Thereby Hangs a Tail by Spencer Quinn

Thereby Hangs a Tail (A Chet and Bernie Mystery #2)Thereby Hangs a Tail by Spencer Quinn

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I’m so glad I discovered this super-sweet and also funny series featuring PI team Chet (a dog, and our narrator) and Bernie (his human).
The Chet and Bernie mysteries remind me in some ways of Bunnicula for adults (with the caveat that I consider Bunnicula appropriate and perhaps necessary reading fare for EVERYONE, adults included!).
What primarily makes this an “adult” book is that as Chet and Bernie solve crimes, Chet is witness to events, often not fully understood, that the reader realizes have serious implications, either regarding life and death, relationships, or even contemporary environmental issues.
Although at first glance, the story seems so funny as to be almost “fluff” reading, Spencer Quinn (a pseudonym for a well-known crime writer) actually writes with the talent of capturing deep feelings and wisdom, with a few simple, carefully chosen words.
Since the story is told from a dog’s perspective, we’ve got a narrator who is totally loveable, and also totally grounded in the things that matter in life. I loved this aspect of Thereby Hangs a Tail.
Chet’s perspective, in which the concept of worrying doesn’t make sense, in which life is full of joy and wonder, and in which his human is loved totally and unconditionally, are qualities which I value, and want to remember more in my daily life.
Thereby Hangs a Tail is a fast read, with a lot of humor, a great sense of place (the American Southwest), and two characters who will leap right off the page and into your heart. A great book to brighten your day.

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How to Fall by Jane Casey

How To FallHow To Fall by Jane Casey

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I would like to thank the publisher through NetGalley for my review copy of How to Fall.
How to Fall is the first in a young adult mystery series by author Jane Casey, and in my opinion, it is her most compelling and enjoyable novel yet. The novel follows our spunky heroine Jess, a teenager living in London who takes a summer trip to visit her relatives in rural Devon. Jess and her mother have been estranged from this part of the family for many years, but after the recent death of Jess’s cousin, Freya, the two women travel out to visit their relations and reestablish a connection. However, when Jess arrives in the rich coastal town of Port Sentinel, she realizes that the surface glitz of the community hides dark secrets, and begins to suspect that Freya’s death may not have been an accident.  As Jess gets to know her cousins, and the other teenagers in Freya’s peer group, she tries to understand her cousin, and what led to her death.
So, what do I love about How to Fall? First of all, the writing itself is great. The first chapter, a prologue chronicling Freya’s last moments, is one of those near perfect intro’s, a few short pages of lyrical, atmospheric writing, which delighted me. Secondly, the main character of Jess is the type of heroine I feel I can be proud of and root for. She is smart, independent, and not afraid to speak her mind or trust her instincts. But she is also kind. Third, the world that the author creates seems fully formed even in this first novel, with a diverse cast of characters, from the quirky old lady who runs a charity shop, to the creepy policeman, to the gangs of vicious, popular girls.
If I was to describe How to Fall as a movie or TV show, I would say that it is a combination of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Veronica Mars, and Clueless.
Prior to reading How to Fall, I had read Jane Casey’s adult mystery novel, The Burning, and enjoyed it. I plan to continue reading that series, but I very much enjoyed Casey’s first foray into the YA genre, and think that, in its own way, How to Fall may be the beginning of an even more addictive series than The Burning. I also think that How to Fall would lend itself very well to a television adaptation.
I hope this novel gets wide publicity, because I think it will appeal to a large audience, including both teens and adults. With her likeable heroines, intriguing mysteries, and compelling combination of suspense, humor, and atmosphere, Jane Casey is an author to watch.

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