Ten of Lawrence Block's hilarious Bernie Rhodenbarr books are 99¢ today.
[ETA: Oh, wait. The heading says they're 99¢, but the books are listed as $1.99. CONFUSING!]
Ten of Lawrence Block's hilarious Bernie Rhodenbarr books are 99¢ today.
[ETA: Oh, wait. The heading says they're 99¢, but the books are listed as $1.99. CONFUSING!]
The YA list is:
All the Truth That's In Me, by Julie Berry
Far Far Away, by Tom McNeal
Criminal, by Terra Elan McVoy
How to Lead a Life of Crime, by Kirsten Miller
Ketchup Clouds, by Annabel Pitcher
From the CBC:
The Swedish publisher of the best-selling The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo trilogy said Tuesday it has hired an author to write a sequel to the series by Stieg Larsson, who died in 2004.
Norstedts said it signed a contract with David Lagercrantz, the author of I am Zlatan, a biography of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, the captain of Sweden's soccer team, to write a new novel about journalist Mikael Blomqvist and hacker Lisbeth Salander that is scheduled to be published in August 2015.
Eva Gabrielsson is quoted as calling the endeavor "tasteless", and I'm inclined to agree with her. (Of course, we'll probably never know whether or not her feelings would be the same if she owned the rights...)
I'll most likely skip it in favor of getting caught up on Carol O'Connell's books. LONG LIVE KATHY MALLORY.
Relatedly, from a PW interview with O'Connell:
Tell us a little about the genesis of Kathy Mallory.
Whenever I go out on tour, someone will ask if Mallory is autobiographical. It always startles me. I like to think that I show no markers for a sociopath. Mallory is purely a work of imagination. This answer disappoints everyone.
"If my child picked up the book out of the library, then your child has the ability to do it too," said Bennet. I Hunt Killers was on the Henry Clay High School reading list, along with dozens of other books. Bennett's son chose it from the school library, but she wants to know why it was even an option.
Now Bennett said the book needs to go, and parents need to be kept in the loop. Therefore, school officials are taking a closer look at the list, but want everyone to remember one thing. "You never can judge a book by its cover," said Quenon.
Fayette County Schools said no student is required to read I Hunt Killers, it is simply a book they can choose.
Which reminds me, I really need to read the sequel.
AND LOOK AT THOSE COVERS!
That said, I hope that the main character isn't ACTUALLY "Lisbeth Salander for a young adult audience", because I'm already somewhat tired of Salander-ish characters. And anyway, I still mantain that Salander herself isn't nearly as cool as Kathy Mallory, who is ALSO a damaged hacker genius-type, but whatevs.
Simukka’s rapid success abroad is unusual for an author from Finland. Exceptions are Tove Jansson’s Moomin stories, historically the country’s most famous children’s book export; and the most internationally notable Finnish publishing story of recent years, Sofi Oksanen’s Purge, which appeared in English two years after it had picked up Finland’s most prestigious literary prize, Finlandia, and reached the top of national bestseller lists. The Snow White trilogy hasn’t yet become a bestseller, as adult fiction typically dominates the charts in Finland. But the series has gained international notice thanks in large part to a relatively new phenomenon in Simukka’s home country: the literary agency.
From the NYT:
To his admiring peers,Mr. Leonard did not merely validate the popular crime thriller; he stripped the form of its worn-out affectations, reinventing it for a new generation and elevating it to a higher literary shelf.
Reviewing “Riding the Rap” for The New York Times Book Review in 1995, Martin Amis cited Mr. Leonard’s “gifts — of ear and eye, of timing and phrasing — that even the most indolent and snobbish masters of the mainstream must vigorously covet.” As the American chapter of PEN noted, when honoring Mr. Leonard with its Lifetime Achievement award in 2009, his books “are not only classics of the crime genre, but some of the best writing of the last half-century.”
In his honor, I shall make a display of his books and order Justified (and Out of Sight and Get Shorty and Jackie Brown) for the library.
ELIZABETH PETERS AND ELMORE LEONARD IN THE SAME YEAR. I hate you, 2013.
As I suspect I'll be doing a decent amount of readers' advisory for adults at my new job, I decided that I need to bone up a bit on adult fiction—over the past few years, I've read very little of it. SO, going forward, I'll be periodically posting about adult books.
TL;DR: Look at me, reading a grown-up book.
Mike Bowditch is a rookie game warden, only a few months into his very first posting on the coast of Southern Maine. One night, he gets home after dealing with a call about a black bear stealing a drunk guy's pig to find a message on his answering machine from his estranged father, who asks for his help.
He erases the message, but it sticks with him, and he tries to track his father down the next day—no easy feat on the best of days, considering the lack of cell phone reception in Northern Maine and his father's habit of heading off into the woods for days at a time. Then the news breaks: a cop has been shot and killed up north... and Mike's father is not only the prime suspect, but a fugitive.
As Mike puts it, his father is "a bar brawler, not a terrorist", so he heads on up to his childhood stomping grounds to try and figure things out. The local police want nothing to do with him, as they're convinced his father is the killer... so Mike puts everything on the line—his personal relationships, his career, even his own life—in his attempt to put things right.
Man, what is it about crime fiction that inspires me to break out every single hackneyed cliche there is? I can't help it. I love writing in Movie Trailer Voice. ANYWAY.
I enjoyed this one. Mike's a pretty classic crime hero, in that he's a loner with relationship troubles—both parental and romantic—though he doesn't have the issues with addiction that so many other literary detectives do. He speaks straightforwardly and distinctly—though not particularly distinctively, as he's not prone to literary flourishes or flights of fancy or dialect or other quirks—and he's got a great eye for detail, both in describing the people of Maine and capturing a sense of place.
He does a great job of showing the age-old love/hate feelings many Mainers have about people From Away, as well as portraying divides in economic class and level of education and so on. There's loads of really interesting state history that's interwoven into the narrative—actually, I guess that his tendency to digress into stories like that would count as a narrative quirk—and the author's note at the beginning lists a whole bunch of books I want to check out soon.
The only drawback was this: although the storyline dealt with issues of abandonment and betrayal, with faith and how hard it is to overcome our own past, oddly enough, I didn't find it all that emotionally engaging. The mystery itself was competent, though, and I truly didn't see the resolution coming, which is always cool.
I'll be reading the others in the series for sure, but more for the Maine stuff than for anything else.
Book source: Borrowed from my library.
Blog tours are a rarity here at Bookshelves of Doom, so on the very few occasion that one swings through, you can be confident in assuming that I feel very strongly indeed about the book in question.
It's been six years since the last Kiki Strike book, and even the most devoted fans of Ananka Fishbein and the Irregulars had given up hope of a third installment. So when The Darkness Dwellers was announced, there was much rejoicing in the kidlitosphere. And not classy, tempered, polite rejoicing, but RAUCOUS, DELIGHTED SQUEEING.
I was working when I found out, and it's possible that I whooped so long and so loudly that some of my patrons shushed me... but I'm not admitting to anything.
If you haven't read the first two books, you're missed out on huge fun: Kiki Strike is a tiny, white-haired girl with life-threatening allergies, a penchant for wearing black and using her martial arts prowess on anyone who gets in her way... and is a secret princess to boot; Ananka is our narrator, has a avid interest in all things cryptozoology and conspiracy, who lives in an apartment with a private library so impressive that it would rival most public ones; Betty is a sweet-natured master of disguise; DeeDee is a science genius and explosives expert; Luz is aggressive and crabby, but a whiz with gadgets; Oona is a hacker, lock-picker, and business maven; Iris is a younger-mascot-turned-member. Because they're teenage girls, villains often underestimate them... but like Mary Quinn, Buffy, and any number of kickass heroines, Kiki and the Irregulars always use that to their advantage.
As in the first two books, many of the chapters end with sections of practical advice about how to handle oneself in a number of tight spots. In the previous books, the advice offered up would have been right at home in one of the Worst Case Scenario handbooks... but this time, in a rather brilliant twist, those sections could have come straight from Miss Manners. It's all about being a twenty-first-century lady (or gentleman): there are sections on Tea Parties and Flower Arranging, Delightful Dinners and The Rendezvous. NEVER FEAR, THOUGH, the girls haven't come close to losing their edge, and the advice sections are just as clever and subversive as fans would expect.
So, I went in with high hopes—which is sometimes a dangerous proposition—but I'm happy to report that Kirsten Miller has done it again: like its predecessors, The Darkness Dwellers is chock-full of excitement, mystery, secrets, disguises, stock market shenanigans, and smartypants humor. There are punches thrown and tires slashed; code-breaking and chemistry and cool tidbits of lesser-known history.
And while that'd be plenty to keep anyone entertained, it's ALSO an emotionally engaging story about the importance of loyalty, honor, friendship, and family; about realizing that sometimes you can rely more on the family you choose than the family you're born to, but that you also shouldn't be too quick to give up on people. That there isn't only one way to be strong; that you don't have to appear hard-as-nails to be tough; and that being compassionate, polite, and offering second chances doesn't equate to being weak... as long as you don't throw your pragmatism out the window. (And always keep your right hook in reserve, just in case.)
Kiki and friends, I'm glad you're back, even though I'm well aware that this might be your last outing. If so, I'm comfortable with that—the major plot threads were resolved, after all—but I very much hope that it won't be.
Book source: Review copy via Netgalley.
I really need to go back and read Brenna Yovanoff's The Space Between, because somehow I never made time for it last year. Which is ridiculous, because I enjoy her so very much: her stories satisfy my weird, vaguely uncomfortable fascination with the macabre without coming off as sensationalized or exploitative. She also writes sensitively about difficult topics—in the case of Paper Valentine, about grief and eating disorders and the nature of sociopathy—but without getting maudlin, and with a good deal of dark humor.
It's been six months since Hannah Wagnor's best friend Lillian died, and Hannah is still reeling... but not for the reason you'd assume. No, Hannah's having a hard time letting go of Lillian because Lillian won't let go of her: she's been haunting Hannah ever since she died.
As Juliet Stevenson's character in Truly Madly Deeply could attest, being haunted by the ghost of a loved one—no matter how loved—is not a comfortable, comforting thing. For one thing, you're constantly faced with a reminder of your loss... and for another, even in death, your loved one still has all the obnoxious habits that drove you bananas when s/he was still alive.
On top of that, it's the hottest July on record (SUCH a treat to read about in January, for reals); Hannah's had a couple of moments with Finny Boone, the town's resident delinquent; and someone in Ludlow is murdering young girls. Lillian is convinced that it's a serial killer, and she wants to catch him. Dead or alive, Lillian gets what she wants... so, despite the danger, Hannah starts investigating.
Yay! I'm happy to say that Paper Valentine lives up to its lovely cover art. As I said above, it's got elements of the macabre (in addition to the murders and the ghost, birds are literally dropping dead—like, falling from the sky—due to an avian virus), but it's also, very much, a story about grief and about moving on (both the desire to and fear of).
Hannah and Lillian's friendship is appropriately complex; and as the story plays out, it's clear that their friendship was just as complex in life, but in different ways. Lillian was a Queen Bee-type, and her death affected the balance within their group of friends, but she is never simply a Queen Bee. Even in death, she's a believable, real, three-dimensional person, and Hannah is just as real and believable. They both have a lot going on under the surface—as you might imagine, Hannah, especially, is under a huge amount of pressure—and Yovanoff does a fantastic job of showing that through their actions, interactions, and emotions. Oh, and bonus points for Hannah's creative side: the descriptions of her homemade clothing (not to mention the FANTASTICALLY WONDERFUL decoupage project that shows up in the last third) are super.
While I'm talking about characters, of course, I can't forget to mention FINNY BOONE, who I suspect will walk away from this book trailed by a whole parade of fangirls. The Bad Boy/Good Guy type IS ridiculously difficult to resist. He's a little bit of a stock character—Hulking Brooder Who's Been Hurt In The Past, Is Great With Kids, And Is Very Protective Of Those He Cares About—but he's still pretty irresistible.
As for the mystery component, the solution totally surprised me in the best sort of way: when I thought back, I realized that there'd been clues, and that I'd (SHOCKINGLY) just missed them. And along those same lines, I had no complaints about Hannah's detective technique: she made connections fast and acted on them quickly, and while she took chances, they weren't stupid or unnecessary ones.
Thumbs up, obviously.
Book source: Review copy from the publisher.
Emily’s Dress and Other Missing Things, by Kathryn Burak
The Edge of Nowhere, by Elizabeth George:
I absolutely guarantee that some of you will want to throw this book across the room. For one, some readers are bound to be hugely disappointed by the prosaic solution to the mystery. Much more problematic, however, is the portrayal of the one black character—an adoptee from Uganda; he is constantly exoticized and, in more ways than one, comes off as very much “other.”
Crusher, by Niall Leonard:
There are no firsts, and there is no coming of age. When the book begins, Finn has already joined the adult world. He’s already dealt with major loss (when his mother abandoned him), is way past experimenting with mind-altering substances and he lost his virginity years ago. As he’s no longer in school, he’s working full-time—pretty much supporting the household. When his father dies, there isn’t a big reckoning about responsibility, finances or authority. His dealings with adults are all on adult terms; while he doesn’t get a whole lot of respect from them, that’s less about his age and more about his demeanor. In a nutshell, Crusher isn’t a crime story that also portrays an aspect of the teen experience. It’s a crime story, period.
Amelia Anne is Dead and Gone, by Kat Rosenfield:
The specialness isn’t just in Rosenfield’s description, turns of phrase or how she captures the slow, heavy feel of summer. It’s about how she makes every single action, interaction, sometimes even the briefest of moments...feel like a turning point. There’s a constant sense of dread, inevitability and change.
Code Name Verity, by Elizabeth Wein:
Trust me? Add this to your list. Don’t trust me? Add it to your list anyway. Fan of historical fiction? Espionage? World War II stories? Add it, add it, add it. Even if your tastes don’t usually tend in that direction, you need to pick it up anyway. It will make you dissolve into a puddle, and then, once you’ve recovered, you’ll immediately read it all over again. That’s what I did.
I've read four of the five YA titles. (And I still don't think that Crusher is actually YA, but whatevs.)
It’s a solid thriller with a cool premise—think Rear Window, but starring a Parkour-practicing heroine who has Xeroderma Pigmentosum, a condition that makes sunlight not just dangerous, but life-threatening—strong dialogue and character development, exciting action, suspenseful plotting, and the requisite smootchies, AS WELL AS being a really believable, effective story about friendship, secrets and lies.
There's only one gold ring in Storm Catchers, but it's important. Thirteen-year-old Ella is snatched from her family's house in the middle of the night, and, fearing for her life, her parents follow the kidnapper's instructions and leave the authorities out of it.
Wracked with guilt—he was supposed to be home with Ella and their three-year-old brother Sammy—fifteen-year-old Fin turns Ella's GOLD RING into a dowsing pendant, and together, he and Sammy attempt to find Ella before it's too late. BUT. There's much more going on than at first glance, and since Ella's kidnapping, Sammy's mysterious imaginary—or is she?—friend has been drawing him into ever-scarier, ever-more-dangerous situations, and there's this old tramp who's been hanging around...
Storm Catchers reminded me a little bit of Susan Cooper—it's set in Cornwall, is totally creepy, and it has that Old Fashioned '70s Adventure flavor—though it's heavier on action than any Cooper I've ever read. There's a little bit of Mary Downing Hahn in here, too: as in Wait Till Helen Comes, there's a ghost girl and a whole lot of crappy behavior on the part of the parents. Fin's father, especially, is absolutely insufferable—he's very open about blaming Fin for Ella's disappearance, even though SPOILER the whole situation has come about due to his own actions a decade ago END SPOILER—and neither parent ever thinks to turn to Fin and say, "IT'S NOT YOUR FAULT. YOU'RE A FIFTEEN-YEAR-OLD BOY, CLEARLY NOT A FIGHTER, AND EVEN SMALL FOR YOUR AGE. IF YOU'D BEEN THERE, YOU COULD HAVE BEEN HURT OR KILLED, AND IT'S LIKELY THAT ELLA STILL WOULD HAVE BEEN TAKEN. WE'RE GLAD THAT YOU'RE SAFE." Bowler taps right into that ADULTS ARE UNFAIR NO-NOTHINGS feeling, but some readers are bound to be annoyed that Fin never voices any sort of frustration with any of it. Then again, he's kind of busy trying to find his sister, to keep his younger brother safe, and to figure out what the heck his father is hiding. So maybe he just doesn't have the time for a good old gripe session.
It's a LOT to cram into two hundred pages—kidnapping, ghost, family secrets, big-time betrayal, blackmail, telepathy, magic, and tragic death—so some of it feels somewhat undeveloped, but overall, it's well-written, atmospheric, the action sequences are fast-paced and cinematic, and at points, it's super scary. Fun stuff, and bound to appeal to readers looking for that semi-wholesome (er... there's no romance or major profanity, anyway, though the storyline involves marital infidelity) old-fashioned adventure feel.
Book source: ILLed through my library.
From Tokyo Heist:
Now I've got one parent jetting off to Italy, and the other zooming away to Japan, while I get to spend my entire summer working at a second-rate stripmall comic shop, taking money from snotty kids and forty-year-old men who need showers. Plus, it's my life dream to go to Japan. One of my best friends is there all summer, and I would kill to be there with her. And now my dad—who won't even touch sushi with a ten-foot chopstick—is the one who gets to go. This is so not fair.
Luckily for sixteen-year-old Violet—aspiring manga artist and fan of all things Japanese—her talents catch the eye of Kenji and Mitsue Yamada, the couple who've just hired her father, and suddenly they've offered her a summer job in Japan, too.
And, as Violet is also a mystery novel junkie, the fact that her new employers just-so happen to be offering a one hundred thousand dollar reward for information leading to the recovery of their three recently-stolen van Gogh drawings, well, that's just the icing on the cake. So now she's headed to Japan with a new job PLUS a mystery to solve and a reward to win.
Fun stuff. Lots of running around—in Seattle, Tokyo, and Kyoto—spying and sleuthing and shopping, detecting and drawing and deducing. Violet's habit of recreating the suspects and storyline as manga characters (sometimes on paper, sometimes in her mind) is a really cool touch, and often gives her train of thought a sort-of prose-version-of-manga feel, though it's always clear in Tokyo Heist what is reality and what is fantasy. There's a lot here about Japanese culture and art, but since Violet already has a pretty decent base of knowledge, it's conveyed in a nicely organic manner, without didacticism or infodumps.
In addition to the aforementioned stolen art, the mystery involves the yakuza, secret love affairs, mysterious deaths, and a treasure hunt that follows clues hidden in art. There are lots of twists, turns, surprises and red herrings, and it's fast-paced and entertaining from start to finish.
On the more personal side, I especially liked Violet as a protagonist because she wasn't perfect, or even always entirely likable: while she's smart and talented and often quite fun to be around, she's also a bit of a snobbish pill about her job in the comic shop, and she's kind of a jerk to her crush. Her difficult relationship with her father is especially good, as is her friendship with Reika. Speaking of Reika, two things: 1. This book totally passes the Bechdel Test, and 2. in addition to being written as an actual three-dimensional character, Reika acts nicely as a bridge between cultures and languages due to her upbringing and parentage—her mother is originally from Tokyo and her father is from Seattle. But, like I said, she's written as an actual person, not as a vessel for imparting information to the reader. Well done, that.
Finally, my only real problem. While I liked Violet's lack of romantic experience—her understanding of lurrrve comes from watching Reika's love life from the sidelines and reading lots of shōjo manga—her own love story feels not only flat, but completely unnecessary. That flaw certainly won't stop me from recommending Tokyo Heist as a solid mystery to my YA patrons, but it was still enough of an issue that it was worth a mention.
Book source: ILLed through my library. This book was read for the 2012 Cybils season.