Feb 28, 2014

Half World by Scott O'Connor

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.

Title: Half World: A Novel by Scott O'Connor
Published February 18, 2014; Simon and Schuster
Genre: literary thriller

page 56:
Henry couldn't fathom what it would take to walk down into the party. Everyone there assumed he was guilty in some way. This was the organizing principle that he had instilled in the company, that Weir had instilled. Proximity to guilt is still guilt." 
Book beginning:
San Francisco, Spring 1956
The landlady opened the door and led him into the apartment he'd telephoned about, the rooms above the mechanics' garage on Telegraph Hill. She stood to the side while Henry walked to the far end of the living room and looked out the windows through the last of the morning fog. Alcatraz to the north, the bridge and the bay and the black hills to the east. A beautiful corner view. He would need to cover it. 
Book description: "In the 1950s, the CIA began a clandestine operation known as Project MKULTRA, in which American citizens were subjected to drug and mind-control experiments. In the two decades the program ran, a nation’s trust was betrayed and countless lives—and families—were destroyed.

Scott O’Connor has crafted a literary thriller that imagines the devastating emotional legacy of such a program through the eyes of one of its more unexpected victims, CIA analyst Henry March.... Torn between duty and conscience, Henry’s own identity begins to fray, until he... disappears without a trace, taking with him the evidence and becoming the deepest ULTRA mystery of all.

 Twenty years later, another troubled young agent will risk everything to find Henry, protect Hannah, and piece together the staggering aftermath of the crimes before it’s too late."  (publisher)

Would you keep reading based on the excerpts and the book description? 

Feb 27, 2014

Book Feature: Happily Ever After by Elizabeth Maxwell

Title: Happily Ever After by Elizabeth Maxwell
To be published March 18, 2014; Touchstone
Genre: women's fiction, romance

Book description: At forty-six, Sadie Fuller’s life isn’t exactly romantic. A divorced, overweight, somewhat sexually frustrated mother of an eleven-year-old, she lives in the suburbs, shops the big box stores, makes small talk with her small-minded neighbors, and generally leads a quiet life. But while her daughter is at school, or when Sadie is up late at night, she writes erotic fiction under the name KT Briggs.

Then, Sadie runs into someone familiar…too familiar, in fact. She encounters an incredibly handsome man exactly like the one in her imagination—and her latest novel. Is Aidan Hathaway really one of her characters? And if so, what is he doing in Target? As Sadie tries to negotiate this strange new world, her eyes begin to open to romantic possibilities in places she never dreamed of looking... places where Happily Ever After might not be so far-fetched after all. (publisher)

Can't wait to read this one. A writer meets one of the characters in her book, a handsome one at that. 

Thanks to the publisher for a review copy. 

Feb 26, 2014

GIVEAWAY WINNER of Fallen Beauty

Title: Fallen Beauty: A Novel by Erika Robuck
To be published March 4, 2014; NAL Trade
Genre: historical fiction

Congrats to NAIDA, the giveaway winner, chosen by Randomizer. Thanks to everyone for entering.

Feb 25, 2014

Book Review: The Korean Word for Butterfly by James Zerndt

First Chapter, First Paragraph is a weekly meme hosted by Bibliophile by the Sea.

Title: The Korean Word for Butterfly by James Zerndt
Published April 8, 2013
Genre: fiction
First chapter: Joe and I were met outside the airport by a man in a black suit. He was holding a sign with our names on it just like you see in the movies. He told us he worked for the English school and his name was, get this, Moon. He spoke to us in this quiet, gentle voice that immediately put me at ease. To say I was on edge would been an understatement. Joe and I were frauds. There was no other word for it.
Book description: Set against the backdrop of the 2002 World Cup and rising anti-American sentiment due to a deadly accident involving two young Korean girls and a U.S. tank, the novel is told from three alternating points-of-view. This is a story about the choices we make and why we make them. It is a story, ultimately, about the power of love and redemption. (from goodreads)

My comments: I found this novel an interesting and enlightening look at the Korea of ten years ago, written by a former English teacher in Seoul. There is resentment and suspicion of the U.S. forces there, especially after two schoolgirls are run over by a U.S. military tank. The Koreans avoided mixing with foreigners and the cultural differences often made for uneasy relations between the two groups.

The novel makes the local people come alive in the persons of Moon and Yun-Ji, whose personal lives and problems we see and can sympathize with, to some degree. Moon's compassion for Billie and Joe, the two American teachers who pretend to be what they are not, and Yun-ji's friendship with an American soldier Shaun, eventually show hope in the edgy situation of American and Korean interaction in those times.  

The cover of the book, showing a blue butterfly with its wings torn off, suggest to me the fragile nature of the U.S. presence in Korea then and perhaps even now, and the damage that could so easily be done. I recommend the novel for an insight into the multiple perspectives.

James Zerndt lives in Portland, Oregon, with his family. His poetry has appeared in The Oregonian Newspaper, and his short stories/fiction have won awards. He taught English in South Korea in 2002 and still loves the spicy Korean condiment, kimchi.  Visit the author on
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/JamesZerndt
Twitter: https://twitter.com/ZerndtJ
Google+: https://plus.google.com/107437037060168201663/posts?partnerid=gplp0

See the tour list for other reviews of the book. 
Thanks to Virtual Author Book Tours and the author for a review copy of this book. 

Feb 23, 2014

Sunday Salon: Being Honest About the Books You Read

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.

I have noticed a few bloggers are being more outspoken about the books they don't like and I think I will join the ranks. My first two-star rating on goodreads went to The Girl with a Clock for a Heart, which I found more than wanting. The characters seemed pre-programmed, like a clock, that is, and were unsympathetic and totally without redemptive value. I must say though that the suspense in the thriller -  for that's what it is, a thriller - was good, but somewhat disturbing, the violence being committed by another clockwork-like character. I wanted real characters that I could understand, if not the girl or the villain, then at least the main character. This is Peter Swanson's first book, however, so there is hope....And would you believe it - I find it hard to fathom - he's a poet!

New books that I hope will be good reads:

From the library, I borrowed
White Ginger by Thatcher Robinson, a mystery set in San Francisco and
The Harlot's Tale by Sam Thomas, a midwife mystery set in 1645 in England.

What are you reading this week; what new books do you have?

Feb 21, 2014

Book Review: FALLEN BEAUTY by Erika Robuck

Title: Fallen Beauty: A Novel by Erika Robuck
To be published March 4, 2014; NAL Trade
Genre: historical fiction

My comments: I admit I was slightly shocked by the free and easy ways of the poet Edna St. Vincent Millay, who, historically, had both male and female lovers and a wealthy husband who enabled and supported her in all her artistic pursuits. A well known poet who became famous and relatively rich from her writings, Millay went by the name "Vincent" as she chased after new experiences for the sake of her poetry.

In this book, the fictional Laura Kelly, a young woman whose future is changed when she has a child out of wedlock, becomes a seamstress for the poet, making dresses, gowns, and cloaks for the poet's traveling tours. Laura's personality and struggles in life are a stark contrast to Millay's fame, wealth, and excesses, and we are left to decide which has the better life, in the end. The novel is narrated by both Laura and Millay.

I enjoyed the historical details the book gives of the poet, whom I knew little about. Engrossing and revealing, the novel pulls us into Millay's life of contradictions. The novel makes us question whether Millay's fame and art should outweigh the humility and the traditional sense of behavior of a person such as Laura. The author seems to prefer Laura. Who would you choose as the more worthy "fallen beauty"?
When ... Marie had shown up at my back door in tears, telling me that...Everette had slept with the poet, my shock had given way to anger. (ch. 11, uncorrected proof; final copy may differ)
About the novel: In 1928 in upstate New York, Laura Kelly, an unwed seamstress with a young daughter, and Edna St. Vincent Millay, the wealthy and famous Bohemian poet, work together to create costumes for Millay’s next grand tour. Each woman confronts what it means to be a fallen woman…and to decide for herself the price she is willing to pay to live a full life. (publisher)

GIVEAWAY: The publisher is offering a copy of the book to a reader. Please leave a comment to enter by February 25 to win a paperback. U.S. residents only; no P.O. box addresses, please. Winner will be notified by email by Feb. 26 and will have 24 hours to reply before another winner is chosen. The publisher will mail the book to the winner. Good luck!

I am including a sample of the poetry of Edna St. Vincent Millay:
First Fig
  by Edna St. Vincent Millay 
My candle burns at both ends; 
It will not last the night; 
But ah, my foes, and oh, my friends— 
It gives a lovely light!  
See more at: http://www.poets.org/viewmedia.php/prmMID/20233#sthash.IWis1ZtK.dpuf

I received a galley proof of this book from the publisher. 


Feb 19, 2014

Waiting on Wednesday: OLEANDER GIRL by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni

Waiting on Wednesday is hosted weekly by Jill @ Breaking the Spine. Let us know what new releases you are eagerly awaiting. Link your post to Breaking the Spine.

Title: Oleander Girl by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni
Paperback edition due March 4, 2014; Simon & Schuster
Genre: women's fiction

From the publisher's description:
"A coming-of-age tale about a young woman who leaves India for America on a search that will transform her life.

Orphaned at birth and raised by her grandparents in Kolkota, India, Korobi Roy is troubled by the silence around the circumstances of her parents’ death and clings to her only inheritance from them: the love note she found, years ago, hidden in a book of poetry that had belonged to her mother. Korobi dreams of one day finding a love as powerful as her parents’, and it seems her wish has come true when she meets Rajat, the only son of a high-profile business family.

 Shortly after their engagement, however, a heart attack kills Korobi’s grandfather, revealing serious financial problems and a devastating secret about Korobi’s past. Shattered by this discovery, Korobi decides to search across post-9/11 America to find her true identity. Her dramatic journey will thrust her into the most difficult decision of her life."

Looking forward to the paperback edition of this novel, first printed as a hardcover on March 19, 2013 by Simon and Schuster. What new release are you waiting for?

Sunday Salon: Always Currently Reading

  Currently reading:  Missing and Endangered   by J.A. Jance, February 16, 2021, William Morrow Genre: thriller, suspense Source: library Ab...