Mar 17, 2011

Book Review: The Sandalwood Tree by Elle Newmark

The Sandalwood Tree: A Novel by Elle Newmark
Hardcover: 368 pages
Publisher: Atria (April 5, 2011)
Source: ARC provided by Pump Up Your Book Promotions
Genre:  historical romance, women's fiction 
"I unfolded the last sheets of parchment and my breath caught. The innermost letter was intact. Several pages had been saved from the worst of the damp, every word preserved by the absorbent layers around it. "  (ch. 2)
Comments: Enticing idea for an historical novel set in India in the late 1940s, when Evie Mitchell, traveling to India with her husband, discovers a hidden cache of letters written in the mid-1800s. The story of Evie's marriage and the story revealed in the letters entwine to make this a captivating novel of love, passion, and an exotic location. For armchair travelers, history buffs, and those who enjoy good romantic fiction.

Publisher's description: "A sweeping novel that brings to life two love stories, ninety years apart, set against the rich backdrop of war-torn India.

In 1947, American historian and veteran of WWII, Martin Mitchell, wins a Fulbright Fellowship to document the end of British rule in India. His wife, Evie, convinces him to take her and their young son along, hoping a shared adventure will mend their marriage, which has been strained by war.

But other places, other wars. Martin and Evie find themselves stranded in a colonial bungalow in the Himalayas due to violence surrounding the partition of India between Hindus and Muslims. In that house, hidden behind a brick wall, Evie discovers a packet of old letters, which tell a strange and compelling story of love and war involving two young Englishwomen who lived in the same house in 1857.

Drawn to their story, Evie embarks on a mission to piece together her Victorian mystery. Her search leads her through the bazaars and temples of India as well as the dying society of the British Raj. Along the way, Martin’s dark secret is exposed, unleashing a new wedge between Evie and him. As India struggles toward Independence, Evie struggles to save her marriage, pursuing her Victorian ghosts for answers.

Bursting with lavish detail and vivid imagery of Calcutta and beyond, The Sandalwood Tree is a powerful story about betrayal, forgiveness, fate, and love."

Author: Elle Newmark is an award-winning writer and author of The Book of Unholy Mischief. Her books are inspired by her travels. She lives north of San Diego.

Thanks to Tracee L. Gleichner at for making this book tour possible. Click on the link for more information on the book tour.

Mar 15, 2011

The Year I Fell in Love and ....:by Deb Olin Unferth

Revolution: The Year I Fell in Love and Went to Join the War
Teaser Tuesdays asks you to choose two sentences at random from your current read. Identify the author and title for readers.

"What are you doing in El Salvador?"
"Turismo," I said. (I'd been told that if a soldier points a gun at you, you should always say "turismo.")  p. 20

Revolution: The Year I Fell in Love and Went to Join the War
 by Deb Olin Unferth
Hardcover: 224 pages
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co. (February 1, 2011)
Genre: travel, memoir

Goodreads book description: "Deb Olin Unferth offers a new twist on the coming-of-age memoir in this utterly unique and captivating story of the year she ran away from college with her Christian boyfriend and followed him to Nicaragua to join the Sandinistas.

Despite their earnest commitment to a myriad of revolutionary causes and to each other, the couple find themselves unwanted, unhelpful, and unprepared as they bop around Central America, looking for "revolution jobs." The year is 1987, a turning point in the Cold War. The East-West balance has begun to tip, although the world doesn't know it yet, especially not Unferth and her fiancé (he proposes on a roadside in El Salvador). The months wear on and cracks begin to form in their relationship: they get fired, they get sick, they run out of money, they grow disillusioned with the revolution and each other. But years later the trip remains fixed in her mind and she finally goes back to Nicaragua to try to make sense of it all. Unferth's heartbreaking and hilarious memoir perfectly captures the youthful search for meaning, and is an absorbing rumination on what happens to a country and its people after the revolution is over."

Mar 12, 2011

The Sunday Salon: March 13

The Sunday Salon.comClick on the logo to join in!

After spending a harrowing last two days making sure people I know in Japan are safe and sound and out of harm's way, I am breathing a sigh of relief but also feeling sadness for the people affected by the earthquake and tsunami. Unbelievable, horrific pictures on the news channels. Hope that more rescues come very soon.

Scones & Bones (A Tea Shop Mystery)Since last week, I reviewed Beaglemania, a mystery by Linda O. Johnston and posted short reviews of four more mystery novels: Murder in Passy, Death of a Chimney Sweep, the Headhunter's Daughter, and Scones and Bones.  It's been a good mystery reading week.

And the snow's finally melting with no more scheduled for now.... What have you been doing and reading?

Short Book Reviews: Four Mystery Novels

Murder in Passy: An Aimee Leduc Investigation Set in Paris
Author: Cara Black
Hardcover: 288 pages
Publisher: Soho Crime (March 1, 2011)
Source: Library

Product description: The village-like neighborhood of Passy, home to many of Paris’s wealthiest residents, is the last place one would expect a murder. But when Aimée Leduc’s godfather, Morbier, a police commissaire, asks her to check on his girlfriend at her home there, that’s exactly what Aimée finds. Xavierre, a haut bourgeois matron of Basque origin, is strangled in her garden while Aimée waits inside. Circumstantial evidence makes Morbier the prime suspect, and to vindicate him, Aimée must identify the real killer. Her investigation leads her to police corruption; the radical Basque terrorist group, ETA; and a kidnapped Spanish princess.

Comments: Cara Black's characters come alive in Paris in this vivid portrait of the Basque immigrants of the city and the tangle of their politics. Another superb mystery with the main character, a chic computer security specialist, Aimee Leduc, and her business partner and sidekick, Renee.
Rating: 5/5

Death of a Chimney Sweep (Hamish Macbeth)
Author: M.C. Beaton
Hardcover: 256 pages
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing (February 25, 2011)
Source: Library
Product description: In the south of Scotland, residents get their chimneys vacuum-cleaned. But in the isolated villages in the very north of Scotland, the villagers rely on the services of the itinerant sweep, Pete Ray, and his old-fashioned brushes. Pete is always able to find work in the Scottish highlands, until one day when Police Constable Hamish Macbeth notices blood dripping onto the floor of a villager's fireplace, and a dead body stuffed inside the chimney. The entire town of Lochdubh is certain Pete is the culprit, but Hamish doesn't believe that the affable chimney sweep is capable of committing murder. Then Pete's body is found on the Scottish moors, and the mystery deepens. Once again, it's up to Hamish to discover who's responsible for the dirty deed--and this time, the murderer may be closer than he realizes.

Comments: Another delightful mystery with the unorthodox Constable Hamish Macbeth solving crime in the north of Scotland. Full of the atmosphere of  a highland village, the various characters breathe life into this mystery series, and in this novel, Hamish's unusual pets, a dog and a wild lynx-like cat,  play an important role.
Rating: 5/5

The Headhunter's Daughter: A Mystery
Author: Tamar Myers
Paperback: 256 pages
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks; Original edition (January 25, 2011)
Source: Library
Goodreads description: From Tamar Myers, author of The Witch Doctor's Wife, comes a spellbinding tale of equatorial Africa and a child torn dangerously between two worlds.

In 1945, an infant left inadvertently to die in the jungles of the Belgian Congo is discovered by a young Bashilele tribesman on a mission to claim the head of an enemy. Recognized as human—despite her pale white skin and strange blue eyes—the baby is brought into the tribe and raised as its own. Thirteen years later, the girl—now called "Ugly Eyes"—will find herself at the center of a controversy that will rock two separate societies.

Young missionary Amanda Brown hears the incredible stories of a white girl living among the Bashilele headhunters. In the company of the local police chief, Captain Pierre Jardin, and with the witch doctor's wife, the quick-witted Cripple, along as translator, Amanda heads into the wild hoping to bring the lost girl back to "civilization." But Ugly Eyes no longer belongs in their world—and the secrets surrounding her birth and disappearance are placing them all in far graver peril than anyone ever imagined.

Comments: Interesting new series set in the Congo in the 1950s, by the author of the popular Den of Antiquity and the Pennsylvania Dutch mystery series. The series features Amanda Brown from South Carolina who travels to Africa to run a missionary guest house. Author Tamar Myers was born in the Congo of missionary parents. She uses her background experience for this new series.
Rating: 3.75/5
Scones and Bones (A Tea Shop Mystery)
Author: Laura Childs
Hardcover: 320 pages
Publisher: Berkley Hardcover (March 1, 2011)
Source: Library

Publisher's description: Indigo Tea Shop owner Theodosia Browning is lured into attending the Heritage Society's "Pirates and Plunder" soiree. But it's an antique diamond skull ring that gets plundered by someone who murders a history intern in the process. Theodosia knows she'll have to whet her investigative skills to find the killer among a raft of suspects.
Comments: Atmospheric tea shop mystery with a murder investigation sandwiched inbetween tea time conversations, tea lore, recipes, and Charleston high society events. A bit frilly for more die-hard mystery lovers, but cute!  
Rating: 3.5/5

Mar 7, 2011

Book Review: Beaglemania by Linda O. Johnston

Teaser Tuesdays asks you to choose two sentences at random from your current read. Identify the author and title for readers.
"So what's the official theory?" I addressed my question to Ralph. "I suspect it was my buddy Efram, here, who tossed those puppies into the drain."  (ch. 1)
Beaglemania (Pet Rescue Mystery, #1)
Beaglemania (A Pet Rescue Mystery) by Linda O. Johnston
Paperback: 304 pages
Publisher: Berkley (March 1, 2011)
Genre: mystery
Objective review: 3.75/5

Book description: "Lauren Vancouver is the head of HotRescues, a no-kill animal shelter north of Los Angeles, but it's often human nature that puts her in the path of danger. Just like when she helps rescue four adorable beagle puppies that were dumped down a drainpipe at a nasty puppy mill. One of the mill's employees has a history of dog abuse-and a bone to pick with Lauren. And when he's found dead at HotRescues after threatening her, Lauren will have to sniff out the real killer to keep herself out of a cage..." (Goodreads).

Comments: I like that the author brings the problem of puppy mills and pet rescue efforts to light through this novel, the first in the new pet rescue series. The plot so far is good,  but I keep comparing pet rescuer Lauren Vancouver to Kendra Ballantyne, the petsitter in Linda O. Johnston's other mystery series, and Lauren is not as well developed a character as yet.  Still a mystery worth reading.

Review copy provided by the publisher.

Mailbox Monday: Book Surprises

Mailbox Monday was started by Marcia of The Printed Page who set up the Mailbox Monday Blog Tour, being hosted this month by Laura at I'm Booking It.

My mailbox has been getting surprises as well as review books I expected. Love it!

Dark Prince: Author's Cut Special Edition
Dark Prince: Author's Cut Special Edition by Christine Feehan
William Morrow; Special edition (March 8, 2011).

From the publisher: Christine Feehan’s New York Times bestselling Dark series: Enter the enchanting world of the Carpathians, where dark adventure, mystery, and love await... A telepathic hunter of serial killers, Raven Whitney helps to catch some of the most depraved criminals. But her work keeps her from getting close to others, and has drained her body and spirit. In need of rest and rejuvenation, she embarks for a vacation far from home.

Mikhail Dubrinsky is the prince of the Carpathians, the powerful leader of a wise and secret ancient race that thrives in the night. Engulfed by despair, fearful of never finding the mate who can save him from the encroaching darkness.... From the moment they meet, Raven and Mikhail are helpless to resist the desire that sparks between them. But just as fate unexpectedly brings these life mates together, malevolent forces threaten to destroy them.

The Bird Sisters: A Novel
The Bird Sisters: A Novel by Rebecca Rasmussen
Uncorrected proof, Publisher: Crown (April 12, 2011)

From the Publisher: When a bird flies into a window in Spring Green, Wisconsin, sisters Milly and Twiss get a visit. Twiss listens to the birds' heartbeats, assessing what she can fix and what she can't, while Milly listens to the heartaches of the people who've brought them. These spinster sisters have spent their lives nursing people and birds back to health.

But back in the summer of 1947, Milly and Twiss knew nothing about trying to mend what had been accidentally broken. Milly was known as a great beauty with emerald eyes and Twiss was a brazen wild child who never wore a dress or did what she was told. That was the summer their golf pro father got into an accident that cost him both his swing and his charm, and their mother, the daughter of a wealthy jeweler, finally admitted their hardscrabble lives wouldn't change. It was the summer their priest, Father Rice, announced that God didn't exist and ran off to Mexico, and a boy named Asa finally caught Milly's eye. And, most unforgettably, it was the summer their cousin Bett came down from a town called Deadwater and changed the course of their lives forever.

Running on Empty (Main Street Mysteries)
Running on Empty (Main Street Mysteries) by Sandra Balzo
ARC, Publisher: Severn House Publishers; Reprint edition (April 1, 2011)

Publisher's description: The first in a new series by the author of the ‘Maggy Thorsen’ mysteries - Life on Sutherton's Main Street has always been inexplicably hazardous. Like the student who bet he could paddle a beer-filled ice chest across the lake. And lost. Not to mention the occasional tourist who wandered into the mountains, never to wander back out. But the day Daisy Griggs siphoned three pints of blood from poor Mrs Bradenham seemed to set a new standard. Now more and more people are dying and unless Daisy’s daughter can figure out why, her mother may be next.

I'll be reading books in different genres - fantasy, mystery, women's fiction. Am having a great time!  What arrived in your mailbox recently?

Mar 5, 2011

Book Review: Dead Light District by Jill Edmondson

Title: Dead Light District: A Sasha Jackson Mystery
 by Jill Edmondson
Paperback, 224 pages
Published December 20th 2010 by Dundurn
Genre: mystery
Source: review copy provided by author

Comments: This mystery doesn't hesitate to show the underside of the great city of Toronto - the seedy side of this hugely cosmopolitan city. Private investigator Sasha Jackson is asked to find a missing woman, an illegal immigrant who works for a local madam. Sasha solves the mystery but not before encountering two murders and a good look at the convoluted workings of the underground.

More than a few times, I wanted to give Sasha and many of the characters in the book a good mouth washing with harsh soap. The language they use makes the book more realistic and fitting for the environment and circumstances, but the f--- words do fly! For this reason, I'd suggest the novel for adults only.

Goodreads book description: "As open-minded as she is, private investigator Sasha Jackson feels out of place when her latest case plunges her into the world of commercial sex. A classy madam has hired Sasha to find a missing Mexican hooker, which seems easy enough at first. However, everything becomes complicated when a nasty pimp turns up dead in the wrong hotel. Things get even worse when a spaced-out call girl, an arthritic old lady, and a Rastafarian pawnbroker enter the scene.

Sasha figures out why the hooker ran away but not where to. How fast can anyone run in stiletto heels? When the next body turns up, Sasha has her moral compass tested as she tries to understand the sex trade and how those enmeshed in it will do anything to survive - even if it means murder." (Goodreads)

I would recommend the book for mystery lovers who like an interesting plot but who don't mind stark language.

Objective rating: 3.75/5

Challenges: Immigrant Stories Challenge 2011, Mystery and Suspense Reading Challenge 2011

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...