Literary Quote of the Month

“For poems are not, as people think, simply emotions (one has emotions early enough)—they are experiences,” … Rilke, The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

A Thread of Sky by Deanna Fei... A Virtual Book Tour!


I love generational stories! Especially those that involve women. A Thread of Sky by Deanna Fei is just that - a story of 6 women, 3 generations and their journey to discover the China that they were born from, but also to discover a part of themselves that was forgotten.

From the Publisher:

When her husband of thirty years is killed in a devastating accident, Irene Shen and her three daughters are set adrift. Nora, the eldest, retreats into her high-powered New York job and a troubled relationship. Kay, the headstrong middle child,
escapes to China to learn the language and heritage of her parents. Sophie, the sensitive and artistic youngest, is trapped at home until college, increasingly estranged from her family—and herself. Terrified of being left alone with her grief, Irene plans a tour of mainland China’s must-sees, reuniting three generations of women—her three daughters, her distant poet sister, and her formidable eighty-year-old mother—in a desperate attempt to heal her fractured family.

If only it were so easy. Each woman arrives bearing secre
ts big and small, and as they travel—visiting untouched sections of the Great Wall and the seedy bars of Shanghai, the beautiful ancient temples and cold, modern shopping emporiums—they begin to wonder if they will ever find the China they seek, the one their family fled long ago.

Over days and miles they slowly find their way toward a new understanding of themselves, of one another, and of the vast complexity of thei
r homeland, only to have their new bonds tested as never before when the darkest, most carefully guarded secret of all spirals to the surface and threatens to tear their family apart forever.
As these six women explore China’s magnificent landmarks and mysteriou
s alleys, gradually unearthing family secrets, they also rediscover something they seem to have forgotten amid their fast-paced lives in America: “Jia—family, house, home. In Chinese, it was all one word.”
Deanna Fei has written a wonderful novel; compl
ex and haunting. The prose is beautiful; the words seeming to float across the page. The characters are well written, and the landscape of their travels is equally well drawn, giving the reader a slight feeling of nostalgia as the contrast of the old against the new are laid across the page. The story its
elf unravels the lives of each of these women as they struggle with their own identities. We are first introduced to each woman as they try to preform their duties as mothers, daughters, sisters and grandmother. When they are thrown together they do struggle, each feeling the need to appear strong and self sufficient. It is only when they slowly let their secrets come tumbling out, when each of them finally lets their guard down, that they start to truly connect with one another. It's a fascinating look at the inter-relationships of women in a family, and the differences between generations.

I really enjoyed reading this! The characters were memorable, as a woman I could relate to some of their insecurities, and the setting was fascinating. Not only would I recommend this to anyone wanting a wonderful book to read, but I would recommend this to reading groups. A Thread of Sky would make a wonderful discussion book, from the way the w
omen interacted with one another, to discussing how the word "family" means different things to different people.

About the Author...
Deanna Fei is the author of the novel A Thread of S
ky (Penguin Press, 2010), a New York Times Editors’ Choice and an
Indie Next Notable Book. She was born in Flushing, New York, and has lived in Beijing and Shanghai, China. A graduate of Amherst College and the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, she has received a Fulbright Grant, a New York Foundation for the Arts fellowship, and a Chinese Cultural Scholarship. She currently lives i
n Brooklyn and is at work on a new novel.

I want to thank TLC Book Tours for sending along a review copy of A Thread of Sky and asking me to participate in Deanna Fei's Virtual Bo
ok Tour! You can learn more about A Thread of Sky, read an excerpt and learn more about Deanna Fei, at Deanna Fei's website.


It Happened One Bite by Lydia Dare... A Review

I'm chasing the cold away this week with some hot reads! Today I want to share with you It Happened One Bite by Lydia Dare...

Blaire Lindsay has been warned that her ancestral home in the Scottish Highlands is haunted. But it will take more than tales of fictional ghosts to frighten Blaire, a battle-born witch with supernatural strength and the ability to make sparks fly from her fingertips. Hearing spectral wails, she decides to search for their source, and is surprised to find a handsome English baron chained to the dungeon wall. Once Blaire frees James, Lord Kettering, from his bonds, she quickly finds herself in the arms of the vampyre lord, whose perfect manners are more dangerous than anything Blaire has ever faced... Soon her family’s castle is overrun with vengeful vampyres from James’ past, which threaten both of their futures. Blaire and James join together in the fight of their lives to save everything they hold dear from the forces of evil...

Do you love your Historical's with a wee bit of witchcraft?! Well, It Happened One Bite by Lydia Dare is a Paranormal Historical! The setting is one of my favorites... Scotland! And the time frame is 1817! Add to that mix a heroine that is feisty and a witch, a handsome vampyre that almost melts our heroine's heart, and a dark and mysterious castle!

The story opens up in Edinburgh, 1797. Five witches have hunted down a particular vampyre, charming in appearance, but deadly. Deadly to the daughter of one of the coven... sometime in the future. The vampyre is James Kettering and the witches take his very essence away and bury him in a castle in the Highlands, never to be heard from again... or so they thought.

The story jumps 20 years in the future. Those five witches have passed down their powers to their daughters, one of which is Blaire Lindsay. Upon the death of Blaire's mother, eventually it is found out that her mother had an estate... in the Highlands. Are you seeing part of the picture here? Buried in the basement of that estate is James Kettering, and when Blaire shows up to claim her ancestral home, guess who is discovered stirring in the basement?! But this is just the start of a fantastic story! When Blaire frees James from the basement, she knows he's not your average man, and what ensues is just amazing!

The banter between Blaire and James is so wonderful! She is a great heroine, who is feisty and strong willed, but yet she can't help but melt at James Kettering's touch. Sparks and passion ignite every time Blaire and James get near each other, but love between a witch and a vampyre? And especially since it was Blaire's mother who helped banish James for 20 years in the basement! Why did they banish James into the Highlands? What secrets lie in wait for both Blaire and James to discover?

There is so much more to this novel than the fire between Blaire and James. The story feels fresh in its approach, sprinkled with humor and filled with an intriguing mystery. The writing is wonderful. Blaire does talk with a Scottish Brogue, but it should only take a few pages before the dialect feels natural. And that Scottish Brogue is only coming from Blaire's family and relations, the rest of the dialogue is written without the added Highland "flavor". But the way Blaire talks also adds authenticity to the time and place. And I really enjoyed "listening" to her.

Simply put... I just loved this book! Lydia Dare's writing just pulled me in! I became totally absorbed in the story, which had just enough witchcraft and vampyre lore to satisfy me without overwhelming the whole plot. The romance was smart & sexy. And the characters were were well developed and entertaining. Blaire herself kept me reading as I just had to know how she was going to handle all that was put in front of her. If you enjoy vampyres, a bit of witchcraft and "The Highlands", plus romance, a great story and a bit of mystery, Read This Book!

I want to thank Sourcebooks for sending along a copy for review! I loved it! AND I hear that It Happened One Bite is the start of a new series by Lydia Dare! I can't wait!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Legacy by Jeanette Baker... A Review

Legacy by Jeanette Baker...

When a distant relative bequeaths a Scottish castle to Christina Murray, the beautiful college professor is off to a distant land to claim her inheritance. It is there that she meets Ian Douglas, a breathtakingly handsome man who may hold the key to the secrets of Traquair House...and to her heart. As Christina enters the elusive passageway to love, her all-too-lifelike dreams reveal that she is tied to three ghostly ancestors: Katrine, a spirited Jacobite, in love with an Englishman...Jeanne, a Renaissance wife accused of witchcraft...and Mairi, the medieval maid Who shares a forbidden passion with England's king.

Destined to become the curse's next victim, Christina travels through time to unveil the mystery of her family. But she soon discovers that her assumptions about Ian and their, newly found love, as well as her own life, may have put her in grave danger....

Do you love Historical Romance? Does just the mention of Scotland make you imagine foggy cliffs and mysterious men? Ladies, do yourself a favor and pick this one up! I can't resist a Scottish romance, but when you add an ancient curse, ghostly ancestors, and a bit of time travel, then I'm totally sold! And as soon as I started reading Legacy by Jeanette Baker I fell in love with her writing. Her characters are well developed, the setting is painted beautifully onto the page, and the story just takes you by the hand and leads you away...

The story begins with Christina Murray receiving a mysterious letter from Lady Maxwell along with a plane ticket to Scotland. When she arrives, she finds Lady Maxwell on her deathbed, and one look at Christina was all she needed to finish her life. Fear gripped Lady Maxwell as she looked upon Christina's face, and she died. At this point I was wondering if it was coincidental, but we are soon to find out that Christina is the spitting image of one of the cursed ancestors of Traquair House. And the real reason for Lady Maxwell to want to meet Christina was soon to be revealed - Lady Maxwell's husband willed his estate, the castle, Traquair House, to Christina. What comes along with Traquair House is the curse...

As the story unfolds, the stories of the other three women, Christina's ancestor's that were doomed by the curse, are also revealed. We are transported back in time and place, and treated to what seems like 4 stories, as each woman steps forward to share their forbidden love and life with the reader. The stories are woven seamlessly together, and are passionate, sexy, and painful. And each story stays within its historical context, as Jeanette Baker immerses us in the sights and sounds of the day. I loved being transported back, and almost didn't want to come back to the present. Christina must resolve to solve the mysteries behind all their lives so as not to suffer the same ill fated curse.

I rate this delicious! A multi-layered story that doesn't loose it in the details. Equal parts of mystery and romance, I enjoyed it thoroughly and hope to add more Jeanette Baker novels on my shelves! I want to thank Sourcebooks for the review copy of this Cassablanca Classic Romance!

Monday, March 28, 2011

Memoir Monday presents... My Korean Deli by Ben Ryder Howe

My Korean Deli : Risking It All For A Convenience Store by Ben Ryder Howe... "It starts with a gift, when Ben Ryder Howe's wife, the daughter of Korean immigrants, decides to repay her parents' self-sacrifice by buying them a store. Howe, an editor at the rarefied Paris Review, agrees to go along. Things soon become a lot more complicated. After the business struggles, Howe finds himself living in the basement of his in-laws' Staten Island home, commuting to the Paris Review offices in George Plimpton's Upper East Side townhouse by day, and heading to Brooklyn at night to slice cold cuts and peddle lottery tickets. My Korean Deli follows the store's tumultuous life span, and along the way paints the portrait of an extremely unlikely partnership between characters with shoots across society, from the Brooklyn streets to Seoul to Puritan New England. Owning the deli becomes a transformative experience for everyone involved as they struggle to salvage the original gift—and the family—while sorting out issues of values, work, and identity."

I read the review of this book in the New York Times Book Review last Sunday, I knew I had to blog about it for Memoir Monday. This sounds like a fantastic read! Not simply because of the unlikely ownership of the Deli by Ben Ryder Howe who is a senior editor for one of my favorite literary magazines, The Paris Review, but because of the flavorful characters that we are promised to meet along our reading journey. Corby Kummer, who reviewed My Korean Deli by Ben Ryder Howe for the New York Times Book Review on Sunday March 2o, 2011, points out that this memoir "places careful, loving attention squarely on other people rather than the author." And goes on to say that it's "a rollicking, made-for-the-movies story in a wonderfully funny deadpan style." This all adds up to a book worth reading to me! It was published earlier this month by Henry Holt and Co. And is available for Kindle too!

Sunday, March 27, 2011

The Sunday Salon... Treasure Hunting in a Book Sale

Welcome to The Sunday Salon! Grab a cup of joe, relax, and let's talk about books! Yes, after a hectic week of "this and that", it's time to sit back and reflect on what we've been able to squeeze in this week, the far off places we've visited as we immersed ourselves into the written page...

This week I went to my local Borders and its' "Going out of Business Sale". It is utter chaos on the shelves there. If you are looking for anything in particular you are virtually out of luck as the shelves are filled with books that people thought twice about, condensing book sections, and shrinking inventory... But it's also fun. It's like a treasure hunt, trying to find the little gems that are buried beneath all that chaos. It also makes me look... really look at all those titles and I've actually learned a thing or two about some authors.

Did you know? That the Alfred Hitchcock movie Strangers on a Train was written by Patricia Highsmith? Do you know who Patricia Highsmith is? I am a bit embarrassed to admit I hadn't read her before. But I will rectify that situation with Selected Novels and Short Stories by Patricia Highsmith, which includes Strangers on a Train and The Price of Salt, her other very well known novel. But Patricia Highsmith also wrote The Talented Mr. Ripley! Do you remember that movie?! I am amazed that she wrote both of these psychological "chillers". Strangers on the Train was her debut novel which she wrote in the 50's, and The Talented Mr. Ripley she wrote in the late 80's.

Some books were screaming for me to save them, or at least hand them to another customer looking to purchase some books... Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See was sitting there on a shelf (one of my favorite reads) and so was a copy of Little Bee by Chris Cleave. There was a copy of Stitches by David Small in the Biographies, along with Maus by Art Spiegelman, which I own but haven't read yet. Both of which are graphic novels. Stitches was an amazing book for its' subtle artwork, and Maus is amazing for other reasons as it's the story of the Holocaust, with the main characters depicted by mice and cats. I did pick up a graphic novel though... I brought home with me Forget Sorrow by Belle Yang, which is her ancestral tale, and her graphic memoir. We learn about Belle and China as we travel back to Belle's father's era as he recounts tales of growing up and the world as it was back then. The illustrations appear to be woodcuts and are beautiful.

What other books came home with me?

Illustrado by Miguel Syjuco... This won the Man Asian Literary Prize in 2008, even before it was in book form. "It begins with a body. On a clear day in winter, the battered corpse of Crispin Salvador is pulled from the Hudson River—taken from the world is the controve
rsial lion of Philippine literature. Gone, too, is the only manuscript of his final book, a work meant to rescue him from obscurity by exposing the crimes of the Filipino ruling families. Miguel, his student and only remaining friend, sets out for Manila to investigate. To understand
the death, Miguel scours the life, piecing together Salvador’s story through his poetry, interviews, novels, polemics, and memoirs. The result is a rich and dramatic family saga of four generations, tracing 150 years of Philippine history forged under the Spanish, the Americans, and the Filipinos themselves." And the book is filled with bits and pieces of interviews and novels, etc. Not really an epistolary novel, but similar in thought.

The Elephants Journey by Jose Saramago... Based on the actual event of King Joao III of Portugal in 1551 giving Archduke Maximilian a elephant named Solomon as a wedding gift. The elephant traveled from Lisbon to Vienna... all on foot! "The Enchanting Tale of an elephant, his keeper, and their journey through sixteenth-century Europe, based on a true story."What Jose Saramago does is take this amazing tale and with wit, humor and an underlying seriousness gives us a gift to read. The elephant is our hero in the story and from the bit I've read, the writing is wonderful. But of course, Jose Saramago has won the Nobel Prize for Literature! The book itself is slim and about the size of a trade paperback even though my copy is hardcover, and the size and design of the cover gives the impression that you are opening the book to a wonderful fairytale.

Of course these are only some of the highlights of my treasure hunt. I wander first through literature, then through mysteries, memoirs and then history. I always take a peek at romance and YA novels. Sci-fi gets a brief look, but isn't my norm for reading. How do you travel through a book sale? Do you have fun looking through the chaos? Share some of your great finds!

Weekly Recap... Memoir Monday was a stop for Lisa Napoli and her TLC Virtual Book Tour for her memoir Radio Shangri-La. I loved it, and felt like I was traveling right along with Lisa as she left her fast-paced life in The States to the "Happiest Place on Earth". Tuesday,
I gave a heads-up to Haruki Murakami fans, and wrote about the recent issue of The New Yorker Magazine that includes his short story U.F.O. in Kushiro. It's a rare treat to have Murakami publish something in an American magazine, so if you are a fan, don't forget to grab a copy! Friday's First Lines was an excerpt from the newly released book about "girl and dog", Emily and Einstein by Linda Francis Lee. And yes, the dog does save the day! The cover is wonderful and the story should be too! Lots of great buzz on this one! And I have a copy waiting for me to read. Saturday I reviewed the graphic novel iZombies: Dead to the World by Chris Roberson and Michael Allred. A fabulous start to a new series of Zombie - Vampire - "Were-Terrier" adventures! There are elements of mystery and romance, and I have hopes that the story will continue as well as the first five issues that are found in iZombie: Dead to the World. If you are new to graphic novels, but enjoy complex stories with vampires and a zombie or two, give this a try! I don't think you'll be disappointed!

That's how my week was... how was yours?! Share all that great reading you have on your plate this week!

Happy reading... Suzanne

Saturday, March 26, 2011

iZombies: Dead to the World by Chris Roberson & Michael Allred... A Review

iZombie Written by Chris Roberson, Drawn by Michael Allred

What's a girl to do?! Gwen Dylan digs graves for a living, her best friend Ellie is a girl from the 60's who happens to be a ghost, and her other friend Scott is of the furrier persuasion, a.k.a Were-Terrier... kind of an off shoot of a Were-Wolf. Add to that mix one "hot" Mummy, a pack of Vampire ladies who run a paint ball game in the woods, and a pair of Vampire Hunters. Wow! Oh, I forgot... Gwen is a Zombie, but a kind of Zombie hybrid. She's not all stiff and stumbling around with her hands out stretched, but she does needs to eat human brains once a month to maintain her "being normal".

iZombie: Dead to the World is the trade paperback of the first 5 issues of the comic iZombie plus House Of Mystery Halloween Annual #1. It's 144 pages of a great story, published by DC Comics and Vertigo. First the artwork though... Michael Allred is talented! The characters are well drawn with wonderful nuances to really bring the characters to life; expressive and detailed. Not only are the characters drawn well, but the backgrounds are fully fleshed out, making the whole scene interesting to look at. And all of this adds to the great story, which is both complex and well developed.

The story centers around Gwen, who we learn early on is a Zombie and who works during the day as a grave digger. In these first 5 stories that make up the first tpb, iZombie: Dead to the World, we don't learn Gwen's background, but we learn of her anguish as she must eat a human brain once a month to keep her memories alive and be "normal". She chooses her "victims" as the recently departed that she happens to bury the morning before. What happens when she does "eat", besides her utter revulsion to it, is that she becomes possessed with the last thoughts of the dead person, and must fulfill their last wishes; which may mean "righting a wrong" or solving their murder as is the case in Gwen's first "possession" in Dead to the World." The other stories that are woven together are those of "the murderer", the vampire ladies who are seductive looking as well as deadly as they run a paintball game deep in the woods outside the city, the handsome and aloof mummy who wants to teach Gwen more about her "new" self, and his leopard companion, and finally the good guys who know about the vampires terrorizing the city and aim to rid the area of them. There is some dead-pan humor, romance and mystery layered within the story, which keeps you turning the pages. It's an intelligent take on the whole zombie scene and I really enjoyed it. I loved the story with all the different subplots that are all inter-related, and as I previously said, the artwork was great.

I don't mind a zombie or two on my reading plate, or a vampire here and there either. This is the start to what I hope is a fun series. If you enjoy graphic novels, enjoy a host of fun, "flawed" but engaging characters living out their lives in a great story, give iZombie a try! It's a step up from your everyday zombie novel, and you'll be dying for more! And if you are, iZombie: Dead to the World collects the first five individual issues of iZombie, but as far as individual issues are concerned, issue #12 is due to come out April 6th.

Friday, March 25, 2011

First Lines...

"Everyone has a story but I was never interested in telling my own. I was an editor of book, not a writer. I loved to find sense in someone else's chaos, uncover the intent of a sentence or paragraph that only hunted at a truth. At least that was how I felt until I met Sandy Portman.
The first time I saw him my world tilted. Ridiculous, I know, but seeing him that first time jarred me so deeply that I had to turn away, like turning away from looking directly at the sun, and pretend I hadn't noticed him at all."
...Emily and Einstein by Linda Francis Lee

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Haruki Murakami fans are in for a treat...

Are you a fan of Haruki Murakami? Then you need to pick up this weeks The New Yorker Magazine!

Haruki Murakami writes fiction filled with bits of surrealism and humor; themes dealing with isolation and loneliness. And somehow he is able to open up his characters and show us parts of ourselves. His writing is wildly popular! Not only in Japan, his birth place, but all over the world. When there is something new written by Murakami, word spreads fast. A prime example of his popularity is his forthcoming book, IQ84, which was a novel published in three volumes in Japan between 2009 & 2010. The first printing sold out in one day, and sold one million copies in one month. We've been waiting in the U.S for the translation of the novel to come our way for over a year, but will finally have our chance to read it in October 2011.

What can we expect in The New Yorker Magazine? A short story, U.F.O. in Kushiro, written by Haruki Murakami that's described as "Short story about a Japanese man who attempts to piece together his reaction to his divorce by taking a trip north to bleak Hokkaido." Such a matter of fact group of words put together to describe something written by a writer that deceptively uses the everyday to surprise us with the unbelievable.

If you subscribe to The New Yorker, you can access U.F.O. in Kushiro from The New Yorker website via their digital online edition. If you don't subscribe, don't forget to pick up your March 28th, 2011 copy of The New Yorker where ever magazines are sold!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Memoir Monday... TLC Virtual Book Tour Stop for Radio Shangri-La by Lisa Napoli


Radio Shangri-La by Lisa Napoli

When Napoli met the handsome Sebastian at a cookbook party in New York City, she was intrigued by this man who traveled to Bhutan regularly. And when the accomplished L.A.-based journalist (MSNBC, CNN, public radio’s Marketplace) researched the country about which he spoke so enthusiastically, she became entranced with Bhutan, a tiny Himalayan kingdom that sits between India and China.

This country–dubbed “the happiest on earth” because of its focus on environmental and social progress–is hard to get to, with its remote location and governmental deterrents to tourism, like a per-person, per-day tourist tax. But a friend of Sebastian’s needs help with startup radio station Kuzoo FM, so Napoli leaves L.A. and goes to Bhutan for six weeks. She writes, “After more than two decades of reducing even the most complex issues to 1,000 words or less, I was tired of observing life from a distance.” While the author turns an eye on her own motivations (nothing further developed with Sebastian), she refrains from tortured navel-gazing and instead shares and reflects on Bhutan’s people, history, and customs (from painting phalluses on houses to repel evil spirits to Buddhism’s role in daily life). Napoli’s adventures at home and abroad, in nature and career and spirit, will delight readers.

What Did I Think? I became totally absorbed in reading Lisa Napoli's "travel diary"! Lisa's writing is great and as you turn the pages reading, it almost feels like you are right next to Lisa on that plane flying to Bhutan. But what really drew me in was how she got to that point... disillusioned with the fast paced world around her, unhappy and seeking answers at "happy therapy", and questioning her life as she knew it with the "what ifs" we all do every now & then, Lisa just seemed like a lot of people I know. I wanted to know how was she going to get past all of that?! Meeting a handsome stranger who would change all that was like something out of a harlequin romance - I guess fantasies do come true sometimes! But this just made it even more addictive to read. But meeting a country, that was what Lisa was going to introduce me to... and her book, Radio Shangri-La, is about Bhutan, friendships, traditions and change. Ultimately Lisa was charged with helping a small "untouched" country bring a bit of the 21st century to the airwaves, but her tripped proved to be so much more than "business as usual" at the radio station. I would recommend Radio Shangri-La to people who enjoy reading about far off places, because Lisa does a great job of bringing Bhutan to life- the cultural differences, the sweeping landscape and the people themselves. But Radio Shangri-La is also inspirational as Lisa found a piece of happiness for herself as she struggled to take a step back and really connect with the world around her. Loved this book!

A Little About Lisa... When Lisa Napoli found herself unhappy with her work in the fast-paced U.S. media world, she volunteered to help start Bhutan’s first youth-oriented radio station. Bhutan is a small kingdom in the Himalayas, home to 650,000 residents, most of whom make their living as subsistence farmers. The nation has experienced rapid change in the past forty years, becoming a democracy in 2008 after a century of monarchy. In her time in Bhutan, Napoli learned more about the people, history and culture of the “last Buddhist kingdom” and the “happiest kingdom on Earth,” and she also learned quite a bit about herself. She’s sharing those lessons in her new book, Radio Shangri-la: What I Learned in Bhutan, the Happiest Kingdom on Earth. Earlier in her career, Lisa was the Internet correspondent for MSNBC, a columnist for MSNBC.com, and the first staff reporter/columnist at the NY Times Cybertimes, now defunct. She’s also worked at a division of the home shopping channel QVC, in craft services for the horror film Hellraiser 3, and in public relations for Summit House, an alternative to prison for women and their kids in Greensboro, North Carolina. She began her career at CNN in 1984.

I want to thank Lisa from TLC Book Tours for inviting me to part of the Virtual Book Tour for Radio Shangri-La by Lisa Napoli! What a treat reading this memoir was!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

The Sunday Salon... It's A Crime, "Literally"!


Welcome to The Sunday Salon! It's the time of the week where we get together to chat about... What else?! Books! It's been a beautiful week in Connecticut. The weather has warmed up into the 50's, and on friday it reached almost into the 70's! I spent some time in the bookstore this weekend already, and lots of time relaxing in the wonderful weather reading! I finished reading Song of The Silk Road by Mingmei Yip, which was a great read, and I'll be posting my review this week. One of the books I picked up at the bookstore was South of the Border, West of the Sun by Haruki Murakami. This is the year I wanted to finally read Murakami and joined the Haruki Murakami Reading Challenge to push myself a little bit. I have a good collection of Murakami waiting to be read, but when I saw South of the Border, West of the Sun, which I didn't have yet, and saw it was DISCOUNTED, well I just couldn't resist. I had only intended to read a little of the beginning but could not put it down (It is said Murakami has a way of doing that). So, today I'll be finishing South of the Border, West of the Sun, so look for that review coming up too! What else is coming up? SNOW! This coming week the east coast is expecting a bit of accumulation of the white stuff... AND that's such a Crime!... Which leads me into today's Sunday Salon... Crime Fiction and in particular International Crime Fiction, or crime in exotic places!

Crime fiction deals with the crimes at hand, the detection of them and the motives behind them. There aren't usually any courtrooms, or lawyers. And when the crime occurs in places like Sweden or Africa, we are treated to not only a great murder, but immersed in some culture we may not be familiar with. I haven't really read a lot of this type of fiction, but was in the mood the other day and wandered the bookstore looking for some new names to satisfy my hunger. Here's some of the great finds I came across...

The Coroner's Lunch by Colin Cotterill... from the back of the book: Dr. Siri Paiboun, one of the last doctors left in Laos after the Communist takeover, has been drafted to be national coroner. He is untrained for the job, but this independent 72-year-old has an outstanding qualification for it: curiosity. And he doesn't mind incurring the wrath of the Party hierarchy as he unravels mysterious murders, because the spirirts of the dead are on his side.

This is the first book in the Dr. Siri Paiboun series. The setting is Laos, a country landlocked in Southeast Asia. The books are suppose to have a bit of sarcasm & wit from our protagonist, Dr. Siri Paiboun, which makes the novels not light-hearted, but entertaining. The writing I sampled while leafing through the books was terrific. And I can't wait to start reading this series! Author Colin Cotterill is such an interesting person himself. He's lived all over the world, carrying his teaching degree with him where ever he wound up. He lived in Laos for several years, and adds his experiences of the sights & sounds of Laos into his novels.

Faceless Killers by Henning Mankell... One frozen January Morning at 5 am, Inspector Wallander responds to what he expects is a routine call out. When he reaches the isolated farmhouse he discovers a bloodbath. An old man has been tortured and beaten to death, his wife lies barely alive beside his shattered body, victims of violence beyond reason. The woman supplies Wallander with his only clue: the perpetrators may have been foreign. When this is leaked to the press, racial hatred is unleashed. Kurt Wallander is a senior police officer at Ystad, a small town in the wind-lashed Swedish province of Skåne. His life is a shambles. His wife has left him, his daughter refuses to speak to him, even his ageing father barely tolerates him. He works tirelessly, eats badly and drinks the nights away in a lonely, neglected flat. But now winter closes its grip on Ystad, and Wallander, his tenacious efforts closely monitored by the tough minded (and disarmingly attractive) district attorney Anette Brolin, must forget his trouble, and throw himself into a battle against time and xenophobia.

Henning Mankell is a name that came up a lot after the success and popularity of Stieg Larsson's series of books with The Girl with The Dragon Tattoo. Thia is the beginning of the Kurt Wallander series. The series is set in Sweden and there is a big fan base for these books. There is also a link on Henning Mankell's site to tourism in Ystad, where quite a bit of the action takes place.

Murder in the Marais by Cara Black... Although set in Paris in the early 1990s, Black's new series start harks back to World War II crimes. Private investigator Aimee Leduc becomes involved when she discovers the body of an elderly Jewish woman whose forehead has been inscribed with a swastika. With the arrival of a German trade delegation, meanwhile, the existence of a powerful covert group comprising former SS officers becomes clear. Aimee's subsequent investigation exposes the connection between a war-time romance gone wrong and the modern-day murder. Literate prose, intricate plotting, and multifaceted and unusual characters mark this excellent first mystery.

Cara Black shows you "the Paris you won't find in the tour books". Murder in the Marais is the first book in the Aimee Leduc series, which takes place in Paris. These novels are also popular and Cara Black just published her 11th book in the series, Murder in Passy. For fans of Aimee Leduc or new comers to the series, Soho Press has published a free online guide to the whole series. You can find it at this link at SohoPress.com.

There are some great sources to find great crime fiction too! First, since we are talking about Cara Black and Colin Cotterill, both of these authors are published by Soho Press. Their website is divided up between Soho Crime and Soho Constable, both of which have a backlist of great authors, and the current or frontlist of recent works.

The Crime Writers' Association, or CWA, is also a great place to find crime fiction authors. The CWA also sponsors The Daggar Awards, which celebrate the best in crime fiction. In 2009, Colin Cotterill won The Daggar in the Libary Award, which is the Daggar Award where library users nominate authors and an author is ultimately chosen by a panel of librarians that work with the public. But there are a lot of different Daggar awards, which you can find on the Crime Writers' Association website.

BARGAIN EReading in Murder... Gere Donovan Press is offering the first in the Kate Shugak series for free if you download the book directly from the Official Site of the Iditarod, or at a bargain price of .99cents from Amazon.com for the Kindle or Barnes & Noble for the Nook. This is a series that takes place in Alaska, and the culture is that of the Aluet's. Dana Stabenow won an Edgar Award for A Cold Day for Murder. Here's what the synopsis of the book...

A Cold Day for Murder by Dana Stabenow... Somewhere in the hinterlands of Alaska, among the millions of sprawling acres that comprise “The Park,” a young National Park Ranger has gone missing. When the detective sent after him also vanishes, the Anchorage DA’s department must turn to their reluctant former investigator, Kate Shugak. Shugak knows The Park because she’s of The Park, an Aleut who left her home village of Niniltna to pursue education, a career, and the righting of wrongs. Kate’s search for the missing men will take her from self-imposed exile back to a life she’d left behind, and face-to-face with people and problems she'd hoped never to confront again.


Weekly Recap... Last week started of Memoir Monday with Moonwalking with Einstein by Joshua Foer. A fascinating look at we can learn to memorize. Joshua learned how to do it and won the U.S. Memory Championships. On tuesday I talked about Major Pettigrew's Last Stand by Helen Simonson, which is this months Book Club Selection for my reading group. I also talked about the use of reading group guides when discussing a book in a group. Good or not necessary? I cast my vote for a guide, although not necessary, it does add fuel to the discussion at times. And this weeks First Lines was from the Mary Higgins Clark and her soon to be released novel, I'll Walk Alone. We've been talking about crime fiction today, but if you're into murder, but want more of a mystery, Mary Higgins Clark is always a good choice!

Is crime fiction something that you enjoy?! What authors are on your hit list?! And what other reading have you done this week!? Share your great reads here!

Happy reading... Suzanne
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