Xpress Reviews: Fiction | First Look at New Books, April 5, 2013

Week ending April 5, 2013

starred review starHirahara, Naomi. Strawberry Yellow: A Mas Arai Mystery. Prospect Park. 2013. 256p. ISBN 9781938849022. pap. $15. MYS
The fifth offering in Hirahara’s “Mas Arai” series (after Blood Hina) finds the curmudgeonly gardener, Hiroshima survivor, and sometime detective back in his hometown of Watsonville, CA, for the funeral of a cousin. Immediately, he is thrown into a maelstrom of suspicion, jealousy, and agricultural intrigue between the two competing strawberry growers in the area. Could his cousin have been murdered? Is his death related to the murder of a young woman romantically linked to another cousin? Are they both linked to the battle to patent a strain of strawberry resistant to the deadly “strawberry yellow” blight? Unwittingly, Mas ends up in the vortex of the controversy and nearly loses his life when he gets too close to the truth.The complex interrelationships of this multigenerational Japanese American community and the fierce competition for control of the California strawberry industry make this a thoughtful and highly entertaining read.
Verdict Strong on narrative, with irascible but likable characters, the latest entry in Edgar Award–winning Hirahara’s series should expand her readership. The “Mas Arai” series provides both a unique cultural framework and intriguing and satisfying stories with an honorable and complex man at their core.—Susan Clifford Braun, Bainbridge Island, WA

Hopkinson, Nalo. Sister Mine. Grand Central. 2013. 320p. ISBN 9780446576925. $23.99. FANTASY
Life isn’t simple for 24-year-old Makeda. A mere mortal, she’s trying to establish her independence from her now-separated conjoined magical twin sister, Abby, while dealing with the consequences of her strange parentage: Dad was a demigod, and Mom was a human. When her father’s spirit leaves his body and transfers to an angry kudzu vine that’s slithering through the streets of Toronto, trouble ensues. In addition to this fantastical backdrop, the World Fantasy Award–winning Hopkinson (Skin Folk) packs in a flying carpet/afghan, a menacing haint, a man who used to be the guitar of Jimi Hendrix, and a host of otherworldly relatives with a plethora of family secrets.
Verdict This is a tale with a few interesting, quirky touches, but it’s weighted down by one-dimensional characterizations, and long, awkward scenes. Only die-hard Hopkinson fans will want this fantasy. [See Prepub Alert, 9/24/12.]—Sally Harrison, Ocean Cty. Lib., Waretown, NJ

Rutherfurd, Edward. Paris. Doubleday. Apr. 2013. c.832p. ISBN 9780385535304. $32.50. F
Paris, anyone? Yes, several centuries of the City of Light here, for readers who love their sagas long and drenched in history. Rutherfurd (New York) presents a panoramic view of the city on the Seine through several intertwining stories that span the period from the 13th century to 1968. Tales of counts and commoners alike appear in these pages. Thomas Gaston, an enterprising young man from the then distant suburb of Montmartre, lands a job with sculptor Frédéric-August Bartholdi on the Statue of Liberty, then later with engineer Gustav Eiffel on the building of the landmark Eiffel Tower. One of the most appealing features of this carefully researched work are the interesting tidbits and factoids scattered throughout; for example, the Eiffel Tower was erected from prefabricated parts. With a cast of fictional characters rubbing shoulders with the great and famous in cameo appearances, readers have a front-row seat to observe Parisian life over the ages. A drawback: the voices sometimes sound too contemporary or modern for the era in question.
Verdict This is not novelistic history in depth; rather, it is like a New York show—gorgeous sets, great acting, and lights, camera, action!—Edward Cone, New York


Bette-Lee Fox About Bette-Lee Fox

Bette-Lee Fox (blfox@mediasourceinc.com) is Managing Editor, Library Journal.

Now in her 46th year with Library Journal, Bette-Lee also edits LJ's Video Reviews column, six times a year Romance column, and e-original Romance reviews, which post weekly as LJ Xpress Reviews. She received the Romance Writers of America (RWA) Vivian Stephens Industry Award in 2013 for having "contributed to the genre or to RWA in a significant and/or continuing manner"