Death at Chinatown

Death at ChinatownDeath at Chinatown Cover

Author: Frances McNamara

Paperback: 226 pages (also available in e-books)

Publisher: Allium Press of Chicago (August 6, 2014)

Synposis:

In the summer of 1896, amateur sleuth Emily Cabot meets two young Chinese women who have recently received medical degrees. She is inspired to make an important decision about her own life when she learns about the difficult choices they have made in order to pursue their careers. When one of the women is accused of poisoning a Chinese herbalist, Emily once again finds herself in the midst of a murder investigation. But, before the case can be solved, she must first settle a serious quarrel with her husband, help quell a political uprising, and overcome threats against her family. Timeless issues, such as restrictions on immigration, the conflict between Western and Eastern medicine, and women’s struggle to balance family and work, are woven seamlessly throughout this riveting historical mystery. Rich with fascinating details of life in Chicago’s original Chinatown, this fifth book in the Emily Cabot Mysteries series will continue to delight history buffs and mystery lovers alike.

Review:

The Emily Cabot I met in Murder at Chinatown was a worried little person eager to stay home and care for children that were already perfectly cared for. But there were glimmers of the woman she was in the past that made me eager to read the earlier books in the Emily Cabot series for two reasons: 1) To meet the confident person who flew in the face of convention she once was and 2) To discover why she changed into this homebody that turns her back on all the things it seems she once fought for. Because it is obvious that Emily has had many life changing experiences in Books 1 through 5.

So yes, Emily is going through a tough time in Book Six of the series. But she’s living in a fascinating time and in her travels meets many unusual people (many based on historical figures of the time). The murder she becomes involved in is a confusing web of different people, different cultures and the lies they tell both to get along and to hide the truth about themselves form each other. It was the history woven into this book that held my interest. Not only did I learn about many “advances” both medical and cultural that I didn’t realize could trace their roots to the 1890s but also a peek at the life of women in the 1890s.

Guest Post by Frances McNamara

Today, my visitor is a woman after my own heart: she loves mysteries and histories. Is there a better combination? Don’t forget to come back tomorrow for my review of her latest Emily Cabot Mystery: Death at Chinatown.

Chicago Chinatown in 1896

by Frances McNamara

Death at Chinatown is the fifth book in the Emily Cabot Mystery series. I’ve been a librarian at that the University of Chicago for more than a Frances McNamaradecade. I think it was the campus itself that led me to invent my main character of Emily, who is one of the first graduate students to attend the university when it opened in 1892. Like much of Chicago, the university still bears the imprint of the people of the Gilded Age who founded it. The stories are all fictional, but they all have historical people and some real events as background.

Like me a century later, Emily Cabot comes to Chicago from the East Coast. She graduated from Wellesley College, one of the prominent women’s institutions of the time. I graduated from Mount Holyoke but I worked at the Wellesley College Library while attending library school.  Wellesley had an active Chinese language department that received support from the Soong sisters, three Chinese women alumnae. They returned to China where one married Sun Yat Sen, another married Chiang Kai Shek, and the third married a prominent Shanghai businessman. Generous donations from the family allowed the library to purchase Chinese language materials. Because this meant there was a need for someone to do the cataloging, I had the opportunity to study Chinese at Wellesley and elsewhere. In all, I studied for about five years, including a summer at Middlebury College. The classes included traditional Chinese texts from Taiwan and simplified texts from the mainland. It was during this time in the early seventies that China began to open up to the rest of the world after being shut off since the 1949 revolution. In recent years, as China and all things Chinese have become more and more important to the world, I have continued to study the language as a hobby.

So, when I saw a story on the website of the Chinese American Museum of Chicago about two young women from China who came to America to get medical degrees right about the time of my stories, I was intrigued. A little research turned up the fascinating information about Shi Meiyu and Kang Cheng (Mary Stone and Ida Kahn). At a time when very few women became medical doctors, these two completed studies at the University of Michigan and returned to China to run medical clinics. They were quite famous in their time and Ida Kahn was described as a model for the New Woman of China.

The earlier Emily Cabot books featured interesting women like Ida B. Wells, Jane Addams, and Florence Kelley. At a time when many women suffered from the limitations on what they could do, I have been interested to find women from the Gilded Age who bucked the system and accomplished important things, despite oppressive attitudes and restrictions. It was a great find to learn about Mary Stone and Ida Kahn, who faced even more severe restrictions so strikingly symbolized by the foot binding of the Chinese society. Like Emily and other women she meets, they ignored the limitations that society placed on them to succeed in ways comparable to the actions of men. Personally, as a woman of the second half of the twentieth century, I continue to be grateful to the women who broke down barriers for those of us who came after them.

Frances McNamara is author of five Emily Cabot mysteries, Death at Chinatown being the most recent. She is a librarian at the University of Chicago and a native of Boston who has lived in Chicago for two decades.

 

KidLit: The Fifth Vertex

The Fifth Vertex (The Sigilord Chronicles: Volume 1)Vertex4_FINAL-600x800

Author: Kevin Hoffman

Paperback: 290 pages (also available in e-books)

Publisher: Kevin Hoffman (August 2, 2014)

Synposis:

Urus Noellor–a boy born deaf who is about to be publicly branded as a burden, incapable of being the warrior his people demand–stands upon a rooftop, poised to throw himself over the edge. His failed attempt at suicide unlocks within him a long-dormant form of magic thought to have died out thousands of years before, a power that may be the key to saving the world from an equally ancient enemy. Urus and his companions–Goodwyn, the greatest warrior in Kest, and Cailix, a mysterious orphan–must find a way to stop a powerful group of sorcerers from destroying the five long-hidden vertices that ward the world against threats from beyond, while fighting off threats from within. They soon learn that the scope of the coming danger may be more dire than any of them could have imagined. As the battle for the vertices spreads to the neighboring realms, Goodwyn must face the realities of war and death; Cailix discovers a devastating truth that could change everything; and Urus discovers his uncanny gifts and courage as he peels away clues to his true identity. But even as Urus gains the power he has always craved, he experiences it all in profound, lonely silence.

Review:

Just to be up front, I have just about zero reference points for fantasy so you won’t be getting any “Kevin Hoffman’s writing reminds of Fantasy Writer X…” or “This is a ripoff of Fantasy Writer Y…” I really don’t read fantasy so I wouldn’t know.

That said, this is a book that will keep you on the edge of your seat as it jumps from crisis to crisis. I think part of the intensity comes from the fact that the two best friends (fighting to save the world, of course) are separated, each trying to accomplish the same goal but in different ways. I really felt as if I had dropped into another world with the characters, learning about the past, the powers and the secrets as they did.

I believe this book is for older readers (I don’t think my 11 year old would enjoy it) simply because, underneath the basic plot, there is a lot of complexity. Yes, this a story of the good guys fighting the bad guys but it isn’t that clear cut. The good guys aren’t always good, the bad guys aren’t always bad, people switch alliances, they questions their purpose. Along they will enjoy the adventure, this book will also make readers question bigger issues.

The Summer of Long Knives

The Summer of Long Knives

Author: Jim Snowdenjimnoir

Paperback: 320 pages (also available in e-books)

Publisher: Booktrope Editions (July 26, 2013)

Don’t miss Jim Snowden reading Chapter 15 here.

Synposis:

In the summer of 1936, the racial and political climate in Munich are growing tense, and Kommisar Rolf Wundt and his wife Klara are increasingly desperate to leave Nazi Germany while they still can. But when a member of the League of German Girls is found brutally murdered and posed in the yard of a dilapidated farmhouse, Rolf’s supervisor declares that they can’t leave until he’s solved the case. Rolf’s investigation leads him from the depths of the underground Communist movement to the heights of Germany’s elite Nazi society, exposing the cracks in Germany’s so-called unified society as well as the unspoken tensions in Rolf’s complicated marriage. Ultimately, long-buried secrets and overwhelming evidence are laid bare, but how can Rolf brinlongknivesg the killer to justice in a country devoid of justice? And how can he protect himself, his wife, and his former lover from the barbarism of a corrupt and power-hungry government?

Review:

True, this book hinges on a police officer searching for a murderer. But the crime is not the star of this book. Instead, you’ll find yourself caught up in the almost impossible culture surrounding Rolf as he tries to solve the crime. It’s Germany in the 1930s and there are Nazis, people pretending to be Nazis (for many reasons) and people trying to escape Germany. It is a world full of landmines. Author Jim Snowden tells an interesting story of the deals Rolf has to make in order to do his job. Some people want to use the criminal investigation to punish their enemies, others want to use it to further their careers, still others to repair their family relationships. And all Rolf wants is to find a murderer! In fact he seems almost unable to stop in his quest, even when it becomes clear that his investigation might do more harm than good. This is a murder mystery unlike any other!

An interesting note: The entire time I was reading The Summer of Long Knives I was convinced that this was a sequel to an earlier book involving the same characters, from the way they mentioned past events and how they had shaped their lives. But apparently that book doesn’t exist. Jim, normally I’m annoyed by prequels a la Star Wars, but in this case go for it! I would love to learn about the earlier lives of Rolf and Klara.

Review: The Lyre and the Lambs

The Lyre and the Lambs

Author: Sydney Aveylyre

Paperback: (also available in e-books)

Publisher: Hope Spring Books (September 3, 2014)

Synposis:

Literary fiction for Women.
A feast of family can be a plate load of problems!

It’s the Sixties. Modernity and tradition clash as two newlywed couples set up house together. Dee and her daughter Valerie move with their husbands into a modern glass house Valerie built in a proudly rural Los Altos, California, neighborhood. When their young relatives start showing up and moving in, the neighbors get suspicious. Then a body is found in the backyard and the life they are trying to build comes undone.

Father Mike is back to guide Dee through a difficult time with humor and grace, even as his own life is unraveling. Now he’s going to have to take some of his own advice about love.

The sequel to The Sheep Walker’s Daughter, The Lyre and the Lambs explores the passions that draw people together and the faith it takes overcome trauma.

Review:

Have you ever felt like things are coming at you too fast to register, you don’t know what to do next, if your choices are right or wrong? Has anyone NOT felt like that at one time or another? That’s what The Lyre and the Lambs is all about. I appreciated the light handed touch of religion and spirituality added to Dee’s tale. Spiritual people will enjoy that thread while more secular readers can simply skip over it.

Strangely, with many books the middle experiences a bit of a lag or slowing down of action. With this book it was the opposite, the stress and intensity was focused on the middle section. Author Sydney Avey did a good job of obscuring the true events until, like Dee and her family, you wanted to scream, “What really happened?” And happily, you eventually get to learn what did happen.

My only quibble is with the ending when it seems everyone’s life had to be wrapped up neatly with a red ribbon. I feel the book could have ended just as effectively a few chapters earlier.

Want to win a copy of The Lyre and the Lambs? Stop by Cmash Reads to enter and win here.

5Ws with Sydney Avey

A big welcome to Sydney Avey who is visiting on her WOW-Women on Writing Blog Tour! Today she answers a few questions (because I’m nosy) and on Friday I’ll review her latest book, The Lyre and the Lambs.sydauthorphoto_small

WHO
Who is a writer who inspires you?

Oh my goodness, I was an English major. Who doesn’t inspire me? I love the classics—William Shakespeare, for his timeless themes and poetic turns of phrases, Thomas Hardy, for making place a character. But I’m not that caliber of writer. It is novelists like Elizabeth Berg who inspire me, writers who create flawed characters and treat them with love and respect.

Dee, the main character in my first two novels, is a prickly person. We all have a Dee in our lives, a friend or relative we love who drives us crazy. In my reviews, some readers love Dee, see her growth, and want to grow old with her (I love that review!). Others find her whiny and annoying. I understand that too. To write realistic Christian fiction is to court both responses.

I just saw an adaption for the stage of Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time. Fifty years ago, she was lambasted by secularists who thought she was too Christian and Christians who thought she was too secular. She wrote from her heart and her work survives. She inspires me.

WHAT
What is the most difficult aspect of writing a novel?

I love the process of writing a novel. Receiving the story, getting to know my characters and their situations, outlining their journeys knowing that they may well jump ship and head in another direction, digging into their emotions and motivations—that is joy. I love the editing process, turning messy sentences into clear thoughts and poetic phrases. Writing isn’t difficult for me, but everything about marketing is difficult. Crystallizing my thoughts into a pitch, representing my title in a book cover photo, these are excruciatingly painful.

WHY
Why do you weave elements of faith into your novels?

I can’t imagine writing anything without addressing spiritual issues. Faith is a source of power in life, the promise of a good outcome amidst a daily barrage of bad news, a belief and a trust that is as natural as breathing.

Sometimes we are intentional and aware in our breathing, but mostly we breathe without thinking until something happens. We catch a cold; we exert ourselves over a period of time; we suffer an emotional blow. We become aware of our breath. It’s the same with faith. We exercise faith of some kind even when we are unaware we are doing so. Faith, the hope for a good outcome, is like breathing. We don’t save our breathing for when we have time or need an extra boost of energy and inspiration. Whether we are mindful or not, faith sustains us. As a novelist, my challenge is to show faith in action rather than tell people what to believe.

WHERE
Where will your writing be going from here?

I want to apply what I’ve learned writing my first two novels to the book I set aside ten years ago. I’ve learned so much writing my first two novels that I think I’m ready to revisit my first project. I’m interested in exploring how people overcome the circumstances of life to achieve their God-given potential. My third novel will span forty years in the life of a young man with a genius IQ who grows up in rural poverty and does all the wrong things to arrive at a highly coveted station in life.

WHEN
When did you begin writing?

I emerged from the womb with a pen in my hand.

And boy, was her mother surprised! :)

Review: Never Too Late

Never Too Late: Your Roadmap to Revinvention (without getting lost along the way)

Author: Claire Cook

Paperback: 124 pages (also available in e-books)nevertoolate

Publisher: Marshbury Beach Books (July 16, 2014)

Synposis:

Wondering how to get to that life you really thought you’d be living by now?

Claire Cook speaks to real women—our fears and obstacles and hopes and desires—and gives us cutting edge tools to get where we want to go.

Bursting with inspiration, insider stories, and practical strategies. Filled with humor, heart, encouragement, and great quotes.

Claire Cook shares everything she’s learned on her own journey— from writing her first book in her minivan at 45, to walking the red carpet at the Hollywood premiere of Must Love Dogs at 50, to becoming the international bestselling author of eleven novels and a sought after reinvention speaker.

You’ll hop on a plane with Claire as you figure out the road to your own reinvention. You’ll laugh a lot and maybe even shed a few tears as Claire tells her stories and those of other reinventors, and shares her best tips for getting a plan, staying on track, pulling together a support system, building your platform in the age of social networking, dealing with the inevitable ups and downs, overcoming perfectionism, and tuning in to your authentic self to propel you toward your goals.

Never Too Late: Your Roadmap to Reinvention (without getting lost along the way) is real, grounded, and just the book you need to start reinventing your life.

Review:

It’s easy to feel we are too old, too busy, too ignorant, too…something to become that person you always wanted to be. Claire Cook swipes away all those excuses in Never Too Late not because she is some super inspirational speaker, some psychology expert or some super success (although she is, in my eyes a super success). the reason she makes you believe maybe you can accomplish your goals and become that person you always wanted to be is because she was once in your shoes. She was once the person wondering, Can I really do it? Reading Never Too Late is like talking to an old friend.

You can also download a free Never Too Late workbook as a companion to the Never Too Late book here. It’s a short little booklet but it is a great help pulling what you want to remember from her book and gathering it all in one place.

Review and Giveaway: The Corpse Who Walked in the Door

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The Corpse Who Walked in the Door

by Jackie King

on Tour September 2014


Book Details:

Genre: Cozy Mystery

Published by: Deadly Niche Press

Publication Date: June 2014

Number of Pages: 206

ISBN: 978-162016-112-8

Purchase Links:

Synopsis:

Former society wife Grace Cassidy is learning to live on the minimum wage she earns as a bed & breakfast inn-sitter. Grace finds her cat’s bloody paw prints leading away from a bathtub and wants to run for her life. But she can’t. Her 19-year-old son is accused of pushing his pregnant girlfriend down a flight of concrete steps and she won’t abandon him.

Review:

In the beginning I thought Grace was just too…accommodating…for her own good. She needed to pipe up and start standing up to the difficult people in her life. Thankfully, as the book went on Grace became spunkier. Happily, she surrounds herself with some interesting people, particularly the folks who have “fallen on hard times” and live in the lower quarters of the B&B where she works.

This was a fun, light-hearted romp of a mystery made memorable more by the people who live in Grace’s life than by the people who die in it. It’s very easy to picture yourself as Grace, juggling all the everyday minutiae: bosses, families, employees, catty women, secrets and just for good measure, throw in a dead body!

Read an excerpt:

Blood colored paw prints trailed from the white tile bathroom onto the faux Oriental rug in the bedroom where Grace stood. The cat-feet marks immobilized Grace. She closed her eyes and prayed that she had been claimed by stress-induced insanity, that there were no dark-red blots before her eyes, but a hallucination. A nice long rest in a mental hospital didn’t sound too bad. Anything except another dead body in this inn where she worked.

Author Bio:

Jackie King loves books, writing tall tales, and murdering the people she dislikes on paper. Her latest mystery The Corpse Who Walked in the Door is available in ebook format. She is a member of Sisters in Crime, Mystery Writers of America, Romance Writers of America, Oklahoma Writers Federation, and Tulsa NightWriters.To learn more about Jackie, check out my 5Ws interview yesterday here>.

Catch Up With Jackie:

Tour Participants:



Giveaway:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

5Ws with Jackie King

Jackie King is on a Partners in Crime tour with her latest book: The Corpse who Walked in the Door. Today I have a 5Ws interview with Jackie and tomorrow more about her book including a review and giveaway! So make sure you stop by tomorrow too.

Author Bio:

Jackie King loves books, writing tall tales, and murdering the people she dislikes on paper. Her latest mystery The Corpse Who Walked in the Door is available in ebook format. She is a member of Sisters in Crime, Mystery Writers of America, Romance Writers of America, Oklahoma Writers Federation, and Tulsa NightWriters.

WHO
Who is your favorite literary sleuth?

Miss Marple, Agatha Christie’s old maid sleuth won my heart the first time I read one of the great lady’s books. This was so far back in time I blush to give the year, so I won’t. I was riding a Greyhound bus from a dusty little Oklahoma town, traveling to Norman to attend The University of Oklahoma. At the local drug store, which also happened to be the bus stop, I picked up thirty-five cent paperback copy of A BODY IN THE LIBRARY. I fell into the pages of this book and was hooked for life. (And yes, at that time I did pay 35 cents for the book. I also worked part time for 75 cents an hour at a Plumbing Company.)

WHAT
What made you start murdering people (on paper of course)?

I was 17-years-old and was studying creative writing under two writing-teacher-greats at OU, Walter Campbell and Foster-Harris. After reading as many mysteries as I could find, I decided to try it myself. I finished my first mystery, titled THE DEATH OF LOVELY ANN, when I was 18. It was never published, and I still have a hand-typed copy. (Rave reviews from my mother and my sister, though.)

WHERE
Where did you get the inspiration for your corpse series? Are there really B&B sitters?

I vacationed at lovely and charming B&B in Alameda, California. I traveled with a friend, who had been sent by her company to learn a new software. She was busy with classes during the day, and I spent my time soaking up the charming ambiance and walking through the lovely Victorian neighborhood to the beach. I also became friends with our hostess, who happened to be an Inn-Sitter. She explained that she made her living, year around, doing this. She had a long list of regular clients, and she stayed booked up for a year in advance.

My stay was pure luxury. She served a different, 5-course breakfast every morning we were there. Everything was made from scratch. Most B&B’s furnish cereal, milk, fruit and pastries. But I didn’t know that at the time. Being spoiled was something I decided I didn’t want to give up. At least not in my imagination.

One afternoon, after walking to the beach and back, I collapsed on my charming, antique bed and began to play my favorite writer’s-game. What if?

What if when I came home, there was a dead body in my bed?

And what if he was naked?

And what if the police thought that I had killed him?

And what if, suddenly, I had no resources at all? No money. No credit cards and no job skills to use making myself a living.

I love that game.

As I dreamed up answers to my questions, I knew I wanted to create a character who started the adventure with very little real-life experience. I decided she needed to be from a wealthy family. whose life had always been privileged. I wanted her to be middle aged, and to have no job skills, then I’d put her in as much trouble as possible. Because kids have been a part of my adult life, I added a teenaged son. The cat came later. I love kids and animals.

WHY
Why did you begin writing mysteries instead of just reading them?

This type of mystery is something that I love to read.

WHEN
Will we be able to catch up with Grace’s adventures again? Any new books or series in the works?

I expect that Grace will go on as long as I go on. As I wrote book 2, I began getting really tired of her sometimes wishy-washy nature. She seemed guileless and she made some bad decisions. So I had her to evolve, and to like herself better for it.

In book 3, my current work-in-progress, Grace continues developing her own character, and making better decisions. Grace, Theodora and Trouble fly back to Grace’s hometown of Tulsa, Oklahoma. She intends to file divorce from her unfaithful husband, and live a quiet life.

She didn’t count on another dead body showing up next door.

Category: Interviews  7 Comments

Free Book: Love Gone to the Dogs

It’s the dog days of summer. So what’s an author with a book featuring neighbors and their battle over their dogs supposed to do? Give away e-copies for the month of August, of course! Don’t miss out on your last few days to download Love Gone to the Dogs. So you’ll have something fun to read on Labor Day after you finish your grilled chicken, corn on the cob and watermelon. Sounds yummy, doesn’t it? This book is too.

Love Gone to the Dogs (Second Chances Book 1)

Author: Margaret Daleymargaretdaley

E-Book: 166 pages

Publisher: Amazon Digital (July 4, 2012)

Synposis:

Single mom, Leah Taylor, has her hands full with a grandfather, an inventor, who lives a bit risky when it comes to his job and two sons, one a rambunctious genius. But it is her free spirited beagle who gets her into trouble with her new neighbor, Dr. Shane O’Grady, when her dog makes a move on his champion bichon that he wants to breed.

Leah and Shane clash over their dogs that clearly like each other. Leah is determined to ignore her neighbor, but when her youngest son who tries to defy gravity and fly ends up hurt, it is her neighbor, the doctor, who takes care of her son. Can Leah and Shane find love or has love gone to the dogs?

Read an excerpt here.

Review:

If you’re looking for a light-hearted romance you can enjoy on a hot summer afternoon, Love Gone to the Dogs is it. It’s a classic romance novel boy meets girl, obstacle, obstacle, obstacle and finally, success. The humorous family in this book will make you smile. Actually, it’s the story of three unlikely romances: Leah and Shane, Albert and Princess (their dogs) and a third one I don’t want to spoil for you.