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September 7, 2007

Reading While Floating....My 2007 Vacation Theme

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When readers left off with my August 24th newsletter I was all over my plan to have four suitcases for this trip. 1. Clothes 2. Books. 3. Knitting 4. Overnight bag for the hotel. I figured this system would compartmentalize my interests and assure me that I never would be asked again to have my "big suitcase" ready first. Well, I did pack the four bags and felt like Audrey Hepburn albeit in turquoise not black as I stood outside the car poised with my bags. Well, the little system backfired because I now learned my FOUR bags are perfect to load first in the car since the symmetry of them all works together for packing.

The weather was IDEAL the entire trip. When we arrived we hit the last day of the blistering heat that held NC in its clutches in August. Beyond that picture perfect.

My days went something like this. Wake up. Answer email and work with the office for a couple of hours. Then hit the pool and float with a book. We bought this floating chair that looked like a recliner and it was decorated in some loud neon color, which we nicknamed, "The Barbie Chair" since it clearly looked like something Barbie would love. Then we had a green float, a pink tube and an orange tube. I would move from one flotation device to another all day long and read away. Around 5 stop and hit the beach and then the pool for laps, or for variation the pool and then the beach. Dinner was at 8 or 9. After that a movie rental while knitting. I loved the routine and I only broke it up two times: one a visit to my gal pals at the yarn shop; the second a drive down to Manteo to hit the antique shops and the Manteo Bookstore for more books for the boys.

Since the renovation project had worn me out I did not want to see or talk to anyone besides the family. Just too much effort. My husband played golf every day; the day we left they re-seeded the greens giving him a reason to want to leave. The boys hung out with me, reading, floating, walking on the beach and doing as little as possible. Well, my older son was cramming in the end of summer reading that he had left for the last possible moment, but I saw that coming. Soooo what did I read?

Here was my lineup and I think I have it all:

Ann Packer's THE DIVE FROM CLAUSEN'S PIER was a huge favorite and thus when I saw her SONGS WITHOUT WORDS was coming out I could not wait to read it. It's the story of a friendship between two women that suffers a real blow when the daughter of one of the women attempts suicide. The impact of this act on these women, this family and the girl herself is a story that will provoke a lot of feelings ---- and discussion. We added a discussion guide for this on for any of you with book clubs looking for a good book to chew over. I read a fabulous piece this week, I think in the New York Times about how this book changed for Packer as she was writing it. As someone who ALWAYS wonders this as she reads I really enjoyed her commentary on how SONGS came together to be what we are now reading.

Next up was Kristin Hannah's FIREFLY LANE, which will not be in stores til February. I have been a fan of Kristin's for years and thus getting an early look at this one was a treat. The story starts in the '70s where two girls meet and start a friendship that will take them through the nearly forty years of life, love and adventure. Kristin nails the styles, the trends and the sentiments of these time periods dead on. I found myself reading as if I had been dropped into a time capsule. The way these women care, love and know each other will resound soundly and book clubs planning head for Q1 2008 want this one on their radar. It's just wonderfully done.

From there I picked up THE ABDUCTION by Mark Gimenez. We are featuring this book on I had read the first 100 pages and knew I would finish it on vacation. Yowser, this one is good. At the start a young girl is kidnapped at her soccer game. Her dad, a high flying tech guru is on the phone talking about his impending IPO and does not see this happen. Her mom is caught up in a case and not at the game. Bam. She's gone. Fingers get pointed; blame gets tossed. And you think that's the story. But it's not. Just when you settle in with this line you pick up the thread about the girl's grandfather, whose now a drunk and pretty much a hermit, who had a history in Vietnam that is both heroic and checkered. And from there the book takes you on a ride of flashbacks and present life that will have you sitting in one place for a while. I finished it, handed it to my husband and said... just trust me, you are going to love this. He started reading and when I fell asleep he STILL was reading. He played a round of golf the following AM because NOTHING stands in the way of golf and then came back and kept reading. He handed it to me that night and said... GREAT book. You know it's good when he asked if he could pass it to a golf buddy that he knew would love it.

From there I stayed in the thriller vein and read HEARTSICK by Chelsea Cain, another title that I had begun and set aside for vacation. Whoa…was this good. It's edgy, gritty and deep all at the same time. I can see why there is a ton of buzz surrounding it. The protagonist is Gretchen Lowell, a female serial killer who has bonded with Archie Sheridan, the detective who worked ten years on her case. Now there's another serial killer on the loose and the detective is lured back to try to find him. Rounding out the cast is Susan a reporter who is assigned to write a series of pieces about the detective. She's made a lot of bad decisions about love and life, and will do just about anything to get the story. Great plotting, well-rounded characters and heart-stopping action ratchet the page turning on this up high. My husband read this one too and again it got a whoa, great read. About this point, I think he is realizing how nice it is to live with someone who handpicks your books.

Next up I went for something lighter from Jane Porter with her new one ODD MOM OUT. I loved Jane's voice in each of her previous books, THE FROG PRINCE and FLIRTING WITH FORTY and thus I looked forward to this one. Marta Zinsser is a single mom by choice. She drives a Harley, she dresses in combat boots and a personal style that will draw attention to her in the 'burbs for her unconformity. As a mom who lives in a town where 70% of the women do not work --- and where I feel a lot of time feeling out of step --- I loved this one. There is one section where she talks about a PTO meeting where the moms are divvying up the days of the week to go in to assist the teacher that had me howling. There are a number of women in my town who seem to live at school not just on their own projects, but seeming to make a career of being in the building. While I applaud volunteerism there is a point where I wonder the psychological impact of being at school in your child's world EVERY day. There's love with a really cool guy, there's life as Marta's dad copes with her mom's dementia and there's the real world trials of a woman running her own company. It's in stores the end of September and a real treat. We have a discussion guide on for any of you who would love to chat this one up with your book groups once you read it.

Back to thrillers with RED SEA by Emily Benedek, which will be in stores on September 18th. Another of our featured authors I was looking forward to this one as I know Emily has an interesting background to her writing this book. After she wrote some pieces for Newsweek one of the counter-terrorism experts who she had interviewed asked her if she would write something about the dangers and flaws in airport security. She started to turn on her tape recorder. He froze and stopped talking. Then she said, "What if we made this fiction." What came from that is RED SEA. After reading this I will not drive past the seaports in Newark and Elizabeth the same way again. The story is powerful, gripping and very authentic in feeling. Years ago I had a dinner with Chris Whitcomb from the FBI Hostage Rescue Team and between this book and THE ABDUCTION, I felt the authors really nailed the way Intelligence works, or does not work. Riveting reading.

Tess Gerritsen is one of my favorite authors. Her new one, THE BONE GARDEN, is in stores on September 18th. It's a departure for her as there's a strong historical story running through the plot and intertwining into the modern story. I saw Tess when she first started writing this one and she was excited not only by the story, but also by the research that she was doing for the project. Much of the book is signature Tess, but seeing her branching out in this new direction was a real pleasure. There is a quick appearance of Maura Isles, who is well-known to Gerritsen fans, but beyond that it's a fresh exciting story that starts when I woman is landscaping her garden and runs across some bones. It makes me think twice about gardening this weekend.

NOW YOU SEE HIM by Eli Gottlieb was the next on my stack crying out to be read. It's not out til February, but again, mark it down. Rob Castor, a famous author kills his girlfriend and then himself. It's really clear cut. So what's the story? Well things are not all what they seem. As Nick Framingham is shocked by his friend's death. Rob was someone he stood in awe of. At the same time his marriage is faltering and as he looks more closely at Rob's life he sees things that had been hidden before and from there the book races to an ending that no one saw coming.
When I get books early in manuscript, not even galley form, it's a real treat.

The next book I read was the manuscript for NOTORIOUS by Michele Martinez, who is one of my favorite authors. Michele is a former prosecutor whose character Melanie Vargas shares the same profession. I always joke that I never would have wanted to come up against Michele in a courtroom as she is a meticulous about her preparation and research. This fourth book in her series, also a February book, is my favorite. There's tough action, dead on language and danger is everywhere in the story. I look forward to talking to Michele more about this one. Oh the plot... a rapper is going on trial. His lawyer is offering to discuss a plea bargain in exchange for some news about an international conspiracy. Two seconds later the lawyer is blown up as Melanie watches and from there she is catapulted into a situation that is far more dangerous than she originally planned.

SAVING ZOE is a YA novel from Alyson Noel. There's both heartbreak and humor in this one. Echo is 15 and her world has been rocked by the murder of her sister, Zoe, the previous year. Her parents are caught up in their own issues and Echo is left pretty emotionally unraveled. One day Marc, Zoe's boyfriend hands Echo a gift ---- Zoe's diary. Reading it will give Echo a look at her sister's life in a way she never saw it before. It will give clues of the danger that was ahead and also will give Echo a moment to receive something her sister always wanted her to have. This one is just out in paperback. I loved it.