May 14, 2010

Guest Post by author Grace Coopersmith, Mayhem Ensues

Mayhem Ensues, a guest post by Grace Coopersmith, on her debut romantic comedy,

Nancy's Theory of Style by Grace Coopersmith, (Paperback, May 18, 2010)

Thanks and welcome Grace, for visiting to discuss Nancy's Theory of Style. Why did you switch to this genre? How easy was that for you?

Grace:  I studied literature and creative writing, so naturally I feel guilty about writing romantic comedies. After all, there are so many serious topics to cover: war, pestilence, families ripped apart by abuse and addiction, political corruption. These fabulous topics can be paired with characters who feel a sense of ennui, or alienation, or unspecified rage. I’m utterly dazzled by the range of Oprahish subjects that reveal moral depravity in a convenient, fictionalized form.

Sometimes I daydream about writing such a book. It will be in dispassionate third-person, present tense natch, and I’ll strive to make it simultaneously stark and turgid. It will have tortured metaphors and detail so painstaking that readers will wish they were having a root canal instead. In other words: it would have artistic merit. I’d be able to tell my intellectual friends that I’m working on this noble tome, and they would be impressed and invite me to speak at their book clubs.

Instead, when people ask me what I do, I mumble, “Comedy, um, set in San Francisco, er, young woman, very stylish, contemporary…Oh, are those grilled prawns on the buffet?”

Why do I do it then, when I must suffer the scorn that accompanies a writer of, ugh, romantic comedies? Because I am deeply and irrevocably flawed. Because I would rather laugh than cry. Because I’m delighted when I make others laugh.

My agent told me that I can’t use the term “romantic comedy” to describe my books. “It’s the kiss of death,” she said. Frankly, I have a hard time keeping up with publishers’ What’s Hot/What’s Not Hot lists. Anyway, Nancy’s Theory of Style is a romantic comedy about a young socialite, Nancy Carrington-Chambers, who leaves her gauche husband and their tacky McMansion. She returns to her pied-a-terre in posh Pacific Heights to focus on her event planning company, Froth.

Nancy hires the perfect assistant. Derek Cathcart is a British, gay, and impeccable. Then Nancy’s irresponsible cousin deposits her four-year-old in Nancy’s care and takes off to places unknown. You know what I’m going to say now, right? Sure, you do. Mayhem ensues! I love that phrase. There is a party that goes tragically awry. Parties that go tragically awry are a common theme in my stories. And in my life. But let’s not go there.

When I wrote Nancy’s Theory of Style, I was thinking of our society’s materialism. People were overextending themselves to buy horrible huge houses with rooms they never used. There was a sense of entitlement. There was a sense that things could provide happiness. I also thought of those women who have an unrealistic list of requirements for any man. Then they wonder why they’re alone.

So my message, if any, is that perfection is not only unachievable, it is undesirable. The quirks in life make it interesting and beautiful.

Thanks so much, Grace, for giving us so much insight into your new book! Here is my Review of Nancy's Theory of Style

Grace Coopersmith is one and the same as Marta Acosta, author of the CASA DRACULA books. 

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May 11, 2010

The Nicolas Le Floch Affair by Jean-Francois Parot: Teaser Tuesday

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

The Nicholas Le Floch Affair (Nicolas Le Floch Investigation)The Nicholas Le Floch Affair (Nicolas Le Floch Investigation) by Jean-Francois Parot ( Paperback - March 2010)

"And what kind of poison was it?"
"That's the problem. I have no idea."

Translated by Howard Curtis from the French, this is a crime fiction novel set in 1774 in Paris, France. It is the fourth in the series featuring the hero, Nicolas Le Floch, a police commissioner at the Chatelet.

A plot is in the works to blame Nicolas for the death of his lover, socialite Julie de Lasterieux. In this mystery, he fights to clear his name and find the true culprit.

The book is printed by Gallic of London and was sent to me by the publisher for a future review.

May 9, 2010

Mailbox Monday, May 10

Mailbox Monday is hosted by Marcia at The Printed Page. Share with us the books that arrived at your house last week!

Recently arrived:

Whiter Than Snow
Whiter Than Snow by Sandra Dallas, women's fiction set in Colorado, 2010

The Season of Second Chances: A Novel

The Season of Second Chances: A Novel by Diane Meier, set in Western Mass., 2010 

The Queen of Patpong: A Poke Rafferty Thriller by Timothy Hallinan, set in Bangkok, 2010

Money to Burn: A Novel of Suspense by James Grippando, set in the Bahamas and New York City, 2010

And a win from Staci at Life in the Thumb: South of Broad: A Novel by Pat Conroy.

South of Broad: A Novel

Two women's fiction, fiction by a male author, and two thrillers. Two of the books are ARCs. What did you get in the mail last week?

Sunday Salon: Happy Mother's Day!

Happy Mother's Day (Daymaker Greeting Books)

Happy Mother's Day (Daymaker Greeting Books)

The Sunday

Welcome to the Sunday Salon! (Anyone can join by clicking on the salon logo).

I have been busy! and going to sleep soon after dinner every day last week, besides not having time to read! I read three books and reviewed two, Pearl of China: A Novel by Anchee Min, and Arabesk, a mystery set in Istanbul by Barbara Nadel. Seems I've been talking about these books for weeks, and finally finished them and posted reviews.

Nancy's Theory of StyleI'm waiting on a photo of the author of the third book, Grace Coopersmith, whose debut romantic comedy, Nancy's Theory of Style, I will review in a few days. Grace also has a guest post coming up. Very funny novel, by the way.

Snakes Can't Run: A MysteryMy current read is a detective novel by Ed Lin, Snakes Can't Run: A Mystery. Cool book cover, isn't it? The book is set in New York's Chinatown in the 1970s when the problem of snakeheads bringing illegal immigrants or "snakes" into the country started. The main character is Robert Chow, a Chinese American detective assigned to Chinatown. Author Ed Lin won the Asian American Literary Members' Choice Award for This Is a Bust, the first in the Robert Chow detective series.

On another topic, I found out that cats don't like the scent of citrus, so have scattered orange and lime peel around the base of a tall bush that has a robin's nest. There are two hungry baby birds being fed by mother and father robin and I want to be sure that THIS YEAR, the nest doesn't get attacked by stray cats. The constant rain has helped keep those sweet night-prowling cats away too. I hope it works.

Clifford's Happy Mother's DayHappy Mother's Day, Moms! Have a wonderful Sunday!

Clifford's Happy Mother's Day

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May 8, 2010

Book Review: Arabesk by Barbara Nadel, a Turkish mystery

Arabesk by Barbara Nadel

Arabesk (Cetin Ikmen, #3)


My rating: 4 of 5 stars

An excellent Turkish mystery set in Istanbul,  it describes a young Kurdish movie star torn between family and religious loyalties and his love for an older singer, Tansu. The novel shows some of the cultural differences between the Turks and the Kurdish minority and differences among the Kurds themselves.

Book description: Confined to his home on sick-leave (and prevented from sneaking his beloved brandy and cigars), Inspector Ikmen of the Istanbul police is forced to hand his latest case over to his protege, the newly promoted Suleyman. That's to bad, because the aristocratic Suleyman knows nothing about Arabesque, the throbbing, deeply sentimental music that is adored by Turkey's working classes, and the case is drenched in those mournful melodies. The latest musical sensation, a secret marriage, a murdered bride, an again mistress and a father driven mad with grief and guilt... it's all so melodramatic that Suleyman can barely keep his lip from curling. Ikmen is unashamed of his own plebeian tastes, but both cops eventually come to one conclusion: At the real heart of this operatic catastrophe are the conflicts inherent to the city itself.

Summary: The young Kurdish wife of popular film star Erol Urfa is found dead, poisoned by cyanide hidden in an almond pastry. The first suspect is the person who found her, a retarded man Cengiz Temiz, a neighbor of the dead woman. Inspector Ikmen and his colleagues at the Turkish police decide that Cengiz is mentally incapable of carrying out such a careful murder plan. They search for other suspects. One is Erol's lover, the famous singer Tansu. Tansu and Erol are from the north, and are Kurdish. This fact is a major part of the plot and feeds into a motive for the murder of Erol's wife, Ruya.

My comments: I found it was a clever plot. Though I guessed the culprit about three-quarters of the way through, I couldn't guess the motive. That's pretty good for a mystery, to not know until the end of the book! I learned more about the Kurds, that they have strong family and religious loyalties, and that some are considered more superstitious than other Arabs.

The only difficulty in reading Arabesk was keeping the many Turkish and Kurdish names straight. There is Cengiz, the suspect, and detectives Cetin, Coktin, Cohen. Inspector Ikmen and his protege Suleyman are easier to recognize, but keeping people separate from names of streets, building, and places got to be a challenge. However, that didn't prevent me from finishing and enjoying this unusual and entertaining novel.

Challenge: Thriller & Suspense Reading Challenge, 100+ Reading Challenge, Support your Local Library Challenge

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May 5, 2010

Happy Cinco de Mayo!

Inflatable Fiesta Cooler

Just don't overdo the celebrations, okay? I love this hat!

Cinco De Mayo: Celebrating the Traditions of Mexico

Cinco De Mayo: Celebrating the Traditions of Mexico by Diane Hoyt-Goldsmith (Jan., 2010), a photo essay for children.

Mexican Independence Day and Cinco De Mayo (Best Holiday Books)Mexican Independence Day and Cinco De Mayo (Best Holiday Books) by Dianne M. MacMillan (May 2008)

How these two holidays are celebrated, a book for ages 9-12.

How did you celebrate Cinco de Mayo?

May 3, 2010

Book Review: Pearl of China by Anchee Min

Pearl of China: A Novel by Anchee Min (Hardcover - March 30, 2010)

Very moving; excellent writing. I learned a lot about the China that author Pearl Buck grew up in and left, its history from the 1880s to after Nixon's visit and China's admission to the U.N. in the early 1980s. About 100 years of history, plus a fictional account of Buck's friendships in her former home in China, where she lived with her missionary parents, Absalom and Carie Sydenstricker.

The author weaves Pearl Buck's life into the historical novel, which is about the friendship between a young girl, Willow, whom Pearl meets in the small town of Chin-Kiang. This friendship continues into adulthood, through Pearl's marriage to Lossing Buck,  and even after the writer left China for good. The friendship lasts through the Boxer Revolution and anti-foreign sentiment, through the war with Japan, the Communist Revolution, and even to the time of Pearl's death in the U.S. in the 1980s. Anchee Kim has changed the dates of some of the historical events for the sake of her fiction, but she has kept the flavor of China, and certainly brought me to tears with her accounts of the kinds of atrocities that happened during  the Cultural Revolution.

Most moving of all was that Pearl was not granted a visa to accompany President Nixon on his historic visit to China in 1972. She was not allowed to return there after almost 40 years' absence, in spite of her sympathetic and moving depictions of the ordinary Chinese peasants in books such as The Good Earth.  Madame Mao, the instigator and leader of the Cultural Revolution, blocked her visit saying the country had declared Pearl, who openly opposed Mao, an "American imperialist." Pearl Buck died in Pennsylania in 1973 at age 81, not long after Nixon's visit to China.

Beautifully written and heart rending in parts, Pearl in China is a deserving homage to the Nobel Prize-winning author, Pearl S. Buck.

Challenges: 100+ Reading Challenge, China Challenge, Support your Local Library Challenge

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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...