Aug 30, 2009

Julie and Julia, movie vs book

Seems everyone in the theater enjoyed the movie and had a few good chuckles at Meryl Streep playing Julia Child. The stories of how Julia finally publishes Mastering the Art of French Cooking, and how Julie becomes a writer, mesh well in the film.

I am anxious to see how the book rates against the film! Any comments re this?

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Aug 29, 2009

My Life According to Literature

I found this clever meme on Books and Bards. You might like to try it!

Using only books you have read this year (2009), cleverly answer these questions. Try not to repeat a book title. It’s a lot harder than you think!

Describe Yourself: The Time Traveler's Wife

How do you feel:
French Pressed

Describe where you currently live:
Rooftops of Tehran

If you could go anywhere, where would you go:
Paris City of Night

Your favorite form of transportation:
Killer Cruise

Your best friend is:

You and your friends are:
Painting the Invisible Man

What’s the weather like:
Killer Summer

Favorite time of day:
Drawing in the Dust

If your life was a:
Perilous Journey of Love and Faith

What is life to you:

Your fear:
Crossed Wires

What is the best advice you have to give:
Bon Appetit

Thought for the Day:
I Cannot Tell a Lie

How I would like to die:
Man Overboard

My soul’s present condition:
Deceptive Clarity

It's fun. Try it!
Click on the titles to see the review of each book.

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Book Review: Paris City of Night by David Downie

Paris City of Night Paris City of Night by David Downie

My rating: 3.75 of 5 stars

Paris is known as the City of Lights but in this novel of suspense, Paris City of Night, journalist and travel writer David Downie shows us a seamier and more sinister side of the famous city where he lives and writes.

There are police everywhere in the city because of the constant threat of terrorism, many of the buildings are old, dusty, and fragile, and the troubling past is ever present.

Plot: The novel begins with an image of the past, 1950, with George Henri in a photography darkroom working to develop a picture of a man with round glasses in a raincoat and panama hat, leaning on the deck of a ship. We find out the man is Adolf Eichmann leaving France by boat for Buenos Aires.

Shift to Paris in 2007 and the image of an old woman in her 90s, having delusions, nightmares, and reliving the past fitfully. We find out she is Madeleine de Lafayette, a Resistance fighter in her youth during the war, and "a key player in the misguided Allied effort to fight Communism by smuggling Nazis to freedom." ( publisher's description).

Her protege, photographer Jay Grant returns from a trip and finds Madeleine has died and an item in her photo collection sold at auction. A daguerreotype he had made some years back was sold for an outrageous price, given it was a forgery. Frantic to recover it and others, to keep out of jail, Jay goes about tracing the unknown seller of the item. This begins a long and strange journey where his life is often in danger, several people are murdered, and secrets are revealed about his father "the spook", about Madeleine, and about the use of daguerreotypes to send encrypted messages during the war.

Comments: The plot is complex, changes direction midstream, and takes you to a different ending than the one you imagined. I would have preferred less detail about the history of photography, encryption, and daguerreotype. For a mystery novel, the amount of information was a bit overwhelming and I was sometimes impatient for the story to move from one scene to another.

Overall though, the book has a very good plot with a lot of fast action, chase scenes, and twists in the plot. There are excellent characterizations and descriptions of time and place to create a background atmosphere. In other words, I came away with a good sense of Paris as the City of Night.

Book received from the author for review.
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Aug 25, 2009

Teaser Tuesday: The Fruit of Her Hands

The Fruit of Her Hands: the Story of Shira of Ashkenaz,
Pocket Books, 2009.

"My heart ached for Papa. I forgave him for all the times he had yearned for a boy - times when I felt disappointed that I was not enough for him." p. 55

This story of Shira, the wife of Rabbi Meir in 13th century Europe is based on author Michelle Cameron's research into her family tree. In the book Shira grows up to meet and marry Rabbi Meir and raise a family in the midst of pogroms and anti-Semitism in the 13th century.

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

(Book received from the publisher for later review).

Book Review: Painting the Invisible Man by Rita Schiano

A memoir about a Mafia family written as contemporary historical fiction, Painting the Invisible Man by Rita Schiano is based on her own story of growing up with the memory of a father killed by the Mafia.

This is the second or third novel I've come across that is basically a memoir but written as fiction, to avoid claims of inaccuracies.

From the publicist: " In Rita Schiano's compelling novel, Painting the Invisible Man, (the author) explores her own past through fiction rather than memoir. She wanted to avoid the debacle that James Frey created over his memoir, A Million Little Pieces, where inaccuracies and exaggerations invalidated the telling of a true story....Painting the Invisible Man takes readers on a journey inside the world of a struggline Italian family on the fringes of the Mafia."

In the novel, the main character Anna Matteo discovers newspaper articles about the killing of her father two decades earlier. She sets out to find the truth behind her father's murder and the exoneration of the supposed triggerman. However, this is not a mystery novel, but a story of a father-daughter relationship, what the daughter discovers about her father after his death, and her reaction to those involved with his killing and the murder trial that followed.

This is a valuable insight, I think, into one family and the consequences of their connections to the Mafia underworld. It's also about coming to terms with one's family history and past.
"I'll never know if my father, in the last moments of his life, prayed for forgiveness, atoned for his past mistakes. I do know that in resurrecting his memory - and my memories - I have found forgiveness and have been forgiven."
The book is also about a writer and the muse she has adopted - another writer of family secrets, Amy Tan. It is also about pushing oneself to put down words on paper in the process of becoming a writer.
"Okay, Abba, focus," I tell myself.
Family secrets. Family sectets are skeletons in the closet, are 'ills that flesh are heirs to.' I write this down. Secrets are hurtful. Secrets cause harm. Secrets wound. I add this to the page."
I found the character of Anna Matteo intriguing. She writes about her gay relationships and her family history with equal candor. Remembering that the novel is both memoir and fiction, one can't help but wonder how much is truth and how much fictionalized. I recommend the book for readers interested in the Mafia, the writing of memoirs, and the emergence of a writer.

Rita Schiano is a freelance writer and author of the novel, Sweet Bitter Love, 1997.
(Received from the author/publicist for review)

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Aug 23, 2009

Movie vs. Book: The Time Traveler's Wife

I know The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger got many rave reviews so I chose to see the movie today although I had really felt like watching a light film about food, Julia and Julie, which is also in the theaters.

That may be the reason I didn't enjoy The Time Traveler's Wife. I found it depressing, not just sad. It also combines many different genres and is confusing as a result. It was a Back to the Future type of fantasy, plus a tragedy and a romance, in addition to being science fiction (with the seriousness of Frankenstein but without the horror aspects). I came out of the film feeling unsatisfied and a bit distressed, as I had been looking forward to an entertaining afternoon with the likes of Meryl Streep in a film about cooking.

I haven't read either book as yet. Maybe The Time Traveler's Wife has really excellent prose, and there may even be pathos in Julie and Julia, which I plan to read. I may skip The Time Traveler's Wife, but I know many readers will want to read it for the same reasons I didn't like it in the film.

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Aug 20, 2009

Book Review: Possible Futures, Creative Thinking for the Speed of Life, a review

I liked the premise of this book, Possible Futures: Creative Thinking for the Speed of Life by Jude Treder-Wolff and agreed to review it after reading a synopsis by the author/publicist. Those who wonder about the direction our wired society is taking us, will be challenged by the author's ideas that "technology overload" and "social media fatigue" should be balanced by creativity and "real life" social connectedness.

Possible Futures poses a serious and relevant question to the "Facebook generation" and answers it: Are we becoming too disconnected from real life and being driven at too fast a speed by new, fast-paced technology - communicating instantly, for instance, via computers, television, our cell phones, and other electronic devices? Are we ignoring our mental and physical well-being by the "consumer culture" that urges us to do nothing more than spend more and possess more? Why does all this matter? The author feels that our experiences can and do change and affect the brain and how it functions, and these changes affect us psychologically and emotionally. These arguments certainly made sense to me.

Treder-Wolff has a solution or an antidote for the fast pace of our modern times. Creativity counts! Her answer:
" Our brains are designed for creative challenge. Our souls crave meaning. The human mind is juiced by experiences that combine novely/mystery with emotional involvement and a feedback loop of some kind, such as music, theater, comedy, dance/movement, play. Any kind of creative experience will do, whether it is scientific research or making an experimental papaya pizza or redesigning the baby's room to make better use of space, but the most direct route to the learning/expansion wellspring of feel-good brain chemicals is the artistic experience itself." (ch. 4, p. 59)

Jude Treder-Wolff is a licensed clinical social worker, creative arts therapist, and certified group psychotherapist. She also does play writing and acting. I was impressed by how well her work is researched and documented, supported by almost 18 pages of references. I think the book presents some serious challenges to our 21st century way of life and her conclusions are well worth examining.

Maybe book bloggers can pat themselves on the back for using technology and social media, and being creative all at the same time!

Author: Jude Treder-Wolff
Paperback: 174 pages
Publisher: Lifestage, Inc.
First edition (October 8, 2008)

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Aug 18, 2009

Review: Rooftops of Tehran: A Novel by Mahbod Seraji

The Rooftops of Tehran

From the publisher's description:

"In a middle class neighborhood in Iran's sprawling capital city, seventeen-year-old Pasha Shahed spends the summer of 1973 on his rooftop with his best friend, Ahmed, joking around and talking about the future. Even as Pasha asks burning questions about life, he also wrestles with a burning secret. He has fallen in love with his beautiful neighbor Zari, who has been betrothed since birth to another man. And despite Pasha's guilt ridden feelings for her, over the long, hot days his tentative friendship with Zari deepens into a rich emotional bond.

But the bliss of those perfect stolen months is shattered in a single night, when Pasha unwittingly acts as a beacon for the Shah's secret police. The violent consequences, awakens Pasha and his friends to the reality of living under the rule of a powerful despot, and lead Zari to make a shocking choice from which Pasha may never fully recover.

In a poignant, funny, eye-opening and emotionally vivid debut novel, Mahbod Seraji lays bare the beauty and brutality infused in the centuries old Persian culture, while reaffirming the human experiences we all share: laughter, tears, love, fear, and above all, hope."

This is a touching love story of two young people who have deep feelings for each other in spite of tradition and custom that have made other plans for them, and despite political circumstances that also change their fate. Pasha and Zari are neighbors whose innocent and seemingly carefree summer suddenly becomes serious and tragic.

"And so every night, Zari and I get together on the roof. I never see her. She sits on her side of the wall, and I on mine. Ten centimeters of brick separate us, but I can almost feel her warmth. I press my palms against the wall and imagine I'm touching the curves of her face."
The author, Mahbod Seraji, is working on a second novel and says that he may write a sequel to Rooftops of Tehran, continuing where Pasha and Zari left off. We can only hope he does that! I gave this book four stars.

(Book given by the publisher for my objective review).

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Aug 15, 2009

Book Review: Sweet Mary, a Novel by Liz Balmaseda

"Sweet Mary shimmers with authentic Florida heat," says author Carl Hiaasen, right on the glossy front cover of the book. This arrived in the mail and is a new novel I'm looking forward to reading.

The plot revolves around a case of mistaken identity. In this case, a woman with a long name, Dulce Maria "Mary" Guevara, is accused of being a "cocaine queen" and sets out to clear her name by going after the real culprit. This begins a set of adventures in Florida!

The author, Liz Balmaseda, is a Cuban-American Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist who works for The Palm Beach Post. She knows Florida and her territory. Sweet Mary is her first novel.

Update:I've finished the book, a fairly quick read. I found the plot pretty predictable and the book a "routine" mystery. There are no twists or turns in the story line, no violence per se, and no elaborate endings. A nice mystery that's definitely not a thriller as initial descriptions may have suggested.

Enjoyable, especially for the portrayal of a divorced mother trying to clear her name so she can take care of her son Max while avoiding any new conflicts with her ex-husband Tony and his new wife. Tony tried to get sole custody of Max while Sweet Mary was in jail and even after charges against her as the "cocaine queen" were dropped.

An answer to a plot query from Michael re the plot: Mary set out to prove her innocence so she could regain joint custody of Max and avoid a drawn out custody battle with said ex! A lot of people will find her quite a sympathetic character. Great mom! I do recommend this for a nice summer read!

(Book received from the publisher for my objective review.)

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Aug 13, 2009

Book Review: Bangkok Dragons, Cape Cod Tears

Bangkok Dragons, Cape Cod Tears, a mystery by Randall Peffer: the title and the cover were intriguing.

Bangkok Dragons, Cape Cod Tears Bangkok Dragons, Cape Cod Tears by Randall Peffer

Setting: The characters, escaping to protect a priceless ruby from getting into the wrong hands, don various disguises on a train from Bangkok into Malaysia and then on a boat to Singapore. And if you check the title, you'll see that the action also moves to Cape Cod, Mass., by plane, of course. The novel includes some violence, and has transgender themes. The writing is fast paced but often poetic, and the mystery plot engaging, much of it character driven.

Publisher's description:
" When Michael Decastro gets an email from Tuki, his long-gone client, the lady of ten thousand mysteries, he doesn't hesitate a moment. He heads to Bangkok to find... what? He doesn't know. To face what dangers? He hasn't imagined. All he knows is that she's beckoned, and he can't resist her call.

Ane now face to face with Tuki and a ruby so beautiful it has its own name, Michael must make a choice: moe forward to protect Tuki, get to the bottom of her involvement with the nak lin ( cruel Thai gangsters) and see that she's safe, or run back to his father's fishing boat, hiding from the ills of the world beneath a watchcap and a raincoat.

Fooolhardy, compassionate Michael hardly has to think..."

I gave this book 4 out of 5 stars. The first novel in the series - Provincetown Follies, Bangkok Blues, was nominated for the Lambda Award.

Submitted to (2009 Support Your Local Library Reading Challenge

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Aug 11, 2009

Book Review: Lizzi & Fredl, A Perilous Journey of Love and Faith

Lizzi and Fredl is a detailed and touching memoir and history recorded by William B. Stanford of California, who wrote down and compiled information from his parents, Lizzi and Fredl Steiner about their lives before, during, and after WWII.

The couple left their home in Austria in 1938 to escape the encroaching threat of Nazism, only to find themselves in danger in France, the country where they had sought refuge. Lizzi and Fredl barely escaped with their lives and only much later revealed their full stories to their son, William Stanford.

The publisher's description:
"Twenty-seven-year-old Fredl is an accomplished master jeweler, while twenty-six-year-old Lizzi is a professional dressmaker. When Fredl receives papers ordering him to Munich, Germany, to serve the Nazis in their war preparations, the couple knows they have no choice: they must leave Austria. As Hitler and his troops gain force in their homeland and annex Austria, Lizzi and Fredl endure a harrowing flight to France, uncertain whether they will ever see their country again.

But France holds no safety for them. Fredl is captured by French Nazi sympathizers and must outwit his captors to survive in Vichy-controlled concentration and labor camps. Separated from Fredl, Lizzi evades arrest and relies on her guile and chutzpah to search for her beloved husband.

What follows is an incredible seven-year odyssey filled with danger and endurance. From their long, arduous journey to Paris to Fredl's unbelievable rescue from a train bound for a Nazi death camp, Lizzi and Fredl delivers a remarkable true story of courage, faith, and overwhelming love."
A news release from Kelley & Hall clarifies further the book's historical significance and the efforts that went into its writing:
"Awarded both Editor's Choice and Publisher's Choice by iUniverse, Lizzi & Fredl is a story elucidating that France had concentration, internment and labor camps thought mostly to exist in Germany. This memoir is also a love story of unconditional devotion and resilience between a happily married couple whose lives were disrupted by a seven-year nightmare. It took many years for Dr. Stanford to get his parents to share their stories, and once they did, it was apparent to him that they had not even revealed their individual horrors to each other over the years.... Lizzi & Fredl delivers a remarkable true story of courage, faith, and overwhelming love."
Publisher: IUniverse (April 17, 2008)
ISBN-10: 0595433111
ISBN-13: 978-0595433117

Book received from the author for my objective review.

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Aug 10, 2009

Lucky Dollar Finds: Aug. 9

Ronnie: The Autobiography Ronnie: The Autobiography by Ronnie Wood

My Lucky Dollar Finds this week include the biography of Ronnie Wood, guitarist and member of The Rolling Stones band for over 30 years. (This book goes to my son, the music lover).

Publisher's description: " A fascinating portrait not just of the Stones but of the greatest rockers of the 1960s and beyond - from Eric Clapton to Rod Stewart, Jimmy Page to Keith Moon, Jimi Hendrix to Pete Townshend - Ronnie is a rich revelatory book." St. Martin's Press, 2007.

The People's Princess: Cherished Memories of Diana, Princess of Wales, From Those Who Knew Her Best by talk-show host Larry King is a collection of essays, published on the tenth anniversary of Diana's death, 2007. (This book goes to my sister-in-law, who loves Diana books). Publishers Weekly says at least three of the essays were written by people who never met the princess. One Amazon reviewer says the book should have been titled "From Those Who Met Her." British actress Joan Collins is one of the contributors.

Three Sisters (Charlie Moon Mysteries" by James D. Doss.

Colorado Ute rancher and tribal investigator Charlie Moon and his aunt Daisy, a Ute shaman, combine their talents to help find the killer of one of three sisters, daughter of a wealthy rancher. This mystery-thriller is number 12 in the series. St. Martin's Press, 2007. (This book is for me, a mystery lover).

What books have you been lucky enough to find for $1?

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Aug 8, 2009

Book Review: Bad Things Happen by Harry Dolan

Bad Things Happen Bad Things Happen by Harry Dolan

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A solid three and a half to four stars. I liked the idea of magazine writers in a novel trying to figure out a crime as if they were writing it as fiction.

The main character, the mysterious Mr. Loogan, arrives in the university town of Ann Arbor, Mich. and tries his hand at writing stories for the local magazine, Grey Streets. He is "discovered" and hired as an editor for the magazine by publisher Tom Kristoll. Later, when Tom's apparent suicide turns out to be murder, Mr. Loogan becomes involved.

Loogan bowed his head and his eyes were lost in shadows. "If this were a story in Gray Streets, I'd catch the killer myself. It would be my responsibility."

"This isn't a story in Gray Streets, Mr. Loogan.

(from Ch. 9 of the Advance Readers Copy, which may differ from the final printed version of the novel.)

Lots of twists to this mystery plot, with several more murders, plus an affair between Loogan and Tom's wife Laura that began before Tom's death. The plot is not predictable, a sign I think of a good mystery.

The spare prose throughout reminded me of Hemingway, though there is a lot of dialogue and the book I think is longer than any of Hemingway's.

I would describe the book as a mystery written as literary fiction. Two good reasons to like it.

Advance readers copy received from the publisher for my objective review.

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The Girl Who Played with Fire by Stieg Larsson, review

The Girl Who Played with Fire by Stieg Larsson
Published July 28, 2009; Knopf
Genre: thriller
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

If you liked Lisbeth Salander, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, you have a chance to see her again in the sequel by Stieg Larsson, The Girl Who Played With Fire.

From the publisher's description:

"Mikael Blomkvist, crusading journalist and publisher of the magazine Millennium, has decided to run a story that will expose an extensive sex trafficking operation between Eastern Europe and Sweden, implicating well-known and highly placed members of Swedish society, business, and government.

But he has no idea just how explosive the story will be until, on the eve of publication, the two investigating reporters are murdered. And even more shocking for Blomkvist: the fingerprints found on the murder weapon belong to Lisbeth Salander - the troubled, wise-beyond-her-years genius hacker who came to his aid in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, and who now becomes the focus and fierce heart of The Girl Who Played with Fire."
Blomkvist is reluctant to believe Lisbeth guilty of these murders. After all, he and Lisbeth went back a long way, taking part in a manhunt for a serial killer, a story told in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.

"During the manhunt he had met Salander. Blomkvist unconsciously stoked the faint scar that the noose had left beneath his left ear. Salander had not only helped him to track down the killer - she had saved his life."

Read the books in order if you can. Characters in the first book show up again in the second novel, and understanding who they are and how they relate to Lisbeth makes it easier to follow The Girl Who Played With Fire.

In the sequel Blomkvist and Lisbeth are together once again on the trail of murderers. The past comes back to haunt Lisbeth and seriously threaten her life. The ending chapters are stunning - a great thriller.

Book provided by the publisher for my objective review.

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Aug 6, 2009

Interview: John Shors, author of Dragon House

leftDragon House has been described as a "moving, deeply descriptive novel that brings all those frequently hidden qualities of compassion, purity of mind, and, yes, love—the things we used to call the human spirit—into the foreground of our feeling as readers." (author Gregory David Roberts)

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Here's what John Shors, author of Dragon House, has to say about the plight of street children in contemporary Vietnam.

Interview with John Shors
1. What first drew you to the history of the Vietnam War and to visit Vietnam?

I lived in Asia for several years, and was in close proximity to Vietnam. Of course, the country's history had always fascinated me. I had heard both sides of the arguement regarding U.S. involvement in the war there, and was interested in coming to my own conclusions. I continue to think that Vietnam is one of the most interesting countries in the world.

2. Were there specific street children that impressed you during your trips?

I spent many nights in Thailand playing Connect Four with a boy who in some ways inspired one of my characters in Dragon House. This boy was remarkable--smart, brave, and hard-working. I met hundreds of street children in Asia, and had wonderful conversations and interactions with them. I couldn't have been more impressed with the tenacity of these children.

3. What other Asian countries are featured in your novels? Did you travel extensively in those areas as well?

My first novel, Beneath a Marble Sky, is based on the story behind the creation of the Taj Mahal. I spent a month in India researching it. My second novel, Beside a Burning Sea, is set in The South Pacific during WWII, and again, I spent about a month in that area. My fourth novel, which I'm currently working on, occurs in seven countries in Asia, all of which I've spent a fair amount of time in and know well. In order for me to bring a place to life on the page, I need to have experienced it firsthand. Some writers don't work that way, but it's necessary for me.

4. Do you plan a follow-up novel to this one in Vietnam, or are you moving on to other locales?

Well, my fourth novel, which is called The Wishing Trees and will come out in September of 2010, takes place in Japan, India, Nepal, Thailand, Vietnam, Hong Kong, and Egypt. It's a lot of fun for me to bring these places and cultures to life in my novels.

5. Anything else you would like to add?

I am grateful for the support of my readers, and I try to share that support with others. With regard to Dragon House, I am donating some of my royalties to an organization that supports homeless children. If anyone would like more information on Dragon House, please visit

Thanks for sharing your experiences with us, John!

(See my Review of Dragon House here or in the post below). The book will be released Sept. 1, 2009.

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Book Review: Dragon House by John Shors

Dragon House by John Shors:


I saw this exceptional novel as a story of redemption - a daughter promising her father to help heal some of the wounds left by a long, protracted war and a depressed and scarred Iraqi War veteran rescued from self destruction. Both travel to Vietnam to help street children.

I found the stories of people helping each other to heal, physically and mentally, very moving, and the conditions of abandoned street children heartrending. Shors' writing and descriptions of the Vietnamese environment are sharp, clear, and vivid.

In "Dragon House," two Vietnamese street children, forced into a life of begging by an opium addict, are befriended by the young American woman in Ho Chi Minh City, the former Saigon.

The American woman, Iris, has promised her dying father, a Vietnam veteran - to finish his dream of opening a center for homeless children. She takes with her to Vietnam a crippled Iraq War veteran, Noah Woods, who is suffering from physical and mental war wounds and about to give up on life. It takes some time for both to adjust to living in this very foreign city, but together they manage to navigate the pitfalls and obstacles to opening the Tam Tran Center for Street Children and meet people whom they help and who help them in turn.

Some of the characters include Minh and Mai, children who sleep in a basket underneath a bridge at night, and are forced to beg during the day. Qiu, a old grandmother struggles to help her terminally ill granddaughter. Sahn the policeman tries to enforce the law though suspicious of the activities of Iris and Noah, and their Vietnamese helper Thien.

John Shors on his travels and experience with street children:

"I spent many nights in Thailand playing Connect Four with a boy who in some ways inspired one of my characters in Dragon House. This boy was remarkable--smart, brave, and hard-working. I met hundreds of street children in Asia, and had wonderful conversations and interactions with them. I couldn't have been more impressed with the tenacity of these children."

The author's plan is to donate a portion of the proceeds from "Dragon House" to the Blue Dragon Children's Foundation in Vietnam, a support organization for children "in crisis" which also helps children get into school and away from life on the streets. Many thanks to the author for the opportunity of reviewing "Dragon House".

Publisher: NAL Trade, available September 1, 2009
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0451227859
ISBN-13: 978-0451227850

(See my Interview with John Shors here or in the following post.)

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Aug 5, 2009

Author Interview: Ridley Pearson, Killer Summer

Ridley Pearson answers a few questions about his writing and his current novel, Killer Summer. Pearson is author of three thrillers featuring Sun Valley, Idaho sheriff Walt Fleming: Killer Weekend, Killer View, and Killer Summer.

Welcome, Ridley.

Q: How did you come up with the plot for Killer Summer?

Ridley: I shop at WalMart. Actually... the second half of Killer Summer has been in my head and my files for over five years. The idea of writing a "heist novel" appealed to me. It was real challenge to write because the idea in a heist novel is that the sand is constantly shifting beneath your feet.

Q: Can you tell us how you came to be a thriller writer?

Ridley: No useful skills.

Q: I understand you are now in Shanghai, China. Is this trip related to a future novel?

Ridley: I'm just back, but my family lived in Shanghai for the past year. I taught creative writing at the university level there, and I came away with some amazing experiences and contacts; I hope very much they find their way into novel form.

Q: Do you do a lot of reading? If so, what kind of books do you prefer?

Ridley: I read quite a bit. I'm a slow, "gourmet" reader. I read non-fiction (Bill Bryson, currently), women's lit, other thriller/mystery writers (many, many for possible endorsement), and the backs of shampoo bottles.

Q: Is there anything else you would like to tell us about Killer Summer or your other books?
Ridley: Writing a novel is like taking an adventure. I outline my books, so I (basically) know where I'm going. But it's like any trip. Just because you know where the car, ship or plane is destined doesn't mean you know what the voyage will be like. Each day I encounter setbacks, excitement, romance, challenges. I have the greatest job in the world--in part because I create the world. I have my readers to thank for that, and I try to work hard to keep those readers engaged and get them telling others about the books.


Thanks for your input on writing the thrillers, Ridley!

Review of Killer Summer (reposted):

Some books are memorable for the characters and the setting, just as much as the plot. In Killer Summer, the memorable character is Walt Fleming, a county sheriff in Sun Valley, Idaho, that playground of the wealthy and ordinary tourists alike. Walt appears in a series of thrillers by Ridley Pearson, and this his latest, Killer Summer, is out this summer!

The book begins with Walt on a fishing trip with his nephew, Kevin, an 18-year-old who is set to give him no end of trouble. They are fishing in the Big Wood River when Walt spots a tow truck rattling across a nearby bridge, pulling a Taurus with what could be a man slumped behind the wheel. Walt is still on duty and decides to follow the truck and investigate. This leads to a series of events that will involve Kevin, a plot to steal a case of rare and costly wine set to be auctioned at Sun Valley, and a harrowing trip through rugged mountain terrain to a plane crash site and an isolated mountain cabin.

Walt is a sympathetic character, estranged from his father, working side by side with a deputy who is also the lover of Walt's ex-wife. He also takes it on himself to keep an eye on his nephew Kevin who has only a mother to rely on. The scenic descriptions of Sun Valley, its resorts, and the mountain terrain around are worthwhile in themselves, but also essential to the plot and the fast action sequences.

I enjoyed reading the book for many reasons - character, plot, and setting. An excellent thriller. It's a cliche to say "I couldn't put it down," but I only put the book down when I absolutely had to!

Advance readers copy provided by the publisher for my objective review.

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Aug 4, 2009

Teaser Tuesday: Lizzi & Fredl, A Perilous Journey of Love and Faith

"What's wrong?" Fredl asked, alarmed.

"I don't know, but something bad is going to happen. I can feel it in my bones. We have to leave right now!"

p. 19, Lizzi & Fredl, a biography by William B. Stanford.

Who and where am I? A young couple, master jeweler Fredl and dressmaker Lizzi, in Austria in 1938 decide to leave their home country for France, frightened by the "spreading threat of Nazism." Will France prove to be the safe haven they envision?

Here is the link to the full review of the book: Lizzi and Fredl review

Book provided by the author in exchange for my objective review.

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

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Macavity Awards 2009 Nominees

Heads up for mystery/suspense lovers looking for good reads!
The following mystery works have been nominated for the Macavity Awards 2009. Members and subscribers to the Mystery Readers Journal will be considering the following nominees:

Best Mystery Novel

Trigger City by Sean Chercover (Wm. Morrow)
Where Memories Lie by Deborah Crombie (Wm. Morrow)
The Dying Breed (UK)/ The Price of Blood (US) by Declan Hughes (John Murray/ Wm. Morrow)
The Draining Lake by Arnaldur Indridason (Minotaur)
Curse of the Spellmans by Lisa Lutz (Simon & Schuster)
The Cruelest Month by Louise Penny (Minotaur)
The Fault Tree by Louise Ure (Minotaur)

Best First Mystery

Finding Nouf by Zoe Ferraris (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson (Knopf)
Death of a Cozy Writer by G.M. Malliet (Midnight Ink)
Calumet City by Charlie Newton (Simon & Schuster)
An Innocent Client by Scott Pratt (Onyx)
A Carrion Death by Michael Stanley (Harper; Headline)
The Blood Detective by Dan Waddell (Minotaur)

Best Nonfiction/Critical

African American Mystery Writers: A Historical & Thematic Study by Frankie Y. Bailey (McFarland)
Hard-Boiled Sentimentality: The Secret History of American Crime Stories by Leonard Cassuto (Columbia Univ.)
How to Write Killer Historical Mysteries by Kathy Lynn Emerson (Perseverance Press)
Scene of the Crime: The Importance of Place in Crime and Mystery Fiction by David Geherin (McFarland)
Edgar Allan Poe : An Illustrated Companion to His Tell-Tale Stories by Harry Lee Poe (Metro)
The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher: A Shocking Murder and the Undoing of a Great Victorian Detective by Kate Summerscale (Walker)

Best Mystery Short Story

"The Night Things Changed" by Dana Cameron (Wolfsbane & Mistletoe, ed. by Harris & Kelner, Penguin)
"A Sleep Not Unlike Death" by Sean Chercover (Hardcore Hardboiled, ed. by Todd Robinson, Kensington)
"Keeping Watch Over His Flock" by Toni L. P. Kelner (Wolfsbane & Mistletoe, ed. by Harris & Kelner, Penguin)
"Scratch a Woman" by Laura Lippman (Hardly Knew Her, Wm. Morrow)
"Between the Dark and the Daylight" by Tom Piccirilli (EQMM, Sep/Oct 2008)

Sue Feder Memorial Historical Mystery

A Royal Pain by Rhys Bowen (Berkley)
Stealing Trinity by Ward Larsen (Oceanview)
The Whiskey Rebels by David Liss (Thorndike/ Random House UK)
Veil of Lies by Jeri Westerson (Minotaur)
Company of Liars by Karen Maitland (Michael Joseph/ Delacorte)
Nox Dormienda by Kelli Stanley (Five Star)

Awards will be presented in October at the Bouchercon conference in Indianapolis.
For information, contact Janet Rudolph, Editor, Mystery Readers Journal
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Heartfelt Award

Thanks to Tea Norman of Summer Travel and Read for the Heartfelt Award. I love getting awards from blogger readers and friends. Thanks much, Tea.

And thanks to Michael of A Few Minutes With Michael for the Let's Be Friends award! Love the colors in this award!

Update: Sept. 9 and 10

Thanks to Tea again and to Vicki of Reading at the Beach for the Who Loves You Baby award!

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...