Friday, March 28, 2008

The Book of Dahlia by Elisa Albert

"When Dahlia Finger—a 29-year-old, pot-smoking, chronically underachieving Jewish-American princess—learns that she has brain cancer, the results are hilarious and heartbreaking in Albert's superb first novel (following the story collection How This Night Is Different). Opening in the Venice, Calif., cottage to which Dahlia has retreated, at her father's expense, after unsuccessfully trying to forge a life in New York, chapter one begins with the omniscient narrator's scathingly Edith Wharton–worthy catalogue of Dahlia's symptoms and ends with her first grand mal seizure. As Dahlia endures blistering radiation, sits numbly through her support group, smokes medical marijuana (with her crisis-reunited divorced parents) and carries a condescending book called It's Up to You: Your Cancer To-Do List, Albert masterfully interweaves Dahlia's battle with flashbacks, most tellingly involving her complexly overbearing Israeli mother, Margalit (who unceremoniously imploded the family decades earlier), and contemptuous older brother, against whom Dahlia has never learned to defend herself."

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

Thursday, March 20, 2008

What I Was by Meg Rosoff

"Growing up is tough to do. The narrator of Rosoff's foray into adult literature has been shuffled through two upper-class boarding schools and now is on his third. His tenure at St. Oswald's looks tenuous as well until one day during a long run along the coastline. Taking a break from the mandatory exercise, our narrator meets Finn, who lives alone in a small hut near the beach free from school and parents. The two boys come together in an idyllic friendship that eventually ends in tragedy. Rosoff, the Printz Award-winning author of How I Live Now, creates a coming-of-age tale full of mystery and angst. Relying on a narrator looking back at his life, the reader is in for an intriguing read."

~Robin Nesbitt, Columbus Metropolitan Lib., OH Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

The Well and the Mine: A Novel by Gin Phillips

"A tight-knit miner's family struggles against poverty and racism in Phillips's evocative first novel, set in Depression-era Alabama. Throughout, she moves skillfully between the points of view of miner father Albert, hard-working mother Leta, young daughter Tess and teenage daughter Virgie, and small son Jack. They see men who are frequently incapacitated or killed by accidents in the local mines; neighbors live off what they can grow on their patch of land; and blacks like Albert's fellow miner and friend Jonah are segregated in another part of Carbon Hill—and often hauled off to jail arbitrarily. When Tess witnesses a woman throwing a baby into their well, no one believes her until the dead child is found, and few are shocked. Tess, hounded by nightmares, and Virgie, on the cusp of womanhood and resistant to the thought of an early marriage to the local boys who court her, begin making inquiries of their own, visiting wives who've recently had babies and learning way more than they imagined. With a wisp of suspense, Phillips fully enters the lives of her honorable characters and brings them vibrantly to the page."

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

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Johnny One-Eye by Jerome Charyn

"In a rollicking tale that is equal parts Tom Jones, Tristram Shandy, and Gulliver's Travels, award-winning novelist Charyn (The Green Lantern) vividly re-creates revolutionary Manhattan through the eyes of young double agent John Stocking, aka Johnny One-Eye. In Zelig-like fashion, Stocking saves Benedict Arnold from death, consoles George Washington by regaling the colonel with fairy tales, befriends the British commanders Sir William Howe and his brother, "Black Dick" Howe, and falls in love with one of the prostitutes in the brothel he calls home. Much like the foundlings of Charles Dickens's and Henry Fielding's tales, the picaresque hero Stocking moves from episode to episode, seeking the story of his birth only to find he is the illegitimate son of his protector, the madame of Holy Ground, a famous Manhattan bordello. Through the eyes of his young hero, Charyn gives us a glimpse of the Revolutionary War as lived not by the soldiers and the politicians but by those whose homes, jobs, and lives were completely turned upside down by the war."

~Henry L. Carrigan Jr., Evanston, IL Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

A Fraction of the Whole by Steve Toltz

"At the heart of this sprawling, dizzying debut from a quirky, assured Australian writer are two men: Jasper Dean, a judgmental but forgiving son, and Martin, his brilliant but dysfunctional father. Jasper, in an Australian prison in his early 20s, scribbles out the story of their picaresque adventures, noting cryptically early on that [m]y father's body will never be found. As he tells it, Jasper has been uneasily bonded to his father through thick and thin, which includes Martin's stint managing a squalid strip club during Jasper's adolescence; an Australian outback home literally hidden within impenetrable mazes; Martin's ill-fated scheme to make every Australian a millionaire; and a feverish odyssey through Thailand's menacing jungles. Toltz's exuberant, looping narrative—thick with his characters' outsized longings and with their crazy arguments—sometimes blows past plot entirely, but comic drive and Toltz's far-out imagination carry the epic story, which puts the two (and Martin's own nemesis, his outlaw brother, Terry) on an irreverent roller-coaster ride from obscurity to infamy..."

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

Friday, March 14, 2008

Before Green Gables by Budge Wilson

"Set in Nova Scotia, the book follows Anne through a string of foster homes full of diapers, dirty dishes, screaming children and endless chores. Orphaned at three months by her schoolteacher parents, she searches for knowledge and love in the chaotic, grueling, unpredictable world she inhabits. Every time Anne is on the brink of finding happiness it's taken away from her, though by the time she's 11 and living with her second (but not last) foster family, the Hammonds, it appears as if Anne's life might be calming down. But after a tragic turn of events, her future is uncertain yet again. Although a little long, the book is a quick read that will keep the reader invested in its compelling characters from start to finish."

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

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

The Killer's Wife: A Novel by Bill Floyd

"After Leigh Wren's ex-husband, Randy, is convicted and sentenced to death for killing a dozen people in a ten-year spree, she relocates to a new town, changes her name, and lives an uneventful six years as a single mom to the couple's young son, Hayden. But when the vengeful father of one of Randy's victims locates her and publicly reveals her secrets, her picture-perfect life is shattered, her world, turned upside down. As Leigh struggles to keep their comfortable life intact, a copycat killer mimicking Randy's bizarre murders strikes too close to home. Newcomer Floyd has crafted a powerhouse thriller that plunges the reader into the intimate life of a serial killer as viewed from his wife's vantage point. Nail-biting flashbacks into Leigh's past with her dangerous husband and frightful glimpses into the psyche of a new killer keep the tension mounting. This is a book that grabs you and won't let go..."

~ Mary Todd Chesnut, Northern Kentucky Univ. Lib., Highland Heights Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Celebutantes by Amanda Goldberg and Ruthanna Khalighi Hopper

" meets Glamour in this insider's look at Oscar week penned by L.A. junior royalty: Goldberg, producer Leonard Goldberg's daughter, has worked for Todd Oldham; Khalighi Hopper, daughter of Dennis Hopper and Daria Halprin, produced and starred in the indie film Americano. After a disastrous turn acting and bedding her superhunk co-star, Lola Santisi, 26 and the daughter of famed director Paul Santisi, swears off actors and acting for good. But Lola agrees to be the Hollywood ambassador for Best Gay Forever designer Julian Tennant, to help get a major actress to wear one of his dresses at the Oscars. Lola woos an array of glitterari, each more self-absorbed than the next in the runup to Graydon Carter's famed Vanity Fair bash, and competes against the ruthless Prada ambassador Adrienne Hunt for the plum actor bods. There's up-to-the-minute star chatter and fashion name-checking throughout; wonderfully dead-on moments as Lola negotiates underlings to get on set; and a possibly fatal relapse of actor fever. The shallowness is more severe than Angelina's neckline, but that's the point, and it quickly becomes imperative to discover just who is going to wear Julian Tennant to the Oscars."

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

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Captivity by Debbie Lee Wesselmann

"Primatologist Dana Armstrong is passionate about making a difference in the lives of the animals living at a South Carolina chimpanzee sanctuary. But a break-in resulting in the escape of numerous chimpanzees forces Dana to not only determine who was responsible for the vandalism but also deal with her traumatic memories of the past—for Dana is a survivor of a psychological experiment, raised as a child with a chimp named Annie. She now faces opposition from the local community, political pressure from her university, and a ghost from her past who is bent upon her destruction. To further complicate matters, Dana's seldom-seen rogue brother appears on her doorstep, and a handsome journalist tugs at her heartstrings."

~Melody Ballard, Pima Cty. P.L., Tucson, AZ Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

*Note: Recommended for book clubs, reading guide available

Saturday, March 08, 2008

The Girl Who Stopped Swimming by Joshilyn Jackson

"Quilt artist Laurel, her game programmer husband, David, and their 13-year-old daughter, Shelby, lead a seemingly charmed life in a serene Florida suburb. But when the ghost of a drowned girl awakens Laurel, the veneer of that life seems ready to crack beyond repair. Can Laurel trust her flamboyant, outspoken sister, Thalia, to help as old family secrets emerge with dizzying speed? With the appearance of a ghost on the first page, you'll feel compelled to race to the end, but slow down for Jackson's great descriptions—you'll be rewarded for the effort. Jackson illuminates not just the complexities of family love as a source of safety and support but also the complexities of danger and death."

~Rebecca Kelm, Northern Kentucky Univ. Lib., Highland Heights Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Curse of the Spellmans by Lisa Lutz

"In the two years that have passed since the action in Lutz's hit debut, The Spellman Files (2007), zany Isabel Spellman, who works for the family PI firm in San Francisco, has become a somewhat responsible member of society. Unfortunately, she's also become obsessed with Subject (aka John Brown), a next-door neighbor who she's convinced has an evil secret she must expose, even if it means losing her PI license. Adding further hilarity is The Stone and Spellman Show, transcripts of recordings revealing 15-year-old sister Rae's fascination with her middle-aged best friend, stoic SFPD inspector Henry Stone, who endures Rae's adoration with liberal doses of Doctor Who watching. Henry's link to the Spellman family's fortunes suggests he might be a good candidate for Isabel's Ex-boyfriend #11 when Subject fails to make the grade. Fans of The Spellman Files will laugh just as loudly at the comic antics chronicled in this sparkling sequel."

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