I know I just added this book yesterday, but I opened it at 1 pm when it arrived, let everything else go, skipped dinner, and read the entire night th...moreI know I just added this book yesterday, but I opened it at 1 pm when it arrived, let everything else go, skipped dinner, and read the entire night through because I could not put it down. I guess you might say that I LOVED this book:
a) It's about polar exploration, probably my favorite nonfiction reading topic in the universe, b) it's by Hampton Sides, who has not let me down yet with any of his books, and c) it's just so engrossing that I couldn't stop reading it. I'm pretty tired and cranky right now, but what the hell -- it was so worth it. Once again Hampton Sides has proven that he is not only a master of his topic but also a master of storytelling.
I've written up my thoughts about this book at the nonfiction page of my online reading journal; feel free to click on over. For now, I'll just reiterate how fanbloodytastic I found this book.
I seriously can't do this book the justice it deserves, but In the Kingdom of Ice is an absolutely phenomenal story told by a master storyteller, and it deserves as wide of a reading audience as possible. Even readers who might not normally be excited about the history of polar exploration would love this book -- the story is harrowing enough, but Mr. Sides highlights the humanity and the sheer bravery of these heroic men facing the unendurable in one of the most unforgiving environments in the world. The book literally reads like a novel, complete with cliffhangers, moments for rejoicing, and above all, page-turning scenes making it impossible to set the book down. It's an ultimate true "rollicking adventure" story, one that should be on everyone's reading list. To answer other reader criticism, yes, there's a lot of detail involved, but none of it is wasted space or used as padding as so often seems to be the case. I cannot recommend this book highly enough -- on the favorites list of 2014.
... someone should get in touch with Ken Burns -- this would make a fascinating PBS special.(less)
4.5 I am pretty much overjoyed when I find a crime novel so refreshingly different than the norm, and I've found it in this book. It's well off the be...more4.5 I am pretty much overjoyed when I find a crime novel so refreshingly different than the norm, and I've found it in this book. It's well off the beaten path, appealing to my need for the quirky and strange, it's got an unusual premise, it floats securely over two different time periods, and there are pages and pages of truly fine writing that raise this book well above much of the standard fare.
If you want to know about plot, you can click here - otherwise, I'll just offer my reaction to this book here.
What really stands out for me are the unique, crazy and offbeat characters that fill this novel, as well as the author's keen eye for detail. The part of this story that took place in the Blue Parrot is one of my favorites, and is an excellent example of how the author sets a scene that sucks the reader right into the action. Using impressive descriptions, dialogue that's totally believable and creating such a realistic atmosphere that you feel like you're actually there along with the boys from the bus drinking it all in, he's created a world out of this nightclub that I hated to leave. And that's only one instance ... he does the same where ever the action is -- in Pakistan, India, and most especially in Kathmandu.
This is definitely not your average crime novel, which is a very good thing. It's quirky enough to be cool, it's got a nice twist I didn't see coming, and it's one of those novels where you just have to let yourself go where the flow takes you. Nothing formulaic or tedious here either, which is a huge plus. Definitely and most highly recommended, mainly for crime fiction readers who want something different. (less)
Review soon, but for now, I'm looking for a new home for this book, so if anyone in the US would like my copy, it's yours for the price of commenting...moreReview soon, but for now, I'm looking for a new home for this book, so if anyone in the US would like my copy, it's yours for the price of commenting first. (less)
I can't begin to tell you how much I hate star ratings. They don't really reflect a) how much I enjoy/can't stand a book, and b) they're rather subjec...moreI can't begin to tell you how much I hate star ratings. They don't really reflect a) how much I enjoy/can't stand a book, and b) they're rather subjective at best. But I'll go with a 3.75 here.
The blurb for this novel by Times UK reads "an absorbing psychological thriller," and I'd go along with the "absorbing" part of that statement. Thriller, no. So if that's what you're expecting, forget it. However, getting back to absorbing, that's precisely what it is -- with some very twisty bits along the way. I've done a longer review with a highlightable spoiler section (since I give an opinion on what would have been a better ending) at the crime page of my online reading journal; if you go there, be sure you've read the book before you start highlighting.
here's the gist:
A woman in her 70s returns to her family home after being away for some time in a convalescent hospital. Her physician son, Martin, comes every so often to see her to make sure she's okay; otherwise her only company is her housekeeper, and Elsa Préau has a lot of time on her hands. One Sunday afternoon, she is awakened from her nap by the sound of a swing squeaking and the sounds of children at play. Watching out her window, she notices a little girl and two boys outside playing in their back yard. Watching the Desmoulins children becomes a pastime for Elsa, and she notices the same thing every week: the little girl playing with her younger brother, while the older boy sits still and quietly, "constructing totems with bundled twigs and flat stones" under a weeping birch tree. The more she watches, the more she notices that the older boy has very little interaction with the rest of the family. She also never sees him with the other children when they're out walking with their father. She starts keeping a record of what she sees, along with other observations, in a small moleskin notebook, writing about the dirty condition of the older boy's clothing, his grayish skin, that he only went outside on Sundays, and that he never played with the other two. She's drawn to him not only out of curiosity, but because he has an incredible resemblance to her grandson. In her notebook, she begins to refer to him as "the stone boy." Determined to get to the bottom of things, she starts asking around, only to find out that according to the local school, the social welfare office, and the little girl herself (who has started taking piano lessons from Elsa), that there are only two children living in the house behind Elsa's wall -- that the "stone boy" does not exist. Elsa decides it's time to take matters into her own hands.
I am of two minds about this book. First, I thought it was very well written, especially because the author has constructed a story that plays quite nicely on reader expectations and then proceeds to turn them all on their respective heads. Ms. Loubière also weaves some powerful contemporary issues into the story through Elsa's letters to the mayor and other officials as well as in her notebooks and in the last few pages where all is revealed. I have to admit to being so wrapped up in this story that everything else just sort of fell by the wayside and I accomplished absolutely nothing at all during my day while reading it. But after finishing it, I realized that this book could have had a much better ending that unfortunately I can't reveal without giving away the show (hence the above-mentioned highlightable spoiler section at the reading journal blog).
A book that had me as wrapped up in it as this one did can't help but be good, and I'd definitely recommend it. This is not going to be one of those novels that goes down in the annals of great literature, but it's a great way to while away the hours on a rainy day. It's also an amazing character study much more so than it is a thriller, and the way the writer plays with our heads is simply topnotch, ultimately delivering a one-two punch that will hit you in the gut.
The main focus of this novel is a manuscript entitled The Accident, which if published threatens to take down the...morehardcover from the publisher, thanks!
The main focus of this novel is a manuscript entitled The Accident, which if published threatens to take down the wide-ranging, worldwide empire of media mogul Charlie Wolfe. The anonymous author has written a tell-all book that exposes a lot of egregious secrets about the rich and powerful, and the manuscript also churns up an incident in Wolfe's past that the author now decides to reveal. Isabel Reed, who receives the manuscript with only an e-mail address as a contact, has to make a pretty hefty decision herself: should she make sure that this book gets published? Should she pretend that she'd never read it or even received it? Or should she go the authorities, the news media itself, or even call the White House? Figuring that she can't be killed "in front of the whole world," if she goes public, she decides to hand the book off to an acquiring editor she knows would be the right person to see it through. Unknown to Isabel, along with Wolfe, there's a CIA agent in Copenhagen who also doesn't want the book to be published; in fact, he doesn't want the manuscript to exist at all. But as it turns out, the manuscript is already making its way into hands other than those belonging to Isabel and her editor friend, as others see it as a perfect medium for saving or making their careers.
At the heart of this novel it's all about betrayal, and trust me, there is a lot of duplicity and double-dealing going on all through this book. Well beyond the anonymous author's exposé of Wolfe, there are people who see the manuscript as a way to elevate or launch their respective careers, there is one who sees its potential as not only a blockbuster but also a way to save a failing business, and there are other, more personal types of betrayals going on among some of the characters as well. This theme was well expressed, and the look behind the scenes at the publishing industry is quite interesting, especially the fact that it sometimes takes only a look at the first page to decide whether a book is worthy of continuing on to the second or not. The author's bio page at his website reveals that he knows what he's talking about, since he spent nearly two decades working at a number of different publishing houses. And I do have to say that I particularly enjoyed the piece-by-piece unraveling of one particular secret that isn't made known until the very end. But let's face it: the trope of the anonymous manuscript that if made known will cause empires to crumble and secrets of the rich and powerful to be released is just not that original any more. Not only that, but the big secret that the anonymous author refers to in the title of his manuscript would be along the same lines as if someone had revealed that Steve Jobs had done something heinous in his college years -- yeah, it's shocking, but that act alone wouldn't have brought down either Apple or Jobs, especially nowadays. In my head, I'm thinking that all of the other stuff that Wolfe was up to would have been far worse and better to focus on as the meat of the anonymous manuscript. Bottom line here: while there is some suspense that kept me reading this novel, I've read better.
I'm looking at reader criticism on another screen right now, and most people are saying that The Accident is not nearly as good as Pavone's The Expats, so I'll probably try to rotate that one into my reading schedule to see what I may have missed. All in all, this one was just okay. (less)
I have a lengthy review on the crime page of my reading journal, so if you want the longie, click here. Otherwise, read on.
As Sorrow Bound opens, DS Aector McAvoy in Hull, East Yorkshire, is called to a horrific murder scene which might be gang related - McAvoy's boss tells him that the murdered woman had recently spoken out publicly against street dealers wrecking the neighborhood. When another woman is murdered, the police make a discovery that throws the gang-related theory right out the window. However, while Aector is busy with the police-mandated shrink, moving his family into a new home and trying to function in this investigation with very little sleep, a drug runner makes a serious error that will bring a cocky, self-styled "prince of the city" drug dealer with a lot of serious, well-placed protection behind him crashing into the life of one of McAvoy's colleagues and into the lives of McAvoy's family.
David Mark's third entry in this series featuring DS Aector McAvoy is the best he's written and also the darkest of all three books. For some people the dark tone of the novel may be a drawback, but for me, it's a definite plus. He ratchets up both the tension and the darkness, and there's nothing at all formulaic to complain about in this series of police procedurals. Once I picked it up, I didn't want to stop reading it.
So here's the big niggle (which is really hard to scoot around since I don't really want to give anything away): one of the main recurring characters does something that is so totally out of character and so completely unexpected that it absolutely threw me into "WTF?" mode. Then not long afterward, the same person, who you'd think would be so frightened as to listen to advice at this point, does something so foolishly stupid as to be just plain dumb, also very much out of character. I suspect that the repercussions that may follow for the last scene in this novel will lead to a major game changer for what's next in the series, and to an even bigger angst-fest than I've seen in any of the McAvoy novels so far. And since I'm a big fan of both McAvoy and of David Mark, I will be waiting right here to see it all unfold.
While you most certainly can read this book as a standalone, I'm a true series purist so my advice is to start with The Dark Winter and continue with Original Skin before reading Sorrow Bound. I found that by now I have a better feel for the very angst-laden DS McAvoy and what drives him. Just a heads up: this is no cutesy little cozy.
My thanks again to Blue Rider Press for the lovely copy they sent me to read. (less)
I've read a lot of books by Mary Roberts Rinehart, and sadly, The After House just isn't all that good. A word of warning at the outset: this book was...moreI've read a lot of books by Mary Roberts Rinehart, and sadly, The After House just isn't all that good. A word of warning at the outset: this book was published in 1914 and there are a few racial/religious epithets in the story that most people wouldn't use today, so please keep in mind that their usage reflects their common acceptance of the time.
Ralph Leslie has simultaneously just finished medical school and developed a case of typhoid that lands him in the hospital. He's broke and a friend of his feels sorry for him, wangling him a space aboard the Ella, a luxury yacht that is about to set sail on a cruise. Still weak from his illness, he comes on as an "extra man," working with the crew, and in case the butler becomes ill (since he's a 'poor sailor,') Ralph is told that he should be ready to take his place. On sailing day, nineteen people leave port. By the time they return, four of the nineteen are dead at the hands of a murderer with a penchant for axe wielding, a suspect is being held on board, and everyone is frightened out of their wits. Ralph decides to do a little sleuthing when he's not helping to sail the ship back to port, but more than a few people are hiding things that make his job a little difficult. His biggest job, however, is trying to prevent anyone else from being killed.
Once you get past the initial (and somewhat tedious) introduction of the players on the Ella, as well as the ongoing romance element (ick), there's a decent mystery here, although personally when I got to the solution, I had to cry foul. Although the author peppered her book with lots of little details and clues for the reader to sock away until guessing time comes, she didn't give the right clues to allow for any armchair detective to even come close to her solution. Unfair!
However, this book has an interesting history behind it. It was Mary Roberts Rinehart's own take on a similar, true murder case where a man had been found guilty and had been protesting his innocence for seventeen years; The After House was her version of the case where she offered a plausible, alternative suspect in an effort to get the case reopened.
I won't be adding The After House to my list of favorites written by Rinehart, but two of her novels, The Album and The Man in Lower Ten, are very much worth trying out if you're a vintage crime reader. (less)
This one's a 4.5, and I do have to say that while I was reading it, nature provided the perfect backdrop -- hard rain, thunder, and lightning so brigh...moreThis one's a 4.5, and I do have to say that while I was reading it, nature provided the perfect backdrop -- hard rain, thunder, and lightning so bright it flashed through the closed blinds. I would also like to say that Valancourt Books has done readers a huge favor with this reissued classic -- they have made it widely available at a very good price -- have you seen the cost of a used crappy mass market paperback of this book?
absolutely no spoilers ahead:
The Elementals focuses on two Alabama families, the Savages and the McCrays. They're linked together through marriage and the fact that both families have for years spent their summers at Beldame, "a long spit of land, no more than fifty yards wide," where there are three tall gray Victorian homes, "large, eccentric old houses such as appeared in coffee table books on outré American architecture." Back now at Beldame after the strange funeral of Marian Savage is her son Dauphin, who is married to Leigh McCray and has inherited the family fortune; Leigh's brother Luker and his too-wise-for-her-years thirteen-year-old daughter India McCray from New York City; Big Barbara McCray, Leigh and Luker's mother, married to Lawton McCray, a candidate for US congressional representative, and the faithful Odessa, who's worked with the Savages for as long as anyone can remember.
One one side of this narrow piece of land is St. Elmo's Lagoon; on the other is the Gulf of Mexico. At high tide, Beldame is cut off, becoming a virtual island when the Gulf flows into the lagoon. The McCrays have a house on the gulf side; just opposite their house on the lagoon side is the house belonging to the Savages. The third house nobody lives in. No one can: the sand dune at the end of the spit has been encroaching on that house so much so that, as India notices on first seeing it, it "did not merely encroach upon the house, it had actually begin to swallow it." The third house holds its secrets, as do the McCrays and the Savages regarding their own childhood experiences with the third house. All anyone will tell India is that she should stay away from it, but India has a mind of her own, and off she goes exploring. And then ..., well, to say more would be to wreck the experience for someone else.
There are so many excellent things about The Elementals -- the characters, the slowly-paced beginning moving slowly toward an ever-growing anticipation of dread and then headlong into the horrors -- but one of the best features of this novel is the author's ability to capture and evoke the sense of place in his writing. There are various schools of thought either yea or nay on place as a character in a novel, but here that's just how it is. The isolation of Beldame, the third house with the sand covering it both inside and out, the beautiful waters of the Gulf, St. Elmo's Lagoon, the channel, the sand, and above all, the paralyzing heat and humidity of a southern summer that sucks the energy right out of a person -- the way he brings all of this place to life allows it to act not only on the characters directly, but also on the reader. He's captured the Southern summer heat with its god-awful humidity so perfectly that I could totally feel it while reading about it. Even better, by the last sections of the book, McDowell has perfectly combined those rising temperatures with the increasingly-growing horror, producing a kind of claustrophobic atmosphere that remains with the reader nearly up until the last moment of the story.
I loved this novel. If you're considering reading it, do not look at any reviews where they give away the whole shebang -- if I had known what was going to happen I wouldn't have enjoyed this book nearly as much. And speaking of that, read this book very carefully if you are at all interested in trying to figure out the main mystery surrounding Beldame and the third house -- it's never overtly stated (which I thought was a good thing), but I think you'll find that there are answers there to dig out. The one thing I didn't like about this book was that the pacing seemed kind of off at the very end -- much more rushed than I think it should have been given the tone of the rest of the novel. But what the heck. It's one of the best supernatural horror stories I've read in a very long time. Maybe modern readers of hack/slash gorefests will find it somewhat tame, but I certainly didn't. (less)
like a 3.25 - it's a good book, leaning more toward the thriller side than the books I normally read. I've written more at my online reading journal,...morelike a 3.25 - it's a good book, leaning more toward the thriller side than the books I normally read. I've written more at my online reading journal, so if you want the long version, you can click here.
In Australia, PI Cliff Hardy, whose work has slowed down a bit, is hired by the owner of a speakers' agency to make sure nothing happens to his client Rory O'Hara, a whistle blower whose work has left him with a lot of enemies. O'Hara is going on a speaking tour, ready to spill even more. It sounds like an easy job, but things start to go wrong almost right away when a woman on the tour is found dead, putting Cliff out of a job. But wait. Her brother offers him a lot of money to find out who killed her and why. Starting with the group of people on the tour, Cliff soon begins to discover that there's much more here than meets the eye - ultimately putting himself and a woman he's fallen for into a great deal of danger. As he moves across the country, he also realizes that someone is pulling a lot of strings -- but exactly who and why is what he has to find out.
Even though the plot is a bit twisty, Silent Kill is not a difficult book to read due to the author's very simple writing style. The story takes a convoluted path but is easy to follow, plausible, and it becomes a hybrid mystery/thriller that kept me turning pages. Although the murderer is identified before the end of part one, and that piece of the mystery is over, there's still Hardy's "simple problem" to solve: who was so worried about what O'Hara might do with his recent information that they set a killer in his midst? Here things sort of move into thriller zone, not my usual fare, but for those who enjoy them, there's plenty of high-powered action, conspiracies to sink your teeth into, and a solution that resonates with the times. All you have to do is pick up a newspaper to confirm what I'm saying.
Overall, it's always fun discovering a "new" author -- although Corris has been around a long time, he's a new blip on my international crime author radar that needs tracking. I think I'd recommend Silent Kill to people who are intrigued with thrillers that lean toward the action-packed, political side - not my usual forte but I did enjoy the way the author writes and above all, I enjoyed meeting Cliff Hardy. (less)
There are very few novels that have ever a) made me squirm while reading them and b) made me feel like I really ought to go and wash my...more3.75 rounded up
There are very few novels that have ever a) made me squirm while reading them and b) made me feel like I really ought to go and wash my hands each time I set the book down, but this one succeeded in doing both. At the same time, the novel is compelling enough so that I couldn't not pick it up again -- the characters are so repulsive that I just had to keep reading.
If you want plot outline, etc., you can click here to go directly to this entry in my reading journal blog; otherwise, read on for what I think about this book.
Summer House With Swimming Pool leaves the reader to examine the motivations of each and every character in this novel, especially those belonging to Schlosser, who as narrator is the only source for what actually happened. The reader knows from the outset that there's something not quite right with him; as he goes about dispensing his own observations on his world, he interjects the teachings of one of his old university profs whose own bizarre beliefs got him tossed out of the academic world. Parenthood, especially the raising of daughters is a huge theme -- here these young girls are thrust into a space of irresponsible adult behavior that creates an obviously sexually-charged environment. How do parents protect their daughters in this situation? The question of violence and what might set it off in otherwise outwardly "normal" seeming people is also examined. And as noted above, the adults in this novel are pretty repellent -- and one would think that the good doctor would learn something from his experiences, but well, I leave it to the reader to decide whether or not this is the case.
There's always more going on underneath the surface in this novel, and despite its repulsive characters and very difficult material (especially as the parent of a young daughter), I couldn't help but remain mesmerized throughout. It's twisted, disturbing, and definitely not for the squeamish -- and despite all of the uncomfortable squirming in my chair while reading it, it's even sometimes darkly funny. However, it was always compelling me forward. My only criticisms of this novel are a) the ending sort of faltered -- for one thing, the main character just sort of ran out of steam in comparison to the rest of the novel, and for another, considering the tone of the rest of the novel, it just didn't pack as big of a punch as I would have expected; b) the action sort of sags in the middle before it picks up again. Bottom line though: I liked it and would easily recommend it. I probably should have started with Mr. Koch's The Dinner; I'll be pulling that book out here very shortly. And I'll also say that should another one of this author's books be translated and published here, I'll be one of the first people to buy it. (less)
Well, let's put it this way. I found five stories I really liked (out of 21), two I gave an honorable mention to and well, that's about it. To say I w...more Well, let's put it this way. I found five stories I really liked (out of 21), two I gave an honorable mention to and well, that's about it. To say I was disappointed is a bit of an understatement, but on the plus side, the five I really liked I thought were very well done. If you're at all interested, I've written something up about this book at my online reading journal, where I've called it a "big meh." (less)
for a longer look at this novel, feel free to click on over to my online reading journal; otherwise, this is the short version.
The Farm is a multilayered story within a story within a story that is slowly peeled back like the proverbial onion until you reach its core. The opening sequence is a total grabber. The narrator, Daniel, receives a call from his dad Chris telling him that his mom Tilde is sick, that she's been "imagining things -- terrible, terrible things," and that she's been sick all summer. Now she seems to be "suffering from a psychotic episode," and is now voluntarily committed. As Daniel gets ready to make the trip from London to Sweden, his father calls him again to tell him that there's a problem -- Tilde, it seems, is not there; she's evidently convinced the doctors to let her go and now Chris has no clue where she may be. He does inform his son that he is among the people Tilde's been making accusations against, and that "none of what she claims is real." While Chris rings off to check their joint bank account, Daniel gets a call from his mother saying that she'll be landing in London in just two hours and that
"Everything that man has told you is a lie. I'm not mad. I don't need a doctor. I need the police."
From there, Tilde and Daniel sit for hours and hours while she goes through a satchel filled with what she calls evidence of her husband's involvement in a horrible criminal conspiracy. The story she tells reveals much to Daniel about herself and her husband, and by the time the story reaches its conclusion, Daniel comes to realize a lot about himself as well.
The Farm is a twisty novel, one that really plays heavily on reader expectations. The reader, up to a point, takes the same position as Daniel here, that of both judge and jury, having to decide whether or not Tilde's version of things is true and his dad is guilty of terrible crimes, or whether she really does need to be back in a hospital receiving treatment. In the meantime he begins to realize that there are a number of things about his parents he never knew, leading to the idea that maybe we don't know people as well as we think we do.
This is another one of those books where I had to take time to let things come together in my head, but I have to say, I ended up liking it. While there are some spots where the pace seems sort of sluggish, each time Tilde took something out of her satchel things started to heat up again and I was drawn back in and ready for whatever might happen next. The ending comes fast, sort of out of proportion to the big buildup that proceeded it, but it is a bit of a shocker. It also hit home the idea that as much as you may want to ignore the past, sometimes it might be better to confront it. I also felt that since Daniel has such a weight on his shoulders here, he might have shown as much energy throughout the story as he did toward the end, but in the long run, The Farm is a really good summer read that will leave you thinking about those closest to you and the secrets they carry. It's also a heck of a ride.(less)
3.25 stars. Let's put it this way...not one of my favorite King novels.
This is the short review; the longer one is at the crime page of my reading j...more3.25 stars. Let's put it this way...not one of my favorite King novels.
This is the short review; the longer one is at the crime page of my reading journal.
Detective William (Bill) Hodges has recently retired, and sits watching mindless television day after day, often with a gun in his lap and thoughts of suicide not too far off. When he left the force, he left behind a few unsolved cases he'd been working on, but the one that haunts him most is that of the Mercedes Killer, so named because he drove a big Mercedes into a gigantic crowd of people waiting in line behind ropes for the opening of a job fair (promising 1,000 jobs) on a foggy morning, killing several including a baby. But Bill's ennui is about to be lifted -- he receives a letter from someone who says he's responsible, telling Bill that since he is such a big failure, he should just kill himself. The letter writer, who just a few pages later we're told is Brady Hartsfield (aka the "Mr. Mercedes" of the title), tells Bill that he can communicate with him via a very private chat/social site called Under Debbie's Blue Umbrella, where the "perk," as he calls himself, has already set up Hodges with a user name. Bill knows that he should probably turn the letter in to his old partner Pete, but he's intrigued -- and he wants to nail this guy. Rather than inspiring Bill to eat his gun, the letter gets his blood flowing again, and he decides to take this bad guy on -- but on Bill's terms.
Mr. Mercedes is a good enough read for a lazy couple of days in that laying-on-the-beach kind of book-that-you-can-read quickly sort of way. It's definitely a crime thriller with no supernatural elements involved, the perfect escape novel when you want something sort of mindless to read while you're relaxing in the summer sun. I'm afraid I didn't enjoy it as much as others seem to have, but that's okay. I'm sure that even without my vote it will become a huge bestseller. (less)
Before I say anything else, let me just note that there is a translation issue going on in this novel, but if you can get past that, the book is amazi...moreBefore I say anything else, let me just note that there is a translation issue going on in this novel, but if you can get past that, the book is amazing.
I've written a longer post at the crime page of my online reading journal. If you like chatty, more detailed reviews, click on through; if you're happy with the barebones, read on. [In this case, I'd go with the blog, but suit yourself].
Morituri may be among the most atmospheric of novels I've ever read. Set in 1990s Algiers, the reader becomes immersed right away into the dangers that exist on the streets. For the main character in this book, Police Superintendent Llob, even the most simple act of getting to work just might be his last. He has become a "privileged target" in a city where the cops have to "disguise" their routines as a security precaution. Firemen recovering corpses are blown up because bodies are often booby trapped. The city is under a zealously-enforced curfew, random bombings are nothing new, and people in high places are bought and paid for. Islamic fundamentalism is rearing its head in the city and throughout the country, and the civil war is in full swing.
Llob is tasked with taking on the thankless and, as it turns out, very dangerous task of finding the daughter of the highly influential Ghoul Malek. But it's what he doesn't know that should worry him -- here, nothing is at all what it seems to be. While this novel is definitely an action-packed crime read, there's way more to it than simply following cops around in their investigations.
Morituri is really an amazing novel, but the reading was really tough in places because of the idiomatic or other language choices used in translation that often threw me off. I eventually learned to get over the translation issue, although it still made for a choppy read. Having said that, the story turned out to be excellent, but very dark, very edgy, and the descriptions of Algeria during this time are just downright scary. It is also a novel chock full of contrasts.
I've already picked up book two in this series trilogy (Double Blank, Autumn of the Phantoms), so obviously this first book was good enough to merit the reading of the second installment. This probably isn't a book for everyone, but readers of dark and edgy crime fiction should like it, once they get past the language issues. (less)
I don't think it's fair to give a star rating to this book when I'm so torn. Maybe a 3, I don't know -- I'm not a big critical reader, more on the cas...moreI don't think it's fair to give a star rating to this book when I'm so torn. Maybe a 3, I don't know -- I'm not a big critical reader, more on the casual side, but this book has some issues.
I have a longer entry about this novel at my reading journal, where I do a plot summary as well as what's written here, so click if you want that, hang here if you don't.
To be very honest, I'm sort of torn in my reaction to this novel. There is quite a bit about this novel to like - but it also has its down side, which is why my reaction is sort of muddled here. I'll start with the positives.
I was very much taken with the family history being so prevalent throughout the story. Cordelia, for example, often turns to Brumwitt's paintings that she's so carefully studied -- Woody once told her that the "history and the future" of the family were to be found in Brumfitt's paintings; he'd "painted all of the memories of Loosewood Island, even the ones that hadn't happened yet." At one point in the story, she even references a painting during a radio call for help to describe a situation she doesn't want everyone listening to know about. This same technique is used by the author at various important points where the paintings mirror what's happening, helping to move the action along so that he doesn't have to spend a lot of time describing what's going on. I also liked how he incorporates the tourists who have at some point decided to stay on the island who have set up a community of artists, and the "Brumfitt walks" that people can take. Another positive aspect of this novel is the closeness of this community of long-time island regulars who now find themselves being invaded by contemporary issues that are encroaching upon the way things have always been on the island -- the modern meth trade for easy money that substitutes for the traditional hard-work ethic, the arrogance of the seasonal tourists who build their houses and complain about the lobster boats blighting their ocean view, lobster poaching, and outsider views on lobster fishing that pits money against sustainability. Then there are the characters in the Kings family. The sisters have their spats, which is realistic; I was most especially drawn to Woody for his ability to reign in his daughter when she got too uppity and gung-ho, and to Cordelia for sticking up for herself, for the value she places on family history and tradition, and because as scrappy as she is, she ultimately ends up not coming across as some one-sided tough-as-nails person who captains her own lobster boat.
Now for my issues: In the first part of the book, where the author introduces the family's mystical lore, the island's history, and the Kings girls during their childhood, the writing is just so good, flowing very nicely and sucking me right into the story. I remember thinking at page 84 that if the rest of the book is written like this, I knew I was going to love it. Alas - we not too much later take a turn into sheer melodrama, centering on the drug dealer who came back to the island after his father died. When some of the locals get wind that he's on the island, not fishing but dealing meth, they take care of him in their own way. Add to this a murder subplot involving a showdown at sea, and the combination of the these scenes left me surprised at how much the book's tone had changed and had become reminiscent of a western movie or modern-day vigilante flick. The change highlighted for me the overall inconsistency in the writing. And while I was really into the Kings' family relationship, and wanted them to turn out well, the ending got plain sappy. Plus, let's get real: the whole King Lear thing just didn't come across as well as it might have.
I'm really torn on this one. For the most part, I liked the people in the Kings family, I was taken with the idea of this small, closely-knit island community facing some tough issues and changes coming from the outside. I didn't even mind the more fantastical elements built in to the novel's beginning, although one later instance in particular came across as a little too far-fetched to be taken in stride as just another moment of magical realism. It's just that the unevenness of the writing got to me after a while and left me kind of shaking and scratching my head. I'd tentatively recommend it based on the positive aspects mentioned above, and I will say that even though this book may not be a favorite of mine for this year, I'm still going to pull out my other novel by this author (Touch) and give it a try.(less)
4.5 rounded up Simply amazing -- and if anyone is looking for something well out of the mainstream and very different, give this one a try.
for a longe...more4.5 rounded up Simply amazing -- and if anyone is looking for something well out of the mainstream and very different, give this one a try.
for a longer review, you can click here; otherwise, read on.
At the age of eighty, Phiroze Elchidana (Elchi) sets down his life story. The son of the head priest of a Zoroastrian fire temple, Elchi lived with his parents and his brother Vispy. Elchi flunks his graduation exams, and while supposedly studying for the retake, he takes to wandering all over the city of Bombay instead, later recalling his solo outings as "the best moments of my youth." One day, he finds himself at Doongerwaadi Hill, the estate of the Towers of Silence, where he starts spending all of his time enjoying "the sanctuary of its woods". It is a Parsi religious estate where, after certain rituals, the dead are placed for the vultures and the hot sun "in a final act of charity."
At the age of 17, while accompanying his mother to a funeral there, Phiroze happens to notice a young girl who then disappears; upon returning the next day, she finds him. As he notes, "it only took that first physical touch," and they knew they were destined to be together. The girl is Seppideh (Seppy), whom, unknown to Phiroze, is an estranged first cousin as well as the daughter of one of the khandhias, or Parsi corpse bearers, who bring the corpses to the Towers of Silence and prepare them for mourners and their ultimate fate. Her father demands that if the two continue to see each other, Phiroze must marry her, work and live out his life as a corpse bearer, a situation that will make Phiroze a pariah to his family and all outside of this small community. Despite his father's wishes, Phiroze gladly accepts the terms. The remainder of the novel focuses on his life in this very traditional and secluded community, which in time, slowly begins to undergo change, while on the outside, India is rapidly changing, moving from the end of its colonial period into independence and partition, and later, on into the modern era.
Chronicle of a Corpse Bearer is a love story, a story of a son's relationship with his father, and it reflects largely on love and loss, life and death. It also offers a look at this very insular community of khandhias. The author examines the marginalization of this group in the bigger context of society -- including how their work affects the lives of their children when they're ready to enter the wider world --, the working conditions that these people were forced to endure, and how many of the people chose this life to escape the horrific poverty that would otherwise be their fate. There's more -- I'm only scratching the surface here. I also love how the author writes, combining dark humor, honest emotion and some genuinely moving moments, all sprinkled throughout with ironic touches to create a wonderful and extremely readable story.
I wholeheartedly recommend this book. It is a beautiful and moving tale that totally captivated me. (less)
A 3.75 rounded up. I have to say that imho, this is the best of Ms. Datlow's Best Horror of the Year collections so far. Sure, there are some stories...moreA 3.75 rounded up. I have to say that imho, this is the best of Ms. Datlow's Best Horror of the Year collections so far. Sure, there are some stories that didn't work for me, but that's to be expected in an anthology. Recommended for readers of horror who prefer to be frightened cerebrally rather than by gore splattered all over the pages.
My favorite in this book: "The House on Cobb Street", by Lynda E. Rucker. Listed below is the table of contents; I've given an overview at my reading journal's weird fiction/horror page so if you want the long version, feel free to click through.
“Apports” by Stephen Bacon “Mr. Splitfoot” by Dale Bailey “The Good Husband” by Nathan Ballingrud “The Tiger” by Nina Allan “The House on Cobb Street” by Lynda E. Rucker “The Soul in the Bell Jar” by K.J. Kabza “Call Out” by Stephen Toase “That Tiny Flutter of the Heart I Used to Call Love” by Robert Shearman “Bones of Crow” by Ray Cluley “Introduction to the Body in Fairy Tales” by Jeannine Hall Gailey “The Fox” by Conrad Williams “The Tin House” by Simon Clark “Stemming the Tide” by Simon Strantzas “The Anatomist’s Mnemonic” by Priya Sharma “The Monster Makers” by Steve Rasnic Tem “The Only Ending We Have” by Kim Newman “The Dog’s Paw” by Derek Künsken “Fine in the Fire” by Lee Thomas “Majorlena” by Jane Jakeman “The Withering” by Tim Casson “Down to a Sunless Sea” by Neil Gaiman “Jaws of Saturn” by Laird Barron “Halfway Home” by Linda Nagata and “The Same Deep Waters as You” by Brian Hodge(less)
review shortly; in the meantime, this is an ARC and it needs a new home. Anyone in the US who wants it can have it ... just be the first to comment. I...morereview shortly; in the meantime, this is an ARC and it needs a new home. Anyone in the US who wants it can have it ... just be the first to comment. I'll even pay postage. (less)
Like 3.5 stars seems about right. I have a longer post about this book at my online reading journal; if you want a rundown on the short stories and a...moreLike 3.5 stars seems about right. I have a longer post about this book at my online reading journal; if you want a rundown on the short stories and a bit of controversy over one of them, go take a look.
There are eleven very weird stories by Philip M. Fisher (1891-1973) in this book. I'd never heard of him before, but now I'm going to try to find some of his other stuff.
*= I really liked this story
Introduction by Stefan Dziemianowicz "The Recent Demise of Professor Manried" (1917) "Queer" (1918) * "The Strange Case of Lemuel Jenkins" (1919) "The Ship of Silent Men" (1920) * -- One of my personal favorites in this volume, maybe the best one here. "The Master of Black" (1920) "The Man Who Put Himself Into His Work" (1920) [originally titled "Into His Work"] "Worlds Within Worlds" (1922) "Lights" (1922) "The Devil of the Western Sea" (1922) * "Fungus Isle" (1923) * "Beyond the Pole"(1924),
Beyond the Pole is basically a better-than-good, not great collection of strange tales. Some you have to use a mental machete to hack through the scientific jargon, making the stories a bit tedious in the reading, but even those are underpinned by otherwise cool storylines. It seems like the author wanted to make sure that his readers understood the science, so he added long sections of exposition to make everything clear. When authors do that sort of thing, though, it has the opposite effect on me -- I just get bored. And that's my biggest critique of this book -- the author's style. Other than that, I'm very happy to have found this guy -- I love weird, I love pulp, science fiction is okay and when you throw all of that in the mix, that's what you get in this volume.(less)