Apr 28, 2009

Teaser Tuesday: A Map of Paradise

From A Map of Paradise: A Novel of Nineteenth Century Hawaii by Linda Ching Sledge, 1997. Molly, the young daughter of immigrants, learns about Hawaii.

"A true child of the islands, Molly could name in Hawaiian the separate winds that blew through Nuuanu Valley by the time she was seven. Nalani had taught her to breathe with the earth, to feel the ola that coursed through land and sky and sea, to see akuas hidden in the mists, to trace the footsteps of tiny creatures called menehunes in the ancient ditches and canals that crisscrossed the hidden reaches of the valley and thus to make herself one with the spirit-infused land." (ch. 12)

Choose two sentences at random from a book of your choice: Teaser Tuesday meme courtesy of MizB at Should Be Reading

Apr 25, 2009

The Winner Stands Alone by Paulo Coelho, a review

The Winner Stands Alone by Paulo Coelho, published April 7, 2009 by Harper hardcover.

This is the first book by Paulo Coelho that I've read and I believe his first mystery novel.

I was immediately struck by the irony in the book, which blends a mystery/thriller plot with extensive social commentary.

The main character, a wealthy Russian businessman, Igor, attends the Cannes Film Festival in France to try to win back his ex-wife, who will be there with her husband, a famous fashion designer. Igor sends Ewa cryptic and menacing messages by email saying he will begin "destroying worlds" to win her back.

At the same time, Igor critically observes the crowd at Cannes - the Superclass as he refers to them, who set superficial standards for dress, behavior, and aspirations.

"Look at the Superclass around us. They think they are so important, so socially aware, because they are willing to pay a fortune for some useless item at a charity auction or to attend a supper organized to raise funds to help the homeless in Rwanda or to save the pandas in China. Pandas and the homeless are all one to them."

Igor becomes a social critic, a political critic, a critic of manners, and more, all the while showing that his socially conscious reasoning clashes with his personal life. How he tries to impress his ex-wife is devilish, to say the least, with the Angel of Death always hovering over his shoulder.

Coelho hints that Igor's "dual" character is like modern society, in that it can be rational and objective on the one hand, and wildly illogical on the other. Another irony in this psychological thriller is that Igor, driven by evil, has an unintended but positive effect on the life of a young model he meets briefly in Cannes.

In The Winner Stands Alone, Coelho writes a chilling thriller and also tackles the problems of the day with a critical eye - frank observations with just a tinge of cynicism.

Book provided by the publisher, for my objective review.


Apr 23, 2009

One Lovely Blog Award

I love the name of this award, One Lovely Blog Award. Many thanks to Suzanne of Chick With Books for passing it on.
this award was also given to me in 2009 by Booklogged A Reader's Journal

"One Lovely Blog Award goes to new blogs and blogging friends.

The rules are: Accept the award, post it on your blog together with the name of the person who granted the award and his or her blog link. Pass the award to 15 other blogs that you've newly discovered."

The award goes to
In Spring it is the Dawn
Carol's Notebook
Living Life and Reading Books
A Striped Armchair
Stacy's Bookblog
Life in the Thumb

Asian American Literary Awards

Here are some books that have recently won awards from the Asian American Writers Workshop.
2008 Winners
Mohsin Hamid The Reluctant Fundamentalist, Harcourt, 2007
Vijay Prashad The Darker Nations, New Press, 2007
Sun Yung Shin Skirt Full of Black, Coffee House Press, 2007
Ed Lin * This Is a Bust, Kaya Press, 2007

2007 Winners
Linh Dinh Borderless Bodies, Factory School, 2006
Amitav Ghosh Incendiary Circumstances: A Chronicle of the Turmoil of Our Times, Houghton Mifflin, 2006
Samrat Upadhyay The Royal Ghosts, Houghton Mifflin, 2006
Gene Yuen Yang* American Born Chinese, First Second Books, 2006

The 2009 Asian American Literary Awards will be announced later this year. Earlier awards are listed at
AAWW Awards

Mysteries in Foreign Lands

Need information on mystery novels set in other countries such as Europe, Asia, and Latin America? See Mysteries in Foreign Lands

Check out contemporary Japanese writer Murakami or a 1998 thriller by Wang Shuo of China.

See U.S. Regional Mysteries for books set in the various parts of the U.S.

Miami, It's Murder
, with Cuban-American journalist-sleuth Britt Montero, by Edna Buchanan.

Uncatalogued by Julie Kaeworth is a booklover's mystery set in Dartmouth College.

Apr 22, 2009

Cuban-American mystery novels by Carolina Garcia-Aguilera

Havana Heat
The Lupe Solano Mystery novels include Bloody Waters (1996), A Miracle in Paradise (1999), Havana Heat (2000), and Bitter Sugar (2001).

She drinks mojitos the way other people drink coffee, wears Manolo Blahnik heels, and hangs with the community of elite Cuban exiles living in and around South Beach, Miami.

Lupe Solano is a private investigator, the main character in a series of mystery novels by Cuban-born, Florida-bred author Carolina Garcia-Aguilera.

In the novels, the avidly anti-Castro father of the P.I. keeps a boat ready to return to Cuba at a moment's notice, at the first sign of "Cuba Libre," something he spends his life waiting for.

On at least two occasions, Lupe uses his boat to sneak into Cuba, investigating lost or confiscated property, finding people, or recovering valuable artwork for her clients. Needless to say, her secret nighttime forays into Cuba provide some good suspense.
A Miracle in Paradise

Bitter Sugar
I found out about mojitos (a drink made with mint leaves, sugar, soda water, and rum) and the Cuban American community in Florida while reading these lively mysteries.

Bloody Waters

Apr 21, 2009

Spiced: A Pastry Chef's True Stories by Dalia Jurgensen, book review

Spiced: A Pastry Chef's True Stories of Trials by Fire, After-Hours Exploits, and What Really Goes on in the Kitchen

There are two things I really liked about Spiced, (2009) a book about becoming a chef and working in restaurant kitchens.

First, the inside info of the goings-on in the off-limits areas of restaurants - the good, the bad, and the funny. And second, the mouth watering descriptions of foods, their preparation, and the unusual pastries and desserts concocted by pastry chefs in three star restaurants.

It was interesting to learn that many chefs work long hours for just average wages, without health insurance, and hit the burn out point often, having to change jobs or rotate the types of food prep they do.

Dalia Jurgensen left her routine job in publishing to attend pastry school and work in a succession of restaurants, preparing appetizers, pastries, main dishes, and finally pastries again. She doesn't have much time to socialize; her off hours are often spent with her coworkers after work, winding down in bars at midnight after the restaurant is closed. She has surprising and not-so-surprising romantic dalliances with various chefs.

What I missed in the book, however, was a stronger story thread that would link up her restaurant and chef experiences and show a progression to the place where she is now. We know that later in her career, she was reviewed by food critics from top newspapers, but this was not an achievement she dwelt on or showed as a high point or culmination of her hard work under various chefs. At least, that was not a strong impression.

The book thus seems to be a chronological account of her career without that main theme to carry it all the way through. Even the ending seems to be "more of the same."

Her unusual desserts in the pastry kitchen, however, sound finger-licking good! Some simpler recipes and a taste of what her book is about can be found at her website, My Spiced Life.

Book provided by the publisher, Putnam Adult, for my objective review.

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...