Saturday, May 12, 2007

"Skinny Dip," by Carl Hiaasen

This is my first Carl Hiaasen book, even though I've had numerous people ordering me to read one. So I finally did, and you know what? I liked it.

Joey and Chaz are on cruise to celebrate their second anniversary. But on their last night as the ship is sailing back into Florida, Chaz pushes Joey overboard into the Atlantic Ocean. The next morning, he puts on a frightened-husband act for the police, who start searching immediately for the missing wife. Chaz, however, has given them false information to the last time he saw Joey, ensuring that the search will be conducted in the wrong area and that Joey will never survive.

Lucky for Joey, even though her husband is a biologist, he's a complete idiot. Joey, a champion swimmer, manages to swim for hours before finding and clinging onto a bale of Jamaican marijuana. She is found by Mick Stranahan, an ex-cop who lives alone on a nearby island. He helps her recuperate and, after agreeing not to notify the police of her whereabouts, sets out to help Joey figure out the reasoning behind her husband's murderous actions. Oh, and maybe drive Chaz a little insane, too.

This book was part mystery, part quest to save the Florida Everglades. With quite a bit of humor thrown in. The only thing that bothered me was the budding romance between Joey, who is young and hot, and Mick, who is like 53. Why do male authors always do this? There's nothing that shows why the characters like each other or anything. I'm just supposed to believe that an age difference like that doesn't matter? Pah.

4 stars

"Heart-Shaped Box," by Joe Hill

Oh, baby. I love me some scary books, and this did not let me down. Papa Stephen King should be very proud of his son.

Judas Coyne is an aging rock star with a penchant for the macabre. He enjoys collecting creepy things, such as a used hangman's noose or a snuff film. When Jude's assistant tells him there's a woman online looking to sell a suit that is haunted by her step-father's ghost, Jude is game. The suit arrives in a heart-shaped box, and it isn't long before Jude becomes aware that he and his girlfriend, Florida, aren't alone in the house.

The ghost is Craddock McDermott, step-father to recent suicide victim and former girlfriend of Jude, and he is determined to end Jude's life. This book is a wild ride of horrific images. I got creeped out several times, so Hill has definitely lived up to expectations. It wasn't just page after page of blood and gore, although there was some of that, too. It was a descent into personal hell, with ringing self-recrimination and torment. It was awesome.

5 stars

"Something Borrowed," "Something Blue," and "Baby Proof," by Emily Giffin

On the morning after her 30th birthday party, Rachel wakes up next to Dexter, her best friend Darcy's fiance. Rachel, the self-proclaimed good girl who has always put popular, beautiful Darcy's needs before her own, feels shockingly little guilt. While having nagging regret about hurting her best friend, Rachel's feelings for Dex continue to grow as their one-night stand turns into a full love affair. Yet Dex and Darcy's wedding day looms ever closer.

While Emily Giffin took a great chance at portraying her main character in a potentially unfavorable light, I loved Rachel. I rooted for her. This, Giffin's first book, was impossible to put down.

4.5 stars

Think Darcy got the raw end of the deal? So does she. Giffin's second novel is a follow-up to Something Borrowed. This is Darcy's side of the story. While she may have had a fling of her own, she still feels horrified and betrayed at the thought of her best friend and fiance together. And when Darcy ends up pregnant and then abandoned by her secret lover (spoiler: Rachel's ex-boyfriend!), she is mocked by co-workers and given the cold shoulder by her mother. She takes refuge at her old friend Ethan's place in London. After Ethan lets her know in no-uncertain terms that she has a lot of growing up to do, Darcy eventually starts to make progress in becoming a better person.

4.5 stars

I thought this was going to relate with the previous two books by Giffin, but no. This book stars Claudia, a book editor who is married to the love of her life, Ben. Their initial common bond was the fact that neither person wanted children. Several years into the marriage, though, Ben's biological clock starts ticking. Claudia suffers through a few months of intense baby pressure from Ben, his family, and even their friends. At an impasse, Claudia moves into her best friend Jess's house while she goes through her divorce. Though she starts a hot affair with a work colleague, Richard, Claudia begins to doubt her decisions when she finds that Ben has begun dating a younger woman.

This book was excellent, though very sad to read about all the pressure that was put on Claudia. I was frustrated that her friends and family would give her such grief over not wanting a baby, and more so that her husband couldn't accept her decision. Lots of things to think about while reading this one.

4.5 stars

"Fairest," by Gail Carson Levine

An important part of working at a public library is knowing which books are suitable for young adults or children when parents are looking for suggestions. I introduced Fairest to a woman looking for a birthday present for her 13-year-old niece, and she was quite pleased.

Levine, author of the popular Ella Enchanted, brings us a tale loosely based on Snow White. Aza is a very gifted singer with a very homely outward appearance. Her ugliness was the cause of her abandonment as a baby, though she was cared for and loved by innkeepers. At 15, Aza has discovered that beyond her singing capabilities, she can also throw and mimic any voice. By chance, she gets to accompany a duchess to a royal wedding, where the new queen, Ivi, discovers Aza's secret talents. Ivi blackmails Aza into becoming her personal attendant and throwing her voice to make the queen sound like a beautiful singer. When the court discovers the deception, Aza must flee the castle to save her life.

I enjoyed the message that will be vital to young readers; beauty isn't everything. Character and self-worth are more important. I also liked that the book was fast-paced, warm, and not preachy. Only one thing annoyed me. Because the book takes place in a land called Ayortha, where singing was valued above all else, there were a ton of songs. It got old pretty fast, although I could totally see a movie musical being made from this book.

4 stars