Feb 25, 2013

Book Review: Seven Locks by Christine Wade

"We can never know the future. Our life is like a book, a book that is locked. We have to find the key or we never know what is on the next page. And we don't know the end of the story until each page has been turned and the story has ended." (ch. 1)
A housewife in the 18th century who lives in a Dutch community at the base of the Catskills Mountains runs her farm and household without the help of her husband, a lackadaisical dreamer who abandons her and their son and daughter after a particularly scathing verbal attack from his wife. The children also leave home as young teenagers fed up with their hardworking, demanding mother and craving independence. Alone, the woman copes until the Revolutionary War turns her life upside down, forcing her to turn another key in the book of her life.

The hard life of a woman on a farm in a Dutch farming community along the Hudson River near the Catskills Mountains, the Revolutionary War, and local folklore are all tied up in this engrossing historical novel. Excellent characterization, descriptions, and storytelling.

Title: Seven Locks: A Novel by Christine Wade
Publisher: Atria Books, January 1, 2013
Source: review copy from publisher

Submitted to Book Review Wednesday hosted by Cym Lowell

Feb 24, 2013

Books: A Cold and Lonely Place; and The Stonecutter

A Cold and Lonely Place by Sara J. Henry and The Stonecutter by Camilla Lackberg were two of my three dark mystery reads this past week, fitting reads for a cold though not lonely winter.

A Cold and Lonely Place
A Cold and Lonely Place is set in a small town in the Adirondack Mountains, upper New York State. It is cold in the winter and a lonely place for Tobin, an outsider who has made his home in this out of the way place, know for winter sports and its annual Winter Festival.

A freelance newspaper reporter, Troy Chance, is on scene at Saranac Lake to cover the ice cutting for an ice palace to be built for the Saranac Lake Winter Carnival. Works stops when a body is found in the frozen lake, encased in ice. Everyone recognizes it as Tobin, the popular outsider. Troy works with Tobin's sister Win, who comes into town to find out the whys and hows of Tobin's death. Through her research and interviews for a series of stories for the local paper, Troy takes risks several times to find out more about Tobin's background, the death by drowning of his older brother Trey, and his life before and after he arrives in the Adirondacks. This extensive research helps solve the sad mystery of the young man's death.

I thought this mystery was about the tragic results in a family with "toxic" parents who ignored and actively worked against the best interests of their children. It was easy to like Troy, the young reporter turned sleuth, and I hope to read more about her in the next books in the Troy Chance series.

I won a copy of this book from the author.

The Stonecutter: A Novel
The Stonecutter by Camilla Lackberg is set in the remote fishing village of Fjallbacka, Sweden, a psychological mystery involving a young girl found in the sea, presumably drowned, and whose death is the result of family dynamics that go way back in the past. Re the flashbacks to the past, I couldn't see right away how they tied to the story of the present. Too much of the book had two different story lines that took too long to connect. Otherwise, great plots!

I like to think of an alternate title for the book - The Stonecutter's Daughter, though it's a mystery and not an historical novel!

Publisher's description: The remote resort town of Fjallbacka has seen its share of tragedy, though perhaps none worse than that of the little girl found in a fisherman’s net. But this was no accidental drowning . . .Local detective Patrik Hedstrom has just become a father. It’s his grim task to discover who could be behind the murder of a child both he and his partner Erica knew well. What he does not know is how this case will reach into the dark heart of Fjallbacka, spanning generations, ripping aside its idyllic façade, perhaps forever.

I received a review copy of this book from the publisher.

Last week, I posted a review of another psychological suspense novel, The Burning Air by Erin Kelly, a book about how a mother's obsession adversely influenced her child.

What have you been reading this winter? I am keeping my cozies for spring!

Feb 22, 2013

Book Review: THE BURNING AIR by Erin Kelly

A dark novel of obsession, retribution, and abuse of power, not in the order in which they occur, but the order in which they appear in the book.

Young Darcy Kellaway is denied a scholarship to a prestigious high school which he thinks is the key to a bright future, and blames the well-to-do McBride family for his failure and for the subsequent death of his mother.

Darcy slowly develops into a dark and devious personality, driven by the memory of his mother's despair and death from anorexia. This drives him to do anything to prove the McBrides deliberately denied him the scholarship and ruined his life in favor of their own son. He begins to stalk each member of the household, sneak into their house in their absence to learn their secrets, map their movements and schedules.

Obsessively plotting revenge for over twelve years even after he becomes a successful businessman, Darcy coerces a young woman grieving for a lost child to be part of his master plan. Together, they infiltrate the McBride family and try to unravel the family's close knit group by uncovering secrets of the mother Lydia McBride, whose diaries reveal too much of her pain and the secrets of her past dealings with the young Darcy.

The story becomes a psychological thriller that is fascinating to the last, when all the characters converge in an isolated house in Devon, England for the Guy Fawkes holiday and Bonfire Night, and the drama is played out to a suspenseful end.

This kept me reading and on the edge of my seat, as did the author's previous book, The Dark Rose. Excellent writing, plotting, and characterization. Erin Kelly has my kudos for another engaging dark thriller.

Title: The Burning Air by Erin Kelly
Published: Pamela Dorman Books; February 21, 2013
Genre: psychological thriller, suspense
Source: review copy from the publisher

Feb 20, 2013


Title: The Secret of the Nightingale Palace: A Novel by Dana Sachs
Published: February 19, 2013; William Morrow paperback
Genre: historical fiction, romance

A recent widow Anna, who lives in Memphis, is persuaded by her eighty-year-old grandmother Goldie Rosenthal to drive her cross country to San Francisco in Goldie's Silver Cloud Rolls Royce. When Anna insists on flying instead, her grandmother insists that Anna take the car on the long journey, where Anna is to sell it before flying back to the East Coast. Her grandmother would be boarding a flight from San Francisco to Dubai for another in her long list of international trips.

The reason for the road trip, says Goldie, is to return a book of valuable Japanese woodblock prints to their rightful owner, Mayumi Nakamura, a Japanese girl who gave them to Goldie for safe keeping in the 1940s during the time of the Japanese-American internment, when Goldie was living in San Francisco. Goldie did not seem to have a good reason for not returning the prints after the war, saying she was too poor and distraught at the time to think about it.

The novel covers the long road trip, with Anna driving a cantankerous and disapproving Goldie, who continues to harp at Anna for her marriage to her now deceased husband Ford, a librarian below her in status and unsuitable in every way, according to Goldie. The real reason for the trip becomes clearer at the end of the book when Anna discovers more about Goldie - her true affection for Anna and Goldie's past and history.

My comments: The book is both a revealing historical novel and a heartfelt romance. The historical sections are the flashbacks to Goldie's life in San Francisco in the 1940's as well as her life as a young Jewish immigrant trying to make it in New York City before and after the war. Romance in Goldie's life covers her years in San Francisco, her first heart break and her first marriage, and her second marriage in New York.

Though the book was to me slow in parts - the details of the trip sometimes too long - it was worth getting to the later chapters when Goldie's secrets are revealed and Anna is tempted out of her reclusive widowhood into a new relationship and a chance for a new life.

Recommendations: For those who like American WWII historical domestic fiction and for romance lovers. It will also appeal to those who enjoy reading about intercultural relationships, family, and Japanese art.

For more reviews, visit Book Tour stops by TLC Book Tours. I received an ARC of this book for the tour.

Dana Sachs is the author of the novel If You Lived Here and two books of nonfiction, The House on Dream Street: Memoir of an American Woman in Vietnam and The Life We Were Given: Operation Babylift, International Adoption, and the Children of War in Vietnam. She lives in Wilmington, North Carolina with her family.Visit her website, Facebook, Twitter.

Feb 18, 2013

The First Rule of Ten by Hendricks and Lindsay

Two memes that feature books weekly: Teaser Tuesdays is hosted by MizB; choose sentences from your current read and identify author and title for readers. First Chapter, First Paragraph is hosted by Bibliophile by the Sea. Opening sentences in a book can help readers decide if the book is one they would continue reading. 

The opening paragraphs of The First Rule of Ten begin with a letter from Tenzing Norbu, an ex-monk turned police officer in Los Angeles, to his former religious superiors in India.

Topanga Canyon, Calif. Jan. 12, Year of the Iron Tiger
Lama Yeshe and Lama Lobsang
Dorje Yidam Monastery
Dharamshala, India 
Venerable Brothers,
Last Friday night, I tasted one of life's sweet little experiences.
Saturday, I got shot.
It makes me wonder if I have a low tolerance for things going well in my  world.
Or maybe I just need to be more mindful of what's going on, both outside and in.
Would the beginning sentences in the book entice you to continue reading?

Title: The First Rule of Ten: A Tenzing Norbu Mystery
Authors: Gay Hendricks and Tinker Lindsay
Published: January 1, 2012; Hay House Visions
Genre: mystery

About the book: Growing up in a Tibetan Monastery, Ten dreamed of becoming a modern-day Sherlock Holmes. So when he was sent to Los Angeles to teach meditation, he joined the LAPD instead. But as the Buddha says, change is inevitable; and ten years later, everything is about to change—big-time—for Ten. One resignation from the police force, two bullet-wounds, three suspicious deaths, and a beautiful woman later, he quickly learns that whenever he breaks his first rule, mayhem follows. (publisher)

The first rule of Ten by the way, is: “Don’t ignore intuitive tickles lest they reappear as sledgehammers.” 

Feb 17, 2013

Sunday Salon: The Comfort of Lies: A Novel by Randy Susan Meyers

I found out a lot about open adoption while reading The Comfort of Lies - the inherent pluses as well as the inevitable downsides.  Open adoptions allow open access between a child's adoptive parents and the child's biological parents. The three women involved in the life of the adopted child, Savannah are her biological mother Tia,  her adoptive mother Caroline, and Juliette, the distraught wife of the child's biological father. The three women, in spite of the lies they tell others and themselves, face problems and difficulties of their own making, but come through with flying colors, though only at the very end of the book after much soul searching and hand wringing.

This was a fascinating read. Well drawn, realistic characters and excellent writing.

TitleThe Comfort of Lies by Randy Susan Meyers
Publisher: Atria Books, February 12, 2013
Genre: contemporary fiction
Source: review copy from the publisher

Feb 14, 2013

A Valentine's Gift: New Books

My new reads for Valentine's Day are not romance novels!

There are two nonfiction books: Literary Rogues and a memoir, Once Upon a Gypsy Moon, as well as the historical novel, Seven Locks. A contemporary mystery, A Cold and Lonely Place, is by the award winning writer, Sara J. Henry.

Click on the covers for details about the books. I won A Cold and Lonely Place from the author through a contest by Poe's Deadly Daughters.

What are you reading on Valentine's Day?

Sunday Salon: Japanese Authors and a Mystery

  Klara and the Sun   by Kazuo Ishiguro. Intellect having "heart" Klara and the Sun was easy to read for a literary novel of suc...