Apr 12, 2016

Moss Hysteria by Kate Collins

Moss Hysteria: A Flowershop Mystery #18 by Kate Collins, published April 5, 2016 by NAL
Flower shop owner Abby Knight and her husband Marco’s new neighborhood isn’t as rosy as it seems in the latest Flower Shop Mystery from the author of Florist Grump and A Root Awakening.

Publisher description: When a body is found floating in a nearby pond, the police think Abby and Marco’s helpful next door neighbor is the culprit, but the newlyweds aren’t convinced. 

Opening paragraphs:
"Marco, would you get the door, please?" I waited for a response, but my request was met by silence. The doorbell pealed again, so I stopped unwrapping our mismatched wineglasses to call, "Marco? Where'd you go?" 
He didn't answer - he was probably taking our dog, Seedy, to the backyard - so I stepped around the pile of crumpled newspaper in the kitchen and hurried to the front hallway.... 
I opened the door to find nine women on my porch....
Judging by the number of books in this series - 18 - the flower shop mysteries are pretty popular. Readers who are gardeners and flower lovers as well as cozy readers abound. This series combines the themes. 

The specific topics of Moss Hysteria are newlyweds, a new neighborhood, new neighbors, and secrets to be found in a new environment by our old friends - the amateur sleuths. 

Book Review: The Strangler Vine by M.J. Carter

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.
The Strangler Vine, historical fiction by M.J. Carter, published March 15, 2015 by Putnam's Sons 
Setting: India in the early 1800s
Source: library book

The significance of the title as I see it: The strangler vine, a plant in India, feeds on other bushes and trees and covers them up eventually, smothering them. The vine in this case seems to refer to the British East India Company from the seventeenth to the nineteenth century in India, when it took over governing large areas of the country and according to the author, later began to strangle the native culture, customs, and habitat as it became itself enriched.

The book begins with an Historical Note:
The East India Company was launched in 1600 by a group of British merchants with ambitions to trade with the East. Over the next two centuries, it built up[ its own private army and gradually gave up its trading interests in favor of taking over and ruling large parts of India, making money out of taxation and out of its monopoly in the opium trade with China. It became a peculiar mixture of private company and instrument of the British state, and was arguably the world's first multinational. By 1832, the Company dominated the subcontinents, controlling much  of what is now India, Bangladesh, and Nepal, with Calcutta as its capital....
First sentence in the Prologue:
Central India, June 1832
He stumbles out from the mango grove and at that moment the thick monsoon clouds, which color the night a dull charcoal gray, shift. A sliver of moonlight shines through and he sees their bright, curved knives. Had the clouds not parted he would have blundered, laughing, straight through the gates, straight onto their blades. 
Recommendation:
Some of the characters in the novel are historical, but the main characters are fictional, though in realistic settings. William Avery, a young soldier, is asked to accompany a secret political agent, Jeremy Blake, to locate a missing writer who is known for his writings about Calcutta society. The writer has gone missing somewhere in India, possibly to find out more about the notorious bandits or Thuggees. What the two searchers find out on their perilous travel shocks them and shocked me as well. And it all revolves around the British East India Company and the lengths it went to in order to justify its position and hold on to India for so long.

Fascinating and somewhat suspenseful storytelling, meticulous background research, and intriguing characters and settings make this a book I would recommend for readers of British/Indian colonial history and fiction.

The novel was LONGLISTED FOR THE BAILEYS WOMEN'S PRIZE FOR FICTION 2014

FINALIST FOR THE CWA JOHN CREASEY (NEW BLOOD) DAGGER AWARD


My rating for The Strangler Vine was 5/5.

Apr 9, 2016

Sunday Salon: Winter's Last Hurrah

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

Snow surprised us this morning, as almost eight inches fell overnight. It was very picturesque while it lasted, but the sun came out later and melted much of it from the trees and sidewalks. It may have been winter's last hurrah, at least we hope so. 

New books for review, a variety of genres:


Wedding Girl by Stacey Ballis, to be released May 3, 2016 by Berkley
Top pastry chef Sophie Bernstein and her sommelier fiancé were set to have Chicago’s culinary wedding of the year…until the groom eloped with someone else in a very public debacle, leaving Sophie fifty grand in debt on her dream wedding and then losing her job and her home…. Sophie moves in with her grandmother, Bubbles, and looks for a new career.
The Kingdom by Fuminori Nakamura, to be released July 12, 2016; advance uncopyedited edition from Soho Press. A noir novel about a freelancer in the Tokyo underworld who blackmails for an unknown organization for her living, until someone discovers her secrets. 
Luckiest Girl Alive by Jessica Knoll, published April 5, 2016 by Simon & Schuster. 
Ani FaNelli is the woman you love to hate. The woman who has it all. But when Ani's immaculate façade begins to crack, she soon realises that there's always a price to pay for perfection.
And After the Fire by Lauren Belfer, to be released May 3, 2016 by Harper.  A novel inspired by historical events—about two women, one European and one American, and the mysterious choral masterpiece by Johann Sebastian Bach that changes both their lives.
The Summer Guest, historical fiction by Alison Anderson, tp be released May 24, 2016 by HarperCollins. Blinded by a fatal illness, young Ukrainian doctor Zinaida Lintvaryova is living on her family’s rural estate in the summer of 1888. When a family from Moscow rents a cottage on the grounds, Zinaida develops a deep bond with one of their sons, a doctor and writer of modest but growing fame called Anton Pavlovich Chekhov.
LaRose by Louise Erdrich, to be released May 10, 2016 by Harper. A contemporary tale of a tragic accident, a demand for justice, and a profound act of atonement with ancient roots in indigenous culture.

Contemporary fiction, thrillers, and historical fiction - a lot to read this spring!
What's on your reading desk this spring? 

Apr 8, 2016

Book Beginning: White Ghost by Steven Gore

The Friday 56. Grab a book, turn to page 56 or 56% of your eReader. Find any sentence that grabs you. Post it, and add your URL post in Linky at Freda's Voice.
Also visit Book Beginning at Rose City Reader.
White Ghost: A Graham Gage Thriller by Steven Gore, published March 29, 2016 by Berkley

Book beginning:
The slug's impact wasn't anything like in the Hong Kong movies. It didn't throw Peter backward or knock him off his feet or send him twisting and flailing. No, it wasn't like that at all. His body just...went...limp. And it made no sense. He'd known for certain nobody would get hurt....
Page 56:
"Lester," Gage said. "I know you're just a guy trying to get along, support yourself, and stay out of trouble." 
Book description:
For over thirty years Graham Gage has faced down enemies both near and far, but now he faces one from within. Diagnosed with an aggressive cancer, Gage must delay treatment in order to repay the woman who saved his life in San Francisco's Chinatown thirty years earlier when he was homicide detective. (publisher)

Apr 5, 2016

Book Review: Blood Orange by Susan Wittig Albert

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
Blood Orange by Susan Wittig Albert, published April 5, 2016 by Berklely
In the newest China Bayles Mystery in the New York Times bestselling series, China comes to the aid of a nurse who ends up in the hospital... (publisher)

First chapter, first paragraph
Today's commercial beers are almost exclusively brewed with hops, the female flowers of the hop plant (Humulus Iupulus).The result is a uniform, easily controlled flavor... 
Every chapter in this novel, in fact in all of the China Bayles mysteries if I remember correctly, begins with a brief treatise or description of plants and plants in the garden or used for food or drink. And all of the books include recipes, an added bonus.
First paragraph of the novel itself:
"Excuse me." I put down my teacup. I don't think I heard that right, Ruby. "I thought you said that Ramona has bought a brewery."
"That's exactly what I said," Ruby sank into the chair opposite mine at her kitchen table and ran her fingers through her frizzy red hair.... 
China tries to find the person who forced a hospice nurse, Kelley, off the road in a car accident, critically injuring her. Things slowly come to light that someone wants to keep his/her other crimes a secret, and the mystery plot gets on the way......
What I like most about the series is the setting - the Hill Country in south Texas, which the author describes in such excellent detail, as well as the interesting main characters, and the detailed information on plants in every book. Not to mention delicious and unusual recipes.

Here are the ingredients for my favorite recipe in Blood Orange, one I am bound to try:


Blood Orange Liqueur
4 blood oranges
1 lemon
Fresh ginger, about 2" long, peeled and sliced
2 cups vodka
1 cup water
1 cup sugar

In brief, add the ginger and vodka to the de-pitted oranges and orange and lemon peel in a quart jar. Add the simple water and sugar syrup and store the jar in a cool, dark place for at least a month. (The complete detailed recipe is on pages 308-309 of the book). 

It sounds absolutely delicious to me! 
Thanks to the publisher for a review copy of this book for their book tour of Blood Orange. 

Apr 3, 2016

Sunday Salon: Indoor Reading Weather

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

The weather, an endless source of commentary, was very weird yesterday, no other word for it. 

The day started out sunny and relatively warm, then the temps dropped and snow in fat flakes fell, turning into sleet and then heavy rain. The sun came out again, briefly, and then the flaky snow came back. Soon after, little balls of white, like tiny hail stones started to salt the grass, then more heavy rain. It was something to behold, from behind the safety and warmth of a wide window! 

Only two new books last week, one for a tour, a suspense novel which I have just finished!
I Let You Go by Clare Mackintosh, to be released May 3, 2016 by Berkley. 
Jenna Gray moves to a ramshackle cottage on the remote Welsh coast, to escape the memory of the car accident that plays again and again in her mind and to heal from the loss of her child and the rest of her painful past. (publisher)
Imagine my surprise as I read on and found things are not what they seem and people are not who you think ....My review will be posted on May 10.
The Drafter by Kim Harrison, a sci-fi thriller in the Peri Reed Chronicles, paperback to be released April 19, 2016 by Pocket Books.
Detroit 2030. Double-crossed by the person she loved and betrayed by the covert government organization that trained her, Peri Reed is a renegade on the run. She is a drafter, possessed of a rare, invaluable skill for altering time, yet destined to forget both the history she changed and the history she rewrote. 

I am not a sci-fi fan, but this one sounds interesting nevertheless. 

What is new on your reading desk? 

Apr 1, 2016

Book Beginning: Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly

Lilac Girls, a novel by Martha Hall Kelly,  released April 5, 2016 by Ballantine Books
A story told by three women caught up in WWII whose lives collide as the war rages on: 
  • New York socialite Caroline Ferriday working at the French consulate until Hitler invades Poland and sets his sights on France; 
  • Kasia Kuzmerick, a teenager and courier for the resistance movement in Poland; 
  • Herta Oberheuser, a young German doctor trapped in a government medical position. 
Here are their first chapters:
Caroline, September 1939 - Chapter 1
If I'd known I was about to meet the man who'd shatter me like bone china on terra cotta, I would have slept in. 
Kasia, 1939 - Chapter 2
It really was Pietrik Bakoski's idea to go up to the bluff at Deer Meadow to see the refugees. Just want to set straight the record. Matka never did believe me about that. 
Herta, 1939 - Chapter 3
At midnight, father and I walked six blocks from our basement apartment to a nicer part of Dusseldorf, to the white stone townhomes where servants swept the streets and pinched back geraniums in window boxes. It was late September, but the air was warm still, "fuhrer weather" they called it, since it permitted Hitler success in his campaigns. It had certainly worked with Poland.
Page 56:
Caroline
"Since Washington changed immigration quotas in '24, everything's harder now," Roger said.
The book is based on the life of Caroline Ferriday, one of many "forgotten" heroes of the war. Looks like a book I'll enjoy reading. 

The Friday 56. Grab a book, turn to page 56 or 56% of your eReader. Find any sentence that grabs you. Post it, and add your URL post in Linky at Freda's Voice.

Also visit Book Beginning at Rose City Reader.

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...