THE CYPRESS HOUSE, by Michael Koryta

This is a beautifully-plotted novel set in the 1920's, with a creepily compelling talent the book's hero, Belleau Wood veteran Arlen Wagner, possesses: he can see when someone is going to die. If you enjoyed the spare, pared-down writing of the late, great Elmore Leonard, you'll feel at home with this novel. But Leonard never did much with the supernatural, and Koryta's got that part nailed, particularly during the final confrontation. There's a cast of flawed characters, a lot of truly bad guys (all evil in their own unique way), and the moody, steamy setting of Gulf Coast Florida in hurricane season. Click for more...

COMFORT FOOD, by Kate Jacobs

As the title suggests, this is about the world of food, particularly the life of longtime food channel TV star Augusta "Gus" Simpson who discovers she's not a job-secure as she thought. Thrown in with a tempermental upstart beauty queen, bedeviled by two daughters who aren't achieving to Gus's high (not to say unreachable) standards, saddled with a new (although handsome) prep cook, dissed by the food channel owner, Gus enters the fight of her professional life. Lots of fun. Nice choice of gift for a foodie friend. It's a 4.



It's about a dog named Millie. When she was a puppy, she and two litter mates were taken to Pet Pal, a no-kill shelter in St. Petersburg Florida. All three were adopted out. When Millie was a year old, her adoptive family brought her back, saying she was much bigger than they had expected. Right. Like they hadn't been informed that a Catahoula Lepoard hound mix would not stay the size of a Shi Tzu.
So Millie was returned to Pet Pal, which is apparently the only kindness these "owners" ever did for Millie. She is a beautiful ivory and fawn color, short haired, with legs like a greyhound. Imagining her in a crate is pretty hard, but it's a safe bet that's where she spent a lot of time. Today, Millie wants a new home, but she does not present well as she is horribly shy and does not like to go for long walks. She is accustomed to being restricted. She sits in the corner of her compartment, her back into the two walls, and doesn't move, even if you sweet-talk her.
Pet Pal is a great shelter for an active, outgoing dog. Millie is not active, not outgoing. She's going to require a bit of dedication and work. As a no-kill shelter, Millie could be here a long time. Who says there's no fate worse than death? Millie really, really needs a home.
You can go to www.petpalanimalshelter.com and scroll through Adopt Dog, to the M's where you will see her. Think of a slightly hefty greyhound, but prettier. She's got a very calm demeanor, the staff says she's good with other dogs, but she has got to have a home that's willing to commit to bringing her back to life.
Any takers?



10/series. Amy Leduc, Paris' sexiest private investigator, prowls the back streets of the City of Light, this time the pursued, not the pursuer. Her partner Rene Friant as been shot and lies near death in a private hospital; Melac, the handsome and tenacious police think Amy did it; her alibi proves to be a happily married man who claims he never met her; and her old mentor and godfather refuses to once again rescue her. And then it gets worse...click for more...


ROSE'S CHRISTMAS COOKIES, by Rose Levy Beranbaum

This month's marvelously appropriate cookbook gives you all the recipes for perfect holiday baking: gift cookies, cookies to make with kids, party and open house cookies, cookies for sending. Each recipe is perfectly described and all processes are user-friendly; unless you're like me, who only does drop cookies. Even I might try the fabulous Stained Glass Cookies that begins the book, and will certainly make the ;uscious Black and Whites on page 66. The author is a world-class baker; her book The Cake Bible is exactly that. Explore and indulge your inner kid: bake come cookies! It's a 5. Happy holidays.

STRANGE BEDPERSONS, by Jennifer Crusie

Another entertaining romantic romp with the mistress of witty dialogue and sly social commentary. Handsome Nick Jamieson is forced to pretend his ex-girlfriend Tess is his fiancee in order to wangle a lucrative client for his law firm. Ever intent on his career, Republican Nick has always failed to realize it's the one thing that bleeding-heart liberal Tess detests about him. Their host for the big weekend is an author who's about to change careers. His plans will trample Tess's dearest-held convictions and memories. And that's all you'll get from me, the rest would spoil it. If you haven't read Crusie, you are in for a treat. In addition to entertaining, the writing is text-book fabulous, and the plot has got enough twists to keep Sherlock Holmes busy. A 4. The sex is vanilla, forthright, entertaining and 3 on the 1 - 5 scale.


THE WRECKAGE, by Michael Robotham

Skillfully written, drawing two seemingly disparate story lines into one compelling whole. Starring retired London Serious Crimes cop Vincent Ruiz, bolstered by his psychologist friend Joe, hampered by Holly the pickpocket and a psychopath named The Courier, the author's finely-drawn characters are all stand-outs. In his closing remarks, the author writes that this novel is based on fact, but that all main characters are fictional. Australia-based, award-winning Robotham was an investigative journalist; he knows where the bodies are buried and where the money went. This novel deals with the money, click to read more...

OLEANDER GIRL, by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni

Satisfying on many levels: as a beautifully-written story, as the chronicle of an Indian girl's coming-of-age, as a social history, as a skilfully-woven tale of multiple love stories. If you love the intertwining of many threads, and a not-always-perfect heroine (actually, nobody's perfect in this story), this lyrically-written contemporary drama will keep you entranced. click here for more...


19/series. The perfect cozy series for lovers of off-screen mayhem, the incredibly prolific Beaton serves up another Cotswolds-based adventure. The indominable Agatha Raisin, still looking for romance in all the wrong places, gets involved in a church fete that turns deadly when a parishoner decides she can fly from the top of the steeple. Aided by staff from her detective agency plus several old friends, Agatha can't connect the dots until almost too late. It's a 4. Read these in order if you can; while they're individually entertaining, Agatha's personal history carries from one to the next, so they're not the ideal stand-alone read.


LOW PRESSURE, by Sandra Brown

Contemporary romance/mystery by one of the greats of the genre, this complicated Texas-based tale has its share of Stetsons and cowboy boots, but also a troubled, high-flying hero and a gawky little girl turned adult femme fatale. When Bellamy Lyston decides to write, as fiction, what happened to her sister Susan during a long-ago Memorial Day family/company picnic, she brings to life more than her faltering memories. Once suspected of the murder of his then-girlfriend Susan Lyston, Denton Carter has painful memories of police interrogations and publicity that, years later, ultimately cost him his job. Can Dent hold a grudge? Well, he tries to. What neither of them know is that a host of others don't want this trip down memory lane to continue. Do I hint at more? Burlaries? Bent cops? Grandstanding DA's? Parental problems? A good weekend read, it's a 4. Sex: the usual vanilla, but nicely done, a 2.5.



Subtitled My Secret Life as a CIA Assassin, this chronicles the life of a first-generation American whose childhood was marked by vicious chronic bullying, parental indifference, and almost total non-communication. Brilliant but emotionally shut down, Haas was spotted by the CIA while in college. His contact "Phil", who often popped up out of nowhere, arranged Haas's improbable future as a covert agent. The resulting life was anything but boring. Even the complex explanations of various governmental agencies and situations was an eye-opener. It's a 3.5, worth reading if you are a devotee of spy stories.



5/series. I love Flavia deLuce, quirky (to put it mildly) pre-adolescent heroine and sleuth of this marvelous series. This time the organist at St. Tancred's Church is found dead in the crypt where the venerable saint's bones are scheduled to be exhumed. Flavia, of course, is front and center, and notes that the victim is wearing a World War II gas mask. When she falls into an open grave, things get really interesting. The old adage that all crime has a previous crime connected to it is true with this delightful almost-cozy. Flavia, chemist extraordinaire, decodes blood samples, concocts her own much-needed drycleaning solvent, and boils eggs a la Flavia in her fabulous laboratory. Read these in order. Start with award-winning The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie. They are worth every moment of your time. It's a 5; they're all 5s.And they'd make great presents.


BET ME, by Jennifer Crusie

Righteous, prissy David, frustrated because his new girlfriend won't hop in the sack with him, chooses The Long Shot club as their break-up site. Minerva Dobbs, not exactly bereft at the news she's no longer shackled to David, thinks a swizzle stick through his heart would be nice. Moments later, Min meets handsome (I feel for not-handsome guys, life gives them such disrespect) Calvin Morrisey. It's disinterest at first sight. David has bet Calvin Morrisey $10 he can't walk out the nightclub door with Min. She overhears the bet and it's all downhill from there. Mostly. click to read more...


GETTING RID OF BRADLEY, by Jennifer Crusie

Contemporary romance at it's most entertaining, Crusie's dialogue is world-class, and her character are almost always one-of-a-kind finely drawn. Crusie got her PhD in women's studies (today she teaches English at Ohio State University), took to romance writing, and we're all richer for her decision. Turn the page for more...


THE BONES OF PARIS, by Laurie R. King

This delicious, compelling  return of Harris Stuyvesant takes place in Paris, France in 1926, where Amercan flappers come in droves to sample la vie de boheme. Among the artists and their hangers on, however, is a skilful murderer stalking pretty girls. The avant garde art world also wants to shock, and the Theatre du Grand-Guignol offers more than enough perversion - brutal, bloody, deliberately shocking. Click for more (but no spoilers)...


6/series. A Mr. and Mrs. Darcy mystery, set in the then-popular seaside resort of Lyme. Once again you'll be swept into the elegant world of this couple in a seamless continuation (almost improvement)of the famed Jane Austen book. A week's seaside vacation turns to intrigue when a woman is found dying from a fall on the town's famous seawall. Two men, relatives, turn up to claim responsibility for the newborn boy who is delivered as the mother dies.The family is not one Mrs. Darcy would want for a small child, and the couple is drawn into the intrigue. No spoiler. If you've read the preceding five tales, you know you're in for another Darcy treat. A 4.



ANYONE BUT YOU, by Jennifer Crusie

Newly-divorced Nina Askew, reveling in her newly unstuffy life, decides to get the one thing her ex would never allow: a dog. Off to the pound she goes, where the gamboling puppies are overshadowed by a morose, saggy, middle-aged Bassett mix whose main charm is the Big Sigh. With typical Crusie wackiness and flair, Nina soon decides Fred's nightly walks will start with a trip down the fire escape from her third floor apartment. Read more...


TRIP WIRE, by Lee Child

3/series. Jack Reacher is once again sucked into a perilous situation, this time whisked from Key West (and his job digging swimming pools) to the home an old mentor who lives on the Hudson River not far from West Point. The same two men who tried to rough him up in Key West appear at a funeral. Reacher handily disarms them and, with a woman who adored Reacher when she was just a skinny kid, goes on the run. As the thugs try to hunt him down, their boss - wealthy, violent, psychopathic - tries to keep his dangerous secret hidden. If I tell you any more you may as well not read the book. If you like heightened violence and a lot of it, this is the author for you. It's a 4. Very little sex, all of it discrete and gentlemanly (not even a 1).