May 30, 2015

Sunday Salon: Reading in Rainy Weather

Welcome to the Sunday Salon where bloggers share their reading each week. Visit The Sunday Post hosted by The Caffeinated Bookreviewer. Also visit Mailbox Monday 

We're having lots of rain, which is good for the grass and flowers, but which bows down the rambling rose bush already heavy with spring flowers. Early spring is still with us as the temps will drop 30 degrees tonight, from the 80s to the 50s. Just when I thought I could put away blankets and warm clothes!

Good weather for reading, inside or outside when it's warm and dry in the 80s or raining outdoors. I'm so unused to the warm weather and greenery now that I feel as if I'm on vacation somewhere else :)

From the mailbox
From Poisoned Pen Press, two uncorrected proofs for review. 

The Hog's Back Mystery: Inspector French #10 by Freeman Wills Crofts
British Library Crime Classics, to be released July 7, 2015 by Poisoned Pen Press
The Hog’s Back is a ridge in Surrey and the setting for the disappearance of several locals. A doctor vanishes, followed by a nurse with whom he was acquainted, then a third person. Inspector French deduces murder, but there are no bodies. Eventually he is able to prove his theory and show that a fourth murder has been committed.

The American title is 'The Strange Case of Dr Earle'. (publisher)

Antidote to Venom: Inspector French #17 by Freeman Wills Crofts
To be released July 7, 2015; Poisoned Pen Press
In an English city zoo a murderer plans to use snake venom to kill an old professor, hoping to inherit a fortune. In this unusual detective story we are shown the planning of the crime. 

When Inspector French is called in to solve the mystery we learn how an ingenious murder has been committed and follow the actions of the guilty men. (publisher)

From the library:
The Cat Sitter's Whiskers: A Dixie Hemingway Mystery #10 by Blaize and John Clement
Published March 31, 2015; Minbotaur Books
Pet sitter Dixie Hemingway is on the prowl again in the newest installment of Blaize Clement's series of cozy mysteries, now written by her son, John Clement, using Blaize's notes and ideas for future adventures. 

Set in the sleepy beach-side town of Siesta Key, Florida, THE CAT SITTER'S WHISKERS catches up with Dixie as she heads off for work one morning in the dimly lit hours before sunrise. Dixie soon finds herself hopelessly trapped in a murky world of black market antiques, dark-hearted secrets, and murderous revenge… a mystery only she can solve. (publisher)

Currently reading: 
Love May Fail by Matthew Quick, to be released June 16, 2015; Harper
Genre: contemporary fiction
Portia Kane is having a meltdown. After escaping her ritzy Florida life and her cheating pornographer husband, she finds herself back in South Jersey, a place that remains largely unchanged from the years of her unhappy youth. Lost and alone, looking for the goodness she believes still exists in the world, Portia sets off on a quest to save the one man who always believed in her—and in all of his students: her beloved high school English teacher, Mr. Vernon, who has retired broken and alone after a traumatic classroom incident. (publisher)
I am enjoying this one, more than I thought I would. It borders on literary fiction, with lots of references and quotations from literature - Albert Camus, Mark Twain, Ernest Hemingway, etc. One of the protagonists is an English high school teacher, after all. 

Finished reading:
Accidents of Marriage by Randy Susan Meyers, contemporary fiction
The Strange Library by Haruki Murakami, fantasy
Eight Hundred Grapes by Laura Dave, contemporary fiction
Ming Tea Murder by Laura Childs, mystery
The Third Wife by Lisa Jewell, contemporary fiction
The Lake Season by Hannah Roberts McKinnon, contemporary fiction

What's new on your book shelf?

May 29, 2015

Book Beginning: Accidents of Marriage by Randy Susan Meyers

The Friday 56: *Grab a book, turn to page 56 or 56% in your eReader. Find any sentence, (or few, just don't spoil it) that grabs you. Post it. Add your (url) post in Linky at Freda's Voice.
Also, visit Book Beginning at Rose City Reader.
Accidents of Marriage by Randy Susan Meyers,paperback to be published June 9, 2015; Washington Square Press
Genre: contemporary fiction
Book beginning:
Maddy ran her tongue over her teeth, imagining he bitter taste of a crumbling tablet of Xanax. After a gut-wrenching day at the hospital nothing tempted her more than a chemical vacation. Nothing appealed to her less than cooking supper. Churning stomach acid - courtesy of work - coupled with anxiety that Ben might come home as frenzied as he'd left made a formidable appetite killer. 
Page 56:
"Don't move. You might have internal injuries." She pushed back wet hair on her forehead. As though offering a condolence prize, she held up a phone. "Do you want me to call someone for you? Do you want to make a call?"
Book description:
Accidents of Marriage explores a topic rarely shown in fiction: the destruction left in the wake of spouse’s verbal fury. Ben never meant to hurt Maddy. He never imagined his recklessness would lead to tragedy.                     

May 27, 2015

Book Review: The Strange Library by Haruki Murakami

The Strange Library by Haruki Murakami, paperback published December 2, 2014 by Knopf.
Genre: fiction
Source: library book
First sentence:The library was even more hushed than usual.
Last sentences:About how it feels to be alone, and the depth of the darkness surrounding me. Darkness as pitch black as the night of the new moon.
My comments: In very large print, The Strange Library has the look of a children's book with full page illustrations, and only 96 pages. It has the quality of a dream, of a young man's fears and longings. This young man becomes imprisoned in the bowels of a large city library by the Old Man, tasked with memorizing three long books on the Ottoman Empire before he can be released, but at the same time he is served excellent food by a beautiful young girl and befriended by his jailer, the Sheep Man.

Though the young man is helped to escape by the girl and the Sheep Man, both have disappeared, but so have his pet starling at home, and his new leather shoes. This makes him doubt that the experience was only a dream. His mother dies at the end and the young man's soaring imagination also seems to disappear, leaving him in a darkness similar to the room he was imprisoned in, in the library.

The only meaning I can get out of the book is this: loss of love, like the loss of a mother, can deprive one of light and that wide imagination that makes life worthwhile. Also, perhaps life and light is more important than filling our minds with arcane information in books.

Have you read the book? What did you get from it?

May 26, 2015

First Chapter: DIAMOND HEAD by Cecily Wong

First Chapter, First Paragraph is hosted weekly by Bibliophile by the Sea. Share the first paragraph of your current read. Also visit Teaser Tuesdays meme hosted by Jenn.
Diamond Head by Cecily Wong
Published April 14, 2015 by Harper
Genre: historical novel
First chapter, first paragraph:
Inside the care, it smells like hibiscus. It was his mother's idea; something subtle, she told him, but fresh. Something alive. As the man pulls from his driveway he is grateful, just this once, for his mother's meddling. He breathes in. Already, the sweet smell is working on his nerves. 
There are few things in life as beautiful as a fresh start," Frank whispered, wrapping his arm around my waist and pulling me into his chest, sheltering me from the wind off the ocean, pressing me into his eager heartbeat. "This will be ours."
Book descriptionAt the turn of the nineteenth-century, Frank Leong, a wealthy shipping industrialist, moves his family from China to the island of Oahu. But something ancient follows the Leongs to Hawaii, haunting them. 

The parable of the red string of fate, the cord which binds one intended beloved to her perfect match, also punishes for mistakes in love, passing a destructive knot down the family line. 

Now the Leong’s survival rests with young Theresa, Frank Leong’s only grandchild, eighteen and pregnant, the heir apparent to her ancestors’ punishing knots. Told through the eyes of the Leong’s secret-keeping daughters and wives and spanning The Boxer Rebellion to Pearl Harbor to 1960s Hawaii, Diamond Head is a tale of tragic love, shocking lies, poignant compromise, aching loss, heroic acts of sacrifice and, miraculous hope. (publisher)

Based on the first paragraph, the teaser, and the book description, would you read on?

May 25, 2015

Sunday Salon: Safe Travels

Welcome to the Sunday Salon where bloggers share their reading each week. Visit The Sunday Post hosted by The Caffeinated Bookreviewer. Also visit Mailbox Monday 

I had forgotten that we had programmed the car GPS to avoid highways, and so the GPS led us through small towns and farmland all the way from Columbus, Ohio. It was a scenic drive, but we switched back to the highway later on and finally made it home.
Happy Memorial Day everyone, and safe travels!

I'm in the middle of reading Eight Hundred Grapes by Laura Dave, and liking it a lot.
I finished The Lake Season, another contemporary novel, and also the cozy mysteries,
Don't Go Home by Carolyn Hart and
Ming Tea Murder by Laura Childs. All fairly enjoyable reads.

Fairly new on the bookshelves:

A Fatal Chapter by Lorna Barrett, a Booktown Mystery #9, to be released June 2, 2015 by Berkley.
While out walking Sarge, her sister’s bichon frise, Tricia Miles, a mystery bookshop owner, is led by the agitated dog to a man lying in a gazebo. She’s startled when she recognizes Pete Renquist, the president of the Stoneham Historical Society, who appears to be suffering from cardiac arrest. When Pete later dies in the hospital, the discovery of a suspicious bruise and a puncture mark on his arm suggests he may have been murdered.

This one includes recipes. Books and recipes - nice for the weekend. 

May 22, 2015

Book Beginning: EIGHT HUNDRED GRAPES by Laura Dave

The Friday 56: *Grab a book, turn to page 56 or 56% in your eReader. Find any sentence, (or few, just don't spoil it) that grabs you. Post it. Add your (url) post in Linky at Freda's Voice.
Also, visit Book Beginning at Rose City Reader.
Eight Hundred Grapes by Laura Dave
To be released June 2, 2015; Simon and Schuster
Genre: contemporary fiction

Beginning paragraph:
Sebastopol, California. Six months ago.
My father has this great story about the day he met my mother, a story he never gets sick of telling. It was a snowy December morning and he was hurrying into his co-worker's yellow Volkswagen bug parked in front of Lincoln Center, holding two cups of coffee and a massive slew of newspapers. (His first wine, Block 14 - the only wine in his very first vintage - had gotten a small mention in the Wall Street Journal.) And between the excitement of the article and the steaming coffee, Daniel Bradley Ford didn't notice that there were two yellow bugs parked in front of Lincoln Center. That his East Coast distributor was not the one huddling for warmth in the yellow bug's driver's seat. But, instead, his future wife, Jenny. 
Page 56: 
Bobby nodded. "We are crashing a wedding," he said. "Genius."
Then Bobby put his arm around Finn. 
Book description:
There are secrets you share, and secrets you hide…
Growing up on her family’s Sonoma vineyard, Georgia Ford learned some important secrets. The secret number of grapes it takes to make a bottle of wine: eight hundred. The secret ingredient in her mother’s lasagna: chocolate. The secret behind ending a fight: hold hands.
But just a week before her wedding, thirty-year-old Georgia discovers her beloved fiancé has been keeping a secret so explosive, it will change their lives forever.Georgia does what she’s always done: she returns to the family vineyard, expecting the comfort of her long-married parents, and her brothers, and everything familiar. But it turns out her fiancé is not the only one who’s been keeping secrets… (publisher)
I need a good contemporary novel this summer.This is it!

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

May 19, 2015

First chapter: MING TEA MURDER by Laura Childs

First Chapter, First Paragraph is hosted weekly by Bibliophile by the Sea. Share the first paragraph of your current read. Also visit Teaser Tuesdays meme hosted by Jenn
Ming Tea Murder: A Tea Shop Mystery #16 by Laura Childs
Published May 5, 2015; Berkley
Indigo Tea Shop owner Theodosia Browning's boyfriend Max has organized a gala opening for an exhibit of a genuine eighteenth century Chinese teahouse, and the crème de la crème of Charleston society is invited. In the exotic garden  in the museum’s rotunda, a Chinese dragon dances to the beat of drums as it weaves through the crowd. The guests are serenaded by a Chinese violin as they sample tempting bites. But Theodosia makes a grim discovery behind the photo booth’s curtains: the body of museum donor Edgar Webster. (publisher)
First paragraph, first chapter: With drums banging and the sweet notes of a Chinese violin trembling in the air, the enormous red-and-gold dragon shook its great head and danced its way across the rotunda of the Gibes Museum in Charleston, South Carolina. It was the opening-night celebration for the reconstruction of a genuine eighteenth century Chinese tea house, and the creme de la creme of society had turned out in full force for this most auspicious occasion. 
Teaser: Theodosia grabbed a cracker that was topped with a dab of pate and accepted a paper napkin from a solicitous waiter. 
"I wouldn't eat that if I were you," called out a brash, nasal voice ( ch. 8) 
Would the first paragraph and teaser tempt you to continue reading this cozy?
Personally, I'd read on, as I have read others in this series and love the atmosphere, ambiance, and recipes, not to mention the intriguing mystery plots.

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

May 17, 2015

Sunday Salon: Reading in the Spring Garden

Welcome to the Sunday Salon where bloggers share their reading each week. Visit The Sunday Post hosted by The Caffeinated Bookreviewer. Also visit Mailbox Monday 
It has been raining almost every day and the grass is tall, the plants are green and lush, the leaves on the red and the green maples have filled out. We will have lots of zinnias again this year, which the bees and butterflies love. Annual flowers, like the marigolds above which deter rabbits from the flower beds, are waiting to be planted....

I have finished two books recently: 
The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah, an historical novel of two sisters surviving in France during WWII. Five stars.
Die Again by Tess Gerritsen, a thriller set in Boston and Botswana, Africa. Four stars. 

My current read is: 

Diamond Head by Cecily Wong, published April 14, 2015, an historical novel and family saga spanning four generations from China to Hawaii. 

New on my shelves: 
My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She's Sorry by Fredrik Backman, to be published June 16, 2015 by Atria. A novel about a young girl whose grandmother dies and leaves behind a series of letters, sending her on a journey that brings to life the world of her grandmother's fairy tales. I read the author's previous novel, A Man Called Ove, and absolutely loved it.

The Third Wife by Lisa Jewell, to be published June 8, 2015 by Atria. 
In the early hours of a summer morning, a young woman steps into the path of an oncoming bus. A tragic accident? Or suicide? With psychological nuance that gets into the heart of its characters, The Third Wife is a story about a man seeking the truth behind his seemingly perfect marriage and the broken pieces left behind.
The Lake Season by Hannah Mckinnon, to be published June 2, 2015. Set in the weeks leading up to an idyllic New England wedding, this novel offers wry wit, romance, and long-kept family secrets.
Ripped from the Pages by Kate Carlisle, a Bibliophile mystery to be published June 2, 2015. Brooklyn Wainwright attends an excavation of the caves hidden deep under her parents’ commune—and the findings are explosive. A room is unearthed, and it contains a treasure trove of artwork, rare books, a chest of jewelry…and a perfectly mummified body.

What will you be reading this week? 

May 14, 2015

Book Review: Circling the Sun by Paula McLain

Visit Book Beginnings at Rose City Reader.
Circling the Sun: A Novel by Paula McLain
To be released July 28, 2015; Ballantine
Genre: historical fiction

Setting: British expatriate community, Kenya, 1920s
Main character: Aviator and horse trainer Beryl Markham
Book beginning; first sentences:
Before Kenya was Kenya, when it was millions of years old and yet still somehow new, the name belonged to our most magnificent mountain. You could see it from our farm in Njoro, in the British East African Protectorate - hard edged at the far end of a stretching golden plain, its crown glazed with ice that never completely melted.
My comments: Because I had seen the much touted movie, Out of Africa, with Robert Redford and Meryl Streep playing the real life characters, hunter Denys Finch Hatton and coffee farmer Karen Blixen, I was curious to read the novel based on the life of the third party in their romantic trio - Beryl Markham.

Beryl and her parents and brother arrived in Kenya in 1904 when she was about five years old. When her mother, fed up with the hardships of Africa, left with her brother, Beryl was left to fend for herself on a horse training farm run by her father. She grew up with Kipsigis tribe members on her farm, learning their ways, being cared for by them, and hunting and running with her playmate Kibii. Beryl traveled several times back to England, but her loyalties stayed with Africa.

The novel tells of her failed marriages, her love for Denys Finch Hatton who could or would not commit to any one woman, and her strained relationship with his other lover, Karen Blixen, The story tells however of a young woman who was determined in 1920s Africa to be the equal to any man in bravery, determination, and freedom. She was the first female horse trainer in Kenya whose horses won many prizes. She was thwarted many times by those who looked down on her because she was a woman, but she triumphed in becoming a successful trainer as well as an aviator who made an historic flight across the Atlantic to North America.

Not only was the story interesting in the way it was presented, but the poetic and descriptive writing pulled me in and kept me interested. These real life characters were complex, their lives dramatic, and this novel brought the people and the history of the period in Kenya to life. I enjoyed reading it.

Objective rating: 5/5

I received an advance reader's edition of this book for review. 

May 9, 2015

Sunday Salon: Birding and Books

Welcome to the Sunday Salon where bloggers share their reading each week. Visit The Sunday Post hosted by The Caffeinated Bookreviewer. Also visit Mailbox Monday 

We were lucky to go bird watching at Magee Marsh along Lake Erie this morning before the storms came late afternoon. Walking on the boardwalk along the marsh thick with bushes and trees, we saw migratory birds, but unfortunately, not as many as we did last year in May. We were lucky to see a few of these American Redstart warblers flitting around.

We also took a guided motor tour through the preserve and saw water fowl as well as more migratory warblers. Then a walk along the lake brought us to a few more birds resting in the trees before their long flight north across the lake. 

Fresh air and exercise! 

I am now reading a cozy set in early New York: 

Murder in Murray Hill by Victoria Thompson is the 16th Gaslight Mystery, and it is a stand-alone mystery novel. When facing injustice, the residents of nineteenth-century New York City’s tenements turn to midwife Sarah Brandt and Detective Sergeant Frank Malloy to protect their rights. Now, as the Edgar and Agatha Award–nominated series continues, the two must track down a cruel criminal preying on the hopes and dreams of innocent women…(publisher)

I finished an ARC of When the Moon Is Low by Nadia Hashimi and will post a review later. 

New review books include
An ARC of The Breaking Point by Jefferson Bass, thanks to William Morrow. Past, present, and future collide to throw respected forensic anthropologist Bill Brockton’s successful, secure life into devastating turmoil in this poignant novel in the bestselling Body Farm mystery series
Church of Marvels by Leslie Parry; thanks to Ecco. Set in vibrant, tumultuous turn-of-the-century New York City, where the lives of four outsiders become entwined, bringing irrevocable change to them all

May 8, 2015

Book Beginning: Rescue at Los Banos by Bruce Henderson

The Friday 56: *Grab a book, turn to page 56 or 56% in your eReader. Find any sentence, (or few, just don't spoil it) that grabs you. Post it. Add your (url) post in Linky at Freda's Voice.
Also, visit Book Beginning at Rose City Reader.
Rescue at Los Banos: The Most Daring Prison Camp Raid of World War II by Bruce Henderson
Published March 31, 2015; William Morrow
Book description
The  true story of one of the greatest military rescues of all time, the 1945 World War II prison camp raid at Los Banos in the Philippines--a tale of daring, courage, and heroism that joins the ranks of Ghost Soldiers, Unbroken, and The Boys of Pointe du Hoc.

Book beginning: 
Benjamin Franklin Edwards, a mechanic with Pan American Airways for less than a year, arrived in Manila aboard the airline's famed "China Clipper" on October 2, 1941. The big Martin M-130 flying boat was known by Pan Am employees as "Sweet Sixteen" (NR 14716) and had been the first seaplane delivered to the airline and the first to fly scheduled air service across the Pacific. It touched won on Manila Bay and taxied to the ramp at Pan Am's Cavite base eight miles southwest of the Philippine capital known worldwide as the Pearl of the Orient for its picturesque seaside location, tropical beauty, and golden sunsets from the shoreline of its enchanting bay. 
Page 56:
Muller wondered how he was going to gather intelligence against the Japanese. It was a G-2's worst nightmare. Muller understood the average soldier might not see much of a difference between fighting the Germans and fighting the Japanese; both were dangerous and disciplined foes. But there was a big difference when it came to gaining accurate intelligence for the division's battle plans. 

World War II is always fascinating, especially in the Pacific. I'm eager to read it for a chance to learn more.

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

May 5, 2015

Book Review: My Chinese-America: Essays by Allen Gee

First Chapter, First Paragraph is hosted weekly by Bibliophile by the Sea. Share the first paragraph of your current read. Also visit Teaser Tuesday at A Daily Rhythm.
My Chinese-America:Essays by Allen Gee
Published April 1, 2015; Santa Fe Writers Project
Genre: literary essays

Book description:
In the first collection of essays by A Chinese-American male to be published in over a decade, Allen Gee writes about aspects of Asian American life in a detailed, eloquent manner, looking at how Asian-Americans view themselves in light of America’s insensitivities, stereotypes, and expectations. My Chinese-America speaks on masculinity, identity, and topics ranging from Jeremy Lin and immigration to profiling and Asian silences. 
The essays have an intimacy that transcends cultural boundaries, and casts light on a vital part of American culture that surrounds and influences all of us. (publisher)

My comments: 
I was both amazed and delighted at the frankness of some of the essays on the subject of Chinese-Americans in the U.S. Allen Gee is forthright and honest about some of his experiences and observations, yet he also shows how in touch he is with ordinary American life and how he lives it every day with his American wife and children, and his American creative writing students at Georgia College. 

His topics range from racial stereotyping of Asians to his practice of non-violence in dealing with physical and emotional challenges in his daily life. He shows himself also as a hunter and fisherman, in tune with his surroundings and American life,  but also in touch with the perceptions of other minorities and ethnic groups in a multi-cultural country. 

This collection of essays is frank in its assessments and also eye opening for those who are interested in the point of view of a group in American society who are often seen as silent, nerdy, possibly weak except in the area of academics. It shows many sides of the Chinese-American experience, and especially the one experienced by Allen Gee. 

Objective rating: 4.5/5

First paragraph, first chapter:
In mid-July during a summer when I wanted to remain in only one place, my mother called from upstate New York and asked. Won't you visit? You aren't going to miss your father's sixtieth birthday, are you? And what about Matthew? she reminded me, speaking of her first grandchild - my nephew- who was almost nine months old. You should see him now. He's trying to walk, and you should hear hin laugh. Can't you leave work for a while? Hers was a selfless voice that strove to weave connections, that valued community and the continuity of tradition. 
About Allen Gee
I grew up largely in Albany, NY, but spent a lot of time in NYC, visiting family there. I attended the University of New Hampshire, then the Iowa Writers Workshop, and finally, the University of Houston. I'm now a Professor of English at Georgia College. I live on Lake Sinclair, in Milledgeville, GA, and often volunteer at Andalusia, Flannery O'Connor's farm. My wife, Renee Dodd, is also a writer. Her terrific novel is: "A Cabinet of Wonders." I have two daughters, Ashley and Willa. My favorite pastimes outside of reading and writing are: running, fishing, traveling, hiking, and backpack-ing. I went fishing up in Alaska last summer, and I want to go back again.

Thanks to Serena Agusto-Cox of Poetic Book Tours and the author for a review copy of this book for its book tour.

Visit the tour schedule for more reviews and information 

May 3, 2015

Sunday Salon: Two Genres

Welcome to the Sunday Salon where bloggers share their reading each week. Visit The Sunday Post hosted by The Caffeinated Bookreviewer. Also visit Mailbox Monday 

ARC and review novel received recently:
When the Moon Is Low by Nadia Hashimi, to be released July 21, 2015; William Morrow
Genre: fiction
Mahmoud's passion for his wife Fereiba, a schoolteacher, is greater than any love she's ever known. But their happy, middle-class world—a life of education, work, and comfort—implodes when their country is engulfed in war, and the Taliban rises to power.
A Finely Knit Murder by Sally Golenbaum, to be published May 5, 2015; NAL
Genre: mystery 
... the sleuthing skills of Izzy Chambers Perry and the Seaside Knitters are tested as death mars the beginning of the school year…

What's on your reading plate?

Travel Can Be Fun or Not: Sunday Salon

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