Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Finally Found Donates to the Community, Chocolate Chip Cookie Murder by Joanne Fluke, Doon by Carey Corp and Lorie Langdon, and Changeling by Phillipa Gregory

I've know Todd of Finally Found Books since he bought Baker Street Books in Black Diamond from Mr Charles and then moved the whole enterprise to Auburn, much to my distress. I know that Baker Street was a losing proposition for him because it doesn't get enough foot traffic on a quiet street in sleepy Black Diamond, which barely qualifies as a hamlet/small town. But understanding why and missing having a bookstore close by are two different things. Still, I applaud Todd and company for all they've done with the new bookstore location, and how hard they are working to knit the store into the fabric of the community.

Cool Idea of the Day: Education Donation
 Finally Found Books>, Auburn, Wash.,is donating $30,000
in store gift certificates to 3,000 local educators, Bookselling This
Week reported. Owner Todd Hulbert will give every teacher in the area's
two school districts a $10 gift certificate to help with classroom

"Mainly, I want to help out the educators who spend so much out of
pocket each year," he said. "Teachers have it hard and they don't have
enough financial support from the district. It's not a lot but this is
what we can give.... The community has been great and supportive about
what we're doing and the districts are ecstatic to receive our gift. We
want a literate world."

Hulbert also challenged other local businesses "to help out their
community and local schools as much as they can. They need our help."

My mum used to live in Scottsdale, when she first moved to Arizona. She has moved several times since then, and now lives in Prescott Valley, where she's planning to stay now that her husband of 30 years, Lloyd Shalin, has passed away at age 95. She would be fascinated to know that this bookstore is having an event on my birthday, though I don't think she will be able to drive her aging auto to the event.
Congratulations to the Poisoned Pen Bookstore,Scottsdale, Ariz., which turns 25 on October 3. The store has been
celebrating all year, which will culminate in an open house for all
customers on Friday, December 12, 5-8 p.m., that will feature
refreshments, many giveaways (some donated by publishers) and authors
Diana Gabaldon, Dana Stabenow and James Sallis, among others. Owner
Barbara Peters said that the open house is "to thank our customers."

One other cool way the store is marking the anniversary: it's been
collecting signatures all year long from visiting authors on two
scrolls. One scroll will be given away; the other will be displayed in
the store during 2015. 

The three latest books I've consumed are The Chocolate Chip Cookie Murder by Joanne Fluke, Doon by Carey Corp and Lorie Langdon and Changeling by Phillipa Gregory.
Those last two are YA books, and yet, one definitely panders to a young female audience while the other seeks just to tell a good story featuring interesting young people.
I picked up Changeling by Phillipa Gregory for cheap at the Sequel Bookstore in Enumclaw last Friday, and from the moment I opened the novel, I was engrossed in this "Name of the Rose"-like story. Here's the blurb:
The year is 1492. Eighteen-year-old Luca De Vere is brilliant, gorgeous—and a heretic. Cast out of his religious order for using scientific knowledge to prove that a divine revelation was faked, Luca is recruited into a secret sect: The Order of the Dragon, headed by none other than Pope Nicholas V, investigates strange occurrences across Europe, and Luca is now part of the Order.
Isolde is a seventeen-year-old girl who’s been shut up in a nunnery so she can’t inherit any of her deceased father’s estate. Because of mysterious happenings at the nunnery, Isolde is accused of witchcraft—and Luca is sent to investigate her.
Despite the conventions of their time, an attraction grows between Luca and Isolde, and, traveling across Europe, they encounter alchemists, poisoners, inquisitors, and purported witches as they head toward a real-life historical figure who may hold the power of the Order of the Dragon.
The first in a series, this epic and richly detailed drama is firmly rooted in historical fact, and Philippa Gregory’s trademark touch deftly brings the past—and its salacious scandals—to life.

Luca is basically a younger version of brother William of Baskerville in Umberto Ecco's famous "Name of the Rose" dark ages mystery. Unfortunately, though, because he's smart and beautiful, he's taken by many to be a changeling sent by wicked fairies in place of a regular child. But when he's tasked with becoming an investigator, he heads off with his trusty sidekick to a nunnery where he discovers a young noblewoman has been placed against her will and then accused of witchcraft by a nun who is in league with her evil brother, who wants their dead fathers estate all to himself. Isolde, the young noblewoman, also has a sidekick, of course, in a "moor" (read: black) girl whom her father brought back from the crusades and raised with his daughter to become her confidant and protector. I found it, despite the overt sexism of the age, interesting how the two teams of young people managed to deal with their various problems and mysteries. Luca solved the nunnery mystery, while Luca's sidekick, who is annoying, solves the second mystery of the book. Since this is a series, I have a feeling the four teens will be back solving mysteries together, reluctantly, for book two. While it was obvious early on "whodunit"I still found the excellent prose and historical setting, along with the sweeping plot to be all the ingredients of a book that I couldn't put down. I'd give it an A, and recommend it to those who enjoy a well-written medieval mystery.
The Chocolate Chip Cookie Murder is a book that I'm reading for my Tuesday book group at the library for October. It's the first book in Fluke's very successful Hannah Swensen mystery series, all containing a variety of cookie recipes from Swensen's fictional bakery, The Cookie Jar. Swensen lives in a fictional town in Minnesota, and solves mysteries because she can't help herself, her mind needs to be occupied in a Sherlockian fashion when she's not thinking about new kinds of cookies. Though Hannah is an appealing sleuth, I became bored with her rambling investigation and her insistence on including her annoyingly "perfect" sister, who seems like a real piece of work, as does their horrible match-making mother. But Hannah just allows all these relatives to push her around, and force her into doing things she doesn't want to do. I found that hard to swallow, considering the heroine is supposed to be tough and in charge of her own life. Still, she manages to solve the mystery without being killed by a crazed woman who murders in order to keep her fancy home, which I found more than ridiculous, and rather a lame ending to an otherwise decent mystery. I'd give this book a B-, (and that is being generous) and i'd recommend it to those who like light, cozy mysteries.
Doon was billed as a "re-telling" of Brigadoon, the musical about a fairy land in Scotland that only appears once a year. It is actually a kind of "reboot" ala Star Trek several years ago, but with teenagers instead of hot new actors. Two young friends, MacKenna (known as Ken or Kenna) and her best friend Veronica, or Vee, lead very different lives, yet somehow manage to remain buddies. Veronica comes from a horrible household where her father, a drug addict, abandoned his family and left his daughter in the care of an alcoholic, narcissistic and cruel mother who hooks up with a slimebag and wants Veronica out of their lives ASAP. MacKenna is only interested in becoming a Broadway star, and is the physical opposite of her friend Vee, who is a popular petite brunette, while Kenna is a robust red head. The two girls hare off on an adventure to Kenna's aunt Grace's cottage in Scotland, only to discover that her aunt has actually been to Doon, and brought back magic rings and a journal of her adventures in this mystical land that can only be reached across the "bridge across the Doon river" or the brig o Doon. Here's the blurb:
Veronica doesn’t think she’s going crazy. But why can’t anyone else see the mysterious blond boy who keeps popping up wherever she goes?
When her best friend, Mackenna, invites her to spend the summer in Scotland, Veronica jumps at the opportunity to leave her complicated life behind for a few months. But the Scottish countryside holds other plans. Not only has the imaginary kilted boy followed her to Alloway, she and Mackenna uncover a strange set of rings and a very unnerving letter from Mackenna’s great aunt—and when the girls test the instructions Aunt Gracie left behind, they find themselves transported to a land that defies explanation.
Doon seems like a real-life fairy tale, complete with one prince who has eyes for Mackenna and another who looks suspiciously like the boy from Veronica’s daydreams. But Doon has a dark underbelly as well. The two girls could have everything they’ve longed for… or they could end up breaking an enchantment and find themselves trapped in a world that has become a nightmare.
Since this story is obviously a paranormal romance, there's a great deal of description of the beauty of the male characters, Duncan and Jamie, and how helpless Vee and Kenna are in the face of their manly charms.There's swooning, and longing, and yearning and weeping and lots of immature behavior, but since these are teenagers, we are supposed to find that charming. I felt that the book was so simplistic in its portrayal of teenage girls and what they think (They're all boy crazed and can only think of romance and their destiny in terms of a guy!) to be condescending to girls everywhere. I also found the Christian undertone rather off-putting, and the sexism of the guys all wanting to "possess" and own the girls, as if that was their right as males to be equally repulsive. Girls of today are not that stupid, nor are they so single-minded that they believe that only in marriage will they be happy, because of course it's every girls "destiny" to fall in love and wed and have children. Any girl who chooses career over that is bound to be miserable, as Kenna is purported to be when Duncan comes back for her in the preview to the second book in the series. I think this reboot of Brigadoon deserves a C at best, and I wouldn't recommend it to any young girl with a mind to think for herself.

No comments: