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May Lead to Whiplash

May Lead to Whiplash

posted by:
May 11, 2012 - 3:01am

Defending JacobDefending Jacob by William Landay should come with the warning label, “May lead to whiplash.” With Landay at the wheel, readers of this terrific new legal thriller should prepare for breathtaking turns and shocking twists. In less sure hands, a story with this many surprises could easily fall apart. Landay is a master storyteller and is able to balance all of the twists while maintaining taut, suspenseful pacing.

 

It would be a shame to reveal too much of the story. The bare bones: Andy Barber is a successful, respected prosecuting attorney. He lives with his wife and son in an affluent Boston suburb. A 14-year-old boy is discovered in a local park; he has been fatally stabbed. Andy takes on the case, only to be blindsided when his son, Jacob is accused of the murder. Landay has an uncanny ability to elicit empathy for Andy and his family. The Barbers could easily be people we know. They could be our neighbors. They could be us.

 

Defending Jacob is not Landay’s first book but it is his first major blockbuster title, landing on many bestseller lists. Landay’s other titles include The Strangler and Mission Flats, which won the Dagger Award for best debut crime novel. Before trying his hand at writing novels, Landay was a district attorney. His legal experience shows in Defending Jacob. He portrays legal maneuvers and courtroom scenes like only an insider could.

 

Beyond its strength as a legal thriller, Defending Jacob is also a deeply touching portrait of parenting, married life and unconditional love. Landay forces us to consider how we might react if we were faced the truly unspeakable. Try the audiobook version, a truly excellent narration performed by Grover Gardner.

Zeke

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The Dance of the Two Sisters

The Dance of the Two Sisters

posted by:
May 11, 2012 - 1:01am

The Cranes DanceCranes really do dance.  But instead of the bird kingdom, The Cranes Dance by Meg Howrey explores the world of professional ballet and the relationship between Kate and Gwen Crane, two dancers who are also sisters.  They have always had a “professional” rivalry – Kate more lively and dramatic, Gwen stronger on technique.  When Gwen suffers a nervous breakdown, Kate scrambles to keep her own life on track and also to figure out where her sister’s life derailed.   As the past unfolds, it becomes clear that the sisters’ story is also a “dance”: Kate tried to ignore the signs that all was not well, even as Gwen’s idiosyncrasies became more disturbing. 

 

Why is this book intriguing?  It’s straightforward but well written.  Howrey, herself a professional dancer, adds plenty of details to the practical life situation of a dancer trying to make it to the top in New York City.  Dancers crammed into studio apartments, putting themselves through punishing classes and instructors, constantly scoping out the competition in other students…it’s a tough existence.  Yet even knowing more about the harsh realities of the ballet world and how slight the chance is of having a successful career, for dance lovers it still seems…magical.  There’s still that pull. 

 

Also keeping the reader engaged is Kate’s narrative.  It is at times sarcastic, even abrasive, but also funny.   As an added bonus, several ballet plots are outlined (complete with dry humor) and wrapped into the story.  As the book evolves, Kate comes to her own understanding about the relationship between herself, her sister and her profession.   For fans of the film Black Swan, here’s a story with psychological depth and a slightly more hopeful ending. 

Melanie

 
 

The Next Jason Bourne

The Next Jason Bourne

posted by:
May 8, 2012 - 12:30pm

The ExpatsMove over Jason Bourne--there’s a hot new spy in town!  Praised by Patricia Cornwell and John Grisham among others, The Expats by Chris Pavone is this spring’s hottest debut spy thriller.  As this fast-paced story unravels secret after secret, readers are taken along on an exhilarating ride through Europe.

 

Kate Moore has always kept her CIA career from her husband Dexter.  When Dexter is offered a lucrative new job, Kate quits the CIA and the family moves to Luxembourg.  As Kate settles into her new life as an expat housewife, Dexter begins to change.  He becomes withdrawn and evasive.  When they meet a new couple, Julia and Bill Maclean, Kate begins to think that everything isn’t as it seems.  Is her old life catching up with her?  She begins to look behind the façade of her new life and finds that things are not what they seem to be, especially at home. 

 

Pavone wrote The Expats after his family moved to Luxembourg for his wife’s work.  He gave up his job as a book editor and ghostwriter and spent his time exploring, caring for their two sons, and writing a blog (http://www.chrispavone.blogspot.com/) about his life as a househusband in Luxembourg. That blog eventually evolved into a novel, but he thought it was too boring.  His solution: add a spy or two! The movie rights to The Expats sold soon after Pavone got his book deal, so a film version may be in the works.  Is Kate Moore the next Jason Bourne?  Try this thriller and judge for yourself.

Beth

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A Grown-up Ghost Story

A Grown-up Ghost Story

posted by:
May 7, 2012 - 1:00am

The Haunting of Maddy ClareSometimes, nothing beats a good spooky story; the kind of tale that might make you turn the light on in a dark hallway before you go upstairs, or maybe double check that your doors are locked before you head off to bed. Simone St. James’ The Haunting of Maddy Clare is a ghost story with a romantic twist. Struggling to make ends meet, quiet Sarah Piper accepts an unusual assignment through her temp agency in post WWI London. Her job? Assist war-scarred ghost hunters Alistair Gellis and sidekick Matthew Ryder who are investigating the spirit of a servant girl who committed suicide in a countryside barn.  It just so happens that this particular spirit despises men, necessitating Sarah’s involvement in both communicating with Maddy Clare and solving the mystery of her death.

 

St. James’ writing style is lovely in this, her debut novel, and her choice of words and phrasing easily evoke the early twentieth century as narrated by Sarah.  The author is as skilled in describing rural England or some stylish period women’s wear as she is relaying the frightening atmosphere in the haunted barn or the suspicion of the chilly villagers. Unlike last summer’s supernatural-themed hit, A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness, this story is often creepy and sinister and has more in common with 2009’s Booker shortlisted The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters.  A page-turner to the end, pick up The Haunting of Maddy Clare knowing this one will be difficult to put down.

Lori

 
 

J. K. Rowling’s Next Big Project

J. K. Rowling’s Next Big Project

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

The Casual VacancyJ. K. Rowling and her publisher Little, Brown, and Company have announced that they will publish The Casual Vacancy, her first novel for adults, on September 27, 2012.  With Rowling’s legion of fans, this novel is sure to be an instant bestseller.

 

The Casual Vacancy will be a very different novel from Rowling’s successful Harry Potter series.  Barry Fairweather dies unexpectedly, leaving his seat on the Pagford parish council open.  The election to fill his vacancy causes an all-out war that tears apart the quiet English town.   This thought-provoking dark comedy will surprise readers. This is Rowling’s first novel published since her worldwide bestselling Harry Potter series, which have sold 450 million copies and have been translated into 74 languages.  The books became a worldwide phenomenon with children and adults alike.   The series was also adapted into an extremely popular film franchise.  As Harry Potter’s popularity grew, the phenomenon branched out into merchandising and even a Harry Potter theme park in Orlando called The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. 

 

Rowling has also announced that she has be working with Sony to launch Pottermore, a website dedicated to giving fans an interactive Harry Potter experience.  Pottermore will include exclusive content about the world of Harry Potter that fans won’t be able to access anywhere else.  To find out more about Pottermore, go to http://www.pottermore.com/.  The Harry Potter series is now available in e-book format through BCPL.   

Beth

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Cozies and Kitties

Cozies and Kitties

posted by:
May 4, 2012 - 3:01am

Copycat KillingThe Cat, the Wife, and the WeaponA Killer ReadCozy mysteries do their best to appeal to cat lovers, and some recent releases will definitely introduce you to some friendly felines.

 

Sofie Kelly is back with Copycat Killing featuring librarian Kathleen Paulson and her two magical cats, Own and Hercules.  In this particular outing, Kathleen is helping some local artists rescue their artwork when a deluge threatens to flood their studio. Unfortunately for one of the artists, they may have created their last piece. This is the second in the series, following Curiosity Thrilled the Cat. Penguin is republishing the first of the series as part of their “Read Humane” campaign, and donating $25,000 to the Humane Society’s Animal Rescue Team, for the prevention of cruelty towards animals.

 

The newest Cats in Trouble mystery is set in Mercy, South Carolina and features quilter Jillian Hart. Jillian is searching for her friend Tom, who has gone missing. Meanwhile, Tom’s half-brother moves into his house and proceeds to lose his diabetic cat.  The Cat, the Wife, and the Weapon, written by Leann Sweeney, also features a trio of cats as well as a rat terrier helping to solve the mystery. This is the fourth in the Cats in Trouble series.

 

A Killer Read is the beginning of a new series by Erika Chase and features Lizzie Turner and the Ashton Corners Mystery Readers and Cheese Straws Society.  When the Society gathers in a Southern mansion for their book club meeting, the members find themselves embroiled in an actual mystery when a stranger is shot with an antique gun.  References to well-known mystery novels abound and readers meet a unique pair of cats named Edam and Brie. 

 

So cuddle up with someone you love, either the two-footed or four-footed variety, and read one of these great new cozies.  You will be glad you did!

Doug

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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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