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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, October 10, 2011

Review : The Woodcutter

The Woodcutter by Reginald Hill. Harper, 2011.

[Source: Publisher]

The Woodcutter is the story of Wolf Hadda, the son of a Cumbrian woodcutter turned wealthy businessman. That is, until his world comes crashing down with a morning police raid on his home. Unable to prove his innocence, Wolf focuses on getting out of jail and finding out who framed him. Dr. Alva Ozigbo, his prison psychiatrist, becomes convinced of his rehabilitation and aids in him getting parole. Soon, however, she begins to worry about what Wolf is up to. Alva doesn’t want Wolf’s need for revenge to land him back in jail.

Though the reader knows more about Wolf’s actions than Alva, you still aren’t sure exactly what he’ll do. My main complaint about the novel is that it is longer than it needs to be. I felt like I read a good chunk of the book before Wolf even got out of prison and then the unraveling of the plot takes another 350+ pages. In all, the book is 528 pages long! In my opinion, that is really long for a mystery/thriller book, and The Woodcutter doesn’t need to be that hefty. There are one or two big shockers in this book, but it mostly unfolds along a relatively predictable path. Overall, The Woodcutter is a good story and a fun read, but not the best thriller I’ve read this year.

Buy The Woodcutter from Powell's or

Friday, October 7, 2011

Weekly wrap-up : number thirty-nine

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: A Dark-Adapted Eye by Barbara Vine

Q: Why are you reading it? Business? Pleasure? For review?
A: It's next in my Edgar Awards Reading Challenge plan.

Q: What have you read since the last weekly wrap-up?
A: Slam by Nick HornbyThe Lantern by Deborah LawrensonA Very Simple Crime by Grant Jerkins

Q: What do you plan to read next?
A: Moondogs by Alexander Yates

Q: Why do you want to read it?
A: I need a Y author for the A to Z Challenge.

Q: What books did you acquire?
A: Publisher: The Outlaw Album by Daniel Woodrell

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Bookish event : An Evening with Paul Theroux

On Monday, September 26, I attended "An Evening with Paul Theroux," an event presented by IUPUI's Tourism, Conventions and Event Management Department. While Mr. Theroux did seem to wander off on tangents a bit, I learned quite a bit about him and was taken with some of the nuggets of wisdom he shared. Though Mr. Theroux currently lives in Cape Cod, he has lived in many places including a number of years in Great Britain. The resulting accent is an interesting cross between Boston and English. As a result of his travels, he was asked to speak about why people travel and the transformative nature of travel.

He began with a sailing metaphor. You can't see where you've come from or where you're going. You just have heart, belief and a direction. That's what it takes to be a true traveler. Mr Theroux also talked about how coming from a large family influenced him to travel. His mother always sent them outdoors. A large family teaches negotiation skills and gives you the urge to leave and claim your own space. These things are important to becoming a traveler. If you go away [from home], you are transformed. Mr. Theroux clearly feels we should all go away at some point. He joined the Peace Corps to get away and spent several years in central Africa.

I'll leave you with a few of those nuggets I mentioned earlier.

  • A tourist insulates himself, thinks of himself and his vacation. A traveler is open to experience and allows himself to be changed.
  • Make your own path and your path follows you.
  • Being disconnected when traveling isn't a bad thing. It forces you into the culture, language, and new relationships.

He finished the evening with "The Essential Tao of Travel," which I will paraphrase here.
Leave home
Go alone.
Travel light.
Bring a map.
Travel by land.
Walk across a national border.
Keep a journal.
Read a novel unrelated to the place you are.
If you have to bring a cell phone, avoid using it.
Make a friend.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Review : The Lantern

The Lantern by Deborah Lawrenson. Harper, 2011.

[Source: Publisher]

The Lantern is narrated by Eve, who finds herself embarking on a new life in the French countryside following a whirlwind romance with an older man. Her idyllic existence is soon disturbed by doubts. Dom seems to have secrets and refuses to talk about his former wife, Rachel. When a local woman begins a breadcrumb trail of clues encouraging Eve to find out what happened, her doubts grow. Interwoven with Eve’s story is that of Bénédicte Lincel, the former owner of the quaint French hamlet in which Eve and Dom settle. The secrets of the past and present eventually come crashing together.

Though Deborah Lawrenson has written a number of books, The Lantern is the first to be published in the United States. I thank Harper for publishing it. The flyleaf makes the inevitable comparison to DuMaurier’s Rebecca to which any gothic novel is subject, but The Lantern stands on its own merits. Lawrenson has successfully created a modern gothic tale. Her prose paints a beautiful picture of Provence while also creating haunting scenes that will give you goosebumps. You will be unable to stop reading until you find out the truths that are well-hidden. Aside from being a gripping and ghostly gothic novel, The Lantern is the perfect read for this time of year. I encourage you to fall into the wonderful atmosphere of this novel.

Buy The Lantern at Powell's or

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Review : The Wreckage

The Wreckage by Michael Robotham. Mulholland Books, 2011. (Published June 16)

[Source: Publisher]

The Wreckage begins with three seemingly unrelated storylines -- journalist Luca Terracini’s investigation of a series of bank robberies in Baghdad, ex-cop Vincent Ruiz’s attempt to help a young woman that lands him in a dangerous situation, and the disappearance of bank executive Richard North. The threads eventually come together to expose a massive struggle between nations to control money and power - no matter what the cost.

Michael Robotham was an international investigative novelist himself and based The Wreckage on one of the biggest bank heists in history. As a result the novel is well-researched and engaging. The Wreckage is full of suspense and the frustrating reality of international relations and espionage. When I first received this book, I wasn’t particularly intrigued by the subject matter. However, I found myself fully engrossed in Robotham’s story - a sign of a truly good novel. If you like your thrillers with a dash of political commentary, I encourage you to pick up The Wreckage.

Related post:
Publisher spotlight : Mulholland Books

Buy The Wreckage from Powell's or

Monday, October 3, 2011

Review : Fun & Games

Fun & Games by Duane Swierczynski. Mulholland Books, 2011. (Published June 20)

[Source: Publisher]

Fun & Games is the first of three pulp thrillers from Duane Swierczynski featuring Charlie Hardie, an ex-cop turned house sitter. When Charlie turns up for his latest gig, he gets a lot more than he bargained for. He finds an actress squatting in the house ranting about a group of men trying to kill her. She, of course, thinks Charlie is one of “them” and attacks. Charlie has to convince her he isn’t out to get her while trying to outsmart The Accident People, an elite group that specializes in making murder look like an accident.

Fun & Games moves at break-neck speed and is by turns nerve-wracking and hilarious. Charlie is a death-defying Energizer bunny with a great sense of humor despite some pretty heavy personal baggage. This thriller was a finalist for my quarterly favorite. The second in the trilogy, Hell & Gone, is burning a hole on my TBR shelf as we speak, but I’m forcing myself to hold off until closer to its release date before reading it. If you enjoy fast-paced, edge-of-your-seat, clever, witty thrillers, Fun & Games is for you.

Buy Fun & Games from Powell's or

Buy Hell & Gone from Powell's or