Monday, July 26, 2010

Pretty Is As Pretty Dies

Pretty Is As Pretty Dies
Author: Elizabeth Spann Craig
Midnight Ink, 2009
206 pages

The little town of Bradley, North Carolina is usually quite sleepy, so when super-beeyotch real estate agent Parke Stockard is murdered in the church sanctuary, everyone wakes up. Retired English teacher and octogenarian Myrtle Clover sees an opportunity: if she can solve Parke's murder, maybe people will stop treating her like she has nothing to contribute. Her son, Red (Red Clover - haha!) is the town's police chief, and he doesn't think it's a great idea for Myrtle to be, um, interfering in a police investigation. That only makes Myrtle more determined.

The murder victim may have been both wealthy and physically attractive, but she wasn't exactly Miss Congeniality. It seems as if everyone in town had a motive to take her out: from her druggie gambler of a son to the star reporter at the local newspaper . . . even Myrtle's own neighbors and fellow churchgoers could've done it. When Red concocts a "red herring" to lure Myrtle out of the way of his investigation, Myrtle learns of a connection between the dead woman and a local politician . . . and the plot thickens.

Along the way, Myrtle gets a sort-of sidekick: her new neighbor, the widower Miles Brandon. All the "mature" ladies have a sort of crush on Miles, so Myrtle doesn't mind their gossip. But one night when she's out walking by her pond, someone pushes her in! And then . . . another person turns up dead in Bradley. So is Miles a suspect, too? This whodunnit will keep you guessing.

Myrtle is a real hoot, and her character is well-developed. I found myself laughing out loud at some of the scenes involving minor characters, too, such as the French exchange student and a dude by the name of Crazy Dan. And I got hungry for Carolina food and sweet tea whenever any of the characters went to the local diner. But not when Myrtle tried to cook. :-)

Elizabeth Spann Craig is a North Carolina-based author that I follow on Twitter and on a couple of mystery-themed blogs. She just published a new book a few weeks ago under the name Riley Adams -- the first in a new food-based cozy mystery series based in Memphis, Tennessee called Delicious and Suspicious. I've already bought that one, and plan to read it soon!

Friday, July 23, 2010

Dead As A Doornail

Dead As A Doornail
Author: Charlaine Harris
Ace, 2005
295 pages

I can't believe I've now read five books in the Southern Vampire series (which the HBO-TV series True Blood is based on. I'm having to speed up my reading of this series in order to understand the show!)

In the most recent book, Sookie's brother Jason joined the supernatural world when he became a were-panther. Dead As A Doornail is more about this world of the "Shifters" than vampires. It just so happens that someone out there is shooting Shifters, and once again, all eyes are on Jason, since the Shifter community thinks he's angry about being "turned." When Sookie's boss Sam Merlotte and acquaintance Calvin (both Shifters) become victims of the sniper, she feels compelled to help Jason prove his innocence.

Unfortunately, it now seems that someone's out to get Sookie. Her house it torched, and the arsonist seems to be a card-carrying member of Sookie's nemesis the Fellowship of the Sun - the "church" she and Jason encountered in Book #2 (Living Dead In Dallas). But things don't quite add up.

In the meantime, Colonel Flood (werewolf packmaster introduced in the most recent book) is killed and a successor must be chosen. Sookie finds herself drawn into the world of werewolf politics. And we learn more about Claudine, the character who was introduced as Tara's friend in Book #4 (Dead To The World). Beautiful Claudine is . . . um, a fairy. With an equally beautiful twin brother named Claude.

Tara, meanwhile, has come under a sort of spell by an evil vampire who won't go away. Sookie will have to ask Eric for a favor, and since nothing's for free with Eric, she has to comply with one of his requests: he wants to know what happened to him in Book #4 because he cannot remember (his memory had been wiped out and it was bugging him like crazy that he didn't know what had happened. I have to say that I like Eric more and more.)

As I'm writing this, I'm realizing that describing this book is a lot like recalling an episode of a TV show to a person who's never really seen it before. Sorry. But it's getting more and more difficult for me to keep up with all the characters in this series!

To be perfectly honest, I prefer the vampires to the Shifters. I just don't care that much for werewolves or were-panthers or were-anythings. There was a new character introduced in this book that has me intrigued, though: Quinn, the big bald guy who reminds me of Mr. Clean. He tells Sookie that she will see him again. The plot thickens.

Dead As A Doornail is probably my least favorite of the series so far. This isn't to say that I didn't like it, but I wasn't sitting on the edge of my seat or anything. At this point, I want Sookie and Bill (her former boyfriend, a vampire) to get back together and just live (or not live, ha ha) happily ever after. Actually, I'd kind of like for him to just get it over with and turn her into a vampire and the two of them fly off to Romania or wherever. I WILL BE ANGRY if they don't eventually get back together. But I'm hooked on this series, and I'll keep on reading it. No matter what.

Previous books in the series that I've reviewed:
Book 1 - Dead Until Dark
Book 2 - Living Dead In Dallas
Book 3 - Club Dead
Book 4 - Dead To The World

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The Adoration of Jenna Fox

The Adoration of Jenna Fox
Author: Mary E. Pearson
Square Fish, 2010
265 pages

I bought this Young Adult novel for my fourteen-year-old niece, and gave it to her a few weeks ago when I was visiting the family. She immediately began reading it, and I could tell she was hooked because she tuned out of the conversations taking place around her. (Yeah, I know teens don't necessarily need a good book for that.) When it was time for lunch, she didn't want to put the book down. When she completed it (just a few hours later) she dramatically closed the book and proclaimed for all to hear: "This is the BEST book I've ever read! You HAVE to read this!"

So I did.

Imagine a world in the not-too-distant future, not long after an antibiotic-resistant virus has wiped out a quarter of the world's population. There's a sort of battle going on between the scientists and the naturalists. The latter believe strongly that the virus would have never happened if not for all the scientific meddling in our food supply (e.g., genetically modified foods). In the meantime, a new product called BioGel has been developed that enables quick growth of new organs, among other things, making it possible to save lives, but also generating new questions such as: What percentage of a person makes them human?

Now imagine that you're a seventeen-year old girl who's just waking up after being in a coma for 1.5 years. You have no memory of anything, but guided by your parents and grandmother and digital recordings of your life, you start to put the pieces together. The more you learn, the more questions you have: What put you in the coma? Why did your family move from Boston to California while you were "out"? Why don't you - or your family - have any friends? How is it that you're able to recite entire literary works from memory? (Hmmm.) This is what happened to Jenna Fox, who slowly remembers her past and the accident that led up to this situation.

Of course, Jenna's Dad is the founder of the company that makes BioGel, and when you realize that, the plot thickens and you start thinking of various Kyle XY (former TV show) scenarios. The story is told from Jenna's perspective and therefore allows you to get totally in her head. It's confusing enough to be seventeen (from my memory, at least!), but the magnitude of Jenna's situation will blow your mind.

The Adoration of Jenna Fox is  a sort of dystopian Sci-Fi tale, but it's also a treatise on ethics. I really want to have a conversation with my niece now to learn what her takeaways were (if she was able to read between the lines on the ethical issues.) My niece was totally right that this book rocks. Although it was written primarily for a teen audience, I think adults can take plenty away from it, too.

Check out the official "book trailer" here. Then go get the book. My niece was so right on this one. :-)

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Tressed To Kill

Tressed To Kill
Author: Lila Dare
Berkley, 2010
292 pages

Miss me? I mean, you'd think that if I read 10 books last month, I'd read at least one or two by the middle of this month, right? I have some really good excuses. I won't go into them here except to say that I wasted a good 10 days on a book that I couldn't get into (and couldn't finish.) This rarely happens with me. But this review isn't about that book. It's about a really cute book I just finished this afternoon!

Tressed To Kill is the first in a new series of cozy mysteries set in a coastal Georgia (USA) hair salon. (Ironically, I bought the book just a few hours before my most recent hair appointment - not thinking about the correlation, at least consciously!) Main character Grace Terhune is thirty, divorced from her childhood sweetheart, and has recently returned to her hometown after living in Atlanta for a few years. She's working in her Mom's salon. Her Mom, Violetta (for whom the salon is named) is a self-taught cosmetologist who started the business in their home when Grace and her sister were kids. Violetta's may not be the fanciest place in town, but the place has heart. So do the women who work there, including Althea, the aesthetician whose husband mysteriously disappeared many years ago.

Unfortunately for these nice ladies, local rich bi!ch and busybody Constance DuBois comes into the salon one afternoon, without an appointment and demanding a hair color job. Violetta obliges, but when Constance rudely insists on conducting business on her cell phone instead of rinsing at the appropriate time, her hair turns a ghastly orange color. This just gives her one more reason to be upset, and she threatens to have Violetta's unlicensed salon shut down. In the meantime, Constance pi$$es several other people off, including a neighboring shop owner, and a developer from "Morestuff" - a large retail chain hoping to build a store in the area.

That evening, Violetta finds Constance dead, and now everyone thinks Violetta did it. Grace knows her mother could never kill anyone -- even someone as annoying and mean as Constance. But the more she tries to prove it, the more someone wants to stop her. Things get more and more dangerous, and old mysteries will be solved along with new ones.

Tressed To Kill came along at just the right time for me, and it was a joy to read. I'm looking forward to the next installment in the series, but unfortunately, I'm going to have to wait a while. Polished Off won't come out until sometime in 2011!