Blog

The View from Penthouse B by Elinor Lipman (2013)

Two sisters, Gwen-Laura and Margot, are at crossroads in their lives. Gwen-Laura has been recently and unexpectedly widowed while Margot has gone through a messy public divorce and then lost her money in Bernie Madaff scandal. Deciding to join forces and resources, Gwen-Laura moves into Margot’s penthouse where they take their first steps towards dating.

Check out The View from Penthouse B by Elinor Lipman today.

Devil's Food Cake Murder by Joanne Fluke (2012)

Had enough of summer heat and humidity? Why not escape to Lake Eden, Minnesota, in February and help Hannah Swensen solve another murder! Hannah’s adventures are intriguing, yet light. That's why the cliff hanger ending at the end of Devil's Food Cake Murder surprised me. Is it finally time for Hannah to choose between her two suitors?

I enjoyed the mystery and my family enjoyed Hannah's delicious Chocolate Euphoria Cookie Bars and Chocolate-Covered Raisin Cookies. Fluke's character uses chocolate to soothe murder induced stress and pry information out of potential suspects.

Check out Joanne Fluke’s Lake Eden Cookbook for all of Hannah’s recipes.

Grave Goods by Ariana Franklin (2009)

I am not usually a fan of medieval historical fiction, but this compelling book held my interest. Set in twelfth century England and Wales, Adelia Aguilar, a doctor and forensic expert, is asked by King Henry II to investigate claims that two skeletons found near the burned Glastonbury Abbey belong to King Arthur and Guinevere. Because of the times, Adelia has to pretend to be assisting Mansur, her servant, when solving crimes. A subplot deals with Adelia’s travelling companion Emma, widow of Lord Wolvercote, who is attempting to win back his lands and castle.

The characters are well developed, and there is a nice balance between historical details and suspense. Grave Goods is the third book in Ariana Franklin’s Adelia Aguilar (Mistress of the Art of Death) series, but you don’t have to read the first two to enjoy this one.

 

A Lesson in Secrets by Jacqueline Winspear (2011)

Maisie Dobbs is a fearless, independent woman in the 1930s who runs her own detective agency and has taken on an undercover assignment for the British government. Maisie calmly solves mysteries and helps people along the way. A Lesson in Secrets by Jacqueline Winspear is the eighth book in the Maisie Dobbs series.

The Walking Dead Compendium One by Robert Kirkman, et al. (2009)

Clocking in at over one thousand pages, The Walking Dead Compendium One includes the first eight volumes of the Eisner Award-winning comic and a six-page Christmas special (which, when you remember this is a series about a zombie apocalypse, should give you a good indication of exactly how uplifting and Christmassy it is), and is about as heavy as a small bag of bricks. When comic books are collected into omnibus editions like this, they can be a bit daunting at first glance – but once you realize that eight volumes means 48 issues, you'll remember that you are actually holding four years' worth of stories in your hands.

The Walking Dead (and authors Robert Kirkman, Tony Moore, and Charlie Adlard) is deeply indebted to the zombie genre pioneered by George A. Romero in his original Dead Trilogy (Night of the Living Dead, Dawn of the Dead, and Day of the Dead). Die-hard (pun intended) zombie fans may notice some subtle thematic nods to Romero and others' films in the comic, but for the most part, it's a story all on its own. There are touching moments, there are funny moments, and there are horrific moments – but that's life, even without a zombie plague.

At the heart of all zombie stories is a reflection of ourselves, at our worst and at our best, the consumerism in us and the heroic in us, and in that, The Walking Dead is a successful addition to this genre.

Holes by Louis Sachar (1998)

Louis Sachar’s Holes is a young adult book with short, bite-sized chapters that make you want to read the whole thing in one sitting—and you do. It follows young Stanley Yelnats who is unjustly sent to a correctional facility in the desert, most likely on account of a 100-year-old family curse, where he is forced to dig holes to “build character.” Every detail in the book is intertwined into a well-crafted plot which bounces back and forth between the present and past. It has quickly become one of my favorite books.

After you read the book, be sure to check out the movie version of Holes.
Tags:

Sutton by J. R. Moehringer (2012)

William Sutton or “Willie the Actor” led quite a remarkable life robbing banks, stealing an estimated two million dollars during his lifetime. J.R. Moehringer’s characterization of the notorious bank robber in Sutton is of an intelligent “Robin Hood” figure. Told from Sutton’s perspective, the story begins on Christmas Eve 1969 when Willie is released from prison for good behavior and ailing health, after spending half his adult life behind bars. A reporter and photographer from the newspaper get an exclusive with Willie in exchange for room at a luxury hotel. However, Willie insists that they drive him around to locations in New York City as he recounts his story in chronological order. I listened to the audiobook, narrated by the actor Dylan Baker who does an amazing job capturing all of the different characters.

Monkeewrench by P. J. Tracy (2003)

This thriller mystery jumps right through cyberspace. A killer begins murdering victims on a computer game. By duplicating each murder exactly, the police department of Minneapolis must try to outwit and out think a psychopathic genius. The story is easy to follow and sure fun to read. Get started with Monkeewrench then read the rest of the series by P. J. Tracy.

Sing Them Home by Stephanie Kallos (2009)

Sing Them Home is an imaginative novel that covers familiar themes of loss, grief, and family; a moving portrait of three siblings who have lived with unresolved grief since their mother’s death in the tornado of 1978. When they’re summoned home to Emlyn Springs, Nebraska, after their father’s death, each is forced to revisit the childhood tragedy that has defined their lives.

Sing Them Home by Stephanie Kallos is a wonderful story – told with a touch of magical realism – of lives connected and undone by tragedy who find redemption by returning home.
Tags:

Death is a Cabaret by Deborah Morgan (2001)

This is the first book in the Antique Lover's Mystery series. Both the premise and the characters have potential, but the plot drags in parts. Jeff Talbot is a retired FBI agent who has turned his passion for antiques into a business. He retired early from the FBI for a little peace and quiet with his wife who suffers from agoraphobia and cannot leave their home. His antique buying trip to Mackinac Island is anything but peaceful and quiet. Jeff finds himself using his FBI skills once again when dead bodies turn up at the Grand Hotel. Morgan adds authenticity to the story with her extensive knowledge of antiques. Download the audiobook of Death is a Cabaret today.

 

Stardust by Neil Gaiman (1999)

In Stardust young Tristran Thorn grows up in the Village of Wall which lies on the edge of Fairie land. The villagers only enter the land beyond their walled town once every nine years when they mix with magical folk at a temporary market. Following his heart, Tristran embarks on a journey into Fairie which reveals his gifts and subjects him to great challenges. Gaiman's fantasy is entertaining, at times amusing, and very engrossing.

Archie Meets Nero Wolfe by Robert Goldsborough (2012)

In the early thirties, Rex Stout created the eccentric private detective Nero Wolfe who lived in a New York brownstone, raised orchids, ate gourmet dinners, drank beer, and solved crimes from the comfort of his chair, aided by the leg work of Archie Goodwin. In this prequel by Goldsborough, we see how this famous partnership started.

Fresh in Depression-era New York from Ohio, Archie is willing and ready. He gets a job with another private eye, solves some cases, and then when the son of a wealthy Long Island millionaire goes missing gets his chance to work with the great man. Archie has all the ironic humor and wry eye we know from the classic series. Check out Archie Meets Nero Wolfe by Robert Goldsborough today.

The Unwritten: Tommy Taylor and the Bogus Identity by Mike Carey and Peter Gross (2010)

At first glance, The Unwritten seems to be about a grown-up, real-life Harry Potter: a man desperately trying to escape the shadow of the fictional character based upon him. (In actuality, co-creator Mike Carey has said the character of Tom Taylor is based more upon the real-life Christopher Robin of the Winnie-the-Pooh stories than anything else.) But read a little more, and you'll witness Tom Taylor get dragged further into a world that may or may not be fictional, where the collective of human consciousness can grant powers, and a shadowy, book-burning cabal wants him for their own purposes.

The Unwritten is an ongoing comic series published by Vertigo, currently collected in six volumes (the seventh was published in March 2013). It features diverse artwork by Peter Gross (The Books of Magic, Lucifer) and beautiful, lush cover art by Yuko Shimizu (Barbed Wire Baseball).

Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk by Ben Fountain (2012)

Ben Fountain’s novel effectively captures the disconnect between soldiers on the ground in Iraq and the civilian perspective of the war. Billy, a 19-year-old solider, has just returned to America for a two week “Victory Tour” following a successful firefight in Iraq. Along with soldiers of Bravo Company, Billy has traveled cross country on a morale-boosting media circuit. Written in a stream of conscious, the young war hero narrates the final day at the Dallas Cowboys football game on Thanksgiving. Throughout the course of one day the reader witnesses Billy’s struggle with his newfound fame, the effect of war, family, and brotherhood. Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk is a moving and satirical portrayal of America over the last ten years.
Tags:

The Aviator’s Wife by Melanie Benjamin (2013)

Melanie Benjamin mixes history and conjecture into an epic story of love, triumph, heartbreak, and betrayal. In The Aviator’s Wife, Anne Morrow Lindbergh is portrayed as a strong woman, accomplished in her own right, who stood behind her hero husband even when he didn't act like much of a hero. Through tragedy and scandal, she held her head high as she silently grieved.

This excellent piece of historical fiction makes the reader want to delve further into the biographies, histories, and actual literary works of one of the most famous couples of the twentieth century.

Lorna Raver's rich mature voice reminds listeners of the audio version that this story is told from Anne's perspective in her later years as Charles is dying. The story begins and ends in 1974. Flashbacks have Anne recalling her life with Charles with the wisdom of having already lived through it.