Oct 30, 2013

TATIANA: A Novel by Martin Cruz Smith

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

Title: Tatiana: An Arkady Renko Novel by Martin Cruz Smith
Expected publication: November 12, 2013; Simon and Schuster
Genre: suspense, crime fiction
Source: publisher

Book description:
One of the iconic investigators of contemporary fiction, Arkady Renko—cynical, analytical, and quietly subversive—has survived the cultural journey from the Soviet Union to the New Russia, only to find the nation as obsessed with secrecy and brutality as was the old Communist dictatorship. In Tatiana, the melancholy hero finds himself on the trail of a mystery as complex and dangerous as modern Russia herself.

The fearless investigative reporter Tatiana Petrovna falls to her death from a sixth-floor window in Moscow the same week that a mob billionaire, Grisha Grigorenko, is shot and buried with the trappings due a lord. No one makes the connection, but Arkady is transfixed by the tapes he discovers of Tatiana’s voice, even as she describes horrific crimes hidden by official versions. The trail leads to Kaliningrad, a Cold War “secret city” and home of the Baltic Fleet, separated by hundreds of miles from the rest of Russia. Arkady delves into Tatiana’s past and a surreal world of wandering dunes and amber mines. His only link is a notebook written in the personal code of a translator whose body is found in the dunes. Arkady’s only hope of decoding the symbols lies in Zhenya, a teenage chess hustler.

Sounds like a book about post-Communism Russia that would be fascinating.
What new books are you waiting on?

Oct 28, 2013

Book Review: An Incurable Insanity by Simi K. Rao

Title: An Incurable Insanity by Simi K. Rao
Published October 8, 2013; Tate Publishing
Genre: fiction
"Tell me, what have I done to deserve this? To marry you, be ready to spend the rest of my life with you, then suffer rejection not once but twice. Do you know how humiliating it is? How many nights have I spend wondering what sins I was being punished for?"
"No, Ruhi, you've done nothing wrong!" The words came out in a rush as he  folded her tenderly in his arms. (p. 172)
Synopsis: Shaan Ahuja found himself bowing to tradition and agreeing to an arranged marriage to the beautiful Ruhi Sharma. He went through the motions but had no intention of carrying through on his vows. His last foray into matters of the heart with an American girl had left him scarred and unwilling to try again. Thoroughly disillusioned and disgruntled, he wasted no time in making his intentions clear to Ruhi on their wedding night. But, he was completely unprepared for what his new wife had in mind. (publisher)

My comments: An interesting story of an arranged marriage of two people who settle in Los Angeles after their marriage ceremony in India. It's a love story of how the reluctant husband eventually comes to cherish his rebuffed wife. I learned a lot about the Indian culture and was taken behind the scenes of some traditional unions, what a couple might have to go through before they settle into the inevitability of an arranged marriage. In this novel, the final outcome is predictable, and the characters a bit stereotypical. The wife Ruhi, for example, seemed at the beginning just too perfect; Shaan later becomes just too love struck. These points could be the main drawback for a reader, though I did appreciate the behind-the-scenes look at potential problems and potential happy outcomes for this type of marriage.

Simi K. Rao was born in India and lives in Denver with her family. This book is her first. The inspiration for the story came from the immigrant community. Some of the experiences are her own; some are from friends and conversations with acquaintances. She also writes poetry, is an avid photographer, loves to travel, and is a practicing physician. Connect with Simi on her website, Twitter, Facebook.

For other reviews, visit the book tour schedule organized by TLC Book Tours
Thanks to TLC Book Tours and the author for a review copy of this book.  If you have difficulty leaving a comment, click on Book Dilettante and try again.

Oct 27, 2013

Sunday Salon: Autumn Honey, Apples, and Pumpkins

The Sunday Salon.com Welcome to the Sunday Salon! Also visit The Sunday Post hosted by The Caffeinated Bookreviewer; Showcase Sunday at Books, Biscuits, and Tea; and It's Monday: What Are You Reading? at Book Journey, and Mailbox Monday at Book Dragon’s Lair this month.

Image by Johnston Fruit Farms
We drove over to a fruit farm the other day and bought some cooking pumpkins, Fuji apples, and their delicious honey. Honey on bread, yum! You get the real flavor of the honey this way, though my DH loves it to sweeten his coffee.

My splurge for the week was a leather Fossil mini wallet to replace my old vinyl fanny pack. I thought it a bit pricy for an itty-bitty purse, but in persuading me, the sales girl said her mother loves this brand, which "lasts forever."  I was persuaded.

This is a Scandinavian thriller I wish I had more time to read... found it on my shelves, but I'll get to it eventually.

Review books I received last week:

After I'm Gone by Laura Lippman, ARC from William Morrow
Hunting Shadows by Charles Todd, ARC from William Morrow
The Sister Season by Jennier Scott, Penguin paperback
The Secrets She Carried by Barbara Davis, Penguin paperback

What came in your mailbox? Have a fantastic Sunday doing whatever you love best!
If you have difficulty leaving a message, click on Book Dilettante and try again.

Oct 25, 2013

Inherit the Dead,by twenty different thriller writers

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.

Page 56:
"Could you tell me how well you know the family?" he asked her.
"We run in the same social circles," she said, as if that should explain all.
"So you don't really know her?" he asked.
Book beginning:
The call had been unexpected. The reference - a friend of a friend of a friend - too complicated to follow. But the job - if it turned into a job - was simple enough, a missing person. Or so the caller had said. But Perry Christo, former NYPD homicide detective turned private investigator, knew nothing was ever simple. (Jonathan Santlofer)

Title: Inherit the Dead: A Novel
Published October 8, 2013; Touchstone
Genre: mystery

Book description:
"Pericles “Perry” Christo is a former cop who lost his badge and his family when a corruption scandal left him broke and disgraced. When wealthy Upper East Side matron Julia Drusilla summons him one cold February night, he grabs what seems to be a straightforward (and lucrative) case. The socialite is looking for her beautiful, aimless daughter, Angelina, who is about to become a very wealthy young woman. But as Christo digs deeper, he discovers there’s much more to the lovely “Angel” than meets the eye.

This classic noir tale twists and turns down New York’s mean streets and along Hamp­tons’ beaches and back roads during a bitterly cold and gray winter where nothing is as it seems and everyone has something to hide. In an inventive storytelling approach, twenty different writers brings their distinctive voice to a chapter of Inherit the Dead, building the ten­sion to a shocking, explosive finale." (publisher)

Ever read a novel in which each chapter is written by a different author? Here is one!
If you have difficulty leaving a comment, click on Book Dilettante and try again.

Oct 23, 2013

Book Tour: A Secondhand Murder by Lesley A Diehl

Synopsis: Eve Appel moves from Connecticut to rural Florida to start a new life, free from her soon-to-be ex-husband. The town of Sabal Bay proves to be the perfect spot for her consignment store. Florida’s society matrons need a place to discreetly sell their stuff and pick up expensive-looking bargains. But Eve’s life and her business are turned upside down when a wealthy customer is found stabbed to death in a fitting room.

With the help of an unlikely bunch—including her estranged ex, her best friend, a handsome private eye, and a charming mafia don—she struggles to find answers and save lives. Through distorted half-truths, dramatic cover-ups, and unrequited passions, Eve learns just how far the wealthy will go to regain what they have lost. A Secondhand Murder is Book 1 of the Eve Appel Mysteries Series.

My comments: What starts out in the consignment shop ends up in a very different place. The story shifts from what seems a simple case to become one more complex.  I was hooked by the setting and the characters in the first half of the book but was led into a different direction later on, with new characters introduced, which meant the wrap up of the mystery took a longer time.  Overall, however, a good novel with appealing main personalities - Eve and her feisty Grandy (grandmother).

Title: A Secondhand Murder by Lesley Diehl 
Genre: Cozy Mystery
Published by: Camel Press, September 15, 2013
About the author: Lesley Diehl retired as a professor of psychology and reclaimed her country roots by moving to the Butternut River Valley in upstate New York. She devotes afternoons to writing and, when the sun sets, relaxing on the bank of her trout stream, sipping tea or a local microbrew. In the winter she migrates to old Florida--cowboys, scrub palmetto, and open fields of grazing cattle. 

Book tour organized by Partners In Crime Tours, which provided a review copy of the book.
If you have difficulty leaving a comment, click on Book Dilettante and try again.

Oct 22, 2013

First Chapter: The Edwin Drood Murders by Christopher Lord

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: The Edwin Drood Murders (A Dickens Junction Mystery) by Christopher Lord
Published September 24, 2013; Harrison Thurman Books
Genre: mystery
"So, having seen the Star of Stockholm years ago in Malmo, part of my interest in coming here was to see the Heart for myself," she said. "Gem cutters around the world comment on its perfect facets and the artistry of the diamond settings."

"My goodness," Osma said to Simon. "I feel as if I'm on Antiques Roadshow." (p. 76)
Opening paragraph:
Quilpy's Quill, April 2

I've been blogging for-EVAH bout the upcoming Droodist conference. I got my press pass and registration today!! Quilpy can't afford a Columbia River-view room at the fabulous Hotel Elliott in Astoria, but I'll be there with Dingley Dell bells on! Click below to learn how you can $upport Quilpy's Quest for a Queen (-size bed, that is).

Would you keep reading on? Here is the book description:
The Droodists have arrived in Astoria, Oregon, for their latest convention to discuss Charles Dickens's last uncompleted novel, The Mystery of Edwin Drood, and local bookstore owner Simon Alastair has his hands full as co-chair. A movie star, a pesky blogger, dueling scholars, a stage hypnotist, and an old family friend (among others) all have claims on Simon's time. In addition, some Droodists are clearly more -or less- than they appear, including a mysterious young man by the improbable name of Edwin Drood.

When a priceless ring and a rare Dickensian artifact go missing, Simon and his reporter-partner Zach Benjamin learn that someone will do anything-including murder-to obtain an object of desire. The Edwin Drood Murders is the new mystery series that began with The Christmas Carol Murders.

If you have difficulty leaving a comment, click on Book Dilettante and try again. 

Oct 20, 2013

Sunday Salon: Rainy Days

The Sunday Salon.com Welcome to the Sunday Salon! Also visit The Sunday Post hosted by The Caffeinated Bookreviewer; Showcase Sunday at Books, Biscuits, and Tea; and  It's Monday: What Are You Reading? at Book Journey. And Mailbox Monday hosted this month by Gina at Book Dragon's Lair.

It got colder, rained almost all day today, and washed out a day of events planned by local businesses in one area of town. The late night music scene was still going on though as the skies cleared at 4 p.m. though I didn't see many people around even at 5 p.m. Maybe we were spoiled by previous warm days and aren't used to the sudden drop in temperatures.

I finished reading a Soho teen novel, Dancer Daughter Traitor Spy by Elizabeth Kiem, and found it just so-so as a mystery novel. I was interested in it most of the way through but didn't like how the plot took you through several thrilling possibilities but then let you down at the end. This was Kiem's first novel.

My current read is Killer Librarian, the first in the mystery series by Mary Lou Kirwin, and plan to read the follow-up, Death Overdue, both in paperback to be released in November. I like the bookish setting.

Last week I received two ARCs for review:
The Bird Skinner by Alice Greenway, fiction: "the story of Jim Carroway, a World War II Vietnam Vet once called Jungle Jim, who has moved to a tiny island in Maine to seclude himself from his former life.  Once Jim was a noted ornithologist collecting and skinning birds as specimens he sent back to the Museum of Natural History in New York where he worked. Since his amputation, his lifelong work has become impossible. Now hiding out on Fox Island, away from his adult son and grandchildren in Connecticut and his colleagues in New York, he is depressed and in pain.

Jim’s slowly deteriorating mind unravels memories that take him back to the war in Guadalcanal, where he was with Naval Intelligence, spying on the Japanese for Admiral Halsey on a remote Solomon Island. There he became friends with a young native, Tosca, who taught him about the islands. Now in Maine, Jim finds out that Tosca, whom he hasn’t heard from in thirty years, is sending his daughter Cadillac to stay with him for a month before she starts Yale on a scholarship. Cadillac arrives to Jim’s consternation, but she is utterly captivating, totally original. She will capture his heart and the heart of everyone she meets."

The Girl With a Clock for a Heart by Peter Swanson, mystery
and two finished review books:
The Unidentified Redhead by Alice Clayton, romance
Unthinkable by Richard Cibrano, historical novel

A couple of these I requested and a couple were unsolicited.
As for book tours, I have a few left this year and scheduled a children's book for January. I hope to keep the number down to a minimum in 2014, one of my blogging resolutions for the new year!

What are you reading and what books arrived last week?

Oct 18, 2013

Book Beginnings: Fixed: A Gin and Tonic Mystery by L.A. Kornetsky

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: Fixed: A Gin and Tonic Mystery by L.A. Kornetsky
Published October 8, 2013; Gallery Books
Genre: mystery

Opening sentences:
The dogs were gossiping. The grey tabby paused, halfway down the fire escape, and surveyed the sidewalk below her. It was late afternoon, the sun cool and fading, dappling the pavement with shadows. The humans she could see from her vantage point were walking faster than they did in the evening, heading somewhere important. And the two dogs out in front of the Busy Place, one a shaggy black mutt of dubious Labrador ancestry, the other a fawn-coated shar-pei, were paw-to-paw, sprawled next to the bike rack, which tended to hold more leashes than bikes.
Page 56:
...when her gaze went from Ginny to Tonica and then down to the dog standing alertly between them, her poise slipped a little. "Oh. Hi. She's beautiful." The tone of the girl's voice went from welcoming to slightly accusatory in those short sentences.
Publisher description:
"In this second Gin & Tonic mystery, the stakes are raised when someone connected to missing funds Ginny Mallard and Teddy Tonica are investigating is found dead. When someone from the local animal shelter approaches her about finding grant funds that have gone missing, Ginny Mallard convinces her bartender friend Teddy Tonica to help her investigate once again. They soon discover that something is disturbing the animals at the shelter at night...and then a dead body shows up. With the help of Ginny’s Shar-Pei puppy and Tonica’s tabby cat, this unconventional crime-solving team has to figure out what’s going on before the shelter—and more people—lose everything."

What do you think? A book you could read?

Oct 16, 2013

Library Loot: The Translator by Nina Schuyler

Library Loot is a weekly event co-hosted by Claire from The Captive Reader and Marg from The Adventures of an Intrepid Reader that encourages bloggers to share the books they’ve checked out from the library. 

Because I read translated books, such as Scandinavian and other international mysteries and also Japanese literary novels, I was attracted to the cover and title of this book at the library. Here is the book's description:
When renowned translator Hanne Schubert falls down a flight of stairs, she suffers from an unusual but real condition—the loss of her native language. Speaking only Japanese, a language learned later in life, she leaves for Japan. There, to Hanne’s shock, the Japanese novelist whose work she recently translated confronts her publicly for sabotaging his work. 
Reeling, Hanne seeks out the inspiration for the author’s novel—a tortured, chimerical actor, once a master in the art of Noh theater. Through their passionate, volatile relationship, Hanne is forced to reexamine how she has lived her life, including her estranged relationship with her daughter. In elegant and understated prose, Nina Schuyler offers a deeply moving and mesmerizing story about language, love, and the transcendence of family. (publisher)
I've just started the novel, The Translator: A Novel but have learned something about the translator's art, how this translator says she has to be a writer as well as a someone who turns words into those of another language. She has to interpret meaning and convey them adequately, into English in this case.

Looking forward to reading more and getting into the main plot.

What books have you gotten from the library recently, and which are you really enjoying?

Oct 14, 2013

Book Review: I Am Venus by Barbara Mujica

Title: I Am Venus by Barbara Mujica
Published June 13, 2013; Overlook Hardcover
Genre: historical novel
I know Velasquez didn't paint Venus in Italy, of course, but I bite my tongue. How can I tell her I know for certain the model is not Italian and is not the mother of Velazaquez's son? (ch. 15)
My comments: Read this book for fascinating information on the life and work of the 17th century Spanish painter Velazquez - his rise to fame at court and the history behind his paintings. The painting I know best is his Las Meninas or The Maids of Honor which features the Infanta, daughter of the King and Queen of Spain.

I Am Venus surrounds the question of the model for Velazquez's other famous painting, the Rokeby Venus, the painting shown on the cover of this book. Mujica writes about the woman, the real model, whom she has created for the purposes of her fiction.

Culturally rich, and a good mix of fact and fiction, I enjoyed the book for it's detail that evokes the time, the painter, and the model. It will appeal to lovers of art as well as those who enjoy the craft of historical fiction.

For more reviews, visit the book tour schedule organized by TLC Book Tours.

Barbara Mujica is a novelist, short-story writer, essayist and professor of Spanish at Georgetown University. I Am Venus explores the identity of the model for the famous Rokeby Venus, the only extant female nude of seventeenth-century Spanish painter Diego de Velázquez. Her previous books include Frida, based on Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera, and Sister Teresa, about the life of Saint Teresa de Avila.

Mujica has won numerous prizes for her stories, and writes extensively on Spanish literature. Please visit  www.barbaramujica.com.

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

Oct 12, 2013

Sunday Salon: Only Four More Book Tours to Go

The Sunday Salon.com Welcome to the Sunday Salon! Also visit The Sunday Post hosted by The Caffeinated Bookreviewer; Showcase Sunday at Books, Biscuits, and Tea; and It's Monday: What Are You Reading? at Book Journey.

I have four more book tours through November, and am gratefully free in December and after.

In between, I hope to feature and review books from my TBR list, and have decided to read not only stories by the Nobel Prize winner for literature, Alice Munro, but also books by Nobel contender, Haruki Murakami  - The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, Norwegian Wood, and others.

Our backyard zinnias are dying out with the cool weather. Here is an orange one that bloomed most of the summer. They are very hardy and the flowers last a long time.

Enjoy Sunday!

Oct 10, 2013

Book Beginnings: Poisoned Prose by Ellery Adams

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.

Book beginning:
"Death by chocolate. That's what the coroner's report will read," Olivia Limoges said to the woman sitting next to her. She pushed away a plate still laden with a caramel brownie, a hazelnut petit four, and a square of peanut butter fudge. "I'll have to be rolled home in a wheelbarrow."
Page 56:
Violetta waited a few heartbeats before speaking again. "I'm the last true Devereaux. When I die, the whereabouts of a certain treasure will die with me. That's a relief to me and a source of mighty vexation to others."

I am waiting to read the book to see what the title refers to. Death by chocolate and a mystery treasure do not explain the title, on first impression. "Poisoned prose" suggests to me a will, a letter, a written threat, or something along those lines. Can't wait to see!

Title: Poisoned Prose: A Books by the Bay Mystery #5 by Ellery Adams
Published October 1, 2013; Berkley
Genre: mystery
Source: review copy from publisher

Publisher's description of the book:
When Olivia Limoges and other Oyster Bay patrons of the arts sponsor a retreat for famous storytellers, one of them is going to have a very unhappy ending…Olivia thought gathering some of the most renowned storytellers in one place would be a nice, simple way for herself and the Bayside Book Writers to appreciate their talents. But things take a dark turn when the most famous storyteller in the nation—the captivating performer Violetta Devereaux—announces onstage that she will meet her end in Oyster Bay.

Oct 9, 2013

The Creative Compass by Dan Millman and Sierra Prasada

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.

Here's another book for would-be or beginning writers. Hope it will have some valuable tips to get me beyond the first ten pages of my scribblings.

The Creative Compass: Writing Your Way from Inspiration to Publication by Dan Millman and Sierra Prasada, to be published October 15, 2013 by H.J. Kramer/New World Publications.

Book description: How can I become more disciplined? How do I know if I’m talented? Should I self-publish? These are just a few of the perennial and contemporary questions addressed in this delightfully different guide. The authors — from different generations and writing genres — first help the reader assess where they are on their path. They then walk aspiring writers through five universal stages — Dream, Draft, Develop, Refine, and Share. While these stages apply to writers of every stripe, the emphasis is always on the reader navigating his or her own challenges, process, and goals. Insight-producing prompts and the wisdom of diverse artists (from Steinbeck and Thoreau to Spike Lee, Marilyn French, and Tom Clancy) help make every writer’s journey of creation as rewarding as its destination.

What book or books are you waiting for this week?

Oct 7, 2013

Book Review: The Case of the Love Commandos by Tarquin Hall

Teaser Tuesdays is hosted by MizB; choose sentences from your current read and identify author and title for readers.

My comments: There are two mysteries going on at the same time in the novel -  one involving the Love Commandos who are helping a young couple to run off together and detective Vish Puri trying to find the young man when he is abducted. The other mystery is the unknown pickpocket on a train who is followed by detective Puri's mother, who likes to do her own investigations even though her son disapproves - "mummies aren't detectives."
Mummy crossed her arms in front of her chest and made a face of her own. "Let me guess. Chubby said to keep me in the dark - Mummies are not detectives and all," she said.
"You know what he's like."
(ch. 3)
Clever plotting, amusing characters, and an intriguing setting (Delhi and other cities) make this fourth novel as interesting as the first three. The novel gives us an idea of the social divide between the highest class, the Brahmins, and the lowest class, the Dalits. It also pokes holes into the idea of the purity of class lines.

Part of the book's interest is cultural - the "Indian" style of English used, but also the food. Detective Puri, whom his mother or Mummy-ji calls Chubby, is a lover of Indian food, and a glossary describes all the snacks and dishes that he orders throughout the book during his travels and investigations.

Title: The Case of the Love Commandos From the Files of Vish Puri, India's Most Private Investigator by Tarquin Hall
Published October 8, 2013; Simon and Schuster
Genre: Vish Puri mystery
Objective rating: 4.5/5

Publisher summary:
"THE CASE OF THE LOVE COMMANDOS is a contemporary Romeo and Juliet story, set within India’s unforgiving caste system. When the beautiful Tulsi from a high-caste family falls in love with Ram, an Untouchable from the lowest strata of Indian society, her father promises to hunt and kill him if she does not end the romance. The lovers find safety with the help of India’s Love Commandos – a group of volunteers assisting mixed-caste couples.

When Ram goes missing from the Love Commandos safe house, it falls to India’s Most Private Investigator, Vish Puri, to find him and find out why! (And he must do so before his arch nemesis, Hari Kumar, who is also trying to locate Ram.) Unfortunately, Vish is not having a good month, himself. After failing to recover the millions stolen from the First National Bank of Punjab, his wallet is pinched by a common thief. Most devastating of all, the only person in a position to help get it back is his Mummy-ji.

In a thrilling race against time, filled with the twists and turns that Tarquin Hall’s fans have come to love, Vish Puri must reunite the star-crossed lovers and reclaim his rightful place as India’s Most Private Investigator."

For more information on the series, visit Vish Puri's India blog.

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

Oct 6, 2013

Sunday Salon: Reviewing from ARCs

 The Sunday Salon.com Welcome to the Sunday Salon! Also visit The Sunday Post hosted by The Caffeinated Bookreviewer; Showcase Sunday at Books, Biscuits, and Tea; Mailbox Monday at Book Dragon's Lair, and  It's Monday: What Are You Reading? at Book Journey. Also Stacking the Shelves by Tynga's Reviews.

It's a rainy day today and a good time for reading and blogging.

I often review books for book tours and post reviews of books I receive in the mail, many of them uncorrected proofs or advance readers copies. I enjoy getting books in advance and don't mind the occasional errors in the galleys/proofs. What I do find inconvenient is that I can't quote from the ARCs in my reviews as the quotes may differ or not be included at all in the final copies. Reviewers are warned not to quote from the galleys or to check the final version first.

Problem is, I don't have time or patience to hunt the books down in the library or bookstore to make the comparisons, so I land up not using quotes. This I think hurts the review as I do like to give readers a taste of the writing and style, so important to anyone thinking of buying or borrowing a book.

I received one finished book and three uncorrected proofs/advance readers copies last week and am eager to read them, nevertheless.

Before I Met You by Lisa Jewell, a finished novel courtesy of Atria Books

The Pursuit of Mary Benner: A Pride and Prejudice Novel by Pamela Mingle, to be released November 26, 2013, courtesy of William Morrow

Under the Wide and Starry Sky by Nancy Horan, to be published January 21, 2014, courtesy of Ballantine Books. This is the turbulent love story of Scottish author Robert Louis Stevenson and his American wife Fanny.

Stormbird (Wars of the Roses #1) by Colin Iggulden, historical fiction to be released October 10, 2013, courtesy of Penguin.

Let us know what you got in the mail, finished books or ARCs. I am always interested in new books and soon to be released books, regardless of my griping.

Oct 4, 2013

Book Review: The Shogun's Daughter by Laura Joh Rowland

Title: The Shogun's Daughter: A Novel of Feudal Japan
Publication: September 17, 2013; Minotaur Books Hardcover
Genre: historical fiction
Objective rating: 5/5

Comments: Even though this novel and this series of detective novels is set in 18th century Japan, the dialogue is fairly modern and the characters are so well drawn that we can easily relate to them. The plot is complex and though this story is fictional, the historical background and the detailed description of setting gives us a strong sense of the time and place, the atmosphere and political culture.

The plot: Sano Ichiro the Chamberlain and his wife Reiko are forced to save their own lives by finding the real murderer of the Shogun's daughter and the subsequent murderer of the appointed heir. Because suspicion falls on Sano, he and his family are doomed if they cannot discover and reveal the plots and treachery surrounding the Shogun and his daughter. Joining in their sleuthing is Sano's 12-year-old son Masahiro, and also young Taeko, the daughter of Sano's chief retainer Hirata. Hirata battles his own ghosts and is unable to help Sano and his family as he has in previous times.

Recommendation: I have read several of the books in the series and enjoyed being transported to feudal Japan, by story and by the descriptions. The author conveys these admirably well. The books do not have to be read in order, but they do follow the story of Sano and Reiko through perilous times in the reign of the Shogun.

Publisher description: Japan, 1704. In an elegant mansion a young woman named Tsuruhime lies on her deathbed, attended by her nurse. Smallpox pustules cover her face. Incense burns, to banish the evil spirits of disease. After Tsuruhime takes her last breath, the old woman watching from the doorway says, “Who’s going to tell the Shogun his daughter is dead?”

The death of the Shogun’s daughter has immediate consequences on his regime. There will be no grandchild to leave the kingdom. Faced with his own mortality and beset by troubles caused by the recent earthquake, he names as his heir Yoshisato, the seventeen-year-old son he only recently discovered was his. Until five months ago, Yoshisato was raised as the illegitimate son of Yanagisawa, the shogun’s favorite advisor. Yanagisawa is also the longtime enemy of Sano Ichiro.
Sano doubts that Yoshisato is really the Shogun’s son, believing it’s more likely a power-play by Yanagisawa. When Sano learns that Tsuruhime’s death may have been a murder, he sets off on a dangerous investigation that leads to more death and destruction as he struggles to keep his pregnant wife, Reiko, and his son safe. Instead, he and his family become the accused. And this time, they may not survive the day.
For other reviews, visit the tour schedule hosted by Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours.

Laura Joh Rowland is the author of a mystery series set in medieval Japan, featuring samurai detective Sano Ichiro. The Shogun’s Daughter is the seventeenth book in the series. Her work has been nominated for the Anthony Award and the Hammett Prize, and won the RT Reviewer’s Choice Award for Best Historical Mystery. Laura lives in New York City. Visit Laura’s website or Facebook.

For this review, I received an ARC of the book through the tour group and the publisher. 

Oct 3, 2013

Book Feature: The Bookman's Tale by Charlie Lovett

Title: The Bookman's Tale: A Novel of Obsession by Charlie Lovett
Published May 28, 2013; Viking

This seems to be a novel after my own heart - literary topic, a mystery going back to Shakespeare's time, a bookseller and his books. It brings to mind other bibliophile novels : Carlos Ruiz Zafon's The Shadow of the Wind and Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan. And The Book Thief.

This one has a paranormal touch. It all starts in 1995 when Peter Byerly enters a bookshop and opens an 18th century study of Shakepeare forgeries. A picture that looks like his dead wife pops out of the book and Peter follows up the history of this picture back to Victorian and to Shakespeare's time. He is able to communicate with this woman from the past, then tackles the question of whether Shakespeare was the true author of the Shakespeare plays.

Book description:
The Bookman’s Tale interweaves art history and literary history with a haunting tale of romance and deception. Alternating between Shakespeare’s time, the Victorian Era, and the present day, Lovett offers both a heartwarming chronicle of a shattered widow’s return to the world of the living and a salute to the magical power of books.

I received an advance uncorrected proof of this book for review.

Oct 1, 2013

Book Review: Murder by Syllabub by Kathleen Delaney

Teaser Tuesdays  is hosted by MizB; choose sentences from your current read and identify author and title for readers

Title: Murder By Syllabub: An Ellen McKenzie Mystery by Kathleen Delaney
Published July 1, 2013; Camel Press
Genre: cozy mystery

I found out that syllabub has nothing to do with education and lesson plans (as in syllabus) but is an old fashioned British dessert, made with cream, sugar, white wine or sherry, and an infusion of lemon. In the case of this mystery murder, poison is administered by means of this sweet dessert.
It's a drink. A sweet dessert drink. The colonials loved it." (p. 45)
Ellen McKenzie and her Aunt Mary travel from California to an old plantation house in Virginia owned by Aunt Mary's friend Elizabeth. Elizabeth thinks the house is haunted by a ghost in colonial costume and feels threatened when a crate falls and narrowly misses her. She is so distraught that Ellen and Aunt Mary fly to console her and to find out what the mystery is. The plot thickens when Elizabeth's stepson is found dead in the house, poisoned by a glass of syllabub.

Those who love colonial history will enjoy the references to that period of time, its costumes, way of life, and food. While the mystery plot is standard fare, the novel is made unique by the setting and the historical research done by the author.

Kathleen Delaney has written four previous Ellen McKenzie Real Estate mysteries, but has never before transported her characters out of California. She visited Colonial Williamsburg several times and Murder by Syllabub came into being. Kathleen lived most of her life in California but now resides in Georgia. You can find her at http://delaney.camelpress.com

For more reviews of Murder by Syllabub, visit the tour schedule at Partners in Crime Tours.
Thanks to Partners in Crime Tours and the author/publisher for a review copy of this book.

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