Friday, January 30, 2009

Tribute by Nora Roberts

When Cilla McGowan buys the Little Farm from her mother, with plans of restoring it to its former glory, she is trying to begin a new chapter in her life, but she has no idea how drastically her life is about to change.

The Little Farm was bought years ago by Cilla's grandmother, Janet Hardy, during her heyday as a singer and film star. When Janet committed suicide, Cilla's mother abandoned the farm and has neglected it ever since. Cilla is fascinated both by the Little Farm, and by her grandmother, with whom she feels a connection. She hopes to begin a new life in the Virginia area, as she turns her back on Hollywood, and the career that her mother had staked out for her. Instead, she plans to start a business renovating and flipping old houses.

While Cilla has all her attention on restoring the Little Farm, her neighbor, graphic novelist Ford Sawyer, is intrigued by her, and determined to get to know her better. Slowly, they develop a relationship, as Cilla begins to settle in the community and move forward with her project.

Unfortunately, someone seems unhappy that Cilla has moved into the area, and she is soon dealing with vandalism, and anonymous threats. She also finds love letters belonging to her grandmother that seem to date from just before Janet Hardy's death. Cilla begins to wonder if the letters and the threats are connected.

This is a fun romantic suspense novel, with interesting characters, an intriguing backstory, and a compelling mystery. Additionally, I found the descriptions of Ford's work on a new graphic novel, and Cilla's renovation of the Little Farm to be fascinating. While this is not one of Nora Robert's best novels, it is a worthy read on a cold winter's night.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The Undead Next Door by Kerrelyn Sparks

Jean-Luc Echarpe is a top designer. He is also a vampire and that is why he is opening one of his stores in Texas. He has to go into hiding for twenty-five years because people are starting to wonder why he hasn't aged. He will reemerge as his son. At the grand opening party Jean-Luc sees a woman stealing his designs. He takes her aside to question her, when they are attacked by his sworn enemy, Lui.

Heather Lynn Westfield was invited to the opening of a fancy boutique with items that she could never afford nor want to wear. She always dreamed about being a fashion designer and is inspired by the dresses but to make the outfits more realistic. You know, fit size 12 not size 0. She is sketching ideas when a drop dead gorgeous man takes her aside to accuse her of stealing his designs. But before she can really explain and a crazy man attacks them with a sword!

Lui has killed two of Jean-Luc's former loves and assumes Heather is his new love. He knows he is defeated and vows to Jean-Luc that Heather will die. Jean-Luc has no option but to put Heather and her daughter into his protection. It doesn't hurt that he is deeply attracted to her and has been lonely for so long. He doesn't want to put Heather into more danger but he finds he cannot live without her. Oh yeah and what is she going to think when she finds out he is a vampire?

The Undead Next Door is part of the Love at Stake series. This is the first book I have read by Kerrelyn Sparks and I really enjoyed it. It had romance, action, and drop dead gorgeous men. What's not to love!

Monday, January 26, 2009

Last Night at the Lobster by Stewart O'Nan

"He has been counting on this one last shift for so long, as if it might hold some final answer. It can't he knows, yet he feels threatened at the idea of losing his last chance..."

This little gem of a story centers around restaurant manager Manny DeLeon and his last night at Red Lobster, the eatery by the mall that is closing for the last time. It is just before Christmas with a winter storm fast approaching, and many of the employees do not show up for their last shift, which Manny can hardly blame them for.

This last night is bittersweet, as Manny along with 5 other employees have a new job waiting for them at The Olive Garden. However, he knows this is the last night he has a chance to tell Jackie, the waitress he is in love with, how he feels. To complicate matters, Manny's girlfriend Deena is pregnant with his baby and Jackie has a boyfriend.

Simple yet heartfelt, Last Night at the Lobster punctuates moments of melancholy (Manny's dilemma) with humor (the obnoxious customer who's child throws up on her boots). This book is for anyone who has ever had a work family, has ever worked in food service, or who simply enjoys an honest story of love and regret.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

The Blue Zone by Andrew Gross

When an individual who is in the witness protection program disappears, the FBI refers to them as being in the "Blue Zone," and this is exactly what defines Ben Raab. Raab, a businessman in the gold trading industry, has been under investigation for taking kick backs from the notorious Colombian drug cartel, the Mercados.

In exchange for giving the FBI his testimony against the Mercados, Ben is given a shortened jail sentence and he and his family, with the expectation of his eldest daughter, Kate, are placed in protective custody. Kate, a 21 year old college grad, has decided to not go into the program with her family. Without any knowledge of where her family is, Kate can only communicate with them via email.

Kate, who is still grappling with losing her family, is terrified when her coworker is attacked on the night when Kate was suppposed to be closing. Then, her family's case agent is brutually tortured and murdered, and the FBI suspects this occured at the hands of the Mercados or possibly her father, who went in the blue zone a week prior to the murder. Kate, determined to find her father and save her family, questions everything she ever knew about the man who vowed that she could always trust him.

After cowriting several novels with James Patterson, The Blue Zone is Gross's winning solo debut. Fans of Patterson need to read Gross, who is a talented suspense/thriller writer in his own right.

Monday, January 19, 2009

The Black Sheep and the Princess by Donna Kauffman

Donovan "Mac" MacLeod has wanted Kate Sutherland since he was sixteen years old and met her at summer camp. She was the unattainable daughter of the owner and he was the drunk handyman's son. Now twenty-some odd years have passed and Kate's in trouble. Her mom recently passed away and left Kate all of her money and Kate's stepbrother, Shelby, received the camp. All Kate wants is the camp so she can re-open it for challenged children. Kate and Shelby make a deal to switch their inheritance. All seems fine but Shelby doesn't show up to sign the final papers. The last man she ever thought would help her is Mac.

Mac is part of a firm with his two best friends, Rafe and Finn. They help people who have exhausted their other options. Mac sees an article about Kate and the inheritance. He is curious and has a gut feeling something is wrong. He shows up at the camp and offers his assistance. Kate is shocked but reluctantly agrees to let him help. On top of her stepbrother being MIA, the town isn't thrilled with her plans and everyday there is new graffiti all over the camp.

While Mac and Kate work together to figure out what is going on, they come to realize that the feelings they had at sixteen haven't gone away. In fact, they are stronger then ever. Both are fighting their feelings and are losing. Can this time around be different?

This is the first book in the Black Sheep series. The next two books are about Rafe and Finn. The Black Sheep and the Princess was a good story but a bit more detailed then I like.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Cruel Intent by J.A. Jance

With a potential HGTV show in the works, former anchorwoman Ali Reynolds has film crew at the the construction site of her home everyday. She is hoping the house will be done by Thanksgiving so that she can host her family for the holidays. When the wife of her general contractor, Bryan Forester, is brutally murder, Ali's home renovation plans are put on hold.

Dave Holman, local sheriff and Ali's on-again off-again beau, suspects that Bryan is the killer, especially when some damning evidence surfaces in his truck. Nothing in a small town like Sedona stays quite for long and soon rumors suggest that the couple's marital issues and Morgan's cheating led Bryan to murder his wife.

As the only one who seems to believe in Bryan's innocence, Ali's curiosity gets the better of her and she investigates the website, singleatheart.com, where Morgan was meeting men. Little does she know that the killer is lurking on the other side of her computer screen and her innocent intrigue sets in motion a chain of events that puts her and her family at great risk.

Cruel Intent is the fourth and newest book in the Ali Reynolds series. Full of page-turning suspense and quirky characters, Cruel Intent is a very enjoyable and fast-paced book from the prolific Jance. If you haven't read this series yet, you must pick it up soon! Highly recommended!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Wishful Drinking by Carrie Fisher

Carrie Fisher once again produces a stellar volume filled with wit, charm and a little bit of craziness. This book is by no means a definitive biography of her life; instead it is a compilation of snippets and stories that she shares with the rest of us.

For example she hilariously tells the tale of her brother shooting himself in the leg with a blank and how reporters showed up on their doorstep at the crack of dawn to ask her mother, Debbie Reynolds, if it was a ploy to garner publicity for her Broadway show. How did Debbie and Carrie handle the intrusion? By making up reasons for why she shot him of course!

She tells the story of working on the first, um, I mean fourth? Star Wars film and about how to this day she can still not erase from her memory her hologram monologue.

The book isn't all rainbows and sunshine. Carrie has a serious illness. She is Bi-Polar and because of her illness she has fought with addiction her entire adult life. She begins the book raving about electroshock therapy which she has found to be her saving grace, although now she can’t remember a darn thing. She takes this new twist in her life with a grain of salt-minus the tequila now.

I remember hearing once that her relationship with her mother, the infamous Debbie Reynolds, was tenuous at best, but after reading Wishful Drinking I have no doubt that she respects, loves and admires her mother deeply.

With all of her accomplishments and set-basks she has some marvelous stories to share. This book is a very quick read, only 163 pages with lots of pictures. A fast reader can finish it in a couple of hours.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Bed Rest by Sarah Bilston

Short on amniotic fluid, Quinn "Q" Boothroyd is confined to bed rest for the remaining 14 weeks of her pregnancy. To chronicle her days during her bed rest, Q keeps a diary where she records daily activities such as catching up on daytime television, devouring chocolate-chip cookies, and watching the elderly neighbors in the building across from hers. This is quite an adjustment to for a London attorney who has recently moved to Manhattan.

Fortunately, she has other distractions to keep the worries of her baby off her mind including learning of the affair between two of her coworkers, visits from her younger sisters, and playing matchmaker between acquaintances.

Furthermore, Q's homebound status gives her the opportunity to help her elderly Greek neighbor, Mrs. G., protest the demolition of the rent-controlled building next door. However, Tom's dedication to his work leaves Quinn questioning his commitment to her and their unborn baby, especially when she discovers his firm is representing the very management company that Mrs. G is fighting.

Quinn definitely reminds of Bridget Jones had she been pregnant. Although at times readers will feel as if there isn't enough there to drive the plot, Quinn's humorous antics will help to move the story (slowly) along.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Delicious by Sherry Thomas

I picked up Delicious by Sherry Thomas, because it was listed in Library Journal's best books of 2008. I was in the mood for a romance, so I figured I'd give Delicious a try. Having read it, Sherry Thomas is now one of my new favorite romance authors. I went back and read her debut, Private Arrangements, and I'm anxiously awaiting her new title which is due in May.

Delicious is set in late nineteenth century London. The heroine, Verity Durant, is an infamous chef renowned for both her extraordinary cooking, and her affair with her late boss. She has chosen to live a life outside conventional norms. Stuart Somerset, on the other hand, is the half brother of her former employer, and her new employer when he takes over his brother's estates. He is a rising political star, who is fully expected to become Prime Minister some day. He has spent his life trying to overcome the stigma of his illegitimate birth.

Both Verity and Stuart are driven by demons from their past, and their past has ruled their adult lives. Their growing relationship with each other spurs them to rethink the direction their lives are heading, and the reasons for the choices they have made. Thomas does a wonderful job of slowly revealing the truth of their past, and has created a cast of well rounded, and layered characters, who are neither perfect nor infallible. Even the secondary characters have interesting back stories.

This book may remind some of the novel and movie, Like Water for Chocolate, because of the tantalizingly lovely descriptions of food, the way that food and people's reactions to it reflect their emotions and inner life, and the fairytale motif that runs throughout the novel. This is a fun and satisfying read, that left me hungry for a gourmet meal, and for more by this author!

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Twilight by Stephenie Meyer

Isabella Swan is a 17 year old girl; she has never really been that good at sports and is kind of a klutz. But other then that she is much like any other normal teenager. At least that was what she thought. Her move from Phoenix to Forks, Washington changes all of that. Bella moved in with her father Charlie the town sheriff. Wanting for her mother to be able to be by her step-father Phil’s side as there on the road traveling. Instead of at home with her.

Upon arriving Bella finds that Forks will get some taking used to. Everything from the Weather to the people is different. Though, there are things that help. She attends the local high school meeting new people, making new friends. One such person is Edward Cullen. He is a classmate of hers that she sits next to. He gives her the cold shoulder though for what reason Bella is unaware why? Bella can tell from meeting him that there is something different about him as well as the members of his family. They are all handsome and beautiful, and they all seem to have something to hide. She starts to suspect it even more after an accident reveals the Cullen family’s secret to her.

This is the first of four books in the Twilight series. If you are a fan of supernatural books or vampires you will like this as well as the sequels.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Judge & Jury by James Patterson and Andrew Gross

Special agent Nicholas Pellisante, who is in charge of the FBI's organized crime unit, has finally caught head mob boss Dominic Cavello. With the right jury selection and Nick acting as a witness, he is confident that they will finally be able to nail Cavello.

When the trial starts, a few of the jurors receive threats that they believe could have been ordered by Cavello. As a precautionary measure, the jurors are required to stay together at a hotel where they can be protected for the remainder of the trial. After a day in the courtroom where Cavello's outburst puts him in contempt, the jurors leave early on a bus back to the hotel when the it suddenly explodes! Seventeen jurors are killed instantly leaving juror Andie DeGrasse as the sole survivor.

A hasty response fueled by rage gets Nick thrown off the case. Five months later the case is set for retrial with a new set of jurors, but this time the prosecutors have two more indictments, murders of 2 FBI agents, against Cavello. Furthermore, maximum security is taken at the new trial, but Cavello, with the help of a Russian accomplice, manages to escape. Nick, determined to fulfill a promise, and Andie, needing to bring justice for her son's murder, will risk everything to capture the country's most notiorious mobster.

Full of page-turning suspense, Judge & Jury is The Fugitive's Marshall Samuel Gerard meets The Sopranos's Tony Soprano. Patterson and Gross are a winning team, and you may want to try their other collabrations which include The Jester, Second Chance, Third Degree, and Lifeguard.