Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Come Fly With Me: "Unaccompanied Minor" by Hollis Gillespie

The Recommender is on a roll! I love being surprised by books that I know nothing about before starting them. I stay away from other reviews and synopsis-es so nothing influences my reading, and from the very first sentence...Hollis Gillespie's "Unaccompanied Minor" had my attention and my heart! I ADORED April Mae Manning, one of the best and most resourceful 15 year old narrators you will ever come across.  She comes from an airline industry family which included her flight attendant mother and grandmother to her late airplane mechanic grandfather and pilot father and she knows her stuff when it comes to what makes a plane stay up...or come down.
Her Mom and not so nice step-dad, Ash (also a pilot),  who officially adopted April when she was 5, are now divorced and HE is the custodial parent. Thusly...April spends a good deal of time in the air, flying from coast to coast between parents. Her companion on many of these flights is another unaccompanied minor flying back and forth between parents, Malcolm, and his emotional support dog, Captain Beefheart.
I won't give away any more details because April's story is far too wonderful and gripping and smart and so, so funny and... I swear you will be able to keep a plane in the air, or take one down if you had to, after reading "Unaccompanied Minor" (and. also...I may have a slight crush on Officer Ned!)!
I wasn't familiar with Ms. Gillespie before this book, but I am now a super fan of her writing and plan to read her other hilariously titled works... plus, I saw on Amazon, and it's on my wishlist, there WILL be a sequel to "Unaccompanied"!!! Personally, I can't wait!

Saturday, October 18, 2014

"The Outsmarting of Criminals" by Steven Rigolosi

There are few books that can surprise the Recommender, so, recently, while working at the library and checking items in... a book crossed the desk that caused me to take a second look. The cover is one of the best covers ever, take a look to the left. Is that not one of the BEST covers you've ever seen? It is Gorey-esque and yet, unique, and when you read the book it contains you will see just from where the design emanated!
Miss Felicity Prim, as the book begins, is an attractive woman of a certain age who has spent many years as the office manager for a well respected physician in New York City. A handsome one, at that. And, a widower. After Miss Prim survives a mugging, which is a life changing event for her, she decides to leave the city, though she loves it, and buy a home in the country much to the sadness of said physician and the office staff who all adored her and depended on her skills. Miss Prim is an aficionado of mysteries and crime fiction and after having read a great many and been able to second guess many of the lead characters, she decides a career in the field of criminal outsmarting would be perfect for her in new place of residence. She buys the quaint and lovely "Rose Cottage" in picturesque Greenfield, Connecticut. And immediately comes upon a murder mystery... in her own new home!
Does Miss Prim become a Criminal Outsmarter? Will there be handsome men in her future? Can home baked cinnamon buns win her new friends and influence people? These are just a few  questions that will be answered in one of the most delightfully arch and funny  and just perfectly written books that just begs to be reread and quoted aloud! I never heard of Mr. Rigolosi before but I am a new fan and though I am not big on sequels or series... I don't think anyone who reads The Outsmarting of Criminals can ever have enough of Miss Felicity Prim! And, in case you were wondering, the cover is by the extremely talented J. E. Larson. Highly, highly recommended!

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Whispers in the Dark: "The Voices" by F.R. Tallis

The Voices by F.R. Tallis is a very, very creepy ghost story and maybe one you'll want to read in daylight. It haunted me for days after I read it so be prepared! It begins in 1974, and Christopher Norton, an electronic musician and scorer of film soundtracks and his beautiful, former model wife, Laura, who is pregnant, contemplate a move into an old estate in a desirable suburb of London.  As they wander around taking things in, Chris hears a gasp, and sees his wife staring out over the overgrown garden. She has seen something, but brushes it off. She has always wanted to live in a house like this, she claims, and it is the perfect place for a home recording studio and to bring up their future child.
Or is it?
Mr. Tallis creates a feeling of unease and menace that permeates Chris and Laura's lives. Chris, once famous for his avant-garde music, has now been struggling to get needed commissions from film companies, while his friend, Simon's career has grown over the years. Jealous, he longs for inspiration, that comes, one evening, in the form of static at the end of a tape he's making. Static, that gives way to voices. Is he inadvertently picking up odd radio frequencies... or, are they something else? The Recommender gives nothing away! If you are looking for an unusual and did I already say creepy? yes, creepy! ghost story, than check out the Voices, and keep that light on!

Thursday, September 25, 2014

"The Swallow" by Charis Cotter

Sometimes the Recommender comes across a book that is a complete surprise and such a gem that you just want to get everyone you know to read it. The Swallow by Charis Cotter is one of those books. I had the privilege of reading it through NetGalley (thank you, NetGalley!)  It is one of my favorite books of the year!
It begins in 1963 in Toronto, Canada. Two 12 year old girls are bemoaning their separate existences. Polly is part of a bustling family, her father is a minister, her mother is a do-gooder of the first order, filling the home with foster children to supplement Polly, her older sister and the horrors, her twin 8 year old brothers. She feels no one pays her any attention and the final straw is having to share her room with Susie, a baby. The only thing that keeps her going is her passion for ghost books and possibly meeting a ghost in person, some day.
Next door, lives Rose, whose family has moved to the house formerly owned by her grandmother only recently. Her parents work for her other grandfather's company and are seldom home, leaving her in the care of a crotchety housekeeper who retires to her basement room after preparing Rose's dinner, leaving her on her own to face the ghosts, yes, ghosts. Rose has seen them all her life. And the house she is now living in faces a cemetery, filled with them. They all seem to want something from her. Sometimes she feels invisible, almost like a ghost, herself, with no friends, and attending a new school where no one speaks to her.
One evening, having had enough of her family, Polly escapes to the attic to have some privacy and read her ghost stories. She hears singing. Could it be a ghost? But then, the ghost accuses her of being one. This event is what eventually brings Rose and Polly together in this captivating and at times poignant ghost story. Ms. Cotter is a gifted writer who makes you care about her characters and as the story unfolds with all its twists and turns and surprises it will keep you involved right to the end.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

The Road Less Traveled: "The Opera Ghost Unraveled" by Michelle Rodriguez

Exquisitely, sweepingly romantic and elegantly written, Ms. Rodriguiz's "Opera Ghost Unraveled" gives us an intimate look into Christine and Erik's growing attraction to one another. Sweet, innocent Christine, orphaned, and living in a small apartment, makes her way to the cemetery to visit her father's grave. She thanks him for sending her the Angel of Music who has helped her to become a brilliant singer. She confides that she has fallen in love with the angel and wants to be his, alone.
Back in her dressing room at the Opera House, she calls to her Angel who replies, he is always there. She begs to know more of his existence. He finally tells her his name is "Erik". And Erik it is, our Erik, hoping, daring to reach out to Christine and claim her but holding back, afraid to face the hurt and rejection he's always known.  He is hesitant, but is finally swayed by her entreaties and... one evening as she waits for him,  he presents himself  to her through the mirror, reaching out a gloved hand and drawing her into the darkness and into his world. A world that will force her to face her fears...and her innermost desires.
Ms. Rodriguiz's Erik is intensely alive, scarred both inside and out, driven to take a chance that maybe, just maybe, someone might see beyond the deformities and love the man behind the mask. Christine, too, comes to life on the page. She is enchanting, and though she is finding her way through the demands of falling in love with the Opera Ghost, she is up for the challenge.
Raoul, finding the girl he thought lost forever, and trying to win her back from Erik, is also believably real, as is the adorable, flighty Meg, trying to keep Christine's secrets but dying to share them with the corps of ballerinas.
Many authors have taken these characters and done wonderful things with the plots and storylines. Ms. Rodriguiz has done that, and much more, as she has given us an Erik and Christine who are human, complete with doubts and failings, fighting against society's conventions with love, loyalty and passion. Who could ask for more?

Friday, September 12, 2014

Leaving the Nest: "the Goldfinch" by Donna Tartt

I liked the Goldfinch. Mostly. This is not my usual 100% LOVED IT recommendation because the author, Ms. Tartt, may not have made the choices for her lead character that the Recommender would have liked. "Oh Nos" were yelled at the Kindle, and much worrying on behalf of the characters was done. But who is the Recommender compared to the Pulitzer Committee??? They seemed to like these choices. It is up to you whether you want to invest hours in these characters and see what all the fuss was about.
The opening was one of the most powerful and almost visually stunning beginnings of any book, ever. 13 year old Theo and his  smart and beautiful Mom, a former model and art lover and such a warm, true presence in both Theo's life and ours, the reader's, duck into the Metropolitan Museum of Art on a rainy day to take in an exhibit of Northern Masterpieces of the Golden Age. They are too early for a meeting with Theo's school principal... so they make their way around the exhibit, taking in Rembrandt's the Anatomy Lesson and then, Carel Fabritius’s  the Goldfinch, the title painting, and one of his mother's favorites.
Theo is taken with a girl who he's seen going round the exhibit with someone who seems to be her grandfather, and when his mother dashes back for another look, while Theo heads toward the gift shop to wait for her, keeping an eye open for the girl and then KABAMMMMMMMMMMMMMMM! Theo wakes up amidst the rubble of what had been an exhibition hall.
This is SUCH a believable scene and if you've ever spent any time at the Met you can picture the mayhem and destruction.
Everyone knows that Theo ends up with the title painting through circumstances you will have to read the book to get ALL the details. Unable to find his mother, wounded and alone he makes his way home, the meeting place if they are ever separated, and waits, and waits and... the book is about Theo's loss, his scramble to find a safe place, with the family of a rich friend and then with his father, who had walked out on the family a year or so earlier. What he goes through, where he ends up and with whom is all part of this journey. My favorite character, bad influence that he might be, is Boris, a Russian teen Theo meets at his new Las Vegas high school. Boris is left alone a lot by his father, a brutal mining engineer who travels the world dragging Boris with him. These two boys on the loose get up to all kinds of things, but often hope for something as innocent as a real home-cooked meal. So, in fact, yes, I am recommending "The Goldfinch" because it's something of an epic and the characters you meet along the way will make it worth your while.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

50 Shades of Erik: "A Rose in Winter" by Catherine Miller

In this Bizarro Phantom world... Christine is an urchin out on her own in the pitiless streets of Paris and being sexually abused by various louts until she is rescued by the passing Erik, who at first mistakes her for a whore!
So, this is indeed an unusual take on our favorite characters. Erik makes quick work of the current offender and rescues the little stray. He takes her home with him until he decides what to do and as she is both starving and scruffy, he covers his furniture to keep her rags from the fabric and fetches her some food which she devours. Is this the beginning to one of the great love stories of all time? It is, just quite, quite different.
I am already a fan of Destruction of Obsession by Ms. Miller, and this one doesn't disappoint as we watch these two circle round each other and learn to trust, each with their own scars and issues, and slowly allow one another to see what lies inside their hearts, their secret hopes and dreams. Erik is his brooding, tempestuous self... but driven to bake biscuits to keep his adorable Christine content. And as they become closer, and let their guards down... let's just say those guards are really, really let down...  much love is expressed in many and varied ways. Oh, those two!
Ms. Miller's Erik and Christine, in both of her books, have a delightful Victorian air about them and the way they speak, which is charming. Will Christine become an opera star in this story? Is there a Raoul waiting in the wings? Or will Erik win out and have his happy ending? You will just have to read it and see!