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Sleepless

posted by: April 27, 2012 - 1:00am

Sleepwalker Karen Robards has done it again!  Her most recent novel Sleepwalker is such an adrenaline rush you will find yourself out of breath while reading the story.  The main character is Micayla Lange, an off-duty police officer spending New Year’s Eve house-sitting for a close friend of the family.   This unfortunately was not a part of the plan for Jason Davis as he chose that particular evening to rob the locked safe in Uncle Nicco’s office. The petite and beautiful Micayla can kick some serious butt, and she proceeds to do just that to Jason  when she encounters him leaving with the money laden suitcases.  During the fight, incriminating photos of Uncle Nicco’s involvement in the murder of a councilman become dislodged from one of the suitcases, changing the entire nature of the situation.  The knowledge they now have of Uncle Nicco’s mob connections puts both of their lives in jeopardy forcing them to team up to escape his gang. What ensues is an exhilarating chase where Micayla and Jason have to battle the elements as well as outwit an endless supply of pursuers. Matters are further complicated with their growing attraction to each other and the understanding that once they are safe, Micayla has every intention of doing her duty and arresting Jason for robbery.

 

Ms. Robards is the author of forty books, mostly of the romantic suspense and historical variety.  She creates engaging characters, imaginative plots, and often inserts humor into her writing.  It is no wonder that Newsweek has proclaimed her one of the most popular voices in women's fiction.


 
 

A Book To Remember

posted by: April 21, 2012 - 3:35pm

The DressmakerKate Alcott (pseudonym for Patricia O’Brien) puts a fresh spin on the story of the Titanic by focusing on the aftermath of its sinking in The Dressmaker.  The novel is told from the perspective of Tess Collins, a seamstress, who is hired right before boarding to be personal maid to high society fashion designer Lucile Duff Gordon.  Tess is determined to use her seamstress skills to elevate her position in society, but both Tess and Lucile’s futures are irrevocably changed by events that occur while they are passengers on the luxury liner and as survivors in New York. By page 37 the Titanic has sunk and Alcott transitions from the frigid sea to the mean streets of New York and the ensuing investigation.  A senator wants to prove negligence on the part of the White Star Line but New York Times reporter, Sarah “Pinky” Wade smells richer storylines and digs deep to investigate the rumors of on-board bribery and murder which implicate Lucile’s husband.   

 

Transferring this familiar story to early 20th century New York gives readers a new way to approach this epic disaster.  Alcott’s well-drawn characters add richness to her story which is strong in setting and historical detail.  As Tess' personal dramas unfold, the ugly wake left by this oceanic catastrophe and the roles passengers and crew members played are revealed by the disturbing official investigation, which Alcott has taken from the transcripts of the U.S. Senate hearings.   Titanic buffs and fans of historical fiction will enjoy this tale of tragedy and triumph. 

 

Two Titanic Tidbits: Julian Fellowes’ (Downton Abbey) two-night miniseries Titanic debuted April 14th on ABC.   If you didn’t catch it or love it enough to watch again – place your hold now in the library’s catalog!  Follow events @TitanicRealTime on Twitter where The History Press has set up an account to send real-time (+100 years) updates on the progress of the ship and its only voyage. Start following now to get the whole story as it happened.


 
 

Hush Little Baby

posted by: April 20, 2012 - 3:28pm

Little Girl GoneWhat is a psychopath?  What does he look like?  Is he a monster with glowing red eyes and long sharp teeth, or is he an attractive man who appears in front of you in a time of weakness?  What if you are in love with him? Little Girl Gone explores the mind of a criminal from a new perspective--the woman who loves him.

 

Willis rescued Madora from a life of drugs and depravity, and now they live alone in an isolated home in California.  Willis dreams of becoming a doctor, but a dishonorable discharge from the military has left him disgraced and bitter.  Madora loves him and wants to help him achieve his goal, believing that they can then marry and have a family of their own.  In the meantime, Willis works as a home health aide, stealing from his elderly clients. 

 

In need of more money in order to pay for medical school in Antigua, Willis abducts Linda, a pregnant teen.  He holds her prisoner, with a secret plan to sell the baby.   Madora wants to believe that Willis is saving Linda from a life on the streets, but she begins to have doubts when Willis starts spending more time with Linda than he does with her.   Everything changes when a boy named Django finds their house while exploring on his bike.

 

Drusilla Campbell writes complex female characters who often do not know how strong they are until they are pushed to the brink.  Madora’s self-realization is a fascinating journey, and Campbell’s supporting characters add interest and emotion to her story.  Little Girl Gone is recommended for readers intrigued by abduction stories, such as A Stolen Life: a Memoir, by Jaycee Dugard, or the critically acclaimed novel Room by Emma Donoghue.

Sam

Sam

 
 

Of Faith, Fate, and Devotion

posted by: April 18, 2012 - 11:28am

The Translation of the BonesMiracles and foundering souls aside, Francesca Kay's new novel, The Translation of the Bones, is not a religious story, nor does it answer big questions about faith and God. Rather, it considers why people believe what they do and the inextricable connection between love, sorrow, and solace. The story is centered on the Church of the Sacred Heart in Battersea, in urban South London, where a mentally fragile young volunteer, Mary-Margaret O'Reilly, mistakes a bad blow to the head for a personal message from Christ. When word of a bleeding statue spreads, the spectacle becomes an embarrassment to those connected to the church and its spiritually exhausted parish priest.

 

Kay limits plot development in favor of richly developed characters whose commonality is the church and aching motherhood.  There is Stella, the lovely cabinet official's wife and flower arranger, whose youngest boy is at boarding school; and  Alice, the church housekeeper whose son is in Afghanistan. Both are awaiting the return of their sons. There is also Fidelma, the obese, housebound mother of Mary-Margaret, whose childhood memories still haunt her. Whether or not a miracle has occurred becomes unimportant and unexplored as Kay's characters carry on with distracted lives until tragedy eventually unifies everyone and unhinging loss challenges the nature of belief.

 

The author's first novel, An Equal Stillness, won Britain's Orange Award for New Writers in 2009. Her new slim novel omits chapters and speech marks, but it doesn't matter. The story shifts seamlessly between different points of view with language, so lovely at times that it invites the occasional sigh, and the knowledge that passion, whether prompted by religious mania or devotion to loved ones is a complex emotion that human beings will forever be trying to define.


 
 

A Binocular Vision of History

posted by: April 18, 2012 - 11:05am

The Company of the Dead The improbable history of the sinking of the Titanic is legendary. The “unsinkable” ship’s maiden voyage was favored with the advantages of an experienced captain, a capable crew, and peerlessly clear weather. She had every probability of reaching her destination unscathed. Yet despite the clear night and the watchful lookout, a looming, unseen colossus was destined to sink her. Of course, even the smallest twist in the kaleidoscope may produce chaos. It is on this premise, embodied by the mysterious, anachronistic presence of a pair of 21st century night vision binoculars, that author David Kowalski launches his epic exploration of “what if?” What if the Titanic hadn’t struck the iceberg? Or, what if she had, but on a different side? Who lives that night, who dies and how - these subtle changes will reshape history as we know it in breathtakingly plausible ways. That is, unless one man’s profound sacrifice in 2012 can reset the Titanic on its original date with destiny.

 

At just under 750 narrative pages, The Company of the Dead is a tome to be sure, yet not a page in its composition is superfluous to its intricately-woven plot and character development. Throughout the story, Kowalski demonstrates compulsive attention to historical detail and lyrical language. These elements serve to draw the reader ever further into the author’s ambitious yet startlingly realistic vision of a world reshaped and on the edge of the apocalypse.

 

The Company of the Dead is broadly recommended for readers of any genre who are prepared to invest time in an absorbing adventure. Technically a secret rather than an alternate history, The Company of the Dead nevertheless plays on the same “what if?” element characteristic of so many alternate history titles. It will therefore strike a particular chord with devotees of alternate history and historical fiction. Readers beguiled by alternate histories involving familiar historic figures and locations may also enjoy Orson Scott Card’s Alvin Maker series as well as a smorgasbord of series and standalone titles by Harry Turtledove.


 
 

Loving the First Scoundrel

posted by: April 18, 2012 - 11:02am

A Rogue by Any Other Name Bestselling Regency romance author Sarah MacLean’s new Rules of Scoundrels quartet will follow the four charming rogues who own the Fallen Angel gambling club.  Each has fallen from society after a scandal but will find love strong enough to redeem him.  The series is off to a great start with A Rogue by Any Other Name.

 

MacLean’s first scoundrel is the Marquess of Bourne who gambled away his inheritance when he was 19 years old.  The scandal left him penniless and exiled from society, but he has built a new life and fortune for himself as one of the owners of the most notorious gambling hell in London.  The only thing that he hasn’t regained is Falconwell, his ancestral estate.  When he finds that Falconwell is now part of the dowry of his childhood neighbor Penelope Marbury, Bourne traps her into marrying him.  Penelope has always loved her childhood friend Michael (now Bourne) but the man she has married bears little resemblance to him.  Bourne doesn’t expect marriage to change his life, but Penelope is not at all the woman Bourne expected her to be.  In the end, he has to choose between the revenge that he always wanted and the life he never knew that he could have.

 

MacLean has an extraordinary ability to create characters who readers love, and she injects a modern sense of humor into her historical setting.  Old letters between Penelope and Bourne open each chapter, giving their relationship history and depth.  The epilogue of A Rogue by Any Other Name has a tease of the next novel, and it will definitely leave readers wanting more. Readers new to Sarah MacLean should also try her Love by Numbers series, where Penelope makes her first appearance.   


 
 

Get to know Detective Alex Morrow

posted by: April 18, 2012 - 10:59am

The End of the Wasp Season The End of the Wasp Season is the latest novel by Denise Mina and the second featuring Detective Inspector Alex Morrow. Morrow was introduced in the novel Still Midnight, in which she was trying to solve an attack on a family while wrestling demons of her own. In the current novel, Morrow is heavily pregnant with twins and trying to unravel the mysterious death of a woman who was thrown down a flight of stairs and stomped on. As in the previous novel, Morrow is also dealing with sexism within the police bureau and trying to ensure that male officers treat the victim with respect.

 

Morrow is a complex character. She is methodical, organized, and truly desires justice for the victims. She finds herself in an uncomfortable situation when she runs into an old school friend named Kay whose previous employment was caring for the victim’s mother. Morrow wants to reconnect with her, but realizes that Kay and members of her family may be suspects in the crime. Kay is still living in semi-poverty and has a strong mistrust for the police. Morrow represents all the things that Kay dislikes.

 

The novel is set in Glasgow, Scotland and Mina really creates a strong city atmosphere.  For a reader that prefers audio editions, the work is read by Jane MacFarlane who has a delightful Glaswegian accent that lends to the enjoyment of hearing the novel. Mina describes police procedures in realistic detail, from evidence collection to suspect interrogation. But the greatest strength in her novels is her insight into the psychology of the main characters. The story is as much about those who commit the crime as those who solve them. The reader gets caught up in the story and it becomes impossible to stop reading. Both Still Midnight and The End of the Wasp Season are wonderful novels and Detective Alex Morrow is a character every reader should discover.


 
 

An Unconventional Page-turner

posted by: April 18, 2012 - 10:54am

HeftHeft by Liz Moore is a confessional novel about loneliness, human fragility and hope. From the very beginning, Arthur Opp confides, “the first thing you must know about me is that I am colossally fat.” By his estimation, he probably weighs between 500-600 pounds and has not left his home in Brooklyn since September 11, 2001.  He has no contact with family or friends. If he needs anything from the outside world, he simply orders it online.

 

Out of the blue, former student Charlene calls Arthur to find out if he might consider tutoring her teenage son, Kel. Although Charlene was Arthur’s student over twenty years ago, he still thinks of her often. For him, Charlene represents a life that might have been.  Meanwhile, Charlene is a struggling single mom raising her son in Yonkers. Wanting more for Kel, she has managed to get him into a better school in an affluent neighborhood nearby by working at the school as a secretary. Kel is a gifted athlete and is interested in pursuing a career in baseball. Charlene is concerned that he’s more interested in sports than in his academic future. A firm believer in higher education, she hopes Arthur Opp may be able to help. Readers will stay up way too late, temporarily neglect chores and relationships just to see how this story unfolds.

Heft is a heartfelt novel that never crosses into sappy sentimentalism. With Moore’s keen attention to detail, deeply compelling story and all too human characters, Heft is destined to land on many of the “Best Of” lists this year. Adult and teen readers who enjoy coming of age stories should not miss out on this lovely book.

 

 

 


 
 

The Night StrangersHalloween is long past, but readers can recreate the ambiance with Chris Bohjalian’s (Midwives, The Double Bind) new book The Night Strangers.  Set in a small town in upstate New Hampshire, a community’s sinister secrets are gradually unearthed, creating a satisfyingly creepy tale. 

 

The setting says it all.  An isolated town with spotty cell phone reception.  A spooky Victorian house with a mysterious door in the basement.  Disturbing rumors about the former owners.   Enter Chip, who moves his family to this house after a passenger plane he was piloting crashes and kills almost everyone on board.   As they settle in, the family discovers unnerving elements about their new home, including hidden weapons and a heavily bolted door in the basement.  They also meet some unsettling townspeople, the “herbalists”, who have taken a special interest in the twin daughters.  As the story further unfolds, the reader follows Chip in his battle with post-traumatic stress disorder and his slow descent into a world of ghosts and voices from the beyond.

 

This is a refreshing read because it is, simply, a ghost story with plenty of psychological terror (think Stephen King’s earlier books like The Shining) and a subtly frightening cast of side characters.  And like any good horror story, the family doesn’t see the danger until it’s too late.  All the signs are there, questions are raised, but (sigh) the family stays.  Although this book is a departure from Bohjalian’s usual style and lacks any real shocking twists or mind-bending ending, it is still a mature tale with a conclusion that leaves much room for discussion.  Interestingly, the author himself lives in an old home with a strange door in the basement…


 
 

Remember When "The Police" Meant the Band?

posted by: April 18, 2012 - 10:16am

Down the Darkest RoadSince the disappearance of her sixteen year-old daughter four years ago, Lauren Lawton has had to cope with the suicide of her husband and the silent struggles of her younger daughter who self mutilates because of her unhappiness.  Lauren’s pain is exacerbated by the fact that she believes she knows who abducted her child.  She is outraged that the police have been unable arrest the suspect.  So begins the newest novel by Tami Hoag, Down the Darkest Road

 

In an attempt to rebuild their lives, Lauren and her daughter Leah relocate to the quiet and beautiful town of Oak Knoll. The peace that they are seeking is not meant to be as it quickly becomes apparent that the alleged kidnapper has also moved to the community.  Are they being stalked? Is her youngest daughter the man’s next target? Will the police just stand by and do nothing, again?  Lauren has developed an acute mistrust of the police; however she hasn’t dealt with the members of the Oak Knoll Sheriff’s Department before. This community has been the setting for Hoag’s two previous spine-chilling books Deeper than the Dead and Secrets to the Grave.

 

The series is set in the 1980’s and is filled with humorous references of that era. The interesting twist to these thrillers is reading about the forensic technology and police practices of that time. There is no DNA database and ViCAP is just wishful thinking. We follow the dedicated law enforcement personnel as they attempt to solve crimes with limited tools by today’s standards. Any of these novels can be read as a standalone, but if you enjoy this novel you will definitely want to check out the others!


 
 

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