Wednesday, January 31, 2007

The Friday Night Knitting Club by Kate Jacobs

Georgia leads a busy life, raising her teenage daughter on her own and running Walker and Daughter, her knitting store in New York. The Friday Night Knitting Club is born when Georgia's regular customers start chatting and lingering past closing time. We meet Anita, Georgia's seventysomething confidiante who is contemplating having a relationship with Georgia's landlord, Marty. There's also, Cat, Georgia's childhood friend who betrayed her years ago. Of course, we're introduced to the rest of the club--K.C., Darwin, Lucie, and Peri. All the women are working through life's changes with one another's support and friendship. While Georgia remains at the book's core, the perspective occasionally shifts from character to character--a nice touch. The Friday Night Knitting Club is similar to The Memoir Club by Laura Kalpakian and Jo-Ann Mapson's Bad Girl Creek trilogy.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Self Storage by Gayle Brandeis

"We weren't a very balanced meal-two desserts, a helping of carbohydrates, and some seaweed-but then, what family is?" Flan lives with her husband, Shake (or Shae) and young children Noodle and Nori in university housing in Riverside, California. She spends her time taking care of her kids and being the breadwinner--buying and reselling objects from storage units that people have abandoned. Her husband, meanwhile, is supposed to be writing his dissertation. Instead, he spends his days in front of the television watching soap operas. Flan struggles to find her place in the life she has chosen for herself. While the reader might not always agree with Flan's choices, the novel is filled with interesting characters (fellow resale friends, neighbors from around the globe) and touches of humor. Self Storage reminds me of the novels of Sara Lewis.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Trouble by Jesse Kellerman

I really enjoyed Kellerman's first novel, Sunstroke and looked forward to what he would do next. In Trouble, we are introduced to Jonah Stem, a medical student in New York City. Overworked and tired, Jonah intervenes when a woman is attacked in the early morning hours. He ends up saving her, but accidentally kills her attacker. This sends his life spiralling out of control when he is vilified by the victim's family and discovers that his good dead will not go unpunished. Jonah is a flawed character and some of his decisions seem to be made just to move the plot along. Still, I wanted to keep reading. The book contains more graphic scenes than Kellerman's first novel. For people who enjoy Greg Iles.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Head Games by Thomas B. Cavanagh

With a brain tumor that he has nicknamed "Bob," ex-police detective Mike Garrity is trying to deal with what he feels is a death sentence. A colleague comes along with an lucrative offer to find T.J., the star of the band Boyz Klub, who has gone missing. Mike agrees to take the job believing that the money would be nice to leave to his 15 year old daugther Jennifer when he's gone. He will also score points with Jennifer, whom he rarely sees, because Boyz Klub are her favorite band. Mike works hard to find T.J., but then discovers that other people are also looking for him with a more sinister plan in mind. Head Games is a mystery with humor despite the presence of "Bob". Mike Garrity is an amusing, pessimistic character.

Monday, January 22, 2007

B-mother by Maureen O'Brien

Teenager Hillary Birdsong finds herself pregnant after a summer fling. Her parents force her to give the baby up for adoption despite her protests. Fortunately, she gets to choose the family her child will go to. The novel explores Hillary's life after giving birth until the time she hopes to see her son again when he turns 18. Hillary's journey is one of heartbreaking survival.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Veil of Roses by Laura Fitzgerald

Twenty-seven year old Tami Soroush comes to the United States from Iran on a three month visa in order to find a husband. Her parents have encouraged Tami's visit because they lived in the U.S. when Tami was very young. Tami is amazed at the freedom that women are allowed here and is enjoying herself with the help of her sister, Maryam, and her brother-in-law. The rush is on, however, to marry quickly so she doesn't have to go back to Iran. Will any of the prospective Iranian-American men be a suitable choice? Tami also develops friendships with Ike from Starbucks, and the people who are in her ESL class in Tucson. Veil of Roses is an enjoyable novel about a woman who is looking for the right place for herself in the world.

The Blade Itself by Marcus Sakey

Danny Carter has been leading a straight life for seven years, ever since his old partner Evan McGann went to prison for a crime they committed together. Now Evan is back and he believes that Danny owes him big for never mentioning Danny's name to the police years ago. Evan wants Danny to do a job with him. Danny isn't interested, but Evan is hell-bent on Danny being his partner once again. Will Danny be able to convince Evan that he's really out of the game or will the honest life he's built be destroyed in the process? Sakey has written a great first novel that's hard to put down. The Blade Itself has much in common with the novels of Dennis Lehane.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Silent in the Grave by Deanna Raybourn

Julia Grey finds herself a widow when her husband, Sir Edward, dies in their London home. A few weeks after Edward's death, detective Nicholas Brisbane visits her and tells her of his belief that her husband might have been murdered. Julia finds herself shocked by Brisbane's thoughts, but over time realizes that she must know the truth about her husband's last moments. Their investigations take them into the dark underbelly of London's victorian society, leaving Julia not sure whom to trust. Raybourn writes a book that will appeal to both mystery readers and people who enjoy novels about women in victorian times. Silent in the Grave reminded me very much of Tasha Alexander's And Only to Deceive.

The Endless Knot by Gail Bowen

Professor Joanne Kilbourn is on sabbatical when she's asked by an old friend to cover the trial of Sam Parker for the Canada Tonight news program. Parker is charged with the attempted murder of journalist Kathryn Morrissey, who wrote a tell-all book about the troubled lives of children from prominent Canadian families. Joanne agrees to take the job even though her boyfriend, Zack Shreve, is Sam's lawyer. As the trial proceeds, Joanne and her family become even more involved in the case, especially when Morrissey is found murdered. Will Joanne be able to protect her family from harm? This is a series that I have enjoyed for years. It is a mystery to me why no American company publishes her books anymore. Bowen's details about life in Canada (with emphasis on politics) and Kilbourn's life as a widow with children and grandchildren are interesting. Gail Bowen deserves a much wider readership in the U.S.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Plum Lovin' by Janet Evanovich

Stephanie Plum, relationship expert? In this mystery, Stephanie has to find love for five people by Valentine's Day. If she succeeds, the woman she has been hunting, Annie Hart, will turn herself in. But with both Morelli and Ranger not around, will Stephanie be tempted by Diesel, her matchmaking cohort who is hiding Annie? Evanovich fans will be pleased with this short novel while they are waiting for the next book in the series to be published this summer. Truthfully, it was nice to have a break from the Morelli vs. Ranger storyline for a while.

Sunday, January 7, 2007

Can You Keep a Secret? by Sophia Kinsella

Emma Corrigan is trying to find a career she can be successful at. On her way home from a business meeting in Glasgow, Emma spills all her secrets about her life to the man who is sitting next to her on the plane because she's convinced the plane is going to crash. The next day, Emma is stunned to discover that the man on the flight was none other than Jack Harper, the founder of Panther Corporation, the company Emma works for. As Jack makes himself familiar with Panther's London operations, Emma finds herself being charmed by him. But can a relationship work when your boyfriend knows everything about you, even all your innermost thoughts? This novel is similar to Kinsella's Shopaholic series which I wrote about a few weeks ago. You might also like it if you're in the mood for a book similar to Bridget Jones's Diary.

Friday, January 5, 2007

Sliver of Truth by Lisa Unger

When Ridley Jones picks up some pictures from the local photo shop, she is stunned to discover a man lurking in the background of almost all the shots. Soon the FBI is questioning her and she realizes that the ghosts of a past she thought was buried have come back to wreak havoc. Sliver of Truth is the sequel to Unger's first novel, Beautiful Lies. This second book reveals all that happened in the first book, so you should read Lies first. Unger writes an engaging thriller similar to Harlan Coben's recent novels. Lisa Unger also writes under the name Lisa Miscione.

Monday, January 1, 2007

My Favorite Books of 2006

Each year I pick five books that I enjoyed most during the year. I try to choose books that represent the various genres that I like to read (mysteries, women's lives and relationships, and suspense/thriller).

In alphabetical order:

  • The Ex-Wife's Survival Guide by Debby Holt
    I love novels about women's lives set in England (Katie Fforde, Joanna Trollope). The main character Sarah finds herself at loose ends when her husband leaves her and her twin sons go on an extended trip before university. Sarah joins the local drama troupe and struggles to find a new life for herself, with sometimes humorous results. To find a new author, packaged as a chick lit paperback no less, who seems to have been overlooked is fabulous. Let's hope she continues writing....

  • The Kindness of Strangers by Katrina Kittle
    Sarah Laden is a caterer with two sons whose life is getting back to normal after the death of her husband a few years ago. One day she finds her younger son's best friend, Jordan, walking in the rain. After she picks him up, he appears sick and she pulls over to let him use a port-a-potty. When he doesn't come out, she goes to him and finds him attempting suicide. This event sends Sarah and her family's world into a tailspin . This is an absorbing novel about a difficult topic. I could not put it down. Recommended for book clubs.

  • The Man Who Smiled by Henning Mankell
    Knowing that this is probably the last Inspector Wallender mystery ever to be published in English makes reading this book all the more bittersweet. I love the character of Wallender, a Swedish police detective, and the way Mankell builds the story and investigation in each of his books.

  • Nightlife by Thomas Perry
    Perry has been writing novels for twenty-five years, yet this is the first book that I've read by him. Nightlife is the best suspense novel I read all year. The cat and mouse game between police detective Catherine Hobbes and a female serial killer is first rate. Perry's details of how the killer continues to change identities as she moves from city to city with the bodies piling up behind her was fascinating reading.

  • Messenger of Truth by Jacqueline Winspear
    This is a mystery series that I really enjoy. Maisie Dobbs owns her own detective agency in post-World War I London. Winspear's descriptions of life in London after the war and especially of women's lives at that time keep me coming back book after book.

How to Marry a Ghost by Hope McIntyre

Londoner Lee Bartholomew arrives in the Hamptons to attend her mother's "wedding" and to snag a deal to ghostwrite the autobiography of faded rock star Shotgun Marriott. When a body washes up on the shore right after the beach wedding and another murder follows, Lee realizes she has immersed herself in a community of secrets and she must help solve the murders in order to write the autobiography. McIntyre focuses a lot on Lee's personal relationships with her mother, the people she meets in the Hamptons and her off-again boyfriend Tommy in addition to uncovering the mystery of the murders. How to Marry a Ghost reminds me of the mysteries of Betsy Thornton and Carol Lea Benjamin. The island/beach setting is reminiscent of the novels of Elin Hilderbrand. Hope McIntyre is the pseudonym of Caroline Upcher.