Sunday, February 25, 2007

Lost City Radio: A Novel by Daniel Alarcon

"In his first novel, Alarcón reexamines poignant issues found in his critically acclaimed short story collection, War by Candlelight, a finalist for the 2006 PEN/Hemingway Foundation Award. As war escalates between the government of a South American country and the guerrilla factions challenging it, people seek a better or at least different life by fleeing into the city, leaving their loved ones behind. But radio-show host Norma brings hope to people looking for the lost by reading their names on air, reuniting those who are willing. When a boy from a jungle village shows up at the station, it becomes clear that Norma is also searching for a loved one, and the visit helps her regain forgotten hope. Alarcón digs deep into the collective history of international conflict and current strife to bring us the harsh reality shown here, engaging us both as readers and as global citizens. Like Orwell, he poses difficult social questions that often go unvoiced, and he effectively explores an exhaustive range of emotion in just over 250 pages, rendering his insights in beautiful, painstakingly precise language. Literature is fortunate to have such a promising, thought-provoking young writer."

~ from Library Journal Review

Friday, February 23, 2007

In celebration of Chinese New Year, the Year of the Pig

Author Qiu Xiaolong is a Shanghai native who left China in the 1990's for the United States, and currently resides with his wife and daughter in St. Louis and teaches literature at Washington University. There's an interview by Mystery Readers International that gives insight into his life, his writing, and his take on China today.

A Case of Two Cities: An Inspector Chen Novel by Qiu Xiaolong

"Chinese expatriate Qiu's gripping fourth Inspector Chen novel (after 2004's When Red Is Black) captures an honest detective's struggle to be true to his professional ideals under a repressive regime. The Communist Party leadership appears to be vigorously investigating rampant corruption among the profligate power elite during China's economic reforms of the recent past. After the head of the Fujian special case squad is murdered in sordid circumstances, Chen Cao of the Shanghai police bureau discovers that the dead man had been probing a wealthy businessman, Xing Xing, who fled to the United States to escape prosecution. Chen himself is then given the highest authority to carry on the investigation, which takes him to the U.S., but he soon realizes he's not meant to succeed." ~ from Publisher Weekly Review

Book One: Death of a Red Heroine
Book Two: A Loyal Character Dancer
Book Three: When Red is Black

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Did the maid do it or was it the butler? If you're a mystery lover, the Edgar Awards have announced nominees for the 2007 awards .

Best Novel Nominees

The Pale Blue Eye by Louis Bayard
The Janissary Tree by Jason Goodwin
Gentlemen & Players by Joanne Harris
The Dead Hour by Denise Mina
The Virgin of Small Plains by Nancy Picard
Liberation Movements by Olen Steinhauer

The Faithful Spy by Alex Berenson
Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn
King of Lies by John Hart
Holmes on the Range by Steve Hockensmith
A Field of Darkness by Cornelia Read

Best Fact Crime

Strange Piece of Paradise by Terri Jentz
A Death in Belmont by Sebastian Junger
Finding Amy: A True Story of Murder in Maine by Capt. Joseph K. Loughlin & Kate Clark Flora Ripperology: A Study of the World's First Serial Killer by Robin Odell
The Beautiful Cigar Girl: Mary Rogers, Edgar Allan Poe and the Invention of Murder by Daniel Stashower
Manhunt: The 12-Day Chase for Lincoln's Killer by James L. Swanson

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

"One dark night in Cape Town, Rosélie's husband goes out for a pack of cigarettes and never comes back. Not only is she left with unanswered questions about his violent death but she is also left without any means of support. At the urging of her housekeeper and best friend, the new widow decides to take advantage of the strange gifts she has always possessed and embarks on a career as a clairvoyant. As Rosélie builds a new life for herself and seeks the truth about her husband's murder, acclaimed Caribbean author Maryse Condé crafts a deft exploration of post-apartheid South Africa and a smart, gripping thriller.
The Story of the Cannibal Woman is both contemporary and international, following the lives of an interracial, intercultural couple in New York City, Tokyo, and Capetown. Maryse Condé is known for vibrantly lyrical language and fearless, inventive storytelling -- she uses both to stunning effect in this magnificently original novel."

~ from the book jacket

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Family Tree by Barbara Delinsky

"A white New England couple, interior designer Dana and lawyer husband Hugh, are excited about becoming first-time parents. But when the baby girl is born with brown skin, questions and suspicions abound. Dana never knew who her father was, so perhaps there is black ancestry on her side of the family. However, Hugh's snooty family suspects infidelity—after all, there is an attractive black man living next door, and Hugh was out of town nine months ago. Dana vehemently denies cheating and is wounded when Hugh insists on DNA testing. Although Hugh's mistrust of Dana is disappointing, the real villain is his father, Eaton, who is less concerned with his granddaughter than with how this development could harm reception of his forthcoming book. When it is confirmed that Hugh is indeed the father, he and Dana seek to solve the mystery, uncovering family secrets and confronting prejudice along the way. Best-selling author Delinsky (Looking for Peyton Place) has written a compelling and thought-provoking novel that will have readers and book clubs exploring tough racial and family issues."

~ From Library Journal Review

Thursday, February 15, 2007

If you loved March by Geraldine Brooks and Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys, two books that spin off minor characters into new novels or you just love the story of Huckleberry Finn, this new release looks fascinating.

Finn by Jon Clinch

"Working from a few tantalizing hints in Mark Twain's text and building on recent trends in Twain scholarship, first-time novelist Clinch fleshes out the shadowy figure of Huckleberry Finn's father, known as Finn. In Clinch's version, Finn is the black sheep of his family—a barely literate drunkard who supports his habit by trading catfish for whiskey. His father is a bigoted circuit court judge, and his brother is an unctuous attorney. Finn lives in a rundown cabin on the riverbank with his beautiful black mistress and their pale mulatto child, Huck, but he knows that to reconcile with his father he must sever all ties with the woman. Clinch meticulously follows Twain's lead, concocting plausible backstories for the Widow Douglas and the Thatcher family and reconstructing the circumstances of Finn's death based on the clues that Huck's friend Jim found in the original novel. The Mississippi River is a character in its own right, prominently featured in each chapter. Every fan of Twain's masterpiece will want to read this inspired spin-off, which could become an unofficial companion volume."

~ from Library Journal Review

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Happy Valentine's Day!

Love & Lies by Kimberla Lawson Roby

"For Charlotte Black, there are some good things about being married to the "world renowned" Rev. Curtis Black (whose flashy, trashy life Roby has dished in earlier works). Her husband's bestselling books and flourishing ministry allow her a life of luxury, but Curtis is always away on publicity tours, and Charlotte suspects he's cheating. Of course, she's cheated, too, but Charlotte hires a private detective to catch Curtis in the act. Meanwhile, Charlotte's best friend and co-narrator, college professor Janine, has man trouble of her own. A farcical array of misfortunes (a death, a near-deadly stabbing, etc.) rock the cast as the book lumbers toward its conclusion. Astonishingly, none of this gets in the way of the happy ending; all the trouble, it turns out, was worth it...."

~ from Publisher Weekly Review

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Past Perfect: A Novel by Susan Isaacs

"New York novelist Katie Schottland is the TV scriptwriter of an espionage show based on her book, Spy Guys. She is also happily married to Adam, a pathologist at the Bronx Zoo, and is the mother of precocious ten-year-old Nicky. A high achiever and more than gainfully employed, Katie has nonetheless never gotten over the shame of being fired from her first job with the CIA. Fifteen years earlier, following her graduation from college, she worked for two years as a writer/analyst for the agency's Eastern European division when she was suddenly and unceremoniously removed from the premises without explanation. Katie's feelings surface anew when she receives a blast-from-the-past phone call from former colleague Lisa Golding, who begs for Katie's help, promises in exchange to tell her why she was removed, and then promptly disappears. From that point forward, Katie's life takes on the intrigue of her TV characters as she searches for Lisa and the answer to her own personal mystery."

~ from Library Journal Review

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Climbing the Mango Tree: A Memoir of a Childhood in India by Madhur Jaffrey

"Readers will be surprised to learn in this culinary memoir that Jaffrey (An Invitation to Indian Cooking), one of the best-known writers on Indian cuisine, actually failed home economics. Although she later learned to prepare the traditional Indian food of her childhood, her early culinary education was primarily concerned with outdated recipes from British colonial days. What is not surprising is that Jaffrey, a descendant of a long line of record-keeping Kayastha Hindus, is a gifted and generous writer. She shares treasured recollections of how her close-knit family lived in Delhi, conveying the safety and warmth of the presence of many siblings and cousins, the love of food and learning, and the unease and disturbance of the partition of India and Pakistan. Thirty-seven photographs of the author and her family are scattered throughout. There are more than 30 family recipes, including Phulkas (a kind of Indian flatbread), Mung Bean Fritters, and Ground Lamb Samosas, all written in Jaffrey's easy style." ~ from Library Journal

Friday, February 09, 2007

Surveillance: A Novel by Jonathan Raban

"Raban (Waxwings) explores the current political climate in this clever, unsettling novel set in a near-future Seattle. Freelance journalist Lucy Bengstrom has been hired by GQ magazine to write a profile of August Vanags, the bestselling author of Boy 381, an account of his childhood as an orphan making his way through the charred landscape of WWII Europe. As Lucy researches Vanags's life, she begins to suspect he has falsified the entire account. When she receives a picture that purports to show the author as a child safely ensconced on an English chicken farm during the war years, she's almost sure he's a fake. Almost. Meanwhile, Lucy's daughter, Alida, struggles with being raised by a single mom; the gay man next door may or may not be dying of AIDS; Vanags's wife is in the early stages of Alzheimer's; and a grim U.S. government escalates its police-state techniques to defend against the terrorism threat. An air of suspenseful dread hangs over every page of this intelligent, provocative book, and when the end finally rolls in, readers will be stunned and, in some cases, outraged."

~ Publisher Weekly Review

Thursday, February 08, 2007

"Essays on the pleasures and perils of growing older by “an accomplished raconteur” —Kirkus Reviews

Over the Hill, You Pick Up Speed: Reflections on Aging (For Anyone Who Happens To) by Nardi Reeder Campion

"From the heartbreak of giving up one’s driver’s license to the joys of geriatric dating, Nardi Reeder Campion brings her distinctive mix of wit and candor to the subject of aging. The eighty-eight-year-old author approaches the challenges of growing older with imagination and an undimmed zest for life, from exercises that improve one’s memory (“for me, memory is the thing I forget with”) to creative solutions to being carless in rural America (she does not recommend hitchhiking).

Campion considers with amusement both the things that change (society’s attitudes toward sex) and those that remain the same (her own inability to use the f-word). She shares her love of tea and travel, her pleasure in family and friends, and her ongoing frustration at her penchant for losing items large and small, worthless and precious. And she introduces us to some notable people she has met along the way whose influence she continues to feel.

Whether inviting her retirement home neighbors to watch a belly-dancer or taking a long-dreamed-of trip to Paris and Normandy at eighty-six, Campion shows that aging can be both funny and fun. If you or someone you know happens to be aging, this book is for you." from the Book Jacket

Monday, February 05, 2007

Spend a little time in Francesca's Kitchen during these sub-freezing days of February, with a delicious story about life, love, and, of course, pasta. Complete with some of author Peter Pezzelli's favorite family recipes.

"Mamma and all-around good egg Francesca Campanile, widowed with children and grandchildren all elsewhere, is floating aimlessly in her Providence, R.I., house. When she decides what she needs is to be needed, Francesca answers the babysitter-wanted ad of Loretta Simmons, a single mother working full-time. Pezzelli nicely renders Loretta's anxieties as she first rejects, and then, out of desperation, hires Francesca, who is not the student-type sitter she'd imagined. He's also lovely on Francesca's reminiscing about husband Leo and on the mutual sniffing-out processes as Francesca parses Loretta's harried home, and neglected children Penny and Will slowly learn to trust Francesca. Francesca's adult son Joey then unexpectedly returns to the nest. He meets Loretta, sparks fly, and suddenly Francesca isn't certain any of this was such a good idea. Most of the action happens in kitchens: home cooking, good pasta and traditional family values conquer all in this amusing and touching story." ~ from Publisher's Weekly