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“Family, dogs, land, woods…

The World As We Know Itrivers, fish, fire, words.”  These are the choices of author Joseph Monninger when asked to describe his life in eight words.  These same words all figure prominently in Monninger’s newest novel The World as We Know It.  The story opens as brothers Ed and Allard Keer, young teens living along the Baker River in New Hampshire, rescue Sarah Patrick after she has fallen through the ice in the river; Sarah, in turn, saves Allard as he nearly drowns underneath the ice during the same rescue.  The trio becomes inseparable and the family theme is evident as Monninger explores the sibling, friendship, and romantic aspects of their relationships.

 

This quiet book is beautifully written.  Its style is reminiscent of Wallace Stegner’s Crossing to Safety or Leif Enger’s Peace Like a River for both the almost reverent approach to nature writing as well as the keen examination of close relationships. The landscape descriptions are evocative and nature becomes not just the backdrop for the story but an omnipresent fourth character exerting its influence over the brothers and Sarah.  An environmentalist bent is evident but not at all strident as arctic ice melt, homing pigeons, fly fishing, and animal cruelty are touched upon.  Just as an accident on the river serves to bring the three children together, another clash with nature acts as the catalyst to break them apart as adults.  The second part of the book deals with the aftermath of tragedy and the process of grieving and its impact on longstanding familial and romantic ties.  A lovely piece of fiction, The World as We Know It is an insightful, interesting story and would serve as an excellent book club selection. 

Lori

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Up the Down Staircase

Up the Down Staircase

posted by:
April 27, 2012 - 1:05am

The Maid of Fairbourne HallFor Downton Abbey fans looking for a fix until the new season starts, try The Maid of Fairbourne Hall by Julie Klassen. Meet Margaret Macy who learns what life is like at both ends of the staircase.   Fleeing her stepfather who is trying to gain control of her money, Margaret abandons her pampered upper-class world when she is pressured to marry a man she does not love or respect.  With little money, a wig and glasses for disguise, and help from her own maid, she ends up as a housemaid at Fairbourne Hall.  Unfortunately, Fairbourne is owned by Nathaniel Upchurch, a gentleman who Margaret once spurned in hopes of winning his flashier brother. 

  

Once at Fairbourne, Margaret fumbles through the first real work of her life.  She learns the maid’s brushes, sweeps hearths, and empties chamber pots.  She has never been so exhausted, but if she can last until her next birthday she will gain an inheritance from a spinster aunt.  The money will be welcome and it will also ensure her independence.  But a year is a long time and her hopes of remaining hidden seem slim with so many prying eyes visiting Fairbourne Hall.  As a servant who is invisible to her employers, she is able to observe both brothers without their societal masks, and quickly realizes she may have misjudged Nathaniel.  And when one of the family is nearly killed, danger threatens to upset the tranquility of the Hall.

 

The dynamic of the separation between the titled and serving classes adds a strong element to this Regency historical.  Christy Award winner and RITA nominee Klassen delivers another perfect romance with a hint of suspense that is rich in fascinating details about life both upstairs and downstairs in a country estate.  

Maureen

 
 

Summer Lovin'

Summer Lovin'

posted by:
April 27, 2012 - 1:01am

Somebody to LoveUp-and-coming Contemporary romance author Kristan Higgins has been gaining popularity over the past couple of years.  Her new novel Somebody to Love is a hilarious, sweet page-turner that will catapult her onto many romance readers’ must-read lists.

 

Parker Welles learns that her father has been charged with insider-trading and that he emptied the family trust funds to cover his losses.  The only asset that she has left is a house that a distant relative bequeathed to her, so she goes to Gideon’s Cove, Maine for the summer to flip the house.  Unfortunately, the house turns out to be a rundown beach shack, and she finds that her Aunt Julia was a hoarder.  Parker needs help rehabbing the house.  The only volunteer is James Cahill, her father’s right hand man who she has always called Thing One.   As they spend more time together, the situation between Parker and James begins to heat up and things get a little complicated.

 

This novel is a real treat for Higgins fans.  Somebody to Love revisits favorite characters from previous novels.  Parker made her first appearance in The Next Best Thing, and several other characters from that novel appear in this one.  The book is also set in Gideon’s Cove, so readers will get to revisit that charming small town and the characters that they know from Catch of the Day.

 

Fans of writers like Susan Elizabeth Phillips and Jennifer Crusie will find a lot to love here.

Beth

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Sleepless

Sleepless

posted by:
April 27, 2012 - 1:00am

Sleepwalker Karen Robards has done it again!  Her most recent novel Sleepwalker is such an adrenaline rush you will find yourself out of breath while reading the story.  The main character is Micayla Lange, an off-duty police officer spending New Year’s Eve house-sitting for a close friend of the family.   This unfortunately was not a part of the plan for Jason Davis as he chose that particular evening to rob the locked safe in Uncle Nicco’s office. The petite and beautiful Micayla can kick some serious butt, and she proceeds to do just that to Jason  when she encounters him leaving with the money laden suitcases.  During the fight, incriminating photos of Uncle Nicco’s involvement in the murder of a councilman become dislodged from one of the suitcases, changing the entire nature of the situation.  The knowledge they now have of Uncle Nicco’s mob connections puts both of their lives in jeopardy forcing them to team up to escape his gang. What ensues is an exhilarating chase where Micayla and Jason have to battle the elements as well as outwit an endless supply of pursuers. Matters are further complicated with their growing attraction to each other and the understanding that once they are safe, Micayla has every intention of doing her duty and arresting Jason for robbery.

 

Ms. Robards is the author of forty books, mostly of the romantic suspense and historical variety.  She creates engaging characters, imaginative plots, and often inserts humor into her writing.  It is no wonder that Newsweek has proclaimed her one of the most popular voices in women's fiction.

Jeanne

 
 

After the Ship Went Down

After the Ship Went Down

posted by:
April 24, 2012 - 11:20am

Ghosts of the TitanicThis year, April 15th meant more than the usual tax deadline; this year the date marked the centennial anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic. In commemoration, scores of authors have already risen to the challenge of supplying children with new stories surrounding that fateful journey. Among so many new titles from which to choose, the selection process can present a challenge, particularly for parents or teachers whose intent may be not only to entertain but to educate young readers. To this end, Canadian author Julie Lawson’s Ghosts of the Titanic is a well-suited choice. Told through a dual perspective narrative, the book follows the converging chronicles of two seemingly disparate characters, separated by a century and connected by a mysterious inheritance.

 

Kevin Messenger: Class clown, history buff…about to embark on the mystery of a lifetime

Kevin is a precocious boy; talented and likable, but easily distracted and outspoken at home and at school. A frequent source of frustration for his parents and teachers alike, he is also a Titanic fanatic and can’t resist a good mystery. So when his father suddenly announces that the family has inherited an oceanfront property on the other side of the country – from a man they’ve never met – Kevin is only too eager to unravel the mystery of their enigmatic benefactor, Angus Seaton.

 

Angus Seaton: Ordinary sailor, witness to Titanic's aftermath…haunted madman?

Angus at 17 is barely more than a boy himself when he is assigned to Titanic victim recovery. Sailing out of Halifax, Nova Scotia in 1912, the crew of the MacKay-Bennett is tasked with the recovery and identification of the hundreds whose lives were lost. What he encounters there in those long days of retrieval will haunt him for the rest of his life, in more ways than one.

 

An engaging mystery, peppered with elements of the supernatural, Ghosts of the Titanic is an absorbing read. Yet despite the fictional nature of the narrative, Lawson manages to integrate an impressive amount of historical detail about recovery methodology and the lives touched in the days and weeks following the calamity.

Meghan

 
 

Rosemary Wells and the further adventures of Yoko

Yoko Learns to ReadMax, Ruby, Timothy, and of course Yoko, are just some of the best loved characters from acclaimed author/illustrator Rosemary Wells, who has created more than 50 books for children. You can also enjoy her animated characters on PBS Kids.    

       

Her newest title, Yoko Learns to Read, is another adventure for little Yoko, an adorable striped gray kitten. Yoko and her Japanese-born mama are acclimating to a new culture, learning new ways, foods, and language.     

 

Yoko’s mama prepares school lunches of sushi and reads wonderful books with Yoko in Japanese. But Yoko wants to keep up with her classmates and learn to read more books in English to earn more “book leaves” to add to the classroom tree.  Mama wants to help Yoko, but Japanese letters and words are very different from English.

At the suggestion of her teacher, Yoko and her mama put on their best kimonos and make a trip to the library. With a new library card in hand, Yoko checks out more books, learning new words and the key to reading, and in the process helps teach her mama to read a new language too.

 

Relatable, universal situations, multicultural experiences, adorable animal characters, bright colors, and beautiful origami paper prints are the hallmarks of these oil pastel and collage design illustrations, which include examples of Japanese calligraphy and the difference between the Eastern style of reading from right to left and the Western style of reading from left to right.

 

Visit www.rosemarywells.com to learn more about Yoko and her friends.

Andrea

 
 

Children Are Our Future

Children Are Our Future

posted by:
April 23, 2012 - 4:36pm

PartialsHope has always been rooted in the future.  Each generation hopes that the ones who come after them will safeguard humanity and make things even better.  So what happens to hope when there is no next generation?

 

In Partials, Dan Wells shows us a future in which hope is dying.  In the aftermath of war, there is a virus that infects every newborn at birth, and none survive more than a few days.  What remains of the government is a group called the Senate, and they have created The Hope Act, which requires all females age 18 or above to become pregnant in order to try and save the human race.  But more babies are not the answer…finding a cure is. 16 year-old Kira is a trained medic who works on the maternity floor of the hospital.  She sees babies die every day and watches young mothers grieve loss after loss.  When her best friend becomes pregnant, Kira decides to try something radical—to capture and study one of the “partials.”  Partials are genetically engineered beings that were created to protect and serve humans but later rebelled, launched a war, and attacked with the virus.  Partials are the enemy, and the Senate officials will not condone such a mission; therefore Kira and a select group decide to strike out in secret. What Kira finds outside of the boundaries of East Meadow is not what she expected, and she learns that truth depends entirely upon who you ask.  

 

Wells is the author of the thrilling John Cleaver series (I am not a Serial Killer, Mr. Monster.) He has been nominated for both the Hugo and the Campbell Award.  Great writing seems to run in the family, as his younger brother Robison Wells is the author of the teen chiller Variant. Dan Wells’ first teen novel, Partials, is a smart post-apocalyptic thriller with great teen/adult crossover potential that will appeal to fans of medical thrillers, and dystopian and science fiction.

Sam

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Party Planning the 90210 Way

Party Planning the 90210 Way

posted by:
April 23, 2012 - 11:46am

CelebraTORITori Spelling, Beverly Hills resident on-screen and off, offers up her fabulous party planning advice in her beautifully photographed, informational CelebraTORI: Unleashing Your Inner Party Planner to Entertain Friends and Family. Don’t dismiss Spelling as merely an actress or child of the rich and famous, for she has years of experience in the party planning business. Her first event was her 8th birthday party, featuring a roller skating theme and a hot pink/turquoise color scheme. Since that early occasion, she has had great success planning parties for herself and her friends. Here she shares the best tips gleaned from these experiences. She has also unfortunately hosted a few train wrecks, but treats them here as learning tools, giving the reader ideas on avoiding similar glitches.    

 

Tori covers all the basics, starting with the concept, which could include discovering all new reasons to celebrate. She shares tips on decorating, flower arranging, food, and of course desserts. All of the suggestions (which include recipes) are DIY, for those of us not on a Beverly Hills budget. If there’s an inner party planner in you, CelebraTORI will help unlock it.

 

Spelling has been a public figure for most of her life and most recently has found huge popularity in the world of reality television. Her most recent series, Tori & Dean: sTORIbook Weddings, airs on the Oxygen Channel and highlights her passion for wedding planning.  Spelling has penned three autobiographical titles, including 2010’s Uncharted TerriTORI, but this is her first book on party planning. She scores a 10!

Maureen

 
 

A Book To Remember

A Book To Remember

posted by:
April 21, 2012 - 3:35pm

The DressmakerKate Alcott (pseudonym for Patricia O’Brien) puts a fresh spin on the story of the Titanic by focusing on the aftermath of its sinking in The Dressmaker.  The novel is told from the perspective of Tess Collins, a seamstress, who is hired right before boarding to be personal maid to high society fashion designer Lucile Duff Gordon.  Tess is determined to use her seamstress skills to elevate her position in society, but both Tess and Lucile’s futures are irrevocably changed by events that occur while they are passengers on the luxury liner and as survivors in New York. By page 37 the Titanic has sunk and Alcott transitions from the frigid sea to the mean streets of New York and the ensuing investigation.  A senator wants to prove negligence on the part of the White Star Line but New York Times reporter, Sarah “Pinky” Wade smells richer storylines and digs deep to investigate the rumors of on-board bribery and murder which implicate Lucile’s husband.   

 

Transferring this familiar story to early 20th century New York gives readers a new way to approach this epic disaster.  Alcott’s well-drawn characters add richness to her story which is strong in setting and historical detail.  As Tess' personal dramas unfold, the ugly wake left by this oceanic catastrophe and the roles passengers and crew members played are revealed by the disturbing official investigation, which Alcott has taken from the transcripts of the U.S. Senate hearings.   Titanic buffs and fans of historical fiction will enjoy this tale of tragedy and triumph. 

 

Two Titanic Tidbits: Julian Fellowes’ (Downton Abbey) two-night miniseries Titanic debuted April 14th on ABC.   If you didn’t catch it or love it enough to watch again – place your hold now in the library’s catalog!  Follow events @TitanicRealTime on Twitter where The History Press has set up an account to send real-time (+100 years) updates on the progress of the ship and its only voyage. Start following now to get the whole story as it happened.

Maureen

 
 

Mad, Mad World

Mad Men on the Couch The Unofficial Mad Men CookbookThe Real Mad Men

Have you wondered what it would be like to live in the advertising world depicted on AMC’s award-winning drama series Mad Men?  Former copywriter Andrew Cracknell gives us an inside look with The Real Mad Men:The Renegades of Madison Avenue and the Golden Age of Advertising.Reneg  

Written from firsthand experience and featuring beautiful photographs from the era, this book explores the history of modern American advertising, the movers and shakers of the industry, and how the “golden age” business culture of the 1960s treated women and minorities.  This title has great appeal for fans of Mad Men, as well as anyone with an interest in advertising. 

 

For a more psychological take on the show, try Mad Men on the Couch: Analyzing the Minds of the Men and Women of the Hit TV Show.  Author Dr. Stephanie Newman delves into the minds of each main character and discusses issues like sexism, identity, parenting, and homophobia through a modern lens.  And don’t worry about psychological jargon – Newman employs a light and accessible tone.  This highly recommended title is as informative as it is entertaining and makes each character come to life.      

 

And just for fun, check out The Unofficial Mad Men Cookbook: Inside the Kitchens, Bars and Restaurants of Mad Men by Judy Gelman and Peter Zheutlin.  This fully illustrated book highlights many of the meals and cocktails seen on the first four seasons of the show, along with brief episode summaries that place each recipe in its historical context.  The Unofficial Mad Men Cookbook is a must-read for any serious Mad Men fan.

Alex