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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

 
 

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

 
 

The Survivor Who Wasn't

The WOman Who Wasn't ThereWhere were you on September 11, 2001? Almost all Americans who were old enough to remember that fateful day will have a story. At first glance, The Woman Who Wasn’t There: The True Story of an Incredible Deception by Robin Gaby Fisher and Angelo J. Guglielmo, Jr. appears to be a tale of individual courage and triumph. Tania Head had one of the most remarkable 9/11 stories of all. She was working for Merrill Lynch on the 78th floor of the World Trade Center’s South Tower, and witnessed the first plane hit the North Tower. Badly burned, she barely escaped alive. She also lost her fiancé, who worked in the North Tower.

 

Head’s story was so powerful that when she shared it on survivors’ network sites, she quickly became an inspiration and a leader. She successfully lobbied to bring more recognition and funding to survivors, and led tours at Ground Zero. Shockingly, in 2007 a reporter uncovered that all of the information she provided, including details about her job and her fiancé, was false. But that was just the beginning. Why would someone go to such lengths to deceive?

 

Head’s story is presented as fact for most of the book, with her deception revealed only towards the end. Guglielmo directed a documentary, also called The Woman Who Wasn’t There, chronicling Head’s status change from heroic survivor to fraudulent imposter. This is an amazing story of vast deception and extreme irony. Although Head technically did nothing illegal, her falsification of information and betrayal of trust of the survivors was egregious. Her deception in the aftermath of such a horrific tragedy left many feeling further victimized. But ironically, in spite of the lies, her story led to more recognition and services for actual 9/11 survivors.  

Melanie

 
 

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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You Must Remember This

Total Memory MakeoverMarilu Henner of Taxi fame offers a unique memory manual in Total Memory Makeover: Uncover Your Past, Take Charge of Your Future. As one of a handful of people with Highly Superior Autobiographical Memory (HSAM), Henner discusses her strong recall ability. She shares how it has helped her, and offers advice for boosting recollection. Henner knew from an early age that her memory was different, but she did not know there were others like her until she began working with researchers at the University of California,Irvine. While the average person can recall up to 11 events from each year of their life, Henner remembers every day of her life since the age of 12 in detail. 

 

Henner’s approach to memory strengthening is not about using mnemonic devices or strategies. Combining anecdotes from her personal and professional lives with scientific data and exercises designed to spark specific types of memories, Henner gently guides readers on a tour through their past. Simple exercises have the reader revisiting personal events (21st birthday) or recalling major world events (President Reagan’s assassination attempt) and remembering details from the day. Other chapters include effective journal keeping and working with children to develop a strong memory at an early age.

 

Henner documents methods to stop turning painful memories into emotional baggage and maintains that strong memory will create a positive blueprint for your future. Would you still eat that doughnut if you remembered the thrill of fitting into skinny jeans five years ago? Would you ask for that raise if you recalled the confidence boost when your prom date said yes? Would you get out of a new romance sooner if it brought back memories of a bad ex? Shakespeare wrote that “the past is prologue,” an idea supported by the principles behind Marilu’s memory makeover, where the focus is on you.

Maureen

 
 

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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Names Can Be Deceiving

Names Can Be Deceiving

posted by:
July 2, 2012 - 8:30am

NicevilleSomething dark and sinister is happening in Niceville, the newest book by Carsten Stroud. On the surface, this is a lovely old community in the Deep South. Niceville is filled with beautiful Victorian houses on streets lined with majestic live oak trees, decorated in drapes of Spanish moss. Many of the inhabitants are descendants of the original four families, which founded the town in 1764. However, there is an underlying current of malevolence in this picturesque hamlet. Something evil transpired in the past and it continues to haunt the residents. 

 

The story begins with the disappearance of a child on his way home from school. A surveillance camera records his last sighting outside of a pawnshop, and an instant later he vanishes. Readers discover that Niceville has an exorbitantly high number of missing persons’ cases, all relatives of the founding families. Even more questions are raised when the child is discovered ten days later, alive, in a sealed crypt. Additional storylines involve a horrific traffic accident, a bank robbery and the murder of multiple police officers, blackmail, and espionage.

 

An ominous presence seems to envelope Niceville, bringing out the worst in its inhabitants. This novel is a unique blend of supernatural thriller, crime drama, and mystery. Stroud cleverly weaves all of the disparate storylines together into a compelling read.  Niceville is certain to be a popular book club selection, with the assurance of lively discussions regarding the many intriguing aspects of this tale.

 

Jeanne