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Individual Reading Goals 2011 > EllieNYC 200 Books to Love!

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message 351: by Ellie (new)

Ellie (EllieArcher) | 2123 comments Mysteries of the Jesus Prayer is a beautiful little book tracing the practice of the Jesus Prayer in remote and ancient monasteries in Russia, Egypt, the Middle East, and Romania. The author, Norris Chumley, recounts in a conversational (albeit somewhat awestruck) voice his travels with a priest/friend to these places and the conversations with the priests (and sisters) with whom he meets describing their experience with the Jesus Prayer (made famous in this country by J.D. Salinger's book Franny and Zooey as Franny frantically practices the prayer in an effort to ward off her intense anxiety). Chumley's focus is on the prayer and its effects but a side benefit of the book is its depiction of fascinating places and people, history, and beautiful pictures.

Chumley is a filmmaker who undertook this trip to make a film about the Jesus Prayer and its practice in these exotic locales. Clips from the film can be found on YouTube and make a nice accompaniment to the book. I look forward to finding a copy of the film and seeing it in its entirety.

I enjoyed this book and found it an odd but pleasurable combination of inspirational and fun.

message 352: by Ellie (new)

Ellie (EllieArcher) | 2123 comments Two Wrongs Don't Make a Write is the second in the Cassandra Ellis series by Cathy Wiley. I loved the first book in the series, Dead to Writes, but found the second something of a letdown. I still love the protagonist, Cassie Ellis, a mystery writer with a quick wit, and her relationship with police detective Whitaker but I found both the plot and the relationship too predictable. However, Wiley's style remains highly readable, and I still plan on reading the next book in the series when it comes out. Hopefully, Wiley will be back in stride and the book will offer more surprises to go along with her very pleasant prose.

message 353: by Ellie (new)

Ellie (EllieArcher) | 2123 comments Speaking Christian: Why Christian Words Have Lost Their Meaning and Power - And How They Can Be Restored by Marcus J. Borg is a thoughtful and thought-provoking work. It addresses two of my biggest passions: language and faith.

As a Catholic, I found myself feeling extremely nervous at some of Borg's positions. At the same time, I resonated with what he holds up as the "essentials" of faith and the metaphorical meanings of Christian language and tenets. Many of the dilemmas I sometimes confront as a Catholic melt away when looked at through the Borg's lens. The more literally I try to take texts of faith, the more contorted I feel inside.

Borg starts from the premise that any group needs a common language to self-identify and to embody belief. Therefore, it is important that the words identified with Christian faith remain a common vocabulary to allow fruit interaction among members of the group as well as with those outside the group. However, language changes over time. The Bible, both Old and New Testaments, was created in a particular time and place (or times and places), it has a context, the words we use today were used then in often radically different ways. It is With this in mind that Borg examines a number of the "big" Christian words, such as sin, heaven, hell, redemption, salvation, and institutions such as the Eucharist.

Some of Borg's descriptions of the original meaning of words used commonly today were familiar to me, many were not. He positions two major perspectives on Christian faith: the Heaven and Hell framework and the historical-metaphorical. I was raised very much within the first and thought I lived now more in the second. However, this turns out to be only partially true. In fact, I often live in an uneasy combination of both.

Some of Borg's positions are (or seemed to me) radical to the point of shocking and I would be nervous to hear what Church hierarchy thought of him. At the same time, I found his theology to be both incredibly freeing and superbly focused: Christianity is belief in the possibility of transformation and centering our selves in God, as "decisively represented by Jesus."

This is a book that is worth reading and thinking about for anyone interested in language and faith (as well as the language of faith). I strongly recommend it. It is a work of passion of faith. It could be exhilarating or possibly enraging but it is always intelligent and alive. As I hope my faith life is.

message 354: by Ellie (new)

Ellie (EllieArcher) | 2123 comments Classmate Murders by Bob Moats features a 60 year old man living at home with his parents (divorced and helping care for his father, but still...), and exploring his love of class detectives both in books and in life. He has the opportunity to sharpen his detecting skills honed by Hammett and Chandler when high school classmates-former cheerleaders-turn up in his life only to shortly thereafter be killed.

While investigating these crimes, our hero (Jim) begins a relationship with one of the former cheerleaders, now a tv talk show host. As a woman close to the protagonists age, it's a pleasure to read people my age enjoying sex and flirting and Turner Classic Movies.

The writing is generally smooth and witty. Most of the story is told through Jim's voice but there are several somewhat jarring episodes told from the third person. These passages do not fit in easily with the rest of the book and the shift from first to third person is abrupt.

Aside from that, I greatly enjoyed the characters and the writing and look forward to reading another book in the series.

message 355: by Ellie (new)

Ellie (EllieArcher) | 2123 comments The Blood Spilt by Åsa Larsson is the second in the series of books featuring Rebecka Martinsson, a tax lawyer working in Stockholm who has been traumatized by her involvement in a murder-three murders in fact. She has not been able to recover from the trauma that took place near her childhood home. Now she has returned to Kiruna and to the scene of another crime, one involving the murder of a priest (as had the first crime). The priest was a controversial, charismatic woman about whom people were passionate, either hating or adoring.

And local policewoman Anna-Maria, a kind of alternative version of Rebecka, is on the case. The two women play a kind of contrapuntal composition against a moody nordic background of isolation, loneliness, and angst.

I loved both these characters in the first book, Sun Storm as well as the setting. Larsson's writing, at least as it comes through in translation, is evocative and atmospheric and her people vulnerable and tough almost simultaneously. I was drawn into this desolate world. The violence in both books is sporadic but horrifying and the level of pain felt by so many of the characters is high and unremitting. Larsson has grown from the one book to the next, the suspense constantly building and the pace powerfully controlled.

I can't wait to read another Larsson. She provides that wonderful opportunity to feel as though I have stepped out of my life into another world-a fascinating, somewhat terrifying (but reassuringly fictional) one that is both stunning and horrifying.

message 356: by Ellie (new)

Ellie (EllieArcher) | 2123 comments "When we lose that sense of the possible we lose it fast." This line, appearing towards the end of Joan Didion's account of her daughter Quintana's early death, Blue Nights, sums up much of the book. Didion is describing the loss of youth, of illusions, of the people she loved, even the way she wrote. Suddenly, everything in her life has become uncertain and fragile.

In some ways, this book is a sad companion to Didion's brilliant book about the death of her husband, John Gregory Dunne, and her experience of grief throughout the following year in The Year of Magical Thinking. But where that book was searingly intense, this one has a throbbing ache of loss. The pain is accompanied by endless, painful questioning of her motherhood and of her very being.

Although Didion writes that she is abandoning her prose style of distance, this book seems in many ways one of her most distant. It's as though the only way she can discuss the intensity of her lost is by examining it from afar. And the book shares its focus: it is both about her daughter (and the loss of her daughter) and the loss that comes with age, the loss of who she was "before."

The book is brief but intensely moving. It should be read by anyone who has read Didion, especially Year of Magical Thinking, by mothers (and their daughters), maybe by anyone who has lost or will lose someone they love or their own former selves.

By everyone.

message 357: by Diane (new)

Diane Ellie wrote: "Mysteries of the Jesus Prayer is a beautiful little book tracing the practice of the Jesus Prayer in remote and ancient monasteries in Russia, Egypt, the Middle East, and Romania. Th..."

This book really sounds interesting. I'm going to have to look this up. Great review.

message 358: by Ellie (new)

Ellie (EllieArcher) | 2123 comments Thanks! :)

message 359: by Ellie (new)

Ellie (EllieArcher) | 2123 comments Helen Schulman is a wonderful writer, with a powerful sense of place and ear for how people talk. Her book, Day at the Beach, is one of the best out dealing with 9/11 (albeit obliquely). And in This Beautiful Life she creates an eerie sense of deja vu in her depiction of a fragilely happy Manhattan family, privileged with success, love, money, "self-fulfillment"-all of which turns out to be a delicately put together life, shattered at any serious encounter with life, in this case, the 15-year-old son, Jake's, forwarding of a sexually explicit video from an infatuated 13 year old which goes viral humiliating the boy, the girl, and the families involved.

The girl's name is Daisy, an allusion to the Daisy Buchanan of Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby. Like the Buchanan's, the Bergamots-Jake, his parents Liz and Richard, and his 6 year old sister Coco, adopted from China-are careless of each other and themselves. And yet, they try, all of them (except little Coco)to love, to please each other. They have values. They care. And so there seems to be a question about whether or not it is possible to create a happy family in today's world. Not just this family but any family. Everyone is hyper aware-aware of their failings, their assets, aware of everyone around them, what they think, what they imagine they are thought of.

So much awareness. And with the Internet, so much of their life and thought on the edge-or over it-of being public.

And in a curious way, all this hyper awareness and glass bowl existence creates a new kind of claustrophobia, a claustrophobia which is large enough to encompass the whole world, a claustrophobia in which the entire world becomes a closet and there is no escape.

And for Schulman, the ultimate showcase of this brave new world is located in New York City, is perhaps the affluent, privileged members of New York City's private school/art/academic/banking world.

All of which made this book, as beautifully written as it is, profoundly depressing. And in the end limited its vision.

As would seem appropriate in a portrayal of claustrophobia.

I read the book in several hours-it is compulsively readable. If you come from the city, if you have met (or are) any of these people, this book may feel more painfully real than if you don't. I can't imagine how this book sounds to a non-New Yorker. The distance may make it more philosophically interesting and less painfully personal.

On the other hand, it may not ring home quite as powerfully to those of us she writes about.

message 360: by Ellie (new)

Ellie (EllieArcher) | 2123 comments Chalk One Up to Murder by Bailey M. Hines is a cozy mystery-hopefully, the first in a series. Fifth grade teacher Valerie Pickle is a lover of mystery novels and a devoted teacher: once a student of hers, a child belongs to her forever. This principle is tested when former student Miguel is arrested for murder. After some initial wavering, Valerie Pickle jumps in to investigate and, hopefully, clear her former student.

Downside: falls into the usual predictability and straining-belief situations of many cozy mysteries.

Upside: the writing is well above average, often clever, the character of Valerie is more than usually interesting, the setting (Denver, Colorado) interesting; and most of all (at least for this teacher/reader) the details and passions of a teacher are accurately portrayed and convincingly integrated into the text.

I give this work a B+/A-.

I will hope there will soon be a second installment in the adventures of Ms. Pickle. I'll be waiting to grab it.

message 361: by Ellie (new)

Ellie (EllieArcher) | 2123 comments The Wicked Big Toddlah by Kevin Hawkes is a gorgeously illustrated laugh-out-loud vision of a giant toddler called, unsurprisingly, Toddie. The text is simple but vividly evokes the images fulfilled by the illustrations. Imagine the cradle. Imagine the diapers! Imagine what the first solids might be. This book is as satisfying for an adult as for a small child who gets to feel massively clever and superior to giant Toddie (and Toddie's grown-ups).

message 362: by Ellie (new)

Ellie (EllieArcher) | 2123 comments I Feel Better with a Frog in My Throat: History's Strangest Cures by Carlyn Beccia is as beautifully illustrated as any picture book I've ever seen but the text is geared for older children (as well as adults-at least one, that is). It is divided into several sections, each about a particular illness-sore throat, fever, stomach ache, colds. Then several folk remedies (from pre-historic man to ancient Greece and Rome to Native Americans up to medieval and 19th century) are cited with the question, Did this work? Not surprisingly, leeches to drain blood did not nor did drilling a hole in the head to relieve headaches. But even more surprisingly, spider webs do stop bleeding and can help prevent infection (because of a mold that contains antibiotics) and frog slime can also be used to prevent infections.

I found this book as fascinating as any article I've read in a newspaper and more memorable than most. Good source of trivia knowledge for adults and can help open the eyes of older children to both history and the magic of the world around them. Any page could result in an interesting and informative discussion, for both child and adult.

message 363: by Ellie (new)

Ellie (EllieArcher) | 2123 comments Agatha Raisin and the Murderous Marriage by M.C. Beaton is another installment in Beaton's Agatha Raisin series. Having finally gotten her next door neighbor to marry her, Agatha gives up her home only to have her husband, Jimmy, who she thought/hoped was dead turn up the wedding. She now finds herself sans both husband and home.

This is the story of how she attempts to get them back, as well as solve a few murders along the way.

If you like Agatha & her adventures (and I do), you'll like this one (I did).

message 364: by Shay (new)

Shay | 491 comments Ellie wrote: "Agatha Raisin and the Murderous Marriage by M.C. Beaton is another installment in Beaton's Agatha Raisin series. Having finally gotten her next door neighbor to marry..."

I don't know if you're reading the series in order, but there's at least one Agatha Raisin set during Christmas. Kissing Christmas Goodbye. I'm pretty sure one of the Hamish stories is set during Christmas too- can't remember which one, though.

message 365: by Ellie (new)

Ellie (EllieArcher) | 2123 comments No, I'm not reading them in order, so I'll look for that one. Thanks.

I'll try to figure out which Hamish is the Christmas one as well.

message 366: by Shay (new)

Shay | 491 comments A Highland Christmas. I love Hamish. I've really got to buy/rent the DVD's of the TV series once day.

message 367: by Ellie (new)

Ellie (EllieArcher) | 2123 comments Jar City by Arnaldur Indriðason is a Nordic thriller and one in a series featuring a cast of police officers who rotate in being the focus of a novel. This novel features Inspector Erlandur, a middle-aged man with a lifetime of disappointments and pain and residual bitterness to show for it who also has an intense passion for getting at truth no matter what the cost, as well as locating the lost (in the many forms in which they come). He is long-divorced with two adult children, one of whom appears in this book: a drug using daughter who periodically comes to her father both angrily and desperately pleading for his help. (There is also a son but we don't meet him in this book) Erlendur is a classic version of a certain kind of jaded, introverted detective but that doesn't in any way diminish his appeal.

The story takes place in Reykjavik-another aspect of the book that pulled me in. The setting is relatively unfamiliar to me and presented vividly and interestingly. An old man is found murdered in his apartment. With the body is an odd note and a photograph of a grave. Erlendur learns that years ago the man had been accused-but (in large part due to police corruption) not convicted of-rape and the grave belongs to a little girl. So Erlendur now has two cases on his hands, the solution of each dependent on the solution of others. Most interestingly is how the secrets people hold, hold the solution to the crimes as well.

It is a fascinating book on many level-I would like to actually have given it a 4.5 because of what I found to be some confusion in the exposition and resolution-but well worth the read. I've gone on to read others in the series and fully intend to read them all!

message 368: by Ellie (new)

Ellie (EllieArcher) | 2123 comments Baroque and Desperate is the fifth entry in Tamar Myers Den of Antiquity cozy mystery series. I jumped into the middle of the series (it's what my library had to offer *apologetically*) but it was a seductive read. Most of the first half I spent in irritation and unwilling laughter at the relentless punning and the endless variations of "one egg short of a dozen." But by the end, somehow I'd been beaten (with humor, of course) into submission and I remembered I was also reading a mystery. Which, because of my combination fuming and chortling I didn't pay too much attention to, so I was pleasingly surprised by the solution.

In Baroque and Desperate (and yes, the title is every indication of what the reader is in store for), Abigail returns from a trip to discover her store has been robbed. Down to every last fixture. So, in an effort to recuperate, she takes her cat and goes off with a handsome man to his grandmother's estate to participate in a mystery weekend. Of course, the mystery is supposedly about find an antique but, to no surprise, turns into a murder mystery.

I enjoyed the characters although as a Yankee I could have stood less Yankee jokes and I especially liked that our hero (or heroine) is a short woman (apparently even shorter than myself) woman of not-tender-years (getting even better) who is sarcastic and cannot stop herself from character assassination and a vicious pun-addiction. So, outside the pun-habit, and the southern locale (ok, two big considerations) this work is practically an autobiography. If I couldn't stop a Southern version of Henny Youngman one-liners of the "Take this book-please" variety.

And if you don't know Henny Youngman, go find out. :)

message 369: by Ellie (new)

Ellie (EllieArcher) | 2123 comments Ralph Fletcher, author of Flying Solo is an author I greatly admire, in all the genres in which he writes: non-fiction (A Writer's Notebook: Unlocking the Writer within You, How Writers Work: Finding a Process That Works for You, Live Writing); poetry (Relatively Speaking, A Writing Kind Of Day: Poems for Young Poets) and fiction (Spider Boy and, of course, Flying Solo).

Reading Flying Solo was a very satisfying experience-Fletcher manages to work in some of his favorite ideas about the hows and whys of writing (smoothly done within the context of a classroom story) and his faith in the resilience and creativity and innate goodness of children. My major objection to the work, which did not interfere with my enjoyment of it, was that everything flowed a little too easily and wrapped up a little too smoothly. But sometimes I think we could use a little more of that in our hyper "realistic" world - where "realism" is usually a synonym for tragic, sordid, or sad. And while it's true that life doesn't always end happily, I'd like to think that at least for children, at least for many of us, some days end happily, some of the stories within life end happily and that we can learn from happpiness as well as sorrow.

Of course, Flying Solo has both. The premise of the story is that a teacher is absent and through a series of errors, no substitute is given to his sixth grade class. The class decides to run themselves and for the most part does so, following the teacher's routines and lesson plans (as a teacher, I found this a very satisfying fantasy). Trouble comes when Rachel, a girl who has not spoken in 6 months (since the sudden death of classmate Tommy Feathers) writes a note accusing another student of bullying the Tommy resulting in a fight... but I won't give anything away here.

The children are vividly drawn and Fletcher makes a convincing (for me at least but I'll admit I'm already a convert!) case for healing power of writing and the fact that voices can be expressed and heard in many ways.

An excellent book for middle schoolers. And not bad for adults.

message 370: by Ellie (new)

Ellie (EllieArcher) | 2123 comments 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami is wonderful, familiar Murakami-land... taken to new levels. The story, the characters, the themes, everything both separately and taken together is incredibly satisfying. There are cults, children, and a permeable boundary between "reality" and the supernatural. There is everything Murakami fans expect and want from their Murakami-plus. The love story is touching, the characters more than usually well-drawn, and the plot/s interesting. It drags a bit occasionally in the mid-points but on the whole, considering how huge the book is, it reads quickly.

I'm not impartial, though: I love Murakami generally and this one in particular.

message 371: by Ellie (new)

Ellie (EllieArcher) | 2123 comments Just My Type: A Book about Fonts by Simon Garfieldis a beautifully crafted book, interesting and (naturally) easy on the eyes. Something definitely to own, read, and treasure. Lots of cool information but above all an artistic delight.

message 372: by Ellie (new)

Ellie (EllieArcher) | 2123 comments Diego by Jeanette Winter is a beautifully illustrated children's book which I've been using with my class as part of a visit to MOMA to see the Diego Rivera exhibit. Although the book is short, I've spent a week with it (part of curriculum)so I feel a relationship with it!

message 373: by Ellie (new)

Ellie (EllieArcher) | 2123 comments If I could remember everything I read in this little book, I would be well on my way to being enlightened. But I forget so quickly. I suppose that's why we speak of spiritual "practice"-it's like exercise. I never "get" it, it's never "finished." And that's a good thing.
It's Easier Than You Think: The Buddhist Way to Happiness by Sylvia Boorstein is a clear, brief guide to Buddhist practice. Boorstein's presence emanates from every page: warm, passionate, compassionate. Funny. Loving. And above all, human. Not perfect & astonishingly ok with that. (Of course, the ways in which she and I are "not perfect" don't bear comparing-but then, comparison is a useless activity anyway). The book consists of short chapters, sometimes less than a page, rarely more than two that explain or-more often-illustrate a Buddhist concept. Mostly (which I love) through personal experiences, anecdotes. It's like listening to a gentle voice help you along a dark road.
Along with the stories are wonderful nuggets, phrases, that vividly capture a concept or experience. I love the idea that we are "verbs not nouns;" "stories that are telling themselves." I love her talk of "magic keys"- she writes that treasuring the moment of a happy memory because it is the key to love and "when I love, I'm happy."
It reminds me of one of my favorite statements in the Catholic Mass where we pray to be free of sin "which makes us all unhappy." Not a judgment but an opportunity to be free and happy.
And it is the ultimate experience of this book to hear, in a very undramatic, practical voice, that it is easier to love everyone then remember a few and that "ardent loving wishes for others erases personal fear."

Now I think I'll go read the book again. I'm already missing Boorstein's voice!

message 374: by Shay (new)

Shay | 491 comments Ellie, have you read The Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver. Not, of course, appropriate for kids. But it features Diego and Frieda and Trotsky, among others. I really liked the book. I don't think it was one of Kingsolver's best, but it was still 4 stars to me.

message 375: by Ellie (new)

Ellie (EllieArcher) | 2123 comments I've heard of the book but didn't realize it's subject matter-a personal favorite for me so I will definitely read it. Thanks much.

message 376: by Ellie (new)

Ellie (EllieArcher) | 2123 comments odd, jarring sound of referring to "the widow" in the 3rd person

painful, awkward memoir; sometimes so powerful, sometimes so annoying. Like life itself-and death. And grief.

I will write a review-some day. It is a difficult book to integrate into oneself & evokes such jagged and conflicting reactions that I'm not sure when I'll be able to calmly "evaluate" it.

Sorry I read it? Grateful I did.

message 377: by Ellie (new)

Ellie (EllieArcher) | 2123 comments Be Different: Adventures of a Free-Range Aspergian by John Elder Robison is a treasure-for people on the autism spectrum, their friends, families, teachers, and, maybe, for everyone interested in the different ways people are wired in this world and how that feels from the inside. It is also, I suspect, a useful self-help book, a sharing from one person on the spectrum to others who might want to figure out how better to live in a neurotypical world with some degree of comfort and happiness.

Relationship advice: being the chosen not the chooser-There are millions of people in the world, & if I present myself properly, plenty of them will choose to connect with me.

Amazement at the different clothes makes-discovered late but embraced.

Studying others: watch first, to fit in.

Lots of helpful tips: use "over-focusing" aspergerian strategy to cope with sensitivity issues; find a safe place to relax in; find, enjoy, & develop personal strengths while at the same time always being open to learning & changing: life can get better.

message 378: by Shay (new)

Shay | 491 comments Ellie wrote: "Be Different: Adventures of a Free-Range Aspergian by John Elder Robison is a treasure-for people on the autism spectrum, their friends, families, teachers, and, mayb..."

I noticed that we both like books about "different" kinds of people. Have you read A Mango-Shaped Space by Wendy Mass? The main character has synesthesia- which, evidently, is the different senses get mixed up. So, they "see" sounds, for example.

message 379: by Ellie (new)

Ellie (EllieArcher) | 2123 comments The Boy in the Suitcase is the first in a new "Nordic Noir" thriller/mystery series by Lene Kaaberbøl. The setting is Denmark. One of the reasons I love these "Nordic Noir" books is that they smash many of the stereotypes I didn't even realize I held about the ideal state of the Scandinavian countries and their welcoming position to all people-citizens and otherwise.

Wherever do I pick up these ideas?

Nina Borg is a nurse who works with the displaced, Denmark's unwanted immigrants and poor. Her need to go off and save the world has alienated her husband Morton and her marriage is in serious danger. She is now attempting to keep her "do gooder" compulsions close to home, no longer flying off to exotic countries but staying close to her husband and children.

There is a feeling that Nina not only needs to save the world but perhaps escape the sometimes overwhelming commitments of being a wife and mother and it is hard not to sympathize with her husband's anger and feelings of abandonment.

But what can Nina do when an old friend is viciously murdered and her last plea is to Nina who opens up a suitcase only to discover (as the title says) a boy-a 3 year old baby who has been abducted from his mother in Vilnius.

Kaaberbol orchestrates the different and ultimately converging story arcs well and the book is an intense tour of the dark side of Denmark.

message 380: by Ellie (new)

Ellie (EllieArcher) | 2123 comments Shay wrote: "Ellie wrote: "Be Different: Adventures of a Free-Range Aspergian by John Elder Robison is a treasure-for people on the autism spectrum, their friends, families, teach..."

I've noticed too! I've heard about Mango & intend to read it. I'm fascinated by synesthesia. There's another book about a man who sees music-if I remember the name, I'll post it (or if you've read the book, let me know the name)

message 381: by Ellie (new)

Ellie (EllieArcher) | 2123 comments The Black Path by Åsa Larsson is the third in her series of mysteries featuring Rebecka Martinsson and is a wonderful story. All the characters were vividly drawn and all the story arcs interesting. I never wanted it to be over, a feeling I rarely have as I rush from one book to another. And it did what few books ever do: it made me cry. And I still loved it.

The book begins with what seems to be the certain death of a man on the ice but rapidly changes course when he discovers the body of a woman. Inna Wattrang is part of a trio of entrepreneurs, along with her brother Diddi and led by rags-to-riches success story Mauri Kallis. The 3 are enormously successful, particularly in high risk mining in war-torn countries (their current endeavor is in Uganda) and they work just barely on the right side of the law. Rebecka Martinsson is now working in Kiruna, having left her tax law practice after her last "adventure" (in The Blood Spilt resulted in a severe emotional breakdown. She is assisting police officer Anna Maria Mella (who continues to be one of my favorite detectives: wife, mother, very human) in her investigation.

The book is well-plotted and paced with a range of interesting characters. It also examines Sweden's welfare state, capitalism, and art. Through the plot and characters, Larsson share some interesting insights and views on these complex issues. The book has made me want to learn more about Swedish culture (I've already started trying to master a reading knowledge of the language so I can read some of these mysteries in the original).

But mostly I guess I would just say the book is wonderful. Enthralling. I loved it-I'm only sorry I can't read it again for the first time.

Recommended for everyone.

message 382: by Ellie (new)

Ellie (EllieArcher) | 2123 comments The Vault (in my translation, Box 21) by Anders Roslund is the second in a series following the gritty cases of hard-core police detectives Gresn & Sundkvist. There is passion but no sentimentality in this police procedural about a young girl kidnapped from Vilnius and forced into prostitution who seeks vengeance and the vengeance Detective Grens seeks on the man who destroyed the life of fellow detective (and love of his life) Anni, 20 years earlier.

The story is often sordid, filled with junkies, contrasting with the apparently happy middle class lives of families that in fact often cover their own sordid secrets. The book is a can't-put-down page-turner that is both painful and exciting.

message 383: by Ellie (new)

Ellie (EllieArcher) | 2123 comments I loved Mind's Eye by Håkan Nesser, the first in the Swedish crime series featuring Inspector Van Veeteren, the grumpy, cynical, aging detective who has a stinging sense of humor. In fact, although I'm an incorrigible multi-book reader, I found myself unable to read anything else until I finished this book (a rare event that I always hope for). The character of Van Veeteren is the primary attraction but the other characters are all seamlessly drawn and the plot is well-paced and absorbing. I can't wait to read the next in the series.

My favorite line that comes close to capturing the feel of the entire novel: "A crime against the determinant," said Van Veeteren, looking just for a second as if he might smile. "If we don't have a religion, the least we can do is to try to live as if we were a book or a film. There are the only hints you are going to get."

message 384: by Ellie (new)

Ellie (EllieArcher) | 2123 comments I have been reading-and rereading-The Relatives Came repeatedly over the past week. Cynthia Rylant's prose is like simple poetry both lyrical and humorous. It has been a pleasant release from the stress of the holidays. I've read a number of other similar books as well by other authors this week but this was the one that "worked" for me.

message 385: by Ellie (new)

Ellie (EllieArcher) | 2123 comments Mr. Fox by Helen Oyeyemi - the opening at least is very confusing but at the same time hilarious with lots of lovely prose. As I settled into it and recognized the flights of fantasy, I was less confused but still delighted by the fairy tale aspect and the general story-telling.

A favorite quote (there are too many to share a complete list!): "All around them people were speaking a language Brown didn't understand; it was like silence with sharp edges in it."

So many beautiful sentences, beautiful phrases. Lovely stories, bits and pieces of magic. And the power and games of relationships, "power...the knowing and the telling."

The complexity of the relationships: not just between the characters but amongst the stories, the characters and the characters they themselves create. Once settled into the author's world, it is both like being told bedtime stories and challenged to examine the nature of the world, people, imagination, and art itself.

message 386: by Ellie (new)

Ellie (EllieArcher) | 2123 comments The Retribution by Val McDermid is the seventh in a series featuring detective Carol Jordan and profiler Tony Hill. In the interest of full disclosure, I won this in a first-reads GR giveaway. However, my review reflects my experience of the book and is not (I don't believe) influenced by this in any way).

I have not read the rest of the series which may in some ways be a disadvantage but which I found believe increased my reading pleasure-I found the references to other stories and back stories increased my interest in the current story, adding to the general ambiance and mystery. The book is extremely well-written and generally well-paced (although it dragged a little during the last quarter or so) and the characters interesting, especially since it was my first encounter with them. Much of the story and characterizations are familiar with fans of serial killer/profile television shows (such as Criminal Minds) and so my unfamiliarity with the setting and people involved brought a freshness which I don't know whether followers of the series feel.

I enjoyed the book greatly and found it sufficiently interesting to want to read others in the series. Tony Hill was of particular interest to me. He seems somewhat autistic or Aspergery and I wanted to know more about his relationship with his mother. This is a major reason I want to read more of the series.

I would recommend this book to fans of solid, well-crafted, police procedurals and sociopathic killers and their pursuers.

message 387: by Ellie (last edited Dec 27, 2011 03:37PM) (new)

Ellie (EllieArcher) | 2123 comments Yay-last book read (although I'm almost finished 3 more but officially: I'm finished!

Misterioso. by Arne Dahl is the first in the Swedish A-Team series. Despite my dislike of the nomenclature (A-team, really?, I the book was interesting and suspenseful. The most interesting section of the book (by far) is the first part which sets up the actual story of the teams hunt for a serial killer of prominent Swedish businessman. We meet our hero, Peter Hjelm, who rockets to heroic statue by resolving a hostage drama then plummets to villain when it is discovered the hostage-taker is an immigrant. This leads to charges of prejudice on the part of Hjelm. While being investigated about these charges, however, Hjelm is re-established as a hero when he is hand-picked to be a part of this A team. Again, the most interesting aspect of the killer is how, after each murder, he sits and listens to Thelonius Monk's famous recording of the tune "Misterioso."

Much of the hunt itself is predictable but well-written. There is political content throughout the novel, depicting Sweden's movement from boom to bust economy. Some of the ideology is expressed by the team's most overtly political member but much is more obliquely expressed through the events of the book.

Despite it's sometimes predictable prose and plot, I enjoyed the story which is a smooth and suspenseful read. I recommend it to fans of Scandinavian mysteries and police procedurals.

Favorite quote (about work relationships, and perhaps relationships more generally): "The more they got to know each other, the harder it became to understand each other."

message 388: by Lynne (new)

Lynne | 93 comments Yay for Ellie.

message 389: by Ellie (new)

Ellie (EllieArcher) | 2123 comments Thanks Lynne!:D

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Books mentioned in this topic

Forty-Five: Poems (other topics)
The Gargoyle (other topics)
Franz Kafka (other topics)
Ending Elder Abuse: A Family Guide (other topics)
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Authors mentioned in this topic

Frieda Hughes (other topics)
Andrew Davidson (other topics)
Paul Celan (other topics)
Sheldon Cashdan (other topics)
Franz Kafka (other topics)