Sunday, July 29, 2012

Netgalley Knockout

August 1-31 has been designated as Netgalley Knockout month by Goldilox and the Three Weres. I've been making progress on my collection of e-galleys, but it seemed a fun event to be a part of.

My TBR e-galleys (by publication date - * denotes already published; ** denotes pub date in August; *** denotes pub date in September):

Update: As I finish reading a galley, I will put the title in bold.

*Racing the Devil by Jaden Terrell
*Dead Anyway by Chris Knopf
*Rust by Julie Mars
*Make It Stay by Joan Frank
*Isaac by Ivan G. Goldman
*Zombie by J.R. Angelella
*My Dead Friend Sarah by Peter Rosch
*The Ghosts of Belfast by Stuart Neville
*American Boy by Larry Watson
*Patricide by Joyce Carol Oates
**Scone Island by Frederick Ramsay
**The Templeton Twins Have an Idea by Ellis Weiner
**The Hollow Man by Oliver Harris
**Bones Are Forever by Kathy Reichs
**The Uninvited by Heather Graham
***White Forest by Adam McOmber
***Something Red by Douglas Nicholas
***The Infects by Sean Beaudoin
The Icarus Project by Laura Quimby
The Goldberg Variations by Susan Isaacs
The Dalai Lama's Cat by David Michie
Live by Night by Dennis Lehane
Becoming Holmes by Shane Peacock
An Unattended Death by Victoria Jenkins
Cold Light by Jenn Ashworth
The Evolution of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin
The Girl on the Cliff by Lucinda Riley
Make Believe by Ed Ifkovic
Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver
An Extraordinary Theory of Objects by Stephanie LaCava
Spilt Milk by Chico Buarque
Seven Locks by Christine Wade
Ashenden by Elizabeth Wilhide
Daddy Love by Joyce Carol Oates
A Killer in the Wind by Andrew Klavan
A Study in Revenge by Kieran Shields
Yesterday's Sun by Amanda Brooke

I also have physical galleys of Munster's Case by Hakan Nesser and The Map of Lost Memories by Kim Fay. I have finished reading, but have not yet reviewed, e-galleys of The Stranger In The Room by Amanda Kyle Williams and Charlotte Markham and the House of Darkling by Michael Boccacino. I plan to post those reviews this week. Many of my e-galleys have publication dates in the fall and winter, so I'm not planning a wild attempt to read them all. I would like to make it through all the already-published ones, as well as those to be published in August.

Edited to add the galleys that have come in since posting.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Inside the Minds of Linkoping, Sweden

MIDWINTER BLOOD by Mons Kallentoft: "The cold stinks." "Maybe. But it still doesn't seem to have any smell, does it?" I have been on quite a Nordic crime fiction kick lately (along with everyone else), so the publication of Kallentoft's MIDWINTER BLOOD in English (as the first of four novels following Superintendent Malin Fors of the Linkoping police) was exciting for me. While all Nordic crime fiction speaks of cold and isolation, MIDWINTER BLOOD adds another dimension that sets it apart: insight into nearly every character's thoughts, even the dead ones.

It is cold. Bitterly cold. The cold rises from the pages to make the hottest summer afternoon seem chilly. February in Linkoping is always cold, but this winter is extraordinary. Malin Fors is melancholy, musing on her lost relationship, struggling with her daughter's teenage years, dealing with increasingly difficult aging parents. And now with a mutilated corpse hanging from a tree. A professor at the university contacts the police when the scene reminds him of a midwinter pagan sacrifice, which means the killer may not be finished. The escalating mystery is very well-done, with unexpected twists and challenges. The dead man was an obese man who lived on the fringes of Linkoping, but not as an accepted part of it. Was the motive personal, or was he chosen at random, or because of his marginalization, for a ritual?

The dead man thinks, "In a way, it's nice hanging up here." This is not a typical sentence for a thriller, and this is not a typical thriller. The gorgeous language not only describes the cold and unravels the threads of the mystery: it also gives us insight into the character's inner lives. At first, I was not sure the constant interruption of action to share character thoughts (especially of minor or dead characters) was going to work at all for me, but I soon settled into the style and found it illuminating. Fors delves into small-town rumors and innuendo, the torment of the dead man at the hands of cruel teenagers, a strangely isolated family that clings together, and the reader sees their actions and hears their words, but also witnesses their thoughts and feelings. The result is like no other crime novel.

Source disclosure: I received an e-galley of this novel courtesy of the publisher.

Waiting on Wednesday: Jasper Fforde

"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.

It feels like I'm always waiting for Jasper Fforde. I'll be waiting a looooooong time for the follow-up to his amazing dystopia SHADES OF GREY (no relation to the fifty), but I don't have much longer to wait for the next Thursday Next novel. I've been madly addicted to this series for years. The first introduction to the genre-defying adventures of the intrepid Thursday is in THE EYRE AFFAIR. This is one of my favorite books. I advise against starting this series in the middle - pick up THE EYRE AFFAIR, and if it's too weird for you, well, the series only gets weirder (in delightful ways). THE WOMAN WHO DIED A LOT is the seventh such adventure and, as usual, I can barely wait.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012


Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading.
Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

Grab your current read
Open to a random page
Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

I'm currently reading THE STRANGER IN THE ROOM by Amanda Kyle Williams, the follow-up to last summer's THE STRANGER YOU SEEK. Williams manages a thoroughly entertaining balance between suspense and humor. The following teaser obviously highlights the humor:

"He robbed a Seven Eleven with dried nasal mucus?"


"Clerk gave him three hundred from the register," Tyrone told me. "Which just proves nobody wants a booger touching them."

Monday, July 16, 2012

Summer staples

There are always writers I think of as my summer constants. They invariably release a new book (usually in a series) every summer, and these round out my beach reading. I have no idea what the beach will be like this summer without a new Stephanie Plum release by Janet Evanovich (she's releasing in the fall this year). One of these (fairly recently discovered for me) is Karin Slaughter, and I just read her new novel, CRIMINAL, being unable to wait until I was at an actual beach to do so. Amanda Kyle Williams is another new one for me (her first novel, THE STRANGER YOU SEEK, was published last summer). Once upon a time, Patricia Cornwell was another. What are your favorite beach staples?

CRIMINAL by Karin Slaughter: Her recent mysteries, featuring Will Trent of the GBI, are set in Atlanta, which is loads of fun for me. My only complaint about her books is that the violence is so extreme. More creative and horrifying torture methods than I'm really looking for. Doesn't anyone just shoot or stab or strangle without some sick, seriously disturbing abuse? But this is not usually a huge part of the narrative, so I read her anyway for the depiction of Atlanta, the excellent mysteries, and the believable, interesting cops.

Many series start to lose steam and eventually plod along formulaically, but CRIMINAL is Slaughter's best to date. Will Trent has a troubled past and an odd relationship with Amanda, and Slaughter hasn't rushed to share every detail of his background. This installment is particularly revelatory as far as Will goes, but it's unexpectedly enlightening concerning the racist/sexist history of Atlanta, particularly in the police world. Slaughter has clearly done her research on both the legal/organizational details and the general atmosphere and attitudes of the time.

"The federal Law Enforcement Assistance Association grant that had created the Atlanta police sex crimes division required all teams to be comprised of three-officer units that were racially and sexually integrated. These rules were seldom followed, because white women could not ride alone with black men, black women - at least the ones who wanted to keep their reputations - did not want to ride with black men, and none of the blacks wanted to ride with any man who was white."

That matter-of-fact paragraph sets the tone for a divided police department in which female police officers are laughed at, groped, and sent into danger as a prank. Seeing Amanda in this context gives the reader a full picture of her that we've never had before. Suddenly her tough-as-nails don't-give-a-shit attitude is completely understandable. She's a character who has always intrigued me, but I never thought I would find her sympathetic. Amanda's partner, Evelyn, is married with a child, which adds another dimension to the treatment of women:

"Bill and I agreed that we shouldn't keep a loaded gun in the house because of the baby."

Words clogged Amanda's throat. She screamed, "Your gun isn't loaded!"

"Well..." Evelyn dug her fingers into the back of her hair. "It worked out, right?" She let out a strained laugh. "Sure, it worked out. We're both fine. We're both just fine." She looked down at the pimp again.

Evelyn's decision to return to the force after having a baby is viewed as utterly bizarre. Slaughter works in other details about attitudes toward women in 1970s Atlanta that are not specific to policing: Women can't open checking accounts, apply for a credit card, or even rent an apartment without cosigning by a husband or father.

The racial division in the forcibly integrated police force is equally fascinating/horrifying:

There were pockets all over the city where the radios had little or no reception, but that wasn't the problem. A black officer was calling for backup, which meant the white officers were blocking the transmission by clicking the buttons on their mics. In the next hour, a white officer would call for help and the blacks would do the same. And then someone with the Atlanta Journal or Constitution would write an article wondering about the recent spike in crime."

It's a wonder that any crimes were solved in this era at all. The 1970s murders are only solved because Amanda and Evelyn ignore the harassment and abuse from the male officers in charge and place themselves in danger to seek out the culprit. Amanda's father would have kept her in line, but he has been temporarily relieved of his lofty position due to racially fueled politics. He has been in the force since Klan affiliation had been compulsory for all Atlanta Police Department members. Amanda is conflicted about carrying on her investigation with Evelyn, but the fact that the murder victims are girls and no one else cares about them spurs her on. The 1970s investigation is told in parallel with a related present-day murder investigation, and the mystery is complex and interesting. Will and Amanda's relationship is finally explained, and the revelations make me more eager to read the next installment in the series.

Source disclosure: I purchased this book.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Waiting on... Wednesday: Zadie Smith

"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating. This week's pre-publication "can't-wait-to-read" selection is:

NW by Zadie Smith

The opening paragraph, published at The Millions:

The fat sun stalls by the phone masts. Anti-climb paint turns sulphurous on school gates and lampposts. In Willesden people go barefoot, the streets turn European, there is a mania for eating outside. She keeps to the shade. Redheaded. On the radio: I am the sole author of the dictionary that defines me. A good line—write it out on the back of a magazine. In a hammock, in the garden of a basement flat. Fenced in, on all sides.

Publication date: September 4, 2012. It's marked on the calendar.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Teaser Tuesdays

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading.
Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

Grab your current read
Open to a random page
Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers! I'm currently reading CRIMINAL by Karin Slaughter. I find Teaser Tuesdays more challenging now that many of my reads are on the Kindle! No more flipping through pages. So I pick a random number and use the "Go to page" feature. This novel moves between a series of disappearances in the 1970s and present-day crimes. This excerpt is from the 1970s storyline:

"The federal Law Enforcement Assistance Association grant that had created the Atlanta police sex crimes division required all teams to be comprised of three-officer units that were racially and sexually integrated. These rules were seldom followed, because white women could not ride alone with black men, black women - at least the ones who wanted to keep their reputations - did not want to ride with black men, and none of the blacks wanted to ride with any man who was white."


THE PRISONER OF HEAVEN by Carlos Ruiz Zafon: While the note from Julian Carax suggests that the three books in the series (THE SHADOW OF THE WIND and THE ANGEL'S GAME having preceded THE PRISONER OF HEAVEN), I have no idea what a newcomer to the series would make of THE PRISONER OF HEAVEN as a standalone novel. My recommendation is to read the first two novels first, as THE PRISONER OF HEAVEN refers back to the events portrayed therein. If you've read the first two books about the Cemetary of Forgotten Books, I see no reason why you wouldn't enjoy the third (and the fourth, which I can barely wait for). When I say that THE PRISONER OF HEAVEN is more of the same, I mean it in a positive way: THE SHADOW OF THE WIND and THE ANGEL'S GAME were sensuous feasts of words and atmosphere that I found immensely enjoyable, and THE PRISONER OF HEAVEN was equally diverting.

In this installment, Ruiz Zafon explores the history of Fermin, with Carax telling us in the prologue: "I have always known that one day I would return to these streets to tell the story of the man who lost his soul and his names among the shadows of a Barcelona trapped in a time of ashes and silence." If you find that sentence seductive, the novels of Ruiz Zafon will appeal to you; if you find it overwritten and melodramatic, you probably ought to skip this series entirely. I was immediately drawn back into post-WWII Barcelona, which Ruiz Zafon evokes so beautifully. The story begins in 1957, just before Christmas, with Sempere & Sons bookshop financially strapped. Fermin has an idea for drumming up business: "Perhaps if by chance I was seen arranging the shop window in my underpants, some lady in need of strong literary emotions would be drawn in and inspired to party with a bit of hard cash. According to expert opinion, the future of literature depends on women and as God is my witness the female is yet to be born who can resist the primal allure of this stupendous physique." Sempere decides to go the more traditional route of a nativity scene, and customers begin to trickle in. Among them is a mysterious stranger who buys the most expensive book in the store and leaves it as a gift for Fermin. This is the trigger for Fermin to tell Daniel Sempere his own story: beginning with his time in prison during WWII and revealing connections between Fermin and Daniel.

My only complaint about this novel is that it was too short. Having read it on the Kindle, I had to look it up to find out that it is apparently 416 pages long, but it breezed by in little more than a night of reading. Fermin's story is gripping and the dribbles of information relating to Daniel's mother, David Martin, and the mysterious stranger are well-paced. Fermin's usual cynicism and humor lighten up the narrative, and the ending is satisfying, although clearly setting the reader up for the fourth book.

I found THE PRISONER OF HEAVEN engrossing and delightful, and I recommend this book to fans of THE SHADOW OF THE WIND and THE ANGEL'S GAME.

Source disclosure: I received an e-galley of this book courtesy of the publisher.

Monday, July 09, 2012

The buzz about ARCs

There has been much talk around the book blogosphere lately about ARCs, as there usually is after BEA. Complaints about ARC-hoggers, who run around getting as many free books as they can, questions over who should receive ARCs, issues about what should happen to ARCs after the book is in publication (hint: not eBay, people!). I thought that Presenting Lenore's post was a good rational discussion.

My relationship with ARCs: I only request those that I really want to read, and should Holly and I ever make good on our pledge to go to BEA with On My Bookshelf business cards, I think I'd do the same thing there: prioritize my desperately wanted titles and try to snag advance copies of those. I also tend to stick to requests for the genres I commonly review: literary fiction, middle-grade and YA fantasy, mysteries. I am less likely to request a nonfiction title, since I think of myself primarily as a fiction blogger, but I have reviewed ARCs of nonfiction books that tell a good (but true) story. ARCs are a tool that publishers use for marketing/publicity. Different publishers see them slightly differently. Some keep ARCs close, handing them out only to media outlets (including bloggers) that have huge followings and rejecting requests from less-prominent bloggers. Others see them as a part of word-of-mouth marketing and happily distribute them to anyone who seems willing to post a review on Amazon. As far as when to post reviews, I follow the publisher's request, which is usually to hold reviews until the day of publication. I will blog/Facebook about the book as I read it, though. I copy my review on amazon, on Facebook, Twitter, goodreads, and LibraryThing.

I'm really not interested in debates over whether or not bloggers should get copies of ARCs: that's up to the publisher. Each publisher has a vision for where bloggers and ARCs fit into their marketing, and sometimes my requests are rejected. I end up buying the book (and posting a review) anyway, but I miss the chance to be a part of the early buzz (or even to be blurbed).

When I love an ARC, I will buy a finished copy of the book. Especially now that e-galleys are becoming very common, I want a hard copy for my library, to take to a signing, or to lend to friends. I tend to donate ARCs I wasn't as crazy about to library sales. I don't list them on eBay (so tacky).

How do you decide which ARCs to request? Any personal policies on dealing with ARCs?

Saturday, July 07, 2012

It's not's me?

ADVENT by James Treadwell: I love fantasy. I re-read LORD OF THE RINGS every couple of years. I excel at suspension of disbelief and immersing myself in alternate worlds. So I expected to fall in love with ADVENT, the first in a trilogy that weaves together the Faust legend, Greek mythology including the always-fascinating Cassandra, and Celtic folklore, all propelled by a confused teenager who has always conversed with people who aren't there. It may be that in the context of the entire trilogy, ADVENT makes sense, but as a novel in its own right, it was a sprawling (though often beautifully written) mess with frustrating pacing. Perhaps my expectations were too high.

Gavin, the teenaged boy sent to live with his nutty aunt at the mysterious estate of Pendurra, is a likable child, poised to learn more about his gifts in a classic coming-of-age fantasy arc. This part of the story was engaging. Gavin has been told his entire childhood that the people who are most real to him are imaginary, so he has a distrust of adults. When his aunt, always a favorite and the one most interested in and accepting of his strangeness, fails to pick him up at the train station, a batty professor gives him a lift to Pendurra, and she is the first person he has encountered who shares his visions. Their interactions are some of the best moments in the novel. As they approach the mysterious estate, Gavin describes it beautifully:

"Beneath them, a pair of rough stone posts flanked a driveway leading off into wooded blackness. Beside the driveway, a little way beyond the gateposts, was a house. Hester Lightfoot had cut off the engine and was getting out. Still slightly dizzy, Gavin followed. A gusting wind blew about. There was nothing to hinder it. In all directions, the land fell away gently. Gav thought he knew now what it had been like for the first man on the moon, his foot touching down on the rim of another world, suspended in empty space. He saw a word carved in the nearer gatepost: Pendurra."

This is typical of the expansive, evocative language Treadwell uses in descriptions from Gav's point of view, and one of the book's highlights. It is less successful in the sections from the sixteenth century. The "greatest magus in the world" (as he is referred to in practically every mention of him) is bombastic and not terribly interesting. Once I'd ascertained that not much essential was conveyed through his ramblings, I began skimming these parts and was happier for it. Pendurra through Gav's eyes is mysterious, magical, downright creepy. He meets the odd child who lives there, Marina, and learns odd tidbits about the estate: a river where Marina sees a woman, a chapel housing water with healing powers, and Marina herself: oddly innocent and unaware of the outside world.

Besides the annoying ramblings of "the greatest magus in the world" (early on, I began rolling my eyes whenever I read that phrase), the compelling story of Gavin discovering the truth about Pendurra and about himself is interrupted by large chunks of backstory dumped into the narrative and interrupting the action. I can only imagine that the author delighted in his world-building and couldn't bear to keep it from the reader, but glimpses of backstory worked directly into the narrative would have been far less disruptive, repetitive, and redundant. At one point, in the midst of the book's climax, the reader's interest is derailed by page after page of an internal history lesson, much of which could have been inferred with the inclusion of the few actually relevant details in the narrative. More than halfway through the novel, we begin reading passages from the point of view of Horace, a tangential character and friend to Marina, which add absolutely nothing except to distract from the story. The points of view of random people from the neighboring village, a confused priest, and a journalist staying at the inn are thrown in for good measure. But Gavin is really the only fully-formed character. Marina is vague and out of touch with reality (I wanted to smack her when she dithers as Gav is trying to save her life) and we don't learn much about the professor or Marina's father.

The less said about the ending, the better. It's no doubt the perfect set-up for book two, but when the end finally comes (and it's a long time coming - at 65% of the way through the book (according to my Kindle), the climax begins, but the endless exposition and unnecessary point of view switching bogs it down) it is abrupt and feels entirely contrived, with a previously unknown character the sudden focus. I am sure the next book centers on this girl, but I don't see myself sticking around to find out how the trilogy weaves together all these threads. I'm not sure to whom I would recommend this book. Die-hard fantasy fans with a high tolerance for exposition? Ultimately, the promise of the book's beautiful language and compelling coming-of-age story wasn't realized for me, and I was relieved to see the last page.

Source disclosure: I received an e-galley of this title from the publisher.

Friday, July 06, 2012

When work comes home with you

FALLEN ANGELS by Connie Dial: Captain Josie Corsino is a good detective who has turned into a good supervisor: "She hadn't been to roll call for a few weeks, and she knew the uniformed patrol officers liked to have her there so they could find out what was going on in their division, especially on mornings like this. Besides, a few minutes with them always left her energized. Half an hour later, she had answered every question she could about the morning's events and made a mental list of all the officers' complaints, including those problems she couldn't solve. It was important to make contact because their lives were tied to her." Out of the trenches since promotion, she stays connected to her subordinates, but a challenging case calling into question whom she can trust will push her further into danger than any captain should be. When a troubled young actress is found murdered in a well-known party house, Josie faces pressure from above to keep a councilman's son out of it, though he is at least indirectly involved. Hints of corruption leave her with few officers above or below her rank to trust, and she skirts the edges of procedure to solve the murder with its tentacles reaching into organized crime, off-duty cops, and local politics before those involved can undertake a cover-up.

Josie has been promoted as high as she wants to be: "Any rank above captain had nothing important to do except create meaningless projects and audits, or find other ways to annoy cops with real jobs." Her personal life is falling apart, her husband going through a midlife crisis and her twenty-two-year-old son tangentially involved in her current investigation. She can trust almost no one at work or even at home. Her balance of family and police work makes her a compelling character, and when the two come into conflict, her resolution rings true.

Dial uses her extensive experience in the LAPD to inform and ground this novel and give the fictional department a well-rounded feel. I've enjoyed her Detective Mike Turner novels, INTERNAL AFFAIRS and THE BROKEN BLUE LINE, and Josie, as a captain and as a woman balancing family and police life, brings a fresh perspective.

Source disclosure: I received a review copy from the publisher.

Thursday, July 05, 2012

A thriller that sends up the thriller genre

POTBOILER by Jesse Kellerman: I haven't read Jesse Kellerman's previous novels, which appear to be complex thrillers, but based on the cleverness he demonstrates in POTBOILER, I'm very interested in reading more of his work. POTBOILER cannot be easily categorized. It's an affectionate parody of the thriller genre, but it functions equally well as a thriller in its own right. However ridiculous and implausible the twists and turns, this novel kept me chuckling at Kellerman's gentle mocking of his own genre while at the same time biting my nails in anticipation. I couldn't help but laugh at myself and how swept up in the absurd action I became.

Arthur Pfefferkorn is a college professor with one critically acclaimed novel far, far in his past. He's avoided his oldest friend, William de Vallee, for years, jealous of his wife and his bestselling oeuvre of thrillers while contemptuous of the non-literary genre. When de Vallee disappears and is declared dead, Pfefferkorn takes a reckless step that pulls him into a world of international intrigue, conspiracy, and double crosses. To rescue de Vallee's widow (with whom he is still in love), he takes on a shadowy assignment from a questionable government agency and ventures into Zlabia, an utterly absurd nation divided into two entirely different cultures. Zlabia is a hoot, and it's to Kellerman's credit that I remained engaged in the action despite the ridiculous aspects of Zlabian politics.

To point out the cleverest twists would be to spoil the unfolding plot. This is a book I will recommend to everyone I know just so I can talk about it with someone and say, "Wasn't it perfect when Pfefferkorn said X and then Y happened later?!" A devoted thriller fan who sees nothing amusing in the conventions of the genre will not enjoy this book, but anyone who read, say, THE DA VINCI CODE and rolled her eyes at the stilted prose and pat descriptions (while frantically turning the pages to see what happens next) will adore POTBOILER. I am even willing to confess my secret addiction to Clive Cussler's Dirk Pitt novels to illustrate my qualifications in making this recommendation. The over-the-top writing drives me a little crazy and the stereotypes and predictable elements required of the genre make me roll my eyes; yet, I can't not read them.

When Pfefferkorn finally reads a de Vallee novel, he is contemptuous:

"The thirty-third installment in a series, the novel featured special agent Richard "Dick" Stapp, a brilliant, physically invincible figure formerly in the employ of a shadowy but never-named government arm whose apparent sole purpose was to furnish story lines for thrillers. Pfefferkorn recognized the formula easily enough. Stapp, supposedly in retirement, finds himself drawn into an elaborate conspiracy involving one or more of the following: an assassination, a terrorist strike, a missing child, or the theft of highly sensitive documents that, if made public, could lead to full-blown nuclear engagement. His involvement in the case often begins against his will. I've had it with this rotten business he is fond of avowing. Who in real life, Pfefferkorn wondered, avowed anything?"

This over-the-top language turns up in elements of POTBOILER that highlight its absurdity, as in the fabulous description of a character's mustache: "Pfefferkorn could not tell his age, due to a full eighty percent of his face being hidden behind the largest, bushiest, most aggressively expansionist moustache Pfefferkorn had ever seen. It was a a with submoustaches that in turn had sub-submoustaches, each of which might be said to be deserving of its own area code. It was a moustache that vexed profoundly questions of waxing, a moustache the merest glimpse of which might spur female musk oxen to ovulate. It was a moustache that would have driven Nietzsche mad with envy, had he not been mad already. If the three most copiously flowing waterfalls in the world, Niagara, Victoria, and Iguazu Falls, were somehow united, and their combined outputs rendered in facial hair, this man's moustache would not have been an inaccurate model, save that this man's moustache also challenged traditional notions of gravity by growing outward, upward, and laterally. It was an impressive moustache and Pfefferkorn was impressed."

Pfefferkorn is fond of coming up with outlandish ideas and wondering if they might be good premises for a novel. Naturally, these wild plot developments turn up in the Zlabian intrigue. Throughout commentary on the Zlabian hit show The Poem, It Is Bad! and the magical disguising power of mustaches, the overly complicated plot unfolds with precision in ways that are both predictable and unexpected. This is a masterful satire of the thriller genre, but at the same time, a fantastic thriller. It might be the ultimate beach read.

Source disclosure: I received an uncorrected proof of this book through LibraryThing's Early Reviewer program.

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

If you're going to read one police procedural...

THE BROKEN BLUE LINE by Connie Dial: I read Dial's first novel, INTERNAL AFFAIRS, back in 2009, and was blown away by the authenticity Dial's experience as an LAPD veteran brings to a police procedural. THE BROKEN BLUE LINE (2010) is the follow-up, tracking Detective Mike Turner as he once again takes on corrupt cops in an Internal Affairs investigation. A cop on disability may be handling illegal weapons, and Turner and his team are brought in to close the case.

Turner is a tough, uncompromising cop who doesn't tolerate corruption in the ranks. He has a very noir feel, and Dial's language sometimes pays homage to the hard-bitten detectives of classic mysteries, with language like "He could feel his heart beating faster. The chase had started. In every surveillance, the prey always thought he could hide, outsmart the hunter, but he couldn't. Turner was confident that he and Miller were too good at this. They would slip and dodge until they followed Cullen and his partner to whatever it was Cullen was trying to hide." The noir mood isn't intrusive or satirical, just a nod to tough-as-nails cops and detectives in decades of novels and stories. In keeping with tradition, Turner's personal life is a disaster. He drinks too much and suffers horrible nightmares, and his sometime girlfriend moves back in to complicate things. His elderly neighbor moving in and his beloved but flatulent dog give him a complex, human feel.

Dial's work is filled with the details of police investigations and bureaucracy, seamlessly integrated into a gripping mystery. "Turner had taken the best notes all day, so he became the case agent - meaning he became the primary detective on the case and would be stuck doing the daily logs and all the legwork." Besides the day-to-day revelations, the bureaucracy is fascinating. Although Internal Affairs handles surveillance on dirty cops, there is a question of whether the case should be kicked to Robbery Homicide. While bureaucracy is not generally the most exciting part of a novel, Dial's knowledge of the LAPD's inner workings makes the "which department gets the case" discussion genuinely interesting. The case is a potential land mine, but it's also a potential career-maker, and Turner's bosses decide to keep it.

In Dial's world, and one assumes in the real world, no two cops are alike. Some are good people, just doing their jobs, but some are opportunistic and honorless. They use the job to get what they want. Some stick closely to procedure; others are loose cannons. This is true in patrol cops and upper management, men and women.

I've probably overused the word "authenticity," but really, Dial's experience and her ability to convey it in fiction set her novel apart from your usual police procedural. Like its predecessor, THE BROKEN BLUE LINE is an inside look at the LAPD and its police officers, and Dial doesn't shy away from criticism.

Read my review of INTERNAL AFFAIRS here.

Source disclosure: I received a review copy from the publisher.

Tuesday, July 03, 2012


I don't think Allison posted this already (although she added a handy dandy link in the sidebar on the right!). But we now have a Facebook page for this blog to make updates and comments even easier! So if you follow this blog and would like to have even more interaction on book related topics please head on over and "like" our facebook page!

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Monday, July 02, 2012

The Kane Chronicles wrap it up

THE SERPENT'S SHADOW by Rick Riordan: I was swept up in Riordan's Percy Jackson series, and I began the Kane Chronicles (starting with THE RED PYRAMID) with a certain amount of skepticism. Really, Riordan had a hit series with Greek mythology and now he's trying to replicate his success with Egyptian mythology? I take it back. Any mythology he wants to tackle will be well-served by his complex characters and their strong voices. The Kane Chronicles are similar to the Percy Jackson series in the immersion in an old mythology that happens to be true in the real world, but Sadie and Carter are far from pale imitations of Percy and his friends.

I recommend, as with any series, starting at the beginning. A reader picking up THE SERPENT'S SHADOW without having read the previous two books won't be completely lost, but the character and plot development unfold throughout the trilogy. Summarizing the plot of the final chapter will spoil the first two books, so I'll just conclude by saying that I was not disappointed in how Riordan wrapped up the various plot and character threads. As a trilogy, the series is both internally consistent and satisfying, and I recommend it to fans of juvenile fantasy.

Source disclosure: I purchased this book.