The Last Boyfriend

Nora Roberts has another winning romance with the second title in her Inn Boonsboro  trilogy. (The first in the series is The Next Always.)   The Last Boyfriend continues the previous story, with  the Montgomery clan  renovating the old Inn.  The entire community has a stake in the outcome of the success of the Inn. Owen Montgomery is the organizer of the family–running the construction company and keeping the renovation on schedule and under budget. Avery is the owner of the local pizza shop and has been friends with the Montgomery family since childhood. Her first boyfriend was Owen, and they have remained friends ever since. Owen patronizes the restaurant often during the inn construction and finds himself more and more drawn to Avery. Avery is cautious and hesitant to build a romantic relationship with Owen, for fear or ruining their friendship. Past losses make Avery afraid to commit her whole heart, and when a person from her past reappears, she wonders if she can ever fully devote herself to Owen. Filled with likeable and engaging characters, humor and  love and with a friendly ghost added to the plot, The Last Boyfriend is a delightful addition to this series–Book three in the series (The Perfect Hope) will tell the story of Hope and Ryder and is due to be published in November 2012.

The Limpopo Academy of Private Detection

Alexander McCall-Smith keeps adding to the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series and I keep enjoying the adventures of Precious Ramotswe.  This time the difficult situations are a little too close to home for the Precious and her assistant, Grace Makutsi.  The best auto repair assistant of Mma Ramotswe’s husband is arrested for auto theft, then Grace and her husband hire a contractor to begin building their home but the builder comes into question when one of his worker’s leaves doubt in their minds. The renowned Clovis Anderson, author of The Principles of Private Detection, comes for a visit and helps them with the terrible trouble of the dismissal of Mma Potokwane, matron of the orphan farm.  Satisfactory solutions result and we continue to applaud the wisdom of Precious Ramotswe and her allies.

Ever By My Side

 Ever By My Side: A Memoir in Eight Acts Pets by Dr. Nick Trout is much more than a veteranarians account of his daily life.  It is a story of relationships, of hope, and of hurting.  The senior Mr. Trout had Nick pictured in a “James Herriot” type practice, so when Nick decides to go to America and practice, his father is disappointed.  Another disappointment came when Dr. Trout married a woman with cats and they didn’t add any dogs to their family home.  Dr. Trout tells how the pets in his life help him understand, enjoy, and get through hard decisions.  When his daughter became very ill, it took a pet to help him through her illness.  Of course his memoirs include animal antics that are hilarious and heart warming as well as sad.  You’ll enjoy this book if you like animals, but even if you aren’t an animal lover it’s a great story for everyone.

The Beginner’s Goodbye by Anne Tyler

I love the way Anne Tyler looks at life and the humor in her books.  She can write about serious topics with such tenderness and compassion.  The Beginner’s Goodbye looks at the topic of grief through the eyes of Aaron, a middle-aged man, whose wife dies unexpectedly when a tree falls on their home.  Aaron tries to return to a normal life and adjust to being single but he finds such difficulties with relationships.  Interactions with friends are now so different.  He is uncomfortable with his closest friends and neighbors as they extend their sympathy and help.  He moves in with his sister who lives in their parent’s home and totally ignores repairs on his home.  Finally when the ceiling falls in and he can’t get in the front door he calls a contractor, Gil Bryan.  This man, with his own problems, shows compassion for the grief that Aaron is going through and begins a relationship with both Aaron and his sister, Nandina.

The first sentence of the book begins, “The strangest thing about my wife’s return from the dead was how other people reacted.”  Throughout the story his former wife Dorothy appears and speaks to Aaron as he finds his way through life without her.  As Aaron remembers the quirky, problematic relationship he and Dorothy shared, Dorothy reappears to help him work out the regret.  This isn’t a depressing book at all, although I found very poignant instances  Aaron finally ends this chapter of his life and is able to say the final goodbye reminding all of us to tackle the unfinished business of love.

Wildflowers from Winter

Although Bethany is more interested in her career than her family and friends she left 10 years previously, she is compelled to return to her hometown to care for her grandfather as he recovers from a heart attack.  Also bidding her home, is her childhood friend, Robin, whose husband is dying.  Whatever happened in Bethany’s earlier life has affected her relationships in her small hometown.  She dispises her mother and fears letting her feelings come out of the controlled status she has kept them under.  Wildflowers from Winter by Katie Ganshert is a story of hurting, fleeing, returning and healing.  Ganshert’s characters are well described and you will find yourself becoming part of their lives and situations.

Calico Joe by John Grisham

Watching baseball to me is about as exciting as watching paint dry.  Well, I might like it somewhat better than that cliche portends if I have a connection to one of the teams playing, but it is not something I would normally choose to do.  So why did I pick up a book about baseball?  I like John Grisham’s legal thrillers and I was aware that his newest book, Calico Joe was on the New York Times Bestseller list and was a fairly short book.  Why not see how a good writer deviates from his normal genre?

I found myself enjoying the story and immediately getting caught up in the characters lives.  The story jumps between August 1973 when a professional baseball player, Calico Joe Castle is hit in the head by a pitcher, Warren Tracey and then thirty years later when Warren Tracey is dying of cancer.  Narrated by Paul Tracey, the book has a heartfelt message of righting wrongs, when Paul, estranged from his now dying father, pushes him to ask forgiveness from the man he hurt.  Grisham has successfully branched out of legal thrillers with a couple other titles also, Painted House,  Skipping Christmas, Bleachers, and Playing for Pizza. 

 

 

 

Defending Jacob

Defending Jacob is the third legal thriller by Dagger Award winner William Landay and it is well worth the read. In the picturesque town of Newton, Massachusetts, a well-to-do suburb of Boston, a murder has just been committed. Fourteen year old Ben Rifkin’s body is found in a popular park with three stab wounds to his chest. Assistant District Attorney Andy Barber takes the case in spite of a potential conflict of interest. His son Jacob attended the same school as Ben and is in the same grade. At first, the investigation points to a pedophile who lives near the park. Soon, however, based on physical evidence and comments on Facebook, Jacob becomes the primary suspect. Andy is taken off the case, and instead of prosecutor he is now helping to defend his own son. To do that he must face up to his own secrets that he has kept from his wife Laurie and his son, that he is descended from a line of murderers. He worries that the prosecutor may argue that Jacob has the “murder gene” because of his family history. Andy is convinced that his son is not possibly capable of committing such a horrific crime, although his actions at times speak differently. Laurie, on the other hand, seems to waver back and forth on Jacob’s  guilt or innocence. Each character is well developed and the family drama is just as compelling as the legal drama. Combine this with a couple of twists at the end, and it makes for a great read!

Somebody to Love by Kristan Higgins

Kristan Higgins has added another delightful romance to her collection of novels such as Catch of the Day and The Next Best Thing.  Her latest, Somebody to Love, tells the story of Parker Welles–a single mother and children’s author whose father, a financial advisor, has provided a life of wealth and luxury. When he is involved in an insider trading deal, he goes to jail, after having bankrupted the family. Parker and her son Nicky are forced to move to a small town in Maine, where a distant relative has left her a dilapidated cottage. James Cahill, her father’s personal attorney, comes to Maine to help fix up the cottage, despite Parker’s hostility towards him. Can they each overcome past disappointments to fine love?   This is a heartwarming story filled with quirky (and some familiar) local characters, witty dialog, humor and likeable characters. Another winner for author Kristan Higgins!

The Good Father by Diane Chamberlain

The Good Father is a touching story about what it means to be a parent, told from the perspectives of three characters. Travis is a young single father who fought for custody of his child, even though he was a teen parent. His love for his daughter is unconditional and overwhelming. After a family tragedy,in desperation, he is forced to make some difficult choices in order to provide for Bella, and the repercussions of those decisions may be devastating for him and his daughter. Robin has put the daughter she gave away out of her mind–she was deathly ill at the time of the birth and agreed to give up custody. Erin is a mother lost in grief after the death of her  three year old daughter. Their lives intersect when Travis and Bella meet Erin at a local coffee shop and though she is struggling with her grief, Erin recognizes that Travis and Bella are in need of help and she extends her kindness to them. Alternating chapters tell the story from each characters point of view, offering gradual insights into their intertwined relationships. This is a touching and powerful story about compassion, grief, choices, and unconditional love, with suspense and plot twists added. If you are a fan of Jodi Picoult or Kristen Hannah, you will enjoy this complex and heartfelt novel.

Home Front by Kristen Hannah

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In this timely and touching novel, Kristen Hannah tells the story of families and soldiers and how each are affected by deployments to war zones overseas.
18 year old Jolene joins the Army and finds a family and life-long friendships among it’s ranks after her alcoholic parents are killed in a car accident . She becomes a Blackhawk pilot and after marrying and having children, joins the National Guard. Her marriage to Michael, a defense attorney and workaholic, is a distant one and when Jolene receives orders to deploy to Iraq, neither can discuss their fears about the war. Jolene leaves for Iraq with her best friend and co-pilot Tami, leaving behind husbands and children who are filled with anger and anxiety. Michael is left to build relationships with his children and manage their home, as well as continuing his law practice. A murder case forces him to re-evaluate his opinions about war and the military, and tragedy forces him to adapt to changes in his marriage and his family.
Home Front conveys the hardships and tragedies of going to war and the affects of war on both soldiers and families. Hannah’s extensive research into PTSD and it’s traumatic effects on soldiers and their families is described through the experiences of several characters. This is an intense and emotional story, with well developed characters, offering insights into the experiences our military families endure when a family member is deployed.

All in the Family of Authors

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by John Pecoraro, Assistant Director

     The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree; sometimes literary talent doesn’t either.  Consider the Bronte family. Most people have heard of the sisters: Charlotte, Emily, and Anne. Charlotte is best known for Jane Eyre, with its portrayal of a strong, rational female character (which was something new at the time). Charlotte published under the pen name Currer Bell.

     Emily Bronte’s only novel, Wuthering Heights, the story of the doomed love of Catherine Earnshaw and Heathcliff, was met with mixed reviews on publication. It provided a stark depiction of mental and physical cruelty. It’s not surprising that Emily also published under a pseudonym, Ellis Bell.

     Anne, the youngest sister, wrote two novels. Agnes Grey, dealing with the oppression of women and governesses, was an autobiographical novel paralleling Anne’s own experience as a governess. The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, with its depictions of alcoholism and debauchery disturbed the sensibilities of nineteenth-century readers. 

     The Bronte sisters were not the only gifted members of their family. Their brother, Branwell, was also a poet and artist. The head of the family, Patrick Bronte, an Anglican curate, was a published poet, as well as contributor to a biography of his daughter, Charlotte. Tragically, the father of the Bronte clan survived all his children.

     The twentieth century is also replete with writing families. Stephen King, the master of horror, is married to Tabitha King, author of several novels including Caretakers, The Book of Reuben, and Candles Burning. The writing talent doesn’t stop there. The King’s sons are also writers. Joe Hill has published several graphic novels, the horror novel Heart-Shaped Box (a chip off the old block), and the dark fantasy Horns, as well as a collection of stories 20th Century Ghosts. His younger brother, Owen King, is the author of a book of stories We’re All in This Together and has recently sold his first novel to Scribner’s.

     John Steinbeck, winner of the 1962 Nobel Prize in Literature, and author of such American classics as The Grapes of Wrath, and East of Eden is the father of Thomas Steinbeck. Thomas is the author of Down to the Soundless Sea, In the Shadow of the Cypress, and the forthcoming Silver Lotus. Much like his father’s, Thomas Steinbeck’s books chronicle events of California life. 

     Sons aren’t only following in their fathers’ footsteps; sometimes they’re following in their mothers’. Sandra Brown, well known and prolific author of mysteries and romance novels (Lethal, Chill Factor, Thursday’s Child) is the mother of Ryan Brown. The son has written a thriller entitled Play Dead, a zombie shocker combining football and the undead.  
    
     P. J. Tracy, author of the Monkeewrench series, is actually the pseudonym for the mother-daughter writing team of Patricia Lambrecht (Mom) and Traci Lambrecht. Titles in the series featuring the Monkeewrench crew of computer geeks include Shoot to Thrill, Snow Blind, and Dead Run.

     Kellerman is a name well known to mystery aficionados. Jonathan Kellerman, whose Alex Delaware series includes When the Bough Breaks, Mystery, Bones, and Deception is married to Faye Kellerman. Faye is the author of the Peter Decker and Rina Lazarus series, including Sacred and Profane, Hangman, and The Mercedes Coffin. As a team, the husband and wife have collaborated on Capital Crimes and Double Homicide. As if this weren’t enough, the Kellermans’ son, Jesse, has written a few mystery/suspense titles himself, including The Executor, The Genius, and Trouble.

     Want more? How about Frank Herbert, creator of the Dune series of science fiction novels? Frank’s son, Brian Herbert, took over the franchise after his father’s death. Kingsley Amis, English novelist, poet, and critic, author of Lucky Jim and The Anti-Death League, is the father of Martin Amis, author of The Pregnant Widow, Night Train, and other writings that explore the absurdities of the postmodern condition.

     If you are interested in reading theses titles, or other titles by these authors, visit the Manhattan Public Library. Or, for your convenience, access the catalog from home twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. Selected titles from many of these authors are also available in electronic format as e-books or e-audiobooks. Visit the library’s website at http://www.eoly.ru for more information.

A Place Called Home by Jo Goodman

>Mitch Baker is a single man–a political cartoonist–enjoying life when his world is turned upside-down. His closest friends are killed in an auto accident and he and Thea Wyndham are named as guardians for three young children. Thea is no where to be found in the aftermath of the accident, leaving Mitch to make a home for the children and try to help them through their grief. When she finally arrives on the scene, she is terrified to accept the responsibility of helping to raise the children. Both Mitch and Thea are involved in romantic relationships, and their partners are not thrilled with the idea of accepting three children into their lives. As the story unfolds, Mitch begins to understand the reasons for Thea’s reluctance to become part of the children’s family, but he insists that their friends wanted both of them to be involved in raising the children. As Mitch and Thea struggle to be the parents the children need, they learn about themselves and what they truly want from life. A Place Called Home is a touching romance with lots of laughter and tears, and characters who come to realize that love is the foundation of a family–a heartwarming novel from author Jo Goodman.

Dear Frankie

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Although it hasn’t been easy, Lizzie has maintained a safe and loving life for her son, Frankie, and her mother. After having responded to her son’s numerous letters in the guise of his father, she discovers that Frankie is expecting to meet him in person very soon. She hires a stranger to pose as his father, changing all of their lives in ways they never could have predicted. Dear Frankie is a beautiful, intense, and uplifting film.

Goodnight, Beautiful by Dorothy Koomson

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In Dorothy Koomson’s latest book Goodnight Beautiful, Nova and Mal have been best friends since childhood, so when Mal and his wife Stephanie are unable to have a child of their own, they beg Nova to act as a surrogate mother. After much soul searching, Nova reluctantly agrees to help her friend, despite many reservations about her ability to give up a child and about how the situation will affect their long-standing friendship. Stephanie becomes jealous and resentful of the ties between Nova and Mal and forces Mal to abandon their plans for a child, leaving Nova pregnant and raising their child alone. Tragedy strikes and Nova must decide whether to let Mal back into her life for the sake of her son. The story is told from the perspectives of Leo, Nova and Stephanie and their viewpoints are touching and heartbreaking—a very moving story about love and family.

Another title available at the library by Koomson is My Best Friend’s Girl.

The Bread, My Sweet

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I must confess that I originally picked up The Bread, My Sweet because, like many girls alive in the late 70’s, I still haven’t recovered from my crush on Chachi. I figured, at the very least, it would be an entertaining flick. It turned out, however, to be so much more. It has some of the same features of your typical romance. Dominic Pyzola makes good money as a corporate raider, but his true love is his Italian bakery where he makes amazing pastries with his brothers. The upstairs neighbors, Bella and Massimo, take care of them and keep them in line. When Dominic discovers Bella is sick, he is willing to do anything to make her happy, including marrying her wandering daughter Lucca. The Bread, My Sweet is a beautiful film filled with family, love, and amazing food.