Tag Archives: fun reads

It’s A Beautiful Day

A Bad Day for Mercy: A Crime Novel by Sophie Littlefield (Minotaur Books, $24.99, 272 pages)

A Bad Day for Scandal: A Crime Novel by Sophie Littlefield (Minotaur Books – Reprint Edition, $14.99, 304 pages)

Stella Hardesty rides again!   Author Sophie Littlefield certainly has a talent for creating fresh and amusing mystery novels.   There’s a bit of down home in her main character, Stella Hardesty.   Her would-be boyfriend, Sheriff “Goat” Jones, makes a mighty fine love interest for followers of this series.   Stella’s friends and neighbors, mostly the ladies, come to her when husbands or boyfriends need a bit of attitude adjustment.

Usually, this reviewer would not read two books back-to-back that were written by the same author.   Well, breaking rules can be a whole bunch of fun.   Scandal and Mercy are the latest in the series.   They were preceded by Sorry and Pretty.   Each book can stand on its own merits; however, there’s much to be gained by starting with the first book for readers who are new to Ms. Littlefield’s writing.

“This here’s the hospital,” Chip said, as they arrived in front of an imposing clot of buildings featuring a big square limestone main structure and any number of added-on bits in a variety of architectural styles, making the whole thing look like a LEGO set designed by a drunk and hostile modernist.”

The presenting challenge might be rescuing her sister’s stepson from creditors who are seeking repayment for gambling debts, or a snotty former classmate of Stella’s who needs assistance with disposing of a dead body.   Stella does not shrink from a formidable opponent or smelly situation.   These characters are not the ones you’ll find in a British mystery – proper and polished; however, the lessons learned as the mystery is solved are every bit as meaningful and undoubtedly more poignant.

Highly recommended.

Ruta Arellano

Review copies were provided by the publisher.

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People Are Strange

Nothing Happens Until It Happens to You by T. M. Shine (Crown; $23.00; 294 pages)

“It’s time more readers found out about T. M. Shine…  (He’s) one of the funniest writers I know.”   Dave Barry

If you like Dave Barry or David Sedaris, you will undoubtedly like T. M. Shine.   If you love Lisa Scottoline (“Why My Third Husband Will Be A Dog”; “My Nest Isn’t Empty, It Just Has More Closet Space”), you will very likely love T. M. Shine.   Like Barry and Sedaris, Shine is often clever; but more often he’s simply hilarious like Scottoline.   For example, at one point in Nothing Happens, he wonders why drugs have so many listed negative effects.   He asks why there are “never any good side effects like ‘long term use of this medicine could add six inches to your broad jump or lead to…  improved cornering skills while driving at high speeds.’   Stuff like that.”

This is a semi-autobiographical novel about being suddenly unemployed, and then being unemployed for a long period of time.   Shine was, in real life,  laid off from his steady writing gig.   He decided to write a memoir about his experiences but his publisher wanted a novel instead, so this is a true-to-life story.   (If you want to enjoy yourself, Google Shine to find his sadly funny and sometimes quasi-ranting pink slip website.)

The male protagonist Jeffrey Reiner is let go from his job writing for a South Florida weekly.   He initially rushes to find a new job before his severance pay and unemployment benefits run out.   Then he begins to feel guilty for appreciating his free time before finding out that he has a third less time than he thought to get back into the working world (his high maintenance family is burning through his money stash at warp speed).   He eventually wonders if he’ll be out of work so long that he’ll lose all desire to ever work again.   But this is not the least of his problems…

Reiner’s married to a woman whom he knows he’s lucky to be married to, but once he loses his job the glue that holds their relationship together starts to weaken.   Reiner’s wife has in the past found him to be “steady,” something he no longer is; in fact, he’s dazed and confused.   Ironically, as Reiner becomes less comfortable being around his wife (and vice-versa), he develops a strong relationship with his formerly troublesome children and his physically troubled dog.

Reiner winds up tackling some strange jobs assigned to him by a hustler who is not exactly a well-respected man in the community.   He also develops an interesting relationship with the young woman who lives next door, making Reiner’s wife wonder if this is his attempt to be like old Bill Murray in Lost In Translation.   Oh, and he needs to ensure that everyone in his household uses less energy, something that’s nearly impossible – his teenage kids live like nocturnal raccoons.

Anything more said about the storyline would just subtract rather than add to the reader’s enjoyment.   Let’s just say that the tale ends with our protagonist learning about what’s really important in life, and it may not be a corner office.   This one’s fun!

Well recommended.

This review was written by Joseph Arellano.   A review copy was provided by the publisher.

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