Friday, October 2, 2015
Jade Dragon Mountain by Elsa Hart
Li Du was a librarian at the Imperial Library in the Forbidden City until he was exiled. After wandering for a few years he arrives at the small city of Dayan on the Tibetan border. Unbeknownst to him the Emperor will be in Dayan in days to celebrate the eclipse. Li Du reports in with the local magistrate, protocol for exiles, and plans on leaving the next day. That night after a storytelling session, one of the guests, a Jesuit priest is dies. Li Du checks the dead man’s room and suspects foul play. The magistrate, who happens to be Li Du’s cousin, doesn’t want to believe that it was murder but allows Li Du to investigate. Will he find the killer before the Emperor arrives? Or will Li Du suffer further disgrace at the hands of the Emperor?
I knew next to nothing about China in the 1780s, especially the southwestern border regions. This book really brings the time and place to life. Li Du is the perfect reluctant tour guide, familiar with most of the customs, but still removed from the workings of the place and current politics.
Mystery lovers will enjoy the plotting and historical fiction lovers will enjoy the detail and atmosphere.
Posted by Yvonne the Librarian at 10:46 AM
Tuesday, September 29, 2015
Cold Prey II (Foreign Horror Film / Norwegian)
Okay, when I saw the first one a month ago I wrote that I was going to save the sequel for the cold winter months. Obviously I didn’t. I read some reviews about how great it was and I couldn’t wait.
Our heroine, the only survivor of the five snowboarders from the first movie, is found and is recovering in the local hospital. The bodies of her friends, and their attacker, are brought to the morgue in the hospital’s basement; the crime techs will be there in the morning. I’m sure I don’t need to tell you that somehow the attacker is not dead. He needs to get out of the hospital, leaving as much death, destruction and mayhem in his path as possible, and return to the ski lodge he calls home where he can continue his dark deeds. Our heroine, naturally, will do everything she can to stop him. Will good prevail?
Yes, it’s a slasher movie, but it’s a semi-intelligent slasher movie. If you act smartly, you probably won’t die. Probably. It’s also a great kick butt female avenger story. Which is always a great thing.
Posted by Yvonne the Librarian at 2:36 PM
The Gates of Evangeline by Hester Young
Charlie Cates needs a fresh start. She recently lost her young son and her grief is overwhelming. She needs to get out of the home they shared and get a change of scenery. She does need to work, but returning to her job at a women’s magazine (think Cosmo but classier) just seems too frivolous to deal with after the tragedy in her life. Coincidentally a former employer calls her about a job. Her former employer has gone from editing a true crime magazine to true crime books and he wants Charlie to write one of the decade books they are working on, specifically the greatest unsolved case of the 1980s, the disappearance of Gabriel Deveau.
She can’t deal with the idea of writing about a tragedy befalling a boy even younger than her son when he died, and is going to turn the offer down when she gets a vision of a boy in a swamp. Details from the dream seem to match what could have happened to Gabriel. After one of her dreams comes true she feels she can’t ignore the pull to the Louisiana swamps and Evangeline, the Deveau estate. Maybe her vision is wrong, but could she live with knowing it could be true and she did nothing? Will she finally find Gabriel? What else will she find?
The mystical element is integral to the plot, but it is never overwhelming. Charlie gets occasional visions and feelings, nothing too revealing, just glimpses that help reveal things that would otherwise be hidden. The characters are great from the ever optimistic housekeeper, to the disgruntled cop, to an extremely unlikely love interest for Charlie. Rumor has it that this is the first in a trilogy; I certainly hope so I’d love to see these characters again.
Read this one if you enjoy well-plotted mysteries that are great at throwing in red herrings with the bona fide clues and don’t mind a little of the paranormal sprinkled in your read.
Posted by Yvonne the Librarian at 2:28 PM
Tuesday, September 22, 2015
The Star Side of Bird Hill by Naomi Jackson
It is the summer of 1989 and Dionne, 16, has been raising herself and her sister Phaedra, 10, for the past few years as their mother battles depression. At a particularly low point she sends her daughters home, to Barbados and their grandmother Hyacinth. Life on Bird Hill is strange to the two Brooklyn natives. Dionne is struggling with adolescence, abandonment and the first taste of freedom she’s known since taking care of Phaedra ruled over most of her life before now. Phaedra has always been an outsider, but never more than on Bird Hill, yet she forms a connection with her grandmother and shows interest in learning the old ways of obeah. Both girls are resigned to their stay on the island, but they are glad that the summer will end and they will return to Brooklyn. But when it becomes clear that they will be staying in Barbados permanently, and their father returns to their lives, they find out the true meaning of family and their roots.
Another great choice on audio because of the accents; the reader brings the lilting rhythm of Barbados alive in the speech of Hyacinth. She also voices the sisters Brooklyn accents well. The mastery comes when the Brooklyn girls start losing their accent and adopting their grandmother’s.
This is a tale about belonging – in a family, in a community and in a country – and how hurtful not belonging can be. It is also about grief, how you can lose someone who is already there and how losing someone who is already lost can hurt so badly.
Posted by Yvonne the Librarian at 2:40 PM
The Weather Station (Foreign Film – Russian Thriller)
Two older meteorologists and a young chef/handyman watch over a weather station in remote Russia. A beautiful woman and her partner arrive and stay the night, planning to visit nearby caves in the morning. Soon after one of the men sends out a distress call. When the police arrive the next day everyone has disappeared. The lead inspector and his protégé decide to stay the night, and possibly for the next few days since the weather is worsening, to investigate the weather station and surrounding area for clues. Will they find out what happened? Will they become victims themselves?
The style of this movie reminded me of British crime shows. The action flashes between the past and present; the time leading up to the crime and the crime itself and the investigation to resolution. Both times come together at the end of the film in a shocking, and satisfying way. It is a dark film, set against a bleak landscape, but fans of crime shows will enjoy it.
Posted by Yvonne the Librarian at 2:39 PM
Friday, September 11, 2015
Kitchens of the Great Midwest by J. Ryan Stradal
Eva Thorvald’s mother is convinced she would be a horrible mother and her baby would be better off without her, so she leaves her husband and infant daughter to pursue her dreams of being a sommelier in California. Eva is left behind in Minnesota to be raised by her epicurean father who begins feeding her puréed braised pork shoulder as soon as he sees fit. Eva’s love of food as a result starts VERY early and her love of fresh foods, gardening and planting is the defining factor of her life.
If you are a fan of eating local and fancy dinners you will love reading about the evolution of the chef with the most sought after dinner reservations around. After a lifetime of hard knocks Eva becomes a culinary sensation running dinners in interesting locales. Reservations are booked online, sometimes years in advance, and if you are “called” you have a week to change whatever plans you may already have and get to the location of your $5,000 a plate dinner. Yes, it’s completely over the top, but seeing this young woman succeed so well is a joy.
The construction of the book is unique. Each chapter is a short story revolving around an ingredient, one that shows up on the plate of the final dinner of the book. The stories all feature Eva, but not necessarily as the main character. In fact, in at least one of the stories I didn’t know why exactly it was included until I got to the end of the book. I enjoyed the book, but it wasn’t the cozy lighthearted book I expected based on reviews and the cute cover. This is a story of a life and the lives that life touches in all sorts of ways.
Posted by Yvonne the Librarian at 10:08 AM
Wednesday, September 9, 2015
The Jesus Cow by Michael Perry
On Christmas Eve in the small town of Swivel, Wisconsin, Harley Jackson helps his milk cow, Tina Turner, bring her calf into the world. After one look at the calf Harley knows he’s got trouble. Right there, in black on the calf’s white flank, is the image of Jesus Christ. He tries his best to hide the distinguishing mark under Kiwi shoe polish, but as with most big secrets this one gets out. Of the barn. Literally. Yep, Harley is right. That calf is Trouble.
What would happen if a cow like this, a Jesus Cow, actually came into being? Obviously with social media there would be people lined up to see it and they would want pictures with it, and would want to get souvenirs of it imprinted on anything flat. Harley, a nice guy wanting to lead a simple existence, is suddenly in the spotlight and a millionaire (maybe more) since an international publicity firm has taken over the promotion of the Jesus Cow brand. The small town infrastructure and pride is tested by all the outsiders and success, but not more than Harley is tested. Will he survive being the owner of the Jesus Cow? Will he ever find faith?
Harley is an everyman. A man who sees a bull with a birthmark not a cow touched by the divine. Seeing how he, and the small town folks around him, deal with having their town on the map is what makes this book so much fun. There are seriously philosophical questions pondered in the book, but it is never ponderous. I especially loved his best friend Billy of the amazing vocabulary and insight; a veteran content with things as they are, but realizing that they have a cash cow on their hands that will keep his legion of cats in milk for a long time to come.
This is one to listen to. The author reads his book and he’s got the Scandihoovian dialect down pat which just makes the giggles that much better.
Posted by Yvonne the Librarian at 12:46 PM