Reviews A-H


Abarat

by Clive Barker

“…Clive Barker thankfully ignores the labels of the horror genre. Over the last decade he has moved out of the bloody pigeonhole of works like The Hellbound Heart and created some very dark, very adult fantasy. (And by the way, a solemn vow from me to you right now regarding the phrase ‘bloody pigeonhole’: never again. Swear.) So we’ve got a guy who writes about the erotic pastimes of the gods, the suffering of mortals, and the meaning of art. Time to write a children’s book! After all, Madonna did it….”

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An Absolute Gentleman

by RM Kinder

“…If I didn’t know anything about this book, I would have read it and told you that it was almost like RM Kinder had looked inside the mind of a serial killer, a rather prissy middle-aged English professor in a small college town. His narrative is almost like wearing the wrong pair of glasses — things are recognizable but just out of skew. This also is the opposite of slasher fiction, with the blood on the edges and in the margins. I’d tell you it’s elegant, cool, and utterly chilling. The rest of the story? RM (Rose Marie) Kinder was romantically involved with a serial killer back in the 1980s, and found out about it from America’s Most Wanted. She was instrumental in putting him away. Sort of sheds a new light on things, doesn’t it?…”

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The Adoration of Jenna Fox

by Mary E. Pearson

“…When Jenna Fox wakes up from the car crash coma that nearly killed her, it’s really no surprise that she can’t remember anything — the memories must of course be too traumatic. But when they do start to surface, why is everything wrong? The mystery of identity and the price of science in the very near future make for a graceful meditation on loss and letting go….”

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All The Pretty Girls

by J.T. Ellison

“…All the Pretty Girls. J.T. Ellison talks about writing the twisted tale of The Southern Strangler, a serial killer with a fondness for poetry and hands (ewwww), and duct tape and internal monologues. Everything you love about homicidal maniacs, plus you’ll never guess who the psycho is! (I was wrong twice.) Nashville detective Taylor Jackson and her partner, FBI profiler John Baldwin are on the case — but will they find him before he leaves another victim and another poem?…”

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All Together Dead

by Charlaine Harris

“…This week I’ll sit down with Charlaine Harris, and try not to gush like the fangirl I am. Ms. Harris wrote the Southern Gothic Vampire series, featuring Sookie Stackhouse, the only telepathic barmaid in rural Louisiana. You’ll see Sookie on HBO this fall in the Alan Ball adaptation (that’s the True Blood part). We’ll talk about her input into the cable series, what the future holds for my girl Sookie, plus I learn how many vampires there are in Montana (hint, not many)….”

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Already Dead

by Charlie Huston

“…Yeah, another vampire book. It was my birthday, okay? This is a pitch black crime thriller with almost no supernatural element, zombies (bonus) and a vampire detective antihero who was (you should pardon the expression) dead sexy. The second in this series comes out in December, so get on board now…”

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Altered Carbon

by Richard Morgan

“…Altered Carbon is hard sf with a shot of noir and a chaser of the old ultra-violence. It’s a detective story, hung on the idea that in this particular future, personalities are downloadable, and the wealthy can live virtually forever, backing copies of themselves into younger, better bodies. So, how can you be murdered? And what if you really want to kill your two-timing but inconveniently immortal husband? You can tell these characters lives are cheap and desperate, because they all smoke…”

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American Thighs: The Sweet Potato Queens’ Guide to Preserving Your Assets

by Jill Conner Browne

“…Whether you are a queen by birth or association, there’ll be something in this enormously clever book that will strike a chord. There was something on nearly every page that made me snicker if not poke my husband hard enough to wake him up and read it to him. The Queen’s essays run the gamut from how her daughter’s best friend dyed herself purple, to men’s hairstyles, to how to treat those sweet things under the age of forty (or, larva. I love this woman.). And she gave me my own tiara….”

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And She Was

by Cindy Dyson

“…Remember the 80s? You had the uniform — tight jeans tucked into high heeled boots, big hair, and lots of partying. At least if you lived someplace with a mall or a movie theater, you could take a break and drive downtown. But in this book, there is no downtown, and no one to go with. It’s set at the end of the world, in the Aleutian Islands. It’s a fishing economy too, so the men spend most of their time at sea. The women mostly wait for the men to come home. Brandy follows a man there, and finds herself in the middle of a mystery that reaches back to the native women of the 17 and 1800s, and we follow some of their stories too. Normally I think books that use song titles are cheating a little, but that phrase keeps demanding an answer — and she was — what? That’s what the Aleut women decide for themselves, and that’s what Brandy seeks to discover in this excellent novel….”

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Angels of Destruction

by Keith Donohue

“…I was happy to welcome back Keith Donohue for my 100th show! His new book, which again uses mysterious children moving in and out of the ‘real world’ does seem to have a host of angels — just not the rosy-cheeked variety. Angels come with flaming swords, after all, even when they show up in the body of a scrawny 9-year-old girl. Is Norah an angel? Or just a slightly scary, lonely kid with an overactive imagination? You are left to draw your own conclusions about what is destruction and what is simply change….”

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The Astonishing Adventures of Fanboy and Gothgirl

by Barry Lyga

“…High school yeah, that was fun. If you can read that out loud with a straight face, this may not be the book for you. If you were (or, God help you, currently are) a member of the Nerd Army, Dork Patrol, Space Cadets, Fatty Parade, Loser Legion, etc., etc., you have a friend and voice in Barry Lyga. His narrator’s obsessions are mutually exclusive (comic books and girls) and his longing for friendship is only matched by his defensiveness and anger. He meets his match in Gothgirl, a truly tragic figure who goes far beyond the requisite eyeliner and bad poetry. Highly recommended by me and my favorite 14-year-old….”

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Baby Shark

by Robert Fate

“…Baby Shark by Robert Fate introduced us to Kristin, better known as Baby Shark, a teenaged pool hustler out for revenge in 1950’s Texas. If you like your heroines hardboiled and wise cracking but with a heart of gold, Kristin is your girl. Her toughness is nicely balanced by her vulnerability, and the cast of characters she puts together to take out the losers who done her wrong are almost as interesting as she is….”

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Bangkok Tattoo

by John Burdett

“…I was eager to read Bangkok Tattoo, because John Burdett’s first novel in the series about  Royal Thai police detective Sonchai Jitpleecheep , Bangkok 8, was as foreign as you can get from my middle class American experience and still be on the same planet, while remaining honest and real. Bangkok Tattoo is an immersive tour of the seedy underbelly of the city, District 8, the home of the red light district. It’s also the home of Detective Sonchai — immaculately honest, striving Buddhist, half-American son of a never-met father and the most famous and successful madam in the district….”

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Beat the Reaper

by Josh Bazell

“…Getting the comparison out of the way — this is a bit like House crossed with Pulp Fiction. I’m certain that’s how they’ll sell the inevitable movie version of this funny, biting, intense tale of a hit man-turned-doctor, and the day he gets recognized. The violence is as startling as the emotional intensity, and one doesn’t expect to find both in the same book….”

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Beatrice and Virgil

by Yann Martel

“…The title of the book refers to the play within the story, which refers to both to The Divine Comedy and Waiting for Godot, only with talking animals. The author describes this as an experimental novel, and it’s got everything but sudoku in there, all trying to make some sense of the incomprehensible. Ultimately, it’s got to be described as a Holocaust novel, although it’s several other things as well. Art shouldn’t always be pretty and some things aren’t supposed to make you feel good. If you read this powerful novel, be prepared to not feel good….”

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Been There, Done That

by Carol Snow

“…If you could, would you go back and relive your college experience? In this witty, clever debut novel, our heroine journalist Kathy Hopkins looks enough like a teenager (at 32) to get sent undercover to blow the lid off a hookers-on-campus scandal at a liberal arts college. She finds more than she bargained for, including a studly RA who follows her around. (It’s okay, he’s legal.)  So, college. The music is weird, the piercings are scary, and the sheets are polyester. Would I go back? Only at gunpoint…although I wouldn’t mind having my skin back — it was that golden time between pimples and wrinkles….”

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Beneath a Marble Sky

by John Shors

“…Weren’t you just saying you wanted to learn more about the building of the Taj Mahal, and life in the royal family in 17th century Hindustan? Here’s your golden opportunity. Or as the Empress would prefer, your golden opportunity draped with silk and studded with giant pearls, followed by muscular, well oiled attendants and riding an elephant. I’m trying to get into the spirit of the thing, here. Something for everyone — passion, war, and architecture!…”

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Between Friends

by Kristy Kiernan

“…Ali Guttierez can hear the clock ticking. Her first child — a miracle of in vitro magic supplied by her best friend Cora — is old enough to be tired of hearing the story of her birth. Ali’s problems are compounded by her newly surly and unhappy husband, and what about Cora? Does she have a say in what happens to her ovum, donated all those years before? Kiernan specializes in the intricate relationships between women and Between Friends is at once thought provoking and surprising….”

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Beyond Black

by Hilary Mantel

“…This is one of the creepiest, oddest books I have ever read.  We have a very overweight psychic who really sees the dead — and they turn out to be just as annoying and boring as the living.  The trouble doesn’t so much start as just get worse when she moves into a McMansion in the suburbs of London. It’s comedy of the very blackest sort…”

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Beyond the Spiderwick Chronicles: The Wyrm King

by Holly Black and Tony DiTerlizzi

“…In Beyond The Spiderwick Chronicles: The Wyrm King, Holly Black and Tony DiTerlizzi have created a world where wanting the magic to be true doesn’t necessarily mean the dragons won’t eat you or the mermaids are your friends. The kids in this book live by their wits, as Holly Black says, without magical powers or charmed amulets. In this, the final book in The Spiderwick Chronicles, the young leads must try and undo what they just completed — seems like saving the world from one menace just opened the door to another. And nothing less than Florida real estate hangs in the balance — the stakes have never been higher!…”

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Big Numbers

by Jack Getze

“…When you think of the shadowy, noir underbelly of civilized life, you may envision a drug cartel, bank robbers, maybe even those wacky Intarwebs hackers the kids are all talking about. Think again, says Jack Getze, stock brokers play The Most Dangerous Game. Our anti-heroish narrator is Austin Carr, he may be down on his luck (way down) but figures he’s got the charm and smarts to pull off his latest scheme — his wealthiest client is dying, and the hot young widow needs a shoulder to cry on, so to speak. But she, along with everyone else in this novel, has an agenda….”

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The Big Over Easy

by Jasper Fforde

“…Normally, I avoid anything that might be described as whimsical like a cute fluffy plague. But the matter-of-factness of D.I. Spratt and his new partner, Sgt. Mary Mary — their very ordinariness when dealing with talking pigs, and clues like a 28-foot long human hair at the crime scene — particularly when compared to the pompous and loathsome Det. Chymes, completely won me over. The last thing that made me love this book was the CSI-style autopsy drawing of Humpty’s shattered remains — complete with tattoos and scars — on the back cover….”

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The Big Shuffle

by Laura Pedersen

“…This is the third in a series about teen poker hustler Hallie Palmer, so I felt a little like I had wandered into a conversation already in progress. But Hallie is a charming narrator (and Pederson is a witty, funny writer) and I kept up. Poor Hallie’s dad dies practically on page one, and the rest of the book deals with the fallout. Job One, taking care of her 9 brothers and sisters.  Despite the grim premise, lots of laundry and much exhaustion, this book was hardly a downer. (Seriously, I have one brother and we did everything but rip each other’s limbs off and set the house on fire.) Ten kids! Not without my Taser!…”

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Blind Submission

by Debra Ginsberg

“…I read this book the same week I saw The Devil Wears Prada, and couldn’t help but compare. Book publishing Boss Lady Lucy Fiamma is petty, malicious, demanding, shrill, and dresses like a lunatic, which is where she and Meryl Streep part company, I guess. New assistant Angel’s job is to go through the giant pile of book submissions and seperate the only slightly awful from the truly stank. Also, someone is sending mysterious email book chapters that mirror Angel’s life — a stalker?  This one is funny and very clever, and I didn’t figure out the plot twist before the end. Bonus!…”

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Blood Vines

by Erica Spindler

“…Bestselling crime novelist Spindler travels to the wine country of Sonoma for her latest book, which follows Alexandra Owens, a nice girl with a crazy mother and gaping hole in her memory. Even though Alex is tormented by missing pieces of her past and people keep dying on her, at least the horrible secret buried in her past didn’t lead her to, like, upstate New York in February. Seriously, I am much more likely to solve crimes and reconnect with my secret family if I can wear cute shoes and get a decent glass of wine….”

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The Bowl is Already Broken

by Mary Kay Zuravleff

“…My favorite museum on the National Mall is the dependably uncrowded Freer and Sackler Gallery of Asian Art. This novel’s thinly disguised National Asian Art museum is also undervisited, and unless the band of art geeks that work there can stop it, it’ll end up a food court. I loved this book, probably the best of the year so far….”

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Brethren

by Robyn Young

“…I totally geek out on historical fiction, particularly set in the Middle Ages. Throw in secret societies, a sassy heroine, the Crusades, and the Muslim warrior Baybars the Crossbow (best nickname ever), and I am up all night reading. This book — the first in a trilogy — has all the elements in place as we follow young Will Campbell from farm boy to warrior with the Knights Templar, the military arm of the Christian church. They have to take vows of poverty, chastity and complete obedience — so, fun! Oh, and there’s a cameo appearance by the Spanish Inquisition!…”

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Brigid of Kildare

by Heather Terrell

“…In the 5th Century, a Roman spy/scribe named Decius gets the crap assignment of all time: head out to the literal end of the world — Ireland — and find out whatÕs going on at the Abbey of Kildare. There are rumors of women in charge and banned scriptures! The plot wanders from the 5th century to this one, as an art historian (is this the most exciting job ever? ItÕs like being a superspy!) makes a startling discovery in an ancient Irish treasure….”

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The Buenos Aires Broken Hearts Club

by Jessica Morrison

“…The author calls this book Flit Lit — a mash up of Chick Lit and travel writing, and I think she’s on to something! Cassie is a list obsessed 28 year old never-was, who finds her perfectly ordered life turned upside down. After a few dozen martinis, she buys a ticket to Buenos Aires, and as scared as she is to go through with her adventure, she’s even more scared to admit she can’t do it. So off she goes without any Spanish or any plans. Life ensues….”

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Bulletproof Mascara

by Bethany Maines

“…Out of work Nikki falls into a job at Carrie Mae Cosmetics — mostly to escape from her rather overbearing mother. But Carrie Mae isn’t only pushing lipstick: they also have a super secret espionage arm, and Nikki finds herself fighting human traffickers in Thailand and fighting off her own attraction to this guy who keeps showing up — hint, he’s not a Canadian gangster. Very cute, fast moving, and the whole idea of an army of cosmetic salewomen/below-the-radar warriors just feels right!…”

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By George

by Wesley Stace

“…By George by Wesley Stace. We have been trained as modern audiences to make conclusions about things — we know clowns are evil, we know cheerleaders will probably get dismembered in the first reel, and we know ventriloquist dummies are possessed by demons. Well I’m here to tell you (actually, Wes Stace is here to tell you) that you need to put that aside and meet George, star of the English music hall stage, hero of World War II, memoirist and witty companion. That he is made of wood shouldn’t prevent him from being one of the most memorable and endearing characters you’ll meet on the page. The other George (there are two) is an English schoolboy trying to find his own voice in a family full of theatrical divas. The twin narratives, as they slowly come together, do reveal family secrets in a satisfying way, but travels with George (the wooden one) were the chief pleasure in a very pleasurable novel….”

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Can’t Wait to Get to Heaven

by Fannie Flagg

“…who is the same Fannie Flagg I used to watch on Match Game. That Gene Rayburn!  Of course Ms. Flagg wrote Fried Green Tomatoes (at the Whistle Stop Café) and if you didn’t cry your eyes out at that one, you, my friend, have no soul. This one isn’t a tearjerker, but a deceptively simple meditation on the meaning of life and the interconnectedness of humanity. It all starts when elderly but quite lively Mrs. Elner Shimfissle ignores her niece’s advice — again — and climbs a ladder to pick some figs. Her fall sets off a chain reaction of events that touches the whole town and both coasts. I’d have to say this book is sweet without being cute and sharp while still being kind….”

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Catching Genius

by Kristy Kiernan

“…Kristy Kiernan’s debut novel asks an interesting question; what do you do with a child prodigy? And what do you do with the other, ‘normal’ kids in the family? Young Estella is pegged as a math prodigy, and her father (who has some issues, one might notice) sets her up as a meal ticket/dancing bear. Her childhood is traded for exploitation and unhappiness. Her sister Connie, the pretty, normal-brained one, spends her life trying to figure out what happened to her sister, and how to get her back. This book, set on the beaches of Florida’s gulf coast, wanders back and forth in time as we peel away the layers of grievances and grudges that keep the women apart. Another highly recommended summer reading selection….”

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The Charlemagne Pursuit

by Steve Berry

“…New York Times bestseller Steve Berry brings back former Justice agent-turned-rare book dealer Cotton Malone, who finally learns the truth about the death of his father aboard a doomed submarine back in the 70s. To get to that point, he has to brave his ex-boss Stephanie Nelle (love her), a nerdy hitman, Nazis under the ice (that would be Antarctica, not ‘Capades’) and German sisters in crime. There are cool exotic locales and plenty of depth and wit to balance the action and explosions….”

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Cleopatra’s Daughter

by Michelle Moran

“…Once again Moran turns to a minor player to tell the insider story — in this case, the daughter of Cleopatra and Marc Antony. Selene is a pampered, educated child of privilege until those lousy Roman centurions show up and drag her off to Rome, where she’s raised as an uneasy guest/hostage by the royal family. Lovers of history with a big splash of romance (occasionally torrid, mostly doomed) will be delighted with this one….”

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The Cold Room

by J.T. Ellison

“…This is the fourth book about Nashville detective Taylor Jackson, and just when you thought every sort of depravity has been thrown at the poor woman, along comes a dude who likes his women room temperature. She’s also got to contend with her attraction to a hot English coworker (longtime squeeze FBI agent Baldwin is NOT amused) and there’s even a trip to Italy! At this point I can see the appeal in getting out of Nashville — apparently itÕs full of homicidal maniacs!…”

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Come Closer

by Sara Gran

“…Come Closer by Sara Gran is the perfect book if you feel like sleeping with the lights on. The premise of this short, coolly written novel is that the narrator thinks she’s possessed by a demon. Is she? Or is she going insane? I personally check myself for signs of demonic attack several times a day, thanks to this book.  (Inappropriate thought? Check!)…”

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A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers

by Xiaolu Guo

“…Zhuang arrives in London with a tiny smattering of English, a translation dictionary from her native Chinese, and an unquenchable desire to learn about the world outside of her small town. This novel, told in diary form, follows Z (so called because no one in the west can pronounce her name) from her halting grammatical beginnings through her affair with the Englishman, and her coming to terms with things like privacy, romantic love, sex, freedom and an English Breakfast. Even after Z learns what the words mean, the intentions are still pretty slippery. The writing is totally original and extremely funny….”

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Contagious

by Scott Sigler

“…In the mood for something violent, bloody, tech-heavy, fast moving and generally full of mayhem? This one is not up my typical book alley, but I was really drawn into the tale of a team of scientists sent into the middle of an American war zone where the enemy turns out to be your alien-infected neighbors. Not all the good guys are what you’d typically call good, and some of the bad guys retain enough humanity to make you sympathize, plus the Big Bad is an adorable little moppet who terrifies even her alien overlord, which, awesome!…”

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Continuity Girl

by Leah McLaren

“…Meredith — she just seems so normal. She has a good job and a nice, if sort of sterile place in the city. So when she finds herself unexpectedly jobless and attempting to reconnect with her hugely flakey mother in London, it seems very un-Meredith like to suddenly have her biological clock go off. At that point, the search is on for a daddy donor. The potentials include German expressionist photographers and tipsy English aristocracy, and what’s up with those transatlantic calls from her cute gynecologist? (It sounds awful but it’s really charming.) The author includes a scene set at a suburban kid’s birthday party (which may have included a dead clown), which was painfully funny and made me proud that I have no biological clock….”

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The Coral Thief

by Rebecca Stott

“…In her second time-tripping novel, Ms. Stott takes us to Paris about 20 years after the Terror, when most of the wreckage has been swept up and most of the blood has washed away. Daniel is a medical student from the sticks whose run in with the cross dressing philosopher Lucienne (she’s the thief of the title) leads him into a maze of crime, intrigue and debate that seems totally modern and oh so very Parisian. …”

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Cross Bones

by Kathy Reichs

“…Kathy Reichs new novel, Cross Bones, in which her super sleuth forensic anthropologist alter ego takes time out from  being the subject of the TV show Bones (the one about the super sleuth forensic anthropologist) to solve a mystery that starts in a warehouse in Montreal and winds up in the desert in Israel.  Hmmmm… 2000-year old shroud-wrapped bones? Who could it be? (Hint — It ain’t Elvis.)…”

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Crossing Washington Square

by Joanne Rendell

“…How do you know when a book is good? How about whether or not it’s worth teaching? That’s a battle that’s raging across academia even as we speak, and it’s the core question plaguing the English lit department at the terribly uptown Manhattan U. Professor Rachel Grey represents the forces of chick lit, and Prof. Diana Monroe has the full force of the classic canon at her back. Yet the two women may have more in common than they realize. This smart, funny book may be classified as contemporary women’s fiction, but as both professors ultimately learn, there’s nothing wrong with that!…”

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Cut to the Bone

by Shane Gericke

“…There’s trouble in Naperville, Illinois as a particularly nasty serial killer is on the loose. It’s up to Detective Emily Thompson and her partner Martin Benedetti to track down the murderer. The things that sets this mystery/thriller apart from its many companions on the shelf are the humanity of the bloody-but-unbowed Emily, a grown up, almost *gasp* normal woman, and the remarkable detail former newsman Gericke puts into his story. He’s a writer in love with the facts, a just plain interesting guy, and has the storytelling knack. Plus, you’ll learn more about the death penalty than you may have expected — I certainly did….”

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Daemon

by Daniel Suarez

“…A Daemon is a computer program that runs quietly in the background…waiting…lurking, if you will. When evil genius/computer geezer Matthew Sobol dies, the daemon that’s been waiting for his obituary to appear springs into action and starts rearranging things — things like money, power and people. The race is on to try and figure out how to kill something that’s not alive, stay a step ahead of something practically no one understands, and stop something that only exists in the ether. Cool, interesting cybery goodness!…”

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The Dakota Cipher

by William Dietrich

“…William Dietrich’s 17th century cad-about-town Ethan Gage is back! After being run out of Europe for sneaking off with Napoleon’s married sister, Gage is hired by President Jefferson to explore the newly opened American West, being sure to keep an eye out for blue-eyed Indians and wooly mammoths. Along with fellow adventurer Magnus Bloodhammer, they trek across the country meeting brave French trappers, decadent English explorers, Native American friends and foes, and the remnants of an Egyptian snake cult. (It could happen.) Dietrich keeps things moving and manages to make Gage both a self-absorbed blowhard and a genuine charmer….”

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A Dangerous Dress

by Julia Holden

“…With temperatures into the 90s, it must be time for books about fashion and sex. (Hooray!)  This is a sweet modern fairy tale about a girl, her awesome dress, and wearing a size zero at Armani. The coincidences run fast and thick, the hero was kind of a tool (he shapes up, natch) but man, the outfits rock….”

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Dating is Murder

by Harley Jane Kozak

“…That actress from Arachnophobia! She’s written a mystery series set in LA, a town she obviously knows well. This is a cut above the typical ‘perky chick sleuth in trouble’; the best part is the heroine’s grudging appearance on a new reality show (which not only lowers but actually stomps on the bar on sleaze) called Biological Clock — just as demeaning and hilarious as it sounds. And there’s a murder!…”

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Dead as a Doornail

by Charlaine Harris

“…I’ve been reading Charlaine Harris’ novels about psychic barmaid Sookie Stackhouse for a couple of years now, and while she’s on the ‘women who love vampires’ shelf, she puts a refreshing spin on it. Plus she’s a whole lot of fun to read. Her Sookie reads minds, and can’t control it very well, which puts a big damper on her love life — would you want to know everything your date is thinking?….”

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Definitely Dead

by Charlaine Harris

“…It was like my birthday and Chanukah all rolled into one, as I got a copy of the 6th book in the Southern Gothic vampire series. It’s just the right blend of horror, humor and romance. Follow the exploits of small town barmaid and psychic (and hot vampire magnet) Sookie Stackhouse as she solves supernatural mysteries and tries not to be late to her shift at the bar, and when the Alan Ball (6 Feet Under) adaptation hits HBO later this year, you can roll your eyes and say “They totally ruined it”…”

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The Devil’s Queen: A Novel of Catherine de Medici

by Jeanne Kalogridis

“…Did you know that Catherine di Medici, the Queen of France in the 16th century, invented high heels and women’s underwear? Think of the shopping we never would have done without her! She had what one might call a full life — from kidnapped princess to the queen of a country that despised her, wed to a king who spent most of his life loving another woman. TMZ would have loved Catherine. Whether or not her court was as steeped in astrology and magic as Kalogridis writes is speculation, but the facts remain and they tell us she was both brilliant and a little bit of a nut — perfect for a juicy and well researched novel….”

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The Disorder of Longing

by Natasha Bauman

“…Oh, those wacky Victorians. Here we have Ada, a perfectly normal woman just trying to figure out how to be a good wife in late 1800’s Boston. As she quickly learns, ‘a good wife’ to her desperately social climbing husband means mouth shut, eyes down, and quit rolling around in bed like a crazy woman. Ada is magnetically drawn not only to the orchids Edward collects, but (not surprisingly) to the rugged orchid hunters themselves. Ada has to decide whether having the perfect place setting at dinner is more important than living the life she dreams of, one with freedom (and orgasms). Natasha Bauman draws some interesting parallels between the androgynously gorgeous flowers Edward pants over, and the sacrifices Ada makes on her voyage of self discovery….”

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Dope

by Sara Gran

“…You may remember me raving about Come Closer, Sara’s last novel. This one is very different in style and tone but just as noteworthy. A spare, tightly wound noir mystery, Dope is set in the seedy underbelly of 1950s Brooklyn. Josephine Flannigan is an ex-junkie, ex-hooker and ex-con. She’s barely hanging on when she thinks she’s struck pay dirt — find the drug addicted daughter of a wealthy couple. The double crossing then commences, and I can’t tell you about any of the characters or any more plot without giving everything away.  This book makes being a drug addicted prostitute even less fun and glamorous than you thought!….”

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Dragon House

by John Shors

“…Set in contemporary Viet Nam, we follow Iris, a sheltered book reviewer (is there any other kind?) and Noah, an injured and bitter veteran of the Iraq war, as they find themselves, find love (it’s not what you expect) and create something decent in the squalor of Ho Chi Minh City. The question of whether the Vietnamese people need saving by the benevolence of the West in this case is answered by the genuine kindness and good intentions of our main characters. I think both of these fictional people would not hesitate to answer “Yes, we do owe them this much, at least.”…”

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The Dressmaker

by Elizabeth Birkelund Oberbeck

“…One must resist the temptation to compare the writing in this light, fluffy, delectable tale of a Parisian dress designer and his lovely, elusive muse to a pastry…a Napoleon, with fresh berries and cream…. anyway, it’s a sweet (duh) and somewhat melancholy story that made me want to immediately get on a plane and stroll along the Seine…eating a baguette….is it lunchtime?…”

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Drood

by Dan Simmons

“…Dan Simmons artfully marries the London of Charles Dickens and his elegant contemporaries with the opium-laced city under the sewers and attempts to solve the very real mystery of Dickens’ last days. From the horrific train accident that serves as the opening set piece to the conspiracy that he claimed surrounded him, Dickens is trailed everywhere by the mysterious creatureÊ(man? demon?) called Drood. But who or what is Drood and what does he want from Dickens? This book serves as a very long and very satisfying answer to that question….”

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Echo in the Bone (Outlander Book 7)

by Diana Gabaldon

“…Fans of Jamie, Claire and the far-flung Fraser clan can rejoice in the return of the Scotsman and the time traveler. Fans of American Revolution-era history, romance, military history, fantasy, and good, intricately plotted fiction can also plan on unplugging the phone and immersing themselves in another — actually several other — times and places….”

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18 Seconds

by George Shuman

“…Take Medium, add CSI, toss in some Silence of the Lambs, and sprinkle with The Sixth Sense. Sherry Moore is a blind woman who can see the last 18 seconds of a dead person’s life by touching their hand. She gets sucked into an extremely creepy serial murder case in Wildwood, New Jersey. (Don’t go under the boardwalk! DON’T GO — oh, hell.)…”

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8th Grade Bites

by Heather Brewer

“…Most of the vampire books that I see coming across our desk are told from the viewpoint of the (usually panting) female victim, so it was an interesting change of pace to read Heather’s YA novel, told in the rather morose but goodhearted voice of a teenage boy. Vlad is a half vampire/half human hybrid (I don’t know…I guess we’ll find out in the further adventures) who’s trying to make it through eighth grade without feeding on his best friend or looking like a dork in front of the girl of his dreams. Also, his fangs tend to pop out at the worst possible moments. Ooo, metaphors!…”

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Emma’s Table

by Philip Galanes

“…Oh good, I thought when I picked this one up, another downtrodden assistant/evil boss book. Because I haven’t read that story enough AT ALL. Fortunately, I was completely wrong. I fell in love with this book (and have developed a wild girlish crush on the author) in part for the audacity of the premise: what if Martha Stewart (or her genetic clone with a different name) was the hero of a story? The action takes us from smooth moves at the auction house to desperate measures at the dinner table with thoroughly memorable characters and a (slightly too quick) fairy tale wrap-up. My only request? Philip, write a sequel….”

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Every Secret Thing

by Lila Shaara

“…This novel is so good it’s amazing it’s her debut (and it makes me a little angry, like when I realized Miss America would always be younger than me. That was a while ago.).  The story of Gina Paletta, ex-high fashion model, now a college professor and widowed mother of twin boys, whose carefully safe and quiet life is flipped over when two of her students post nasty pictures of her on their website. (Never let anyone take your picture! Ever!) Gina’s a tough character to warm up to, but it’s so worth it. One of the best this year….”

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Falling Boy

by Alison McGhee

“… If you look at it one way, this is a book about a couple of kids stuck working in a bakery one long summer. If you take another look, it’s about superheroes, bees, mothers, dreams of flying, the ocean, and features the fiercest 9 year old girl in recent fiction, named Enzo (although she prefers to go by The Mighty Thor)….”

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Falling Under

by Danielle Younge-Ullman

“…Are you tired of hearing about fiction that’s ‘raw and edgy,’ but just turns out to be sort of dirty and gimmicky? Here’s a debut novel that delivers, with a narrator who’s afraid of just about everything except revealing herself on paper — there’s a real element of ‘I shouldn’t be seeing this’ in Younge-Ullman’s work. The story of Mara, a talented painter so beset by her demons and fears that can she can barely leave her house, is set alongside the story of Mara’s childhood, and I got the rare experience of both plunging forward with the story and stepping back to applaud the technical skill and bravery of the execution. Extreme, and extremely well done!…”

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The Family Fortune

by Laurie Horowitz

“…we hobnob with the upper crust in The Family Fortune by Laurie Horowitz. Written as an homage (which makes it legal) to Jane Austen’s Persuasion, it’s the story of a very wealthy family of Boston Brahmin, their one sensible daughter, and what happens when the money runs out. (hint: they go skiing!)…”

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Family Planning

by Elizabeth Letts

“…So we’ve got illegal immigrants, unwanted pregnancies, drug using teens, and a vision of the Virgin Mary. I guess the author couldn’t think of anything controversial. Far from being a screed, this novel is set in a women’s health clinic and manages to be sensible and sensitive, kind hearted and even funny. I still would have turned the hose on the clinic protestors, though…”

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A Fatal Waltz

by Tasha Alexander

“…Tasha Alexander is back with the continuing adventures of Victorian detective and very well dressed gadfly Lady Emily Ashton. This time, A Fatal Waltz finds the gang heading for Vienna to try and clear Emily’s best friend’s husband of a murder charge. (Her mother’s reaction when Em visits him in Newgate Prison is priceless.) There are great new characters like the slinky Countess von Lange, and Emily gets to hang out with the common people and take in the coffeehouse culture. Her scenes with her dashing and somewhat mysterious fiancé Colin are getting hilariously overheated (there’s a lot of panting and swooning — I think at one point a wrist is exposed — gasp!) as they struggle to remain proper and, well, upright. The mystery of who murdered whom is pretty complicated but the waltzing is grand and the champagne is cold!…”

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Fault Line

by Barry Eisler

“…When Ben’s brother Alex calls for help, it doesn’t matter that more than a decade of unresolved resentment lies between them, Ben’s a stand up guy and he drops everything to see what he can do. In this case, it’s a sniper rifle he’s dropping and lawyer Alex is mixed up in something that’ll probably ruin his shoes and make him late for lunch. Fault Line is a nifty mix of high tech gadgetry and familial discord, with just the right amount of both….”

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Fear of Driving

by Daniella Brodsky

“…I’ve talked about this author’s previous two books, and it was a real pleasure to sit down and talk with her about Fear of Driving. She has Ruby and Ed meet and fall in love practically on page one, so the typical romantic entanglements are tossed aside. That’s not what this book is about. This is about what happens after Happily Ever After, when you realize you haven’t told your new spouse one single true thing about yourself because you’re afraid they won’t love you, you’re afraid of being judged, you’re afraid they’ll drive off and leave you behind. Obviously, Ruby is afraid of lots more than driving!….”

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A Field of Darkness

by Cornelia Read

“…Maddie Dare is an ex-trust fund deb who escaped the antics of her family on the moneyed north shore of Long Island. She keeps a smart remark and her shotgun handy, and with all the bodies piling up in dumpy, edge-of-the-known-world Syracuse, it’s a good thing she’s armed.  Ms. Read uses lots of her own history for this dark, witty thriller, proving that truth makes the best fiction. Thanks to Lesa Holstine, who pointed me towards this book…”

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The Fire

by Katherine Neville

“…This sequel to the worldwide bestseller picks up where The Eight left off (albeit 20 years later!) with all our favorite characters back in place on the grand chess board of human existence — we find out the fates of Cat Velis, chess champ Lily Rad and Soviet chess hottie Alexander Solarin among scores of others. There are stories within stories, secret histories, real historic figures wandering through the plot, and of course the fate of the world hangs in the balance. Who will take the Queen and win the day? Read The Fire and find out….”

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Five Things I Can’t Live Without

by Holly Shumas

“…Chocolate! No, wait. Vodka! Wait — chocolate flavored vodka! This is hard! Ask yourself the question posed in the title of this week’s book. It’s a good exercise, and it’s the question Nora asks her clients when she’s preparing their internet dating profiles. Nora is at a bit of a crossroads — she’s stuck living what she calls her meta-life (the act of critiquing your experiences while your having them) and can’t seems to make any forward progress. Will she finally complete her list of 5 things? Will I?…”

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Fledgling

by Octavia Butler

“…I’ve been a fan of Ms Butler’s for a while; you can count on her for not only compelling plots but beautifully drawn, strong black women who are not just the hero’s girlfriend, or hanging on the edge of the action. She takes a population that has been marginalized in science fiction — two populations in fact — and focuses the action on them. At the same time, there is always an element of unease in her work. She talks about race, gender and sexuality in a very frank way — I think a lot of more mainstream writers have found it easier, maybe more comfortable to look at race through the prism of alien species, and in so called ‘hard science fiction,’ it’s all computers and space ships — that’s where you’ll find the hero’s girlfriend I mentioned. She’ll rarely be a major player, and if she’s not a white girl, maybe she’ll be green….”

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Flush

by Carl Hiaasen

“…Flush is set in the upper Keys, which gives it a small town vibe, but the villany is big city — illegal dumping and a corrupt government’s blind eye. And scariest of all, Noah’s parent’s have been fighting. Hiassen peoples this novel with characters you might find in the bars and on the boats down in the Keys, and treats them all with great affection. Will Noah help his trouble prone dad stop the dumping and clear his name? Will his parents work things out? And who’s the mysterious pirate that keeps showing up?…”

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47 Rules of Highly Effective Bank Robbers

by Troy Cook

“…47 Rules of Highly Effective Bank Robbers by Troy Cook reimagines Bonnie and Clyde as a lighthearted romp through the Arizona desert. If you like the thrillers of Elmore Leonard or Carl Hiaasen, this could be for you. Max and Tara are two sweet young things on the run — from her daddy, a violent gun-toting bank robber,  and his daddy, the Dr. Phil-spouting small town sheriff. Lots of bullets fly alongside the quips….”

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14

by J.T. Ellison

“…J.T. Ellison’s new book featuring Nashville deb-turned-cop Taylor Jackson is out; it’s called ‘14‘. This time Taylor is tracking a serial killer who has seemingly returned from the dead, and she’s also planning her wedding — guess which one is scarier? As usual, J.T. works on a realistic canvas — her hometown — which makes the cavalcade of lunatics who crop up to ruin Taylor’s special day even more menacing. (Although if you can find anything more terrifying than a caterer please do let me know about it.) There are a couple of plot twists that I certainly didn’t see coming (I love that) and one ‘ripped from the headlines’ event that J.T. swears she wrote long before the news story broke. (Hint, it involves a pervy attorney general.)…”

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Fragile Things

by Neil Gaiman

“…I’m going to step up and confess my giant crush on Mr. Gaiman — when I got his autograph (yes, I stood in line for like 3 hours and OMYGOD IT WAS SO WORTH IT!!!!) I forgot how to speak English. If he never did anything other than write the Sandman graphic novels he’d be like a god to me, but he keeps turning out amazing fiction: fantasy, horror, screenplays — his children’s books are great, and he’s awfully charming in person even if I wasn’t. Oh, this is a collection of short fiction — romantic, scary, chilling, beautiful. Just go get it….”

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The Fugitive Wife

by Peter C. Brown

“…There are some things I was just not cut out for, and Frontier Wife would have to be at the head of the list. Fortunately, Esther, the heroine of this novel, is made of sterner stuff. You won’t hear her complaining if her pedicurist makes the water too hot (it was!) and she shrugs off snakes, floods, fire, freezing to death on the way to the outhouse, bears — but when that handsome bird-watching schoolteacher catches her eye, that’s when the trouble starts….”

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Gentlemen and Players

by Joanne Harris

“…Joanne Harris’ Gentlemen and Players is a twisty murder mystery set in an upper-crust English boarding school. (Does anything good ever happen there?) Harris wrote the book (which became the film)  Chocolat, so you know the prose will be lush and velvety smooth, and hopefully there’ll be a part for Johnny Depp….”

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The Geographer’s Library

by Jon Fasman

“…it’s off to Estonia (whee!) in The Geographer’s Library by Jon Fasman.  This starts out as a straightforward murder mystery, then veers off into alchemy, secret societies, and (maybe a little too much) Cold War/Eastern European politics and history. It’s a little homework-y but worthwhile….”

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Ghostwalk

by Rebecca Stott

“…There are a lot of things going on in this very ambitious first novel — multiple timelines, murders, hauntings, and lots of science, near-science and straight-up magic. The story of how the drowning of a renowned Newtonian scholar may be related to a series of murders in 17th century Cambridge is both complicated and fascinating, and the almost hallucinatory style Ms. Stott writes in sets a nicely unsettled tone. Bonus points for making me care about her generally prickly, morose and shall we say difficult characters!…”

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The Girl from Junchow

by Kate Furnivall

“…we catch up with Lydia who’s growing up fast as she escapes from civil war in China to the heart of Stalin-era Moscow. Will her beloved Chang An Lo follow her? Come on, this is a romance novel. But wait! It’s also historical fiction, so Lydia’s on the trail of her father who may not be dead after all. That’s the good news. The bad news? Visiting hours at the gulag are ‘never’….”

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The Girl with Glass Feet

by Ali Shaw

“…On the chilly winter island of St. Hauda’s Land, Ida has come to find a cure for her strange condition — she’s slowly turning to glass, feet first. She meets young Midas Crook, who hides behind his camera, and the two of them embark on a fairy tale romance — the old-fashioned kind, where a happy ending is by no means guaranteed and sacrifice will be demanded. The woods and swamps of St. Hauda’s are dark and uninviting but the flashes of beauty you’ll find make the trip very worthwhile….”

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Good Luck

by Whitney Gaskell

“…On the very worst day of Lucy (or maybe anyone’s) life, Lucy hits the Florida lottery and wins 87 million dollars. Problem solved? More like problems compounded. Even though she can suddenly afford shopping trips to Worth Avenue in Palm Beach (I refer to this street as a Merchandise Museum) she still has the same problems she did the day before. Can money buy happiness? Or arrange for a long term lease-to-own? This is an entertaining and well written look at how money does indeed change everything….”

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Grave Surprise

by Charlaine Harris

“…I’m a gushing fangirl of Ms. Harris, and even though there are no vampires or psychic barmaids in this one, it’s a fine mystery with just a whiff of the supernatural. Harper Connelly is a young woman who survived a lightning strike but was left with a little something extra — she can locate the dead and tell you what killed them.  (As my grandmother used to say, From this you can make a living?) The A-plot mystery is quite lurid and I couldn’t guess the killer, but it’s the leisurely pace and unconventional characters that keep me coming back. Ms. Harris is extremely prolific — there will probably be at least 3 more books about Harper, and we may eventually get to the bottom of her relationship with her smoking-hot-yet-troubled-but­ultimately-good-hearted (whew!) stepbrother Tolliver….”

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The Graveyard Book

by Neil Gaiman

“…What, you think I’m going to be the schmuck who says, ‘Eh, it was okay’? No, it was lovely, scary, smart, referred back to The Jungle Book without being obvious or cute, and the characters have the best names! I spent about half an hour on the phone with Gaiman and I’m glad we recorded it because I was so nervous I don’t remember a thing….”

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Hardly Knew Her

by Laura Lippman

“…Baltimore crime writer Lippman takes some times off writing about detective Tess Monoghan for this collection of stories about bad, bad girls — murderers, madams, bad mothers — something for everyone! The tales of crime (and very little punishment) are darkly funny and quite bloody and have some wicked characterizations. Watch out for that soccer mom behind you at the grocery store, she could be planning something!…”

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The Heretic Queen

by Michelle Moran

“…When we last visited ancient Egypt, Nefertiti and Akhenaton had upended society by abolishing the old pantheon of gods and installing themselves, and this sun god dude Aten. This idea pretty much ended in tears for everyone. Now we skip ahead a generation and its Nefertiti’s niece, Nefertari, who takes over narration duties. She’s an orphan at court and no one is allowed to even speak the name of her now-dead relatives. Does she rise to power? Does she catch the eye of Ramses the Great? Does history happen all around her? Michelle Moran takes our images of carefully posed figures in stylized wall paintings and turns them into passionate, interesting, living people….”

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The Hour I First Believed

by Wally Lamb

“…How do you follow up having two books on Oprah’s Book Club? If you’re Wally Lamb, you spend several years researching everything from the Miss Rheingold Contest to the writings of female inmates in a Connecticut prison to the effect of post traumatic stress on a family. Caelum and Maureen are sort of hanging in there when she’s trapped in the library at Columbine when the shooting starts. Their journey through the American maze makes for an often grueling but ultimately hopeful novel….”

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How Opal Mehta Got Kissed, Got Wild, and Got a Life

by Kaavya Viswanathan

“…In How Opal Mehta Got Kissed, Got Wild, and Got a Life, Kaavya Viswanathan tells the classic tale of the high school makeover — in this case, math nerd Opal must learn how to invent a social life among the Mean Girls for herself, because all of a sudden at the Harvard they want you to have fun. The 19-year old author got a huge contract for this book while a freshman at Harvard herself. Hate!…”

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How to Sleep with a Movie Star

by Kristen Harmel

“…First up, How to Sleep With A Movie Star by Kristen Harmel. I got all excited, I thought it was a textbook. Turns out it’s a funny, catty, gossipy novel set in the world of fashion magazines. If you read The Star while on line at the grocery store, (oh come on, you totally do)you might like this one….”

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Huge

by James Fuerst

“…12-year-old Eugene ‘Huge’ Smalls is the smallest, angriest kid in his 6th grade class. He’s a detective on a sweet tricked-out Schwinn who idolizes Spade and Marlowe, and he’s on his very first case — rain down vengeance on the punk who vandalized the sign outside his beloved grandmother’s nursing home. Huge is foul mouthed and troubled but his essential sweetness comes through. Note: even though Huge is 12, this book is not really for the junior high set….”

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