Tuesday, May 31, 2011

New This Week

Here are some new titles coming out this week. Check them out from the library and see where they take

Lady Blue Eyes My Life with Frank by Barbara Sinatra (Harmony Books)

The widow of the Hollywood golden-era legend describes their courtship and more than two-decade marriage, offering insight into the highs and lows of their relationship as well as the intricacies of Sinatra's character, in a tribute complemented by family photographs.

Dreams of Joy by Lisa See (Random House) 

A continuation of the story that began in Shanghai Girls finds a devastated Joy fleeing to China to search for her real father while her mother, Pearl, desperately pursues her, a dual quest marked by their encounters with the nation's intolerant Communist culture.

Just Like Heaven by Julia Quinn (HarperCollins)

After they survive a deadly fever and the world's worst musical performance, Honoria Smythe-Smith, a really bad violinist, and Marcus Holroyd, her older brother's best friend, fall desperately in love.

To Be Sung Underwater by Tom McNeal (Little Brown & Co.)

Judith Whitman, in a marriage hazy with secrets, considers getting in touch with the love her life from 20 years ago, in this new novel from the author of Goodnight, Nebraska.

Just Jennifer

The Upside of Irrationality: The Unexpected Benefits of Defying Logic by Dan Ariely (Harper Perennial)

Using interpersonal relationships at home and at work, Dan Ariely explores the what motivates us and how decisions and choices that we make that appear to be positive can really have a negative result and vice versa. He discusses the tipping point when large bonus can make CEOs less productive and how irrational behavior often results in the most rational of decisions. Using detailed case studies from the world of academia along with personal anecdotes from his life, including the life-threatening, life altering, accident he had Ariely brings a personal touch to this logic and it makes sense. He has an airy style and makes wry, witty comments that make this easy reading. At the end of each chapter, and the end of the book, he sums up his findings and how they can be applied so we all have a more productive, fulfilling life.

Just Jennifer

Witches of East End by Melissa de la Cruz (Hyperion Voice, June 2011)

Ingrid, quiet, reserved librarian, her wilder, more outgoing sister Freya and their mother Joanna Beauchamp are living at the tip of Long Island in North Hampton, a Brigadoon sort of place where things aren’t always as they seem. During the Salem witch trials, the three Beauchamps where released from the civil courts but they were ordered not to practice their witchcraft anymore by their council. Now, as Freya is on the verge of getting married, she is finding herself out of sorts and her malaise is spreading to the patrons of the bar she tends. Knowing that with a few simple love potions, Freya can make some of her friends happy, and that’s really not magic, is it? At the same time, Ingrid knows she can help fellow librarian Tabitha and her husband with their infertility issues, and since a lot of it involves positive and more relaxed thinking then that’s not really witchcraft either, is it? Little by little, the sisters begin to weave their magic around the town, all in the name of helping friends and neighbors. When a young woman goes missing after drinking one of Freya’s potions, some people in the town begin to cry “witch” and the Beauchamps find themselves accused of crimes they did not commit, nor cause to be committed. As Freya and Ingrid try to find the cause of all the evil that seems to be surrounding North Hampton, their past is slowly revealed, even secrets they kept from each other and some Joanna kept from them, all of which put together may help free the town from the forces that seem to have the town in its clutch. With an easy, breezy style (and some steamy sex scenes thrown in), Melissa de la Cruz, a popular author for young adults, brings Ingrid, Freya and Joanna to life with a touch of magic. The plot has some complicated twists and turns and a cliffhanger that is sure to have you waiting for the next installment.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Just Jennifer

The Most Beautiful Walk in the World: A Pedestrian in Paris by John Baxter (Harper Perennial, May 2011)

Written in short chapters, native Australian writer John Baxter highlights many of his favorite walks in Paris, liberally sprinkling this historical, literary cultural, and shopping guide with his own reminiscences, lending a personal touch to an oft written about subject. Baxter includes his favorite things, the delicious food among them, and highlights things, such as a winter’s day after a snowstorm, that the normal traveler might not find beauty in. This is an easily accessible book that could be used as pocket guide as you stroll the Left Bank of the Seine, or it will transport armchair travelers to the City of Light. Baxter includes in his vignettes some of the seedier sections of Paris, but he describes them with an amused eye, making them seem like a wonderful adventure. His enthusiasm and love for the city comes through in his descriptions. Navigational and planning tips in the back will help travelers get the most out of their visit to Baxter’s beloved city.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Just Jennifer

Don’t Breathe a Word by Jennifer McMahon (Harper, May 2011)

As a young adult, Phoebe lived a rough and wild life, dating the wrong men, living on the edge. One evening, she sees a little boy through a window in his house. His sister Lisa has just gone missing in the woods of Vermont. Fifteen years later, that boy, Sam, and Phoebe, ten years his senior are in love and trying to escape their pasts. Sam is contacted by his cousin Evie, with whom he lost contact shortly after Lisa’s disappearance. Once Evie enters Sam and Phoebe’s lives, everything they believed to be true is torn apart and nothing is as it seems. Evie claims to have Lisa’s fairy book that was lost after her disappearance. As Phoebe learns more, she is not sure of everything she knows about Sam, or thought she knew about his family, and knows that the dark man who used to lurk about when she was a child has returned, but can’t place who he his or what he wants. The plot gets very complicated and woo-woo and hard to summarize without plot spoilers; it alternates between Sam and Phoebe’s present and the summer fifteen years ago when Lisa disappeared into the land of the fairies. Nothing is as it seems and Phoebe is beginning to think that nothing she knows is real. Slow in places, and awkward in transition between years at first, it takes a little bit to get into the book, but once things start happening, it will make you wonder what is going on. The ending is not quite as satisfying as it might be and leaves many questions unanswered, but all in all, a good choice for a quick, scary read on a warm summer’s day.

Just Jennifer

Seeds: One Man's Serendipitous Journey to Find the Trees That Inspired Famous American Writers from Faulkner to Kerouac, Welty to Wharton by Richard Horan (Harper Perennial, April 2011)

Richard Horan gets an idea one day:  he will visit the homes of historical and literary figures he greatly admired, collect seeds from important trees there, then plant the seeds, nurture the saplings, then what?  It’s the “then what”, the absence of a completely formed plan that keep this intriguing travelogue from being extraordinary.  Horan’s seed collection begins accidentally and without much rhyme or reason.  Horan visits homes such as Lincoln’s, Twains, Faulkner, Washington, Jefferson and Helen Keller.  Each chapter, some headed with illustrations done by Horan’s sister and nephew of leaves, recaps Horan’s trip to the famous local and gives Horan’s impression, often brief, of the former owner of the house and tree.  Some of the insights he offers are thoughtful and personal, others more banal.  The seeds are collected in no specific order, seemingly without a plan.  This is the type of book you really, really want to like if you are a nature lover, and will try to seek out some meaning from the pages.  Horan must have been passionate (or a bit crazy) to set out on his odyssey, but it doesn’t always come through in these pages.

Just Jennifer

Shut Your Eyes Tight by John Verdon (Crown, July 2011)

Retired NYPD detective Dave Gurney is trying to readjust to life in the quiet Catskills of New York State with his wife Madeleine after recently coming out of retirement to solve a murder and almost getting killed in the process. Dave is feeling restless, but Madeleine is insistent he learn to enjoy their new life. When he gets a call from a former crony, Jack Hardwick teases Dave with a case that captures his imagination and lures him back into a life of investigation. Young rich girl Jillian Perry was murdered, decapitated, on her wedding day to older Scott Ashton, a pop-media superstar psychiatrist and the Mexican gardener, Hector Flores, is the prime suspect. Four months later, however, no one has seen hide nor hair of Hector and the next door neighbor’s wife, who was rumored to have been having an affair with Hector, has also vanished. Gurney can’t investigate officially nor does he have a PI license, but when Jillian’s mother offers to hire him to look into her daughter’s murder as a private citizen, he is too intrigued not to say yes. The more Dave looks into the case, the stranger, and more impossible, it seems to get. Nothing is as it seems and someone who is very smart is pulling the strings, but Dave is clever and begins looking at things in new ways and as new patterns emerge, he can hardly believe what he is seeing. Shut Your Eyes Tight is a thinking thriller, full of “what-if’s” and subtleties that even the most careful reader may miss. Gurney wrestles with many demons and is an empathetic character as he struggles to find his new place in his & Madeleine’s world. Using a seminar Gurney is teaching at the police academy on undercover work, Verdon neatly weaves in reasons for Gurney making the leaps and suppositions he does. Jillian’s murder is disturbing, as is the motive and what Gurney uncovers, but there is little graphic violence described to overshadow the thoughtfulness required to follow Gurney’s investigation and consider what may happen next.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Just Jennifer

Long Gone by Alafair Burke (Harper, July 2011)

What would you do if you walked into work one day and found everything gone and your boss dead on the floor? What if you then find yourself the suspect in this man’s death and then realize you have been part of a bigger scam, something that makes you question everything you’ve ever known in your life.  This is what happens to Alice Humphrey, daughter of Oscar winning movie director Frank Humphrey.  After Alice was laid of from her job at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, she spent many long months trying to find a new job.  When she meets Drew Campbell at a gallery opening and he offers her the chance to manage a gallery, essentially as her own, she thinks the offer is too good to be true, but decides she has nothing to lose.  Nothing but her entire life, she quickly learns.  After the first show is on the walls, the gallery becomes the focus of a zealous church leader who accuses the gallery of peddling child porn.  The next day when Alice shows up at work, the gallery has been stripped clean of everything, Drew is dead on the floor and all evidence points to Alice.  She is thrust into a vortex of lies and misperceptions as she learns that the gallery was set up as if she were the owner that a character named Drew Campbell has been created, but it looks like, and uses all of Alice’s personal information.  Not sure where to turn or who to trust, Alice begins to unravel a web of deceit and follows a trail that leads further back in her life than she could ever imagine.  Long Gone is full of suspense and Alafair Burke slowly builds the tension as Alice searches for the truth.  The plotting is very clever and there are “what-if’s” that cannot be imagined. This stand-alone is a compulsive must read.