Shoes to Die For (A Jaine Austen Mystery #4)

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Shoes To Die For (A Jaine Austen Mystery #4) by Laura Levine


Freelance writer Jaine Austen is not your typical Los Angelino. She’s not rich, she’s not thin, and she’s definitely not starstruck. She is a sarcastic, sometime-sleuth who’s never met a carb she didn’t like…or a mystery she couldn’t solve…


If clothes make the man, then what do Jaine’s elastic-waist pants and T-shirts make her? A fashion nightmare, according to her neighbour, Lance. She doesn’t expect Lance – who works in the designer shoe department at Nieman Marcus – to understand…which is how she ends up visiting his favourite boutique, Passions. While the couture is definitely not for Jaine, the staff’s gossip is. Tiny orange-haired clerk Becky starts complaining about her co-worker Giselle – a.k.a. “Frenchie” – a brittle blonde who, when she’s not making fun of customers behind their backs, adds extra-marital notches to her Chanel belt.


Though Jaine doesn’t land a new look, she does land a new job when Passions’ owner gives her a chance to write their new magazine ads. But when Jaine arrives the next morning to pitch her ideas, she finds Frenchie pitched over, stabbed in the neck by one of her own stilettos. Now all Jaine has to do is figure out who hated Frenchie the most, in a case of death by designer knock-off…


Levine’s Jaine Austen series just gets better with each new book. Jaine becomes more and more developed. And who doesn’t love a heroine that has never met a cheeseburger she didn’t love. Her life is run by Prozac, her cat, and the two men in her life, Ben & Jerry, as in ice cream.


The books are fast, easy reads with fun, snarky plots. I love to read something fun and light and this series definitely fits the bill.


Paperback
288 pages
Published May 1st 2006 by Kensington (first published 2005)
ISBN 0758207824


3 stars

Shadowmaker

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Shadowmaker by Joan Lowery Nixon


Soon after she and her mother come to the small Texas town of Kluney and experience a series of menacing events, Katie begins to suspect there is something sinister going on involving a secret gang of high school students and a company illegally storing toxic waste.


Katie’s mom is an investigative journalist who is known for stirring up trouble in small, corrupt towns. They come to stay in the small town of Kluney so that Katie’s mom can work on her latest book which has nothing to do with Kluney. But, the townspeople are certain that she is there to uncover their dirty little secret. Which just so happens to be toxic waste. Talk about dirty! It’s kind of like the plot of a Steven Seagal movie, if Steven were a teenage girl and not a martial arts specialist. Overall, a good book.


Paperback
208 pages
Published April 1st 1995 by Laurel Leaf (first published 1994)
ISBN 0440219426


3 stars

Don’t Scream

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Don’t Scream by Joan Lowery Nixon

When two new guys start at Jess’s high school, she thinks the year is really looking up. What she can’t know is that there is a connection between them. One has been given a new identity by the government. The other is seeking revenge. Jess doesn’t know whom she can trust. Will she be the next victim?


As a teenager, I read pretty much everything Joan Lowery Nixon ever wrote. She was one of my favorite young adult authors. She wrote fun mysteries that were short, light reads but that had enough twists and turns that I couldn’t always figure out who the bad guy was.


Don’t Scream was published in 1996, so it will probably seem a little dated to today’s teens, but I think they would still find it an enjoyable read. The character development is thin, but it typically is in this genre. At less than two hundred pages, there really isn’t time to do much character development.


This genre of book always reminds me of the awesomely cheesy 80’s movies that I love; The Breakfast Club and Sixteen Candles, for example. Like those movies, the book is a little fluffy but a good, quickly told story. Overall, a pretty nice way to pass the time.


Paperback
176 pages
Published September 8th 1997 by Laurel Leaf (first published 1996)
ISBN 0440227100


3 stars

Stargirl

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Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli

” “She was homeschooling gone amok.” “She was an alien.” “Her parents were circus acrobats.” These are only a few of the theories concocted to explain Stargirl Caraway, a new 10th grader at Arizona’s Mica Area High School who wears pioneer dresses and kimonos to school, strums a ukulele in the cafeteria, laughs when there are no jokes, and dances when there is no music. The whole school, not exactly a “hotbed of nonconformity,” is stunned by her, including our 16-year-old narrator Leo Borlock: “She was elusive. She was today. She was tomorrow. She was the faintest scent of a cactus flower, the flitting shadow of an elf owl.”

In time, incredulity gives way to out-and-out adoration as the student body finds itself helpless to resist Stargirl’s wide-eyed charm, pure-spirited friendliness, and penchant for celebrating the achievements of others. In the ultimate high school symbol of acceptance, she is even recruited as a cheerleader. Popularity, of course, is a fragile and fleeting state, and bit by bit, Mica sours on their new idol. Why is Stargirl showing up at the funerals of strangers? Worse, why does she cheer for the opposing basketball teams? The growing hostility comes to a head when she is verbally flogged by resentful students on Leo’s televised Hot Seat show in an episode that is too terrible to air. While the playful, chin-held-high Stargirl seems impervious to the shunning that ensues, Leo, who is in the throes of first love (and therefore scornfully deemed “Starboy”), is not made of such strong stuff: “I became angry. I resented having to choose. I refused to choose. I imagined my life without her and without them, and I didn’t like it either way.”

Jerry Spinelli, author of Newbery Medalist Maniac Magee, Newbery Honor Book Wringer, and many other excellent books for teens, elegantly and accurately captures the collective, not-always-pretty emotions of a high school microcosm in which individuality is pitted against conformity. Spinelli’s Stargirl is a supernatural teen character–absolutely egoless, altruistic, in touch with life’s primitive rhythms, meditative, untouched by popular culture, and supremely self-confident. It is the sensitive Leo whom readers will relate to as he grapples with who she is, who he is, who they are together as Stargirl and Starboy, and indeed, what it means to be a human being on a planet that is rich with wonders.

I enjoyed this book a lot. Not quite as much as I hoped to but it was still a great YA story. The characters didn’t feel like high school students to me, more like middle schoolers I guess, but overall it was a very well written book. I think it makes you ask yourself some questions when you’re reading it. Questions that most of us choose to ignore on a daily basis, whether we are in school or the workplace.

Mass Market Paperback
186 pages
Published May 11th 2004 by Laurel Leaf (first published August 8th 2000)
ISBN13: 9780440416777
Rebecca Caudill Young Reader’s Book Award Nominee (2003), South Carolina Book Award Nominee for Young Adult Book Award (2003), Grand Canyon Reader Award for Teen Book (2003), Michigan Library Association Thumbs Up! Award Nominee (2001), Iowa Teen Award (2003), Iowa Teen Award (2003), ALA’s Top Ten Best Books for Young Adults (2001), Book Sense Book of the Year Honor Book for Children’s Literature (2001)

4 stars

The Giver

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The Giver by Lois Lowry

“Jonas’s world is perfect. Everything is under control. There is no war or fear or pain. There are no choices. Every person is assigned a role in the Community. When Jonas turns twelve, he is singled out to receive special training from The Giver. The Giver alone holds the memories of the true pain and pleasure of life. Now, it is time for Jonas to receive the truth. There is no turning back.”

A Newbery Award winner, this book is one that I can read over and over again and I pick up different subtleties each time.

Jonas lives in a supposed utopian society but as he becomes older he finds that fairness comes at a price.

I just read the book a few months ago but I find myself wanting to read it again now, just because it makes me question things. Perhaps I’ll pick it up again this week. At only 179 pages, it’s a pretty fast read. I definitely recommend it for kids as young as middle school, but adults should read it too.

Paperback
179 pages
Published January 24th 2006 by Delacorte Books for Young Readers (first published March 29th 1993)
ISBN13: 9780385732550

Newbery Medal (1994), British Fantasy Award (1994), Horn Book Fanfare Best Book (1994), Garden State Book Award for Teen Fiction Grades 6-8 (1996), Rebecca Caudill Young Reader’s Book Award (1996)
Rebecca Caudill Young Reader’s Book Award (1996), Grand Canyon Reader Award for Teen Book (1995), Pacific Northwest Library Association Young Reader’s Choice Award for Senior (1996), New Mexico Land of Enchantment Award (1997)

5 stars