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Put On Your High-Heeled Sneakers

Wear This Now: Your Style Solution For Every Season and Any Occasion by Michelle Madhok with Eileen Conlan (Harlequin Nonfiction, $12.99, 304 pages)

The field of self-help fashion books is crowded.  The first gurus on the scene were Trinny Woodall and Susanna Constantine, whose What Not To Wear book and television series in Great Britain came to the U.S. in the delightful form of the TLC series of the same name starring Stacy London and Clinton Kelly.   There have been countless other books and shows along the way, some targeting how not to look old or how to shop your closet.   If you take the no-nonsense, truly caring approach that the What Not To Wear teams have taken in helping the rest of us to get dressed, and add an internet shopping and blogging factor, you’ll arrive at this charmingly illustrated book.

Michelle Madhok and Eileen Conlan have earned their expertise through years of shopping (bricks and mortar and on-line) along with reporting on fashion.   Respectively, they are the founder and senior editor of SHEFINDS MEDIA which encompasses several blogs.   Michelle has appeared on numerous television shows and Eileen is widely published.

The audience for this book seems to be women between the ages of twenty-five and forty whose lives are busy, primarily at work and out with friends after work and on weekends.   The first chapter was a bit more choppy and bouncy than this reviewer anticipated.   Considering the age range for the targeted readers, it probably isn’t a deal breaker for these readers.   Fortunately, I stuck with the read and was rewarded with very helpful and specific advice.   From seasonal shopping lists and advice on how to score the best bargains, to several outfits for each event likely to be part of the reader’s life.

The beauty of this book is that it has a life beyond the initial read.   A set of tabs or flags posted at the chapters would be a sure way to streamline its use throughout the year.

Well recommended.

Ruta Arellano

A review copy was provided by the publisher.   Wear This Now was released on September 1, 2012.

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We Won’t Get Fooled Again

Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff: A Novel by Don Bruns (Oceanview Publishing; $25.95; 312 pages)

If you enjoy watching the television series Psych on the USA Network, you’re in for a similar experience reading Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff.   As with Psych, there are two buddies who are most likely under the age of thirty and who insist on having a career of their own making, namely private investigation.   Since More or Less Investigations has only recently qualified for a Florida private investigation license, and neither Skip Moore nor James Lessor [get it – more or lesser?] really knows how to conduct a professional investigation, it comes as no surprise that the fellows are ripe for some hilarious results when they begin sleuthing.

The setting for this humorous mystery novel is a second-rate carnival in South Florida where the number of serious mishaps has been increasing over the past year, enough so that the carnival owners are becoming paranoid.   James takes a job as the marketing director as a cover for investigating behind the scenes.   He convinces Skip, who actually has a “real” job selling home security systems, to spend the weekend at the carnival in the hope of figuring out just who is behind all the trouble.   James has been promised a couple of thousand dollars by Moe, the carnival operator, if he solves the mystery of who is behind the sabotage.

 The humor and antics are portrayed in a somewhat haphazard way that comes off as a bit of raw writing.   There are some abrupt plot turns that are not necessarily easy to follow.   Given the nature of the two main characters who are obviously unsure of where they are going with the investigation, the plot has to be disjointed.   James and Skip are hoping to make as much money as possible without getting hurt by the person or persons behind the carnival accidents, one of which ended in the death of a person on an amusement ride that failed.

The rest of the characters are pretty much as expected, a beautiful girl, a dwarf with a petting zoo and a bunch of carny workers.   Bruns does an admirable job setting the scenes for the action.   The dust and noise associated with a carnival are there along with the quirky outsider attitudes that seem to be required for a life lived from one shopping center parking lot to another.   The book has a cinema verite quality that enhances a somewhat thin plot.   But then, what else would a reader expect from a book titled, Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff?

“We wandered through the show, watching carnies weave their magic, selling cotton candy, drawing a sparse crowd to the dart booth, pulling a senior couple to the Ferris wheel, and tantalizing customers with the smell of greasy meat, popcorn, and deep-fried elephant ears.”

Well recommended.

This review was written by Ruta Arellano.   A review copy was provided by the publisher.

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New Tricks

You’re in for a doggy treat (although not the Milk Bone type, of course).   Author David Rosenfelt is a master of timing, understatement, and spoofing.   His most recent novel, New Tricks, is an all around good book; a mystery complete with a Patterson, New Jersey based attorney who has a reputation for defending dogs (of the canine variety), a temperamental and outspoken judge named Hatchet, and a lady police chief from Wisconsin who just happens to be the attorney’s long-distance girlfriend.   The cast of characters is enhanced by a friend who communicates with the attorney by singing the lyrics of popular songs.   The center of attraction is Waggy, an eager and energetic Bernese puppy whose ownership is in dispute.

The mystery immediately grabs the reader’s attention as a mansion explodes, leaving nothing but massive collateral damage and a dead owner.   The plot twists, turns and then doubles back on itself.   There are plenty of red herrings, hidden motives, puns and double entendres that give an appreciative reader cause to laugh out loud.   The plot twists and turns are worthy of The Rockford Files and 77 Sunset Strip, and reminiscent of the style of author Ellen Raskin (The Westing Game).

Highly recommended.   A charming tale that’s also a tail wagger!

Grand Central Publishing, $24.99, 309 pages

Reprinted courtesy of Sacramento Book Review

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