Jan 11, 2009

Book Review: Death Walked In by Carolyn Hart

Death Walked In
Carolyn Hart's Death Walked In, 2008, is an uncommonly good mystery, with an idyllic island setting, interesting characters, and a well turned plot. I only guessed one of the perpetrators of the crime in the second to last chapter, and predicted the second crime in the second half of the book.

Main character Anne runs a mystery book store on the island; her husband Max is a private investigator who does the gourmet cooking in the household. Her mother in law and her friends provide more interest to the group of island residents, as do her two cats, the aggressive sharp-clawed Agatha and the gentle Dorothy L., both named after, you guessed it - mystery writers.

In the plot, several valuable Civil War gold coins are stolen, two people are killed, and Anne and Max try to solve the crime and find the location of the coins, which have been hidden in the Franklin House, a two hundred year old dilapidated mansion they are in the process of refurbishing as their new home.

There are some scary moments. I always wonder why writers have their characters make risky decisions - investigate on their own rather than call the police or waiting for backup before they head for danger. But this adds to the suspense!

I give this mystery five stars!!

Jan 4, 2009

Book Review: The Peking Man Is Missing by Clare Taschdjian

The Peking Man Is Missing
Learned more about the missing Peking Man fossils which disappeared in China in 1941 on the way to the U.S.S. William Harrison, a U.S. troopship that would have taken the 600,000-year-old fossils to the United States for safekeeping.

The novel, The Peking Man Is Missing by Clare Taschdjian, was first printed in 1977 and reprinted in November 2008, and is based on the author's personal experience in China. She claims to be one of the last persons to have seen the fossils, which were crated and transported, but eventually lost though under the protection of the U.S. Marines.

Because of the wartime situation, the human fossils, originally discovered near Beijing in the 1920s, never arrived at port and could not be traced, and the question remains - What became of them? Were they destroyed, thrown away, or are they in Japan, in the United States, or still in China? Rumors and theories abound - one theory is that the crates of fossils were opened by the Japanese who had stopped the train heading to the USS Harrison, that the fossils were seen as remains of U.S. soldiers, and thrown out. An ironic and sad end, if it is true.

Taschdjian's book, a work of fiction, presents a hypothetical situation - it has the fossils traveling from China by footlocker and by trunk to Cuba, and then to the U.S., where they are eventually thrown away by a superstitious landlady who found them in the apartment after the untimely death of her tenant. The landlady had no idea that the bones were priceless fossils, as she thought her former tenant was a witch who used human bones for her witchcraft. Another ironic twist to this tale.

It remains one of the great mysteries in the history of paleontology. What became of Peking Man? It is generally assumed that the Peking Man fossils are perhaps forever lost, even though the governments of China, Japan, and the Americans, have tried unsuccessfully to locate them.

Dec 29, 2008

Book Review: Peace and Love by Fulford Chin Choy

"More importantly, a love for life is one way to bring closure to the grieving for another. May there be peace in your life as well as your future." (p. 39)
Title: Peace and Love
Author: Fulford Chin Choy
Paperback: 264 pages
Publisher: BookSurge Publishing (January 14, 2008)
Genre: Inspirational, self-help

Book description:
"To change within, particularly for the better, takes more than a wish. True, the process starts with a volition but thereafter, it ordinarily will take determination, focus and a willing heart. Journey alongside a personal reflection on the influence of others while growing up. Then consider what it takes to change and how the seven deadly sins can sway your impulsive actions and emotional reactions. Contemplate counteractions and self control. With the insight gained, peace of mind likely can be had with one employing the heart, the mind and the will to do so."

A new self-help/inspirational book by Fulford Chin Choy of Canada was about 15 years in the making. Click on the book title for more details.

A March 16, 2008 review of the book on Amazon.com by Tenny S. F. of Honolulu states

"Fulford's book is an abundance of insights into what propels the human spirit. His deep reflection on some of the causes and simple cures for what ails and motivates everyone of us is unparalleled. A must read for any serious thinker who is interested in self growth and development. The array of insightful tips enables one to adapt to almost any condition with inner peace. A handy reference material for a changing world that will be revisited time and time again."

Dec 6, 2008

Book Review: Salmonella Men on Planet Porno by Yasutaka Tsutsui

Salmonella Men on Planet Porno the first book by prize-winning author Yasutaka Tsutsui that has been translated into English for an American audience. Published November 4, 2008 by Pantheon.

This is a collection of short stories that delve into conformity, individual craziness, and the fluidity between reality and the world of dreams. Two stories deal with men rejecting family intimacy and another examines people following their society's norms like unthinking automatons.

There are 13 stories in this 2008 book. Yatsutaka Tsutsui has won prizes in his native Japan and named a Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres by the French government.

Nov 12, 2008

Book Review: Real World by Natsuo Kirino

Title: Real World by Natsuo Kirino
Hardcover: 224 pages
Publisher: Knopf (July 15, 2008)

How would you react to a writer who names her books Grotesque and Out? I read the latter some time ago and found it so fascinating, I readily picked up Real World, (by Natsuo Kirino of Tokyo) when I found it on the New Releases shelf at the library.

Out portrayed the lives of a group of women harassed at work and/or at home in a male dominated society. They support each other through thick and thin in an "unholy" alliance of women. They get even, as I remember it, and cover for one another.

This new book, Real World, is about four teenage girls who suspect a local boy of committing a murder and are curious enough about him that they go out of their way to befriend him. Two are bored with their humdrum lives and want to be part of a new "adventure," so they befriend the boy, helping him in his escape. This in spite of the fact that the murder is of his own mother.

One of the girls gives him her bike and a new cell phone. Another takes the train to join him for a time while he runs from the authorities, paying for a cheap hotel where he can take a bath and get some sleep. A third is coerced into writing a "story or poem" of confession for him, which he wants to carry around in case he is ever caught by the police and has to answer to them. They all carry on conversations with the boy by cell phone.

The boy fantasizes that he is the Japanese soldier he saw in a film in grade school, a soldier being beaten and stabbed by an old Filipino woman and a man, evidently as a revenge for the Japanese occupation during WWII. This image seems to haunt him, and he sees his own demanding and nagging mother as the Filipino woman.

The four teenage girls who are curious about the boy and the 17 year old boy himself try to escape the reality of their lives, humdrum or horrific. They feel that what people see on the outside is different from what they are.

Real World is another noir novel by Kirino, this time about teens facing the consequences of the decisions they make.
***** Five stars for this novel!

Nov 11, 2008

Medusa: The Beginning by Kathi Harris

Kathi Harris's Medusa: The Beginning is a sci-fi novel published in 2007. It describes the rise of an African-American to the presidency of the United States in the middle of troubled times.

"Many of you have already accepted the fact that I am African American and realize my color makes no difference in my ability to lead or to inspire..."

The preceding is an excerpt from the novel, part of the president's acceptance speech.

The author is truly excited that her book has been so predictive of what has happened in America in 2008. To see more of the speech and learn more about her book, visit Kathi Harris's Book Corner, Lake Tales
or Lark Song

YOUR VIEWS: Does Obama's win change people's perception of race?

Nov 2, 2008

Book review; A Guide to the Birds of East Africa by Nicholas Drayson

A Guide to the Birds of East Africa by Nicholas Drayson is a clever way to write about Kenya and politics and its expatriates, British and Indian. In spite of the title, A Guide to the Birds of East Africa is actually a novel, with sketches and the names of dozens of birds in Kenya.

The story centers around a widower, Mr. Malik, who owns his own business but takes time off weekly to visit AIDS patients in a hospital and to attend the Tuesday bird walks led by a widow, Rose Mbikwa. Mr. Malik wants to ask Rose to the Nairobi Hunt Club Ball, but when another member of the Asadi Club, Harry Khan, expresses his interest in the lady as well, the club members decide the two men should have a competition to determine who should ask Rose to the ball.

The competition involves bird watching and making a list of the different species of birds they see within a set period of time. The winner will be the one that sees the most birds of different species. While Harry enlists the help of two Australian birders and hops on planes to fly remote parts of Kenya that have the most unusual birds, Malik remains close to his business and counts birds in his garden, at the Botanical Garden and the arboretum in the city, and the area around the sewage plant. He does make a car trip away from the city, to the home of a young man in his employ, which adds a lot to his list of bird sightings.

For Malik, the competition is more eventful than for Harry. Malik's car is stolen at the arboretum, and after he recovers it, he is waylaid in the bush by two Somalis intent on capturing his young employee Benjamin for conscription into their army. Malik escapes by leaving his car and hiding in a cave.
One more worry for Malik - the notebook in his stolen car. Not only does it have the list of birds he has seen, it also has compromising notes on the political characters he satirizes weekly in a newspaper column - which he writes anonymously.

Harry also his share of adventure - he is arrested by soldiers while birding at night too close to a military compound. In the end, does it all work our for Malik, the book's obvious hero? Does he win the competition, stay out of jail?

The book has been sold, evidently, in eight countries. I enjoyed reading it.

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...