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Archive for the ‘Romance’ Category

strikingdistanceLaura Nilsson is slowly rebuilding her life after being rescued from eighteen months of captivity in the Middle East. No longer interested in being in front of the camera, Laura works as a newspaper investigative journalist in Denver. Life is not perfect, but Laura is slowly putting the pieces back together, regaining her professional confidence and trying to regain her confidence as a woman. Javier Corbray hasn’t forgotten his brief and intense weekend getting to know Laura in Dubai before her kidnapping. In fact, she is never far from his thoughts, but he keeps his distance out of respect for her trauma.

While visiting friends in Denver, Javier is surprised, but thrilled, to see Laura at a friend’s barbeque. Laura is happy to see Javier but is less certain about picking up where they left off before her kidnapping. Laura longs to be the confidant woman Javier once knew, but she has secrets that she can’t share for her and her daughter’s safety. Javier won’t be deterred; he values Laura as a friend and a woman, and when she is targeted by a bomb he makes a point to be there to protect her.

Striking Distance is a great combination of character, romance, and suspense. Laura and Javier are both adults dealing with life’s harsh realities. They respect each other as people and take the time to get to know each other. They don’t deny their sexual attraction but neither do they overlook Laura’s trauma. Instead, the focus is on romance and creating a relationship based on trust and respect. Javier is a Navy SEAL, so you’ll have to suspend a little bit of disbelief over the action sequences. Just know the action never overshadows the story nor is it way over the top. The suspense is a great counterbalance to Javier’s and Laura’s budding relationship.

Striking Distance is a part of a series and previous characters appear, but it can be read independently and is one of the best in the series. Pamela Clare is a great writer and creates characters and romance that only make the genre better.

Check the WRL catalog for Striking Distance

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jadedAlana Wentworth is a temporary contract librarian in Walkers Ford, South Dakota. She’s always wanted to work in a library, but she has remained loyal to her family’s non-profit, putting her degree to work as their primary researcher. When the position in Walkers Ford came open, Alana couldn’t resist giving librarianship a try, and she is learning that working in a small town library is her passion. She loves helping people.

Lucas Ridgeway spent childhood summers in Walkers Ford and returned for good as the sheriff after a decade stint on Denver’s police force. Lucas was a good cop and is a decent sheriff, but his passion is less about helping people and more about enforcing the law. As Alana gets more involved in the community, she also becomes entangled with Lucas. They both know it can’t last, but for the few months Alana is in town they will make the most of their budding romance.

This is a small town contemporary romance, but Anne Calhoun has created a story that is peopled with characters that are realistic and multi-dimensional. There is no need for sinister danger lurking around the corner or a vindictive ex-lover out to sabotage a new relationship to move the plot along. Calhoun incorporates the everyday relationships and interactions in a small town to help create the foundation for romance. The secondary characters are your neighbors, friends, and family that add layers to the story. We have a hero that is a good man but is no longer willing to be vulnerable and a heroine that can’t help but get involved in the community but doesn’t consider what will happen when she has to leave. It is the interplay between Lucas’s and Alana’s personalities and their roles in the community that make you wonder how they can make their relationship work.

Anne Calhoun is an author to watch. Her small town romance has substance and style while still providing the essential happy ever after. Calhoun writes with purpose and offers a little something extra I can’t define that makes me enthusiastic to read romance again.

Check the WRL catalog for Jaded

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imageKate Westbrook is deeply in love… with a house. She can’t stop looking at the broad sweep of its double staircase, or keep her hands off the banisters. Sadly, the elegant home of her Mayfair relatives is not for the likes of her: Kate’s father has been ostracized by his wealthy family ever since he married (shudder) an actress. But Kate is not going to let family disgrace stand between her and her rightful place in “that glittering world of champagne and consequence.” She has ambition, studied manners, and stunningly good looks. Maybe a wealthy suitor will marry her before he notices how embarrassing her family is.

Nicholas Blackshear, longtime friend of the Westbrook family, is carrying a torch for Kate, but he knows it’s hopeless. She’s aiming for earls and above, and he’s just a barrister saddled with his own family secrets. Nick has deliberately reshaped his romantic aspirations into brotherly affection. When Kate has a brief opportunity to make her impression on London society, Nick intends to help her land the suitor of her dreams. But that lingering admiration just makes him the world’s least suitable matchmaker… or chaperone.

Language, for me, is what makes Regency novels such a pleasure to read, and Grant’s style hits just the right notes, never forced or artificial. Her sentences flow easily, whether in sharp dialogue or self-mocking interior monologues. The surrounding characters, especially Kate’s bluestocking sister Viola, add life and color to the story, rounded out with conversations about women’s rights and courtroom tactics and fannish discussions of Miss Austen’s commendable novel, Pride and Prejudice.

Grant’s A Lady Awakened was my first read of the new year; I’d meant to blog about its hilariously incompatible sex scenes, the trapped heroine who just wants to make a difference in her ridiculously circumscribed world, and lovers who warm towards one another not from any of their antics in the bedroom, but when they start discussing land management—but, it turns out Christine beat me to it. What she said!

Check the WRL catalog for A Woman Entangled.

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Chose-the-Wrong-Guy-Gave-Him-the-Wrong-Finger-book-coverLooking for a fun book about getting over an old love? Pick up Chose the Wrong Guy, and get ready to laugh. And then cry. And maybe laugh some more.

Ten years ago, Quinn was interrupted right before she walked down the aisle by her fiance’s brother, Frank. Frank felt compelled to tell her that Burke, her fiance, had had an affair (or two) while they were engaged. After calling off the wedding, Quinn and Frank leave town for a couple days of drowning sorrows and steamy sex. When Quinn comes back to her senses, she returns home alone and settles into a quiet rut. Which is where the story picks up.

Quinn has a successful business making original bridal gowns (as penance for walking out on her own wedding?)  She prides herself on being able to create the perfect gown for the bride and her party.

When Dolly, the grandmother of the two brothers decides to get remarried, she comes to Quinn for her gown. And Quinn realizes she’s not as over the high school romance as much as she thought she was.

With the help of her best friend Glenn, she tries to change her life. He gives her a mission every day for a month (experience speed dating, eat breakfast out, try a new hairstyle, etc.) There are some laugh out loud moments as Quinn tries new things to shake up her perspective. (I made a mental note not to try all of Glenn’s suggestions!) And with the brothers back in town for the wedding, there is certainly opportunity to confront the past and put it behind her.

In many ways it reminded me of the movie The Runaway Bride.  Like the Julia Roberts character, Quinn needs to figure out who she is before she can take the steps to be with someone else.

Harbison’s characters are imperfect, and that’s what makes them appealing. I felt like I knew people like them in “real life”–and ended the book hoping they would find their happily ever after.

Check the WRL catalog for Chose the Wrong Guy, Gave him the Wrong Finger

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youdroppedHere’s another quirky, fun read – this time featuring a former trophy wife showing her age.

When Maxine Cambridge is dumped by her controlling husband for a younger woman, she moves in with her mom.  The divorce is messy.  She describes it as being at DEFCON 5.

In her desperation to get a job, any job, she unloads the whole story to the luckless manager of the Cluck Cluck Palace–so right from the beginning of the book, you know what Max is up against. There’s a prenuptial agreement. Her husband cheated on her. She left their home with their teenage son, but few clothes, very little money, and not a glimmer of self respect–and she needs a job desperately. Now imagine the scene as she attempts to keep a hapless teen from entering the restaurant until she convinces the manager to hire her. Actually, just read the book, it’s as good as anything you could imagine.

Moments after the most humiliating experience of her life, an old high school classmate notices her. And this is not just any guy–this is a guy who leaves Max speechless as she gazes up at his handsome face. She doesn’t recognize him as the geeky kid who had been her lab partner senior year. But now Campbell Barker exudes sex appeal and success. It really hits home for Max how little she has accomplished since high school. She can barely make excuses for why she can’t have coffee with him to catch up on what’s been happening in their lives since high school before she breaks down.

As fate would have it, Campbell is helping his dad do odd jobs–at the same senior citizens retirement village where Max’s mom lives. Max and Campbell run into each other again and again. And finally things start to look up in her life, not just because of Campbell’s attention, but because she gets a job and starts building her self-esteem.

The book has a good bit of romance, some steamy sex, a number of laugh out loud moments, and a dollop of self-analysis as Max remembers how she doesn’t have to give up all her hopes and dreams just to be with a man. Let me tell you, Campbell is a treasure to put up with all the self-doubt Max has to work through!

I liked the characters and appreciated that they were more mature than the 20- or 30-somethings that seem to dominate the romance genre. The dialog is snappy and fun.  The supporting characters are interesting and provide some depth to the story (though this is still a breezy read). There’s a great twist to the divorce at the end. It made me feel good to spend a few hours in Max’s world.

Check the WRL catalog for You Dropped a Blonde on Me

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rosieUnreliable narrator? Check. Quirky characters? Check. Fish-out-of-water? Check. Funny scenes? Check. The Rosie Project manages to push all these buttons, plus add a semi-sweet love story, a bit of a mystery and some academic humor. No wonder it’s been a surprise international hit for debut author Graeme Simsion.

Don Tillman is a genius geneticist, the kind who makes other genius geneticists (and geniuses of all other specialties) look like…well, like me. Part of his success is an ability to focus on the work at hand; part of it is an eidetic memory; part is a determination to win at anything he turns a hand to. But those qualities also add up to an inflexible loner, probably with Asperger’s Syndrome and no idea why he never has a second date.

Stymied by women who smoke, who are never on time, who eat apricot ice cream, are adamant vegetarians, or show any conflicting values, Don decides he’s going to weed out those who are demonstrably unsuited for him. His method? A 16-page questionnaire covering every conceivable idiosyncrasy that might affect his ability to be around that person.

One of Don’s test subjects is Rosie Jarman, a barmaid, smoker, chronically late, pretty and opinionated young woman.  Obviously not a match for Don on any count. However, she presents him with a puzzle he cannot resist—the opportunity to collect DNA from a limited but scattered population to find her natural father. The technical part is easy, but he’s intrigued by the difficulty of finding the subjects. Thus begins the Rosie Project.

Simsion perfectly captures the interior voice of a man with Asperger’s, and in multiple comedic scenes demonstrates why Don doesn’t get along with those who are conditioned to follow social conventions (as he sees it), or those who have learned to interpret the myriad of clues that lubricate social interaction (as everyone else sees it). The Apricot Ice Cream Disaster, the Jacket Man Incident, the Pig Trotter’s Disaster, the Flounder Incident, the Bianca Disaster, the Aspie Lecture—all point to Don’s seeming inability to function in public. But gradually, and in small ways, Don learns to look for and interpret, and finally to empathize with, distasteful human emotions.

If this sounds like a formula Hollywood script, it’s because it started as one (a script, that is), but Simsion realized that dialogue alone wasn’t enough to portray Don without making him an object of ridicule. The result of his move to the novel form is a romantic comedy with depth and original characters, and an unsympathetic narrator we quickly come to cheer for. It comes across initially as a light read, but I think readers will remember Don Tillman for quite a while.

Check the WRL catalog for The Rosie Project.

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curiosityA team of researchers finds something unusual frozen in the ice of an enormous Arctic berg. When they reanimate it, it wreaks havoc on the researchers and breaks loose into the larger world where its existence threatens all of humanity. Sounds like the plot of a science fiction movie, right? In The Curiosity, Stephen P. Kiernan takes that trope and turns it into a love story, a commentary on modern science, religion, and culture, and wistful insight into days long gone.

Although this discovery was an accident, the search that led to it was not. A private research facility run by the imperious Erastus Carthage sent a ship to search for “hard ice,” which forms so quickly that specimens’ cells don’t have time to freeze. Carthage’s theory is that such flash-frozen animals might be revived with a protocol he’s developed and is working to prove. Who knows what he expects as a payoff, except a Nobel Prize and scientific immortality? Having succeeded with krill, he hopes to extend the lifetime and complexity of the subjects he reanimates.

Then a research team led by Dr. Kate Philo finds an infinitely more complex creature and the stakes of reanimation skyrocket. With painstaking effort under dangerous conditions, Kate cuts the ice surrounding the specimen away and discovers a human body, cells intact, a perfect candidate for reanimation. When the “Lazarus Project” is announced, Carthage and his arrogant team of physicians provoke the critics, especially the religious activists, ensuring ongoing attention from around the world. Relegated to the sidelines, Kate and much of her team become a liability for the project but fight to retain some role. Thus it is that Kate is on hand when Judge Jeremiah Rice regains consciousness and moves from his 1906 drowning to a 21st-century laboratory and an expedition into unimaginable territory.

The judge is still a young man, but dignified and erudite in a way that her peers lack, and Kate becomes fascinated with him. She also recognizes that Carthage is keeping Jeremiah a virtual prisoner, and begins sneaking him out of the lab to see the changes time has wrought. As he recovers strength, their expeditions become longer and more elaborate, their conversations more intimate, and their reliance upon one another more profound.

In the meantime, the world wants to know about Judge Rice and claim kinship with him. He becomes a celebrity, with attendant privileges and loss of dignity he cannot comprehend. The nature of scientific and cultural progress becomes debatable among the team members who show him both the dark and light sides of that progress. And aspects of that progress overshadow the Judge and Kate, as we learn in the opening chapters.

Kiernan brings us the evolving story through the voices of four narrators—Kate, Jeremiah, Carthage, and the odious Daniel Dixon, a second-rate science writer given exclusive access to the project. As the book moves to its inevitable conclusion, each character and his or her changes are illuminated through their voices and through the observations of the others. The cast of supporting characters—especially a computer genius/stoner/Deadhead, a cell biologist, and Carthage’s flunky—flesh out the background.

Kiernan does not use Rice’s voice to condemn modern society or praise the past. His role as a judge gives him the poise to deal with contentious issues and people (of which there are many in this more relaxed time), but he also connects easily with those who crowd around him and finds ready allies wherever he goes. His entries are poignant with both the grief he feels for the world and people he left behind, the naive way he approaches the modern world, and his growing feelings for Kate.  (Interestingly, I don’t believe Kiernan ever has him quote Miranda from The Tempest!)

Check the WRL catalog for The Curiosity

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takeachanceThis was a lovely book to spend an afternoon reading. I was sorry to leave the small English town where Cleo and her friends live. Nicely woven plot lines kept the story amusing and moving between the main characters.

Cleo is pretty happy with her lot in life. She has an interesting job as a chauffeur and has recently started seeing Will, who is showing potential of being “The One” for her. He has a good job, is good looking, and best of all, came to a funeral so she could show up the boy who tormented her all through school. You’d think after 13 years the resentment would fade, but Johnny LaVentura just pushes all her buttons the wrong way. It doesn’t help that Johnny is now a famous sculptor and dates super-models.

Unfortunately, Will turns out to be much less than she had hoped. His wife, Fia, didn’t think he was all that great either—after finding out about the affair! Despite the odds, Cleo and Fia become friends. And it turns out that Johnny isn’t so bad either…

Then there’s Cleo’s sister, Abbie. Her world is turned upside down when she finds out that her husband fathered a child many years ago. Georgia is now a young woman wanting to develop a relationship with her dad—and Abbie feels like a third wheel in her own home.

The conflicts are nicely resolved by the end of the book. And there’s plenty of happily ever after to put a smile on your face!

If you like books by Maeve Binchy or Katie Fforde, try one of Mansell’s charming tales.

Check the WRL catalog for Take a Chance on Me.

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FangirlIf I say that this young adult novel was on my radar because the cover was designed by Gingerhaze, who I follow on Tumblr, because someone linked me to her fanart for Avengers and Lord of the Rings… then I guess it’s safe to say I’m a fangirl. And I’m not alone!

Cath is a college freshman and an extreme introvert. Her first year at university is complicated by the fact that she’s generally more comfortable with her laptop, sitting up until the wee hours of the morning writing fanfiction, than with actual people. Online, she’s a BNF, a Big Name Fan, the author of an epic work-in-progress set in the World of Mages, a thinly-veiled homage to the Harry Potter-verse, if Draco Malfoy were a vampire, or maybe Loki went to Hogwarts. In “real” life, she’s worried about her dad’s mental health, increasingly estranged from her more outgoing, frat-partying twin, and she suspects her roommate hates her. And her fanfiction about mages Simon and Baz isn’t going to help her through writing class, where she’s supposed to find a narrative voice of her own.

Author Rainbow Rowell is having a good year: both Fangirl and her other 2013 novel, Eleanor and Park, are on “best of the year” lists for teens at Amazon and the New York Times. As in Eleanor and Park, Rowell writes with empathy for a wide range of characters. I particularly liked Cath’s roommate, who is abrasive and sarcastic and still a good friend. Hanger-about Levi is a welcome contrast to high-strung Cath, having perfected the art of being laid back. (“He looked like he was leaning on something even when he wasn’t. He made standing look like vertical lying down.”)

As a bonus, it cheered me to see the love for Harry Potter still percolating through pop culture a generation later. Reading about Cath’s fannish enthusiasms brought back fond memories of the midnight release for Book 8. This is a light, quick read with a sweet romance (a much sweeter and easier romance than in Eleanor and Park). Readers who enjoy books by John Green or Sarah Dessen should give it a try.

Check the WRL catalog for Fangirl.

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Beautiful RuinsAs Beautiful Ruins opens it is 1962, and tourists have begun to find the beautiful towns of Italy’s Ligurian Coast, but in a quaint village called Porta Vergogna, Pasquale Tursi has inherited a seldom-visited hotel from his father. He’s laboring to carve a sand beach out of the rocks and create a clifftop tennis court that he’s sure will draw visitors to the Hotel Adequate View (named via an awkward translation). He can see his dreams beginning to come true with the arrival of a beautiful American starlet, only to discover that she has been sent away from the set of the epic film Cleopatra with a cancer diagnosis.

The story jumps forward to the present day, where Claire, a young production assistant, has had her fill of the inane pitches for films and television shows that she screens in her work for Michael Deane, a once-influential producer now sunk to backing lower fare. She promises herself that if she doesn’t hear a good pitch today, she’ll quit her job and take a position as an archivist in a new film museum (even if it is run by the Scientologists). Her last meeting is running late, and her fate seems sealed when two mismatched men finally arrive, one a young man pitching an unfilmable historical adventure called “Donner!” and the other an Italian who can’t speak much English… Pasquale Tursi, now much older and in search of the lost piece of his past.

Walter’s story continues to jump from episode to episode, key moments in the lives of his vivid characters. This kind of story only works if almost every scene is vivid. Otherwise the reader resents giving up a vivid section for one that is more drab. Walter makes it work though, as he stops in with an American singer trying to make a comeback on the fringes of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival; with a community theatre production in Northern Idaho; with a cynical American soldier in a Catch 22-like WWII Italy; and on a manic day with a drunken Richard Burton. Like a jigsaw puzzle, each set piece adds a little to the mysterious picture, and the sad but beautiful lives of the protagonists are revealed, the beautiful ruins of the title.

Someday someone will make a beautiful film from this book with great characters, beautiful settings, and equal touches of comedy and drama. You don’t need to wait. Read the book and you’ll soon have a lovely movie vividly screening in your own head.

Check the WRL catalog for Beautiful Ruins

Enjoy Beautiful Ruins in large print

Or try it as an electronic audiobook

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week_before Let’s start the week with a light romantic comedy.

Emily remembers her childhood as chaotic and full of drama.  She has worked hard to make her adult life as different from her wacky mother’s as possible.  She is finally living the stable, organized life she always dreamed of — and, though boring, this is exactly what she wants.  She thinks she has fallen in love with “Mr. Right,” a transplant surgeon named Grant.  His family is full of all the tradition and respectability that hers is not.  She can’t help but feel a little intimidated by their perfect lives.

Emily and Grant are tying the knot at his family’s long-time favorite vacation lodge in Vermont.  It will be a dream come true.  They arrive at the lodge a week before the wedding to make last-minute plans and visit with family.  The heirloom dress will fit (serious dieting will make sure of that); the wedding will go off without a hitch (if she keeps her mother away from her future mother-in-law); and Emily and Grant will live happily ever after (despite a friend’s warning that Emily will never have her honeymoon because of Grant’s demanding, important job).

Only that’s not how it turns out. Her ex-husband, Ryan, shows up out of the blue and makes Emily question whether she’s marrying the right man.

The plot isn’t full of unexpected twists.  You could probably fill in how the story ends just by knowing that Emily’s ex showed up before the wedding.  But I liked the way Kendrick works the plot to the inevitable conclusion.  She has a playful, light hand with developing characters, from the brassy mother of the bride to the conservative mother of the groom.  And I was happy to see those passive-aggressive older sisters get their comeuppance!  Read the book to find out how. 

Check the WRL catalog for The Week Before the Wedding

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wandererLet’s end the week with a fast-paced contemporary romance.

Robyn Carr is a familiar name on the bestseller lists and her latest series, which starts with The Wanderer, shows all the earmarks of why she’s so popular.

Henry “Coop” Cooper comes to Thunder Point, Oregon, to pay his respects to an old Army buddy, Ben, who died unexpectedly. Coop doesn’t expect to be the one to receive the estate, a surprising number of waterfront and forest acreage–along with a decrepit bait shop. Coop isn’t sure what Ben’s intent was for the land, so he decides to play it slow, fix up the shop, and talk to the people who knew Ben to get a better feel for his friend’s wishes.

Part of the appeal of the seaside town is Sarah Dupre, a Coast Guard pilot, and her younger brother, Landon. There is a nice blend of a budding romance between Coop and Sarah as well as a friendship with Landon, who is being bullied by the privileged kid in town.

I finished The Wanderer and picked up The Newcomer right away.  The story continues with the same small town characters, this time spending more time exploring the relationship between single parents Sheriff “Mac” McCain and diner waitress Gina James. I’ll have to wait until September to see how all the plot lines resolve in The Hero.

This was my first time reading Robyn Carr. I thoroughly enjoyed the character development for the primary and secondary casts. I didn’t feel like I had to read the second book to complete the story, but it was a bonus that the plot with Sarah and Coop continues. I’d certainly agree the love story is the main appeal, but Carr adds enough meat to the overall arc that if you’re looking for something more than boy meets girl, you’ll find it here.

Check the WRL catalog for The Wanderer

Check the WRL catalog for The Newcomer

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SummerPrinceNever fall in love with someone who has chosen to die.

Palmares Três is a futuristic Brazilian pyramid city, a vivid backdrop for this young adult novel. After global catastrophe in the distant past, humanity has rebuilt pockets of civilization, but with a lingering mistrust of new technology and a twisted political system born out of the times of chaos. Genetic modification has extended lifespans, creating a culture and a political system that doesn’t begin to take you seriously as a mature adult until you’re in your thirties.

And every few years the youth elect, in a spectacle reminiscent of early seasons of American Idol, a Summer King who holds the title for one year before the reigning queen slits his throat in televised public sacrifice. Yes, if you can imagine Ryan Seacrest hosting an Aztec ceremony—and really, it’s not so hard—you’ve got a good handle on politics, Palmares Três style.

The king’s death reinforces his choice of the next queen, but he doesn’t really have a choice. It’s all bloody political theater that plays to the young crowd and reinforces the ruling matriarchs. Until Enki, who is gorgeous and talented, a candidate from the lowest class of Palmares Três society. His wild popularity is probably the first sign that the city’s government might be massively out of touch with its citizens.

June Costas, the narrator, is a young, ambitious artist who is just graduating from street graffiti to installation art that challenges the city rulers. (One of her projects is the body-mod shown on the gorgeous book cover: patterned lights embedded under her skin.) She starts out just another young woman screaming with the crowd, but her art catapults her into the public eye, a complicated relationship with the Summer King, and a whole world of things she did not want to know about how her city is governed and about what it’s like to love someone who plans to die. Even June can’t figure out whether Enki is in this game for a few months of privilege, access to limited-edition body-modifying tech, and fans lining up to be his lovers; whether he truly has a death wish; or whether he’s figured out some new way to serve the city they both love.

This is a serious-minded take on art and politics, acts of rebellion, and using your own life (and) death as a canvas. Johnson writes vivid, sensual prose steeped in Brazilian phrases, dance, and song. Palmares Três culture, at its best and worst, comes to life in lots of little details. The worldbuilding reminded me of Nnedi Okorafor’s alternate Nigeria in The Shadow Speaker, but this book is aimed at older teens and young adults. Although most of the words eventually make sense from context, I admit, I could have used a glossary. But what this book could really use is a playlist—after reading about the ways Palmares Três kids blend music and art and political protest and dance, you’ll really want to queue up a samba.

You can read the first chapter online at NPR.

Check the WRL catalog for The Summer Prince

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The-Summer-He-Came-Home The warm weather is influencing my reading this week–I’m sticking with light and fun beach reads. Next up is a contemporary romance I devoured in one day.

Cain Black left home 10 years ago to pursue his dream of becoming a musician. His career is finally on the upswing, but marriage to a movie star and a glitzy lifestyle left something to be desired. When he is called home to attend a funeral for one of his childhood buddies, reconnecting with his mom and close friends shows Cain that real feelings have been missing in his life. And his attraction to Maggie O’Rourke makes it easy to stick around his hometown for the summer.

As for Maggie, who wouldn’t be attracted to the hot lead singer of BlackRock?  But she’s worked too hard to create a safe place for herself and her son to risk it on what is sure to be a brief fling with Cain.

You know the main characters are going to give in to the attraction, but the buildup is nicely paced.  And the relationship comes with complications that need to be resolved before they can have their happily ever after.

This is a fun read.  The characters are a little over the top, but not unbelievable. I like that Cain doesn’t have all the answers. He doesn’t know what to say to make Maggie jump into bed with him–or to ease her concerns when the paparazzi invade their privacy.  There is enough tension in the resolution of Cain and Maggie’s different lifestyles that while I knew the story would have a happy ending, I didn’t feel like the author got lazy with the plot.

The secondary characters who need a comeuppance get one.

The men who grew up with Cain in Crystal Lake are given interesting backstories–this is clearly the first in what is likely a trio of stories about them and how they find love. Enough is setup in Cain and Maggie’s story to make me jot down a note to watch for the next story in October.

Check the WRL catalog for The Summer He Came Home

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ivegotyournumberDays before her wedding, Poppy Wyatt loses her engagement ring.  Sometime between her girlfriends admiring the ring and passing it around.. and the luncheon programmers finishing up the raffle drawings.. and the hotel staff requiring everyone to evacuate the room for a fire drill… the heirloom ring disappeared.  Not only that, but when she goes outside to get a better cell signal, someone steals her phone.  Desperate to figure out what to do next, Poppy paces the hotel lobby and spies a cell phone in a trash can.  What luck–the phone works!  One problem solved.  Sort of.

The phone belongs to Sam Roxton’s personal assistant who quit without giving notice, so when Sam calls the number and reaches Poppy, she is able to convince Sam to let her keep the phone until she finds her ring  and she’ll forward all his messages.

The crazy plan works, but of course, Poppy reads all the texts that come to Sam and gets a pretty good idea of what’s going on behind the scenes in his office.  Sometimes she understands what’s going on better than Sam, who is too busy to read, much less return, most texts.

And because this is a Chick Lit with romantic elements, Poppy and Sam gain insight into each other through this odd arrangement.  And they like what they find!

I listened to most of this book on CD.  Jayne Entwistle is the reader. I loved listening to her perky British accent–she was perfect for Poppy!  It was easy to follow the narrative even with the texts and footnotes read aloud.  (Yes, there are footnotes in the book.  Why? Because Poppy’s self-important fiance is a scholar, and Poppy was impressed with the number of footnotes in his book.)

Personally, I never thought texts could be romantic, but I changed my mind after listening to the incredibly touching scene where Poppy and Sam are texting each other in the dark woods.

This is a light, fun, satisfying book.  I highly recommend it for poolside entertainment this summer.  I even enjoyed the secondary characters, even the snarky ones.  And rooted for Poppy’s happily ever after with Sam right from the beginning.

Check the WRL catalog for I’ve Got Your Number

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I typically choose beach reads in the fall or wintertime.  As temperatures drop below 50°F, cover images with hammocks and cerulean blue seas become irresistible and I pick them up for escape purposes, to tide me over until I can reach a beach in a warmer clime. It’s like a chocolate indulgence or an extravagant café selection — a little me-time fantasy.  Ocean Beach fit the bill this time.

The author’s work caught my eye months ago when this sequel to Ten Beach Road came out so I’ve had it on my to-read list ever since (and enjoyed Ocean Beach without having read the first book in the Beach series).  Since then, I’ve learned that Wax was once honored with the Virginia Romance Writers Holt Medallion Award for her debut romance 7 Days and 7 Nights in 2003. Now I’ve just learned that Wendy Wax has joined the Downton Abbey craze — using her fandom as the source of inspiration for her latest novel, While We Were Watching Downton Abbey

The scenario of Ocean Beach made me recall the 80’s television sitcom Designing Women.  A group of women friends, assembled in Wax’s typical ensemble-cast style, are collaborating on the renovation of an historic Art Deco home in the dreamy vicinity of Miami’s South Beach.  This project shows the promise of promoting the future success of their fledgling enterprise owing to the fact that their remodeling project is to be featured on a reality television show called Do Over.  However, they had not anticipated that such notoriety might stem from a camera focused much more on their private lives than their skills with refinishing and refurbishing old houses so they are soon wishing their dirty laundry wasn’t about to be broadcast for all to see.

Ocean Beach readers will find a little romance, troubling pasts and deeply hidden secrets, a bit of amateur detective work, and more than a few strained domestic relationships in this lively, dramatic novel. Fans of chick lit and romance are sure to enjoy turning its pages, preferably while relaxing on a sun-kissed beach.

Check the WRL catalog for Ocean Beach

If you’re interested in starting with Wendy Wax’s earlier books, try The Accidental Bestseller.

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Approximately five years ago, I read Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice as well as her other five novels after receiving an all-in-one collection as a gift. Having only truly read Pride and Prejudice once (I can’t count the Cliff Notes I used in high school), it’s a wonder that I am reviewing this festive micro-history which delightfully illustrates why Jane Austen’s perfect Regency romance has remained so untouchable since its publication in 1813, even as her style and subject matter are profusely imitated, now more than ever!  

Reading Susannah Fullerton’s pleasant homage to the timeless novel upon its 200-year anniversary provided me with all sorts of intriguing details, historical background, and gossipy tidbits about its creation and legacy that enhance my appreciation of the novel.  Fullerton, president of the Jane Austen Society of Australia, effectively demonstrates the reasons for the novel’s perfection and its ever-increasing appeal for readers of either sex, of all ages, in nearly every community worldwide. She cheerfully describes her analysis of individual characters, Austen’s style, and the famous opening sentence on which an entire chapter is devoted.

It was especially amusing to learn of all the various editions, versions, translations, sequels, retellings, mash-ups, adaptations, film interpretations, and other assorted Austen-inspired endeavors that have fueled a sort of Pride-and-Prejudice mania. Darcy-mania culture took off on the tails of the sexy 1995 BBC film version, starring Colin Firth (of the infamous lake scene), and kindled much new interest in the reading of the novel.

Fullerton pretty much concludes that no sequel author or film producer has ever really matched Jane Austen’s masterful style and that what lovers of the novel should really ever do is just keep reading and re-reading Pride and Prejudice. I agree that the masterpiece stands alone, but Austen did very effectively infect most of her readers with a desire to continue knowing Elizabeth and Darcy and to learn ever more about each well-drawn character’s future. Imagine if she’d lived long enough to write her own sequels, or to taste the fame her novels eventually gave her!

Check the WRL catalog for Celebrating Pride and Prejudice : 200 years of Jane Austen’s Masterpiece

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sagaA vicious intergalactic war rages on in this epic fantasy vs. sci-fi standoff. The inhabitants of Landfall, the largest planet in the galaxy, bear vestigial wings and are technologically advanced. They have forever been in conflict with the population of Wreath, Landfall’s moon, who have horns like sheep and a mastery of magic. Each side recruits other planets and races to join their side in the battle, constantly expanding the battlefield throughout the universe.

Alana was a Landfall soldier, sent to guard prisoners on the distant planet of Cleave. Marko was a foot solider for Wreath, but surrendered as a conscientious objector and was sent to Cleave. Within twelve hours of meeting each other, Alana and Marko flee together. Their union produces a daughter named Hazel, who serves as occasional narrator to the story, and has both wings and horns.

Treachery such as theirs can’t go unpunished, and soon both sides are tracking the new parents, who want nothing more than a peaceful place to raise their child. The fragility of the new life they have created strengthens their resolve to, somehow, survive. Landfall sends Prince Robot IV, a humanoid with a television set for a head, to bring them to justice while the Wreath military hires a freelance bounty hunter named The Will. For reasons yet unknown, the Wreath side wants Hazel brought back alive. Another bounty hunter, a former lover of The Will, is also sent by the Wreath forces to track down Alana and Marco. Prince Robot IV and The Will are soon at odds, with The Will swearing to destroy his blue-blooded nemesis.

The writing and the artwork for this series successfully contrast the tenderness and intimacy between the parents against the violence of the worlds around them. There are a lot of ideas introduced in this first volume, which can be tricky to maintain, but Brian K. Vaughan is an experienced writer and this volume is a promising beginning. Fiona Staples’s artwork is simple yet striking, and she manages to make several different, distinct alien worlds, bathing the images in contrasting teals and oranges and greens. Recommended for fantasy and science fiction readers, and anyone who enjoys an against-the-odds romance.

Check the WRL catalog for Saga.

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