Wednesday, March 28, 2012

BOOK: The Laughing Policeman by Maj Sjowall, Per Wahloo

The Laughing Policeman by Maj Sjowall, Per Wahloo, 211 pages

Book 4 of 10 in the Martin Beck Police Mystery Series

I'm starting to get the policemen straight as I read this series, getting to understand their characteristics and relationships. During the end of November, 1967, Stockholm is struck with one of its first mass murderers - nine people are gunned down on a bus. Martin Beck and his homocide cops are set on the task, but with very little info, except that one of their own was on the bus.

This was tight, no extra words, full of welll defined characters, and the sense of Sweden in the late sixties. I'l say again how much this series reminds me of Ed McBain's 87th precinct series - the police, the subtle humor, the police procedural. I loved how all the detectives took different clues, and nearly all ended up at the same place. Very strong police procedural.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

TOP TEN TUESDAY: Books To Play Hooky With

How fortuitous! I wasn't going to do the Top Ten this week, but when I woke up this morning, it was a Storm Day! The kind that has nearly all of PEI stormstayed. (Stormstayed - the act of being stuck in your house due to inclement weather. We do weather so bad here, we have to have a whole word to describe it). I even stayed up late last night to finish correcting tests, so as not to upset the storm gods. If you don't correct, thinking you might have the next day at home to do it, the storm will take a different track, and not appear. Known fact.

So, books to play hooky with. Books that I'd want to stay home with to finish, or more likely, stay up late and give up sleep for. Or read all during a storm day. The kind of book you can't put down. Must. Keep. Reading to find out the ending.

1. Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
Dystopian books are often hooky books, because you have no idea where the story will go and you must find out.

2. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by JK Rowling
Didn't everyone play hooky the day this book came out?

3. The Girl Who Played With Fire by Steig Larsson
I haven't got to the The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest, because I'm waiting for a time when I know I can read nonstop, ie, play hooky with.

4. The Stand by Stephen King
The great showdown between good and evil, after that horrible flu? Stephen King is the reason I couldn't allow myself to read during university years - just in the summer. I would have stayed up all night, or missed classes to finish his classic books. Oh, I haven't read the Uncut Version. That's playing hooky for a week.

5. Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman
A book where a whole new world is invented by a brilliant author, and you just can't stop reading, you so want to spend more time in their world (underground London, in this case.) Carl is hosting a group read of Neverwhere for the Once Upon a Time VI.

6. Pope Joan by Donna Cross
Good historical fiction takes you to a time that feels more interesting than the present day world, and again, you don't want to leave. A woman pope? How could she get away with that?

7. My Sister's Keeper by Jodi Picoult
Books that take alternating points of view, back and forth in time, are the kinds you just can't put down. Add extreme emotional involvement? Take a day and immerse yourself in this tearjerker.

8. It by Stephen King
Scary. Again with the characters, now and then. By the time you finish a chapter, it's been so long since you've read that character's story, you have to keep reading.

9. Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett
Historical fiction with compelling characters and politics.

10. Devil's Peak by Deon Meyer - my hooky book today!
I could have picked several Meyer books - Thirteen Hours or Trackers; his books are really good crime thrillers that follow several strands until they start coming together in ways you never expect.

Head on over to The Broke and the Bookish to link up and to see what everyone else is saying!

Sunday, March 25, 2012

BOOK: Green Angel by Alice Hoffman

Green Angel by Alice Hoffman, 116 pages

Once Upon a Time IV

"I once believed that life was a gift. I thought whatever I wanted I would someday possess. Is that greed, or only youth? Is it hope or stupidity? As far as I was concerned the future was a book I could to suit myself, chapter after chapter of good fortune." (first sentence in book)

A timeless tale that could have been in the 1500s or just as easily a 9/11 tale, or even at future apocalyptic novel. Personally, I read it as a family living across the river from New York during 9/11. The book was published in 2003, and lines like, "People who were close by said they could see people jumping from the buildings, like silver birds, like bright diamonds," and "the people who had destroyed the city...had been living among us pretending to be good neighbors," certainly sound that way. I like the idea that it might be.

Green, a sixteen year old girl, lives on the farm with her family feeling overshadowed by her vibrant sister. Teenage angst. One day Green stayed home to tend the garden while her family took the vegetables to the city across the river. The silver city burns, living Green alone. She falls into grief, cinders in her eyes, begins to call herself Ash. Gradually, she starts to help some people around her (assorted animals, an elderly neighbour, one of the wild children running feral in the woods nearby, a wandering boy, Diamond) and pulls out of her self.

Heart - Soul - Treasure - Rain - Sister (the five sections of the book)

"I crawled under the dining room table, smelling like smoke and half-blinded by cinders. Little bits of hot embers flew under the door. Onion followed and lay shivering in my lap. I was Green, who was too shy to speak. Green, too angry to say good-bye. Green, who was always waiting for the future, biding her time. Now the future was here and the silver city across the river was on fire and I was hiding under the table, where I stayed until darkness fell."

My summary doesn't hint at the poetry, the fairy tale elements, the wonderful way Hoffman describes Green as she travels through the stages of grief. The dreams and visions add to the fairy tale. It was a beautiful story.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

BOOK: Flip by Martyn Bedford

Flip by Martyn Bedford, 258 pages

Random Reading Challenge: Young Adult

Imagine waking up in another body. It's your brain (or soul or essence, all of which is discussed in the book) but someone else's body. Fourteen year old Alex wakes up in Philip (Flip's) body. Flip is everything that Alex isn't - athletic, has girlfriends, and lots of money, but that doesn't make Alex want to be Flip! Six months later, in a new town in northern England, Alex is mightily confused. Like being a teenager isn't hard enough!

What I liked here was the gradual discovery of what happened - it seemed possible to me, and not weirdly otherworldly. Alex was a rather old fourteen. He seemed more like sixteen, which isn't a huge difference, but enough to be spending so much time on his own, figuring things out, and drinking beer. It was very readable, and I couldn't put it down, wanting to find out what happened, and how it might be resolved.

I've passed this on to my daughter to read.

Friday, March 23, 2012

BOOK: Intuition by Allegra Goodman

Intuition by Allegra Goodman, 386 pages

Orange Longlist 2009; New Author Challenge

Michelle, 3M at onemorechapter, recommended this book to me because it had lots of science in it. What a great recommendation! I had never heard of this book, or author, and it was quite a find. 

It reminded me of a Jodi Picoult book, but with much less emotional manipulation, as befitting a science research book. The narration bounces around between several different characters, although always in third person. The reader learns about life in a small research lab, with the politics, and hierarchy and efforts to get money/grants. I wasn't a huge fan of one of the partners, the cancer doctor, but it took his ego and vision and self-centeredness to be able to run the lab.

The plot point happens when one of the post-doc researchers has some possible success with cancer in his mice, which turns all the focus in the lab onto his research. When his ex-girl friend can't get the same results, she complains that he was cheating, or cutting corners. People take sides, the congress gets involved (money from governmental grants) and the whole issue of research is brought under a microscope (no pun intended!) The fact that I could see all sides, and couldn't pick who was in the right showed how complicated some issues can be. Also, with all the different motives, some that people may not even have been aware of, (if they hadn't broken up, would the ex have complained about his research?), it is very difficult to ever sort out some issues.

Having never heard of Allegra Goodman, soon after getting this book, one of her books appeared on a List of Books about Sisters at Librarything. The Cookbook Collector goes on my list of books I want to read.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

BOOK: On Canaan's Side by Sebastian Barry

On Canaan's Side by Sebastian Barry, 255 pages

Ireland Reading Challenge; Booker longlist 2011

Summary (taken from librarything)
The narrator is 89-year-old Lily Bere. Over seventeen days after the death of her grandson, she recounts the major events of her life beginning with her childhood in Ireland and continuing through her adulthood in America.

 "To remember sometimes, is a great sorrow. But when the remembering has been done, there comes afterwards a very curious peacefulness—because you have planted your flag on the summit of the sorrow, you have climbed it. And I notice again in the writing of this confession that there is nothing called "long ago" after all. When things are summoned up, it is all present time, pure and simple. So that much to my surprise, people I have loved are allowed to live again." —Fifteenth Day Without Bill

I finished this one at the beginning of March and I liked it. It was relatively short, and the chapters were labelled One Day Without Bill, all the way to Seventeenth Day Without Bill; as Lily deals with her present day grief, she is drawn to her past and how she ended up where she did. The back and forth, between present and past, is an often used technique in these looking back remembrance-type books which is why I am somewhat mixing this book up with The Sense of an Ending. There were some good surprise reveals that Lily didn't give away until later in her story. Some were a bit predictable but Barry's novels are more about the writing, not the plot.

If you like beautiful writing, stories of immigrants to the US, stories from Ireland and the troubles, remembrances of a sad life, or Booker nominees, you will enjoy Barry's latest effort.

I reviewed Barry's previous book, The Secret Scripture here.

Also reviewed On Canaan's Side: the Book Trunk;  lizzysidal at lizzy's literary life;

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

CHALLENGE: Once Upon a Time 6

Carl. at Stainless Steel Droppings,  hosts the very popular Once Upon a Time VI challenge, from March 21 til  June 19. Read books from the  fantasy, fairy tale, folktale or mythology genre.How adorable is that fox? We have a fox living in our suburban neighbourhood, and I love seeing him or her walking around.

Read at least 5 books that fit somewhere within the Once Upon a Time categories. They might all be fantasy, or folklore, or fairy tales, or mythology…or your five books might be a combination from the four genres

 Pool of Books
Cherokee Bat and the Goat Guys by Francesca Lia Block (library)
Anasi Boys by Neil Gaiman
The Well of Lost Plots by Jasper Fforde
The Girl Who Chased the Moon by Sarah Addison Allen (library)
The Peach Keeper by Sarah Addison Allen (library)
Promises to Keep by Charles de Lint
Enna Burning by Shannon Hale (library)
Green Angel by Alice Hoffman
or, what ever catches my fancy

What I actually read:
1. Green Angel - Alice Hoffman
2. Cherokee Bat and the Goat Guys - Francesca Lia Block
3. The Girl Who Chased the Moon - Sarah Addison Allen
4. The Rose and the Beast - Francesca Lia Block
5. The Peach Keeper - Sarah Addison Allen
6. The Song of Achilles - Madeline Miller
7. The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake - Aimee Bender

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

LIST: Top Ten Books On My Spring TBR List

I've got a mixture of new releases, older books, and mysteries that I'm hoping to read this spring. (It's the first day of spring, temperature is going to be above 10 C, and it is the March Break - what a great day!)

What books are you looking forward to reading this spring? Head on over to The Broke and the Bookish to link up and to see what everyone else is saying!

1. Age of Doubt by Andrea Camilleri (released May 1, 2012)
The newest book (#14) in the Inspector Montalbano series, I am looking forward to my annual 'visit' to Sicily.

2. The Uninvited Guests by Sadie Jones
New book by the author of Small Wars and The Outcast.

3. I've Got Your Number by Sophie Kinsella
As much as I love the Shopaholic Books, I've enjoyed her standalone books even more

4. The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest by Steig Larson
The first two were fabulous; I need to see how it all ends up

5. 1222 by Anne Holt
Heard about it as a nominee for an Edgar Award; when I checked the library, I was 11th in line! So, I'm not the only one who thinks this looks good, and hopefully I'll get this before the spring ends.

6. The Girl Who Chased the Moon by Sarah Addison Allen
I've been saving this book to read during the Once Upon a Time Challenge, which usually starts about now.

7. The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Sparks
Simon and Harriet are hosting a Muriel Spark Reading Week during April 23 - 29, 2012.

8.  Swann by Carol Shields
A literary mystery by Carol Shields, third last of her novels for me to read.

9. The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje
Loved the movie, want to read the book.

10. Something from the Orange Prize Longlist for 2012 - could be Gillespie and I, The Sealed Letter, The Forgotten Waltz, or There But for the..

Monday, March 19, 2012

BOOK: Faithful Place by Tana French

Faithful Place by Tana French, 438 pages

Ireland Reading Challenge; Series Goals (Dublin Murder Squad, book 3)

The Plot:
Frank Mackey, undercover operative last seen as Cassie Maddox's boss in The Likeness, is the main character in the third Dublin Murder Squad book. Twenty odd years ago, he was set to elope with the girl next door, Rosie Daly, to London, but she never turned up. He left Faithful Place (his neighbourhood street) and his family, and started a new life. Suddenly, her suitcase turns up in an abandoned building in the old neighbourhood. Frank is pulled back to the family and forced to examine all that he thought was true, ie, Rosie dumped him and left without him. Now, it appears she had been killed or at least never made it to London. Can you ever escape your family and where you come from?

The Good: 
  • I like how this series is only partly a series. Each book, so far, takes one of the characters and sends them off to their own book. 
  • This one had less intrigue to the mystery, but it reminded me of a Cold Case episode. I always liked that show, and at the end of the book, I could see it being filmed in my head. Overlapping the present confession, with the 'event' from the past, with all the emotions that had been held in for twenty years, just bubbling to the surface.
  • I liked Frank with his Irish family, stereotypical as they were. The harpy, mean mother, the angry alcoholic father, the wild children. However, it is stereotypical for a reason, and stereotypes are built on real situations.
  • I liked the culprit, and felt so sorry for [him/her]. My heart broke actually. It was just like the Cold Case shows, in that final scene, when the music plays, and the case is solved, that is always so sad.
  • I think I know who will be the lead in the next book, Broken Harbour, due to be published June 5, 2012. A character, Stephen, was introduced that is just screaming to get his own book
  • The writing. French has a tendency to ramble on a bit, and her books could be a bit shorter, but I enjoy my time reading them, and I like her turn of phrase. Upon the discovery of Rosie Daly's suitcase, "Ma said, with a nice blend of awe, envy and blood lust, 'Therese Daly'll go mental. Mental." p26
The Bad:
  • Frank is a tough character to like, but the reasons for his behaviour are all very clear, once you meet his family and see his upbringing. Doesn't mean I liked him, but I get him.
  • There was no Cassie Maddox or Robert Ryan and I was hoping they would make an appearance at some point.
Clearly the good outweigh the bad, which were nit picky at best. This is a great series and I'm looking forward to the next book.

Getting caught up on my series' goals has been great.  I've got six that are up to date! Sadly, for me, they are all having new books come out this year! Plus, I found a couple more new series to read - Mrs Pollifax and Inspector Brunetti are both excellent with a huge backlist.

    Sunday, March 18, 2012

    BOOK: The Case of the Man Who Died Laughing by Tarquin Hall

    The Case of the Man Who Died Laughing by Tarquin Hall, 325 pages

    ongoing series: book 2 From the Files of Vish Puri, Most Private Investigator.

    Private Detective Vish Puri, aka Chubby, loves a challenge. I think he fancies himself a Hercule Poirot-type detective, which is probably why I am enjoying this series so much, being a big Poirot fan.

    The mystery that Chubby takes on here, helping the police behind the scenes, is the death of a well-known guru de-bunker. The mystical is brought into the story, as the de-bunker was killed by a vision of an ancient god of death, all of which was recorded. Is it a fine line between a miracle and magic?

    The mystery itself is the least of the story. Puri's operatives are given much back story, and although it has only been two books, I sense there is much more to be learned about Facecream and Tubelight. Puri is also a big eater, and the descriptions of what he eats, make a reader's mouth water. Present day Dehli, and India, is presented with all its warts and the conflicts between present and past, tradition and progress. But the best part of the books is Mummy, who manages to do some detecting each time. When the neighbourhood 'kitty' party is robbed, Mummy-ji and Chubby's wife decide to look into it themselves. It's clear where Puri gets his talents. Her behind the scenes investigating are the best.

    Next up: The Case of the Deadly Butter Chicken, set to be released June 26, 2012 (according to Mmm, butter chicken, my favorite!

    Monday, March 5, 2012

    CHALLENGE: Ireland Reading Challenge 2012

    Carrie is hosting the Ireland Reading Challenge again for 2012. Now that it is March, and St Patrick's Day is coming up, it may be time to sign up for a small version. I enjoyed the books I read last year. This challenge runs until November 30, 2012 and the levels are:
    Shamrock level: 4 books
    Luck o’ the Irish level: 6 books
    Kiss the Blarney Stone level: 8 books
    Ceilidh level: 10+ books

    More details at the sign-up page, including some genre reading, and prizes.

    I've got a few I'm thinking of:
    Sebastian Barry - On Canaan's Side
    Tana French - Faithful Place
    John Connolly - The Reapers
    An Irish Country Christmas - Patrick Taylor
    and possibly, left over from last year's list: Kate O'Brien, Marion Keyes, Declan Hughes, or Teacher Man by Frank McCourt

    What actually got read: (aiming for 4)
    1. On Canaan's Side - Sebastian Barry
    2. Faithful Place - Tana French
    3. The Forgotten Waltz - Anne Enright
    4. The Boy in the Striped Pajamas - John Boyne
    5. Broken Harbour - Tana French
    6. Watermelon - Marian Keyes

    Sunday, March 4, 2012

    BOOK: The Talented Mr Ripley by Patricia Highsmith

    The Talented Mr Ripley by Patricia Highsmith, 290 pages

    Venice in February

    I know, the movie is really good. Matt Damon and Jude Law? I will watch is someday. But for now, I read the book, practically a classic, right? It was very good. Taking the perspective of Tom Ripley and his dastardly mind gives a view of a very warped, self-centered person. Tom gets sent to Europe to try and bring Dickie Greenleaf back home to his rich parents. Tom gets caught up in the lifestyle and his selfishness leads to some very bad decisions.

    My only complaint was that I knew there were more Ripley books, so clearly he gets away with this episode. The chase of Ripley, and his conniving to get away with everything was very tense. It is challenging for the reader when the main character has few redeeming qualities. The book builds and builds, setting atmosphere, plus, it's Italy. Wonderful.  Ripley spends time in a small village, Sicily, Rome and Venice. The jet-set life is glamorous. I'm glad I've read this classic mystery, and look forward to Highsmith's other famous book, Strangers on a Train.

    Saturday, March 3, 2012

    BOOK: The Unexpected Mrs Pollifax by Dorothy Gilman

    The Unexpected Mrs Pollifax by Dorothy Gilman, 216 pages

    New Author Challenge

    The Halifax Library has a blog where they post about new books, or themed books, or author spotlights. It's full of great new books and ideas. Near the beginning of February, they highlighted the death of Dorothy Gilman, author of the Mrs Pollifax series. I was intrigued, and requested the first book in the series from my library. What an unexpected delight! And while I was trying to get caught up on a few series, I've now found a new one to read.

    Mrs Pollifax is a widow and grandmother, feeling a little lost. When she was young, she had hoped to be a spy, so she decides to head to the CIA head quarters and ask if they need any new spies. Her spunk and intelligence get her sent on a very simple courier assignment to Mexico City. Things go badly, through no fault of hers, but she ends up a prisoner and a pawn in the Cold War, Russia v China v US battle. Her unassuming manner, and genuine kindness make her a very unusual prisoner.

    Other than a very long escape route that dragged a bit, I really enjoyed the book and am definitely interested in reading more of Mrs Pollifax's escapades. As I am just about at the end of Precious Ramotse's Number One Detective Agency series, Mrs Pollifax will be the perfect replacement. Mrs Pollifax is more of a spy thriller, but there is a gentleness with the ruthlessness, and the characters are charming. I'm sure many readers have already read Mrs Pollifax, as this first novel was published in 1966, but there are 14 books in the series and Gilman continued to publish until 2000.

    Thursday, March 1, 2012

    CHALLENGE: Random Reader Challenge: young adult division

    Another Random Reader Challenge! This time the category is Young Adult Books and it runs from March 1 til April 30, 2012. Read one of the following books, post a review, then post the link to the review here. Then, if you are a Canadian resident not including Quebec, you are eligible to win a prize, including a pick of a book for the next challenge. The next challenge isn't revealed until it starts, so May 1st.
     The choices are:
    The Gathering by Kelley Armstrong (Check out the video trailer and sneak peek at book 2!)
    The Taming by Teresa Toten and Eric Walters (Check out the video trailer!)
    Someone Else’s Life by Katie Dale (Check out the video trailer!)
    Blood Red Road by Moira Young
    The Fathomless Fire by Thomas Wharton
    Flip by Martyn Bedford

    I'm going to try either Flip or Blood Red Road, just going by what is available at my library. Stay tuned for possible reviews. I gather that The Gathering is a very popular book, and part of a series - this may be the time to check out all the buzz.

    ETA: I've read Flip - here's my review.