May 31, 2014

Sunday Salon: Gardening and Reading

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.

My only activity for  Armchair BEA 2014, this year was a giveaway of two cozy mystery paperbacks for U.S. residents which ends tomorrow, June 1. Be sure to enter, in the previous post!

Can't believe I didn't get any new books last week, but then I'm trying to cut down on review books and will visit the library or raid my TBR shelves  in the future. There are a few book tours I have scheduled (I couldn't resist some of the books offered) for the summer, but those come later.Good news on the home reading front - DH has decided to pick up books again after a long hiatus. He is now back to reading Robert Parker and a new suspense author.

 We have also been busy in the garden, which we missed during the long winter. Climbing poles went up for the two variety of beans in the raised veggie bed, and we planted marigolds all over in the hope of discouraging critters from eating flowers and plants (in case this works). The clematis is splendid this year with more buds and flowers than we have ever had.

I am reading a book from the library: a translated novel from German about a Burmese woman who returns home after living and working in NYC: A Well-Tempered Heart by Jan Philipp Sendker. There is some element of magic in it and am enjoying it so far.
Think Like a Freak
Also finished (most of it anyway) is 
Think Like a Freak by the authors of Freakonomics, sent to me by the publisher. The authors tell anecdotes, stories, cite various events to show how thinking outside the box can lead to better results and conclusions and allow you to approach problems and solutions in a more realistic way than the norm. The book's engaging and easy to read. Now, I want to their previous books.

Next to read: a couple of cozies, for variety. 

What will you be doing or reading this week?

May 29, 2014

Armchair BEA Book Giveaway: Two Cozy Mysteries

 Armchair BEA 2014, an event for those who can't attend Book Expo America or the BEA Bloggers Convention in NYC this week. 

I am giving away two brand new paperback cozy mysteries:
 A Roux of Revenge: A Soup Loving Mystery by Connie Archer and
Ghost of a Gamble: A Ghost of Granny Apples Mystery by Sue Ann Jaffarian

Leave a comment on this post with your email address by June 1 to enter, U.S. addresses only. A winner will be announced on June 2, with two days to respond before another winner is chosen. Good luck!

This giveaway has now ended. The winner of the books is Carol N. Wong, #14.

Book Review: You Cannoli Die Once by Shelley Costa

You Cannoli Die Once
Title: You Cannoli Die Once by Shelley Costa
Published May 28, 2014; Pocket Books
Genre: cozy mystery

My thoughts:
I learned not only what cannoli was but how to make it! A clever former dancer now turned chef in her family restaurant near Pittsburgh, Eve Angelotta is busy and pretty happy cooking Northern Italian food even with her seventy-six-year-old mother Maria Pia keeping watch that she does not make the dreaded dessert, cannoli. For some reason, Maria Pia has made Eve swear not to serve this at their restaurant.

Everything is going fine with a restaurant full of staff that seem musically inclined and ready to drop their aprons, bring out the tambourines, and sing Italian music or dance the tarantella for customers. That is, until Eve walks into her kitchen one morning and finds a dead man lying on top of a rare 78 disc of the only song recorded in English by the great Italian tenor, Enrico Caruso. The disc is part of Eve's collection of opera memorabilia handed down to her by her great-grandfather.

The unknown dead man was killed by a mortar from the restaurant kitchen, so Eve and all her staff are suspects, including her mother, whose alibi begins to fall apart the closer Eve and her love interest, attorney Joe Beck, look at it.

The book is full of clever and witty conversation and zany but entertaining characters. I could not guess the murder culprit so the ending was a surprise and the plot and setting are original. I gave this a five star for its entertainment value, and I can't wait to read the next in the series, Basil Instinct.

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

May 28, 2014

Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.
Everything I Never Told You
Title: Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng
To be published June 24, 2014; Penguin Press HC

Book description:
"A haunting debut novel about a mixed-race family living in 1970s Ohio and the tragedy that will either be their undoing or their salvation. Lydia is dead. But they don’t know this yet . . . So begins the story of this debut novel, about a Chinese American family living in 1970s small-town Ohio. Lydia is the favorite child of Marilyn and James Lee; their middle daughter, a girl who inherited her mother’s bright blue eyes and her father’s jet-black hair.

 When Lydia’s body is found in the local lake, the delicate balancing act that has been keeping the Lee family together tumbles into chaos. James, consumed by guilt, sets out on a reckless path that may destroy his marriage. Marilyn, devastated and vengeful, is determined to find a responsible party, no matter what the cost. Lydia’s older brother, Nathan, is certain that the neighborhood bad boy Jack is somehow involved. But it’s the youngest of the family—Hannah—who observes far more than anyone realizes and who may be the only one who knows the truth about what happened.

A gripping page-turner and a sensitive family portrait, exploring the divisions between cultures and the rifts within a family, and uncovering the ways in which mothers and daughters, fathers and sons, and husbands and wives struggle, all their lives, to understand one another." (publisher)

I am intrigued by the book description of the plot involving this family and their tragedy. How about you? Would you wait for this book?

May 26, 2014

It's Monday: What Are You Reading

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

New books and ARCs this week: a memoir, a domestic thriller, and two cozy mysteries.

Margarita Wednesdays
The Hidden Girl
Basil Instinct

What books/audio books did you get last week?

May 22, 2014

TRIALS OF LIFE by Junying Kirk

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.

Trials of Life
Title: Trials of Life by Junying Kirk, published August 8, 2013
Genre: fiction
Page 56: 
“Hi Dick,” It was his colleague, Dr. Barry Heaton. “What’s up? I was just told that we both have to leave the hotel today, and I have no idea why. I was hoping that you might enlighten me on this.” (Junying Kirk. Trials of Life (Kindle Locations 3956-3958).  
Book beginning: First chapter 
Pearl’s Diary 31st March, Friday, Sunny It’s been a lovely day. Naturally, it’s almost my special day! This morning, I was ‘allowed’ to open my presents, although officially my birthday would be tomorrow. I was born at two in the morning in China, so taking into account eight hours’ time difference, my birth time would be 6 p.m. today in the UK. I am not a patient type, and Andrew knows it, so I got to open presents a day early; an excuse to celebrate a little longer! Andrew gave me a bottle of Beautiful, my favourite Estee Lauder fragrance. He also bought a wool suit with matching skirt from the local Kaliko shop. It has a white-rose print against the dark-grey background, true to his Yorkshire roots! I love this man, so thoughtful and generous!  
Early this morning, I woke up feeling happy and confident. I picked my red underwear from the drawer and slipped it on. I once read an article in a women’s magazine claiming that women wearing red underwear often got the job. I don’t know how true that is but there’s no harm being superstitious once in a while. Who knows what will happen today? (Junying Kirk. Trials of Life (Kindle Locations 203-206). 
Book description:
On her continued “Journey to the West”, Pearl Zhang meets Andrew Church and they fall in love. Her determined, professional pursuits land her a plum international development job at a leading UK university. Life is on an upward curve, or so it seems. 
Dick Appleton, a troublesome academic from a privileged background, wants a junior assistant other than Pearl, in his quest to discover China and what it has to offer him. What happens when two powerful personalities and two different cultures meet and clash? Will life teach Pearl another sharp lesson in her adopted country, or will the ancient Chinese belief hold true that everything happens for a reason? Will she bow to her fate or fights for her beliefs?

About the author

Junying Kirk grew up in the turbulent times of the Cultural Revolution. A British Council scholarship led her to study English Language Teaching at Warwick University, followed by further postgraduate degrees at Glasgow and Leeds. She has worked as an academic, administrator, researcher, teacher and cultural consultant. Currently working as a professional interpreter, her passion has always been reading & writing books, and world travel. 

Her 'Journey to the West' trilogy, 'The Same Moon', 'Trials of Life' and 'Land of Hope' have been published both electronically and in print. She lives in Birmingham, UK with her English husband. Visit the author at

May 21, 2014

BEE SUMMERS by Melanie Dugan, book review

Bee Summers
Bee Summers by Melanie Dugan, published May 15, 2014; UpStart Press
Genre: fiction
Objective rating: 4.5/5

I was taken in by this eleven-year-old girl whose mother left home without warning and whose father became her sole caretaker. A beekeeper, Nate Singer has to take Lissy out of school when he goes on his rounds for a few days or weeks at a time, transporting his bees in their hives to farms away from home. Most of the trips take place in summer, however, during those memorable bee summers. On these trips, Lissy learns more about bee pollination and meets different people to open up her world even more. She becomes closer to her dad and forms a bond with him and some of his friends.

I was less involved or sympathetic with Lissy the adult, who becomes estranged from her father later in life. Lissy only finds out the secrets of her mother after his death. Call it a cultural thing, but it was hard to make the jump from the young girl to the independent adult who hardly ever saw the father she had been so close to as a child. It was also hard to understand the father who let her go.

The book is inviting and moving in many parts, the writing excellent, and the young Lissy and her father Nate both individuals you could understand and sympathize with during the first part and at the end of the book. It's a bittersweet novel of a girl growing up and dealing with a past, the disappearance of her mother, that has always puzzled and haunted her. I heartily recommend this well written book, one that is very much character driven.

Publisher description: The spring Melissa (Lissy) Singer is eleven years old her mother walks out of the house and never returns. That summer Lissy's father, a migratory beekeeper, takes her along with him on his travels. The trip and the people she meets change her life. Over the years that follow, Melissa tries to unlock the mystery of her mother’s disappearance and struggles to come to terms with her loss.

About the author:
Melanie Dugan is the author of Dead Beautiful (“the writing is gorgeous,” A Soul Unsung), Revising Romance, and Sometime Daughter.
Born in San Francisco, Dugan has lived in Boston, Toronto, and London, England, and has worked in almost every part of the book world: in libraries and bookstores, as a book reviewer; she was Associate Publisher at Quarry Press, where she also served as managing editor of Poetry Canada Review and Quarry Magazine. She has worked in journalism, as a freelancer, and as visual arts columnist. Dugan studied at the University of Toronto Writers Workshop and the Banff Centre for the Arts, and has a post-graduate degree in Creative Writing from Humber College. She has done numerous public readings.
Her short stories have been shortlisted for several awards. She lives in Kingston, Ontario with her partner and their two sons.
Here's the book on Goodreads. You can also link up to the author's website. The book is available for purchase here.

Visit the tour schedule for other reviews of the book, hosted by TLC Book Tours

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

May 20, 2014

A Well-Tempered Heart by Jan-Philipp Sendker; and Night of the Living Thread by Janet Bolin - Book Teaser/First Chapter

Teaser Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by Miz B; choose two teaser sentences from a random page of your current read.
A Well-Tempered Heart
"Where are the bees?""Alas, they have flown on and taken up residence elsewhere," my brother explained as he set my pack down. I sighed with relief." In their place, two snakes moved in." (ch. 9)
A Well-Tempered Heart by Jan-Philipp Sendker, published January 21, 2014; Other Press
Book description: Almost ten years have passed since Julia Win came back from Burma, her father’s native country. Though she is a successful Manhattan lawyer, her private life is at a crossroads. Julia is lost and exhausted. A voice in her head one day starts to ask questions Julia has been trying to avoid. Why do you live alone? To whom do you feel close? What do you want in life? (from goodreads)

Night of the Living Thread
"Gord? A woman's heartfelt plea fluted through the misty night. Who was calling Threadville's favorite doctor in that flirtatious tone? In less than a week, Gord was marrying Edna.That voice was not Edna's. 
 Night of the Living Thread by Janet Bolin, to be published June 3, 2014; Berkley.

Book description: For Edna’s wedding, Willow and the rest of the Threadville gang have fashioned an overly extravagant hoopskirt, complete with lights and music. But in a bizarre turn of events, the garish gown is implicated in a mysterious lakeside murder. (from goodreads)

Would you continue reading based on the opening paragraphs?

May 19, 2014

Book Review: The Idea of Him by Holly Peterson

The Idea of Him
"Look, I need to know a few things besides the obvious question of why you were back here with Wade: Who are you? Why did you help me with Delsie? What was it you were looking for? What is Wade doing with which men that is going to take away our savings, as you supposedly contend?" (ch. 7; from an uncorrected proof; final copy may differ)
I liked the basics of the plot - a wife becomes suspicious and jealous of a beautiful woman who seems to be interested in her husband, but the woman turns out to be an ally instead.In spite of the promising storyline, I was unable to be convinced by most of the characters and so the unusual plot began to seem contrived. The book has gotten some good responses, so I would suggest readers try it to make up their own minds!

Book Description:  "Holly Peterson, the New York Times bestselling author of THE MANNY, explores the dangers of falling for the idea of a person, and why facing reality is more liberating than we ever dreamed it could be. For anyone who's let the fear of being alone keep them from seeing who someone really is, THE IDEA OF HIM is an inspiring, action-packed story of what happens when we embrace our own power and allow the truth to finally set us free.

Allie Crawford has the life she always dreamed of-she's number two at a high-profile P.R. firm; she has two kids she adores; and her husband is a blend of handsome and heroic. Wade is everything she thought a man was supposed to be-he's running a successful newsmagazine and, best of all, he provides the stable yet exciting New York City life Allie believes she needs in order to feel secure and happy.

But when Allie finds Wade locked in their laundry room with a stunning blonde in snakeskin sandals, a scandal ensues that flips her life on its head. And when the woman wants to befriend Allie, an old flame calls, and a new guy gets a little too close for comfort, she starts to think her marriage is more of a facade than something real. Maybe she's fallen in love not with Wade-but with the idea of him.

Captivating and seductive, told in the whip-smart voice of a woman who is working hard to keep her parenting and career on track, The Idea of Him is a novel of conspiracy, intrigue, and intense passion-and discovering your greatest strength through your deepest fears." (publisher)

About the author:
Holly Peterson is the author of the New York Times and international best seller, The Manny. She was a Contributing Editor for Newsweek and editor-at-large for Tina Brown's Talk magazine. She was also an Emmy Award-winning producer for ABC News for more than a decade, where she cov­ered global politics. Her writing has been published in the New York Times, Newsweek, Talk, the Daily Beast, Vogue, Harper's Bazaar, and other publications. Website:

Thanks to the publishers for a complimentary review copy/uncorrected proof for this book tour.

May 17, 2014

Sunday Salon: New Mysteries and More

The Sunday 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; Mailbox Monday, and Stacking the Shelves.

While I was hibernating at home the last two-three weeks, reading the final book tour novels for May, I added these books to my pile to be read. Can you tell that I like mysteries?

The Summer House by Santa Montefiore; Simon and Schuster 
The Serpent of Venice by Christopher Moore; William Morrow 
For the Love of Baseball: A Celebration of the Game That Connects Us All; Skyhorse Publishing

A Possibility of Violence by D.A. Mishani; Harper ARC 
All Day and a Night: A Novel of Suspense by Alafair Burke; Harper ARC 
The Care and Management of Lies by Jacqueline Winspear; Harper ARC

Think Like a Freak by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner; William Morrow
          The Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen; Harper
Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng; Penguin Press ARC 
Jack of Spies by David Downing; Soho Press ARC

The Ways of Evil Men
I am also reading The Ways of Evil Men by the late Leighton Gage, the seventh Chief Inspector Mario Silva mystery novel set in Brazil, which I snagged at the library.  I had thought in a review of his previous book, Perfect Hatred, that the many Portuguese names were hard to keep straight. The Ways of Evil Men has a list of the characters at the front of the book! And I love that the font is larger than his other books. This mystery author will be missed by his readers.
A Well-Tempered Heart
I saw this at the library today and after reading the first lines, seeing the setting and the book description, I had to take it home! It is about a Burmese woman who is a successful lawyer in the U.S. but unhappy in her personal life. A voice in her head persists in asking her pointed questions about her purpose in life. In the meantime, another Burmese woman must struggle with the fact her two young sons were taken by rebel soldiers.

What new books are you reading this week?

May 16, 2014

Cozy Mystery Short Stories by Dorte Hummelshoj Jakobsen

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

Here are two short stories/cozy mysteries that you will enjoy, by mystery writer Dorte Hummelshoj Jakobsen

Ding Dong Bell: The Kitten in the Well
Book beginning:
This story takes place in the fictional village of Knavesborough, Yorkshire, in the early 1990s.

"He won't get away with throwing me out of here! Not after forty years, he won't!" The old woman was so agitated that the words cascaded out of her mouth, and Reverent Gershwin took a quick step backwards, out of firing range. Ursula Abbot gave the large pot on the cooker an indignant shove on the cooker so the goulash slopped over, and flies rose in a dark formation above the food before settling down again. 
She grabbed a greyish dishcloth and dabbed it around haphazardly in the mess. Three cats came bouncing to help her remove the tempting pool of sauce on the kitchen floor.  
"Well, but I can't imagine Mr. Alnwick won't consider your age..., the vicar began.
A clean and cosy short story, featuring the popular Gershwin family in KnavesboroughIt all begins quite innocently with a visit to an old cat woman, but no matter what the Gershwins stick their noses in, something sinister will happenRevisit the 1990s and meet Rhapsody, Harmonia and Psalmonalla Gershwin, the spunky sisters and their curious kitten.

Green Acres
Mrs Vanilla McVities, the former cook of Netherfield Manor, has bought an old mansion and converted it into an old people's home. Rhapsody Gershwin, librarian and amateur sleuth, pops in to visit a neighbour and finds herself on the business end of murder. A sheep dog also plays an important role in the story - you'd be barking to miss this one.  A short story in the Rhapsody Gershwin series, set in Knavesborough, a fictional Yorkshire village. First published in the anthology "The Red Shoes". Now you can find out what happened to a couple of the quirky inhabitants since we left them at the end of  the cozy mystery, "The Cosy Knave". 

Dorte Hummelshoj Jakobsen is a teacher from Denmark. In her spare time she reads and writes crime fiction in English and Danish, and in 2010 she sold her first flash stories to American magazines and publishers.
Since then she has published two collections of flash fiction, "Candied Crime" (humour) and "Liquorice Twists" (a bit darker). Her most popular story is "The Cosy Knave" - a humorous and cosy novel featuring village constable Archibald Penrose and the librarian Rhapsody Gershwin.
LATEST NEWS: "The Red Shoes" - four irreverent short stories characterized by dark humour, quirky characters and severed limbs.
Author of "Heather Farm", bestselling ghost story on in 2011.
COMING SOON: "Anna Märklin's Family Chronicles" - a historical mystery, set in Denmark and Sweden. Published in Denmark in 2011.

May 14, 2014

WOW: Waiting on Cozies

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

These paperback cozy mysteries will be released June 3, 2014.  The details in the colorful covers are stunning!

Night of the Living Thread
Deadly Forecast
The Diva Wraps It Up
Engaged in Murder
Night of the Living Thread:
Zombies, killer dresses, and ancient curses prove that Halloween in Threadville can be sew spooky… 
It’s early October, and hordes of visitors have descended on the tiny, celebrated village of Threadville, Pennsylvania, to attend a Halloween crafts fair, a zombie retreat, and the wedding of Edna Battersby. A lakeside murder is involved! (goodreads)

Deadly Forecast:
As her wedding day approaches, Abby Cooper has a disturbing premonition of her fiancĂ©’s murder. Her husband-to-be, FBI agent Dutch Rivers, has been assigned to a suicide bombing case, and Abby’s spirit guides warn her of imminent danger. (goodreads)

The Diva Wraps It Up:
The holidays are domestic diva Sophie Winston’s favorite time of year. But this season, there seem to be more mishaps than mistletoe. First, Horace Scroggins tumbles from a balcony during his office Christmas party. Then, Sophie’s neighbor takes a fall from his ladder while decorating his roof with lights. But it’s the cookie swap that really starts her wondering who’s naughty or nice. (amazon)

Engaged in Murder: Event planner Pepper Pomeroy is making the most of her current unemployment by arranging a surprise for her sister, Felicity. Warren, Felicity’s boyfriend, plans to lure his lovely lady into a private jet, propose, and whisk her away on a romantic vacation. There are some disturbing questions. Like who’s the dead guy Pepper finds in the ladies’ room of the jet hangar? (goodreads)

What do you think? Would you wait for these cozies?

May 13, 2014

Teaser/First Chapter: Cold Storage, Alaska by John Straley; and A Single Breath by Lucy Clarke

Teaser Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by Miz B; choose two teaser sentences from a random page of your current read.
Cold Storage Alaska
Miles wasn't eager to show that police officer around. No matter where they were from, visitors always wanted to ask questions. They started with history: Why is this place here? To this Miles would usually answer, "Fish...mostly." He longed to tell the whole story but the truth is people really didn't want to know. (ch. 2) 
from Cold Storage, Alaska by John Straley; Soho Crime
An offbeat, often hilarious crime novel set in the sleepy Alaskan town of Cold Storage from the Shamus Award winning author. Clive “The Milkman” McCahon returns to his tiny hometown of Cold Storage, Alaska after a seven-year jail stint for dealing coke. He has a lot to make up to his younger brother, Miles, who has dutifully been taking care of their ailing mother. But Clive doesn’t realize the trouble he’s bringing home. (goodreads)
First Chapter, First Paragraph is a weekly meme hosted by Bibliophile by the Sea.
A Single Breath
 First chapter:
As she leaves the shelter of the headland, the full force of the wind hits Eva. Her hair whips back from her face and she hugs the flask of coffee tight to her chest. Clouds of sand gust along the shoreline, sending a tangled knot of fishing line pinwheeling along the beach.  
A woman passes in the other direction, her purple coat flattened to her back by the wind. The fur-trimmed coat is pulled tight to her face, making Eva wish she had thought to wear a hat. She had forgotten how raw the weather is on the coast; in London it is muted by buildings and watched from behind windows.
from A Single Breath by Lucy Clarke; Touchstone
A young widow discovers her husband was not who he claimed to be and finds herself falling in love with the wrong man. Threading together beautiful, wild settings in Tasmania and suspenseful twists, A Single Breath is a tale of secrets, betrayals, and new beginnings. (goodreads)

Do the teasers and the first chapter entice you to want to read these books? 

May 12, 2014

It's Monday: What Are You Reading?

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

Very excited about two new books:

The Visitors
Season of the Dragonflies

Here's what's new on my shelves. Just love the covers and the titles. What did you get in your mailbox this week?  

CYCLING SOJOURNER: A Guide to the Best Multi-Day Tours in Washington by Ellee Thalheimer

Summer is coming up, and long distance cyclists on the road have another tour guidebook, this time in the state of Washington!

Title: Cycling Sojourner: A Guide to the Best Multi-Day Tours in Washington by Ellee Thalheimer
Expected publication on May 15, 2014; Microcosm Publishing
Genre: travel guidebook, cycling

Publisher description:
As the second book in a one-of-a-kind cycle-touring series, this guidebook reveals hard-to-find information about exploring Washington by bike. Learn about the state’s remotest ribbons of road in the Okanagan, the best bikeable berry stands in the San Juans Islands, luscious Walla Walla wine country vineyards best reached by bicycle, and routes across the Cascade Mountain Range that will transform you into an interminable lover of the Pacific Northwest.

Like a cycle-touring concierge, Cycling Sojourner takes care of the logistics and removes obstacles between you and your two-wheeled adventure, so you can grab your bike and go. The nine tours in the book are meticulously laid out and include cue sheets; maps; and information about weather, difficulty level, camping and lodging options, and how to get to the ride’s start. The voices of Thalheimer and the four contributing Washingtonian authors use storytelling, local history, and humor to draw out your inner adventurer.

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

May 10, 2014

Book Review: A Tiger's Tale by Laura Morrigan

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

Here is a book review for today's Sunday Salon. I like the cover and the premise of A Tiger's Tale.
Title: A Tiger's Tale: Call of the Wilde #2 by Laura Morrigan
Published May 6, 2014; Berkley
Genre: cozy mystery

Animal behaviorist Grace Wilde has special abilities - she can communicate mentally with animals. She keeps her psychic abilities secret, except from her love interest, the cop Kai Duncan. Grace is known to have a special rapport with animals and is called in to calm down the normally sedate Siberian tiger Boris who seems to have suddenly gotten aggressive. Grace has to find out why and see how it's linked to the disappearance of a teenage girl, a volunteer at an animal rescue facility.

I enjoyed the new angle to this cozy - an amateur sleuth and animal behaviorist who uses mental telepathy to communicate with animals. Grace gets clues to the mystery of the missing teen from what the various animals observe and can tell her. Entertaining and well written, this cozy is a 4 star read, with a very likable main character and an equally interesting set of animal characters.

I received a complimentary review copy of this book for the publisher's book tour.

May 9, 2014

Book Review: The Gondola Maker by Laura Morelli

Title: The Gondola Maker by Laura Morelli
Paperback published March 3, 2014
Genre: historical fiction
First paragraph: I chew my lower lip while I wait to see my father's gondola catch fire. 
Page 56: I have done my best to stay hidden during daylight hours, observing, waiting - for what, I cannot say. 
A young boy, Luca, has accidentally caused the burning of his family's boat making factory after a fight with his father. He runs off to stay with an old friend, an oar maker, but soon disappears to become a gondolier for a well known artist, ferrying the artist to his various appointments and running errands by boat.

The novel is more than a coming-of-age story set among boat makers and gondoliers in 16th century Venice. It tells how Luca grows up to learn to handle responsibility, gets to know a world outside that of his small town, and falls in love. He discovers an old boat produced by his family in years past and sets out to restore and repair it, improving his boat making skills and working on making his own oars. How he handles misfortune, disappointment, even imprisonment, and how he redeems himself is the crux of the novel.

The setting is detailed and the atmosphere and feel of Venice is well done. We are immersed in the surroundings and lives of Venice's gondoliers and how they handle their boats, the techniques of boat makers and their exacting craft, and the skill needed to make boats of the highest quality boats.

I was captivated by the story and easily slipped into the Venice of the 16th century. The author has artfully woven Luca's story into the historical fabric of the times. I learned a lot about gondolas of the time, the laws of the city regarding boat making, and much more. My objective rating for this fascinating historical novel: 5/5.

Author's Bio:
Laura Morelli holds a Ph.D. in art history from Yale University, and has taught college-level art history in the US and Europe. Laura is the author of Made in Italy, Made in France, and Made in the Southwest (Rizzoli). The Gondola Maker is her first work of fiction. Visit her at Laura Morelli Facebook Twitter

For a list of other reviews of the book, visit iRead Book Tours
I received a complimentary review copy of the book for this tour.

Here is a Q and A that will tell us more about Laura and her writing.
1. Where are you from?
I grew up on a farm in Georgia. It was a wonderful childhood, climbing trees, riding horses, playing in the barn with cows and chickens, fishing in the lake. There were not many kids around so I learned to be independent. I read everything I could get my hands on; the used bookstore in town was one of my favorite spots. I still remember the smell of it! I always had the idea that I would write books, and I dreamt of writing a novel for as long as I can remember.
How did you start writing?

I was educated as an art historian. Those of us in academia are trained to write in a specialized style that comes across as dry and dull, full of terminology that is inaccessible to all but those of us who spend many years studying the field. In the end, this kind of writing strips out the passion that is so inherent in the arts, even though of course I hold great respect for the rigor of scholarship and those who publish exclusively in academia. Art history is the most fascinating subject in the world!

 I realized that I enjoyed writing for a more general audience and that I had an opportunity to bring art history to a wider audience through my writing. I try to bring both the knowledge as well as the excitement of art history to my readers. I  also try to capture the excitement and passion I felt when I first discovered the history of art. 

3. How did you do research for The Gondola Maker?

The foundational research that went into The Gondola Maker was actually conducted for another book. I didn’t plan it that way! While I was writing Made in Italy, I traveled all over Italy, from the Alps to the islands, talking with contemporary artisans who still practice centuries-old traditions like Murano glass, Florentine leather, Sicilian ceramics, Roman gold smithing, and of course, Venetian gondolas. Over and over, the people I interviewed emphasized how important it was to pass the torch of tradition to the next generation. I began to wonder what would happen—especially centuries ago—if the successor were not able… or willing. The character of the gondola maker and his son began to take shape in my head.

As I began to work on The Gondola Maker, it was an opportunity to take a deeper dive into the primary historical sources about the history of the gondola, the world of the guilds or arti, and Venetian boatmen in Renaissance Venice. Historically, Venetians were well aware of their position in the world and so there are a lot of historical sources from which to draw, although private boatmen and other domestic servants only appear incidentally in the historical record, sometimes in reference to a crime or other infraction.
4. What other books have you written?

I’ve written a series of specialty guidebooks with the goal of leading travelers beyond the tourist traps to discover authentic local traditions and artists, and come home with great treasures in their suitcases. My focus in on cultural immersion through a greater appreciation of art objects and the people who make them.  
5. What are you currently writing?
I am working on revised editions of my books, Made in Italy and Made in France, and am also writing a series of small guides that lead travelers to discover authentic arts in specific cities and regions of Europe. Venice will be the first!

Other relevant information and links:

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