Thursday, October 29, 2009

Gothic Horror for Halloween!

Audrey Niffenegger, author of The Time Traveler's Wife, explores the world of gothic literature in her latest novel, Her Fearful Symmetry. Although this story takes quite a turn from her previous work, it still requires some suspension of belief to make it through the plot.

Elspeth is dying, in London, leaving her younger lover, Robert behind to mourn. Rather than leaving her worldly possessions to him, she leaves her flat and its contents to her twin nieces, whom she has never met. Julia and Valentina have grown up with their parents, Edie and Jack, in Lake Forest, Illinois. Edie and Elspeth were twins as well, but estranged.

The twins move into Elspeth's flat, and begin exploring London, meeting their neighbors in the building, Martin, who has severe OCD, and Robert, Elspeth's former lover. Before long, they also realize that Elspeth herself is occupying the flat as well, and they and Robert begin communicating with her. As Elspeth grows in strength, she discovers she can remove souls from living creatures when, in trying to pet the twins' kitten, she accidentally hooks its soul and removes it from its body. She is able to put it back in, with Valentina's help, and the kitten seems unscarred from the experience. This gives Valentina an idea to finally escape the over-bearing Julia once and for all. But will Elspeth and Robert agree to her plan?

This book has so many things I like in a story - ghosts, cemeteries, romance, family secrets, London. Niffenegger's writing style is lovely and the story slowly unwraps. I have a difficult time believing Valentina was willing to go as far as she did in order to escape her twin; perhaps that is part of what makes this story so ultimately horrific. The ending is a bleak one, devoid of much hope for the future for the parties involved. In short, this is a beautifully written gothic horror novel for our times.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

New Books Released the Week of 10/27/2009

Here is a sampling of new books released this week. Place click on the title to place a copy on hold.

Abandoned by Cody McFadyen
Angel Time by Anne Rice
A Christmas Promise by Anne Perry
The Cloud Pavilion by Laura Joh Rowland
A Creed Country Christmas by Linda Lael Miller
Earthway by Aimee Thurlo
The Gathering Storm by Robert Jordan
Grave Secret by Charlaine Harris
Home in Time for Christmas by Heather Graham
Invisible by Paul Auster
Last Night in Twisted River by John Irving
The Long Division by Derek Nikitas
Other Men's Horses by Elmer Kelton
The Pursuit of Other Interests by Jim Kokoris
True Blue by David Baldacci
Typhoon by Charles Cummings
The Widow's Revenge by James Doss

Monday, October 26, 2009

The Murder of King Tut by James Patterson

In Patterson's second stab at nonfiction after 2008's Against Medical Advice, he delves into what he claims to be the story of King Tut's murder.

The book is written from three different time periods, which alternate between chapters. First we have present day Florida, where Patterson discusses how he happened upon the idea of investigating King Tut's death and how he convinced his publisher to get on board with the idea. Throughout the book, we are brought back to the present where Patterson continues to talk about his writing process, which I found rather interesting.

The next period is circa 1900 Egypt where European Egyptologist Howard Carter works on securing concessions from wealthy investors so that he can continue his search for virgin tombs and the wealth it will bring him. And of course the reader is brought back in time to 1320s BC as we are introduced to the Kings of Egypt and their successors, finally leading to the death of King Tut and his Queen and half sister Ankhesenpaaten. Patterson argues that the individual who stood a chance of inheriting the throne was responsible for the king's untimely demise.

I have to question how much creative license an author is allowed in a work that is billed as nonfiction. Granted, Patterson makes a compelling argument for Tut's murder; however, I wonder how much is stretched in order to put the pieces together to make a coherent story. For instance, when the queen visits her husband's tomb alone, "she circled the throne, afraid of the emotions welling up inside her. She had never felt so alone before, had never so needed Tut's reassuring voice...." How do we know how she felt and what she did when she was alone?

I enjoyed this quick read, but would have found it more valid as a work of fiction.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Tell Me Something True by Leila Cobo

The point in our lives when we realize that our parents are more than just parents--they're human and they make mistakes and sometime poor choices in life, is at the center of this story of Gabriella Richards. Gabriella lives a very sheltered and privileged life with her Hollywood director father. She lost her mother, a free-spirit from Cali, Colombia, when she was just four years old. Gabriella goes back to Cali to visit with her grandmother, Nini, every year, where again, she leads a very sheltered and privileged life. Until the summer that she turns 21 when everything changes.

Gabriella discovers an unknown diary that her mother had written only for her, learning that her mother had secrets that Gabriella finds painful to acknowledge. Meanwhile, she finds herself falling for a very dangerous but loving man. Gabriella struggles to understand her mother's choices while she tries to justify to herself and those around her that the man she now loves is not like all the others in that dark world.

When something horrific eventually does happens, Gabriella realizes the reasons why her mother made the choices she did. She understands what her mother did and while she can never let go of her anger, she forgives her mother. This is a powerful story of a young woman's awakening that I could not put down.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Dexter By Design by Jeff Lindsay

Dexter's back...on the page, that is. He's been keeping us in suspense on the small screen, and while that's all well and good, hardcore fans have been pining for him to step off the screen and back onto the page.

Our favorite serial killer is just back to Miami from his honeymoon in Paris, and while Dexter is perfecting his human disguise as a happily married man, there is a killer with an "artistic" technique on the loose.

When an artfully displayed corpse is discovered in a public place, Dexter and his Dark Passenger are brought on to the case. But when other bodies are found in similar "arrangements", it soon becomes clear to Dexter that this is personal.

Can Dexter and the Dark Passenger solve the case before their identity is revealed? Is he doing the right thing by helping Cody and Astor "channel" their energies? With his dark humor intact, Dexter battles the bad guys in his own unique way, and keeps his readers on the edge of their seats to the end. Dexter By Design - decidedly delicious!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

New Books Released the Week of 10/20/2009

Look at the Birdie: Unpublished Short Fiction by Kurt Vonnegut
A volume of fourteen early and previously unpublished short works offers insight into the social satirist's developing literary style and includes pieces that explore such themes as innocence, ironic twists of fate, and morality.

The Scarpetta Factor by Patricia Cornwell
Kay Scarpetta offers her services pro bono to the New York City medical examiner's office, in addition to her duties as CNN's senior forensic analyst, which seems to trigger a series of unsettling events, including an apparent death threat.

Shades of Blue by Karen Kingsbury
Brad Cutler, twenty-eight, is a rising star at his New York ad agency, about to marry the girl of his dreams. Lost innocence and one very difficult choice flood his conscience, and he is no longer sure what the future will bring except for this: He must find his old love and make amends.

uthern Lights by Danielle Steel
Eleven years after a bitter divorce, Manhattan assistant D.A. Alexa prepares to prosecute a suspected serial killer who is sending threatening letters to Alexa's teen daughter, a situation that forces Alexa to send her daughter to her ex's Charleston home.

To Tr
y Men's Souls by Newt Gingrich
A novel of the darkest days of the American Revolution follows George Washington, Thomas Paine, and Jonathan Van Dorn, a private in Washington's army, during the days surrounding Washington's crossing of the Delaware River on December 25, 1776.

Vintage Caper by Peter Mayle
When the exclusive wine collection of a rich Hollywood lawyer is stolen by a cultivated thief, former lawyer and connoisseur Sam Levitt follows leads from Bordeaux to Provence while receiving assistance from a beautiful French colleague. By the award-winning author of A Year in Provence.

annotations courtesy of Baker & Taylor

Monday, October 19, 2009

Kill the Messenger by Tami Hoag

Since his mother's death, Jace Damon has always taken care of his ten-year old brother Tyler. For fear child services will tear what family he has left apart, Jace prefers to live a secluded and private life in an apartment over Madame Chen's market in Chinatown. In between taking college classes, he spends most of his time as a delivery boy for Speed Couriers trying to earn whatever money he can to support himself and Tyler.

On a miserable rainy evening, Eta, the speed courier dispatcher, sends Jace on one final delivery for the night. Needing the cash and knowing that the attorney, Lenny Lowell, is a good tipper, Jace can't refuse. After picking up the package at Lenny's, Jace is greeted by someone in a car trying to run down at the drop off location. After barely escaping the predator who clearly wanted to kill him, Jace returns to Lenny's only to discover his office is swarmed with cops. It turns out Lenny has been murdered.

At the crime scene is detective Kev Parker and his detective-in-training, Renee Ruiz. Parker can't help but question why his nemesis from the RHD (Robbery-Homicide Division), who typically only investigates high profile-cases, would be bothered with the murder of a low-life attorney. Kev's first order of business is to track down the last person to see Lenny alive - the Speed Courier delivery boy.

Fearful that the cops will dig into his personal life, Jace knows he can't go to the authorities. And whatever is in that package must so important that it is worth murder. Being in the wrong place at the wrong time can sure have deathly consequences.

Overall, Kill the Messenger, is a pretty good suspense novel. The pace moves along quickly, and Hoag doesn't reveal anything about the meaning of the package contents or the killer until the very end.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Sacred Hearts by Sarah Dunant

The year is 1570, and the place is Ferrara, Italy. Sarah Dunant takes us to the Santa Caterina convent, where, for the price of a dowry, many noble families send the daughters they’re unable to marry off.

Serafina, the latest novice, has unwillingly been sent to the convent to separate her from an unfortunate romantic entanglement. Her beautiful singing voice is seen as a bonus to the convent, one that will certainly add to the convent’s coffers. Zuana, the convent apothecary and herbalist is charged with the training of the new novice, but despite her help, Serafina has difficulty adjusting to her new life and yearns to escape.

Zuana has been at the convent for 16 years, and she remembers her own difficulties adjusting. Even so, as the two women strike up an unusual friendship, Zuana’s own view of the world is challenged as she witnesses Serafina’s struggle.

Dunant expertly guides us through the daily routines of life in the 16th century convent, as well as giving a glimpse into the church politics of the time. Dunant is an excellent storyteller, and it is her attention to detail that makes her stories come to life on the page.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

New Books Released the Week of 10/13/2009

Breaking the Rules by Barbara Taylor Bradford
Having changed her name to "M" to put a terrifying past behind her, a world-famous fashion model and wife to actor Larry Vaughan must do whatever she needs, even break the rules, to protect those she loves when a deadly psychopath re-enters her life.

The C
hristmas Secret by Donna VanLiere
Working long hours to make ends meet while struggling to protect her children from their manipulative father, Christine Eisley saves the life of an elderly department-store employee and sets in motion a series of events that leads her to a new relationship.

Dracula The Un-Dead by Dacre Stoker
A sequel cowritten by Bram Stoker's great-grandnephew and based on the original author's handwritten notes takes place twenty-five years later and finds Van Helsing's morphine-addicted protege obsessed with countering evil forces.

House of Reckoning by John Saul
Outcast by an injury sustained from her father, foster child Sara Crane befriends a former mental patient and her art teacher and soon creates paintings of long-ago violent crimes committed by the inmates of a local asylum.

The Last Will of Moira Leahy by Therese Walsh
Ten years after abandoning the saxophone in the wake of her twin sister's death, former prodigy Maeve Leahy develops a sense of foreboding for which she purchases a dagger alleged to strip its owner of inhibitions, a decision after which she accepts a mysterious summons to Rome.

Nine Dragons by Michael Connelly
Investigating the shooting death of a Chinese liquor store owner, detective Harry Bosch identifies a suspect as a Los Angeles member of a Hong Kong triad only to have his daughter go missing, a situation that prompts his high-stakes search across the Pacific.

Pursuit of Honor by Vince Flynn
In a new thriller featuring CIA superagent Mitch Rapp, fearless Americans must risk their lives for their country's security, fighting a covert war that can never be discussed, even with their own political leaders.

Star Wars: Death Troopers by Joe Schreiber
Follows the harrowing experiences of the crew of an Imperial prison barge that scavenges an abandoned Star Destroyer when their own ship breaks down, a mission that kills half of the team while the other half brings back a lethal infection.

*annotations courtesy of Baker & Taylor

Monday, October 12, 2009

Italian for Beginners by Kristin Harmel

As if being single isn't bad enough, Cat Connelly's grandmother, the one with dementia, makes a point to announce this at Cat's younger sister's wedding. The unexpected outburst from the wedding coupled with her gossiping relatives has Cat hiding out in the restaurant's kitchen during the reception, where she meets restaurant owner Michael Evangelisti. After a romantic evening with Michael, her desires for a long-term romantic relationship are crushed when she discovers Michael is married.

The recent disasters in her life have Cat thinking about making a change. Having lost her mother at a young age, Cat has always been the responsible one, taking care of both younger sister Becky and her father. With prodding from her family and coworkers, Cat finally takes a chance and books a month long trip to Rome in hopes of reconnecting with a old love.

Although her time in Rome might not being going as planned, with the help of a feisty Italian waitress and a charming Roman who opens her world to new things, Cat learns that sometimes in life, you can't always play it safe if you want to obtain happiness.

Italian for Beginners doesn't break any new ground in the chick lit genre. Although you will be charmed with the little cobblestone neighborhoods in Roma, readers will just wish for the whiny Cat to deal with her problems and move on already.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Official Book Club Selection by Kathy Griffin

Kathy Griffin tells it like it is. She holds back nothing and never apologies. I mean come on she told Jesus to suck it. Her first book about her life is fantastic. We learn how Kathy makes it to the D-List. How she started in the comedy troupe Groundlings and had 70 auditions before she was finally landed a commercial. We learn how she came to be on the hit TV show Suddenly Susan to what happened after the show ended and how she made it to being a Emmy winner.

Of course, Kathy just doesn't talk about her professional life. We also learn about her personal life. Growing up in Illinois to moving to California with her parents to pursue her acting. To her many boyfriends and donut fryers to her marriage that ended badly.

Throughout the book we learn all about being a D-list celebrity and how Kathy makes it hilarious. If you love Kathy's humor or are one of her Gays, you definitely want to read her book! But of course the one person she wants to read it the most is Oprah!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown

After receiving an emergency call from Peter Solomon's assistant that he is needed to fill in for a last minute lecturer cancellation, Harvard professor and symbologist Robert Langdon arrives in Washington D.C. to find that no lecture is taking place. In fact, what he discovers in the Capital Building's rotunda is a dismembered human hand in the middle of the room. The hand, whose finger contains a unique mason's ring that Langdon quickly identifies, belongs to none other than Peter Solomon.

Minutes later Langdon receives another call from a man who reader's know as Mal'akh who suggests that Landgon solve the secrets of the Ancient Mysteries if he ever wants to see Peter alive again. Also at the scene is the CIA's Office of Security director Inoue Sato, who contends that this is a manner of national security and that Langon must do whatever it takes to pacify his tormentor.

With the help of noetics scientist and Peter's sister Katherine Solomon, Langdon is taken through D.C.'s most well-known buildings as he works his way at solving the puzzles to get to the secret behind the Ancient Mysteries.

I have mixed feelings about The Lost Symbol. If you can get past page 150, the pace really picks up and there were moments that I just couldn't put it down. Brown does a good job at creating Mal'akh, a villain who's wickedness is reminiscent of Harris's Hannibal Lecter.

However, at times the plotting gets bogged down by Brown's endless explanations of every historical detail mentioned in his book. Although the final revelation was a bit anticlimactic, readers will find this thriller worth the wait.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Obsidian Prey by Jayne Castle

Lyra Dore has had her heart broken by Cruz Sweetwater. It has been three months since he approached her under false pretenses and stole her amber ruin find and her heart. Now he is back and as much as Lyra doesn't want to feel anything for Cruz, she does. She is still in love with him. But to her disappoint Cruz needs her help to save five people trapped in the ruin. Only Lyra can work the amethyst amber and rescue the people.

Cruz Sweetwater is still very much in love with Lyra. As CEO of Amber INC, he felt he was doing the right thing by taking the ruin from Lyra. Now he needs her help and her love. Because one of his family's talents is recognizing their one true love and Lyra is his. Lyra agrees to help and does rescue the five trapped people.

But before they can work on a relationship they need to figure out who is stalking Lyra. Twice a week orchids are delivered to her house with a note saying We are meant to be together. Now Cruz is on 24 hour bodyguard duty because he wants nothing to happen to his true love. And on top of there being a stalker someone is killing people connected to the ruin.

This is a great series. If you love paranormal romance then the Harmony series is for you. At the beginning of the books Jayne explains how the world of Harmony came to be in existence. Even though these books are set in the future they are still enjoyable to the romantic suspense readers. Jayne Castle is a pseudonym for Jayne Ann Krentz.