Friday, July 20, 2012

What Doesn't Kill You, Iris Johansen.  Catherine Ling has been called from the cozy homecoming she has been trying to orchestrate with her long lost son to find the man that matters the most in her life - Hu Chang.  In a thorough and exciting flashback, Johansen tells the story of young Catherine's survival and rise in the streets of Hong Kong, and the influence and unexpected friendship brought to the young girl by Hu Chang, one of the best known healers in China.  Presently, Hu Chang has made the perfect death potion - untraceable, swift, and decidedly fatal.  All of the wrong people want to get their hands on it, and him.  As a CIA agent, Catherine can help dispose of the people following Chang.  With the help of John Gallo, despite the sexual tension between the two agents, she fights and figures her way out of this mess.  Johansen's writing is crisper and more interesting during the flashback and tales of Catherine's scrappy youth, but the fast pace and human interest, especially when a presidential hopeful is involved, kept my attention.
Fifty Shades Darker, E.L James, Fiction, Romance.  It has been a total of five days since Anastasia Steele walked away from her Fifty Shades of Grey, and she has apparently done nothing buy cry, fast, and catch the eye of her boss at her new job in a publishing house.  Her inner goddess has withered.  Then, she is reconnected with Grey and instead of walking away like she did five days ago, she lets him waltz right back into her life.  There isn't a lot of growth on Anastasia's part - she just lets Christian prove to her how much he can change for her - and change he has.  I can't figure out the phenomenon of this series, and I am sure publishing houses are also scrambling to know what made this series so appealing to so many.  I think it is easy to read, a little taboo, fun to talk about with girls, and romantic.  The second book in the trilogy did add a little intrigue to the lives of Christian and Ana, and left us with a little cliffhanger, but I am willing to bet that together, they can conquer anything.
The Vanishers, Heidi Julavits, Fiction  First of all, NOT to judge a book by its cover, but this is just a plain pretty book to have on your shelf.  I love the bright pictures of flowers smooshed together, and the title and author name peeking between the petals.  Julia, a student at a school for psychics, is intent on honing her skills, with the goal to "visit" her mother while she commits suicide in the room next to an infant Julia.  At school, Julia ends up working for the most beloved professor on campus, and during a night at Madame Ackerman's home, Julia shows off her formidable psychic skills.  Very soon after this encounter, Julia falls ill and drops out of school.  A year later, as she is working in a New York office, she is approached by a young woman who stages "Vanishings," for people who want to disappear from their lives, without committing suicide.  During Julia's exploration of this phenomenon, her mother's life and Julia's talent are brought closer than she ever thought possible.  It is also revealed to her that she is being psychically attacked by her former professor, Madame Ackerman.  This story was inventive but hard to follow.  I am not sure if it was my failings of a reader but I felt like I was observing the writing, instead of being absorbed in the story.  It was compelling and twisted, and sure did make me want to try to bend spoons with my mind (did not work).

Friday, July 6, 2012

Between You and Me, Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus, Fiction.  Here it is, my first beach read recommendation!  Little commitment, not a lot of feeling, but highly entertaining.  Logan is living the life of the unattached 30-something in New York City - has a great apartment, a good job, and a cute boyfriend.  Except her roommate is crazy, her job is unsatisfying, and her boyfriend never really shows up when he is supposed to.  When Logan receives a call from her cousin, who happens to be the manager for their OTHER cousin, Kelsey, who is one of the hottest acts in entertainment, Logan only hesitates for a moment to take up the offer of a vacation in California.  The visit turns into a job offering and the opportunity to repair their broken friendship, and Logan jumps on the chance.  The story isn't breaking new ground for McLaughlin and Kraus, who have other books about the harried lives of serving the rich and famous, and it isn't hard to figure out where they got inspiration for this book (ahemBritneySpearsahem) but if you are looking for a fun read, here you go.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

The Witness, Nora Roberts, Fiction, Romance    Liz, or Abigail, has set up camp in a beautiful, sleepy town in rural Arkansas.  She has her schedule, and sticks to it because if she isn't vigilant she may not see the heavy for the Russian Mafia coming to finish her off.  Brooks is back in town and has taken on the job of Chief of Police after ten years away.  Abigail intrigues him, and he tenaciously pursues her until she relents and lets him into her life and heart.  Things move quickly and Brooks finds himself falling for Abigail happily.  Oh, besides the fact your true love is wanted for questioning in the murder of two US Marshalls, and is a key witness in a shooting by the Russian Mafia in Chicago.   I was looking for dishy, taught, well-researched and snappy writing from the pro of all of that, Ms. Roberts.  It was easy to feel good for the way things worked out for Liz/Abigail and Brooks, and very interesting to see how Liz was able to carry her passions into her work and even throughout her ordeal as a young woman. But unfortunately, this book dragged a bit.  The explosive beginning faded quickly after Liz moved to Arkansas, which was good for her, but threw water on the fire as a reader.