GOLDEN GIRL by Elin Hilderbrand (Little, Brown). I almost began by calling Elin Hilderbrand “a column favorite”—she has been a favorite writer of ours almost all along (her career is not quite …
GOLDEN GIRL by Elin Hilderbrand (Little, Brown). I almost began by calling Elin Hilderbrand “a column favorite”—she has been a favorite writer of ours almost all along (her career is not quite as old as the column). But a search, done a couple of times thinking I must have misspelled her name, doesn't lie: The column has never mentioned Elin Hilderbrand. The originator read her with great pleasure and satisfaction, but I suspect couldn't think how to talk about her convincingly; I've had that problem, and still have it now that I've discovered the gap in the column's history. She's too serious and wise—very, both—to be just entertainment, but too effortlessly entertaining—committed, fully—to be taken, well, solemnly (you don't see the world, or literature, or language, differently after Hilderbrand). And now that I've blathered all that, I've gotten around to telling you that this may be her best ever. It's a classic premise: a woman has died prematurely, by some Heavenly error, and is granted a chance to haunt her old life for a while, with some powers that might enable her to accomplish some changes. There, see? I've made it sound like a Hallmark movie, and no, not a chance; the tougher a reader you are, the more it will continually surprise you—and just as certainly have you in tears.
THE POWER OF AWARENESS: HOW TO STAY SAFE AND SAVE YOUR LIFE by Dan Schilling (Grand Central). There's even more to that subtitle; this guy is nothing if not explicit. But he's also entertaining, and he knows from experience what he's teaching you, and much of what he wants you to do is very sensible, even if your life (unlike his) is hardly ever at stake. And: believe the title; it isn't just practicing safe habits, he means to engage and activate your brain, some, too: “aware” isn't only a healthy condition to achieve, it's also another word for “conscious,” and there are ways of achieving—and sustaining—more of that. And, yeah, some of his career anecdotes are hair-raising fun.
THE PHOTOGRAPHER by Mary Dixie Carter (Minotaur). An impressive first novel, psychological suspense, smart and dark and seductive, with a villain about as admirable as she is scary. Or, if not quite admirable, understandable—you'll root for her at least some of the time.
JACKPOT: A TEDDY FAY NOVEL by Stuart Woods and Bryon Quertermous (Putnam). Well, if anybody we know has been to Macau, Hong Kong's decadent twin city, a sort of super-Las Vegas without the family-fun parts, it's Stuart Woods. And when Stone Barrington's son gets in trouble there, who would he send to look into the matter?