Tuesday, October 21, 2014

TLC BLog Tour: This Dark Road to Mercy - An interview with Wiley Cash & A GIVEAWAY!

Wiley Cash is one of my favorite authors.  In May 2013, I reviewed his debut novel
A Land more Kind than Home which was subsequently chosen to receive the Maine Readers Choice Award for the best literary fiction of 2014.

Then in February of this year, after I had the chance to meet Wiley Cash at an appearance in Portland,  I reviewed his next book This Dark Road to Mercy.   It was every bit as enjoyable as the first one.  Now the publisher is releasing Dark Road in paperback and asked if I was interested in blogging again about this talented author.  To herald the paperback version, we have a copy available to giveaway, and an interview with Wiley.
While I didn't have the opportunity to sit and have a beer with Wiley (that would have been my preferred venue to interview him),  I did get to submit some questions which he graciously answered for us.  Here's what we came up with.

  • Where do you get your ideas for stories?
    The idea for A Land More Kind Than Home took hold of me after I learned of a similar tragedy occurring in Milwaukee: a young autistic boy had been smothered to death at a store-front church during a healing service. The two girls from my second novel, This Dark Road to Mercy, were inspired by two foster children I knew while growing up in Gastonia, North Carolina. And my third novel, which I'm hard at work on right now, is based on a violent 1929 textile mill strike in Gastonia that has nearly been erased from history.
    • What are you reading now?
    I'm always reading more than one book at a time. Right now I'm about a third of the way through Eliot's Middlemarch, a quarter of the way through Aslan's Zealot, and I have a handful of stories left in Klay's Redeployment.
    • Are you working on another book? Can you tell us a bit about it? When do you think it will be published?
    Right now I'm at work on a novel about the 1929 Loray Mill strike in Gastonia, North Carolina, which is my hometown. The novel centers on the life of Ella May Wiggins, who, by 1929 at the age of 29, had left the Tennessee mountains and settled in Gastonia, given birth to nine children (four of them died from poverty related illnesses), attempted to integrate the National Textile Workers' Union, and testified in front of Congress in DC. And then she was murdered after being turned away from a rally in support of jailed strikers. The novel is about Ella May's life and how her murder affects two generations of women: her now 96 year old daughter who's being interviewed by her great niece in an attempt to solve the mystery of Ella May murder, a murder for which no one was ever convicted.
    • You used the device of three different narrators/points of view in both of your books. What was the reason for that, and will you continue with that format in the next book?<
    I don't know that I'll ever use three narrators again, but I think I'll rely on different perspectives, whatever the form they take. I like to investigate the community's role in stories and how those stories affect the communities in which they unfold. These multi-perspective stories are great vehicles for that.
    • What writers influenced you to become a writer?
    Ernest Gaines, Thomas Wolfe, Toni Morrison, Jean Toomer, Charles Chesnutt, Flannery O'Connor, and many, many others. Contemporary writers who keep me going are Alice McDermott, Tom Franklin, Colson Whitehead, and many, many others.
    • Besides your own books, if you could give a gift book to a friend, what would it be?
    Fourth of July Creek by Smith Henderson. I'd say, "You need to read this before it wins the Pulitzer."

     In preparing for this post, I re-read (and re-listened to) several sections of this gripping tale of abandonment, betrayal, and family dynamics.  It has stood the test of time for me.  It was every bit as enthralling as it was the first time I read it. 

    The publisher has made a copy available for giveaway, so if you want a copy of this one, leave me a comment saying why you want to win.  You can get an extra entry if you go back and read Tutu's earlier reviews (just click the links in the opening paragraph above) and then tell me about something you read there.  Two reviews = two extra entries (each comment should be a separate entry including your email.)

    The giveaway is open to readers in the US and Canada.  Contest is open until 6:pm  (EST) Saturday November 8th.  Random.org will choose a winner on November 9th.

    Finally, I'd like to thank Wiley Cash for his gracious interaction with his readers.  And thanks to Harper Collins for the chance to re-blog this one. I'm looking forward to getting a chance to review the next one (HINT Hint.) 
    photo by Tiffany B. Davis

    New York Times bestselling author of A Land More Kind Than Home and This Dark Road to Mercy William Morrow/HarperCollinsPublishers.

    Thursday, October 16, 2014

    TLC Blog Tour : Aunty Lee's Deadly Specials by Ovidia Yu

    Aunty Lee's Deadly Specials

    I'd never heard of Rosie "Aunty" Lee before TLC Blog Tours offered me a review copy of Ovidia Yu's latest volume in this series.   I was attracted to it by the setting.  Singapore is one of my favorite cities and if you asked me why, I'd say without a second thought "The Food."  So when I saw a story set in Singapore about a little old lady who ran a restaurant and a catering business I was in.  Here's what the publisher said to entice me:

    Rosie “Aunty” Lee, the feisty widow, amateur sleuth and proprietor of Singapore’s best-loved home cooking restaurant, is back in another delectable, witty mystery involving scandal and murder among the city’s elite

    "Rosie Lee is a terrifically original heroine.” —Louise Penny, author of The Beautiful Mystery

    Few know more about what goes on in Singapore than Aunty Lee. When a scandal over illegal organ donation involving prominent citizens makes news, she already has a list of suspects. There’s no time to snoop, though—Aunty Lee’s Delights is catering a brunch for local socialites Henry and Mabel Sung at their opulent house.

    Rumor has it that the Sung’s fortune is in trouble, and Aunty Lee wonders if the gossip is true. But soon after arriving at the Sung’s house, her curiosity turns to suspicion. Why is a storage house she discovers locked—and what’s inside? What is the couple arguing about behind closed doors? Where is the guest of honor who never showed up?

    Then, Mabel Sung and her son Leonard are found dead. The authorities blame it on Aunty Lee’s special stewed chicken with buah keluak, a local black nut that can be poisonous if cooked improperly. Aunty Lee has never carelessly prepared a dish. She’s certain the deaths are murder—and that they’re somehow linked to the organ donor scandal.

    To save her business and her reputation, she’s got to prove it—and unmask a dangerous killer whose next victim may just be Aunty Lee.

    I enjoyed the story, but found it to be a bit hard to follow.  There are numerous characters with similar names, and I needed to actually write down names and relationships to keep them straight.  The choppy dialogue was very disconcerting.   I couldn't tell if it was a poorly edited e-galley or if it was the author's attempt to replicate "pidgin" English ( or its Singaporean version).  The food descriptions were certainly enough to make me want to call my travel agent to book an immediate flight, but the murder mystery was a bit bland (OK, it's a cozy).  It was obvious from the beginning what was going on, and the machinations of Aunty (a nosy old lady if ever there was one) and her friends to out-solve the authorities (or convince them that a crime had been committed) got to be boring after a while.  I just wanted them to get on with it.   I liked the setting and the premise did offer some opportunities for mysterious undertakings. I certainly would recommend it to readers who like new and exciting settings, descriptions and recipes of good food, and a cast of crazy quirky characters.   I'm just not sure I could take an entire series of Aunty.  In view of Ms. Yu's background as a playwright, I'd bet this could be a great comedic play, movie, or TV series.

    Ovidia Yu is one of Singapore’s best-known and most acclaimed writers. She has had over thirty plays produced and is also the author of a number of mysteries that have been published in Singapore and India. She received a Fulbright Fellowship to the University of Iowa’s International Writers Program and has been a writing fellow at the National University of Singapore.If you want to see more about Ovidia Yu's works,  you can visit on Facebook and follow her on Twitter.

    Title: Aunty Lee's Deadly Specials
    Author: Ovidia Yu
    Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks (2014)
    Genre: Cozy mystery, amateur sleuth
    Subject: illegal organ harvesting
    Setting: Singapore
    Series: Singaporean Mysteries
    Source: e-galley from the publisher via Edelweiss
    Why did I read this book now?  I am participating in the TLC Blog Tour

    Saturday, October 11, 2014

    Review: When We Were the Kennedys by Monica Wood

     1963, Mexico, Maine. The Wood family is much like its close, Catholic, immigrant neighbors, all dependent on a father’s wages from the Oxford Paper Company. Until the sudden death of Dad, when Mum and the four closely connected Wood girls are set adrift. Funny and to-the-bone moving, When We Were the Kennedys is the story of how this family saves itself, at first by depending on Father Bob, Mum’s youngest brother, a charismatic Catholic priest who feels his new responsibilities deeply. And then, as the nation is shocked by the loss of its handsome Catholic president, the televised grace of Jackie Kennedy—she too a Catholic widow with young children—galvanizes Mum to set off on an unprecedented family road trip to Washington, D.C., to do some rescuing of her own. An indelible story of how family and nation, each shocked by the unimaginable, exchange one identity for another.

    Our local book club chose to read this one for our monthly discussion this week.  Set in Maine, it tells the author's family story of growing to adulthood in the same time frame as the majority of our members.  As such, it was a memoir for us too.  World events were the same ones we lived through. For several of us, the flashbacks to a pre-Vatican II catholic school education are almost chilling.  For all of us, the struggles of the family due to the father's death, and then the impending and always threatened closure of the paper mill (the town's major employer) are producing some dejà vu moments as several towns here in Maine are wrestling with exactly these problems of mill closures, bankruptcies, high unemployment and the despair that goes along with those events.

    It's a beautiful and poignant story that, in spite of the hardships portrayed for the children, is full of hope and promise. Wood writes from the heart, evidencing the close and loving structure of her family, and the solidarity of small town life.  Definitely a memoir worth reading.

    Title: When we Were the Kennedys
    Author: Monica  Wood
    Publisher: Mariner Books; Reprint edition (July 10, 2012), Amazon digital edition
    Genre: Memoir
    Subject:growing up after a parent's death
    Setting: Mexico Maine
    Source: my own digital shelf

    Wednesday, October 1, 2014

    TLC Blog Tour - To Dwell in Darkness by Deborah Crombie

    Finally, the newest Deborah Crombie is here, and it's every bit as good as the earlier ones in the Duncan Kincaid/Gemma James series.  Crombie, like Louise Penny and Elizabeth George, has developed a tightly paced, historically enlightening, and personally edifying collection of stories set in modern day London.   I was thrilled when TLC blog tour announced that To Dwell in Darkness was being made available for reviewers.  Although I  had read about half of the earlier installments years ago, I did not have time to read the 8 I had missed along the way.  So, I was able to review this one almost like I'd never read any of the previous episodes.   I found this one works just as well as a stand-alone.  Crombie gives us enough back fill to flesh out characters who may be new to the reader, but doesn't feel the need to rehash every sentence of older segments.  This one centers around the rehabilitation of the area around historic St. Pancras station and gives us a broad brush of traffic, housing and other cross cultural issues as well as present day environmental debates, explosives, and out of control crowds. The publisher's blurb gives you just enough without giving away the plot:
     In the tradition of Elizabeth George, Louise Penny, and P. D. James, New York Times bestselling author Deborah Crombie delivers a powerful tale of intrigue, betrayal, and lies that will plunge married London detectives Duncan Kincaid and Gemma James into the unspeakable darkness that lies at the heart of murder.
     Recently transferred to the London borough of Camden from Scotland Yard headquarters, Superintendent Duncan Kincaid and his new murder investigation team are called to a deadly bombing at historic St. Pancras Station. By fortunate coincidence, Melody Talbot, Gemma's trusted colleague, witnesses the explosion. The victim was taking part in an organized protest, yet the other group members swear the young man only meant to set off a smoke bomb. As Kincaid begins to gather the facts, he finds every piece of the puzzle yields an unexpected pattern, including the disappearance of a mysterious bystander.
    The bombing isn't the only mystery troubling Kincaid. He's still questioning the reasons behind his transfer, and when his former boss—who's been avoiding him—is attacked, those suspicions deepen. With the help of his former sergeant, Doug Cullen, Melody Talbot, and Gemma, Kincaid begins to untangle the truth. But what he discovers will leave him questioning his belief in the job that has shaped his life and his values—and remind him just how vulnerable his precious family is.
    Crombie is especially talented at keeping several story lines going at the same time.  We have the bombing, we have an upcoming custody battle concerning Duncan's son, we have developing friction in the personnel structure of Scotland Yard and the local police departments.  Duncan and Gemma are still adjusting to married life, their blended family, and the concerns of parenting a teen-ager.  Crombie is beginning to show us more of new characters that have recently appeared in the series: Melody and Doug.  Their motivations and personalities are increasing my interest and certainly have me already looking for the next book.  This one is a definite addition to the series.

    In my opinion, Deborah Crombie is one of the best detective crime writers working in the genre today.  You can follow her on her websiteFacebook or on Twitter.

    To see more reviews,follow the TLC

    Deborah’s Tour Stops
    Tuesday, September 23rd: Booksie’s Blog
    Wednesday, September 24th: 5 Minutes For Books
    Thursday, September 25th: Back Porchervations
    Monday, September 29th: Mockingbird Hill Cottage
    Monday, September 29th: Drey’s Library
    Tuesday, September 30th: Helen’s Book Blog
    Wednesday, October 1st: Tutu’s Two Cents
    Thursday, October 2nd: A Bookworm’s World
    Monday, October 6th: Dwell in Possibility
    Tuesday, October 7th: No More Grumpy Bookseller
    Wednesday, October 8th: My Bookshelf
    Thursday, October 9th: Jen’s Book Thoughts
    Friday, October 10th: Book Addict Katie
    Saturday, October 11th: Living in the Kitchen with Puppies

    Title: To Dwell in Darkness
    Author: Deborah Crombie
    Publisher:William Morrow (2014), Hardcover, 336 pages
    Genre:  police procedural mystery 
    Setting: London
    Series: Duncan Kincaid and Gemma James
    Source: review copy from publisher
    Why did I read this book now?  I'm a fan of the series.