Nov 25, 2023

Didn't See That Coming by Jesse Q. Sutanto and Two Murder Mysteries: Sunday Salon


Didn't See That Coming by Jesse Q. Sutanto
Puplication: November 28, 2023; Delacorte; NetGalley
Genre: YA, romance, teen

I liked the themes explored in the novel of a high school girl, Kiki Siregar of Jakarta using a boy's name for her game name online in order to protect herself, a girl, from ridicule and outright threats by male game players.

I thought that having her foil, the obnoxious wealthy gamer Jason, be her classmate at school, added to the conflict in the plot. It was also clever that her best friend on the online game happens to be another male classmate, neither of whom realizes that girl classmate Kiki is the game player they interact with online .

There is, of course, romance in the story of the teens. The author wrote an entertaining young romance with a broader message, that sexism in society and in some private schools give preference to males that put girls at a distinct disadvantage.

A book not just for YA and teen readers, but it has a message for adults as well.

In my mailbox  

The Murder of Roger Ackroyd (Hercule Poirot #4) with an intro by Ruth Ware came courtesy of Penguin Random House. Publication Nov. 28, 2023, Signet. 
The Agatha Christie mystery was first published in 1926 and is the Anthony Award Nominee for Best Novel of the Century (2000)CWA Best Ever for Crime Novel (2013) 

Publisher: Roger Ackroyd knew too much. He knew that the woman he loved had poisoned her brutal first husband. He suspected also that someone had been blackmailing her. Then, tragically, came the news that she had taken her own life with an apparent drug overdose.

However, the evening post brought Roger one last fatal scrap of information, but before he could finish reading the letter, he was stabbed to death. Luckily one of Roger’s friends and the newest resident to retire to this normally quiet village takes over—none other than Monsieur Hercule Poirot . . 

Are you a Poirot fan, and have you read this one?

The Murder of Mr. Ma by John Shen Yen Nee and SJ Rozan, came courtesty of Soho Press. 
Publication: April 2, 2024, Soho Crime

Judge Dee surfaces again, in this new novel. I have read several of the detective novels featuring investigator Judge Dee, written in the 1960s by Dutch writer Robert Van Gulik 

Publisher: London, 1924. When shy academic Lao She meets larger-than-life Judge Dee Ren Jie, his life abruptly turns from books to daring chases and narrow escapes. Dee has come to London to investigate the murder of a man he’d known during World War I when serving with the Chinese Labour Corps. No sooner has Dee interviewed the grieving widow than another dead body turns up. Then another. All stabbed to death with a butterfly sword. Will Dee and Lao be able to connect the threads of the murders—or are they next in line as victims?

John Shen Yen Nee and SJ Rozan’s collaboration blends traditional gong'an crime fiction and the most iconic aspects of the Sherlock Holmes canon.

What's on your reading schedule this week and/or the rest of the month?ly202

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

Nov 18, 2023

COMING OF AGE WITH COOKING: Colorful Palete by Raj Tawney and Sweetness in the Skin by Ishi Robinson

Happy Thanksgiving coming up, everyone! Enjoy!  Here are two books about the love of cooking and baking

Colorful Palate: A Flavorful Journey Through a Mixed American Experience
by Raj Tawney
Published October 3, 2023; Empire State Editions 

I loved reading about the author's growing up in the Bronx with the influence of his Puerto Rican grandmother and her tasty dishes that include an Italian recipe or two. His love of cooking multiple types of food also came from his PuertoRican-Italian mother who cooked Indian dishes at home for the family and his Indian father.

It was interesting to see how a family with three different cultural influences brought up the sons - the author and his older brother, who nevertheless grew up going their own way to develop their own American identities. The coming of age memoir is a cheerful one, with happy overtones in spite of his parents' alienation from each other. I find it notable that the couple were estranged but continued to live in the same home.

The recipes included in the book are mostly Indian recipes, delicious sounding but requiring many steps and varieties of ingredients and spices. I liked the simple Italian recipe of spaghetti and meatballs that his grandmother used to prepare.

I enjoyed reading this well written, easy to read book and would recommend it to foodies and those interested in the dynamics of multicultural families.

 Sweetness in the Skin: a Novel by Ishi Robinson

Publication: April 23, 2024; Harper

Genre: coming of age, multicultural, food, baking

I was happy to find this ARC of a coming of age book set in Jamaica, about a young girl with the ability to bake the delicious Jamaican pastries, cakes, and snacks that I remember enjoying when I was growing up on the island.

I am in the middle of reading the novel, eager to see how the 13-year-old girl living in relative poverty with a largely absent and hostile mother, how she will escape through her baking skills, and realize her dream of being with her aunt in France. It sounds far fetched, but so far, Pumkin seems to be handling obstacles, one by one, and getting closer to her dream.

Publisher description: 

 A winning debut novel about a young teenage girl in Jamaica determined to bake her way out of her dysfunctional family and into the opportunity of a lifetime. Pumkin Patterson is a thirteen-year-old girl living in a tiny two-room house in Kingston, Jamaica, with her grandmother, her Aunt Sophie (who dreams of a new life in Paris for her and Pumkin), and her distant, hostile mother Paulette (who’s rarely home).

What's on your reading schedule this week and/or the rest of the month?inly202

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

Nov 11, 2023

Sunday Salon: Travel Stories of Normandy and Two Picture Books


Title: The Bear and the Paving Stone by Toshiyuki Horie with Geraint Howells (translator)

Published Feb. 1, 2001; Pushkin Press; NetGalley

Genre: short stories, novellas, France, Japanese

 Winner of the prestigious Akutagawa Prize, three dream-like tales of memory and war.

 I enjoyed the author's descriptions of the Normandy coastline and countryside, the views of Mont St. Michel in Brittany, the stories of the old friends the narrator visits near these places.

The second story is the narrator's poignant look at a young girl as she grows up with the same passion - building sandcastles on the beach, at ages 6, 15, and in her 20s as a young mother.

The third story is humorous and another adventure in Normandy with the Japanese narrator, who like the author, is a scholar and teacher of French literature.

I found these stories interesting because of the author's unique point of view, his humor, and interest in the human condition.

Title: The Lucky Red Envelope: A Lift-the-Flap Lunar New Year Celebration by Vikki Zhang
Genre: children's picturebook
Publication: December 5, 2023; Wide Eyed Editions; NetGalley

The Lunar New Year 2024 is coming up soon on February 10, the Year of the Dragon! An auspicious year, hopefully for the good! I found this delightful illustrated children's book that I enjoyed, even as an adult and grandparent!

The book is an elaborately and gorgeously illustrated story of a little girl and her baby brother who celebrate the Lunar New Year (Chinese New Year) with their parents at their home. The pictures show the decorated family home and the family table with various holiday foods and treats.

I enjoyed the illustrations with red colors everywhere in the home, the abundance and variety of the foods and gifts, plus the red envelopes with money that children traditionally receive for the new year.

It was difficult to read the ARC ebook as I wanted to see the finished hardbound copy with the fold out flaps meant to delight children readers. I definitely want a paper copy for new year gifts!

Lovely story, pictures, and concept.

Title: The Rock in My Throat by Kao Kalia Yang, Jiemei Lin (illustrator)
Publication: March 4, 2024; Carolrhoda Books; NetGalley
Genre: picture book,educational

Book Publisher: At first, no one noticed when I stopped talking at school. In this moving true story, Kao Kalia Yang shares her experiences as a young Hmong refugee navigating life at home and at school

My review: Young children can stop talking for many different reasons. Khao Kalia Yang stopped talking at age seven in the first grade. Her teachers and even her parents can't seem to understand why, but Khao later tells us that she stopped wanting to speak the language spoken by people who disrespected and humiliated her Hmong mother and had no time or patience to try to understand her mother's halting English in stores and elsewhere.

I found it interesting that the teachers did not come up with the explanation so common for this kind of silence. They didn't attribute it to shyness, as it was clearly, in this case, something more profound.

The story is good for children and adults of all ages who come in contact with immigrants who speak little or no English, and with their children who are comfortable in their own language but reluctant speaking English.

An educational book, with lovely illustrations, that has an important message for every reader.

What's on your reading schedule this week and/or the rest of the month?i

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

Nov 4, 2023

Sunday Salon: Mystery Novels in Translation


The Couples Trip by Ulf Kvensler
Published April 2022, Hanover Square Press
Genre and setting: thriller, adventure, northern Sweden 
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A group of four travel to the north of Sweden in the fall, for a challenging mountain hike three of them have never attempted before. Jacob is the newcomer who proposes the change to the tried and true hiking location that Anna and Henrik and Milena have taken for many, many years.

Is it the new person to the group, Jacob? Or the challenge of the unfamiliar mountains? Something has turned the hiking trip sour and even dangerous. One of the group, the narrator of the story, seems to become unreliable as time passes and we are left to wonder about the stresses of this group hike.

The characters are well drawn, individualistic, and intriguing, as they travel together under some duress. The descriptions of remote mountains, lakes, and forests in northern Sweden is breathtaking yet adds to the suspense, which builds throughout the book, an unputdownable read. Nothing is predictable in this book's plot. I loved it and, at the same time, hated the stress of reading it.

An astounding suspense novel by a Scandinavian thriller writer from Sweden. 

The Lover of No Fixed Abode by Franco Lucentini, Gregory Dowling (translator)
Publication: February 20, 2024, Bitter Lemon Press
Genre: mystery, romance, Venice

Book publisher:
A passionate affair set in Venice between a Roman princess searching for undervalued paintings and a mysterious tour guide. Art shenanigans become unavoidable, but the guide's true identity is the mystery that drives the story. Their passion will last three days, long enough to be exposed to unscrupulous art dealers and scammers passing off worthless paintings as part of a famous collection.

She goes to cosmopolitan parties given by Venetian social and art glitterati. Mr Silvera, a guide whose erudition and distinction sharply contrast with his beat-up suitcase and stain-spotted raincoat, drags his shabby tourists from monument to monument. Around them are the canals and lagoons of Venice, a city which becomes a character in the novel in its own right. Written with elegance and wit, this is an atypical, sophisticated novel of love, crime and social satire worthy of Fellini's Dolce Vita or Sorrentino's The Great Beauty . The novel does have a mystery at its heart – and it concerns the identity of the principal character, apparently a tour guide, but clearly something else as well. 

 Thanks to Meryl Zegarek Publicity for a review copy of this book.

What's on your reading schedule this week and/or the rest of thejmonth?i

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

Empresses of Seventh Avenue by Nancy MacDonell: Historical Novel

 Fashion in Paris and New York City during WWII   Empresses of Seventh Avenue World War II, New York City, and the Birth of American Fashion...