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After spending years as a corporate lawyer in a big law firm in NYC, I'm looking into starting my own practice. I have time to explore NYC, learn to cook and eat healthier, exercise, garden (on my Brooklyn balcony), and read more. My interests are very broad from cooking and gardening to real estate, estate planning, tax law, investing and law to escapist fiction of all types to nonfiction and memoirs.
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1. Aunty Lee's Delights: A Singaporean Mystery by Ovidia Yu



The blurb:

After losing her husband, Rosie Lee could easily have become one of Singapore's "tai tai," an idle rich lady devoted to mahjongg and luxury shopping.  Instead, she threw herself into building a culinary empire from her restaurant, Aunty Lee's Delights, where spicy Singaporean home cooking is graciously served to locals and tourists alike.  But when a body is found in one of Singapore's beautiful tourist havens, and when one of her wealthy guests fails to show at a dinner party, Aunty Lee knows that the two are likely connected.

The murder and disappearance throws together Aunty lee's henpecked stepson Mark, his social-climbing wife Selina, a gay couple whose love is still illegal in Singapore, and an elderly Australian tourist couple, whose visit -- billed at first as a pleasure cruise -- may mask a deeper purpose.  Investigating the murder is rookie Police Commissioner Raja, who quickly discovers that the savvy and well-connected Aunty Lee can track down clues even better than local law enforcement.

Wise, witty, and unusually charming, Aunty Lee's Delights is a spicy mystery about love, friendship, and home cooking in Singapore, where money flows freely and people of many religions and ethnicities coexist peacefully, but where tensions lurk just below the surface, sometimes with deadly results.

Review:

I ordered Aunty Lee's Delights after seeing the enthusiastic blurb by Louise Penny, one of my favorite authors.  There were a lot of things that drew me to Ovidia Uy's detective novel. I'm a huge fan of detective cozies and I've spent plenty of time in Southeast Asia and was looking forward to a mystery set in Singapore.

Aunty Lee reminded me a bit of Agatha Christie's Miss Jane Marple.   We learn that Aunty Lee has a reputation for solving small mysteries among her friends and acquaintances.  When she learns of a body found on one of Singapore's tourist beaches, Aunty Lee can't help but puzzle over who might have died and why.   Aunty Lee's Delights is booked for a private wine tasting which she complements with her distinctive Pelacan dishes, and throughout the prep period and hosting her guests, Aunty Lee is fixed on finding out as much as she can about the death.  When it later turns out that she knows woman who showed up on the beach, Aunty Lee takes the death personally.  She takes it upon herself to investigate, looking into avenues that the police wouldn't be aware of,  and her gentle questioning and contacts gives her a unique chance to discover the truth.

Aunty Lee doesn't hesitate to pry,  but she does it in such a way that I found myself imagining everyone around her shaking their heads with wry smiles.   Aunty Lee's interaction with the young Police Commissioner Raja had me chuckling - it reminded me of Miss Marple and how she'd exasperated the local detectives in Saint Mary's Mead.   I found many of the supporting characters in the novel likable.  PC Raja was one of the more memorable characters - hardworking, good natured, and appreciative of Aunty Lee's kindnesses.  Aunty Lee's Filipina maid/assistant Nina proved to be smart and quite able to deal with the petty slights and machinations of Aunty Lee's daughter-in-law Selina.

While the solution of mystery wasn't particularly stunning, I loved Aunty Lee's Delights because of the characters that she'd created.  I'm very much looking forward to reading Aunty Lee's next adventure.

ISBN-10: 0062227157 - Paperback $14.99
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks (September 17, 2013), 288 pages.
Review copy courtesy of the publisher.


About the Author:
Ovidia Yu is one of Singapore's best-known and most acclaimed writers and playwrights.  She received a Fullbright Fellowship to the University of Iowa's International Writers Program and has been a writing fellow at the National University of Singapore.  She speaks frequently at literary festivals and writers' conferences throughout Asia.

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2. Strong Rain Falling: A Caitlin Strong Novel by Jon Land




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Strong Rain Falling: A Caitlin Strong Novel



Strong Rain Falling: A Caitlin Strong Novel by Jon Land
ISBN-10: 0765331500  $25.99
Publisher: Forge Books (August 13, 2013), 368 pages.
Review copy courtesy of the author.

I've been following Jon Land's Caitlin Strong character from Strong Enough to Die, the first book in the series.  This latest and 5th in the series, Strong Rain Falling, is one of my favorites.  If you're new to the series, you can read Strong Enough to Die without having read the earlier novels because Land gives us the backstory of the main characters.  Having said that, I'd still recommend reading the novels in order if only because you get a fuller sense of who they are and what drives them.

For those new to the series, the lead character, Caitlin Strong is a third generation Texas Ranger and one of the only women in her group.  Whether her toughness is genetic or environmental, we'll never really know but there is no question that Caitlin Strong has that edge that makes the best Texas Rangers and has caused them to be feared and respected throughout Texas and much of the Southwest and Mexico.

First, she's tough.  Like Lee Child's Jack Reacher and Carol O'Connell's Detective Mallory, Caitlin Strong doesn't react to danger the way normal people do.  She's trained to rush into the fray, but she does it with lightning reflexes, almost unnatural strength and grace, and with quick intelligence.  Like her father and grandfather before her, she's the sort of person that you want on your side.  "One riot, one Ranger" is the often repeated saying but fortunately with Caitlin Strong on your side, it's not just a saying.

Caitlin's love interest is the prickly Cort Wesley Masters, a man known to be as dangerous and deadly as Caitlin.  Cort's life took the opposite direction as he was less fortunate - crime, deadly confrontations, limited options - he'd ended up protecting some of the most notorious criminals in the US and below the border.  But Cort mellowed out, turned respectable with his love for Caitlin and the discovery of two young sons.  More than anything, fatherhood sobered him up and forced Cort to change his way of life.  The scenes where Cort has to pull back and restrain himself are some of the more interesting and fun in the book.

In Strong Rain Falling, Caitlin takes Cort's elder son, Dylan, to Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island to interview for college when they are attacked by armed men.  Cort and his younger son, Luke, face similar deadly force in an amusement park in another state.  As Caitlin investigates it turns out that the boys are the main targets because of a secret that their mother's family has kept.

These attacks coincide with the brutal mass murder of five children in Willow Creek, Texas.  We discover that these events are tied together somehow.  I don't want to give away any of the plot details, so I'll stop here.   A historical backstory, further adventures of the early Texas Rangers, a seemingly unbeatable opponent, horrendous odds, a complex and fast-paced plot, and characters that we come to care about all come together in Strong Rain Falling.  You'll want to block off a chunk of time when you  start Strong Rain Falling - you won't want to put it down!

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3. Writers on Writing - Elmore Leonard

Just learned that Elmore Leonard passed away today and I wanted to share a NY Times interview where Leonard shares writing advice.


These are rules I've picked up along the way to help me remain invisible when I'm writing a book, to help me show rather than tell what's taking place in the story. If you have a facility for language and imagery and the sound of your voice pleases you, invisibility is not what you are after, and you can skip the rules. Still, you might look them over. 1. Never open a book with weather.

http://www.nytimes.com/2001/07/16/arts/writers-writing-easy-adverbs-exclamation-points-especially-hooptedoodle.html?smid=pl-share

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4. Friday 56: One Hundred and Four Horses: A Memoir of Farm and Family, Africa and Exile by Mandy Rezlaff



 Welcome to this week's Friday 56 - this Friday 56 comes from One Hundred and Four Horses: A Memoir of Farm and Family, Africa and Exile by Mandy Rezlaff



Rules:
* Grab the book nearest you. Right now.
* Turn to page 56 or 56% on your e-reader/
* Find the fifth sentence.
* Post that sentence (plus one or two others if you like) along with these instructions 
on your blog or (if you do not have your own blog) in the comments section of this blog.
*
Post a link along with your post back to this blog and to Freda's Voice at http://fredasvoice.blogspot.com
* Don't dig for your favorite book, the coolest, the most intellectual. Use the CLOSEST.
The blurb:
Pat and Mandy Retzlaff treasured their life in Zimbabwe.  Raising three boisterous children on a sprawling ranch, they savored the wild beauty and diversity of the veld.  After their children, the couple's pride and joy were their horses.
But in early 2001 the Retzlaffs' lives were thrown into turmoil when President Mugabe armed "war veterans" invaded the farmlands owned by white Zimbabweans and violently reclaimed the land.

As farmers across the country fled the bloodshed, they left behind not only beloved homes, but dozens and dozens of horses as well.  Devoted animal lovers, Pat and Mandy - now almost homeless themselves - vowed to save these orphaned innocent animals.   One Hundred and Four Horses is the amazing story of their dangerous trek across Africa and the incredible horses that accompanied them.  A poignant and inspiring journey, Mandy Retzlaff's memoir is a celebration of the strength of the human spirit and a reminder that love can endure all. 

About the Authors:
Mandy Retzlaff, a lifelong horse lover, was a farmer in northern Zimbabwe until she and her husband, Pat, were forced to flee their land in 2001.  Today, the Retzlaff runa a horse safari company on the Mozambique coast, taking tourists on rides through the wild and wonderful country that they now call home.

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5. Lee Child's Never Go Back: A Jack Reacher Novel

If you're reading this review, you're likely a fan of Lee Child's Jack Reacher series and trying to decide whether to pre-order Never Go Back.  GalleyCat reported that Lee Child and Rick Riordan top Amazon's  preordered books this Fall of 2013.   Since I tend to pre-order Lee Child's novels, I did want to say that the latest one is definitely worth getting as soon as possible.



Never Go Back continues the story that began with 61 Hours, The Affair, and A Wanted Man.  Reacher's last conflict introduced him to the current head of the 110th Special Unit, Major Susan Turner.  She had been a voice on the phone to him, attractive, intelligent, witty.  On the strength of their interaction, Reacher headed back to D.C. intending to invite Major Turner to dinner.  But when he arrives, he walks into several ugly surprises.  Certainly, the twists in Never Go Back had me wondering if this was to be the last Jack Reacher novel.  




Much has been said about how Jack Reacher is a present day nomad, roaming the world with no ties and somehow able to remain unchanged by the world.  But in Never Go Back, Reacher is recommissioned into the Army, back into his old unit.  The freedom that allowed for his old life seems to have been irreversibly curtailed.  I can't say anything else except that if you have enjoyed the earlier Jack Reacher novels, you have to read this latest one.  

ISBN-10: 0385344341 - Hardcover $28.00
Publisher: Delacorte Press (September 3, 2013), 416 pages.
Review copy courtesy of the Amazon Vine Reviewers Program.



About the Author:
Lee Child is the author of eighteen New York Times bestselling Jack Reacher thrillers, with eight having reached the #1 position.  All have been optioned for major movie pictures the first of which, Jack Reacher, was based on One Shot.  Foreign rights in the Reacher series have been sold in almost a hundred territories.  A native of England and a former television director, Child lives in New York City.

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6. Friday 56: The Absence of Mercy by John Burley






 Welcome to this week's Friday 56 - this Friday 56 comes from debut author John Burley's The Absence of Mercy.  John Burley was one of the panelists at ThrillerFest VIII's talk "Silent, Snappy or Soliloquy?: Dialogue in Fiction".   The Absence of Mercy comes out on Nov. 19, 2013 but I was fortunate enough to pick up a signed copy during ThrillerFest VIII.   I'll post a review closer to the book's release date but I can't resist giving the book a shout out.  I stayed up all night reading it. 


The Absence of Mercy by John Burley
ISBN-10: 0062227378 - Paperback $14.99
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks (November 19, 2013), 352 pages.
Review copy courtesy of the author and publisher.

Rules:
* Grab the book nearest you. Right now.
* Turn to page 56 or 56% on your e-reader/
* Find the fifth sentence.
* Post that sentence (plus one or two others if you like) along with these instructions 
on your blog or (if you do not have your own blog) in the comments section of this blog.
*
Post a link along with your post back to this blog in the section below.
* Don't dig for your favorite book, the coolest, the most intellectual. Use the CLOSEST.

Here's my Friday 56 from The Absence of Mercy by John Burley.
The CO was old, erected at least eighty years ago, and had served as county post office for many distinguished decades before its eventual reassignment.  
The blurb:
Just west of the Ohio River, lays the peaceful town of Wintersville. Safe from the crime and congestion of city life, it is the perfect place to raise a family. . .  or so they thought.

Life as the town medical examiner is relatively unhurried for Dr. Ben Stevenson. With only a smattering of cases here and there -- car accident victims, death by natural causes -- he has plenty of time to spend with his loving wife and two sons.  That is until a teenager's body is discovered in the woods and Ben, as the only coroner in the area, is assigned to the case.  But as the increasingly animalistic attacks continue, the case challenges Ben in ways he never suspects.

With its eerie portrait of suburban life and nerve-fraying plot twists, this is psychological suspense at its best--an extraordinary debut that challenges as much as it thrills.


About the Author:
John Burley grew up in Maryland near the Chesapeake Bay.  He worked as a paramedic and volunteer firefighter before attending medical school in Chicago and completing an emergency medical residency program at University of Maryland Medical Center in Baltimore.  He currently serves as an emergency medicine physician in Santa Cruz, California, where he lives with his wife, his daughter, Great Dane, and English bulldog.  This is his first novel.

Share your Friday 56 here:

   

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7. The Caretaker by A.X. Ahmad



The blurb:

Ranjit Singh, a former Indian Army Captain trying to escape a shameful past and working as a caretaker on Martha's Vineyard, moves his family into an empty Senator's home.  But one night, their idyll is shattered when mysterious armed men break into the house.  Forced to flee, Ranjit is pursued and hunted by unknown forces and becomes drawn into the Senator's shadowy world.  As the past and present collide, Ranjit must finally confront the hidden event that destroyed his Army career and forced him to leave India before it costs him his family as well.

Review:
A.X. Ahmad has given us an unusual and fascinating lead character in this debut thriller.  On the most basic level,  we learn about the military conflict between India and Pakistan and about the Sikh religion and we travel to the wealthy pockets of Martha's Vineyard and the working class parts of urban Boston.   But The Caretaker stands out because former Indian Army Captain Ranjit Singh is so real.  Singh suffers from PTSD and his conversations with the men that he's lost gives us an idea of the demons that he carries. The PTSD and appearance of these presences reminded me of Charles Todd's Detective Inspector Ian Rutledge series set in England after WWI, but Singh's problems are particular to a dark skinned man with a turban living and working in the US today.  Singh doesn't have the skills or a US degree.  He's overstayed on his tourist visa and must find a way to support his family as an undocumented worker.  

He's tried working at his wife's uncle's Asian goods store as a clerk and all around handyman.  Sorting insects from the ice, ringing up purchases, unpacking spices and lentils for below minimum wage and having to act grateful for the job has taken its toll on his spirits.  On a tip from one of the Latino cooks, Singh moves his family to Martha's Vineyard and tries to make a living as a handyman/caretaker.  

Ahmad captured the feeling of being an outsider, of missing one's home country, of being evaluated and labeled that many foreign nationals feel when they emigrate.  With his turban, Singh is regarded with more than the usual wariness and hostility.  He undertakes his tasks with the same meticulousness and attention to detail that won the respect of his men and the higher ups in the Indian Army.  A Senator and his wife are impressed with his work and agree to hire him as a caretaker for their summer home.  

But just as Singh seems to be getting toehold, his furnace breaks and he must find shelter for his family for the winter.  He makes the decision - and my stomach turns - to move his wife and daughter into the Senator's beautiful summer home and claims that "a friend has offered to lend them the house".   His wife's depression seems to lift at this improvement in their living situation and she makes herself very much at home.   As Ahmad described how Singh's wife enjoyed the shampoos, lotions, etc in the Senator's wife's bathroom, I started to dread the inevitable.

Ahmad is a riveting storyteller and his hero, Rajit Singh, quickly won my respect and my sympathy as he faced one awful situation after another.  His skills, moral core, and willingness to face the demons all help to make Rajit Singh someone to care about.   I hope that Mr. A.X. Ahmad is working on book two of Rajit Singh's story.

ISBN-10: 1250016843 - Hardcover $28.99
Publisher: Minotaur Books (May 21, 2013), 304 pages.
Review copy courtesy of the Amazon Vine Reviewers Program.

About the Author:
A. X. AHMAD was raised in India, educated at Vassar College and M.I.T., and has worked as an international architect. As Amin Ahmad, his short stories and essays on immigrant life have been published in The Missouri Review, The Harvard Review, The New England Review, Narrative Magazine and The Good Men Project. He was a finalist for Glimmertrain's Short Story Award, and has been listed in Best American Essays. He lives in Washington, D.C, where he teaches writing.

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8. Crazy Rich Asians: A Novel by Kevin Kwan




The blurb:
Crazy Rich Asians  is the outrageously funny debut novel about three super-rich, pedigreed Chinese families and the gossip, backbiting, and scheming that occur when the heir to one of the most massive fortunes in Asia brings home his ABC (American-born Chinese) girlfriend to the wedding of the season.

When Rachel Chu agrees to spend the summer in Singapore with her boyfriend, Nicholas Young, she envisions a humble family home, long drives to explore the island, and quality time with the man she might one day marry.  What she doesn't know is that Nick's family home happens to look like a palace, that she'll ride in more private planes than cars, and that with one of Asia's most eligible bachelors on her arm, Rachel might as well have a target on her back.  Initiated into a world of dynastic splendor beyond imagination. Rachel meets Astrid, the It Girl of Singapore society; Eddie, whose family practically lives in the pages of the Hong Kong socialite magazines; Eleanor, Nick's formidable mother, a woman who has very strong feelings about whom her son should -- and should not -- marry. Uproarious, addictive, and filled with jaw-dropping opulence, Crazy Rich Asians is an insider's look at the Asian jet set - a perfect depiction of the clash between old money and new money, between Overseas Chinese and Mainland Chinese -- and a fabulous novel about what it means to be young, in love, and gloriously, crazily, rich.

Review:
The rich really are different from the rest of us.  We heard that from Great Gatsby and we see it in Kevin Kwan's Crazy Rich Asians.

The book centers on three families so wealthy that their existence and wealth is kept from the society pages.  We see the old guard of Asian wealth as it clashes with the flashy new multimillionaires and billionaires of the last few decades.  The clothes, jewels, real estate, private jets, impulse purchases, etc. sort of reminded me of the families that reigned during America's Gilded Age.  We certainly see that how the wealthy Chinese suffer prejudice when traveling abroad  and the book has some delightful moments when the more obnoxious snobs are taught lessons in humility.    The very first scene in the book had me hooked.

When Nicholas Young, one of Singapore's wealthiest and most eligible bachelors, invites his girl friend Rachel Chu to travel to Singapore with him to meet his friends and family,  he doesn't think to prepare her for what's ahead.  Nicholas doesn't act particularly rich, extravagant or flashy in New York, so Rachel expects to meet a regular Singaporean family.    Rachel certainly doesn't expect the hostility, drama, and craziness that converge when society matrons and their eligible daughters learn that one of Asia's most eligible bachelors is in love with an American Born Chinese.  The mean society girls that we encounter in Crazy Rich Asians are particularly nauseating and the society gossip gets to be a little too much - but perhaps this is what Kevin Kwan was going for.

I wasn't that drawn to Rachel Chu or Nicholas Young, but I did find Nicholas's glamorous heiress cousin Astrid to be an interesting and sympathetic character.  Astrid is Singapore's It Girl with unparalleled bloodlines and one of the largest fortunes in Asia but she's married a young tech entrepreneur and has been trying to live within her husband's means.  She's making do in a small apartment with a small staff,  hiding her Parisian purchases, and is content with her life until she learns that her husband might be having an affair.  This rocks Astrid's world and transforms her from a caricature to a real person.  My favorite parts of the book were when Kevin Kwan revealed the young Astrid and her chance meeting and escape with her old boyfriend.

ISBN-10: 0385536976 - Hardcover $25.95
Publisher: Doubleday (June 11, 2013), 416 pages.
Review copy courtesy of the Amazon Vine Reviewers Program.


About the Author:
Kevin Kwan was born and raised in Singapore.  He currently lives in Manhattan.  Crazy Rich Asians is his first novel.  Find out more about him at www.kevinkwanbooks.com

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9. Friday 56: The Chalice by Nancy Bilyeau




Welcome to this week's Friday 56 - this Friday 56 comes from The Chalice by Nancy Bilyeau.  I discovered Nancy Bilyeau when I heard her speak at ThrillerFest 2013 in New York last July.  She participated in the panel "Who Killed Jack the Ripper?:  Putting the Mystery in History."  
The panel itself was wonderful.  Steve Berry acted as Panel Master while Nancy Bilyeau, William Dietrich, C.W. Gortner, David Liss, David Morrell and M.J. Rose all spoke about their experiences writing historical novels.  I will write more about the actual discussion in another post.  I left the panel with authors that I wanted to learn more about and books to read.

Rules:
* Grab the book nearest you. Right now.
* Turn to page 56 or 56% on your e-reader/
* Find the fifth sentence.
* Post that sentence (plus one or two others if you like) along with these instructions 
on your blog or (if you do not have your own blog) in the comments section of this blog.
*
Post a link along with your post back to this blog and to Freda's Voice at http://fredasvoice.blogspot.com
* Don't dig for your favorite book, the coolest, the most intellectual. Use the CLOSEST.

Here's my Friday 56 from The Chalice by Nancy Bilyeau
But reports of Arthur's growth, dreams of a tapestry business, my missing my father - it was all so very personal.
The blurb:
In 1538, England's bloody power struggle between crown and cross threatens to tear the country apart. Novice Joanna Stafford has tasted the wrath of the royal court, discovered what lies within the king's torture rooms, and escaped death at the hands of those desperate to possess the power of an ancient relic.

Even with all she has experienced, the quiet life is not for Joanna.   Despite the possibilities of arrest and imprisonment, she becomes caught up in a shadowy international plot targeting Henry VIII himself.  As the power plays turn vicious, Joanna realizes her role is more critical than she'd ever imagined.  She must choose between those she loves most and assuming her part in a prophecy foretold by three seers. Repelled by violence, Joanna seizes a future with a man who loves her.  But no matter how hard she tries, she cannot escape the spreading darkness of her destiny.

To learn the final, sinister piece of the prophecy, she flees across Europe with a corrupt spy sent by Spain.  As she completes the puzzle in the dungeon of a twelfth-century Belgian fortress, Joanna realizes the life of Henry VIII as well as the future of Christiandom are in her hands -- hands that must someday hold the chalice that lies at the center of these deadly prophecies.

About the Author:
Nancy Bilyeau, author of The Crown, is a writer and magazine editor who has worked on the staffs of InStyle, Rolling Stone, Ladie's Home Journal, and Good Housekeeping; she is currently executive editor of DeJour magazine.  A native of the Midwest, she graduated from University of Michigan.  She lives in New York City with her husband and two children.  Learn more about her at NancyBilyeau.com

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10. Under the Empyrean Sky (The Heartland Trilogy) by Chuck Wendig





Under the Empyrean Sky is set in a post apocalyptic world where the use of genetically modified corn by the government/ruling class has left much of farmer population little more than slaves.  This new corn does not just deplete the nutrients from the soil but the actual organism is physically aggressive and  able to attack animals.  The government agricultural policy, implemented by the mayor and the police force, prohibits the planting of any other crops and strictly regulates trade.  Not everyone lives in these poor conditions - the upper classes live in flotillas far above the farm areas. They're not required to work the land, not subjected to hazardous pollen storms or the dangers of being near the corn.

The hero of the piece is a teenage boy, Cael McAvoy who with his group of friends, competes with Boyland, the mayor's son, to scavenge and trade whatever treasures they might find.  Cael and his group have little resources, threadbare equipment, weak trading connections, and are often picked on.  Cael does have Gwennie, the love interest, and the top person in his crew.

There are two annual scheduled events in this world that are particularly significant.  First, the Harvest during which young men and women are paired together, effectively, a government organized engagement.  It appears that there is no way to request a mate in advance or to ask that the pairing be changed.  The actual marriage is supposed to occur within a year of the "Harvest".  Second, is the Lottery during which the government selects one family from below to move up to a privileged and protected life in the flotillas.

Cael must find a way to feed his family and keep his group together even as his resources and allies decrease.   He does have one stroke of luck when he comes across a hidden garden full of prohibited produce - tomatoes, strawberries, peppers, all sorts of wonders.

I found Under the Empyrean Sky slow at the start. I'd hoped for more action and less detail on the invasive corn.  But the corn is critical to this new world and the story, so I may have been a bit too impatient and take part of the blame.  It takes the middle of the story and learning about Cael's family before I start to care about him and his friends.   Under the Empryean Sky strikes me as a carefully plotted novel/series and I expect that the second book will be particularly interesting as we learn what life is like for the lucky people living in the flotillas.  I wasn't that drawn into the world of The Heartland Trilogy and will likely pass on the next two books.

ISBN-10: 1477817204 - Hardcover $17.99
Publisher: Skyscape (July 30, 2013), 354 pages.
Review copy courtesy of the Amazon Vine Reviewers Program.

About the Author:
Chuck Wendig is a novelist, screenwriter, and game designer. He's the author of BLACKBIRDS, DOUBLE DEAD and DINOCALYPSE NOW, and is co-writer of the short film PANDEMIC, the feature film HiM, and the Emmy-nominated digital narrative COLLAPSUS. He lives in Pennsylvania with wife, taco terrier, and tiny human.

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11. Friday 56: Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan








 Welcome to this week's Friday 56 - this Friday 56 comes from Kevin Kwan's Crazy Rich Asians.

Rules:
* Grab the book nearest you. Right now.
* Turn to page 56 or 56% on your e-reader/
* Find the fifth sentence.
* Post that sentence (plus one or two others if you like) along with these instructions 
on your blog or (if you do not have your own blog) in the comments section of this blog.
*
Post a link along with your post back to this blog and to Freda's Voice at http://fredasvoice.blogspot.com
* Don't dig for your favorite book, the coolest, the most intellectual. Use the CLOSEST.



Here's my Friday 56 from Kevin Kwan's Crazy Rich Asians
In her teen years, the chatter spread even more feverishly when Celeste Ting, whose daughter was in the same Methodist Youth Fellowship group as Astrid, picked up a copy of Point de Vue at Charles de Gaulle Airport and came upon a paparazzi photograph of Astrid doing cannonballs off a yacht in Porto Ercole with some young European princes. 
The blurb:
Crazy Rich Asians is the outrageously funny debut novel about three super-rich, pedigreed Chinese families and the gossip, backbiting, and scheming that occur when the heir to one of the most massive fortunes in Asia brings home his ABC (American-born Chinese) girlfriend to the wedding of the season.

When Rachel Chu agrees to spend the summer in Singapore with her boyfriend, Nicholas Young, she envisions a humble family home, long drives to explore the island, and quality time with the man she might one day marry.  What she doesn't know is that Nick's family home happens to look like a palace, that she'll ride in more private planes than cars, and that with one of Asia's most eligible bachelors on her arm, Rachel might as well have a target on her back.  Initiated into a world of dynastic splendor beyond imagination. Rachel meets Astrid, the It Girl of Singapore society; Eddie, whose family practically lives in the pages of the Hong Kong socialite magazines; Eleanor, Nick's formidable mother, a woman who has very strong feelings about whom her son should -- and should not -- marry. Uproarious, addictive, and filled with jaw-dropping opulence, Crazy Rich Asians is an insider's look at the Asian jet set - a perfect depiction of the clash between old money and new money, between Overseas Chinese and Mainland Chinese -- and a fabulous novel about what it means to be young, in love, and gloriously, crazily, rich.


About the Author:
Kevin Kwan was born and raised in Singapore.  He currently lives in Manhattan.  Crazy Rich Asians is his first novel.  Find out more about him at www.kevinkwanbooks.com

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12. The Madonna on the Moon by Rolf Bauderdick



The Madonna on the Moon takes us to Baia Luna, a small village in the Carpathian mountains, during Communist rule in the 1950s.  The village is sufficiently remote that the residents were not closely supervised and regulated.  The story is told by Pavel Botev from his perspective as a fifteen-year-old boy as he slowly realizes that his world is not what it seems.


Pavel Botev's school teacher Angela Barbulescu was known to be a notorious alcoholic with a mysterious past.  Pavel learns how beautiful Barbulescu had been as a young woman and he wonders what led her to become the bitter alcoholic years later and how it relates to the new Party Secretary.  Pavel undertakes to discover Angela Barbulescu's past and why she hates a prominent party member.

The story is complex, elaborate, and unusual.  I wasn't very familiar with the history of this part of Eastern Europe and Rolf Bauerdick made the area come alive.  Unfortunately, I didn't find the characters particularly sympathetic or interesting.  I didn't enjoy the book all that much though I recognize that I'm in the minority - the book has been very well received and reviewed.

ISBN-10: 0307594122 - Hardcover $27.95
Publisher: Knopf (July 2, 2013), 416 pages.
Review copy courtesy of the Amazon Vine Reviewers Program.

About the Author:
Rolf Bauerdick was born in 1957. He studied literature and theology before turning to journalism and photography. His work has received numerous awards, among them Germany’s prestigious Hansel Mieth Prize. His articles have been published in Der SpiegelGEO, and Playboy, among other publications. He lives in a converted flour mill in Northern Germany with his wife and children. The Madonna on the Moon is his first novel.
Translated from the German by David Dollenmayer.

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13. Friday 56: How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character by Paul Tough








 Welcome to this week's Friday 56 - this Friday 56 comes from How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character by Paul Tough

Rules:
* Grab the book nearest you. Right now.
* Turn to page 56 or 56% on your e-reader/
* Find the fifth sentence.
* Post that sentence (plus one or two others if you like) along with these instructions 
on your blog or (if you do not have your own blog) in the comments section of this blog.
*
Post a link along with your post back to this blog and to Freda's Voice at http://fredasvoice.blogspot.com
* Don't dig for your favorite book, the coolest, the most intellectual. Use the CLOSEST.

He did away with the Advanced Placement classes soon after he arrived at Riverdale; he encourages his teachers to limit the homework they assign; and he says that the standardized tests that Riverdale and other private schools require for admission to kindergarten and middle school are "a patently unfair system" because they evaluate students almost entirely by IQ.  "This push on tests," he told me when I visited his office one fall day, "is missing out on some serious parts of what it means to be a successful human."

The blurb:
Why do some childdren succeed while others fail?

The story we usually tell about childhood and success is the one about intelligence: success comes to those who score highest on tests, from preschool admissions to SATs.

But in How Children Succeed introduces us to a new generation of researchers and educators who, for the first time, are using the tools of science to peel back the mysteries of character. Through their stories - and the stories of the children that they're trying to help - Tough traces the links between childhood stress and life success. He uncovers the surprising ways in which parents do and do not prepare their children for adulthood.  And he provides us with new insights into how to improve the lives of children growing up in poverty.

Early adversity, scientists have come to understand, not only affects the conditions of children's lives, it can also alter the physical development of their brains.  But innovative thinkers around the country are now using this knowledge to help children overcome the constraints of poverty.  With the right support, as Tough's extraordinary reporting makes clear, children who grew up in the most painful circumstances can go on to achieve amazing things.

This provocative and profoundly hopeful book has the potential to change how we raise our children, how we run our schools, and how we construct our social safety net. It will not only inspire and engage readers, it will also change our understanding of childhood itself.


About the Authors:
Paul Tough is the author of Whatever It Takes: Geoffrey Canada's Quest to Change articles about character and childhood in the New York Times Magazine and The New Yorker.  He is a contributing writer to the New York Times Magazine and to the public radio program This American Life.  For more information, visit www.paultough.com  You can also find him on twitter as @PaulTough

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14. Last Day of ThrillerFest VIII in NYC

This year's ThrillerFest officially began on Wednesday with the two days of intense seminars and talks by some of the top writers attended by a generous mix of International Thriller Writers, published and unpublished fiction writers, editors, agents, publicists, and fans of thriller and mystery writing.  While I'll spend much more time writing about what I learned at CraftFest over several posts next week, I did want to share a few of the talks to give you a flavor of the conference.



The conference opened with a warm and cheery welcome by ITW Co-President Kathleen Antrim, ITW VP for National Events D.L. Wilson and Chair of ITW's Marketing Committee Jon Land.   The welcome set the tone and emphasized just how different ITW's ThrillerFest is from most other book events in the way that the participants open up and learn from each other.   It's a unique opportunity to meet, network with, and actually befriend fellow writers.  Even the most famous and successful writers come to ITF to meet with other lovers of the genre and at ThrillerFest they're accessible in ways that would be near impossible in other venues.   

The first CraftFest class that I attended was standing room only.  Steve Berry gave his regular talk on The 6 C's of Story Structure.  I promise to post more on this next week as well as on the other classes that stuck with me.

I've got to sign off - heading to the last day of ThrillerFest to attend the breakfast with Silver Bullet Award recipient Steve Berry and to learn about the Debut Author Class of 2013.  More later!

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15. Reboot by Amy Tintera



Reboot by Amy Tintera
ISBN-10: 0062217070 - Hardcover $17.99
Publisher: HarperTeen (May 7, 2013), 384 pages.
Review copy courtesy of HarperTeen and the Amazon Vine Program.

Set in a future Texas where poverty and an uncontrollable virus has transformed the country.  Not only are areas divided into zones with quarantines but the poorer districts and inhabitants are left to their own devices and resources.


The deadly virus occasionally causes the dead to reanimate, alove but different from their former selves. The "reboots" have enhanced physical reflexes and strength as well as the power to regenerate and repair nonfatal injuries but they are classified as non humans and no longer hold the civil rights that they were once allowed.  The reboots are not considered to have human emotions and are brought to an isolated training facility to be taught deadly combat skills and to be indoctrinated into their new roles as agents, unpaid labor for the governing body.  Trained to serve and organized as a deadly force, the reboots are given the difficult, bloody, and unwanted support missions to the military and police - they apprehend and/or kill individuals identified as criminals or threats to the society.

Among the reboots, a hierarchy exists.  Each is known by and ranked by number which refers to the length of their "death" before they rebooted.  The most famous and feared is Wren Connolly, also known as 178, for the 178 minutes she died before she rebooted.  Wren was 15 years old, living among the homeless with her drug addicted parents when she was repeatedly shot and killed.  She reawakened in the morgue and since readjusted well to her new life as a reboot.  She took to the training, routine, and structure well and was never inclined to question orders or the rules that they now live by.  She earned the respect of her fellow reboots and their handlers as well as a reputation to be feared, even among the living humans.

The arrival of Callum 22 brings Wren unexpected complications.  Callum 22 is an almost unbelievably low reboot that he's not expected to last very long. He certainly shows little sense of self preservation when he reaches out to befriend Wren in the lunchroom.  He either does not comprehend the rules in their facility or has so little respect for them that the others await news of his injury or death.  Callum 22 asks Wren to take on his training - which would go against the norm of the highest new reboot going to Wren.  But Wren considers this to be a challenge of sorts and she's drawn to the vulnerable Callum.  He jokes around and his harmless behavior seems to win Wren's attention.  She becomes protective, attached to her trainee.

When Callum is at risk of being terminated because of his poor performance, Wren considers breaking away from her home and her life.

I very much enjoyed Reboot. Amy Tintera created a convincing and sympathetic heroine in Wren.  Wren doesn't consider herself to be human but she displays empathy and altruism, behaviors that would have been rare enough in the "human" parts of their world, much less in the facility for reboots.  Wren tries to follow the rules and orders but her sense of fair play and friendship lead her to make tough choices and put herself and her future in danger.  Fortunately, she has amazing physical strength, survival skills, and ability to reason - she has a good shot at succeeding and I found myself rooting for her and those that she cares about as they take on unbeatable odds.

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16. Inspector Pekkala Mysteries by Sam Eastland

I recently came across the first Inspector Pekkala mystery when browsing through the NYPL's audiobooks.  I regularly look for books to occupy myself during the long trips from NY to Boston and for my walks around Brooklyn.




I've filled my iPhone with more books than I can listen to - an embarrassment of riches.  But it's the wide choices and free access to audiobooks that has allowed me to sample and come across gems.  My latest favorite find has been Inspector Pekkala - a character created by Sam Eastland.

Inspector Pekkala is a Finn, who began his career in the Royal Finnish Guards and was discovered by Tsar Nicholas Romanov and trained to serve as an independent detective.  He is a man unlike any other in that he is not motivated by greed, power, or anything beyond the desire to perform the task for which he was born - to seek the truth.  The Tsar has a deep respect for Pekkala and creates a position specially for him and Pekkala is known as the Emerald Eye.  The Emerald Eye has unlimited power and authority to investigate anyone and arrest anyone - no one is above his reach, even the Tsar.

The first book in the series opens with the end of the Romanovs. Inspector Pekkala is the last of his kind, the only of his kind and is in the outskirts of the gulag in Siberia.  He's been given a task that usually kills prisoners within 6 months but he's on his 8th year of his sentence of marking trees in the forest.  He is surprised to find a young political agent by his cottage - and orders from the political office calling Pekkala back to civilization.

We discover that Pekkala is a legend in his time - respected by the people and by his enemies.  Even Stalin recognizes Pekkala's value and it is this that calls him back for a special mission.  Stalin orders Pekkala to find out whether the Romanovs survived, to catch the assassins who may have murdered the Romanovs and to find the Romanov treasure.  Stalin promises that if Pekkala finds the bodies and solves the mystery, he will have won his freedom.

There are uneasy alliances, unexpected treachery,  and long hidden clues.  Pekkala must return to places and relationships that had ruled their lives.  

What is it that makes  Eye of the Red Tsar and the Inspector Pekkala mysteries so addictive?  Sam Eastland recreates a lost world with great attention to detail.  Reading Eye of the Red Tsar, I kept researching the Romanov family, Stalin, the Russian Revolution.  After learning the small details of Inspector Pekkala's world, I wanted to know how much of the story was real and how much Sam Eastland created.  

The characters are fully fleshed out, sympathetic, and fascinating.  Pekkala has an amazing memory,  unparalleled skills of detection and survival, and a deep loyalty to his friend and master Tsar Nicholas and the Romanov family.  The loyalty and courage that Pekkala displays are just another sign of his exceptional character.  Like many of the unforgettable detectives (Lee Child's Jack Reacher, Sherlock Holmes, Alan Bradley's Flavia de Luce,  Louise Penny's Chief Inspector Gamache), Sam Eastland's Inspector Pekkala is larger than life, brilliant, and charismatic.  It's hard to overemphasize just how fun the series is - I do recommend you discover for yourself!

ISBN 0553593234 - Paperback $13.50
Bantam; Reprint edition (January 25, 2011), 304 pages.
Review copy courtesy of the New York Public Library.

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17. Interview with Author Ben Kane & Giveaway of Spartacus Rebellion



I'm excited to share this interview with Ben Kane, the author of the Spartacus series.  I'd previously read and reviewed the first three books in the series.  The latest book, Spartacus Rebellion, has just come out.  



Publication Date: May 14, 2013
St. Martin's Press
Hardcover; 464p
ISBN-10: 1250012775

Spartacus has already done the impossible—not only has he escaped from slavery, he and his seconds have created a mighty slave army that has challenged Rome and defeated the armies of three praetors, two consuls, and one proconsul. On the plain of the River Po, in modern Northern Italy, Spartacus has defeated Gaius Cassius Longinus, proconsul and general of an army of two legions. Now the road home lies before them—to Thrace for Spartacus, and to Gaul for his seconds-in-command, Castus and Gannicus.

But storm clouds are gathering on the horizon. One of Spartacus's most powerful generals has defected, taking his men with him. Back in Rome, the immensely rich Marcus Licinius Crassus is gathering an unheard-of Army. The Senate has given Crassus an army made up of ten legions and the authority to do whatever it takes to end the slave rebellion once and for all.

Meanwhile, Spartacus wants to lead his men over the Alps and home, but his two seconds have a different plan. They want to march on Rome itself and bring the Republic to its knees. Rebellion has become war. War to the death. 



I thought that it would be a great time to touch base with the author.  He's been kind enough to spend time to talk about his writing.  Please welcome Ben Kane!



(1)  Your first Spartacus novel developed into a whole second book. Was this something that you'd planned when you wrote the first book?

(Please can the question be rephrased as above or similar? Otherwise it implies that there are more than two books. Thank you.)

Initially, I sold the idea of one Spartacus novel to my UK publishers. Once I had begun it, I found that the story itself was bigger than I had imagined. I realised at about 100,000 words of the first book that there was no way on this earth that I could finish Spartacus’ story within 30-40,000 (the amount that was left if my novel was to come in at normal length) – without having to cut loads of wonderful detail about what he’d done. I rang my editor and asked her if I could write a second book, to finish the story. I’m happy to say that she gave me the green light, which freed me up to pen the second volume. I wrote both books in a frenzied twelve month period.

(2) How have you adjusted to expand the adventures and keep the main characters and relationships throughout?

It was easy, I am glad to say. Spartacus did so many amazing things in the two years of his rebellion that I had no trouble keeping him and his fellow characters very busy indeed. Having two novels to write also meant that I had more time to develop the character of Ariadne, his wife, which I really enjoyed doing. It’s unusual for ancient texts even to tell that he had a wife, let alone that she was a priestess of Dionysus, the god of wine and ritual mania. he moment that I read those details, I knew that Ariadne also had a great story to tell.

(3) What are you currently working on?  Would you like to tell us a bit about projects that you have brewing?

Currently, I am writing Clouds of War, the third in my Hannibal series. Enemy of Rome, the first book in this series will be published in the USA next year. It’s a series that opened a year before the outbreak of the Second Punic War (218-201 BC), which details the stories of characters from both sides of the conflict. Originally, I just planned to write a trilogy, but the sheer scale of the war and my publishers’ backing means that I’ll write at least five if not more books about it. Before I write the fourth one, however, I plan to start a new series, set during the Hundred Years’ War, which took place between England and France from 1337 – 1453. After that, I have plans to return to Spartacus’ boyhood, as well as to write about other time periods that I won’t mention just yet.

About the Author

Ben Kane was born in Kenya and raised there and in Ireland. He qualified as a veterinary surgeon from University College Dublin, and worked in Ireland and the UK for several years. After that he travelled the world extensively, indulging his passion for seeing the world and learning more about ancient history. Seven continents and more than 65 countries later, he decided to settle down, for a while at least.

While working in Northumberland in 2001/2, his love of ancient history was fuelled by visits to Hadrian's Wall. He naïvely decided to write bestselling Roman novels, a plan which came to fruition after several years of working full time at two jobs - being a vet and writing. Retrospectively, this was an unsurprising development, because since his childhood, Ben has been fascinated by Rome, and particularly, its armies. He now lives in North Somerset with his wife and family, where he has sensibly given up veterinary medicine to write full time.

To find out more about Ben and his books visit www.benkane.net.


 To celebrate Spartacus Rebellion's release, the publisher and Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours have sponsored this giveaway of 1 copy of Spartacus Rebellion.  Enter the giveaway below - the giveaway ends on June 15, 2013.

GIVEAWAY:
To enter the giveaway, please comment below and share what book you're looking forward to reading this summer.  For an extra entry, tell us about a book that you loved recently and why.  Contest ends on June 15, 2013.

(1) You must be a follower of the blog to enter.
(2) Limited to U.S. residents only.  
(3) Maximum of two entries per household.

Want to learn more about Ben Kane, Spartacus and the latest book in the series?  Want more chances to win your personal copy of Spartacus Rebellion?  Check out the tour schedule and/or follow #SpartacusRebellionTour

Link to Tour Schedule: http://hfvirtualbooktours.com/spartacusrebellionvirtualtour/
Twitter Hashtag: #SpartacusRebellionTour

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18. Ghana Must Go by Taiye Selasi



The blurb:

Kweku Sai is dead. A renowned surgeon and failed husband, he succumbs suddenly at dawn outside his home in suburban Accra. The news of Kweku’s death sends a ripple around the world, bringing together the family he abandoned years before. Ghana Must Go is their story. Electric, exhilarating, beautifully crafted, Ghana Must Go is a testament to the transformative power of unconditional love, from a debut novelist of extraordinary talent.  

Moving with great elegance through time and place, Ghana Must Go charts the Sais’ circuitous journey to one another. In the wake of Kweku’s death, his children gather in Ghana at their enigmatic mother’s new home. The eldest son and his wife; the mysterious, beautiful twins; the baby sister, now a young woman: each carries secrets of his own. What is revealed in their coming together is the story of how they came apart: the hearts broken, the lies told, the crimes committed in the name of love. Splintered, alone, each navigates his pain, believing that what has been lost can never be recovered—until, in Ghana, a new way forward, a new family, begins to emerge.

Ghana Must Go is at once a portrait of a modern family, and an exploration of the importance of where we come from to who we are. In a sweeping narrative that takes us from Accra to Lagos to London to New York, Ghana Must Go teaches that the truths we speak can heal the wounds we hide.


Review:
Ghana Must Go is an unusual read.  Taiye Selasi tells the complicated story of a family from the perspective of each of the members.  Beginning with the father, Kweku Sai, a brilliant surgeon who left Ghana to train in Johns Hopkins and Harvard.  We learn about Kweku's life as an impoverished student in Africa, as a displaced, brilliant, and hardworking student and doctor, as a devoted husband and adoring father, and as a gifted doctor in one of the top hospitals in the world.  When Kweku's   brilliant career is somehow implodes through no fault of his own, he is devastated devastated by the change and the damage impacts his family deeply.  

As Taiye Selasi introduces Fola, the wife and mother,  and the children  (Olu, the eldest and surgeon, the gifted and beautiful twins Taiwo and Kehinde, and Sadie, the baby of the family) we discover more about the family, about each person's struggle for acceptance and love, and about the worlds  that they inhabit in Brookline, in New York, in New Haven, and in Africa.

There is Fola, a legendary beauty whose mother died in childbirth and whose father was tragically murdered during a violent attack when she was still a young girl.  Fola escapes to Ghana and then to the West to study.  When she meets Kweku in the US, she has locked her story deep inside.  Her eldest child, Olu, has followed in his father's footsteps and has established himself as a brilliant surgeon.  Olu has not remained unscathed by the troubles in his life despite the fact that he appears to lead a "charmed life" and learning more about Olu makes him complicated and deeply sympathetic.  Olu's twin siblings have inherited the strikingly gorgeous looks of his mother's family.  For as long as anyone can remember, the twins have drawn people to them with their unusual looks and their independence - they seem to live in a world of their own.  Kehinde doesn't have the tension, the drive, that characterizes Olu's life but Kehinde has become a world renowned artist.   Taiwo is brilliant and gorgeous, but her gifts and successes haven't  brought her the contentment that we'd expect but Taiwo carries a dark secret that explains her isolation.  

Ghana Must Go is an amazing read.   It's a story about Africa,   about immigration, about building a life  and the sacrifices and joys that this entails.

ISBN-10: 1594204497 - Hardcover $25.95
Publisher: Penguin Press HC, The (March 5, 2013), 336 pages.
Review copy courtesy of the publisher and the Amazon Vine Reviewers program.

About the Author:
TAIYE SELASI was born in London and raised in Massachusetts. She holds a B.A. in American studies from Yale and an M.Phil. in international relations from Oxford. “The Sex Lives of African Girls” (Granta, 2011), Selasi’s fiction debut, will appear in Best American Short Stories 2012. She lives in Rome.

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19. Child of Vengeance by David Kirk



The blurb:

Bennosuke is a high-born but lonely youth living in his ancestral village.  His mother died when he was a young boy, and his powerful warrior father Munisai has abandoned him for a life of service to his lord.  When Munisai returns, gravely injured, Bennosuke is forced to confront truths about his family's history and his own place in it.  These revelations soon guide him down the samurai's path - awash with blood, bravery, and vengeance.  His journey will culminate in the epochal battle of Sekigahara, in which Bennosuke will first proclaim his name as Musashi Miyamoto.  This rich and absorbing epic explores the complexities of one young man's quest while capturing a crucial turning point in Japanese history with visceral mastery, sharp psychological insight, and tremendous narrative momentum.

Review:
I love adventure stories, quests, coming of age stories.  Those set in an unusual place or period are a particular favorite of mine.  When given the chance to review Child of Vengeance,  a coming of age story set in Tokagawa Japan, I jumped at the chance.

Child of Vengeance comes across as a samurai tale but when you read it with the knowledge that David Kirk is relating the story of young Musashi Miyamoto, you can't help but read more into each incident.  The young samurai boy leads a lonely life as he awaits his father's return.  Each day he spends hours polishing his father's armor and when making any major decision, he abides by his father's parting words - be samurai.  The peasants in the village are frightened of the boy and his position and they deeply resent him as well.  Bennosuke learns to balance his fears, his hopes, and the indifference and resentment of the people around him.  

When Munisai returns to the village, Bennosuke is forced to grow up quickly.  His quickness of mind and natural ability lead Bennosuke to unexpected successes and adventures.   All of which makes for an engrossing read.

ISBN-10 0385536631 - Hardcover $26.95
Publisher: Doubleday (March 12, 2013), 336 pages.
Review copy courtesy of the publisher and the Amazon Vine Reviewers Program.

About the Author:

David Kirk, twenty-six years old, grew up in Stamford, Lincolnshire.  He studied media arts at Royal Halloway, University of London, with a major in screenwriting.  Currently he lives and works in Sendai, Japan.

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20. Friday 56: Strong Rain Falling by Jon Land








 Welcome to this week's Friday 56 - this Friday 56 comes from Strong Rain Falling, the latest Caitlin Strong novel by Jon Land.  

Rules:
* Grab the book nearest you. Right now.
* Turn to page 56 or 56% on your e-reader/
* Find the fifth sentence.
* Post that sentence (plus one or two others if you like) along with these instructions 
on your blog or (if you do not have your own blog) in the comments section of this blog.
*
Post a link along with your post back to this blog and to Freda's Voice at http://fredasvoice.blogspot.com
* Don't dig for your favorite book, the coolest, the most intellectual. Use the CLOSEST.

But he walked with a slight limp from shrapnel  still lodged in his hip from one bomb blast and had lost a good measure of his hearing to another, which had felled a dozen men while leaving him the sole survivor.

The blurb:
Mexico, 1910: The Mexican drug trade begins with opium being smuggled across the US border, igniting an all-out battle with American law enforcement.

The Present:  Texas Ranger Caitlin Strong, Cort Wesley Masters, and his teenage boys survive a terrifying gun battle. Caitlin and Cort Wesley pursue the perpetrators only to discover that the targets were actually the boys!

That sets the two off on a trail winding through the past and the present. Along the way they confront terrible truths dating all the way back to the opium smuggling that helped finance the Mexican Revolution.  That is until the Texas Rangers, led by Caitlin's grandfather and great-grandfather, struck back with the aid of Emiliano Zapata, wiping out the early drug lords responsible. 

Now the remnants of that powerful criminal lineage are out for vengeance against Zapata's remaining relatives, including the late mother of Cort Wesley's two sons - and thus, the boys are targets too. 


About the Author:
Jon Land is the critically acclaimed author of thirty novels, including the bestselling series featuring female Texas Ranger Caitlin Strong:  Strong Enough to Die, Strong Justice, Strong at the Break and Strong Vengeance.  In addition, he is the author of the nonfiction bestseller Betrayal. He lives in Providence, Rhode Island and can be found on the web at jonlandbooks.com

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21. My Second Death by Lydia Cooper



Blurb:

In Lydia Cooper's absorbing debut novel, we are introduced to Mickey Brandis, a brilliant twenty-eight -year-old doctoral candidate in medieval literature who is part Lisbeth Salander and part Dexter.  She lives in her parents' garage and swears too often, but she never complains about the rain or cold, she rarely eats dead animals, and she hasn't killed a man since she was ten.  

Her life is dull and predictable but legal, and she intends to keep it that way. But the careful existence Mickey has created in adulthood is upended when she is mysteriously led to a condemned house where she discovers an exquisitely mutilated corpse.  The same surreal afternoon she is asked by a timid, wide-eyed art student to solve a murder that occurred twenty years earlier. While she gets deeper and deeper into the investigation, she begins to lose hold on her tenuous connection to reality.

Review:

The heroine of My Second Death had been described as part Lisbeth Salander and part Dexter.  As a huge fan of the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo series, I was eager to read My Second Death.  I admit that I didn't immediately take to the book and it was only on my third attempt that I slowly adjusted to Mickey Brandeis.  We learn early on that Mickey killed a man when she was ten.  But in a matter of fact voice we also hear that she mutilated the man's body.  This was enough to get me to stop reading the first two times. 

But on the third attempt, I kept reading and slowly grew accustomed to her unusual and honest point of view.  Mickey is removed from the world and has a problem empathizing. She doesn't understand the emotions that drive the people around her. Instead, she operates on logic and tries to keep herself from spiraling into destructive behavior.  She keeps in motion, running, working, avoiding personal contact with those around her - all to keep from misbehaving.

When she is tricked into finding a corpse, Mickey's world starts to unravel.  Her attempts to fight her compulsions make her a sympathetic character.  As she tries help an art student uncover the truth behind a suspicious death 20 years ago, Mickey shows her humanity.  it's at this point that her strange compulsions and history stop being a distraction and My Second Death becomes difficult to put down.

ISBN-10: 1440561265 - Hardcover $26
Publisher: Tyrus Books (January 18, 2013), 336 pages.
Copy courtesy of the Amazon Prime Reviewers program.

About the Author:
Lydia Cooper is an associate professor of American literature and has taught at universities and in community workshops.  She has numerous academic publications, including peer-reviewed journals, a chapter in a book, and a book on Cormac McCarthy that was recently published as part of Louisiana State University Press's Souther Writers series.

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22. The View from Penthouse B by Elinor Lipman




The blurb:
Unexpectedly widowed Gwen-Laura Consadine is still mourning her husband Edwin when her older sister Margot invites her to join forces as roommates in Margot's luxurious Village apartment.  For Margot, divorced amid scandal (hint: her husband was a fertility doctor), and then made Ponzi-poor, it's a chance to shake Gwen out of her grief and help make ends meet.  To further the effort she enlists a third boarder, the handsome, cupcake-baking Anthony.

As the three swap money-making schemes and a timid Gwen ventures back out into the dating world, the arrival of Margot's paroled ex in the efficiency apartment downstairs creates not just complications but the chance for all sorts of unexpected forgiveness.  A sister story about love, lonelness, and a new life in middle age, this is a cracklingly witty, deeply sweet novel from one of our finest comedic writers.

Review:
I received The View from Penthouse B through the Amazon Vine Reviewers program. I hadn't read any of Elinor Lipman's earlier books and hadn't realized just how funny her writing can be.  I started the book a few days ago, read it while traveling to Boston for a work emergency, and throughout the night once I got to Boston.  I mention this just to emphasize that it drew me in and provided a wonderful escape!

I loved the voice of the main character, the middle sister, Gwen-Laura Comadine.  She's the newly widowed sister who had married a high school teacher and is unable/unwilling to move on.  Her entrepreneurial idea is a platonic dating service.  

Her older sister Margot is another lovable character. The divorced wife of the disgraced fertility doctor invested her divorce settlement with Madoff.  Margot's project is a website dedicated to Madoff victims that serves as a place to vent about the abuses of white collar thieves.  Margot is defined by her strong emotions, sense of humor and charm.  She opens up her home and heart - not just to her sister but to Anthony, a helpful and witty young gay man.  

The book is memorable because of the characters. The View from Penthouse B is witty, lighthearted, and fun. It's a wonderful way to escape!

ISBN-10: 0547576218- Hardcover $26
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (April 16, 2013), 272 pages.
Review copy courtesy of the Amazon Vine Reviewers Program.

About the Author:
Elinor Lipman is the author of ten novels, including The Inn at Lake Devine, and two works of nonfiction,  I Can't Complain: (All Too) Personal Essays and Tweet Land of Liberty: Irreverent Rhymes from the Political Circus.  She lives in New York City.

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23. Friday 56: The Second Rule of Ten: A Tenzing Norbu Mystery by Gay Hendricks and Tinker Lindsay









 Welcome to this week's Friday 56 - this Friday 56 comes from The Second Rule of Ten: A Tenzing Norbu Mystery by Gay Hendricks and Tinker Lindsay


Rules:
* Grab the book nearest you. Right now.
* Turn to page 56 or 56% on your e-reader/
* Find the fifth sentence.
* Post that sentence (plus one or two others if you like) along with these instructions 
on your blog or (if you do not have your own blog) in the comments section of this blog.
*
Post a link along with your post back to this blog and to Freda's Voice at http://fredasvoice.blogspot.com
* Don't dig for your favorite book, the coolest, the most intellectual. Use the CLOSEST.

But that dude? He was nothing but bad news.

The blurb:
Be on the lookout for the unconscious beliefs. They are blinders that prevent you from understanding what is actually happening.

That's the second rule of ten.   Ex-Buddhist monk and ex-LAPD officer turned private eye Tenzing Norbu is back with a new case, a new love, and a whole new set of problems in this fresh installment in the Tenzing Norbu Mystery series.

In The Second Rule of Ten, Norbu investigates the unexplained death of his former client Hollywood mogul Marv Rudolph and searches for the sister, lost during World War II, of wizened Los Angeles philanthropist Julius Rosen.  With two cases and an unforeseen family crisis that sends him back to Tibet, Ten finds himself on the outs with his best buddy and former partner, Bill, who is heading the official police investigation into Marv's death.  Cases and crises start to collide. When Ten mistakenly ignores his second rule, he becomes entangled in an unfortunate association with a Los Angeles drug cartel.  As he fights to save those he loves, and himself, from the deadly gang, he also comes face to face with his own personal demons.  Working through his anger at Bill, doubts about his lady love, and a challenging relationship with his father, Ten learns to see the world in a new light -- and realizes that in every situation the truth is sometimes buried beneath illusion.



About the Authors:
Gay Hendricks is a best-selling author with more than 30 books to his credit.  The Tenzing Norbu Mystery series, which began with The First Rule of Ten, is Hendrick's first foray into fiction.

Tinker Lindsay is an accomplished screenwriter and author who has written and produced a wide variety of books and films.

3 Comments on Friday 56: The Second Rule of Ten: A Tenzing Norbu Mystery by Gay Hendricks and Tinker Lindsay, last added: 5/20/2013
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24. Leaving Everything Most Loved: A Maisie Dobbs Mystery by Jacqueline Winspear



The blurb:


London, 1933. Two months after the body of an Indian woman named Usha Pramal is found in the brackish water of a South London canal, her brother, newly arrived in England, turns to Maisie Dobbs to find out the truth about her death. Not only has Scotland Yard made no arrests, evidence indicates that they failed to conduct a full and thorough investigation.
Before her death, Usha was staying at an ayah's hostel alongside Indian women whose British employers turned them out into the street—penniless and far from their homeland—when their services were no longer needed. As Maisie soon learns, Usha was different from the hostel's other lodgers. But with this discovery comes new danger: another Indian woman who had information about Usha is found murdered before she can talk to Maisie.
As Maisie is pulled deeper into an unfamiliar yet captivating subculture, her investigation becomes clouded by the unfinished business of a previous case as well as a growing desire to see more of the world, following in the footsteps of her former mentor, Maurice Blanche. And there is her lover, James Compton, who gives her an ultimatum she cannot ignore.
Bringing a crucial chapter in the life and times of Maisie Dobbs to a close, Leaving Everything Most Loved marks a pivotal moment in this remarkable series.

Review:
I'm a staunch fan of Jacqueline Winspear's Maisie Dobbs series and was very excited to review her latest novel, Leaving Everything Most Loved.  

This particular book is one of my favorites for these reasons:
-more time spent on the romance between Maisie Dobbs and James Compton.  The relationship seems quite modern insofar as Maisie puts a premium on her independence and puts off James's  repeated proposals of marriage.  Now that Maisie is financially independent, she is slow to exchange her life for the obligations and luxuries that come with marriage to one of the wealthiest men in Great Britain. Maisie plans to travel in the hope that this will help her "come home to herself" and allow her to be ready to build a life with James.
-the novel addresses issues of race, cultural difference, and colonial ties - as Maisie investigates the death of the beautiful young Indian woman, her interviews and interactions with Londoners gives us a better sense of the level of prejudice and isolation that existed at that time.

Jacqueline Winspear delivers another beautifully written mystery with strong characters.  I'm looking forward to the next Maisie Dobbs adventure.


ISBN-10: 0062049607 - Hardcover $26
Publisher: Harper; First Edition edition (March 26, 2013), 352 pages.
Review copy courtesy of the Amazon Vine Program.

About the Author:
Jacqueline Winspear is the author of the New York Times bestsellers Among the Mad and An Incomplete Revenge, as well as four other Maisie Dobbs novels. She has won numerous awards for her work, including the Agatha, Alex, and Macavity awards for the first book in the series, Maisie Dobbs. Originally from the United Kingdom, she now lives in California.

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25. How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia by Mohsin Hamid




The blurb:

His first two novels established Mohsin Hamid as a radically inventive storyteller with his finger on the world's pulse.  How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia meets that reputation - and exceeds it.  The astonishing and riveting tale of a man's journey from impoverished rural boy to corporate tycoon, it steals its shape from the business self-help books devoured all over "rising Asia."  The novel follows its nameless hero to the sprawling metropolis where he begins to amass an empire built on the most fluid, and increasingly scarce, of goods: water.  Yet his heart remains set on something else, on the pretty girl whose star rises along with his, their paths crossing and recrossing, a lifelong affair sparked and snuffed and sparked again by the forces that careen their fates along.

An astonishing slice of contemporary life at a time of crushing upheaval,  How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia is romantic without being sentimental, political without being didactic, and spiritual without being religious.  It brings an unflinching gaze to the violence and hope it depicts, and creates two unforgettable characters who find moments of transcendent intimacy in the midst of shattering change.

Review:
Mohsin Hamid's How To Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia is an unexpected treat.  I was drawn to the title and had somehow expected it to be set in China or Korea.  My fault - I should have realized that it would be in South Asia. 

The book is unusual in that it's written in the second person with such skill. We follow the story of a young rural boy whose luck and skill enable him to make fortunate choices.  It starts from his gender and birth order.   His less fortunate elder brother is pulled out of school to work as a house painter and his older sister is married instead of able to return to school.  The boy makes full use of his education.  He studies full time, works part time, learns how to sell, and with each new phase, he advances.  Written as a self help book of sorts, the book captures a detached and humorous tone - keeps 

The boy falls in love with a beautiful, spirited and ambitious young girl.   The young girl leads an equally charmed life  where her beauty, sacrifices, and skills bring her unexpected rewards. 

While I enjoyed reading about the rise in their respective fortunes, what I most enjoyed about How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia was seeing how the lives of the young girl and boy would intertwine.  

ISBN  1594487294 Hardcover $26
Riverhead Hardcover, 1st edition.
Review copy courtesy of the Amazon Vine Reviewers Program and the publisher.

About the Author:
Moshin Hamid's first novel, Moth Smoke, won the Betty Trask Award and was a finalist for the PEN/Hemingway Award.  His second, The Reluctant Fundamentalist, a bestseller in the United States and abroad, was short-listed for the Man Booker Prize.  Hamid, who contributes to Time, The New York Times, and The Washington Post, among others, lives in Lahore, Pakistan.

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