Monday, June 3, 2013

These great titles are waiting for you @ your library!

The Supremes at Earl's All-You-Can-Eat by Edward Kelsey Moore

Kirkus Reviews –

Well, not Florence, Mary and Diana, but rather three close friends from Plainview, Ind., who, from their adolescence to their maturity, meet to gossip and consolidate their friendship at a local eatery. Odette, Clarice and Barbara Jean have been inseparable since the late 1960s, when they met in high school. Although Barbara Jean was at first an outsider, she quickly bonded with the other two, and they began calling themselves--and being called by others--the Supremes. The novel opens some 40 years after their salad days, when Odette hears of the death of Big Earl, founder of the eponymous black-owned-and-operated restaurant. (We also find out that this news has been conveyed to Odette by her mother, who's been dead for six years.) Through both Odette's narrative and a more neutral third-person perspective, we learn of the trio's personal problems and the rise and fall of their relationships. Odette, for example, is married to the patient and long-suffering James, and recently, she's discovered she has cancer. Clarice has long been married to Richmond, a charming cad who's serially and terminally unfaithful--and she needs to decide whether to leave him or not. And Barbara Jean, who married her husband, 42-year-old Lester, the day after she graduated from high school, is now dealing with his death and confronting the alcoholism that struck unforgivingly with the earlier death of her young son. Throughout the Supremes' intertwined stories is one constant--meeting and eating at Earl's All-You-Can-Eat, now run by his son Little Earl, a place where relationships are forged, scandals are aired and copious amounts of chicken are consumed. A novel of strong women, evocative memories and deep friendship.


Suspect by Robert Crais

Kirkus Reviews –

Veteran thriller-maven Crais (Taken, 2012, etc.) returns with a pleasingly perplexing storyline fresh from the headlines. The heroine of the piece is Maggie, a 3-year-old German shepherd on her second deployment as a patrol and bomb-sniffing dog in Afghanistan. She is fiercely loyal to her handler--so when the inevitable happens, as it does in the evocative, grisly set piece that opens Crais' latest, she's thrown for a loop. Crais has to get a little didactic to provide the basis for innocent civilians: "Dogs suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder shared similar stress reactions with humans, and could sometimes be retrained, but it was slow work that required great patience on the part of the trainer, and enormous trust on the part of the dog." True dat. For her sacrifice, Maggie is not sent to live out her life on the farm, but instead teamed up with trauma-stricken, guilt-ridden LAPD officer Scott James, who, like Maggie, has lost his partner in action. The difference is that Maggie's handlers know who the bad guys were, whereas James has to go Rambo and find out who shot up him and his friend. The answer, revealed after a sequence of carefully plotted, well-described episodes, won't come as a surprise to anyone who's read James Ellroy's L.A. Confidential, though the resolution is more up-to-date. The story takes in vast swaths of Los Angeles in all its multicultural glory, with baddies in the drug and diamond and policing businesses alike. And it's oddly affecting, with Crais ably capturing the bond between humans and canines without veering into sentimentality. A solid, muscular thriller, well-spun.


Touch and Go by Lisa Gardner

Kirkus Reviews –

A team of hard-nosed professionals interrupts a troubled couple's tentative reunion by kidnapping them both, along with their teenage daughter, in Gardner's latest kitchen-sink thrill ride. Ever since Libby Denbe caught her husband, Justin, a handsome and wealthy Boston construction czar, cheating on her, their marriage has been on life support. Their experimental night out turns into a nightmare when they return to find three masked men in their Beacon Hill home terrorizing their 15-year-old daughter, Ashlyn. Swiftly overpowered and driven off in the kidnappers' van, the family can only wonder why they're being held in an unused prison in northern New Hampshire. At the same time, corporate investigator Tessa Leoni, whose firm had been hired by Denbe Construction to handle security problems, and New Hampshire county cop Wyatt Foster wonder why all three of them were kidnapped when Justin is clearly the one worth the most money--and why long hours pass with no ransom demand. The clues point to an inside job masterminded by one of Denbe Construction's top brass: chief financial officer Ruth Chan, chief operating officer Anita Bennett, or construction manager Chris Lopez. Alternating, as in Catch Me (2012), between third-person installments of the search for leads in the case and the beleaguered heroine's first-person accounts of her torment at the hands of the bad guys, Gardner generates such irresistible momentum that most readers will forgive the combination of cool-eyed professional investigation and heavy-breathing domestic soap opera as a family even Libby describes as "three mere clichés" begins to disintegrate still further under the grueling pressure. Even readers who figure out the ringleader long before Tessa and Wyatt will get behind on their sleep turning pages to make sure they're right.




Until the End of Time by Danielle Steel

Kirkus Reviews –

Steel's latest novel uses two love stories to pose and answer questions about the meaning of life and love. The first story, set in 1975, is a romance between the son of wealthy, class-conscious parents and a coal miner's daughter, who has become a successful design consultant for Vogue magazine in New York City. After marrying against his parents' wishes, Bill Sweet leaves the family law firm to study theology and pursue his dream of becoming an Episcopal minister. His wife continues the work she loves as a fashion consultant, but after surviving an ectopic pregnancy, Jenny decides to give up her career in New York so she and Bill can accept an offer from a church in Moose, Wyo. Reading about their warm welcome and the ease with which they blend into the culture of the Western town is heartwarming, and the significant good Jenny does for some of the women of the town is uplifting and inspiring. The second story is set in 2013. A young Amish woman in Lancaster County, Pa., who has always loved to read the classics, writes a book and secretly sends it to a publisher in New York. The publisher falls in love with the voice of the book and when, with much difficulty, they finally meet, they both feel that fate has brought them together. This story of romance through hardship and across decades has a spiritual appeal.


Vampires in the Lemon Grove by Karen Russell

Kirkus Reviews –

A consistently arresting, frequently stunning collection of eight stories. Though Russell enjoyed her breakthrough--both popular and critical--with her debut novel (Swamplandia!, 2011), she had earlier attracted notice with her short stories(St. Lucy's Home for Girls Raised by Wolves, 2006). Here, she returns to that format with startling effect, reinforcing the uniqueness of her fiction, employing situations that are implausible, even outlandish, to illuminate the human condition. Or the vampire condition, as she does in the opening title story, where the ostensibly unthreatening narrator comes to term with immortality, love and loss, and his essential nature. Then there's "The Seagull Army Descends on Strong Beach, 1979," about a 14-year-old boy's sexual initiation during a summer in which he is so acutely self-conscious that he barely notices that his town has been invaded by sea gulls, "gulls grouped so thickly that from a distance they looked like snowbanks." Perhaps the most ingenious of this inspired lot is "The New Veterans," with a comparatively realistic setup that finds soldiers who are returning from battle given massages to reduce stress. In one particular relationship, the elaborately tattooed back of a young veteran provides a narrative all its own, one transformed by the narrative process of the massage. The interplay has profound implications for both the masseuse and her initially reluctant patient; both discover that "healing hurts sometimes." The two shortest stories are also the slightest, though both reflect the seemingly boundless imagination of the author. "The Barn at the End of Our Term" finds a seemingly random group of former presidents in denial (at both their loss of power and the fact that they have somehow become horses), and "Dougbert Shackleton's Rules for Antarctic Tailgating" presents the "Food Chain Games" as the ultimate spectator sport. With the concluding "The Graveless Doll of Eric Mutis," about a group of teenage bullies and an urban scarecrow, the fiction blurs all distinction between creative whimsy and moral imperative. Even more impressive than Russell's critically acclaimed novel.


A Week in Winter by Maeve Binchy

Kirkus Reviews –

The beloved, prolific Binchy's posthumous last novel is classic Binchy (Minding Frankie, 2011, etc.), peeking into the lives of characters from various walks of life brought together at a newly opened inn on the West Coast of Ireland. After 20 years in America and pretending she's been widowed by an American husband she never actually married, Chicky returns to her hometown of Stoneybridge to turn an elderly spinster's run-down cliffside mansion into an inn. To help renovate Stone House, she hires her childhood friend Nuala's son, Rigger, whose history of delinquency has made Nuala desperate to remove him from Dublin, where she's raised him as a single mother. Soon, Rigger is morally reformed and in love. To run the business end, Chicky hires her niece Orla, whose life in London has soured. Together, they get the place ready for the first week of paying guests: 34-year-old nurse Winnie arrives trapped into a vacation with her boyfriend's sophisticated, disapproving mother. A famous American actor takes advantage of a missed flight connection to escape the trappings of stardom for a week. Married doctors come for a respite from their crippling if unwarranted sense of responsibility for the terrible deaths they have witnessed. The heir to a Swedish accounting firm, who has set his father's expectations above his own love of music, comes to Stoneybridge to look up a musician friend. A husband and wife, whose lives together revolve around entering contests, consider their week at Stone House a disappointing consolation prize compared to the trip to Paris they didn't win. A retired girls' school principal receives the Stoneybridge vacation as a retirement gift she refuses to enjoy. And a clairvoyant librarian in love with a married man comes for a week to recover from her broken heart and avoid her second sight. While Binchy's stories are sketchier than usual, perhaps understandably rushed, her fans will find solace as hearts mend and relationships sort themselves out one last time.




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