May 31, 2016

First Chapter: Murder in Morningside Heights by Victoria Thompson

Murder in Morningside Heights: A Gaslight Mystery
Author: Victoria Thompson
Published May 3, 2016 by Berkley
Genre: historical mystery
Former police sergeant Frank Malloy and his wife adjust to life in New York high society as they investigate a death in the field of higher learning.

First chapter:
Frank Malloy, Confidential Inquiries.
Frank hesitated a moment to admire the sight of his name in gilt letters on the frosted glass of the office door. The "Confidential Inquiries" had been his mother-in-law's idea. Elizabeth Decker felt that "Detective Agency" was somehow undignified and might attract the wrong type of client. Frank wasn't sure what the wrong type of client might be for a private detective agency, but he was more than willing to give his new business at last a hint of respectability. 
Would you keep reading based on the opening paragraph of the book?

Bibliophile By the Sea hosts First Chapter, First Paragraph every Tuesday. Share the first paragraph(s) of your current read or book interest, with information for readers

May 30, 2016

It's Monday: Light Women's Fiction and Others

I have just started this book and others in my new TBR pile as I'm in the mood for some light women's fiction.
By the Numbers

The Memory of Lemon
And an historical fiction title:
The Woman in the Photo
The Woman in the Photo is timely as it begins on Memorial Day, but in 1889.

Can't forget the nonfiction:
Why the Dutch Are Different
What books are on your desk this week?
Visit It's Monday, What Are You Reading? hosted by Book Date.

May 28, 2016

Armchair Travel on a Cruise

Armchair and actual travel this weekend for me, but not on a cruise. Too bad!
Title Wave: Booktown Mystery #10  by Lorna Barrett
Bookstore owners and authors and their readers are on an ocean cruise. There is a troublesome, disagreeable crime writer on board and I have picked her out to be the likely victim of the inevitable crime for this cozy mystery. We will see if that proves true! 

Happy reading, traveling this weekend!

May 27, 2016

The Cake Therapist by Judith Fertig: Book Beginning

The Cake Therapist by Judith Fertig, published June 2, 2015

Book beginning:
Chapter 1: Dark Chocolate and Rich Coffee
I didn't know until I licked the mocha buttercream from my third devil's food cupcake that this was the flavor of starting over -- dark chocolate with that take-charge undercurrent of coffee.

I could actually taste it, feel it. And now I craved it.

Slowly, I was coming back to myself. 

Novel by an award-winning cookbook author.
Claire “Neely” O’Neil is a pastry chef of extraordinary talent. Every great chef can taste shimmering, elusive flavors that most of us miss, but Neely can “taste” feelings—cinnamon makes you remember; plum is pleased with itself; orange is a wake-up call. When flavor and feeling give Neely a glimpse of someone’s inner self, she can customize her creations to help that person celebrate love, overcome fear, even mourn a devastating loss.

Page 56:
The girls had milk for breakfast, Grace told herself, and she couldn't let this hollow-cheeked boy go hungry. She just couldn't. 
What do you think about this novel?  Are you a cake person?

The Friday 56. Grab a book, turn to page 56 or 56% of your eReader. Find any sentence that grabs you. Post it, and add your URL post in Linky at Freda's Voice. Also visit Book Beginning at Rose City Reader.

May 25, 2016

New Cozy Mystery Series And an Old Favorite

If you are a regular cozy mystery reader, you probably are interested in new series as they come out. Here are two new ones this spring.
Eclair and Present Danger by Laura Bradford, to be released June 6, 2016, Berkley
The first book in the delicious new Emergency Dessert Squad Mystery series from national bestselling author Laura Bradford.
Crime and Poetry by Amanda Flower, published April 5, 2016
From Amanda Flower—who writes the national bestselling Amish Quilt Shop Mysteries as Isabella Alan—comes the first in the new Magical Bookshop Mystery series.

And an old favorite has a new book in the series by Hazel Holt:
Mrs. Malory and Death is a Word by Hazel Holt, published May 3, 2016
This is the 23rd in the series set in the English countryside. 

I'm reading a Dream Club Mystery by Mary Kennedy right now, titled A Premonition of Murder, where dream club members share their dreams and solve murders. Cute idea!
I often have to be in the mood for cozies, as I often like reading other genres too. They are light fillers in between my regular reading.  How about you? 

Waiting on Wednesday is hosted weekly by Jill at Breaking the Spine. What new releases are you eagerly waiting for?

May 22, 2016

Sunday Salon: Books Celebrating the Bicentennial of Charlotte Bronte's Birth

A relative is taking a trip to Yorkshire, England where a friend's choir will perform this summer. When he mentioned that there might not be much to see and do, I reminded him that Charlotte Bronte and her sister Emily Bronte lived in a Yorkshire village at the edge of the moors. I imagine the moors to be still an atmospheric place, one that gave rise to Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights. In any case, I would love this kind of trip, especially in the bicentenary of Charlotte's birth.

Once I had started reading the short stories inspired by Jane Eyre, Reader, I Married Him written by contemporary women authors, I seemed to find articles and books about Charlotte Bronte everywhere.  There is a reason for this.
"This year the Brontë literary-industrial complex celebrates the bicentennial of Charlotte’s birth, and British and American publishers have been especially busy." (from "The Bronte's Secret" in The Atlantic Monthly)
The most recent Atlantic Monthly article by Judith Schulevitz:
The Atlantic Monthly 

The Brontës’ Secret

The sisters turned domestic constraints into grist for brilliant books. (The Atlantic Monthly)
The article lists some of the biographies and other books that have been published recently about or inspired by the Brontes:
 In the U.S., there is a new Charlotte Brontë biography by Claire Harman (A Fiery Heart); a Brontë-themed literary detective novel; a novelistic riff on Jane Eyre whose heroine is a serial killer; a collection of short stories inspired by that novel’s famous last line, “Reader, I married him”; and a fan-fiction-style “autobiography” of Nelly Dean, the servant-narrator of Wuthering Heights. Last year’s highlights included a young-adult novelization of Emily’s adolescence and a book of insightful essays called The Brontë Cabinet: Three Lives in Nine Objects, which uses items belonging to Charlotte, Emily, and Anne as wormholes to the 19th century and the lost texture of their existence. (Schulevitz, The Atlantic Monthly)
The article also references Lucasta Miller in The Brontë Myth, her 2001 history of Brontëmania. 

The article also discusses the Bronte sisters as writers. They were "quiet subversives" pointing out injustices in the treatment of teachers and governesses, jobs that they themselves held for a time, and making use of their narrow lives at home to write.

After re-reading Jane Eyre, I am getting a better sense of how the short stories in Reader, I Married Him relate to the novel. 
Reader, I Married Him: Stories Inspired by Jane Eyre, edited by Tracy Chevalier, published March 22, 2016 

The next Bronte book I plan to tackle is a novel, pure fiction, but another inspired by the Brontes:
The Mad Woman Upstairs by Catherine Lowell, published March 1, 2016. "...the only remaining descendant of the Brontë family embarks on a modern-day literary scavenger hunt to find the family's long-rumored secret estate, using clues her eccentric father left behind." (publisher)
Visit the Sunday Salon, where bloggers share their reading each week, and The Sunday Post hosted by The Caffeinated Bookreviewer. Also visit It's Monday, What Are You Reading? hosted by Book Date.

May 21, 2016

Book Review: Flight Patterns by Karen White

FLIGHT PATTERNS by Karen White, to be released May 24, 2016 by NAL
The New York Times bestselling author of The Sound of Glass and coauthor of The Forgotten Room tells the story of a woman coming home to the family she left behind—and to the woman she always wanted to be...

Georgia Chambers has spent her life sifting through other people’s pasts while trying to forget her own. But then her work as an expert of fine china—especially of Limoges—requires her to return to the one place she swore she’d never revisit...

It’s been ten years since Georgia left her family home on the coast of Florida, and nothing much has changed, except that there are fewer oysters and more tourists. She finds solace seeing her grandfather still toiling away in the apiary where she spent much of her childhood, but encountering her estranged mother and sister leaves her rattled. 

Seeing them after all this time makes Georgia realize that something has been missing—and unless she finds a way to heal these rifts, she will forever be living vicariously through other people’s remnants. To embrace her own life—mistakes and all—she will have to find the courage to confront the ghosts of her past and the secrets she was forced to keep...(publisher)

My comments: 
Georgia returns home to Florida to search for a soup bowl with an unusual Limoges pattern that she had found in her grandmother's closet many years ago. She hopes to match it up with china in the same pattern that a client has asked her to research and to find missing pieces to complete his set.

The history of this piece of Limoges china that Georgia had at home is tied to a family secret that had died with her grandmother years before. But when a surprise visitor arrives from France with a piece from the same set of porcelain, her grandfather reveals truths that affect Georgia and her sister profoundly and ties her history to that of her client, the man who now owns the full set.  

Suspenseful and heart wrenching, Flight Patterns is an expertly written story combining people and the past, the history of WWII in Europe, to the present. 

Book Review: Killer Deal by Sofie Sarenbrant

Killer Deal by Sofie Sarenbrant, published May 10, 2016, Stockholm Press
Genre: police procedural, thriller

This is the third in the Emma Skold crime series by the Swedish author, and the first to be translated into English. You can tell something about the first books as things seem to have moved along for Emma, the Stockholm detective. She has moved on from her former love, Hugo, and is now in a relationship with a new love, Kristoffer, who is in real estate.

Not only is Emma heavily pregnant with her first child, but she continues to work, becoming engrossed in solving the latest crime - the death of a wealthy man in his own home. The dead man's wife, Cornelia, has been physically and emotionally abused for years and, because of this, is the prime suspect in the murder. But there are more twists and turns in the plot, so that you can't expect the real culprit till the very end.

Well written with well developed characters, the book tackles sensitive themes of domestic abuse, loss, and revenge. It ends with a cliff hanger, a plot hook that makes you want to read the next in the series.

Objective rating: 4.5/5
I received a complimentary copy of this book from Meryl Zegarek Public Relations, Inc. for review.

May 20, 2016

Book Beginning: The House on Primrose Pond by Yona Zeldis McDonough

The House on Primrose Pondcontemporary fiction by Yona Zeldis McDonough, published February 2, 2016 by NAL

Book beginning:
It's two p.m. on a freakishly warm afternoon in January. Susannah Gilmore reluctantly looks up from her laptop. Standing in the doorway of her home office is her husband, Charlie. "Have you seen what it's doing outside?" he asks. She nods, attention drifting back to the screen. "It's sixty-nine degrees." 

"The January thaw, right?" She's read about this someplace, though she can't recall where. 

"Whatever. We should take advantage of it, though. Let's go for a bike ride before the kids get home."

Book description:
Historical novelist Susannah Gilmore is captivated by an unexpected find in her late parents’ home: an unsigned love note addressed to her mother, in handwriting that is most definitely not her father’s.

Page 56:
Houses had lives and houses kept secrets. She'd already stumbled upon two of them. If she kept up her search, what else might she find? 

What intriguing book beginnings have you found this week? 

The Friday 56. Grab a book, turn to page 56 or 56% of your eReader. Find any sentence that grabs you. Post it, and add your URL post in Linky at Freda's Voice. Also visit Book Beginning at Rose City Reader.

May 19, 2016

Trips With a Cozy Mystery

Books, knitting, and a cruise - these June cozies could make for good armchair travel! Also visit Mailbox Monday for other bloggers' new books.

Books of a Feather: A Bibliophile Mystery #10 by Kate Carlisle
San Francisco book-restoration expert Brooklyn Wainwright’s latest project is for the birds, but it may have her running for her life. 

Knit to Be Tied: A Knitting Mystery #14 by Maggie Sefton
In Fort Connor, Colorado, Kelly Flynn and the Lambspun Knitters must come together before their whole town unravels.

Title Wave: Booktown Mystery #10  by Lorna Barrett
While her bookstore, Haven’t Got a Clue, is rebuilt following a devastating fire, Tricia Miles and her sister, Angelica, decide to book a cruise for some much needed R&R. but they’re going to need their life jackets because a murderer has also booked passage

These are on my summer to-do list. Have any cozies planned for early summer?

May 17, 2016

First Chapter: LaRose by Louise Erdrich

Bibliophile By the Sea hosts First Chapter, First Paragraph every Tuesday. Share the first paragraph(s) of your current read or book interest, with information for readers
LaRose by Louise Erdrich, published May 10, 2016 by Harper. 
contemporary tale of a tragic accident, a demand for justice, and a profound act of atonement with ancient roots in Native American culture. 

First paragraph, first chapter:
NORTH DAKOTA, LATE SUMMER, 1999. Landreaux Iron stalks a deer along the edge of the property bordering his own. He shoots with easy confidence - but when the buck springs away, Landreaux realizes he's hit something else, a blur he saw as he squeezed the trigger. When he staggers closer, he realizes he has killed his neighbor's five-year-old son, Dusty Ravich. 
Dusty was best friends with Landreaux’s five-year-old son, LaRose.... Following an ancient means of retribution, he and wife Emmaline will give LaRose to Dusty's grieving parents. “Our son will be your son now,” they tell them. But a vengeful man begins raising trouble, hurling accusations of a cover-up the day Dusty died. (publisher)

Would you keep reading, based on the first paragraph and the book description? 

May 15, 2016

Sunday Salon: Mockingbird by Charles J. Shields

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 and It's Monday, What Are You Reading? hosted by Book Date. 

They are still forecasting a bit of frost and a slow moving cold spell, in the middle of May! Guess that's why they don't recommend planting annuals till after Memorial Day, May 30. We have had to take out and bring in our potted plants at night, depending on the temps.

A lovely new book I am reading right now:
Mockingbird: A Portrait of Harper Lee: from Scout to Go Set a Watchman by Charles J. Shields, published April 26, 2016 by Henry Holt & Co. An extensively revised and updated edition of the bestselling biography of Harper Lee, reframed from the perspective of the recent publication of Go Set a Watchman. 

Thr first four British crime novels featuring Detective Helen Grace, by M. J.Arlidge that I'm eager to get into, starting with #1. Hope they are not too noir.  
A surprise win:
The Wangs vs the World by Jade Chang, to be released October 4, 2016 by HarperAvenue. 

What's on your reading desk this week? 

May 14, 2016

Saturday Snapshot: White Bell Flowers

To participate in Saturday Snapshot: post a photo that you (or a friend or family member) have taken, then leave a direct link to your post in the Mister Linky.

Those little white bell flowers hang along the back of this plant's stem.The plant is Solomon's Seal and can be used as an herbal too!

May 13, 2016

300 DAYS OF SUN by Deborah Lawrenson

The Friday 56. Grab a book, turn to page 56 or 56% of your eReader. Find any sentence that grabs you. Post it, and add your URL post in Linky at Freda's Voice. Also visit Book Beginning at Rose City Reader.
300 Days of Sun, a novel by Deborah Lawrenson, published April 12, 2016 by Harper Paperbacks
Source: publisher
Deborah Lawrenson’s mesmerizing novel transports readers to Faro, a sunny Portuguese town with a shadowy past—where two women, decades apart, are drawn into a dark game of truth and lies that still haunts the shifting sea marshes. (goodreads)

Book beginning, Prologue:
A few careless minutes, and the boy was gone.Violet shadows stretched from the rocks, clock hands over the sand. She shouldn't have allowed herself to linger, but the sea and sky had merged into a shimmering mirror of copper and red it was hard to tell if she was floating above the water, or standing on air. Waves beat time on the shore then reached out to caress her feet.
Chapter One:
I met Nathan Emberlin in Faro, southern Portugal, in August 2014,
At first, I thought he was just another adventurous young man, engaging but slightly immature. His beautiful sculpted face held a hint of vulnerability, but that ready smile and exuberant cheekiness eased his way, as did the radiant generosity of his spirit, so that it wasn't only women who smiled back, people of all ages warmed to Nathan, even the cross old man who guarded the stork's nest on the lamppost outside the tobacconist's shop.
Page 56:
"....He told me to meet him at the small chapel at the Largo do Carmo at seven o'clock today. He didn't say it was full of flaming bones - not sure I appreciate his sense of humour."
Themes: Portuguese history, politics and corruption, the kidnapping of a child, descriptions of the people and place.

Comments: The author is clearly captivated by Portugal, its differences and closeness to North Africa (the red sands from the Sahara drift over the Portuguese town from time to time), its people, weaving its story of the past into the present.

The novel is clearly the product of a lot of research and I learned things about Portugal that surprised me. In terms of the book's characters, most of the book is written in a journalistic style, as the narrator is Joanna Millard, a journalist in search of a story. Though this style makes the story somewhat cut and dry at times, the novel has definite historical merits.

My objective rating: 4/5

May 10, 2016

Book Review: I LET YOU GO by Clare Mackintosh

Bibliophile By the Sea hosts First Chapter, First Paragraph every Tuesday. 
I Let You Go by Clare Mackintosh, published May 3, 2016 by Berkley. 
Genre: thriller

First chapter, first paragraph:
Prologue: The wind flicks wet hair across her face, and she screws up her eyes against the rain. Weather like this makes everyone hurry, scurrying past on slippery pavements with chins buried into collars. Passing cars send spray over their shoes, the noise from the traffic making it impossible for her to hear more than a few words of the chattering update that began the moment the school gates opened. The words burst from him without a break, mixed up and back to front in the excitement of this new world into which he is growing. She makes out something about a best friend, a project on space, a new teacher, and she looks down and smiles at his excitement, ignoring the cold that weaves its way through her scarf. The boy grins back and tips up his head to taste the rain, wet eyelashes forming dark clumps around his eyes. 
Synopsis: Jenna Gray let go the hand of her five-year-old son for a few seconds as they walked home on the way from school and he ran ahead toward their front door. Those few seconds were enough time for her to lose him forever. 

She moves from her hometown in England for a cottage in Wales, leaving behind sad memories and an ex husband, wanting to make new friends and develop new relationships. But fate has other plans for her, as her ex is hardly out of the picture.

My comments: Imagine my surprise as I read on and found things are not what they seem and people are not who you think ... The novel is intense at times, very suspenseful, and has a surprise ending. I was ambivalent as I couldn't decide whether I would have ended the book that way or not. The plot twist takes the novel into a novel and noir direction.

My objective rating: 5/5
Thanks to the publisher for a review galley for their book tour. 

May 9, 2016

Summer Books 2016

Visit Mailbox Monday and It's Monday, What Are You Reading? hosted by Book Date. 

It was a beautiful Mother's Day yesterday, with sun, blue skies, and perfect weather for sitting and walking outside. This guy thought so too, and appeared again this morning in the grass.

A few new books for review/feature:
The Bones of Grace by Tahmima Anam, to be released June 28, 2016 by HarperCollins.
On the eve of her departure from Boston, Zubaida Haque falls in love with Elijah Strong. But when fate sends her back to her hometown, she’s married to her childhood best friend and settled into a traditional Bangladeshi life. To escape familial constraints, she moves to Chittagong to help make a documentary film about the infamous shipbreaking beaches, where ships are destroyed and their various parts put up for sale. (goodreads)
The Nordic Theory of Everything: In Search of a Better Life by Anu Partanen, to be released June 28, 2016 by Harper
A Finnish journalist, now a naturalized American citizen, asks Americans to draw on elements of the Nordic way of life to nurture a fairer, happier, more secure, and less stressful society for themselves and their children.
Sunshine Beach by Wendy Wax, to be released June 21by Berkley
Three women join forces to bring a historic seaside hotel back to life…

What are you reading this week? 

May 6, 2016

Book Beginning: A DROP IN THE OCEAN by Jenni Ogden

The Friday 56. Grab a book, turn to page 56 or 56% of your eReader. Find any sentence that grabs you. Post it, and add your URL post in Linky at Freda's Voice. Also visit Book Beginning at Rose City Reader.
A Drop in the Ocean by Jenni Ogden, released May 3, 2016, published by She Writes Press. 

Book beginning:
On my forth-ninth birthday my shining career came to an inauspicious end. It took with it the jobs of four promising young scientists and catapulted my loyal research technician into premature retirement, an unjust reward for countless years of dedicated scut work.That April 6th began in exactly the same manner as all my birthdays over the previous fifteen years - Eggs Benedict with salmon, a slice of homemade wholemeal bread spread thickly with marmalade, and not one but two expressos at an Italian cafe in downtown Boston....
Page 56:
One morning as we were sitting on her deck relishing our second cup of coffee, she asked me again why I didn't swim or snorkel, and this time I told her. 
Book description: On her 49th birthday, Anna Fergusson, Boston neuroscientist, arrives at an unwanted crossroads when the funding for her research lab is cut. On impulse she rents a cabin for a year on Australia's Great Barrier Reef. However Turtle Island, alive with sea birds and nesting Green turtles, is not the retreat she expected. (goodreads)
What are you reading this weekend?

May 5, 2016

Book Review: Wedding Girl by Stacey Ballis

About WEDDING GIRL by Stacey Ballis, published May 3, 2016 by Berkley
Genre: romance, contemporary fiction
Top pastry chef Sophie Bernstein and her sommelier fiancé were set to have Chicago’s culinary wedding of the year…until the groom eloped with someone else, leaving Sophie splashed across the tabloids—fifty grand in debt on her dream wedding. The icing on the cake was when she lost her job and her home…
Sophie moves in with her grandmother, Bubbles. Sophie gets a part-time job at the old-fashioned neighborhood bakery and finds herself reluctantly giving a wedding cake customer advice on everything from gift bags to guest accommodations. Before she knows it, she’s an online wedding planner. It pays the bills, but Sophie wonders if she’s really moving forward—or starting over from scratch. (publisher)

My comments: 
I enjoyed reading this light romance with the entertaining twists in plot - a successful and well-known chef is left at the altar by her fiance, and she disappears from society by hiding out with her grandmother Bubbles, making ends meet by working at a local bakery. Sophie soon uses her baking skills to improve the bakery's failing business  and meets a woman whom she gives advice to re wedding planning. Sophie soon becomes a wedding advisor online, incognito, and develops a whopping online business, with no one knowing her real identity. Romance comes into the picture later on, and a chance for Sophie to redeem her baking career. 

Add to the plot the amusing personalities of Sophie's grandmother and her bakery boss, and an online confidante whom she might just be interested in romantically.

Romance and foodie readers, this might be a book for you!

Thanks to the publisher for a review copy of Wedding Girl.

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...