesecake every morning to the director, Dean Lawrence.

cookingfood

To make things even more complicated, an old friend and crush, Ross Barton, has come to town to produce the film. He starts wanting to revitalize the relationship, but Hannah’s not sure whether or not to start one.

Who done it?

Should I?

Dean Lawrence turns out to be one of the most difficult people to work with. He is cruel, rude, antagonistic, and constantly groping and harassing all the women in town.

jerk-gif

When Dean acts out a part to show an actor what he desires, winding up dead; Hannah and her crew have a lot of suspects to choose from. Lead actress, and old friend, Lynne Larchmont has the temperament to kill and could have chosen to remove him in order to be more in charge of the film or because of a possible romantic relationship.

laurenbacallsuspiciousfemefataleevilbad

Tom Larchmont, Lynne’s husband, is smitten enough to be deadly jealous.

jealousdon'ttouchmythingsobsessedboyfriendhusband

Then there is Ross who has constantly been burdened with having to keep Dean in check, did he have enough?

Icannotstandmorons_Laura

Or on of the locals, Winnie Henderson, who publicly threatened to kill Dean?

arghfliptablesangry

Or how about star Burke Aston who argued with Dean the morning of the murder?

Hannah finds herself in a time crunch as she and her friends must solve the crime before the movie production wraps up and leaves town.

bannerbooks-border-black-and-white

Thoughts After Reading:

**Contains Spoilers**

I didn’t really care for this novel. I thought it was too easily solved and silly at times.

IDon'tlikeit

First of all, I hated the whole Mike-Norman aftermath. I found it stupid and unnecessary to include all these scenes of people trying to convince her to marry in order to save the dentist or save the deputy. I have never lived in a town the size of Lake Eden so I don’t know of they react that way; but really? Like they can’t get new people to fulfill those positions. Shouldn’t these people who are her “friends” care more about her happiness than what will inconvenience them?

seriously

Plus I am sooooo sick of the love triangle in this. It is so clear that Norman should be the one she is with.

Ijustwantittostop

I didn’t like the entrance of Ross and the switch to a confusion rhombus instead of a love triangle. I thought that was also unnecessary. His “pining” for Hannah over four years (overlapping the time he was in a serious relationship, engaged, with Lynne) was over the top. I mean it just sounds like a whole pack of lines, seriously Hannah I thought you were smarter than that.

really?

I also hate how extremely advanced they make Tracey. She taught herself to read at 3 and a half years old? And now can read at a 5th grade level? What’s next? She has magic powers like Matilda and is righting wrongs?

Norman is clearly the guy Hannah should choose. Unlike Mike who has all kinds of bluster and such; Norman cares deeply about Hannah and her happiness alone. He asks her if he has anything to worry about; and just accepts the answer that Hannah will let him know if he does. Norman takes it like a man, and just tells her he loves her. Awesome. Amazing.

And the constant corrections Hannah does. It is so annoying! If Hannah was my friend I would say see ya. Who wants to be around someone who is always correcting you. Rude. And irritating.

jerk_alert32

I can’t believe how rude and annoying Mike is. When someone arrives home tired and has to get up at five the next morning, who decides to stay while they sleep eating their food and drinking their coffee? Rude. He should have just left. That would have been the gentlemanly thing to do.

How rude

The Bill cheating subplot os dumb as well. Really? She thinks him leaving behind a pink shirt from his conference is proof of cheating? Why do they make characters so dumb? Would any intelligent and rational being act that way? And why does she talk so poorly? She is a real estate agent, intelligent, logical, always having to talk to others; she would know how to talk eloquently.

doesn'tmakesense

The worst thing about this mystery was how easily it was solved. Yes, everyone knows that Dean would act out the scene in how he thinks it should be. But Only one person could make that happen. Only one person could control him taking the gun, and that would be Burke. Burke is the only one who could have gotten the gun in Dean’s hand; the big clue being when he suddenly sucks and asks for assistance.

duh

And why do Hannah and Co. think that giving a tip to the police to solve a murder, the thing they are supposed to do, as a bad thing. That is incredibly dumb. Come on guys, you aren’t real detectives and you can’t arrest anyone. While your playacting as detectives is alright, it isn’t real.

seriously

And why is Hannah such an expert on random facts? Their input never makes any sense. She is like Encyclopedia Brown except not as fun or useful.

movingOnsherlocknotinterested

I hate how in this book they have to explain soooo much about acting. I feel like if Hannah knows all these famous plays from her one literature class on plays, she would have learned about stage directions and what they mean, after all they are written in the plays. I know they do it in case of readers who know nothing, but it still is boring.

im_bored_himym

To summarize, I did not like it.

IDon'tlikeit

bannerbooks-border-black-and-white

For more Hannah Swenson mysteriesgo to Peach Cobbler Murder

For more love triangles, go to Murder and Other Unnatural Disasters

The Barter

thebarter

Thoughts Before Reading:

The Barter, by Siobhan Babcock, is a paranormal story, with a spirit bridging the distance between the early twentieth century and modern times. In 1902, Rebecca has grown up without a mother, as she died in childbirth. She has lived well as the daughter of a doctor, and while cared for still hasn’t matured emotionally to being a grown woman. When she agrees to marry her childhood friend, she does not quite understand what will be expected of her as a farmer, wife, and mother.

whynot

In modern times, Bridget is under a lot of stress trying to figure out who she is. Once an ambitious lawyer working up the success ladder, when she became pregnant, she traded in briefs and long working hours for motherhood.

Flirty-seeya

She loves her daughter and spending time with her, but finds it hard trying to settle in her new dynamic as no longer bringing in money but relying on husband for financial support. She also has trouble befriending the other moms in her neighborhood, as she feels inadequate in their experience of child-rearing, crafting, and other mom-ly traits. To make matters worse, her home seems to be the resting place of a ghost that only she and her baby can see.

Girl on a Train, The

AAAAAAAAAAHHHHH! I’M GETTING OUT OF THIS HOUSE!!!!

As Bridget tries to find her place in her new role, she also attempting to discover what the ghost is after.

bannerbooks-border-black-and-white

Thoughts After Reading:

While this book packages itself as a supernatural mystery, it actually is more of social commentary, discussing the duality women feel who find fulfillment in working outside and inside the home; and the issues they face from moving from one plane to another. What is interesting about this novel is that it doesn’t show one better than the other, but is instead trying to bring to light the difficulties women have.

Except my baby

And EVERYTHING!!!!! Except my baby

Rebecca’s storyline was harder to become involved in than Bridget’s. Rebecca, unlike Bridget, has no idea as to what she wants. While Bridget wants to stay at home caring for her baby she loves, but finds herself unfulfilled as she misses factions of her old life but doesn’t want to give up her new life. Rebecca on the other hand is immature and while initially excited at the idea of “love” and a “relationship”, finds herself not ready for the commitments asked by her husband. While she insists she doesn’t love him, she still desires him and goes back and forth between “only loving him like a brother” and using his body to fulfill her sexual needs. This split of spirit makes Rebecca hard to connect to and very unenjoyable.

I doesn't work

It doesn’t work

I would give this book three out of five stars as I enjoyed the way they presented Bridget’s character and issues in discovering who she is and wants to be, amid what culture, society, her friends, and her family are pressuring her to be. However, the Rebecca storyline was lacking and there was no real mystery in the text.

bannerbooks-border-black-and-white

For more supernatural mysteries, go to Pride & Prescience (Or a Truth Universally Acknowledged) 

For more mysteries featuring a stay at home mom, go to Grime and Punishment

For more not in a series mysteries, go to The Missing Mah Jong Player

For more mystery reviews, go to Thorns of Rosewood