Design for Dying ~ BRC

First of June, beginning of the summer, and the last Book Review Club until September! So if you need to stock up on summer reading material, take note, as I’m sure there will be a stellar selection of books reviewed this month. (Just click on the typewriter at the end of this post.)

A couple Twitter pals and I have started the Meet Mystery Bookclub, wherein we select the first in a series of detective novels, read it over the course of a few weeks (a few chapters a week), and chat about it using a prearranged hashtag. Our first selection was The Mysterious Affair at Styles by Agatha Christie (#MeetPoirot), this month it is Whose Body? by Dorothy L. Sayers (#MeetWimsey), and July and August are scheduled (I think) for Crocodile on the Sandbank by Elizabeth Peters (#MeetPeabody) and Cocaine Blues by Kerry Greenwood (#MeetFisher). If you’re interested in joining us, follow @MeetMystery to get the details!

But aside from all that, I read a debut mystery novel this month by a husband and wife duo (Renee Patrick), called Design for Dying.

design for dying hc.inddFrom Amazon:

Los Angeles, 1937. Lillian Frost has traded dreams of stardom for security as a department store salesgirl . . . until she discovers she’s a suspect in the murder of her former roommate, Ruby Carroll. Party girl Ruby died wearing a gown she stole from the wardrobe department at Paramount Pictures, domain of Edith Head.

Edith has yet to win the first of her eight Academy Awards; right now she’s barely hanging on to her job, and a scandal is the last thing she needs. To clear Lillian’s name and save Edith’s career, the two women join forces.

Unraveling the mystery pits them against a Hungarian princess on the lam, a hotshot director on the make, and a private investigator who’s not on the level. All they have going for them are dogged determination, assists from the likes of Bob Hope and Barbara Stanwyck, and a killer sense of style. In show business, that just might be enough.

The first in a series of riveting behind-the-scenes mysteries, Renee Patrick’s Design for Dying is a delightful romp through Hollywood’s Golden Age.

This book was an impulse buy–it sold me almost instantly.  Between the cover design, the reviews (including blurbs from some of my fave mystery authors), and the back cover copy, I was completely intrigued.  And it didn’t disappoint!  Lillian Frost is a spunky amateur sleuth who emphatically doesn’t have stars in her eyes, and Edith Head is a feisty sidekick with plenty of connections, worldliness, and behind-the-scenes style strategies.  There was an impressive cast of characters (some quite famous!), a keep-you-guessing mystery, and just a hint of romance.  And it’s setup quite nicely for future books in the series.  So, if you’ve been looking for a Hollywood cozy (you probably haven’t, but if you knew one existed, you might have been), this is it.  Slide on your sunglasses and lounge by the pool with this sparkling debut.

FCC: I purchased an autographed hardback of this book at my local indie bookstore, Murder by the Book.

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Posted in Uncategorized on 06/01/2016 12:10 am | 6 Comments

Thanks for the Trouble ~ BRC

ThanksfortheTrouble

My Book Review Club selection for May is Thanks for the Trouble by Tommy Wallach.  I just happened to enter a Goodreads Giveaway for this book based on some early praise I read, and I was quite delighted to win a copy.

From Amazon:
Parker Santé hasn’t spoken a word in five years. While his classmates plan for bright futures, he skips school to hang out in hotels, killing time by watching the guests. But when he meets a silver-haired girl named Zelda Toth, a girl who claims to be quite a bit older than she looks, he’ll discover there just might be a few things left worth living for.

From the celebrated author of We All Looked Up comes a unique story of first and last loves.

There were so many elements of this book that I loved, but I want to be careful not to reveal any spoilers, so this review will try to hit the highlights and not dig too deep.

First, my complaint.  Parker has a habit of stealing things.  In fact, that’s how he meets Zelda–she leaves her bag behind, he finds a wad of cash in it, and walks off with it. And this isn’t an isolated incident–various other shoplifting occurrences are mentioned, but this character flaw is never explained.  He’s not portrayed as troublingly poor, and it doesn’t seem to fit with the rest of his personality.  I think the meet-cute with Zelda would have been just as effective if it had been his first time stealing.  (A roll of hundred dollar bills would tempt a lot of people…)

Honestly, that was the novel’s only shortcoming.  Parker is immediately fascinated–and smitten–with Zelda, as was I.  And when he realizes she is waiting for a phone call, and plans to jump off the Golden Gate Bridge when she gets it, he is determined to make sure that doesn’t happen.  Thus, there is a sense of urgency–and mystery–threaded through these pages.  I loved the purpose for the novel (which I can’t reveal), the relationship between Zelda and Parker, Parker’s original stories–most of them fairy tales, the chess club, particularly Alana, and the humor!  LOVED the humor.

You say you’re tired out with life, right?  Well, I’m going to untire you.  I’m going to make you want to live.

That’s a tall order, Parker Santé.

I’m a tall guy.

She laughed, probably because I’m actually not very tall, and then I kissed her, the first time I’d initiated a kiss in my whole life. We kept on kissing for a long time, making everyone else in the Japanese Tea Garden jealous, or at the very least, super uncomfortable.”

Thanks for the Trouble deals with death, isolation, loneliness, and um, other things I won’t cover here, yet it still manages to stay fun and uplifting.  Highly recommended.

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Posted in book review club, Uncategorized on 05/04/2016 12:10 am | 10 Comments

Review: Flight of Dreams ~ BRC

A new month, a new review for Barrie Summy’s Book Review Club. My reading lately has been a little choppy. Lots going on and reading opportunities are coming in little snatches. So, in some ways, my April pick was perfect. May I present (ahem, review…) Flight of Dreams by Ariel Lawhon.

25614670From Amazon:
On the evening of May 3rd, 1937, ninety-seven people board the Hindenburg for its final, doomed flight to Lakehurst, New Jersey. Among them are a frightened stewardess who is not what she seems; the steadfast navigator determined to win her heart; a naive cabin boy eager to earn a permanent spot on the world’s largest airship; an impetuous journalist who has been blacklisted in her native Germany; and an enigmatic American businessman with a score to settle. Over the course of three hazy, champagne-soaked days their lies, fears, agendas, and hopes for the future are revealed.

Flight of Dreams is a fiercely intimate portrait of the real people on board the last flight of the Hindenburg. Behind them is the gathering storm in Europe and before them is looming disaster. But for the moment they float over the Atlantic, unaware of the inexorable, tragic fate that awaits them.

I will admit that it took me a little while to really get into this book. As I mentioned above, I really wasn’t dedicating my full concentration to the story, and I think you need to, particularly at the beginning. Right out of the gate, Ms. Lawhon is immersing you in the Hindenburg experience. All manner of people are scurrying around, interacting, while at the same time, absorbed in their own thoughts and problems and secrets. Because everyone (more or less) has a secret. And each mini chapter is designated by the label of its focus: The Stewardess, The Cabin Boy, the Journalist, etc. The beautiful thing about this book is that, much like a well-crafted mystery, all of those characters, and all of those secrets slowly–over the course of three days on a flying airship–become entwined, to create a desperate, suspenseful climax.

But beyond the mystery lies the backdrop of history–the true events of the “flight of dreams.” I can’t claim to have known the real historical details of this flight–but I was truly fascinated (and even more impressed) when I read the Author’s Note, in which Ms. Lawhon held her story up against reality. Flight of Dreams is built on a solid foundation of nervous tension. Hitler has already begun his persecution of Jews, and Europe is tumbling inexorably toward war. And even if the reader is unaware of the outcome of this luxury trip from Germany to New Jersey, Lawhon drops sinister hints early on: Something explosive is going to happen.  This book is a powder keg, ready to blow.

It didn’t take long before I was hooked.  I wanted to see how the romance would play out between the two crew members, I wanted to know the story behind the American’s diabolical determination, I wanted to know what sort of trouble the twitchy, feisty journalist was going to get into it–and with whom!  And while this wasn’t  (almost certainly) the real story of this Hindenburg flight–but it COULD have been.  And I’m quite sure that in future, when a reference to the Hindenburg crosses my path, I will remember these characters and the interactions Ms. Lawhon imagined for them as real.

Recommended for fans of historical mysteries, fiction set between the World Wars, suspense novels, character-driven novels, or a solid good read.

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Posted in Uncategorized on 04/06/2016 03:46 am | 12 Comments