Dec 29, 2009

Japanese Women Don't Get Old or Fat by Naomi Moriyama

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme hosted by MizB at Should Be Reading. Choose two sentences from your current read, and add the author and title for readers. Anyone can join in.

Japanese Women Don't Get Old or Fat: Secrets of My Mother's Tokyo Kitchen
by Naomi Moriyama and William Doyle, 2006

"I think vegetables can be scandalously scrumptious....The creamy yellow flesh of eggplant becomes meltingly tender and almost sweet when it's grilled, broiled, or pan-fried and then garnished with a tiny bit of freshly grated gingerroot and soy sauce."  (ch. 5)
"Nori seaweed was something we ate in Japanese dishes, never in a sandwich.... I went home and said to my mother, "Nobody puts seaweed in a sandwich!"

She said, "Well, seaweed is good for you, but I will try not to do it again." (ch. 1)
Comment: Found this 2006 book in my library. A look at Japanese home cooking and recipes for keeping trim. I can certainly use more veggies and miso soup with bonito fish flakes, seaweed, edamame, soba noodles, and tofu. I'm considering this for my new year's resolution :)
About the authors: "Naomi Moriyama was born and raised in Tokyo and spent childhood summers on her grandparents' hillside farem in the Japanese countryside, eating tangerines from the trees and fresh vegetables from the family garden....Naomi lives in Manhattan with her husband and co-author William Doyle and travels to her mother's Tokyo kitchen several times a year."

From the Delta Trade Paperback Edition, published by Bantam Dell.     

Dec 27, 2009

Book Review: The Tricking of Freya by Christina Sunley

The Tricking of Freya: A Novel by Christina Sunley
Published 2009 by St. Martin's Press
Genre: fiction

Synopsis: Young Freya has been tricked more times than she likes, both in big and small ways. The biggest trick begins with an unexpected trip, when she is enticed by her aunt Birdie to travel with her for three weeks to the land of their ancestors, Iceland, supposedly to find the lost letters of their grandfather, the famous poet Olafur, Skald Nyja Islands.

The tricking of Freya involves a Wild Sheep Chase (a la Haruki Murakami) to Iceland - the land of elves, Norse gods, lava rocks, black sand, glaciers, and thick-furred Icelandic sheep. Freya normally lives in Connecticut with her mother Anna and only travels every summer to the small New Iceland community in Manitoba, Canada where her aunt and grandmother live. Freya is intrigued by her temperamental aunt Birdie, an aspiring poet who has manic highs and lows. In her good moods, Birdie teaches Freya the complex grammar of the Icelandic language and its folklore.

Following that first trip to Iceland with Birdie, a disastrous summer trip that seemed like a wild goose chase, Freya visits Iceland again many years later after Birdie's death, this time alone and to find answers about the past, the identity of a mysterious relative, and about the biggest trick of all that has been ongoing over the years.

Comments: The rich array of fictional characters created in the Icelandic community in Canada and in the homeland - from  traditional to progressive to manic personalities - makes this an engrossing story, expertly told. I came away with a better understanding of Icelandic culture, the land and language, and the history of Icelandic immigration to Canada beginning in the 1870s. In the book, Iceland is described as having the highest literacy rate of any European country and as a place that values its history and poetry, and the mythology of its Norse gods.

A saying I particularly liked was: Blindur er boklaus madur - blind is the bookless man.
The setting is an important part of the appeal of the novel. I was first attracted by the title and the cover, and borrowed the book twice from the library, finishing it in just a few days the second time.

To see the interview I did later with the author, click here for Interview with Christina Sunley.

Dec 23, 2009

Happy Holidays!

Courtesy of Dover Publications

Hope your spirits will be bright this holiday season! Happy Holidays, everyone! And may butterflies always frequent your garden!

Dec 19, 2009

In My Mailbox

I have my holiday reading cut out for me. Another book in the mail to add to the list.

Love in Mid Air: A Novel by Kim Wright, a romance
The Last Surgeon by Michael Palmer, a thriller
truly, madly by Heather Webber, a romance
mennonite in a little black dress by Rhoda Janzen, fiction
The Cuban Chronicles by Wanda St. Hilaire, travel memoir

In addition, there are about four half-finished books that I also plan to finish, hell or high water, as the saying goes. I actually am enjoying them, not at all gritting my teeth while I read. They're interesting books; I'm just a Book Dilettante.

Dec 15, 2009

Book Review: Purged by Darkness by Michael Estepa

Purged by Darkness is a fictional account of gang life and the toll it takes on members, their families, and friends. Michael Estepa of Australia wrote the book based on his own experiences and based on extensive research on one type of gang organization, the Triads in Australia.

Product description:
In the gang lifestyle, honour and loyalty is what is expected of you. Fear, death and betrayal is what often follows. In this world, no one wins and all those involved, often find themselves in too deep to ever get out. The story revolves around six friends, as it follows their journey inside the organised crime syndicate, known as the Triads. With their love for each other and their loyalties not far behind, it is this same quality that will push their friendship beyond all limits. For this group of friends, it is all they have. Love is what keeps them together, but will it be enough to survive in a world where bullets speak louder than words and death awaits them at every turn?
Those who are interested in organized crime will find in this new novel a revealing look at life on the inside, with its perils and far reaching consequences.

Thanks to author Michael Estepa for a review copy of this book, published 2009.

Bookmark and Share

Book Review: Murder on the Cliff by Stefanie Matteson

Murder On The Cliff by Stefanie Matteson

My comments: By lucky chance, I found this 1991 novel in a library book sale. It's an excellent mystery for several reasons: the location, use of history, and the characters and basic plot. If location is everything, then the Cliff Walk bordering the Newport, R.I. mansions, the mansions themselves built by the "robber barons," and the historic sailing town of Newport make it worthwhile. Add information on sumo wrestling culture, geisha culture, and the history of the first U.S. consulate to Japan opened by Townsend Harris in 1854 for a very interesting read.

The book is a poignant love story as well as a well crafted mystery.

Plot: The plot is based on the tragic story of  the geisha Okichi (made famous as Madama Butterfly in Puccini's opera) and U.S. consul to Japan, Townsend Harris. I was fascinated by the historical background, Japan Times online, Sept. 8, 2009.

"March 31, 1854, marked the end of some 200 years of Japan's "sakoku" isolation under the Tokugawa shogunate, when Japan signed a treaty with U.S. Navy Commodore Matthew C. Perry. The agreement set the stage for Washington to open trade negotiations with the shogunate, and also secure ports for American ships to rest and replenish supplies.

The first chief of mission was Townsend Harris, who presented his credentials to Emperor Meiji on Nov. 5, 1859, according to the U.S. Department of State. Harris, named a minister resident, opened the first U.S. Consulate at Gyokusenji Temple in Shimoda in today's Shizuoka Prefecture. The mission was later relocated to Zenfukuji Temple in Azabu, Tokyo."

"Nowadays Shimoda stages an annual "Carnival of the Black Ships" celebrating the U.S. opening of Japan to the West, and an actress assumes the honored role of Okichi." From Time Magazine online, 1956.

The mystery uses these historical facts, figures, and cultural events as its background.

Synopsis: In the novel, the main character Charlotte Graham, an Oscar-winning actress and amateur sleuth who once played the role of Madama Butterfly, is invited to a festival in Newport honoring the arrival of the U.S.'s Black Ships to Japan, and honoring the person on whom the Madame Butterfly story is based - the geisha Okichi, the companion of consul Townsend Harris in Japan, and their fictional descendants.

Two murders that seem to be related to Okichi and Townsend Harris' descendants occur during this Newport festival. Charlotte tries to put the pieces of the puzzle together, helping the local police to investigate, interviewing possible witnesses including the sumo wrestlers invited to the festival, and visiting the scene of both crimes.

I plan to read more of Stefanie Matteson's Charlotte Graham series.(This review was listed at Mystery/Crime Fiction Blog Carnival)

Bookmark and Share

Dec 13, 2009

Book Review: Killer Keepsakes by Jane K. Cleland

One half-read book finished and four or five more to go, before the end of the year, I hope.

Publisher's description of Killer Keepsakes: "Gretchen is steadfastly dependable, so it seems odd when she doesn't show up for work one day. Surprise soon turns to alarm when a ... body is found in Gretchen's house and Gretchen is named the prime suspect in the case."

My comments: This light mystery with amateur sleuth and antiques appraiser Josie Prescott could use some romance or more information about the antiques industry to add to the interest. I liked her earlier books in the series.

One was Deadly Appraisal. In this cozy, Josie is challenged at a guild fund-raiser to solve a crime. A guild member Maisy Gaylor is poisoned at the event. The mystery deepens when a valuable "Birds and Flowers" tureen is also stolen. Josie has to find answers to all the puzzles in this mystery.

These are just two of the great books I found recently at the library.

Dec 11, 2009

Half-finished Books and a New Blog Name

I feel like a book dilettante - starting several books at the same time and not finishing them. I have at least five books that I have started and have every intention of finishing. I just can't decide which to tackle first, and I may start new ones instead. That is the sure sign of a dilettante.

As a result, I've decided to change the name of my blog, from Book Bird Dog to Book Dilettante! Hope you stay with me!

Books I've started:
A Wild Sheep Chase
Mr. Muo's Travelling Couch
Killer Keepsakes
The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle
Dim Sum Dead

Pre-New Year's resolution: Finish the mysteries first, then tackle the others for the two literary challenges I have going. Then start new books for the Thriller and Suspense Reading Challenge that begins Jan 1. Hope that I can keep to this rather reasonable resolution.

Dec 9, 2009

Re-read Your Favorite Books: The Flashback Challenge

The Flashback Challenge to re-read three or more of your favorite books will run from January 1, 2010 - December 31, 2010. There are three levels of participation: Bookworm - Up to three books
Scholar - Four to six books  Literati - Over six books. Started by Aatri of Book Lust, sign up at Flashback Challenge.I found the challenge at mel u's blog, Rereading Lives.

This gives me an incentive to re-read a book I have wanted to look at again, When We Were Orphans: A Novel by Kazuo Ishiguro. Set in England and Shanghai during the 1930s, it's about a young English detective with a faulty memory who returns to wartime Shanghai in 1937 to find his parents who had disappeared there years ago when he was about nine years old. As he is an unreliable narrator, readers have to figure out the puzzle of his past and become detectives themselves to decide what is fact and what is fiction. Christopher meets a Japanese soldier in Shanghai who may or may not be his playmate from years ago. How Christopher reacts or doesn't react to him and to Shanghai during the Japanese occupation is part of his strange, delusional persona. This book intrigued me so much, I want to try again to get the hard facts about Christopher's past, which may not be possible, given his confused and inaccurate memory.

Ishiguro, born in Nagasaki, Japan and now living in London, is also author of The Remains of the Day, a Booker Prize-winning novel made into the award winning film with Anthony Hopkins.

Update: My number two book for this challenge will be Out by Natsuo Kirino, 2003. My memory of the book was jogged by the excellent review posted by mel u on his blog.
Member of Amazon Associates

Review: After Dark, a novel by Haruki Murakami

I decided to reprint this review I did in 2007 of Haruki Murakami's 12th novel, After Dark  for the Japanese Literature Challenge 3 hosted by Dolce Bellezza, which ends the end of January 2010.

Synopsis: The novel begins just before midnight in Tokyo and ends just before 7 a.m. The focus is Tokyo in the dead of night, after the trains have stopped running and the only public transportation out of the city is by cab.

Some of the people left in the city are college students and office workers. They are in the bars, hanging out in all night restaurants, in game parlors, or working late in the office.

The book follows a young college student, Mari, who decides to stay reading in a Denny's restaurant rather than go home. She meets another college student there, a musician who is in the city to practice with his band. At his suggestion, Mari leaves the restaurant to help a foreign woman who has been injured, and in the course of events, comes across unusual situations and makes some unlikely friends, including the manager and maid of an all night hotel. Long conversations during the night with the musician, who has met her older sister, help her come to terms with the reason she has avoided going home.

When morning arrives and the trains are running, Mari goes home to the suburbs, where she knows she will find her older sister, Eri Asai, still in a deep sleep. A beautiful and well-known model, Eri Asai has been sleeping steadily the past three weeks, getting up occasionally to eat, though no one has seen her when she is up.

Remembering how protective Eri Asai had been of her when they had been trapped in an elevator as children, Mari tries to empathize with her sister, in tears hugging her as if willing her to wake up out of her long dream. There is a glimmer of a response. Mari finally goes to sleep.

Comments: The novel only hints at the reason for Eri Asi's withdrawal. There is a suggestion that it involves the sinister office worker Shirakawa, whom Mari is unaware of though their paths overlap during the night in the city.

The novel has many levels of meaning. Murakami reveals the flip side of the city, after dark, at times with humor. The city at night also reveals the dark aspect of some of the characters he explores. However, Mari and the musician walk about the city and among these people, but remain unscathed.

Submitted also for the Lost in Translation Reading Challenge.

Member of Amazon Associates  Bookmark and Share

Dec 8, 2009

Mr. Muo's Travelling Couch, a novel by Dai Sijie

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme hosted by Should Be Reading Choose two sentences from your current read, and add the author and title for readers.

Mr. Muo's Traveling Couch by Dai Sijie, 2005.
"Listen here, young lady," he says, his voice in the dark low and sincere, as befits the grandson of a pastor, "there's no need to be afraid. It's only me, the psychoanalyst you were talking to earlier." (ch. 1)(translated from the French by Ina Rilke)
Publisher's description: "Dai Sijie gives us a delightful new tale of East meets West, an adventure both wry and uplifting about a love of dreams and the dream of love, and the power of reading to sustain and inspire the spirit."

In this imaginative novel, Mr. Muo tries to free his girlfriend being held a political prisoner in China, but is told by the local magistrate there that he must find a virgin in exchange for clemency. The book follows Mr. Muo's adventures through China on his quest for the right girl.

Dai Sijie, a Chinese-born filmmaker and writer, has lived in France since 1984. He also wrote the best-selling novel, Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress.  I hope to submit this book to two challenges: The China Challenge and Lost in Translation Challenge.

Member of Amazon Associates

Bookmark and Share

Dec 5, 2009

Book Review, Waiting: A Novel by Ha Jin

In modern China, two people wait over seventeen years for each other to have a change of heart that would profoundly affect their lives.

From publisher's description of Waiting: A Novel by Ha Jin:
"For more than seventeen years, this devoted and ambitious doctor has been in love with an educated... modern woman, Manna Wu. But back in the traditional world of his home village lives the wife his family chose for him when he was young - a humble and touchingly loyal woman, whom he visits in order to ask, again and again, for a divorce....

... Ha Jin vividly conjures the texture of daily life in a place where the demands of human longing must contend with the weight of centuries of custom. "

My comments: Lin's anguish in wanting a divorce so he can marry the woman of his choice is balanced by the long-suffering patience of the wife he left behind, Shuyu. A very worthwhile novel about a clash of the new and the old in a new China that changed only in some aspects.

The book was first printed in 1999 by writer Ha Jin and was a National Book Award finalist. Ha Jin decided after the Tiananmen Square incident in 1989 to remain in the U.S. I pulled this book from my personal library to review for Jen's China Challenge over at Biblio File.

An award winning writer, Ha Jin is now a professor of English at Boston University. His other well known book is A Free Life.

Bookmark and Share

Dec 2, 2009

Review, Andrea Bocelli: My Christmas

I watched tenor Andrea Bocelli's Christmas special on TV the other night and liked it so much, I went out and bought the CD, Andrea Bocelli: My Christmas for two family members and myself.

Loved "Blue Christmas" sung with country singer Reba McIntyre, "Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire" (opening lines) with Natalie Cole, and his "Jingle Bells" accompanied by the Muppets. The highlight of the album was the Lord's Prayer with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, in English. I missed the "Ave Maria" however, which Bocelli sang on the Christmas show. That prayer is on the two-disc version of the album, along with more holiday songs, and is not included on the single CD that I bought. Too bad.

Bocelli sang in five languages - English, French, German, Italian, and Latin. A few of the songs were standard renditions of popular Christmas music, but most were interpreted in Bocelli's own style.

Member of Amazon Associates

Bookmark and Share

Nov 30, 2009

The Superior Scribbler Award

What a surprise and an honor to get this lovely award! Thank you Sassy Brit of Alternative-Read. Please visit her fantastic blog! I think I'm a little late in thanking her for this award  but I just saw it and I really appreciate it.

The rules:
1. Each Superior Scribbler must in turn pass The Award on to 5 most-deserving Bloggy Friends.
2. Each Superior Scribbler must link to the author & the name of the blog from whom he/she has received the award.
3. Each Superior Scribbler must display The Award on his/her blog, and link to host Blogeuedd at this post, which explains the award.
4. Each Blogger who wins The Superior Scribbler Award must visit this post and add his/her name to the Mr. Linky List. That way, we'll be able to keep up-to-date on everyone who receives this prestigious honor!
5. Each Superior Scribbler must post these rules on his/her blog.

I am hard pressed to limit myself to just five bloggers for this award, but here are the nominees:
Beth of Beth's Book Review Blog
Diane of Bibliophile By The Sea
Jonna of SHE in China
tanabata at in spring it is the dawn
Suzanne of Chick With Books

I've linked to host Blogeuedd's post, the Scholastic Scribe, above and added my blog to the Mr. Linky List. I plan to visit all of those scribblers whose names appear there. Please visit the nominees above and join me in sending them congrats on their blogs!

Nov 29, 2009

Book Review: Blood and Groom by Jill Edmondson

Blood and Groom by Jill Edmondson

Publisher's description:
Someone in Toronto has murdered nearly bankrupt art dealer Christine Arvisais's groom-to-be. Former rock band singer and neophyte private investigator Sasha Jackson lands the case because she's all Christine can afford. The high society gal was jilted at the altar and she's the prime suspect, not to mention Sascha's first major client.

Relying on wit, technology, luck, and a nerdy semi-stalker to help her clear the unlikable Christine's name, Sasha digs further into the muck only to discover high-finance shenanigans, an unnerving pattern of slaughtered fiancés, and a growing list of brides that never were who might be killers. Along the way, the wisecracking, sassy sleuth uncovers murky secrets among the city's bluebloods, including drug addiction, art forgery, and possible insider trading.

In order to trap the murderer, Sasha enlists her ex-boyfriend and former band mate to pose as her fiancé, but will her ruse make her ex the next victim on the hit list and lead to her own untimely demise?
My comments:  Good mystery plots, clever title. The mystery splits into two separate stories later in the book and it's done well. However, the cover of the book and some of the language could have been more attractive to readers.
In addition, the main character, Sasha, does some unlikely things to earn a living, such as working in the phone sex business. She also does some very illegal things while sleuthing. Though most mysteries have the main character and P.I. doing a few things outside the law to solve the larger crime, Sasha does more than her fair share. However, at the end of the book, she still comes out being a likeable main character.
Thanks to the author for providing a review copy.(This review was listed on Mystery/Crime Fiction Blog Carnival)

Bookmark and Share

Nov 27, 2009

Antiques Mysteries

Killer Keepsakes (A Josie Prescott Antiques Mystery, Book #4) by Jane K. Cleland

Antiques mysteries are among my favorites. Just found Killer Keepsakes by Jane K. Cleland, who also wrote Antiques To Die for, Deadly Appraisal, and Consigned to Death. The titles sound dreadful, but they are cozy mysteries and not full of violence or gore.
The Ming and I by Tamar Myers

The Ming and I has a similar theme on its front cover and is also an antiques mystery. I remember this book as being very funny. In fact, the entire series is humorous. Myers also writes a more serious cozy, the Magdalena Yoder Pennsylvania Dutch mysteries.

Part of Thankfully Reading Weekend reading.

Nov 26, 2009

Book Review: Pistonhead by Thomas A. Hauck


Charlie Sinclair works in the days on an assembly line. His life is not going well and he persists in wanting to be famous as a rock guitarist.  He plays at night with a band called Pistonhead. This novel follows Charlie for one week and tells the way in which he finds success.

From the publisher's description: "Charlie Sinclair plays guitar in a rock band and works on an assembly line. His best friend is a drug addict. The girl he wants is unattainable. His apartment is filled with mice. People in the audience throw bottles at him. His mother has a creepy new boyfriend. The kids from his old neighborhood hate him. The band's manager is clueless.

This is the story of one week in Charlie Sinclair's life. One week that changed him forever.

Charlie finds success. But in a way that he does not expect. he never gives up. He is a Pistonhead."

Author Thomas A. Hauck was a rock musician and songwriter for 15 years before leaving the entertainment world in the 1990s. He earned an MBA in 2004 and founded the Thomas Hauck Communications Services in 2006. He is now a freelance writer and editor of Renaissance Magazine.

Pistonhead was published February 2009 by, Inc.

Nov 24, 2009

Book Review: Cheating Death by Sanjay Gupta, MD

Cheating Death: The Doctors and Medical Miracles that Are Saving Lives Against All Odds Cheating Death: The Doctors and Medical Miracles that Are Saving Lives Against All Odds by Sanjay Gupta

Publisher's description : "Twenty years ago all of them would have been given up for dead, with no realistic hope for survival. But today, thanks to incredible new medical advances, each of these individuals is alive and well...

In this riveting book, Dr. Sanjay Gupta - neurosurgeon, chief medical correspondent for CNN, and bestselling author - chronicles the almost unbelievable science that has made these seemingly miraculous recoveries possible."

My comments: There are eight chapters with many stories of people cheating death through modern medicine. The book is well researched and there are extensive notes at the end for those who want to read more about the cases. Cheating Death makes for easy reading. Even though it's not very technical, even people who know about the medical field would be interested in the narratives.

One particularly good story was the case "where a patient seems to have accurate memories from a time when he or she was measurably, clinically dead. There are thousands of stories like this, but it's extremely rare to find one that comes with medical documentation." (ch. 4) The incident Dr. Gupta recounts is of the experience of Pam Reynolds in 1991 during a brain operation when she had no brain activity for a brief time. Pam recalls feeling her late grandmother calling her to enter a tunnel with a light beckoning at the end, but other deceased relatives warned her to turn back. A deceased uncle led Pam back to the place where she saw herself, in a kind of out-of-body experience, lying on the operating table . Pam also had flashbacks to the past.

According to Dr. Gupta, "(Pam) is easily the most-cited example of a person having memories at a time when they were clinically dead."  I found some of the discussions well worth reading, topics such as "What is death?"

Thanks to Hachette for a review copy of this book.
Bookmark and Share

Nov 23, 2009

Book Review: Morning Sunshine! by Robin Meade

Morning Sunshine!: How to Radiate Confidence and Feel It Too
Morning Sunshine!: How to Radiate Confidence and Feel It Too by Robin Meade

Cheery advice, humorous in parts, and easy and fun to read. I expected this book to be a memoir by HLN morning anchor Robin Meade, but found it's both self-help in the confidence category and a collection of stories from her working life.

"A Note From The Author" at the end of the book:
"If you were indeed looking for insight on how to walk into the house of confidence, I hope this book has encouraged you to at least crack the door! through frank anecdotes from my life, I've tried to lay bare some of the issues I've had to work with in my own view of self.

Today, at HLN, I've done a complete 180 from my confidence-challenged days. I'm comfortable in nearly every situation on air. I wear whatever clothes I choose. Im' not afraid to be the dissenting voice in discussions with coworkers. When appropriate, I don't mind voicing my opinion with you, the viewer. In other words, I've found my confidence."

Written in a light, conversational style, the book has some good insights into what can be learned from Dale Carnegie's How to Win Friends and Influence People, though she draws primarily from her experiences in the media world to write this book. I liked her notes at the end of each chapter - "What I've Learned" and "Confidence Booster" and like that you can open the book at pretty much any page and start to read.

One of "Robin's Ramblings" is "Shoot for the moon. If you miss it, you land among the stars."

Thanks to Hachette for a review copy of this book.
Bookmark and Share

Nov 22, 2009

Thanksgiving Weekend Reading

For those who are spending a quiet Thanksgiving weekend catching up on books,Thankfully Reading Weekend might be just up your alley. It runs from Friday, November 27 through Sunday, November 29.
"There are no rules to the weekend and no prizes; we're simply hoping to devote a good amount of time to reading, and perhaps meeting some of our reading challenges and goals for 2009. We thought it'd be fun if we cheered each other on a bit. If you think you can join in, grab the button and sign on to Mr. Linky at Thankfully Reading Weekend, and see more details about this reading weekend. If you don't have a blog, use the comments!
The idea was started by Jen of Jenn's Bookshelves, Jen of Devourer of Books, and Beth of Beth Fish Reads. Join in!

Here's what I'm reading right now: Killer Keepsakes

Bookmark and Share

Snow Angels by James Thompson, a review

Snow Angels by James Thompson, an Inspector Kari Vaara thriller #1, set in Finland.

Snow Angels (Inspector Kari Vaara, #1)

Snow Angels

My rating:
4 of 5 stars

Very, very noir.

Definition of noir from the Free Dictionary online:
 1. Of or relating to the film noir genre.
 2. Of or relating to a genre of crime literature featuring tough, cynical characters and bleak settings.
3. Suggestive of danger or violence.

I gave it 4 stars for plot and characterization, plus setting. Read this thriller if you can keep in mind that it's fiction.

Thanks to the publisher for an ARC of this novel.
View all my reviews >>

Bookmark and Share

Sunday Salon: Back to the Library/New Challenge

This past week I've borrowed about seven books from the library, my first big library haul in a long while.

I finished reading Madam, Will You Talk by an old favorite, Mary Stewart. Most memorable moments in the book: high speed car chases through Southern France - from Avignon to Nimes to Marseilles!

Started two books to read for the Japanese Literature Challenge before it ends in January:
Beauty and Sadness, a classic by Nobel Prize winner Kawabata, and also Murakami's third novel, A Wild Sheep Chase.

Borrowed three of the funny mystery novels I included in my post on Most Humorous Mysteries. Started Dim Sum Dead then found I had read it years ago. Set in Santa Monica, a guy finds an antique silver sword, only to have it stolen at the Farmers Market downtown. There's more to this than just the theft!

Since I'm always reading mysteries, suspense, and thrillers anyway, I just joined a reading challenge that fits the bill- Thriller & Suspense Reading Challenge 2010.

Bookmark and Share<

Nov 20, 2009

U Is For Undertow by Sue Grafton, review

U is for Undertow
U is for Undertow by Sue Grafton

A good plot and an engaging detective in the person of Kinsey Millhone means another winner for mystery writer Sue Grafton in her 2009 thriller, U is for Undertow.

Grafton's mystery series features the personable PI and follows her life; each new book in the series advances the story of Kinsey, her deceased parents, and the ongoing relationship with her mother's wealthy family who had disowned Kinsey and her parents many years ago.

In this latest book, P.I. Kinsey Millhone is 38. She is asked to investigate a murder that took place in the 1960s, when a four year old girl was kidnapped and never returned, though ransom was paid.

Kinsey takes the case after she is approached by 27 year old Michael Sutton, who had a sudden flash back to 1967 when he saw two men in the woods behind a house, burying a bundle wrapped in a blanket. Michael is sure the bundle was the body of the kidnapped girl and wants Kinsey to help him locate the house and the burial place behind it.

However, Michael's estranged family thinks he is making up stories and fantasizing. Kinsey doesn't know what to think, but promises to take the case for one day. When Michael swears he has recently seen one of the men from the 1960s burial, Kinsey stays on the case.

Having to deal with her own family crisis as well, Kinsey is pulled in multiple directions. Her mother's family and her aged grandmother now want Kinsey back in their lives after years of estrangement. They have invited her to a family gathering, but she is reluctant to attend because of past slights.

I haven't read all the books in the series, but Sue Grafton readers have known Kinsey and have been following her story since the letter A, when she was much younger and just starting out as a private detective in A Is For Alibi. I gave the book four out of five stars.

Thanks to the publisher for a review copy of this book.

Bookmark and Share

Nov 19, 2009

The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami, review

The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami

Totally engrossing. Transported by what I've read so far though all that has happened is a man looking for a cat and being approached by strange women. Read the first three chapters sitting in the bookstore. Must go back and buy the book.

I know that the novel's about the breakup of a marriage and about what happened in WWII, and am looking forward to reading more! Murakami knows how to get you involved in his character's thoughts. Masterful prose, even in translation.

Nov 18, 2009

Best Mystery and Humor books

Need a good laugh combined with a good mystery read? Try one of the books below.

Left Coast Crime will have its 20th Mystery Convention March 11-14 in Los Angeles.

One of its awards is THE LEFTY - for the most humorous mystery published in a particular year. Lefty winners:

2009: Greasing the Pinata by Tim Maleeny
2008: Murder With Reservations by Elaine Viets
2007: Go to Helena Handbasket by Donna Moore
2006: Cast Adrift by Peter Guttridge

2005: We'll Always Have Parrots by Donna Andrews and Blue Blood by Susan McBride
2004: Mumbo Gumbo by Jerrilyn Farmer
2003: The Hearse Case Scenario by Tim Cockey and Pipsqueak by Brian M. Wiprud
2002: Dim Sum Dead by Jerrilyn Farmer and Fender Benders by Bill Fitzhugh
2000: Murder With Peacocks by Donna Andrews
1999: Four to Score by Janet Evanovich
1998: Three To Get Deadly by Janet Evanovich
1996: The Fat Innkeeper by Alan Russell

I read the 2000 winner, Murder With Peacocks by Donna Andrews, some years back, and it is truly hilarious. I recommend it if you need a good laugh while you wonder who dunnit.

Nov 17, 2009

Foreigner by Nahid Rachlin: review

I ached with memories of my mother as I walked along the narrow, dusty street to the wider one. She sits under a tree in the late afternoon, with a glow of twilight all around. (ch. 5, Foreigner by Nahid Rachlin)
Well written, interesting, and easy to read, Foreigner  by Nahid Rachlin (1999) tells us about the traditional society of Iran and how a young woman begins to adjust after many years living abroad and apart from her biological mother.

From the publisher's description:
In this novel about the experiences of estrangement, Feri, a woman in her thirties, returns for a visit to the house of her father in Iran. Almost immediately, she is stunned by her sense of alienation from her background....

In the ancient town where her mother lives, time is even more frozen. But gradually, what had appeared purposeless now seems comforting. Mother and daughter reach out to one another and shape the fragments of past years.

Nov 13, 2009

Book Review: The 100 Sporting Events You Must See Live

Want to plan a trip to the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, CA in January? How about the Iditarod dog sled races in Alaska next March? And what about the Winter Olympics in Vancouver, BC, Canada next year?
The 100 Sporting Events You Must See Live: An Insider’s Guide to Creating the Sports Experience of a Lifetime
It wouldn't be that hard to plan, not if you had Robert Tuchman's guide that lists almost everything you would want or need to know - when, where, the  history of each sports event,  records, things to know before you go, and, of course, how to get tickets, find travel packages, dining, airports, and relevant websites.

The 100 sports events are organized by order of importance, popularity? I'm not sure; it's a guess. Here are the first 4 listed.
1. Masters
2.  World Cup
3. Super Bowl
4. Summer Olympics (1012 in London)    
 If you wanted to go to Europe for Wimbledon, the Grand Prix, the Running of the Bulls in Pamplona, Spain, or even events in Dubai and Hong Kong, all the helpful information is there.

Tuchman also gives you his top 10 cities for hosting a major sporting event. The top 3:
1. Miami, Fla. for the weather, South Beach and "topnotch facilities"
2. Surprise! Indianapolis, Ind.
3. San Antonio, Tx.

A valuable resource for sports fans, for those who can afford the time and expense to travel and buy tickets,
and even for those who just want to read about sports events you really should see live. I'm not a big sports fan but I give the guide four stars!

The 100 Sporting Events You Must See Live: An Insider’s Guide to Creating the Sports Experience of a Lifetime by Robert Tuchman

Thanks Tracee and  BenBella Books for a review copy.

Bookmark and Share

Nov 11, 2009

Book Review: Japan Took the J.A.P. Out of Me by Lisa Fineberg Cook

Japan Took the J.A.P. Out of Me
I laughed out loud several times while reading this memoir, in the funny parts
 at the beginning, when Lisa finds herself puzzled and unable to understand
the language and her surroundings in her temporary new home, Japan.

A newly married and relatively spoilt 30 year old woman, a J.A.P. (Jewish-American Princess), the author negotiates her way around her
 temporary home in Nagoya, Japan, finding out she has to do housework
 she had never had to do back in L.A. - laundry with a vengeful,
outmoded washing machine, cooking at home, taking public transportation,
 going shopping without knowing the language, and finding friends
among adults and even among schoolgirls who scream with excitement every time they see her - the Meg Ryan look-alike and possible celebrity.

Lisa makes it amusing, and later finds that adjusting to living in a foreign country changes her a bit and even strengthens her relationship with her husband Peter. Her advice to anyone who has a chance to live abroad for a while - do it!

A fun read. I finished in two sittings :  Japan Took the J.A.P. Out of Me by Lisa Fineberg Cook

Thanks to Simon & Schuster for a review copy of this book.

Bookmark and Share

Nov 10, 2009

Review: Savage Days Haunted Nights by Bennett Kremen

From the publisher's description:
"Savage Days Haunted Nights portrays Dorian, a man trapped in a harrowing struggle between good and evil, striving now perilously day after day to conquer this. It's an arresting tale, suspenseful and driven by forceful action from the first page to the last. Criminals, professors, socialites... and ordinary people animate every chapter of this saga, revealing some of the darkest secrets of the back streets of Chicago and New York and, in one chapter, a breathtaking adventure on a bleak, forbidding tundra in the wilds of Alaska. Revealed here also are the very deepest recesses of human character and the agonies of love amidst the moral challenges of our age." 
This unusual novel by Bennett Kremen has been compared to Crime and Punishment as it deals with a crime and the moral issues that one man struggles with. The author has used his experiences as a world traveler in writing this novel. Now living in New York City, the author has contributed articles to the New York Time Book Review and Financial Pages, to The Nation, to The Village Voice and to other publications.

His novel is printed by Arnone Press.
Review copy provided by Ariel Publicity

Bookmark and Share

Nov 9, 2009

Movie Meme: The Story of the Weeping Camel

Monday Movie Meme: this week's movie topic is all about Life Changers....what movies had such an impact that they caused a change in our behavior, beliefs, or exposed us to a new passion? Share on your blog movies that caused a major impact in your life. Then link back to the hosts at  The Bumbles Blog,

Here's my "life-changing" movie, an award-winning documentary:

"The Story of the Weeping Camel is an enchanting film that follows the adventures of a family of herders in Mongolia's Gobi region who face a crisis when the mother camel unexpectedly rejects her newborn calf after a particularly difficult birth. Uniquely composed of equal parts reality, drama, and magic, this film is a window into a different way of life and the universal terrain of the heart."
(From The Story of the Weeping Camel by National Geographic.)

Amazing how music was used to "soothe the savage beast" - how someone played music to calm and entice the young camel into finally accepting and allowing her calf to feed. Beautiful cinematography and story/documentary.

Bookmark and Share

Empresses of Seventh Avenue by Nancy MacDonell: Historical Novel

 Fashion in Paris and New York City during WWII   Empresses of Seventh Avenue World War II, New York City, and the Birth of American Fashion...