Friday, March 30, 2012

Persuasion: A Latter-day Tale

Persuasion: A Latter-day Tale
By Rebecca H. Jamison
Bonneville Books, 2012. 233 pgs. Romance

Eight years ago, Anne told Neil Wentworth she'd marry him. The next day, bowing under her parents' disapproval and her own fear that she didn't know how to have a happy marriage, especially after watching her parents' marriage dissolve, she broke it off. Though they went their separate ways, Anne never forgot him or found anyone else. Now, Neil's back and so are all of Anne's feelings. But with him dating a friendly acquaintance of hers--and showing no interest in her--she needs a distraction, which she finds in the form of rich Will Grandin. Yet, as much as Will pampers her, she can't quite fall for him, or stop herself from falling for Neil.

This modern retelling of Jane Austen's classic is delightful. Anne and Neil are refreshingly nice people, and readers will appreciate the way Jamison has built in back story to explain Anne's hesitation before and her continued dedication to her family now, even as they trample her. A great choice for those looking for a light read.

AE

The Hound of the Baskervilles

The Hound of the Baskervilles
By Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Aladdin Classics, 2000. 246 pgs. Mystery

Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson are on the case to investigate a mysterious death of Sir Charles Baskerville to determine if the new heir to the estate, Sir Henry, is at risk of falling prey to the same curse, the curse of the Hound of Baskerville.

Most stories about Holmes are short stories and don’t offer readers enough information to solve the mysteries along with Holmes; instead, they must wait for his declaration. Here, though, in one of the few full length stories about Holmes, clues are dropped throughout the story and readers can practice their detective skills along with Holmes. A classic mystery that does not move at fast pace, but has enough hooks to keep the modern reader interested in its conclusion.

KK

Mrs. Dalloway

Mrs. Dalloway
By Virginia Woolf
Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1925 (1990).212 pgs. Fiction

The thought of an entire book devoted to only one day in the life of middle aged, post World War I society driven, Mrs. Dalloway, might make one yawn with boredom. I was pleasantly surprised however in Virginia Woolf's ability to keep my interest.

Clarissa Dalloway is giving a party tonight and must get prepared. In the process you become acquainted with former friends, current acquaintances, family crisis, customs of the time, and the personal lives of total strangers she observes on the street.

While this may not sound captivating, Woolf's unique classical writing style and ability to portray her characters as extremely complex individuals capable of being quite wise to the "human condition", makes this book a good read for the literary connoisseur who can devote time to "take in" this novel.
I recommend you listen to the 7 disc Recorded Books version, narrated by the very capable narrator Virginia Leishman.
mpb

Thursday, March 29, 2012

The End of Normal

The End of Normal: a Wife’s Anguish, a Widow’s New Life
By Stephanie Madoff Mack
Blue Rider Press, 2011. 253 pgs. Biography.

Stephanie and her husband, Mark Madoff, had a pretty posh life. But when Mark’s father, Bernie Madoff, admits that his successful wealth management company is a fraud (one of the biggest Ponzi schemes in US history), everything is turned upside down. This is Stephanie’s story of how they tried to cope with Bernie’s betrayal, investigations, death threats, and a ruined family name. Two years after Bernie’s confession the press still writes about Mark, but few believe in his innocence. To get away from the constant anxiety Mark takes himself out of the picture. Stephanie must then learn to live life as a widow and raise their two children on her own.

This was a very personal story, clearly illustrating Stephanie’s confusion and frustration with the people in her life, though I felt like she also confused me. Her views of people seemed to switch multiple times. She doesn’t bother to censor any of her conversations so be aware of heavy language. At times the author comes off as pampered and superficial which detracts from the fact that her family were victims. Overall I wasn’t terribly impressed, though if the Madoff investment scandal drew your attention this might be worth a read, at least for a different perspective.

ACS

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

The Lost Stories

The Lost Stories
By John Flanagan
Philomel Books, 2011. 422 pgs. Young Adult

In 1896, an archaeology student in the Republic of the Aralan States uncovers a collection of lost stories about the legendary Rangers. In a collection of short stories, readers come to find out more about (among other things) Halt's background, Will's parentage, and what happened after the tenth book in the series.

Reading this was a little bittersweet for me. I loved the chance to see my favorite Araluens one more time and to find out a little more about them, but this book didn't have the same captivating power that the others did. There wasn't as much action, and since the stories weren't necessarily connected to each other, they didn't create the same pull to devour the book to find out what's going to happen. There was, however, a story that made me cry, something I wasn't quite prepared for after reading the ten others dry-eyed. Overall, it isn't quite as wonderful as the rest of the series, but it's definitely something fans of the series should read.

AE

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Style Me Vintage

Style Me Vintage: Hair
By Belinda Hay
Pavilion Books, 2010. 112 pgs. Nonfiction.

A step-by-step guide to 1920s-1960s hairstyles including finger waves, pin curls, victory rolls, “The Marilyn,” “The Pompadour,” beehives, and bouffant styles among others. Color photos show the women who made each style famous, along with a modern celebrity wearing the look today. Step-by-step photos and instructions demonstrate how to replicate each style.

I was really hoping for more. This book is attractive and the photos are beautiful, but I felt the directions were lacking. For someone just getting into vintage hair I wouldn’t recommend this book. I tried to follow the directions, but didn’t feel like there was enough information to successfully replicate the styles. My styling sessions tended to conclude with me frustrated and putting my hair in a ponytail.

ACS

London Under

London Under: The Secret History Beneath the Streets
By Peter Ackroyd
Doubleday, 2011. 228 pgs. Nonfiction.

From sewers to sacred springs, ancient civilizations to modern tube stations, this book guides you through the hidden world beneath the streets of London. Ever since the original Londinium was built it has slowly sunk into the clay (the oldest parts now lying some twenty-six feet beneath the surface) and modern London is built upon those remains. What lies beneath the surface? A whole world of history, secrets, monsters and mole men.

Having studied abroad in London I found this book fascinating. I almost wish I’d read something like this before I went, but I don’t think I could have fully appreciated it. The author drops street names and landmarks like you already know where they are which could be distracting if you don’t. This is a small book and by no means definitive, but a good starting point if you have any interest in what’s hiding under London.

ACS

Monday, March 26, 2012

A Thousand Lives

A Thousand Lives: The Untold Story of Hope, Deception, and Survival at Jonestown
by Julia Scheeres
Free Press, 2011. 307 pgs. Nonfiction

In November, 1978 over 900 members of the People’s Temple died in Jonestown, a settlement in Guyana established a few years earlier by their charismatic leader Jim Jones. The event was reported as a mass suicide, and since then most coverage of it has characterized Jones’ followers as brain-washed religious fanatics. However, Scheeres’ book reviews hundreds of recently declassified documents to humanize the victims of this tragedy and to try and shed some light on what happened that terrible day and why so many people wanted to follow Jones.

This book was both really hard to read and incredibly fascinating—kind of like a car accident that you can’t help but look at as you pass by. In the beginning, Jones’ church was a haven of integration and social justice for many people, particularly those who were poor and black. I could see why so many would want to join his church and follow him, and why leaving was impossible once they got to South America and realized that Jones was descending into madness. I also had not realized how many of the people who died that day were either children or the elderly, and I agree with the author that simply dismissing Jonestown as a cult-suicide rather than a mass murder is unfair to the victims and fails to capture the real complexity of what happened there. If you’re not squeamish and want something to really think about, read this book.

JC

Saturday, March 24, 2012

The Hand that First Held Mine

The Hand that First Held Mine
by Maggie O'Farrell
Houghton Mifflin, 2010, 341 pgs, Fiction

A lyrical novel about the lives of two women living a generation apart in London. Lexie is a beautiful, strong liberated girl living in 1950s London; Elina is a married artist and has just given birth to her first child in modern day London. As the two stories progress O’Farrell alternates between the two characters lives and the affect that motherhood has on both of them. Some readers may find this device off putting at first, but stick with it, you’ll be glad you did. The reader slowly begins to suspect that there is some connection between the two women’s lives, and in the end you are rewarded with a satisfying conclusion.

The Traitor in the Tunnel

The Traitor in the Tunnel
By Y.S. Lee
Candlewick Press, 2012. 373 pgs. Young Adult

Mary Quinn is on assignment as a private detective for the Agency on what initially seems to be a relatively simple case--a thief is snatching small items from Queen Victoria's Buckingham Palace. However, things quickly get complicated when the Prince of Wales is caught up in a scandal: when he and a friend visited an opium den, an opium-addicted Chinese sailor killed the prince's friend. The sailor is arrested and the royal family tries to uncover what truly happened and how to handle the scandal--and Mary has to figure out what to do about the sailor who has the same name as her long-dead father. To make matters more complicated, Mary has run into James Easton, the young engineer who she thinks wants nothing more to do with her, as he is working on a top-secret project in the sewers below the palace, and Mary must resolve the turmoil of her own heart.

This third book of the Agency series is just as much fun as the first two. The simmering romance between James and Mary takes a satisfying turn, and Mary's struggle to decide how to handle issues with the Chinese opium addict who just might be her father provides just the right amount of character development and growth. I think this is my favorite in the series and am eagerly awaiting the fourth book in the series.

AE

Monday, March 19, 2012

I've Got Your Number

I’ve Got Your Number
By Sophie Kinsella
Dial Press, 2012. 433 pgs. Fiction

Life is just about perfect for Poppy Wyatt. She’s engaged to a handsome professor AND has a gorgeous antique engagement ring on her finger. That is until one afternoon when it all goes wrong. First, that priceless antique ring goes missing in a fire drill at a hotel. Then her phone is stolen. So no one could blame Poppy, when she notices a working and rather nice phone in the trash. Isn’t there something about possession is 9/10 of the law? Poppy gives the new number out to the hotel to call if they find the ring. So when the phone’s owner, businessman Sam Roxton, wants his phone back, Poppy strikes a bargain with him that she will forward all his messages, if she can be allowed to keep the phone for just a few days. Sam reluctantly agrees and hilarity ensues as Poppy and Sam’s in-boxes and lives get uproariously muddled.

Poppy is completely clueless and doesn't think about the consequences of her actions. She also runs away from things that she doesn’t want to deal with and hates confrontations. That being said, Poppy is completely adorable. You just can't hold her failings against her.

I'd rate this as one of Kinsella's more enjoyable novels. It’s too bad that there was so much swearing because otherwise it is also one of the cleaner Chick-lit novels I’ve read.

AJ

If I Should Die

If I Should Die
by Jennie Hansen
Covenant Communications, 2011. 235 pgs. Mystery

One morning, Kallene’s running partner Linda confides in her that she is having serious marital problems and is considering filing for divorce. The next day, Linda has disappeared and Kallene reports her missing when Linda’s husband refuses to acknowledge her fear that something is wrong. Soon Kallene finds herself involved in an increasingly dangerous police investigation, as well as trying to sort out her feelings for two different men: Linda’s brother and the lead detective assigned to the case.

I thought the mystery element of this book was well-done and I was kept guessing until the end. This book was more romantic suspense than straight mystery and I wasn’t expecting so much focus on the love story, but it is a good, quick read for a rainy afternoon (just make sure your doors are locked before you start the book).

JC

Friday, March 16, 2012

Against the Odds

Against the Odds: The Life of George Albert Smith
By Mary Jane Woodger
Covenant Communications, 2011. 244 pgs. Nonfiction

Woodger details the life of George Albert Smith, from the time that he was the terror of his neighborhood to his time as president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, showing the deep love that Smith had for people and his dedication to his beliefs.

This book had more drama than I anticipated. For example, President Smith's future wife, Lucy, was torn between him and another man vacillated between the two so much that even though I knew who she married, I couldn't help but be worried! I was also surprised by President Smith's sense of humor and couldn't help but laugh out loud at some points, such as when a man wrote to inquire about President Smith's feelings about cocoa and cremation, and President Smith quipped, "They're both hot." I got a little bogged down with all of the dates, but overall, this book was a surprising amount of fun, while still being very insightful.

AE

Season to Taste: How I Lost My Sense of Smell and Found My Way

Season to Taste: How I Lost My Sense of Smell and Found My Way
By Molly Birnbaum
HarperCollins, 2011. 304 pgs. Biography.

This was a fascinating autobiography! At the beginning of the book, the author has recently graduated from college and has plans to attend culinary school with the hope to become a chef. She spends her days working at a Boston bistro doing prep work and her nights reading cookbooks. However, her plans suddenly change when she is hit by a car while jogging. The accident broke her pelvis, fractured her skull, and knocked out her sense of smell. Her bones will heal, but she wonders if she will ever be able to smell and taste the same again.

What follows is the journey Molly takes to learn about how the nose works, whether it’s even possible to regain her sense of smell, and how to once again feel confident in the kitchen. She talks to multiple doctors and clinics, interviews Oliver Sacks, visits a New Jersey flavor lab, and enrolls in perfume school in France. I thought that this book was so interesting. It read like a novel and I would recommend it to anyone looking for an educational, yet readable nonfiction book.

AMM

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

You Against Me

You Against Me
By Jenny Downham
David Fickling Books, 2011. 412 pgs. Young Adult

When Karyn McKenzie says that Tom Parker sexually assaulted her, naturally her older brother Mikey believes her and will do anything he can to help her. And when Tom Parker denies it, naturally his younger sister Ellie believes him and is even prepared to be the key witness in his defense. However, when Mikey sets out to get revenge, he isn't quite prepared for what happens: he meets Ellie, and as much as he hates her brother, he is drawn to her and finds himself torn between wanting to help his sister and wanting to have a relationship with Ellie.

Downham has done a great job capturing the complexities of the human heart. Ellie and Mikey's struggle to remain loyal to their own family while figuring out if the other is trustworthy is an engaging plot line, and the relationships between the various characters are spot on. Both Ellie and Mikey are flawed, totally realistic characters, and most readers who pick this one up won't want to put it down.

AE

Out of Sight, Out of Time

Out of Sight, Out of Time
By Ally Carter
Disney-Hyperion Books, 2012. 294 pgs. Young Adult

In June, Cammie Morgan left the Gallagher Academy, determined to find out what she can about the Circle of Cavan and figure out what information they think she has. However, in October, she wakes up in a convent in the Alps with amnesia, having no idea what she's done for the past four months or how she got the scrapes and bruises all over her body--and how she seemed to have picked up some skills that she certainly was never taught at the Gallagher Academy. Worried that she's a danger to herself and everyone around her, Cammie has to figure out what she spent her summer doing, but the Circle is determined to keep her from remembering.

This latest installment in the Gallagher Girls series had me on the edge of my seat wondering what happened to Cammie; it was really hard not to sneak a look at the end of the book, so instead, I just had to read it as quickly as possible. This is darker than the first few books, as Cammie's life is in danger, but the author still infuses humor through the dialogue and Cammie's thoughts. Fans will be satisfied with this book but will be clamoring for the next book.

AE

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

The Fear Index

The Fear Index
By Robert Harris
Alfred A. Knopf, 2012. 285 pgs. Fiction

In “The Fear Index” by Robert Harris, Dr. Alex Hoffman is a renowned computer scientist who has, for the past few years, used his brilliant mind to create predictive software that controls a hedge fund that consistently outpaces the market. Though he has already earned himself and his investors millions of dollars, his latest software version is almost guaranteed to increase profits even more. However, on the day Alex and his partner present their new investment strategies to their biggest clients, the software begins to act strangely, ignoring preprogrammed precautions, and investing with terrifyingly profitable results. Alex’s dreams seem about to come true, but the costs may be more than he can afford.

“The Fear Index” is a fast-paced financial thriller that is almost too plausible for comfort. Readers may need to fight the urge to sprint to the nearest ATM and withdraw a sizable chunk of money to safely store beneath their mattress.

CZ

Quiet

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking
By Susan Cain
Crown, 2012. 333 pgs. Nonfiction

Success in American society is often thought to require a confident, outgoing personality. Susan Cain’s amazing new book claims this aspect of our society is something that should be changed. She lauds the qualities of the quiet, inflective souls that recharge in solitude and are too often content to remain in the shadows. She provides inspiring stories of introverts that have used their inherent abilities to benefit many, including Dale Carnegie, Albert Einstein and Dr. Seuss.

Cain’s research is expansive and impressive, her conclusions insightful and encouraging, and her book an easy recommendation to pretty much anyone. I do not seem to be able to praise this book enough. It explained my own personality with almost scary accuracy and with research claiming that at least one in every three Americans is introverted; it is likely to describe someone close to you as well.
“Quiet” is poised to be a standout nonfiction title for 2012. A position it rightly deserves.

CZ

The Dressmaker

The Dressmaker
By Kate Alcott
Doubleday, 2012. 306 pgs. Fiction

With dreams of a future filled with success and happiness, Tess runs away from her job as a simple housemaid in London and negotiates passage to America acting as a personal maid to Lady Lucile Duff Gordon. Service to Lady Duff Gordon, a world famous designer, is simply a means to an end. Tess is already an accomplished seamstress and is determined to make her own mark in the fashion world. But fate has placed Tess aboard the Titanic and her future may be as doomed as the ships maiden voyage.

‘The Dressmaker’ is a lovely novel filled with historical details and free of almost anything readers may find objectionable. It provides a perspective of the famous tragedy that not everyone may be aware of, following survivors into the weeks following their rescue. Alcott presents a solid work of historical fiction with just the right combination of intrigue, romance, and adventure. An easy recommendation!

CZ

Bond Girl

Bond Girl
By Erin Duffy
William Morrow, 2012. 293 pgs. Fiction

Alex Garrett has landed her dream job on Wall Street. With a college degree in her pocket and an idealized picture of high-powered finance, she arrives on her first day of work starry-eyed and hopeful. What she finds is an environment her education couldn’t begin to prepare her for. She is given a folding chair as her workspace, coffee and pizza runs as her most important errands, and a somewhat degrading nickname of ‘girlie’. Despite her career quickly overtaking her entire life, Alex still grows to love many parts of her job including the handsome trader sitting on the back row.

‘Bond Girl’ is where chick lit meets big money. Alex is a great heroine. You can’t help but root for her and she lacks the annoying tendency to sabotage herself like many of her literary peers. Very little ‘graphic’ content, but readers should be prepared for some harsh language.

CZ

Elizabeth and Hazel

Elizabeth and Hazel: Two Women of Little Rock
by David Margolick
Yale University Press, 2011. 310 pgs. Nonfiction

In September, 1957 courts ordered the schools in Little Rock, Arkansas to integrate. Nine black students were chosen to begin attending Central High school, but when they got to school the first day they were greeted by an angry mob that blocked their entrance. Photographer Will Counts captured an image of white student Hazel Bryan yelling racial slurs at black student Elizabeth Eckford that has become one of the most published photographs of the Civil Rights era. But what happened to Hazel and Elizabeth after that day? Margolick interviews both women and describes the ways in which they have lived with the legacy of that photograph during the last fifty years as well as how race relations in America have fared during that time.

This book gave me a greater, more complex understanding of recent American history. Margolick doesn’t shy away from describing the difficult and ugly parts of our past, and he doesn’t try to force the story into a moral or a happy ending. At the same time, this was a very good book and I felt like I understood and empathized with both of these women much more than I would have before reading it.

JC

Monday, March 12, 2012

Delivering Hope

Delivering Hope
By Jennifer Ann Holt
Bonneville Books, 2012. 200 pgs. Fiction

Olivia Spencer wants nothing more than to be a mother, but years of infertility threaten to destroy her happiness and have put a strain on her marriage. Allison Campbell is a good girl who made a decision that led to her facing the future as a young single mother. Both women rely heavily on their LDS faith and the promise of healing through the atonement of Jesus Christ in order to face their individual trials and heartaches.

This novel does an excellent job of showing the real emotions involved in infertility and teen pregnancy. I had to keep the tissues close as I read each woman's struggles but it was worth it because the book has a very satisfying ending.

AL

Fever

Fever
By Lauren DeStefano
Simon & Schuster BFYR, 2012. 341 pgs. Young Adult

The second book in The Chemical Garden series has us follow Rhine and Gabriel as they try to make their way to Manhattan and the safety of Rhine's twin brother, Rowan. But it seems that the world outside of the mansion is even more perilous than either of them expected as they fall into the hands of a twisted carnival with a ringmistress who wants to make Rhine part of her colorful menagerie of girls. Worse still, Rhine's father-in-law, Vaughn, is still determined to bring her back to the mansion by any means necessary.

Fans of the first book, Wither, will definitely want to read this worthy follow-up. Like the first book, this is best for mature teens. While this is technically "clean," it deals with mature issues.

BHG

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Fracture

Fracture
By Megan Miranda
Walker & Co., 2012. 264 pgs. Young Adult

After Delaney falls through the ice into a cold Maine lake, it takes eleven minutes for her best friend Decker to pull her out--long enough to kill her. Except it doesn't. Miraculously, she wakes up after six days in a coma and doesn't even have brain damage. But she soon realizes that something is wrong with her, as she finds herself physically drawn to those who are dying. With her mother freaking out over her accident and her relationship with Decker falling apart, it's a relief when Delaney meets Troy, another coma survivor who seems to have the same strange ability that Delaney does. Except, she doesn't know Troy, and what she finds out makes her rethink everything she knows.

Thoroughly entertaining, readers will pick this one up and devour it in one sitting. There's enough action and snappy dialogue for reluctant readers (and a love triangle, too), and there's enough depth to keep it satisfying for those who like their books with a little more meat.

AE

Words Spoken True

Words Spoken True
By Ann H. Gabhart
Revell, 2012. 356 pgs. Romance

In 1855 Louisville, all Adriane Darcy cares about is helping her father with their newspaper, the Tribune, which has long been the city's leading newspaper. But now The Herald, under the direction of Blake Garrett, who has a style vastly different from Adriane's father's political emphasis, is gaining readership. With the political arena heating up, Adriane's father encouraging her to marry a man she doesn't love, and Irish girls being murdered in the city, Adriane's life has been turned upside. And actually meeting Blake Garrett doesn't help, as Adriane is much more drawn to him than she is to her own fiancé. Although the attraction is mutual, the opposition against them ever having a relationship is nearly insurmountable.

I really enjoyed Gabhart's newest book. The elements of mystery and romance are woven well into the historical and political background. Readers will be quickly drawn into the plot and even if they guess at some parts, there is enough of a twist to keep it interesting.

AE

Girl in Translation

Girl in Translation
By Jean Kwok
Riverhead Books, 2010. 290 pgs. Fiction

Kimberly Chang and her mother have come from Hong Kong to America in hopes of finding a better life. They know very little English and are soon greeted by the harsh realities of no money, a roach infested apartment with no heat, and exhausting work in a sweatshop. Kimberly has always been good at school and determines that somehow she will overcome the language barrier and succeed in school so that she can help them escape their horrible living conditions.

Kim's struggle to make sense of a world that is so different from her own and to have the determination to escape is amazing. Although this is a work of fiction, the author immigrated from Hong Kong when she was a child and worked in a sweatshop which I feel added a lot of reality to the situations in the novel. The description of what life is like for many immigrants to America is heartbreaking and I have thought about it long after I finished this book.

AL

Thursday, March 8, 2012

The Innocent

The Innocent
By Taylor Stevens
Crown, 2011. 331 pgs. Fiction.

The Innocent is book two in an adventure/thriller series starring emotionally damaged and lethally skilled mercenary, Vanessa Michael Munroe. Her best friend is desperately seeking a little girl who has been missing for eight years. The child was kidnapped by a cult known as The Chosen who have moved her from country to country for almost a decade, making retrieval all but impossible. Recent information has pinned down her location and Vanessa has been hired to bring her safely home.

Stevens has done an excellent job with this second novel. Munroe is such a fascinating character and her level of dysfunction promises to fuel a many more storylines. Certainly not for the faint of heart (the violence is often graphic and disturbing) but a great recommendation for readers looking for a little armchair excitement and danger.

CZ

Delivering Happiness

Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose
By Tony Hsieh
Business Plus, 2010. 253 pgs. Nonfiction

Tony Hsieh is a true American entrepreneur. While still in elementary school, he started his first business raising night crawlers in his backyard. That particular venture failed to produce profits, but his later efforts would earn him millions and help him become known as a visionary in the art of customer service and corporate culture. This book is both an autobiography and an entrepreneurial ‘how-to’, providing insight into success on many levels.

Hsieh doesn’t pretend to be a fantastic writer but his passion for the topic provides an entertaining narration that can inspire a wide variety of readers. Managers can learn how to motivate employees and improve their companies, employees can learn how to see the big picture and strive for continued improvement and progress, and consumers can see how the same principles that catapulted Zappos to success can aid anyone in finding happiness, both professionally and personally.

CZ

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Planesrunner

Planesrunner
by Ian McDonald
Prometheus Books, 2011. 263 pgs. Young Adult.

Everett Singh sees his scientist father kidnapped, but when he looks to the police for help they blow him off and tamper with pictures of the crime to make it seem like he is imagining things. At the same time an unusual app appears on his computer from his father--the Infundibulum, nothing less than the key to the multiverse. Everyone wants what they think Everett has, and he leads them along until he gets close enough to a Heisenberg gate to bolt through into an alternate London (one of the Ten Known Worlds), where the economy is based on coal-fired electricity instead of petroleum and where airships are the predominant form of commercial and industrial transport. While Everett looks frantically for his father, he is taken in by the crew of the airship Everness, and when Charlotte Villiers and her henchpeople come through the gate after Everett, his new mates pitch in to help. Planesrunner is the first in a projected series of adventures in the multiverse as Everett seeks his beloved father among billions (to many powers) of alternate realities. Ian McDonald, award-winning author of mainstream sci-fi creates here a breakneck, brain-boosting adventure one can only hope will have a sequel very very soon.

LW

Always the Wedding Planner Never the Bride

Always the Wedding Planner Never the Bride
By Sandra D. Bricker
Abingdon Press, 2011. 313 pgs. Fiction

Sherilyn has recently become engaged to Andy and they are moving back to his hometown of Atlanta. Sherilyn went to college in Atlanta and has been offered a dream job as the wedding planner at the Tanglewood, a wedding destination hotel. Emma Rae, the baker at the hotel also just happens to be Sherilyn’s college roommate and best friend. Things with her job are going great; however her personal life seems to be falling apart. She’s purchased and lost her wedding dress and she seems to be allergic to her fiancĂ©. Will she and Andy stay together through the ups and downs of settling into a new place?

This book is the follow up to Always the Baker Never the Bride which featured Emma Rae’s story. I enjoyed reading more about the characters that surround the Tanglewood hotel. The novel has some Christian overtones, but doesn’t feel preachy at all. I would recommend this book to someone looking for a light, inspirational love story. Look for the third installment in this series, Always the Designer Never the Bride which will be published in April.

AMM

Friday, March 2, 2012

Seven Miracles That Saved America

Seven Miracles That Saved America
By Chris Stewart and Ted Stewart
Shadow Mountain, 2009. 311 pgs. Nonfiction

The authors examine seven events in American history, ranging chronologically from Columbus's discovery of the Americas to Ronald Regan's near0miss at the hands of an assassin, and point out the hand of God in the outcome of the events, typically focusing on small detail that had huge outcomes. Their overarching argument is that God did, and still does, care about America and that Americans should believe in their country.

This book mixes in some fictional narrative with the nonfiction, which could evoke mixed responses from readers. Some may appreciate the fictional inserts, since they add a little bit of a personal touch, but others may wish they had been left out, resulting in a slightly shorter book. I personally felt like some of the chapters were lengthier than necessary, and I think I would have appreciated some maps to illustrate some of the points, but overall, it's a very interesting book and a good choice for book clubs looking for a lively discussion.

AE

Borrowed Light

Borrowed Light
by Carla Kelly
Bonneville Books, 2011. 410 pgs. Romance

When Julia Darling finds an advertisement in the paper looking for a cook at a remote ranch in Wyoming, she realizes that this could be the perfect escape for her from the humiliation of a broken engagement and life as a single woman in turn-of-the-century Salt Lake City. Life on the ranch is nothing like she expected, with its uncivilized cowboys, harsh weather, and mysterious owner Mr. Otto, who is hiding secrets from his past. The biggest challenge for Julia, however, is learning to find her own relationship with God and a sense of her own place in the world.

Carla Kelly is an experienced historical romance writer, so the plot of this book and its historical details are one of its strong points. The characters are all different and well-developed and I was sad to say goodbye to them at the end of the book. The thing I liked most about this book was the depth of the story, because the romance is secondary to the story of a young woman growing up and discovering her true self.

JC