Jan 31, 2014

THE SAME MOON by Junying Kirk

Title: The Same Moon by Junying Kirk
Published April 6, 2013
Genre: fiction

Chapter One: Forbidden Love
The young man who haunted me in my dreams was Xia Yu, the solemn looking boy who first caught my shy eyes when I was barely thirteen and has occupied a sacred corner in my heart ever since.
 “Do you know why my parents named me Xia Yu?” His voice was deep and intense, yet full of tenderness. (Junying Kirk. The Same Moon (Kindle Locations 160-163). 
page 56: 
“I want to give you something, from China... and I hope you like them,” I struggled on a nervous murmur, my hand reaching out with what I had picked out earlier. 
“Wow, this is beautiful,” his face shone in delight with my first gift, a beautifully painted calligraphic classic poem. (Junying Kirk. The Same Moon (Kindle Locations 5127-5129). 
Book description: 
"Pearl Zhang was born in Sichuan Province in China, and grew up during the Cultural Revolution. She was raised in a typically Chinese manner, went to school, got a job and got married, and her whole life path had been mapped out, or so it seemed. She then seized the opportunity to study in the United Kingdom – and stayed.  How did Pearl adjust to the Western way of life, and what did she have to do to overcome the barriers? Would she find happiness and fulfillment with her English suitor in Scotland, or would her heartache continue? She was in a new world, both foreign and exciting – albeit under the Same Moon.

This book, the first of Junying Kirk’s “Journey to the West” Trilogy, will take you on a journey full of surprises and discoveries, history and culture - from the East to the West - and from the Middle Kingdom to the United Kingdom." (publisher)

Junying Kirk's second and third books, in the trilogy are Trials of Life, which continues the story of Pearl in the United Kingdom, and Land of Hope, a novel of international intrigue.

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

Also Book Beginnings by Rose City Reader.

Jan 28, 2014

Book Review: Last Train to Paris by Michele Zackheim

Last Train to Paris by Michele Zackheim
Published by Europa Editions (January 7, 2014)
Genre: historical fiction

My comments: An excellent weaving of historical fact into fiction, written with stark frankness. The novel will tell you more than you may already know about the perilous political and social situation of the Jews in France and Germany even before the war, of some who might have survived and some who didn't. This historical novel follows Rose, a young American reporter in the 1930s, to Paris and Berlin where she observes what takes place in France and Germany before the war. An old lady now, she writes her memoirs up to 1989 and ponders the fateful decision she was forced to make as she fled Europe before the war broke out.

Book description: "Inspired by the story of a distant cousin who was murdered in Paris in 1937, award-winning author Michele Zackheim’s book is a gripping epic about a half-Jewish female reporter from Nevada who writes for the Paris Courier in the 1930’s. The sole woman in the newsroom, she lives with both sexism and anti-Semitism.

Then she meets Leo, a German radical and anti-Nazi and realizes that while Paris is interesting, the truly vital historical story is taking place across the border. Rose undertakes an assignment in the Berlin press office, where she is initially happy and in love until Kristallnacht and the growing threat of Nazism. When World War II is declared, Americans are forced to leave the country and Rose must make an agonizing choice: Who will go with her on the last train to Paris?

Zackheim tells her story from vantage point of Rose as an elderly woman, Last Train to Paris is at once a historical epic, a love story, and a psychological portrait of one woman’s gradual discovery of who she really is after years of being invisible to herself." (publisher)

Michele Zackheim is a multi-media artist as well as writer. Her work is in the permanent collections of The National Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington, D.C.; The Albuquerque Museum; The Grey Art Gallery of New York University; The New York Public Library; The Hebrew Union College Skirball Museum, and The Carlsbad Museum of Art. She has been the recipient of two NEA awards, and teaches Creative Writing from a Visual Perspective at the School of Visual Arts in New York City.

Her first book, Violette’s Embrace, is a fictional biography of the French writer Violette Leduc. Her second, Einstein’s Daughter: The Search for Lieserl, is a non-fiction account of the mystery of the lost illegitimate daughter of Mileva and Albert Einstein. Broken Colors is the story of an artist, whose life takes her to a place where life and art intersect. Visit her Author website.

 See more reviews of Last Train to Paris.
Thanks to TLC Book Reviews and the author for a review copy of this book.

Jan 26, 2014

Sunday Salon: When A Book Can Take You Someplace Else

The Sunday Salon.com Welcome to the Sunday Salon! Also visit The Sunday Post hosted by The Caffeinated Bookreviewer, and It's Monday: What Are You Reading? at Book Journey. Also, Mailbox Monday at its permanent home, and Stacking the Shelves at Tyngas' Reviews.

This was the scene from my window last week and it hasn't changed much since. Some of the snow has melted, but the temperatures have been on a see-saw up and down and we are back in the minus zero wind chill zone, with bits of white being added every day.

I have a love-hate relationship with this unseasonable winter. We haven't had this kind of snow in a few years and so these blizzards and strong winds that blow snow around are almost a new experience. I love the looks of it, have taken lots of pictures, and even gone out occasionally, though I have forsaken yoga classes and am staying away from movie theaters, malls, and places where people who might have the flu congregate.

For the first time ever, I was persuaded to get a flu shot because of the scare in the area - a few people have died and many hospitalized, and the health department here says the flu this season is no respecter of age. The young and old and some seemingly healthy people in between those ages have been hit. My hope - some of these extreme temps will kill those bugs!

Two new books came in last week. Thank heavens for books~

The Fever Tree by Jennifer McVeigh was sent by Penguin for their book tour. A young woman emigrates from London to South Africa in 1880 and has adventures and encounters that reflect a country under colonial rule.

Anyone notice that a few publishers are doing their own tours for their authors? This is the second book I have scheduled for a publisher tour.

Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy by Karen Foxlee, from Alfred Knopf, is just right for this season. It's a modern day retelling of Hans Christian Andersen's fairy tale, The Snow Queen. A young girl discovers a boy locked away in a museum, in a city where it always snows; a prisoner of the Snow Queen, he has been waiting for the girl to rescue him. Symbolic, eh?

I am caught up with reading I Am Abraham: A Novel of Lincoln and the Civil War by Jerome Charyn, for a tour in a couple weeks. Also open on my desk are two books pulled from the TBR shelf:
Paris My Sweet: A Year in the City of Light (And Dark Chocolate) by Amy Thomas and
Fresh Off the Boat: A Memoir by Taiwanese restaurant owner Eddie Huang.
Three very different books, but I do love the variety!
And of course, there are those wonderful cozies....

What are you reading and in what weather are you enjoying your books? Can't wait to hear!

Jan 24, 2014

Book Review: While We Were Watching Downton Abbey by Wendy Wax

Title: While We Were Watching Downton Abbey by Wendy Wax
Published December 31, 2013; Jove
Genre: chick lit, women's fiction
Objective rating: 4.5/5

About the book: The novel is about three women and a concierge in an upscale apartment building in Atlanta, Georgia, modern time, who meet each other as part of the concierge's weekly Sunday event - Watching  the TV series, Downton Abbey, while having drinks and elaborate hors d'oeuvres in the building club room. These four all have their problems, however.

Samantha is married to a wealthy businessman who she feels married her out of pity and not love. Claire is a divorced mom with an 18-year-old son in college, but she believes she is failing as a writer, her chosen profession. Brooke, also divorced but with two daughters ages 5 and 7, has a self-confidence that is almost nil after her husband walked out and later moves into the same apartment building with his mistress. Ed Parker, the British concierge, relies on his uncle back in Britain for helpful advice in making his new concierge business a success.

How they all help each other cope with their problems and upcoming crises is the crux of the novel. The glue that holds their relationships together is their weekly get-togethers to watch Downton Abbey, from the first series onward.

My comments:  Great characterization, story, and plot situations made this a very enjoyable read.  The plot was well crafted and the colorful, realistic characters made the novel entertaining and lively. I highly recommend it.

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

Jan 21, 2014

Book Review: A Different Sun, a Novel of Africa by Elaine Neil Orr

Title: A Different Sun: A Novel of Africa by Elaine Neil Orr
Published April 2, 2013; Berkley
Genre: historical novel
Objective rating: 3.5/5

About the book: A novel of Emma, a young woman from Georgia, who marries an American missionary in the mid-19th century and travels with him to West Africa to live among the Yoruba people. There she lives a life of challenge as well as gets to know, befriend, and rely on the local people.

My comments: I could tell while reading the book that the author belonged to missionary people, as the novel is circumscribed by the strong and determined faith of Emma and her husband Henry Bowman to build a church and bring Christianity into the heart of the African country. How well they succeeded is not clear to me, as the customs and beliefs of the local people, and the challenges of not enough money and supplies, and isolation from other Westerners take a strong toll.

There is an element of the magical in the book, as Emma carries a talisman of sorts from her home in Georgia back to Africa. The talisman is a carved wooden knife or letter opener that the old African slave from her father's plantation, Uncle Eli, had given Emma to take to Africa with her. It somehow challenges Emma to make amends to Uncle Eli for the conditions of his slavery. The novel is told mainly from Emma's point of view, and occasionally from her husband's, and from their African cook and helper, Jacob's. As a look into the lives of missionaries abroad, it is an excellent addition to the literature of this genre.

Elaine Neil Orr's memoir, Gods of Noonday, was a Top-20 Book Sense selection. She is associate editor of Writing Out of Limbo, and the author of two scholarly books. Orr was born and grew up in Nigeria to medical missionary parents. Orr left West Africa at age sixteen and attended college in Kentucky. She studied creative writing and literature at the University of Louisville before taking her Ph.D. in Literature and Theology at Emory University.

She is Professor of English at North Carolina State University and on the faculty of the MFA in Writing Program at Spalding University. She  lives in Raleigh, North Carolina, with her husband, Anderson Orr. Visit her website and Facebook page.

Thanks to TLC Book Tours and the author for a review copy of this book. See more reviews by tour participants. 

Jan 20, 2014

Book Review: My Mother's Funeral by Adriana Paramo

Title: My Mother's Funeral by Adriana Paramo
Published October 1, 2013; Cavankerry Press
Genre: memoir; creative nonfiction
Objective rating: 4.5/5

About the book:  Adriana Paramo, who had left her home in Medellin, Colombia to become an anthropologist, gets a phone call about her mother Carmen's sudden death and returns home from Alaska to attend the funeral. She and her four sisters and a brother, all older siblings who had remained in Colombia, meet up again to pay final respects to their mother, reminisce about her life, and claim sentimental items from their family home.

The book flashes back to Adriana's memories of growing up without their father, who had left them when Adriana, the youngest, was only five or six years old. The book explores Carmen's life, her marriage, her love for her husband before and even after he deserted her, and her raising six children by herself. All of this from Adriana's viewpoint as an impressionable child, then a rebellious adolescent and as an independent adult.

My comments: 
A moving family story, expertly written, with the life and personality of Adriana's mother fully developed as creative nonfiction. Carmen came through as a determined personality who wanted more for her children and demanded more from them as well. She was successful in moving them on to a better life, where they could help both her and each other.The book was also very informative of Colombia's customs, dynamic society, and its volatile politics during that time period.

As the last of six children, myself,  I was amazed at how much I could relate to this narrative of the relationship between the mother and daughter. Adriana came to know Carmen more deeply as she had spent more time with her as the youngest child. As Adriana's brother said, Carmen was a different person and mother in the 1960s-70s than she was in the 80s when she had Adriana. I highly recommend this book on several levels.

Paramo has written another work of creative nonfiction, Looking for Esperanza, which has won several awards. I would really like to read that book also.

Adriana Páramo is a cultural anthropologist, writer and women’s rights advocate. Her book “Looking for Esperanza,” winner of the 2011 Social Justice and Equity Award in Creative Nonfiction was one of the top ten best books by Latino authors in 2012, the best Women’s Issues Book at the 2013 International Latino Book Awards, and the recipient of a silver medal at the 2012 BOYA, Book of the Year Awards. “My Mother’s Funeral,” a creative nonfiction book set in Colombia, was released in October 2013 by Cavankerry Press.

Her work has been nominated three times for a Pushcart Prize and her essays have been included in the Notable American Essays of 2011 and 2012. She currently lives and writes in Qatar. Connect with Paramo at http://www.paramoadriana.com/

Thanks to TLC Book Tours and the author for a review copy of this book. Click on the link for more reviews by book tour participants. 

Jan 19, 2014

Sunday Salon: a Cozy Kind of Winter

The Sunday Salon.com Welcome to the Sunday Salon! Also visit The Sunday Post hosted by The Caffeinated Bookreviewer, and It's Monday: What Are You Reading? at Book Journey. Also, Mailbox Monday at it's permanent home, and Stacking the Shelves at Tyngas' Reviews.

I've been reading cozy mysteries in between my book tour books. They seem to fit winter - lighter and often entertaining, except for some grisly details on occasion as they are crime novels, after all. Here are a few that arrived in the mail for review, thanks to Penguin and Berkley Prime Crime.

A Fatal Slip: A Sweet Nothings Lingerie Mystery by Meg London will be released February 4.

  "For Valentine’s Day, Emma Taylor and her aunt Arabella have organized a special evening for men only to shop for their sweethearts in the Sweet Nothings lingerie shop. But when art dealer Hugh Granger is pushed from the balcony, Aunt Arabella is framed… for her old flame’s murder." (goodreads)

Pecan Pies and Homicides: A Charmed Pie Shoppe Mystery by Ellery Adams, published January 7, 2014. 

" Owning the Charmed Pie Shoppe and serving enchanted treats in Havenwood, Georgia, seemed like a little slice of heaven for Ella Mae LeFaye. When an enchanted grove is set ablaze, Ella realizes  she’s going to have to sleuth from scratch to stop an arsonist who has no respect for sacred ground—or human life…." (goodreads)

A Chorus Lineup: A Glee Club Mystery #3 by Joelle Charbonneau, published January 7, 2014.

"Paige Marshall, the high school show choir coach, is fighting to keep her singers in a national competition despite charges of sabotage…. So-called accidents keep befalling the other choirs. Yet Prospect Glen remains untouched. Paige needs to discover who’s behind the sabotage, or end up singing her own swan song…." (goodreads)

For my final book tour for January, I'm now reading and enjoying Last Train to Paris by Michele Zackheim, an historical fiction set in Paris in the mid-1930s.

What are you reading this winter? Any cozies planned? 

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...