May 30, 2012

Book Review: Ninepins by Rosy Thornton

Title: Ninepins by Rosy Thornton

Sandstone Press Ltd (2012), Paperback, 320 pages
Genre: fiction
Source: review copy from the author
Rating: 4.5/5

About the book: Laura Blackwood is a divorced mother of a preteen, 12-year-old Beth, both living in a house outside of Cambridge, England where Laura is a university researcher.  Though Beth is asthmatic, they live in the fens - low marshland that has been drained but which sits on surface water, is almost always soggy, and easily flooded. Laura is called on by a social welfare worker to take in a roomer, 17-year-old Willow, who is a ward of the state, so to speak, with specific problems of her own.

How Laura copes with two somewhat unpredictable young people, one physically and the other emotionally, in a physical environment that is also unpredictable, is the main theme of the novel, as I see it.

 My comments: The book is set in the fens in Eastern England, an area that's not familiar to me, so the setting of the book, in a house above a dike or ditch with deep water, and on wetland reclaimed from marsh, is part of the intrigue of the book. There is danger all around for Laura, and I became invested in the outcome of her story. Her daughter is asthmatic, which means the wet fens is not an ideal place for them to live. The house is also on the outskirts of Cambridge, relatively isolated. Her daughter Beth has to be driven to or from school or has to take the bus and return home after dark in winter, walking a good way alone from the bus stop to the house.

On top of that, their new boarder or roomer, Willow, is an unknown teenager who had to be taken from her mother and placed in foster care while she was growing up. Now seventeen, Willow rents from Laura a former pump house which has been made into a separate and independent apartment below the house. There is heavy rain, flooding during the course of the novel. Willow's former life comes back to haunt her, or haunt Laura, the adult in the home.

So many things happen, including tensions between Laura and her ex-husband, Beth's father, who has a second wife and three young sons. Beth also demands more independence from her parents as she heads towards her teenage years.

 I began to really care about Laura and how she would handle and cope with the different situations that crop up, some of them pretty dangerous. I soon began to worry about Beth and Willow as well and thank heaven for the help of Willow's social worker, Vince.

 The mark of good writing - the reader begins to really care about the characters, as if they were real and as if they know them personally. With good descriptions of place, people, personalities, and social situations, I found the book very engaging and almost didn't want it to end. That's maybe why I thought the book ended a little abruptly, and felt readers needed more time to see how the four people would adapt to the outcome. Otherwise, an excellent book that I highly recommend.

May 29, 2012

Guest post by Shannon Young, author of The Olympics Beat

A guest post by Shannon Young
 Olympic-size Optimism

 The Olympic Games are about so much more than sports. In ancient times, the Olympics were a chance for the Greek city-states to work out their aggressions and politics in a relatively friendly environment. The athletes, spectators, and VIPs would descend on Olympia for merry-making and diplomacy, even in the midst of war.

 These days, the Olympic cities get just as much attention as the sports. Beijing 2008 was all about making an impression. China, the closed, mysterious country that had been experiencing rapid economic growth, was finally ready to welcome the world. The coordination in Beijing was impeccable. From the performances to the infrastructure to the facilities, every aspect of the spectacle demonstrated a total commitment to making this the most impressive Olympics in history. But I went to China expecting to be impressed by the organization.

The thing I didn’t expect was the people. The Chinese people we met were almost frenzied in their enthusiasm for the Games. Everyone oozed pride at the chance to show off their country. From an average spectator’s perspective, the crowds were the real heroes of the Games. We watched their exuberant support spur their athletes to win dozens of gold medals. We encountered vigorous greetings from the volunteers, salespeople, and ordinary folks on the streets and in the stands. TV coverage of the sports and the drama couldn’t possible convey the energy that we felt every day from the people around us. That’s why I wanted to tell this story.

The story of the Beijing Olympics is about so much more than politics and medals. It’s about passion and discovery and chasing dreams. It’s about the optimistic attitude of one nation that, no matter what has happened in the past, the future is full of potential.

 Shannon Young is an American writer currently living in Hong Kong. She is the author of The Olympics Beat: A Spectator’s Memoir of Beijing. She writes a blog called A Kindle in Hong Kong and tweets @ShannonYoungHK.

Title: The Olympics Beat: A Spectator’s Memoir of Beijing, eBook
File Size: 158 KB
Print Length: 56 pages
Sold by: Amazon Digital Services
Source: author

 The drama, the variety, the spectacle - Shannon can't get enough of it. She is an American student who has always been fascinated by the Olympic Games; her father has a lifelong love affair with China. They team up for the Beijing games and the adventure of a lifetime. Without the filter of a small screen, Shannon and her dad are hypnotized by the passion of a great nation unveiling itself to the world. This mini travel memoir is a picture of a new China and the experiences that would change one American girl's life forever.

You can visit Shannon’s website for original photos from Beijing illustrating each chapter of this story.

May 28, 2012

Book Review: The Storytelling Animal by Jonathan Gottschall

Title:The Storytelling Animal: How Stories Make Us Human
Author: Jonathan Gottschall
Hardcover; published April 10, 2012; Houghton Miffin Harcourt

"Humans evolved to crave story. This craving has, on the whole, been a good thing for us. Stories give us pleasure and instruction. They simulate worlds so we can live better in this one. They help bind us into communities and define us as cultures. Stories have been a great boon to our species.
But are they becoming a weakness?" (ch. 9 The Future of Story)
Whether or not you believe that fiction and storytelling make us better able to live our lives, this book on why we make up or listen to stories is thought-provoking. I grew up listening to African-Jamaican folk tales that people passed down or made up/added to as time passed. The spider Anancy was one of the crafty characters of these stories; he was the clever trickster that made himself a winner in every situation, in spite of his size. I loved stories and listened to them every chance I got. Now I read novels.

The author tells us that we make up and listen to stories whether we are fiction readers or writers or not. Our daydreams, our dreams, the video games we play, the movies we watch, even memoirs, spin stories through our heads and we can't escape them. The danger is overload with "junk stories."
"The real threat isn't that story will fade out of human life in the future; it's that story will take over completely." (ch. 9)
The book urges us to read fiction, watch it, revel in its power, daydream, urge your children to read, but beware of going over the top.
"(B)e skeptical of conspiracy stories, your own blog posts, and self-exculpatory accounts of spats with spouses and coworkers." (ch. 9)
One of the chapters is titled, "Ink People Change the World." Do you agree?

The book has about 28 pages of supportive notes and bibliography, lest you doubt what the author/researcher has to say. There are also 15 pages of index, in fine print. In other words, the book is well researched and footnoted. Whether you agree with all he says about the power of story is the challenge. All writers of fiction will love this book.

The author's website is

Visit TLC's The Storytelling Animal book tour
for more reviews of this book.
Thanks to TLC and the author for a complimentary review copy.

May 26, 2012

The Rock Star in Seat 3A by Jill Kargman: Opening Sentences

Opening sentences in a book often give the flavor of the writing and help readers decide about the book. Here are the beginning sentences for The Rock Star in Seat 3A by Jill Kargman
(Published May 22, 2012).

Lucky for me, offices don't come cooler. Badass Games had hatched in a humongous industrial former storage building  near the water in Dumbo, Brooklyn, when its only product was the blockbuster Pimps N' Ho's, Volume 1. A video game junkie since childhood, I was teased mercilessly by my sister Kira for years until she realized I possessed a skill set that made the boys want to hang with us. We always had the latest state-of-the-art consoles, and our house was the go-to hangout place after school for all our friends, who enjoyed procrastinating, scarfing down my famous nachos - a daily trashtastic concoction of chips, cheese, and mushrooms -and the sweet-defeat of being trampled by me in game after game of Nintendo.  HAZEL, YOU ARE THE WINNER! 

Here's what Goodreads has to say about the book: "A lively novel about a down-to-earth New York City girl who suddenly finds herself in a rock 'n' roll Cinderella fantasy. This is a fairy-tale romance with a twist. "

The opening reminds me of my kids growing up with video games and with certain expectations from life!
I received this as a free review book.

May 25, 2012

The Great Animal Orchestra by Bernie Krause

Welcome to The Friday 56 hosted by Freda's Voice
Rules:*Grab a book, any book.
*Turn to page 56.
*Find any sentence (or a few) that grabs you.
*Post it.
*Add your (url) post to the Friday 56 Linky. It's that simple.
Here's a page 56 quote from my current read:The Great Animal Orchestra by Bernie Krause

"Quite literally out of nowhere, a quick succession of chest beats from one of the apes broke the spell of the remaining ethereal ambiance." (ch. 3)
Title: The Great Animal Orchestra: Finding the Origins of Music in the World's Wild Places by Bernie Krause, March 19, 2012

Musician and naturalist, Bernie Krause shares insight into how deeply animals rely on their aural habitat to survive and the damaging effects of extraneous noise on the delicate balance between predator and prey. But natural soundscapes aren't vital only to the animal kingdom; Krause explores how the myriad voices and rhythms of the natural world formed a basis from which our own musical expression emerged. (publisher's description)

May 24, 2012

Japanese Literature Challenge 6

The Japanese Literature Challenge is once again hosted by Dolce Bellezza at Japanese Literature Challenge 6. She has a few book suggestions as well, including one I really want to read - The Thief by F. Nakamura.

The challenge is to read one or more books by Japanese writers over six months. Click on the link to join in and be added to the linky.

May 23, 2012

Cat in a Vegas Gold Vendetta by Carol Nelson Douglas

Opening sentences in a book can give readers a sense of the style of writing and can influence their decision on whether or not to read a book. Here are the beginning sentences for Cat in a Vegas Gold Vendetta, a mystery featuring the cat Midnight Louie, by Carole Nelson Douglas.

Temple's fingers were doing the flamenco across her laptop keyboard, writing an e-mail press release, with Midnight Louie, her twenty-pound black cat, playing his usual role of paperweight beside her, when her phone rang.

She jumped.

Midnight Louie growled in alarm and rose up on his forelegs.

Temple wasn't the skittish type. You had to have nerves of steel to deal with the emergencies and sudden zigs and zags that a freelance public-relations person had to control, particularly in Vegas, and particularly in these Internet character-assassination days. (ch. 1)

Title: Cat in a Vegas Gold Vendetta: A Midnight Louie Mystery

I'm getting used to the idea of a cat being a sleuth, so I will be reading this book and hoping it will get me interested in the previous Midnight Louie mysteries. After all, this is the 23rd in the series!! I also think I may have won this book as it has been hiding on my shelves, waiting like a cat to pounce, to get my attention.

May 22, 2012

An Unexpected Guest by Anne Korkeakivi

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

"Madame," he said in heavily accented English, his voice low and guttural.
She suppressed the urge to cry out in surprise, her free hand flew up in front of her mouth. (ch. 5)

An Unexpected Guest by Anne Korkeakivi
HardcoverApril 17, 2012
Genre: fiction

Clare Moorhouse, the American wife of a high-ranking diplomat in Paris, is arranging an official dinner crucial to her husband's career. As she shops for fresh stalks of asparagus and works out the menu and seating arrangements, her day is complicated by the unexpected arrival of her son and a random encounter with a Turkish man, whom she discovers is a suspected terrorist. More unnerving is a recurring face in the crowd, one that belonged to another, darker era of her life. One she never expected to see again.

Anne Korkeakivi weaves the complexities of an age into an act as deceptively simple as hosting a dinner party. (publisher's description)

I received this book as a complimentary review copy.

May 19, 2012

Saturday Snapshot 2

Visit Alyce at At Home With Books to join in the Saturday Snapshot and post your picture on the linky there.

The irises in my backyard in full bloom right now. There is one yellow one that will soon open and I'm looking for the single blue one that sometimes shows up.

May 18, 2012

Before the Poison by Peter Robinson

Welcome to The Friday 56 hosted by Freda's Voice
Rules:*Grab a book, any book.
*Turn to page 56.
*Find any sentence (or a few) that grabs you.
*Post it.
*Add your (url) post to the Friday 56 Linky. It's that simple.
Here's a page 56 quote from my current read:

I told him what I did for a living, and he seemed genuinely interested. He gave a little chuckle when I said I wrote the music nobody listens to. "That must be hard to take sometimes," he said. "No matter how much they pay you."

Title: Before the Poison: A Novel by Peter Robinson
Published February 21, 2012

Book description: New York Times best selling author of the Inspector Banks series. A stand-alone novel in which a man's obsession with a decades-old crime leads him down a dark and winding path.

I received this book as a complimentary review/feature copy.

May 16, 2012

The Playgroup by Janey Fraser: Opening Sentences

Opening sentences of a book can give a taste of the writer's style, a sense of the story. Here are the beginning sentences for The Playgroup, a novel about a daycare, the Puddleducks Playgroup, by British author, Janey Fraser.

'Mrs. Merryfield. Mrs. Merryfield. Went to More-ishus. And it rained.'
Hi, Gemma! Nice tan! Listen, I'm pretty sure Molly is dry now but just in case she's not, there's a spare pair of pants in her sandwich box. That's the one with a picture of a giraffe on it - sorry I didn't have time to label it.'
'Morning, Miss Merryfield. Had a good break? Darren, have you said good morning to your playgroup leader?'
'Gemma, I'm so sorry. But we just had Beth checked again and it turns out she's allergic to wheat as well as salt, sugar, any kind of additives and - get this- any food that's yellow.Weird, isn't it? So can you make sure she doesn't have any biscuits at breaktime?'

Title: The Playgroup by Janey Fraser
Published February 2, 2012

It's the start of a new term at Puddleducks Playgroup. For Gemma Merryfield it'll be her first year in charge. Watching the new arrivals, she can already tell who the troublemakers will be, and not all of them are children!

What Gemma doesn't realise, thought, is that former banker Joe Balls, now head of Reception at the neighbouring school, will be watching her very move. As far as he's concerned, Puddleducks puts too much emphasis on fun and games, and not enough on numbers.

But when one of the children falls dangerously ill and another disappears, Gemma and Joe have to set aside their differences and work together. (publisher's description).

A good book for those with kids in daycare?

This book is a complimentary review copy.

May 15, 2012

Book Feature: The China Gambit by Allan Topol

Title: The China Gambit, a Craig Page Thriller
Published January 1, 2012; Vantage Press

Craig Page—a daring and resourceful former CIA agent, now fighting terrorism in Europe—is determined to find out who killed his daughter, Francesca, a young American reporter about to publish an explosive story about a conspiracy of international proportions. Joined by the gutsy Elizabeth Crowder, Francesca’s editor, Craig peels back the conspiracy layer by layer.

The action moves from Canada to Tehran, Beijing and Washington, and finally to Aspen, with Craig and Elizabeth narrowly escaping repeated attacks in their attempt to prevent a catastrophe for the United States. Craig must bury his personal loss, as he confronts his adversaries. (Publisher's description).

This book is a complimentary review copy.

Skinnydipping by Bethenny Frankel: Teaser

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

Was I really that fat? I was five foot seven and I weighed 134 pounds. Wasn't that...relatively normal? (ch. 9)

Title: Skinnydipping: A Novel by Bethenny Frankel

A hilarious romantic novel about a struggling actress and aspiring businesswoman’s pursuit of  a wildly successful career, the perfect man, and an amazing body. Written by bestselling author and reality star, Bethenny Frankel. (publisher's description)

I received this book as a complimentary review copy.

May 14, 2012

Books: In a Cozy Mood

I've been in a cozy-mystery reading mood lately.

A Spirited Gift

I finished Madelyn Alt's Home for a Spell, a Bewitching Mystery series, yesterday and am now in the middle of A Spirited Gift, a Missing Pieces Mystery by Joyce and Jim Lavene.

Home for a Spell

Both books have an element of the paranormal to give the mystery stories a bit of spice.

The Wild Wood Enquiry

Next on my list will be The Wild Wood Enquiry by Ann Purser, one of the Ivy Beasley Mystery series. No spirits or witches here, I don't think.

Read any cozies lately?

May 13, 2012

Sunday Salon: Happy Mother's Day

Happy Mother's Day to all of you wonderful moms!
Enjoy the day, relax, read a good book;
hope you don't lift a finger today, and be pampered!

May 11, 2012

The Friday 56: One Red Bastard by Ed Lin

Welcome to The Friday 56  hosted by Freda's Voice
Rules:*Grab a book, any book.
*Turn to page 56.
*Find any sentence (or a few) that grabs you.
*Post it.
*Add your (url) post to the Friday 56 Linky.  It's that simple.
Here's a page 56 quote from my current read:
"The later editions of the Chinese newspapers reported Mr. Chen's death. The Taiwan-based paper declared that Communist agents had gotten to him. The Hong Kong-based rag lamented how unsafe Chinatown had become ever since those lowlifes from Fujian province started coming into the country."

Title:One Red Bastard: A Mystery by Ed Lin
Minotaur Books; April 24, 2012

May 10, 2012

Book Review: Lulu in the Sky by Loung Ung

Title: Lulu in the Sky: A Daughter of Cambodia Finds Love, Healing and Double Happiness by Loung Ung
Published April 17, 2012; HarperCollins paperback
Rating: 5/5

Lulu in the Sky is the third book in a trilogy memoir by Loung Ung, a refugee from war torn Cambodia who came to the U.S. as a child with her oldest brother and his wife, settling in Vermont. Now an adult who is dedicated to Cambodia's future and working to ban landmines all over the world, she finally married her college sweetheart Mark. This happened after many years of putting off her commitment to personal happiness - to deal with the memory of her parents' and sisters' death in Cambodia during the war and leaving behind part of her family when she left Cambodia.

These experiences are the topic of the author's two previous memoirs, First They Killed My Father and Lucky Child. The two books detail the excesses of the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia, when millions of Cambodians were killed or executed, including Loung's parents and tells about the author's escape and arrival in America. In Lulu in the Sky, Loung tells us how she came to be reconciled with the past, to live in the present and continue into the future.
I don't need anyone. Even as I whispered this to myself, I knew I was lying.
"Why do you want to be with me when I'm such a mess?" I asked.
"Because you're brave and passionate and tender; you're a child and a wise woman."
"But I'm broken..."
"You're not broken. Not to me. Never to me."
Mark's kindness and compassion were what drew me to him in the beginning of our relationship. (ch. 18)
Loung exorcises the ghosts that haunt her by talking to a therapist, by writing about her experiences, and becoming an activist for international justice. She eventually finds happiness in her work and in her marriage to Mark.
For nine months, I revisited my childhood in Cambodia. With Mark and my friends at my side, I poured my love, anger, and hate into the computer. And in the midst of this writing, I traveled back and forth to Cambodia as a spokesperson for VVAF, leading delegations of supporters and public figures to tour our centers. (ch. 19)
The author continues to give lectures around the country and to talk to book clubs and other groups about her experiences and her international work. Her memoir is very moving. The detail in her books and her extraordinary memory, her clear writing, makes this book and the first two a must for those who know about the brutal history of Cambodia and for those who want to know more.

Loung Ung is an author, lecturer, and activist. She has advocated for equality, human rights, and justice in her native land and world wide for more than fifteen years. Ung lives in Cleveland, Ohio with her husband.

For other tour stops and reviews of this book, visit Lulu in the Sky Book Tour, sponsored by TLC Book Tours.

Thanks to TLC and the author, publisher, for a complimentary review copy of this book. 

May 9, 2012

A Place of Secrets by Rachel Hore

Opening sentences of a book can give a taste of the writer's style, a sense of the story. Here are the beginning sentences for A Place of Secrets.
The night before it begins, Jude has the dream again.She is stumbling through a dark forest, lost and crying for her mother. She always wakes before the end so she never knows whether she finds her, but it is very vivid. She feels the loamy earth, hears twigs crack under her feet and smells the rich, woody fragrances that are always strongest at night, when the trees are breathing. It's chilly. Brambles catch at her hair. And the panic, the despair, they're real enough as she claws her way to consciousness; she scrabbles for the light switch and lies waiting for her sobbing breaths and racing heart to slow.
Title: A Place of Secrets: A Novel by Rachel Hore
Paperback: 400 pages; Holt Paperbacks; January 31, 2012
Publisher's description:
An historical mystery in the tradition of Kate Morton. 

Auction house appraiser Jude leaves London for her dream job at Starbrough Hall, an estate in the countryside, examining and pricing the manuscripts and instruments of an eighteenth-century astronomer. She is welcomed by Chantal Wickham and Jude feels close to the old woman at once: they have both lost their husbands. Hard times have forced the Wickham family to sell the astronomer's work, their land and with it, the timeworn tower that lies nearby. The tower was built as an observatory for astronomer Anthony Wickham and his daughter Esther, and it served as the setting for their most incredible discoveries.

Though Jude is far away from her life in London, her arrival at Starbrough Hall brings a host of childhood memories. She meets Euan, a famed writer and naturalist who lives in the gamekeeper's cottage at the foot of the tower, where Jude's grandfather once lived. And a nightmare begins to haunt her six-year-old niece, the same nightmare Jude herself had years ago. Is it possible that the dreams are passed down from one generation to the next? What secrets does the tower hold? And will Jude unearth them before it's too late?

Rachel Hore is the author of novels including The Glass Painter's Daughter and The Memory Garden. She worked in London publishing before moving to Norwich, where she teaches publishing at the University of East Anglia. She is married to the writer D. J. Taylor.

May 8, 2012

Tuesday Teaser: Roam: A Novel with Music by Alan Lazar

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

"Nelson slept fitfully. He woke up shivering several times, but even the cool night did not keep him from falling asleep again soon. The events of the day had exhausted the small animal. He had walked and run for hours, and he had been bombarded by a hundred stimuli he had never felt before. (ch. 11)
Title:Roam: A Novel with Music by Alan Lazar
Hardcover, November 1, 2011; Atria Books

Publisher's description:They say you never forget your first love . . .
Born under a sparkling crescent moon, Nelson is a bright-eyed, inquisitive half beagle, half poodle. He lives with Katey and Don, newlyweds whose marriage is straining under the pressures of domesticity, but Katey’s devotion to Nelson buoys the pup even as he worries his home may be falling apart.

But there are few things Nelson likes better than to follow a scent, and one day he follows his nose and gets lost . . . very lost. Though he searches frantically for Katey—and she for him—Nelson can’t seem to find his way home, and he soon realizes that if he’s ever to see his great love again, he must make his way on his own and try to survive in the wild.

Over the course of eight years, the book follows Nelson as he crosses the country searching for his family. For a time he rides shotgun with a truck driver named Thatcher, then he lives in the woods with a pack of wolves. A terrible accident takes his hind leg, but Nelson’s strength and longing to find Katey keep him alive. Escaping death in a shelter, Nelson grows into an old dog with a cynical eye and a world-weary demeanor, but underneath it all, a fearless and courageous spirit. After all, he believes that one day he’ll make it home . . . and maybe, just maybe, he will. . . .

Much more than the story of one dog’s incredible journey, this is a deeply moving story of survival and enduring love, which once again confirms the unbreakable bond between humans and their best friends. In the tradition of The Art of Racing in the Rain and The Story of Edgar Sawtelle, Roam is an unforgettable tale of love lost and found, the trials that test families, and an affirmation that no matter how far or how long you may travel, there’s always a place you can call home.

I received this book as a complimentary review copy.

May 7, 2012

Book Review: In My Father's Country: An Afghan Woman Defies Her Fate

Title: In My Father's Country: An Afghan Woman Defies Her Fate
Author: Saima Wahab
Hardcover, 352 pages; Crown Publishers
Published: April 23, 2012
Rating: 5/5

  • About the book: This is the story of a 15-year-old Afghani girl who migrates to Portland, Oregon in the 1980s with her brothers, in the care of her traditional Pashtun uncles. Saima came from a tribe in Afghanistan with very strict rules regarding family and women's behavior. She rebelled against her uncles as she grew older, and after college at age 23, left their home to strike out on her own.

  • In 2004, she signed up with a defense contractor as an interpreter in Afghanistan, and ever since has worked with the U.S. Armed Forces as the first female Pashtun-English interpreter, and later as a research consultant to the U.S. army in Afghanistan. Her book covers two main areas: her personal life and struggles to integrate into U.S. society as an immigrant, and her fight for her individual freedom as a woman connected by family to a traditional tribal society. The other main area, and the one which takes up most of the book, is her commitment to better understanding and communication between the U.S. forces in Afghanistan and the people of Afghanistan.

  • Saima's father was taken away from the village by the KGB and killed when she was age three. In 1979 she left Afghanistan at age six when the Russians invaded, and since coming to the U.S. at age 15, has returned to Afghanistan many times as an interpreter for the U.S. Armed Forces and in 2007 as research manager of the army's Human Terrain Team. Her job was to help the military tackle the language barrier and lack of knowledge of the region's history and to give crucial cultural recommendations. During her many trips to Afghanistan, she also reconnected with her extended family in her mother's village.

    Comments: I was amazed by Saima's bravery in breaking away from her uncles in Portland and becoming a virtual outcast from her family.  Her unique gift and accomplishment as a fluent Pashtun-English translator made her valuable as an interpreter and cultural advisor. This has given her what she most wanted ever since childhood -  freedom and independence as a woman in both her Afghani and American worlds, and she fights still to improve the lives of restricted Afghani women. 

    The author talks about another important goal for working in Afghanistan. She wanted to find out what it was about the Afghanis that made her father give up his life for them. Another amazing thing about this book was how her writing made everything clear and easy to understand - Saima's personal life and goals, the differences in her ethnic culture and Western culture, the needs of the U.S. Armed Forces in Afghanistan to work successfully with the Afghanis. A compelling book on several levels, I recommend it to those interested in the fight of women in traditional societies for a better life and individual freedom and for those interested in the culture and politics of Aghanistan.

      SAIMA WAHAB is Afghan-born, fled to Pakistan as a refugee, and moved to the United States as a teenager. She is one of the only Pashtun-English female translators in the world and, among other consequent roles, has returned to Afghanistan to work as a cultural adviser with the U.S. Army. A former resident of Portland, OR, Saima now lives in the Washington D.C. area.

    For a list of all the book tour stops sponsored by TLC Book Tours, and other reviews of the book, visit TLC Book Tours: In My Father's Country blog tour.
Thanks to TLC, the author, and the publisher for a complimentary review copy of the book.

May 5, 2012

Saturday Snapshot No. 1

A swan on the river running through Stratford, Ontario, the home of the Stratford Shakespeare Festival in Canada. We attend a play or two at the festival almost every year on our way to or from Toronto. This picture was taken last year.

Visit Alyce at At Home With Books to join in the Saturday Snapshot and post your picture on the linky there.

Book Review: Due or Die (Library Lovers Mystery) by Jenn McKinlay

I love libraries, books, and dogs, so I did like Due or Die, the second in the mystery series featuring library director Lindsey Norris of Briar Creek, Connecticut.

Lindsey has to deal with an envious and cantankerous library assistant while she tries to solve the murder of the husband of the newly elected president of the Friends of the Library. Carrie Rushton's husband has been shot and Carrie is the first suspect. Lindsey wonders if Bill Sint has anything to do with it, as Bill is the outgoing president of the Friends and extremely upset about being replaced by Carrie.

As a nice subplot, a new character is introduced in the series. Heathcliff, a young dog, becomes Lindsey's new best friend and companion after being found abandoned and callously stuffed in the library's book chute. With the help of her admirer Sully and friend Nancy, Lindsey solves the murder even though she risks her life doing it. She is almost run over while biking home on the snowy roads and escapes freezing to death after being locked in an unheated storehouse.

Comments: I liked the book, got through it in record time as it was well written and easy to read. I found it had a lot of padding though, so I was able to skip through it without missing the key ingredients or the subplots in the story. I gave it a 3.5/5 as a good mystery read.

Title: Due or Die by Jenn McKinlay
Mass Market Paperback: 304 pages
Publisher: Berkley; March 6, 2012
I received a complimentary review copy of this book.

May 4, 2012

Feature Memoir: My Cross to Bear by Gregg Allman

Title: My Cross to Bear by Gregg Allman, with Alan Light
Hardcover: 400 pages; William Morrow
Publication: May 1, 2012

Book description: For the first time, rock icon Gregg Allman, one of the founding members of The Allman Brothers Band, tells the story of his career, opening up about his long struggle with substance abuse, the tragic death of his brother and life in one of rock music's most legendary bands.

Capturing the Allman Brothers' ongoing resurgence, the book includes over one hundred photos from throughout the band’s history and offers a glimpse inside one of the most popular and notorious bands in the history of rock music.

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

May 3, 2012

Featured Book: Oscar Wilde and the Vatican Murders by Gyles Brandreth

I peered closely at the ring. "This is where I need Holmes's magnifying glass," I said.

"Or Wilde's eagle eye," my friend countered. "Do you not see a shape in the scratch marks?"

Screwing up my eyes, I saw something. "The outline of a key?" I suggested.
(ch. 2)

Title:Oscar Wilde and the Vatican Murders: A Mystery 
Paperback: 368 pages; Touchstone
Publication date: May 8, 2012

Book description: Oscar Wilde returns in the historical mystery series, featuring Wilde as the detective aided by his friend Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

In 1892 Arthur Conan Doyle, exhausted by his creation Sherlock Holmes, retires to the spa at Bad Homburg. The first person he encounters is Oscar Wilde, and when the two friends make a series of macabre discoveries amongst the fan mail Conan Doyle has brought to answer - a severed finger, a lock of hair and finally an entire severed hand - the game is once more afoot.

The trail leads to Rome, to the very heart of the Vatican. Pope Pius IX has just died. These are uncertain times. To uncover the mystery, Oscar and Conan Doyle must penetrate the innermost circle of the Church - seven men who have a very great deal to lose.

Author Gyles Brandreth is a well known BBC broadcaster, theatre producer, novelist, biographer. He has written books on Britain’s royal family and a diary of his years as a member of Parliament.

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

May 1, 2012

The Little Shadows by Marina Endicott

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

'You were the opener. You have an ex-quisite voice, my dear.'

Aurora found herself standing, and almost curtsying. Bah! She stood straight. (ch. 2)

Title: The Little Shadows by Marina Endicott
Hardcover: 544 pages
Publisher: Hutchinson (February 1, 2012)

Book description:
"The Little Shadows" tells the story of three sisters making their way in the world of vaudeville before and during the First World War. Setting off to make their fortune as a singing act after the untimely death of their father, the girls, Aurora, Clover and Bella, are overseen by their fond but barely coping Mama. The girls begin with little besides youth and hope but evolve into artists as they navigate their way to adulthood among a cast of extraordinary characters - charming charlatans, unpredictable eccentrics, and some who seem ordinary but have magical gifts. Marina Endicott reveals how the art of vaudeville - In all its variety, madness, melodrama, hilarity and sorrow - echoes the art of life itself. (amazon)

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

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...