Review: The Semester of Our Discontent by Cynthia Kuhn

Posted January 30, 2016 by Lola in Contemporary, My To-Be Read List, Mystery, Review / 22 Comments


My To-Be Read List is a meme hosted by Because Reading is Better Than Real Life where at the beginning of the month visitors can choose which book I’ll be reading this month. On the first saturday of a month the poll will be up, then on the second saturday of the month I’ll announce the book that won and on the last saturday of the month I’ll post my review of the book.

The Semester of Our DiscontentThe Semester of Our Discontent (Lila Maclean Mystery #1)
by Cynthia Kuhn

English professor Lila Maclean is thrilled about her new job at prestigious Stonedale University until she finds one of her colleagues dead. She soon learns that everyone, from the chancellor to the detective working the case, believes Lila—or someone she is protecting—may be responsible for the horrific event, so she assigns herself the task of identifying the killer.

More attacks on professors follow, the only connection a curious symbol at each of the crime scenes. Putting her scholarly skills to the test, Lila gathers evidence, but her search is complicated by an unexpected nemesis, a suspicious investigator, and an ominous secret society. Rather than earning an “A” for effort, she receives a threat featuring the mysterious emblem and must act quickly to avoid failing her assignment…and becoming the next victim.

My Review:
I received a copy in exchange for an honest review

This book missed the mark for me, I think my problem was to have wrong expectations. I expected a cozy mystery similar to those I’ve read before, but then set at a school and with a teacher as main character. Instead I got a book about academic politics, literature and a mystery that was unsolvable unless you made a lucky guess.

I didn’t know 90% of the authors the characters talked about, only one author sounded familiar, and I felt like I was missing something due to that. I didn’t really was interested in the literary talk, I wanted more about the mystery, but even that was lacking. Then about halfway through it did got a bit better and the mystery played a bigger role, but even then I didn’t really got into the book.

I am glad I finished the book though. I kept reading because of the mystery even though that was disappointed, but all in all even though it wasn’t a book for me, I don’t feel sad to have read this book. So it’s more towards the upper range of the 2 star.

The writing felt very dull to me, I couldn’t visualize how anything looked like as there weren’t enough descriptions to get me going. So I only had vague shapes and purple-ish buildings, courtesy of the cover.

Then there is the mystery, which was pretty intriguing for the most part, it just moved along very slowly, almost like it wasn’t quite the focus, but it was. At times it felt like they didn’t really come closer to solving the mystery and it took till almost the end of the book till the main character thought she had it figured out things moved forward. And let’s not talk about that stupid thing the main character did towards the end. Also once we figure out who is behind this all it didn’t make sense, yes it got explained pretty well and I could see the why. But there are no hints pointing towards that, no way to figure it out. And that’s what I like about the mysteries, figuring it out and getting closer to the truth. Here the culprit just dropped out of thin air at the end, the only way you could’ve guessed the culprit right was by a lucky guess.

Even while it’s told from first person perspective I had a hard time getting a feel for the main character and I didn’t even get why she enjoyed teaching so much as all the academical politics and stuff didn’t seem like it made for a nice environment. She insisted this was her dream job, but I never felt that way. I wanted to see why she loved this school and teaching so much, get a feel for her job, but there was more about the academic politics than the actual teaching.

I kept confusing the side characters and had a hard time keeping them apart as we never learned a lot about anyone to get a feel for them. Some characters I did get a bit of a feel for, at least Judith and Wilma seemed to stand apart from the rest a bit. And then there was Calista, the cousin of the main character. But beside that it just blended together in nice male professor, nice female professor, grumpy female professor and nasty male professor.

To summarize: The Semester of Our Discontent wasn’t a bad book, but it just wasn’t what I expected and it missed the mark for me. I felt like there was too much focus on the academical politics and literary talk in which I wasn’t really interested, an I felt like I missed something due to not knowing any of the authors they talked about. The mystery was there, but the main character didn’t really take in an active role and didn’t really seem to figure anything out until the end. Then there were no hints of clues to found out the actual culprit and only with a lucky guess you could’ve figured it out. The lack of descriptions made visualizing things difficult and the setting and characters stayed very vague in my mind. I had a hard time keeping characters apart or getting a feel for them as we hardly learn anything about them.



What do you look for in a good mystery book?

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22 responses to “Review: The Semester of Our Discontent by Cynthia Kuhn

    • The academic politcs weren’t as interesting as I had hoped, there was so much planning and scheming and who was friends with who and they had to do a certain thing after being a teacher to get higher-up (forgot the term they used)and they all had to write articles and books and get published. It didn’t really make it sound like an appealing job.
      And yes I like to be surprised by who the mruderer is, but I like it when once you look back you see hints that point ot the murderer, this one just seemed to come out of nowhere and you couldn’t have guessed it unless you where lucky. It was such a shame as I did like the premise of this one.
      Lola recently posted…Review: The Semester of Our Discontent by Cynthia KuhnMy Profile

    • I didn’t even bother with research, but I did end up feeling a bit lost and like I was missing something due to that. It’s that feeling when you’re part of the converstaion, but can’t participate as you don’t know enough about what they’re talking about. And yes my next book was better luckily 🙂

    • Yeah I am not a fan of name dropping either, I just felt like I was missing something due to that. And yes I like how many cozy mysteries tie into other areas, but even for people who know little about the subject it should be interesting. I hope the next month’s read will be better too!

    • It was a shame that I didn’t know all the names of the authors they were talking about and it made me feel left out. I already have three fun sounding books lined up for the february poll, so I am hoping that one will be better than this one.

  1. The characters can really make or break a book for me so I totally get your feelings on this one. It’s the first time I’ve heard of it but I don’t think I will be going out of my way to check it out now. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!
    Alise recently posted…January 2016 Wrap UpMy Profile

    • It was hard to get a feel for the main character and I wnated to fele her passion and see her teaching, but there wans’t any of that.

  2. I really like the cover, but have to admit it does sound rather dull, not the theme that would draw me into a mystery. It is difficult when all the references made are unfamiliar, completely missing the connections they are depending on. Hopefully your next read will be great!
    Shaunesay recently posted…I, Robot by Isaac AsimovMy Profile

    • It was a shame it was so dull, I had hoped the school would make for an interesteing setting. I am sure some people will get the references, but when they are unfamiliar it just get’s the fun out of the book a bit as I didn’t fully get what they where talking about.
      Lola recently posted…Sunday Post #163My Profile

  3. I’m so sorry this didn’t work for you, Lola. (this seems to have been a theme for TBR reviews in January) I can understand your issues with it though…it sounds somewhat uneven and if you can’t connect with the MC and confuse the secondary characters, that makes for a difficult time investing in a story. Hopefully our TBR reads in February dazzle us! 😉
    Bookworm Brandee recently posted…Release Day Review ~ Troublemaker ~ Melissa PearlMy Profile

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