The Strange Affair of Spring Heeled Jack

>In this wonderfully inventive debut, Mark Hodder pulls together a variety of genres (including time travel, steampunk, alternate history, mystery and more) into a rolicking story set in an alternate Victorian England.
Captain Sir Richard Francis Burton, a Victorian era Renaissance Man, follows a different path in life when he is asked by the prime minister in 1861 to investigate the sightings of the (possibly mythic) figure Spring Heeled Jack. What follows is a tale of werewolves, a talking orangutan, steam-powered velocipedes and rotorchairs as Burton tries to locate Spring Heeled Jack and find out why boys from the East End are disappearing. Burton recruits his friend, the poet Algernon Swinburne, to aid him in his investigation as he faces off with such Victorian era giants as Charles Darwin, Laurence Oliphant, Isambard Kingdom Brunel and Florence Nightingale.
The Strange Affair of Spring Heeled Jack is the first in the planned Burton and Swinburne series. While Hodder pulled everything together into a satisfying ending for Spring Heeled Jack, there is more than enough there for another narrative featuring the intrepid Burton and Swinburne.

Married by Morning by Lisa Kleypas

> All About Romance is one of the oldest and most robust websites for romance readers on the web. They’ve been putting together a Top 100 Romances list based on a poll of members every two to three years since 1998. The 2010 list came out not too long ago, so I picked up one of the newer books from the list, Married by Morning (number 98) by Lisa Kleypas. I’d never read anything by Kleypas before, but since she wrote 15 of the top 100, I thought it was about time I tried one of her titles.

Catherine Marks is a paid companion to the Hathaway sisters, a position she enjoys and finds fulfilling. She loves her charges and her work, except for one thing. Their older brother, Leo, is a thoroughly exasperating man who seems to take perverse pleasure in arguing with her and trying to ruffle her collected exterior. Catherine is a woman with a past, and Leo also seems to be bent on finding out all of her secrets.
Leo also has a painful past and a period of his life he would rather forget. He adores his family, but has decided that he will never marry and have a family of his own.

A surprising kiss shared by Catherine and Leo shakes their beliefs about one another and their indifference to each other. The question is whether they will each be able to overcome their private reservations and pain to accept each other.

Cowboys Never Cry by Tina Welling

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Supporting herself at seasonal jobs after the death of her husband, Cassie Danner finds employment as a cook at the Cross Wave Guest and Cattle Ranch near Jackson Hole, Wyoming. As she struggles for her independence and to overcome her grief, she connects with Robbin McKeag, actor, ranch owner and cowboy who struggles with his own past demons. Supported by a cast of interesting characters, the couple strives to overcome obstacles to their relationship. Cowboys Never Cry is filled with witty dialogue, warmth and humor. The characters are believable and ones that the reader grows to care about. The grandeur of the mountain landscape is richly described–this is a story to savor and enjoy!

Angel Song

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Ann Fletcher loves New York City and her job there as a contemporary decorator. Her sister Sarah lives in their home town of Charleston where tradition and historic homes are the way of life. When Ann goes back for a visit to celebrate her sister’s graduation, tragedy strikes in the form of a fatal car accident. Ann is left to settle her sister’s estate and deal with the heartache and loneliness of loss. She is disturbed by music that continues to haunt her after first hearing it in the ambulance ride hummed by her dying sister. Kevin, a 12 year old neighbor of her sister’s with Down Syndrome, knows that angels sing such songs. He sends Ann angel pictures daily and shares his sightings of angels with her.
Ann is being pursued by a very eligible New York bachelor while at the same time a contractor in Charleston is the kindest, most generous man she has ever known. God is revealing himself to Ann through loving people but will she deny herself his love?
Angel Song written by best-selling author Sheila Walsh is a gentle reminder of the promises of angels surrounding us and caring for us and the love that is always available to us through God’s care.

The Kennedy Detail by Gerald Blaine

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There are events that affect our collective national psyche and we can clearly recall exactly where we were and what we were doing when such events took place. The assassination of John F. Kennedy was one such event. In his remarkable book The Kennedy Detail: JFK’s Secret Service Agents Break Their Silence, author Gerald Blaine recounts his story and the story of the Secret Service detail assigned to protect the Kennedy family. He has compiled notes from interviews and journals from fellow agents into a vivid, detailed account of the weeks before and after the assassination. The story of these men is one of devotion to their duty and heroism. The intimate and caring relationships they develop with the Kennedy family are touching and heartbreaking, and the devastating toll the assassination took on their personal lives is staggering. The story of Clint Hill, Jackie Kennedy’s agent, is especially moving, and the description of the agent holding Caroline’s hand through the limousine window as the funeral cortege moves through Washington is gripping in its emotional intensity.

This is an amazing look at the men who tried to protect JFK and at how his assassination forever changed our country –a fascinating glimpse into the past.

Beguiled

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Charleston, South Carolina comes alive to those who read Deeanne Gist and J. Mark Bertrand’s duet of inspirational romance and crime. Having visited the city a few years ago I enjoyed revisiting the old market streets as Rylee, a dog walker and her canine charges, rollerblade into trouble. Someone is playing Robin Hood in the homes of Rylee’s clients by stealing an antique and donating it to others. When Rylee is arrested for the crimes her new journalist friend, Logan, begins researching into Rylee’s past and hopes to clear her as well as publish a book on the famous Robin Hood thief.
Deeanne Gist has just a smidgen of inspirational thoughts in this Bethany published novel. Her thoughtful characters and soft crime result in a very pleasing story.

Beguiled is co-authored by crime-writer, J. Mark Bertrand who has published his first gritty crime novel with another scheduled for release this coming summer.

The Power of Nice

>What do you do when a competitor is encroaching on your territory? Human nature says, “he must be stopped,” possibly at any cost. Yet, Jay Leno in The Power of Nice says cheer him on, encourage him, do something nice for him. The reason for doing so is that at some later time it may be that your act of kindness will benefit you and maybe even him. This book about conquering the business world is full of scenarios of being nice to competitors and reaping benefits because of it. “When someone challenges or even kills your ideas, you could see him as the enemy—or you could see him as someone who is pushing you to do your best.” Most of the advice from The Power of Nice can be applied to competition in all aspects of life, as well as customer service. For instance, a six year old boy competing for the 1st grade national chess championship had the opportunity to win by just keeping his mouth shut. You see, his opponent forgot to stop his clock and no one else was allowed to say anything. This six year old decided to tell his opponent and in the end lost the championship. However, later he was recognized and highly commended as a “true champion”. This book has nuggets for all and can be read for enjoyment or as a tool for personal and employee growth.

Mr. Pettigrew’s Last Stand

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Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand has been on a number of lists for Best Books of 2010 that have recently been circulating. It certainly deserves to be on those lists in my humble opinion. What a joy to read Helen Simonson’s first novel in the first week of 2011.
Although Ms. Simonson was born in England she has lived in the US for the past two decades. Her family lives in a part of England that is famous for literary celebrities including Kipling, Virginia Woolf and Henry James. Helen says on her website that this heritage has been a great inspiration to her.
Her novel is set in a small village in England, Edgecombe St. Mary, the protagonist being a retired and widowed military man living in quaint Rose Lodge and tending his gardens and growing a type of clematis vine that the neighbors consider worth stealing. We depart from the typical British cozy when the Major begins falling in love with the Pakistani shop keeper, Mrs. Ali. We want the couple to find romance but can their love overcome cultural barriers particularly felt when the other villagers ostracize Ms. Ali.
Humor is liberally sprinkled throughout the story and is particularly funny concerning the parent/child relationship between the Major and his greedy London based son, Roger.
“You sound as if you’re calling from a submarine, Roger,” he said chuckling. “I expect the squirrels have been chewing on the lines again.”
“Actually, it may also be that I have you on speaker,” said Roger. “My chiropractor doesn’t want me holding the phone under my chin anymore, but my barber says a headset encourages oily buildup and miniaturization of my follicles.”
The book has a bit of screwball comedy but it is offset by the wonderful story line and characters. This is truly a winning book deserving of much praise and positions on many of the ‘best of the best’ lists.

Batwoman : Elegy

> This multi-layered offering from author Rucka and illustrator Williams is a wonderful addition to the world of Gotham as the new Batwoman (now lesbian and Jewish) battles the new High Madame of the Religion of Crime. Kate Kane takes up the mantle of Batwoman in a personal quest to serve and must face the new High Madame, a Lewis Carroll-quoting goth Alice. This nuanced story is full of action in the present day setting in the first half of the volume and full of psychological drama and social commentary in the second half of the volume as Batwoman’s personal connection to the High Madame is revealed. The illustrations of this volume are eye-catching and lend depth to the wonderful storytelling of Rucka. The illustrations from the different periods in Kate’s life are drawn in distinct styles to help differentiate the parts of her story and the evolution of her character.
Batwoman : Elegy has been on several Best Graphic Novels of 2010 lists, including the lists from Publisher’s Weekly and Entertainment Weekly.

Best Books of 2010

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I just put together a display highlighting the Best Books of 2010. I loved compiling books and seeing what books are being talked about, but I have a confession to make. There are some awards lists that automatically rule out a book for my reading. My story is typical: busy life, busy brain. I just want something fun to read. I was happy to find that there are also “Best Books Lists” for people like me!

The first place to go is Manhattan Public Library’s own Bookletters page. At the bottom you’ll find awards lists for your favorite genre fiction from the Nebula Award for you Science Fiction fans to the RITA awards for the romance lovers.

In my search I stumbled upon a fun little list from NPR. Susan Jane Gilman compiled the list Sex, Drugs And ‘Life’ – The Year’s Best Guilty Reads. You may be embarrassed to be caught reading these, but you’ll enjoy them anyway. This is also where I stumbled across Love, Lust, and Faking It by Jenny McCarthy, which I think deserves some sort of humorous cover award.
Another fun list is the Customer Favorites from Amazon. This reflects what people are actually buying, so the list is more reflective of reader’s tastes than of literary merit.
Whether you read to challenge yourself, improve yourself, or entertain yourself, we have something for you.