Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Wickedly Charming by Kristine Grayson

Plot: Mellie has been fighting what seems to be a loosing battle now for centuries. The image that was given to her because of her step-daughter Snow White.
Charming has grown older and just wants a normal life with his two daughters after his divorce from Cinderella.
Mellie and Charming bump into each other at a book fair in L.A. and decide they need to work together to change both their images.  Soon the two are writing a novel together based on Mellie's side of the Snow White story. Before long, the cozy world they have created for themselves is threatened by members of the Fairy Tale Kingdoms. Does Prince Charming still have what it takes to be a hero to his favourite Evil Step-Mother or will reality crash their dreams?

Rarely do I find a novel that I think is just so unique that I wonder why I didn't think of it myself.   This is that book.

This is a book about books.  It's seen through the eyes of a book lover and a first time writer (the character not the author) which gives it a sweetness you almost never see.  From the moment the two leads meet in an awkward hallway to the scene where they are in coffee shop battling side by side, you know their chemistry works on many levels.

We meet Mellie, in the middle of a protest for her group PETA - People for the Ethical Treatment of Archetypes- a woman who  has been given a bad rap in her home world and is just trying to help those who are part of the Fairy Tale worlds.  She is all business, and other then having a very long life span, no longer has any magic.
Already twice widowed, she's not looking for love or marriage or any of the trapping that come along with it.  The only problem is, so far no one is taking her seriously as she tries to explain that the books are lies and step-mothers are not evil.

Charming, who is now calling himself Dave, does not see himself as the hero his stories paint him to be. He views himself as a divorced dad of two, who just wants to run a book store. Which is why he does not understand Mellie's protest or current desire to ban a large chunk of books.  He manages to convince Mellie that her best way of getting people to listen is to use the media/medium to her advantage by writing a book on the very topic.

Both characters are given very human desires, insecurities, talents and issues that help to bind them to the real world, while still holding them in a fairy tale setting.
I loved the idea that both were attracted to the other for centuries (having meet years before at events) but are both too shy to react on it at first. Each having that give and take of feeling like they are the only one wanting the relationship adds major weight to their pairing.  I loved how the author examined their personal insecurities while pointing out that they were not teenagers, but that love/lust at any age can cause misunderstandings.

This does more then just deliver a great budding romance, it puts some much needed value on not just step-moms, but older women. It also firmly establishes that women's fiction  isn't just for women. One of the sub-plots is that Charming, is an advocate for the genre. The character of his oldest daughter also reinforces this idea later on when she makes a comment about how that's her dad's job, to stand up for damsels in distress.

With the hundreds of fairy tales out there, the choice of using Snow White and Cinderella as the backgrounds, was the author's ace.  I giggled out loud at the idea of Cinderella (Ella in the book) being a gold digger of sorts. As well as the idea that Snow White was not as pure as she's been white washed to be (pardon the pun) 
The author manages to bring you along two very different paths that somehow merger perfectly into one very emotional and believable plot. (Snow White's husband being a creepy Necrophiliac really makes you rethink that fairy tale's ending) 

I'm told this is the first book in a Trilogy and I can only say, more more more!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Stilettos and Scoundrels by Laina Turner Molaski

Plot: Presley just lost her job and has one chance at a new one.  Get an interview with a local senator in her hometown for an internet magazine.  Presley has made it a point not to be back much since leaving a decade before.  Not much has changed, her old high school friends are still there living their lives, one of which is having an affair with the senator's wife. No sooner does Presley get to town to start her interview when a shockwave rings out; the senator has been murdered.  Now everyone is a suspect. With the FBI and another female reporter suddenly on the scene, can Presley uncover the killer before they do and save her career, her friends and her hometown?

This is what happens when Murder She Wrote meets Sex and the City. It's brilliant.
The author manages to create a delicate good old fashioned murder mystery, with enough twists to keep you interested, while mixing in some modern moments of laughter.  {the moment of silence for the Prada purse that gets a bullet}  We are reminded more then once that the sharper the shoe, the deadlier the style. As the high heels are a focus throughout the novel. {Did the kill shot happen while in Manolos or Choos?}

Presley is a girl you would want to have on your side if you were battling your way through a sample sale at Dior. Tough, smart and never without style.
Cooper is a rebel with a cause.   And the author managed to make their verbal sparing sizzle without making it cheesy.

There is a scene near the beginning of the novel, where our lead Presley catches the senator's wife doing something she might be suspect for, and up pops the character of Presley's dad to throw you in another direction.  The slight of hand here is perfect with it's timing that for the next few chapters you start to suspect even her dad is part of the crimes that seem to be piling up around her.

The character(s) of her mother's women's group, are an interesting puzzle of their own. It lends itself to have a very Stepford Wives feel to it, drawing you around another possible twist. These were characters I would have loved to have seen more of, such as the character of Ruth;  if for nothing but the fact the author hints at more deep dark secrets.
So many personalities collide throughout, weaving us back and forth within a pool of doubt. Giving us a glimpse at a place that could be the suburbs of any major city.

The love triangles here are many.  Presley starts the story off with having just dumped a cheating boyfriend, returns to her hometown to be set up by her mother with her high school boyfriend, then falls in love with another ex-boyfriend.
We are then delivered into a maze of who is having an affair with who as the senator's wife is revealed to be unfaithful, at the same time as the now dead senator's mistresses pop up.

The idea that the best way to get to the bottom of a news story is still gossip, opens up the chance to have a few scenes set in both a beauty parlor and a coffee shop. These add a depth of warmth to the idea that we are indeed in a small town.  Which, also gives Presley the chance to indulge in another vice all good reports have; coffee. I would love a coffee count on this story. There is even a small instance where coffee is the weapon of choice.

The only downfall I felt the author gave was with the character of Katy. The hometown best friend of the lead Presley.  Katy starts off as a force to be reckoned with only to become a castoff near the last act. You're left wondering what happened to this character, both in the story and in "her life".

I understand this is the first book in a new series by the author, and personally can not wait to get my hands on the next installment.