Jul 13, 2009

Teaser Tuesday: Death Loves a Messy Desk by Mary Jane Maffini

TEASER TUESDAYS is a weekly meme hosted by Should Be Reading. Choose two sentences from your current read, and add the author and title for readers. Anyone can join in.

"First off, reconfigure the IT area so that Robbie and Barb aren't visible on the path to the staff room or anywhere."

Fredelle blinked. "Will her desk still be messy?" (p. 59)

In Death Loves a Messy Desk by Mary Jane Maffini, Charlotte Adams is hired to organize the workspace in an office, in particular the messy desk of an employee named Barbara. When Barb goes missing, however, Charlotte finds herself tracking down clues to this mystery.

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Jul 11, 2009

Book Review: Man Overboard by Sandy Mason

Man Overboard
I liked the mystery plot about a missing boater, and liked the main character Johnny even more in Man Overboard: A Johnny Donohue Adventure, the second novel in the mystery series by Sandy Mason.

I guess you could label this a character-driven novel. Johnny is witty, down to earth, and just a little bit vain about his appearance. He also tells us a lot about life on the Gulf of Florida. Johnny lives on his boat in a marina on the west coast of Florida. While piloting a sailboat for a client from Sarasota to his marina, he and his crew come across an abandoned sailboat way offshore. The boat is empty and the owner of the boat, Tom McNeil, is missing.

Johnny is determined to find out if Tom has been kidnapped by a drug dealers, has run off, or has drowned in an accident. He meets a reporter covering the case, Maria, and together with an ex-cop and friend Lonnie they try to figure out Tom's disappearance.

Comments
Amiable, chatty, with a humorous outlook on life, Johnny introduces us to his world of sailboats, races, the sailing community, the west coast of Florida, and the pleasures of living fulltime on a boat. We also find out about why he left the corporate world in New York City and headed south for a more laid-back lifestyle.

"Once inside, Terra Ceia (Bay)is a miniature tropical paradise. A boat is well protected from winds in almost every direction. There are no stores or marinas or restaurants. It is just a quite piece of heaven and a wonderful place to be with friends." (p. 136)

As a subplot, Johnny helps his father reveal a secret kept hidden for fifty years. In the end, the would-be sleuth Johnny gets into the action by helping the police nab the culprits, while also winning the affections of the fetching Maria. I gave this very enjoyable book, a good read for summer, 4 out of 5 stars, on Goodreads.

Book provided by the author, for my objective review.

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Jul 10, 2009

Books Reviewed, 2010 and 2009

For those who love reading book reviews, here are links to reviews I've done so far.

2010 :

1. A Map of Paradise: A Novel of 19th C Hawaii by Linda Ching Sledge
2. Truly, Madly by Heather Webber, a cozy mystery
3. The Tricking of Freya: A Novel, by Christina Sunley
4. The Last Surgeon by Michael Palmer, a thriller
5. The Youngest Son: Memoirs from the Homeland by Oreste LeRoy Salerni
6. The Cuban Chronicles by Wanda St. Hilaire, travel memoir
7. Knit, Purl, Die by Anne Canadeo, mystery
8. Simply Quince by Barbara Gazarian, a cookbook

9. Denise's Daily Dozen: The Easy, Every Day Program to Lose Up to 12 Pounds in 2 Weeks by Denise Austin, exercise and diet
10. Dino Vicelli, Private Eye by Lori Weiner, crime fiction
11. The Trudeau Vector: A Novel by Juris Jurjevics, thriller
12. One Amazing Thing by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, fiction
13. Paying Back Jack: A Vincent Calvino Novel by Christopher G. Moore, detective series
14. Thirsty: A Novel by Kristin Bair O'Keefe, fiction.
15. I Ching: New Interpretation for Modern Times

16. The Pig and I by Rachel Toor, fiction
17. Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen, fiction
18. The Risk of Infidelity Index: A Vincent Calvino Crime Novel by Christopher G. Moore
19. Far From the Land: An Irish Memoir by Thomas J. Rice
20. Truth, Next Exit by Michele M. Paiva, self help
21. The Brick Layer by Noah Boyd, crime fiction

22. WOW: A Handbook for Living by Zen Ohashi and Zono Kurazono, self-help
23. The Writing on My Forehead by Nafisa Haji, women's fiction
24. The Godfather of Katmandu by John Burdett, detective fiction
25. Love in Mid Air by Kim Wright, contemporary fiction
26. At Home with Laurie Ann: A Decorator's Guide , interior decorating
27. The Old Capital by Yasunari Kawabata, literary fiction
28. Feeling the Vibe by Candace Dow, fiction
29. A Dead Hand: A Crime in Calcutta by Paul Theroux, crime fiction

30. Songs of the Humpback Whale by Jodi Picoult, women's fiction
31. Murder in the Palais Royale by Cara Black, mystery
32. Skin and Bones by D.C. Corso, crime fiction
33. Perfection: A Memoir by Julie Metz, memoir
34. Pearl of China: A Novel by Anchee Min, fiction
35. Arabesk by Barbara Nadel, a Turkish mystery
36. Nanny's Theory of Style by Grace Coopersmith, romantic comedy

37. Snakes Can't Run by Ed Lin, thriller
38. The Killing of Mindi Quintana by Jeffrey Cohen, legal thriller
39. Making a Case for Life by Stephanie Wincik, non-fiction
40. Flirting with Forever by Gwyn Cready, time-travel romantic comedy
41. In the Shadow of the Cypress by Thomas Steinbeck, historical novel
42. Clean, Green, and Lean by Walter Crinnion, self-help, cookbook
43. Sahara by Clive Cussler, adventure thriller

44. Seducing Mr. Darcy by Gwy Cready, romantic comedy
45. The Swan Thieves by Elizabeth Kostova, fiction
46. Assassins of Athens by Jeffrey Siger, mystery
47. The Mountain Place of Knowledge by Marshall Chamberlain, adventure thriller
48.The Queen of Patpong by Timothy Hallinan, thriller
49.The Time of the Dragons by Alice Ekert-Rotholz, an historical novel

50. Kitchen Chinese by Ann Mah, fiction
51. Petals from the Sky by Mingmei Yip, fiction
52. Blood Hina by Naomi Hirahara, mystery series
53. A Twist of Orchids by Michelle Wan, mystery series
54. Half Life by Roopa Farooki, women's fiction
55. The Blind Contessa's New Machine by Carey Wallace, historical fiction
56. The Stone Monkey by Jeffrey Deaver, thriller
57. The Museum of Innocence by Orhan Pamuk, fiction

Defending the Enemy by Elaine B. Fischel, non-fiction
Sea of Poppies by Amitav Ghosh, Indian fiction*
Busy Body by M.C. Beaton, a cozy mystery*
The Tapestry of Love by Rosy Thornton, women's fiction, romance*
A King of Infinite Space by Tyler Dilts, crime fiction
The End of Marking Time by C.J. West, dystopia

Every Bitter Thing by Leighton Gage, detective fiction*
The Insane Train by Sheldon Russel, crime fiction
The Love Goddess' Cooking School by Melissa Senate, women's fiction, romance
The Weed That Strings the Hangman's Bag by Alan Bradley, mystery*
The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley, mystery*

Extinction by Dan Ailey, sci-fi
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson, thriller**
A Dog Named Slugger by Leigh Brill, non-fiction
Delivering Happiness by Tony Hsieh, self-help
A Darker God by Barbara Cleverly, Greek island mystery*
There's No Hope for Gomez by Graham Parke, comedy

==================

2009
The Housekeeper and the Professor

Man Overboard: A Johnny Donohue Adventure

Killer Summer

Songs of Blue and Gold

The Devlin Diary

Andean Express

Illegal

The Cluttered Corpse

Purple Hibiscus

Borderline: A Novel

Palos Verdes Blue


April - May:

Killer Cruise

Queen's Cross

The Fortune Cookie Chronicles

The Shadow of the Wind

Kiss Murder

The Trail of the Wild Rose

Bon Appetit

Fault Line

The Winner Stands Alone

Bitter Sugar

Spiced: A Pastry Chef's True Stories

Undress Me in the Temple of Heaven

Tokyo Fiancee

Fidali's Way

The Map Thief

A Gift from Brittany


Jan. - March:

The Fire Kimono

The Piano Teacher

Murder in the Latin Quarter

French Pressed

Tomb of Zeus

Dirty Little Angels

Greek Winds of Fury

The Anteater of Death

Twenty Fragments of a Ravenous Youth in Beijing

Lulu in Marrakech

Death Walked In

The Peking Man Is Missing

A Pale Horse

New Slain Knight

Book Review: Killer Summer by Ridley Pearson

Killer Summer
Some books are memorable for the characters and the setting, just as much as the plot. In Killer Summer  the memorable character is Walt Fleming, a county sheriff in Sun Valley, Idaho, that playground of the wealthy and ordinary tourists alike. Walt appears in a series of thrillers by Ridley Pearson, and this his latest, Killer Summer, is due out this summer!

The book begins with Walt on a fishing trip with his nephew, Kevin, an 18-year-old who is set to give him no end of trouble. They are fishing in the Big Wood River when Walt spots a tow truck rattling across a nearby bridge, pulling a Taurus with what could be a man slumped behind the wheel. Walt is still on duty and decides to follow the truck and investigate. This leads to a series of events that will involve Kevin, a plot to steal a case of rare and costly wine set to be auctioned at Sun Valley, and a harrowing trip through rugged mountain terrain to a plane crash site and an isolated mountain cabin.

Comments
Walt is a sympathetic character, estranged from his father, working side by side with a deputy who is also the lover of Walt's ex-wife. He also takes it on himself to keep an eye on his nephew Kevin who has only a mother to rely on. The scenic descriptions of Sun Valley, its resorts, and the mountain terrain around are worthwhile in themselves, but also essential to the plot and the fast action sequences.

I enjoyed reading the book for many reasons - character, plot, and setting. It's a cliche to say "I couldn't put it down," but I only put the book down when I absolutely had to!

Advance readers copy provided by the publisher, for my objective review.

The author talks to Book Reporter dot com about Killer Summer at Ridley Pearson interview.

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Jul 7, 2009

Teaser Tuesday: Phyllis Whitney, romance author

TEASER TUESDAYS is a weekly meme hosted by Should Be Reading. Choose two sentences at random from your current read, and add the author and title for readers.

I pulled almost all my Phyllis A. Whitney romantic suspense novels to take to a friend who wanted to start enjoying books again after retirement. I thought the romantic suspense novels of Whitney would be a great place to ease into reading again.

Here are my two sentences from a 1990 edition of The Singing Stones, large print edition:
"I crossed the little bridge, my shoes clicking over the boards, and Vivian Forster held out her hand. Her handclasp was warm, thought she spoke almost breathlessly, as thought she must rush into words in order to conceal whatever it was that troubled her." p. 39

Who and where am I?
Lynne McLeod, a clinical psychologist, gets a letter about her ex-husband Stephen. His daugher by another woman urgently needs her help. Lynne accepts the invitation to visit Stephen's home in the Blue Ridge mountains of Virginia where the sounds made by the "singing stones" of the cliffs above the house seem "soft and menacing." Lynn gets involved in solving a local murder and saving the lives of Stephen and his daughter.



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Jul 2, 2009

Author Interview: Deborah Lawrenson

Deborah Lawrenson, author of Songs of Blue and Gold, sitting on the balcony of the White House in Kalami, Corfu, where writer Lawrence Durrell lived in the 1960s.

Songs of Blue and Gold is about a young English woman, Melissa, who sets out to the island of Corfu to find out the truth about her mother and the writer Julian Adie, a character inspired by the life of British writer, Lawrence Durrell.
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Interview

Q: I see that you did extensive research for Songs of Blue and Gold. How long did it take, and how much travel did you have to do?
Deborah: I'd been reading about the writer, poet and traveller Lawrence Durrell and his famous zoologist brother Gerald for about six months when I realised that I wanted to explore the way the same story could appear differently in separate biographies. After that, I read everything I could find about Lawrence while I was writing Songs of Blue and Gold, which took about two years.

Naturally I had to travel to Corfu - no hardship there! I'd wanted to visit the island ever since reading Gerald's book My Family and Other Animals as a child. I went twice for research, the first time actually staying at the White House in Kalami where Lawrence lived in the 1930s. I also spent several days wandering around Sommieres in southern France with my notebook.

I really loved writing it (the novel) because I was so fascinated by Lawrence D. I had a wonderful time on Corfu doing what Melissa did, trying to see what he would have seen - and there's plenty still there.


Q: How would you describe the novel?
Deborah: It's a book that combines several genres: there's an element of mystery combined with a personal journey of discovery; I tried to make it a transporting read with a strong sense of place, of the Greek island; and it also holds the ideas of biography and memoir up to the light, and asks whether either can claim to tell the whole truth about a life.

The title describes the lapis lazuli effect of the sun on the Ionian Sea around Corfu. Songs, in Greek tradition, were not only words and music but histories too. Durrell himself described Corfu, in his book Prospero's Cell, as "all Venetian blue and gold".

Q: What prompted you to become a writer? Did your journalism experience make it easier to make the transition?
Deborah: I love words and language, and always wanted to be a writer. I became a journalist because I didn't have the confidence or experience to start writing books straight out of university! Having said that, I had some wonderful times as a journalist and learned so much, knowledge that really has been invaluable - everything from how to handle tricky encounters with new people successfully, to how newspapers publicise books.

Q: Is there anything else you would like to add about this or your previous novel?
Deborah: Like my previous novel The Art of Falling, this one is concerned with very personal mysteries - and the psychology of why people act the way they do, often unaware of how their actions will affect others. In Songs of Blue and Gold, the reader's reaction to Julian Adie (based on Lawrence Durrell) and his possible guilt is all to do with how he or she reads his contradictory character, and whether in their judgement the flaws outweigh the gifts and charm.
Q: Are you planning another book at this time?

Deborah: Yes, I'm about halfway through writing a novel set in the south of France. It started off as "A modern Rebecca set in Provence" (Rebecca as in Daphne du Maurier's book, and the Hitchcock film). But as I've gone along it's become more mysterious, with gothic touches and a sense of dark history. Again it's a novel with a strong evocation of place, and sensuous descriptions: the heat and the scents of herbs on the hillsides, the light and colours.

Thanks for the interview, Deborah.
"After reading English at Trinity College, Cambridge, Deborah Lawrenson worked as a journalist and magazine editor. She has written four other novels: The Art of Falling, published by Arrow in 2005, The Moonbathers (1998) and the newspaper satires Hot Gossip (1994) and Idol Chatter (1995)."
See the review of Songs of Blue and Gold in the post below.

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Jul 1, 2009

Book Review: Songs of Blue and Gold by Deborah Lawrenson


Songs of Blue and Gold is set in the lovely Greek island of Corfu. Corfu has been associated with Prospero's island, the island in Shakespeare's The Tempest. The connection was also made by the British writer, Lawrence Durrell, in his travel book, Prospero's Cell.

This is the story of a young artist Elizabeth Norden and a writer Julian Adie, two people who met in Corfu in the 1960s, had an affair there, and parted under tragic circumstances. The larger-than-life character Julian is based on the writer Durrell, who lived in Corfu in the late 1930s and again around 1968.

Plot
The novel begins many years after the Corfu affair ended. Elizabeth gives her daughter Melissa a book of Julian's poems which he had inscribed to her. The inscription reads:
"To Elizabeth, always remembering Corfu, what could have been and what we must both forget."

Elizabeth is unable to explain the meaning of the puzzling inscription; she is in the advanced stages of Alzheimer's. After her mother's death, Melissa decides to go to Corfu to search into Julian Adie's life there, and to piece together the story about what happened between her mother and the writer. (Durrell's many wives, affairs of the heart, and complex but magnetic personality are also Julian's).

Melissa visits the White House in the town of Kalami on Corfu, the place where Julian had stayed when he met her mother in the 1960s. She talks to people who knew and remembered Julian and Elizabeth but comes away with more questions than answers. In the meantime, she meets Alexandros and begins her own love story on Corfu. Eventually, Melissa's search for the true story of her mother takes her to Sommieres in France, where Julian had spent his last years.

Comments
I gave this book five stars for the skillful blending of fact and fiction, the sympathetic description of the fictional characters, Elizabeth and Melissa, the excellent prose, thoughtful and descriptive, which evokes the "spirit" of the island and Lawrence Durrell/Julian Adie's complex personality. Through Julian Adie, Durrell's life is analyzed and sifted through via his works and the events in his life, real and fictionalized. We are left with more questions, but Lawrenson give us a list of Durrell's works and a list of biographical books to continue our own research on the real man.

Songs of Blue and Gold was published in 2008 by Arrow Books, Great Britain. For more information, visit the website, http://www.deborah-lawrenson.co.uk/

Book provided by the author, for my objective review.


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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...