Friday, April 27, 2012

The Cove by Ron Rash

Laurel Shelton is ostracized by the residents of the small North Carolina town nearest the farm she owns with her brother.  The farm is located in a dark cove and the local residents steer clear of the area.  The superstitions that surround the area have been attached to Laurel as well.  Because of her birthmark and her home she is rumored to be a witch.  Her brother came back from WWI injured and he is now an accepted part of the community, but his sister is still set apart. 

One day, while walking the woods around the cove Laurel hears some beautiful music.  She spies a man playing the flute.  He is a mute by the name of William.  The cove brings these two together, but will it also force them apart?

The author has a wonderful way with words.  I often had to remind myself that William didn’t speak because he communicated so well with the other characters through his actions and movements.  The major characters and their motivations are well described and the book moves quickly and carries you along through the revelation of one secret after another.
Come Home by Lisa Scottoline

Scottoline asks some hard questions in her newest standalone thriller.  How do you define family?  Is there such a thing as an ex-stepdaughter?  Do you ever stop loving a child?

When Abby, Jill’s ex-stepdaughter, shows up drunk and hysterical on her doorstep Jill’s quiet life with her daughter Megan and husband-to-be Sam is turned upside-down.  Abby brings with her the news that her father, Jill’s ex-husband William, is dead.  And Abby is convinced that he was murdered and wants Jill to help her find the killer.  But was William really murdered?  And if so, why?

I really liked the way Scottoline portrayed the family dynamic.  Sam is a little more communicative than I think most men in his position would be, but his displeasure at suddenly inheriting another daughter, one that appears to be a handful and a half, rings true.  And she has written tween Megan very realistically as well.  When forced into a corner Jill attempts to explain why she divorced William to her daughter.  I don’t want to reveal the juicy bits here, but when Jill is done explaining Megan is incredulous that she divorced William “just because of money.”  Ah, the naiveté of youth.  It is also interesting to see how large medical practices are run and the issues doctors face day to day.

A good suspenseful family crisis story.

Monday, April 23, 2012

The Expats by Chris Pavone

Kate is the mother of two young boys and the wife of a wonderful man.  When her husband proposes that she quit her job writing briefs for the government and become a full-time mom in Luxemburg she is a little hesitant.  But after considering it for a few days she decides it’s a great opportunity for her and her family.  And she hasn’t really enjoyed her job for a long time.  The problem is Kate doesn’t have the job her husband thinks she does.  She is a CIA agent, out of the field, but an agent nonetheless.  And while she does quit she can never leave the life entirely behind.  She is suspicious of her new friends, of random meetings and, most disturbingly, her husband.  Where does he work and what does he do all day?  Does she want to learn his secrets?  And if she uncovers his secrets will she need to reveal her own?

This is a classic spy novel.  The stereotypical spy movie catch phrase – Don’t Trust Anyone –definitely applies here.  If you like your novels twisty and turny, making you doubt everything on every page, you’ll find an engrossing read here.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Books Can Be Deceiving by Jenn McKinlay

A local Caldecott Award winning author/illustrator of children’s books is brutally murdered and the local children’s librarian, Beth, his former girlfriend, is the prime suspect.  But is she the only one who wanted him dead?  As Beth and her best friend, the Library Director, dig into the victim’s past they find more questions than answers.  And then the second suspicious death occurs…

Set in a small town in Connecticut you can smell the clam chowder and feel the breeze off the Long Island Sound.  If you’re in the mood for a cozy mystery set in a wonderful place (the library!) try this one. 

Monday, April 16, 2012

Carry the One by Carol Anshaw

Five people are leaving a wedding when the car accident occurs.  The new bride noticed that the car didn’t have its lights on when it left but didn’t try to chase them down.  The driver was high and so was her boyfriend, the front seat passenger.  Two of the people in the backseat (the sisters of the bride and groom) are too focused on each other to notice their surroundings.  The fifth passenger is lost in his own thoughts.  A child, walking in the middle of the road, is struck by the car and killed.  

This is the story of how that accident affects the lives of all the people in the car, the bride, and the family of the young girl who was killed.  It shows how even those not legally responsible still feel the weight of their responsibility and cope with it through their lives.  This is an interesting psychological delving into the minds of individuals touched by tragedy and how they face life after. 
The Garden Intrigue by Lauren Willig

Emma, a young widowed American in favor with the Napoleonic family, finds herself tasked with writing and organizing a masque for a celebration at Napoleon’s summer house.  Augustus Whittlesby is an English spy masquerading as a very (VERY) bad poet who insinuates himself into the production as co-writer so he can be closer to the action.  Things are getting dicey with Napoleon declaring himself Emperor and Robert Fulton being at court with rumors of a device.  What device?  Could this device mean war between France and England?  And will Emma and Augustus be able to see through the masks they wear to the individuals underneath?

I am a huge fan of the Pink Carnation series and I’ve been listening since the first one came out in 2005.  Willig does not disappoint with the eighth in the series, she writes a fresh new book every time.  Yes, the book always ends happily, it is after all a romance, but it’s the twists and turns on the way to the happily ever after which make it so enjoyable.
Wild Thing by Josh Bazell

You have to be in the mood for something off the wall bizarre to enjoy this book.  You also have to be willing to deal with the bizarre elements mixed with crude language and gory situations.  Check, check and check; I was ready to hunt down a mythical beast.

In the deep woods of Minnesota is a little visited lake reputed to be the home of an incredible beast.  Billionaires are converging on a lodge, each paying a million dollars each, to track and hopefully see the creature.  Little do these intrepid adventurers know but the beast has killed people before.  And it has a bite resembling the fabled Nessie more than any other creature known to man.

This is a loose sequel to Beat the Reaper starring a “reformed” Mafia hit man on the run.  He goes by so many names it’s hard to know what to call him besides “the main character.”  The book employs a technique in fiction that I adore, but some people loathe: footnotes.  I like snarky informative footnotes in whatever I’m reading but fiction most of all.  I skimmed the Appendix and the Source Notes because while they were interesting to have and it was cool that the author included them, they weren’t interesting enough to hold my interest. 

Friday, April 13, 2012

Getting Over Mr. Right by Chrissie Manby

This is the quintessential guide of what NOT to do if you are dumped, especially if, like Ashleigh, you are dumped by your Mr. Right on Facebook.  I think it’s safe to say that most of us would give up on a guy who dumped us so publically and impersonally but Ashleigh is convinced that he was the ONE.  (As a reader we are certain from the beginning that he’s a ZERO.  But let’s face it there is no way to explain love.)  This is the story of Ashleigh’s meltdown and catastrophic ideas to get Mr. Right back right now.  She resorts to stalking, interesting beauty parlor choices and voodoo to get him back.  She manages to lose her job, her best friend and her apartment in the process.  Ashleigh is a mess, but she is a likeable mess as she ping pongs from one wild mishap to another.  And the book features the best use of a Sharpie pen ever.

In true chick lit fashion all comes out pretty much okay at the end but it is a wild ride getting there.  It’s not out until July 10th so place your hold on this perfect beach read now.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Doc by Mary Doria Russell

My parents have always been huge fans of movie westerns, especially ones starring Clint Eastwood.  I wanted nothing to do with them when I was younger.  Only now do I know how I missed out.  One holiday a few years ago I wasn’t feeling great and decided to get a nice long movie to watch.  I was working my way through one of those “Best Movies Ever” lists and decided to get The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly from the library.  I have been hooked ever since.  (Yes, I now proudly own all three “Man With No Name” westerns.)

Being curious about best lists (but finding I rarely agree with everything on them) I put off reading Doc.  That was another mistake.  Even if you aren’t a fan of westerns you will enjoy this tale of life in the Old West.  It’s a fictionalized biography of Doc Holliday before the shootout at the O.K. Corral made him infamous.  He was an interesting man with an interesting life.  Nothing like the man I envisioned him to be.  Same goes for his best friend, not Wyatt Earp, Morgan Earp.  Doc knew three of the Earp brothers while living in Dodge City yet only Wyatt remains known in popular culture.

If you are a fan of historical fiction I think you’ll really enjoy learning about the cow town of Dodge City and the men whose names you may know without knowing the men they were. 

The Popular Fiction Book Discussion Group will be discussing Doc on Tuesday, May 15th at 7pm at the Bridgewater Library.  You can register for the discussion here.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

The Art of Hearing Heartbeats by Jan-Philipp Sendker

Julia’s father, a successful New York lawyer, suddenly disappeared four years ago.  No one has heard from him since.  A love letter her father wrote years ago to a woman in his native country of Burma turns up and Julia is intrigued.  Her father never spoke to anyone about the first twenty years of his life.  Since a small village in Burma is the only lead Julia has she heads there to find answers. 

This book is two stories in one.  In the present it is the story of a daughter learning about her father’s life from a local villager.  In the past it is a love story that defies all odds and makes your heart sing.  A masterfully told tale of enduring love, the twists of fate and the journey life takes us on to discover what is truly important.
Home Front by Kristin Hannah

Joleen is a helicopter for the National Guard.  Her family doesn’t understand that she enjoys being a soldier and that her colleagues are like another family to her.  When Joleen is deployed to Iraq her family is less than enthusiastic or supportive, but while she’s gone her husband and daughters begin to come to terms with Joleen’s profession and absence.  Then, tragedy strikes.

When someone asks me for women’s fiction Hannah is definitely one of my go-to authors.  She is great at writing about family relationships.  That said, I think she may have goofed on this one.  The inner struggles Joleen faces dealing with being away from home, her shattered family and her injuries, are wonderfully done.  The relationship between Joleen and her husband Michael is believable as well.  However, I had a really hard time believing in or liking twelve-year-old Betsy.  I refuse to believe that a child raised by a strong woman like Joleen would be so selfish, childish or bratty.  I understand that she would be angry and upset that her mother was going to war, but embarrassed?  And when her mother came home with severe injuries would she have no understanding that life couldn’t possibly go back to normal right away?  I think the reason that my dislike for this character was so strong and so jarring was that I listened to the audiobook and her whining was extremely evident.  I read the last seventy pages of the book and liked it quite a bit.  This is the one of those rare times I can say that I do not recommend this book on audio.