Friday, May 30, 2008

The Abstinence Teacher by Tom Perrotta

Ruth Ramsey is the sex education teacher for Stonewood Heights High School, and she has always been honest in answering her students questions, especially when her students are acting immature. She never realized that her response to an inquiry from one of her students about a specific sexual act would cause such an uproar.

Feeling pressure from the growing members of the The Tabernacle, the town's Born Again Christian sect, the school board forces Ruth to make a public apology for her actions, much to her chagrin.

Weeks later, Ruth attends her oldest daughter's soccer game, a tense match with one of the players almost being critically injured. At the end of the game, coach Tim Mason, a recovering alcoholic and drug addict who Ruth finds attractive, feels compelled to say a pray to thank the Lord for the team's victory and the almost injured player's safety.

Ruth, outraged by what she believes to be inappropriate and tired of the town's "bible pushers," threatens to remove Maggie from the team and attempts to rally the other parents to petition for Tim's removal as coach. Despite their differences, both Tim and Ruth learn much about each other and their beliefs over the school year.

The intensity builds throughout the novel around what is obviously a hot topic, and the reader is waiting for the final resolution, but Perrotta doesn't give the reader what they are anticipating. The Abstinence Teacher was engaging, but readers wanting a story with a more thrilling resolution should look elsewhere.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Lambrusco by Ellen Cooney

This work of historical fiction takes place in Italy in the midst of WWII. It is told through the perspective of Lucia Fantini, a locally famous opera singer who sings in her husband, Aldo's restaurant. She is searching for her now missing son who is part of the Resistance movement fighting the Nazi fascists who have invaded Italy.

Given the topic, you might think this story would be heavy, but it will surprise you. There is much humor in this cast of oddball characters as well as intertwined love stories. Not that it isn't serious but it demonstrates how as humans we find laughter and love in the darkest places.

Highly recommended for those interested in Italian culture and WWII historical fiction.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Queen of Babble by Meg Cabot

Lizzie has just "graduated" college (well, almost graduated, since she still has to write her thesis for her individualized major of history of fashion design) and is not sure what she will do in the fall. She does, however, plan to join her boyfriend of three months, Andrew, who is completing a teaching internship in London.

Once she arrives in London, she soon discovers that her perfect summer of bliss is not going to be what she thought. It turns out that Andy is living at home with his parents and this is where Lizzie will be staying. Furthermore, he never applied for the teaching internship since he wasn't going to get paid for his work. The final straw comes when Andy asks Lizzie to lend him money to pay back his gambling debts.

Completely disgusted with the situation, Lizzie hops the next train to France to visit her best friend Shari who is in Europe working at her boyfriend's friend's chateau. Her seat mate on the train happens to be a gorgeous man who she can't help spilling her guts. So what if he is privy to her latest embarrassing moments? She will never see this guy again, or so she thought!

The handsome stranger on the train is Jean-Luc, the owner of the chateau where Shari, as well as Luke's pretentious girlfriend, Dominique are staying. While at the Chateau, Lizzie realizes that Jean-Luc is the exact opposite of Andy, and she can't help falling in love (again). Too bad he is spoken for...

Granted, Lizzie is your typical self-absorbed, fashion-obsessed chick-lit character. However, Lizzie's flaws and foibles are so funny, readers can't help falling in love with her. I really enjoyed this light read, and I am looking forward to reading Queen of Babble in the Big City next. Also, if you like this series, be on the lookout this summer for Queen of Babble Gets Hitched.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Boy Toy by Barry Lyga

Joshua Mendel, the narrator and protagonist of Barry Lyga's newest young adult novel, Boy Toy would seem to have everything going for him. He is both exceptionally smart, and a brilliant baseball player. He is also a few weeks away from high school graduation. However, his carefully controlled world begins to disintegrate around him, when he finds out that his seventh grade teacher, Eve, is being released from prison.

We soon find out that he was molested by Eve five years earlier, and that Eve has been in prison ever since. We are told that the affair with Eve was discovered after an incident at a birthday party with a childhood friend named Rachel. What actually happened at the party remains unclear for most of the story, but Josh is clearly traumatized and ridden with guilt. In fact, he has not spoken to Rachel since the party, and cannot understand why she evidently wants to recover their friendship.

This is a sensitive novel about a difficult subject. It is a coming of age story, and the story of someone's recovery from sexual abuse. Josh's narrative voice is distinctive, and simultaneously self aware, yet blind to the truth of the events he is retelling. You will be pulled into the story as you wait to find out what actually happened with Josh and Eve and Rachel, and as you root for Josh to come a healing understanding of his own past.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Guilty by Karen Robards

Kate White is a prosecutor with the Philly DA. Late for the first day of trial, she makes it just in time. Unfortunately, she should have been later because the defendant pulls out a gun and opens fire. She is taken hostage and is surprised to learn one of the men is someone from her past. Back when she was fifteen, Kate was involved in a gas station hold up gone wrong. An off duty cop was killed and Kate and her friends were never caught. Now years later, her past has come back.

Now a single mom, Kate will do anything to protect her son. When Mario, the one who shot the cop, helps her get out of the hostage situation, he expects help. The kind of help where she gets him out of jail. The kind of help that can endanger her life and her son, Ben.

With the detective investigating the court shoot out not quite believing Kate's story, she is on dangerous ground. Plus, Kate is starting to developing feelings for the detective, Tom Braga. Then she starts getting threats and Mario ends up dead. Can she trust Tom with the truth or should she take Ben and run?

With unexpected twists and turns, this is another excellent book by Karen Robards.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

How to Talk to a Widower by Jonathan Tropper

It has been a year since 28-year-old Douglas Parker lost his wife in a plane crash, and he is still having difficulty getting out of bed in the mornings. If life isn't hard enough, Doug learns that his baby sister Debbie, who, by the way, hooked-up with her fiance at Doug's shivah, has just gotten engaged to his best friend. Celebrating in someone else's bliss is the last thing he wants right now.

Furthermore, his sixteen year-old stepson, Russ, is in trouble again, and his twin sister, Claire, has left her husband, moved in with Doug, and is determined to get him back in the dating pool. And if you couldn't think things could be more screwed up, he has just began an affair with Lanie, his married next door neighbor!

Fortunately, he has the support of his family, including his twin sister, his stepson, and his overbearing Jewish mother, to get him through. Despite his trepidation, Doug eventually learns to love and live again.

Told in Tropper's self-deprecating and heartwarming voice, readers will both laugh and cry as they join Doug on his journey through widowhood. Also, if you want more of Tropper, then try The Book of Joe (read the review here). They are both highly recommended!

Monday, May 12, 2008

Where Are You Now? by Mary Higgins Clark

Charles "Mack" Mackenzie went missing ten years ago. He was in college and had been accepted to law school. He got along with his family, had good friends yet one day he just disappeared. The only time his family hears from him is on Mother's Day. He calls, says he is o.k. and hangs up. His sister, Carolyn, has had enough. When Mack calls this time, she tells him that she is going to look for him and won't stop until she finds him. This threat starts a chain of events nobody saw coming.

The next day a note is left at their uncle's church. The note tells Carolyn not to look for him. That just convinces Carolyn to pursue it. She starts by going to the police who basically tell her there is nothing they can do. She goes to the apartment he lived in and talks to his landlords. They are definitely hiding something. She talks to his old roommates, Nick and Bruce. Nick, who she had a crush on, owns a nightclub were a girl has gone missing. This is the third girl to go missing in the area in ten years. Right around the time Mack went missing. All of a sudden the police are calling Mack a serial killer.

Now Carolyn has to prove her brother isn't a killer. She also has to find him. Her mother was against all this from the start, so Carolyn is alone in her search. Will she find her brother? Will he turn out to be a killer? Carolyn will have to search deep inside herself to find the strength to deal with whatever the answers are. Because the answers may cost Carolyn her life.

This was a very good book by Mary Higgins Clark. Her last couple of books weren't that great for me. And she always introduces a lot of characters which can be hard to keep track of. Where Are You Now has definitely brought back the old Mary Higgins Clark.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

The Professor's Daughter by Joann Sfar

Intrigued by her father's museum collection, Lillian releases Imhotep IV, the Egyptian pharaoh, from his sarcophagus for a day on the town and hopes to make a romantic connection. Lillian, however, is unsure of her feelings for Imhotep and is concerned that he only loves her because she resembles his wife. His wife was never mummified, and therefore the two will never be reunited.

While at a local resturant enjoying tea, Imhotep gets involved in some shenanigans that cause the local authorities to pay a visit to Lillian and Imhotep at her father's home. Not sure how to handle the situation, the scatterbrain Lillian gives the police poison disguised as tea. With two men dead, now they are in real trouble.

Meanwhile, Imhotep's father, Imhotep's III, is out looking for his son and is determined to free Imhotep from prison, but Imhotep doesn't want his father's help. Therefore, his father takes things into his own hands, which involves shooting Lillian's father, the professor, and kidnapping the queen!

You may think that the premise of this story is too silly, but this short graphic novel is full of humor and adventure. If you are in the mood for laughter, fun, and a surprise ending, then I highly recommend The Professor's Daughter!

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Spying in High Heels By Gemma Halliday

Maddie Springer is late. Not for an appointment but in the-OMG, I have only been dating this guy 5 months and I live in a studio apartment and can barely take care of myself and don't think I can handle the responsibility of a baby-late. Maddie decides to tell Richard, her boyfriend, that she is late while they are at lunch. When Maddie shows up at the law firm Richard works at, Richard is escorting a man out. He is not Richard's typical client. He is big and muscular and sexy in a scary way. Richard ends up canceling lunch and that's the last Maddie hears from him.

After a weekend of no phone calls, Maddie is concerned. It isn't like Richard to blow her off. She calls his house and his work but is told he took some personal time. Maddie decides to go to his house. She has a key so it isn't like she is breaking and entering. While searching his house for clues and erasing the fifteen or so messages she left on his answering machine, someone else comes into the house. Maddie hides in the closet and sees that it is the scary guy from the law office and he is wearing a gun. He rifles through Richard's things and then leaves. Maddie decides to follow him. He leads her to a very expensive house were he goes to the backyard. Maddie follows and when she arrives in the backyard, there is a woman floating face down in the pool.

The scary guy turns out to be Detective Jack Ramirez. He is investigating Richard for embezzlement and now maybe murder. What's a girl to do? Help with the investigating, of course. With the help of her best friend, Dana, she is going to clear Richard's name. But along the way she will discover some not so great things about Richard and realize maybe he isn't the one for her. And eventually, she will get around to taking that pregnancy test!

Spying in High Heels is a great start to a fantastic series. It has humor, mystery, romance, and hot men. What more can you ask for! The next books are Killer in High Heels, Undercover in High Heels, and Alibi in High Heels. Enjoy!

Saturday, May 3, 2008

The Art of French Kissing by Kristin Harmel

Publicist Emma Sullivan has not only just been unceremoniously dumped by her fiance but she's been fired from her public relations job too! When her English friend from college, Poppy, calls her from Paris with a fantastic temporary PR assignment as a publicist for the hottest French singer, Emma jumps at the chance. What girl wouldn't want to start fresh in the most romantic city in the world? Emma soon finds herself in impossible situations, having to rescue the dreamy and talented but quite crazy Guillame Riche from dozens of publicity nightmares just as they're launching his first English-language album. Adding to the chaos is a particularly hunky reporter, Gabe, who keeps Emma on her toes with her PR skills and maybe more....

While the plot twists are predictable in this love story, you'll find yourself rooting for Emma to get the great guy and the great job.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Light on Snow by Anita Shreve

In the small town of Shepherd, New Hampshire, twelve-year-old Nicky Dillon and her father are snowshoeing in the woods behind their house when they hear a noise in the distance. At first Nicky thinks it is a kitten, but then they both immediately recongize the sound as a crying baby. In the distance, wrapped in a bloody sleeping bag, is a newborn baby who is not more than minutes old. Knowing that an ambulence would not be able to get up the trecherous, unplowed hill leading to their house in time, Robert Dillon quickly rushes the baby to the hospital.

Days later, a young women shows up at the Dillon's residence. The woman, who we later learn is named Charlotte, claims that she is interested in buying Robert's home-crafted furniture. Nicky and her father suspect otherwise and eventually learn that she is the baby's mother. With an impending snowstorm and no place to go, Charlotte stays the night.

Meanwhile, Detective Warren and his crew are investigating the case and believe that they will find the person(s) responsible for leaving the baby to die in the woods. Warren warns Robert that he is to contact the police immediately if he learns anything involving the case.

Nicky, knowing that her life will never be the same since they found the baby, wants Charlotte to stay. Robert does not want to be an accomplice to a crime; however, his own past tragedies cause him to consider the fate of the young woman.

The tension builds throughout as readers wonder how this single event will forever change the lives of Nicky and Robert. Although the ending was somewhat anticlamtic, there is plenty here to spark a great discussion. I can't really say anything bad about an Anita Shreve book. I just love her stories.