Wednesday, April 30, 2008

When the Devil Holds the Candle by Karin Fossum

Andreas and Zipp are two young men with too much time on their hands. They are petty criminals, harassing children and stealing purses. They get way more than they bargained for when Andreas breaks into Irma Funder’s home. Sixty-ish Irma is not exactly stable and has lived alone since her son moved out and her husband left her more than ten years ago. Meanwhile, Inspector Konrad Sejer and Jacob Skarre are assigned the case of Andreas’ disappearance. Although When the Devil Holds the Candle is the third book of Fossum’s mystery series, it resembles the writing of Ruth Rendell, especially her psychological fiction. I blogged about two of the other books in Fossum’s series last July and August.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Friday Nights by Joanna Trollope

In Trollope's new novel, the reader meets six women of different ages and dispositions. There's Eleanor, who invites mothers, Paula and Lindsay, with their young sons for a Friday evening of company. Paula, abandoned by her married lover after becoming pregnant, lives with her son, Toby. Lindsay is also alone with her baby, Noah, after her husband died in an accident. Before long, Lindsay asks Eleanor if her wild younger sister, Jules, can join them. Soon, Blaise (a single working woman) and her business partner, Karen, join the group. After a quick introduction, the novel shows them five years after their first get-togethers. They are still the same women, but when Paula introduces them to her new boyfriend, Jackson, the dynamics of everyone's relationships begin to change. At first, it seems it might be for the worst, but in the end the women learn to grow for the better.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

The Miracle at Speedy Motors by Alexander McCall Smith

The sleuths of The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency in Gaborone, Botswana take on two new cases--one professional and one personal. Mma Sebina hires Mma Precious Ramotswe to find her real parents while both Mma Ramotswe and her assistant Mma Makutsi are trying to unmask the culprit who has been sending them nasty letters. In their personal lives, Mma Makutsi is ecstatic over the fact that her fiancee Mr Phuti Radiphuti has bought her a bed with heart-shaped red velvet headboard, but complications ensue and minor tension develops between Mma Ramotswe and her husband, Mr J.L.B. Matekoni over his decision to take their adopted daughter, Motholeli to South Africa for a cure that might make her walk again. As usual, everything is resolved favorably with McCall Smith's mix of cozy charm and great sense of place.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Hold Tight by Harlan Coben

Parents Tia and Mike Baye have no idea what they're getting themselves into when they have a spy program installed on their teenage son Adam's computer. Adam has been acting distant lately, especially since the suicide of one of his best friends, Spencer. When they find an e-mail that says that Adam is going to a dangerous party, Mike and Tia feel like they have to step in and prevent him from going. Their intervention causes Adam to go missing and Mike makes it his mission to find his son. In addition, a heartless killer named Nash is going on a spree. How Coben is able to weave a story together of what, at first, seem like several unrelated events is what makes him one of the best thriller writers today. I always find myself devouring his books, looking for clues on where the novel might be going. Hold Tight is another great read, with sympathetic characters and a story that makes you want to keep turning the pages.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Certain Girls by Jennifer Weiner

Cannie Shapiro, the main character in Jennifer Weiner's first novel returns. It's twelve years after the events in Good in Bed. Her daughter, Joy, is now almost a teenager and planning her bat mitzvah. Cannie is also very happily married to Peter, a doctor. Cracks, though, have started to appear in the mother-daughter relationship. Joy finds her mother overbearing and unfashionable. Things get even worse when Joy starts to read the novel Cannie wrote before she was born. Joy wonders how much of it is based on Cannie's own life--especially the parts about the main character's father abandoning the family when she was a child and her reaction when she finds herself pregnant and unmarried (which did happen to Cannie; Joy was the outcome). At the same time, Cannie is trying to come to terms with the fact that Joy is growing up and that Peter wants them to have a baby. Weiner gives the reader both Cannie's and Joy's points of view and the book is an enjoyable read. I did feel however a bit surprised and disappointed at something that happened near the end, maybe leaving the door open for another book with Cannie.

Monday, April 14, 2008

The Calling by Inger Ash Wolfe

Sixty-one year old DI Hazel Micallef lives with her mother in the small town of Port Dundas, a few hours north of Toronto. Hampered by a bad back that might need surgery and a fondness for alcohol, she is also still smarting from the breakup three years ago of her almost forty-year marriage. Then Hazel's problems take a back seat when a local woman is found murdered at home. Hazel and her team are able to connect the death with a crime in Ottawa. It appears that someone is going across Canada as a sort of angel of death, killing people who are terminally ill in a brutal way. The police always seem to be a few steps behind the man they dub "Belladonna." Will they be able to catch up with the killer and put an end to his gruesome journey? For readers who enjoy police procedurals that are leisurely paced. It has an almost British/Scandavian mystery feel.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Perfect Family by Pam Lewis

The Carteret's vacation home on Lake Aral in Vermont has been in the family for generations. When William's youngest sister, Pony, calls him and says that she needs to see him up at the lake house he agrees to meet her there because they've always been close. Pony has a baby son, Andrew, and has always been a free spirit, never revealing to anyone who Andrew's father is. When Pony is found dead at the bottom of the lake after William leaves, all the family's problems and secrets come to the surface. William isn't particularly close with his other sisters, Tinker and Mira, and has always felt out of place with his father, Jasper. Their mother, Olivia, was loving towards William, but she died a few years ago. William feels he must find out what happened to Pony especially when it seems as if she might have been murdered. What William uncovers will change the family forever... While some reviews have billed Perfect Family as literary, I would call it a character-centered page turner.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Turning Tables by Heather and Rose MacDowell

When the marketing company that Erin has been working for goes under, she left with no way to pay her bills. Her father's friend Harold, pulls some strings and get her a waitressing job at Roulette, a very upscale restaurant. Having limited experience waiting tables means that Erin has a lot to learn and the stakes are even higher in an establishment of Roulette's caliber. Add to the mix a chef with a temper and husband-and-wife owners who would love to fire Erin, but can't because of Harold. On the plus side, she's made a friend at work (Cato, a struggling actor) and has the hots for one of the guys in Roulette's kitchen. In addition, Cato insists that Daniel, a regular customer, has eyes for Erin. Will she be able to sort out both her professional and personal lives and find happiness? Turning Tables was a fun read. It's similar to Service Included, although I enjoyed this more.

Friday, April 4, 2008

The Wentworths by Katie Arnoldi

The Wentworth family of Los Angeles is the perfect picture of wealthy dysfunctionality. Patriarch August "Gus" drinks too much and has a mistress named Honey. Wife Judith obsesses about her weight and treats her servants horribly. Oldest son Conrad is a lawyer who goes through women like kleenex. Daughter Becky has her hands full with husband Paul and her two children, Joey and Monica (who steal and do drugs, respectively). Finally, youngest son, Norman, is a gay libertine, lives in his parents pool house and loves to party. When Conrad's girlfriend, Angela, and Gus's girlfriend, Honey are added to the mix, the family's fragility is exposed in tragic-comic fashion. The novel is a funny page-turning ride told through the points of view of all the characters. It reminds me of the books of Tom Perrotta and Augusten Burroughs.