Jan 30, 2009

The Chills of Winter by Fulford Chin Choy, a poem

The Chills of Winter

The wintry gale, at last, has arrived
Like an unwelcome guest to the home
Cold seeps past my constant pulsating
Veins into the marrow of my bones.

Misery seems ready to grasp my hands,
My feet, my whole being.
Gloomy thoughts invade the cranium
With a vengeance like a dark cloud.

How to counteract this melancholy
Blue is a challenge
Because the heart and will seem
Mesmerized by the overwhelming chill.

To break free of these icy bonds
Demands a mighty psychological hammer
Of perseverance, positive thinking and
Enhancement of the human spirit within
Especially, as well, a warm comforter.

by Fulford Chin Choy
January 2009

Jan 28, 2009

Book review: Twenty Fragments of a Ravenous Youth in Beijing

Twenty Fragments of a Ravenous Youth
In this novel by Xiaolu Guo, Twenty Fragments of a Ravenous Youth in Beijing, a restless young woman leaves her poor dusty village in Zhejiang province to find her fortune in Beijing, where she lands up working as an extra in the film industry.

Life in modern Beijing and modern China for a young woman, as she travels to Xian, the home of the terra cotta warriors, and to a poor city in Manchuria, where the last emperor Pu Yi lived as a virtual prisoner of the Japanese in the last days of the Qing Dynasty.

Like all Beijing residents from the countryside, she spends three days and nights on a train returning to her village for the Chinese New Year, where she eats "longevity noodles" and listens for several days to the sounds of firecrackers.

In her love life, there is a possessive young man in Beijing, who won't let go of the relationship as she moves out of his apartment and asserts her independence. A new American boyfriend doing research in China for his Ph.D. is part of her move to independence from tradition, but he returns home soon. We follow her hectic emotional journey till in the end she finally reaches the place she wants to be.

Beijing moving fast to modernize - shoddy buildings and garbage strewn alleys, and a changing culture.

Best Mystery Awards, 2008

Left Coast Crime 2009, March 7-12, 2009, Hawaii has announced its nominees for best mystery book awards; winners will be announced at the LCC Hawaii conference on March 11.

The Mystery Award nominees are:

Bruce Alexander Memorial Mystery Award

Nox Dormienda, A Long Night Sleeping by Kelli Stanley (Five Star)

Touchstone by Laurie King (Bantam)

Tell Me Pretty Maiden by Rhys Bowen (St. Martin Press)

A Royal Pain by Rhys Bowen (Berkeley Prime Crime)

A Fatal Waltz by Tasha Alexander (Harper Collins)

Hawaii Five-O

Angel Falls by Baron Birtcher (Iota)

Fractured by Karin Slaughter (Delacorte Press)

The Black Path by Asa Larsson (Delta)

July 2008, Delta

The Angel of Knowlton Place by Kate Floral (Five Star)

Mahu Fire by Neil S. Placky (Alyson Books)

Death of a Cozy Writer by G.M. Malliet (Midnight Ink)


Thugs and Kisses by Sue Ann Jaffarian ( Midnight Ink)

Six Geese a Slaying by Donna Andrews (St. Martins)

Murder at the Bad Girl's Bar and Grill by N.M.Kelby (Shaye Areheart Books/Random House Group)

Greasing the Pinata by Tim Maleeny (Poisoned Pen Press)

Getting Old is to Die For by Rita Lakin (Dell/Bantam)

It Happened One Knife by Jeffrey Cohen (Berkeley Prime Crime)

Contact the LCC if you wish to attend the conference and cast your vote. Left Coast Crime Conference 2009/

Can't go to the conference? You can visit their official website for a list of mystery novels set in Hawaii.

Jan 17, 2009

Book Review: The Anteater of Death by Betty Web

The Anteater of Death
The anteater is not really a pet, only to a zookeeper who would rather feed and take care of zoo animals than do anything else. In The Anteater of Death by Betty Web, the mystery surrounds a dead man found in the bushes in a giant anteater's exhibit in a small private California zoo.

Having established that the man was shot and had died before he was pawed at by the anteater's four inch claws, the zookeeper must now try to find out why and who killed the man, a member of a prominent family with properties that include the private zoo.

Our heroine is unconventional, shuns the lifestyle of her wealthy mother, loves being a zookeeper, and lives on the harbor in a 30-foot diesel boat she inherited from her father.

The author did her research at the Phoenix Zoo, where there really is a giant anteater that loves to eat mashed bananas.

Did I say that anteaters aren't used as pets? Well, holy Moses, they are!
Just visit this website on Pua the Anteater, somebody's pet, a blog with pictures of a Tamandua anteater walking on a leash, dressed in a shirt, standing on the sofa, and so on.

Taqmandua Girl

Tamanduas are medium sized anteaters, distinct from the pigmi variety or the giant anteater featured in The Anteater of Death. All anteaters are rare, I understand, but only the giant anteater is endangered. Otherwise, no one would be allowed to have one on a leash!

Jan 15, 2009

Book Review: Lulu in Marrakech by Diane Johnson

Lulu in Marrakech
Lulu in Marrakech by Diane Johnson, 2008, is an enjoyable armchair travel to Morocco, shrouded in mystery and secret agents. Lulu is sent to Marrakech, ostensibly to visit her lover Ian who is a businessman and investor there, but in reality to spy on Ian's guests, friends, and the Moroccan scene in general.

Love gets in the way of Lulu's resolve, but she follows through with her tasks on finding and reporting information, and comes away with regrets, questions, and the realization that her life, now compromised, would only be more of the same, whether in North Africa or in London, her next assignment.

The novel's subplots surround the contrast between Western and Middle Eastern women, women in purdah, and women of both cultures who attempt to find independence in their lives.

The author was a finalist twice for the Pulitzer Prize and a finalist three times for the National Book Award, for her previous books which include Le Divorce, Le Mariage, and L'Affaire.

I'm hooked. I have to get and read those books.

Jan 14, 2009

Book Shop, Tea/Coffee Shop, Flower Shop mysteries

Cocooning Book List No. 4 for bibliophiles, tea and coffee lovers, and cut flower enthusiasts.

1. Murder is Binding, Lorna Barrett, bookshop mystery

2. Ghosts and Femme Fatale, Alice Kimberly, haunted bookstore
3. Uncatalogued, and Unbound, Julie Kaewert, booklovers (highly recommended series)

4. On What Grounds, Cleo Coyle, coffeeshop mystery (highly recommended series)

5. Obsession, Deceit, and Really Dark Chocolate, Kyra Davis, over caffeinated heroine frequents Starbucks in this series

6. Gunpowder Green, Death by Darjeeling, and Chamomile Mourning, Laura Childs, Charleston, South Carolina teashop (highly recommended series)

7. Snipped in the Bud, and Acts of Violets, Kate Collins, flower shop mystery

Jan 13, 2009

Antique Lovers, Archaeology mysteries

Cocooning Book List No. 3 - for those who would rather read about something less present and alive (see lists 1 and 2).

1.Tamar Myers, The Ming and I, Monet Talks, The Cane Mutiny, Den of Antiquity mysteries (highly recommended)

2. Lynn Hamilton, Moai Murders, The Thai Amulet, archaeology mysteries set in exotic locales

3. Deborah Morgan, The Majolica Murders, antique lovers mystery.

4. Jane K. Cleland, Consigned to Death, antique lovers mystery.

5. Claire Taschdjian, The Peking Man is Missing, paleontology mystery set in China.

6. Dana Cameron, A Fugitive Truth, archaeology mystery.

7.Michael Pearce, Night of the Pasha: A Mamur Zapt Mystery, Egypt in the early 1900s.

8. Elizabeth Peters, Lions in the Valley and Laughter of Dead Kings (very popular mystery novels in the Amelia Peabody Egyptology series)

Jan 12, 2009

Pet and Animal Mystery books

Here is Cocooning Book List No. 2.
This one has pet/animal/veterinarian themes.

1. Tortoise Soup, Jessica Speart, wildlife mystery

2. Murder with Peacocks, Donna Andrews (recommend this one as a very funny book).

3. Stud Rites, Susan Conant, malamute owner.

4. Hush Puppy, Lauren Berenson, owner of standard poodles

5. Ten Little Bloodhounds, by the late Virginia Lanier, bloodhounds used in detecting. (Highly recommended series)

6. Murder Most Beastly, Melissa Cleary

7. Curiousity Killed the Cat Sitter, Blaize Clement, petsitter mystery

8. Meow is for Murder, Linda O. Johnson

9. Putting on the Dog, Cynthia Baxter, veterinary mystery

10. Murder on the Iditarod Trail, Sue Henry, Alaskan dog musher mystery

11. The Anteater of Death, Betty Web, a Gunn Zoo zookeeper mystery.

12. Whiskey on the Rocks, Nina Wright, Aghan hound owner

13. Cat mysteries by Carole Nelson, Rita Mae Brown, Garrison Allen, Lillian Jackson Braun, and Shirley Rousseau Murphy. (Some of these authors write about very cute talking cats).

Somehow I can't get excited about cats that talk. Dog writers don't have their pets conversing in human as cat writers do. Maybe that's because dogs are natural, super nonverbal communicators.

Jan 11, 2009

Garden Mysteries, a list

At the suggestion of a friend and loyal blog reader, I am putting together a list of mystery books I recommend for winter reading.

It's called my Cocooning Book List --- for those who would rather stay indoors and read rather than go downhill skiing, snowboarding, ice skating, cross country skiing, sledding, tobogganing, or walking around in the parks.

Okay, so maybe going out and exercising is better... sometimes. However, you may also enjoy these.

1. Ann Ripley, Death of a Political Plant and Mulch, with excellent gardening tips.

2. Mary Freeman, Deadly Nightshade and Bleeding Heart, gardening mystery

3. John Sherwood, Creeping Jenny and The Hanging Garden, horticulturalist mysteries set in England

4. Michelle Wan, The Deadly Slipper < and The Orchid Shroud are set in the Dordogne region of France and the world of exotic orchids.

5. Susan Orleans, The Orchid Thief, a non-fiction book.
6. Frank Kingston Ward, In the Land of the Blue Poppies, non-fiction book on searching for plants in the Himalayas.

7. Janis Harrison, Deadly Bouquet, gardening mystery

8. Joyce and Jim Lavene, Fruit of the Poisoned Tree , garden mystery

9. Audrey Stallsmith, Rosemary for Remembrance, a Thyme Will Tell mystery. Enjoyable mystery by a master gardener

My favorite garden mystery writer is Ann Ripley, not only for her excellent plots but also for her gardening tips and suggestions. I also recommend John Sherwood.

Book Review: Death Walked In by Carolyn Hart

Death Walked In
Carolyn Hart's Death Walked In, 2008, is an uncommonly good mystery, with an idyllic island setting, interesting characters, and a well turned plot. I only guessed one of the perpetrators of the crime in the second to last chapter, and predicted the second crime in the second half of the book.

Main character Anne runs a mystery book store on the island; her husband Max is a private investigator who does the gourmet cooking in the household. Her mother in law and her friends provide more interest to the group of island residents, as do her two cats, the aggressive sharp-clawed Agatha and the gentle Dorothy L., both named after, you guessed it - mystery writers.

In the plot, several valuable Civil War gold coins are stolen, two people are killed, and Anne and Max try to solve the crime and find the location of the coins, which have been hidden in the Franklin House, a two hundred year old dilapidated mansion they are in the process of refurbishing as their new home.

There are some scary moments. I always wonder why writers have their characters make risky decisions - investigate on their own rather than call the police or waiting for backup before they head for danger. But this adds to the suspense!

I give this mystery five stars!!

Jan 4, 2009

Book Review: The Peking Man Is Missing by Clare Taschdjian

The Peking Man Is Missing
Learned more about the missing Peking Man fossils which disappeared in China in 1941 on the way to the U.S.S. William Harrison, a U.S. troopship that would have taken the 600,000-year-old fossils to the United States for safekeeping.

The novel, The Peking Man Is Missing by Clare Taschdjian, was first printed in 1977 and reprinted in November 2008, and is based on the author's personal experience in China. She claims to be one of the last persons to have seen the fossils, which were crated and transported, but eventually lost though under the protection of the U.S. Marines.

Because of the wartime situation, the human fossils, originally discovered near Beijing in the 1920s, never arrived at port and could not be traced, and the question remains - What became of them? Were they destroyed, thrown away, or are they in Japan, in the United States, or still in China? Rumors and theories abound - one theory is that the crates of fossils were opened by the Japanese who had stopped the train heading to the USS Harrison, that the fossils were seen as remains of U.S. soldiers, and thrown out. An ironic and sad end, if it is true.

Taschdjian's book, a work of fiction, presents a hypothetical situation - it has the fossils traveling from China by footlocker and by trunk to Cuba, and then to the U.S., where they are eventually thrown away by a superstitious landlady who found them in the apartment after the untimely death of her tenant. The landlady had no idea that the bones were priceless fossils, as she thought her former tenant was a witch who used human bones for her witchcraft. Another ironic twist to this tale.

It remains one of the great mysteries in the history of paleontology. What became of Peking Man? It is generally assumed that the Peking Man fossils are perhaps forever lost, even though the governments of China, Japan, and the Americans, have tried unsuccessfully to locate them.

Asian and Pacific American Heritage Month: Four Novels

For  Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month   (May),  I'm posting my book reviews by several Asian American novelists. The f...