Sunday, December 30, 2007

Dear John by Nicholas Sparks

John Tyree always felt like an outsider growing up in his small North Carolina town. Unlike his friends, John lived in a small house and was raised by a father who wasn't interested in sports and other after school activities like the parents of his friends. His father's only interest was coin collecting. A man of few words, he had tried to engage John in coin collecting, but John had little interest in his father or his hobby. After high school, John spent most of his time drinking and working odd jobs. Finding this lifestyle less than satisfying, John decided it was time to move on and grow up, and so, he enlisted in the service.

On his third leave from the military, John spent the hot Carolina day surfing and met the girl that would change his life forever: Savannah Lynn Curtis. Their romance was young and full of promise, and John vowed that when he was done in the military, he would marry Savannah. But keeping up a long distance relationship was hard, especially after 9/11 when John felt compelled to stay committed to his country. Unsure of their future, Savannah confesses that she has fallen in love with someone else in a "Dear John" letter she sends him overseas.

A few years later, John returns to the states to attend to his father and his failing health. While home, he also intends to confront the woman that broke his heart but who he still loves. Although it appears that Savannah has moved on, John sees that things are not always what they seem, and he learns the greatest lesson there is to learn when it comes to affairs of the heart.

The premise of Sparks' stories always sound so sappy, but I get sucked in every time. It is so easy to fall into the romanticism he creates in his books. Dear John is a story about love and loss that would even melt the most hollow of hearts. Highly recommended.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

The Gift by Richard Paul Evans

To Nathan Hurst, the holiday season is a reminder of the tragic Christmas morning when he lost his younger brother in an unfortunate gun accident that left his family in despair. It was a loss so great that his father took his own life to escape the grief, and his mother, who has succumbed to dementia, has seemed to have permanently blocked not only the event, but also her only living son, from her memory.

Since this tragic day, Nathan would prefer not to acknowledge that Christmas even exists, that is, until a chance meeting with a young woman and her children in an airport restores his faith in the Christmas spirit.

While traveling for business, Nathan runs into Addison, a single mother of a young girl and a frail boy who suffers from leukemia, stranded in a Denver airport. Feeling sorry for the family, Nathan offers his hotel room to Addison. Touched by his offer, Addison and Nathan form a friendship that turns into something romantic. Meanwhile, Collin, Addison's sickly son, heals Nathan of both his bronchitis and Tourrettes just from his touch.

When Collin uses his power to save the life of their pomeranian who was hit by a car, the driver wants to use Collin's powers to cure her dying son. Soon, everyone wants to exploit Collin for their own personal gain, including Addison's selfish ex-husband. Although Collin's power is miraculous, it is also a double-edged sword, as every time he heals someone, he is left weak and sick. The power that heals others is killing the healer. Can Nathan protect Collin and his family before it is too late?

This isn't usually the type of book I enjoy reading, but I wanted to read something relating to the holiday season. As hokey as it may sound, this book really makes you reflect on the meaning of Christmas. I was captivated from the first page, and I think anyone would be touched by this thoughtful tale.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

The View from Mount Joy by Lorna Landvik

Landvik delivers with another sweet and sentimental tale of life, love and family in her quirky version of Minnesota. We first meet Joe Andreson, in the early 70s as he is moving from small-town northern Minnesota to Minneapolis after the loss of his father. A regular guy who just happens to be a high school hockey star and work on the school newspaper, Joe can only imagine two paths for his future: the NHL or becoming a journalist.

But life throws Joe a curveball, and he ends up on a path he never envisioned, owner of the local grocery store. He watches his platonic high school girlfriend, Darva, leave for Paris to become an artist, and his other friends also move on, up and away. Meanwhile, he secretly pines after his clandestine high school love, the attention-hungry cheerleader Kristi, who ultimately becomes a televangelist.

The reader follows Joe, his family and friends from his high school days through middle-age. Though as a young man Joe seems to think life has passed him by, ultimately Joe embraces his choices, realizing that he has quietly attained the happiness, love and success that have eluded so many others.

The View from Mount Joy has great potential for book discussions. It is also a lovely holiday read, with its themes of friends and family. Landvik fans will not be disappointed with this moving and heartwarming tale, and those not familiar with her work will surely be tempted to try out some of her other titles.

Monday, December 17, 2007

The Book of Joe by Jonathan Tropper

After escaping his small, hometown of Bush Falls, New York, Joe Goffman headed for the big city and never looked back, that is, until now. Joe receives a phone call from his estranged brother informing him that his father had suffered a heart attack and is in a coma.

Going back home is never easy, especially when the entire town hates your guts. You see, Joe received fame (and a lot of money) for writing the bestselling novel that was made into a feature film about his high school experiences in Bush Falls. Although it was written as fiction, Joe portrayed many members of the community, including some of the team members of the champion basketball team who may have been responsible for his best friend Sammy's suicide, in a very negative light. As you can imagine, Joe has made many enemies.

Now Joe has to face the demons he left behind in Bush Falls as he tries to make amends with his estranged brother and reconnect with his high school sweetheart.

Balancing both somber and humor moments, Tropper tells a heartwarming tale about homecoming and forgiveness. The Book of Joe will resonate with anyone who has ever had to go home again to deal with a life you thought you left behind forever. Thoroughly enjoyable.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Blood Brothers by Nora Roberts

Caleb, Fox, and Gage share the same birthday, 7/7/77. On the eve of their tenth birthday, the boys decided to go camping in the woods at The Pagan Stone. Of course they lied to their parents because there is no way their parents would have let them go. When midnight rolls around, the boys decide to take a blood oath to be friends forever. When their blood hit the stones it unleashed a terrifying evil. For one week during the seventh month every seventh year, the town of Hawkins Hollow went crazy. Murders, rapes, suicides, robberies...anything awful that could happen would. And when the week was up the good people of the Hollow never really remembered what happened or why they acted out of the ordinary. The three boys and a few others were unaffected but witnessed it all.

Twenty-one years later, Quinn Black is coming to the Hollow to write a book about this phenomenon. She has written a few books about paranormal occurrences. What she didn't expect was that she would be connected to this town. She sees the evil in the shape of a boy and has strange nightmares. While staying at her hotel she sees the evil again and notices another guest sees it too. Turns out Layla is connected to the town also. As far as Caleb knows no one but the boys have ever seen the evil. They decided to work together to put an end to the evil. Quinn calls in her friend, Cybill to help research, and it turns out she is a part of it too.

This is the first book in a trilogy. It gives us mainly background information and to get to know the characters. Blood Brothers is also about Caleb and Quinn falling in love. The next two books will be about Fox and Layla and Gage and Cybill. This was a great start to what is sure to be another terrific trilogy by Nora Roberts.

Monday, December 10, 2007

The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen by Syrie James

If you love Jane Austen, you won’t be disappointed with this latest entry to the crowded field of Austen-inspired novels. Author Syrie James, writing in the first person as Austen, presents this story in journal-form as part of a lost manuscript found in an old chest.

The premise that Austen left behind a memoir is simply a delicious one to those who know and love her writing. James delivers with a well-imagined story of Jane’s love affair with Mr. Ashford, a dream suitor who is Jane’s perfect match in wit, style and temperament. In addition to the satisfaction the reader gets from finally seeing Jane portrayed as something other than the maiden aunt or unwed spinster, the story also gratifies readers with insights into the period in her life when Jane was revising and preparing the novels she wrote in her youth for publication. You will be delighted in the ways the author has imagined that Jane’s love affair impacts rewrites of her famous novels.

Appealing primarily to fans of Austen, you will surely find this delightful gem of a book irresistible. For those enchanted by Austen’s writing, you will not be disappointed in the voice and tone James uses to expertly capture Austen’s style. Cleverly conceived and executed, you will only be disappointed in the lack of a happy ending in marriage for our Jane. Alas, even in the realm of the speculative fiction, Jane Austen remains unlucky in love. Highly recommended.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Someone to Love by Jude Deveraux

Jace Montgomery lost his fiancee three years ago. He was on a business trip to England and Stacy decided to come along at the last minute. While in England they had a fight and Stacy left. Next thing Jace knows, Stacy is found dead of an apparent suicide. Jace is devastated. Now three years have past and Jace finds the book Stacy had been reading when in England. Inside the book is a picture of an ugly mansion in England and a cryptic message written on the back, "Ours again. Together forever. See you there on 11 May 2002." May 12, 2002 was the day Stacy killed herself.

Jace finds the mansion and learns that it is for sale, he borrows money from his billionaire uncle and buys the house. Once there he learns the house is haunted. So he pretends he is writing a book about the ghost of the house and doesn't tell anyone his real reason for being there: to find Stacy's killer.

Jace meets Nigh Symthe, who is back home from her journalist job. She has always felt a connection to the mansion and becomes Jace's research assistant. The ghost, Ann Stuart, also supposedly committed suicide. For Jace to figure out Stacy's death he must investigate Ann's.

Jace is thrust into a world of ghosts, murderers, and noisy neighbors. With Nigh's help, can Jace figure out the mystery surrounding Stacy and Ann's death or will Nigh and Jace be the next victims?

Monday, December 3, 2007

Manless in Montclair by Amy Holman Edelman

Isabel left her husband, Michael, at home with a headache while she went to the dentist to get her teeth whitened. When she returned, Isabel found Michael lying in a chair with a pool of blood surrounding his head. The cause of the death unknown.

The reader is then whisked away to Isabel's early twenties. This was during the time she had first moved to New York City and was trying to determine what she wanted to do with her life. The story continues alternating from past, where we learn how Isabel and Michael met and fell in love, when they had moved to the suburb of Montclair, New Jersey, and how Isabel almost had an affair, to the present, where Isabel finds out that Michael's death was caused by a massive brain hemorrhage and where she is learning for the first time how to be both a widow and a single mother.

Although nothing can replace the love she shared with Michael, Isabel is determined to fill the rather large hole in her heart that Michael's death has left. She finds comfort in an unsuspecting neighbor, but he is unable to committ. After trying various online dating tactics, Isabel sends an email out to all her friends asking them to forward the email on to anyone who can "find Isabel a man." The one who does will receive a trip for two. Although the email gets her all kinds of media attention and both wanted and unwanted emails from prospective mates, Isabel finally realizes that being alone doesn't mean she has to be lonely.

Even though I couldn't identify with being a widow, the book was written in such a way that the reader could really sympathize with Isabel's grief and the struggles of being back in the dating pool. This book was thoroughly enjoyable and I couldn't put it down. If you liked Lolly Winston's Good Grief, this is the book for you.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Brunelleschi’s Dome by Ross King

When the Wool guild, the most influential guild in Florence at the time, held a contest for the design and manufacture of the dome for the Santa Maria Del Fiore Cathedral, several men submitted plans. Fillipo Brunelleschi and Lorenzo Ghiberti were selected as the finalists. This continued the life-long rivalry between the two men that began when Lorenzo Ghiberti won a contest years earlier to create doors for the Cathedral’s baptistery. ”The Gates of Paradise” as they would later be called, are considered one of the best examples of bronze work in the world. Fillipo Brunelleschi, who was an unremarkable looking man, accomplished remarkable things. As co-manager for the dome of Santa Maria Del Fiore, or the “Duomo” as it is known, he arrived at a time of architectural uncertainty and backwardness and brought with him the needed scientific skills and architectural knowledge to make himself indispensable to the Wool Guild. He eventually sidelined his co-master Ghiberti completely.

Ross King’s conversational style, makes the most complex scientific terms explainable to the casual reader. The true jewel of this book, however, is his ability to capture the orneriness and dysfunction Fillipo radiates in his relationships with others. By all accounts, Fillipo was a very difficult man, but King tempers this fact with examples of the absolute genius of his inventions and architectural skill. Ross King brings to life the world of 15th Century Florence with his remarkable attention to detail and paints a picture of a time cursed with plagues, wars and floods. Buildings took generations to complete because of the interruption in manpower. Brunelleschi came along when needed most and reinvented architecture. He is called a founder of the renaissance in Italy, and after reading this short book, you can certainly understand why.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Female Intelligence by Jane Heller

Lynn Wyman is known around the nation for the "Wyman Method," a communication program that teaches men how to communicate with women by teaching them the fundamentals of "womanspeak." In addition to having a successful career, Lynn is married to a husband that is so sensitive he already knows and actively uses womanspeak. Her life is about perfect until things take a turn for a worse.

Lynn accidently picks up the line when her husband, Kip, is talking to a woman he is having an affair with. To make matters worse, Lynn's marital troubles are leaked to the media, and her career is in ruins. Who would want to take communication advice from a woman whose own marriage is in shambles?

Fortunately, Lynn has a plan to get her life back on track. When she reads an article about Brandon Brock, the arrogant and powerful CEO of Finefoods who has problems communicating with his female staff, Lynn decides she will enroll him in the Wyman Method. Once the nation sees that the Wyman Method came tame the most wildest of beasts, Lynn will be back on top.

Dealing with Brock, however, is not as easy as she thought, especially when her heart gets in the way. Meanwhile, someone out there is trying to sabatoge everything she has worked for. Lynn now has to get to the bottom of things while keeping her heart safe.
Female Intelligence was hard to get into at first, but there is enough suspense and humor to keep the plot moving along, and it was well worth the committment

Saturday, November 24, 2007

The Good Thief's Guide to Amsterdam by Chris Ewan

Charlie Howard is a mystery writer. He is also a thief. His career in thievery started at a young age. Left alone at boarding school during holidays, he would grow bored and snoop around his schoolmates things. And eventually start taking things. While finishing his latest mystery novel in Amsterdam, Charlie receives an email to meet a mystery man at a bar. Intrigued, Charlie shows up and is offered a job. At first Charlie declines because it is such short notice, but he gives in and takes the job. The job is to break into two houses and steal a monkey figurine from each house. Charlie completes the job and goes to meet the client at the rendezvous but he isn't there. Charlie finds out where he lives and goes to his house and discovers the client beaten and barely alive.

Charlie becomes the number one suspect and must now figure out why these monkeys are so important. With a cast of suspects and people not who they say they are, Charlie has his work cut out trying to figure out this mystery.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Mr. Perfect by Linda Howard

When four coworkers at Hammerstead Technology, Jaine, Marci, T.J., and Luna, made up a list of the qualities, even physical, that would make the perfect man one night at a resturant after work, they never excepted their lives were in danger.

The list that would make up Mr. Perfect, which became known as just "the list," mistakenly got into the company's newsletter, which, in turn, got them all sorts of media attention. The four women soon find their lives in complete choas: boyfriends and husbands take the list as a hit to their ego while their family members and coworkers see it as vulgar. But the opinions of others are the least of their problems.

"The List" brings out of the woodwork someone who finds the list so repuslive, he is determined to kill the ones who created it. When one of the women is found dead in her home, the three ladies know they are in grave danger. Fortuantely Jaine has the protection of her sexy cop neighboor, Sam, to protect her, but can he catch the killer before it's too late?

Mr. Perfect is just the right blend of steamy sex and heart-pounding suspense with many twists and turns along the way that should appeal to any romantic suspense fan.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

30 Days of Night by Steven Niles and Ben Templesmith

In the remote town of Barrow, Alaska, the sun will be setting for the last time and won't be rising again until December. Town sheriffs Eben and his wife receive several call from local residents regarding missing cell phones. Meanwhile, Eben is called to a local bar regarding a belligerent patron who is demanding raw meat and alcohol, which is prohibited in Barrow. Eben takes the strange patron into custody. Once behind bars, the patron makes death threats and escapes his cell by bending back the bars. Clearly, Eben is faced with something that is not human.

Soon, Eben discovers that his town is under attack by cannibalistic vampires who decapitate their victims once they are finished with them. Some of the survivors manage to take refuge, but they won't be able to hide for long. In an attempt to seek help, Eben leaves the hiding place and is bitten by one of the creatures. He now becomes one of them.

30 Days of Night is true horror at its best because it features plenty of gore, carnage, and profanity. This is the first in a series, so the reader is left with plenty of questions and should seek the next book in the series, Dark Days. Although this book may not be for everyone, enthusiasts of horror should find something to like here.

Monday, November 5, 2007

The Girls by Lori Lansens

Meet "the girls," Rose and Ruby Delavin, two twins that are unlike any other: they are the oldest surviving craniopagus conjoined twins. At twenty- nine, Rose has been told that she has a brain aneurysm and that the girls may not have much longer to live. As a result of her diagnosis, the book is composed as Rose's autobiography, as she wants to tell her life story before she dies. She has also convinced her sister, Ruby, to write sections so that the story is told from both of the sister's perspectives.
From their autobiography, we learn about their complicated birth from their young mother who abandoned them and how they came to be raised by Aunt Lovey and Uncle Stash. We learn how others react and interact with the girls. But most importantly, we understand how different these two girls really are and can gain an understanding of what it might feel like to be a conjoined twin.

The Girls brings about a variety of emotions in the reader, as this story is both heartbreaking yet inspirational. Lansens does such a superb job of telling their story from their perspective, you forget that the author is not a conjoined twin herself. I would recommended this book for book discussions.

Monday, October 29, 2007

A Treasury of Regrets by Susanne Alleyn

A Treasury of Regrets is a compelling mystery set in 1797 amid the unruly climate of Paris alleyways and side streets. Aristide Ravel, police investigator, cannot believe that an illiterate servant girl is the killer in the poisoning death of a well respected Parisian. The deceased, Martin DuPont, had been the master of a large household. At his death, bickering and resentment abound with many motives within the family for this murder, yet Ravel knows it will still be difficult to clear the girl. He realizes she has become a scapegoat for the family. He finds a rare ally in Laurence, a young widow of the DuPont house, and together they attempt to prove the kitchenmaid innocent and find the real killer.

This historical fiction depicts a post revolutionary society plus an intriguing mystery -other deaths within the DuPont family follow the first, further complicating the detecting work. It is set in a very interesting 18th century Paris which makes for a gripping story. The characters, particularly Ravel and the clearly a-duck-out-of-water Laurence, are easy to connect with and will stir the compassion of the reader. Scandal, danger and murder are the key elements of A Treasury of Regrets!

Sunday, October 28, 2007

First Comes Love by Whitney Lyles

Cate and Ethan have just had a scare. They have been married five months and Cate thinks she is pregnant. They wanted to wait at least a year and aren't sure they are ready. But when they realize that it is a false alarm, Ethan and Cate realize how disappointed they truly are. So begins their quest to get pregnant.

At first they are gung-ho and are trying ever chance they get. This leads to Ethan getting hurt in a sensitive area and still no baby. Eventually, they get pregnant and couldn't be happier. And then the morning sickness kicks in and Cate is stuck in bed for three months leaving Ethan to run their catering business alone. And then she is asked to be maid of honor in Ethan's cousin Denise's wedding, which includes Ethan's ex and a wedding date on their baby's due date. And a very scary groom.

All the chaos of pregnancy, other friends having their babies, a friend having a miscarriage, and the wedding from hell, Cate can't wait to have her baby and happy ending. And in the end, when all is said and done, Cate would do it all over again!

This is the third book featuring Cate and Ethan. Always a Bridesmaid is how Cate and Ethan get together. Here Comes the Bride is about their wedding. All three books are funny, sweet, and enjoyable reads. I recommend reading all three and hoping Whitney Lyles writes a fourth one with Cate and Ethan!

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

The Cinderella Pact by Sarah Strohmeyer

Nola Devlin has always been self conscious about her weight, and has even been turned down for a job opportunity because of it. In fact, Nola's supervisor at Sass! magazine turned down her application to write an advice column because she felt that Nola didn't fit the profile to be the next "Carrie Bradshaw."

Determined to prove a point, Nola reapplies for the job under the pseudonym of Belinda Apple, who she portrays as British and totally fabulous. She even submits an old photo of herself from high school when she was thinner and does some creative editing in Photoshop to create the the trendy and fabulous Belinda Apple. Of course, she gets the job.

In the meantime, Nola and her friends, Deb and Nancy, are told that the window seat at their favorite restaurant is reserved even though there is no one sitting there or hasn't been in the last twenty minutes. The three woman make a pact (a pact that they dub as the Cinderella pact) to loose weight and return to this very same restaurant in six months to put the waiter in his place and to see if their new bodies will get them the window seat.

Determined to stick with the pact, Nola sticks with a diet and exercise regiment and she is actually starting to shed the pounds. She even gets asked out by Chip, a technical assistant at Sass! magazine.

Just when things seem to be falling in place for Nola, life starts to get a little hairy. Management at Sass! begin to question whether this Belinda Apple is a fraud and Chip turns out to be someone she didn't expect.

The characters of The Cinderella Pact grapple with issues such as weight and body image that are very commonplace in our culture. I think many readers could identify with Nola and therefore would enjoy this lighthearted story.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

The Sleeping Beauty Proposal by Sarah Strohmeyer

Genie Michaels, college admissions counselor at Thoreau College, has been dating English English professor Hugh Spencer (that is not a typo; Hugh is English and he teaches English) for four years now. A total commitment-phobe, Hugh balks at any mention Genie makes of moving in together or marriage. He claims he needs to concentrate on finishing the manuscript of his first novel before he can even entertain a big merger like marriage.

Well, that time has finally come. Hugh has finished his book, Hopeful, Kansas, which has turned into a huge success. Hugh has now gone on tour to promote his book, and Genie is watching on TV while Hugh is being interviewed by Barbara Walters. Barbara asks if Hugh he is going to ever marry his own Dora, like the character in his book. On national TV, Hugh makes a marriage proposal, but the woman he proposes to is not Genie.

After many angry tears and trying to deal with being humiliated on national TV, Genie gets together with best pal Patty for some serious girl chat. Patty tells Genie that she is like that idiot fairy tale character, Sleeping Beauty, who is waiting around for some prince charming to wake her up. Since everyone will assume Hugh proposed to her, Patty suggests that instead of waiting around like some dope, Genie should let everyone think she is engaged.

Genie takes Patty up on her advice, and before she knows it, she in full wedding planning mode. Her mother and sister have made many of the arrangements, and she is even registered for engagement gifts. In fact, her parents are even willing to help her purchase a house now that she will be "settling down." Things are rapidly spinning out of control, and to make matters worse, she is falling for Nick, a carpenter who has been working on the house she wants to buy, but she cannot pursue him because she is "engaged."

What single girl hasn't felt ignored or overlooked because of her single status? Strohmeyer's story touches on the issue that has plagued single woman world wide: an unmarried woman in her thirties is deemed as a spinster and is consequently undesirable, and the character Genie stands up for single woman everywhere. The Sleeping Beauty Proposal is thoroughly enjoyable.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Playing with Fire by Gena Showalter

Belle Jamison has had many jobs in her 24 years. Currently, she works at a coffeehouse. She just feels restless and isn't sure what her purpose is. That all changes when she gets superpowers.

It was just another day at the coffeehouse when a man runs in wearing a lab coat. He pleads for help saying that the men chasing him are trying to kill him. Belle runs to the back to call the police and when she returns the place is in chaos, the lab coat man is missing and the men who has been chasing him were still there. The main man claims to be CIA and needs to ask questions. While trying to answer questions, Belle drinks from the coffee that she had left unattended during the excitement. The next thing Belle remembers is getting really sick and a very hot man in her bedroom.

It turns out Rome Masters is there to "neutralize" Belle because the lab coat man poured a formula in her coffee which gives her the power to control the four elements: fire, water, air, and ground. After getting to know Belle a little better, Rome goes against orders and decides to help her.

Bad guys after her, a hot guy to fall in love with, a smitten sidekick and superpowers, what more could end the restlessness Belle has been feeling? An opportunity to fight crime!

This was a very funny, exciting book. Gena Showalter writes paranormal, contemporary romance and young adult books.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

The Magical Life of Long Tack Sam by Ann Marie Fleming

Ann Marie Fleming was very close to her maternal grandmother, Mina, and when she died, Fleming become very interested in researching her family's history, which she knew little about. When she came across some old 16mm film of her great grandfather and Mina's father, Long Tack Sam, Fleming set out to research the history of a man who was not only a relative, but also a talented Chinese magician.

Her research brings her across the world to exotic places like Shanghai and Austria where Long Tack Sam had performed and then even back to the United States where he had lived at one time. Fleming interviews fellow magicians who have worked with or knew of her grandfather at the time he was performing, and she even visits magician museums where she locates several newspaper articles and photographs of Long Tack Sam.

Fleming discovers that Long Tack Sam was not only a magician, but also an acrobat. She learns about his classic goldfish and silver rings acts and how her grandmother and grand-aunt, Mina and Neesa, became part of the show.

Although the world of stage performance appears very sensational, Fleming also finds that Long Tack Sam had faced several hardships in his life, including dealing with prejudices of being married to an Austrian woman and leaving Europe to avoid the conflict of World War II.

The Magical Life of Long Tack Sam is rich in historical detail, photographs, and graphics of a very talented man who held a prominent place in the vaudeville era during a turbulent time in history. Both informational and inspiring, anyone interested in history or magic should enjoy this book.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Daughter of the Sun by Barbara Wood

Daughter of the Sun is a captivating novel combining romance, political intrigue, revolution and religion. The story is set in ancient Center Place, which is the present day ruin of Chaco Canyon located in New Mexico. Chaco Canyon was a major center of Puebloan culture between AD 850 and 1250. Anthropologists have long wondered why the site was abandoned. In this book, historical novelist Barbara Wood turns her attention to this 900-year-old mystery. The author re-imagines this site as a Toltec administrative outpost, with the local Anasazi natives as enslaved captives of the Toltec overlords. Through this story of a brave Anasazi teenager, Wood proposes her fascinating solution.

The main character, a seventeen-year-old girl named Hoshi’tiwa is the daughter of a corn grower. She is known throughout her clan for her magical rain jars. News of her skill attracts the attention of the Dark Lord Jakal, who needs her to bring water to the parched Center Place. She is taken from her clan and brought as a slave to the city. Thrown into the court of the Dark Lord, she faces many enemies who fear her hold over the Lord, including Lady White Orchid, who wants Jakal for herself, and Captain Xikli, who wants the drought to continue so he can usurp the throne. Within this web of love, lies, lust, and deceit, Hoshi’tiwa struggles to survive, ultimately undertaking a personal journey of growth and transformation that brings about the downfall of Center Place and the freedom of her people.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Obsession, Deceit, and Really Dark Chocolate by Kyra Davis

Sophie Katz is back. And being threatened again. She just can't stay out of trouble. Sophie is a mystery writer and has a knack of getting involved in murder investigations. Of course the police always think she is a joke. And it doesn't help the her recent ex-boyfriend, Anatoly who is a PI, agrees.

Sophie's former college professor, Melanie, thinks her husband is cheating on her. She asks Sophie to flirt with him and see if he tries to pick her up. Sophie's attempt fails and as they leave the bar, Melanie's husband is gunned down. Melanie asks Sophie to look into why he was killed and asks if Anatoly can help too. With Sophie still bitter from the break up, she says Anatoly is too busy.

Melanie's husband was working on the campaign of Flynn Fitzgerald, who is running for Congress. Sophie goes undercover as a reporter to try and get information from the candidates. She starts getting threats as she digs deeper and reluctantly accepts help from Anatoly, who she still wants.

A couple more deaths, some Furry behavior, and a killer on the loose, Sophie is in more danger than ever before!

This is the third book in the Sophie Katz series. The first book is Sex, Murder, and a Double Latte and the second book is Passion, Betrayal, and Killer Highlights. The series is funny and entertaining.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Shoe Addicts Anonymous by Beth Harbison

Meet four very different Maryland women with one common obsession: owning great pairs of designer shoes.

Lorna Rafferty's electricity has just gone out. Sitting in the dark, she contacts the electric company and discovers she has been disconnected because she hasn't been making the payments, and this is not the only creditor she is deep indebted to. Lorna has finally gotten herself in a financial hole so deep, she may not be able to shovel her way out. Her only asset is the $30,000 worth of designer shoes in her closet.

Helene Zaharis is about to purchase a new pair of Bruno Maglis shoes when the sales person says that her card has been reported stolen. She finds out that her husband has cut her off! As a politician's wife, Helen always has to be concerned about her actions, any infraction on her part could ruin her husband's chances at the next election, nevermind the fact that his indiscretions seem to go unnoticed. In a moment of anger, she decides to walk off with the shoes that she was not able to purchase.

Sandra Vanderslice is overweight, extremely self-conscious, and has been labeled an agoraphobic by her therapist because she is afraid to leave her apartment. Fortunately, her job as a phone sex operator allows her to stay inside, and she can purchase all the shoes she desires on E Bay without ever having to leave her apartment.

Joss Bowen is a live-in nanny for the bratty Oliver boys, Colin and Bart, and the children are only half the trouble. Their mother, and Joss's boss, Deena, is just plain cruel, forcing Deena to run errands all over town on her days off and threatens to sue Joss if she violates her contract by quitting. Joss is looking for an escape, a place to go on her days off so she has an excuse not to do Deena's dirty work.

Because Lorna can no longer afford to feed her shoe obsession, she posts an add on gregslist.com (the equivalent of craigslist.com) asking that if you are a size 7.5 and love designer shoes, to come to her house on Tuesday nights to trade. This ad draws Helen, Sandra, and Joss to Lorna's house, and the four women gain much more than just great pairs of designer shoes.

This book is just as much about women's friendship as it is about shoe obsession. Any reader who can appreciate the bonds that can form between people based on a common interest or readers who just love great shoes will fall in love this book. Enthusiastically recommended!

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Midwest Literary Festival in Aurora this Weekend!

The Fifth Annual
Midwest Literary Festival
Saturday, Oct 6th 10am-5pm
Sunday, Oct 7th 12am-5pm

The Midwest Literary Festival is a free public celebration of the written word that, beginning in 2007, takes place each year on the first full weekend of October. Now in its fifth year, the Festival welcomes 50-70 national bestselling authors to historic downtown Aurora , Illinois each year for readings, panel discussions, one-on-one live interviews, and book signings. With events for the entire family, from candid talks by the nation’s leading luminaries to children’s storybook hours to back-to-back book discussions and a Friday Writers’ Workshop for aspiring writers, the Festival is fast becoming a literary tradition in the Midwest .

Some of the featured authors include Karen Abbott, author of Sin in the Second City (read review), Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus, authors of Citizen Girl, The Nanny Diaries, and Dedication (read review), Martin Cruz Smith, author of Stalin's Ghost, Andrew Gross, co-author with James Patterson of Judge & Jury, Lifeguard, Third Degree, and Jester, and many more.

For more information and a complete listing of all the featured authors, please visit the Midwest Literary Festival website. Hope to see you there!

Monday, October 1, 2007

Celebrate Your Freedom to Read!

Readers Beware! Your local library may contain materials that are some may see as unorthodox or offensive, and these materials are celebrated during Banned Books Week.

Every year since 1982, the American Library Association has designated the last week in September as Banned Books Week where libraries nationwide celebrate the freedom to read. Our freedom to read is supported by the First Amendment rights of the U.S. Constitution in which Congress shall make no law abridging the freedom of speech. This basic right, also known as intellectual freedom, allows individuals to read and express views that may be unpopular or offensive and stresses the importance of ensuring the availability of those offensive or unpopular viewpoints to all who wish to read them. Banned Books Week has reminded us that while not every book is intended for every reader, each of us has the right to decide for ourselves what to read, listen to, or view.

Although it has been over 200 years since this basic right was established, individuals and activist groups continue to challenge certain material’s inclusion in a library’s collection. In fact, since 1990, the American Library Association's Office for Intellectual Freedom has recorded more than 7,800 book challenges.

Books that have been challenged run the gamut, from adult to children’s materials, from classic to contemporary books. Some of the most challenged books of the 21st century include Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou, and the ever-popular Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling.

It is thanks to the commitment of librarians, teachers, parents, and students that most challenges are unsuccessful and these books remain available to those who wish to read them.

American libraries are the cornerstones of our democracy. Libraries are for everyone, everywhere. Because libraries provide free access to a world of information, they bring opportunity to all people. Please see many of the books that have been banned or challenged over the years on display from September 29-October 6 at Plainfield Public Library and embrace your freedom to read by reading a banned book!


To see a listing of all the books challenged or banned over the years, visit the American Library Assocation's website.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

The Snow Bride by Debbie Macomber

Jenna Campbell is bored with her life. She is a 31 year old secretary in California with no personal life. Of course it doesn't help that she has been in love with her boss for the last six years. For the past four months she has been emailing a man she met in a poetry chat room. He asks her to come to Alaska to visit and maybe eventually get married. Jenna decides to go for. Her boss will never notice her and she wants some adventure.

On the plane to Alaska, Jenna is seated next to a very rude man. Not at all how she wants to start her adventure. Once she lands in Fairbanks, Alaska, Dalton, her emailing man, is nowhere to be found. She decides to find a plane that will take her to the little town where Dalton lives. Of course her pilot turns out to be the rude man from the plane, Reid Jamison.

Reid just wants to get home to Snowbound, Alaska. He doesn't mind giving Jenna a lift. That is until he finds out who she is meeting. Reid's sister Lucy had been duped and heartbroken by Dalton. Instead of taking Jenna to Dalton, he kidnaps her and takes her to Snowbound!

Jenna is furious. What turns out to be a couple of hours spent in Snowbound, so she can meet Lucy and hear firsthand how despicable Dalton is, Jenna is stuck for three days due to a blizzard. And Lucy isn't even there!

With colorful characters,an unexpected romance,and a couple of marriage proposals, The Snow Bride is one delightful and quick read.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Four Novels of the 1960s by Philip K. Dick

When Philip K. Dick (1928-82) wrote these four novels The Man in the High Castle, The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, and Ubik in the 1960s, he was far from the acclaimed writer he is considered today. His selection as the first science fiction writer to be enshrined into the prestigious Library of America series, is proof of his startling posthumous climb into the exalted heights of the American literary canon. This handsome and well-researched omnibus edition, edited by Jonathan Lethem, features four of Dick's greatest novels, along with commentary and a chronology of Dick’s tormented life.

Dick, who toiled most of his life in poverty, his works relegated to pulp and then cult status, would be pleased with this honor. He had a troubled childhood, beginning with the death at one month of his twin, Jane. There was parental fighting, divorce and frequent moves. He spent most of his formative years and adult life in California, which is the setting for many of his books. He was interested in writing and science fiction from the age of 12 and began to be published in the mid-fifties in the pulp SF magazines of the day.

Beginning in seventh grade, Dick suffered from bouts of vertigo, which became especially intense as an undergraduate. In his late teens, he was diagnosed with schizophrenia - a label that terrified him. Throughout his life, he succumbed to periods of psychological anguish that he termed “nervous breakdowns.” Over the years, therapists and psychiatrists would offer a variety of diagnoses, including the one that Dick was quite sane. Dick died in 1982 at 53, after a series of strokes. His ashes were buried with his twin.

Despite these hardships, or perhaps because of them, Dick produced some of the most brilliant and fascinating works of science fiction ever written. His writing focused on the nature of reality and our perception of that reality. He had a deep interest in philosophy and metaphysics. Themes included paranoia, time travel, alternate history, madness, and drug use. His work has influenced an entire generation of writers and filmmakers.

His most acclaimed novels were those produced in the 1960s, and four of the best ones are featured in the Library of America edition:

The Man in the High Castle (1962), which won the Hugo Award, is set in an alternate world of 1962 were Japan and Germany have won World War II, America is divided into separate occupation zones, slavery is legal, and the oracle that is the I Ching is continually consulted for everything by everyone (sans Nazis).

The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch (1965) takes place in the 21st c., where the UN has authorized the colonization of the solar system. Colonists, whose lives are dull and physically taxing, entertain themselves using “Perky Pat” (“Barbie”-like) dolls, layouts and accessories manufactured by an Earth-based company – which also illegally manufactures the drug Can-D, allowing participants to escape into a virtual Earth life.

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (1968) is set in a post-apocalyptic Los Angeles and features an android-chasing bounty hunter named Rick Deckard. It was the basis for the movie Blade Runner.

Ubik (1969) offers readers a future where the dead communicate with the living, telepaths work as corporate spies, reality is not static, time is deteriorating, and salvation is available in a spray can.

In addition to the four titles in this volume, he wrote dozens of novels, hundreds of stories and his works have been made into movies such as Total Recall , A Scanner Darkly, Minority Report, Paycheck, Screamers, Next, and have inspired many others.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Piece of Work by Laura Zigman

In her former life, thirty-something Julia Einstein (pronounced Einsteen) used to love being a publicist for a major PR firm, but now she is perfectly content as a stay-at-home mom, where she can dote on her son Leo all day. All that is about to change when her husband Peter comes home from work and announces that he has been laid off.

Although Leo and Julia relish all the time Peter can spend with them now, their bills are rapidly piling up. Because Peter has not been able to land a job, Julia decides that she will go back to work. She contacts her friend and former colleague Patricia, but there are no openings at her firm. Julia is then forced to take a position with the second-rate John Glom Agency that is known for handling has-been celebrities trying to make a comeback.

Enter Mary Ford, Julia's new celebrity client who is trying to get back into the lime light by launching a perfume line. Even though Mary is a real piece of work, the ultimate diva who is fussier than Julia's three-year-old son, Julia is determined to make Mary's comeback a success.

I made the mistake of reading the reviews for Piece of Work first, in which several reviewers commented on how humorous Zigman makes her story. I don't know if then my expectations were too high, but this really wasn't as funny as I was anticipating. Despite my disappointment about the humor, Piece of Work was still an enjoyable look at the celebrity PR world.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Sleepless at Midnight by Jacquie D'Alessandro

Miss Sarah Moorehouse is a spinster. She is fine with that. It gives her time to pursue her love of gardens and drawing. It also gives her the opportunity to form the Ladies Literary Society of London. Under the pretense of reading Shakespeare's works, the ladies actually are reading Mary Shelley's Frankenstein. The ladies have their first meeting while at a house party at Matthew Devenport, Marquess Langston's house. When the meeting breaks up late at night, Sarah is restless and looks out her window. What she sees is the Marquess with a shovel out in the rain. Of course, Sarah's imagination runs wild.

Matthew Devenport inherited his title when his father was murdered last year. Along with the inheritance, came his father's enormous debts and two deathbed promises. One he would marry within a year and two he would look for buried money. Right before the Marquess was shot, he had won huge at gambling. So huge it would wipe out the debts. The only problem is the money is hidden and Matthew must figure out where with the cryptic clues his father left.

The purpose of the house party is for Matthew to find and marry a heiress because he is having no luck finding the money and time is running out. What he didn't count on was falling in love with plain Sarah Moorehouse.

With two unlikely people falling in love, buried money on the estate, sexy bathtub scenes and time running out, what more could you ask for in a book. If you love historical romances, this is an excellent read!

Monday, September 17, 2007

Thursday Next: First Among Sequels by Jasper Fforde

Chock full of entertaining word play, obscure literary references, and bizarre subplots; Fforde’s latest installment in his Thursday Next series is sure to be a huge hit with his fans. However, for the uninitiated, the work will be daunting. To truly enjoy this novel, you’ll need to start at the very beginning with The Eyre Affair, where Thursday Next, the intrepid literary detective, SpecOps undercover investigator, and heroine of this campy series was first introduced. In the vein of Pratchett’s Discworld or Adams’ Hitchhiker’s Guide books, Fforde has created a unique alternate world: where time is disjoint and monitored by the ChronoGuard, fictional characters are truly alive and policed by Jurisfiction, the Stupidity Surplus has reached dangerous levels, and the Cheese Enforcement Agency is after Thursday for smuggling. Part science fiction, part mystery, part literary satire – Fforde’s novels are always thoroughly fun.

The Husband by Dean Koontz

The day starts as usual for Mitch Rafferty, a Californian who owns his own landscaping business, as he is working on the yard of one of his clients. Unexpectedly, he receives a mysterious phone call on his cell. The strange voice on the phone says, "we have your wife. You can get her back for two million cash."

At first he assumes this must be some kind of a joke. How could a landscaper possibly come up with that kind of money? Yet, he heard Holly's scream in the background, and she would never be so cruel to play that kind of joke. To prove they are serious, the kidnappers gun down an innocent man walking across the street with a golden retriever. One the phone the kidnapper says, "Seriously Mitch, two million. You have 48 hours, and no cops."

Shortly after the shooting, Mitch is interviewed by detective Taggert, who feels Mitch is hiding something and considers him a prime suspect. Mitch finds out that the man who was shot down was someone from his past. The instructions from the kidnappers lead Mitch to his brother, Anson, where he discovers there is something more sinister at work that involves his family, and Holly's abduction is not just a random kidnapping.
In typical Dean Koontz's fashion, the suspense starts right away in the first few chapters and the protagonist manages to prevail above evil, but not without several twists and turns along the way. This wasn't a bad read, but I have to say it wasn't one of Koontz's best. In fact, I have several questions about the ending that I don't want to mention here, as I don't want to spoil it. Check out the comments section to see my questions. If you have read this book and can offer an any answers or opinions, I would love to chat with you. Anyone is welcome to post a comment.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Swapping Lives by Jane Green

Thirty-something Londoner Vicki Townsley is a journalist for the women's magazine Poise. She dates off and on and calls upon her trusted "shag" partner Daniel whenever she is feeling lonely. Although her recent fling with playboy television star Jamie Donnelly could have long-term potential, Vicki questions his true intentions. On the weekends she visits Andy and Kate, her brother and sister-in-law, who have the quintessential family life Vicki desires but can't seem to obtain.

Across the Atlantic, Amber Winslow is your typical stay-at-home mother who spends her time rushing off her kids to their various activities, from summer camp to ballet classes. Amber came from humble beginnings, growing up in a trailer with a housekeeper (gasp!) for a mother. She hit the jackpot when she married Richard Winslow, who came from "old money," and Richard has been able to give Amber everything she could want in the wealthy community of Highfield, Connecticut. Lately, however, Amber is feeling that being rich is not all that is cracked up to be. She is tired of the constant social competitiveness of her women's league, where charity galas are more about showing off your new designer clothes than the charity itself, and she yearns for a simpler life.

On a whim, Amber responds to an advertisement in Poise magazine that is looking for someone who would be willing to swap lives with one of their journalists for a month to see if the grass is really greener on the other side. Vicki decides Amber will be the the perfect candidate, as she seems to be an authentic "desperate housewife." From the swap, both Vicki and Amber end up learning a lot more about their lives and their priorities than they had originally bargained for.

The descriptions on the back of Jane Green's books never seem to do them justice. The premises seem so predictable and so much like the typical frothy chicklit with no substance, yet I have found Green's books to be engaging and heartfelt, and Swapping Lives is no exception.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Thanks! How the new science of gratitude can make you happier by Robert A. Emmons Ph.D.

The premise of this books is outstanding, if you are grateful for what you have you will be a happier person. To all of us, this might seem very obvious, but as Dr. Emmons explains, not all people can see the forest through the trees (for lack of a better cliche). He explains how common thought is that people have a set level of happiness no matter what happens in their lives. Dr. Emmons proves that is simply not true by offering up a series of exercises and studies proving that people can make themselves happier and gives us the tools to do so.

I enjoyed the book, but his constant need to back up each of his hypothesis with a study or survey bogs down the flow of the book. He says in 208 pages what can be said in 180 pages. While getting through the first chapter "Gratitude and the psyche" can be a chore, the rest of the book is rewarding. The most useful part of the book is the final chapter "Practicing gratitude." I strongly believe every person who lives on this planet should read this book, not only to learn to be grateful for how their lives are right now, but also to appreciate the lives of those different than us. Before your judge that person sitting on the park bench across from you, read this book!

A great follow-up title would be, Happier: Learn the secrets to daily joy and lasting fulfillment by Tal Ben-Shahar

Eventide by Kent Haruf

Following 1999's Plainsong, Haruf returns to Holt, a small high-plains town in the heart of the Colorado, where the lives of the characters intersect as only small town lives can.

Brothers Harold and Raymond McPheron run a small cattle farm and are feeling sorrow when the young mother who they had taken in, Victoria Roubideaux, has moved away to attend school. Just when they are getting back to business, tragedy strikes and Raymond is left to manage the farm on his own.

Across town, Betty and Luther Wallace receive the assistance of social services agent, Rose Tyler, who gives them their food stamps and helps them to understand their responsibilities as parents to their two children, Richie and Joy Rae. Betty struggles with the loss of her first daughter, Donna, who was taken into foster care by a court order.

Fired from his last job, alcoholic Hoyt Raines, Betty's mean-hearted uncle, shows up at the Wallace's trailer, creating havoc and ruining the lives of the family forever.

Meanwhile, separated mother of two, Mary Wells, attempts to cope with her own heartache from the husband who walked out on her and their children, Dena and Emma. Mary befriends neighbor-boy D.J. Kephart, who has been left with the task of caring for his ailing grandfather after the death of his mother, and Dena and D.J. form a special bond.

Haruf's characters are real and sympathetic, and the reader will enjoy the journey to a small town as the lives of the characters unfold and intersect.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

The Life Room by Jill Bialosky

I have rarely read a novel more evocative of the array of emotions experienced in relationships. Bialosky’s writing rings true in every scene. The novel is a a self-reflective replaying of the Anna Karenina story. The main character, Eleanor Cahn, is a professor of literature doing a paper on Anna Karenina; married to a doctor, also mirroring Flaubert’s Madame Bovary; and bedevilled by her memories of three previous relationships that never quite made sense to her. Eleanor’s heart is a maelstrom of: longing for a better past, maintaining a stable present, and fear of a lonely future. I was gratified that no faintly painted cliches nor stentorious cultural revolutionary chants are given as a conclusion. Bialosky presents caring and truth as ultimate tools for life and well describes their feel and effect.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon

Meet 15-year-old Christopher Boone who knows it is going to be a super good day when he sees five red cars, who doesn't like yellow foods, and who can only show or receive affection by spreading out his fingers like a fan and touching finger tips. What sounds like Christopher acting like an eccentric teenager is actually his Asperger syndrome at work, which is a condition marked by impaired social interactions and limited repetitive patterns of behavior that is very similar to or may be the same as high functioning autism.

While in the yard, Christopher happens upon Wellington, the neighbor's poodle, stabbed to death with a pitchfork. Despite his father's wishes, he is determine to do some detecting in order to solve the murder of Wellington. Christopher uses his impeccable math abilities in his decision making process, and along the journey he discovers far more about himself and his life than he ever imagined.

Amusing and heartfelt, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time is one of the most unique pieces of literature that I have ever read. Full of mystery, intrigue, heart, humor, and mathematical equations, it can be read cover to cover in just a few brief hours. This story both entertains and educates, and no matter your reading interests, this is a book that will astound every reader.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

I'm the Vampire, That's Why by Michele Bardsley

Jessica Matthews is a single mom. One night while taking the garbage out, she is attacked by a werewolf. When she comes to, she is sucking the thigh of a strange yet extremely hot man. It turns out he is a vampire and in order to save Jessica's life he has turned her into a vampire also. Jessica wasn't the only one attacked that night. Ten other single parents of the small town Broken Heart, Oklahoma were also attacked. They too were turned into vampires.

Now with a town full of vampires who can't take care of their children during the day, the town is going to get a makeover. Night will become day and day will become night. That's not all. It turns out Jessica is meant to be with Patrick O'Halloran, the vamp who turned her. And of course there are those pesky evil vamps who want to destroy the citizens of Broken Heart and Jessica most of all.

With lots of humor and sexy vampires, I'm the Vampire, That's Why, is an excellent read. And of course with Jessica quoting the movie, The Princess Bride, all the time, you'll want to check that out too!

Saturday, September 1, 2007

Tangled Up In You by Rachel Gibson

Maddie Jones is a true crime writer. The next story she is going to write is very personal to her. It is the story of the murder of her mother. Maddie returns to Truly, Idaho intent on writing an unbiased account of the crime. What Maddie didn't count on was Mick Hennessy. Mick is the owner of the two bars in Truly and resident heartbreaker. He is also another victim of the murder. It was his mother who killed Maddie's mom, Mick's dad and then herself. When Mick first finds out what Maddie is doing in town, he is leery. But as time passes and the two get to know each other, they fall in love.
Can this love stand the test of a 30 year old scandal or the fact that Mick doesn't know who Maddie really is? Or will they get past the obstacles that haunt their past?

Rachel Gibson has written another great book. If you are in the mood for a fun and sexy book, give Rachel Gibson a try.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Simon Says by Lori Foster

Simon Evans is an ex-fighter turned trainer for SBC ultimate fighting. After his girlfriend of five years cheats on him, Simon decides to return to the ring. Dakota Dream is "hired" by her stepfather to find Simon because it turns out Simon is his son that he walked out on when Simon was a baby. When Simon and Dakota meet, sparks fly. Dakota has a hard time persuading Simon to meet his dad and after getting to know Simon she decides to stop. But a threat from her past may destroy her relationship with Simon and end her life.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Levitation by Jim Ottaviani and Janine Johnston

Using a graphic format, Levitation discusses the history behind one of the greatest magical illusions: the levitation act.

The idea of levitation started with the British magician, John Neville Maskelyne, who invented the gooseneck. The gooseneck was an apartus that allowed a magician to pass a hoop through the body, giving off the illusion that a person is actually floating in mid-air. Fascinated by his work, Harry Kellar tried to buy the secret from Maskelyne, but Maskelyne refused to sell his tricks.

Determined to bring this magical illusion to the United States, Kellar sat in the audience of several shows studying Maskelyne's technique, and through deception Kellar finally obtained the secrets to the act. Many years later, he passed the secrets along to his successor, Howard Thurston. Thurston was credited for "ruining" the magical act by allowing audience members to come up on the stage where they were able to see the techniques employed.

Although brief, this book packs a lot of information in 70 pages. If you have any interest in magic, you will find the history absolutely fascinating, and the illustrations only enhance the experience.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Next to Die by Marliss Melton

Penny Price has had a crush on her neighbor, Joe Montgomery, forever. Joe is a Navy SEAL. He has just returned from a horrific mission in which he was the only survivor. He is not handling it well. After one too many drunken nights, Penny butts in and tries to help Joe. Joe is reluctant to talk but slowly opens up to Penny.
Penny's sister Lia has moved in with Penny after getting some disturbing crank calls. Five years ago their dad had died in a car accident and just recently they found his journal indicating that it may have been murder. Lia takes their suspicions to the FBI. After leaving the FBI, Lia rear ends another vehicle. Broke, Lia agrees to take the man she hit out to dinner instead of paying for the damage. Of course, she stands him up because she has no clue who he is. But it turns out Vinnie is a Navy SEAL and very interested in Lia.

Action, romance, and a conspiracy, Next to Die, is a thrilling book. This is the fourth book in the Navy SEAL series by Melton. This book can be read without reading the other three books, but if you are like me and need to read books in order then Forget Me Not is the first book.

The Night I Got Lucky by Laura Caldwell

Chicago advertising executive Billy Rendell is unhappy with the status quo, both personally and professionally. No matter how hard she works, Billy is unable to get the recognition she thinks she deserves by being promoted to vice president, her husband Chris seems to be emotionally distant and hasn't been intimate with her in a long time, and her office crush, Evan, just sees Billy as one of the guys. And then there is her coworker, Alexa, who is always dumping her responsibilities on Billy, and her mother who is always butting into her life. Furthermore, she is still struggling with the fact that her father left her mother and two sisters when she was only a child, never to be heard from again.

In an attempt to deal with her unhappiness, Billy has started therapy with Blinda. Just when Billy needs her the most, Blinda leaves for a trip to Africa, leaving Billy with a small jade frog, for good "luck." Before she knows it, Billy suddenly seems to be getting everything she wanted. She is now the new vice president at her PR firm, Chris can't seem to keep is hands off of her at home, and Evan is more flirtatious than ever.

Although her new life seems perfect at first, she soon discovers that getting everything she wants has its own sets of problem. Can Billy restore her former life before things get out of control?

Who hasn't thought life would be perfect if they could get everything they wanted? The Night I Got Lucky is a different spin on the classic "grass is always greener on the other side" notion. Any chick lit reader should enjoy this one.

Friday, August 17, 2007

The Last Summer (of You & Me) by Ann Brashares

For as long as they could remember, sisters Riley and Alice have spent every summer on Fire Island, a small secluded island off of the coast of New York, and each summer they reunite with Paul, their next door neighbor and friend. Being a perpetual tomboy, Riley instantly attracted the friendship of all the boys, especially Paul. Alice, on the other hand, was always the younger sister who tagged along on Paul and Riley's adventures. Paul always treated Riley as his best friend and Alice as his younger sister, teasing and tormenting her as only siblings can do.

Now as adults, Riley and Alice still return to Fire Island where Riley works as a lifeguard. Paul is back this summer too, trying to finish his final philosophy paper so that he can graduate college. However, he is quickly distracted by Alice, his childhood friend who he realizes he has always loved. Alice and Paul's friendship blooms into a passionate romance, leaving both wondering what will happen once summer is over. An emergency concerning Riley forces Alice to leave the island without saying goodbye to Paul. Unaware of the dire situation concerning Riley, Paul mistakenly takes Alice's abrupt departure as rejection.

Back in the city, Alice puts off law school because of her concern for her sister's failing health. Meanwhile, Paul continues his studies and grows angry at himself for still loving a girl that has wounded his heart. What will the future hold for Riley? Will Paul and Alice ever be able to restore their friendship? Can a misunderstanding between soulmates really prevail over true love?

Both heart-wrenching and hopeful, The Last Summer (of You & Me) is a beautifully written story about the blurring lines between childhood and adulthood and between love and loss. Brashares is the bestselling author of the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants series, and The Last Summer (of You & Me) is her first novel for adults.