Sep 25, 2011

Sep 22, 2011


source: Words Without Borders
Reviewed by Mythili G. Rao

“He’s thirty-seven years old, but I wouldn’t call him a grown up.  That would be an exaggeration.  He’s getting a divorce.  I don’t know what to do with him.” These words, spoken by protagonist Arvid Janson’s weary mother in the final pages of Per Petterson’s latest novel, I Curse the River of Timeare an apt assessment.  Newly diagnosed with stomach cancer, Arvid’s mother has left Norway for her hometown in Denmark, and Arvid, burdened with a host of ailments of his own, has followed her, his intentions unclear even to himself. Arvid wants to console and support his mother, (“Damn it, I knew she was ill, she might even die; that was why I was here, that was why I had come after her, I was sure of it,”) but not only is there an old, open wound of misunderstanding between  mother and son to contend with, there is also the creaking failure of Arvid’s fifteen-year marriage weighing on him, as well as the final collapse of his political ideals to reconcile with:

“‘It’s me,’ I said.
‘I know who it is,’ she said. I heard your thoughts clatter all the way down from the road. Are you broke?’”

“Are you broke?” is the question Arvid’s mother used to playfully ask her son while he was still a carefree, penniless college student—before he dropped out of school to put his faith in Communism to test, trading an education for a production-line job at the factory where his father had labored for a lifetime, and leaving his mother (a factory worker herself) incensed. Arvid settled easily into the physical rhythms of the job and was convinced that the act of work was inherently important, but it did not take long for him to see that he had “joined the proletariat which did not actually exist anymore, but was an anachronism.” In breaking with the promise of his old life, he had become “a man out of time.”

Petterson has written about Arvid Jansen before. In the Wake finds its protagonist grappling with the horrific death of his parents and younger brothers in a ferry accident just like the one that took the lives of Petterson’s own parents and two of his three brothers two decades ago. The Arvid Jansen of I Curse the River of Time may still have two living parents and more than one living brother, but his story is still an unflinchingly dark one.   read more....

Sep 18, 2011


source: Stainless Steel Droppings

Several years ago I recall poo-pooing the concept of the book trailer. Experience has taught me that the quality of those early trailers had a lot to do with my assumptions about their value and effectiveness. That said, I had not been swayed to buy a book based on a book trailer. That all changed when the trailer for Ransom Riggs’ debut novel found its way to me on Twitter.

I watched it…

And I was lost…

It is easy for a young boy to believe the tales woven by a loving grandfather–of monsters, a magical home, and children with amazing powers. But as that boy matures his grandfather’s tales develop the taint of untruth and what once seemed so very real is now nothing more than fairy stories. So what if his grandfather had pictures of these children, pictures that in childhood were quite convincing? To the boy’s eye these photos now appear faked, doctored, impossible. And so the grandfather stopped telling the stories and a special bond was lost. Then one night tragedy struck and the now adolescent boy saw something–something that should not be real, could not be real. That one night will send the boy on a journey in which he discovers that truth is sometimes stranger, and scarier, than fiction. read more...

Sep 17, 2011

THE HIDDEN CHILD by Camilla Läckberg

source: Nordic Bookblog 
review by Peter 

The Hidden Child (original title Tyskungen) is the fifth novel in Camilla Läckberg’s bestselling Swedish crime fiction series, and the sequel to The Gallows Bird.

Like many Swedish fathers, Detective Patrik Hedstrom has chosen to take a paternity leave to stay home for awhile with his one year old daughter Maja. His wife, Erica Falck, wants to spend this time writing a new crime book. However, they both have a hard time adjusting to the new situation. Erica has discovered her mother’s wartime diaries in her attic, along with a mysterious Nazi medal and a blood-stained baby shirt. Curious to learn more, she consults a local World War II historian about the medal and begins to read her mother’s diary.

Soon after, the ageing historian is found brutally murdered in his house, where he lives alone with his brother – a man engaged in the worldwide hunt for Nazi war criminals. Why has the historian been killed now, so long after the war? Did he represent a threat to the growing Neo-Nazi movement in Sweden? Did he have knowledge of long-hidden secrets from the war years in Sweden?  read more....

Sep 14, 2011

Is this the end for books?

source: The Guardian

Avid Reader
From books to bytes … Willis's bookshop in Edinburgh, 1955. Photograph: John Murray/Getty Images

In 1996, the US computer entrepreneur Brewster Kahle set up the Internet Archive, its mission being to provide "universal access to all knowledge". This admirable project strives to store copies of every single web page ever posted: a ghostly archive of the virtual. So what are we to make of the fact that, a decade and a half later, this digital pioneer is turning from bytes to books? In what seems, on the face of it, an act of splendid perversity, Kahle has set up a series of converted shipping containers in California where he hopes to create another archive – one that contains a copy of every book ever published.

His action touches on an anxiety. Are books, like defunct internet pages, heading towards the point where they will be archived as an academic curiosity? Some think so. You won't find any shortage of people willing to pronounce the printed book doomed, arguing that the convenience and searchability of digital text and the emergence of a Kindle-first generation will render them obsolete.

Certainly, electronic books have overcome their technological obstacles. Page turns are fast enough, battery life is long enough, and screens are legible in sunlight. Digital sales now account for 14% of Penguin's business. But there are reasons to reject the idea that the extinction of the printed book is just around the corner, just as there were reasons to reject the notion that e-books would never catch on because you couldn't read them in the bath and, y'know, books are such lovely objects.  read more...

Sep 6, 2011

THE CAT'S TABLE by Michael Ondaatje

source: The Telegraph 
By Beth Jones

Towards the end of Michael Ondaatje’s 1982 memoir, Running in the Family, is a chapter entitled “Harbour”. Describing the luxury liners, the blue tugs and the Maldive fishing vessels that skim out into the thick night air from Sri Lanka’s main port, the author recalls a “frail memory dragged up out of the past”: it is the early Fifties and he is going to the harbour to say goodbye to a family member at dusk.

It is the briefest of chapters, a mere 200-odd words, yet faint crepuscular memories are sketched with such deftness that it’s impossible not to imagine sailing out into the night upon dark infinite waters.

Turn the opening pages of Ondaatje’s sixth novel, The Cat’s Table, and this harbour landscape greets the mind’s eye once more. The narrator, Michael, is remembering himself as a boy of 11 waiting for the ocean liner Oronsay to sail from Colombo docks. This time he is a passenger himself, travelling alone on the 21-day voyage to England.

Each day of the crossing he dines at the cat’s table, Table 76, “the least privileged place” in the ship’s dining room, shared with a cast of misfits including two other boys, Ramadhin and Cassius. Exploring the ship, going where young boys shouldn’t, the three soon learn that what’s important “happens mostly in secret, in places where there is no power”. read more....

Sep 5, 2011

THE WINTER OF THE LIONS by Jan Costin Wagner

source: The Random House Group

Every year since the tragic death of his wife, Detective Kimmo Joentaa has prepared for the isolation of Christmas with a glass of milk and a bottle of vodka to arm himself against the harsh Finnish winter. However, this year events take an unexpected turn when a young woman turns up on his doorstep.

Not long afterwards two men are found murdered, one of whom is Joentaa’s colleague, a forensic pathologist. When it becomes clear that both victims had recently been guests on Finland’s most famous talk show, Kimmo is called upon to use all his powers of intuition and instinct to solve the case. Meanwhile the killer is lying in wait, ready to strike again…

In Kimmo Joentaa, prizewinning author Jan Costin Wagner has created a lonely hero in the Philip Marlowe mould, who uses his unusual gifts for psychological insight to delve deep inside the minds of the criminals he pursues.

Jul 5, 2011

The Paperback Game

taken from the New York Times
written by

Here’s what you’ll need to play: slips of paper (index cards work well), a handful of pencils or pens and a pile of paperback books. Any sort of book will do, from a Dostoyevsky to a Jennifer Egan, and from diet guides to the Kama Sutra. But we’ve found it’s especially rewarding to use genre books: mysteries, romance novels, science fiction, pulp thrillers, westerns, the cheesier the better. If you don’t have well-thumbed mass-market paperbacks in your house, you can usually buy a pile from your library, or from a used-book store, for roughly 50 cents a pop.

Many people flee from games they fear will be public I.Q. tests or will expose gaps in their literary knowledge — their inability to differentiate between, say, Lily Bart and Isabel Archer, or between John Barth, Roland Barthes and Donald Barthelme. This is not that kind of game. A little learning helps. But I’ve seen precocious preteenagers wipe the floor with fairly elite published writers. Which is another way of saying that even nonmandarins can play the paperback game and sometimes win.

Once you’ve gathered your loved ones at the table — 4 to 10 is optimal — and opened fresh bottles of wine and perhaps put on an old Ry Cooder record, here is how the game unfolds. One player, the “picker” for this turn, selects a book from the pile and shows its cover around. Then he or she flips it over and reads aloud the often overwrought publisher-supplied copy on the back cover.

Hearing these descriptions read aloud is among the game’s distinct joys. Here is one example, from the back cover of a paperback titled “Paradise Wild” (1981), by Johanna Lindsey. Try to imagine the following recited in the voice of the fellow who does the husky voice-overs for coming attractions in theaters, or by your slightly tipsy best friend:

“A well-born Boston beauty, Corinne Barrows has traveled halfway around the world in search of Jared Burkett — a dashing rouge and a devil; a honey-tongued charmer who seduced and despoiled her ... and then abandoned the impetuous lady after awakening a need that only he could satisfy. She has found him on the lush and lovely island of Hawaii.” This goes on, but you get the idea.

One reason it’s less fun to play with serious rather than genre novels is that their back covers tend to contain phrases like “sweeping meditation on mortality and loss” rather than “a need that only he could satisfy.”
The other players absorb these words, and then write on their slips of paper what they imagine to be a credible first sentence for Ms. Lindsey’s novel. Essentially, they need to come up with something good — or bad — enough to fool the other players into thinking that this might be the book’s actual first sentence. Players initial their slips of paper and place them upside down in a pile at the center of the table.

Meanwhile the picker — the person who read the back cover aloud — writes the book’s actual first sentence on another slip of paper. He or she collects all the slips, mixing the real first sentence with the fakes, and commences to read each one aloud. Each person votes on what he or she thinks is the real first sentence. read more...

Jul 3, 2011


taken from Nine Kinds of Pie - Philip Nel's Blog

Kuijer, The Book of Everything
“What do you want to be when you grow up?”
“Happy,” said Thomas. “When I grow up, I am going to be happy.”

Nine-year-old Thomas sees things that others don’t, like “tropical fish swimming in the canals,” thousands of frogs massing outside his house, and the loveliness of sixteen-year-old Eliza, who has “an artificial leg made of leather” and seems to understand him. Guus Kuijer’s The Book of Everything (2004, translated by John Nieuwenhuizen, 2006) is a brief, beautiful tale of Thomas losing faith, making friends with his sister and Mrs. van Amersfoort, gaining confidence in himself, and learning to resist his father’s bullying.  The prose is lyrical, the images are magical realist, and the story is full of wisdom and humor.  Here is a passage when Thomas, visiting Mrs. van Amersfoort, listens to Beethoven for the first time (the second sentence refers to her cat, who has been napping on a globe):

His ears started ringing again. The globe started spinning, cat and all. When he was about to draw Mrs. van Amersfoort’s attention to this, he saw that her heavy chair was floating above the floor like a low cloud. He barely had time to take this in when he felt the chair he was sitting in rising slowly, as if strong hands were lifting it. He wanted to shout with joy, but when he saw Mrs. van Amersfoort’s intent face, he realized that, with this music, it was normal for chairs to float. (19)

I love how this translates Thomas’s sense of wonder into a literal, physical experience. Kuijer does not tell us that Beethoven’s music makes them feel as if they were floating. Instead, they just float, borne upward in their chairs, drifting like low clouds. Beautiful.

The Book of Everything won the Flemish Golden Owl Award, but is not widely known in this country. It’s really, really good. I highly recommend it. I suspect that, once you read it, you’ll recommend it, too.

Jun 28, 2011

THE TROLLS by Polly Horvath

taken from, review by Sarah Denslow

Meet storytelling Aunt Sally

The eccentric aunt: pretty much everyone has one (at least pretty much all fictional characters), and the Anderson kids are no exception.

Now that Aunt Sally is really coming to stay with them, though, (and not just stay, but actually take care of the kids while their parents are in Paris) Melissa, Amanda, and Pee Wee are about to find out just what this aunt, who sends them Christmas cards with a picture of a moose every year, is really like.

Melissa is ten, the oldest, and “always knows everything”; Amanda is eight and “often knows everything”; Pee Wee is six and “knows nothing” (at least in the estimation of his sisters. Pee Wee does, however, provide a good deal of comic relief prior to the arrival of Aunt Sally by continually wondering if the children will be sent to a kennel when their babysitter has to cancel, due to contracting a case of the bubonic plague.

Mom and Dad aren’t nuts about leaving Aunt Sally with the care of their three offspring, but they can’t find anyone else, and there are those non-refundable tickets to Paris to consider. Mom leaves a very detailed list of what the children need to do, including suggested vegetables for each day of the week, and then they’re off.

Aunt Sally proves to be both an interesting and loquacious adult. She ensures that the children will eat their green beans by eating her own with such gusto and creativity (including pantomiming knitting with two) that the children can hardly stand not to eat them and entertains them with stories of growing up in Vancouver.

The stories are wonderfully entertaining, if just a bit incredible, and include a hilarious story of Great-uncle Louis trying to get Aunt Sally’s brother to eat his vegetables by chasing him down with a handful of the things. But if his childhood in Canada was so wonderful, why, Melissa and Amanda to know, doesn’t their dad ever talk about Vancouver himself?

Well, says Aunt Sally, it might have something to do with the Trolls. What trolls? Aunt Sally says she’ll tell Melissa and Amanda, but they mustn’t let Pee Wee hear because he might get nightmares.  read more....

Jun 17, 2011

STATE OF WONDER by Ann Patchett

This is the background to the arrival of a letter that ignites Orange Prize-winning American novelist Patchett’s exhilarating if overheated work. Some weeks earlier, Anders had been sent to the Amazon to report on the work of a reclusive but brilliant doctor, Dr Swenson, who has spent decades studying a tribe whose womenfolk continue to bear children into their seventies. The company which employs Marina and Anders pays for her research, and is frustrated at the time it’s taking the doctor to produce results. Anders needs to find out why she is taking so long. The letter, however, contains dreadful news. It is from Dr Swenson, informing them Anders has died.

Marina is a homebody, attached to Minnesota, despite her Indian heritage, as if by chains. It is a measure of her fidelity to her friend and his grieving widow, and of her innate biddability that when Mr Fox asks her to go to Brazil and learn what happened, and how the uncommunicative doctor’s work is going, she agrees. What follows is a compellingly taut story in which a series of adventures containing vivid individuals throws up profound revelations.

Patchett is a highly empathetic writer, subtle in her characterisations and in her portrayal of strong attachments, unbidden feelings and the complications that attend both.

Marina emerges as a truly delightful and admirable heroine, a woman whose story one would like to follow beyond this book. As she investigates Anders’s death, she is obliged to confront her own past when, as a promising young doctor, she made a terrible mistake. That incident not only crippled her professionally but, it appears, emotionally too. This trauma is linked to Dr Swenson, which makes Marina’s trip doubly courageous.

One can’t but wonder, though, why a woman who willingly braves the Amazonian interior, with its cannibal tribes, its alphabet of snakes, spiders and insects, and a fanatical doctor, would have been so easily derailed in her earlier life.

The Amazonian forest is as unwelcoming as Dr Swenson: “At dusk the insects came down in a storm, the hard-shelled and soft-sided, the biting and stinging, the chirping and buzzing and droning, every last one unfolded its paper wings and flew with unimaginable velocity into the eyes and mouths and noses of the only three humans they could find.” Yet it is in the terrifying isolation of this wildly dangerous environment that Marina proves what she is made of.

Here, as in other novels, Patchett explores the nature of love and duty, and the huge responsibilities those small words carry. A pellucid, droll writer, she reveals her Tennessee upbringing in a penchant for drama that verges on the gothic. Where she fails to convince, for this reader at least, is in her portrait of the Amazon settlement. This setting, with its enigmatic tribe and their peculiar habits, gives rise to such extreme turns of event, it’s as if one has crossed a line from literary fiction into boy’s own territory. Added to which, the hinge on which Patchett’s plot turns is not hard to predict. This does not spoil one’s pleasure, but it diminishes the novel’s power. It is no small feat, then, for Patchett to surmount her over-egged plot to create a tender, affecting and memorable novel.

Jun 13, 2011

MY TATTOOED DAD by Daniel Nesquens & Magicomora

taken from Last Gasp

A young boy describes what life is like when his dad comes home -- how he fries up chicken samosas for dinner, how he makes jokes and fools around, and how he carries him off to bed when he is sleepy. His dad also tells wonderful stories of his adventures in far-off lands, often inspired by his many, many exotic tattoos. His letters to his son are also full of great stories about the past -- what the first date with his mother was like (it included a visit to a fortune teller and a bizarre circus) and about how the boy's life was saved twice by this very same dad -- once when he was stolen from his baby basket by a dog and once when he flew out the car window. But as his mother says, his dad has ants in his pants, which means he's often not around. Still, life rolls along with one fantastical tale after another, in good times and bad. And this is this extraordinary father's gift to his child -- the life of the imagination -- which is always with him, even when his father is not. The illustrations have a nostalgic, underground graphic-novel style feel to them that perfectly complements the very original text. Ages 4-8.

Daniel Nesquens is a prolific, award-winning author who has written books for children and young adults, many of them available in either bilingual or Spanish editions in North America, including Caminando sobre el alambre, Como pez en el agua, D?as de Clase / School Days (Sopa de Libros / Soup of Books), Papa tenia un sombrero / Dad Had a Hat (Sopa De Libros / Soup of Books) and Mi familia / My Family. Several of his books have been listed in the White Ravens Catalogue and have been recognized by Venezuela's Banco del libro in "Los mejores libros para ni?os y j?venes" (the best books for children and youth). He lives in Zaragoza, Spain.

Magicomora is one of the most important pop surrealist artists in Spain and has exhibited his work all over the world. He is also a children's book illustrator with more than fifteen books to his credit. The Spanish edition of My Tattooed Dad was named best children's book by the Association of Illustrators of Catalonia. Magicomora lives in Barcelona, Spain.

Jun 8, 2011


taken from Perseus Academic

In his late teens and early twenties, Walter Mosley was addicted to alcohol and cigarettes. Drawing from this intimate knowledge of addiction and recovery, Mosley explores the deviances of contemporary America and describes a society in thrall to its own consumption. Although Americans live in the richest country on earth, many citizens exist on the brink of poverty, and from that profound economic inequality stems self-destructive behavior.

In Twelve Steps to Political Revelation, Mosley outlines a guide to recovery from oppression. First we must identify the problems that surround us. Next we must actively work together to create a just, more holistic society. And finally, power must be returned to the embrace of the people.

Challenging and original, Recovery confronts both self-understanding and how we define ourselves in relation to others.

About the Author

Walter Mosley is the author of more than thirty-four critically acclaimed books, including the bestselling mystery series featuring Easy Rawlins. He is the winner of an O. Henry Award, a Grammy, and PEN America's Lifetime Achievement Award. He lives in New York City.

Jun 6, 2011

THE DOGS OF ROME by Connor Fitzgerald

taken from the San Francisco Book Review reviewed by Leslie Wolfson
A sloppy and seemingly random murder is committed in Rome, clearly the work of an amateur. But of course, things are more complicated than they appear. Upon closer inspection, the victim turns out to be an anti-dog- fighting crusader who has exposed an illegal ring run by a local gangster. What’s more, the victim’s wife is a politician, and his mistress is the daughter of a high-ranking Mafioso.

Alleva was dead, Massoni was dead, and Blume could hear exhilaration in Paolini’s tone.  Revenge and reprieve all at once.

Enter Alec Blume, a police commissioner who is an American but has lived in Rome since his teens. Alec’s parents were murdered in a bank robbery gone bad, which gives him a cynical outlook on life. Blume is not your typical cop; he is sarcastic with co-workers and supervisors, he is overly zealous and far from suave when approaching women, and spends part of the book in a sling, awkwardly pursuing the bad guys when he should be home in bed. All of these traits make him a flawed but likable hero.

All of the players in the novel come across as completely believable, because the author avoids the stereotypical, and emphasizes the quirkiness in both large and small characters. The fast-moving plot has several interesting twists, and the tone is tongue-in-cheek. This is the first in a series of Commissario Blume novels, and anyone who reads this one will be looking forward to the next.

Jun 3, 2011


taken from Paste Magazine

The remarkable, painterly writer Susan Straight told me once that literary novelists are tiny rowboats next to the ocean liners of popular culture. “We’re rowing our leaky little skiffs like mad,” she said, “as we bail with a coffee can; and meanwhile there goes the giant Stephen King cruise ship or the James Patterson aircraft carrier, fully lit, the music playing, the passengers peering down at us from on high.”
So Tom Franklin just got a bigger boat.

Up until the latter part of the 20th century, literary fiction drove American book sales. Our great writers—Hemingway, Steinbeck, Faulkner, Cather, Fitzgerald—were the engines of enterprise for the New York publishing houses, and the groundbreakers for the culture, too. A new book by one of the big modern American literary lions meant that a cultural event had occurred, and sales followed.

Now, many of our literary writers have largely been relegated to the commercial backwaters, with just a few exceptions like Jonathan Franzen; and the genre writers have become the big ships. Stieg Larsson, ahoy. Thrillers, mysteries, science fiction, uh huh, even romances—those are the novels that now displace the most commercial and cultural water. Whether this means a wholesale dumbing-down of our culture or a welcome relief from navel-gazing, nothing-happens-twit-lit—well, you decide. But what has occurred means something very serious for those wretched scribes among us who face the keyboard and the blank page every day—it means that most writers who want to both keep writing and continue eating now feel the compulsion to pen a genre novel that can become a series that builds an audience and a brand.

It used to be shocking when a literary giant came down from the mountaintop and wrote genre fiction, but now it’s commonplace. In his last two books, Cormac McCarthy, one of our greatest living authors, wrote a mystery (No Country for Old Men) and an apocalyptic science fiction novel (The Road) that both sold quite well, were optioned and produced handsomely by Hollywood and allowed McCarthy to finally buy the house his many previous literary novels had failed to provide, thank you.

Tom Franklin may be embarking on the same path. read more....

Jun 2, 2011

BANJO OF DESTINY by Cary Fagan, illustrated by Selçuk Demirel

taken from Groundwood Books

Jeremiah Birnbaum is stinking rich. He lives in a house with nine bathrooms, a games room, an exercise room, an indoor pool, a hot tub, a movie theater, a bowling alley and a tennis court. His parents, a former hotdog vendor and window cleaner who made it big in dental floss, make sure Jeremiah goes to the very best private school, and that he takes lessons in all the things he will need to know how to do as an accomplished and impressive young man. Etiquette lessons, ballroom dancing, watercolor painting. And, of course, classical piano.

Jeremiah complies, because he wants to please his parents. But one day, by chance, he hears the captivating strains of a different kind of music -- the strums, plucks and rhythms of a banjo. It's music that stirs something in Jeremiah's dutiful little soul, and he is suddenly obsessed. And when his parents forbid him to play one, he decides to learn anyway -- even if he has to make the instrument himself.

"This bittersweet novel has just the right touch of wit and creativity to catch and keep the attention of young discerning readers. Thoroughly entwined into the novel is an unusual twist on the economics concept of wants versus needs that will encourage readers to think about what brings true happiness."
- Rutgers University Project on Economics and Children

"This is a touching and fresh story whose lightness and brevity will engage and empower young readers."
- Canadian Children's Book News

May 28, 2011

THE PRINCE OF MIST by Carlos Ruiz Zafron

taken from

In 2004, the Spanish author Carlos Ruiz Zafon earned international success and acclaim with his breakthrough novel The Shadow Of The Wind. His books have since sold over 15 million copies worldwide.

But before he wrote this bestselling debut novel for adults, he had already published four books in Spanish for younger readers. The first of these, The Prince Of Mist, has just been translated into English for the first time.

The Prince Of Mist is set in Spain during the Second World War and is the story of 13-year-old Max Carver and his family, who move from the city to the countryside to get away from the war.

But from the moment Max steps off the train, he has a creepy feeling about the seaside town. The clock in the old train station appears to be moving backwards and the house Max and his family move into has been boarded up for years because of its sad history. The overgrown garden is populated by stone statues that appear more lifelike than they should, and a secret stash of homemade films reveal even darker secrets. Then there is the malevolent cat who seems to be stalking the family.

When Max and his older sister Alicia meet a local boy, Roland, whose grandfather Victor Kray has run the lighthouse for 25 years, they discover the wreck of an old ship beneath the sea and the story of the prince of mist slowly begins to unravel. Soon Max discovers that the prince, a magician known only as Cain, is still in their midst and just waiting for his opportunity to settle an old score.

This first book by Carlos Ruiz Zafon is a chilling adventure and skips along at a fantastic pace. It's probably a little too scary for very young readers but older fans of Zafon's other work will certainly enjoy this novel.
All the familiar themes of his later books are here.

He writes fondly of father-and-son relationships, as well as of the importance of older male mentors to young men, along with the themes of coming of age, burgeoning romance, loss of innocence, and the ultimate battle of good versus evil.

Any young reader will enjoy The Prince Of Mist, but it is particularly enjoyable for fans of Zafon, as it gives an insight into the early ideas and preoccupations that eventually led to his most successful novel, The Shadow Of The Wind.

May 23, 2011

SWAN PEAK by James Lee Burke

taken from The Guardian by Matthew Lewin

After the devastating events of hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, Cajun police detective Dave Robicheaux and his unpredictable ex-partner Clete Purcel have headed for the achingly beautiful landscape of the Bitterroot Valley in Montana to fish. But Burke cannot allow these two characters to exist in a peaceful world, and it's not long before they are embroiled in an investigation into the brutal killing of two young students a stone's throw from their holiday cabins. As always, Clete Purcel is a natural magnet for trouble, and it comes in increasingly powerful waves. Burke has cunningly woven a thread through the various loops in the plot, and when he begins to draw it all in, the compression raises the temperature to almost unbearable levels. The last 30 pages had me gripped with tension. This, together with Burke's ability to place you vicariously in the haunting landscapes he describes with such love and passion, again confirms his position as one of the finest American writers.

May 22, 2011


taken from Book Forum by Ross Benjamin

Writers have long used a child’s perspective to relate fictional accounts of historical catastrophe, notably Günter Grass in The Tin Drum and Imre Kertész in Fatelessness. Bosnian-born German author Sasa Stanisic offers the latest installment in this tradition with his 2006 debut novel, How the Soldier Repairs the Gramophone, a sensation in Germany, now skillfully translated by Anthea Bell. Through the eyes of the fourteen-year-old narrator, Aleksandar Krsmanovi, we witness a massacre perpetrated by Bosnian Serbs against their Muslim neighbors in the town of Višegrad in 1992. The outlines of the plot are autobiographical: The protagonist’s escape to Germany from the attack on Višegrad parallels the author’s own at the same age. But rather than rendering a direct account, Stanisic refracts these events through his young narrator’s wildly imaginative storytelling. A hyperactive fabulist, Aleksandar embarks on madcap flights of invention and comic exaggeration, which clash movingly with the painfully real chronicle of terror, loss, and exile at the story’s heart.

His tall tales contain many wonders: a magic wand that can “revolutionize all sorts of things, just so long as they’re in line with Tito’s ideas and the statutes of the Communist League of Yugoslavia”; a catfish wearing glasses; a river that talks and is ticklish. The headings that precede each chapter playfully mimic Cervantes and Grimmelshausen by providing brief, tantalizingly eccentric synopses: “How long a heart attack takes over a hundred meters, how heavy a spider’s life weighs, why a sad man writes to the cruel river, and what magic the comrade-in-chief of the unfinished can work.”

Aleksandar learns the answer to the first in this series of conundrums when his Grandpa Slavko suffers cardiac arrest in the same 9.86 seconds in which Carl Lewis breaks the world record for the hundred meters; the race is playing on Slavko’s television. Unwilling to accept his grandfather’s death, Aleksandar recalls Slavko’s gift to him of a magician’s hat and wand that “work magic exclusively along Party lines.” But even though he believes that the resurrec-tion of such a devoted Socialist would surely receive Tito’s blessing, he proves powerless to bring Slavko back to life. Defiantly proclaiming himself opposed to death and all endings, he resolves to become “Comrade-in-Chief of going on and on,” to think up stories that never end, and to draw pictures of unfinished things. His “unfinished” subjects are among the novelist’s idiosyncratic strokes: “plums without stones,” “Tito in a T-shirt,” “books with no dust on them.”      read more....

May 20, 2011


taken from

"It's about a suspicious death that might be violent, might not be, that is, might be murder, might not be. Brunetti follows the trail and finds old people with secrets from long ago. It's not bad.
(© Donna Leon, August 13, 2010)

In the opening pages of a debut novel nearly two decades ago, a nasty conductor was poisoned during intermission at the famous La Fenice opera house in Venice. The Questura sent a man to investigate, and readers first met Commissario Guido Brunetti.

Since 1992’s Death at La Fenice, Donna Leon and her shrewd, sophisticated, and compassionate investigator have been delighting readers around the world. For her millions of fans, Leon’s novels have opened a window into the private Venice of her citizens, a world of incomparable beauty, family intimacy, shocking crime, and insidious corruption. This internationally acclaimed, best-selling series is widely considered one of the best ever written. Atlantic Monthly Press is thrilled to be publishing Drawing Conclusions, the 20th installment, in Spring 2011.

Late one night, Brunetti is suffering through a dinner with Vice Questore Patta and his nasty Lieutenant Scarpa when his telefonino rings. A old woman’s body has been found in a Spartan apartment on Campo San Giacomo dell’Orio. Her neighbor discovered it when she went to pick up her mail, after having been away in Palermo. Brunetti sees some signs of force on the old woman—the obvious wound on her head, what could be a bruise near her collarbone—but they could just as easily have been from the radiator near where she fell. When the medical examiner rules that the woman died of a heart attack, it seems there is nothing for Brunetti to investigate. But he can’t shake the feeling that something may have created conditions that led to her heart attack, that perhaps the woman was threatened.

Brunetti meets with the woman’s son, called into the city from the mainland to identify the body, her upstairs neighbor, and the nun in charge of the old age home where she volunteered. None of these quiet his suspicions. If anything, the son’s distraught, perhaps cagey behavior, a scene witnessed by the neighbor, and the nun’s reluctance to tell anything, as well as her comments about the deceased’s “terrible honesty,” only heighten Brunetti’s notion.

With the help of Inspector Lorenzo Vianello and the ever-resourceful Signorina Elettra Zorzi, perhaps Brunetti can get to the truth, and find some measure of justice.

Like the best of her beloved novels, Drawing Conclusions is insightful and emotionally powerful, and it reaffirms her status as one of the masters of literary crime fiction.
(© Atlantic Monthly Press)

May 18, 2011

THE JANUS STONE by Elly Griffiths

taken from EURO CRIME

I have been really looking forward to this, the second in a series featuring Ruth Galloway, a forensic archaeologist, based in East Anglia. The first book, THE CROSSING PLACES, was a delight and I have to say I wasn't disappointed with this one.

Ruth is called in when builders, demolishing an old house in Norwich, find the bones of a child beneath a doorway. The skull is missing, so is it a ritual sacrifice or just plain murder? DCI Harry Nelson needs to know. When it turns out that the house was once a children's home everyone begins to wonder what went on there. Nelson tracks down the priest who ran the home and finds that two children did go missing there years ago.

Harry and Ruth have to find out how old the bones are and trawl through the old files to find out who was involved in a crime that happened many years before. However it seems that not everyone wants the truth to come out and someone is trying to frighten Ruth off.

What a fantastic book this is. The characters of Ruth and Harry are so clear and believable. Ruth in particular is extremely engaging, full of self-doubt but battling on regardless. Harry is a most unusual fictional detective, not given to talking much, a man with a heart. I love the relationship between these two. But the secondary characters here are no stereotypes either, from the wonderful Cathbad to the saintly Father Hennessey all the supporting cast are finely drawn.

Plot-wise it will keep you guessing, and the use of present tense throughout means that the action is very immediate. You feel as though you're right there with them. The tension never falls and it builds to a fantastically gripping climax. This is a real tour-de-force and I just can't wait for more.

May 16, 2011

ON THE BLACK HILL By Bruce Chatwin

taken from The New York Times

BRUCE CHATWIN'S highly praised travel book, ''In Patagonia'' (1977), established the writer as, among other things, a connoisseur of human oddity as it flourishes in isolation. His displaced Scottish sheep farmers and Welsh hymn singers, left stranded by the receding tide of economic colonialism, are depicted as turned in upon themselves, rendered queer by their desperate clinging - in the remote wastes of the Argentinian far-south - to obsolete modes and attitudes transplanted a century ago from ''Home.'' Even more bizarre are the descendants of Dom Francisco da Silva, a Brazilian slave trader, who - as Mr. Chatwin tells us in his semihistorical fantasy, ''The Viceroy of Ouidah'' (1980) -founded a mulatto dynasty in the bloodthirsty kingdom of Dahomey. In both works the human peculiarities are set against landscapes poetically evoked with exceptional vividness and exactitude.

The step from such nonfiction to Bruce Chatwin's first novel is not so great as might be imagined. ''On the Black Hill'' also chronicles the lives of odd folk living in relative isolation; it too paints a landscape which, as in the novels of Thomas Hardy, is at least as animate and moody as its inhabitants. But there the resemblance to Mr. Chatwin's earlier books ends. In its imaginative reach, ''On the Black Hill'' is very much a work of fiction. Nothing in Mr. Chatwin's previous work quite prepares us for the dramatic intensity with which scene after scene of the novel is brought to life. Despite the eccentricity of many of the characters, we soon realize that ''On the Black Hill'' belongs not to the literature of exoticism but to a valued, essentially British tradition that stretches back to the closing decades of the 18th century - a tradition of writing about homely, country things with an enraptured attention that causes them to glow with an almost visionary light.     read more....

May 13, 2011

WHEN YOU REACH ME by Rebecca Stead

taken from the guardian

The first thing I can say about this book is that I actually didn't know what it was about until right at the end. That definitely wasn't a bad thing though, as it kept me in suspense until the very last page. When You Reach Me has been one of those books, that even though they're fiction, and could probably never happen, the way its written was so believable. I felt like the main character, Miranda, was real, and that she was really writing this story from her own experience. I found that this book was one of the ones where it's almost like you forgot you're reading the book, but instead, living in the story.

The first part of the book I read was the blurb, and a couple of lines caught my eye:

And then a mysterious note arrives:

I am coming to save your friend's life, and my own.
I ask two favours. First, you must write me a letter.

Each message brings her closer to believing that only she can prevent a tragic death. Until the final note makes her think she's too late.

It was then I decided that I would not rest until I found out who the letter was from, why they sent it, and whether Miranda's friend survives. So, for the next few days, apart from school, I read the book through and through. Although, it's not a particularly thick book, the author still manages to cram so much in, and it all works. There are so many genres in it, like mystery, suspense and even a bit of science fiction. I've never really been a huge fan of science fiction books, but that didn't stop me from liking this book, as you don't even need to like any particular genre to fully appreciate how good this book is. I love the way that the reader gets to solve the mystery of the letters along with Miranda, and we're only able to figure it out when she does.

I thoroughly believe this book deserved its title of the Winner of the Newbery Medal 2010. Even though there were some points when I wasn't really sure what was going on, it was easy to pick up, and the ending really makes it worth it. I would recommend this book to young adults, as some parts are a little confusing, and especially to those who enjoy mysteries. The book also deals with many morals, and actually taught me some things I hadn't thought of before. When You Reach Me is a book full of twists and turns, and if you're looking for a book that will keep you on your toes the whole way through, this is definitely for you.

May 11, 2011

AN EVIL EYE by Jason Goodwin

taken from the TURKISH FORUM review by Steve Donoghue

Raymond Chandler, who knew a thing or two about the fictional detective, famously wrote that he must be “the best man in his world and a good enough man for any world.” Consciously or not, Jason Goodwin has thoroughly absorbed that precept; his own fictional detective, Yashim, might have considered Philip Marlowe a bit uncouth (all that smoking and drinking surely show a lack of self-control), but they are cut from the same cloth when it comes to righting the wrongs of the world.

In “An Evil Eye,” Goodwin’s fourth novel, Yashim’s world is the decaying Ottoman Empire of the early 19th century. The year is 1839, and a new sultan, Abdulmecid, has replaced the old one in Istanbul. In the novel’s most atmospheric, least realized subplot, this change in monarchs occasions a corresponding change in the monarch’s harem. In an echo of Goodwin’s first book, “The Janissary Tree” (2006), the sultan’s harem also contains a mystery that will eventually involve our detective. But in “An Evil Eye,” the more immediate puzzle is posed by a dead body found on the island of Chalki in the well of the monastery. The dead man in the well is marked with a totenkopf — or skull symbol — and when Yashim is dispatched to investigate, it doesn’t take him long to surmise that the dead man might have been Russian.

Goodwin is an author of many strengths — the books in this series can be read independently of each other, and they just keep getting better — and the discovery of a Russian corpse in a Christian well in the heart of a Muslim land allows him to play to the best of those strengths: his remarkable ability to clarify the muddle of that decaying empire. “The Ottomans were not a nation [but] a caste, almost a family,” we learn. “Just as the sultan, as head of the family, maintained his pashas and his odalisques, so the Ottomans maintained their retinues in turn.” Yashim’s effort to restore some semblance of harmony to that family is made all the more complicated by the implication of Fevzi Ahmet Pasha, his old mentor in the service of the former sultan.

The complicated plot that unfolds is deftly controlled throughout, with dangers, chases, intrigues and frequent trips back to the harem. Goodwin’s prose is sharp and surprising (about that dead Russian we’re told, “His skin had wrinkled in the long immersion under water, soft and ridged like the white brains of sheep laid out for sale in the butcher’s market”), and the best part of the entertainment is none other than Yashim, a redoubtable, philosophical hero who finds himself in a dirty, battered world yet still holds out hope: “I think there is always a little gap somewhere, however hard you try to fit everything together. A small space, for something like grace, or mercy.”

There is precious little mercy in the cutthroat world Goodwin portrays here. Yashim is caught between the merciless cunning of his old teacher and the innocence of that teacher’s little daughter, between the politics of the sultanate and the equally twisted politics of the harem. The standout joy of these books is readers’ confidence that we’ve got the right hero, that the calm Yashim will prevail. “In the end,” he tells an exasperated colleague, “it isn’t about people, or sultans, or corruption. It’s about the truth.”

If there were only more such men, Chandler tells us, “the world would be a very safe place to live in.” And maybe the poor old Ottoman Empire would have lasted a bit longer if it had had more Yashims to call upon. As it is, we must hope the original has many, many more adventures.


May 9, 2011


The Girl Who Fell from the Skytaken from HEIDIWDURROW.COM

"[A] breathless telling of a tale we've never heard before. Haunting and lovely, pitch-perfect, this book could not be more timely."-Barbara Kingsolver 

Chosen by Barbara Kingsolver as the winner of the Bellwether Prize for best fiction manuscript addressing issues of social justice, The Girl Who Fell From the Sky has garnered rave reviews since its February 2010 publication. The Washington Post calls it "an auspicious debut" and named it one of the Best Novels of 2010.   The Miami Herald says: "Durrow's powerful novel is poised to take a place among classics of the American experience." The Oregonian hails it as a Top 10 Book of 2010. The Girl Who Fell From the Sky is already a book club favorite, a New York Times Bestseller, a LA Times Bestseller List, an Indie Next Pick, a Pennie's Pick at Costco, and is now in its 5th printing in paperback.

This debut novel tells the story of Rachel, the daughter of a Danish mother and a black G.I. who becomes the sole survivor of a family tragedy.

With her strict African American grandmother as her new guardian, Rachel moves to a mostly black community, where her light brown skin, blue eyes, and beauty bring mixed attention her way. Growing up in the 1980s, she learns to swallow her overwhelming grief and confronts her identity as a biracial young woman in a world that wants to see her as either black or white.

Meanwhile, a mystery unfolds, revealing the terrible truth about Rachel's last morning on a Chicago rooftop. Interwoven are the voices of Jamie, a neighborhood boy who witnessed the events, and Laronne, a friend of Rachel's mother. Inspired by a true story of a mother's twisted love, The Girl Who Fell from the Sky reveals an unfathomable past and explores issues of identity at a time when many people are asking "Must race confine us and define us?"

In the tradition of Jamaica Kincaid's Annie John,Toni Morrison's The Bluest Eye and Sandra Cisneros' House on Mango Street, here is a portrait of a young girl—and society's ideas of race, class, and beauty.

May 8, 2011


taken from Sarah Tuttle's blog by Sarah Tuttle

Where the Mountain Meets the Moon, by Massachusetts author Grace Lin, follows a young Chinese girl on a quest to find good fortune for her family. Minli leaves home on the instructions of a talking goldfish to find the Old Man of the Moon, who she hopes will give her the information she needs to make her family happy and prosperous. In the course of her quest, Minli comes across magical creatures and characters right out of legends, including a flightless dragon and a village where the sky rains seeds.

Lin’s enchanting storytelling voice gives Where the Mountain Meets the Moon the feel of a classic fantasy tale. While Minli’s journey follows a the quest format of traditional fantasy writing, Lin adds her own twist by telling “stories within the story.” She alternates chapters on Minli with chapters of folktales that are told by characters that Minli meets. Lin weaves the folktales into Minli’s own quest, adding layers of plot and tension. The text of Where the Mountain Meets the Moon is enhanced by Lin’s paintings and the monochromatic illustrations at the start of each chapter.

As someone who adores folktales and classic fantasy stories, I am perhaps predisposed to love Where the Mountain Meets the Moon. However, I’m not the only one gushing about how wonderful it is! Where the Mountain Meets the Moon is a Newbery Honor Book for 2010, and has become a best seller.  If you haven’t had a chance to read it yet, I hope you will.

May 7, 2011

TAIL OF BLUE BIRD by Nii Ayikwei

taken from THE INDEPENDENT reviewed by Jonathan Gibbs

Here is a delightful book that combines the basic tug of the whodunnit with the more elegant pleasures of the literary novel. Like the best detective stories, it has a questing hero, and a vivid sense of locale. Kayo Odamtten is a young Ghanaian returned home after studying in the UK. He is happy enough working as a forensic pathologist in Accra. But when a strange crime is discovered in a remote forest village – by the horrified girlfriend of the Transport Minister, no less – Kayo is dragged into the investigation by corrupt police Inspector PJ Donker, whose idea of recruitment is the threat of imprisonment on conspiracy charges.

Insp. Donker sends Kayo off with the warning, "Don't return until you have a good scientific theory and report – CSI-style." Kayo finds the "evil" evidence: unidentified fleshy remains, crawling with maggots, in the corner of a hut belonging to a cocoa farmer who hasn't been seen for a month. He does his CSI best – taking samples for DNA testing, using hi-tech "blue merge" goggles to spot patches of urine on the floor, creating a digital model of the crime scene on his laptop. More importantly, he listens to the locals, especially the old hunter Opanyin Poku.

The hunter shares some of the book's narrative, giving Kayo clues in the form of rambling tales of village history as they sit around drinking palm wine laced with the medicine man's own potions. Kayo may be "caught in a void between instinct and knowledge", but his courtesy and respect for non-Western wisdom mean that there is no real danger of his not getting to the bottom of the mystery.

Tail of the Blue Bird is not overly ambitious, but everything it sets out to do, it does admirably. Nii Ayikwei Parkes surely knows the effect the Ghanaian dialogue will have; he doesn't translate or explain, and this additional layer of mystery (for the average British reader) only adds to the strength of its lyricism and insight.

Apr 30, 2011

EVERY LAST ONE by Anna Quindlen

taken from the NEW YORK TIMES, by MAGGIE SCARF 

If it’s true that traits like novelty-­seeking and risk-aversion are genetic in origin, then Mary Beth Latham’s biological makeup appears to be tilted toward safety and security. Mary Beth, the narrator of Anna Quindlen’s engrossing new novel, “Every Last One,” values stability and sameness, finding quiet contentment in her long, amiable marriage to an ophthalmologist and in her flourishing career as a landscaper. But her most intense feelings and greatest concerns are centered on her three teenage children: lovely Ruby, nearing her last year of high school, and the twins, Max and Alex, who will be freshmen next year.

The Lathams’ busy, welcoming household, a study in domestic tranquility, is a magnet for friends of all ages. But there are curious ripples beneath this happy surface. Does the fact that Ruby has teetered on the edge of anorexia have mostly to do with normal growing pains or is there something darker, more troublesome to blame? And what about Ruby’s increasing wish to free herself from a cloying romance with her childhood playmate and high school sweetheart, who seems to be a constant presence in the Latham household? As for the twins, they’re a study in yin and yang. Alex is outgoing, comfortable in his own skin, on his way to making the high school soccer team; Max (called Max the Mute by his classmates) is clumsy and rarely speaks.

It seems unlikely that violence could erupt in the peaceful, countrified New England town where the Lathams live. Yet early in the novel one of Mary Beth’s large landscaping jobs (“six tiers of shrubs, a small copse of flowering plum and pear, a long hedge of weigela”) is vandalized, the plantings uprooted and carried off overnight. “I don’t mean to sound hysterical, but I am really freaked out by this,” she tells the policeman who arrives to inspect the damage.      read more...

Apr 28, 2011


taken from the GLOBE AND MAIL by Christy Ann Conlin

Anne Berry's The Hungry Ghosts is a stunning debut, brilliant in the seamless intricacy of a story that plays out over a 60-year period, beginning with the brutal Japanese occupation of Hong Kong. Epic in scope and voice, the book moves from British Hong Kong to England and Paris, returning to post-colonial Hong Kong, now a part of the People's Republic of China. 

This book is so skillfully crafted, and the writing so elegant, it's hard to believe it is a first novel. Some years ago, critic Noah Richler railed against young new writers emerging from creative writing programs, the product of too many writing workshops and not enough real-life experience. Anne Berry is his dream. Berry, 54, was born in Hong Kong to a former key figure in the colonial government. She ran an acting school and wrote plays, in addition to working as a speech therapist and a reporter. Now living in England, Berry writes full time and has already finished a second novel. Her diverse background and experience are perhaps the perfect companions to the talent and insight that have created this page-turning book. 

The story centres on two characters, 12-year-old Alice Safford, the eccentric third daughter of a high-ranking official in the British colonial government in Hong Kong, and the restless spirit of Lin Shui, a young girl raped and murdered by a Japanese solider in 1942. Lin Shui lingers in a netherworld between the living and the dead, haunting a morgue in an abandoned British army hospital.

When the hospital is reborn as a private school for the children of colonial officials, Lin Shui attaches herself to young Alice, a deeply troubled child existing in the quintessential English colonial world of stiff upper lips, carefully controlled façades and undercurrents of deceit and betrayal.    read more....

Apr 26, 2011


taken from SALON.COM by Laura Miller

Peter Carey's delightful new novel asks whether democracy and art are incompatible

Although he's won the Booker Prize twice (for "Oscar and Lucinda" and "True History of the Kelly Gang"), Peter Carey doesn't quite match the American notion of a great novelist; for one thing, his books are too much fun. (Tellingly, the least comic products of his pen tend to be the most celebrated.) Shouldn't literature taste more medicinal — like, say, the works of that other double Booker winner, J.M. Coetzee? Also, Carey has mostly written about Australia (both the country and the state of mind), which Americans find perplexing. We regard Australia as too much like America to be interestingly foreign, so why harp on it? Why not just act as if you're already American? It works for half the movie stars in Hollywood, after all.

So while Carey has lived in New York for two decades, he still feels like a Commonwealth novelist, the kind of writer who consistently produces a satisfying, well-shaped, inventive and entertaining book every two or three years without excessive fuss or bother. This is not how we do it stateside. To read any novel more challenging than an airport thriller, Americans usually need to be persuaded that the book is epochal, the result of a heroic effort to define our times, undertaken by a stormy and (ideally) clinically depressed genius. We figure that if we have to exert ourselves to read it, we want a guaranteed pay-off in cultural capital.     read more....

Apr 23, 2011

SAVAGES by Don Winslow

taken from POWELL'S BOOKS

A breakthrough novel that pits young kingpins against a Mexican drug cartel, Savages is a provocative, sexy, and sharply funny thrill ride through the dark side of the war on drugs and beyond.
Part-time environmentalist and philanthropist Ben and his ex-mercenary buddy Chon run a Laguna Beach–based marijuana operation, reaping significant profits from their loyal clientele. In the past when their turf was challenged, Chon took care of eliminating the threat. But now they may have come up against something that they cant handlethe Mexican Baja Cartel wants in, and sends them the message that a "no" is unacceptable. When they refuse to back down, the cartel escalates its threat, kidnapping Ophelia, the boys playmate and confidante. Os abduction sets off a dizzying array of ingenious negotiations and gripping plot twists that will captivate readers eager to learn the costs of freedom and the price of one amazing high.

Following "the best summertime crime novel ever" (San Francisco Chronicle on The Dawn Patrol), bestselling author Winslow offers up a smash hit in the making. Savages is an ingenious combination of adrenaline-fueled suspense and true-crime reportage by a master thriller writer at the very top of his game.


"Spare, clipped expository prose and hip, spot-on dialogue propel this visceral crime novel from Winslow (The Dawn Patrol). The future is looking good for Laguna Beach, Calif., marijuana growers Ben and Chon, until they receive an ominous e-mail from the Baja Cartel. Attached is a photograph showing the decapitated bodies of other independent drug dealers. The message is clear: sell your product through us or else. Ben and Chon try to resist, but matters escalate after cartel thugs abduct Ophelia, the guys' beautiful young playmate and accomplice, and hold her for a cool million ransom. Meanwhile, Elena 'La Reina' Sanchez Lauter, the leader of the Baja Cartel, must deal with rival drug gangs and potential overthrow from within. Ben and Chon propose a trade that Elena can't refuse, setting the stage for the violent and utterly satisfying ending. Winslow's encyclopedic knowledge of the border drug trade lends authenticity. (July)" Publishers Weekly

Apr 19, 2011



December 1888. Vera Arti carries The Communist Manifesto in Armenian through Istanbul’s streets, unaware of the men following her. The police discover a shipload of guns and the Imperial Ottoman Bank is blown up. Suspicion falls on a socialist commune Arti’s friends organized in the eastern mountains. Investigating, Special Prosecutor Kamil Pasha encounters a ruthless adversary, Vahid, the head of a special branch of the secret police. Vahid has convinced the Sultan that the commune is leading an Armenian secessionist movement and should be destroyed, along with surrounding villages. Kamil must stop the massacre, but finds himself on the wrong side of the law, framed for murder and accused of treason. His family and the woman he loves are threatened. Exploring the dark obsessions of the most powerful and dangerous men of the dying Ottoman Empire, The Winter Thief also reflects the mad idealism of these turbulent times.

Apr 18, 2011

Patrick Ness's top 10 'unsuitable' books for teenagers

taken from THE GUARDIAN

Patrick Ness was born and grew up in the US, and moved to London in 1999, where he's lived ever since. He's written two books for adults (a novel called The Crash of Hennington and a short story collection called Topics About Which I Know Nothing), and published The Knife of Never Letting Go, his first young adult book, in 2008. It won the Guardian Children's Fiction Prize and the Booktrust Teenage Prize. The sequel, The Ask and the Answer, won the Costa children's fiction prize, and the final book in the trilogy, Monsters of Men, came out last year. His new novel, A Monster Calls, will be published next month.

"My childhood reading was blissfully unchaperoned. My parents were just happy I liked to read, and so I – in utter innocence – would wander into the public library and pick up any old thing. I read Harold Robbins' Celebrity when I was 13, for example. It was VERY educational.

"I survived, though. When I asked on Twitter for other "inappropriate" books people had read way too young, the list included Jilly Cooper, Irvine Welsh, Flowers in the Attic (by practically everyone) and lots and lots of Stephen King. All bookish young readers over-reach occasionally, and if they discover they like it, they keep on doing it. What a great way to establish reading as exciting and maybe even dangerous, eh?

"But there's more to adult books than adult material. There are a number of books that are actually rather better if read when you're a teen, some because they're entertaining contraband, some because it can never be too early to read something so wonderful, and some because, if you wait, you might have missed your chance forever."

1. The Catcher in the Rye by JD Salinger

The obvious first choice, but not necessarily because of its literary reputation. It needs to be read when you're young. If you first meet Holden Caulfield when you're too old, the desire to give him a good slap might impede your enjoyment.

2. The Stand by Stephen King

For his sheer ability to get teenagers to love reading, Stephen King is a saint. I did a book report on Pet Sematary in 8th grade. My English teacher, bless her forever, gave me an A. I pick The Stand because if you're an adult, it's a bit long. If you're a teenager, it's War and Peace. Scratch that, if you're a teenager, it's better. And that's no bad thing.

3. Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace

Speaking of 1000+ page books, Infinite Jest is filled with all the things that are brilliant to read when you're young: unembarrassed cleverness, a cheeky take on the future, hilarious experiments with form, and a serious sense of accomplishment when you're finished.

4. Beloved by Toni Morrison

I read Beloved when I was 15, and it felt like the first time being allowed to sit at the grown-up's table. I may not have followed every word, but I was mesmerised. And I learned without even knowing I was being taught.

5. The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides

One of those literary, award-winning adult novels that I secretly think was written for teens all along (see To Kill A Mockingbird). No, it won't encourage suicide, but it will encourage an appreciation for elegant writing and ring true for how isolating the teenage years can feel. Plus, it's in third person plural! What's not to love?

6. Dracula by Bram Stoker

Next, a couple of classics that are better in your teens. Dracula first because it's still fast-paced, scary and appealingly pervy. Plus, it's important to know that vampires don't play baseball. And honestly? They never would.

7. Middlemarch by George Eliot

Because Middlemarch should be read when you're 14. And again when you're 23. And again at 31. And 45. And 52. And 68. And 84. It will, astoundingly, be a different book every time.

8. Maul by Tricia Sullivan

Two personal choices now. Read Tricia Sullivan's fantastic, profane and mind-bending Maul mainly because it's very important to start loving brilliant genre fiction before older readers can tell you to be a snob about it. Plus, far-future gender politics and teenagers with machine guns in a shopping mall. I ask again, what's not to love?

9. Jitterbug Perfume by Tom Robbins

Tom, not Harold. This book is the whole reason for this list. I read it probably a dozen times from ages 15 to 17, and was amazed to discover that fiction could be, of all things, playful. That it didn't always need to be polite. That it could have runaway metaphors just for a laugh. And that the naughty bits could be told with a smile. It opened my eyes to a world of possibilities in my own writing, and is probably the most formative book I ever read. And you know what? I haven't read it since. I can't bear to. Seen through the eyes of my adult self, who knows how disappointed I'd be? Let it remain forever, gloriously, in my teenage years.

10. Unrecommended by Unnamed

And here's where it gets tricky. I can't possibly recommend some of the books that I and others read when we were teenagers. I mean, really, is Trainspotting in any way appropriate for a teenager? And what about the Jilly Coopers and the Jackie Collinses and, heaven help us, Flowers in the Attic? We older folks may have cherished, er, survived reading them at your age, but you're too young, WAY too young, to read any of these books that are easily available at your local library. Listed alphabetically by author. So the Cs would be near the front and Ws near the back. But I couldn't possibly recommend that.

Apr 16, 2011

TRUTH by Peter Temple

taken from CRIMESPACE

At the close of a long day, Inspector Stephen Villani stands in the bathroom of a luxury apartment high above the city. In the glass bath, a young woman lies dead.

Villani's job as head of the Victoria Police Homicide Squad is bathed in blood and sorrow. His life is his work. It is his identity, his calling, his touchstone. But now, over a few sweltering summer days, as fires burn across the state and his superiors and colleagues scheme and jostle, he finds all the certainties of his life are crumbling.     read more....

Apr 15, 2011



Inupiaq Alaskan State Trooper Nathan Active investigates a mysterious fire while separately seeking to identify a dead body found washed ashore on a nearby lake in Village of the Ghost Bears, the fourth mystery in this series by Stan Jones.

Active and his longtime love Grace are just beginning a camping trip along the shores of One-Way Lake when they stumble upon the body of a man whose face has been eaten away by local pike. But before they can arrange to have the body recovered, Active is called to the small town of Chukchi, a coastal village in northwest Alaska, where a recreation center has burned down, killing eight people who were trapped inside when the exit doors were wired shut. The motive for arson isn't obvious, nor is one for murder ... if one of the dead was the intended target. Then there's still that unknown man at One-Way Lake. Almost certainly an accidental death from a fall, but until the body can be recovered and identified it remains another mystery for Active to solve.  read more...

Apr 12, 2011

SNOW ANGELS by James Thompson


Finland has been notably under-represented in the surge of Nordic crime fiction that has take the genre by storm in recent years. While Icelanders, Swedes and Norwegians have risen to prominence few Finnish authors have broken into international markets.

This has been a personal disappointment to me. Having spent a lot of time in Finland, and grown to like it and the Finns very much, I have long been waiting for a writer to bring the country to life on the crime scene.

So it was with the greatest of pleasure that I discovered James Thompson and his debut novel Snow Angels, set in FInnish lapland during Kaamos, the bleak, black Polar midwinter during which the sun does not rise at all for several days.

It is a good starting place and time for a writer exploring Finland and taking it to a new audience. Light and heat are perhaps the two most dominant characteristics of the country to a newcomer: in the winter there is an alarming lack of both - even in southern parts such as Helsinki; in the summer there is a surfeit of the latter. It is impossible not to wonder what impact the long dark winters has on those living here.

Thompson, a long-term resident, sets his story up handsomely to examine this question and others about the Finns, and Snow Angels, which is essentially a terrific mystery novel, explores some of these themes primarily through the dynamic between the central character, police detective Kari Vaara, and his American wife Kate, who is enduring her first Finnish winter as a manager in the Arctic ski resort of Levi. Vaara sees the Finns as they see themselves, while Kate provides the outsiders view.    read more....