Saturday, May 23, 2015

New Uses for Old Boyfriends by Beth Kendrick

What female on this planet would not love this title???

New Uses for Old Boyfriends is another "woman falls apart and is forced to move back home to get on her feet again" story, but this one is full of good humor and some interesting fashion facts.

Lila Alders has always had it all, until her husband leaves her broke and she loses her high-powered flashy job. She is forced to return home, not only due to her financial situation but also to help her mother who is still grieving the loss of Lila's father a year earlier.

But if Lila thought she was going to be able to rest and lick her wounds, she quickly learns that life in Black Dog Bay Delaware is no picnic either. It turns out her mother has been living in the dark, and is in danger of losing her home. All of Lila's friends (and former beaus) have moved on.

Lila must act quickly to help her mother out, and decides to open a vintage clothing store with her mother's collection of couture fashion. It turns out her mother was once a high-end model, much to Lila's surprise. Will this revelation, along with a few others, end up saving Lila?

Find out in this entertaining novel.


Read alike:  Vintage by Susan Gloss

Friday, May 8, 2015

Oh! You PrettyThings by Shanna Mahin

                    All you have to do is look at the title of this novel and know that Oh! You Pretty Things is bound to be filled with tongue in cheek humor. And it definitely delivers!

Jess Dunne most assuredly knows her away around Hollywood. After all, she grew up here. And so did her quirky, off-beat, not around much mother. And grandmother. So nothing should surprise Jess ever. She feels so blessed to be given the opportunity to be the assistant to a Grammy-winning composer. Just think of all the possibilities... glamorous events and important people and amazing travel. Jess is not going to concern herself with the hanger-oners, the cut-throat publicists and managers, the aspiring actors, singers, dancers, comedians, etc. No, she is above all that.

But once inside the "inner circle" things are quite surprising.

This is where all the fun begins. Read how Jane deals with her new life while trying to maintain her old, while getting the scoop on what goes on behind those closed doors of Beverly Hills mansions.


Read-alike: The Devil Wears Prada by Lauren Weisberger

Monday, May 4, 2015

Sandcastle Girls by Chris Bojalian

The systematic slaughter of the Armenian Christians by the Turkish Muslims is a primarily overlooked piece of history. In 1915, under the guise of national security – Turkey was allied with Germany in WW I and accused the Armenians of siding with the British – an estimated 1,000,000+ Armenian men, women, and children were exterminated. Author Chris Bojalian has created a novel of great sensitivity and honesty without sensationalizing a topic that needs none.

Moving between contemporary America and 1915 Aleppo, Bojalian brings together a moving portrait of ordinary people caught in extraordinary circumstances and their attempts to try to fix or alleviate the horrors they find surrounding them. Sandcastle Girls paints a clear picture of lives and circumstances without excessively graphic descriptions and succeeds in making its points and telling its stories without driving the reader away. It was emotionally hard to read, but impossible to put down. 


Non-fiction follow up: Burning Tigris by Peter Balakian

Saturday, April 25, 2015

The Stranger by Harlan Coben

I read a lot of thrillers. I have read a lot of thrillers. I intend to continue reading thrillers. But I am pretty sure that Harlan Coben's newest, The Stranger, is going to end up being one of the best. The book has 56 chapters, and by Chapter 55 I still was not totally sure of what happened or who was to blame. Now that is some excellent story-telling!

The premise is somewhat familiar - husband finds out that wife has been keeping a secret from him for quite some time. Husband confronts wife. Wife gets upset and asks for "time" and takes off. Husband does not worry too much until wife is gone a little too long and cannot be reached. Husband gets nervous and starts looking for wife. Husband discovers bad guys are involved. Real bad guys. Cops may or may not be in on it. Innocent husband now perfect suspect.

Heard it before, correct?

But when Harlan Coben is doing the writing, it is all just a little different. And way better.

Good luck figuring it out ahead of time.


Read alike author: Linwood Barclay

Monday, April 20, 2015

The Family Fang by Kevin Wilson

The four members of the Fang family are far from your typical all-American family. Annie, the older of the two Fang children, is an actress who has been in a successful superhero movie. However, at the start of things in The Family Fang she finds herself in a mess. Her on-set protest about a topless scene she is supposed to do in a movie called Sisters, Lovers results in an internet scandal and in her losing her part in the next installment of the superhero movie franchise. Buster, her brother, has published two unpopular novels and is now writing an article for a men’s magazine on a group of Iraq War vets who have made shooting potatoes out of guns and cannons their post-war hobby.

But Buster and Annie’s lives are normal compared to the pursuits of their parents, Caleb and Camille. Or to put it more accurately, Buster and Annie’s lives are normal compared to the strange childhoods they spent performing in their parents’ performance art pieces. These pieces fell somewhere between experimental art and Candid Camera segments. One piece required Buster to pretend like he had lost his parents at the mall and then insist that a random customer at a department store is his mother. Another had Buster and Annie playing intentionally horrible music on the street with a “note that read: Our Dog Needs an Operation. Please Help Us Save Him.” While they played, their parents snuck into the gathering crowd and started heckling Buster and Annie, inciting the crowd until a riot nearly broke out. Most of The Family Fang alternates between chapters about the family’s past art pieces and ones that follow what is presently going on with the Fangs. This could make for a potentially sluggish read but author Kevin Wilson doesn’t allow this to happen. When the flashbacks are most successful they parallel issues Annie and Buster are currently dealing with.

Despite the wackiness, the characters are three dimensional, and Wilson creates a very plausible alternate reality. The humor is sharp, often laugh-out-loud, and there are plenty of plot twists. Most importantly, The Family Fang is likely to remind you of little that you’ve read before.


Tuesday, April 7, 2015

The Third Bear by Jeff VanderMeer

When I think of short stories I tend to think of realistic fiction by writers such as Raymond Carver, Ann Beattie, and John Updike. This type of short story has dominated annual collections such as The Best American Short Stories for quite a few years. But there is a different, often bizarre vein of short story that stretches most clearly back to Franz Kafka. Jeff VanderMeer’s short story collection The Third Bear very much follows in this vein.

The two most successful stories in the collection are “Finding Sonoria” and “The Quickening.” “Finding Sonoria” has something of a hard-boiled detective feel to it. The detective in the story accepts a case for a man who owns a stamp for a country that does not seem to exist. The man wants him to find out where the country is even though the internet comes up with no results for Sonoria.  “The Quickening” centers on a girl, her Aunt Etta, and a talking rabbit named Sensio. Aunt Etta has dreams of cashing in on Sensio’s ability to speak, and the whole story has a creepy, horror story quality to it. It’s not surprising that things don’t go the way the narrator’s aunt hopes they will. I highly recommend The Third Bear, particularly to readers who, like me, sometimes find contemporary short stories a bit dull.


Friday, April 3, 2015

The Cinderella Murder by Mary Higgins Clark and Alafair Burke

The Cinderella Murder is second in a new series that was introduced last year by Mary Higgins Clark. Bestselling author Alafair Burke is joining her in this one and in future endeavors, and it turns out to be a pretty good match.

Laurie Moran is the producer of Under Suspicion, a reality based television series that revisits cold cases. She is also the mother of young son Timmy and daughter of retired policeman Leo. Laurie is thrilled to be given the opportunity to produce a segment on the death of talented, beautiful UCLA student Susan Dempsey, who was murdered more than a decade ago. No one has ever been prosecuted for the crime, but there are many suspects. One former roommate went on to to star in a Hollywood film (the part was originally supposed to be Susan's) and the other roommate dropped out of school and basically disappeared. Then there's the boyfriend - constantly cheating and no real alibi for the evening. Lab partner Dwight has always been in love with Susan. Did she turn his advances away?

Lots of theories, lots of players. Where will all of this take Laurie and her crew?

As she has been doing for decades herself, Mary Higgins Clark has it all figured out!


Read-alike: I've Got You Under my Skin by Mary Higgins Clark. This is the first in this series, although you do not need to read this one to enjoy the other.