Jul 31, 2013

Waiting on Wednesday: Alex by Pierre Lemaitre

Waiting on Wednesday is hosted weekly by Jill @ Breaking the Spine. Let us know what new releases you are eagerly waiting for. Link your post to Breaking the Spine.

Title: Alex by Pierre Lemaitre, translated from the French by Frank Winne
To be published September 3, 2013 MacLehose Press
Genre: police procedural, Verhoeven Trilogy #2

The book description reminds me of some of the Scandinavian thrillers I've read, in particular Jussi Adler-Olsen. Read any of his?

Publisher's description: Winner of the 2013 Crime Writers Association International Dagger Award: “An original and absorbing ability to leash incredulity in the name of the fictional contract between author and reader . . . A police procedural, a thriller against time, a race between hunted and hunter, and a whydunnit, written from multiple points of view that explore several apparently parallel stories which finally meet.”

Synopsis: "Alex Prévost—kidnapped, ... suspended from the ceiling of an abandoned warehouse in a tiny wooden cage—is running out of time. Police Commandant Camille Verhoeven has nothing to go on: no suspect, no leads, and no family or friends anxious to find a missing loved one. Camille is forced to acknowledge that the person he seeks is no ordinary victim. She is beautiful, yes, but also extremely tough and resourceful.

Before long, saving Alex’s life will be the least of Commandant Verhoeven’s considerable challenges." (book description)

What new release are you waiting for?

Jul 30, 2013

Book Review: The Nine Fold Heaven by Mingmei Yip

Title: The Nine Fold Heaven by Mingmei Yip
Published June 25, 2013; Kensington
Genre: historical fiction
Objective rating: 4/5

The unemotional Skeleton Woman of Yip's previous novel, Camilla, trained from childhood to be an assassin, slowly becomes a more compassionate woman in this novel as she searches for her child and his father, risking death by returning to gang-ridden Shanghai from her safe haven in Hong Kong.

This book is a worthy follow-up to the story of the three Skeleton women who survive dangerous odds in the Shanghai of the 1930s in the previous book, Skeleton Women (see my review).  I enjoyed descriptions of the setting and the pithy Chinese sayings that the author weaves through her stories to illustrate the truths of life. Well written and entertaining, I recommend both books.

Watch the dramatic and colorful trailer for The Nine Fold Heaven.

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

First Chapter: Ask Bob by Peter Gethers

Teaser Tuesdays  is hosted by MizB; choose sentences from your current read and identify author and title for readers.  First Chapter, First Paragraph is hosted by Bibliophile by the Sea.

Opening paragraph:
Dear Dr. Bob:
Our son just went off to college and my wife and I are suffering a bit from Empty Nest Syndrome. I want to get a dog to help ease the blow. I'm a serious bike rider and love the idea of a little four-legged buy running along beside me on my Saturday bike jaunts. The problem is, my wife is dead set against it. She feels the responsibility of taking care of him will fall on her.... I'm thinking of getting one anyway, taking the gamble that he'll grow on her. Got an opinion?
--A Hoped-to-Be Pet Owner in the Near Future
Page 56:
As usual, Ted didn't have money of his own; to my knowledge, he'd landed only one acting job since moving to L.A., a small part in an experimental play at a non-for-profit theater. But Ted did have superb taste, and that was very much his own.
Title: Ask Bob: A Novel by Peter Gethers
To be published August 6, 2013; Henry Holt
Publisher's book description: "Dr. Robert Heller is one of New York City’s leading veterinarians, and his “Ask Dr. Bob” advice column is hugely popular among pet-lovers. Yet Dr. Bob understands animals a lot better than people, and he definitely could use some advice of his own—especially when it comes to his family. "

Based on the opening paragraph and the teaser and the excerpt from the publisher's description, would you keep reading? 

Jul 28, 2013

It's Monday: Whatcha Reading?

Join  It's Monday; What Are You Reading? at Book Journey and share your currents reads.

I am in the middle of reading Bend, Not Break: A Life in Two Worlds by Ping Fu with MeiMei Fox, a 2013 book I discovered at the library. It is a dramatic and moving memoir about a child torn from a loving home and surviving the Cultural Revolution in China, later seeking asylum in America, putting herself through college, settling into her new country, and becoming a successful entrepreneur. It's an eye opener into that period of upheaval in China and the struggles of a new immigrant.

I am also reading Access: Thirteen Tales by Xu Xi, a collection of short stories about women in Hong Kong, published in 2011.

I've finished Tahoe Chase. the thriller set in Tahoe, CA, and plan a review this week. The book will be out in a few days. Check back!

I am also looking forward to reading

Queen's Gambit, an historical novel about Katherine Parr, the last wife of King Henry VIII,  by Eizabeth Fremantle.

What are you reading this week?

Jul 27, 2013

Winners of The Last Camellia

Congrats to five winners:

Mike, Melanie and Millie
Deb Nance 

for winning a copy of this paperback.

 I have sent you email and if you accept the win, please send me your mailing address by July 29. The publisher will mail the books. Congrats! A fabulous read!

Jul 26, 2013

Sweet Salt Air by Barbara Delinsky

Friday 56 Rules: *Grab a book, any book.
*Turn to page 56 or 56% in your eReader  *Find any sentence, (or few, just don't spoil it) that grabs you. *Post it. *Add your (url) post in Linky at Freda's Voice.

Also visit Book Beginnings by Rose City Reader and add your post to the Linky.

Title: Sweet Salt Air: A Novel by Barbara Delinsky
Published June 18, 2013; St.Martin's Press
Charlotte Evans was used to feeling grungy. As a freelancer, she traveled on a shoestring, getting stories other writers did not, precisely because she wasn't fussy about how she lived. In the last twelve months, she had survived dust while writing about elephant keepers in Kenya, ice while writing about the spirit bear of British Columbia, and flies while writing about a family of nomads in India.  
Page 56:   
That's when they bumped into the publisher of the island weekly. He lit up when he saw them, though he quickly focused on Nicole. "I heard your good news. A book, huh?"

About the book: Charlotte and Nicole were once the best of friends, spending summers together on an island in Maine, but many years, and many secrets, have kept the women apart. A successful travel writer, single Charlotte lives on the road, while Nicole, a food blogger, keeps house in Philadelphia with her surgeon-husband, Julian. 

When Nicole is commissioned to write a book about island food, she invites Charlotte back to Quinnipeague, Maine for a final summer, to help. Charlotte agrees. What both women don't know is that they are each holding something back that may change their lives forever. For Nicole, what comes to light could destroy her marriage but save her husband. For Charlotte, the truth could cost her Nicole’s friendship but free her to love again. (publisher)

Based on the opening paragraph and the snippet from page 56, would you keep reading? Does the publisher's description of the book help you decide?

Jul 24, 2013

Bread and Butter, a Novel by Michelle Wildgen

Waiting on Wednesday is hosted weekly by Jill @ Breaking the Spine. Let us know what new releases you are eagerly waiting for. Link your post to Breaking the Spine.

Title: Bread and Butter: A Novel by Michelle Wildgen
To be published: February 11, 2014; Doubleday

Book description:
"Kitchen Confidential meets Three Junes in this mouthwatering novel about three brothers who run competing restaurants, and the culinary snobbery, staff stealing, and secret affairs that unfold in the back of the house.

Britt and Leo have spent ten years running Winesap, the best restaurant in their small Pennsylvania town. They cater to their loyal customers; they don't sleep with the staff; and business is good, even if their temperamental pastry chef is bored with making the same chocolate cake night after night. But when their younger brother, Harry, opens his own restaurant—a hip little joint serving an aggressive lamb neck dish—Britt and Leo find their own restaurant thrown off-kilter. Britt becomes fascinated by a customer who arrives night after night, each time with a different dinner companion. Their pastry chef, Hector, quits, only to reappear at Harry's restaurant. And Leo finds himself falling for his executive chef-tempted to break the cardinal rule of restaurant ownership.

Filled with hilarious insider detail—the one-upmanship of staff meals before the shift begins, the rivalry between bartender and hostess, the seedy bar where waitstaff and chefs go to drink off their workday—Bread and Butter is both an incisive novel of family and a gleeful romp through the inner workings of restaurant kitchens."

Jul 22, 2013

BOOK REVIEW: The Last Camellia by Sarah Jio

"I promised Lady Anna," she said. "It only seemed right after...what happened to her."
"Mrs. Dilloway, what did happen to her?"
( ch. 15)
Title: The Last Camellia by Sarah Jio
Published May 28, 2013; Plume
Genre: fiction

My comments: Many women's fiction novels today are written as part historical novel and part contemporary, such as this one. The story begins in 1803, switches to 2000, and back to 1940. Most of the story of the lost camellia tree is told in the 1940s when a young woman, Flora, is sent as a spy into the Livingston household in England, to find the whereabouts of the unusual tree on the vast estate.

The story switches back and forth to 2000, when a young couple moves into the former Livingston estate, and the young wife Addison finds a scrapbook by Lady Livingston from the 1940s with notes on the camellia trees on the property. She becomes involved in the mysterious goings on in the household from the past, events that Addison "inherits" in the present.

A tempting historical mystery with an unusual theme. Highly recommended.

Publisher's description: In 1940, the last surviving specimen of a camellia plant known as the Middlebury Pink lies secreted away on an English country estate. Flora, an amateur American botanist, is contracted by an international ring of flower thieves to infiltrate the household and acquire the coveted bloom. Her search is threatened by her discovery of a series of ghastly crimes.

In the year 2000, garden designer Addison takes up residence at the manor, now owned by the family of her husband, Rex. The couple’s shared passion for mysteries is fueled by the enchanting camellia orchard and an old gardener’s notebook. Yet its pages hint at dark acts ingeniously concealed. If the danger that Flora once faced remains very much alive, will Addison share her fate?

For more reviews, visit the book's tour schedule at TLC Book Tours

Sarah Jio is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of Blackberry WinterThe Violets of March, and The Bungalow. She has written articles for magazines such as Glamour, SELF, Health, Redbook, Cooking Light, O, The Oprah Magazine, Woman’s Day and many other publications. She lives in Seattle with her family.

Connect with Sarah at her website, Sarahjio.com, on Facebook and on Twitter.

GIVEAWAY:  Thanks to TLC Book Tours and the publisher, I can offer five books for give away to U.S. and/or Canadian residents. Please leave a comment with a way to reach you if you should win. The contest will run through July 26, and the five winners will be notified on July 27, with a reply requested by July 29. Good luck and thanks in advance for entering the contest!

The contest has ended and the winners have been notified.

Jul 20, 2013

Sunday Salon: Ann Arbor Art Fair

The Sunday Salon.com Welcome to the Sunday Salon.

At the Ann Arbor Art Fair today in Michigan, we were entertained by this non-aboriginal artist playing one of the didjeridoo musical instruments he makes. The wood's not decorated as a traditional Australian didjeridoo would be. But the music sounded pretty authentic.

There were blocks and blocks of booths in all art mediums - sculpture, glass art, pottery, jewelry, paintings, embroidery, photography, wooden musical instruments, etc., etc. A feast for the eyes. The day was sunny but much cooler than the past few days and so it was fairly pleasant to be outdoors though I did have to wear a straw hat.

Re books, I'm reading Sarah Jio's The Last Camellia for a book tour on Monday. Watch for a giveaway of two copies to U.S. or Canadian residents as part of the tour.

I'm also finishing up an ARC of Todd Borg's thriller, Tahoe Chase, which will be published August 1, 2013. The series is terrific and I'm enjoying this latest book.

Some great books and ARCs came in the mail from Vasilly at 1330V, including The Translator by Nina Schuyler, The Irresistible Blueberry Bakeshop and Cafe by Mary Simses; Shorecliff by Ursula DeYoung, Last Car Over the Sagamore Bridge by Peter Orner, and Loteria by Mario Alberto Zambrano. How lucky can you get winning these books! Thanks, Vasilly!

How is your weekend going?

Jul 19, 2013

Friday 56/Book Beginnings: Buddy by Brian McGrory

Friday 56 Rules: *Grab a book, any book.
*Turn to page 56 or 56% in your eReader  *Find any sentence, (or few, just don't spoil it) that grabs you. *Post it. *Add your (url) post in Linky at Freda's Voice.

Also Book Beginnings by Rose City Reader

Title: Buddy: How a Rooster Made Me a Family Man by Brian McGrory
Published November 13, 2912; Crown
Genre: memoir

Book description: "Award-winning journalist Brian McGrory goes head to beak in a battle royale with another male for a top-spot in his home, vying for dominance with the family’s pet rooster."

Page 56:
(My aunt Mary McGrory) .... had broken into political reporting when her editor at the Washington Star (and) sent her to cover the Army-McCarthy hearings on Capitol Hill in the 1950s with the advice : "Write it like a letter to your aunt."
Book beginning:
Try as you might, you never forget that first time a rooster announces the dawn of a new day from your very own yard.
In my case, I jerked awake to find myself in a place I had never been, on a bed that wasn't mine, in a room I didn't know. There were windows where there had never been windows, and outside those windows, the first hint of morning light revealed the outline of tall trees I had never seen before.
Book description: Brian McGrory's life changed drastically after the death of his beloved dog, Harry: he fell in love with Pam, Harry's veterinarian. Pam, however, came with pets that included a snow white, red-crowned-and-wattled step-rooster named Buddy. Buddy takes Brian's presence as an affront, doing everything he can to drive out his rival. He stares menacingly, pecks threateningly, and is constantly poised to attack Brian, who eventually sees that Buddy shares the kind of relationship with Pam and her two girls that he wants for himself.

Buddy, Brian’s nemesis, becomes Buddy, Brian’s inspiration, in this human story of love, acceptance, and change. A tale of finding love in life’s second chapter - and how it means more when you have to fight for it."

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

Jul 18, 2013

Book Review: Evil and the Mask by Fuminori Nakamura

Title: Evil and the Mask by Fuminori Nakamura
Published June 11, 2013; Soho Crime
Genre: literary thriller

My comments: I gave this 4.5/5. This is on the surface a story of a wealthy business family who has raised certain sons over generations to become "cancers,"  training them to become destructive to society.

The book uses this narrative to ponder what the action of killing does to individual people, whether they are soldiers, terrorists, or civilians.

Well worth reading for the topics it brings up that make us consider. Excellent book for discussion.

Publisher description:A follow-up to 2012's critically acclaimed The Thief ─another creepy, electric literary thriller that explores the limits of human depravity─and the powerful human instinct to resist evil.

When Fumihiro Kuki is eleven years old, his elderly father calls him into his study for a meeting. "I created you to be a cancer on the world," his father tells him. It is a tradition in their wealthy family: a patriarch, when reaching the end of his life, will beget one last child to dedicate to causing misery in a world that cannot be controlled or saved. Fumihiro is to be specially educated to create destruction and unhappiness in the world around him. Every door is open to him, for he need obey no laws and may live out any fantasy he might have, no matter how many people are hurt in the process.

But as his education progresses, Fumihiro begins to question his father's mandate, and starts to resist.

Thanks to Soho Press for an ARC copy for review.

Submitted to the Japanese Literature Challenge 7 hosted by Dolce Bellezza.

Jul 17, 2013

Interview with Matthew Dunn, author of the spy novel, Slingshot

My review of the political thriller Slingshot has this accompanying Q and A with British author Matthew Dunn which was not posted but which I am now printing here.

About Slingshot: Master spy Will Cochrane must catch a missing Russian defector as well as one of Europe’s deadliest assassins in this action-packed follow-up to previous novels in the series, Spycatcher and Sentinel.

Former MI6 agent and author of the Spycatcher series, Matthew Dunn gives readers a peek into his former life.

 1. How did you conceive of the character Will Cochrane? How is he like you, at least you when you were working? How is he different?

 I wanted to create a character who personified the reality of intelligence work that operatives do in the field – the loneliness, the requirement to make tough decisions on the ground without being able to call for support from headquarters, the moral ambiguities of those decisions, the strong intellectual prowess, and the relentless mindset. An operative also needs a tough body, yet one that can be filled with both love and respect for the people around him. Cochrane is a lot like me when I was in MI6, though his family background is different. I’m now ten years older than he is, have two children, am recently married, and write for a living. I’m no longer Will Cochrane.

 2. Do you see writing spy novels as a way to shed light on popular misconceptions or educate readers about the realities of international politics today?

 In essence, there are two primary activities of spy agencies: the long-game of running foreign spies to obtain intelligence that can inform the foreign policies of the agency’s government; and covert, frequently extremely violent, paramilitary actions. The primacy of either activity ebbs and flows depending on the circumstances of the times. During the Cold War, all sides knew that pulling a gun was counterproductive as there was a standoff on all levels. Since then, things have been very different and that was reflected in my work as an operative, though I was also very involved in the running of foreign assets and at one time was living under deep cover with 15 different alias identities. My novels are fiction of course, but they reflect what can and does happen in the field, all of which never makes the papers unless something goes terribly wrong. Even then there are mechanisms in place to block or misdirect public scrutiny. The biggest misconception about the reality of espionage is that it is not exciting and extremely dangerous. That is very wrong. My novels reflect the realities of being in the field. I have no point to make, beyond telling it how it is.

 3. While you probably can’t get too specific about this, how do you translate your experiences as an MI6 agent into the scenes and characters in your novels?

 One of the joys of writing fiction is that I can disguise my experiences inside a fictional tale. In SLINGSHOT, you’ll read about real events and people. The names of the people have obviously been changed, and the events take place in different locations and under different circumstances. I will leave it to readers to attempt to deduce truth from fiction. When I write, I see everything through the prism of being an MI6 officer. A frequent question I will ask myself is, “what would I have done?’ It’s a useful question and there is often no right or wrong answer, just as it is in the field when you’re an operative and you’re faced with intractable problems. Will Cochrane makes mistakes, as I have done in real life, has to recover from those mistakes, and has to keep going. The people I write about are similar to people I know. The events are similar to those that I and others have been in. That’s the world I know. I concede it’s very different from the world that most others know.

 4. From James Bond to Will Cochrane, what do you think accounts for the timeless appeal of fiction featuring dashing spies?

 Though I never wrote the Spycatcher series with comparisons in mind to Bond (or for that matter, at the opposite end of the spectrum, John le Carré’s George Smiley), it is understandable that comparisons are made. I write my novels with a contemporary and very precise understanding of espionage and for that reason Cochrane is different to other fictional espionage characters. Regardless, all share in common a dislocation from the real world in favor of an understanding of a very real, yet secret world that is all pervasive and often deadly. Such characters' ability to operate in that world, and to be supremely intelligent, often charming, frequently deadly, is very intriguing. But more than that, I think the ability of operatives to be chameleons has a tremendous appeal. Readers want to know who they really are. That is a challenge.

5. SLINGSHOT concerns some of the Cold War “loose ends” left behind in Europe after the fall of the Berlin Wall. What do you think most people don’t know about what’s going on in that part of the world today?

 Most people don't understand the threat from foreign states. Right now, Russia, Iran, the Israel/Palestine conundrum, China, North Korea, and Syria are the biggest threats to world peace. Terrorism pales in comparison to what these states can do. After the collapse of communism, Russia re-built itself on a capitalist platform. It is aggressive to the West and, alongside China, does not want to be a responsible world power, as evidenced by its repeated vetoes in UN Security Council proposed resolutions to stop genocide in places like Syria. The nuclear powers who have the capability to destroy the world are the United States, Great Britain, France, Russia, and China. Three of those "big 5" are responsible. Two are not.

 6. What are Will Cochrane’s greatest weaknesses as a spy and as a person?

 Cochrane has a huge heart and yearns for another life, particularly with a woman who would love him for who he truly is. This is his strength, rather than weakness, but of course - in the world in which he operates - love and compassion are honorable traits that evil men will use against him.

 7. Could a frightening story like the one in SLINGSHOT actually take place today?

 Something similar and dreadful nearly took place. I know, but can't reveal details.

 8. There are a few pivotal roles played by women in SLINGSHOT: a retired operative named Betty who’s brought in on a vital assist; and a whip-smart CIA analyst named Suzy. Did these women come to life entirely from your imagination? Or did you work in the field with women like these?

 I've met some of the bravest women and men in the world. Gender doesn't differentiate them; they are the same breed of unique animal. I can't give you details of specifics about people I knew beyond one anecdote.

 During one of my trips to MI6's training facility, I walked off the shooting range and confronted an old woman. It was common to meet unusual people in the facility as we often received briefings from Cold War warriors, for example, from both sides of the Western/USSR fence in order to inform the contemporary work we did. But I'd never seen this woman before. She asked me what I was doing and I told her that I'd just been testing a new customized handgun. She immediately had a look of horror and said, "Guns terrify me!". I smiled, walked her to the range and showed her how to shoot it. She took the gun from me and, ignoring my instructions to position the weapon at eye-level, then held the gun against her belly and fired five shots at the target. All hit a tiny radius around the target that any Special Forces operative would have been proud to strike. I asked her how she did it, given she looked as fragile and as old as my grandmother. She didn’t answer, but just smiled and walked off.

 That evening I found out she was a former British Special Operations Executive officer who'd been parachuted into Nazi-occupied France and the Netherlands, who'd blown up German transportation lines, had - together with the resistance civilians she'd rallied - killed hundreds of Nazis, and had ultimately been captured by the Gestapo who put her in dungeons, brutally tortured her, before sending her to an extermination camp.

 Men and woman, young and old, risk their lives every day by operating in the secret world. I know many of them, and in my novels you'll meet some of them as well. Women like Betty and Suzy existed. SLINGSHOT is my heartfelt homage to them. --

What do you think of the interview and the author's world view? Do you agree with Mr. Dunn  about the political world as it is now?

For reviews of Slingshot, visit the Partners in Crime Book Tour schedule.

Jul 16, 2013

Book Review: This Is Paradise by Kristiana Kahakauwila

Title: This Is Paradise by Kristiana Kahakauwila
Published July 9, 2013; Hogarth
Genre: literary fiction

"Tourists," he said. They remind me of crabs. The color of their skin." Cameron nodded in agreement, then realized he didn't feel the same. He knew tourists by their choice of car, not their skin color. Locals didn't drive convertibles; they drove trucks. With air-conditioning.(p. 94)
My comments: I was interested in Kristiana's stories of Hawaii as I had visited Oahu once some years back, though I never had a chance to talk much with the locals or the expatriates who lived permanently on the islands. I thought it was Paradise, of course, the lovely beaches and scenery, the green of the hills. But in Paradise, as Kristiana shows us, there might be more going on underneath.

I was reminded of this when I recall my trip to Oahu, running onto a deserted beach near the North Shore, eager to plunge up to my knees in the waves. Luckily for me, a Japanese Hawaiian in diving gear came out of the water at that moment and warned me to stay out of the water because of dangerous undertow that could pull me in and under.

Paradise can be deceptive, as Kristiana's stories tell us. There is danger for a young American tourist though she is told that the personable tourist she befriends in the bar is an ex-convict whose prison tattoos are obvious. People on the island themselves don't always have lives of luxury and comfort as a paradise could suggest. There are cock fighters and breeders and the dangers of rivalry and competition among these groups. There are hotel housekeepers who see what's going with tourists. as well as local career girls who have been educated on the U.S. mainland and have returned to the island; and a mixture and assortment of residents who make the Hawaiian islands no longer purely Hawaiian.

An enlightening collection of stories of Hawaii today. And also of the local Hawaiians whose lives and problems are similar to those of anyone anywhere in the world.

Objective rating: 4/5/5

Publisher's description:
Intimately tied to the Hawaiian Islands, This Is Paradise explores the relationships among native Hawaiians, local citizens, and emigrants from (and to) the contiguous forty-eight states. There is tension between locals and tourists, between locals and the military men that populate their communities, between local Hawaiian girls who never leave and those who do for higher education and then return.

The author Kahakauwila is a careful observer of her protagonists’ actions–and, sometimes, their inaction. Her portrayal of people whose lives have lost their center of gravity is acute, often heartbreaking, and suffused with a deeply felt empathy.

For more reviews of This Is Paradise, visit the tour schedule

KRISTIANA KAHAKAUWILA, a native Hawaiian, was raised in Southern California. She earned a master’s in fine arts from the University of Michigan and a bachelor’s degree in comparative literature from Princeton University. She has worked as a writer and editor for Wine SpectatorCigar Aficionado, and Highlights for Children magazines and taught English at Chaminade University in Honolulu.
She is an assistant professor of creative writing at Western Washington University.

Thanks to TLC Book Tours and the author for a review copy of this book. 

Jul 15, 2013

Mailbox Monday/It's Monday: What's New?

This post lists new books and links up to It's Monday; What Are You Reading? at Book Journey; to Mailbox Monday hosted by Book Obsessed; and to Stacking the Shelves by Tynga's Reviews.

I won this mystery novel which has the most colorful cover I've seen in a while - A Tine to Live, A Tine to Die, won from Escape With Dollycas. Thanks, Dollycas, and the author Edith Maxwell!
Book description: "It’s harvest time in Westbury, Massachusetts, and novice farmer Cameron Flaherty hopes to make a killing selling organic produce. But when a killer strikes on her property, her first foray into the world of organic farming yields a bumper crop of locally sourced murder…"

Also arrived, for review:
Carniepunk by Rachel Caine and others (Gallery Books galley)
Necessary Lies by Diane Chamberlain (St. Martin's Press galley)
Seed No Evil: A Flower Shop Mystery by Kate Collins (Signet paperback)
A Brew to a Kill: A Coffeehouse Mystery by Cleo Coyle (Berkley paperback)

These books I borrowed from the library though I wish they had arrived in the mailbox!
Enigma of China: An Inspector Chen Novel by Qiu Xiaolong (can't pass up an international mystery)
Bend, Not Break: A Life in Two Worlds by Ping Fu (a memoir of emigration and immigration)

Jul 11, 2013

Book Review: Candy and the Cankersaur by Jason Sandberg

"This is a Cankersaurus Rex," her father said. My golfing buddy is a Paleontologist. I had it shipped to America from the Island that Time Forgot." (page 9)

 I love that quote about the dinosaur from the Island that Time Forgot.  I don't normally review children's books, but the author made a gentle suggestion about variety on my blog, and now I think I have been missing out by not including children's books before.

This is a story of a young girl named Candy who gets an unusual gift from her busy dad - a dinosaur or a Cankersaurus Rex. She trains her dinosaur to be a good pet while her next door neighbor, a young boy, tries to get a dinosaur of his own to rival hers.

The illustrations: Lively and cheerful colors in shades of yellow, green, red, and pink make this an eye catching picture book. I imagine children ages three or older would have loved hearing this imaginative story and looking at the lively illustrations. The book is not scary as Cankersaurus Rex is not at all frightening. For adults, the name Cankersaurus might be a strange pun, but young children would probably be delighted with the sounds of the word.

Title: Candy and the Cankersaur, written and illustrated by Jason Sandberg
Published June 18, 2012
Genre: children's picture ebook, ages 3-9

The author-illustrator, Jason Sandberg:

"I'm a Fine Artist who also wants to produce the "missing books" from my childhood, the books I wished I'd had."

Find out more about Jason's published and exhibited art and his children's books at www.jasonsandberg.com/

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

Guest Review: A Good Home, a Memoir by Cynthia Reyes

Title: A Good Home: A Memoir by Cynthia Reyes
Publisher: BPS Books (May 6, 2013)
A Good Home describes the author’s early life in rural Jamaica, her move to urban North America, and her trips back home.

I, a non-bookworm, read Cynthia Reyes' just-released book,
“A Good Home” and found it so riveting and so totally interesting,
it was difficult to put down once I turned a chapter.

Her down-to-earth style of writing is a boon to people who are
not avid book readers but are selective in their choice of books,
fiction or otherwise. I highly recommend “A Good Home” for
entertainment and for feeling good.

It is all about family, struggles, life-changes and determination.
Many readers can relate to the author’s experiences.

Philip Young
Guest reviewer

Philip Young is a writer in Toronto. 

Jul 9, 2013

A Woman of Angkor by John Burgess

Teaser Tuesdays  is hosted by MizB; choose sentences from your current read and identify author and title for readers.  First Chapter, First Paragraph is hosted by Bibliophile by the Sea.

I: The Brahmin
Brahmin priests chart the turnings of the cosmic engine. They counsel princes and craft judgments of holy law. But concerning simpler things, such as getting where they want to go? They often need some help.
Perhaps that is why I felt no apprehension when I first caught sight of the priest that rainy season afternoon. All I saw was a man who looked to be lost, and my sympathy went to him. With two soldier-guards, he had arrived on foot at the tiny settlement in the Capital's eastern reaches that was home to my family at the time. Then he began a search for someone or something that wasn't being found.

A Woman of Angkor by John Burgess
Published 2013  by River Books Press
Genre: historical fiction

Goodreads description:
"12th Century Cambodia, birthplace of the lost Angkor civilisation.
In a village behind a towering stone temple lives a young woman named Sray, whom neighbors liken to the heroine of a Hindu epic. Hiding a dangerous secret, she is content with quiet obscurity, but one rainy afternoon is called to a life in the royal court. Her faith and loyalties are tested by attentions from the great king Suryavarman II. She struggles to keep her devotion to her husband Nol, s palace confidante and master of the silk parasols, symbols of the monarch's rank.

This novel revives the rites and rhythms of the culture that built the temples of Angkor, then abandoned them to the jungle. Sray witnesses the construction of the largest temple, Angkor Wat, and offers an explanation for its greatest mystery - why it broke with centuries of tradition to face west instead of east."

Based on the opening chapter, would you keep reading?

Jul 8, 2013

It's Monday/Mailbox Monday/July 8

This post lists new books and links up to It's Monday; What Are You Reading? at Book Journey; to Mailbox Monday hosted by Book Obsessed; and to Stacking the Shelves by Tynga's Reviews.

Books for review:

A Once Crowded Sky by Tom King, fantasy (Touchstone)
The Other Room by Kim Triedman, fiction (Owl Canyon Press)
Mystery Girl by David Gordon, thriller (New Harvest)
Hour of the Rat by Lisa Brackmann, thriller (Soho Crime)
TheTilted World by Tom Franklin and Beth Ann Fennelly,  historical fiction ARC (William Morrow)

Uncorrected proofs for review:

Here Comes Mrs. Kugelman by Minka Pradelski, fiction (Macmillan)
Goat Mountain by David Vann, fiction (Harper)
Slow Getting Up: A Story of NFL Survival by Nate Jackson, memoir (Harper)
Lineup by Liad Shohan, Israeli crime fiction (Harper)

I borrowed these from the library:

Snapper by Brian Kimberling, fiction (Pantheon). Enjoying the bird watching aspects of this novel set in rural Indiana
The Third Son by Julie Wu, historical fiction (Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill). The history Taiwan is something I'd like to know more about.

What are you reading this week?

Jul 7, 2013


The Sunday Salon.com Welcome to the Sunday Salon.

I am so excited to announce that Gallery Books is offering two copies of the novel, Finding Colin Firth by Mia March, to readers of this blog. The great news is that the giveaway contest is open to both U.S. and Canadian residents. Yaah! and thank you, Dominique at Gallery Books!

Please scroll down to enter.

Title: Finding Colin Firth: A Novel by Mia March
Publication date: July 6, 2013; Gallery Books
Genre: fiction, women's fiction

Publisher's description:
"From the author of The Meryl Streep Movie Club, comes a new novel about three women, connected in secret and surprising ways, who are in for a life-changing summer when rumor has it that actor Colin Firth is coming to their Maine town to film a movie.

After losing her job and leaving her beloved husband, journalist Gemma Hendricks is sure that scoring an interview with Colin Firth will save her career. Yet a local story about women, family ties, love, and loss captures her heart--and changes everything. The story concerns Bea Crane, a twenty-two-year old who learns in a deathbed confession letter that she was adopted at birth. Bea is in Boothbay Harbor to surreptitiously observe her biological mother, Veronica Russo, a thirty-eight-year-old diner waitress famous for her "healing" pies. But when Veronica is hired as an Extra on the bustling movie set, she wonders if she's hiding from the truth . . . and perhaps the opportunity of a real life Mr. Darcy.

These three women will discover more than they ever imagined in this coastal Maine town, buzzing with hopes of Colin Firth."

GIVEAWAY CONTEST:  U.S. and Canadian residents, please leave a comment for a chance to win one of two books. No P.O. addresses, please. Contest is open through July 12, 2013; winners will be chosen at random and notified on July 13, with a response due by July 15.  The publisher will mail out the books to the winners. Good luck and thanks for entering!

UPDATE: Congrats to the winners: Creations by Laurel Rain-Snow and Julie@ Knitting and Sundries. Thanks everyone for entering the contest!

Jul 4, 2013

Book Review: A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki

Title: A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki
Published March 12, 2013; Viking Adult
Genre: fiction
Source: library book

My comments: Nao, the young Japanese writer of a diary found by Ruth will break your heart several times over during the course of the novel. A victim of extreme bullying in school, she contemplates suicide, then meets her great-grandmother, a 104-year-old Buddhist nun who will have a great effect on her life. Nao's grand-uncle Haruki #1 will also grab your sympathies through his diaries, the writings of a conscripted kamikazi pilot on the hardship and brutalities of his military life. If I could give this novel a higher rating than 5, I would.

The characters are so real that you easily become involved in their lives and care deeply about what happens to them. The book also combines in its mixture, religion, quantum physics, history, biology, dreams and paranormal events, and philosophy.  Kudos to an outstanding author.

Goodreads book description:

“A time being is someone who lives in time, and that means you, and me, and every one of us who is, or was, or ever will be.” 

 "In Tokyo, sixteen-year-old Nao has decided there’s only one escape from her aching loneliness and her classmates’ bullying. But before she ends it all, Nao first plans to document the life of her great grandmother, a Buddhist nun who’s lived more than a century. A diary is Nao’s only solace—and will touch lives in ways she can scarcely imagine.

 Across the Pacific, we meet Ruth, a novelist living on a remote island who discovers a collection of artifacts washed ashore in a Hello Kitty lunchbox—possibly debris from the devastating 2011 tsunami. As the mystery of its contents unfolds, Ruth is pulled into the past, into Nao’s drama and her unknown fate, and forward into her own future.

 Full of Ozeki’s signature humor and deeply engaged with the relationship between writer and reader, past and present, fact and fiction, quantum physics, history, and myth, A Tale for the Time Being is a brilliantly inventive, beguiling story of our shared humanity and the search for home."

Submitted for the Japanese Literature Challenge 7 hosted by dolcebellezza.
Submitted to Cym Lowell's Book Review Link-Up Party

Jul 2, 2013

Whistling Past the Graveyard by Susan Crandall

Teaser Tuesdays is hosted by MizB; choose sentences from your current read and identify author and title for readers. First Chapter, First Paragraph is hosted by Bibliophile By the Sea.

Title: Whistling Past the Graveyard by Susan Crandall
Published July 2, 2013; Gallery Books

Opening sentences:
July 1963
My grandmother says she will pray for me every day. Which was funny, as I've only ever heard Mamie pray, "Dear Lord, give me strength." That sure sounded like a prayer for herself - and Mrs. Knopp in Sunday school always said our prayers should only ask for things for others. Once I made the mistake of saying that out loud to Mamie and got slapped into next Tuesday for my sassy mouth. My mouth always worked a whole lot faster than my good sense.

Book description:
From an award-winning author,  a wise and tender coming-of-age story about a nine-year-old girl who runs away from her Mississippi home in 1963, befriends a lonely woman suffering loss and abuse, and embarks on a life-changing roadtrip.

Nine-year-old Starla Claudelle. born to teenage parents in Mississippi, is being raised by a strict paternal grandmother, Mamie, whose worst fear is that Starla will turn out like her mother. Starla hasn’t seen her momma since she was three, but is convinced that her mother will keep her promise to take Starla and her daddy to Nashville, where her mother hopes to become a famous singer—and that one day her family will be whole and perfect.

When Starla is grounded on the Fourth of July, she sneaks out to see the parade. Starla’s fear that Mamie will send her to reform school cause her to panic and run away from home. Starla is offered a ride by a black woman, Eula, who is traveling with a white baby. She happily accepts a ride, with the ultimate goal of reaching her mother in Nashville.

As the two unlikely companions make their long and sometimes dangerous journey, Starla’s eyes are opened to the harsh realities of 1963 southern segregation. Through talks with Eula, reconnecting with her parents, and encountering a series of surprising misadventures, Starla learns to let go of long-held dreams and realizes family is forged from those who will sacrifice all for you, no matter if bound by blood or by the heart. (publisher)

Based on the opening sentences and the book description, would you read on?

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

Jul 1, 2013

Mailbox Monday: ARCs and Finding Colin Firth

This post lists new books and links up to It's Monday; What Are You Reading? at Book Journey; to Mailbox Monday hosted by Book Obsessed; and to Stacking the Shelves by Tynga's Reviews.

New ARCs for review:

The Wife, The Maid, and the Mistress by Ariel Lawhon (Doubleday).
A tantalizing re-imagining of a scandalous mystery that rocked the nation in 1930-Justice Joseph Crater's infamous disappearance-as seen through the eyes of the three women who knew him best. (Goodreads)

Songs of Willow Frost by Jamie Ford (Random House).
Twelve-year-old William Eng, a Chinese-American boy, has lived at Seattle’s Sacred Heart Orphanage since his mother’s death five years ago. On his birthday, at the historical Moore Theatre, William glimpses an actress by the name of Willow Frost. Struck by her features, William is convinced that the movie star is his mother, Liu Song. Set in the Great Depression and the 1920s. (Goodreads)

Love All by Callie Wright ( Henry Holt).
Love, fidelity, sports, and growing up when you least expect it, told through the irresistible voices of three generations, Set in New York in 1994. (Goodreads)

Mrs. Poe by Lynn Cullen (Gallery Books).
A vivid and compelling novel about a woman who becomes entangled in an affair with Edgar Allan Poe—at the same time she becomes the unwilling confidante of his much-younger wife. Set in 1845, New York. (Goodreads)

Anton and Cecil: Cats at Sea by Lisa Martin and Valerie Martin (Algonquin Young Readers)
A swashbuckling story of two very different cat brothers and their adventures at sea. For ages 8-12. 

and a paperback:

Finding Colin Firth by Mia March (Simon & Schuster)
A novel about three women, connected in secret and surprising ways, who are in for a life-changing summer when rumor has it that actor Colin Firth is coming to their Maine town to film a movie. (Goodreads)

What's in your mailbox this week?

Empresses of Seventh Avenue by Nancy MacDonell: Historical Novel

 Fashion in Paris and New York City during WWII   Empresses of Seventh Avenue World War II, New York City, and the Birth of American Fashion...