Friday, October 21, 2011

Deviant by Adrian McKinty

Anyone that knows me, knows that when Adrian McKinty comes out with a new book, I hardly move from my reading chair until I've finished it, even if it is a young adult book. I hate putting his books down and moving out of his almost poetic form of writing back into the real world that generally consist of chaos. Deviant hit me a bit different however. It hit a bit close to home in some of it's content, weather it was supposed to or not.

Deviant is the story of Danny Lopez, whose family moves to Colorado when his mom is promoted at work. Suddenly, he finds himself thrown into an experimental new school where no one is allowed to talk, including teachers, except while reading the scripted lessons being taught. Not only is school strange, but someone is killing cats and leaving them in odd places that demand to be noticed. As Danny and his new friends decide to figure out who is doing the killing, they discover people aren't at all who they thought.

So what struck me about that? One thing was the school. I have 2 kids myself that go to public school, I work part time at one of their schools, and am very involved with both in any way I can be. I hate the politics of it, and as outrageous as the school system that was in the book was, if it got test numbers up, I could see the government, or powers that be, going for it. It was ridiculous, yes, but so are several ways the school politicians fool us into believing their system is working.

The other thing that struck me was the view of religion put in the book. Since I live in the middle of the "Bible Belt", religion is everywhere, and I can see the book being almost offensive here because of the mere mention of Focus on the Family, and Christianity in general, in a negative light. In all honesty, I'm now a bit curious and wouldn't mind spending some time in Colorado just to see how justified the negative impressions are.

Of course, with McKinty's books, you always get more than you expect. Thrown in with the story of a new boy at an odd school trying to catch a cat killer, you have many tidbits of fun. Japanese culture, space, old Si-fi movies, and art all appear in bits and pieces. It's a bit like reading an abbreviated form of the authors blog at times, which I always enjoy.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Plugged by Eoin Colfer

Like a lot of people, I know Eoin Colfer from his Artemis Fowl series, and, having listened to one on audiobook, I was eager to read his first adult novel, Plugged. I admit, I wasn't sure how it would work out, but I hoped that Mr. Colfer would be able to pull off that mix of suspense and humor. He did. The story was both dark and humorous, and full of dialogue that makes you miss both Raymond Chandler and Ken Bruen at the same time. I hated for it to end.

From the side flap:
Daniel McIvoy, an Irish bouncer at a seedy New Jersey club. Dan has a problem. Well, he has several, but the worst is that the girl he loves was just murdered. Then more people around him start dying, and not of natural causes.

Suddenly Dan's got the mob, cops, and an unstable lovesick neighbor after him, and the only clue points toward the crooked doctor who gave him hair implants before vanishing into thin air. Luckily-or perhaps not so much-he has the help of a volatile detective, a permanently hungover army psychologist, and a mischievous ghost.

I will say that mischievous ghost was a nice touch. Having been to a question and answer book signing with Eoin Colfer, and hearing that he really enjoys writing YA novels because he can add that bit of the supernatural, I was glad he was able to fit that into his adult novel story also. I will also say that that book signing was one of the most enjoyable I've been to, since the author had some really great stories to tell. (One of them involving duct tape and kids he happen to be directing in a play. Working at an elementary school myself, I could relate.)

And, as it happens, you can win a free signed copy of Plugged over at Crime Always Pays. Enjoy and good luck.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Absolute Zero Cool and Buried Secrets

I'm in shock this morning as everyone left the house for work or school and I find myself with some time to actually sit down on the computer and blog. I think it seems like forever since that has happened, or, at least since school let out last spring. It's been an insane summer with a lot of changes going on in out family and reading time, much less blogging time, has all but been abolished. Somehow, none the less, I have managed to work my way through a couple of books amid the insanity. Both of these books deserve their own post but seeing as how I'm not sure when I'll have time to sit down and type again, I'm going to take the safe route and just get it all out now. A little recognition is better than none after all, right?

Lets start with Declan Burke's Absolute Zero Cool since I just finished it and it's relatively fresh in my mind. The main thing I thought when I finished the last page of Declan's latest was "that was the most unusual, twisted book I've ever read". And that's saying something considering some of the books I tend to read. I think what made it so different for me was that instead of the story focusing on the murder/mystery plot, it focus' on the insane rationality of the main character's musings. In the beginning, I admit, it took a bit of getting used to to figure out who was who and exactly how it was going to work, but it does work. The gist of it, I think, is a character in the authors book, appears and convinces the author to re-write the book the character is in while the character is writing part of the book. Clear as mud? I promise, it makes sense once you get into it. The plot however, goes something like this:

“Close it down, blow it up – what’s the difference?”

Billy Karlsson needs to get real. Literally. A hospital porter with a sideline in euthanasia, Billy is a character trapped in the purgatory of an abandoned novel. Deranged by logic, driven beyond sanity, Billy makes his final stand: if killing old people won’t cut the mustard, the whole hospital will have to go up in flames.

Only his creator can stop him now, the author who abandoned Billy to his half-life limbo, in which Billy schemes to do whatever it takes to get himself published, or be damned . . .

amidst all of the twistedness thought, that bit of wry Irish humor manages to sneak in, like this rant about Tuesday that I will now think of every time something goes wrong on a Tuesday.

All of these creatures need to defecate. Sooner or later, the works gum up. Everyone waits until the porter hoses out the Augean edifice. Then it all starts again.

I like to call this process "Tuesday."

Everyone has a thing about Mondays, but Mondays do their best.

Tuesdays are evil.

Tuesday is Monday's Mr. Hyde, lurking in the shadows and twirling its luxuriant mustache. Tuesdays take Friday the 13ths out into the car park and set their feet on fire, just to see the fuckers dance. If Tuesday was a continent it would be sub-Saharan Africa: disowned, degraded and mean as hell.

Tuesdays are in a perpetual state of incipient rebellion. I can feel it. Tuesdays want to be Saturday nights, and a few pancakes once a year aren't going to keep them sweet forever. When it all blows up in your face, don't say you weren't warned.

We have chained Tuesdays too tightly, allowed them no time off. We have taken no notice of Tuesday's concerns about working conditions. Tuesday is Samson, blind and furious, his hair growing back by imperceptible degrees.

You have been warned.

The union rep is on the phone, so it must be Tuesday.

It continues on for a couple more pages, but you get the idea. I really like that particular rant.

Ok, so I've gone on about Absolute Zero Cool more than what I intended, but like I said, the book deserves it own blog.

Joseph Finder's Buried Secrets was another one I managed to sit down and read. Unfortunately, I finished it some time ago and with all of the distractions in my life, I honestly mainly remember liking it, and the whole Nick Heller series altogether. Nick Heller is a character that's very easy to just fall in love with. He's tough, loves his family, and does what needs to be done even though he at times hates he has to do it. In Buried Secrets, Nick Heller is called in by a friend of his family to rescue their daughter who has been buried alive. The family doesn't know where, or why and only has a live internet connection with a video and voice stream from inside the girls casket. They can clearly see her suffering and will do anything, or so they say, to stop it. It's Nick's job to save her at any cost.

Buried Secrets is the second book in the Nick Heller series, and I hated to actually finish it because there wasn't a third one to start on. I'm hoping there are more to come since Mr. Heller has become yet another fictional character on my "character crush" list.

And, last, but not least, a quick mention of a fun app I found for a handful of ebooks. If you get a bit, and have an Iphone or Ipod touch, search Booktrack in the app store. They are short stories that have sound effects and some mood music added. I just finished their version of Arthor Conan Doyle's Sherlock Homes and The Speckled Band and loved it. I've never really gotten into the original Sherlock Homes stories but I couldn't get enough of this one. Parts of it even made it seem as if I was reading a ghost story with all of the sound effects. I loved it. Next time I'm at the bookstore, I will definitely have to give Conan Doyle's series another try.

Well, if you're still with me, I hope you'll check out these books, and let me know what you think. I've enjoyed them.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Absolute Zero Cool by Declan Burke

I've mentioned how much I've enjoyed Declan Burkes books before, both Eightball Boogie and The Big O were very amusing and entertaining books reminiscent of Raymond Chandler and full of wry humor. Well, as luck would have it, I'm happy to announce the coming eagerly awaited release of Declan's latest offering, Absolute Zero Cool, which can be found here as of August 10th. Declan was nice enough to send me a summery and a few reviews so I could pass it on.
by Declan Burke

“A genuinely original take on noir, inventive and funny. Imagine, if you can, a cross between Flann O’Brien and Raymond Chandler.” – John Banville, author of THE SEA

Who in their right mind would want to blow up a hospital?

“Close it down, blow it up – what’s the difference?”

Billy Karlsson needs to get real. Literally. A hospital porter with a sideline in euthanasia, Billy is a character trapped in the purgatory of an abandoned novel. Deranged by logic, driven beyond sanity, Billy makes his final stand: if killing old people won’t cut the mustard, the whole hospital will have to go up in flames.

Only his creator can stop him now, the author who abandoned Billy to his half-life limbo, in which Billy schemes to do whatever it takes to get himself published, or be damned . . .

“ABSOLUTE ZERO COOL is unlike anything else you’ll read this year … Laugh-out-loud funny … This is writing at its dazzling, cleverest zenith. Think John Fowles, via Paul Auster and Rolling Stone … a feat of extraordinary alchemy.” – Ken Bruen, author of AMERICAN SKIN

Advance Praise for ABSOLUTE ZERO COOL:

“Stop waiting for Godot – he’s here. Declan Burke takes the existential dilemma of characters writing themselves and turns it on its ear, and then some. He gives it body and soul … an Irish soul.” - Reed Farrel Coleman, author of EMPTY EVER AFTER

“Declan Burke has broken the mould with ABSOLUTE ZERO COOL, which is actually very cool indeed. Funny, inventive and hugely entertaining crime fiction - I guarantee you’ll love it.” - Melissa Hill, author of SOMETHING FROM TIFFANY’S

“If you want to find something new and challenging, comic crime fiction is now the place to go … Declan Burke [is] at the vanguard of a new wave of young writers kicking against the clichés and producing ambitious, challenging, genre-bending works.” - Colin Bateman, author of NINE INCHES

“ABSOLUTE ZERO COOL is a surreal rollercoaster of a read, full of the blackest humour, and yet poignant. An outrageously funny novel ... The joy is in the writing itself, all sparky dialogue and wry observation, so smooth that when it cuts, it’s like finding razor blades in honey.” - Deborah Lawrenson, author of THE LANTERN

“Burke has written a deep, lyrical and moving crime novel … an intoxicating and exciting novel of which the master himself, Flann O’Brien, would be proud.” - Adrian McKinty, author of FIFTY GRAND
As you can see, it's gotten some great reviews already..John Banville, Ken Bruen, Adrian can't beat that really. Also, if you happen to be in Dublin on August 10th, and would like to meet the author himself, who not only writes wonderful books, but seems to be an all around nice guy, the kick off release party for Absolute Zero Cool will be at the Gutter Bookshop, Temple Bar, Dublin. And feel free to come back and post pictures/stories so I can live vicariously through them. Also, for more information about Mr. Declan Burke, you can visit his blog Crime Always Pays, he'd be glad to hear from you.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Gentlemen and Players by Joanne Harris

I had never heard of Joanne Harris before picking up Gentlemen and Players, and I had no idea she had also written the ever popular Chocolat, so I didn't really know what to expect. I was simply browsing through a bookshop and the name caught my attention. I'm glad it did as I enjoyed the novel quite a bit. Gentlemen and Players is written in the first person alternating between the protagonist, an aging professor at an exclusive boys school, and antagonist, a 12 year old wanting to be a part of the school. You get both sides of the story, with the author throwing in quite a few twist that tend to make your jaw drop in either unbelieving or shock even though you might have slightly suspected it was coming.

As the inside flap says:
For generations, privileged young men have attended St. Oswald's Grammar School for Boys, groomed for success by the likes of Roy Straitley, the eccentric Classics teacher who has been a fixture there for more than thirty years. But this year the wind of unwelcome change is blowing. Suits, paperwork and information technology are beginning to overshadow St. Oswald's tradition, and Straitley is finally, and reluctantly, contemplating retirement. He is joined this term by five new faculty members, including one who-unbeknownst to Straitley and everyone else-holds intimate and dangerous knowledge of St. Oswald's ways and secrets. Harboring dark ties to the school's past, this young teacher has arrived with one terrible goal: to destroy St. Oswald's.
The alternating points of view give you a good picture of what both main players are thinking while still keeping many secrets from the reader. I found that I could relate to both in small ways and enjoyed getting to know them. One of the "principles" mentioned in the novel even came to my attention in the real world in dealing with my 12 year old son,(although with him, we weren't talking about murder or trespassing). The story begins:
If there's one thing I've learned in the past fifteen years, it's this: that murder is really no big deal. It's just a boundary, meaningless and arbitrary as all others--a line drawn in the dirt

Like the giant NO TRESPASSERS sign on the drive to St. Oswald's, straddling the air like a sentinel. I was nine years old at the time of our first encounter, and it loomed over me then with the growling menace of a school bully.


another child might have been daunted by the command. But in my case curiosity overrode the instinct. By whose order? Why this point and not another? and most importantly, what would happen if I crossed that line?
Joanne Harris does a nice job with the cat and mouse motif and if you haven't given her a try, I do recommend her and the appositely named novel.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Shooting Star by Peter Temple

Ok, so I've gotten incredibly lazy with keeping up with this blog, I'd even go so far as to say ridiculously lazy. I know, I know, it's the end of the month and this is only my second blog...pretty bad. I'm sure the few of you on here are lost and wondering what to do with all of that extra time you have since I've been gone, well, never fear, I'm back...for the moment anyway.

In my absence I can't say I've been reading a whole lot that would inspire me to write about it, mostly I've been re-reading things as a result of not being interested in reading something new. One of the exceptions would be Peter Temple's Shooting Star. It's been several weeks since I finished it, but I do remember enjoying the book enough to grab my Kindle and download some of his earlier stories, and I have The Broken Shore sitting on one of book shelves also. Back to Shooting Star, according the inside flap, the plot goes something like this:
Her rich family has closed ranks and summoned Frank Calder, ex-soldier and disgraced police hostage negotiator. they want him to deliver the ransom money to the kidnappers. Frank wants them to call in the law, but the family refuses, since police bungling nearly cost the life of another Carson child kidnapped years before.

But are the two kidnappings connected? and is greed the motivation? Revenge? Or could it be something else? To find out, Frank Calder must go beyond his brief.

As Frank feverishly searches for suspects in the web of Carson family businesses and deals, marriages and indiscretions, rivalries and intrigues, he knows that if his instincts are wrong, the girl will surely die.

I can't say I remember a whole lot of what happened or "who done it", but what I do remember is the, dark writing that pulls you in, it's almost poetic feeling at times.
We go down the passage. I feel the old sprung floorboards bounce, feel the rotten stumps move. Dave is ahead of me. At the frond door, I say, 'Open it.'

He opens it, stands, looks back at me. And I am seeing myself from outside, looking into the dim doorway, seeing myself, shirtless, sweat in the hollow of my throat.

'It's OK,' I say. 'It's OK, I'm with you.'

He puts out a hand to me. I sigh and take it and we go out into the verandah together, grown men holding hands.

It is dark, no moon, no lights on in the street. I am straining to see beyond the low hedge and front gate.

At the steps, the spotlight comes on, night sun, impossibly bright light. Dave jumps, startled, lets go of my hand, turns, tries to hug me, bury his head in my shoulder.

I hear the sound and I feel the shot hit him, feel it through his bones, feel it through his arms clinging to me.

'Oh Jesus, no,' I say, holding him, feeling the strength leave his body, having to hold him up, feel his warm blood on my face, taste it on my lips, go to my knees with him.

And I hear myself saying, 'No, Dave, not me, not me.'

Then I am myself, looking into his eyes, seeing the reproach in them, no anger, just hurt and betrayal. 'You knew,' he says and he begins to cough, to cough up blood.
I have also heard good things about Temple's Truth and I believe it won The Miles Franklin award, a pretty nice Australian Literary award as I understand it. If you have read it, let me know what you think.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen

Two things struck me about Water for Elephants. The first is the entertainingly colloquial style the book is written in. One of my favorites in the beginning of the first chapter...
I am ninety. Or ninety-three. One of the other.

When you're five, you know your age down to the month. Even in your twenties you know how old you are. I'm twenty-three, you say, or maybe twenty-seven. But then in your thirties something strange starts to happen. It's a mere hiccup at first, an instant of hesitation. How old are you? Oh, I'm - you start confidently, but then you stop. you were going to say thirty-three, but you're not. you're thirty-five. And then you're bothered, because you wonder if this is the beginning of the end. It is, of course, but it's decades before you admit it.
I'm not much older than thirty and I can certainly relate...unfortunatly.

The other thing that struck me was the explicit sexual crudeness of parts of the story. I can't put an example on here without changing the adult contact settings, but I will say that she could do with a lesson from Jim Thompson on how less can be more. I'll use the example someone once pointed out to me from The Killer Inside Me
"You're not going anywhere, baby," I said, and I hit her again.

And at last she got it.

She jumped up and I jumped with her. I whirled her around gave her a quick one-two, and she shot backwards across the room and bounced and slumped against the wall. She staggered to her feet, weaving, mumbling, and half-fell toward me. I let her have it again.

I backed her against the wall, slugging and it was like pounding a pumpkin. Hard, then everything giving away at once.
That little bit says a lot, and gives you a good enough general picture to get the point across, we didn't need the details.

Regardless however, I admit, I was regaled by the story told by Jacob Jankowski about his life, and how he came to be a veterinarian in a traveling circus. In the early part of the Great Depression, as he was finishing his last year of veterinarian school, Jacob's parents were suddenly killed leaving him to fend for himself without a penny to his name. In a paroxysm of anger and sadness he runs. Just runs. Eventually he stumbles on a train and, on impulse, jumps on not realizing how drastically his life was about to change. Before he knows what has happened, he's put in charge of the animals, falling in love with the wife of a deranged animal trainer and figuring out the puzzle to training the seemingly untrainable elephant that is meant to either save or break the show, and in the end, possibly help him survive.

Overall, I'm not yet sure if it is a story I would recommend, I think I would given a disclaimer, as I did like the author's overall style, but if you are reading the book because you enjoyed the movie, just beware of the "extra content".

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The Confession by John Grisham (audio version)

I've been reading John Grisham novels since I was a teenager and he was one of the first authors who wrote books I just had to have as soon as they came out. Over the years however, I've lost interest. I'm not sure at what point, sometime after A Painted House, it just didn't do it for me anymore. Then there was The Innocent Man, Grisham's endeavor at non-fiction, and my interest temporarily returned only to be quickly lost again with Playing For Pizza which hasn't even gotten more than a read of the cover from me. Now there is The Confession and once again, John Grisham has captured my attention.

Donte Drum was convicted of the brutal rape and murder of a high school cheerleader, and sentenced to death. For nine years, Donte claims he is innocent. His lawyer repeatedly points out the lack of evidence, the abuse during questioning that eventually led to Donte's confession, the lies told by his accusers, one of them being a bloodhound, and the lack of a body that proves the cheerleader is even dead. Now, Donte is 4 days away from execution, with no chance of appeal left, when the real killer, who is dying of a brain tumor, walks into a Kansas minister's office and confesses. He even claims to know where, and how, the body is buried. The question is, can the truth convince the lawyers, politicians, and powers that be that they are about to kill an innocent man?

When the book originally came out last year, I could have sworn I read it was based on a true story, I can't find anything about that now, but I have to admit, I don't find the prospect too far fetched. I'm sure we have killed innocent people with the death penalty, just as I'm sure there are guilty people that get off scott free. It goes both ways. What the book demands we think about is how that happens, and the social injustice that goes with it.

For more information about any of John Grisham's books, his web site is here, and you can find The Confession at Amazon

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The Missing by Jane Casey

I realized about half way through reading The Missing that Jane Casey is the first, and only, female Irish author I've read. I'm not sure what specifically made me notice that, but I do remember thinking how different the book was from the male Irish authors I typically read. Honestly though, I'm not sure the difference really had to do with gender, just a difference in how the author writes and sees the direction of the story, (except maybe the added bit of romance, that does seem to be more of a female story plot).

The Missing follows the story of Sarah Finch as we go back and forth between the time she was a young child and her brother mysteriously disappears, and when she is an adult and finds one of her students bodies on a wooded path. Back in 1992, Sarah was 9 years old and laying on a blanket in the grass when her older brother left the house to go visit a friend. He never returned. Throughout the coming years it tore her family apart and her mom seemed to never forgive her for not telling the secrets she was convinced her daughter knew. In the present day, Sarah is a teacher at a posh all girls school where things aren't always as they seem. When a student disappears, just as mysteriously as her brother, she, along with the police are convinced the cases are connected and Sarah begins to try to find the one responsible.

The story is easy to read, and I enjoyed the past mixing in with the present, but at times I thought it was a bit unrealistic. The characters just didn't quite seem real to me and I often thought the things they did didn't quite match up with the character. Regardless, accepting the story and characters as they were, it was a nice bit of difference from the Irish noir crime I tend to read and I am curious as where the next book, The Burning will take us.

The Missing

Tuesday, May 17, 2011


Eulogizing Zoe seems like an impossible thing, and it's breaking my heart trying. Zoe came to us 7 years ago at the age of 3 from friends. She very quickly became "my dog", following me around as I did day to day chores or sitting by me as I read a book. When I started training her, she became even more mine as she taught me instant forgiveness since I often messed up. She was a dog a lot of people said would never make it through the junior test, she certainly proved them wrong now having not only a junior title but a senior title also. And one of my fondest memories of working with this wonderful dog will always be attempting our first master test. I was petrified. We went to the line though, and finished the first two series in the test. I've never been so proud. We didn't pass, but it took quite awhile for me to stop smiling over how far we got. The impossible had happened.

Now it's been 7 years, and countless hours with Zoe acting as my proverbial guinea pig as we learned how to play the hunting game together. Driving way before dawn, staying in hotels, throwing ducks in endless fields, ponds, mud, rain, cold, hot, laughter, tears. It's been a 7 years I will never forget thanks to her. She's given me her best, I'm going to miss her more than I can begin to say.

Zoe Kiana McWhirt SH 2/7/02-5/17/11

Saturday, May 7, 2011

"I'm not dead yet" (Monty Python and the Search for the Holy Grail)

Hey everyone, I just thought I'd pop on here real quick and let the few of you know I'm still alive and reading, I'm just being lazy about blogging. I do intend to eventually get a blog on here about The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler once life in the real world will give me time to actually sit down and figure out what I want to say. In the mean time, I've been re-reading some "chic" books for some unexplainable reason other than I just want to. Yep, even I let that girly side get the best of me occasionally. However, that said, hopefully I will soon return to normal and get back to the regularly scheduled blogging....and commenting, (although, for the most part, I have been able to keep up with reading what everyone in the blog world is writting even if it is just a few seconds before running out the door with the intention to comment as soon as I get back).

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Killing Mum by Allan Guthrie

If I were asked to describe Allan Guthrie's Killing Mum in one word, it would be "twisted". There were so many aberrant turns throughout the story that half the time I didn't know who, or what, to believe. It was a lot of fun, (and I'm not typically a fan of short stories or novellas).

The story starts out with Carlos, our protagonist, receiving a commission to have someone killed...
The padded envelope contained a note and a bundle of cash. The note read:
advance for Valerie Anderson. You know her address. Second half of payment on completion of job.

We quickly find out Valerie Anderson happens to be Carlos, AKA "Charlie's", mom, and, only two people call him "Charlie"...his mom and his wife. The question is, which one wants him mom killed? Carlos intends to find out. And when he enlists his wife and a young friend he occasionally hires as a hit man to help him, things get very interesting and Carlos may be lucky to walk away with his sanity.

Killing Mum is only about 96 pages long and only available in ebook format. It's a nice quick way to get introduced to a new author that will keep you reading until the very last moment, and then make you want to know more. And at .99 cents, you can't beat the price.

Killing Mum

Sunday, April 17, 2011

"Fear is my enemy, pain is my friend" (Michael Forsythe in Dead I Well May Be by Adrian McKinty)

A few months ago my husband started the "Couch to 5K" running program to begin training for the Warrior Dash. He started out running a minute and walking a minute for about 40 minutes total, by the time of the race yesterday, he was running a full 5K with very little trouble. The program seemed to work pretty well, and yesterday was the test. The 5K course consisted of about 10 obstacles including climbing a 10 ft wall, climbing and running over broken down cars, jumping fire, pushing and climbing over logs in a pond and, of course, going under ropes in a giant mud pit. What would be fun if you didn't get completely filthy in the process right?

At the end of the 3 point some odd miles, when all was said and done, there was a reward. After your hosing down with a fire hose to get most of the mud off, you not only had the euphoric feeling of knowing that you've succeeded, there were tangible winnings for finishing the course. No "warrior" race would be complete without a "warrior" hat, a t-shirt, and beer. In all honesty, the hat and shirt were nice, but I think the beer was the most appreciated by said "warriors".

Chad had fun, and I did too, although there wasn't much room for spectators. I would have liked to see him climbing, jumping and crawling through muck, but had to make do with the stories he had to tell. I really can't complain though, the weather was beautiful, the company was good, and I even got a bit of Raymond Chandler's The Big Sleep read. All in all, not a bad way to spend a Saturday afternoon.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Ireland reading Challange 2011

Thanks to Seana, I have discovered a reading challenge for books I would have read anyway. Now, I've never actually done a reading challenge, but I'm going to attempt this one and read 6 books relating to Ireland before the end of November. Since I've read 3 of these already and I have many more relating to the subject on my shelf waiting, I think I'm up for it. So, wish me luck, and feel free to join me at the Ireland Reading Challenge.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Eightball Boogie by Declan Burke

I once saw a movie, I forget which one, and I'm not even sure of the scene, but the general idea was an Irish guy saying how the story should have ended there, (referring I believe to a somewhat happy ending), but it wasn't an American story, it was an Irish story. That thought is what ran through my head throughout Eightball boogie. American novelist don't seem to get quite the same level of betrayal, dissembling, and general sense of pathos that some of these Irish novelist do. And that is a compliment to the portrayal of their characters and story, and Declan Burke nails it, with a sense of humor to boot. Eightball Boogie is dark, edgy, fast paced and funny with a protagonist that isn't perfect, but will do anything he has to do to do what needs to be done. And, I have to admit, being in Harry Rigby's head as he was doing what he was doing was very entertaining.

Harry Rigby describes his job..
My job was to find out who and why, at twelve cent per word for the right facts in the right order. Enough facts, a decent hook, they might even add up to a front-page clipping for the dusty folder in my filing cabinet.
And unfortunately, sometimes that just about gets you killed, but Harry has advice for surviving that too...
If you're going to get kicked senseless, it's best to take certain precautions. Getting drunk is one. That way you go with the flow and don't resist, which is how bones get broken, especially when there's three of them and one is wielding an empty beer keg like it's a beach ball.
Through beatings, a swim in the river with a hole in his gut, his girlfriend kicking him out..again, and his psychotic brother returning, Harry manages to wade through the dissimulation and betrayal to track down the killer of a politician's wife and save his young son whose life has been threatened.

If you are interested in, or looking to try out, what has been recently labeled "emerald noir", I'd recommend giving Eightball Boogie a try, and thanks to the very generous author, you can do it for .99 cents if you have an e-reader or the cost of shipping for an old-fashioned paperback book. For more information simply click HERE.

Update: Here's another great review of Eightball Boogie by Seana over at Not New For Long with a bit of a different angle on the story.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Falling Glass excerpt and links

Back in mid-March I posted my thoughts on Adrian McKinty's new novel Falling Glass. I honestly loved the story, but unfortunately, it's not available in hard copy in the U.S so I wasn't able to post an excerpt to give those of you that pop on here a sense of how the author writes. Well, that issue has now been resolved thanks to Spinetingler magazine being allowed to post the prologue and first 2 chapters of the book. So, just CLICK HERE to check it out. I promise it won't be a waste of time.

Spinetingler has also posted some interesting thoughts by Adrian McKinty of how Falling Glass came to be HERE for anyone who might be wondering where "Killian" came from.

And last, but not lest, some reviews of said novel. Again from Spinetingler, CLICK HERE, from Detectives Beyond Borders HERE, and From Seana at Not New For Long, HERE.

Why, might you ask, am I posting all of these links for a book not available here? Easy, because the book is worth it and I'd like to get the word out. So, check it out, and if you're interested, it can be ordered from over seas by Amazon affiliates or downloaded from Audible.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Field of Blood by Denise Mina

Denise Mina's Field of Blood was a random find I came by in a somewhat local second hand bookstore I visit. She is the first Scottish author I've read, and she set the bar nicely high, (although it did take me a bit to get past some of the terminology and descriptions, I was glad I did). Her writing is beautiful and captivating and I found myself getting lost in conversations and characters. The language just seemed to flow.

One of my favorite parts of the story, and what got me hooked, was the description, and conversation of an antagonistic relationship that started like this:
Pete looked up and frowned, dropping his bushy eyebrows to shade his eyes. "what do you want?"

"Um, I wanted to ask you about something."

"Spit it out and then piss off."

It was not going to be a Love Is...moment, she just knew it.

To a friendly and companionable conversation, ending in this:
Pete spoke quietly. "Please don't go."
"But I need--"
"If you go, Richards'll come over here. It's been a long day, and it's hard work being pitied."

So they sat together, a man facing the end of his life and a young girl struggling to kick start hers. They drank together, and then Paddy started smoking with him. Cigarettes and drink complemented each other perfectly, she discovered, like white bread and peanut butter. She drank an all-time personal best of four half-pints.

they talked about anything that came to mind, their thoughts swimming sympathetically, barely connecting. Patty told hm about the Beatties' stuff in the garage, about how she'd always hated it when she saw the Queen's picture up in offices, because of what she represented. She always saw her smiling and handing out OBE's to the soldiers who shot into the crowd on Bloody Sunday, but she'd looked at the Beatties' portrait of her and thought she might actually be quite a nice woman, doing her best. She talked about her Auntie Ann, who raised money for the IRA with raffle tickets and then went on antiabortion marches.

Dr. Pete talked about a wife who had left for England years before and how she would cook a leg of lamb for special occasions. She stuck the meat with rosemary she grew in their garden and sat potatoes under it to roast in the lamb fat. The meat was as sweet as tablet, as moist as beer; it lingered on the tongue like a prayer. Before he met her he had never eaten food that made him feel as if he had just woken up to the world. The way she cooked that lamb was beautiful. She had black hair and was so slight he could lift her up and swing her over a puddle with one arm around her waist. He hadn't talked about her in a long time.

That one conversation takes up the majority of a chapter and gives a lot of good information about not only the history of the crime, but also about the characters having the conversation. I enjoyed watching that relationship grow, and the characters view of each other change.

I will say, however, the crime committed is a hard and violent one against a very young child. As much as Ms. Mina can use her talent to make you want to taste the succulent roasted lamb, she can also make you see the evil done to someone's baby. Thankfully, it was only to set the beginning of the plot, and the harshness wasn't continued throughout the story.

And, speaking of the story, here's what the side flap says, (because it probably gives a better summery than I would).
The murder of three-year old Brian Wilcox is the saddest story to hit the newspaper in years. Even Paddy Meehan, the new copygirl at the Scottish Daily News,feels the tremors it sends through the jaded newsroom. It's the kind of once-in-a-generation crime that changes a city's landscape-the kind that can make or break a journalist's career.

And Paddy could use a break: her battle for stature in the men's club of the newsroom is going nowhere. So when she discovers a personal connection to one of the young boys implicated in the killing, her job prospects look bright-but at the cost of her family's trust. Loyalty and ambition are at war only briefly, until the secret explodes into public view in the worst possible way. Under siege in the newspaper office and in her own home, Paddy realizes that the only way to make amends is to clear the boy's name, when he's been all but convicted by her colleagues in the media. On her own, and then with the help of charmingly disheveled young beat reporter, Paddy begins an investigation that reveals hidden allegiances and lines of deception that go deep into the past-and that could spell even more horrible crimes in the future if Paddy doesn't get it right.

Denise Mina follows Field of Blood with The Dead Hour and Slip of the Knife, all three being part of the Paddy Meehan series, and according to her website, there are two other books in the series I didn't see mentioned. More, and interesting information about Denise Mina, and Field of Blood can be found here and it can be ordered from Amazon here

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde

I first became interested in The Picture of Dorian Gray from the movie appositely titled Dorian Gray, where Colin Firth's character as Lord Henry Wotton had me quickly convinced he was Satan himself.

The book was, as usual, a bit different. While Lord Henry still didn't seem to be a good guy, he wasn't the quintessential bad guy either. He simply seemed to have his own ideas on life and experience and was glad to make those thoughts known, which didn't seem to be the case in the movie where his goal seemed to be corruption of innocence.

In Oscar Wilde's version, Dorian Gray is a bored gentleman whom everyone adores. He is beautiful, innocent, and has a personality that draws everyone he meets to him. Life comes easy. While he is having a painting done of himself, the artist introduces to him Lord Henry Wotton whose world view opens Dorian's eyes to his own beauty and youth, and the impermanence of it. When Dorian makes a wish to always look as he does in the painting, he makes a proverbial pact with the devil and suddenly no sin can touch Dorian's physical beauty. But what of his soul? Dorian soon realizes that the painting doesn't look as it once did. There's an ugliness developing in it, a sneer and a look of cruelty. Dorian begins to suspect that although his beauty remains, the painting reflects his trueness, and soon discovers what happens when you gain the whole world, but lose your soul.

It is a story with a meaning and valuable point, and in my opinion would do the teenagers of the world today more of a service than a lot of what is considered "good reading" on the best sellers list. That's probably quixotical of me though so I digress and leave you with one of Lord Henry's many interesting theories on life and goodness.

"To be good is to be in harmony with one's self" he replied, touching the thin stem of his glass with his pale, fine-pointed fingers. "Discord is to be forced to be in harmony with others. One's own life--that is the important thing. As for the lives of one's neighbors, if on wishes to be a prig or a Puritan, one can flaunt one's moral views about them, but they are not one's concern. Besides, individualism has really the higher aim. Modern morality consists in accepting the standard of one's age. I consider that for any man of culture to accept the standard of his age is a form of the grossest immorality."

The Picture of Dorian Gray

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Happy St. Patrick's Day

Some Irish toasts I like:

A toast to a bachelor:

"May you have nicer legs than yours under the table before the new spuds are up."


An everyday Irish toast:

"May you have the hindsight to know where you've been,
The foresight to know where you are going,
And the insight to know when you have gone too far."


A toast in Irish:

"'Faol saol agat, gob fliuch, agus bás in Éirinn.'"

Which means "Long life to you, a wet mouth, and death in Ireland."


A St. Patrick's Day toast:

"Saint Patrick was a gentleman,
Who through strategy and stealth,
Drove all the snakes from Ireland,
Here’s a toasting to his health.
But not too many toastings
Lest you lose yourself and then
Forget the good Saint Patrick
And see all those snakes again."


And my personal favorite:



Have a good, and safe one everyone.

Not that I condone such treatment of dogs, but it's cute none the less

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Between the blogs

Very often there seem to be books I've read, listened to, or attempted that for one reason or the other don't get a full blog of their own, these are those books.

Spectres In The Smoke by Tony Broadbent

From the side flap:
"It's the austere 1948 world of post-war, black market riddled England, and Jethro, the cat burglar and jewel thief, has been pushed out onto the rooftops of London again by Colonel Walsingham of MI5.

And so, forced once again to step out from behind his disguise as a part time stagehand in London's West End, Jethro does a creep in Mayfair and sets in motion a tale of dark and deadly dealings that mixes national politics with black magic, orgies of abandon and blackmail."

I wanted to like this book, I wanted to get lost in zeitgeist of the 1948 post war England, but for whatever reason just couldn't. I liked the story, and the premise but it just didn't click for me and I finally set it aside for another time. To be fair, there has been a lot going on here, and a lot of distractions, so I'm thinking that very well could have something to do with it. I'll pick it up again when the fancy strikes me.

Rules of Prey by John Sanford

I have seen the "Prey" series books around and decided to give them a try on audio having heard they moved pretty fast and were easy to read. My discovery was that they were too long. The first half kept my attention pretty well, but at some point the story just seemed to halt and it felt like the author was just trying to keep it going despite already telling the reader what they wanted to know..who, what, where, when and why. It was time to call it quits and move on, so I did.

Box 21 by Anders Roslund and Borge Hellstrom

From Publishers Star Weekly and
"The Swedish writing team of Roslund and Hellström make their U.S. debut with a remarkable tale of loss, addiction and revenge set in Stockholm's seedy underworld. Ewert Grens, a veteran detective, is haunted by a tragic incident that occurred 25 years earlier that left his young wife, a fellow police officer, an invalid. When the man responsible, notorious criminal Jochum Lang, is released from prison, Grens vows to put him away for life. Meanwhile, the detective arrives at a crime scene where a teenage prostitute, Lydia Grajauskas, has been nearly beaten to death by her Russian pimp. Alternating chapters fill in the backstory of Lydia and Alena Sljusareva, girls lured away from Lithuania under false pretenses and sold as sex slaves. In a bizarre twist, Lydia escapes from her hospital bed and ends up taking hostages."

I really liked this novel, a prequel to Three Seconds, although I found it pretty harsh and a bit disgusting at times with the descriptions of what was required of the prostitutes. I didn't however, feel it was too over the top or overdone. I only put it here because I've recently written a review of Three Seconds and felt it repetitive, but it certainly is worth the time and money to read it.

Spectres in the Smoke
Rules of Prey
Box 21

Currently reading The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Falling Glass, (the audio book version), by Adrian McKinty

Adrian McKinty has an incredible way with words, and it certainly shows in his new offering Falling Glass. His prose gives you a sure sense of where the characters are, what they feel, the atmosphere, along with what they see. And, if you get the novel in the form of an audio book, Gerald Doyle does an equally incredible job of enhancing that sense of feeling. These two make a great pair.

Rachel is on her last leg. She has taken her two children and mysteriously disappeared, and after being on the run from her ex-husband, and the kids father, Richard Coulter, she is ready to pull the trigger. When her ex's goons show up with guns drawn, however, she grabs the children and heads to the next hiding spot she can find.

Richard is a man that has it all, a new wife who is pregnant, a successful business, and a nice house. He has always made sure Rachel and the kids were taken care of, so why did they abscond? He hires Killian, a Pavee and ex IRA enforcer with a propensity to use a way with words, to get the job done. As Killian is on her trail, he discovers he's not the only one looking for her, and the other guy isn't near as nice. Killian must now use all of his wit, instinct and knowledge to find Rachael and figure out what is really going on before her ex gets what he wants...all of them dead.

At this point, I would normally throw in a few lines from the story to give those of you that might be interested an idea of how the author writes. As much as I love this particular authors lyrical prose, since I had this one on audio that would be a bit hard to get right. I suppose you will just have to take my word for it that it's like reading crime fiction poetry. It's quite interesting and even captivating at times

I have also found, as a somewhat regular reader of the author's blog, The Psychopathology of Everyday Life, that McKinty himself is a fount of bits and pieces of knowledge I believe most people, especially on my side of the Atlantic, never think to think about, and he weaves some of that knowledge throughout his tale. Along with many scientific morsels, the use of the Aboriginal belief in The Dreaming to set mood, state of mind and feeling made that part of Australian history come alive as it added a completely new level to the story. I also found the use of Irish history, and the Pavee, to be fascinating and a bit engrossing. It's not often that history captures my attention, but presented in the way McKinty has presented it, I admit, the interest is there and I get a bit curious. A quick Wiki search gave me this and this if you're interested.

All of this said, I think Falling Glass is probably Adrian McKinty's best novel yet, and I hope to read more of Killian in the future. In all honesty, I didn't think he could possibly do better than his Michael Forsythe character, but, against all odds, I think he's done it and I'm left wondering what the author will come up with next.

Falling Glass is unfortunately not currently available in The U.S, but can be bought from The Book Depository or downloaded as an audio book from Audible.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Treachery in Death by J.D Robb

I pretty well enjoyed this new offering by J.D Robb, although, I have to admit, there have been only a few of hers that I haven't. I'm sure I've blogged on the author's "In Death" series before, so instead of giving my thoughts on this particular book, which was similar in premise to her other books, I'd like to be more general.

I was having a conversation with my "better half" the other day, and, in talking about why I've stuck with this thirty some odd book series, when other long series' seem to get boring or wear thin on my patience, the only answer I can come up with is the characters. For the most part, there isn't anything different, or too out of the ordinary that makes the stories themselves stand out, but the characters definitely do. From Eve Dallas, a kick ass New York police lieutenant who has suffered unimaginable abuse as a young child from her father, to Roarke, a self made rich Irishman from the dark streets of Dublin. Add to that a list of friends as varied as a Janet Evanivich cast and you've got a lot of heart and fun. In all honesty, it's the story of watching them grow, change and build those relationships that has me stuck.

I will also comment that J.D Robbs books, although not completely dissimilar to her alter ego's stories, are different enough for a distinction to be made. While her books under Nora Roberts tend to focus on romance, the J.D Robb stories tend to focus more on crime, murder, and the above mentioned relationships.

Now, as to Treachery in Death itself...

Detective Peabody happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time when a couple of cops walk into an old police workout room. Not realizing she was there, a Lieutenant and one of her men get in an argument over an illegal drug business they have been running. Peabody overhears talk of an informer the LT. has had killed and future plans for possibly more violence. When the cops leave, Peabody immediately contacts her own Lieutenant, and partner, Eve Dallas, to inform her of what she has learned, and soon, Eve and her team, including her husband Roarke, Expert consultant civilian, engage in a cat and mouse game to put the dirty cops out of everyone else's misery.

I read this one on my Kindle, so coming up with a specific passage to quote would be difficult since I didn't "bookmark" one as I reading, but I do remember laughing at the scene of Eve spending 10 minutes watching baby Bella. Eve doesn't typically know what to make of babies, and watching her figure it out would give any parent a good chuckle.

Treachery was a fun, and entertaining story, and, since the author seems to whip books out like hot cakes, I'm glad to say it won't be too long before the next installment of the "In Death" series due out later in the year.

Treachery in Death

Sunday, March 6, 2011

North Texas Irish Festival

This weekend was the annual North Texas Irish Festival, one of the few times in the year my possibly abnormal interest in that island across the pond seems almost normal, (the other time being the upcoming St. Patrick's day). Honestly, I just figure I'm half Irish and at times reserve the right to have some fun with it. So all that said, here's the day in pictures...mostly.

A bit of Irish stew. I'm not sure what made it "Irish", and am really hoping it wasn't that it came in a can from Ireland.

My husband in his "Slainte" hoodie, and my little sister in law with her new backpack and my son's mini cross bow.

A "steam punk" mannequin, I'm not sure why this qualifies as Irish, but it was interesting....and a bit scary really.

One of the many singing groups playing in the "Guinness pub and stage" tent. The stage looked pretty cool with the pub decorations. They had musicians, dancers and bands playing around every corner and I loved the fun atmosphere of it.

One of my favorite shirts in the offerings being sold.

My son on the huge escalator heading up from the train station. He was too lazy, or tired, to stand like the rest of us.

And, of course, after all of the walking around and shopping, we had to bring home a few things..My sister in law got a backpack and knife necklace, my son talked me into a crossbow, claiming it was meant to shoot Nerf darts, (he left out all of the other things he'd find to shoot with it). My husband bought a fun hat, and I couldn't resist getting the pictures. The photographers were there, and one in particular had a nice accent to help him sell pictures...I made sure and asked him plenty of questions.

It was a lovely day.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

London Boulevard by Ken Bruen

I finished London Boulevard several days ago, and, as I'm writing this, I'm still not sure what to say. I enjoyed the book for the most part, and did find Mr. Bruen humorous. I really do like that dark Irish humor. The main thing I noticed however was how succinct he was. For instance, the description of a funeral:
The graveyard is at the back of the bus station. Across the road is the bingo hall. I thought Joe would be pleased to hear the call of


The undertaker was waiting. The grave ready, two men standing beside it. No vicar. A man arrived a few minutes later.

"Dr. Patel," I said, "good of you to come, " and introduced him to Bri. She held his hand longer than expedient. The undertaker asked,

Any last words?"

I shook my head. he signaled to the men, and they lowered the coffin.

No excess words, or elucidation. Just straight forward laconic prose. It was refreshing in a way after recently finishing an antithetical story, however, at the same time, I missed a "certain something" that comes from at least some description. Regardless, I suppose what it truly comes down to is will I read another one of the author's books. I think I most likely will, simply because the lack of complex details in the middle of complex life is refreshing.

As for what the story is about:

When Mitchell is released from prision, life quickly gets complicated. His friends want him in their crew for "jobs" his parole officer wouldn't approve of, his sister's emotional problems begin getting the better of her, a mob boss is out for him and wants to hurt everyone he loves and, a coincidental meet with a woman has him as close to happy as he's ever been. To make things worse, his boss, a washed out female actress is obsessed with him. When the people in Mitchell's life start turning up dead, weather he wants them to or not, he has to figure out who is behind it, and why.

And I suppose, that's about as succinct as I'm capable of.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Three Seconds by Roslund and Hellstrom

First off, I want to thank Declan Burke over at Crime Always Pays for the book give-a-way that allowed me to be introduced to this writing duo. Dec's site often times has great book recommendations, but even then, I'm not sure Three Seconds is a book I would have picked up, and that would have been a shame. I greatly enjoyed this book, how it was written and how the story was told, and, found it very hard to put down. Much appreciation goes out to Kari Dickson for translating Three Seconds so that I could read it.

Piet Hoffmann is a petty criminal, and going on the theory that it takes a criminal to play a criminal, the Swedish Police Service procure him to do just that, and in exchange, Piet's minor crimes will be overlooked. For years, Piet, code name "Paula", has been working his way up through the Swedish mob's food chain to finally be asked to be their drug supplier on the inside of a major prison. His goal is to take over the drug business and become the only means of supply, therefor controlling the prison. Once that is done, the police want him to destroy what he's built and take the mob down as a result. It's a good plan until a very persistent inspector starts to wonder why what looks like a hardened criminal, according to a sabotaged police data base, is allowed a gun license, and the powers that be decide that Piet is more risk than he is worth. Suddenly, Piet finds himself in solitary confinement with a death threat hanging over his head. He has one chance, and Three very critical seconds to survive.

Piet Hoffmann knew as soon as the door into the corridor opened and then shut again.
He didn't need to see, he just knew-they were there.
The heavy steps of someone moving slowly. He hurried over to the cell door, put his ear to the cold metal, listened. A new prisoner being escorted by several wardens.
Then he heard it, a voice he recognized.
Stefan's voice. On his way to a cell farther down the corridor.
"What did you say?"
The guard with the eyes. Piet Hoffmann pressed his ear even harder to the inside of the cell door-he wanted to be certain that he heard every word.
"stukatj. It's Russian."
"We don't speak Russian down here."
"There's someone who does."
"Into the cell with you now, just get in!"
They were here. Soon there would be more, every prisoner in solitary confinement from now on would know that there was a snitch here, stewing in one of the cells.
Stefan's voice, it had been pure hate.

I'm hoping more of Anders Roslund and Borge Hellstrom books will be translated to English soon, and have already downloaded Box 21 to my Kindle to read. I'm looking forward to it - probably after I finish Ken Bruen's London Boulevard.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

A good day for liars...I've been tagged

Thanks to Seana at Confessions of Ignorance I have been tagged. So, here's the game:

Four of these statements are lies, one is true. You must pick, and reply with your guess as to the one that is true. If you know the answer for certain, please leave room for others to guess if they don't.

1. I am 6 feet tall and wish I was shorter.

2. I have an evil twin that does unspeakable things that we won't talk about in polite company.

3. I sell all of my books back to Half Price Books.

4. I really enjoy my job.

5. My favorite vacation was when my husband and I went to Ireland and we toured the Guinness brewery. I would love to make it there again someday.

If you are one of the lucky ones that are tagged, here are the rules:

1. Link back to the blogger who awarded you.
2. Display the graphic from the award creator.
3. Post five facts, four of which must be lies and
4. Pass the award to five other bloggers who should follow these rules.

I however, being the rule breaker that I am, will only tag 3 people. Yep, I'm a rebel. Here are the lucky 3.

1. Sean Patrick Reardon at Mindjacker.

2.Philip Robinson at Soul-Searching

3. Kari at How to Smile

Good luck.

Friday, February 11, 2011

What Came Before He Shot Her by Elizabeth George

What Came Before He Shot Her is one of those books that have my thoughts in such a desultory and contradictive state that I'm not sure if this review will be a positive one or a negative one. On one side, I did enjoy the story, and was curious enough to finish it, on another side, it was often that curiosity that kept me reading, and not the story itself. I often persisted simply to see how it was going to come together to get to where the books side flap had already told me it would finish. Continuing on that side, the book was long, and it seemed long. I would be on page 30 and felt as if I should be 100 pages in the story, but jumping back to the other side, it needed to be as it was to fully explain what lead to the culmination of events. And following that same thought, the author was very descriptive. Often times there would be pages and pages of seemingly needless descriptions of where the characters were going, what street, what shops they were passing, what bus they would take. But again, for the most part, although it frustrated me to a point, when it was said and done, it did add to the overall feel of the story. I also really liked that the 12 year old protagonist, like a typical 12 year old boy, thought he knew everything, and saw everything, not realizing until it was too late that he actually knew very little. Overall however, I would say it is a book worth reading, and I did enjoy it despite it's tediousness. It will be awhile none the less before I pick up another one of Ms. George's books just because of the sheer overwelmingness of them, but, I probably will pick another one up. As to what the book is about, here's what the side flap says:

The brutal, inexplicable death of Inspector Thomas Lynley's wife has left Scotland Yard shocked and searching for answers. Even more horrifying is that the trigger was apparently pulled by a twelve year old boy. Who is he? Where did he come from? And what were the circumstances that led to his final act of desperation?

That story begins on the other side of London, in rough North Kinsington, where the three mixed race, virtually orphaned Campbell children are bounced first from their grandmother then to their aunt. The oldest, fifteen year old Ness, is headed for trouble as fast as her high heeled boots will take her. that leaves the middle child, Joel, to care for the youngest, Toby. No one wants to put it into words, but something clearly isn't right with Toby.

Before long, there are signs that Joel himself has problems. A local gang starts harassing him and threatening his brother. To protect his family, Joel makes a pact with the devil-a move that leads straight to the front doorstep of Thomas Lynley.

Reading that again, I think that description is very misleading, but the book is so encompassing, a true description is impossible. It's about fifteen year old Ness, who has had so much brutality brought into her life that she can't begin to deal with it outside of the hate and hurt it's brought her. It's about Joel, a twelve year old boy with the world on his shoulders trying to save and protect everyone he loves. And, it's about the adults around them that, as hard as they try, they can't truly begin to understand what these children face in their worlds, although Ms. George does seem to point out that the ones we least expect are the ones that understand more than we think with characters like Ivan, Joel's eccentric middle aged, clock building magistrate assigned mentor.

Joel hadn't thought of any of this in ages. The sudden memory made his eyes tingle.

Unaccountably, as far as Joel was concerned, Ivan said, "ah. If we knew what the hand of cards was going to be, we'd develop a plan in advance to play them, I dare say. But the devilment of life is that we don't. We're caught out, most often with our trousers round our knees."

Joel wanted to say, "What're you on about?" but he didn't because he knew exactly what Ivan was on about" there one moment and gone the next, walking to the dancing school to fetch Ness from her Saturday lesson, Toby's hand in their dad's and Joel pausing some thirty yards back because in front of the discount store a container of footballs caught his attention, so much so that at first he didn't realize what the four loud pops were that he heard in advance of the shouting.

Joel said in a rush, "I brought these, " and he thrust his poems at Ivan

Ivan took them, mercifully saying nothing further about hands of cards or how one could play them. Instead, he placed the papers on the towel, and he bent over them exactly as he would bend over a clock. He read, and as he did so, he chewed on is mint leaves.

It's an impossible story and does well to explore the other side of things we never see, and has a way of making you wonder what you just might be missing. The ending however, does leave you wanting.

What Came Before He Shot Her

Friday, February 4, 2011

Texas annual snow week and Nora Roberts Blue Smoke

This seems to be the beginning of an annual event in Texas. Last year, about this time my yard looked about the same way, only with a few more inches of snow on it. This year we seemed to have have gotten through with only about 6 inches on the ground...although, it's not finished snowing yet either. The funny thing is, I know some of you are laughing and that for those of you in the north, this is nothing, but for Dallas Texas, this is exciting-especially for the kids who have been out of school since Tuesday.

On another note, I did finish Nora Roberts Blue Smoke since I too have been off work since Tuesday, (I work at the kids school). After listening to The Search I thought I'd give another one of Ms. Roberts books a try, and finding her book on the dollar rack only helped cement the matter. I may not get around to a full blown blog on the story, but I will say I did enjoy it, and, it was quite different than I expected. I thought the story would be more romance, but it was more story oriented, focusing on a female whose life was changed one day when her family's restaurant was intentionally set on fire and almost destroyed. From that day, at 11 years old, she made it her life goal to become an arson investigator. Fire followed her everywhere, hurting her personally many times, but her family and friends always helped keep her strong. It was a beautiful story of what a strong female with strong ties can do. I would have loved to meet her family and have that restaurant nearby.

Blue Smoke

I am now currently making very slow progress on Elizabeth George's What Came before He Shot Her and Baroness Orczy's The Elusive Pimpernel. They are slow going, but I am enjoying them both.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Orczy

They seek him here, they seek him there, those Frenchies seek him everywhere. Is he in Heaven, or is he in Hell, that dammed, elusive, Pimpernel.

In all the years, since the first time I saw Anthony Andrews as the Scarlet Pimpernel, I've never forgotten those words. Among my friends and I, we knew that line better than the seemingly ubiquitous "It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of good fortune must be in want of a wife." from Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice novel that we were forced to read. It was a line randomly brought into group conversations, and said loudly in unison followed by fits of laughter. We all knew that poem. To this day, I can't say what made that movie so attractive to us silly teenage girls, but it was, and today, I still think about it.

But, this isn't generally a movie blog, and to write about the story properly, I felt I should take things a bit farther and actually read the novel. I also found, very little to my surprise, that I enjoyed the book as much as the movie.

Baroness Orczy does a wonderful job in telling the story of The Scarlet Pimpernel, an elusive rescuer to French aristocrats awaiting their turn at the guillotine in the midst of the French Revolution. Meanwhile, back in England, Marguerite St. Just, also known as Lady Blakney, the wife of Sir Percy Blakney, is approached by A French officer to help discover the true identity of the Scarlet pimpernel. In exchange for her help, her brother, who has been accused for crimes against the revolution, might escape his own trip to guillotine. Marguerite feels she has no choice but to do as asked, and later discovers a plot during a party for one of the Pimpernel's men to meet him in a meeting room. She gives this information to the officer, but when he goes to the meeting room at the appointed time, he only finds Sir Percy stretched out asleep on the couch. Later, as Lady Blakney's suspicions arise, she investigates her husbands private office and discovers a seal bearing the Scarlet Pimpernel's sign. Has she unknowingly betrayed her husband? And, will she be able to save him from being condemned to the same death he works to rescue others from?

In a story of romance, adventure and fun, Baroness Orczy gives us a novel for the ages, that I personally, will never forget, (nor will I forget the memories that story has given me).

The Scarlet Pimpernel

Thursday, January 20, 2011

A Darker Place by Laurie R. King

Laurie R. King has a knack for creating novels with wonderful, strong female heroines, and once again, she does it beautifully in A Darker Place.

Anne Waverly is a forty-five year old alternative religion professor who occasionally is asked by the FBI to infiltrate religious communities and help determine if they are becoming dangerous. Four times she has been sent, each time escaping dark memories of her past, in hopes of atoning for a mistake that led to the loss of her husband and young daughter. This last time however, doesn't go as planned when Anne Waverly has a hard time becoming Ana Wakefield, her alter ego, and her past keeps trying to catch up to her, and threaten her mission.
So, could she trust herself in this state? Her mind was urging caution and rationality, forcing her to admit that the individual threats she had seen here did not necessarily add up to the sort of desperate scenario her inner eye was putting together: An antagonistic attitude toward the authorities, a man in the woods carrying a shotgun, a titular leader who was thinly connected with reality, and a de facto leader who was overly full of himself. That was it . Everything else came from her and her strange ties to two children, and all of it was tainted by her own past. Dulcie reminded her of Abby - that was where the cracks had begun. And then Bennett looked like Martin Cranmer, and the woods made her nervous, and by the time the pantry and the communal phobia about outsiders entered into the equation, she was so sensitized to parallels that a particular brand of pencil would take on an ominous significance. She had no business being there, no right to jeopardize everything by making decisions that could be based only on irrationality. The best thing for everyone would be if she were to stand up and walk away from the compound.

Leaving behind Jason in his alembic.
Abandoning Dulcie to strangers.
They would survive, her mind insisted. They would be fine.
But her gut, her heart, her every instinct cried out that here and now, the rational decision would be the wrong one, that the long term goal was just too far away. There were times when the expedient solution was not the right one, when only faith justified and action - educated and open - eyed faith if possible, but if that failed, blind faith would have to do.

There was, in truth, no choice to be made.
The deep trembling had subsided while she wrestled with her demon, and with that final realization, that a decision had made itself, she actually drifted into sleep for a while, free at last of the tension of being of two minds

As Ana works to discover what is really going on in the upper echelons of The Change movement, and tries to save the children put in her care, she also must come to terms with her past, and finally decide, once and for all, what her life is really worth.

The story is intelligent, full of portent, and you never quite know what path the author is going to take you down until you are there. And once again, Laurie King takes you down it brilliantly.

A Darker Place

Monday, January 17, 2011

The in between

It's been a couple of weeks since by last blog, and I have been reading, I just haven't been blogging because both of the novels were sequels, and it felt a bit repetitive to once again write about a similar story. That, however, is not to say I didn't enjoy both of the novels, I did very much, I just didn't want to be redundant.

Like, for instance, Crime Always Pays by Declan Burke, the sequal to The Big O. I found it an interesting story, and enjoyed the characters, especially where each one was going to take their scheme, but since I'd recently blogged about The Big O, (which can be read here)I felt it repetitive.

Also, there was Iris Johansen's Chasing the Night. I'm not sure if I've blogged about the Eve Duncan series before, and I did enjoy the book for it's easy to follow, non-complex story line, but in all honesty, it didn't stand out to me enough to warrant a blog. It was entertaining yet somewhat unremarkable.

The third book I've recently finished, I may yet get around to blogging about since it was, and is, an old favorite. The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Orczy. I am now reading I Will Repay, the second of the Pimpernel series, and am curious as to where the story is going to go. I may, instead, wait and see if it warrants more of a blog since I think the original is already rather well known.

So, there you have it. The in between in my world of blogs. Soon to follow, as I'm currently reading it now, will be A Darker Place by Laurie R King, and very possibly, a Scarlet Pimpernel review. I will say, that, as always, I am in awe of Ms. King's writing, she never fails to tell a brilliant story.