Monday, March 31, 2008

Manhunt: The Twelve-Day Chase for Lincoln's Killer by James L. Swanson

Attorney and Lincoln historian James L. Swanson has meticulously researched the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln and the hunt for his killer, the handsome thespian, James Wilkes Booth in Manhunt. But what you expect as a historical work of nonfiction reads much like the works of the best suspense novels.

Swanson details how Booth both plotted and carried out Lincoln's murder. There are so many interesting events that took place that I don't ever recall learning in any history class when I was in school. For example, Booth's assassination plot included the assassination of vice president at the time, Andrew Johnson, and Secretary of State, William H. Seward. One of Booth's co-conspirators, Lewis Powell, did attempt to kill Seward by fatal stab wounds, but Seward survived. George Atzerodt "chickened-out" and did not go through with the planned assassination of Johnson.

Even more interesting is that Booth escaped Ford's theather and was able to avoid being caught for twelve days. He relied on the good faith of confederates who took him in, and even hid in a pine thicket for several days with his friend and co-conspirator, David Herold. Despite having a severally broken leg and being deprived of any conveniences in the wilderness, Booth was most concerned with wanting to obtain newspapers to read about his daring murder of President Lincoln. He was a true thespian caught up entirely in the drama of this horrific event.

These are but a few examples of the detailed history you will learn about in Manhunt. Don't be mislead by the fact that this a work of history, because it reads much like your favorite suspense novel. This book should have broad appeal.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Without a Map by Meredith Hall

Moving is the best way to describe this memoir. Moving both literally and emotionally. Meredith Hall becomes pregnant at age 16 in 1965. Because of her transgression, she is shunned from her family and society. From the moment her child is taken, she spends the next twenty years outcast and alone, within her own mind and society. She chooses to live a life of shadows daring to say and do things others would never do as a way of acting against the pain and anger she feels at herself and at the world. She eventually finds herself traveling alone, with nothing but her thoughts, a sleeping bag, and her passport through far off exotic lands trying to escape her life. It is not until 21 years later, after the birth of two sons and eventual divorce from their father, (who is never mentioned by name in the book) that salvation comes. Reunion! Her long lost child finds her and only then can her emotional torment fade and the wounds of her past begin to heal. Life is hard, things don’t go your way, That’s life. Meredith proves that in a hurtful, remorseless world, one can find peace.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Sizzle and Burn by Jayne Ann Krentz

Raine Tallentrye's only living relative has just died. It is up to Raine to go through her aunt's home and put it on the market. While in the house, Raine feels uneasy. As she heads to the basement and touches the rail, she hears a voice saying, "burn, witch, burn." Of course this freaks Raine out but hearing voices is nothing new. Raine is psychic and hears voices when something violent has occurred. When Raine reaches the basement, she finds a girl tied up and alive. She is a victim of the Bonfire Killer, the serial killer hunting in the northwest.

Zack Jones is psychic also. He has visions when he touches objects that have a dark history. He is a private investigator and a part of the Arcane Society. Right now his job is to find a missing scientist who is involved in shady dealings. The search leads him to Raine.

Zack and Raine begin looking for the scientist. They also have to watch their backs because the Bonfire Killer has decided that Raine should be his next victim. During the investigation, they find suspects galore and reveal secrets from the past. And they fall in love.

Another great read by Jayne Ann Krentz. Once I started reading, I couldn't put it down! This is actually the third book featuring the Arcane Society. White Lies is the first in the series. The second book is Second Sight, which is Jayne writing as Amanda Quick. The fourth book will be The Third Circle, also by Amanda Quick, and will be released April 22, 2008. This series does not have to be read in order. Enjoy!

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Slummy Mummy by Fiona Neill

Lucy Sweeney is a stay-at-home mother for her three boys, Sam, Fred, and Joe. A self-proclaimed domestic fraud, Lucy leaves her credit cards in the fridge, her keys in the front door, and frequently forgets where she had parked her car, constantly making her late to drop off her boys at school. Although she always means well, she definitely isn't like the other parents in her class representatives group, which includes Yummy Mummy #1, Yummy Mummy #2, Celebrity Dad, Alpha Mom, and Sexy Domesticated Dad.

Despite her unconventional ways, Lucy is the most stable of all her friends and family. Her friend Kathy is sleeping with both of her roommates and Emma is having an ongoing affair with a married man. In addition, her brother the psychologist can't seem to settle down, and her mother-in-law is moving in with her old lover.

However, an infatuation with Sexy Domesticated Dad has her call into question her own feelings for her husband, Tom, and brings back memories of Tom's infidelity early in their relationship. As the sexual tensions rise between Lucy and Sexy Domesticated Dad, readers will wonder if she will jeopardize it all to fulfill her fantasies.

Slummy Mummy takes you on laugh-out-loud journey with Lucy Sweeney as she navigates life, love, and motherhood. If Bridget Jones had children, she would definitely be a "slummy mummy." Fans of Helen Fielding and Jane Green or readers who need a good laugh should find something to like here. This book is also available as a downloadable audiobook through My Media Mall.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Naughty Neighbor by Janet Evanovich

Louisa Brannigan is a press secretary on Capitol Hill. She has been having trouble sleeping at night because her neighbor's phone has been ringing at all hours of the night. The way their duplex is set up Louisa hears everything and vice verse. Pete Streeter is sick of the phone calls. Ever since he started investigating what happened to a pig, he has been getting harassed. One morning Pete steals Louisa newspaper and Louisa is fed up. She goes to his door and demands her paper. This is the first meeting between neighbors and sparks fly. Of course, they both deny any feelings. Later that evening Pete crashes a cocktail party for Louisa's boss and the next day she is fired. It all has to do with a pig. Louisa helps Pete with the pig investigation and ends finding love.

This is one of Janet Evanovich first romance stories before the Stephanie Plum phenomenon. It is a quick light read. The romance part is better than the mystery part of the book. It is just enough of a Janet Evanovich fix until her next book!

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield

Although she has dabbled in writing the occasional biographical essay, Margaret Lea’s primary passion is her father’s antiquarian bookshop, a place where she both lives and works. One of the shop’s prized possessions is a first edition copy of The Thirteenth Tale. This famous book only contains twelve stories, which has left readers bewildered for years by the missing thirteenth tale. As a result, all succeeding editions were published under a different title.

One day Margaret receives a strange letter from the elusive, bestselling author of The Thirteenth Tale, Vida Winters, requesting that Margaret come immediately to Vida’s mansion to transcribe her biography. Margaret can’t help but to find the author’s request suspect, as no one has been able to capture the truth about Vida’s past because she is prone to telling outlandish stories in her interviews.

After Vida vows to tell only the truth, Margaret consents to writing her biography in hopes of obtaining the mysterious thirteenth tale. And so, Vida begins to tell her story, a story that has begun long before her birth and starts with her family’s scandalous and sordid past. Along the way, many secrets are revealed and many questions are left unanswered, leaving both Margaret and the reader haunted by Vida’s story.

Full of mystery and intrigue, this page-turner belongs on the shelf with its gothic predecessors. Lovers of books, ghost stories, and the gothics will definitely relish this story. For extra enjoyment, I also encourage you to check out the book's website.

Monday, March 10, 2008

My Life in France by Julia Child

As a child of the 60's and 70's, to me, Julia Child was that lady on PBS who talked funny and cooked. After reading her biography, I wish I'd been paying attention back then!

My Life in France is the story of how Julia got her start in cooking, taking classes at the famed Cordon Bleu, and then how she, along with two friends she'd made in France, started their own cooking school. It also details the arduous task of compiling and testing the recipes for their cookbook, a job that took close to ten years and almost cost them their friendship.

But, more than that, it's the story of how Julia became a late bloomer, and found her true calling. Newly married and 36 years old when she moved to France with her husband, Julia became entranced with the French markets, restaurants, and food. She says in her book "It was as if I was French all along, and nobody told me!" Wanting to become a better cook, she enrolled in the Cordon Bleu, where it soon became apparent that she was already ready for the "professional" classes instead of the housewife classes she'd been placed in. It was there that she made lifelong friendships with some of the chefs and classmates, and became interested in starting a cooking school of her own.

Julia was in her forties when work on the cookbook began, and almost fifty when her television career began. Julia's account of her love affair with France will keep you entranced, and if you're like me, you'll be tempted to devour it in one sitting! Bon apetit!

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Strangers in Death by J.D. Robb

Thomas Anders was found dead on his bed, naked and looking to have engaged in kinky sex. Lieutenant Eve Dallas is called to the scene. Right from the get go, Eve suspects the wife. But the wife has a solid alibi. This does not stop Eve from trying to figure out how the wife did it. After talking to the people close to Tom, Eve begins to see that the death scene was staged. With the help of her partner Detective Peabody and her husband, billionaire and all around hottie, Roarke, Eve will get to the bottom of this mystery. But before she does a twist right out of a Hitchcock film will take place.

J.D. Robb is a pseudonym for Nora Roberts. She writes the awesome In Death series starring Eve Dallas. Eve Dallas works homicide for the New York police department. This book is set in 2060. While it may turn people off thinking this series is futuristic, there is very little changes from the present. If you have never read a book by J.D. Robb, you must. The first book is Naked in Death.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

A Vineyard in Tuscany by Ferenc Mate

If you're a fan of travel essayists like Frances Mayes or Peter Mayle, you'll enjoy this tale of an author, already living in Tuscany who dreams of opening his own winery. Ferenc Mate,an established writer, along with his wife, a painter and young son, are ex-pats living in a refurbished villa. This memoir follows his journey to find his dream home that he can renovate himself, with land to open his own winery. Along the way, he'll take you through the adventures and misadventures that go with renovating an 800-year-old former friary and with developing 15 acres of vines and then officially starting a winery.

Ferenc's style is simple, sarcastic and light, even under trying circumstances. It's a quick read but you might savor it more if you read it while drinking a lovey Syrah from the Mate winery!

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Anyone But You by Jennifer Crusie

Not used to be alone, Nina Askew, who is forty and recently divorced, has decided that she will get a dog to keep her company. She picks a lethargic basset hound mix named Fred whose days are numbered at the local shelter. Nina trains him to go out the window and down the fire escape to do his bathroom business.

In the same apartment building downstairs from Nina resides thirty-year-old Alex Moore. Alex is an ER doctor who comes from a family of medical specialists who want Alex to get a "real" medical position in cardiology. Tired of his nagging relationship with girlfriend Debra, Alex spends many of his nights at home drinking with his half-brother, Max.

One day when Fred is returning from his bathroom break, he mistakenly goes up only two flights of stairs on the fire escape instead of three and enters through Alex Moore's window. Thus, via Fred, Alex and Nina finally meet. The two start a casual friendship, saving each other from bad dates, but it is obvious to both of them that there is a strong physical attraction. However, Nina feels that she is much too old for Alex, and Alex feels that he is not good enough for her and can't provide her with the lifestyle her ex-husband, Guy, could.

Chalk full of steamy sex scenes, Anyone But You is a sweet story that will appeal not just to dog lovers but anyone who enjoys contemporary romance.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Hissy Fit by Mary Kay Andrews

Keeley Murdock is having a hissy fit. She just found her fiance, AJ, in a compromising position with her maid of honor at their rehearsal dinner. She feels she is entitled to throw a few items at her fiance and meltdown. As she leaves the country club she writes a dirty word describing AJ on his car door and is caught by newcomer Will Mahoney. This meeting leads to the biggest job of her life.

Keeley is an interior designer in Madison, Georgia. Will has just bought an antebellum mansion and wants Keeley to decorate it with an impossible deadline. Keeley declines at first but ends up taking the job. She throws herself into the job to forget about her ex and the fact that her friend Austin has decided to play Nancy Drew and figure out why Keeley's mom disappeared over twenty years ago.

With lots of laugh, a little mystery and a dash of romance, Hissy Fit is a delightful read. I actually listened to it on audio through the library website's (http://www.plainfield.lib.il.us/) downloadable service, MyMedia Mall. I enjoyed the narrator reading with a southern accent. It really made you feel like you were in Georgia!