Month: April 2016

Book Review: Parting Gifts by Katrina Anne Willis

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Title: Parting Gifts
Author: Katrina Anne Willis
Publisher: She Writes Press
Publish Date: April 19, 2016
ISBN: 978-1-63152-039-6

Synopsis:
Broken by their unorthodox midwestern childhood, sisters Catherine, Anne, and Jessica Mathers search for love, acceptance, and worth―often in the most unlikely places. Catherine, the oldest of the Mathers sisters, is an English professor battling breast cancer with Cytoxan, red wine, and profanity. Anne is a wife and stay-at-home mother of two struggling to make ends meet in a suburban existence that both suffocates and confounds her. Jessica, the youngest by ten years and estranged―by choice―from her family, is an exotic dancer who feels safer on stage than in a relationship. But when the sisters are faced with an incomprehensible loss, they are forced to reevaluate themselves, their damaged bonds, and their fragile future.Parting Gifts illuminates one highly dysfunctional family’s tentative, desperate crawl toward a life of meaning and worth.

My Review:

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Guest Post and Excerpt: The Daydreamer Detective by S. J. Pajonas

The daydreamer Detective banner
This is my stop during the blog tour for The Daydreamer Detective by SJ Pajonas. This blog tour is organized by Lola’s Blog Tours. The blog tour runs from 4 till 8 April, you can view the complete tour schedule on the website of Lola’s Blog Tours.

The Daydreamer DetectiveThe Daydreamer Detective (Miso Cozy Mysteries #1)
By SJ Pajonas
Genre: Mystery/ Cozy Mystery
Age category: Adult
Release Date: 31 march 2016

Blurb:
Luck? Forget it. Mei Yamagawa is fresh out of it. She’s just been downsized from her 3rd job in five years and her bank account is dry. Now, to keep her head above water, she must leave Tokyo and move back to her rural Japanese hometown. And there’s nothing worse than having to face your old rivals and ex-boyfriends as a failure while starting life over as a farm girl.

But when her best friend’s father is murdered, and her best friend is named the main suspect, Mei turns her daydreaming ways towards solving the crime. Between dates disguised as lunches with the town’s hottest bachelor chef, searching for clues, and harvesting sweet potatoes, Mei has a lot of non-paying work cut out for her.

Will she catch the killer before her bad luck turns worse? Or will she fry in the fire with the rest of her dreams of success?

Excerpt:
Yasahiro cleared his throat and raised his chin. “To start, we have a fresh green beans and lotus root salad. Crisp and tangy with toasted sesame seeds, rice vinegar, and ginger.” He pointed to the plate in front of me, greens and thin slices of lotus root arranged in a neat pile. “And these are my pork and scallion dumplings with Sriracha, ginger, and lemongrass dipping sauce.” Four plump dumplings sat on the other plate, and my mouth began to water.

“I hope you enjoy them,” he said, bowing and turning to go.
“Wait.” I snapped my hand out and grabbed the white fabric of his chef’s coat. “Won’t you be having lunch with me?”
I glanced around at the restaurant, crawling with people. Oh no. I’d honestly believed we’d have lunch together. He’d tell me about the food and his work and…
I blushed. Hard. I thought this was a date, didn’t I? Deep down, way down in the cellar of my brain, I’d daydreamed a date out of this. I was so stupid.
This was the lunch rush hour, and he only did this because I challenged him.
Snap out of it!
“I mean…” I stammered, and letting go of his chef’s coat, he smoothed out the wrinkles with his hand. “I know you can’t have lunch with me. It’s too busy in here. I just thought you might want to, um, explain a little more about the food?”
If only my lie sounded a little more confident.
A small smile grew across his lips, and my entire being died of embarrassment. “I’m sorry. I do have a lot of work to do, including your main course.”
“Oh yes, of course. I completely understand. I’m looking forward to eating everything you bring out today. I’m sure I’ll be won over by Wednesday, and we’ll declare you the winner of this silly challenge.”
Because I was not coming here and eating alone while everyone around me ate together. I was willing to do that once in a while, with a book, but not every day. I’d rather I ate at home with Mom.
“No, no, no. I said I was going to feed you lunch for a whole week, and you can’t capitulate right away. You said this food would be bland, and I’m going to prove it’s not.”
I nodded slowly, resigned. What had I gotten myself into? I’d challenged a chef with a prestigious resume, a student of my mother’s, and the town’s newest darling. I should never have opened my mouth. I was close to making a complete fool of myself, and I regretted it to my bones.
Yasahiro paused for a moment as I took a sip of water.
“But, if you’d like to come and eat lunch a little later tomorrow, maybe after 14:00, I could eat with you. Lunch usually slows down by 13:30 and then we close the kitchen from 14:00 to 16:30 to prepare for dinner.”
“I don’t want to bother you any more than I already have —”
“It’s not a bother,” he interrupted, and this time, he stammered and seemed eager to keep me there. Hmmm. Interesting. The daydream of Yasahiro wandering the streets of Paris popped into my head again, and I stopped to add more details to it: the tiny scar through his right eyebrow, the shape of his ears, his white teeth (he must go to a private dentist). The daydream shifted and I imagined him at the dentist’s office, in the chair. No! Back to Paris. Yes, that was better.

You can find The Daydreamer Detective on Goodreads

You can buy The Daydreamer Detective here:
Amazon
B&N
Kobo
iBooks

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SJ PajonasAbout the Author:
Stephanie (S. J.) is a writer, knitter, amateur astrologer, Capricorn, and Japanophile. She loves foxes, owls, sushi, yoga pants, Evernote, and black tea. When she’s not writing, she’s thinking about writing or spending time outside, unless it’s winter. She hates winter. Someday she’ll own a house in both hemispheres so she can avoid the season entirely. She’s a mom to two great kids and lives with her husband and family outside NYC. They have no pets. Yet. When it comes to her work, expect the unexpected. She doesn’t write anything typical. Find her online at http://www.spajonas.com.

Guest Post- Kotatsu
One of the beautiful things about Japan in the winter is the kotatsu. I’m sure this is something very foreign to most people so I thought I would expand on it today! A kotatsu is a low, heated table, a small, efficient way of heating a space rather than using central heating. In The Daydreamer Detective, each of the homes mentioned in the book have a kotatsu and are used quite frequently. Autumn is just beginning and with the long winter ahead people will gather around the table, eat together, and be warmed from the feet up. The kotatsu is not unique to Japan. Low heated tables are quite common in other cultures as well, including in Iran, Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Spain, Portugal, and China, but the kotatsu has a special place in Japanese family life, and from basic kotatsu to deluxe versions with special lounging pillows, almost every home in Japan has one.

Kotatsu-tastefulTN.jpg
By Tim Notari (tastefulTN)flickr.com (just a wee bit cropped), CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=743925

There are two different kinds of kotatsu, one more modern and common than the other. In the past, kotatsu tables were heated from underneath using charcoal. High quality charcoal in Japan is virtually smoke-free, so it makes for a very good heating element. A low table placed over a pit with  heated charcoal in it was the first iteration of the kotatsu. But if not careful, it could catch people or houses on fire, so its popularity died out as modern life took over. Now, kotatsu are heated using electrical elements. The table is then covered with a quilted blanket so heat may be trapped underneath. A stable tabletop is placed overtop the quilt, making a sandwich of the quilt and holding it in place. People can then eat or drink off the top! Even though the kotatsu is warm for both humans and animals alike, the warming effects are even more apparent while wearing a kimono. Sitting at the table, a kimono can be loosened from the waist down and the warm air can funnel up the fabric and heat the wearer all the way to his or her neck.
During the winter months, the kotatsu is the center of activity for a family. Meals are eaten at the kotatsu, television is watched, and naps are taken (though it is not a good place to sleep overnight). When people come to visit, the saké is brought out and everyone drinks together at the low heated table. There are days when I really wish I had a kotatsu of my own! In the meantime, I will continue to visit Mei in The Daydreamer Detective and enjoy good food with her and her family around this wonderful invention, the Japanese kotatsu.

 

You can find and contact SJ Pajonas here:
Website – Facebook
Twitter – Goodreads
Tumblr – Instagram
Youtube – Wattpad
Amazon

There is a tour wide giveaway for the blog tour of The Daydreamer. There will be two winners:
– One US Resident will win: One paperback copy of Adult Coloring Book Japan, One Signed Copy of The Daydreamer Detective, One signed copy of Removed, and a surprise flavor of Pocky!
– One International Resident will win: One ebook copy of The Daydreamer Detective, One ebook copy of Removed, and One ebook of each Rice Cooker Revenge, Washing Statue Wanderlust, and Mamachari Matchmaker

For a chance to win, enter the rafflecopter below:
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Book Review: Somewhere Out There by Amy Hatvany

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Title: Somewhere Out There
Author: Amy Hatvany
ISBN: 9781476704432
Publisher: Washington Square Press

Synopsis:

What happens when two sisters who were torn apart when their young mother abandoned them—and grew up in tragically different circumstances—reunite thirty-five years later to find her? For readers who love Jodi Picoult, acclaimed author Amy Hatvany fearlessly explores complex family issues in her gripping, provocative new novel.

Natalie Clark knew never to ask her sensitive adoptive mother questions about her past. She doesn’t even know her birth mother’s name—only that the young woman signed parental rights over to the state when Natalie was a baby. Now Natalie’s own daughter must complete a family tree project for school, and Natalie is determined to unearth the truth about her roots.

Brooke Walker doesn’t have a family. At least, that’s what she tells herself after being separated from her mother and her little sister at age four. Having grown up in a state facility and countless foster homes, Brooke survives the only way she knows how, by relying on herself. So when she discovers she’s pregnant, Brooke faces a heart-wrenching decision: give up her baby or raise the child completely on her own. Scared and confused, she feels lost until a surprise encounter gives her hope for the future.

How do our early experiences—the subtle and the traumatic—define us as adults? How do we build relationships when we’ve been deprived of real connection? Critically acclaimed author Amy Hatvany considers controversial and complicated questions about childhood through the lens of her finely crafted characters in this astute novel about mending wounds by diving into the truth of what first tore us apart.

My Review:

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