Saturday, November 29, 2008

Dead Until Dark by Charlaine Harris

Dead Until Dark is the first book in the Southern Vampire series and centers around Bon Temps, Louisiana waitress Sookie Stackhouse. Although she is not a vampire, she is not quite human either, as she has the ability to read others thoughts. So you can imagine her desire not to date!

During one of her shifts at the bar Merlotte where she works, she can't help but notice a vampire sitting in her section with the Rattrays (aka the Rats), two town locals known for causing trouble. A vampire sighting is not all that strange, as they are becoming more mainstream since the invention of synthetic blood, available at most bars and convenience stores.

Smelling trouble, Sookie follows Bill the vampire to the parking lot and saves him from the Rats. In return, Bill rescues Sookie from the Rats' retaliation, and the two are attracted to one other, especially since Bill seems to be the only one whose thoughts she cannot read.

While Sookie and Bill are embarking on a romantic relationship, women from Bon Temps seem to keep turning up dead with old bite marks on their necks, suggesting a vampire may have something to do with their deaths. With a killer on the loose, Sookie fears for her life. Will she be the next victim?

Dead Until Dark features a quirky cast of characters, from Sookie's womanizing brother Jason to Bubba, a vampire with a penchant for cat blood. I will admit that I am not a huge fan of vampire fiction, but this book was just so cute; I devoured it!

Also note that Sookie Stackhouse appears in the television series True Blood. I am a bit skeptical to see this series, as I am afraid it will ruin the book!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

The Hopeless Romantic's Handbook by Gemma Townley

Kate Hetherington is a hopeless romantic. She sees the positive in everything. And is it so wrong to wish for a knight in shining armor to ride up on a white horse and sweep her away? Almost thirty, Kate is sick of waiting. She goes online and types in hopeless romantic and is astonished to find 4 million hits. Kate finds a book on an Ebay auction called The Hopeless Romantic's Handbook. Kate decides to give it a try. She receives the book the next day and finds it was written in the fifties. The concepts are a little dated but Kate decides to give it a whirl. And to her astonishment, it works.

Kate meets Joe Rogers, an actor from America trying to make it in London. Kate thinks he might be the one but her two best friends, Tom and Sal, think she might be ahead of herself because Kate has only been dating him for a week. Kate doesn't listen because Tom is a cynic when it comes to love and Sal is a happily married woman. But what Kate doesn't know is Tom is secretly in love with her and Sal is having doubts about her marriage.

When Kate is dumped by Joe and fired from her job, she decides that she doesn't need a handbook or a knight. She can do it herself. Kate finds a great job and after some misunderstands finds her knight. He may be a little tarnished but he makes her happy!

You don't have to be a hopeless romantic to enjoy this terrific book by Gemma Townley. It is fun and light read. Another great read by Gemma!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Wifey by Kiki Swinson

Wifey is a typical, by the numbers, urban fiction tale: Kira is the beautiful around the way girl caught up in her drug dealing husband Ricky’s game. So why is this book such enjoyable mind candy?

For starters, as Kira spins her tale in first person, she shares the pain and heartbreak of loving a man that is consistently unfaithful in a funny, unflinchingly honest manner that any reader can relate to. When Kira’s favorite cousin and closest relative Nikki, a drug runner in Ricky’s organization, gets caught with enough product to lock her up for a decade or two, Kira decides to exact revenge on her two-timing criminal husband, using Nikki as the bait for the Fed’s investigation into Ricky’s shady dealings.

A quick read with a surprise ending that will leave readers excited that this book is the first in a new Wifey series, and wondering what new adventures and hot water Kira will find herself in-and how she will get out!

Friday, November 21, 2008

Dark Summer by Iris Johansen

Devon Brady is at a search and rescue mission with her dog Gracie when a mysterious man comes into her tent carrying a dog. The dog has been shot. Being a vet, Devon starts to work on the dog, Ned, and the man introduces himself as Jude Marrok. When Devon is done operating on Ned, she returns to help at the rescue site and when she returns Jude is gone but he left Ned. When he doesn't return for Ned, Devon takes Ned home with her to Colorado.

Jude left Ned with Devon so he could hunt down the man who tried to kill him and his dog. Being an ex-Navy Seal works to his advantage but it still took him two days to track and kill the man. The man sent by his enemy, Danner. Danner is trying to get a hold of the four dogs in Jude's possession. Dogs that may have special powers of healing. He wants them so he can kill them and dissect them and make millions. Jude has separated the dogs and left them with guardians.

Jude sees the potential of Devon being a guardian and that is why he left Ned with her. But by doing so he has put her in grave danger. Now he must get her to trust him. Because Danner will stop at nothing to get the dogs and he will harm anyone and anything in his path. Jude must end this now or he will lose his dogs and the woman he is falling for.

Another great book by Iris Johansen! If you haven't read her, you must. Her Eve Duncan series is fantastic. Also, if you are familiar with her books, Sarah Logan from The Search makes an appearance.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Testimony by Anita Shreve

Shreve's newest novel, Testimony, begins with the headmaster of Avery Academy, a private secondary school in Vermont, viewing a video given to him that involves three upper classmen students from the basketball team engaging in sexual activities with a 14-year-old inebriated freshman.

Although the camera man is unknown and no one is telling, two of the faces in the video belong to J. Dot, an arrogant PG (post grad), and Robert Leicht, a senior who received early acceptance to Brown. Michael Bordwin is shocked to discover that the third boy is Silas Quinney, a mild-tempered, good student who he helped get into Avery.

At this point, Michael's primary concern is making sure that this scandal doesn't leak to the public. He steps on shaky legal ground when he forces a signed confession from two of the boys without giving them the benefit of legal or parental counsel. Little does he know that his later actions sets in motion a chain of events that ruins the lives of several and results in a death.

The story is set against the backdrop of the cold winter months of a small New England town. As the story unfolds, the reader gets a glimpse of what led up to the events of that fateful Saturday night from different voices. Each chapter is told from a different character's perspective who was somehow affected by the scandal, from the journalist who covered the story to the parents of the boys to the victim herself.

Although you may think it would be challenging to top Light on Snow or The Pilot's Wife, Shreve has done it, as this may be one of her best novels to date. Shreve has a way of pulling the reader into the emotions of the characters while we contemplate moral dilemmas. I couldn't book this book down. Highly recommended!

Monday, November 17, 2008

The Lemon Tree by Sandy Tolan

With The Lemon Tree, author Sandy Tolan has managed to fairly and accurately humanize the tragic story of the Middle East in a non-fiction book that reads like a novel.

Based on hundreds of interviews gathered over several years and impeccable research, he pieces together the true stories of his fated, intertwined heroes. One is Dalia, the offspring of Jewish-Bulgarians who built a new life in an abandoned stone home in Ramla, Israel, after the horror of the Holocaust. The other is Bashir, the son of the builder of the stone house in Ramla, Palestine, which had to be abandoned during Israel's War of Independence or what the Palestinians know as the "Nakhba"/the Catastrophe.

Anyone hungering to understand the complexities of this area's calamitous history should read this book. You won't be able to put it down.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Foul Play by Janet Evanovich

Amy Klasse is having a bad day. She has just been fired from her stint as LuLu the Clown on a children's program and been replaced by a dancing chicken. She stops at the grocery store on the way home and her skirt gets caught in the door. She makes it inside and proceeds to knock over a cantaloupe stand and smash her eggs. As if the day couldn't get any worse, she goes to checkout and realizes she left her wallet in her purse in her locker at the TV station!

Jake Elliot can't believe it. He just got sucker punched by love. He had just pulled up in the grocery parking lot and this woman stole his parking stop. As she gets out of the car, she gets her skirt caught in the door and Jake is gone. He never believed in love at first sight but now he does. He follows her into the store and watches her knock over and smash things. When he realizes she doesn't have her wallet, he sees his opportunity to meet and rescue her.

At first Amy is hesitant to accept this stranger's help. But after reassurances from the other shoppers that Jake is a good guy, Amy gives in. She offers to cook him dinner. Over dinner Jake offers Amy a job at his veterinarian clinic as a receptionist. Amy agrees and starts work the next day. What happens next is a robbery, a chicken-napping, spying and some falling in love.

This was a cute story. If you want something light and fluffy to read, this would be the book. Just another Janet Evanovich fix until Stephanie Plum returns!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Darkly Dreaming Dexter by Jeff Lindsay

Dexter Morgan is not your average serial killer. His victims are not chosen at random. He kills the bad guys, the ones that deserved to be killed, like the priest that was raping and murdering orphan children.

Dexter can't seem to help what he is, and at least he is channeling his ways into something positive, right? In fact, his foster father has given him the Code of Harry of which to live by: if you feel the need to kill, there are many who deserve to be killed. But those duties are just his MO. His day job is working for the Miami Police Department as a blood splatter analyst.

Most recently he has been helping his sister, Deborah, a Miami cop trying to move up to homicide, with a string of killings involving prostitutes who have been dismembered with no traces of blood left at the scene. In charge of the case is Detective LaGuerta, a woman with a specific fondness for Dexter who refuses to let his sister stake any claim on her turf.

As more and more victims turn up dead, Dexter can't help but consider the irony that these exact killings have appeared in his dreams. While it certainly gives Dexter the premonition needed to aid his sister in solving the crimes, it causes him to question if he could be the killer. After all, how many people have the ability to think and kill like Dexter other than Dexter himself?

With a dark sense of humor, Lindsay has created a serial killer that readers are sure to like. Also, I would love to see the Showtime adapation of Dexter starring Michael C. Hall who played David Fisher in the HBO series Six Feet Under. If anyone has seen the show, please post a comment, as I would love to hear your thoughts.

Monday, November 10, 2008

One More Year by Sana Krasikov

I just finished One More Year by Sasha Krasikov. I loved it! This book is for you if you'd like to: know exactly what the Russian immigrant/returnee (to the "new" Russia) experience currently is; get a window into the current world of Moscow's brightest entrepreneurs; view the nitty-gritty of American culture and Russian culture through the eyes of an acutely perceptive and aware Russian-Georgian-Jewish emigre to America who writes extremely well.

She nails very evasive emotions and truths which seem to belong to others in faraway places but are in fact true to our own experiences. Jonathan Rosen, author of The Life of the Skies, articulates Krasikov's talent best (below you'll see her referred to as "Sana", which is a diminutized version of the nickname "Sasha", which, you probably know, is a nickname for "Alexandra/Alexander"- Russians love multiple nicknames): "Sana Krasikov is the real thing. Her stories take shape inside the specific world of emigres wrestling with language and loss and the stubborn details of survival, but they open into the largest of worlds and speak a universal language of heartbreak and desire."

Friday, November 7, 2008

His Captive Lady by Anne Gracie

Harry Morant can't take his eyes off the woman in the back of the cart. It is raining and cold but she isn't letting it affect her. As he rides by on his horse, he hands her his gloves and hat. Not one word is exchanged but Harry is deeply impacted. They come to a fork in the road and go their separate ways.

Lady Helen Freymore aka Nell has just returned home. Her father is dead and she must return to London to found someone very dear to her. She comes home to regroup and finds that her home was lost in a card game by her father and that she is now broke and homeless. While she is hiding out in the stables trying to figure her next move out, Harry shows up. He has just bought the house. It is the perfect place for him to breed horses.

He can't believe his luck that the girl he can't stop thinking about is here! He proposes and as much as Nell wants to say yes she feels she is not in the position to accept. She must find the lost person in London. She accepts a job as a lady's companion because it will get her to London. On the way, they detour to Bath and who should be there but Harry visiting his aunt. They are caught in a compromising position and become engaged. Harry is ecstatic and Nell is secretly happy too.

Harry agrees to take Nell to London to find this mystery person. Along the way, Nell realizes she can trust him and finally tells her story about why she is so desperate to find this person. With the help of a couple of Harry's friends, they scour London looking for the missing person. Along the way, they will find love, sadness, and ultimately their happy ending.

I love Anne Gracie's books. I started with her Perfect series and I never looked back. I cannot wait til her next book comes out.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Against Medical Advice by James Patterson and Hal Friedman

Against Medical Advice tells the true story of Corey Friedman and his struggle with Tourette syndrome and obsessive compulsive disorder from age five to seventeen. The story is written by James Patterson and Corey's father, Hal, but is told from Corey's voice, making his story all the more affective.

From the onset, Corey's doctor's misdiagnosed his symptoms as attention deficit disorder, and consequently he was put on Ritalin. Further doctor visits revealed that Corey actually suffered from Tourette's. Over the years his doctors have tried a variety of prescriptions from antidepressants to medication for Parkinson's to antipsychotics. Much of the time, the side affects of the medications were worse than the actual disorder; some even made him contemplate suicide. Nothing seemed to be able to curb his grimacing, his ticks, and the behaviors of his body that he couldn't control. The only thing Corey seemed to find solace in was alcohol.

As you might imagine, school became extremely difficult for Corey, both socially and academically, especially when some of his teachers were less understanding than others. Hitting rock bottom when he nearly burned down his parent's house, Corey went against medical advice and stopped taking many of his medications. He eventually left his junior year of high school to attend a wilderness camp for troubled teens. He also went to other schools that specialized in helping individuals with issues such as his. Although unable to find a cure, through his own perseverance he was able to improve the severity of his condition.

Deeply touching and eye-opening, Corey's personal account of his struggles will pull at reader's heartstrings as they walk with Corey in his journey to overcome this debilitating condition. His is a story of triumph against all odds that will captivate readers.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Simply Perfect by Mary Balogh

Simply Perfect is the fourth and presumably last, of Mary Balogh's series following the romantic adventures of four schoolteachers from Bath. The heroine of this story is Claudia Martin, the owner of Miss Martin's School for Girls. Loyal to her friends, and softhearted towards those in need, Claudia has an intense dislike of the aristocracy, particularly Dukes and anyone connected to the Bedwyn family. Consequently, her first impression of Joseph Fawcitt, Marquess of Attingsborough is not positive, and she reluctantly agrees to let him give her and two of her students a ride to London to visit her friend Susanna.

Claudia is a strong, independent woman, who has accomplished many goals and dreams. She has made her way in the world without the help or guidance of a man, and she fully expects to remain a spinster for life. Joseph is a man of great love and passion who longs for a wife that could be a full partner, but who also wants to meet the expectations of his family and society. His family wants him to marry, and his father has picked out the perfect bride. Joesph fully intends on fulfilling his father's wish, but his growing relationship with Claudia, stands in the way.

Claudia and Joseph are mature, adult people who have spent their lives living up to their codes of honor. Their growing relationship is convincing, and realtistic, as are the challenges and questions they face. Once they are finally able to accept being with one another, their happiness has been earned, and is deeply satisfying to the reader.

This was my favorite book in this series by Balogh. The characters are interesting and well-drawn, and the drama and romance engaging.