Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Decoding Love Why it Takes Twelve Frogs to Find a Prince, and Other Revelations From the Science of Attraction by Andrew Trees

I enjoyed this book, not because it gave me an inside edge in the battle of the sexes, but because it is highly insightful and entertaining. How can a book about relationships truly be entertaining? Because he gives real-world as well as literary examples on such topics as how not to fight.

As librarians we are predisposed to reading, but who wouldn’t love a self-help book with quotes from Jeeves and Wooster or Howard’s End? Andrew Trees delves into the science behind relationships without being boring and he is informative without being preachy. He covers a wide range of topics including arranged marriages and perceived happiness, intuition versus conscious decision making, dating dos and don’ts and finding lasting happiness.

I especially enjoyed his chapter on “The End of Dating: or what I learned about marriage.” For someone who has been married for nearly 12 years, it was intriguing and a bit amusing that predicting longevity has nothing to do with fighting. In fact couples need to fight. Also, unless you are Dr. John Gottman (an expert on marriage) you will most likely not be able to predict which couples will last based on social interactions. Sorry US Weekly!

I loved his reaffirmation that we need to stop thinking! As Americans we have a tendency to over think everything. He unapologetically points the finger at women since apparently women obsess much more about relationships than men. He says making lists of pros and cons to each relationship is dangerous because we are much better at gut feelings then we are at putting those feelings into logical words.

So next time you’re thinking too much about why you’re attracted to your neighbor or if you should date this person over that person, pick up Andrew Trees' book and stop obsessing!

Monday, April 27, 2009

Hide by Lisa Gardner

Annabelle Granger has been on the run for as long as she can remember. Her father would come home one day and tell there they were moving (again). He would pick the city and her mother would pick the family's new names. She never really understood why, but has been taught since she was as a child to trust no one.

With both of her parents deceased and now an adult, Annabelle is living in Boston under the alias Tanya where she works mostly from home as a curtain designer. Her sheltered little world is soon disrupted when the bodies of six children are found on the grounds of a former mental institution.

One of the bodies, preserved in wet mummification, is wearing an "Annabelle" charm necklace. Convinced the body belongs to her deceased childhood friend to whom she had given her necklace, Annabelle comes forward to the police.

In charge of the case is D.D. Warren and detective Bobby, a former sniper who is still dealing with his own baggage when he accidentally shot and killed a hostage's husband. Adding to the mix is the fact that this case strongly resembles one from decades ago in which a young girl was kidnapped kept alive for days while she was rapped. Along with Didi and Bobby, Annabelle tries to piece together the puzzle that will hopefully not only lead the team to the killer but also answer the questions of why her family was always on the run.

Lisa Gardner has found a new fan in me. I loved, loved this book and can't wait to read more by this author. I feel like I am hardly doing it justice in this review. All I can say is that the pacing, character-development, and plot threads are nicely interwoven and Gardner delivers a heart-pounding thriller readers won't be able to put down. I also have to comment that the romance that develops between Bobby and Annabelle takes a backseat to the suspense, which is perfect for me as a reader, as I hate romantic suspense!

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Tempted at Midnight by Jacquie D'Alessandro

Lady Emily Stapleford needs to make some money. Her family is in debt and if they don't have money she will be forced to marry someone she doesn't love. So she decides to write a vampire book. Except no one will publish it. They all say the same thing, no one will want to read about a female vampire. Lady Emily has only one option: become a vampire!

Logan Jennsen is a rich man. He made his fortune but he is lonely. The one woman he cannot get of his head is Lady Emily Stapleford. They don't like each other-she thinks he is am uncouth American and he thinks she is stuck up. But after sharing a kiss he wants more.

With the help of her friends in the Ladies Literary Society of London, Emily stages a vampire sighting. It turns out to be a great success except for the fact she was almost caught by Logan. The Logan she can't stand. The Logan she seems to be always running into. The Logan she cannot stop thinking about.

When Emily is almost run down by a horse, Logan suspects it wasn't an accident. Someone from his past is back. And they want revenge. They want to harm someone he loves. And that someone just might be Lady Emily!

I'm sure I say this a lot but I love Jacquie D'Alessandro's books! This is the last book in the Mayhem in Mayfair series and it was fantastic. There is mystery, revenge, humor, friendship, lust, love, and of course steamy scenes! I cannot wait for Jacquie D'Alessandro's next book!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Serendipity by Louise Shaffer

In my attempt to find something new and different to read, I stumbled across Serendipity by Louise Shaffer and was not disappointed. This is a story about Carrie Manning, a young woman who is struggling to find her way and needs to deal with her family’s mysterious past in order find closure and move on with her own life. Carrie’s mother has just passed away. Her mother was once part of New York high society, but she gave it up to help those in need. Carrie’s mother raised her alone, and she never knew her father. He was a famous Broadway composer who died suddenly when she was a little girl. Carrie’s grandmother was a famous Broadway star, but her mother had long ago cut off all relations with her, about the time her father died.

After her mother’s funeral, Carrie seeks people she has never met to help her find answers. Why did her mother give up her high society lifestyle to live in a small, spartan apartment and devote her life to helping the homeless? Why did her mother cut off all communication with her family? She talks to her great-uncle, her grandmother’s best friend, and ultimately her grandmother. The stories reveal three generations of women with complicated lives full of surprises, secrets, hard work, hopes and dreams.

I found this story so interesting. It was a bit slow paced, but I enjoyed how the chapters alternated between the past and present and the stories were revealed from different perspectives. I look forward to reading more from Louise Shaffer.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Just Take My Heart by Mary Higgins Clark

Jimmy Easton, a long-time crook being detained for burglary, swears he knows something pertinent about the unsolved murder of Broadway sensation Natalie Raines. In return for a lesser sentence, he agrees to testify against Gregg Aldrich, Natalie's ex-husband and the man accused of paying him to murder his wife.

Devastated by the accusation, Aldrich swears he is innocent, but his defense team will have a tough time proving it. It is Jimmy's word against Gregg's, and Jimmy has unique knowledge about Gregg's house that only a hired killer would know.

Prosecutor Emily Wallace has just been handed the high-profile case that will boost her career. Her job is to convince the jury that Aldrich is a killer and to put him away for the crime. The further she gets into the trial, the more she questions if her star witness can be trusted. In fact, Natalie's mother suggests that Emily knows deep in her heart, a heart that was given to her two years ago when she needed a transplant, that she is putting the wrong man behind bars.

Meanwhile, Emily's neighbor Zach, who has agreed to let our her dog while she is at work, has been sneaking into her house to fondle her belongings. No one knows yet that he is a serial killer on the lamb. How long before Emily becomes his next victim?

Clark's newest novel is slow starting because of all the characters, but I am glad a stuck with it! The court room drama helps the novel move quickly along, and the subplot between Emily and Zach will have readers anxiously awaiting the conclusion. Mary Higgins Clark is a master at her craft and has rightly earned the nickname, "Queen of Suspense."

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Jane Austen Ruined My Life by Beth Pattillo

American Emma Grant is a disgraced English professor and Austen scholar who has retreated to England on a secretive quest for the lost letters of Jane Austen. All her life she believed in the happy endings that Jane Austen provided in her novels. But when the husband she thought was her Mr. Darcy turns out to be more of a wicked Mr. Wickham, she begins to question her entire world view.

Dismissed by her university after being discredited by the husband and her teaching assistant (his lover) and charged with plagiarism, she is tempted to rebuild her career on the discovery of these lost letters. But can she betray the trust of the Formidables, the secret society who have preserved Austen’s unpublished missives?

And what to do about the attraction she is feeling towards her old graduate school colleague, Adam, and the attention being paid to her by the mysterious scholar, Barry?

This smart and funny story will appeal to both Anglophiles and Austenites. You’ll want to put the tea kettle on for this one!

Friday, April 17, 2009

In a Gilded Cage by Rhys Bowen

I anxiously waited for the latest Molly Murphy mystery from Rhys Bowen and was so pleased to read this book! For those who have not read a Molly Murphy mystery, she is a young Irish immigrant to New York City in the early 1900’s. Spunky, independent, and unwilling to take on traditional female roles, Molly opens her own private detective agency. Her friends are a colorful cast of characters, including her sweetheart Captain Daniel Sullivan. Molly often finds herself in a bit of trouble, but she will try hard not to ask Daniel for help!

The eighth book in the series, In a Gilded Cage, finds Molly Murphy searching for a client’s roots, tracking a cheating husband, and also discovering why young socialites are mysteriously dying from complications to influenza. She also joins a suffragist’s parade, manages to get arrested and is nearly run over by a horse drawn carriage. Daniel seems about to propose, but is Molly ready to settle down to be a wife and raise a family?

This is a favorite series of mine and those who enjoy cozy mysteries and historical fiction might like this as well. Although this book can be read on its own, some may want to start at the beginning with Murphy’s Law.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

The Perfect Poison by Amanda Quick

Lucinda Bromley needs help. She has a special gift. She can detect poison in plants. When a lord is found dead, Lucinda is called to help find out if it was poison. She does detect poison on the victim but not just any poison but poison from a plant that only she owns. A plant that was stolen a month before. Enter Caleb Jones.

Caleb Jones has his own special gift. He can work out complex problems. Being the owner of the Jones Agency, a company that helps the psychical, he agrees to help Lucinda find who stole her plant. While investigating, it is revealed that the man Caleb is looking for is also the same man he has been searching for from a previous case. Caleb and Lucinda work together to solve the mystery.

From the instant Caleb met Lucinda he was deeply attracted. But he believes with his gift he will go mad one day. Lucinda is attracted to him also and just might be the person Caleb needs to break his curse.

I love Amanda Quick! I wasn't really looking forward to another Arcane Society book, but she once again pulled me in. I cannot wait for the next Amanda Quick book.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Nine Lives: Death and Life in New Orleans by Dan Baum

After Hurricane Katrina, journalist Dan Baum was sent to New Orleans to write about the aftermath of the storm and its impact on the city. He quickly realized that Katrina was the least interesting thing about this unique city. Nine Lives tells the story of nine fascinating individuals over the course of forty years--bracketed by two defining storms: Betsy and Katrina.

This motley crew of characters might at first seem like they have nothing in common and yet you soon realize they all embody what is New Orleans: strength, perseverance, uniqueness and just sheer determination. Who would think that a jazz-playing coroner, a man struggling with his sexuality who ends up as a transsexual bar owner, a school band teacher, a perpetually down and out convict and a Mardi Gras King would have anything in common?

You might think it would be hard to keep track of who's who in a biography of nine people spanning such a wide time frame but the narration is done so beautifully, you will easily find yourself completely immersed in all of these people's lives.

If you've ever visited New Orleans, you know how utterly unique this city is--this book will make you appreciate the city even more for the people--for they are the ones that truly make New Orleans the fascinating, gritty and fun place that it is.

Monday, April 13, 2009

The Second Opinion by Michael Palmer

Instead of joining her influential father's staff, Dr. Thea Sperelakis left the states because she felt a traditional medical position would be difficult for her due to her Asperberger's Syndrome. Shortly after learning that her father is in a coma from a hit and run accident, Thea leaves her Doctors Without Borders assignment to attend to him in Boston. It is unsettling for her to see Petros, the renowned and well-respected doctor known as the lion, in a state of such vulnerability.

Understanding that the situation is dire and for their own selfish reasons, her twin siblings think that they should remove the life support, but Thea thinks otherwise, especially when she discovers her father has Locked-In Syndrome, which enables him to communicate to Thea through his coma by blinking.

Dimitri, the oldest Sperelakis child, who is highly intelligent but also on the autism spectrum, believes that it couldn't have been an accident by the way the car struck his father. Thea also suspects foul play and so she embarks on an investigation to find out who and why someone was trying to kill her father. With the help of a handsome ex-cop, Thea will encounter a trail of medical deception that will put her own life in danger.

This is the first medical thriller by Palmer that I have read, and I must say that I really enjoyed it and hope to read more by this author in the future! Palmer, a medical doctor, definitely is a force to be reckoned with in the medical thriller genre.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Jessica's Guide to Dating on the Dark Side by Beth Fantaskey

Jessica Packwood is starting her senior year of high school and is ready for a fun year. But out of the blue, Lucius Vladescu shows up and ruins everything. He claims to be a vampire prince and believes that Jessica and he are engaged. Oh and that Jessica is really a vampire princess!

Jessica doesn't believe any of this. Even when her adopted parents tell her the same thing Jessica doesn't believe. When Lucius shows her his fangs, she thinks it is a trick. It is not until she sees Lucius drink blood that she is finally convinced. When she falls in love with him, he suddenly can't be bothered with her. He gets a new girlfriend and ignores Jessica. But everything is not as it seems. Lucius is trying to protect Jessica. Because when she goes back to Romania as the queen,there is a plot to kill her!

I really enjoyed this book. The writing was great and I was eager to see what would happen next. Fans of the Twilight series will enjoy this book.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Sashenka by Simon Montefiore

A treat for those who love Russian history, Montefiore’s first foray into fiction follows the story of Sashenka Zeitlin from 1916 to 1939 and finally to 1994. We first meet her as an idealistic school girl who despises her family’s bourgeois lifestyle. Mentored by her Bolshevik uncle one summer, she joins the revolutionary cause and becomes his courier.

In the section on 1939, Sashenka is married to a party apparatchik with the NKVD, and they have survived the worst years of the Stalin purges and both are highly successful. But Sashenka, disillusioned with the drivel she must publish as editor of Soviet Life and Proletarian Housekeeping, embarks upon an affair with an idealistic writer which ultimately jeopardizes her entire family.

The third section of the book jumps forward to 1994, after the dissolution of the Soviet Union, where we meet Katinka Vinsky, a young historian, who is hired by Sashenka's son to try to discover the truth about what really happened to Sashenka and her family. This voyage of discovery unearths some horrible and surprising truths.

I could not put this book down, it is both suspenseful and historical, truly a terrific find for those who love 20th century history. If you are tempted to think the author’s descriptions of Stalinist times are exaggerated, I would direct you to some of his historical works: Stalin: The Court of the Red Tsar (which won the History Book of the Year Prize at the 2004 British Book Awards) and Young Stalin (which won the 2007 Costa Biography Prize, the James Tait Black Memorial Prize, and the Bruno Kreisky Prize for Political Literature).

These books are worldwide best sellers and have been translated into over 30 languages. Montefiore has a firm grasp of Soviet history and has been able to successfully translate that knowledge into a wonderful, moving and enthralling first novel. I hope to see more fiction from him in the future.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Honeymoon by James Patterson

In an attempt to thwart any terrorist related attacks, the FBI has generated a list of individuals with large sums of money who recently made transfers to off shore accounts. Enter interior decorator Nora Sinclair, who recently deposited millions of dollars to an account in the Cayman Islands.

Upon further investigation, it becomes clear that Nora's forty year old fiance has recently died. Because Nora's first husband also died young and under mysterious circumstances, this becomes a red flag for the FBI. It is also no surprise that she is listed as the sole benefactor of Connor Brown's will. Posing as life insurance representative Craig Reynolds in charge of Nora's claim, FBI special agent John O'Hara goes undercover to capture the woman who has a panache for killing her lovers.

While working the case, O'Hara can help but being attracted to Nora, who for all intents and purposes is exactly like black widow spider that kills her suitors after mating. Unable to resist the temptation, John succumbs to his desires, which not only comprises the case but also his life.

Not all of Patterson's books are up to snuff, but Honeymoon is one of his better thrillers with plenty of twists along the way to keep the reader guessing. I listened to the downloadable audiobook version from MyMediaMall, which is narrated by actor Campbell Scott (Singles, Dying Young), who did a stellar job.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Society Without God by Phil Zuckerman

The premise of this book is that countries that are non-religious like Denmark and Sweden can still act as beacons of moral and social excellence in the world.

Phil Zuckerman makes a very clear and concise argument in favor of secularity in governmental affairs by giving concrete examples of these nations ability to thrive in the absence of strong religious values. Zuckerman takes serious offense to several Christian Right members who say that a country without religion is tyrannical. He rebuts that claim with several examples of how these nations excel at such matters as healthcare, social progressiveness, and equality.

This book would be inviting to readers who have a strong interest in religion or sociology.

Friday, April 3, 2009

The Shack by William Young

On a cold winter day when Mack Phillips goes out to retrieve his mail, he discovers a mysterious note from "Papa" telling Mack to meet him at the shack. Papa is his wife's nickname for God, and the shack is the place where the police discovered the bloody dress of his abducted daughter.

Suddenly all the feelings of The Great Sadness (how Mack refers to what happened to Missy) envelope him again, and he is brought back to that fateful camping trip when the Phillips' family was changed forever. Not sure if the note is a prank from the killer, Mack is perplexed on what to do, but he finally resolves that must return to the shack one more time.

What he finds at the shack is something he never anticipated - meeting God. Not surprisingly, God, is comprised of 3 individuals that represent the holy trinity of the father, son, and holy ghost. This time with God teaches Mack so much more than he ever would have learned in his religious studies.

Your reaction to this book will be contingent upon what you expected. The author clearly had an agenda and used Mack's story to get his point across. On one hand, I think Young does try to address a lot of our questions about God and makes it accessible by bringing it forward in a fictionalized manner.

On the other hand, I went into this hoping for an enlightening story and was disappointed to find that it centered on all this religious babble. I learned so much more about life and our place in it from The Last Lecture than I did from The Shack. If you are hardcore religious, then this book might be meaningful to you, but if you are looking for inspiration like me, I would go elsewhere.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Enchanted, Inc. by Shanna Swendson

Katie Chandler hates her job. She has worked for a year in New York as the assistant of a monster. Not literally but it feels that way. A transplant from Texas, Katie isn't always taking seriously in the business world with her accent and down home charm. And she doesn't understand New York. She loves living there but she feels out of place. She sees the gargoyle statue on top of a church one day and the next it is gone. She sees people walking around wearing wings. The subway makes unscheduled stops. But for some reason no one else notices.

One day Katie is offered a new job by a company called MSI, Inc. She is leery at first since she has never heard of the company before but her job has gotten so bad that she decides to go for it. On her first day of work, Katie finds out what the company is. It is Magic, Spells, and Illusions, Inc. It turns out Katie has a rare ability-magic does not work on her. Her job is to see what is being cloaked by magic-contracts, intruders, or bad dates. She gets promoted right away and because the assistant to the boss-Merlin. That's right...Merlin.

As strange as Katie's job is, she finds that she loves it. It doesn't hurt that there is a super cute wizard named Owen who works there too. Just when everything is going great an evil wizard has to be evil. The next thing Katie knows she is part of a wizard duel!

This is a fantastic start to a wonderful series. So far there are 4 books in the Katie Chandler series and I cannot wait for the fifth one!