Monday, September 28, 2009

The Last Song by Nicholas Sparks

Still angry with him for leaving their family three years earlier to pursue his career as a pianist, the last place seventeen year old Ronnie Miller wants to spend her summer is with her father and little brother Jonah in North Carolina. Ronnie is your typical rebellious teenager, complete with a purple streak in her hair and decked out in all black. And as a former pianist herself with a special talent, Ronnie refuses to ever play the piano again.

Not long after she arrives and in an obstinate mood, Ronnie escapes to the pier where her soda gets dumped on her by a young man catching a wayward volleyball. It is also at the pier where she meets Blaze, who, like herself, doesn't fit in with the blond hair, bikini-clad girls that seem to pervade the town. Blaze's boyfriend, Marcus, who is always hanging around, seems intent on causing trouble wherever he goes and makes Ronnie weary.

Despite her angst, Ronnie and her father Steve find common ground in an endangered turtle nest they discover on the beach that they both want to protect. In fact, it just so happens that the aquarium volunteer who has come to check on the nest is none other than Will, the volleyball guy from the pier.

Although Will and Ronnie couldn't be more different, the two develop a blossoming romance and as the summer is winding down, they both question what will become of their relationship, when she returns to New York and he starts college at Vanderbilt. When a terminal illness plagues someone close to her, the growing up she has done over the summer will be even more imperative.

If you have read Nicholas Sparks before, then you will know what to expect with The Last Song. The characters were well developed, the plot plausible, and the love story heartwarming. I went from hating Ronnie in the beginning, to understanding her, to empathizing with her. The Last Song has also been made into a feature film starring Miley Cyrus and is set for release next year. How it will be a movie already when this book just came out last week is beyond me! I hope the it is a good as the movie version of The Notebook.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Mating Rituals of the North American WASP by Lauren Lipton

Manhattanite Peggy Adams can hardly believe her friend is getting married after only 13 months of dating when she has been with her boyfriend Brock for seven years and is not even close to being engaged. After a night of heaving partying while attending Andrea's bachlorette party in Las Vegas, Peggy wakes the following morning to discover herself in the wrong room and in bed next to a stranger. Unable to recall the previous night's events, she sneaks out of the room before he awakes.

Back in NYC and grappling with the pending rent increase of her and Bex's soap store business, Peggy receives a phone call from Luke Sedgwick, an arrogant man who claims he is her husband! Although neither of them can remember what transpired that night in Vegas, they both want this marriage annulled and behind them as soon as possible.

While in the midst of their meeting with an attorney, Luke's great-aunt Abigail storms in demanding to know why she is just finding out about Luke's marriage. See, word travels fast in a small town like New Nineveh, Connecticut, and the eccentric Abby agrees to bequeath the dilapidated Sedgwick mansion to the family's only heir, Luke, if he can make this marriage work for a year. And half that fortune will go to Peggy, as his wife, of course. With her financial woes to consider, this is an offer she can't refuse.

What Peggy doesn't realize is how difficult it is to fake a marriage when the spouses detest one another. Furthermore, how she is going to fool his WASPy friends, when she clearly isn't one of then? And don't forget that she also has to keep this little white lie from reaching Brock and her parents. As Peggy counts down the months until she reaches financial freedom, her life - and love life - become more complicated than she could ever imagine.

Although Lipton's premise may not be original (does this remind anyone of the 2008 movie What Happens in Vegas with Ashton Kutcher and Cameron Diaz) and the ending entirely predictable, this is still an enjoyable chick lit romp. I certainly relished the distraction.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

A Big Little Life: A Memoir of a Joyful Dog By Dean Koontz

Dean Koontz was already pre-disposed to liking dogs. He’d even used them as characters in his books. At last he and his wife decided they were ready to own a dog, or rather be owned by this amazing, intelligent and joyous Golden Retriever named Trixie.

Though retired from service with Canine Companions for Independence (CCI) due to an injury, Trixie was certainly not retired from life. She taught Dean and his wife Gerda about love and joy, loss, life’s mysteries, and how to find once again that sense of wonder in life. She was very special. Others told the Koontzes so, though that was unnecessary because they knew from the start that this 60 pound soul was unique. She helped them to see what was really important in life. And her joyous exuberance reached to others who came in contact with her.

While Koontz is known for his fiction, this book reads every bit as richly as his other titles and yet in his carefully chosen words there is a special feel of extraordinary kinship and connection with Trixie that reflected the obviously touching way she affected him and the close relationship they shared. Koontz and his wife almost missed out on Trixie but instead were blessed with treasured years with her.

Though a bittersweet book because of her too-early passing, this book is blissfully uplifting in seeing who Trixie was and how she lived her life. Joyously and with abandon. Though she is sadly gone, she is really not gone, living on in the books she “penned” and in her continued connection with CCI; and most importantly she will always remain with the Koontzes and readers for the lessons she taught about life that Koontz generously shared with us, his readers. Trixie was a very special dog. Her’s was a big, little life. We can all learn from Trixie.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Mediterranean Summer by David Shalleck with Erol Munuz

This delightful summer read combines two of my favorite things: gourmet food and the beautiful Mediterranean and then adds a whole new exciting element that I never even considered: life on a multi-million dollar yacht. Chronicling a summer spent as a chef for a super-rich couple, David Shalleck gives you a behind-the-scenes look at life at sea for the crew of such a yacht.

Mr. Shalleck heads to Europe to hone his skills working every position imaginable in some of the finest restaurants in Italy and France and after 4 years gets the opportunity of a lifetime as the personal chef to a super-rich Italian couple. You will find yourself immersed in the trials and tribulations as well as the triumphs he has creating beautiful dishes to keep this couple and their many guests satisfied.

I thoroughly enjoyed this glimpse into this exclusive, glamorous world of the uber-rich, but what I enjoyed most was learning about sailing a yacht and the tremendous work involved for the entire crew. The delicious recipes that are described so beautifully are also included.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Dream Chaser by Sherrilyn Kenyon

Xypher is a demon. And a Greek God. And he lives in Hell for an act he did not commit. After thousands of years, Xypher is granted one month on Earth but with limited power. All Xypher wants is vengeance on the one person who put him in Hell.

Simone Dubois sees ghosts. And can see can touch objects that belonged to people and sense things about the person. She is also a medical examiner and teacher at Tulane University. While revisiting a crime scene, Simone is attacked by Damians. A mysterious hottie helps. Just when they think they are out of the woods, a bracelet is attached to Xypher's wrist and one to Simone's. As long as they wear the bracelets they cannot be more than 20 feet from each or they will die. Also, if one of them is killed then the other will die.

Simone cannot believe this. She is stuck with this hot jerk for who knows how long. Xypher cannot believe he is stuck with this human. A very cute human who keeps showing him kindness. Of course he doesn't know how to act to the kindness because he has been in Hell for so long. Together they must fight the demons that hunt them and learn to get along. And maybe find a way to stay together.

This is the third book in Sherrilyn Kenyon's Dream-Hunter series. It is also apart of her Dark-Hunter series.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Unpredictable by Eileen Cook

Sophie Kintock is not taking Doug's leaving very well. Since the break-up, she has broken into his apartment building to steal all the mates to his socks from the dryer, and she randomly moves his car to different spots in the lot while he is at work. Her only focus in life is to how to get Doug back.

At the rare bookstore where she works, Sophie crosses paths with Nick McKenna again, the man who caught her stealing Doug's socks in the apartment complex's laundry facilities. Because Sophie's employer has her dabbling in both the rare book and research business, she agrees to help Nick research some information about psychics that he has requested. It turns out that Nick, an academic, is very active in a skeptical organization that looks at science and logic to discount paranormal activities.

As she is conducting the requested research, it dawns on Sophie how she can use this new found knowledge to get Doug back. All she has to do is pose as a psychic to get Doug's new flame, Melanie, to break off their relationship. After enlisting Nick's help, the rest becomes pretty easy. However, one thing she doesn't predict is how fast this little lie will spin out of control. Along the way, she may even find that getting Doug back may not be her answer to finding love.

This light, humorous chick lit delight can be devoured in one sitting. Even though Sophie is a bit of a ridiculous character whose antics are laughable (and pathetic), readers will still be rooting for her to triumph in the end.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Mr. Darcy, Vampyre by Amanda Grange

Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennent have just gotten married. But Mr. Darcy has a terrible secret. He is a vampire. Elizabeth doesn't know but suspects something is wrong. Not that he is a vampire but that he might not love her like she loves him.

The honeymoon was supposed to take place in the Lake District but Darcy changes plans and instead takes Elizabeth to France. There Elizabeth meets all kinds of people but she misses Jane. She needs someone to talk to because Darcy still hasn't given her a wedding night and she is confused. She knows he loves her but doesn't know why he is acting strange. Then she overhears a conversation between him and Colonel Fitzwilliam. Talk of an uncle who can help Darcy. When Elizabeth asks Darcy, he tells her that they are going to go to the Alps to visit his uncle, Count Polidori.

The Count lives in a castle. A very forbidding castle with a drawbridge and guards. Elizabeth is uneasy there and has good cause especially when a mob decends on the castle. Darcy and Elizabeth flee into the woods and take refuge in a little cabin. The next day, they ride into Italy and eventually make it to Venice. Elizabeth falls in love with the town. She makes a couple of new friends and a masquerade ball is thrown in her honor. Everything is going great except Darcy still hasn't given Elizabeth their wedding night.

At the ball, Elizabeth meets a masked man who scares her. She also becomes friends with a Prince. Darcy and her are invited to his home for a house party. While there, Elizabeth is convinced that Darcy doesn't love her and with the Prince telling her that it is probaly true, Elizabeth leaves. But before she gets to far she is ambushed. Not to worry because Darcy rescues her and the truth is finally revealed. Darcy is a vampire.

I really enjoyed this book. We are introduced to new characters and revisit old ones. We also see how much Darcy and Elizabeth love each other. Another good book by Amanda Grange is Mr. Darcy's Diary.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Blood Lies by Daniel Kalla

ER doctor Ben Dafoe, who is sometimes called to report on toxicology matters at crime scenes, receives a phone call from a detective from the Seattle Police Department, but this time it's personal. Ben's ex-finance, Emily, and another victim have been found slaughtered in her apartment.

Ben can't help but wonder if Emily's death is connected to the disappearance of his identical twin brother, Aaron, from three years earlier. A mass amount of blood was found in the burned out trunk of Aaron's car, but no body was ever discovered.

When the lab results reveal that blood found at Emily's crime scene is a DNA match to Ben's, the detectives look at him as their number one suspect. It also doesn't help that Ben hasn't been forthcoming with police about knowing the identity of the second victim. It turns out that the victim, J.D., was Emily's drug dealer, who was the catalyst to the demise of their relationship.

Ben flees to Vancouver in an attempt to discover who has set-up him and why. In the process, he is discovers many secrets that has him questioning if Aaron is still alive. As the police are closing in on him, Ben looks to a hospital colleague and almost-lover, Alex, as the only one he can trust.

This book was awesome! Kalla is an author to watch, and I would definitely like to try another book by him in the future.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Smash Cut by Sandra Brown

Julie Rutledge is in shock. She was just robbed in an elevator and watched as the robber killed her friend, Paul Wheeler. Julie thinks she knows who was behind the killing. She thinks it was Paul's nephew, Creighton Wheeler. She steers the police in his direction.

Derek Mitchell cannot believe what just happened. He was minding his own business flying home from Paris when he becomes a member of the mile high club. He never got her name and when he meets her again at baggage claim she acts as if it didn't happen. Still wondering about it, Derek heads to his law practice before he heads home. Once there he is asked to represent the Wheeler family. He declines. He heads home and is watching the news when he sees his mystery lady. Her name is Julie Rutledge and she is connected to the Wheeler shooting. Derek cannot believe it. The next day he goes to her art gallery to confront her.

Julie knew Derek would show up when he found out who she was. But she had to do it. Because she knows Creighton is the killer or at least hired the killer and she couldn't have Derek Mitchell represent him or he would get away with it. Derek finds himself drawn to Julie and ends up helping her. But when Julie thinks Creighton will be caught, the police start looking at her as a suspect. At the last minute, Paul changed his will, leaving almost everything to her which gives her motive and Creighton none. But what the police don't know is Creighton was the one behind it and he is just beginning.

This is an excellent read. Even though you know who the killer is, you are still left wondering who the next victim will be. Cannot wait for Sandra Brown's next novel.