Friday, January 26, 2007

Murder on a Hot Tin Roof by Amanda Matesky

Since there are other mystery fans around here, I thought I'd mention this book, the fourth in the series. The first is Murderers Prefer Blondes. The protagonist is Paige Turner, who works for Daring Detective magazine in New York in the 1950s. She is underpaid and stuck with chores like making the coffee ("woman's work," don't you know), but she has the opportunity to do some investigating of her own when murder crosses her path. The time period really distinguishes this series from other cozy mysteries, which are almost all set in the present day. There are fun references to the McCarthy hearings, Marilyn Monroe movies, beat poetry, you name it--everything you learned about in history class about the 50s. My only complaint (if it can even be called a complaint) is that some of the elements seem like stock 1950s necessities (like her Jewish sidekick who sprinkles her speech with both Yiddish and rhyming slang of the "it's a plan, Stan" variety and has a boyfriend who's a Beat poet and frequents jazz clubs) that she's trying to cram in. But the atmosphere is fun, and the mysteries are well-developed and interesting, plus Paige herself is an enjoyable heroine.

In the fourth book, Paige tackles the world of Broadway theater when an actor friend is murdered. This book also brings in the homosexual community that thrived underground in New York. I actually guessed the murderer and the motive, which is unusual for me, but there were enough elements to the mystery that I wasn't positive until the end. If you're looking for another cozy mystery series to dive into, I would recommend this one.

Welcome to Higby by Mark Dunn

Holly had recommended Ella Minnow Pea to me, and I loved it, so I was delighted that Mark Dunn had a couple other novels. Welcome to Higby is a much different kind of book. It's more of a traditional novel, and its only "gimmick," if it can be called one, is the interconnectedness of the characters, which sometimes translates to parallels between the end of one chapter and the beginning of the next. Higby, Mississippi is a small southern town whose quirky inhabitants have quite an eventful Labor Day weekend. Relationships fall apart and develop, injuries are sustained, faith is lost and found, and one character is kidnapped by a Christian vegan cult. It's an extremely quick read, and a fun one. It was actually the perfect follow-up to the denser, more dramatic The Thirteenth Tale.

The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield

Short review: This book was good!
Long review: Vida Winter, an aging author, has a mysterious history. She's given dozens of interviews, all revealing conflicting (though equally invented) life stories for herself. One of her works was called The Thirteen Tales, although as it contains only twelve tales, subsequent editions leave out the "thirteen" from the title. Naturally, everyone wonders about the missing story. Margaret Lea dabbles in biography. She and her father run a bookshop, and she's more at home with books than people, so she's unsure when Vida Winter summons her--Ms. Winter is ready to tell her real story, and she has chosen Margaret to do it. The atmosphere of the novel is reminiscent of Jane Eyre. I don't think this is an accident, and that novel is referenced periodically. Of course, Margaret has secrets of her own that play into the story as she unravels the tangled thread of Vida Winter's life. The writing is beautiful, the characters rich and intriguing, and the plot is elegant and complex. I highly recommend it.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

The Shadow of the Wind

This was my first book club book. I actually finished it before the meeting! :-) The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon takes place during World War II in Barcelona. The main character, Daniel is ten when the book starts and it follows him until he's 17. He and his father have a bookstore and much of the book centers around books, and loving books. At the heart of the story is the mystery surrounding the author of Daniel's most beloved book. Daniel searches for years to find out any and all information about the author and his other books which all seemed to disappear from existence.

I enjoyed the book overall. The first third or so was a little slow because I kept waiting to get to the mystery of it. It pulled me into the story and by the second half of the book, I was reading as fast as I could to find out what happened to all the characters. I was mostly annoyed by the character of Fermin who plays one of Daniel's best friends and coworkers. His language is very wordy, flowy, and over the top. That was part of his character, but it annoyed me.

I would say if you have the time, like to read books about books, and enjoy mysteries, this might be interesting to you!

Not sure what I'll read next. I received some books for Christmas that I'm looking forward to getting to:

The Adventures of the Thunderbolt Kid by Bill Bryson
Thunderstruck by Erik Larson (author of Devil in the White City)
Motor Mouth by Janet Evanovich
Booked to Die by John Dunning

And I just picked up Plum Lovin' by Janet Evanovich today. I'm thinking I might go for the Bill Bryson book next.

Update on new Harry Potter

I visited Barnes and Noble today and they had a sign to "reserve your copy of the new Harry Potter book today"! This puzzled me. If there's no release date, why bother starting to reserve books? I inquired at the desk if a release date had been announced. They said no. Then the gentlemen went on to say slyly, "The new movie comes out this summer."

I said, "ooh, that would be a nice tie-in wouldn't it?"

He smiled. Then I said, "Well the others seemed to be released in the summer."

He said, "Yes, and there are rumors of 7/7/07, because its the seventh book."

"Ahhh, that would make sense. Thanks." I went on to reserve my copy.

You heard it here first folks! I predict 7/7/07!

Thursday, January 04, 2007

New Harry Potter title announced

Perhaps this is old news for those of you that actually read the newspaper, watch CNN, or check out news websites. However, since I live in a little bubble world, I just found out about this today when I was browsing around the Barnes and Noble website.

The new, and *sob* final, Harry Potter title will be entitled: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. No release date is set yet. (Updates to follow)

The fifth film "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix" will be out in July 2007.