Friday, April 30, 2010

Winter Garden by Kristen Hannah

Two sisters have lost their beloved father, the man who was the glue that kept their family together through the years, and they are now left to care for their cold, distant mother. Their mother is a woman they have never understood or ever tried to understand. On his deathbed, their father charges his daughters with listening to the Russian fairy tales their mother tells in their entirety. And therein is the heart of the story. The fairy tales their mother tells are thinly veiled retellings of their mother's life during the Siege of Leningrad in World War II.

This is the story of a family rediscovering each other and how the past affects the future. It is also about the power of stories and how stories are what form you and your family. Told in Hannah's engaging style, this book is heartwarming, heart wrenching and unforgettable. This story will stay with you long after you turn the final page.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Pick Up a Paperback -- Featuring Romantic Suspense

Personally, I love paperbacks. You can read them anywhere and, for me at least, their small size makes me feel like I'm reading faster. I've just discovered some great romantic suspense authors who only come out in paperback and I wanted to share.

The Powell Agency is a private protection/investigation agency with funds to do basically anything they want. And what they most want to do, and do pretty darn well, is track down serial killers. And I have to say, Barton’s got some strange serial killers in her books.

Especially so in The Dying Game, here the Beauty Queen Killer takes the lives of former beauty queens in their late 20s and early 30s; killing them before their beauty can fade. It's his method that's particularly gruesome - if their talent was ballet dancing, he cuts off their feet; a singer will have her throat cut or head removed. Judd Walker's wife was murdered by this killer four and a half years ago and since that time he has been consumed by grief and obsessed with catching the killer. The Powell Agency has also been hunting the killer for the past few years with no luck. One agent, Lindsay MacAllister, joined the agency after being one of the detectives assigned to investigating Judd's wives murder. She's been on the trail of the killer ever since and helping Judd deal with his grief. He's all wrong for her, but she can't help her feelings for him. As the team closes in on the killer, the relationship between Judd and Lindsay grows closer as well. This book really keeps you guessing.

I can't give away the details, but there is a game, a really sick game, being played here. While the book ends well, the story is not over.

Karen Rose was a paperback author for many years when suddenly a couple of years ago she started being published in hardcover. Her paperbacks are great and you'll want to start with these!

These are complex stories with multiple storylines and points of view. And in the case of Die For Me we’ve got the mind of the killer as well. And frankly it doesn’t help. This guy has so many aliases he seriously keeps you on your toes. I liked that the multiple seemingly disconnected storylines came together, but not every lead or bit of information was crucial to the case. Made things not too neat. And as in the case of the last serial killer, this guy is seriously disturbed filming the death of his victims by many gruesome means so he can sell graphic renderings of their deaths for use in video games.

Our heroine, Sophie, is a disgruntled archaeologist working for a fledgling museum in Philadelphia, our hero, Vito, is a determined detective who is called in to work the killer’s burial ground. Sophie is called in to use ground penetrating radar to see if there is more than one body in the innocent looking grass field…and there are…lots. As Sophie and Vito become closer, things heat up in more ways than one. Both characters have secrets they’d like to keep, and secrets they desperately need to uncover to stop the psychotic killer.

Brenda Novak’s latest series revolves around The Last Stand, an investigation firm run by women who have been victims of violence and abuse.

In The Perfect Murder you have two people you just want to see get a break. Sebastian's ex-wife and son were murdered by her second husband, a cop, who convinced the world he committed suicide – everyone except Sebastian. Sebastian gets a little suspicious when the $500,000 cash his ex told him about is missing from her safety deposit box.

Jane Burke is the victim rights activist that decides to help Sebastian. She's battling her own demons, but she's got a new lease on life as an investigator in training at The Last Stand. As she's looking into the kidnapping of two sisters she runs into Sebastian and it seems like they are after the same person. Of course the crazed-killer supposed to be dead guy is still alive and starts going after Jane and Sebastian. But unbeknownst to everyone Jane survived marriage to a serial killer and she’s learned to take care of herself; she's not going to be scared into backing off the trail.

Will the killer finally be caught and brought to justice? Will Jane and Sebastian be able to love and trust again? This is romantic suspense, so you already know the answer…

Christina Dodd is best known for her historicals, which she is still writing. Recently she’s tried her hand at paranormal romances and romantic suspense. All of her books are released in paperback.

In Thigh High, Ionessa Dahl is stuck at a dead-end job as an Assistant Manager of a bank in New Orleans. A different branch of a that bank that is robbed by the Beaded Bandits each year for a small amount during Mardi Gras. The CEO of the bank is furious and feels that the police aren’t doing all they can to solve the crimes since they are for such small amounts (less than $2000) and only occur once a year. So he assumes a fake name and fake role as an insurance investigator to be there in the thick of it when the next heist goes down. He’s already suspicious of Ionessa, so he makes her his personal assistant. While she badmouths the CEO, unknowingly to the CEO, the CEO has to fight his desire to kiss her and kill her.
Of course sparks do fly, misunderstandings abound, and since it’s New Orleans during Mardi Gras wackiness ensues. This is a light and frothy tale filled with eccentric minor characters that’s a nice break from the serial killer plotlines running through many romantic suspense titles. The others in this series steer clear of serial killers as well dealing with stolen art and hidden family fortunes.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Major Pettigrew's Last Stand by Helen Simonson
Blurbed by Mary Lynn, North Plainfield Library

Are you in the mood for a novel that will whisk you instantly away from your hectic life in suburban NJ and set you down in the picturesque English countryside? Nothing could be more charming than Helen Simpson’s debut novel set in an idyllic rural village. She skillfully updates for the 21st century the classic English novel of manners complete with local shopkeepers, gentry, vicar, and meddling neighbors. The author has created modern characters out of clich├ęs and the old-fashioned setting feels delightfully modern as Simpson takes Major Pettigrew on a whirlwind tour of family drama, local politics, society antics and romance.

This book reads like a cozy Miss Read novel crossed with a page-turning thriller. You’ll find yourself falling for the characters as they are falling for each other and cheering them along as they struggle toward their hardwon happily-ever-afters. Everyone could use a little happily-ever-after magic in their life-give yourself some with Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand.