Oct 30, 2015

The Muralist by B.A. Shapiro: Book Beginning

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.
The Muralist by B.A. Shapiro, to be released November 3, 2015 by Algonquin Books
From the author of the New York Times bestseller The Art Forger comes a  new novel of art, history, love, and politics that traces the life and mysterious disappearance of a brilliant young artist on the eve of World War II.

Alizée Benoit, an American painter working for the Works Progress Administration (WPA), vanishes in New York City in 1940. No one knows what happened to her. Not her Jewish family in German-occupied France. Not her artistic patron, Eleanor Roosevelt. Not her group of artistic friends, including Mark Rothko, Jackson Pollock, and Lee Krasner. And, some seventy years later, not her great-niece, Danielle Abrams, who uncovers enigmatic paintings hidden behind recently found works by those now famous Abstract Expressionist artists. Do they hold answers to the questions surrounding her missing aunt?

The Muralist plunges readers into prewar politics and the plight of European refugees refused entrance to the United States. It captures today’s New York art scene and the beginnings of the vibrant American school of Abstract Expressionism. (publisher)


Book beginning:
It was there when I arrived that morning, sitting to the right of my desk, ostensibly no different from the other half-dozen cartons on the floor, flaps bent back, paintings haphazardly poking out. As soon as I saw it, I ripped off my gloves,dropped to my knees, and pawed through the contents. I didn't realize I wasn't breathing until my chest began to ache and little black dots jumped around the edges of my vision. 
Page 56:
"Your work is damned good."
"Hans doesn't seem to agree." 
I have enjoyed several historical novels on art and am looking forward to this one.

Oct 25, 2015

Sunday Salon: Still Reading Library Books

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

The zinnias in the backyard are hanging on and roses are still blooming on two bushes. It's been an on-again off-again kind of autumn, warm some days and cold on others. I expect that it will get cold for good this week. 

My Halloween pumpkin outside got eaten and the neighbor's pumpkins have also become feasts for the squirrels. I heard that spraying polyurethane on the pumpkins will keep critters from gnawing on them. 

No books in my mailbox last week, but I got some goodies from the library.


The Making of Asian America: A History by Erika Lee, published September 1, 2015 by Simon and Schuster

I am finding lots of interesting facts. One is that the first Asian immigrants came by way of Spanish galleons sailing from Manila to Acapulco over 250 years, starting in the sixteenth century. The Asians were crew members from various countries on the ships; over the years some of them stayed in the Americas. 

The other interesting fact is that Asian migration from their countries came about primarily as a result of European and American contact and interest in the countries, for trade or labor and also through conquest or war - in China, Japan, Korea, India and various Southeast Asian countries. Fascinating stuff, and I am only in the first few chapters. 


The Feast of the Goat: A Novel by Mario Vargas Llosa, published November 13, 2001.

I read and enjoyed this Peruvian Nobel-prizewinning author's most recent book, The Discreet Hero, and decided to try more of his work. I have just started this novel about a woman's experiences during the rule of the dictator Rafael Trujillo in the Dominican Republic.

Book description: Urania Cabral returns to her native Dominican Republic -- and finds herself reliving the events of 1961, when the capital was still called Trujillo City and one old man terrorized a nation of three million. Rafael Trujillo, the depraved, ailing dictator whom Dominicans called the Goat, controls his inner circle (including Urania's father, a secretary of state now in disgrace) with a combination of violence and blackmail. In Trujillo's gaudy palace, treachery and cowardice have become a way of life. But Trujillo's grasp is slipping. There is a conspiracy against him, and a Machiavellian revolution is already under way that will have bloody consequences of its own. 

I am still reading two interesting nonfiction books - 
Hubris: the Tragedy of War in the Twentieth Century by Alistair Horne and
The Evolution of Everything: How New Ideas Emerge by Matt Ridley

After my nonfiction reading kick, I will get back to reading more novels. I've found a few on my shelf that I want to tackle. 

Have you read any nonfiction recently? 

Oct 20, 2015

Book Tour: Parchment and Old Lace 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.
Parchment and Old Lace: A Scrapbooking Mystery #13 by Laura Childs, October 2015; Berkley
Source: publisher

(In) the Big Easy and the historic Garden District, scrapbook shop owner Carmela Bertrand discovers a bride-to-be murdered in the legendary Lafayette Cemetery…

First chapter, first paragraph:
Commander's Palace wasn't just the most storied restaurant in New Orleans. For Carmela Bertrand it was pure magic. 
Carmela knew this for a fact because she was sitting in their Garden Room at this very minute. And not only was she nibbling soft-shell crab and sipping an awesome Montrachet, but she was staring into the inquisitive blue eyes of her fella du jour, Detective Edgar Babcock.  
I always enjoy this series, the setting and atmosphere of New Orleans and the intrigue. That Lafayette Cemetery comes up often in the mystery series, as I recall, as it's a big tourist draw, and a great setting for strange events to take place in a novel. 

Teaser, page 158:
Carmela pointed into the darkness. "Right there. That's the mausoleum where someone knocked me in the head with the gate. I want to take a closer look."
"Be careful," Ellie said.
Makes me want to visit New Orleans. I may be one of the few who have never been!

Oct 18, 2015

Sunday Salon: The Secret Language of Women

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

Saw the movie, The Martian, today and enjoyed it even more than the award- winning space film, Gravity. Lots more complex science and intimations of the future in space travel. 
We also ate at a new Brazilian cafe, where my favorite course was the dessert - flan (custard with carmelized sugar on top).

I found two library books about Nushu, the secret writing used by women in China to communicate privately. The novels are set in nineteenth century China. 


The Secret Language of Women by Nina Romano, published Sepember 29, 2015 by Turner Publishing
Genre: historical novel

Book description: Zhou Bin Lian, a Eurasian healer, and Giacomo Scimenti, an Italian sailor, are lovers driven apart by the Boxer Rebellion. Married to another and forbidden from her chosen profession as a healer, Lian is forced to work in a cloisonné factory while her in-laws raise her daughter, Ya Chen. It is in Nushu, the women’s secret writing, that she chronicles her life and her hopes for the future. But her quest for freedom comes at a costly price: the life of someone close to her, lost in a raging typhoon, a grueling journey to the Yun-kang Caves, and a desperate search for beauty and love in the midst of brutality. (publisher)

I was intrigued by the title, The Secret Language of Women, as I first heard about Nushu from author Lisa See. 


Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See,  paperback published May 21, 2011 by RandomHouse
Genre: historical fiction

Book description: 
In nineteenth-century China, when wives and daughters were foot-bound and lived in almost total seclusion, the women in one remote Hunan county developed their own secret code for communication: nu shu (“women’s writing”). Some girls were paired with laotongs, “old sames,” in emotional matches that lasted throughout their lives. They painted letters on fans, embroidered messages on handkerchiefs, and composed stories, thereby reaching out of their isolation to share their hopes, dreams, and accomplishments.

With the arrival of a silk fan on which Snow Flower has composed for Lily a poem of introduction in nu shu, their friendship is sealed at the tender age of seven. As the years pass, they reflect upon their arranged marriages, loneliness, and the joys and tragedies of motherhood. The two find solace, developing a bond that keeps their spirits alive. But when a misunderstanding arises, their lifelong friendship suddenly threatens to tear apart.

Snow Flower and the Secret Fan is a journey back to an era of Chinese history that is as deeply moving as it is sorrowful. This lyrical and emotionally charged novel delves into one of the most mysterious of human relationships: female friendship. (publisher)

I am eager to read both books to learn more about this unusual bit of history! Have you read either of these novels? 

New on my shelf: 
The Fairy Tale Girl, a memoir by Susan Branch, published September 15, 2015 by Spring Street Publishing
Genre: illustrated memoir

Book description: Based on the diaries Susan has kept since she was in her 20s, THE FAIRY TALE GIRL is book one of a two part series. Together the books are an illustrated memoir, designed with her whimsical watercolors and personal photographs. It's a story of love and loss, mystery and magic that begins in a geranium-colored house in California, and ends up, like any good fairy tale, on the right side of the rabbit hole, in a small cottage in the woods on the New England Island of Martha's Vineyard. (publisher)

Grabbed from my shelf: 
Taken In: Southern Sewing Circle #9 by Elizabeth Lynn Casey, published August 5, 2014
Genre: cozy mystery
Book description: Winning an appearance on a New York based morning show means the trip of a lifetime for librarian Tori Sinclair and the Sweet Briar Ladies Society Sewing Circle. Member Dixie Dunn wants to use the vacation as an opportunity to rendezvous with a man she met online. Tori must clear her friend's name when she is later charged with his murder. (publisher)

What books caught your interest last week? 

Oct 16, 2015

Flood of Fire by Amitav Ghosh: Book Beginning

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.

Am in the middle of reading this one and learning a lot, plus enjoying the rich cast of characters, the setting, and historical plot. 
Flood of Fire (Ibis Trilogy #3) by Amitav Ghosh, published August 4th, 2015 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (U.S.edition)
Genre: historical novel, literary fiction
Source: library 

The third in the Ibis Trilogy by Amitav Ghosh. A richly detailed historical novel about the British in India and China during the time of the Opium War in the nineteenth century, told primarily from the point of view of Indians and Chinese. The first in the trilogy, Sea of Poppies, was short-listed for the Man Booker Prize. Ghosh was a finalist for the 2015 Man Booker International Prize. 

Book beginning: 
Havildar Kesri Singh was the kind of soldier who liked to take the lead, particularly on days like this one, when his battalion was marching through a territory that had already been subdued and the advance-guard's job was only to fly the paltan's colours and put on their best parade-faces for the benefit of the crowds that had gathered by the roadside.
 The villagers who lined the way were simple people and Kesri didn't need to look into their eyes to know that they were staring at him in wide-eyed wonder. East India Company sepoys were an unusual sight in this remote part of Assam: to have a full paltan of the Bengal Native Infantry's 25th Regiment - the famous 'Pacheesi' - marching through the rice-fields was probably as great a tamasha as most of them would witness in a year or even a decade. 
Page 56:  
While everyone 's attention was focused on Bhim, Kesri was busy ploughing the poppy fields. Try as he might, he could not stop thinking of his brother's forthcoming journey to Delhi, mounted on a horse, with his weapons slung behind him and a fine new turban on his head. 
Book description: It is 1839 and tension has been rapidly mounting between China and British India following the crackdown on opium smuggling by Beijing. With no resolution in sight, the colonial government declares war.

One of the vessels requisitioned for the attack, the Hind, travels eastwards from Bengal to China, sailing into the midst of the First Opium War. The turbulent voyage brings together a diverse group of travellers, each with their own agenda to pursue. Among them is Kesri Singh, a sepoy in the East India Company who leads a company of Indian sepoys; Zachary Reid, an impoverished young sailor searching for his lost love, and Shireen Modi, a determined widow en route to China to reclaim her opium-trader husband's wealth and reputation. 

Flood of Fire follows a varied cast of characters from India to China, through the outbreak of the First Opium War and China's devastating defeat, to Britain's seizure of Hong Kong. (publisher)

 What book are you showcasing this Friday? 

Oct 14, 2015

The Stitching Hour by Amanda Lee: Waiting on Wednesday

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating. 
The Stitching Hour: An Embroidery Mystery by Amanda Lee, to be released November 3, 2015 by NAL

I am not an embroiderer but when a book begins with a dog, I get interested right away. 

Opening sentence:
I reached down and patted the head of my Irish wolfhound, Angus. As only two years old, he still had a lot of puppy in him, but he was mannerly and well behaved. The patrons of my embroidery shop, the Seven-Year Stitch, loved him. 
Book description: Marcy Singer's embroidery shop, the Seven-Year Stitch, is one year old this October so it’s time to party in little Tallulah Falls, Oregon. Unfortunately, an eccentric couple has opened a haunted house next door, and all that screaming will certainly scare off customers. But there’s even more to be frightened of after a local waitress is found dead on the sidewalk with mysterious markings on her neck—and one of Marcy’s key rings beneath her. Marcy must act fast  to restore the peace to Tallulah Falls…(publisher)

What book are you waiting for to be published this fall? 

Oct 13, 2015

Book Tour: Floral Depravity by Beverly Allen :

Floral Depravity: A Bridal Bouquet Shop Mystery by Beverly Allen, published October 6, 2015; Berkley
Florist Audrey Bloom provides period-accurate blooms for the daughter of a local historian getting married in a medieval-themed, hand-fasting ceremony. But shortly after the vows are exchanged, the father of the groom suddenly drops dead, from monkshood poisoning, and it’s a clear-cut case of murder. Faced with a suspect list that rivals the guest list, Audrey needs to root out the toxic killer.  (book description)

Page 48, excerpt:
"Aconite comes from plants," I said, as the ladies gathered their wraps. "Specifically monkshood."
"And you think someone brought one of these plants in?" Amber Lee said. "Please tell me there wasn't any in our flower arrangements."  
I really enjoy mystery novels with a flower or gardening theme, and this series certainly has it. Murder by plant poisoning is not new in crime novels, but the characters and the contemporary setting in Floral Depravity make a difference. The book cover too is gorgeous, and the colors are right for the fall season.

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

Tails from the Booth, photographs by Lynn Terry: First Chapter

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.
Tails from the Booth by Lynn Terry, to be released October 20, 2015; Gallery Books
Genre: nonfiction, picture book
No. of pages: 128

If dogs could take selfies, it might look something like Tails from the Booth. For this collection of photographs, Lynn Terry draws on more than twenty years of professional photography experience to capture endearing moments between canine companions. (publisher)

First chapter,  first paragraph:
My Tale of the Booth 
One would surmise, by viewing my other photography or visiting my home, that I have an interest in history and pretty much anything dating from before 1950; I live in a 104-year-old home. I collect antiques, I enjoy shooting pinup-style photography and have an entire wardrobe and props from that era. Old photographs of all my earliest ancestors are framed on my walls, among a collection of antique photos of dogs and humans together, peppered with a collection of anthropomorphic animal art. 
In 2005, inspired by my obsession with vintage photos, I began a photo booth series of dogs for a local pit bull rescue group....
Would you open this book of almost 128 pages of pictures of dogs in a picture booth? 

Oct 10, 2015

Sunday Salon: Mysteries and a Cookbook

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

Featuring several mystery novels, plus a cookbook by Amanda Freitag, whom I watch often on the TV Food Channel program, Chopped.

The Chef Next Door by Amanda Frietag, William Morrow
Depraved Heart (Kay Scarpetta #23) by Patricia Cornwell, William Morrow
The Candy Cane Cupcake Killer by Livia J. Washburn, NAL
The Chocolate Falcon Fraud  by JoAnna Carl, NAL
A Likely Story by Jenn McKinlay, NAL
Murder on St. Nicholas Avenue by Victoria Thompson; Berkley
Trimmed with Murder by Sally Goldenbaum, NAL

Currently reading:
A library book I was lucky to find, the third in the Ibis Trilogy, by Amitav Ghosh. Historical fiction about India and China, the Opium War, and the British in India during the nineteenth century. 

What are you reading at the moment? 

Oct 9, 2015

The Deadly Sisterhood by Leonie Frieda: Book Beginning

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.
The Deadly Sisterhood: A Story of Women, Power, and Intrigue in the Italian Renaissance 1427-1527 by Leonie Frieda, published April 2, 2013; HarperCollins.
Genre: non-fiction, history

Book beginning, first paragraph
Even after the passage of more than five hundred years, fifteenth-century Italy, that dangerous and exhilarating place, still glitters. Its power to dazzle remains undimmed. At the time, Italy provided little more than a geographical expression for the boot-shaped peninsula divided into 250 disparate and individual states, each with their own language or dialect, laws, currency customs and idiosyncrasies. They varied greatly, not least in size. The Duchy of Milan and the Republic of Venice, both at the northern end of the peninsula, were among the largest, though, territorially, neither could rival the Kingdom of Naples, usually referred to simply as 'the Kingdom'. These lands of the Aragonese kings stretched along the entire length of the country south of Rome, down to the tip of Italy. 
Page 56:
A noted theologian of humble origins, della Rovere had impressed the College of Cardinals, who hoped for a religious man rather than an aristocrat for Peter's throne. 
Book description: Renaissance epic, as Christendom emerged from the calamitous 14th century. The tale involves inspired and corrupt monarchs, the finest thinkers, the most brilliant artists, and the greatest beauties in Christendom. 
The story of eight of its remarkable women, all joined by birth, marriage and friendship and who ruled for a time in place of their men-
folk: 
Lucrezia Turnabuoni (Queen Mother of Florence, the power behind the Medici throne), 
Clarice Orsini (Roman princess, feudal wife), 
Beatrice d'Este (Golden Girl of the Renaissance), 
Caterina Sforza (Lioness of the Romagna), 
Isabella d'Este (the Acquisitive Marchesa), 
Giulia Farnese ('la bella', the family asset), 
Isabella d'Aragona (the Weeping Duchess) and 
Lucrezia Borgia (the Virtuous Fury). 
The men play a secondary role in this grand saga; whenever possible the action is seen through the eyes our eight heroines. (publisher)

This is on my TBR shelf. What's on your reading list this weekend? 

Oct 7, 2015

Depraved Heart by Patricia Cornwell :Waiting on Wednesday

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.
Depraved Heart (Kay Scarpetta #23) by Patricia Cornwell
Publication date: October 27, 2015 by William Morrow
Genre: thriller

Chief medical examiner Dr. Kay Scarpetta is working a suspicious death scene in Cambridge, Massachusetts when a video link lands in her text messages and seems to be from her computer genius niece Lucy. But how can it be? It’s clearly a surveillance film of Lucy taken almost twenty years ago...
The diabolical presence behind what unfolds seems obvious - but strangely, not to the FBI. Certainly that’s the message they send when they raid Lucy’s estate and begin building a case that could send her to prison for the rest of her life. (publisher)

What new book are you waiting for to be published? 

Oct 6, 2015

Pretty Girls by Karin Slaughter:

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.
Pretty Girls by Karin Slaughter, printed September 29, 2015 by William Morrow
Genre: thriller, mystery
With a missing girl in the news, Claire Scott can’t help but be reminded of her sister, who disappeared twenty years ago in a mystery that was never solved. 
But when Claire begins to learn the truth about her sister, nothing will ever be the same.

First paragraph, first chapter:
When you first disappeared, your mother warned me that finding out exactly what had happened to you would be worse than never knowing. We argued about this constantly because arguing was the only thing that held us together at the time. 
Teaser, page 69:
"No," she'd told him, because by then, the desire had been stifled by a tall stack of waffles. "I feel like I want to dig up Paul's body and kill him all over again."
My comments: I enjoyed the book, though I wished it had been less violent. 

Oct 4, 2015

Sunday Salon: Nonfiction Reads

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

I have been reading nonfiction, thanks to ARCs received recently. Enjoying them too. I must blame it on the cooler weather that I have become interested in these more serious reads.
The Evolution of Everything: How New Ideas Emerge by Matt Ridley, to be released October 27, 2015 by Harper.
The New York Times bestselling author of The Rational Optimist and Genome returns with a brilliant argument for evolution that definitively dispels a dangerous, widespread myth: that we can command and control our world.
Hubris by Alistair Horne, to be released November 17, 2015 by Harper
The legendary historian and author of A Savage War of Peace and The Price of Glory distills a lifetime’s study to reflect on six critical battles that changed the course of the twentieth century.

And some new fiction on the shelf:
Hunters in the Dark: A Novel by Lawrence Osborne, to be released January 20, 2015 by Hogarth
Adrift in Cambodia, Robert Grieve – pushing thirty and eager to side-step a life of quiet desperation as a small-town teacher – decides to go AWOL. As he crosses the border from Thailand, he tests the threshold of a new future. 
The Magic Strings of Frankie Presto by Mitch Albom, to be published November 10, 2015 by Harper
Mitch Albom creates a magical world through his love of music in this remarkable new novel about the power of talent to change our lives

This is the epic story of Frankie Presto—the greatest guitar player who ever lived—and the six lives he changed with his six magical blue strings

I am also reading a library book, a Danish mystery novel about scientists and research on vaccines and immunology.
The Arc of the Swallow by S.J. Gazan,  published April 7, 2015 by Quercus. 
In The Arc of the Swallow, maverick police detective Søren Marhauge returns in an perilous investigation that reveals a profit-motivated conspiracy involving the upper reaches of Big Pharma, government and academia.

That's all for this week. I have other library books and only hope I'll have the time!

Oct 2, 2015

Book Beginning: Embracing the Seasons by Gunilla Norris

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.

Embracing the Seasons: Memories of a Country Garden by Gunilla Norris, published June 8, 2015 by BlueBridge

Book beginning:
Peepers
These tiny frogs announce the arrival of spring. In the early mornings, their high chorus of trills begins to rise from the pond and the nearby marsh. They are a life sign.
I have never laid eyes on them. But as spring advances, their chorus grows until there is a continuous high pitch day and night. "The waters are warm enough. The sun is warm enough. Live," they sing. "Live!"
Page 55:
First of all, nature holds us. From the ground up we are
supported - earth, air, water, and crops that sustain us.
We are because the world is.
Book description:
Observations of a year lived in the countryside and the abundance ...  of nature and its cycles of renewal. 
The book begins in the spring, with the birds singing in the darkness of dawn and the buds knobbing up on the trees and bushes, and then circles through the warmth and richness of summer, the golden bounty of fall, and the dark serenity of winter. Until it is spring once more.
By illuminating the joy and beauty of daily life, it is an invitation to find and honor the sacred in the place we call home. (publisher)

A combination of thoughts and poetry, in praise of nature.