Saturday, March 5, 2011

Staying at Daisy's by Jill Mansell

Staying at Daisy's

Then again, it was only natural to aim to be looking your best when you bumped into an old boyfriend you haven’t seen for years. No one in their right mind wanted their ex to scuttle off breathing a sigh of relief and thinking a phew, a narrow escape there.
The blurb:
Life is easy, it’s men she’ll never figure out. . . When hotel manager Daisy MacLean meets cocky sports hero Dev Tyzack, it’s a no brainer -- stay away.  He is arrogant and sarcastic -- but also incredibly sexy.  Daisy tries her best to steer clear of him, yet soon comes to realize he is the one guest she can’t bear to see leave.  Then she learns a devastating truth:  most people are not who they seem to be, for better or worse. . . .
In her latest novel, Staying at Daisy’s, Jill Mansell delivers another hilarious and fast-paced romantic comedy.  Her combination of endearing and sympathetic lead characters placed in humorous situations wins out again. 
This time round, Mansell takes on marital infidelity from the point of view of Daisy MacLean, an unsuspecting wife who invariably receives an unwelcome shock.  And from the point of view of Tara who is faced with an ex-boyfriend who professes undying love hours before his wedding.  Mansell throws into the mix an old boyfriend from university, a gorgeous sports hero, a popular children’s author, and other fun and memorable characters.  
Fans of British chicklit are sure to find Staying at Daisy’s a delightful and engrossing read!

ISBN-10: 1402243847 - Paperback
Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark; Reprint edition (March 1, 2011), 512 pages.
Review copy provided by the publisher.
About the Author:
Jill Mansell lives with her partner and children in Bristol and writes full time. Actually, that’s not true; she watches TV, eats gum drops, admires the rugby players training in the sports field behind her house, and spends hours on the Internet marveling at how many other writers have blogs.  Only when she’s completely run out of ways to procrastinate does she write.

Highland Heat by Mary Wine

Highland Heat
Highland Heat by Mary Wine

The blurb:
Ruined, betrayed and banished....As brave as she is impulsive, Deirdre Chattan’s tendency to follow her heart and not her head has finally tarnished her reputation beyond repair.  But when powerful Highland Laird Quinton Cameron finds her, he could care less about her past -- it’s her future that he’s about to change....
But it’s never too late for redemption...From the moment Quinton sets eyes on Deirdre Chattan, rational thought vanishes, for in her eyes he sees a fiery spirit that matches his own and he’ll be damned if he’ll let such a wild Scottish rose wither under the weight of a nun’s habit. . . 
With nothing to lose, Deirdre and Quinton band together to protect king and crown.  But what they can accomplish alone is nothing compared to what they can build with their passion for each other.
Highland Heat is the third in Wine’s Highlander series.  Once again, Wine delivers romantic banter, excitement, and escape.  
Those that read her earlier novel To Conquer A Highlander are familiar with Deirdre Chattan, the eldest daughter who was manipulated and betrayed by her Douglas lover.  But in Highland Heat, Deirdre has matured - she’s had to live with the consequences of her seduction and she’s determined not to bring dishonor to her family.  Deirdre is willing to sacrifice a great deal - everything that she has - in order to live up to her father’s expectations.  Deirdre’s sense of honor makes her an interesting and sympathetic romantic lead.  
As Deirdre and her lover face intrigue, plot twists, unfortunate encounters, and romantic interludes, fans of historical fiction will surely find Highland Heat a fun, satisfying read.

ISBN-10: 1402237391 - Mass Market Paperback $6.99
Publisher: Sourcebooks Casablanca (March 1, 2011), 352 pages.
Review copy provided by the publisher.
About the Author:
Mary Wine is a multi published author in romantic suspense, fantasy, and Western romance;  now her interest in historical reenactment and costuming has inspired her to turn her pen to historical romance.  She lives with her husband and sons in Southern California, where the whole family enjoys participating historical reenactment.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Red Wolf by Liza Marklund

Red Wolf: A Novel by Liza Marklund

Red Wolf: A Novel
The blurb:
Drawn into a small underground world of violence, terrorism, and thwarted passion, Swedish crime reporter Annika Bengtzon realizes that she can trust no one and that the dark past is ever present.
In the middle of a freezing winter, a journalist is murdered in a northern Swedish town.  Annika Bengtzon suspects that the killing is linked to a long-ago attack against an isolated air base.  Against the explicit orders of her boss, she investigates the death, which is soon followed by a series of shocking murders. Annika knows the murders are connected and she also comes to know that some very powerful people do not want that connection made.  At the same time, Annika begins to suspect that her husband is hiding something.  And behind everything lurks the figure of the Red Wolf, a cold-blooded killer with the soul of a lover. In the end, Annika is not only compelled to discover the truth behind the murders but also the lies that are destroying her family.
New York Times bestselling author Liza Marklund has come up with something very different from her recent collaborative work with James Patterson.  In Red Wolf, Marklund has created a Swedish thriller firmly rooted in the its modern political turmoil and geography.  
Her lead character crime reporter Annika Bengtzon struggles with the aftereffects of her traumatic kidnapping by investigating the roots of Swedish terrorism.  But as Annika digs deeper into an attack on an airforce base from the 1970s, she comes in contact with clues from an unusual serial killer.  As the distinctive attacks are shown to have unusual links to radical Socialists from the 1970s, Annika suddenly finds herself in the middle of a greater mystery and in personal danger. 
Red Wolf is an unusual and engrossing Swedish thriller - highly recommended.

ISBN-10: 1451602065 - Hardcover $24.99
Publisher: Atria (February 15, 2011), 400 pages.
Review copy provided by the publisher.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

You Had Me at Woof: How Dogs Taught Me the Secrets of Happiness by Julie Klam

You Had Me at Woof: How Dogs Taught Me the Secrets of Happiness
You Had Me at Woof: How Dogs Taught Me the Secrets of Happiness by Julie Klam

Reading Julie Klam's You Had Me at Woof: How Dogs Taught Me the Secrets of Happiness takes us through her journey as a young, single woman living in a studio in Manhattan who takes and rescues a Boston terrier - and the satisfaction and delight that ensues.  In the months and years that follow, Julie falls in love, marries, changes apartments, starts a family, and grows increasingly involved in fostering and caring for rescue dogs.  With sympathy and humor, You Had Me at Woof captures Klam's transformation into the dog expert amongst friends, fans, followers, and family - though she wryly suspects that behind her back 'it's the dog nut.'"

Klam captures the tough moments as she volunteered, fostered, and cared for "unplaceable dogs" and in inexplicable moment that the dog and his/her human fall in love.  For those of us who loved a dog, love dogs, or long for a dog of our own, Klam's You Had Me at Woof: How Dogs Taught Me the Secrets of Happiness is a reminder, celebration and testament to one of the most enduring and satisfying friendships.

ISBN-10: 1594487766 - Hardcover $24.99
Publisher: Riverhead Hardcover (October 28, 2010), 240 pages.
Review copy provided by the publisher.

About the Author:
Julie Klam grew up in Bedford, New York. After attending NYU's Tisch School of the Arts and interning at Late Night with David Letterman, she went on to write for Oprah Magazine, Rolling Stone, Harper's  Bazaar, Glamour, and The New York Times Magazine and for the VH1 television show Pop-Up Video, where she earned an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Special Class Writing. She married the show's producer, Paul Leo.  They live with their daughter and three dogs in Manhattan.

Springtime - and time for outdoor play

When I dream of warm weather and Spring, there are certain things that always come to mind.  My balcony garden and spending time outside.  If you're lucky enough to have outdoor space and you're shopping for your garden, perhaps you're looking into wooden swing sets.

CSN Stores has recently come up with a new site that is entirely devoted to outdoor furniture from swing sets, bikes, slides, and all sorts of special items for children's outdoor play.  This particular playset is under $700.

Swing Town - MA3101 - Phoenix Swing Set

If you're lucky enough to have the space to set up a play area for kids - you might want to check out their offerings.

But for those of us who live in apartments and condos, we can look forward to warm weather and a walk to the nearby park.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

The Evolution of Bruno Littlemore by Benjamin Hale

The Evolution of Bruno Littlemore

The Evolution of Bruno Littlemore by Benjamin Hale

The blurb:
Chronicling the extraordinary events for murdering a man, Bruno brings to mind some of the most memorable and enduring characters in literature -- Augie March, Ellison's Invisible Man, the indelible Alexander Portnoy, and Gunter Grass's shrieking Oskar Matzerath.  Except for one thing: Bruno is a chimp. And he can talk.

Born and raised in a habitat at the local zoo, young Bruno falls under the care of a university primatologist named Lydia Littlemore who, upon discovering the chimp's unique talent, takes him into her home to oversee his education and nurture his passion for painting. But for all of his gifts, Bruno has a rough time caging his more primal urges. His untimely outbursts ultimately cost Lydia her job, and send the unlikely pair on the road in what proves to be one of the most unforgettable journeys -- and most affecting love stories -- in recent literature.

Like its protagonist, this novel is big, loud, abrasive, witty, perverse, earnest, and amazingly accomplished. 

The Evolution of Bruno Littlemore is deeply absorbing. When I first began reading, it was easy to suspend disbelief.  Implausible though the story might be, I couldn't help but believe that Bruno Littlemore was real and that these events were true.

Once you're willing to take that journey with Bruno,  his evolution from the animal living in the Lincoln Park Zoo to the educated and convincingly human individual will prove haunting.  Benjamin Hale has created an engaging and unforgettable character - his transgressions and failures make him even more disturbingly human.  For readers who love animals and are looking for something unusual - and are willing to be discomfited - I recommend The Evolution of Bruno Littlemore.

ISBN-10: 0446571571 - Hardcover $25.99
Publisher: Twelve (February 2, 2011), 592 pages.
Review copy provided by the publisher.

About the Author:
Benjamin Hale is a graduate of the Iowa Writers Workshop, where he received a Provost's Fellowship to complete his novel, which also went to win a Michener-Copernicus Award. He has been a night shift baker, a security guard, a trompe l'oeil painter, a pizza deliverer, a cartoonist, an illustrator, and a technical writer.  He grew up in Colorado and now lives in New York.