May 25, 2019

Sunday Salon: Domestic Drama, Suspense

Domestic drama and books of suspense

The First Mistake

The First Mistake by Sandie Jones, June 11, 2019, Minotaur Books
Genre: domestic suspense
(A) wife, her husband, and the woman who is supposedly her best friend.

Murder, She Wrote: Murder in Red

Murder She Wrote: Murder in Red by Jessica Fletcher and Jon Land
Publication: May 28, 2019, Berkley Books
In what appears to be medical malpractice, Jessica learns her friend was actually a victim of something far more sinister.

Searching for Sylvie Lee

Searching for Sylvie Lee by Jean Kwok, June 4, 2019, William Morrow
Genre: suspense, family drama
In one Chinese immigrant family, the book explores what happens when the eldest daughter disappears, and a series of family secrets emerge.

The Last Train to London
The Last Train to London
The Last Train to London by Meg Waite Clayton, September 10, 2019, Harper
This historical novel centers on the Kindertransports that carried thousands of children out of Nazi-occupied Europe in WWII—and one brave woman who helped them escape to safety.

The Chestnut Man
The Chestnut Man
The Chestnut Man by Soren Sveistrup, Sepember 3, 2019, Harper
Genre: police procedural, thriller
A madman is terrorizing Copenhagen. His calling card is a matchstick doll and two chestnuts. 

Gravity Is the Thing: A Novel
Gravity Is the Thing: A Novel
Gravity Is the Thing: A Novel by Jaclyn Moriarty, July 23, 2019, Harper
Genre: contemporary fiction
A single mother's search for happiness. 

What are you reading this week?

The Sunday Post hosted by The Caffeinated Bookreviewer,  Stacking the Shelves. Also visit The Sunday Salon hosted by ReaderBuzz, and It's Monday, What Are You Reading by Book Date. and Mailbox Monday 

Claws of the Cat by Susan Spann: Shinobi Mystery #1

Claws of the Cat (Shinobi Mystery #1) by author  Susan Spann is being re-released by Seventh Street Books; Reprint edition (April 23, 2019)

Claws of the Cat: Reprint Edition
Claws of the Cat

My review:

An unlikely pair of collaborators in 16th century Kyoto risk their lives to solve the murder of a samurai who died from claw and stab wounds in a local tea house. The fatal wounds were made by neko-te or "cat's claws," a type of weapon used mostly be female fighters. But did a female murder the samurai?

Father Mateo, a Portuguese Jesuit priest who is protected and sponsored by the shogun, and his official protector, the ninja Hiro, must prove that Mateo's convert to Christianity, the tea house entertainer Sayuri, is innocent of the crime. The son of the dead samurai threatens to kill both Mateo and Sayuri unless another person is found responsible for the murder.

An engrossing mystery in an intriguing historical setting, with likable and well developed main characters, Claws of the Cat is also an entertaining and well researched novel about the samurai, their code of conduct, and their manner of fighting. I recommend the book for those who enjoy a good mystery and are curious about the old samurai culture of Japan.

Blade of the Samurai
Blade of the Samurai
The next in the series, Blade of the Samurai,  originally published July 15, 2014, is also in reprint with a new cover by Seventh Street Books.  Here is my review of the first edition.

See my reviews of the other books in the series:
The Ninja's Daughter
Flask of the Drunken Master
Trial on Mount Koya
Betrayal at Iga

There are six novels in the mystery series so far, all being reprinted in paperback by Seventh Street Books, with a seventh book, Ghost of the Bamboo Road to be released November 2019. I have enjoyed all the books, and am looking forward to the seventh book!

Susan Spann is the award-winning author of the Hiro Hattori mystery novels, featuring ninja detective Hiro Hattori and Portuguese Jesuit Father Mateo. She has a degree in Asian Studies, as well as a lifelong love of Japanese history, food and culture. She currently lives in Tokyo, where she is working on an upcoming nonfiction book about mountain climbing in Japan as well as the next installment in the Hiro Hattori mystery series.Visit her 

May 24, 2019

Book Tour and Review: EXPOSED by Jean-Philippe Blondel

Exposed Banner
France Book Tours

France Book Tours presents Exposed by Jean-Philippe Blondel, June 4, 2019, New Vessel Press
Genre: literary fiction

My comments:

Alexandre Laudin, an internationally known artist, tries to attract the attention of his former teacher. Monsieur Claret, now a 58-year-old divorced man with two grown daughters. Laudin tells Claret that he played an important role in his life in his student years, and that to him, Claret had become an obsession. He eventually persuades Claret to be a subject of his art, eventually getting his former teacher to pose for his canvas, almost in the nude.

Claret is eventually pulled in by Alexandre's persistence and artistic exuberance, and at the end of the book, the two seem to make a last-minute pact that is as surprising as it is unconsidered by Claret. In other words, Claret seems to be neither unwilling or dismayed by events.  

A book about artists, obsession, and a willingness to go to extreme lengths for the sake of art. The novel, nevertheless, is written with restraint and leaves a lot for the reader to intuit. An intriguing book that I enjoyed for its unusual style, writing, and personalities. 

Book excerpt: (page 26)
"I don't know how to explain it. I think a teacher signs a tacit contract with his students from the moment they walk into the classroom. It goes beyond a pact of non aggression. It is an agreement that stipulates that even over the years, there will be respect between us, and should I put protection. I'm not sure this makes an sense." 
"And I doubt whether your feelings would be shared by your colleagues. Or by some of the kids you have there in front of you."
Book excerpt: (page 34)
"All I can say is that when I saw you the other day, I understood that you had played an important role in my life. I thought about you all evening;, part of the night, and all of the following week. You became an obsession."
"Now you're scaring me."
"This happens a lot. But there's nothing to be afraid of." 
The author:

portrait de Jean-philippe Blondel

Jean-Philippe Blondel
was born in 1964 in Troyes, France
where he lives as an author and English teacher.
His novel The 6:41 to Paris has been acclaimed
in both the United States and Europe.

Enter here for a giveaway of this novel. 

Thanks to Emma for a review copy for the blog tour. 

May 15, 2019

Book Review and Tour: Phoenix: Transformation Poems by Jessica Goody

Phoenix: Transformation Poems
Phoenix: Transformation Poems by Jessica Goody
Published March 1, 2019, CW Books
Genre: poetry


What appealed to me most about these transformation poems was the rich and imaginative language of the poet - the sensory words, metaphors, similes, and other devices used to describe her observations and convey her feelings and her ideas.

In "Bitter Tea," an illicit flirtation between two people reveals their true relationship at the tea table. "The tea was bitter with betrayal" because of their secret. "The spoons rang," "the ice clatters," "Her summer dress like stained glass," "She tickles his ankles with her painted toes." All the senses are at play here, as the reader is caught up in images of taste, sound, sight, and touch that convey the feelings of the two lovers.

In "Blue Rhapsody," a description of a group of musicians at play, "Chords twinkle in the air like stardust." We have a mixture of sensory images that Goody uses in almost all of the poems in her book, to a very effective degree.

The poet is very conscious of each and every word she uses and her images are new, impressive, and extremely effective. In "Along the Amazon," she describes the jungle:  "Dense trees draped with rope-thick vines /winding among green boughs, concealing/the snakes that lie within,...  I was pulled into that jungle, seeing and hearing it vividly.

Jessica Goody excels in description, pulling in readers with her use of words to capture the senses. Her poem "Jazz" is inspired by the works of Henri Matisse, one of my favorite artists because of his use of color, shape and form to pull the viewers in. Goody manages to do the same with her use of language to transform words into feelings and images.

I enjoyed reading her poems very much. This is a collection that I will keep close by on my reading shelf.

About the collection:

The sideways glance, the quick turn of the head, the sudden look up: these provide Jessica Goody's angle of vision into the fleeting experience of the world that is captured and rendered in her lines.Phoenix: Transformation Poems consists of 70 poems, a mixture of free verse, sonnets, and haiku. They cover a wide variety of subject matter, but the main theme is transformation--the triumph over pain and trauma and the resilience of the human spirit.

Early Praise:

“Through language and emotion, Phoenix: Transformation Poems  connects the soul of the poet to the soul of the reader and takes it on a wondrous journey through the rich intricacies of the mind and heart. Jessica Goody paints with a brilliant palette of words that fills the senses and emotions with vibrant images of her special universe of joy, pain, love, mystery, and fulfillment. Phoenix is a rich triumph and marks its author, once again, as an artist whose work should be followed closely by those interested in the forces shaping the future of American poetry.”
-Harvey Trabb, co-author of September 19

About the Poet:
Jessica Goody, poet

 Jessica Goody is the award-winning author of Defense Mechanisms: Poems on Life, Love, and Loss (Phosphene Publishing, 2016) andPhoenix: Transformation Poems (CW Books, 2019). Goody’s writing has appeared in over three dozen publications, including The Wallace Stevens JournalReader’s DigestEvent HorizonThe Seventh Wave,Third WednesdayThe MacGuffinHarbinger Asylum and The Maine Review. Jessica is a columnist for SunSations Magazine and the winner of the 2016 Magnets and Ladders Poetry Prize.

Thanks to Serena M. Agusto-Cox for a copy of the book for this tour/review
Poetic Book Tours -- Where Readers Come to Poetry
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May 12, 2019

Sunday Salon: Happy Mother's Day

Happy Mother's Day to one and all! Unfortunately, we are housebound for the most part because of flu in the household and rain on the way! But we are enjoying chicken soup and hot cider nevertheless. Hope all the other moms are having a good day.

Some new books:

Death in Kew Gardens (Kat Holloway Mysteries, #3)
Death in Kew Gardens
Death in Kew Gardens by Jennifer Ashley caught my eye because of my interest in plants, gardens, and gardening! This is the third in the Kate Holloway Mysteries set in Victorian London. Published June 4, 2018 by Berkley.

Invitation to Die (An Inspector Redfyre Mystery Book 2)
Invitation to Die
Invitation to Die by Barbara Cleverly is the second in the Inspector Redfyre Mystery series, This one is set in Cambridge in the 1920s. Its publication date is August, 2019 by Soho Press. 

The Book Supremacy (Bibliophile Mystery, #13)
The Book Supremacy
The Book Supremacy is the 13th in the Bibliophile Mystery series. This one is set in Paris and San Francisco, with book restorer Brooklyn  and her new husband Derek, solving a crime. Thank heavens that the books in the series can be read on their own and not sequentially. 

After the End
After the End
After the End by Clare Mackintosh is a novel of contemporary fiction about family dynamics, to be published June 25, 2019 by G.P. Putnam Sons. 

Finishing up a mystery series

The Stone Circle (Ruth Galloway, #11)
The Stone Circle
The Stone Circle is the 11th in the Ruth Galloway mystery series set in the swamplands and saltflats of Norfolk, England. I recommend that readers read the books in sequence because of Ruth's intriguing personal life that changes with each novel. I hope there will be a 12th in the series! This one was just printed May 7 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 

The Sunday Post hosted by The Caffeinated Bookreviewer,  Stacking the Shelves, and  It's Monday, What Are You Reading by Book Date. and Mailbox Monday

May 7, 2019

After Dark by Haruki Murakami: Book Review Revisited

Book Review: After Dark by Haruki Murakami

After Dark
After Dark

Title: After Dark by Haruki Murakami
Paperback: 256 pages; Kindle; Audiobook
Publisher: May 2007

Haruki Murakami's latest novel, After Dark, begins just before midnight in Tokyo and ends just before 7 a.m. The focus is Tokyo in the dead of night, after the trains have stopped running and the only public transportation out of the city is by cab.

Some of the people left in the city are college students and office workers. They are in the bars, hanging out in all night restaurants, in game parlors, or working late in the office.

The book follows a young college student, Mari, who decides to stay reading in a Denny's restaurant rather than go home. She meets another college student there, a musician who is in the city to practice with his band. At his suggestion, Mari leaves the restaurant to help a foreign woman who has been injured, and in the course of events, comes across unusual situations and makes some unlikely friends, including the manager and maid of an all night hotel. Long conversations during the night with the musician, who has met her older sister, help her come to terms with the reason she has avoided going home.

When morning arrives and the trains are running, Mari goes home to the suburbs, where she knows she will find her older sister, Eri Asai, still in a deep sleep. A beautiful and well-known model, Eri Asai has been sleeping steadily the past three weeks, getting up occasionally to eat, though no one has seen her when she is up.

Remembering how protective Eri Asai had been of her when they had been trapped in an elevator as children, Mari tries to empathize with her sister, in tears hugging her as if willing her to wake up out of her long dream. There is a glimmer of a response. Mari finally goes to sleep.

The novel only hints at the reason for Eri Asi's withdrawal. There is a suggestion that it involves the sinister office worker Shirakawa, whom Mari is unaware of though their paths overlap during the night in the city.

The novel has many levels of meaning. Murakami reveals the flip side of the city, after dark, at times with humor. The city at night also reveals the dark aspect of some of the characters he explores. Mari and the musician walk about the city and among these people but remain unscathed.

Submitted for the Lost in Translation Reading Challenge. and resubmitted for the 2012 Haruki Murakami Reading Challenge.

© Harvee Lau of Book Dilettante.

May 3, 2019

The Lonesome Bodybuilder by Yukiko Motoya: Book Beginning

Memes: 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
From the library:
The Lonesome Bodybuilder: Stories
The Lonesome Body Builder

The Lonesome Body Builder by Yukiko Motoya, November 6, 2018, Soft Skull Press
Genre: short stories, in translation

Book beginning:
The Lonesome Bodybuilder (story)
When I got home from the supermarket, my husband was watching a boxing match on TV. 
"I didn't know you watched this kind of thing. I never would have guessed, " I said, putting down the bag of groceries on the living room table. He made a noncommittal noise from the sofa, He seemed to be really engrossed.  
"Who's winning? The big one or the little one?"
Theme of the story: What does it take for an introverted husband to finally take notice of his wife?  She goes on to become a body builder.....

Page 56:
(from the story, An Exotic Marriage)
I felt a lingering guilt about how easy I had it. Owning a home at this age, I felt as if I had somehow managed to cheat at life.

I am finding these to be thought-provoking and very unusual stories. Use of magical realism. 

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...