May 31, 2010

Assassins of Athens by Jeffrey Siger

Assassins of Athens: A Chief Inspector Kaldis Novel by Jeffrey Siger takes place in Greece, with a crime novel featuring the hoi polloi of Greek society and the "criminal side" of nightlife in Athens. The revolutionary university student life is also part of the Athenian mix in the novel.  Inspector Andreas Kaldis has to solve the murder of a young student from a prominent family. The question is, what was the student doing in the dangerous neighborhood in which he was found? An interesting setting for this crime novel.

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

"After all, it was life that mattered, not classes. Besides, if teachers really knew what they were talking about, they'd be doing something else." (p. 55)

Book Review: Seducing Mr. Darcy by Gwyn Cready

Seducing Mr. Darcy
Seducing Mr. Darcy
An intriguing plot, suspenseful and engaging to the very end.
Seducing Mr. Darcy by Gwyn Cready (2008)

I've been reading Cready's romantic erotic paranormal time travel comedies in reverse order. The comedy  reminded me of Shakespeare. The subtitle could be "Jane Austen meets Shakespeare's Comedy of Errors and others."

Flip Allison time travels to the early 19th century England after a  new masseuse tells her to imagine herself in her favorite book. She chose Pride and Prejudice, and finds herself as Lady Quillan, seducing  or being seduced by Darcy himself in Regency England. This little event changes the plot of Pride and Prejudice, and Flip, back in the 21st century, is horrified by the way the book now reads. She contrives to return to the 19th century to undo what happened and make sure that Elizabeth Bennet and Darcy marry in the end, as Austen wrote the book. She is followed back in time by Magnus Knightly, an Austen scholar, and by her ex-husband Jed and his current love interest, the university student Io. This makes Flip's job back in time much more complicated and adds both to the romance and to the slapstick comedy.

I read most of Seducing Mr. Darcy on a long car ride to Canada, while keeping an ear on the audio of a much different book,  The Swan Thieves: A Novel by Elizabeth Kostova, but this didn't distract me from Seducing Mr. Darcy.

Have an enjoyable Memorial Day holiday wherever you are and whatever you're doing!

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May 30, 2010

Sunday Salon: June is Busting Out All Over

The Sunday

Welcome to the Sunday Salon!

One review last week! 
 Clean, Green, and Lean by Dr. Walter Crinnion. It was worthwhile learning about making your food and environment toxic free, and having some healthy recipes. Only thing, organic foods are pricy!

Am reading Assassin in Athens during my free time, which I have little of these days.

Have a great week everyone!

May 27, 2010

Library Loot: Petals from the Sky by Mingmei Yip

Library Loot is a weekly event co-hosted by Marg @ ReadingAdventures and Eva at A Striped Armchair.


Petals From The Sky by Mingmei Yip, is new in paperback. Twenty-year old Meng Ning decides to be come a Buddhist nun, against the wishes of her mother. She travels abroad to study Buddhism and meets a young American doctor after a fire at the Budhist retreat. They become close and as they say, the rest is history. Or maybe not...Meng Ning must choose between the young doctor and religion. I'm curious to see which it is. The book takes place in China, Manhattan, Paris and Hong Kong, so there is an added incentive to read it. Armchair travel while you read a love story!

I found Gwyn Cready's first two books, Seducing Mr. Darcy, which I've seen on a lot of blogs, and Tumbling Through Time. One blogger preferred the first book to her third, Flirting with Forever. These romances are a combination of time-travel, chick lit, and racy fantasy with some humor thrown in. I'm reading Cready as we graduated from the same university! At least that's my excuse for reading spicy romances, which is a new genre for me. By the way, here is the link to my review of Flirting with Forever.

I also picked up my favorite kind of book, Assassins of Athens by Jeffrey Siger, a Chief Inspector Kaldis thriller set in Greece. The novel takes us into the criminal side of Athens' night life and the "glittering world of Athens society. " Sounds like a book for me.  Siger also wrote the well-known Murder in Mykonos which I have on my list to read.

These are the books I came away with! What have you borrowed from the library, or bought?

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May 25, 2010

Clean, Green, and Lean by Dr. Walter Crinnion: Teaser Tuesday

Most people just don't pay attention to what they eat, 
but once they start cleansing, they become more aware
 of how their bodies feel after eating certain foods
and being around certain chemicals. They also start
 to note how they feel when they're with certain people
or watch certain TV shows or listen to certain music. (p. 15)

Clean, Green, and Lean: Get Rid of the Toxins That Make You Fat by Walter Crinnion (Hardcover - March 1, 2010)

I wasn't surprised by Dr. Crinnion's premise - that toxins in our food, water, and air can affect our health and make us sick. What surprised me was that he included people,  what we listen to, and what we watch and do. This makes sense as there are situations that can make you edgy, nervous, and even cause aches and pains!

What the book suggests is that we eliminate physical and emotional toxins in our diet, our homes, and our environment in general. Starting with eating organic foods free of chemical preservatives, removing toxins and allergens from our homes, making our bodies free of "poisons" can make us less prone to allergies, depression, pain, and gaining weight!

This is certainly an interesting idea.  Clean, Green, and Lean has healthy and thought-provoking tips such as

"An apple a day won't keep the doctor away - unless it's organic."
"Breathing (toxins) can make you fat."
"If it looks clean and smells clean, it may be toxic."
        "What to avoid in cosmetics..."
         Eat more whole grain brown rice, greens, and special agents."

    Protein Mango Smoothie with Yogurt:
    Blend 1 cup organic low-fat plain yogurt with
    1 cup frozen organic mango,
    1 cup organic apple juice, and
    2 scoops Amino ICG protein powder, with ice.
    Sounds good!

I found this a valuable book that I'll always have as a handy reference on my desk. An extensive list of notes at the end of the book support the book's research and ideas, plus gives a list of places to get furnishings that are allergy free, allergy free products, and green living ideas.

Besides giving us a list of indoor air pollutants from carpeting, solvents, dust, and more, the book talks a lot about foods - the good, the bad, and the ugly. It has recipes and a 14-day menu plan. I like how it combines green living with green eating and your overall health.

Thanks to Anna Suknov of FSB Associates for a review copy, sent to me for an impartial review.

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

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May 24, 2010

I Think I Won This Book: Dark Deceptions by Dee Davis

Dark Deceptions (A-Tac, #1)
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Looking over books to read and books received, I have Dark Deceptions by Dee Davis on my desk, I believe I won this book in a Hachette Book Group give away. (Paperback, released April 1, 2010)

The book's described as "high stakes action and high-impact romance" by Roxanne St. Claire, bestselling author, and one blogger has given it 4 stars on Goodreads. Guess I'll be reading this one.

Here's Goodreads' summary: A-Tac is an elite CIA unit masquerading as faculty at an Ivy League college. Brilliant, badass, and seemingly bulletproof, the members of A-Tac are assigned to the riskiest missions and the most elusive targets.

TORN BETWEEN DUTY AND DESIRE: Covert operations expert Nash Brennon has spent the last eight years trying to forget Annie Gallagher, his former field partner and the only woman he ever loved. Annie betrayed him when he needed her most, then vanished without a trace. Now suddenly she's back in the game - this time as a suspected traitor and threat to national security.

Annie's son has been kidnapped by political terrorists. The price for his life? Assassinate a UN ambassador. When Nash and his group find her, the smoldering passion between Annie and the man she swore she'd never contact again blazes out of control. But can Nash trust her? The stakes couldn't be higher: Their enemy's endgame is personal, and one false move could cost them their lives.

We'll see if this is another formulaic thriller or a really good one.

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May 23, 2010

Sunday Salon: Four Reviews, Four Genres

The Sunday

Welcome to the Sunday Salon!

I managed a book tour and three other reviews last week in spite of crushing responsibilities at work!

In my reviews, thriller writer Jeffrey Cohen talked about his book, The Killing of Mindi Quintana, Stephanie Wincik  discusses Down Syndrome in Making a Case for Life, Gwyn Cready time-traveled in her romance, Flirting with Forever, and Thomas Steinbeck dwells on early California history in his novel, In the Shadow of the Cypress.

Didn't get around to visiting lots of blogs to make as many comments as I'd like.

Here it is 5:30 a.m. and I'm back in Toronto visiting. The birds outside woke me up and I knew it must be early morning and time for this Sunday Salon! Another long trip back home later today!

Sahara (Dirk Pitt, #11)
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My current read, among several, is a thriller I picked up from our rotating used book library at work, Sahara: A Dirk Pitt Adventure (Dirk Pitt Adventures) by Clive Cussler. This mystery is about heavy pollution from the Niger River in Mali, Africa into the ocean, creating an uncontrollable red tide that is multiplying and absorbing all the oxygen in the water, threatening plant and animal life on a global scale. The source of this awful contamination is unknown and the indomitable Dirk Pitt is sent up the river to find out. The search leads him into the Sahara Desert and more trouble from a ruthless French industrialist with a  nuclear waste disposal factory in the middle of the desert that is more than it seems.

This is fiction, but it reminded me of the  present day - uncontrollable spill of oil into the Gulf of Mexico from a broken oil pipe, which is creating a similar threat to ocean life and damaging the Louisiana swamps and the southern coast. Cussler's book was reprinted in paperback in June 2009, but reviews for the book go back to 1992. I found it prophetic of how industry and pollution can seriously affect the oceans.

Think I'll head back to bed. The birds have gone quiet.

What did you read last week?

May 21, 2010

Book Review: In the Shadow of the Cypress by Thomas Steinbeck

In the Shadow of the Cypress

In the Shadow of the Cypress : A Novel  by Thomas Steinbeck (Hardcover - April 6, 2010)

 Yes, the author Thomas Steinbeck is the son of John Steinbeck. The younger Steinbeck refers to his famous father in the Epilogue of his book, which deals with the possible visit of Chinese fleets to the coast of California years before Columbus discovered America:

" It was my father, a fine historical scholar in his own right, who long ago first suggested to me that the Chinese had visited and explored the west coasts of the Americas long before Columbus discovered which side of the planet he was on. ....When I later learned that Chinese anchor stones, quarried in China, had been discovered in Monterey Bay, I came to realize that my father must have been instinctually correct."

In the Shadow of the Cypress is set in 1906 among the Chinese fishermen on the coast of California. After a horrific earthquake, an ancient Chinese jade seal and an inscribed plaque in three languages are discovered at the base of a giant uprooted cypress tree. The villagers try to keep the antiques but must compete with the major tongs in San Francisco for the artifacts. How they manage to keep them or not is the main theme of the novel. A century later, a young American scientist seeks the answer.

My comments: The novel is written in a formal, smooth style that is a pleasure to read. The premise of the book, that the fleets of Admiral Zheng reached the western coast before America was discovered by Columbus, has been the subject of several other novels that I know of. Steinbeck's story, set in Monterey and the northern coast of California, is unique in that he shows us the fishing culture of the early Chinese coastal villagers in that region.

The historical aspects of the book are very compelling. One thing that stood out for me is Steinbeck's claim that the cypress tree, which defines the northern Callifornia coast, (see the picture on the cover of the book). is not native to the U.S. or California, but is of Asian or Chinese origin. A mystery, indeed.

Thomas Steinbeck is also author of Down to a Soundless Sea (Ballantine Reader's Circle), 2003, a book about the settling of the Monterey Peninsula in the early 1900s.

Challenges: 100+ Reading Challenge, China Challenge, Support your Local Library Challenge

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May 20, 2010

Book Review: Flirting with Forever by Gwyn Cready

Flirting with Forever by Gwyn Cready (Mass Market Paperback, March 30, 2010)
My summary: Art historian Campbell Stratford finds herself transported to the 17th century while doing research for a book on the sex life of Dutch artist Van Dyke. There she meets Peter Lely, a former portraitist for Charles I. Peter lives in the Afterlife, is waiting for a new life from the powers that be, but is told he first has to stop Campbell from writing her book and smearing the reputation of the great Van Dyke.

When Peter and Campbell meet in the 17th century, sparks fly and they become romantically involved. She returns to the present, but he follows her to the 21st century, where she discovers that he has betrayed her.

My comments: As chick lit, the book's for mature chicks. As romance, it is sizzling in at least two lengthy 17th century scenes, though artfully done. As comedy, it is often clever and funny, as when Campbell tells the 17th century folk that her name is Katie Holmes and at another time, that she is a Spanish countess, wife of Antonio Banderas. As fantasy and time travel, the plot is original and the story well written.

The words that came to mind while I was reading this book: "Saucy! Spicy!" (Something Bruno might say before announcing his rating for a "hot" tango in "Dancing With the Stars"). This chick-lit time-travel romance is definitely for over age 18, I'd say. Make that over 21! The spiciness was thoroughly enjoyable however!

Gwyn Cready is a RITA Award winner and author of other time-travel novels, Seducing Mr. Darcy and Tumbling Through Time. I am tempted to pick them up as well, not for the eroticism, which I think is a bit overdone, but for the unusual fantasy, the humor, and what I suspect are more clever plots.

Thanks to Ayelet Gruenspecht of Simon and Schuster for a copy of Flirting with Forever, for my objective review.

Challenge: 100+ Reading Challenge,

May 18, 2010

Making a Case for Life: A New Definition of Perfection by Stephanie Wincik: Teaser Tuesday

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

Making a Case for Life: A New Definition of Perfection

"With only a slight shift in our perception, we can clearly see that the extraordinary individuals dismissed for centuries as 'disabled' actually have a vitally important role to play in the world, and indeed may even hold the key to our positive advancement as a human family." (Book cover)
Goodreads description:
In her new book, Making a Case for Life: A New Definition of Perfection, Stephanie Wincik dispels many of the common myths and misconceptions about people with Down syndrome and urges readers to reconsider the meaning of disability. “Some researchers are beginning to explore the concept of neurodiversity,” Wincik says, “that is, looking at the possibility that so-called “disabilities” such as Down syndrome and autism have a natural place on the normal continuum of human behavior, and as such should be included in the wide spectrum of human diversities along with gender, race, and sexual orientation.”

Wincik’s book also includes a discussion of eugenics as it relates to individuals with disabilities, and examines “the myth of the perfect child…if we hope to reverse what appears to be a downward spiral for humanity, then kindness, compassion, gentleness, tolerance, and good humor—attributes, by the way, observed with remarkable consistency in people with Down syndrome—must surpass physical perfection in terms of the enviable traits we dream of seeing in our children."

My comments: Ms. Wincik's book makes us aware that there are many valuable reasons for welcoming and accepting the disabled. The children with Down Syndrome, for example, are open, honest, kind, and tolerant, and have qualities that are desirable for us all as human beings. An honest and thoughtful book, I recommend it for those who would like a better understanding of Down Syndrome and the place of children with disabilities in our society.

Thanks to author Stephanie Wincik for providing a copy of this book for my objective review.

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Voices of the Old and the New: Corky Lee and Julia Alvarez

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