Skip to content
December 29, 2011 / leuce7

Cannonball Read III Review #6 – Alibi in High Heels

Alibi in High Heels by Gemma Halliday

Fourth in the High Heels series finds Maddie jetting off to Paris, about to get her big break.  However, trouble ensues when one of her creations is used as a murder weapon, placing Maddie on the suspect list of a murder investigation in Paris.  Also creating trouble: the presence of tabloid reporter/romantic tension bringer Felix and the absence of hunky cop/commitmentphobe boyfriend Jack.

Despite the European setting, the usual cast of characters is present: mom and mom’s wacky best friend (even mom gets a sidekick!) having come with Maddie to Paris, and Maddie’s best friend flying in to replace the murdered model in the show Maddie’s working on.  Jack eventually follows her to keep her out of trouble, and Felix the reporter is already covering this.  The investigation in this book is more important than it was in the last, seeing as Maddie needs to save her own butt this time around, and that makes the book work better as a mystery than did the third installment, where the mystery touched none of the standard set of characters.

But like with the last two, I enjoyed the character developments more than the mystery.  The relationship between Maddie and Jack, and the tension between Maddie and Felix, made me really want to keep reading to see what developed.  Add in Maddie’s loving and well-intentioned family and friends, and you have a warm, fun read, keeping up the breeziness in tone of the first three books.  However, I was a bit surprised by the end (not the resolution of the mystery, but of where the characters ended up), which was somewhat clichéd and did seem a bit forced, enough so that while I did start the next book (the fifth in the series), I have yet to finish it because I’m not sure how invested I am in the characters anymore.  I think the reader’s reaction to the end of this book will have a lot to do with where they want to see Maddie’s relationships go in the next one.  I’m not sure I’m convinced by this book’s ending to keep taking the ride with Maddie.

December 29, 2011 / leuce7

Cannonball Read III Review #5 – Undercover in High Heels

Undercover in High Heels by Gemma Halliday

Third in the High Heels series following Maddie Springer, shoe designer and amateur sleuth, finds us back in Los Angeles, and in the thick of Hollywood land.  Maddie’s loyal best friend, who thinks more highly of Maddie’s sleuthing abilities than I do, convinces her to take a job as a wardrobe assistant on the set of the television series she’s working on, which is a Desperate Housewives-style show called Magnolia Lane.  She does so, over the objections of Jack Ramirez, the cop she’s been sort of seeing since book one, who’s been assigned to the Magnolia Lane actress receiving the death threats Maddie’s investigating.

In keeping with the tone previously established, zaniness and wacky characters abound, and the read remains fun and breezy, but my favorite part of this story was the introduction of a tabloid reporter who ramps up the romantic tension in the book, and an absolutely hilarious cyber scandal Maddie stumbles into feet first in the course of her investigation.

In this third installment, I must admit I was hardly invested in the mystery itself; the characters the mystery involves aren’t really major elements and most are rather unlikeable.  But I stuck with the story because I absolutely loved spending time with the main cast of characters introduced in the first two books, and the developments there left me satisfied with the book and interested in more of their adventures.  These books really are more about the gang of characters than they are about the mysteries, and readers who don’t find Maddie and her cohorts interesting may not get much out of this one.

December 29, 2011 / leuce7

Cannonball Read III Review #4 – Killer in High Heels

Killer in High Heels by Gemma Halliday

The second entry in the saga of Maddie Springer, kids shoe designer and amateur sleuth, takes her out to Vegas to investigate a strange message she got on her answering machine–from a father she hasn’t seen since she was three–that ends with the sound of a gunshot.  Along with her best friend-actress sidekick and flaming gay sidekick, she travels to Vegas to see what she can find out about her dad, and gets caught up in the middle of some plot involving mobsters and drag queens.

Again, zaniness abounds; again, it works because you care about the characters.  Maddie doesn’t know much about her dad, whom her mom (loving but interfering, and stuck in an 80’s fashion warp) won’t talk about; and that’s what drives her to go to Vegas.  The mystery is secondary to Maddie’s finding her father and their developing, tenuous relationship–as much as it can be in the middle of drag shows and Vegas.  But you root for Maddie and her dad, and as crazy as their antics may get, still care and root for her and her friends to succeed as well.

Like the first book in the series, the book works because of its lovable characters and breezy tone, and is firmly in the fun, light read category.  And, like the first book, it made me want to dive right into the next one.

December 29, 2011 / leuce7

Cannonball Read III Review #3 – Spying in High Heels

Spying in High Heels by Gemma Halliday

I picked up this book on Kindle; I’m pretty sure it was free.  I was willing to give it a go because it seemed breezy, was set in L.A., and was a nice contrast to my other heavy (law school) reading.  And it was.  I ended up liking it way more than I thought I would.

It may come off as formulaic–the clumsy, clueless heroine, the sassy best friend, the supporting cast of wacky characters–but the characters are endearing, and the L.A. stereotypes, instead of making me gnash my teeth at another shallow assumption of what makes up L.A., are based on that kernel of truth that allows me to swallow them (hey, clichés become clichés because they’re true, right?).

But I think what really sells this story is the heroine, Maddie Springer.  She seemed very real to me–a woman who wanted to be a shoe designer but is still struggling to build up her career, her most successful gig so far being one designing kids shoes that end up at Payless; a woman with the same dating conundrums as the average twenty-something; a woman with that best friend who loves the gym and eating healthy whose body exhibits this dedication, while her own reflects her bad eating habits and half-hearted gym attendance (finally! A fictional character who gains weight when she eat like I do!).  Maddie is real and likable, and so is her wacky cast of supporting characters (healthy, gorgeous friend notwithstanding), so I’m willing to go along for the ride.

And, as I suspected from the get-go, it is a fun, breezy ride.  Maddie’s boyfriend gets caught up in an embezzlement investigation, and disappears; Maddie investigates more because she’s trying to figure out why her man stood her up than because she thinks he’s involved.  But shady results coupled with a hot cop in charge of the investigation make Maddie question whether she’s got the right man in her life, and her amateur sleuthing leads her into her own troubles.

Predictable?  Probably.  But fun?  Definitely.   And I liked it enough–and wanted to know more about what happened to the characters after the end of the events–to immediately download the next four.

December 29, 2011 / leuce7

I’m all talk, apparently.

I have a lot of books I haven’t read.  Yet, I didn’t read those this year, either.  Instead, I started law school and glommed on to what I refer to as “fun books”–genre fiction, mostly paperbacks or books I can read on Kindle, that were the farthest thing from law school reading possible.  So I read a lot of paranormal romance and Regency novels. Did I hit my reading goal this year?  Surpassed it; over the past three months alone I’ve read nearly 52 books.  But I haven’t reviewed a single one.  Now, since it’s so close to the end of the year, I’m going ahead and reviewing my genre fiction anyway.  The point is to read and review, right?  So be it.  Paranormal romance and Regency reviews to come.

March 4, 2011 / leuce7

I have a lot of books

Last year–well, technically in September of ’09–I started a new job and decided, on a whim, that I would not repeat the same pair of shoes until I had worn all the shoes I owned to work.  This was amusing for a time, until I couldn’t quite recall the shoes I wore two weeks ago, so then I started keeping a list.  Then a calendar.  This all finally ended because I had to give in to the fact that, since I started in the fall, and it was then January (yes, January without repeating a pair of shoes during the work week, starting from mid-September), there was no way I was going to be able to continue because I just simply couldn’t wear my spring shoes.  That’s right: I didn’t stop because I ran out of shoes; I stopped because it was snowing and I ran out of weather-appropriate shoes.

What does this have to do with books?

Well, it seems that, with the things I love, I tend to go a little crazy.  A tad overboard.  And it comes in such small increments–the number of $5 pairs of shoes I’ve managed to find astounds people–that I don’t even notice it happening.  And, conceptually, I suppose, I know I have a lot.  There is an amount there larger than normal.  But if actually forced to literally count it out–well, it gets a little embarassing.

Still, what does this have to do with books.

I love reading.  I always have.  I used to fake being scared of the dark when I was nine so my mother would let me keep a nightlight on, and I could read by the light of that nightlight.  I got really good at reading in dim lighting.  And I devoured books.  But originally, my books came from those Scholastic catalog deals, and I couldn’t go overboard.  And then I discovered thrift stores.  Second-hand shops.  Books for pennies.  Yard sales.  I went wild.  And the eBay came along, so when I was in college, I could get anything I wanted for pennies.  Oh, the CDs I bought my freshman year.  I now have a decent collection of CDs I never listen to.  Thank you, mp3s.

So, books.  The above is just a long winded explanation as to why I’ve accumulated so many books.  I have one of those cheap bookcases you can get at Office Depot or Staples, the one with just two shelves, instead of a nightstand.  I use it for paperbacks.  And I’ve actually cut back A LOT on paperbacks since I moved to New York–we just don’t have the room for so many books.  But still, I have that bookcase, and it is filled two-rows deep with paperbacks, both shelves.

Today I was digging through the house (all the books in the apartment, technically) looking for a book I’ve owed the library since last year.  Finally I found it, but I took advantage of having to look at each book I own to set up a pile of the books I’ve yet to get to.  I figured I’d have a handfull of books, maybe ten, that I have yet to crack open, and I’ve been kind of–restless, lately, with reading choices.  I figured this way, I’d have to read those books I hadn’t read yet.

When I was done, the pile was at 58.  That does not count any of the books in the living room bookcases or entryway bookcase that I have not read.  And there are some on there, too.

So, while I was planning on sticking to solely non-fiction books for this Cannonball thing, because I have so many books (fiction and non) and because I have no money to buy new books and cannot check out books from the library any time soon because I owe them my firstborn, I’m going to read what I have.  Until I have read every book in my apartment.  That will be way more than twenty-six.  However, I will only review what seems interesting to review.  While I’ve got some thousand-page tomes in that pile, I’ve also got some hundred and fifty page Harlequin novels I doubt anyone really wants to hear about.  Unless I think it’s so absolutely amazing everyone needs to hear about it.

And, since I have also already built up a sizeable list of non-fiction books I had wanted to read specifically for Cannonball, I will hurry as much as possible to finish what I’ve got so I can go back to getting more books than I can possibly finish.

The exception to this is any new book in a series.  You can’t actually expect me to wait for those, can you?  George R.R. Martin’s got a confirmed date for Dance of Dragons, Wise Man’s Fear just came out, and I have yet to pick up the new Susan Elizabeth Phillips, which is not so new anymore (on the other hand, An Echo in the Bone, which I have picked up, is sitting unread in the to-be-read pile in the living room).  But still, there’s no way I’m not buying those.

Of course, this technically doesn’t exclude anything I can get for free.  And Amazon and Barnes & Noble are always releasing ebooks to tempt readers into buying ereaders.  So those don’t technically count either.

But other than that, no new books.  For a while.

Audiobooks don’t count either.  They take up no space.

February 9, 2011 / leuce7

Cannonball Read III Review #2 – In Defense of Food

In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto by Michael Pollan

Last year, being the last year I would spend in my twenties, I decided it would be a good idea to start thinking about how to achieve an optimal me.  That lead to my requesting anything–advice, suggestions, ideas, etc.–that would aid me on this path to self-improvement.  Thus, In Defense of Food was, quite literally, delivered into my hands.

I have always had a very slightly more thorough knowledge of food and exercise than the average person with no particular interest in it, due to the unfortunate ill-health of my family members.  Through the experiences of relatives with diabetes and stints in Overeaters Anonymous, I already knew basic concepts like “sugar is bad for you” and “plants are good for you” with a further qualification of “you should try cutting out refined sugar and flours” and “eat more veggies.”  And if you do this, you will be a lot healthier.

Okay, so it’s pretty much self-evident, which is the point with which Michael Pollan surprisingly begins his defense.  But he then proceeds to slowly point out and clearly unravel all of the problems with what we should, through common-sense, know about eating and how that’s been altered, bit by bit, in the last thirty years by science, the food industry, and media, so drastically in fact, that by the end of it all our Twinkies would probably astound great-great-Grandma just as much as our jet planes.

Pollan writes clearly and engagingly, tracing the development of modern food industry and culture and breaking down why exactly our “food” is not quite the food we should be, and up until fairly recently, had been eating.  Even though there is plenty of talk of macro- and micronutrients and summaries of studies, none of it comes across as clinical, dense, or boring.  Instead, it’s like a breezy chat with your interesting uncle who has rather logical and fascinating tidbits about food at his disposal.  The book is extremely accessible and never preachy.   It never comes across as touting any sort of cure-all or fad or insanely restrictive and therefore impossible to sustain eating plan that you’ll try in good faith for all of one week before giving up and deep-frying something.

Instead, you come out on the other side with a strong understanding of why it makes sense to eat well, and what exactly “eat well” looks like (it can look French or Japanese or Italian or Inuit or more, but it rarely looks like most of the food America is so well-known for.  McDonald’s, I’m looking at you).  I finally had a strong understanding of and compelling reason for why I should buy organic, without feeling like I’m a tree-hugging hippie or rabid environmentalist (no offense to either).  And, in the end, the book actually made me look forward to eating in a way I never have after reading any other book about diet or nutrition.

Pollan is engaging and succinct–I was actually surprised when I hit page 200 and the book ended shortly thereafter–but he simply and clearly lays out an examination of the way we eat and a suggestion to a new (or, more accurately, a reverting to an old) approach that I feel is actually one of the more important things I’ve read since…well, maybe ever.  At least with regards to what I eat and how that affects my health.

The basic version is this: Eat food.  Not too much.  Mostly plants.

If you want more than that, pick up the book.  You’ll get a lot out of it.