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Just Desserts

posted by: October 4, 2012 - 7:03am

Fool for LoveThe Chocolate ThiefAmerica is a nation of foodies, so it’s no surprise that there are now  great romances centering on chefs and the food industry. Two examples of these mouth-watering romances will leave readers hoping for seconds. Beth Ciotta kicks off her new series with Fool for Love: A Cupcake Lovers Novel. After a bad breakup, Chloe Madison takes a short-term job as personal chef/driver/companion for Daisy Monroe in the small town of Sugar Creek, Vermont. The largest social organization in Sugar Creek is the Cupcake Lovers. Members meet to share recipes, and they have raised money for charity and sent their home-baked treats to troops for decades. When the Cupcake Lovers begin to put together a charity cookbook, Chloe is drafted to help with the book and to put Daisy’s nemesis in her place. The only problem with Chloe’s new job is free-spirited Daisy’s uptight, micro-managing grandson Devlin. His family depends on him to run the family businesses and handle any problems that come up in their lives. From the start, sparks fly between Chloe and Devlin, but can two people who are so different really be happy together? Fool for Love is filled with charming small town characters and a quirky extended family that will make readers want to come back to Sugar Creek to visit the Monroe family again soon. This book also includes delicious cupcake recipes gathered by Ciotta from her readers.


In Laura Florand’s The Chocolate Thief, Cade Corey is the heiress to an American chocolate company’s multi-billion dollar fortune. Her family’s Corey bars are an American staple, but her dream is to start a line of gourmet chocolates for her company. She travels to Paris to find a partner for her gourmet line. Sylvain Marquis, a gorgeous Parisian chocolatier, rejects her proposition outright. Sylvain is appalled by the idea that his chocolates could be mass produced and sold like those detestable Corey bars, but he is intrigued by Cade. Rejection after rejection from leading chocolatiers leads Cade to do something drastic. She breaks in to Sylvain’s store to find his secret recipes. News of Sylvain’s Chocolate Thief, who is identified as Cade in a New York Times article, creates a media frenzy around Cade and Sylvain. This steamy romance is as irresistible as Sylvain’s sinful chocolates.



Women on the Verge

posted by: October 1, 2012 - 8:00am

The PlaydateThe Playdate is a terrific psychological thriller from debut author Louise Millar. The story is told from the points of view of three very different women. Each has events in their pasts that they are trying to hide from one another. Pasts have a way of creeping up on you though, often in terrible and unexpected ways.


Callie is a single mother raising her daughter Rae, while Rae’s father is away in Sri Lanka with his new girlfriend. Callie is feeling alienated from her old friends and longs to return to work as a sound effects editor. She has become close friends with a neighbor, Suzy, but feels that Suzy can be intense, almost clingy with their friendship. Suzy is facing troubles of her own, raising three sons with almost little or no help from her husband, Jez. Jez is emotionally distancing himself from Suzy, and this makes her desperate to find a way back into his affections. Debs has recently moved to the row home right next door to Suzy.  Debs is older than Callie or Suzy and is used to living life on her own, and she is adjusting to life with her new husband. Debs also has little tolerance for noises of any kind. Airplanes flying overhead, a neighbor flushing the toilet or even vacuuming can create in her a sense of madness.


The Playdate is an incredibly tight thriller. The reader is aware that something unpleasant is going to happen, and as the novel progresses and secrets are revealed, the action intensifies. The story barrels forward to an intense conclusion, making The Playdate a gripping read.


A Silent Voice Heard

posted by: October 1, 2012 - 7:45am

Love AnthonyStill battered by the smoldering remains of loss, Nantucket resident Olivia Donatelli struggles to find the meaning of her autistic son's short life in Lisa Genova's heart-tugging new novel, Love Anthony. Her journey of reflection leads to an unlikely encounter with another island resident that is as complex as the autism spectrum that defined her son's eight years of life.


Olivia is a mother tormented by grief. When she moves to the salty, picturesque island following the unexpected death of her son, Anthony, she brings with her too many lingering “what ifs.”  To obtain answers, she revisits her old journal entries of her life with Anthony and her estranged husband, David.  Her new job as a beach photographer brings distraction and as well as contact with another mother who faces her own personal loss.


Beth Ellis has been slammed by the proverbial Mack truck when she learns her husband has cheated on her. Reeling, she turns to writing as a way to pick up the pieces. It is her subject, a silent autistic boy she once observed, that provides the link between the two women’s parallel lives and their path to a renewal and understanding that only time can provide.


Although Genova has meticulously drawn characters in Beth and Olivia, it is the captivating, innocent voice of Anthony that provides the poignant glimpses into an autistic child’s mind.  In her story, Beth gives the boy a voice that is both wondrous and sad. Here the reader sees the neuroscientist Genova at her best, deftly conveying the complex neurological misfirings of the human mind in ways that are both compassionate and oh so real.  Like her previous books, Still Alice and Left Neglected, Love Anthony enlists the reader in a club that no one wants to join but that everyone can imagine.




It's the End of the World As We Know It

posted by: September 28, 2012 - 7:03am

The Dog StarsThe world has changed in Peter Heller’s The Dog Stars.  A pandemic has infected millions. Many have not survived, and those that have are shunned and avoided.  The novel begins nine years after the outbreak, and centers around pilot Hig and his aging dog, Jasper. Hig and Jasper live at an abandoned airport with survivalist and gun-nut Bangley.  Hig has refurbished a 1956 Cessna, which he takes on short flights in the area. He has to choose his paths with care. If he flies too far, he could run out of fuel.  Airports in the area can be dangerous places. Wandering groups of marauders appear that would kill you as soon as look at you.  Airport runways have fallen into ruin and there is a good chance Hig would not be able to land.  He could find himself too far from home, and not able to find the fuel he needs to get back.  He finds himself desperately lonely.  He is reminded of his wife Melissa who died during the pandemic.  Bangley is not much for conversation. Occasionally, Hig flies to deliver supplies to a group of Mennonites who have been infected with the blood disease, but he can never get too close with them. Suddenly, a tragic event happens that will change Hig’s perceptions and force him to make a decision that will alter the course of his life.


The Dog Stars is primarily a character study of a man who has lost hope.  It is a heartbreaking work, and the reader gets the sense of intense loneliness that Hig is feeling, trapped in this new world, fighting each day for survival.  Written in short passages and often single sentences, the story has a distinct style that is very readable and ultimately compelling.  This is a novel to be savored, and the reader will remember Hig long after they have finished the final page.


A Sweet Treat

posted by: September 28, 2012 - 7:01am

When in Doubt Add ButterMaryland native and bestselling author Beth Harbison has another hit on her hands with her new novel When in Doubt, Add Butter. Engaging, witty, and warm, this book is a sweet treat for a lazy afternoon. Gemma Craig is a private chef who spends her days catering to her clients’ unique needs and whims. She has the job that she has always wanted, and it pays just enough to keep her afloat financially. Each day is devoted to a different client. On Mondays, she cooks for the Van Houghtens in their beautiful Chevy Chase home and contends with uptight Angela’s crazy dietary restrictions that include no dairy, no beef, no onions, no soy, no nuts, no honey, no cinnamon or “warm spices,” and no garlic. Paul McMann, a.k.a. Mr. Tuesday, is a busy lawyer whose tastes run to comfort foods. Mr. Tuesday is never home, but the two of them regularly exchange flirty notes about the food. On Wednesdays, Gemma sees Lex Prather, a flamboyant social butterfly who could be played by Tony Randall. His tastes run to classic high society fair like oysters Rockefeller and Waldorf salad. Thursday nights, she cooks for the Olekseis, a large family headed by widower Vlad who Gemma worries may be involved in the Russian mob. Fridays are set aside for Georgetown social-climber Marie Lemurra who was recently on a reality show and strives to connect with B-list celebrities and politicians.


Gemma’s life is right on track until she gets fired by Marie for an unfortunate incident involving a peacock and the bumper of Gemma’s car. (Really, how was she supposed to know that they had a pet peacock?) Then, Gemma learns that someone is sabotaging her weekend catering jobs, and her well-ordered world starts coming apart at the seams. After a one-night stand with a mysterious man named Mack, things get even more complicated. Gemma has to pick up the pieces and figure out how to put her life back together.


Death and Depravity

posted by: September 27, 2012 - 8:45am

MonsterWanton debauchery, an all-consuming thirst for vengeance, satanic worship, madness, an undead predator-- any of these characteristics could be utilized to describe a monster. Readers encounter a plethora of individuals that qualify for this label in Dave Zeltserman’s new release Monster. In Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, the creature fashioned from different human body parts and brought to life by Victor Frankenstein is easily classified as the monster. Zeltserman’s novel is the story of the unfortunate and unwitting brain donor used in the mad doctor’s creation. Written in a style that mirrors Shelley’s original work, this is a dark and menacing tale about a tortured man trapped in the body of an abomination.


Friedrich Hoffman is a young man convicted of killing his betrothed a week before their marriage. After suffering an agonizing and horrendous death on the wheel, he awakens on a slab in Frankenstein’s laboratory. His intelligence and memory are intact and he quickly comes to suspect his creator’s involvement in his beloved’s death as well as his own false conviction. The black magic employed in the creature’s reanimation leave Friedrich powerless to exact revenge on his enemy. Friedrich is not the only innocent victim to be ensnared in Frankenstein’s web. Something even more sinister and disturbing is planned in an abandoned castle in a remote mountainous region south of Geneva. Friedrich’s remaining humanity is called into question as he struggles with whether to intervene or be complacent with the sordid plans of Frankenstein and the evil Marquis de Sade.


Monster is a gripping gothic horror tale, brilliantly told. Zeltserman is an accomplished author of mystery, horror and noir. He has earned the Shamus, Derringer and Ellery Queen's Readers' Choice awards and could very well be on track to another winner with Monster.



Ghosts, Moors and Village Secrets

posted by: September 24, 2012 - 8:45am

Beneath the ShadowsA couple and their infant daughter move from the hustle and bustle of London to a remote cottage in North Yorkshire. Soon after, the husband Adam disappears, leaving the baby in her carriage on the front doorstep. So begins Sara Foster’s debut novel, Beneath the Shadows. A haunting, psychological tale, the reader is transported to a beautiful but desolate English village, complete with secretive townspeople and a history of ghosts and unexplained occurrences.  


When the wife, Grace, returns to the village the next year, she begins talking to the locals and discovers more about her husband’s boyhood. She also learns about more unsettling issues, including hauntings, characters from local folklore and even strange details about the cottage her husband inherited from his grandparents. Her city friends and family are encouraging her to sell the cottage and run, but Grace cannot yet bring herself to do that. Even as an unknown person or people are sending her increasingly sinister warnings to leave, she needs to know the fate of Adam and if he really did abandon his family.  


This book has all the elements for a good autumn read: the moors, cold weather, snowstorms threatening to cut off the village, hints of the paranormal and the ever-present danger of harm coming to a mother and daughter trying to rebuild their lives. Fans of the Bronte sisters, Daphne du Maurier or Jennifer McMahon will be intrigued by this story which slowly unravels to lay bare a town’s and a family’s history and secrets.  


American Horror Story

posted by: September 24, 2012 - 8:15am

BreedNational Book Award nominee Scott Spencer tackles the emotionally charged world of fertility treatments in Breed, written under his pseudonym, Chase Novak. Alex and Leslie Twisden lead the ultimate in charmed lives with wonderful jobs, a beautiful home on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, and a loving marriage. The only thing missing in their picture perfect world is the pitter-patter of little feet, and each unsuccessful infertility treatment ratchets up their desperation for a baby. When they hear of a miracle doctor in Slovenia named Dr. Kis who has helped other couples with his fertility enhancement, they immediately hop on a plane. Alex and Leslie don’t think twice about undergoing the treatment which turns out to be an unusual and painful procedure. That pain is quickly overlooked, when Leslie becomes pregnant with twins and their family is complete. But at what price? 


Fast-forward ten years, and we meet Adam and Alice, the adored twins, who are much loved but are also becoming more aware of some strange goings-on in their house. They are locked in their rooms at night and hear disturbing and violent sounds coming from their parents' bedroom. Fear leads the twins to run away and find out what is really happening to their parents. They are on a quest to find Dr. Kis and get answers to their questions. But even as they seek to discover what really happened during that fateful time in Slovenia, their family and very existence are threatened.


This fast-paced story is sometimes gory but always thrilling, and readers looking for more will be happy to learn that Spencer/Novak is hard at work on a sequel – Brood. To get a sense of the high creepy factor throughout this book, check out Entertainment Weekly’s exclusive look at Breed’s book trailer here.  


No One Said it Would Be Easy

posted by: September 24, 2012 - 7:45am

The Gift of Fire/On the Pead of a PinFans of renowned mystery author Walter Mosley’s distinctive prose and earthy characters will likely associate the author with his iconic Easy Rawlins series. Yet in this first dual installment of his planned Crosstown to Oblivion series, Mosley turns his imagination away from private eye noir to the realm of SciFi Fantasy. Twin novellas, The Gift of Fire and On the Head of a Pin, are combined in a single volume and are uniquely packaged in a flip-to-read format, with one cover featuring each title and related imagery.


In The Gift of Fire, the god Prometheus breaks free of his chains to deliver to humanity a second gift – to lead mankind’s souls from darkness to a place where they can become one with the godmind. To do so he must find a soul capable of being imbued with the gift of such powerful Knowledge. In On the Head of a Pin Joshua Winterland is chronicling the development of a new ground-breaking animatronics technology known as “the Sail”, intended to revolutionize the entertainment world. To Josh’s surprise and the consternation of the innovators, the Sail offers more than it was intended to and soon Josh finds himself connecting with beings and events in time and dimensions far removed from his own.


The stories as presented are largely unconnected and could easily stand on their own. The singularly significant link between the tales is an underlying theme of Humanity’s brush with the Divine and the consequences which might result. It is an ambitious theme which other authors might shy away from exploring in the novella format. Yet where others might hesitate, Mosley boldly unites philosophy and entertainment in a winning duo. Those who have already read and enjoyed Gift of Fire and On the Head of a Pin may also appreciate the next twofold installment in Mosley’s Crosstown to Oblivion series, Merge and Disciple, to be published in October, 2012.


Antarctica or Bust

posted by: September 21, 2012 - 8:01am

Where'd You Go BenadetteBernadette Fox—mother, wife, one-time architectural prodigy—has disappeared, and it’s up to her thirteen year-old daughter Bee Branch to put together the clues as to her whereabouts. Where’d You Go Bernadette is a brash satirical novel, told in a series of emails and other correspondence from various characters that relay the circumstances leading up to Bernadette’s flight.


Bee’s reward for a perfect report card throughout middle school was her own idea: a family trip to Antarctica. (She’d much rather have an expedition than a pony.) But her parents don’t quite share her enthusiasm. Bernadette, the recipient of a MacArthur genius grant at the beginning of her career, suffered a crippling setback when her Twenty Mile House (built from materials sourced within 20 miles of its location) met a vengeful demise. She retreated from the world of architecture, setting up house with her husband Elgin Branch, a techie wunderkind project manager for Microsoft whose TEDTalk is the fourth most viewed video on YouTube. Increasingly antisocial and generally testy, she abhors dealing with her fellow Galer Street School moms, a petty group she refers to as “gnats.” No one in Seattle knows that Bernadette is a genius in self-imposed exile who has hired a virtual assistant in India to deal with the overwhelming details of her life. How can she handle Antarctica? How can Elgin take a vacation when his team is working overtime on Samantha 2, a brain-computer interface?


Author Maria Semple, a former sitcom writer for shows including Arrested Development and Mad About You, has written a wickedly entertaining sendup of over-doting parents, the politics of private schools, the importance of keeping up appearances, the zeitgeist of Microsoft, and all things held sacred by the upper middle class Seattle intelligentsia. But at the heart of this novel are the relationships between a mother and daughter, and a husband and wife who appreciate each other in spite of it all.



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