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“Holiday Creeps”

I checked in at the Musing Mondays blog, which is the host for a weekly book meme or blogging prompt. Here is this week’s prompt:

Tell us what book(s) you recently bought for yourself or someone else, and why you chose that/those book(s).

1turow

Presumed Innocent and Innocent by Scott Turow. The former is Turow’s first novel, first published in 1987. The novel is known for its inventive plot twists. The novel begins with the discovery of Carolyn Polhemus dead in her apartment, the victim of what appears to be a sexual bondage encounter gone wrong, killed outright by a fatal blow to the skull with an unknown object. Rusty Sabich is a prosecutor and co-worker of Carolyn and is assigned her case by the district attorney. Innocent is the sequel released in 2010. That both of these books are clever, chilling and wildly unpredictable makes them perfect reads for long-haul flight to Asia, which I’ll undertake in January. In the past I have brought readings that belong to a variety of genres but have found my interest stalled after one good read. I like how these books are both crime thrillers penned by the same author. The consistency in style and plot twists would be very desirable for reading on the go.

Tell us what you’re reading right now — what you think of it, so far; why you chose it; what you are (or, aren’t) enjoying it.

1haynes

Two days before I returned from Kauai I began Kate Morton’s The Distant Hours. While it kept me reading, the story unfolds in a sluggish pace and the plot runs very thick, involving three spinster sisters in a castle. I never finished it on the 5-hour flight but planned to continue. By fluke I picked up Into the Darkest Corner by Elizabeth Haynes and could not put it down. It’s a harrowing story about a woman who is haunted by a devastating relationship with a jealous, violent ex-boyfriend. Cathy’s relationship with Lee seems good to begin with, but as his true self starts to emerge, the more she is pushed into the darkest corner. This is a story of a very abusive relationship and the chilling effects it has on Catherine.

Book Hoard for Trips

I checked in at the Musing Mondays blog, which is the host for a weekly book meme or blogging prompt. Here is this week’s prompt:

Tell us what book(s) you recently bought for yourself or someone else, and why you chose that/those book(s).

1a11a2

Lately I’ve been hoarding books for upcoming trips to Hawaii and Asia—books that are engrossing, page-turning, and captivating to last a long-haul flight. Airport bookstore is always a hit or miss, unless I see a book jumping at me. The last thing I want is to be stuck with a boring book on my flight to Asia. When I encounter a book that sounds intriguing, I save it for the holiday travel pool. I try to achieve a balance between literature, thriller, and mystery. One book, The Starboard Sea by Amber Dermont, has remained in this pile for almost a year since my previous trip to Thailand. The Distant Hour by Kate Morton I had acquired for the travel. Defending Jacob seems very intriguing and fast-paced, and so does Into the Darkest Corner. NW and The Little Friend fill up the literary department, while In the Shadow of the Banyan and A Dry White Season shine in cultural diversity.

New Books

I checked in at the Musing Mondays blog, which is the host for a weekly book meme or blogging prompt. Here is this week’s prompt:

Tell us what book(s) you recently bought for yourself or someone else, and why you chose that/those book(s).

After the satisfying Under the Dome, I was back at the bookstore looking for The Stand. When I was seen reading Under the Dome, people asked if I have read The Stand. I was piqued to include it on my list. It’s another science fiction/horror hefty 1400-pager. In 1978, science fiction writer Spider Robinson wrote a scathing review of The Stand in which he exhorted his readers to grab strangers in bookstores and beg them not to buy it. That probably furthered the book’s popularity. The first edition released in 1978 was 823 pages long. Recently, King and Doubleday are republishing The Stand in the gigantic version in which, according to King, it was originally written. It is an end-of-the-world scenario: a rapidly mutating flu virus is accidentally released from a U.S. military facility and wipes out 99 and 44/100 percent of the world’s population, thus setting the stage for an apocalyptic confrontation between Good and Evil.

The other book is lesser known to me—Mistress of the Art of Death by Ariana Franklin. It’s a crime thriller set in medieval England. It introduces the compelling Adelia—abandoned as a child, adopted by doctors, trained in Salerno (a center of learning), and now a woman of modern sensibilities. She is summoned by King Henry II to investigate a series of gruesome murders that has wrongly implicated the Jewish population, yielding even more tragic results. As Adelia’s investigation takes her behind the closed doors of the country’s churches, the killer prepares to strike again. I picked this one up because I like the historical setting and that it reminds me of The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco.

Doom Dome

I checked in at the Musing Mondays blog, which is the host for a weekly book meme or blogging prompt. Here is this week’s prompt:

Tell us what book(s) you recently bought for yourself or someone else, and why you chose that/those book(s).

DOME

Browsing a bookstore in Santa Cruz found an UK edition of Stephen King’s Under the Dome. I’ve been intrigued by the story but refrained from watching the mini series. The premise is simple: a small town in Maine is cut off from the outside world by an invisible dome-shape layer. The immediate consequence is deadly: plane crash, vehicles rebound, cut-off limbs, animals chopped right in half. But the book seems to steer away from the mysterious cause of this crisis. Instead it explores the aftermath and how people cope with the unprecedented. It reminds me of Blindness by Jose Saramago, in which an unnamed city was plagued by a white blindness. I started Under the Dome yesterday over breakfast and I couldn’t put it down (230 out of 880 pages so far). It’s an amazing story with an apocalyptic vision and an allegorical meaning.

“Summer Reading”

I checked in at the Musing Mondays blog, which is the host for a weekly book meme or blogging prompt. Here is this week’s prompt:

Tell us what book(s) you recently bought for yourself or someone else, and why you chose that/those book(s). What book are you currently desperate to get your hands on? Tell us about it! Also tell us what you’re reading right now — what you think of it, so far; why you chose it; what you are (or, aren’t) enjoying it.

On social media people share their first swim of the season and barbeque grill fired up for the first time. Summer is here. The bookstores are rolling out their summer reading titles. These summer books, to my amusement, are quite diverse in their target audience and intensity of the subject matter. My reading for once is not influenced by change of season, weather, or travel plan. That said, I tend to pick lighter books that don’t require much brain juice to comprehend so I can bring with me to the pool. Summer reading always has an academic connotation: students are loaded with a pile of books to be completed over summer holiday. I think students should be given wide latitude in deciding what they want to read, instead of the Moby Dick-model. At Barnes & Noble and some local bookstores, I was a little taken aback by some of the titles: Columbine? Lolita? My school made me read Lolita in 10th grade but I don’t think some parts of this country would even allow that book to be shelved in public libraries! Interesting is that many of these summer reading books were once banned books: Leaves of Grass, Madame Bovary, Jungle, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, and Bell Jar. I read most of these in school, except Bell Jar, which was required reading for a literature course in Freshman year of college. Bell Jar is too depressing as a summer book. 

As much as I don’t make a list for summer, I have inclined toward including travel books—memoirs and narratives. Dreaming in French captures the Paris years of Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy, Susan Sontag, and Angela Davis. People Who Eats Darkness is a true crime story of 21-year-old Lucie Blackman who went missing in Tokyo. The city had simply swallowed her up. The Geography of Bliss is a grump’s journey to look for the “unheralded happy places.” These are great books to sizzle in imagination and far places. They are easy readings that you can pick up without having to back-track between pool times and cocktail hours.

(A Bit of) Book Rant

I checked in at the Musing Mondays blog, which is the host for a weekly book meme or blogging prompt. Here is this week’s prompt:

Tell us what book(s) you recently bought for yourself or someone else, and why you chose that/those book(s). What book are you currently desperate to get your hands on? Tell us about it! Also tell us what you’re reading right now — what you think of it, so far; why you chose it; what you are (or, aren’t) enjoying it.

leighs

(Picture: Leigh’s Favorite Bookstore in historic downtown Sunnyvale, 40 miles southeast of San Francisco. Fabulous indie bookstore but no Bowen mystery series.)

It all started with Mrs. Queen Takes the Train, the story of Her Majesty taking a trip to Scotland on a whim without royal escort or equerry. After that I’ve been searching for books set against England and the royalty. I stumbled upon Mr. Churchill’s Secretary, a typist who discovers and breaks the Nazi code that points to specific attacks, including the assassination of the prime minister. Now I’m burying my nose in the sequel, Princess Elizabeth’s Spy, in which this typist-turned-agent, Maggie Hope, disguised as the princess’s governess, is to investigate any espionage activity in Windsor Castle. Over the weekend I got behind the wheels looking for a similar series by Rhys Bowen but with no success at first. What do you do when your local indie doesn’t have books in stock? I drive around and check inventory. I don’t mind purchasing online but I don’t want to give my business to Amazon, which was under fire for perceived anti-gay policy. I think Amazon can totally decide what they want to sell and not to sell, but if you want to sell a LGBT book, you need to allow reviews. It’s like a business that wants the money from gays but is ashamed of its gay customers. To make a long story short, many of the indies don’t have Bowen’s Her Royal Spyness Mysteries series in stock (not even used copies) and I ended up buying the entire series at Barnes & Noble. This is how far I would go to find my books, because I don’t like waiting for packages that always come when I’m not home. It’s frustrating that you have to buy everything online and not be able to look at the item. Many stores offer free return but truth be told, I rather just get the book and be over with the hassle.

Monday This and That

I checked in at the Musing Mondays blog, which is the host for a weekly book meme or blogging prompt. Here is this week’s prompt:

Describe one of your reading habits. Tell us what book(s) you recently bought for yourself or someone else, and why you chose that/those book(s). What book are you currently desperate to get your hands on? Tell us about it!

I usually don’t start a book—specially a tome—toward the end of the month knowing I cannot finish it. I was trying to fill the two remaining days of the month with a book. Stehpen King’s Carrie answered that call. It’s very fast-paced book about a shy high-school girl, who uses her newly discovered telekinetic powers to exact revenge on those who tease her. The appeal lays more in the setting than the paranormal power for me. These are high school kids and they are kids who don’t know better of the consequences. A new film adaptation starring Julienne Moore as Margaret White will release this October.

spynesspainflush

This week’s shopping spree concerns Rhys Bowen. I’m indebted to the bloggers who pointed me to Bowen’s Royal Spyness Series, after my review of Susan Elia MacNeal’s Mr. Churchill’s Secretary. Bowen’s series features a penniless twenty-something member of the extended royal family in 1930s London. The first three are now sitting on my shelf: Her Royal Spyness, A Royal Pain, Royal Flush, along with MacNeal’s sequel Princess Elizabeth’s Spy.

New Books

I checked in at the Musing Mondays blog, which is the host for a weekly book meme or blogging prompt. Here is this week’s prompt:

Tell us what book(s) you recently bought for yourself or someone else, and why you chose that/those book(s). What book are you currently desperate to get your hands on? Tell us about it!

Matt 171

Recent purchases on a whim when I browse at Barnes and Noble while waiting for the dog to be groomed. Mr. Churchill’s Secretary sounds interesting and it’s a debut. Velvet Rage is required reading for all gay men. Death Comes to Pemberley is yet another Jane Austen fan-fiction/spinoff that my book club has chosen. I would not have picked it up and I am right. The “mystery” is set in 1803, six years after the wedding of Elizabeth and Darcy, with ample space given to catching us up on the recent doings of the Bennet family. On the mystery side, there’s plenty of action, from the discovery of Captain Denny’s body, through a trial, assorted deceptions and mix-ups, and love affairs. It’s a weak cup of tea. So far I feel the book lacks wit and suspense. It’s another book club selection that disappoints. I gave them benefit of the doubt for the recent Dreams of Joy since its predecessor, Shanghai Girls was just brilliant. But two not so good books on a roll make me second-thought about quitting the club. The social company is what tethers me right now.

On Habit

Musing Mondays asks you to muse about:
Describe one of your reading habits.

I read promiscuously—reading anyone who has a good story, seriousness and craft in style. But I don’t usually have an agenda, just following my nose. That said, I put together a small box of books to take with me on a weekend trip or a vacation, usually an accumulation of recent titles by favorite authors or non-fiction that piques my curiosity.

Tell us what book(s) you recently bought for yourself or someone else, and why you chose that/those book(s).

SFO 1134

At Half Price Books, I found Peking Story by David Kidd and Dreams of Joy by Lisa See new at half off. For two years before and after the 1948 Communist Revolution, David Kidd lived in Peking, where he married the daughter of an aristocratic Chinese family. I’ve been wanting to read this account prior to the social change that took place in 1950s under Mao. There are fascinating descriptions of an ancient society on the verge of ending and the drastic changes that the communists bring when they take over the government. Kidd’s position was unique. The book goes straight to the bin for Palm Springs weekend next month, along with Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey: The Lost Legacy of Highclere Castle by The Countess of Carnarvon. Dreams of Joy is the sequel to Shanghai Girls. See returns to the story of sisters Pearl and May from Shanghai Girls, and Pearl’s strong-willed nineteen-year-old daughter, Joy. Reeling from newly uncovered family secrets, Joy runs away to Shanghai in early 1957 to find her birth father—the artist Z.G. Li, with whom both May and Pearl were once in love.

Globalized

Musing Mondays asks you to muse about:
Tell us what book(s) you recently bought for yourself or someone else, and why you chose that/those book(s).

SFO 1110
SFO 1111

My recent whim has been non-fiction. It just happens that way, I’m intrigued by all these books. First and most of all, Argo by by Antonio Mendez. In Thailand, I found a copy of Bangkok: A Cultural History, something that is neither a history book on academic scale nor a conventional travel guide. It delves into how Bangkok becomes a post-modern city while retaining its Buddhist ethos and monarchic traditions.

Ghetto at the Center of the World: Chungking Mansions, Hong Kong by Gordon Mathews arrived in the mail the other day. Chungking Mansions is known for the diversity of its international residents. It’s been estimated that coming and going of residents, visitors, and food stall customers of this complex amount to about 10,000 a day. This peculiar locale is named by Time Magazine the one of the most globalized places in the world:

“When Hong Kong refers to itself as “Asia’s World City” it means the well-ordered worldliness of big banks, fine hotels and a philharmonic. The local tourism board would probably prefer that you didn’t think of the worldliness of Nepalese sex workers, Bangladeshi hash dealers and Nigerian men trading used PCs by the container load. But this other Hong Kong can be found across Victoria Harbour, just a few minutes from the city’s administrative and financial heart. And the truth is, Hong Kong’s claim to internationalism is as equally proven by the demographics of Tsimshatsui, as the tip of the Kowloon peninsula is called, as it is by anything else. The district’s pavements are swirling rivers of turbans and baseball caps, hoodies and hijabs.”