Wednesday, February 04, 2009

I so don't do book reviews, but I'm willing to try

Hey, kids! Guess what? I joined a new club!
The Book Review Club, organized by the wonderful Barrie Summy.

Now, full disclosure: I'm not much of a book reviewer. Sure, I sometimes babble on this blog or on Drunk Writer Talk about books I've liked, and I do have critical discussions about books with my writer buddies and friends, but a full-on-official-type book review? Ummm... Not so much. I don't think I've done one since grade school.
However, regular readers of my blog will know how often I babble about movies -- and some people are generous enough to refer to those movie-babbles as reviews. This must be why Barrie thought I could pull off a book review. Won't she be surprised when some months I review movies instead of books for this club. 'Cause I'm a rebel. ;-)

But for this inaugural month, I figured I should do an actual book. Once I thought through the books I've read in the past few months, the choice was obvious: Barrie Summy's wonderful debut, I SO DON'T DO MYSTERIES, released in hardcover, by Delacorte Press in December 2008. Buy it here. (Okay, buy it anywhere, just buy it.)

I SO DON'T DO MYSTERIES is aimed at the middle grade reader but I think teenaged girls looking for a fun read would enjoy it, too. (Not to mention adults...) While I think many boys would love this book, given the female protagonist, and more significantly, the adorable graphics on the dustcover (and the bubble-gum pink cover under that) I think this book is mostly for girls. (or boys willing to pick up a book with a pink cover.) I also think it will be enjoyed by reluctant and avid readers alike. The fun, mystery plot and bright, bubbly, first-person voice are a delight to read. Granted I'm a little older than middle-grade (try middle-aged?) but I zipped through this book in one sitting. Fun. Fun. Fun. And my 10-year-old niece gave it her thumbs up, too.

Sherry Holmes Baldwin is a innovative and brave detective in the great tradition of her namesake Sherlock Holmes and probably more on point -- Nancy Drew. But while I loved the Nancy Drew books when I was young, I wish I'd had a series of Sherry Holmes Baldwin books to read instead. Sure, both Nancy and Sherry are bright, resourceful girls who get into and out of dangerous situations as they sift through clues to find the bad guy, but Sherry has something Nancy Drew never had -- Sherry is hilarious.

I laughed out loud so many times while reading this book it was slightly embarrassing. (Note to self: don't read Barrie's next book in public.)

Another difference between this and most mystery novels is the addition of a paranormal element. Sherry, her BFF Junie, and major crush Josh, are helped along the way by Sherry's late mother -- now a ghost -- who was a cop while alive, and also a detective in the afterlife. Sherry's also helped by her late grandfather, who has taken the form of a wren.

I loved this little touch of magic in the story, but what I most loved was that Summy didn't rely on magic or any supernatural ghost powers to solve the mystery. In fact, the ghost and bird had so many limits on what the could do, that Sherry was helping them, more than the other way around. Sure, her mother and grandfather play their parts, but solving the mystery and capturing the bad guy is all Sherry.

Along the way, Sherry and her mother get to discuss some of the issues they never had a chance to resolve before her mother's tragic death. But while these moments were emotional and touching, Summy never let them get too heavy or change the light tone of the story. (And I have to say the idea of her mother's ghost both smelling like and being attracted to coffee made me a little misty... as that's the scent I most associate with my own mother. )

Oh, and did I mention there are rhinoceroses, movie stars and an evil French Chef?
Um... Was I supposed to start with a summary? (I told you I wasn't a very good book reviewer...)

B'ah. You can read the summary on Amazon.


Louisa Edwards said...

Personally, I don't like too much summary in a book review. They so often contain spoilers! You made this book sound fun and engaging, which makes me want to read it.

Kwana said...

This sounds fun. Great first review, Maureen!

Barrie said...

Oh, Maureen, I so love you! Can't wait till our next get together in Toronto! Or anywhere, for that matter.

kathy holmes said...

I love all of your babbles, Maureen, on books, movies, drunk writer talk, the publishing world...

And Barrie has such a wonderful writing voice, I zipped through it, too. So fun and clever!

David Cranmer said...

Good review. My wife and I are enjoying this book right now ourselves.

D.A. Riser said...

You're funny, Maureen. I already read Barrie's book and would give it two thumbs up (even though I'm a guy). Kudos to you for making it your first book review -- I thought about doing it for mine but wasn't brave enough.

L.A. Mitchell said...

I have the perfect niece in mind for this. And you, Maureen, are so honest in your film reviews, I know you don't gush over just *anything*.

Great cover, too, Barrie :)

Sarah Laurence said...

Funny review about what promises to be a funny book.

Alyssa Goodnight said...

Awesome review! I've yet to read it, but it's definitely on my list. My nine-year-old son still likes me to read books aloud to him, so this would be a perfect pick!

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