Saturday, October 29, 2011

'The Book of Lost Fragrances'

M. J. Rose has written a series of mystery/thrillers which captured my interest the moment I opened the first book.  In her new novel, due out in March 2012, she didn't disappoint.

'The Book of Lost Fragrances', the fourth in the series, which includes 'The Reincarnationist', 'The Memorist', and 'The Hypnotist', not only follows the author's familiar path into reincarnation, but also gave this reader a deeper understanding of the history of perfume.  Some might think of contemporary scents linked to famous singers and actresses, but the making of perfume stretches back in time for thousands of years.  Usually used in religious and death rites, perfume was also used in magical ceremonies.  In fact, Cleopatra had a perfume factory which had been built for her by Marc Antony.

'The Book of Lost Fragrances' revolves around the search for some ancient pottery shards that, upon smelling, might evoke memories of past lives.  Several people are searching for it, are willing to kill for it, but a clever brother and sister, scions of a once-famous French perfumery, have a higher purpose for the shards.  At once a tender, centuries-old love story, and a thrilling chase through Paris and it's catacombs, 'The Book of Lost Fragrances' is entertaining, although the scenes in the catacombs left me feeling a bit claustrophobic.  Some of the characters kept me guessing, and what happens to the shards made me want to cheer.  

Rich in history, and with a vivid cast of characters, I recommend this book if you're looking for a story full of adventure.  The well-documented research alone is worth it!

And learning something new will make your inner Book Hog very happy.

M. J. Rose is the founder of the marketing company for authors,

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

A Great Halloween Read

The book world is being inundated with a genre that's close to my heart:  Horror.  I'm not really comfortable reading about gore and dismemberment (vampires can stay in their coffins, as far as I'm concerned), but I love subtle suspense.  Suspense earns a special place in the memory, and many of the classic horror writers have utilized this very well.  H.P. Lovecraft, Stephen King, Dean Koontz, Justin Cronin, and Richard Matheson, to name a few.

But my particular favorite employs a special psychological horror which is a hallmark in almost everything she's written.

Shirley Jackson was an academic/housewife/author/addict who wrote stories about life in suburbia.  But her special gift was writing horror stories that, to this day, scare the beejeezus out of her readers.  Her plots begin in an everyday sort of way; suburban life, sibling relationships, everything people experience in their daily lives.  But keep reading, get involved, and the horror slowly creeps in.

One of her finest examples is the short story, 'The Lottery'.  I read it in high school and the ending blew me away.  I didn't see it coming, something that isn't typical in most current horror.  

But the story that has me coming back every year is 'We Have Always Lived in the Castle', a quiet study of insanity.  As you are drawn into the sisters' routine world, you slowly learn about the real horror of their existence. 

For a great introduction into Jackson's works, start with 'The Lottery' and 'The Haunting of Hill House' (which has been filmed two times; the best of the two stars Julie Harris).

Just remember that I warned you.


Friday, October 14, 2011


I have a good friend who reads and reviews Young Adult fantasy/fiction, and I have wanted to ask her if she has read any novels written by Ellen Hopkins.  Ms. Hopkins has written the very popular YA books, Crank, Glass, et al.  Although I haven't read them, I will do so very soon because I just finished reading her new adult novel, 'Triangles'.

This book isn't for kids.  

Written in verse, I was rather hesitant about reading it; I've never been a fan of stories written in poetic verse or a letter format (re:  'The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society').  But once I took a deep breath, shoved aside my misgivings, and opened the book, I easily fell into the rhythm of the first chapter.

'Triangles' tells the story of three female friends:  Marissa, a woman with a gay son, a terminally ill daughter, and married to an emotionally-distant man.  Her life, it's safe to say, is filled with stress and challenges.  Andrea, her sister, is divorced and a single mother.  She has had relationships, but is now celibate.  And then there is Holly.  Holly is married to a loving man and together, they are raising three children.  But, filled with regret, she rushes into extra-marital affairs, disguising them in her attempt at writing erotic fiction.

This novel is not your typical 'Chick Lit'; not 'cutesy' and clever.  It is full of pain, heartache, joy, and remorse.  And a lot of sex.  Ms. Hopkins has written a very real story, one that captured my attention and didn't let it go until the heartbreaking end.

There's something for everyone in this story; things to which most of us can relate.

So, for my friend, and for all of you who enjoy Ms. Hopkin's YA fiction, take a step up and read her newest book. It's so very well worth it.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

'The Time In Between'

When life grows boring, we all need a bit of intrigue to perk us up.  Ian Fleming and Robert Ludlum wrote perfect examples of intrigue at its finest.  Espionage, lies, subterfuge; the spice of a spy's life.   And movies...  'Casablanca'.  'The Bourne' series.  The list of books and films is endless.  

A new addition to this genre landed on my desk not long ago, and it brought to mind more of the 'exotic' side of World War 2 intrigue, and not so much the horror and outrage.  It's filled with Nazis, and Franco, and the heroes of the Resistance, including Alan Hillgarth and Rosalinda Powell Fox, real people who did their utmost to secure information for the Allies.  

'The Time In Between', by María Dueñas, is set in Madrid, and focuses on the choices made by Sira Quiroga, a seamstress by trade.  She is engaged to a man who aspires to become a civil servant in pre-WW2 Spain.  But when she runs away with another man who promises her the moon, she is subjected to one of the worst kinds of betrayal.  Stranded in Morocco, and left penniless, she is offered a new life and new identity.  As a result, she becomes the most popular couture designer for the wives and lovers of German Nazi officers stationed in Madrid.  She is soon involved in a conspiracy that could either leave her dead, or help save the war effort for the Allies.

For a first novel, 'Time...' is very promising.  The twists-and-turns kept me up all night, and Ms. Dueñas has a deft hand at bringing her real and fictional characters to life.  A welcome addition is the bibliography at the end of the book, which will help those readers who want to learn more about the inner workings of the Resistance movement and the people who sacrificed their lives to help win the war.

(Due to be released in early November 2011)

Sunday, October 9, 2011

'A Dog's Purpose'

It's a nice Autumn day in my corner of the world.  I have a pot of chicken soup cooking on the stove, and a cup of warm tea by my side.  A nice accompaniment to all this coziness is the sound of a tail wagging.

I'm a 'cat person', although my heart belongs to any animal, no matter how large and/or dangerous.  My three cats are a total delight and can sense when I'm in a melancholy mood; cat kisses are prevalent during the 'blue' days.  However, I've recently rediscovered that the mere wag of a dog's tail can bring a smile to my face.  My daughter is unable to take care of her dog for a few months, so I offered to give said dog a temporary home.  But I'm so afraid that when the time comes for Indy to go back to her permanent home, I'll find a large part of my heart missing.  

For the time being, I'll enjoy my 'grandpup' and try not to think about the day when she will leave.  

That brings to mind a wonderful book I read just a few months ago.  'A Dog's Purpose', by W. Bruce Cameron, is the story of a dog searching for the meaning of his life through several lifetimes.  That's right:  Several lifetimes.  Narrated by the dog, this most incredible book deals with the eternal question, "Why are we here?".  Through several incarnations (always as a dog), the dog finds 'his boy', loses him, then finds him again in one of the most heartbreaking chapters I've ever read.

Many readers will compare this novel to 'The Art of Racing in the Rain', the fantastic book by Garth Stein, but you will find that both books compliment each another.  

If you love any animal, I highly recommend 'A Dog's Purpose'.  It's a beautifully written story by an author who, I'm sure, will go on to write even more touching novels.

It's brought me even closer to the animals sharing my life.  

Tuesday, October 4, 2011


During these dark, chilly days of Autumn, I like to hunker down with a good book.  I want something intriguing, something that keeps me in the bathtub until the water turns cold.

I'll admit it here:  I loved 'The DaVinci Code'.  It was fast-paced, centered on an age-old religious controversy, and made me think.  In fact, I've read the story a number of times because I always find something that I missed during previous readings.

So, I was happy to find another book that fit the same bill.

'Sanctus', by Simon Toyne, centers around the Sancti, a secretive, centuries-old religious order living in a mountain called The Citadel, near the town of Ruin in modern-day Turkey.  The escape of a member of the order and his subsequent display from atop the Citadel sets into motion the hunt for a young woman who is the key to solving the mystery of the Sancti.  But the Sancti does not want the world to learn their secret and they will employ any means necessary to make sure no one finds it.

Good and evil are aptly displayed in this story, and the denouement left me stunned.  It is a real 'page turner', and I was pleased to learn that this is the first book in the Ruin trilogy.

The second book cannot come soon enough.  

Sunday, October 2, 2011

'Angelina's Bachelors'

Naming a genre for a particular type of book can be a tricky business.  There is Mystery/Thriller, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Romance, Apocalyptic fiction.  The list is endless.  But the name of a rather new genre doesn't sit well with me:  Chick Lit.  When I see those words, I wonder why men's fiction isn't given a 'clever' genre.  I could come up with a few; for instance, 'Men in Their Caves', or 'Testosterone Trauma'.  

When I was given a copy of 'Angelina's Bachelors', I knew that because a woman's name was in the title, the genre would be a given.  That's an obvious clue.

But the book is much more than that.

It's the story of Angelina D'Angelo, a woman living in a tight-knit South Philadelphia neighborhood, and she is gifted with the greatest of culinary skills.  She has been happily married for five years to Frank, the love of her life.  But when tragedy strikes, Angelina is left bereft, emotionally and financially.  Although she is surrounded by a loving family, they cannot provide exactly what she needs:  A job.  One night, overcome by grief, Angelina spends an entire night cooking, and cook she does!  She makes so much food that she gives it to her neighborhood friends.  A gentleman new to the neighborhood offers her a proposition:  For a generous salary, she will cook for him twice a day, six days a week.

Soon, the group grows to seven, and Angelina finds herself surrounded by support and encouragement, which results in a new direction in her life.

The story is written by Brian O'Reilly, the creator of Dinner: Impossible, with assistance from his wife, culinary writer Virginia O'Reilly.  Although 'Angelina's Bachelors' is a quick read, I was filled with warmth for the well-written characters, and was delightfully surprised a couple of times.  

This is a perfect Autumn read.  Snuggle on the couch with cup of hot tea in hand.  And don't forget to try the recipes.  

If you make too much, I live in Oregon.