Apr 30, 2014

Book Review: The Other Typist by Suzanne Rindell

The Other Typist
The door banged shut. We all turned to find Odalie standing in front of the threshold peering at us with her wide blue eyes and a faint smile on her lips. Her sudden apparition and elegant countenance were utterly incongruous with her surroundings. We were struck. (ch. 3)
About the book: Rose Baker's life is one of a struggling typist living in a boarding house in NYC during the 1920s, doing her work as a typist at the NYPD with resolute efficiency. That is, until a new typist Odalie enters the scene. Odalie persuades Rose to move into her luxurious hotel rooms with her as a roommate and slowly effects a change in Rose's habits and appearance. Rose is smitten with the new typist, the new experiences, their visits to speakeasy joints, drinking during a time of prohibition, wearing fancy dresses, and dining in elegant restaurants.

Things begin to change, however, when Rose changes the wording in a "confession" by a suspected murderer. And then someone from Odalie's past shows up to question Odalie about a suspicious death years previously. Events quickly begin to tumble out of order and reason, and the reader is left in a maze, wondering about the two women, "What...?"

My comments: Rose is an unreliable narrator who sees herself as enlightened and reasonable, but we the readers can see how flawed she is in her rigidity and her prejudices. Her head over heels infatuation with the new typist, Odalie and Odalie's lifestyle and manners, is just another contradiction in her personality. 

I believe the author could have ended the novel and its suspenseful plot in about three different ways. She chose to use all three ways in the novel, however, a technique which may leave the reader gasping. I was nonplussed at first until I realized what the author was doing.

The book kept my attention till the very end, to the culmination of the suspenseful events, so I give this read a 4/5 rating! Though I might have wanted a more definitive end to the story!

Thanks to Penguin for a review copy of this book for their book tour.

THE OTHER TYPIST has also been optioned for film produced by and starring Keira Knightley, seen here in The Guardian this past summer.

Apr 29, 2014

Murder on Bamboo Lane by Naomi Hirahara

Teaser Tuesday is hosted by Miz B; choose two teaser sentences from a random page of your current read. Give the title and author for readers.

Murder on Bamboo Lane
Title: Murder on Bamboo Lane: An Office Ellie Rush Mystery by Naomi Hirahara
Published April 1, 2013 Berkley
Genre: mystery
Most locals consider Olvera Street just a tourist trap where you can be swallowed up in a pit of tchotchkes that look Mexican but are probably made in China. Dig a little deeper, I tell my friends. It's more than taquitos. There's an adobe house there that may not look like much, but it's the oldest standing house in Los Angeles. And then there is the Siqueiros mural, painted in the 1930s and restored recently for ten million dollars. (ch. 7)
My comments: This new mystery series by Hirahara may sound as if it's about the Mexican population in Los Angeles, but in reality it has a new bike cop, Ellie Rush, ranging around in areas populated by Asian groups - Korean, Japanese, Chinese, and Vietnamese. Apart from the mystery plot, the novel takes you through Los Angeles ethnic neighborhoods and enclaves. I liked that about the book, in addition to the unique murder story.

Publisher description:
Trouble awaits rookie LAPD Officer Ellie Rush as she patrols the mean streets of Los Angeles on her bicycle… Bike cop Ellie Rush dreams of becoming a homicide detective, but it’s still a shock when the first dead body she encounters on the job is that of a former college classmate.

At the behest of her Aunt Cheryl, the highest-ranking Asian-American officer in the LAPD (a source of pride for Ellie’s grandmother, but annoyance to her mom), Ellie becomes tangled in the investigation of the coed’s murder—with equal parts help and hindrance from her nosy best friend, her over-involved ex-boyfriend, a smoldering detective, and seemingly everyone else in her extended family…only to uncover secrets that a killer may go to any lengths to ensure stay hidden.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher for review/feature.. 

Apr 28, 2014

Book Tour: The Collector of Dying Breaths by M.J. Rose

"It is with irony now, forty years later, to think that if I had not been called a murderer on the most frightening night of my life, there might not be any perfume in Paris today. And that scent—to which I gave my all and which gave me all the power and riches I could have hoped for—is at the heart of why now it is I who call myself a murderer."
From The Collector of Dying Breaths

“When nothing else subsists from the past, after the people are dead, after the things are broken and scattered...the smell and taste of things remain poised a long time, like souls...bearing resiliently, on tiny and almost impalpable drops of their essence, the immense edifice of memory.”  ―Marcel Proust 

Title: The Collector of Dying Breaths by M.J. Rose
Published April 8, 2014; Atria

My comments: Definitely a book for those who enjoy fantasy in novels of reincarnation, romance, and history. I can see its appeal for lovers of magic and romance. It's a novel those who do not normally read fantasy might have to be in a particular mood for, however. But it is rich in historical detail and setting and highly recommended in its genre.

Publisher description:
A lush and imaginative novel that crisscrosses time as a perfumer and a mythologist search for the fine line between potion and poison, poison and passion…and past and present.

 Florence, Italy—1533: An orphan named René le Florentin is plucked from poverty to become Catherine de Medici’s perfumer. Traveling with the young duchessina from Italy to France, René brings with him a cache of secret documents from the monastery where he was trained: recipes for exotic fragrances and potent medicines—and a formula for an alchemic process said to have the potential to reanimate the dead. In France, René becomes not only the greatest perfumer in the country but the most dangerous, creating deadly poisons for his Queen to use against her rivals. But while mixing herbs and essences under the light of flickering candles, Rene doesn’t begin to imagine the tragic and personal consequences for which his lethal potions will be responsible.

 Paris, France—The Present: A renowned mythologist, Jac L’Etoile, is trying to recover from personal heartache by throwing herself into her work, learns of the 16th century perfumer who may have been working on an elixir that would unlock the secret to immortality. She becomes obsessed with René le Florentin’s work—particularly when she discovers the dying breaths he had collected during his lifetime. Jac’s efforts put her in the path of her estranged lover, Griffin North, a linguist who has already begun translating René le Florentin’s mysterious formula. Together they confront an eccentric heiress in possession of a world-class art collection. A woman who has her own dark purpose for the elixir… a purpose for which she believes the ends will justify her deadly means. This mesmerizing gothic tale of passion and obsession crisscrosses time, zigzagging from the violent days of Catherine de Medici’s court to twenty-first century France. Fiery and lush, set against deep, wild forests and dimly lit chateaus, The Collector of Dying Breaths illuminates the true path to immortality: the legacies we leave behind

Thanks to Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours for a review copy of this book. Click on the link for more tour stops and reviews.

M.J. Rose is the international best selling author of fourteen novels and two non-fiction books on marketing. Her fiction and non-fiction has appeared in many magazines and reviews including Oprah Magazine. She has been featured in the New York Times, Newsweek, Time, USA Today and on the Today Show, and NPR radio. Rose graduated from Syracuse University, spent the ’80s in advertising, has a commercial in the Museum of Modern Art in NYC and since 2005 has run the first marketing company for authors – Authorbuzz.com. The television series PAST LIFE, was based on Rose’s novels in the Renincarnationist series. She is one of the founding board members of International Thriller Writers and runs the blog- Buzz, Balls & Hype. She is also the co-founder of Peroozal.com and BookTrib.com.
Rose lives in CT with her husband, the musician and composer, Doug Scofield, and their very spoiled and often photographed dog, Winka.
For more information on M.J. Rose and her novels, please visit her website. You can also find her on FacebookTwitter and Goodreads.

Apr 27, 2014

Sunday Salon: Mixed Genres, Again

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

Isn't it exciting about the canonization of two Popes today? Brings back memories -  I remember John XXIII being considered as a candidate to become the new Pope; I was just a young kid in school then. Later, we saw John Paul II celebrate Mass in the stadium in Bangkok on May 10, 1984! Who knew these two would later become saints in the Church!
At home, we planted a vegetable garden, a medium sized raised bed, and seeded another round bed with flowers. Can't wait to see what will come up after all our digging in the soil and watering!

A few new books this week:

Where Earth Meets Water

"In this poignant and breathtaking debut, one man searches for meaning in the wake of incomparable tragedy…

Karom Seth should have been in the Twin Towers on the morning of 9/11, and on the Indian shores in 2004, when the tsunami swept his entire family into the ocean. Whether it's a curse or a blessing, Karom can't be sure, but his absence from these disasters has left him with crushing guilt—and a belief that fate has singled him out for invincibility. " (goodreads)

Queen's Gambit

Divorced, Beheaded, Died, Divorced, Beheaded, Survived...

This is the story of the last wife of Henry VIII, the one who survived.

Widowed for the second time at age thirty-one Katherine Parr falls deeply for the dashing courtier Thomas Seymour and hopes at last to marry for love. However, she attracts the attentions of the ailing, egotistical, and dangerously powerful monarch Henry VIII, who dispatches Seymour to the continent. No one is in a position to refuse a royal proposal so, haunted by the fates of King Henry's previous wives, Katherine is obliged to become his sixth queen. (goodreads)

Herbie's Game

It’s everyday business when Wattles, the San Fernando Valley’s top “executive crook,” sets up a hit. He establishes a chain of criminals to pass along the instructions and the money, thereby ensuring that the hitter doesn’t know who hired him. Then one day Wattles finds his office safe open and a single item missing: the piece of paper on which he has written the names of the crooks in the chain. When people associated with the chain begin to pop up dead, the only person Wattles can turn to to solve his problem is Junior Bender, professional burglar and begrudging private eye for crooks. (goodreads)

What new books are you reading this week?

Apr 24, 2014

Whip Smart: Lola Montez and the Poisoned Nom de Plume

Visit Book Beginnings by Rose City Reader for this weekly Friday meme.

Title: Whip Smart: Lola Montez and the Poisoned Nom de Plume by Kit Brennan
Published October 1, 2013; Astor + Blue Editions
Genre: historical fiction

The main character in the series is based on the real life Victorian character, Lola Montez.

Book beginning:
The Return - 1844
Teeth chattering, arms clasping my body for warmth, I gazed out the window at snow and more snow. I seemed to have spent my whole life sitting motionless in freezing cold post-coaches, rumbling along! At least we were now headed south. Fool that I am.
What a ludicrous idea it had been, trying to get to St. Petersburg in the depths of winter. I'd convinced myself that Imperial Russia would become my spirited style and flamboyant nature, that perhaps I could talk my way into a dancing engagement at the largest, most prestigious theatre in the city - a venue that would attract royalty, exalted military types, and the creme de la creme of Russia's dancer and artists...
Goodreads book description:
Kit Brennan’s second in the Whip Smart series opens with the ever-headstrong Lola Montez careening around Europe, on the run from the haunting memories of Spain and the wild adventure that nearly cost her life.

It is 1844. Lola encounters celebrated pianist and composer Franz Liszt, who encourages her to set her sights on Paris to establish her dancing career. The night that Lola performs her racy Spider Dance at the Paris Opéra, she meets quite possibly the man of her dreams: Henri Dujarier, co-owner of La Presse newspaper.

Lola seems on the verge of breaking Victorian tradition and actually having it all, but forces are at work to keep Lola and Henri apart. Deadly threats and rumors turn into reality, as shadowy figures stop at nothing to sabotage Lola’s new endeavor (unheard of for a woman): to pen an adventure novel, using a nom de plume, about a feisty female character.

Visit the author's website for more about her books.

Apr 22, 2014

First Chapter: The Whole Cat and Caboodle by Sofie Ryan

First Chapter, First Paragraph is a weekly meme hosted by Diane at Bibliophile by the Sea.
Teaser Tuesday is hosted by Miz B; choose two teaser sentences from a random page of your current read.

Title: The Whole Cat and Caboodle: Second Chance Cat Mystery #1 by Sofie Ryan
Published April 1, 2014; Signet
Genre: cozy mystery

First chapter:
Elvis was sitting in the middle of my desk when I opened the door. The cat, not the King of Rock and Roll, although the cat had an air of entitlement about him sometimes, as though he thought he was royalty. He had one jet-black paw on top of a small cardboard box - my new business cards, I was hoping.
"How did you get in here?" I asked. 
Book description:
Sarah Grayson is the happy proprietor of Second Chance, a charming shop in the oceanfront town of North Harbor, Maine. At the shop, she sells used items that she has lovingly refurbished and repurposed. But her favorite pet project so far has been adopting a stray cat she names Elvis. Elvis has seen nine lives—and then some. The big black cat with a scar across his nose turned up at a local bar when the band was playing the King of Rock and Roll’s music and hopped in Sarah’s truck. Since then, he’s been her constant companion and the furry favorite of everyone who comes into the store.

 But when Sarah’s elderly friend Maddie is found with the body of a dead man in her garden, the kindly old lady becomes the prime suspect in the murder. Even Sarah’s old high school flame, investigator Nick Elliot, seems convinced that Maddie was up to no good. So it’s up to Sarah and Elvis to clear her friend’s name and make sure the real murderer doesn’t get a second chance. (goodreads)

What do you think? Would you keep reading? I would, as long as Elvis was not a talking cat!

Apr 21, 2014

Book Review: Leaving Everything Most Loved by Jacqueline Winspear

Title: Leaving Everything Most Loved (Masie Dobbs #10) by Jacqueline Winspear
Published March 26, 2013; Harper
Genre: police procedural, British mystery

London, 1933. Two months after Usha Pramal’s body is discovered in the waters of a city canal, her brother, newly arrived in England, turns to Maisie Dobbs for help. Not only has Scotland Yard made no arrests, but evidence indicates they failed to conduct a full investigation. Usha had been staying at an ayah’s hostel, a refuge for Indian women. As Maisie learns, Usha was different from the hostel’s other residents. But with this discovery comes new danger, as a fellow lodger who was close to Usha is found murdered.

As Maisie is pulled deeper into an unfamiliar yet captivating subculture, her investigation becomes clouded by the unfinished business of a previous case, and by a growing desire to see more of the world. At the same time, her lover, James Compton, gives her an ultimatum she cannot ignore. Bringing a crucial chapter in the life and times of Maisie Dobbs to a close, Leaving Everything Most Loved signals a vital turning point in this remarkable series. (publisher)

My comments: Winspear tackles discrimination in the London of the 1930s and has her detective Maisie Dobbs investigating the death of an Indian immigrant, a former ayah with a British family. The woman, Usha Pramal, branched off on her own after she was dismissed by the family, living in a hostel for other ayahs.

This historical mystery novel is fairly plot driven and makes you anxious to know about Usha's circumstances and her past, things that may have led to her death and that of another Indian woman in London. A clear departure from the usual Maisie Dobbs novels in the series, and an interesting one! I recommend this latest in the series!

Jacqueline Winspear is the author of the New York Times bestsellers Leaving Everything Most LovedElegy for EddieA Lesson in SecretsThe Mapping of Love and Death, Among the Mad, and An Incomplete Revenge, as well as four other Maisie Dobbs novels. Originally from the United Kingdom, she now lives in California.
Visit her website, www.jacquelinewinspear.com, and find her on Facebook.

Thanks to TLC Book Tours and the publisher for a review copy of this book.
Visit the tour schedule for more reviews of this book.

It's Monday: What Are You Reading? Upcoming New Releases

Welcome to It's Monday: What Are You Reading? at Book Journey. Also visit Mailbox Monday, hosted by Vicki, Leslie, and Serena.

Here is what's on my desk and in my mailbox this week, with the publisher book descriptions:

Set in the "Chop Suey Circuit" of San Francisco right before World War II. In 1938, Ruby, Helen and Grace, three girls from very different backgrounds, find themselves competing at the same audition for showgirl roles at San Francisco's exclusive "Oriental" nightclub, the Forbidden City. Grace, an American-born Chinese girl has fled the Midwest and an abusive father. Helen is from a Chinese family who have deep roots in San Francisco's Chinatown. And, as both her friends know, Ruby is Japanese passing as Chinese. At times their differences are pronounced, but the girls grow to depend on one another in order to fulfill their individual dreams. Then, everything changes in a heartbeat with the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Suddenly the government is sending innocent Japanese to internment camps under suspicion, and Ruby is one of them. But which of her friends betrayed her? (To be published June 3, 2014; Random House)

August is Ghost Month in Taiwan-a time to commemorate the dead: burn incense, visit shrines, commemorate ancestors, and avoid unlucky situations, large purchases, and bodies of water. Jing-nan, a young man who runs a food stand in a bustling Taipei night market, doesn't consider himself superstitious, but this August is going to haunt him no matter what he does. He is shocked to the core when he learns his ex-girlfriend from high school has been murdered. She was found scantily clad and shot in the chest on the side of a highway where she was selling betel nuts to passing truck drivers. Beyond his harrowing grief for this lost love of his life, Jing-nan is also confused by the news: "betel nut beauties" are usually women in the most desperate of circumstances; the job is almost as taboo as prostitution. But Julia Huang had been the valedictorian of their high school, and the last time Jing-nan spoke to her she was enrolled in NYU's honor program, far away in New York. The facts don't add up. Julia's parents don't think so, either, and the police seem to have closed the case without asking any questions. The Huangs beg Jing-nan if he can do some investigating on his own-reconnect with old classmates, see if he can learn anything about Julia's life that she might have kept from them. Reluctantly, he agrees, for Julia's sake; but nothing can prepare him for what he learns, or how it will change his life. (To be published July 29, 2014; Soho Crime)

More Than 1,000 Goddesses and Heroines from around the World. Scholar Patricia Monaghan spent her life researching, writing about, and documenting goddesses and heroines from all religions and all corners of the globe. Her work demonstrated that from the beginning of recorded history, goddesses reigned alongside their male counterparts as figures of inspiration and awe. Drawing on anthropology, folklore, literature, and psychology, Monaghan’s encyclopedia covers female deities from Africa, the eastern Mediterranean, Asia and Oceania, Europe, and the Americas, as well as every major religious tradition. (To be published May 6, 2014; New World Library)
In the year since he was elected, Pope Francis’s simple message of mercy, service, and renewal has spread to every corner of the world. Collected from Pope Francis’s speeches, homilies, and papers presented during the first year of his papacy, The Church of Mercy is the first Vatican-authorized book detailing his vision for the Catholic Church. Named TIME Magazine’s 2013 “Person of the Year,” Pope Francis encourages followers to... revitalize the Church. (To be published April 25, 2014; Loyola Press) 

What's on your desk this week?

Apr 20, 2014

Apr 18, 2014

Book Beginning: Dear Lucy by Julie Sarkissian

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.
Dear Lucy
Title: Dear Lucy: A Novel by Julie Sarkissian
Publication date: April 22, 2014; Simon and Schuster

Book beginning:
Everyone is asleep but me.
I look quick in every room to see that nobody is missing and nobody is. That is good because if someone is missing I have to leave to go find them and then who would get the eggs? Because they have never known a girl who was as gentle with the eggs. 
Page 56:
But the moon is winking and winking and I try to keep my legs heavy but they float up like fog above the river and carry me above the floor and out down the stairs and into the coop.
Book description:
Deserted by her vivacious, social-climbing mother, Lucy has been taken in by an older couple, known only as Mister and Missus, to work on their farm. There, she befriends a pregnant teenager named Samantha who tells conflicting stories about her past, but who finds an unlikely rapport with Lucy.
When Samantha gives birth and the baby disappears, Lucy arms herself with Samantha's diary--and a talking chicken named Jennifer--and embarks on a journey to reunite mother and child. A story of love, family, and loyalty. (goodreads)

What do you think? Is this a book you'd read based on the excerpts and description? Lucy sounds like an unlikely and unusual main character.

Apr 16, 2014

Book Review: When the Cypress Whispers by Yvette Manessis Corporon

Title: When the Cypress Whispers by  
Published April 1, 2014; Harper
Genre: fiction, historical fiction
Objective rating: 4.5/5

About the book: Daphne grew up in the 1990s on the small Greek island of Erikousa and, a widow with a young son, now lives and works as a successful restaurant owner in New York. She returns to Corfu to prepare for her wedding to Stephen Heatherton, who will join her in about a week from New York.

Daphne's reunion with her cousin Popi in Corfu and her grandmother Yia-yia in Erikousa reawakens her memories and her traditional home values. She learns more about her grandmother's life and sacrifices during the war, when Greece was occupied in the 1940s, about secrets her Yia-yia had never shared with her. Daphne soon comes to reevaluate her beliefs and questions her life in ultra modern New York, especially after meeting the mysterious but alluring Yanni.

My comments: What seemed at first to be a straightforward story of a woman who returns to her roots soon becomes one much more involved. The life of the Greeks on the islands during wartime occupation and the story of Yianni, a survivor, and his connection to Daphne's grandmother, add an important and fascinating historical component to the book.

A poetic touch is the grandmother's message to young Daphne, which she states again when Daphne has returned to the island. Listen to the island's cypress trees, whose whispers in the wind will impart truth and wisdom.

I thought this was a wonderful read. I wasn't too keen on the ambiguous ending of the novel, however, though it stressed that many aspects of life, including the romantic, are not at all predictable.

Yvette Manessis Corporon is an Emmy Award-winning writer, producer, and author. She is currently a senior producer with the syndicated entertainment news show Extra. Yvette has received a Silurian Award for Excellence in Journalism, and the New York City Comptroller and City Council’s Award for Greek Heritage and Culture. She is married to award-winning photojournalist David Corporon. They have two children and live in New York.

Find out more about Yvette at her website, follow her on Twitter, and connect with her on Facebook.
Purchase links: Amazon | IndieBound | Barnes & Noble
Click here for the tour schedule.
Thanks to TLC Book Tours and the publisher for a review ARC of this book.

Waiting on Wednesday: The Same Sweet Girls' Guide to Life by Cassandra King

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Breaking the Spine,  that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.
The Same Sweet Girls' Guide to Life
The Same Sweet Girls' Guide to Life: Advice from a Southern Belle by Cassandra King is a short and sweet lecture of advice to young women, to be published May 1, 2014 by Maiden Lane Press; 97 pages

Book description: This lecture was delivered by the author to a graduating class in May 2013 at her alma mater, Montevallo College in Alabama. 

The Same Sweet Girl’s Guide to Life offers inspiration and solid advice to new graduates that can sustain them through life’s ups and downs.  This small book offers  hard-earned wisdom for young and old.

Her first pearl of wisdom: sincerity is an important virtue, and once you learn to fake it, you are well on your way to success! Dare to laugh at yourself.  Find kindred spirits and keep them close to you; expand your circle of friends. Know the true value of time. She also advises that we try to find words to express love and gratitude but to keep in mind that it is our actions that reveal our feelings more than our words.

And as an addition to this lecture, King adds a new afterword on the value of becoming a lifelong reader. (goodreads)

Sounds like a good book for new college graduates! The title of this lecture refers to her novel The Same Sweet Girls, a book about lifelong friends, published in 2012.

What new book are you waiting on?

Apr 14, 2014

Book Review: Black Chalk by Christopher J. Yates

Title: Black Chalk: A Novel by Christopher J. Yates
Publisher: Random House UK; First Edition edition (April 1, 2014)
Something someone said all those years ago has stuck in my mind. Although I can't actually remember who said it....
Of course winning is everything. Why else do you think we call ourselves the human race?
(p. 14)
My comments: 
Oxbridge students will definitely love this book, as will college or university students who are competitive and love mind games. For this is what it is - a novel about Oxford students joining a club called Gaming, and creating a psychological game that tested wits and mental endurance. This was not meant to be a physical challenge, but it turned out to involve the physical further in the game.

I was a little out of my league with this book - I have long left the university as either a student or teacher, and my mind games are limited to word games or backgammon. But those readers still involved in gaming, virtual or otherwise, will find the book's setting and characters intriguing and the plot unusual and compelling. Do try it, if you like games and uncertain outcomes, even though you may not be a player.

About the book: "One game. Six students. Five survivors.
It was only ever meant to be a game.
A game of consequences, of silly forfeits, childish dares. A game to be played by six best friends in their first year at Oxford University. But then the game changed: the stakes grew higher and the dares more personal, more humiliating, finally evolving into a vicious struggle with unpredictable and tragic results.
Now, fourteen years later, the remaining players must meet again for the final round." (publisher)

Christopher J. Yates studied law at Wadham College, Oxford from 1990-93 and initially pursued a career in law before he began working in puzzles, representing the UK at the World Puzzle Championships. Since then he has worked as a freelance journalist, sub-editor and puzzles editor/compiler. In 2007 he moved to New York City with his wife, and currently lives in the East Village.
Please visit his website, christopherjyates.com.

Thanks to TLC Book Tour and the publisher for a review copy of this book. Visit TLC for the tour schedule and other reviews.


To enter, comment here or email me at harvee44@yahoo.com with the heading: BLACK CHALK GIVEAWAY. The contest is open worldwide as the publisher in the UK is willing to send the books anywhere. The contest ends April 19. Winner will be notified by email on April 20 to send a mailing address, and will have two days to respond before another winner is chosen. Good luck!

UPDATE: Congrats to Brian Joseph, the winner of this giveaway!

Apr 13, 2014

Sunday Salon: Reading and Gardening Plans

Welcome to the Sunday Salon! Also visit The Sunday Post hosted by The Caffeinated Book Reviewer; It's Monday: What Are You Reading? at Book Journey. Also visit Mailbox Monday, hosted by Vicki, Leslie, and Serena.

We are considering putting in a raised garden bed for veggies, a bed that will have to be meshed in with wire to keep out the bunnies. I have already bought seeds for peppers, string beans, squash, and basil genovese, to plant as late as early May. The temps will dip below freezing this coming week! A customer at the store advised me to forego wood, which deteriorates over time, and to use concrete blocks to form the beds.

For the April National Poetry Month Blog Tour hosted by Savvy Verse and Wit, I blogged on Gerard Manley Hopkins' poem, "Spring and Fall: To a Young Child," It had been a while since I had read that poem but it came back to me easily.

I have finished three books for book tours/review:
Black Chalk by Christopher J. Yates, for tomorrow
When the Cypress Whispers by Yvette Manessis Corporon, for Wednesday
Murder on Bamboo Lane by Naomi Hirahari, for later this month
and am in the middle of reading
A Tiger's Tale by Laura Morrigan for a May 11 tour

Other books I've started include
The Year She Left Us by Katherine Ma
Death Money by Henry Chang

 A few interesting novel, mixed genres, came in this past week:
Jack of Spies

Dear Lucy

All Day and Night
North of Normal
Eyes on You

Mrs. Hemingway

Click on the title captions for details re the books.

I have my reading cut out for me. How about you?

Apr 10, 2014

National Poetry Month: "Spring and Fall: to a Young Child" by Gerard Manley Hopkins

The 2014 National Poetry Month Blog Tour is hosted by Serena at Savvy Verse and Wit to celebrate poets and poetry in April. Let me share one of my favorite poems.

Spring and Fall
  by Gerard Manley Hopkins
              to a young child

Márgarét, áre you gríeving
Over Goldengrove unleaving?
Leáves, like the things of man, you
With your fresh thoughts care for, can you?
Ah! ás the heart grows older
It will come to such sights colder
By and by, nor spare a sigh
Though worlds of wanwood leafmeal lie;
And yet you will weep and know why.
Now no matter, child, the name:
Sórrow's spríngs áre the same.
Nor mouth had, no nor mind, expressed
What heart heard of, ghost guessed:
It ís the blight man was born for,
It is Margaret you mourn for.

- See more at: http://www.poets.org/viewmedia.php/prmMID/16074#sthash.GsA1Cneo.dpuf

My thoughts: I fell in love with this short poem by Gerard Manley Hopkins when our English teacher introduced it to us in our first year in college. A published poet herself, she read it with such clarity and conviction and feeling that I felt I was able to understand Margaret and feel just as she did!

Margaret the young child has seen the renewal of spring and is just now realizing what autumn means, when the leaves turn golden and fall - the end of spring and summer, a loss that to us symbolize the end of life or of innocence. Hopkins turns this into a moral or insight into human nature and predicts that Margaret, in her youth just now experiencing the sorrow of loss, will experience ever greater loss in the future, so that autumn and the changing of seasons will gradually cease to distress her.

What are your reactions to the poem and what do you take from it?
How do you respond to the rhythm and the rhyme of the lines?
Try reading it out loud for the full effect.

Born at Stratford, Essex, England, on July 28, 1844, Gerard Manley Hopkins is regarded as one the Victorian era's greatest poets. 

He was raised in a prosperous and artistic family. He attended Balliol College, Oxford, in 1863, where he studied Classics. In 1864, Hopkins first read John Henry Newman's Apologia pro via sua, which discussed the author's reasons for converting to Catholicism. Two years later, Newman himself received Hopkins into the Roman Catholic Church. Hopkins soon decided to become a priest himself, and in 1867 he entered a Jesuit novitiate near London. At that time, he vowed to "write no more...unless it were by the wish of my superiors." Hopkins burnt all of the poetry he had written to date and would not write poems again until 1875.

He spent nine years in training at various Jesuit houses throughout England. He was ordained in 1877 and for the next seven years carried his duties teaching and preaching in London, Oxford, Liverpool, Glasgow, and Stonyhurst. In 1875, Hopkins began to write again after a German ship, the Deutschland, was wrecked during a storm at the mouth of the Thames River. Many of the passengers, including five Franciscan nuns, died. Although conventional in theme, Hopkins poem "The Wreck of the Deutschland" introduced what Hopkins called "sprung rhythm." By not limiting the number of "slack" or unaccented syllables, Hopkins allowed for more flexibility in his lines and created new acoustic possibilities. In 1884, he became a professor of Greek at the Royal University College in Dublin. He died five years later from typhoid fever.

 Although his poems were never published during his lifetime, his friend poet Robert Bridges edited a volume of Hopkins' Poems that first appeared in 1918. In addition to developing new rhythmic effects, Hopkins was also very interested in ways of rejuvenating poetic language. He regularly placed familiar words into new and surprising contexts. He also often employed compound and unusual word combinations. As he wrote to in a letter to Bridges, "No doubt, my poetry errs on the side of oddness…" Twentieth century poets such as W.H. Auden, Dylan Thomas, and Charles Wright have enthusiastically turned to his work for its inventiveness and rich aural patterning. - See more at: http://www.poets.org/poet.php/prmPID/284#sthash.JeZaYNwR.dpuf

Apr 9, 2014

Wordless Wednesday: Spring?

For more pictures, visit Wordless Wednesday

Looking forward to the greening of our maple. Spring seems very slow this year, but a few shoots are in the flower beds. This ornamental maple, picture taken in summer, has yet to show any leaf buds. Can't wait for those purple buds that open up into this vibrant green. 

Apr 7, 2014

First Chapter: Death on Eat Street by J.J. Cook

First Chapter, First Paragraph is a weekly meme hosted by Diane at Bibliophile by the Sea.
Teaser Tuesday is hosted by Miz B; choose two teaser sentences from a random page of your current read.
Title: Death on Eat Street: A Biscuit Bowl Food Truck Mystery by J.J. Cook
Published April 1, 2014; Berkley
Genre: cozy mystery

First paragraph:
It had been the worst day of my life.
I parked my Biscuit Bowl food truck beside the diner and closed my eyes as I rested my head on the steering wheel. Outside,the fiberglass biscuit on top of the food truck stopped twirling.
How could so much go wrong in one day?
Book description: Zoe Chase always wanted to own her own restaurant—but first, she’ll have to serve up a heaping helping of meals on wheels, with a side of mystery… (goodreads)

Based on the opening paragraph, would you keep reading this cozy?

See my brief review/comments on goodreads.

Apr 5, 2014

Sunday Salon: A Humid Spring

Welcome to the Sunday Salon! Also visit The Sunday Post hosted by The Caffeinated Bookreviewer; It's Monday: What Are You Reading? at Book Journey. Also visit Mailbox Monday, hosted by Vicki, Leslie, and Serena.

Spring has finally arrived but the barometer readings have changed. I really must move to a warm and DRY climate but one without hurricanes (Florida) or earthquakes (California) or summers that are like putting your head in an oven (Arizona). Now where could that be?

On my to be read list:
Spiritual medium Emma Whitecastle knows a good ghost when she feels one—like her own sweet Granny Apples, long gone but still as famous for her apple pies as she is for helping her great-great-great-granddaughter get to the core of the most baffling mysteries... When Emma gets word of a sticky spirit problem in Las Vegas, she and the ghost of Granny Apples hit the road for Sin City. Dolly, a former showgirl,  is haunted by Lenny, a dead Vegas hood worried about an aging mobster named Nemo coming after the leggy old bombshell.
When Nemo is found dead, Dolly goes missing—and lands herself on a short list of suspects. Emma and Granny Apples aren’t about to fold until they save Dolly’s neck and put her past to rest.  (goodreads)
1559. Elizabeth is about to be crowned queen of England and wants her personal musician Kate Haywood to prepare music for the festivities. New to London, Kate must learn the ways of city life …and once again school herself as a sleuth. Making her way among the courtiers who vie for the new queen’s favor, Kate befriends Lady Mary Everley. Mary is very close to Elizabeth. With their red hair and pale skin, they even resemble each other—which makes Mary’s murder all the more chilling. But when another redhead is murdered, Kate uncovers a deadly web of motives lurking just beneath the polite court banter, and follows the trail of a killer whose grievance can only be answered with royal blood. (goodreads)
The long-awaited next installment in the Detective Jack Yu series.
When the body of an unidentified Asian man is found in the Harlem River, NYPD Detective Jack Yu embarks on a journey into Chinatown's restaurants, strip clubs, and seedy gambling establishments to investigate. (goodreads)

What's on your shelves waiting to be read?

Apr 4, 2014

Chineasy: The New Way to Read Chinese by Shaolan Hsueh

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.

I wish there was a way for me  to show the inside of the book,  the colorful and easy to understand calligraphy and illustrations that make some of the Chinese characters seem really easy to learn. Click on the book cover to amazon, where you can take a look inside the book!

Title: Chineasy: The New Way to Read Chinese by Shaolan HsuehNoma Bar
Published March 10, 2014; March and Hudson
Book beginning, Introduction:
The Calligrapher's Daughter
I was born in Taipei, Taiwan, the daughter of a calligrapher and a ceramic artist, so I grew up immersed in art and with a deep appreciation of the beauty of the Chinese language. Speaking and writing Chinese is an integral part of who I am and how I see the world. But it was only when I had children of my own that I properly understood what a difficult language Chinese is to learn. 
The ultimate goal of Chineasy is to help bridge the cultural gap by demystifying the Chinese language, which acts as a barrier to so many people - my children included!
Page 56: 
moon (yue) with calligraphyThis building block for moon originally derived from a pictogram of the crecent moon. It has now evolved to be a visual counterpart to 'sun'. This character also means 'month'.
Amazon description: ShaoLan Hsueh has unpicked Chinese characters and created a simple system for quickly understanding the basic building blocks of the written language. Working with renowned illustrator Noma Bar, she has developed a unique set of illustrations that are engaging and delightful, and offer a glimpse into the wonder of the Chinese language and culture. The books main section introduces the radicals the key characters on which the language is built and reveals how they can be combined to form a wealth of more complex words and phrases. In fewer than 200 pages, readers of all ages will have made the first steps towards a genuine appreciation of Chinese, loving every new character they learn.
Thanks to the publisher for a feature/review copy of this book.

Apr 3, 2014

Book Review: Widow's Tears by Susan Wittig Albert

Title: Widow's Tears: China Bayles #21 by Susan Wittig Albert
Paperback published April 1, 2014; Berkley Prime Crime
Genre: mystery, paranormal
Objective rating: 4.5/5

There are several things I liked about the new novel in the China Bayles mystery series:

1. The description of various plants and flowers at the beginning of most chapters, and their meaning in flower lore. Blue iris means "I have a message for you" while a violet represents love and faithfulness. Widow's tears are also called dayflowers, are invasive; and represent grief. I have both iris and widow's tears in the back yard. Should I keep the widow's tears?

2. Learning about one of the most destructive hurricanes in U.S. history, if not the most destructive. On September 8, 1900, the Great Galveston Hurricane hit Galveston Island, Texas, killed eight to twelve thousand people, and changed the city and the island with its storm surges and winds.

3. The unique plot of this novel is linked to the hurricane - the story of Rachel Blackwood who lost her family and her beloved house in Galveston in 1900. She rebuilt the house in another location. In the present day, China Bayles and her psychic friend Ruth are left to tussle with a ghost that haunts this house. Ruth's friend Claire inherited the house, wants to turn it into a B and B, but first asks Ruth to deal with the strange noises and a ghostly apparition that wanders in and around it.

I was intrigued by the story although I had to let my guard down a bit for the paranormal aspects of the novel. Paranormal is not my usual genre, though I did enjoy this one. The ghost in the old house is very much present and a part of the plot action in Widow's Tears. The mystery portion of the plot  - bank robberies and a murder - takes a back seat in this novel, but I didn't mind at all. An enjoyable and tantalizing book on many levels.

Thanks to Berkley Prime Crime for a review copy for their book tour of Widow's Tears.   

Apr 2, 2014

The Steady Running of the Hour by Justin Go

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.

The Steady Running of the Hour:A Novel by Justin Go
To be published April 15, 2014; Simon and Schuster
Genre: "part love story and part historical", quest novel

Opening sentences:
The letter came by courier last week.
I knew when I touched the envelope that it was fine stationery. I knew from the paper, the porous surface of pure cotton rag; the watermark that shone through as I held it to the light. 
Goodreads description:
"A young American discovers he may be heir to the unclaimed estate of an English World War I officer, which launches him on a quest across Europe to uncover the elusive truth.

Just after graduating college, Tristan Campbell receives a letter delivered by special courier to his apartment in San Francisco. It contains the phone number of a Mr. J.F. Prichard of Twyning Hooper, Solicitors, in London and news that could change Tristan's life forever.

In 1924, Prichard explains, an English alpinist named Ashley Walsingham died attempting to summit Mt. Everest, leaving his fortune to his former lover, Imogen Soames-Andersson. But the estate was never claimed. Information has recently surfaced suggesting Tristan may be the rightful heir, but unless he can find documented evidence, the fortune will be divided among charitable beneficiaries in less than two months.

In a breathless race from London archives to Somme battlefields to the Eastfjords of Iceland, Tristan pieces together the story of a forbidden affair set against the tumult of the First World War and the pioneer British expeditions to Mt. Everest. Following his instincts through a maze of frenzied research, Tristan soon becomes obsessed with the tragic lovers, and he crosses paths with a mysterious French girl named Mireille who suggests there is more to his quest than he realizes. Tristan must prove that he is related to Imogen to inherit Ashley's fortune but the more he learns about the couple, the stranger his journey becomes."

What new book are you waiting for?

Apr 1, 2014

First Chapter: The Irresistible Blueberry Bakeshop and Cafe by Mary Simses

First Chapter, First Paragraph is a weekly meme hosted by Bibliophile by the Sea.
Teaser Tuesday is hosted by Miz B; choose two teaser sentences from a random page of your current read.

Title: The Ireistible Blueberry Bakeshop and Cafe by Mary Simses
Published July 9, 2013; Little, Brown and Company
Genre: fiction

The cover got to me. I love blueberries and the sight of a jar of homemade blueberry jam made me want to open this book again...

First chapter, first paragraph:
"Don't move, it's not safe!"
I heard someone yell, but it was too late. The wooden planks of the dock saged beneath me and then gave way.Boards splintered, rotted lumber snapped, and I plunged ten feet into the frigid Maine ocean. 
And then a vision of Gran and her blueberry muffins slipped into my head.
"Like...well, open a bakery," I said.
Jim looked surprised.
(ch. 19)
Book description: A high-powered Manhattan attorney finds love, purpose, and the promise of a simpler life in her grandmother's hometown. Ellen Branford is going to fulfill her grandmother's dying wish--to find the hometown boy she once loved, and give him her last letter. Ellen leaves Manhattan and her Kennedy-esque fiance for Beacon, Maine. What should be a one-day trip is quickly complicated when she almost drowns in the chilly bay and is saved by a local carpenter. The rescue turns Ellen into something of a local celebrity, which may or may not help her unravel the past her grandmother labored to keep hidden. As she learns about her grandmother and herself, it becomes clear that a 24-hour visit to Beacon may never be enough. THE IRRESISTIBLE BLUEBERRY BAKESHOP & CAFE is  about the power of a simpler life.

Would you keep reading this book?

Asian and Pacific American Heritage Month: Four Novels

For  Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month   (May),  I'm posting my book reviews by several Asian American novelists. The f...