May 8, 2012

Tuesday Teaser: Roam: A Novel with Music by Alan Lazar

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly meme hosted by MizB; choose sentences at random from your current read. Identify the author and title for readers.

"Nelson slept fitfully. He woke up shivering several times, but even the cool night did not keep him from falling asleep again soon. The events of the day had exhausted the small animal. He had walked and run for hours, and he had been bombarded by a hundred stimuli he had never felt before. (ch. 11)
Title:Roam: A Novel with Music by Alan Lazar
Hardcover, November 1, 2011; Atria Books

Publisher's description:They say you never forget your first love . . .
Born under a sparkling crescent moon, Nelson is a bright-eyed, inquisitive half beagle, half poodle. He lives with Katey and Don, newlyweds whose marriage is straining under the pressures of domesticity, but Katey’s devotion to Nelson buoys the pup even as he worries his home may be falling apart.

But there are few things Nelson likes better than to follow a scent, and one day he follows his nose and gets lost . . . very lost. Though he searches frantically for Katey—and she for him—Nelson can’t seem to find his way home, and he soon realizes that if he’s ever to see his great love again, he must make his way on his own and try to survive in the wild.

Over the course of eight years, the book follows Nelson as he crosses the country searching for his family. For a time he rides shotgun with a truck driver named Thatcher, then he lives in the woods with a pack of wolves. A terrible accident takes his hind leg, but Nelson’s strength and longing to find Katey keep him alive. Escaping death in a shelter, Nelson grows into an old dog with a cynical eye and a world-weary demeanor, but underneath it all, a fearless and courageous spirit. After all, he believes that one day he’ll make it home . . . and maybe, just maybe, he will. . . .

Much more than the story of one dog’s incredible journey, this is a deeply moving story of survival and enduring love, which once again confirms the unbreakable bond between humans and their best friends. In the tradition of The Art of Racing in the Rain and The Story of Edgar Sawtelle, Roam is an unforgettable tale of love lost and found, the trials that test families, and an affirmation that no matter how far or how long you may travel, there’s always a place you can call home.

I received this book as a complimentary review copy.

May 7, 2012

Book Review: In My Father's Country: An Afghan Woman Defies Her Fate

Title: In My Father's Country: An Afghan Woman Defies Her Fate
Author: Saima Wahab
Hardcover, 352 pages; Crown Publishers
Published: April 23, 2012
Rating: 5/5

  • About the book: This is the story of a 15-year-old Afghani girl who migrates to Portland, Oregon in the 1980s with her brothers, in the care of her traditional Pashtun uncles. Saima came from a tribe in Afghanistan with very strict rules regarding family and women's behavior. She rebelled against her uncles as she grew older, and after college at age 23, left their home to strike out on her own.

  • In 2004, she signed up with a defense contractor as an interpreter in Afghanistan, and ever since has worked with the U.S. Armed Forces as the first female Pashtun-English interpreter, and later as a research consultant to the U.S. army in Afghanistan. Her book covers two main areas: her personal life and struggles to integrate into U.S. society as an immigrant, and her fight for her individual freedom as a woman connected by family to a traditional tribal society. The other main area, and the one which takes up most of the book, is her commitment to better understanding and communication between the U.S. forces in Afghanistan and the people of Afghanistan.

  • Saima's father was taken away from the village by the KGB and killed when she was age three. In 1979 she left Afghanistan at age six when the Russians invaded, and since coming to the U.S. at age 15, has returned to Afghanistan many times as an interpreter for the U.S. Armed Forces and in 2007 as research manager of the army's Human Terrain Team. Her job was to help the military tackle the language barrier and lack of knowledge of the region's history and to give crucial cultural recommendations. During her many trips to Afghanistan, she also reconnected with her extended family in her mother's village.

    Comments: I was amazed by Saima's bravery in breaking away from her uncles in Portland and becoming a virtual outcast from her family.  Her unique gift and accomplishment as a fluent Pashtun-English translator made her valuable as an interpreter and cultural advisor. This has given her what she most wanted ever since childhood -  freedom and independence as a woman in both her Afghani and American worlds, and she fights still to improve the lives of restricted Afghani women. 

    The author talks about another important goal for working in Afghanistan. She wanted to find out what it was about the Afghanis that made her father give up his life for them. Another amazing thing about this book was how her writing made everything clear and easy to understand - Saima's personal life and goals, the differences in her ethnic culture and Western culture, the needs of the U.S. Armed Forces in Afghanistan to work successfully with the Afghanis. A compelling book on several levels, I recommend it to those interested in the fight of women in traditional societies for a better life and individual freedom and for those interested in the culture and politics of Aghanistan.

      SAIMA WAHAB is Afghan-born, fled to Pakistan as a refugee, and moved to the United States as a teenager. She is one of the only Pashtun-English female translators in the world and, among other consequent roles, has returned to Afghanistan to work as a cultural adviser with the U.S. Army. A former resident of Portland, OR, Saima now lives in the Washington D.C. area.

    For a list of all the book tour stops sponsored by TLC Book Tours, and other reviews of the book, visit TLC Book Tours: In My Father's Country blog tour.
Thanks to TLC, the author, and the publisher for a complimentary review copy of the book.

May 5, 2012

Saturday Snapshot No. 1

A swan on the river running through Stratford, Ontario, the home of the Stratford Shakespeare Festival in Canada. We attend a play or two at the festival almost every year on our way to or from Toronto. This picture was taken last year.

Visit Alyce at At Home With Books to join in the Saturday Snapshot and post your picture on the linky there.

Book Review: Due or Die (Library Lovers Mystery) by Jenn McKinlay

I love libraries, books, and dogs, so I did like Due or Die, the second in the mystery series featuring library director Lindsey Norris of Briar Creek, Connecticut.

Lindsey has to deal with an envious and cantankerous library assistant while she tries to solve the murder of the husband of the newly elected president of the Friends of the Library. Carrie Rushton's husband has been shot and Carrie is the first suspect. Lindsey wonders if Bill Sint has anything to do with it, as Bill is the outgoing president of the Friends and extremely upset about being replaced by Carrie.

As a nice subplot, a new character is introduced in the series. Heathcliff, a young dog, becomes Lindsey's new best friend and companion after being found abandoned and callously stuffed in the library's book chute. With the help of her admirer Sully and friend Nancy, Lindsey solves the murder even though she risks her life doing it. She is almost run over while biking home on the snowy roads and escapes freezing to death after being locked in an unheated storehouse.

Comments: I liked the book, got through it in record time as it was well written and easy to read. I found it had a lot of padding though, so I was able to skip through it without missing the key ingredients or the subplots in the story. I gave it a 3.5/5 as a good mystery read.

Title: Due or Die by Jenn McKinlay
Mass Market Paperback: 304 pages
Publisher: Berkley; March 6, 2012
I received a complimentary review copy of this book.

May 4, 2012

Feature Memoir: My Cross to Bear by Gregg Allman

Title: My Cross to Bear by Gregg Allman, with Alan Light
Hardcover: 400 pages; William Morrow
Publication: May 1, 2012

Book description: For the first time, rock icon Gregg Allman, one of the founding members of The Allman Brothers Band, tells the story of his career, opening up about his long struggle with substance abuse, the tragic death of his brother and life in one of rock music's most legendary bands.

Capturing the Allman Brothers' ongoing resurgence, the book includes over one hundred photos from throughout the band’s history and offers a glimpse inside one of the most popular and notorious bands in the history of rock music.

Thanks to the publisher for a complimentary review copy of this book.

May 3, 2012

Featured Book: Oscar Wilde and the Vatican Murders by Gyles Brandreth

I peered closely at the ring. "This is where I need Holmes's magnifying glass," I said.

"Or Wilde's eagle eye," my friend countered. "Do you not see a shape in the scratch marks?"

Screwing up my eyes, I saw something. "The outline of a key?" I suggested.
(ch. 2)

Title:Oscar Wilde and the Vatican Murders: A Mystery 
Paperback: 368 pages; Touchstone
Publication date: May 8, 2012

Book description: Oscar Wilde returns in the historical mystery series, featuring Wilde as the detective aided by his friend Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

In 1892 Arthur Conan Doyle, exhausted by his creation Sherlock Holmes, retires to the spa at Bad Homburg. The first person he encounters is Oscar Wilde, and when the two friends make a series of macabre discoveries amongst the fan mail Conan Doyle has brought to answer - a severed finger, a lock of hair and finally an entire severed hand - the game is once more afoot.

The trail leads to Rome, to the very heart of the Vatican. Pope Pius IX has just died. These are uncertain times. To uncover the mystery, Oscar and Conan Doyle must penetrate the innermost circle of the Church - seven men who have a very great deal to lose.

Author Gyles Brandreth is a well known BBC broadcaster, theatre producer, novelist, biographer. He has written books on Britain’s royal family and a diary of his years as a member of Parliament.

Thanks to the publisher for a complimentary review copy of this book.

May 1, 2012

The Little Shadows by Marina Endicott

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly meme hosted by MizB; choose sentences at random from your current read. Identify the author and title for readers.

'You were the opener. You have an ex-quisite voice, my dear.'

Aurora found herself standing, and almost curtsying. Bah! She stood straight. (ch. 2)

Title: The Little Shadows by Marina Endicott
Hardcover: 544 pages
Publisher: Hutchinson (February 1, 2012)

Book description:
"The Little Shadows" tells the story of three sisters making their way in the world of vaudeville before and during the First World War. Setting off to make their fortune as a singing act after the untimely death of their father, the girls, Aurora, Clover and Bella, are overseen by their fond but barely coping Mama. The girls begin with little besides youth and hope but evolve into artists as they navigate their way to adulthood among a cast of extraordinary characters - charming charlatans, unpredictable eccentrics, and some who seem ordinary but have magical gifts. Marina Endicott reveals how the art of vaudeville - In all its variety, madness, melodrama, hilarity and sorrow - echoes the art of life itself. (amazon)

Thanks to the publisher for a complimentary copy of this book for feature/review.

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...