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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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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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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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Is all publicity good publicity?

This Bright RiverThe CradleWithin the book industry, having a review of one's work published by the New York Times is a huge benefit that likely will increase any author's sales. It certainly adds to the author's visibility. That is, if the reviewer has fully understood the book published. Take, for example, the recent fiasco that befell novelist Patrick Somerville and his new work of fiction, This Bright River. A couple years back, his debut novel, The Cradle, was plucked from near-obscurity with glowing praise by well-respected Times book reviewer Janet Maslin. Lightning struck twice for Somerville, or so it seemed, when Maslin chose to review his current follow-up. But then the problems started.

 

Unfortunately, Maslin misread a crucial event in the prologue of the new novel that Somerville purposely left ambiguous. Because of her error, Maslin read the novel through the wrong lens, and her generally middling review refers to the book as having a "lack of focus" and is "sometimes foggy". The author's wife read the review aloud to Somerville, who "pressed [his] head deeper into the couch, trying to get to its springs and asphyxiate". This, among much more, he describes in a Salon essay published last week titled Thank You for Killing my Novel. Within it, we learn of the process that resulted in the Times publishing a correction, including the long, amusing email back-and-forth between the author and Ed Marks of the Times' Culture Desk.

 

All this leaves readers with an obvious conundrum. How much can we trust reviewers? When even someone as well-regarded as Janet Maslin can botch an assignment, it can be tricky. One solution is simply to take even the most well-read reviewer's opinion as simply that. Just one person's opinion.

Todd

 
 

Life, Love and Amusement

Life, Love and Amusement

posted by:
July 6, 2012 - 9:00am

Easily AmusedPoint, Click, LoveSummer is a time for fun. So, why not a few delightfully light reads to complement?

 

Easily Amused by Karen McQuestion is the story of Lola, an almost 30-year-old whose great aunt has left her a sprawling house on a street full of caring neighbors. Sounds perfect? Not to Lola, who just wishes for a little more privacy and a few less invitations to neighborhood events. The real catalyst comes when Lola’s frustrating younger sister, Mindy, announces her own wedding will be on Lola’s 30th birthday. Lola must have a date for this occasion – not just any date, but someone to show up Mindy and someone willing to go along with a (fake) announcement of engagement. Enter Ryan, who seems to just fall from the sky and could possibly be the answer to Lola’s problems. Lola is a funny, self-deprecating narrator, and McQuestion’s writing is smart and fast-paced with a clever plot.

 

Another book for summer entertainment is Point, Click, Love by Molly Shapiro. This fun tale follows four friends, Claudia, Annie, Maxine and Katie, in Kansas City. Where each of these women are in their lives and where they want to go makes for amusing stories about love, marriage, relationships and everything in between. This is Shapiro’s debut novel, and it has well-developed, likeable characters plus sophisticated writing. She also does a great job of adding context to a Midwestern city where not many stories are set. Comparisons have been made to Sex and the City – this book definitely celebrates women’s independence and exploration of choices. 

 

Enjoy taking these two books to the beach or any other place (Kansas City?) you may find yourself this summer. Both provide a fun story with no additional heavy baggage. 

Melanie

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Love in a Small Town

Love in a Small Town

posted by:
July 6, 2012 - 8:30am

Sunrise PointAngel's RestCrush on YouRomances set in small towns have been a hot trend in romance publishing over the past few years. Robyn Carr’s Virgin River series has really struck a chord with readers. Her new novel, Sunrise Point, follows former Marine Tom Cavanaugh who returns to Virgin River to run his family’s orchard. He meets and befriends Nora Crane, a struggling single mother who will do whatever it takes to care for her young daughters. Tom and Nora’s friendship deepens and eventually develops into a sweet romance. Carr’s writing makes readers want to revisit the cast of characters in Virgin River again and again. With 19 books already available in the series, they can! 

 

Readers who enjoy the Virgin River series should also visit Emily March’s close-knit community of Eternity Springs. In Angel’s Rest, Nic Sullivan has built a life for herself without a man in it because she has been let down too many times in the past. Gabe Callahan retreats to an isolated home in the Colorado Rockies to grieve after a tragedy. When Gabe is at his lowest, fate intervenes, and Gabe meets a goofy brindle boxer named Clarence who quickly claims Gabe as his own. Clarence is injured, and Gabe takes him to see Nic who is the town vet. Nic begins to help Gabe move on from his loss and embrace his future.

 

Christie Ridgway’s Three Kisses trilogy also has a great small town feel. It follows the three Baci sisters who are trying to save Tanti Baci, the family’s vineyard. In Crush on You, Alessandra Baci needs TV star Penn Bennett’s help to promote the vineyard as a wedding venue in hopes that the added income will save the business. Alessandra, nicknamed the Nun of Napa, hasn’t dated since her own tragic failed trip to the altar. The chemistry between Penn and Alessandra heats up quickly, and they both have to come to terms with their pasts. The small town atmosphere is as much a character as any of the people in this sexy, funny romance. 

 

Beth

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Cozy Up This Summer

Cozy Up This Summer

posted by:
July 3, 2012 - 8:30am

Dead Man WaltzingHearse and BuggyThe Azalea AssaultIt may be hot outside, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get cozy with a good mystery. Join one of these three amateur sleuths this summer and see if you can figure out whodunit.

 

Dancing with the Stars may be over for the season but fans of ballroom dancing will be delighted to read Dead Man Waltzing by Ella Barrick. This is the second novel in the series, following Quickstep to Murder, featuring ballroom dance champion Stacy Graysin. When a well-known figure in ballroom dance is murdered and one of the instructor’s in Stacy’s dance studio is implicated, Stacy must find a way to clear his name and solve the murder.

 

A trip to the Amish country is a treat in the first book in a new series by Laura Bradford called Hearse and Buggy. Set in Heavenly, Pennsylvania, the story features Claire Weatherly and her Amish specialty shop, Heavenly Treasures. She hires a young Amish woman named Esther to work in the shop, but immediately finds trouble when the shop’s former owner is murdered and Esther becomes the prime suspect. Throw in a handsome detective named Jakob who has been ostracized for leaving the Amish community, and you have all the fixings for a promising new series.

 

If summer gardening is more your thing, try the Azalea Assault by Alyse Carlson, the first in the Garden Society Mystery series. Camellia Harris spends her time promoting the beautiful gardens of Roanoke Virginia, and is delighted when a national magazine sends a reporter to do a spread on one of these gardens. Her joy is short-lived when the world famous photographer arrives, proceeds to insult everyone in town, and turns up dead the next morning. Fortunately, Cam’s boyfriend is a reporter and the two immediately jump in to try and solve the case.

 

Doug

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