Scribbling Scrivener Reads: A Skeleton in the Family by Leigh Perry

A Skeleton in the Family by Leigh Perry is the first book in a new cozy mystery series called the Family Skeleton. It centers on Dr. Georgia Thackery as she returns to her hometown to be an adjunct professor at the college both her tenured professor parents work at. While they are on sabbatical, she and her teenage daughter, Madison move into the family home. But the house isn’t empty when they move in. For thirty years living in the attic has been a walking, talking, wise-cracking skeleton named Sid. He’s known only to Georgia, her sister Deborah, who believes the family needs to get rid of Sid because it’s not normal to have a skeleton friend, and their parents.

As soon as Georgia moves back to start her new job and get her daughter settled into yet another new school, things become complicated in the most unusual way. One weekend Sid convinces Georgia to take him along with Madison, who doesn’t know of his existence by his choice, to a local anime/manga convention. Genuinely a fan of the genre via reading Madison’s books, it’s the perfect way for Sid to get out of the house as he cosplays as a Shinigami from a famous manga. It’s while he’s roaming the convention floor taking pictures with people who think his “costume” is the coolest that he recognizes someone from his past. Problem is he doesn’t who she is nor why seeing her gives him such a bad feeling.

That’s the first of two mysteries in A Skeleton in the Family. Even though Sid’s been in the family for thirty years, it wasn’t as if he came with the house or was a member of the family that passed on. Eventually we get the story of how Sid came to live with the Thackery family. No one knows anything about him including Sid. Yet when he sees this woman, a retired, famous zoo anthropologist from another local college, that he and Georgia begin to investigate Sid’s origins as this woman means something to him. Determining Sid’s true identity becomes Georgia’s focus until the mystery woman turns up dead and a series of break-ins involving people in Georgia’s life cause the two of them to question his identity further.

I like quite a few things about this book. First off I really enjoyed the main characters. Georgia is smart and very down-to-earth and seems like a really good mom. Her interactions with her fellow adjunct staff is hilarious as they are all fishes swimming in the same bowl year after year.

Sid is truly a well-fleshed out character even if all he is a bag of bones. He’s smart and with lots of time on his hands does a lot of the investigative work including risking exposure. He’s protective of the family to the point he doesn’t want Madison to know who he is even though Madison definitely comes across as one of those people who would be okay with having a skeleton in the house.

The supporting characters are all right. They serve their various purposes and one main source of conflict comes from Deborah. Although she has long ago tried distancing herself from Sid, to the point of ignoring him completely in conversations, and is disapproving of Georgia’s choices, she still cares about her sister and niece. They get along and fight but the reader gets the impression they’ve never been at each other’s throats.

Another positive is how the world of academia is portrayed. Georgia has been a lifelong adjunct teacher tromping from college to college for temporary jobs. This is difficult for her not only financially as adjuncts aren’t paid much and don’t generally get too many benefits, but because with having not one but two parents who are respected, tenured academics, she catches a lot of heat from others as to why she didn’t follow in their footsteps. From the start we are introduced to world that resembles more elementary or high school rather than a college. Adjuncts are crammed together into a coop of desks. They backstab each other and fight over space and negotiate favors. Apparently they are treated even worse than grad students are which having supported a spouse through grad school really boggles my mind.

The story itself was fun and while the pacing was quick, it still felt realistic especially when compared to a lot of mysteries and police procedurals where everything is wrapped up in a matter of days or a week. Georgia and Sid do break some laws which is to be expected. How else can you explain to the police you believe the family skeleton and a dead professor are linked? It was a brisk, easy read but still managed to obtain solid character development all while introducing a new series.

And while I did thoroughly enjoy this book, there were a few things I didn’t particularly care for. One was Georgia’s blossoming relationship with a fellow adjunct, Fletcher. Throughout the book he is presented as someone who respects and likes her yet by the end their blossoming romance has ended. The explanation given made little sense and seemed contradictory to everything the reader was shown.

The twist at the end about whom the real murder was felt a little like a Scooby Doo re-run. I needed a few more hints as to who the murderer might have been. In fact I had to search my brain to remember if the murderer had even been introduced before the reveal. This rushed reveal also meant the ending was rushed including a fairly monumental moment I had hoped would have been given more of a proper time in the sun.

Overall I really, really enjoyed A Skeleton in the Family. It was adorable, which is an odd thing to say considering it’s a murder mystery with a real skeleton as a main character. I look forward to the next books in the series and would recommend to anyone wanting a light, fun read. On a scale of one to five pencils I give A Skeleton in the Family three and three-quarter pencils.

Weekly Musing: In A World…Of Sequels…

 

Comes another one whether you asked for it or not. Back in February I waxed on about book trailers and my thoughts on them. My initial post contained a section of which trailers I watched that either worked for me or didn’t. Ultimately I cut it realizing it made more sense as a standalone post. Thus you are now being subjected to the sequel however, unlike most sequels this won’t be a retread of the first post.

Book Trailers I Liked

I’m grouping together the three trailers for a YA series by Katie Alender as each of the trailers for Bad Girls Don’t Die, From Bad to Cursed, and As Dead As It Gets had numerous great qualities.

Each trailer was well-produced and well-acted and each gives the potential reader a glimpse into the kind of people the main characters are. All three clearly define for the reader what the setting is. The music used was appropriate for each character and worked in conjunction to establish a tone that feels appropriate for each of the books. All of these components worked to pique my curiosity as well as raise plenty of questions I normally have as a reader when inspecting a book to see if I want to pick it up or not. The fact each trailer elicited the same response I get reading the back of a book cover tells me these were great book trailers. More so because these are in a genre I almost never read yet I feel very inclined to pick up the first book.

Blood’s a Rover by James Ellroy

Like most of the book trailers I watched, this one is constructed like a movie trailer. This is both a good and bad thing in my opinion, but that’s not the point of this post. What I enjoyed about this trailer is besides the fact it is walking that fine line between historical fiction and contemporary, it gives the potential reader a great idea of the setting as well as a glimpse into the characters. Like the trailers for Ms. Alender’s books, this one uses both visual and auditory elements to capture the tone and setting of the book. And while the production values are a little bit on the cheesy side, it still gets me interested in the book enough to want to pick it up.

Book Trailers That Were Meh

These were ones I found not to be necessarily bad or good or pretentious, but were just sorta…there.

The Selection series by Kiera Cass including trailers for The Selection, The One, The Heir, and The Crown. Oddly enough the second book, The Elite, doesn’t have one other than a fan made video done with Barbie dolls.

What left me feeling indifferent about these is how repetitive they all were. The music is similar in each as are most of the shots. It’s all glitz and glam with only The Heir differing from the others. If it wasn’t for the character voiceover as a potential reader I would have no idea what these books are about. Strip that away and all you have are a group of young adults in deluxe prom gowns/wedding dresses looking at stuff. Whereas the trailers I enjoyed left me with the kind of questions which would prompt me to pick up the book, these left me with the kind of questions which make me NOT want to pick up the book.

Sherrilyn Kenyon‘s YouTube channel which features several book trailers.

Like the trailers for Ms. Cass’ books these were all pretty much the same. None of them what the books are about or give me much about what kind of people the characters are beyond type of creature. Who are these people really? At least it is clearly made clear what genre the books are as the trailers all invoke a dark fantasy/supernatural/paranormal vibe. The cheesy special effects and actors giving their best fierce look into the camera aren’t as effective to me. Also the music comes close to overshadowing the visuals.

 The Miriam Black series by Chuck Wendig

At first the raspy voiceover and words from the actual book was something different from what I’d seen so far. However, the device quickly bored me. If I wanted to read the first chapter from a book to see if I like it, I can. The voice also grated on me and if I were to pick up the book (the concept does sound like something I’d read), I can’t help but think that guy’s voice will be permanently tattooed in the auditory part of my brain. What also didn’t work for me was the inventive ways in which the text was placed onto the screen. Call me weird but I kinda needed punctuation once in a while.

Pretentious Book Trailers

The Flame Alphabet by Ben Marcus

Let me say I appreciate it was unique something you’ll notice each of the book trailers in this section share. Now for what bugged me. At first I thought this was a graphic novel since it’s animated. It wasn’t until I did some research I discovered no, this is indeed a novel. This makes the trailer even more confusing. The fact it’s not clear whether The Flame Alphabet is a graphic novel or a standard novel could change a potential reader’s mind. Another flaw is it is not until the end of the trailer do we find out what the book is about. And it’s just plain freaky and not in the kind of way which I might be drawn to.

Theory of Remainders by Scott Dominic Carpenter

My initial reaction was “What the hell is this book about?” After watching it a couple more times, I still don’t know. If the point of a book trailer is to tease the audience into at least considering your book, then I sorta need to know what the book is about. Crazy, I know. Yet all we are given is some agonized middle age guy in a tiny room while operatic music plays. Maybe he looks pained because of the music. Who knows and who cares. Just screams pretentious.

The Women by T.C. Boyle

This is gorgeously shot and I am a little interested in this book because it looks like it’s historical fiction. Why I feel this fits the pretentious category is the numerous close-ups of the actors’. The music selected is annoying and doesn’t fit the time period. I feel like whoever created the trailer was trying to convey just how serious the book is. Instead I get the impression the book maybe overwrought. At least I have a clearer idea what The Women is about.

Straight Up Bad Book Trailers

Preoccupation by Jave Kavfi

I feel odd putting this on my list because the author herself posted how bad this was. In her defense she admitted making it herself and had numerous technical issues while creating it. I admire her for doing it herself and as bad and weird as it is, it’s still better than what I could ever hope to put together.

What makes it bad are the weird effects on still pictures and close-ups of crazy looking eyes. It also doesn’t really tell me what the book is about. Is it some kind of trippy historical fiction romp because of all the old timey photos? Is about time travel? But while I have these questions, I was turned off by the trailer and don’t want to look up the book.

City of Glass by Cassandra Clare

This one surprised me by how bad and amateurish this trailer is considering it’s for the third book in a popular YA series. While the trailer came out in 2009, its production values scream 1990s. The production values are so bad it makes me think I could make a better one. All it consists of are still photos while overly dramatic music plays. It doesn’t tell me what the book is about. Doesn’t matter it’s the third in a series, at least give a hint so a reader might want to pick up the other books. It feels as if it was produced more to elicit hype more than anything which is why it includes more than one recommendation from Stephanie Meyer.

Rules of Attraction by Simone Elkeles

Oh, boy. Someone spent money, but apparently not on the actors. Not only does this feature questionable acting from everyone and the vibe of an afterschool special from back in the day, it honestly left me despising the book. If what is in the trailer is the actual plot of the book I can’t. Simply cannot. While we get glimpses into the characters, everyone comes across as stereotypes with nothing to tell me there may be something different.

 

Like the quality of books, the quality of book trailers is all over the place. Production values and good acting alone aren’t enough to ensure one has a solid book trailer. What it all comes down to for me as a reader is “Do I want to at least consider picking up this book?” If you leave things too vague or too confusing, you’ve lost a reader. If you care more about hyping the book then actually informing the reader of what’s in store for them, you’ve lost a reader. If everything looks and sounds the same, you’ve lost a reader. Keep it simple. Give us enough to hook us but wanting more.