Aug 30, 2012

The Nightingale Girls by Donna Douglas

Title: The Nightingale Girls by Donna Douglas
Release date: September 10, 2012; Arrow Books paperback
Genre: women's fiction; historical fiction
Source: publisher
Opening sentences:
"Tell me, Miss Doyle. What makes you think you could ever be a nurse here?"
After growing up in the slums of Bethnal Green, not much frightened Dora Doyle. But her stomach was fluttering with nerves as she faced the Matron of the Nightingale Teaching Hospital in her office on that warm September afternoon. She sat tall and upright behind a heavy mahogany desk, an imposing figure in black, her face framed by an elaborate white headdress, grey eyes fixed expectantly on Dora. 

About the book: The lives and loves of three student nurses who join St. Agatha's Hospital in 1936, the novel brings a pre-war London hospital vividly to life.

Dora is a tough East Ender, desperate to escape her overcrowded home and her abusive stepfather. Helen, the quiet one, is a shadow of her overbearing mother, who dominates every aspect of her life.  The third is rebellious Millie -- aka Lady Camilla. An aristocrat escaping from her upper class life, she clashes over and over again with Matron and gets into scrapes, especially where men are concerned.

The Nightingale Girls. What have they let themselves in for? (based on the book description)

Aug 29, 2012

Going to the Bad by Nora McFarland

Title: Going to the Bad: a Lilly Hawkins Mystery by Nora McFarland
Published August 7, 2012; Touchstone
Source: publisher

Opening sentences:
" Christmas Eve., 8:31 a.m. I glanced out at the KJAY newsroom. My elevated position on the assignment desk gave me an excellent view as my coworkers prepared for our noon show. As is typical in most newsrooms this time of year, the food and frills of the holiday season existed side by side with the uglier realities of our business. Bloody crime-scene video played next to a platter of holiday cookies. A script detailing a tragic car wreck sat on the printer next to a pot of candy canes."
About the book: Lilly Hawkins, a TV news photographer at her hometown television station, is thrown off balance by the brutal attack on her uncle Bud in her own home, and dives headlong into the investigation, risking her own life in doing so. (based on the publisher's description).

Secrets of the Tudor Court: The Pleasure Palace by Kate Emerson


And now for something completely different (for me, that is). I've started the first of five historical novels in the Secrets of the Tudor Court series by Kate Emerson.

The latest in the series has recently been published, but I'm starting with the first book. Half way through The Pleasure Palace, I'm learning a lot about the courts of France, Spain, and England in the early 1500s. The novel seem well crafted, with interesting characters, plot, and the history of the Tudor period. And romance. Did I forget to include romance? In other words, I'm enjoying it so far, but I probably won't read the books all at once. Maybe I'll finish them by the end of the year!!

Title: The Pleasure Palace by Kate Emerson
Published Feb. 3, 2009; Pocket
Source: publisher

Book Feature: DISCRETION by Allison Leotta

Opening sentences: "Even now, Caroline got nervous before every big job -- and this was bigger than most. She knew how to smile past smirking hotel concierges and apartment-building doormen who deliberately looked the other way. The key was looking confident. But committing a crime in the U.S. Capitol was a different experience altogether."
Title: Discretion: A Novel by Allison Leotta
Published July 3, 2012; Touchstone
Genre: thriller
Source: publisher

About the book: When a young woman plummets to her death from the balcony of the U.S. Capitol, Assistant U.S. Attorney Anna Curtis is summoned to the scene. The victim is one of the city’s highest-paid escorts. And the balcony belongs to Washington, D.C.’s sole representative to Congress, the most powerful figure in city politics.

The Congressman proclaims his innocence.The investigation leads Anna to Discretion, a high-end escort service. The further Anna ventures into D.C.’s red-light underworld, the larger the target on her own back. (from publisher's description).

About the author:
Allison Leotta was a federal prosecutor specializing in sex crimes and domestic violence in Washington, DC. She is a graduate of Harvard Law School and Michigan State University. "Law of Attraction" is her first novel. The sequel is "Discretion," released in July. Her website, Allison Leota.

Aug 28, 2012

Book Review: The Orphan Master's Son by Adam Johnson


Title: The Orphan Master's Son: A Novel by Adam Johnson
Random House Paperback: August 7,  2012
Genre: political fiction
"My friend," Jun Do said, the tears streaming down his face, "I couldn't save him. He was alone and the water was dark. I couldn't even save a piece of him. " (p. 88)
About the book: Pak Jun Do is the haunted son of a lost mother and an influential father who runs a work camp for orphans. The state soon recognizes the boy’s loyalty and keen instincts. Jun Do rises in the ranks, becomes a professional kidnapper who must navigate the baffling demands of his Korean overlords in order to stay alive. (based on publisher's description).

My comments: I knew that this novel was a fictional look into the daily workings of North Korea and the lives of the struggling people, personified by a young man Jun Do, who becomes part of the political machine. I saw Jun Do as a John Doe, a faceless Everyman of his political system, expected to be just one more cog in the machine. He was not a person I could be sympathetic to, for the most part, as he didn't seem totally real.

What I did not expect was my reaction to the book. I entered a surreal world that was contradictory and without reason - your worst fantasy or a bad nightmare. I got the idea right away about the unbearable conditions and the insanity Jun Do and others faced.

After my first impressions, I wanted something familiar to keep me reading,  something even remotely familiar to break the heavy and strange atmosphere.  I couldn't find the reasons behind the book except to show the unbearable conditions. I wanted brilliance in the prose, wanted symbolism, philosophical musings even. The straight forward narrative was too heavy-handed for me. It was like being hit with the details of a horrendous situation over and over when less would have been enough and would probably have worked better for the book. Trying to finish the novel became difficult. I couldn't move forward and was bogged down by its weight.

In all fairness, I have to say the book is on the New York Times bestseller list. There are readers who see what I can't. But I do give kudos to the writer for all the research and time invested in writing this unusual book.

Adam Johnson teaches creative writing at Stanford University. His fiction has appeared in Esquire, The Paris Review, Harper’s, Tin House, Granta, as well as The Best American Short Stories, a short-story collection, and the novel, Parasites Like Us. He lives in San Francisco.

For other reviews and thoughts on The Orphan Master's Son, visit TLC Book Tours.

Thanks to http://tlcbooktours.com
and the publisher for providing an ARC of this novel for review.

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme hosted by Miz B of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Add two sentences from your current read and identify the author and title.

Aug 27, 2012

The Midwife of Hope River by Patricia Harman

Title: The Midwife of Hope River: A Novel of an American Midwife
Publication date: August 28, 2012; paperback
Genre: historical fiction
 Opening sentences: Stillbirth. "How long do you think my baby's been dead?" Katherine turns toward me, and I can tell she's still crying.
"Five days, maybe less," I answer my patient. "I heard the heartbeat when I checked you last Friday, and you said the baby moved during church. Shut your eyes now. Try. You need to rest."
I place my new leather-bound journal on the maple table, lean my head back, and gaze cross the dark room
. (this quote is from an ARC; the final edition may differ).
In 1930s Appalachia, midwife Patience Murphy strugges against disease, poverty, and prejudice - and her own haunting past - to bring new light, and life, into an otherwise cruel world. (from publisher's description).

Aug 26, 2012

Sunday Salon: The Importance of Being.....

The Sunday Salon.com Welcome to the Sunday Salon!

 Would you believe I'm reading for the first time, The Importance of Being Earnest: A Trivial Comedy for Serious People by Oscar Wilde. This after looking at some short comedy skits a friend had written, produced, and taped. He could decide to do a Jamaican-style version of Earnest, so I'm sending this to him!


I've been jumping around from book to book, and have settled on a humorous mystery novel set in India: The Case of the Deadly Butter Chicken by Tarquin Hall. I needed a comedy break after (trying to) read The Orphan Master's Son, a novel that takes itself way too seriously. (But then I've never been to North Korea.)


I also had requested Ha Jin's Nanjing Requiem from Amazon Vine and have been sitting on it, another serious novel. But I think I'll get to it soon.

A Scandinavian-style crime novel I plan to read is Pierced by Thomas Enger, featuring Norwegian crime reporter Henning Juul, second in the series. I've been finding recent Scandinavian crime books very, very noir or dark, but we'll see about this one.

Also on the list is The King's Damsel by Kate Emerson, the fifth in the historical romance and intrigue series.


Now I've exhausted the different genres I plan on reading.

What are you reading this week?

Aug 25, 2012

Book Review: A Sinister Sense by Allison Kingsley



Title: A Sinister Sense: A Raven's Nest Bookstore Mystery
Author: Allison Kingsley
Published July 3, 2012; Berkley Prime Crime

About: Bookstore owner Clara Quinn tries to clear Rick Sanders, a potential love interest, when Rick is charged with the murder of a man found in the back of his pickup truck.

 Comments: Two devices make this cozy mystery more interesting - a dog named Tatters and a paranormal element, Clara's inherited Quinn Sense. The Quinn Sense gives Clara more insight and a keener perspective; voices whisper into her ear and help her with mystery solving. This is the third in the series, so Clara's been at it for a while and presumably getting better.

A cute and easy cozy to read on a lazy afternoon.

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

Aug 24, 2012

Evel Knievel Days by Paul Toutonghi

Title: Evel Knievel Days: A Novel by Paul Toutonghi
Published July 17, 2012; Crown
Genre: comedy, novel
Opening sentences: "Egyptian cooking is folk magic. Not magic in the sense of dematerializing doves or sawing beautiful ladies in half. But magic in the deeper sense of the thing - in the raw joy of what magic once was, hundreds of years ago, thousands of years ago: a surprise, a shock, an astonishment. A lesson about the invisible. A lesson bout belief. I remember this from my childhood: the image of my mother, Amy Clark-Saqr, cooking late into the night for a catering gig, cooking, in a nearly empty house, enough food to feed a hundred people the next afternoon. A feast - but not for her. Saqr Catering. Butte's Finest Middle Eastern Cuisine. Since 1990.
Mulukhiyya. A silky saline broth distilled from the leaves of the jute plant."
About the book: Khosi Saqr has always felt a bit out of place in Butte, Montana, hometown of motorcycle daredevil Evel Knievel. He travels to Egypt to find his father and his heritage, searches for his roots, and along the way finds his identity. (based on publisher's description).

Aug 23, 2012

Book Review: Following Atticus by Tom Ryan


Title: Following Atticus: Forty-eight High Peaks, One Little Dog, and an Extraordinary Friendship
Author: Tom Ryan
William Morrow Paperbacks; Aug. 7. 2012
Genre: memoir, travel
I was once asked if Atticus was the perfect dog. "He's perfect for me," I said. (from the Acknowledgements).
About: A little dog named Atticus M. Finch helps Tom Ryan on an extended journey of self discovery and healing by accompanying him on long and isolated nature treks up and down the mountains of New Hampshire.

Comments: The writing is excellent and pulls the reader into the heart of the writer and into the center of his journeys with Atticus, who often leads the way on the treks. In the middle of the book, I thought that Tom and Atticus would stop climbing, retire, and take it easy, having already climbed so many 4,000-foot mountains in all kinds of weather. But they continued on, during one winter making the rounds of mountains twice and raising money for an animal medical center. I read on and realized that Atticus pined for the mountains as much as Tom did and that their outings are a big part of what keeps them both contented.

Recommendations: This book is a excellent one for all dog lovers, trekkers, and others who like good writing and the outdoors. Those who normally avoid dog books because they fear an unhappy ending when the dog dies need have no fear. Atticus and Tom are both still active and mountain trekking.

The author: In 2007 former newspaper publisher and editor Tom Ryan moved to New Hampshire with miniature schnauzer Atticus M. Finch. Tom and Atticus have climbed more than 450 four-thousand-foot peaks over the last five years. After raising thousands of dollars for Angell Animal Medical Center in Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts, the pair was inducted into the Massachusetts Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Hall of Fame. Tom currently writes The Adventures of Tom & Atticus column in the Northcountry News and Mountainside Guide, and the blog The Adventures of Tom & Atticus. Tom and Atticus live in the White Mountains of New Hampshire.

Visit Blog | Facebook | Twitter

For more reviews of Following Atticus, see the Book Tour Schedule.
Thanks to TLC Book Tours and the publisher for a review copy of this book.

Aug 21, 2012

Book Review: Keepsake by Kristina Riggle

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


Title: Keepsake: A Novel by Kristina Riggle
Published June 26, 2012; William Morrow Paperbacks
Genre: contemporary fiction, women's fiction
Source: publisher
" Jesus, Ron. I would never hurt Jack. You know how much he means to me. You also know how hard it is for me to keep up the house, especially since I had to start working full-time after you left me." My voice was breaking up like melting ice. (ch. 5)
About the book: Two sisters, Mary and Trish, tell the story about their lives as they discover secrets of their mother through keepsakes they find in Trish's over cluttered house. Trish is about to lose her young son Jack because of the state of her house, and her teen son Dee has already moved out, unable to live in a house full of paper, packages, boxes, and other unimaginable clutter. Trish's house has become a hoarder's dream and a normal person's nightmare.

In the clean up that follows involving, in various degrees, Dee, Mary and Trish, their father, and even Trish's estranged husband Ron and her psychiatrist Seth, the women discover items that belonged to their mother, items that tell a story they were unaware of and that explain a lot about their childhood and the mental state of their mother, now deceased. It also leads to the sisters' secrets being revealed that help explain Trish's compulsive buying and hoarding.

 My comments: Reading the novel made me think of some of the unnecessary extras in my house, including some of my books! That's how persuasive it was. It was well written and tackles a problem that we read about a lot in the news - compulsive buying and keeping, though in Trish's case it was extreme.

This book is on its way to another reader, a giveaway through BookCrossing.

Aug 19, 2012

Book Tour: Following Atticus by Tom Ryan


Title: Following Atticus: Forty-eight High Peaks, One Little Dog, and an Extraordinary Friendship
Author: Tom Ryan
William Morrow Paperbacks; Aug. 7. 2012
Genre: memoir, travel
I was once asked if Atticus was the perfect dog. "He's perfect for me," I said. (from the Acknowledgements).
About: A little dog named Atticus M. Finch helps Tom Ryan on an extended journey of self discovery and healing by accompanying him on long and isolated nature treks up and down the mountains of New Hampshire.

Comments: The writing is excellent and pulls the reader into the heart of the writer and into the center of his journeys with Atticus, who often leads the way on the treks. In the middle of the book, I thought that Tom and Atticus would stop climbing, retire, and take it easy, having already climbed so many 4,000-foot mountains in all kinds of weather. But they continued on, during one winter making the rounds of mountains twice and raising money for an animal medical center. I read on and realized that Atticus pined for the mountains as much as Tom did and that their outings are a big part of what keeps them both contented.

Recommendations: This book is a good one for all dog lovers and trekkers. Those who normally avoid dog books because they fear an unhappy ending when the dog dies need have no fear. Atticus and Tom are both still active and mountain trekking.

The author: In 2007 former newspaper publisher and editor Tom Ryan moved to New Hampshire with miniature schnauzer Atticus M. Finch. Tom and Atticus have climbed more than 450 four-thousand-foot peaks over the last five years. After raising thousands of dollars for Angell Animal Medical Center in Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts, the pair was inducted into the Massachusetts Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Hall of Fame. Tom currently writes The Adventures of Tom & Atticus column in the Northcountry News and Mountainside Guide, and the blog The Adventures of Tom & Atticus. Tom and Atticus live in the White Mountains of New Hampshire.

Visit Blog | Facebook | Twitter

For more reviews of Following Atticus, see the Book Tour Schedule.
Thanks to TLC Book Tours and the publisher for a review copy of this book.

Aug 18, 2012

Sunday Salon: September Cozy Mysteries


The Sunday Salon.com Welcome to the Sunday Salon! Here are some light cozy reads for September, which is just around the corner.


Foul Play at the Fair
by Shelley Freydont
Treacherous Toys
by Joyce and Jim Lavene
Last Wool and Testament
by Molly MacRae


This month is full of book tours; the next one is next week, when I'll  review Following Atticus by Tom Ryan, a memoir about a climber and his little companion, a miniature schnauzer named Atticus M. Finch.  The following week, I'll review The Orphan Master's Son. I don't know much about this novel but from what I've read so far, it will be interesting.

What have you planned, book-wise?

Aug 17, 2012

Book Feature/YA Fantasy: Last Kiss in Venice

Title: Last Kiss in Venice (Legend of the White Snake #1)
Author: Martin Chu Shui
EBook, 189 pages; July 11, 2012
Genre: fantasy, YA, martial arts
"In the misty valley of the Er Mei Mountain, after the young and handsome scholar had rescued Caitlin from the eagle’s talons and started talking to her as if she was a human girl, she wondered how it was possible that she understood his words. Perhaps she just had natural ability to understand human words, or maybe instead of understanding the words, she received the messages by observing the scholar’s emotion and body language. No matter how she was able to do it, the result was the same: Caitlin, then the three-foot-long white snake, knew exactly what the scholar was talking about." (from Last Kiss in Venice)
Book description: “Last Kiss in Venice” is a reinterpretation of one of China’s most famous love stories, ‘Legend of the White Snake’. It combines eastern and western culture to tell a story of love and hate, loyalty and betrayal, revenge and justice. It is a supernatural love epic that combines magic and sword fighting in a timeless legend.

Beside a bridge over a canal in Venice, Charlie is spellbound by a girl he has just met, by Caitlin’s absolute beauty and also by what seems like a mythical bond between them. As they admit their love for each other in Paris, then move to settle down in Australia together, it looks like the start of Happily Ever After. But neither of them realizes that this is just the start of a heart-wrenching journey.

After a lifetime of searching, Caitlin finally finds her true love, settles down in the beautiful rolling countryside of outback Australia, and starts to raise a family, but her enemy is never far away. She loves Charlie deeply but can never reveal her secret; he must never know who she really is, and that is her downfall. Information in the hands of her enemy brings her life crashing down around her. To save all she has worked for, she must fight for the right to survive.(based on goodreads)

Martin Chu Shui of Australia has written two other martial arts fantasy novels, Dragon's Pupils: The Sword Guest, and Dragon's Pupils: The Peak. This is his third YA novel.

Book Review: Across the Mekong River by Elaine Russell

Title: Across the Mekong River: A Novel
Author: Elaine Russell
Paperback, August 6. 2012; CreateSpace
Genre: historical fiction
We lived in the mountains of Xieng Khouang Province, in the middle of northern Laos. A beautiful place of gentle streams and green forests. On a clear day from the peak above our village I could see the broad Plain of Jars with its ancient stone jars, some as tall as two men. Lao villages and flooded rice paddies dotted the valley. Beyond were the houses and Buddhist temple of Xieng Khouang town. We built our Hmong villages on the steep hillsides, working our fields and tending our animals. Only our land mattered. (ch. 2)
Book description:  Nou Lee and her Hmong family escaped in 1978 from Laos in Southeast Asia after the Communist takeover there. The story follows the Lees from a refugee camp in Thailand to a new life in Minnesota and eventually California. Family members struggle to survive in a strange foreign land, haunted by the scars of war and loss of family.

Across the Mekong River paints a vivid picture of the Hmong immigrant experience, exploring family love, sacrifice, and the resiliency of the human spirit to overcome tragic circumstances. (publisher's description).

Comments: Across the Mekong River is a striking narrative that follows a Hmong family escaping from their home in war torn Laos, to refugee camps in Thailand, and then to the United States as sponsored refugees. It follows the family's fortune in the U.S., where the young daughter Nou grows up American and defies her parent's wish to live a traditional life and to agree to an arranged marriage to another from the Hmong tribe.

The book tackles the history of the Hmong refugee experience in the United States, which they helped during the war in Laos. The novel also candidly discusses the problems of adjustment to a new language and culture and to the younger generation growing up more Western than the older generation knew how to handle.

The book is valuable for its historical detail of the Hmong population, their war experiences, and their long journey to settle in other countries after the Pathet Lao Communist takeover in Laos in the 1970s. I was impressed that the author interviewed many Laotians here and in Laos about their experiences and helped to add this book to their records, though in fiction, of the intensity and quality of their struggles.

Visit the author's website at http://www.elainerussell.info
Across the Mekong River,was a finalist in the Carolina Wren Press 2010 Doris Bakwin Award for adult novels; the Maui Writer’s Conference 2003 Rupert Hughes Prose Writing Competition; and the Focus on Writers 2001 Friends of the Sacramento Library Awards.

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

Aug 16, 2012

Book Review: And When She Was Good by Laura Lippman


Title: And When She Was Good: A Novel by Laura Lippman
Hardcover; August 14, 2012; William Morrow
Genre: mystery, suspense
Book source: publisher/TLC Book Tours

About the book: Helen drops out of school as a teenager and leaves home to avoid an abusive father, eventually becoming a well-to-do madam and changing her name to Heloise. She feels she must keep her young son innocent of his jailed father's existence and the real nature of her work. When people from her past threaten her and her son's future,  Helen does what she has to do to save them both.

Comments: I thought about the title of the book, "And When She Was Good," and about the first verse of Longfellow's poem and considered the author's possible intent:

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. (American poet, 1807-1882)
There was a little girl, who had a little curl
Right in the middle of her forehead,
And when she was good, she was very, very good,
But when she was bad she was horrid. (from destinyland.org)  
On the surface, Helen seems to be the victim of an abusive father and weak mother, the victim of a boyfriend, Billy, with whom she ran off, only to have to work on the streets to support his drug habit. She also becomes a victim of Val, who leads her into a life of prostitution.

But is Helen so innocent and blameless really? She manages to get rid of her abusers and her competitors on the streets and in her business, without ever seeming to lift a finger to deliberately hurt anyone. Things just seem to happen and work in her favor, even after she becomes a madam and raises her young son Scott in the traditional way, hiding her real source of income and profession from him and others relating to Scott.

I thought this was a nuanced psychological study as well as a good mystery novel, very well written to reveal the subtleties of Helen/Heloise's personality in her fight for survival and respectability. I would definitely recommend it for general readers as well as thriller/mystery lovers.

Laura Lippman wrote seven books while working as a reporter at the Baltimore Sun. She now is a full time fiction writer, author of two New York Times bestsellers, What the Dead Know and Another Thing to Fall. She has won the Edgar, Quill, Anthony, Nero Wolfe, Agatha, Gumshoe, Barry, and Macavity awards.

Laura's WebsiteFacebook

For a list of other reviews and tour stops visit "And When She Was Good" blog tour at TLC Book Tours. 

Aug 15, 2012

Book Feature: The Boy Who Stole the Leopard's Spots by Tamar Myers




Title: The Boy Who Stole the Leopard's Spots: A Mystery
Author: Tamar Myers
Genre: historical mystery
William Morrow Paperbacks; May 8, 2012
Source: publisher

Opening sentences: 
"It was much cooler in the canyon that lay in front of, and below, the village. Over centuries the crystal clear spring had carved itself a bed two hundred meters lower than the surrounding savannah. Erosion had widened this space enough to accommodate a forest with trees large enough to require buttress roots, their crowns soaring up to neck-craning heights. It was a place of magic, awe, and, of course, much superstition.... One night the chief stayed in the canyon to kill a leopard that had ben terrorizing his village. This is the story of what happened, and how it came to be that a boy could steal a leopard's spots, and what that would mean for that boy when he grew into a man." ( from the Prologue) 

About the book:
American missionary Amanda, police chief Captain Pierre Jardin, and the local witch doctor and his wife, Cripple, all become embroiled in the mystery as evil omens and strange happenings in the village of Belle Vue in the Belgian Congo suggest more lives will be lost before a killer is unmasked. (from the book description)

Aug 14, 2012

Book Teaser: The Roots of the Olive Tree by Courtney Miller Santo

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

The Roots of the Olive Tree: A Novel by Courtney Miller Santo
Hardcover; William Morrow
Release date: August 21, 2012
Source: publisher

"What's wrong with letting her believe in the olives? Neither of you can say that the olives had nothing to do with your remarkable health. You don't believe that they have kept you younger than your years, but that's not to say that they haven't." (ch. 7)

About the book: Set in a house on an olive grove in northern California, The Roots of the Olive Tree brings to life five generations of women--including a 112 year-old matriarch determined to break all Guinness longevity records--the secrets and lies that divide them and the love that ultimately ties them together. (Goodreads) The novel also has a geneticist who stirs up the hornet's nest, so to speak, as he unearths secrets while probing into the lives and history of the family.

Aug 13, 2012

It's Monday! What Are You Reading This Week?



It’s Monday! What Are You Reading This Week? This is a weekly event to list the books completed last week, the books currently being read, and the books to be finished this week. It is hosted this week by Book Journey.

Books completed last week:
Timeless Desire by Gwyn Cready
Broken Harbor by Tana French
The Playdate by Louise Millar



Books currently being read:
Disgrace (aka The Absent One) by Jussi Adler-Olsen
Twelve Rooms of the Nile by Enid Shomer
The Next Best Thing by Jennifer Weiner

Books to finish this week:
And When She Was Good by Laura Lippman
A Fistful of Collars ( A Chet and Bernie Mystery) by Spencer Quinn

I review the Lippman book for a tour on Aug. 16, and then go on to Following Atticus by Tom Ryan for another tour later this month.

What do you plan this week?

Aug 12, 2012

Book Review: The Playdate by Louise Millar


Title: The Playdate: A Novel by Louise Millar
Published July 3, 2012; Atria/Emily Bestler Books
Genre: light psychological suspense, women's fiction

About the book: The lives of three neighbors connect and intertwine when one of them needs after-school care for a daughter with fragile health.

Callie, a single mom with a daughter Rae who was born with a bad heart, and her neighbor, Suzy, do things together and look out for each other as neighbors and mothers. A newly married woman, Deb,  moves in to the semi-detached next door to Suzy and is so sensitive to sounds, she is bothered by noises  she can hear through the thin walls.

The plot takes off when Callie decides to go back to work and puts her daughter Rae in an after-school care program at school where Deb is a teacher. Rae is also eager for playdates with her classmates. Rae has an accident while walking home with Deb and could be in danger, but from whom? The evidence could point to Deb, but nothing is clear. Callie doesn't know who to trust when she is at work or when Rae is on one of her playdates.

My comments: The plot switches direction suddenly and dramatically two-thirds of the way through the book. It becomes suspenseful and I couldn't put the book down till I had gotten to the end. I could sympathize with the single mom Callie up to that point, and then later had to question her choices in dealing with her two neighbors.

I recommend the book for anyone with young children who might wonder, " Who can I trust to watch my children?"

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


Aug 10, 2012

Book Review: Broken Harbor by Tana French

Broken Harbor
Title: Broken Harbor: A Novel by Tana French
Published July 24, 2012; Penguin Group
Genre: police procedural, psychological thriller
Source: publisher

"Under all the paperwork and the politics, this is the job; this is its cool shining heart that I love with every fiber of mine. This case was different. It was running backwards, dragging us with it on some ferocious ebb tide. Every step washed us deeper in black chaos, wrapped us tighter in tendrils of crazy and pulled us downwards." (ch. 15)

About the book: A seasoned detective and his rookie sidekick investigate the murder of a family of four in an out of the way, half finished, and remote seaside housing project outside of Dublin, Ireland.

My comments: This was an intense read for me. The two detectives see the suspects differently and have different ideas about who the real culprit might be. Evidence they painstakingly collect from forensics and interviews point first to one suspect, then another, and then to another suspect, pingponging back and forth from one to the other and back around again. The plot keeps you guessing; the police procedures are enlightening; the characters are personalized, realistic, and engrossing.

Throw in some spooky, creepy scenarios with a hint of the supernatural surrounding the setting, the seaside town of Broken Harbor, which makes nature seem menacing and destructive instead of soothing and calming.

This is one of the best books I've read in the genre.

Meme: My Life in Books, 2012

Got this meme from Books and Movies. My Life in Books, 2012.

Which book (titles) read in 2012 describe your life so far?

Describe myself:
The Storytelling Animal,
The Girl Next Door
The Unexpected Guest

How do I feel:
Timeless Desire

Describe where I currently live:
The Distant Shore

 If I could go anywhere, where I would go:
 Folly Beach

My favorite form of transportation:
In a Witch's Wardrobe

My best friend(s) is/are:
Skeleton Women

My friends and I are:
The Language of Sisters

What’s the weather like:
Wallflower in Bloom

Favorite Time of Day:
Jasmine Nights

What is life to you:
Gossip

You fear:
The Fear Artist

What is the best advice you have to give:
 Skinnydipping

Thought for the day:
Everyday Meditation

How I would like to die:
Hide Me Among the Graves

My soul’s present condition:
The Song Remains the Same
Roam

I looked up past memes and see I filled out some for 2011 and before: My Life in Books, 2011My Life According to Literature. Join in and have fun with it.
Click on each book title to see the review of it.

Aug 9, 2012

Book Review: Timeless Desire by Gwyn Cready

Timeless Desire
Title: Timeless Desire: An Outlander Love Story by Gwyn Cready
Paperback; Kindle; July 18, 2012
Genre: time travel, paranormal romance
About the book: Panna Kennedy, a  young widow and librarian, enters an obscure, pad-locked door in the Pittsburgh library where she works, and finds herself in 18th century England, in the rooms of handsome Colonel John Bridgewater. Bridgewater is not the English war hero Panna expects him to be, however. He’s under house arrest in his castle for betraying England, and sees Panna's sudden appearance as proof she has been sent to spy on him.

Bridgewater nonetheless warms to Panna, and pulls her into his plans to escape. Panna is thrown into a whirlwind of intrigue, sweeping her from Hadrian’s Wall to a forbidding stone castle in Scotland. Panna has to decide whether to remain loyal to her dead husband, or to side with this attractive man from the past whose life now depends on her. (based on the book description)

My comments: I have read most of Cready's time travel romances and liked them all, including Seducing Mr. Darcy, which I described as a combination of Jane Austen and Shakespeare's  Comedy of Errors and as an intriguing time travel fantasy and an erotic romantic comedy.

 The librarian Panna is a more subdued, more mature version of the main characters in Cready's earlier travel romances and her new heroine is less risque.  There is less of the wit in Timeless Desire though it is surprisingly still very "sexy" in parts. Timeless Desire is a very entertaining read for those who like fantasy, intrigue, and romance.


Gwyn Cready is a RITA Award Winner (Best Paranormal Romance 2009) and the author of several romances including Tumbling Through Time and Seducing Mr. Darcy. Gwyn has been called, "the master of time travel romance," and her writing described as “sexy,” “delightfully original” and “wickedly witty.” Timeless Desire is her latest foray into the time travel genre and men in kilts. She still finds both eminently satisfying. Gwyn lives in Pittsburgh with her family.

Thanks to the publisher for an ARC of this novel.

Aug 8, 2012

The Sweetness of Forgetting by Kristin Harmel

Opening sentences in a book can help the reader get a feeling for the story and setting, and the author's writing style.

The Sweetness of Forgetting
Title: The Sweetness of Forgetting: A Novel by Kristin Harmel
Paperback; Gallery Books; August 7, 2012
Genre: fiction, women's fiction
Source: publisher
Opening sentences: The street outside the bakery window is silent and still, and in the half hour just before sunrise, as dawn's narrow fingers are just reaching over the horizon, I can almost believe I'm the only person on earth. It's September, a week and a half after Labor Day, which in the little towns up and down Cape Cod means that the tourists have gone home, the Bostonians have boarded up their summer houses for the season, and the streets have taken on the deserted air of a restless dream.

The leaves outside have begun to change, and in a few weeks, I know they'll mirror the muted hues of sunset, although most people don't think to look here for fall foliage.
About the book: Hope McKenna-Smith's ailing grandmother Mamie, a baker, sends her to France to uncover a seventy-year-old mystery and to find out about the family history. Hope’s emotional journey takes her through the bakeries of Paris and three religious traditions, all guided by Mamie’s fairy tales and memories of Mamie's pastries at home. (from the book description)

What do you think?

Aug 7, 2012

Book Teaser: Vengeance by Benjamin Black

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

Title: Vengeance by Benjamin Black
Hardcover published August 7, 2012; Henry Holt
Audio CD: August 7, 2012, Macmillan Audio
Genre: crime novel
Source: publisher

Your father died of a gunshot wound," Hackett said. "It seems he fired the shot himself."
Jonas pulled a dismissive face. "I don't believe it," he said. (ch. 3)

About the book: A bizarre suicide leads to a scandal and then still more blood, as crime novelist Benjamin Black reveals a world where money and sex trump everything. The mysterious death of a successful Irish businessman engages the attention of Detective Inspector Hackett, who calls upon the services of his sometime partner Quirke, consultant pathologist at the Hospital of the Holy Family.

To listen to an audio clip of the Audiobook Vengeance, click HERE.

Aug 4, 2012

Sunday Salon: Four Books

The Sunday Salon.com Welcome to the Sunday Salon!

I had been wishing for certain books and my wish partly came true when these arrived last week.


Broken Harbor

Some Remarks

The Next Best Thing
I've just finished Timeless Desire, a time travel romance by Gwyn Cready (review and a prize giveaway this week) and A Fistful of Collars by Spencer Quinn (review later this month) and will be reading And When She Was Good by Laura Lippman for a book tour next week. Check back again!
What have you been reading recently?

Istanbul Passage

Opening Sentences: The Language of Sisters by Amy Hatvany

Opening sentences of a novel can give the reader an idea of the writer's style and the feel of a story. Here are the beginning sentences of The Language of Sisters: A Novel. paperback published July 31, 2012, Washington Square Press.

The Language of Sisters

Prologue: "I was at work when it happened. I had just finished folding pungent wild blueberries into the creamy muffin batter, thinking how the brilliant purple streaks that trailed each berry stood out like a bruise against white skin. I was about to fill the greased-and-readied pan when something stopped me. Something tangible, like the thump of a fist against my chest - I felt it. I felt my sister's voice for the first time in years, the way I used to feel it when we were children, coursing through me like my own blood, hearing her thoughts the way no one else could. Can you hear a whisper in your heart?"

Book description:Ten years ago, Nicole Hunter left home, unable to cope with  life with her disabled sister, Jenny. Then suddenly, she is back in her hometown, caring for her pregnant sister and trying to heal her relationship with her mother. Nicole  rediscovers the beauty of sisterhood--and receives a special gift that will change her life forever.

Received as a complimentary copy for review.

Aug 2, 2012

Book Review: The Thing About Thugs by Tabish Khair

The Thing About Thugs
Title: The Thing About Thugs by Tabish Khair
Published July 24, 2012; Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Genre: Victorian suspense, literary fiction

Book description: A novel of a young Indian man’s misadventures in Victorian London as the city is racked by a series of murders.

In a small Bihari village in India, Captain William Meadows finds Amir Ali, just the man to further his research and study of the shape of skulls. Ali is a  reformed member of the infamous Thugee cult, which gave the name to the English word "thug." After Ali travels to England to work for Meadows, a killer begins serial attacks in London, and suspicion naturally falls on Ali, the former “thug.” With help from other immigrants and a shrewd Punjabi woman, Ali attempts to save himself and end the gruesome murders.

 The Thing about Thugs was short-listed for the 2010 Man Asian Literary Prize.

My thoughts: Khair's writing at the beginning of the book reminds me of that of Charles Dickens. This is praise, as I love Dickens!  Amir Ali's unearthing of graveyard bodies for their skulls took me back to Dickens's A Tale of Two Cities and a similar graveyard scene. As this book is set in the same time period, Victorian England and the 19th century, the style of writing is well suited to the story.

There are three different narrators and story lines in the book, but I had to work harder than I normally like to keep them straight and to connect the stories. There is the first person narrator of the novel in the present time; there is the voice of William Meadow in his notes and interviews with Amir Ali during his research in India, and there are the personal letters of Amir Ali baring his soul about the murder of his family in India and other events.

What I came away with from the book is the contrast and similarities between the "thugs" of 19th century India and the underworld of Victorian England. The Thugee cult existed to perform ritual murder; in Victorian England murder was committed but for more personal reasons, for profit or through extreme perversity. The fact that suspicion fell right away on Amir Ali the "thug" when people were being killed and beheaded in London by a serial killer or killers was perhaps meant to show some blindness on the part of the Londoners about what could go on in their own society.

Amir Ali, the central character in the novel, is well developed. We know about him and his background through his letters and through Meadows' interviews with him in India and also through the omniscient narrator of the book.

I recommend The Thing about Thugs for those interested in Indian history, the Thugee cult, and for those who want to read a good Victorian novel of suspense.


Tabish Khair is an award-winning poet, journalist, critic, educator and novelist. A citizen of India, he lives in Denmark and teaches literature at Aarhus University. His website is http://www.tabishkhair.co.uk/

For more reviews of  The Thing About Thugs,
visit the TLC blog tour. I received a complimentary ARC of this book for review.