Monday, September 16, 2013

Murder Monday: Isabel Dalhousie, Hannah Swensen, & Powell's City of Books

I can't believe that in all my visits to Portland, I'd never done an exclusive post about Powell's City of Books!  Well, last weekend, I finally got a chance to take some photos, so now I can share with you one of my favorite places in the whole wide world.
I took Jared's bike to the shop on Saturday, which put me downtown with some time to kill.
I've been making great use of the Multnomah County Library System, but had only indulged in one trip to Powell's since we moved in August. I figured there was basically no better way to spend a Saturday afternoon than poking around amongst the shelves!
My first stop was the magazine section, to the right when you walk in the front doors. I have a subscription to Real Simple, but my experience with subscription sign-ups is that they take several months to get rolling, so I bought this month's issue to tide me over.  (Side note - my subscription copy arrived in the mail this week.  Oops on me, but yay for Real Simple!)
I saw a book that reminded me of my dad...
...and another that reminded me of some dear family friends who introduced us to "Hello Muddah, Hello Faddah."
I love how the whole store is organized by "room" and there are signs everywhere telling you which room to go to for the books you want.
I actually had more than browsing on my plate.  Jared needed an anatomy coloring book for school, so I went to find him the latest edition. 
Then I toodled over to my very favorite section in the store - the mysteries!!!
They have my all-time favorite, Agatha Christie:
As well as two new (to me) authors.  I'll start with Joanne Fluke.
I picked up "Fudge Cupcake Murder" in the library a few weeks ago, because the title sounded fun and the cover was adorable.  (Not sure if this is my dad's criteria, but he's the man who taught me about "spine trolling," so I owe him a nod.)  I mean, a baker who solves mysteries and gives treat recipes every other chapter?
Well, I was pretty disappointed.  Honestly, I only finished the book so that I could write this little review.  The language and sexual content were all very mild, but as I told Jared, "Usually I can't finish books because they're too graphic.  This one just isn't very good...but it says 'Best-Selling Author'!!!"
I felt like it could've been a great novel if someone had edited out about a third of the book.  The characters and the Minnesota town were endearing and fun, and of course the baking in conjunction with crime-solving was a great little twist.  But the author seemed like she had never heard the phrase, "Show, don't tell."  We got Hannah Swensen's daily life and thought process in painstaking detail. 
My biggest frustration with this book was the sheer wordiness of it.  I felt like it was repetitive, saying the same thing over and over again, redundant, and over-emphasizing every point in case you didn't get it the first time.  (See what I mean?)
However, I must say that the actual solving of the murder, along with the red-herrings and revelation of the villain, was well-done and interesting.  If you love baking and don't mind verbosity, these could be an enjoyable series.
And now, the fun part: my new favorite mystery writer, Alexander McCall Smith!
My mother-in-law told me about his No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series, but when I couldn't find the first book at the library, I picked up his Isabel Dalhousie series and fell absolutely in love.
It takes place in modern-day Scotland, and makes you want to light a fire and snuggle up with a plaid blanket and a cup of tea.  Isabel is the editor of a philosophical journal, and her internal monologues and debates about the ethical implications of everyday life are a treat to read. 
These differ somewhat from the standard mystery novel.  You are treated just as much to Isabel's personal life as you are to her "moral obligations" to others.  Solving the mystery is crucial, but usually takes a surprising turn.
I absolutely recommend these delightful novels...and of course I bought the third in the series: The Right Attitude to Rain.
My haul included a $4 Dombey & Son, my Isabel Dalhousie novel, Amateur Detectives, Jared's coloring book, my magazine, and a handy blue bag for all the loot.
This set me back about $50 - most of the books were used.
If you ever come to Portland, don't miss Powell's City of Books!  Parking can be a bit of a challenge, but any hassle is absolutely worth it.  Set aside a few hours, browse the shelves, checkout, and then spend some time reading and people-watching in their delicious café.
And in the meantime, grab a copy of The Sunday Philosophy Club and head to Edinburgh!

No comments:

Post a Comment

Thanks for adding your two cents to The (Megha) Mix!