The Boy Next Door

Author – Meg Cabot
Publication Date – 2002
Number of Pages – 384 pages
Genre – Romance
Geographical Setting – New York City

Book Summary

Have you had a very good laugh lately? Well, you’ve got to pick up this book!

The main character in this novel is Melissa Fuller, but “You can call me Mel”, as she says. Mel is a gossip columnist for the New York Journal and has just broken up with her longtime boyfriend, Aaron Spender. Her best friend, Nadine Wilcock, a food critic, is getting married to her boyfriend, Tony Salerno, who is a chef at the popular restaurant Fresche. Melissa also has many coworkers, including Dolly Vargas, an outlandish Style Editor who has her eyes on quite a few men.

The book starts with Melissa being late to work after finding her neighbour, Mrs. Helen Friedlander, facedown on the carpet of her apartment after a brutal attack. Mel gets her to the hospital but has yet to solve the problem of walking Paco, Mrs. Friedlander’s Great Dane. She calls upon Mrs. Friedlander’s nephew, Max Friedlander, to come and take care of Paco and the two cats Tweedledum and Mr. Peepers. Max, who is on vacation with the supermodel Vivica, calls upon his millionaire friend John Trent, who is a crime reporter for the New York Chronicle, the Journal’s top competitor. John impersonates Max and moves into Max’s Aunt Helen’s apartment. Blurb ~ Wikipedia

My Take
The author, Meg Cabot is popularly known for her young adult novels, but The Boy Next Door was her first adult novel which has been very successful. I enjoyed Cabot’s other book – Boy Meets Girl which I had previously reviewed on my blog. They both share a lot of similar elements, so if you liked Boy Meets Girl, you’d love The Boy Next Door. I just finished reading this book a couple of days ago and I tell you – it’s really charming! It has such a fascinating plot which features an office setting while incorporating the characters’ after-office hours activities.

This book is funny, witty and there are a lot of laughs in there for everyone – even for guys! The story is engaging and immediately hooks you from start. The author uses everyday conversational tone to tell this story – in email exchanges between the characters. I give Mel Cabot a lot credit for the writing style she used. Even though the entire book is written in email format without a lot of descriptions and narratives, I was still able to bond with the characters and watch them evolve.

I admired Mel’s naiveté and innocence but on certain occasions, I wanted her to be objective and not over analyze things seeing that she might still be emotionally fragile having been recently dumped by her boyfriend. Her situation is quite interesting – where most of her classmates are beginning to get married off, she’s getting persistent pressure from her mom to find a husband, together with mounting pressure from her boss over deadlines. On top of all these, she has to worry about her relationship with “Max” which generates a lot of topic for gossip at work with everyone questioning – is this guy indeed for real?

While everything is going on, her best friend Nad remains supportive. This friendship is admirable – Though Nad is engaged and in the process of planning her wedding, and has quite her own issues to deal with, but as best friends, you really can appreciate how she is so helpful and makes herself available to Mel, constantly cheering her on. However, this does not stop Nad from showing her disapproval towards Mel’s action/ inaction as the story develops – (not to give a lot away).

Creating that “Max”‘s mysterious identity was a very clever arc thrown in by the author which helps keep the reader engaged until the final resolution. The characters develop well throughout the book with their natural voice – thus show casing each person’s individual personality. This adds to a relaxing and effortless reading. Her entire cast of characters are realistic and relatable just like in real life, where people have their various personal preferences and idiosyncrasies – these are well portrayed in the story.

While the email exchanges moves the story along pretty well, I love how the author uses delayed email responses to add suspense to the story and at the same time incorporating amusing twists here and there – which in the end wraps up nicely – of course …

The entire book is well written, the tone is upbeat, fun and cheery. I found this book very entertaining with laugh out loud humor. I recommend it to readers of Chick Lit or anyone wanting to explore Chick Lit and stories about women’s lives.

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About The Author

Meg Cabot is a #1 New York Times bestselling author of books for both adults and tweens/teens. Born and raised in Bloomington, Indiana, Meg also lived in Grenoble, France and Carmel, California (the setting for her bestselling Mediator series) before moving to New York City after graduating with a bachelor’s degree in fine arts from Indiana University. ~ Author’s website

Deceptions of the Heart

Author – Denise Moncrief
Publication Date – October 15, 2012
Number of Pages – 258 pages
Genre – Psychological Mystery
Geographical Setting – Virginia / California

What would you do if one morning you awoke in someone else’s body? Surviving as Jennifer Cristobal isn’t easy for Rhonda Prentiss. Three years ago, a sudden, fatal trauma stripped Rhonda of her middle-class, stay-at-home mom existence. A brand new shock prompts Rhonda’s essence to invade Jennifer’s soul, suppressing the other woman’s memories and replacing them with her own. When Jennifer’s heart transplant surgeon, Dr. Crane, can’t—or won’t—help her understand her unusual body-swapping dilemma, she turns to the only man she can trust. But can she fully trust Jennifer’s husband, Anson? Multiple threats from her past shake her fragile hold on mental stability. If one of her enemies succeeds, he will kill Rhonda’s soul… or Jennifer’s body… or both “. Blurb ~ Amazon.com

I received an electronic copy of this book during a recent free a give away on Amazon. So I took it with me on our family trip to the Wisconsin Dells over the weekend and just finished it last night. This book was so irresistible, I could not put it down. Written from the first person perspective, the crisis is introduced right from the first page. From then on, the reader is anxious to find out exactly how and why Jen woke up in a strange room and in a strange body.

My Take
The author skillfully paints a poignant picture of a protagonist who seems to be tortured by two different personalities while caught in between her past life (as Rhonda?) and her present life (as Jennifer?). The reader painstakingly journeys with Jen as she uncovers layers of disturbing events surrounding her life. Conflicts are introduced through the mind of the protagonist which she immediately responds to creating tension for the reader. And because Jen can be unpredictable sometimes, the reader is uncertain of her next move this tends to heighten suspense. Additionally, dialogues between characters help the story develop, letting the reader evaluate and make their own determinations about the various characters. I see Jen as a woman with fuzzy and muddled mind trying to figure out who she is and not knowing who to trust. I like that Anson’s character – on his introduction, may or may not be trusted. Other secondary characters also develop well over time. Without much memory of the past and with people around her acting hateful and suspicious, the reader is forced to share Jen’s anxiety about her safety. As tension mounts, sometimes one might expect Jen to take a particular action but instead she does the opposite thing keeping the reader anxious and nervous about the outcome.

I have to add, as the story unfolded I kept wondering who exactly she was – a frail, helpless Rhonda that needed saving or a conceited, calculating Jen who deserves no good. Admittedly, on a few occasions I got caught up in the confusion and had to go back to re read some sections. Honestly, this got me thinking soooo much!

I find the theme very fascinating and intriguing. It’s filled with lots of twists and turns. One of the tricky things about this book is, as the reader starts to feel as though they have a sense of a resolution, the author quickly throws in an unexpected dimension which keeps the reader guessing till the end – note that it’s a very short book just 258 pages!

This is indeed a quick and refreshing read. Such complexities and intrigues are uncommon in most Mystery books. I also like that it is a psychological novel with a lot of mind games leading to unraveling of the mystery (think a little bit of Gone Girl by Flynn). I’m surprised this book isn’t getting the popularity it deserves. I commend Monciref’s plotting skills in this novel. If you enjoy thriller and mystery, you would thoroughly love this book – I found this book gripping, utterly suspenseful, intriguing and exhilarating.

About the Author

Denise lives in Louisiana with one husband, two children, and one very chubby canine. Her family not only endures her writing moods, but also encourages her to indulge her passion. An accountant by day and a writer of romantic suspense by night, she leads a very busy and joyous life. She’s been writing off and on since she was seventeen, and with several stories already published, she has no desire to slow down. ~ Amazon.com

Author Interview withM. J. Kane
Link to recent Author Give-Awayblogspot.com

Death of a Nightingale

Author – Lene Kaaberbøl and Agnete Friis
Publication Date – November 5, 2013
Number of Pages – 368 pages
Genre – Mystery
Geographical Setting – Europe

Death of a Nightingale was one of many free pre publication books I received during the recent ALA conference here in Chicago.  It is a Nordic crime fiction from best-selling authors of The Boy in the Suitcase.  I had never heard about the authors so I was not sure what to expect but I went ahead and read it. I have to say, I loved it! If you are familiar with Scandinavian crime fiction novels, then you have a pretty good idea of the background of this novel.

This is another novel I’ve read recently that takes you back and forth in time. The plot runs across cities in Europe stretching from – 1934 Ukraine through present day Denmark. Death of a Nightingale features the Nina Borg series – a red cross nurse dedicated to the cause of immigrants and the poor who cannot afford official legal representations. Nina is at this time frantically protecting an immigrant single mother Natasha and her daughter Katerina even though the police is after Natasha who they suspect to have murdered her husband in the past and recently her Danish fiancé. At the same time, the reader also follows Natasha’s story as she desperately searches for her daughter who Natasha fears might be in enormous danger regardless that her daughter has been placed under police protective custody. It does not help that while Natasha is secretly and desperately looking to find and rescue her daughter, the police is chasing after her as a suspect in the murders. The authors – Kaaberbol and Frills masterfully constructed a heart pounding complex plot that leads the reader to anxiously flip the pages as they try to uncover the shocking mystery.

My Take –

Although this story starts out with a measured pace – which almost caused me to put it down, it picks up intensity as the reader gets to the middle and continues on a break neck speed with ending twists. Death of a Nightingale is a complicated story line where the discovery of two separate bodies has police detectives piecing pieces together and racing against time in other to find the killer. I find this an emotionally charged story which draws the reader in as they watch Natasha missing her daughter terribly is over come by this fear of some evil thing be falling her baby.

The authors did a great job of creating some confusion in the minds of the readers by weaving in the aspect of a rogue detective which plants doubts about who the real killer is. Thus, the reader grapples with some questions as they read along – Why is Natasha afraid to talk about her past life in Ukraine, could that have anything to do with the murders? Natasha might be psychologically unstable, but is she capable of inflicting such substantial wounds and killing both men? And why would she also want to harm her own daughter?

This book is loaded with revelations of heart breaking secrets and deceits as a roller coaster of sad and unfortunate events from the past are brought to light.

I classify Death of a Nightingale as a great book, not only because of the detailed writing, passionate and persuasive voice, but the background elements exhibiting such a strong sense of place. I was particularly fascinated by the insights of eastern European countries as they are vividly portrayed in the novel. The reader gets some perception of the history of these cities as well as some political and cultural differences that exist among them –  which I truly appreciate as one who has never traveled that far.  This novel fed my curiosity about other cultures, that while reading the book I engaged my map app on my iPad which allowed me to follow the story and maintain a real connection with the places and times.

I would recommend this for all crime fiction readers, however readers of Scandinavian crime fiction would especially be excited for this new addition. And – Watch out as this book gets published November 2013!!
(Now I want to read their first novel – The Boy in a Suitcase which has garnered a lot of buzz …)

About the authors –

Lene Kaaberbøl and Agnete Friis are the Danish duo behind the Nina Borg series. Friis is a journalist by training, while Kaaberbøl has been a professional writer since the age of 15, with more than 2 million books sold worldwide. Their first collaboration, The Boy in the Suitcase, was a New York Times and USA Today bestseller, and has been translated into 27 languages ~ Authors’ info from Amazon.com

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