Dec 31, 2011

Best Crime Fiction Reads in 2011

This is a meme created by Kerrie at Mysteries in Paradise, who is collecting your list of the best crime novels read in 2011.

I read cozies and thrillers and all the genres in between and am partial to some types of crime fiction as you can see by the books I've included in this list.

Here are some of the books (not including eBooks) I enjoyed reading in 2011. I liked all the ones that I reviewed and feel terrible about leaving some books off this list, but for the sake of having a shorter list, here goes... CLICK ON BOOK TITLES TO SEE MY REVIEWS.

The Perfect Suspect by Margaret Coel
Cat Sitter Among the Pigeons by Blaize Clement
Ink Flamingos by Karen E. Olsen
Tahoe Hijack by Todd Borg
The Dog Who Knew Too Much by Spencer Quinn
Betrayal of Trust; and The Most Dangerous Thing by J.A. Jance and Laura Lippman
Thick as Thieves by Peter Spiegelman
Endangered by Pamela Beason
Murder in Passy by Cara Black
The Lantern by Deborah Lawrenson
Red Jade by Henry Chang
A Vine in the Blood by Leighton Gage
Spycatcher by Matthew Dunn
The Summoner by Layton Green
Mercy by Jussi Adler-Olsen (this is the European title of the book, which was printed under another name in the U.S.)

There are more, as evidenced by the fact that I keep adding to this list...

My Life According to the Books I Read in 2011

This is an end of year wrap up meme hosted by happily ever after...  If you want to join in, head on over to her blog to add your post to Mr. Linky.
Just enter the names of books you have read that fit the prompts. Don't repeat the names of any books! And click on the titles for my reviews, if you're curious about the books.

Describe yourself:
Island Girl,
The Perfect Suspect
Cat Sitter Among the Pigeons

How do you feel:
Teed Up for Love

Describe where you currently live:
The Demi-Monde: Winter

If you could go anywhere, where would you go:
My Korean Deli

Your favorite form of transportation:
Tahoe Hijack

Your best friend is:
The Dog Who Knew Too Much

You and your friends are:
Thick as Thieves

What's the weather like:
Night on Fire

What is life to you:
A Rather Remarkable Homecoming

Favorite time of day:
Zero Day

Your fear:
Running on Empty

What is the best advice you have to give:
The Art of Saying Goodbye

Thought for the day:
Please Look After Mom

How I would like to die:
Naughty in Nice

My soul's present condition:
Call Me Irresistible

This was fun! Try it!

Dec 30, 2011

Books Reviewed in 2011: Wrap Up

How many books did you read and review in 2011 and which ones were memorable, your favorites, your top picks? I wouldn't have been able to make this list without my new and faster PC! At least I wouldn't have tried it. Happily, I managed  to make a list to keep track of my own reading!

I liked almost all of the books I reviewed, but the two-star books I really enjoyed. Want to know more about a specific book? Click on the book titles for the review.


The Demi-Monde: Winter
A Vine in the Blood **
Cinder (Lunar Chronicles) **
Me Again: A Novel **
Teed Up for Love,
So Far Away: A Daughter's Memoir of Life, Loss, and Love, 
Shoe Done It,
The Goat Woman of Largo Bay,
Song of the Silk Road,
Borneo Tom: Stories and Sketches of Love, Travel, and Jungle Family in Tropical Asia,
Endangered (A Summer Westin Mystery),
Yoga Bitch, **
The Personal History of Rachel DuPree,
As the Pig Turns,
The Economics of Ego Surplus,
The Last Chinese Chef **
The Last Blind Date,
Success Secrets of Sherlock Holmes; Dreaming in Chinese; The Gilded Shroud
Little Elvises,
The Ugly Sister, **
You Never Know,
Ding, Dong, the Diva's Dead,
A Rather Remarkable Homecoming,
The Stranger You Seek,
Three Women: A Poetic Triptych and Selected Poems,
How to Be an American Housewife, **

July - Sept.

Thick as Thieves, **
Little Black Dress,
Naughty in Nice; The Tale of Castle Cottage,
Death on Tour,
Help! For Writers,
Betrayal of Trust; and The Most Dangerous Thing, **
Pao: A Novel,
Death of the Mantis,
The Dog Who Knew Too Much, **
Brute Strength: A Dog Lover's Mystery
The Silent Girl,
The Perfect Suspect,
The Lantern, **
The Egyptian,
Spycatcher, **
A Bitter Truth,
A Cosy Knave,
Dragon's Pupils - the Sword Guest,
What Alice Forgot,  **
What Language Is,
Lost Memory of Skin, **
The Rules of the Tunnel,
To Sketch a Thief,
Tahoe Hijack, **
Tempest in the Tea Leaves; Till Death Do Us Bark,
In Search of the Rose Notes, **
Overbite, **
County Line,
Killer Move,

April - June

A Clutch of Cozy Mysteries,
Mercy, **
The Sweetness of Tears,
The Art of Saying Goodbye, **
Insatiable, **
Night on Fire,
Island Girl, **
Ink Flamingos, **
Death by Midnight,
Two Mystery Novels: Deadly Threads; and The Illusion of Murder
My Korean Deli,
Running on Empty,
The Civilized World,
The Long Goodbye: A Memoir; and Please Look After Mom **
The Eighth Scroll,
The Lock Artist,
Three Mystery Novels: The Case of the Missing Servant; Raining Cat Sitters and Dogs; and The Case of the Kidnapped Angel,
Mothers and Daughters,
Winged Obsession, **
I'm Going Where I Belong,
Mourning Gloria,
Bullet Work,
The Shepherd,
The Summoner, **
Dragon Chica, **
Call Me Irresistible,
If a Dog Could Blog,

Jan. -March

The Beloved Dead: An  Arthurian Mystery,
The Sandalwood Tree,
Murder in Passy **; Death of a Chimney Sweep; The Headhunter's Daughter; and Scones and Bones,
Dead Light District,
Little Princes, **
Shift: 13 Exercises, **
Red Jade, **
Radio Shangri-La,
Cat Sitter Among the Pigeons, **
Zero Day,
A Red Herring Without Mustard, **
Fashion Unraveled,
The Thieves of Darkness,
The Sari Shop Widow,
A Heartbeat Away,
The Lotus Eaters, **
Delirious, **

Whew! That was a job! I have not included books I've read but not reviewed. I should have joined the 100 Book Reading Challenge! How about you? What were your memorable reads in 2011?

Library Finds: New Reads for the New Year

It's been a while since I've borrowed books from the library, so on a visit yesterday to pick up a book on hold, I found a few others to read over the holidays. Here are two memoirs and two mystery novels, with brief descriptions from the publishers...

Title: Poser: My Life in Twenty-three Yoga Poses by Claire Dederer

"Ten years ago, Claire Dederer put her back out while breastfeeding her baby daughter. Told to try yoga by everyone from the woman behind the counter at the co-op to the homeless guy on the corner, she signed up for her first class. She fell madly in love....Dederer found that the deeper she went into the poses, the more they tested her most basic ideas of what makes a good mother, daughter, friend, wife—and the more they made her want something a little less tidy, a little more improvisational. Less goodness, more joy." Published December 21st 2010 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Title: I Am Half-Sick of Shadows (A Flavia de Luce Novel) by Alan Bradley

"It’s Christmastime, and the precocious Flavia de Luce—an eleven-year-old sleuth with a passion for chemistry and a penchant for crime-solving—is tucked away in her laboratory, whipping up a concoction to ensnare Saint Nick. But she is soon distracted when a film crew arrives at Buckshaw, the de Luces’ decaying English estate, to shoot a movie starring the famed Phyllis Wyvern. Amid a raging blizzard, the entire village of Bishop’s Lacey gathers at Buckshaw to watch Wyvern perform, yet nobody is prepared for the evening’s shocking conclusion: a body found, past midnight, strangled to death with a length of film.... As the storm worsens and the list of suspects grows, Flavia must use every ounce of sly wit at her disposal to ferret out a killer hidden in plain sight." Published November 1st 2011 by Delacorte Press

Title: A Tiger in the Kitchen: A Memoir of Food and Family by Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan

"Starting with charred fried rice and ending with flaky pineapple tarts, Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan takes us along on a personal journey that most can only fantasize about--an exploration of family history and culture through a mastery of home-cooked dishes. Tan's delectable education through the landscape of Singaporean cuisine teaches us that food is the tie that binds."  Published February 8th 2011 by Voice

Title: A Florentine Death (Michele Ferrara) by Michele Giuttari

"Meet Michele Ferrara. Lover of a good bottle of local Rossi di Montalcino, smoker of Antico Toscano cigars - and head of Florence's elite police force, the Squadra Mobile. With a rising murder rate and high levels of Mafia activity, Ferrara has an unenviable job....It seems a deadly serial killer is at work...Ferrara doesn't understand what links the victims - but, with sick, teasing notes arriving for him from the killer, he needs to solve the crime before he becomes the next victim."  Published July 31st 2007 by Abacus (first published 2004)

These are not all newly published books, but their covers caught my eye on the library stands. I had read about all of them before, except for the Michele Ferrara mystery novel.

What are you planning to read over the New Year's holidays? Anything special?

Dec 29, 2011

Book Review: The Demi-Monde: Winter by Rod Rees

Title: The Demi-Monde: Winter by Rod Rees
Hardcover: 528 pages
Publisher: William Morrow (December 27, 2011)
Objective rating: 3/5

"The Demi-Monde:

1. A subclass of society whose members embrace a decadent lifestyle and evince loose morals.
2. A shadow world where the norms of civilized behavior have been abandoned.
3. A massive multiple-player simulation technology that re-creates in a wholly realistic cyber-milieu the threat-ambiance and no-warning aspects of a hi-intensity, deep-density, urban Asymmetric Warfare Environment.
4. Hell.

Welcome to the Demi-Monde, the ultimate in virtual reality—a military training ground and vivid, simulated world of cruelty and chaos run by psychopaths, madmen and fanatics. If you die here, you die in the Real World . . ." (publisher's description)

My comments: I started out liking Chapter 1 and thought it would be fun to read the rest of the book. The premise was promising: an 18-year-old jazz singer Ella Thomas is sent into the shadow world of the Demi-Monde to find the missing daughter of the President of the U.S., a girl who entered a simulated world that is too lifelike, full of history's most notorious characters, and extremely dangerous.
However, I soon found the book was not for me, for the following reasons:
1. I would have preferred new villains instead of the old ones rehashed - the bad guys in history showing up again and again in this book.

2. I was put off by the names of the groups, names which made it hard for me to take the book seriously. UnFunDaMentalism is the name of the new religion in the ForthRight. Then there is HimPerialism, another religion in an Arabic sector. There are the HerEtical Sisters of Suffer-O-Gettism who serve the witch Jeanne Dark. These names all seemed to me extremely silly (my apologies to the author). Add to the groups "the Zulus and the Chinks"....need I say more?

Here is some of the dialogue: "I need an assistant, Miss Thomas - a beautiful, vivacious and intelligent assistant - who can assist me in the execution of certain elements of theatricality I, through necessity, have been obliged to incorporate into my performances."
Ella smiled."So you want me to be your assistant flimflammer?"  (ch. 16. This is taken from an uncorrected proof. The final copy may differ.)

The book has been nominated for prizes in England. I don't know how it will do in the U.S.

About the author: Rod Rees lives near Derby, England. He has traveled throughout Africa, the Middle East, Bangladesh, and Russia. The Demi-Monde: Winter is the first in a planned four-book series.

I won an ARC of  this novel from the publisher.

Haruki Murakami Reading Challenge 2012

I've joined the Murakami Reading Challenge 2012 hosted by tanabata,  the second year in a row. I have Murakami books on Kindle and on my shelves and hope to polish them off in 2012. That's my Murakami New Year's Resolution.

For the challenge, there are different reading levels, which you can see by clicking on the link to tanabata. You can read only one or graduate to more books and can even submit your past reviews.

Here's what I've reviewed in 2011 and 2007 and added to the list:

1. Thoughts on 1Q84
2. After Dark

more to come....

Dec 26, 2011

Book Review: A Vine in the Blood by Leighton Gage

click on book title link for details
Title: A Vine in the Blood: A Chief Inspector Mario Silva Investigation by Leighton Gage
Publisher: Soho Crime (December 27, 2011
Genre: crime fiction
Objective rating: 4.5/5

Brazil has been in the center of international soccer news ever since they won the bid to host the FIFA World Cup in 2014. Questions have since abounded: would Brazil be able to pull it off, take care of thousands and thousands of visitors and athletes in various cities, ensure their safety and their comfort in this most picturesque but controversial of locations ?

What better setting for a crime novel that involves both soccer, a country with beautiful cities, and the criminal underworld? In this novel, the mother of the greatest soccer player is kidnapped just before the games begin, and there are any number of reasons this could have happened, and any number of possible suspects, especially during this time, just before the games. What is scary is that this fictional scenario could easily happen.  Chief Inspector Maria Silva is once again on the case, in this novel of international detective fiction.

Publisher's book description: "It is the eve of the FIFA World Cup, the globe’s premier sporting event. The host country is Brazil. A victory for the home team is inextricably linked to the skills of the country’s principal striker, Tico “The Artist” Santos, the greatest player in the history of the sport. All the politicians in Brasilia, from the President of the Republic on down, have their seats squared-away for the finale, when they hope to see Argentina, Brazil’s bitterest rival, humbled by the Brazilian eleven. But then, just three weeks before the first game, Juraci Santos, Tico’s mother, is kidnapped. The star is distraught. The public is appalled. The politicians are outraged. And the pressure is on Chief Inspector Mario Silva to get her back.

Suspects aren’t lacking. Among them, are a cabal of Argentineans, suspected of having spirited the lady away to put Tico off his game, the star’s gold-digging, top-model girlfriend, whom his mother dislikes and has been trying to get out of his life, his principal rival, who wants to play in the World Cup in Tico’s place, and the man whose leg Tico broke during a match, thereby destroying his career. In the end, Silva and his crew discover that the solution to the mystery is less complex - but entirely unexpected." (book description)

About the author: Leighton Gage writes the Chief Inspector Mario Silva series, crime novels set in Brazil. You can visit him at

A complimentary ARC of this book was sent to me for possible review.
© Harvee Lau of Book Dilettante. Please do not reprint without permission.

Dec 24, 2011

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays!

Happy Holidays to everyone. Thanks for visiting and reading Book Dilettetante. Hope to see you again in the New Year!
(graphic courtesy of Webweavers Free Clip Art)

Dec 21, 2011

Book Giveaway of CINDER by Marissa Meyer

click on book title link for details

Title: Cinder : Book I of the Lunar Chronicles (Audio CD, Unabridged) by Marissa Meyer
Publisher: Macmillan Young Listeners; January 3, 2012
Reading level: for teens and up

I gave 5 stars to this book in my review: "I wasn't sure about this reworking of the Cinderella fairy tale, but I was hooked by the cover and by the opening sentences. I wanted to know more about this futuristic version, a Cyborg Cinderella...." more...

Macmillan is offering readers a giveaway of the audio unabridged CD of Cinder, Book I in the Lunar Chronicles Series. Macmillan has also provided an audio sample of the book, so you can start listening to this audio clip .

GIVEAWAY: For a chance to win the audio of Cinder, Book I in the Lunar Chronicles Series, by Jan. 3, leave a comment with an email address. Macmillan's giveaway is limited to U.S. residents. No P.O. box addresses, please. (I will contact the winner by email on Jan. 4 and ask for an answer within 2 days, after which another winner will be chosen.) Do enter, and good luck!

UPDATE: Congrats to stacibuckeye for winning the Audio CD.

Found Books: The Opium War

Title: The Opium War by Julia Lovell
Hardcover: 352 pages; Kindle 
Publisher: Picador; First Edition edition (2011)

The full title is The Opium War: Drugs, Dreams, and the Making of China and I found it while browsing on the web. The impact of the early 19th Century war when China was forced to open trade to the west and import opium into the country is examined by the author to determine its effect on the China of today. I'd love to get my hands on this book; it seems the book may be critical of the present Chinese government for being too skeptical of Western countries today!

The Opium War reminded of another new book, an historical novel that also covers the Opium War, Amitav Ghosh's River of Smoke,  the title probably referring to the smoke from the smoking of opium.

Title: River of Smoke: A Novel by Amitav Ghosh
Hardcover: 528 pages; audio and Kindle  
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux (September 27, 2011)

Publisher's book description: "The Ibis, loaded to its gunwales with a cargo of indentured servants, is in the grip of a cyclone in the Bay of Bengal; among the dozens flailing for survival are Neel, the pampered rajah who has been convicted of embezzlement; Paulette, the French orphan masquerading as a deck-hand; and Deeti, the widowed poppy grower fleeing her homeland with her lover, Kalua.

The storm also threatens the clipper ship Anahita, groaning with the largest consignment of opium ever to leave India for Canton. And the Redruth, a nursery ship, carries Frederick “Fitcher” Penrose, a horticulturist determined to track down the priceless treasures of China that are hidden in plain sight: its plants that have the power to heal, or beautify, or intoxicate. All will converge in Canton’s Fanqui-town, or Foreign Enclave: a tumultuous world unto itself where civilizations clash and sometimes fuse. It is a powder keg awaiting a spark to ignite the Opium Wars.

Spectacular coincidences, startling reversals of fortune, and tender love stories abound. But this is much more than an irresistible page-turner. The blind quest for money, the primacy of the drug trade, the concealment of base impulses behind the rhetoric of freedom: in River of Smoke the nineteenth and twenty-first centuries converge, and the result is a consuming historical novel with powerful contemporary resonance."

We listened to River of Smoke, the second in the Ibis Trilogy, on a long trip to Canada, but had to return it to the library before finishing it. Unfortunately, we may have to wait on another trip to hear the other half of the audio! The weaving of personal stories with history is compelling, though, and a major plus in this trilogy.

Dec 20, 2011

Book Review: Cinder (Lunar Chronicles, Book 1) by Marissa Meyer

click on book title link for details

Title: Cinder (Book One in the Lunar Chronicles) by Marissa Meyer
Reading level: Ages 12 and up
Hardcover: 400 pages; Feiwel & Friends
Release date: January 3, 2012
Objective rating: 5/5

I wasn't sure about this reworking of the Cinderella fairy tale, but I was hooked by the cover and by the opening sentences. I wanted to know more about this futuristic version, a Cyborg Cinderella.

"The screw through Cinder's ankle had rusted, the engraved cross marks worn to a mangled circle. Her knuckles ached from forcing the screwdriver into the joint as she struggled to loosen the screw one gritting twist after another. By the time it was extracted far enough for her to wrench free with her prosthetic steel hand, the hairline threads had been stripped clean." (from an uncorrected proof. Final copy may differ).

Cinder is virtually enslaved to her wicked stepmother, selling cyborg parts and repairing robots in the open market to make money for the household. Things begin to change for her when the Prince comes to her market stall wanting someone to fix his antiquated android. She catches his eye but Cinder is determined to hide her steel hand and foot from him, fearing rejection. Cinder, however, is only 35% cyborg, fixed and renewed with mechanical parts as a very young child after surviving a house fire that killed her real mother. She knows little about her parents or her past, just that her stepfather, now deceased, had been responsible for saving her, mending her, and bringing her home to his family.

The Prince in the meantime befriends Cinder, his "mechanic", hoping she will help him avoid the beautiful but dreaded Lunar Queen, queen of the moon people, who is determined to forge an alliance with Earth through marriage to the Prince. The real conflict and danger for Cinder is not her stepmother, as in the original fairy tale, but this queen who uses magic and "glamour" to control and manipulate everyone who sees her.

Comments: The well-written and entertaining book shows how Cinder escapes dangers after finding out her true identity. I was totally entranced with this futuristic version of the Cinderella story, and I am way past being a teenager or young adult, the targeted audience. I recommend it for its highly imaginative plot, which made it very enjoyable reading.

GIVEAWAY of the Audio CD: enter now through Jan. 3, 2012 at this link: Enter to win the Audio CD of Cinder.

 A complimentary ARE of this book was sent me for possible review

© Harvee Lau  of Book Dilettante. Please do not reprint without permission.

Dec 18, 2011

Sunday Salon: Music from Around the World

The Sunday Salon.comWelcome to the Sunday Salon. Click on the logo to join in.

I've discovered a way to listen to radio from across the globe, using my trusty computer and the web of course. I am listening to really good jazz right now, from a Japanese radio station, which is remarkably clear, all the way from Tokyo. I also good good signals from a Bogota radio station in Columbia, which plays lively Spanish love songs. Signals from India, Africa, andChina were not too good on some stations or not available in some of the cities I tried. The ones that came through were talk radio in languages I don't understand though I was looking primarily for music.

In any case I recommend Musashino FM 78.2 from Tokyo for good jazz plus Brazilian jazz, and Besame in Bogota, Colombia for Spanish songs
On the reading front, I've fast forwarded through a couple of cozies and a sci-fi thriller, read a mystery novel and a sci-fi fantasy, and am now starting a new novel by Douglas Kennedy, The Moment.

I've sent out all my holiday cards, including eCards. How about you?

Dec 16, 2011

Book Review - Me Again: A Novel by Keith Cronin

Title: Me Again: A Novel by Keith Cronin
Hardcover: 322 pages
Publisher: Five Star (August 17, 2011)
Rating: 4/5

"But it's different for you than for me," she said. "I know I've changed, but it was my personality that changed - my feelings. But I didn't lose my memory. For you, it's the opposite, You did lose your memory, but you didn't change as a person"

"I kind of hope I did," I said.
(ch. 12)

This novel is both a love story and a story of survival, about two people who suffer life-threatening strokes that change their personalities and their lives. Jonathan and Rebecca meet during their hospital stay, at physical therapy sessions, and become friends who support each other's attempts to recover and share what they remember of their past lives.

Jonathan remembers almost nothing about his former life after awakening from a six-year long coma. He has trouble understanding numbers although he used to be a successful accountant. Rebecca has not lost her memory, but her personality has drastically changed, and she is no longer the person her husband remembers or wants.

How these two move toward each other on their way to recovery is the story of Me Again. There is some mystery involved as Jonathan is visited in the hospital by a former co-worker who  demands money he says they embezzled from their accounting clients. Jonathan also hides from his mother the fact that he does not remember her or his father, and tries to find out more about his past, including his brother Teddy and his ex-girlfriend Victoria. And he has to solve the problem of the missing money he supposedly embezzled.

Comments: This book reminds me of at least one other book on memory loss that I've read and liked - What Alice Forgot.  Both stories involved drastic personality changes, for the better, I might add. Me Again is a story of hope and determination, of loss and renewal - an inspiring book that is also a love story.

Visit the author, Keith Cronin at
I won this book through a contest held by Staci at Life in the Thumb.

Dec 13, 2011

Book Review: Teed Up for Love by Barbara Weitz

Title: Teed Up for Love by Barbara Weitz
Paperback and e-Book 
Publisher: Champagne Rose (April 28, 2011)

"A man who thought me a thief then turns around and sears my lips with unbearable passion. Top it off with learning Dad and Laine were teenaged lovers, and I had to admit, a recipe for disaster was brewing." (ch. 13)

Book description:
A WORKING GIRL JUST HAS TO BLOW HER LID... Using her quick wit and take-charge attitude, Miranda Stiltgaard lands a marketing job for Stuart Golf Enterprises in Chicago determined to prove a well-educated girl raised in a small Alaskan town can succeed in a big city.

WHEN ACCUSED OF A CRIME SHE DIDN'T DO... Embezzlement of company funds sends aloof London bachelor, Keegan Stuart, roaring into Chicago to ferret out a thief and protect the family business.

THEN RISKS HEARTBREAK TO BOOT... Miranda hates that this unreadable Brit sees her as a backwoods frontierswoman dragging bear home for dinner. Or that she's capable of a crime. But if it's a fight he wants, she'll show him how it's done. Never does Keegan expect a woman of fortitude to rock his resolve and steal his heart...a heart he doesn't intend to lose.

Comments: This is a romance coupled with a mystery, not a murder mystery, but a crime of embezzlement that cries to be solved. Miranda is at first accused, the suspicions are later dropped, but the problem remains to be resolved. The novel takes us to different world cities and places in England and the United States, thus enhancing its international appeal.

About the author: Barbara Weitz lives in a suburb of Chicago. Visit her at
Visit Pump Up Your Book virtual book tours for more Blog tour stops and reviews.

I received a complimentary copy of the novel for the Pump Up Your Book virtual book tour.
© Harvee Lau 2011

Dec 12, 2011

Book Review: So Far Away: A Daughter's Memoir of Life, Loss, and Love by Christine W. Hartmann

Title: So Far Away: A Daughter's Memoir of Life, Loss, and Love
Author: Christine W. Hartmann
Vanderbilt University Press (2011), Paperback, 224 pages

Comments: I was totally amazed by this author's situation - having a physically healthy mother who made a conscious decision to end her life at age 70, coupled with a father who became disabled after several strokes and had to be cared for in a nursing home. The father's situation seemed not out of the ordinary - many people are faced with the care of an elderly parent who becomes seriously ill and who may even develop dementia. The mother however, seemed to be out of the ordinary although the author seemed to feel she was healthy psychologically, just with a determination to end her life and to have a say in how and when she would die.

I had to admire the author for coming through this situation and deciding that her mother's action showed her self-absorption, while her father cared more about communicating with her, his child. I would have liked to see what other medical personnel thought about her mother, as it's hard to see her mother's decision as a normal reaction to life and death.

The book was well written and described the family situation very well. It left me, however, with quite a few more questions.

About the author: Christine W. Hartmann is a research health scientist at ENR Memorial Veterans Hospital in Bedford, Mass. and assistant professor in the School of Public Health at Boston University. She has published articles on health care quality improvement, focusing on long-term care.
I received a complimentary review copy of this book for the tour by TLC Book Tours.

For other stops on the tour, visit TLC Book Tour reviews.

© Harvee Lau 2011

Dec 11, 2011

Sunday Salon: New for the Holidays

The Sunday Salon.comWelcome to the Sunday Salon. Click on the logo to join in.

I haven't deserted my old computer; I'll still use it but I was overdue for an up to date and much faster web experience. I swear my blood pressure would go up each time I had to wait for a page to load on my trusted oldie. Now hopefully, I can write faster with this more modern one.
I finished reading The Dressmaker: A Novel by Kate Alcott, about the sinking of the Titanic and how the survivors fared during the subsequent investigations into the causes and effects. Based on historical records, the book details the behavior of the "millionaire" survivors who put their own safety first as the ship was sinking, and describes the media frenzy that followed when the details became known. I rated this novel 4.5/5 and recommend it to Titanic history buffs and anyone interested in good storytelling.
A review of the enjoyable cozy, Shoe Done It: An Accessories Mystery by Grace Carroll, was posted last week, one I gave a 3.75. I've been reading other cozies too, some not as enjoyable, either because of the writing or the lack of action that could encourage a reader to flip quickly through to see the ending, as I did with one or two. Too many books, too little time...unless the books are really good.
I wanted to read another historical novel, Victoria Hislop's The Thread, but see it won't be out in the U.S. until early summer 2012, so I've put it back on the shelf.
Next to read will be the ARCs of two well know thriller writers, Leighton Gage's A Vine in the Blood is due out on Dec. 27 and Daniel Palmer's Helpless is due Jan. 31, 2012.

I also received an ARC of The Demi-Monde: Winter by Rod Rees, a thriller about computer game reality merging with true reality. My husband has snagged a first read ahead of me as this is just up his alley.

What have you been doing and what do you plan to do this week?

Dec 9, 2011

Book Review: Shoe Done It by Grace Carroll

Title: Shoe Done It: An Accessories Mystery by Grace Carroll
Paperback: 288 pages, Berkley
Publication date: October 4, 2011
Rating: 3.75/5
"Could you tell her she is in serious legal trouble if she doesn't return the shoes to me right now? Otherwise I'll be forced to call the police." (ch. 3)
San Francisco society lady MarySue Jensen insists on having these special hand spun silver shoes to wear to a Golden Gate Park gala event, even though she can't pay for them. She walks out of Dolce's Boutique with them anyway, which leaves Rita Jewel, the new shop assistant, with the idea that she must get them back at all cost. Loss of the shoes would mean ruin for her employer Dolce and her high end fashion shop. When Rita tries to climb into the second story window of MarySue's house to recover the shoes, she is pushed away by Rita, the ladder she is on falls, and she is taken to the hospital with a concussion.

In the meantime, the gala event takes place but MarySue is found dead there, sitting in an Adirondack chair with her feet bare and the shoes gone. Rita and Dolce may both be suspects, even though Rita can prove she was unconscious in the hospital when MarySue was murdered. It's up to Rita to clear her employer Dolce,  find the real killer, and save both the shop and her job.

Comments: An enjoyable cozy if you don't mind brand names of high end clothing and shoes going over your head; at least they did over mine. What carried the book was the character, Rita Jewel, whose fashion sense and gutsiness made the book fun to read.  I had to suspend disbelief though, at the thought that loss of the silver shoes could lead to the end of a successful clothing shop. It was hard for me to imagine the extremely valuable "hand spun silver shoes" although later in the book, too late, they were described as having encrusted jewels. Apart from that, it was easy to get through this cozy, the first in a new series.

I received a complimentary review copy of this book.
© Harvee Lau 2011

Dec 6, 2011

Teaser: The Dressmaker: A Novel by Kate Alcott

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

Title: The Dressmaker: A Novel by Kate Alcott
Publisher: Doubleday, February 21, 2012
Tess opened the bag and gasped as Lucile's moonstone earrings - sparkling with light even in this dense, windowless space - tumbled into her hand. "I can't take these," she stammered.
(ch. 3 - quote from an uncorrected proof; the final copy may differ.)

Book description: Just in time for the centennial of the sinking of the Titanic ship comes a novel of romance and history, about a spirited young woman who survives the disaster only to find herself embroiled in the media frenzy after the tragedy.

Tess, an aspiring seamstress, thinks she's had a lucky break when she is hired by famous designer Lady Duff Gordon to be a personal maid on the Titanic's doomed voyage. On board, Tess catches the eye of two men, one a roughly-hewn but kind sailor and the other an enigmatic Chicago millionaire. But on the fourth night, disaster strikes...

Dec 3, 2011

Library Finds: Mystery Novels and Historical Fiction

My tour of my local library turned up four mysteries and an historical romance.

Title: The Real Macaw: A Meg Lanslow Mystery by Donna Andrews
Meg juggles twins, murder, and a back-talking bird in the next side-splittingly funny installment in the award-winning, New York Times bestselling series. (book description)

Title: Dog On It: A Chet and Bernie Mystery by Spencer Quinn
Meet Chet, the wise and lovable canine narrator of Dog On It, who works alongside Bernie, a down-on-his-luck private eye. Chet may have flunked out of police school but he's a detective through and through. (book description)

Title: Thereby Hangs a Tail: A Chet and Bernie Mystery by Spencer Quinn
In the second Chet and Bernie mystery, Chet gets a glimpse of the show dog world turned deadly.What first seems like a walk in the park to canine narrator Chet and his human companion Bernie turns serious when pampered show dog Princess and her owner are abducted. (Goodreads)

Title: Mr. Monk Is Cleaned Out by Lee Goldberg
Monk's been swindled out of his savings-but now it's payback time, in the original mystery featuring the famous detective with OCD.

Title: Beside a Burning Sea by John Shors
A man and a woman from different worlds, whose love is put to the ultimate test as they struggle to survive an extraordinary set of circumstances. A small band of survivors from the sinking of a hospital ship during WWII, including an injured Japanese soldier and a young American nurse whom he saves from drowning, makes it to the deserted shore of a nearby island.

I enjoy mysteries with animals and my husband is a fan of Monk. He has just finished Shors' latest book and so I got Beside the Burning Sea for him, hoping he'll like this one too.

Any library books you want to share with us?

Dec 1, 2011

Book Review: The Goat Woman of Largo Bay by Gillian Royes

Title: The Goat Woman of Largo Bay by Gillian Royes
Paperback: 320 pages, Atria Books
Publication date: September 27, 2011

In a nutshell: Simone finds and retreats to a small uninhabited island off Largo Bay in northeastern Jamaica, returning after years of living in the U.S. The tiny island belongs to an American expatriate - Eric, who runs a bar on the mainland and who rents her his island although he worries about her safety there.

In the meantime, a mysterious foreign businessman nicknamed Man-O-War has hired local thugs to influence votes in the upcoming general election for a new government. The two plots connect when a serious threat to Simone develops. 
She tapped the gun once in her palm, held Eric's gaze, then glanced at Shad....

"This island belong to him, miss," Shad said in a low voice. "You're trespassing...."

"He should've had a sign," she said. The words were guttural but crisp - an American accent with some Jamaican underneath. (p. 19)
My comments: The main character is a mysterious, determined woman whose actions and unusual retreat to the island arouses suspicion and concern among the residents of Largo Bay, who wonder about her sanity. These include Eric and his bartender Shad. To protect the woman Simone, they call on local people including a medicine man who performs black magic or obeah.  I enjoyed seeing the Jamaican culture and its current economic and political situations woven into the plot. These, in addition to the characters, carried the novel, which did not have a complicated crime plot. It's the first in a new detective series. I rate the novel 3.75-4 out of 5.

Author: Gillian Royes was born in Kingston, Jamaica and lives in the U.S. Virgin Islands. She earned a doctorate in American Studies at Emory University, and is the author of Business is Good and Sexcess: The New Gender Rules at Work. The Goat Woman of Largo Bay is her first work of fiction.

© Harvee Lau 2011
I  received a complimentary copy of this novel for possible review.  

Nov 29, 2011

Teaser: The Last Word by Ellery Adams

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

Title: The Last Word: A Books By the Bay Mystery
Publisher: Berkley; December 6, 2011

"Why does he scare you?" she asked very gently....

"He's got a secret. I can tell."

Olivia nodded. "He probably does. Most people have secrets, I think." (ch. 2)

Book description: Olivia Limoges and the Bayside Book Writers are excited about Oyster Bay's newest resident: bestselling novelist Nick Plumley. But when Olivia stops by Plumley's rental she finds he's been strangled. Her instincts tell her something from the past came back to haunt him, but she never expects the investigation could spell doom for one of her dearest friends...

Nov 28, 2011

Opening Sentences: Off With His Head by Ngaio Marsh

Beginning sentences: Over that part of England the Winter Solstice came down with a bitter antiphony of snow and frost. Trees, minutely articulate, shuddered in the north wind. By four o'clock in the afternoon the people of south Mardian were all indoors.

It was at four o'clock that a small dogged-looking car appeared on a rise above the village and began to sidle and curve down the frozen lane. Its driver, her vision distracted by wisps of grey hair escaping from a headscarf, peered through the fan-shaped clearing on her wind-screen. Her woolly paws clutched rather than commanded the wheel.

Comments: The atmospheric description of place and driver slowly builds up suspense. Marsh is known as a master of mysteries, and this one sounds good enough for me to borrow it from  relatives to take back on my long trip home.

Book description:
Pagan revelry and morris dancing in the middle of a very cold winter set the scene for one of Ngaio Marsh's most fascinating murder mysteries. When the pesky Anna Bunz arrives at Mardian to investigate the rare survival of folk-dancing still practised there, she quickly antagonizes the villagers. But Mrs Bunz is not the only source of friction -- two of the other enthusiasts are also spoiling for a fight. When the sword dancers' traditional mock beheading of the Winter Solstice becomes horribly real, Superintendent Roderick Alleyn finds himself faced with a case of great complexity and of gruesome proportions...(amazon)

Title: Off With His Head by Ngaio Marsh
Paperback: 304 pages
Publisher: Harper Collins Pb (August 21, 2000)

Nov 26, 2011

Book Review: Song of the Silk Road by Mingmei Yip

Title: Song of the Silk Road by Mingmei Yip
Paperback: 352 pages
Publisher: Kensington; 1 edition (April 1, 2011)
Genre: contemporary fiction, travel
Rating: 4/5

In a nutshell: Lily Lin,  a graduate student in New York who grew up in Hong Kong, is offered three million dollars by an aunt she has never heard of. But first she must travel along China's famed Silk Road and across the desolate Taklamakan Desert--and carry out a series of strange and almost impossible tasks along the way.  Lily meets Alex, a young American also traveling across China who offers to accompany her on her journey and who falls in love with her.  The ending of the journey reveals huge surprises for Lily that change her perception of herself and her life as she knew it.

Comments: Lily is not always a likeable person as she is stubborn, could be seen as promiscuous, and uses very expressive language at times, but her six to eight month trip along the Silk Road is informative and entertaining, travel wise, and her unusual story has an interesting twist at the end that helps to set her on a firmer path.

© Harvee Lau 2011
This book is my personal copy.

Nov 25, 2011

Current Read: Mrs. Jeffries and the Mistletoe Mix-Up

I finished one of my Thanksgiving reads, will listen to the other this weekend, and picked up another book to read as well - a cute Victorian mystery where the help gets involved in their employer, the Inspector's, cases and get enough information to help solve the crime. Mrs. Jeffries is the inspector's housekeeper and runs a household of several who are willing to go out and snoop and question other maids, footmen, shopkeepers,  pub patrons, or anyone who will talk with them about the case.

Title: Mrs. Jeffries and the Mistletoe Mix-up by Emily Brightwell
Hardcover: 272 pages
Publisher: Berkley Hardcover (November 1, 2011)
Genre: Victorian mystery
Source: publisher

Book description: Under a bundle of mistletoe, art collector Daniel McCourt lies dead, a bloody sword next to his body. Inspector Witherspoon is determined to solve the case-preferably before the eggnog is ladled out on Christmas Eve-but of course he will require assistance from the always sharp-witted housekeeper, Mrs. Jeffries, who has a few of her own theories on why McCourt had to die by the sword.

Nov 23, 2011

Thanksgiving Reads

graphic courtesy of Dover Publications

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! Enjoy the day and the weekend!

I've decided to armchair travel for my Thanksgiving reading, in between enjoying turkey and other goodies.

Title: River of Smoke by Amitav Ghosh, on a ship on the Bay of Bengal heading to Canton, China. Historical novel, 19 discs audio.

Title: Song of the Silk Road by Mingmei Yip, heading along the Silk Road in China. Contemporary novel, paperback.

Title: Skeleton Letters (A Scrapbooking Mystery) by Laura Childs, in the French Quarter of New Orleans.

Which of the three trips would you take this holiday? And what will you be reading, if anything, over the busy Thanksgiving weekend?

Nov 22, 2011

Teaser: Labyrinth of Terror by Richard P. Wenzel

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

"Isn't that a bit far-fetched, Rose? A bit histrionic of you to think that someone would deliberately try to hurt or kill patients at King's with a terrifying microbe? You've been reading too many sci-fi books." (ch. 2)

Book description: "Terror reigns when a string of post-op infections erupts in the sanitized halls of King s College Hospital in London. A trio of experts--microbiology Professor Chris Rose, Jake Evans, an American infectious disease specialist, and Elizabeth Foster, a senior agent with M15--soon realize that the offending organism is a weapon in a worldwide terrorist plot. The terrorists turn their focus on an upcoming medical-legal conference, hoping to infect hundreds and subsequently ravage the global community, as well as those very doctors who might be able to find a cure.

Author and physician Richard Wenzel takes us on a journey through Europe and the Middle East, unravels the science of infections, and opens a revealing window on the complex politics of medicine."

Title: Labyrinth of Terror by Richard P. Wenzel
Paperback, 202 pages
Published September 1, 2010 by Brandylane Publishers, Inc .
Genre: medical thriller, environmental thriller
I received a complimentary copy of this book for feature or review.

Nov 21, 2011

Book Review: Borneo Tom by Tom McLaughlin

Title: Borneo Tom: Stories and Sketches of Love, Travel and Jungle Family in Tropical Asia  
Author: Tom McLaughlin
Perfect Paperback: 132 pages
Publisher: Tom McLaughlin; August 27, 2010
Genre: travel memoir and sketchbook. Objective rating: 4/5

In a nutshell: A former biology teacher from Maryland and divorced father of two relocates to Malaysian Borneo, where he finds love and adventure, and documents in this book his southeast Asia observations during his travels with his adult children and his new wife. Sketches were done by Waterfront Niki of Sarawak, Borneo.

My comments: I enjoyed reading about Tom's travels throughout southeast Asia and his  lively observations about the places, people, and the wildlife of  several countries - Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia, Burma, and Malaysia - plus his trip to Chengdu, China to see the pandas at the research center there. Each page of his book is an essay in itself, with accompanying full page sketches of Tom and the scenery. These clever and often humorous sketches were a great accompaniment to Tom's narrative.

Tom also tells us about Alfred Wallace, the little known naturalist who collected and studied animals in southeast Asia and who may have contributed significantly to Darwin's theories of natural selection described in "The Origin of Species."

Besides the local wildlife descriptions, Tom narrates about the local culture as well -  a marriage ceremony, food preparation, his courting of his present wife, and his marriage. I thought it was a really nice gesture that Tom flew his two daughters to Bali with him and his new wife during their honeymoon.

About the author: All the proceeds from Tom McLaughlin's books go toward supporting the Matang Wildlife Center, which rehabilitates orangutans and other wildlife.

This book was a complimentary copy provided for the Pump Up Your Book Virtual Book Tour of Borneo Bob, touring October to December.

Nov 20, 2011

Sunday Salon: Yoga, Anyone?

The Sunday Salon.comWelcome to the Sunday Salon. Click on the logo to join in.

I've taken up yoga! I've dabbled with yoga in the past, attending a class or two and reading yoga how-to books. I dropped in to three classes by different teachers this week and like what I found. I didn't even mind working up a sweat. It felt and feels good! Next on the list was to get yoga togs. Doing yoga in sweats just doesn't cut it; they bunch up.

Thanks to reading Yoga Bitch by Susan Morrison last week, I am now a dedicated yoga fan. Last week I also reviewed Endangered by Pamela Beason, a mystery novel about a missing toddler and the great outdoors, plus endangered cougars in Utah. The other book I read was for a blog tour - The Personal History of Rachel DuPree, a novel about African-American homesteaders in the South Dakota Badlands in the early 1900s.

Right now, I'm reading a travel memoir for another tour Borneo Bob, which I'll post tomorrow.

What have you been reading recently?

Nov 19, 2011

Book Review: Endangered by Pamela Beason

Title: Endangered  (A Summer Westin Mystery)
Author: Pamela Beason
Publisher: Berkley; paperback
Publication date: December 6, 2011
Objective rating: 4.5/5

Sam scoffed. "Well, of course in California! People there go jogging through wild areas like they're running down Hollywood Boulevard."
In a nutshell: Sam Westin, a wildlife biologist and photojournalist doing a news feature on the mountain lions in a park in Utah, becomes involved in finding a missing two-year-old, Zack, who wandered off from his parents in the park campground. She is determined to find the child alive and prove that a human, and not the cats, were responsible for Zack's disappearance.

My comments: A lover of wildlife and the outdoors, although mostly while sitting in my armchair, I was attracted by both the cover and the title of the book. It did not disappoint. The book takes you through the canyons, mesas, plateaus of the rugged and wild park, in search of elusive mountain lions or cougars and in search of a two-year-old who might have been taken by several people - a human predator, by his father looking for ransom money, by hunters who want to be able to shoot the cats legally, or by Coyote Charlie, a reclusive and elusive hermit who lives in the wilderness.

It was a wild ride and trek with Sam and FBI investigator Chase Perez, who also becomes Sam's love interest in the novel, possibly edging out her longtime friend Adam, a news editor who seems more interested in getting a good story than he is in helping Sam.

A very enjoyable read that I recommend to all cozy readers and wilderness lovers.

A complimentary copy of this book was sent to me by the publisher.
© Harvee Lau 2011

Nov 17, 2011

Book Review: Yoga Bitch by Suzanne Morrison

"Guiding my friends through the poses with Indra's voice in my ear, I remembered something about yoga that was easy to forget in the world of celebriyogis and sacred schwag. At its best, it nourishes something real in me. Something vulnerable and authentic, where I am most myself. "(p. 298)

Title: Yoga Bitch: One Woman's Quest to Conquer Skepticism, Cynicism, and Cigarettes on the Path to Enlightenment by Suzanne Morrison
352 pages. Three Rivers Press, August 16, 2011
Genre: memoir. Rating: 5/5

In a nutshell: Undecided about her future, the author tries to find spirituality and a role model at a yoga camp in Bali, Indonesia. Though she becomes disillusioned with the camp toward the end of the two-month period, the training experience has a solid influence on her life years later.

Comments: Written with a lot of humor, and down to earth in her approach to yoga, the author details her yoga retreat, the yogis, her yogamates, the food and environment, and of course, the exercises and practices taught by her Seattle yoga masters, Lou and Indra.

One of the humorous events that Suzanne writes about is her experience with Bali Belly, a stomach ailment akin to Montezuma's revenge or diarrhea and severe cramps. Lou and Indra's yoga practice advocated drinking her own urine, which is supposed to have a strong anti-toxin effect, instead of taking antibiotics. Suzanne is reluctant to drink her own waste but gives in when she has no other alternative. Happily, she is cured by this urine therapy, but never takes this cleansing drink again, unlike her roommate Jessica, who sips from her coffee cup every morning, eyes closed, the sun on her face.

Suzanne gets discouraged when her role model Indra starts to focus on money, but in spite of this, the camp experience  and her own "enlightenment" continues to affect her years after, especially in making important decisions about her love life. More self aware and in tune with herself, Suzanne finds her own path to real happiness. Some years later, the author visits Lou and Indra back home in their Seattle yoga studio, a subtle acknowledgement that she did learn something valuable from them.

I gave this 5 stars for turning me on to yoga even more than I was before, and for keeping me entertained and informed through the entire book!

About the author:  A writer and solo performer currently living in Seattle, SUZANNE MORRISON has a one-woman show, Yoga Bitch, which has played to sold-out houses in New York City, Maui, Seattle, Memphis, London, and Oxford. You can find Suzanne at Huffington Post and at, where she writes about absolutely everything she's reading, writing, and rehearsing.

Disclosure: This book is a library loan.
© Harvee Lau 2011

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...