The Bookworm: Intrigue, romance and a good old fashioned fleecing

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“Can’t Stand the Heat”

By Shelly Ellis

c. 2013, Kensington Dafina

$15/$16.95 Canada

296 pages

Sometimes, your entire life feels like a recipe for drama. Oh, you really hate it and you’d like to wipe your plate clean of it all, but that’s never gonna happen. No matter what’s cooking around you, there’s always an extra ingredient to increase the tension: Raw emotion, sliced egos, boiling tempers, a teaspoon of tears, a pinch of regret, and two cups of family.

It’s a daily dish you wish you didn’t have, and you’re not alone. In the new book “Can’t Stand the Heat” by Shelly Ellis, drama causes quite a stir.

Embody grace and glamour, always. Be the image of perfection, especially to men. Don’t go after someone your sister called dibs on. Have a second-stringer in the works before you leave a man, and be sure you take everything you can on your way out.

Those were just a few of the Gibbons Family rules, passed down from Grandma Althea, now enforced by Mama Yolanda. All the Gibbons girls followed the rules except Lauren.

Oh, Lauren used to play along. She took money and gifts from James for months, but once he started acting like he owned her, she knew she had to leave him. On the night he beat her almost unconscious, she finally did.

And she’d never been happier.

Her raggedy little apartment was no mansion, but it was hers. When she was with James, all she did was shop, but now all she did was work and her job as sous chef at Le Bayou Bleu made her heart sing. Best of all, she wasn’t beholden to any man. She was flat-broke but she’d die before she’d take anything from a man again.

And then she met Cris.

He was a retired NFL player, handsome and smart, and though he heard rumors around town about “those Gibbons girls,” he believed Lauren when she said she wasn’t like her sisters anymore. He actually stood up for her once so, though she guarded her feelings close, she began to believe that Cris wasn’t like other men who just wanted one thing from her.

And he wasn’t but someone else was. Someone who thought Lauren was his property, who figured he practically owned her.

Someone who vowed that he’d never give her up without a fight

Looking for something lightly romantic but with a touch of spice? Then “Can’t Stand the Heat” should be at the top of the menu.

Like any good book cook, author Shelly Ellis changes up the standard boy-meets-girl recipe by adding in a bit of comedic drama in the form of four gold-digging women who stop at nothing to fleece their men. Yes, that’s a little over-the-top, but it’s also very entertaining and though the plot has a pretty obvious ending, it’ll keep you guessing nonetheless.

As the first novel in a new series, this book is perfect for a vacation, beach, or weekend read and will make you hungry for the next installment. If “Can’t Stand the Heat” sounds tasty to you, then dish it up quick.

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“NOS4A2: A Novel” by Joe Hill

c. 2013, William Morrow

$28.99/$31.99 Canada

692 pages

The Christmas tree is long gone.

It shed its last needle on the curb more than four months ago, looking sad without baubles on branches or gifts around its trunk. It’s probably mulch now, and that’s okay: The baubles are in a box in the garage, the gifts half-used or half-forgotten already, and you’re thinking summertime, not Yuletide.

But what if it was Christmas every day? In Christmasland it is, and in the new novel “NOS4A2” by Joe Hill, the holiday’s a scream.

For her eighth birthday, Victoria McQueen got exactly what she wanted: A Raleigh Tuff Burner mountain bike. For a kid whose parents fought a lot, the bike meant freedom and escape that summer, and a different kind of adventure: Accidentally, Victoria found a bridge that didn’t really exist, that followed her whenever she went across it and took her where she needed to be, when she needed to be there. But since the bridge wasn’t real, Vic figured her memories of it weren’t, either. It was like a dream: Touchable, but not quite.

Charles Talent Manx loved children. He loved them so much that he tried to protect them from their parents because Manx knew that tattooed women and preoccupied fathers meant trouble. So he enticed children into his 1938 Rolls Royce Wraith, promising that they’d live with him at Christmasland, where there were gifts every morning and candy every night. No child could resist Christmasland.

And no child came out of it the same.

Vic McQueen knew this because she once escaped Christmasland by a hair. She was just 17 then, had learned about Manx and found something that disturbed her deeply. Her visit to Christmasland was a big mistake, yet it ultimately led to good things in her life: A man she loved and a son she loved even more.

But because she’d escaped (and her magic was a threat), Manx wanted to kill Vic. He would do anything to get her. He’d even take her son. And so, Victoria McQueen went back to the bridge that didn’t exist.

She pointed her motorcycle toward the other side and hit the gas

Well, then. Let me just start by saying that you’re in for something good when you jump out of your skin on page 5 and you’ve got 688 pages left to read.

The funny thing is that “NOS4A2” is a novel that’s basically about good and evil, but it’s not the characters that make it so. Yes, author Joe Hill created a vile creature that’ll make you wince and a heroine who’s reluctantly heroic, but what really makes this book unsettling is that we never know where Hill hides the horror. We’re prepared for blood-and-guts, not for things dangerously innocent.

Add a few inside-jokes for readers, an ending that goes past the last page (keep reading!), and can’t-be-coincidental nods to both Hill’s parents and you’ve got an absolutely squirmy novel that’s better than anything Santa ever brought you. If that sounds like your kinda book, then “NOS4A2” is a ho-ho-whole lotta creepiness.

The Bookworm is Terri Schlichenmeyer. She has been reading since she was 3 years old and never goes anywhere without a book. Terri lives on a hill in Wisconsin with two dogs and 11,000 books.

© 2013 marconews.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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