Saturday, August 23, 2008



Brunonia Barry's novel, THE LACE READER is novel about the timeless power of family ties, the use inherited characteristics as gifts or curses and why we are drawn back to our home by a crisis. Towner Whitney returns to her childhood home in Salem, Massachusetts to deal with a family crisis and begins to confront her haunted past.

The women in Towner’s family are gifted with the ability to “read” the future through the patterns in lace. Much as lace is delicate, intricate spun threads so is the book a patterned web of intrigue, mystery, deceit, entanglements, and heartache.

With a hometown of Salem, MA – America’s pre-eminent home of witchcraft, the plot ranges from the merely odd to the paranormal and perhaps only to places our own imagination stretches as we follow Towner’s story. As her Aunt reminds her "There are no accidents... everything happens for a reason."

This is a DuMarier genre novel and the author gives excellent descriptions of lace making and lace reading as well as the spoken and unspoken truths that are common to all families. It’s stylish with a psychological and perhaps otherwordly story that captures Towner and her family in a spell that can only be broken by confronting what has gone before.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

Don't let an odd name deter you from reading this  absolutely wonderful book which tells the story of English Channel Island residents who lived under Nazi occupation during WWII. Caught after curfew following a forbidden gathering some quick thinking on the part of one local suddenly merged a disparate  group into "The Guernsey Literary Society." 

Their story is told through letters they write after the War to a young London columnist who becomes their confidante, amateur psychologist, pen pal and friend. How all of their lives have been changed by the war and the new relationship they build through the post is the basis of this charming novel. It is at once delightful, moving, has interesting historical notes and is ultimately about the power of friendship and hope when faced with hardship and adversity.

You can easily fall in love with this book - one of the best of 2008.  

Friday, August 15, 2008

A Few More Suggestions

If you like medical thrillers Robin Cook's new book FOREIGN BODY takes on medical tourism, something that has been in the news a great deal the last few years. If you've missed it, the condensed version is that Americans are traveling to India and other countries to have procedures such as hip replacements, face lifts, etc. because they are so much cheaper than in the US.

These "package deals" include airfare for the patient and a family member or friend, the surgery and follow up care usually at a posh hotel all for thousands less that the price in the US. It is such a "bargain" that some American companies now have agreements with these offshore hospitals and send their employees for surgeries rather than paying top prices for procedures at US hospitals.

Cook takes this timely topic and looks at the downside of it using two of his continuing characters, forensic pathologists from the New York City Medical Examiner's Office, Laurie Montgomery and Jack
Stapleton. They happen to have a personal connection to someone who lost her life under suspicious circumstances following a routine procedure at an Indian hospital.

When the hospital wants to hurriedly cremate the body, the victim's granddaughter who is a bright medical student from the US calls in the two pathologists who are family friends and the plot continues from there.

While it is formula driven in the Cook tradition, it's still an interesting read and poses some thoughtful questions.

A great book for those who like thrillers, medical mysteries or those who just need something to escape  tedium  during an airplane flight or on vacation.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

THE FIRE, Katherine Neville

Sometimes just as you awaken, for an instant you see the threads of wisdom and knowledge that flow through the universe linking the past and future of mankind. It is as if you suddenly have the key to enlightenment. That was the feeling I had time and again when I read Katherine Neville’s first novel, THE EIGHT.

I found the book so incredible that I kept wondering how she came up with her ideas – how did she manage to translate those few, rare moments into a book that captured the imagination as it traveled from present day to the French Revolution, linking the past and present so seamlessly through puzzles, clues, games and the forces of good and evil?

I had stumbled upon the book when it first came out and soon found myself recommending it to friends so we could discuss it. THE EIGHT also provided the impetus to form a book club and was of course the first book we ever read and discussed as a group.

So, after more than 20 years, Neville has continued the story and of course “the game” that started in THE EIGHT with her new book, THE FIRE. Drawing from historical references and time periods as well as from the present day, Neville has written another stunning novel for those with inquiring minds.

THE FIRE centers on Alexandra Solarin, daughter of Catherine Velis the main character from THE EIGHT. A former child chess prodigy who quit playing after a traumatic incident in her youth, Alexandra is living a quiet, uneventful life in Washington, DC but has a series of adventures that catapult her from the safety of life as a sous chef to the middle of “the game” and the frantic search for her missing mother.

This being a Neville novel, Cat Velis has left her daughter a series of riddles and clues to discover and decode based on mystical chess set. Alexandra is now playing a life and death game with terrifying consequences that reach across the centuries to the Ottoman Empire, and involve such well known figures as Lord Byron, George Washington and Catherine the Great.

A White Queen, a Black Queen, a chessboard, links to Islam, references to current events such the war in Iraq, and many gambits keep the reader guessing about the truth of the chess set. Pay attention because the large cast of characters, many historical shifts, and abundance of information may cause overload but also keeps the reader captivated.

If you like puzzles from sudoku to cryptograms, are intrigued by history, enjoy quirky but believable characters (the kind of people you’d love to claim you’ve met), and if you loved THE EIGHT, then get this book. If you just want something interesting to read, get this book. You don’t have be a devotee of THE EIGHT to enjoy it (but you should read it anyway).

You’ll finish THE FIRE, ponder it and want to discuss it with friends because it so much more than just a novel. It is another book for inquisitive minds and readers who like mystery, romance, suspense, history, and imaginative writing all in one book. Buy it October 14. You won’t be disappointed in playing “the game” once again because this book like THE EIGHT, is a chance to discover a little bit of enlightenment from the mind of Katherine Neville.