Preview: Liquid Thoughts
Live to read another day
The Snowman by Jo Nesbo
A friend of mine gave me the Vintage UK edition of The Snowman
a couple months ago. I've read a number of Nesbo's Harry Hole series, but kept putting this one off, likely because it was too dark for me. I wanted lighter fair. But after reading Ken Bruen's The Guards
, I wanted some more gritty storytelling and Nesbo was just waiting to be picked up. If you haven't read any of the Harry Hole novels, Harry Hole is an alcoholic, work obsessed detective in Oslo. He's unpredictable and brilliant. The perfect combination. The stereotypical qualities of Hole don't do his character justice. He certainly reminds me a lot of Bruen's Jack Taylor, but has a lighter side than Taylor. But nothing about these crime novels are light. It's winter in Oslo and someone is using snowmen as calling cards for murders they're committing. It's not as funny as it sounds.
The snow in the garden reflected enough light for him to make out the snowman down below. It looked alone. Someone should have given it a cap and scarf. And maybe a broomstick to hold. At that moment the moon slid from behind a cloud. The black row of teeth came into view. And the eyes. Jonas automatically sucked in his breath and recoiled two steps. The pebble-eyes were gleaming. And they were not staring in the house. They were looking up. Up here. Jonas drew the curtains and crept back into bed.
With setting, mood and gifted storytelling, Nesbo is creating a monster (snowman and killer) that has provided me with more than one anxious moment. My lunchtime reads are now spinetinglers, literally. And I know one thing for sure. You can now add snowmen to the list of one time cute and funny 'things' that now scare the crap out of me. Snowmen and clowns
The Rossetti Letter
In The Rossetti Letter
, Claire Donovan is a Ph.D student at Harvard finishing her dissertation on Alessandra Rossetti and the letter she supposedly wrote to the Venetian officials warning them of the so-called Spanish Conspiracy.
Narrative shfits between present day Venice with Claire and her research and 1618 Venice, where Alessandra is a young single woman and one of Venice's most popular courtesan's. The two narratives, from two different eras is still an exciting tool for any author trying to make history come alive. But in The Rossetti Letter it feels too familiar. Nothing about the characters, setting or theme is original. As a reader, ther are two things I ask of from a book: something original and a protagonist I like. The protagonist may be a killer, see Edward Glyver in Michael Cox's The Meaning of Night
, but I have to like the protagonist enough, to care enough to take time out of my day and follow them as their story unfolds.
On the advice of her best friend, Meredith, Claire is chaperoning a 14 year old, Gwen, on a week long trip to Venice. This gives Claire the opportunity to attend a conference and conduct some much needed research. However, Andrew Kent, famed historian from Cambridge, is giving a lecture at the conference that could possibly debunk Claire's dissertation.
Though the paperback copy I read is 434 pages long, I read the book in about three days. That's both good and bad. Good because it was a quick, effortless read. Bad because I didn't want to spend anytime with the book or the characters...for a number of reasons.
What threw me right away, was Claire's lack of knowledge about the competitive field of history that she was working and studying in. How could Claire not know who Andrew Kent is? He's a famed historian and he's writing a book on the same subject as her. Once she found out that he was speaking at the conference, wouldn't she have gone on-line to try and find out about him? Nope. She actually thinks he's a woman, named Andrea Kent. Great research from a Harvard Ph.D candidate.
The rest of the story falls in place like every other cliche book or movie. In fact, I saw this more as a movie than a book. The same feelings I had after reading The Da Vinci Code
or any Steve Berry book. Cliched themes, cliched writing, cliched characters. The paperback copy has a good cover design and it the back cover copy makes the book sound interesting enough...but don't judge a book by its cover.
The Redeemer redeems itself
My initial reaction to Jo Nesbo's The Redeemer
, was disappointment. I had liked The Devil's Star
so much, but the seemingly disjointed narrative of The Redeemer
, was off putting. I like novels that attempt to take on a new narrative thread, creating narrative forms to add dimension and a story. Life isn't linear. Life, like dreams, does not follow a straight line and I appreciate narratives that don't follow in line. However, Nesbo's narrative was confusing. There wasn't enough separation in the narrative breaks. It took me a full paragraph or page to realize who the narrative was following.
But then all my initial problems with the style faded away. I became engrossed in the story and the cast of characters. I like thinking while I read, but I don't like trying. And for the first half of the book, I had to try and follow the leader. Once I got past that point and just read and enjoyed, I started to fly through the book.
Croatian hitmen, Norwegian Salvation Army intrigue, Harry Hole, alcohol and women. Great story.
Nearly another year has come and gone
Nearly a full year has past since I last posted on this blog. And although I've still been reading many of your blogs, I haven't been too active in the blogging community. With a one year old running around, my time management has been a bit one-sided. I've been reading, and reading a lot, over the past year. Mostly mysteries still, but littered with some history, travel and a couple bios. I'm still on a Sherlock Holmes kick (just finished A Slight Trick of the Mind
by Mitch Cullum,) but have also tasted my first Jo Nesbo, the entire Stieg Larsson trilogy and today I began Nicola Upson's An Expert in Murder
. I can't wait to begin sharing my thoughts on my daily reads and hope that you'll attempt to tune in again.
Day of the Assassins review
I don't read YA. Now I know why. Though YA novels seem to be picking up popularity amongst adult readers, I don't think I'll become part of that phenomenom. There are just too many problems with the quality of the writing, let alone the storyline. I accept time travel as a sci-fi plausibility. That has nothing to do with problems with the adventure novel. Day of the Assassins
follows the adventure of the teenager, Jack Christie as he travels back in time to 1914, before the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand.
Traveling back in time, Jack first gets caught on a ship with huge crates and large guns. Why is the narrator pointing out 'fifty-eight-ton gun barrels" and the smaller "twelve-pounder guns." Does Jack know what they are? Jack doesn't like like school or history much (though he plays a WWI video game) so I don't know if he's supposed to know what a fifty-eight ton gun barrel looks like. Is the reader supposed to know what they are? I know there are teens out there with far greater knowledge of war and weapons than myself, but I wonder if they have the faintest idea.
My wife complains that I pick out the inconsistencies of movies and feel that I have to let everyone else watching, know that such and such didn't happen or couldn't have happened. Good thing she couldn't have heard my thoughts as I read this book. She would have thrown it at me.
However, I do know who would be perfect to review this book...my 14 year old goddaughter and maybe that's the point. It was written for her and her schoolmates. Not a thirty-year old picky reader.
Library Book Sale
Last Saturday morning, my sister and I were up early to get to the quarterly Medford Public Library Book Sale. The sale, held partly outdoors (mass market paperbacks $.50 ea.) and partly in two old garages behind the library, has become a must visit for me. During my last trip, I came away with a first edition Shadow of the Wind
and a few other collectible books. And since I'm not collecting much anymore, I was able to spend some cash on some paperbacks. For $10.50 I got 11 books. Nice days work.
A few of the key finds were:The Art of Detection
by Laurie KingA Monstrous Regimen
of Women by Laurie KingThe Darwin Conspiracy
by John DarntonThe Somnambulist
by Jonathan BarnesArthur and George
by Julian BarnesLegacy of the Dead
by Charles Todd
I'm halfway through The Darwin Conspiracy
and although it's Possession
-lite and not nearly as enjoyable as I was hoping, it's still a good lunchtime read.
The Brutal Telling
I've read Carolyn Hart and Joan Hess. They write 'cozy mysteries'. I had heard about Louise Penny's cozy mystery series featuring Montreal detective Inspector Gamache, but had never read one until I received the ARC for her latest, The Brutal Telling
. This is no cozy mystery. It is a dark, complex mystery that has all the trappings of a cozy mystery (small town, fireplaces, B&Bs, etc.)but Penny doesn't follow the formula. Though Gamache is a different type of inspector for me (he's quite, friendly and thoughtful,) Penny makes good use of him and his team of investigators.
With a story line of a dead body found on the floor of the popular restaurant, the story could have petered out and become tiresome quickly. However, although nobody in the town says they know the stranger, the reader knows this isn't true. But we don't know if the person that knew the stranger actually committed the crime. Though investigating a crime in a small town where everyone knows one another is often times like trying to unravel a knot of Christmas tree lights, Gamache and his team see beyond the niceness and uncover a secret that unfortunately shows that greed and murder do not stop at the city limits.
BBAW Reading Meme
Today I stole another Meme. This time from Marie at The Boston Bibliophile
and SFP at Pages Turned
.Do you snack while you read? If so, favorite reading snack?
my fingernailsDo you tend to mark your books as you read, or does the idea of writing in books horrify you?
I used to all the time, but I have become lazy.How do you keep your place while reading a book? Bookmark? Dog-ears?
I dog-ear and mostly use pictures of my wife and daughter.Laying the book flat open?
for brief intervals only.Fiction, Non-fiction, or both?
mostly fiction, but I wouldn't be complete without non-fiction.Hard copy or audiobooks?
Books only pleaseAre you a person who tends to read to the end of chapters, or are you able to put a book down at any point?
I don't think I've ever intentionally stopped at the end of chapter. Seems a strange way to think about reading. The end of a chapter isn't the end of the story, so what's the difference?If you come across an unfamiliar word, do you stop to look it up right away?
I've never looked up a word from a book I've been reading. If I don't know the word, it doesn't matter to me. Plus, I don't like reading books in which the author uses 'fancy' words when simple ones will do.What are you currently reading? The Brutal Telling
by Louise Penny and Justice Hall
by Laurie KingWhat is the last book you bought?
A stack of Little Golden Books for my daughter.Are you the type of person that only reads one book at a time or can you read more than one at a time?
No matter how much I try to read a couple books at once, I always end up dedicating my time to one book and one book only.Do you have a favorite time of day and/or place to read?
My couch at night.Do you prefer series books or stand alone books?
series. It allows for fun character development.Is there a specific book or author that you find yourself recommending over and over?
I have stopped trying after having many loved ones throw books at me.How do you organize your books? (By genre, title, author’s last name, etc.?)
The books I collect, I categorize by author's last name. My other books, I categorize by author only.
Louise Penny - Brutal Telling
I'm making my way through Louise Penny's Brutal Telling
, the second of three ARCs I have to review this month. This book has become my lunchtime reading so it may go a little slow, but it is certainly a much better novel than Barclay's Fear the Worst
. I've never read Penny before so this is my first Inspector Gamache mystery. I really like the detective so far and the small town Canadian setting is a different read for me. I can't wait to get deeper into the investigation and enjoy some more of Penny's great writing.
I've taken on another Mary Russell novel as well. Laurie King's Justice Hall
, sends Holmes and Russell to Justice Hall, an elegant, elaborate and enormous estate to help two old friends uncover the truth about what happened to their nephew. I don't know what to say about King's Mary Russell series that hasn't been said before. All I can really say is that they are perfect reads.
Fear the Worst
A couple months ago, I was thrilled to receive my first Review Copy from LibraryThing. I snagged Linwood Barclay's new thriller, Fear the Worst
Tim Blake is Barclay's everyman and the driver of all the action. Blake is a divorced car salesman and father of a teenage daughter, Sydney. One day, after a brief argument over breakfast, Sydney never comes home. Weeks go by with no leads. What's a father to do? Well, like most good action heroes, Blake takes it into his own hands. He relentlessly retraces Sydney's last steps, continuously going by the hotel where she worked, her picture constantly in hand. Though Blake is a likable character, I couldn't help but be reminded of Frank Bascombe from Richard Ford's Independence Day
and Liam Neeson's character from the movie Taken
. I think Barclay got Blake right, but missed out on bringing real tension to the plot. The 'bad guys' aren't bad enough (like Eli Wallach said in The Good, The Bad and the Ugly
, "When you have to shoot, shoot, don't talk.")and the reason for Sydney's disappearance wasn't believable enough for me.
Worst of all was the cliche climax. A bridge at night, unlikely suspects, guns being kicked away, just out of reach. It seems as though Barclay was writing a movie script and they put it between covers and called it a book. This isn't always a bad thing. The book was fast and it was fun and I may read Barclay again, but I won't be passing Fear the Worst
on to anybody that hopes for the best.
This is one of the saddest stories
I've read in a long while.
ARCs to review
I just began reading See Delphi and Die
, my first Marcus Didius Falco mystery, but I have a small pile of ARCs beginning to pile up on the bedside table, eagerly waiting to be reviewed. I think it's time that I turn my attention to some books and authors that I want to review. First up will be Linwood Barclay's Fear the Worst
. I got this from Library Thing a month or so ago. Second on the list is My Cousin Caroline
by Rebecca Ann Collins. It's book six in the Pride and Prejudice
sequel series, but it'll be my first time reading the series. I got this book via BookBlogs.ning. The third book on the list, is Louise Penny's Brutal Telling
. It's Penny's new Inspector Gamache mystery.
I don't post typical reviews to begin with, but it's time to get my reviewing brain on and stop procrastinating. There are some good books waiting to be read!
Life and Books Meme
Since I've been laying low the past few weeks, I thought I'd try and get back into the swing of things with a fun meme that I saw over at Of Books and Bikes
Using only books you have read this year (2009), answer these questions. Try not to repeat a book title. It’s a lot harder than you think!Describe yourself: My Life and Hard Times
How do you feel: The Unburied
(Charles Palliser)Describe where you currently live: Back Bay
(William Martin)If you could go anywhere, where would you go? Harvard Yard
(William Martin)Your favorite form of transportation: Ghost Walk
(Marianne Macdonald)Your best friend is: The Beekeeper's Apprentice
(Laurie King)You and your friends are: The Sunday Philosophy Club
(Alexander McCall Smith)What’s the weather like: The Night Calls
(David Pirie)You fear: The Last Judgement
What is the best advice you have to give: Die Trying
Thought for the day: Die Once
(Marianne Macdonald)How I would like to die: One Shot
(Lee Child)My soul’s present condition: Death and Restoration
My responses were fairly limited even though I've read 33 books so far. I guess that's what happens when you read the same authors all the time.
Like my mom's meatloaf, reading a familiar author is comforting. I've been going through a life changing event the past few weeks, but I still crave the written word. I still seek the written word to comfort and placate my worries. My reading meatloaf, yes, my reading meatloaf, is William Martin. Martin's books are full of New England history, incredibly detailed family histories and characters that are oftentimes larger than life. With titles like Harvard Yard
, Cape Cod
and Back Bay
, they may sound a touch prosaic and fluffier than they really are. However, that's a disservice to Martin's skill as a storyteller. Each novel is epic in length and follow a similar format mixing stories lines taking place in the present day and in the past.
Whether Martin searching for lost copies of the American Constitution or tracking down a tea set made by Paul Revere, Martin only uses the 'thing' as a MacGuffin. The true story and the true fun resides in the characters faults, failures and heroics as they chase each other across the New Hampshire mountains, down the cobble stoned streets of old Boston and across the centuries.
With the birth of my daughter a couple weeks ago I couldn't settle on a book to read. Then I saw Martin's Cape Cod
on my top shelf. It was perfect. Each time I open the large novel, I smell the salty waters of the Cape and I think of my mother's meatloaf and mashed potatoes.
Two weeks later
I'm not getting too much sleep, but I'm hopefully getting back into the reading and writing flow. The first book I'm reading P.B. (post baby) is William Martin's Cape Cod
. I've really enjoyed all his other novels, especially Harvard Yard
and Back Bay
. He's a Boston based writer and being a local myself, I enjoy reading great stories about my 'neighborhood,' i.e. Massachusetts.
On the side I'm reading Laurie King's Justice Hall
. I just couldn't stay away from Mary Russell too long.
I knew I liked Lee Child and Jack Reacher for a reason. Here's a quick article
abour Lee Child creating a scholarship in Jack Reacher's name. He even has a beer named after him.
I might be out of commission until next Monday. I don't think I'll be reading or blogging much over the next week because on Friday, July 17, my wife and I welcomed our first baby, Ava Celeste Barresi!
Juliet Marion Hulme
Last night I broke the news to my wife that I had bid on a batch of 10 Anne Perry novels. Four or five hardcovers and the rest paperbacks. A mixture of her William Monk, Thomas Pitt and WWI series. For $10 or $11 I thought it was a steal. For whatever reason I decided to Wikipedia Anne Perry
. Wow. I knew Wikipedia was good for something. Anne Perry was born Juliet Marion Hulme in London, was sent to South Africa as a child (for health reasons) and then moved to New Zealand at 13 to be with her family. Perry/Hulme then became part of one of New Zealand's most notorious murders along with Pauline Parker. If you've ever seen the Kate Winslet movie Heavenly Creatures
, Kate Winslet portrayed Perry/Hulme. The young women killed Parker's mother in cold blooded murder. They only served five years in prison and as part of their sentence they were told they could never contact one another again.
Perry/Hulme is now 70 years old and lives in Scotland and has written dozens of murder mystery novels. Strange. I had recently begun her novel No Graves as Yet
which centers around two brothers trying to unravel the suspicious death of their parents. There is more to the story than that, but I just can't get the real Perry/Hulme out of my head. How can I? I wouldn't read the books of a man that was a convicted murderer, why should I read Perry's novels?
I'm stopping No Graves
and I'm going to begin a book by someone that doesn't have a killer instinct, only a killer imagination.
It's a good thing I didn't win the auction on eBay.
Books bought last week
I had a good book buying week. A few Sherlock Holmes pastiche, two bibliomysteries and a book for the Everything Austen Challenge
A Novel of Suspense featuring Sherlock Holmes, Irene Adler, and Jack the Ripper.Death at Dartmoor
A Victorian mystery featuring Arthur Conan Doyle.Locked Rooms
The eighth book in Laurie King's Mary Russell series. Russell and Holmes travel to San Francisco to take care of some unfinished business.Jane and the Man of the Cloth
The second book in the Jane Austen Mystery series. Jane Austen solving crimes? Sounds like a good fit for me in my attempt at the Everything Austen Challenge. I haven't read the first book in the series yet, but I'm going to read this one first because I have it.The Godwulf Manuscript
I got a nice condition 1973 paperback edition of Parker's classic bibliomystery. It's the first in the Spencer series. And although I've already read it, this is going in my collection.A Conspiracy of Paper
I read part of this novel years ago when it first came out. I think it high time I take it on again and finish it once and for all. Benjamin Weaver is a former boxer in 18Th Century London trying to uncover family secrets and investigate a couple of murders. Can't wait.No Graves As Yet
The first in Anne Perry's World War I mystery series. I haven't read any Perry before, but have only read rave reviews.