Apr 8, 2011

Book Review: Dragon Chica by May-lee Chai

Dragon Chica, a novel by May-lee Chai
Publisher: GemmaMedia; Original edition (October 27, 2010).
Genre: immigrant fiction, YA.
Source: Library.

Comments: Poetic descriptions, excellent characterization, this moving novel incorporates the history of the Cambodian war and atrocities into the story of an immigrant family - a mother and five children- struggling in the U.S. to start a new life, deal with the horrible past of death and loss, and to fit into the American society and way of life. I would give this a very high rating for literary fiction.

 Goodreads book description: "Nea, a Chinese-Cambodian teenager, flees to Texas as a refugee from the Khmer Rouge regime when a miracle occurs. Although her family has been struggling to support itself, they discover that a wealthy aunt and uncle have managed to make it to America as well. Nea and her family rush to join their relatives and help run a Chinese restaurant in Nebraska. But soon Nea discovers their miracle is not what she had expected. Family fights erupt. Then the past – and a forbidden love– threaten to tear them all apart.

Dragon Chica follows Nea, an indomitable character in the tradition of Holden Caulfield, Scout Finch and Jo March, as she fights to save her family and herself."

Read excerpts from the novel at May-Lee Chai's blog. Other reviews: Marjolein Book Blog and  Largehearted Boy.
Challenges: Immigrant Stories Challenge 2011, Chinese Literature Challenge 2011

Apr 5, 2011

Book Review: Call Me Irresistible by Susan Elizabeth Phillips

Teaser Tuesdays asks you to choose two sentences at random from your current read. Identify the author and title for readers.
"Lucy isn't as happy as she should be.  She has some doubts."

"Rubbish!" Ted's mother exclaimed. "She had no doubts. Not until you manufactured them for her." (p. 25)

Call Me Irresistible: A Novel by Susan Elizabeth Phillips
Comments: I had some doubts about the main character, Meg Koranda, who had some reservations about her best friend's fiance, Ted Beaudine. Meg convinced Lucy Jorik that Lucy had made the wrong choice in a husband and helped her back out of the wedding. Was this self serving and did Meg have her eye on the bridegroom for herself?  Both Meg and Lucy are children of high profile parents. The sudden canceling of the wedding on the wedding day was a scandal. At the end of the book, I still couldn't decide if Meg knew all along what she wanted, or if things happened by chance in this interesting romance. By all means read it and let us know what you think!

Publisher's description: "Lucy Jorik is the daughter of a former president of the United States.
Meg Koranda is the offspring of legends.

One of them is about to marry Mr. Irresistible—Ted Beaudine—the favorite son of Wynette, Texas. The other is not happy about it and is determined to save her friend from a mess of heartache.

But even though Meg knows that breaking up her best friend's wedding is the right thing to do, no one else seems to agree. Faster than Lucy can say "I don't," Meg becomes the most hated woman in town—a town she's stuck in with a dead car, an empty wallet, and a very angry bridegroom. Broke, stranded, and without her famous parents at her back, Meg is sure she can survive on her own wits. What's the worst that can happen? Lose her heart to the one and only Mr. Irresistible? Not likely. Not likely at all."
Hardcover: 400 pages. Publisher: William Morrow (January 18, 2011). Source: Publisher. Genre: romantic fiction. Objective rating: 3.75/5.

Apr 4, 2011

If a Dog Could Blog: Book Review

If a Dog Could Blog

If a Dog Could Blog, this is what he/she might write:

"As reigning North Valley canine royalty, most people and non-human types want to meet me...grovel...bow before me and then....RUB MY BELLY!!!"

" I'm a bit distracted these days. Mom and Dad went bonkers and brought home TWO KITTENS!!!!"

Comments: Very cute diary of a basset hound named Killer who lives with another dog in the countryside with his human family. Made me sad though when I visited The Killer Chronicles online at http://killerdog.typepad.com/ and found the last entry was in May 2010. Killer lived 11 happy years in the countryside and had help from her human mom to write this blog when she was well and kicking.

Product Description: Tsunamis...gun battles..skunk hunts..and lots of BELLY RUBS! Your pup may be dozing away the day. NOT Princess Lola LaDeaux aka Killer! This little basset has daily adventures and close calls...shakedowns by Mom and Dad...a coterie of basset buddies..and of course, the constant Battle of the Basset Bulge. And she shares all in her sort-of daily on-line diary.

If a Dog Could Blog by Princess Lola LeDeaux aka Killer with Lisa Breeden Garcia. Illustrated by Susan Shorter. Reading level: ages 4-8; Paperback: 28 pages. Publisher: AuthorHouse (September 23, 2010). Review copy provided by the publisher.

Crime Fiction Alphabet: The Letter M

The Alphabet in Crime Fiction Community Meme is hosted by Kerry at Mysteries in Paradise.

The letter this week is M.

M is for Murder most foul as in the following titles:

What Crime Fiction M's do you have in mind?

Apr 3, 2011

Sunday Salon: How to Catch Up?

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

Now that spring is here officially even though it's still pretty chilly, there is more activity outdors. Squirrels perform acrobatic exercises to get to seed in the bird feeders. They must have been starving all winter. They gobbled everything up and left little for the birds this first round. It's still too cold to start any real gardening though. Only a few crocuses have shown their heads so far.

Since last Sunday, I've reviewed The Beloved Dead, an Arthurian Mystery by Tony Hays and also interviewed the author re his medievel history research. Not much since then but jumpiing from book to book, and on and off on my Kindle. How to catch up with the reading and my TBR pile?

Here a few new books:

The Summoner (The Dominic Grey Novels)Bullet WorkIf a Dog Could BlogStrings AttachedThe Revenge of the Radioactive Lady

The Bond: Our Kinship with Animals, Our Call to Defend Them   Bloody Twist

The last of the above, Bloody Twist by Carolina Garcia-Aguilera, I downloaded to my Kindle for only $2.99. It's the seventh in the Cuban-American author's mystery series featuring Lupe Solano, a feisty P.I. in Miami who wears chic Manolo Blahnik shoes, drinks mojitos, and takes you on wild rides around town and into Cuba on night forays! 

(Another P.I. I recall who wears similar shoes, by Christian Louboutin, lives and works in Paris in the Aimee Leduc mystery series by Cara Black. Amazing how these P.I.'s can go about sleuthing and catching killers perched on these expensive stilts!

Christian Louboutain heels

                                                     Manolo Blahnik shoes.

Click here to read my NaPoWriMo (National Poetry Writing Month)  shoe poem.

Yes, I've been drooling over shoes that characters in mystery novels wear. One of these would cost me half a month's salary in real life!

What books/shoes have you been drooling over this past week?

Mar 29, 2011

Book Review: The Beloved Dead by Tony Hays, plus guest post

Title: The Beloved Dead
Author: Tony Hays
Hardcover: 400 pages
Publisher: Forge Books; First Edition edition (March 29, 2011)
Genre: medieval mystery, romance
Source: review copy provided by AuthorsontheWeb, TheBookReportNetwork.com
Objective rating: 4.5/5
"You should know, Malgwyn, that I counseled Arthur against this match. I advised him to marry Guinevere."

At that, I took a step backward and cocked my head at him. "In truth?"
Comments: I enjoyed this book on two fronts - the romantic relationship that King Arthur has with his lover Guinevere, which is about to be snapped in two when Arthur decides to marry another woman for political reasons and to secure his power. The other aspect of the book is the mystery - the killing of young women which may or may not be a challenge being made to the new Christian faith supported by Arthur and opposed by pagan beliefs. The story, atmosphere and setting are richly steeped in history and legend - an excellent novel for lovers of the Arthurian stories, to romance readers, and medievel mystery buffs.

Publisher's description:
Malgwyn ap Cuneglas is one of King Arthur's most trusted counselors. When Arthur decides to take a noble wife to consolidate his power, it is Malgwyn who  is sent to  fetch the bride. Malgwyn knows that despite the king's ambition, Arthur's heart is breaking as he sets aside his love for Guinevere to seal his position on the throne.

Malgwyn's journey north is fraught with tension and danger. Arthur's political rivals and the still-powerful druids oppose his attempts to unite the country and lead the people of Britain to the Christ. When Malgyyn discovers a series of horrific murders of young women - apparent ritual sacrifices - he must quickly learn who is doing the killing and why....Malgwyn must allay pagan fears that the murders are the acts of gods who are seeking revenge over the intrusion of the new faith...and determine if the killers are mortal men conspiring to unseat the king.
Whoever did these things was making a point. I knew that when I discovered the doer of these deeds I would understand the why of it. When? I laughed to myself. If? That was the more proper question. (p. 133)
(Click on Teaser Tuesdays to see other book teasers.)
Author's guest post: Tony Hays comments on his research for The Beloved Dead.
I’m one of those “you have to go there” people when it comes to the locations in which I set my novels. If you don’t, you just miss something. I prefer that research on the ground over everything else. Now, with historical novels it’s not always going to look just as it did, but sometimes it’s awfully close. That’s why, when I decided that South Cadbury Hillfort would be my version of Camelot, I knew I had to walk every acre, every inch, every old, forgotten rampart.

I knew that if Arthur lived (as I believe he did) he did not have the kind of castle foisted on us by the BBC’s Merlin or Starz’s Camelot. Those are castles dating more than 500 years after Arthur lived. But that still left me with a plethora of Dark Age sites, including the hillfort at South Cadbury.

First of all, I picked that hillfort because it has the strongest pedigree. When John Leland, Henry the VIII’s antiquarian, came to South Cadbury in 1541, he found that the local folk already believed that their massive hillfort had been Arthur’s seat. And they didn’t know what Leslie Alcock and the Camelot Research Committee would find some 420 years later under the surface. Alcock found that Cadbury Castle, as it is sometimes called, underwent a massive refortification effort in the late 5th century. The scale of the effort required a leader with Arthurian-sized resources. And many historians agree that no other Dark Age site in Britain equals it. The icing on the cake was that Alcock found the remains of a noble’s hall as well as a kind of pottery from that era known as Tintagel B. I should not need to remind you that Tintagel has had a long and storied connection to Arthur. And that was good enough for me.

But getting to Cadbury Castle today is a tad more difficult than it was in Arthur’s day. If you are restricted to public conveyances, as was I, then the simplest way was by bus. I was living in Butleigh, Somerset, just five miles from Glastonbury. So, first I caught the eastbound Nippy bus that ran through Butleigh. I would get off at the rail station at Castle Carey, and wait, and wait …. Until a Great Southwest bus would come through, headed south to North Cadbury. It would carry on through North Cadbury and under the A303 to a little crossroads called Chapel Cross. If you are on your way to South Cadbury, you have to cover the remaining 100 yards under your own power.

You walk past The Camelot pub until you come to a gate. Inside is a wide mud and rock lane that runs up to the hillfort on top. It can be a treacherous climb, particularly if you’re wearing the wrong shoes. But you climb and climb. As you near the top, you see the four defensive ditches and ramparts. That’s when you know you are somewhere special.

The lane opens onto a massive plateau, containing some 18 acres of land, sloping upward to the highest point, to the site of Alcock’s Dark Ages timber hall, Arthur’s Hall.

And that’s where I headed. I sat down up there on the highest part of the plateau, and I imagined Camelot, my Camelot, a world of timber and stone ramparts and old roundhouses. I imagined where the lanes would lay, where my characters would act out their stories, where they would walk and eat and love. That was my finest moment, the point at which it all came together, the time when I knew, finally, that it would work.

You can research in libraries, order books by the truckload, but, at least for me, the research that really counts is walking the ground, breathing the air, feeling, really feeling the site as my characters would.

Now that’s research.

Thanks, Tony, for this walk through history and Arthurian legend and your extensive research in the land of Camelot!
Book tour stops: Click here for other stops on the book tour. Visit http://tonyhays.com/ to find out more about Tony and his novels, including information about the historical Arthur, http://tonyhays.com/page5.html and photo galleries http://tonyhays.com/page4.html.


Mar 27, 2011

Sunday Salon: Books for All Seasons

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

Wanted to do some of my own writing and excursions into poetry but my never ending To Be Read booklist keeps me distracted. Some good books to read are even better than writing one of your own! Ahem!

Here's what I have:

Strings AttachedStrings Attached by Judy Blundell

The Revenge of the Radioactive Lady
The Revenge of the Radioactive Lady by Elizabeth Stuckey-French

A Lonely Death: An Inspector Ian Rutledge Mystery (Ian Rutledge Mysteries)A Lonely Death: An Inspector Ian Rutledge Mystery (Ian Rutledge Mysteries) by Charles Todd

The Bone Yard: A Body Farm NovelThe Bone Thief: A Body Farm Novel

The Summoner (The Dominic Grey Novels)The Summoner (The Dominic Grey Novels)

Bullet Work by Steve O'BrienBullet Work

Born Under a Lucky Moon: A Novel
Born Under a Lucky Moon: A Novel by Dana Precious

One Was a Soldier: A Clare Fergusson/Russ Van Alstyne Mystery (Clare Fergusson and Russ Van Alstyne Mysteries)One Was a Soldier: A Clare Fergusson/Russ Van Alstyne Mystery (Clare Fergusson and Russ Van Alstyne Mysteries) by Julie Spencer-Fleming.

What have you been reading or planning to read? Have you reviewed or read any of these?

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...