Friday, February 11, 2011

Recommendation from Julie

The Firemaker by Peter May
Margaret Campbell, an American forensic pathologist, who has been invited to China to teach at a University, finds herself involved in a murder. She is asked to assist with the autopsy of the badly burned victim and must work with the investigator with whom she had an early, unfortunate run in upon her initial arrival in Beijing. As the investigation heats up so does the threat of danger for Campbell and the detective. This was an entertaining and exciting mystery.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Recommendations from Julie

The Shadow Woman by Åke Edwardson
Chief Inspector Erik Winter is exceptionally young for a chief inspector. He is consumed by his work leaving his personal life rather void. Here he investigates the murder of a woman and the possible abduction of her daughter. This leads him to the past to a similar crime involving the victim's mother. Edwardson is another of the successful Scandinavian mystery writers and from reading this book you will know why; very exciting.

Farthing by Jo Walton
This rather unusual book is a fantasy/mystery. It takes place after WWII when the Nazis have taken over the continent but have agreed to make peace with Britain. When an important member of the British ruling party is murdered a Jew is quickly named as the murderer by the press. This book gives an interesting view of the world with this alternate history but I am glad it’s just fantasy.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Recommendations for November

The Alcoholic by Jonathan Ames
Ames is the author of my favorite TV show—Bored to Death, so I wanted to read one of his books. This is a graphic novel depicting the drunken life of the fictional Jonathan A. He is a confused young man, wanting love, dealing with tragedy, looking for reasons to hope. He tells his story without apology. The graphics worked well with the writing. It was a worthwhile and memorable read.
Website for Jonathan Ames.

The Hilliker Curse by James Ellroy
I’ve read Ellroy’s fiction and find it boring. I’ve also read his memoir My Dark Places and absolutely loved it. Ellroy does not shy away from telling you the awful truths about himself. He comes off as a right wing, religious, sex crazed, crazy man. Yet it spite of that his writing style is out of this world! It is fast and exciting; it draws you in and won’t let you go. His are the best memoirs I’ve ever read so why is his fiction so dry? Ellroy is a very interesting man, like him and his fiction, or not.
Website for James Ellroy.

New Tricks by David Rosenfelt
This is my first Rosenfelt book. It was a cute, light-hearted doggy mystery. I prefer my mysteries a little more serious and a little tougher but this was okay as doggy mysteries go.
Website for David Rosenfelt.

Hold Me Tight & Tango Me Home by Maria Finn
When Maria Finn learns that her husband is having an affair she throws him out and finds herself left with heartache and doubts. She happens upon a group of tango dancers and decides that learning a new dance is just what she needs to help her reconnect with people socially. This chance event leads her to a new intellectual pursuit, a new confidence and a new source of joy in her life. This memoir was well-written, entertaining and enthusiastically portrayed the joys of tango.
Website for Maria Finn.

Nemesis by Philip Roth
During the 1940’s a neighborhood in Newark, NJ is hit particularly hard by the polio epidemic. Bucky Cantor, the playground director, finds himself in the center of the tragedy. This is a very interesting look at the effect of assuming responsibility for others in the face of overpowering odds. Roth is a thoughtful writer who forces you to look at the hard questions and decide for yourself if you agree with his characters actions.

London Boulevard by Ken Bruen
Mitchell is released from a three year stint in prison. He gets a job as handyman to an aging movie star who lives in a crumbling mansion with her butler. His old friends get him involved in many a shady deal and the butler conveniently helps him get out of these messes. Little does he realize the trap he has gotten into. This is Ken Bruen's version of Sunset Boulevard the great 1950 film but with a twist.
Website for Ken Bruen.

Good Morning, Midnight by Reginald Hill
Dalziel and Pascoe are a couple of my favorite British policemen. They have such different personalities and different styles of policing. Here they're head-to-head on a case that Dalziel insists was a suicide but Pascoe can only see the oddities in this "supposed" suicide. Colorful characters abound and lots of humor--especially when Dalziel rants about the "funny buggers" (MI-5).

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

All the Colors of Darkness by Peter Robinson
This is in the Alan Banks series of police procedurals. Banks and Cabbot are brought in to investigate an apparent murder/suicide. Their investigation leads them into dangerous territory--MI-6. The story keeps you guessing and I never fail to enjoy the company of Banks and Cabbot.

A Bad Day for Sorry by Sophie Littlefield
Stella Hardesty is a formerly abused wife who dispatched her husband and now helps other abused wives eliminate their problems. Stella is a tough, middle aged woman with a sense of humor who gets in over her head when she follows an abusive husband who has kidnapped his wife’s son. This takes place in the Ozarks in southern Missouri where she winds up battling the Kansas City mafia. This is the first in the series and it looks like it will be a good one.

American on Purpose by Craig Ferguson
Craig Ferguson always struck me as being a really nice guy with a great sense of humor. After reading his book he still seems like a nice guy and he still has a great sense of humor. This was an entertaining, moving and fun memoir. I'm glad I read it!

A Night of Long Knives by Rebecca Cantrell
Journalist Hannah Vogel returns to Germany in this 2nd in the series. Her son Anton is kidnapped while she is sent to marry Ernst Röhm. Instead Röhm is killed in the night of long knives so Hannah sets out to find Anton and leave Germany for safety. This series takes place in the early days of Nazi Germany and although this book didn’t have the intensity of her 1st, A Trace of Smoke, it was still exciting.

The Devil by Ken Bruen
I wonder what's going on in Ken Bruen's life. This book had very few words per page--an extremely quick read. Plus he seems to be trying his hand at the supernatural craze popular today. In this novel, Jack Taylor meets up with the Devil himself. I hope he goes back to mere mortal foes and doesn't bring in the vampires in the next book.

The Scent of Rain and Lightning by Nancy Pickard
I listened to this and don't recommend the audio--I didn't like the reader. But the story is good although it is definitely a tragedy. A man is found dead; his wife is missing and the town bad boy is blamed. He goes to prison for 23 years insisting he is innocent. When he is released the truth finally comes out. This is a story of a family, of a small town and of the consequences of keeping dark secrets.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Recommendations from Julie

Havana Lunar by Robert Arellano
The cover of this book describes it as "a Cuban noir novel." That is a fitting description. It is a crime novel but even more interesting is the picture of Cuba following the collapse of the Soviet Union. The writing is stylistic and beautiful. This was a quick and enjoyable read.

In the Company of Cheerful Ladies by Alexander McCall Smith
The No. 1 Ladies Detective series never ceases to be enjoyable--especially on audiobook! Lisette Lecat is a wonderful reader! This book failed to have any kind of mystery to solve; it was just the daily goings on of Mme Ramotswe, Mme Makutsi and Mr. J.L.B. Matakoni. Nevertheless, the characters are so endearing and they've become such good friends that even without much plot it's still fun to read! Alexander McCall Smith's website.

A Beautiful Place to Die by Malla Nunn
Malla Nunn's first book is a true winner. Detective Emmanuel Cooper is sent to a small town to investigate the murder of a beloved Afrikaner police officer. He finds that not everything is as it seems; that the lines between the blacks, whites and the English are blurred to say the least, and the police and the Security branch don't seem to be working for the same side. This is a complex and intelligent mystery.

Modesty Blaise by Peter O’Donnell
This one is just for fun. Written in 1965, Modesty Blaise began as a comics character but several novels were written about her too. Modesty is drop dead gorgeous, smart, tough and able to survive any evil adventure that comes her way. Think female James Bond. This is a really fun read!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Recommendations from Julie

Curse of the Spellmans by Lisa Lutz
Isabel is on the loose investigating her new neighbor and getting arrested numerous times; Ray runs over her best friend; Dad and Mom are taking many disappearances . . . what's going on? The Spellmans are a fun family to keep up with. The audiobook is also very good.

The Serialist by David Gordon
This book started out very funny--something I would recommend to anyone, but it turned into a dark, grisly crime novel only for the less squeamish reader. David Gordon does have a way with words though. Every once in awhile I'd come to a paragraph I would have to reread several times it was so good. I loved the talk of writing, writers and readers.

Let the Dead Lie by Malla Nunn
I loved this book. Malla Nunn is a great writer. All of the pre-apartheid stuff is fascinating--I had forgotten what South Africa was like at that time. The detective, Emmanual Cooper, is an interesting and complicated character. The people you meet in the book are all very different; different social strata, cops vs. crooks, different racial or ethnic group. I'm going to go back and read her first book now.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Recommendations from Suzanne

Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand by Helen Simonson
This is very British and very charming! Major Pettigrew seems like a stodgy relic of the British colonial empire when you are first introduced to him, but perhaps he’s not as bound to tradition as he seems. He even surprises himself.

Vanished Smile: The Mysterious Theft of the Mona Lisa
by R.A. Scotti
I recommend this nonfiction book to everyone who likes to read. When the Mona Lisa, the Louvre Museum’s most famous painting, disappears, the Paris police run around in circles, looking very much like Inspector Clouseau. They bring in Picasso and the poet Apollinaire for questioning. This is a romp, plus I learned a lot about da Vinci’s art and about the period in the which the crime took place. When the painting eventually turns up, the identity of the person who took the painting is a total surprise. This is a book about art that manages to be informative and funny at the same time.

Bad Things Happen by Harry Dolan
A man buys a shovel . . . and then the plot takes off and never loses its grip on you. This is one of the most original thrillers I’ve read. I literally did not know what was going to happen until the last page!

The Man from Beijing by Henning Mankell
What does the brutal massacre of 19 mostly elderly inhabitants of a small hamlet in Sweden have to do with Chinese laborers who built the U.S. transcontinental railroads in the 1800’s? What do these two plots have to do with greedy Chinese capitalists, political corruption, the legacy of European colonialism in Africa and the withering away of youthful idealism? Mankell masterfully weaves all of these elements together into a web of intrigue that manages to be both credible and suspenseful. Mankell has created a fascinating and highly original mashup of a thriller combined with historical fiction. These two plots, the investigation of the murders and the historical story, are layered with Mankell’s probing examination of contemporary Swedish society and its values.
Hemming Mankell's website.

Short Girls by Bich Minh Nguyen
We read Bich’s memoir Stealing Buddha’s Dinner for one of our potlucks. Short Girls is her first novel, and it’s a winner. It’s the story of two sisters finding their way in life and dealing with their Vietnamese immigrant family. The book is touching, realistically told and positive in outcome.