Monday, October 31, 2011

Pussyfoot by Carole Nelson Douglas

This is a Midnight Louie mystery, and Louie is a cat. Yes, this is a cat mystery in the tradition of Koko and Yum Yum and Sneaky Pie. Except I like Louie and his "little doll" Temple Barr way better than Koko, Yum Yum and Quill (who is insufferably perfect, especially in Lillian Jackson Braun's latest books).

Midnight Louie narrates a chapter from time to time and he also is on the scene picking up clues and making rescues as needed. Our main character, though, is PR specialist Temple Barr, a petite dynamo who is addicted to shoes (I can relate to the shoes). Temple Barr and Midnight Barr live in Las Vegas--lots of fodder for murder and mayhem in Vegas, for sure.

This mystery takes place in the midst of a stripper competition. Carole Nelson Douglas, along with presenting a nifty little mystery, also superficially explores the ideas of stripping being exploitation OR art OR acting out previous abuse, etc. So there's a little extracurricular thinking going on in this mystery.

There was a very little bit of bad language and no sex scenes, although that might have been because Temple is between relationships. :) I liked the book, but probably not enough to go back for more. It took me a little while to get into the story and I didn't particularly like Midnight Louie's "voice"--especially at first. Generally, though, while I enjoyed the book well enough, it's just not my favorite style, and that's why I probably won't read more of Midnight Louie.

Catalgue of Death by Jo Dereske

This is another Miss Zukas mystery. The first one I read (and loved) was Miss Zukas and the Library Murders. This one was just as charming.

A record-breaking snowstorm hits the Bellehaven area and closes down nearly everything--but not the public library. Miss Zukas diligently skis to work on this blustery day. Unfortunately, the frigid weather doesn't keep local billionaire Franklin Harrington from being killed in an explosion at the site of the new library that he has donated! What was he doing there? Was the explosion an accident or murder? And what was Randall Rice doing there? Most importantly, will Miss Zukas be able to convince Franklin Harrington's remaining family to continue funding for the new library?

One of my favorite things about this series is that our amateur detective, Miss Zukas, isn't unnaturally nosy. She has an eye for detail and she's a stickler for structure and so she naturally observes things. She's also unable to leave a library-related problem unsolved. And sometimes in the course of her observations and problem solving she is able to draw some savvy conclusions that the police find helpful. I also like her very understated "romance" with the chief of police. And, of course, I just like her personality. Her quirkiness is endearing.

It was another fun read. I think I liked Miss Zukas and the Library Murders slightly better, but I look forward to reading the whole series.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Unnatural Issue by Mercedes Lackey

Is there anything better than finding an author, new to you, whose books you really like? And, more, one who is prolific?! I REALLY liked this book.

This is actually book #6 in Mercedes Lackey's "Elemental Masters" series. I haven't read the others yet, but I just ordered #1, which is a retelling of "Snow White". I can't wait to read it.

In this book, Suzanne Whitestone, abandoned by her father at birth and left to be raised by servants, is an Earth Master. When she is 21 she comes to the notice of her father in a dark and frightening way and she must learn to defend herself against him. All this happens against the backdrop of World War One.

I don't like reading book reviews that are lengthy summaries, so I've just barely scratched the surface of what happens in this book. I found the descriptions of WWI in England, Belgium and France both deeply interesting and deeply sad. I felt sympathetic to Mercedes Lackey's characters and I felt very engaged in her storyline. The book was exciting, interesting, clean and a lot of fun to read. I am so glad to have discovered not just this series, but the other ones that Ms. Lackey has written!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Pride and Prejudice, the Graphic Novel by Marvel Comics

I am totally converted to graphic novels. I guess I've never outgrown liking the picture books. Should one outgrow such a thing?

Every time I have an inclination to re-read this little graphic novel I have to go hunting for it in my daughter's room. She loves it!

It is a slim volume and I was pleasantly surprised at how much of the novel is squeezed into it. It's very entertaining. The cover looks like a magazine cover, so it's a little misleading. This is the Pride and Prejudice story in comic book style.

I didn't really like the way the sisters were portrayed. It didn't fit my mental image, if you know what I mean, and Elizabeth looked downright unpleasant in quite a few frames--her facial expressions were, from time to time, a little repulsive.

Having said that, this is still an enjoyable little piece of art and I love having the graphic novel versions of my favorite classic stories.

Mr. Darcy's Diary by Amanda Grange

Yes, I'm going through another Pride and Prejudice phase. I've watched the 5 or 6 movie versions I have, I've read the graphic novel, I read this one again and now I will re-read the novel itself. Seems like every few years I have to do it all over again.

I have quite a few P&P spin-off novels and they are all very similar to each other. I've read both Janet Aylmer's and Pamela Aiden's Mr. Darcy stories also, and I think that Amanda Grange's is probably the best. Not that, as I mentioned, there is a whole lot of difference between them. I like the Aylmer the least--there's way too many direct Austen quotations.

This one is sweet and relatively short. One thing I always think is strange in "diary" books, though, is when the diarist journals conversations! I am a dedicated journal writer and I'll often write the gist of a conversation, but very rarely the whole conversation in quotations and everything! I think the conversation thing really undercuts the "diary" approach, but it didn't make the book less enjoyable. It's not a must-read or anything, but it's fun if you are an Austen enthusiast. As I am.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Left Neglected by Lisa Genova

This was a great book. One of my book clubs chose it to read. I was interested right from the first because my grandmother had this condition after her stroke, only my grandmother was left handed, and I think that caused her condition to be reversed--she was RIGHT neglected. It was fascinating to see how the right side of her world just did not exist. She did not recover very much of her right-side abilities. She passed away this past spring.

This book was about a younger woman, a wife and a mother of 3 young children. She is a powerful executive with a busy, too-full life. This all changes after she has a car accident that causes a brain injury which leaves her with left neglect. The balance of the book (after her car accident) tells how this changed her life. We read about her hard work at recovery, the effect of her disability on her family relationships, her search to contribute to her family's finances and her driving desire to find purposeful ways to contribute to the world around her.

I listened to the audio recording of this book, so I couldn't skim over the parts that I found less interesting. Therefore, I particularly noticed all the slow parts which I may not have noticed had I been reading it for myself. And there were plenty of slow parts. I got tired of the descriptions, the side stories, the occasional ramblings. I felt they were padding. But I have to admit that, despite my occasional impatience to just get to the story, I did remain interested enough to finish the book very quickly. And as the story ended I felt that satisfaction and warmth that follows a good book. It was well worth reading and I did really enjoy it. A good recommendation from my book club!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

The Seventeen Second Miracle by Jason F. Wright

This was a very uplifting book. The protagonist's father, Rex Conner, has an experience in his youth that defines his life--an experience that took only 17 seconds. This book is about how his son Cole Connor teaches others about his father's experience and how he uses what his father learns to help people change their lives.

A bit heavy handed on the emotional punches, this book was still a lot of fun to read and a good reminder of what our interactions with others should be.

If you're feeling cynical, save this book for another day because it is full of happy endings and good things coming out of bad experiences, and relationship resolutions and other such things--the stuff that you hope life contains, but you fear it may not. I felt very manipulated by the author, but I still felt good when I turned that last page. It's a quick, pleasant, uplifting read.

The Paperwhite Narcissus by Cynthia Riggs

This is a mystery--a cozy, as a matter of fact, one of my favorite types of mystery. Victoria Trumbull, is our 92-year-old protagonist. The book is set in Martha's Vineyard.

It was a cute book. Not unforgettable, but pleasant to read.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Miss Zukas and the Library Murders by Jo Dereske

I really, really liked this book. For one thing, I found our main character, straight-laced, OCD Helma (short for Wilhemina) Zukas absolutely enchanting. She was both amusing and interesting and her interference in this mystery--a murder in her library!!--was natural and clever. I generally dislike mysteries where the "regular Joe" steps in to work on something that should be left absolutely to the police. But I didn't have those feelings about our Helma Zukas.

Helma is a detail-oriented librarian, who, after a dead body is found in the fiction stacks, finds herself involved in a mystery. She cold shoulders those whose behavior is unacceptable, blushes in the presence of the chief of police and loves--despite herself--her lifelong friend, Ruth--an unconventional, sloppy and trouble-prone artist named Ruth.

The mystery itself was rather less interesting than Jo Dereske's characters, but it was still interesting enough to make this book an enjoyable read. I will definitely read more of these!

Green For Danger by Christianna Brand

Oh, how I love classic mysteries. This one was written in 1944 and takes place in Britain during WWII.

In a military hospital during the Blitz, a patient dies on the operating table during what should be a straightforward procedure. Inspector Cockrill is called in just to make sure everything is on the up-and-up, but when the chief nurse is murdered, he knows something is seriously wrong. He narrows the suspects to six friends and we, the readers, get to sweat it out with them as the murderer is forced into confession.

I really liked this book. I've never read Christianna Brand before! I've been missing out. I loved her characters, I was completely fooled about who the murderer was and I was totally engaged in Christianna Brand's story for the whole book. I also really enjoyed a look into Britain during the war. I must add that there is something about England--is it all the green, shadowy places? It is the cool, cloudy climate? Is it the antiquity that clings to everything? I don't know, but that island is such an effective setting for these types of understated, shallow-water-runs-deep mysteries. On TV, in movies and in books, a mystery set in Great Britain sure seems especially atmospheric and gripping to me.

The Lightkeeper's Bride by Colleen Coble

This is a Christian romantic mystery (it is book number 2 of the Mercy Falls series, I understand. I haven't read any other Colleen Coble books, though).

Miss Katie Russell is a telephone operator who accidentally overhears a phone conversation that ends in a disappearance. Thus starts her involvement with piracy, kidnapping, blackmail, murder, mystery AND her involvement with handsome lighthouse keeper Will Jesperson.

I liked it! The mystery was very good, the romance was sweet and the writing was not too heavy-handed on the religious front. I've mentioned before how in Christian stories I like to see applied religion--how a person actually uses their Christianity to grow and to deal with difficult situations. Most Christian books have plenty of prayers and give-the-credit-to-God moments, but very few examples of HOW a Christian applies his/her faith to enrich life. Too many Christian books treat God like their genie-in-the-sky, their characters asking and getting anything from a sporting victory to protection from murderous villains--all from Heaven, completely overlooking the many times that the All-Knowing One leaves us to struggle through things with just His peace in our heart and His words to guide us. This book was no different. That lack, however, made it no less enjoyable to read. It was squeaky clean and very entertaining. I liked it a lot.