Mar 30, 2010

Book Review: At Home with Laurie Ann: A Decorator's Guide

Teaser Tuesdays, hosted by MizB, asks you to choose two sentences at random from your current read. Identify the author and title for readers.

At Home with Laurie Ann

"Whether you seek an all-out overhaul or a visual shake-up of your home, you'll begin the same place - with your taste, your needs and your dreams.

Spot your style" (p. 15)

At Home with Laurie Ann,  A Decorator's Guide: Turn the Place You Live into a Home you Love by Laurie Ann McMillin Ray, an interior designer from Southern California who shares her knowledge and experience in this how-to book.

I like her emphasis on developing your own style. The author describes basic decorating styles as "Formal", "Romantic," "Tranquil," "Contemporary," and "Eclectic" and tells the reader to "Try different combinations until you get it right." The 224-page book is very rich visually, with many full-page color photographs of the decorated rooms.
 I like her tips for the Guest Room: " Add a vase of your visitor's favorite flowers, preferred magazines, a framed photo of someone they love and a luxurious terry cloth robe hung on a decorative hook - your houseguest will be at home."
The photographs were eye-catching but I would probably choose only one item or piece furniture from each of the pages. I don't think Laurie Ann meant the rooms to be as they appear - they are too richly decorated. I would have preferred seeing simpler rooms in the five styles instead of overly decorated rooms that became a blur of color and pattern. The book has some good tips on how to approach decorating, though. I especially  liked the advice for a quick home make-over: "For an eternally fresh look, rearrange the furniture several times a year."
Publication date: February 2010
Publisher: Laurie Ann Publishing, Inc.
A copy of this book was provided for my objective review.

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Mar 28, 2010

Book Review: Love in Mid Air by Kim Wright

Love in Mid Air by Kim Wright

Publisher's description:
"A chance encounter with a stranger in an airplane sends Elyse Bearden into an emotional tailspin. Suddenly, Elyse is willing to risk everything: her safe but stale marriage, her seemingly perfect life in an affluent Southern suburb, and her position in the church. As Elyse embarks on a risky affair, her longtime friend Kelly and the other women in their book club begin to question their own decisions about love, sex, marriage, and freedom. In the end it will take an extraordinary leap of faith for Elyse to find - and follow- her own path to happiness."

Comments: I found the main character Elyse frantic and the pace of her narrative staccato and disjointed. I didn't find her sympathetic and I was put off by her grammar/speech/narrative very early in the book.

ARC provided by the publicist for my objective review.

The Sunday Salon: Ho, Hum week

The Sunday

Welcome to the Sunday Salon!  You can join in and sign up by clicking on the salon logo.

In between full time work, I did only two book reviews the past week. I tried to sneak in as many pages of reading as I could during lunch and breaks. I'm on the computer all day but can't blog, of course. It's been a busy but Ho Hum week.

Posted a review of The Writing on My Forehead: A Novel by Nafisa Haji (March 2009) for TLC Book Tours, plus a guest post by the author on writing.

The Godfather of Kathmandu by John Burdett, detective fiction, also got a review, which I changed around a few times as I had a hard time expressing how I felt about the book. There was just so much to it.

I'm half way through The Old Capital by Yasunari Kawabata, a short novel about the beauty of the old Kyoto, the ancient capital, and about a young girl finding out that she is adopted. Straight forward and easy to read.

I reviewed a new mystery novel, Murder in the Palais Royal (Aimee Leduc Investigations, No. 10) by Cara Black, set in Paris. One of my favorite mystery series.

Then there is a love story, Love in Mid Air by Kim Wright, a debut novel which I've started but not yet finished!

On the 6-hour drive to and from Canada last weekend, we listened to 8 discs of the 17-disc audio of  The Swan Thieves: A Novel.  My hubby, who loves art and a good mystery, really liked it. 

It will rain tomorrow. Later, I'll take down the old robin's nest in the tall bush/tree outside my window. I think robins build new ones each year.

Ho, hum, time to turn in! What did you do last week?

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Mar 27, 2010

Book Review: The Godfather of Katmandu by John Burdett

In The Godfather of Kathmandu, a crime thriller with a twist
by John Burdett, Royal Thai police detective Sonchai Jitpleecheep must solve the bizarre murder of a wealthy American filmmaker in Bangkok.

Detective Sonchai is the son of an American father whom he never knew and a Thai mother whom he is devoted to. At the beginning of the novel, he doesn't know what to make of the apparent murder of the American visitor, a well known director of Hollywood films, whose death in a Bangkok flophouse is staged in a theatrical and shocking manner. Solving this crime takes all his effort and insight and introduces Sonchai to some very colorful individuals.

Comments: The personality and character of the detective makes and carries the book, no doubt about it. Sonchai is torn between doing the bidding of his corrupt superior
 in the Thai police force, and following the directions of his spiritual Buddhist mentor, Norbu Tietsin. When these two people both pull him into an illegal transaction,
the detective is torn between duty, his sense of right and wrong, and the difficulty of his situation. He develops an ironic and sometimes comic view of himself and everyone around him by the end of the book.

"I'm supposed to be a mafioso, a despicable international drug trafficker, a poor sucker among six billion poor suckers ensnared irrevocably in karma from which there has never been any escape and for which therefore I experience no responsibility even if it is all my fault."

All clues seem to lead to Katmandu, Nepal, which Sonchai visits several times, getting information there and in Hong Kong, and back in Bangkok.

An incredible plot, I thought as I read along; I finished the book and gave it four stars. Burdett has written at least three other crime novels featuring Detective Sonchai Jitpleecheep, all entertaining semi-noir fiction.

(Also reviewed by The Book Catapult and Eurocrime)

Challenge: 100 + Reading Challenge,Support your Local Library ChallengeThriller & Suspense Reading Challenge

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Mar 25, 2010

50 Famous Authors and their Favorite Books

A blog post by has a list of  50 Famous Authors and Their All-Time Favorite Books.

Joyce Carol Oates chose Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky.

Crime and Punishment (Oxford World's Classics)

George Pelecanos listed All the King's Men by Robert Penn

All the King's Men (Special Edition)

Sue Monk Kidd's favorite was The Awakening by Kate Chopin.

The Awakening

Ha Jin chose War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy

War and Peace (Vintage Classics)

Robert B. Parker listed the short novel, The Bear by William Faulkner

Three Famous Short Novels: Spotted Horses Old Man The Bear

Alice Hoffman's favorite was Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte

Wuthering Heights (Barnes & Noble Classics)

For the entire list of authors and their favorite books, see 50 Famous Authors

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Mar 23, 2010

Nafisa Haji, author of The Writing on My Forehead

Nafisa Haji, author of The Writing on My Forehead, was born in Los Angeles to parents from India and Pakistan. She traveled to many different countries while growing up, studied history at Berkeley, and received a doctorate in education from UCLA. That's impressive. Rather than becoming a career academic, she taught Spanish in elementary school, and wrote. What she says about her journey to becoming a fulltime writer, using the stories and fables she heard as a child, tells us a lot about why and how we write.

Nafisa: "The truth is, I have always wanted to write because of how much I love to read. And now that I am lucky enough to be able to write fulltime (still have to pinch myself to believe it!), I realize that one of the best kept secrets about writing fulltime is having the luxury to read fulltime.

I am an eclectic reader, which is just a fancy way of saying that I like to read everything—from classics to pulp, from cereal boxes to sci-fi (related because sometimes it seems you need a degree in chemistry to be able to understand food labels, doesn’t it?) I spent my childhood traveling through time and space, backwards and forwards and ‘round the world, admiring the minds of the people who created the worlds and lives I loved to lose myself in. So, naturally, I wanted to be like those people, those storytellers who were my heroes. Who doesn’t want to grow up and be like their hero?

When I grew up, I also had to earn a living. Lucky for me, I loved what I did, which was teaching in elementary school—an all-absorbing vocation that left little energy for me to write. I always planned to pick up writing the novel(s) I’d left unfinished when I became a mom, when I planned to stay at home. Of course, in hindsight, that was a hilarious plan, because “momming” is no less absorbing than teaching. But I learned to squeeze words out during nap times and on weekends.

Picking up unfinished novels from the past turned out to be a no-go. I’d outgrown everything I’d written before—that’s a terrible risk of leaving things unfinished and I had to mourn those losses before wading back in with dry feet. I started with short stories. Family stories—fables, like the kind I grew up hearing from my mother, about all the pitfalls that bad behavior could ultimately lead to. Then, I found a voice to challenge those fables. A voice that asked questions about the angles of stories that get deliberately left out of maternal fables, are spun to keep little ones in line. That voice was Saira’s, the protagonist and voice of The Writing On My Forehead, who realizes that we are shaped as much, if not more, by the secrets we don’t share, as we are by the official, sterile record of history that gets written into “school” books.

Seven years later—most of them spent rewriting and revising, I got published—amassing a fair collection of rejection letters along the way that I have learned to treasure as gifts, all of them helping to improve the book as well as my skills as a writer."

You can learn more about the author at Nafisa Haji's website

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Mar 22, 2010

Book Review/Tour: The Writing on My Forehead by Nafisa Haji

The Writing on My Forehead by Nafisa Haji is an excellent novel about family ties and a woman's role in a traditional culture.null

The novel reads like a memoir but is actually a fictional account of a girl growing up in the United States who must also conform to the Indo-Pakistani traditions of her immigrant parents.

My comments: I was struck by the universal themes of family life and family ties in this novel, the almost common kinds of problems faced by children and parents in the nuclear and the extended family. There is jealousy and rivalry as well as affection between sisters, and secrets that keep family members together and apart. In this case, the family of Saira Qader extends from the U.S. to India, to Pakistan, and to London, all of which she visits at different times to meet with various family members.

What is unique about the novel and the story is how Saira rejects as well as conforms to her own family and cultural traditions, with conflicts and victories in love and loyalty. I highly recommend this book for its look at a modern Western woman who also belongs to a rich but challenging traditional culture. Haji is a gifted writer whose characters are engaging and whose storytelling is truly compelling.

This review is part of a virtual book tour hosted by TLC Book Tours. Visit them for a list of other stops on the tour. A copy of the book was provided free for my objective review.

Challenges: 100 + Reading Challenge, Book Review Party Wednesday
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Mar 21, 2010

Sunday Salon: WOW

 Welcome to the Sunday Salon.

This past week I reviewed WOW: A Handbook for Living by Ken Ohashi, and will review The Writing on My Forehead: A Novel by Nafisa Haji for TLS Book Tours on March 23.

I have three new books on my list to read, The Solitude of Prime Numbers, by Paolo Giordano,
The Nicholas Floch Affair by Jean-Francois Parot,
and Venom by Joan Brady,all books from Europe, two in translation from Italian and French. Venom and The Nicholas Floch Affair are suspense/mystery novels. The Solitude of Prime Numbers is a work of literary fiction.

I am currently reading a library borrow, The Godfather of Katmandu by John Burdett, detective fiction set in Bangkok, Thailand and featuring half-American, half-Thai police detective Sonchai Jitpleecheep. I'm learning a lot about Buddhism and Nepal as well as Bangkok. Burdett is the third Western novelist I have read who sets his crime fiction in the Southeast Asian capital.

Because of a new full-time job plus traveling for family get-togethers, (I'm writing this from Toronto), that was all I was able to do!

What did you do last week?

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Mar 19, 2010

French Mystery and British Suspense novel

Two new mystery novels in the mail, these from overseas. I'm looking forward to reading them.

The Nicholas Floch Affair by Jean-Francois Parot
is the third in the mystery series by the author, a diplomat and historian.

Publisher's description:
"Paris 1774. Commissioner Le Floch's lover, socialite Julie de Lasterieux, is found murdered in her bed, a victim of poisoning.

Nicholas retains the confidence of those closest to him, and is even sent by Louis XV to London on a secret mission. But a plot is afoot to implicate Le Floch in Julie's death, and he faces the roughest challenge of his career as he fights to clear his name and bring the real murderer to justice.

Venom Venom by Joan Brady

Publisher's description:
"Physicist Helen Freyl has just accepted a job offer from a giant pharmaceutical company who are close to finding a cure for radiation poisoning. But when the mysteriously sudden death of a colleague is followed by another, Helen begins to doubt her employers' motives and realises that her own life is in danger, too.

Recently released from prison, David Marion didn't expect to find a hitman at his door. Warned that a powerful secret organization is after him, David goes underground and off the radar - waiting for the perfect moment to wreck revenge.

Venom brings David and Helen together as they fight for their lives against a backdrop of industrial espionage, corporate greed and human tragedy in this exhilarating and fast-paced follow-up to Joan Brady's bestselling Bleedout."

Brady, originally from California, now lives in Oxford, England.

I'm sure I'll enjoy these European mysteries!

Mar 16, 2010

The Leisure Seeker by Michael Zadoorian

Teaser Tuesdays, hosted by MizB, asks you to choose two sentences at random from your current read. Identify the author and title for readers.

"Mom, Dr. Tomaszewski thinks you should come home immediately."
"Oh, does he?" I say. "Well, tell Dr. Tom to mind his own damn business." (ch. 9)

Publisher's description:

"In Michael Zadoorian's The Leisure Seeker, the Robinas have shared a wonderful life for more than sixty years. Now in their eighties, Ella suffers from cancer and John has Alzheimer's. Yearning for one last adventure, the self-proclaimed "down-on-their-luck geezers" kidnap themselves from the adult children and doctors who seem to run their lives and steal away from home in suburban Detroit on a forbidded vacation of rediscovery.

With Ella as his vigilant copilot, John steers their '78 Leisure Seeker RV along the forgotten roads of Route 66 toward Disneyland in search of a past they're having a damned hard time remembering. Yet Ella is determined to prove that, when it comes to life, you can go back for seconds - even when everyone says you can't."
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Mar 14, 2010

WOW:A Handbook for Living, review

WOW: A Handbook for Living by Zen Ohashi and Zono Kurazono

A useful and innovative handbook with exercises to get the reader thinking about how he/she can improve living through problem solving.

Book description: "A revolutionary new self-help guide from master management coaches Zen Ohashi and Zono Kurazono. In this volume they have created a method for living - a way you too can be successful and powerful in your everyday life. Thirty-one phrases are coupled with simple methods and short explanations designed to implement empowerment and change in the lives of readers. Designed to be carried with you and pulled out when you need it. WOW is the ultimate handbook for life."

Some of the methods proposed by the authors that I find helpful (in my own words):

thinking positively
asking yourself the right questions,
getting support,
keeping promises,
solving problems with quick,intuitive thinking,
answering your own questions on a problem
setting time limits for goals,
being selfish in a positive way,
making suggestions instead of complaints,
feeling free to hold on to or to change your plan.

My comments: This is the second self-help handbook with simple, straight forward instructions that I have read recently. It seems to be a new approach, getting readers to answer questions and record their responses in an easy-to-read format. I think it's useful and actually works very well for readers. I gave WOW 4 out of 5 stars for providing unique approaches to life and problems through this method.

The authors: Zen Ohashi is a business management coach whose methods have been used by major international corporations such as Exxon-Mobile, British Airways, Honda, and Mitsubishi. Zono Kurazono is a lyric writer, song producer, singer, and musician. The book was translated from the Japanese by Robert McGuire.

The Cadence Group provided an ARC of WOW for my objective review.

Publisher: One Peace Books, 212-250-4400
Distributor: Partners Publishers Group
ISBN 978-0-9785084-8-7

Challenges: 100 + Reading Challenge
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Mar 8, 2010

Two New Books for March

The Writing on My Forehead: A Novel and The Solitude of Prime Numbers,
are two new books I promised to review for March, one for a tour on the 22nd and the other to meet the release date on the 18th.

The Writing on My Forehead is the story of Saira Qader, an American journalist of  Indo-Pakistani descent who discovers, with some emotion, the stories of her grandparents, aunt, and her parents - three generations of a Muslim family. The book, her first, is by Nafisa Haji, a writer who lives in California. Published by Harper Perennial in 2009.

The Solitude of Prime Numbers, a debut novel by Paolo Giordano, tells the story of two lonely teens, Alice and Mattia, who are damaged by childlhood tragedies, but feel a kindred spirit when they first meet. They are later separated by circumstances and reunited in adulthood by chance. Can these two "prime numbers" fit together or are they destined to remain separate?

The novel was first published in 2008 in Giordano's  native Italy. The English version will be released March 18.

Looking forward to reading both novels, and to a guest post by Nafisa Haji!

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