Oct 31, 2011

Six Cozy Mystery Books

Cozy mystery series, new books out in November 2011:

Dangerous Alterations (A Southern Sewing Circle Mystery) by Elizabeth Lynn Casey
Paperback: 272 pages; Berkley

"When librarian Tori Sinclair's philandering ex turns up dead, the police chief believes Tori may have been involved. Only the girls from the sewing circle will be able to help keep her life from coming apart at the seams..."  (publisher)

Title: To Catch a Leaf: A Flower Shop Mystery by Kate Collins
Paperback, 336 pages; Signet

"Flower shop owner Abby Knight is happily engaged to her longtime beau, Marco Salvare. But when wealthy dowager Virginia Newport is killed and Abby's assistant is the prime suspect, Abby 'll have to save her friend and throw a killer and a thief in jail..." (publisher)

Title: Who Do, Voodoo? (A Mind for Murder Mystery) by Rochelle Staab
Paperback: 304 pages; Berkley
"Clinical psychologist Liz Cooper doesn't believe in ghosts. But when her best friend finds a tarot card tacked to her front door-and is then accused of murder-Liz will have to find a way to embrace the occult if she wants to outwit the real killer..." (publisher)

 Title: Behind the Seams: A Crochet Mystery by Betty Hechtman
Hardcover: 304 pages; Berkley Hardcover
"The crochet group's informal leader, actress CeeCee Collins, has a movie out, and is to appear on the Barbara Olive Overton Show. When CeeCee's niece is accused of poisoning one of the producers, the Tarzana Hookers crochet group must clear her name before someone else dies..." (publisher)

Title: Death on a Platter: Josie Marcus, Mystery Shopper by Elaine Viets
Paperback: 304 pages; Signet
"Josie Marcus plans to sample the local St. Louis cuisine for a City Eats food tour. But at Tillie's Off the Hill Italian Restaurant, another customer is poisoned. It's up to Josie to find a killer who has no reservations about preparing a dish to die for..." (publisher)

Title: Mrs. Jeffries and the Mistletoe Mix-Up: A Victorian Mystery by Emily Brightwell
Hardcover: 272 pages; Berkley Hardcover
"Under a bundle of mistletoe, art collector Daniel McCourt lies with his throat slit, a bloody sword next to his body. Inspector Witherspoon is determined to solve the case before Christmas Eve, with the help of the sharp-witted housekeeper, Mrs. Jeffries, who has her own theories on why McCourt had to die by the sword." (publisher)

Oct 29, 2011

Sunday Salon: 1Q84

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

Thanks to Dewey's 24-Hour Read-a-Thon, I reviewed more books in the past seven days than I normally do. It was a good feeling to get six books down, about three more than I usually do.

I posted comments on three books: Success Secrets of Sherlock Holmes by David Accord; Dreaming in Chinese by Deborah Fallows, and The Guilded Shroud  by Elizabeth Bailey. I also reviewed:
The Last Blind Date by Linda Yellin, a memoir
The Last Chinese Chef by Nicole Mones, a novel
The Economics of Ego Surplus by Paul McDonnold, a crime thriller

I  hope to get through a brand new book - Haruki Murakami's long awaited new novel, 1Q84, which I 'm reading on Kindle since the hardcover book is so thick and heavy! It's almost 1,000 pages long, but worth the read, I've heard. Here's a very concise book description from an article by the Associated Press entitled Murakami's '1Q84' offers clues to literature's future: Two story lines converge gracefully, one of them in an alternate reality. Fantasy lovers and literature lovers alike might enjoy this.

Everything's on hold while I read 1Q84, except for a Nov. 14 book tour for The Personal History of Rachel Dupree, a novel about African American homesteaders in the early 1900s.

Update: I've just signed up for a Murakami challenge to read at least one of his books in 2011, and 1Q84 is it! For more information, visit Haruki Murakami Reading Challenge

What have you been reading and what are you planning to read this week?

Book Review: The Economics of Ego Surplus, a Novel of Economic Terrorism by Paul McDonnold

Title: The Economics of Ego Surplus: A Novel of Economic Terrorism
Author: Paul McDonnold
Starving Analyst Press, September 15, 2010
Genre: crime thriller
Objective rating: 4/5

"My name is Marshall Adams. I'm with the Federal Bureau of Investigations. Can I talk to you for a few minutes?"

"Okay. Call me Kyle. Am I in some kind of trouble?" (p. 17)
Kyle Linwood,  a teacher and doctoral student of economics, is approached by the FBI to help  find out about recent internet "chatter" on possible economic terrorism aimed at the U.S. and ultimately the global market. Kyle had escaped from kidnappers in Libya years before by a terrorist group. His knowledge of Africa and economics is called on when the U.S.stock market suddenly began crashing with massive sell-offs, then leveling out very soon after.

The FBI are concerned about economic warfare aimed at the stock market and the U.S. currency. Kyle goes to Dubai in the United Arab Emirates to investigate a private banking corporation possibly linked to the stock market manipulation. There he gets some answers but barely escapes with his life.

My comments: I know a little bit about economics and found the book fun to read. It was like reliving Econ 101 and 102 classes, with an update on the workings of the global market. The author explains supply and demand, recession and inflation, the history of economics and Adam Smith, Keynes economic theory, the theory of contemporary neoclassical economists, and does so in a way that even high school students would understand how the global economy works. In between, he describes the opulence of Dubai, its fantastic malls and hotel complexes, and touches on the poverty of the people in its deserts. I enjoyed the mini tour and armchair travel as well as the bit of thriller action that comes at the end of the book.

The book is a comment on the possible downside of the global economy, when countries tramp around in each other's backyards and leave their footprints there - desirable or undesirable consequences. Besides being a thriller, the final aim of his book is to show "the shortage of humility and the surplus of ego" that can rule or ruin the global market.

I received a complimentary copy of this book for review.

Oct 28, 2011

Book Review: The Last Chinese Chef by Nicole Mones

"I love that you got it about the food," he said, "that you understood it, that maybe - I hope I'm not projecting - you might even be on your way to loving it." (ch. 14)
Title: The Last Chinese Chef: a Novel by Nicole Mones
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, May 4, 2007
Genre: culinary history, fiction
Rating: 4.5/5

My comments: Maggie McElroy, a food writer in America, is on personal mission to Beijing, where her deceased husband Matt worked on and off as a lawyer. Someone has filed a suit against his estate and she must find out the truth. She is also sent by her editor to interview chef Sam Liang in Beijing for an article. Liang is translating a culinary book with his father from the old Mandarin - The Last Chinese Chef.

In Beijing, Maggie's personal problems are balanced by her new interest in the history of Chinese cuisine as she learns about food used as a way to develop community as well as a way to ease heart and mind. She learns about the combinations of texture and flavor to provide various meals categorized as extravagant, rustic, or elegant. She also discovers the difference between Chinese American food, meant to be familiar yet exotic, and true Chinese food, with each dish different and unique.

I found the book very informative and learnt to appreciate the time, skill, and thought that goes into classical Chinese cooking. The special dishes that were once created exclusively for the Imperial family are now enjoyed by all. I myself am a great fan of dim sum, the little dishes of amazing variety that once only the Imperial family were privileged to eat.

Book description: Nicole Mones takes readers inside the hidden world of elite cuisine in modern China through the story of an American food writer in Beijing. When recently widowed Maggie McElroy is called to China to settle a claim against her late husband’s estate, she is blindsided by the discovery that he may have led a double life. Since work is all that will keep her sane, her magazine editor assigns her to profile Sam, a half-Chinese American who is the last in a line of gifted chefs tracing back to the imperial palace. As she watches Sam gear up for China’s Olympic culinary competition by planning the banquet of a lifetime, she begins to see past the cuisine’s artistry to glimpse its coherent expression of Chinese civilization. It is here, amid lessons of tradition, obligation, and human connection that she finds the secret ingredient that may yet heal her heart. (Amazon)

About the author: Mones, award-winning author of Lost in Translation and A Cup of Light, and a contributor to Gourmet magazine, ran a textile business in China for 18 years at the end of the Cultural Revolution. She lives in Portland, Oregon. For more about her books, visit her at Nicole Mones.

© Harvee Lau 2011

Oct 27, 2011

Book Review: The Last Blind Date by Linda Yellin

He had a policy. "My kids have had enough disruption. I don't want them meeting someone, getting attahced, and then she goes away."
Goes away? Goes where? My stomach hurt, but not from seasickness.
He said,"It'd be too confusing for them." (p. 30)

Title: The Last Blind Date: A Real-Life Love Story by Linda Yellin
Paperback: 336 pages, Gallery Books, October 4, 2011
Genre: memoir, romance
Objective rating: 3.5/5

About the book: Linda and Randy are matched by their friends, even though Linda lives in Chicago and Randy in New York, and their match-making friends live in California. Randy makes the first contact with Linda by calling her and chatting for 45 minutes, during which time they interview each other about their lives and their likes and dislikes, to see if they would be a good "match."
They sleep together on their first date, but show their cautiousness about one another by sleeping with their underwear on. Randy and Linda go out for more than two years before Randy will let her meet his two children from a previous marriage. Linda is told she has to make little "sacrifices" to please the kids once they do meet, sacrifices such as throwing a game they are playing so the kids win. Linda also has to deal with the children's mother Susan, both before and after Randy and Linda do marry.  After their marriage, Linda has to get used to New York, find a new job and new friends and fit into her new life. The marriage survives, and things seem to be happy ever after.
Comments: The book is well written but reads like a private diary, a love story told chronologically. The romance and marriage do not have any of the really serious or strong conflicts that make a book challenging, or perhaps the author was being selective in what she wrote. I felt that this relatively uneventful story was probably the story of thousands of contemporary couples, people who get together and marry the second time around.
A complimentary copy of this book was provided by the publisher.  

Oct 25, 2011

The Ronin's Mistress, a Novel by Laura Joh Rowland

Title: The Ronin's Mistress: A Novel (Sano Ichiro Novels)
Hardcover: 336 pages, Minotaur Books; September 13, 2011
Genre: historical mystery

A servant knelt at the threshold of the bedchamber. "There's a message from the sosakan-sama. He wants your help with a new case." Hirata was intrigued and excited. He said to Midori, "Maybe this is what we've been waiting for." (ch. 2)
Book description: The Ronin's Mistress is set in 18th century Japan and draws on the story of the fabled 47 Ronin. Japan, 1703. On a snowy night, 47 warriors murder the man at the center of the scandal that turned them from samurai into masterless ronin two years before. Clearly this was an act of revenge--but why did they wait so long? And is there any reason they should not immediately be ordered to commit ritual suicide? Sano Ichiro, demoted from Chamberlain to his old post as Most Honorable Investigator of Events, Situations, and People, has mere days to solve the greatest mystery of samurai legend--while his own fortunes hang in the balance. (amazon)

About the author: Laura Joh Rowland lives in New York. This is the 15th novel in the award-winning series set in feudal Japan. Her website is at Laura Joh Rowland.

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

Oct 23, 2011

Book Reviews : Success Secrets of Sherlock Holmes; Dreaming in Chinese; The Guilded Shroud

What did you think of the books you read on Saturday for the Read-a-Thon?

Here are my comments on the ones I read:

Title: Success Secrets of Sherlock Holmes: Life Lessons from the Master Detective by David Acord
Paperback: 208 pages, Perigee Trade
Publication date: November 1, 2011
Rating: 4/5

I liked the descriptions of the working habits and methods of the famous detective, Sherlock Holmes, that made him so famous. Acord applies Holmes' rules for detecting to general success in life in this remarkable little self-help manual on how to reach your goals. There were also a lot of very interesting tidbits about the character Holmes and his creator, Arthur Conan Doyle.

Title: Dreaming in Chinese: Mandarin Lessons in Life, Love, and Language by Deborah Fallows.
Paperback: 208 pages
Publisher: Walker & Company (September 13, 2011)
Rating: 5/5

I didn't expect to be chuckling and laughing out loud reading this book on language and linguistics. Deborah Fallows writes about the three years she spent in China, diligently learning more about Mandarin and other Chinese languages and  about the culture - linguistic and otherwise. Misunderstandings because of pronunciation problems put her in amusing situations, such as when she asked for takeout in Chinese at a restaurant but mistakenly told the waiter she wanted a big hug. A brief overview of the history of Chinese language, oral and written, past and present, given in an easy and down to earth way, for the general reader.

Title: A Gilded Shroud (A Lady Fan Mystery) by Elizabeth Bailey
Paperback: 368 pages
Publisher: Berkley Trade; 1 edition (September 6, 2011)
Rating: 3/5

The book started out with a promising situation - a young woman  in Georgian England is hired as a temporary companion to Dowager Lady Pollsbrook and is urged to solve the murder of her employer's daughter-in-law and the disappearance of a valuable jeweled fan. However, the archaic language used at the beginning of the book made it hard to read. The unusual names of the main characters also were a distraction. The lady's companion Ottilia, the butler Cattawade, Mr. Triplow, and Lady Pollsbrook all triggered blips in my mind each time their names appeared on a page. I wanted to change Ottilia to Lia and Cattawade to Wade, or something much simpler. I also thought the book was a little too long.

Review copies of the books were sent to me by the publishers. A review copy of Dreaming in Chinese was sent by LibraryThing Early Reviewers program.

Read-A-Thon: End of Event Meme

To the organizers and helpers at Dewey's 24-Hour Read-a-Thon, thanks for the great experience!

I finished 2 1/2 books on my first Read-a-Thon! (I confess I didn't stay up all night to finish all three). The Read-A-Thon was fun and helped me finish those books much faster than I normally would have done. Thanks to all those who cheered me on!

Here is the last meme of the event:

1.Which hour was most daunting for you? The hour just before my normal bedtime.

2.Could you list a few high-interest books that you think could keep a Reader engaged for next year? There are so many....depending on the genres you prefer.

3.Do you have any suggestions for how to improve the Read-a-thon next year? I think everything went well and I was so impressed by the work of the organizers and volunteers.

4.What do you think worked really well in this year’s Read-a-thon? The cheering, the prize giving, everything really.

5.How many books did you read? Sad to say, only 2 1/2, this time....

6.What were the names of the books you read?
Success Secrets of Sherlock Holmes by David Acord - 4 stars
The Gilded Shroud by Elizabeth Bailey - 3 stars
Dreaming in Chinese by Deborah Fallows - 5 stars, so far

7.Which book did you enjoy most? Dreaming in Chinese, a book on language and linguistics that is surprisingly funny and clever.

8.Which did you enjoy least?
Sadly, The Gilded Shroud, an historical mystery and the first in the series for the writer.

9.If you were a Cheerleader, do you have any advice for next year’s Cheerleaders? They did a good job!

10.How likely are you to participate in the Read-a-thon again? What role would you be likely to take next time? I'd love to participate again., perhaps donate a book for a prize,  but don't think I'd have enough time to be a cheerleader.


Oct 22, 2011

Read-a-Thon: Evening Update

I have rushed through my second book, The Gilded Shroud, an historical mystery and am starting a third book. I don't know if I'll be able to finish it by 8 a.m. tomorrow, though it's a short memoir/travel book.

 Wish me luck finishing Dreaming in Chinese: Mandarin Lessons in Life, Love, and Language by Deborah Fallows.
It's great having readers and cheerers cheering me on!

Read-a-Thon: After Lunch Update

I have finished one book, Success Secrets of Sherlock Holmes: Life Lessons from the Master Detective by David Acord, and enjoyed reading about the habits and methods of the famous detective that made him such a success. Acord applies Holmes' rules for detecting to general success in life in this remarkable little self-help manual on how to succeed. I really enjoyed learning more about Holmes and his creator, Arthur Conan Doyle.

I am still working on a longer book, The Gilded Shroud by Elizabeth Bailey, an English mystery set in the Georgian period. I hope to get this finished by this evening, so I can go on to Dreaming in Chinese: Mandarin Lessons in Life, Love, and Language by Deborah Fallows.

Wish me luck!

Dewey's 24-Hour Read-a-Thon: Hour 1 Introduction Meme

Introduction Meme

1)Where are you reading from today? From Ohio, USA, reading soon in my car while my hubby drives me around doing chores.

2)Three random facts about me I'm an avid reader and have been doing a lot of blogging recently. I'm expecting a new grandbaby in a few weeks!

3)How many books do you have in your TBR pile for the next 24 hours? I hope to finish 3.

4)Do you have any goals for the read-a-thon (i.e. number of books, number of pages, number of hours, or number of comments on blogs)? This is my first readathon, so I'm hoping to participate as much as possible and have a lot of fun!

Oct 21, 2011

Dewey's 24-Hour Read-a-Thon

I've signed up for Dewey's Read-a-Thon for the first time! Though I'll not be able to read for 24 hours straight, I'll be doing my best to read, visit other blogs, do a mini challenge or two, etc. The reading event begins Saturday, Oct. 22. The start time here in Ohio is 8 a.m. For start times all around the globe, click start times.

Here's some info re Dewey’s 24-Hour Read-a-thon: "For 24 hours, we read books, post to our blogs about our reading, and visit other readers’ blogs. We also participate in mini-challenges throughout the day. It happens twice a year, in April and in October.

It was created by the beloved Dewey. The first one was held in October 2007. Dewey died in late 2008. We’re still saddened by her absence, but the show must go on. The read-a-thon was renamed to honor its founder in 2009. Dewey’s 24-Hour Read-a-thon is hosted by Trish and Shesten with help from volunteers."

Starting tomorrow, I plan to read:

  • A Gilded Shroud (A Lady Fan Mystery) by Elizabeth Bailey

  • Dreaming in Chinese: Mandarin Lessons in Life, Love, and Language by Deborah Fallows

  • Success Secrets of Sherlock Holmes: Life Lessons from the Master Detective by David Acord

  • Wish me luck!

     To join in as a reader or to volunteer, host a mini challenge, donate a prize, or be a cheerleader, click on the Read-a-Thon link.

    E-Book Review: Little Elvises by Timothy Hallinan

    Title: Little Elvises: (The Junion Bender Series) Kindle Edition
    Author: Timothy Hallinan
    Publisher: Hallinan Consulting, LLC (August 16, 2011)
    Genre: thriller

    I am a great fan of satire. Jonathan Swift's books were among my favorites back  in school, though I pretty much stick with  modern books nowadays. But I was delighted to find some modern satire combined with a genre I like - mysteries - not like the classics of course, but satire that made me nod my head and chuckle.

    The book was an e-Book, Little Elvises, a Junior Bender thriller by Tim Hallinan, a very modern day writer who takes off on LA and Hollywood culture in his fairly new mystery series. The writer gives a bird's eye view of the goings-on in the San Fernando Valley, in Hollywood, and in La La Land in general.

    Little Elvises comes off as wry humor and is very entertaining. It's also a good thriller. It has an engaging character, Junior Bender, who is sympathetic and as honest as a professional burglar can be who works for other crooks. Even though the thriller itself is fiction,  the social commentary is there and all pervasive. I loved the irony in the humor.

    Product description: 2011 Edgar and Macavity nominee, Tim Hallinan, brings back Junior Bender, a top-of-the-line burglar who also works as a private eye – for crooks, and the hero of CRASHED, the first in the mystery/thriller series.  Little Elvises is a hilarious Los Angeles thriller about old-time rock-and-roll, missing persons, the world's oldest gangster, and a terrifying if somewhat hapless hit man named Fronts.

    I received a complimentary copy of this e-Book.  

    Oct 19, 2011

    Book Review: The Ugly Sister by Jane Fallon

    Title: The Ugly Sister: A Novel by Jane Fallon
    Publisher: Penguin (September 29, 2011), 448 pages
    Rating: 4/5

    'I've decided to go back to modelling,' Cleo says. 'After all, Kate and Naomi still work, so why shouldn't I? It's just that I've been away for a while so I need to get my face out there, show people that I've still got it. And if that means having to endure a few go sees then...'

    'Gosh. Good for you.'
    The Ugly Sister is a study of sibling rivalry, a novel that does an excellent job of exploring and developing this theme. Told from the point of view of Abi, the younger sister who has grown up overshadowed by her older sister, the book is a character study as well as a novel of late fulfillment and finally realized dreams. It drags just a bit towards the second half of the book but overall it was an enjoyable read and I highly recommend it.

    Plot summary:
    When Abi gets an invitation from her older sister Cloe to spend the summer at her home in London, Abi isn't sure what to make of it. The sisters have not been close since Cloe left home at age 16 to pursue a modeling career. Now Cloe has a family - a successful husband and two little girls, ages 10 and 7 -  and wants to revive her modeling career.

    Abi soon begins to suspect that the self-absorbed Cloe only invited her to act as a nanny for the two girls while she goes off on photo shoots and appointments. Cloe's frequent absences from the house brings Abi closer to Cloe's husband Jon and the two girls, and Abi soon has an attack of conscience when she finds herself becoming more and more attracted to Jon. She is horrified when she realizes Jon reciprocates her interest.

    Abi's intention has all along been to renew her friendship and her family relationship with her older sister. Abi has always considered herself the "ugly ducking" in the family and her sister Chloe the beautiful swan. Abi tries to discuss their childhood with Cloe, tries to rediscover the girl who used to be her sister Carolyn before Carolyn's name change to the more glamorous "Cloe". Is it too late for the sisters to reunite and be as close as they used to be as children?

    About the author: Jane Fallon is a British television producer and novelist. Her book Foursome was nominated for a Melissa Nathan Award. This is her fourth novel.

    A complimentary copy of this book was sent to me by Penguin Books.

    © Harvee Lau 2011

    Oct 18, 2011

    Book Review/Tour and Teaser: You Never Know by Lilian Duval

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

    "Calm down," the man says. "No Madoff. Your money is in the best place - Goldman Sachs. They rejected Madoff's fund for all their clients. Safer than Uncle Sam. I told you that you'd be in good hands." (ch. 17)
    Title: You Never Know: Tales of Tobias, an Accidental Lottery Winner
    Author: Lilian Duval
    Paperback, 354 pages
    Published January 1st 2011 by Wheatmark
    Objective rating: 4/5

    Comments: I was afraid this story about a lottery winner would end badly, as many stories on TV and in the news have often reported about lottery winners. I was afraid that there would be unbelievable loss, grief, tragedy, even death. Imagine my pleasant surprise when the very worst doesn't happen, although there are strains along the way for Tobias and his wife and daughter. There are even threats of divorce and bankruptcy, and actual threats of harm to the family.

    The book's message seems to be that there doesn't have to be tragedy, however, for someone who has accidentally and suddenly become fabulously wealthy, as long as there is generosity and compassion, friendship, love of family, and a good shoulder on one's head.  Overall, a very pleasant and surprising book to read on this subject.

    Goodreads book description: Tobias Hillyer had a promising future until a car accident claimed the lives of his parents. Abandoning his dreams, he dropped out of college to take care of his orphaned, brain-damaged younger brother. Now in his late thirties, Tobias must struggle to provide for his family, working dead-end jobs that fall far short of the academic career he had imagined.

    Then he wins the lottery.

    His financial worries eliminated, Tobias anticipates nothing but smooth sailing ahead for himself and the people he loves. But he soon finds that his amazing stroke of luck may threaten everything he holds dear. Over peaks and valleys, this uplifting journey will challenge everything we think we know about luck, life, and what we value most.

    About the Author:
    Lilian Duval is the author of the forthcoming story collection Random Acts of Kindness. She is an amateur classical guitarist and a survivor of the 2001 terrorist attack on the World Trade Center. Lilian and her husband live in Ridgewood, New Jersey.

    A copy of this book was provided for review by Pump Up Your Book Virtual Book Tours.

    Oct 17, 2011

    It's Monday: What Are You Reading?

    Join Book Journey for a weekly look at what others are reading this week. Then sign up on her linky to list your reads. Here's what's on my list:

    The House of the Wind by Tatiana Hardie, Headline Review

    Breakthrough: the 5 Living Principles to Defeat Stress, Look Great, & Find Total Well-Being by Shea Vaughn, Health Communications, Inc.
    The Night Eternal by Guillermo del Toro, William Morrow.
    The Alphabet of Vietnam by Jonathan Chamberlain, LibraryThing
    The Labyrinth of Terror by Richard P. Wenzel, Brandyland Publishers

    What books do you have on your list this week?

    Oct 16, 2011

    Sunday Salon: Not Enough Time....

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

    My project to repaint the house, cold weather and winter coming notwithstanding, still stands. Door by door, closet by closet, wall by wall, it is supposed to happen! In the meantime, there are shelves of books to be read, meals to be cooked, a garden to tend before winter sets in. And a new granddaughter expected in a few weeks!

    With all the chores, what's a body to do? Write a Sunday Salon and then get a good cup of coffee to finish my Kindle e-book, Little Elvises by Tim Hallinan, a Junior Bender mystery set in LA, a city that spawns good writers, having such good material to work with.

    My husband loves horse chestnut trees, especially the one with the beautiful bright coral flowers. He planted two of the seeds in pots outside and two hours later the very active squirrels had sniffed them out and squirreled them away. Broken hearted, my hubby plans to drag me along to the Botanical Garden to see if any more of the seeds are lying under their tree. I am not so enamored of the idea though I'm open to the idea of having a huge horse chestnut in the front yard.

    On another note, I did four book reviews last week, a lot for me. I have another tour book to post on Oct. 18, so I had better get cracking.

    What have you been reading/doing this past week?

    Oct 14, 2011

    Library Finds: A Memoir, Two Travel Novels, and a Fantasy

    Here are a few of the books that caught my eye at the library recently.

    Yoga Bitch by Suzanne Morrison, Aug. 16, 2011
    What happens when a coffee-drinking, cigarette-smoking, steak-eating twenty-five-year-old atheist decides it is time to get in touch with her spiritual side? Not what you'd expect... (book description)

    I like the idea of yoga althought I don't practice it as often as I could. I've read some really good nonfiction books on yoga, though. The title of this one really grabbed my attention.

    Cuba: A Novel by Emily Barr, March 2003
    The travel bug is very, very contagious, and Cuba is such an exotic destination. It doesn't take long for Maggie to decide that Libby and Dave won't be going alone...(book description) Cuba is on my "someday" list of places to visit.

    The Last Chinese Chef: A Novel by Nicole Mones
    A novel of friendship, love and cuisine by the author of "Lost in Translation "and "A Cup of Light." Maggie travels to China and discovers a world of food rooted in centuries of history and philosophy. (book description).
    Books on the old country and old style Chinese cooking are always interesting to me.

    The Night Circus by Erin Morganstern, Sept. 13, 2011
    Beyond the smoke and mirrors, a fierce competition is under way - a contest between two young illusionists. As the circus travels around the world, the feats of magic gain fantastical new heights with every stop. (book description).
    I've seen so much about this one and good reviews, too, that I thought I should try it.

    What books have you found at the library recently?
    Check out more book finds at Friday Finds.

    Oct 12, 2011

    Book Review and Tour: Ding Dong the Diva's Dead by Cat Melodia

    Title: Ding Dong the Diva's Dead: A Debbie de Lille Murder Mystery
    Author: Cat Melodia
    Paperback, 246 pages
    Published January 30th 2011 by Camel Press
    Rating: 3.5/5 
    My comments: I felt that this murder mystery was written more for opera buffs, opera singers, and opera theater production crews rather than for the general mystery reader. My interest  began to flag by page 80 because of the infinite details of costume, casting, and other production and rehearsal problems with the singers, director, producers, etc. that only a theater cast could fully appreciate. The focus was not squarely on developing the murder mystery plot itself, I thought, although some suspense was injected with the appearance of a "ghost" in Debbie's room, and the tales of a Lady in White who haunts the opera house, and of course much later in the book with the unexplained deaths of cast members.

    It seems the writer wanted to write about theater production and the conflicts and jealousies among divas and other members of a cast, as well as write a murder mystery. The book is neither all one or the other. With some stiff editing, it could be more successful as a mystery.
    About the author: Cat Melodia is the nom de plume of a Seattle-based mezzo soprano and voice teacher. She has a Bachelor’s Degree cum laude in German Literature from Princeton and a Master’s in Music.

    A copy of the book was provided for review through Tribune Books Tours.

    For other reviews of the novel, visit their Blog Tour web site at http://dingdongdiva.blogspot.com/
    For more about Cat Melodia, visit her blog at http://dingdongdiva.camelpress.com/

    Oct 11, 2011

    Book Review: A Rather Remarkable Homecoming by C.A. Belmond

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

    "Well, according to the locals, there have been a few sightings of a Woman in White trailing her seaweed-covered wedding gown and veil as she searches for her betrothed along the shores of the sea, like a bride looking for her beloved.'"

    "You mean a ghost?" I exclaimed, feeling goose-bumps as I pictured it. Jeremy nodded. (ch. 26)

    Title: A Rather Remarkable Homecoming: a Novel by C.A. Belmond
    Publisher: NAL Trade; 1 edition (September 6, 2011)
    Objective rating: 4.5/5

    Comments: A delightful romp through Cornwall and the Cornish coast, through the island of Madeira, and through London. Penny and Jeremy are newlyweds who grew up in Cornwall. They are summoned back to Cornwall to Penny's grandmother Beryl's house, which they must save from being razed by a developer. They try to prove the house is an historic landmark by doing their best to verify a rumor that Shakespeare one stayed there as a member of The Earl's Players. What they eventually uncover is an even bigger surprise.

    The two find clues that lead them from Cornwall, back and forth to London, and to Madeira. Celtic legends and rumors of a ghostly lady play a part in the mystery of the house on the Cornish coast. I loved that it's a mystery without murder, as all the characters escape that fate.

    I liked the armchair travel experience, the very likable characters in the novel, including the elderly actors in an actor's retirement home in Cornwall, and the excellent writing and storytelling.

    A copy of this book was sent to me by New American Library, Penguin Group (USA).

    Oct 9, 2011

    Sunday Salon: What Rules Your Reading?

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

    There was a modern production of Hamlet on PBS or one of the TV channels the other night - Hamlet in a black suit, his stepfather in royal dress up, and his mother in a long elegant blue gown. Don't you want to watch it, my husband asked. No, I said, it's way too dreary and I've had the classics up to here - I drew an imaginary line on my forehead.

    So now I read cozies, mysteries and thrillers, as well as what we call women's fiction, and good travel writing, plus an occasional memoir. I don't really want to re-read 1984, Sense and Sensibility, Macbeth, or Gulliver's Travels. It took me about six months after graduate school to read a book with pleasure again. I was so used to taking a book apart at the seams to analyze it that I couldn't read any book without trying to do the same even though I didn't need to. That was umpteen years ago, however, and I've since overcome that tendency. Some could say I lean towards overly generalizing in my book comments nowadays.

    What am I reading right now? A couple of historical novels including

    a novel about family, friendship, love, and loss by British writer, Lucinda Riley. The Girl on the Cliff is published by Penguin.

    The Time In Between: A Novel is an Atria publication by Maria Duenas, translated from the Spanish. It's about a couturier who becomes an undercove agent for the Allies during WWII.

    Postcards from Nam is a novel about Vietnam, told by a fictional Vietnamese lawyer in DC who receives postcards from an unknown person in Thailand, known only by his signature, "Nam." The book is an AmazonEncore publication.

    These are a few of the books on my shelves. What have you been reading this past week?

    Oct 8, 2011

    A Clutch of Cozies

    Cozy mysteries are my all time favorites. I remember reading all the books in dog mysteries, gardening mysteries, bird watcher mysteries, and going on to find more and more themed series being written - puzzle mysteries, cooking mysteries, tattooing mysteries, until I gave up trying to keep track!

    Here are some October new releases that I recently got from Penguin for possible review:

    Title: Live Let Die: A Clueless Cook Mystery by Liz Lipperman
     A culinary reporter for a paper in Ranchero, Texas turns amateur sleuth

    Title: Shoe Done It: An Accessories Mystery by Grace Carroll
     A boutique saleswoman in San Francisco becomes an amateur sleuth when a pair of heels becomes a murder clue.

    Title: Murder of a Creped Suzette: A Scumble River Mystery By Denise Swanson
     School psychologist Skye Denison gets involved in two murders in her little town.

    Title: The More the Terrier: A Pet Rescue Mystery by Linda O. Johnston
    Pet shelter manager Lauren Vancouver works to clear her old mentor, Mamie Spelling, accused of murder.

    Title: Skeleton Letters: A Scrapbooking Mystery by Laura Childs
    In New Orleans, Carmela Bertrand and her friend Ava find a member of their scrapbooking circle lifeless next to a smashed statue of St. Sebastien in St. Tristan's Church, where an antique crucifix has gone missing.

    What do you have in your cozy closet?

    Oct 7, 2011

    Book Review: The Stranger You Seek by Amanda Kyle Williams

    Title: The Stranger You Seek: A Novel by Amanda Kyle Williams Hardcover: 304 pages
    Publisher: Bantam (August 30, 2011)
    Genre: thriller

    Comments: I consider this thriller part of the noir genre because of the nature of the crimes and the graphic descriptions. The book gave me hints along the way re the type of criminal that might be involved and even though the ending was meant to be a surprise twist, I was kind of expecting it. It was a little bit gratifying to guess the type of culprit, if not the actual person.

    From the publisher's book description: In Atlanta, a killer is preying on the unsuspecting, writing taunting letters to the media, promising more death. Desperate to stop the Wishbone Killer, A.P.D. lieutenant Aaron Rauser turns to the one person he knows can penetrate a deranged mind: ex–FBI profiler, Keye Street, a rising young star at the Bureau....In an unexpected turn of events, the hunter becomes the hunted—and the stranger Keye seeks is closer than she ever imagined.

    About the author: The Stranger You Seek is Amanda Kyle Williams' suspense debut. There are two more Keye Street thrillers planned. She lives and writes in Georgia.

    An ARC of this book was sent to me by the publisher.

    Oct 5, 2011

    Book Feature: Katy Perry, The Unauthorized Biography by Alice Montgomery

    Many books have been written about pop star Katy Perry. This is the latest, an unofficial biography of the singer from California.

    Opening sentences:
    Santa Barbara, 1984
    When a really big new star springs out of the show business firmament, it's tempting to look back to their early childhood in order to find some clue as to what inspired their talent, drive to succeed and ability to stand out in a  vastly competitive world. Sometimes the clues are there; sometimes they're not, but it's difficult to think of a single major pop sensation who's experienced the same kind of childhood as Katy Perry, which was happy, secure and seemed to set her up for life - though not as a controversial pop star married to an equally controversial comedian=turned=actor. The contrast between Katy's past and present couldn't be more stark.

    Title: Katy Perry: The Unofficial Biography
    Author: Alice Montgomery
    Hardcover: 288 pages
    Publisher: Michael Joseph (September 15, 2011)

    Book description: Ever since the international chart-topping hit, "I Kissed a Girl", Katy Perry hasn't stopped making headlines. From reaching number one in charts worldwide to selling out concerts around the globe, her phenomenal success has propelled her to the A-list.

    But it didn't always seem like she was destined for stardom. Brought up in a deeply religious community, Katy was allowed to listen only to church music. However, with her astounding musical gift, along with plenty of willpower, Katy was determined to follow her dream. Her rise to the top was cemented in 2010, when after a flurry of media gossip, she married the most controversial figure on British TV - Russell Brand. Bestselling biographer Alice Montgomery traces Katy's steps to stardom from her choir girl beginnings to her breakthrough in the music business and her secret wedding ceremony in India, to reveal the intimate story behind the most exciting and unpredictable pop star around. (from book cover)

    About the author: Alice Montgomery is a freelance writer living and working in London. She writes under a pseudonym and has written other biographies, including Susan Boyle: Dreams Can Come True.

    A copy of this book was sent  to me by the publisher for possible review/feature.

    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...