Jan 9, 2012

Book Review: Folly Beach by Dorothea Benton Frank

"... here's the guy who allegedly put Charleston on the map again with Porgy and Bess."

What do you mean allegedly?"

"DuBose published the book Porgy in 1925, not the play."

"Then who did, The Gershwins?"

"Nope, the play Porgy appeared on Broadway in 1927. Gershwin's play didn't run until 1934...." (ch. 14)


Title: Folly Beach: A Low Country Tale by Dorothea Benton Frank
Paperback: 384 pages
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks; Reprint edition (December 27, 2011)
Genre: Southern fiction
Objective rating: 3/5

My comments: Cate Cooper lost her husband to suicide, and finding that she had also lost her home due to her husband's enormous debts, she returns to Folly Beach, South Carolina, the place where she grew up. There she rekindles her love for her old home state, finds new love with John Risley, and finds a hobby delving into local history through the South Carolina Historical Society. Cate's personal story is the background for the more interesting part of the novel.

She researches the history of local writers Dorothy and DuBose Heyward, who wrote the original book, Porgy and then the play in the 1920s. The Heywards collaborated in the 1930s with George Gerswhin, the composer, and produced the famous musical play/opera, Porgy and Bess. Cate also discovers that the talented and more educated Dorothy allowed her husband DuBose to take most of the credit for the book and play, staying in the background while he shone in the limelight as a writer. But through it all, the novel shows the Heywards as a happily married couple and part of the Charleston aristocracy.

Though the author's approach to the story was too nostalgic for someone like me, who has visited Charleston and South Carolina only once, Gerswhin fans and those who like southern fiction will enjoy the setting and the history of some famous people of the state.

Product description: "Folly Beach is considered one of South Carolina's most historic and romantic spots, the land of Cate Cooper's childhood. Cate never thought she'd wind up in this tiny cottage on this lovely strip of coast. But circumstances have changed, thanks to her newly dead husband who has left Cate homeless, broke, and unmoored....

For Cate, Folly holds unexpected fulfillment when she is forced to look again at her life and the zany characters that are her family. She finds that you can go home again. "



List of all TLC reviews: Folly Beach tour stops
A review copy of this book was provided through TLC Book Tours.

© Harvee Lau of Book Dilettante. Please do not reprint without permission

Jan 7, 2012

Mystery and Suspense Reading Challenge 2012- I've Joined



I will keep track of my mystery reviews this year by once again joining the Mystery and Suspense Reading Challenge hosted by Book Chick City. Head on over to sign up! Read 12 or 24 books to complete the challenge.

Here are my books so far. Click on the titles to see the reviews.

1. I Am Half-Sick of Shadows by Alan Bradley
2. The Dark Rose by Erin Kelly
3. Oath of Office by Michael Palmer
4. The Barbary Dogs: A Mystery by Cynthia Robinson
5. The Face Thief by Eli Gottlieb
6. The Look of Love by Mary Jane Clark
7.  Raylan: A Novel by Elmore Leonard
8. Paydirt by Paul Levine
9. Pineapple Grenade by Tim Dorsey
10. No Mark Upon Her by Deborah Crombie
11. Double Booked for Death by Ali Brandon
12. Helpless by Daniel Palmer
13. Fashion Faux Paw by Judi McCoy
14. The Hope Vendetta by Scott Mariani
15. To Catch a Leaf: A Flower Shop Mystery by Kate Collins
16. The Probability of Murder by Ada Madison
17. The Expats: A Novel by Chris Pavone
18. Shore Excursion by Marie Moore
19. The Big Kitty by Claire Donally
20. From the Ashes by Jeremy Burns
21. The Girl Next Door by Brad Parks
23. Murder Buys a T-Shirt by Christy Fifield
24. The Scarlet Pepper by Dorothy St. James
25. Due or Die by Jenn McKinlay
26. Death of a Kingfisher by M.C. Beaton (read but not reviewed)
27. A Spirited Gift by Joyce and Jim Lavene (read but not reviewed)
28.  Home for a Spell by Madelyn Alt (read but not reviewed)
29. Cat in a Vegas Gold Vendetta by Carol Nelson Douglas
30. An Unmarked Grave by Charles Todd
31. The Fear Artist by Timothy Hallinan
32. Tahoe Trap by Todd Berg
33. Broken Harbor by Tana French
34. The Playdate by Louise Millar
35. And When She Was Good by Laura Lippman
36. A Sinister Sense by Allison Kingsley
37. A Fistful of Collars by Spencer Quinn
38. The Book Thief by Fuminori Nakamura
40. Elegy for Eddie by Jacqueline Winspear
41. Allergic to Death by Peg Cochran
42. Rally 'Round the Corpse by Hy Conrad
43. Cat Bearing Gifts by Shirley Rousseau Murphy



Jan 6, 2012

Book Review: I Am Half-Sick of Shadows by Alan Bradley

I Am Half-Sick of Shadows
About the plot: Amateur sleuth and budding chemist, Flavia de Luce, age 11, makes friends with famous actress Phyllis Wyvern, who arrives with cast and crew at Flavia's historic mansion home in the middle of winter to do scenes for a new film. The de Luce family are in financial straits and have "rented" out part of their huge ancestral home to the film company over the Christmas holidays.

Besides fending off the gibes and malicious teasing of her teenage sisters, Flavia watches the goings on of the film crew and actors staying in the mansion, and later on, does her own investigation of a murder that takes place in the house, during a blizzard that traps everyone indoors for days. Her one reliable friend is her father's old army friend, all-purpose handyman and helper, Dogger.


"No need to explain. Older sisters are much alike the world over: half a cup of love and half one of contempt."
I couldn't have put it better myself.
"My sister's the same," she said. "Six years older?"
I nodded.
"Mine, too. I see we have a great deal more in common than a taste for horrific murder, Flavia de Luce." (ch. 3)

Comments: Flavia is always a delightful if very young but astute protagonist in this mystery series. This is the 4th book and Flavia seems to have grown up quite a bit, doing investigations and research and making observations that are quite advanced for her age. At other times she is very much a child, however, and still is not sure if Santa Claus exists or not. Her experiment to "trap" Santa as he climbs down the chimney on Christmas Eve ties in nicely with the mystery plot and provides a setting for good suspense in the investigation.

You will like this recent Flavia de Luce mystery if you suspend disbelief for a while and enjoy the antics and crime solving skills of a precocious 11-year-old.

Title: I Am Half-Sick of Shadows: A Flavia de Luce Novel by Alan  Bradley
Publisher: Delacorte Press, hardcover
Publication: November 1, 2011
Genre: mystery; Source: library
Rating: 4/5


© Harvee Lau of Book Dilettante. Please do not reprint without permission

Jan 4, 2012

Book Review : Poser, my life in twenty-three yoga poses by Claire Dederer

"You girls, you take everything so seriously," said my mother. "You make it so hard on yourselves. When our children were little, we weren't so worried about everything. We liked to have a good time." (ch. 4)

Book description: Ten years ago, Claire Dederer put her back out while breastfeeding her baby daughter. Told to try yoga by everyone from the woman behind the counter at the co-op to the homeless guy on the corner, she signed up for her first class. She fell madly in love.

Over the next decade, she would tackle triangle, wheel, and the dreaded crow, becoming fast friends with some poses and developing long-standing feuds with others. At the same time, she found herself confronting the forces that shaped her generation. Daughters of women who ran away to find themselves and made a few messes along the way, Dederer and her peers grew up determined to be good, good, good—even if this meant feeling hemmed in by the smugness of their organic-buying, attachment-parenting, anxiously conscientious little world. Yoga seemed to fit right into this virtuous program, but to her surprise, Dederer found that the deeper she went into the poses, the more they tested her most basic ideas of what makes a good mother, daughter, friend, wife—and the more they made her want something a little less tidy, a little more improvisational. Less goodness, more joy."
(publisher)

Comments: Claire Dederer says about her memoir Poser, "This book was inspired by my mother and her life." Claire and her brother Dave grew up in a nontraditional family, since her mother left her home and her husband when her two children were young and took them with her to live with Larry, a much younger man. Over the years, the families on both sides came to live with this unusual arrangement. Claire's parents refused to divorce and continued to be "married" while they lived separate lives.

Though Claire admits that growing up with this arrangement did not really damage her or her brother, she concludes that her mother's life may have both liberated her, Claire, from living a conventional life as a young adult, and helped form her as a mother and wife who had to do everything the right way, no matter what. The discovery and the practice of yoga helped to show Claire what lay inside her subconscious, underneath the outward layers where she was being the perfect person and mother.

I loved reading about her journey to self-realization and, as a beginning yoga enthusiast, ate up the detailed descriptions of the 23 different yoga poses that she melded into the story of her life - her life as a child growing up in two different households, as an adventurous and unorthodox young adult, and as an overly-dedicated married woman and mother.

Title: Poser: My Life in Twenty-three Yoga Poses by Claire Dederer
Published: December 21, 2010
Genre: memoir
Source: library
My rating - 4.5/5


© Harvee Lau of Book Dilettante. Please do not reprint without permission

Jan 3, 2012

Book Review: The Thread, A Novel by Victoria Hislop


Title: The Thread: A Novel by Victoria Hislop
Headline Review (2011), Hardcover, 400 pages
Genre: historical fiction
Objective rating: 4.5/5

Book description: Thessaloniki, 1917. As Dimitri Komninos is born, a fire sweeps through the thriving multicultural city, where Christians, Jews and Moslems live side by side. It is the first of many catastrophic events that will change for ever this city, as war, fear and persecution begin to divide its people. Five years later, young Katerina escapes to Greece when her home in Asia Minor is destroyed by the Turkish army. Losing her mother in the chaos, she finds herself on a boat to an unknown destination. From that day the lives of Dimitri and Katerina become entwined, with each other and with the story of the city itself.

Thessaloniki, 2007. A young Anglo-Greek hears the life story of his grandparents for the first time and realises he has a decision to make. For many decades, they have looked after the memories and treasures of people who have been forcibly driven from their beloved city. Should he become their new custodian? Should he stay or should he go? ((publisher)

My comments: I valued this novel both for the excellent story telling and the historical research on the city of Thessaloniki, Greece during fire, war, and earthquake. We follow the life of Katerina, from her forced evacuation from her home in Asia Minor to a chance landing in Thessaloniki, where she and her "adoptive" mother are helped to find a new home, and where Katherina becomes a successful seamstress. The story continues with their lives before and during WWII, their friendship with other families, and the invasion of the city by German troops. Katerina becomes closer to her childhood friend Dimitri, whose life is only saved during the war when he joins the resistance and fights in the mountains away from Thessaloniki. Their stories are deeply entwined with the story of the city and of Greece during and after this period.

This book was printed in hardcover and as an ebook on October 27, 2011 by the Headline Publishing Company in London. It will be available in paperback in July 2012.

A complimentary copy of this book was sent to me for possible review.
© Harvee Lau of Book Dilettante. Please do not reprint without permission.

Jan 2, 2012

100 + Books in a Year - I Joined!


Head over to Book Chick City to join this challenge. I found I read more than 100 books in 2012, when I tallied them up, so I'm taking this challenge this year. I'll be listing them on this post to help me keep track!

Non-fiction
1. 52 Small Changes: One Year to a Happier, Healthier You by Brett Blumenthal, self-help
2. The Poser: my life in twenty-three yoga poses by Claire Dederer, memoir
3. Finding My Balance: A Memoir by Mariel Hemingway
4. Breakthrough: the 5 Living Principles to Defeat Stress, Look Great, & Find Total Well-Being by Shea Vaughn
5. Living Fully by Shyalpa Tenzin Rinpoche, Buddhism and philosophy
6. We're With Nobody: Two Insiders Reveal the Dark Side of American Politics by Alan Huffman and Michael Rejebian
7. Everyday Meditation: 100 Daily Meditations by Tobin Blake
8. A Place of Yes by Bethenny Frankel, self-help
9. The Sexy Vegan Cookbook by Brian L. Patton
10. Cruising Attitude by Heather Poole, memoir
11. Conscious Calm by Laura Maciuika, self-help
12. Quiet: The Power of Introverts by Susan Cain
13. The Practicing Mind by Thomas M. Sterner
14. Pilgrimage to the End of the World by Conrad Rudolph, travel memoir
15. Lucky Child by Loung Ung, memoir
16. In My Father's Country by Saima Wahab, memoir
17. Lulu in the Sky by Loung Ung, memoir
18. The Storytelling Animal by Jonathan Gottschalk
19. Listening to Africa: Poems by Diana M. Raab
20. Charlie: A Love Story by Barbara Lampert
21. The Man in the Empty Boat by Mark Salzberg
22. Misadventures of a Garden State Yogi by Brian Leaf
23. Street Freak by Jared Dillian
24. Following Atticus by Tom Ryan
25. The Storytelling Animal by Jonathan Gottschall
26. The Great Animal Orchestra by Bernie Krause

Fiction
1. The Thread by Victoria Hislop, historical fiction
2. Folly Beach:  a Low Country Tale by Dorothea Benton Frank
3. My Evangeline by Heidi Radford Legg, literary fiction
4. The Moment: A Novel by Douglas Kennedy, historical fiction, romance
5. Once Upon a Time, There Was You by Elizabeth Berg, women's fiction
6. Bond Girl: A Novel by Erin Duffy, contemporary fiction
7. Walter's Muse: A Novel by Jean Davies Okimoto
8. Other Waters by Eleni N. Gage
9. Gossip by Beth Gutcheon
10. I've Got Your Number by Sophie Kinsella
11. Sonoma Rose by Jennifer Chiaverini
12. Daughters by Elizabeth Buchan
13. The Shoemaker's Wife: A Novel by Adriani Trigiani
14. More Like Her by Liza Palmer
15. Faith Bass Darling's Last Garage Sale by Lynda Rutledge (read but not reviewed)
16. Ninepins by Rosy Thornton
17. The Concubine Saga by Lloyd Lofthouse
18. The Dog That Talked to God by Jim Kraus
19. The White Pearl: A Novel by Kate Furnivall
20. Skeleton Women by Mingmei Yip
21. The Thing About Thugs by Tabish Khair
22. Timeless Desire by Gwyn Cready
23. Skios by Michael Frayn
24. Gone by Cathi Hanauer
25. The Headmaster's Wager by Vincent Lam
26. Flesh by Khanh Ha
27. The Song Remains the Same by Allison Winn Scotch
28. Across the Mekong River by Elaine Russell
29. Keepsake by Kristina Riggle
30. The Orphan Master's Son by Adam Johnson
31. A Cupboard Full of Coats by Yvvete Edwards
32. Gold by Chris Cleave
33. What the Zhang Boys Know by Clifford Garstang
34. Things Your Dog Doesn't Want You to Know by Hy Conrad and Jeff Johnson
35. The King's Damsel by Kate Emerson
36. The Lincoln Conspiracy by Timothy L. O'Brien
37. The Bracelet by Roberta Gately
38. The Far Side of the Sky by Daniel Kalla
39. The Summer Before the Storm by Gabriele Wills
40. The Lost Art of Mixing by Erica Bauermeister
41. The Round House by Louise Erdrich
42. State of Wonder by Ann Patchett
43. The King's Damsel by Kate Emerson
44. How to Eat a Cupcake by Meg Donohue
45. The Nightingale Girls by Donna Douglas
46. The Pleasure Palace by Kate Emerson
47. The Roots of the Olive Tree by Courtney Miller Santo
48. The Language of Sisters by Amy Hatvany
49. The Playgroup by Janey Fraser
50. APatchwork Marriage by Jane Green








Mystery/Thriller
1. I Am Half-Sick of Shadows, a Flavia de Luce Novel by Alan Bradley
2. The Dark Rose by Erin Kelly
3. Oath of Office by Michael Palmer
4. The Barbary Dogs: A Mystery by Cynthia Robinson
5.The Face Thief by Eli Gottlieb
6. The Look of Love by Mary Jane Clark
7. Raylan: A Novel by Elmore Leonard
8. Paydirt by Paul Levine
9. Pineapple Grenade by Tim Dorsey
10. No Mark Upon Her by Deborah Crombie
11. Double Booked for Death by Ali Brandon
12. Helpless by Daniel Palmer
13. Fashion Faux Paw by Judi McCoy
14. The Hope Vendetta by Scott Mariani
15. To Catch a Leaf: A Flower Shop Mystery by Kate Collins
16. The Probability of Murder by Ada Madison
17. The Expats: A Novel by Chris Pavone
18. Shore Excursion by Marie Moore
19. Lucifer's Tears by Jim Thompson
20. The Big Kitty by Claire Donally
21. From the Ashes by Jeremy Burns
22.  The Girl Next Door by Brad Parks
23. Murder Buys a T-Shirt by Christy Fifield
24. The Scarlet Pepper by Dorothy St. James
25. Due or Die by Jenn McKinlay
26. Death of a Kingfisher by M.C. Beaton (read but not reviewed)
27. A Spirited Gift by Joyce and Jim Lavene (read but not reviewed)
28.  Home for a Spell by Madelyn Alt (read but not reviewed)
29. Cat in a Vegas Gold Vendetta by Carol Nelson Douglas
30. An Unmarked Grave by Charles Todd
31. The Fear Artist by Timothy Hallinan
32. Tahoe Trap by Todd Berg
33. Broken Harbor by Tana French
34. The Playdate by Louise Millar
35. And When She Was Good by Laura Lippman
36. A Sinister Sense by Allison Kingsley
37. A Fistful of Collars by Spencer Quinn
38. The Thief by Fuminori Nakamura
39. Elegy for Eddie by Jacqueline Winspear
40. Allergic to Death by Peg Cochran
41. Rally 'Round the Corpse by Hy Conrad
42. Cat Bearing Gifts by Shirley Rousseau Murphy
43. Princess Elizabeth's Spy by Susan Elia Macneal
44. The Incense Game by Laura Joh Rowland
45. Not My Blood by Barbara Cleverly
46. Desert Wives by Betty Webb
47. Going to the Bad by Nora McFarland
48. Discretion by Allison Leotta
49. The Case of the Deadly Butter Chicken by Tarquin Hall
50. In a Witch's Wardrobe by Juliet Blackwell
51. An Unexpected Guest by Ann Korkeakivi
52. One Red Bastard by Ed Lin
53. Livin' Lahaina Loca by JoAnn Bassett









Jan 1, 2012

New Year's Resolutions: 52 Small Changes by Brett Blumenthal, review


Title: 52 Small Changes: One Year to a Happier, Healthier You by Brett Blumenthal
AmazonEncore; January 3, 2012
My objective rating: 4/5

There are 52 tips in this self-help health manual for making small but significant changes in your way of life, one change per week for the next year. There is not a whole lot of extreme suggestions; most of them we already know as good for health and well being. But there is something about having these food, exercise, green living, mental well being and attitude changes laid out for you in chapters, with details, some scientific information,  and a lot of encouragement.

The manual even has a weekly change checklist and activity logs to track your progress, plus nine pages of references for more information. The tips start out with simple changes and then graduate to more challenging ones.

Week 1 urges you to Drink Up, which means increasing your water intake.
Week 2 wants you to Get Your Zzzs, and sleep 7-8 hours each night.
Week 3 tells you to Stay Off the Couch, or keep moving and getting routine activity daily.
Week 20 suggests that you Live with Purpose, committing and being open to change.
Week 39 urges you to Control Your Clutter, declutter and organize.

Towards the middle of the manual, you have photos and instructions for stretching exercises. There are also tips on how to clean with natural products and avoid overuse of chemicals in the house. By the end of the manual, you will have detailed information on health benefits or drawbacks to certain foods, including types of fish, some of which contain high levels of mercury.

I'll keep this book for certain tips, especially on which safe products are good for cleaning,  and checking on food values and any foods that are risks for contaminants. I also like the stretching exercise tips.

A complimentary copy of this book was sent to me for possible review.
© Harvee Lau of Book Dilettante. Please do not reprint without permission.

Sunday Salon: New Reads

 Recently finished: Central Park  by Guillaume Musso,  March 16, 2021 by Bay Back Books. Genre: thriller, mystery Source: Netgalley The book...