Posts Tagged ‘Amy F.’s Picks’

Evil Genius by Catherine Jinks

November 13, 2014

Cadel Piggot is a genius. Most humans cannot keep up with his super-fast mind, which makes life pretty lonely for this foster kid. Alienating one foster family after another, he finds comfort in the world of computers and hacking, the only outlet where his intellect is challenged. Eventually Cadel finds himself in a psychologist’s office as punishment for hacking, and is shocked when his therapist advises him, “Next time, don’t get caught.” Turns out, his therapist, Thaddeus Roth, is a minion of Cadel’s real father, Dr. Darkkon, an evil mastermind currently in prison. He and Thaddeus have cooked up a scheme to get Cadel into the Axis Institute for World Domination, a school where kids like Cadel can learn skills far more useful than algebra, like forgery, embezzlement, and explosives. From the outside, the Axis Institute just looks like a school for wayward children, which makes it the miracle Cadel’s social worker has been waiting for.

For Cadel, it seems like a win-win situation – he gets to leave the expectations of his never-satisfied foster families behind, and in exchange he gets to work with souped-up computers and teachers who might be almost as smart as he is… almost. It’s a new world for Cadel, one in which the very skills he’s spent years hiding are the ones he now is encouraged to cultivate. It feels like, in a school where there is a class on lying, he’s finally found a place where he can truly be himself – and that he is, in fact, the Evil Genius of the title. But is he? As time goes on, Cadel realizes that he’s not the only one who excels at deception, and it’s tiring always wondering who he can trust. When he starts to question his own assumptions about who he is and what he wants, his world starts tumbling down.  Catherine Jinks is  an acclaimed YA author currently living in Wales.

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Garden of Beasts by Jeffery Deaver

October 31, 2014

Garden of BeastsMob button man Paul Schumann is sure he’s doomed when he’s caught by the feds, but he’s given a choice – the electric chair, or one last job. The catch – his target is Col. Reinhardt Ernst, a bigwig in Hitler’s organization, which means going undercover in Nazi Germany to achieve his goal. Paul has been wanting to get out of the mob anyway, and the feds promise he’ll be free of charges and given a cash bonus when he’s finished. Dreaming of a normal life with the girl of his dreams, he heads for Germany.

This is a fascinating time in history, when a culture of fear led neighbors to betray each other and paranoia reigned. It was a time when citizens were trapped between duty to country and their own consciences, and Deaver portrays them with sympathy and humanity. Watching Paul navigate this complicated time and place, you really feel like you’re in 1936 Germany with him. He’s undercover as a journalist covering the Berlin Olympics, but spies are everywhere. After uncovering one spy while still en route, he dispatches a second almost immediately after arrival and finds himself pursued by the police. This is cat and mouse at its best, with Paul playing both roles in his quest for Col. Ernst. Deaver is a master of the plot twist, and he doesn’t disappoint here. The beauty of his stories is, even knowing there will be a twist, it’s nearly impossible to guess. I challenge you to try!

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Meet popular fiction writer Jeffery Deaver at Cameron Village Regional Library on Sunday, November 9th at 2:30 pm. He will discuss his novels, characters, writing style, and more. Q & A to follow discussion. Registration requested.

The Watchman by Robert Crais

October 27, 2014

The WatchmanI’m a sucker for misanthropes, loners, silent strong types and misunderstood heroes. Joe Pike is all of these things, and more. He wears reflective sunglasses all the time, even at night, and prefers to go running in the middle of the night because he’s less likely to run into people. He has red arrows pointing forward on both arms, but he’ll never tell you what they stand for. He’s an ex-cop, ex-Marine, ex-mercenary who likes to help people in trouble, as long as they can respect his boundaries and stay out of his way.

Larkin Conner Barkley is a spoiled rich girl trying to do the right thing for once in her life, and she has no respect for Pike, his boundaries, or his help. When the threat of death becomes more real than the glitzy, self-destructive life she’s forced to put aside, Larkin develops a grudging appreciation for Pike’s protection. Forced to spend many hours together, he realizes that behind the fast cars and the glamorous lifestyle, Larkin is hiding a deep loneliness – something he understands.

When the killers up the ante and even the cops are suspect, Pike knows there are only a few people left to trust, and brings in Elvis Cole, a private investigator with skills of his own. Together they will find a way to ensure Larkin survives the assault they know is coming.

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Life Expectancy by Dean Koontz

October 9, 2014

Life ExpectancyOn the day Jimmy Tock was born, his dying grandfather predicted the exact time of his birth and his measurements, along with a warning of five “very bad” days, beginning in his twentieth year. His father would have discounted the predictions, but when Jimmy was born at exactly the time and weight predicted, he decided to take all the predictions seriously. Our story begins when Jimmy’s 20th birthday is approaching – the first of his “very bad” days.

Think about this–if you know something bad is going to happen, do you stay at home and endanger your family? Do you try to act normal and go about your business? Would you worry, walking down the street, about a stray asteroid, or a runaway truck? How do you avoid collateral damage when you know you’re doomed? Fortunately or unfortunately, Jimmy has had 20 years to think about it and a family who has done everything possible to prepare themselves and Jimmy for any eventuality. He isn’t prepared for what’s coming, of course, because no one can prepare for the truly awful, but his family gives him strength. The unusual circumstances bring the family together in a wonderful way, and provide Jimmy with plenty of time to reflect on life and family, which makes this a book full of beautiful lines like this one:

“No one’s life should be rooted in fear. We are born for wonder, for joy, for hope, for love, to marvel at the mystery of existence, to be ravished by the beauty of the world, to seek truth and meaning, to acquire wisdom, and by our treatment of others to brighten the corner where we are.”

Reading this book, I found myself going back and rereading lines like the above, thinking about life and what it means to appreciate what you have. Very unusual for a book categorized as horror fiction! Yes, there is a serial killer in this book and the spooky predictions of Jimmy’s grandfather, but this is also a book filled with quirky, thoughtful humor, exploring the simple things that make life worthwhile, like love and family. It’s worth a read.

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The Informationist by Taylor Stevens

September 26, 2014

Vanessa Michael Munroe is the kind of character I love – a strong, powerful female who makes her own way and fears nothing. She’s built a business gathering information for powerful people, using whatever means necessary to get it. She’s a master of disguise, blending into the background, playing the role a situation dictates, and using force only when necessary. As an Informationist, she prefers the solitude and neatness of acquiring information, so she’s reluctant when she is asked to retrieve a person. Another reason for concern is the location – she will have to go back to Africa, a place that holds the nightmares of her childhood.

Emily Burbank, daughter of millionaire Richard Burbank, disappeared while traveling in Africa four years ago. Her father has hired numerous PIs to find her with no results, but he’s sure she is still alive. He needs someone with Munroe’s particular knowledge and strengths, and he’s willing to pay big bucks for it. Munroe’s own experience in Africa makes her sympathetic to Emily’s plight, and the money is hard to resist. Reluctantly, she agrees to take on the job, hoping she won’t regret it. She will.

If you enjoyed Lisbeth Salander from The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, you’ll like Vanessa Michael Munroe. Like Salander, she’s a complex, intriguing character who faces great evil with strength and integrity.

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Skinny Dip by Carl Hiaasen

September 3, 2014

Skinny DipEmbarking on a cruise with her husband Chaz, Joey Perrone has high hopes it will rekindle their faltering relationship – until he tries to murder her. Finding herself abruptly thrown overboard, Joey’s pretty grateful she’s an expert swimmer. (Chaz is an idiot, so it’s no big surprise he overlooked this one giant flaw in his plan.) Floating on a wayward bale of Jamaican pot, she finds her way to a very small island inhabited by ex-cop Mick Stranahan, who is just the person to help her plan her revenge. Wanting to find out why Chaz tried to kill her, Joey decides to play dead and “haunt” Chaz as her own ghost. In the meantime, she and Mick poke around, trying to find out why Chaz would opt for murder over divorce.

Chaz, it turns out, is a marine biologist in name only, and has been doing some pretty terrible things in the Everglades and making a tidy profit. Certain that Joey had found him out, he decided that dispatching his wife was the most expedient way to ensure his shady revenue stream would continue uninterrupted. Boy, is he going to wish he’d just left well enough alone!

I love it when the bad guys get what’s due them, and Carl Hiaasen never fails to come up with creepy, satisfying ways to stick it to his bad guys. He’s not for everyone – he has a sick, sardonic sense of humor and is far from G-rated, but if you like his kind of humor, he’s hilarious. If you enjoy the quirky, the bizarre and the ridiculous, Hiaasen provides it on every page, and with every character, no matter how minor.

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The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce

April 9, 2014

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold FryI’ll admit it, I’m a sucker for any book that involves a quest or a pilgrimage. There’s something about the quest that fascinates me. For one, the quest is usually out of character, which means the protagonist is out of his/her comfort zone, which might not always be fun but definitely makes for a good story. Being out of one’s comfort zone also means growth and reflection, which means that usually I learn about myself alongside the main character. This is all very true with The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry. With Harold, Rachel Joyce delivers all the stuff I love in a quest book, in a charming way.

When Harold receives a letter in the mail, it’s a pretty normal day in his not-very-exciting, post-retirement life. The letter is from Queenie Hennessy, a person who Harold has not seen in 20 years. She’s writing with sad news – she has cancer and wants to wish him well. Harold writes back the obligatory letter and sets out to mail it, but when he reaches the postbox, he feels somehow that his letter is inadequate. Being at a loss as to what he might do differently, he decides to walk to the next postbox and consider his options. Then he walks to the next postbox, and the next one. When he stops at a gas station for something to eat, he talks to the attendant about Queenie, and is overcome with the feeling that, if he can just keep walking, Queenie will be alright.

Because Harold was not planning to walk 500 kilometers when he left the house, he left his cell phone at home. Wearing boat shoes and a windbreaker, he’s not dressed for a trek. His wife, when he calls her, thinks he’s gone mad – and in a way, he has. But it’s the kind of madness that changes your life – and the lives of those around you – for the better. Harold and his wife will both be different when the journey is done, and that is a good thing.

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More Than a Stranger by Erin Knightley

March 26, 2014

More Than a StrangerWhen Lady Evelyn Moore (aka Evie) is 11, her adored older brother, Richard, goes off to Eton and starts talking about his new pal Hastings. Evie does not want any competition for her brother’s affections, so she writes the upstart to tell him as much:

Dear Mr. Hastings,
I am sorry to tell you that my brother already has a best friend. I don’t care that you can shoot and ride well. Besides, I promise that you cannot ride better than me. Kindly leave Richard alone.

Hastings, far from being annoyed by her missive, finds it an entertaining and diverting way to pass some of his time at Eton, and writes her back. Funny and clever, his response demands a reply from Evie, and she obliges with her own sarcasm and wit. It’s no surprise that the letters continue and a deep friendship develops, despite the fact that neither has seen the other in person. That event is set for Evie’s 16th birthday, but before they meet Hastings cuts off the correspondence abruptly and breaks Evie’s heart. He has a good reason, but she doesn’t know that.

Fast forward a few years, and Hastings is in trouble. He turns to his old Eton friend, Richard, for shelter, and runs right into Evie. Since she’s never met him in person, he makes up a name for himself to avoid the confrontation he most definitely deserves. Naturally, the attraction between them is instantaneous and his one lie becomes another until the pile of falsehood he’s built is waiting to fall down around his ears. Evie cannot figure out why someone she’s only just met is so very familiar to her… and there’s something suspicious about him, in any case.

Well written, with believable characters and entertaining dialogue, this is the first in a series, and written by our own North Carolina author, Erin Knightley, who is participating in our series of Meet the Romance Author events. She will be at the Cameron Village Library on Thursday, March 27, at 7 p.m. and the Southeast Regional Library on Saturday, March 29, at 2:30 p.m. Please see our website for more details.

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The Shambling Guide to New York City by Mur Lafferty

October 3, 2013

Homeless and jobless after a disastrous affair in Raleigh, Zoë Norris is in New York City trying to put her life back together. She has the housing situation under control. Next step: a job. When she sees an ad seeking writers for a travel guide (her specialty), she can’t believe her luck. Never mind that the job was posted in the strangest, seediest book store she’s ever seen and that her potential boss seems reluctant to even interview her – she needs that job and is determined to have it. Finding out her new boss is a vampire and that her new co-workers would feed on her if they could gives her pause… but only for a minute. Now that she knows about the coterie (the politically correct term – they are NOT monsters), she sees them everywhere – water sprites, zombies, death goddesses – and the truth is, this new world is a welcome distraction from her lost life in Raleigh. There’s so much to learn, and she doesn’t want to close the door on all that possibility, even if it might be safer.

Each chapter begins with an entry from the travel guide Zoë is writing for the coterie. It is exactly what you’d expect from a travel guide for non-humans – where to get business guidance (from the crows – bring breadcrumbs) and money (from the ravens near Wall Street), travel hotspots such as the sewers and the ancient Tree of Life at Rockefeller Center, where to stay (oversized coterie such as dragons are directed to MoMA) and where to eat. Integral to the story (not to mention funny and charming), these are not to be missed.

The Shambling Guide to New York City is a wild, fun ride in which Zoë takes on an incubus and any number of hunger-crazed zombies, golems and other imagination-tickling entities with humor and pluck. I’m looking forward to her next adventure, which – naturally – will be in New Orleans.

Mur Lafferty will appear with other Speculative Fiction authors at North Regional Library on October 8, and Cameron Village Regional Library on October 10; visit our website for more details and to see which other authors will appear.

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Glimmerglass by Jenna Black

October 1, 2013

Dana is half-Fae, but her life is all too human. She longs for a “normal” life, but her alcoholic mother makes that impossible. They move frequently, and in every new location Dana ends up playing the role of parent, trying to construct order out of the chaos her mother creates. When her mother shows up drunk at a recital, it’s the last straw. Her mother has told many conflicting stories about Dana’s Fae father, but Dana thinks life with him couldn’t possibly be worse than her current situation. When she makes first contact, she’s a little surprised when he arranges transport for her without asking about her mother, but she’s too relieved at the chance to escape her chaotic life to question it. She’s also quite excited because her father lives in Avalon, the only place in the world where technology and magic coexist. On arrival, Dana is thrown, not into the welcoming arms of her father, but into a detention room. Her father has been mysteriously detained, and her welcoming party is far from friendly. Turns out, she is a Fairiewalker, a rare and precious commodity in Avalon. Everyone wants to control her. Fairie politics are deadly, and she’s caught in the middle of a major power struggle. Handicapped by her ignorance of Fairie ways, she is uncertain who, if anyone, to trust.

Jenna Black has created a fascinating world where magic spells and technology are used side-by-side. Dana is a believable, funny heroine who takes on attacks from Spriggans and gun-toting thugs with grace and courage. This is the first of a trilogy, and I can’t wait to find out what happens next!

Jenna Black will appear with other Speculative Fiction authors at Cameron Village Regional Library on October 10 and at Eva Perry Regional Library on October 13; visit our website for more details and to see which other authors will appear.

Find and reserve this book in our catalog

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