Nov 20, 2010

Book Review: The Tapestry of Love by Rosy Thornton

The Tapestry of Love by Rosy Thornton
Paperback: 352 pages
Publisher: Headline Book Publishing (October 14, 2010)
Genre: Women's fiction, romance
Source: Review copy provided by the author

Product description: A rural idyll: that's what Catherine is seeking when she sells her house in England and moves to a tiny hamlet in the Cévennes mountains. With her divorce in the past and her children grown, she is free to make a new start, and her dream is to set up in business as a seamstress. But this is a harsh and lonely place when you're no longer just here on holiday. There is French bureaucracy to contend with, not to mention the mountain weather, and the reserve of her neighbors, including the intriguing Patrick Castagnol. And that's before the arrival of Catherine's sister, Bryony.
My comments: I was delighted by the book, the description of the Cevennes in rural France, the story of a woman remaking her life in a new country after a divorce and after raising two children, now grown and independent. It's easy to cheer Catherine on with her plans, her new home in a tiny hamlet, and her new possible love interest, an intriguing and somewhat mysterious Frenchman, Patrick, a neighbor and another retiree.

Catherine finds a way to make a living with her interior decorating advice and her sewing for the people in the nearby farms and countryside. Work though is thwarted by French bureaucracy and the extended visits of her younger sister Bryony, which begins to blur the status of her friendship with Patrick. Overall, this a delightful novel for those who like travel, romance, and women's fiction.

About the author: Rosy Thornton is the author of three other novels, including Crossed Wires. She is a professor in Cambridge, England.

Objective rating: 4.5 out of 5

Book Review: A King of Infinite Space by Tyler Dilts

A King of Infinite Space by Tyler Dilts
Paperback: 308 pages
Publisher: AmazonEncore (June 29, 2010)
Source: ARC provided by publisher
Genre: Crime fiction, thriller

Book Description: Long Beach, California, homicide detective Danny Beckett investigates when Elizabeth Williams, a high school teacher, is brutally killed in her classroom. What could this young woman have done to make her the target of such a violent attack? And what is the significance of the victim’s left hand, taken by the killer as a grisly trophy? Beckett's hunt for the murderer soon morphs into a personal quest for atonement as he struggles to come to terms with the loss of his wife and family. A riveting crime novel introduces Danny Beckett to the ranks of fiction’s favorite hardened detectives. (adapted from amazon).

Comments: A page turner for sure, but like detective Danny Beckett, my stomach turned at the details of the murder. A bit too violent for my tastes, especially as the victim is a school teacher in her classroom at night, a vulnerable victim that makes the crime even more horrific. The novel fits the category of hardboiled crime fiction for those who enjoy the genre. Danny is a likeable guy and I'd love to see him in action again in other detective fiction.

About the author: Tyler Dilts teaches in the MFA program at California State University, Long Beach.

Objective rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars.

Nov 17, 2010

Book Review: The End of Marking Time by C.J. West

Title: The End of Marking Time
Author: C. J. West
Paperback: 284 pages
Publisher: 22 West Books (May 22, 2010)
Source: Review copy provided by the author
Genre: Sci-fi, dystopia

Product description: Gifted housebreaker, Michael O'Connor, awakens inside an ultramodern criminal justice system where prison walls are replaced by surveillance equipment and a host of actors hired to determine if he is worthy of freedom. While he was sleeping, the Supreme Court declared long term incarceration to be cruel and unusual punishment and ordered two million felons released. The result was utter chaos and the backlash from law-abiding citizens and police departments reshaped the United States. Felons now enter reeducation programs where they live freely among the population. At least that's what they think. In reality they are enslaved to an army of counselors and a black box that teaches them everything they failed to learn from kindergarten through adulthood. Michael believes he's being tested by the black box, but what he slowly begins to realize is that everything he does is evaluated to determine whether he lives or dies. (amazon)

My comments: I expected a traditional thriller and was surprised by a dystopian futuristic novel in which felons are controlled and watched to an extreme degree by the government. The plan for rehabilitation and training sounds like a good one, but the punishment for failure to comply with the rules are pretty harsh. Be prepared for a surprise ending in this very unusual and inventive novel, as you follow the very human Michael trying to survive the minefield process of being turned into a model citizen.

Objective rating: 4 out of 5 for inventive plot and characterization.

Nov 14, 2010

Book review: Every Bitter Thing by Leighton Gage

Every Bitter Thing (Chief Inspector Mario Silva #4)

Every Bitter Thing by Leighton Gage

My objective rating: 4.25 of 5 stars
Hardcover, 288 pages
Published December 1, 2010 by Soho Crime
Mystery series, Chief Inspector Mario Silva #4
Source: Author/Publisher

Enjoyed this very interesting and fast paced police procedural set in Brazil. When people who had flown together on a flight from Miami to Sao Paolo began to be targeted and shot in a bizarre and unusual way, Inspector Silva is called in to investigate. Motive and method are riveting.

The writing is fresh and engaging. The story is told almost entirely from the point of view of the investigators, Inspector Silva and his team. We see the inside workings of the police unit. Their methods and their personalities are revealed and there is humor in the way they relate. We see the story unfold through their interviews with suspects and others in the case, the reader tagging along during police investigations. I found this a very  interesting read. I would however have chosen a different book cover as the picture of someone in chains, though arresting and attention getting, does not really reflect the story.

About the author: Leighton Gage is married to a Brazilian woman and spends much of his year in Santana do Parnaiba, Brazil. His other books include titles such as Blood of the Wicked, Dying Gasp, and Buried Strangers. More information is on his website:
Thanks to the author for a review copy of this book.

More Sunday Salon get-togethers, here.

Nov 7, 2010

Blog Tour: The Insane Train by Sheldon Russell

The Insane Train (Hook Runyon #2)

The Insane Train by Sheldon Russell is on a blog tour this week, hosted by Omnimystery which provided the review copy.

Goodreads description: After a devastating fire at an insane asylum in California, Hook Runyon has been put in charge of security for a train that is to transport the survivors to a new destination. Hook hires a motley crew of World War II veterans to help, but things soon go awry...

My comments: Unique setting and circumstances make this an unusual mystery.

 A fire destroys an insane asylum and the survivors are put on a train destined for a new location. The asylum staff as well as train employees and especially Hook Runyon, who is in charge of train security, must be on their toes as the passengers include the criminally insane, dangerous patients who have to be watched and controlled every step of the way. When several people die during the train ride, Hook must determine who are responsible - the insane patients or the sane employees. The motive reaches into the past...

Lots of dialogue will keep the readers interested. A good novel for train enthusiasts as well as mystery fans.

Hardcover, 304 pages
Published November 9, 2010 by Minotaur Books
My objective rating: 4 of 5 stars

About the Author:

A retired college professor, Russell lives in Guthrie, Oklahoma, with his wife, Nancy, an artist. He has previously won the Oklahoma Book Award and the Langum Prize for Historical Literature. The Yard Dog, the first Hook Runyon novel, was nominated for the Oklahoma Book Award and earned high praise as Russell’s debut mystery.

The Sunday Salon: Speed Reading

The Sunday
I've been perfecting my speed reading and went through two thick historical novels, getting the meat of the stories and liking them both as well.

Lady of the Butterflies
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Lady of the Butterflies by Foina Mountain, July 15, 2010, tells the true story of Eleanor Glanville, a 17th-century naturalist whose lifelong interest in studying butterflies was thought to be so unnatural for a woman, she was thought to be mad. Afer her husband dies of the "ague," she marries his best friend but also develops a close professional relationship with a young scientist who also studies butterflies. In later years her son unsuccessfully tried to have he put away for insanity, so that he might seize her property and drain the boggy, marshy fens on her lands for profit.  It is unknown what happened late in her life or where she is buried, but the novel supplies a plausible answer and an escape for Eleanor.

Cloud Mountain

Cloud Mountain by Aimee Lui, Oct. 1, 1998, is based on the life of the author's grandparents, a Chinese student and an American woman who met in California in the early 1900s. The story follows their marriage, her grandfather's return to China with his American wife, and the turbulent history of China undergoing revolution, invasion, war. A page and a half at the end of the novel helped me with the historical events and their dates. A good book for understanding Chinese history from the overthrow of the Ching dynasty to the uneasy years when China tried to establish itself as a Republic. It's also a love story.

Finger Lickin' Fifteen (Stephanie Plum, #15)
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I am listening to the audio book of Janet Evanovich's Finger Lickin' Fifteen (Stephanie Plum Novels), a mystery series which is fun as always in spite of the same characters, situations, slapstick humor which hasn't varied much from No. 1 to the present 15.  I wonder if No. 16 will be much different!  Great to listen to though.

I have more books and audio books in my handy dandy red book bag, which I filled up at the library last week. Getting back into reading after my eye surgery, successful so far by the way, and perfecting my speed reading.  Thanks for all the kind words re my eye surgery everyone :)

Almost forgot- I wrote the first 5 days of NaNoWriMo and rested on the 6th day. Today is the 7th day, so I I had better get back to it! Even if I don't finish 50,000 words by the end of the month, I will at least have started a fictionalized memoir.

What have you read/done this past week?

Oct 31, 2010

Sunday Salon: Halloween Grinch

The Sunday
 Halloween Grinch
Click on the name to see.
Though I may change my mind,
You may very well find
A darkened door,
A displeasure even for me

- Harvee Lau

Halloween Grinch has spoken. What about this Grinch in November? After eye surgery I can barely see and decided not to give out treats this year, so I don't fall over myself trying to fill blurred hands and bags in a darkened doorway.

I'm also listening to audio books, though I sneak every now and then, in between multiple eye drops, a quick read of more pages of a novel set in the French mountains, The Tapestry of Love by Rosy Thornton.
The Secret Life of Bees

I'm also fascinated by The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd, and am on chapter 3. The audio book is read by a young girl who is superb in getting the nuances of the novel down.

What did you read/do last week?

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...