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Thursday, July 26, 2012

Comic-Con 2012

On our way back from Baton Rouge the other day, we were listening to interviews from Comic-Con -- the program kept us captivated with interviews with Joss Whedon (my hero); Gale Ann Hurd (executive producer of The Walking Dead); Rian and Nathan Johnson about Looper, the concept and the musical score; comments on Farscape, the Australian science fiction series that I thoroughly enjoyed; an interview with Paolo Bacigalupi, author of The Drowned Cities, The Windup Girl, and Shipbreaker (I ordered The Windup Girl and Shipbreaker as soon as I got home); an interview with Tracy Hickman--and more!

Looper is definitely on my list of Must See Movies.



We listened on SiriusXM Comic-Con Radio.  Other interviews that we didn't get to hear were with Peter Jackson, Tim Burton, Stan Lee, and cast and crew members from Iron Man, Dr. Who, True Blood, and Twilight.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

TBR

Recently arrived in the mail:  4 ARCs and 1 uncorrected proof.

The Wedding Guests by Meredith Goldstein:

"From Meredith Goldstein, the author of the Boston Globe's hilarious 'Love Letters' advice column, comes her debut novel The Wedding Guests. This light-hearted, witty tale about five tricky wedding guests is perfect for fans of the box office smash hit comedy Bridesmaids."

On the Island by Tracey Garvis Graves:  

"Anna Emerson is a thirty-year-old English teacher desperately in need of adventure. Worn down by the cold Chicago winters and a relationship that’s going nowhere, she jumps at the chance to spend the summer on a tropical island tutoring sixteen-year-old T.J.

T.J. Callahan has no desire to go anywhere. His cancer is in remission and he wants to get back to his normal life. But his parents are insisting he spend the summer in the Maldives catching up on all the school he missed last year.

Anna and T.J. board a private plane headed to the Callahan’s summer home, and as they fly over the Maldives’ twelve hundred islands, the unthinkable happens. Their plane crashes in shark-infested waters. They make it to shore, but soon discover that they’re stranded on an uninhabited island."



Title will be released on August 28.  I read and enjoyed West of Here by Evison, so I'm interested in this one.

"Benjamin Benjamin has lost virtually everything—his wife, his family, his home, his livelihood. With few options, Ben enrolls in a night class called The Fundamentals of Caregiving, where he is instructed in the art of inserting catheters and avoiding liability, about professionalism, and on how to keep physical and emotional distance between client and provider.

But when Ben is assigned to tyrannical nineteen-year-old Trevor, who is in the advanced stages of Duchenne muscular dystrophy, he soon discovers that the endless mnemonics and service plan checklists have done little to prepare him for the reality of caring for a fiercely stubborn, sexually frustrated adolescent with an ax to grind with the world at large.

Though begun with mutual misgivings, the relationship between Trev and Ben evolves into a close camaraderie, and the traditional boundaries between patient and caregiver begin to blur as they embark on a road trip to visit Trev’s ailing father. A series of must-see roadside attractions divert them into an impulsive adventure interrupted by one birth, two arrests, a freakish dust storm, and a six-hundred-mile cat-and-mouse pursuit by a mysterious brown Buick Skylark.

Bursting with energy, this big-hearted and inspired novel ponders life’s terrible surprises and the heart’s uncanny capacity to mend."

Five O'Clock Follies (uncorrected proof) by Theasa Tuohy: 

Kirkus Review--"A freelance writer struggles to find her place among hard-nosed newsmen covering the Vietnam War in this depiction of wartime journalists.
In her debut, former Associated Press editor Tuohy describes the Vietnam War through a journalist’s lens. Freelance writer Angela Martinelli arrives in Saigon in 1968, wearing her “greenness” in the form of high-heeled shoes and a gorgeous mane of red hair. As one of the few women correspondents in a war zone, Angela is greeted with misogyny, skepticism or disdain by her male colleagues, except for Nick, who works for a Chicago newspaper and gives her the benefit of the doubt."
Night Watch by Linda Fairstein:

I've enjoyed several of Fairstein's Alexandra Cooper novels and look forward to this one.

"Forty-eight hours after Alexandra Cooper arrives in France to visit her boyfriend and famed restaurateur, Luc Rouget, her vacation in paradise is cut short when a young woman from the village is found murdered. The only evidence discovered on the body is one of Luc’s matchboxes promoting his new restaurant in New York. But before the investigation begins, Alex is summoned back to New York to handle a high profile case."

---

I'm really interested in the Evison and Fairstein novels because I'm familiar with the authors.  The other three sound more like romance novels, so I'm not too sure about them.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Spider Bones by Kathy Reichs

I'm a lover of mysteries and read the good, the bad, and the indifferent.   New authors are fun, and I'm always hopeful of finding new authors (or new-to-me authors), but there are certain authors to whom I return.  Kathy Reichs is one of those, so when I saw Spider Bones at the library, it went into the bag.

As it turned out, this one was not one of my favorites.   Reichs' plots have developed a predictable pattern, and while it is commendable to have characters act and react in ways that are consistent with the personalities that have been developed, if there is no stretching, spontaneity, or growth in the character--if both plot and characters are predictable--there is little suspense or anticipation.

The most interesting element of the book was the information of the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command.   In the case of this novel, the discovery and return of bodies from various wars (in this case, Viet Nam) and the process, a thorough and arduous process, to be sure of correct identification.

Reichs is always good about including factual information of some sort, and I love to learn while enjoying an entertaining story.  In this novel, the information is not as well interwoven as in previous novels and comes across as very dry.  Nevertheless, I learned some interesting information, which is always a good thing.

Another point of dissatisfaction for me was that the body that begins the mystery is found in a grotesque situation of his own devising.  Because of the manner of death, it was difficult to care about the victim.

None of this means that I will not return Reichs.  While I was not as satisfied with this novel, I have enjoyed most her novels and will certainly read more.

Fiction.  Mystery.  2010.  320 pages.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Dark Horse by Craig Johnson

Dark Horse  is another Walt Longmire novel, and you probably know by now that I enjoy these novels by Craig Johnson.  Longmire is the sheriff of the fictional Absaroka County in Wyoming and with his friend Henry Standing Bear, Longmire takes up the causes of the weak, the helpless, the underdog, the victimized.

Mary Barsad is transferred to his jail from another county, accused of killing her husband who set fire to their locked barn killing all of Mary's beloved horses.   Her husband's death causes no tears for any who knew the brutal man, but Mary confessed and will be held responsible for his murder.


Longmire, however, senses something amiss and goes undercover as an insurance agent to discover exactly what happened the night of the murder.

Told in two time periods--Longmire's current undercover attempts to discover what really happened  that night and flashbacks to the previous ten days--the reader is moved back and forth from present to past until nearly the end of the novel.


Johnson's novels are character driven, and he excels at bringing both primary and secondary characters to life.  Both familiar characters and new characters seem to breathe on their own, and the Wyoming landscape is always well done, becoming a character in its own right.


I highly recommend this series which is highly entertaining in a number of ways.


Biography

Craig Johnson has received both critical and popular praise for his novels The Cold Dish, Death Without Company, Kindness Goes Unpunished, Another Man's Moccasins and The Dark Horse. All five novels have been made selections by the Independent Booksellers Association, and The Cold Dish was a DILYS Award Finalist and was translated into French in 2009 as Little Bird and was just named one of the top ten mysteries of the year by Lire magazine and won the Prix du Roman Noir as the best mystery novel translated into French for 2010.

Death Without Company was selected by Booklist as one of the top-ten mysteries of 2006, won the Wyoming Historical Society's fiction book of the year. The short story, Old Indian Trick, won the Tony Hillerman Mystery Short Story Award and appeared in Cowboys & Indians Magazine.

Kindness Goes Unpunished, the third in the Walt Longmire series, was number 38 on the American Bookseller's Association's hardcover best seller list.

Another Man's Moccasins, was the recipient of Western Writer's of America's Spur Award as Novel of the Year and the Mountains and Plains Book of the Year. 

The Dark Horse, the fifth in the series has garnered starred reviews by all four prepublication review services, one of the only novels to receive that honor and was named by Publisher's Weekly as one of the top one hundred books of the year.

Craig lives with his wife Judy on their ranch in Ucross, Wyoming, population 25.

Fiction.  Mystery.  2010.  368 pages.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Reading in Transit

 Street Photos of Commuters Reading on the Subway. ( via Read in a Single Sitting)

And here is a Facebook site of the subway readers.  I love seeing people of all ages reading on the subway, totally absorbed, sometimes with book titles showing, sometimes not.

Photo: "The Master and Margarita," by Mikhail Bulgakov

Sam has an interesting, and a bit disturbing, post about the way our Kindle and Nook e- readers provide information about our reading choices and habits.

I was pleased to see that Nan of Letters from a Hill Farm found Midnight in Peking as interesting as I did.  Click the link to read her review; my review is here.  Author Paul French happens on an account of an unsolved murder in Peking in 1937 and investigates the story.

French uncovers a great deal of information and relates this true crime story, revealing the time period and the cover-ups, in an entirely readable way.




Another gem via Read in a Single Sitting:  Ten Unusual Micro Libraries.  I Love this one...
UK Phone Box Library

Photo by SuperFurryLibrarian/Flickr


This is the kind of thing that occupies me when I don't want to write reviews.

Saturday, July 07, 2012

Throne of Glass by Sarah Maas

Throne of Glass   is a YA fantasy novel published by Bloomsbury Children's Books and scheduled for an August release.

Assassin Celaena Sardothien is serving her sentence of hard labor in the salt mines of Endovier, when she is chosen by the Crown Prince to act as his champion in a competition to become the King's Assassin.  If she wins the competition and serves four years as the Royal Assassin, she will be granted her freedom.

Despite her hatred of the king, Celaena agrees.  Her choice is literally between the prospect of a slow death in Endovier or using her extraordinary skills in the hope of gaining her eventual freedom.

She is cleaned up, dressed, and escorted to the Glass Castle under heavy guard.  The few who know who she is are justifiably afraid of her and every precaution is taken to keep Celaena from using her trade to escape.


Then, one by one, several of the competitors are savagely murdered.  What must Celaena do to stay alive, win the competition, and gain her freedom?  And is magic, outlawed throughout the kingdom,  somehow involved in the murders?


I have to admit that I fell readily into this fantasy and thoroughly enjoyed it.  The Assassin, the Crown Prince, and Captain Westfall are very well done, and Maas does a good job with their complex relationships.  It is a YA novel, and I could nitpick a little, but I won't because the problems really didn't interfere at all with my enjoyment.   Throne of Glass is a fun read with plenty of excitement, and evidently, the first in a trilogy.  I look forward to the next one!


A Net Galley title, read on my Kindle.


Fiction.  Fantasy/YA.  August 2012.  416 pages.

Friday, July 06, 2012

Teasers on Books to Be Released in the Next Few Months

Some of my recent reading has been from Net Galley sent to my Kindle.  Some are excellent, of course, and some are not.  I've  enjoyed the following, though I haven't reviewed them yet, and haven't even finished The Secret Lives of Codebreakers.

 The Secret Lives of Codebreakers:  The Men and Women Who Cracked the Enigma Code at Bletchley Park by Sinclair McKay is my current read.  The book won't be released until Sept. 25--so my review will have to wait until closer to publication, but I can tell you that it is one of the most interesting books I've read in a long time.  The nonfiction account of Bletchley Park is fascinating; I'm about 1/2 way through and have highlighted something on almost every page.

McKay writes nonfiction with the same attention to detail and suspense that you might find in a spy novel.  I've mentioned before my interest in Bletchley Park and the Enigma machine (and cryptography and code breakers in general), but I have to admit that I expected the book to be on the dry side.  Not at all the case!  Codebreakers is an absolute pleasure to read, and I return to it with enthusiasm each time.

I've finished, but must also hold the review for Peaches for Father Francis by Joanne Harris which continues the story of Vienne Rocher that Harris began with Chocolate and continued with  The Girl with No Shadow.  I've enjoyed all three of these books and several others by Harris.  They are all light reading, magical realism.














The Joy Brigade by Martin Limon is due out at the end of this month and is set in North Korea in the 1970s.  The information about North Korea and the Joy Brigade (distasteful as it is) was worth the read, but I found the story itself less satisfying.  As I know little about North Korea other than the what I read in the news or know about the Korean War from brief comments, books about North Korea interest me.

I did a little research to see if there really is a Joy Brigade-- unfortunately, yes.  However, the Manchurian Battalion did not exist.

Also found some sad, but interesting info about an incident called the Axe Murders in which two unarmed American officers were slain by North Korean soldiers in 1976.  Not connected to the book's narrative, but provide interesting insight to the existing tensions at the DMZ.

Another interesting look at life in the closed society of North Korea is A Corpse in the Koryo by James Church.

The Art Forger by B.A. Shapiro (due out in Oct.) provides an intriguing look at art theft and art forgery.  There really is an Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston, but the story is fiction.  Claire Roth is a young artist, who due to a difficult situation in the past, finds herself pretty much blacklisted by galleries.  She makes a living reproducing famous works of art for an online retailer.  The works are reproductions, not forgeries, but the skills are similar, and when a gallery owner approaches Claire with a dubious project, Claire had decisions to make.

I enjoyed both the story and the sections on art in this one.


The above Net Galley teasers (along with others that I've reviewed fully) have been both entertaining and educational.  There have, of course, been some real duds, books that whether I  finished them or abandoned them don't really rate reviews or mention, but the majority of my Net Galley ebooks have been a pleasure.

Thursday, July 05, 2012

The Broken Token by Chris Nickson

The Broken Token  is the first in a series by Nickson featuring Richard Nottingham, the constable of Leeds in the 1730s.

An early morning knock on his door calls Nottingham to the scene of a double murder with the victims posed in a sexual manner.  If this were not shocking enough, the female victim is a young woman who once worked in Nottingham's home.

The murder is itself appalling, but as it turns out, it is only the first in a series.  Each new outrage puts more pressure on Nottingham.  The pressure to catch the killer is personal for the constable, whose family treasured the young woman.  In addition to this, his job is endangered;  if he doesn't make an arrest soon, he could be dismissed from his position.

Nottingham, a devoted husband and father, is a likable protagonist, as is John Sedgwick, his devoted deputy, whose family life is not as successful as Nottingham's, but whose dedication to finding the murderer is almost as strong as that of his superior-- despite their different views concerning the case.

An interesting and entertaining historical mystery.

Library book.

Fiction.  Historical Mystery.  2010.  269 pages.

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

Istanbul Passage by Joseph Kanon

Istanbul Passage  evokes the atmosphere of late 1945, shortly after the end of the war.  During the war Istanbul remained neutral, and spies from all sides gathered there, but at the time the novel takes place most have departed.

Which is not to mean that unusual machinations had ceased.  Istanbul served as a kind of way station in the efforts to aid Jewish refugees in their efforts to reach Palestine.

After the war millions of displaced Jews who had survived the Nazi regime sought refuge in the newly established Jewish state.  The British had set up quotas that were minuscule to the numbers of survivors seeking to enter.  The story involves not only the smuggling of Jews into Palestine, avoiding the British blockade, but also the effort to smuggle a notorious Nazi collaborator to the U.S.    

Leon Baur finds himself caught up in a number of deceptions that threaten his ethics, his life, and his livelihood.  

Guilt, love, deception, and ethical questions abound in this story of a turbulent time; Leon Baur's difficulties mirror, in a way, the larger difficulties of nations.  Tense drama and great characterization.

Joseph Kanon's novels include Los Alamos (received an Edgar for Best First Novel) and The Good German (made into a film with George Clooney and Cate Blanchett).

I found the novel interesting on a number of levels and thoroughly enjoyed it.

This one was from Net Galley.

Fiction.  Suspense.  2012.  print version -  416 pages.