Jun 11, 2013

The Diabolist by Layton Green

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.  

Title: The Diabolist (Dominic Grey #3) by Layton Green
Published June 4, 2013; Thomas & Mercer
Genre: thriller, phenomenology
They called themselves the House of Lucifer. Thirty minutes before midnight High Priest Matthias Gregory swung wide the doors to Red Abbey and one by one the members filed inside.
Publisher description: "In this gripping thriller, the bizarre murder of a Satanic priest in San Francisco draws Dominic Grey and Viktor Radek, private investigators of cults, to the scene. Witnesses claim a robed figure, seemingly able to appear and disappear at will, set fire to the priest. When the leader of another Satanic cult in Paris dies under similar circumstances, the case only grows stranger… and more dangerous.

The Diabolist is a chilling novel that mines a trove of fascinating historical, philosophical, and paranormal research to probe some of our closest held beliefs. From the opening pages to the astonishing conclusion, this latest installment in one of today’s most original new thriller series."

This is the third in the series. I especially liked his first novel, The Summoner.  I have also reviewed his The Egyptian

Jun 9, 2013

Sunday Salon: Books for Review

The Sunday Salon.com Welcome to the Sunday Salon!This post lists new books and links up to It's Monday; What Are You Reading? at Book Journey;  to Mailbox Monday hosted by Dolce Bellezza; and to Stacking the Shelves by Tynga's Reviews.

Our cool summer continues, making it feel like an extension of spring. Not that I mind. Everything seems greener in front of my window and I keep that birdbath full for winged bathers!

I read four books last week, a lot for me, and reviewed three:
I Never Promised You a Goodie Bag by Jennifer Gilbert, a memoir
Gaijin Cowgirl by Jame DiBiasio, an adventure thriller
The Original 1982 by Lori Carson, women's fiction.

I finished There Was An Old Woman by Hallie Ephron, a mystery that started out really well but ended as if it was rushed and not well thought through. The ending was a bit puzzling, as only two of the people involved in the crimes were named, while a third simply was not mentioned at all, just fell off the radar, so to speak, when it was clear to me he was very much part of the crime. I reviewed an uncorrected proof, so hopefully the editors caught this unfinished business for the final copy.

A few review books came in the mail: 

The Artist's Way for Parents: Raising Creative Children by Julia Cameron and Emma Lively is to be published August 13, 2013 by Tarcher.  I requested a galley and was lucky to get it. The book is described as " an ongoing spiritual toolkit that parents can ener - and reenter- at any pace and at any point in their children's early lives." It gives tips and exercises for developing creative aspects, such as self-expression, focus, inventiveness, connection, and even safety. 
The Last Summer of the Camperdowns by Elizabeth Kelly was published June 3, 2013 by Liveright and came as an ARC.
Book description: The book introduces Riddle James Camperdown, the twelve-year-old daughter of the idealistic Camp and his manicured, razor-sharp wife, Greer. It's 1972, and Riddle's father is running for office from the family compound in Wellfleet, Massachusetts. Riddle has her hands full juggling her eccentric parents. When she accidentally witnesses a crime close to home, her confusion and fear keep her silent. As the summer unfolds, the consequences of her silence multiply. Another mysterious and powerful family, the Devlins, slowly emerges as the keepers of astonishing secrets that could shatter the Camperdowns. As an old love triangle, bitter war wounds, and the struggle for status spiral out of control, Riddle can only hope for courage to reveal the truth. 

Courting Greta by Ramsey Hootman is to be published June 18, 2013 by Gallery.  Book description: Samuel Cooke knows most women wouldn't give him a second glance even if he were the last man on earth. He's the cripple with the crutches, the nerdy computer genius every female past puberty feels compelled to mother. So when he leaves his lucrative career to teach programming to high schoolers, romance definitely isn't on his radar. 

Perhaps that's why Greta Cassamajor catches him off guard. The sarcastic gym coach with zero sense of humor is no beauty - not even on the inside. But an inexplicably kind act toward Samuel makes him realize she is interesting....

Operation Saladin by Roger Croft is the sequel to The Wayward Spy, and published May 2, 2013 by CreateSpace.
The book involves espionage and suspense with an MI6 operative in the Middle East. 
Restrike by Reba White Williams, a mystery published June 1, 2013 by Delos. I requested a review copy from the author and was surprised by a copy.Thanks!
Book descriptionMoney and murder go hand in glove in the rarified art world of Reba White Williams’ first novel. Cousins Coleman and Dinah Greene moved from North Carolina to New York after college to make their mark on the art world. When billionaire Heyward Bain arrives, announcing plans to fund a fine print museum, Coleman plans to publish an article about him. Dinah hopes to sell him enough prints to save her gallery. At the same time, swindlers, attracted by Bain’s lavish spending, invade the print world to grab some of his money.

When a print dealer dies in peculiar circumstances and after one of Coleman’s editors is killed and Coleman is attacked, Coleman becomes even more determined to discover the truth about Bain. 

Three Lives of Tomomi Ishikawa by Benjamin Constable, published June 4, 2013 by Gallery.
Book description: What writer Benjamin Constable needs is a real-life adventure wilder than his rampant imagination. And who better to shake up his comfortable Englishman-in-Paris routine than the enigmatic Tomomi “Butterfly” Ishikawa, who has just sent a cryptic suicide note? She’s planted a slew of clues—in the pages of her journal, on the hard drive of her computer, tucked away in public places, under flowerpots, and behind statues. Heartbroken, confused, and accompanied by an imaginary cat, Ben embarks upon a scavenger hunt leading to charming and unexpected spaces, from the hidden alleys of Paris to the cobblestone streets of New York City.

But Butterfly’s posthumous messages are surprisingly well informed for the words of a dead person, and they’re full of confessions of a past darkened by insanity, betrayal, and murder. The treasures Ben is unearthing are installments of a gruesome memoir. Now he must draw a clear line between the real and surreal if he is to save himself, Butterfly, and what remains of their crazy and amazing friendship

These all look pretty good to me, as they all have some element of mystery, which I love.

What did you get in your mailbox? 

Jun 8, 2013

Memoir: I Never Promised You a Goodie Bag by Jennifer Gilbert

Title:  I Never Promised You a Goodie Bag: A Memoir of a Life Through Events - the Ones You Plan and the Ones You Don't by Jennifer Gilbert
Published April 30, 2013; Harper Paperbacks

About the book: A young woman survives a brutal attack by a stranger in the apartment building of friends and uses her demanding work as an events planner to cope with the stress she carries with her for years, before coming to terms with her experience.

Comments: I was as appalled as the author was by the reactions of her friends and family to her attack, the abandonment she felt during and after the attack. This is a very personal memoir of those events, when only one friend was able to give her the understanding she needed to cope with the aftermath. Everyone else in her eyes just added to her burden, as she had to cope with their grief and inadequate reactions in addition to dealing with her own feelings, without getting the kind of understanding she needed.

I felt that this book was really aimed at the people Jennifer Gilbert knows, as this is such a personal reaction that readers in general may not get why they are reading this book. Nevertheless, this is an account of a brave but slow recovery after painful and traumatic experiences.  At the very end of the book, Jennifer pulls together all the pain and sorrow in her life to this conclusion:

 "You can't control what may happen to you in this life, but you can control who you want to be after it happens. 
It's a very simple, yet powerful statement. Instead of fearing what will happen for my children in the future, I can just love them for who they are right now. Instead of fighting my body,I can give thanks for it. And instead of worrying about life and what it has in store for me, I can throw my hands up in the air and enjoy the ride.

Publisher description: When Jennifer Gilbert was twenty-two years old, someone tried to cut her life short in the most violent way. Not wanting this traumatic encounter to define her life, she buried it within and bravely launched a fabulous career in New York as an event planner. Always the calm in the storm—from fixing a ripped dress to relocating a lavish party on two days' notice—she was convinced she'd never again feel joy herself. Yet these weddings, anniversaries, and holiday parties slowly brought her back to life. No one's entitled to an easy road, Gilbert learned, but instead of anticipating our present in a goodie bag, it's our presence that is the real gift. 

I received a complimentary review copy of this book. 

Jun 5, 2013

Book Review: Gaijin Cowgirl by Jame DiBiasio

Gaijin Cowgirl

Title: Gaijin Cowgirl by Jame DiBiasio
Published March 8, 2013; Crime Wave Press
Genre: adventure, mystery, international crime fiction

My comments: I enjoyed the daredevil actions of this "cowgirl" working in Tokyo as a bar hostess. Though the daughter of a U.S. Congressman, Val Benson is avoiding her father from whom she is estranged and has fled to Tokyo, where she meets a strange but powerful Japanese man who wants to paint her for an enormous amount of money, which she finds hard to refuse. A shootout at the man's home leads to Val finding and keeping an old map that leads to treasure stolen by the Japanese man in Southeast Asia during the war.

The story of Val's treasure hunt is exciting and interesting as it has the Japanese occupation of Burma and Thailand during WWII as its historical background. The book weaves cultural traditions into the plot, such as Thai kickboxing, the songkran festival (the Thai New Year), the Buddhist religion and its statues and relics, with atmospheric descriptions of the locations.

Expect this noir novel to be tough in violence and sex, in parts.  A book for those who love adventure and mystery.

Book description: Working Tokyo nightclubs is easy money for troubled American Val Benson – until a client with a rather unusual hobby – painting the private parts of his female liaisons – reluctantly gives up a map that leads Val on a treasure hunt for Japanese war loot hidden  along the Thai-Burmese border. The Congressman’s daughter is not the only one interested in the map: yakuza, bent cops, human traffickers, rogue CIA agents and her father are hot on her trail.

So begins the dark, epic journey of a new anti-hero of Asian Noir, a protagonist both ambiguous and courageous, and utterly unreliable. Together with her best friend, the equally unreliable nightclub hostess Suki, Val travels through Tokyo, Hong Kong and Bangkok to the Thai-Burmese borderlands for a dramatic showdown with her pursuers. (publisher)

For other reviews of the book, visit the tour schedule by Premier Virtual Author Book Tours

Author info: Jame DiBiasio is an award-winning financial journalist and editor. He is author of the non-fiction The Story of Angkor. He lives in Hong Kong. Twitter: https://twitter.com/JameDiBiasio
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/jamedibiasio.author

Thanks to Premier Virtual Author Book Tours and the author/publisher for a review copy of the book. 

Jun 4, 2013

There Was An Old Woman by Halli Ephron

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.  

There Was An Old Woman: Novel of Suspense
Title: There Was An Old Woman: A Novel of Suspense by Hallie Ephron
Published April 2, 2013; William Morrow
Mina Yetner sat in her living room, inspecting the death notices in the Daily News. She got through two full columns before she found someone older than herself. Mina blew on her tea, took a sip, and settled into her comfortable wing chair. In the next column, nestled among dearly departed strangers, she found Angela Quintanilla, a neighbor who lived a few blocks away. 
Publisher description: "A novel of psychological suspense, in which a young woman becomes entangled in a terrifying web of deception and madness involving her elderly neighbor. "Don't let him in until I'm gone." That's what Mina Yetner's neighbor whispers to her just before the EMTs take her to the hospital. Mina writes down the message - at nearly ninety, she has to write down most things lest she forget-and calls Sandra's daughter Ginger, telling her that once again her mother needs help.

 Evie Ferrante is dismayed when she gets the call from her sister:  it's Evie's turn to see what their mother's done to herself. But when Evie arrives home-where she hasn't been in months-she's shocked by the state of her mother's house: it's in terrible disrepair. And as Evie cleans and organizes, she finds things that don't make sense: expensive liquor in the garage, pricier than their mother's usual brand, a new flat-screen television on the wall. Where was her mother getting all this money?

Evie, suspicious and concerned about her mother, rekindles a relationship with Mina. Mina's been having episodes she can't explain lately, herself, and her nephew Brian is trying to convince her to move to a community that will provide her with some help. Though Mina's resistant, Evie isn't certain that isn't a bad idea. But before any decision is made about Mina, Evie needs her help figuring out what's been going on with her mother-and the more Evie digs into what her mother's been up to over the past few months, the more a bigger-and more sinister-story begins to unfold."

Would you keep reading because of the opening paragraph? I'd keep reading, wondering about the lives of these elderly women living alone...

I received a complimentary galley of this novel.

Jun 3, 2013

Book Review: The Original 1982 by Lori Carson

Title: The Original 1982 by Lori Carson
Published May 28, 2013; William Morrow
Genre: contemporary fiction

A singer and songwriter, Lisa made a decision years ago, in 1982, to terminate a pregnancy, a pregnancy that was not supported by her musician lover and which would have put her musical career on hold or on a different path.

Today, she looks back at her decision and wonders what it would have been like if she had had her child. The novel writes two different stories - one with her child and the other, the original 1982, without the child.
In the original 1982, I lose my mind. I drink myself into oblivion.I call him repeatedly and wait outside his door. I beg him to tell me why.
He grows bored with my drunken pain.
"I've told you why," he says. (ch. 21)
Based on the future she envisioned with the child, and the future she actually had without the child, I won't tell you whether or not the character Lisa decided she had made the right decision the first time, in the original 1982, or not. I'll let you, the reader, decide.

An unusual plan for a novel, which came off pretty well, I thought. Written in a straightforward manner, its merit is in the two stories it tells, though I found some aspects of her alternate life story just a tiny bit far fetched.

Publisher's description: 
The Original 1982 is the wise and memorable debut novel of love, regret, music and motherhood, by singer and songwriter Lori Carson of the Golden Palominos. 

It's 1982, and Lisa is twenty-four years old, a waitress, an aspiring singer-songwriter, and girlfriend to a famous Latin musician. That year, she makes a decision, almost without thinking about it.But what if what if her decision had been a different one? 

 In the new 1982, Lisa chooses differently. Her career takes another direction. She becomes a mother. She loves differently, yet some things remain the same. Alternating between two very different possibilities, The Original 1982 is a novel about how the choices we make affect the people we become-and about how the people we are affect the choices we make.

About the author: Lori Carson is a critically acclaimed singer/songwriter whose albums include: Shelter, Where it Goes and Everything I Touch Runs Wild.

A former member of the band Golden Palominos, she has contributed to the soundtracks of Bernardo Bertolucci’s Stealing Beauty, Kathryn Bigelow’s Strange Days, Keith Gordon’s Waking the Dead, and others. The Original 1982 is her first novel. Lori lives in New York City.

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

Jun 2, 2013

Sunday Salon: All That Rain and Blooms Too

The Sunday Salon.com Welcome to the Sunday Salon!This post lists new books and links up to It's Monday; What Are You Reading? at Book Journey;  to Mailbox Monday hosted by Dolce Bellezza; and to Stacking the Shelves by Tynga's Reviews.

It's been busy the past month or two with book tours of novels I couldn't resist accepting. Last week I reviewed The Wonder Bread Summer, contemporary comic fiction by Jessica Anya Blau; and Running with the Enemy, a novel set in Vietnam by Lloyd Lofthouse. There are more book tours coming up too!

I received two review books in the mail and one book win:

The Lavender Garden by Lucinda Riley
The Wife, the Maid and the Mistress

Oak and Dagger by Dorothy St. James

I liked Lucinda Riley's previous novel, Girl on the Cliff, and other books by Dorothy St. James, who writes the White House Gardener Mysteries. Ariel Lawton's book is a new historical mystery set in the 1930s. Can't wait to read them all!

I also borrowed two books from the libraryPaprika by Yasutka Tsutsui, considered his masterpiece involving a surreal, dream-invading device. Also, Hiikomori and the Rental Sister by Jeff Backhaus, a novel about an erotic relationship between an American and a "rental sister." The concept of a rental sister is intriguing.

The Tsutsui book I hope to add to my reads for the Japanese Literature Challenge 7 hosted by Dolce Bellezza. The popular challenge runs now through January 30, 2014 and several bloggers have already signed up for the seventh season.

There has been steady drizzling of rain the past few days and all the roses are out, all at once! I cut a bunch for a vase this morning as a bush was weighted down by blooms and by water. I can't complain though, the roses are blooming like never before!

I am reading a few books all at once. How often does that happen to you?

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...