MAD Librarian by Michael Guillebeau

OK, full disclosure: I am a retired librarian, and the first 8 or 9 years of my life were spent in public libraries in Northern California. And, frankly, one of the big factors that made me leave to work in the private sector (aka “the dark side”) was having to go to the funding gods (Board of Supervisors, City Council) and GROVEL for money every freaking year. We would trot out the cute kids who talked about the Summer Reading Program, the studies showing…what everyone knows: libraries are ESSENTIAL. I just couldn’t face another budget cycle (and also being told to wear pink the Board of Supes meeting just about turned me into a lunatic). So, the opportunity to read MAD Librarian by Michael Guillebeau (thanks to Madison Press/IBPA and NetGalley) in exchange for my honest review was one I just couldn’t pass up!

The protagonist (heroine?), Serenity Hammer, is a mad librarian in the Southern town of Maddington – mad because the city council thinks libraries aren’t really needed, so they won’t give her adequate funding for the library. It’s so bad she can’t pay the library’s bills – until she is online and comes across a fund and transfers it to the library account. Voila! She can pay the bills! The child of hippies who is now married to a cop, Serenity has some pangs of guilt but since money keeps flowing into the account, she (along with some interesting staff members) perseveres. Revenge Fantasy!!!!

This book has apparently pissed off some readers—which literature SHOULD do, IMHO. But not everyone is mad for the same reasons you might think. Rather than be mad at the lack of support for libraries or the corrupt politics or the sexism Serenity (and seemingly all library staff) deals with, in some strange way I don’t quite follow they are mad at – the author? Not sure, but I just know this book was a lot of fun to read. As someone who found a small $$$ way to help a public library (not to the extent of adding a 7-story addition, but enough to improve things), I appreciated it – anything that makes me laugh AND think is always good!

Michael Guillebeau is generously donating $$ to benefit libraries, but that’s not the only reason this gets FIVE stars – it’s just great fun to read while making a valuable point about the need for libraries today more than ever (and if I hear one more person say we don’t need the new library being built in the town where I live because “everything is online” and “you can do research on Google,” I will scream). Thankfully, our mayor and a City Council member are both very active in our Friends group and huge supporters of the library!

 

Justice Burning by Scott Pratt

COVER Pratt Justice Burning

A few years back, I read An Innocent Client by Scott Pratt, the first in the Joe Dillard series of legal thriller/mysteries. I haven’t read all eight titles in that series, but all the ones I have read were crisp, entertaining, and fun reads. So I was happy to get an advance copy of Justice Burning, a new title by Scott Pratt featuring new attorney Darren Street, from Thomas & Mercer and NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.

So (spoiler alert) I REALLY liked this book! The characters were vivid, the legal/criminal stuff was interesting, and I just kept reading til it was gone. BUT it turns out this is #2 in the Darren Street series (I must have been asleep or whatever, but I missed the first one, Justice Redeemed.

So Darren Street, like Scott Pratt in a previous lifetime, is an attorney in Tennessee. I’m not sure how much else they have in common, but Darren has recently had his law license reinstated after escaping from a maximum security prison where he spent two years for a crime he didn’t commit. In Justice Burning, he seems to be the target for unknown bad guys, who may or may not have something to do with things that went down in prison. Along the way, he suffers from PTSD, tries to deal with his ex-wife and son, loses a family member, and resolves to see justice (as he defines it) done.

As is my habit, I don’t do spoilers, so there’s not much I can say about the plot except that it was terrific fun. While reading it, there were several instances of me nearly shouting “NO!” and “OH!” and “AARRGGHH” to the point where my husband, ensconced in his recliner located right next to mine, grew a bit tired of asking “what’s wrong?” In the end, he decided he HAS to read this book!

I told him he really should read Justice Redeemed first…while Justice Burning stands alone just fine, there were some situations that had backstory in the first novel that I think might have been even more impactful if I had read the prior book first.

Either way, this one is highly recommended for those who like legal mystery/thrillers, smart down-to-earth protagonists who might sometimes bend the rules but still maintain their own moral compass, and a fast-moving plot with violence but not gore. Five stars.