Sep 23, 2023

New Books: The Raging Storm and The Paris Novel


In My Mailbox

The Raging Storm ( Two Rivers #3) by Ann Cleeves

Publication: September 5, 2023; Minotaur

Source: ARC from publisher

Genre: mystery, police procedural, British crime fiction

When Jem Rosco—sailor, adventurer, and legend—blows into town in the middle of an autumn gale, the residents of Greystone, Devon, are delighted to have a celebrity. But Rosco disappears again, and his body is discovered in a dinghy, anchored off Scully Cove.

This is an uncomfortable case for Detective Inspector Matthew Venn. Greystone is a place he visited as a child and parted ways with. Superstition and rumour mix with fact as another body is found.

As the winds howl, and Venn and his team investigate, he realizes that no one is safe from Scully Cove’s storm of dark secrets.

Ann Cleeves— award-winning author of the Vera and Shetland series, both hit TV shows—returns with The Raging Storm, the third book in the Matthew Venn series. (publisher

\She is a prolific writer of crime fiction, with three different series featuring British detectives. I reviewed one of her other books, The Darkest Evening (Vera Stanhope #9) and enjoyed it but was impatient to have the ending wrap up more quickly.

Currently reading

The Paris Novel by Ruth Reichl

Publication: April 30, 2024; Random House, NetGalley

Genre; historical fiction, women's fiction, Paris, food

It's all about 1980s Paris and a woman whose mother left her a will with instructions and money to spend time in that city. Stella discovers herself in Paris, what she really likes - food, fashion, art - and this takes her far from her circumscribed life as an earnest copy editor for a small publisher back in the U.S.  In Paris, she meets writers like Alan Ginsburg and James Baldwin, in the famous Shakespeare and Company bookstore where she takes refuge when her hotel stay and money run out. 

I'm enjoying the book so far and wondering just what else Stella will discover about herself and about the city and its people.

See my full review on Goodreads.

What's on your reading schedule this week and/or the rest of the month?injuly202

Memes: The Sunday Post hosted by The Caffeinated BookreviewerAlso,  It's Monday: What Are You Readingand Sunday SalonStacking the ShelvesMailbox Monday

Sep 16, 2023

Sunday Salon: All the Light We Cannot See; Bernardine's Shanghai Salon

 Sneak preview of Episode 1 - All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

Early this month, I got an invitation from Goodreads and access from Netflix to watch on Sept. 10 the first episode of AllTheLightWeCannotSee, which is a screen adaptation of Anthony Doerr's Pulitzer Prize winning book.

Episode 1 on Netflix, in my opinion, was completely fabulous - the actors, the setting, costumes, everything... in spite of some negative reviews posted by critics. I'm looking forward to watching all of it in November.

The light we cannot see evidently refers to radio waves, communication that was made over wireless radio to pass on Allied information during WWII in France. The picture above shows Marie-Laure, a blind girl who nevertheless is able to help the war effort in St. Malo. She is on the radio in the picture.

I will have to reread the book to see if or just how much the film has changed the novel. The Netflix 4-episode series starts airing Nov. 2.

My very brief review of All the Light We Cannot See (2015) is here

Currently reading

Bernardine's Shanghai Salon: The Story of the Doyenne of Old China by Susan Blumberg-Kasoff
Publication: November 7, 2023; Post Hill Press, NetGalley
Genre: biography, Shanghai, historical

I've read several historical novels and books about Shanghai just before and during WWII, before and after the Japanese bombed and invaded the city. In Shanghai, Europeans and other Westerners lived cocooned and safe in the International Settlement, an enclave restricted to Europeans. This is another book that describes the social life and variety of people in Shanghai, including White Russian refugees escaping Communism and European Jews escaping Hitler's persecution.

I've just started the book, following Bernardine as she arrives in Manchuria and Shanghai to get married to Chester Fritz, a long time resident of the city.

Publisher's description:

Meet the Jewish salon host in 1930s Shanghai who brought together Chinese and expats around the arts as civil war erupted and World War II loomed on the horizon.

Bernardine Szold Fritz arrived in Shanghai in 1929 to marry her fourth husband. Only thirty-three years old, she found herself in a time and place like no other. Political intrigue and scandal lurked on every street corner. Art Deco cinemas showed the latest Hollywood flicks, while dancehall owners and jazz musicians turned Shanghai into Asia’s top nightlife destination. She introduced Emily Hahn, the charismatic opium-smoking writer for The New Yorker, to the flamboyant hotelier Sir Victor Sassoon and legendary poet Sinmay Zau. And when Hollywood stars Anna May Wong, Charlie Chaplin, and Claudette Colbert passed through Shanghai, Bernardine organized gatherings to introduce them to their Shanghai contemporaries.

She started a salon in her home, drawing famous names from the world of politics, the arts, and the intelligentsia. As civil war brewed and World War II soon followed, Bernardine’s devotion to the arts and the people of Shanghai brought joy to the city just before it would change forever.

What's on your reading schedule this week and/or the rest of the month?injuly202

Memes: The Sunday Post hosted by The Caffeinated BookreviewerAlso,  It's Monday: What Are You Readingand Sunday SalonStacking the ShelvesMailbox Monday

Sep 9, 2023

Sunday Salon: Nordic Noir and an Unusual Romance


The Shadow Murders
: Department Q #9 by Jussi Adler-Olsen
Published Nov. 4, 2021; Dutton, NetGalley
Genre: police procedural, crime fiction, thriller, Nordic noir
Rating: five stars

Department Q thrillers set in Denmark are always suspenseful and this book is the most suspenseful I can remember reading in the series.

The themes alone are striking: It is 2020 and the police department is hampered by Covid restrictions and lockdowns in the city, but are called to investigate a woman who kills herself many years after losing her young son in an horrific explosion. That explosion at a car repair shop also killed the shop owner and several workers.

It's also Christmas time, so things slow down in the police department. The group of four investigators in Department Q however must carry on, especially when they realize that the car shop explosion is linked to many, many other murder cases, with the culprit or culprits planning a new Boxing Day (Dec. 26) murder.

Vengeance, insanity, misguided religiousness, megalomania, are all mixed up in the case, which challenge Department Q - Carl, Assad, Rose, and George - to the nth degree and threaten their own lives.

Trigger warnings:  This series is listed as Nordic Noir, and it is very noir - that is, crazily violent. I enjoyed it, reading nonstop while biting my nails and getting very stressed. I don't know if I'll read another in the series - (I'm showing my age!) 

A romance/chick lit to lighten the mood: 

Sweeten the Deal
by Katie Shepard
Publication: October 17, 2023; Berkley, NetGalley
Genre: romance, contemporary fiction, chick lit
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The protagonists are 10 years apart in age, but MBA student Caroline Sedlacek loves having Adrian as her "sugar baby," someone she found online to be her paid boyfriend and companion for shows, opera, museums, sightseeing and cultural events. Caroline is not adept socially, doesn't know much about how to dress, attend events, or how to socialize, though she is business savvy and smart in other ways.

We learn later in the book that Caroline is neurodiverse, having a kind of mild cognitive disability, which makes her reliance on her sugar baby, Adrian, plausible as central to the plot. Adrian is a down-on-his-luck artist who can't even pay his rent at the moment.

I liked the ways in which Caroline helps Adrian get back on his feet as an artist, helping him promote and sell his once expensive art work. And of course, it's amusing how Adrian has to coach Caroline on the social front.

An entertaining and unusual contemporary romance written with humor and empathy.

What's on your reading schedule this week and/or the rest of the month?injuly202

Memes: The Sunday Post hosted by The Caffeinated BookreviewerAlso,  It's Monday: What Are You Readingand Sunday SalonStacking the ShelvesMailbox Monday

Sep 2, 2023

Sunday Salon: Suspense Novels and Fall Anticipated Novels

Suspense novels were on my mind this past week

The Hike

The Hike by Lucy Clarke
Published April 27, 2023; HarperCollins
Setting: mountains in Norway

Four long time friends travel to the mountains of Norway for a four-day hike in semi remote areas, little realizing the risks from unpredictable weather, rough terrain, and ruthless people. 

I thought the varied backgrounds and personalities of the four friends made their actions less predictable and more interesting when they were confronted with physical challenges and danger. I also liked how the variety of surroundings - rivers, beaches, mountains, forests, played into the story's suspense. 

The mysterious disappearance of a young woman on the same mountain a year before also adds complexity to what seemed at first a straightforward mountain hike. Enjoyable thriller because of the characters and the surroundings, and the compelling plot.


The Last One
Published August 8, 2023; Emily Bestler books
Setting: Atlantic Ocean

Set on an ocean liner in the Atlantic, this thriller has only four passengers onboard, since the hundreds of others disappeared one morning with their luggage and personal effects, leaving the four alone to fend for themselves on a self propelling vessel bound for who knows where. 

I thought at first this was sci fi or fantasy, but then the real world of today crept in to give a chilling take on reality and the people who are entranced by it. I kept reading as the challenges for the four to survive their situation ramped up to unbelievable levels, and the ending floored me.

It was a hard to read book, as may have been the author's intention, but I can say I was intrigued but not entertained.

The InternThe Intern by Michele Campbell
Publication: October 3, 2023; St. Martin's Press

I liked the switch of the main focus from the young attorney interning with the well known judge to the emphasis on the judge herself, and her secret background and life. That the two women begin to help each other out in tight situations involving family and safety is a key point of the novel which I found unusual. This is a suspenseful novel, enjoyable and entertaining.

Other Books to Consider this fall:

The Night Parade: memoir and What We Kept to Ourselves  are two that grabbed my attention. I already reviewed Curtis Chin's memoir of growing up Asian in Detroit.

Here is The San Francisco Chronicle's list of 25 Most Anticipated Books for Fall, one of several lists. Everyone seems to have a list. These do look interesting. Do any of these appeal to you?

What's on your reading schedule this week and/or the rest of the month?injuly202

Memes: The Sunday Post hosted by The Caffeinated BookreviewerAlso,  It's Monday: What Are You Readingand Sunday SalonStacking the ShelvesMailbox Monday

Aug 26, 2023

The Heron Catchers, and Yesteryear, a Memoir : Sunday Salon

 Books reviewed

The Heron Catchers by David Joiner
Publication: November 21, 2023; Stone Bridge Press; NetGalley
Genre: literary fiction, Japan travel

I like that this story of love and loss is woven together in the mountain and lake area where herons congregate and live, and where the land still remembers the poet Basho, who visited the area during his wanderings, while composing his now famous haiku. The novel is set in Kanazawa and Yamanaka Onsen near the Sea of Japan

Sedge is an American whose wife ran off with another man. He meets the man's wife Mariko who is also bereft after her husband's disappearance. Sedge and Mariko are left behind, but create a new union and alliance of their own, while dealing with the troubled 16 year old son that Mariko's husband left behind.

The beauty of the surroundings and rescue of an injured heron seemed to bond Sedge and the son, who is both jealous and troubled.

I enjoyed the love story, as I see it, and the setting of the novel, and learned more about herons, their size, their strength, their beauty. And I thought the cover art of the book is exquisite.

Author bio: David Joiner was born and raised in Cincinnati, Ohio. He attended Earlham College and majored in Japanese Studies. He earned his MFA from the University of Arizona. David has also lived in Japan five different times, and has called Sapporo, Akita, Tokyo, Fukui, and Kanazawa home. He currently serves as the head of the Kanazawa chapter of Writers in Kyoto.

You can watch the author discussing his novels, The Heron Catchers, and Kanazawa, and what it's like to be a writer in Japan: New blurbs for the book: here 

Published May 11, 2023; paperback and ebook

My comments:
Kathleen Burt's memoir is a narrative that begins with her childhood growing up in Ottawa, Illinois where she learned from others "how to view the world." She discovered her love of reading during her years in Ottawa, and her love for French literature and classical mythology developed in high school. The myths were an important background for her later interest in astrology.

She grew up Catholic, and later attended Rosary College just outside of Chicago, majoring in European history and French. Her love of French grew with her time studying in Fribourg, Switzerland, a study abroad program offered by the French department at Rosary College.

Kathleen did her M.A. degree in European history at the University of Chicago, and afterwards did post grad work on South Asia and the Tamil language through a government grant, spending a year in India.

India changed her life in many ways. There she was introduced to Hatha Yoga, meditation, and she developed her love for astrology, which was to occupy much of the rest of her life. She later took astrology classes and hatha yoga teacher training, taught Indian history at Roosevelt University in Chicago and astrology at Mira Costa College in California, plus a course in Indian civilization.

Kathleen married her husband Michael in 1977. He was a meditation leader in soul awareness and self realization, apart from his work in computers, and their outside interests coincided neatly. She returned to India with Michael at one point, and both left there feeling "inspired, peaceful and soul-rested."

The memoir also includes the lives of Kathleen's parents and their retirement in Florida, where Kathleen and her husband both moved later on. The memoir also reflects the politics of the time during the 1960s-1980s, and gives us a clear background of the upheavals and the changing times of that period in the U.S.

The book as a narrative of a well-lived and fascinatingly varied life was an enjoyable and eye opening story, full of history, travel, and intriguing information on complex astrology and what it can reveal about each individual. She came to see astrology as important in understanding people in our lives and in understanding ourselves and how we change or have changed over time.

She is described as a spiritual seeker practicing Jungian oriented archetype astrology. 

Living and studying in Fribourg, Switzerland and in India also led Kathleen to what the author sees as a fulfilling life.

I recommend this memoir highly for those interested in how exposure to information, life experiences, and places can truly direct one's life.

More about Kathleen, an early audio interview, and one of her books on astrology, Beyond the Mask

What's on your reading schedule this week and/or the rest of the month?injuly202

Memes: The Sunday Post hosted by The Caffeinated BookreviewerAlso,  It's Monday: What Are You Readingand Sunday SalonStacking the ShelvesMailbox Monday


Aug 19, 2023

Sunday Salon: Library Finds and a Review

Library Books 

The Poet's House by Jean Thompson, July 12, 2022; Algonquin

Genre: poetry, contemporary fiction, literary fiction, adult fiction

Setting: Northern California 

I dabble in poetry on occasion, usually early in the morning or late at night. I have books and tablets with my scribbles, not many poems longer than a handwritten page.  So, I was interested in the title of this book, and I was not disappointed in reading it.

A young woman in her early twenties, Carla has a reading disability, as she describes it, but doesn't give us a medical term for it. She works as a landscaper but is pushed by her mother to find something more stable.

She does yard work for a well known poet, Viridian, an elderly woman who takes to Carla and encourages her to attend her dinners and mingle with her poet and publisher friends. She reads her poems to Carla, who slowly begins to understand the words and the concepts, and finds herself drawn to the power of words, their meaning and power to enlighten.

The book is about Carla coming out of her shy shell, but is mostly about the artists and writers she comes in contact with. Their eccentricities in dress, manners, ways of communicating, and their love of gatherings with unusual, to her, food and drink and of course, poetry, pulls her slowly in.

She helps them, especially the charismatic Viridian, as much as they help her.  I enjoyed the book, found it refreshing and hopeful, but full of the vivacity and the trauma of life as well.

Pineapple Street by Jenny Jackson, March 7, 2023; Pamela Dorman Books

The book description grabbed me: 

"Shot through with the indulgent pleasures of life among New York’s one-percenters, Pineapple Street is an addictive, escapist novel that sparkles with wit." 

The Mistress of Bhatia House  by Sujata Massey, July 11, 2023: Soho Press

Genre: mystery, historical fiction, India

The first books in the series that I've read, I've found very interesting historically and culturally. 

In this latest book, Bombay’s only female solicitor, Perveen Mistry, grapples with class divisions, sexism, and complex family dynamics as she seeks justice for a mistreated young woman in the fourth installment of the award–winning series. (publisher)

Zero Days by Ruth Ware, June 20, 2023; Scout Press

Genre: mystery, thriller, suspense

The library now has copies of this book, as British author, Ruth Ware, is a popular mystery writer. I hope the book is as good as it's reputed to be. 

About: Hired by companies to break into buildings and hack security systems, Jack and her husband, Gabe, are the best in the business. But after a routine assignment goes horribly wrong, Jack arrives home to find her husband dead. To add to her horror, the police are closing in on their suspect—her. She is suddenly on the run....(publisher)

Library magazines:

The poems and the short stories and an occasional essay in the New Yorker magazine are still my go to reading. Borrowed three June editions from  the library. But the chilling short story in the most recent edition, August 21, really got to me. 


“The End Is Only a Beginning” 

"The End Is Only a Beginning" by T. Coraghessan Boyle is about the very early days of the pandemic, when the virus appeared early in France. Riley goes off to Paris on business, without his wife, Caroline, who had to stay with her dying mother. 

Riley remains faithful to his wife but is reckless in what he does, where he goes, who he associates with. But on returning home, he gives the virus to his younger, healthier wife Caroline, while he remains asymptomatic. 

What's on your reading schedule this week and/or the rest of the month?injuly202

3Memes: The Sunday Post hosted by The Caffeinated BookreviewerAlso,  It's Monday: What Are You Readingand Sunday SalonStacking the ShelvesMailbox Monday

Aug 14, 2023

It's Monday: What Are You Reading?

 I won this book from Emma at Words and Peace after the end of the July in Paris 2023 Challenge 

L'Origine: The Secret Life of the World's Most Erotic Masterpiece by Lilianne Milgrom

Publisher: The riveting odyssey of one of the world's most scandalous and sexually explicit works of art.

In 1866, maverick French artist Gustave Courbet painted one of the most iconic images in the history of art...

L'Origine is an entertaining and superbly researched work of historical fiction that traces the true story of the painting's unlikely tale of survival, replete with French revolutionaries, Turkish pashas, and nefarious Nazi captains.

 But L'Origine is more than a riveting romp through history-it also sheds light on society's complex relationship with the female body. (publisher)

I had never heard of this work of art by Courbet until now, and looked up the artwork in question online. It is shockingly revealing of the feminine sexual parts of the body and I am curious about the background of this painting and the reason he painted it. 

Bought at the thrift store: 

Musical Chairs:
A Novel by Amy Poeppel
Published July 21, 2020; Atria
Genre: contemorary fiction, romance, chick lit

A hilarious and heartfelt new novel about a perfectly imperfect summer of love, secrets, and second chances.

Amy Poeppel crafts a love letter to modern family life with all of its discord and harmony. Musical Chairs is an irresistibly romantic story of role reversals, reinvention, and sweet synchronicity. (publisher)

I bought Musical Chairs as I had really enjoyed the author's most recent book - a very funny romantic comedy and family drama, The Sweet Spot.

The Sweet Spot by Amy Poeppel, January 31, 2023,  See that review here.

I hope Musical Chairs will be just as good.

Did you get any new books this week?

New Books: The Raging Storm and The Paris Novel

  In My Mailbox The Raging Storm ( Two Rivers #3)  by Ann Cleeves Publication: September 5, 2023; Minotaur Source: ARC from publisher Genre:...