Sunday, May 22, 2016

The Obsession

One night changes everything in The Obsession by Nora Roberts (The Liar), a romantic suspense novel about how the past haunts a woman trying to reinvent her life beyond a series of horrific, notorious sex crimes committed by her father.

The book opens with a horrifying scene: Naomi Bowes, an innocent 12-year-old from West Virginia, awakens on a stormy summer night, unable to sleep. When she sees shadows in the woods and spies her father, she secretly follows him to a grisly crime scene: a girl--bound, tortured and raped--trapped in a root cellar. After her father departs, Naomi rescues the injured girl and brings her to safety only to discover that her overbearing father, a church deacon, is actually a demented serial killer. Naomi becomes instrumental in her father being sent to prison for life.

Seventeen years later, Naomi lives in Sunrise Cove, a peaceful, tight-knit community in Washington State, and has reinvented herself as Naomi Carson. She is a successful fine art photographer who thinks she's finally found a place to call home, though she is a loner who suffers trust issues and chronic nightmares. She buys and begins a major renovation on a 10-bedroom house, makes friends, adopts a dog and even falls in love. But when a series of brutal killings plague the area, Naomi's past is suddenly resurrected--as are her fears.

This spellbinding, well-constructed story plunges deep into the nature of obsessions—the damaged soul and psyche of a haunted woman; Naomi's brother, an FBI agent desperate to understand his imprisoned father's twisted modus operandi; and a vicious serial killer intent to strike again. Roberts creates a strong, determined protagonist with whom readers can identify and empathize.

The Obsession by Nora Roberts
Berkley, $28.00 Hardcover, 9780399175169, 464 pp
Publication Date: April 12, 2016
To order this book via INDIEBOUND link HERE

Note: This review is a reprint and is being posted (in a slightly different form) with the permission of Shelf Awareness. To read this review on Shelf Awareness: Reader's Edition (4/22/16), link HERE

Sunday, May 8, 2016

The Secret to Hummingbird Cake

"It isn't always blood that makes a family," says one of the characters in The Secret to Hummingbird Cake, a witty and heartwarming first novel by Celeste Fletcher McHale. The story is set in the small Southern town of Bon Dieu Falls, La., and centers on three, 30 year-old women—soul-mate friends since the age of five who sweeten the lives of each other amid life-changing tests of faith.

Carrigan, the narrator, is a fiery redhead whose been married for 13 years and harbors painstaking suspicions about her handsome husband's fidelity, as she, herself, has partaken in a secret, regrettable "indiscretion" of her own. Carrigan's spitfire best friend, Ella Rae, married her childhood sweetheart and is still so madly in love with him that Carrigan swears the two of them "breathed in unison."   Laine, Carrigan's other best friend, is the responsible, level-headed one of the bunch. Still single, Laine, caring and good-natured, is a much-beloved high school English teacher, famous for "the creamy white icing and the sweet pineapple" of her Hummingbird Cake, a Southern staple. Yet, she refuses to share her recipe even with her closest friends—who beg. 

The three minds of these very different women work in a "posse" as Carrigan grapples with her troubled marriage, trying to repair what's broken, via the encouragement and support of her friends, who also come face-to-face with life-changing challenges and heart wrenching secrets. Fletcher McHale blends sassy and sentimental--drizzling spiritual crises atop everything--and whips up a wholesome story about the transcendent, everlasting bonds of friendship and love.  

The Secret to Hummingbird Cake by Celeste Fletcher McHale
Thomas Nelson, $15.99 Trade paper, 9780718039561, 304 pp
Publication Date: February 9, 2016
To order this book via INDIEBOUND link HERE

Note: This review is a reprint and is being posted (in a slightly different form) with the permission of Shelf Awareness. To read this review on Shelf Awareness: Reader's Edition (2/23/16), link HERE

Friday, May 6, 2016

Happy International NO DIET Day

From My Shelf 

Bathing suit season looms. But for those who've been watching waistlines and counting calories, there's good news. Today is International No Diet Day, which celebrates body acceptance, including fat acceptance and body shape diversity. The day also seeks to raise awareness that diets don't always work. Very often, pounds lost return--and in earnest. INDD seeks to promote healthier lifestyle choices via mindful eating. But before you break out the pasta, martinis or ice cream, why not supplement your day with some mentally aware, eating-inspired reads?
In her funny, enlightened memoir, Big Girl: How I Gave Up Dieting and Got a Life, Kelsey Miller comes to terms with--and works through--food challenges via "Intuitive Eating," a body-image strategy.
Mark Mincolla, a "holistic problem solver," transforms the energy of negative thoughts and feelings in order to re-align a person's metabolism in The Whole Health Diet: A Transformational Approach to Weight Loss.
For readers longing to graze beyond the psychology of eating, treat yourself to these delicious books:
Carnivores will rejoice in the anecdotes and wit of Marta Zaraska in Meathooked: The History and Science of our 2.5-Million-Year Obsession with Meat, which explores all aspects of the growing global appetite for animal protein.
Cheese and pepperoni lovers will be eager to journey along with Colin Atrophy Hagendorf as he traverses Manhattan on a quest to eat a slice of pizza at every city pizzeria in Slice Harvester: A Memoir in Pizza.
And for the passionate sweet tooth, there's no way to resist Theo Chocolate: Recipes & Sweet Secrets from Seattle's Favorite Chocolate Maker by Debra Music and Joe Whinney, a mouth-watering cookbook of inventive chocolate-inspired recipes--not just desserts, surprises like salads and pastas.
So, go on--give in to temptation. Pick up a good book and indulge in the spirit of "no diet" day... guilt-free!
Note: This column (published 5/6/16) has been reprinted with the permission of Shelf Awareness: Shelf Awareness for Readers. Link HERE to read the article as it originally appeared.