Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Collared: An Andy Carpenter Novel


An abandoned border collie revives a child abduction case and the career of a devoted defense attorney.

Andy Carpenter is an independently wealthy defense attorney in Paterson, N.J. He's also an exasperating husband, a newly adoptive father and a devoted animal lover. In Collared, the 14th installment in David Rosenfelt's dog-centric mystery series, Andy and his crackerjack investigative team go back to work. This time, a border collie with a limp is abandoned at the rescue shelter owned by Andy. When the stray is scanned, the embedded identity chip reveals he is actually Cody, a dog whose hair sample DNA proved the lynchpin in a prior kidnapping case.

Who left the dog at the shelter and why? Andy and his cohorts--including his long-suffering wife, an ex-police officer--resurrect a three-year-old case involving Cody, whose owner was Jill Hickman. At the age of 35, Jill--a successful, single businesswoman--adopted a one-month-old child she named Dylan. When Hickman's nanny took Dylan and Cody for a walk, the nanny was brutally assaulted, and the child and the dog both disappeared. The "DNA dog," as Cody was nicknamed, ultimately led police to the suspected kidnapper--a once top employee from Hickman's company and also her former fiancé--who was found guilty of the crime, though Cody and Dylan remained missing. With Cody's re-emergence, hopes rise for all involved. Might Dylan, too, still be alive?

Short chapters and dialogue-driven prose are hallmarks of
Rosenfelt's (Hounded) suspenseful, long-running series. This installment is crafted with an intriguing premise, witty recurrent characters and a well-conceived mystery that unravels with surprising twists.



Collared: An Andy Carpenter Novel by David Rosenfelt

Minotaur Books (Macmillan), $26.99 Hardcover,  9781250055354, 336  pages

Publication Date: July 18, 2017

To order this book on INDIEBOUND, link HERE





NOTE: This review is a reprint and is being posted with the permission of Shelf Awareness. To read this review on Shelf Awareness: Reader's Edition (August 18, 2017), link HERE


Tuesday, January 30, 2018

The Misfortune of Marion Palm


An embezzling wife and mother's life is turned upside down when she suddenly goes on the lam.

For Marion Palm--the intriguing criminal antihero of Emily Culliton's clever, satirical first novel--life didn't turn out the way she'd imagined, and it takes a darker turn when she's forced to go on the lam. Marion, a 30-something, unassuming wife and mother, is married to Nathan, a narcissist and would-be poet who is dependent on a dwindling trust fund. She is also the mother of two daughters--ages eight and 13--who are plagued with adolescent problems and dramas. Restlessness and dysfunction burden all the Palms. However, over the years, Marion--and $180,000 she managed to embezzle from her part-time job in the development office of her daughters' private school in Brooklyn--has been the glue that's kept the family together. The money didn't buy them happiness per se, but it managed to finance trips to Europe and fund state-of-the-art appliances for their brownstone. When Marion learns the school is to be audited by the IRS, she panics, ditching her family and running away with the last $40,000 of her secret, stolen stash. But where will she go, and what will she do?
Marion's sudden disappearance affects all in her orbit: her family, police and detectives, her coworkers, fellow parents and a disgruntled school board. By unraveling The Misfortune of Marion Palm from various points of view, Culliton creates a richly entertaining, well-drawn mosaic of a complex woman, her motivations and her madcap, illuminating adventure.


The Misfortune of Marion Palm by Emily Culliton
Knopf, $25.95,  9781524731908, 304 pages
Publication Date: August 8, 2017 
To order this book on INDIEBOUND, link HERE

NOTE: This review is a reprint and is being posted with the permission of Shelf Awareness. To read this review on Shelf Awareness: Reader's Edition (September 12, 2017), link HERE



Tuesday, January 16, 2018

The Little Old Lady Who Struck Lucky Again!


Five senior residence escapees from Sweden set off on a zany criminal adventure involving stolen gems.


The League of Pensioners, led by Martha Andersson and four feisty, resourceful retirees in their late 70s and 80s--escapees from a Stockholm senior residence--are back. The stolen millions from their previous Robin Hood-style art robbery, the caper featured in The Little Old Lady Who Broke All the Rules, benefited the conniving quintet and funded retirement homes, cultural institutions and supported other "less-fortunate members of society."

This second installment of their adventures is set six months later. The group has been keeping a low profile in Las Vegas while coordinating a casino heist. During their planning, they accidently cross paths with dangerous jewelry store thieves and, through a series of laugh-out-loud mix-ups and mishaps, the pensioners come into possession of a cache of stolen diamonds and other gemstones worth millions. When the "Outlaw Oldies" ultimately decide to return to Stockholm, a significant portion of their windfall--stuffed inside walking sticks that are crammed into a golf bag--goes missing at the airport. This launches Sweden's geriatric most-wanted on a suspenseful, bumbling mission to steal back what was already stolen, while trying to sidestep customs officials, the Swedish police and a host of quirky characters--including a biker gang and a fortune teller.

The well-drawn strengths and weaknesses of Ingelman-Sundberg's devious yet charming criminal masterminds work together to benefit mankind. They also deliver a hilarious story.

The Little Old Lady Who Struck Lucky Again! by Catharina Ingelman-Sundberg, trans. by Rod Bradbury

Harper Paperbacks, $15.99,  9780062663702, 368  pages

Publication Date: February 7, 2017

To order this book on INDIEBOUND, link HERE



NOTE: This review is a reprint and is being posted with the permission of Shelf Awareness. To read this review on Shelf Awareness: Reader's Edition (August 11, 2017), link HERE






Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Vivian Maier: A Photographer's Life and Afterlife


A fascinating glimpse into the life of an eccentric, legendary photographer whose work came to prominence only after her death.


Pamela Bannos, a professor at Northwestern University, frames a fascinating portrait of Vivian Maier, the mysterious nanny who was also a gifted, self-taught photographer who chose to remain unknown. The biography also examines the astonishing circumstances and coincidences by which Maier's photographs emerged into the public eye and her meteoric posthumous rise in the art world. Bannos pieces together clues about the woman behind the camera, dispelling myths that have been perpetuated and shaped since her death in 2009.
Vivian Maier was--and continues to remain--an enigma. Eccentric, fiercely independent and intensely private, she was born illegitimately in Manhattan to a French mother, whose own birth was illegitimate. Both Maier's mother and grandmother were live-in servants. That paved the way for Vivian, throughout her adult life, to work as a nanny for several well-to-do U.S. families. This enabled her to support herself while also secretly pursuing her craft as a visual artist for decades. Those closest to her knew that Maier liked to take photographs, yet no one knew the extent of her passion and drive--and the scope of her talent. It was only near the end of Maier's life that her work was discovered: photographs, thousands of negatives and more than 1,000 rolls of undeveloped film.
Bannos's engrossing, meticulously researched biography sensitively reconstructs Vivian Maier's very private life in conjunction with her posthumous legacy as a visionary photographer. Many questions remain and always will. However, Bannos's comprehensive narrative ensures that Vivian Maier's story and the treasure trove of her work will live on. 

Vivian Maier: A Photographer's Life and Afterlife  by Pamela Bannos

University of Chicago Press, $35.00 Hardcover,  9780226470757, 352  pages

Publication Date: October 10, 2017

To order this book on INDIEBOUND, link HERE



NOTE: This review is a reprint and is being posted with the permission of Shelf Awareness. To read this review on Shelf Awareness: Reader's Edition (November 3, 2017), link HERE


Sunday, December 10, 2017

The Story of Arthur Truluv


An 85-year-old childless widower, a misfit 18-year-old girl  and a never-married 83-year-old woman form a life-changing friendship.


In The Story of Arthur Truluv, Elizabeth Berg (The Dream Lover) focuses on contrasting characters whose lives share common threads of loneliness and isolation: Arthur Moses is an 85-year-old grieving the loss of his beloved wife, Nola Corrine. A retired parks groundskeeper and an amateur gardener, he rides a bus everyday to the cemetery and eats his brown bag lunch graveside with Nola. There, he takes comfort in cleverly conjuring visions of the dead in surrounding, underground graves--"Nola's neighbors"--and he imagines the lives they might have lived. The simple gesture of a hand wave brings Maddy Harris--an 18-year-old with a nose ring, who also finds graveyards comforting--into Arthur's life.

Maddy calls the dead "her people," as her mother died in a car crash two weeks after Maddy was born. The tragedy and its aftermath drove a wedge between her and her father, who, tormented by his own grief, emotionally rejected his daughter and ultimately shaped her into a loner. When forlorn Maddy meets compassionate Arthur, their shared affinity for the dead sparks an unlikely friendship. She nicknames him "Truluv" because he speaks with glowing devotion for his late wife. Gradually added to the mix is Lucille, Arthur's meddlesome, 83-year-old, never married next-door neighbor, who faces a shattering loss of her own.


Berg's vivid characters may be vastly different in age, worldview and temperament, but they express a universal need for love, acceptance, purpose and connection. Tender, colorful strokes of humor dot the landscape of this touching story that deepens with poignancy and profound insights into the perils and glories of the contemporary human condition.
 



The Story of Arthur Truluv by Elizabeth Berg

Penguin-Random House, $26.00 Hardcover,  9781400069903, 240 pages

Publication Date: November 21, 2017

To order this book on INDIEBOUND, link HERE



NOTE: This review is a reprint and is being posted with the permission of Shelf Awareness. To read this review on Shelf Awareness: Reader's Edition (November 24, 2017), link HERE


Tuesday, December 5, 2017

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Sunday, November 19, 2017

The Luster of Lost Things


A gifted, fatherless boy with a communication disorder goes on a quest to save his mother's magical bakery.

Walter Lavender Jr. is a 12-year-old with a motor speech disorder, a brain pathway dysfunction that prevents him from producing the words he wishes to speak. Walter may be isolated and withdrawn, but over the years, he's learned to adapt and cultivate an uncanny sense of perception. This turns him into a sought-after expert at finding lost things. Despite finding other people's prized possessions, a great sense of loss marks Walter's own life. His father, an airline co-pilot, disappeared on a flight to Bombay just three days before Walter was born.

While he waits for his father's return, Walter skirts bullies at school and spends time at the Lavenders, his mother's eclectic bakery in the West Village of New York City. Devoted patrons believe the desserts are magical--the angel food cake is light enough to whisk away pounds, and carefully crafted marzipan dragons breathe fire. The centerpiece and good luck charm of the success of the bakery, however, is a treasured, leather-bound manuscript--an illustrated winter's tale of lost love. When the book goes missing, the shop takes a nosedive: the magic suddenly evaporates from the desserts, business drops off, a French bakery opens a few doors away and the landlord threatens to double the rent. Fearful that all will be lost, Walter commences his 85th--and most personally challenging--case.


With straightforward prose, Sophie Chen Keller tells this insightful story from Walter's singular point of view. This is a feel-good, message-driven story about the restorative power of human connectedness and how acts of kindness can ultimately change lives.
 




Putnam (Penguin), $15.00 Paper, 9780735210783, 336 pages

Publication Date: August 8, 2017

To order this book on INDIEBOUND, link HERE



NOTE: This review is a reprint and is being posted with the permission of Shelf Awareness. To read this review on Shelf Awareness: Reader's Edition (September 8, 2017), link HERE




Sunday, November 5, 2017

Christmas Romances to Melt the Heart


FROM MY SHELF
Christmas--the season known to foster peace, love and good tidings of joy--is on the way. Sometimes, however, the sparkly cheer of intended amorous bliss sours at the most wonderful time of the year. Several new novels--stand-alones and additional installments of well-established series--offer feel-good stories of romantic dilemmas.
Elin Hilderbrand has expanded her trilogy of Christmas novels into a quartet with Winter Solstice, which reunites the extended Quinn family of Nantucket. This year, everyone is finally celebrating together under the same roof of the family-owned and -operated Winter Street Inn. But can the welcoming familial nest help resolve festering romantic entanglements, amid long-held traditions, heartfelt reunions and farewells?

A host of clever complications ensues in Merry and Bright by Debbie Macomber, where a single, 20-something office temp reluctantly pursues a new relationship after her well-meaning, but meddling mother and special needs brother set up an online dating profile for her during the holidays.

Ugly Christmas trees upend a whole community in Christmas in Icicle Falls by Sheila Roberts, where one resident in particular, a successful writer, learns that everything and everyone has potential--including an old, overlooked friend who just might hold the key to unexpected romance.

Sugar Pine Trail by RaeAnne Thayne centers on a kindhearted, single, small-town librarian who longs to create a sense of family for herself during Christmas. Her plans go awry when she falls for her tenant--a handsome, sexy, commitment-phobic pilot who has a notorious reputation with women.

In Sugarplum Way by Debbie Mason, the future of true love is tested. A surprising, passionate kiss under the mistletoe at the town Christmas party turns the life of a romance writer--in search of her own happily-ever-after--completely upside down.

NOTE: This column previously appeared in Shelf Awareness for Readers (11/3/17) and is being reprinted with their permission. Link HERE to read the column as originally published.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Always

An engaged woman unexpectedly reunites with an old flame, forcing her to reconcile her feelings for two men.

Just when Kailey "KC" Crane is about to start a new chapter of her life, the successful journalist--in her 30s, working for a Seattle newspaper--is brought face to face with an old flame. The chance encounter happens one night after KC and her handsome, attentive fiancé, Ryan, a high-end property development manager, dine in an upscale French restaurant. As Ryan fetches the car after dinner, good-natured KC offers a painfully thin, homeless man her leftovers only to discover the man is Cade McAllister, a once-successful music business mogul and also the long-lost former love of KC's life.

What ensues is a richly drawn, emotional story rife with conflict. Cade has suffered a traumatic brain injury--origin unknown--that has compromised his memory. KC eagerly advocates to help Cade, while trying to piece together what happened to him and why he disappeared from her life ten years before. In her quest, KC's heart is pulled in two directions, and she is forced to reconcile the choices that have shaped her own life: Will KC have a fulfilling future with Ryan? Might she still be in love with Cade, even in his altered state?

Jio (Goodnight June) braids a thought-provoking narrative that examines the forces that brought KC and Cade together and pulled them apart--the tenuous bond of their love--versus the cushy, comfortable life KC shares with Ryan. Contrasting past and present perspectives and KC's choice between old love and new makes for a suspenseful and highly charged romantic conclusion


Always: A Novel by Sarah Jio
BallatineBooks, $27.00 Hardcover,  9781101885024, 288  pages
Publication Date: February 7, 2017
To order this book on INDIEBOUND, link HERE


NOTE: This review is a reprint and is being posted with the permission of Shelf Awareness. To read this review on Shelf Awareness: Reader's Edition (February 21, 2017), link HERE