Descriptions courtesy of goodreads.com unless otherwise noted.
Trading in Danger by Elizabeth Moon
Shari’s Comment: This book was a free book for my Kindle. I periodically peruse through the free books to see what’s out there. This “free” book cost me $6.39 each for the following four sequels of what was to become “Vattas’ War–Marque and Reprisal, Engaging the Enemy, Command Decision and Victory Conditions.
Kylara Vatta is the only daughter in a family full of sons, and her father’s only child to buck tradition by choosing a military career instead of joining the family business. For Ky, it’s no contest: Even running the prestigious Vatta Transport Ltd. shipping concern can’t hold a candle to shipping out as an officer aboard an interstellar cruiser. It’s adventure, not commerce, that stirs her soul. And despite her family’s misgivings, there can be no doubt that a Vatta in the service will prove a valuable asset. But with a single error in judgment, it all comes crumbling down.
Expelled from the Academy in disgrace–and returning home to her humiliated family, a storm of high-profile media coverage, and the gaping void of her own future–Ky is ready to face the inevitable onslaught of anger, disappointment, even pity. But soon after opportunity’s door slams shut, Ky finds herself with a ticket to ride– and a shot at redemption–as captain of a Vatta Transport ship.
It’s a simple assignment: escorting one of the Vatta fleet’s oldest ships on its final voyage . . . to the scrapyard. But keeping it simple has never been Ky’s style. And even though her father has provided a crew of seasoned veterans to baby-sit the fledgling captain on her maiden milk run, they can’t stop Ky from turning the routine mission into a risky venture–in the name of turning a profit for Vatta Transport, of course.
By snapping up a lucrative delivery contract defaulted on by a rival company, and using part of the proceeds to upgrade her condemned vehicle, Ky aims to prove she’s got more going for her than just her family’s famous name. But business will soon have to take a backseat to bravery, when Ky’s change of plans sails her and the crew straight into the middle of a colonial war. For all her commercial savvy, it’s her military training and born-soldier’s instincts that Ky will need to call on in the face of deadly combat, dangerous mercenaries, and violent mutiny. . . .
Sleeping Arrangements by Madeleine Wickham (a.k.a. Sophie Kinsella author of the Shopaholic series)
Shari’s Comment: I bought this book because I wanted something light and comedic in the romantic vein for my recent four-day hospital stay. I actually figured I would be able to read at least three books during that time, but was given a firm promise by a wise person that I could have additional books brought in as needed. (My beloved Kindle would have been perfect in this situation, but I didn’t want to risk losing it.) Thanks to the wonders of hospital-controlled, high-octane drugs, I couldn’t concentrate long enough or hard enough to read this book. Heck, I had trouble following the plot line of Desperate Housewives on the TV. During my entire stay, I read a total of three pages–Page one, three times!.
Since coming home, however, I did read it. If it were a “slice of life” novel it would be the proverbial slice of cake left out in the rain. Will a bit of drying out and a touch of frosting make it as good as new again? Wickham explores a “what if” relationship with surprising maturity.
Two families, one holiday villa – who’s sleeping with whom?
Chloe needs a holiday. She’s sick of making wedding dresses, her partner Philip has troubles at work, the whole family wants a break. Her wealthy friend Gerard has offered the loan of his luxury villa in Spain – perfect.
Hugh is not a happy man. His immaculate wife Amanda seems more interested in her new kitchen than in him, and he works so hard to pay for it, he barely has time for his children. Maybe he’ll have a chance to bond with them on holiday. His old friend Gerard has lent them a luxury villa in Spain – perfect.
Both families arrive at the villa and realize the awful truth – Gerard has double-booked. What no-one else realizes is that Chloe and Hugh have a history, and as tensions rise within the two families, old passions resurface. It seems that Gerard’s ‘accidental’ double booking may not be an accident after all.
The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown
Shari’s Comment: I love Dan Brown’s writing, I don’t care what anyone says. Some critics are just a bunch of sour grapes. That said, I devoured the Da Vinci Code in one weekend, but I can’t say the same for The Lost Symbol. The story is a woven tapestry–no problems there. This is Dan Brown at his best. The main characters were even more developed than in Da Vinci Code. So what’s not to like? The location. Washington DC may be a lot of things, but as the setting for a book that draws so much from the ancients it falls short. I’d love to see Dan travel to Egypt for his next book. Now that would be magic–or is that alchemy?
In this stunning follow-up to the global phenomenon The Da Vinci Code, Dan Brown demonstrates once again why he is the world’s most popular thriller writer. The Lost Symbol is a masterstroke of storytelling–a deadly race through a real-world labyrinth of codes, secrets, and unseen truths . . . all under the watchful eye of Brown’s most terrifying villain to date. Set within the hidden chambers, tunnels, and temples of Washington, D.C., The Lost Symbol accelerates through a startling landscape toward an unthinkable finale.
As the story opens, Harvard symbologist Robert Langdon is summoned unexpectedly to deliver an evening lecture in the U.S. Capitol Building. Within minutes of his arrival, however, the night takes a bizarre turn. A disturbing object–artfully encoded with five symbols–is discovered in the Capitol Building. Langdon recognizes the object as an ancient invitation . . . one meant to usher its recipient into a long-lost world of esoteric wisdom.
When Langdon’s beloved mentor, Peter Solomon–a prominent Mason and philanthropist–is brutally kidnapped, Langdon realizes his only hope of saving Peter is to accept this mystical invitation and follow wherever it leads him. Langdon is instantly plunged into a clandestine world of Masonic secrets, hidden history, and never-before-seen locations–all of which seem to be dragging him toward a single, inconceivable truth.
As the world discovered in The Da Vinci Code and Angels & Demons, Dan Brown’s novels are brilliant tapestries of veiled histories, arcane symbols, and enigmatic codes. In this new novel, he again challenges readers with an intelligent, lightning-paced story that offers surprises at every turn. The Lost Symbol is exactly what Brown’s fans have been waiting for . . . his most thrilling novel yet.
Air Time by Hank Phillippi Ryan
Shari’s Comment: Hank, returning to her Indy roots, spoke to the Indiana Romance Writer’s Association in September 2009. She’s a great inspiration and has put out four books in four years while working full-time as an award-winning Boston broadcast reporter. (She has no life, and fortunately a wonderfully understanding husband.) Her main character, Charlotte–a TV reporter–duh!–solves crimes while making good TV.
When savvy TV reporter Charlotte McNally enters the glamorous world of high fashion, she soon discovers that when the purses are fake—the danger is real. And no one can be trusted!
Now Charlotte can’t tell the real from the fake as she goes undercover to bring the couture counterfeiters to justice—and in her struggle to answer an all-important, life-changing question from a certain handsome professor…
The one thing Charlotte knows for sure is that the wrong choice could be the last decision she ever makes!
Smile As They Bow by Nu Nu Yi
Shari’s Comment: Another book club selection. A slice of life that I never would have experienced otherwise. Definitely not mainstream.
As the weeklong Taungbyon Festival draws near, thousands of villagers from all regions of Burma descend upon a tiny hamlet near Mandalay to pay respect to the spirits, known as nats, which are central to Burmese tradition. At the heart of these festivities is Daisy Bond, a gay, transvestite spiritual medium in his fifties. With his sharp tongue and vivid performances, he has long been revered as one of the festival’s most illustrious natkadaws. At his side is Min Min, his young assistant and lover, who endures unyielding taunts and abuse from his fiery boss. But when a young beggar girl named Pan Nyo threatens to steal Min Min’s heart, the outrageous Daisy finds himself face-to-face with his worst fears. Written in lyrical, intoxicating prose, Smile as They Bow is, like the works of Arundhati Roy and Ha Jin, an unexpectedly whimsical, illuminating, and above all revealing portrayal of a culture few Westerners have ever witnessed.
Over the past twenty years, Nu Nu Yi has become one of Burma’s most acclaimed authors–and in 2007, she became the first person living in Burma to be nominated for an international literary award. Smile as They Bow was censored for more than twelve years by the Burmese government. It is fitting, then, that this is her American debut.
When We Were Gods: A Novel of Cleopatra by Colin Falconer
Shari’s Comment: I’ve read numerous books on Cleopatra, and this one doesn’t disappoint. It is a fine balance between superior researching skills and superb imagination. A thoroughly enjoyable page-turner with some incredible history thrown in for good measure.
Arrestingly beautiful and fiercely intelligent, Cleopatra VII of Egypt was barely more than a teenager when she inherited the richest empire in the world—one that stretched from the scorching deserts of lower Egypt to the shining Mediterranean metropolis of Alexandria. Imperiled at every turn by court conspiracies and Roman treachery, Cleopatra brazenly sought a partnership with the only man who could secure Egypt’s safety: Julius Caesar, a wily politician and battle-hardened general with a weakness for women. The result was a passionate love affair that scandalized Rome and thrust Cleopatra into the glittering but deadly world of imperial intrigue and warfare—a world that she would mesmerize and manipulate even after Caesar was gone.
Colin Falconer takes the reader inside the walls of Alexandria’s great palaces and into Cleopatra’s very heart, creating a vivid portrait of an unforgettable woman who thrived and triumphed in a world ruled by men. This is the glorious story of a legendary woman, a story that blazes through thousands of years of history to capture the imagination of readers today.
Paranoia by Joseph Finder
Shari’s Comment: I downloaded this book to my Kindle for free, and it is a jewel. The twists, turns and sheer torment are intriguing. You feel for Adam and travel with him on his journey to hell and back in a corporate handbasket. I highly recommend it.
Adam Cassidy is twenty-six and a low-level employee at a high-tech corporation who hates his job. When he manipulates the system to do something nice for a friend, he finds himself charged with a crime. Corporate Security gives him a choice: prison—or become a spy in the headquarters of their chief competitor, Trion Systems.
They train him. They feed him inside information. Now, at Trion, he’s a star, skyrocketing to the top. He finds he has talents he never knew he possessed. He’s rich, drives a Porsche, lives in a fabulous apartment, and works directly for the CEO. He’s dating the girl of his dreams.
His life is perfect. And all he has to do to keep it that way is betray everyone he cares about and everything he believes in.
But when he tries to break off from his controllers, he finds he’s in way over his head, trapped in a world in which nothing is as it seems and no one can really be trusted.
And then the real nightmare begins. . . .
Advice You Never Asked For…But wished you had! by Elaine E. Bedel, CFP
Shari’s Comment: A must-have for your at-home library. Easy to understand and not your usual boring financial book. Note: I may be prejudiced since I did edit the book.
Are you puzzled by personal finances? If navigating the labyrinth of personal finances has you frustrated, here’s help. Advice You Never Asked For…But Wished You Had covers the basics of personal finance-investments, 401(k)s, IRAs, stocks and bonds and estate planning-as well as answering questions targeted to specific times and events in your life and different lifestyles. You’ll find advice regarding: •How to develop your financial game plan • Ways to protect your credit and your credit record • When to rent and when to buy • Tips for first-time homeowners • Financing higher education • Teaching good financial habits to your kids • Surviving the loss of a job • What women need to know about finances • Protecting yourself through spousal death, divorce and remarriage • Caring for aging parents • Guidelines for retirees Each chapter consists of easy to understand individual articles on a specific topic. Pick up this user-friendly reference tool whenever you have a question regarding a specific topic. The answers are at your fingertips whenever you need them. Abbreviated Author Bio: Elaine Bedel, CFP®, has more than 30 years experience providing financial planning and investment management services for executives, professionals and entrepreneurs. Elaine has been recognized as one of the leaders in her profession by national financial magazines and a frequent contributor to magazines, e-newsletters and radio and television broadcasts as well as a frequent speaker at local, national and international organization events and conferences.
Sarah’s Key by Tatiana de Rosnay
Shari’s Comment: A bittersweet, easy read that makes an impact in its own quiet way. An interesting look at guilt.
Paris, July 1942: Sarah, a ten year-old girl, is brutally arrested with her family by the French police in the Vel’ d’Hiv’ roundup, but not before she locks her younger brother in a cupboard in the family’s apartment, thinking that she will be back within a few hours.
Paris, May 2002: On Vel’ d’Hiv’s 60th anniversary, journalist Julia Jarmond is asked to write an article about this black day in France’s past. Through her contemporary investigation, she stumbles onto a trail of long-hidden family secrets that connect her to Sarah. Julia finds herself compelled to retrace the girl’s ordeal, from that terrible term in the Vel d’Hiv’, to the camps, and beyond. As she probes into Sarah’s past, she begins to question her own place in France, and to reevaluate her marriage and her life. Tatiana de Rosnay offers us a brilliantly subtle, compelling portrait of France under occupation and reveals the taboos and silence that surround this painful episode.
The Fire: A Novel by Katherine Neville
Shari’s Comment: The Eight was a phenomenal book. This one never quite measured up to the original. Still, it was a good book if you overlook a mild snooze factor.
Katherine Neville’s groundbreaking novel, The Eight, dazzled audiences more than twenty years ago and set the literary stage for the epic thriller. A quest for a mystical chess service that once belonged to Charlemagne, it spans two centuries and three continents, and intertwines historic and modern plots, archaeological treasure hunts, esoteric riddles, and puzzles encrypted with clues from the ancient past. Now the electrifying global adventure continues, in Neville’s long anticipated sequel: THE FIRE
2003, Colorado: Alexandra Solarin is summoned home to her family’s ancestral Rocky Mountain hideaway for her mother’s birthday. Thirty years ago, her parents, Cat Velis and Alexander Solarin, believed that they had scattered the pieces of the Montglane Service around the world, burying with them the secrets of the power that comes with possessing it. But Alexandra arrives to find that her mother is missing and that a series of strategically placed clues, followed swiftly by the unexpected arrival of a mysterious assortment of houseguests, indicates that something sinister is afoot.
When she inadvertently discovers from her aunt, the chess grandmaster Lily Rad, that the most powerful piece of Charlemagne’s service has suddenly resurfaced and the Game has begun again, Alexandra is swept into a journey that takes her from Colorado to the Russian wilderness and at last into the heart of her own hometown: Washington D.C.
1822, Albania: Thirty years after the French Revolution, when the chess service was unearthed, all of Europe hovers on the brink of the War of Greek Independence. Ali Pasha, the most powerful ruler in the Ottoman Empire, has angered the sultan and is about to be attacked by Turkish forces. Now he sends the only person he can rely upon–his young daughter, Haidee–on a dangerous mission to smuggle a valuable relic out of Albania, through the mountains and over the sea, to the hands of the one man who might be able to save it.
Haidee’s journey from Albania to Morocco to Rome to Greece, and into the very heart of the Game, will result in revelations about the powerful chess set and its history that will lead at last to the spot where the service was first created more than one thousand years before: Baghdad.
Blending exquisite prose and captivating history with nonstop suspense, Neville again weaves an unforgettable story of peril, action, and intrigue.
In the Woods by Tana French
Shari’s Comment: A splendid novel. I really cared about the two main characters.
A gorgeously written novel that marks the debut of an astonishing new voice in psychological suspense.
As dusk approaches a small Dublin suburb in the summer of 1984, mothers begin to call their children home. But on this warm evening, three children do not return from the dark and silent woods. When the police arrive, they find only one of the children gripping a tree trunk in terror, wearing blood-filled sneakers, and unable to recall a single detail of the previous hours.
Twenty years later, the found boy, Rob Ryan, is a detective on the Dublin Murder Squad and keeps his past a secret. But when a twelve-year-old girl is found murdered in the same woods, he and Detective Cassie Maddox–his partner and closest friend&–find themselves investigating a case chillingly similar to the previous unsolved mystery. Now, with only snippets of long-buried memories to guide him, Ryan has the chance to uncover both the mystery of the case before him and that of his own shadowy past.
Richly atmospheric, stunning in its complexity, and utterly convincing and surprising to the end. In the Woods is sure to enthrall fans of Mystic River and The Lovely Bones.
The Likeness by Tana French
Shari’s Comment: This is a great book, but it didn’t grab me emotionally like French’s first novel, In the Woods, did. Amazing how someone’s identity can be taken over convincingly.
The eagerly anticipated follow-up to the New York Times bestselling psychological thriller In the Woods.
Six months after the events of In the Woods, Detective Cassie Maddox is still trying to recover. She’s transferred out of the murder squad and started a relationship with Detective Sam O’Neill, but she’s too badly shaken to make a commitment to him or to her career. Then Sam calls her to the scene of his new case: a young woman found stabbed to death in a small town outside Dublin. The dead girl’s ID says her name is Lexie Madison—the identity Cassie used years ago as an undercover detective—and she looks exactly like Cassie.
With no leads, no suspects, and no clue to Lexie’s real identity, Cassie’s old undercover boss, Frank Mackey, spots the opportunity of a lifetime. They can say that the stab wound wasn’t fatal and send Cassie undercover in her place to find out information that the police never would and to tempt the killer out of hiding. At first Cassie thinks the idea is crazy, but she is seduced by the prospect of working on a murder investigation again and by the idea of assuming the victim’s identity as a graduate student with a cozy group of friends.
As she is drawn into Lexie’s world, Cassie realizes that the girl’s secrets run deeper than anyone imagined. Her friends are becoming suspicious, Sam has discovered a generations-old feud involving the old house the students live in, and Frank is starting to suspect that Cassie’s growing emotional involvement could put the whole investigation at risk. Another gripping psychological thriller featuring the headstrong protagonist we’ve come to love, from an author who has proven that she can deliver.
Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen
Shari’s Comment: This was a book club selection, and I wasn’t sure I’d like it, but one of my critique partners knows the author and highly recommended it. It is a superbly crafted book that takes readers into a different world and a different time while quietly building up to a murder.
An atmospheric, gritty, and compelling novel of star-crossed lovers, set in the circus world circa 1932, by the bestselling author of Riding Lessons.
When Jacob Jankowski, recently orphaned and suddenly adrift, jumps onto a passing train, he enters a world of freaks, grifters, and misfits, a second-rate circus struggling to survive during the Great Depression, making one-night stands in town after endless town. A veterinary student who almost earned his degree, Jacob is put in charge of caring for the circus menagerie. It is there that he meets Marlena, the beautiful young star of the equestrian act, who is married to August, the charismatic but twisted animal trainer. He also meets Rosie, an elephant who seems untrainable until he discovers a way to reach her.
Beautifully written, Water for Elephants is illuminated by a wonderful sense of time and place. It tells a story of a love between two people that overcomes incredible odds in a world in which even love is a luxury that few can afford.
The Fixer Upper by Mary Kay Andrews
Shari’s Comment: Mary Kay Andrews always produces a fun read. This was good, but a bit more predictable than some.
The delightful New York Times bestselling author returns with a hilarious novel about one woman’s quest to redo an old house . . . and her life.
After her boss in a high-powered Washington public relations firm is caught in a political scandal, fledgling lobbyist Dempsey Jo Killebrew is left almost broke, unemployed, and homeless. Out of options, she reluctantly accepts her father’s offer to help refurbish Birdsong, the old family place he recently inherited in Guthrie, Georgia. All it will take, he tells her, is a little paint and some TLC to turn the fading Victorian mansion into a real-estate cash cow.
But, oh, is Dempsey in for a surprise when she arrives in Guthrie. “Bird Droppings” would more aptly describe the moldering Pepto Bismolpink dump with duct-taped windows and a driveway full of junk. There’s also a murderously grumpy old lady, one of Dempsey’s distant relations, who has claimed squatter’s rights and isn’t moving out. Ever.
Furthermore, everyone in Guthrie seems to know Dempsey’s business, from a smooth-talking real-estate agent to a cute lawyer who owns the local newspaper. It wouldn’t be so bad if it weren’t for the pesky FBI agents who show up on Dempsey’s doorstep, hoping to pry information about her ex-boss from her.
All Dempsey can do is roll up her sleeves and get to work. And before long, what started as a job of necessity somehow becomes a labor of love and, ultimately, a journey that takes her to a place she never expected—back home again.
Fatally Flaky by Diane Mott Davidson
Shari’s Comment: A fun read for people who like their mysteries with equal parts of humor, murder and cooking tips from a really great lady whom I’ve had the pleasure to meet. She began writing after her husband had a heart attack and had to leave his corporate position.
Colorado caterer Goldy Schulz encounters bridezilla—and murder—in another delectable novel by the New York Times bestselling author of Sweet Revenge, Dark Tort, and Double Shot.
It’s been a long, rainy summer for Goldy Schulz, who is engaged in planning wedding receptions for what seems to be all of Aspen Meadow. It’s bad enough that Billie Attenborough, the bride from hell, wants to move the location to the Gold Gulch Spa just a scant two days before tying the knot to her doctor fiancé. Then Doc Finn, best friend of Goldy’s godfather Jack, is killed when his car tumbles into a ravine. But Jack thinks Doc was murdered because of research he was doing at the spa—allegations that are confirmed when Jack himself is attacked.
So Goldy dons chef’s whites and goes undercover at the spa. Add in the obstreperous owner, who years ago tried to sabotage Goldy’s fledgling business, and she’s got her hands full.
Above all, there seems to be a clever killer on the spa grounds, watching her every move. After what befell Jack, Goldy knows that she might be next. Catering weddings, and cooking low-fat food, could be killing her—literally.