Dec 31, 2013

My Life in Books 2013

Got this meme from a couple of bloggers, from Books and Movies in 2012 -  My Life in Books, My Life According to Literature. Think I'll try it again using books read in 2013. Join in if you wish!  It can be pretty amusing!

Which book (titles) read in 2013 describe your life so far?

Describe myself:
The Girl Who Married An Eagle
Dancer, Daughter, Traitor, Spy 

How do I feel:
Me Before You 
Bend Not Break
I Am Venus

Describe where I currently live:
The Orchid House
Beautiful Ruins
The Valley of Amazement

 If I could go anywhere, where I would go:
The Ocean at the End of the Lane 
The Nine Fold Heaven

My favorite form of transportation:

My best friend(s) is/are:
Five Star Billionaire
The Aviator's Wife
The Woman From Paris

My friends and I are:
Crazy Rich Asians (not!)
Birds in Paradise 

What’s the weather like:
Prague Winter

Favorite Time of Day:
 A Tainted Dawn

What is life to you:
A Whisper to a Scream
An Incurable Insanity 

You fear:
The Illusion of Separateness
A Cold and Lonely Place 

What is the best advice you have to give:
How to Be a Good Wife 
Bend Not Break
Have Mother, Will Travel

Thought for the day:
Brady Needs a Nightlight
The Comfort of Lies 

How I would like to die:
Speaking from Among the Bones
Going Through the Notions

My soul’s present condition:
The Yoga Face 

Click on each book title to see the review or information about the book.

I picked these books almost at random and could have given completely different answers as well. What titles have you read in 2013 that could answer these questions?

Here is last year's meme: My Life in Books 2012

First Chapter: SACRE BLEU by Christopher Moore

 First Chapter, First Paragraph is a weekly meme hosted by Bibliophile by the Sea.

Prelude, first paragraph:
This is a story about the color blue. It may dodge and weave, hide and deceive, take you down paths of love and history and inspiration, but it's always about blue.
First chapter, first paragraph:
On the day he was to be murdered, Vincent Van Gogh encountered a Gypsy on the cobbles outside the inn where he'd just eaten lunch. "Big hat," said the Gypsy.
"Well, that explains it, said the woman. "The Louvre's a little pious, isn't it? Can't throw a round of darts in there without scoring three Madonnas and a baby Jesus. And Raphael was a lazy little fop." (ch. 5) 
Sacre Bleu: A Comedy D'Art by Christopher Moore
Published April 12,2013; Harper Collins
Genre: historical fiction, satire
Source: publisher
"Moore’s Sacre Bleu is part mystery, part history (sort of), part love story, and wholly hilarious as it follows a young baker-painter who joins the dapper Henri Toulouse-Lautrec on a quest to unravel the mystery behind the supposed suicide of Vincent van Gogh."

Dec 29, 2013

Mailbox Monday:The Last Post for 2013.

Thanks to Rose City Reader for the final Mailbox Monday in December! Beginning January, check out Mailbox Monday at it's permanent home. The Story Siren also has an In My Mailbox meme.

A few review books came in, some a surprise and some expected. They are all very welcome, of course!

Thanks to author Tracy Weber for her new yoga cozy mystery, Murder Strikes a Pose.
And to author James Zerndt forThe Korean Word for Butterfly, to be reviewed for a book tour.
To Workman Publishing for Bold: A Cookbook of Big Flavors by Susanna Hoffman and Victoria Wise

To Harper Collins for ARCs of Clever Girl by Tessa Hadley and The Fishing Fleet by Anne de Courcy.
To William Morrow for an ARC of  The Girl with a Clock for a Heart by Peter Swanson.

What other books shall I read the first few weeks of 2014? Probably the dog walking memoir, Short Leash by Janice Gary, for a book tour mid-January. I have already read the children's book, Brady Needs a Nightlight, for its January 8 tour.

Come back then! What's in your mailbox?

Dec 28, 2013

Sunday Salon: Books Read in 2013: 100+ Books in a Year Reading Challenge

Welcome to the Sunday Salon! Also visit The Sunday Post hosted by The Caffeinated Bookreviewer.

Last year, I signed up with Book Chick City for the 100 Books in a Year challenge to read 100 or more books from January 1, 2013 to the end of the year. I joined the challenge again as I did the past two years. The books I don't finish don't get on the list and not all the books I read were reviewed. Click on the titles to see reviews or information about the books. 

1. A Passionate Love Affair with a Total Stranger by Lucy Robinson, humorous women's fiction
 2. Merciless by Lori Armstrong, mystery *
 3. The Boy in the Suitcase by Lene Kaaberbol and Agnete Friis, mystery *
4. A Whisper to a Scream by Karen Wojcik Berner, contemporary women's fiction *
5. Absolute Liability: Southern Fraud Suspense by J.W. Becton, mystery
6. Rally 'Round the Corpse by Hy Conrad, mystery
7. The Orchid House by Lucinda Riley, historical fiction
8. The Woman From Paris by Santa Montefiore, contemporary fiction
9. Birds in Paradise by Dorothy McFalls, Hawaiian mystery novella
10. Shimura Trouble by Sujata Massey, Hawaiian mystery *

11. The Midwife's Tale by Sam Thomas, historical mystery
12. The Blood Gospel by Rollins and Cantrell, sci-fi/fantasy
13. A Tainted Dawn: The Great War, Book 1 by B.N. Peacock, historical fiction
14. Speaking from Among the Bones by Alan Bradley, mystery *
15. The Lost Soul by Gabriella Pierce, paranormal, fantasy
16. The Aviator's Wife by Melanie Benjamin, historical fiction *
17. Perfect Hatred by Leighton Gage, police procedural, mystery
18. Whip Smart: Lola Montez Conquers the Spaniards, by Kit Brennan, historical mystery
19. The Doctor of Thessaly by Anne Zouroudi, mystery
20. The Comfort of Lies by Randy Susan Meyers, contemporary fiction
21. The Secret of the Nightingale Palace by Dana Sachs, historical romance
22. The Burning Air by Erin Kelly, psychological suspense
23. A Cold and Lonely Place by Sara J. Henry, mystery
24. The Stonecutter by Camilla Lackberg, thriller
25. Seven Locks by Christine Wade, historical fiction

26. The Woman Who Wouldn't Die by Colin Cotterill, mystery
27. Murder Below Montparnasse by Cara Black, mystery
28. Prague Winter by Madeleine Albright, memoir
29. The Prisoner of Heaven by Carlos Ruis Zafon, literary fiction
30. The Missing File by D. A. Mishani, mystery
31. When Maidens Mourn by C. S. Harris, mystery
32. Undercurrents by Pamela Beason, mystery
33. The Boreal Owl Murder by Jan Dunlap, birding mystery
34. Rocamora by Donald Michael Platt, historical fiction
35. Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter, fiction
36. Have Mother, Will Travel by Claire and Mia Fontaine, memoir
37. Telling the Bees by Peggy Hesketh, fiction
38. The Man Who Turned Both Cheeks by Gillian Royes, mystery
39. The Great Escape by Susan Elizabeth Phillips, romance
40. Tiger Babies Strike Back by Kim Wong Keltner, memoir
41. Roses Have Thorns by Sandra Byrd, historical fiction

42. Blue Jeans and Coffee Beans by Joanne DeMaio, women's fiction
43. The Gods of Heavenly Punishment by Jennifer Cody Epstein, historical fiction
44. The Christie Curse by Victoria Abbott, cozy mystery
45. A Half Forgotten Song by Katherine Webb, fiction
46. Mayhem at the Orient Express by Kylie Logan, cozy mystery
47. The Wonder Bread Summer by Jessica Anya Blau
48. Lethal Outlook: A Psychic Eye Mystery by Victoria Laurie
49. Running With the Enemy by Lloyd Lofthouse, Vietnam historical novel, suspense
50. The Original 1982 by Lori Carson, fiction

51. Gaijin Cowgirl by Jame DiBiasio, adventure
52. I Never Promised You a Goodie Bag by Jennifer Gilbert, memoir
53. The Alley of Love and Yellow Jasmines by Shohreh Aghdashloo, memoir
54. Slingshot by Matthew Dunn, thriller
55. Blind Curves by Linda Crill, travel memoir
56. A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki, fiction
57. The Illusion of Separateness by Simon Van Booy, literary fiction
58. The Firebird by Susanna Kearsley, historical fiction
59. The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman, fantasy
60. Snapper by Brian Kimberling, fiction
61. Candy and the Cankersaur by Jason Sandberg, illustrated picture ebook
62. Evil and the Mask by Fuminori Nakamura, thriller
63. This is Paradise by Kristiana Kahakauwila, literary fiction
64. The Translator by Nina Schuyler, fiction
65. The Last Camellia by Sarah Jio, historical mystery

66. The Nine Fold Heaven by Mingmei Yip, historical novel
67. The Meryl Streep Movie Club by Mia March, women's fiction
68. Five Star Billionaire by Tash Aw, fiction
69. Bend Not Break by Ping Fu, memoir
70. Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan, fiction
71. The Third Son by Julie Wu, historical fiction
72. Redemption (A Conspiracy of Faith) by Jussi Adler-Olsen, Scandinavian thriller
73. Mystery Girl by David Gordon, fiction
74. The English Girl by Daniel Silva, thriller

75. The Girl Who Married An Eagle by Tamar Myers, mystery
76. Going Through the Notions by Cate Pric, cozy mystery
77. The Sound and the Furry by Spencer Quinn, mystery
78. Reese's Leap by Darcy Scott, mystery
79. Moonrise by Cassandra King, mystery
80. Murder by Syllabub by Kathleen Delaney, mystery
81. The Shogun's Daughter by Laura Joh Rowland, historical mystery
82. The Case of the Love Commandos by Tarquin Hall, mystery
83. I Am Venus by Barbara Mujica, historical fiction
84. A Secondhand Murder by Leslie A. Diehl, mystery
85. An Incurable Insanity by Simi K. Rao, fiction
86. Cartwheel by Jennifer DuBois, fiction, suspense
87. A Cold and Lonely Place by Sara J. Henry, mystery
88. The Pieces We Keep by Kristina McMorris, fiction, historical
89. Death of a Nightingale by Lene Kaaberbol and Agnete Friis, Scandinavian crime
90. Itsy Bitsy Spider by Willow Rose, thriller/horror
91. The Detachment by Barry Eisler, thriller
92. The Valley of Amazement by Amy Tan, historical fiction
93. Paws for Murder by Annie Knox, cozy mystery

94. Still Life with Bread Crumbs by Anna Quindlen, women's fiction
95. How the Light Gets In by Louise Penny, crime fiction
96. The First Phone Call from Heaven by Mitch Albom, literary fiction
97. The Girl You Left Behind by Jojo Moyes, historical fiction, romance
98. Brady Needs a Nightlight by Brian Barlicks and Gregory Burgess Jones, children's book
99. The Husband's Secret by Liane Moriarty, women's fiction
100. Songs of Willow Frost by Jamie Ford, literary fiction
101. The Yoga Face by Annalise Hagen, yoga, health
102. Me Before You by Jojo Moyes, women's fiction
103. The Burgess Boys by Elizabeth Strout, fiction
104. Larry's Kidney by Daniel Asa Rose, memoir
105. Dancer, Daughter, Traitor, Spy by Elizabeth Kiem, YA novel
106. Wedding Night by Sophie Kinsella, contemporary romance
107. Tahoe Chase by Todd Borg, thriller, suspense
108. How to Be a Good Wife by Emma Chapman, women's fiction, suspense
109. The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan

Books almost all read, but not quite...
1. Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan
2. The Death of Yesterday by M.C. Beaton, mystery

I began to star books I really liked, but then thought I'd have to star just about every one I read in 2013, so...the starring stopped. I don't normally finish books I don't like, unless they are for a book tour, and I don't recall hating any of those. So, you can just assume I loved all these books! (I keep adding to this list as I realize I didn't include all the books I read this year.)

Louise Penny, Amy Tan, Laura Joh Rowland, Jussi Adler-Olsen, Carlos Ruiz Zafon, Spencer Quinn, Ruth Ozeki, are among the many authors whose novels I enjoyed. And there are others I have not listed here - I'd have to include way too many!

Don't ask me to choose....but I do ask you. What were your favorite books in 2013?

I'm sending this list to semicolon's special edition of the Saturday Review of Books, a wrap up of books for 2013 by bloggers. Note that my list is of Books Read, as most, but not all, were reviewed. 

Dec 26, 2013

QUILT TRIP a Novel by Elizabeth Spann Craig

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:
Depending on whether she was having a good day or a bad one, Miss Sissy's surprises could be various levels of extraordinary.
Book beginning:
Beatrice Coleman looked in horror at her neighbor Meadow Downey. "You mean we're not even invited? We're gate crashing?"
Book description:
"Beatrice has never crashed a party but now her fellow quilt guild member, Meadow Downey, is driving them to a Victorian mansion in the mountains beyond Dappled Hills, North Carolina. Muriel Starnes, an elderly eccentric, has organized a meeting of quilters to pick someone to administer a quilting scholarship.

But once the quilters arrive at the mansion, an ice storm leaves them stranded for the night. And by the next morning, they are one fewer—for Muriel has been sent to meet her maker. It’s up to Beatrice and the Village Quilters to figure out who has a guilty conscience."(goodreads)

Title: Quilt Trip by Elizabeth Spann Craig
Published December 3, 2013; Signet
Genre: cozy mystery

I guess it can snow in North Carolina in the winter. See the snow on the book cover?

Dec 24, 2013

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays!

Happy Holidays to everyone. Thanks for visiting and reading Book Dilettante. Hope to see you again in the New Year!
(graphic courtesy of Webweavers Free Clip Art)

Book Review: The Girl You Left Behind by Jojo Moyes

Title: The Girl You Left Behind by Jojo Moyes
Published August 20, 2013
Source: library book
Rating: 4.5/5
It was then I realized he was still looking at the painting....
He kept staring at it. Behind him, his men had begun to leave, their voices loud and harsh, bouncing across the empty square. I shivered a little ever time the door opened.
"It looks so like you."
(ch. 3)
A painting of Sophie, done by her husband who is a prisoner of the Germans during WWI, hangs in her hotel  in a small French town. It is being admired by the German commandant who has requisitioned the hotel dining room and ordered Sophie and her sister to cook for his men. This painting being marveled at by the commandant causes no end of trouble for Sophie in 1916 and continues to create problems later in modern London, ninety years later, when the newest owner of the painting, Liv, fights to keep possession of it.

The arresting quality of the woman in the painting reminds me of Vermeer's 17th century painting, "Girl with a Pearl Earring."  Liv, in the 21th century, is entranced by the woman in her own painting, "The Girl You Left Behind," and must fight to prove that her ownership is valid and that the painting is not a spoil of war that must be returned to the painter's family.

The novel focuses on restitution, especially in the art world, when lost and stolen art are being reclaimed and returned to their original owners, and where current owners of art are required to provide a history of its ownership or its provenance.

Well written and engrossing, the novel is part historical fiction and part romance. I read the book in about two days, caught up in the story, the characters, and the issue of stolen art, provenance, and recent history. I'd recommend this as an excellent book for readers.

Any particular book caught your interest lately?

Dec 22, 2013

Book Review: The First Phone Call From Heaven by Mitch Albom

The Sunday Welcome to the Sunday Salon! Also visit The Sunday Post hosted by The Caffeinated Bookreviewer, and It's Monday: What Are You Reading? at Book Journey. Also, Mailbox Monday hosted by Rose City Reader this month.

The First Phone Call From Heaven was published November 12, 2013 by Harper. I won't call this a book review but a commentary on the novel, which I received from the publisher as an uncopyedited manuscript. The manuscript started out as an article of faith, with numerous people from a small town receiving phone calls from their deceased loved ones. The story then becomes a kind of mystery when one member of the town, who is still grieving a lost wife but who has never received a phone call from heaven, decides to look into a rational explanation for the calls. The story then turns into something more sublime. And I won't let on what the ending is, of course.

The manuscript was a quick and easy read but so gripping that it had me wanting to know the final outcome of this strange phenomenon of phone calls from heaven.  I rated it 5 stars on goodreads.

I am now reading a library book, The Girl You Left Behind by Jojo Moyes, a novel of occupied France in the 1910s, when a German commandant tempts a young wife into indescretions to save the life of her imprisoned husband, an artist. This novel is also gripping, and I am anxious to see the outcome.

Books I received for review include Books 1 and 2 in the Beautiful series by Jamie McGuire -
Beautiful Disaster and Walking Disaster, YA novels, and
The Deepest Secret by Carla Buckley, a family drama,
Savage Girl by Jean Zimmerman, an historical romance and mystery
The Caravaggio Conspiracy by Alex Connor, thriller, art mystery

What are you reading these days, and what arrived last week in your mailbox?

Dec 20, 2013

Book Beginnings: 1001 Ideas That Changed the Way We Think, edited by Robert Arp

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.

1001 Ideas That Changed the Way We Think edited by Robert Arp
Published October 29, 2013; Atria Books
Genre: reference, nonfiction

page 56:
Megalithic Monuments:Unknown (origin)
Huge Neolithic and Bronze Age structures of undressed stone. The exact chronology of the spread of enormous stone monuments is unknown, but it is generally agreed that the earliest such structures, dating from around 4500BCE, were the dolmens of the Mediterranean coast. 
Book beginning:
Introduction by Robert Arp
I am a philosopher by training, so, as philosophers seem naturally to be attracted to ideas of any kind, it makes sense that I would be the editor of a book liked this one. The word "philosophy" is derived from the Greek words ,philo, meaning "love" or "desire," and sophy, meaning "wisdom" or "knowledge." Philosophy is therefore the "love of wisdom," and an important way to attain knowledge is by exposing yourself to plenty of ideas. 
Publisher description:
How was the universe created and what is the place of humans within it? How should a person live? And how can we build a just society? 1001 Ideas That Changed The Way We Think is a comprehensive guide to thoughts from the finest minds of the past three thousand years, brought together in this latest book in the "1001" series. Ranging from the ancient wisdom of Confucius and Plato to today’s cutting-edge thinkers, it offers a wealth of stimulation and amusement for everyone with a curious mind.

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

Dec 18, 2013

Home of the Braised by July Hyzy

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.

 Home of the Braised: A White House Chef Mystery by Julie Hyzy is the seventh in the series of cozy mysteries by the author. It's due out on January 7, 2014.

Here is the publisher's description:
"With the pressure of an upcoming state dinner that could make or break the president’s foreign policy, White House executive chef Olivia Paras has little time to focus on her wedding plans—or to catch a murderer…

Tensions are running high as the White House staff adjusts to a new chief usher and prepares for a high-stakes state dinner. But things go disastrously wrong when the secretary of defense is found dead in his home, seemingly killed during a break-in.

 At the same time Olivia’s fiancé, Gav, is looking into the mysterious murder of an old friend. Is there a connection? Despite an increase in security following the secretary’s death, Ollie learns the president is in imminent danger at the dinner and must do everything to get to him—before it’s too late…" (Amazon)

 What new release are you waiting for? 

Dec 17, 2013

TUSCAN ROSE by Belinda Alexandra

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: Tuscan Rose: A Novel by Belinda Alexandra
Published November 19, 2013; Gallery Books
Genre: historical fiction
Source: publisher review copy

First chapter/Prologue:
Florence 1914
The man pauses in a doorway, swaying on his feet, before lunging again along the crooked street in the direction of the river. The distance he has covered across the city leaves him panting. But the fate of the infant he has hidden among the folds of his coat depends on him, and he is terrified that if he does not deliver her to safety, and return before his absence raises suspicion, they will both be lost. 
Signor Lagorio shook his head."This is the end of all Europe. Germany has marched into Poland."
Rosa was in too much pain to take in anything more. (ch. 17)
Publisher book description:

"FLORENCE, 1914. A mysterious stranger known as The Wolf leaves an infant with the sisters of Santo Spirito. A tiny silver key hidden in her wrappings is the one clue to the child’s identity.
FIFTEEN YEARS LATER, young Rosa must leave the nuns, her only family, and become governess to the daughter of an aristocrat and his strange, frightening wife. Their house is elegant but cursed, and Rosa—blessed with gifts beyond her considerable musical talents—is torn between her desire to know the truth and her fear of its repercussions. All the while, the hand of Fascism curls around beautiful Italy, and no citizen is safe. Rosa faces unimaginable hardship: her only weapons her intelligence, intuition, and determination . . . and her extraordinary capacity for love."

Based on the opening paragraph and the teaser, would you read on?

Dec 15, 2013

Sunday Salon: Book Tours

The Sunday Welcome to the Sunday Salon! Also visit The Sunday Post hosted by The Caffeinated Bookreviewer, and It's Monday: What Are You Reading? at Book Journey. Also, Mailbox Monday hosted by Rose City Reader this month, and Stacking the Shelves at Tynga's Reviews.

What I definitely have on my reading list for next year are the books I agreed to review for tours in January, almost all through TLC.

Brady Needs a Nightlight - Jan. 8

Short Leash: A Memoir of Dog Walking - Jan. 13

My Mother's Funeral: A Memoir - Jan. 20

A Different Sun: A Novel of Africa - Jan. 22
Last Train to Paris - Jan. 28

The schedule is a little tight toward the end of January, but I hope to read ahead to avoid a crunch. Curious about the books? Click on the covers for the book details.

Do you have any book tours coming up? 

Dec 13, 2013

The Yoga Face; and The Big New Yorker Book of Dogs

I didn't intend to buy this book when I went to the health section of the bookstore recently. I had another book in mind, which they didn't have. So I walked away with this one instead, looked it over while sipping hot chocolate, and landed up buying it as an early Xmas gift to myself.

The Yoga Face describes itself as "a new and completely natural alternative anti-aging regimen that women can do anytime and anywhere-and in just minutes." Who could resist that? I am taking notes so that I can get this facial exercise regimen down pat and do it in "just minutes."

Mylie Cyrus AMA 2013 Performance courtesy of Bing Images
Besides pouting, throwing kisses to the ceiling, grimacing, sticking your tongue out a la Mylie Cyrus, and pressing on creases that may have formed on your face to smooth them out, there are exercises to firm the muscles around the lips, etc.The book also describes the poses that will bring oxygen to the face - the standard yoga postures you would do in a regular class while seated, standing, or lying down.

So now I grimace, stick my tongue out, and hum out loud - when I'm alone, of course.

Another book I couldn't resist was one I bought as a gift for a relative who is dog lover and owner of two rescue dogs -both pit bulls.

The Big New Yorker Book of Dogs  is "illustrated in full color, features articles, fiction, humor, poems, cartoons, cover art, drafts, and drawings from the magazine’s archives." There are articles on dogs by the likes of E.B. White, Arthur Miller, John Updike, and a foreword by Malcolm Gladwell. I would love to keep this book for myself! By the way, it's a hardcover that is 416 pages and almost the size of a coffee-table book.

What have you bought as gifts for yourself or for someone else?

Dec 12, 2013

Book Review: Death of a Nightingale by Lene Kaaberbol and Agnete Friis

Title: Death of a Nightingale: A Nina Borg Novel by Lene Kaaberbol and Agnee Friis
Published November 5, 2013; Soho Crime
Genre: Scandinavian crime fiction
Objective rating: 4.5/5
"But not everyone looked at Oxana and Olga with such adoration. Some eyes were lowered when they turned around in the schoolroom. Whispering would suddenly cease when they walked by and later start up again behind their backs." (Ukraine, 1934), p. 143
Two young girls, Oxana and Olga, live under Stalin's socialist rule in the Ukraine in the 1930s. One joins the party and becomes unpopular when the authorities begin to question and arrest people about breaking rules and hoarding food during a time of famine. Oxana is suspected of being the nightingale - the one that "sings".
The most obvious reason, of course, was that she took off and left the country with her daughter a few hours after she had been questioned. But there were other suspicious circumstances as well. Even though her husband had disappeared four days before he was found, the hadn't reported him missing." (present day, p. 70)
In present day Denmark, Natasha is wanted by the  police for the death of her husband. She is desperate to retrieve her young daughter from the Danish authorities and to escape with her from the country. Dansh Red Cross nurse Nina Borg is concerned about the safety of mother and child.

What do these two stories have to do with each other - sisters in 1930s Ukraine and a Ukranian mother and daughter in modern day Denmark?  There are surprises and twists in the novel as the two plots slowly mesh together into a tale of old betrayal and modern day revenge. I loved this crime fiction, as much as I liked the authors' first book, Boy in the Suitcase. A terrific story of how the past can continue on and spread its tentacles into the future.

Publisher's description:
"Nina. Natasha. Olga. Three women united by one terrifying secret. But only one of them has killed to keep it. Natasha Doroshenko, a Ukrainian woman who has been convicted of the attempted murder of her Danish fiancé, escapes police custody. That night, the body of Michael, the ex-fiancé, is found in a car, and the manhunt for Natasha escalates.

Danish Red Cross nurse Nina Borg has been following Natasha's case for several years now, since Natasha first took refuge at a crisis center where Nina works. Nina just can't see the young Ukrainian mother as a vicious killer. But in her effort to discover the truth, Nina realizes there is much she didn't know about this woman and her past. The mystery has long and bloody roots, going back to a terrible famine that devastated Stalinist Ukraine in 1934, when a ten-year-old girl with the voice of a nightingale sang her family into shallow graves."

Have you read any in the Nina Borg series?

Thanks to Soho for a review copy of this book.

Also submitted to Saturday Review of Books on semicolon's blog. 

Dec 10, 2013

A Beautiful Wedding by Jamie McGuire

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: A Beautiful Wedding: A Beautiful Disaster Novella by Jamie McGuire
Published December 10, 2013; Atria Books
Genre: romance novella

First paragraph:
Abby: I could feel it coming: a growing, persistent unease that crept just below my skin. The more I tried to ignore it, the more unbearable it became: an itch that needed to be scratched, a scream bubbling to the surface. My father said the urgent need to run when things were about to go wrong was like a tic, a defense mechanism inherent in the Abernathys. I'd felt it moments before the fire, and I was feeling it now. 
Teaser (ch.9):
My phone buzzed in my purse. I checked it quickly.
Cops just left. Dad's @ Tim's but I told them you guys were in Vegas getting married. I think they f---ing bought it.
Publisher description:
Everything about Abby and Travis’s elopement was top-secret . . . until now. Fans of Beautiful Disaster and Walking Disaster will get all of their questions answered in this whirlwind tale of the wedding day (and night!).

Would you keep reading?

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

Dec 8, 2013

Sunday Salon: Winter Reading

The Sunday Welcome to the Sunday Salon! Also visit The Sunday Post hosted by The Caffeinated Bookreviewer, and It's Monday: What Are You Reading? at Book Journey. Also, Mailbox Monday hosted by Rose City Reader this month.

I downloaded books for the first time on Edelweiss, thanks to an offer by William Morrow for the following e-galleys for review:
Tiger Shrimp Tango by Tim Dorsey. a mystery/thriller set in Florida.

A Garden of Marvels: How We Discovered That Flowers Have Sex, Leaves Eat Air, and Other Secrets of Plants by Ruth Kassinger, a history of the first botanists and info on the plants of today.
The Serpent of Venice by Christopher Moore, a "satiric Venetian gothic"
That Old Black Magic by Mary Jane Clark, Wedding Cake Mystery #4

I'd much rather have paper books in my hot little hands and will take print any day over e-books, but I am going to do my darn est to read these before they disappear from my computer. I only have them for 45, 52, 80, or 136 days, depending on the release date of the books.

I also found myself reading several books at a time, vowing to finish them all:

The Kitchen God's Wife by Amy Tan, Chinese-American fiction, a book from my shelves

This Is the Story of a Happy Marriage by Ann Patchett, memoir and essay writing
Tatiana by Martin Cruz Smith, spy thriller
Paws for Murder by Annie Knox, cozy mystery that I'm quite enjoying
I worry that I have Book-ADD (a term I made up) and am too easily distracted by a new book while I'm already reading one.

Review books and AREs (advance reader's editions) that came recently?

The Altarpiece (The Cross and the Crown Series, Book One) by Sarah Kennedy- an imagined h8istory of what might have happened to all the nuns after Henry VIII took over the church in England in the 16th Century.
The Last Train to Paris by Michele Zackheim, a romance, murder mystery, and suspense - historical novel set in Paris just before WWII

Children of the Revolution (Inspector Banks Novel #21) by Peter Robinson, police procedural and crime thriller

This Dark Road to Mercy by Wiley Cash, fiction

What I bought for myself, on Kindle:

The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Berg, historical novel involving a family of botanists.

What's on your winter reading list? Keep warm!

Dec 7, 2013

Until My Soul Gets It Right by Karen Wojcik Berner

Title: Until My Soul Gets It Right: The Bibliophiles, Book Two
Author: Karen Wojcik Berner
Published May 23, 2012; Kindle and paperback
Genre: women's fiction
"Hey, Catherine," Scott said loudly enough for everyone to hear as he followed her into the living room. "I hope we can put aside any past animosity and be friends." He lowered his voice. "And you are going to play along, aren't you? ..."
My comments: 
Catherine Elbert is dissatisfied with her small Wisconsin farming town, her family, and her circumscribed life there, and leaves after high school for Portland, Maine, to spread her wings and find independence.
Her mistakes and deceptions along the way, from Maine to San Diego and back to the Midwest, and her attitudes make her a main character one may not like. But is she heading in a direction of self-realization?

Publisher description:
 From the author of  A Whisper to a Scream comes a story about growing up, making peace with your past, and finding love along the way. Catherine has never been good at making decisions, whether it was choosing an ice cream flavor as a small child, or figuring out what she wanted to be when she grew up. The only thing Catherine knew for sure was there had to be more to life than being stuck on her family’s farm in Wisconsin. While watching a PBS travel show, Catherine becomes entranced by Portland, Maine. The ocean. The lobsters. The rugged coast. Nothing could be more different from the flat, nondescript farmlands of Burkesville.

Despite her parents threatening to disown her and her brothers taking bets on how many days until she comes home, Catherine settles on Peaks Island, off the coast of Portland. She was finally free. Or so she thought...

About the series: 
suburban classics book club, members also reveal their personal stories. Includes Reader's Guide with book club discussion questions. Until My Soul Gets It Right is a 2013 Readers’ Choice Award Nominee by BigAl’s Books & Pals

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

Dec 5, 2013

The Thrill of the Haunt by E.J. Copperman

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: The Thrill of the Haunt: A Haunted Guesthouse Mystery by E.J. Copperman
Published November 5, 2013; Berkley
Genre: cozy mystery

Page 56:
She pulled out a pair of dark sunglasses. "These will be good to hide my face," she said.
Book beginning:
"Are you the ghost lady?"
I've heard the question many times, but I'm not crazy about it, frankly. Living in a large Victorian with my eleven-year-old daughter and two dead people who never took the hint - while trying to make a go of the place as a guesthouse - is difficult enough. 
"Alison Kerby’s guesthouse is already crowded with spirits. As Alison’s reputation as “the ghost lady” grows, so does her business—and not always in a way she’d like. Tourists may be flocking to her guesthouse for a chance to glimpse her resident spirits, but her special abilities are also bringing unwanted private investigation cases to her door.

And she has no choice but to take a case when the local homeless man is found murdered under mysterious circumstances, just hours after asking for help in exorcising a specter. If that weren’t enough to deal with, Alison’s other PI case soon turns fatal, as the mistress she was spying on for a jealous wife turns up dead as well. The cases seem as if they couldn’t possibly be linked, but with clues, motives and suspects—both living and dead—Alison will have to think fast before someone else checks out for good." (publisher description)

Are you in the mood for a ghostly mystery?

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

Dec 4, 2013

Waiting on Wednesday: Paws for Murder by Annie Knox

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: Paws for Murder: A Pet Boutique Mystery by Annie Knox
To be published January 7, 2014; Signet
Genre: new series, cozy mystery
"Animals aren't meant to wear clothes," Sherry continued. "It's not natural."
I didn't bother pointing out that guinea pigs didn't "naturally" travel in canvas slings. Or live in Minnesota, for that matter.
(ch. 1)
Publisher description:

"Izzy McHale wants her new Trendy Tails Pet Boutique in Merryville, Minnesota, to be the height of canine couture and feline fashions. But at the store’s opening, it turns out it’s a human who’s dressed to kill….

Izzy’s own beloved pets are dressed to the nines for the grand opening. Feisty feline Jinx is large and in charge, and happy mutt Packer is lapping up the attention. Izzy and her best friend Rena have their hands full meeting Merryville’s menagerie and serving tasty pupcakes and kitty canapes from their "barkery.” The last thing they need is the town’s local activist, Sherry Harper, scaring off customers and picketing the event.

The two manage to stop Sherry’s protest, but the trouble is just beginning. Sherry is found murdered in back of the shop, and Rena is named the lead suspect. Now Izzy and her furry friends have a new pet project—collaring a killer."

What new release are you eagerly waiting for?

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

Dec 3, 2013

Chasing Utopia by Nikki Giovanni

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: Chasing Utopia: A Hybrid by Nikki Giovanni
Published October 29, 2013; William Morrow
Genre: a combination of prose and poetry

First paragraph:
So here is the actual story. I was bored. Well, not bored because I had the privilege of interviewing Mae Jemison, the first Black woman in space, who said she pursued a degree in physics and also became a medical doctor to keep her mind occupied. Mae's IQ must be nine hundred and fifty-five or thereabouts. I asked, "How do you keep from being bored?" And she replied, "A friend of my father's once told me "'If you're bored you're not paying attention.'" 
Poetry teaser:
Poets shouldn't commit
That would leave the world
To those without imagination
Or hearts
(from the poem, "Poets")
Publisher description:
"Nikki Giovanni's poetry has spurred movements and inspired songs, turned hearts and informed generations. She's been hailed as a healer and as a national treasure. But Giovanni's heart resides in the everyday, where family and lovers gather, friends commune, and those no longer with us are remembered. And at every gathering there is food--food as sustenance, food as aphrodisiac, food as memory. A pot of beans is flavored with her mother's sighs--this sigh part cardamom, that one the essence of clove; a lover requests a banquet as an affirmation of ongoing passion; homage is paid to the most time-honored appetizer: soup.

With Chasing Utopia, Giovanni demands that the prosaic--flowers, birdsong, win-ter--be seen as poetic, and reaffirms once again why she is as energetic, "remarkable" (Gwendolyn Brooks), "wonderful" (Marian Wright Edelman),"outspoken, prolific, energetic" (New York Times), and relevant as ever."

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

Dec 2, 2013

Book Feature: The Purchase by Linda Spalding

Title: The Purchase: A Novel by Linda Spalding
Published August 6, 2013: Pantheon
Genre: historical novel

About the novel: 
Winner of Canada's 2012 Governor General's Award for Fiction

In this historical novel, a Quaker family moves from Pennsylvania to the Virginia frontier, where slaves are the only available workers and where the family’s values and beliefs are sorely tested.

In 1798, Daniel Dickinson, recently widowed and shunned by his fellow Quakers when he marries his young servant girl to help with his five small children, moves his family down the Wilderness Road to the Virginia/Kentucky border. Although determined to hold on to his Quaker ways, and despite his belief that slavery is a sin, Daniel becomes the owner of a young boy named Onesimus, setting in motion a chain of events that will lead to tragedy and murder, forever changing his children’s lives and driving the book to an unexpected conclusion.

A novel of sacrifice and redemption set in a tiny community on the edge of the frontier, this narrative unfolds around Daniel’s struggle to maintain his faith; his young wife, Ruth, who must find her own way; and Mary, the eldest child, who is bound to a runaway slave by a terrible secret. The Purchase is as hard-edged as the realities of pioneer life.

Excerpt from the novel: 
Daniel looked over at the daughter who sat where a wife should sit. Cold sun with a hint of snow. The new wife rode behind him like a stranger while the younger children huddled together, coughing and clenching their teeth. The wind shook them and the wagon wounded the road with its weight and the river gullied along to one side in its heartless way. It moved east and north while Daniel and all he had in the world went steadily the other way, praying for fair game and tree limbs to stack up for shelter. “We should make camp while it’s light,” said the daughter, who was thirteen years old and holding the reins. But Daniel wasn’t listening. He heard a wheel grating and the river gullying. He heard his father – the memory of that lost, admonishing voice – but he did not hear his daughter, who admonished in much the same way. 
Some time later the child pulled the two horses to a halt, saying again that they must make camp while the sky held its light. The new wife arranged dishes on the seat of the wagon, and the child, whose name was Mary, pulled salted meat out of a trunk at the back. It was their fifth day on the road and such habits were developing. By morning there would be snow on the ground, the fire would die, and the children would have to move on without warm food or drink. They would take up their places in the burdened wagon while Daniel’s fine Pennsylvania mares shied and balked and turned in their tracks. A man travelling on horseback might cover a hundred miles in three days, but with a wagon full of crying or coughing children, the mountainous roads of Virginia were a sorrow made of mud and felled trees and devilish still-growing pines. 
The children, being young and centered on their own thoughts, were only dimly aware of the hazards of the road and of the great forest hovering. They hardly noticed the mountains, which were first gentle and then fierce, because all of it came upon them as gradually as shapes in an unhappy dream. The mountains only interrupted a place between land and sky. The forest got thicker and darker on every side. They had, within a few weeks, watched their mother die, given up home and belongings, landscape and habits, school and friends. They had watched people become cold to them, shut and lock doors to deny them entrance. How were they to understand? There were other wagons leaving Pennsylvania and going south and west, but none were so laden with woe as the one that carried the five children and the widower and his new bride. 
Excerpted from The Purchase by Linda Spalding. Copyright © 2013 by Linda Spalding. Excerpted by permission of Pantheon, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

About the author:
Linda Spalding was born in Kansas and lived in Mexico and Hawaii before immigrating to Canada in 1982. She is the author of three critically acclaimed novels, Daughters of Captain Cook, The Paper Wife, and (with her daughter Esta) Mere. The Purchase received Canada’s Governor General’s Literary Award and its Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize. Spalding lives in Toronto, where she is the editor of Brick magazine.

Visit Linda's website at

Thanks to Wiley Saichek,  Marketing & Publicity Consultant, for the excerpt and author and book information. 

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