Wednesday, November 2, 2011


by Louise Caiola
L&L Dreamspell
ISBN: 978-1603183208
$13.95 paperback/$4.99 ebook

Stricken with a terminal disease, 16-year-old Chessie Madrid fights for her life while keeping her illness a secret between herself and her grandmother, with whom she lives. Chessie pretends to be well around her friends and is a bit bemused that every fortune cookie she opens always seem to mock her with the proverb she will live a long and happy life. In a moment of despair, Chessie makes a wish list hoping for a brother or sister, for her best friend’s brother Johnny to fall in love with her, and for her father to suffer for abandoning her as a child. When an unknown half-sister shows up, Chessie’s delighted, but when her father seeks a way into her life, she’s angry and bitter. And when Johnny turns an interested eye her way, she’s happy for the attention but fearful it’s for the wrong reason. As Chessie’s disease progresses and her wishes are fulfilled, her life takes a different direction and she begins to wonder if her wish list was such a good idea after all.

This heartwarming coming-of-age story will bring tears and smiles as the reader becomes vested in Chessie and her fight to live while keeping her chin up and her secret close. Chessie is intriguing, a young woman with a strong spirit who accepts her life may be cut short but intends to live it to its fullest without infringing on others. Chessie’s lingering grief over her mother’s death and her struggle with her feelings over her father as he tries to make amends for his absence over the years, as well as the way she deals with her illness, are powerfully portrayed and well-told. The plot is exceptional and so well-written this reviewer was reluctant to put the book aside. Although couched as a book for young adults, older readers will be just as absorbed by Chessie’s story.


by Suzanne Collins
Scholastic Press
$8.99 paperback; $4.69 Ebook

In a futuristic world, the United States, now called Panem, is divided into 12 districts. At one point, there was one more, but the 13th district was destroyed to quash a rebellion. Each year, the government, in order to remind the 12 remaining districts of the brutality of the rebellion and as a means of controlling its citizenry, holds the Hunger Games, in which a male and female representative from each district is chosen and subsequently must fight to the death in an arena the government has devised. The Games are televised and it is mandated that each citizen must watch; another maneuver to thwart rebellion and to instill compliance. The winner will live a life of luxury for the rest of their life; the only caveat, they must mentor subsequent competitors from their district. 16-year-old Katniss lives in District 12, known as the mining district and one of the poorest. Since her father’s death, Katniss has been sole provider for her family and is an expert hunter. When her sister is chosen for the Games, Katniss volunteers to take her place. The male chosen is Peeta, the baker’s son, who once saved Katniss and her family from starvation. Although Katniss does not want to go into the Games owing anyone, she cannot deny Peeta’s charitable nature. During the opening ceremonies, Peeta declares his unrequited love for Katniss, endearing them to viewers. Now Katniss is indebted to him more, because as the favored couple, they will receive gifts to help them during the Games. If it comes to a fight between Katniss and Peeta, will she be able to kill the young man to whom she owes so much?

Collins depicts a cruel world in which the government controls every aspect of its citizens’ lives and freedom seems unattainable. The author excels at revealing the complexities of the characters, including tertiary ones. Although Katniss seems a cold, calculating young woman, deep down, she cares for others yet is wary of acknowledging these feelings, even to herself. Peeta is personable, a warm, gentle young man who does everything he can to protect Katniss, even when it doesn’t appear he is doing so. When he declares his love for Katniss, she isn’t sure if this is true or if this is a ruse to gain more favor for himself. The Games are brutal and vividly depicted. The plot is excellent and moves along at a fast pace. Readers will root for Katniss and Peeta in the first book of this galvanizing trilogy.


by Kari Lee Townsend
Berkley Prime Crime
ISBN: 9780425242759
$7.99 US

Sylvia “Sunny” Meadows has always felt like a square peg trying to fit into a round whole in her parents’ hoity-toity world in New York City. At 29, Sunny packs her worldly goods into her Volkswagen bug and heads for Divinity, New York where she’s purchased an old Victorian house and plans to open up a fortune-telling business. Her first client is the town librarian and Sunny is troubled when the tea leaves show the woman’s life is in danger. After the librarian leaves, Sunny deems it best to tell the police, but by then, it’s too late; the woman’s already dead. And the investigating officer, Detective Mitch Stone, suspects Sunny’s the culprit. Although there’s major chemistry between them, the two get off to a rocky start which becomes even more treacherous when the mayor decides he wants Sunny to team up with Detective Stone to help solve the murder. Sunny’s parents arrive to help clear their daughter’s name and Sunny’s frantic to find the murderer while the murderer is busy planting evidence against her.

This cozy mystery is charming and fun, although one distraction is the protagonist’s demeanor. Although she’s 29 years of age, she seems much younger, doing such things as sticking out her tongue at people and calling the detective names such as “Mr. Grumpy Pants”. Her relationship with her parents is more along the lines of a rebellious teenager than a grown woman. Townsend adds a touch of the paranormal with a mysterious cat named Morty who hangs around Sunny’s house, inexplicably appearing and disappearing, and scaring visitors. A bit implausible to this reader was the mayor’s decision to partner not only a newcomer to town, but a suspect in the murder, with the detective investigating said murder. All in all, an engaging read with certain aspects readers might find distracting or may choose to ignore.


by Jackie Griffey
Amazon Digital Services

Jeweler Edwin Wildermuse’s body is found in an alley of New York City, missing one hand and the courier case carrying expensive jewelry to which it had been handcuffed. ID on the body leads Detective Eric O’Shaughnessy to contact Sheriff Cas Larkin of Maryvale, Tennessee, searching for relatives of Edwin. Cas locates Edwin’s cousins, Bedrov Dedd and Svetlana Wildermuse, living in a large, rundown house on the outskirts of town. The cousins tell Cas that Edwin had a nephew in New York City, master chef Edgar Wildermuse. Edgar is devastated by the news and surprised to learn he stands to inherit millions from his uncle. Edgar wants to make sure Bedrov and Svetlana are taken care of so he and his partner visit Maryvale and hire a contractor to begin renovating the old place, unaware the two criminals who murdered his uncle are in the area searching for a valuable set of jewelry they suspect Edwin buried shortly before his death.

Reading the Maryvale series is as comforting as visiting well-loved family and friends. The town of Maryvale is enchanting, it’s characters warm and likable. Griffey adds a touch of the paranormal to this latest installment , enhancing the story even more, and introduces new characters who will hopefully appear in future books. A charming cozy readers, mystery and otherwise, will enjoy.


by Kathy Carmichael
Medallion Press
$4.99 Ebook

Sous chef Jill Morgan Storm, hoping to discover the secret of successful relationships, gets the bright idea to send out a “Marriage Satisfaction Survey” to couples who have been together for a good while. Jill’s reeling from being dumped by her most recent lover, a college professor now dating one of his young students who won’t let loose of Jill’s favorite skillet. If that isn’t bad enough, Jill’s ready to hit panic mode. Her son will be entering college soon, and since his grades won’t qualify for a scholarship, she has to come up with the tuition money. Jill’s ex-husband, who is now a woman, isn’t much help and Jill’s well-to-do father is in prison, so Jill decides she needs a man with financial means. But the men she meets and dates seem to have more problems than Jill, who’s beginning to suffer menopausal symptoms. One constant irritant: her son’s former teacher, hanging around in the guise of helping her son, but Jill thinks it’s only to needle her about her mothering skills. Jill determinedly forges ahead with her dating plans, unaware the answer to her problems has been there all along.

Kathy Carmichael offers her reader a rollicking good romp with this romantic comedy. Jill’s a likable character, a woman who loves her son and wants the best for him but can’t seem to find a way to make that happen. The men she meets and dates are quirky and the scenarios surrounding them laugh-out-loud funny.