Thursday, 30 August 2012

Beyond Black - Hilary Mantel

Hilary Mantel is one of those authors that I feel like I should really love. She's written a ton of best selling and highly regarded books. She's often raved about by one of my best friends. She's always mentioned with a tone of 'well, great authors like her…' As such, I keep trying to like her. This is the second Mantel book I've read and going into it, I was really excited. I mean, look at the cover. It looks like a bored Chaucerian woman vacuuming. This could only be amazing.

Beyond Black tells the story of Alison Hart, a (really) full figured psychic plying her trade around the suburbs on London. Unlike most psychics, she has a real gift, seeing ghosts pretty much all the time and, by such, revealing to the readers that they're really just mundane, see-through people. She has a spirit guide named Morris, a horrid, dirty little man that cracks rude jokes all the time and makes Alison uncomfortable. She also has an assistant named Colette, a no nonsense business girl who doesn't quite believe all this psychic stuff but just divorced her husband and needs something in her life like this.

The novel follows the two women from when they begin their partnership through their lives over a seven year period. The tale is fairly linear but does jump back several times to explore Alison's childhood, growing up with a prostitute for a mother and a constant stream of strange and threatening men through her house. As Alison is a psychic, she doesn't even get a reprieve from because if these men are dead, they can find their way to her door again. She is constantly on the look out for dangers from her past messing up her current life.

One of the strange things about this novel is that it really doesn't have that strong of a plot. There's no overarching theme other than just general life. Alison and Colette meet, work together, end up investing in a house. Sometimes they meet people. Generally they hate their neighbors. I suppose some readers found it refreshing to have a book just about living. I, however, found it made the book harder to read. I wanted to have something to be curious about. Really all we had that was mysterious were bits of Alison's past (something that doesn't get resolved until the last forty or so pages.) There needs to be a bit of forward momentum to pull me through a novel and I found myself struggling to make it through the book. 

Another problem I had was that the characters felt extremely unlikable to me. In the beginning, I was curious and looked forward to learning more about the spirit world, exploring the relationship between Alison and Colette and enjoying the journey. I instead found that little was said about the spirit world that kept me interested and the characters of both Alison and Colette really just deteriorated as the story went on. I was interested in them both at the beginning, wanting to find out more about Alison's past and explore her new relationship with Colette. However, Colette just became cruel and controlling while Alison meekly sat in the corner and felt pained. It was really hard to like either of them by the end of novel. I found myself just wanting it to be over.

I've read Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel, the Tudor novel that won the Booker a few years back. That book is marvelous (although a tiny bit tedious.) I cannot deny that Mantel is a very good writer who can pack a lot of detail and clarity into a paragraph. However, I feel like Beyond Black was a bit of a mess. Looking at the reviews and the awards that Beyond Black  was up for, I know that I am perhaps in the minority but I wanted more from this book than I got. It is unfortunate. I would read Mantel again but I think I'll stick to the historical fiction this time.

Monday, 27 August 2012

Cloud Atlas - David Mitchell

When the trailer for the new movie Cloud Atlas was released about a month ago, everyone was horribly confused. Just what was this movie actually about? I didn't watch the trailer myself, still not quite sure why, but was very aware of the confusion surrounding it. That's why, when I was at the library next and saw it sitting on the shelf, I decided to pick it up and give it a go. Surely, if I could read the book, then I would understand the movie and see just what all these people were talking about. And it was shortlisted for the Booker the year it came out so it must be good, right?

I don't even really know how to describe the plot of Cloud Atlas. It's a series of separate narratives, all taking place in very different places and times. The book opens with the diary of a solicitor from San Francisco, on his way home from New Zealand in the late 19th century. His story ends midway through (as, indeed, all the stories will, although this one does end mid sentence), and you find yourself reading a set of letters from one dear friend to another, detailing the exploits of one Robert Frobisher, a young composer living his life quite extravagantly and dangerously in Belguim in-between the world wars.

The story turns from Frobisher to Louisa Rey, an investigative reporter in California in the seventies. Her story reads like a crime thriller, with short chapters and explosive cliffhangers. On one such cliffhanger, the story then switches to the tale of an elderly publisher, who's just lucked out on his latest autobiography becoming a best seller due to a rather elaborate stunt pulled by the author. Just as he's living the high life, however, he has to go on the run due to some thugs trying to hustle themselves into a share of the profits.

Things become a little strange (not that they weren't before but still) with the next story, the futuristic The Orison of Somni-451. This story is about, essentially, a clone worker who slowly begins to realize that she's more than what she's supposed to be. Each of the stories is amazing in its own right but Somni-451 is astounding, in my opinion. It's a real science fiction masterpiece, within an amazing novel of its own.

Lastly, you reach the center of the book with a post-apocalyptic tale of a young goatherd whose family ends up taking in a stranger who wants to learn more about their tribe. This story, quite different from the rest, continues on longer as, in the center of the book, it is not divided in half. The reader follows Zack and while reading this bit, I think this is where the novel really begins to gel. The story is told and slowly, in reverse order, you begin to read the second half of each of the earlier narratives. And that's when it hits you: this book is spectacular.

I stayed up until 3:30 in the morning to finish this novel and then spent the next hour looking up things about it and writing friends to pick it up. I just honestly think it's amazing. It takes six very different characters, six very different writing styles, six very different plots to tell a story about the human spirit and the triumphs and failures of power. There are small connections woven throughout the stories that tie them together but even without those, the general theme shines through without much work. The characters speak for themselves and no amount of author gibberish clogs the main message.

This is one of those books that you finish and then sit in awe for awhile, not even entirely sure what to do with yourself anymore. It hangs over you like a benevolent cloud and all you can think is, when am I going to read another book that good? 

If you're a fan of epistolary novels, diary novels, crime thrillers, science fiction, bumbling old british men, post-apocalyptic fiction, interwoven morals or just books in general, this is the book for you. I really encourage you to give it a try. It's definitely worth it.

Thursday, 23 August 2012

Prep - Curtis Sittenfeld

Prep is one of those books that I remember coming out because I remember the cover. It's all white with a green and pink belt wrapped around it. I remember seeing that book on a table at Borders way back in 2005 and thinking 'That looks pretty good.' Of course, I didn't read it until 2012 but the point is, I remembered it the minute I saw it on the shelf at the library and grabbed it right away. And who says you can't judge a book by its cover?

Prep tells the story of Lee Fiora, a young girl from South Bend, Illinois, who decides, somewhat on a whim, that she wants to go to boarding school on the east coast. She convinces her parents, fills out the forms and never really believes it's going to happen until it does and she finds herself at Ault, an exclusive boarding school just outside of Boston. Each chapter takes place in a certain period of her four years at Ault, from the first semester of her freshman year to her graduation. Friends come and go, teachers root for her and dislike her, and boys seem ever present but eternally far away. In general, it's high school.

Now, I never went to boarding school but Sittenfeld did and you can tell from the novel that most of it must have been based on real experiences. She is able to draw a complete and engrossing picture of Ault because she has such experience to rely on. There is no doubt in your mind that the bank boys exist, that floral bedsheets are a status symbol and no one goes to the mall on free weekends. It all connects into a completely realized picture of a separate society of students and teachers who have little access to the world outside Ault. 

I may have not gone to a boarding school but I did go to a prep school and parts of Ault really resonated with me. The bits about the rich kids and the poorer kids getting along but secretly knowing just who they really were. Money not being spoken of but on everyone's minds. Cool kids acting like nothing in life could bother them and not as cool kids just trying to get by. Grades being a top priority and people not just being wealthy but smart, as well. Don't get me wrong; I loved my high school but anyone could see that similar situations were abundant there. It added a touch of realism for me I don't know was there for everyone.

Lee Fiora is a complicated character and I don't know if she would suit everyone's tastes. I've heard her described as a modern day female Holden Caufield and I can see where that is coming from. Lee is both very much and not at all your average teenage girl. She has a crush on the coolest boy in school. She worries about her grades (but perhaps not as much as she should.) She likes to sit in her dorm room and read magazines instead of going to chapel. She loves her best friend Martha but sometimes she drives her crazy. 

Sittenfeld goes farther than that with Lee, however. Lee has issues that she never really addresses in the novel. She has problems with showing enthusiasm. Despite always wanting to be a part of things, she never really lets herself, preferring to be detached. She never goes to school dances to the point where, when she considers maybe going along, her friends don't even think about inviting her anymore. She lets a boy use her, despite the fact that she knows full well what's happening. I've read quite a few reviews on this book (while waiting for a friend at the park) and it's astounding how many people just hate Lee because of all this. I'm not going to lie; sometimes I thought Lee was being a bit of a douche. But who isn't when they're fifteen? 

Sittenfeld doesn't go the obvious route with her "teenage angst", she has a girl who is all the ugliness of puberty as well as some of the good. And that's what I found refreshing. There's a chapter where Lee's parents come to visit her and Lee, despite wanting to see them and loving them so much she can't stand it, is horrifically embarrassed by them and finds herself being short with them, despite it all. She gets into a giant fight with her father and it all turns horribly wrong. And you feel every instant of it. You're instantly transported back to being sixteen and loving your parents but never wanting to be seen with them. There's even a bit where Lee wishes they could just go into Boston and be themselves, that she'd even let her mother take a picture of her inside a restaurant. But she can't be their little girl and who she has created at Ault at the same time. And I think that's something everyone who was ever a teenager remembers somewhat painfully.

Prep is not a feel good novel but it's not a downer either. It's a book about being a teenager, with all that entails, good and bad. I loved the end, how Lee both loved and hated Ault and didn't know what to do with herself. I loved everything being confusing. It was messy and it hurt but sometimes it made you smile. And that's why I liked it.

Monday, 20 August 2012

Generation A Reaction Post

Along with posting duel reviews, Colin and I will be posting reactions to each other's reviews a few days later. Here is my reaction to Colin's review, which you can read here. His reaction to my review is here.

I feel like I don't have all that much to say in my reaction to Colin's review, mainly because we agreed on a lot of things. One thing that he loved (and I don't think I proclaimed my love of in my review) was short chapters. Short chapters are the best! They keep the plot going and make you read faster because it's a lot easier to go "well, just a little more" when the chapters are only a few pages long. This was definitely helpful to this book as well, keeping the plot moving and allowing for each character to have a voice (and getting you quickly to another one if you were sick of one). 

Colin had a problem with the story section, as did I. However, he mentions that it isn't very scientific, saying "Now I’m no scientist, but is that how science really works? I don’t think we landed a rover on Mars via telling stories," which I will admit, made me giggle. I guess that's true but most of the science we'd been treated to at this point didn't seem very scientific, either. The fact that it didn't seem believable wasn't really the problem for me so much as just how long it went on for. 

He didn't think the end lived up to the beginning, saying "It started out strong, but faltered near the end and ended weakly." I completely agree with that. I think I just liked the bit with Serge at the end and that let me appreciate the ending more. 

I think Colin enjoyed this book more than I did but it's not like I disliked it. It was more that I read the entire book eager to see what would happen and then was left with a "well, huh" moment at the end. I wanted more than that and it didn't deliver. Was it interesting? Yes. Did I love it? Eh, it was okay. 

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

[Duel Review!] Generation A - Douglas Coupland

Today marks the inaugural review of a project my friend Colin (thebookpirate) and I have been working on for about a month now. He and I have decided to both read the same book and post our reviews on the fifteenth of each month. Then, after a few days, we will respond to each other's reviews. I'm really excited about it and look forward to hearing what Colin has to think. If you aren't reading Colin's blog already, you should be!

Our first book is Generation A by Douglas Coupland, mainly because Colin was reading it already when we planned to do this. I'd never read a Douglas Coupland book before but the plot sounded intriguing so I was happy to give it a go.

Generation A takes place in the near future where, inexplicably, all the bees have vanished. This has led to fewer plants, less of a harvest and less honey, obviously. Most people are getting on fine, however. What starts the whole book rolling is when, in the middle of a midwestern cornfield, a young man is stung by a bee, the first in a good five years. Four other people all over the world quickly follow in succession but no where near their areas can any hives be found.

The five are all quickly hauled away and brought down for testing in extreme medical facilities. After some odd studies, they are sent back out into a world where they are celebrities. But something seems to be drawing them back together again.

The book has a super interesting premise. I can honestly say that I never thought a book about the disappearance of bees would be something I would be eager to read. I was excited about the premise and really looked forward to reading it. Whether I liked it or not, I'm still not completely sure. 

While the first half of the book was crisp and fresh, about midway through, the book decides it wants to play around with narratives, having the main characters all start telling stories. While the stories were interesting and fun, there were far too many without any narrative action in between. While a few would be good, this many was distracting and took away from the urgency of the actual plot. It was jarring.

Coupland's writing style is definitely unique. He has turns of phrases that you would never think of that make you chuckle and a definite flair for creating character. I do think he's a bit questionable when it comes to his female characters (it's a bit off-putting when a female character uses the word 'tits' and it's not the one with Tourettes) but they definitely all have unique voices. There were a couple of times where I thought Coupland might be leading us down a certain path (I felt sure that one character didn't actually have Tourettes, just said what she was thinking and used it as an excuse) but he just never did. It was slightly strange but I suppose I got used to it. He does have a bit of an abortive writing style, suggesting ideas and then killing them off just as quickly. It tools some of the drama out of the story but I suppose it didn't do too much harm.

I did feel when I finished the book that I wasn't entirely sure what I had read. The beginning and the end are both quite interesting but the middle bit was lagging, drawing attention away from what could have been a very well done ending sequence. Perhaps its because Coupland doesn't like writing action (and I feel him on that because I don't either) but the lack of it was definitely noticeable. I can't say this for sure because this was the only book by Coupland I've ever read but I think perhaps he's the type that comes up with amazing plots but is never quite sure how to execute them. I will have to read another to see.

I did enjoy the book. It was a page turner, especially since every few pages the narrator changes, making it easy to fly through and keeping interest by waiting to see what another character would say about a situation. I felt like a few characters were weaker than others but I suppose that's just life. I can honestly say that I definitely wanted to get through it and learn the truth. The truth may have been a bit dubious (and I wish it had been explored more at the expense of some of those stories) but it was definitely interesting. Would I recommend it? I suppose so. Just be prepared for a bit of a trek.

Read Colin's review here. And look for a new Duel Review on September 15!

Monday, 13 August 2012

Wrapped Up In You - Dan Jolley & Natalie Nourigat

Well, look at me, being a big time book blogger. This is the first time I'm able to review a book before it's actually been published. I was sent the ARC copy of Wrapped Up in You last week and get to review it early. Mainly because I'm best friends with Natalie Nourigat but what are you going to do?

Wrapped Up in You is one in a series of new books from Lerner Publishing called My Boyfriend is a Monster. Jumping on the whole Twilight bandwagon, Lerner wanted to make a series that both embraced the supernatural mystique that is gripping the nation but is also much more responsible, showing girls with healthier relationships than their sparkly counterparts. Each book in the series uses a different monster: vampires, werewolves, Frankenstein's monster, etc. If you couldn't guess from the title, Wrapped Up in You is the mummy book.

Now, of course, romancing someone in thick bandages seems a bit more medical than romantic but no worries, this mummy is of the Incan variety, brought back to life by magic (of course) and much more attractive and muscular than that friend of Abbott and Costello. Oh, and his name's Chuck. Because of course it is.

Our heroine is a girl named Staci Glass, your average highschooler. She's best friends with a girl named Faith but, unfortunately, Faith begins hanging around with the wrong sort of crowd. Drug users? No, magic users. Yep, Faith starts hanging out with witches, who end up bringing Chuck back from the dead, just in time for him to wine and dine Staci and defeat those witches because, you know, they're pretty mean. 

The story, overall, is pretty cute, if a little over-simplistic. It works for its target audience, teenage girls, but it does feel a bit off. I think, for the most part, the story works once it gets past its very odd and uneven beginning. Staci complains about always witnessing bad things happening and whether or not she should tell people about it. That is a weird thing to complain about. It's just so oddly specific about something that happens to everyone. Also, is she just hyper observant? It's a weird problem to have.

The other thing about the beginning that really threw me off was the way Staci gets very worried about Faith "doing magic." When asked if she believes in magic, she says that she doesn't but she also understands that there's things she doesn't know. This bizarre sequence of Staci trying to get advice from several authority figures at her school (including an extremely odd bit with a guidance counselor) just doesn't gel with the rest of the book. Once the mummy is risen(?), of course you have to start believing in magic. It obviously works. But before that, this is a seemingly normal school. Why is Staci so freaked out about Faith doing "magic"? I would understand if maybe she thought something else was going on, drugs or alcohol-related. That would seem more in keeping with the tone. Having her worried about magic before any proof that it existed was off-putting.

Not that Staci wasn't a nice main character; she was, even despite her awful name. She was genuinely nice and sweet, caring about the, admittedly few, friends she had. It just felt like she was quite bland. She didn't really have anything that made her stand out, other than the fact that things happened to her. Now, I'm sure part of this is just the fact that there weren't a whole lot of pages for Jolley to work with but she still felt rather flat. 

Also flat? Her relationship with Chuck. Once again, I fear this is mainly the fault of the book's length. Chuck isn't even introduced until the end of the first chapter. But he's definitely much more fleshed out than Staci, having a clear personality and motives for his actions. But despite him being a well defined character, the relationship between him and Staci seems forced. She's the only girl he's interacted with since he died (awkward) and they go from walking around to kissing in about two seconds flat. It was hard to believe that this was a real relationship. The end was sweet but it definitely felt rushed. Probably because it was.

The overall plot was good and engaging. The bits with the witches were fun and the police detectives definitely added something to the mix. It's a fun book to read. It just felt a bit forced at times. 

As for the art, well, I'm a bit biased. Personally, I thought it was a perfect tone for the book. It was never too far out but it was also whimsical and went with the story. I especially loved all the museum pieces. Chuck definitely looked like an Incan and Faith looked like the sort of personal that would twirl through life. It all connected with the larger context.

Wrapped Up in You is a good book for what it wants to be. You can tell there was room for more if there was just the time or place to add it in but for a fun romp through magic fights and Incan delights, than this is the book for you.

Wrapped Up in You will be available from Lerner Group in October 2012.

Thursday, 9 August 2012

Room - Emma Donoghue

Have you ever read a book that was so gripping that you couldn't put it down, even to go to sleep? That you briefly had to close it and steady your breathing because it was getting very intense and you had to calm yourself down before you plunged right back in? That you immediately felt you had to recommend to everyone you knew the minute you finished it? And that you felt kind of made you view the world in a different way once you'd put it down?

Welcome to Room.

The real problem with reviewing Room is that, to really get the full experience of the book, I can't actually tell you anything about the plot. Room is one of those books that throws you in from the first page and one of the major points of the book is to see you try and figure out what's actually going on. If you knew from the beginning, it would take away half of the books dramatic impact. So, I'm not going to tell you.

All I will say is that it's about a boy named Jack. The book begins on his fifth birthday and is told completely from his point of view. Jack lives in a room with his mother. And that's all you get to know.

One of the most impressive bits about the book is the way Donoghue creates our adorable narrator, Jack. He's five and the book sounds like it is very realistically written by a five year old. Donoghue has said that she studied the speech patterns and grammatical mistakes of her own children and created a kind of mini-dictionary of kidlish to help her get in the mindset of Jack and it really shows. There is never a time while reading that you doubt Jack's voice. It's distinct and clear, at times adorable and at times worrying. 

Seeing everything through a child's eyes, as well, is a big part of the impact of the book. Because Jack is so young and so unique, it takes the reader to piece together exactly what is happening from the clues you pick up from Jack. Beyond that, however, it also helps you look at the world as a child would see it, adding a sense of wonder to things that, even to a normal five year old, would become trite and overly normal. Jack is amazed and confused by all and it is quite refreshing.

This book was shortlisted for both the Booker and the Orange prizes and you can tell when you pick it up. Although it may take a few pages to get into, the mystery of it all will grab you and pull you right in. I started reading at 8 PM on a Monday night and didn't put it down until I'd finished it at 2:30. And then immediately emailed some friends telling them to pick it up and started researching Emma Donoghue. I was enamored by the story and I want everyone else to be, as well.

So, this review is quite short because I'm trying to keep my mouth shut. Hopefully, my elusiveness has convinced you that you need to check this out. Even if it hasn't, I would hope you would, anyway. This book is for everyone. Read it. You won't be disappointed. 

Monday, 6 August 2012

The Pirate Prince - Gaelen Foley

I'm going to do something right now that I honestly never thought I'd do: I'm going to sit in the British Library and type up a review of a romance novel I actually love to pieces. It's name? The Pirate Prince.

I first read The Pirate Prince my sophomore year of college. I lived with two other English majors and we had taken to buying romance novels and sharing them around, like some sort of vaguely sketchy library. Every novel bought was not for us but for the three of us and I guess you could say we had kind of a socialism utopia going on in that room, if only of the romance novel variety.

My best friend A had first read The Pirate Prince and told me I had to read it. I looked at it a bit questioningly (the cover seemed horrendous and seriously, The Pirate Prince?) but I trusted her judgement and jumped on in. So glad I did.

The Pirate Prince is the story of two ridiculously star-crossed heroes. First we have Allegra, the daughter of the governor of Ascension, an island nation around Italy in the late 1700s. She has spent the past nine years in school in Paris and has come back to her homeland with some new, radical ideas the bustling capital of instilled in her. She isn't happy with the way her father is ruling the kingdom.

Someone else unhappy with her father? Lazar de Fiore, the rightful king of Ascension. There was a coup when he was quite young and his entire family was killed. He only escaped by jumping into the sea. Now, grown up and, well, a pirate prince, he has come back to his home in order to reclaim his throne. 

Lazar's plan goes surprisingly well and he ends up capturing a good number of the city officials. However, Allegra agrees to accompany him if he spares her father and the rest of her family. Thinking this is probably a more holy move (a family murder being what brought him here in the first place) and getting a pretty girl in the bargain, Lazar agrees. And thus begins the silliest but loveliest romance novel I have ever read.

Allegra is a strong female lead and I love her. She is no push over, saying no to Lazar more often than she says yes. She has her own views and opinions on how things she be done and she almost marries a man she doesn't love solely in order to be able to help the people of Ascension. Not that romance novels usually have weak heroines (you would be surprised), Allegra is definitely feisty, smart and just interesting to read about.

But let's just put that aside so I can talk about my favorite aspect of this book: Lazar de Fiore. He is my favorite male lead, possibly of al time. Why? Because he is the most ridiculous hero I have ever read about. First of all, he has the darkest past imaginable. His entire family was murdered in front of him, he was found washed up on a shore by an evil man who forced him to do evil things and then he rescued himself and became a pirate, ultimately trying to regain his throne. That's pretty dark.

Lazar, though? Not dark at all. In fact, pretty silly. I think the reason I love this book so much is that I would just burst out laughing at pretty much everything he does. Also, he's super dramatic, which only makes things better. Due to his humongous angst levels, he keeps a revolver in his desk should he ever reach a breaking point. The only bullet in it? Pure silver. Lazar, you're not a werewolf. What are you doing?

One of my favorite scenes in the entire book, which I still remember and laugh at to this day, is pretty early on after Allegra has agreed to stay with Lazar. They're up in the crow's nest and Lazar has been kind of down in the dumps all day. Allergra, although still not completely on his side, still likes him and decides to try and cheer him up. She asks him what she could do to make him feel better. Lazar perks up and smiles, all puppy dog and goes "You could sleep with me!" Allegra frowns at him and goes "No, I'm not doing that," and Lazar's head goes down again, kind of like "aww, it was worth a try." A and I still quote that at each other. 

Basically, I adore this book because it is just ridiculous. Don't get me wrong; Foley is actually a very good writer. She's written a ton of period romances and each one is meticulously researched. She's also done two sequels to The Pirate Prince, following the lives of Allegra and Lazar's children. (I really hope you don't call spoilers. This is a romance novel, after all.) This, though, is by far my favorite. Way too much plot, ridiculous plot twists and out of this world characters. I love this book. 

Thursday, 2 August 2012

The Heather Wells Series - Meg Cabot

Meg Cabot is my guilty pleasure. Like many other girls, I started reading her Princess Diaries series when I was in high school and found myself hooked. While I didn't end up liking the entire series (there were some daft bits in the middle), I did find myself falling for Meg Cabot's writing style. It's so effortless and conspiratorial, like chatting with a best friend. Thus, I took it upon myself to read everything she's ever written.

Nowadays, I think I have read all of her canon. There may be a few new young adult books I haven't been able to find but for the most part, I've read it all. And loved it. She writes for both young adult and adult audiences. While most people have probably grown up on her young adult books, I personally enjoy her adult series more. Because she doesn't have to cater to an age group, she's able to say whatever she likes and create fun and interesting characters. And thus she created my favorite book series, the Heather Wells Series.

Heather Wells is an assistant director to a residence hall at New York College. She is in charge of taking care of the messes and drama that come with everyday life in a college dorm. She enjoys walking her dog, eating treats and relaxing with some bad television. She's completely normal and lovable. 

The only difference between Heather and a regular person, however, is that when she was fifteen, she was the biggest selling popstar in the world. She and her hit, Sugar Rush, toured the world, opening for the then incredibly popular boy band, Easy Street. In a happy relationship with the lead singer of Easy Street, Jordan Cartwright, Heather thought her world was perfect. Until some years went by, she put on a few pounds and decided to write her own music. With the record company not wanting to produce her new songs and walking in on her boyfriend with another woman (up and coming popstar Tania Trace), Heather thought her world was over.

Losing her once obvious career, Heather is offered a place by Cooper, Jordan's older brother. The blacksheep of the family, Cooper is a private detective that lives in an idyllic brownstone flat in NYC, close to where Heather ends up taking up that assistant director job. In return for a free place to live, Heather agrees to do Cooper's paperwork. And to be honest, she's always had a bit of a crush on Cooper so everything's kind of working out alright. 

Well, except for all the deaths that occur in her dorm. Did I mention it's a mystery series?

I cannot tell you how much I love Heather Wells. She is one of my favorite heroines of all time. She is just completely relatable. She covets the same food, thinks the same one off thoughts as she judges the people around her and just genuinely wants the best life will give her. Heather does have that mystery novel problem of just always stumbling upon a new death every so often but it never feels contrived somehow. Of course Heather Wells will save the day. She may not be adequately prepared for what's about to happen but she definitely will never back down. 

Another thing Cabot is very good about is creating sympathetic and well rounded side characters. Besides Jordan, Heather's ex, Cooper, Heather's flatmate and hopefully more, and her coworkers at the dorm, Cabot actually creates an entire network of characters, from the detective that Cooper's always working with to the entirety of the staff at New York College. Each character is equally memorable and as some characters move on to new positions, new characters come in to fill their jobs. Each one, however, is completely unique, from Sarah, Heather's assistant that is two tightly wound, to the President of the college's wife who always has a bit too much to drink to Simon Hague, Heather's rival and director of the fancy dorm, Wasser Hall. 

The series was originally a trilogy and I thought it would stay one but I was delighted to find a fourth book that came out this July (which I read in two sittings and completely adored) and a fifth book on its way next year. The world definitely needs more Heather Wells in it. If you're in the mood for some comedy, a bit of action, a lot of mystery and just a great cast of characters, these books are most definitely for you.