Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Summer time reading could not get any better!!

The Beginner's Goodbye by Anne Tyler

Kirkus Reviews –

Though the plot finds a man in early middle age coming to terms with the death of his wife, the tone of this whimsical fable is so light that it practically floats off the page. Some might consider the latest from Tyler (Noah's Compass, 2010, etc.) typically wise and charming, while others will dismiss it as cloying. She employs a first-person narrator, a 36-year-old man named Aaron, who works for a small-family publishing firm that specializes in its Beginners series. "These were something on the order of the Dummies books, but without the cheerleader tone of voice," explains Aaron, who proceeds to offer the sort of insight that could come from almost any Tyler novel: "Anything is manageable if it's divided into small enough increments, was the theory, even life's most complicated lessons." At the start of the book, Aaron is in the beginning stages of mourning, after a tree crashed through his house and crushed his slightly older wife. She was a doctor; Aaron is "crippled" and something of an oddball. As Tyler's readers recognize, we are each of us crippled and oddball, deep down inside, and the fact that Aaron's was a marriage of misfits makes it no different from any other. Early on, Aaron receives visits from his dead wife, whom no one else can see, and whom he admits might well be a projection or an apparition. If he is an unreliable narrator, he is also a flawed one, often sounding more like a much older woman than like a man his age (very few of whom use terms like "busy-busy"). Mourning is both a rite of passage and a process of discovery for Aaron, who early worries that, "I can't do this…I don't know how. They don't offer any courses in this; I haven't had any practice," but who is ultimately not a tragic but comic figure, one who will (more or less) live happily ever after. An uncharacteristically slight work by a major novelist.

Come Home by Lisa Scottoline

Kirkus Reviews –

Another stand-alone suspenser that rams home the point that there's no such thing as an ex-mother. Pharmaceutical rep William Skyler blamed his divorce on his wife, Dr. Jill Farrow. He told his daughters, Victoria and Abby, that Jill had cheated on him and forbade them to keep in touch with her or her own daughter Megan. Now, three years later, William is dead, overdosed on prescription medications Abby is convinced he didn't take himself. What's Jill supposed to do when Abby drives unannounced to the home she shares with diabetes researcher Sam Becker, drunk, weeping hysterically and begging for help? Nothing, maintains Sam, who tells Jill that she's choosing continuing loyalty to Abby (and to Victoria, who makes it witheringly clear at William's funeral that she still wants nothing to do with Jill) over her commitment to him and his son Steven. Nothing, say the Philadelphia police, who insist that William's death was no homicide. Nothing, Jill's penny-pinching medical-practice manager Sheryl Ewing says--or would surely say if Jill, already playing out a losing hand in office politics, ever brought it up to her. Naturally, Jill, protesting, "What's a mother, or a stepmother?...Isn't it forever?," takes it upon herself to investigate anyway. Scottoline backs her increasingly beset supermom ("It wasn't a juggling act, it was a magic act") into sleuthing mode with practiced expertise, giving her exactly the right motivations and qualifications for the specific questions she asks. And there'll be a lump in every throat when Abby disappears and when Jill fights to diagnose a baby who keeps getting ear infections. As usual with Scottoline, though, the complications are a lot more satisfying than the windup, in which reason and plausibility take a back seat to tearful family affirmations. Connoisseurs of mother love imperiled will prefer Save Me (2011). But it would be a mistake to count Scottoline out; she's sure to be back next year with another dose that might be even more potent.

Crystal Gardens by Amanda Quick

Kirkus Reviews –

A psychic spinster meets her match in a dark, equally gifted stranger, in Quick's Ladies of Lantern Street series launch. Evangeline, of good breeding but approaching 30 and penniless, is deemed unmarriageable by Victorian society, but luckily she has not had to enter service or support herself as a governess. She is a paid companion, but for a most exclusive and remunerative agency, Flint & Marsh, which deploys clairvoyants as private eyes to the moneyed classes. Undercover in her dowdy disguise, Evangeline recently completed her latest assignment: exposing as a fortune hunter a young man, Douglas, who was courting an heiress. However, Evangeline wasn't expecting Douglas to exact revenge. (The two were not unacquainted in the past.) When she's forced to use psychic power to immobilize him, resulting in his death, Flint & Marsh sends her to a country cottage to recuperate (where she can devote some time to writing the melodramatic novels which are her real passion, at least until her landlord, Lucas Sebastian, comes along). When a London thug, Hobson, breaks into the cottage, knife at the ready, Evangeline manages to escape to Crystal Gardens, the mansion newly purchased by Lucas. As Lucas and his hired man Stone deflect the threat by luring Hobson into a menacing maze of carnivorous greenery, Evangeline cannot deny the powerful pull Lucas exercises on her, in both the paranormal and sensual realms. All too soon, however, an invasion of his relatives dampens the budding romance, as Lucas and Evangeline try to contain their ardor long enough to solve several mysteries—e.g., who murdered the former master of Crystal Gardens, Lucas' Uncle Chester, a reputed madman whose botanical experiments have run amok in the gardens? Who hired Hobson to kill Evangeline? Is there really Roman treasure buried on the estate? These questions are overshadowed by the book's main focus: ensuring that the course of true love is strewn with as many obstacles, psychic and otherwise, as possible. Delivers all that Quick fans swoon over.

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