Wednesday, January 30, 2008

At the City's Edge by Marcus Sakey

Jason Palmer is an Iraqi war veteran who is at loose ends in his hometown of Chicago after being dishonorably discharged. When his brother, Michael, is murdered, Jason is left as the guardian of Michael's son, Billy, and has his eye on vengeance. Michael was a community activist and was possibly working with the police about gang activity in his neighborhood. Jason joins forces with cop Elena Cruz who has something of her own to prove after her affair with a superior has gotten her an awful assignment and lots of ribbing. Was Michael killed by a gang or someone with power in the city? Jason and Elena put their lives on the line to find the truth and closure.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Moonlight Downs by Adrian Hyland

Twenty-something Emily Tempest returns to the Moonlight Downs community in outback Australia, where she grew up after being away for many years. Emily is half-aboriginal, raised by her white father, Jack, who was a mechanic at the Moonlight Downs Station when she was young. Emily has missed the “Moonlight mob", especially her old friend, Hazel. Then Hazel's father, Lincoln Flinders, the tribal leader, is brutally murdered. The prime suspect is Blakie Japanangka, an aboriginal loner who has scared Emily since childhood. At first, Emily believes that Blakie is guilty, but slowly doubt begins to creep into her mind. In Moonlight Downs, the reader meets the colorful inhabitants of the small town of Bluebush (miners, cattlemen) and the mob. Hyland creates a great portrayal of life in the Northern Territory—the sights, the sounds, the people, the politics, even the smells of this very unique environment.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Fear and Yoga in New Jersey by Debra Galant

The Gettleman-Summers family of suburban New Jersey is having some problems. Mother Nina has recently moved into her new yoga studio in the ritzy part of town when the meditation fountain she bought for the waiting room breaks. The same day, her husband, Michael, loses his job as a meteorologist at Newark airport. Meanwhile, their teenage son, Adam, wishes he could have a bar mitzvah so he could get lots of money and score with the most popular girl in school. Their lives are complicated further by the sighting of a possible hurricane in Florida which means Nina's parents will be flying north to avoid the storm. Nina has a very adversial relationship with her mother and insists that Michael not tell her about his job loss. How these people cope with the ups and downs of their lives over their days of being together forms the bulk of the novel. The book is a humorous look at how a family gets along. It's similar to the fiction of Paula Marantz Cohen, author of Jane Austen in Boca. Fear and Yoga in New Jersey comes out in March.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Keeper and Kid by Edward Hardy

James Keeper co-owns the antique salvage store Love and Death. Four years ago, he got divorced from Cynthia, a pastry chef and started a new life, moving from Boston to Providence. Now, he gets a call from Cynthia's mother, Joan, saying that she's in the hospital and needs to see him. Then he finds himself the father to a three-year-old, Leo, that he never knew he had. Leo's presence changes every aspect of Keeper's life, including his relationship with his girlfriend, Leah and the business partnership with his childhood friend, Tim. Even though it features a father, Keeper and Kid is a charming, cozy novel that appeals to readers who enjoy books about women's lives that involve parenthood.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

37 by Maria Beaumont

Fran feels as if her life is falling apart. She lives with her husband and two children in North London and on the eve of her 37th birthday isn't really happy. Richard, her husband, is very busy with his job and Fran herself gave up a successful voice-over career to stay home with her kids. She also feels isolated from the other mothers at school and starts drinking a bit too much. Then Fran suspects that her husband is having an affair. Will that be the push Fran needs to bring herself back up? 37 is a highly readable novel about a woman who learns to find herself again with a little help from her friends.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Plum Lucky by Janet Evanovich

Stephanie is off to Atlantic City on the trail of her Grandma Mazur who's found a bag of money. Joining Stephanie are her co-workers Lula and Connie. Her sexy compatriot Diesel then informs her that the loot is stolen. The money actually belongs to mobster Lou Delvina. The problem is that by the time Stephanie gets to Atlantic City, Grandma has already bought an RV and gambled away some of the cash. Will Stephanie and company be able to win back the lost money and give it back to Delvina before he resorts to violence? Plum Lucky is another "Between-the-Numbers" mystery (like last year's Plum Lovin) set near St. Patrick's Day. I thought that book had a better story than Plum Lucky, so I enjoyed it more.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Silent in the Sanctuary by Deanna Raybourn

In 1887, Lady Julia is recuperating in Italy after the events in Silent in the Grave (the first book in the series) when her father calls her and her brothers, Plum and Lysander, home to England for Christmas. Also travelling with them is Alessandro, a friend of Julia's brothers whom she is fond of. Christmas in the eccentric March household is full of activity and lots of guests including Julia's cousins Emma and Lucy, her sister Portia, Aunt Dorcas, Lucy's fiancée Sir Cedric Eastley, the curate Lucian Snow and Nicholas Brisbane and his fiancée, Mrs. King. The presence of Brisbane has Julia quite unsettled since she still has feelings for him after a shared kiss in the previous book. Julia also feels that Mrs. King is wrong for him. When one of the guests is murdered, Julia and Brisbane work together to uncover the killer. Their task is complicated by someone confessing to the crime even though they're not guilty, a disappearance, poisonings, and a ghost seen about the abbey. Silent in the Sanctuary, while longer than most mysteries, was a quick read. I throughly enjoy the character of Julia and the environment that Raybourn creates around her. With Julia having nine brothers and sisters, I'm sure there's lots of material for the author to write about in the future.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

The Coroner's Lunch by Colin Cotterill

Dr. Siri is the chief coroner in mid-1970's communist Laos. At 72, he's given the job in Vientiane because most educated people have left the country. Siri tries to perform his tasks with outdated equipment under the watchful eye of party leaders, but he has two indispensible employees, Nurse Dtui and Mr Geung, who has down's syndrome. In this mystery, Siri's cases range from Mrs Nitnoy (the wife of the powerful Comrade Kham) to three Vietnamese men whose deaths might cause political problems between Laos and Vietnam. In addition, the novel is full of descriptions of the hardships regularly faced by Laotians at the time. That said, Siri is a main character who can find humor in even the grimmest situations.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

My Favorite Books of 2007

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 by author:

Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen

I always enjoy books about women's lives and relationships that feature several interesting characters combined with information about a particular subject or place. Garden Spells featured quirky characters, magic, cooking, and a sense of place of a small southern town.

The Watchman by Robert Crais

This was the best page turner I read this year. The storyline was fast-paced and I couldn't wait to see what would happen next.

The Various Haunts of Men by Susan Hill

By far, my favorite mystery discovery of the year. Hill writes a gutsy British police procedural series that doesn't always play by the rules that most mystery authors follow (which I loved).

Con Ed by Matthew Klein

Even though I guessed part of the ending, I loved the ride that Con Ed took you on--the world of con games and con men.

The Way Life Should Be by Christina Baker Kline

Another novel with a well-drawn female main character, intriguing secondary characters, and a great sense of place.