Thursday, July 31, 2008

The Wedding by Nicholas Sparks

After 29 years with Jane, Wilson Lewis realizes that his marriage is failing, especially after he forgets their wedding anniversary. Determined to win Jane and his marriage back, Wilson seeks the advice of her father, Noah, a man who understands the importance of romance in a relationship. With the exception of Wilson, Noah's doctors and family members think he is suffering from dementia, as Noah believes that the spirit of his deceased wife and one true love, Allie, lives in a swan that frequents the pond at his home.

Meanwhile, their eldest child, Anna, has announced her engagement to Keith. Anna wants to get married immediately since she knows Noah is ill and doesn't have much time left. As Jane and Wilson get caught up in the whirlwind of Anna's wedding planning, Wilson must find a way to win back Jane's heart on the day that matters most in the world - their 30th wedding anniversary.

Although not billed as a sequel, the characters of Noah and Allie appeared as protagonists in Sparks's earlier novel, The Notebook, which was later made into a feature film starring Rachel McAdams and Ryan Gosling.

The Wedding progresses much like many of Spark's novels do, building slowly yet beautifully to the finish. However, he saves a final twist to the end that made this novel worth reading and consequently proves that you will never be disappointed in a Nicholas Sparks story.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Secrets of a Shoe Addict by Beth Harbison

When in Las Vegas for their children's band competition, three Maryland PTA moms quickly find themselves in a financial nightmare when left for an evening without the children.

Recently separated Loreen Murphy is quite flattered to receive the attentions of an attractive young man in the casino. Little did she know that after their little tryst, he was expecting her to pay up, as he is a male prostitute. Distraught over the $1000 loss, she gambles away $4000 in attempt to win her money back, and discovers that she has been using the PTA credit card to make the cash advances!

Meanwhile, Abbey Walsh, a pastor's wife with a sordid past, runs into her ex, Damon, who is just out of prison and is looking for the bracelet she was supposed to hold for him. Abbey, however, donated the bracelet to charity when she turned her life around. Damon demands that she pay him back the value of the bracelet plus interest or else.

Later that evening, Tiffany Dreyer goes on a spontaneous shopping spree, spending over $5,000 on clothes and shoes at the expensive Vegas boutique, Finola Pims. She doesn't feel too guilty because she knows she will return most of it, that is, until she learns after the fact that store policy does not allow returns.

Completely desperate and in need of fast cash, the three women call upon the advice of Tiffany's sister, Sandra, who has made much money working as a phone sex operator. The three women vow to stick it out until all the debts are paid, but the job is not easy as they thought, especially when they are threatened to be exposed by a woman determined to overthrow Tiffany as PTA president, the conniving Deb Leventer.

Much like Shoe Addicts Anonymous, Harbison's sophmore effort uses a commonility among women, but this time finanical issues instead of shoe addictions, to get at the heart of the novel: friendship. Although I miss the amont of discussion of shoes that was present in Harbison's first novel, chick lit fans will not be disappointed in this light-hearted tale about the bonds between women.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Just Like a Man by Elizabeth Bevarly

Michael Sawyer is a retired spy. Or so he thought. He is asked by his old boss to take on a special assignment. At first Michael refuses but then he learns who he is spying on: his old partner turned evil doer, Adrian Padgett. In order to get the job done, Michael must infiltrate an elite private school that Adrian is on the board of directors.

Hannah Frost is the headmistress of the elite private school in Indiana. The newest student, Alex Sawyer, is in her office almost everyday. He keeps telling outrageous stories of when his dad was spy. Of course, Hannah knows Michael is just a CPA or is he?

Suddenly Hannah is thrown in a world of spies. All of her life she just wanted to be normal. This is as far from normal as possible. She agrees to help Michael get the dirt on Adrian and it doesn't hurt that along the way she just might find her happy ending.

I really enjoyed this story. The only thing that threw me off a little was a secondary story between one of the teachers and the head of the computer company Adrian supposedly worked at. I was never quite sure what they had to do with the main story.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

In Odd We Trust by Dean Koontz and Queenie Chan

Most people of Pico Mundo, California know Odd Thomas as the fry cook from the Pico Mundo Grille who can whip up the world's best pancakes. Few residents know about his extraordinary supernatural ability that can best be described as the ability to see dead people.

When an innocent child is slain, police chief Wyatt Porter calls on Odd to help him track down the killer. The case becomes personal for Odd since the slain child's babysitter/housekeeper happens to be Sherry, his girlfriend's best friend. Now Stormy, Odd's girlfriend, and Odd are concerned that the killer is targeting another child Sherry watches. Can Odd's powers help him capture the killer before he strikes again?

Filled with moments of suspense and humor, I found this quick read to be thoroughly enjoyable. In Odd We Trust is a a prequel to and based on the full-length novel, Odd Thomas, by Dean Koontz. Be on the lookout for the the newest book in the Odd Thomas series, Odd Hours, that was just released this year.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Host by Stephenie Meyer

A new series from the author of the ever popular Twilight. It is another bittersweet romance between a human and something entirely non-human. The Earth has been invaded by alien parasites which use a host to survive. Most of humanity now supplies as hosts to these intruders but a few humans survive to resist the parasitic invasion. Melanie Stryder wakes up to find herself occupied by Wanderer, an alien controling her body. Melanie and Wanderer find themselves coming to terms with each other though they are worlds apart, and find themselves understanding each other. Soon Wanderer realizes she would rather live as a human, than with others of her own kind.

It was a nice novel, fairly fun to read. There are some cliche moments and some parts that do not fit nicely together in the story line. The play of relationships is interesting and convoluted, being two love interests, one body; a nice drama to be played out. Meyer has come out with another fantasy / science fiction esque romance, maybe not as largely popular as Twilight, but still enough to stand on its own.

Friday, July 18, 2008

The Sweetgum Knit Lit Society by Beth Patillo

Five ladies of Sweetgum, Tennessee meet once a month at a local church to share their passion for reading and knitting. The Sweetgum Knit Lit Society consists of Eugenie, the town librarian, sisters Esther and Ruth, stay-at-home mom Merry, and Camille who has dreams of escaping the small town. Eugenie decides to introduce a troubled teen named Hannah to the group. They teach her to knit simple projects, and they discuss classic books for girls such as Little Women and Heidi.

Each member has their own troubles which they try to keep to themselves. Eugenie is being forced into retirement and someone from her past suddenly appears turning her normally controlled life upside down. Esther and Ruth must face a lie they have lived with their entire adult lives. Merry is unexpectedly pregnant when she feels her marriage is falling apart. Camille must care for her terminally ill mother and manage her dress shop even though she dreams of leaving the small town. Hannah’s mother is negligent and she has a difficult time at school.

The ladies are a bit resentful of Eugenie bringing a troubled teen into the group and choosing to read children’s books. However, they each help Hannah in their own way and ultimately this helps them resolve their own issues.

The Sweetgum Knit Lit Society by Beth Pattillo was an enjoyable read, though at times predictable and perhaps overly sentimental at the end. I would recommend it to those who enjoy gentle reads. It also includes a knitting pattern for a basic shawl.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

The Beach House by Jane Green

Eccentric widow Nan Powell is faced with selling her beloved old house Windermere, with its memories of her beloved albeit gambling-addicted husband. The alternative: take in boarders for money, and fend off the developers who want to tear down Windermere to put up a few McMansions.

Green spends an enormous amount of time setting up the dozen or so characters and the reasons why they all end up on the island. But when all the characters get to Nantucket, Green seems to lose some of her inspiration. She rushes through the last few chapters of the book after such a leisurely build-up and leaves you wanting more. You will definitely connect with all the characters and root for them to get their lives back on track.

The Beach House has potential and could be a much bigger novel, but the rushed final chapters and a couple of puttered-out storylines leave you frustrated. If nothing else, it will make you want to chuck the daily grind and head to Nantucket!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Balancing in High Heels by Eileen Rendahl

Alissa Lindley needs to get this fax through. She has only fifteen minutes to get it sent to the judge or her client will have to go back to jail. The fax jams so she pulls out the papers and starts again. Only two pages went through and then the fax machine stops. She pulls out the papers and tries again. As she feeds them through, her cell rings. It is her husband. The one she is trying to make her marriage work with. He is calling to let her know his mistress is pregnant and he wants a divorce. Stupid fax machine isn't even pretending to work. Alissa picks up the machine, throws it down and jumps on it.

Six months later, Alissa is divorced, through with her anger management classes and has headed home to San Jose, California. Back to where her mom and sister and best friend live. She slowly starts rebuilding her life and starts trying cases at the courthouse. Everything is going along fine until she meets her newest client, a stripper who is arrested for vigilante act. She is part of a group called The Butterfly Brigade.

When news gets out about the Butterfly Brigade, how they right the wrongs that are happening to people, women across the country start forming their own Butterfly Brigades. Alissa knows that what they are doing is wrong but she secretly admires these women for doing what they believe is right. She also knows that the hot detective in charge of the case, EJ Rodriguez, would be upset if she joined them. What is a girl to do?

This was a very funny book. After you read it, you just might want to get a butterfly tattoo and start your own Butterfly Brigade!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Loving Frank by Nancy Horan

When this book first came out last year, I got to the first 100 pages, but had to return it because it was due back at the library, and I didn't love it enough to return it late. I picked up the book again this weekend, and devoured it in one day. I am not sure what changed for me as a reader this time around, but I am so glad I came back to this wonderful, compelling story.

If you haven't already heard the buzz about Loving Frank, as it has been quite popular with book discussion groups since the paperback release this year, you may not know that this is a fictional story about the famed architect, Frank Lloyd Wright, and his love affair with a client's wife, Mamah Borthwick Cheney. Although the reader wonders how much of is made up, after further research, I discovered much of the novel is based on real events. It is fascinating that the public doesn't seem to know much about the woman who had great influence on the beloved architect. In fact, Horan maintains that when the tour guides are asked why Frank left Oak Park 1909, they tell the awkward truth that he ran off with the wife of a client, but don't mention the name Mamah Cheney.

Fortunately, Horan's novel provides the reader with the much needed story of this fascinating woman. In addition, readers will learn about architecture and Frank's life. Horan even saves a shocking revelation to the very end, which I won't spoil for you here.

This book has something for everyone: romance, history, intrigue, and much more. Especially if you reside in the Chicago area, you will find something to like here and won't be disappointed in this compelling story. Highly recommended!

Monday, July 14, 2008

Tribute by Nora Roberts

Cilla McGown, former child star and granddaughter of movie star Janet Hardy, is rebuilding her life - and her grandmother's favorite retreat, an old farmhouse that has been allowed to fall into disrepair after her grandmother's untimely death. With experience in real estate flipping houses, Cilla is up to the task of paying tribute to her grandmother by bringing the house back to life, but can she solve the mystery of Janet's death? Did she commit suicide or was she murdered?

When Cilla unearths some letters from the past, the mystery deepens. With the help of her neighbor, sexy graphic novelist Ford Sawyer who happens to live across the street, Cilla deals with unnerving scare tactics from an unknown assailant, a publicity-seeking visit from her mother, and a near-fatal attack on her ex-husband.

Not Nora Roberts' best work, the suspense portion of the story suffers from contrived events and a formulaic plot. However, the strength of the novel lies in the romance and characterizations. Roberts delivers interesting, nuanced characters whose romance carries the story. Nora Roberts fans will enjoy Cilla and Ford.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

The Monsters of Templeton by Lauren Groff

Family history, sea monsters, small town life and a contemporary story all blend together in this wonderful debut novel from Lauren Groff.

Wille Upton, formerly a promising academic in the field of archaeology, returns to her hometown of Templeton, NY with her tail between her legs following a scandal with one of her professors. Here she is shocked to learn that her mother, Vi, a former hippie, has found religion, and drops a hint to Willie about the identity of her biological father. Rather than being one of three hippies, as Willie has always been told, she learns that her father actually resides in Templeton and is unaware that she is, in fact, his daughter. She sets out on a genealogical quest to discover her father. On the same day of Willie’s return, a gigantic prehistoric creature is pulled from the town lake, confirming the long-rumored existence of the “monster.”

Willie and her mother are the last stragglers in the line of a proud lineage of the original founder of the town, a prestigious fellow whom the town is named after. Willie reconnects with the small town characters of her past during her search for information. As Willie inches closer and closer to the identity of her father, she learns some shocking truths about her family and the town’s history, leaving her wondering who the “monsters” of Templeton really are.

Groff, like James Fenimore Cooper, grew up in Cooperstown, NY, and uses that as her model for Templeton. (Some of you Cooper fans might recognize her nod to him, who also named his fictional town Templeton in The Pioneers.) Her enthusiasm and obvious affection for the setting comes through in her writing making the town another character in the story. Alternating between Willie’s contemporary story and historical doings, with journal entries and old pictures thrown in for good measure, the story sings all the way through the book. The major problem I had with this book (with my weak short term memory) was that I had to keep referring back in order to remember who all of the historical figures were as it is so jam-packed with people and plot. The Monsters of Templeton is not only a great summertime read, it’s a busy book with plenty of plot twists and characters that will keep the reader invested any time of year.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Hemlock Bay by Catherine Coulter

Dillon Savich has found the Tuttle siblings. They have been on a murdering spree and Savich has finally caught up with them. They are in a barn and Savich is doing some reconn. His fellow FBI agents are waiting for his signal. As he watches, the Tuttles put the two boys in the middle of a circle and start threatening them. Savich realizes there is no time and rushes in. He shoots Tommy Tuttle and kills him and shoots Tammy Tuttle in the arm. The boys are safe and the bad guys are caught.

In Hemlock Bay, California, Lily Fraser wakes up in a hospital. She is told that she has been in a car accident. They tell her she needs to talk to the psychiatrist because they believe it was a suicide attempt. Her car was driven right into a redwood tree. This would also be her second attempt. After her daughter was killed in a hit and run, Lily supposedly took sleeping pills. The fact is Lily doesn't remember trying to kill herself. Either time. She asks her husband, who she has only been married to eleven months and is starting to be suspicious of, to call her brother and his wife, FBI agents Dillon Savich and Lacey Sherlock.

Savich and Sherlock come and right away realize something is wrong. After Lily starts feeling better, they take her to a psychiatrist not recommend by her husband and Lily is able to remember that she didn't try and kill herself but her brakes failed. Savich and Sherlock start investigating Lily's husband and his family. What they find out is shocking. They also have to deal with Tammy Tuttle. She has escaped and has already started killing. She especially wants Savich dead.

This is the sixth book in the FBI series by Catherine Coulter. Savich and Sherlock are in every book. They might not be the main characters but they are always there. It doesn't need to be read in order but I would definitely read The Maze to see how Savich and Sherlock fell in love! I listened to this book from www.mymediamall.net, I have to say when the narrator spoke as Tammy Tuttle, I was thoroughly creeped out. It was an excellent way to hear the story.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Eragon by Christopher Paolini

With summer vacations upon us, many of parents will be looking for ways to entertain the whole family, especially on long road trips. Downloadable audiobooks like Eragon are just the thing to capture everyone's imagination. Eminently portable - you were bringing your MP3 player anyway, weren't you? - downloadables won't weigh down your luggage.

Even if you've seen the movie, "the book is better" - and the audiobook is better still! Expertly read by Gerard Doyle, the characters come alive as you follow Eragon and his dragon through their adventures. From egg to full-fledged dragon, from hometown to far-off lands, Eragon and Saphira are off an epic journey in the spirit of the Lord of the Rings trilogy and Anne McCaffrey's Pern series.

To access the downloadable version of Eragon and to see the rest of the Library's digital collection, including downloadable ebook, audiobook, and video, please visit www.mymediamall.net.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Rosewater and Soda Bread by Marsha Mehran

How do three Iranian sisters end up in a tiny Irish village in the 1980's? That question is often alluded to but never fully explained in this charming tale of secrets and mystery in a sleepy fishing village full of fascinating characters. Marjan, Bahar and Layla, having sought refuge from the Shah of Iran, open a Persian cafe, serving delectable treats to many quirky people. Each sister struggles with her own inner demons while adjusting to this new community and culture and end up embroiled in a tale that could land them all in jail.

While I enjoyed the story and was never able to guess where it was headed, I found myself wanting to know more about the sisters' lives before coming to Ireland. The food, of course, sounded heavenly and I was delighted to see recipes included!

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Lovehampton by Sherri Rifkin

Tori Miller has pretty much hit rock bottom ever since she lost her job and her boyfriend Pete dumped her without any warning. Concerned about her depression and the lack of hygiene it has caused, her friends arrange for her to get a complete makeover on the new reality show, Three-On-One, where three fashion-forward gay men give you a complete overhaul.

In addition to giving Tori a new look, her friends sign her up for a share in a fabulous Hamptons house for the summer. They feel that this is a great opportunity for her to meet other singles and to make new friends. Although not sure what to expect, Tori takes a chance on the share and meets her new roommates at a pre-Hamptons get together. Enter the ladies: hair-flipper Leah, new friend Cassie, and roommate Stacey, and the men: the elusive Jackson, his friend, Michael, and playboy Andrew. Because she is the newbee, Andrew has filled Tori in on the most important Hamptons Unwritten rule: you should never hookup with anyone in your summer house before August 1st.

Needless to say, with a mix of different personalities, it will be an interesting and wild summer, that includes lots of socializing, partying, and drinking. During the course of Tori's stay, friendships will be made, hearts will be broken, old lovers will return, and secrets will be revealed. Can Tori survive the summer without breaking the Hamptons unwritten cardinal rule?

Readers will tire quickly of Tori's drinking antics and will expect more from a thirty-something female protagonist. But what the book lacks in substance, it makes up in humor. Tori is an easy character to understand and laugh at and with, and this makes the book worth reading. By the end, you will be rooting for her to get her man!

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Not Another Bad Date by Rachel Gibson

Adele Harris has moved back home to Texas. Her pregnant sister, Sherilyn, has left her husband and took their thirteen year old daughter, Kendra, with her. Actually, her husband left her for his twenty-one year old dental assistant, Stormy Weather. Adele is back in a town were she doesn't have fond memories. Her biggest enemy, Devon, made life hell for her in high school. When they both went to the same college, Adele fell in love with Devon's old boyfriend, Zach. Zach ended up breaking her heart and marrying Devon.

Thirteen years later, Adele finds out that Zach is living there with his thirteen your old daughter, Tiffany, and Devon is dead. Zach never forgot Adele and wants to start a physical relationship again. Adele is leery and is going back to Idaho as soon as her sister has her baby. She has a great career writing fantasy books and great friends. Sure all of her friends are married or getting married but that doesn't mean Adele should rush into something with the man who broke her heart. Does it? Who cares if he super hot and can melt bones with his kisses? Who cares if he is an ex pro-football player and has shoulders as wide the Grand Canyon? She has to protect her heart at all cost. Right?!

Rachel Gibson is awesome! I love her books. They are funny and sexy and once I start reading one of her books, I can't stop!