Going Rogue has exactly the same weakness as Also Known As—actually, the storyline is even more inane this time around—but fans of the first one won’t be coming back for the plotting. They’ll be coming back because of the many strengths of the first book: the banter, the humor, the heart. Maggie, unlike so many other teen spies/detectives/vampire hunters/world-savers, has a GREAT relationship with her parents—the interactions between the three of them are easily the funniest in the book—and not only do they know about her activities, they condone them…because they’re spies, too.
Bugs Meany was the leader of a gang of tough older boys. They called themselves the Tigers. They should have called themselves the Heathens. They were doomed to eternal torment in a subterranean lake of fire.
I haven't finished reading it yet, but so far, it's rather hilarious.
If Harry Potter was The Boy Who Lived, Nancy was The Girl Who Dared. She was brave, rash, fierce. She had a snazzy car. She solved crimes that flummoxed the cops, snuck around in old abandoned houses, got locked in closets by bad guys … and she always kept her cool. Her mom had died when she was little, but her dad adored and trusted her and gave her free rein to save others. She was in charge, not her boyfriend, Ned Nickerson. She was beautiful, but she wasn’t an object. She was a doer.
Little did I know Nancy Drew had such a troubled past.
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.
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.
There are two distinct groups of readers who’re bound to find Risa Green’s Projection a whole lot of fun: Fans of Sara Shepard’s Pretty Little Liars and The Lying Game, and fans of the website TV Tropes. Shepard fans—especially fans of The Lying Game, which, like Projection, has paranormal elements—will love the intrigue, the mystery and the drama, while fans of TV Tropes will enjoy identifying the various genre conventions that Green weaves together into a cohesive, entertaining whole.
When a young woman is found—half-naked, run through with a pitchfork, missing her right hand, and extremely dead—surrounded by ritualistic implements and a line of seemingly incomprehensible chalk letters on the wall, Deputy Marshal Archie Lean, poetry aficionado, family man, and reluctant nicotine addict, gets stuck with the case.
Other than being 100% certain that this is not a case of Prostitute Gets Accidentally Killed By An Overenthusiastic John—an explanation the Mayor would be only too happy to accept—he's kind of at a loss.
Enter Perceval Grey. He's dapper and cultured, highly educated, a former Pinkerton, and known for being an extremely "modern, scientific" detective... all of which some people find difficult to reconcile with his Abenaki ancestry. (Because, you know: some people are racist jackasses.)
After a bit of awkwardness, the two men join forces—rounding out their team with an older doctor and his historian niece—and hit the murderer's trail together. The Temperance Union, the Church, and a long-lost book... all of these things factor in, but again and again, everything points back to one thing: witchcraft.
As I've been trying to re-familiarize myself with Adult Land, this was an easy pick: with a premise like that, how could I not, right?
Here's what worked for me:
The setting: Great atmosphere, lots of visual detail about the places and even about traveling between the places. I'll look at Portland differently after reading this, for sure.
The historical tidbits: Lots and lots of anecdotes about the Salem Witch Trials, about Maine history, and the politics of the day. They are often relayed in a way that is More Infodump than Deftly Woven In, but at the very least, they're always interesting. I did wish that the Acknowledgements—which did include a list of sources the author referenced—had been more specific about what he pulled from history and what was fictionalized, but I almost always want more of that.
The humor: Pretty early on—after the headbutting—Archie and Grey slide into the sort of relationship where each mocks the other pretty regularly, and they're both comfortable with it.
Here's what didn't:
Perceval Grey: He's basically Sherlock Holmes, in terms of psychology—he's more focused on logic and fact than on personal relationships or emotion—and deductive techniques, even down to his knowledge of different mixes of tobacco. Yes, OF COURSE there are lots of characters who are basically Sherlock Holmes (House, Monk, Shawn Spencer, Oscar Wilde in those Gyles Brandreth books, Artemis Fowl (to a degree...)), but this was SO OVERT that it made me crabby that there was no nod to Doyle anywhere—I mean, unless I missed one.
The Girl Historian: At first, I loved her. I loved that she was a single mother, that she had good instincts and that she was fully capable of going off on solo investigatory missions. I loved that, in time, she was regarded as a full member of the team, rather than as someone to be coddled.
HERE'S WHERE SHE/THEY/IT LOST ME: [SPOILER] SHE GETS KIDNAPPED BY THE VILLAIN, RESCUED BY GREY, AND THEN, EVEN THOUGH HE COULDN'T BE BOTHERED TO, LIKE, TELL HER THAT HER DAUGHTER (WHO WAS ALSO KIDNAPPED) WAS ALIVE AND WELL, ONCE SHE IS FREED FROM HER BONDS, SHE IS OVERCOME AND PLANTS A BIG SMOOCH ON HIM. [END SPOILER]
Basically, she morphed from Independent Woman into Classic Damsel in Distress, and it really cheesed me off. Was it as offensive as Gwyneth Paltrow's role in Se7en*? No. But it was still annoying.
THE EYEBROWS, OH GOD, THE EYEBROWS. Even when I turn to adult fiction, I can't escapethem. "Grey cocked an eyebrow." "Lean cocked an eyebrow." "...his right eyebrow arched upward, like the hammer of a rifle being drawn back..." "Grey looked at him with one eyebrow pointing up to heaven." "...Grey standing nearby, peering at him with an arched eyebrow." "Lean raised an eyebrow." "Grey arched an eyebrow." "Grey raised a sharp eyebrow." "Lean arched an eyebrow in puzzlement..." "...a thin smile and a slight arch of one eyebrow."
Meh. I might still give the second one a try, though.
*In which her character was LITERALLY only there to get killed off and provide a reason for Brad Pitt to embody Wrath?
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.
I love the color scheme—and I especially love that the color scheme isn't confined to the dust jacket: take it off, and the boards and endpapers are that same hot pink, and the title on the spine is that same bright yellow. Awesome.
And the actual photo is super: it screams '80s to me (which is when the book is set); it incorporates music and dance, which are both hugely important to our heroine; and it looks suitably New York-y. (At least to my untrained, rural Mainer eye. And, yes, I doubt that she would REALLY be wearing a tutu while waiting for the train, but it makes for a striking image.)
ALSO I LOVE THE TITLE BECAUSE I AM A DORK.
Anyway, ON TO THE ACTUAL BOOK.
Dancer Daughter Traitor Spy begins in Moscow, in November of 1982. Seventeen-year-old Marina is a student at the Bolshoi Ballet's advanced repertory academy, and she's a gifted dancer, but to a degree, she'll always live in her mother's shadow. And really, that isn't an issue. Svetlana Dukovskaya is a world-renowned ballerina, a treasure of the state. Her status, her fame, is the reason that Marina has grown up a child of privilege in a country where people are all supposedly equal but everyone knows that that's a lie.
Then, one day, Sveta disappears.
Marina and her father are informed that she's had a nervous breakdown, and that she's been institutionalized. But that isn't the truth, and they both know that it won't be long before the government comes for them, too.
So they escape to America, leaving Sveta behind. Once there, they begin to rebuild their lives: learn a new language, navigate a new culture, find new friends and new vocations. But they don't—they can't—give up hope of saving Sveta, and their past can't stay hidden for long...
• Marina's voice, which is just plain wonderful. Her first language is Russian, and her voice reflects that in the rhythm of her narration, her vocabulary and word placement:
Then she tosses a hat at me. It's one of those movie hats. Like the men wear in black-and-white, when they spend the whole film putting out cigarettes without smoking them and running up and down the hills of San Francisco with pistols in their hands.
Cultural references are appropriately unexplained: "He's as relaxed as the rabbit in the folktales."
The occasional profanity is fabulous and adds to the flavor: "Shut your mouth, you fucking goat, I think."
And, to top it all off, she's funny: "There is no creature as narcissistic as a teenage ballerina."
• The details about life in the Soviet Union's twilight years. Example: when Big Events Go Down, the news is pre-empted by recording of old ballet performances... and the government just keeps playing them until they've decided on what to say to the people. The language of the official State communications is so hideously over-the-top bureaucratic that it almost reads like Douglas Adams-style satire, but as the author has a background in Russian Studies and spent years there shortly after the fall of the Soviet Union, I suspect that it's depressingly accurate. And then, later, the comparisons between Moscow and New York City are also super, as are the descriptions of 1980's era NYC.
• The descriptions of the grotesque side of ballet, the blood and pain behind the artistry and beauty: Anya is sitting in the corner unwinding tape from her toes, gingerly peeling each bloody digit from its neighbor. Her shoes are new and not broken in. There are only actually a few ballet scenes—although ballet is a necessity, not just a want, in Marina's life, it isn't the true focus of the book—but even with the blood, they're gorgeous.
• The romance. It's so nicely understated and subtle. The emotions are palpable—you can feel the attraction between Marina and Ben—but there is no angsting or moaning or does-he-like-me-ing. Neither of them says a word about it until close to the end of the book, and that was a hugely refreshing arc.
• Marina's precognitive visions. They feel more like a plot device than a Real Thing. The visions themselves are nicely vision-y, in that they're scary and confusing and atmospheric, but... as a part of the larger whole, they didn't work.
• Considering the slow pace of the rest of the story, the end felt rushed and unsatisfying.
Is it realistic? Who knows? It certainly strikes me as more realistic than, you know, Alias, but what I know about actual spy stuff would fit into a waaaaaay shorter post than this is turning out to be.
It's a book that has more in common with Le Carre than the Gallagher Girls: the spy stuff is mostly quiet, there aren't car chases and explosions and gadgets and no one gets yanked into a black van, blindfolded, and then interrogated in a scary, leaky pipe-filled warehouse. It's more fish-out-of-water story than action thriller, more family drama than romance, more historical fiction than paranormal adventure. I really, really liked it, but I have no doubt that some readers will slap the dreaded "BOOOOORING" label on it.
Anyway, long, long, looooong story short, the strengths WAAAAAAY outweigh the weaknesses. Looking forward to whatever Kiem writes next.
Vintage Books has signed Veronica Mars creator Rob Thomas and Alloy Entertainment to a two-book deal to publish a new series of stories based on the adult life of the popular character.
The books will be an original mystery series featuring a grown-upVeronica Marsand characters from the series.
The plot will pick up where events of the forthcoming Veronica Mars movie, slated for a 2014 release, end. Publication of the first book will be timed to the release of the movie and will likely arrive in spring 2014. Thomas will develop and co-write the series.