Meg Cabot’s Mysteries

Size 12 is Not Fat and Size 14 is Not Fat Either by Meg Cabot, are the first two books featuring former teen queen and singing sensation Heather Wells.  Through an unfortunate series of events, Heather’s days of singing in shopping malls have come to a halt.  Her bad luck includes a mother who ran off with her entire fortune to Argentina and her father who currently resides in prison.  To get back on her feet she takes a job at the fictional New York College as the resident assistant in Fisher Hall, which is also known as “Death Dorm.”  In each of these mysteries, Heather plays an amateur sleuth and assistant to her landlord who, conveniently, is a private investigator and the two team up to solve the crimes that take place in Fisher Hall.

Whether she is trying to find out if her female residents are truly elevator surfing (or being thrown to their deaths) or attempting to seek out the wealthy New York College students who killed the star cheerleader for knowing too much, Heather Wells is a likeable character whose escapades will keep you laughing and guessing.  The third book featuring Heather Wells, Big Boned, completes this series.  Meg Cabot’s mysteries are full of humor, mayhem, murder and a little romance too. 

The Icing on the Cupcake by Jennifer Ross

In The Icing on the Cupcake by Jennifer Ross, Ansley is a southern belle, Dallas style, whose well-planned life takes an unexpected turn; her perfect fiance leaves her for a fellow Baylor sorority sister. Unusually for romantic fiction, this is completely justified as the heroine is selfish, mean, and manipulative.

To get away from the gossip, she heads to New York City to live with her grandmother. The women of the family have always been expert bakers and have passed down a cookbook in which they record original recipes. Ansley uses her baking and business expertise to open a cupcakery.

A strong point is the insider information about baking (in particular, the difference between home baking and volume baking). Also, insights into Southern culture, specifically the uniquely Dallas way of life is fascinating.

Unfortunately, the novel wraps up quickly and glibly. Up to that point, the reader has willingly suspended belief when there were unlikely plot turns because the writing is graceful and the characters well-drawn. However, the last few chapters are written awkwardly, as if the author ran out of time or inspiration. I’d still give it an overall thumbs up, though…

Man on Wire

man-on-wireFrom the first time Frenchman Philippe Petit read about the Twin Towers (while they were still being built) he dreamed of walking on a high-wire strung between the buildings. On August 7, 1974 his dream became a reality. Man on Wire recounts the great adventure that Philippe and his friends went on – the hard work, the determination and training, the massive organizing and sheer skill and beauty of the act of high-wire walking.

Footage from Philippe’s personal collection are integrated into what becomes a riveting and often tense story of exactly how this illegal (“but not wicked or mean”) act is pulled off. Philippe begins by setting up practice wires in a field near his home in France. As warm-ups to the Twin Towers, he walks a high-wire between the towers of Notre Dame and then between the towers of Sydney’s Harbour Bridge (with the famous Opera House in the background) Planning the Twin Towers walk took many months; still under construction and only partially occupied, Philippe spent many hours studying how to enter the building with nearly a ton of equipment, what the roofs were like, where would be the best places to anchor the wire.

The night before the walk, Philippe and friends entered the Towers, one team in each building. Both teams had close encounters with guards and equipment problems (imagine for a minute how they got that wire from one building to the other!) The morning dawns misty and foggy, but Philippe never hesitates; he spends nearly an hour on the wire, dancing, saluting the crowd, even laying down, all on a wire suspended nearly a quarter of a mile in the air.

There is an undercurrent of sadness here as well; friendships strained by the white hot passion of a single-minded obsession fade and break. Present-day interviews of the participants show how much they still care and how this adventure profoundly affected their lives. Even more poignant – not once are the events of 9/11 mentioned, nor the fact that the Towers no longer exsit. This lovely, touching documentary stands as a tribute to the lost Towers and the dreams they generated.