Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Indie Lit Awards : Nominate now!


Nominations for the Indie Lit Awards are only open for 2 1/2 more weeks! Get your nominations in now!

Need more information about the Indie Lit Awards? Here are the basics.

The Independent Literary Awards are given to books that have been recommended and voted on by independent literary bloggers. Nominations are open to all readers, and are then voted upon by a panel of bloggers who are proficient in the genre they represent. Each panel is led by a Director who oversees the integrity of the process.

Nomination Guidelines:
  • Books nominated must have a 2011 release date.
  • You may nominate a book that has already been listed (the books with the most nominations will be what we add to the Long List).
  • You may nominate books in more than one genre, up to 5 per genre.
  • Nominations are open to all readers who do not make their income through the sales of books (i.e. not authors, publishers, or publicists) — hence “independent” from the publishing industry.
  • Nominations are open midnight PST September 1, 2011 – 11:59 PST December 31, 2011.
I'm leading the Mystery panel, so I would be especially grateful if you nominate your favorite 2011 mysteries!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Weekly wrap-up : number forty-five

The weekly wrap-up is my way of keeping my loyal readers informed of my bookish activities and holding myself to my bookish obligations. The questions may change slightly depending on the week.

Q: What are you reading right now?
A: Caribou Island by David Vann and The Uninnocent by Bradford Morrow


Q: Why are you reading it? Business? Pleasure? For review?
A: I'm reading Caribou Island for pleasure and to fill an empty slot in the A to Z Challenge. I received a copy of The Uninnocent through LibraryThing Early Reviewers. It is a collection of short stories, and I'm fitting them in around full-length novels.

Q: What have you read since the last weekly wrap-up?
A: The Amber Room by Steve Berry


Q: What do you plan to read next?
A: Murder on the Eiffel Tower by Claude Izner


Q: Why do you want to read it?
A: An historical mystery set in France? Why wouldn't I want to read it?

Q: What bookish events did you attend?
A: I attended the Indiana Library Federation Annual Conference during the first part of this week. Unfortunately, I didn't have a chance to prep posts before leaving, so that's why I've been MIA on the blog this week. Sorry for the lack of content!

Friday, November 11, 2011

Weekly wrap-up : number forty-four

The weekly wrap-up is my way of keeping my loyal readers informed of my bookish activities and holding myself to my bookish obligations. The questions may change slightly depending on the week.

Q: What are you reading right now?
A: The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides


Q: Why are you reading it? Business? Pleasure? For review?
A: I'm still reading The Marriage Plot as part of a readalong.

Q: What have you read since the last weekly wrap-up?
A: The End of the Wasp Season by Denise MinaDeath Notice and Bad Moon by Todd Ritter, and Juliet, Naked by Nick Hornby


Q: What do you plan to read next?
A: The Uninnocent by Bradford Morrow


Q: Why do you want to read it?
A: I received a copy through LibraryThing Early Reviewers.

Q: What books did you acquire?
A: NetGalley: The Lola Quartet by Emily St. John Mandel
Purchased: The Annotated Phantom Tollbooth and The Phantom Tollbooth 50th Anniversary Edition by Norton Juster


Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Review : Death Notice

Death Notice by Todd Ritter. Minotaur Books, 2010.

[Source: Library]

Death Notice is Todd Ritter’s debut novel and first in the Kat Campbell series. Kat is the police chief of small town Perry Hollow, Pa., where crime is a rarity. She and the townspeople are shocked when their tranquility is shattered by a brutal murder. Knowing she is out of her league, Kat calls in the help of the state police, which arrives in the form of Lieutenant Nick Donnelly and his task force. Terror is added to Kat’s shock when Nick tells her the murder appears to be the work of a serial killer. Local obituary writer Henry Goll also becomes involved in the case when he realizes he received a death notice for the victim before his death. The killer continues to use Goll to communicate his plans. With each death notice, Kat, Nick, and Henry must race to beat the clock and catch the killer.

Death Notice is a clever crime novel that kept me guessing the entire time. Several suspects pop up along the way, but I was never sure of anyone’s guilt or innocence. Kat, Nick, and Henry are all extremely likeable but also very complicated. They each have demons that haunt them and drive their actions. Ritter has crafted an gripping whodunit with compelling characters for his first novel. I have Bad Moon, the second in the series, on hand to read next and can’t wait to get started.

Buy Death Notice at Powell's or Amazon.com.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Review : The End of the Wasp Season

The End of the Wasp Season by Denise Mina. Reagan Arthur Books, 2011.

[Source: Publisher]

The End of the Wasp Season is the second in the DS Alex Morrow series. The story begins with the murder of a young woman, Sarah Erroll, in her home. When Morrow and her colleagues arrive on the scene, they find a large sum of money hidden in the kitchen. Where did the money come from? Why was the woman murdered? As the investigation begins, the reader already knows who did it and quickly finds out why. The truth of the Sarah's life, however, unfolds more slowly.

Like Still Midnight, Wasp Season is a journey during which the reader waits for Morrow to catch up to what you already know while filling in the gaps. Unlike Still Midnight, the journey seems artificially prolonged. I spent a good portion of the book wondering why the police were wasting time picking on poor Kay instead of following the obvious lead provided in the emergency call. Of course, Alex Morrow eventually defies Bannerman, who is now her boss, to pursue the appropriate course of investigation and solve the case. I was a bit annoyed, however, by Alex’s realization that she was being passive because of her pregnancy -- after spending most of the book annoyed with her male colleagues for assuming her being pregnant would affect her work!

That being said, The End of the Wasp Season is still a good crime novel. Despite being annoyed at Kay’s treatment, I was glad to have her in the book. She is another strong-willed woman the reader can admire. Plus, she and Alex were friends in their youth so she allows a bit more of Alex’s personal side to be revealed. I love the general feel of this series and will read the next one when it comes out even though The End of the Wasp Season didn’t quite measure up to Still Midnight.

Buy The End of the Wasp Season at Powell's or Amazon.com.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Review : Still Midnight

Still Midnight by Denise Mina. Reagan Arthur Books, 2010.

[Source: Purchased]

Still Midnight is the first in Denise Mina’s DS Alex Morrow series. The novel opens with the crime. The culprits are looking for someone named Bob. When no one in the house they attack is called Bob, they take the father, a simple Ugandan shop owner, for ransom. The police must figure out why the family was targeted and race against the clock to save the father. DS Alex Morrow is, of course, the one to figure it all out even though she is passed over as head of the case for the boss’ protégé, DS Grant Bannerman.

Still Midnight is a classic story of bumbling criminals except that there is nothing comical about the situation. I found myself cringing at both their actions and their stupidity, especially the ringleader, Eddy. The character of Alex Morrow is reminiscent of the great Jane Tennison from Prime Suspect. DS Alex Morrow is a woman in a man’s world. She is disliked by her male colleagues for being a female officer -- and for being a good one. There is also underlying tension in her personal life, which remains unexplained for a large portion of the novel.

I was fully engrossed in the narrative and was taken off guard by the twist that pulls all the strings together. In my book, these are hallmarks of well-constructed crime fiction. If you are a fan of strong, female characters in crime fiction, Still Midnight is the book for you.

Buy Still Midnight from Powell's or Amazon.com.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Weekly wrap-up : number forty-three

The weekly wrap-up is my way of keeping my loyal readers informed of my bookish activities and holding myself to my bookish obligations. The questions may change slightly depending on the week.

Q: What are you reading right now?
A: The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides and The End of the Wasp Season by Denise Mina


Q: Why are you reading it? Business? Pleasure? For review?
A: I'm reading The Marriage Plot as part of a readalong and The End of the Wasp Season for review.

Q: What have you read since the last weekly wrap-up?
A: If Jack's in Love by Stephen Wetta, Still Midnight by Denisa Mina


Q: What do you plan to read next?
A: Death Notice by Todd Ritter


Q: Why do you want to read it?
A: @Dana_Kaye sent me a copy of Bad Moon, so I want to start at the beginning of the series with Death Notice.


Q: What books did you acquire?
A: NetGalley: Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy by John le Carre
LibraryThing Early Reviewers: The Uninnocent by Bradford Morrow

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Reading challenge : Nick Hornby : Update six


I think I'm making great progress on my personal Nick Hornby Reading Challenge! Since my last update, I've posted reviews of A Long Way Down and Slam. I also read Otherwise Pandemonium, which includes two short stories - "Otherwise Pandemonium" and "Not a Star." Initially, I didn't realize "Not a Star" was included here. The fact that it is knocks another item off my reading list - the standalone publication of the same story.

That leaves me with the following left on my Hornby TBR list.

Click (one novel with ten authors)
Lonely Avenue (lyrics and short stories)

I'll definitely get through Juliet, Naked and hope to fit in the short stories around other books. I fear I may not be able to fit in Click, but will do my best to complete this challenge.

Feel free to leave links to your own Nick Hornby reviews as a comment on this post.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Review : Hell & Gone

Hell & Gone by Duane Swierczynski. Mulholland Books, 2011.

[Source: Publisher]

In Hell & Gone, Charlie Hardie is still in the clutches of the Accident People. After who know how long, Charlie finds himself face to face with Mann and presented with a no-win situation -- work for the Accident People in a secret underground prison or die. He decides to live and enters a bizarre world unsure who he can trust. Can Charlie somehow escape an inescapable prison? Can he keep his wife and son safe from the Accident People?

Hell & Gone drags the reader along the roller coaster ride Charlie embarked on in Fun & Games. I marvel at Duane Swierczynski’s ability to create new and crazy, yet contextually completely believable, story lines in the Charlie Hardie trilogy. There are nail-biting moments in Hell & Gone where you aren’t sure that “unkillable Charlie” will remain unkillable. Swierczynski’s twists and turns will keep you enthralled to the very last page. Then you’ll be upset that you have to wait until March 2012 to see how this adventure resolves in Point & Shoot, especially if you've found a new favorite in Duane Swierczynski like I have.

Buy Hell & Gone from Powell's or Amazon.com.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Weekly wrap-up : number forty-two

The weekly wrap-up is my way of keeping my loyal readers informed of my bookish activities and holding myself to my bookish obligations. The questions may change slightly depending on the week.

Q: What are you reading right now?
A: If Jack's in Love by Stephen Wetta


Q: Why are you reading it? Business? Pleasure? For review?
A: I received a copy for review through LibraryThing Early Reviewers.

Q: What have you read since the last weekly wrap-up?
A: Gideon's War by Howard GordonThe Revisionists by Thomas Mullen, A Single Shot by Matthew F. Jones


Q: What do you plan to read next?
A: Still Midnight by Denise Mina


Q: Why do you want to read it?
A: I received a copy of The End of the Wasp Season for review and want to start at the beginning of the series. This will also be my first foray into reading a full-length novel in ebook format. Here's hoping I like it!

Q: What books did you acquire?
A: Purchased: The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides and Silas Marner by George Eliot


Q: What bookish events did you attend?
A: Well, it wasn't exactly a bookish event, but last night I attended a taping of Wait, Wait...Don't Tell Me! at Clowes Memorial Hall of Butler University. Such a good time!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Review : Slam

Slam by Nick Hornby. G. P. Putnam's Sons, 2007.

[Source: Purchased]

Slam, Hornby’s first foray into young adult fiction, is narrated by Sam, a teenage boy that must learn to be a man. Sam’s hero is skateboarder Tony Hawk and, as Sam’s life takes a downward turn, he turns to “TH” for advice. The poster in Sam’s bedroom typically throws words from Hawk’s autobiography back at him, but then he begins showing Sam his future. Sam doesn’t particular like what he sees as it confirms his worst fears -- his ex-girlfriend is pregnant and he’s about to be a father.

Hornby handles the problems and pressures surrounding teenage pregnancy as well as Sam’s coming of age expertly. He’s pretty good at creating the voice of a teenage boy, which, if you’ve read his short story, "Otherwise Pandemonium," you will recognize. I have a feeling the short story was a test run. Anyway, the voice was completely believable to me.

It was interesting to see Hornby play with his earlier pattern. In High Fidelity and About a Boy, the main characters are men who still act like boys, but who finally learn to be men during the course of the novel. Sam doesn’t have the opportunity to grow into a man child because he has a child of his own. He learns the lessons of Hornby’s earlier characters much sooner and much more quickly than Rob or Will.

I’m not normally a YA reader, but had to read Slam because of my love of Hornby’s work. I was not disappointed. If you haven’t picked up a Hornby book yet, consider Slam as an option. And really, if you haven’t picked up a Hornby book yet after nearly a year of me praising him, you should be ashamed of yourself. :)

Buy Slam at Powell's or Amazon.com.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Review : The Hand that Trembles

The Hand that Trembles by Kjell Eriksson. Minotaur Books, 2011.

[Source: LibraryThing Early Reviewers]

The Hand that Trembles is the fourth in Eriksson’s Ann Lindell series, but I felt pretty comfortable reading it without having read the previous installments. There are multiple story lines in this crime novel - mainly the reappearance of a Swedish county commissioner in Bangalore, India, who was presumed dead and a mysterious severed foot found near the remote community of Bultudden. Ann Lindell is responsible for solving the case of the severed foot. Eriksson develops interesting characters and well-constructed plot lines. As simple as the stories may seem, they involve numerous players that leave you wondering where the truth lies.

The Scandinavians are really flooding the American market in the wake of Stieg Larsson’s success. I see the appeal. The Hand that Trembles, like all the others I’ve read, have a distinct psychological element to the narrative that enhances the crime story. Also like most Scandinavian crime novels I’ve read in the last year or two, the pace is slow, but the payoff seems worth it in the end. Even though I tend to struggle a bit with the pacing of the first 100-200 pages and tell myself no more Scandinavian crime novels, the final push and resolution always leaves me ready to jump back into the Scandinavian milieu. If you’ve become a fan of the Scandinavian crime novel or Ann Lindell specifically, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed by The Hand that Trembles.

Buy The Hand the Trembles from Powell's or Amazon.com.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Review : The End of Everything

The End of Everything by Megan Abbott. Reagan Arthur Books, 2011.

[Source: Publisher]

Lizzie Hood and Evie Verver are thirteen-year old best friends and next door neighbors. On afternoon, Evie disappears and Lizzie appears to be the last to have seen her. While trying to assist with the official investigation, Lizzie also sets out on her own secret mission to find the truth. Was Evie kidnapped? Did she run away? Will she ever come back?

The End of Everything carries an intensity of emotion and need from which it’s impossible to tear yourself away. Lizzie’s life will clearly never be the same once Evie disappears, but even more frightening is the thought of what Evie’s life is like. The horrible possibilities floating around Evie’s disappearance lend a melancholy and poignant air to the novel. Even as I found it difficult to put this book down, I also felt a sense of revulsion and horror at the implications and truths uncovered. The End of Everything is clearly a gripping novel, but be prepared for some pretty unsavory moments.

Buy The End of Everything at Powell's or Amazon.com.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Weekly wrap-up : number forty-one

The weekly wrap-up is my way of keeping my loyal readers informed of my bookish activities and holding myself to my bookish obligations. The questions may change slightly depending on the week.

Q: What are you reading right now?
A: Gideon's War by Howard Gordon


Q: Why are you reading it? Business? Pleasure? For review?
A: I'm reading this one for pleasure. I was a huge fan of 24 and am excited to see how his work on that show translates to Gordon's writing.

Q: What have you read since the last weekly wrap-up?
A: Triple Crossing by Sebastian Rotella, Zora and Me by Victoria Bond and T. R. Simon, and Black Light by Patrick Melton, Marcus Dunstan, and Stephen Romano


Q: What do you plan to read next?
A: The Revisionists by Thomas Mullen


Q: Why do you want to read it?
A: I received a copy for review.

Q: What books did you acquire?
A: From publicist: Bad Moon by Todd Ritter

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Reading challenge : Edgar Awards : Update eight

image courtesy of Jeff Babbitt
Since my last Edgar Awards Reading Challenge update, I've read and reviewed one additional title, Old Bones by Aaron Elkins. If you're watching my list, you'll see that I skipped A Dark-Adapted Eye by Barbara Vine. Well, I tried, I really tried. My general policy is to give a book 50 pages before giving up on it. I struggled to get through 50 pages of A Dark-Adapted Eye. It was hard to follow what was going on until I was treated to a lengthy family history, which, in turn, bored me to tears. Needless to say, the book ended up in my DNF pile. It's my first failure in this challenge.

On a happier note, I should be able to achieve my new goal of getting through the 80s (with the exception of Ms. Vine, of course). I only have A Cold Red Sunrise by Stuart M. Kaminsky left.

Still no participant reviews since the last update. The year is winding down everyone! Time to get those Edgar winners read and reviewed if you want to meet your goal. If you need to post reviews for previous months, links can be found on the Edgar Awards Reading Challenge page. Use the Mr. Linky below to share your reviews for October. Please be sure to give the direct link to your post rather than the link to your blog. For those of you without blogs, feel free to post your update/review in the comments.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Review : Old Bones

Old Bones by Aaron Elkins. Mysterious Press, 1989. (Originally published 1987)

[Source: Purchased]

1988 Edgar Award Winner for Best Novel

Old Bones is the fourth in Elkins’ Gideon Oliver series. Gideon Oliver, the “Skeleton Detective of America,” is in France for a forensics conference when he gets called in to investigate a skeleton found buried in the cellar of a wealthy family. This is the second death to engulf the du Rocher family within a week. The patriarch of the family, Guillaume du Rocher, drowned during an incoming tide he couldn’t escape. In addition to determining the identity of the skeleton, Oliver is determined to solve the entire mystery. As events unfold, he is convinced that Guillaume’s death wasn’t an accident. There is a deeply held secret in the du Rocher family, and the answer lies in the old bones.

I haven’t read any of the previous Gideon Oliver mysteries, and Old Bones stands on its own. I found it engaging and humorous. It’s a great mystery, and the repartee between Oliver and his sidekick, FBI agent John Lau, made it a fun read. I won’t be sticking to most of the series I’ve read as part of the Edgar Award Reading Challenge, but the Gideon Oliver series is an exception. I’m looking forward to going back to the beginning with this one and reading through it. If you aren’t familiar with this series, I encourage you to give it a try.

Buy Old Bones at Powell's or Amazon.com.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Review : Zora and Me

Zora and Me by Victoria Bond and T. R. Simon. Candlewick Press, 2010.

[Source: Library]

Zora and Me is a young adult novel that has garnered much praise since its publication including the Coretta Scott King-John Steptoe New Talent Award, an Edgar Award nomination and selection for the Booklist 2011 Top Ten Historical Fiction/YA Junior Library Guild list. The novel is told from the perspective of ten-year old Carrie, best friend of the ten-year old Zora Neale Hurston. Zora, an imminent story teller at a young age, believes one of the local men can turn into an alligator. The murder of an itinerant worker follows close on the heels of Zora’s revelation. Carrie, Zora, and their friend Teddy become convinced there is a gator king in their midst and set out to find the truth behind the murder and the gator king. What they find is life lesson on the role of color in their lives and their community.

I’ve had a bit of a fascination with Zora Neale Hurston ever since reading Their Eyes Were Watching God years ago. I was eager to read this book for that reason even though I don’t normally read YA books. It was interesting to see her imagined as a young girl already deeply immersed in books and storytelling. Zora and Me is a well-written historical mystery with a poignant message. Despite it being fiction, reading Zora and Me makes me want to go back to the work of Zora Neale Hurston and learn more about this important figure in African-American literature. I would recommend this novel to YA readers and Hurston fans without hesitation.

Buy Zora and Me at Powell's or Amazon.com.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Weekly wrap-up : number forty

The weekly wrap-up is my way of keeping my loyal readers informed of my bookish activities and holding myself to my bookish obligations. The questions may change slightly depending on the week.

Q: What are you reading right now?
A: Triple Crossing by Sebastian Rotella


Q: Why are you reading it? Business? Pleasure? For review?
A: I received a copy for review.

Q: What have you read since the last weekly wrap-up?
A: When I posted last week's wrap-up, I was reading A Dark-Adapted Eye by Barbara Vine for the Edgar Awards Reading Challenge. I struggled through the first fifty pages, but just couldn't go on. Unfortunately, A Dark-Adapted Eye has been relegated to the DNF pile. Books I have finished since the last weekly wrap-up are  How Reading Changed My Life by Anna Quindlen, Old Bones by Aaron Elkins, Moondogs by Alexander Yates, and Hell & Gone by Duane Swierczynski.


Q: What do you plan to read next?
A: Black Light by Patrick Melton, Marcus Dunstan, and Stephen Romano


Q: Why do you want to read it?
A: I received a copy for review.

Q: What books did you acquire?
A: Purchased: Hotel Angeline by 36 authors