Mar 31, 2023

Book Beginning: Radical Love by Satish Kumar

 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, and First Line Friday

Radical Love
by Satish Kumar, February 7, 2023, Parallax Press
Genre: self-help, nonfiction

To see peace in our lifetimes, we have to study love.
This is the radical message of this inspirational book .... Author and activist Satish Kumar is well known for his epic 1960s walk for world peace from India to Moscow, Paris, London, and Washington, DC

Book beginning:
Chapter 1- A Monsoon of Love
Life is a landscape of love, and love is the celebration of life. Love is the means and love is the end. Love is our path and it is our destination. Love is the goal. Love is a way of bveing. Love is a way of life. There is not way to love: love is the way. 

Page 56:

"Have I finished all that water?" Gandhi asked, visibly perturbed. 

Thanks to Wiley Saichek of Saichek Publicity for a feature/review copy of this book. 

Mar 25, 2023

Sunday Salon: A Mystery and a Memoir

 Just read: 

Now You See Us by Balli Kaur Jaswal
Published March 7, 2023; William Morrow & Company
Genre: mystery thriller, fiction, Asia
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The experiences of three Filipina domestic workers in Singapore in this novel are quite different. 

Corazon works for a wealthy woman who treats her as a family member; Donita is abused physically and mentally by an overly demanding and insulting woman who aspires to rise in society; Angel likes her job as caretaker for a disabled man but is shunted aside when a nurse is hired in her place.

The novel was an eye opener on the varied conditions of Filipina domestic workers abroad, in this case in Singapore. The book is made even more interesting when the three workers get together to clear the name of one of their friends in the murder of her female employer.

Revealing and informative as social commentary, and entertaining as a mystery novel, the book is interesting and important on many levels.

Meet Me Tonight in Atlantic City
by Jane Wong
Publication: May 16, 2023; Tin House Books
Genre: memoir, nonfiction, Asian American literature

I liked the poetic prose that Jane Wong, a poet and creative writer, uses for much of this memoir. She has a poet's acute and perceptive reaction to her life experiences. 
I think of the book as a very personal memoir of her despair and agonies in growing up among those who don't understand or accept her - in school, university, in Atlantic City, where her parents ran a restaurant until her father deserted the family. Of having to field stereotyping, microaggressions, outright hostility, and more.

Her mother is the force that bolsters her as she goes through one heartbreak after another in her life and in her failed relationships with boyfriends. The author does not dwell as much on her rise as a poet and on her academic career as an associate professor of creative writing. But I recall betrayals on her road to that position as well.

In this very honest memoir, the heartache comes through, as does her remarkably resilient self, and her mother who sees Jane through all her responses of dejection and grief.

I was heartened to see that the author is a successful poet, writer, and teacher because of or in spite of all she went through.

What are you reading this week? 

Memes: The Sunday Post hosted byThe Caffeinated BookreviewerAlso,  It's Monday: What Are You Readingand Sunday SalonStacking the ShelvesMailbox Monday

Mar 18, 2023

Sunday Salon: Mystery Thrillers New and Old

 Recently reviewed:

Sun Damage by Sabine Durrant

Publication: August 1, 2023; Harper Paperbacks

Genre: mystery thriller, fiction, France, literary fiction

I loved reading the suspenseful events leading up to fugitive Ali's arrival as a cook for the vacationing family in the large house in the south of France. I also enjoyed the chance for romance for the wayward, lost soul that she is. 

It was surprising how well Ali carried off her duties as cook, which she is not and only pretending to be, and how fortuitous it was to have a guest to help her with duties in the kitchen.

The ending of the thriller came with a twist that was not a total surprise but it did add more drama to the  story. I liked the more or less realistic ending with Ali not totally changed in her ways but much better, enough that we like her and wish her well, even though she is not totally redeemed.

An Oxford Murder by G.G. Vandagriff, November 6, 2019 publication

Genre: mystery, historical mystery, cozy mystery, romance 

Catherine Tregowyn and Dr. Harry Bascombe, teachers at Oxford, decide to play detective and solve the murder by strangling of Oxford don, Agatha Chenowith.

There are several likely suspects in the world of professors, poets, and their partners, with everything from revenge, jealousy, fear, and secrets for the two amateur sleuths to investigate. 

I enjoyed reading about the famed buildings and rooms at Oxford, and of the rivalries between colleagues that can build up. It was an enjoyable if light read and I would like reding the other books in the series of the two  would be detectives.

The Guest List by Lucy Foley, June 2, 2020, William Morrow

Genre: mystery, thriller, suspense, adult fiction

Setting: an island off the coast of Ireland

AboutOn an island off the coast of Ireland, guests celebrate two people joining their lives together as one....And then someone turns up dead. Who didn’t wish the happy couple well? 

I am very curious as to why I wrote only one short sentence for a review, after rating the book 5/5. And I'm even more curious about what I said:

Great characterization of a villain, which slowly unfolds as the story progresses.

That sentence intrigues me. Now I'll have to go back and reread the book I read in 2020. Anybody else prone to forgetting books they've read two or more years previously?  

What are you reading this week? 

Memes: The Sunday Post hosted byThe Caffeinated BookreviewerAlso,  It's Monday: What Are You Readingand Sunday SalonStacking the ShelvesMailbox Monday

Mar 11, 2023

Sunday Salon: New Asian American Memoir/Short Stories and a Book on Censorship

New Books:

I've discovered another memoir by an Asian American/Chinese American who grew up in a restaurant family in the U.S. (See my review of Curtis Chin's memoir set in Detroit in the 1980s) Jane Wong's book is set in Atlantic City, NJ.


Meet Me Tonight in Atlantic City: A Memoir by Jane Wong

Publication: May 16, 2023, Tin House Books
Genre: memoir, nonfiction, Asian American literature

In her debut memoir, Wong tells a new story about Atlantic City, one that resists a single identity, a single story, as she writes about making do with what you have―and what you don’t.

This is a memoir about family, food, girlhood, resistance, and growing up in a Chinese American restaurant on the Jersey shore. (publisher)

Afterparties: Stories by Anthony Veasna So

Published August 3, 2021; Ecco
Genre: short stories, Cambodian American literature, gay/lesbian fiction

I read the first three of nine stories so far, of the lives of young Cambodian Americans at home, school, work - their checquered  lives, many on the lower income level, their families surviving as relatively recent immigrants and refugees from the Cambodian Civil War and the Khmer Rouge in the mid 1970s, a war called the Cambodian Genocide.

This war and their family history are still alive among these families, as they try to find their way in a new country, sometimes worried about the past finding its way into their present and future. The stories are set in a community in California.

In the first story, "Three Women of Chuck's Donuts," a single mother of two girls works 24 hours a day in her donut shop, part of her divorce settlement from her Cambodian husband. 

The second story, "Superking Son Scores Again," has a badminton genius doing what he loves best - coaching the high school badminton team, while he does what he hates most, managing his parents' grocery store. 

In a third story, "Maly, Maly, Maly" a young gay Cambodian bonds with his cousin, but when she starts growing into a young woman following her traditions in the community, he is left feeling very alone.   

I'm eager to read the other stories by So, this talented,  award-winning Cambodian writer, who sadly died, possibly of drug complications, in his late 20s. 

In my mailbox:
by Claudia Johnson
March 14, 2023, Fulcrum Publishing

About: Pulitzer Prize Nominated Winner of the 1993 PEN/Newman’s Own First Amendment Award for Claudia Johnson’s extraordinary efforts to restore banned literary classics from Florida classrooms

Stifled Laughter is the story of one woman's efforts to restore literary classics to the classrooms of rural north Florida. 

Thanks to Wiley Saichek/ Saichek Publicity for a review copy

What are you reading this week?
Memes: The Sunday Post hosted byThe Caffeinated BookreviewerAlso,  It's Monday: What Are You Readingand Sunday SalonStacking the ShelvesMailbox Monday

Mar 4, 2023

Sunday Salon: My Mailbox and Library Shelf

 I received two new books recently, a finished copy and an ARC for possible review. They both look very good, being in one of my favorite genres - mystery.


Sons and Brothers

Publisher: Seventh Street Books, April 2023
Distributed by Simon & Schuster
Genre: mystery, detective fiction, set in Bern, Switzerland

About The Book: A suspicious drowning, ugly secrets, and unresolved romantic tension . . .

 Walking his dog along Bern’s icy Aare river, a surgeon in his seventies drowns. When his bruised corpse is found, his watch is missing. A mugging gone wrong? The more Swiss police detective Giuliana Linder and her assistant Renzo Donatelli learn about Johann Karl Gurtner, the more convinced they are that he was no random victim. (publisher)

Kim Hays is a dual Swiss/US citizen. Sons and Brothers is the second mystery in her Polizei Bern series; the first, Pesticide, was shortlisted for the 2020 Debut Dagger award by the Crime Writers’ Association. 

Thanks to Wiley Saichek of Wiley Publicity for a copy of this book. 

A Disappearance in Fiji by Nilima Rao

Publication: June 6, 2023 by Soho Crime
Genre: debut historical mystery

About the book:  
An indentured Indian woman goes missing from a sugarcane plantation in 1914 Fiji. The local newspapers scream “kidnapping.” 
Akal Singh investigates while confronting the conditions of the indentured workers’ existence and the racism of the British colonizers in Fiji—along with his own thorny notions of personhood and caste. 

Thanks to Soho Crime for a review copy 

Library book:
This one I never got a chance to finish. The cover and title are intriguing enough I'm eager to finish it this time and find out more.

Counterfeit by Kirstin Chen

Published: June 7, 2022 by William Morrow

About: two Asian American women band together to grow a counterfeit handbag scheme into a global enterprise--an incisive blend of fashion, crime, and friendship from the author of Bury What We Cannot Take and Soy Sauce for Beginners.

Peering behind the curtain of the upscale designer storefronts and the Chinese factories where luxury goods are produced, Kirstin Chen interrogates the myth of the model minority through two women determined to demand more from life. (publisher)

What are you reading this week?
Memes: The Sunday Post hosted byThe Caffeinated BookreviewerAlso,  It's Monday: What Are You Readingand Sunday SalonStacking the ShelvesMailbox Monday

Feb 25, 2023

Book Reviews: Multigenerational Families in one Household: Comedy and Pathos

Two very funny books, despite the seriousness of many topics and themes, had me re-reading one in total and the other in parts. Here's what I think about the books.


Everything I Learned, I Learned in a Chinese Restaurant: A Memoir by Curtis Chin  October 23, 2023, Little, Brown and Company

Genre: memoir, family drama, multicultural interest, LGBTQ

This is a memoir about growing up in Detroit in the 1960-1980s. The publisher sums the book up best:

Nineteen eighties Detroit was a volatile place to live, but above the fray stood a safe haven: Chung’s Cantonese Cuisine, where anyone—from the city’s first Black mayor to the local drag queens, from a big-time Hollywood star to elderly Jewish couples—could sit down for a warm, home-cooked meal.
Here was where,... surrounded by his multigenerational family, filmmaker and activist Curtis Chin came of age; where he learned to embrace his identity as a gay ABC, or American-born Chinese; where he navigated the divided city’s spiraling misfortunes; and where ... he realized just how much he had to offer to the world, to his beloved family, and to himself.

As an Asian American living in the Midwest, I saw Detroit as both fascinating and dangerous, even as it declined economically and socially when it lost the auto industry and economic power, and became a literal war zone, with riots and fires, a city soon abandoned by many long time residents.

I was delighted to read of this Chinese family that stayed and thrived even in dangerous conditions, because of their well-known restaurant with customers from all classes, races and religions, the common ground being love of Chinese cuisine.

The memoir describes a volatile Detroit during those changing times and the lives of the Chinese family, the Chins, as seen by third son, Curtice, a second generation son. Curtice's book covers his life there until he left after graduating from the University of Michigan to find his own way, as a film maker in NYC.  

The heady topics of his sexuality, his position in the family as the middle child of five, plus racism and discrimination, and the dangers of Detroit are offset by the humor with which Curtice Chin tackles his own personal life there.  The memoir is entertaining as well as informative and very considerate regarding many of the people he came in contact with in school, at work, in daily life. This, in spite of the fact that the Chinese community there could not forget the murder of his relative, Vincent Chin, considered an act of discrimination that was never fully punished. 

I can see that it took this long for the author to write this book, perhaps because of the sensitive subjects and also because gay rights and legal immigrant rights are now fully established. (At least, we hope so.) 

Kudos to the author for writing with so much insight and honesty, and presenting himself with delightful humor in between the very serious topics.

The Sweet Spot by Amy Poeppel, January 31, 2023, Atria/Emily Bestler Books

Genre: family drama, contemporary fiction, romance, comedy 

The theme of the book is in its epigraph, a quote supposedly from Thomas Mann. 

 " The sweet spot is where duty and delight converge."

I read the book twice and laughed out loud both times. I consider Amy Poeppel a comic genius for her humor in writing as well as for her intricate plotting, colorful characters, and their coincidental and often hilarious interactions with each other. 

Take the young couple, Lauren the ceramist and Leo the teacher, who were just given a huge brownstone in Greenwich Village, NYC to live in, thanks to a peripatetic father, Phillip.  With their three young children, the couple live happily in the rundown building over a loud basement bar named The Sweet Spot, owned by Dan. 

Phillip, Leo's father, and Evelyn, Lauren's mother visit the house, Phillip to stay and Evelyn to decide on a daily basis whether to go or stay. They all cohabit rather messily but lovingly, while dealing with the problem of other characters - Melissa and Felicity and Russell and their new baby. Plus, there is Bumper, a large messy stray dog that they took in.

Melissa is out for revenge on everyone, targeting Lauren and her boss Felicity. Her antics are mind bogglingly nasty but nevertheless very funny, even when they cause a lot of grief for the others.

A whirlwind of characters, interacting in very comedic ways. I loved laughing while reading.  I recommend this book for anyone looking for a read and a good laugh.

 What are you reading this week? 

Memes: The Sunday Post hosted by The Caffeinated BookreviewerAlso,  It's Monday: What Are You Readingand Sunday SalonStacking the ShelvesMailbox Monday

Feb 18, 2023

These Silent Woods by Kimi Cunningham Grant: Sunday Salon


These Silent Woods by Kimi Cunningham Grant

First published November 16, 2021; Kindle edition
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Character driven, this thriller also has strong plotlines. I followed the complex individuals with interest as their personal dilemmas and choices were the backbone of the plot.

A father-daughter relationship and single parenthood under strenuous and difficult circumstances led Cooper and young Flicker to live alone in the woods for eight years, hidden from family and law enforcement who would want to find them and drive them apart.

I loved the surprising twists at the end of the book, which was quite emotional as well as suspenseful. 

ARC thanks to NetGalley

Re-reading these two books because I enjoyed them and laughed so much while reading these humorous authors:

The Sweet Spot  by Amy Poeppel

Memes: The Sunday Post hosted by The Caffeinated BookreviewerAlso,  It's Monday: What Are You Readingand Sunday SalonStacking the ShelvesMailbox Monday

Feb 14, 2023

The Boy and the Dog by Seishu Hase: Japanese Literature Challenge 16



I like this novel that follows the stray dog Tamon into the homes and lives of several different people along his five-year journey to find his original owner. 

The dog's stays with successive new owners, a few of whom are connected to the yakuza (mob), until they can no longer keep the dog or are not in a position to look after him. This was a good way to move the story forward.

I also liked the ending when Tamon's true and newfound owner connects with the family of the first person who took the dog in.  There is pathos and true sentiment in the relationships with his owners as Tamon was seen as a gift from the gods and a symbol of good luck.

Older children and adults would enjoy the book without, hopefully, being too affected by some of the sadder and more serious events in the stories. 

I found the author to be interesting:

Seishū Hase 

Hase Seishu ((馳 星周) is the pseudonym of the Japanese yakuza-crime novelist Toshihito Bando (坂東 齢人). 
Bando graduated with a BA from Yokohama City University in 1987.

A few of his novels were adapted into Asian films, such as The City of Lost Souls and Sleepless Town, in 2000 and 1998, respectively.


This review has been added to the Japanese Literature Challenge 16  hosted by DolceBellezza

Feb 11, 2023

The Piano Tuner by Chiang-Sheng Kuo: Sunday Salon


The Piano Tuner: A Novel by

Published January 3, 2023, Arcade
My rating: 5 stars

All through the book, I struggled to find out the real reason a musical prodigy would fail to realize his potential as a pianist and instead devote his life to tuning pianos used by famous concert pianists.

The mystery is still up in the air, but there are hints throughout the book of boyhood poverty, lack of family support and interest, his uncomely appearance, and above all, the failure of others to carry out their vague promises or hints of help for his personal future.

Disappointment is the theme of this complex character, who seems to put himself at a lower lever in all aspects of his life, romantic and otherwise.

Also an unreliable narrator, he shows us his world through his ideas of concert pianists, musicians, fame, and tuning versus playing the piano. We must make up our own minds about this fascinating yet unnerving character and what his interactions with well known musicians, teachers, and would be patrons really show.

What are you reading this week?

Memes: The Sunday Post hosted by The Caffeinated BookreviewerAlso,  It's Monday: What Are You Readingand Sunday SalonStacking the ShelvesMailbox Monday


Feb 6, 2023

Book Review: Fractured Soul by Akira Mizubayashi


An historical novel set in Japan and France. 

Awarded the Prix des libraires by France’s booksellers, a universal story about music and restoring one’s faith in others amid the aftermath of tremendous loss.

Fractured Soul

Expected publication: April 4th, 2023 by HarperVia

My review:

The novel is an anti-war/anti-imperialism novel set in Japan before and during WWII and in France post war. I was overwhelmed by the sorrow of the 11-year-old Rei as he witnessed/heard his father Yu being arrested at a private concert recital and his father's treasured violin smashed by the boots of a Japanese corporal.

The story is moving and yet sentimental; it links classical music, its performance on stringed instruments, and the loss Rei feels when his father disappeared after the arrest. I thought it fitting that Rei becomes a maker/restorer of quality violins in his own shop in France, where he was raised by a French couple who were friends with his missing father Yu.

Rei spends his life trying to overcome the fractured soul he had become from memories of the violence to his father and his father's beloved violin. Rei heals as he connects with others from his past, piecing together what had happened, in an effort to heal all those who shared in his distress.

Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for this amazing historical novel of music, love, loss and restoration.

This review is part of the Japanese Literature Challenge 16  hosted by DolceBellezza

Book Beginning: Radical Love by Satish Kumar

  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 L...