Apr 11, 2010

Magpie Tales: Lip Color

Magpie Tales is hosted weekly by Willow.
Visit her for more poetry, prose created by using a photo as a prompt.

My first contribution to Magpie Tales:

Lip Color

Like a dark tongue
That films my lips,
Like a weapon

Pointed and curved,
A slash, a shimmer of red and brown
Changes who I am.

It makes demands.
I am no longer me.

That was a bit of fun! Try it out!

Book Review: Songs of the Humpback Whale by Jodi Picoult

I joined my first 25-Hour Read-a-Thon early yesterday and am wrapping it up in this Sunday Salon!

Songs of the Humpback Whale

I finished Songs of the Humpback Whale by Jodi Picoult as planned

My comments: Picoult's Songs of the Humpback Whale was an unusual story of family, love, and marriage told by several people with different points of view. Basically it's about a married woman in San Diego who leaves her husband and takes off cross country with her teenage daughter to join her brother on an apple farm in Massachusetts. At the farm, she meets new people, loses some of her phobias, comes to terms with her childhood by revealing her past to a new lover, faces a crisis with her daughter, and is left with more confidence in herself. There are also changes for her daughter and for her husband, who follows and finds them in Massachusetts. I found that the technique of using 5 and sometimes a sixth narrator worked well for this book. As contemporary women's fiction, it rated four stars..

This past week, I also reviewed Feeling the Vibe by Candace Dow, set in DC, and A Dead Hand: A Crime in Calcutta Novel by famed travel writer Paul Theroux, two very different books.

Apr 10, 2010

Read-a-Thon: Yes I Can! When I Can!

This is my first time to join Dewey's Read-a-Thon, and I'm excited to join, although there are chores to do!!! But I can fit it in. Yes, I can!

Hour 1: Three questions to answer:

Where are you reading from today: Ohio, the heart of the Midwest.

Three facts about me:
1. I love gardening almost as much as reading.
2. I get up early in the morning to blog.
3. I can't limit myself to one or two genre of books, as I love reading a variety of novels, though I like mysteries and good contemporary fiction among others.

How many books in my to be read pile for the next 24 hours?

Songs of the Humpback Whale1. Realistically, I hope to finish Songs of the Humpback Whale by Jodi Picoult, a writer I've heard a lot about but have just discovered for myself. I'm enjoying this book so far but am only on page 42.

2. Arabesk: Inspector Ikmen #3 by Barbara Nadel, a new mystery set in Turkey.
3.The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest by Stieg Larsson, a thick book that I may not be able to finish before the Read-a-Thon is over.

Do you have any goals for the Read-a-Thoner?
1. I must finish Songs of the Humpback Whale and Arabesk! Those are my goals.
2. I may even do more of the Mini Challenges!

Good luck all!

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Apr 8, 2010

Book Review: A Dead Hand by Paul Theroux

A Dead Hand: A Crime in Calcutta by Paul Theroux
(Hardcover - Feb. 11, 2010)

Summary: Jerry Delfont is a failed writer, a writer with a "dead hand" that can no longer write as he has no ideas left. He goes to a city he obviously dislikes, Calcutta, to find inspiration or material for his writing, and stays after meeting an intriguing expatriate, Mrs. Unger, who inflames his imagination and his passion, with her beautiful silk saris and tantric massages, her philantrophy, and her worship of the goddess Kali.

When Mrs. Unger asks Jerry to help a friend escape a possible murder charge, Jerry plays detective and sets out to do Mrs. Unger's bidding.

Comments: Don't let the cover scare you. That's only Kali, the Hindu goddess of destruction and creation, according to Theroux in this book set in Calcutta, India.

I saw A Dead Hand as another one of Theroux's travel books, this one masquerading as a crime novel. The characters give their frank opinions about the hot, dusty city and about the people who come to live in India. Even Mother Theresa doesn't escape their critical eye. Those comments and observations were more interesting to me than the murder mystery, which you can easily solve early in the book, I thought. I guessed the culprit(s) and possible motives half way through. Theroux drops hints here and there and then just about layers the pages with clues and insinuations that can only lead to one logical conclusion. Only the details were left to be filled in. Wanting to know the details kept me reading to the end.

Comments: I gave this book 4 stars as a travel book in disguise, 4 stars as a book about social injustice, and 3 stars as crime fiction.

Challenge: Thriller & Suspense Reading Challenge

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Apr 6, 2010

Feeling the Vibe: A Novel by Candace Dow

Teaser Tuesdays, hosted by MizB, asks you to choose two sentences at random from your current read. Identify the author and title for readers.
Feelin' the Vibe
Feelin' the Vibe

By the third day in Nicaragua, I was tempted to build a little hut and run away from it all, just Devin and me. We could leave it all behind for the peace and tranquility of this small island. (ch. 36)

Feelin' the Vibe: A Novel by Candace Dow (Paperback - Sept. 24, 2009)

Publisher's description: "He's Washington's hottest new political figure, blessed with savvy charisma, and a perfect wife. She runs Baltimore's most respected social program and is happily married to the man who helped put her life back together. But Devin and Clark never forgot the love that was once their world. Now a chance meeting...is plunging both their marriages into disaster. And even if they can make things right amid lies and unexpected betrayal, Devin and Clark must face the truth about themselves...and decide if their second chance is important enough to risk losing everything they have."

Comments: Well written, with appealing dialogue that moves the story along quickly. There are two narrators, Devin and Clark, and their points of view mesh well to tell their love story. The author has added twelve pertinent questions in a Reading Group Guide at the end of the novel.

Author: Candace Dow is the author of six novels. A graduate of the University of Maryland Eastern Shore and Johns Hopkins University, she is at work on her next book.

A review copy of this book was provided free by Hachette Books.
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Apr 4, 2010

Library Loot: Mysteries and Women's Fiction

Library Loot is a weekly event co-hosted by Marg @ ReadingAdventures and Eva at A Striped Armchair.

I've done it again. I've gone to the library and borrowed too many books, all of them unusual in their genre, a few downright bizarre. I have an eye for mysteries and books set in exotic places - that's the armchair traveler in me.

Here's what I found in the mystery genre:

Snakes Can't Run: A Mystery by Ed Lin. (Hardcover - March 30, 2010).
"An epic of New York Chinatown noir in the vein of George Pelecanos and Richard Price. This is the riveting sequel to This Is a Bust." (Minotaur Books description, front flap). I was intrigued by the book cover, a photo of a woman's back tattoed with a phoenix and Chinese characters. The author's web address, edlinforpresident.com, shows his sense of humor.

Arabesk: Inspector Ikmen #3Arabesk: Inspector Ikmen #3 by Barbara Nadel (Paperback - July 25, 2009). "Confined to his home on sick leave... Inspector Ikmen of the Istanbul police is forced to hand his latest case over to his protege, the newly promoted Suleyman....At the real heart of this operatic catastrophe, are the conflicts inherent to the city itself." (Publisher's description).

A Dead Hand: A Crime in Calcutta by Paul Theroux. (Hardcover - Feb. 11, 2010). Paul Theroux, well-known travel writer, tries his hand at crime fiction. I'm half-way into the novel and think I've already figured out the culprits and the motives. Can't wait to see if I'm correct.

To balance things out, I borrowed three contemporary works of fiction by women authors:

Perfection: A Memoir of Betrayal and Renewal
 Perfection: A Memoir of Betrayal and Renewal by Julie Metz. (Hardcover - June 9, 2009). "A breathtakingly honest, gloriously written memoir about the complexities of forgiveness - the story of a young widow who discovers her husband's secret life only after his sudden death." (Publisher's description, front flap).  I was attracted by the cover, the title, and the summary on the book jacket. Can't wait to read this one.

Pearl of China: A Novel
Pearl of China: A Novel by Anchee Min. (Hardcover - March 30, 2010). Set in the end of the 19th century in China, the book tells the story of the young Pearl S. Buck, later a Nobel Prize-winning author, and her new Chinese friend, Willow, whose friendship endures through adulthood and the tumultous years that follow. I assume the novel is based on historical fact and want to know more about Pearl Buck's life in China.

Noah's CompassNoah's Compass by Anne Tyler ( Hardcover - Jan. 5, 2010). "From the
incomparable Anne Tyler, a wise, gently humorous, and deeply compassionate novel about a schoolteacher, who has been forced to retire at sixty-one, coming to terms with the final phase of his life." (Publisher's description, front flap). That first paragraph was all I needed to borrow the book!

I think I came away with a great set of library books. Now to read them all...among others, is the challenge.

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Review: The Old Capital by Yasunari Kawabata (Sunday Salon)

The Sunday Salon.com
Welcome to the Sunday Salon! There are two very good books I read last week that I recommend.

 by Yasunari Kawabata made me think of spring and my trip to the city of Kyoto in March 2008, just before the cherry blossoms came out.  I spent two days walking through the old districts and visiting shrines, including the Heian-jingu shrine, described in the novel .
The Old Capital by Yasunari Kawabata, published 2006.

Comments: Kyoto in spring and during its many festivals throughout the year are the background for Kawabata's novel. It's an homage to the Old Capital of Japan, with its age-old temples, shrines, and gardens, and its history of artisans - silk weavers, pottery makers, designers of traditional silk kimono.

Here is a picture I took in Kyoto, the Old Capital.

This Torii, a Shinto gateway, is flanked by evergreen trees. It is one of the largest in Japan.

Plot: The main character in the book, a young woman named Chieko, finds out that she was a foundling,  adopted by her parents, a Kyoto kimono designer, Takichiro, and his wife Shige. Shige has always told Chieko she was found under the trees during cherry blossom time in the Gion district and kidnapped. The neighbors say she was found outside the lattice doors of her parents' warehouse, a foundling abandoned by her real parents. Chieko grew up privileged. Her discovery of who she might be leads to an interesting revelation in the novel.

I could picture some of the places described in Kyoto and I also liked the sense of beauty and love of the outdoors in The Old Capital. Chieko and her friends enjoy special trips to see the cedar trees, the mountains, the cherry blossoms in the spring that Japan is famous for. Inbetween festivals, Chieko also learns more about who she is and about her good fortune with Takichiro and Shige.

Yasunari Kawabata was born in 1899 in Osaka, Japan and became an orphan at age two. Also author of Snow Country, Beauty and Sadness, and Thousand Cranes, he won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1968.

Last week I also finished a good Parisian mystery,  Murder in the Palais Royal (Aimee Leduc Investigations, No. 10). I've read all the books in the series and enjoyed every one!  A review later. Am now in the middle of a new library find,  A Dead Hand: A Crime in Calcutta by travel writer, Paul Theroux.

My review of At Home with Laurie Ann, an interior decorator's guide, was posted Tuesday. A very colorful book.

I looted the library of about six other books, most of them mysteries. The covers, the titles, or the authors or all three combined convinced me to borrow them, even though I am way behind in my schedule of "many things to do."

How was your week?

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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...