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 (the equivalent of 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.