Jun 5, 2012

Broken Spirit, a Hawaiian Mystery by Charles L. Fields

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

"Mr. Stone, I think you are serious, but you don't just dial yellow pages or Google a Kahuna. I have heard these wise elders exist, but can't answer your question. " (ch. 8)
Title: Broken Spirit by Charles L. Fields
Paperback; Outskirts Press
Publication: August 19, 2011
Genre: mystery

Publisher's description: TURMOIL IN PARADISE
"Charles Stone, Boston lawyer and sculptor, travels to Hawaii for a much needed vacation after performing two life threatening assignments for Franklin life Insurance Company. What is thought as paradise becomes a tropical hell. Stone confronts a radical movement in Hawaii trying to secede as the 50th state. He finds the cultural melting pot boiling over, threatening tourism and other island businesses and encounters violence and tragedy. 

Lovers of travel, adventure and mystery will experience romance, island hopping, a cruise on the SS Pride of America and be introduced to ancient Hawaiian lore as they follow Charles Stone through the darker passages of Aloha.The reader will meet several characters from the author's previous travel mysteries featuring Charles Stone:Sentimental Me and Canyons of the Soul,and will meet new ones."

Thanks to the author, Charles L. Fields, for a complimentary review copy of this book.

Visit the author's webpage www.outskirtspress.com/brokenspirits

Jun 3, 2012

Bridge of Scarlet Leaves, author interview: Sunday Salon

Interview with Kristina McMorris, author of Bridge of Scarlet Leaves
Paperback; Kensington Books; February 28, 2012
Genre: historical fiction

The idea for this novel began with a true story of two brothers during WWII, one who had fought for Japan and the other for America. While researching the subject, Kristina came across a brief mention of about two hundred non-Japanese spouses who voluntarily lived in an internment camp in the U.S. with their husbands. She was stunned and fascinated by the discovery, and knew it was a story she needed to tell.

Brief bio: As the daughter of a Japanese immigrant father and Caucasian American mother, Kristina McMorris grew up living between these two cultures. Kristina has received nearly twenty national literary awards. Her debut novel, Letters from Home, was based on her grandparents' wartime courtship. Her second novel, Bridge of Scarlet Leaves has received glowing reviews. She lives with her family in the Pacific Northwest. 

 Could you tell us about the in-depth research you did in order to write the book?

"When it comes to research, although I love having actually learned the information, highlighting details in textbooks sounds as appealing to me as a root canal. What I do enjoy is hands-on experience. So naturally, I was delighted when the Park Ranger at the Manzanar Relocation Center—after suffering through my endless list of internment questions—invited me to attend their annual pilgrimage. (Come to think if it, maybe that was his way of finally shutting me up!) Similarly, when I contacted the Go For Broke Foundation, an organization devoted to educating people about Japanese American military service, they offered to arrange in-person interviews with seven WWII veterans who have since all received the Congressional Gold Medal. I've definitely been spoiled with the amazing opportunities I've been given. As for my Air Corps research, it's hard to beat the thrill of flying on a restored B-17 bomber. For that one, I have my husband to thank. It was by far the best Mother's Day gift I could imagine! Your first two novels, Letters from Home and Bridge of Scarlet Leaves, are both set during World War II.

What originally sparked your interest in the era? 

"To be honest, up until a handful of years ago, I wasn't much of a reader, let alone a creative writer. But I was high on pregnancy hormones—if I could create life, a book didn't seem that hard—and I'd found inspiration in a collection of courtship letters my late grandfather had sent to my grandma during WWII. She had actually shared the pages with me when I was interviewing her for the biographical section of a cookbook I was editing, full of recipes she'd created and collected over decades, as a Christmas gift for the family. That's when she revealed the surprising fact that she and my grandfather had dated only twice during the war before they got married, and that their relationship had developed almost entirely through an exchange of letters. When I left her house that day I started to wonder how well two people can truly know each other through correspondence alone. The thought sparked an idea for a book, in which a soldier falls in love through a yearlong letter exchange, unaware the girl he's writing to isn't the one writing back. That very premise laid the foundation for what became my debut novel, Letters from Home.

What true story specifically inspired you to write Bridge of Scarlet Leaves? 

 "Years ago, an old family friend happened to share with me that he had fought for America while his brother served for Japan. I was captivated by the idea. But it wasn't until a decade later, when I'd found my calling as a writer, that I recalled his story and realized what an intriguing premise it would make for a novel. Combined with my undying love for the U.S. miniseries "North and the South" (perhaps more for Patrick Swayze in uniform than anything else), I set out to write my book. But in the midst of research, I stumbled across an obscure mention of roughly two hundred non-Japanese spouses who'd chosen to live in the U.S. internment camps voluntarily. This unique perspective was one I could relate to, being half Japanese myself and therefore raised between the two worlds. I called my agent that day and said, "This is it. I have my story!"

"Are you working on another book? 

 "I am! My current work-in-progress is titled Through Memory's Gate, and is the first of two women's fiction novels on my latest contract. In the meantime, my novella, The Christmas Collector, is due out in late October from Kensington Books in a holiday anthology headlined by New York Times bestselling author Fern Michaels—which I'm very excited about. "They're welcome to email me directly at Kristina@kristinamcmorris.com. I love visiting with book clubs in person, on the phone, or through Skype. And of course, for more info, including special reading group features, recipes, and excerpts from my grandfather's letters, be sure to check out my website at www.KristinaMcMorris.com

Publisher's description of Bridge of Scarlet Leaves  by Kristina McMorris:
Los Angeles, 1941 .Violinist Maddie Kern elopes with her Japanese American boyfriend Lane —the night before Pearl Harbor is bombed. When Lane is interned at a relocation camp, she remains with him as he risks everything to prove his allegiance to America, at tremendous cost.  Skillfully capturing one of the most controversial episodes in recent American history, Kristina McMorris delivers an authentic, moving testament to love, forgiveness, and the enduring music of the human spirit.

For more, visit http://www.kristinamcmorris.com/
Thanks to Dan Frazier of Rare Bird Lit for arranging this interview for the book's blog tour.

May 30, 2012

Book Review: Ninepins by Rosy Thornton

Title: Ninepins by Rosy Thornton

Sandstone Press Ltd (2012), Paperback, 320 pages
Genre: fiction
Source: review copy from the author
Rating: 4.5/5

About the book: Laura Blackwood is a divorced mother of a preteen, 12-year-old Beth, both living in a house outside of Cambridge, England where Laura is a university researcher.  Though Beth is asthmatic, they live in the fens - low marshland that has been drained but which sits on surface water, is almost always soggy, and easily flooded. Laura is called on by a social welfare worker to take in a roomer, 17-year-old Willow, who is a ward of the state, so to speak, with specific problems of her own.

How Laura copes with two somewhat unpredictable young people, one physically and the other emotionally, in a physical environment that is also unpredictable, is the main theme of the novel, as I see it.

 My comments: The book is set in the fens in Eastern England, an area that's not familiar to me, so the setting of the book, in a house above a dike or ditch with deep water, and on wetland reclaimed from marsh, is part of the intrigue of the book. There is danger all around for Laura, and I became invested in the outcome of her story. Her daughter is asthmatic, which means the wet fens is not an ideal place for them to live. The house is also on the outskirts of Cambridge, relatively isolated. Her daughter Beth has to be driven to or from school or has to take the bus and return home after dark in winter, walking a good way alone from the bus stop to the house.

On top of that, their new boarder or roomer, Willow, is an unknown teenager who had to be taken from her mother and placed in foster care while she was growing up. Now seventeen, Willow rents from Laura a former pump house which has been made into a separate and independent apartment below the house. There is heavy rain, flooding during the course of the novel. Willow's former life comes back to haunt her, or haunt Laura, the adult in the home.

So many things happen, including tensions between Laura and her ex-husband, Beth's father, who has a second wife and three young sons. Beth also demands more independence from her parents as she heads towards her teenage years.

 I began to really care about Laura and how she would handle and cope with the different situations that crop up, some of them pretty dangerous. I soon began to worry about Beth and Willow as well and thank heaven for the help of Willow's social worker, Vince.

 The mark of good writing - the reader begins to really care about the characters, as if they were real and as if they know them personally. With good descriptions of place, people, personalities, and social situations, I found the book very engaging and almost didn't want it to end. That's maybe why I thought the book ended a little abruptly, and felt readers needed more time to see how the four people would adapt to the outcome. Otherwise, an excellent book that I highly recommend.

May 29, 2012

Guest post by Shannon Young, author of The Olympics Beat

A guest post by Shannon Young
 Olympic-size Optimism

 The Olympic Games are about so much more than sports. In ancient times, the Olympics were a chance for the Greek city-states to work out their aggressions and politics in a relatively friendly environment. The athletes, spectators, and VIPs would descend on Olympia for merry-making and diplomacy, even in the midst of war.

 These days, the Olympic cities get just as much attention as the sports. Beijing 2008 was all about making an impression. China, the closed, mysterious country that had been experiencing rapid economic growth, was finally ready to welcome the world. The coordination in Beijing was impeccable. From the performances to the infrastructure to the facilities, every aspect of the spectacle demonstrated a total commitment to making this the most impressive Olympics in history. But I went to China expecting to be impressed by the organization.

The thing I didn’t expect was the people. The Chinese people we met were almost frenzied in their enthusiasm for the Games. Everyone oozed pride at the chance to show off their country. From an average spectator’s perspective, the crowds were the real heroes of the Games. We watched their exuberant support spur their athletes to win dozens of gold medals. We encountered vigorous greetings from the volunteers, salespeople, and ordinary folks on the streets and in the stands. TV coverage of the sports and the drama couldn’t possible convey the energy that we felt every day from the people around us. That’s why I wanted to tell this story.

The story of the Beijing Olympics is about so much more than politics and medals. It’s about passion and discovery and chasing dreams. It’s about the optimistic attitude of one nation that, no matter what has happened in the past, the future is full of potential.

 Shannon Young is an American writer currently living in Hong Kong. She is the author of The Olympics Beat: A Spectator’s Memoir of Beijing. She writes a blog called A Kindle in Hong Kong and tweets @ShannonYoungHK.

Title: The Olympics Beat: A Spectator’s Memoir of Beijing, eBook
File Size: 158 KB
Print Length: 56 pages
Sold by: Amazon Digital Services
Source: author

 The drama, the variety, the spectacle - Shannon can't get enough of it. She is an American student who has always been fascinated by the Olympic Games; her father has a lifelong love affair with China. They team up for the Beijing games and the adventure of a lifetime. Without the filter of a small screen, Shannon and her dad are hypnotized by the passion of a great nation unveiling itself to the world. This mini travel memoir is a picture of a new China and the experiences that would change one American girl's life forever.

You can visit Shannon’s website for original photos from Beijing illustrating each chapter of this story.

May 28, 2012

Book Review: The Storytelling Animal by Jonathan Gottschall

Title:The Storytelling Animal: How Stories Make Us Human
Author: Jonathan Gottschall
Hardcover; published April 10, 2012; Houghton Miffin Harcourt

"Humans evolved to crave story. This craving has, on the whole, been a good thing for us. Stories give us pleasure and instruction. They simulate worlds so we can live better in this one. They help bind us into communities and define us as cultures. Stories have been a great boon to our species.
But are they becoming a weakness?" (ch. 9 The Future of Story)
Whether or not you believe that fiction and storytelling make us better able to live our lives, this book on why we make up or listen to stories is thought-provoking. I grew up listening to African-Jamaican folk tales that people passed down or made up/added to as time passed. The spider Anancy was one of the crafty characters of these stories; he was the clever trickster that made himself a winner in every situation, in spite of his size. I loved stories and listened to them every chance I got. Now I read novels.

The author tells us that we make up and listen to stories whether we are fiction readers or writers or not. Our daydreams, our dreams, the video games we play, the movies we watch, even memoirs, spin stories through our heads and we can't escape them. The danger is overload with "junk stories."
"The real threat isn't that story will fade out of human life in the future; it's that story will take over completely." (ch. 9)
The book urges us to read fiction, watch it, revel in its power, daydream, urge your children to read, but beware of going over the top.
"(B)e skeptical of conspiracy stories, your own blog posts, and self-exculpatory accounts of spats with spouses and coworkers." (ch. 9)
One of the chapters is titled, "Ink People Change the World." Do you agree?

The book has about 28 pages of supportive notes and bibliography, lest you doubt what the author/researcher has to say. There are also 15 pages of index, in fine print. In other words, the book is well researched and footnoted. Whether you agree with all he says about the power of story is the challenge. All writers of fiction will love this book.

The author's website is http://jonathangottschall.com/

Visit TLC's The Storytelling Animal book tour
for more reviews of this book.
Thanks to TLC and the author for a complimentary review copy.

May 26, 2012

The Rock Star in Seat 3A by Jill Kargman: Opening Sentences

Opening sentences in a book often give the flavor of the writing and help readers decide about the book. Here are the beginning sentences for The Rock Star in Seat 3A by Jill Kargman
(Published May 22, 2012).

Lucky for me, offices don't come cooler. Badass Games had hatched in a humongous industrial former storage building  near the water in Dumbo, Brooklyn, when its only product was the blockbuster Pimps N' Ho's, Volume 1. A video game junkie since childhood, I was teased mercilessly by my sister Kira for years until she realized I possessed a skill set that made the boys want to hang with us. We always had the latest state-of-the-art consoles, and our house was the go-to hangout place after school for all our friends, who enjoyed procrastinating, scarfing down my famous nachos - a daily trashtastic concoction of chips, cheese, and mushrooms -and the sweet-defeat of being trampled by me in game after game of Nintendo.  HAZEL, YOU ARE THE WINNER! 

Here's what Goodreads has to say about the book: "A lively novel about a down-to-earth New York City girl who suddenly finds herself in a rock 'n' roll Cinderella fantasy. This is a fairy-tale romance with a twist. "

The opening reminds me of my kids growing up with video games and with certain expectations from life!
I received this as a free review book.

May 25, 2012

The Great Animal Orchestra by Bernie Krause

Welcome to The Friday 56 hosted by Freda's Voice
Rules:*Grab a book, any book.
*Turn to page 56.
*Find any sentence (or a few) that grabs you.
*Post it.
*Add your (url) post to the Friday 56 Linky. It's that simple.
Here's a page 56 quote from my current read:The Great Animal Orchestra by Bernie Krause

"Quite literally out of nowhere, a quick succession of chest beats from one of the apes broke the spell of the remaining ethereal ambiance." (ch. 3)
Title: The Great Animal Orchestra: Finding the Origins of Music in the World's Wild Places by Bernie Krause, March 19, 2012

Musician and naturalist, Bernie Krause shares insight into how deeply animals rely on their aural habitat to survive and the damaging effects of extraneous noise on the delicate balance between predator and prey. But natural soundscapes aren't vital only to the animal kingdom; Krause explores how the myriad voices and rhythms of the natural world formed a basis from which our own musical expression emerged. (publisher's description)

Sunday Salon: Always Currently Reading

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