Apr 30, 2012

Book Review - The Scarlet Pepper by Dorothy St. James

Though I found the White House gardener Casey Calhoun a little off centered when it comes to solving mysteries, she clearly is a dedicated gardener in this cozy series, devoted to excellence in tending the vegetables in the First Lady's organic garden.

Casey thinks she has discovered the killers of two reporters in the White House Press Corps. She then tries to find out who is sabotaging the vegetables in the White House garden, and soon discovers the secrets of a female reporter who narrowly escapes death in a hit and run. Casey tries to put all the facts together, putting her own life in danger.

Far from being the crafty sleuth, however, Casey seems to fall into the solution to the crimes by accident.

An enjoyable cozy if you don't mind being exasperated with the main character at times. I enjoyed reading about the White House garden itself, the Secret Service personnel, and the press corps, assuming that the details are true to life - their duties, methods of work, volunteers at the White House, etc.

Title: The Scarlet Pepper by Dorothy St. James
Published: April 3, 2012 by Berkley
Series: A White House Gardener Mystery #2
Genre: cozy, mystery
Objective rating: 4/5

I received a complimentary review copy of this book.

Click on Greensleeves to hear Zen Garden Music.

Apr 29, 2012

Sunday Salon: Memoirs and Fiction

I posted only four book reviews last week, but it was a good week for me as I normally finish about two reviews. A variety of genres:

Another Piece of My Heart aka
 The Patchwork Marriage
Pilgrimage to the End of the World by Conrad Rudolph, a travel memoir about a thousand mile trip from southern France to Santiago de Compostela, the famous pilgrimage site in Spain.

Lucky Child by Loung Ung, a memoir about a childhood in war torn Cambodia and leaving a sister and two brothers behind to immigrate to the U.S.

The Scarlet Pepper by Dorothy St. James, a White House Gardener mystery.

A Patchwork Marriage by Jane Green, a contemporary novel about stepmothers and stepdaughters, and coming of age.

On my reading list are Broken Spirit, a mystery by Charles L. Fields, and
Dana Stabenow's Alaskan mystery, Restless in the Grave.

What have you been reading/blogging recently?

Apr 28, 2012

A Patchwork Marriage by Jane Green, a novel

Comments: An interesting story about a second marriage, a stepmother, a rebellious stepdaughter, and her coming of age. I had to admire the patience of Andi in dealing with her husband Ethan, an overly indulgent father of a rebellious teenage daughter Emily, who is often very rude to her stepmom. I wondered how I would handle such a situation if I were in Andi's place.

A good book of women's fiction with believable characters. Recommended.

Title: The Patchwork Marriage by Jane Green 
Published 2012 by Michael Joseph, Penguin paperback
Genre: contemporary women's fiction
Rating: 4/5

Goodreads description:  A story that explores the complications of a woman marrying into a ready-made family, and the true meaning of motherhood. Andi has spent much of her adult life looking for the perfect man, and at thirty-seven, she's finally found him. Ethan--divorced with two daughters, Emily and Sophia--is a devoted father and even better husband. Always hoping one day she would be a mother, Andi embraces the girls like they were her own. But in Emily’s eyes, Andi is an obstacle to her father’s love, and Emily will do whatever it takes to break her down. (from the description of the same book published as Another Piece of My Heart,  March 13, 2012 by St. Martins Press)

Thanks to Penguin for a complimentary review copy of The Patchwork Marriage.

Book Review: The Scarlet Pepper by Dorothy St. James

Title: The Scarlet Pepper by Dorothy St. James
Published: April 3, 2012 by Berkley
Series: A White House Gardener Mystery #2
Genre: cozy, mystery
Objective rating: 4/5

Though I found the White House gardener Casey Calhoun a little off centered when it comes to solving mysteries, she clearly is a dedicated gardener, devoted to excellence in tending the vegetables in the First Lady's organic garden.

Casey thinks she has discovered the killers of two reporters in the White House Press Corps and pursues that trail relentlessly. In the meantime, she tries to find out who is sabotaging the vegetables in the White House garden, discovers the secrets of another female reporter who narrowly escapes death in a hit and run, and attempts to put all the facts together, putting her own life in danger.

Far from being the crafty sleuth, however, Casey seems to fall into the solution to the crimes by accident.

An enjoyable cozy if you don't mind being exasperated with the main character at times. I enjoyed reading about the White House garden itself, the Secret Service personnel, and the press corps, assuming that the details are true to life - their duties, methods of work, volunteers at the White House, etc.

Apr 26, 2012

Book Review: Lucky Child by Loung Ung

"...I have come to accept that I might never see Chou again. I know that somewhere in Cambodia, the remainder of our large family is waiting to join Meng and me in America, but missing them has become too difficult. And so I've begun to think of myself as the only sister, even though I remember being part of a big family. That life is gone and no matter how I wish it, it will never be so again." (ch.16)

Title: Lucky Child: A Daughter of Cambodia Reunites with the Sister She Left Behind
Author: Loung Ung
Publisher: Harper Perennial (April 11, 2006), paperback
Genre: memoir

Comments: To the general reader, the importance of this memoir by Loung Ung, the second of three books on Cambodia and life after the Khmer Rouge and the Vietnamese invasion, lies not only in its historical value but in the heartfelt story of a family destroyed and separated by war.

We see life through the eyes of a young 10 year-old-girl who is chosen by her oldest brother Meng to leave Cambodia with him and his wife, escape to Thailand, and then travel as refugees to Vermont, U.S.A. Loung is haunted by the memory of her older sister Chou, whom she left behind, and the two brothers also left in Cambodia. She also is haunted by the memory of her parents, both killed by the Khmer Rouge while she was still a young child in Cambodia.

 Lucky Child is the story of the two sisters, living and growing up in two different countries - the U.S.A. and Cambodia, about their eventual reunion, and their experiences in between the time they were separated as children and the time they were reunited in Cambodia as adults.

Recommendation: I would recommend this book and the others, First They Killed My Father: A Daughter of Cambodia Remembers and Lulu in the Sky to anyone wanting to know more about the period 1975-1979, when Cambodia was turned into the Killing Fields under the Khmer Rouge who murdered millions of its own people in order to establish their power. The book is also a story of survival, immigration and adjustment of refugees to life in the United States, eventual reconciliation of Loung's family, and their lives after a war of devastation.

About the author: Loung Ung was born to an affluent Cambodian father and Chinese mother, and was only 5 years old when the Khmer Rouge stormed into her native city of Phnom Penh. Four years later, in one of the bloodiest episodes of the 20th century, some two million Cambodians – out of a population of seven million – had died at the hands of the infamous Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge regime. Among the genocide victims were both Loung’s parents, two sisters, and 20 other relatives.

Today, Loung has made over 30 trips back to Cambodia. As an author, lecturer, and activist, she has dedicated 20 years to promoting equality, human rights, and justice in her native land and worldwide. To find out more about her work, visit her at http://loungung.com/

You can see the complete tour and other reviews of this book, thanks to TLC Book Tours.

I received a complimentary review copy of this book for the tour.

Apr 25, 2012

Book Review: Pilgrimage to the End of the World by Conrad Rudolph

Title: Pilgrimage to the End of the World: The Road to Santiago de Compostela
Author: Conrad Rudolph
University of Chicago Press, May 19, 2004
Genre: travel, culture, memoir
Source: free ecopy from publisher

"Traveling one thousand miles through southern France and northern Spain, Conrad Rudolph made the passage to the holy site of Santiago de Compostela, a popular and important pilgrimage destination for Westerners today. In this chronicle of his travels, Rudolph writes a book that is at once travel guide, literary work, historical study, and memoir." (book description)
"The pilgrimage to Santiago can begin from anywhere. But...there are said to be four classic starting points....By far the most beautiful is the one from Le Puy, in the heart of the Massif Central....  (Doing the Pilgrimage, pp. 95-100)
Comments: I've fascinated by this pilgrimage that many people take, walking to the holy site of Santiago de Compostela, the Spanish city where the remains of the apostle Saint James the Greater is said to reside in a large and impressive cathedral. The walking trip from Le Puy, France, through the Pyrenees mountains, and through northern Spain is about a thousand miles and took the author two and a half months to complete.

I first heard about the pilgrimage from  two people I once worked with, who resigned their jobs, walked the pilgrimage and then decided to stay in Spain and run one of the refugios or pilgrim's hostels that line the long route along the way to Santiago de Compostela.

It was interesting to learn from the book that pilgrims from all over the world, mostly Europeans, range in age from their twenties through late sixties, some even in their seventies. I imagine the older pilgrims take one of the shorter routes that start closer to or in Spain and skip going through the Pyrenees in France.

About the book: The book was a free download from the University of Chicago Press, which offers readers a free digital book each month. Their recent offer, Pilgrimage to the End of the World, came out in print in 2004.

The title shows that the author took the pilgrimage route beyond Santiago de Compostela, a hike of three days more to Finisterre, where land ends at the Atlantic Ocean and the "End of the World." This book has maps and photographs of the pilgrimage route, of monuments and churches and some of the small villages along the way. It suggests a detailed and specific list of items pilgrims should take with them, plus a warning to pack light. The author suggests vigorous hiking training for several months to prepare for the long and challenging walk along the pilgrimage route to the holy site.

I recommend the book to anyone wishing they could make the trip and of course, to those who are thinking about doing it and need background information as well as helpful tips and other recommended reading. The author made the trip in the mid 1990s and published the book in 2004. I did find that a couple of his links to web cams in Santiago de Compostela and along the route no longer work.

Conrad Rudolph is a professor of medieval art and chair of the art history department at the University of California, Riverside. This is his fourth book.

Apr 24, 2012

Are You Smart Enough to Work at Google? by William Poundstone

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly meme hosted by MizB and asks you to choose sentences at random from your current read. Identify the author and title for readers.

"Perhaps success is a matter not so much of being smarter, but of being less entitled. And tenacity is a big part of creativity. That is the unstated thesis of today's interview by ordeal. As one former Google interviewer said, "The goal is to find out where the candidates run out of ideas."  (ch. 10)
Title: Are You Smart Enough to Work at Google?  Trick Questions, Zenlike Riddles, Insanely Difficult Puzzles, and Other Devious Interviewing Techniques You Need to Know to Get a Job Anywhere in the New Economy.
Author: William Poundstone
Published January 4. 2012; Little, Brown and Co.

Publisher's description: "You are shrunk to the height of a nickel and thrown in a blender. The blades start moving in 60 seconds. What do you do? If you want to work at Google, or any of America's best companies, you need to have an answer to this and other puzzling questions.

ARE YOU SMART ENOUGH TO WORK AT GOOGLE? guides readers through the surprising solutions to dozens of the most challenging interview questions. The book covers the importance of creative thinking, ways to get a leg up on the competition, what your Facebook page says about you, and much more. "

I received this as a complimentary review copy.

Apr 23, 2012

In The Shadow of the Banyan by Vaddy Ratner

It's Monday, What Are You Reading? This Monday meme is held by Sheila at Book Journey. Tell us what you are reading or plan to read during the week.

I'm reading and enjoying the ARC of The Fear Artist by Timothy Hallinan, a Poke Rafferty thriller set in Thailand, sent to me by the author and to be released by Soho on July 17, 2012.

Publisher's description: "An accidental collision on a Bangkok sidewalk goes very wrong when the man who ran into Rafferty dies in his arms, but not before saying three words: Helen Eckersley. Cheyenne. Seconds later, the police arrive, denying that the man was shot.

That night, Rafferty is interrogated by Thai secret agents who demand to know what the dead man said, but Rafferty can't remember. When he's finally released, Rafferty arrives home to find that his apartment has been ransacked. In the days that follow, he realizes he's under surveillance. The second time men in uniform show up at his door, he manages to escape the building and begins a new life as a fugitive.

As he learns more about his situation, it becomes apparent that he's been caught on the margins of the war on terror, and that his opponent is a virtuoso artist whose medium is fear."

There is an author who has written a novel based on her experiences in Cambodia during the war,  In the Shadow of the Banyan by Vaddey Ratner, published in 2012.  A literary work of poetic, lyrical beauty, this novel is based on the real experiences of the writer as a child living through the time of the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia. I was overwhelmed by the beauty of the writing, the author's use of poetic words and descriptions to tell this story of survival, loss, and emotion.

The book has received wide recognition and won numerous awards; details are on the author's website: http://www.vaddeyratner.com/banyan/

From the publisher's description:
"For seven-year-old Raami, the shattering end of childhood begins with her father returning home in the early dawn hours bringing details of the civil war in the streets of Phnom Penh, Cambodia’s capital. Soon the family’s world of carefully guarded royal privilege is swept up in the chaos of revolution and forced exodus.
Over the next four years, as she endures the deaths of family members, starvation, and brutal forced labor, Raami clings to the mythical legends and poems told to her by her father. Raami fights for her improbable survival. In the Shadow of the Banyan is testament to the transcendent power of narrative and a brilliantly wrought tale of human resilience."
Both these books are highly recommended. 

Apr 21, 2012

Sunday Salon: Earth Day Today/World Book Night on Monday

The Sunday Salon.com Welcome to the Sunday Salon.

Happy Earth Day! The robin I wrote about last week that was trying unsuccessfully to make a nest in a bush with too few branches - my husband got some straw and made a nest for her in the same spot. She examined the ready made nest twice and then flew off, never returning. She has started to build another nest on the other side of the house, this one successfully. I guess it's only the cuckoo bird that will take another's nest for its own.

I'm slowly reading The Scarlet Pepper, a White House Gardener Mystery by Dorothy St. James and enjoying this cozy mystery. I've also started Jane Green's The Patchwork Marriage, (published by Michael Joseph, which is the same book titled Another Piece of My Heart, published by St. Martin's Press), and plan to begin reading Lucky Child soon for a book tour.

Here are some other books on my TBR list:
Hounds Abound (A Pet Rescue Mystery) by Linda O. Johnston
The Dog That Talked to God by Jim Kraus
The Sacred Thread: A True Story of Becoming a Mother and Finding a Family - Half a World Away by Adrienne Arieff
A Land More Kind Than Home by Wiley Cash
Access: Thirteen Tales by Xu Xi

On Monday, I'll be handing out 20 free copies of The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver, books courtesy of World Book Night  and will let you know how it went on Tuesday! I hope to find some light or non readers to accept the books for reading. Anyone else volunteering to give out books?

How did this weekend's Read-A-Thon go for those of you who participated?

Book Review: More Like Her by Liza Palmer

"Hey, Frannie." Ryan. Ugh. Ryan. It's as if someone has thrown a bucket of cold water on my face and I'm frozen in the doorway, mascara trailing down my cheeks....

"Hey," I say, my eyes scanning the room. Jill. On the balcony.  (ch. 3)

Title: More Like Her by Liza Palmer
Harper Collins, paperback; April 17, 2012
Genre: contemporary fiction

Comments: I see that lots of readers on Goodreads gave this book four stars and some loved the writing. I felt the book was written in a jerky conversational style, which made me impatient with the book as I prefer much smoother prose. Overall, the plot was interesting, however, - involving a new high school headmistress whom the young teachers begin to idolize but whose personal life gives them a shock later in the book. There is also a love story with the main character, a shy self-effacing speech teacher Francis, moving on after her lover Ryan leaves her for another. I gave this a rating of 3 out of 5.

Book description: In Frances's mind, beautiful, successful, ecstatically married Emma Dunham is the height of female perfection. Frances, recently dumped by her boyfriend, aspires to be just like Emma. So do her close friends and fellow teachers, Lisa and Jill. Yet sometimes the golden dream you wish for turns out to be not what it seems--like Emma's enviable suburban postcard life. And in the shocking aftermath, three devastated friends have to come to terms with their own secrets . . . and somehow learn to move forward after their dream is exposed as a lie. (publisher)

Thanks to the publisher for a review copy of this book.

Apr 20, 2012

Book Review: Murder Buys a T-Shirt by Christy Fifield

Title: Murder Buys a T-Shirt: A Haunted Souvenir Shop Mystery
Author: Christy Fifield
Paperback published March 6, 2012 by Berkley
Source: contest win

Comments: A cute cozy, first in a new series, with an ever popular haunted theme. In this series, Glory's Southern Treasures shop in the Florida Keys is haunted by her deceased Uncle Louis, who gives her clues and cryptic comments through his parrot, Bluebeard. A clever scenario and set up for the cozy. I couldn't guess the culprit in the murder of the local high school football hero, and the plot was carefully crafted. My only gripe with this and with many recent cozies - there is not enough action and suspense. Instead there is padding that makes it easy for the reader to flip through the book and still get the meat of the mystery.

Publisher's description:

Glory Martine has inherited her uncle's Florida souvenir shop, one stuffed with collectibles, mementos of times gone by--and ghosts--who, like her customers, refuse to let go of the past. But things take an even more unexpected turn when a local football hero dies far too suddenly and suspiciously. Now, Glory has to uncover the truth before someone makes her history...

My rating: 3.5/5. I am looking forward to the next in the series. I liked Bluebeard's antics and his @!!& language.

Apr 19, 2012

The Girl Next Door by Brad Parks

Title: The Girl Next Door by Brad Parks
Published March 13, 2012 by Minotaur Books
Source: ARC for review
Genre: mystery

Book description: "When a delivery person for the Eagle-Examiner ends up in the paper's obituaries, investigative reporter Carter Ross decides to write a human interest piece on her. But at the funeral, he learns that this kind-hearted victim of a hit-and-run may have had a few enemies - including the publisher of their own paper. Suddenly Carter's little story is big news. And the deeper he digs, the deadlier it gets..."

Comments: As a former newsroom employee, I was amused and just a bit delighted that this mystery was set in a newspaper, with managers, editors, reporters, newspaper deliverers, union employees, and of course, a publisher. It described a familiar environment. I was even more amused when the publisher and possibly an editor of the paper became the main suspects in this murder mystery. Toward the last quarter of the book, I guessed who the hit-and-run culprit was, although I didn't guess the motives.

A delightful read for me, especially the first half of the book, set in the newsroom, with its own code of behavior, rules, and modus operandi. I recommend this book for those who also love a good mystery and are curious about the inner workings of a newspaper.

Brad Parks is the first author to win both the Shamus Award and the Nero Award for Best American Mystery for his debut novel, Faces of the Gone. A former reporter for The Washington Post and The [Newark] Star-Ledger, he lives in Virginia, and this is his third novel in the mystery series.

Apr 18, 2012

Book Review: From the Ashes by Jeremy Burns

Title: From the Ashes: A Jonathan Rickner Thriller by Jeremy Burns
Paperback: 394 pages; Fiction Std (January 17, 2012)
Genre: thriller
Rating: 4.5/5

"Jon, I...I think I've stumbled onto something big. When I say 'hot topic,' I mean 'Earth shattering.' 'History rewriting.' 'Instant career making.'"(ch. 2)

Comments: A political not a religious thriller, From the Ashes reminded me nevertheless of The DaVinci Code, in its message of old conspiracies, deadly secrets carried into the present, and lots of codes as clues. In this case, a graduate student Michael is killed when he discovers a political cover up from the days preceding and during WWII. His older brother Jon and his fiancee Mara find Michael's notebook with maps and notes and try to discover the secrets that led to Michael's death.

In the novel, the late billionaire philanthropist John D. Rockefeller Jr. and the Hoover administration made decisions in the early 1930s regarding Germany, the Communist movement, and the emerging Nazi party. A secret arm of the CIA is hell bent on keeping these a secret and finding Rockefeller's revealing Dossiers, hidden among the buildings and monuments Rockefeller funded and built in the middle of Manhattan. Rather than the Vatican City as in the DaVinci Code, the setting the two protagonists rush through is Manhattan, where they discover clues that lead to other clues to the hidden Dossiers, which the Division and its assassins are dedicated to find and either hide or destroy.

Lots of action, with very bad guys hunting Jon and Mara as they try to work their way in and out of this political and historical maze. A very enjoyable plot- centered read. How much of the history, if any, might be truth or fiction is left by the author for the reader to decide.

About the author: Jeremy Burns is a former educator and journalist. He taught literature, political science, creative writing, and philosophy at an international school in Dubai, and has traveled to countries across four continents. He lives in Florida, at work on his next novel.

Thanks to Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours for a review copy of this book. Click on their link for more tour hosts and reviews of From the Ashes.

Apr 17, 2012

The Practicing Mind by Thomas M. Sterner

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly meme hosted by MizB and asks you to choose sentences at random from your current read. Identify the author and title for readers.

As we attempt to understand ourselves and our struggles with life's endeavors, we may find peace in the observation of a flower. Ask yourself, At what point in a flower's life, from seed to full bloom, does it reach perfection? (ch. 3, It's How You Look at It)
Nonjudgement is the pathway to a quiet mind. (ch. 7)
Habits are learned, Choose them wisely.( ch. 4, Creating the Habits We Desire)

Title: The Practicing Mind: Developing Focus and Discipline in Your Life- Master Any Skill or Challenge by Learning to Love the Process
Author: Thomas M. Sterner; Paperback: 168 pages
Published April 10, 2012, New World Library

Publisher's description: "Present moment awareness is an essential to experience authentic peace and contentment. It has been acknowledged as the cornerstone of spiritual awakening in Eastern thought. The Practicing Mind deals with helping the individual understand exactly what present moment awareness is, and how we change our mindset to make this a part of our daily living. This book is accessible to readers of all philosophical backgrounds.

The Practicing Mind is full of insights, stories, and advice for mastering new skills with less frustration and more pleasure by learning to love the process. Sterner explains that rediscovering this state of mind is a skill in and of itself that comes down to a few simple rules:
• Keep yourself process-oriented.
• Stay in the present.
• Make the process the goal and use the overall goal as a rudder to steer your efforts.
Be deliberate, have an intention about what you want to accomplish, and remain aware of that intention."

About the Author: Thomas M. Sterner spent over 25 years as a concert piano technician and rebuilder. He witnessed the level of art afforded those with a disciplined mind. His career also provided a strong impetus toward inner awareness. Sterner lives in Delaware, composing music, writing inspirational books, and publishing audio books through his company, Mountain Sage Publishing.

I received a complimentary review copy of this book.

Apr 15, 2012

Sunday Salon: Spring Reading

The Sunday Salon.com Welcome to the Sunday Salon.

A robin has been building a nest for weeks outside my window.
April winds shake the small tree, her bits of twigs and grass blow away.
Has she lost her ability to make a nest? It keeps falling, bits and pieces.
Perhaps she will triumph today, before the new winds blow.

On my spring reading list:
The Ghost of Lily Painter by Caitlin Davis, a haunted house thriller.

Ashes to Dust by Yrsa Sigurdardottir, Scandinavian thriller

The Wild Wood Enquiry by Ann Purser, cozy mystery

Murder Buys a T-Shirt , thanks to Kaye, Pudgy Penquin Perusal

The Concubine Saga by Lloyd Lofthouse, historical fiction

An Unexpected Guest by Anne Korkeakivi, re a British diplomat's wife in Paris

The Lost Ones by Ace Atkins, thriller

Under Oath by Margaret McLean, legal thriller

The Fear Artist by Timothy Hallinan, thriller set in Thailand

I'm reading these two memoirs for TLC book tours this month and next:

Lucky Child by Loung Ung, a Daughter of Cambodia Reunites with the Sister She Left Behind, memoir

Lulu in the Sky by Loung Ung, a Daughter of Cambodia Finds Love, Healing, and Double Happiness, memoir

And for lighter reading, I have two library books: Sophie Kinsella's Twenties Girl and Remember Me?

Whew! Would you believe I'm also doing some writing of my own? What have you been up to and what are you reading?

Apr 14, 2012

Book Review: The Big Kitty by Claire Donally

"You don't seem too familiar with cats, if you don't mind my saying so. What'd he do, adopt you?"
"I - I guess so," Sunny admitted. (ch.14)

Title: The Big Kitty: A Sunny and Shadows Mystery
Author: Claire Donally
Paperback: 304 pages; Berkley; May 1, 2012

I had just gotten this book and couldn't resist reading it right away. The big kitty on the cover drew me in, but as I opened the book, I hoped I wasn't going to be meeting a talking cat. Luckily for me, Shadow doesn't talk to humans, but we find out what he's thinking through our omniscient narrator, the author, who tell us all.

Shadow was an independent cat, who came and went as he pleased, fed and housed by a Cat Lady who owned dozens of other cats. When the cat lady Ada is found dead at the bottom of her basement stairs, a new person comes into his life - Sunny, a young woman whom he follows home and who takes him in, in spite of her elderly father who tries many times to get rid of him.

Nevertheless, Shadow becomes a big help to Sunny, a part-time reporter, and helps in her investigation of the cat lady Ada, whose death is ruled a homicide. Ada had let everyone know that she had misplaced a winning lottery ticket worth six million dollars and was searching for it. Several people in the small Maine town had good reason to want that ticket.

The big kitty saves Sunny's life at least once during her investigation, and so becomes one of a team of two - amateur sleuths in this first in the new cozy series. It's a cute twosome and a clever play of words in the name -Sunny and Shadow.

Sunny's personality and Shadow's silent but intriguing point of view make the cozy worthwhile, though I found this story lagged in the second half.  I am looking forward to the next in the series!

I received a complimentary review copy of The Big Kitty.

Apr 13, 2012

Guest Post by Amy Lignor author of The Angel Chronicles

Title: Until Next Time: The Angel Chronicles by Amy Lignor
Publisher: Tribute Books (January 24, 2012) ; eBook

"A True Inspiration" by AMY LIGNOR

I was thrilled when I was asked to be a part of this blog and tell readers how Emily and Matt - the angel/warrior team - came into being. According to Webster, inspiration is a stimulation for the human mind to do creative work. But where does the stimulation come from? Not to sound hokey, but mine came from finding a best friend at a time when I really needed one.

Thirteen is the age where the whole world looks like a real mess. (It’s not until later in life that we come to KNOW the world is a real mess. But losing someone I loved at that age was devastating to me because he was my best friend. Up until that moment I’d been writing stories about history and mythology. My mom was a research librarian and she passed along the love of old legends, but when my grandfather left my life, things changed. I actually began to wonder about angels, such as: if they were real, why on earth would they come to this messed-up place?

I wanted to know where Grandpa was and if he was doing okay, and my dreams turned away from Mount Olympus and ended up in a very grand library. I loved that place - it had every book known to mankind; groups of eager looking students walking around; a few adults who seemed to be ‘watching’ carefully; and a young boy named Matt.

Matt was my age and was hysterical. He would sit and talk to me in that library and I always thought we’d get kicked out for being too loud. But he ‘showed me around’ and spoke a great deal about his training and what he was waiting for - the chance to come ‘down’ and have a life. He was all excited about adventure, and when I would speak about how awful it was, he would just smile and say that he wanted a chance at a life - a chance to fight, defend…maybe even fall in love. That’s how Matt became a reality for me - a spark of imagination that helped lead me through the troubled time of losing my grandfather.

Years later when I lost my father, Matt returned, and I finally knew that the world should meet him and his partner. They should see their journeys through life - the people they had to defend, save…even the people they had to take. I wanted readers to know about what I saw and how different everything was from what is ‘in print,’ and how there was fun, laughter, lighthearted sarcasm at times - and the real difference between their lot in life and ours.

I’ve worked on The Angel Chronicles for a while now, and over time I’ve gone back to edit, change, add - a writer never stops, as all writers out there will tell you. There’s always something that can be ‘tweaked’ as time goes on. But I was absolutely thrilled when the YA world began accepting the ‘winged ones.’ The ‘fanged ones’ had been all the rage for so long that it was nice to see an angel take charge once in a while (LOL).

Emily and Matt will never ‘fall’ into the ‘fallen’ category. They are a team that come from a place where things make sense, and enter into a world where they could be torn apart by the emotions - good and evil - that they find surrounding them all of a sudden. But the one thing they will always have is another chance. And, to me, that has to be one of the greatest gifts anyone could possibly ever receive. Until Next Time, as well as the others in this series, are a true inspiration to me, and I hope readers will find them to be their new ‘best friends’ when they head out on the adventures that this angel/warrior team take!

Thank you for giving them a spot on your site, and in your lives!

Until Next Time, Everybody.


Until Next Time: The Angel Chronicles, Book 1 Summary
How does a girl choose between the one who steals her heart and the one who owns her soul?

Matt and Emily were created for a specific job. Raised and trained as the ultimate angel/warrior team, they are sent down to save, defend, judge and forgive, depending on the 'life' they've been assigned. What they don't realize is that the power of human emotions, such as love, anger, passion and fear can take over even the best of souls, causing them to make mistakes and follow paths that lead to confusion and heartache.

When the reason for their training is finally revealed, the angel/warrior team find themselves thrust into a world they know nothing about. Matt takes over the life of Daniel, a young man with a great deal of baggage. Emily becomes Liz, a girl living in a remote village who relies on nothing more than her own strength to survive. A violent storm erupts one night, and framed in the window of Liz's establishment is a frightening face. Let in by the soul of a Good Samaritan, the two visitors bring with them a past full of secrets that could literally change an angel's path and a warrior's plans.

From murder to redemption, this angel/warrior team must find a way to keep the faith they have in each other in a world that's ripping them apart.

Author Bio:
Amy Lignor, who lives in New Mexico, began her career at Grey House Publishing in Connecticut where she was the Editor-in-Chief of educational and business directories. She also owns The Write Companion, which offers writers a full range of editorial services. She has published several works of fiction.

The guest post and book tour are hosted by Tribute Books Blog Tours.
For more interviews, guest posts, and reviews of the book, visit http://the-angel-chronicles.blogspot.com/

Apr 12, 2012

Book ARCs on My Shelves

The guilt factor is at work this morning. I look at my list of ARCs to be read and I find the stack facing me creeping up faster than I have time to read these days. The cool weather this past week should be good for reading, but my thoughts are turning elsewhere. What's a reader to do?

Here are some new ARCs.

Struck by Jennifer Bosworth - A girl struck by lightning hundreds of times holds the fate of the world in her hands.
The Girl Next Door by Brad Parks - Reporter Carter Ross investigates an unusual obituary.
Sacrilege by S. J. Parris, historical mystery
As the Crow Flies by Craig Johnson, mystery
Trail of the Spellmans by Lisa Lutz,  mystery
The Watchers by Jon Steele, thriller
Gypsy Boy: My Life in the Secret World of the Romany Gypsies by Mikey Walsh, memoir
The Technologists: A Novel by Matthew Pearl, literary and historical fiction
The Spy Who Jumped Off the Screen by Thomas Caplan, thriller

Do you have a system of what books you read first, apart from the publication date?

Apr 10, 2012

Book Review: The Shoemaker's Wife by Adriana Trigiani

"But you love someone else,"she said, making an excuse to step away from him, even though she didn't want to.
"Sister Teresa says that when one girl breaks your heart, another comes along to mend it."
Enza smiled. (from the ARC, ch.6; final copy may differ)
A stack of vinyl records of the singer Enrico Caruso, owned by the author's grandmother Lucia, and ship records of Lucia's and her husband's separate trips to America in the early 1900s inspired Adriana Trigiani to write this novel.

This is a story of the meeting of two teens, Enza and Ciro, who live in villages at the foot of the Italian Alps, about their separate journeys to America to find a better life, their meeting again, and their married life together. It's the love story of the author's grandparents, as she imagines it might have been. The novel is a straightforward telling of their lives, set in three locations - the village of Bergamo in the Italian Alps, and then Manhattan and Minnesota in America.

In Italy in 1905, Ciro and his brother Eduardo are left by their impoverished and widowed mother at a convent, to be raised by the sisters of Saint Nicola. When the boys grow up, Eduardo enters the seminary in Rome; Ciro is sent to America to be apprenticed as a shoemaker to a relative of one of the sisters.

Before Ciro leaves, he meets a young girl Enza from the same region, but then loses track of her when he departs for America. Enza also travels to America, hoping to become a seamstress in New Jersey and send money home to help her family buy a much needed house.

Title: The Shoemaker's Wife: A Novel by Adriana Trigiani
Published April 3, 2012 by Harper; hardcover

Enzo and Ciro's paths cross again, several times over the years, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Many Italians left their home for America during the early 1900s, as did other European immigrants. The book helps to document one such family, in fiction, the reasons for their leaving, and their arrival and survival in America during two world wars. I found this book an excellent example of immigrant fiction and the historical novel.

Visit the author at http://adrianatrigiani.com/
 on her Facebook page, and Twitter account.

Click on TLC Book Tours for more information/reviews of The Shoemaker's Wife.

Thanks to TLC Book Tours and the publisher for an ARC of this novel.

Apr 7, 2012

Sunday Salon: There's a Bunny in the Backyard

The Sunday Salon.com Welcome to the Sunday Salon.

There was a bunny in my backyard this weekend.
If it was the Easter Bunny,
he didn't leave any eggs.
But he did have a good time with the grass.

And now for something bookish: a few books of fiction in my TBR pile:

Dancing on Broken Glass by Ka Hancock

Between You and Me by Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus

Sacre Bleu: A Comedy D'Art by Christopher Moore

Sidney Sheldon's Angel of the Dark by Tilly Bagshawe

and some nonfiction:

Oklahoma City: What the Investigation Missed - and Why It Still Matters by Andrew Gumbel and Roger G. Charles

Bloom: Finding Beauty in the Unexpected - A Memoir by Kelle Hampton

What are you planning to read?

Apr 5, 2012

The Icon Thief by Alec Nevala-Lee

Opening sentences in a novel can set the tone and give the flavor of a book. Here is how the thriller, The Icon Thief: A Novel, opens.

Andrey was nearly at the border when he ran into the thieves. By then, he had been on the road for three days. As a rule, he was a careful driver, but at some point in the past hour, his mind had wandered, and as he was coming over a low rise, he almost collided with two cars that were parked in the road ahead.
He braked sharply. The cars were set bumper to bumper, blocking the way. One was empty; the other had been steamed up by the heat of the men inside, who were no more than shadows on the glass. A yellow field stretched to either side of the asphalt, flecked with mounds of debris.

Andrey waited for what he knew was coming....As he watched, the door of one car opened, disclosing a figure in a fur cap and greatcoat. It was a boy of twelve or so. His rifle, with its wooden buttstock, seemed at least twice as old as he was. (Prologue)

Title: The Icon Thief: A Novel by Alec Nevala-Lee
Published by Signet, March 6, 2012
Genre: thriller

Book description:
"Maddy Blume, an ambitious young art buyer for a Manhattan hedge fund, is desperate to track down a priceless painting by Marcel Duchamp, the most influential artist of the twentieth century. The discovery of a woman's decapitated body thrusts criminal investigator Alan Powell into a search for the same painting, with its enigmatic image of a headless nude. And a Russian thief and assassin known as the Scythian must steal the painting to save his reputation--and his life."

So, what do you think?

Source: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from the publisher.

Apr 3, 2012

Meme: Books Read But Not (Yet) Reviewed, April 3

I will have to begin listing books which don't get their own post and review, but I do want to show them as books read in 2012. The 100+ Book Challenge, for instance, needs this listing.

Join me for this occasional meme and list the books you have read but not posted a review for, either because you had no time, are too lazy, or for whatever reason!

Grab the title below and tell us about it!


Here are my books so far:

Lucifer's Tears by Jim Thompson, which I enjoyed but would have preferred to have less in the subplots


Daughters by Elizabeth Buchan, a novel I can wholeheartedly give a 5 rating as contemporary British women's fiction!

Read any books you don't have time to review? Join me on this listing!

Apr 1, 2012

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

This Monday meme is held by Sheila at Book Journey. Tell us what you are reading or plan to read during the week.

My reads this week are

More Like Her by Liza Palmer

The Thirteen: by Susie Moloney

A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving

The Bedlam Detective by Stephen Gallagher

Restoration  by Olaf Olafsson

This is a very ambitious list, I must admit. Especially since I have a book tour for The Shoemaker's Wife by Adriani Trigani on April 10 as well! Looking forward to it too!

What are you planning to read this week? And did anyone pull an April Fool's joke on you today, April 1? Were you taken in by it?

Book Review: Quiet, the Power of Introverts by Susan Cain

The Sunday Salon.com Welcome to the Sunday Salon.

Western society often values the outspoken person, the people with the go-get-them attitude, the take-charge, and run-with-it individuals who are often seen as the ones responsible for making the world go round. Introverts, on the other hand, are often ignored or undervalued. The book, Quiet, shows how mistaken we are in our perceptions and how we may ignore the "quiet" ones whose minds may be teeming with creative and untapped ideas. In fact, the book shows how many so-called "introverted," even highly sensitive, high-reactive, quiet individuals have contributed to society over time.

I loved this book, reading what I suspected all along to be true, and was so glad it has all been finally laid out, the result of study and research.

Hardcover: 352 pages
Publisher: Crown, January 24, 2012
Rating: 5/5

Book description: At least one-third of the people we know are introverts. They are the ones who prefer listening to speaking, reading to partying; who innovate and create but dislike self-promotion; who favor working on their own over brainstorming in teams. Although they are often labeled "quiet," it is to introverts that we owe many of the great contributions to society--from van Gogh’s sunflowers to the invention of the personal computer. Quiet shows how dramatically we undervalue introverts, and how much we lose in doing so.

Susan Cain charts the rise of the Extrovert Ideal in the twentieth century and explores its far-reaching effects.... and she draws on research in psychology and neuroscience to reveal the surprising differences between extroverts and introverts. She introduces us to successful introverts....and offers advice on everything from how to better negotiate differences in introvert-extrovert relationships to how to empower an introverted child to when it makes sense to be a "pretend extrovert."

Quiet can change how we see introverts and, more importantly, how introverts see themselves.

Thanks to Crown for a complimentary ARC of this book.

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