Quickie Book Review: The Night Tiger

Title: The Night Tiger

Author: Yangsze Choo

Published: February 2019 by Flatiron Books

Length: 384 pages

Genre: Historical Fiction, Magical Realism, Mystery

Source: Book of the Month

Stars: 4 Stars

Summary from the  book jacket:

Quick-witted, ambitious Ji Lin is stuck as an apprentice dressmaker, moonlighting as a dance-hall girl to help pay off her mother’s mahjong debts. But when one of her dance partners accidentally leaves behind a gruesome souvenir, Ji Lin plunges into a dark adventure: a mirror world of secrets and superstitions.

11-year-old Chinese houseboy Ren also has a secret, a promise he must fulfill to his dead master: to find his master’s  severed finger and bury it with his body. He has 49 days to do so, or his master’s soul will wander the earth forever.

As the 49 days tick relentlessly by, and a series of deaths racks the district, along with whispers about men who turn into tigers. Ji Lin and Ren’s increasingly dangerous paths crisscross through lush plantations, hospital storage rooms, and ghostly dreamscapes.

Dazzling and propulsive, The Night Tiger is the coming-of-age of a child and a young woman, each searching for their place in a society that would rather they stay invisible.

I’ve had such good luck with novels with tiger in the title (click here to see my thoughts on The Tiger’s Wife) , plus the gorgeous cover convinced me to pick this book for my January Book of the Month Club. And it did not disappoint.

Like:

If there is one thing I love it’s magical realism. And well written prose. So that’s two, technically. And this book has both. And a compelling story that explores a world and a culture that I am woefully unfamiliar. Most stories about Colonialism are told from the point of view of the colonizers not those who are colonized. And it explores a mythology that I’m not familiar with and am interested in learning more about.

Following Ji LIn and Ren through this story and not being sure that either will survive until the end. The magical elements of the story that help guide them is fascinating and helps build the story’s tension.

Not so much:

The romance subplot is a bit odd and awkward for a couple of reasons. But I don’t want to give too much away and spoil it. I will say that it isn’t clear by the end of the story whether Ji Lin will find the happiness and love she deserves with the man she loves. And she does deserve a happily ever after. But don’t let this keep you from reading this novel.

What I’ll remember:

The setting -1930’s Malay- and the main characters. The were-tiger stalking and killing at the edges of the story. The sweet innocence of young Ren and the gumption of Ji Lin. This story is a parable about the abuse of power by colonizers. And it’s important to read a story that strips away the romantic veil we in the west often use to tell those stories.

Would I Recommend:  

Yes! It is a thoroughly enjoyable tale.

 

Let me know what you think in the comments below. Also, here is a link to my Friday 56 for this book if you are interested. Happy Reading!

 

Friday 56 #90

It’s time for  Friday 56!  It’s a book meme hosted by Freda at Freda’s Voice. Be sure to visit her blog if you would like to participate.

From Freda’s Voice The Rules:
*Grab a book, any book.
*Turn to page 56 or 56% in your eReader  (If you have to improvise, that’s okay.)
*Find any sentence, (or few, just don’t spoil it)
*Post it.
*Add your (url) post in the Linky at Friday 56. Add the post url, not your blog url.
*It’s that simple!

Here is my contribution:

 

From page 56:

Darby knew it would hurt; it was gummed up in her hair. Lars had wrapped it lazily around her head, and it was the black electrical kind.

 

 

 

I choose this for my December #BookoftheMonth selection. I want to read this soon. Have any of you read it? What did you think? Let me know in the comments below! Happy Reading.

Friday 56 #89

It’s time for  Friday 56!  It’s a book meme hosted by Freda at Freda’s Voice. Be sure to visit her blog if you would like to participate.

From Freda’s Voice The Rules:
*Grab a book, any book.
*Turn to page 56 or 56% in your eReader  (If you have to improvise, that’s okay.)
*Find any sentence, (or few, just don’t spoil it)
*Post it.
*Add your (url) post in the Linky at Friday 56. Add the post url, not your blog url.
*It’s that simple!

Here is my contribution (click on the link for more info about the book.):

 

From page 56:

“Blah blah unprecedented, blah blah sympathies to family, blah blah cooperating with the police to the fullest extent, blah blah reassure our customers. There’s a press release.”

 

 

I picked this book because I like the cover. I really don’t know anything about it. Have you read it? What did you think? Let me know in the comments below!

Quickie Book Review: The Long and Faraway Gone

Title: The Long and Faraway Gone

Author: Lou Berney

Published: 2015, William Morrow, Trade Paperback

Length: 456 pages

Genre: Fiction, Mystery, Crime

Source: Quarterly Book Box that I purchased. #Lit06

Stars: 4.5 Stars

Synopsis:

Edgar Award-nominee Lou Berney’s The Long and Faraway Gone is a smart, fiercely compassionate crime story that explores the mysteries of memory and the impact of violence on survivors—and the lengths they will go to find the painful truth of the events that scarred their lives.

In the summer of 1986, two tragedies rocked Oklahoma City. Six movie-theater employees were killed in an armed robbery, while one inexplicably survived. Then, a teenage girl vanished from the annual State Fair. Neither crime was ever solved.

Twenty-five years later, the reverberations of those unsolved cases quietly echo through survivors’ lives. A private investigator in Vegas, Wyatt’s latest inquiry takes him back to a past he’s tried to escape—and drags him deeper into the harrowing mystery of the movie house robbery that left six of his friends dead.

Like Wyatt, Julianna struggles with the past—with the day her beautiful older sister Genevieve disappeared. When Julianna discovers that one of the original suspects has resurfaced, she’ll stop at nothing to find answers.

As Wyatt’s case becomes more complicated and dangerous, and Julianna seeks answers from a ghost, their obsessive quests not only stir memories of youth and first love, but also begin to illuminate dark secrets of the past. Even if they find the truth, will it help them understand what happened and why they were left behind that long and faraway gone summer? Will it set them free–or ultimately destroy them?

This is the most melancholy story I’ve read lately. The sadness just permeates this book. I put off this review in order let that sadness dissipate, but it really took a long time. The sadness of this book just settled hard into my bones. I think it does because I was a teen and I remember what it was like to be a working class kid during those years. It’s easy to have nostalgia for the flashy stuff (see Ready Player One for nostalgia for the glossy, fun ’80’s.) But instead this book cracks open and examines what it is like to survive the ’80’s and survive violent crimes that seemed to be emblematic of that decade. And ultimately the book really asks the question How do survivors of devastating violence survive the guilt of living? And does knowing why the crime happened really help the survivors survive?

What I liked: I think what I like most about this story is that it’s not a story of triumph over a tragedy. Wyatt and Julianna have suffered as a result of the crime and this story is about how they suffer and their desire to know why this all happened to them. and sadly, the answers they get are not necessarily the answers they want or need to help them make sense of the crimes they endured. By the end of the tale we know the truth and why of what happened in August of 1986, but it isn’t a neat and tidy ending like in a TV movie.

Each and every decision they have made in their lives has been driven by that crime. And while they both chose professions that help people , Wyatt is a private detective and Julianna is a nurse, their work and personal lives area mess. It feels right that their lives are such a mess even years after those violent crimes. I also like that Berney doesn’t try to force a relationship between Wyatt and Julianna. The do meet briefly, but neither really knows who the other is. In fact many of the characters in this story do have connections to one or the other crime, but this detail doesn’t seem to intrude and knock me out of the tale.

What I didn’t so much: I’m not as fond of the Julianna. She is much more reckless and unthinking in her pursuit of why her sister disappeared all those years ago. She puts herself in situations that make me want to crawl into the book and smack some sense into her. And I’m also not as fond of Wyatt’s subplot. It serves more as a distraction from his real purpose in the story which is to find out why he survived the mass shooting.

Would I recommend: Yes. Read it when you are in the need of a sad story. If you are looking for something to cheer you up and give you faith in humanity, well, avoid this book. That said, this book is one of the best I’ve read so far this year.

Click here for Friday 56

And here for It’s Monday, What are You Reading?

Have you read this book or any others by this author? If so, can you recommend any other of his books? Or any other books that seem to be similar to this one? Let me know in the comments below, and happy reading, y’all.

Quickie Book Review: See What I Have Done

Author: Sarah Schmidt

Published: August 2017 by Atlantic Monthly Press eBook

Length: 328 pages

Genre: Fiction, Mystery, Crime, Thriller

Source: Public Library

My rating: 3 1/2 Stars

Synopsis:

In this riveting debut novel, See What I Have Done, Sarah Schmidt recasts one of the most fascinating murder cases of all time into an intimate story of a volatile household and a family devoid of love.

On the morning of August 4, 1892, Lizzie Borden calls out to her maid: Someone’s killed Father. The brutal ax-murder of Andrew and Abby Borden in their home in Fall River, Massachusetts, leaves little evidence and many unanswered questions. While neighbors struggle to understand why anyone would want to harm the respected Bordens, those close to the family have a different tale to tell—of a father with an explosive temper; a spiteful stepmother; and two spinster sisters, with a bond even stronger than blood, desperate for their independence.

As the police search for clues, Emma comforts an increasingly distraught Lizzie whose memories of that morning flash in scattered fragments. Had she been in the barn or the pear arbor to escape the stifling heat of the house? When did she last speak to her stepmother? Were they really gone and would everything be better now? Shifting among the perspectives of the unreliable Lizzie, her older sister Emma, the housemaid Bridget, and the enigmatic stranger Benjamin, the events of that fateful day are slowly revealed through a high-wire feat of storytelling.

Lizzie Borden took an axe
And gave her mother forty whacks
When she saw what she had done
She gave her father forty-one
I think this rhyme is familiar to almost every school kid in America. I skipped rope while chanting this as a child almost a full continent and 80 years away from Fall River, Massachusetts. The fascination with the murders lingers on for so many, including me. So much so that I had a long wait to re-check this book out of my local library.

 

What I Like:

I love a story based on infamous murders. And this one is a crazy tale. The writer, Sarah Schmidt, is an Australian and brings an outsider perspective to this story. She explores the Borden family and it’s dynamic through the senses. The overwhelming heat of that hot August day. The sweat and odor of unwashed bodies. The spoiled mutton broth that they were all forced to eat due to Andrew Borden’s stinginess. The sickness that pervades the house due to that rotten mutton broth. The rotting pears in the yard. So, yes, this family is sick and full of decay.

I also like that there are so many 1st person perspectives for the event. We have Lizzie’s, Emma’s and Bridget the maid’s. We also have Benjamin’s, a man hired by Lizzie and Emma’s Uncle John to kill Andrew Borden. Like any mystery, we need different perspectives to get to the truth of what happened that day.

What I don’t love:

Some of the same things I like about the story, I dislike too, if that makes sense. The descriptions of the decay and sickness and rot of the family become overwhelming. I’m also not a fan of the inclusion of Benjamin in this story. I’m not sure we need his point of view of the events. At the end he causes action, but again, not sure it needs to be him that causes that event?

Would I recommend?:

Yes. Especially if you enjoy true crime that we can’t solve 100 plus years later, then I think you will enjoy this story.

**Edited to add:   After I posted this review I listened to a podcast about Lizzie Borden. Click on this link to The History Chicks see the show notes and listen to the podcast.

Have you read See What I Have Done? What did you think of it? Let me know in the comments below.

QBR: The Girl Who Knew Too Much

Quickie Book Review

Author: Amanda Quick {AKA Jayne Ann Krentz}

Published: May 2017, Berkley eBook

Length: 368 pages

Genre: Fiction, Romance, Mystery

Source: Public Library

My rating: 2 1/2 Stars

Synopsis:

**When Hollywood moguls and stars want privacy, they head to an idyllic small town on the coast, where the exclusive Burning Cove Hotel caters to their every need. It’s where reporter Irene Glasson finds herself staring down at a beautiful actress at the bottom of a pool…

The dead woman had a red-hot secret about up-and-coming leading man Nick Tremayne, a scoop that Irene couldn’t resist—especially since she’s just a rookie at a third-rate gossip rag. But now Irene’s investigation into the drowning threatens to tear down the wall of illusion that is so deftly built around the famous actor, and there are powerful men willing to do anything to protect their investment.

Seeking the truth, Irene finds herself drawn to a master of deception. Oliver Ward was once a world-famous magician—until he was mysteriously injured during his last performance. Now the owner of the Burning Cove Hotel, he can’t let scandal threaten his livelihood, even if it means trusting Irene, a woman who seems to have appeared in Los Angeles out of nowhere four months ago…

With Oliver’s help, Irene soon learns that the glamorous paradise of Burning Cove hides dark and dangerous secrets. And that the past—always just out of sight—could drag them both under…

What I liked:  I loved the setting. The majority of the novel takes place at resort frequented by 1930’s Hollywood. And the main character is a gossip reporter. 1930’s Hollywood is my catnip. There just aren’t enough historical romances that are set in this time frame.

What I didn’t:  The title. This is such an obvious attempt to get fans of Gone Girl or Girl on the Train (both twisty thrillers) to pick up this book. Which is fine, I guess. And lately every book has Girl in the title if it is a thriller. Except this book isn’t what it implies in the title. It’s not a twisty thriller. At all. Also, not enough focus on the romance story line. I’m not sure I ever really felt the connection between Irene and Oliver.

Would I recommend to other readers:   I’m guessing that Quick intends this to be the first in a series of mystery/crime solving romantic duo similar to her Vanza series. In fact, I’ll bet this book becomes a part of that series or the Arcane Society series. So, if you are fan of either of those series, you will probably like and enjoy this book. But if you are looking for a twisty, turning thriller you may be disappointed.

I wanted  to love this book. I really did. But. Sigh.  It’s more of a reminder of why I quit reading Amanda Quick novels about ten years ago. I was a huge fan of the Regency romances she wrote under this nom de plume, but when she started the different series, I lost interest in her books. And now I want to go back and reread a few of the Regencies to see if they hold up 20+ years later.

Have you read any of Amanda Quick’s novels including this one? What did you think? Let me know in the comments below. Happy reading!

**edited to add synopsis.

Top Ten Tuesday, August 15, 2017

It’s time for Top Ten Tuesday. It’s hosted by The Broke and The Bookish. Do visit this fun blog and read all the other bookish lists. It’s a lot of fun and you’ll be sure to add books to your TBR pile. This week’s Top Ten Tuesday is: Ten book recommendations for___________. I’ve decided to focus on books for Cooks and Gardeners. If you are interested in reading my last TTT, click here.

I love books that include recipes or gardening ideas. And its easy to find this in both fiction and nonfiction books theses days. Here is a list of some of my favorites.

A Homemade Life by Molly Wizenburg. I believe this book is based on her blog? I just like the recipes and the stories behind them.

Julie and Julia by Julie Powell. Another book based on a blog. Then made into a movie by Nora Ephron.

My Life in France by Julia Child with Alex Prud’homme. Julia Child’s book about her time living in France.

Dying for Chocolate by Diane Mott Davidson. The second book in the Goldy Bear cozy mystery series. But its the first one in the series that I read. There are some chocolate recipes in this book that sound divine.

The Cereal Murders by Diane Mott Davidson. Number three in the Goldy Bear series

Thyme of Death by Susan Wittig Albert. Another cozy mystery that features gardening and growing herbs.Thyme of Death (China Bayles, #1)

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Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: Year of Food Life by Barbara Kingsolver with Steven L. Hopp and Camille Kingsolver. A memoir that features both gardening and cooking.

The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals by Michael Pollan. I’ll never look at corn the same way again after reading this book.

From the Ground Up: The Story of a First Garden by Amy Stewart. This one is all a bout gardening. there are a lot of great tips in this memoir.

Wicked Plants: The Weed That Killed Lincoln’s Mother & Other Botanical Atrocities by Amy Stewart. I bought this book because I think it’s a great resource if you are thinking about writing a murder mystery. Thankfully, there are no recipes or tips on how to use wicked plants.

Have you read any of the books I’ve listed? Do you have suggestions for other books that feature gardening or cooking? Let me know in the comments below.