Nov 15, 2011

Teaser: Burned, A Novel by Thomas Enger

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

Title: Burned: A Novel by Thomas Enger
Publisher: Atria Books; October 4, 2011; 368 pages
Genre: suspense

I'll carry on your work
See you in eternity

....Where are you, Anette, he wonders? And what's the work you intend to complete?
(ch. 12)

Book description: A solitary tent is found to contain the body of a half-buried woman. Internet reporter Henning Juul is told to cover the story, but despite the police making an early arrest, he seems convinced that the story is more complex than they think. Physically and emotionally scarred from the death of his son, Henning must battle to be taken seriously again as a reporter - by his old colleagues, his ex-wife and the police - and when another life is lost, he knows the stakes couldn't be higher. (Goodreads)

About the Author: Thomas Enger is a former journalist and a music composer. Burned is his first crime novel. He lives in Oslo, Norway.

A complimentary copy of this book was sent to me by the publisher.

Nov 14, 2011

Book Review: The Personal History of Rachel DuPree by Ann Weisgarber

Title: The Personal History of Rachel Dupree by Ann Weisgarber
Publisher: Penguin (July 26, 2011)
Genre: historical fiction

My comments: The novel helps to fill in the some of the gaps in our knowledge of African American history. It's well written with a cast of realistic, well developed characters whose story shows the harsh life of western homesteaders in the late 19th and early 20th century.

Rachel, daughter of a Louisiana cane farmer who was a former slave, meets Isaac DuPree in Chicago and plans a marriage of convenience that does not suit Isaac's mother. As a single man and single woman, the two young people can each claim 160 acres of land in South Dakota according to the Homestead Act of 1862; together as man and wife, they can combine their share to 320 acres, more than enough for a good farm. Isaac's mother complains that Rachel has no social background and is darker complexioned than Isaac and therefore beneath him.

The couple nevertheless marry and have several children in South Dakota, where their life is more than harsh. The book opens with an example of the deprivation and sacrifices the family endures living in south Dakota as homesteaders. There is a severe drought, the cattle are dying off, and Isaac compels their 6-year-old daughter Liz to allow herself to be lowered into the bottom of a deep dark well to fetch water. The girl is frightened and reluctant but does go down; she says later there was a snake down in the bottom of the well that terrified her.

The novel follows the couple from the time they meet, to their life in the Badlands, through the death of at least one child there, and into their children's growing into near adulthood. Rachel tries to protect her children, especially the oldest girl, Mary, whom Isaac wants married off to an older but wealthier man for convenience's sake.

Historical buffs will enjoy this book and all readers will benefit from reading this story of grit and determination in early America.

Book description: Reminiscent of The Color Purple as well as the frontier novels of Laura Ingalls Wilder and Willa Cather, The Personal History of Rachel DuPree opens a window on the little-known history of African American homesteaders and gives voice to an extraordinary heroine who embodies the spirit that built America. (Amazon)

Author Ann Weisgarber was born and raised in Kettering, Ohio. She was a social worker before earning a master’s degree in sociology at the University of Houston and becoming a teacher. She divides her time between Sugar Land and Galveston, Texas. Visit the author at her website, Ann Weisgarber

For a complete schedule of reviews, visit TLC's Book Tour Stops.

I received a complimentary copy of this book for review.

Nov 13, 2011

Sunday Salon: What Next?

The Sunday Salon.comWelcome to the Sunday Salon. Click on the logo to join in.

After finishing and reviewing the surprisingly easy to read  Murakami's 1Q84,
I thought I'd switch to something entirely different.

My new book is Yoga Bitch: One Woman's Quest to Conquer Skepticism, Cynicism, and Cigarettes on the Path to Enlightenment by Suzanne Morrison, about the author's trip to a yoga retreat in Bali, Indonesia that she attended before a planned move to NYC with her boyfriend. In spite of the title, there are no swear words in the memoir, none I've come across as yet, but lots of candid and humorous comments on yoga, the yogis, and her fellow yoga students.

There is a TLC book tour review of The Secret Life of Rachel DuPree that I'll post tomorrow. I'm also reading a fun book, an illustrated travel memoir, for another book tour later this month - Borneo Bob. This one takes you all over Southeast Asia.

I also have a brand new granddaughter! I can't see her personally as yet as she's in Japan, but I hope to see pictures and catch her later on webcam.

Have a great week to come! What have you been up to this past week?

Nov 10, 2011

Booking Through Thursday: Kindle E-Volution

E-readers like the Kindle and iPad are sweeping the nation … do you have one? Do you like it? Do you find it changes your reading/buying habits? If you don’t have one, do you plan to?

I got a Kindle about a year ago, and gave one to each of my two sons for Christmas presents. They used theirs more than I did mine. Until recently, I've used the Kindle only to read a few fairly short crime novels.

That changed with the very long book, 1Q84 by Murakami. The novel didn't seem very long while I was reading it on Kindle. In fact, I felt I breezed through all 900 plus pages, and now I am planning to read more of the author's books on the eReader. To show I'm serious about this, I downloaded his Norwegian Wood to start reading. I am now fully Kindle-hooked!

How about you?

Nov 7, 2011

Book Review: 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami

Title 1Q84: A Novel by Haruki Murakami
October 25, 2011; personal Kindle edition
Genre: literary fiction
Rating: 5/5

My take on the novel in a nutshell: A crime thriller plus a love story in an alternate reality full of magic and fantasy. 1Q84 starts out being a thriller, one of my favorite genres, and I was quite surprised by this. It then also became a love story between two people, Tengo and Aomame.

Fantastical and magical things and people appear  in the novel - the Smurf-like Little People, for one, and the Air Chrysalis - devices that almost seem like children's fantasies. But this is no book for children. There is explicit sex and calculated murder, but also sympathetic looks into the hearts and minds of some of the main characters. Tengo in particular, is a very likable mathematician turned writer, whose relationship with his dying father adds a touch of pathos to the novel. His search for his grammar school classmate, Aomame, and her search for him, is the love story that fuels the novel.

In the plot, Tengo and Aomame both enter an alternate reality, 1Q84, when Tengo rewrites a book, Air Chrysalis, written by the enigmatic teenager Fuka-Eri, and when Aomame climbs down a long metal staircase from one level of the expressway to the next and from one reality to another. In this alternate world that declares itself by the two moons hanging in the sky, the two try to find each other, though they met since the third grade about 20 years before.

Religion is an important link between Tengo and Aomame, and 1Q84 takes aim at religious cults - those controlling Big Brother-like organizations in which children are sexually and mentally abused and  all their members restrained psychologically. The book also seems to focus on women avenging the crimes of severely abusive men, making sure they are dispatched to "another world" in order to prevent them from continuing.

In such a long and complex book, there is bound to be a lot more to discuss. For instance, Murakami follows the idea that time does not flow in a straight line. In 1Q84, time twists around, reality shifts, and the past can sneak up unannounced behind you. These are just a very few of the interesting themes I found.

Besides the thriller and love stories, I liked how well the main characters were developed in the book, the careful and realistic descriptions of physical features, personality, and motives. Murakami's comments on writing are also interesting, as are the ways he weaves a world of magic and fantasy into the novel.

I'd love to hear from others who have read 1Q84.. What do you think about the book?

For other reviews on this book, visit Fantasy Book Critic, Dolce Bellezza, Magnificent Octopus, Man of La Mancha, and Sam Still Reading.

© Harvee Lau 2011
Submitted for the Haruki Murakami Reading Challenge and the Japanese Literature Challenge V

Nov 6, 2011

Sunday Salon: On Reading 1Q84 - an Update

Welcome to the Sunday Salon. Click on the logo to join in.

I've reached Book 3 of Murakami's mammoth 1Q84. I've enjoyed it so far and am looking forward to seeing what happens to the main characters in this final book.

There is a subtle difference in Book 3, which has a different translator. I find I'm not hanging on every single word as I did in Books 1 and 2. Did I really skip over the detailed descriptions of Aomame's three dreams? The translation of this book is good, clear, and I'm following it, but the narration is not in the same vein as Books 1 and 2, I think.

Nevertheless, this is an awesome novel, though some might find it quirky - a seamless mixture of a children's fantasy, sci fi, a crime thriller, a love story, a plot that points out some of the serious problems in society, and a wild mixture of other things. You never know where the book will take you. Read it if you can!

See my full review, here.

Nov 4, 2011

Book Review: As the Pig Turns by M.C. Beaton

 Title: As the Pig Turns: An Agatha Raisin Mystery by M.C. Beaton
Publication date: October 11, 2011
Genre: mystery
Source: library

Comments: Another enjoyable cozy with retired PR turned private investigator Agatha Raisin, who runs her own PI office in a picturesque cottage in the Cotswolds. I found the first murder in the book (there are two) rather gruesome for this series, but the likable and quirky personality of Agatha pulls the novel through. We are just as interested in her friendships with longtime pals Roy and Charles, and ex-husband James, as we are in the mystery she is trying to solve. Agatha's monitoring of the love life of her best young PI in her company also makes for interesting reading.

I have gone through all the books in the Agatha Raisin series and am not disappointed in this one.

© Harvee Lau 2011

Sunday Salon: The Last Flight by Julie Clark

 Last thriller read:  The Last Flight  by Julie Clark, June 23, 2020, Sourcebooks Landmark Genre: thriller, mystery Source; library book Two...