Xpress Reviews: Fiction | First Look at New Books, May 24, 2013

Week ending May 24, 2013

Acosta, Marta. The She-Hulk Diaries. 336p. ISBN 9781401311018.
Woodward, Christine. Rogue Touch. 288p. ISBN 9781401311025.
ea. vol: Hyperion. Jun. 2013. pap. $14.99. F
In the first of two new stand-alone novels produced in a partnership between Hyperion and Marvel Comics that aims to release novels about Marvel’s biggest female superheroes, Acosta has written a Bridget Jones’ Diary–like version of the life of Jennifer Walters, aka She-Hulk. Her diary chronicles her quest to find balance as a human attorney, battling villains at night and creating time for a love life. Unpopular with the other superhumans at the Avengers mansion because she has a predilection for partying a little too hard and destroying property, She-Hulk, or Shulky, is only called out to help the police with minor infractions. When her human alter ego joins a new law firm, she runs into her first love, rock star Ellis Tesla. Unfortunately for Jennifer, Ellis is now engaged to the most ambitious young lawyer in the firm. But the somewhat bumbling Jessica is balanced by the bodacious Shulky. Between the two of them, they will save the world once more!
Before Rogue became one of the X-Men team of mutant superheros, she was Anna Marie, a young Mississippi girl grappling with her strange power. Her touch can be deadly; a kiss put her first boyfriend into a coma. Now she’s on the run from her past and meets a mysterious stranger, James, who also has unique abilities. Together, they flee the police as well as James’s dangerous family, heading across the United States, learning about each other’s secrets, and falling in love. The action comes to a head when Rogue has to make some hard choices.
Verdict Acosta (“Casa Dracula” series) offers a fresh and lively take on a comic book heroine in The She-Hulk Diaries. Jennifer /Shulky is lovable and funny. With a sizable dash of adventure and romance to spice things up, this is a good choice for the comic-book nerd as well as the light romance reader. Woodward’s Rogue Touch feels more serious than The She-Hulk Diaries but is equally entertaining. Fans of the X-Men and any reader who enjoys a strong female lead will want this volume. It will have some cross-over appeal for older teen readers as well.—Kristen Stewart, Pearland Lib., TX

Cook, Thomas H. Fatherhood: And Other Stories. Pegasus Crime. May 2013. 224p. ISBN 9781605984674. $24.95; ebk. ISBN 9781453298817. SHORT STORIES
Four of the 11 stories in this debut collection of short crime fiction by acclaimed crime novelist Cook (The Crime of Julian Wells) have received prior praise. “Fatherhood” won the Herodotus Prize as best historical mystery. “Rain” was nominated for the Edgar Award. “The Fix” and “What She Offered” appeared, respectively, in collections of the best mystery and noir stories. “Rain” is good: an evocation of one rainy night in an unnamed city as violence unfolds. “Offered” is not: this tale of a one-night stand is overblown and unbelievable. The debts in this collection are evident: “Fatherhood” depends on an O. Henry–style ending for its punch; other stories evoke noir master Cornell Woolrich, although Cook writes much better.
Cook’s métier has long been the crime novel, in which he slowly peels away false memories and forgetfulness and uncovers the unpleasant truths hidden behind them. In the confines of the short story, Cook’s prose seems cramped. There’s little space or time to do what he does best. All too frequently, you can hear the gears creak. A so-so collection that will appeal primarily to inveterate mystery lovers.—David Keymer, Modesto, CA

Lappin, Linda. Signatures in Stone: A Bomarzo Mystery. Caravel: Pleasure Boat Studio. 2013. 285p. ISBN 9781929355907. pap. $18. MYS
Ensconced by her forceful publisher Nigel in a rundown villa in the Italian town of Bomarzo, writer Daphne DuBlanc (Marilyn Mosley is her nom de plume) is stuck for an idea for her next Edna Rutherford mystery. It doesn’t help that she has smoked the last of the hashish she secretly brought from Paris. “Without inspiration I could not write. What was needed was a new batch of signatures, those curious messages our waking life sends us from our unconscious, which I have come to see as promptings from the muse, and even as a spiritual guide for my own existence.” But as she begins to explore the villa, which is filled with priceless artistic treasures, and the neighboring 16th-century sculpture garden known as the Monster Park, Daphne finds signs and clues—a broken head of a china doll, a pearl button, an ancient map—to deeper mysteries about this strange place and its inhabitants: the gatekeeper Manu and his daughter Amelia, Professor Firestone, an American art history scholar writing about the Monster Garden, Clive, a novice painter, and even the down-at-heel aristocratic Nigel.
Verdict Deftly mixing fascinating art history and murder with an exotic atmospheric setting (the Bomarzo garden actually exists), dramatic historical period (1928 fascist Italy), and fully fleshed characters, Lappin (The Etruscan) has written a hallucinatory gothic mystery in which no one is as they appear. Daphne is a most memorable, if a bit unreliable (thanks to her opium habit), narrator. Readers looking for an intelligent summer mystery will find much to savor here.—Wilda Williams, Library Journal

Bette-Lee Fox About Bette-Lee Fox

Bette-Lee Fox (blfox@mediasourceinc.com) is Managing Editor, Library Journal.

Now in her 46th year with Library Journal, Bette-Lee also edits LJ's Video Reviews column, six times a year Romance column, and e-original Romance reviews, which post weekly as LJ Xpress Reviews. She received the Romance Writers of America (RWA) Vivian Stephens Industry Award in 2013 for having "contributed to the genre or to RWA in a significant and/or continuing manner"