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....

Apr 11, 2011


taken from Meanstreets

Charlie Priest is on gardening leave - the neighbours have complained about his weeds – when the call comes. Ghislaine Curzon, girlfriend of one of the royal princes, is in Heckley to open the Curzon Centre, a new shopping mall and conference facility. But as she reveals the commemorative plaque at the opening ceremony it looks like someone has got to it first, defacing it with a single obscene word in foot-high red letters. The visiting dignitaries are aghast, and the chief constable insists on Charlie investigating the case.

Charlie would rather be investigating the burglaries perpetrated by a two-man gang armed with a pit bull terrier, but he welcomes the opportunity to meet Ghislaine at the family’s stately home in East Yorkshire. The jollities cease, however, when the mayor of Heckley is found dead.

The subsequent investigation involves Charlie visiting the mayor’s diminutive, flute-playing wife; the manageress of the mall and her anarchist student son; a half blind jockey and a cornucopia of characters from the rich farmland of East Yorkshire. It’s going to take more than standard police procedure to crack this case.

Apr 9, 2011

THE TROUBLED MAN by Henning Mankell

taken from THE GUARDIAN

That's it then; the end. Twenty-two years after his first appearance and more than a decade since the one everybody - even his creator - had assumed would be his last, Inspector Kurt Wallander is working his last case.

The lugubrious, all too human but ultimately decent Swedish cop with the never-ending health problems and the terrible family life has sold 30m books in 45 different languages. This will be a sad day for a lot of people.

But not, on balance, for Henning Mankell. "Hand on heart," he says, "I thought I'd written his last adventure a long time ago. I don't even particularly like the man. We have certain things in common: we enjoy the same kind of music, we have a similarly conscientious approach to work. We wouldn't be enemies if we knew each other, but he wouldn't be a close friend. He's not someone I'd invite to dinner."

We're in the sunlit kitchen of the house Mankell owns with his wife Eva in old Antibes, in the south of France. Coffee and cakes from the local patisserie are on the table. Eva, a successful theatre director in Sweden and daughter of Ingmar Bergman, disappears upstairs to work. Mankell, rumpled and relaxed in T-shirt and black tracksuit of uncertain vintage and indiscriminate design, listens gravely and answers precisely. The Troubled Man, his 10th and final Wallander novel, is published here this week.   read more....

IT'S A BOOK written & illustrated by Lane Smith

taken from Powell's Books 

Playful and lighthearted with a subversive twist that is signature Lane Smith, It's a Book is a delightful manifesto on behalf of print in the digital age. This satisfying, perfectly executed picture book has something to say to readers of all stripes and all ages.

The perfect gift for the tech-weary child (or adult) in your life. Bold illustrations, simple text, and a barrelful of wit will remind readers of the joys to be found when you go offline and lose yourself in the pages of a favorite story. Recommended by Billie Bloebaum, Powell's Books at PDX

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Apr 6, 2011

A NOVEL BOOKSTORE by Laurence Cossé

taken from WORDS WITHOUT BORDERS by Emma Hamilton

A new bookstore opens in Paris and stirs up a culture war. Ivan, a career bookseller and Francesca, a socialite and passionate reader, decide to open an "ideal bookstore"—one in which only good books are sold. They call it simply "The Good Novel." And before long, the place experiences phenomenal sales as well as violent threats, all the while receiving massive press coverage—by turns, adulatory and vituperative.

In an age of plummeting book sales, daily hardship (and ruin) for independent bookstores, and a publishing industry whose future seems grim, the plot of A Novel Bookstore could only be the fantasy of an undeterred bibliophile. In this alternate universe, books are at the forefront of cultural consciousness and debate. Even in France, a country more protective of its high culture than our own, the situation is only slightly more plausible. For all its utopian indulgences, the novel does turn on a familiar, and emblematic, tension. The escalating war over the bookstore has, at its heart, a clash between "literature" and the business of publishing. Of course, literature is a loaded category. Nabokov (whose entire oeuvre is sold at the store) once wrote that "reality" was one of the few words that means nothing without quotation marks. I'd hazard that "literature" is another. For what is literature except books that have been deemed, by someone, good and important? READ MORE....

Apr 5, 2011


taken from THE TELEGRAPH 

The Strange Case of the Composer and His Judge by Patricia DunckerThe story of the Heaven’s Gate group, 39 of whose members killed themselves in California in 1997 in the belief that this would allow their souls to board an alien spaceship, is recommended reading for anybody who thinks that the premise of Patricia Duncker’s new novel is too outlandish. It concerns an outbreak of suicides among the Swiss members of a cult who worship an astral body in the constellation Auriga they call the Dark Host and believe to be a herald of the Apocalypse.

But there is a twist in Duncker’s tale. The cult members are not the usual saddos but Switzerland’s scientific and artistic elite, including its chief global- warming adviser and best-known television astronomer; to appreciate the effect this has, we have to imagine Nicholas Stern, Patrick Moore and the whole of the Royal Society jumping off the roof of the Greenwich Observatory.

The novel begins with the discovery in a forest in the Jura of the corpses of 16 people, arranged in a semicircle. André Schweigen, a petulant French cop, notes similarities to a mass suicide in Switzerland some years earlier and summons his colleague and lover, Dominique Carpentier, a judge known as “la chasseuse de sectes”, the cult hunter. She is a rational thinker who tracks down the ageing smoothies who set up bogus sects in order to fleece the gullible.  READ MORE....

Apr 1, 2011

An Author's View - Margaret Atwood

“Publishing” originally meant simply to make public. That meaning, and the processes and technologies by which “publishing” has taken place, has changed radically over the years, and is in the process of changing yet again. The pie—the author and work, and the packaging and sale of the latter—has been divided up in various ways through the years, with bigger and smaller pieces for accordingly. We are now in the midst of the largest publishing changes and challenges since Gutenberg. How will they affect the author? What tools are newly available to him/her? One author’s view, illustrated with her own drawings.