Mar 30, 2014

Sunday Salon: Historical Fiction and Non-Fiction

Welcome to the Sunday Salon! Also visit The Sunday Post hosted by The Caffeinated Bookreviewer; It's Monday: What Are You Reading? at Book Journey. Also visit Mailbox Monday.

The sun is out and it's warm!! We bought a finch bird feeder and hope to hear their lovely songs soon. I didn't realize there are about 20 kinds of finches. We have only been aware of the purple finch, house finch, and the goldfinch in this area.

I am reading books for book tours as well as sneaking in other reads. Here are a few that have been added to the shelves:

Bourbon whiskey. Its primary ingredient was discovered by Christopher Columbus. Its recipe was perfected on the Western frontier. In 1964, Congress passed a resolution declaring it to be a "distinctive product of the United States." First brewed by pioneers in in the backwoods of Appalachia, bourbon whiskey has become a modern multi-billion dollar international industry today. As this book reveals, the Kentucky spirit--the only liquor produced from corn is the American experience, distilled, aged, and sealed in a bottle.

Huckelbridge tours across three hundred years.  Interweaving the development of bourbon to America's own rise, his  study is popular history,  an informative look at our past. (goodreads)

The Medici Boy by John L'Heureux, historical novel
Art, politics and passion collide in John L’Heureux’s novel, The Medici Boy.  L’Heureux  transports the reader to Donatello’s Renaissance Italy—directly into his bottega, (workshop), as witnessed through the eyes of Luca Mattei, a devoted assistant. While creating his famous bronze of David and Goliath, Donatello’s passion for his enormously beautiful model and part time rent boy, Agnolo, ignites a dangerous jealousy that ultimately leads to Agnolo’s brutal murder. Luca, the complex and conflicted assistant, will sacrifice all to save the life of Donatello, even if it means the life of the master sculptor’s friend and great patron of art, Cosimo de’ Medici. A narrative of the creative genius, Donatello, at the height of his powers, and the artistry that enthralled the powerful and highly competitive Medici and Albizzi families in fifteenth century Florence.  (goodreads)

Last Night at the Blue Angel by Rebecca Rotert, historical novel
In the early 1960s Chicago jazz scene, a literary debut about a talented but troubled singer, her precocious ten-year-old daughter, and their heartbreaking relationship. Naomi Hill, a singer at the Blue Angel club, has  her big break -the cover of Look magazine. But Naomi is a fiercely ambitious yet extremely self-destructive woman whose charms are irresistible and dangerous for those around her. No one knows this better than Sophia, her precocious ten-year-old daughter.

Unsettled by her uncertain home life, she harbors the terrible fear that the world could end at any moment.... Her one constant is Jim, the photographer who is her best friend, surrogate father, and protector. But Jim is deeply in love with Naomi-a situation that adds to Sophia's anxiety. An unforgettable tale about what happens when our passion for the life we want is at odds with the life we have. (goodreads)

What books are on your shelf these days?

Mar 29, 2014

Book Review: Telegraph Hill by John F. Nardizzi

Title: Telegraph Hill by John F. Nardizzi
Published April 26th 2013 by Merrimack Media
Genre: crime fiction, thriller
Someone was watching. She opened her eyes. A black shape stood at the edge of the dell. One of the Triad soldiers. He peered through the trees, but he wasn't sure where to go. Locked his dark eyes on a clump of trees and undergrowth where she lay. He stepped toward Tania. (ch. 11)
Book description:  John Nardizzi's Telegraph Hill introduces private detective Ray Infantino searching for a missing girl named Tania. The case takes him to San Francisco, the city he abandoned years ago after his fiance was murdered. Thrust into his old city haunts, Ray finds that Tania may not be lost at all. Tania saw a murder; and a criminal gang, the Black Fist Triad, wants to make sure she never sees anything again. 

Ray enlists help from an old flame, Dominique, but now he has three women on his mind. Meeting with various witnesses-ex-cops, prostitutes, skinheads-he relentlessly tracks the evidence. But the hunt for Tania fires his obsession with avenging the murder of his fiance. 

When the triad retaliates, and blood begins to flow, Ray must walk the knife edge between revenge and redemption on the streets of San Francisco. (publisher)

My comments: Quick and fast trips from Boston to San Francisco into the haunts of the Triads who control much of the underbelly of the city. PI Infantino is hired to find a girl missing from her home for over ten years. Infantino's mission is dangerous and there is thrilling action and near escapes as he attempts to find and then hide the girl Tania.

Fast paced novel with good descriptions of San Francisco as Infantino traverses it to find the missing girl. A good plot with an alluring setting. I enjoyed this quick and exciting read.

I received a complimentary copy of this book for review

Mar 27, 2014

Book Review/Tour:The Sound of Broken Glass by Deborah Crombie

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: The Sound of Broken Glass: Duncan Kinkaid and Gemma James #15 by Deborah Crombie
Published February 25, 2014; William Morrow
Genre: mystery, police procedural
page 56: "...You drink some more of that tea." She waited until Mrs. Arnott had complied and her color seemed a bit better. Then she added," I'll bet you remember which pub Vincent goes to on his Friday evenings."
 Book beginning: It had been years since she had been in an English church. Would the place be locked earl on this miserable Januaray evening? she wondered. Moved by a sudden impulse, she waited for a break in the traffic and dodged across Charing Cross Road into Denmark Street.
 Synopsis: Detective Inspector Gemma James is investigating the murder of Vincent Arnott in a hotel in the Crystal Palace area of London. Those questioned include Andy a guitarist in a band performing in a nearby pub the night of the murder. To unravel the events leading up to the crime, the novel flashes back in time to the young Andy at age 13 who is befriended by a neighbor and school teacher, Nadine. The story of Andy and his friends and how their stories intersect with that of the murder victim Arnott is key to the mystery.

My comments: The domestic life of detective inspector Gemma James is very much in the forefront and occupies almost half of the novel. Gemma takes turns with her husband, Detective Superintendent Duncan Kinkaid, to stay at home with their two children and a three-year-old foster child, Charlotte. In this novel, it's Gemma's turn to work, to investigate this case - Arnott's death and that of another man - and Duncan's turn to take care of home and family.

The streets and places in the Crystal Palace area and other parts of London are included in some detail, as we follow the characters and the police from area to area during their investigations. The names and locations went over my head, unfamiliar territory. I can imagine that this aspect of the novel would appeal especially to those who know London and its surroundings well.

Recommendations: The plot has unexpected outcomes and a few surprising twists. There are many scenes of domestic life that personalize the police who are involved in solving the case. I enjoyed the novel, though I especially enjoyed her previous book, No Mark Upon Her.

Visit Partners in Crime Tours for more reviews of the book and for the tour schedule

About the author: Deborah Crombie is a native Texan who has lived in both England and Scotland. She lives in McKinney, Texas, sharing a house that is more than one hundred years old with her husband, three cats, and two German shepherds. Connect with her on Facebook and follow her on Twitter.

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

Mar 26, 2014

Book Review: The Riot by Laura Wilson

The Riot
Title: The Riot (Detectie Inspector Ted Stratton #5) byLaura Wilson
Published Augus 1, 2013; Quercus
Genre: police procedural

About the book: The Riot is set in the 1950s in a run down area of London inhabited primarily by Caribbean immigrants who live in relative poverty there. There is a murder of an English man who lived in a building there, a man who collected rent from tenants in several apartment buildings owned by a wealthy but unscrupulous property owner. This owner goes to many lengths to see that his tenants pay up, even sending thugs with dogs to the apartments.

My comments: Not knowing the area of London, it was difficult to sustain interest in this crime novel. It was also written in a factual, journalistic style without the usual elements to keep the reader's interest - notably strong characterizations, even subplots. The journalistic style was dry. To be fair, I believe those familiar with London and its ethnic groups and problems - Teddy boys, immigrants who do not fit in well, etc. and the racial tensions that ensue - will get much more from the novel.

The writer, Laura Wilson, has won an award for a previous book in this crime series.

Book description: August 1958. London is hot and tired, and nowhere more so than Notting Hill, where DI Stratton has just been posted. 

Stratton’s new manor is dirt poor and rife with racial tension. The end of the war saw a flood of Caribbean migrants. Now, a decade later, working-class Teddy Boys are showing mounting hostility towards their black neighbours. 

Notorious landlord Danny Perlmann, a Polish refugee, is taking full advantage of others’ reluctance to rent to the immigrants – or to prostitutes – and is making a fortune off the high rents he charges. Caught in the middle of this war over rents and turf is Irene, a young runaway on the verge of going on the game. 

When Perlmann’s rent collector is murdered, Stratton is called to investigate. Notting Hill is a cauldron, soon to be the scene of the worst racial violence England has ever known, and Stratton is right at the heart of it.

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

Mar 25, 2014

First Chapter: An Unnecessary Woman by Rabih Alameddine

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

Title: An Unnecessary Woman by Rabih Alameddine
Published February 4, 2014; Grove Press
Genre: fiction

First chapter:
You could say I was thinking of other things when I shampooed my hair blue, and two glasses of red wine didn't help my concentration. 
Book description:
Celebrates the singular life of an obsessive introvert, revealing Beirut’s beauties and horrors along the way.

Aaliya Sohbi lives alone in her Beirut apartment, surrounded by stockpiles of books. Godless, fatherless, divorced, and childless, Aaliya is her family’s "unnecessary appendage.” Every year, she translates a new favorite book into Arabic, then stows it away. The thirty-seven books that Aaliya has translated have never been read—by anyone. After overhearing her neighbors, "the three witches,” discussing her too-white hair, Aaliya accidentally dyes her hair too blue.

In this breathtaking portrait of a reclusive woman’s late-life crisis, readers follow Aaliya’s digressive mind as it ricochets across visions of past and present Beirut. Insightful musings on literature, philosophy, and art are invaded by memories of the Lebanese Civil War and Aaliya’s volatile past. As she tries to overcome her aging body and spontaneous emotional upwellings, Aaliya is faced with an unthinkable disaster that threatens to shatter the little life she has left.

A love letter to literature and its power to define who we are, the gifted Rabih Alameddine has given us a nuanced rendering of a single woman's reclusive life in the Middle East. (goodreads)

Based on the first paragraph and the book description, would you continue reading?

Mar 23, 2014

Sunday Salon: Spring Has Not Sprung; Books and Poetry Blog Tour

Welcome to the Sunday Salon! Also visit The Sunday Post hosted by The Caffeinated Bookreviewer; It's Monday: What Are You Reading? at Book Journey.

A reluctant spring is here, sprinkled with snow and dropping below freezing at times. No bud or sprig dares show its head in this still frigid cold. Only more birds singing...a good sign. I'm more than ready to come out of hibernation. The temps are back in the 20s today after teasing us with 50s last week.

Fans of Mary Higgins Clark will be glad to know about her new thriller to be released April 1, 2014 by Simon & Schuster:
I've Got You Under My Skin
"When Laurie Moran’s husband was brutally murdered, only three-year-old Timmy saw the face of his father’s killer. Five years later his piercing blue eyes still haunt Timmy’s dreams. Laurie is haunted by more—the killer’s threat to her son as he fled the scene: “Tell your mother she’s next, then it’s your turn . . .”
Now Laurie is the producer of a true-crime, cold-case television series to launch with the twenty-year-old unsolved murder of Betsy Powell, a socialite found suffocated after a gala celebrating the graduation of her daughter and three friends. Reopening the case with the cooperation of the surviving guests that night, Laurie is sure to have a hit on her hands. But when the estranged friends begin filming, it becomes clear each is hiding secrets . . . small and large. And a pair of blue eyes is watching events unfold, too . ."(publisher)

I was one of five winners of a new e-book in a contest by the prolific Southern author, Peggy Webb:
Phantom of Riverside Park
"An unwed mother looking for a miracle… A wounded war hero living in the shadows… A grandfather praying for a silver lining… They never expected that miracles come in the most unlikely ways. Poignant and touching with lovely dashes of humor, this story will haunt you for a long time to come." (publisher)
Enjoying the descriptive writing.

Did you know that April is National Poetry Month?
The National Poetry Month Blog Tour hosted by Serena of Savvy Verse and Wit in April will feature bloggers posting on selected poets and their poems. On April 11 I will share thoughts on a favorite poem by Gerard Manley Hopkins, "Spring and Fall: To a Young Child."  Contact Serena re signing up for the tour!

My next book tour will be March 26, a review of The Riot by Laura Wilson, a mystery novel set in racially charged 1950s London.

What books are you reading this week?

Mar 21, 2014

Author Q & A: Oleander Girl by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni

Friday 56 Rules: *Grab a book, any book, and post a sentence from page 56. Add your (url) post in Linky at Freda's Voice. Also Book Beginnings by Rose City Reader.

Oleander Girl
Page 56: Eighteen years lost already - I can't waste any more time. The need to find out everything about my parents, suddenly, is like an ache in my bones, a deep deficiency.

Opening paragraph: I am swimming through a long, underwater cavern flecked with blue light, the cavern of love, with Rajat close behind me. We're in a race, and so far I'm winning because this is my dream. Sometimes, when I'm dreaming, I don't know it. But tonight I do. Sometimes when I'm awake, I wonder if I'm dreaming. That, however, is another story. 

A Conversation with Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni about Oleander Girl,  a sweeping, suspenseful coming-of-age tale about a young woman who leaves India for America on a search that will transform her life.

How did you become a writer? Did you always know you wanted to be one?
Growing up in India, I never thought I'd be a writer. I didn't believe I had either the talent or the drive or a special story to tell. But immigration thrust me into a whole different world which was at once exciting and disconcerting in its newness. I wrote to make sense of my new life, and to remember the life that I had left behind.

You often set your books in India. What attracts you to the Indian landscape?
The landscape of one's childhood imprints itself upon the heart. In my case, that was India. Add to that the fact that Indian culture is old and complex and currently, due to globalization, undergoing a rapid transformation, and you have possibilities for many stories. In Oleander Girl, for instance, the two protagonists, Korobi and Rajat, come from very different families. Korobi's is steeped in tradition; Rajat's is westernized and newly rich. When Korobi and Rajat fall in love, this will lead to many complications.

A family secret lies at the heart of Oleander Girl. What made you decide to focus on this?
My own family had a dark secret of its own. When I discovered it, it turned my life upside down. I felt betrayed by the people I had trusted all my life—and yet I couldn't stop loving them. I wanted to explore these painful, contradictory feelings through Korobi's situation. She is braver than I was—she traveled across the world in search of that secret.

Do you write your books in English, or in some other language?
I write all my books in English. My mother-tongue is Bengali, but English was the language of my schooling. I read Bengali fluently, and when my mother was alive I wrote letters to her in that language. She told me once that it was a good thing I didn't write anything else in Bengali! (I think my vocabulary is at the 6th grade level). I do participate, though, when my books are translated into Bengali.

Oleander Girl is set in the year 2002. Why did you decide on this time period?
An important question in Oleander Girl is how can we live in amity with difference, both racial and religious? The year 2002 illustrates the price we have to pay when we choose not to do so.  In 2002, in the U.S., people were suffering the aftermath of 9/11—both the tragedy of the deaths in the Towers and elsewhere, and the violent fear and prejudice that swept the nation and affected the lives of many Americans who looked like I do. In India, 2002 was the year of the terrible Godhra Riots that led to deadly clashes between Hindus and Muslims.

How did you come up with the title of this novel? In what way is it central to the theme of the book?
The heroine Korobi's name means Oleander in Bengali. From childhood, Korobi wants to know why her mother, who dies in childbirth, would want to name her after a flower that is beautiful but poisonous. She will discover the answer at the end, and along with that she will understand what kind of woman her mother wanted her to be. And this—how women need to balance between what they owe others and what they owe themselves—is an important theme in the novel.
What are you working on now?
I'm working on a novel that is a re-working of our famous epic, The Ramayana. I am re-telling it from the point of view of Sita, the central woman character. The teller of the tale changes the meaning of the tale. By putting a woman at the center of an epic adventure, I hope to draw attention to different issues and make readers re-evaluate their beliefs about what is heroic.

About the Author
Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni is the author of The Mistress of Spices, Sister of My Heart, and The Vine of Desire; two short story collections, Arranged Marriage and The Unknown Errors of Our Lives; four volumes of poetry; and an award-winning novel for young readers, The Conch Bearer. Her work has appeared in The New Yorker, The Atlantic Monthly, and The New York Times. Winner of an American Book Award, she teaches creative writing at the University of Houston.

Thanks to Simon and Schuster for providing this Q &A.

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...