Wednesday, March 26, 2008

The Safe-Keeper's Secret

THE SAFE-KEEPER’S SECRET: Sharon Shinn: Viking: Young Adult: 222 pages

Damiana is the local safe-keeper who hears the secrets of others and holds them until they need to be spoken. Two children are born on the same night—one to Damiana and one to the king. The king’s child is delivered to Damiana to be raised as her own, and the two babies, Reed and Fiona, are treated as brother and sister. Fifteen years later on her deathbed, Damiana confides her own carefully concealed secret to Fiona, which has lasting consequences for Fiona and Reed.

Sharon Shinn has a very enjoyable writing style and creates stories that move quickly right from the first page. The revelation of Damiana’s secret occurs at the end of the story in a way that was not entirely satisfying, but prepares readers for the next two books in the series.


Saturday, March 22, 2008

Snow Flower and the Secret Fan

SNOW FLOWER AND THE SECRET FAN: Lisa See: Random House Trade Paperbacks: Fiction: 2006: 288 pgs.

Lily, at 80, is reflecting back on her life starting with her daughter days in 19th-century rural China. Society was ruled by rigid codes of conduct, especially for women. Women were to have their feet bound, marry men through arranged marriages, and reside in upstairs women’s chambers. Their lives were isolated and their only value was in having sons. Through all of this isolation and hardship, Lily and Snow Flower are matched as laotongs, an emotional match that would last a lifetime. They use the secret women’s writing of nu shu to share their joys and heartaches on a fan that they pass back and forth over the years.

This is a story of love, friendship, rebellion, pride and heartbreak. The description of foot binding was agonizing, as narrated by Lily at the tender age of 7. This novel really focuses on the relationship of Lily and Snow Flower and how it changes over the years . Great detail is given to certain events and then other events are barely given any notice.

I really liked the book but I wish the author had just told the story instead of foreshadowing certain events so many times that when they actually happened, it was kind of a let down.


Wednesday, March 19, 2008

The Girl Who Stopped Swimming

THE GIRL WHO STOPPED SWIMMING: Joshilyn Jackson: Grand Central Publishing: Mystery: 308 pgs.

Laurel has worked very hard to put her past behind her and create a perfect life for her family but it all starts to unravel the night a ghost enters her bedroom and leads her to the body of a dead girl in the backyard pool. As Laurel tries to discover what really happened that night, it soon becomes apparent that she must ask her estranged sister Thalia for help. Thalia, an actess who lives to stir up trouble, is about as different from Laurel as two people can be. As the two work together, they not only come closer to finding out why the girl died, but their own family's buried history is revealed.

The author was able to write in a manner that was very sophisticated yet quick and easy to read. She portrays a strong Southern quality throughout her story. Each of the key players is fully developed and brings hidden agendas and motivations to the story. This is a wonderful character driven tale.


Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Murder 101

MURDER 101: Maggie Barbieri: St. Martin’s Minotaur, 2006: 275 p.

Murder seems to be the main subject for this hip, young English professor. But, Alison Bergeron is taking the class this time, not teaching it. When her car is stolen and the dead body of a young co-ed is found in the trunk, she (and her recently divorced ex-husband) look like the top two suspects. The case is complicated by the mob connections of the murdered student and the ‘family’ wants answers and a private revenge that includes their own version of justice. However, NYPD Homicide Detective Bobby Crawford is there to see that procedure is followed. And the professor does more than just fall over her own too-high heels, she begins to fall for the warm, trustworthy, single(?) detective. So when keeping watch over her house leads to him sleeping inside—on the couch of course—Alison doesn’t really mind. But will the detective exonerate Alison just because she’s attractive?

A light, chicklit style mystery to read over the weekend.


Monday, March 17, 2008

No Good Deeds

NO GOOD DEEDS: Laura Lippman: William Morrow: 2006: Mystery: 343 pages

A desire to do a good deed puts Private Investigator, Tess Monaghan, and her soft hearted boyfriend, Edgar “Crow” Ransome, on the trail of the murder of an assistant U.S. Attorney.

Crow spends his time outside of work donating food to soup kitchens in the Baltimore inner city. When Crow’s tires are slashed in a con by a young Blackman named Lloyd Jupiter, Crow brings him home for a good meal and a warm bed. While there, Tess discovers by accident that Lloyd may know something about the still unsolved murder of Gregory Youssef, an assistant U.S. Attorney. Tess gives the information to the local paper on the condition that Lloyd will remain anonymous, but after a friend of Lloyd’s is murdered and Tess receives a visit from three menacing law enforcement agents avid to know her source, she knows she gotten herself, Crow and Lloyd into a dangerous situation.

A large portion of the book was devoted to how Tess could tell the truth to the three government agents without giving any information away, which got to be very dull after a while. The ending though had a few plot twists and enough action to make up for the boring parts. The biggest problem for me, though, was the huge amounts of profanity in the book.


The London Eye Mystery

THE LONDON EYE MYSTERY: Siobhan Dowd: Young Adult: 322 pages

Autistic Ted and his sister Kat watch their cousin Salim enter the London Eye—a ride similar to a giant Ferris wheel—but when the doors open to let him off, Salim has disappeared. With only a few clues, Ted and Kat piece together the events surrounding the mystery and help the police relocate Salim. Ted narrates the story, giving readers an unusual perspective that is filtered through Ted’s disorder. Mild and gentle, this is a book appropriate for middle readers on up.


Saturday, March 15, 2008

Bones to Ashes

BONES TO ASHES: Kathy Reichs: Scribner: 2007: Mystery: 320 pages

This is the 10th book in a series narrated by Temperance Brennan, Forensic Anthropologist. An exciting, cerebral read, I enjoyed the mixture of mystery and science in this novel. The story revolves around a cold case of missing and murdered girls. Tempe is wracked with guilt over the disappearance of a childhood friend over 20 years ago. As Tempe works with her ex-lover Ryan on the cases she discovers a connection to her old friend and begins to suspect that she may have been one of the missing girls. I would recommend this to anyone who enjoys CSI type reads, but there was one unsavory incident involving child pornography that was painful to read. Interesting to note that the author is vice president of the American Academy of Forensic Scientists and the producer of Fox's Bones series.


Beautiful Boy: A Father's Journey Through his Son's Addiction

BEAUTIFUL BOY: A FATHER'S JOURNEY THROUGH HIS SON'S ADDICTION; David Sheff; Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2008, 326 pgs. Non-Fiction

Nic Sheff is a bright, funny, precocious, caring child whose descent into the frenetic, vacant-eyed persona of meth addiction is a dagger to the reader's heart, not to mention what it does to his family and friends. David Sheff's harrowing memoir grew from an article written for the New York Times Magazine, and traces Nic's his happy childhood, the unhappy days of his parents' divorce; his first experiments (at age 12) with drinking and marijuana use, and then crystal meth. In telling Nic's story, his father tells us the stories of all the victims of the meth epidemic in our country, but especially of the desolate parents, brothers and sisters, friends who are helpless against the ravages of a disease that becomes essentially incurable after just the one bad choice. (One mother in a support group is glad to learn that her Harvard-educated daughter is in jail, because at least she knows where she is.) Anyone who has supposed that drug abuse can be readily overcome in rehab, or by the simple exercise of willpower, or that intractable addiction does not have a physical basis should read this book, along with anyone--which should be all of us!--who wants to help stem the wicked, filthy, deadly tide of substance abuse which robs us of our peace and of our children.


The Peacegiver: How Christ Offers to Heal Hearts and Homes

THE PEACEGIVER: HOW CHRIST OFFERS TO HEAL HEARTS AND HOMES: James L. Ferrell: Shadow Mountain Publishing: Nonfiction: 203 pgs.

The Peacegiver is written as an extended parable to explain the peace that comes through the atonement of Christ. Rick believes in Christ and loves his four children but his marriage is in serious danger from petty arguments and wounded pride. When things look their darkest, Rick's deceased grandfather starts visiting him in dreams, to try to help him find the peace and forgiveness promised by Christ. Through powerful interpretations of several Old Testament stories the author shows how the atonement is designed to make is as easy as possible for us to forgive others and find our own peace and salvation.

I do not usually enjoy reading nonfiction books but this read very much like a novel. I discovered new aspects of the atonement that I had never considered before. At some points I found myself wishing the author did not repeat himself so much but for the most part I enjoyed the book. This book has many good discussion points for a book club.


Tuesday, March 11, 2008

No Trace

NO TRACE: Barry Maitland: St. Martin’s Minotaur: Mystery: 320 pgs.

In a London neighborhood known for its artists and bohemian style, six year old Tracey Rudd is abducted from her home. She is the daughter of notorious contemporary artist Gabriel Rudd, best known for the grotesque "Dead Puppies," a work centered around his wife's suicide five years earlier. While Rudd exploits Tracey's abduction as an inspiration for a major new work, D.C.I. David Brock and Detective Sergeant Kathy Kolla hunt for the missing girls' kidnapper, who is suspiciously connected to the eccentric community of artists, dealers, and collectors in the neighborhood.

Themes which question the morality and drive of contemporary art were woven with motives and characters in this mystery, which was intriguing for me. The feel of the book reminded me a lot of an episode of Law and Order.


Sorcery & Cecelia or The Enchanted Chocolate Pot

SORCERY & CECELIA OR THE ENCHANTED CHOCOLATE POT: Patricia Wrede & Caroline Stevermer: Harcourt: Young Adult: 320 pages

A great deal is happening in London this season.
For starters, there's the witch who tried to poison Kate at Sir Hilary's induction into the Royal College of Wizards. (Since when does hot chocolate burn a hole straight through one's dress?!)
Then there's Dorothea. Is it a spell that's made her the toast of the town--or could it possibly have something to do with the charm-bag under Oliver's bed?
And speaking of Oliver, just how long can Cecelia and Kate make excuses for him? Ever since he was turned into a tree, he hasn't bothered to tell anyone where he is!
The girls might think it all a magical nightmare . . . if only they weren't having so much fun.

This book is sort of a Jane Austen meets Harry Potter novel. It was slow in the beginning, but by the end I was excited to see how it would all turn out. I would recommend this book to readers that enjoy historical fiction or the regency period, although it may be a little too slow for someone who enjoyed the pace Harry Potter.


Change of Heart

CHANGE OF HEART: Jodi Picoult: Atria Books: Fiction: 447 pages

Eleven years ago, Shay Bourne was convicted of murdering 7-year-old Elizabeth Nealon and her police officer stepfather. Now on death row, Shay is obsessed with the idea of donating his heart to Elizabeth’s sister Claire, who suffers from a heart condition, after his execution. With the help of a priest who served on the jury that convicted him and an ACLU attorney, Shay attempts to find redemption after death.

In her newest novel, Picoult once again considers complicated moral issues in a legal setting. Picoult excels at creating multi-dimensional characters and plots and never resorts to a dichotomy between good guys and bad guys. My Sister’s Keeper and Nineteen Minutes remain my favorite of Picoult’s work, but Change of Heart is an interesting, thoughtful book.


Suffer the Little Children

SUFFER THE LITTLE CHILDREN; Donna Leon; New York: Atlantic Monthly, 2007. 264 pgs.

This latest book in Donna Leon's superb Venetian mystery series finds Commissario Guido Brunetti investigating an early morning raid of a pediatrician's home by the Carabinieri, to seize the couple's illegally adopted child. The doctor is seriously injured, and questions arise as to why such a brutal raid occurred. Short on conventional violence, Suffer the Little Children is long on the horrific damage we do to one another with self-righteous meddling. Venice, as always, is a beautiful, palpable presence in the story, not just backdrop, but a character herself. Commissario Brunetti is a delight as well, a loving husband and father, and a police officer of great compassion and a piercing intelligence.


Thursday, March 6, 2008

Tangled Roots

TANGLED ROOTS: G.G. Vandagriff: Deseret Book, 2007: Mystery: 295p.

Genealogy and murder—what’s not to love? Another high adventure featuring Alexandra and Briggie, the two women who founded RootSearch, Inc.—a company designed to help those with genealogical dilemmas. And when mysteries unearth murders, the dilemma reaches thoroughly tangled proportions. Not to worry, with Alexandra’s mother (a recovering alcoholic), Briggie’s handy shotgun and several love interests to boot, the team is more than capable of handling any family scandal—past AND present.

More action than your local Family History Center provides and sure to appeal to those who’ve come to appreciate the intricacies of genealogical charts and the search for lost relations. Be sure to read “About the Author” before or after you read the novel--the novel’s origins might be the most interesting mystery of all.