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For those of you who fell in love with Tana French's writing while reading In The Woods you are going to love Broken Harbor (late July release, no idea if we'll get signed copies but if we do, we'll let you know).
Michael "Scorcher" Kennedy, detective in the Murder Squad, lands a big-deal case: two kids and dad murdered, mom hanging on by a thread, down in a newly planned community called Brianstown, formerly known as Broken Harbor. Granted, he's got a rookie partner, but Scorcher has the best overall solve rate in the Squad. He's got a good nose for what's what and he follows his rules until he gets his killer.
And his new partner, Richie Curran, is really working out. For once, Mike may have a partner he can really work with. Except...Richie's keeping a secret.
Then too, the immediate suspect looks really good, except...there are holes in his story, and he's awfully ready to confess.
Sure then, the holes in the walls of the slaughtered family’s home are strange, but so what? Except...what made them? Why? Does it even matter?
Well, and Mike's sister is having a bad time, which wouldn't be any big deal. Except...when Dina has a bad time, so do the folks who love her, and that can get in the way of Kennedy's investigation.
Once again, Tana French introduces us to a whole cast of characters who will immediately grab a place in your life, and they won't let go. With the deft touch and hard-edged writing she has shown from the very beginning, French proves that she isn't just a flash in the pan; Tana French is the real deal and is well on her way to becoming an powerhouse in the mystery community.
And if you loved In the Woods, you will love Broken Harbor. No exceptions.
You can always count on Boyd Morrison for an action-packed adventure, and since The Catalyst is the first book he wrote, you can see that his flair for creating roller-coaster situations is natural.
Kevin Hamilton is a fairly typical grad student: he has $85.86 in his checking account, he’s been fired from his position as a research assistant (something about blowing up the lab), he’s close to missing the deadline for his financial aid, his car’s running on its last legs, and the girl he’s interested in has just given him the “let’s be friends” speech.
Kevin gets a cryptic email from the professor who fired him, then discovers that the professor has died in a strange house fire. And when Kevin goes to the police, he’s blown off by the investigating detective then shot at by other policemen (or were they really?), and things take off from there in typical Morrison fashion.
Combining jam-packed action with high tech science and chemistry, I promise you there’s never a dull moment in The Catalyst. It kept me on the edge of my seat, and it certainly kept me up at night. It’s just great fun!
And Boyd, I want a pair of those sunglasses too!
Fast-paced. Twisty. Compelling. Disturbing. Excellent.
Warren returns after her leave, and she wonders if her edge has been blunted. However, the first crime scene back on the job proves to her that she’s still sharp. A man is found dead in his kitchen, double-tap to the forehead with a .22. The apartment’s a slovenly mess, but the kitchen is starkly clean.
When she leaves the scene, Warren notices a suspicious person leaving her car. She catches the woman, who tells D.D. that she, Charlene Rosalind Carter Grant, will be murdered in four days, on January 21st, and she was checking out Warren, to see if she would be able to solve the crime.
Despite initially blowing Charlene – “call me Charlie” – off, Warren discovers that Charlie has a valid reason to believe she’ll be murdered, but until it happens, there isn’t much Warren can do. And there’s still the problem of the man in the clean kitchen; it turns out he’s a pedophile, and that another man was killed under similar circumstances a few weeks earlier, and he too was a pedophile. So D.D. Warren has to be on her top game, because something’s obviously up.
In Catch Me, Lisa Gardner switches voice between D.D. and Charlie, and she does so expertly and deftly, so the story never slows down and the people grow and change, and I know I found myself staying up late at night to find out what happened. And when it all came together, I saw that Gardner had fed me the clues so I had that “A-ha!” moment that comes in the best books!
It's no secret that I'm a fan of Robert Dugoni's writing, and I've followed his David Sloane series from the very beginning. I can tell you that Bob has absolutely put his heart into The Conviction. It's compelling and it will get under your skin.
Sloane's stepson, Jake, has been getting into trouble. He's acting out, drinking and smoking, getting into all kinds of trouble, more than your average teenager. If you've been following the series, you know how his mother died, so it's not unexpected. David, Jake, and a friend of David's, Tom Molia, along with Tom's 14-year-old son, TJ, decide to go camping in the California hills above Sacramento. Sloane hopes it'll give Jake a chance to get his head together, and that they'll have fun.
But Jake gets into trouble in the little town that is their launching spot, and he takes TJ with him. All of a sudden, Jake and TJ are sentenced to time in Fresh Start, a juvenile detention camp, and there's nothing that David or Tom can do. Even though Sloane has the reputation of being "the lawyer that never loses", this is a situation where he is completely at a loss. All legal avenues have come to naught.
Dugoni looks at the dangers of for-profit prisons, especially ones for kids (Google "jailing kids for cash" if you think it doesn't happen in real life!), and the situation he has placed Jake and TJ in completely terrified me, simply because it is far, far too realistic and creepy. There were times when I was almost too disturbed to continue, but I had to, just to find out what happened next! While I was a little disappointed in the final courtroom scene (I thought it went a bit too fast; he could've played up the tension a bit more), the overall book was brilliant, and I know it will stay with me for a long, long time.
In a nutshell, FBI agent Jackie Rutledge and her psychic partner, Laurel Carpenter, are called in when the body of a body of a twelve-year-old boy is found at the base of a tree. There’s no forensic evidence at all, but Laurel is troubled by something in the area, and her awareness leads her to PI Nick Anderson and his sidekick, Shelby Fontaine, who happen to be vampires.
But these are not your stereotypical vampires. They can be out in the sun and they love a good garlic pesto. And they have emotional issues and guilt and they worry and become angry and they can love.
Paranormal romantic suspense is about to get even hotter. Stella Cameron's new series, the Chimney Rock series beginning with Darkness Bound adds a new twist to this wildly popular genre.
Leigh Kelly has returned to the town of Chimney Rock -- on Washington's own Whidbey Island! -- following the death of her beloved husband, Chris. She's pulling her life back together, with the home they once shared, a new job revitalizing the local hang-out, Gabriel's Place, and coming to grips with her future, although she's a little disturbed by the handsome man, Niles, whom Gabriel had asked to do some odd jobs around her house. Niles knows that Leigh is the one for him, but only if she can accept who he truly is, someone who is not fully human.
In a genre filled to the brim with excellence, it's always nice to find someone who both entertains and challenges, and Stella Cameron does both with Darkness Bound. She throws you into her world headfirst and, like Leigh, you have to learn who everyone is, what theiy are and what they want at a breakneck speed. At first, I have to admit, I thought I was reading the second book in the series, since so much was already established, but then I realized that I was expected to be intelligent enough to figure things out and keep up. That's a flattering assumption for an author to make, and I'm pleased to say I did. And honestly, it's refreshing to read a paranormal suspence novel where the werewolves and vampires are still the bad guys, and where even the heroes can surprise you.
If you're looking for something different and fun in the paranormal romantic suspense world (and there's plenty of romance, let me assure you!), Stella Cameron's new series is sure to please!
It's no secret I'm a fan of J.T. Ellison's "Taylor Jackson" series. Have been from the very beginning. So I was intrigued by her latest book, A Deeper Darkness since it follows Jackson's best friend, Dr. Samantha Owens, Nashville's forensic examiner. Sam has been by Taylor's side through all her challenges, and has taken a few serious hits along the way. So putting Sam into the spotlight seems to me to be a natural event. But could Ellison pull it off?
Why yes. Yes, she can. I was puzzled, at first. At the beginning of the book, Sam is recovering from a serious loss, and I didn't remember that happening. But that's the beauty of A Deeper Darkness. As anyone who's read the Taylor Jackson series (and you have, haven't you?) knows, J.T. Ellison is not afraid of hitting hard, and she's more than deliciously capable of carrying you along in a flash flood of intrigue and heartbreak. In a nutshell, Sam is asked to go to Washington, DC, by the mother of a man Sam almost married fifteen years ago. Eddie Donovan was killed in what looked like a carjacking gone bad, but Eleanor is doubtful. Eddie's wife resents Sam being asked in, but grudgingly agrees to a second autopsy. When one of Eddie's friends, another Army Ranger and one of his closest buddies, is found murdered, things begin to really spiral and it's a race to see who will survive.
J.T. Ellison has proved over and over again that she can spin a tale, write a non-stop thriller with the best of them. But with A Deeper Darkness, she examines some of the darkest and most trying times of anyone's life, and she does it with compassion and honesty. But don't let the emotions fool you, this is still a rollercoaster ride of a book!
Sometimes I love being wrong!
It’s been quite some time since James Rollins has had a Sigma Force novel out and I was afraid when I started The Devil Colony that I’d be confused about where things had left off. It was fabulous to be able to jump right in and kick off the action with the team with not even a skipped step.
And action there is! A cave filled with Native American mummies, a gold-lined skull and some strange gold plates with arcane writing is discovered in Utah, and while wrangling is going on about who gets jurisdiction and investigation rights, an explosion happens. Native American activist and teenage niece to Sigma Director Painter Crowe, Kai Quocheets, is caught on videotape immediately after the explosion, and she is being tracked - and shot at - by unknown people in strange black helicopters. Meanwhile, Commander Grey Pierce is trying to help his mother deal with his aging father, when he is pulled away to follow a pressing clue as to who is behind the mysterious group known as The Guild. The events in Utah will intersect with Grey’s investigation, and all will lead back to the Founding Fathers.
As always, James Rollins writes an absolute roller-coaster of a book that kept me turning pages late into the night. But what has always fascinated me about Jim’s Sigma Force books is his superb blending of fact and fiction, and I am always astounded at the things that are real, items and bits of history that are so amazing that it always seems to me that they can’t be true, and yet they are. If you haven’t read James Rollins’ Sigma Force novels, now is an excellent time to start, but I would strongly suggest that you start at the beginning, either Sandstorm which gives a preview of Sigma Force, or Map of Bones.
I love to be surprised, and Deborah Harkness’ take on vampires and witches and daemons is wonderfully unique. With her debut novel, A Discovery of Witches, Harkness introduces us to Diana Bishop, related to the Salem Bishop witches of yore, who is studying the history of alchemy in Oxford. While Diana is a witch, she has no interest in using her powers – in fact does her absolute best not to use them – but prefers to immerse herself in her historical research.
However when she inadvertently unlocks a bound manuscript, one that she hastily sends back into the depths of the library, she draws the attention of the other creatures – which is what vampires, witches and daemons are called -- and that’s a bad thing because when too many creatures gather, humans are bound to notice. To figure out why she has drawn all this unwanted attention, Diana will have to come to terms with her witch heritage, and in doing so, she will break one of the main rules that govern all creatures.
Deborah Harkness has deeply impressed me with her voice and her style. She has created a world that is both believable and captivating. Her witches and vampires are fairly traditional in their abilities, but her take on daemons had me grinning – hyperactive geniuses or madmen rather than denizens from Hell. And I simply adore all her characters, not just Diana and Matthew but her secondary characters have charmed the socks off me.
The other thing I really enjoyed about A Discovery of Witches was Harkness’ literary scholarship. She ties all manner of actual historical literature into the world she’s created, and I found myself smiling with recognition and delight at some of the names and literary works she cites. Ms. Harkness has written several non-fiction books on historical literature and alchemy, as well as some works on wine, so she knows her stuff.
Be forewarned that A Discovery of Witches is the first in a trilogy, and I suspect when you get to the end, you’ll see where the next two will be going, and I bet you’ll be just as anxious as I am to read them! This is definitely one of my Top 10 for this year.
It’s no secret that I like urban fantasy, so I listened carefully while Amber has sold tons of the D D Barant series known as The Bloodhound Files – Dying Bites and Death Blows – and naturally I caved. Of course I did. And I snagged both of them.
She’s absolutely right. They’re great!
The basic premise is that there is an alternate universe, parallelling ours, where vampires, lycanthropes and golems are the main species. Okay, “pires” and “thropes” are. They make the “lems”, who tend to be enforcer types. However, humans are an endangered species.
There’s no such thing as mental illness in this world since pires and thropes heal everything, including broken minds. But when a serial killer is discovered among them, the only thing the NSA can do is get a shaman to cast a serious spell and bring in an FBI profiler from our world. Enter Jace Valchek: kick-ass, smart-mouthed, wickedly impertinent and frequently irritated.
Barant’s writing is smart, fast and funny, sometimes gritty and a bit dark, and it’s been keeping me on the edge of my seat for a few days now, and I’m on the list for the third one when it comes out in January. It’s a testament to his skill, since the series is written in present tense, which I generally dislike, but I barely notice here. His characters are complex and quirky and have a definite chemistry. This is a fun and addicting series, and Amber is right – once you start reading them, you’ll be hooked!
When an author I admire recommends a book to me, I listen. So when Marc Acito told me that I had to read Anne Mendel’s debut, Etiquette for an Apocalypse, I jumped at it. Besides, I love a good, funny post-Apocalyptic murder mystery. What’s not to love?
In 2020, everything fell apart. Now Sophia Cohen, her husband Bertrand, their teenage daughter Sasha, and Sophia’s mother Lulu, along with Lulu’s two Rottweilers, are living in an apartment in Portland, OR, and they’re scraping by, as you would expect after the Apocalypse. Still, there’s a small group of folks in the neighborhood who have banded together to form a tiny community, and while things aren’t great – Sasha maintains this is the worst Apocalypse ever! – they’re doing okay. When Bertrand discovers women being murdered, he takes it to Sophia, who can’t help investigating, even though she wants to mind her own business.
Let me tell you, Marc did not steer me wrong. This is a funny novel, true, but it has heart. The relationship Sophia and her family have is complicated, turbulent at times (Sasha’s a teenager so of course there’s trouble!), and filled with deep love. I laughed, as Marc promised I would, but more importantly, I cared. I think you will too; the Cohens and their friends are good people.
I may never leave my house again.
I read Alex Kava’s Exposed and Lori Andrews' Immunity back to back. They’re both brilliant authors, they’ve both done incredible research, they both chose terrifyingly realistic topics.
I’ve been a Maggie O’Dell fan practically since the beginning, and with Exposed, Alex Kava takes us on a journey that is completely plausible. Maggie and her boss, FBI Assistant Director Cunningham, are having a discussion over a box of doughnuts when Cunningham notices a folded piece of paper underneath the pastries. It reads:
“CALL ME GOD. THERE WILL BE A CRASH TODAY. At 13949 ELK GROVE 10:00 A.M. I’D HATE FOR YOU TO MISS IT. I AM GOD. P.S. YOUR CHILDREN ARE NOT SAFE ANYWHERE AT ANY TIME.”
They respond with a bomb squad, only to discover that the “crash” is a deliberate outbreak of ebola, and both Maggie and Cunningham have been exposed. What happens next could have devastating consequences for the whole country.
It takes a daring author to throw a huge monkey wrench into a proven series, but we're here to tell you that Patricia Briggs has done it.
Patricia Briggs is best known for her urban fantasy "Mercy Thompson" series set in the Tri-Cities here in Washington State, but she has a secondary, parallel series, the "Alpha and Omega" series, that complements and expands on Mercy’s world. Briggs' latest novel, Fair Game, takes this New York Times bestselling author's world firmly in hand and then turns it on its head.
As an Omega werewolf, Anna Cornick is sent by her father-in-law, the Marrock (Alpha of ALL werewolves in North America) to Boston to help the FBI find a serial killer, one who's been killing not only werewolves but the fae. Charles goes along, of course, but he is haunted by his past actions, and is holding Anna at arm's length, which is disturbing and detrimental to both of them. But what happens in Boston changes everything, not just for Charles and Anna.
Patricia Briggs has made the New York Times bestseller list for good reason. She can really write. Her "Mercy Thompson" series grabbed both of us with Moon Called (this is the 1st in the series, start here, and read the Mercy books before you start on the “Alpha and Omegas”) and we've torn through her work like maniacs, all six of the "Mercy" series and the three "Alpha and Omega", plus the novella that began it all. Fran's even read all of her non-urban fantasy writing. Ms. Briggs has a flair that keeps you reading. "Leslie learned two valuable things about the fae that day. There were powerful and charming -- and they ate children and puppies." She doesn't always play nice, which is part of why we like her writing so much.
But in Fair Game, Patricia Briggs has taken a huge step and what she has set in motion will rip through the world she's set up. If you've only read the Mercy Thompson series, you must pick up the Alpha and Omega series. If you haven't read Patricia Briggs at all? Oh man, are you missing out and in for a treat! We can't say enough good things about her and her writing, and we're seriously excited that we are, in fact, the second stop on her signing tour. Reserve not only Fair Game but any of hers you might have missed, and then plan on being here March 7th so you can see Amber and Fran squee like the fans they are!
On a completely different note, are you looking for something to spice up your holiday fun? Amber convinced me to read this and I’m passing it along to you. Meet Gumdrop Coal. “Gumdrop Coal is my name and I’m a 1300 year old elf and the chip on my shoulder will give you tetanus. I’m two-foot-three, but if you think you can crack wise about my height or take me in a fight, you’ll be making the worst mistake of your sorry life. I will jingle your bells up through your giblets hard enough to make your eyes scream.I’m serious.” Gumdrop Coal is in charge of the Coal Patrol, the folks that fill kids’ stockings with coal when they’ve hit the Naughty List. Yeah, you know who you are. But Gumdrop’s been fired, and he’s pretty certain it wasn’t Santa’s doing. And then a dead body pops up – a Hall that’s been decked with an Official Red Ryder Carbine-Action Two-Hundred-Shot Range Model BB Gun – and Gumdrop’s in the firing line. Can he figure out what’s going on before his goose is cooked?
Wickedly punny, encompassing every Christmas story you can imagine and laced through with hardboiled action, Ken Harmon’s The Fat Man: A Tale of North Pole Noir is a hoot, complete with shady dames, sultry spies, heavy-fisted enforcers, off-set with a solid dose of Christmas cheer. Amber: The noir style of writing keeps the story from becoming so sweet you get a tooth ache just from reading it! It is a really great holiday read.
If you like dark, twisty, wickedly intelligent and fast-paced books, have you tried Gillian Flynn? You need to. Seriously.
With her third book, Gone Girl, Flynn takes a good, hard look at how people percieve themselves, the people they love and the way society percieves them and us. It isn't pretty, but it is disturbingly real.
I don't want to get too much into the plot; JB covered it brilliantly at the first of the month (you can see his review on our GoodReads page) except to say that Nick Dunne's wife, Amy, is missing, and the story is told in alternating chapters, Nick's point of view and Amy's diary.
It's the writing, the observations Gillian Flynn makes about people that hits home with a vengeance.
"We stare at the wonders of the world, dull-eyed, underwhelmed. Mona Lisa, the Pyramids, the Empire State Building. Jungle animals on attack, ancient icebergs collapsing, volcanoes erupting. I can't recall a single amazing thing I have seen firsthand that I didn't immediately reference to a movie or TV show. [snip] I've literally seen it all, and the worst thing, the thing that makes me want to blow my brains out, is: The secondhand experience is always better. The image is crisper, the view is keener, the camera angle and the soundtrack manipulate my emotions in a way reality can't anymore. I don't know that we are actually human at this point, those of us who are like most of us, who grew up with TV and movies and now the Internet. If we are betrayed, we know the words to say; when a loved one dies, we know the words to say. If we want to play the stud or the smart-ass or the fool, we know the words to say. We are all working from the same dog-eared script."
There are twists and turns, and I found my sympathies changing almost on a page-by-page basis. These people, with all their flaws and strengths, moments of brilliance and complete jackassery, altruism and overwelming selfishness, these people have carved a place in my heart. JB may very well be right. If this isn't the book of the year, it's in the top two. Read it.
Once again, Joshilyn Jackson has hit it out of the park!
A Grown-Up Kind of Pretty is told from three different viewpoints, Ginny (also known as “Big”) is Liza’s mother and Mosey’s grandmother. Trouble comes to the Slocumb women every 15 years, and this year Mosey turns 15, so Big is worried sick about her, since Big got pregnant with Liza at 15, and Liza with Mosey at the same age. But Big figures all the trouble the Slocumbs are going to have happens when Liza has a stroke.
Then a casket of bones is found under the old willow, and now trouble really is visiting the Slocumb women.
Joshilyn Jackson consistently creates real people, filled with flaws and strengths and humor and darkness and hope and deep despair. Her people are ordinary folks with troubles and successes that have an element everyone can relate to, and I always, always look forward to her books. Joshilyn lets us into the minds of each of the Slocumb women – and the parts of the story told from Liza’s desperate and confused point of view are both heartbreaking and inspirational – and her distinctly different voices for Big, Liza and Mosey add a depth and richness to A Grown-Up Kind of Pretty that left me cheering for them all.
We've all heard of Marcia Clark, prosecuter in the O. J. Simpson trial (her book on that is no longer in print. Sorry!). Because she was a deputy District Attorney, it's reasonable to assume that she can tell a good story. Most trial lawyers can, I suspect. And I saw her on a panel at Bouchercon a couple of years ago, so I know she's funny and charismatic.
But can she write?
Why yes. Yes, she can, and well.
Rachel Knight is a D.A. in Los Angeles, and she's feisty and dogged and more than a bit of a smart ass. Just my kind of gal. But she's multi-layered, and she's not always nice, and I like that too. She's willing to do things she shouldn't to get at the truth, which is to be expected in a good protagonist, but she's also a little selfish and she doesn't see it, which makes her really human.
In Guilt by Association, Knight gets caught up in trying to find out why her colleague was murdered, even though she's told to stay off the case. Besides, she has her plate full investigating the assault of the daughter of a prominent family, which leads her into gang territory. In Guilt by Degrees, Knight takes over a case bungled by a fellow prosecutor, a case with ties to a slain police officer from years ago.
Guilt by Association has a few rough spots that you'd expect with a first novel, but by the time I was a couple of chapters in, they didn't bother me at all. If you're at all suspicious -- as I am -- you'll anticipate a few of the twists in Guilt by Degrees, but it doesn't matter because the story's so good.
All in all, I recommend both. They're strong, fast, well written and a ton of fun. They're easy to read, they flow well and I raced through both of them. Honestly, I'm really looking forward to what happens in the third one!
I've wanted to read The Gun Seller by Hugh Laurie for quite some time now, and finally I got around to it. What a hoot!
Former Scots Guard, Thomas Lang, is not a cold-blooded killer, and in fact when he's hired to kill an American industrialist, Lang goes to warn him. This takes a decidedly bad turn, resulting in a bashing with a Buddha, and leading to dicey deals made with various political organizations, crooked billionaires, international terrorists, and the occasional stunning femme fatale or two. Pretty much what you'd expect from a master of comic acting.
And The Gun Seller is funny, at times laugh-out-loud so. I'll grant you, there were times when I thought that perhaps Mr. Laurie was trying a bit too hard, but all in all, this is a great and fun diversion. You must appreciate British humor, and the story is somewhat dated since the book was published in 1996, pre-9/11 which factors into international travel. The Gun Seller has been likened to a combination of "Get Smart" and anything by Tom Clancy. It reminded me a lot of Donald Westlake's The Spy in the Ointment, which is one of my all-time favorite books. So if you're looking for something lighthearted but with great characters (I dearly love Solomon), non-stop action and an understated but still timely political and social message, this is the perfect book!
"Imagine that you have to break someone's arm. Right or left, it doesn't matter. The point is that you have to break it, because if you don't. . . .well, that doesn't matter either. Let's just say bad things will happen if you don't.
Now, my question goes like this: do you break the arm quickly -- snap, whoops, sorry, here let me help you with that improvised splint -- or do you drag the whole business out for a good eight minutes, every now and then increasing the pressure in the tiniest of increments, until the pain becomes pink and green and hot and cold and altogether howlingly unbearable?
Well exactly. Of course. The right thing to do, the only thing to do, is get it over with as quickly as possible. Break the arm, ply the brandy, be a good citizen. There can be no other answer.Unless.Unless unless unless.
Okay, can someone please get in touch with Anthony LaPaglia's agent and pitch him Mike Lawson's House Blood? Seriously, this would be a massive blockbuster, if someone would take the time to make the film, and I've always envisioned LaPaglia as Joe DeMarco, although I'm sure there are other actors who could do a fine job. Actually, somebody should pitch the whole series, starting with The Inside Ring but House Blood has it all and would make one hell of a movie.
Granted, whichever director's smart enough to take it on (calling Mr. Soderbergh, Ms. Foster, Mr. Woo), no one will be able to capture the immense richness of the book. Sure, there's enough action -- a life-or-death scene on a back road in Peru, a shoot-out in downtown D.C., mercenaries in Uganda -- but it's the people and their situations that make this an exceptional book.
For those of us in the know, simply knowing it's a DeMarco book, that Emma has a life-threatening condition, that Mahoney is no longer Speaker of the House adds tension. But add into that a couple of truly psychopathic people, some good guys doing bad things, some good guys caught up in situations they're completely overwhelmed by, and then toss in power politics and big pharma, and you've got a gripping thriller that runs from gaspingly sad to laugh-out-loud funny, and the pages just can't be turned fast enough. No director will be able to capture the true scope of this book (sorry, Mr. Soderbergh, Ms. Foster, Mr. Woo, but it's just too rich to be captured in an hour-and-a-half thrill-ride), so you definitely need to read it.
But that doesn't mean it shouldn't be a movie, because it will be a seriously huge hit. Remember, you heard it here first!
I tend to avoid the big bestsellers, the blockbusters, because they don't need my push. (Granted, when some of my faves become big bestsellers and blockbusters, I'm still going to read them!) But once in a while, I give in to the hype and see if what's being said is really true.
So I read Suzanne Collins' "Hunger Games" trilogy. And I loved it. I'm not going to say anything about the plot because I'm sure everyone on the planet knows the premise. But there's a reason that this series is so incredibly popular. It's well-written and it's thought-provoking and it's simply good! It does, in fact, have the expected plot points and cliches you might be anticipating. It's an underdog-teenager-tries-to-save-the-world-against-all-odds story, so you know where it's headed before you pick up the first book. And because our heroine, Katniss, is a teenager and has an entire world's worth of teenage angst, anger and willful pig-headed stubborness.
But here's what makes it special. Collins doesn't soften things up. This is not a pretty world and very, very bad things happen to good people. This is not a sparkly or resolutely cheerful series. The trilogy is permeated with people doing the best they can with what they've got. Some of the good guys aren't as good as we'd like, and some of the bad guys have a touch of honor that surprises. And Collins makes some realistic and painfully hard choices. Not all the good guys win, not all the bad guys are brought to justice. People whom we've invested in are damaged and killed. There's a lot that is not easy to read because it is harsh and brutal. And that's what makes this such an amazing series.
I read The Hunger Games on Friday, Catching Fire on Saturday and Mockingjay on Sunday. These are fast-paced, well-written and engrossing books. I did find Mockingjay to be the weakest, but by that time I was so invested that I didn't mind. These are marketed as YA (Young Adult) books, but honestly, I think anyone who enjoys futuristic dystopian literature will like them.
Christmas in the de Luce household has never been as action-packed as it is in the next Alan Bradley novel, I Am Half-Sick of Shadows (November). Finances are tight at Buckshaw Manor, and Flavia’s father reluctantly allows a cine’ crew access to the stately old house for their filming. The whole village is excited by the idea that legendary film star, Phyllis Wyvern,will be in attendance, and Flavia’s older sister, Ophelia, is hoping for a part.
Miss Wyvern, however, is not as nice as everyone believed, and when she’s found dead with a length of her film wrapped around her throat, Flavia kicks into high gear. Add in a blizzard and Flavia’s determination to capture Father Christmas (she has the perfect chemical paste!), and you know that, once again, the de Luce family will capture your heart. But will they capture the evil-doer?
You really can’t go wrong with any of Flavia’s adventures. Fast-paced, charming and frequently poignant, Alan Bradley has tapped into the heart and mind of a precocious 11 year old girl, and I Am Half-Sick of Shadows is absolutely no exception.
And, as an added bonus and if my Advance Reader Copy is to be believed, I Am Half-Sick of Shadows will make an excellent holiday present, with a special page presenting this book from Flavia and. . .perhaps you? to a soon-to-be-delighted recipient.
Then I followed up this harrowing story with Lori Andrews', Immunity. I’ve been reading her Alex Blake series definitely from the very beginning, and I knew it would have something to do with genetics because that’s what Alex Blake does; she’s a civilian working for the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology working on epidemics and genetic immunity.
DEA agent Castro Baxter and his partner, Ted Silliman, follow a suspect onto a Native American reservation in New Mexico, and just when the anticipated meeting that might lead them to the source behind a new date-rape drug called “J” occurs, Ted collapses to the ground, his whole body swelling grotesquely. Baxter breaks cover to rush his partner to the nearest hospital, but Ted dies long before they get there.
Alex, along with the AFIP team, begin an investigation that will eventually take them all around the country, chasing what may be a new disease that is killing off a growing number of people. But is it a disease, or is it a poison.
Between these two exceptional authors, I find myself now jumping at every sniffle, eyeing man-made materials suspiciously, and – quite seriously – wondering about the true possibilities of biological hazards as weapons in our lives, and the pictures these two fine authors have painted have left me exceptionally nervous.
Once you have read them, you’ll understand why I don’t want to leave my house!
When I first read John Connolly’s young adult novel, The Gates, I spent copious portions of my time reading parts of the book aloud to, well, anyone neaby whether I knew them or not.
I didn’t do that with The Infernals, but that’s because I read it in basically one night, and I figured my cats wouldn’t appreciate the great fun I was having. I admit I might have been wrong, but they’ll never say.
In The Infernals, a couple of years have passed since the events that took place in The Gates, and Samuel Johnson and his faithful dachsund, Boswell, have recovered (mostly) from those traumatic events, although Samuel misses Nurd, who is back in Hell. But things are about to take a decided turn for the worse, much to everyone’s dismay.
By the way, you HAVE read The Gates, haven’t you? Because you must read that one first. In fact, in one of the footnotes that liberally sprinkle both books, entertaining and enlightening readers, Our Narrator (one assumes Mr. Connolly) has this to say to you: “And what kind of person are you, reading the second part of a series before the first? I mean, really? Do you put on your shoes before your socks, or put your pants before your underwear? Now the rest of the readers have to hang around, whistling and examining their fingernails in a bored manner, while I give you special treatment. I bet you’re the sort who arrives halfway through the movie, spilling your popcorn and standing on toes, then taps the bloke next to you on the shoulder and says, ‘Have I missed anything?’ It’s people like you who cause unrest. . .”
Nico’s life has taken a decided downturn. Not only has his girlfriend, Diotima, left town, but Nico’s sponsor, Pericles, is threatening to fire Nico.
In order to keep his job, Nico agrees to transport a beautiful slave girl to Persia while investigating the murder of an Athenian statesman. But outwitting the brigands sent to kill him and solving the mystery of the murder may very well pale when Nico runs into Diotima with his slave girl in tow!
Gary Corby’s series has been likened to Lindsay Davis’ “Marcus Didius Falco” series, but that comparison only goes so far, in my opinion. Corby’s characters are just as compelling, his research into the time is excellent, and his storytelling is wonderful. But Gary Corby proves in this sequel to The Pericles Commission that he is his own author, and that he’s not afraid to write about customs as they really were, without prettying things up. There are a few scenes that had me glancing away from the page, but I had to go immediately back because his writing is so absorbing, and I really do care about what happens to the folks who inhabit Corby’s books.
Sometimes we order a book thinking it’s one thing when, in fact, it’s something else completely. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, just something of a surprise. And Daniel Polansky’s debut novel, Low Town turned out to be quite a surprise.
The Warden was a cop, who became an elite inquisitor, who was then stripped of his rank and tossed out. Now he’s a drug dealer in Low Town, where the dregs of the city scrabble to survive, and while he does use his own product, the Warden maintains a tough enough profile that he’s not messed with a lot. But then a little girl is found murdered, the Warden’s at the scene, and his old bosses are more than ready to make him the fall guy.
Sounds like a good noir thriller, right? Well, it is, but that’s not all it is. You see, in addition to being a good crime novel, Low Town is also a fantasy novel. In addition to corrupt politicians and turf wars, the Warden has to deal with the magic element in his town, the sorcerers who protect as well as the ones that are probably behind the girl’s death.
We hadn’t quite counted on the magic aspect of this book, and in general, the fantasty we carry tends to be set on Earth, whereas Low Town is set completely otherworld. That being said, Polansky has written a tight and fast-paced novel, filled with all kinds of political and racial commentary as well as some great kick-ass characters. The fact that I figured out whodunit partway through didn’t detract at all from finishing the book, and it’ll be interesting to see if he decides to continue with this world.
One of the joys of working here are recommendations from my co-workers. I’ve been told from day one that there was a series I needed to read, but there was always something new and shiny that distracted me.
I have finally started Carol O’Connell’s “Mallory” series. Oh my goodness!
One of the things JB has always said about Mallory is that she’s a cipher; you only learn about her through other people. We’re never allowed into Mallory’s head (except for a tiny paragraph in the first one, Mallory’s Oracle and that is part of the attraction. Mallory’s not like normal people. She’s a functioning sociopath and she knows it. That’s what makes her so fascinating!
I haven’t been this drawn to a character and a series since I read Nicola Griffith’s “Aud Torvingen” series.
And I’m going to be in Mallory’s world until I’ve read them all!
[JB adds: my spiel on Mallory is that she’s a void in the stories. She’s created by how everyone tiptoes around her and how everyone anticipates she’ll react – because you do not want to make Mallory mad. (Ever) And I find that a unique way to construct a character, and that’s the fascination for me in the series – that and O’Connell’s wonderful writing.]
This is one of those times when I’m going to ask you to trust me. Seriously, trust me.
Anyone who has read anything by Matt Ruff knows he can really write, and he can take an ordinary thought and twist it in truly unexpected ways. He’s out-done himself this time, and the result is remarkable and amazing, and a bit disconcerting.
In The Mirage (signing Feb. 16th at noon), Ruff has taken our version of what happened on 9/11 and turned it on its ear. On November 9th – 11/9 – two planes piloted by Christian terrorists flew into the Tigris and Euphrates World Trade Towers in downtown Baghdad, a third one flew into the defense ministry in Riyadh and the fourth plane, bound for Mecca, was brought down by its passengers.
Now, nine years later, Arab Homeland Security agent Mustafa al Baghdadi captures a suicide bomber, who claims that the reality Mustafa is living is simply a mirage, that America is really the superpower instead of the United Arab States, and he has physical proof: a copy of the New York Times dated September 12th, 2001. Mustafa’s search for the truth will pit him against the gangster, Saddam Hussein, and the head of the Senate Intelligence Committee, a war hero named Osama bin Laden.
I’ve read a fair number of alternate reality books, but I hadn’t realized how ingrained and personal 9/11 was until I started reading The Mirage. At first I found it disturbing even though I know it’s fiction. It just seemed. . .wrong, somehow.
And yet. . .it’s not. Once I wrapped my head around this disconnect and let Matt Ruff’s writing take me away, this is an absolutely brilliant book. His sense of humor, his twist on popular culture (people reference the user-edited information source “The Library at Alexandria” as opposed to Wikipedia, and there are entries from The Library throughout the book) and his characters all make The Mirage an amazing and wonderful book. The ending is satisfying in a lot of different ways, and the people he has incorporated, not only Hussein and bin Laden but David Koresh and Timothy McVeigh among others you’ll recognize, are brilliantly portrayed, true to their real-life counterparts in many ways but oddly unique.
I was up late at night finishing The Mirage, and I suspect you will be too. It is, perhaps, an uncomfortable premise, but this is where I ask you to trust me. It’s a brilliant book, possibly the best of 2012, and in January, that’s saying quite a bit.
The O’Connor family is still healing after their loss, and in William Kent Krueger’s latest Cork O’Connor novel, Northwest Angle, Cork has pulled his family together for a houseboat vacation on the remote Lake of the Woods. But a huge and terrifying storm strikes while Cork and Jenny are away, isolating them. When Jenny finds a young woman’s brutalized body and an abandoned baby, she and her father realize that they have stumbled onto something bigger than the aftermath of a storm. As always, William Kent Krueger writes an engrossing and complex story that kept us turning pages. In this one, we see the story from multiple points of view, which ratchets up the tension, keeping the action and adrenaline flowing.
When Larry Karp told me about his latest novel, I was intrigued. A mystery set during the first in vitro fertilization trials, with all its scientific, religious and moral dilemmas sounded just like the sort of thing I'd be interested in, and knowing that Dr. Karp was instrumental in helping couples become families using IVF back then added that touch of authenticity that I knew would make A Perilous Conception a must-read. And wow, is it ever! I hope this is the beginning of a series with Baumgartner!
Briefly, his protagonist, Edward Jenner, was a forensic pathologist for New York, but after the events of 9/11, he was too shattered to continue. In Precious Blood, Jenner is hired as a consultant by the parents of a young woman who is found brutally murdered, and Jenner gets caught up in the need to catch the killer before he can get to a young woman Jenner is attracted to. There's much more going on, but that's the basic outline.
What Dr. Hayes has done is created a character who will strike a resonant chord with many of us, not just because of his involvement with the 9/11 attacks, but because Edward Jenner is a good man who is burned out, kind of lost, tired, but ultimately looking to do good. The fact that Jenner throws himself into the investigation rather than confront his own demons is skilfully handled and understandable. Jenner is both selfless and selfish, hopeful and depressed, loving and remote. He's a walking contradiction and I very much like him.
So I'm looking forward to seeing what happens in A Hard Death, now that Jenner has gotten on the seriously wrong side of his political enemies and has gone to Florida to recuperate. From what I know of him, Jenner will get into trouble, and will stubbornly refuse to let the good guys down. But be forewarned, because Dr. Hayes is an actual medical examiner, these books are not for the weak of tummy. His discussion of bodies is straightforward and non-gratuitous, but if you've got an imagination at all, it's fairly graphic.
Once again, I have let my stereotypes blind me to something really outstanding. I always think of Neal Stephenson as a science fiction author, which means I completely ignored his latest work, Reamde and that was a mistake on my part. But I kept hearing good things about it, so I jumped in and man, am I glad I did!
Richard Forthrast is the black sheep of his Iowa family. A draft dodger and former pot smuggler, he has now become incredibly successful as the creator of a multiplayer online role playing game, T’Rain. However, when hackers release a virus into his game, holding both virtual and real money hostage, they set in motion a series of events that will have Richard and his family chasing around the world.
Stephenson has written an epic book (over 1000 pages!) with all manner of exciting characters: Russian mobsters, Chinese and one intrepid Hungarian hacker, MI6, and Islamic terrorists. There’s high tech action, things blow up, and I was often on the edge of my seat.
But at the heart of his incredibly fast-paced and substantive novel is a book about family, the obligations that follow you, borne of love and duty. Set here in Seattle as well as around the world, Reamde is an amazing and brilliant book, and I’m just sorry I didn’t read it earlier!
Have you read Val McDermid’s Tony Hill and Carol Jordan series? If you haven’t read them and you like brilliantly plotted thrillers that are edge-of-your-seat paced and filled with flawed and deeply human characters, you should. Begin with The Mermaids Singing and read them all in order.
I say this because you need to know these people, have their backgrounds and stories clear in your head before you read The Retribution.
In one of their first collaborations and successes, Tony Hill and Carol Jordan identified and captured Jacko Vance, star athlete, celebrated television personality and sadistic killer. Vance was charming, charismatic, brilliant and completely without scruples, and they made sure he was locked away without any possibility of parole.
When Vance escapes, they know he’s going to come after them, but they have no idea exactly how. What Vance does to exact his retribution is exactly why you have to have read all the other books first. Knowing these people takes Vance’s actions out of the realm of shocking into completely devastating.
Val McDermid is one of the pre-eminant writers of our time, and with The Retribution she proves that she’s not afraid to take bold chances, to change things in powerful and unsuspected ways. I’ve always admired her writing, but with this one, Ms. McDermid has completely raised the bar and it left me breathless and drained. She is a master writer in every sense of the word!
In Shaded Vision the 12th in Yasmine Galenorn’s “Otherworld” series (excluding novellas), the sisters are getting ready for Iris’s wedding to Bruce when things start to spin out of their control. The Supe Community Center is blown up, and people are dead. The Koyanni, the evil Coyote shifters, are back, and they seem to be out for revenge. And they have a new ally, one whom the D’Artigo sisters, even with all their friends, may not be able to defeat.
In addition to the turmoil in the community, Delilah has some growing up of her own to do, and she’s not entirely sure she’s ready. But change is coming, ready or not!
Those who are already fans of the D’Artigo sisters – as I am! – will be more than a little excited to see what happens next. Galenorn has raised the stakes and her story-telling prowess is finely honed here. What makes this series so great is not the action, although there’s plenty of it, but the way the characters change and grow, not just Camille, Delilah and Menolly but all the people in her world. They are surprising and interesting, and the fact that they all do change, along with the sometimes messy endings (the good guys don’t always win, and sometimes lose dreadfully) makes this a complex and compelling series.
And CONGRATULATIONS to Ms. Galenorn for her nominations with Romantic Times. Not only is Courting Darkness (signed copies available) nominated for Best Urban Fantasy for last year-- but she herself is up for a Career Achievement Award!
Rich. Compelling. Intriguing. Multi-layered. Passionate. Favorite.
These are all words I’ll be using t describe Deborah Harkness’s Shadow of Night (signed copies available, reserve now so we know how many to get!), the sequel to her bestselling debut, A Discovery of Witches, but they’re just not enough. Not by half.
If you haven’t read A Discovery of Witches, I don’t want to give too much away. Diana and Matthew are trying to find a way for Diana to control her magic which leads them into Matthew’s past. But you can’t delve too much in the past without changing the present, and Diana and Matthew are involved with some very big names, people you’ll recognize.
I fell for the characters in A Discovery of Witches, and now there are characters in Shadow of Night I’m equally invested in. Harkness’s take on some of the greatest historical figures is brilliant and completely believable. As Diana and Matthew move through history, we learn about it, and it comes alive, vibrant and real – smells, sights, sounds, they’re all there making this a truly sensual novel in the classic meaning of the word (rather than erotic) -- and I love every the aspect of this book.
There’s wonder and fun, heartbreak and intrigue, and a really cool dog. It’s the perfect sequel, taking us further into their story, giving the characters even more depth, and…well, I’m gushing, but it really is that good.
Now I can’t wait for the third one!
I’ve enjoyed Brian Freeman’s “Jonathan Stride” series, so I was both excited and wary to see he had written a stand-alone. Those can be wonderful or dicey. Spilled Blood is a home run. No question. Two rural towns in Minnesota have a long-standing feud. Affluent Barron and blue-collar St. Croix have had escalating tensions, since the folks of St. Croix believe that the research corporation centered in Barron has been poisoning them, resulting in several cancer deaths, but the results of a lawsuit cleared Mondamin Research. Now Ashlynn Steele has been murdered. The teenage daughter of the owner of Mondamin is found dead in an abandoned town, and classmate Olivia Hawk is accused. The evidence against Olivia is compelling and overwhelming. But Olivia’s father, Christopher, refuses to believe that his daughter could do such a thing, and he leaves his Twin Cities law practice to come to St. Croix and fight for his daughter. What he finds is much bigger than he had anticipated.
Brian Freeman has an amazing talent for characters. His people are fascinating, flawed and driven and completely human. Even when I hate them, I love them. And his story here is compelling and fast-paced. He is not afraid to place his people in realistic and damaging situations, and I found myself compelled to find out what happened next. I really do highly recommend this one!
Gagged and bound, tossed in the back of a closet.
That’s how we meet Alan Bradley’s protagonist in his first novel, The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, and Flavia de Luce is not one to be hindered by inconveniences such as these! She is, after all, an aspiring chemist with a penchant for sticking her nose into other people’s business. In fact, not long after escaping her dark prison, Flavia finds a man dying in the cucumber patch and feels compelled to figure out what happened, since her father is the prime suspect.
Did I mention that Flavia is eleven years old?
Alan Bradley has created a charming and wickedly intelligent young lady, overlooked or picked on by her sisters (hence the stint in the closet), absently loved by her widowed father, befriended by the shell-shocked handyman, and as intrepid as ever a young Miss Marple might be. As she investigates the suspicious death of the man in the garden, frequently just one step ahead of the police while racing around on her trusty bicycle, Gladys, Flavia uncovers more than just a stamp-related death. She has to learn about her own family.
Picture a combination of Lisa Lutz’s young charmer, Rae, mixed with a very young Abby Sciuto (the plucky, Betty Page-like forensic tech from NCIS) but with a personality all her own, and you have Flavia de Luce. I hope we’ll see much more of her!
JB said that the new Peter Spiegelman, Thick as Thieves is the book of the year. He may very well be right.
Declan, Carr’s mentor, says about the people they rob from: “And, of course, the boys and me are stealthy bastards – they don’t know we exist until we’re over the threshold, and then it’s in fast, out fast, and clear out of town. We don’t leave footprints, and we never – but never – fish the same stream twice.” Later on he says about the downside of their business: “What you’d expect: people get cross, they brood over things, they have long memories, and if they catch you they’ll kill you all kinds of dead – by which time death will seem like a mercy.”
The plot is twisty and complex, and is as meticulously designed as the cons Carr and his band of thieves execute. I’ve never been particularly fond of present-tense novels, but I got completely sucked into Thick as Thieves and didn’t notice after the first page. The characters are vivid, and as Carr’s distrust of his fellow thieves and his concern over what happened in the ill-fated heist in South America grows, I found myself sympathizing with his distress, can he trust his colleagues? And if he can’t trust Valerie, his lover, what should he do about it?
The suspense is relentls, the writing superb and the characters fascinating. The only negative is that it’s over far too quickly!
This stand-alone is one that will stay with you for a while. Set in England after World War I, Harris Stuyvesant is a member of Hoover’s Investigative Bureau in search of a bomber who has been terrorizing the United States. Stuyvesant is certain he knows who the culprit is, but he has no actual proof, hence his trip to England. In trying to get closer to his suspect, Stuyvesant meets a noble family, a snake of a government official, and the man who is the Touchstone.
Fans of the Mary Russell series are acutely aware of how meticulously researched Ms. King’s books are, and she proves herself yet again here. We’re thrown into a London on the verge of a massive Strike that will cripple the City and may very well prove the downfall of the ruling class. There are Reds and Bolsheviks and Anarchists galore, you can almost smell the coal in the air mingling with cigarette smoke and horse sweat.
Most of all, though, there are the people. Stuyvesant is driven by things that have happened in his past and to his family. Bennett Gray is a hugely sympathetic character, shell-shocked and on the verge of suicide, dulling his pain with alcohol. Aldous Carstairs is immediately unlikable, but in his own way, he is doing what he believes is best, and he doesn’t much care who gets hurt. Lady Laura Hurleigh and her best friend, Bennett’s sister Mary, are women fighting for a cause. Richard Bunsen is determined in his goals and will use whatever methods are available to him. These are real people with passions and hopes and blind spots that make them a part of you. You know these folks.
It will come as no surprise to anyone that I loved this book; I’m extraordinarily fond of all of Ms. King’s works. If you haven’t read her before, this is an excellent place to start!
Rebecca Cantrell’s Hannah Vogel series begins in 1931 Germany with A Trace of Smoke, continues during 1933 in The Night of Long Knives, leading us to the current hardback, A Game of Lieswhich takes place during the Berlin Olympics of 1936 and Jesse Owens.
Rich in the history of the time, meticulously researched and darkly atmospheric, this series brings to life the ongoing and growing presence and power of the Nazis as they become more and more a political and privately intimidating force to be reckoned with. The oppressive caution, the blossoming violence, the sacrifices and the quiet acts of heroism are made very personal in this series.
What makes Rebecca Cantrell’s series stand out, though, is her obvious love of Germany, and how, through Hannah’s eyes and actions, we’re allowed to fall in love with an amazing land overrun with evil. With her, we are allowed to feel that we have some small part in standing up against the horror.
We always recommend that you read books in series order, and in this particular case, while you certainly can read them out of sequence, I believe you’ll lose some of the building tension. Cantrell has woven a masterful series. She told us there will be a total of nine: these three which are pre-War, three during the War and three post-War.
If you haven't read Lisa Lutz's Spellman documents (Document #1 - The Spellman Files, Document #2 - Curse of the Spellmans, Document #3 - Revenge of the Spellmans, and Document #4 - The Spellmans Strike Again, then it's time you did! The Spellmans are a family of private investigators, Albert and Olivia (Dad and Mom), David (the oldest), Izzy (our narrator) and Rae (the youngest), and they get into some tricky situations, laced with laugh-out-loud humor.
In Document #5, there are just a few things you need to know:
1. There are overlapping cases that will result in a Chinese wall.
2. Grammy Spellman is concerned about everyone's weight.
3. Rae gets arrested.
4. Walter's home may or may not have a plugged-in toaster.
5. Never, ever, under any circumstances, say "banana" to Sydney.
You can always count on Lisa Lutz for laughs, guaranteed*. But what makes Trail of the Spellmans so interesting is the huge change in the Spellman family dynamics. Things will never be the same for them after this book!
So don't forget, Lisa Lutz signs Trail of the Spellmans here at 1:00 on Sunday, April 1st, and there will be cake!
*And footnotes! Lots and lots of footnotes!
This book intrigued me because it is set on Ellesmere Island, in the Arctic next to Greenland. I’ve read Icelandic and Scandanavian mysteries, and I wondered how they’d be different, at least from a cultural context. The answer? Massively.
Edie Kiglatuk is one of the absolute best guides in her corner of the Arctic. She’s proud of her skill, and she has fought fiercely against the village Elders who would love to take her guide license away from her, partly because she’s a woman, and partly because she’s only half Inuit. So when a man is killed on one of her tours, she grudgingly accepts their verdict of “accident” even though she knows it’s unlikely, since that will allow her to keep her license. But when someone close to her commits suicide, Edie decides that she has to figure out what’s going on, no matter what the consequences.
I really love Edie’s fondness for the old silent movies and how they provide comfort and inspiration for her. But fair warning, some of the food that’s staple to the region might be unsettling to non-Arctic sensibilities.
I had no idea how closely the people on Ellesmere are tied to Canadians and Alaskan natives, which has been fascinating. But make no mistake, that’s not the most important part of White Heat. What matters are the relationships between the characters, and everyone’s relationship to the elements, the ice, the cold, the predators. McGrath’s writing is clear, economical, driving and engrossing. There is a lot of depth in this book, but it’s still an incredibly fast read, and I’m thrilled to have spent time with the residents of Aktisaq.
This’ll appeal to a wide range of readers – those who like books set Scandanavia, Alaska and stories dealing with native populations.
Life is carefully programmed and supervised, the constantly gridlocked traffic belches flowery fumes and everything is smooth and moves without disruption. Students practice for their Competency Exams on a daily basis, and are completely protected from danger. Henrietta is at the bottom of her competative class, and is considered unlikeable by all her classmates. Her headaches also make her stand out, which only makes her more miserable. But then one night, Henrietta finds a wounded cat in her attic (completely forbidden and against the rules and dangerous!), and then Henrietta meets Gary and Rose, who also have headaches, and who also see the shadowy figure following them around. Together they might just solve the mystery of the figure, their headaches, and what a cat really is.
This is a brilliant book. Arntson weaves a cautionary tale about the dangers of being completely protected, and the hazards of being in a totally homogenized and automatic society into a gripping story about three children who learn to trust each other, and the wild housecat which they name Mister Lady. There are some disturbing bits, and I wouldn’t recommend it for kids under twelve or thirteen, but I would recommend it to anybody who has felt out of step with the world around them, and definitely to anyone who loves books.
“Henrietta is the main character of this story. This whole book will be about her – and it’s worth mentioning at the outset a few things that aren’t going to happen to her.
She will not become beautiful when someone gives her a new hairstyle.
She will not find a miracle cure for her pimples when an angel sees she’s a good girl inside.
She will not find out that she’s actually a princess, and she won’t become happy forever when a prince marries her.
Those books are out there, and your school librarian can help you find one. This isn’t it.”
And it’s gotten mixed reviews, so I knew I wasn’t alone in my hesitation. A blockbuster debut always raises a high bar, and Beat the Reaper was amazing! In Wild Thing, Pietro Brnwa, a/k/a Peter Brown, is using yet another alias, Dr. Lionel Azimuth, and he’s been hiding out on a cruise liner, providing medical care to the crew and passengers. But when he’s approached by a reclusive billionaire (called Rec Bill throughout the book) to investigate the claim of a possible monster living in a lake in upper Minnesota, the chance to get off the ship and on dry land – and make a fair amount of money doing it – certainly appeals. The fact that he’s paired up with a beautiful palentologist, Dr. Violet Hurst, certainly sweetens the deal. And of course things go incredibly wrong. Between the fact that the whole “monster in a lake” thing may very well be a scam, Lionel is faced with a bunch of meth makers, a television celebrity, and Sarah Palin. Yes, that Sarah Palin.
I enjoyed Wild Thing. It didn’t knock me over the way Beat the Reaper did, but it also didn’t have that incredibly twisty and disturbing scene (if you’ve read it, you know exactly which scene I’m talking about!), so it was, in a way a gentler read. It was fun and fast and made me laugh. And I really enjoyed the footnotes, which were informative and snarky as ever. It calls for a certain willing suspension of disbelief even though, as Bazell points out in his Sources section, most of what he’s put into the book has a basis in fact, thereby proving that fact is truly stranger than fiction. In fact, the Appendix and Sources sections are just as entertaining as the book itself! And Wild Thing is the perfect set-up for the third book, because Pietro is tired of being chased by the Mob. I can’t wait to see what he has in store for them!