Aug 28, 2011

Book Review: Spycatcher by Matthew Dunn - Sunday Salon

Spycatcher Spycatcher: A Novel a Novel by…
Welcome to the Sunday Salon.

"So how could I possibly know about you, when your existence is kept secret from most of MI6, let alone other agencies?

Will smiled and looked away for a moment. When he was no longer smiling, he returned his gaze to the man before him. He decided that, despite his injuries, he could kill this man and everyone outside this room in less than thirty seconds. (ch. 3)

Title: Spycatcher
Author: Matthew Dunn  
Hardcover: 432 pages
Publisher: William Morrow; (August 9, 2011)
Source: Publisher for review
Objective rating: 4.75/5

Comments: The usual superlatives go to a thriller that is uncommonly good: action packed, gut wrenching, suspenseful, and at the same time quite realistic. I was sympathetic to the main character, a British agent who works in secret and who is unknown, even to  British intelligence service MI6, of which he a part. The story of his background and how and why he became such a fighter for justice and as a result, such a trained killer, is second only to the plot of trying to find and destroy the mastermind of terrorism around the world, an Iranian known only by the name of Megiddo.

I was all the way to the near end of the book. The only fault I found is that the wrap up of the hunt for Megiddo and the final confrontation took too long to come. The suspense was dragged out too long at the very end, I felt, and I was impatient for the ending. I anticipated some of the surprises that were revealed at the end, but that in no way detracted from my enjoyment of the book.

Product Description
Matthew Dunn spent years as an MI6 field operative working on some of the West’s most clandestine missions. He recruited and ran agents, planned and participated in special operations, and operated deep undercover throughout the world. In Spycatcher he draws on this fascinating experience to breathe urgent, dynamic new life into the contemporary spy novel.

Featuring deft and daring superspy Will Cochrane, Dunn paints a nerve-jangling, bracingly authentic picture of today’s secret world. It is a place where trust is precious and betrayal is cheap—and where violent death is the reward for being outplayed by your enemy.

Will Cochrane, the CIA’s and MI6’s most prized asset and deadliest weapon, has known little outside this world since childhood. And he’s never been outplayed. So far…

Will’s controllers task him with finding and neutralizing one of today’s most wanted terrorist masterminds, a man believed to be an Iranian Revolutionary Guard general. Intending to use someone from the man’s past to flush him out of the shadows, Will believes he has the perfect plan, but he soon discovers, in a frantic chase from the capitals of Europe to New York City, that his adversary has more surprises in store and is much more treacherous than anyone he has ever faced—and survived—up to now.

About the author: Matthew Dunn was an MI6 field officer. He lives in England. Visit his page at Matther Dunn

Aug 26, 2011

First Daughter by Eric Van Lustbader - Opening Sentences

Opening sentences can help to indicate a book's tenor and tone and can help readers determine if it's a book they would like to read.

"Alli Carson sat in the back of the armor-plated limo, sandwiched between Sam and Nina, her Secret Service detail. She was just three days shy of her twentieth birthday, but with her father being inaugurated President of the United States today, she'd scarcely had time to think about what she might get in the way of presents, let alone contemplate what she was going to do to celebrate.
For the moment, it was all about her father."

Title: First Daughter by Eric Van Lustbader
Forge Books (2009), Edition: Reprint, Mass Market Paperback, 464 pages

Book description from Goodreads:

Jack McClure has had a troubled life. His dyslexia always made him feel like an outsider. He escaped from an abusive home as a teenager and lived by his wits on the streets of Washington D.C. It wasn’t until he realized that dyslexia gave him the ability to see the world in unique ways that he found success, using this newfound strength to become a top ATF agent. When a terrible accident takes the life of his only daughter, Emma, and his marriage falls apart, Jack blames himself, numbing the pain by submerging himself in work.

Then he receives a call from his old friend Edward Carson. Carson is just weeks from taking the reins as President of the United States when his daughter, Alli, is kidnapped. Because Emma McClure was once Alli’s best friend, Carson turns to Jack, the one man he can trust to go to any lengths to find his daughter and bring her home safely. The search for Alli leads Jack on a road toward reconciliation . . . and into the path of a dangerous and calculating man.... McClure uses his unique abilities to journey into the twisted mind of a stone cold genius who is constantly one step ahead of him. Jack will soon discover that this man has affected his life and his country in more ways than he could ever imagine.

Eric Van Lustbader is also author of several Jason Bourne novels. He lives in New York.

Aug 25, 2011

Books of Love and Loss

I am now reading Elizabeth Berg's novel, The Year of Pleasures, about 55-year-old Betta Nolan, a widow who has moved from Boston to the Midwest after the death of her husband, bought an old Victorian house in a small town in Illinois, and started life over, with the memories of her husband still vivid.
The Year of Pleasures

"As for me, I liked things that couldn't be explained. I liked outrageous statements of faith; defiant acts of belief that flew in the face of science and practicality. Dia de los Muertos, for example; I loved the idea of bringing food and cigarettes to a grave site. The Japanese ritual of sending out offerings on burning paper boats....In a curious mix of sacredness and absurdity, these things suggested...that the dead do not entirely leave us. " (p. 66)
I have most of the book left to read and have not yet reached the reason for the title, A Year of Pleasures, but I'm looking forward to seeing how she moves on with life.

I've also just read The Summer We Came to Life by Deborah Cloyed, a new book about four women in their 30s, friends from childhood, who lose one of their group to cancer. Samantha, Isabel, Kendra and Mina have been taking vacations with Isabel's and Kendra's parents every year since childhood and have become a close knit group.Mina keeps three journals while she is ill, writing notes to her three friends to leave them after she is gone. The journals keep them going. Samantha in particular is anxious and vigilant, hoping to see signs that Mina is still with them even after her death.

The Summer We Came to Life

"UVA has a whole division devoted to scientific study of the paranormal - and after-death communication. It gives me goosebumps, it gives me hope." (p. 63)
Samantha has an experience in which she communicates or dreams she communicates with the dead Mina, who sends her back to reality and life to help her family and friends. I liked the book a lot but thought that it's more of a YA novel, and that the women would be better portrayed as in their early 20s.

In The Art of Saying Goodbye by Ellyn Bache, close friends of a dying woman cope in different ways with her illness that they know has no cure. The dying woman makes it easier for her friends with her cheerful demeanor. The author based her novel on a true story of a neighbor of hers.

The Art of Saying Goodbye

"Our friend handled her decline with a grace that amazed and humbled us, and forced us to appreciate the preciousness of our own healthy lives. In the stark glare of our shared mortality, we shed hurtful old habits and fears. We acknowledged what was really important to us." (from Ellyn Bache's note to readers)

The Long Goodbye

The Long Goodbye: A memoir by Meghan O'Rourke chronicles the days leading up to and the months after the death of  her mother after a long illness. The book discusses our society's general lack of mourning rituals that go beyond the period of death and burial. People go about their lives after the death of a loved one, but very often they may continue to mourn, very often alone and in silence. Heartbreaking and honest.
There are many other books about loss and coping with loss and death. Which ones have you read and which would you recommend?

Aug 24, 2011

Water's Edge by Robert Whitlow - Opening Sentences

Opening sentences can help to indicate a book's tenor and tone and can help readers determine if it's a book they would like to read.

Here are the opening sentences for
Water's Edge, a novel by Robert Whitlow, published by Thomas Nelson, July 19, 2011.

"Chiseled deep into the rock face of Stone Mountain, Georgia, is a football field-sized carving of Jefferson Davis, Robert E. Lee, and Stonewall Jackson. Young Atlanta lawyer Tom Crane was on the brink of a promotion as important to him as Lee's selection as commander of the Army of Northern Virginia - litigation partner at Barnes, McGraw, and Crowther.
The phone on Tom's desk buzzed. He picked it up. 'Arthur Pelham from Pelham Financial is on line 802,' the receptionist said. 'Do you want the call?'"

Product description: "Ambitious young attorney Tom Crane is about to become a partner in a high-profile Atlanta law firm. But first he must clear one final matter from his docket-the closing of his deceased father's law practice in his hometown of Bethel, Georgia. Killed in a mysterious boating accident, John Crane didn't appear to leave his son anything except the hassle of wrapping up loose ends.

But instead of celebrating his promotion, Tom finds himself packing up his office, having suddenly been "consolidated." To add insult to injury, that same night his girlfriend breaks up with him . . . by letter.

Returning to Bethel with no sense of his future and no faith to fall back on, Tom just wants to settle his father's final affairs and get back to Atlanta. But then he runs into an unexpected roadblock-two million dollars of unclaimed money stashed in a secret bank account. And evidence that his father's death may not have been accidental. Worse still, a trail of data suggests his father played a role in an international fraud operation.

Tom follows the money into a tangled web of lies, theft, and betrayal. Along the way, he meets a woman who is as beguiling as she is beautiful. And her interest in the outcome of the case is just as high as his. She challenges Tom's assumptions . . . and his faith. Now he has to decide who he can trust-and how far a father's love can reach."

For more on the author, check out Robert Whitlow.

Aug 23, 2011

Teaser: Graveminder: A Novel by Melissa Marr

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

"If anything happens to me, you mind her grave and mine the first three months. Just like when you go with me, you take care of the graves." Maylene looked fierce. Her grip on Rebekkah's hand tightened. "Promise me." (ch. 2. from an advanced reader's edition; final copy may differ.)

Title: Graveminder: A Novel by Melissa Marr
Publisher: William Morrow, May 17, 2011. Hardcover, 336 pages

Product description:
The New York Times bestselling author of the Wicked Lovely series delivers her first novel for adults, a story about the living, the dead, and a curse that binds them.

Rebekkah Barrow never forgot the tender attention her grandmother, Maylene, bestowed upon the dead of Claysville, the town where Bek spent her adolescence. There wasn't a funeral that Maylene didn't attend, and at each Rebekkah watched as Maylene performed the same unusual ritual: three sips from a small silver flask followed by the words "Sleep well, and stay where I put you."

Now Maylene is dead and Bek must go back to the place--and the man--she left a decade ago. But what she soon discovers is that Maylene was murdered and that there was good reason for her odd traditions. It turns out that in placid Claysville, the worlds of the living and the dead are dangerously connected. Beneath the town lies a shadowy, lawless land ruled by the enigmatic Charles, aka Mr. D--a place from which the dead will return if their graves are not properly minded. Only the Graveminder, a Barrow woman, and the current Undertaker, Byron, can set things to right once the dead begin to walk. (Amazon)

Author: Melissa Marr lives in Washington, D.C. area with her husband and children. This is her first adult novel. Her website is

Aug 21, 2011

Book Review: A Bitter Truth by Charles Todd

I smiled.  "You would have done the same for me, I think, if you had found me on your doorstep with nowhere to go."
She nearly laughed at that. "My doorstep?" she began, then broke off, shaking her head. "I live in the country," she added after a moment. "We seldom find strangers at our door." (ch. 1)

Title: A Bitter Truth: A Bess Crawford Mystery by Charles Todd
Publisher: William Morrow, August 30, 2011. Hardcover: 352 pages
Source: Publisher for review
Objective rating: 4.5/5

About: The time is 1917 and there is a war on. British nurse Bess Crawford has just returned home to England on Christmas leave from nursing wounded soldiers in France. When she arrives at her boarding house, she finds a well dressed but distraught woman huddling in the rain on the front steps and she invites her in, thus unwittingly beginning her involvement with the troubled Ellis family and their history of death and tragedy. Bess is caught up trying to help the distraught woman, Lydia, cope with the rest of her family and especially with her husband Roger. She travels with Lydia to the Ellis family home and has to play amateur sleuth after several murders occur on or near the Ellis family property.

Comments: A gripping historical mystery that is atmospheric and tense. The descriptions of the stark and dreary Shropshire countryside in the middle of winter sets the scene for the story of a family's disfunction and tragedy. The novel also does a good job of capturing the seriousness of a country in the midst of a terrible war, WWI. I was caught up in the plot and feeling the same dread and anxiety as the main characters. The protagonist, Bess, is portrayed as a feminine but strong individual, especially for a woman in her day, and she also makes a convincing amateur sleuth. I enjoy mysteries in general as well as historical mysteries and found this a very interesting read.

Sunday Salon: New Books to Read

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

I am going to miss the balmy days of summer that we have been having after that very hot spell a few weeks ago. It's cooler and sunny, with an occasional rain storm that doesn't last long and is great for the garden. We've also been swimming daily at a big outdoor pool, and it helps especially when our bath and shower are out of bounds till the new bath surround sets.

I've received some great books from Berkley Publishing:
The Tale of Castle Cottage by Susan Wittig Albert
Button Holed: A Button Box Mystery by Kylie Logan
The Perfect Suspect: A Catherine McLeod Mystery by Margaret Coel
The Gilded Shroud by Elizabeth Bailey
Naughty in Nice: A Royal Spynes Mystery by Rhys Bowen

from William Morrow/HarperCollins:
Sanctus (ARC) by Simon Toyne
The Most Dangerous Thing by Laura Lippman
A Bitter Thing by Charles Todd

and from other publishers:
A Rather Remarkable Homecoming: A Novel by C.A. Belmond (New American Library)
Lot's Return to Sodom: A Liv Bergen Mystery by Sandra Brannan (Greenleaf Book Group Press)
The Summer We Came To Life (ARC) by Deborah Cloyed (Mira)

That's a good batch of end-of-summer reads! I'm thrilled! I've just finished A Bitter Thing by Charles Todd and plan to post a review tomorrow. Which book will be next? Check back and see.

What books have you been reading?

Aug 20, 2011

The Summer We Came to Life: A Novel by Deborah Cloyed - Opening Sentences

Title: The Summer We Came to Life by Deborah Cloyed
Publisher: Mira; Original edition (May 31, 2011), Paperback: 320 pages

Opening sentences can set the tone for a book and help give you an idea of whether or not the book is for you!

Birth and death are the two occurrences in a person's life that seem to say one thing: we are not the ones calling the shots. "The only consolations are love and best friends." That's what Mina told me two days before she died.(from an advance uncorrected proof; final copy may differ).

Product description: Every summer, Samantha Wheland joins her childhood friends—Isabel, Kendra and Mina—on a vacation, somewhere exotic and fabulous.... This year it's a beach house in Honduras. But for the first time, their clan is not complete. Mina lost her battle against cancer six months ago, and the friends she left behind are still struggling to find their way forward without her.

For Samantha, the vacation just feels wrong without Mina. Despite being surrounded by her friends—the closest thing she has to family—Mina's death has left Sam a little lost. Unsure what direction her life should take. Fearful that whatever decision she makes about her wealthy French boyfriend's surprise proposal, it'll be the wrong one.

The answers aren't in the journal Mina gave Sam before she died. Or in the messages Sam believes Mina is sending as guideposts. Before the trip ends, the bonds of friendship with her living friends, the older generation's stories of love and loss, and Sam's glimpse into a world far removed from the one in which she belongs will convince her to trust her heart. And follow it.

See my review of the The Summer We Came to Life:  Books of Love and Loss

About the author: Deborah Cloyed lives in Los Angeles. As a photographer, travel writer, or curious nomad, she has lived in London, Barcelona, Thailand, Honduras, Kenya, and New York City. She's traveled to twenty other countries besides, several as a contestant on CBS' The Amazing Race. She runs a photography school for kids and is at work on her next book.

What do you think?

Button Holed: A Button Box Mystery by Kylie Logan - Opening Sentences

Title: Button Holed: A Button Box Mystery
Publisher: Berkley (2011), Paperback, 288 pages

Opening sentences can set the tone for a book and give you an idea of whether or not the book is for you!

"Here's the thing about walking into your button shop at five in the morning and running smack into a hulk of a guy wearing a black ski mask: it tends to catch a girl a little off guard.
Off guard, I sucked in a breath that was half surprise, half gasp of terror; and just inside the door of the Button Box, I froze.
For exactly two seconds.

Product description: Working out of her button shop in a Chicago brownstone, Josie Giancola has become one of the country's leading experts on buttons. Her reputation draws a Hollywood starlet to the Button Box to shop for one-of-a-kind buttons to adorn her made-to-order wedding gown.

But after the Button Box is ransacked and the actress murdered, Josie's cozy world is thrown into chaos-and a killer is out to keep Josie's lips buttoned up...permanently.

This is the first in a new series! What do you think?

Aug 19, 2011

E-Book Review: The Cosy Knave by Dorte Hummelshoj Jakobsen

Title: The Cosy Knave: (Gershwin and Penrose Mystery)
Author: Dorte Hummelshoj Jakobsen
Format: Kindle Edition, self-published July 20, 2011
Sold by: Amazon Digital Services
Genre: cozy mystery
Source: review e-copy from author
Objective rating: 4/5 

I was amused that this humorous cozy mystery, written by a Danish writer, was pulling the leg, so to speak, of the English, in this novel set in Yorkshire. The names of the characters reminded me of food - Rose Walnut-Whip, Olivia Cadbury-Flake, Sir Mars-Wrigley, Thomas Lipton - and are amusing in other ways - Kendall Mint-Romney and Mr. and Mrs. Kickinbottom for instance. The writer doesn't hesitate to bring in as many references to cozy English customs as possible - tea served with milk and sugar and scones in every other scene, steak and kidney pie in the pub, the obsession with football. I confess that my mind wandered from the mystery of the murder and what looked like a suicide or accident, so intent was I on the English names and customs. The mystery picked up however at the end and a good one it is!

Product description: The vicious attacks begin when the prodigal son of Knavesborough, Mark Baldwin, returns to the sleepy village after forty years in Argentina, fully equipped with fame, fortune and effeminate butler. Small wonder that the spiteful nosey parker Rose Walnut-Whip is stabbed, but how could the murderer get away with shattering the perfect, English tearoom idyll in front of twenty villagers?

Constable Archibald Penrose is in dire need of assistance as his superior, DI Mars-Wrigley, is preoccupied with England´s chances in the football world cup. Penrose´s enthusiastic fiancĂ©e, the mint-new librarian Rhapsody Gershwin, is more than willing to help as she sees this as Penrose´s route to promotion (and a welcome raise). As she is the vicar´s daughter, Rhapsody´s treasure trove of local knowledge may come in handy, and to be perfectly honest, the young sleuth may also be a tad curious. And of course the crimes do not stop here. A dangerous criminal is on the lose in Yorkshire. Can the young couple stop the perpetrator in time?  

About the author: Dorte Hummelshoj Jakobsen was born in Denmark and is a teacher of English. In her spare time she reads, writes and reviews crime fiction. Her other publications are Candied Crime, DJ's Daim Stories volume I, and Liquorice Twists, DJ's Daim Stories volume II. Her blog is

Aug 18, 2011

Book Review: Dragon's Pupils - the Sword Guest by Martin Chu Shui

Title: Dragon's Pupil - the Sword Guest
Author: Martin Chu Shui
Publisher:  BookPal, 300 pages paperback or Kindle 
Publication date: July 27, 2009
Genre: martial arts adventure, YA
Rating: 4/5

The chief monk raised his hand for quiet. "Master Zhang, as the chief monk of Anie temple, I formally request that you paint the dragons' pupils."

Zhang looked at the endless blue sky for a long time, and then sighed. :"All right, I'll do it, but be prepared." Taking out his calligraphy pen, he made four rapid strokes on the wall.

As soon as the pupils appeared in the dragons' eyes, they winked and twisted their whiskers a bit....The two dragons shook themselves and leapt into sky, against the heavy grey rain. There was a roar of wind and a howl of thunder, and they disappeared into the dark clouds. (Prologue)

I enjoyed the Tai Chi and martial arts action scenes almost as much as I enjoyed the stories that Henry and Liz's father told them, stories from old China that explained many of the martial arts movements and one aspect of ancient Chinese culture. I can see this being made into a film as the fights using Qi force and energy and Tai Chi movements are described in fascinating detail. A good book that also explains Chinese culture in terms of its history of fighting based on the philosophy of the Tao, and its legends that include a calligraphy pen which paints scenes that come to life. Definitely a book for YA readers and martial arts movie fans.

Martin Chu Shui describes his book as an adventure fantasy that combines both the ancient and the modern, the East and the West. There are dragons as well as vampires, protagonists that fly through the air, as well as those realistically portrayed. As I said before too, I enjoyed the stories from the ancients that the author uses throughout the book. I think the novel is a mixture of the literary with fantasy.

Product description: The story centers on Liz, born of half Australian and of half Chinese descent. Growing up in Australia, she isn’t very interested in her father’s ancient Chinese stories. She is concerned with problems that are far more contemporary — such as environmental issues, and particularly her friend’s handsome brother who is an environmental activist. But her disinterest in Chinese culture changes when her two worlds collide, after a catastrophic accident sets thousands of ancient monsters loose near her home.

Suddenly Liz must learn many new skills and call on all of her Chinese heritage if she is to prevent the monsters from destroying Earth. Helped by her twin brother and best friend, Liz sets out to discover why the monsters exist and how to stop them. When she is injured in a battle, she must travel to China to seek a cure that is spiritual as much as it is physical. But can she find the old man who can help her before the monsters catch her? How will she manage in a country that is so strange and yet so familiar? And can she learn enough about a world she has ignored to stop the monsters in time?

About the author: Martin Chu Shui lives in Australia with his wife and two children.

I bought this novel from the Kindle store.

Aug 17, 2011

Book Review: What Alice Forgot, A Novel by Liane Moriarty

Genre: women's fiction, fiction
Publisher: Amy Einhorn Books/Putnam, 432 pages, hardcover
Publication date: June 2, 2011
Source: Publisher
Objective rating: 4.75/5

"Tacky? I said that? I said that about you? I would never say that!" Alice was horrified. Had she turned into a nasty person who judged people by their choice of career? She'd always been proud of Elisabeth. She was the smart one, the one who was going places, while Alice stayed safely put. (ch. 7)

About: Alice Love, age 29, is in love with her husband and expecting their first child. She remembers buying a wonderful old house with two stone lions in the front whom they name George and Mildred. One day she wakes up in the hospital after suffering a concussion from a bad fall at the gym and is told that it's really ten years later, she is 39, and she has lost all memory of the past ten years. She must face the fact that she has three children under the age of 10 whom she doesn't remember, and that she is about to get a divorce from the husband she adores, Nick.

Alice notices she is skinnier than she used to be at 29, as she often works out at the gym, a place she used to hate. She finds she is in a strained relationship with her older sister, Elisabeth, and even with some of her friends and her former friendly neighbor. Alice tries to remember the ten years she has dropped from her memory and to change the past back to the one she knows, if she can. In the middle of this, one name keeps cropping up in conversations, a name she doesn't recall - Gina.

Comments: I enjoyed the premise of the book - a woman who forgot the past and is trying to rectify or change what she had done or become. It kept me reading just to find out how successful she would be, how she would react on meeting her three children as if for the first time, how she would gradually discover what happened in the past ten years.  

The author is an excellent storyteller and knows how to keep her readers guessing. The story is told  from three perspectives - Alice's, her sister Elisabeth's, and their honorary grandmother Frannie's. Her main character Alice is likable and sympathetic, and the other characters are also very realistic, especially Elisabeth, whose story is as moving as Alice's. I would recommend the book to all who are interested in the nature of family and friendships. 

About the author: Liane Moriarty has written Three Wishes and The Last Anniversary, translated into several languages. She also writes the Nicola Berry series for children. Liane lives in Sydney, Australia with her husband and two young children.  

Aug 15, 2011

Teasers: A Killing in Antiques by Mary Moody; Bitter Harvest by Sheila Connolly

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

" I hope you've had better luck
than I," she said when I caught up with her. "I've been here an hour and I haven't found a thing." (p. 12)

Title: A Killing in Antiques: A Lucy St. Elmo Antiques Mystery

Product description: Treasure hunting is not for the faint of heart. Luckily, Lucy St. Elmo, owner of the Cape Cod antiques shop St. Elmo Fine Antiques, has more than enough heart. What she needs to improve are her tracking skills-or else the wrong man could be convicted of a one-of-a-kind murder.

She was about to shut down her computer when she remembered Bree's warning about the weather. She clicked onto a weather site and read with a mixture of anxiety and scepticism about a burgeoning storm that seemed to be headed right in her direction. (p. 14)

Title: Bitter Harvest: An Orchard Mystery

Product description: Now that Meg Corey's apples have been harvested and sold, she's enjoying some free time. But when the small but annoying mishaps plaguing her start turning sinister, Meg begins to worry that her first harvest may be her last.

Book Review: What Language Is by John McWhorter: TLC Book Tour

"...our sense of language stipulates that almost every human on earth is either speaking something primitive or speaking something wrong.

If there was grandeur in Darwin's view of life, there is certainly nothing grand in that glum view of language. It neglects so much beauty and so much complexity. And luckily, it's inaccurate." (Epilogue)

Title: What Language Is (And What It Isn't And What It Could Be) by John McWorther

Publisher: Gotham Books, 240 pages, publication date Aug. 4, 2011
Source: TLC
Genre: language, linguistics
Objective rating: 4.5/5

Comments: This book on languages reads to me like a reference book that I can pick up and read at any time and at any chapter. The author explains his view of language in five chapters titled Ingrown, Dissheveled (sic), Intricate, Oral, and Mixed. An expert on dialect, McWhorter tells us about the differences between "real" languages such as English, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Arabic, Hebrew, Persian, and Hindi and dialects like Black English, Haitian Creole, Jamaican patois, and Philippine's Tagalog, among many others.

As a linguist, he compares languages and dialects, shows us their intricacies, and sees the beauty in their make-up. He also says that language is essentially oral, not written. There are too many interesting tidbits on language to show them all here, but it's a good book to have on hand for those times I become more curious about language in general. This is a great book for students of linguistics, by the way, as it does become quite technical.

Another interesting tidbit for the general reader:

"Black English is not "bad grammar" under any logical conception - unless we can seriously condemn our own mainstream English as crummy Anglo-Saxon....The proper idea is that many people will be bidialectal, using Black English in casual settings and the standard in formal ones - as a great many already do and always have." (ch. 3)

About the author: John McWorther is author of Our Magnificent Bastard Tongue: The Untold History of English, and the New York Times best seller, Losing the Race: Salf-Sabotage in Black America. He teaches linguistics and western civilization at Columbia University.

For a list of reviews of What Language Is, visit other reviews of this book on TLC Book Tours

Aug 13, 2011

Sunday Salon: Perfect Weather

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

The weather has been great the past few days. Sunny but cool. Loved swimming outdoors. I wish it would be like this through November.

I reviewed three books since the last Sunday Salon - a cozy - Sketch of a Thief, a memoir - The Rules of the Tunnel, and a novel, Lost Memory of Skin. I'm finishing up a delicious novel about a woman with amnesia - What Martha Forgot. I have a book tour for What Language Is on Aug. 15 and at least 3 e-Books waiting to be read. 

My book sorting and re-shelving is about 75% through. I gave away quite a few books to the local library. Whew! What a relief. Then I can begin to tackle all the other things that also need sorting, re-arranging, etc. This could take a while!

Got a few books in the mail that I'm looking forward to reading too.  What have you been reading/doing recently?  

Aug 11, 2011

Book Review: Lost Memory of Skin by Russell Banks

Title: Lost Memory of Skin: A Novel by Russell Banks
Hardcover: 432 pages. Ecco Books. 
Publication date: September 27, 2011
Source: ARC from HarperCollinsPublishers
Objective rating: 4.5/5

About: A twenty-something year old known as the Kid is discovered living under a Florida causeway with his pet iguana and his fellow homeless sex offenders, who have nowhere else to go. They have to abide by the rule that they must remain in the area as they are on parole, but they cannot live within a certain distance of schools, day care centers, or other places where there might be children. They are in a quandary because of this and are monitored by police and social workers through an ankle bracelet, which each offender must wear at all times.

The Professor is doing research on homeless sex offenders and decides to study the Kid, while trying to help him find a job and even a better way to live.  We soon find out though that the famous though grossly overweight Professor has problems of his own and a past in the inky world of espionage that soon begins to catch up with him. We see him through the eyes of the sceptical and cynical Kid, who is not a reliable narrator/observer. What is real and true about the Professor, and what is not? And how does he help or does not help the Kid? The reader has to make up his or her own mind. 

Comments:  I think that the book points a finger at some aspects of American society, the way it sometimes deals with people on all levels - imposing harsh, unrealistic and unbending rules for sex offenders like the Kid, for instance, and also for dealing in a secretive and ruthless way with successful people like the Professor, who may have done too much or know too much.

I was intrigued by the entire book. The Professor remains a mystery, but getting inside the head of the Kid and his history was quite a trip. It's a thought provoking book that gives an up close look at the life of a homeless person in the Kid, his living under the dark, dirty and dingy underside of the causeway, then trying to make a home on a houseboat in the swamps of the Everglades, the only other place he can find to live within the legal limits. 

I'm interested to see what other readers think about the book. Let me know!
 © Harvee Lau 2011

Aug 9, 2011

Book Review: The Rules of the Tunnel by Ned Zeman

Title: Rules of the Tunnel: My Brief Period of Madness
Author: Ned Zeman
Hardcover: 320 pages;  Gotham
Publication date: August 4, 2011
Genre: memoir, psychology
Source: TLC
Objective rating: 4/5

"Get up. Get the blood flowing. Go somewhere. Anywhere. Except to the shooting range or Ohio....
Call someone, anyone....
Resistance is futile.
Adapt or die.
The future is yours.
These are the rules of the tunnel." (p. 307)

About the book: Reporter Ned Zeman faces severe depression at age 32, so severe that he undergoes electroconvulsive therapy, shock treatment. However, this leaves him with almost two years of amnesia, when he literally has to start all over again. This is his story, of what he went through, what he learned from it, and what he wants readers to also gain from his experience.

My comments: This is not an easy book to read. It is a journey into the mind of a severely depressed person who gives us an insight into what and how he sees while going through his depression, amnesia, recovery. Some things could be scary, if you think deep and hard about it. Did his bout of severe anxiety and depression have something to do with his sensitivity to medication he had been taking? People more sensitive to their environment and to outside influences, either ingested as medicine or as life perceived and experienced, may sway under these influences and even go under.

Zeman shares his "brief period of madness" with us. He also offers solutions, tips to help those like himself cope; he describes his treatments and gives us enough medical information about his condition.

A very worthwhile book. An injection of humor makes it easier to read for those who wouldn't normally pick up a book on this topic.

About the Author: Ned Zeman is a contributing editor at Vanity Fair, where he has covered a wide range of subjects: crime, politics, Hollywood, and outdoor adventure. He has also written for Newsweek, Spy, GQ, Outside, and Sports Illustrated. Two of his articles have been finalists for the National Magazine Award, and he cowrote the screenplay for Sugarland, the forthcoming film starring Jodie Foster. He lives in Los Angeles.

TLC Book Tours
For other reviews of this book on the TLC tour, see Schedule of book tour stops

Aug 7, 2011

Sunday Salon: Whipping those books into order

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

My library in the basement has been a jumble, and now thanks to LibraryThing, I'm getting it in order, catalogued and sorted. Sort of. I've only just begun, with 2/3 of the job still to go. Gave away a few books to the library, threw away a few that were unusable, and am stacking the rest in some kind of order. This is so I can find a specific book when I want to get it. Cookbooks here, dictionaries there, women's fiction and memoirs here, and lots of mysteries over there. Wish I had more travel I can armchair world trips!

I am booked for two TLC Book Tours this month, one on Tuesday. Please come back then.

I bought at least 8 books at a library sale last week, too. Got my own copy, not too used, of The Poisonwood Bible, and several books of fiction by male and female authors whom I have never read. None of the books were mysteries!

Trying to keep cool in the outdoor pool at the Y but had to cut short my reading by poolside because of thunder yesterday. Might try again today.

What have you been reading/doing?

Aug 6, 2011

Opening Sentences: The Taba Convention by Stephen W. Ayers

Each week I'll introduce a book using its first paragraph(s). Here's The Taba Convention: A Jordan Kline Thriller by Stephen W. Ayers:

Alp Grum, Canton Graubunden, Switzerland, Friday August 10th

A crisp, high-altitude summer breeze took the heat out of the relentless sunshine. The crystal clear visibility and views were breathtaking. Two thousand meters up, Alp Grum was the highest point reached by the open tourist trains that left St. Moritz. The train climbed the mountains before making its laborious way down into Tirano in Italy. The view was picture-perfect, a Swiss postcard - even down to the cows with bells grazing in the lush green pastures on the mountainsides.

The morning had been excruciatingly boring for Yuval Eisenstadt of the Mossad. He had followed the Palestinian activist since leaving Israel, catching the same flight two days earlier out of Ben Gurion International to Kloten Airport. Since arriving in Zurich, the Palestinian had done nothing to arouse suspicion.
(ch. 1)

Paperback: 320 pages
Publisher: CreateSpace, June 4, 2011
Genre: political thriller
Source: author, Smith Publicity

Book description: Two deadly adversaries, one horrific conspiracy against Middle East peace. Disillusioned with the continued killing in the agency, Jordan Kline resigns to take up hotel management studies. Now the General Manager of the Sands Eilat hotel, Jordan enjoys life with his girlfriend Irit in the Red Sea resort town. An ex colleague is taken out on the Arava road, the long desert road leading from the Dead Sea to Eilat. On his way back from Tel Aviv, Jordan witnesses the dying man’s last words. They are words that will push Jordan reluctantly back into the world he had turned his back on. Jordan unravels a deadly conspiracy that threatens to engulf the Middle East in war. He becomes the most hunted man in Israel... (T)ime is running out as the historic date of The Taba Convention approaches.... The future of the Middle East is in doubt right up until the climax at the Taba Hilton Hotel in Taba, Egypt. (Amazon)

This is Book I in a three-part series.

Aug 4, 2011

To Sketch a Thief by Sharon Pape

Title: To Sketch a Thief (Portrait of Crime Mystery)
Publisher:Berkley; June 7, 2011
Source: copy from Publisher

About: Former sketch artist Rory McCain inherited an old Victorian mansion but she also inherited its ghostly occupant, a former federal marshal from the 1870s nicknamed Zeke, a ghost who insists on being part of her life and her sleuthing. When she finds a seemingly homeless dog, the dog leads her home to his owner, who has been killed. Rory feels she has to take the dog in, but Zeke objects strongly. In any case, the unlikely trio go on to solve another murder.

Comments: Dogs are always good companions whether you are a sleuth or not, and this mystery is all about them. The addition of a ghost to the plot gives a nice edge to the cozy,  though I would have loved to see the book  printed larger than the standard paperback! This is the second in the series and I'd love to read the first!

Aug 2, 2011

Teaser: Love Lies Bleeding by Jess McConkey

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

Her mind still racing with ideas, Sam looked up and found both Anne and Alice staring at her with a puzzled expression. "Ah, sorry, did you say something?" she asked, feeling a blush stain her cheeks. (ch. 7)
Title: Love Lies Bleeding: A Novel by Jess McConkey
Paperback: 336 pages; William Morrow Paperbacks
Publication date: July 26, 2011
Genre: mystery
Source: publisher

Book description: To what lengths would you go to keep a past buried?

Samantha Moore is the golden girl—with a perfect job, a perfect man, a perfect life—until a random act of violence changes everything. Unconscious for two months, Sam awakens from her coma a different person—bitter, in constant pain, and forced to endure medications that leave her nauseous, paranoid, and struggling to keep a grip on reality.

Furious with her family for sending her away to a small, remote town to recuperate—placed completely under a physical therapist’s care and robbed of what little freedom she has left—Sam lashes out at the “nice people” all around her who claim to have only her best interests in mind. But are her violent outbursts the by-product of her condition . . . or something else entirely? Strange things are happening here—and either Samantha Moore is losing her mind or her friendly new neighbors are far more dangerous than they appear to be. . .

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...