Sunday, November 21, 2010

The Naked Lady Who Stood on Her Head by Gary Small, M.D. and Gigi Vorgan

    • Hardcover: 288 pages
    • Publisher: William Morrow; 1 edition (September 28, 2010)
    • Language: English
    • ISBN-10: 0061803782
    • ISBN-13: 978-0061803789

Dr. Gary Smalls is husband to Gigi Vorgan and a distinguished psychiatrist and researcher.  After thirty years of practice and research on the human brain, he has written a book about his most intriguing and bizarre cases.  He begins with the beginning of his career as a shift doctor in a Boston hospital and takes us through his career ending in California.  Whether it's the naked lady who stood on her head, a shrinking penis or hysterical blindness, the cases are always interesting and sometimes downright funny...proof that truth really is stranger than fiction.  His career comes full circle when his mentor becomes his patient and he realizes that anyone can experience psychiatric issues.

Never fear, Dr. Smalls does not violate any patient confidentiality rules, always changing pertinent information to avoid having his patients recognized.  The book is well-written, witty and informative, always reminding us that our eccentricities are what makes us human.

The authors also have a blog with a great deal of useful information about a variety of mental health subjects.  You can find it HERE.

About the authors:

Dr. Gary Small is a professor of psychiatry and director of the UCLA Center on Aging at the Semel Institute for Neuroscience & Human Behavior. His research, supported by the National Institute of Health, has made headlines in the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, and USA Today. Scientific American magazine named him one of the world’s leading innovators in science and technology. Dr. Small lectures throughout the world and frequently appears on The Today Show, Good Morning American, PBS, and CNN. He has written five books, including The New York Times best seller, The Memory Bible.

Gigi Vorgan wrote, produced, and appeared in numerous feature films and television projects before teaming up with her husband, Dr. Gary Small, to co-write The Memory Bible, The Memory Prescription, The Longevity Bible, iBrain, and The Naked Lady Who Stood on Her Head. She lives in Los Angeles with Dr. Small and their two children.

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Sunday, November 14, 2010

The Pawn by Steven James

  • Paperback: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Onyx; Reprint edition (September 1, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0451412796
  • ISBN-13: 978-0451412799

Coffee connoisseur and FBI agent Patrick Bowers' specialty is environmental criminology.  That means he attempts to track lawbreakers by analyzing the significance of the time and place at which the crime occurred.  Not surprisingly he meets up with some skepticism from his peers.  When young women start showing up murdered near Asheville, N.C., he is called in to assist local law enforcement.  The killer leaves a yellow ribbon in his victim's hair and a chess piece somewhere at each crime scene. Patrick begins to suspect that the Governor of North Carolina may be somehow connected to the crimes and that there is a link to the Jonestown cult.  As if things weren't already complicated enough, Patrick's supervising agent is a woman who harbors resentment toward him because of a prior incident in the Bureau.  Combine a difficult case and a hateful supervisor with a surly teen-age step-daughter, and you have a very entertaining and suspenseful read.  Patrick is struggling with the recent death of his wife and is trying to connect with her daughter, which is being made difficult by her anger and resentment.  She's one of those kids you just love to hate.  When threats are made against her by the killer, Patrick is desperate to keep her safe.   

I read that The Pawn is the first in a planned trilogy by James.  But as I browsed Amazon I noticed there are four Patrick Bowers novels now so he must be popular among readers.   After reading this first installment, I'm looking forward to reading the others.  As I read this book I often thought that I was as entertained by Patrick as I am by Alex Cross in the novels written by James Patterson or by Lucas Davenport in the Prey series by John Sandford.  Steven James is now on my list of favorite authors.  

Friday, November 12, 2010

The Redemption of Holly Dobson by C. Lynn Barton

  • Perfect Paperback: 252 pages
  • Publisher: Dark Willow Books; First edition (September 30, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0615349412
  • ISBN-13: 978-0615349411

At the age of six months Agatha Mircea was dropped off at the babysitter's house by her mother. Her mother never returned to pick her up. The babysitters, the Dobsons, kept the baby, renaming her Holly after their own dead baby.  Holly was a troubled girl, a victim of the Dobson's abuse and neglect.  Despite these obstacles, Holly did well in school, attended college and became a teacher.

When Holly was twenty three Normal and Kate Roberts moved in across the street.  Holly's hands trembled and her lips quivered when Normal looked at her and it was apparent Normal was attracted to her.  When Kate became seriously ill, Holly and Normal entered into an affair that would change her life forever.  After Kate died Holly and Normal married and had a son George.  At this point in her life, Holly believed she had accomplished the most important thing a woman can do.  We soon realize that Holly is a contradiction, intensely driven to protect her family values, yet in possession of an evilness that has no boundaries.  She will do anything to keep her family intact.

This story touches on exorcism, cults and the devil.  As we learn who Normal is, and what he has passed on to his son George, it becomes clear that this evilness is much more than him being a bad man.  George grows up to be a demonic, charismatic man whose minions follow him without question.  The evil which George personifies sends Holly on a path that spans continents and decades.

This is a real psychological thriller and a good old fashioned horror story. For readers who enjoy a plot with a lot of twists and turns and thrilling suspense, this is the book for you.  Just don't read it on a dark and stormy night when you are home alone; you might not get any sleep.  

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Make Me an Offer by Jessica Dee Rohm

  • Paperback: 330 pages
  • Publisher: CreateSpace (July 21, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1453650318
  • ISBN-13: 978-1453650318

Rohm's real estate background really comes across in this novel about two strong, successful but entirely different women.  Alyson Strong owns Marry Well, a glossy magazine designed to teach women how to marry and keep a rich man. She is beautiful, strong, ruthless and married to wealthy developer Walter Strong.  Unfortunately her private life isn't as perfect as she has a habit of entering into numerous extra-marital affairs.  Camilla Madison is employed by Alyson as the writer of a decorating column.  After moving to New York from Palm Beach and using her knowledge of real estate learned from her father, she is on a quest for financial independence.

After having a baby and coming home from the hospital to find an empty closet and a note from her husband saying he had left her for someone else, Camilla retreats into herself, unable to return to work.  Taken in by her friend Rose, Camilla slowly comes out of her depression and contacts Alyson with a business proposition that involves real estate. Alyson gives her approval and advises Camilla to speak to Alyson's wealthy developer husband.  This takes Camilla into the most beautiful and expensive apartments in New York, along the way meeting some wonderful and not so wonderful people.  We also get a peek into some amazing apartments, from the macabre to sleek and modern to art deco.  From Rohm's descriptions you could picture how the other half lives.

Following Camilla from frightened teen-ager to successful entrepreneur was interesting, fun and exciting.  Women will relate to her because she represents what many women are experiencing today.  Juggling motherhood, work and friends and doing it well, despite some bumps in the road.  The book is witty and well-written, keeping your interest throughout.

I would love to see this as a movie.  Perhaps Demi Moore as Alyson and Sandra Bullock as Camilla. I'd go see it.

American on Purpose: The Improbable Adventures of an Unlikely Patriot by Craig Ferguson

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: It Books; 1 edition (May 11, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061998494
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061998492

I just love Craig Ferguson...the accent, the crazy antics, the naughty little boy quality.  I DVR The Late, Late Show every night so I don't have to stay up half the night to see him.  American on Purpose is his brutally honest memoir.

Ferguson begins his story during his adolescent years in school in Glasgow, Scotland, describing a system that practiced physical punishment more than education.  He takes us on a journey through his life that is funny, sad and inspiring, from Glasgow to late night TV in the USA.  It shows us what can happen if you follow your dreams, never giving up no matter what happens along the way.

What comes across right from the beginning, is that he is not typical of show business personalities.  There is no arrogance or sense of entitlement, no ego.  He is down to earth and completely honest about who he is.  He graphically describes his addiction, sometimes in rather humorous ways.  He wrote of his decision to commit suicide but forgot to do it when someone offered him a sherry.  His writings about his marriages do not ridicule or place all the blame on his wives.  He takes responsibility for his part in the failures of his first two marriages and it is apparent he learned from those mistakes.

His pride in becoming an American citizen is one of the most appealing things about him.  His decision to move to America was made early in his life when, as a teen, he traveled to New York to visit relatives.  What happened along the way is well worth the read.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Sugar Tower by Jessica Dee Rohm

Jessica Dee Rohm

Jessica Dee Rohm was born in New York City and graduated from high school as valedictorian at 16.  She went on to Barnard College on a scholarship, following her dream of becoming a journalist.  She loves writing and began her career with The New York Times in the financial news section.  She is the founder of Jessica Dee Communications, a marketing and communications company that had grown to be the sixteenth largest independent PR firm in the USA when she sold it to Chiat/Day.  She was only 30 years old.  Her second business venture was Foreign Management Company, a real estate consulting and brokerage firm catering to foreign investors.

Her personal and professional successes and affiliations are numerous.  She has published numerous feature articles in magazines including regular columns for both Restaurant Hospitality and The Cornell Quarterly.  In addition, she has published many newspaper articles in The New York Times, Hartford Courant, Real Estate Weekly, the Hersham Acorn newspaper chain, and others.  She has been the subject of several feature stories and profiles, and has been featured in two books--The Confidence Factor by Judith Briles and Whiz Kids by Marilyn Machlowitz.

In addition to being one of the most successful female entrepreneurs in the country, she is married and the mother of one son and two daughters.  You will recognize daughter Elisabeth as Assistant District Attorney Serena Southerlyn on Law & Order, and more recently as Lauren Gilmore on Heroes.
Rohm now devotes her time doing what she loves...writing.

Jessica, daughter Elisabeth, Granddaughter Easton and Daisy

Paperback: 312 pages

Sugar Tower introduces us to Marchesa Jesus Piazza (no relation to Mike), a reporter of real estate news for a major New York newspaper.  Marchesa, or "Mach", is passionate about her career and her Jack Russell terrier, Kitty.  Kitty is modeled after  Rohm's own Jack Russell Daisy, the little cutie in the pictures above.  Mach is 42, and doing a lot of thinking about the state of her husband, no children, and she still hasn't received the Pulitzer she so desires.  She is also concerned about the future of the newspaper industry and how it will affect her future.  

One evening while watching Larry King interview wealthy real estate developer Barry Sugarman, Mach was taken back a year to the day Anabel Trainor Sugarman, Barry's beautiful trophy wife, was found murdered in the pool at Sugar Tower.  Sugar Tower is the recently completed Manhattan condominium built by Barry.  Mach had reported on the murder but the investigation went nowhere and Anabel slipped out of the news.  Mach realized that if she could get permission from her boss to investigate the case and report on it, she could finally get out of real estate news and on to something more interesting, and possibly revive the industry along the way.  

Mach teams with NYPD detective Emilio Urquia and the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, re-interviewing witnesses and the other residents of Sugar Tower, inadvertently discovering well-guarded secrets about the employees and wealthy occupants.  

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book.  The characters are well-developed and, although most of them were introduced early in the story, are described in a way that avoids confusion.  The storyline is timely in that it revolves around the collapse of the real estate market.  The manner in which Anabel was murdered is unique and quite clever.  It is clear that Rohm extensively researched the functions of the Medical Examiner's Office and her knowledge of the real estate and financial worlds is apparent.  There were no slow-moving sections in the story, even from the very beginning.  I was hooked right away. 

I'm looking forward to reading Rohm's other novels, The Secret Life of Sandrina M. and Make Me An Offer.

Sugar Tower was a quarter-finalist for the 2010 Amazon Breakthrough Novel of the Year Award.

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Tuesday, September 28, 2010

La Cucina: A Novel of Rapture by Lily Prior

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial (September 18, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060953691
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060953690

Since childhood, Rosa Fiore - daughter of a sultry Sicilian matriarch and her hapless husband - found solace in her family’s kitchen. La Cucina—the heart of the family’s lush estate--was a place where generations of Fiore women prepared wonderful meals, and where family life was played out around the age-old table. 

When Rosa was a teenager, her own cooking became the stuff of legend in her small community. Rosa’s infatuation with culinary arts could only rival her passion for a young man, Bartollomeo, who, unfortunately, belonged to someone else. After their love affair ends in tragedy, Rosa retreats first into her kitchen, and then into solitude, as a librarian in Palermo. There she stays for decades, growing fleshy on her succulent dishes, resigned to a loveless life.

Then, one day, she meets the mysterious chef, known only as I’Inglese, whose research on the heritage of Sicilian cuisine leads him to Rosa’s library and into her heart. They share one summer of love, during which l’Inglese awakens Rosa’s sexuality, and together they reach new heights of passion. When l’Inglese suddenly vanishes, Rosa returns home to the farm to grieve for her lost love. 

In the comfort of her family home, amongst her growing family, she discovers the truth about her loved ones and finds her life transformed once more by her beloved Cucina.

Prior unites the textures, tastes and smells of food and sex to create a wonderfully sexy story.  It celebrates family, food, passion, and romance.  Her descriptions of Rosa's culinary creations almost made you to believe you could smell and taste them.  Her characters were endearingly eccentric and real.  Be prepared to read some funny and erotic passages.  The combination of food and sex is a delightful pairing.

Monday, September 27, 2010

The Mermaid Chair by Sue Monk Kidd

  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin; 1st PAPERBACK edition (March 7, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0143036696
  • ISBN-13: 978-0143036692

Sue Monk Kidd writes of the abbey of a Benedictine monastery on Egret Island, just off the coast of South Carolina, which houses a beautiful and mysterious chair ornately carved with mermaids and dedicated to a saint, who, legend claims, was a mermaid before her conversion.

When Jessie Sullivan is summoned home to the island to cope with her eccentric mother’s unexplained act of violence, she is living a conventional life with her husband, Hugh, a life “molded to the smallest space possible.” Jessie loves Hugh, but once on the island, she finds herself drawn to Brother Thomas, a monk who is soon to take his final vows.

Amid a community of unforgettable island women and the exotic beauty of marshlands, tidal creeks and egrets, Jessie struggles with a freedom that feels overwhelmingly right and her responsibility to her home and marriage.  What transpires will reveal her mother’s tormented past, but most of all, allow Jessie to come to terms with her past.

I think any woman who has been married for a long time and feels as if she is defined only as someone's wife and mother can relate to Jessie's struggle.  A woman often gets lost in her life, ceasing to be anyone other than the person who exists to do for others.  Unfortunately Jessie's way of dealing with her feelings is to commit adultery.  But more than being about adultery, this book explores how family secrets create fear and guilt and can alter a person's life and and the lives of those close to them.

Kidd's characters were well-developed and interesting, but the most descriptive passages were about Egret Island itself.  It made me wish the island was real and that I could go there.

Monday, September 20, 2010

The Scarpetta Factor by Patricia Cornwell

Paperback: 592 pages
  • Publisher: Berkley; Reprint edition (August 31, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0425236285
  • ISBN-13: 978-0425236284

Cornwell's Dr. Kay Scarpetta is probably my favorite fictional character.  She is brilliant, attractive, successful and an awesome cook.  But even with her many achievements, she has had her setbacks.

In the 17th novel of the Scarpetta series, Kay is living in Boston,and volunteering her time to the New York City Medical Examiner's office and is the senior forensic analyst for CNN.  She is currently investigating the murder of a Central Park jogger as well as looking into the disappearance of Hannah Starr, a wealthy financial planner.  Kay's niece, computer genius Lucy Farinelli, is also probing the disappearance of Hannah for reasons of her own. Along for the ride are Assistant District Attorney Jaime Berger, Lucy's girlfriend, and NYPD Detective Pete Marino.  But it's Benton Wesley, Kay's psychologist husband, whose past comes back to haunt the couple and ties these two crimes together.  Specifically, Benton's presumed death in Point of Origin and shocking reappearance five years later in Blow Fly, and the former FBI agent who planned his presumed death.  

But while I liked this book, I don't think it lived up to previous Scarpetta novels.  In the previous couple of books I noticed a change in the story lines and the characters.  Lucy has changed from a precocious smart kid to a bratty, moody and dangerous woman.  She has become very wealthy and it seems with every dollar earned she gets becomes a little more unhinged.  She needs to be toned down a little.  

Marino's meltdown in Book of the Dead and his transformation into a biker-like thug was just wrong.  Now he is still working with Kay and it's just weird.  I liked him better when he was a grumpy overweight cop in a rumpled suit.  He was gruff yet lovable and the relationship with Kay was always interesting. 

Kay's personality has become watered down, resulting in a woman who is just not as interesting as in earlier books.  Her beautiful house, her gardens, her tomatoes and her marvelous cooking are all missing now.  Her relationships were more interesting and had more substance.  I wish she would move back to Richmond and take over the Medical Examiner's office again.  Leave Boston and New York behind and become the fascinating woman she used to be.

And then there's Benton...originally he was a brilliant FBI profiler and the relationship between him and Kay had sexual tension and excitement.  Now he seems to be a has-been and only a shell of his former self.  They never should have took the interest out the relationship.

I know it seems I had a lot of criticisms in this review, but I still will read any Scarpetta book that comes out.  I am just hoping for a return to better times.

Friday, September 17, 2010

The Deep Blue Sea for Beginners by Luanne Rice

 Paperback: 400 pages

This book tells the story of two sisters who have been separated from their mother for ten years due to a disturbing secret.  Lyra Nicholson is an heiress living on the island of Capri.  She moved there after leaving her family behind in America; a husband and two daughters, Pell and Lucy.  Pell and Lucy have been living with their grandmother, Lyra's mother, in Newport, RI since the death of their father.  At 16, Pell travels to the beautiful isle of Capri to reunite with her mother and find out why she left.  The story that unfolds is rife with emotion, love and tears as Pell, and later Lucy, confront Lyra, and with support from Lyra's neighbor Max, learn the real reason Lyra abandoned her family.  Pell is also aided by her boyfriend who travels to Capri to be with her, just as Pell is becoming attracted to Max's grandson Rafe.  

Rice has written Pell as a young girl, wise beyond her years, with a maturity and stability that seems to be lacking in her mother.  She is determined that her mother take responsibility for her actions and along the way, a relationship is born.

This is a sequel to Geometry of Sisters which I have not read.  However, I don't feel I missed or misunderstood anything as a result.  There was sufficient background regarding the family to lead the reader in the right direction.  Although not a piece of outstanding literature, the book was enjoyable with likable characters and a stunning setting.  It would be a good book for young adults to read as well as adults.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

A Review: The Seasons of Grace by Beverly Lewis

I've never been one to read Christian novels, not because I'm not a Christian, but because my tastes run more to mystery and thriller genres.  But a few months ago someone loaned me a book titled The Secret by Beverly Lewis.  This is a story set in Lancaster County PA, a story about an Amish family.  Ms. Lewis grew up in Amish country and her extensive knowledge of the Amish people and their beliefs is reflected in her stories.  I was immediately hooked.  I just had to read the entire series.

  • Paperback: 364 pages
  • Publisher: Bethany House Publishers; 1st edition (March 31, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0764205714
  • ASIN: B002T45000

The Secret is the first of three in the Seasons of Grace series. Grace Byler is the daughter of Lettie and Judah Byler.  Grace often wonders if her mother's secretive ways and late night walks are the result of her husband's uncommunicative nature.  When Lettie suddenly leaves the family early one morning, the family is left questioning all they have been taught about family.

Paperback: 332 pages
  • Publisher: Bethany House; 1st edition (September 8, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0764205722
  • ASIN: B00394DGG4

In The Missing, the second book, Grace longs to find out where her mother is and why she left.  After ending her engagement to a young man who is as uncommunicative as her father, Grace has come to the realization that the young Amish men in her community probably will not see her as a marriage prospect because of her mother.  She resigns herself to remaining single and taking her mother's place in caring for her family.  To complicate her life further, a young man who was courting her best friend begins to show an interest in her.  Grace befriends an "Englisher", Heather Nelson who comes to Lancaster County because of her own mother.  Together, using the only clue they have, they decide to travel to Ohio to search for Lettie and bring her home.

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Bethany House (April 6, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0764205730
  • ISBN-13: 978-0764205736

In The Telling Grace and Heather travel to Ohio while Lettie continues her search for the missing piece of her life.  Judah continues his own soul searching, trying to determine the  reason his wife left, vowing to do better if she returns.  Lewis does a great job tying all the pieces of this story together to a satisfactory conclusion.

You can't help but love Lewis' characters and admire them for their faith and love of family.  Lewis actually lived with the Old Order Amish on two occasions,  doing research on The Heritage of Lancaster County trilogy.  Her connection to the Plain people comes from her mother's Old Order Mennonite heritage.  Her books have been well received by the Plain community, with many asking that she portray their communities in future stories.

I think one of the most important things I experienced from reading this series is that the realization that Plain families experience, despite their simple life style, many of the same family and community issues as our modern communities.  They love their families, their children don't always act as their parents want them to and they react to very human experiences in very human ways.  What they seem to be best at is forgiveness; in fact, they excel at it.
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Friday, December 18, 2009

Taking a break...

I'm going to suspend posting on this blog for a while.  Obligating myself to reading challenges has sort of taken the fun out of reading because I felt pressured to read as many books as possible in order to complete the challenge.  I wasn't able to just enjoy the pleasure of reading for pleasure's sake.  When things settle down after the holidays, I'll be reading and writing reviews at my own pace and for my own pleasure.

Happy Holidays, everyone!

Monday, October 26, 2009

A Review: 700 Sundays by Billy Crystal

Hardcover: 192 pages
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing; First Edition edition (October 31, 2005)
ISBN-10: 0446578673
ISBN-13: 978-0446578677

I bought this book because 1)  I love Billy Crystal, and 2) I needed something light and entertaining to read on the plane while traveling to Kansas City to visit my mother.  700 Sundays refers to the number of Sundays Billy got to spend with his father before he died.  Instead of writing about his many successes as a comedian and actor, Billy concentrates on his early years with his marvelous family.  In addition to one line zingers throughout the book, we are introduced to a bunch of colorful characters who never cease to be interesting and downright hilarious.  There is his grandmother who said to gravelly voiced Louis Armstrong (to his delight) "Louis, have you ever tried just coughing it up?"; his Uncle Milt Gabler, who started the Commodore music label and recorded Billie Holiday singing "Strange Fruit" when no one else would; and of course, Billy's father, the man who bought his little boy a tape recorder when he announced he wanted to be a comedian and didn't scold him when he repeated off-color borscht belt routines for family gatherings.

We get a glimpse into the lives of a Jewish family in the 50's in all it's hilarity, frustration and grief, but what is most impressive is the love and support this family felt and provided for each other.


One of America's most beloved entertainers takes us home. Billy Crystal opens the front door to a time in his life when he shared joy, love, music, and laughter with an eccentric family headed by the hardworking father who left them all too soon.

From the story of the Crystal family's proud connection to the New York jazz scene of the '40s and ' the hilarious living room performances that would sow the seeds of Billy's unparalleled the times of tragedy, heartbreak, and his mother's unending courage, 700 Sundays celebrates the memories, the love, and all the other wonderful gifts parents can give a child.

Based on his Tony Award®-winning play, 700 Sundays is not the story of Billy Crystal's great career. It is a tribute to a family and the people who helped make him a man. Personal, poignant, and funny, it will have you laughing out loud — and sometimes crying — with the realization that Billy's family is also yours.

Monday, October 19, 2009

A Review: One Door Away From Heaven by Dean Koontz

  • Mass Market Paperback: 704 pages

    • Publisher: Bantam; First Thus edition (October 29, 2002)
    • Language: English
    • ISBN-10: 0553582755
    • ISBN-13: 978-0553582758

Part  X-Files, part thriller, this book is unique in more ways than one.  The characters are typical of Koontz in that they are never boring, never ordinary.  Micky Bellsong is at a critical time in her life, staying with her Aunt Geneva while trying to sort out her problems and begin anew.  Micky and Geneva meet their new neighbor Leilani, a young girl living with her drugged out mother, Sinsemilla and stepfather, Preston Maddoc.  Preston believes that the elderly, infirm and handicapped should be killed so they don't become a drain on society.  And since Leilani has physical handicaps, she knows what is in store for her.  She tells Micky and Geneva that Preston is planning to pass off her imminent death as a benevolent alien abduction.

Add to the mix a motherless boy, a strange boy who goes by the alias Curtis Hammond and is the quarry of two cross-country manhunts, one led by the FBI and the other by mass murderers who, like the messianic Curtis, may not be what they seem.

All of the characters eventually come together in rural Idaho in a desperate  attempt to save Leilani and as a result find true wisdom and joy.

Never have I read a book with so many nutty, eccentric characters without it being just plain silly.  However, put all of these nutty characters together and they just seem to work.  Micky is one of the more attractive heroines, but the real star is Leilani, whose spunky nature and sparkling and humorous dialogue easily make her this books most memorable character.  Underneath the tragedy, mystery and adventure lies a story about good vs evil, revelation and friendship. 

If I had to say one negative thing about the book it would be that it was too long.  On occasion the narrative seemed to drawn out and really unnecessary.

Synopsis (from the author's website)

In a dusty trailer park on the far edge of the California dream, Michelina Bellsong contemplates the choices she has made. At twenty-eight, she wants to change the direction of her troubled life but can’t find her way—until a new family settles into the rental trailer next door and she meets the young girl who will lead her on a remarkable quest that will change Micky herself and everything she knows—or thinks she knows—forever.

Despite the brace she must wear on her deformed left leg, and her withered left hand, nine-year-old Leilani Klonk radiates a buoyant and indomitable spirit that inspires Micky. Beneath Leilani’s effervescence, however, Micky comes to sense a quiet desperation that the girl dares not express.

Leilani’s mother is little more than a child herself. And the girl’s stepfather, Preston Maddoc, is educated but threatening. He has moved the family from place to place as he fanatically investigates UFO sightings, striving to make contact, claiming to have had a vision that by Leilani’s tenth birthday aliens will either heal her or take her away to a better life on their world.

Slowly, ever more troubling details emerge in Leilani’s conversations with Micky. Most chilling is Micky’s discovery that Leilani had an older brother, also disabled, who vanished after Maddoc took him into the woods one night and is now “gone to the stars.”

Leilani’s tenth birthday is approaching. Micky is convinced the girl will be dead by that day. While the child-protection bureaucracy gives Micky the runaround, the Maddoc family slips away into the night. Micky sets out across America to track and find them, alone and afraid but for the first time living for something bigger than herself.

She finds herself pitted against an adversary, Preston Maddoc, as fearsome as he is cunning. The passion and disregard for danger with which Micky pursues her quest bring to her side a burned-out detective who joins her on a journey of incredible peril and startling discoveries, a journey through terrible darkness to unexpected light.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

A Review: Still Life by Joy Fielding

Hardcover: 384 pages
Publisher: Atria (March 24, 2009)
ISBN-10: 1416585273
ISBN-13: 978-1416585275

Have you ever wanted to be a fly on the wall and listen to what people were saying without their knowledge?  Casey Marshall had that opportunity...just not in the way she wanted.

Casey had everything.  Boatloads of money, a handsome loving husband, a successful interior design business and lots of friends.  Until one day, after having lunch with two girlfriends, she was run down by a hit and run driver and left in a coma.  After a few weeks she begins to come out of it, although the only ability she regains is her hearing.  For weeks, she lies in her bed listening to the conversations around her and gradually, she learns that not everyone in her life is her friend.  She learns who tried to kill her and why, yet she is helpless to do anything about it.

I really had trouble putting this book down.  The plot is intriguing and tension filled and the characters were interesting.  I was literally on the edge of my seat a lot of the time.  Now I remember why I used to read Fielding's's time to get back to reading her more often.

Synopsis (from the author's website)

Globe and Mail bestselling author Joy Fielding delivers a riveting new tale of suspense, told from the vantage point of a comatose woman.

Beautiful, happily married, and the owner of a successful interior design business, Casey Marshall couldn’t be more content with her life until a car slams into her at almost fifty miles an hour, breaking nearly every bone in her body, and plunging her into a coma. Lying in her hospital bed, Casey realizes that although she is unable to see or communicate, she can hear everything. She quickly discovers that her friends aren’t necessarily the people she thought them to be–and that her accident might not have been an accident at all. As she struggles to break free from her living death, she begins to wonder if what lies ahead could be even worse.

Smart, suspenseful, and overwhelmingly addictive, Still Life is a novel Fielding’s fans won’t soon forget.

A Review: The Cheater by Nancy Taylor Rosenberg

Hardcover: 320 pages
Publisher: Forge Books (June 9, 2009)
ISBN-10: 0765319020
ISBN-13: 978-0765319029

 Lily Forrester is a former prosecutor, now a Ventura, California judge, who literally got away with murder when she killed the man who raped her and her daughter a few years before.  Now her marriage to Bryce Donnelly is falling apart.  Lily has no idea that Bryce is a philanderer until she receives a call from the Las Vegas police informing her that Bryce has been arrested for attempted rape, even though Las Vegas was not on his travel itinerary. 

In the meantime, Lily meets Anne Bradley at the gym and immediately likes her.  Unbeknown to Lily, Anne is the owner of Alibi Connection, an internet referal company that provides alibis to adulterous men.  Through her company, Anne entices, then kills them.  Enter FBI profiler, Mary Stevens, who follows a string of unsolved murders to Anne.  You can see where this is leading...directly to Lily's no-good husband.

Now, as a woman who has dealt with unfaithful men, I kind of got a kick out of Anne's exploits.  It's good to see a woman get her revenge, but Anne's methods are way too gruesome and heavy-handed.  Don't get me wrong...I'm not sympathizing with the victims; they are loathesome, insensitive boors.  I've seen man-haters before but nothing like this.  Anne is a real sociopath.

The plot is rather complicated and far-fetched; nevertheless, it was an enjoyable read and a good way to pass a lazy day.  In fact, I'm looking forward to reading some her earlier works in which she introduced us to Lily Forrester and Mary Stevens.  They are both women I would enjoy knowing in real life. 


Nancy Taylor Rosenberg's newest book The Cheater (Tor Forge) weaves the lives of three women in an intense and taut legal thriller.  Lily Forrester returns from Rosenberg's New York Times bestsellers, Mitigating Circumstances and Buried Evidence.  This time Forrester is a county judge in Ventura, California.  She meets another lawyer, the charming and vivacious Anne Bradley, but their friendship shatters when Bradley accuses Forrester's husband of rape.  Meanwhile, FBI agent and profiler Mary Stevens is on the trail of a black widow serial killer who lures cheating husbands to their deaths and mutilates their bodies.

The story is an intricate, psychological drama.  Rosenberg's intensely psychopathic villain introduces a fascinating weapon into the arsenal of fiction thrillers: the drug Versed to sedate her victims and eliminate them in humiliating and gruesome ways.  Forrester struggles with her personal demons and this plays into the hands of the serial killer.  Stevens finds her professional skills tested to their limits as she pursues a murderer across a web of deceit and misdirection.  The climax is not a simple consolidation of plot lines but a collision--a controlled crash that will leave the reader practically stumbling out of the wreckage, emotionally drained yet very satisfied. (You may want to smoke a cigarette afterwards.)

The inspiration to write The Cheater came from two incidents.  First, Rosenberg was compelled to draw upon the actual story of a girl who was abandoned by her father to die along a deserted winter road.  This experience, when combined with sexual molestation, could drive the victim to rationalize committing acts of chilling violence against others.  Second, Rosenberg learned about alibi clubs and was convinced they'd be great plot devices to add more mystery to already suspenseful plots.

rosenberg-nancy1.jpgThe Cheater is the thirteenth of Rosenberg's highly acclaimed and popular novels.  A prolific author, she uses her considerable research skills and her fourteen years of service as a police officer, investigator, and parole officer to build compelling and true-to-life stories.  As an example of her dedication to accuracy, Rosenberg took and passed the required test to become an FBI agent.

For those interested in the character Mary Stevens, she's back at work in a forthcoming novel, Her Daughter, which also features Lily Forrester.  Steven's previous exploits are available in Sullivan's Law, Sullivan's Justice, Sullivan's Evidence, and Revenge of Innocents.

Rosenberg admits her plots are complex because she is herself a complex person.  She understands the twisting and baffling nature of life and brings this awareness into her story development.  As for her writing style, she hates outlining, as it stifles the fun out of the creative process.  She prefers to sit at her computer and let the story surprise her as she writes.

Her advice to aspiring writers is to write the best book possible and sit on it until the economy improves.  She's been working with young writers in a program called Voices of Tomorrow and has recently started a new offering for more serious writers using the Internet service called Go To Meeting.  Interested writers should contact her through her website.

After living in New York and California, Nancy Taylor Rosenberg currently resides in her hometown of Dallas, Texas.  She is the proud mother of a very creative family, which includes a poet and a novelist.

acevedo-mario-small.jpgContributing editor Mario Acevedo is a member of ITW and the author of the Felix Gomez vampire detective series from Eos HarperCollins.  His most recent Gomez vampire adventure is Jailbait Zombie.  Mario lives and writes in Denver, Colorado.