Sworn to Silence by Linda Castillo

This mystery has been getting a lot of pre-publication press, and a lot of positive reviews, so I was first in the list to grab it when it arrived at the library.

Kate Burkholder is the female, curse-word-using, gun-toting Chief of Police for Painters Miller, Ohio, a small bucolic town that is half Amish and half "English". So when a series of violent murders of young women - all linked by gory details - rocks the town, Kate is square in the middle of it, battling time, the weather, her city council and her own past to solve the murders - and her own past harbors a dark secret that could affect the case...

Oh, and Kate used to be Amish.

All these elements together combine for an engaging cast of characters - especially Kate - and a twisty and turny mystery as the police race to find the killer. Interestingly, I figured out who the murderer was about halfway through...and I NEVER figure out the murderer until the page when it's revealed! Still, though I had my suspicions of the murderer, it didn't lessen my enjoyment of Kate's struggles and of the setting of Painters Mill, even when the killer was revealed (I was right, even!)

I'm glad to see Castillo is writing a new Kate Burkholder novel - I'll be in line for it!


The Summer Kitchen by Karen Weinreb

Nora Banks lives an idyllic life in Bedford, New York - huge renovated home, great kids, solid marriage, and all the trappings of a rich, kept wife with no worries in the world, though the rigidity of "fitting in" in Bedford has always bothered Nora somewhat.

But all that changes when the doorbell rings, and the feds take away Nora's husband for white collar crimes - two years in the pen, and suddenly Nora is left alone in the shark tank of Bedford.

As her possession disappear, her dignity takes a hit, and her children have to transfer to public school, Nora transforms from a fairly shallow, kept character into one of strength and more depth - doing what she needs to do to keep her remaining family intact, while keeping her head up. Enter her baking skills and a growing business...

Weinreb's writes so convincingly about the "lives of rich wives", because this novel is based on her own experiences (husband and all). I really enjoyed the "peek behind the curtain" at that type of lifestyle, though at times I found the writing a bit dense for the story it was telling.

Overall, this is an ultimately hopeful story with a great setting and engaging characters. Reminds me why I'm NOT cut out for life in places like Bedford!


Time for another fast 'n feisty reading round up...let's go!

Candy Everybody Wants by Josh Kilmer-Purcell

I adore JKP's memoir (I Am Not Myself These Days) so I was eager to grab his fiction debut. Filled with snappy dialogue, laugh out loud moment, and oodles of 80s pop references, but also has a darker tone (homelessness, coming out in the 80s, heartbreak, drugs, etc), which diluted the funny, but was still wonderfully written...

Lady Killer by Lisa Scottoline

After hearing Scottoline speak at ALA, I'm on a quest to read all her titles. I listened to Barbara Rosenblat's amazing narration of this title, which is the first of read of Scottoline's "Rosato & Associates" law firm. Two thumbs up for great characters, great pacing, great plot!

Hot Pursuit by Suzanne Brockmann

Love anything by Brockmann, including this one. Sam and Alyssa may be everyone else's favorites, but I like my boys better - now adding Gilligan to the list. ;-) Great action, great sexual tension, great writing, great characters, great series!

Miss Harper Can Do It by Jane Berentson

This wasn't what I expected, but I really enjoyed it. Annie Harper's boyfriend has just been deployed to Iraq, so she decides to keep a "wartime memoir" of her own life back home, complete with stories of her students, her best friend Gus, a chicken, an elderly lady, and a lot of soul searching. Didn't end how I expected, but I really loved Annie's "voice" (and footnotes!). Great!

The Late, Lamented Molly Marx by Sally Koslow

Molly Marx is sarcastic, loveable, the mother of a 4 year old girl, somewhat happily married, successful...and dead. This is narrated by Molly (in present and past days) as she watches from "The Duration" while her family mourns her loss and tries to solve her murder/suicide/accident (?). Sort of like The Lovely Bones without the gut wrenching and tear inducing. I really liked Molly!


Here's my review from Crucial Pop about Lisa Scottoline's Look Again...


Last week was the American Library Association meeting in Chicago.

Picture, if you will, 30,000 librarians, thousands of vendors, the city of Chicago and more sessions, books, products and walking than you can shake a stick at…

And that still doesn't give you the scope of this annual conference.

I lugged home oodles of books, galleys and information from various vendors, and also had the pleasure of meeting several authors - but one of the highlights for me was meeting bestselling author Lisa Scottoline – a firecracker of a speaker and an effusive personality.

Scottoline gave an author talk, then spent ages autographing books and chatting with librarians, and was as complimentary of our profession as we were of hers.

Scottoline was also signing and giving away her most recent novel, Look Again, a stand-alone novel just released in April.

Journalist and working mother Ellen Gleeson is casually checking her mail one day when a simple white card jumps out at her: one of those "have you seen me?" cards featuring kidnapped children with age progressed photos to help find missing children.

And the child on the card looks exactly like her adopted son, Will.

Two years ago, while investigating a story for the newspaper where she works, Ellen fell in love with Will, a child in the hospital with a heart problem who was put up for adoption by his young, unwed mother. She legally adopted him, and they have been happy together ever since. But the more she ruminates on that card, the more the questions start to pop up in her mind, making her wonder about Will’s true past. As any investigative journalist would, Ellen begins to look further into Will's history...and uncovers secrets she never wanted to find.

This is a tightly written, fast-paced story, filled with Scottoline's trademark wit and vivacity, and once again set in Philadelphia (as are all her novels). Ellen is a likable protagonist, and the short chapters pull you further and further into the story, each one ending and forcing you to read just.one.more!

Scottoline has also written a series of novels revolving around Rosato & Associates, an all-female law firm in Philly, as well as several stand-alone novels, all of which feature strong female protagonists, snappy dialogue and fast paced action. Likewise, if you enjoy listening to audiobooks, you cannot do better than Scottoline’s novels, narrated by the incomparable Barbara Rosenblat (who has been likened to audiobooks the way Meryl Streep is to film).

Thanks for the author talk, the free novel, the autograph, and the hug, Lisa. You’re a rock star!


Benny and Shrimp by Katarina Mazetti

This novel, due out this week, is from Swedish author Mazetti about two middle aged people who meet on a park bench in a cemetery.

Told in alternating voiced, staccato paced chapters, this details the odd courtship and even odder relationship of Benny, a bachelor cow farmer who lives in a rambling farmhouse with his mum's crosstitch still on the walls. Shrimp is an uptight librarian with a "dentist's office" for a home and fully organized life. When these two collide, however, the sparks fly - the sexual tension and laughter just flows from them both.

But reality begins to set in as they struggle to find a future together, with neither willing to compromise their previously comfortable, mundane life.

This is a totally quirky, odd, charming little novel that I couldn't put down - the chapters keep you reading, and you root and root for these two "odd ducks" to get together. The ending is a bit of a cliffhanger, making me wonder if Mazetti is done telling the story of these two unique characters...

What a fun little novel! I loved it!


The Lace Makers of Glenmara by Heather Barbieri

This is one of those books you want to curl up with, not moving until the last page is turned.

Kate Robinson is a heartbroken 26-year old fashion designer who is running away from a broken engagement to Ireland, traveling hither and yon, until she unexpectedly arrives in Glenmara, a tiny village on the coast. There, she is taken in by Bernie, one of the "lace makers" of the village.

What follows is a charming story of Kate's rebirth into her own skin, as well as vignettes into the lives of the other "lace makers", who come under fire when they start combining their traditional lace with, well, ladies underthings. ;-)

Barbieri perfectly evokes the spirit of a small village - I could see the green fields, hear the waves, and perfectly picture the homes, the cups of tea, and the clacking of needles as lace is created by these talented women. What a great setting!

Of course, there is a touch (or two) of romance, a bit of scandal, and ultimately a happy ending, but the journey there is a lovely one.

Highly recommended!


The Divorce Party by Laura Dave

I'd not personally heard of divorce parties until this book (must not be a Midwestern thing!), but it sounded like an intriguing premise for a book...

The marriage of Gwyn and Thomas - rich, accomplished residents of Montauk - is dissolving, and rather than ending in bitterness, they are throwing a "divorce party" to celebrate the thirty-five years they were together before moving apart, planning a lavish event with all their friends and family to end things on a good note, rather than a negative one.

Running parallel to Gwyn's story is that of Maggie, her soon to be daughter-in-law, who is engaged to Gwyn's son Nate. But as Maggie is due to arrive in Montauk, she is blindsided by secrets that Nate has kept from her...

Told in alternating chapters from Gwyn and Maggie's points of view, this is actually a story full of depth and emotion, at times funny and at times sad, all tied into one memorable day in Montauk, but set into motion decades before.

From the cover, this may look like a typical chick lit title, but it truly is full of heart, depth, and tells a great story. Gwyn and Maggie are great and well developed protagonists, and the whole story was well written, engaging and easy to read.

Highly recommended!


Best Friends Forever by Jennifer Weiner

It's no secret how much I love Jennifer Weiner's books, so I was eager to read her latest one, and as always, it's great. :-)

Addie Downs and Valerie Adler were best friends from the age of nine, but a rift in high school sent them in different directions. Addie, the overweight, shy girl, and Valerie, the gorgeous outgoing one find themselves far, far apart from each other, until an accident sends Valerie to Addie's home the night of their high school reunion, begging for help.

The story then alternates from the past to the present and back again, as the girls try to repair their friendship, fix the accident, fall in and out of love (in the past, and the present) and we discover the journeys the girls have taken since high school.

I so sympathized with Addie, a heartbreaking character who eventually blooms into herself, and even with Valerie, for all she endured quietly.

This is another great novel in the Weiner library!


Still Alice by Lisa Genova

My friend Nat read and recommended this book, so I picked it up when it finally returned to the library.

Talk about heartbreaking.

Alice Howland is a professor of psychology at Harvard, has three great children and a stable marriage, but when she begins to forget things, lose things, and then becomes disoriented only a mile from home, she consults the medical profession.

Only to find that, at fifty years old, she has early-onset Alzheimer's Disease.

What follows is Alice's heartbreaking descent into dementia, and is written from her point of view, making the read feel her frustration, her anger, her grasping for words. I found *myself* stressing out about the tests given to test Alice's mental capacity. She eventually gives herself a test on her Blackberry every day, promising her deteriorating self that when she cannot answer the questions on it, she was commit suicide.

This is a smartly written, educational and yes, sad, account of one woman's journey into the shadows...


Sarah's Key by Tatiana de Rosnay

I was sent this title ages ago along with another book from a publisher, and it got buried amongst my piles of books (oops!). I recently unearthed it, and dove in...

Sarah is the daughter of a Jewish family living in Paris as World War II is heating up. One day, the authorities come to round up all Jews living in the area, and Sarah's brother hides in a closet out of fear. Sarah locks him in, and promises to return later to release him, pocketing the key. Her family were then part of the now famous (in France) Vél' d'Hiv' roundup, where Jews were then dispersed to concentration camps.

Running parallel to this story is that of modern-day journalist, Julia Jarmond, who seeks to find out more about the roundup, and discovers that Sarah's story is much closer to her than she thought.

This is a devastating, thought provoking, well written story, filled with suspense, sadness and ultimately, hope. I can see now why book discussion groups are snapping up this title.

A great addition to the scads of "Holocaust" fiction (and non fiction) on the shelves...


Time for another blast of mini-reviews - let's go! :-)

Home Safe by Elizabeth Berg

I listened to this latest title from prolific writer Berg - much like her others, it's a pleasant enough story, a quiet story that meanders and tumbles along towards the happy ending. And there's always a happy ending. :-)

Round Robin by Jennifer Chiaverini

Number two in the "Elm Creek Quilts" series, where we learn more about the other quilters in the group, and see the development of their new business venture. These books are like comfort food to me. :-)

Bound to Please by Lilli Feisty

Saw this on our new book shelf - scandalous! ;-) Of course, I had to read it - whoo, boy! Straight erotica, here.

Looking for Alaska by John Green

I had our book discussion group read this this month - though some of the "ladies" weren't keen on it, I still love it as much as I did the first time I read it.

A Guide to Taste, Quality and Style by Tim Gunn

One of the "memorial" books we bought for Mum, who loved Tim. A great, easy read on how to always look fabulous. Full of snarky humour and big words. Thanks, Tim! :-)

Growing Pains by Billie Piper

I've always wanted to know more about Piper (British actress who plays Rose Tyler on Dr. Who), so I ILLed her autobiography. Honest, interesting, and compulsively readable!


Halfway to Heaven: My White-Knuckled - and Knuckleheaded - Quest for the Rocky Mountain High by Mark Obmascik

What is with me and mountaineering books, when I couldn't climb a big hill, much less a mountain?? ;-)

Mark is a journalist, who, on the enthusiasm of his son, climbs a "Fourteener" in the Rocky Mountains, and finds himself drawn to the mountaineering lifestyle (Fourteeners are Rocky Mountains higher than 14,000 feet). And so, he decides he's going to climb all 54 Fourteeners, one way or another - despite having no previous experience.

He drops weight, he goes on a lot of "man dates" (his wife refuses to let him climb alone so he has to find climbing buddies along the way), he summits and summits and summits...and all along tells his story, which is filled with laugh out loud moments, history of the peaks, and even a few tragedies he is touched by. Mark's style is breezy and approachable, and you totally feel like you are along for his hikes, and feel his terror, his celebration, and his triumph as he strives for his goal.

I really loved the writing, the scenery, and the company of this novel - I'm definitely going to seek out Mark's novel The Big Year next.

What a great read! Now, if only I had a mountain to climb in Indiana....;-)


Time for another round of mini book reviews of what I've been reading...and I've been reading...A LOT! Can't seem to keep up with my reviews, so let's flash our way through these, yes? :-)

Blue Heaven by C.J. Box

I've never read anything by Box, but the name comes up as a "if you like Coben/Patterson/Baldacci, you'll like", so I checked it out. Good mystery set in the wilds of Idaho with a lot of twists and turns - and pretty scenery!

The Widow's Season by Laura Brodie

"Sarah McConnell's husband had been dead three months when she saw him in the grocery store..." is the teaser on the back of this contemplative novel. I can't really tell you the plot, except to say you won't know until the very last page what story to believe...

City of Bones by Cassandra Clare

This is the first in the "Moral Instruments" trilogy, written for young adults. What a fantastic fantasy novel! Demons, vampires, love triangles, mystery, suspense and more fill this well-written, totally engrossing novel! Sexy, dark, dangerous - I can't wait for the next book in the series (I've put a hold on it for as soon as it's returned!)

Finger Lickin' Fifteen by Janet Evanovich

Book fifteen in the perennially popular Stephanie Plum series. The may be formulaic, but these novels are always fun - and funny! Lula witnesses a murder, Stephanie and Joe are on the outs, and Ranger needs help with a business problem...all this adds up for another fun romp through the Burg, with a few laugh out loud moments along the way!

Dead Lucky: Life After Death on Mount Everest by Lincoln Hall

In continuing my Mount Everest dorkdom, I had to read this memoir about Hall, who was left for dead near the summit of Mount Everest but who amazingly survived an entire night on the peak and was rescued the following morning. Pretty inspiring story with lots of Everest lore and information throughout.

All Together Dead by Charlaine Harris

The seventh book in the Sookie Stackhouse series - this time Sookie and Co. head to Illinois for a vampire convention where murder and mayhem inevitably abound. Good times!

Fields of Light by Joseph Hurka

I've had this book for ages, and have finally read it, about Hurka's father during the Communist occupation of Czechoslovakia, as well as World War II. Made me yearn to be back in Prague again, and to hear my grandfather's stories about his time in Prague. Very nice descriptive little book...

June Bug by Jess Lourey

This is the second title in the "Murder By Month Mysteries" series, and features intrepid librarian and journalist Mira James, on the hunt for a big honkin' diamond, a long ago mystery and touch of murder in Minnesota. Always fun!

Crouching Vampire, Hidden Fang by Katie MacAlister

Finally! The second half of the story of vampire Kristoff and his Beloved, Pia, which was begun in Zen and the Art of Vampires. Ties things up nicely, but with a lot of drama, sexy scenes and mystery along the way. Whew!

The French Gardener by Santa Montefiore

I admit, it was the cover that caught me, but I really enjoyed this novel - set at a rambling estate in Dorset with a garden that needs refurbishing - and magic. This details two marriages, two affairs, two endings...a descriptive, lovely, sad and happy, beautifully written novel. Perfect for a rainy day!

The Last Beach Bungalow by Jennie Nash

A woman celebrating her five years of remission from breast cancer finds herself fantasizing about a contest to win a beach bungalow, while trying to repair her marriage - and find herself. A short, spare, lovely novel.

Evermore by Alyson Noel

Looking for a new YA novel to recommend to lovers of Twilight? Look no further! First love, brooding boy, lost girl, good and evil - this novel has it all - and there are more novels to follow!

The Lover's Knot by Clare O'Donohue

A fresh take on cozy mysteries - Nell moves in with her grandmother to care for her after a fall and takes on helping at her quilt shop to heal her broken engagement. A fling, a quilting circle and a murder later, things are heating up for Nell...

Busy Woman Seeks Wife by Annie Sanders

Alex is too busy to care for her house, cook, or clean, so she advertises for a "wife" to care for all domestic things. What she doesn't count on is an out of work actor, Frankie, stepping into the role and what follows is a fun story with great supporting characters, a bit of a mystery, and a great take on role reversal. Fun!

Living Dead Girl by Elizabeth Scott

Short, spare, very sad YA tale about Alice, who has spent the last five years with Ray, her abductor, who is waiting for her own demise as Ray seeks out another girl to kidnap. Haunting...

American Wife by Curtis Sittenfeld

I had to read this to lead a book discussion - wouldn't have been my first choice. This is a (very) thinly veiled account of Laura Bush and her life with George, but with different names and a different state. Long, long, long (needs to be edited, big time!), sexually frank, but interesting for a book discussion - they had lots of things to say about it!

The Wedding Girl by Madeleine Wickham

Milly is ready to settle down with perfect Simon, and her mother is planning the wedding of the century...but it all goes horribly wrong when a secret from Milly's past catches up with her...this is a cute little book, filled with great secondary characters and with a lot of heart. Wickham also writes as Sophie Kinsella, the author of the "Shopaholic" books.

Fresh Disasters by Stuart Woods

I really enjoy listening to the "Stone Barrington" novels, and this one is no exception. Stone is giving a bitch of a case, complete with an idiot client, the mob, romance, a beheading and a lot of whiskey at Elaine's. These are great to listen to!

Whew! That's a lotta reviews!


Unaccustomed Earth by Jhumpa Lahiri

I so loved Lahiri's (Pulitzer Prize winning) novel The Namesake that I've been waiting for ages for this title to reappear on the shelf so I could check it out. I began reading yesterday morning, and by last night, had read through all of the short stories included in this title, and all of them are luminous, emotionally moving and impossible to forget.

Again, the focus is on the Bengali experience in America, and so much of the "foreigner" aspect resonated with me and my British roots - the travels back to England to see family, the maintaining of a culture abroad, and the ties of family even over so many miles. The first story, in particular, resonated with me (the loss of a mother, the moving on of life, and those left behind), but they all are beautiful in their own ways - albeit sad too.

This is a lovely collection of stories, and I couldn't put it down all day. A wonderful, wonderful read...


Quick Study by Maggie Barbieri

I just love the "Murder 101" series by Barbieri. It's a great mix of chick lit and mystery, with a totally likable protagonist in Alison Bergeron who sometimes makes me laugh out loud - plus her hunky boyfriend, detective Bobby Crawford.

This time around, Alison finds herself embroiled in a real estate deal gone very wrong when one of her friends' nephew goes missing, then goes missing himself. Murder, mayhem, a few hockey games, a few games of tonsil hockey and a great mystery are all included in this super fast, super funny read.

I totally love Alison - she's the kind of character I would TOTALLY hang out with. I can't recommend this series enough - I'm already ready for the fourth book in the series to appear!

Highly recommended!


Time for another round of "mini" book reviews!

Last Term at Malory Towers by Enid Blyton

I'm so glad I reread this favorite series from my childhood...

The Story Sisters by Alice Hoffmann

I love all of Hoffmann's books - her writing is so luminous - but this was definitely a much darker tale. I found myself depressed and sad through most of it, and kept waiting for a happy ending. Lovely writing, but not my favorite of her stories (The Probable Future still wins that prize).

A Lady of His Own by Stephanie Laurens

The third book in the "Bastion Club" series, which had a lot more mystery and adventure (and Dalziel!) than the previous books. Ready for number four...

The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart

Popular YA novel, taking place at a prep school where Frankie tries to hang with the boys. A bit of mystery, a bit of romance, and some truly spectacular pranks. This is going to be a popular read, methinks...

Master Your Metabolism by Jillian Michaels

After watching her on Biggest Loser, I wanted to read her book. Much more about hormones and organic foods than I thought...


The Pagan Stone by Nora Roberts

I was finally able to get my hands on the audio edition of this title, the third and final book in the "Sign of Seven" trilogy, which wraps up not only Cybil and Gage's story, but the story as a whole for Hawkins Hollow.

I stupidly enjoyed this trilogy - not only do you get classic Nora Roberts romance, but you have elements of the supernatural as well, all taking place in a perfect "small town". I liked getting to know the characters in more than one book (and liking them!), and of course, I like a happy ending. :-)

This is a great Nora trilogy, and I highly recommend it!


Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life by Amy Krouse Rosenthal

(Below is the book review I wrote for Crucial Pop this week)

It is pretty rare for me to read a book twice.

I mean, I work in a library. Every day I walk through the stacks, and there are soooo many books to read, so many books already checked out to my account, and sometimes it saddens me to think that I’ll never be able to read everything I want to, even in my lifetime as I walk through aisles and aisles of books.

So, for me to read a book twice is pretty rare.

But, on this holiday long weekend, I made a pledge to unplug from the TV, loaf on the couch with my new puppy, nibble on tasty bits, and read, read, read.

(Y’all can keep your barbecues – especially since it’s raining!)

And to start my weekend of words, I revisited a book I read years ago and loved. It’s short, it only takes a little time to read, but it says so much.

Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life by Amy Krouse Rosenthal is the perfect book for an easy, inspirational read.

Amy, as she says in her own words… "I have not survived against all odds. I have not lived to tell. I have not witnessed the extraordinary. This is my story."

I mean, how can you not want to read that?

I knew I did when I saw it.

This is shelved in the biography section, and is quite literally an encyclopedia-style memoir of Amy – some entries are funny, some are short, some are touching, and some just make you smile, and want to start an encyclopedia of your own – in alphabetical order, of course. Packed with quirky tidbits and well-written entries, you get to know Amy in such a real way. It may not have the revelations of Nietzsche, or the insight and impact of Proust, but is just as real and honest in its own way.

Entries range from everything to anagrams of her name to the effect of leaning in a bowling game to sad stories to tales of her husband, her jobs, and her life. Some may be trivial, but you have to applaud anyone willing to write down not only the extraordinary, but also the mundane and then share it with the world. If only every struggling writer, myself included, had the courage to expose so much of themselves in their words – trivial or no.

There are a few excerpts (and lots more goodies) on Amy’s website for the book, http://www.encyclopediaofanordinarylife.com, and here is but a sample:


My brother, who grew up with three sisters, was I won’t say how many years old when he finally realized that he did not have to wrap the towel around his chest when he came out of the shower.

Doesn’t that make you want to read more?

This is the perfect book for inspiration, amusement, and easy reading with a puppy snoozing in your lap.

Ordinary life, indeed.

Amy can be found on the web at: http://whoisamy.wordpress.com/


The !9th Wife by David Ebershoff

Here's my column from Crucial Pop this week about The 19th Wife...


When choosing a book for a library book discussion, one always has to find a book that will provoke, well, discussion, in addition to raising questions and answers, and springing forth some sort of emotional response from the reader, making for a lively and often heated discussion.

Recently, my library chose The 19th Wife by David Ebershoff, and I think we’re in for one wild ride of a discussion.

This is actually a novel of two parallel stories – the first being the story of Ann Eliza Young, who was the 19th wife of prominent Mormon leader Brigham Young. In reality, Ann Eliza was probably more like the 52nd of 56th wife, though records from that time are sketchy. Ann Eliza created a sensation in 1875 when she left Brigham Young and extricated herself from her marriage, then toured the country talking about polygamy in the wilds of Utah – isolated areas that still harbor polygamist sects today. She even wrote a story of her experiences, entitled Wife No. 19.

Along with that story is the modern-day story of Jordan Scott, who grew up in polygamist society Mesadale, then was forced to leave the sect as a teenager. He returns to his roots to investigate the murder of his father by his 19th wife – who happens to be Jordan’s mother. Jordan’s story is filled with fantastic secondary characters, and he himself is an unlikely narrator for polygamy, a notoriously straight-laced lifestyle.

Ebershoff beautifully weaves these two stories together, told in alternating voices but showing clear parallels between the two women caught in a marriage with not only a husband, but many wives. Not only are they engaging stories in their own right, but Ebershoff sheds so much light on the beginning of the Mormon movement, and shows the struggles that the follows of Joseph Smith endured in following their prophet across the wilds of America in the 1800s. Filled with rich historic detail and engaging and lyrical prose, one can’t help but be pulled back in time to the age of Smith and Young, as well as illuminating the continuing struggles today.

Both stories are so engaging, the reader hates to switch to the “other” story, but then gets pulled back into that one as well, again hating to switch back again – the sign of a great storytelling vibe.

Initially, I wasn’t sure if I would enjoy this book, but I ended up devouring it in hours – and then found myself surfing the internet for more information, more background, pictures, anything. Any novel that makes me want to know more is a great one – librarians always thirst to “know more”.

And based on all of that, I think the discussion is going to be a lively one – should polygamy be accepted in our age of religious freedom? What sort of characters are Jordan and Ann Eliza, and how are they similar? Did you have any idea how big Mormonism is in America, both in the 1800s and today? Did you like this novel? Which storyline was your favorite?

I can’t wait to ask these questions, and to see what answers percolate through our discussion. Stay tuned…

If you enjoyed The 19th Wife and want to read more Mormon polygamist memoirs (which have exploded in the publishing world in the last few years), check out Under the Banner of Heaven by Jon Krakauer, When Men Become Gods by Stephen Singular, Escape by Carolyn Jessop, Stolen Innocence by Elissa Wall or Shattered Dreams by Irene Spencer.

David Ebershoff and more about this novel can be found on his website at: http://www.ebershoff.com/.


Time for more "book blurbing" of recent reads I haven't fully reviewed...head's up!

The Zookeeper's Wife by Diane Ackerman

A memoir set in Poland during World War II about a Warsaw zoo, and the story of the family who lived there, and served as part of the Jewish "underground railroad".

The Girl She Left Behind by Karen Brichoux

Novel of the big city girl who goes home again to Montana. Fast, fast read - unexpected ending, but satisfying after all.

Masquerade by Melissa de la Cruz

Second in the YA series "Blue Bloods" about vampires in NYC society. Another good addition to the series - stay tuned!

Dead As a Doornail by Charlaine Harris

Book five in the Sookie Stackhouse "Southern Vampire" series explores a lot more about the werewolf and werepanther part of Sookie's locale.

Definitely Dead by Charlaine Harris

Book six in the same series - and this time, Sookie is dating a weretiger. Hot, huh? :-)

Sex With Kings by Eleanor Herman

A really interesting non-fiction read about mistresses, power, revenge, marriages and more over 500 years of kings in Europe. A companion to Sex With the Queen, another great non-fiction read!

Wild Card by Lora Leigh

*wipes steam from the monitor after reading this erotica-filled adventure novel*

Sucks To Be Me by Kimberly Pauley

Cute YA novel about teens who choose to become vampires - it's in their DNA, after all. Cute premise, cute story.

Tales of Beedle the Bard by J.K. Rowling

It has to do with Harry Potter. I had to read it. Cute - but very short.

Cracked Up To Be by Courtney Summers

Kind of depressing YA novel with an unlikeable heroine - which, I suppose, is the point.

A Certain Slant of Light by Laura Whitcomb

Interesting twist on the typical ghost love story in this inventive YA novel. Didn't end as I expected, but a nice premise.

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3 Willows (The Sisterhood Grows) by Ann Brashares

This is the latest YA novel from Brashares, author of the wildly popular "Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants" series (and the movies they spawned). While this novel focuses on three new girls, there are hints of the previous sisterhood, and even a few characters from previous novels.

Jo, Ama, and Polly are going in three very different directions over the summer - one to the family beach house, one to an Outward Bound type of adventure, and one desperately trying to find herself while staying at home. Interestingly, the previous novels showed the strength of the friendships during the adventures, whereas this with title, the girls are almost on the outs - not sure if they even are still friends. Of course, the summer changes everything for all three girls, and strengthens their friendships after all...

This is another pleasant YA read from popular Brashares - recommended!


Don't Let It Be True by Jo Barrett

Since I enjoyed Barrett's previous novel (This Is How It Happened: Not a Love Story), when I saw this title on the library shelf, I grabbed it and read it in an afternoon.

Kathleen Connor King is the reining queen of Houston society, along with her richy-rich boyfriend Dylan, except for one small problem: they're both broke.

Some matchmaking, an oil discovery, a gala, and a quirky cast of secondary characters help these two right the ship, throw a great party, and find a happy ending for all involved - with a lot of laughs and drama along the way.

This is such a breezy, fun novel - easy to read, fun to follow, but with a great cast of well-developed characters. This is a fun glimpse into high society somewhere other than NYC - I loved it!


Royal Blood by Rona Sharon

When I was offered a copy of this title, I jumped on it - as you probably know, I'm a sucker for anything set in the Tudor period, and this sounded like an interesting twist on King Henry VIII's always entertaining court...and how!

Michael Devereaux has traveled from Ireland to take part in King Henry's annual Order of the Garter celebration, having recently recovered from an illness and carrying a heavy burden of fitting in to a court he knows nothing about. Once there, he is quickly plunged into a spinning web of treachery, murder, mystery...and is quickly captivated by Princess Renee of France, a fiery and savvy court-goer with a devious plan of her own...

But when murder and mayhem take over the court, Michael and Renee must join forces - in more ways than one - to solve them.

There are two interesting things to note about this title - it's billed as historical fiction, but does have elements of the paranormal, which I found totally intriguing (to avoid spoilers, do NOT read any Amazon reviews! I did and was bitterly disappointed). Also, this title is written in true period literature - the way folks spoke in the 1500s, which took some getting used to, but eventually flowed (you know, like how Shakespeare takes a few minutes to "click"), but I did learn lots of historically accurate words and phrases.

This isn't a book I could read quickly - I had to take my time, and try to follow all the twists and turns, which Sharon writes with aplomb. She also writes some pretty smokin' love scenes, and does eventually give the reader a happy ending. I've read several Tudor historicals, and found this one to be one of the most unique, and certainly the most creative - and gives another glimpse into Henry VIII's courtly intrigues.

Recommended for fans of historicals and twisty paranormals!


Testing Haskell by J. Suzanne Sanders

When I got a delightful email from Judy which included the words: "Would you be interested in reading the story of a broken-hearted Mississippi girl who did the right thing for a stranger's dog no matter what it cost her??", of course I said yes. Anyone willing to take a stab at self-publishing and at writing funny fiction gets a thumbs up in my book.

And so does her novel.

Testing Haskell is just snortingly funny - Haskell, our heroine, has just dumped her man, is stuck in the same small town as him, lives in a run down apartment, and doesn't have much going for her - until a truck wreck, an enormous dog and a pair of fetching eyes turns her life upside down. What follows is a funny romp through small town Mississippi, a few cat-and-mouse chases, some law enforcement eluding, a lot of trash bags, a creepy character with murder on the mind, and of course, a kickass dog. :-)

This is a great Southern read - fast and witty, well-plotted, and with a happy ending. Way to go, Judy!


(Judy can be found on the web at : http://judysanders.org/


The Minotaur by Barbara Vine

I've never read Barbara Vine, the alter ego of Ruth Rendell (whom I've also never read), but after seeing blurb after blurb about her fantastic writing, I grabbed one of her books off the shelf and began reading.

This mystery/suspense novel is very much about the "why", rather than the "whodunit". For three quarters of the book, there is little action, just a slow build to what you KNOW is going to be an almost inevitable end, but which is still surprising. This is definitely a character-driven novel, focusing on Kristen, a newly-hired "caretaker" for John, a 39-year-old man considered "mad" by his family, who are themselves not exactly the picture of mental health. Taking place in Britain in the 1960s, the reader quickly recognizes autism, rather than madness, in John's actions, but so many years ago, it was a different story.

I was pulled into this story, and despite initial misgivings, found it a great piece of suspenseful literature. Recommended!


Daddy's Girl by Lisa Scottoline

I've listened to several Scottoline books now, and really enjoy her pace and style of mystery featuring interesting female protagonists. This time, Natalie Greco, erstwhile law professor, daddy's girl and girlfriend to the "eh" Hank, finds herself drawn to a fellow professor. But when a routine visit to a jail for a class turns into a riot, a murder, and a cryptic message given to Natalie by a dying man, things have definitely taken a turn for the weird...and the deadly.

This is a great cat-and-mouse game, full of intrigue, action, and a great lead character that women will sympathize with and root for. The twist at the end was out of the blue for me, but I found the entire story compelling and interesting. I really like Scottoline - you should too!

Note: I listened to the audio edition, narrated by the unparalleled Barbara Rosenblat. Her voice is fantastic, and she narrates all Scottoline's books - as she should. This is a great listen!


The Diary by Eileen Goudge

I like it when a book takes me by surprise.

I picked this title up to take home on a weekend trip, thinking it would be a good "filler" book if I finished my other titles (I did), because it's fairly short, and has a cute cover.

I thought it would be a chintzy 200 page read - like Nicholas Sparks with even more emoting thrown in (gack!).

But instead, this is a great read - a well developed story of a boy and a girl on the cusps of their lives who find each other, though they are from different worlds. but they can never be together, as she is engaged to another, and has a very different life path ahead of her...can they?

The ending had a wonderful twist, and I really enjoyed the journey these characters took together. A surprisingly fulfilling read!


Borderline by Nevada Barr

I have been enamored with the "Anna Pigeon, Park Ranger" mysteries by Barr for since college, and always look forward to a new adventure with her and a new park to explore.

This time, Anna and her husband Paul are on leave, and decide to take a rafting trip up the Rio Grande in Big Bend National Park - but when a dead body, a mysterious shooter, and an unraveling mystery threaten them all, Anna must step up to solve this twisty, turny mystery.

Once again, Anna proves to be a wonderful protagonist - strong but flawed, determined but at times, terrified. This was definitely an "edge of your seat" title - though the action part ends halfway through the novel, the story definitely doesn't end there. And I didn't see the end coming...

Anna Pigeon remains one of my favorite characters in fiction, and this is another great addition to her series. I can't recommend these "out of the ordinary" mystery novels enough! Great!


Ransom My Heart by Mia Thermopolis with a little help from Meg Cabot

This novel was written by "Princess Mia", the main character of Cabot's wildly popular "Princess Diaries" series, and is being written by Mia in the final book of that series, so of course, I was eager to read the full length novel when it came out (interestingly, though the "Princess Diaries" books are for young adults, this novel was definitely an adult collection book).

Taking place in England in the time of Robin Hood and the Crusades, a dashing knight returning home from the Crusades is waylaid by an adventurous young woman who needs him for ransom to help out her sister. Naturally, mayhem and romance ensue. :-)

I liked reading of a time period I've not read before, and found the writing engaging and quick, the story a fun romp with lots of tension, action and of course, luuuuurve. :-)

A fun read!


Simply Unforgettable by Mary Balogh

I know that Balogh is one of my father's favorite Regency writers, so when I saw an audiobook of one of her titles, I thought I'd give it a listen.

A prim schoolteacher, a rakish aristocrat, a carriage accident and a snow storm set up this engaging tale, taking place in and around Bath (yay!) and London as Frances Allard, a woman with a secret, and Lucius Marshall, a man unwilling to settle begin a back and forth relationship that will draw the reader in and keep them guessing - will they or won't they?

I really liked Balogh's writing, the setting (of course!), and the development of the characters throughout - a great Regency romance!


Zen and the Art of Vampires by Katie MacAlister

It's no secret how much I love Katie's vampire books - they are always written with a light tone, a great plot, a steamy romance, and a lot of laughs.

This time, we're in Iceland, and I'm reading and reading and reading...it's exciting, it's steamy, it's suspenseful...


The story will continue in the next book, due out in a couple of months.


(Still, I can't wait!)


The Secret Bride by Diane Haeger

Once again, I find myself back in Henry VIII's court, a time period I seem to be fascinated by. This time, the focus of this well written tale is actually Henry's sister, Mary.

Henry always doted on Mary, but then used her for political advantage by marrying her to the aging king of France - despite her deep abiding love for Henry's best friend, Charles Brandon (a man NOT of noble birth). In exchange for letting Henry send her away, she extracts a promise that the next time she marries, it's for love...

This is a well written, historically accurate, engaging tale that I found myself really getting into - though I knew how it would end, you are waiting and waiting for Mary and Charles to find get together...

Another one to read if you enjoy Tudor historicals!


Sleepwalking in Daylight by Elizabeth Flock

I was enamored with Flock's first title, Me & Emma, so I was eager to read her latest title, about a dysfunctional family trying to keep it together. There's the adopted teenage daughter dabbling in drugs, two twin boys, a jackass of a husband and the center is Samantha, a wife beaten by her husband not falling out of love with her, just feeling absolutely nothing at all. So begins her descent into finding herself, and then finding a man who makes her husband pale in comparison...

This isn't a book with a play-by-play kind of plot, but rather a meandering tale that is heavy on sadness and woe, but filled with intriguing characters that will leaving you wondering...how are they going to resolve this?

Though it didn't pack the punch or originality of Me & Emma, the writing kept me reading! Recommended...


Picking Cotton: Our Memoir of Injustice and Redemption by Jennifer Thompson-Cannino and Ronald Cotton

Note: This is the review I recently wrote for both this blog and for my column over at Crucial Pop.

It is true that I tend to read mostly fiction.

I like losing myself in the land of make believe where stories can stretch your mind and warm your heart, whether they feature true love, a quirky story, or even a vampire or dragon or two.

But sometimes, a non-fiction book will cross my path and will have the same effect that fiction has for me - the inability to put it down, a story that will stretch my mind, and will have me yearning for a happy ending.

Picking Cotton: Our Memoir of Injustice and Redemption by Jennifer Thompson-Cannino, Ronald Cotton, and Erin Torneo is just such a book.

This memoir is a roller-coaster ride that will grip you from page one until the end, it will keep you awake past your bedtime, and will stay with you long after you close the cover for the last time.

In 1984, Jennifer (a 23-year-old white female) was brutally raped at knifepoint in her apartment. She studied every detail of her attacker's face, memorized everything she could, knowing she would have to identify him in order to put him behind bars.

She reported the crime. She did a composite sketch, and she went through a lineup of seven men, only one of who was suspected of the crime.

She was confident in her decision. She was sure she had picked the right man. She had studied him - she knew he was guilty.

Ronald Cotton (a 23-year-old black male) received a life sentence for the rape of Jennifer and another woman who was also attacked the same night.

But Ronald didn't do it.

For years, Ronald struggled to survive in prison, to have his case heard, to plead that he was truly an innocent man. It was not until the advent of DNA testing that Ronald was set free - 11 years after his conviction.

While the rape is harrowing, the trial wrenching, and the tales of jail life tortuous, the most heartrending part of this amazing memoir is what happened after Ron was released.

He forgave Jennifer.

And they formed a friendship.

This memoir is such a fast, engaging read - even after 300 pages, you know there is so much more of the story to be told, and you want to know more about Ronald and Jennifer, and how their lives have continued to intertwine. It is the kind of friendship that people yearn for, though born out of the most horrible circumstances imaginable.

This is a powerful, uplifting read - though difficult in places, at least the reader knows that redemption is around the corner, therefore able to survive the worst of the story, much like Ron survived in prison to come out the other side a stronger, greater man.

I cannot recommend this book enough - it will keep you awake til the wee hours, it will give you a glimpse into lives turned upside down, but mostly, it will give you hope.

I may enjoy fiction, but sometimes, non-fiction changes my life.

This is one of those stories.

To read more about the authors, examine the case file, or find out more about eyewitness testimony, go to the website dedicated to the book: PickingCottonBook.com

This vid sums up the book perfectly:


Handle With Care by Jodi Picoult

It's no secret that Picoult is one of my favorite authors, so I was first in line to check out her newest title, Handle With Care.

Reminiscent of my favorite Picoult novel, My Sister's Keeper, at the center of this new title is a medical crisis, and how it affects all the family members who orbit around it. Willow was born with brittle bone disease, and the lives of her mother Charlotte, father Sean and sister Amelia revolve solely around keeping Willow safe and well, which has strained their finances, their relationships, and their very emotions.

In order to try and recoup some money to pay for Willow's care, they decide to embark on a legal trial, blaming the OB/GYN for not telling them of Willow's condition in utero, giving them a chance to abort the baby. In order to do this, though, they must admit that a) they wouldn't have wanted Willow and b) that the OB doctor is Charlotte's best friend.

This of course sets up an emotionally wrenching story, complete with a trial, lots of medical drama, and the disintegration of a family. As always, Picoult's writing is pitch perfect, and I found myself engrossed long past my bedtime by the story until I was finished - especially since Picoult is notorious for having a "twist" at the end.

This is another fantastic addition to the Picoult canon, and comes highly recommended from me!


The Tsarina's Daughter by Carrolly Erickson

Erickson has proven herself a master of rewriting the history of famous women (Marie Antoinette, Josephine Bonaparte, Catherine Parr) in a fictional setting, and this title is no exception.

In this title, set in Russia shortly before the revolution and deposition of Czar Nicholas, we are let into the life (and loves) of Tatiana Romanov, given a front row seat into her mother's madness, the dealings of Rasputin, and the slow degradation of worker rights on the eve of revolution.

Though we know that Tatiana was executed along with the rest of her family, Erickson imagines a very different end - Tatiana lives, and flees with her lover, making a new life in the new world. A much happier ending that the grim true one.

This is a well-researched, interesting read in a subject I've long been fascinated by. Well done!


The Mighty Queens of Freeville: A Mother, A Daughter, and the Town That Raised Them by Amy Dickinson

You know, this is just one of those pleasant reads.

And by pleasant, I don't mean that as code for "icky" or "boring", I just mean...pleasant.

The kind of book you read while swinging on a porch swing, sipping an iced tea while an exhausted puppy snores lightly by your side.

At least, that's how *I* read it. :-)

Amy is the advice columnist who replaced the late Ann Landers, and this is her memoir of marriage, divorce, and moving back home to Freeville, a tiny town in New York State.
I was enamored not only with her life, but with her easy voice, her companionable storytelling, and it made me want to sit on a porch with her, talking with the "Queens". You come to know Amy's life, as well as her family, and the old matriarchs who keep the family in line, connected, and well-loved. What more could any woman want?

Whether you read Amy's advice column or not, this is just such a gentle, lovely memoir from a talented writer. :-)

And isn't this a great book trailer? I was totally sold after watching that.

I mean, c'mon. Cows. :-)



The Likeness by Tana French

Last year, I had the good fortune to receive a copy from a publisher French's first mystery, In the Woods.

I was blown away by it.

And in a testament to how good it was, I actually BOUGHT French's followup title, The Likeness.

Librarians rarely buy, and I really rarely buy unless I've read it before and adored it!

And yet, this title did not disappoint.

Cassie Maddox, one of the detectives from the previous novel, is back, having left the Murder Squad in Ireland when a bizarre case pulls her back into the fray. A woman has been found dead - using one of Cassie's old aliases from her undercover days, and looking EXACTLY LIKE HER.

This kicks off a twisty-turny, bizarre, exquisitely written mystery, spanning hundreds of pages but leaving you wanting to read more, more, MORE! French has such a command of language, amazing characterization, and a true skill for weaving a story and leaving the reader guessing. I absolutely loved the premise, and couldn't wait to find out the resolution - though it was not quite what I expected.

French is a FANTASTIC mystery writer - you've GOT to check her out! Soooo recommended!


Time for another round of book blurbing! Here we go!

River's Edge by Terri Blackstock
Last of the "Cape Refuge" series of Christian fiction. And now I can say I read it. Yeah.

In the Fifth At Malory Towers by Enid Blyton

Because sometimes, you have to reread childhood favorites, and this series will always be a favorite (though that's TOTALLY the wrong cover)...

Dead to the World by Charlaine Harris

The fourth book in the "Southern Vampire" series - no Bill, lots of Eric. My new favorite of the series. :-)

The Hollow by Nora Roberts

The second title in the "Sign of Seven" trilogy - another great audio listen, though it was odd that the first book was narrated by a man, and this one by a woman. Waiting for book three on CD now!

I Heart You, You Haunt Me by Lisa Schroeder

An amazing YA novel, written entirely in verse. Easy to read, harder to forget. Wonderful recommendation for reluctant readers...

Plum Spooky by Janet Evanovich

Another "Between the Numbers" Stephanie Plum novel. Silly, outrageous, ludicrous, damn fun. :-)

Hold Tight by Harlan Coben

Another suspenseful Coben read (a stand alone novel), better still when narrated by Scott Brick. Recommended!

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Casting Spells by Barbara Bretton

This is an interesting twist on a typical genre book, as it's partly a knitting novel set in a lovely New England town, and it's part supernatural romance, where vampires, trolls and selkies are just part of the scenery in Sugar Maple.

Chloe Hobbs, the owner of Sticks and Strings, is a half human, and the only person in Sugar Maple without magical powers - which is becoming a real problem for the village. Enter a beautiful woman, a mysterious death, and a sexy new sheriff in town, and Chloe's world is turned upside down.

This is just a charming read: I love the way the "creatures" aren't given any sort of hype at all, they are just a part of the story, and the romance between Chloe and the cop is sweet and sparking, and the setting is just lovely. I tore through this novel, glad to curl up with it for a few hours!

A great genre-bending read: recommended!


What I Saw and How I Lied by Judy Blundell

This young adult novel, which won the 2008 National Book Award for Young People's Literature, is set in 1947 New York City. Evie's stepfather Joe has returned from the war, reuniting with Evie's mother Bev. A spur of the moment trip to Florida takes up the bulk of the story - they stay in Palm Beach, they meet potential business partners, and Evie finds a new boy to crush on - a boy named Peter that Joe knew in the war.

So what happens when things go horribly awry, and a tragedy rocks this family? A further spinning web of lies, which even Evie can't discern...

This is a very classic noir novel, but written for YAs. I found the writing brisk and inviting, and was rooting for Evie, even as I knew things were going to end badly. This isn't my usual cup of tea for a read, but I enjoyed it.


The Wednesday Sisters by Meg Waite Clayton

This book chronicles the story of five women who first meet in the heyday of the 1960s and tracks their growing friendship for the next thirty years.

Meeting first in a park while caring for their children, our five characters slowly become friends, then devote themselves to writing and trying to be published, all while struggling with family, loss, disease, infidelity, and the Miss America pageant every year.

This is a lovely portrait of the relationships between women, and how women in the 1960s viewed themselves as opposed to today's culture. I loved reading of their writing triumphs, and hoped for a happy ending - which I got.

A well-written, engaging novel in the vein of all the "book group, knitting club" books, but well above so many others. Recommended!


A Body At Rest by Susan Petrone

Susan Petrone, the author of this truly unique new novel, contacted me to see if I would be interested in reading a copy of her new novel, put out by a small press publisher. Knowing how hard getting the word out can be, I eagerly volunteered to help a fellow writer!

Susan's first novel features slacker generation roommates Nina and Martha - twenty-something barmaids with little direction and even less enthusiasm for their current situation. A few novels, a roadtrip, a cornfield and a couple of tattoos later, their lives certainly aren't boring anymore:

Because they are beginning to morph into Emma Woodhouse (of Austen's Emma fame) and Don Quixote by Cervantes.

And not just a few speech affectations or empire waist dresses.

They are TURNING INTO the characters.

Naturally, this is a premise for a novel I've never run across, but Petrone does a splendid job of keeping the cadence and language of Austen and Cervantes consistent throughout, even as the reader is trying to suss out what is going on, and whether it's a dream sequence, an acid trip, or something more...

This is not a run of the mill, formulaic novel, instead it is a unique plot with well-defined characters and swift writing. Once I read the final page, I wasn't sure if I loved it or hated it, but I certainly appreciated it!

Susan can be found on the web here, and her publisher here.


A World I Never Made by James Lepore

I was given an advance copy of this "novel of suspense", and eagerly tore into it and it's locales of Paris and Prague...

Pat Nolan is called on New Year's Day to identify the body of his daughter, Megan, who has apparently committed suicide in Paris. What he finds when he arrives at the morgue, however, is that Megan isn't the girl on the slab, and some clues begin to take him on a race against time to find his missing daughter. Along the way, he joins forces (and lips!) with Catherine Laurence, a Parisian detective who takes a leave of absence to join Pat in the search for Megan...

Running parallel to Pat's story is the story of Megan, set a year before, as she explores Morocco and falls for an Arab man who is not all he seems...

This is a well-paced, intriguing story that weaves a lot of threads together before finally bringing them all back for the somewhat surprising finale. I really enjoyed the locations, the intrigue, and for me, Megan's struggle to extricate herself from a good situation gone bad...

Recommended for fans of fast paced suspense!

Note: This title will be released in April 2009.


Envy by Anna Godbersen

There are several of us at the library who are first in line when a new book in "The Luxe" series comes out, and this one was no different.

(Isn't that newest dress on the cover to die for?!)

This YA series is set in 1899, and follows the lives of several privileged teens in New York City, complete with scandal, treachery, romance, family drama and a fair bit of gossip and backstabbing. This time, though, we have a change of scenery, as the gang moves to Florida for a few weeks of R&R...

(romance and retribution, methinks)

This one had another few jaw-dropping revelations, and I hope the final book in the series (Splendor, due out in October) will tie a few things up, in a good way, because this one was a bit of a wrencher...

This is a GREAT series for teens and adults alike! Recommended!


Friday Night Knitting Club by Kate Jacobs

This is one of those books that's been floating around as "ideal for a book club!" titles for a while, so when I saw it on our shelf (for once!), I thought I'd go ahead and give it a shot - even though it's been a while since I picked up a pair of knitting needles (that's my sister's territory)...

This is the story of a small New York City yarn shop, Walker and Daughter, and the women who gather each week to work on projects and talk about their lives. At the center is Georgia Walker, a great central character, dealing not only with the relationship with her daughter but with her daughter's father, who has made a sudden reappearance into their lives...

This is a pleasant enough read - full of interesting characters and a gentle tone - though I was rocked back by a tragedy that takes place later in the book. I won't say this was my favorite "group of women" novel, but it was a pleasant enough read, though reviews say that the follow-up, Knit Two, is by far a weaker effort.

A good reader, even for non-knitters...


Too Far From Home by Chris Jones

Yup, my space dorkdom rears it's ugly head again. :-)

This non-fiction piece focuses primarily on the plight of astronauts Ken Bowersox (Bedford, Indiana, represent!), Don Pettit, and Nikolai Budarin who, after the tragedy of the Space Shuttle Columbia in 2003, were stranded aboard the International Space Station for longer than was intended.

This work perfectly weaves the story of these three men along telling about the Columbia tragedy, while also throwing in a fair bit of history of the American and Russian space programs.

I found this to be a fascinating glimpse into the daily workings of the ISS, as well as the workings to keep man in space, and how to bring him safely home again. This isn't necessarily filled with technical jargon, but is written in "person speak", telling an interesting story while not talking down to the reader.

I didn't know much about the ISS or its history before reading this, but now I'm even more fascinated by our continual presence in the skies...



Dark of Night by Suzanne Brockmann

I always make sure I'm first in line at the library when a new "Troubleshooters, Inc." novel comes out from Brockmann, and this one did not disappoint!

Picking up about 24 hours where the last novel left off, this novel continues the story arc for three of our dudes: Nash, Decker, and Dave.

Let's just say, diehard fans are up in arms with who ended up with who (no spoilers!), but I still thought it was an enjoyable, escapist, nail-biting, fast moving, sexy, action-filled romp of a ride!

I most enjoyed the arc following Deck, who's just an oddball character, and honestly, could have done without Dave altogether, but that's for debate with other Brockmann fans...

In any case, I can't recommend this series enough - Brockmann really does a masterful job of combining action and suspenseful adventure with lots of simmering lust and sexy scenes. And of course, lots of our favorite Troubleshooters make appearances in the books...

And when is Lopez gonna get HIS story?

Highly recommended!


It's time for another round of book blurbing - look alive people, this one is going to go fast! ;-)

1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die by Peter Ackroyd

Beautifully laid out, concise, and yet...as an English major and librarian, I've only read 65 of the books. SIXTY-FIVE. Lots of books I've never even HEARD of, and lots of books by the same author. Now, if watching BBC productions would have counted, I would have easily topped 100. ;-)

Wishful Drinking by Carrie Fisher

Hilarious, insightful, concise, readable...did I mention HILARIOUS?

Summer at Tiffany by Marjorie Hart

Sweet memoir from Summer, 1945 in New York City as two girls from Iowa dance with midshipmen, work at Tiffany, and explore the city. Very warm and fuzzy...

Club Dead by Charlaine Harris

Next in the Sookie Stackhouse series - good times! Bill is hardly in it (yay!), but Eric is. ;-) Have I mentioned I hate the cover art for these novels? Because I do, but the stories are great!

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Somebody Else's Daughter by Elizabeth Brundage

I don't know how to accurately summarize the plot of this mesmerizing novel, other than to throw out words: private high school, adoption, blended families, secret pasts, new loves, old loves, scandal, sex, drugs, history...

I really don't know how to summarize it, but I can tell you this is a totally engaging read. It took a few pages to get my attention, but then I was completely pulled into the lives of a small town in New Hampshire as old and new lives collide and clash, sometimes with happy, and more often with very unhappy results.

This is a beautifully written, well told, twisty, turny novel that I devoured. Recommended!


Time Bandit: Two Brothers, the Bering Sea, and One of the World's Deadliest Jobs by Andy and Johnathan Hillstrand

I've made a promise to myself that not only will I read oodles of library books this year, but I'll FINALLY try and get around to reading the stacks and bookcases full of books in my house that I've not gotten around to, mostly because I'm always reading library books!

I bought Time Bandit ages ago, and decided instead of lamenting when the fourth season of Discovery Channel's "Deadliest Catch" was going to start, I'd read about the brother Hillstrand - Andy, incidentally, lives not far from TinyTown!

For fans of the show, this is an engaging read, filled with great stories of life on the Bering Sea, as well as family history, fishing, disaster, and a bit of grit and grime thrown in. This memoir certainly isn't all sweetness and light, but it's true to the voices of the Hillstrands, and makes for damned entertaining reading. I really enjoyed this one - go Time Bandit!

Now, on with Season Four!


A Gentleman's Honor by Stephanie Laurens

This is the second in the Regency Era "Bastion Club" series, this time featuring Viscount Anthony Torrington, who falls for Alicia, a widow trying to marry off her gorgeous younger sister. Unfortunately, when Tony first meets Alicia, she's standing over the body of a dead man...

This is a sexy, sensual novel that focuses not only on the relationship between Tony and Alicia, but also involves more of the Bastion Club members (yay!) as they try to unravel blackmail, profiteering from the war, and general mayhem. I really like the further involvement of all the key players, and can't wait to see how things progress with the next novels in the series.

If you enjoy Regency era novels with a bit of spice, this is for you!


The Silent Man by Alex Berenson

I wasn't familiar with Berenson's previous works, but when I was offered an advanced copy of his newest and read the blurb, I was intrigued!

John Wells, a recurring character, is a CIA spook with a chip on his shoulder and a soft spot for his girl, Jennifer Exley. When Exley is injured in what was clearly an attack designed to kill them both, he takes off on the trail after his assailants, traveling from Russia to Zurich to DC and back again...

Meanwhile, Berenson is weaving a complex tale of two nuclear devices stolen from a Russian facility and smuggled overseas, where several Arab extremists plan to blow up DC during the State of the Union. It becomes a sprint against time, technology and men from different sides racing to the exciting conclusion.

This is a truly well-narrated, well-developed plot, filled with frightening realistic detail, complex characters, and a suspenseful plot. I really couldn't put this story down, and I can fully believe why Berenson won last year's Edgar Award with his first John Wells novel, The Faithful Spy.

This title will be released on February 10 - don't miss it!


On the Grind by Stephen J. Cannell

This is the latest novel in the "Shane Scully" suspense series - many of which I've listened to (yay Scott Brick!) and enjoyed in the past, so when I was offered an advanced copy, I jumped on it!

This page-turner starts with a bang - Scully is disgraced by the LAPD and unceremoniously dumped by the department and his wife in one night. Scully finds himself at loose ends, before finding a job at the Haven Park PD, a known department full of corruption and other disgraced cops in a small principality near LA.

Scully finds himself launched into the politics and corruption of his new PD, while simultaneously trying to put his own life back together. You really see Scully as down and out as possible, and the trip through the pages is a great one as Scully tries to find the right path again.

I absolutely flew through this book, not wanting to put it down...Cannell is great at cliffhanger chapter ends, and his novels are filled with brisk action and snappy dialogue. Scully is such an engaging character, and one I've loved for ages, so I'm always happy to go on another adventure with him. If you liked the other novels in this series, you won't be disappointed with this nail-biter!

Highly recommended!


Living Dead in Dallas by Charlaine Harris

This is book two in the "Southern Vampire Series", and if True Blood follows book two for guiding season two closely, it could be good times.

Especially since we have more Eric the Vampire. ;-)

Sookie Stackhouse, our telepath from book one, is still dating Vampire Bill, but is both are now "working" for Eric, so when they have a request to use Sookie's unique skills for a vampire nest in Dallas, they are compelled to go.

This book explores more about the Fellowship of the Sun (the church that abhors vampires), nests, and of course, Sookie's relationships with her vampires.

I can't wait for book three!

Recommended if you love True Blood!


The School of Essential Ingredients by Erica Bauermeister

I received an advanced copy of this novel, and read it in a scant day. Though slender is size, this novel packs a punch.

Lillian, a wonderfully welcoming character, runs a small class for people wanting to look to cook. Each chapter takes on one of the eight attendees (as well as Lillian), giving the reader just a taste of their lives, their losses, and their struggles. Though we don't know them in depth, we still *know* them. Though brought together by food for different reasons, we see a common thread running through them all as their find the recipes for their own lives.

What makes this novel shine, though, is the luminous writing. This isn't a typically written novel - it feels like poetry on the page. Some of the sentences have to be read several times, savored, for their beauty. And the descriptions of the food, the recipes, will make you smell the kitchen, taste the ingredients, enjoy the sumptuous creations. I found myself reading slower and slower, wanting the words to be impressed on my brain, so pretty were they.

This is a lovely, lovely novel, filled with aromas, beauty of language, and satisfying conclusions. I wish I could stay in Lillian's kitchen longer...


At First Sight by Stephen J. Cannell

The subtitle on this new (and non-Detective Sully) novel from Cannell is "A Novel of Obsession", which perfects sums up this new suspense read.

Chick Best is an LA-livin', Porsche driving, internet mogul, well, jackass, who has a trophy wife and a daughter who hates him. He's resigned to spending a miserable Christmas in Maui with his hateful wife and daughter...until he spots Paige Ellis at the pool one day.

What follows is Chick's growing obsession with Paige, which eventually leads to murder...

This is one of those "car wreck" books - you know it's going to end badly, but you can't look away! Chick is really a despicable character, and yet, you can't help but wonder how he's going to get himself out of his dangerous situation. Paige is a lovely character, and when it switches to her point of view, it feels like a breath of normalcy in the story.

This has all the hallmarks of a Cannell novel - great character development, fast-paced plot, a few snickering moments, and a satisfying conclusion. Recommended!

Note: I listened to the audio version, narrated by Scott Brick. I heart the Brickster.


Forever Princess by Meg Cabot

This is the tenth and final *sniff* volume of the wildly popular "Princess Diaries" series from Meg Cabot, wrapping up the high school odyssey of former geek turned princess of Genovia, Mia Thermopolis.

What a long, fun odyssey it's been.

Though I sped through this volume, I was sorry to know that the story was coming to an end, but it was so satisfying...Mia makes decisions about college, continues to obsess over her relationships with boys (one in particular...), worries about the prom, chats with her girlfriends, and wonders if she can patch up her relationship with Lilly, while still dealing with Grandmere (hee!), her parents, her father, and of course, being tailed by Lars everywhere she goes. ;-)

Though everything is tied up with a bow at the end, it's so great to see how the newly mature Mia handles everything - though she's still her spazzy self. ;-)

I have loved and enjoyed all of these books, and I had a big smile on my face as I turned the last page, feeling satisfied with the end of Mia's story.

If only we could have Mia: The College Years, but alas, it's not meant to be.

These are fantastic novels for any young adult girl - Mia is a great role model, which still being like every other girl: a geek, a nerd, an insecure girl, and everything else that every high schooler is.

I'll miss Mia, but I couldn't have asked for a better ending. Thanks, Meg! :-)


Dead Until Dark by Charlaine Harris

Okay, so poor Jen and Sean had to watch the ENTIRE season of True Blood over New Year's with me, because after only an ep or two, I was hooked, and they'd already seen it, but I forced them.

And THEN, I got a copy of Dead Until Dark from Jen, the first book in the series. Yay!

Sookie Stackhouse is a telepathic waitress in Louisiana, who falls in love with a vampire named Bill - vampires, by the way, are legal citizens with all rights and responsibilities like everyone else. But not everyone feels that way, so when colleagues start getting killed around Sookie, she starts to get scared...

This novel really follows the first season of True Blood pretty closely (glaring omissions: Tara doesn't exist at all, and Lafayette's fabulousity is SORELY lacking), so of course, I'm eager to get my hands on book two!

Recommended - whether or not you watch the HBO series!


A Wallflower Christmas by Lisa Kleypas

Though I have not read any of the other "wallflower" novels, I was caught by, yes, the pretty cover. :-)

The four "wallflowers" from the previous novels (I gather) are all settled and married in 1845 London, but when Rafe Bowman, a brother, arrives from America to meet Lady Natalie, they begin scheming a love match.

Unfortunately, Rafe falls head over heels in love with Hannah, Lady Natalie's companion, and a woman of a lesser class. We follows is a pas de deux between the two as they try to resist each other, eventually failing - miserably. ;-)

I really liked this novella (at just over 200 pages, a quick read), and I really liked the development between Rafe and Hannah, believing their attraction to each other, despite the rapidity of the novel.

A fun Christmas read - recommended!


The Help by Kathryn Stockett

I was sent an advanced reader's copy of this title, with the aside that this first novel has more excitement surrounding its release than my contact has seen in any other first novel. Between that and the names on the book jacket, I was definitely in line for a copy.

What a wonderful, wonderful read.

It's 1962 in Jackson, Mississippi, a time of gentility, manners - and maids. This novel is told in three voices - Aibileen, a wise, regal maid, Minny, her overly-outspoken fellow maid, and Skeeter, a white woman who believes there has to be more to life than bridge clubs and cotillions. Those these women are so different from each other, they come together for a secret project, that, though risky, could reap huge rewards.

This is a wonderful piece of fiction-writing, seeming to really capture the spirit and mood of race relations in 1960s Mississippi, as well as the limitations still in place for women. The murder of Medgar Evers, the integration of universities, the murder of JFK are all woven into this story, and seen through the character's eyes. What I found most remarkable was how pitch-perfect each character's voice was - the differences between not only race, but class and education. I was simply blown away, hearing each character's voice so clearly in my head.

I don't know how to adequately describe this novel, except to say that I stayed up late reading it, enjoyed every word, and plan to hand my ARC to my friends, one by one.

These characters resonate. This story will stay with you. Put it on your "to read" list now.

Note: This title will be released February 10, 2009.


Blood Brothers by Nora Roberts

This is the first in the "Sign of Seven" trilogy (Nora does love her trilogies!), and is one of those titles that for the last year, I'd have a fleeting thought of it, then forget to go get it off the shelf!

This time, though, I snapped up the audio version, knowing I was going to be in the car a lot in the coming weeks!

When they were ten years old, Caleb, Fox and Gage, childhood friends and "brothers for life" inadvertently released an ancient evil at the "Pagan Stone", which plagues their small town every seven years. Now approaching their next birthday, knowing it's time for "the seven" to appear again, they join forces to try and stop evil for good.

Of course, there are women involved, who seem to do most of the heavy lifting. ;-)

This first story focuses on Caleb, the level-headed boy, who quickly falls for Quinn Black, a journalist on the hunt for a new "ghost story", who somehow is connected on her own to the pagan stone...

This is vintage Roberts - great chemistry between the characters, some snorting laughter, a dose of creepy, and swift, easy storytelling. I really, really enjoyed this tale, and have already checked out the next in the series!

Note: I listened to the audio version, narrated by Phil Gigante. I found his female voices a bit off-putting at first, but his narration grew on me. I'm disappointed he doesn't narrate #2.


Sometimes, I either a) don't have time b) don't have enough to say c) aren't at a computer d) didn't like a book enough to write a full review, but I still want a record of what I've been reading, and at least a picture of the cover on the blog to jog my memory at times! So, without further ado, some book blurbing from the last couple of months...

Absolute Power by David Baldacci

Absolute Power is absolutely fantastic. Couldn't put it down!

The Spymaster's Lady by Joanna Bourne

This features a fantastic heroine, and I really loved the spy story!

The Quilter's Kitchen by Jennifer Chiaverini

Uber-quick read. Lots of recipes. Okay story.

Lock and Key by Sarah Dessen

YA novel from one of the popular authors. Kinda sad. Not as good an ending as I would have wanted.

Holly by Jude Deveraux

Chintzy Christmas story. Easy to read, but a touch unbelievable.

The Gift by Richard Paul Evans

Another Christmas story, this time listened to on audio (good narrator). Nice Christmas story.

Second Thyme Around by Katie Fforde

Cute. British. Fixer-upper cottage, romance, kind neighbor. Enjoyable.

The Christmas Pearl by Dorothea Benton Frank

Nice enough Christmas story, complete with a ghost!

Fatal Tide by Iris Johansen

I can honestly say this was one of the stupidest books I've ever read.

Past Perfect by Susan Isaacs

Former CIA girl, screenwriter, mayhem, hysteria - fun enough! Good audio narration...

A Seduction at Christmas by Cathy Maxwell

Regency romp, taking place around the holidays. Titled boy falls for girl. Happily ever after - but what about their friends? I'll read the next one...

One Perfect Gift by Kathleen Morgan

A "Culdee Creek" Christmas. Out west, times of cowboys, Christmas tale. Eh.

Sealed with a Kiss by Carly Phillips

Okay narration, okay story, can't really remember it, which doesn't bode well...

Sweet Revenge by Nora Roberts

A princess, a jewel thief, and a romance. One of Nora's much older (circa 1988) stories. Not as good as her newer ones...

La Petite Four by Regina Scott

A wanna be Regency romance for the YA set. Eh.

Friday Nights by Joanna Trollope

I kept waiting for it to improve, get happy, get something. It didn't.

What They Always Tell Us by Martin Wilson

Coming of age/coming out of the closet YA story, told from a male perspective. Sweetly written.

The Sweet In-Between by Sheri Reynolds

I had high hopes for this Southern, gender-confused, sassy protagonist's story. I was disppointed. Not my cup of tea.


Per tradition, it's time for my annual wrap-up of all the books I read in 2008. Though I didn't beat my personal high from 2005 (162), I came pretty close. The stats...

Number of books read in 2008: 159
Number of books read in 2007 (for comparison): 158
Average of books read per month: 13.25
Average of books read per week: 3
Daily average:
1 book read every 2.3 days
Percent of fiction read: 90%
Percent of nonfiction read: 10%
Number of audiobooks "read": 21

And now, for the best books of the year (in my humble opinion, of course!), in author alphabetical order...

Allen, Sarah Addison. Garden Spells.

de los Santos, Marisa. Belong to Me.

French, Tana. In The Woods.

Goldberg, Myla. Bee Season.

Green, John. Paper Towns.

Gregory, Philippa. The Other Queen.

Harris, Joanne. Gentleman and Players.

Johnson, Rebecca. And Sometimes Why.

Kimmel, Haven. She Got Up Off the Couch.

Murdock, Catherine. Dairy Queen.

Picoult, Jodi. Change of Heart.

Shaffer, Mary Ann. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society.

Silva, Daniel. Moscow Rules.

Smolinski, Jill. The Next Thing On My List.

Walker, Wendy. Four Wives.

Walls, Jeannette. The Glass Castle.

Weiner, Jennifer. Certain Girls.

It goes without saying that anything written by a Brockmann, Cabot, or Evanovich is automatically on the list. :-)

To check back on the reviews of some of these past titles, or to see what reviews you might have missed, click on "book review index" over in the navigation to the right.

Can't wait to see how I do in 2009! Happy New Year!

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The Daily Coyote by Shreve Stockton

With a cover like that, who could resist?

Shreve Stockton, of Vespa Vagabond fame, discovered during her cross country journey that her heart was captured by Wyoming. She moves to a tiny town with no job, no plan, and no real plot for her life. She secures a job, and then falls for Mike, a rancher who also hunts and kills coyotes on behalf of the government. She moves into a ramshackle cabin, and one day, Mike gives her a coyote cub he was compelled to let live.

What follows is the story of Shreve's journey to raise Charlie, the cub, and how their relationship matures, changes and eventually stabilizes.

This is one of those "living vicariously through someone else" stories. I absolutely adored the "pioneer spirit" of it, while being simultaneously jealous of Shreve's luck and lifestyle, while at the same time knowing I could never thrive in the same way, much less survive.

But oh, how jealous I am of her photography skills!

This was one of those reads I loved to curl up with, losing myself in the images of Wyoming, of a growing Charlie (documented in photos scattered throughout the book), and I found myself missing it when I was through. Thank goodness for the blog!

Highly, highly recommended...a lovely read...


Snowy Night With a Stranger by Jane Feather, Sabrina Jeffries, and Julia London

This is a trio of novellas (about 150 pages apiece), set in Regency England (you can tell I've been raiding Dad's stash lately!), all taking place during the snowy Christmas season.

First up is A Holiday Gamble by Jane Feather, which takes place in Northumberland when Ned Vasey, Viscount Allenton, is stranded when his carriage breaks and he is robbed by a brigand. He takes shelter in a neighbor's home, where he becomes immediately enamored with Georgiana, who has problems of her own, as she is about to be forced into marriage with a hateful man. Together they plot their escape, and how they can be together. Though I enjoyed the story, I found the ending a bit too abrupt and tidy, and didn't feel there was much development in the relationship between Ned and Georgie, though I did enjoy their verbal sparring at times.

Next is When Sparks Fly by Sabrina Jeffries, in which the maligned "Black Baron" is besiged at Christmas by a damsel in distress, her ailing aunt, and two small children. His dark heart is naturally warmed by spirited Ellie, and they eventually get together, despite their initial dislike of each other. I liked the progression of this story, and found it to be a warm and fuzzy Christmas tale.

Finally was Snowy Night with a Highlander by Julia London...Fiona makes a daring trip to the Scottish highlands in search of her brother, only to find herself beholden to a rugged, scarred Highlander who promises to deliver her safely. But the Highlander is hiding a secret of his own...

This is very much a "beauty and the beast" type of story, but I thought it was well told and compelling, and hey, who doesn't love a manly Highlander? ;-)

This is a warm, fuzzy trio of Regency novellas, all packaged together in one. What's not to love about that? :-)


The Lady Chosen by Stephanie Laurens

This is the first "official" book of the Regency-era series The Bastion Club, though I recently read the prequel, Captain Jack's Woman, which I enjoyed.

In this novel, the Bastion Club is formed (seven men of title and rank who decide that they will band together to determine their own futures in marriage, rather than being forced or dictated to by rank or family), and first out of the gate to find his wife is Tristan Wemyss, Earl of Trentham, who becomes enamored with his next door neighbor, Leonora Carling. Throw in a bad man, a new home for the Bastion Club, and some twisty plots, and you've got the basis for a great new Regency series.

I didn't find the sexual tension as compelling in this novel (as in the previous) and at times found the characters a bit wooden and predictable, though overall I enjoyed the read. I was disappointed, however, not to have the rest of the club members involved more - I trust they will surface more as the series progresses.

Recommended, as the beginning of a promising series...


Holly's Inbox by Holly Denham

I found the link to Holly's Inbox ages ago on Trashionista, and while I tried to read a bit of it, I know myself well enough to know I'll rarely sit at my computer for ages and ages, just reading, but end up going to other sites, getting distracted, whatever. So, when in Hay earlier this fall, I was thrilled to find a paperback version of the book, and eagerly bought it (along with a few others in town, natch!).

Holly Denham is a receptionist in a posh bank in London, and this novel details her bumpy work life, her romantic foibles, and the friends and family who surround her. Uniquely, this is told entirely in emails (hence the website layout), and only occasionally switches to the inbox of someone else. I really liked the progress and pace of the story, and found it hilarious, and didn't see some of the secrets until the end.

Highly recommended if you enjoy chicklit and epistolary novels of the dishy variety - of which I love both!

(By the way, Holly Denham, the lead character, is listed as the author, but interestingly, it was written by first-time author, and MAN William Surie. Never woulda guessed it was penned by a man...)


The Importance of Being Married by Gemma Townley

Apparently, this is the first novel in a planned trilogy, and features Jessica Wild, a British gal who told one white lie which spiraled and spiraled...

Jessica befriends Grace, an aging widow who comes to see Jess as an adopted granddaughter, who wants nothing more than for her to find a good man and settle down. To please Grace, Jess "invents" a boyfriend, then fiancee, and then gets "married".

When Grace dies and the will opened, her entire (secret) hidden fortune is left to Jess - in her "married" name. Which gives Jess 50 days to find and marry her invented husband.

This features some great supporting characters (Helen and Ivana were my favorite), despite some outrageous situations and a slightly too-tidy ending, this is a fun and breezy novel for the chick lit crowd.


Going Home by Harriet Evans

This was another one of those "ooh! cute cover!" pick ups from the shelf (not to mention a blurb from Sophie Kinsella), but I ended up really enjoying this story, which actually partially takes place at Christmas!

Lizzy Walter is going home from London to spend Christmas with her dysfunctional but loving family and friends, only to have a bomb dropped that their beloved old country manor home is to be sold - and that her ex-boyfriend has suddenly resurfaced from New York City, where he has been living.

The next few months involve trying to save the home, dealing with her friends and family's foibles, reconciling the boys in her life, and helping to plan her aunt's wedding. While at times the outlook is bleak, this is ultimately a story with a happy ending.

This is an imminently readable, fun story full of great characters and great relationships, none more poignantly examined than the bonds of family (and friends that are family too). I really enjoyed this read!


The Senator's Wife by Sue Miller

This is absolutely a character-driven novel, full of quiet contemplation and important moments, but no true action or excitement, which somehow heightens the suspense of it.

Meri and Nathan have just moved in next door to Delia, the wife of Senator Tom Naughton, whom she has not lived with for years, but is not divorced from. Delia is in her 70s, Meri in her 30s, but they form a friendship, and this novel switches back and forth from their points of view, and from different points in time, to weave together this story, which is beautifully written and engaging. You watch how Meri evolves, as well as how Delia has changed throughout her life, until one moment culminates in the finale of the book.

I really enjoyed this read, and came to see Meri and Delia as friends, rather than characters, as the reader is taken into the inner lives of these women, with all their foibles and complexities.


Note: I listened to the audio version, beautifully narrated by Blair Brown. Have the story told to me, rather than reading it, made the characters come even more alive for me.


The English American by Alison Larkin

Could there be a more appropriate book for me? :-)

Pippa Dunn was given up for adoption by her American birth parents, and adopted by a British family, where she has been born and raised, reading Malory Towers, eating Marmite on toast and knowing how to brew a cup of tea.

And yet, she finds herself yearning to know about her birth family, and makes a drastic move to America where she is reunited with both her mother and father, who give her insight into some of her quirks and traits - and some she'd rather not see.

This is an engaging, well-written novel about a young woman struggling not only with her heritage, but her identity, her trust in others, and in finding her place in the world, both professionally and romantically. I really enjoyed Pippa as a protagonist, as well as the asides and throw-ins that we "British Americans" we know.


(And isn't that great cover - the front is great too!)


Practically Perfect by Katie Fforde

After reading another Fforde novel while in England and enjoying it, I grabbed this title off our new book shelf for a read.

Anna has just bought a cottage in the Cotswolds with the plan to completely renovate it herself. Between new neighbors, a pesky house inspector, an old flame and an enormous greyhound named Caroline, Anna suddenly has a lot more than she bargained for!

This is a nice novel set in lovely country, with lots of fun characters and easy writing to read. My only complaint is that there would be times when the author would jump forward in time, and I would feel like I'd missed a chapter somewhere, or wondered if I'd nodded off and missed something, rather than it just being the style of the story!

An easy read...


Know-It-All: The Little Book of Essential Knowledge by Elizabeth King Humphrey

This is one of those books everyone should have in the house, especially if there is debate over Trivial Pursuit questions, or for someone who likes to know a little bit about everything (which, strangely, sounds like a lot of...librarians!)

This is sort of a mini-encyclopedia, made up of ten sections (Understanding the Universe, The Story of the Earth, The Story of Life, Exploring the World, Invention and Discovery, Conflicts of the Modern Age, Structure of Society, Religion and Philosophy, Artistic Endeavors, and Quizzes), with every topic taking up a scant two pages, but written in a really clear, concise language with the occasional sidebar or tidbit of trivia or data, and even pictures to help clarify things.

This is a Reader's Digest imprint, and it totally serves its purpose, while being fun to read to boot! If you have a trivia buff in the family, this is a great book - hardcover, but compact and trade paperback sized. Recommended!


Grace by Richard Paul Evans

This is one of those small Christmas books you read in a single evening, but it was a well-written, satisfying read.

Eric is a soft-spoken fifteen year old boy who befriends a female classmate named Grace when he learns that she has run away from home, the victim of abuse. They form a deep attachment to each other, and this story tracks their story from October until Christmas.

Though this could have been heavy on the schmaltzy scale, I actually really enjoyed it, though I sensed the ending long before it came to a head. Still, it was a different kind of Christmas read - but a good one.


What Was Lost by Catherine O'Flynn

I'm not entirely sure how to describe this novel, was has already won multiple awards and been long- and short-listed for even more.

This novel switches between 1984 and 2003/04, the earlier date following the day to day "investigations" of inquisitive youngster Kate Meaney, who wants to be a private detective. The later sections deal with Lisa and Kurt, who work in the British mall where Kate disappeared years before, though there is evidence that perhaps she isn't gone...

This is a really well-written tale, engaging and engrossing, though it doesn't have any eureka moments, but instead focuses on the day to day existence of several compelling characters, all while tying up ends that don't seem as though they belong together.

I wouldn't say I *loved* this book, as it's not one you love, but it's a compelling, well-written tale...


Let It Snow by John Green, Maureen Johnson and Lauren Myracle

This Christmas novel - featuring three stories from three of the most popular young adult novelists on the market - is actually three stories, cleverly intertwined to take place on one fateful Christmas Eve/Christmas morning in a small town with a train frozen on the tracks, a Waffle House and a Starbucks.

The Maureen Johnson novel was first, and had a few laugh out loud moments. The Lauren Myracle story was last, and also had a few funny moments.

But the John Green story - "A Cheertastic Christmas Miracle" - made me laugh so many times out loud, I snorted.

And laughed.

And cried at one point, I was laughing so hard.

This has become my new favorite Christmas novel. Perhaps ever.

I love the way the three stories tie into one another, with overlapping characters, but with seamless transition, and it's hard to tell that it was written by three distinct voices, as they meld together so well.

But really, it's all about the funny of John Green's story.

Highly, highly recommended!


No One You Know by Michelle Richmond

I don't really know how to give this book a synopsis, but I'll give it my best shot...

Twenty years ago, Ellie Enderlin's brilliant mathematician sister Lila was found murdered in the woods, and a man Ellie trusted wrote an expose book about the murder, pointing the finger at a colleague of Lila's. Ellie, feeling betrayed, closed that chapter of her life, and has led an aimless existence since then (working as a coffee taster) until one day, she meets the man accused of the crime.

This is a slow burn novel - lots of character development and evocative prose. This is tremendously well written, and didn't end the way I expected. I was left guessing whodunit, as well as how Ellie would deal with it.

This is a fantastic fiction work, much more "literary" than contemporary. Highly recommended!


Sweet Love by Sarah Strohmeyer

I've enjoyed Strohmeyer's other "stand alone" titles, so when I saw the pretty pink cupcake on the cover, I snatched this one up!

This title takes a more serious tone than her previous titles (at least in my opinion), dealing with aging parents, mortality, and a lost love that reappears after twenty years in the life of Julie Mueller - in the form of former bad boy Michael Slayton.

This book is also filled with delicious sounding treats, reclaimed romance and a happy ending, despite the more serious tone.

I was in the wrong place to truly enjoy it (much of it focused on mothers and daughters, which is still so, so hard for me), but I think others will eat it up!


The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Ann Burrows


Oh, I LOVED this book.

I don't even know where to begin.

Okay, here goes: this is an epistolary novel, written primarily in letters to and from Juliet Ashton in 1946. Juliet is an authoress who is contacted by Dawsey, who is interested in her writings, and those of Charles Lamb.

What follows is a written correspondence between Juliet and Dawsey, as well as his fellow members of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, a secret reading group that formed on Guernsey during the dark days of World War II, when the island (one of the Channel Islands) was occupied by the Germans.

This is full of truly charming characters, a lovely plot, some laugh out loud prose, and just a promise that even in the world's worst days, there are still people full of life and opinions and caring for one another.

I became a part of this small society, and truly mourned when the book was over. I already miss Juliet and her voice and opinions, as well as Dawsey, Amelia, Kit and all the rest.

This is a beautifully written, easy to read, wonderfully inspiring story, and I'm just sorry it wasn't longer. It only took a day to read, but I'm already eager to r-read it.

I'm going to have to buy this one. For me, this is truly high praise indeed...

HIGHLY, highly recommended! I loved it!


Suite Scarlett by Maureen Johnson

I have been eagerly awaiting this title by Secret Sister Johnson, and finally got a hold of the library copy, which I devoured in only a day.

Scarlett's family owns an aging hotel in New York City, and on her fifteenth birthday, Scarlett receives a suite of her own to care for - and a new customer to inhabit it.

What follows is a smart, thoughtful read about Scarlett's summer of her first crush, growing up, dealing with her family and their drama (including her older Brother Spencer, my hands down favorite character), a production of Hamlet, deceptions both big and small, and a truly great red lipstick.

This YA novel is full of great supporting characters, but Scarlett is a great guide through this sticky New York summer, and I loved the way the ending tumbled and bumbled to the end - a happy end, I think.

Highly, highly recommended!


Dumbocracy: Adventures with the Loony Left, the Rabid Right, and Other American Idiots by Marty Beckerman

Marty Beckerman is a little bit scary to read.

And while I told him it took me a while to read because I kept throwing it across the room, that's actually a good thing, and yes, I DID finish it, just a bit behind schedule ;-)

Much like the tenet that librarians live by: if I haven't offended you with something in this library, I haven't done my job...Marty lives by the same principle, only his targets range from abortion to women's rights to gay rights to politics to freedom of speech...you know, topics that NEVER inflame anyone's opinions or passions. ;-)

And he does a hilarious job at taking a "dispassionate" look at all these topics, and the loonies that cling to them with their eyeteeth.

Marty's book isn't for the faint of heart - lots of "colourful" language that would make a sailor blush, naughty asides that border on crude and scathing opinions are throughout, but you know, it's damn funny. As long as you aren't throwing it across the room too often. ;-)

I found myself laughing out loud more than once, which is always the sign of a good read. Fed up with the conventions and all the political jargon from this year? Grab this instead - it's a great foil.



Man of the House by Ad Hudler

This novel is a sequel to Househusband (which I haven't read), but reads so that one doesn't feel they "missed out" by not having read the first novel. Linc Menner is the "househusband" to wife Jo and daughter Violet, who just turned 13. He cooks like a maniac, cleans like a banshee, and has a variety of hobbies - most of which are putting him in touch with his more feminine side.

This novel (told from four points of view) tracks Linc's escalated masculinity as he battles with contractors, Mother Nature (an impending hurricane), the gym, his family, and his entire sense of self. This novel shows great evolution of not only Linc, but the peripheral characters as well, and how they all bounce against one another.

There are definitely some funny moments in this book, but it's full of tender ones as well as Linc tries to find where he best straddles the line between househusband and "manly man".



The Messenger by Daniel Silva

Because I so enjoyed Silva's recent Moscow Rules when I saw this audiobook on the shelf, I thought I'd give it a try.

Though at first there are a lot of characters to keep track of, once this story gets going, it doesn't let up for a minute until the conclusion. In the wake of a suicide bombing in the heart of the Vatican, Gabriel Allon (Israeli spy and all-around badass) assembles a group to infiltrate the "money" behind the crime, and to do that, they need to recruit an American woman who can toe the line between crime and spy...but can she pull it off convincingly?

This is another action-packed, multi-continent, speedy tale of deception and life and death, complete with a great cast of characters, led by the always engaging Allon. I really enjoyed this novel, and found myself popping in disc after disc to see just what would happen next...

Highly recommended, particularly if you enjoyed other Gabriel Allon tales!

Note: I listened to the audio edited, well narrated by Christopher Lane, who had to flip between Israeli, American, Saudi, Italian accents, and a few more, and did a fine job at it!


The Girl With No Shadow by Joanne Harris

This is the sequel to Chocolat, Harris' 1999 novel (and charming film with Juliette Binoche and Johnny Depp), which continues the story of Vianne and Anouk, and the newest addition to the family: 4-year old Rosette.

Vianne and her family have left the small village, and now are opening a chocolate shop in Montmarte (In Paris), though the sparkle seems to have gone out of Vianne, and there is no sign of Roux, and just when things seem a bit dim...the wind blows in Zozie, a new shop assistant.

But Zozie is not what she seems...

But are Vianne, Anouk, Rosette and their friends able to overcome that which holds them back, harness magic again, and right their lives? Only time will tell...

Harris' prose is truly lovely and transports the reader right into the streets of Paris, to the smells of chocolate, and to the feeling of magic being worked all around as the story unfolds and told from three voices: Vianne, Zozie and Anouk. Though there is a sense of foreboding pervading much of the novel, it's an engaging, beautifully written novel that will leave you cheering until the end - and perhaps believing in magic again. ;-)

Highly, highly recommended if you loved Chocolat...


Magic and the Modern Girl by Mindy Klasky

I just love this series of books by Klasky, featuring DC librarian Jane Madison who just happens to be a witch. ;-)

In this, the third novel, Jane finds her power diminishing from lack of use, and must summon her family, her warder (the hunky David) and her familiar (the always snarky, always opinionated Neko) to help her get her powers back. But when a spell goes awry, all of DC is turned upside down...

Not to mention, Jane has a new man vying for her affection, but how will David feel about that? ;-)

This is just a fun, fast to read, satisfying series about magic, libraries (woot!), the power of a good mojito and baked goods, and friends and family who stand by you, no matter what magical mischief arises. I can't wait for There's the Rub, the next book!


Fire Study by Maria V. Snyder

This is the third book in the fantasy series featuring Yelena, who at the beginning of book one was given a choice between execution and become the Commander's food taster.

It's now a while later, and Yelena is coming to grips with her new family from a different land, her abilities as a magician, and the revelation that she is a Soulfinder.

It's been ages since I read Poison Study and Magic Study, so it took me a while to get back up to speed on all the politics and arguments going on in this novel. I still enjoyed the characters (Valek!) and the action, but it took me a while to get reacclimated.

I'm not sure if Yelena's story is done, though!


The Next Thing On My List by Jill Smolinski

I started this book mid-evening last night, then had to stay up past my bedtime to finish it!

What a great, great read!

Get this: a character named Marissa (hee!), who will be turning 25 in a few months, has written a list of 20 things to do before her birthday, everything from get a massage to go on a blind date to ride in a helicopter.

The problem is, Marissa is killed in a car wreck on page 6.

The driver of the car, June Parker, decides to take Marissa's list and finish it for her, out of guilt and depression, and the need to make it up to Marissa.

What follows is a book filled with funny moments, empowering moments, gut-wrenching moment, and truly satisfying moments. Filled with great characters, a hint of romance, some truly embarrassing situations and a lot of heart, this is such a lovely, readable novel about pushing yourself to step outside of "going through the motions".

Okay, sure, I read it because Marissa was a character, but I ended up loving it for June Parker.

And here is my favorite quote from the novel, which made me laugh out loud at the irony of it:

"That's the guy my sister had a crush on - in the pink polo shirt. She thought he looked like the lead singer from Nine Inch Nails."

It was hard to decide what seemed stranger: that the sweet girl I pictured Marissa Jones to be would have had a thing for Nine Inch Nails or that she thought anyone in a pink polo shirt could resemble Trent Reznor.

I swear, it's like this book was written for me. :-)

I loveloveloved it,and can't say enough about how much I enjoyed every page of it. Highly recommended!


Confessions of a Serial Kisser by Wendelin Van Draanen

This sounded like a cute YA novel, and I remembered it being heavily promoted at ALA this summer, so I thought I'd give it a read.

Evangeline is looking for that perfect "crimson kiss" - the kind you read about in trashy romance novels. So, she goes on a quest to find that kiss, and ends up turning things upside down with the boys she kisses, her best friend, and her reluctance to forgive her father for some unauthorized kissing of his own...

This was a cute enough novel - the quest for the kiss was cute, but the rest of the tone was at times quite serious, as Evangeline struggles with her parent's impending divorce, her struggle to find herself, and risking the loss of her best friend.

It wasn't my favorite YA novel, but it was a satisfying read nonetheless...


Sleeping Arrangements by Madeleine Wickham

You may know this author better by her pen name: Sophie Kinsella, author of the Shopaholic series, who this time is writing under her real name.

Chloe and Phillip and their two sons, and Hugh and Amanda and their two daughters, find they have been double-booked at a villa in Spain by their friend Gerard, who is doing a bit of scheming of his own to crash everyone together for one holiday week. What know one knows is that Chloe and Hugh have a past...a past that isn't entirely past for either of them...

This book just flowed so easily, and took no time to read, as I was eager to see "will they, won't they, who said, they what?!" throughout the reading. This had its funny bits, its tender bits, and its car crash bits, but all of it just WORKED. The ending is, and is not, what I expected, but I enjoyed every page.

This is just a nice, simple, easy, fast read - highly recommended!


Apart by R.P. MacIntyre and Wendy MacIntyre

This YA novel was co-written by the MacIntyres, who are not related, but both write YA novels separately. For this novel, they teamed up to write an epistolary novel, exchanging letters between Jessica of New Brunswick and Sween, who lives on the other side of Canada.

The letters are smart, insightful, at times biting, but always intelligent - a nice change from some novels geared towards younger readers. Though the ending was not at all what I expected, and I wasn't entirely happy with it, I think this was a read well worth it's time, and would be a great recommendation for reluctant readers - at only 175 pages, it's not intimidating in size or plot.

An interesting, thoughtful read!


Rumors by Anna Godbersen

This is the second novel in "The Luxe" series, a series of YA novels set in decadent 1899 New York City. After the untimely demise of debutante Elizabeth Holland, this novel follows the lives of her younger sister Diana and best friend Penelope - and the fiance Elizabeth never had a chance to marry.

This is another interesting historical novel written for young adults - something not readily found in most YA collections. The writing is dishy and fresh, and doesn't read at all like a stuffy historical romance.

This is a great series - I'm ready to read more of the upper crust in Envy, the next book due out!


Extracurricular Activities by Maggie Barbieri

I so enjoyed Barbieri's first murder mystery novel, Murder 101, that I was eager to ILL this follow-up title, and ended up reading it just as quickly!

Alison Bergeron, and English professor at a private college, is back, and this time caught up in a murder close to her life and former love: ex-husband Ray turns up dead in her kitchen.

This sets off a fast-paced read with a wedding, the Mob, a golden retriever, more murders, and the continued story of Alison's entanglement with NYPD detective Crawford. I think my favorite parts of these books is the pas de deux between Alison and Crawford, and Barbieri deftly weaves a romance novel into a mystery novel, keeping both aspects balanced and imminently readable.

I can't wait to read more about Alison and Crawford, so the next novel in the series is already on my "to be read" list! These are great titles for a lighter mystery read - highly recommended!


Made in the U.S.A. by Billie Letts

I loved Letts' previous novels, Where the Heart Is and Shoot the Moon, so when I saw this audiobook had come in, I snapped it up, knowing I was going to be on the road a lot this week.

While 15-year-old Lutie and her 11-year-old brother, Fate, are shopping/shoplifting at the local Wal-Mart, their caretaker Floy (their father's ex-girlfriend) drops dead in the checkout line, setting up the rest of the story as Lutie and Fate flee from sleepy Spearfish, S.D. for parts unknown with no adults, little money, and a lot of obstacles.

This isn't a happy-happy book. Throughout most of the book, Lutie is tremendously unlikeable, and yet she is so vulnerable and having to make such hard choices, you can't help but root for her. Fate, though, was my favorite character - an 35-year-old trapped in an 11-year-old body, Fate is a genius, wise beyond his years, and fiercely loyal to his older sister.

This book relies on coincidences and eventually faith in other humans to pull it from the dark places Letts leads the readers to, but ultimately ends on an inspiring note. In some ways, this reminded me of Homecoming and Dicey's Song by Cynthia Voigt, where teens are forced to make their way in the world, scrapping for food, transportation and attention, though this book takes a much darker turn than those YA novels from my youth.

Though I missed the strong friendship and "sense of place" present in Where the Heart Is, I still thought this was a tremendous piece of storytelling. Recommended!

Note: I listened to the audio version, narrated by Cassandra Morris. I was BLOWN AWAY by the talent of Morris - she truly sounded like a 15-year-old and an 11-year-old, and her diction, pace and tone were spectacular. I think my enjoyment of the book was definitely enhanced by having it TOLD to me, rather than reading it myself. If you have the chance, listen to this title instead of reading!


Airhead by Meg Cabot

I finally managed to snag this copy when it was on our shelf (for probably no more than 12 minutes, as all Meg's books tend to be in our library), and whizzed through it in no time. Em Watts is a typical disinterested teen - good at school, not popular, in love with her best friend Christopher, has an annoying younger sister - but all that changes in one fateful day when a bizarre accident turns her into someone else entirely...

I don't want to give away the twist of the plot, but I really enjoyed this book - in typical Meg fashion, it has funny moments, sarcasm, namedropping and more, but has a more serious tone than her other books - mostly, are you still yourself inside if your outside changes radically? And how do you find the middle ground between the two?

I thought this was a most thought provoking read, while still being fresh and entertaining, with a few laugh out loud moments. I'm looking forward already to the planned sequel Being Nicki, which will continue Em's story...

Highly recommended YA novel!


Deja Demon by Julie Kenner

This is the fourth book in the "Days and Nights of a Demon-Hunting Soccer Mom" series, featuring Kate Connor, wife and mother of two living quietly in suburbia, who also happens to be a Demon Hunter.

This series just gets better and better as Kenner continues to build Kate's backstory, as well as her circle of friends and family, some of whom are getting suspicious about her odd behavior at times...not to mention that old friend who has come for a visit...

These books make me laugh out loud, root for Kate, and I love that they are a non-gory demon book - think Buffy, chick lit and funny!

I highly recommend this series - I can't wait for the next title, since Kenner keeps giving us cliffhangers!!


Manhunting by Jennifer Crusie

This is a fast, fun novel by Crusie, that, while enjoyable enough at the time, was actually pretty unmemorable in terms of characters or story.

Kate is searching for a man to complete her life - a rich, successful man to complement her own career-driven style, so she heads to a resort to try and snag one. Naturally, things go awry, and she ends up with an unexpected man in her life after all...

Funny at times, and very cute, this is a quick read that will fill the hours, but won't be much remembered after you close the book. Not one of Crusie's strongest efforts, but still enjoyable...

Note: I listened to the audio edition, narrated by Renee Raudman. I really struggled to get used to her voice, but over the course of the discs, she improved on me, but it was a fight at first...


The Off Season by Catherine Gilbert Murdock

I was eager to read this YA novel, the sequel to Dairy Queen, which I so enjoyed listening to. While this one was not audio, it was still a great follow-up to the first novel, though with a slightly more serious tone.

DJ and Brian have continued their cautious friendship, and DJ is happy to be playing football for Red Bend High School when a series of events turn her world upside down, and not for the better. Between Amber, her mother, her brother, her own body and Brian, DJ suddenly has a plateful of worries, and discovers she a lot stronger than she thought as she deals with each problem, one at a time.

This is a great read, though heartbreaking at times. DJ is just such a likable, dynamic character, and can't help but root for her on every page. She really is like a little sister or friend that you have true affection for.

I hope this isn't the last of DJ Schwenk, but if it is, it was a good ending...

Highly recommend both this and Dairy Queen...


The Other Queen by Philippa Gregory

I have long been a fan of Gregory's works since devouring The Other Boleyn Girl several years ago. This book shifts slightly later than her other titles, this time focusing on Mary, Queen of Scots and her early imprisonment ("guest", in the parlance of the time) at the hands of her cousin, Queen Elizabeth.

This story is told in three voices: Mary herself, Bess of Harwick and her husband George Talbot, who have the charge of taking care of "The Other Queen", and seeing that she is comfortable and well treated as plots, treason, armies assembling and marriages proposals flow around Mary, who by all accounts was stunning, charming, beguiling and yes, ambitious.

This book focuses on her early imprisonment and on the relationships Mary has with those around her, rather than on her unfortunate demise 16 years later at the executioner's axe.

As with all Gregory's books, I had to do oodles of research after I finished the last page to see what history truly tells us, and what Gregory took license with. I absolutely love this writing style, the stories she tells, and am fascinated by this period of British history.

Another winning title by Gregory - highly recommended!


Southern Storm by Terri Blackstock

This is the sequel to Cape Refuge, a series by Christian author Blackstock (I know, I know). I was curious to see how Blackstock furthers the story of tiny coast town Cape Refuge, and the Christian residents.

Oh, and the TOWN LIBRARIAN who's an atheist. ;-)

Once again, this is mostly a mystery and suspense novel, this time kicked off by Police Chief Matthew Cade, who, on his way to a routine traffic incident hits and kills a man who stumbled into the road. What follows is a very twisty, at times confusing plot, but showcases not only the power of a small town, but also the power of prayer. I guess. ;-)

I'm curious to read the third one...I'll add it to my list one of these days...