Friday, July 21, 2006

Keepin' Cool

Well I haven't been keeling over from the heat - but looking at last month's electric bill just about did me in. Highest ever. Turns out I was the only one shocked however. When I asked The Boyfriend to guess how much it was he was only off by like $5.

My reading has slowed down quite a bit lately, but I finally got the new Laura Levine mystery from work yesterday. Um, I finished it this morning. It took less than 24 hours. Levine's books are always like that for me, and then I find myself going through withdrawals for a year until the next one comes out. Which I then read in one day starting the cycle all over again.

This fifth adventure finds Los Angeles freelance writer Jaine Austen (no relation) coping with the impending marriage of her best friend, Khandi. Khandi has had no time for Jaine - dragging her adorable fiance' on their lunch dates, talking about endless wedding plans, and making Jaine feel like a third wheel. So when she gets invited to join The PMS Club, she sees it as a chance to make some new friends.

The PMS Club was formed at a local gym and they meet once a week over margaritas and Mexican food to gossip. There's Pam, the struggling actress; Colin, the token gay guy; Rochelle the hostess with the mostest who makes a killer guacamole; Ashley the augmented shopaholic; Doris the sassy 60-something divorcee' and Marybeth. Yeah, Marybeth is the fly in the ointment. An insufferable perky interior designer that gets on everybody's nerves, except for Rochelle who adores her. Turns out though that Marybeth is boffing Rochelle's husband and after confessing as much, keels over dead from peanut-oil tainted guacamole. Yeah, Marybeth is deathly allergic to peanuts and yeah, Rochelle made the guacamole.

Jaine doesn't think Rochelle is capable of murder, so she starts to investigate. What she finds is that everyone had a reason to hate Marybeth and whoa doggie, are there plenty of motives.

I'm not sure how Levine does it. Her books always have short page counts (this one at 245), but they never feel skimpy or overstuffed. The mystery is always very good, with several suspects and plenty of red herrings. Plus, she throws in quite a bit about Jaine's personal life. Besides the usual antics and e-mails from her parents (her dad is a trip!), her cat, Prozac, has to go on a diet but he has Jaine wrapped around his paw. There is also the swanky job writing a company newsletter for a local bank that Jaine desperately wants - but she keeps embarrassing herself in front of the hunky guy who is interviewing her. Then there is Jaine's issue with food. She likes to eat and she lives in Los Angeles. Seriously, I can relate. I don't care what anyone says - lettuce and tofu are not real food!

This is a really fun series, and one of the few that stand alone very well. Levine doesn't really build each book on top of another - they're more like Day In The Life snapshots. It's easy to zip around the series without getting lost.

That said, I do have one complaint. The author has a tendency to plug the other books. Romance authors have been known to do this (the heroine is reading a book written by the author's pseudonym for example), but Levine's is more heavy handed. Jaine will say something like, "I've solved murders before and you can read all about it in Titles 1, 2, 3 and 4 out in paperback now." I think it's supposed to be tongue-in-check and fun - but I find it a touch on the grating side.

Other than that though - fantabulous series. Run out now and read 'em.

No comments: