How I Planned Your Wedding

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A perfect wedding will probably never happen, but the fun of trying to plan the perfect wedding is great reading in Susan Wiggs and Elizabeth Wiggs Maas’ nonfiction book, How I Planned Your Wedding: the All-True Story of a Mother and Daughter Surviving the Happiest Day of Their Lives. Susan Wiggs known as a best-selling romance novelist shares the storytelling with her MBA candidate daughter in alternate chapters. The challenges they encounter are not major battles, but the realities of decision making and the way they handle their differences are fun reading for prospective brides and mothers. They discussed the nitty-gritty of budgets and how to come down from the pie-in-the -sky kind of fairytale wedding little girls dream about. Elizabeth survived her mother notifying the universe of Elizabeth’s engagement by email without permission. They laughed and compromised through guest lists, wedding attendants and cupcakes vs. no cake.

This was a funny, heartwarming story of how a very loving mother-daughter relationship survived and thrived through one of the happiest times of their lives.

The Lincoln Lawyer by Michael Connelly

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Connelly, author of the long running Harry Bosch series, enters the legal thriller field with flash and panache in The Lincoln Lawyer, introducing Los Angeles criminal defense attorney, Mickey Haller. Mickey regularly represents lowlifes, but he’s no slickster trolling for loopholes. He’s haunted by how he mishandled the case of a (probably innocent) client; he’s twice divorced, but on good terms with his ex-wives; one manages his office, and the other, an ambitious assistant DA, occasionally tumbles back into bed with him. He can’t help seeing dollar signs when he signs on to defend a young real estate agent, Louis Roulet, against charges of assault, but he finds a far darker picture as he delves into Roulet’s past.

The Lincoln Lawyer is followed by two more books featuring Mickey Haller. In the Brass Verdict, Harry Bosch appears to try to save Mickey from a vicious killer. The latest book fearing Mickey is The Reversal.

“The Lincoln Lawyer” is now a new movie, starring popular actor, Matthew McConaughey.

Double Indemnity

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1. (law) A clause in an insurance policy in which the insurance company agrees to pay out double the normal coverage in certain specified circumstances, most often in case of accidental death. Courtesy of en.wiktionary.org
A classic crime novel, Double Indemnity was written by James M. Cain in an eight-part serial for Liberty magazine in 1936. The plot came from a real murder that made headlines while Cain was a journalist in New York. The story is of an insurance agent who goes to the home of a client in hopes of renewing an automobile policy. He meets the beautiful wife of the client and a flirtation turns into a romance which results in a plot to do away with the husband after taking out a policy on his life. The agent who has seen enough fishy claims to know what works and what doesn’t believes he has the perfect murder scheme. The wife has her own agenda which involves much scheming on her part. I enjoyed this detailed, fast moving classic. It is a well-crafted mystery with twists and turns on every page and a surprise ending, of course.

Mistress of Nothing by Kate Pullinger

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Lady Duff Gordon journeyed from England to Egypt in 1862, leaving behind her husband and family, to attempt a cure for her consumption. Accompanied only by her Lady’s Maid, Sally Naldrett, Gordon told of her experiences settling in the town of Luxor, where she mingled with both locals and travelers and learned to speak Arabic, in her book Letters From Egypt.

Mistress of Nothing is a fictionalized account of Gordon’s time in Egypt, told from the perspective of the Lady’s Maid, Sally, who accompanied Gordon on her travels. Sally embraces the country and people of Egypt and discovers a freedom that would have been impossible for her in England. Sally is loyal to and cares for Lady Gordon and believes that care and loyalty is returned until she finds herself in unexpected circumstances and is shunned by her employer. Through Sally’s eyes we see the beauty of the Egyptian landscape, it’s fascinating history and the kindness of its people. The story explores issues of race, class, friendship and loyalty in Victorian times. Sally’s character changes and grows in the face of adversity–learning Arabic, finding work to support herself, learning to rely on no one else, she takes control of her destiny and carves out a new life for herself in a foreign land. The appeal of Sally’s character as she makes her way in the world and the descriptive power of the author to evoke the sights and sounds of Egypt make this a very satisfying story.

When Beauty Tamed the Beast by Eloisa James

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Eloisa James has long been one of my favorite historical romance authors. She is the master of mixing humor, drama, and romance with the perfect amount of spice. In When Beauty Tamed the Beast the beauty, Miss Thrynne, is looking for a way to escape a reputation-ruining scandal by rushing off to marry someone the world thinks is unmarriageable. The Earl of Marchant has escaped from the world by establishing a teaching hospital in the country. Although an earl and a brilliant doctor, he has managed to avoid the marriage mart by being as beastly as possible, with a debilitating limp and an absolutely wretched personality. He is not enthused when Miss Thrynne appears at his door, brought by his long estranged father, but he is intrigued by her bravery and unwillingness to cower in the face of his bad manners. She recognizes that the Earl is her last hope and she suspects that his bark is worse than his bite. You know the rest: they spar wittily and fall in love. But with fascinating characters and the intriguing setting, this retelling of the classic tale is enjoyable from beginning to end.

Deep Down True by Juliette Fay

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Juliette Fay’s second novel is a touching portrait of a family learning to survive divorce, junior high and the complexities of dating and relationships. Deep Down True tells the story of Dana and her two children, a year after divorce. As she begins to adjust to being a single parent, her daughter tries to negotiate the minefield that is junior high, her son misses his father’s regular presence, Dana obtains a new job and tries to re-enter the world of dating, and her teen-aged niece, Alder, enters the scene with her own set of issues. Fay presents engaging, honest and likable characters in a realistic situation, confronting their problems with humor, compassion and caring. This is a heart-warming story about the joys and heartbreak of parenting and the ties of love that bind a family together.

Fay’s first novel is titled Shelter Me.

Return of the Dapper Men by Jim McCann, illus. Janet Lee

>Anorev is a place where people and machines have forgotten how to remember. One day there was a “tick” but no “tock” and day but no night and without yesterday there can be no tomorrow. Books are just convenient flat objects a child can stand on in order to reach things.

Ayden is a young boy living in Anorev who doesn’t fit in, and Zoe is a machine and his friend. This unlikely pair can feel that things are wrong but are unsure what is wrong and don’t know how to fix it. Everything changes one day when the Dapper Men descend from the sky and the “tock” returns.

Return of the Dapper Men would actually be at home in the children’s, young adult or adult graphic novel collections. Part of its beauty and charm is its layers of meaning. In many ways, it reminds me of Alice in Wonderland. The language is sometimes deliberately obtuse to give it layers of meaning, which allows children and parents enjoying this story together to enjoy it at different levels. It is gorgeously illustrated with a blend of simplicity and intricacy and some wonderful, complex paneling.

My Name is Mary Sutter

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Robin Oliveira has debuted in a powerful way with her Civil War novel, My Name is Mary Sutter. She states in her explanation behind the book that after she learned that seventeen Civil War nurses became surgeons “ a beguiling stranger began to declare herself”. Mary Sutter was the name she gave to this strong, determined young midwife who had a passion to learn everything she could about medicine. Mary leaves her very comfortable home and practice to apply as a nurse to the wounded troops in Washington DC. Excluded by Dorothea Dix, Superintendent of Army nurses, because of her young age she finds the worst hospital in the city and makes herself useful doing the most menial work of scrubbing and cleaning. The brutal necessity of amputation became her proving ground as she aids a doctor as he learns through trial and error. The errors resulted in the deaths of many of the men from either overdoses of chloroform or infection because of unclean conditions and instruments.

Mary takes supplies out to the battlefield after the carnage of Antietam and becomes one of the surgeons doing multiple amputations. The book has sad drama as we follow her twin sister’s love and marriage to the same man that Mary loves. When a baby is to be born to the couple, Mary is torn between leaving the needy injured soldiers and going home to be midwife to her twin. The wealth of research that Ms. Oliveira crafted into this novel makes it a remarkable telling of one little known aspect of the Civil War.

Call Me Irresistible by Susan Elizabeth Phillips

>Lucy Jorik, daughter of former president Cornelia Jorik, is about to marry the perfect man, Ted Beaudine of Wynette, Texas. This is a mistake her best friend Meg Koranda is determined to prevent her from making. Meg can clearly see that Lucy has doubts and that Lucy and Ted don’t fit, but no one else seems to agree and Meg is blamed when Lucy calls off the wedding.

This wouldn’t be such a problem if Meg weren’t broke and stuck in Wynette because her famous parents have cut her off in an effort to get her to grow up. Meg has no money in her bank account and can’t even pay the hotel bill from being in Wynette for the wedding. Meg has to work off her bill and then somehow find a new job to make the money to leave town.

Meanwhile, everyone in town doesn’t like her and Lucy’s ex-fiance is doing his best to make things as hard as possible for Meg. Meg just wants to get out of this crazy southern town and away from Mr. Irresistible. After all, there’s nothing for her in Wynette, is there?

Call Me Irresistible
features many characters from Phillips’ past novels from Fancy Pants to What I Did for Love. This is another fun contemporary romance from Phillips with quirky, memorable characters and an irresistible romance.

The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien

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A finalist for both the 1990 Pulitzer prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award, The Things They Carried is unique in it’s ability both to evoke emotional response and empathy for its characters and to reveal the complex, awful and terrifying experience that is war. O’Brien tells the story of his unit in Viet Nam, blending stories of before, during and after their time in the war zone into a gripping and realistic account of how war affects those involved. O’Brien is a Viet Nam veteran and by inserting himself into the story, he blurs the line between fiction and non-fiction. The author challenges the reader to think about what is real and not real, how stories are altered and passed on based on the tellers perception of truth and reality and how stories can help heal souls wounded in times of trauma.
This is a thought-provoking, creative, elegantly written work–infused with realism and truth about the nature of war and its effects on those we call upon to fight–revealing that the things they carry are sometimes carried only during war and sometimes carried with them for forever. A powerful, unforgettable story, The Things They Carried will remain with you long after finishing the final sentence.

Here Be Dragons

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History comes alive in Here Be Dragons by Sharon Kay Penman. This book has everything: royalty, battles, politics, adventure, betrayal, genealogy and love triangles. Joanna, daughter of King John of England, is promised in marriage to Prince Llewelyn of Wales. As in most royal marriages during the twelfth century, alliances were forged for political reasons. Very small daughters were promised in marriage to king’s sons in order to protect land or gain it. Fourteen year old Joanna is fearful of leaving her home and marrying a stranger in a foreign land where the language is even stranger. Her husband, Llewelyn, eighteen years her senior, treats her with much kindness and Joanna eventually falls deeply in love with him.

Forging this bond between England and Wales does not mean they live in harmony. Her father and husband are constantly battling over land rights and power. At one point Joanna must beg her father to spare her husband’s life. Joanna and Llewelyn’s love is not without additional complications. Llewelyn strays at times and Joanna falls into adultery. This wrenching love triangle ends with her lover’s death by hanging and forgiveness given to Joanna because of the deep love her husband has for her.

The history is carefully researched and detailed in this first book of a trilogy. We learn so much of the culture and minds of the medieval people. The difficult Welsh names and pseudo-period language that Penman uses makes this a novel that takes much concentration. The plots are complex and involve many different real monarchs that lived during that time period but the writing is excellent and worth the time necessary to truly absorb this period in history.

A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness

>I have a confession to make. I did not like Twilight. I found Bella annoying, and I am of the decided opinion that vampires should not sparkle. That said, I really enjoyed A Discovery of Witches, even though it reminded me of a grown-up version of Twilight in some ways (it also reminded me of Kostova’s The Historian and Setterfield’s The Thirteenth Tale).

Diana Bishop lives in a world where humanity lives alongside three types of “creatures”: witches, vampires, and daemons. Diana herself is a witch in denial who refuses to use her powers. By profession she is a historian of alchemy and currently conducting research at Oxford’s Bodleian Library. Events and rivalries hundreds of years in the making are tipped out of balance when Diana recalls a manuscript from the stacks known as Ashmole 782. The manuscript is clearly enchanted, but as Diana wants nothing to do with magic, she takes her notes on the manuscript and sends it back into the stacks.

Diana getting her hands on Ashmole 782 attracts the attention of creatures of all three types, including the mysterious vampire Matthew Clairmont. As Diana and Matthew get to know each other and try to sort out the events Diana has set in motion, Diana learns about the habits and instincts of vampires and the world of creatures she has studiously ignored up to now.

A Discovery of Witches is a dark story of romance, intrigue, history, and magic. The cliffhanger ending will have you eagerly awaiting the next installment in the series.

A Red Herring without Mustard by Alan Bradley

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Flavia returns!! The unusual 11 year old sleuth makes her third appearance in Alan Bradley’s latest mystery A Red Herring without Mustard.

After an encounter with a fortune-telling Gypsy at the village fair, Flavia escorts her to a spot on the Buckshaw estate where the Gypsy can spend the night in her wagon. Going back to check on her, Flavia discovers that the Gypsy has been beaten and thus the mystery begins. Flavia becomes embroiled in a puzzle involving stolen antiques, a missing infant, a body hanging from a statue and a pervasive “fishy” smell. Flavia uses her logic, intelligence, amazing chemistry skills and disarming manner to question villagers and irritate the local police–all while riding her bicycle around the 1950′s English countryside as she gathers clues. Her rivalries with her sisters continues and her reclusive father regards her with both amazement and bewilderment. A more vulnerable Flavia is also revealed as she wonders about the death of her mother and worries about the financial circumstances of her family. The story is filled with quirky characters, wit, humor and charm–a wonderful addition to this delightful series about a brave and spunky heroine, Flavia DeLuce.

Very Valentine

>While reading Don’t Sing at the Table: life lessons from my grandmothers by Adriana Trigiani, I decided to read one of Adriana Trigiani’s many fiction works, Very Valentine was my choice. What exactly is Valentine in love with, her work, her family, her heritage, or her lover? Valentine’s dream is to become a shoe designer in her Grandmother’s shoe shop. Does she have time for love? Valentine’s boyfriend is so busy running his own Italian restaurant, and she is so busy making custom wedding shoes, that their time together is sparse. Italian flavor runs throughout the story including a trip to Italy to purchase supplies for the shop, but not without love.

While reading Very Valentine I noticed that the story was sounding familiar and I realized Trigiani had used situations from her family’s life that I had read about in her non-fiction work, Don’t Sing at the Table. It was fun to parallel the two books as I read. If you haven’t read either I suggest that you start off with Don’t Sing at the Table and then read Very Valentine. Valentine’s life doesn’t have to stop there, you can continue in her life by reading Brava,Valentine. Divertire! Godere!