Saturday, April 22, 2017

The Confessions of Young Nero

I read a few good reviews of this novel and decided that I had to read it.  I found it to be engrossing and read all of its 500+ pages in one sitting.  I became curious to find out what parts of the novel were historical and what parts were fiction and embarked on some research into Nero's life.

The novel begins with a 3 year old Lucius Domitius Ahenobarbus being thrown into a lake by his uncle Emporer Caligula to drown as a sacrifice to the goddess Diana.  He is saved by a woman and returns home where he is being raised by an aunt. He did not know his mother, who had been sent in exile after his birth, or his father.  His father had been killed.  As Lucius learns his family history he becomes aware early in life that it is better to be cruel than dead.  He watches as his relatives scheme and poison each other in order to gain power.

Lucius/Nero is fascinated by the arts and athleticism and pursues both of them as he learns to navigate the politics of Rome.  His harshest tests come from his mother whose goal is to control the empire even if it means assassinating her son.

Lucius, later known as Nero, is obviously traumatized by the betrayals he experienced in his early life and became a harsh ruler because of it.  The novel covers his life from age 3 to 25 with a promise of a part 2 from the author in her Afterword.

The era is extremely well researched. Everything that I learned from independent Internet research into the Roman Caesars was on display in the book.  However, the author presents a different Nero.  His true interests are quite ordinary and he does not shy away from them even though it is not seemly for an Emporer to participate in them. In the end he does not care what others think because he is the Emporer and if the old rules do not work for him, he changes the rules.

This is a very entertaining book and I cannot recommend it more highly.



The Seventh Plague

I am a fan of James Rollins' Sigma Force novels.  The Seventh Plague is his 18th novel in the series and his 23rd novel to date.  The inside front cover blurb summarizes the novel as follows:

"Two years after vanishing into the Sudanese desert, the leader of a British archeological expedition, Professor Harold McCabe, comes stumbling out of the sands, frantic and delirious, but he dies before he can tell his story.  The mystery deepens when an autopsy uncovers a bizarre corruption: someone has begun to mummify the professor's body-while he was still alive.

His strange remains are returned to London for further study, when alarming news arrives from Egypt.  The medical team that had performed the man's autopsy has fallen ill with an unknown disease, one that is quickly spreading throughout Cairo.  Fearing the worst, a colleague of the professor reaches out to a longtime friend: Painter Crowe, the director of Sigma Force.  The call is urgent, for Professor McCabe had vanished into the desert while searching for proof of the ten plagues of Moses.  As the pandemic grows, a disturbing question arises:  Are those plagues starting again?

Before Director Crowe can investigate, a mysterious group of assassins leaves behind a fiery wake of destruction and death, erasing all evidence.  With the professor's body incinerated, his home firebombed, Sigma Force must turn to the archeologist's only daughter, Jane McCabe, for help.  While sifting through what's left of her father's work, she discovers a puzzling connection tying the current threat to a shocking historical mystery, one involving the travels of Mark Twain, the genius of Nikola Tesla, and the adventures of famous explorer Henry Morgan Stanley.

To unravel a secret going back millennia, Director Crowe and Commander Grayson Pierce will be thrust to opposite sides of the globe.  One will search for the truth, traveling to the plague ridden streets of Cairo to a vast ancient tomb buried under the burning sands of the Sudan; the other will struggle to stop a mad genius locked within a remote Arctic engineering complex, risking the lives of all those he holds dear.

As the global crisis grows even larger, Sigma Force will confront a threat born of the ancient past and made real by the latest science-a danger that will unleash cascading series of plagues, culminating in a scourge that could kill all of the world's children. . . decimating humankind forever."

I expected alot from this story but was disappointed.  I found myself skipping pages because I was only interested in the part about the ancient past.  This was not a thriller for me at all.  First of all, this is not your typical Sigma Force novel.  Some of the series' dominant characters had small roles and the storyline was not a usual Sigma Force plot.  Second, the subplot involving the assassins did not fit well with the rest of the story and neither did the subplot about the genius in the Arctic. I think the author should have stuck with the main plot and run with it.

Very disappointed as James Rollins is one of my favorite authors.


Monday, April 17, 2017

The Last Days of Cafe Leila

I received an ARC of this book through the Early Reviewers Club at Librarything. It is a story of three generations of the Yadegar family in post-revolutionary Iran.

Zod Yadegar has written his daughter Noor in California asking that she return home to Tehran where he runs the family business Cafe Leila.  She agrees to come and brings along her angry teenage daughter Lily.  Noor, a nurse, notices her father appears to be ill but is not aware how sick he is.  She soon learns he has terminal pancreatic cancer and decides to stay longer than the week she had originally planned to stay.  This, of course, upsets Lily who did not want to come to Tehran anyway.  While she is there, Noor gets reacquainted with longtime Cafe Leila employees Naneh Goli, Soli, and Ala who have always been considered family.

The family saga alternates between Noor's family problems, Zod's marriage and family life with Noor's mother Parvaneh, and Zod's parents Yanik and Nina who emigrated to Iran from Russia and opened Cafe Leila. Yanik and Nina created a tight family bond that begins to fall apart after Zod forced his children to leave Iran when they became college age and the country became too dangerous to live in. However, when Zod's kids return 30 years later the family bond appears to still be alive.

The setting of the restaurant and food is prominent.  All life problems seem to be solved by working hard to create an inviting place for their customers.  While Iran has changed over the years, Cafe Leila has not changed one bit and offers its customers a respite from a quickly changing society.

I loved this debut novel by Donia Bijan. The characters were loveable and I enjoyed reading about the history of this family through each generation's stories. The descriptions of the food served at the restaurant not only made me hungry but was also historical to the family.  Yanik brought his mother's recipes with him went he came to Iran.  Every aspect of this wonderful book is family related.

Highly recommended.






The Empress of Bright Moon

The Empress of Bright Moon is part 2 of a duology on the early life of Empress Wu, China's only ruling female.  The story picks up where part 1, The Moon in the Palace, ended with a dying Emporer Taizong and his son Pheasant,  formally Emporer Gaozong, being declared as his heir. Pheasant is in a relationship with Wu Mei, our protagonist.

When Pheasant becomes Emporer his uncle advises the court that Taizong made a will before his death installing the uncle as Regent over Pheasant even though Pheasant was an adult.  Pheasant is married to Lady Wang, now Empress Wang, who has been barren during their 7 year marriage. Empress Wang has become a bitter woman and treats the concubines abysmally, especially Mei whom she is jealous of. Mei has been able to produce 2 children for the new Emporer and is not only her rival but a rival of the new Regent. Mei is promoted to the Most Adored title (the Emporer's favorite) early in the story and is given another new title that is higher than the other high ranking concubines, Luminous Lady.  There are concubines titled as Talents, Graces, Beauties and Leading Ladies.  Mei struggles to obtain power as she battles her 2 rivals.

I have loved both of the books in the duology and am thinking about re-reading them soon.  They are that good. The female characters are strong but there are less of them in book 2.  The plot is mainly about Mei's problems with the Regent and Empress Wang as well as Pheasant's struggles with his Regent and the court in general.  The other high ranking concubines are not as central to the plot as they were in book 1.  Both books are well researched.  The political intrigue during the Tang dynasty and in the palace are represented well.

A must read for historical fiction fans.



















The Moon in the Palace

This book is part 1 of the Empress of the Bright Moon duology.  It takes place in 7th century China and is a fictionalized account of the early years of China's Empress Wu, the only ruling Empress in China's history.

13 year old Wu Mei is excited to be chosen as a concubine for Emporer Taizong.  She believes that she can help her family regain its standing if she is able to impress the Emporer and become his Most Adored ie, his favorite.  It is hard to be summoned by the Emporer as there are many concubines and a bedding schedule that must be followed. Being young and unfamiliar with court rules and politics she is taken advantage of by another concubine named Jewel who takes Mei's place after Mei is summoned by the Emporer and soon becomes Most Adored.

Mei meets a boy at court called Pheasant and falls in love with him.  They secretly arrange to meet on several occasions. However, Mei continues to pursue the Emporer and receives several promotions and demotions that seem to be controlled by Jewel.  One evening while she is in the Emporer's bedroom she is seen by Pheasant.  Mei discovers that Pheasant is one of the Emporer's sons and is embarrassed by her actions. Still feeling a need to help her family Mei plays court politics to her advantage but continues to be challenged by Jewel.

I was spellbound by this story and read it in one sitting.  It was impossible to put down and I was up at 2 am trying to finish reading it.  The story is primarily about the political machinations of the Emporer's concubines as they befriend, betray and befriend each other again in order to gain power.  As such, there is alot of court intrigue as they battle each other to become Most Adored or even the new Empress.

What is unusual about the story is that there are many strong female characters. These concubine are no dummies and are more than adept at court politics. Other interesting aspects of the book are the rules concerning the Emporer's wardrobe and the running of the silkworm houses.  I especially enjoyed the information on how to raise silkworms.

All in all, The Moon in the Palace was a great read.







The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane

I am a fan of Lisa See and had to pick up her latest novel.  The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane follows the life of Li-Yan, called Girl by her family as she is the only daughter in her family.  She is a member of China's Akha ethnic minority. They are animistic in belief and Ms. See covers their traditions in great detail. They live in the countryside in a remote village without electricity and running water in stark contrast to the majority of people in 1980s China and they all pick tea leaves for their livelihood.

Girl walks for hours each day with her family in order to pick pu'er tea leaves all day that are then sold to a tea collective.  Her mother is also the area's midwife and Girl is expected to learn this skill too. She is one of her school's best students and hopes to advance to higher education if her family will let her.  Girl wants to grow up and leave her village for a better life.

One day a stranger arrives looking for the rare pu'er tea.  Girl is asked to translate for her village leaders. Also at this time Girl begins to question the traditions of her village and after having a child out of wedlock refuses to kill the infant which society requires her to do. She drops her infant off near an orphanage in a nearby town and subsequently leaves her village to pursue her education and career. After getting reacquainted with the father Girl tries to get her daughter back but she has already been adopted by a California couple.  Both mother and daughter search for a stable family life through those they meet through their study of pu'er tea.

I loved this story.  While I am attracted to Asian fiction it still has to be well written to capture my imagination.  The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane does just that with loveable characters and a compelling plot.  There is alot of information about the tea industry both locally and internationally which was enjoyable to read about.  The author also writes about her Chinese culture with its family traditions, government practices, religious superstitions, and ancestor worship practices.

A fabulous read!






Tuesday, April 11, 2017

The Tapestry

I decided to read Nancy Bilyeau's The Tapestry for the Historical Fiction Reading Challenge after finding it at my public library.  It is a novel of Tudor England.

The story opens with Joanna Stafford, an ex-novice nun of a Dominican Order that was destroyed by King Henry VIII, vowing to live a quiet life weaving tapestries as a home business.  However, the king hears about her talent and summons her to his court to make a tapestry for him.  When she arrives an unknown assailant tries to kill her and the noblemen at court use her to further their plots.  Joanna finds that her friend Catherine Howard is present at court and is a favorite of the king while he tires from being married to his 4th wife Anne of Cleves.  Joanna becomes involved in court politics which she had tried to avoid but could not.

After reading this book I found out that it is the third novel in a series involving Joanna Stafford.  Of course, I now have to read the first 2 because The Tapestry was an engrossing story.  While I felt that the beginning was slow the author was probably introducing alot of background information from the earlier novels.  The story quickly picked up and I could not put it down.  I read it in one sitting.

The author provides a fascinating insight into the religious passions and politics of the era.  She shows the difficulties of being Catholic in a Reformed era with characters who have been displaced from the destroyed priories and monasteries by Henry VIII.

I highly recommend this book and give it 5 out of 5 stars.  It was a fabulous read.




Sunday, April 9, 2017

Jade Dragon Mountain

I picked this book as a selection for the Historical Fiction Reading Challenge.  It is the author's debut novel for a series featuring former Forbidden City librarian Li Du and takes place in China in the early 1700s.

Li Du has been recently exiled from China by the Emporer for being associated with traitors.  As he walks across China to leave the country he stops in Dayan near the Tibetan border where his cousin Tulishen is the magistrate.  Since the Emporer is expected to arrive in 6 days Tulishen has been planning to hold a festival for him where the Emporer is expected to show his subjects that he has control over the skies by predicting and producing an eclipse of the sun while he is there. While Li Du is there a Jesuit priest, astronomer Pieter van Dalen, suddenly dies.  The magistrate declares the death to be natural but there are signs that he has ignored indicating there was foul play. Tulishen does not want a murder investigation occurring near the time of the Emporer's arrival as it would upset the Emporer.  Li Du goes on his way but returns the next day asking his cousin if he can look into the priest's death. Tulishen gives him 5 days to come up with an answer before he has to leave again.

I loved this story.  There were interesting characters from Li Du and Tulishen to East India Company representative Nicholas Gray, Tulishen's consort Lady Chen, another Jesuit priest Brother Martin and assorted employees of the magistrate.  The historical aspect was well researched.  The author certainly knows her stuff.  Astronomy is prominent to the story and it added another interesting aspect to the plot.

This was an amazing read.  Highly recommended!


Friday, April 7, 2017

Pekoe Most Poison

I read Laura Child's latest tea shop mystery for the Craving the Cozies Reading Challenge.  It is the 18th installment of the tea shop mystery series and I have read every one of the books.  This is one of my favorite series.

In this installment of the series one of Charleston's wealthiest men, Beau Briggs, dies suddenly after drinking a cup of pekoe tea while at a rat tea party in his home.  Rat tea parties were prominent in Charleston in the mid 1900s and the waiters all wear rat headwear.  The main character, Theodosia Browning, owns the Indigo Tea Shop and is a guest at the event as is her tea master Drayton Connelly.  Her sleuthing begins immediately after Briggs collapses when she says that she thinks that the tea was poisoned.  With a reputation in the community for solving crimes Theodosia is asked by the victim's widow Doreen Briggs to look into his death.  So whodunit?  Was it the wife, the business partner, the neighbor or the publicist? Someone else?  You will have to read the book to find out.

One thing I like about Laura Childs' writing is that the crime occurs early in the story, usually in the first chapter. Some mystery novels don't have the crime committed until well into a third of the book.  I think that is a waste of paper. I want to know right away what crime needs to be solved so that the entire book is really about solving the crime.

The author also follows the cozy mystery formula perfectly.  What you get is a well crafted, fast paced story with several twists and turns and red herring or 2. This is must read for cozy lovers.


Exit Wounds

I have been looking forward to finding another Rutu Modan book ever since I read The Property.

In this graphic novel Koby Franco, a Tel Aviv cab driver, is contacted by a female soldier, Numi, who is looking for Koby's father Gabriel whom she believes was killed in a suicide bombing at a bus station cafeteria.  Gabriel was also her lover.  Together they follow clues and interview witnesses to the bombing to see if anyone knows whether Gabriel was in fact at the cafeteria at the time of the bombing.

The artwork consists of simply drawn characters with detailed background drawings of buildings.  I liked the use of bright colors.

This is a coming of age story with Koby trying to come to terms with his relationship with his father.  The mystery plot was well thought out and followed the pattern of a normal mystery novel with the usual 3 problems that a protagonist has to deal with in order to solve the mystery.

I enjoyed the book and am looking forward to reading more from this author.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

The Hawaiian Quilt

I love Hawaiian quilts so when I saw this book on the shelf of my public library I had to check it out.  It is an Amish fiction novel but is more about Hawaii and its traditions than Amish traditions.  Die hard Amish fiction fans may not like this book as well as some others.  It is not about Hawaiian quilting either so it's title is a little off the mark.

Mandy Frey and 3 other girlfriends decide to take a cruise to Hawaii before deciding whether to join the Amish church.  Mandy leaves behind boyfriend Gideon whom she is considering marrying.  While visiting Maui Mandy and her friend Ellen miss getting back to the cruise ship before it leaves for another port.  They are stranded on Maui but get to know a couple who takes them in while their families come up with the funds to bring them home.  Mandy meets a boy there and is not sure whether she is fascinated with him or with the island vibe.

While I do not read romance fiction, I did enjoy this novel.  There was a lot of Hawaiiana to keep me captivated and the romance aspect intrigued me.   I may try some other Amish fiction books to see how I like them.







Monday, March 20, 2017

Coffin Road

I had already read Peter May's Enzo Files series when I saw this book at the library. I was hoping it would be another Enzo File novel but it was not.  It is better. Coffin Road is the best novel that I have read in a long time.  It had me spell bound and I could not put it down.

The story takes place on the Isle of Harris in Scotland's Outer Hebrides. The setting is central to the story.  The characters react to the flora and fauna of the scenery and the stormy weather patterns are part of the plot.  Since the author is a Scotsman he is an expert on the geography of this location.

The main character washes ashore on a beach on the Isle of Harris with amnesia. He has no idea who he is or why he is on the island.  He learns a few things about himself from other characters, including where he is living and eventually his name, but begins a search into his identity after finding a map of the island that leads to a path called Coffin Road. He feels led to this part of the island and begins his search there.

A rebellious teenager Karen Fleming stops attending school after her mother decides to let her boyfriend move in.  She feels her mother is betraying her father who has been dead for 2 years and determines to find out more about him.

Homicide detective George Gunn travels to a remote island to investigate the death of a man in an abandoned lighthouse where a century earlier 3 lighthouse keepers disappeared.

The stories of these 3 characters merge together in a tightly woven plot.  There is a lot of suspense in this book which turned out to be an eco-thriller.  I was not expecting the story to go there but it added an interesting aspect to the plot. An amazing read.  Highly recommended!




Sunday, March 19, 2017

The Shogun's Daughter


I read The Shogun's Daughter for the Historical Fiction Reading Challenge.  It is the 17th installment of a series with samurai Sano Ichiro as sleuth.  This is the first book of the series that I have read and it works great as a stand alone novel.

Tsuruhime is the shogun's daughter and she has succumbed to smallpox.  The mystery is whether she died of natural causes or was murdered.  She was the only person who could have produced an heir for the shogun.  After her death the shogun is told that he has a son named Yoshisato that he never knew about from one of his concubines.  Sano is tasked with finding out who killed Tsuruhime and gets caught up in the politics of feudal Japan in the 1700s.  

I enjoyed this novel immensely.  I have never read any historical mysteries set in Japan and learned a lot about life in this place and era.  In the beginning I had some trouble getting used to the Japanese names and expected it to be a long read.  Since the dialogue was modern the read went pretty fast.  It seemed , however, that most of the plot was about political intrigue instead of being about the solving of a crime.   The political intrigue, while fascinating, made the book seem longer than it needed to be.  

All in all this was a great book and I look forward to reading the entire series.



Saturday, March 18, 2017

My Kind of Mystery 2017 Reading Challenge

I am joining this challenge which runs from February 1, 2017 through January 31, 2018.  There does not appear to be any rules for the challenge so I assume you can read any number of books in any sub-genre of the mystery genre.  I sort of like a challenge with no required number of books.  It makes me feel more relaxed knowing I don't have to push myself to read x number of books per month.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

The Champagne Conspiracy

I read Ellen Crosby's The Champagne Conspiracy for the Craving for Cozies Reading Challenge.  This book is the 7th installment of the wine country mystery series. The author took a break from the series a few years ago so I was pleased to find this book in the library last week.

The main character is Lucie Montgomery, a disabled vineyard owner in Virginia. Her winemaker/boyfriend is Quinn Santorini and together they have decided to create a sparkling wine.  This aspect of the book takes a second seat to the family history of Quinn.  Quinn's California cousin Gino Tomassi arrives at the vineyard to find out who is blackmailing him over what happened to his grandfather's first wife Zara Tomassi. Zara died in 1923, the day after President Warren Harding died in California while on his way back home from a trip to Alaska.  Amateur sleuth Lucie delves into the Tomassi family history to help Gino get answers.  She finds the story begins in Prohibition era Washington, DC, travels across the pond to England and ends in California.

There were several subplots that made the plot a little confusing.  However, I loved getting to know the characters again and the subplots did all come together at the end.  The pace was fast and there were some interesting historical facts blended into the story which made it a fun read.  Of course, there was alot of information on the wine making process which I loved reading about.

Highly recommended!


Silk Tether Book Review

I read Minal Khan's Silk Tether for the 2017 New Authors Reading Challenge.  I had to read a few reviews to understand the title.  As one Goodreads reviewer bamed Beth stated "a tether is a rope or chain tied around an animal to restrict movement.  A silk tether can be slightly stretched..."  This makes sense in a novel about the bonds of family and society for 2 young girls who live in wealthy families in Karachi, Pakistan and who have been friends since the 3rd grade.

The story begins with a Prologue taking place in 2008 with a woman being questioned by TSA officials as she tries to enter the United States.  The story then moves to Karachi, Pakistan with a teenaged Ayla trying on clothes for an upcoming wedding and later at the wedding where Ayla becomes fascinated with the bride who does not seem happy. Next Ayla is off to school where a new student is introduced, Alia.  At first they do not like each other but soon become best friends.  When Ayla's mother invites some friends over to their house Ayla meets that bride, Tanzeena.  They soon become friends after an awkward start. As they grow both Ayla and Alia are pressured by their families to be traditional women and marry young. Both want to go to college, however.

I loved this novel.   The friendships among the women and their thoughts about the changing society that they lived in was eye opening for me.  The culture of a traditional Islamic country was on display here as well and was educational for me as well.  I highly recommend this novel to all who want to understand the world of Islamic countries.






Thursday, February 23, 2017

The Health of Nations Book Review

I received a free copy of The Health of Nations Towards a World Without Contagious Disease by Karen Bartlett from the Early Reviewers group at Librarything.  It counts, however, as a selection for the New Authors Reading Challenge.  The Health of Nations is a history of the successes and failures of scientists to eradicate diseases such as smallpox and polio from the planet.

The book begins with a few chapters on the effort to eradicate smallpox from the planet.  The effort was successful!  The author then takes us to the fight to find a vaccine for polio as well as attempting to remove the disease from all nations.  A chapter on Bill Gates' activities in this effort is included.  The author continues her history of 20th century diseases with malaria, HIV, measles, and ebola.  The anti-vaccine movement is also covered.

I am a layperson and found the book to be an interesting read.  However, it is a must read for medical professionals.  It names the doctors and scientists who had involvement in each of these diseases and what their specific contributions were.  The politics of the medical profession as well as the activities of the World Health Organization are discussed in detail. This is a great resource for future generations as well.  Maintaining the history of the fight against these diseases is important.



Sunday, February 19, 2017

Beardo The Art Degree Guarantee Book Review

I read Beardo The Art Degree Guarantee by Dan Dougherty for the Manga/Graphic Novel Challenge.  It was both written and illustrated by Dougherty and is Volume 1 of the Beardo series.  It was published in 2014.  The Art Degree Guarantee pokes fun at the coffee shop industry as well as the travails of those of us with art degrees.  It is Dougherty's autobiography.

The comic strip begins with Beardo at his graduation telling his father that the sky is the limit and quickly moves to him applying for a job at a coffee shop.  While trying to pursue his art career on the side Beardo has to deal with rude customers, wacky co-workers and new relationships. He is hilarious at it.  I have to wonder if the baristas that I know comment behind my back on the type of customer that I am when I am at a coffee shop. Beardo has made me a little paranoid.

I appreciate that the art work is colored. In fact, I try to purchase only colorful graphic novels.  The colors just speak to me for some reason and when I am down I always reach for a colored book.   The deep greens, yellows and oranges within this book lift my spirits every time I look at it.

I highly recommend this book and can't wait to read the other books in the series.

The Deadliest Sin Book Review

The Deadliest Sin was written by a group of medieval mystery authors who call themselves the Medieval Murderers.  It is their 10th collaborative effort.  The authors include Michael Jecks, Ian Morson, Susannah Gregory, Simon Beaufort, Philip Gooden, Bernard Knight and Karen Maitland.  Each author has written a separate chapter in the book that advances the plot.  Each chapter concerns one of the Bible's seven deadly sins which are lust, greed, gluttony, sloth, anger, envy, and pride.

The story begins in the spring of 1348 with rumors of the coming Plague scaring people into either becoming devout Christians, drinkers or to go on a pilgrimage.  A group of travelers meet at an inn in England.  The inn owner convinces his guests to tell everyone what they have seen in their travels. Each guest tells a tale about one of the deadliest sins that becomes a chapter in the book.

I love this series.  While some of the chapters are more interesting than others I feel that is to be expected in any anthology of stories.  All the chapters are well written and the authors' knowledge of medieval times is evident.  The differences in writing styles complement each other and creates one fabulous historical fiction book.   Anyone who loves medieval mysteries will love this book.

The Forbidden Daughter Book Review

I read The Forbidden Daughter by Shobhan Bantwal for the New Authors Reading Challenge.  It is a novel about how the selective abortion of female fetuses has been used by those who care about the old ways in order to produce only male heirs.

Isha Tilak and her husband Nikhil have one daughter, Priya.  Priya is treated abysmally by her grandparents compared to her male cousins but the family does not address the issue. When Isha becomes pregnant for the second time, an ultrasound is performed to check on the baby's health but also to check the baby's sex.  When Isha is found to be pregnant with a second girl her ob-gyn offers to perform an abortion.  In addition, her in-laws insist upon it. Selective abortion is not legal in 2006 India and Isha's Doctor, Dr. Karnik, has broken the law by offering to perform an abortion.  Nikhil is outraged and gathers information on Dr. Karnik but is unable to use it after he is mysteriously killed while at work.  Isha's in-laws blame the killing on the curse of the new baby but she is convinced it has something to do with Dr. Karnik's solution to her problem.

The Forbidden Daughter is a beautifully written book about modern Indian culture.  It gives an interesting look into the continued importance of having a male heir in today's society.  The author took on a tough subject and made it a captivating read.  I was spell bound by the main character Isha's decision to forgo her Brahman airs and go out on her own in order to raise her daughters. She overcomes the notion of how a well-bred woman should behave and becomes an independent woman.  


Monday, February 13, 2017

Dead Cold Brew Book Review

I read Cleo Coyle's Dead Cold Brew for the Craving for Cozies 2017 Reading Challenge.  Cleo Coyle is the pen name of the husband and wife writing team of Alice Alfonsi and Marc Cerasini.  It is the 16th installment of their coffeehouse mystery series of which I have read them all. This series is modern and fast paced compared to other cozy mystery series which makes Dead Cold Brew a quick read.  I read it in one sitting.

The story opens with a scene from 1956 inside the sinking luxury cruise ship Andrea Doria where abused wife Angelica Campana and her 4 year old daughter Perla escape, but not until after Angelica holds her husband Gus's head down in the water rising in their room.  The story then moves to the present with coffeehouse manager Clare Cosi and her business partner, ex-husband Matteo Allegro discussing an exciting new business opportunity.  Matt and Clare have been invited to prepare a new coffee blend for a competition among coffee houses to sell their new blend to a cruise ship revival of the old Andrea Doria.  Wanting to do some research on the sunken ship, Matt suggests that she talk to his godfather Gus Campana who had been a passenger on the old ship.

While working on the blend Clare accepts an engagement ring from her long time cop boyfriend Mike Quinn. The ring has special coffee colored diamonds in its setting that were offered to Mike by Clare's boss and former mother-in-law Blanche Dreyfus Allegro DuBois who had previously worn them in a brooch. 

The plot moves in many directions.  A subplot concerning cops getting shot by snipers is prominent and there is alot of background information on the diamond trade which the Campana family is a part of.  

Dead Cold Brew is a welcome addition to the series.  As I mentioned earlier this book is fast paced.  It is modern.  There is mention of the characters having sex.  You would never see that in a traditional cozy. There is a subplot about cops getting shot at which is currently prominent in our national life.  This story covers alot of ground for a 307 page book and also includes coffee and dessert recipes at the end. Simply, a great read.

Friday, January 27, 2017

What's in a Name 2017 Reading Challenge

When I was blogging under the Mystery Bookshelf blog several years ago I always participated in this challenge.  It was fun roaming my local bookstore for titles that would fit the requirements.  I am joining again under my new blog.

Participants are required to choose a book from each of the following categories:

1.  A number in the title
2.  A building
3.  A title which has the letter x in it
4.  A compass direction
5.  An item of cutlery
6.  A title in which 2 words begin with the same letter

Titles cannot overlap from other challenges in this challenge which is hosted by The Worm Hole blog.

2017 Historical Fiction Reading Challenge

I am joining the 2017 Historical Fiction Reading Challenge at the Renaissance Reader level.  This requires that I read 10 books.  The challenge is hosted by the Passages to the Past blog and runs the 2017 calendar year.  I love the medieval era and will be reading some medieval mysteries in addition to other eras within the Historical Fiction genre


Thursday, January 26, 2017

The Creativity Reading Challenge

I plan on using the Creativity Reading Challenge to concentrate on reviewing art and craft books.  I may even venture into reviewing a cookbook or two.

I started spinning fiber into yarn this past year and am anxious to read a few books on spinning and watch some dvds.  It is a fun hobby that I am still learning.  On to the challenge!

New Authors Reading Challenge

In order to get out of my rut I am joining the New Authors Reading Challenge.  I would like to read some memoirs and historical fiction books for this challenge as well as a few Asian authors.  The challenge runs the 2017 calendar year and there is no required number of books to read.

Craving for Cozies 2017 Book Challenge

I am joining the Craving for Cozies challenge at the Peckish level.  This level requires me to read 10 Cozies in 2017.  I have enjoyed authors Laura Childs, Cleo Coyle, Julie Hyzy and Susan Wittig Albert in the past but look forward to finding new authors to read also.

10th Annual Manga/Graphic Novel Reading Challenge

I am joining the 10th Annual Manga/Graphic Novel Reading Challenge. I am a new fan of graphic novels and am excited to get started in the Modern Age level where I will be reading 12 books this year.