Jan 31, 2021

Sunday Salon: The Punjab and Charleston

 What are you reading this week? 

Memes: The Sunday Post hosted by The Caffeinated Bookreviewer. Also,  It's Monday: What Are You Readingand Sunday Salon

Published April 30, 2019, William Morrow
Genre and setting: England and India; family drama, travel novel, women's fiction
Source: ARC

The Shergill sistersRajni, Jezmeen, and Shirina - are on a journey or pilgrimage to the Punjab, fulfilling the dying wishes of their now deceased mother, Sita. Born in England, they are westernized to a large degree, but know about their heritage and culture from their mother.

The eldest sister Rajni and the youngest, Shirina, both have secrets they carry on their trip. As they travel to the Sikh shrines and holy places outlined by their mother as places they must visit in the Punjab, the three very different sisters clash and reconcile in turn and finally help each other. 

This is family drama as well as a travel novel, rich in detail of places and people, with unexpected stories behind each of their lives. 

I am three-quarters of the way through and enjoying the book more than I had expected at the beginning. 

Haunted Hibiscus (A Tea Shop Mystery) by Laura Childs
Publication: March 2, 2021, Berkley
Genre and setting: Charleston, cozy mystery
Source: ARC, ebook

Theodosia Browning, proprietor of the Indigo Tea Shop, and her tea sommelier, Drayton, solve another mystery in fashionable Charleston, while serving tea, scones, and other goodies in their elegant tea shop. 

I am looking forward to reading this one, lighter fare in between heavier books. 

What books do you plan to read ? 

Jan 26, 2021

Review, Intro: Clever Girl by Tessa Hadley

 First Chapter/Intros, hosted by Yvonne @ Socrates Book Reviews.

 Every Tuesday, readers post the first paragraph of a book they are currently reading or plan to read.

Clever Girl by Tessa Haley, published March 2014, by Harper.

Setting: England

Genre: women's fiction, family drama, character-driven novel

First paragraph:

My mother and I lived alone. My father was supposed to be dead, and I only found out years later that he'd left, walked out when I was eighteen months old. I should have guessed this -should have seen the signs or the absence of them. Why hadn't we kept any of his things to treasure? Why whenever he came up in conversation, which he hardly ever did, did my mother's face tighten, not in grief or regret but disapproval - the same expression she had if she tasted some food or drink she didn't like....

I only now realize I have read this book before, in 2014 just before it was published in March that year.  Here is the short review I wrote on goodreads:

More character driven than plot driven. This is the story of Tessa Hadley, from a young girl to a rebellious teen, single mother, wife, and middle aged woman. Well written, poetic in parts.

The novel is narrated by the main character, Stella, a "clever girl" who only realizes her full potential later, after "going off track" during the rocky stages of her teen years and single motherhood. I enjoyed reading it again and got much more from it the second time around!

Jan 24, 2021

Sunday Salon: International Fiction, Thrillers

 A few books have begun to arrive this year! I was pleased to receive two new books for feature/review.

The Foreign Girls by Sergio Olguin, translated from the Spanish, ARC copy

Setting: Argentina

Genre: thriller, crime fiction

Expected publication: March 23rd, 2021 by Bitter Lemon Press (first published April 1st 2014)

 A young journalist from Buenos Aires, Veronica Rosenthal, takes a vacation in the north of Argentina, traveling to smaller towns through more scenic areas. She meets two tourists, girls from Scandinavia and the other from Italy. Veronica befriends them, they stay for a few days at Veronica's cousin's house in the hills and they decide to travel together in the area. But the foreign girls, innocent of the locals and the region, become targets in a game in which they come out for the worst. 

The journalist is determined to stay in northern Argentina to find the truth about what happened to the girls, even if it might involve people she and her family know. 

Veronica is a complex character, but a determined one who isn't afraid of danger or taking risks to achieve her goals. The relationship between herself, the locals, and the foreign girls take the novel to a level that explain the lengths she will go to resolve the issue of her newfound friends. 

The plot, the setting, and character development made this an intriguing mystery novel. 

My rating: 4/5 stars

Days of Distraction by Alexandra Chang, review copy

Setting: Silicon Valley, New York

Genre: contemporary fiction, Asian American fiction, multicultural

Published March 31, 2020 by HarperCollins

When the narrator's longtime boyfriend, J, decides to move to upstate New York for grad school, she leaves her job as staff writer at a publication in Silicon Valley to follow him.

But in the process, she finds herself facing misgivings about her role in an interracial relationship. Captivated by the stories of her ancestors and other Asian Americans in history, she must confront a question at the core of her identity: What does it mean to exist in a society that does not notice or understand you? (publisher)

Two other books recently finished:

Three O'Clock in the Morning by Gianrico Carofiglio, ARC copy

Setting: Marseilles

Genre: family drama, coming-of-age novel, international fiction

Publication March 16, 2021 by HarperVia 

A coming-of-age, literary novel about a young Italian teen, an epilectic, who discovers more about himself and his estranged father while both are on a trip to a clinic in Marseilles. They explore the city together and get to know each other while waiting for his treatment at the clinic. Heartfelt story told in the teen's words. Very moving at times. Excellent writing.

My rating: 5/5

The Quiet Girl by S.F. Kosa, personal copy

Setting: Provincetown, Boston

Genre: mystery, psychological thriller

Publication: August 11, 2020, Sourcebooks

Alex is happily married to his new wife, Mina, a romance writer. At least until they have an argument and she disappears, leaving her engagement and wedding rings on her desk. 

Alex reaches out to Mina's parents and to her best friend, but they have no clue as to what happened to her.  Only when he is given a copy of Mina's newest manuscript, as yet unpublished, does he begin to put the pieces together and try to find his wife. The manuscript is not a romance but a novel based on her horrific life story. 

Secrets, family dynamics, psychological disorders, amnesia, are all important themes in this thriller. There are surprises and suspense at the ending, as the writer skillfully leads the reader toward the final revelations.

My rating: 4/5 stars

Reading for Book Club:

The First Conspiracy: The Secret Plot to Kill George Washington by Brad Meltzer

Setting: 1776, Washington

Genre: historical fiction based on true events

In 1776, an elite group of soldiers were handpicked to serve as George Washington’s bodyguards. Washington trusted them; relied on them. But unbeknownst to Washington, some of them were part of a treasonous plan.


What are you reading this week? 

Memes: The Sunday Post hosted by The Caffeinated Bookreviewer. Also,  It's Monday: What Are You Readingand Sunday Salon

Jan 3, 2021

Sunday Salon: Practices for Resilience During a Pandemic

 I recently was sent two books from Wiley at Saichek Publicity, which is promoting a novel, A Bend in the River by Libby Fischer Hellmann, and a nonfiction book, Steady, Calm, and Brave by Kimberly Brown. 

A Bend in the River by Libby Fischer Hellmann has pretty good reviews from many readers on Goodreads. Published October 7, 2020, The Red Herrings Press

Genre: historical fiction, set in Vietnam, 1968 

Publisher's book description: 

In 1968 two young Vietnamese sisters flee to Saigon after their village on the Mekong River is attacked by American forces and burned to the ground. The sole survivors of the brutal massacre that killed their family, the sisters struggle to survive but become estranged, separated by sharply different choices and ideologies. Mai ekes out a living as a GI bar girl, but Tam’s anger festers, and she heads into jungle terrain to fight with the Viet Cong. For nearly ten years, neither sister knows if the other is alive. Do they both survive the war? And if they do, can they mend their fractured relationship? Or are the wounds from their journeys too deep to heal? In a stunning departure from her crime thrillers, Libby Fischer Hellmann delves into a universal story about survival, family, and the consequences of war. 

The author visited visited Vietnam to do research for her book - covering Vietnamese history before, during, and after the war. She interviewed a former North Vietnamese colonel in Hanoi and also interviewed and heard the stories of Vietnamese boat people and refugees in the U.S.  A Vietnamese editor helped "make sure the story sounds true."

The second book I got is a self-help book written by meditation teacher, Kimberly Brown. 

Steady, Calm, and Brave: 25 Practices of Resilience and Wisdom in a Crisis by Kimberly Brown, an ebook published June 28, 2020. 

Book description:

Practical teachings to take care of yourself and others in uncertain and unsettling times.

Steady, Calm, and Brave offers simple and accessible ways to help readers during a pandemic and beyond. With short, stand-alone readings designed to help you through difficult circumstances, it offers the tools, understanding, and encouragement necessary to meet the extraordinary challenges we face today.

Meditation teacher Kimberly Brown shares honest and sometimes humorous stories from her life, family, and community to help us navigate difficulties--including social isolation, working from home, societal divisiveness, and worry for the future--with patience, clarity, and mindfulness. Incorporating practical techniques that provide on-the-spot support, Steady, Calm, and Brave will help you access and develop your calm, courageous, and loving heart to make skillful decisions and take compassionate actions for yourself and the world. The proceeds of this ebook will benefit The Loveland Foundation. 

What are you reading this week? 

Memes: The Sunday Post hosted by The Caffeinated Bookreviewer. Also,  It's Monday: What Are You Readingand Sunday Salon

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