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Friday, December 24, 2010

BREACH OF TRUST

by David Ellis - to be released February 2011

BREACH OF TRUST is a continuation of the story begun in THE HIDDEN MAN.  Jason Kolarich is remarried with a new family having recovered the the deaths of his first wife and daughter in a tragic accident.  Previously a prosecutor, Jason finds himself embroiled in the affairs of the same Chicago politicos, but this time as a defense attorney.

One of his contacts in THE HIDDEN MAN was murdered and Jason feels responsible.  While doing his own investigation, he is quickly coerced by U.S. Attorney Chris Moody and the FBI to work undercover to expose local government corruption.   Kolarich finally agrees, but only on his own terms and is soon running from the same people he's trying to ensnare.

BREACH OF TRUST is a stand-alone book; you don't need to have read THE HIDDEN MAN first but you might like to.  David Ellis has written another good, solid legal thriller.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

NOW THAT THE CONTEST IS OVER.....

Now that the scarf contest is over and the winner's name was announced,  I can share our great news with you!  We had dinner with Margo Petitti and her parents on the Saturday after Thanksgiving and Bill made the announcement that he had proposed to Margo at The Top of the Rock just before Thanksgiving and that she had accepted.  We were all surprised and thrilled, especially Margo's father. 

We've been really lucky in the last couple of years.  Our son Robert married Stacey Askew two years ago and she's a wonderful addition to our lives.  It's nice to see both of our sons so happy!

Bill and Margo, congratulations and hugs and kisses to you two!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

WE HAVE A WINNER!

Well, it's been some day, but we have a winner in the "win a Margo Petitti Scarf Contest"! 

My husband and I drove into the City today to run an errand and planned on having Margo pull the winning entry at 3:00 pm, but unfortunately things didn't go as planned.  I had cut brown shopping bags into squares and written the name of each person who entered the contest,  folded them all and put them into a large envelope to bring to Grand Central Station. 

While my husband parked in a tow away zone, I made a quick stop on Broadway near Houston Street.  All went well and I was waiting forever on the third floor for the elevator to go back to the ground floor.  After a fairly long wait, I followed the mailman into the exit stairwell.  He was much quicker than I was and was long gone by the time I reached the lobby level.  There I encountered a door with a sign that read "PUSH".  I pushed a little and the door was really heavy so I pushed a lot and took a step forward not knowing that there were three marble steps on the other side of the door.  With the momentum I used to push the door open, I missed all of the steps and tumbled into the lobby onto the feet of three nicely dressed men, slamming my left calf into the floor.  No sense being graceful if you can't show it off!

The three gentlemen immediately came to my aid and helped me up, found my handbag, book and gloves and I proceeded to limp outside to the car.  That was pretty much the end of our trip.  Instead of going on to Grand Central and then taking Margo to dinner later tonight, we drove back to NJ and called my doctor.  He advised me to elevate my leg and use ice packs since it doesn't sound like anything was broken.  I've been following his advice since we arrived home about 4:30 pm and just a few minutes ago remembered that we hadn't done the drawing yet. 

I limped into the kitchen and convinced my husband that I absolutely had to draw the winner today.  After much discussion, he pulled out a large mixing bowl and I placed all of the entries into the bowl, mixed them up and pulled a winner.

MICHAEL TONELLO, CONGRATULATIONS!  You are the winner of the wonderful, custom Margo Petitti scarf and I'll be emailing you tomorrow.

Right now I'm heading back to the sofa with my icebag, but I want to thank everyone who entered the contest.  I hope to have some more exciting events in the near future, so please be sure to visit Monarch Book Reviews again and hope you're snuggled up with a good book right now!

Monday, December 13, 2010

ENTER TO WIN! The clock is ticking!

Only two days left!

Click on this link -- petittiscarf@aol.com  for a chance to win this
handmade Margo Petitti scarf! 

If the link doesn't work, just send an email to petittiscarf@aol.com with your name.

Good luck everyone.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Lynn's Chatter - RETHINKING MY CLOTHING Volume 2

On October 22nd, I blogged about how dull my standard "uniform" of black and white is and how I'm determined to colorize my life a little.  With the hectic holiday season, I haven't made too many inroads, but I still have it on my mind.  Last week we were in NYC for the weekend to visit Margo Petitti's booth at Grand Central and to have dinner with her, her parents and our son Bill.  We went in early on Saturday and I decided to splurge and have my hair cut at Vidal Sassoon on West 56th Street.  (Victoria gave me the cut and it turned out great!) 

While I was sitting in the chair waiting for the stylist, this absolute VISION walked by.  At first I only noticed the blue in her hair in the front which looked wonderful with her hair cut in a bob.  As my eyes scanned down I saw her FABULOUS clothing......just what I was talking about; a stunning array of colors that just made me smile and made the gray day brighter!  Oh sure, she had on some black...it's New York after all.  But the black was only an accent for the rest of her ensemble.  Yuka was kind enough to let me take her photo so I could share it with you.  You may not like everything she's wearing but such a wonderfully lighthearted approach to clothing is definitely something I'm going to experiment with in 2011!

Thank you, Yuka!  You look gorgeous!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

LEFT NEGLECTED

by Lisa Genova - to be released January 2011

Sarah Nickerson has it all; a loving husband, three young children, a high powered job, an expensive home and a vacation home in Vermont.  She also has all of the accompanying stress of trying to be everything to everyone.

Rushing as usual while trying to keep all of her balls in the air, Sarah is driving to work in the rain while on her cell phone when the unthinkable happens.  She has a car accident while going 70 mph and wakes up in the hospital with a severe brain injury that has caused a condition called left neglect.  Sarah's brain is unable to recognize left; the left side of her body or anything in her left field of vision. 

LEFT NEGLECTED is more than just the story of Sarah's injury and steps to recovery.  There's the underlying story of the neglect she experienced growing up with a mother who was overwhelmed by depression and grief following the accidental drowning of Sarah's young brother.  As she faces her rehabilitation and her future, she also begins to face her relationship with her mother and the dawning realization that her own family has been left neglected because of the lifestyle she and her husband Rob have chosen.

LEFT NEGLECTED is not all doom and gloom.  Ms. Genova has injected a sense of humor into her characters' dialog that makes the story easier to read and thoroughly enjoyable despite the dark subject matter.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

ONLY Eleven Days Left to Win the MARGO PETITTI SCARF!!!

Only ELEVEN days left to enter for a chance to win the one of a kind, unisex winter scarf designed by Margo Petitti, valued at $210!

Click here to enter petittiscarf@aol.com.

The drawing will take place on December 15th at 3:00 pm. 

Ms. Petitti will be selling her original designs at the Grand Central Station Holiday Event in New York City through December 24th.  Open every day from 10:00 a.m. until 8:00 p.m.

Good luck everyone!

Friday, December 3, 2010

THREE SECONDS

by Anders Roslund and Borge Hellstrom - to be released in the U.S. January 2011

Translated from the Swedish by Kari Dickson

Ex-con Piet Hoffman is a covert informant for the Swedish police.  He's infiltrated the Polish mafia and is working his way to the top bosses when someone is murdered during a drug deal gone bad.  Eric Wilson, Piet's handler, now wants him to go deeper into the mafia to uncover their plan to take control of illegal drug distribution within the Swedish prison system. 

Years earlier when they recruited him, Piet had nothing to lose and was willing to take on any assignment despite the danger.  Now that he's married with a family, he's more reluctant but agrees to take on his deadliest mission, despite the fact that using criminals for police investigations is not actually approved of in Sweden.   Meeting with his handler and a very secret group of government officials, he extracts the promise that if he is successful, he'll be free of his commitment to the police and he and his family will be relocated outside the country, similar to our Witness Protection Program.

Problems arise when Detective Inspector Ewert Grens, a sad and lonely colleague of Eric Wilson, is assigned to investigate the murder.  Grens works doggedly despite the roadblocks thrown in his way to keep him from finding out Hoffman's identity and destroying Hoffman's chance of success.   Hoffman's life hangs in the balance between the Polish mafia and the government group that's supposed to be protecting him that now wants him dead.    

If you're a fan of the late Stieg Larsson and THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO series, this book won't disappoint.  The interesting duo of journalist Roslund and ex-criminal Hellstrom has created an intense and intelligent Swedish police procedural that gives the reader a glimpse into the Swedish criminal world and prison system.  

If you're only going to read one book in January, THREE SECONDS should be the one! 

THE POISON TREE

by Erin Kelly - to be released January 2010

It's 1990s London and Karen Clarke is a straight A college student with a long summer and bright future ahead of her when she meets aspiring actress Biba Capel at Queen Charlotte's College. This chance meeting changes Karen's life forever. Her middle class upbringing and dedication to her studies are swiftly swept away as she becomes enamored with Biba and her bohemian lifestyle. She soon joins Biba and Biba's brother Rex in their crumbling family home amid the emotional turmoil of their lives; lives filled with drugs, alcohol and lost days that can only end in tragedy in this psychological thriller.

As Ms. Kelly deftly weaves the past and present, we fast forward ten years as THE POISON TREE begins; Karen and her nine-year-old daughter arrive to pick up Rex from prison where he's spent the last decade for murder. The author never drops the ball as the suspense and tension build in this well written novel, right up to the dramatic ending.

Ms. Kelly's writing has been compared to that of Donna Tartt, but while reading THE POISON TREE I also found it reminiscent of BOYS AND GIRLS TOGETHER, a coming of age novel from the '60s by William Goldman.  This is a wondeful first novel and I highly recommend this psychological thriller!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

KILLER INSTINCT - Charlie Fox Series No. 1

by Zoe Sharp - available in bookstores

Charlie Fox teaches self defense to women in a small city in England.  When her friend drags her along to a new club for karaoke, Charlie finds herself using her skills to fend off another patron in the club, which doesn't go unnoticed by the club's owner, Marc Quinn.  He quickly offers her a security job at his club.

The same patron is found brutally murdered and Charlie is drawn into the investigation as more women she's been in contact with turn up dead.  Even as her relationship with Marc is heating up, she's convinced that the murderer is someone connected with his club but can't seem to communicate with the police because of her own background.

KILLER INSTINCT was only okay.  It's one of those stories where the main character keeps putting herself at risk; going to places alone that she shouldn't and confronting people who are dangerous without any backup.  The author has given Charlie Fox supernatural self-defense skills and a very stunted personality with too much anger that makes her more annoying than engaging.

You might want to skip this one.

KILLER

by Dave Zeltserman - available in bookstores

This noir mystery is the third of Zeltserman's "felon out of prison" trilogy. Originally published in the UK, it was released in paperback here this year.

Despite public outrage, mob hitman, Leonard March, is released from prison after servicing fourteen years, having cut a deal and ratting out mafia boss Salvatore Lombard.  While in prison, his wife passed away and his three children want nothing to do with him. 

Convinced that he'll be targeted by Lombard's crew, March returns to Waltham, Massachusetts, to face whatever is coming.  Working as a janitor while being hounded by the media, he's befriended by Sophie Duval, a young woman interested in his story and everything begins to heat up.

KILLER is written with two concurrent story lines; March's past and present.  Since it was already clear that he was a hitman and had murdered 28 people, you could almost skip over the "past" sections unless you want the gory details.  The chapters of the past just felt like filler the author used to turn what actually is a great short story into a very pricey and slim paperback.

Friday, November 26, 2010

BY HOOK OR BY CROOK and 30 More of the Best Crime & Mystery Stories of the Year

Edited by Ed Gorman & Martin H. Greenberg - Available in bookstores

This is a terrific volume of short crime and mystery stories, perfect for the whodunnit fan on your Christmas list!

Included are ANIMAL RESCUE by Dennis Lehane, SEEING THE MOON by S. J. Rozan, THE BIG SWITCH, A Mike Hammer Story by Mickey Spillane and Max Allan Collin, THE TELL-TALE PURR by Mary Higgins Clark and COUGAR by Laura Lippman, just to name a few.  They'll all good, quick mysteries that may introduce you to some new authors which is always a plus.

I've read other mystery collections before but none quite as good as BY HOOK OR BY CROOK.  This collection is thoroughly enjoyable!

BEYOND THE FINISH LINE, Stories of Ex-Racehorses

By Loren Spiotta-DiMare, Photography by Martin Kavanaugh

In BEYOND THE FINISH LINE, local New Jersey author Spiotta-DiMare chronicles the lives of retired racehorses living in the Garden State with their new families.

The ex-racehorses lives are as varied as their owners.  Thirteen are currently in the employ of the Mounted Police in the City of Newark.   All were adopted through the Standardbred Retirement Foundation.  The police department maintains a facility with 18 box stalls, indoor and outdoor riding rings and their own farrier with a shop in the barn to care for the horses.

Ms. Spiotta-DiMare's lifelong love of horses shines through the pages of this coffee table book that will delight the horse enthusiasts on your Christmas list!

Available in hardcover from Loren's Reading Room

Thursday, November 25, 2010

HAPPY THANKSGIVING!

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

We spent a wonderful Thanksgiving with our family, enjoying each other's company and good food.  Thanks to my husband for a wonderful meal; I serve only as his helper since he's a much better cook than I am. 

I thought I'd take a minute to reflect on the things that I'm most thankful for this year.  Top of my list is my husband, George, and the two wonderful sons we raised together, Robert and Bill.  Our lives only get better as our family grows to include our daughter-in-law, Stacey, and Bill's girlfriend, Margo. 

Friends are so important and I'm thankful for every friend I have.  I'm not going to name them all, but I love all of them dearly.  I'm especially lucky to have two friends that I've known for over twenty-five years, Candace and Sue.  Our almost daily contact enhances everything I do and I hope it's the same for them. 

I'm thankful that our family and friends are weathering this very difficult economy.  Despite a lot of belt tightening, we're all doing okay.

I'm thankful to all of the authors who write the wonderful books that keep me entertained and enlightened and fill my mind and soul with riches beyond compare.

Last but not least, I'm thankful for you, dear blog reader.  Without you, my blog would fall into the silence of cyberspace.  It's nice to know that you're there.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Monday, November 15, 2010

SURPRISE! Enter to win an original MARGO PETITTI SCARF!

Just click here for a chance to win!  petittiscarf@aol.com

In late October I mentioned that I was planning a surprise for all of my blog visitors.  I appreciate each and every one of you and love to read your comments and receive your emails.  To thank everyone, I'm delighted to say that I have an original MARGO PETITTI SCARF for one lucky visitor!  
Margo is a young up-and-coming fashion designer from Rhode Island who currently has a booth at the Grand Central Station Holiday Event in New York City.  Ms. Petitti's scarves are all one of a kind, handmade in the USA. 

This one is the GROVER, which is a gorgeous patchwork of Italian suiting fabrics.  It's a blend of wool, camel hair, alpaca and cashmere and measures 10 inches wide by 80 inches long.  It retails for $210. You can view others from her collection by visiting her website, margopetitti.com or stop by her booth at Grand Central and tell her hello from me!

To enter for a chance to win this gorgeous scarf, just click here petittiscarf@aol.com and send me an email with your name.  The lucky winner will be chosen on December 15th at 3:00 pm and will receive the gift wrapped scarf in time for Christmas. 

Thank you, Margo, for making this possible!  And thanks to all of you for reading my blog. 

Good luck everyone and remember to send your email to petittiscarf@aol.com

THE SILENT LAND

by Graham Joyce - available March 2011

On a skiing vacation in the French Alps, a young married couple, Jake and Zoe, are buried under an avalanche.  As they finally dig their way out of the snow they find themselves totally alone in a changed and silent world.

Nothing is the same as before; even the concept of time seems to have been altered in this new world.  Their concern mounts as their isolation increases and with it their fears of another avalanche.  No matter how many times they try to leave the resort, they always wind up back in the same place, at the same hotel.

Not similar but with the same overwhelming feeling of desolation as THE ROAD by Cormack McCarthy, this is a dark and frightening novel from cult favorite Graham Joyce.  Although it dragged a bit in the middle, I thoroughly enjoyed reading THE SILENT LAND and look forward to reading other books by this award winning author. 

Saturday, November 13, 2010

DEATH NOTICE

by Todd Ritter - available in hardcover

Kat Campbell is Chief of Police in a sleepy small town in Pennsylvania.  Life is good with a very low crime rate until a local farmer turns up dead, amateurishly embalmed and encased in a handmade coffin.  Henry Goll, the local obit writer for the Perry Hollow Gazette, received a faxed death notice time-stamped before the farmer died.  Kat is joined in her investigation by Nick Donnelly, head of the State Police Task Force.

Despite the similarities between the farmer's murder and those committed by the Betsy Ross serial killer Donnelly has been chasing for the past year, the team is forced to look closer to home when another embalmed body is found.  Campbell and Donnelly are joined by Henry Goll in trying to find the killer before he or she kills again.

Ritter's characters are nicely enhanced by their own backstories which add to the complexity of DEATH NOTICE.  Smooth writing, clever phrasing and an interesting plot make this a great first novel!  I hope to see more from this author.

Friday, November 12, 2010

THE INNER CIRCLE

by Brad Meltzer- to be released January 2011

Beecher (Benjamin) White is an archivist working at the National Archives in Washington.  Trying to help his childhood friend Clemmi find out the identify of her father, he and his coworker are giving her a tour when they accidentally stumble upon a document hidden in the private vault that the President uses.

When his coworker turns up murdered, Beecher and Clemmi don't know where to turn or who to trust. Everyone is suspect as they learn about the Culper Ring, a small clandestine group of private citizens who have been privy to the inner circle of the presidency for centuries.

The action heats up as Beecher delves into the sitting President's personal history and he is soon running for his life; trying desperately to find out the truth before it's too late.

Mr. Meltzer has written a very tight, tense and enjoyable mystery.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

NINE MONTH ANNIVERSARY - A PREGNANT PAUSE

It's been nine months since I started Monarch Book Reviews on February 7, 2010 and I thought it would be a nice time for a recap.

I was reluctant to start blogging but I love reading and I've really enjoyed reviewing books, just as I hope you've enjoyed reading my reviews and entries. So many things have happened in just nine months!

Since February I reviewed 74 books (and I really do read them all). Considering that I took the entire month of August off, I averaged 9.25 books per month; a nice number but not as good as I had hoped. I read and didn't review another dozen or so books that I just didn't get a chance to review. Some months it seems that I "blogged" more than reviewed, but that's what blogs are for!

I've had a lot of "firsts" in the last nine months. The first book I reviewed was BRINGING HOME THE BIRKIN by Michael Tonello and it's still one of my favorites. The first time an author left me a message on my blog and linked me to his was when I reviewed CRASHERS by Dana Haynes. I was lucky enough to have my first author interview with Bryan Gruley after reviewing his book THE HANGING TREE. I reviewed my first children's book, THINK LIKE A GOAT? after meeting one of the co-authors, Stephanie Mitcham, while playing Scrabble on line. Monarch Book Reviews was first linked to an author's blog when Danielle Evans, author of BEFORE YOU SUFFOCATE YOUR OWN FOOL SELF, quoted my comments word for word. In April I was linked to the RECORDER NEWSPAPERS for the first time and met the lovely lady in charge of their blogs on their web page, Pat Anderson. Many thanks to all!

Not every "first" was wonderful. In February, just a short time after starting Monarch Book Reviews, Mark Gaskill left me a scathing comment, accusing me of "being bitter, being a failed writer and having a mean-streak" after he read my review of FIFTY GRAND by Adrian McKinty. My intention is to not hurt anyone, but simply to be honest in offering my opinion.

Overall, these past nine months have been a wonderful and exciting experience for me and I hope you've enjoyed visiting the blog. I'm currently working on my second author interview which I hope to post before the holidays. I've got a surprise planned for visitors to Monarch Book Reviews and I'll be posting more information about it later this week so be sure to check back. I haven't blogged through the holiday season yet, so we'll get to navigate that hectic time together.

Thank you for visiting my blog and keep your comments coming; I love hearing from each of you! You can add a comment to any of my posts by clicking on the word "comment" following the review or blog entry, or feel free to email me at lynnkimmerle@aol.com, even if it's just to say "hello"!

We're entering that time of year when there's nothing better than curling up with a good book, so take a few minutes for yourself and happy reading everyone!

CHASING THE NIGHT - Eve Duncan Series No. 11

by Iris Johansen - available in hardcover

Eve Duncan, a forensic sculptor, and her partner, Joe Quinn, are drawn into the search for CIA Agent Catherine Ling's son who was kidnapped nine years earlier at the age of two.  The boy was taken by a Russian mobster, Sergei Rakovac, as punishment to Ling for interrupting his reign of criminal terror.  Rakovac has tortured Ling during those long nine years with stories of her son's death. 

Rakovac has enjoyed CIA protection because of information he supplied to them and, not wanting to disrupt his usefulness, the agency has done nothing to help Ling recover her son.  But Rakovac's time is running out and his involvement with large scale terror attacks has prompted the CIA to order his elimination.  The pressure mounts as Ling is determined to find her son, if he's still alive, before Rakovac's death.  

I enjoy Ms. Johansen's books and have read all of the ones in the Eve Duncan series.  While enjoyable to read, the CIA's use of a brilliant fourteen year old girl in this dangerous game of cat and mouse made CHASING THE NIGHT extremely unbelievable.

Friday, November 5, 2010

OUR KIND OF TRAITOR

bu John le Carre - available in hardcover

I have a number of friends who are big le Carre fans so I decided to give him a try.  OUR KIND OF TRAITOR was a total disappointment and I won't be buying another le Carre book.

Briefly, a young English couple on vacation (Perry and Gail) meet Dima, a big-time Russian criminal and money launderer.   Dima latches on to the couple to solicit their help in obtaining asylum for himself and his family in return for spilling his guts.  They return to England and are interrogated endlessly before becoming part of the plan to get the Russian's information.

While the idea was a good one, the writing was so dry and dull, I had to force myself to finish this book.  There was no action for the first 240 pages and by then I cared so little for these characters that it didn't even matter what happened. 
After reading OUR KIND OF TRAITOR, I'd suggest you save your money and go to your local library for one of le Carre's earlier books which are supposed to be terrific. 

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

GIDEON'S SWORD - Gideon Crew Series No. 1

by Douglas Preston, Lincoln Child - to be released February 2011

Who is Gideon Crew?  Preston and Child, co-authors of the Agent Pendergast series, have introduced a new character, Gideon Crew.  Twelve year old Gideon witnessed the violent death of his father, framed for a crime he didn't commit.  Years later, he makes a deathbed promise to his mother to track down General Tucker, the government official responsible, and avenge his father's death.

Crew's background as a professional thief, together with his handling of Tucker, bring him to the attention of a covert government agency.  They want to hire him to intercept Mark Wu, a Chinese scientist en route to the U.S., and steal his plans for a new weapon that will supposedly change the world.  But Crew is not the only one chasing Wu and at every turn Crew is battling with people trying to not only stop him from obtaining the plans but also to kill him.

Crew's series might be rather short lived if the prognosis presented in GIDEON'S SWORD is correct, which would be a shame.  Preston and Child have created a very likable character and it would be nice to have him around for a while.  He was already embarking on a new caper as the book ended and I'm looking forward to the next Gideon Crew novel!

Note:  The photo shown is of the Advance Reading Copy but I believe the book cover will show the title GIDEON'S SWORD when the hardcover is released in February 2011.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

WHY I LEFT THE AMISH

by Saloma Miller Furlong - to be released January 2011

Ms. Furlong's memoir takes us inside the rural life of the Amish in Ohio; a life ruled by the men of the community.  Growing up in an abusive and dysfunctional family, the author suffered many indignities before summoning the courage to embark on a new life in Vermont, a place she had only visited in magazines and in her own imagination.

As an outsider, or someone considered "English", I didn't know much about the Amish culture before reading this book.  I always considered them to be peaceful religious people who worked the land and didn't participate in wars or use modern technology.  Their sense of community seemed to be the cornerstone of their peaceful existence.  And let's not forget those beautiful quilts we all covet.

It never occurred to me that even within this group there could exist a caste system and tolerance for abuse -- emotional, physical and sexual -- with little or no protection for the young women of the community.  Every facet of the author's life as a young Amish woman was training for subservient community life with no concern for individual pursuits.  As her anger at her situation grew, so did her desire to create a life of her own.

How wonderful for Ms. Furlong that she was able to meet so many people that would assist her in finding her way in the world.   As she became more mature and confident, she was able to return to the Amish community for her father's funeral with far less trepidation than one would expect.

If you'd like to learn more about the Amish life, Ms. Furlong's book raises the curtain for a peek inside this culture and religion in her fascinating and heartfelt memoir.  The author's courage is uplifting and I look forward to reading the next installment of her journey.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

HEART OF THE CITY, Nine Stories of Love and Serendipity on the Streets of New York

by Ariel Sabar - to be released January, 2011

In HEART OF THE CITY, Ariel Sabar introduces us to nine couples who met by chance at different landmarks or places in New York City from the 1940's through present day.

The lenghty introduction in the book delves into the environmental and psychological effects of physical space on human interaction.  The author infuses architecture into each story, providing us with short historical vignettes.  Being married to an architect who is currently pursuing a PhD in Urban Planning, this was especially enthralling.

As I finished reading each couple's story, my mind was racing with questions.  What happened to them?  What became of twenty-five year old Chris and forty year old Tina who met on the ferry to the Statue of Liberty in 1988?  Are they still married twenty-two years later?  Or Joey and Willis who met in Central Park so many years ago?  Mr. Sabar very deftly provided the answers to all of my questions in the postscripts.

This is a beautiful, fascinating and intelligent book about the impact of our physical environment and the happenstance of meeting and falling in love.  HEART OF THE CITY was a delight to read.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

GRAND CENTRAL STATION HOLIDAY FAIR - Presented by the New York Times

Our son's girlfriend, Margo Petitti, is a young designer.  Her beautiful hand-made scarves will be featured for sale at the Grand Central Station Holiday Fair in NYC from November 15 through December 24, 2010. 

The annual Holiday Fair is a shopping extravaganza held in the magnificent 12,000 square foot Vanderbilt Hall. Grand Central has gathered 70-plus vendors of unusual, beautiful and exotic goods. 

For anyone who hasn't yet visited Grand Central Station,
this is a perfect opportunity to see this beautiful Beaux-Arts building while shopping for holiday gifts.  I have to admit that I saw it for the first time a few years ago and was amazed at how beautiful it is. 

While you're there, be sure to look up!  I recently read a galley that I'll be reviewing and the author, Ariel Sabar, noted, "...there is a small problem with the astrological mural on the ceiling of the main concourse.  The zodiac, a blue sweep of Mediterranean sky flecked with 2,500 gold stars, was painted backward.  The source of the "mistake" was debated for decades, until historians made a discovery: the artist, Paul Helleu, had intended to depict the stars from the eyes not of man but of God."

Monday, October 25, 2010

THE REVERSAL - Harry Bosch Series No. 16 and Mickey Haller Series No. 3

by Michael Connelly - available in hardcover

Defense attorney Mickey Haller changes hats to try a case for the prosecution.  Convicted child killer Jason Jessup has just been granted a new trial based on DNA evidence after serving twenty-four years in prison.  Haller is working as an independent prosecutor and forms his own team with one of his ex-wives, Deputy PA Maggie McPherson, and LAPD Detective Harry Bosch, Haller's half-brother.  They're facing a celebrity defense attorney who is representing Jessup pro-bono.

While the defense is playing to the press, Bosch is convinced that Jessup is going to kill again.  He's working double-time to find the witnesses the prosecution needs for the upcoming trial and to uncover just what Jessup is up to now that he's out on bail.  Tension arises when it appears that Jessup might be targeting Bosch's young daughter. 

Connelly writes tight thrillers that have great characters and pacing.  Bosch is a favorite of mine and Haller is growing on me; putting them together was inevitable.  I've read all of Michael Connelly's books and they just get better!   Read THE REVERSAL and see for yourself.

THIS IS WHERE WE LIVE

by Janelle Brown - available in hardcover

THIS IS WHERE WE LIVE is the story of a young artistic couple, Claudia and Jeremy.  Claudia is an aspiring filmmaker and Jeremy is a musician; both are on the verge of really making it.  Saddled with a mortgage on a house that Jeremy never wanted in major need of repairs, they're awaiting Claudia's first film to be released so they can enjoy the big payday. 

Of course, her film doesn't do what they hoped and their downward financial spiral forces them to reevaluate just what they want out of life for themselves and together.  To complicate matters, Jeremy's old and very successful artist girlfriend arrives and causes even more stress on their marriage. 

Janelle Brown has introduced us to self-centered characters who are married but don't really connect or communicate.  While Claudia does everything possible to save her home, Jeremy embarks on what he hopes is the life he wants; both not realizing what's really important until it's almost too late.

Trite, light, chick lit.

Friday, October 22, 2010

RETHINKING MY CLOTHING

My husband and I went to an art supply store in New Haven last Friday and parked directly opposite the Yale Art School Building.  Not having any artistic abilities, I quickly exhausted my tour of the store and the array of Sharpies offered and settled in at a table in a restaurant across the street to people watch on this bright and sunny early fall day. 

Lots of people went in and out of the art school building wearing the typical utilitarian cargo pants or tattered jeans and school logo sweatshirts with canvas and nylon messenger bags or backpacks.  But some of the people going in and out of the building as well as some passersby looked just SPECTACULAR! 

One woman walked by while talking on her cell phone.  She was wearing a short black coat, bright red tights, a purple pashmina with chunky bright yellow earrings.  You wouldn't think those colors would look good together but they did!  Another woman walked by with bright aqua tights, drab green military sweater, a fuchsia scarf and a RED purse.  WOW!   And there I was in my "uniform" of black pants, crisp white shirt, black sweater and black purse....hmmm....BORING!

I've always dressed conservatively, just adding brighter hues in the summer.   But even then, my purse will match my shirt or my shoes or my jewelry.  Although I'm not 25 anymore (or even 35), I don't have to have such DULL clothing.  I came home and looked in my closet and what did I find?  A few pairs of khakis, about 40 white shirts and more black than I could count.  There are a few -- very few -- striped or solid color shirts and a green sweater or two, but that's about it.  I do have tons of scarves in bright colors but I'm not sure why I feel they have to match something to wear even them.

With that in mind, I went to T.J.MAXX this week.  Well, I found a great black sweater and another gray sweater.  I got home and realized that my first foray into change didn't work out so well.   Yesterday I went to Bloomingdale's at the Short Hills Mall.  When I got to the register I had a really nice gray sweater and a white blouse in my hand, so I just put them back and left.

Now at my age I certainly don't want to look like a Red Hat Lady (sorry, if you are one) or too crazily eccentric, but I'm going to work hard at not wearing a white shirt, black pants and maybe a green jacket tied together with a green and black scarf.  I'm going to go boldly out in public in clashing colors!  Just not today, and probably not tomorrow, but soon!  And when I do, I'm going to add a new picture to my profile.  Just don't expect to see me in anything orange; I HATE orange, and not shocking pink since I'm not crazy about that color either.  Probably not lavender, or yellow, either, but I'll find something.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

SPIDER BONES - Temperance Brennan Series No. 13

by Kathy Reichs - available in hardcover

Dr. Brennan, a forensic anthropologist, is called to investigate a floater in Montreal who appears to have died during a weird sex act.  Once the victim is identified from his fingerprints as John Lowery, nothing makes sense because Lowery was declared dead in 1968 while on duty with the U.S. Army in Vietnam. 

Temperance is teamed up with her old flame, Detective Andrew Ryan in her quest to figure out who was buried in Lowery's grave in North Carolina.  Working with JPAC, the U.S. military Joint POW/MIA Command, they're trying to identify the remains as even more body parts turn up in Hawaii that appear to be related to the search for the unknown person buried in North Carolina.  Reichs keep switching victims' identities; first the floater found is Lowery, then he's not, then he is again.  Add to the mix a Samoan gang and the unwillingingness of John's father to help in the investigation for entirely different reasons and the plot just gets muddier. 

Reichs' novel sent me to the internet to research JPAC.  This group is still working valiantly to identify the remains of fallen soldiers from past wars so that their families will finally have closure and the soldiers can have proper burials. 

The one bright spot in SPIDER BONES is Reichs' main character.  Usually so rigid, in this thirteenth of the Brennan series, it's nice to see that Temperance is finally loosening up, showing a little more humor and using a little more profanity.  But overall, this is a winding, confusing tale that only the most dedicated Reichs' fans will enjoy. 

Thursday, October 14, 2010

DEAD LIKE YOU - Det. Roy Grace Series No. 6

by Peter James - to be released December 2010

Following the brutal rape of a woman on New Year's Eve in Brighton, England, Detective Superintendent Roy Grace is caught up in the investigation.  Everything about the crime is similar to unsolved crimes committed in the '90s by someone the police dubbed "The Shoe Man" because in each crime the victim's high-heeled shoes were taken.

Grace is happily involved in a new relationship and expecting a child with his girlfriend, Cleo.  As the investigation continues and there are more brutal rapes, Grace is convinced that the perpetrator is the same man.  Reopening the cold case file from the past forces Grace to confront a terrible time in his own past; his wife, Sandy, disappeared ten years ago and has never been found.

The most frightening aspect of the book is how easy it was for the rapist to learn the most intimate details about his victims by accessing their online accounts.  In this age of Facebook and Twitter, James points out how much of our lives are on the internet and available to almost anyone. 

DEAD LIKE YOU is a good, intricate mystery and I'll definitely be reading others of this series written by Peter James.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

EDGE

by Jeffery Deaver - to be released November 2010

Corte, a federal protection officer known as a shepherd, is assigned to protect DC Detective Ryan Kessler.  The government has information that Kessler has been targeted by Henry Loving, someone Corte has crossed paths with before on another case and believed was dead.  Loving is a "lifter", hired by someone else to get information or to keep someone from testifying.  Corte's assignment is to keep Kessler and his family out of harm's way, no matter what it takes.

I like Jeffery Deaver's books.  He writes intricate and intelligent thrillers, but this one felt more than a little tired. The characters in EDGE play the same game of cat and mouse we've come to recognize in his Lincoln Rhyme series.  His villian, Henry Loving, is so wily and cunning, it's impossible to believe he doesn't have supernatural powers.  Corte is a board game afficiondo with a knack for solving problems and uses these skills to stay one step ahead of Loving, barely.  But as bright and insightful as Corte appears to be, it takes him until almost the end of the book to figure out just which of the Kesslers Henry Loving is targeting and why.

Friday, October 8, 2010

HEALER

by Carol Cassella - available in bookstores now

Claire and Addison Boehning meet and marry just as their careers are beginning. Claire is quickly sidelined by a complicated pregnancy before she can complete her medical residency, but Addison's star is rapidly rising with his invention of a test for ovarian cancer. Soon wealthy beyond their wildest dreams, it seems that life is perfect for the Boehnings and Claire adjusts to being a stay-at-home Mom.

When Addison risks everything trying to produce a cancer drug that is terribly flawed with dubious test results, their lives and fortunes very quickly change. Claire moves with their fourteen year old daughter to the run-down summer home they intended to fix up and with her limited certification, begins work at a nonprofit clinic dealing with indigent and immigrant farm workers. She soon makes a terrible discovery that threatens the livelihood of the clinic as well as her family's future.

While this book is pleasant enough to read, Ms. Cassella's portrayal of Addision as a self-deluded dreamer and Claire as the hard working and diligent cornerstone of her family, makes HEALER not only formulaic but also predictable.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

BAD BLOOD - Virgil Flowers Series No. 4

by John Sandford - available in bookstores now

Who doesn't like "that effing Flowers?" John Sandford brings Virgil back in the fourth of the Virgil Flowers series. Smooth writing and good characters are what usually make Sandford's books so satisfying.

I've read and enjoyed all of John Sandford's books. Sandford has continued the smooth writing, but my problem with BAD BLOOD is the subject matter -- sexual abuse of children. We all know it happens but I have to admit that I hate it and I hate reading about it, especially in fiction.

If you're reading Sandford for the first time, definitely skip this one. This book was horrible and a total turnoff for me.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

GLASSWORKS REVISITED

I've written about going to GLASSWORKS before, but I was so thrilled with the bowl I made, I just had to post the photo! I went back again with my friend, Candace. She made a small tray and I needed a large bowl for Connecticut. It had to be big enough to hold five pounds of potato salad which is the amount I usually make for large group meals.

Unlike my first visit to GLASSWORKS in Morristown, this time I was more adventurous and I cut all the glass to size, rather than picking out pre-cut pieces. It takes about a week to get the finished work back because they have to fire each piece twice, once to meld the colored glass to the clear glass base and a second time to get the desired shape.

Well, the size and shape are perfect for what I wanted and I was amazed at how professional my bowl looked considering I am definitely not an artist. Unfortunately, the bowl is almost too pretty to use and it looks great on the counter, so I'm going to have to go back again and make one that's more of a 'clunker' that I won't mind using.

Monday, September 27, 2010

OUR TRAGIC UNIVERSE

by Scarlett Thomas - available in bookstores

I've been struggling with OUR TRAGIC UNIVERSE for about two weeks. Usually I get engaged in a novel fairly quickly and don't want to put it down until I'm finished; but not this one.  I kept putting it aside and reading other books. 

When I picked it up again over the weekend, I realized that although I was half-way through OUR TRAGIC UNIVERSE, I just didn't care enough about the protagonist, Meg Carpenter, or her silly relationship with her unemployed live-in boyfriend, her attraction to an older man, or her jealousy of her childhood friend, Rosa.
Meg spends much of her time ghostwriting novels while being unable to focus on writing her own.  She goes off on tangents about THE MATRIX, Chekhov and everything else under the sun.  

Ms. Thomas pretty much lost me totally when her character decides that her own novel is just going to be disconnected jottings from the notebook she keeps.  Unfortunately, that's exactly what the author offered us; disconnected dialogs that have no impact on a meandering story line that seems to go nowhere.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

MOONLIGHT MILE

by Dennis Lehane - to be released in November 2010

Dennis Lehane revisits the kidnapping of Amanda McCready from his earlier book, GONE, BABY, GONE. He's brought back Patrick Kenzie and Angie Gennaro, Boston private investigators, now married with a child of their own. The economy has hit Patrick and Angie hard since she's returned to school and he has been doing contract investigations for a large firm in Boston. Hopeful that his latest job for the firm will land him permanent employment with benefits, Patrick is sidetracked when Amanda's Aunt beseeches him to find the sixteen year old honor student who's missing again.

While searching for the missing girl, Patrick is forced to once again face the moral issues of having returned Amanda to her mother twelve years earlier, a dilemma he struggles with throughout the novel. Assisted by Angie, his search takes him through the Russian underworld in Boston and a baby selling ring.  Along the way, Patrick begins to reassess his own life and future.

Not quite as good as Lehane's earlier books, MOONLIGHT MILE is still a terrific read.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Author Interviews - BRYAN GRULEY


I've heard from a handful of authors whose books I've reviewed since starting this blog in February, 2010. Recently I exchanged emails with Bryan Gruley, author of STARVATION LAKE and THE HANGING TREE.

Bryan very graciously agreed to let me interview him for one of my Five Minute Conversations. Since we did the interview by email, it seemed more fitting to just start a new section; hence Author Interviews will be a new segment on my blog. The following is basically word for word from our emails. My questions are in italics and his responses are bold regular font. Please bear with me as Bryan did; I'm not a journalist and this was my first author interview so I hit him with the first questions that popped into my head. Hopefully as I do more of these interviews, I'll become more sophisticated with my queries.

As background, Mr. Gruley is the Chicago Bureau Chief of the Wall Street Journal. His first book, Starvation Lake, was nominated for the Edgar Award for Best First Novel by the Mystery Writers of America and is currently in it's tenth printing. He's a hockey enthusiast and you can read more about him on his blog at bryangruley.com. Let him know you found his books on Monarch Book Reviews! Be sure to check out his books. I've read them both and loved them.

Lynn: How did you segue from newspaper work to writing mysteries? Was it because you always read mysteries?
BRYAN: Actually I'm not a mystery maven, per se. I read Hammett and Chandler, Connelly and Harris, but I read widely. I've wanted to write novels since I was a kid. I finally wrote one. I didn't set out to write a mystery. I just wrote a story. The publisher told me it was a mystery.

Lynn: When you wrote your books, how much of your own newspaper experience defined Gus Carpenter's job on a small town struggling newspaper?
BRYAN: Not many specific experiences, but a lot of the inside culture and circumstance I've seen working at newspapers helped me draw Gus and the Pilot.


Lynn: Many of us think we could "write a book"; how did you decide that you really would? And how did you find the discipline.
BRYAN: I got out of bed early and started writing. As the words finally began to pile up, I realized I might actually wind up writing a book, which gave me more incentive. It was good as well to have a few friends--especially the non-fiction book writer, Jonathan Eig--reading my stuff and encouraging me along the way.

Lynn: So many times writers inject some parts of their friends or families into their characters. Is this the case with you and do you feel comfortable letting family and friends read your books? Does their opinion affect your writing?
BRYAN: My characters are not direct analogs for friends and family, so I don't have to worry about showing them my work. I frequently use names of family and friends for minor characters or places; for instance, Enright's Pub, Fortune Drug, Evangelista Drywall, and hockey-playing Linke twins are all named for people I know.

Lynn: Why do you write? Does it make you happy? Does it feel like "work"?
BRYAN: Writing is what I do. It's what God put me on earth for, so it's who I am. There are days when it feels like "work," of course, but overall, it's as much a part of my life as eating or laughing.

Lynn: Did you always want to write?
BRYAN: Since my mother gave me the Hardy Boys' mystery, THE CRISSCROSS SHADOW, I have wanted to be a writer. I'm lucky to have made a great living at it.

Lynn: Do you think your characters and/or subject matter would have been different if you hadn't had a full career already?
BRYAN: Undoubtedly.

Lynn: What's your ritual? (A glass of wine, an old typewriter, jelly beans, your favorite baseball hat, windows XP, a pack of cigarettes, a bologna sandwich?)
BRYAN: Get up early, look at email, skim the papers, make coffee, procrastinate, look at email, finally sit down and write for an hour or two. If I get 500-800 words in, that's a pretty good day.

Lynn: How does it feel when you see your book for sale in a bookstore?
BRYAN: Great, especially when it's right there at the FRONT of the store.

Lynn: Are the characters from STARVATION LAKE and THE HANGING TREE going to return in your next book? When is your next book going to be published?
BRYAN: The third Starvation Lake book, THE SKELETON BOX, is in the works. If all goes well, it'll come out in the fall of 2011. Gus Carpenter will return as our guide, along with several of the standing characters as well as some new ones.

Thank you, Bryan, for exchanging emails with me and for allowing me to interview you. It was a pleasure to meet you and I can't wait to read THE SKELETON BOX!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Five Minute Conversations - THANKS FOR DESSERT, DON


I'm finally back in New Jersey after a wonderful, but very hot, summer in Stonington, Connecticut; it's great to be back and see more of my husband, but always sad to have the summer end.

One of my favorite things about Stonington is Noah's Restaurant on Water Street. It's so rare to find a place where a woman alone feels comfortable sitting at the bar and having lunch. Noah's is just that place. On any weekday you can find a half dozen people to talk to or just bring a book. The food is spectacular, the staff warm and friendly and it just feels like "home".

Coming back to Mendham is always a shock because we don't really have any place that has that same "neighborhood" feel; where you can go by yourself and just talk to everyone around you, relax and have a nice lunch.

The one serious thing missing in southeastern Connecticut is a really great mall. There are no nearby large department stores except for Macy's in Waterford. Spending a summer totally mall deprived forced me to make a trip to the Short Hills Mall yesterday. I didn't even buy anything but it was nice to just breath the over processed mall air surrounded by bright and shiny new fall merchandise at Bloomingdale's, Neiman's, and Saks to name a few. If you've been living under a rock and haven't made a trip to Short Hills, I can only describe it as Fifth Avenue in New York City but under a roof. You're surrounded by so much sparkle and bling it's amazing! Handbags and jewelry and clothes, OH MY!

I decided to have lunch at my favorite mall restaurant, Joe's American Bar and Grill. For a Wednesday in September Joe's was really crowded but after exchanging pleasantries with Noreen, the manager, I found an empty seat at the bar. I began reading CURE by Robin Cook (terrible choice, see my review below) while waiting for my order. Just as my club sandwich was being delivered, a couple of young and extremely nicely dressed gentlemen were standing behind me looking for seats. With only one seat available next to me, one of them asked if I would mind sliding over a bit so that they could squeeze in another stool. I was happy to, but laughingly said it was going to be very cozy.

We quickly made the necessary adjustments and the gentleman closest to me offered to buy me a drink to thank me. Although I declined, we started talking. His name was Don and he and his lunch mate are financial analysts for New York Life. We discovered that we had both grown up in Newark, NJ; he attended Weequahic High School while I had attended West Side High, albeit many years apart. We talked about different stores and places that used to be in Newark. He currently lives in Madison and summers on Martha's Vineyard. I gave him one of my blog bookmarks and, promising to visit my blog, he turned back to his co-worker and I went back to my book. I couldn't help but chuckle when Don placed his order because NOBODY is as picky about ordering as I am (okay, friends and family...I finally admit it!). My chicken club included swiss but no bacon with very light mayo on white toast with no onion rings; very different than the standard offered. Well, Don proceeded to order grilled chicken with grilled shrimp. He didn't want it on a Caesar salad and he and the bartender struggled but finally came up with some appropriate greens and dressing.

I had just finished eating when Don insisted he wanted to buy me dessert. I finally relented when he agreed to split it with me.....strawberry shortcake made the correct way, with a biscuit. We chatted a little more and then I paid my check. We shook hands and I left through the restaurant entrance that passes the waitstaff station. Well, Don, I hope you're reading this blog entry because there were two waitresses hopping up and down and talking about how cute you are! I think you made a couple of conquests and should definitely consider going back to Joe's for lunch again soon.

I guess if you look hard enough you can find a place that feels like it should be in your neighborhood and has good food that nice friendly people frequent. I wish Joe's was in Mendham and not a half hour away.

By the way, thanks for dessert.

CURE


by Robin Cook - available in bookstores

Part medical mystery, part police mystery and part lecture on America's health care industry, CURE may be the last Robin Cook book that I purchase.

The main character is NYC Medical Examiner Laurie Montgomery, just returning to work from maternity leave. Determined that her first case back is not going to be a "natural" death, she twists herself into a pretzel trying to find another cause. Her reactions and responses are silly and over the top; mostly she's just annoying.

CURE has weak characters, a far fetched winding plot about Japanese gangs, the most bungling Mafia I've ever seen in print and the biomedical industry.

The "cure" for this one is to save your money and buy something better to read.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

KOOKIE FLUNKED ELECTRIC FENCE 101


Some of you may notice a slight change in my profile. Unfortunately I had to give our mini daschshund, Kookie, back to our good friends, Ron and Janis (I sure hope they're still our friends).

Our son, Bill, adopted Kookie a year ago and because of his allergies, she quickly became our part-time dog. Sweet as a button but oh, so stubborn, six year old Kookie came with a myriad of behavioral problems. My husband and I were doing a pretty good job of encouraging her to make her necessary visits outside but Kookie likes to roam around and wouldn't come back when you called her. Because we live on such a busy street that's impossible to fence in, and with the approval of our vet, we installed an electric fence to make all of our lives easier and to keep her safe. Well, I think Kookie may just be the first dog to absolutely flunk electric fence training.

Over the last six weeks I tried everything possible to get her to adjust to the boundaries. The professional who installed the system worked with her and I continued her training, but as soon as we tried a test, Kookie would go right through the flags and get a shock. After this happened a few times, she became a different dog; shivering and shaking and refusing to go out at all. She started sulking (I kid you not!) and trying to hide in her crate all day. People she knows and normally greeted with great gusto were subjected to growls and teeth-baring. Our friend, Pete, couldn't believe his eyes when I laid out little pieces of ham in a trail from her crate to the backdoor to try to entice her to come outside with me. Nothing doing, even Kookie's love of ham wasn't going to get her to budge.

I spoke to the fence installer and she said I should give Kookie a break from the training for a week and then we would try again. Well, Kookie is certainly no dope; as soon as the electric fence collar disappeared, so did her sulking and shivering and she became her happy-go-lucky self, following me around the house and snuggling up when I sat down with my book. However, she seemed to forget that certain bodily functions needed to be accomplished outside.

I was determined to win Kookie over with love, patience and encouragement (not to mention fantastic food treats) and figured that eventually we'd be able to open the door, let her out safely and not worry about her becoming roadkill. So after her week's vacation, I put her collar back on and started the training again, hopping around with a white flag in my hand while saying, "Careful, careful.....GOOD GIRL" about nine thousand times a day. However, Kookie didn't want to be CAREFUL or a good girl and shook and shivered and ran right through the flags, getting a shock and then running back through the flags and getting shocked again, yelping all the way.

I took a look at Kookie a couple of weeks ago and realized that I was miserable and she was miserable and that having a pet is supposed to be a lot more pleasure than stress and knew that it just wasn't going to work. My husband who loves Kookie finally agreed that the decision was mine to make. Luckily for both me and Kookie, Janis and Ron have REALLY REALLY BIG HEARTS and a really small penned in area and lots of other small dogs so Kookie didn't have to go to the glue factory; she was able to embark on a new adventure stealing all of the other dogs' bones and trying to become the leader of a different pack.

Thank you to Betsy for trying her absolute best to make the electric fence system work for us, to Pete for trying to talk some sense into little Miss Kookie, to Candace and Doug and Robert and Stacey and Sue (in alphabetical order) for listening to my tales of woe and frustration, and especially to Janis and Ron for taking Kookie back into their home.

Kookie is a sweetie and she'll be missed but she really did fail Electric Fence 101.

GONE


by Mo Hayder - to be released in February 2011

Det. Jack Caffery is called out for a carjacking case when he discovers there was an eleven year old girl in the car at the time. With very few leads, he and his team are doing everything possible to find young Martha when there's another carjacking and this one also includes a young girl.

Police diver Flea Marley has had some serious problems which led to an estrangement from Jack. Because of her lack of leadership Flea's group has become disorganized and disjointed. Pulling herself and her team together, they start their own investigation into the carjackings hoping to not only find the missing girls but to also prove their dedication and improve her team's reputation.

When the "jacker" starts sending notes to the families of the missing girls the police realize this is a much different crime. As they find themselves racing to try to rescue the girls as well as prevent more kidnappings, they realize that the kidnapper knows exactly what they're doing and what their next moves will be. Caffery finds himself even more emotionally involved with the families because of the disappearance of his brother many years ago.

Since I had never read anything by Ms. Hayder before, it felt like this was a sequel to another of her books and that the background between Jack and Flea was missing. It took quite a while for all of the bits and pieces of the cause of the tension between them to surface, which made the story drag a little.

I liked this book and I enjoyed reading it but I'd recommend that you start with the previous Mo Hayder book so that you'd have the proper background for the protagonists' relationships.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

A STRANGER LIKE YOU


by Elizabeth Brundage - available in bookstores

Hugh Waters is a mess. Unhappily married and working at a dead end job as an insurance underwriter in New Jersey, Hugh Waters suddenly had a bright future; Gladiator Films bought his screenplay for enough money to fuel his fantasies of a better life. But just as quickly, everything changed for the worse for Hugh when the executive producer passed away and was replaced by Hedda Chase. Chase has decided she's finished with violent and sexist movie scripts and axes Hugh's script, sending him a vitriolic letter that sends him into a tailspin.

After Waters receives Chase's missive, he travels from New Jersey to LA to confront her and prove her wrong. Not getting the response he wants, he acts out his screenplay by kidnapping Hedda, locking her in the trunk of her car and leaving her at LAX long term parking with the keys in the ignition and walks away leaving her to chance.

Reminiscent of the movie "CRASH", Brundage weaves narratives by Waters, Chase, a teenage runaway and a troubled young soldier just home from Iraq and working as a parking lot attendant at LAX. While you hold your breath waiting to find out Hedda's fate, Hugh insinuates himself into her life and social circle.

The novel explodes when the characters intersect in this terrific and quirky thriller. I'll definitely be reading Brundage's previous books.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

THE IMMORTAL LIFE OF HENRIETTA LACKS



By Rebecca Skloot - available in bookstores

Harry S. Truman was President in 1951 when Henrietta Lacks died, but her cells and her legacy live on today. Known for years only as HeLa, the first "immortal" human cells grown in culture that continue to grow today. They have been and still are a vital medical research tool. For most of the past 60 years, scientists never even knew the real name of the woman whose cells sparked a spate of research in both the medical and pharmaceutical fields.

A poor, unassuming and uneducated woman, Mrs. Lacks was treated in the Colored Only Section of Johns Hopkins University Hospital. Her husband and family never even understood just what lived on after her death; believing that a part of Henrietta had actually been kept alive. Her cells were used for wide ranging medical research over decades including polio research in the '50s, the effects of the Atom bomb, cloning, gene mapping and testing for the HPV (papilloma virus) vaccine, the first ever cancer vaccine that was approved in 2006, just to name a few.

Add the civil rights struggle to this blend of science and personal information about Mrs. Lacks in Ms. Skloot's fascinating book. The very real human debate in the book centers on the untold millions made from HeLa research and the abject poverty her family faced. Her children were continually tested by researchers, even as they continued to live in poverty and ironically, without medical insurance. Mrs. Lack's legacy is heroic on so many levels, yet she rested for decades in an unmarked grave in her hometown.

Ms. Skloot has written an amazing and thought provoking book that I thoroughly enjoyed and I highly recommend THE IMMORTAL LIFE OF HENRIETTA LACKS.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

THE THINGS THAT KEEP US HERE


by Carla Buckley - available in bookstores

Ann and Peter Brooks are just a regular unhappily married couple with two children. Newly separated, Ann is an art teacher at her daughters' school and Peter is a university researcher working on an NIH grant.

Peter quickly discovers a virulent strain of avian flu that has begun to spread throughout the United States. Called H5N1, this deadliest form of bird flu kills fifty percent of those infected. The ensuing change in the landscape of every part of life is frightening. Schools are closed and all public gatherings suspended. People are urged to stay indoors in their own homes. Gasoline and food are quickly in short supply as people begin to hoard what they can and fight over what they need. A weeks' long power outage following a winter storm makes everything even more difficult, compounding the isolation and fear. Peter is forced to return to the family home with his research assistant whom Ann fears is his lover.

I don't know why, but I love disaster books and movies. I enjoyed THE THINGS THAT KEEP US HERE even though it's more women's fiction than science fiction. The author's depictions of the growing crisis and Ann's insistence on trying to keep at least a semblance of normality for her daughters are good. Her characterizations are not as strong, but all in all it was a nice book to read.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

OUTSIDE THE ORDINARY WORLD


by Dori Ostermiller - in bookstores now

Sylvia Sandon and her sister Allison grew up in California in the '70s in a home filled with lies and deceit. Their mother's long-term affair threatened their stability throughout their childhood. The last thing Silvia ever wanted was to be like her mother.

Fast forward to a grown up Sylvia, married with her own family and living in New England with a very distant relationship with her mother, both emotionally and geographically. An artist, she finds herself unable to focus on her art, except for the portraits she commissions to keep her family above water financially. Her husband, Nathan, is completely obsessed with renovating the county home they bought almost ten years ago while the family continues to live in a rental. His time and their money are invested in the house while Sylvia's discontent grows.

It seems that history is repeating itself when Sylvia's daughter discovers her mother's attraction to Tai Rosen, a local landscape designer. Sylvia finds herself in a struggle to balance her own happiness with the needs of her children and the future of her family.

OUTSIDE THE ORDINARY WORLD is nice women's fiction.

MOTHERS AND OTHER LIARS


by Amy Bourret - available in bookstores now

Nineteen year old Ruby Leander was leaving Oklahoma for California following her grandmother's funeral. Stopping at a rest stop changed Ruby's life forever when she discovered an abandoned infant.

Nine years later, Ruby is now living in New Mexico with her daughter, Lark, and dating Chaz, a local policeman. A nail technician, Ruby sees a magazine article with a photo of a missing infant that can only be Lark and the parents who have been searching for her for almost a decade. Shocked, scared and unsure what to do, Ruby's decision is taken out of her hands when Lark discovers the article in Ruby's purse.

Ruby's consults an attorney in her quest to do the right thing, even though she can't imagine life without Lark. Complicating matters, she discovers that she is pregnant with Chaz' child.

Ms. Bourret's novel was a delight to read with good characters and strong writing until she injected a ridiculous plot line worthy of King Solomon in the Old Testament.

Downhill from there; you should skip this one.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

THE HANDMAID'S TALE


I've never turned a book review into Lynn's Chatter, but THE HANDMAID'S TALE by Margaret Atwood affected me so much that I really had to do more than just a review. Available in paperback, it was first published in 1985. It's a feminist dystopian novel set in the near future. The U.S. Government has been overthrown and everyone is now living in a totalitarian theocracy. My blog entry isn't meant as an indictment of any religion; like some of the internet jokes currently being passed around, this blog entry contains something that can offend everyone.

I'm almost ashamed to admit that I wasn't fully aware of burkhas until the tragedy of 9/11. As with most of us, I'm able to live my daily life without the specter of that awful day. However, every September my thoughts turn to that event and I realized recently that I have become more aware of people wearing burkhas. I honestly don't remember seeing them before, but now they're popping up in the most unexpected places; in the center of Morristown, NJ and in many smaller U.S. towns.

I've thought about how insidious are the lives of the women forced to live with rules that don't allow for any individuality or personal freedoms of which burkhas are just the outward symbol....a symbol of lost hope and repression based on religious practices. I've tried to imagine how that could ever happen in our country, a country filled with strong, resourceful women, most of whom enjoy more freedoms and protection under the law than at any other time in our history. I can't picture the women of Mendham, NJ succumbing to such restraints, or the women in New York City. A number of years ago, the black wife of a friend of ours responded very loudly to something she found objectionable at a school board candidates' debate. Imagining this woman, Joyce, being told she couldn't go out in public without this imprisoning garment, own property, show off her wonderful dreadlocks or even read a book and be completely under the control of her husband and the government. All that comes to mind is, "Yo, WHAT??!!", her response that long ago day.

THE HANDMAID'S TALE is not a new book, having been published in 1985. Sometimes I am just resistant to reading what everyone else is reading until long after it's popular; for this same reason I can't currently bring myself to read "Eat, Pray, Love". I finally read this very intense and disturbing book by Margaret Atwood and I'm glad I waited. Ms. Atwood's tale is almost a blueprint of how severe changes to our very existence could actually occur. It's a good lesson for us to all protect the freedoms we do have and reminds us to not be so quick to jump on the bandwagon of anything that lessens any one else's personal freedom. Just as women all lost their jobs and access to any of their finances and basically became chattel of the men in society in THE HANDMAID'S TALE whether they were wives, handmaids or Marthas you could just imagine how quickly it could happen.

Many religions have restrictive covenants for women. Before some orders of Catholic nuns became more secular, most if not all were enrobed in garments very similar to burkhas. They were not allowed to adorn themselves with makeup and trinkets, took vows of chastity and poverty and in the more restrictive convents, took vows of silence. They lived very basic lives and their rooms actually resembled the rooms of the handmaids described in Ms. Atwood's book. But the difference was that most of these women had a CHOICE to become a nun and live such spare lives, following their own religious beliefs. It wasn't foisted upon the entire population of women who were practicing Catholics.

This is not to say that all women who wear burkhas don't want to. Some wish to modify their lives because of their religion, but just as in Margaret Atwood's tale the key that is missing and is so alarming is CHOICE.

Perhaps the women in Islamic countries didn't notice or become alarmed by the small changes in their lives. Maybe they didn't realize just how desperately things were changing until one day they found themselves swaddled in burkhas.

As you can see, THE HANDMAID'S TALE is a powerful and frightening book and if you haven't read it, you should.