Sunday, September 28, 2008

The Little Book by Selden Edwards

I have just finished reading a very intriguing book entitled The Little Book by Selden Edwards. Although not a little book itself (400 pages), this story is an unusual mix of historical fiction set in late 19th century Vienna and of time travel.

Two members of the Burden family, Dilly and Wheeler, are transported to Austria at the same time, although arriving from different time periods. There are flashbacks to 1988, Wheeler's actual time period, and to the 1940's, the last era of Dilly, but what is quite amazing is how the author entwines all the characters, many of them ancestors of the two men and many famous personalities such as Mark Twain, Sigmund Freud, even Adolph Hitler. It does all connect in the end in a very satisfying way.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Tempted By the Night by Elizabeth Boyle

Lady Hermione Marlowe has been in love with Lord Rockhurst forever. The only problem is he doesn't know she exists. When Hermione finds her new sister-in-law's ring she puts it on for safe keeping, not knowing the ring has magical powers. It allows the person wearing it to make one wish. So when Hermione innocently says she wishes to be invisible at night so she can follow Lord Rockhurst and learn all of his secrets, she is shocked when it comes true.

Lord Rockhurst is from a long line of protectors called the Paratus. They protect London from dangerous beings from another realm. Very few people are aware of these creatures. One night, while in a dire situation, someone was there to help. Rockhurst could not see the person, but they saved his life.

His shadow, as he calls her, keeps showing up at night and during the day Rockhurst is determined to find out her identity. Hermione won't tell because she doesn't want him to be disappointed. They fall in love even though Rockhurst doesn't know who his Shadow is.

This was a decidedly different type of historical romance. I enjoyed it thoroughly. I didn't realize Tempted By the Night was the second book in a series and the first book is His Mistress By Morning. You can be sure I will be reading that one as soon as possible!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

You've Been Warned by James Patterson

While on her way to her nanny job in New York City, amateur photographer Kristin Burns stops in her tracks when she sees four body bags being removed from the Falcon Hotel. Unable to look away, Kristin grabs her camera when suddenly she sees that the last body bag is moving. The person is still alive! Kristin starts frantically screaming.

The next thing she knows, it is early morning, and she is safe in her bed. She realizes that it was just a terrible nightmare - or was it. As the weeks progress, strange things keep happening that make Kristin wonder if she is losing her mind. At a club with some friends, a stranger walks up to Kristin and tells her "you've been warned." Then, she receives collect phone calls in which the person on the other line is screaming and the voice she recognizes as her own.

Furthermore, there are fuzzy hazes over some of her photographs that no element of science can explain. In particular, there is a disturbing picture of the man she is having an affair with in which he is laying dead on the floor, and it is a picture she knows she never took.

What is this all building up to for Kristin? With every page, the reader anxiously awaits for the conclusion, but the resolution is less than satisfying. I would love to hear what others who have read this book think. Please post a comment! This isn't one of Patterson's best. Still, devoted fans of the author should find something to like here.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch

Despite the fact that Carnegie Mellon University professor Randy Pausch was diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer, he still agreed to give a last lecture to his students. The lecture that he called "Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams" wasn't focused on academia, however, but on lessons and advice to live your life by. More importantly, Pausch wanted to give this lecture for not only his students, but also his three young children, who will grow up without him once he has passed.

In his lecture, Pausch, raised by a frugal school teacher and a philanthropic war veteran, reflects on poignant moments from his childhood and shares advice his father has imparted upon him. Simple things such as how a person's approach can make all the difference in the world or the importance of making your apologies sincere seem all the more relevant when told by Pausch.

Readers will also be amazed by the accomplishments he has made during his short time on earth. Not only did he teach virtual reality at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, he also was employed as an imagineer for Walt Disney World and worked on the team that developed the virtual reality Aladdin attraction that allows participants to virtually fly on a magic carpet.

Pausch reminds us that his accomplishments were not achieved without hard work and perseverance, as these were the very values that were instilled upon him as a child by his father.

Pausch's words are heartfelt but never overly sentimental, and you will find his lecture to be both inspiring and admirable. I feel like the world would be a better place if everyone could read this little treasure of a book.

Sadly, Pausch died on July 25, 2008 at the young age of 47. To watch the "Last Lecture" online, please visit http://www.cmu.edu/uls/journeys/randy-pausch/index.html.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Sail by James Patterson

Ever since tragically losing their father in a scuba diving accident, Katherine Dunne's three children - Kerry, Mark, and Ernie - have grown emotionally distant from their mother and each other. In an attempt to reunite her family, Katherine has decided to leave her husband, Peter, for two months to take a voyage with her children on the family's yacht, The Family Dunne, with her brother-in-law, Jake, acting as their captain.

The first day gets off to a rocky start when Kerry tries to commit suicide by jumping off the boat, but fortunately Uncle Jake comes to her rescue. Just when things start to settle down, the family is jolted again with all kinds of disasters - violent storms, troubles with the boat, and finally an explosion that leaves them stranded at sea. When the coast guard goes cold on the search, they assume that the family is dead.

Meanwhile, there is something much more sinister at work involving Peter, Katherine's ever-so "supportive" husband. With Katherine and her bratty children gone, Peter spends the time by sleeping with his twenty-something mistress, Bailey, as he attempts to garner sympathy from the media by acting as the distraught widower. But when Peter discovers that his family is still alive, he must take matters into his own hands. Can the Dunne family get out alive before the elements of nature or Peter destroy them for good?

I could not put this book down! Patterson does an excellent job of creating a true villain out of Peter; throughout the entire book, I just wanted to strangle him! The action is plenty and Patterson fans won't be disappointed!

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Scream for Me by Karen Rose

In Karen Rose's last book Die For Me, a serial killer, Simon Vartanian, was caught and killed. Now in her latest thriller, we have the serial killer's brother, Daniel Vartanian, as the main character. He is a Special Agent with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and he helped catch his brother. Now two weeks later, there is a murder and it seems Simon is somehow linked.

Alex Fallon lost her twin sister, Alicia, when they were 16 years old. She was found in a ditch, raped and murdered. The day she was found, their mother shot herself. Thirteen years later, Avery has become a nurse and thought she had put the nightmare behind her. Avery receives a call telling her that her stepsister, Bailey, is missing and her daughter, Hope, needs Avery. This comes as a shock to Alex because she didn't know Hope existed. Alex returns home to look for Bailey and take care of Hope. Back to the place where all her nightmares are.

The murder that has taken place, back in Daniel and Alex's hometown, is similar to the way Alicia was killed. This brings Alex and Daniel together. They have to work together to find Bailey and the killer because everything seems to be connected. And the killer's endgame is Alex's death.

Another thrilling book by Karen Rose! She had me guessing until the end who the killer was and I still didn't figure it out!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Careless in Red by Elizabeth George

Inspector Lynley is back! If you are a fan of this series of psychologically-intense, suspenseful mysteries, then you have probably being waiting to find out just how Inspector Thomas Lynley is going to survive after the random and senseless murder of his wife and his subsequent resignation from Scotland Yard (With No one as Witness, 2006). This story does not disappoint, as we follow a bearded, unwashed and virtually unrecognizable Lynley as he hikes solo along the Cornish coast, trying to literally walk away his grief. When he stumbles across a body, the plot is afoot.

George is at her best with vivid details of the Cornish landscape and its surfing culture. Lynley’s sidekick, Detective Sergeant Barbara Havers (who the romantics among us just wish would hook up with Lynley already!), shows up mid-way through the proceedings to provide support to the local police investigation, and convince Lynley to return to the Yard. The characters are well-drawn, with DI Bea Hannaford, the local cop running the investigation, as a standout.

Fans of the series will not be disappointed with this offering. Highly recommended.

Monday, September 8, 2008

The Year of Fog by Michelle Richmond

With her fiance, Jake, out of town for the weekend, freelance photographer Abby Balfour is watching his six-year-old daughter, Emma, by herself for the first time. They are on the beach when Abby turns away briefly to photograph a dead seal pup. When she looks up, Emma has disappeared. Panicked, Abby searches the beach and the parking lot, but finds no traces of Emma and is forced to call in the authorities.

Set against a foggy San Francisco backdrop, The Year of Fog is about the aftermath of every parents worst nightmare - losing a child. As Jake and Abby frantically search for Emma, the odds of finding her seem to dwindle with each passing day, and Jake finally succumbs to the police investigator's theory that Emma had been swept up in the current that day and drowned. Consumed by guilt and fear, Abby refuses to give up, and her perseverance leads her to the surfing world of Costa Rica as readers quickly turn the pages in hopes that Emma will be found.

Before I read this book, I had spoken with someone who read it and found it disappointing. Therefore,I was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed this psychological page-turner. Written from Abby's perspective, the narrative is so effective that readers can't help but get deeply engaged in a story that suggests that a tradegy like this can really happen to anyone.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

The Rescue by Nicholas Sparks

As Denise Holden is driving home in a torrential storm that has hit the small town of Edenton, North Carolina, a deer appears in the middle of the road, causing Denise to swerve off the shoulder.

Barely conscious from the accident, Denise awakens to a firefighter named Taylor McAden helping her from the vehicle. As a single mother, her first instinct is to ask about Kyle, her four year old son who has a speech delay and difficulties with language, who was in the back seat. Yet, Kyle is no where to be found.

Taylor and his cohorts brave the swamp in search of Kyle, which is not an easy task when the child is unable to respond to his own name. Meanwhile, Denise is rushed to the hospital where Judy, a high school friend of Denise's mother who is also Taylors mother, visits in an attempt to comfort the distraught mother.

After Kyle's recovery, Taylor can help but develop a strong bond with both the boy he rescued and his mother. Taylor and Denise embark on a relationship that seems to offer Denise the companionship she needs, yet there is something that Taylor holds back - a secret from his childhood that he cannot bear to retell to anyone, and both Mitch and Melissa, Taylor's friends, hope that Taylor does not break the heart of the one person they know he truly loves.

After reading so many Nicholas Sparks' books, the reader can anticipate a certain amount of predictability - a strong romance always develops between the two protagonists and someone tragically dies or nearly dies. Even so, I confess that there were a few moments when I was caught off guard, making The Rescue one of his more memorable titles. Furthermore, the elements of romance, that could be hokey in the wrong hands, are always cleverly and tenderly executed.

You know my only goal in life is to read all his books, and I can't wait for The Lucky One to be released this fall!

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Smoke Screen by Sandra Brown

Britt Shelley is having a rough morning. She just woke up in bed, naked, next to Jay Burgess. She has no recollection of how she wound up there. She gets up, showers and returns to the bedroom to find Jay hasn't moved at all. He is dead. Britt calls 911 and begins the biggest nightmare of her life.

Raley Gannen has become a hermit. Five years ago, his whole life was destroyed. Once a firefighter and up-and-coming arson investigator, he has withdrawn from society. Now with the news of Jay's death, Raley can get his revenge. He believes he was set-up by Jay and three others in the death of a woman. Unfortunately, the four men in question are considered heroes. They saved the lives of many from a tragic fire that burnt down the police station.

Raley and Britt come together to try and figure out what happened. It all leads back to the fire. They need to figure it out fast or they will both be dead.

This was a fantastic book by Sandra Brown. I love how the story would go back into flashbacks. If you haven't read anything by Sandra Brown, Smoke Screen is a great choice to start with!

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

The Monster of Florence: A True Story by Douglas Preston with Mario Spezi

In 2000, bestselling author Douglas Preston moved his family to Italy, where he planned on writing a thriller set in historic Florence. Shortly after his arrival, he met journalist Mario Spezi, a meeting that would change both of their lives. Spezi clued Preston in to some horrific crimes that had taken place in the area, crimes that had never truly been solved and that Spezi had been writing about for 20 years.

The first half of the book relates the actual crimes committed, and is a terrifying look at a calculating and vicious crime spree in which amorous couples, parked in the hills surrounding Florence are targeted. The men were typically killed first and instantly, while the women were killed last, and their bodies all mutilated in a similar fashion after their death. While the crimes primarily took place during the 80’s the true killer had never been apprehended. Preston also relates the various avenues taken by law enforcement, including a few unlucky characters who were actually arrested and tried for their involvement in the crimes.

The second half of the book is where Douglas Preston comes into the story – his friendship with Spezi is fueled by both of their interest in the Monster of Florence case, and as they sift through the files that Spezi has kept on the case, they reach their own conclusion regarding the identity of the Monster. Unfortunately, the local law enforcement does not appreciate their involvement, especially since their conclusions are not syncing with the official investigation. Eventually, in a bizarre twist, both Preston and Spezi are targeted by the authorities and endure seemingly ridiculous accusations that cast a very unflattering light on the justice system of Florence.

Although I am not a big reader of true crime, I found this particular book to be gripping – I could not put it down! Preston is a well-known writer of fiction and he applies his considerable talent to the tale at hand. The book moves along at a quick pace, although with all of the suspects, victims, witnesses and law enforcement in this book, I had to keep referring back to the handy “Cast of Secondary Characters” that Preston so thoughtfully provides in the beginning of the book. This is a non-fiction book that reads as fiction with a story so fantastic it lends credence to the old saying, “truth is stranger than fiction.”

Monday, September 1, 2008

Around the World in 80 Dinners by Cheryl & Bill Jamison

Imagine taking just three months off and traveling 50,000 mile to ten countries and eating over 800 different dishes! This ambitious adventure was taken on in 2005 by Cheryl and Bill Jamison, a couple who have written more than a dozen cookbooks and travel guides.

The fascinating book that is a culmination of this unforgettable odyssey is more than just a story of the meals eaten, it's a guidebook to the most unique and interesting food out there.

Cheryl and Bill travel to Bali, Australia, Thailand, India, China, South Africa and Brazil. Their gastronomic tour will introduce you to foods that most of us will never actually try. These folks are much more adventurous than I am, that's for sure!

Despite the authors' tendency to speak of themselves in the third person, this adventure is worth checking out.