Friday, September 30, 2011

Have you curled up with a good book lately?

One Summer by David Baldacci

Kirkus Reviews

Baldacci (Hell's Corner, 2010, etc.) departs from thriller mode to pen this often-maudlin tale of familial reinvention.

In Iraq and Afghanistan, Jack earned two Purple Hearts and a Bronze Star, but it appears that the appointment in Samarra he dodged has been waiting for him in Cleveland, Ohio. As Christmas nears, he is dying of an unnamed but always terminal disease, surrounded by his two boys, Jackie and Cory, prickly teenage daughter Mikki, wife Lizzie and mother-in-law Bonnie. On Christmas Eve, Lizzie rushes out into a snowstorm to fill Jack's pain-med prescriptions and is killed in a crash. Bonnie supervises the dispersal of the children to various relatives, and Jack is consigned to a hospice. One day, he finds he's breathing on his own. Painstakingly, he recovers and even gains back his former fitness level as an Army Ranger. He gathers the children and moves them to Lizzie's beloved South Carolina seaside home, nicknamed the Palace, in hopes of fulfilling what turned out to be Lizzie's last wish. Once in S.C., Jack finds the Palace and adjacent lighthouse in considerable disrepair. A trained contractor, he sets to work with his crusty, Harley-driving partner Sammy. Mikki, a singer/songwriter, finds a kindred spirit in fellow rocker Liam, whose mother Jenna, a corporate lawyer turned wisecracking restaurant owner, hires Jack to soundproof Liam's studio. The stage is set for new love, but first Jack must overcome his obsession with fixing the lighthouse beam and turn the searchlight on his children. Especially since Bonnie is scheming to get custody of the youngsters. It doesn't help that Jack is only too willing to tangle with small town toughs, or that Mikki has run afoul of the local mean teen queen and her high-school football henchmen.

Baldacci's muscle-bound style doesn't do subtle: He is best at choreographing fight scenes, rescues and dire brushes with severe weather, all of which, thankfully, are here in abundance. Overall, though, the stilted language and trite sentimentalism are yawn-inducing.

The Beach Trees by Karen White

Publishers Weekly

White (On Folly Beach) spins a convoluted story of unexplained disappearances and family secrets stretching from New Orleans to Biloxi, Miss. Five years after Katrina, New Yorker Julie Holt arrives in New Orleans with a mission: she's got a deed to a Biloxi beach house and surprise custody of Beau, her late friend Monica's five-year-old son, and she intends to introduce Beau to the extended family he's never met. Soon, with the help of Monica's grandmother, Aimee, and brother, Trey, Julie begins to piece together exactly why Monica left her home and family, and that Monica's family's secrets run deep and murky—they involve a murder, a famous painter, and a disappearance—which Julie can relate to, as her own sister was kidnapped when she was a child. Told in alternating chapters—Julie in the present, Aimee in the 1950s—as both women search for answers to their respective mysteries, the novel is slow moving and more confusingly teased out than the plot warrants, with White's descriptions of the gulf coast—and New Orleans in particular—offering more reason to keep reading than the less than expert treatment of the families' tormented pasts.

Fallen by Karin Slaughter

Publishers Weekly

At the start of Slaughter's gripping third novel to combine characters from her two Georgia-based series (after Broken), Georgia Bureau of Investigation agent Faith Mitchell arrives at the Atlanta house of her widowed mother, Evelyn, to find serious trouble: her mother, a retired police captain, is missing; a dead man is lying on the laundry room floor; and an Asian man is holding her mother's pistol to a Hispanic man's head in Evelyn's bedroom. More violence follows. Faith's partner, Will Trent, tries to gather clues without stepping on any jurisdictional toes in the ensuing investigation, but Will fears that Evelyn's kidnapping is tied to a corruption scandal involving Evelyn's past as a narcotics officer, an angle he knows Faith doesn't want to consider. Will's deepening friendship with Dr. Sara Linton, currently working in an Atlanta E.R. and one of the few people able to crack his protective shell, adds depth. Family—biological, professional, and everything in between—plays a key role in a thriller sure to please Slaughter's many fans.

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