Aug 20, 2011

The Summer We Came to Life: A Novel by Deborah Cloyed - Opening Sentences

Title: The Summer We Came to Life by Deborah Cloyed
Publisher: Mira; Original edition (May 31, 2011), Paperback: 320 pages

Opening sentences can set the tone for a book and help give you an idea of whether or not the book is for you!

Birth and death are the two occurrences in a person's life that seem to say one thing: we are not the ones calling the shots. "The only consolations are love and best friends." That's what Mina told me two days before she died.(from an advance uncorrected proof; final copy may differ).

Product description: Every summer, Samantha Wheland joins her childhood friends—Isabel, Kendra and Mina—on a vacation, somewhere exotic and fabulous.... This year it's a beach house in Honduras. But for the first time, their clan is not complete. Mina lost her battle against cancer six months ago, and the friends she left behind are still struggling to find their way forward without her.

For Samantha, the vacation just feels wrong without Mina. Despite being surrounded by her friends—the closest thing she has to family—Mina's death has left Sam a little lost. Unsure what direction her life should take. Fearful that whatever decision she makes about her wealthy French boyfriend's surprise proposal, it'll be the wrong one.

The answers aren't in the journal Mina gave Sam before she died. Or in the messages Sam believes Mina is sending as guideposts. Before the trip ends, the bonds of friendship with her living friends, the older generation's stories of love and loss, and Sam's glimpse into a world far removed from the one in which she belongs will convince her to trust her heart. And follow it.

See my review of the The Summer We Came to Life:  Books of Love and Loss

About the author: Deborah Cloyed lives in Los Angeles. As a photographer, travel writer, or curious nomad, she has lived in London, Barcelona, Thailand, Honduras, Kenya, and New York City. She's traveled to twenty other countries besides, several as a contestant on CBS' The Amazing Race. She runs a photography school for kids and is at work on her next book.

What do you think?

Button Holed: A Button Box Mystery by Kylie Logan - Opening Sentences

Title: Button Holed: A Button Box Mystery
Publisher: Berkley (2011), Paperback, 288 pages

Opening sentences can set the tone for a book and give you an idea of whether or not the book is for you!

"Here's the thing about walking into your button shop at five in the morning and running smack into a hulk of a guy wearing a black ski mask: it tends to catch a girl a little off guard.
Off guard, I sucked in a breath that was half surprise, half gasp of terror; and just inside the door of the Button Box, I froze.
For exactly two seconds.

Product description: Working out of her button shop in a Chicago brownstone, Josie Giancola has become one of the country's leading experts on buttons. Her reputation draws a Hollywood starlet to the Button Box to shop for one-of-a-kind buttons to adorn her made-to-order wedding gown.

But after the Button Box is ransacked and the actress murdered, Josie's cozy world is thrown into chaos-and a killer is out to keep Josie's lips buttoned up...permanently.

This is the first in a new series! What do you think?

Aug 19, 2011

E-Book Review: The Cosy Knave by Dorte Hummelshoj Jakobsen

Title: The Cosy Knave: (Gershwin and Penrose Mystery)
Author: Dorte Hummelshoj Jakobsen
Format: Kindle Edition, self-published July 20, 2011
Sold by: Amazon Digital Services
Genre: cozy mystery
Source: review e-copy from author
Objective rating: 4/5 

I was amused that this humorous cozy mystery, written by a Danish writer, was pulling the leg, so to speak, of the English, in this novel set in Yorkshire. The names of the characters reminded me of food - Rose Walnut-Whip, Olivia Cadbury-Flake, Sir Mars-Wrigley, Thomas Lipton - and are amusing in other ways - Kendall Mint-Romney and Mr. and Mrs. Kickinbottom for instance. The writer doesn't hesitate to bring in as many references to cozy English customs as possible - tea served with milk and sugar and scones in every other scene, steak and kidney pie in the pub, the obsession with football. I confess that my mind wandered from the mystery of the murder and what looked like a suicide or accident, so intent was I on the English names and customs. The mystery picked up however at the end and a good one it is!

Product description: The vicious attacks begin when the prodigal son of Knavesborough, Mark Baldwin, returns to the sleepy village after forty years in Argentina, fully equipped with fame, fortune and effeminate butler. Small wonder that the spiteful nosey parker Rose Walnut-Whip is stabbed, but how could the murderer get away with shattering the perfect, English tearoom idyll in front of twenty villagers?

Constable Archibald Penrose is in dire need of assistance as his superior, DI Mars-Wrigley, is preoccupied with England´s chances in the football world cup. Penrose´s enthusiastic fiancée, the mint-new librarian Rhapsody Gershwin, is more than willing to help as she sees this as Penrose´s route to promotion (and a welcome raise). As she is the vicar´s daughter, Rhapsody´s treasure trove of local knowledge may come in handy, and to be perfectly honest, the young sleuth may also be a tad curious. And of course the crimes do not stop here. A dangerous criminal is on the lose in Yorkshire. Can the young couple stop the perpetrator in time?  

About the author: Dorte Hummelshoj Jakobsen was born in Denmark and is a teacher of English. In her spare time she reads, writes and reviews crime fiction. Her other publications are Candied Crime, DJ's Daim Stories volume I, and Liquorice Twists, DJ's Daim Stories volume II. Her blog is

Aug 18, 2011

Book Review: Dragon's Pupils - the Sword Guest by Martin Chu Shui

Title: Dragon's Pupil - the Sword Guest
Author: Martin Chu Shui
Publisher:  BookPal, 300 pages paperback or Kindle 
Publication date: July 27, 2009
Genre: martial arts adventure, YA
Rating: 4/5

The chief monk raised his hand for quiet. "Master Zhang, as the chief monk of Anie temple, I formally request that you paint the dragons' pupils."

Zhang looked at the endless blue sky for a long time, and then sighed. :"All right, I'll do it, but be prepared." Taking out his calligraphy pen, he made four rapid strokes on the wall.

As soon as the pupils appeared in the dragons' eyes, they winked and twisted their whiskers a bit....The two dragons shook themselves and leapt into sky, against the heavy grey rain. There was a roar of wind and a howl of thunder, and they disappeared into the dark clouds. (Prologue)

I enjoyed the Tai Chi and martial arts action scenes almost as much as I enjoyed the stories that Henry and Liz's father told them, stories from old China that explained many of the martial arts movements and one aspect of ancient Chinese culture. I can see this being made into a film as the fights using Qi force and energy and Tai Chi movements are described in fascinating detail. A good book that also explains Chinese culture in terms of its history of fighting based on the philosophy of the Tao, and its legends that include a calligraphy pen which paints scenes that come to life. Definitely a book for YA readers and martial arts movie fans.

Martin Chu Shui describes his book as an adventure fantasy that combines both the ancient and the modern, the East and the West. There are dragons as well as vampires, protagonists that fly through the air, as well as those realistically portrayed. As I said before too, I enjoyed the stories from the ancients that the author uses throughout the book. I think the novel is a mixture of the literary with fantasy.

Product description: The story centers on Liz, born of half Australian and of half Chinese descent. Growing up in Australia, she isn’t very interested in her father’s ancient Chinese stories. She is concerned with problems that are far more contemporary — such as environmental issues, and particularly her friend’s handsome brother who is an environmental activist. But her disinterest in Chinese culture changes when her two worlds collide, after a catastrophic accident sets thousands of ancient monsters loose near her home.

Suddenly Liz must learn many new skills and call on all of her Chinese heritage if she is to prevent the monsters from destroying Earth. Helped by her twin brother and best friend, Liz sets out to discover why the monsters exist and how to stop them. When she is injured in a battle, she must travel to China to seek a cure that is spiritual as much as it is physical. But can she find the old man who can help her before the monsters catch her? How will she manage in a country that is so strange and yet so familiar? And can she learn enough about a world she has ignored to stop the monsters in time?

About the author: Martin Chu Shui lives in Australia with his wife and two children.

I bought this novel from the Kindle store.

Aug 17, 2011

Book Review: What Alice Forgot, A Novel by Liane Moriarty

Genre: women's fiction, fiction
Publisher: Amy Einhorn Books/Putnam, 432 pages, hardcover
Publication date: June 2, 2011
Source: Publisher
Objective rating: 4.75/5

"Tacky? I said that? I said that about you? I would never say that!" Alice was horrified. Had she turned into a nasty person who judged people by their choice of career? She'd always been proud of Elisabeth. She was the smart one, the one who was going places, while Alice stayed safely put. (ch. 7)

About: Alice Love, age 29, is in love with her husband and expecting their first child. She remembers buying a wonderful old house with two stone lions in the front whom they name George and Mildred. One day she wakes up in the hospital after suffering a concussion from a bad fall at the gym and is told that it's really ten years later, she is 39, and she has lost all memory of the past ten years. She must face the fact that she has three children under the age of 10 whom she doesn't remember, and that she is about to get a divorce from the husband she adores, Nick.

Alice notices she is skinnier than she used to be at 29, as she often works out at the gym, a place she used to hate. She finds she is in a strained relationship with her older sister, Elisabeth, and even with some of her friends and her former friendly neighbor. Alice tries to remember the ten years she has dropped from her memory and to change the past back to the one she knows, if she can. In the middle of this, one name keeps cropping up in conversations, a name she doesn't recall - Gina.

Comments: I enjoyed the premise of the book - a woman who forgot the past and is trying to rectify or change what she had done or become. It kept me reading just to find out how successful she would be, how she would react on meeting her three children as if for the first time, how she would gradually discover what happened in the past ten years.  

The author is an excellent storyteller and knows how to keep her readers guessing. The story is told  from three perspectives - Alice's, her sister Elisabeth's, and their honorary grandmother Frannie's. Her main character Alice is likable and sympathetic, and the other characters are also very realistic, especially Elisabeth, whose story is as moving as Alice's. I would recommend the book to all who are interested in the nature of family and friendships. 

About the author: Liane Moriarty has written Three Wishes and The Last Anniversary, translated into several languages. She also writes the Nicola Berry series for children. Liane lives in Sydney, Australia with her husband and two young children.  

Aug 15, 2011

Teasers: A Killing in Antiques by Mary Moody; Bitter Harvest by Sheila Connolly

Teaser Tuesdays asks you to choose sentences at random from your current read(s). Identify the author(s) and title(s) for readers.

" I hope you've had better luck
than I," she said when I caught up with her. "I've been here an hour and I haven't found a thing." (p. 12)

Title: A Killing in Antiques: A Lucy St. Elmo Antiques Mystery

Product description: Treasure hunting is not for the faint of heart. Luckily, Lucy St. Elmo, owner of the Cape Cod antiques shop St. Elmo Fine Antiques, has more than enough heart. What she needs to improve are her tracking skills-or else the wrong man could be convicted of a one-of-a-kind murder.

She was about to shut down her computer when she remembered Bree's warning about the weather. She clicked onto a weather site and read with a mixture of anxiety and scepticism about a burgeoning storm that seemed to be headed right in her direction. (p. 14)

Title: Bitter Harvest: An Orchard Mystery

Product description: Now that Meg Corey's apples have been harvested and sold, she's enjoying some free time. But when the small but annoying mishaps plaguing her start turning sinister, Meg begins to worry that her first harvest may be her last.

Book Review: What Language Is by John McWhorter: TLC Book Tour

"...our sense of language stipulates that almost every human on earth is either speaking something primitive or speaking something wrong.

If there was grandeur in Darwin's view of life, there is certainly nothing grand in that glum view of language. It neglects so much beauty and so much complexity. And luckily, it's inaccurate." (Epilogue)

Title: What Language Is (And What It Isn't And What It Could Be) by John McWorther

Publisher: Gotham Books, 240 pages, publication date Aug. 4, 2011
Source: TLC
Genre: language, linguistics
Objective rating: 4.5/5

Comments: This book on languages reads to me like a reference book that I can pick up and read at any time and at any chapter. The author explains his view of language in five chapters titled Ingrown, Dissheveled (sic), Intricate, Oral, and Mixed. An expert on dialect, McWhorter tells us about the differences between "real" languages such as English, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Arabic, Hebrew, Persian, and Hindi and dialects like Black English, Haitian Creole, Jamaican patois, and Philippine's Tagalog, among many others.

As a linguist, he compares languages and dialects, shows us their intricacies, and sees the beauty in their make-up. He also says that language is essentially oral, not written. There are too many interesting tidbits on language to show them all here, but it's a good book to have on hand for those times I become more curious about language in general. This is a great book for students of linguistics, by the way, as it does become quite technical.

Another interesting tidbit for the general reader:

"Black English is not "bad grammar" under any logical conception - unless we can seriously condemn our own mainstream English as crummy Anglo-Saxon....The proper idea is that many people will be bidialectal, using Black English in casual settings and the standard in formal ones - as a great many already do and always have." (ch. 3)

About the author: John McWorther is author of Our Magnificent Bastard Tongue: The Untold History of English, and the New York Times best seller, Losing the Race: Salf-Sabotage in Black America. He teaches linguistics and western civilization at Columbia University.

For a list of reviews of What Language Is, visit other reviews of this book on TLC Book Tours

Sunday Salon: Always Currently Reading

  Currently reading:  Missing and Endangered   by J.A. Jance, February 16, 2021, William Morrow Genre: thriller, suspense Source: library Ab...