Jan 12, 2016

Review: The Witch's Market by Mingmei Yip

Bibliophile By the Sea hosts First Chapter, First Paragraph every Tuesday. Share the first paragraph(s) of your current read or book interest, with information for readers. Also share a teaser from the book with Teaser Tuesday at A Daily Rhythm.
The Witch's Market by Mingmei Yip, published November 24, 2015 by Kensington
First paragraph: 
When I turned thirty-three, I decided it was time for a big change in my life. It was time to become a witch.  
I have to admit I was not sure this would be a good idea.
Teaser:  
I prided myself in being a modern woman, not an old-fashioned or superstitious one. So, instead of becoming a shamaness like Mother and Laolao, I'd become a scholar of shamanism.
Publisher's description: From the author of Secret of a Thousand Beauties and Peach Blossom Pavilion comes a beautifully written novel of self-discovery and intrigue.

Chinese-American assistant professor Eileen Chen specializes in folk religion at her San Francisco college. Though her grandmother made her living as a shamaness, Eileen publicly dismisses witchcraft as mere superstition. Yet privately, the subject intrigues her.

When a research project takes her to the Canary Islands—long rumored to be home to real witches—Eileen is struck by the lush beauty of Tenerife and its blend of Spanish and Moroccan culture. A stranger invites her to a local market where women sell amulets, charms, and love spells. Gradually Eileen immerses herself in her exotic surroundings, finding romance with a handsome young furniture maker. But as she learns more about the lives of these self-proclaimed witches, Eileen must choose how much trust to place in this new and seductive world, where love, greed, and vengeance can be as powerful, or as destructive, as any magic.

My comments: The Chinese in general are great believers in ghosts and the supernatural, in an afterlife inhabited by ghosts. The author explores some of these beliefs in a modern context - a young Chinese scholar searches for the mysterious on an island that is believed to be inhabited by the ghostly - the Canary Islands. 

This novel uses an intriguing blend of superstitious belief, traditional folk culture and scholarly interest in an aspect of Chinese culture. The main character, Eileen Chen, is on an odyssey, exploring places real and magical on the islands, and interweaving old beliefs into her story.


An unusual read that will be interesting to those intrigued by the supernatural and in those able to reach out to "the other side."


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

Jan 10, 2016

Book Review: River Road by Carol Goodman

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

Snow came down suddenly today after a night of cold rain. It's keeping me indoors, plus a sore throat and the sniffles. Good weather for reading.


River Road by Carol Goodman, to be released January 19, 2016 by Touchstone
Genre: suspense

I received this book last week and finished it in two days. Set in a college town in upstate New York, the story is quite compelling. The main character, Nan Lewis, is a creative writing professor who is fighting alcohol addiction and grief over the death of her four-year-old daughter Emily years earlier.


She finds out she is denied tenure during a staff party and drives home that snowy night, hitting a deer that suddenly appeared at a sharp curve of the road, at the same spot her daughter Emily had been hit and killed in a car accident years before.


Nan is sure she hit only a deer, though she can't find sign of the animal after she exits her car and searches. The next day, however, she becomes a suspect in a hit and run accident that killed one of her college students in the same area and at around the same time she hit the deer.  How did this happen and what is the truth, Nan struggles to find out. 


The plot is suspenseful and the characters well drawn. A well written and plotted novel. I enjoyed reading about creative writing students and their teachers and the literary references throughout the book. 


Objective rating: a five-star read. 


Thanks to the publisher for a complimentary review copy. 

Jan 8, 2016

Book Review: Moonlight Over Paris by Jennifer Robson

The Friday 56: *Grab a 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, visit Book Beginning at Rose City Reader.
Moonlight Over Paris
Moonlight Over Paris by Jennifer Robson
To be released January 19, 2016 by William Morrow
Genre: historical novel, romance
Objective rating: 4/5

The prologue and opening sentences of this novel are rather dramatic:
Belgravia, London  December 1923 
Helena had heard, or perhaps she had read somewhere that people on the point of death were insensible to pain. Enveloped in a gentle cloud of perfect tranquility, all earthly cares at an end, they simply floated into oblivion.
But I won't be spoiling anything to reveal that Lady Helena Montagu-Douglas-Parr lives on, travels to Paris to live for a year with her wealthy Aunt, a princess by marriage, and studies art in the exciting atmosphere created by the Lost Generation and expatriates living in the City of Lights.

Helena has to overcome her experience of being pointed at and gossiped about after her broken engagement in London, which people wrongly thought of as her fault. She is reluctant to find love again, but the Parisian atmosphere works in her favor and throws her in the path of good artist friends and a romantic interest, an American newspaperman, Sam Howard. But Helena is still reeling from her broken engagement and for a long while, her relationship with Sam seems to be going nowhere.

Moonlight Over Paris was perfect as an easy read for right after the holidays. I recommend it for lovers of romance novels set in the Paris of the 1920s.

Page 56:
"I only have one year here," she admitted. That is, my parents have been kind enough to let me come here for a year and study with Maitre Czerny. But it's not a forever sort of thing. I can't just stay here."
Thanks to the publisher for a galley of this book for review. 

Jan 4, 2016

2016 100+Book Challenge: List of Books Read/Reviewed

I am signing up again for the 100+ Book Challenge hosted by Freda's Voice. Click on this link to join in and enter your books read/reviewed each month in Freda's linky.

My first books for 2016:

1. A Wee Dose of Death: A Scotshop Mystery #2 by Fran Stewart

2.  Moonlight Over Paris by Jennifer Roson, historical romance

3.  River Road by Cara Goodman, suspense

4.  The Opposite of Everyone by Joshilyn Jackson, women's fiction

5. Dead to the Last Drop by Cleo Coyle, cozy mystery

6. The Witch's Market by Mingmei Yip, fiction

7. The Drowning by Camilla Lackberg, suspense 

8. Under the Influence by Joyce Maynard

9. Killer Cupcakes by Leighann Dobbs

10. The Diver's Clothes Lie Empty by Vendela Vida

11. The Passenger by Lisa Lutz, thriller

12. How to Start a Fire by Lisa Lutz, women's fiction

13. The Daylight Marriage by Heidi Pitlor, contemporary fiction

14. Sire and Damn by Susan Conant, mystery

15. Dishing the Dirt by M. C. Beaton, mystery

16, Lone Star by Paullina Simons, romance, contemporary fiction

17. North of Here by Laurel Saville, contemporary fiction

18. Cambodia Noir by Nicholas Seeley, thriller/adventure

20. The Rain Sparrow by Linda Goodnight, romance

21. The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman, historical fiction

22. Night Night, Sleep Tight by Nora Ephron, thriller

23. The Girl from Home by Adam Mitzner, suspense

24. Blood Orange by Susan Wittig Albert, mystery

25. The Strangler Vine by M.J.Carter, historical fiction


100+Book Challenge 2015 - Partial List

The 100+ Book Challenge 2015 was hosted by Freda's Voice.


Here is my Books Read list that I didn't finish but listed under goodreads instead. I did read over 100 books in 2015. Click on the titles to see the reviews or my ratings on Goodreads.

Mystery/Thriller

1. Tokyo Kill by Barry Lancet
2. The Secret Place by Tana French
3. Arsenic and Old Books by Miranda James
4. A Bite of Death by Susan Conant
5. Oracles of Delphi by Marie Savage
6. Enter Pale Death by Barbara Cleverly
7. Tahoe Blowup by Todd Borg
8. Japantown by Barry Lancet
9. Memory's Lie by Jamie Mason
10. Sherlock Holmes, the Missing Years: Japan by Vasudev Murthy
11. A Dangerous Place by Jacqueline Winspear
12. Hush Hush by Laura Lippman
13. Shady Cross by James Hankins
14. Death By a Honey Bee by Abigail Keam
15/ Bird Brained by Jessica Speart
16. Steeped in Evil by Laura Childs
17. The Metaxy Project by Layton Green
18. As Chimney Sweepers Come to Dust by Alan Bradley
19. The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins
20. Death of a Liar by M.C Beaton
21. Horse of a Different Killer by Laura Morrigan
22. If I Fall, If I Die by Michael Christie
23. World Gone By by Dennis Lehane
24. Bittersweet by Miranda Beverly Whittemore
25. Murder on the Champs de Mars by Cara Black
26. Grave on Grand Avenue by Naomi Hirahara
27. Bittersweet by Susan Wittig Albert

General/Literary fiction

1. Hausfrau by Jill Alexander Essbaum
2. What Maisie Knew by Henry James
3. The Bookseller by Cynthia Swanson
4. A Memory of Violets: A Novel of London's Flower Sellers by Hazel Gaynor
5. My Father's Wives by Mike Greenberg
6. The Moon Sisters by Therese Walsh
7. The Precious One by Marisa de los Santos
8. The Last Good Paradise by Tatjana Soli
9. All That Ails You by Mark J. Asher
10. I Regret Everything: A Love Story by Seth Greenfield
11. All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doer
12. A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler
13. Girl in the Moonlight by Charles Dubow



Poetry

1. Joy Street by Laura Foley
2. Doll God by Luanne Castle

Children's books

1. The Monster That Ate My Socks by A.J. Cosmo
2. Donkey's Kite by Liana-Melissa Allen



Books Read in 2014.

New Year's Resolution Book Review: A Wee Dose of Death by Fran Stewart

My New Year's resolution regarding books is to write a review, no matter how short, of each book I finish reading in 2016. Here's my first: a cozy in a new series.

A Wee Dose of Death: A Scotshop Mystery #2 by Fran Stewart, to be released January 5, 2016 by Berkley
Source: publisher, for review
Objective rating: 4/5

ScotShop owner, Peggy Winn, sells kilts and tartans, scarves, socks and other Scottish items to tourists that visit her little Vermont town of Hamelin. Peggy and her best friend Karaline both have a secret - they can see and talk to a fourteenth-century Scotsman, a ghost that came with an old shawl Peggy had bought on a trip to Scotland.

Dirk the ghost can be made to disappear if Peggy should fold up the shawl, which she does whenever Dirk becomes bothersome. He doesn't like it but reappears again when she spreads out or wears the shawl over her shoulders. Dirk comes in handy as an advisor and a keen observer, and may even have healing powers in his cold hands. He helps Peggy solve the mysterious death of Karaline's old college professor, who was found murdered in a mountain cabin in the woods.


This was a fun read. The Scotsman ghost is a great addition to the plot and is very likable, as are the main characters, Peggy and Karaline. The Vermont woods in winter is made very atmospheric, as is the cross country skiing involved in getting through them.


There are many red herrings in the story, so it's great that it's hard to guess the outcome and the culprit(s). I did get a bit confused at the end when the mystery was unraveling and the people's names and identities became confusing to me. I think the final pages could have used some more editing, just a wee bit.


Overall, though, this cozy was very entertaining and makes me eager to read the first in the series.


Jan 3, 2016

Sunday Salon: Books to Start Out the New Year

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

I haven't gotten much read over the holidays, but am into at least three different books that I pick up at random, in between chores. 

Had to drive in to Chicago at 3 a.m. the other day to get our guests to their connection at O'Hare Airport. The sleet storm that followed canceled all or most flights, so we stayed over and cocooned indoors looking out at the Windy, Sleety City that had suddenly gotten cold, as winter is supposed to be. Our visitors finally made it out of Chi Town on New Year's Eve.

No new books in the mail....I did get to the library and found two books with an Asian theme to start out the new year.

The Girl Who Wrote in Silk by Kelli Estes, published July 7, 2015 by Sourcebooks Landmark.

Inara Erickson is exploring her deceased aunt's island estate when she finds an elaborately stitched piece of fabric hidden in the house. As she peels back layer upon layer of the secrets it holds, Inara's life becomes interwoven with that of Mei Lein, a young Chinese girl mysteriously driven from her home a century before. 

Through the stories Mei Lein tells in silk, Inara uncovers a tragic truth that will shake her family to its core — and force her to make an impossible choice.

Inspired by true events, Kelli Estes's brilliant and atmospheric debut serves as a poignant tale of two women determined to do the right thing, and the power of our own stories. (goodreads)


Sisters of Heart and Snow by Margaret Dilloway, published April 7, 2015 by Putnam.
The award-winning author of How to Be an American Housewife ( see my 2011 reviewreturns with a story of estranged sisters, forced together by family tragedy.
Rachel hasn’t returned  home since being kicked out by her strict father after an act of teenage rebellion. Drew, her younger sister, followed her passion for music but takes side jobs to make ends meet. When their deferential Japanese mother, Hikari, is diagnosed with dementia and gives Rachel power of attorney, Rachel’s domineering father, Killian becomes enraged.

In a moment of lucidity, Hikari asks Rachel for a book in her sewing room, and Rachel enlists her sister’s help in the search. The book—which tells the tale of real-life female samurai Tomoe Gozen, an epic saga of love, loss, and conflict during twelfth-century Japan—reveals truths about Drew and Rachel’s relationship that connects them in ways that turn their differences into assets. (goodreads)

I missed Dilloway's second book, The Care and Handling of Roses With Thorns, a novel about the art of rose breeding, published in 2012, but am adding this to my list of books to read in 2016.

These are the new books I'm starting out with this new year. How about you?

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...