Mar 13, 2013

Book Review: PRAGUE WINTER by Madeleine Albright

"On the evening of November 5, my mother, Kathy, John, and I made our way to Southampton, where we boarded the SS America and crossed the Channel to France, where we spent the night. The next morning, after breakfast, we resumed our journey westward, chasing the sun. Greeted by the Statue of Liberty, we arrived in New York harbor shortly after 10 a.m.; it was, fittingly enough, Armistice Day. Shortly before Christmas, my father joined us, crossing the Atlantic on the Queen Mary." (p. 408)
My comments: Madeleine Albright was a child when the events she describes took place. She includes her memories of her years as the daughter of a Czech diplomat, who eventually sought asylum in the U.S., arriving here in 1948. Much of the book is heavily researched history of Czechoslovakia during WWII, a book she started after finding her mother's essay and her father's papers and unpublished novel about Czechoslovakia.  She also researched to know more about Czechoslovakia, after discovering her family's Jewish roots. I hope to also read someday Albright's memoir as the adult stateswoman, Madame Secretary.

Publisher's description: "Before Madeleine Albright turned twelve, her life was shaken by the Nazi invasion of her native Prague, the Battle of Britain, the near-total destruction of European Jewry, the Allied victory in World War II, the rise of communism, and the onset of the Cold War. Drawing on her memory, her parents’ written reflections, interviews with contemporaries, and newly available documents, Albright recounts a tale that is by turns harrowing and inspiring.

In Prague Winter, Albright reflects on her discovery of her family’s Jewish heritage many decades after the war, on her Czech homeland’s tangled history, and on the stark moral choices faced by her parents and their generation. At once a deeply personal memoir and an incisive work of history, Prague Winter serves as a guide to the future through the lessons of the past—as seen through the eyes of one of the international community’s most respected and fascinating figures."

Title:Prague Winter: A Personal Story of Remembrance and War (1937-1948)
Author: Madeleine Albright
Publisher: Harper Perennial; February 19, 2013

See other reviews at TLC Book Tours, which provided a review copy of the book.

Madeleine Albright served as America’s sixty-fourth secretary of state from 1997 to 2001. Her distinguished career also includes positions on Capitol Hill, on the National Security Council, and as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. She is a resident of Washington, D.C., and Virginia.

Mar 11, 2013

Ring Around the Rosy by Jackie Fullerton

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. 

"Maude Allen sprang from her bed, still full of piss and vinegar at seventy-two. She poured herself a cup of coffee and stepped onto her lanai. The sun peeked over the top of the California fan palms in her backyard. A snowy white egret, indifferent to the threat of alligators, stood statue-like at the edge of the lake. Maude chuckled to herself. In the years she'd lived in Florida, she had never seen an alligator in the lake. The homeowners' association wouldn't allow it."
Publisher's description: "Law student and amateur sleuth Anne Marshall and her attorney fiance Jason Perry leave their Midwestern town for a Florida vacation at the home of Jason’s parents. When they land in Florida, they find that Jason’s father has discovered the murdered body of his wife’s best friend, Maude. The only clue left behind is a note pinned to her that is the second verse of the nursery rhyme, "Ring Around the Rosy."

Unable to pass up the opportunity to investigate a juicy murder, Anne soon discovers that Maude’s brother was killed in a hit-and run accident several months before. The first verse of "Ring Around the Rosy" was pinned to his chest. Anne thinks the perp is a serial killer who will strike again. When Maude’s son, Ron, is brutally attacked and left for dead, Anne knows his work is just beginning. Racing against the clock, Anne soon finds herself in a serial killer’s cross hairs while battling an untimely attraction to homicide detective Don Reynolds. Ring Around the Rosy takes you on an adventure from present to past and back again as Anne and her crime-solving partners shift in to high gear to stop a killer before he strikes again!"

Would you keep reading?

Title: Ring Around the Rosy by Jackie Fullerton
Published: December 14, 2012; Thomas House Publishing
Genre: mystery

Mar 10, 2013

Book Review: The Woman Who Wouldn't Die by Colin Cotterill

The Sunday Welcome to the Sunday Salon!

"What do we do if she comes back again?" Civilai asked.
"Who?" said Siri.
"Madame Peung." (ch. 13)
Madame Peung is the woman who wouldn't die.

Even though the villagers saw her after she was shot and watched her body cremated on a pyre, there she was again, walking around as if nothing had happened. Never mind that she now has a slight Vietnamese accent that she hadn't before. The village was convinced she was a witch returned from the dead.

Dr. Siri Paiboun, the Lao national coroner who lives in the small village, believes in the spirit world and convinces the newly risen Madame Peung to teach him to talk with spirits from the other world. Siri's wife, Daeng, is more skeptical. She has more to worry about with the return of a crazed Frenchman from her past intent on killing Daeng.  Siri is hard pressed to protect his wife with the help of the local police.

Siri and Daeng were upriver when the Frenchman first showed up to terrorize their village. Siri had been sent to oversee the Lao navy trying to recover the body of a general sunk on a boat at the bottom of the Mekong River. This recovery plan was put together by the general's brother, who enlists the help of the spirit medium Madame Peung. But there is something more sinister behind this excavation than what it seems. Siri has both this and the problem of the Frenchman to take care of.

My thoughts: A book with unusual but striking characters in an unusual series, featuring the Lao coroner Siri Paiboun, who is both a medical man and a sleuth. The combination of Lao beliefs and culture, and the history of the resistance against the French and Russian presence in the country are blended into the novel. This is the ninth in the series featuring the charismatic Siri and his wife Daeng. I've read two of the other novels but am eager to read all the rest!

Title: The Woman Who Wouldn't Die: A Dr. Siri Mystery Set in Laos
Author: Colin Cotterill
Published February 19, 2013; Soho Crime
Source: review book from publisher
Objective rating: 5/5

Submitted to Cym Lowell's Book Review Link-up

Mar 7, 2013

Temple of a Thousand Faces by John Shors

 Title: Temple of a Thousand Faces: A Novel by John Shors
Published February 5, 2013; NAL Trade paperback
Genre: historical fiction

"Though he had already plundered Angkor of some of its riches, he wasn't certain what to do with this statue. He admired it greatly, and now that he was the ruler of Angkor, he was in no rush to destroy its beauty." (p. 56)
From the Goodreads description: "The novel brings to life the legendary temple of Angkor Wat, ( in a land that is now Cambodia), with its ornately carved towers and stone statues.

Nearly a thousand years ago, Prince Jayavar of the Khmer people narrowly escapes death at the hands of the conquering Cham king Indravarman. He and his mystical wife Ajadevi set up a secret camp in the jungle to reclaim their kingdom while Indravarman rules with an iron fist, squashing any rebellion.

Moving from a poor fisherman's family whose sons find the courage to take up arms against their oppressors, to a beautiful bride who becomes a prize of war, to an ambitious warrior whose allegiance is torn--Temple of a Thousand Faces is a saga of love, betrayal, and survival at any cost."

Friday 56 Rules:
*Grab a book, any book.
*Turn to page 56 or 56% in your eReader 

Mar 4, 2013

First Chapter: Have Mother, Will Travel by Claire and Mia Fontaine

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. 

I was on my way home from work when I got the call. The one that would make me quit my job, sublet my apartment, and take off for the great unknown alongside my mother. The call that led to the book you are now reading, an around-the-world adventure that's intended to entertain, educate, and, above all, explore the changing dynamic between mother and adult daughter.
This is the first chapter in the book, the second travel memoir of this mother and daughter traveling and writing team. Would you keep reading?
Goodreads description, to help you along:>Have Mother, Will Travel captures the changing relationship between a mother and her adult daughter.

TitleHave Mother, Will Travel: A Mother and Daughter Discover Themselves, Each Other, and the World by Claire Fontaine and Mia Fontaine
Published July 17, 2012; William Morrow
Source: publisher

The Pope's Last Crusade by Peter Eisner: Book Teaser

Teaser Tuesdays is hosted by MizB; choose sentences from your current read and identify author and title for readers.

"We will issue an encyclical on these matters, one which you must prepare," Pius told LaFarge.
LaFarge was to write an encyclical that would use the same reasoning he employed when discussing racism in the United States. He needed to convey that Hitler's increasing assault on the Jews was based on a myth." (ch. 4)
Publisher's description: 
"In 1938, Pope Pius XI was the world's most prominent critic of Hitler and his rhetoric of ethnic "purity/" To make his voice heard, Pius called upon relatively unknown American Jesuit whose writing about racism in America had caught the Popes attention. Pius enlisted John LaFarge to write a papal encyclical - the Vatican's strongest decree - publicly condemning Hitler, Mussolini, and their murderous Nazi campaign against the Jews."

Goodreads description: "Drawing on untapped resources, exclusive interviews, and new archival research, The Pope’s Last Crusade by Peter Eisner is a thrilling narrative that sheds new light on Pope Pius XI’s valiant effort to condemn Nazism and the policies of the Third Reich—a crusade that might have changed the course of World War II.

A shocking tale of intrigue and suspense, illustrated with sixteen pages of archival photos, The Pope’s Last Crusade: How an American Jesuit Helped Pope Pius XI's Campaign to Stop Hitler illuminates this religious leader’s daring yet little-known campaign, a spiritual and political battle that would be derailed by Pius XI's death just a few months later. Eisner offers a new interpretation of this historic event and the powerful figures at its center in an essential work that provides thoughtful insight and raises controversial questions impacting our own time."

TitleThe Pope's Last Crusade: How an American Jesuit Helped Pope Pius XI's Campaign to Stop Hitler
Published February 26, 2013; William Morrow
Genre: historical, non-fiction
Source: publisher

Mar 1, 2013

The True Secret of Writing by Natalie Goldberg

Friday 56 Rules:
*Grab a book, any book.
*Turn to page 56 or 56% in your eReader  *Find any sentence, (or few, just don't spoil it) that grabs you.
*Post it.
*Add your (url) post in Linky at Freda's Voice. Add the post url, not your blog url. It's that simple. 

Setting Up
In Part Two I want to give you the nitty-gritty of a formal True Secret Retreat. All my practice with Katagiri Roshi in the zendo had to do with attention to detail, the physicality of actually doing one thing after another, taking it in with the body: bow, sit, stand, clean cushion, walk, chant, eat soup in the first bowl, salad with the chopsticks in the middle bowl, a pickle in the third bowl. Clean bowls with hot water, drink the water (nothing goes to waste), wrap bowls in napkin and put away. (p. 57)
Publisher's description: Sit. Walk. Write. These are the barest bones of Natalie Goldberg’s revolutionary writing and life practice, which she presents here in book form for the first time. A whole new slant on writing that she developed since the publication of her classic, Writing Down the Bones.... The capstone to forty years of teaching, The True Secret of Writing will inspire you to pick up the pen, get writing, and keep going.

The True Secret of Writing by Natalie Goldberg
Release date: March 19, 2013; Atria Book
Source: publisher

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...