Saturday, March 31, 2012

New This Week

The Lost Years by Mary Higgins Clark (Simon & Schuster)

When an aging biblical scholar is fatally shot after revealing his possession of a unique parchment believed to have been written by Jesus, Father Aiden O'Brien investigates the victim's suspicions that a close friend was responsible, a case that is complicated by circumstances implicating the man's Alzheimer's victim wife.

Gypped by Carol Higgins Clark (Scribner)

Mother and daughter both have books being released this week. Vacationing in California while her new husband, Jack, attends a business conference, private investigator Regan Reilly checks out a vegan family friend's concerns about an unscrupulous investment manager and uncovers a vast scam extending throughout the California coast.

The Beginner’s Goodbye by Anne Tyler (Knopf)

Crippled in his right arm and leg, Aaron spent his childhood fending off a sister who wants to manage him. So when he meets Dorothy, a plain, outspoken, self-dependent young woman, she is like a breath of fresh air. Unhesitatingly he marries her, and they have a relatively happy, unremarkable marriage. But when a tree crashes into their house and Dorothy is killed, Aaron feels as though he has been erased forever. Only Dorothy’s unexpected appearances from the dead help him to live in the moment and to find some peace. Gradually he discovers, as he works in the family’s vanity-publishing business, turning out titles that presume to guide beginners through the trials of life, that maybe for this beginner there is a way of saying goodbye.

Come Home by Lisa Scottoline (St. Martin’s Press)

Rebalancing her life and career after a painful divorce, pediatrician Jill learns that her ex has died from an alleged overdose that her former stepdaughter believes was actually murder, a situation that forces Jill to choose between her duty to past circumstances and her future happiness.

Sidney Sheldon’s Angel of the Dark by Tilly Bagshawe (William Morrow)

It was his first big murder case—and one of the bloodiest and most violent crimes LAPD detective Danny McGuire would ever encounter. Andrew Jakes, an elderly multimillionaire art dealer, had been brutally murdered in his Hollywood home, his lifeless body tied to his naked young wife. Raped and beaten, the lovely Angela Jakes had barely survived the attack herself. Gazing into her deep, soulful eyes, Danny swore that he'd find the psychopath behind this barbarous act. But the investigation didn't turn up a single solid lead, and within days of Angela's release from the hospital, the stunning young widow—Danny's only witness—had vanished.

The Limpopo Academy of Private Detection by Alexander McCall Smith (Pantheon)

In this latest episode in the beloved, best-selling series, the kindest and best detective in Botswana faces a tricky situation when her personal and professional lives become entangled.  Precious Ramotswe is haunted by a repeated dream: a vision of a tall, strange man who waits for her beneath an acacia tree. Odd as this is, she’s far too busy to worry about it. The best apprentice at Tlokweng Road Speedy Motors is in trouble with the law and stuck with the worst lawyer in Gaborone. Grace Makutsi and Phuti Radiphuti are building the house of their dreams, but their builder is not completely on the up and up. And, most shockingly, Mma Potokwane, defender of Botswana’s weak and downtrodden, has been dismissed from her post as matron at the orphan farm. Can the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency help restore the beloved matron to her rightful position?

Just Jennifer

Further Interpretations of Real-Life Events by Kevin Moffett (Harper Perennial, March 2012)

In a collection of short stories, Kevin Moffett explores how what we remember is shaped by our past and how it shapes our future. In the title story, a father and son each search to make meaning out of their relationship writing short stories about their past. Son Frederick has set aside his writing for a while when his father begins submitting stories using his full name, also Frederick, stories so similar in tone and theme that the young Frederick’s girlfriend thinks they are his. As father and son use their writing to make sense of their pasts together, they are able to come to a tacit agreement about their present and their future. Moffett’s situations are familiar to all of us even though the specifics may not be, for how many people have ever debated searching for the crown they have swallowed after passing it rather than paying to replace it, as an Estonian amusement park worker does, but how many of us have gone through things we thought unthinkable so as not to have to replace the familiar and comfortable. A young couple’s honeymoon is interrupted when a snake rots in the wheel well of the car they are driving cross country and they must begin their new life in the barren deserts of Arizona with an unfamiliar, smelly vehicle whose impatient owner is waiting for its return in Florida. The stories are well executed and sometimes make us flinch as we recognize ourselves in places we don’t want to.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

New This Week

Guilty Wives by James Patterson (Little, Brown & Co.)

No husbands allowed Only minutes after Abbie Elliot and her three best friends step off of a private helicopter, they enter the most luxurious, sumptuous, sensually pampering hotel they have ever been to. Their lavish presidential suite overlooks Monte Carlo, and they surrender: to the sun and pool, to the sashimi and sake, to the Bruno Paillard champagne. For four days they're free to live someone else's life. As the weekend moves into pulsating discos, high-stakes casinos, and beyond, Abbie is transported to the greatest pleasure and release she has ever known. What happened last night? In the morning's harsh light, Abbie awakens on a yacht, surrounded by police. Something awful has happened--something impossible, unthinkable. Abbie, Winnie, Serena, and Bryah are arrested and accused of the foulest crime imaginable. And now the vacation of a lifetime becomes the fight of a lifetime--for survival.

New Republic by Lionel Shriver (Harper)

The acclaimed author of the National Book Award finalist So Much for That probes the mystery of charisma--what makes certain people so magnetic, and how frustrating it is to feel overshadowed by a life-of-the-party who isn't even there.

Betrayal by Danielle Steel (Delacorte Press)

Her life shattered by her boyfriend's infidelity, movie director Tallie Jones also discovers that one of her closest associates has been stealing from her for years, and partners with a dashing FBI agent to identify a hidden enemy.

Elegy for Eddie by Jacqueline Winspear (HarperCollins)

Maisie Dobbs takes on her most personal case yet, a twisting investigation into the brutal killing of a street peddler that will take her from the working-class neighborhoods of her childhood into London's highest circles of power. Set in London between the two world wars.

Just Jennifer

Sunrise Point by Robyn Carr (Mira, April 2012)

Once again, Virgin River is the safe haven for families in need of sanctuary and a safe place to heal and get back on their feet. Single mother Nora will do anything to keep her two young daughters fed, happy and clothed, even walk almost four miles to an apple orchard to harvest apples before walking home again. Orchard matriarch Maxie takes a shine to Nora, who readers will suspect remind her of herself as a young woman, and insists her grandson…hire Nora. Though Nora isn’t his ideal of a picker, ….feels a strong pull toward Nora, one he tries to ignore, not wanting to get involved with the single mother, no matter how sexy he finds her and how cute her little girls are. Nora’s life is complicated when the preacher, Noah, finds her father, a man who has been trying to locate Nora since her estranged mother died two years earlier. While Nora has a hard time reconciling her anger toward her father she has carried most of her life, she wants her girls to have a relationship with her grandfather and learns memory is a strange thing, especially when it is colored by stories from a bitter ex-wife, even if she was Nora’s mother. In Robyn Carr’s signature style, Nora wrestles with her personal demons as does…but happily ever after always wins out in Virgin River and there are hints of the next residents to arrive and let the town work its magic on them. This series is a wonderful guilty pleasure for a leisurely afternoon.

Just Jennifer

What Dies in Summer by Tom Wright (W.W. Norton, May 2012)

James and his cousin L.A. have found a home with their grandmother as each of their traditional families fail them. James has come to live with his grandmother to be away from his abusive step-father; LA has just arrived and won’t reveal what has brought her to this haven. James has the gift of Sight but hasn’t learned how it can help him affect his world and the world of others. The discovery of the mutilated body of a young girl unleashes something that summer that will bring to light long kept secrets of a family in distress, tear that family apart and then slowly rebuild it in a different shape, one that will support and heal each of its members, keeping them safe from others and from themselves.

Just Jennifer

Voyagers of the Titanic by Richard Davenport-Hines (William Morrow, April 2012)

April 2012 is the one hundredth anniversary of the sinking of the luxury ocean liner and the death of over 1,500 people, from aristocrats in first class to the second and third class passengers emigrating to America and the crew working to bring all these people safely from Southampton to New York. The story is familiar, just south of Newfoundland the ship hit an iceberg, sinking, causing families on both sides of the Atlantic to await news of their loved ones. Richard Davenport-Hines devotes a chapter to each class of passenger and describes what a typical experience for each might have been, reminding readers that among the Astors and Vanderbilts were families traveling with as many as nine children, looking for a better life in America. Details such as menus and accommodations bring this voyage to life as the terror of the accident that is to come hangs in the air. A final chapter reunites survivors with their families in New York and talks about the industrial and political implications of the accident. A different approach to this tragedy, Voyagers of the Titanic tells the story of disparate people who now share one thing in common, their connection to the sinking of the ocean liner Titanic.

Just Jennifer

Happiness is a Chemical on the Brain by Lucia Perillo (W.W. Norton, May 2012)

In this short story collection, Perillo explores what makes people happy and whether or not they realize they are happy. A woman has a door-to-door vacuum cleaner salesman demonstrate his vacuum to her as she is unable to clean-up other areas of her life, including her son who has just microwaved a neighbor’s telephone. A young woman and her sister Louisa who has Down syndrome appear in three stories; Louisa tries to leave what she considers to be a normal life and while trying to protect Louisa from their mother and things in the outside world. The characters and situations in these stories are all familiar to us as we see ourselves in small ways, wanting to love, wanting to be loved and just giving in to our surroundings when it all gets to be too much.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

New This Week

Mudwoman by Joyce Carol Oates (Ecco Press)

M.R. Neukirchen--the first female president of a lauded Ivy League institution--struggles to hold onto her self-identity in the face of personal and professional demons.

Stay Close by Harlan Coben (Dutton)

Three people--a suburban housewife, a talented documentary photographer, and a detective--living lives they never wanted, hiding secrets that even those closest to them would never suspect, will find that the past doesn't recede ... and that desperation and hunger can lurk behind even the prettiest facades.

Fall From Grace by Richard North Patterson (Scribner)

Adam Blaine arrives at the funeral of his estranged father, Ben Blaine, a famous and charismatic writer who left behind him a string of secret legal and financial arrangements. Using his training as a CIA operative, Adam seeks to find the truth of his father's death, even if it means exposing one or more of his own family members as the killer and discovering secrets about himself that he was never supposed to know.

Force of Nature C.J. Box (G.P. Putman’s Sons)

Having hidden the truth about a past colleague's violation, former Special Forces agent Nate Romanowski is targeted by a determined killer who threatens Joe Pickett's life as part of a violent plot.

Born to Darkness Suzanne Brockmann (Ballantine Books)

Michelle "Mac" Mackenzie, a super-human "Greater-Than" with unique abilities, teams up with a former Navy SEAL Shane Laughlin to stop the spread of a highly addictive drug called Destiny, which gives anyone the same abilities as a "Greater-Than."

Friday, March 16, 2012

Just Jennifer

Weeknights with Giada: Quick and Simple Recipes to Revamp Dinner by Giada De Laurentiis (Clarkson Potter, March 2012)

Giada De Laurentiis is a Food Network celebrity chef and the mother of a four-year-old little girl who Giada wants to feed well for her health, but at the same time, wants her little girl to learn to love food as much as she does. In her latest cookbook, her sixth, De Laurentiis presents recipes that take a minimum amount of prep time but produce a maximum amount of flavor and variety for her family. While most recipes have a basis in De Laurentiis’s Italian cuisine (she was born and lived as a child in Rome) she often cites her husband’s favorite foods, and now her daughter’s, and offers new ways to serve some of their favorites, such as potatoes (a potato and quinoa salad using Peruvian purple potatoes is especially interesting) and breakfast for dinner, adding more substance and interest to basic egg dishes. She also ventures into non-traditional Italian territory adding some Asian flavors to salads and meats. There are recipes that can just be assembled from pantry ingredients and store-bought prepared food, including store-roasted chicken breasts, cutting down on prep time for busy families. Giada’s bright, easy going narrative, paired with colorful pictures of delicious looking food and smiling, happy families, will make for enjoyable perusing and simple recipes without much prep work or fancy ingredients will encourage cooks to vary their weeknight repertoires.

Just Jennifer

Hit Lit: Cracking the Code of the Twentieth Century's Biggest Bestsellers by James W. Hall (Random House)

Hall, a professor of literature and best-selling thriller author takes twelve best-selling books of the twentieth century and looks at their similarities, differences and what basic properties each has that contributed to the books success. If you could never imagine that Jaws, To Kill a Mockingbird, Petyon Place and The Da Vinci Code have things in common or that Scarlett O’Hara (Gone with the Wind) shares characteristics with Michael Corleone (The Godfather) read on. Hall takes best-sellers and breaks them down to their most basic elements and then includes little known insider stories and details about each title; The Firm, Hunt for Red October, the Dead Zone, Valley of the Dolls, The Exorcist and Bridges of Madison County round out the twelve books. Hit Lit is a quick read that will engage readers of pop fiction and peak the interest of those who generally don’t. Hall also includes a short synopsis of each title in the back of the book. Great fun for all readers, serious and not so serious.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Just Jennifer

Gossip by Beth Gutcheon (William Morrow, March 2012)

Sometimes it is our friends that shape us as much as our families do. It is our friends that often hold our closest secrets, the secrets about us that we don’t even realize they are holding. The age old dilemma of deciding whether or not to share something that might hurt a friend with that friend and what the consequences of not sharing these secrets are is explored in Beth Gutcheon’s new book. Lovie and Dinah met in prep school and stayed close friends as the two embarked on different paths in Manhattan, Lovie an assistant to a couture designer, Dinah a gossip columnist and lifestyles writer. Both were also acquaintances of Avis, whose path crosses theirs again as adults in Manhattan. Lovie has never married and owns an exclusive women’s dress shop on the Upper East Side, dressing the rich and famous. Dinah has married well, though not happily, and has two young boys. Avis has married an older man with two daughters and has one of her own. Whether it is because she is a sympathetic listener or because Lovie often fades into the background, she hears and sees a lot of things that could hurt her friends if they knew and often makes the decision not to tell rather than hurt one of the women closes to her, but there are some secrets that if they are not revealed can have devastating consequences, leaving those who knew wondering what would have happened if they had told. At first it may seem that Lovie is a faded character, but it soon becomes clear that she is a person who has never really defined herself, content with having a relationship with a married man most of her life, selling clothes to society women rather than being one. The book moves forward at a good pace and there is sometimes a helplessness in the prose as it tells the story of three women from high school classmates in the 1960’s through the 1970’s, the excess of the eighties and nineties and the fall from grace the new millennium brought.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

New This Week

Gods of Gotham by Lyndsay Faye (Amy Einhorn Books)

Joining the newly formed NYPD in 1845, Timothy reluctantly assumes his duties near the notorious Five Points slum, where in the middle of the night he hears a little girl's claim that dozens of bodies have been buried in a local forest.

Gilly Salt Sisters by Tiffany Baker (Grand Central)

In the isolated Cape Cod village of Prospect, the Gilly sisters are as different as can be. Jo, a fierce and quiet loner, is devoted to the mysteries of her family's salt farm, while Claire is popular, pretty, and yearns to flee the salt at any cost. But the Gilly land hides a dark legacy that proves impossible to escape. Although the community half-suspects the Gilly sisters might be witches, it doesn't stop Whit Turner, the town's wealthiest bachelor, from forcing his way into their lives. It's Jo who first steals Whit's heart, but it is Claire--heartbroken over her high school sweetheart--who marries him. Years later, estranged from her family, Claire finds herself thrust back onto the farm with the last person she would have chosen: her husband's pregnant mistress. Suddenly, alliances change, old loves return, and new battle lines are drawn. What the Gilly sisters learn about each other, the land around them, and the power of the salt, will not only change each of their lives forever, it will also alter Gilly history for good.

When I Was Child I Read Books by Marilynne Robinson (Farrar, Straus, Giroux)

In this new collection of incisive essays, Robinson returns to the themes which have preoccupied her work: the role of faith in modern life, the inadequacy of fact, the contradictions inherent in human nature.

I’ve Got Your Number by Sophia Kinsella (Dial Press)

After her phone is stolen during a hotel fire drill, Poppy Wyatt, discovering an abandoned phone in a trash can, crashes into the life of the phone's owner, Sam Roxton, when she uses his phone to make her wedding preparations.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Just Jennifer

How to Eat a Cupcake by Meg Donohue (William Morrow, March 2012)

Ten years after high school, Annie Quintana and Julia St. Claire’s paths are about to cross again. Annie was the daughter of the St. Claire’s maid, cook and nanny and had forged a friendship with Julia until something happened at the prep school the two attended that Annie blames as the trigger for her mother Lucia’s untimely death. Now Annie is making cupcakes for Lolly St. Claire’s fundraiser and crosses paths with Julia who has inexplicably left her high powered Wall Street job and returned home to California to prepare for her wedding. After tasting Annie’s cupcakes, and perhaps hoping to make amends for what occurred in high school and the intervening ten years, Julia proposes to be an investor in a cupcake shop that will revert to Annie once it is on its feet and making money. Annie is weary and suspicious of Julia, but ultimately agrees. Vandalism just prior to and after the grand opening make Annie think that getting involved once again with Julia was a big mistake, but little by little, the two forge tentative bonds and learn who each has become and what each has had to overcome since they last saw each other. At first, the plot seems a little trite, unhappy rich girl befriends and helps poor, talented friend, but then Annie and Julia’s personalities take over...and who can resist cupcakes? Each character is carefully written to avoid stereotyping; the chapters alternate between the two women, allowing how each felt about past events and how each reacts to current events to define each character. Their voices are distinctive and change throughout the story as each grows to learn more about the other and about herself. A bit of mystery, both past and present adds more depth to the plot as do characters such as Julia’s high school boyfriend Jake and the militant organic farmer from whom Annie gets her pears and in whom she may find true love.

Being Lara

Being Lara by Lola Jaye (William Morrow, March 2012)

Lara has always know she was adopted---chosen---by her parents, but never really felt all that different until she is five when one of her classmates dubs Lara an alien. It is this that makes Lara take notice of the physical differences between her and her parents and makes her wonder if she really belongs. As years go by, different incidents, such as someone questioning if her father is bothering her in a deli not realizing they are father and daughter, keep her uneasy about where she fits into her family, and eventually with her friends, until she turns thirty when the woman who gave birth to her arrives at the party and turns Lara’s world on end, but at the same time, offers some answers and helps Lara find herself and where she fits in, with her family and in the world. As she approaches her thirtieth birthday, Lara is an accomplished business woman with a loving family and in a relationship with a guy who adores her, but whom she keeps at a distance for reasons she herself can’t explain. The arrival of her mother from Nigeria allows Lara to learn about her roots, learn the circumstances of her birth and how she came to be chosen by her former pop singing sensation mother and where some of her innate traits come from. As Lara learns about her past and her history, she is able to focus more on her present and future and is able to become present in her life and plan her future. Touchingly told, anyone who has never felt they fit in with their family or a certain group of friends will identify with Lara’s feelings of unease and uncertainty, even as she excels in her career. Lara learns that family comes in more than the traditional style and that one person can be a part of many different families at the same time.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

New This Week

The Thief by Clive Cussler (Putnam)

On the ocean liner Mauretania , two European scientists with a dramatic new invention are barely rescued from abduction by the Van Dorn Detective Agency's intrepid chief investigator, Isaac Bell. Unfortunately, they are not so lucky the second time. The thugs attack again-and this time one of the scientists dies. What are they holding that is so precious? Only something that will revolutionize business and popular culture-and perhaps something more. For war clouds are looming, and a ruthless espionage agent has spotted a priceless opportunity to give the Germans an edge. It is up to Isaac Bell to figure out who he is, what he is up to, and stop him. But he may already be too late . . . and the future of the world may just hang in the balance.

Poison Flower by Thomas Perry (Mysterious Press)

Poison Flower , the seventh novel in Thomas Perry's celebrated Jane Whitefield series, opens as Jane spirits James Shelby, a man unjustly convicted of his wife's murder, out of the heavily guarded criminal court building in downtown Los Angeles. But the price of Shelby's freedom is high. Within minutes, men posing as police officers kidnap Jane and, when she tries to escape, shoot her. Jane's captors are employees of the man who really killed Shelby's wife. He believes he won't be safe until Shelby is dead, and his men will do anything to force Jane to reveal Shelby's hiding place. But Jane endures their torment, and is willing to die rather than betray Shelby. Jane manages to escape but she is alone, wounded, thousands of miles from home with no money and no identification, hunted by the police as well as her captors. She must rejoin Shelby, reach his sister before the hunters do, and get them both to safety. In this unrelenting, breathtaking cross-country battle, Jane survives by relying on the traditions of her Seneca ancestors. When at last Jane turns to fight, her enemies face a cunning and ferocious warrior who has one weapon that they don't.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Just Jennifer

My Pizza by Jim Lahey (Clarkson Potter, March 2012)

In 2006 Sullivan Street Bakery’s founder and owner Jim Lahey’s no knead rustic bread recipe went viral after it was featured in New York Times food writer Mark Bittman’s minimalist column. Now Lahey takes the no fuss technique he applied to bread and transfers it to a pizza dough that, with a little bit of planning, allows you to have pizza dough, traditional or whole wheat, waiting for you when you get home after work. Lahey carefully explains his methods, including a work around for electric oven users, describes the ingredients he uses and where cooks should seek out special ingredients, such as olive oil, and where everyday ingredients (flour) already on hand will do. Lahey even includes tips on how to make these pizzas for a party so every slice is hot and the host doesn’t spend the entire evening at the oven. The toppings range from basic tomatoes to in season vegetables to favorite Italian cured meats. Chapters on white sauce and no sauce pizzas add variety; a chapter on toasts, soups and salads and one on basic desserts round out the meal. Gorgeous photos offer inspirations and though Lahey doesn’t call for many specialty ingredients, a source list would help those not familiar with the ingredients, local sources or the Manhattan shops referenced or where to get really great, freshly packed anchovies.