Monthly Archives: March 2008

Twilight by Stephanie Meyer

Twilight CoverWhen her mother re-marries a minor league baseball player, seventeen year-old Bella Swan decides to move to the small town of Fork, Washington to live with her father, Charlie.   Bella enrolls in the local high school, setting of a wave of interest in the “new girl” in town.  But as she makes friends and interest suitors, Bella finds herself draw to the members of the mysterious Cullen family and especially to Edward Cullen.  Bella begins to look into the mystery of the Cullens (they’re all a bit pale, miss school on certain days and have an odd reputation around town) and discovers their secret–Edward and his family are vampires.   Bella and Edward are attracted to each other, though each tries to downplay it at first. 

Soon the couple is spending more and more time together and slowly falling in love.

For the first two-thirds of her debut novel Twilight, Stephanie Meyer captures the urgency and intensity of a first-love all while channeling a vibe of early season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer in the story of Bella and Edward.  (Only big difference is Bella has no super powers).  But once the two reach  a point where they seem to be happy and content, things start go horribly awry–not just for the couple, but for the novel.

The pace picks up, but not in a good way.  The storyline brings in outside dangers that feel forced, as if to prove the depth of the love Bella and Edward have.  It also serves to introduce some conflict and disagreement between the two, as well as a reaction by another character who intially warns Bella about Edward.  The novel ends with a distinctly unfinished feeling, almost as if at 500 pages (or in my case, 11 CDs), the publisher new the limit of an attention span for the target young adult audience and decided to call it quits.   It’s not a natural end point to the story, though from a marketing standpoint, it makes sense to leave the reader wanting more and seeking the next installment.  Hopefully future installments of this series won’t make the same mistake.

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Another Thing To Fall by Laura Lippman

Another Thing To FallThe tenth entry in Laura Lippman’s Tess Monaghan series finds the Baltimore-native reporter-turned-private-eye rowing her way into the production of the television mini-series Mann of Steel. Tess is hired to provide security for young starlet Selene Waites (think Paris Hilton only with acting ability) due to a series of disturbing incidents plaguing the fledgling series.

At first Tess chalks Selene up to a ditzy Hollywood type, but events quickly show that Selene is cleverer than she lets on. When the series of incidents escalates into the death of one of the writing assistants, Tess’ natural curiosity is piqued and she begins to investigate what’s really happening with the Mann of Steel production.

As the story unfolds, a number of likely suspects enter into the picture with Lippman laying out a foundation and motive for each person to be part of the plot to disrupt the production of the show. As always with Lippman’s books, the pages turn easily and the narrative shifts between several characters while staying firmly grounded with Tess. The first half of the book lays out all the characters and their potential motivations and the second half puts the pieces into place, leading up to a satisfying denouncement to multiple mysteries taking place within the novel.

Yet despite having several threads running, the novel never loses focus or the reader.

Along with Elizabeth George, Lippman writes the most satisfying, character-driven mystery novels on the market today. As with George’s Lynley and Havers series, part of the pleasure in Lippman’s Monaghan novels is the chance to “catch up” with Tess. Of course, the mystery is compelling as well or else the novels wouldn’t be worth the time or effort. But the balance of character and mystery is well navigated here. And Lippman does the near impossible task of allowing new readers into the Tess universe while satisfying long-time readers of Tess’ adventures.

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