Jul 31, 2011

Sunday Salon: Grin and Bear It

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The heat has abated just a little bit, but not enough for comfort! We now take the consequences of our long and gentle spring! I wonder what fall and winter will be like...?

Got a very nice email from author Todd Borg, whose thriller Tahoe Hijack I reviewed last week. I liked the main character Owen and his Great Dane sidekick, Spot. I also enjoyed descriptions of the setting, Lake Tahoe, so much so that I went off to the library and borrowed an earlier book in the Tahoe series, Tahoe Avalanche. It was good too. Love the relationship Owen has with his trained dog.

Plan today is to browse local art, eat fast food, and listen to music at an art fair at the university. I'm not a great golf fan, so I'll be missing the Senior Open event this weekend. And I 'll be tucking in some reading in between.

Found some great new books at the library, among them Anne Zourodi's 2008 mystery, Taint of Midas, set in modern Greece on the island of Arcadia. August will be busy as there are several novels on Kindle I've promised to read and review this month! And Kindle is not my favorite way of reading, unfortunately, not when I have physical books around. Take a look at the cover of Taint of Midas:

I couldn't resist the bee....

What have you been reading this past week?

Jul 30, 2011

Mr. Monk on the Couch by Lee Goldberg

I think opening sentences are can be so important in getting the attention of the readers and setting the tone for the book. Here are the openers for Mr. Monk on the Couch!

Author: Lee Goldberg
Hardcover: 288 pages; New American Library
Publication date: June 7, 2011
Genre: mystery
Opening sentences: "There is never a day off from death. I was sitting at my kitchen table in my bathrobe and slippers, eating a cream cheese-slathered bagel for breakfast and reading the massive Sunday editions of the San Francisco Chronicle and the New York Times, when I got a phone call from Captain Leland Stottlemeyer of the San Francisco Police Department, notifying me of a homicide.I'm not a cop, but I'm on call 24/7 to the police department anyway."
Book description: Monk is back in the twelfth book based on the USA Network television series. Three strangers, each a murder victim: a security guard, a struggling student, and a beautiful woman. They have something more in common than death and Monk can't believe what it is-a couch. Before you find out why, you'd better sit down.

I've enjoyed the TV series and my husband is a big fan.

Jul 27, 2011

Book Review: Tahoe Hijack by Todd Borg

Title: Tahoe Hijack: an Owen McKenna Mystery Thriller by Todd Borg
Perfect Paperback: 349 pages, Thriller Press
Publication date: Aug. 1, 2011
Source: author
Objective rating: 4.5/5

Summary: Detective Owen McKenna is summoned by a crazed hijacker of a cruise boat on Lake Tahoe. The hijacker demands he arrest a man for the murder of Grace Sun, an unsolved case McKenna had worked on three years before. When McKenna investigates, he finds that Grace's daughter, Anna, is being targeted by her mother's murderer and being hunted by a fanatical militia group who believe Anna has information to a hidden treasure from the days of the Gold Rush. McKenna races to protect Anna as well as find her mother's murderer.

Comments: I had to hold my breath during the last part of this fast-paced thriller, full of action and surprises, and lots of twists and turns. I thought the book would make a great movie, what with the scenic setting of Lake Tahoe and the surrounding forests and mountains, an intriguing plot, and equally interesting characters on both the good and the bad side. I also liked the cover of the book, which made me want to pick it up and read it right away.

I liked the sympathetic main character, Detective McKenna, but I liked even more his sidekick and partner in crime-fighting, his trained pet, a Great Dane with the mismatched name of Spot. Dog lover that I am, Spot stole my affection and made me wish for a pet like him. Spot is an important part of the plot and McKenna's success in this case. I also learned more about the days of the Gold Rush and California's history. Though a little improbable in the action scenes, somewhat like a James Bond novel, the plot of Tahoe Hijack makes me want to see this book on film.

About the Author:
Todd Borg is the author of eight previous Owen McKenna mysteries. He has won the Ben Franklin Award for Best Mystery Of The Year, been chosen by Library Journal as one of the Best Five Mysteries Of The Year, and made Amazon's Mystery/Thriller Bestseller list.

© Harvee Lau 2011

Jul 25, 2011

Teaser Tuesday: Justice: a Novel by Jay Lillie

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

"This is getting very political, Chief."

"Yeah, you should let the Legal Department handle it. You'll get caught in between, and believe me it will not be fun if you do." ( p. 24)

Title: Justice: A Novel by Jay Lillie
Paperback: 250 pages
Publisher: Pentland Press (NC)
Publication date: March 2011
Genre: political thriller, mystery
Source: author

Book description: Julia Gold, a smart young detective in the homicide division of the Chicago Police Department, and Kate Stevens, a law clerk for a Justice on the United States Supreme Court, have their hands full solving the murder of a 26 year-old journalist found dead in a back alley on the southside of Chicago.The author's third novel takes Julia and Kate on a trek through Chicago, New York, Paris, New Orleans and Capitol Hill to find the answers. Meanwhile, the White House has its own mysteries to solve when it's discovered the President's most recent appointment to the Supreme Court is an illegal alien. Gordon Cox, Kate's fiance is brought in by the President to help manage the political damage and keep the newest Justice on the Court... (and) Kate finds the real reason her friend was murdered. (Goodreads)

Jul 24, 2011

Sunday Salon: The Heat Moves On

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I was able to turn off the air con in my bedroom at around two this morning and open the window to a nice flow of cool air. My 60 year old house doesn't have central air, as YET! But if this type of summer weather continues, we'll have to move the old house into the 21st century.

Several new books arrived, in addition to one I bought at the Borders' closing sale. Just one, so far and waiting for the discounts to deepen, though I'm sorry the bookstore chain has to go. An employee of the successful B&N store told me that Borders had internal management problems, in his opinion - top heavy and no internal communication. I'll bet it's gets even more complex than that

The newest arrivals were The Summer We Came to Life by Deborah Cloyed and a copy of The Taba Convention by Stephen W. Ayers, the first in the Jordan Kline series of thrillers.

Reviewed last week were In Search of the Rose Notes by Emily Arsenault and two cozies, two cozy mysteries, Tempest in the Tea Leaves by Kari Lee Townsend and Till Death Do Us Bark by Judi McCoy.

I have a couple of books to read for upcoming TLC book tours, plus a few on my Kindle that I've promised authors to read and review. The summer is hot and busy with books to read!

What have you been doing/reading this past week?

Jul 23, 2011

Book Reviews: Tempest in the Tea Leaves; Till Death Do Us Bark

Title: Tempest in the Tea Leaves: A Fortune Teller Mystery by Kari Lee Townsend
Paperback: 304 pages
Publisher: Berkley, August 2, 2011
Source: Publisher
Objective rating: 3.75/5

About: Sunny Meadows leaves her wealthy parents behind in Manhattan and heads upstate New York to finally find a life of her own as a fortune teller. She uses tea leaves to see the present and predict the future. Sunny finds an old Victorian mansion, supposedly haunted and therefore at a bargain price, and settles in with a white cat that suddenly appears in the mansion. When her first customer, the town librarian, visits and takes home some of Sunny's tea leaves, things start to go wrong. The librarian is found dead of poisoning, from drinking the tea she had made from Sunny's tea leaves. With the cat Monty, a cat with strange powers, looking on, and the town detective, Mitch, Sunny sets out to clear her name.

Comments: I liked the spunk of the main character Sunny, her zaniness and sense of  humor, which is also the sense of humor of the author, Kari Lee Townsend. In total, there is a likable character in the book -Sunny, a mystery to keep you guessing - the cat Monty, and a love interest in the person of the handsome but suspicious detective, Mitch. Add to that, adoring and protective but clueless parents, and you have a cozy that is entertaining and a nice summer read. This mystery is the first in the series.

Paperback: 336 pages
Publisher: Signet
Publication date: August 2, 2011
Source: Publisher
Objective rating: 3/5 

About: Dog walker Ellie accompanies her best friend Viv to the wedding of Viv's sister in the upscale Hamptons. Among all the guests and their dogs, Ellie is recruited by at least one person who wants a dog walker back in the city. The relative peace doesn't last long, however, as the groom is found murdered outside the guest cottage, and the son of the cook and gardener is considered a suspect. Ellie, an amateur sleuth, who has helped solve murders in the past, is asked to solve the crime, to the dismay of Ellie's protective boyfriend back home.

Comments: I got a bit confused by the names and activities of all the guests and their accompanying dogs, but luckily the book soon focused in on the main characters in the mystery. This is the fifth in the series. I'm looking forward to reading the others.

Jul 21, 2011

Book Review: In Search of the Rose Notes by Emily Arsenault

Title: In Search of the Rose Notes: A Novel
Author: Emily Arsenault
Paperback: 384 pages, William Morrow Paperbacks
Publication date: July 26, 2011
Genre: fiction, mystery; Source: Publisher
Objective rating: 5/5

"Maybe her dreams were full of things we were too young to hear about. Or maybe Rose was a little like me. Maybe her dreams, too, were full of things she didn't want other people to understand." (ch. 2)
Summary: The story of two 11-year-old girls, Charlotte and Norah and their 16-year-old babysitter, Rose, takes us to Waverly, Conn. in the 1990s. Rose disappears one night after walking home from her babysitting job, and Nora is the last to see her alive, a fact that her classmates and young neighbors taunt her with over the years.

Sixteen years later, Nora, now a teacher in D.C., returns to Waverly to visit Charlotte and go over their memories of what happened so many years ago and to try to find out what really happened to Rose. They re-examine theirs and Rose's notes made during the time they made up stories, wrote down their dreams, and tried to predict the future using a set of fortune telling books that Charlotte had.

Gradually, more secrets are uncovered as Nora talks again to her former classmates and friends, piecing together more about Rose that she never knew, and remembering the haunted feelings that made her leave Waverly ten years ago.

Comments: This is a psychological novel as well as a mystery that delves into the minds and actions of preteens and teenagers, young people who act alone, afraid to confide in their unaware and sometimes unreliable elders, some of whom they also consider untrustworthy. A revealing book to read from this vantage point. And a very good story as well. I recommend it.

About the author: Emily Arsenault is author of The Broken Teaglass, a New York Times 2009 Notable Mystery. She lives in Massachusetts.

Jul 19, 2011

Blood Trust by Eric Van Lustbader

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

Alli, spellbound in horror, felt for her tongue cleaving to the roof of her mouth. She could not utter a word.

"What, no shock, no hysteria, not a tear shed?" Flatfood said with a voice like an ice floe.

Title: Blood Trust: (Jack McClure-Alli Carson Novels)
Author: Eric Van Lustbader
Genre: political thriller
Publication: Forge Books (May 10, 2011)
Source: publisher

Product description:
Alli Carson has been through her own personal hell. With her father, the President of the United States, recently dead and her mother in a coma from a terrible accident, she has poured herself into her training to become one of the best FBI agents at the Fearington Institute. Her inspiration and solace comes from the one man with whom she has ever felt a kinship, National Security Adviser, Jack McClure. But when Alli becomes the prime suspect in a murder at Fearington, a wide ranging investigation is triggered, involving local homicide detectives, the secret service, the FBI itself, and Alli’s own uncle, the billionaire lobbyist Henry Carson. And yet nothing is what it seems.

What follows is a treacherous journey that leads Jack and Alli into a complex web of lies and deceit. Using Jack’s unique gifts to see the through the labyrinth of manipulation, their investigation leads them into the dark heart of the international slave trade, tied to a powerful Albanian crime lord whose ability and influence in global terrorism grows with each day.

Jul 17, 2011

Sunday Salon: Hot, hot, hot!

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I'm enjoying relatively cooler temperatures right now than back home, which will be 95 degrees tomorrow. I only hope my potted plants and flowers survive the heat onslaught.

Books I reviewed last week include
Killer Move, a psychological thriller by Michael Marshall,
County Line, a mystery by Bill Cameron, and
Overbite, a vampire thriller by Meg Cabot.

I've finished reading a couple of paperback cozies, one of which is Tempest in the Tea Leaves: A Fortune Teller Mystery by Kari Lee Townsend which I hope to review next week, and am planning to finish The Rules of the Tunnel by Ned Zeman for a TLC book tour in early August. I've ordered a copy of Pao by Kerry Young, which I should get in a few days.

My Kindle is filled with goodies which are both free downloads, amazon buys, and ebooks from authors. Am having a hard time pulling myself away from the print books with their gorgeous covers and picking up my Kindle. Anyone else having this problem?

My husband and I are listening to the audio book of The Postcard Killers, a thriller by James Patterson and Liza Marklund. It's pretty good so far!

What have you been reading? Keep cool, wherever you are!

Jul 16, 2011

Book Review: Overbite by Meg Cabot

Title: Overbite by Meg Cabot
Hardcover: 288 pages, Willliam Morrow
Publication date:  July 5, 2011
Source: Publisher
Objective rating: 4.5/5
Summary: The follow up to Insatiable is almost as good as the first book! Meena Harper has gotten over her ex-boyfriend, Lucien Anton­escu, son of Dracula, the prince of darkness. But has she? She has been recruited by the Palatine Guard, a secret unit of the Vatican dedicated to hunting and destroying all vampires/demons. But Meena insists that Lucien, only part vampire because of his angelic human mother, still has the capacity to love. The rest of the vampire world is interested in Meena because they hope to tap into her ability to predict how everyone she meets will die.

Her partner in the Palatine Guard, Alaric Wulf, is not convinced, however, that Lucien is anything but pure evil. There are new threats from the vampire world, something unusual and more sinister that even Lucien doesn't know about. Father Henrique—aka Padre Caliente— has also been assigned to the case.

Meena tries to shield Lucien while she and Alaric hunt down these new and more vicious vampires that are unknown even to Lucien, the supposed head of all demons. Meena is torn between her growing attraction to Alaric and her lingering love for Lucien. The fight between the demon slayers and the new breed of vampires hunting both Meena and Lucien  comes to a head with a surprising twist.

Comments: Overbite is just as interesting and entertaining as the first book, Insatiable. I was hoping for a third in the series but it seems that may not happen, based on how the story ends. But read it for yourself and make that judgement!

Jul 15, 2011

Book Review: County Line by Bill Cameron

"What are you doing with Ruby Jane's phone?"
"It's complicated. Listen, I need to talk to you. Do you have a minute?"
"I can't hear you."
"Something's happened at Ruby Jane's apartment." (ch. 4)

Title: County Line by Bill Cameron
Hardcover: 300 pages
Publisher: Tyrus Books;
Publication date: NONE edition (June 21, 2011)
Genre: Thriller, mystery
Source: publisher
Objective rating: 4.5/5

Product Description: When the steadfast Ruby Jane Whittaker drops out of sight, dogged ex-cop Skin Kadash sets out to discover what drove the woman he loves to leave her life behind so suddenly and without explanation. The discovery of a dead man in her apartment followed by an attack from a mysterious stalker leads Skin first to California, then across the country on a desperate journey deep into Ruby Jane's haunted past—and toward an explosive confrontation which will determine if either has a future.

Comments: The flashbacks to Ruby Jane and her brother James' earlier lives worked well in this novel. The plot was interesting and unique and not at all predictable. I recommend it to all mystery readers as a good book to get into for good storytelling, writing, and plot. Ruby Jane is a compelling character and is the center of this novel. I'm looking forward to reading Cameron's previous books.

About the Author:
Bill Cameron lives with his wife and a menagerie of critters in Portland, Oregon. His stories have appeared in Spinetingler, Portland Noir, and the forthcoming First Thrills. He is a member of Friends of Mystery, International Thriller Writers, and Mystery Writers of America.

Jul 13, 2011

Book Review: Killer Move by Michael Marshall

Title: Killer Move: A Novel by Michael Marshall
Hardcover: 368 pages. William Morrow
Publication date: June 28, 2011
Genre: psychological thriller.
Source: Publisher
Objective review: 3.75/5

Comments: An unusual thriller, noir, with a plot that involves a lot of high tech computer savvy. The book seems to be making a comment on how people can use computer technology to manipulate, change, and even destroy other people. A little frightening too, in this respect. A good read for those who like techno-thrillers and psychological suspense.

Product description: A creepy, fast-paced thriller... Bill Moore's got a lucrative job selling condos in the Florida Keys, a successful wife, a good marriage, a beautiful house. He also has a five-year plan for super success, but that plan has begun to drag into its sixth year without reaping its intended rewards. So now Bill's starting to mix it up—just a little—to accelerate his way into the future that he knows he deserves.

Then one morning Bill arrives at work to find a card waiting for him, with no indication who it's from or why it was sent. Its message is just one word: modified. From that moment on, Bill's life begins to change.

At first, nothing seems very different. But when things begin to unwind rapidly, and one after another, people around Bill start to die, it becomes increasingly clear that someone somewhere has a very different plan for Bill's future. Confused and angry, Bill begins to fight against this unseen force until he comes to a terrifying, inescapable realization: Once modified, there's no going back.

Jul 12, 2011

Teaser Tuesday: Eyes Wide Open: A Novel by Andrew Gross

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

I was in the den, flipping through some medical magazines. Suddenly I heard screams, Sophie's. From outside. "Get off, Evan. Get off! Mom! Dad!
I bolted up.

 (ch. 7, uncorrected proof. Final version may differ).

Title: Eyes Wide Open: A Novel
Hardcover: 352 pages  by Andrew Gross
Publisher: William Morrow
Publication date: July 12, 2011
Source: Uncorrected proof from publisher

Product Description:
A horrible family tragedy that may not be what it seems . . .
A past encounter with an infamous killer turns deadly today . . .
An ordinary man must risk his own family to find the truth.

Jay Erlich's nephew has been found at the bottom of a cliff at Morrow Bay. It's all just a tragic suicide, until secrets from the past begin to rear up again. Did a notorious killer, jailed for many decades, have his hand in this?

Years ago, Jay Erlich's older brother, Charlie, a wayward child of the sixties, set out for California, where he fell under the sway of a charismatic but deeply disturbed cultlike figure. Tragedy ensued and lives were destroyed, but as the decades passed, Charlie married and raised a family and lived a quiet, secluded life under the radar. Yet the demons that nearly destroyed him never completely disappeared.

When Jay heads out west to help his grieving brother, he is pulled back into Charlie's past—and begins to suspect that his nephew's suicide may not have been that at all. With eyes wide open, Jay puts his own life at risk to uncover the truth, a quest that goes beyond the edge of madness and a family haunted by a secret past . . . and into the depths of evil.

About the author: Drawing on two real-life experiences from his own past, New York Times bestselling author Andrew Gross has crafted a richly personal, yet utterly terrifying tale of two brothers, one successful, one wayward, trying to bridge the gap of what tore them apart.

Jul 5, 2011

Teaser Tuesday: Drawing Conclusions by Donna Leon

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

Drawing Conclusions by Donna Leon, A Commissario Guido Brunetti Mystery

'No special friends?' Brunetti enquired.
'No,' she said instantly. 'Patients aren't  friends. She knew the danger of that.' (p.71)

Jul 1, 2011

Library Finds: Two Mysteries and a Memoir

I volunteer at the local library and so have a chance to review a lot of books on display. Here's what I've recently found, old and new...

Drawing Conclusions A Commissario Guido Brunetti Mystery
by Donna Leon.

Donna Leon and her shrewd, sophisticated, and compassionate investigator have been delighting readers around the world. For her millions of fans, Leon’s novels have opened a window into the private Venice of her citizens, a world of incomparable beauty, family intimacy, shocking crime, and insidious corruption. In Drawing Conclusions, the 20th in the series, an old woman’s body has been found in a Spartan apartment on Campo San Giacomo dell’Orio. Brunetti can’t shake the feeling that something may have created conditions that led to her heart attack, that perhaps the woman was threatened. With the help of Inspector Lorenzo Vianello and the ever-resourceful Signorina Elettra Zorzi, perhaps Brunetti can get to the truth, and find some measure of justice. (from Goodreads book description)

Grey Zone by Clea Simon

Product description: A Dulcie Schwartz feline mystery - When a student goes missing and a professor ends up dead, Dulcie Schwartz realizes that midterms are going to be worse than ever. She’s hard at work on her thesis, but present day concerns – including the destructive mischief of her growing kitten – keep dragging her back into a tangle of motive, misbehavior, and maybe even murder. If only Mr Grey, her beloved feline ghost, would lend a hand, at least with that rambunctious kitten . .

At Home in Japan: A Foreign Woman's Journey of Discovery by Rebecca Otowa.

At Home in Japan tells the true story of a foreign woman who has been, for 30 years, the housewife, custodian and chatelaine of a 350-year-old farmhouse in rural Japan. This astonishing book traces a circular path, from the basic physical details of life in the house and village, through relationships with family, neighbors and the natural and supernatural entities with whom the family shares the house. Rebecca Otowa then focuses on her inner life, touching on some of the pivotal memories of her time in Japan, the lessons in perception that Japan has taught her and, finally, the ways in which she has been changed by living in Japan. (Goodreads book description)

I've good more than my share of books to read over the long weekend. What do you plan to read?

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...