Oct 2, 2014

Book Reviews: The Marco Effect; and For the Dead

Check out Book Beginnings by Rose City Reader.

For the Dead

The Marco Effect

I became quite attached to the young protagonists in these two mystery novels, two crime series books set in Bangkok, Thailand and in Denmark, respectively.

Thirteen-year-olds, Miaow and Andrew, in For the Dead, come across a stolen iPhone, a phone belonging to a hit man for a powerful and influential person in the upper echelons of the police department in Bangkok. The phone has pictures that would reveal a major plot and scandal. The two kids naturally become targets, but targets who, young as they are, add to the suspense as they help Poke Rafferty, fighting to keep them safe, resolve the complex case. For the Dead is the sixth in the Poke Rafferty mystery series by Tim Hallinan, to be released November 4, 2014. My thanks to Soho Press for an advance edition for review.

Fifteen-year-old Marco, in The Marco Effect, discovers a body buried by his uncle Zola and his cohorts, a gang of thieves that force youngsters to become pickpockets in the streets of Denmark. Marco discovers an even bigger and more significant plot linking to the dead man, and he is hunted by both Zola and these new enemies. How he helps the police and Department Q unravel the plot while hiding and running for his life is the main theme of this suspenseful novel. The Marco Effect by Jussi Adler-Olsen was published September 9, 2014 by Dutton Adult. My copy came from the library.

Book beginning of The Marco Effect: 
Autumn 2008

Louis Fon's last morning was as soft as a whisper.
He sat up on the cot with sleep in his eyes and his mind still a muddle, patted the little one who had stroked his cheek, wiped the snot from the tip of her brown nose, and stuck his feet into his flip-flops on the stamped clay of the floor.
He stretched, squinting at the light as the cackle of hens and the distant cries of boys as they cut bananas from the palms drifted into the sunbaked room. 
I rated both The Marco Effect and For the Dead a 5! Great reading for lovers of international crime fiction with compelling plots, sympathetic characters, and unusual settings!

Oct 1, 2014

New Cozy Mysteries: Waiting on Wednesday

Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine. What new books are you looking forward to?

Off Kilter .. a brand-new series, in which a young writer finds herself swept up in a murder amidst the glens and lochs of the Scottish Highlands…to be released October 7, 2014 by Berkley.

Weave of Absence
At Della Wright’s weaving studio in Briar Hollow, North Carolina, Della has enlisted friends to hand weave household linens as a wedding gift for her friend Marnie's wedding.

But Della notices Marnie’s fiancĂ© in a heated argument with one of her students at the engagement party. After the student turns up dead, Della must find the killer—before Marnie agrees to marry her fiance. To be released October 7, 2014 by Signet.
What new releases are you waiting for? 

Sep 29, 2014

Book Review/GIVEAWAY: Dark Aemelia by Sally O'Reilly

Title: Dark Aemelia: A Novel of Shakespeare's Dark Lady by Sally O'Reilly
Published May 27, 2014; Picador/Macmillan
Genre: historical fiction

Book description:
A TALE OF SORCERY AND PASSION IN SEVENTEENTH-CENTURY LONDON—WHERE WITCHES HAUNT WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE AND HIS DARK LADY, THE PLAYWRIGHT’S MUSE AND ONE TRUE LOVE. The daughter of a Venetian musician, Aemilia Bassano came of age in Queen Elizabeth’s royal court. She develops a love of poetry and learning, maturing into a young woman known not only for her beauty but also her sharp mind and quick tongue. Aemilia becomes the mistress of Lord Hunsdon, but her position is precarious. Then she crosses paths with an impetuous playwright named William Shakespeare and begins an impassioned but ill-fated affair.

 A decade later, the Queen is dead, and Aemilia Bassano is now Aemilia Lanyer, fallen from favor and married to a fool. Like the rest of London, she fears the plague. And when her young son Henry takes ill, Aemilia resolves to do anything to save him, even if it means seeking help from her estranged lover, Will—or worse, making a pact with the Devil himself.

 Sally O’Reilly breathes life into England’s first female poet, a mysterious woman nearly forgotten by history.

My comments:
The author has taken historical personages, notably Shakespeare himself, and woven a fictional tale of love and magic involving Aemilia Bassano, England's first female poet, and the Bard. This novel's story is not based on fact and Aemilia's relationship with Shakespeare in this book is pure fiction. We still don't know who the Dark Lady, Shakespeare's muse, refers to in real life. But this is a good story for those who don't mind. A lot of imaginative creativity in this novel, which I recommend for those who love historical fiction and romance.

See the Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tour schedule for more reviews of the book.

About the Author
Sally O’Reilly has received numerous citations for her fiction, which has been shortlisted for the Ian St James Short Story Prize and the Cosmopolitan Short Story Award. A former Cosmopolitan New Journalist of the Year, her work has appeared in The Guardian, The Sunday Times, the Evening Standard, and the New Scientist. She teaches creative writing at the Open University and the University of Portsmouth in England. Dark Aemilia is her U.S. debut.

Thanks to HF Virtual Book Tours and the publisher for a review copy.

BOOK GIVEAWAY: Giveaway of five copies, open to US and Canada residents only. Please leave a comment with your email address OR email your entry to me at harvee44@yahoo.com with the heading: "Dark Aemelia Giveaway."  Please respond by October 9, 2014. 

UPDATE: Congrats to Barbara, Brian, Tea, Shaula, and Anita, THE WINNERS.

Sep 28, 2014

Sunday Salon: All Mystery

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.

Fall is here and am out of the house again after nursing a nasty cold for a couple of weeks. Found a new dim sum place yesterday and ate too much. The nice thing about dim sum is that you can have as much or as little as you like as each little dish has only about three bites or small portions - Asian style tapas, but going back hundreds of years.

I have found some good books at the library recently, finished
Stillwater, an historical novel of Minnesota in the 19th century and 
Death of an Englishman by M.C. Beaton. I am now reading Jussi-Adler Olsen's newest Scandinavian thriller, The Marco Effect.

After reading and loving Us: A Novel by David Nicholls, I borrowed the ebook of his previous novel, One Day. I was not as taken with this one, however, and finished it quickly, something you can do with an ebook.

New books on my TBR shelf are:

For the Dead
French Pastry Murder
Stirring the Plot

Literally Murder
Picked to Die
Click on the blue titles under each book cover for book descriptions. 

What's new in your reading?

Sep 25, 2014

Book Review: Ghost Month by Ed Lin

Visit Book Beginnings hosted by Rose City Reader.

Title: Ghost Month by Ed Lin
Published July 29, 2014; Soho
Genre: mystery
Rating: 4.5/5
Book Beginning:
When I found out the girl I was going to marry had been murdered, I was sitting on a foldout stool at a sidewalk noodle shop in Taipei's Da'an District. My mouth went dry, my eyes blurred and I couldn't stop shaking. It was the hottest day in July, and the island's humidity was draped over me like a mourning veil, yet my body went cold and sweaty. Even my skin was crying. (from proof; final copy may differ)
My comments: A suspenseful mystery and a fast read in an atmospheric international setting. I learned a lot about Taipei, Taiwan - its night markets and other tourist areas, the variety of its people, aboriginal and immigrant, and something about its culture, politics, and its relationship with China and Japan.

Publisher's description:
August is Ghost Month in Taiwan-a time to commemorate the dead: burn incense, visit shrines, commemorate ancestors, and avoid unlucky situations, large purchases, and bodies of water.

Jing-nan, a young man who runs a food stand in a Taipei night market, is shocked to learn his ex-girlfriend from high school has been murdered, found shot on the side of a highway where she was selling betel nuts to passing truck drivers. Jing-nan is confused by the news: "betel nut beauties" are usually women in the most desperate of circumstances.

But Julia Huang had been the valedictorian of their high school, and was enrolled in NYU's honor program, far away in New York. Julia's parents beg Jing-nan to do some investigating. Reluctantly, he agrees, but nothing can prepare him for what he learns, or how it will change his life.

Thanks to Soho for a review ARC of this novel.

Sep 24, 2014

Book Review: Us by David Nicholls

Waiting on Wednesday is hosted weekly by Jill at Breaking the Spine. What new releases are you eagerly waiting for? Link your post to Breaking the Spine.

Us: A Novel by David Nicholls
Expected publication: October 28, 2014; Harper
Genre: fiction

Publisher's description:
'I was looking forward to us growing old together. Me and you, growing old and dying together.'
'Douglas, who in their right mind would look forward to that?' 
Douglas Petersen understands his wife's need to 'rediscover herself' now that their son is leaving home. He just thought they'd be doing their rediscovering together.
So when Connie announces that she will be leaving, too, he resolves to make their last family holiday into the trip of a lifetime: one that will draw the three of them closer, and win the respect of his son. One that will make Connie fall in love with him all over again.
The hotels are booked, the tickets bought, the itinerary planned and printed.
What could possibly go wrong?
This novel will be released soon. I have already read the preview edition and can't recommend it enough.

My comments: Douglas, a "nerdy" and rigid biochemist tries to save his strained marriage and reconnect with his teenage son during a month-long Grand Tour of Europe. His wife, Connie, a much freer spirit then he, wants to return to her art and the freedom she had as a single woman twenty five years previously. Their son Albie, soon to be a college student, seems estranged and uncommunicative with his father.

The adventure in Europe changes Douglas and exposes him to new experiences and people that open up his previously narrow view of life. It changes the family dynamic as well. The ending is a surprise one.

My rating: 5 stars. Great plot about family dynamics; wonderful characterizations. Grab this book as soon as it's published!

I received an advance edition of this book for review.

Sep 23, 2014

Book Review: Bitter Greens by Kate Forsyth

Bitter Greens

Bitter Greens by Kate Forsyth
Publication Date: September 23, 2014; Thomas Dunne Books
Hardcover, 496 pages
Genre: Historical/Fantasy/Fairy-Tale Retellings

Publisher's description: Bitter Greens’is a retelling of the Rapunzel fairy tale interwoven with the life story of the woman who first told the tale, the 17th century French writer, Charlotte-Rose de la Force.

A personal perspective:
When I started the book, I was delighted to discover the history of the fairy tale "Rapunzel" and the history of the woman who wrote the current version. Charlotte-Rose de la Force's version of Rapunzel has been handed down from the 17th century.

We could go into many discussions about the meaning of the fairy tale, how it represents the extreme plight of some young women with malicious people in their backgrounds, not to mention their having plain bad luck.

In this novel, I felt that a deeper message or meaning was missing somehow. Many fairy tales are to warn children of the dangers of not obeying parents, of wandering off on their own, trusting total strangers, etc., such as in Hansel and Gretel, Peter and the Wolf, Little Red Riding Hood, The Three Bears.

In Bitter Greens, bad luck happens when the fictional girl's father is caught stealing a handful of parsley for his starving family and when he has to promise the "bad witch" the life of his daughter when she reached a certain age. Bad luck also happens to the writer of the story, Charlotte-Rose de la Force, who is locked up, so to speak, in a convent for being too outspoken at court. (She spends time writing her stories though freed later on to live a normal life).

The novel could have been shortened from its 496 pages to have more impact, I felt. As it is, I found it hard to get through the entire book to find the message at the very end and also felt that the stories of the fictional Margherita and of the real Charlotte-Rose were too similar in their "bad luck," which made for a depressing read.

I enjoyed the first half of the book and rate it 3 out of 5 overall.

 For more reviews of Bitter Greens, visit the tour schedule at Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours

About the Author
Kate Forsyth, award-winning author of thirty books for both adults and children, was voted one of Australia’s Favourite 20 Novelists, and is an accredited master storyteller with the Australian Guild of Storytellers. 

Her recent novel, ‘The Wild Girl’, is the true love story of Wilhelm Grimm and Dortchen Wild, the young woman who told him many of the world’s most famous fairy tales. It was named the Most Memorable Love Story of 2013. ‘Bitter Greens’ has been nominated for a Norma K. Hemming Award, the Aurealis Award for Best Fantasy Fiction, and a Ditmar Award.

Kate's books have been published in 14 countries. She lives in Sydney, Australia, with her family and many thousands of books. Visit her website and blog. You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Goodreads.

I received an ARC of this book for review.

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