Mar 30, 2024

An Island Romance and Two Mystery Novels: Sunday Salon

 Now Reading

Romancing on Jeju by Hyun-Joo Park, translated from Korean by Paige Morris, publication August 20, 2024; Amazon Crossing, NetGalley
Genre: romance

Romi, a young illustrator from Seoul, meets an enchanting beekeeper from the island of Jeju in South Korea, but he disappears from her life after a chance meeting at the airport. She is determined to find him, and goes searching for him among the 100 beekeepers on the beautiful and lush island of Jeju.

I was attracted to the book by the setting on Jeju island that featured on several contemporary Korean dramas on tv. The romance novel might be just so-so but learning more about the island was a plus for me. Bee keeping? Who would have guessed. (Jeju also is the setting for Lisa See's historical novel, The Island of Sea Women.)

A Farewell to Arfs: Chet and Bernie Mystery #15 by Spencer Quinn, publication August 6, 2023, Forge Books, NetGalley

I was chuffed (pleased to bits) to be approved for Spencer Quinn's most recent dog mystery, A Farewell to Arfs. For those who are not familiar with the series, Chet the dog is the artful narrator in the mystery series set in Arizona; he is an amusing and clever partner in crime solving with his human, PI Bernie Little. And he gives us a dog's eye view/point of view of what's going on.

In this book, Bernie's next door neighbor, Mr. Parsons, is scammed of his life savings by his son Billie. Billie has disappeared and Mr. Parsons is in the hospital. Enter Bernie and Chet to find Billie and find out just what the score is. 

I've read all 15 books in the series and find them very entertaining. This is the 15th book in the series, and Spencer Quinn is already working on the next one! 

You Know What You Did by K.T. Nguyen, April 2024; Dutton, NG

Genre: thriller, OCD disorder

I'm eager to start reading this one, just to see what OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder) is all about! I throw that term around, but what do I really know? 

Description: In this thriller, a first-generation Vietnamese American artist must confront nightmares past and present…
Annie “Anh Le” Shaw grew up poor but seems to have it all now: a dream career, a stunning home, and a devoted husband and daughter. When Annie’s mother, a Vietnam War refugee, dies suddenly one night, Annie’s carefully curated life begins to unravel. Her obsessive-compulsive disorder, which she thought she’d vanquished years ago, comes roaring back—but this time, the disturbing fixations swirling in Annie’s brain might actually be coming true.

A prominent art patron disappears, and the investigation zeroes in on Annie. She distances herself from family and friends, only to wake up naked in a hotel room next to a lifeless body. The police have more questions, but Annie doesn’t have answers. All she knows is she will do anything to protect her daughter—even if it means losing herself. (publisher)

To learn more about OCD symptoms, treatments, and resources, visit the website of the International OCD Foundation (IOCDF dot org). —K.T. Nguyen 
K. T. Nguyen is a former magazine editor now settled just outside Washington, D.C. 

What are you reading/watching this week? 

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

Mar 23, 2024

Three Novels: Japanese Mystery; Family Drama; Ecuadorian

 Books in the mail

The Night of Baba Yaga by Akira Otani (translated from the Japanese). July 2, 2024, Soho Crime

This is an unusual novel. It's my first time reading a book described as a queer mystery thriller from Japan. It's listed under these genres in Goodreads:  ThrillerQueer JapanLGBT Romance Adult Mystery


A fierce mixed-race fighter develops a powerful attachment to the yakuza princess she’s been forced to protect in this explosive queer thriller: Kill Bill meets The Handmaiden meets Thelma and Louise

Tokyo, 1979. Yoriko Shindo, a rugged, brawny outcast, is kidnapped by the Naiki-kai, a branch of the yakuza. Having brutally beaten nearly every member of the gang in an attempt to escape, Shindo is permitted to live if she will become the bodyguard and driver for Shoko Naiki, the obsessively sheltered daughter of the gang’s boss. 

Originally disdaining her ward, Shindo soon finds herself more invested in Shoko’s well-being than she expected. But every man around them is blood thirsty and trigger happy. Shindo doubts the two can survive unless something changes. 

Akira Otani’s explosive English-language debut moves boldly through time and across gender, stretching the definitions and possibilities of each concept. Translated by International Booker–shortlisted Sam Bett, this lean, mean thriller proves that bonds forged in fire are unbreakable.

Thanks to Soho Crime for an ARC of the book, which comes out July 2, 2024.

Sunset Lake Resort by Joanne Jackson, June 1, 2024, Stonehouse Pub  Genre: Saskatchewan, adult fiction, family drama


When Ruby's father passes away, but fails to leave her the millions some expected, Steve, her husband of 35 years, moves out. Alone, Ruby is torn between panic and relief. When she investigates the remote beach cabin her father had left her instead of his estate, she discovers a dilapidated beach resort in a remote location, seemingly untouched since its former owner died under mysterious circumstances.

 Despite the condition of the property and rumours it is haunted, Ruby decides to move to Sunset Lake Resort, determined to find out why her father bought it, and why he left it to her.

About the Author

Joanne Jackson is an award winning Canadian author of three novels. 'A Snake in the Raspberry Patch, '  'The Wheaton'  and her forthcoming novel, 'Sunset Lake Resort', due spring of 2024. 

Thanks to Wiley Saichek of Saichek Publicity for an ARC of this book.

Reading from NetGalley


Catalina by Karla Cornejo Villavicencio, July 23, 2024, One World, NetGalley


A year in the life of Catalina Ituralde, an Ecuadorian American. A student at Harvard, she "navigate(s) an opaque past, an uncertain future, tragedies on two continents, and the possibilities of love and freedom.

The first part of Catalina was enjoyable to read. Catalina's personality was captivating and her points of view unique. However, I found that the plot became cumbersome, began to lack focus with too many disparate events and ideas thrown in. I'm still reading it and skimming, hoping it will pick up again in interest. 

These are my new books this week. What are you reading/watching? 

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

Mar 15, 2024

Sunday Salon: French Windows and The Venus of Salo

 In the Mailbox

French Windows by Antoine Laurain, publication June 25, 2024 by Gallic Books
Source: ARC from Meryl Zegarek Public Relations, Inc. 

I was intrigued by the stories in French Windows, written by Nathalia about her neighbors in the building across the street. She is a photographer who says she witnessed a murder there, in the style of the well known suspense movie, Rear Window. But her first story, told to her therapist, made me wonder how she could know so much just from observing from her window? I'll have to finish the novel and read the other four stories about her neighbors to get the full picture.


Antoine Laurain’s new novel of intrigue, murder and neighbourly curiosity ....  Nathalia, a young photographer, has been seeing a therapist. Having accidentally photographed a murder, she finds that she can no longer do her job.  Instead, Doctor Faber suggests that she write about the neighbours she idly observes in the building across the street. 

But as these written snapshots become increasingly detailed, he starts to wonder how she can possibly know so much about them. With each session, Doctor Faber and his mysterious patient will get closer and closer to the truth. 

 Bestselling author Antoine Laurain serves up a dose of suspense and intrigue in Rear Window fashion, with a Parisian heart

Antoine Laurain (born 1972) is a French author. He previously worked as a screenwriter and antiques dealer.
His works have been translated into 14 languages and partly made into films. 

by Ben Pastor
June 25, 2024 
Source: Bitter Lemon Press

October 1944, in the Republic of Salò, a German puppet state in the north of Italy and the last fascist stronghold in the country. Transferred to the town of Salò on Lake Garda, Wehrmacht colonel Martin Bora must investigate the theft of a precious painting of Venus by Titian. While Bora’s inquiry proceeds among many difficulties, discovering three dead bodies throws an even more sinister light on the scene.

Caught in an unforeseeable web of events, hounded by the Gestapo (for years at his heels on the charge of anti-Nazi activities), hopelessly in love with an enigmatic, real-flesh “Venus,” Bora must resort to all his courage and ability – not only to solve the mystery and expose the perpetrator, but also, in a breathtaking crescendo, to try to save himself from the firing squad, and secure an unlikely way out...

These are my new books this weekWhat are you reading/watching this week? 

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

Mar 11, 2024

Nature Images in Poetry: Guest Post by Anique Sara Taylor, author of Civil Twilight

 Poetic Book Tours 

 Anique Sara Taylor’s chapbook Civil Twilight is the winner of the 2022 Blue Light Poetry Prize.

Guest Post

The Nature of Nature in Poetry 

When we think of Naturein poetry, we often mean the beauty that nurtures us. The outer part of the universe that mirrors our own inner world and provides us with endless, glowing metaphors. 

I grew up beside a natural swamp that bordered hundreds of acres of wild forest, a lake with small islands and a waterfall. It wasnt ours, but we were free to roam there for hours in all seasons. I knew many of the ancient trees and could climb huge boulders left by glaciers, inhale green fragrances of the pine forest, and scurry down the sharp side of cliffs. Id lie down by the brook, soothed by its sounds. These were my favorite places where I was safe, and I could sing at the lake’s edge until I was calm again. 

I wondered about the other tribes that had lived there before us, what their lives had been like. In so many ways, these lands sustained me. But I also understood the lakes thin ice, the black water with dark weeds just below the surface that could entangle us and pull us under. How one could fall in if we skated too close to the edge of moving water. Of woods so deep that if something happened, if we fell and couldnt move, if night set in, we might never be found.         

It was years later that they fashioned a name for the strange childhood symptoms that had plagued me from the onset of double digits into adulthood. The undiagnosable symptoms that followed me as closely as a shadow through ensuing decades. I learned about the microscopic universes inside me, creatures that spun bacteria into a mutiny of cells gone wrong chronic Lyme Disease.         

As beauty and challenge entwine in our world, I try to reflect it in my poems. Both the gifts and the challenges of nature. 

Poetic Tools Often Used in Relation to Nature: 


Poetry can often synthesize deep experience because of its non-linear form. Metaphor is one of its interesting tools. Without explaining, it links two things that are usually unrelated. This can open up unexpected layers of sensation or insight and bring about new possibilities. This can spark surprise or awaken, strengthen or animate life in a poem.


Imagery allows us, in a few almost picture-like words, to invoke vivid sensations. Visual, yes, but it can also call upon any of the senses. Plus, movement, emotion, and physical response. A tool of unfolding, it can trigger imagination to generate vibrancy. Minute details are often described. Nature imagery can parallel human experience and in that way intensify meaning. 


Although also a form of metaphor, personification is when we attribute human characteristics to something non-human. This assignment of our emotions, feelings, behaviors to the non-human can help frame an imaginative link between our own attributes and those of nature, to envision a more complex intimacy between us.

 A Note, the Speaker: 

People often tend to believe the I” in poetry is the writer, implying that the poem is nonfiction. But the I” in a poem can be the writer, or it can be the point of view of almost any entity the writer imagines. Therefore, in discussing a poem, the I” in a poem is often referred to as the speaker. 

Below are examples of ways Ive tried to work with metaphor, imagery and personification to create something more interesting and intimate without explaining it outright, as one would do in an essay. To leave a new brocade of word, thought and image, open and spinning. 


 Civil Twilight

Blue Light Press

To describe the feeling of emotional emptiness that can be left by the loss of a loved one, by referring to stars:                   

Now only the brightest stars will ever be enough.

 Using bird attributes to render the speaker helpless, as she tries to steady herself through daily-life anxiety: 

Even lying featherless

in dusk, I carve each day with care.

 In asking Aprils first-flower shoots if they question the meaning of their existence, as humans tend to do:

                                      “…Swollen pop of hollow reed, blushing

bones brake naked through bedrock crust,

do they wonder what they came here for?

 • Illness is also part of nature. How it circles inside us, not unlike planets in the outer universe.

                              Invisible illness’ eccentric orbits buried inside marrow

 Even in graceful language, a bird falling can be the harbinger of human damage to Earth. Where metaphor allows us to talk about tragedy in a subtle way, and not hammer the reader with it directly. 

A cardinal plummets to the ground

like fallen fire, reinventing the darkness.

 The speaker refers to self with bird-parts, reflecting that even with difficulties, she moves forward with whatever she has, the way she is:

Clutching bundled words, I stumble

forward, neck frozen between beak & wing.

 The glory of eagles mating is straight forward here, but the metaphor is in calling their ritual a waltz. Waltz, a symbol of coupled grace, beauty in movement. A nod toward everything in the universe being connected. 

Eagles grasp claws swirling

endlessly downward. Can you hear the waltz? 

 Poetry and Our Own Nature Through the Prism of Nature

 I am thankful for the gifts of poetry that split apart linear thought. I am thankful for poetrys relationship with nature that uses imagery, personification and metaphors

to enrich and enable the poem to enter a complicated experience with fewer words. How this can reflect cognitive dissonance, magically juxtaposing the fierce and the beautiful, the sinister and the ecstatic, at the same time. The macrocosm and the microcosm. And our place within it. Exquisite beauty, torment, death, nature-driven illness beside the geometric perfection of pattern repeats. (For a treat, look up the Fibonacci sequence in nature.) 

And what may be the strangest thing about this essay is that the more we look to nature to immerse ourselves in what is outside of us, the more it refers to us as an integral part of nature. Though we consider people to be separate entities in the world, examining our atoms, cells, tissue, even our motion through time, separation becomes more of an illusion. 

As you continue through your daily life, I hope you will experience our world with an unfolding awareness of how nature can be more than sun, moon, spring and flowers. 

I close with a devotion to Edna St. Vincent Millay who more than a hundred years ago in her poem “Gods World”, expresses an almost unbearable beauty: 

“Thou'st made the world too beautiful this year;
My soul is all but out of me,—let fall
No burning leaf; prithee, let no bird call.”

Thanks to the author for her guest post.

Anique Sara Taylor’s book Civil Twilight is Blue Light Poetry Prize 2022.  FacebookXInstagramLinkedIn, and her blogher newsletter.

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...