Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Haint Misbehavin' by Maureen Hardegree

It’s tough being 14.  It’s even tougher if you’re 14, you have hyper-sensitive skin that breaks out in rashes and hives when you’re stressed, and you have an obnoxious older sister with evil friends who harass you endlessly.  It could be worse though, as Heather Tildy discovers in Haint Misbehavin, you could have a mischievous ghost to deal with.  Heather discovers her ghost, Amy Malcolm, in the back yard one day.  Heather accepts having her own ghost, since her Aunt Geneva has one herself, but she is not pleased by the proposition.  Heather has set a goal of being normal before she enters high school the following year and, just maybe, winning the love of hunky lifeguard Drew.  Amy is putting a major kink in those plans.
Haint Misbehavin’ will be a major hit with girls.  It offers humor, a bit of mystery, and romance.  Heather is a likeable and believable protagonist, and her family provides some comic relief as well.  Female readers will identify with trying to fit in and catch the perfect guy.  This is book one in the Ghost Handler series.  If the other titles are as humorous and fun, the series should be a big hit.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly

Revolution is a riveting page turner of a book.  Andi has never recovered from the death of her little brother, although the reader doesn't really understand her guilt over the event.  Her parents have also been unable to deal with the tragedy, each retreating in a different way.  When Andi discovers the diary of a young woman who lived during the French revolution, she becomes obsessed with the girl and her deeds.  The lives of the two young women parallel in many ways.

Modern fiction, historical fiction, romance, and mystery all play a part in this book.  I highly recommend it!

A Confession about The Confession by John Grisham

I really did not like The Confession by John Grisham.  All of the trade reviewers raved about it, calling it face-paced and a page turner.  The basic story involves an innocent man on death row who is about to be executed.  Can the execution be stropped in time?  It does keep you reading.

The problem with this book, as with so many of Grisham's recent legal thrillers, is that there is not a single truly likeable character.  In Grisham's early books, the protagonist was often flawed, but you could still pull for him.  In this book, the death row inmate, Donte, has given up on life.  His attorney, who one would expect to be the hero, is so deeply flawed that it's impossible to really care about him.  The minister who gets sucked into this crisis is also impossible to really like.

This book reads more as a diatribe against the death penalty in general and the Texas criminal system in specific.  It is perfectly acceptable for a fiction work to have a message, but it should have more to offer than that!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

But It's OK to Be a Vampire

The Peninsula Daily News reports that a number of students at Forks High School (Washington) recently suspended a number of students for wearing T shirts featuring the Sex Pistols.   Since Bella and Edward (Twilight series) seem to have no problem with whole vampire thing at Forks High, maybe the district needs to reconsider its policies.   They might also want to check out the Supreme Court ruling in Tinker v. Des Moines!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake: A Review

The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender is a coming of age story with a twist.  Rose Edelstein lives in what appears to be a picture-perfect family.  Her father comes home each night from his law practice, and her mother takes care of Rose and her older brother.  The picture is not, however, a true representation of Rose’s family.  Dad is withdrawn.  Mom is unhappy and unfulfilled.  Rose’s older brother lives in a world of his own and is rarely seen by the rest of the family except when he silently joins them at dinner.  On her ninth birthday, Rose discovers she has developed an odd malady.  In her lemon birthday cake, baked by her mother, she can taste desperation.  This new “talent” leaves her frightened of food, and more isolated than ever.
Although beautifully written, this is basically a sad book.  We follow Rose and her family for a number of years, but their lives remain rather sad and disheartening.  No one seems to be substantially better off at the end of the novel than at the beginning.  I found this to be a particularly sad book.

The Postcard Killers: A Review

The Postcard Killers by James Patterson and Liza Marklund is an action-packed thriller with a likeable pair of protagonists.  Jacob Kanon is a NYPD homicide detective who has taken a leave of absence from his job to track down a pair of serial killers who are roaming Europe’s major cities and killing tourists.  He is determined to catch the killers since one of their first victims was his only daughter, Kimmy.  Dessie Larsson is a journalist with a distinct lack of ambition.  She seems to be unable to finish her doctoral dissertation, and she has little interest in covering high-profile crimes.  She is dragged into the limelight and into the path of Jacob Kanon when the postcard killers select her as their media contact. 
This is one of those mysteries where the reader knows who the killers are from the beginning of the novel.  The question is will the psychopathic killers win, or will our hero and heroine, Jacob and Dessie.  A little romance is also thrown into the mix.  The violence was a bit graphic for my tastes, but overall, this was a satisfying mystery thriller.

Monday, October 4, 2010

A Pinchbeck Bride by Stephen Anable

Mark Winslow is a history buff, so when he is asked to serve on the board of trustees for Mingo House, he agrees.  Mingo House is a time capsule of sorts that preserves the Victorian era. The last heir of the Mingo family donated the house and all of its contents to become a museum.  Mark is assigned a young docent, Genevieve Courso, to orient him to the house and its treasures.

Mark likes the off-beat Genevieve and agrees to meet her at Mingo house before a trustees meeting.  He discovers the corpse of Genevieve, dressed in Victorian finery and placed on display in the home's dining room.  In death, Genevieve becomes a media sensation known as "the Victorian girl."

Mark finds himself investigating Genevieve's life in an attempt to solve her murder.  Was it another of the trustees, an unusual group?  Was it a spurned lover, or the father of the child the coroner discoversshe was carrying?  More murders occur, and the need to find the killer becomes more pressing.

This is a very enjoyable mystery.  Lovers of Boston and of history will enjoy this book; however, homophobes should be aware that the narrator and several other primary characters are gay.

Scene Stealer by Elise Warner

Miss Augusta Weidenmaier is a retired school teacher who, because of a chance encounter on a subway train, finds herself embroiled in finding a kidnapped child.  Her sleuthing leads her to become involved in acting and enlivens her rather predictable life.

At first, Miss Weidenmaier drove me insane.  She attributes many of her skills as a sleuth, such as the power of observation or the ability to tell when someone is lying, to her years as an elementary teacher.  My initial response was, "When did she retire, in the 1800s?"  However, as the novel progressed, she grew on me.  She is the heroine of a cozy mystery in the mold of Miss Marple and other distinguished older ladies.  She has more gumption than one would expect, and she becomes rather endearing by the end of the book.

The theater in New York City plays an important role in this mystery, so those who love either the profession or the place would enjoy this read.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Dead Over Heels by Charlaine Harris: A Review

Book five in the Aurora Teagarden series, this installment features the same charming characters, the plot is a bit thin.  Aurora's nemesis Police Detective Jack Burns drops in on her (literally, as he's thrown from an airplane and lands in her yard.)  Her past quarrels with the detective make her a suspect for a time.  Other strange and disturbing events begin to happen, and Aurora is sure that her bodyguard Angel is the target.  Her sleuthing skills solve the mystery in the nick of time.  The motivation of the killer is completely out of left field, given the details provided to the reader.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Reality Check by Peter Abrahams: A Review

Cody Laredo (perhaps the worst name in recent fiction) is a great protagonist.  A kid from the wrong side of the tracks, Cody has made good through his talent as an athlete, particularly a football player.  He is dating Clea, the richest girl in town and is truly in love.  Although his grades aren't stellar, they're good enough to keep him playing, and major universities are starting to look at him as a realistic prospect.

Things are pretty great for Cody until everything falls apart.  Clea's father ships her off to live with a relative for the summer, then off to an Eastern boarding school in the fall.  Cody blows his knee in a football game and eventually drops out of school.  He manages to find a job, but he basically considers his life to be over.

The he finds out that Clea is missing from her exclusive boarding school. He immediately loads up his car and goes to find her.  He encounters a mystery that keeps him and the reader guessing until the very end.  Nothing is as it seems, and it is difficult to determine who to trust.

Cody is a likable and believable protagonist.  The plot is riveting until the end, when the reader figures out things a bit before Cody does.  The events taking place, however, or so exciting, you will keep on reading until the end.  The resolution is a bit weak, but otherwise, this is a standout young adult novel.

Sh*t My Dad Says by Justin Halpern: A Review

If you simply need a laugh, this is the book for you.  Short and full of funny and sometimes poignant stories, this book is the antidote to a rough day.  This is not a book for those who are easily offended by language!

Halpern's dad, a specialist in nuclear medicine, served in the Navy.  It's important to know this as you read this book, because the man cusses like a sailor.  There numerous examples of his father's profane observations about Justin's life: reaching puberty, sports, the condition of his room, dating, and the list goes on and on.  There are times when the father's comments seem almost cruel...too harsh to really be funny.  But there are other times when his father is tender, supportive, and generous.

A Little Death in Dixie by Lisa Turner: A Review

I kept seeing A Little Death in Dixie.  It was recommended to me by Amazon, based on my previous reading habits; it was featured in my book club brochure; it was reviewed in several magazines.  Somehow, the book just didn't appeal to me, but then, I read it!  This is a wonderful mystery with appealing and despicable characters, interwoven mysteries, and a bit of humor at just the right places.

Mercy Snow has returned to Memphis at her sister's request.  Mercy left years ago and has made it on her own, beginning a bakery in Atlanta.  Her mother and her sister have always treated her as the ugly duckling.  Mercy has built up her self esteem, but is till battling bitterness. 

Billy Able, a young homicide detective, has recently ended a long-term relationship and is worried sick about his partner whose recent divorce seems to have driven him over the edge.  Lou's behavior goes from erratic to dangerous, leaving Billy angry, puzzled, and hurt. 

Billy and Mercy come together after the disappearance of Sophia, the beautiful sister.  Bodies begin to pile up and mysteries interweave.  This mystery keeps you guessing until the final chapter.