Running Scared by Lisa Jackson

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In Running Scared, Kate is stunned by the offer to adopt an unwanted newborn baby. Still suffering after the loss of her husband and child, she finds the newborn baby boy perfect. And he is hers for the asking. All Kate has to do is agree to one condition–she must leave Boston and never tell about the adoption. Fifteen years later, Kate has built a good life for herself and her son, Jon, in Oregon, but she is still haunted by the fear that someone will find them. Daegan O’Rourke befriends Kate and her son, but he has his own past to hide–one with shocking ties to hers. And the one man Kate is tempted to trust has dangerous secrets that will change her world forever.
No matter how fast you run, or how far you go, you cannot escape your past. Someone is watching Kate–someone who wants her son.

Juliet by Anne Fortier

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Julie Jacobs’ inheritance from her beloved Aunt Rose is a key to a bank safe deposit box in Siena, Italy, that belonged to Julie’s mother. In the box she discovers a silver crucifix, a copy of Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet” and an old manuscript telling the 1340′s tale of Romeo and Giulietta, the story upon which Shakespeare supposedly based his play. Julie discovers that she is a descendant of Giulietta and is enmeshed in mystery, ancient curses, old family rivalries and stolen relics. In her search for truth about her past, she discovers that she must find her own Romeo in order to break the ancient curse on both families. Julie’s story alternates with the telling of the old story of Romeo and Giulietta, a beautifully told version of the tragic story. Juliet is filled with suspense, fascinating characters and wonderful descriptions of the city of Siena and the Italian culture and countryside. Anne Fortier’s debut novel is beautifully written and offers a new twist on the familiar story of Romeo and Juliet.

The Long Quiche Goodbye

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Avery Aames has written another of those delicious culinary mysteries that makes one want to raid the refrigerator. Many different culinary mysteries are being cooked up these days. This time we work at solving a murder as we learn the ins and outs of the cheese business. Our senses are tickled with artisan cheese descriptions and yummy sounding recipes as we watch for clues to the murder of a wealthy businessman. Other popular food novels center on chocolate, wine, caterers, bakeries, even farmer’s markets. Keep some yummy snacks handy when reading The Long Quiche Goodbye, preferably a gourmet cheese assortment with a complementary wine.
Another book in our library that may be of interest to foodies who love to party is called, The Tasting Club: gathering together to share and savor your favorite tastes by Dina Cheney. This non-fiction book guides those who are a part of the growing trend to entertain at home how to plan and host a tasting party. Learn how to choose a particular ingredient and plan a party around it. Chapters include wine, chocolate, cheese, honey, tea, olive oil, cured meats, balsamic vinegar, apples and beer; with menus, food history, perfect food pairings and accompaniments.
Bon Appetit!

The DUFF: Designated Ugly Fat Friend

>Bianca is a seventeen-year-old high school senior with two beautiful and sweet best friends who care for her deeply. She is cynical, loyal and self-conscious. She knows she is the least attractive member of her tight-knit group of friends.

Wesley Rush is the school man-slut and when he approaches Bianca one evening at the local teen lounge in order to go through her to hook up with one of her friends, she throws the Cherry Coke she is holding in his face. During this incident, Wesley informs Bianca that she is the Duff (Designated Ugly Fat Friend) in her circle. And Bianca knows he’s right. The next few days, she simply can’t get this moniker out of her head, and the rest of her life also seems to be spiralling out of control.

As Bianca’s home life falls apart, she strikes up a secret affair with Wesley as a means of distraction and escape. She distances herself from her best friends and doesn’t communicate with either of her parents as their marriage falls apart. When things finally start to get better at home, Bianca decides to end it with Wesley.

This was a very thought provoking and emotionally charged novel about self esteem and how relationships change as we grow up. I enjoyed the characters and particularly the strength demonstrated by Bianca as she faced difficult challenges in her life and made important discoveries about herself and others in the process. Recommended for a mature teen audience.

Sweet Tilly by Carolyn Brown

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In prohibition Oklahoma, Tilly Anderson is doing just fine, even if some consider her to be a bit of an old maid. She has her own farm, a loving family, and a moonshine running operation that she inherited from her grandmother. The new sheriff in town, Rayford Sloan is determined to shut down the stills, but Tilly has fun taking him on wild goose chases and keeping one step ahead. While each of them are trying to prevent the other from doing their work, they come to realize that they may have finally met their match. This is a sweet romance with plenty of laughs.

The Bricklayer

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The FBI is being blackmailed–if millions of dollars in money demands are not met, murders will take place. With no leads in the case, and the possibility of FBI agents being involved in the crime, the organization turns to ex-agent, current bricklayer, Steve Vail, setting the stage for non-stop action and suspense in Noah Boyd’s debut novel The Bricklayer. Vail had been fired from the FBI due to his personal issues with the bureaucracy and understands that, by asking him to be involved in the case, the bureau is allowing him to operate outside of the rules. He agrees to work closely with Deputy Director Kate Bannon and together they follow the many twists and turns in the case, with a bit of romance developing between them. Vail is a tough, no-nonsense, intelligent hero with unique abilities and a sense of humor. Bannon’s character is equally as intelligent and insightful and they work well together. The plot is action-packed and offers insights into working in a bureaucracy such as the FBI. The Bricklayer is an exciting and tension-filled first novel by Boyd–I am sure we will read more about the adventures of the character Steve Vail in future novels.

Skeletons at the Feast

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Chris Bohjalian has written a very diverse collection of interesting books touching on foster children, midwives, mental illness, homelessness, and others. I recently finished listening to Skeletons at the Feast from the Overdrive collection of audio books and cannot quit thinking of it’s bittersweet, heart wrenching story.
This time Bohjalian takes us on a historical ride to 1945 Nazi Germany where we encounter the horrors of war, but also the beauty of simple acts of kindness and civility. Inspired by a real diary, the characters include a wealthy farm family whose men are drafted to fight the approaching Russians while the mother, young son and teenage daughter flee with a Scottish POW. Additionally a Jewish man, Uri, has escaped from a train headed to Auschwitz, and becomes their protector as he disguises himself as a Nazi. We also follow a group of Jewish women prisoners as they are marched from one camp to another in the most brutal of circumstances. The story is powerful. It is difficult to listen to and comprehend the horrors perpetrated on innocent people. We are caught up in the relationships that develop as these people cling to the tiniest glimmer of hope. We watch a secret love develop between Callum, the POW, and Anna, the beautiful Prussian girl. We contemplate the thoughts of Muti, an aristocrat who wonders what her people must have done to feel the horrific retaliation.

This is a deeply moving, thought-provoking, heart-wrenching masterpiece made more vivid by listening to Mark Bramhall’s wonderful portrayal. Don’t miss Callum’s Scottish brogue.

Sorta Like a Rock Star

> Amber Appleton is one cool teenager. She is the self-proclaimed Princess of Hope and spreads optimism and goodwill wherever she goes. She teaches the Korean Divas for Christ (KDFC) English with the help of R & B music. She’s the only friend of a local Vietnam war veteran and haiku poet, Private Jackson. She also goes once a week to a local retirement home to cheer up the residents by having a verbal battle with the local nihilist. Amber is also homeless. She lives on Hello Yellow, the school bus her mother drives, with her mom and her dog, Bobby Big Boy. Amber doesn’t let the reality of her situation bring her down, though. That is, until a fatal tragedy upends her life and Amber is left to pick up the pieces.

Sorta Like a Rock Star is a young adult novel and the style of writing is very chatty. Amber is the first person narrator, and it can take awhile to get used to her voice. She’s obviously an intelligent and driven teen, but some of her idioms make her seem ditzy and silly. One thing the book (and Amber) has going for it is that while Amber is optimistic, she isn’t delusional. She knows her situation is far from stellar, but she continues to be her hopeful self because she realizes that’s what others need her to be. Her journey and transformation are both heartbreaking and heartwarming.

The Lost Dogs by Jim Gorant

>In his book The Lost Dogs: Michael Vick’s Dogs and their Tale of Rescue and Redemption author Gorant reveals the details of the investigation into Michael Vick’s dogfighting operation resulting in his eventual conviction and prison sentence for animal cruelty and dogfighting. The details of the horrific lives of the 52 dogs in Vick’s Bad Newz Kennels are disturbing, but Gorant also tells the story of the dedicated USDA and local police officers who diligently worked to compile evidence to convict Vick, and the US Attorney willing to prosecute a difficult case against a popular celebrity, bringing justice to the dogs who deserved better treatment by humans. Most importantly, he details the efforts to save the dogs from euthanasia and recounts stories of the many volunteers, dog behavior specialists and rescue groups who spent endless hours caring for and training the pit bulls that were thought to be beyond help and hope. These dogs, having suffered the worst that humans could inflict upon them, finally benefited from the love and kindness bestowed by these volunteers. Gorant tells the story of each dog–many have been adopted into families, and several have become certified therapy dogs, working in hospitals and schools. This is ultimately the story of the resilient spirit of the dogs and their willingness to still trust in the humans caring for them. These were animals deserving of a new life and luckily there were people willing to dedicate themselves to helping these animals find acceptance and a loving place in the world.

Red’s Hot Honky-Tonk Bar by Pamela Morsi

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At 46, Red Cullens finally has her life together. She has her own bar with an apartment above and a hot (and younger) boyfriend who plays the fiddle and isn’t very demanding. A call from her daughter upsets her equilibrium with the announcement that Red is going to have to take care of her two grandchildren whom she barely knows. She wasn’t so good at raising kids the first time around and can’t imagine she’ll do any better with two angry kids in an apartment above a bar. It is also inconvenient that she hasn’t mentioned to Cam, her boyfriend, that she has a daughter, let alone grandchildren.

In Red’s Hot Honky-Tonk Bar, Pamela Morsi brings to life a gritty woman with a past she’s not proud of, an attitude the size of Texas, and the possibility to make life less “together”, but much richer.

Between Sisters by Kristen Hannah

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Between Sisters is the emotional story of two very different, estranged sisters who learn to live with their differences and support each other through both happy and painful circumstances. Meghann, the older sister and a divorce attorney, helped to raise younger sister Claire, a single mother who works with her father running a small resort/campground. Both have issues with trust in relationships due to abandonment in childhood by fathers and an absent mother. When Claire finally meets a man she wants to marry, she wants her sister involved in her life and her wedding and the two sisters reunite. Both sisters must confront painful issues in their past in order to build a new relationship for the future. Author Hannah skillfully portrays a family that, with love and hope, is able to overcome the past in order to support each other through difficult times.

Discord’s Apple by Carrie Vaughn

> Carrie Vaughn is most well known for her urban fantasy Kitty Norville series featuring a werewolf radio DJ. Discord’s Apple goes in a completely different direction. The story is set in the not-too-distant future in a world where many of the simmering conflicts between nations today have errupted into violent conflict, spurred on by the actions of terrorists. Evie is a comic book author living in L.A. who heads home to Hopes Fort, Colorado when her father calls to tell her he’s dying. Strange things are happening at home, beginning with an elderly woman coming to the house asking for a pair of glass slippers, which Evie unerringly finds in the cluttered basement of her father’s house (which she never entered before going to retrieve the slippers because it was off-limits while she was growing up). Scenes like these continue to occur. Merlin shows up looking for a certain sword, and Hera arrives looking for a golden apple. The apple is not meant for Hera, though, and the storeroom doesn’t want to give it up to her. Hera is determined, though, and takes matters into her own hands to gain access to the apple.

This is a beautifully imagined story and after having read it, I’m surprised I haven’t read something like this before now. The ending was a bit of a let-down, but the story in general was well-worth the read and will definitely appeal to those who enjoy the incorporation of myths and fairytales into a modern-day setting.