Monday, July 30, 2007

Kinfolks: Falling off the Family Tree by Lisa Alther

"Most of us grow up thinking we know who are and where we come from. Lisa Alther's mother hailed from New York, her father from Virginia, and every day they reenacted the Civil War at home in East Tennessee. Then one night a grizzled babysitter with brown teeth told Lisa about the Melungeons: six-fingered child-snatchers who hid in cliff caves outside town. Forgetting about these creepy kidnappers until she had a daughter of her own, Lisa learned that the Melungeons were actually a group of dark-skinned people - some with extra thumbs - living in isolated pockets in the South. But who were they? Where did they come from? Were they the descendants of Sir Walter Raleigh's Lost Colony, or of shipwrecked Portuguese or Turkish sailors? Or were they the children of European frontiersmen, African slaves, and Native Americans? Theories abounded, but no one seemed to know for sure." "Learning that a cousin had had his extra thumbs removed, Lisa set out to discover who these mysterious Melungeons really were and why her grandmother wouldn't let her visit their Virginia relatives. Were there Melungeons in the family tree? Lisa assembled a hoard of clues over the years, but DNA testing finally offered answers."


Saturday, July 28, 2007

Earthly Delights by Kerry Greenwood

"Owned and operated by the larger-than-life Corinna Chapman, Earthly Delights is a Melbourne, Australia, bakery housed on the ground floor of an eccentric apartment building designed in the Roman style. One morning in the alley outside the bakery, Corinna discovers a half-dead junkie, the latest victim in a string of heroin overdoses. Then someone threatens the building's occupants, and Corinna and her neighbors—Meroe, the witch; Mistress Dread, proprietor of an S&M shop; and the Lone Gunmen, three computer nerds—join forces. This series debut from the Australian author of the Phryne Fisher mysteries comes equipped with sassy, sexy characters; snappy dialog; and a plot that devotes more time to baking bread than to throwing red herrings. Put on the coffee pot, whip up a batch of muffins (yes, two recipes are included), and enjoy this thoroughly original tale."

- Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Play Dead by David Rosenfelt

"Few can rival attorney Andy Carpenter's affection for golden retrievers, especially his own beloved Tara. After he astonishes a New Jersey courtroom by successfully appealing another golden's death sentence, Andy discovers that this gentle dog is a key witness to a murder that took place five years before.

Andy pushes the boundaries of the law even further as he struggles to free an innocent man by convincing an incredulous jury to take canine testimony seriously. It will take all the tricks Andy's fertile mind can conceive to get to the bottom of a remarkable chain of impersonations and murder, and save a dog's life—and his own—in the process. "

~ from the book jacket

Thursday, July 19, 2007

The Witch of Portobello by Paulo Coelho

"Multimillion-seller Coelho (The Devil and Miss Prym, etc.) returns with another uncanny fusion of philosophy, religious miracle and moral parable. The Portobello of the title is London's Portobello Road, where Sherine Khalil, aka Athena, finds the worship meeting she's leading—where she becomes an omniscient goddess named Hagia Sophia—disrupted by a Protestant protest. Framed as a set of interviews conducted with those who knew Athena, who is dead as the book opens, the story recounts her birth in Transylvania to a Gypsy mother, her adoption by wealthy Lebanese Christians; her short, early marriage to a man she meets at a London college (one of the interviewees); her son Viorel's birth; and her stint selling real estate in Dubai. Back in London in the book's second half, Athena learns to harness the powers that have been present but inchoate within her, and the story picks up as she acquires a "teacher" (Deidre O'Neill, aka Edda, another interviewee), then disciples (also interviewed), and speeds toward a spectacular end...."

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Monday, July 16, 2007

The Night Ferry by Michael Robotham

"This is another dense, action-packed delight of a thriller by the ex-journalist author of Lost and Suspect. Recovering from injuries sustained on the job, Det.Ali Barba, receives a terse but startling note from Cate, an estranged friend who is pregnant, pleading with her to attend a high school reunion. There, in a brief conversation, Cate reveals that someone is trying to take her baby. The plot thickens when Cate and her husband are killed by a passing car as they leave the reunion. The apparent accident reveals that Cate had faked her pregnancy, and as Ali investigates, she uncovers a sinister underground network in which Cate was involved and soon becomes determined to honor her friend's memory by bringing those involved in her death to justice. Readers of Robotham's earlier novels will be pleased to see the return of both Ali Barba and Det. Vincent Ruiz."

—Caroline Mann, Univ. of Portland, OR Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Peony in Love by Lisa See

"Set in 17th-century China, See's fifth novel is a coming-of-age story, a ghost story, a family saga and a work of musical and social history. As Peony, the 15-year-old daughter of the wealthy Chen family, approaches an arranged marriage, she commits an unthinkable breach of etiquette when she accidentally comes upon a man who has entered the family garden. Unusually for a girl of her time, Peony has been educated and revels in studying The Peony Pavilion, a real opera published in 1598, as the repercussions of the meeting unfold. The novel's plot mirrors that of the opera, and eternal themes abound: an intelligent girl chafing against the restrictions of expected behavior; fiction's educative powers; the rocky path of love between lovers and in families. It figures into the plot that generations of young Chinese women, known as the lovesick maidens, became obsessed with The Peony Pavilion, and, in a Werther-like passion, many starved themselves to death. See (Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, etc.) offers meticulous depiction of women's roles in Qing and Ming dynasty China (including horrifying foot-binding scenes) and vivid descriptions of daily Qing life, festivals and rituals. Peony's vibrant voice, perfectly pitched between the novel's historical and passionate depths, carries her story beautifully—in life and afterlife."

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

A Good and Happy Child by Justin Evans

"This debut novel grips readers from the first chapter, which introduces 30-year-old George Davies, a man whose life is falling apart because he is scared to death to be in the same room as his newborn son. When he consults a psychiatrist for help, readers are thrust into the past, encountering George as a pudgy, friendless boy whose father has just died under mysterious circumstances. Is George really possessed by a demon, or is he just losing his mind? Does he need an exorcism—as his father's friends believe—or should he be committed to the state asylum? New York City strategy and business development executive Evans delivers a creepy and entertaining story full of perfectly written characters."

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Monday, July 02, 2007

The Tenderness of Wolves by Stef Penney

Winner of the 2006 Costa Book of the Year

"The frigid isolation of European immigrants living on the 19th-century Canadian frontier is the setting for British author Penney's haunting debut. Seventeen-year-old Francis Ross disappears the same day his mother discovers the scalped body of his friend, fur trader Laurent Jammet, in a neighboring cabin. The murder brings newcomers to the small settlement, from inexperienced Hudson Bay Company representative Donald Moody to elderly eccentric Thomas Sturrock, who arrives searching for a mysterious archeological fragment once in Jammet's possession. Other than Francis, no real suspects emerge until half-Indian trapper William Parker is caught searching the dead man's house. Parker escapes and joins with Francis's mother to track Francis north, a journey that produces a deep if unlikely bond between them. Only when the pair reaches a distant Scandinavian settlement do both characters and reader begin to understand Francis, who arrived there days before them. Penney's absorbing, quietly convincing narrative illuminates the characters, each a kind of outcast, through whose complex viewpoints this dense, many-layered story is told."

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

The Sudoku Murder by Shelley Freydont

"Given the current popularity of sudoku puzzles, a mystery incorporating the game was due. Katie McDonald leaves her job at a Washington think tank to return to her small New Hampshire town to help her old friend and mentor, professor P.T. Avondale, save his puzzle museum. But he is found murdered lying on his desk with a half-finished sudoku puzzle. Someone wants the old Victorian house that also functioned as the professor's museum. Now Katie must find his killer and rescue the museum where she spent the best days of her unhappy childhood. In this captivating series debut, Freydont, author of the Linda Haggerty mystery series, introduces a new sleuthing heroine with plenty of spunk. Think Parnell Hall's Puzzle Lady novels when looking for a read-a-like. For cozy and puzzle fans."

~ Library Journal Review. Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

In the Woods by Tana French

"As dusk approaches a small Dublin suburb in the summer of 1984, mothers begin to call their children home from play. But on this warm evening, three children do not return from the dark and silent wood. When the police arrive, they find only one child, gripping a tree trunk in terror, wearing blood-filled sneakers, and unable to recall a single detail of the previous hours." "Twenty years later, the found boy, Rob Ryan, is a detective on the Dublin Murder squad and keeps his past a secret. But when a twelve-year-old girl is found murdered in the same wood, he and Detective Cassie Maddox - his partner and closest friend - find themselves investigating a case chillingly similar to the previous unsolved mystery. Now, with only snippets of long-buried memories to guide him, Ryan has the chance to uncover both the mystery of the case before him and that of his own shadowy past."