Aug 30, 2014

Sunday Salon: Fall Books

Welcome to the Sunday Salon where bloggers share their reading each week.Visit The Sunday Post hosted by The Caffeinated Bookreviewer; Also visit It's Monday: What Are You Reading hosted by Book Journey and Stacking the Shelves at Tynga's Reviews.

Very hot this weekend after signs recently that fall was near. The flowers and plants are as confused as we are, it seems.

Our garden has been a joy, however. We planted lots of colorful zinnias, asters, marigolds, hollyhocks and cone flowers and the butterflies, hummingbirds, bumble bees, and the occasional golden finch just love it. We also harvested a few giant zucchini, a few dozen hot Caribbean peppers, and some herbs from the vegetable garden.

My reading list has expanded to include these new and soon to be released books:

Crooked River

Death at Chinatown

The Language of Silence
Click on the covers or the blue titles under the pictures for book descriptions. 

Heroes Are My Weakness
Dark Spies (Spycatcher #4)
What are you reading this fall?

Aug 29, 2014

Book Review: Remains of Innocence by J.A. Jance

Remains of Innocence
Title: Remains of Innocence (Joanna Brady #16) by J. A. Jance
Published July 22, 2014; William Morrow
Genre: mystery, suspense

Lisa Matchett hasn't seen her penny pinching mother, a hoarder in the worst possible way, in about eleven years. When Selma is taken to hospice, Lisa cleans out the house and discovers her mother's secret.

But others begin to kill for this secret, and Lisa rides with truckers to hide her trail to her brother in Arizona.
Her story later links up with Sheriff Joanna Brady in Arizona who is solving the mystery of Junior, a man found dead at the bottom of a deep cave with the bodies of  pets around him. Was Junior a torturer of animals, and did someone push him to his death?

I loved the two different stories - a suspenseful trip with Lisa fleeing the bad guys, and the mystery of Junior and the dead and injured pets. The separate events come together well and in an unusual way. The plot of this novel is fantastic and as a mystery lover, I really enjoyed the action and the suspense, the detailed investigation techniques that Sheriff Brady and her team follow.... until, that is, I got to the very end.

The ending made me want to have an existential and theological discussion with the author Jance about evil and the nature of evil. The motive she gives for one of the murders was incomplete and that spoiled the book for me. Rating? Five stars for the suspense, two stars for the unsettling and, in my view, unresolved ending to one of the murders.


Sheriff Joanna Brady must solve two perplexing cases that may be tied together. J. A. Jance’s tale of suspense brings to life Arizona’s Cochise County and the desert Southwest's beauty and mystery.
An old woman, a hoarder, is dying of emphysema in Great Barrington, Massachusetts. In cleaning out her house, her daughter, Liza Machett, discovers that her mother was hiding a secret.
Liza flees dangerous pursuers on a journey that will end in Cochise County, where Sheriff Joanna Brady is embroiled in a personal mystery of her own. A man she considers a family friend is found dead at the bottom of a hole in a limestone cavern near Bisbee.  Are the two disparate cases connected? It’s up to Joanna to find out. (publisher)

About the author: J. A. Jance is bestselling author of the J. P. Beaumont mystery series, the Joanna Brady series, three interrelated thrillers featuring the Walker family, and Edge of Evil. Jance lives with her husband in Seattle, Washington, and Tucson, Arizona.
Thanks to Partners in Crime Book Tours and the publisher for a review ARC of this book. Visit the tour schedule for other reviews.

Aug 28, 2014

Library Find: Above the East China Sea: A Novel by Sarah Bird

Above the East China Sea
My latest library find, an historical novel with some magical realism, is set in Japan in the present and right after the war.

Above the East China Sea by Sarah Bird
Published May 27, 2014; Knopf
Genre: historical fiction
Book description: The story of two teenaged girls, an American and an Okinawan, whose lives connect across seventy years by the experience of profound loss, the strength of culture, and the power of family love. 
Luz James, a contemporary U.S. Air Force brat, lives with her sergeant mother at Kadena Air Base in Okinawa. Luz’s older sister has just been killed in the Afghan war. Unmoored by her sister’s death, the desolate girl contemplates taking her own life. In 1945, Tamiko Kokuba is plucked out of her elite girls’ high school and trained to work in the Imperial Army’s horrific cave hospitals. Tamiko finds herself squeezed between the occupying Japanese and the invading Americans. Like Luz, she aches to be reunited with her beloved sister. On an island where the spirits of the dead are part of life and your entire clan waits for you in the afterworld, suicide offers Tamiko the promise of peace. 
Luz tracks down the story of her own Okinawan grandmother and discovers that, if she  allows herself to connect completely, the ancestral spirits will save not only Tamiko but her as well.  
 Above the East China Sea shows how war shapes the lives of conquerors as well as the conquered and is a moving account of family, friendship, and love that transcends time. (publisher)
I'm interested in the magical realism incorporated into the historical fiction of two girls years apart, who somehow manage to connect.  The author, now a columnist and writer, grew up on air force bases around the world. 

Aug 26, 2014

Book Review: Paw and Order by Spencer Quinn

Paw and Order
Paw and Order: Chet and Bernie Mystery #7 by Spencer Quinn
Published August 5, 2014; Atria Books
"Did you know Mr. St. John kept a diary?" Soares said.
"Of course not," Suzie said. "I told you - we weren't close."
"Yet," Soares said.
"Yet?" said Suzie. "What is that supposed to mean?" (
ch. 6, from an uncorrected proof. Final copy may differ).
Bernie Little and his sidekick Chet the dog, partners in the Little Detective Agency in Arizona, visit Bernie's girlfriend Suzie in DC where she is an investigative reporter for the Washington Post. Eben St. John, a British man with intelligence connections, who is close to Suzie, is killed and Bernie is at first a suspect. After law enforcement tries to get him to leave town and stay out of the investigation, Bernie stays, hired by the St. John's father to find the killer and concerned about Suzie's safety.

There is politics involved, as far as Chet the dog narrator of the book knows, though he may not understand much of that aspect of the case. I followed Chet's thoughts closely and like him, the details of the case remain a bit fuzzy. I had a grand adventure reading the book and following Chet's thoughts or lack thereof, but I did remain a bit unclear at the end about the people and their involvement. In general, I got it, but the detailed plot and people connections? I stand with Chet. Who cares, as long as the "perp" is apprehended.

A fun read as always with this series in which Chet the dog tells the story. I give this a 4 out of 5 just because  Chet is such a good storyteller, from his point of view, of course...

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

Aug 23, 2014

Sunday Salon: Where Did Summer Go?

Welcome to the Sunday Salon where bloggers share their reading each week.Visit The Sunday Post hosted by The Caffeinated Bookreviewer; Also visit It's Monday: What Are You Reading hosted by Book Journey.

Getting to be early autumn? Yes, it's that time of year. The birds are ready to head south and I wish I could go along! Some books for fall reading.

Someone Else's Love Story

Further Out Than You Thought
Early Decision

Three Story House
One of Us
The Girl From the Well

The Drop

Click on the blue titles below the book covers to see book details and synopsis.

Now that summer is winding down, do you have any special books for fall reading? 

Any new resolutions for reading, writing, and/or blogging the rest of the year?

I'm still thinking ...

Chasers of the Light: Poems from the Typewriter Series by Tyler Knott Gregson

Title: Chasers of the Light: Poems From the Typewriter Series by Tyler Knott Gregson
To be published September 2, 2014; Perigree Trade
Genre: poetry

Oh  what  we
could  be  if  we 
stopped carrying
the remains  
of  who  we  were.

Here is the story of how a photographer became a poet...a typewriter poet.
One day, while browsing an antique store in Helena, Montana, photographer Tyler Knott Gregson stumbled upon a vintage Remington typewriter for sale. Standing up and using a page from a broken book he was buying for $2, he typed a poem without thinking, without planning, and without the ability to revise anything.
Three years and almost one thousand poems later, Tyler is now known as the creator of the Typewriter Series: a collection of poems typed onto found scraps of paper or created via blackout method. Chasers of the Light features poems that illuminate grand gestures and small glimpses, poems that celebrate a life spent chasing the light. (publisher)
The one-page poems are written as though typed on different kinds of scrap paper -  on graph paper, beige or blue or brown paper, red paper on occasion, and on photographs. Some poems are created using a black out method, with white words standing out on a black background.

Most of the poems in this book are love poems:
A  moment,
a  smile;
a  single burst
of  laughter
that  sounds  exactly  like
the  rest
of  my  life.
I think the value of the Typewriter Series is that is makes poetry more approachable for those who might shy away from it, those who feel poetry too esoteric for them. The presentation of words in this informal, casual, and typed format makes poetry seem "down to earth" and thus easier to appreciate.

I would give this book to anyone I'd like to convince to start reading poetry.

Thanks to Oleg Lyubner Publicity for a review copy of this book of poems.

Aug 21, 2014

Book Review: The Story Hour by Thrity Umrigar

The Story Hour
Title: The Story Hour by Thrity Umrigar
Published August 19, 2014; Harper
Genre: fiction, women's fiction
Objective rating: 4.5/5

The power of stories to heal and connect. That seems to be part of the message of this novel by Umrigar, with its intriguing characters and storyline.

Two very different women are brought together by fate and circumstance - the unhappily married immigrant to the U.S., Lakshmi, who is healed by and in turn helps to heal her psychologist and friend, African-American Maggie, by telling Maggie stories of her life growing up in India. Both women are married to Indian men, have sad memories of mothers who died when they were younger, and both women harbor secrets from their past that hamper their lives in the present.

These two are fully developed characters and their interaction, not always a smooth one, brings the novel to life in a vivid and affecting way. Don't miss reading this book if you get the chance.
Book description: An experienced psychologist, Maggie carefully maintains emotional distance from her patients. But when she meets a young Indian woman who tried to kill herself, her professional detachment disintegrates. Cut off from her family in India, Lakshmi is desperately lonely and trapped in a loveless marriage to a domineering man...  
Moved by her plight, Maggie treats Lakshmi in her home office for free, quickly realizing that the despondent woman doesn't need a shrink; she needs a friend....When Maggie and Lakshmi share long-buried secrets, the revelations jeopardize their close bond and force them to confront painful choices. (publisher)
I received a proof/galley of this book for review. 

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...