Monday, January 31, 2011

Readalong : The Black Dahlia : Week four

I'm participating in The Lost Entwife's January readalong of The Black Dahlia. The reading assignment for January 24-31 was to read Chapters 30-37, which brings us to the end of the novel. I'm reading from the 1987 Mysterious Press edition.

I'll try not to give away too much of the story, but you may find some spoilers in my readalong posts.

Okay, Part IV gives excellent reasons to continue the story. The resolution I wondered about during week two is both surprising and satisfying. I won't say much about how it all turns out because I don't want to completely ruin it for you. Suffice it to say, I think all fans of crime fiction would be well served by reading The Black Dahlia.

Thanks again to Lydia from The Lost Entwife for organizing this readalong. I'm looking forward to seeing what title is chosen for February!

Related posts:
Readalong : The Black Dahlia : Week one
Readalong : The Black Dahlia : Week two
Readalong : The Black Dahlia : Week three

Amazon affiliate link:
The Black Dahlia

Friday, January 28, 2011

Weekly wrap-up : number fourteen

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 Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown


Q: Why are you reading it? Business? Pleasure? For review?
A: I'm reading it for review and pleasure. This was one of the books on my Top Ten 2011 Books I'm Anticipating list.

Q: What was the last thing you read?
A: The Death Instinct by Jed Rubenfeld (link to review)


Q: What do you plan to read next?
A: So Cold the River by Michael Koryta


Q: Why do you want to read it?
A: I want to read it because Michael Koryta will be visiting Big Hat Books & Arts next week.

Q: What books did you acquire?
A: Purchased: My Reading Life by Pat Conroy - I loved this book so much I had to buy a finished copy.
Goodreads Bookswap: Mystic River by Dennis Lehane, Bones by Jan Burke, Misfortune by Wesley Stace
From author: Bent Road by Lori Roy
From publisher: Margaret Mitchell's Gone With the Wind by Ellen F. Brown and John Wiley, Jr., The Survivor by Sean Slater
On loan from friend: The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson


Q: What bookish places did you go to? A: I went to Big Hat Books & Arts this week to pick up my copy of Pat Conroy's My Reading Life and confirm next week's Michael Koryta event.

Q: What bookish events did you attend? A: None, but this weekend kicks off a series of great events! First up is the grand opening of the Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library this Saturday. To see what other upcoming bookish events are in the Indianapolis  area, check out my recent post.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Review : The Death Instinct

The Death Instinct by Jed Rubenfeld. Riverhead Books, 2011. (Published January 20)

[Source: Penguin]

In The Death Instinct, Jed Rubenfeld builds a engaging and convincing story around the September 16, 1920 bombing of Wall Street. It was the largest terrorist attack to ever occur on American soil and is unsolved to this day. Rubenfeld's main characters, WWI veteran Dr. Stratham Younger, NYPD Captain James Littlemore, and French scientist Collette Rousseau, happen to be there at the time of the bombing. Their efforts to both solve the bombing and a series of attacks on Collette lead them all on a roller coaster ride on both sides of the Atlantic.

I originally put The Death Instinct on my Top Ten 2011 Books I’m Anticipating list because the description reminded me of Erik Larson’s work. In my opinion, Larson is a master of narrative non-fiction. Though Rubenfeld is writing fiction, I thought the integration of history sounded similar. I was not disappointed. Rubenfeld expertly weaves fact and fiction to create a gripping yet educational tale. A number of historical characters appear in The Death Instinct including Sigmund Freud and several political figures. Interspersed in the narrative are interludes of history, which give you valuable background on the era.

One of the early history interludes really stuck with me. Early on, Rubenfeld explains the series of terrorist actions that took place in the U.S. during 1919 and 1920. The rhetoric on terrorism since September 11th has, as I see it, always suggested that terrorism is a new threat to which America must adapt. Reading Rubenfeld, it occurred to me that terrorists are not as new of a foe as we might think (or be led to think). For the better part of a century, the U.S. has been the target of terrorist acts. Though their frequency has increased and the technology used has evolved, terrorism is not new. The parallels between then and now are striking and somewhat frightening.

But I digress.

I was immediately drawn in by Rubenfeld's writing style. His integration of historical fact is done in a way that creates a compelling story rather than boring history PSAs. I learned things about World War I, U.S.-Mexico relations, radium, and Sigmund Freud. For instance, did you know that Freud came up with the death instinct? That’s right, it’s not just a clever book title. Rubenfeld’s characters are complex and charming. I laughed out loud at Littlemore on several occasions. There are twists and turns to make the story exciting, but they are also logical and believable. Some you may see coming, some may shock you. In the end, I was very glad to have read The Death Instinct. I've added Rubenfeld's previous novel, The Interpretation of Murder, to my TBR list. I highly recommend you add The Death Instinct to yours.

Amazon affiliate link:
The Death Instinct
The Interpretation of Murder

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Upcoming bookish events

Here are a few bookish events in the Indianapolis area in January and February. Hope to see you there!

What: Grand Opening
Where: Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library
When: Saturday, January 29 from 12-5pm

Who: Michael Dahlie, author of A Gentleman's Guide to Graceful Living: A Novel
What: Vivian S. Delbrook Visiting Writers Series
Where: Butler University, Eidson-Duckwall Recital Hall
When: Monday, January 31 @ 5:30pm

Who: Michael Koryta, author of So Cold the River and The Cypress House
Where: Big Hat Books & Arts
When: Wednesday, February 2 @ 6pm **RESCHEDULED for Wednesday, February 23 at 6pm**

Who: George Saunders, author of In Persuasion Nation
What: Vivian S. Delbrook Visiting Writers Series
Where: Butler University, Atherton Union, Reilly Room
When: Tuesday, February 8 @ 7:30pm

Who: Mark Halliday, poet
What: Vivian S. Delbrook Visiting Writers Series
Where: Butler University, Eidson-Duckwall Recital Hall
When: Wednesday, February 23 @ 7:30pm

Who: Lynda Barry, cartoonist and author
What: Rufus and Louise Reiberg Reading Series
Where: IUPUI (exact location TBA)
When: Thursday, February 24 @ TBA

Affiliate links:
A Gentleman's Guide to Graceful Living
So Cold the River
The Cypress House
In Persuasion Nation

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Review : The Fates Will Find Their Way

The Fates Will Find Their Way by Hannah Pittard. Ecco/HarperCollins, 2011. (Published today!)

[Source: HarperCollins]

The Fates Will Find Their Way charts the lives of those left behind after the disappearance of a neighborhood girl, Nora Lindell. Nora was sixteen when she went missing, and the mystery is never solved. The boys she went to school with grow into men, but Nora and her possible fate always lurks in their minds. I was surprised and yet not at all surprised by the draw she continues to have on these men. Through the voice of an unknown male narrator, Hannah Pittard shares their speculations on Nora’s possible endings and the fates of all those who knew her. The narrative bounces back and forth between childhood memories and adulthood, and it works perfectly.

What I found amazing about The Fates Will Find Their Way was Pittard’s ability to convey the hold Nora and her family held over these boys/men at the same time showing how their lives all unfold in a very normal, suburban way. Despite their fascination and continued reflection on Nora, she really has very little effect on their own fates. Even Nora’s younger sister, Sissy, is somehow able to construct a normal life for herself.

I was interested in reading The Fates Will Find Their Way because the story seemed reminiscent in theme and style to The Virgin Suicides, a book I read years ago and enjoyed a great deal. While it is similar, Pittard’s writing stands fully on its own. I was fascinated by this book and sped through it on Christmas Eve day. The Fates Will Find Their Way is a truly wonderful book. I highly recommend you read it as soon as possible.

Amazon affiliate link:
The Fates Will Find Their Way
The Virgin Suicides

Monday, January 24, 2011

Readalong : The Black Dahlia : Week three

I'm participating in The Lost Entwife's January readalong of The Black Dahlia. The reading assignment for January 17-23 was to read Chapters 20-29. I'm reading from the 1987 Mysterious Press edition.

I'll try not to give away too much of the story, but you may find some spoilers in my readalong posts.

This week's reading begins the dismantling of the investigation. While many officers are sent back to their normal departments, Bleichert remains on the case. Despite continuing leads and a clearer picture of the Dahlia's last days, the team is still unable to solve the case. Bleichert is also plagued by the added mystery of Blanchard's disappearance.

Part II ends on a hopeful note, which I kind of wish had been the end of the book. Part III is basically about Bucky starting to unravel. His personal life is in shambles, and his professional life isn't much better. Why keep going? The story of the Black Dahlia seems over. Why do I need to know about how depressingly Bucky's life plays out afterwards? Maybe Part IV will give me a good reason.

Related posts:
Readalong : The Black Dahlia : Week one
Readalong : The Black Dahlia : Week two

Amazon affiliate link:
The Black Dahlia

Friday, January 21, 2011

Weekly wrap-up : number thirteen

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 Death Instinct by Jed Rubenfeld


Q: Why are you reading it? Business? Pleasure? For review?
A: I'm reading it for review, but it's also a pleasure to read so far.

Q: What was the last thing you read?
A: The Black Dahlia by James Ellroy for The Lost Entwife's January readalong. My posts for the first two weeks are here and here.


Q: What do you plan to read next?
A: The Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown


Q: Why do you want to read it?
A: This one appeared on my Top Ten 2011 Books I'm Anticipating list, so I'm really looking forward to it.

Q: What books did you acquire?
A: Whip Hand by Dick Francis for the Edgar Awards Reading Challenge


Q: What bookish places did you go to? What bookish events did you attend?
A: Unfortunately, I didn't make it to any bookish places this week, and there weren't any bookish events to attend.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Review : The Anatomy of Ghosts

The Anatomy of Ghosts by Andrew Taylor. Hyperion/HarperCollins, 2011. (To be published January 25)

[Source: Hyperion/HarperCollins]

The Anatomy of Ghosts features down-on-his-luck bookseller and author John Holdsworth. He wrote a book called The Anatomy of Ghosts in an effort to disprove their existence and deal with his grief over the loss of his family. The book catches the attention of Lady Anne Oldershaw who hires Holdsworth to help her son who is currently staying in an asylum after a supposed ghost siting. Lady Anne wants her son restored. In the process, Oldershaw becomes caught up in the dramas of Jerusalem College and the mystery surrounding the death of Sylvia Whichcote.

The premise of the book sounded interesting. I enjoy both historical fiction and mysteries, so a novel that combines the two genres is typically a sure bet for me. Unfortunately, The Anatomy of Ghosts did not live up to my expectations. I kept reading in the hopes that the solving of the mystery would redeem the whole book. Instead, I found myself reading the last words and saying to myself "Really? That's it?"

I don’t know what it was exactly. I think the story felt a bit shallow. The resolution seemed a little too trite. Along the way, I found myself annoyed by the language. Taylor uses period language that is sometimes jarring in its unfamiliarity and lack of good grammar. Could educated people really not use the right verb tense in the 1700s? But perhaps I’m being too harsh, perhaps I expected too much of The Anatomy of Ghosts. I was really looking forward to it based on Andrew Taylor’s reputation, and the novel just fell short of my expectations.

There were things about it that I liked, particularly some of the characters. I thought Elinor Carbury was well-written and well-rounded. I thought Philip Whichcote was just the right amount of smarmy. I was surprised by the revelations about Richardson. Again, the story as a whole just left my wanting.

In my opinion, this isn’t a book I would encourage you to run out and buy. However, all the reviews I’ve seen of it have been good. If you want other opinions, check out the following reviews.

A Common Reader
The Speculative Scotsman
Material Witness
Milo’s Rambles

Amazon affiliate link:
The Anatomy of Ghosts

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Reading challenge : Edgar Awards : Update one

image courtesy of Jeff Babbitt
To mark the birthday of Edgar Allan Poe, here is the first monthly update for the Edgar Awards Reading Challenge!

I'm excited to say that 15 people have signed up to participate in the Edgar Awards Reading Challenge! If you've signed up but don't appear on the participant list, you need to let me know what participation level you are committing to by leaving a comment here. If you haven't signed up but want to, please do so here.

I've read and reviewed one of the books from my reading list so far - Catch Me: Kill Me by William H. Hallahan. Next up is Ken Follett's The Eye of the Needle. I was hoping to be reading it right now, but I've already fallen behind in my reading schedule. It's only the third week of January! I'm trying not to get worried about it though. The whole point of reading and blogging is supposed to be enjoyment, right?

I'm looking forward to hearing what the other challenge participants have been reading. I've set up a Mr. Linky below so you can add links to any January posts and/or reviews related to the Edgar Awards Reading Challenge. Please make sure to leave the direct link to the post rather than the link to your blog. For those of you without blogs, feel free to leave an update in the comments.

Thanks to everyone who is joining me in this reading challenge!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Review : High Fidelity

High Fidelity by Nick Hornby. Riverhead, 2000. (Originally published in 1995)

[Source: Purchased]

This is my first read in my personal Nick Hornby reading challenge.

High Fidelity is Nick Hornby’s first novel, and I think it was a great debut. It’s narrated by Rob, a list-making, record-loving man who’s just been dumped. The book opens with a list of Rob’s top five most memorable split-ups, which pointedly does not include Laura, the woman who just dumped him. After brief recaps of those relationships, Rob proceeds to tell us all about his relationship with Laura.

What I really like about this novel is the conversational tone Hornby uses. I felt like I was sitting with a friend who is sometimes a pig and sometimes thoughtful, but mostly makes me laugh. In between his list-making (which is definitely NOT annoying, don’t worry) and feeling sorry for himself, Rob actually does some personal reflection that makes you think about your own relationships. Rob teaches you the lessons he learns without even trying.

You probably remember the movie version whether or not you’ve read the book, which I think is pretty faithful to the book. It’s been awhile, but the only thing that stands out is a bit of casting. In the book, Marie LaSalle is described as looking like Susan Dey circa L.A. Law. In the movie, she’s played by Lisa Bonet. Interesting choice, huh? Anyway, I think John Cusack was a perfect choice to play Rob, but then I’m partial to John Cusack.

Nick Hornby is one of my favorite authors. His writing is easy to read, funny, and insightful. I recommend you check out High Fidelity, especially if you enjoyed the movie.

Amazon affiliate links:
High Fidelity (the book)
High Fidelity (the movie)

Monday, January 17, 2011

Readalong : The Black Dahlia : Week two

I'm participating in The Lost Entwife's January readalong of The Black Dahlia. The reading assignment for January 10-16 was to read Chapters 10-19. I'm reading from the 1987 Mysterious Press edition.

I'll try not to give away too much of the story, but you may find some spoilers in my readalong posts.

This week we add sex and more violence to the mix. This is only to give you fair warning. If you have a problem with either, then you probably don't want to read The Black Dahlia. If you can handle it, then you definitely want to read it. In my opinion it isn't too bad. Yes, you may grimace at some of the police brutality, but it isn't super graphic. After all, the novel is based on a brutal crime so you have to expect it to be a bit brutal itself.

Things really take a turn for the worse for Lee Blanchard in this section. His obsession with Elizabeth Short (a.k.a. Black Dahlia) continues to grow and threatens to send him off the deep end. The police get a number of seemingly good leads, but nothing gets them much very far. Most of those involved in the case begin to think it will go unsolved.

Since this is based on a real-life unsolved murder, I'm interested to see how Ellroy manages to bring a sense of resolution to the novel. Will he create a killer to solve the crime or leave it unsolved? I guess I'll just have to keep reading to find out!

Related posts:
Readalong : The Black Dahlia : Week one
Readalong : The Black Dahlia : Week three

Amazon affiliate link:
The Black Dahlia

Friday, January 14, 2011

Weekly wrap-up : number twelve

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: High Fidelity by Nick Hornby


Q: Why are you reading it? Business? Pleasure? For review?
A: I'm reading it for pleasure. I've challenged myself to read/re-read all of Nick Hornby's novels this year.

Q: What was the last thing you read?
A: The Black Dahlia by James Ellroy. I read this for The Lost Entwife's January readalong. Because of the hours and hours of flying to and from San Diego, I finished it ahead of the schedule.


Q: What do you plan to read next?
A: The Death Instinct by Jed Rubenfeld


Q: Why do you want to read it?
A: I requested a review copy of this because I'm always looking for authors who can successfully blend fact and fiction to create an interesting historical story.

Q: What books did you acquire?
A: Okay, this is going to be quite a list! Even though I tried to be selective, I ended up picking up a lot of books at ALA. I scored some really great ARCs, including some I had previously requested and not gotten. The only thing I was hoping to find and didn't was an ARC of Bent Road by Lori Roy.

Here's a list of what I did get:
Caribou Island by David Vann
The Border Lords by T. Jefferson Parker
Mary Ann in Autumn by Armistead Maupin
This Book is Overdue! by Marilyn Johnson
The Devotion of Suspect X by Keigo Higashino
Long Gone by Alafair Burke
The Complaints by Ian Rankin
The Inner Circle by Brad Meltzer
Lucifer's Tears by James Thompson
A Very Simple Crime by Grant Jerkins
Madame Tussaud by Michelle Moran
Attachments by Rainbow Rowell
Breach of Trust by David Ellis
The Pope's Assassin by Luis Miguel Rocha
The Borrower by Rebecca Makkai
You Know When the Men are Gone by Siobhan Fallon
Moondogs by Alexander Yates
13 Rue Therese by Elena Mauli Shapiro
India Black by Carol K. Carr
Secrets from the Vinyl Cafe by Stuart McLean
The Track of Sand by Andrea Camilleri
Twenty-Five Books that Shaped America by Thomas C. Foster
The End of Everything by Megan E. Abbott
Charles Jessold, Considered as a Murderer by Wesley Stace
The Terror of Living by Urban Waite
And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie
The Autobiography of Mrs. Tom Thumb by Melanie Benjamin
A Secret Kept by Tatiana De Rosnay (audiobook)

Q: What bookish events did you attend?
A: I attended the American Library Association Midwinter Meeting from January 7-10. Since my primary role at the conference is librarian and not book blogger, I generally don't have the opportunity to attend the amazing author events. Instead, I mostly attend meetings that would probably bore most of you to tears. As you can see from the list of books acquired this week, I did find time to go to the exhibit hall. On Saturday, I stumbled upon T. Jefferson Parker signing copies of his new novel and was able to meet him. I met Marilyn Johnson on Sunday thanks to a tweet from @bookclubgirl letting everyone know about her signing. Later, I actually me @bookclubgirl herself! It's always fun to put faces with those Twitter names.

I didn't get pictures of T. Jefferson Parker or Marilyn Johnson. I just wasn't thinking. Here are pictures of their books instead.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Review : Catch Me: Kill Me

Catch Me: Kill Me by William H. Hallahan. Avon, 1978. (Originally published by Bobbs-Merrill, c1977)

[Source: Purchased]

1978 Edgar Award Winner for Best Novel

Despite being published in 1978, Catch Me: Kill Me still felt relevant. The book is about the abduction of and search for a Russian national in the U.S. Boris Kotlikoff is a Russian poet who has defected to the United States thus renouncing his Russian citizenship. The added element of Kotlikoff being Jewish made for an interesting story as the novel addressed the desire of Jews to escape Soviet Russia. Just a few days before he is eligible to become a citizen, Kotlikoff is kidnapped by a group of Russians from Grand Central Station. The U.S. government has no idea why and can do nothing about it. Kotlikoff doesn't enjoy the protections of any nation. He is a man without a country. The reader is immediately yanked into the action by the abduction scene that opens the book.

Catch Me: Kill Me is organized into sections, which bounce back and forth between a U.S. government attorney and a former CIA agent who is recruited to try and save Kotlikoff rogue-style. Leary, the lawyer, is determined to find out why Kotlikoff was taken and Brewer, the CIA agent, is hell-bent on finding him in order to regain his own status within the government.

Hallahan uses the snappy dialogue one would expect of the era. Though the treatment of women is somewhat pig-headed, it doesn't hurt the story. There really aren't any female characters that play a large enough role for it to grate on your nerves. I was also struck by some of the poetic turns of phrase that matched the poet identity of Kotlikoff. The novel is well structured, and I felt rewarded in the end. Everything comes together in a pretty amazing way.

I thoroughly enjoyed Catch Me: Kill Me, my first read for the Edgar Awards Reading Challenge. I would definitely recommend it not only to those participating in the challenge but others as well.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Waiting on Wednesday : The Cypress House

"Waiting on" Wednesday is a weekly event hosted by Breaking the Spine that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly awaiting. My pick this week is....

The Cypress House by Michael Koryta. Little, Brown, 2011. (To be published January 24)

So Cold the River is coming up on my TBR list, plus Michael Koryta is coming to Big Hat Books & Arts on February 2nd. I'm looking forward to seeing Mr. Koryta and hearing him talk about his new novel. Here's the description from Goodreads:

Arlen Wagner has an awful gift: he can see death in the eyes of men before it strikes. He's never wrong.
So when Arlen awakens on a train one hot Florida night and sees death's telltale sign in the eyes of his fellow passengers, he tries to warn them. Only 19-year-old Paul Brickhill believes him, and the two abandon the train, hoping to escape certain death. They continue south, but soon are stranded at The Cypress House--an isolated Gulf Coast boarding house run by the beautiful Rebecca Cady--directly in the path of an approaching hurricane.

It doesn't take Arlen and Paul long to realize that the storm isn't the only approaching danger--a much deadlier force controls the county and everyone living in it. But Paul refuses to abandon Rebecca to face the threat alone, and Arlen's eerie gift warns him that they'll never leave. From its chilling beginning to terrifying end, The Cypress House is a story of relentless suspense from "one of the best of the best" (Michael Connelly).

Amazon Affiliate links:
The Cypress House
So Cold the River

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Review : The Tapestry of Love

The Tapestry of Love by Rosy Thornton. Headline Review, 2010.

[Source : Author]

Catherine Parkstone is a 40-something, English divorcee whose children have flown the nest. Determined to chart a new course for herself, Catherine sells her house outside London and buys another in the south of France. The reader meets her as she drives through a flock of sheep on her way to her new home immediately setting the stage for Catherine's new rural life.

The reader witnesses Catherine becoming a part of this small, tight-knit French community. Her neighbors form a charming cast of characters and so do her family. Catherine's children and sister are introduced along the way through phone calls and visits. I particularly liked her irrepressible daughter, Lexie. I smiled along with Catherine each time she entered the story.

Catherine's new life has its ups and downs of course. There is the French bureaucracy to contend with in her attempts to set up a business. There is sorrow and loss. There is loneliness. There is the mysterious neighbor, Patrick Castagnol. All in all, this is a charming story of a woman on a mission to build a life of her own. A quote from the Guardian on the back cover really says it all. Thornton "is skilled at drawing out the poignancy of ordinary life."

I happen to enjoy stories of people uprooting their lives to start anew in foreign places. I'm always a bit awed by the courage it takes to do such a thing. The fabulous setting of France is also a plus in my book. If you enjoy this sort of story, I'm sure you'll enjoy The Tapestry of Love.

Amazon Affiliate link:
The Tapestry of Love