Jun 17, 2010

Book Review: The Time of the Dragons by Alice Ekert-Rotholz

The Time of the Dragons

The Time Of The Dragons by Alice Ekert-Rotholz, translated from the German by Richard and Clara Winston, historical fiction

The copy that I found in our circulating library at work is printed in 1958 by The Viking Press, a hardcover book of 468 pages. The novel is set in Shanghai, Norway, Bangkok, and Japan between 1925 and 1955.

Knut Wergeland, Norwegian consul to Shanghai in 1925, leaves for home in Norway before a new posting in Bangkok. He is returning home with his two daughters - Astrid, whose French mother has just died, and Mailin, his daughter by a Chinese woman who is deathly ill and so decided to give the child up.

Really interesting novel about the consul in Shanghai and his daughters who go back and forth to China before and during the Japanese occupation in the mid-1930s. Interesting also that the author warns about Asians in the future, especially "Japanese, Chinese, and Indians" and their future influence in the world. (This was written in 1958) . Her book goes into the Japanese role in WWII, but Germany is mentioned only briefly. She says nothing at all about the German quest for world power during the same war. Interesting omission, since this was written only 13 or so years after WWII, and by a German author who would have had fresh memories of the war in Europe.

I was ready to put the book down as a piece of propaganda but continued as the characters and their lives were such an interesting story.

Most of the book follows Knut's daughters - Astrid, Mailin, and Vivica, their lives and loves during wartime and after.  The most interesting of the daughters, the headstrong but vulnerable Vivica, is mistaken for a Chinese spy and is captured and interrogated in Shanghai by a Japanese officer, a former baron. The last part of the novel deals mostly with the love-hate relationship that develops and which continues in the mid-1950s when Vivica and the baron meet again by chance in Tokyo.

The author seems to be explaining the differences between East and West, saying the Americans misunderstood the Japanese and their culture in many different ways during their occupation of Japan after the surrender. A unique point of view by a German writer of both the victorious Americans and the defeated Japanese in post war Japan.

I love old books and old historical fiction and what they can tell us.

Challenge: 100 + Reading Challenge,

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Jun 15, 2010

Book Review: The Queen of Patpong by Timothy Hallinan, a thriller

Teacher Suttikul snaps off the flashlight, and Kwan throws her arms around the woman. Hugging her teacher with all her strength, and with her own heart pounding in her ears, Kwan still hears Mr. Partison stop to wait for them, standing alone in the dark.
(ch. 8. This quote is from an uncorrected proof. The final version of the novel may differ. )

The Queen of Patpong: A Poke Rafferty Thriller
Author: Timothy Hallinan
About the quote: Kwan is a bright, young teenager from the poor northeastern province of Thailand who is promised a scholarship to college by her teacher. How does she land up as a dancer in the red light district of Patpong Road, becoming the Queen of Patpong?

Fast forward to Bangkok many years later and to the beginning of the novel.  Kwan has changed her name to Rose, is happily married to travel writer Poke Rafferty and is the mother of their adopted daughter, Miaow. Rose's settled and contented life is shattered by the re-appearance of  a threatening man with a military bearing, an American who promises to shatter her life.

Rose tells her story to Poke and Miaow, how she became the Queen of Patpong, and how she believed she had escaped her past, which has now come back to haunt and threaten her.

My comments: The story of the Queen of Patpong, from her life in the village to dancing in the bars of Bangkok, to her escape from the stranger who now has returned, is the riveting story that had my heart pounding and my eyes glued to the pages of the book. A literary novel and a thriller rolled into one. The Queen of Patpong: A Poke Rafferty Thriller has some of the most suspenseful scenes I've ever read in a thriller, and the sociological aspects of the story are heartrending. Hallihan has excellent descriptive power and knows his subjects and their environment well. I gave this novel five stars.

Thanks to the author for providing a galley proof of this book.

Publisher: William Morrow (August 17, 2010)
Hardcover: 304 pages
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0061672262
ISBN-13: 978-0061672262

Review linked to Book Review Party Wednesday. Challenge: 100 + Reading Challenge,Thriller and Suspense Reading Challenge. (Teaser Tuesday is a weekly meme that invites you to choose two sentences from your current read to illustrate the book.)

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Jun 13, 2010

McCavity Award Nominees for Best Mystery 2010

Mystery Readers International has announced its nominees for Best Mystery 2010, in four categories. Here are the books and authors chosen:

Best Novel

Bury Me Deep by Megan Abbott (Simon & Schuster)

Necessary As BloodTower by Ken Bruen and Reed Farrel Coleman (Busted Flush Press)

Necessary as Blood by Deborah Crombie (Wm. Morrow)

Nemesis by Jo Nesbo, translated by Don Bartlett (HarperCollins)

The Brutal Telling by Louise Penny (Minotaur)
The Shanghai Moon: A Lydia Chin/Bill Smith Novel (Bill Smith/Lydia Chin Novels)

The Shanghai Moon by S.J. Rozan (Minotaur)

Best First Novel

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley (Delacorte)

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie: A Flavia de Luce MysteryRunning from the Devil by Jamie Freveletti (Wm. Morrow)

A Bad Day for Sorry by Sophie Littlefield (Minotaur)

The Ghosts of Belfast by Stuart Neville (Soho Crime)

A Beautiful Place to Die by Malla Nunn (Picador)

Best Nonfiction

L.A. Noir: The Struggle for the Soul of America's Most Seductive City by John Buntin (Random House: Harmony Books)

Talking about Detective Fiction by P.D. James (Alfred A. Knopf)

Rogue Males: Conversations & Confrontations About the Writing Life by Craig McDonald (Bleak House Books)

The Lineup: The World's Greatest Crime Writers Tell the Inside Story of Their Greatest Detectives, edited by Otto Penzler (Little, Brown & Co)

Provenance: How a Con Man and a Forger Rewrote the History of Modern ArtProvenance: How a Con Man and a Forger Rewrote the History of Modern Art by Laney Salisbury and Aly Sujo (Penguin Press)

Dame Agatha's Shorts: An Agatha Christie Short Story Companion by Elena Santangelo (Bella Rosa Books)

Sue Feder Historical

A Trace of Smoke by Rebecca Cantrell (Forge)

In the Shadow of GothamIn the Shadow of Gotham by Stefanie Pintoff (Minotaur)

A Duty to the Dead by Charles Todd (Wm. Morrow)

Serpent in the Thorns by Jeri Westerson (Minotaur)

Among the Mad by Jacqueline Winspear (Henry Holt)

Best Short Story

"Last Fair Deal Gone Down" by Ace Atkins in Crossroad Blues (Busted Flush Press)

"Femme Sole" by Dana Cameron in Boston Noir (Akashic Books)

"Digby, Attorney at Law" by Jim Fusilli, (AHMM, May 2009)

"Your Turn" by Carolyn Hart in Two of the Deadliest (Harper)

"On the House" by Hank Phillippi Ryan in Quarry: Crime Stories by New England Writers (Level Best Books)

"The Desert Here and the Desert Far Away" by Marcus Sakey in Thriller 2: Stories You Just Can’t Put Down (Mira)

"Amapola" by Luis Alberto Urrea in Phoenix Noir (Akashic Books).

Haven't read any of these as yet but they're on my list.

Sunday Salon: On the Road Again

The Sunday Salon.com
Welcome to the Sunday Salon!

On the road to Toronto on Friday, we tried to listen to the audio version of  The Man from Saigon: A Novel by Marti Leimbach, but there was so much more description than action that my better half decided he didn't want to listen to it. He is after all a Dick Francis and Clive Cussler fan and likes a fast pace and lots of dialogue. I will have to read the hardcover book in a quiet place sometime soon.

We watched the first game of the World Cup in a restaurant, over dim sum and oolong tea, amid the enthusiastic shouts of other diners. Nigeria beat Greece. Later that day, the U.S. was in a tie with Britain. At night on YouTube, we watched Shakira doing Waki Waki (and Waikiki in her hula skirt cum grass skirt) in the opening ceremonies of the games in South Africa, and the Black Eyed Peas belting it out on stage.

I loved opening my comments box over the weekend to see enthusiastic comments  to my bit of writing on Magpie Tales: Magma Points, a poem written in reponse to a visual prompt from Willow. There were more entries to my Book Give-Away: Whiter Than Snow by Sandra Dallas, which runs through June 23.

I finished reading Tim Hallinan's The Queen of Patpong: A Poke Rafferty Thriller, and gave it 5 stars on Goodreads. I have to write a full review this week! My comments on Goodreads:

"A literary novel and a thriller rolled into one. Fabulous! was the word that came to mind when I finished The Queen of Patpong. It has some of the most suspenseful scenes I've ever read in a thriller, and the sociological aspects of the story are heartrending. Hallihan has excellent descriptive power and knows his subjects and their environment well."

To see another 5-star review of the book, visit Goodreads.

On the way home, I have another audio book to try. Hopefully, this will hit the spot as we head through rain home.

What did you do last week?

Jun 10, 2010

Book Give-Away: Whiter than Snow by Sandra Dallas

Whiter Than Snow

Whiter Than Snow by Sandra Dallas (*Hardcover, 2010)

Book description: In 1920, Swandyke - a small town near Colorado's Tenmile Range - is changed forever. Just moments after four o'clock, a large split of snow separates from Jubilee Mountain high above the tiny hamlet and hurtles down the rocky slope, enveloping everything in its path. Meet the residents whose lives the tragedy touches.

A quintessential American voice and a writer of exquisite historical detail, Sandra Dallas illuminates the resilience of the human spirit in her newest novel.

The Book Report Network has offered a copy to a reader in the U.S. or Canada. No P.O. box addresses, please. If you  signed up in a previous post, no need to sign up again.

To enter the contest : leave a comment with your email address so we can contact you. The contest will run until June 23. The winner will be selected at random and have until June 25 to respond. For an additional chance to win, become a follower.

UPDATE: Congrats to Wanda of Canada, who has responded to the email notice of her win.
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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...