Jun 30, 2013

Book Review: The Illusion of Separateness by Simon Van Booy

Title: The Illusion of Separateness by Simon Van Booy
Published June 11, 2013; Harper
Genre: literary fiction

My comments: The connections between seemingly disparate people with different lives and of different ages - Martin in modern New York; Mr. Hugo of England in 1981 and in France in 1944; young Sebastian in France in 1968; John in New York and in the war in France in the 1940s, Danny in Los Angeles in 2009, and Amelia in England in 2010 - come together slowly in the book and at the surprising end.

John, an American pilot in WWII France, encounters a German soldier on the battlefield. The German soldier later rescues a baby whose parents have been killed, and this leads to.....and this leads to.....surprising results.

A very worthwhile story of how our actions affect our lives and other lives as well, in the present and in the future. Written in a literary and charmingly poetic style, the book easily pulls you in as you read about separate people whose personal stories are not separate at all. Because of the war, some of the stories are sad, but eventually uplifting.

Book description:
This gripping, emotional story intertwines the stories of several compelling characters: a deformed German infantryman; a lonely British film director; a young, blind museum curator; Jewish-American newlyweds separated by war; a lost child on the brink of starvation; and a caretaker at a retirement home for actors in Santa Monica. The same world moves beneath each of them, and one by one, through seemingly random acts of selflessness, they discover the vital parts they have played in each other's lives, a realization that shatters the illusion of their separateness. Moving back and forth in time and across continents,

For more reviews, visit the Tour Schedule

Simon Van Booy is the author of two novels and two collections of short stories, including The Secret Lives of People in Love and Love Begins in Winter, which won the Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award. He is the editor of three philosophy books and has written for The New York Times, The Guardian, NPR, and the BBC. His work has been translated into fourteen languages. He lives in Brooklyn with his wife and daughter.Visit Simon at his website and on Facebook and Twitter.

Thanks to the publisher/author and TLC Book Tours for a review ARC of this book. 

Jun 28, 2013

The Ninefold Heaven: a Novel by Mingmei Yip

Book Beginnings is hosted by Rose City Reader and The Friday 56 by Freda's Voice. Share the beginning of a book you are reading and select a quote from page 56. Include the title and author of the book for readers.

Title: The Ninefold Heaven by Mingmei Yip
Published June 25, 2013; Kensington
Genre: historical fiction

Three months ago, I was singing to loud applause in a Shanghai nightclub; a few days later, I became unexpectedly wealthy. But immediately I fled Shanghai in a fusillade of bullets to hide out in a run-down apartment in Hong Kong. 
Page 56: 
I felt a wave of anxiety. Was it coincidence this man asked for my signature song, or had he seen through my disguise?

Publisher's description:
 Mingmei Yip draws readers deeper into the exotic world of 1930s Shanghai first explored in her book, Skeleton Women, and into the lives of three unforgettable women: Camilla, Shadow, and Rainbow Chang.

When Shadow, a gifted, ambitious magician, competed with the beautiful Camilla for the affections of organized crime leader Master Lung, she almost lost everything. Hiding out in Hong Kong, performing in a run-down circus, Shadow has no idea that Camilla, too, is on the run with her lover, Jinying--Lung's son. Now their only hope of freedom lies in joining forces to eliminate the ruthless Big Brother Wang.

Despite the danger, Shadow, Camilla, and Jinying return to Shanghai. Camilla also has her own secret agenda--she has heard a rumor that her son is alive. And in a city teeming with spies and rivals--including the vengeful Rainbow Chang--each battles for a future in a country on the verge of monumental change.

From the opening sentences and the excerpt, what is your impression? See my review of the first book, Skeleton Women/ I'm looking forward to this follow-up.

Disclosure: I received a complimentary review copy of this book. 

Jun 27, 2013

Cozy Feature: STEAMED TO DEATH by Peg Cochran

Title: Steamed to Death by Peg Cochran
Published June 4, 2013; Berkley
Genre: cozy mystery
Alice let out a tiny shriek and jumped up from the chaise. "Oh, no, we're busted!"
The sounds of footsteps echoed on the wooden back stairs.
"Quick" - Gigi made a sweeping gesture with her arm - "let's hide in the bathroom. At least we won't be visible from the open bedroom door." (ch. 6)
Publisher description: "Gourmet health food caterer Gigi Fitzgerald is used to helping dieters drop a dress size. But when her clients start dropping dead, she’s ready to switch her chef’s hat for a detective’s cap and track down a killer. . .

Soap star Felicity Davenport wants to revamp her image, and she’s using Gigi’s Gourmet De-Lite to help shed unwanted pounds. When Felicity is found murdered in her sauna, things start getting too hot for Gigi. The list of suspects is a mile long, and Gigi’s best friend, Sienna, is at the top. Gigi is determined to hunt down the real killer. But she will have to be careful or she could be the next one burned."

Have you read the first book by Peg Cochran, Allergic to Death? She has such imaginative plots.

I received a complimentary review copy of this book.

Jun 26, 2013

Book Review: Slingshot by Matthew Dunn

Title: Slingshot: A Spycatcher Novel by Matthew Dunn
Genre:  thriller
Published June 25, 2013; William Morrow

I read the first in the series, Spycatcher, and thought it was an excellent book. Here is a quote from my review:

The usual superlatives go to a thriller that is uncommonly good: action packed, gut wrenching, suspenseful, and at the same time quite realistic. I was sympathetic to the main character, (Will Cochrane) a British agent who works in secret and who is unknown, even to  British intelligence service MI6, of which he a part.  (review of Spycatcher)
I missed reading the second in the series, Sentinel, and caught up with the third, Slingshot. Slingshot is all spy novel, as the book description below shows, and I missed the personal side of Will that made the first book so good. I would have liked a more developed subplot or subplots and earlier in the novel. As it is, the book is all top notch spy action and it was hard to sympathize with any of the characters. This could have been because the plot seemed far fetched, though the reality may very well be close to what actually takes place behind the scenes. To get into the series, I would suggest you start with the first book, Spycatcher. There is a giveaway of a set with both books below.

Publisher description: Master spy Will Cochrane must catch a missing Russian defector as well as one of Europe’s deadliest assassins. Will monitors the streets of Gdansk, Poland—waiting for a Russian defector, a man bearing a top secret document. But suddenly everything goes sideways. The target shows up, but so does a team from Russian Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR) hell-bent on keeping the man from walking. Then, in a hail of crossfire, a van snatches the defector out from under them all. Everyone wants the man and the codes he carries—but now he’s gone.

Then Will learns that the Russians have tasked their own ‘spycatcher’—an agent just as ruthless and relentless as Will—to retrieve the document. Now Will  faces two clever and deadly adversaries, who will stop at nothing to achieve their aims.

For other reviews of this book, see the tour schedule.
Thanks to Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours and the publisher for a review copy of this book.

Author info: As an MI6 field officer, MATTHEW DUNN recruited and ran agents and acted in deep-cover roles throughout the world, conducting approximately seventy missions, all successful. He lives in England. His novels in the series are: Spycatcher, Sentinel, and Slingshot. He is at work on the fourth Spycatcher novel.


Partners in Crime and the publisher is offering one set Mass Market edition of Spycatcher and Slingshot to a reader. To enter, leave a comment with an email address indicating you wish to be entered in the contest. No P.O. box addresses, please. U.S. residents only. A winner will be randomly selected July 3 and informed by email. A response will be due by July 5. Good luck!

UPDATE: The giveaway winner is Naida, chosen by random.org Thank you all for entering the contest. 

Jun 25, 2013

Courting Greta by Ramsey Hootman

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.

Ch. 1

"Samuel watched his brother's big hands walk over the steering wheel, turning the pickup into the campus parking lot. He should have driven himself. No one who saw his prematurely graying hair would mistake him for a teenager, even as small as he was, but being dropped off still felt juvenile.The stupid things he did to make his brother feel useful. Samuel shifted, adjusting his seat belt, and double-checked to make sure the bus schedule was in his pocket."

Title: Courting Greta by Ramsey Hootman
Published June 18, 2013; Gallery Books
Genre: fiction, romance

Publisher's description: Samuel Cooke knows most women wouldn't give him a second glance. He's the cripple with the crutches, the nerdy computer genius. When he leaves his lucrative career to teach programming to high schoolers, Greta Cassamajor catches him off guard. She is the sarcastic gym coach with zero sense of humor, and no beauty - not even on the inside. But an inexplicably kind act toward Samuel makes him realize she is interesting.

Samuel is certain she won't accept his invitation to dinner - so when she does, he's out of his depth. All he knows is that he'll do whatever it takes to keep her as long as he can. Ramsey Hootman upends traditional romance tropes to weave a charming tale of perseverance, trust, and slightly conditional love."

Based on the opening sentences/teaser, would you continue reading? 

Jun 23, 2013

New Arrivals: Mailbox Monday, It's Monday; and Stacking the Shelves

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

Two ARCs for review - mystery series that I have been eagerly following:

The Sound and the Furry: A Chet and Bernie Mystery by Spencer Quinn features the "K-9 flunk-out" Chet, and his human partner, private detective Bernie. The story is told by the dog Chet, whose point of view is both amusing as well as astute. But Chet has great atrributes for a PI - a strong sense of smell, sight, a powerful jump, and devotion to his human in this detective duo series.

Book description: Chet and Bernie head to Louisiana in the next installment in the New York Times bestselling mystery series featuring “a canine Sam Spade full of joie de vivre” (Stephen King) and his human private investigator companion.

The Case of the Love Commandos: A Vish Puri Novel by Tarquin Hall, is the fourth in the mystery series. In a contemporary Romeo and Juliet story set within India’s caste system, private investigator Vish Puri faces a high-stakes mystery. When Ram and Tulsi fall in love, the young woman’s parents are dead set against the union. Fortunately, India’s Love Commandos, a real-life group of volunteers dedicated to helping mixed-caste couples, successfully free Tulsi, but Ram has gone missing. Vish Puri's job is to find him. (book description)

Three review books:

Accidents Happen by Louise Millar, a new thriller: Kate Parker has weathered the unimaginable  - her parents died in a traffic accident on her wedding night, and her husband, Hugo, was murdered in a tragic break-in. All she has left is her young son, Jack, and determined to make a better future for him, she attempts to pull her life back together. But are she and her son safe? (book description)

The White Forest by Adam McOmber, a Gothic historical novel.
Book description: Jane Silverlake is able to see the souls of man-made objects—and this talent isolates her from the outside world. She finds solace in her only companions, Madeline and Nathan, but their idyll is shattered by Nathan’s interest in a cult led by a charismatic mystic popular with London’s elite. A year later, Nathan has vanished, and the famed Inspector Vidocq arrives in London to untangle the events. As a sinister truth emerges, Jane must discover the origins of her talent, and use it to find Nathan herself, before it’s too late.

The Last Original Wife by Dorothea Benton Frank, Southern fiction.
Leslie Anne Greene Carter is the last original wife among her husband's group of cronies. They've all traded in their first wives for riper peaches: younger . . . blonder . . . more enhanced models. Leslie is proud of her status and the longevity of her marriage.... until the day, out golfing with her husband and his friends, she slips into a manhole. And nobody realizes that she's gone.

That one misstep opens Leslie's eyes to the sham her perfect life has become. With the healing powers of South Carolina's lush white beaches, candy-colored sunsets, and fiesty and funny residents, Leslie is going to transform herself and reclaim the strong, vibrant, sexy woman she was meant to be. (book description)

The Lemon Orchard by Luanne Rice, women's fiction and romance set in Malibu and the Santa Monica mountains.
In the five years since Julia last visited her aunt and uncle’s home in Malibu, her life has been turned upside down by her daughter’s death. As she house-sits with only her dog, Bonnie, for company, she finds herself drawn to the handsome man who oversees the lemon orchard. Roberto expertly tends the trees, using the money to support his extended Mexican family. What connection could these two people share?

The answer comes as Roberto reveals the heartbreaking story of his own loss—a pain Julia knows all too well, but for one striking difference: Roberto’s daughter was lost but never found. And despite the odds he cannot bear to give up hope. (book description)

An excitingly mixed bag this week. What was in your mailbox?

Jun 22, 2013

Bought at the Book Store/Borrowed from the Library

I was only going to look to see what new books were at the bookstore yesterday. I came back with this.

I have been seeing The Firebird on lots of blogs and was getting very curious. I liked what I read on the cover and started reading, then had to buy it. I am loving it! The heroine with psychic abilities appealed to me, especially while she is trying to establish the provenance of an old Russian wood carving, the Firebird.

At the library, returning some overdue books, I also went browsing and came back with these:

The Hour of the Rat is a thriller set in Beijing, with an Iraqi war vet representing the work of a Chinese artist and dissident, who has recently disappeared. The disappearance is the result of a conspiracy that leads the main character further into the mystery and into a wild chase through scenic parts of the country.

Bad Blood A Kate Shugak Novel by Dana Stabenow was another book I found at the library. I have enjoyed the series and read most of the early ones. Bad blood between two native tribes in Alaska intensifies when a young man from one of the groups is found dead. Kate is called in to resolve the problem and find the murderer. I always enjoy the Alaska setting.

A Tale for the Time Being is one I almost bought but found at the library, conveniently. A diary by Nao, a sixteen year old girl in Japan documents the life of her great-grandmother, a Buddhist nun, who has lived over a century. After the Japanese tsunami of 2011, the diary is found washed up on the shores of a remote island in the Pacific Northwest by a woman named Ruth. By reading the diary, Ruth is "pulled into Nao's drama and unknown fate and forward into her own future." I couldn't resist a description such as that.

Great books! I wish the last three had been in my mailbox and that I didn't have to return them eventually to the library :)

What have you bought or borrowed recently?

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...