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Bloggers

 

The Good Wife

The Good Wife

posted by:
July 16, 2012 - 8:30am

The Cottage at Glass BeachIf you can’t be on the sandy shores this summer, take a virtual trip with Heather Barbieri as she transports readers to the magical world of Maine’s Burke’s Island in The Cottage at Glass Beach. Nora Cunningham was born on the island, but at age 5 left with her father for Boston following her mother’s disappearance. 

 

Today at 40, Nora is dealing with the fallout from her Attorney General husband’s scandalous affair which has created a media sensation. She gratefully accepts her Aunt Maire’s invitation to return to the beautiful island of her birth with her two daughters, Annie and Ella. While her aunt is happy to have her back, not all of the residents are so welcoming. The silence surrounding her mom’s disappearance creates a dark current throughout the story as Nora tries to fill in the blanks. The slow pace of the island allows Nora to gradually figure out her new life post-husband. She is able to gather pieces of the puzzle that is her past while embarking on a new romance with a mysterious shipwrecked sailor who is suffering from amnesia. 

 

Barbieri’s Burke Island is as mysterious as it is picturesque. It is rich with Gaelic roots and traditions which make it easy for the reader to accept the touches of magic sprinkled throughout. Nora is a delightful character as are the supporting cast, especially her daughters and Aunt Maire. Barbieri includes fairy tale elements mixed with real life family drama and manages to create a truly magical place and a beautifully written story.      

Maureen

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Distant Love

Distant Love

posted by:
July 13, 2012 - 9:30am

The NewlywedsThe new book by Nell Freudenberger is a quiet, understated novel about home, loss, sacrifice and love. The Newlyweds is the story of an unusual marriage in which both husband and wife attempt to find happiness in a relationship that is different than either imagined. George and Amina enter the marriage with very different assumptions, hopes and dreams.

 

George meets Amina through an online dating site, AsianEuro.com while she is a young woman, coming of age in Bangladesh and he is a fairly conventional suburban man in Rochester, New York. After beginning a friendship online and corresponding for nearly one year, they decide to marry. George goes to Bangladesh to meet his new bride. Shortly thereafter, Amina leaves her village and begins her new life in Rochester. With only a basic grasp of English, she struggles to fit in. Slowly, she begins to carve out a life for herself. She also learns a more nuanced version of English, in which she’s finally able to discern sarcasm.

 

With her unadorned prose and keen eye for detail, Freudenberger does an excellent job of describing suburban life through the lens of this young Bangladeshi woman. Life in the United States is different than Amina imagined. She sincerely wants to belong and make this new life work for her but she also mourns the loss of her home, her culture and the life she might have had in Bangladesh. Her relationship with her parents is especially difficult. She tries to both take care of them and convince them that she’s really ok, all from thousands of miles away.

 

The Newlyweds works beautifully as both an immigrant story and an unconventional, heartbreaking love story. Amina is compelling character that stays with the reader long after the last sentence has been read. The Newlyweds would be an excellent choice for fans of Jhumpa Lahiri, Arundhati Roy or Monica Ali.

 

Zeke

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A Mother’s Love

A Mother’s Love

posted by:
July 13, 2012 - 8:45am

Afterwards“Motherhood isn't soft and cozy and sweet; it's selfish ferocity, red in tooth and claw.”

 

How far would you go to protect your child? In the novel Afterwards by Rosamund Lupton, Grace Covey is put to the ultimate test. She is attending sports day at her son’s school, and her seventeen year old daughter Jenny is on the top floor, working in the nurse’s office. The building catches fire and Grace races headlong into the building to save her daughter. She awakens in the hospital but all is not as it seems. She can see her body, in a coma, lying in a hospital bed, and quickly realizes that her daughter Jenny is in a similar situation, severely burned but also having an “out of body” experience. Both women are able to see and hear what is happening around them, but are unable to communicate with anyone but each other.

 

Grace witnesses her husband’s pain and his inability to connect with their younger son, Adam. Adam withdraws into himself since he has no one to comfort him. Grace’s sister-in-law Sarah is a police officer and when the cause of the fire turns out to be arson, Sarah starts working on the case to discover the culprit. Grace and Jenny are looking for answers and find themselves privy to conversations with people who don’t know they are there.

 

This is Lupton’s second novel, after her hugely popular Sister, and she truly creates a unique reading experience. The novel is written from Grace’s point of view, and although she is having a strange experience, the core of the novel is her fierce love for her children and her strong desire for answers. The novel works as a suspenseful mystery and at times is very dramatic and even heartbreaking.  Afterwards is also an interesting character study, and Lupton really shines in her character development. You get to know the Covey family and are very curious to follow Grace to the novel’s conclusion. Readers who enjoyed The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold and mystery lovers are sure to enjoy this novel.  

Doug

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The Key to Immortality

The Key to Immortality

posted by:
July 13, 2012 - 8:10am

Blood LineJames Rollins was inspired to write Bloodline, the eighth novel in his Sigma series, after reading a Time article titled “2045: The Year Man Becomes Immortal.”  The article intrigued Rollins and led him to research the idea and possibility of life extension through science and technology. The resulting novel weaves genetics, history, action, and technology into a pulse-pounding conspiracy story that is impossible to put down. 

 

Amanda Gant-Bennett, the President’s pregnant daughter, is kidnapped by Somali pirates, so Sigma Force, a group of elite covert operators, is called in to rescue her. The rescue team soon finds that this is no ordinary political kidnapping. Amanda is really a pawn in a much larger, more dangerous game. Their investigation leads them to a South Carolina fertility clinic where a horrific project merging technology and biology is hidden. From there, the team uncovers a powerful family's ancient secret that could lead to immortality for humans, and the Sigma team begins a race against time to uncover the mystery and save the life of a baby who may be the key to it all.

 

One of the most unique things about this book is the addition of Army Ranger Captain Tucker Wayne and his military war dog, Kane, to the Sigma team. The partnership between dog and handler is rich and well-developed. Before his career as a writer, Rollins was a practicing veterinarian, and he writes many scenes from Kane’s dog's eye view. To learn more about other remarkable canines like Kane, try Soldier Dogs: The Untold Story of America’s Canine Heroes by Maria Goodavage.

 

Beth

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A Doc for All Seasons

Nantucket is one of the most popular summer destinations on the East Coast, and visitors in need of medical attention will be lucky to find themselves in the care of a most colorful doctor. In Island Practice, New York Times staff writer Pam Belluck shares the story of Dr. Timothy Lepore, who has dedicated the last two decades of his life to providing health care to all residents. 

 

Something of a MacGyver, he can perform an appendectomy with a stone scalpel he carved himself. He also hunts with a pet hawk. Dr. Lepore is able to identify unusual symptoms, and diagnose rare diseases. He has identified and treated a baby with toe-tourniquet syndrome, a horse with Lyme disease, and a narcoleptic falling face-first in the street. While he has doctored Jimmy Buffett, Chris Matthews, John Kerry, and various Kennedys, the majority of his practice is made up of the natives who work low wage jobs in the tourist industry. For Dr. Lepore, payment is optional and can be bartered via such goods as oatmeal raisin cookies or an old handgun.    

 

Dr. Lepore wears many hats, including the island's football team medic, family practitioner, only surgeon, accidental homicide detective, occasional veterinarian, and medical examiner. He can be controversial and contrarian with unusual hobbies and political views. And he says it like it is, even when it comes to his own family. Lepore would rather see his son “playing piano in a whorehouse,” than his current employment with a malpractice attorney. But underneath the shenanigans and eccentricities, this is the story of a doctor devoted to serving his community and maintaining accessible health care. Lepore is a Nantucket institution; his story and the beautiful island setting combine for a winning narrative.   

Maureen

 
 

Third Grade's the Charm

Third Grade's the Charm

posted by:
July 11, 2012 - 10:23am

Lone BeanMarty McGuire Digs Worms!Stella Batts: Pardon MeFans of Judy Moody will be thrilled to know that there are some new third grade girls sharing their stories of family troubles and school woes.

  

Chrysanthemum, better known as Bean, is excited to start third grade and see her best friend, Carla. But, in Lone Bean by Chudney Ross, Bean discovers that school is not what she had pictured and Carla no longer wants to be friends. Additionally, Bean, the youngest of three sisters, feels misunderstood and wishes her mother spent less time at work. On top of all that, she must cope with the bully at school. Ross, the youngest daughter of singer Diana Ross and owner of the California children's bookstore "Books and Cookies", creates a spunky, relatable heroine who will hopefully return soon for more adventures.

 

Marty McGuire returns in Marty McGuire Digs Worms! by Kate Messner, and this time she and her classmates are competing to win a Save the Earth contest. Marty believes that her idea to use school cafeteria garbage to make fertilizer will win the prize. The project has its problems, but in the end Marty learns about the importance of teamwork and composting. Marty is an amusing narrator and Brian Floca's cheery black-and-white illustrations complement this feel-good story.   

 

Third-grader Stella Batts is back for a third outing in Pardon Me by Courtney Sheinmel and she desperately needs a new best friend. She meets the new girl in town, Evie, and the two agree to be BFFs. But school starts and Evie seems to have forgotten this pledge. Stella faces familiar problems and her humorous narration and positive attitude are perfectly age appropriate. Young readers won’t have long to wait to read more of Stella’s exploits - A Case of the Meanies is due in September!

Maureen

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A Natural State of Happy

You Are a LionWant to help your child relax, sleep better, and achieve calm and focus? You are a Lion!: and Other Fun Yoga Poses by Taeeun Yoo, is a fun, playful picture book introduction to yoga for the younger set. Yoga for babies and kids has really taken off as more and more folks are discovering the benefits of yoga for the whole family.

 

Bright, cheerful artwork created with linoleum block prints, pencil drawing, and Photoshop, illustrate easy, fun poses children can relate to. These are accompanied by simple, rhyming instructions. Kids become lions, snakes, butterflies, frogs, dogs and cats as they imitate the gentle poses and movements of familiar creatures. And, unlike eating vegetables, kids will love pretending to leap like a frog and stretch like a dog. Namaste.

Andrea

 
 

Proper Dues

Proper Dues

posted by:
July 10, 2012 - 9:00am

Seating ArrangementsUnsavory behavior and social faux pas are as frequent as the rising tide in Maggie Shipstead's character-rich debut novel, Seating Arrangements, where money talks and appearances matter for the privileged few. Set on fictional sun-kissed Waskeke Island, off the New England coast, Winn and Biddy Van Meter are gathering family and friends to marry off their very pregnant daughter, Daphne. It's not long before the three-day wedding weekend uncovers fissures in relationships that neither a Windsor knot nor an Ivy League education can fix.

 

Shipstead expertly crafts a dialogue-rich story with a medley of spot-on characters, whose clumsy narcissism, alcoholic indulgences, and questionable choices lead to many embarrassing stumblings. Plenty of misplaced priorities are on display here, starting with the father of the bride.  Dissatisfied and conflicted with much to lose, middle-aged Winn seems to worry about the wrong things, like coveting a membership in the exclusive Pequod country club as well as a romantic liaison with one of his daughter's bridesmaids. His harried but dutiful wife Biddy turns the other cheek. When the bevy of bridesmaids converges on the island house for festivities, Winn and Biddy's younger daughter, Harvard-educated Livia, creates more chaos by making her own poor choices. It is Egyptian-born bridesmaid Dominique, tall, dark and aloof, who provides with her pragmatic voice keen observations of the family that are at once amusing and sad.

 

Shipstead, a graduate of Harvard and the Iowa Writers' Workshop, proves at ease moving the plot along and setting the scene; readers will feel they, too, are lulling among sea breezes and fragrant bayberry bushes. Readers of Maine by J. Courtney Sullivan or That Old Cape Magic by Richard Russo will find plenty of simmering family dysfunction and social satire to heat up their summer reading.

 

Cynthia

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A Prince of a Guy

A Prince of a Guy

posted by:
July 10, 2012 - 8:31am

Between the LinesMany of us have wished that our favorite literary characters were real people who could jump off the page and into our lives. In Between the Lines by Jodi Picoult and Samantha Van Leer, Delilah gets the chance of a lifetime when Prince Oliver, the hero of the fairy tale of the same name, speaks to her and she can hear him. The two become fast friends and together they hatch a plot to free Oliver from the book. Delilah’s family and friends do not understand why she is so obsessed with this children’s book, and they unknowingly thwart her at every turn. Likewise, the rest of the fairy tale characters (who have distinctly different personalities when the book is closed) do not understand why Oliver is so unhappy reliving the same story over and over again.

 

The creative idea for Between the Lines was pitched to Picoult by her teenage daughter Samantha, who was daydreaming about book characters coming to life instead of paying attention in French class. This charming book is a collaborative effort between mother and daughter, and it includes many inserted images and pencil sketch drawings. An imaginative romance, this is a good book for reluctant readers or teens that are looking for something simpler and sweeter than your typically angsty novel for adolescents.

The authors interview each other on Jodi Picoult’s website.

Sam

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Love, Lovett, and a Hot Pink Bridesmaid Dress

Rescue MeRachel Gibson has built a reputation for writing hilarious, steamy romances. Her newest novel, Rescue Me, is no exception. 

 

Retired Navy SEAL Vince Haven is in Lovett, Texas, visiting his Aunt Luraleen. She wants to sell him the Gas and Go, the town’s convenience store/gas station, so that she can retire. Vince isn’t a guy who wants to put down roots, though. Sadie Hollowell left Lovett fifteen years ago, but she is back to be a bridesmaid in her cousin’s wedding. As if the Bubble Yum-pink bridesmaids dress isn’t bad enough, Sadie is ten years older than the rest of the bridal party, and she doesn’t have a date to the wedding. Sadie meets Vince when his truck breaks down near her father’s ranch. On a whim, she asks him to be her date to the wedding. He refuses, but he later decides to go to the wedding to even the score between them.

 

Vince and Sadie begin what they both believe will be a temporary relationship. Sadie’s elderly father is injured in an accident, and she stays in Lovett to help him get back on his feet. Vince begins work on the Gas and Go with plans to sell it, and he continues to deal with PTSD from his time in Afghanistan. As Sadie and Vince spend more time together, the boundaries of their relationship change, and they find that their temporary arrangement may not be long enough.

 

Gibson’s writing, humor, and small-town cast of characters will remind readers of Susan Elizabeth Phillips. Rescue Me is charming and laugh-out-loud funny. It makes you want to stop in to Lovett, Texas, and have a glass of sweet tea with the locals. Bless your heart!

 

Beth

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