Friday, August 29, 2008

A Rather Lovely Inheritance by C.A.Belmond

Penny Nichols is an American working on a big-budget film as an historical researcher in the south of France when she receives a phone call that will change her life.

Penny, named after her British great-aunt, Penelope, finds herself the recipient of a rather lovely inheritance. Or so she thinks. Penny, now in London, meets relatives she hasn't seen since she was a child; some of them she wishes to have never met up with again! Penny's fine-honed research skills are put to good use when she realizes there's something fishy going on with Aunt Penelope's two wills, one British and one French. She soon discovers tales of double lives, greedy cousins and historical treasures that will take her all across Europe in a fancy sports car, no less. Along the way, Penny also discovers love, of course.

A sweet, quick read with a rather Bridget Jones heroine - thoroughly enjoyable.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

The Quickie by James Patterson

Lauren Stillwell's life is thrown into a frenzy when she finds her husband, Paul, coming out of a hotel with another woman. As a result of this betrayal, Lauren does not feel too guilty for an extramarital affair with a work colleague, that is, until Scott is murdered at the hands of Paul.

Having witnessed the beating and then ultimately finding that Scott has been killed, as a NYPD homicide detective, Lauren insures that she is assigned to the case. Feeling the need to protect Paul, she does whatever it takes to stop the truth from being revealed, even deceiving her partner, Mike, and covering up the damning evidence.

In fact, Lauren feels that her and Paul have been given a second chance when much of the evidence in Scott's murder seems to point to a notorious New York drug lord. Yet, just when the lid on the case seems closed, new evidence keeps popping up that has Lauren questioning her decision to protect Paul. When Lauren delves further into the case, she makes some shocking discoveries which suggest that no one seems to be who she thought.

The twists and turns kept coming in this heart pounding thriller from the prolific Patterson, and I have to commend the superb narration of Mary Stuart Masterson of the downloadable audiobook from My Media Mall, as it really added to the suspense. I highly recommend this book and can't wait to pick up another one of his novels or anything narrated by Masterson!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Ghosts Among Us by James Van Praagh

James Van Praagh is a very well known Medium who provides comfort and solace to those around the world looking for affirmations that their loved ones are safe and happy on the ‘other side. In this book he shares his experiences growing up with this special gift and how it has helped him recognize the little things ghosts and spirits do to remind us that they are still around, watching and caring for us and ultimately helping us move on. He shares his stories of losing his parents and the ways they showed him and his siblings that they were happy on the other side.

What I find useful about this book is his descriptions of the types of ghosts, spirits and angels that walk among us and how to recognize and protect ourselves from those ghosts who do not have our best interests in mind. He spends time teaching us the practice of meditation and offers several meditations we can use to protect us and keep us safe.

I found myself laughing out loud when he explains that many ghosts attend their own funerals, not just because they want to let their family and friends know that they are O.K., but also because they are curious! He comments that many ghosts remark on the ‘spread’ that the family put out or the outfit that was chosen. It certainly made me think of several of my relatives that have passed on, and brought a smile to my face to think I wasn’t the only person curious to know who would come to my funeral.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Quicksand by Iris Johansen

Eve Duncan has been looking for her daughter Bonnie's body for years. With the help of her boyfriend, Detective Joe Quinn, every little clue that might find her, they have searched. It has been years and they might have finally caught a break. While Joe travels to Illinois on a tip, Eve receives a phone call from a man claiming to maybe have been the one who killed Bonnie. He will only tell Eve the truth if she will play a game with him.

By the time Joe gets to the small town in Illinois, the sheriff has been murdered. The man that was under surveillance, Kistle, is a child murderer. He is also an ex-Army Ranger and eludes the police in the woods.

He sets up clues for Eve to follow. If she can make it to the end alive will she find Bonnie's remains? Or will everyone she loves be killed for an obsession she can't let go of?

Another great book from the Eve Duncan series. Also, Megan Blair from Pandora's Daughter makes an appearance as well as Montalvo and Miguel from Stalemate.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

A Pig in Provence by Georgeanne Brennan

A memoir by this award-winning cookbook and gardening author takes you back to 1970, when she move to the Provencal countryside with her husband and small daughter to buy a herd of goats so she could start producing goat cheese. In 1970, an American family moving to France was not as commonplace as it is today.

When Georgeanne moved there, many of the food traditions of this region, like mushroom and truffle hunting, village bouillabaisse dinners and the annual pig-killing (le jour de cochon) were alive and thriving. For those weak of stomach, some parts of this story may not be for you! French peasants used EVERY part of EVERY imaginable animal available...

Even so, the delightful characters and delicious meals enjoyed by her family make this worth reading!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

The Sylph by Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire

This book begins with a sordid tale of gambling addiction, infidelity and loss and that is just the brief biography of the author, Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire. She published The Sylph anonymously in 1779 at the age of twenty-two, shortly after her ill-fated marriage to the Duke of Devonshire began. What makes this ‘romance’ novel so compelling is that it predates Jane Austen’s masterpiece, Pride and Prejudice, by three decades and could very well have influenced Austen, Bronte and many writers since.

The novel is composed of a series of letters mostly written between the heroine and her family, describing at first the excitement, but then the gruesome reality of loneliness, vanity and deceit. This book reminds you that things were just as hypocritical and perverse in 18th Century England too!

A quick and enjoyable read for anyone who is a fan of historical romance novels.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Twenty Wishes by Debbie Macomber

This is totally a "feel good" book. It is nice to be able to finish a book and be able to smile about what you read. I would consider this a quick read and very appropriate when you want to spend an enjoyable time with a light book.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Sundays at Tiffany's by James Patterson

For as long as she can remember, Jane spent her childhood Sundays with Broadway superstar, Vivienne Margot, who also happens to be her mother, at Tiffany's. Vivienne would be busy with her beau of the moment trying on estate jewelry while Jane spent time with Michael - her imaginary friend.

Unlike Vivienne, Michael thought Jane was beautiful just as she was: Michael didn't judge her or want to change her. Despite his love for Jane, Michael had to leave her one her ninth birthday, as determined by the powers that be. Michael, however, knew that Jane would be okay in the end, because after he left, her memory of him would vanish.

However, Michael could not be more wrong. Now as an adult, Jane works with her overbearing mother on Made in Heaven, a Broadway sensation based on Jane's relationship with her imagery friend, which stars none other than Vivienne Margot and Jane's boyfriend, Hugh, as Michael. Not only is it a hit on Broadway, but it also is going to be made into a feature film.

Although the film is Jane's work, she receives much pressure from both her mother and Hugh to cast Hugh in the lead role, and when Hugh offers a marriage proposal in exchange for the role, Jane knows she must make some changes in her life.

Just when Jane's life takes a dramatic turn, fate brings her and Michael together - despite the odds. Now the two embark on a whirlwind romance that neither are sure will last, since, afterall, Michael is not really human.

Although I heard rave reviews from my coworkers about Sundays at Tiffany's, I have to admit that I was very disappointed. Although I do enjoy some elements of the supernatural, the concept and plot was just too hard to buy into. Furthermore, the whole concept of her falling in love with Michael was somewhat creepy. In my opinion, Patterson should stick to the genres he knows best - suspense/mystery/thriller.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

The Heart Shaped Box by Joe Hill

"I will 'sell' my stepfather's ghost to the highest bidder" read the add on the online auction.

Judas Coyne, an aging death metal rocker is a collector of the unusual and the macabre, but nothing in his collection compares to this, his latest discovery. For $1000, he becomes the owner of a dead man's suit, supposedly haunted by the dead man. When the box arrives, Judas is unafraid - he's spent a lifetime coping with the ghosts of his own life - his abusive father, the band members he betrayed, and the long line of lovers he's callously abandoned.

But what arrives by UPS in a black heart shaped box is no mere conversation piece or trick of the imagination. It's a real ghost, and he's waiting everywhere for Jude, with a shiny razor blade on a chain swinging from his hand.

This book will take you on a terrifying roller coaster of a ride, and you'll enjoy every minute of it. Fast paced, with likeable characters, this book will hook you in right away. (Before I was even a chapter in, I was already telling people to read it; it's that good!) For me, this was the best, hands down book of the whole summer, and I can't wait to read more Joe Hill!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

The Lost Duke of Wyndham by Julia Quinn

When Jack Audley decides to rob this particularly carriage he never realized how his life would change. The old lady inside the carriage decides that he is her grandson. Jack is wearing a mask so he thinks she is batty. Her companion, Grace Eversleigh, thinks the same thing. And then the old lady, dowager Duchess of Wyndham, says the name Cavendish. That was Jack's birth name. He is stunned. He doesn't let the dowager know and lets them go.

The next day Grace is still relieving the outrageous evening before. The part she can't get past is the kiss the highwayman stole from her. Then she sees him at the end of the drive. He leaves but before he can get back to his inn, he is kidnapped by none other than the dowager! He admits to them that is father was her son.

They all set out for Ireland to prove his parents were married. But when it is proven then what happens to the current Duke, Thomas? Jack has all these conflicting feelings. But the one that he is most sure about is his love for Grace.

Another great book by Julia Quinn. The next book in the series, Thomas's story, is Mr. Cavendish, I Presume. The book's release date is September 30, 2008.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Spy Wars by Tenant Bagley

Spy Wars reads like a detective novel, only the hero doesn’t wrap up all unanswered questions neatly at the end of the book! Bagley writes with conviction and understanding about a period in world history that is complex and unnerving and he does it masterfully.

The case of Yuri Nosenko is just one of many CIA-KGB dalliances during the Cold War. Yuri Nosenko defects to the US through CIA operatives in Switzerland and tries to prove that he is cooperating with the CIA by providing details of known KGB plants in Eastern and Central Europe. He even offers up details of Lee Harvey Oswald’s life in Minsk during his defection to the USSR before his alleged assassination of J.F.K. in 1963.

What makes this case special is that several of the original participants still cannot give a definitive answer as to whether Nosenko was a plant for the KGB or a defector to the CIA. The appendices, while offering written documentation of the ‘facts,’ still aren’t convincing. This tale is absolutely spellbinding!

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Death by Cashmere by Sally Goldenbaum

Cozy mystery fans, especially those interested in crafts and knitting, will be glad to see a new series by Sally Goldenbaum. Death by Cashmere: a Seaside Knitters Mystery is set in the small fishing town of Sea Harbor, Massachusetts. Izzy Chambers has left her Boston law firm and returned to her childhood home to open a knitting shop. A small group of local women meet once a week at the shop to share a meal, chat, and knit. Izzy rents the apartment above the shop to Angie Archer, another local returned home, who doesn’t have a great reputation with the locals. One morning, Angie is found dead near the breakwater. Her death is ruled an accident, but the ladies of the Seaside Knitters group suspect murder when several strange incidents occur in Angie’s apartment after she is gone. They ask a lot of questions and begin to think this was not a random act and may have been done by one of the locals.

The author has created an interesting cast of characters, and the description of the Seaside Knitting Studio makes me want to immediately visit and shop for the bright, luxurious yarns! However, I am not as enthusiastic about the story. The description seems to indicate Izzy is the main character who tries to solve the mystery, but actually the entire knitting group takes part and is led by Izzy’s aunt Nell. As a fan of cozy mysteries, I would have liked a strong lead character (or two) to follow through later stories in the series. There are also a few obvious mistakes which were confusing, and the ending was very predictable.

Fans of cozy mysteries that have craft themes may enjoy this story, but as an alternate, I recommend Maggie Sefton’s knitting mysteries that feature Kelly Flynn. There are now five books in the series that begin with Knit One, Kill Two.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Storm Front by Jim Butcher

Harry Dresden is an average Joe, a bachelor in the city of Chicago living paycheck to paycheck, with one exception - he is a wizard. Worrying about making his rent on time this month, Dresden is elated when he receives a phone call from a woman who hires him to find her missing husband who she believes was involved with black magic and disappeared under mysterious circumstances.

Meanwhile, when a notorious Mafioso and his lover are heinously murdered in a manner that no mortal could have caused, Chicago Police Department detective Karrin Murphy calls in the only one who can help her solve the crime - Harry Dresden.

As Dresden delves further into the case, things start to get hairy as he discovers the person responsible for the crimes has been using his powers to make Third Eye, an evil drug that is reeking havoc on the city's junkies. Without enough evidence to convict anyone yet, Dresden becomes the Chicago P.D.'s prime suspect. Furthermore, the White Council wants to put him on trial, a trial that could cost him his life, for breaking a trivial law of the Nevernever. Can Harry solve the crime and still get out alive?

Storm Front is the first of The Dresden Files series and is filled with a cast of wacky characters, including Morgan, Dresden's warden, Bob, a talking skull who assists Dresden in his potion making, Toot Toot, a incorrigible faery, and Susan, the journalist for the Arcane who can't seem to get enough of Harry.

As a rule, I have been turned off from fantasy because it sometimes requires the reader to invest in a world that is so different from our own (i.e. the Lord of the Rings series). However, what is so appealing about The Dresden Files is its accessibility - Dresden is pretty average guy with this one special ability. Filled with mystery, humor and a dash of fantasy, this is a must read that will appeal to anyone.