Friday, February 29, 2008

Wicked Lovely

WICKED LOVELY: Melissa Marr: HarperTeen: 2007: Young Adult: 328 pages

Aislinn has always been able to see faeries. It is something she inherited from her mother and grandmother. The fey are an unpredictable even sometimes cruel bunch and because of this she has always followed her grandmother’s rule to never let them know she has the Sight. Aislinn takes refuge in her friend, Seth’s, home which is a converted railroad car. Faeries are weakened by iron so they avoid it if they can.

But now Aislinn is being followed by two faeries. She has been chosen by the Summer King to be his queen. Many mortal girls have been chosen in the past but none have ever been the One. They are then cursed by the Winter Queen to carry her frost until another girl is chosen. Keenan, the Summer King attempts to woo Aislinn but discovers she is in love with Seth. Keenan must win his queen at any cost because united they can defeat the Winter Queen and save the world from a permanent winter.

This book comes the closest to the feel of Twilight as anything I have read except for the ending which disappointed me just a little. That being said, I would recommend this book to any one looking for a good story whether they liked Twilight or not.


Remember Me?

REMEMBER ME?: Sophia Kinsella: Dial Press: 2008: Fiction: 389 pages

What if you woke up and couldn’t remember the last three years of your life? And in that time you got a new job, had your teeth straightened, hair fixed (and maybe a bit more) and even have a wealthy, handsome husband.

Lexi Smart gets in a car accident, bumps her head and wakes up with the life she’s always dreamed of, but after initially being thrilled, she soon discovers that she is hated at work as a tyrant boss and has no spark with her uptight husband. What Lexi can’t figure out is how she could have changed so much in three years.

This charming yet unoriginal tale still has something to it. I enjoyed reading about Lexi’s struggle to mesh her old self with her new life.


The Little Lady Agency and the Prince

THE LITTLE LADY AGENCY AND THE PRINCE: Hester Browne: Pocket Books: 2008: Fiction: 391 pages

This is the third book in the Little Lady Agency, and my favorite in the series. I was little hesitant after seeing the title. The idea of having a prince as a potential love interest seemed a bit cheesy, but I read it anyways and was pleasantly surprised.

Melissa who is now engaged to her sophisticated boyfriend, Jonathan Riley, must once again deal with her overbearing family and a fiancé who is pressuring her to sell the Little Lady Agency and move to France with him. While making plans for her wedding, Melissa’s grandmother asks her to turn slimy Prince Nicolas von Helsing-Alexandros into a perfect gentleman so he will be allowed to return to his tiny country after his family was kicked out two generations ago. But Nicolas is a much smoother man than she’s used to fixing and she may be in over her head.

What I enjoyed most about this novel is the growth and development of Melissa. She stands up for what she wants and makes some difficult decisions creating some-what of a surprise ending.


Thursday, February 28, 2008


TERRITORY; Emma Bull; New York: Tor, 2007, 318 pgs. Science Fiction/Fantasy

Emma Bull is well-known for her modern urban fantasies, but in this truly unique offering, she is in Tombstone with the Earps, Doc Holliday, and the Clantons. Jesse Fox, a well-spoken, good-hearted sometime horse trainer and mining engineer, has arrived in Tombstone with no intention of staying, drawn there by his old friend Chow Lung, a doctor of Chinese medicine. Lung knows Fox to have mystical powers that Fox disavows, but when someone uses those same powers for dark purposes and strikes against Jesse's friends, he is drawn in. Observing the action is Mrs. Mildred Benjamin, a widow who works as a typesetter and then a reporter for the Tombstone Nugget, but she becomes involved as well when her feelings for Jesse deepen and she begins to see things she can't understand--Wyatt Earp in two simultaneous incarnations, for example. Territory is very rich reading--a treasure for those who love the West and her history, as well as for those who appreciate exquisitely well-drawn characters, considerations of the nature of free well, romance, and a seething, unsettling mysticism. (Fair warning: towards the end of the book you will need to pay close attention to keep all the players straight, and to not be disappointed by where the action does not conclude.)


Robot Dreams

ROBOT DREAMS: Sara Varon: First Second: Graphic Novel: 205 pages

In a graphic novel with no dialogue, a dog and a robot become friends, but an unfortunate trip to the ocean rusts the robot and he spends the year abandoned on the beach, dreaming of being reunited with the dog. This simply drawn story portrays friendship in a surprisingly poignant and powerful way. A good graphic novel for those unfamiliar with the format.



ARCHANGEL: Sharon Shinn: Ace Books: Fantasy: 390 pages

Gabriel is set to become the next archangel, but he must find Rachel, the woman an oracle has declared to be his bride, before he can assume his new role. Finding Rachel as a slave in a wealthy household introduces more problems than it solves, though, as Rachel dislikes Gabriel and the angels and prefers to live and help the oppressed Edori population. A premise that sounds ridiculous is a suspenseful and interesting story as told by Shinn. Engaging from the first page, this unusual romance successfully examines social structures, faith, power, corruption, and love.


Monday, February 25, 2008

Catering to Nobody

CATERING TO NOBODY: Diane Mott Davidson: Bantam Books: Mystery: 301 pages

Get ready for a smorgasbord of delicious suspense prepared by Goldy Bear, an irrepressible mistress of menus and amateur sleuth. Filled with a cast of colorful characters and superb recipes, Catering to Nobody is the first in a series that has made Diane Mott Davidson a best-selling author and the Queen of the Culinary Mystery. Goldy Bear, recently divorced, has made a home for herself and her young son in scenic Aspen Valley, Colorado. There, calls for Goldilock’s Catering have been steady enough to pay the bills. But when a mourner is felled by rat poison during a funeral buffet Goldy is serving, the police quickly close her business. Now it’s up to Goldy to find the rat that has tainted her food and her reputation.

This was a good mystery. I didn’t figure out whodunit until the very end. The cast of characters was mostly likable, although I thought that Patty Sue was too flighty and that Arch was a little weird. I did enjoy this first book in the series and would recommend it.


Size 12 is NOT Fat

SIZE 12 IS NOT FAT: Meg Cabot: Avon Books, c2006: Mystery, 345p.

Right down the chicklit alley. Heather Wells is a mid-twenties, ex-pop princess who used to sing her head off to screaming tweens in the malls across America. Now that her mom has run off to Argentina with her former manager—and all her money—she’s taken a job at one of New York College’s ‘residence halls’. *note: definitely not to be referred to as a dorm.

But college life isn’t all books and frat parties. Several students manage to get themselves killed and Heather somehow becomes the front runner on the case due to her insatiable curiosity and concern. And due to her current living situation, she’s on close terms with a gorgeous private detective who alternately aids and discourages her interest in the college crimes.

As a result of Heather’s colorful personal life—i.e., being the ex-girlfriend of Jordan Cartwright who happens to sing lead in an infamous boy band and now living with his older and much hotter brother (strictly in a landlord/landlee relationship much to her despair) the book offers lots of light humor and intrigue. Colorful language included.

*SIZE 14 IS NOT FAT EITHER contains further school murder mystery and a sure bet to read if you like the first.


Pillars of the Earth

PILLARS OF THE EARTH: Ken Follet: Penguin Audio, p2007: Books on CD-Fiction: 32 discs/41 hrs.

An extremely compelling saga of the struggle to build a cathedral during the twelfth century, Follet tells a fictionalized, yet historically accurate account of medieval England. Thoroughly researched and well written, the novel’s strength lies in its characters, who become full-fleshed individuals--each with their personal dreams, quests and/or schemes of vengeance. I came to treasure Prior Phillip and his arresting monks, love Tom Builder with his complex family, and despise Lord William and his perfidious men. A November 2007 Oprah Book Club selection, she mentioned she’d never read a book so fascinating, nor had it generated so much positive interest.

Medieval England was a tempestuous time period and the book recounts numerous scenes of rape, pillage, violence, and war with graphic accuracy. Readers sensitive to these subjects be forewarned. As I was listening to the audio version, it was fairly easy to skip to the next section whenever I came to a scene that was more gruesome than I could manage.


Friday, February 22, 2008

The Indian Bride

THE INDIAN BRIDE; Karin Fossum; New York: Harcourt, 2007; 297pgs. Fiction

Karin Fossum's Inspector Sejer books are beguiling, atmospheric, suspenseful, and distinguished most of all for their characterizations. In The Indian Bride, the people are so full of life, frailties, complexities that the mystery itself, of the brutal murder of a young bride from India, almost loses its primary importance. The "procedure" of what is, structurally, a police procedural is equally complicated. A young girl who was bicycling past the meadow as the murder was committed develops a crush on the young policeman, so she remembers things so she will have an excuse to call him; an older man sees someone he knows throws a suitcase into the lake, but can't bring himself to report it because he knows the man. What the reader knows, the police often don't, and the gaps are filled with suspense. Above all else, what Karin Fossum always recognizes (and honors) is the anguish of those who are left, and the Hardyesque progression of circumstances that bring terrible things to pass. Highly recommended.


Wednesday, February 20, 2008

The Year of the Goat

THE YEAR OF THE GOAT: 40,000 MILES AND THE QUEST FOR THE PERFECT CHEESE: Margaret Hathaway: Lyons Press: Nonfiction: 204 pages

Hathaway, a former manager of the well-known Magnolia Bakery in New York City, and her boyfriend (husband by the end of the book), Karl Schatz, a professional photographer, leave their life in the city to travel the country in pursuit of information on raising goats and producing goat cheese. In preparation for their own agricultural life, the couple visit goat farms, auctions, and conventions, learning about milking, trimming hooves, slaughtering animals, and all things goat.

Readers interested in agricultural life and road memoirs will enjoy this book--Hathaway is a likable, gentle narrator--but it suffers in comparison to the more prominent books about city dwellers turning to the rural life, most notably Barbara Kingsolver’s excellent, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle.


When You Need a Lift: But Don't Want to Eat Chocolate, Pay a Shrink, or Drink a Bottle of Gin

WHEN YOU NEED A LIFT: BUT DON'T WANT TO EAT CHOCOLATE, PAY A SHRINK, OR DRINK A BOTTLE OF GIN: Joy Behar and friends: Crown Publishers: Nonfiction: 232 pgs.

Comedienne and cohost of ABC's "The View," Joy Behar compiled personal advice solicited from more than 100 of her celebrity friends. Alphabetically ordered, by last name, the very first entry by Patch Adams spoke to my heart. He describes leaving the syntax of living in "because," as offering an excuse not to and moving into a life of "so that." In other words, transforming "I don't exercise because it's a pain" into "I exercise because it's good for my body."

While there are many obvious tips and some that are a bit trite, this is a quick read containing at least one new idea you haven't tried and producing many smile-inducing moments.


Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Just Jane: A Novel of Jane Austen’s Life

JUST JANE: A NOVEL OF JANE AUSTEN'S LIFE: Nancy Moser: Bethany House: Historical Fiction: 367 pgs.

This book follows the story of Jane Austen’s life from the time she was about 20 years old and started writing to her 30’s when her work was getting published. It is formed into a series of vignettes about different happenings through these years. Just Jane tries to reflect on what Jane Austen might have been thinking or feeling at those times, and how these events may have affected her novels.

I think my expectations were too high, because I was disappointed. There is a slow development of Jane's character, but any enlightenment I got from her growth wasn’t worth the effort of getting there (250 pages of effort). The book seems to be historically accurate, and I admire that she doesn't bend events in Austen's life to make them more dramatic, but this isn't a compelling read. Maybe if I had expected less of this going in, I would have appreciated it like I would appreciate a long, quiet, uneventful vacation in the English countryside.

Highland Fling

HIGHLAND FLING: Katie Fforde: St. Martin’s Press: Fiction: 326 pages

When Jenny visits Scotland as the virtual assistant of a man she’s never met, her job is to assess the state of a failing woolen mill. Once she meets the family running the mill (the Dalmains), though, she’s determined to save the enterprise no matter what. In the meantime, Jenny’s hands are full sparring with contentious but attractive Ross Grant, assisting Meggie Dalmain with her roadside food stand, and persuading Felicity Dalmain to stand up to her domineering mother.

This is a light, predictable read. Katie Fforde has written a number of books in the same genre, and the later ones (Bidding for Love and Restoring Grace) are her best.


Friday, February 15, 2008

Right Behind You

RIGHT BEHIND YOU: Gail Giles: Little, Brown Young Readers: 2007: Young Adult: 304 pgs.

A great novel about consequences, acceptance, and redemption. I have wondered how people live after they have killed someone, and this book tells that tale. Young Kip strikes out in a rage against a friend which results in the friend’s death. The story continues as Kip is placed in a mental ward and then released at the age of 14. Told from his perspective it’s a compelling story of his attempts to deal with his actions, and find a way to live a happy and productive life. A great book for reluctant readers. Although the theme is serious, it is a very enjoyable read and I would recommend it to anyone 14 years +.


The War Against Miss Winter

THE WAR AGAINST MISS WINTER: Kathryn Miller Haines: Harper: Mystery: 317 pgs.

It’s 1943, and Rosie Winter is a struggling actress in New York City. During the day she makes ends meet by pushing papers at a detective’s office. When she discovers her boss murdered in his closet, she’s pressured by his former clients to continue investigating his last case – the one that led to his untimely death. She must rely on her skills as an actress to charm those who hold the information she needs.

This book was charming and fun to read. Our heroine is a Katharine Hepburn-style woman whose wit adds life to an already interesting mystery (one of my favorite quips was, “Her sincerity was so thin you’d be arrested for wearing it out in public”). On top of that, Haines brings to life the details of New York in the midst of WWII: blackouts, jive joints, food stamps, automats, and the impatient wait for news from the front lines. This is an especially fun read for those interested in the theater world.


Thursday, February 14, 2008

A Mormon in the White House?


Well, how anti-climactic. But, had Mitt Romney been fortunate enough to stay in the 2008 Presidential race, this might have been the book to read. However, Romney could appear in some political arena in the future and thus warrant the reading.

The book is an interesting, inside look at a ‘what might have been.’ Written by a pro-Romney, non-Mormon, conservative author, the book highlights the best of Mitt Romney while countering opposition attacks with a “this is what actually happened and what the press might not get around to saying” approach. Perhaps biased by his belief in Romney, Hugh Hewitt can be considered a non-biased opinion on religious matters.

Useful knowledge for Mormons and non-Mormons alike. Members of Romney’s faith will benefit from a disclosure of the former governor’s personal, professional, and political career—enabling them to evaluate the man. Those outside Romney’s faith will have an opportunity to assess the man and learn a few basic tenets of his beliefs—in order to see how his religion does/does not influence his political aptitude.


Tuesday, February 12, 2008

The Cry of the Icemark

THE CRY OF THE ICEMARK: Stuart Hill: Scholastic: Fantasy: 472 pgs.

The young princess of a legendary nation befriends a mysterious boy with special abilities just as her kingdom is invaded by an undefeated enemy. She finds herself suddenly responsible for her entire country and struggles to gather a group of allies that grow increasingly impressive to meet the certain battle ahead.

This is an enjoyable book, if a little long. I loved the author’s language, things like describing the movements of leopards to “muscled water.” The main character starts out a bit on the childish side, but when she suddenly becomes responsible for so much she really rises to the task. I liked her a lot by the end of the book.


American Born Chinese

AMERICAN BORN CHINESE: Gene Luen Yang: First Second, 2006: Young Adult Comics: 233 p.

A graphic novel is a type of comic book, usually with a lengthy and complex storyline similar to those of novels, and often aimed at mature audiences. (So says

WoW. Who knew graphic novels were actually the new school of comic books? I was apprehensive, but this book blew me away. My uninformed perception was that graphic novels were a combination of the best in illustration with a mediocre plot thrown in to make them…something more than a children’s picture book. My bad. Super cool graphics?--Check. Simple plot?--Negative. American Born Chinese was the first graphic novel to be nominated for a National Book Award and the first graphic novel to win the American Library Association's Printz Award.

The adventures of the Monkey King, Jing Wang, Wei-Chin, and crazy cousin Chin-Kee are sure to capture your attention. The three separate plots of the novel explore the difficulties of being Chinese-American in a society where stereotypes abound. Being a teenager is hard in any country, and being ‘different’ can kill your social life--especially when your accent, appearance, and relatives differ so drastically from the ‘norm’. The temptation to give in to peer-pressure and blend with the cool crowd is nearly irresistible. Adhering to ancient cultural traditions seems unappealing when trying to navigate the hallways of high school, or rule a mountain of monkeys. And the question is…accept it or reject it?

The novel is full of a “should I really be laughing at this?” style of humor that the Politically Correct Police would be sure to censor. Yet, simultaneously Yang draws a mesmerizing tale while teaching some extraordinary values. And when the intricate plot lines magically intertwine in the last pages, the beauty of the tale is overwhelming. Deep enough for a college thesis and light enough for a young teen, the novel is a masterpiece of ingenuity.


Death of a Poison Pen

DEATH OF A POISON PEN: M.C. Beaton: Mysterious Press: Mystery: 244 pages

Jenny Ogilvie has traveled to northern Scotland and is attempting to seduce police inspector Hamish Macbeth, her friend’s former fiancé. Hamish, though, is preoccupied with a series of poison pen letters threatening local residents. When violence erupts, Hamish, Jenny, a sketchy new reporter in town, and one of the locals are all scrambling to solve the mystery and keep their own secrets to themselves.

While not a stand-alone title (this is one of many Hamish Macbeth mysteries), readers can easily enjoy this cozy mystery without having read Beaton’s previous books.


Bread Alone

BREAD ALONE: Judith Ryan Hendricks: William Morrow: Fiction: 358 pages

Going through an unexpected divorce, sheltered trophy wife Wynter Morrison leaves Los Angeles to accept a job in a Seattle bakery and be near her best friend. As she learns to live alone and support herself, Wynter finds new love with a bartender-turned-writer and a new sense of self. This is a fairly well-written story but it is as predictable as the summary suggests. Wynter’s love for baking and her interactions with a curmudgeonly co-worker give her some depth, but the bread recipes were the highlight of the book for me.

A book with a similar plot but much more likable characters and originality is Lolly Winston’s Good Grief, a novel in which Sophie Stanton moves to Oregon and opens a bakery after her husband dies from cancer.


Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow

SUN AND MOON, ICE AND SNOW: Jessica Day George: Bloomsbury: Young Adult: 328 pages

To help an enchanted bear and ensure her family’s good fortune, a girl travels to an ice palace where she must stay for one year and one day. Her curiosity about the palace and its owner endangers the enchanted bear, though, and she must travel east of the sun and west of the moon to save him. Based on a Norwegian fairy tale, this is a charming retelling full of the best fairy tale elements—romance, mystery, and courageous young heroines.


Friday, February 8, 2008

A Pale Horse

A PALE HORSE; Charles Todd; New York: Morrow, 2008. Mystery

Inspector Ian Rutledge, the haunted and war-weary veteran of World War I, is back in this story of a missing government chemist, and a murderous spree in an isolated housing development below the enormous white horse carved out of the chalk cliffs of Berkshire. Resentful local police, suspicious residents, angry children, and multiple red herrings complicate the Inspector's hunt for the missing man and a spree killer who may or may not have a connection to the enigmatic Gaylor Partridge. Not written for fans of breakneck pacing, A Pale Horse is a complicated puzzle, and a complex consideration of wide and endless swath of destruction that warring nations visit on their peoples. Echoes of the book of Revelation's
"pale horse, pale rider" fill the landscape as well as the hearts and minds of the hapless victims of the Great War.


Thursday, February 7, 2008

Just Beyond the Clouds

JUST BEYOND THE CLOUDS: Karen Kingsbury: Center Street: Romance: 352 pages

Just Beyond the Clouds is the sequel to A Thousand Tomorrows and follows the story of Cody Gunner after his wife Ali passes away. Elle Dalton is director of an Independent Learning Center for Down Syndrome adults when she meets Cody, her student Carl Joseph's brother, who is intent on removing Carl from the center. Romance ensues between Elle, still brokenhearted over being jilted at the altar four years ago, and Cody, an angry bull rider who still grieves the loss of his wife to cystic fibrosis. Meanwhile, it's up to Elle-and Carl Joseph-to show Cody that Down Syndrome adults are capable of much more than most people believe.

I like the way Karen Kingsbury writes and this book was no different. I enjoyed learning more about the opportunities for Down Syndrome adults and seeing Cody’s character develop even more through this novel. I would recommend this book to someone who is looking for a light inspirational romance.


Dating Dead Men

DATING DEAD MEN: Harley Jane Kozak: Doubleday: Mystery: 326 pages

Wollie Shelley has a lot going on. Her greeting card store is being inspected by headquarters, she’s participating in a dating research project that sends her out with different men every night, and she’s just discovered a dead body on the driveway to the mental hospital where her brother lives. Caught up in the murder with an attractive ex-con on the lam, Wollie hurries to solve the crime before the Mafia, responsible for the murder, decides she knows too much.

Kozak’s mysteries have been compared to Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum novels. There’s less language and objectionable content in Kozak’s first book than in Evanovich’s series, which many readers will appreciate, but there’s also less humor and a less appealing romance. Still, Wollie is a likeable character who gets into amusing scrapes, and the story moves along at a nice pace. Fans of chick lit and light-hearted mysteries will enjoy this series.


Monday, February 4, 2008

Service Included: Four-Star Secrets of an Eavesdropping Waiter

SERVICE INCLUDED: FOUR-STAR SECRETS OF AN EAVESDROPPING WAITER: Phoebe Damrosch: William Morrow Publishing: Biography: 240 pgs.

If you enjoy watching the Food Network then this memoir may be for you. It's an entertaining story from a young woman struggling to pursue a writing career. She took some time off from getting her degree to work in an upscale restaurant in NYC. Along the way she finds love, and an appreciation for gourmet food. This was an interesting look into a world most of us never have a chance to experience, a world of 15 course meals that can take up to 6 hours and 30 different utensils. I enjoyed her stories of strange and wonderful customers, as well as the behind-the- scenes look into the kitchen of a four- star restaurant.


Friday, February 1, 2008

The Other Boleyn Girl

THE OTHER BOLEYN GIRL: Philippa Gregory: Scribner: 2003: Fiction: 664 pages

The story of Anne Boleyn and her sister Mary, the other Boleyn girl, and their rivalry for King Henry VIII’s affection. Mary was the king’s first Boleyn mistress and supposedly gave birth to two children by the king, including a son, but Anne won the ultimate prize of becoming Queen of England. Sounds interesting, but unfortunately this book moved far too slowly. I kept reading because the historical accounts of the time period were interesting and it made me want to learn more about Henry VIII’s reign. Gregory is after all known for her historical accuracy, but regrettably the black and white characterization of Mary as a saint and Anne as a cruel, heartless whore turned me off the story even further. I’m hoping the movie will turn out better.