Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The Housekeeper and the Professor by Yoko Ogawa

This is a quiet but lovely little book. Translated from the Japanese, this novel brings together three unlikely people who form their own little family unit.

The Professor is a mathematical genius who, due to a brain injury suffered in a car accident many years earlier, cannot remember more than 80 minutes at a time. He lives a quiet life, content with his numbers as his steady companions in a small cottage. He does not like crowds, and wears dozens of little notes attached to his suits to help remind him of important things.

The Housekeeper is a young woman, a single parent, and an honest and conscientious worker. She is the tenth housekeeper to go to work for the Professor, so she does not expect to last long. Instead, she finds a brilliant hermit of a man who can remember everything up to 1975, when his accident occured, including his mathematical theorems and baseball statistics for his beloved Hanshin Tigers. The Housekeeper also discovers that the Professor has an unrestrained love of children, and when he discovers that she has a 10 year-old son, he insists that he come to his house after school. Her son, who the Professor nicknames, "Root" develops a special bond with the Professor, despite the fact that he must be reintroduced to him every day as if they had never met.

As time goes on, this unlikely trio forms a strong bond and settle into somewhat of a routine, despite the fact that the Professor must constantly remind himself who the Housekeeper and her son are. Spending time with Root, helping him with his homework brings some much-needed life into the Professor's world, and some stability and structure into Root's.

Ogawa's quiet book brings relationships to the forefront and begs the question, what is it that makes a family a family? Her sparse prose is a thing of beauty, even as she is writing about things beyond my ilk, such as mathematical theories. This is a story that does not take long to read, but will leave you thinking about it long after you've finished the book.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Delicious by Susan Mallery

If you haven't already noticed, I'm on a bit of a romance kick right now - romance novels are like M&M's - you can't have just one! My latest choice in this particular genre is the very enjoyable first book in Mallery's "Buchanan Books" series.

Penny Jackson has never had it easy - she has fought her way to the top in the competitive Seattle restaurant field - and is enjoying having her ex-husband, Cal, desperately trying to hire her to resurrect his family's restaurant. While they come to an agreement beneficial to both of them, Penny is surprised to learn that Cal will be working with her as the general manager of the restaurant for the next few months, and isn't sure how she feels about having to see her ex-husband on a regular basis...although she notices he still looks good.

Cal Buchanan comes from a family restaurant dynasty, ruled over by his cold and controlling grandmother, Gloria. Each of the 4 Buchanan children, Cal, Reid, Walker and Dani were expected to go into the family business, and all eventually did, except for Walker, who joined the marines instead. Cal notices how radiant Penny looks, but knows they have already had their shot at happiness, and failed.

As Cal and Penny work on bringing back the restaurant, they also begin to grow closer and trust each other again. However, both are keeping secrets - big secrets - that could interfere with their burgeoning relationship. Can they overcome their past and build a new future together? Will Cal's grandmother interfere one too many times in his and his siblings' lives?

This is a solid romance, with plenty of challenges to the relationship but with the requisite happy ending. Those of you who enjoy this book will want to continue on with the Buchanan Family series, in which each of the four siblings are featured.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Size 12 is Not Fat by Meg Cabot

Former pop princess Heather Wells is accustomed to people recognizing her from her days as a bubble-gum mall singer; what she is not accustomed to is having young women falling to their deaths while "elevator surfing" at the New York College residence hall where she works. Although the police believe the deaths are accidental, Heather is sure something else is afoot, and she recruits her hunky landlord, Coop, to assist her in her investigation.

In addition to the drama at her place of employment, Heather is also trying to deal with her ex-fiance, a famous pop singer and Coop's brother, who cannot seem to stay away from her, despite his new, very public engagement. To top things off, Heather knows she is getting close to solving this mystery when she becomes a target of the killer herself! Heather is a real woman, who struggles with her weight, her romantic life, and who cannot seem to stay out of trouble. This is a fun, light read, and I am looking forward to reading the remainder of this series.

Meg Cabot is a prolific writer of children's books (Allie Finkel's Rules for Girls series,) young adult books (The Princess Diaries series,) as well as chick lit titles for adults. This is her first foray into the chick lit mystery genre, which should appeal to fans of her other adult books as well as mystery fans. So far, there are 2 additional books in the Heather Wells series: Size 14 is not Fat Either; and, Big-boned. To read more about Meg Cabot and her books, visit her website at:

Friday, March 6, 2009

Need a little romance?

Susan Elizabeth Phillips is a stalwart among Romance authors, and her book, Dream a Little Dream is one of her finer efforts.

Rachel Stone is at the end of her rope - a broke, single mother whose car just gave up on the outskirts of the town she was run out of a few years earlier. Desperate for a job to support her son, she forces her services on the first person she meets up with - the cold and ruthless Gabe Bonner, a member of one of the most respected families in town. While Gabe at first rebuffs her offers, he gradually realizes what a tough spot she is in, and allows her and her son to work at the drive-in he is fixing up and move into his grandmother's cottage while she gets back on her feet.

It turns out that Rachel is anything but welcome in Salvation, North Carolina. Her deceased husband was a television preacher who bilked thousands out of their hard-earned money, then died in a plane crash while trying to escape the country. Everyone suspects that she is living off of the money that he absconded with; trouble is, the money was never found and she doesn't have it, so she is hoping to find it to take care of her son. Will Rachel be able to overcome the obstacles in her life and find happiness again? Will the people of Salvation forgive her and welcome her back? Do Gabe and Rachel find happiness again?

This is a sweet story, but also contains plenty of spice for those of us who don't like our love stories TOO clean! Funny at times, heartbreaking at times, this is a romance that delivers beyond expectations! I should also mention that although this is a book from Phillips' "Chicago Stars" series, it stands on its own just as well.