In Search of the Rose Notes by Emily Arsenault is a cold case mystery. The current year is 2006, and Nora has just been contacted by her old best friend Charlotte, to tell her that the body of their babysitter, Rose, who went missing when the girls where 11 years old in 1990, has just been found. Nora returns to her hometown after hearing this information and old memories are dredged up that Nora would rather forget. The story flashes between the present day, the months before and after Rose disappeared, and 1996, when the girls were in high school. Although the book is a mystery, it is not your typical whodunit. There is a focus on Nora, her relationship with Rose and Charlotte, and how Rose’s disappearance has affected Nora throughout her life. As the book continues, the reader gets the feeling that Nora somehow holds the key to figuring out what really happened to Rose. The question remains whether Nora is willing, as an adult, to put the pieces together or run from all of the questions like she did when she was a kid. This is a great book if you like psychological mysteries and/or coming of age stories.
Death of the Mantis: A Detective Kubu Mystery by Michael Stanley (authors Michael Sears and Stanley Trollip) is a mystery set in the Kalahari area of Botswana. An unpopular game ranger is found in the Kalahari dying of a severe head injury. He is surrounded by three Bushmen who appear to be trying to help him. The question is, were they helping him or were they his murderers? Detective “Kubu” Bengu is urged to help with the case by an old school friend, Khumanego, a Bushman himself, who believes the Bushmen will be railroaded even if they are truly innocent. The case quickly becomes more complicated as two more murders are committed. Not only is the culture and landscape of Botswana fascinating, but Kubu is a lovable character, somewhat reminiscent of Columbo. He seems rather lazy on the surface and more interested with having a good meal and some wine than anything else, but he is actually a competent detective. Michael Stanley has also written two previous books,A Carrion Death and The Second Death of Goodluck Tinubu, both of which star detective Kubu.
Paper Covers Rock is a new Young Adult novel by Jenny Hubbard. It has recently been named a finalist for the William C. Morris Award which honors first-time authors that write for teens. The setting of the book is an all boys’ boarding school on the east coast in 1982. It is narrated by Alex, a 17 year old boy who has just witnessed the drowning of one of his friends, Thomas. The reader is privy to all of Alex’s thoughts which he records in his journal that he keeps hidden behind a copy of Moby Dick in the school’s library. It is obvious from the first couple of pages that there is more to the drowning than meets the eye. Although the drowning has been ruled accidental, there is way more to the story than Alex and his friend Glenn are telling. The reader watches as Alex struggles with guilt and must decide whether to keep secrets and protect himself and Glenn or to confide in his teacher, Miss Dovecott who recognizes that Alex is withholding the truth. The secrets that Alex is keeping are gradually revealed in his journal over the course of the book. However, the reader is kept guessing up until the very end which direction Alex will choose to take. As an added bonus, the book is filled with original poetry that Alex writes in his journal which is quite good even aside from the rest of the book. If you enjoyed A Separate Peace by John Knowles give this book a try.
Are you stressed out and overworked from all of your Christmas shopping, baking, decorating, and other holiday activities? Bring the fun back into Christmas by checking out the hilarious Ugly Christmas Sweater Party Book by Brian Miller, Adam Paulson, and Kevin Wool. It will have you laughing all the way through and by the end you will be much more relaxed and jolly. The book is purported to be a “how-to” book on throwing an ugly Christmas sweater party. There are a few short chapters with party suggestions such as games, music, food and drinks, and awarding prizes. The majority of the “how-to” section is very tongue in cheek, and not intended to be serious suggestions. For instance, there is a particularly humorous section on how to pick out that perfect Christmas sweater. If you want to win the prize for the ugliest sweater, the authors suggest that your sweater must not only be ugly, but also engage the five senses. Some ways to do this are by adding 3D effects, bells or chimes, edible items, and other interactive items such as pinecones or reindeer fur. You could even add some vanilla extract or rub yourself with pine scented air fresheners! The real star of the book, however, is the number of pages of over-the-top ugly Christmas sweaters with hilarious titles and descriptions. It’s a short book, so if you still haven’t gotten enough, check out the authors’ website UglyChristmasSweaterParty.com to peruse more ugly Christmas sweaters.
Bite by Bite: 100 Stylish Little Plates You Can Make for Any Party is the debut cookbook by Peter Callahan who has been in the catering business over 25 years and has catered for many well-known celebrities. Callahan’s cookbook is as much a feast for the eyes as it is for the stomach. Each appetizer recipe is beautifully presented with a full page color photograph. What makes this stand out from other cookbooks is the unique presentation of each appetizer. Most of the appetizers are miniature versions of common dishes, such as lasagna, pancakes, hot dogs, Caesar salad, and spaghetti and meatballs. Each appetizer is presented in an imaginative, visually stunning manner. The seemingly mundane dish of baked beans is presented in miniature bacon cups. Barbecue chicken is served on wooden skewers in a tray of wheatgrass. Lemonade is presented in hollowed out lemons with lemon candy sticks and straws. At the end of the book Callahan also has a chapter with appetizer menus for several different types of party themes such as “Untraditional Thanksgiving Dinner.” Each theme comes with helpful tips about planning and serving. No doubt if you had a party using these recipes and presentations, guests would be talking about your party for a long time to come! This cookbook however is probably best for experienced cooks. Many of the recipes are time and labor intensive and contain unusual ingredients. Although, even if you don’t cook a single appetizer from the book, it is thoroughly enjoyable to browse. Just don’t read it on an empty stomach!
There are numerous books recounting Lincoln’s assassination at the hands of John Wilkes Booth, but My Thoughts Be Bloody by Nora Titone puts a whole new spin on it. Instead of focusing on the conspiracy itself or the manhunt after the tragic deed, Titone takes an in-depth look at John Wilkes Booth’s background and what could have possibly motivated him to assassinate a president. Titone’s premise is that Booth’s dysfunctional family heavily contributed to his motivation to murder Lincoln. John Wilkes and his siblings grew up as illegitimate children of Junius and Mary Ann Booth. Junius Brutus Booth was something of a genius and a famous actor, but also an alcoholic. John’s brother Edward, older by four years, became the most famous American actor of his generation. John Wilkes constantly lived in the shadow of his famous older brother and father as he attempted to become an actor himself. While inheriting the striking good looks of his father, John failed to inherit his talent for acting. He bumbles along from one stage performance to the next, seemingly in denial of his lack of talent. He becomes increasingly caught up in the South’s fate in the Civil War while tensions with his older brother also escalate. Titone presents a fascinating look into the psyche and family dynamics of Booth and uses the Booth family’s own words whenever possible to tell the story. Equally interesting are all the facts Titone presents about the life of actors during the 19th century.