Book Recommendation: What’s in a Name? by Sally Cronin

Back in May of 2017, I published an interview with Sally Cronin. You can read it here if you’d like to refresh your memory. In that interview she talked about her new book, What’s in a Name?

I read the book recently (I need to get on Amazon and post my review) and I’d like to share my thoughts with you. And since this post it entitled “Book Recommendation,” I’m sure you have a pretty good idea of my thoughts.

What’s in a Name? is a collection of short stories, all written by Sally. She had the genius idea of writing two stories for each letter of the alphabet: the name of the story would be the first name of the male or female main character. Hence, Sally has penned the stories “Anne” and “Alexander,” “Grace” and “George,” and “Jane” and “Jack.” I’m sure you get the picture.

Volume I of What’s in a Name? contains stories for letters A through J. Volume II, it follows, continues with the rest of the alphabet. I haven’t read Volume II yet, but I’m looking forward to it.

The stories are full of love, laughter, life, and tears. Most of them end in a twist the reader doesn’t see coming. You’ll  need tissues to read some of these stories, and I wouldn’t be surprised if this is a collection you’ll want to gift to someone you love. Sally has a knack for keeping the reader engaged and entertained, and I found myself staring at my Kindle, my mouth hanging open, at the ends of some pieces in this collection. There were other times I laughed out loud.

My favorite story in the book is “Elaine.” I simply cannot get it out of my head. I encourage you to pick up the collection and find a favorite of your own. As I write this post, it’s $3.73 on Amazon (US). The links are below.

Sally is a prolific author and blogger and you can find out more about her here.

You can find What’s in a Name?, Volumes I and II, as well as other books by Sally, by clicking here.

And speaking of books, remember that we’re reading Stolen Memories by Mary Miley for next week. I’m about halfway through it and I’m loving it so far! The book for May will be The Life She was Given by Ellen Marie Wiseman.

Until next time,

Amy

 

 

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Book Recommendation: The Green Pearl Caper by Phyllis Entis

It’s been a while since I shared a book recommendation with you–not because I haven’t enjoyed any books, but because I’ve been busy writing other types of posts.

Last night I finished The Green Pearl Caper by Phyllis Entis and I knew I needed to tell you about it. Some of you may know that Phyllis and I are both members of Mystery Authors International, a small group dedicated to supporting each other, sharing tips and information, and helping promote one another’s work.

But I would recommend this book even if Phyllis were a total stranger.

The Green Pearl Caper is the first in the Damien Dickens mystery series. The main character, Damien “Dick” Dickens, is a Private Investigator in Atlantic City, New Jersey. Though I don’t spend much time in Atlantic City, I recognized the streets, the county roads, and the gritty main environs of the story, which made it even more interesting to me.

Dick is hired by Celine Sutherland to investigate some inconsistencies in the financial data from the company which is run by her family. This happens right before Celine gets killed.

I’m not spoiling anything–you’ll learn about her death on the first page of the prologue. You’ll also learn that Dick feels responsible, though you can judge that for yourself after you catch your breath from the twists and turns this book throws at you.

The Sutherland family hides plenty of secrets, most of which you won’t see coming but probably should, and that’s what makes a mystery like this so much fun. Phyllis Entis has a way of dangling red herrings in front of the reader that uses a deft sleight-of-hand.

The good news? There’s another Damien Dickens story on the way. The White Russian Caper is due out soon.

I hope Phyllis doesn’t mind me sharing her social media info here:

Facebook

Amazon author page

Twitter

Goodreads

Until next week,

Amy

Book Recommendation: A Murder at Rosamund’s Gate

I picked up A Murder at Rosamund’s Gate at the library–on a whim, which is how I pick out a lot of my library books. And I wasn’t disappointed. Susanna Calkins’ debut mystery had me guessing right up to the big reveal at the end. I had picked practically every character in the book as a suspect before the end, and I was still surprised to learn who the killer was. This is a book I highly recommend for anyone who loves a good mystery, Restoration England, and above-stairs/below-stairs intrigue.

A Murder at Rosamund’s Gate is the story of Lucy Campion, a chambermaid in the London home of Magistrate Hargrave. The tale is set in the seventeenth century and the amount of research that went into the book is astounding. The author’s vast knowledge of this time period  (she has a doctorate in British history) is obvious and imbues the text with a richness that would be hard to fake.

Lucy’s life is nothing but an endless cycle of drudgery until a series of murders catches the attention of London and another servant in the Hargrave household becomes a victim. Lucy takes it upon herself to find out all she can about the victim (whom Lucy thought she knew very well…but she may not have known the victim as well as she thought) and before long she finds herself in some shady places where no self-respecting young girl would have ventured alone in the seventeenth century. As she gets closer and closer to learning the truth about the murder, Lucy becomes embroiled in a life-threatening confrontation and has to fight harder than she ever dreamed if she wants to emerge from the ordeal alive.

There’s a little bit of romance in the book, too–just enough to give it that extra spark.

Did I mention that all this takes place against the backdrop of the deadly London Plague? The plague killed 90,000 Londoners before its ravages came to an end. Add to that the horrors of the Great Fire of London, and you’ve got yourself a pretty fantastic story.

Until next week,

Amy

 

Book Recommendation: “Trials Elsewhere” by R. Matthias

Steve Jobs once said, “The ones who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world, are the ones who do.” The author of today’s book recommendation is one of those people.

I don’t normally read non-fiction, but a while back I saw a blog post about R. Matthias’s book, Trials Elsewhere: Stories of Life and Development in West Africa, and I thought it sounded interesting. And when I actually sat down to read the book, I was not disappointed.

The author of Trials Elsewhere is a Canadian IT specialist who travels to the Gambia in West Africa to make the world a better place. The book offers an up-close look into his life in a place that is vastly different from the West.

The book is divided into two parts: the first part is about the author’s life as an NGO (non-governmental organization) volunteer in West Africa. After his stint at the NGO, Matthias takes a job with an internet service provider (ISP) and the second part of the book shares the story of his experiences as a manager in the ISP office.

Matthias’s path from idealistic fresh-faced volunteer to jaded office manager is strewn with stories ranging from burglaries to a run-in with the secret police, to a jungle trial, to corrupt officials to a tyrannical boss and his subversive secretarial sidekick, to his invitation to a local wedding as the “expert” photographer.

What impressed me the most about Matthias’s tales was the insight he gains from the time he spent in the Gambia. He understands why he becomes bitter and frustrated and more importantly, why the people of the Gambia don’t share his initial enthusiasm about bringing change to West Africa. He understands that Western ways are not always understood or welcomed in the Gambia, and he changes his managerial methods to dovetail with the attitudes toward work shown by his employees and colleagues. He presents his ideas clearly and concisely, with a bit of humor thrown in for good measure.

There is quite a bit of technical jargon in the book, and I had to skim through some of it because I simply don’t understand it. That being said, I think such sections would be very intriguing to someone with an IT or other technical background.

Thanks to R. Matthias for this glimpse into a world I have never seen!

Until next week,

Amy

Book Recommendation: Rooftops of Tehran

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You probably knew this was coming, since I posted part of it accidentally over a week ago, but now I’ve written more than just the first two paragraphs.

What first drew me to the book Rooftops of Tehran was its cover and the beautiful title font. But once I started reading, I quickly realized the cover isn’t the only beautiful thing about the book.

Mahbod Seraji has written a haunting story about a small circle of friends living in Tehran in the mid-1970s. At the center of the circle is Pasha, a young man with lots of questions, ideas, and conflicting dreams. The story follows Pasha through a trying time in his life, a time which makes him question everything, including whether he wants to be part of his own future- the future planned for him by his parents and other family members.

Tehran in the 1970s is a turbulent place to be. Pasha and his best friend, Ahmed, spend much of the summer on the roof of Pasha’s house. Sleeping and spending time on the roof is a common practice in that city to escape the heat and dust and noise. They talk about books and neighbors and girls, but mostly girls. And in particular, two girls- Zari and Feheemeh. Feheemeh is the love of Ahmed’s life, but it’s Zari who has captured Pasha’s heart. Unfortunately, Zari has been betrothed since birth to another friend of Pasha.

It’s the relationship between Pasha and Zari, and their respective feelings for her betrothed, Doctor, that makes this story heartbreaking, shocking, and beautiful. One fateful night, Pasha unwittingly attracts the attention of the Shah’s secret police, leading to a series of events which will forever alter the course of Pasha’s life.

The suspense initially comes from the back-and-forth of the storytelling. Part of the tale is told in the present from a psychiatric hospital, part in the recent past in Pasha’s Tehran alley. From the hints given in the present, the reader knows something horrible has happened to Pasha. The present and the past come closer and closer together until they collide in an electrifying event that suddenly makes Pasha’s presence in the hospital achingly clear.

But the suspense builds from that moment and Pasha’s release from the hospital is not the end of the story. The reader continues to follow Pasha through his halting recovery, wondering what the future holds for someone as broken as he is.

I can’t say any more without giving away the ending, but I can highly recommend the book. I’m so glad I read it. I hope you’ll check it out, too.

Until next week,

Amy

P.S. I’m working on my next newsletter, which should be out in a few weeks. If you haven’t joined my mailing list, click here to sign up. I’ll be doing a giveaway in the next newsletter to celebrate the upcoming release of my next novel, House of the Hanging Jade.

Book Recommendation: Do Not Wash Hands in Plates

I recently had the pleasure of reading Do Not Wash Hands in Plates by Barb Taub, with photographs by Janine Smith and Jayalakshmi “Jaya” Ayyer. It’s a lighthearted story of three women-of-a-certain-age traveling across India together, eating, sightseeing, eating, shopping, and eating their way through cities and villages all over the subcontinent and enjoying (almost) every minute of it.

The women, friends from their university days, had experienced international travel together years before, when they met up in Luxembourg from three different points of departure in the United States. This trip was a bit different– this time they were meeting from two different international points of departure (Scotland and the United States) and one from within India. It was a little more difficult this time, admittedly, but the women finally met up (in the middle of the night) and their adventure together began.

From the vastly inconcise traffic rules (really “more like guidelines,” according to Jaya) and the closure of national monuments due to the arrival of a certain high-ranking American to bargaining with locals over the price of souvenirs and experiencing the open friendliness and generosity of the Indian people, this story took me on a journey I only wish I could have experienced in person.

I was laughing out loud before I even finished the introduction. Barb Taub has quite a way with words and her descriptions of people, places, and things were witty and evocative. Her ability to share the trio’s experiences with readers lucky enough to pick up this book is inspirational. Her writing made me want to call up a couple old friends and invite them to the other end of the earth just to see what would happen. I might still do that.

And if you like Indian food, you’re in for a treat. I’m a sucker for Indian food and this book had me drooling. It seems everywhere they went the women’s hosts were determined to feed them until they popped. Whether it was breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacktime, teatime, or any other time, the food was plentiful and delicious. Janine and Jaya have included some luscious-looking photos of the food they enjoyed on their trip.

My favorite part of the book, and undoubtedly Barb’s least favorite, was the illness which befell her while traveling. It was side-splitting in more ways than one. Want to know more? You’ll have to read the book yourself. Trust me, you’ll be glad you did.

I finished Do Not Wash Hands in Plates in just one sitting with a smile on my face and a lightness in my heart. I’m so glad Barb, Janine, and Jaya shared their experiences with readers. Their desire to showcase to the rest of the world the rich culture of India, the majesty of its landscape and, of course, its food has resulted in a book you’ll love.

You can find Do Not Wash Hands in Plates here (Amazon.com) and here (Amazon.co.uk).

If you’re interested in finding out more about Barb Taub, visit her blog at http://barbtaub.com/.

Until next week,

Amy

 

Book Recommendation: Honolulu

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Ever since I read Moloka’i by Alan Brennert, I have wanted to read Honolulu. And I’m happy to report that Brennert did not disappoint.

Honolulu is the story of Regret, a Korean picture bride who emigrates to Hawaii for the opportunity not only to be free from the land ruled by the Imperial Japanese, but also to be free from the oppression suffered by women and girls in the Korea of long ago. Regret learns from an early age that she is inferior to her brothers (hence her given name), that her dream of getting an education is hopeless, and that her only path in life is a choice between spinsterhood and destitution or marriage in a culture where daughters-in-law are mistreated and humiliated by their husband’s families with impunity.

Regret’s decision to become a picture bride, much to her father’s mortification and dismay, is one that will alter the course of her life in ways she could not have imagined. As was the case with thousands of picture brides over the years, Regret was misled as to the social circumstances of her betrothed (she is led to believe he is handsome and wealthy, but…you’ll have to read the story to find out the truth) and as to the brutal realities of living on a tropical island during the early twentieth century.

The troubles which befall Regret as she tries to build her life in Hawaii seem almost insurmountable, and the story is told in a way that brings the reader straight into Regret’s home and into her thoughts.

I loved Honolulu. It took me a long time to read, but that was my fault–I started the book at the beginning of the holiday season and every time I picked it up to read, I was too tired to keep my eyes open for more than a couple minutes.

Regret’s story is woven into the history of Honolulu and the Hawaiian islands. It is a story of family, love, loss,joy, sadness, fear, resignation, contentment, racial injustice, poverty, and success. Though Honolulu is a work of  historical fiction, much of the story is a carefully researched commentary on the relations among all the different cultures and peoples struggling to live alongside each other in the growing city. Though Regret doesn’t always realize it at the time, she is part of the important events which shape the city of Honolulu into the modern place of mingled races and traditions it has become. Instead of calling the city a “melting pot,” Regret refers to it as a “mixed plate,” which is a Hawaiian dish consisting of different types of food, often from different parts of the world, arranged to complement each other.

I highly recommend Honolulu and I’m looking forward to reading another of Brennert’s works, Palisades Park. If you read Honolulu, I hope you’ll let me know what you think of it.

Until next week,

Amy