Friday, June 29, 2012

Scintillating Summer Read: Bared to You

Bared to You by Sylvia Day
Reviewed by Cassandra, Collection Management Librarian

Bared to You, book 1 in the Crossfire series, is a steamy look into the lives of two very complicated characters. The heroine, Eva, meets hero Gideon at the office building which he owns and where she works. From the moment these two set eyes on each other, we enter a complex relationship between two damaged but lovable characters. Both have been victims of abuse, but they try to find their way to one another in the relationship.

There have been comparisons made between Bared to You and Fifty Shades of Grey. Although there are some common elements, such as a young, rich, dominant hero involved with a younger woman, but Bared to You is particularly good in letting us see the toll that abuse can have on people in different ways. I loved seeing the trust build between Eva and Gideon as they try to deal with the issue together.

The love scenes are scorching, but Sylvia Day also did a fantastic job with the mental drama the characters are involved in. Eva and Gideon are in a possessive, sometimes obsessive relationship that is not easy to balance. It is not always emotionally easy to read, but that is one of its strengths. The reader sympathizes with the characters and sometimes wants to shout at them for making self-destructive choices. Deeper in You is the next installment in the Crossfire series.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Scintillating Summer Read: Lucky in Love

Lucky in Love by Jill Shalvis
Reviewed by Cassandra, Collection Management Librarian

Lucky in Love is the fourth book in the Lucky Harbor series and another funny, romantic, steamy story. Ty Garrison is a great alpha male - sexy, troubled, strong yet vulnerable - my idea of the perfect hero. Mallory Quinn is a wonderful heroine - compassionate, independent, smart - and she is troubled and vulnerable. I enjoyed the way their relationship developed, the way they had each other's backs, unconditionally, regardless of the situation. Their sexual chemistry is off the charts and their romance, not easily earned, but well deserved.

There are so many things to love about Jill Shalvis' stories, but what I've come to appreciate most is that, without fail, I can count on her to deliver something unique. How she delivers it is the true magic of her writing, but the fact that she does so, again and again, is what keeps me coming back for more.

Look out for more books in the series to be published throughout the summer.

Scintillating Summer Read: Thief of Shadows

Thief of Shadows by Elizabeth Hoyt
Reviewed by Cassandra, Collection Management Librarian 

The fourth book in The Maiden Lane series, Thief of Shadows finally focuses on Winter Makepeace, the staid and respectable headmaster of the Home for Unfortunate Infants and Foundling Children, located in London's most notorious slum and Isabel, Lady Beckinhall. Thief of Shadows has more action and danger coupled with mystery and villains to vanquish than the previous books in the series.

Isabel is as strong as heroines come in books. She's not the feistiest female or the boldest seductress we've seen, she's worse. She's an intelligent female with resources and courage. A perfect match for Winter, even if neither knows it.

The Innocents by Francesca Segal

The Innocents by Francesca Segal

It’s hard to set a novel of manners in current time; especially when it’s rare to keep close to the families in your neighborhood, never mind your own family.  That’s where the author’s choice of setting is brilliant.  She chooses a tight-knit Jewish community in North West London.  Here it’s not uncommon to keep in touch with all your elementary school classmates and know where they work, who they married and how many children they have, as well as the whole story of all their family members.  Drop into this community a man who has been dating the same woman since they were in middle school.  After twelve years of dating he has finally proposed and life is good.  Until his fiancĂ©e’s troubled and vivacious cousin returns from New York laden with scandal and capturing his eye.

The writing style evokes a time gone by while very much set in current times; a deep character study of a few individuals and how life affects them and they affect those around them by their choices.

Apparently the must-read classic of the summer is The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton.  Many reviews say that this novel is a retelling of that work.  I wouldn’t know.  I’ve never read it!  But I just started The Chaperone by Laura Moriarty and the main character is reading Wharton’s book too.  I just may have to add a classic to my summer reading list.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

Amy is gone.  Her husband Nick has no idea where she went.  When he calls the police they start investigating his home.  It doesn’t look good.  Then they start investigating him.  It really doesn’t look good.  But Nick knows he didn’t harm Amy.  So what happened to her?

I can’t reveal anything else.  I simply can’t.  I want you to enjoy the story.  If enjoy is the correct term…  I will give one piece of advice, if you find the first part of the book not so much to your liking; I’ve heard some say they felt it was slow going, trust me that you need to stick with it.  You don’t want to miss what happens next.

I’ve been a fan of Gillian Flynn since her first novel.  She is only getting better.  This is her third book, and I can’t wait to see what she has in store for her fourth.

This slim book is the story of how the world ends and what comes after.  Three stories intertwine to give the whole story.  The child abductions and store robberies that can be predicted by fancy algorithms but to which the purpose and the method is unknown.  The bacterial mutations and tectonic rumblings happening all over the world.  The survivors within the shell; an egg-shaped habitat created by the Tesslies that may be the last ditch attempt to save humanity.

If you want a quick read that makes you think you may enjoy this story.  Be forewarned, while this book asks a lot of questions it provides very little in the way of answers.
The Stonecutter by Camilla Lackberg

A young girl’s body is pulled up with a local fisherman’s lobster pots.  At first glance it appears to be an accidental drowning, but upon further examination it is determined that she was murdered.  Why would someone kill this child?  What was there to gain?  Interspersed with the modern crime story is the story of a local stonecutter and his ill-fated love affair.  What, if anything, do these two stories have in common?  The story is unfolded as the detectives learn more, clue by clue, layer by layer, so you feel as if you too are trying to understand the motivations behind an unfathomable crime.

I have become a rather big fan of translated mysteries, especially the Scandinavian ones.  Typically they occur in urban areas, but this mystery takes place in a smaller town with only four police officers running the local department.  Getting to see the way the police department works on an individual level reminded me of so many cop shows and small office politics.  It’s amazing how oceans can separate us but some things are the same everywhere.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Catch Me by Lisa Gardner

D.D. Warren is having a heck of a time easing back into her job as a Boston detective after maternity leave.  Her first case seems to be the vigilante style killing of pedophiles.  True, a serial killer may be at work, but is it actually a bad thing?  While investigating at one of the crime scenes D.D. meets Charlene Rosalind Carter Grant.  Charlie wants to meet the Detective who will be investigating her murder since she’s sure she’ll be dead by strangulation in four days.  D.D. isn’t used to be interviewed by potential “clients” and has to figure out whether Charlie is sane or not.  Also how her two cases may be connected before time runs out.

I’ll admit it.  Lisa Gardner’s mind scares me.  How does she think up these plots?  She amazes me every time and hooks me every time as well.  GREAT on audio.
Gold by Chris Cleave

How do you walk away from competing in the Olympics you trained almost your entire life to win?  What is more important than winning?  What is the value of gold?

Cleave, the writer of the thought-provoking novel Little Bee, is at it again.  Zoe, Kate and Jack are all champion cyclists.  Their lives are tied together by their sport and in a million other ways, large and small.  As a reader you feel like you are experiencing life as an athlete, you hear the pitch of the tires change on the slopes in the velodrome, feel the breeze as you near your competitor’s back tire, know what it’s like to have your heart rate triple.  If you’re a fan of the Olympics, here’s a great way to vicariously experience what it’s like to be an Olympian.
The Affair by Lee Child

Every hero has a beginning.  An event that sets them on their path.  This is the story of the case that made Jack Reacher the man he is today.  This is when the man purchases his only possession: his travel toothbrush.

Fans of the series will be glad to get some answers, but not nearly as many as we’d hoped to get.  If you aren’t familiar with Jack Reacher now is the time to get to know him.  The first Jack Reacher movie is coming out in February 2013.
Wish You Were Here by Stewart O’Nan

Family togetherness can be trying; especially for a family missing their patriarch.  But they are coming together for one more stay at the cabin on the lake.  Who will take home the collectible gas station glasses?  Who will get dad’s old golf clubs?  How do you say good-bye to the place most tied with your summer memories?

While not a lot actually happens O’Nan is great at creating believable characters and situations.  You continue reading wanting to see how these characters are able to change over the course of a week through their points of view and that of their family members. 

Monday, June 11, 2012

Told by three different characters – the elderly local midwife and champion of children; the sheriff and Jess, the brother of the dead mute boy – we get a picture of life gone wrong in a small North Carolina mountain town.  When a charismatic preacher comes to town and sets up church Jess’s mom is swept away by her faith.  The local midwife doesn’t trust the new preacher and establishes a Sunday school at her house to keep the kids away from the preacher’s way of worship which includes the handing of poisonous snakes.  Then one day the preacher and Jess’s mom get it in their heads to cure his mute brother.  That’s when everything goes wrong.

This is a well written story, and while I found the book sad, I’ve also found that it is staying with me and I am awaiting the author’s next book.

Friday, June 8, 2012

It is Boston on the eve of World War I.  Sibyl lost her mother and sister in the sinking of the Titanic and she visits a medium on the anniversary of the disaster attempting to find out what happened.  Why were her mother and sister two of the four female first class passengers not to make it onto a lifeboat?  As Sibyl explores her own talents through the murky glass orb she starts to have strange visions that aren’t anything she expected to see.

I’m surprised that this book hasn’t received as much attention as her debut The Physick Book of Deilverance Dane – especially since it’s so much better!  Spiritualism was huge at the time as was the use of opium in its myriad of forms (including morphine and a large component in cough syrup) both topics not much visited in books today.  Howe takes these two factors, family tragedy and a whole lot of what if? to craft an entertaining and mysterious novel.
Wife 22 by Melanie Gideon

Alice Buckle is stuck in a rut.  She loves her husband, her children and her job, but things just seem less than perfect.  One day she inexplicably decides to check her Spam folder and there is an inquiry from the local university about a marriage survey.  She decides, why not? – it’s something different after all.  She is assigned the anonymous email moniker Wife 22 and her questioner is Researcher 101.  As Alice reminiscences about how she and her husband met and how the past somehow became this humdrum future she starts to feel that Researcher 101 may be the perfect man for her.

This book is best categorized as Chick Lit for the over 40 crowd.  This is Bridget Jones grown up, married, with children and living in California.  It is best compared to the romantic comedy films of the 80s and 90s.  Thoroughly enjoyable summer read.
The Paris Wife by Paula McLain

This is the story of Hemingway’s first wife, Hadley Richardson, whom he married as a young man just returned from WWI.  Shortly after marriage the young couple moves to Paris to join the “Lost Generation” and be in the thick of it to help Hemingway thrive as a writer.  Jazz Age Paris comes alive and so do the personalities including Gertrude Stein, Ezra Pound and the Fitzgeralds.

It did take me a while to get into this book.  I was reading it for a book club otherwise I may not have stuck with it.  Apparently that is the reaction of half the people who read the book – the other half are swept away immediately.

If you’ve read The Sun Also Rises by Hemingway you get the whole backstory of that classic fiction tale.  It’s interesting to see how art imitates life.