Showing posts sorted by relevance for query what she knew. Sort by date Show all posts
Showing posts sorted by relevance for query what she knew. Sort by date Show all posts

Dec 2, 2015

Book Review: What She Knew by Gilly Macmillan


What She Knew by Gilly Macmillan, published December 1, 2015 by William Morrow Paperback.

Gilly Macmillan explores a mother’s search for her missing son, weaving a taut psychological thriller.

A brief summaryA divorced single mother of an eight-year-old boy becomes distraught when her son goes missing in the park during a regular Sunday walk with their dog.

 The cops follow multiple leads, just hints and threads of clues, as no one saw the boy in the woods during the walk or after he ran ahead of his mother to a rope swing in a secluded clearing just ahead of them. 
Rachel becomes a suspect in the case, while she does her best to follow leads to find her son. Who in contact with young Ben in his everyday life and would have reason to abduct him? Seems several people fit the bill. As days go by, no one is sure of the outcome. But a determined detective on the police force is sure he is on the right track. 

My thoughts:
I was immersed in the book, into the very realistic and well-drawn character of Rachel, who seemed helpless and put-upon, desperate to find Ben. Her ex-husband is not a big help, nor is his new and younger wife. 
The character of the detective is also intriguing, a man sure of his instincts in the case yet conflicted at the same time. 
The plot lagged a bit toward the middle, when it seemed as if nobody was getting anywhere in the case and no new clues cropped up. But read on.....exciting things start to happen fast. 

Themes in the book: Child abduction, family dynamics, divorce, single mothers, police procedure, the psychology behind some of those who abduct children. 

I gave this engrossing read five stars! Excellent for a debut novel.

I received an ARC of this book for my impartial review.

Jul 17, 2013

Interview with Matthew Dunn, author of the spy novel, Slingshot


My review of the political thriller Slingshot has this accompanying Q and A with British author Matthew Dunn which was not posted but which I am now printing here.

About Slingshot: Master spy Will Cochrane must catch a missing Russian defector as well as one of Europe’s deadliest assassins in this action-packed follow-up to previous novels in the series, Spycatcher and Sentinel.

Former MI6 agent and author of the Spycatcher series, Matthew Dunn gives readers a peek into his former life.

 1. How did you conceive of the character Will Cochrane? How is he like you, at least you when you were working? How is he different?

 I wanted to create a character who personified the reality of intelligence work that operatives do in the field – the loneliness, the requirement to make tough decisions on the ground without being able to call for support from headquarters, the moral ambiguities of those decisions, the strong intellectual prowess, and the relentless mindset. An operative also needs a tough body, yet one that can be filled with both love and respect for the people around him. Cochrane is a lot like me when I was in MI6, though his family background is different. I’m now ten years older than he is, have two children, am recently married, and write for a living. I’m no longer Will Cochrane.

 2. Do you see writing spy novels as a way to shed light on popular misconceptions or educate readers about the realities of international politics today?

 In essence, there are two primary activities of spy agencies: the long-game of running foreign spies to obtain intelligence that can inform the foreign policies of the agency’s government; and covert, frequently extremely violent, paramilitary actions. The primacy of either activity ebbs and flows depending on the circumstances of the times. During the Cold War, all sides knew that pulling a gun was counterproductive as there was a standoff on all levels. Since then, things have been very different and that was reflected in my work as an operative, though I was also very involved in the running of foreign assets and at one time was living under deep cover with 15 different alias identities. My novels are fiction of course, but they reflect what can and does happen in the field, all of which never makes the papers unless something goes terribly wrong. Even then there are mechanisms in place to block or misdirect public scrutiny. The biggest misconception about the reality of espionage is that it is not exciting and extremely dangerous. That is very wrong. My novels reflect the realities of being in the field. I have no point to make, beyond telling it how it is.

 3. While you probably can’t get too specific about this, how do you translate your experiences as an MI6 agent into the scenes and characters in your novels?

 One of the joys of writing fiction is that I can disguise my experiences inside a fictional tale. In SLINGSHOT, you’ll read about real events and people. The names of the people have obviously been changed, and the events take place in different locations and under different circumstances. I will leave it to readers to attempt to deduce truth from fiction. When I write, I see everything through the prism of being an MI6 officer. A frequent question I will ask myself is, “what would I have done?’ It’s a useful question and there is often no right or wrong answer, just as it is in the field when you’re an operative and you’re faced with intractable problems. Will Cochrane makes mistakes, as I have done in real life, has to recover from those mistakes, and has to keep going. The people I write about are similar to people I know. The events are similar to those that I and others have been in. That’s the world I know. I concede it’s very different from the world that most others know.

 4. From James Bond to Will Cochrane, what do you think accounts for the timeless appeal of fiction featuring dashing spies?

 Though I never wrote the Spycatcher series with comparisons in mind to Bond (or for that matter, at the opposite end of the spectrum, John le Carré’s George Smiley), it is understandable that comparisons are made. I write my novels with a contemporary and very precise understanding of espionage and for that reason Cochrane is different to other fictional espionage characters. Regardless, all share in common a dislocation from the real world in favor of an understanding of a very real, yet secret world that is all pervasive and often deadly. Such characters' ability to operate in that world, and to be supremely intelligent, often charming, frequently deadly, is very intriguing. But more than that, I think the ability of operatives to be chameleons has a tremendous appeal. Readers want to know who they really are. That is a challenge.

5. SLINGSHOT concerns some of the Cold War “loose ends” left behind in Europe after the fall of the Berlin Wall. What do you think most people don’t know about what’s going on in that part of the world today?

 Most people don't understand the threat from foreign states. Right now, Russia, Iran, the Israel/Palestine conundrum, China, North Korea, and Syria are the biggest threats to world peace. Terrorism pales in comparison to what these states can do. After the collapse of communism, Russia re-built itself on a capitalist platform. It is aggressive to the West and, alongside China, does not want to be a responsible world power, as evidenced by its repeated vetoes in UN Security Council proposed resolutions to stop genocide in places like Syria. The nuclear powers who have the capability to destroy the world are the United States, Great Britain, France, Russia, and China. Three of those "big 5" are responsible. Two are not.

 6. What are Will Cochrane’s greatest weaknesses as a spy and as a person?

 Cochrane has a huge heart and yearns for another life, particularly with a woman who would love him for who he truly is. This is his strength, rather than weakness, but of course - in the world in which he operates - love and compassion are honorable traits that evil men will use against him.

 7. Could a frightening story like the one in SLINGSHOT actually take place today?

 Something similar and dreadful nearly took place. I know, but can't reveal details.

 8. There are a few pivotal roles played by women in SLINGSHOT: a retired operative named Betty who’s brought in on a vital assist; and a whip-smart CIA analyst named Suzy. Did these women come to life entirely from your imagination? Or did you work in the field with women like these?

 I've met some of the bravest women and men in the world. Gender doesn't differentiate them; they are the same breed of unique animal. I can't give you details of specifics about people I knew beyond one anecdote.

 During one of my trips to MI6's training facility, I walked off the shooting range and confronted an old woman. It was common to meet unusual people in the facility as we often received briefings from Cold War warriors, for example, from both sides of the Western/USSR fence in order to inform the contemporary work we did. But I'd never seen this woman before. She asked me what I was doing and I told her that I'd just been testing a new customized handgun. She immediately had a look of horror and said, "Guns terrify me!". I smiled, walked her to the range and showed her how to shoot it. She took the gun from me and, ignoring my instructions to position the weapon at eye-level, then held the gun against her belly and fired five shots at the target. All hit a tiny radius around the target that any Special Forces operative would have been proud to strike. I asked her how she did it, given she looked as fragile and as old as my grandmother. She didn’t answer, but just smiled and walked off.

 That evening I found out she was a former British Special Operations Executive officer who'd been parachuted into Nazi-occupied France and the Netherlands, who'd blown up German transportation lines, had - together with the resistance civilians she'd rallied - killed hundreds of Nazis, and had ultimately been captured by the Gestapo who put her in dungeons, brutally tortured her, before sending her to an extermination camp.

 Men and woman, young and old, risk their lives every day by operating in the secret world. I know many of them, and in my novels you'll meet some of them as well. Women like Betty and Suzy existed. SLINGSHOT is my heartfelt homage to them. --
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What do you think of the interview and the author's world view? Do you agree with Mr. Dunn  about the political world as it is now?

For reviews of Slingshot, visit the Partners in Crime Book Tour schedule.

Feb 10, 2019

Sunday Salon: Thrillers in My Reading Future

New books on the TBR list:

Saving Meghan
Saving Meghan
Saving Meghan by D.J. Palmer,
Publication: April 9, 2019, St. Martin's Press
Genre: thriller
About: Munchausen syndrome by proxy


Broken Bone China (A Tea Shop Mystery #20)
Broken Bone China
Broken Bone China by Laura Childs
Publication March 5, 2019, Berkley Books
Genre: Tea Shop mystery set in Charleston
About: a drone collides with a hot air balloon


Death in Provence
Death in Provence
Death in Provence by Serena Kent
Publication: February 19, 2019, Harper
Genre: new mystery set in France
About: Penelope finds a body in her pool in Provence


Before She Knew Him
Before She Knew Him
Before She Knew Him by Peter Swanson
Publication: March 5, 2019, William Morrow
Genre: thriller
About: an unstable young woman worries about her new neighbor


The Secretary
The Secretary
The Secretary by Renee Knight
Publication: February 12, 2019, Harper
Genre: psychological suspense
About: dark story about a faithful secretary and the secrets she keeps


The Better Sister
The Better Sister
The Better Sister by Alafair Burke
Publication: April 16, 2019, Harper
Genre: domestic noir
About: two estranged sisters and family secrets

Lots of thrillers in my reading future. How about you?

What books are you reading this week?
The Sunday Post  hosted by The Caffeinated Bookreviewer,  It's Monday, What Are You Reading? by Book Date., and Mailbox Monday.What books are you reading this week?

Mar 7, 2011

Mailbox Monday: Book Surprises

Mailbox Monday was started by Marcia of The Printed Page who set up the Mailbox Monday Blog Tour, being hosted this month by Laura at I'm Booking It.

My mailbox has been getting surprises as well as review books I expected. Love it!

Dark Prince: Author's Cut Special Edition
Dark Prince: Author's Cut Special Edition by Christine Feehan
William Morrow; Special edition (March 8, 2011).

From the publisher: Christine Feehan’s New York Times bestselling Dark series: Enter the enchanting world of the Carpathians, where dark adventure, mystery, and love await... A telepathic hunter of serial killers, Raven Whitney helps to catch some of the most depraved criminals. But her work keeps her from getting close to others, and has drained her body and spirit. In need of rest and rejuvenation, she embarks for a vacation far from home.

Mikhail Dubrinsky is the prince of the Carpathians, the powerful leader of a wise and secret ancient race that thrives in the night. Engulfed by despair, fearful of never finding the mate who can save him from the encroaching darkness.... From the moment they meet, Raven and Mikhail are helpless to resist the desire that sparks between them. But just as fate unexpectedly brings these life mates together, malevolent forces threaten to destroy them.

The Bird Sisters: A Novel
The Bird Sisters: A Novel by Rebecca Rasmussen
Uncorrected proof, Publisher: Crown (April 12, 2011)

From the Publisher: When a bird flies into a window in Spring Green, Wisconsin, sisters Milly and Twiss get a visit. Twiss listens to the birds' heartbeats, assessing what she can fix and what she can't, while Milly listens to the heartaches of the people who've brought them. These spinster sisters have spent their lives nursing people and birds back to health.

But back in the summer of 1947, Milly and Twiss knew nothing about trying to mend what had been accidentally broken. Milly was known as a great beauty with emerald eyes and Twiss was a brazen wild child who never wore a dress or did what she was told. That was the summer their golf pro father got into an accident that cost him both his swing and his charm, and their mother, the daughter of a wealthy jeweler, finally admitted their hardscrabble lives wouldn't change. It was the summer their priest, Father Rice, announced that God didn't exist and ran off to Mexico, and a boy named Asa finally caught Milly's eye. And, most unforgettably, it was the summer their cousin Bett came down from a town called Deadwater and changed the course of their lives forever.

Running on Empty (Main Street Mysteries)
Running on Empty (Main Street Mysteries) by Sandra Balzo
ARC, Publisher: Severn House Publishers; Reprint edition (April 1, 2011)

Publisher's description: The first in a new series by the author of the ‘Maggy Thorsen’ mysteries - Life on Sutherton's Main Street has always been inexplicably hazardous. Like the student who bet he could paddle a beer-filled ice chest across the lake. And lost. Not to mention the occasional tourist who wandered into the mountains, never to wander back out. But the day Daisy Griggs siphoned three pints of blood from poor Mrs Bradenham seemed to set a new standard. Now more and more people are dying and unless Daisy’s daughter can figure out why, her mother may be next.

I'll be reading books in different genres - fantasy, mystery, women's fiction. Am having a great time!  What arrived in your mailbox recently?

Apr 28, 2011

Book Review: Mothers and Daughters, a Novel by Rae Meadows


Mothers and Daughters: A Novel by Rae Meadows

"When a box of Iris's belongings arrives on Sam's doorstep, she discovers things about her mother she never knew - or could even guess...
But she is puzzled by much of what she finds. She learns that Violet, the woman she knows as her grandmother, left New York City as an eleven-year-old girl and found a better life in the  Midwest. But what was the real reason behind Violet's journey? And how could she have come that far on her own at such a tender age?"
Book description: Mothers and Daughters is a luminous novel about three generations of women, the love they share, the dreams they refuse to surrender, and the secrets they hold.

Comments: I enjoy reading books that explore the relationships between mothers and daughters. This one is especially interesting because of the secrets discovered by Samantha about her mother Violet and her grandmother Iris. Uncovering history and the thread that connect three generations of women is the theme of the story.
The ARC I received from the publisher has an added bonus - an audio CD of the novel read by Maggi-Meg Reed.

Hardcover: 272 pages
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co.; First Edition edition (March 29, 2011)
Source: ARC from publisher
Genre: women's fiction

Author: Rae Meadows is author of Calling Out, which received the 2006 Utah Book Award for fiction and No One Tells Everything, a Poets & Writers Notable Novel. She lives in Minneapolis, Minn. Visit her website at http://www.raemeadows.com/

Aug 12, 2018

Sunday Salon: Magical Cats and Marriage Secrets

The Cats Came Back (Magical Cats, #10)
In general, I'm not sure how I feel about magical cats that appear and disappear and walk through walls, but the cats in this series are delightful and clever. This is the 10th in the series, so this Magical Cats Mystery  series has staying power!

Title: The Cats Came Back by Sofie Kelly
Publication: September 4, 2018, Berkley Books
Genre: cozy mystery

Plot: Owen and Hercules, the two magical cats are looking forward to taking in some fabulous sardine crackers at a musical fest in town. But then with their owner Kathleen, the cats  stumble across a dead body by the river. The victim is a close friend of theirs and a look-alike for a cabaret singer who is to perform at the festival.

The trio use their magical and regular smarts to try to solve the mystery. 

Thanks to the publisher for a review copy of this book.

Though I got only that one book in the mail last week,  I have plenty of library books and Netgalley ebooks on my TBR list.  

Finished last week were a couple of thrillers with a similar theme - a marriage with a dark mystery behind a secret life, the secret life of a lying spouse.
The Marriage Lie
The Marriege Lie

Under My Skin
Under My Skin
I expected both books to have twists in the plot and predicted to some degree what the twists would or could be. Under My Skin was an interesting read, though I found the plot convoluted in making its twists. Easy reading, nevertheless, for psychological suspense readers. 

Now reading: 
The Life Lucy Knew
The Life Lucy Knew
I have always liked plots that involve amnesia or memory distortions due to injury or head trauma. I luckily discovered a new book, The Life Lucy Knew by Karma Brown, at the library, about a woman who lost parts of her memory after a seemingly minor fall on the ice. She wakes up from a coma to find her domestic life is the opposite of what she remembers. She is not really married and has a live-in boyfriend whom she has always thought of as just a friend. The problem is, she wakes up still thinking of him as just a friend, much to his dismay. 

I can't wait to read on and see how this is resolved!

What books are you reading this week?
Memes:  
The Sunday Post  hosted by The Caffeinated Bookreviewer,
It's Monday, What Are You Reading? by Book Date.
Mailbox Monday. Also, Stacking the Shelves by Tynga's Reviews

Jun 3, 2012

Bridge of Scarlet Leaves, author interview: Sunday Salon

Interview with Kristina McMorris, author of Bridge of Scarlet Leaves
Paperback; Kensington Books; February 28, 2012
Genre: historical fiction

The idea for this novel began with a true story of two brothers during WWII, one who had fought for Japan and the other for America. While researching the subject, Kristina came across a brief mention of about two hundred non-Japanese spouses who voluntarily lived in an internment camp in the U.S. with their husbands. She was stunned and fascinated by the discovery, and knew it was a story she needed to tell.


Brief bio: As the daughter of a Japanese immigrant father and Caucasian American mother, Kristina McMorris grew up living between these two cultures. Kristina has received nearly twenty national literary awards. Her debut novel, Letters from Home, was based on her grandparents' wartime courtship. Her second novel, Bridge of Scarlet Leaves has received glowing reviews. She lives with her family in the Pacific Northwest. 

 Could you tell us about the in-depth research you did in order to write the book?


"When it comes to research, although I love having actually learned the information, highlighting details in textbooks sounds as appealing to me as a root canal. What I do enjoy is hands-on experience. So naturally, I was delighted when the Park Ranger at the Manzanar Relocation Center—after suffering through my endless list of internment questions—invited me to attend their annual pilgrimage. (Come to think if it, maybe that was his way of finally shutting me up!) Similarly, when I contacted the Go For Broke Foundation, an organization devoted to educating people about Japanese American military service, they offered to arrange in-person interviews with seven WWII veterans who have since all received the Congressional Gold Medal. I've definitely been spoiled with the amazing opportunities I've been given. As for my Air Corps research, it's hard to beat the thrill of flying on a restored B-17 bomber. For that one, I have my husband to thank. It was by far the best Mother's Day gift I could imagine! Your first two novels, Letters from Home and Bridge of Scarlet Leaves, are both set during World War II.

What originally sparked your interest in the era? 


"To be honest, up until a handful of years ago, I wasn't much of a reader, let alone a creative writer. But I was high on pregnancy hormones—if I could create life, a book didn't seem that hard—and I'd found inspiration in a collection of courtship letters my late grandfather had sent to my grandma during WWII. She had actually shared the pages with me when I was interviewing her for the biographical section of a cookbook I was editing, full of recipes she'd created and collected over decades, as a Christmas gift for the family. That's when she revealed the surprising fact that she and my grandfather had dated only twice during the war before they got married, and that their relationship had developed almost entirely through an exchange of letters. When I left her house that day I started to wonder how well two people can truly know each other through correspondence alone. The thought sparked an idea for a book, in which a soldier falls in love through a yearlong letter exchange, unaware the girl he's writing to isn't the one writing back. That very premise laid the foundation for what became my debut novel, Letters from Home.

What true story specifically inspired you to write Bridge of Scarlet Leaves? 

 "Years ago, an old family friend happened to share with me that he had fought for America while his brother served for Japan. I was captivated by the idea. But it wasn't until a decade later, when I'd found my calling as a writer, that I recalled his story and realized what an intriguing premise it would make for a novel. Combined with my undying love for the U.S. miniseries "North and the South" (perhaps more for Patrick Swayze in uniform than anything else), I set out to write my book. But in the midst of research, I stumbled across an obscure mention of roughly two hundred non-Japanese spouses who'd chosen to live in the U.S. internment camps voluntarily. This unique perspective was one I could relate to, being half Japanese myself and therefore raised between the two worlds. I called my agent that day and said, "This is it. I have my story!"

"Are you working on another book? 


 "I am! My current work-in-progress is titled Through Memory's Gate, and is the first of two women's fiction novels on my latest contract. In the meantime, my novella, The Christmas Collector, is due out in late October from Kensington Books in a holiday anthology headlined by New York Times bestselling author Fern Michaels—which I'm very excited about. "They're welcome to email me directly at Kristina@kristinamcmorris.com. I love visiting with book clubs in person, on the phone, or through Skype. And of course, for more info, including special reading group features, recipes, and excerpts from my grandfather's letters, be sure to check out my website at www.KristinaMcMorris.com

Publisher's description of Bridge of Scarlet Leaves  by Kristina McMorris:
Los Angeles, 1941 .Violinist Maddie Kern elopes with her Japanese American boyfriend Lane —the night before Pearl Harbor is bombed. When Lane is interned at a relocation camp, she remains with him as he risks everything to prove his allegiance to America, at tremendous cost.  Skillfully capturing one of the most controversial episodes in recent American history, Kristina McMorris delivers an authentic, moving testament to love, forgiveness, and the enduring music of the human spirit.

For more, visit http://www.kristinamcmorris.com/
Thanks to Dan Frazier of Rare Bird Lit for arranging this interview for the book's blog tour.

Mar 14, 2012

Book Review: The Expats by Chris Pavone

Title: The Expats: A Novel by Chris Pavone
Publisher: Crown Publishing; March 6, 2012
Genre: suspense
Objective rating: 4/5

She knew why she was picking a fight: because she was furious, because the FBI and Interpol were for some reason in her business, because she'd once made a horrible decision that would haunt her forever, and because the one person in the world she'd trusted without reservation was lying to her.

Perhaps his lie was about something benign. And maybe his lying had nothing to do with her anger. (ch. 16)


About the book: Kate Moore quit her job but didn't tell her husband Dexter the real reason why. She had also kept her real job a secret from him for 15 years. When they move to Luxembourg for Dexter's new job with a private bank, Kate has to reinvent herself as a stay at home wife and mom, a job she finds more and more tedious as time goes on.

When another expatriate American couple, Julia and Bill, make their acquaintance and insist on becoming their friends, Kate becomes suspicious of their motives and begins her own investigation of them. She then begins to wonder about her husband Dexter, begins to spy on him, go through his papers, find out new things about him. She feels nothing may be what they seem on the surface. Maybe Dexter has secrets, just as she herself has had for many years.

This is really a story about the two American couples, expatriates, how their relationship develops, how their past seems to catch up with them, how their secrets are gradually revealed to show what and who they really are.

Comments: I can't say more in detail without giving away the plot and spoiling the book for readers. The novel reads like a spy novel but is also a novel about secrets people live with, hiding them even from their loved ones. The book held my interest throughout, although the ending was a little long, the plot unfolding slowly in dialogue, although in a very realistic way.

I enjoyed the descriptions of the European cities that Kate and Dexter and their children visit, the old world atmosphere, the dank weather in winter, and more. I recommend the book for lovers of Europe and lovers of suspense.

I received a complimentary review copy of this book.

Jun 5, 2015

Book Beginning: SECOND CHANCE FRIENDS by Jennifer Scott

The Friday 56: *Grab a book, turn to page 56 or 56% in your eReader. Find any sentence, (or few, just don't spoil it) that grabs you. Post it. Add your (url) post in Linky at Freda's Voice.
Also, visit Book Beginning at Rose City Reader
Second Chance Friends by Jennifer Scott,  published May 5, 2015 by NAL
Genre: contemporary women's fiction

Book beginning, Chapter One
Karen gazed through the plate-glass window, her eyes wandering over the divots In the ground where the bus had crashed a month ago. She rubbed the side of her cell phone absently, her fingers bumping over the volume buttons, her fingernail scratching up against the SILENCE switch. Oh, how she'd love to "accidentally" flip that switch. If she never heard the phone ring, she wouldn't have to talk to anyone, right? She wouldn't have to answer the next time Kendall called. But she knew even if she did silence it, the peace would be short-lived. Kendall would only show up at her house or, worse, at her job, expecting her to pull strings she didn't have to make things easier for a son whose hide she wasn't sure she wanted to save anymore. 
Page 56: 
If she'd been out of the shower before he'd left, he would have planted those kisses right in the middle of her forehead. He would have pulled her in close, whispered into her hair something positive and encouraging - something about them getting answers today.  
Book description:  Karen Freeman, Melinda Crocker, and Joanna Chambers have never met—but every morning they get their coffee at the Tea Rose Diner. Their paths may have never crossed. 
But one morning, on the lawn of the Tea Rose, the three women collide during a searing event in the life of twenty-something Maddie Routh. In the nine months that follow, they return to the spot over and over. To discover what it means to be a mother, a wife, a lover, a friend. To find Maddie Routh. Despite the challenges they’ve faced, these four women unite to show us second chances do exist, if only we have the courage to see them.
I'm looking forward to reading this one this summer!

Mar 11, 2012

Sunday Salon: I've Got Your Number by Sophie Kinsella

The Sunday Salon.com Welcome to the Sunday Salon.

I have seen so many of Sophie Kinsella's books on the blogs that I snapped up her latest book, I've Got Your Number, from the New Releases shelves on a visit to the library. A lucky find. It had me laughing out loud and chuckling in turns in the first few chapters. What a great sense of humor this author has!

My comments: It's a clever situation in the plot - Poppy Wyatt, a physiotherapist, loses her heirloom emerald and diamond engagement ring while showing it off to her friends at a benefit tea. There are distractions and a fire alarm when guests scatter and Poppy loses sight of her ring.

Things get worse later on when a cyclist rides by and snatches her cell phone out of her hands. Poppy spots a discarded cell phone in a rubbish bin and latches on to it in her life saving attempt to find her ring before her fiance's parents arrive in town. The phone works, but Poppy soon finds out it belongs to some one's personal assistant, who obviously ditched it on her way out of one job to another.

Sam Roxton wants his assistant's phone back but Poppy persuades him to let her use it until she finds her ring. He agrees when she promises to forward him all his new messages, which his personal assistant used to handle on this phone. What happens later is amusing - Poppy reads the email, sends email, replies to email, and gets herself involved in Sam's personal life as well as his company's politics.

A hilarious and entertaining romance, I want to read more of Sophie Kinsella's books! Have you read this author?

Cozy mysteries on my TBR list this month are
Scones and Bones: a Tea Shop Mystery by Laura Childs
Due or Die: A Library Lover's Mystery by Jenn McKiknlay
A Cookie Before Dying: A Cookie Cutter Shop Mystery by Virginia Lowell

and

Being Lara by Lola Jaye - an ARC was sent to me by the publisher; its release date is March 13, 2012.

Book description: With her dark complexion and kinky hair, so unlike her fair-skinned parents, Lara knew she was different. At eight she finally learned the word "adopted." Twenty-two years later, a stranger arrives as she blows out the candles on her thirtieth birthday cake—a woman in a blue-and-black head tie who also claims the title "Lara’s mother."

Lara, always in control, now finds her life slipping free of the stranglehold she's had on it. Unexpected, dangerously unfamiliar emotions are turning Lara's life upside down, pulling her between Nigeria and London, forcing her to confront the truth about her past. But if she's brave enough to embrace the lives of her two mothers, she may discover once and for all what it truly means to be Lara. (amazon)

Read any of these books as yet?

Aug 17, 2012

Book Feature/YA Fantasy: Last Kiss in Venice

Title: Last Kiss in Venice (Legend of the White Snake #1)
Author: Martin Chu Shui
EBook, 189 pages; July 11, 2012
Genre: fantasy, YA, martial arts
"In the misty valley of the Er Mei Mountain, after the young and handsome scholar had rescued Caitlin from the eagle’s talons and started talking to her as if she was a human girl, she wondered how it was possible that she understood his words. Perhaps she just had natural ability to understand human words, or maybe instead of understanding the words, she received the messages by observing the scholar’s emotion and body language. No matter how she was able to do it, the result was the same: Caitlin, then the three-foot-long white snake, knew exactly what the scholar was talking about." (from Last Kiss in Venice)
Book description: “Last Kiss in Venice” is a reinterpretation of one of China’s most famous love stories, ‘Legend of the White Snake’. It combines eastern and western culture to tell a story of love and hate, loyalty and betrayal, revenge and justice. It is a supernatural love epic that combines magic and sword fighting in a timeless legend.

Beside a bridge over a canal in Venice, Charlie is spellbound by a girl he has just met, by Caitlin’s absolute beauty and also by what seems like a mythical bond between them. As they admit their love for each other in Paris, then move to settle down in Australia together, it looks like the start of Happily Ever After. But neither of them realizes that this is just the start of a heart-wrenching journey.

After a lifetime of searching, Caitlin finally finds her true love, settles down in the beautiful rolling countryside of outback Australia, and starts to raise a family, but her enemy is never far away. She loves Charlie deeply but can never reveal her secret; he must never know who she really is, and that is her downfall. Information in the hands of her enemy brings her life crashing down around her. To save all she has worked for, she must fight for the right to survive.(based on goodreads)

Martin Chu Shui of Australia has written two other martial arts fantasy novels, Dragon's Pupils: The Sword Guest, and Dragon's Pupils: The Peak. This is his third YA novel.

Mar 23, 2012

Daughters by Elizabeth Buchan

Opening sentences in a novel can set the tone and help readers decide about a book. Here are the opening sentences for Daughters by British author Elizabeth Buchan.

Curious how much pleasure she took from saying, 'My daughter...actually my stepdaughter...is getting married.' It ran against the grain of her own experience but her pleasure was not to be underestimated...that visceral need to see a child settled.

She had got used to answering questions such as 'What sort of wedding?' and 'Do you like him?' (To the latter she would reply, 'Yes, I do.')
Did she like Andrew? The little she knew of him, yes. She could list the plusses :affable, well-mannered, liked a joke, normal. He was also - she was assured on all sides - brilliant at his banking job, and unusual because he was a man who took the long view.(ch. 1)
Title: Daughters by Elizabeth Buchan
Publisher: Penguin, paperback

Book description: It is a truth universally acknowledged that all mothers want to see their daughters happily settled. But when Lara begins to fear that her daughter Eve is marrying a man who will only make her unhappy, and her other daughter Maudie reveals something that shocks the entire family, Lara faces the ultimate dilemma. Daughters explores the impact of secrets and betrayal within a dysfunctional but loving family.

So, what do you think, based on the opening sentences?

Apr 5, 2011

Book Review: Call Me Irresistible by Susan Elizabeth Phillips

Teaser Tuesdays asks you to choose two sentences at random from your current read. Identify the author and title for readers.
"Lucy isn't as happy as she should be.  She has some doubts."

"Rubbish!" Ted's mother exclaimed. "She had no doubts. Not until you manufactured them for her." (p. 25)


Call Me Irresistible: A Novel by Susan Elizabeth Phillips
Comments: I had some doubts about the main character, Meg Koranda, who had some reservations about her best friend's fiance, Ted Beaudine. Meg convinced Lucy Jorik that Lucy had made the wrong choice in a husband and helped her back out of the wedding. Was this self serving and did Meg have her eye on the bridegroom for herself?  Both Meg and Lucy are children of high profile parents. The sudden canceling of the wedding on the wedding day was a scandal. At the end of the book, I still couldn't decide if Meg knew all along what she wanted, or if things happened by chance in this interesting romance. By all means read it and let us know what you think!

Publisher's description: "Lucy Jorik is the daughter of a former president of the United States.
Meg Koranda is the offspring of legends.

One of them is about to marry Mr. Irresistible—Ted Beaudine—the favorite son of Wynette, Texas. The other is not happy about it and is determined to save her friend from a mess of heartache.

But even though Meg knows that breaking up her best friend's wedding is the right thing to do, no one else seems to agree. Faster than Lucy can say "I don't," Meg becomes the most hated woman in town—a town she's stuck in with a dead car, an empty wallet, and a very angry bridegroom. Broke, stranded, and without her famous parents at her back, Meg is sure she can survive on her own wits. What's the worst that can happen? Lose her heart to the one and only Mr. Irresistible? Not likely. Not likely at all."
 
Hardcover: 400 pages. Publisher: William Morrow (January 18, 2011). Source: Publisher. Genre: romantic fiction. Objective rating: 3.75/5.

Dec 5, 2015

Sunday Salon: Busy December

Welcome to the Sunday Salon where bloggers share their reading each week. Visit The Sunday Post hosted by The Caffeinated Bookreviewer. 
Also visit Mailbox Monday, and Stacking the Shelves, hosted by Tynga's Reviews. Visit It's Monday, What Are You Reading? hosted by Book Date. 

Getting ready for the holidays also means clearing the house of extra kitchen items, clothes, even furniture. I may need more time!

This Sunday Salon is a day early because I woke up this morning thinking it was Sunday! That's what happens when hubby gets a Friday off. Throws the whole weekend feeling off. But so glad for the extra day this weekend!

Two new ARCs and a book to share this week:


Under the Influence by Joyce Maynard, to be released February 23, 2016 by William Morrow

The New York Times bestselling author of Labor Day and After Her returns with a poignant story about the true meaning—and the true price—of friendship.



Shelter by Jung Yun, to be released March 15, 2016 by Picador.

Why should a man care for his parents when they failed to take care of him as a child? A debut novel that asks what it means to provide for one's family.




Kingdom Come: An Elizabeth Harris Mystery by Jane Jensen, to be released January 5, 2015 by Berkley
In Amish country in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, a troubled detective has to solve a crime. 


I am still reading:




The Witch's Market by Mingmei Yip, fiction





The Hot Countries by Timothy Hallinan, thriller 



Recent reviews:
The Sound of Glass by Karen White, fiction
What She Knew by Gilly Macmillan, psychological suspense

What's new this week for you?  

Jul 9, 2010

Book Review:The Blind Contessa's New Machine and author interview



The Blind Contessa's New Machine: A Novel by Carey Wallace, published 2010.
Genre: historical novel

My comments: Wonderful descriptive writing, capturing the surroundings and the delicate feelings of the Contessa Carolina Fantoni during the gradual loss of her sight. We follow her amazing ability to cope with daily life.

The book is set in Italy in the early 19th century. I read it as the story of a young woman's coping with a new husband and home and the narrowing of her world visually. Carolina, the Contessa, relies on the devotion of a friend Pellegrino Turri, an inventor who creates and makes a typewriting machine for her to continue her correspondence with friends. Turri is also married, but his relationship with Carolina develops into much more than ordinary friendship.

Carolina also has her dreams, which allow her to create a new world for herself. I found this part of the novel lyrical and insightful, and the emotional journey of the Contessa poignant, her story bittersweet.

Here is an excerpt from page 86:
For those first several weeks, the darkness was complete. But then Carolina began to see again in her dreams.

At first the glimpses were so slim, they might only have been memories; the sun blazing through the new spring leaves, which seemed to be in danger of disintegrating in its rays; a box her mother kept by her bed, red cloth, embroidered with a white parrot; a silver bowl full of lemons.
The ending of the novel was an interesting surprise, subject to more than one interpretation, but the basic facts follow the true story of the Contessa and her intimate friend.

Here is what Carey Wallace, the author, has to say about her novel. Welcome, Carey!

(photo by Alicia Hansen)

1. What inspired you to write an historical novel set in Italy?
The evocative details of the actual invention of the typewriter inspired me to write the story: a beautiful blind woman, an inventor who’s inspired to create the first typewriter out of love for her, and the fact that they were both married to other people. The added fact that the typewriter really was invented in Italy was just another lucky element in a wonderful collection of historical scraps. But I was delighted to get to create a corner of a fictional Italy, since I think Italy occupies a special place in the imaginative landscape of the whole world: from the Greek and Roman myths that still dominate so much of western fiction, to more modern writers like E.M. Forster who find Italy to be a playground for the imagination – it’s a place where, at least in literature, anything can happen.
2. How much of your book is based on actual people and facts?
When the first typewriter was invented, nobody knew it was the first typewriter. The inventor wasn’t the same person who eventually commercialized it, so the historical details are scarce, but I did work within them. The typewriter really was invented by Pellegrino Turri for Carolina Fantoni, a noblewoman who went blind in her early twenties. Using the machine, they carried on a correspondence of only a few years, which ended around the time Carolina’s family moved away from the area. The original machine was returned to Turri’s family upon Carolina’s death, and it does not survive: only a handful of her letters that prove that she was in possession of the first machine to fit the modern definition of typewriter. 
3. The description of the Contessa's gradual loss of sight seems very realistic. Do you have first hand experience with people who are blind or have lost their sight?
Thankfully, I don’t – although I’ve always valued the fact that my near-sightedness gives me more than one way to see the world. The descriptions of blindness in the story date back almost ten years, to a church retreat when I wound up in a room with a woman who worked for an eye doctor. Over the years, she had learned to read patient tests well enough that she could diagnose problems herself, and sometimes knew that a patient was destined for blindness before the doctor told them. This was a difficult weight for her to carry, and she spent several hours explaining different varieties of blindness to me in extraordinary detail. For years, I struggled to write about this experience. It just never seemed to fit anywhere I tried to put it. But over time, my writing went through a shift. Instead of trying to manage the trauma of the world through my work, or even to bear witness to it, I got interested in creating new worlds. Pain still had a place, but it was transformed. And the simple stories of modern patients struggling as they lost their sight finally emerged, reborn as The Blind Contessa’s New Machine. 
4. How much and what research did you have to do for the novel?
As a writer, I’m interested in evocative scraps of history that provide jumping off points for the imagination. The story of the invention of the typewriter is an almost perfect example of this: a small but wonderful group of facts mostly garbled beyond recognition on the internet or collected with more accuracy in out-of-print books by typewriter aficionados. I tracked down the previously-printed facts thoroughly, but there weren’t many to find, which gave me the leeway to create with abandon around the kernel of the true story.
5. I was a little puzzled by the ending. Can you enlighten us a bit about your decision to end the novel in the way it did?
The Blind Contessa’s New Machine really has two distinct narrative arcs: one that tells the story of the romantic complications surrounding the invention of the typewriter, and a far more private story about a young woman creating a world of her own making to inhabit as blindness steals the sighted world from her. To me, that story is at the heart of the book, and has a true resolution by the end. The romantic arc, as with so many actual romantic arcs, doesn’t have such neat resolution. That’s deliberate: it’s meant to question whether the meaning of the book was ever really to be found in the romantic arc, and send readers looking for the meaning Carolina finds for herself, outside of the relationships she has with Turri and her husband.
6. Some of your favorite authors and books?
Penelope Fitzgerald is my favorite modern author. She began writing fiction to entertain her dying husband when she was already over sixty, and won a Booker Prize less than five years later. Her books are slim, intelligent, beautiful, and so strong you can get drunk on the first sip. She’s got a sharp eye, but a generous heart—a rare combination. And she can set her novels convincingly in Russia, Italy, or on the Thames. Julio Cortazar is the writer I name most often as my favorite: even in translation, his writing breaks into some category beyond prose, and his books work more like dreams than stories. I love Hawthorne best among American authors, followed by Raymond Chandler, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Tennessee Williams, along with a deep affection for Cornell Woolrich, whose hypnotic prose I sometimes think works not in spite of but because of its imperfections. Dostoyevesky and Tolstoy are always the cornerstones of anything I’ve managed to learn about books, balanced on the side of wonder by Borges and Marquez. A portrait of the Bronte sisters, with their brother Branwell painted out, has hung over my desk since I was a teenager. I’ve read both Gone With The Wind and The Count of Monte Cristo many times. I read Thomas Merton almost daily. And Flannery O’Connor helps me in a host of ways, not least of which is her sheer cussedness. 
7. Are you working on another book at this time?
I am working on five other books: one about a girl who falls in love with a ghost who can’t remember who he was before he died, one about the secret bride of a train robber, one about a young vampire, one about the relationship between art and faith, and one about my family’s experience with my mother’s chronic illness, lupus – the disease that killed Jack London and Flannery O’Connor. This is no guarantee, however, that any of these will be the next to appear.
8. Is there anything else you would like to add for readers?
Just my gratitude to them for being readers. The noise and demands of the world get more crushing every year, and no other art form demands as much imagination, attention, and time from people as a book. I think it’s a small miracle every time someone makes the choice to read, and I hope you’ll find The Blind Contessa’s New Machine offers you a real gift in return.
9. How can readers reach you?
I’d love to hear from people through my website: http://www.careywallace.com/, or directly at theblindcontessa@gmail.com.
Congratulations again on your novel, Carey, and we wish you the best!

About the author: Carey Wallace grew up in a small town in Michigan. She is the founder of the Hillbilly Underground, a retreat in rural Michigan that draws international artists. She lives in Brooklyn, New York and is at work on five other books.

Sunday Salon: Japanese Authors and a Mystery

  Klara and the Sun   by Kazuo Ishiguro.  Klara and the Sun was easy to read for a literary novel of such magnitude and celebrity, I found...