Nov 9, 2009

Review: Public Image by Thomas A. Hauck

"When I woke up this morning I had a good idea for a story. It did not come to me in a dream as they sometimes do, but popped into my head as I was squinting into a shaft of sunlight piercing the blind that did not quite cover the window..." (p. 32, "Uncle Hiram")

I liked this  short story about how Uncle Hiram replaced the story the writer had in mind and helped create a new story with his usual question,

"What'cha writing about?"

The writer lied to deflect Uncle Hiram's usual criticisms and said,

" A dog's head and a cat's head on the same body." (p. 34)

But Uncle Hiram liked the idea and asked a few more pointed questions to show his interest. The lie then truly became a good idea - the cat and the dog in an argument, about the auto industry for one.

In the end, the author says, "I knew that Uncle Hiram was going to love this story." (p. 35)

These quotes are from "Uncle Hiram," one of 24 short stories and 27 poems in Thomas A. Hauck's new book, PUBLIC IMAGE: stories and poems, published 2009 by Avanti Literary, in association with Booklocker, Inc.

Publisher's description:

"Revealing the lives of ordinary people in extraordinary situations, (the stories and poems)...examine the human experience.

Thomas Hauck is also author of Pistonhead, a contemporaty novel about how rock guitar player Charlie Sinclair finds success." More information at

Thanks to the author for review copies.

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Nov 8, 2009

Sunday Salon: Fall Is Here For Sure

All the leaves are off the trees, except for a good amount on a red maple in the back. Finally planted the third red barberry bush I bought about a month ago. Hope they keep that color even in summer.

Re blogging, I haven't been doing a lot of memes lately, except for a Friday Finds this past week with Sue Grafton's new book, U is for Undertow. Other memes I occasionally join are Teaser Tuesdays, A-Z Wednesday, and Booking for Thursday.

I do a Library Loot every now and then, but the only library books I have out right now are the first novel by Nahid Raschid, Foreigner, about an Iranian student's visit home after many years in the U.S., and Breathing Water, which I've finished reading.

What memes have you done this past week?

Nov 7, 2009

Book Review: 9 Dragons by Michael Connelly

Nine Dragons (Harry Bosch, #14) Nine Dragons by Michael Connelly

This is a good police procedural through the first two-thirds of the book, with detective Harry Bosch
investigating the shooting of a grocery store owner in a run-down part of Los Angeles, suspecting
Asian triad connections, and heading off to Hong Kong where the triads have kidnapped
his daughter while telling Bosch to back off his investigations.

Bosch's ex-wife and his daughter live in Hong Kong, and because of his dangerous occupation, his wife says he may never again be allowed to see his daughter, if she is recovered and rescued. How this family situation is resolved is the part where the plot starts to become unrealistic and improbable.


Bosch's ex-wife is shot and killed in an attempted robbery in Hong Kong, and this dilemma of his continuing to see his daughter is suddenly resolved - he is the only surviving parent. Another  improbable section of the plot -
the mystery surrounding the shooting death of the grocery store owner in LA, where the book began.

What is highly unlikely and unconvincing is that a Chinese American son and daughter  would plot to
kill their father just because the father refused to close an old grocery store in LA so that they could open
 a 3rd one in a more upscale neighborhood. Motive: the son" got tired of the refusal" and so
 had his father shot with three well placed bullets to the chest. In a culture where filial respect has been taught  for centuries, this was a pretty flimsy motive for such a heinous crime. I had to shake my head at this one.

I would have given 9 Dragons a four out of five stars after reading the first 2/3rd of the novel, but the last third of the book pulled it down to a 2, IMO.

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Nov 6, 2009

Book Review: Musical Chairs by Jen Knox

I admire the frank way Jennifer Knox wrote this autobiography and her willingness to share the detailed story of her life - her parent's divorce, her running away from home, her subsequent jobs as a strip dancer among others, her treatments for panic disorder and alcoholism, and her decision to attend college and to write. I was impressed by her struggles, including finding out more about the health history of her great-grandmother Gloria, overcoming her own problems, and eventually coming into her own as a writer.

The book is written in a straight-forward chronological narrative, the story mainly speaking for itself but with Jen's voice briefly commenting on her experiences throughout. I would have liked to read more about her internal journey through these experiences and her reactions now as a writer, looking back on her life. Nevertheless, this is an eye-opening book about one young woman's coping with adverse family health and circumstances.

Jennifer Knox is a fiction editor at Our Stories Literary Journal, a freelance writer, editor, and writing tutor.   (Thanks to the author for providing a review copy of this book).

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Friday Finds: U Is For Undertow by Sue Grafton, mystery

Friday Finds is hosted by MizB at Should Be Reading.

My Friday Find is U Is for Undertow, a brand new book by Sue Grafton, Putnam Books, in the alphabet mystery series featuring amateur sleuth Kinsey Millhone.

Here is an excerpt from Chapter I:

Chapter I:

My name is Kinsey Millhone. I’m a private detective, female, age thirty-seven, with my thirty-eighth birthday coming up in a month. Having been married and divorced twice, I’m now happily single and expect to remain so for life. I have no children thus far and I don’t anticipate bearing any. Not only are my eggs getting old, but my biological clock wound down a long time ago. I suppose there’s always room for one of life’s little surprises, but that’s not the way to bet.

I work solo out of a rented bungalow in Santa Teresa, California, a town of roughly 85,000 souls who generate sufficient crime to occupy the Santa Teresa Police Department, the County Sheriff’s Department,
the California Highway Patrol, and the twenty-five or so local private investigators like me. Movies and television shows would have you believe a PI’s job is dangerous, but nothing could be farther from the truth . . .
except, of course, on the rare occasions when someone tries to kill me. Then I’m ever so happy my health insurance premiums are paid up.
Threat of death aside, the job is largely research, requiring intuition, tenacity, and ingenuity. Most of my clients reach me by referral and their business ranges from background checks to process serving,
with countless other matters in between. My office is off the beaten path and I seldom have a client appear unannounced, so when I heard a tapping at the door to my outer office, I got up and peered around the corner to see who it was.

Through the glass I saw a young man pointing at the knob. I’d apparently
turned the dead bolt to the locked position when I’d come back from lunch. I let him in, saying, “Sorry about that. I must have locked up after myself without being aware of it.”

“You’re Ms. Millhone?”


“Michael Sutton,” he said, extending his hand. “Do you have time
to talk?”


Publication date is December 1. Excerpt courtesy of Putnam's Sons.

Nov 5, 2009

Book Review: The Art of Meaningful Living by Christopher F. Brown

The Art of Meaningful Living by Christopher F. Brown

I find something new to think about each time I open this book...

"Happiness is not a destination; it is an experience you will have on the way there." (p. 21)

"You experience the learning curve each time you try something new. It's a process, like change, of varied duration." (p. 48)

"Significant discrepancy between what is meaningful to you and how you spend your time is a warning sign of quiet desperation."(p. 67)
The self-help book of 113 pages is divided into four sections: Wisdom, Action, Relisience, and The Art of Meaningful Lives, with advice and psychological insight into making lives happier and more fulfilled.

From the publisher's description:
Too often our meaningful lives and the things we are passionate about get buried under disappointments and lost dreams. Christopher F. Brown, LCSW, MBA, offers a powerful book combining psychological concepts with beautiful provocative artwork by John Palmer...."

Brown says, "With The Art of Meaningful Living, I provide tools that will help readers learn to manage their minds, cope with the world around them, define what is valuable to them and hopefully move toward the lives they truly want. Remember that change is a journey, not a single event.”

Wish I could also show the colorful artwork that is on every page of this beautiful coffeetable book.

Review copy provided by publicists Phenix & Phenix.

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Nov 4, 2009

Book Review: Breathing Water: A Bangkok Thriller

Breathing Water: A Bangkok Thriller Breathing Water: A Bangkok Thriller by Timothy Hallinan

"Behind every great fortune is a great crime..." is the premise for Timothy Hallinan's latest thriller, Breathing Water.

The book is set in the Bangkok of today and has all the complications of its real life - a shaky political situation, great poverty and great wealth, street children and those who prey on them, corruption, and the pull of love and death. This all makes for a great setting for a thriller, plus an engaging plot that pulls all the complexities of the city together.

From the publisher's description:

For American ex-pat writer Poke Rafferty, a late night poker game delivers an unexpected prize: an "opportunity to write the biography of Khun Pan, a flamboyant, vulgar, self-made billionaire with a criminal past and far-reaching political ambitions. The win seems like a stroke of luck, but as with so many things in vibrant, seductive, contradictory Bangkok - a city of innocence and evil, power and poverty - the allure of appearances masks something much darker.

Within a few hours of folding his cards, Rafferty, his wife, Rose, beloved adopted daughter, Miaow, and best friend, Arthit, an honest Bangkok cop, have become pawns in a political struggle among some of Thailand's richest, most powerful, and most ruthless people.

A great book for mystery/thriller readers.

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Sunday Salon: Japanese Authors and a Mystery

  Klara and the Sun   by Kazuo Ishiguro. Intellect having "heart" Klara and the Sun was easy to read for a literary novel of suc...