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Pastoral Peccadilloes and Goblin Goings-on – ‘Snuff Said

SnuffFollowers of the sometimes fantastical, always immensely funny Discworld series can breathe a sigh of relief. The remarkable storyteller Terry Pratchett has released another compulsively readable adventure. In Snuff, the reader once again joins Commander Sam Vimes, the streetwise Commander of the Ankh-Morpork City Watch and reluctant member of society’s highest echelons. The powers that be (namely his wife, the Lady Sybil) have decreed that Vimes is in dire need of a proper pastoral vacation. Resigned to his fate, Vimes bids farewell to his beat and arrives at the ancestral home and environs with his wife and young son. He sets his mind to relaxing but a copper is never really off-duty, and when the severed hand of a goblin turns up, it isn’t long before Vimes finds himself called upon to unravel a mysterious death and restore justice to the most unlikely of citizens.

 

Pratchett’s characteristic humor and sense of timing are in fine form in this latest Discworld adventure, and those who are familiar with the characters the author has honed over the years will not be disappointed. For those new to Pratchett though, a caveat: Snuff is a uniquely Vimes-centric story and as such is not an ideal first foray into the Discworld. Recommended prior reading includes Guards! Guards! and Night Watch

 

Whether a seasoned sci-fi/fantasy enthusiast or a hesitant newcomer ready to dip one’s toe into the genre, the works of Terry Pratchett are equally accessible and more than a little addictive. Granted there are certain fantastical elements (The City Watch counts among its employees various trolls, vampires and dwarves; Death is really a loveable fellow once you get to know him - he has a soft spot for kittens - and oh yes, the entire world is one large disc supported by four elephants that are in turn balanced on the back of a great turtle. You get the idea.) Yet at the heart of what Pratchett really writes are wildly humorous, acutely insightful commentaries on the nature of humans and the societies they cobble together.

Meghan

 
 

Susan Lucci of the RITAs?

Susan Lucci of the RITAs?

posted by:
May 4, 2012 - 1:01am

When Beauty Tamed the BeastThe Romance Writers of America recently announced the finalists for the 2012 RITA awards.  The RITAs honor authors for excellence in romance writing.  This year more than 1,200 novels and novellas were judged and finalists were announced in 12 categories. When popular author Eloisa James heard that her novel When Beauty Tamed the Beast is a finalist, she tweeted about her RITA losing streak. “The RITA is the Romance Writers of America's highest award... and I just got a call telling me that When Beauty Tamed the Beast is a finalist! I'm so happy. Mind you, I am the Susan Lucci of the RITA contest; I'm in the double digits for finalists (almost every book I've written) and I've never won. Maybe I'll be lucky this time!”  Like soap opera actress Susan Lucci’s famous streak of 18 Emmy nominations without a win, James still hasn’t won the coveted award.  Will this be the year for Eloisa James?

 

When Beauty Tamed the Beast is the second book in the Eloisa’s Fairy Tales series.  Miss Linnet Thrynne finds herself rejected by a prince with whom she has had a harmless flirtation, but her troubles really begin when a rumor starts to circulate that she’s pregnant with the prince’s child.  She needs a husband ASAP!  She is taken to meet Piers Yelverton, Earl of Marchant, a brilliant doctor known for his foul temper (think Dr. Greg House from the Fox TV series House, M.D.) whose father wants him to be married.  Linnet is sure that her charm will bring Piers to his knees within a week or two, but Piers has other plans.  A funny, witty battle ensues where both characters win.

The 2012 RITA award winners will be announced on July 28 at the Romance Writers of America annual conference.  Check out the full list of finalists at http://www.rwa.org/cs/2012_rita_and_gh_finalists#top

Beth

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A Whole Lot of Southern Fried Fun

A Teeny Bit of troubleCharleston pastry chef Teeny Templeton is back and once again finds herself caught up in the crazy in A Teeny Bit of Trouble. Small in stature but big in personality, Teeny is a lovable, quirky heroine who gets embroiled with nutty characters and wacky adventures.  As she says, “It's not every day that I bake a dozen Red Velvet cakes, learn my boyfriend may have a love child, and witness a murder.”

 

Teeny’s relationship with fiancé Cooper Miller is threatened when his high school sweetheart (and mean girl to Teeny), Barb Philpot tells Teeny their flame has been rekindled.  Of course Teeny resorts to surveillance, but her plan goes awry when she thinks that she witnesses Barb being strangled to death by a man wearing a Bill Clinton mask.  On top of that, before her untimely death Barb had ditched her ten-year-old daughter Emerson on Cooper . . . who may be Emerson’s father.

 

Teeny is charged with bringing Emerson back to her legal father in Teeny's hometown of Bonaventure, Georgia.  Once back home, Teeny is faced with bad memories, coded messages from the grave, and a possible black market of human parts.  West's second mystery has all the elements of a madcap Southern comedy sprinkled with deadly secrets and a lovely romance.  Readers who fell in love with Teeny in Gone With a Handsomer Man will be delighted with her continued escapades.  Newcomers will be running back to the first book to catch up. 

 

Michael Lee West lives on a farm in Lebanon, Tennessee which helps explain her ability to give readers such vibrant Southern settings in her novels.  She loves animals and also enjoys cooking, tablescaping, and interior design.  Foodies and decorating fans should check out her blog http://www.designsbygollum.blogspot.com/ where she offers “recipes and design for exhausted people” and every Friday is Foodie Friday.

Maureen

 
 

A Wall Street Love Story

A Wall Street Love Story

posted by:
April 30, 2012 - 1:01am

Bond GirlErin Duffy’s debut novel Bond Girl takes chick lit to Wall Street.  Bond Girl gives readers a sense of the pressure and atmosphere of working on Wall Street. This funny, fast-paced novel is a new spin on traditional chick lit that will leave readers wanting more.

 

Alex Garrett takes an entry-level bond sales position in world of “The Street,” which Duffy portrays as part high stress job and part frat house.  When Alex begins working at Cromwell Pierce, the all-male group that she works with dubs her Girlie, and she has to earn her place by starting as the team’s errand-girl. They definitely work hard and play hard.  One-upmanship is endless.  Hijinks include nonstop practical jokes, an errand to the Bronx for a $985 wheel of cheese, and the infamous $28,000 vending machine bet.  Alex’s life becomes a blur of work, office social engagements, and a disastrous secret office romance until the economic crisis brings her world crashing down. 

 

After Duffy lost her job at Merrill Lynch in 2008, she decided to pursue writing, and Bond Girl was the result.  Circumstances were sometimes exaggerated and names were changed to protect the innocent (or guilty), but many of the events in the book are based on things that Duffy saw and heard about in her time on Wall Street. Duffy is already working on her second novel, which will leave both the city and the world of finance behind. 

Beth

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Families: Lost and Found

Families: Lost and Found

posted by:
April 30, 2012 - 1:00am

Red Ruby Heart in a Cold Blue Sea Lost Saints of TennesseeGirlchild Every family has a story.  Three recent debut novels explore the unraveling of fragile families and the ever-present need for human connection.  In Red Ruby Heart in a Cold Blue Sea by Morgan Callan Rogers, twelve-year-old Florine is growing up in a small Maine coastal town when her mother mysteriously disappears.  The disappearance has profound effects on Florine and her father and shapes the course of each of their lives.  Beautiful and tragic, Rogers provides a realistic look at small town life and independent people who must regroup and forgive if they are to build anything. 

 

In another book about familial relationships, The Lost Saints of Tennessee by Amy Franklin-Willis follows a Tennessee family from the 1940s to the 1980s.  The main character, Zeke, is still haunted by the drowning which claimed his twin brother over a decade prior.  Faced with divorce and strained relationships with other family members, he impulsively leaves town.  His time away allows him to reflect and he eventually faces both the flaws and strengths of the family that shaped his life.

 

The most tragic and hardscrabble of the three novels is Tupelo Hassman’s Girlchild. Hassman presents the dangerous and lost world of a Nevada trailer park through the eyes of one fractured family.  Rory Dawn Hendrix is seen by her family as their only hope.  She is smart, resourceful, and insightful, a change from the previous generations of Hendrix women.  Yet she is also still just a young girl, and the dangers of the community and its members threaten to engulf her and her plans for the future. 

 

Any of these three books would be good to take along on a vacation or for discussion at book clubs.  Enjoy, and look for more books from these authors in the future!

Melanie

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“Family, dogs, land, woods…

“Family, dogs, land, woods…

posted by:
April 27, 2012 - 1:10am

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

 
 

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