Thursday, May 28, 2015

Round-up of Book Expo America in NYC: BEA 2015

I admit that knowing that the next BEA will be held in Chicago, this BEA 15 felt different for me.  The blogger friends that I made during the first Book Blogger Convention had been my companions every year. This year, they weren't able to attend.

I'm determined not to bring home too many books this year. We just don't have enough room in our Brooklyn home.  R has tried to establish a rule that for every book that comes in, I must remove a book.  I haven't had as much time to read and review lately and I don't expect my schedule to change.
So, my shortened wishlist of BEA15 books is a mix of books by some of my old favorite authors and debut authors that are showcased at BEA.

I'm most fascinated by the debut authors - not just their works but also their stories of writing and of getting published.  My two favorite debut novels from last year were The Queen of Tearling and .  Sometimes the authors aren't new, but they're new to me and just as exciting.   Among the many authors that  BEA introduced me to: Gennifer Choldenko, Suzanne Collins, Kristen Cashore, Deborah Harkness,  Kirby Larsen,   Alan Bradley (he signed the first in his Flavia De Luce series), and Louise Penny  (the Inspector Gamache mysteries).

Debut Novels from BEA 15

(1) The Blackthorn Key by Kevin Sands
ISBN: 978-1-4814-4651-8   Hardcover $17.99
Aladdin (9/8/15), 384 pages.
Ages 8-12.

The blurb:
"Tell no one what I've given you."  Until he got that cryptic warning, Christopher Rowe was happy, learning how to solve complex codes and puzzles and creating powerful medicines, potions, and weapons as an apprentice to Master Benedict Blackthorn -- with maybe an explosion or two along the way.

But when a mysterious cult begins to prey on London's apothecaries, the trail of murders grows closer to Blackthorn's shop.  With time running out, Christopher must use every skill he's learned to discover the key to a terrible secret with the power to tear the world apart.

About the Author:
Kevin Sands has worked as a researcher, a business consultant, and a teacher. He lives in Toronto, Canada.  The Blackthorn Key is his first novel.

(2) City on Fire by Garth Risk Hallberg

ISBN: 978-0-385-35377-9  Hardcover $30.00
Knopf (10/13/15), 944pages.

The blurb:
Meet Regan and William Hamilton-Sweeney, estranged heirs to one of the city's largest fortunes; Keith and Mercer, the men who, for better or worse, love them; Charlie and Samantha, two suburban teenagers seduced by downtown's punk scene; an obsessive magazine reporter and his idealistic neighbor; and the detective trying to figure out what any of them have to do with a shooting in Central Park.  Their entangled relationships open up the loneliest-seeming corners of the crowded city.  And when the infamous blackout of July 13, 1977, plunges this world into darkness, each of these lives will be changed forever.

A novel about love and betrayal and forgiveness, about art and truth and rock 'n' roll, about how the people closest to us are sometimes the hardest to reach -- about what it means to be human.

About the Author:
Garth Risk Hallberg lives in New York with his wife and children.  This is his first novel.

(3) Food Whore by Jessica Tom

ISBN: 978-0-06-2387004   Trade Paperback $14.99
William Morrow (10/27/15), 352 pages.

The blurb:
When Tia Monroe moves to NYC, she plans to put herself on the culinary map in no time - until a coveted internship goes up in smoke, and Tia's suddenly just another young food love in the big city. 
But when Michael Saltz, a legendary New York Times restaurant critic, lets Tia in on career-ending secret -- that he's lost his sense of taste -- everything changes.  Now he wants Tia to serve as his palate, ghostwriting his reviews. In return he promises her lavish meals, a bottomless cache of designer clothing, and the opportunity of a lifetime.  Out of prospects and determined to make it, Tia agrees. 

Within weeks, Tia's world transforms into one of luxury; four-star dinners, sexy celebrity chefs, and an unlimited expense account at Bergdorf Goodman. Tia loves every minute of it. . .  until she sees her words in print and Michael Saltz taking all the credit.  As her secret identity begins to crumble and the veneer of extravagance wears thin, Tia is forced to confront what it means to truly succeed -- and how far she's willing to go to get there.

About the Author:
Jessica Tom is a writer and marketing professional living in Brooklyn.  She has worked on initiatives with food trucks, restaurants, hospitality start-ups, and city-wide culinary programs.  She graduated from Yale University with a concentration in fiction writing and wrote the restaurant review for the Yale Daily News Magazine.  Food Whore is her first novel.

For those of us with a love for thrillers, mysteries and detective novels, BEA 15 has brought together a deep bench of authors:  Lee Child (Make Me), Karin Slaughter (Pretty Girls), Jon Land (Strong Light of Day), David Baldacci (The Keeper), Nelson DeMille (Radiant Angel), Barry Lyga (After the Red Rain), Linda Fairstein (Devil's Bridge), Chris Holm (The Killing Kind), Andrew Gross (One Mile Under), Mary Higgins Clark (Death Wears a Beauty Mask and Other Stories), Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child (Blue Labyrinth), John Grisham (Theodore Boone: The Fugitive), Wendy Corsi Staub (Blood Red).

New books from familiar and beloved authors:
In After Alice by Gregory Maguire turns his imagination to the story of Alice in Wonderland with Alice's friend Ada following her down the rabbit hole.
Libba Bray delivers Lair of Dreams, the second book in her Diviners Trilogy.
In Seveneves, Neal Stephenson delivers speculative fiction that asks what would happen if the world were ending?  A catastrophe forces the different nations to work together and create a place to live outside of Earth.  Five thousand years later, the descendants of the pioneers are forced to find another home - on Earth.
Janice Lee follows her highly successful debut The Piano Teacher with The Expatriates. In The Expatriates, three American women living in a small expat community in Hong Kong find their lives collide.

For those of young at heart who enjoy middle grade and YA novels, here are a few that sound like particularly fun reads:
Upside-Down Magic #1 by Sarah Mlynowski & Emily Jenkins (Scholastic);
Sunny Side Up by Jennifer L. Holm & Matthew Holm (Scholastic);
Friends for Life by Andrew Norris (Scholastic);
The Marvels by Brian Selznick (Scholastic);
The Scorpion Rules by Erin Bow (Simon & Schuster)

Looking for a beautiful picture book?
Bug in a Vacuum by Melanie Watt is a humorous treat.  Doesn't Ivette and Andree Salom's "When the Anger Ogre Visits" sound like fun?

For those of us who support #WeNeedDiverseBooks, there seem to be a diverse range of voices.
Dragon Fish by Vu Tran
Man by Kim Thuy
Mayumi and the Sea of Happiness by Jennifer Tseng

As always, there are books that I missed but that sound fantastic.  I'll have to keep my eyes out for:
Goodbye Stranger by Rebecca Stead (Penguin Random House)
The Art of Crash Landing by Melissa Decarlo (Harper Collins)
The Witch Hunter by Virginia Boecker (Little Brown Young Readers)
Zebulon Finch by Daniel Teraus (Simon & Schuster)
A Thousand Nights  by E.K. Johnston (Hyperion)
Theodore Boone: The Fugitive by John Grisham (Dutton Books for Young Readers)
The Witches by Stacy Schiff (Little Brown)
Bloody Royal Prints by Reba White Williams (Tyrus Books/Amazon Publishing)

Monday, May 18, 2015

Six and a Half Deadly Sins (A Dr. Siri Paiboun mystery) by Colin Cotterill

  • ISBN-10: 1616955589 - Hardcover $26.96
  • Publisher: Soho Crime (May 19, 2015), 256 pages.
  • Review copy courtesy of the Amazon Vine Program.

Laos, 1979: Dr. Siri Paiboun, the twice-retired ex-National Coroner of Laos, receives an unmarked package in the mail. Inside is a hand-woven pha sin, a colorful traditional skirt worn in northern Laos. A lovely present, but who sent it to him, and why? And, more importantly, why is there a severed human finger stitched into the sin’s lining? 

Siri is convinced someone is trying to send him a message, and won’t let the matter rest until he’s figured it out. He finagles himself and his wife a trip up north to the province where the sin was made, not realizing they are embarking on a deadly scavenger hunt. Meanwhile, the northern Lao border is about to erupt into violence—and Dr. Siri and his entourage are walking right into the heart of the conflict.

I love mysteries and was eager to read Six and a Half Deadly Sins, the latest Dr. Siri Paiboun mystery.  Dr. Siri Paiboun, the retired national coroner of post-revolutionary Laos in the 1970s, who sleuths with his wife. In Six and a Half Deadly Sins, Dr. Siri receives a severed finger wrapped in a traditional Laotian woven skirt. After consulting an expert, Dr Siri learns that the weave comes from one of the Northern Laotian towns. It's not easy to travel within the country - no flights or buses that take you to major hubs - but Dr. Siri solves a minor mystery to help a corrupt judge. The judge arranges for Dr. Siri to be sent on a government mission to Northern Laotian towns just as he wanted. Dr. Siri and his wife head North to find the town from where the cloth was woven, determine who the weaver might have been, and whose finger was removed.

As their journey takes them to different towns, they are handed other pieces of weave that serve as clues of their own. Dr. Siri isn't facing an ordinary murder - instead he must factor in issues with powerful Chinese interests, drug lords, and the difficult conditions of Socialist, impoverished Laos. Colin Cotterill delivers an unusual, sympathetic and funny mystery set in an unusual time and place.

About the Author:
Colin Cotterill is the Dilys Award–winning author of nine other books in the Dr. Siri Paiboun series: The Coroner’s LunchThirty-Three TeethDisco for the DepartedAnarchy and Old DogsCurse of the Pogo StickThe Merry MisogynistLove Songs from a Shallow GraveSlash and Burn, and The Woman Who Wouldn’t Die. He lives in Chumphon, Thailand, with his wife and six deranged dogs.

Monday, April 27, 2015

The Children Return: A Bruno Chief of Police mystery by Martin Walker

  • ISBN-10: 0385354150 - Hardcover
  • Publisher: Knopf (April 28, 2015), 336 pages.
  • Review copy courtesy of the Amazon Vine Program.

The blurb:
When an undercover agent tracking domestic jihadists is found murdered, it’s troubling enough for Bruno’s beloved village. But when this is followed by the return of Sami, a local autistic youth thought lost to Islamic extremism, provincial St. Denis suddenly becomes a front line in the global war on terror. Abducted and exploited for his technological genius in Afghanistan, Sami has used his talents to gather invaluable stores of al-Qaeda intel—but as an international tribunal descends to begin an exhaustive debrief, it becomes clear Sami’s former handlers are far from ready to relinquish him. Now the same jihadists who killed the agent aim to silence Sami, and as the eyes of the intelligence world turn toward his case, Bruno must scramble to track down the terrorists before they exact their own justice. 

As if things aren’t complicated enough, Bruno finds himself contending with the mixed, alluring signals of one of the high-ranking U.S. intelligence officers on Sami’s case, even while juggling the affections of his neighbor and sometime lover. Add to that a member of the tribunal with dangerous skeletons in his closet, the mysterious history of two Jewish siblings who claim to have been sheltered locally from the Nazis during World War II, and a high-profile philanthropist whose presence in St. Denis seems to be attracting attention from the jihadists, and it’s all almost enough to absent Bruno from the village’s wine festival. 

With international intrigue and action aplenty, Children of War is a journey to St. Denis that readers won’t soon forget.

Review:The Children Return had previously been released under the title "Children of War". Bruno is the chief of police in St. Denis, a small country town in South Central France. Bruno is the sort of police chief that knows the residents of his area, he coaches their soccer teams, arranges to help during times of personal misfortune, follows the spirit of the law more than he complies with the regulations and forms required by the National Police. He's developed a sterling reputation as an effective detective and has won the respect of his colleagues even on the national level. I discovered the series a few years ago, loved it, and read every book in the series within a few weeks. Bruno is deeply likable - he cares deeply about the people in his town and those that he encounters. He's very involved in St Denis from coaching soccer, helping with the harvest, cooking for events and friends - Bruno draws you to him and into the story.

In The Children Return, there are children of war from different periods and different wars who return to St Denis. First, there is a bequest for the building a memorial from a wealthy Parisian Jew who had escaped the Nazis during WW II. Second, there is Sami, an autistic Muslim boy, who wants to return to France after working with jihadists in Afghanistan. There is uncertainty as to whether Sami can be trusted.

Bruno approaches the issues with his characteristic kindness and sensitivity. Bruno's personal life plays an important part of these novels as we enjoy reading about the wonderful meals that he prepares as well as the ups and downs of his complicated love life. While Bruno's athletic, good looking, etc. he's looking for a long term partner. The fact that the women he falls in love with seem to want to keep their independence and distance makes Bruno even more attractive.

About the Author:

Martin Walker is a senior fellow of the Global Business Policy Council, a private think tank for CEOs of major corporations, based in Washington, D.C. He is also editor in chief emeritus and international affairs columnist at United Press International. His six previous novels in the Bruno series are Black Diamond; Bruno, Chief of Police; The Crowded Grave; The Dark Vineyard; The Devil’s Cave; and The Resistance Man, all international best sellers. He lives in Washington, D.C., and the Dordogne.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

The Doomsday Equation by Matt Richtel

  • ISBN-10: 0062201182 - Paperback $14
  • Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks (February 24, 2015), 384 pages.
  • Review copy courtesy of the publisher.

The blurb:
Jeremy Stillwater is a genius with computers but not so much with people.  Maddeningly self-righteous, he's alienated his girlfriend and infuriated his Silicon Valley financiers and the government agents who saw military promise in his innovation: a program that seemed to be able to predict war.

Even Jeremy has begun to doubt the algorithm's capabilities. Then one day his computer has a message for him.  War is coming. Three days and counting until massive nuclear conflict.  

Is it real? A malicious joke? A bug?

Isolated yet relentless, Jeremy soon uncovers an ancient conspiracy of unspeakable danger.  And it will take every bit of Jeremy's stubborn ingenuity to survive another minute, let alone save the world.

In The Doomsday Equation, Matt Richtel gives us an unusual techno thriller with genius Jeremy Stillwater as the tech whiz kid who has developed algorithm that uses close to 300 metrics to compute the likelihood of the occurrence of war. The algorithm factor in widely disparate variables, including inflammatory rhetoric from politicians, the weather (invasions more often begin with clear weather), changes in the cost/price of oil and other mineral resources, etc. While the concept is brilliant, as we get to know Jeremy, his single minded dedication and aggressive nature comes across clearly but also portrays an annoying, whiny, entitled tech entrepreneur. Jeremy's default mode is rude, aggressive, and slightly paranoid. As he interacts with women, objectifying them, dismissing them, I skimmed over passages. While the plot and conflict are engrossing, I took away one star because of Jeremy and his antics.

About the Author:
Jeremy Richtel is a Pulitzer Prize-winning technology reporter for the New York Times.  He is the author of A Deadly Wandering and the novels The Cloud and Devil's Plaything.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Nightbird by Alice Hoffman

  • Age Range: 10 and up 
  • Grade Level: 5 and up
  • ISBN-10: 0385389582 - Hardcover $16.99
  • Publisher: Wendy Lamb Books (March 10, 2015), 206 pages.
  • Review copy courtesy of NetGalley and the publisher.

The blurb:
Twig lives in Sidwell, where people whisper that fairy tales are real. After all, her town is rumored to hide a monster. And two hundred years ago, a witch placed a curse on Twig’s family that was meant to last forever. But this summer, everything will change when the red moon rises. It’s time to break the spell.

Nightbird starts off as the story of Teresa, nicknamed Twig,
who believes herself to be as inconsequential and forgettable 
as a twig. She's got a lively imagination, a big heart, and pluck. 
But she's been told to keep her light hidden, not to make friends, 
to stay apart from the other children. Her mother doesn't let her 
socialise and doesn't allow any of the neighbours to visit. It's 
largely because of a curse that was put on their family hundreds 
of years ago by the Sidwell witch. This curse and avoiding further 
damage has ruled the lives of Twig and her family members.

When a young family moves in next door, Twig finally finds a
friend of her own. It changes everything for her but she's
terrified of disappointing her mother and impact of the curse.
She tries to avoid her new friend and it's heartbreaking to
read her loneliness - the new friendship brings so much
to the story.

There's strange graffiti, a possible curse and witch, a
possible monster all mixed in with the young folks in a
small town in the Berkshires. Friendship, finding one's
way, and growing into one's self are all key themes in 
this delightful book.

About the Author:
Alice Hoffman, an American novelist and screenwriter, 
was born in New York City on March 16, 1952. She 
earned a B.A. from Adelphi University in 1973 and an M.A.
in creative writing from Stanford University in 1975 before 
publishing her first novel, Property Of, in 1977. Known for 
blending realism and fantasy in her fiction, she often 
creates richly detailed characters who live on society's 
margins and places them in extraordinary situations as she 
did with At Risk, her 1988 novel about the AIDS crisis. Her 
other works include The Drowning Season, Seventh Heaven, 
The River King, Blue Diary, The Probable Future, The Ice 
Queen, and The Dovekeepers. Her book, The Third Angel, 
won the 2008 New England Booksellers' Award for fiction. 
Two of her novels, Practical Magic and Aquamarine, were m
ade into films. She has also written numerous screenplays, 
including adaptations of her own novels and the original 
screenplay, Independence Day. In 2014 her title, The 
Museum of Exteaordinary Things made The New York 
Times Best Seller List.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Will Starling by Ian Weir

  • ISBN-10: 1586422308 - Paperback $17.00
  • Publisher: Steerforth (February 3, 2015), 480 pages. 
  • Review copy courtesy of Netgalley and the publisher.

The blurb:
The Reckoning of WM. Starling, Esq. a Foundling, concerning Monstrous Crimes and Infernal Aspirations, with Perpetrators Named and Shrouded Infamies disclosed to Light of Day, as set down by his Own Hand in this year 1816.

London, 1816. The Napoleonic War is over, Romanticism is at its high tide, and the great city is charged with the thrill of scientific discovery and Regency abandon. The nineteen-year-old foundling Will Starling returns from teh Continent, having spent five years assisting military surgeon Alec Comrie, and now is helping Comrie build a civilian practice in London's rough Cripplegate area. This means entering into an uneasy alliance with the Doomsday Men: graverobbers who supply surgeons with cadavers for dissection.  There are wild rumors about Dionysus Atherton, an old university friend of Comrie's and the brightest of London's emerging surbical stars, whispers of experiments on corpses not quite dead, in a bid to unlock the mystery of death itself.  Will owrks obsessively to ferret out the truth; the investigation twists and turns through brothels and charnel houses and the mansions of Mayfair.

Will Starling is set in the years after the Napoleonic War during a time when Doomsday men rob graves to help the surgeons and medical schools find cadavers with which to further their learning. Our lead character and narrator comes across clearly, with a strong character and powerful voice and the disadvantages of poverty, ugliness, and having been raised an orphan. He's both street smart and quite sharp, he's learned to live by his wits and is quite fond of large words and pretty turns of phrase. He's not shy about pushing himself forward and keeps his eye out for an opportunity. He apprentices to a surgeon and travels in the underworld, this leads him to discover the possible shady tactics of other surgeons and an illicit attempt to raise the dead.

The writing and language is sharp and distinct. Will Starling is an unusual lead character and for those who enter his world, someone hard to forget.

Friday, January 30, 2015

Defy by Sara Larson

  • ISBN-10: 0545695465 - Paperback $9.99
  • Publisher: Scholastic Paperbacks; Reprint edition (November 25, 2014), 336 pages.
  • Review copy courtesy of NetGalley and the publisher.

The blurb:
Alexa Hollen is a fighter. Forced to disguise herself as a boy and serve in the king's army, Alex uses her quick wit and fierce sword-fighting skills to earn a spot on the elite prince's guard. But when a powerful sorcerer sneaks into the palace in the dead of night, even Alex, who is virtually unbeatable, can't prevent him from abducting her, her fellow guard and friend Rylan, and Prince Damian, taking them through the treacherous wilds of the jungle and deep into enemy territory.

The longer Alex is held captive with both Rylan and the prince, the more she realizes that she is not the only one who has been keeping dangerous secrets. And suddenly, after her own secret is revealed, Alex finds herself confronted with two men vying for her heart: the safe and steady Rylan, who has always cared for her, and the dark, intriguing Damian. With hidden foes lurking around every corner, is Alex strong enough to save herself and the kingdom she's sworn to protect?

Defy introduces us to a brave, proud warrior who is forced to hide her true identity for her own safety.  She's proved her fighting ability and won a position among the Prince's Guard and is known to be one of the best swords person in the kingdom.  

Unfortunately, the Kingdom is suffering great upheaval and considerable uncertainty as the King becomes progressively more despotic as he forces young women into brothels and arrests those with magical powers. The King is aided by a dangerous advisor with magical abilities.

When the Prince is kidnapped by the rebels, our heroine Alexa, is taken with him. She learns that the Prince is working with the rebels against his father, with the purpose of ridding the Kingdom of inequality and to allow magic to be accepted and used.  In order to survive and to help her Prince, Alexa must learn to use her skills and develop whatever magic she might have - and to return to the Kingdom, use her new skills for the young Prince.  

Defy is a fun, witty, adventure story - a real delight!