Favorite Quotes on Books and Reading

"A book is a gift you can open again and again." Garrison Keillor

Literature is a textually transmitted disease, normally contracted in childhood.” Jane Yolen

"It is what you read when you don't have to that determines what you will be when you can't help it." Oscar Wilde

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Book Showcase: THE MYSTERY OF MOUTAI

The Mystery of Moutai by G.X. Chen
ISBN: 9781496055491 (paperback - CreateSpace)
ISBN: 9781310078590 (ebook - Smashwords)
ASIN: B00JOWF4Y2 (Kindle edition)                   
Publication date: April 20, 2014


A teenager returns home from school to find a gruesome scene: the apartment he shares with his mother, Shao Mei, in Boston's Chinatown has been ransacked and she is dead. There is a bottle of Moutai—the most exotic and expensive Chinese liquor—left at the scene and traces of rat poison in one of the two shot glasses on the kitchen counter. This was evidently a homicide, but who could possibly be the killer?
Ann Lee and Fang Chen, close friends of the victim, team up with the Boston police to solve this mystifying crime: why would anyone want to murder a harmless middle-aged woman, one who worked as an unassuming mailroom clerk, with no money, no connections, and presumably, no enemies?
Realizing that important clues behind the motive may be buried deep in the victim's past, they travel to Beijing, where Shao Mei spent more than fifty years of her life. While there, surrounded by the antiquities of China’s rich and complex history, they stumble unwittingly into a cobweb of mystery and danger. Fearing for their lives but determined to press on, they end up unearthing a scandal more deceptive and far-reaching than either could have imagined.


Excerpt:

PROLOGUE
In the spring of 1994, John Chan, an athletic teenager, vaulted up the stairs of an old apartment building on the edge of Chinatown in the city of Boston, taking two steps at a time while carrying a hockey stick and a duffel bag full of shoulder pads, helmets, gloves, and skates. He was tired but very excited because he had just played an important hockey game at his school—the winner would go on to the division finals—and he could hardly wait to tell his mother that he had a winning goal in the second period and was congratulated by all of his teammates and his coach. John was starving. Looking forward to a hug; a hot shower; and a hearty, homemade meal, he was rushing toward his apartment, which was located on the third floor of the five-story brick building.
After the door swung open by a touch of the end of his hockey stick, John stopped in alarm. Even if she was expecting a guest, his mother always locked the apartment door—she was afraid of burglars ever since their next-door neighbor had a break-in several months ago. John dropped the duffel bag, placed the hockey stick against the wall and peeked inside the apartment apprehensively. It was late in the afternoon, but the west-facing apartment was still well lit by the sun, which was sinking slowly on the horizon.
His jaw dropped when he saw what had become of his home, which was always neat and clean no matter how hectic the occupants' lives were. The living room was in total disarray, the floor covered with bits and pieces of books and magazines, and all the drawers and cabinet doors in the kitchen were pulled open—his home had been turned upside down, ransacked.
His voice echoed as he called out, "Mom, I'm home! Where are you?"
No response; the apartment was eerily quiet. Hesitantly, John opened the door wider and entered, trying not to step on the fallen books because he knew his mother, Shao Mei, loved them. A former physics professor at Beijing University, Shao Mei kept all the books she had brought with her from China, even though most of them were getting flimsy and falling apart.
Among all the messes, a shiny object drew John's attention almost immediately. Sitting on the coffee table in the living room was a slick and colorful porcelain bottle of Moutai, the most famous liquor in China. His mother had been working as a mailroom clerk for an insurance company in Boston and could never have afforded an authentic bottle of Moutai, which would have fetched more than a hundred dollars on the black market in her native country.
He walked over and stood in front of the battered coffee table, looking down at the exquisitely designed liquor bottle, which seemed empty. Then, he noticed something bulky stuck between the sofa and the coffee table. It was his mother, face-down on the floor. On her partially hidden, painfully distorted face, blood trickled from her nose and her mouth. His legs started trembling violently. John screamed, but no sound came from his mouth. It was seemingly a long time before he was able to control his limbs. He ran to the kitchen, picked up the phone, and dialed 911.
The rest of the day was a blur. Police officers and detectives came and went, along with a team of forensic specialists and an ambulance. Everything in the apartment and around the body was checked, including a fancy gift box in the trash can, two shot glasses on the kitchen counter, and the empty bottle of Moutai. The forensic officers used protective gloves, putting all the items, one at a time, carefully into separate evidence bags.
After the body was taken away, a tall and sturdy man in his early fifties came into the bedroom where John was sitting and placed a hand on his shoulder. "Paul Winderman," he said in a soft voice, "detective sergeant from the Boston Police Department. And your name please?"
"John Chan," John murmured without looking up at the police officer.
"John," Paul said, kneeling down to face the kid at the same level. "Do you have any relatives in town?"
"No," John said and shook his head, looking into Paul's deep and pale blue eyes in despair. What'll happen to me now? He thought in panic. Where will I go? His mother was the only family he had in the US. He dropped his head and started weeping.
Paul kept his large hand on John's shoulder. What a pity. The poor lad might have to be sent to social services, he thought sympathetically. "Do you know anyone in the city—your mother's friends, for example?" he asked hopefully.
John lifted his head and nodded. "My mom was friendly with Auntie Ann Lee and Uncle Fang Chen," he told the detective between sobs. According to Chinese tradition, he addressed all of his parents' friends as "uncles" and "aunties" even though they weren't blood relations. As far as John knew, Auntie Lee and Uncle Chen visited his mother often when she was alive—sometimes they'd take him along to have dim sum in Chinatown, an area he and his mother lived on the edge of, where the rent was cheaper than most places in downtown Boston.
Paul Winderman's eyes lit up when he heard the names. He had dealt with both of them in a previous murder case a few years ago. He liked Ann a lot, a very capable young woman and a straight arrow, but he didn't trust Fang Chen because the professor had played hocus-pocus with the police rather than cooperating the last time they met.
Paul processed the facts in his head for less than a minute before placing a few calls. Due to the fact that Ann didn't own a car, he dispatched a police cruiser to pick her up. Half an hour later, a sober and red-eyed Ann Lee showed up at Shao Mei's apartment to take John away.
"I'll pack up everything you need and deliver to you as soon as I can," Paul told the kid, who had rested his head on Auntie Lee's shoulder and was crying.
Lifting his head, the kid said nothing but nodded with tears in his eyes. With Ann's help, he stuffed a few sets of clothes into his duffel bag, picked up his backpack and the hockey stick, and left his home in the US for the last time.
***
Friday, April 24
Another warm night; the breeze coming from the open windows makes me feel it's an early summer rather than spring day.
It has been a thrill to know that I will soon meet my old friend who suffered much at the hands of the Red Guards during the Cultural Revolution. I'm extremely excited about the opportunity to renew our friendship. I don't have many old friends anymore, having lost all the contacts when I moved. I particularly crave the comrade-ship we forged during the formidable years when we were both young.
It's fascinating for me to think what this friend of mine will say or what her reaction will be when I show up at her door. I probably should call her first or send her an e-mail, but I'm not sure if she has an e-mail account, or even a computer—still a luxury item for most people. I heard she has fallen on hard times since she left China. The poor thing! 
I'm sure I can cheer her up with my visit and my unique gift. It's only fitting that I should bring her the best.


Meet the author:


G.X. Chen is a freelancer who lives in Boston with her husband (both of her mystery novels are based in Boston). She permanently moved from China to the US after Tiananmen Massacre in 1989. Previously published books include The Mystery of Revenge (a mystery novel) and Forget Me Not: A Love Story of the East (a historic fiction/romance) and several other novels in Chinese. 

Connect with the author:

Website      |     Twitter      |     Goodreads 



Friday, August 29, 2014

Guest Post: K.P. Kollenborn - Author of HOW THE WATER FALLS



The Book Diva's Reads is pleased to be participating in the blog tour for How the Water Falls by author K.P. Kollenborn. Ms. Kollenborn stops by today and discusses her love of John Steinbeck and his influence on her writing, as well as her love of history (especially important given the themes in her latest book). 




Why I Love John Steinbeck
by K. P. Kollenborn

John Steinbeck wrote as part of his Nobel Peace Prize speech in 1962: "The writer is delegated to declare and to celebrate man's proven capacity for greatness of heart and spirit—for gallantry in defeat, for courage, compassion and love. In the endless war against weakness and despair, these are the bright rally flags of hope and of emulation. I hold that a writer who does not believe in the perfectibility of man has no dedication nor any membership in literature." And within the same context, he also wrote, "I have come to believe that a great teacher is a great artist and that there are as few as there are any other great artists. Teaching might even be the greatest of the arts since the medium is the human mind and spirit." 

How can one not be in awe of his perception? As a writer, even in fiction, Steinbeck broke boundaries of how to reconcile what is humane. He mixed literary prose and realism with such grit and fortitude that I'm charmed by his depressing and enriching style. The Grapes of Wrath and Of Mice and Men are still inside my head, and in fact I have made soft suggestions to both books in my WWII novel, Eyes Behind Belligerence. I named two of my characters Tom and Rose, (although they are married and not brother and sister,) as a quiet dedication to The Grapes of Wrath; and even slid in Of Mice and Men as a favorite book of one of the protagonists in an effort to understand who has the right to take away someone's life. It also plays into effect of bonding between two unlikely friends who only share the commonality of their environment.

I discovered Steinbeck in high school, as many secondary students have before me in English classes. I'm grateful he was included as part of the curriculum. Up to that point in my life I had not read that many "goddamns" and "bastards" in YA fiction. In fact, that was the first time I learned how to spell other swear words not often read in bathroom stalls that rhyme with Nantucket. And spelled correctly, I might add. I began counting how many times these "goddamned bastards" appeared in Of Mice and Men. And yet we weren't allowed to say them in the classroom if we weren't reading the texts out loud. The reason I bring this particular topic up is to explain how I began to comprehend a coarse, migrant lifestyle from people who came out of the Dust Bowl. The book opened up another world and I loved it. Not only did I want to be a part of that world by continuing to read John Steinbeck, but I wanted more. I too wanted to write about the depravity and faith mankind.

Initially I wanted to be an artist- mainly focusing on drawing and painting, and I do have a graphics art degree in addition to a history degree. Because I'm dyslexic, reading and writing came to me slowly as a child, and I somehow compensated by memorizing the structure of words. Up until I was a teenager, I didn't believe I had any other talent. It has taken me some time to find courage to peruse a writer's career. I have a highly creative brain that engages in any creative outlet possible- including writing, which later has dominated my desire to be creative both visually, (describing scenes like describing paintings,) and intellectually. And as a teenager, while investigating American history, I came across the Japanese-American internment camps. When I learned more about the camps I felt compelled to then write about these camps. Why? I don't have any Japanese ancestry in my family tree. I live in the Midwest and grew-up in a medium size town where cultural diversity is a bit underdeveloped. My reason is simple: I don't want to continue to live in a conical world. Consciousness does not develop and mature by existing in a frozen pond. I wanted to write about issues of camp life that has never been written about before in fiction. Much like what Steinbeck did when writing about migrant workers during his time.

I like to believe that after decades worth of introspection we have learned more wisely than something that happened yesterday. And that's why I love history: To learn. To question. To redeem our humanity. My philosophy is this: "Submitting to a moment in time allows us to remember, or to muse even, over our society’s past. Although writing can educate as well as entertain, yet what makes art incredibly amazing, to that of paintings, photographs, and music, it transposes emotion into another form of humanity, and therefore, it is our humanity which keeps all of us striving for an improved future." I think John would agree on some transcending level. 

Resources:
http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/authors/j/john_steinbeck.html
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Steinbeck


Meet the author:

Even though I am from Kansas, I enjoy venturing into other worlds from around the globe which is why my writing focuses on diversity. With fluid accessibility to modern media and traveling opportunities, my Midwestern world can expand and explore beyond my own backyard. In addition to studying cultures, I take pleasure in studying history. Submitting to a moment in time allows us to remember, or to muse even, over our society's past. Although writing can educate as well as entertain, yet what makes art incredibly amazing, to that of paintings, photographs, and music, it transposes emotion into another form of humanity, and therefore, it is our humanity which keeps all of us striving for an improved future.

Connect with the author: 

Website      |     Facebook      |     Twitter      |     Goodreads 





How the Water Falls by K.P. Kollenborn
ISBN: 9781500289201 (paperback - CreateSpace)
ISBN: 9781310512131 (ebook - Smashwords)
ASIN: B00L8F1UZA (Kindle edition)
Publication date: June 22, 2014

On the fringes of a civil war arise a kaleidoscope of stories of abuse, power, betrayal, sex, love, and absolution, all united by the failings of a dying government. Set in the backdrop during the last years of South Africa's apartheid, How the Water Falls is a psychological thriller that unfolds the truth and deception of the system's victims, perpetrators, and unlikely heroes. 
The two main characters, one white, Joanne– a reporter, the other black, Lena– a banned activist, have their lives continuously overlap through the people they know during a thirteen-year period and eventually become friends as a result of their interviews together. Joanne personifies the need to question and investigate apartheid's corruption from a white person's perspective. Although her intentions begin with idealism, no matter how naïve, as the years pass while the system is failing, she crosses the threshold of what it means to be caught up inside the belly of the beast, especially after crossing paths with the Borghost brothers. Lena, who is inspired by her predecessors, such as Steve Biko and Nelson Mandela, is among the minority of black women to peacefully battle for equality, even if her struggle is indicative of sacrificing her health and safety. Hans Borghost is Johannesburg's commissioner of police who, like all those before, had a military background before pursuing a law enforcement career. Violent, manipulative, and controlling, he incarnates the image of South Africa's perpetrators. Jared Borghost is the younger brother of Hans and, like his brother, has a military background, but unlike Hans, he internally combats between his sense of duty and morality. His inconsistency indicates a conscience that leaves one to ponder whether Jared is either a perpetrator, victim, or both. As his surname suggests, Bor-GHOST represents the "ghosts" that haunt the family's past. Many other characters play the roles of spies, freedom fighters, lovers, adversaries, and supporters. 
This novel is as complex as apartheid was itself, unlacing fabrics of each character's life to merge into a catalyst downfall. The question of who will survive this downfall will suffice in the courts of truth and reconciliation and whether love is strong enough to preserve peace.

Watch the book trailer:




The author is giving away a $25 Amazon gift card during this tour; to enter use the Rafflecopter form below.

a Rafflecopter giveaway




This book tour brought to you by: 
Image and video hosting by TinyPic

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Book Showcase: WILD WITHIN by Melissa Hart



Wild Within: How Rescuing Owls Inspired a Family by Melissa Hart
ISBN: 9780762796809 (hardcover)  
Publication date: August 5, 2014
Publisher: Lyons Press


Melissa Hart, a desperately lonely young divorcée and L.A. transplant, finds herself stranded in rainy Eugene, Oregon, working from home in the company of her two cats and two large mutts. At the local dog park, she meets a fellow dog owner named Jonathan: a tall, handsome man with a unibrow and hawk-like nose. When he invites her to accompany him on a drive to Portland to retrieve six hundred pounds of frozen rats and a fledgling barred owl, sparks fly!
Their courtship blossoms in a raptor rehabilitation center where wounded owls, eagles, falcons, and other iconic birds of prey take refuge and become ambassadors for their species. Initially, Melissa volunteers here in order to "sink her talons" into her new love interest, but soon she falls hopelessly in love with her fine feathered charges: Archimedes, a gorgeous snowy owl; Lorax, a fractious great horned owl; and Bodhi, a baby barred with a permanently injured wing. As "human imprints," these birds see themselves and people as the same species yet retain a wildness that hoodwinks even the most experienced handlers. Overcoming her fears, Melissa bravely suffers some puncture wounds to get closer to these magnificent creatures.
Melissa and Jonathan start out convinced they don't want children, but caring for birds who have fallen from their nests triggers a deep longing in Melissa to mother an orphaned child. Thus they embark on a heart-wrenching journey to adoption. Every page sparkles with vivid imagery and wit in this beautifully written memoir of parallel pursuits. Wildness Within is, above all, about the power of love—romantic, animal, and parental—to save lives and fulfill dreams.


Excerpt:

Prologue
"Clip Me"
"Are you sure you want to do this?"
The urologist with the slicked-back hair and tawny soul patch regarded me perched on a stool beside my husband in his chilly white office. The man's latex-sheathed fingers held the stainless steel scalpel with practiced ease, the way Jonathan wielded a syringe before tube-feeding electrolytes to an emaciated hawk. The doctor was maybe in his early forties, healthy and cheerful like usbut sober in the face of our request.
"You've got to assume you won't be able to conceive a child after your vasectomy." His eyes sought Jonathan's, and then mine: "You need to treat this surgery as irreversible."
He emphasized the last word; it hung in the disinfected air a moment before dissipating. Jonathan and I traded raised brows. The doctor's gaze dropped discreetly to the floor, then lifted slightly to focus on the great horned owl tattooed on my ankle, just visible beneath the rolled-up cuff of my Levi's.
Irreversible. I remembered how the artist's needle had punched permanent black-and-brown feathers into my skin, the stinging exhilaration of each jab to commemorate my transition from Los Angeles urbanite to Oregon nature girl. No going back.
Perfect.
My husband lay down on the exam table, sheet pulled to his waist. He reached for my hand, and his T-shirt sleeve stretched up to reveal the outspread wings of a hawk inked on one bicep. He entwined his fingers in mine and grinned so that I could see his crooked right incisor, subtle but sharp as the tomial tooth a falcon uses to sever the vertebrae of its prey.
"Now I know how the raptors feel when we're about to do a procedure," he told me.
For years Jonathan had suffered from epididymitisinfections that rendered him mute with fever and achingly swollen testicles. We celebrated our third date in the ER, my hand gripping his as a nurse ran the ultrasound wand over his groin. A vasectomy would remove the path which the infection traveled.
An easy outpatient surgery, the doctor informed us. "I do several a day." His scalpel glowed under fluorescent light.
I pondered the gravity of the moment, but only just. Never to be pregnant, never to give birth, never to see the curious amalgamation of his-nose-my-eyes-his-chin-my-mouthall of this felt irrelevant as long as I could spare Jonathan further physical pain.
I squeezed his hand. He looked up at the urologist with that deferential gratitude he'd reserved for all medical professionals since breaking his back in a car accident fourteen years before. Then he issued his humble mandate to the doctor.
"Clip me."


Watch the book trailer:




Meet the author:

Melissa Hart lives in Eugene, Oregon with her husband (photographer Jonathan B. Smith) and their daughter. 

Her work has appeared in The Washington Post, The Los Angeles Times, The Boston Globe, The Chronicle of Higher Education, Orion, High Country News, The Advocate, Adbusters, Hemispheres, Horizon Air Magazine, Writer's Digest, and The Writer.

She teaches Feature Writing courses at the School of Journalism and Communication, University of Oregon, and speaks frequently for writing-related organizations and conferences in the Pacific Northwest.

In her free time, Melissa likes to hike and run half-marathons, kayak and camp and cook and travel to quirky places.

Connect with the author:

Website      |     Facebook      |     Twitter      |     Goodreads 


Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Book 302: MEAN STREAK Review


Mean Streak by Sandra Brown
ISBN: 9781455581122 (hardcover) 
ISBN: 9781455581139 (ebook)
ASIN: B00HQ2N52K (Kindle edition)
Publication date: August 19, 2014
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing


Dr. Emory Charbonneau, a pediatrician and marathon runner, disappears on a mountain road in North Carolina. By the time her husband Jeff, miffed over a recent argument, reports her missing, the trail has grown cold. Literally. Fog and ice encapsulate the mountainous wilderness and paralyze the search for her.
While police suspect Jeff of "instant divorce," Emory, suffering from an unexplained head injury, regains consciousness and finds herself the captive of a man whose violent past is so dark that he won't even tell her his name. She's determined to escape him, and willing to take any risks necessary to survive. 
Unexpectedly, however, the two have a dangerous encounter with people who adhere to a code of justice all their own. At the center of the dispute is a desperate young woman whom Emory can't turn her back on, even if it means breaking the law.
As her husband's deception is revealed, and the FBI closes in on her captor, Emory begins to wonder if the man with no name is, in fact, her rescuer.


Dr. Emory Charbonneau is kind, selfless, and generous. Emory also has great wealth and does a lot of good with her wealth. She works hard as a pediatrician and enjoys her work. She also enjoys running and is training for an upcoming marathon that she organized for a charity. Emory also knows that her marriage is on shaky ground but stands firm about her intent to get away for the weekend to do some mountain training. Her husband, Jeff Surrey, is her opposite. Jeff is self-absorbed, disingenuous, and petty. When Emory is reported as missing, her husband quickly becomes the prime suspect. But all is not what appears. Yes, Jeff is arrogant, self-absorbed, and quick to anger. Yes, he's also been having an affair, but is he capable of murder?

I had some difficulties initially with Mean Streak. How can you empathize with a nameless character? Yet I did empathize with him as well as with Emory. (The other difficulty was the female character named Emory. I have an uncle with that name and couldn't quite get past it being used for a female.) Emory's savior/captor hints at being a bad guy with a mean streak, yet everything he does for her proves the exact opposite. As Emory recovers from a head wound and concussion, she begins to bond with her savior. It isn't until an incident with one of his neighbors that Emory truly begins to see his true character. When Emory is returned to "civilization" she quickly begins to realize that the four days she spent with this man in the wild was more valuable and important to her than the entire time she's been married to Jeff. Just when Emory thinks her life can get back to normal she begins to realize her husband may have been responsible for her injuries and her savior reappears just in the nick of time.

Ms. Brown has a way of creating romantic suspense stories that pulls me in and makes me want to continue reading just to find out what will happen next. Mean Streak is slightly different in that we have an unnamed protagonist and we fall for him as quickly and easily as Emory. (There's just something about those strong, silent types!) I enjoyed Mean Streak and found it to be a fast-paced read. I enjoyed all of the characters, even the bad guys, and found them to be realistic. If you're like me and enjoy suspense or romantic-suspense then you'll definitely want to add Mean Streak to your TBR list. 


Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book free for review purposes from the publisher via NetGalley. I was not paid, required or otherwise obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."


Book Spotlight: MEAN STREAK by Sandra Brown



Mean Streak by Sandra Brown
ISBN: 9781455581122 (hardcover)
ISBN: 9781455581139 (ebook)
ASIN: B00HQ2N52K (Kindle edition)
Publication date: August 19, 2014
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing


Dr. Emory Charbonneau, a pediatrician and marathon runner, disappears on a mountain road in North Carolina. By the time her husband Jeff, miffed over a recent argument, reports her missing, the trail has grown cold. Literally. Fog and ice encapsulate the mountainous wilderness and paralyze the search for her.
While police suspect Jeff of "instant divorce," Emory, suffering from an unexplained head injury, regains consciousness and finds herself the captive of a man whose violent past is so dark that he won't even tell her his name. She's determined to escape him, and willing to take any risks necessary to survive. 
Unexpectedly, however, the two have a dangerous encounter with people who adhere to a code of justice all their own. At the center of the dispute is a desperate young woman whom Emory can't turn her back on, even if it means breaking the law.
As her husband's deception is revealed, and the FBI closes in on her captor, Emory begins to wonder if the man with no name is, in fact, her rescuer.

Read an excerpt here.

Watch the book trailer:








Enter to win one of 10 autographed copies of Mean Streak by Sandra Brown (open to international residents)

a Rafflecopter giveaway



Meet the author:

Sandra Brown is the author of more than sixty New York Times bestsellers, including Deadline (2013), Low Pressure (2012), Lethal (2011), Tough Customer (2010), Smash Cut (2009), Smoke Screen (2008), Play Dirty (2007), Ricochet (2006), and Chill Factor, all of which have jumped onto the Times bestseller list in the number one to five spot.

Brown began her writing career in 1981 and since then has published over seventy novels, bringing the number of copies of her books in print worldwide to upwards of eighty million. Her work has been translated into thirty-four languages.

Brown holds an honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from Texas Christian University. She served as the president of the Mystery Writers of American in 2012 and was named ITW's Thriller Master for 2008, the top award given by the International Thriller Writer’s Association. Other awards and commendations include the 2007 Texas Medal of Arts Award for Literature and the Romance Writers of America’s Lifetime Achievement Award.

Connect with the author:

Website      |     Facebook      |     Twitter      |     Goodreads      |     Pinterest