Thursday, January 28, 2010

The Summer We Fell Apart by Robin Antalek

In The Summer We Fell Apart, Robin Antalek follows the grown children of a dysfunctional marriage.  The Haas marriage was renowned in theatrical circles.  The father was a Tony-award winning playwright, but his career stumbled badly after this honor.  The mother is more successful, still getting acting roles in her fifties and sixties.  The question is why these two ever married and had children.  The children seem to be nothing more than an afterthought, and the marriage revolved around the headgames and the serial adultry of each parent.

Now that the children are grown, they have entered adult lives of their choices.  Kate, the oldest and the father's favorite, is a hard-charging corporate lawyer, full of to-do lists and lots of projects but little time for emotions.  Finn, the mother's favorite, has had alcohol issues and stumbles from rehab to rehab.  George is a swim coach at a private boy's school and provides the most emotional support for his siblings.  Amy is the youngest and is an artist, living in New York with her boyfriend.

The book follows the children in their lives, especially in the time immediately following the death of their father.  Antalek explores how we grow up, what sibling relationships mean and what we owe to our nuclear families once we grow up and make separate adult lives.  The writing is immediate and real, and although the topic could be depressing, it doesn't weigh down the book.  This book is recommended for readers who enjoy books about how we relate to each other and the world.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Buying Time by Pamela Samuels Young

Waverly Sloan can't believe his luck.  He just got disbarred as an attorney, but has fallen into a great new business.  Of course, not everyone would like it, but he isn't picky.  The viatical broker finds terminally ill patients with large life insurance policies.  He buys the policy for half price on behalf on his investor.  The patient gets some needed money for the end part of their life, and when they die, the investor gets the face value of the policy.  The broker takes his fee up front, and Waverly soon finds that these fees add up to substantial funds.

What could go wrong with that?  Let's see.  A drug dealer who decides Waverly is his best bet for laundering drug profits.  A federal prosecutor who is heading up a task force to investigate the industry and Waverly's office in particular.  Clients who die; and not from their diagnosed illnesses.  His clients are dying in car accidents, hit and runs or suspicious fires.  In particular, one case comes back to haunt him.  The new Attorney General of the United States used his services for his terminally ill wife.  The problem?  After she dies, it's determined that she was murdered.

Pamela Young has written a fast-paced mystery that keeps the reader turning pages to see what will happen next.  This book is recommended for mystery readers who like fast-paced action.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

The Culture Of Excess by J.R. Slosar

In The Culture Of Excess, J.R. Slosar defines how modern culture is based on the personality traits of narcissism and the loss of self-control, and how this emphasis on personal attainment is warping various segments of society.  The demand is for everything to be faster, bigger and better.  As self-control diminishes, impulsivity increases.  We have more and more and are less and less happy.

The author talks about how broad segments of our society are affected by this cultural focus.  In a chapter about education Slosar talks about how today's students are not willing to study math and science, leading to a decrease in logical thinking and bad conclusions to decisions made on emotion rather than evidence.  Another chapter is devoted to the current health care crisis and legislation.  The demeaning of science is discussed and how differing opinions on scientific questions divide the country more and more.  The future of media is another topic with a discussion on how the screaming talking heads we are all familiar with impact society.  The notable fact of helipcopter parenting and the inability of young adults to break away and find their own identity is another aspect of this trend.

J.R. Slosar is a clinical psychologist and an adjunct assistant professor at Chapman University in California.  His training and experience give him the ability to provide examples and to create a structural framework through which the issues of American society can be viewed.  His arguments would be stronger, however, if every ill affecting society wasn't laid at the doors of Republicans and conservatives.  This book is recommended for those nonfiction readers that are interested in cultural analysis.

Better Part Of Darkness by Kelly Gay

Charlie Madigan is a newly divorced single mom who is also a cop.  That job is much more complicated now that beings from other worlds live here.  The Atlanta Underground crime scene has taken on a whole new meaning.  Charlie can handle the change though.  Brought back to life six months ago, she is discovering that she has new powers she never thought about.

There is a new drug hitting town.  Incredibly addictive, ash is like nothing ever seen, and Charlie and her partner Hank are put on the case to discover the pipeline selling the drug and to shut it down.  They are making progress on the case when they inadventently discover a major plot that makes selling drugs look like playing in a sandbox.  The plot will take over the entire Earth and make it habitable only for those from another world.  As Charlie and Hank race to find out the details and save the Earth, they take major hits to their families and regular lives.  Will they succeed before they are too damaged to fight?

Kelly Gay is a new voice in urban fantasy, but this book should gain her new readers and fans immediately.  The characters are memorable, and the plot is edge-of-your-seat.  Once started, this is a must-read book and readers will finish it ready for the next adventure of the team.  This book is recommended for urban fantasy and sci-fi readers.

GIVEAWAY!!!!! Beyond Blue by Therese Borchard

Therese Borchard may be one of the frankest, funniest people on the planet. That, combined with her keen writing abilities has made her Beliefnet blog, Beyond Blue, one of the most trafficked blogs on the site.
BEYOND BLUE, the book, is part memoir/part self-help. It describes Borchard's experience of living with manic depression as well as providing cutting-edge research and information on dealing with mood disorders. By exposing her vulnerability, she endears herself immediately to the reader and then reduces even the most depressed to laughter as she provides a companion on the journey to recovery and the knowledge that the reader is not alone.
Comprised of four sections and twenty-one chapters, BEYOND BLUE covers a wide range of topics from codependency to addiction, poor body image to postpartum depression, from alternative medicine to psychopharmacology, managing anxiety to applying lessons from therapy. Because of her laser wit and Erma Bombeck sense of humor, every chapter is entertaining as well as serious.



1. The giveaway starts Sunday, January 24th and ends Friday, February 5th.
2. There will be five winners chosen by random number generator.
3. Winners will be notified by email and have three days to respond with their mailing address. After three days, an alternate will be chosen.
4. For one entry, leave a comment with your email address. For additional entries, be a follower, or post to your blog, or twitter the giveaway.
5. Winners must live in the U.S. or Canada. Hachette doesn't deliver to PO Boxes, sorry!

Good luck. I think this one will be fascinating.

Knit, Purl, Die by Anne Canadeo

Gloria Sterling has a fairy-tale life.  Rich and beautiful, she has recently remarried.  Known for her escapades, even her remarriage makes news--her new husband is gorgeous and twenty years younger.  But when Gloria is found dead in her swimming pool, the fairy tale comes to an end.

It turns out there are plenty of suspects.  Inevitably, the husband is always the first suspect and he was the talk of the town by those who refused to believe the marriage had been a love match.  Then there was the local attorney who had been Gloria's prior lover.  Finally, all that money was left to her by her prior husband, and he made that money in real estate.  There were many in Plum Harbor, where Gloria lived, who felt that his fortune was built on their misfortune.

Gloria had recently joined a circle of five friends that called themselves The Black Sheep.  The group was centered around all the participant's love of knitting.  There was Maggie, who owned the local knitting shop.  Suzanne was a real estate agent, while Dana is a psychologist.  Lucy is a graphic designer while Phoebe is a college student who lives over the knitting shop and works there.  When the police decide that the death is an accident, the group starts to put suspicious events together and decides that the death must have been a murder.  They each use their unique talents to bring another piece to the puzzle of Gloria's death.

Knit, Purl, Die is the second book in the Black Sheep mystery series, and would be considered to be on the cozy part of that genre.  The characters are interesting and their interplay and demonstration of true female friendship is fascinating for the reader to follow.  This book is recommended for mystery lovers.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Thicker Than Blood by C.J. Darlington

Christy Williams finally has her life on track. She’s putting her past behind her and working hard to build a career as an antiquarian book buyer. But things begin to unravel when a stolen Hemingway first edition is found in her possession, framing her for a crime she didn’t commit. With no one to turn to, she yearns for her estranged younger sister, May, whom she abandoned after their parents’ untimely deaths. Soon, Christy’s fleeing from her shattered dreams, her ex-boyfriend, and God. Could May’s Triple Cross Ranch be the safe haven she’s searching for? Will the sisters realize that each possesses what the other desperately needs before it’s too late?

This novel is the winner of winner of the 2008 Christian Writer's Guild Operation First Novel contest.  My review is coming later, but here are some quotes from others:
With careful attention to detail, emotion, and scene-setting, C.J. Darlington scores with her debut effort. Here is a special writer you won’t want to miss.
--Jerry B. Jenkins, New York Times best selling author

If you love a good read filled with adventure and ultimately redemption, I encourage you to brew the tea, settle into your favorite chair and pick up the page turner that is C.J. Darlington’s imaginative new novel of a modern day sisterhood that triumphs over separation and the raw challenges of life to find the real endurance of both family ties and God’s amazing grace.
--Rebecca St. James, Grammy award winning Christian singer and bestselling author

With Thicker than Blood, C.J. Darlington proves she's a novelist for the long-haul, a strong new voice in Christian fiction. This book speaks to the heart, from the heart, about the heart. Readers will not soon forget it.
--Sibella Giorello, Christy award-winning author of The Rivers Run Dry & The Clouds Roll Away

About the Author:

C. J. began writing the story that would become Thicker than Blood (her first novel) when she was a fifteen-year-old homeschool student. She has been in the antiquarian bookselling business for over a decade, scouting for stores similar to the one described in the novel before cofounding her own online bookstore. Thicker than Blood was the winner of the 2008 Christian Writers Guild Operation First Novel.

C. J. co-founded the Christian entertainment Web site with her sister, Tracy, and has been actively promoting Christian fiction through book reviews and author interviews. She makes her home in Pennsylvania with her family and their menagerie of dogs and cats. Visit her website for more info.

The Scarecrow by Michael Connelly

It's not a good day for Jack McEvoy.  A crime reporter at the L.A. Times for twenty years, he has just been told that he will be laid off in two weeks.  Jack decides to go out with one last good story.  He has been contacted by the grandmother of a sixteen year old gang member who has been arrested for a grisly murder the media is calling The Trunk Murder.  She insists her grandson is innocent, and Jack decides to look into the story. 

As Jack starts to investigate, he quickly realises that not only is the teenager innocent, but the reason he is not guilty is that there is a serial killer out there who has been killing women in different states and leaving them in car trunks.  He starts an investigation, aided by FBI Agent Rachel Walling.   He worked with Rachel on his biggest story years before.  That story was the detection and capture of The Poet, another killer. 

This time is different however.  The killer is investigating Jack and Rachel as intently as they are investigating him, and is targeting them as his next victims.  Along with the chase, the reader learns about how technology plays into both the killer's targeting of his victims, and the investigation into his crime.

Michael Connelly readers will not be disappointed in The Scarecrow.  It delivers what one expects from Connelly, a page-turner with enough twists and turns to keep the plot moving.  The story is taut and the reader is involved in the investigation.  The love interest between Jack and Rachel adds another dimension.  This book is recommended for mystery readers and Connelly fans.  Although it is another in a Jack McEvoy series, it can easily stand on its own. 

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Breakfast In Bed by Robin Kaye

Becca Larsen lands in New York City, ready to take on the art world.  When she moves into the apartment she sublet while her apartment and studio are being renovated, there's a slight problem.  There's already a tenent, Rich Ronaldi, who has also just moved in.  Becca's brother is married to Rich's sister, and the couple each rented the apartment without checking with the other. 

Rich also has problems.  He has just taken a job as a psychology professor at Columbia, but his dean seems to think that Rich's fancy-free bachelor days should be coming to an end, and expects him to settle down.  On top of that, his girlfriend, Gina, has just dumped him because he is the typical spoiled Mama's Boy who expects every woman to wait on him.

Rich and Becca don't like each other, although each is attracted physically.  But both need a place to live, and Rich needs someone to help him learn to cook and clean and take care of himself.  They agree to share the apartment for a few months.  Will they overcome their intial feelings and learn to love each other?

Robin Kaye has written a wonderful romance.  Light-hearted in tone, it keeps the reader turning the pages to see what will happen next in this relationship.  The love scenes are steamy, and the characters are vivid.  This book is recommended to romance readers. 

Saturday, January 16, 2010


At a time when animal species are becoming extinct on every continent and we are confronted with bad news about the environment nearly every day, Jane Goodall, one of the world's most renowned scientists, brings us inspiring news about the future of the animal kingdom. With the insatiable curiosity and conversational prose that have made her a bestselling author, Goodall-along with Cincinnati Zoo Director Thane Maynard-shares fascinating survival stories about the American Crocodile, the California Condor, the Black-Footed Ferret, and more; all formerly endangered species and species once on the verge of extinction whose populations are now being regenerated.

Interweaving her own first-hand experiences in the field with the compelling research of premier scientists, Goodall illuminates the heroic efforts of dedicated environmentalists and the truly critical need to protect the habitats of these beloved species. At once a celebration of the animal kingdom and a passionate call to arms, HOPE FOR ANIMALS AND THEIR WORLD presents an uplifting, hopeful message for the future of animal-human coexistence.



1.  The giveaway starts Saturday, January 16th and ends Friday, January 29th.

2.  There will be three winners chosen by random number generator.

3.  Winners will be notified by email and have three days to respond with their mailing address.  After three days, an alternate will be chosen.

4.  For one entry, leave a comment with your email address.  For additional entries, be a follower, or post to your blog, or twitter the giveaway.

5.  Winners must live in the U.S. or Canada.  Hachette doesn't deliver to PO Boxes, sorry!

Good luck.  I think this one will be fascinating

Coppola, A Pediatric Surgeon In Iraq by Dr. Chris Coppola

This book came as a total surprise to me.  I've always had respect for those who serve in our military, and the doctors who serve there hold a special place.  But somehow I never thought that the medical staff is not only taking care of our wounded soldiers.  They also take care of the civilians caught up in tragedy, and even take time to aid enemy combatants.  As such, they provide two major services.  The main mission, and their main contribution, is allowing the survival of so many more military casualties.  But their work with the civilian population serves as an ambassadorship, showing other countries that America is willing to help all.

Dr. Chris Coppola served two surgical rotations in Iraq.  He is a pediatric surgeon and found quite a scope of work for his specialty.  There are many children who are burned in bombings, shot, or hurt by falling rubble.  Since the medical capacities of Iraq have been pretty much destroyed by the war, Dr. Coppola also found himself as the doctor of choice for birth defects, or diseases that disfigured and harmed the children there.  Often, he was able to provide life-saving or enhancing medical care that these children would never be able to get otherwise.

Much of the book talks about how anyone in the military serving overseas in a battle situation feels.  There is the fear when battle hits contrasted with everyday boredom.  There is the overwhelming lonliness of being without their family.  There is the satisfaction of knowing that they have completed a mission, and hopefully have made the lives of those around them better.  Regardless of whether they agree with the mission or not, these men and women are serving a life of service to others, and I admire them greatly for their sacrifice.

This book is recommended for those interested in current events.  It is an interesting take on the war not often heard, and it adds to the reader's knowledge of the conflict while helping them clarify their feelings about this situation.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Baby Shark's High Plains Redemption by Robert Fate

High Plains Redemption is Robert Fate's third book in his Baby Shark series.  Baby Shark is Kristin Van Dijk, a private eye in partnership with Otis Millett.  She got the nickname Baby Shark when she hustled pool as a young girl, working the circuit with her father. 

The locale is the Oklahoma and Texas badlands, set in the 1950's.  Otis and Baby Shark have been hired to deliver a ransom for Savannah Smike.  Savannah is the girlfriend of Travis Horner, a powerful gangster.  She has been kidnapped and Travis wants her back badly enough to pay ransom for her.  The ransom attempt goes awry, and two rival groups attack each other, with Baby and Otis in the middle of the conflict.  They end up with Savannah, and deliver her back home to her bootlegging family. 

Both sides in the conflict come after Baby Shark and Otis.  The action is fast and furious and the reader is kept on edge, unable to put down the book before discovering what happens next and how the pair will escape the latest scrape. 

Fate has created a rarity; a female protagonist that is believable as something other than a shrinking violet.  That he can do so in the locale he picked is even more remoarkable.  Readers won't soon forget Baby Shark, and will eagerly await her next adventure.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Silent Desperation by Jeffrey Bryan

In Silent Desperation, a debut book, Jeffrey Bryan has given the reader a collection of short stories and poetry.  Each genre is collected into a separate area, with the short stories starting the book and all of the poetry at the end.

The short stories tend to be in the sci-fi/fantasy genre.  Most talk of lonely people that can't find a way to connect with others.  Of these stories, my personal favorite was "The Forever Man'", which tells the story of the last man on Earth.  Another story, "Eyes Of Echo" is more of a novella, and the author should consider fleshing it out into it's own book, since it shows such merit and interesting characters.

The poetry tends to be focused on the same themes.  In this section, my favorite was the poem, "I Will Never Forget Again."  It adeptly shows the horror of abuse by a loved one, and then the joy of forgiveness when that person realises the horror of what has been done. 

Bryan shows a real talent in this area, and can be one of the new voices in urban fantasy.  This book is recommended to readers of science fiction, fantasy, both traditional and urban fantasy.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Cemetery Dance by Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child

Norah Kelly, a famous archaeologist, and William Smithback, New York Times reporter, are celebrating their first wedding anniversary.  But the celebration turns tragic when a man breaks into their apartment and kills Smithback.  The man is easily identifiable; he's one of their neighbors.  The police expect an easy arrest until they learn that the neighbor had been declared dead a week before. 

Police Lieutenant Vinnie D'Agosto is assigned the case which gets stranger and stranger.  Norah is stalked by a hulking figure that seems to be the neighbor and then later, after his body is stolen from the morgue, by her dead husband Smithback.  There are fetishes found and the newspapers jump on this evidence of voodoo and start to call the figures zombies.  D'Agosto is joined in his hunt for the killers by Special FBI Agent Aloysius Pendergast.

There is mystery galore.  An ancient church taken over by a cult seems to be involved.  There is a young newspaper reporter who is caught up in the story, and more and more sightings of the mysterious figures.  Then Norah is kidnapped.  Can Pendergast and D'Agosto solve the mystery before more people are killed, sending the city into panic?

This is the ninth Pendergast/D'Agosto mystery written by this successful team of authors.  Fans of their earlier works will not be disappointed and those mystery readers who haven't yet experienced a Preston/Child book will find a new series to explore.  This book is recommended for mystery lovers of all ages.


Covering topics such as "It's Jesus or Jail,""Marriage, the Hard Way,""Children: The Gift You Can't Give Back," and "All the Things I Don't Know...And All the Things I Definitely Do," stand-up comedienne, actress, and ABC's The View co-host Sherri Shepherd comically chronicles her struggles to keep up with the many roles-professional, wife, mother, daughter, and friend-that women must play in today's world. Sherri urges women to pursue their most important dreams and to never give up, but also let's readers know that it's okay to give themselves "permission slips" when things don't always work out the way they want them to. As her many fans know, Sherri is never hesitant to speak from the heart, and her bubbly personality shines through in this delightful autobiography.

Giveaway Rules

You MUST, MUST, MUST leave an email address in order to be entered in the contest. I hate to have to throw out entries because I have no way to notify winners.

1. The giveaway starts Sunday, January 10th and ends Friday, January 22th at midnight.

2. There will be three winning entries, which will be chosen by a random number generator.

3. Winners will be emailed and must respond within three days in order to claim their prize. After three days, another winner will be chosen and notified.

4. For one entry, comment below with your email address attached. You can get additional entries by being or becoming a follower of this blog, posting about the giveaway on your blog, or tweeting about it on Twitter. If posting elsewhere, please provide the link.

5. Winners must have a street address in either the United States or Canada. No P.O. boxes allowed by Hachette, sorry!

Sunday, January 3, 2010

The Enchantress Of Florence by Salmon Rushdie

A yellow-haired foreigner has arrived at the palace of the Eastern Emperor, Akbar.  While many such strangers would be sent on their way, this man is given an audience with the emperor.  He starts to tell a fabulous story, and soon, makes the incredible claim that he is actually the Emperor's uncle; son of a famous beauty who was a daughter of the court but who was captured in a war and then chose to remain with her captor when freed.  Due to this refusal to return bak to court life, her name is erased from the family history, but there are still some older people who remember her or her story.

This woman is the Enchantress of Florence, but that is just one of her many names.  She is called Angelina, The Woman With Dark Eyes, The Enchantress, Qara Koz and other names.  She lives in various places, always with men who will give up anything and everything to have her love.  When necessary, she picks up and moves on to the next life, the next man.

Salmon Rushdie plays with several themes here.  There is the theme of each person knowing a different side of another; this theme is represented by the multiple names that each character has.  There is the theme of love and what will be done to sustain love.  The question of whether in each relationship there is one who loves and one who is loved is explored.  Another theme explores the lives of those who travel and contrasts them with those who choose to remain in their homeplace.  Rushdie repeats one phrase that ties the stories of the East and the Italian city of Florence together.  The curse of the human race is not that we are so different from one another, but that we are so alike.

This book is highly recommended.  The language is lush, and the story moves back and forth, with myriad characters that require the reader's full attention.  The characters are finely drawn and even those who have minimal parts to play are fully developed.  The book leaves the reader with much to think about.  For those readers who enjoy fantasy and non-linear plotlines, this book is a gift. 

Saturday, January 2, 2010


What is the difference between choking and panicking? Why are there dozens of varieties of mustard-but only one variety of ketchup? What do football players teach us about how to hire teachers? What does hair dye tell us about the history of the 20th century?

In the past decade, Malcolm Gladwell has written three books that have radically changed how we understand our world and ourselves: The Tipping Point; Blink; and Outliers. Now, in What the Dog Saw, he brings together, for the first time, the best of his writing from TheNew Yorker over the same period.

Here is the bittersweet tale of the inventor of the birth control pill, and the dazzling inventions of the pasta sauce pioneer Howard Moscowitz. Gladwell sits with Ron Popeil, the king of the American kitchen, as he sells rotisserie ovens, and divines the secrets of Cesar Millan, the "dog whisperer" who can calm savage animals with the touch of his hand. He explores intelligence tests and ethnic profiling and "hindsight bias" and why it was that everyone in Silicon Valley once tripped over themselves to hire the same college graduate.

"Good writing," Gladwell says in his preface, "does not succeed or fail on the strength of its ability to persuade. It succeeds or fails on the strength of its ability to engage you, to make you think, to give you a glimpse into someone else's head."What the Dog Saw is yet another example of the buoyant spirit and unflagging curiosity that have made Malcolm Gladwell our most brilliant investigator of the hidden extraordinary.

Giveaway Rules

You MUST, MUST, MUST leave an email address in order to be entered in the contest.  I hate to have to throw out entries because I have no way to notify winners.

1. The giveaway starts Saturday, January 2nd and ends Tuesday, January 12th at midnight.

2. There will be three winning entries, which will be chosen by a random number generator.

3. Winners will be emailed and must respond within three days in order to claim their prize. After three days, another winner will be chosen and notified.

4. For one entry, comment below with your email address attached. You can get additional entries by being or becoming a follower of this blog, posting about the giveaway on your blog, or tweeting about it on Twitter. If posting elsewhere, please provide the link.

5. Winners must have a street address in either the United States or Canada. No P.O. boxes allowed by Hachette, sorry!

Good luck! This sounds like an amazing book.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Top Secret Recipes Unlocked by Todd Wilbur

For those readers whose New Year's Resolution is to save money this year, Todd Wilbur's new cookbook, Top Secret Recipes Unlocked,  is a godsend.  The cookbook gives the average person the tools to recreate their favorite restaurant offerings at home, allowing them to save money and impress those they are cooking for.

The cookbook is broken down by restaurants.  Some of the restaurants represented include Panera Bread, Boston Market, Burger King, Carnegie Deli, Chipotle Mexican Grill, Outback, KFC, Starbucks, Taco Bell and even Krispy Kreme Doughnuts.  Each recipe is given a page, with a paragraph preceding it that gives any tips that let the chef overcome any challenges.  Many recipes are followed by a section called Tidbits that give further tips and things to consider.  The recipes are clearly written and easy to follow. 

This book is recommended for all readers, especially those who are cooks.  Living in the hometown of Krispy Kreme doughnuts, I'm not sure anyone else can duplicate those heavenly treats, but most of the recipes are well within the expertise of the average person.  Using these recipes is a great way to impress friends invited over for a meal.