Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Arctic Chill by Arnaldur Indridason

A boy is found dead, frozen to the ground in his own blood. Detective Erlendur and his team identify the boy, Elli, who is half Thai, half Icelandic. Elli's older brother, Niran, is also missing, and the police hope that something terrible hasn't happened to him, too. Because of Elli's background, the authorities wonder if the murder might be racially motivated. Erlendur, Sigurdur Oli and Elinborg interview all the people Elli and his family come in contact with--neighbors, teachers and other students--in order to find his killer. For readers who enjoy police procedurals.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

The Help by Kathryn Stockett

In 1962, Skeeter has just returned home to Jackson, Mississippi after graduating from college. At loose ends, she's under pressure to marry, yet yearns for a career as a writer. She's also missing Constantine, the African-American maid who raised her (and who has left town under mysterious circumstances). Aibileen is another maid in Jackson who has raised seventeen children. She suffers from the sorrow of losing her son, Treelore in an accident. Minny is Aibileen's best friend. She is also a maid who has had lots of employers because she sometimes voices her opinions. When Skeeter gets the idea to write about the lives of maids in Jackson, both Aibileen and Minny agree to tell her their stories. All three women endanger their own lives for the project, since the races are not supposed to intermix and maids are not meant to be heard. The Help lives up to all the hype surrounding it and deserves its bestseller status. It transports the reader back to the height of the civil rights movement and creates a very memorable setting and characters. Unputdownable...

Sunday, September 20, 2009

The Night Monster by James Swain

Even though it's been two years since he was fired from his job as the head of the missing persons unit in Broward County, Florida, Jack Carpenter still thinks about his unsolved cases. Eighteen years ago, his first case was that of a young woman named Naomi Dunn, abducted by a crazed and gigantic suspect whom Jack failed to stop when he had the chance. When Jack's daughter, Jessie, asks him to check out a guy that's been videotaping her college team's basketball practices, his confrontations with the guy (named Mouse) lead Jack to realize that Mouse's partner is the giant from many years ago. Then one of Jessie's teammates, Sara Long, is kidnapped by Mouse and his friend. Jack is determined to right the wrong of the past and also find Sara alive. With a tenacity that is similar to the current great detectives Elvis Cole and Harry Bosch, Swain has created another suspenseful entry in the Jack Carpenter series.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Evil at Heart by Chelsea Cain

Gretchen Lowell is the "Beauty Killer", a serial murderer who has escaped from prison and (because of her gorgeous looks) has become an obsession with both the print and TV media. Archie Sheridan, a cop, survived being repeatedly tortured by Gretchen and now has checked himself into a mental hospital to regroup and try to conquer his addiction to Vicodin. When dead bodies start showing up around Portland, Archie and his partner, Henry, wonder if Gretchen has started a new killing spree or if a copycat is at work. Reporter Susan Ward wants to write a book about the "Beauty Killer" and has been trying to get Archie to speak to her while he's been in the hospital. As in the previous two books in the series, Archie, Henry, and Susan become immersed in Gretchen's mindgames and machinations while trying to stop her from killing anyone else or becoming victims themselves. A gruesome yet suspenseful book that's better than the last book in the series, Sweetheart. It helps to read the books in order, though.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Labor Day by Joyce Maynard

Thirteen-year-old Henry needs pants for the new school year and is able to convince his shut-in mother, Adele, to take him to a local store. While there, they are approached by a man named Frank who needs a ride. Frank is actually an escaped convict, but both lonely Henry and Adele are drawn to him and let him hide out in their house during the Labor Day weekend. Soon, Frank is opening up a new world to both of them--cooking pies and other delicacies, playing baseball with non-athletic Henry and (much to Henry's discomfort) starting a relationship with Adele. Henry begins to worry that Frank and Adele will run off together and leave him behind to live with his father and his new family, whom he doesn't like. Seen through Henry's eyes and set during the 1980's, Labor Day is a heartfelt character-centered novel similar to When the White House Was Ours.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

The Summer Kitchen by Karen Weinreb

Nora Banks leads a very privileged life that comes crashing down around her when her husband, Evan, is arrested for defrauding investors. Left alone with her three small sons and their nanny, Beatriz, she's shunned by everyone in the town of Bedford, New York. She's also left with no furniture or possessions when the government hauls everything away. Nora decides to fall back on one of the things that's given her joy throughout her life--cooking. With Beatriz's help, she takes a job as a pastry chef at a local cafe and takes on extra catering jobs. Soon, she's learning to appreciate a simpler life with her boys, without all the expensive trappings. Still, she harbors a lot of anger towards Evan for creating the situation in the first place. He, however, maintains his love for her while in prison. When Fox Silverworth, a lawyer, says he'll help Nora out, she's grateful and attracted to him also. Will Nora give in to her desire for Fox or learn to forgive Evan? The Summer Kitchen has interesting secondary characters (Nora's support system) and descriptions of food, but is clunky in it's story of the triangle of Nora, Evan, and Fox.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Baking Cakes in Kigali by Gaile Parkin

Angel is known in Kigali, Rwanda as the go-to person if you want a cake for a special occasion. While having customers look through her book of cake photographs, she brews some tea made with milk, sugar, and cardamom (the way they serve it in her home country of Tanzania). Then Angel and her guest discuss why they need a cake--which always leads to conversing about their lives. Angel, herself, has come with her husband, Pius, and her five grandchildren to the capital when Pius gets a job at the Kigali Institute of Science and Technology. They live in a gated apartment complex with a host of other international residents. These are the people that provide most of Angel's work--professionals from a host of organzations. But just because they are considered fortunate it doesn't mean that the ills of society haven't affected them. AIDS and the past horrors of genocide in the country which is now their home are never far beneath the surface. Even so, Parkin has created a warm novel with similarities to the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency series.