The Monster in the Box Sunday, Mar 28 2010 

Ruth Rendell’s newest Inspector Wexford mystery takes us back and forth through the likeable detective’s career.

https://i1.wp.com/images.amazon.com/images/P/1439150338.01.LZZZZZZZ.JPG

Wexford has never told anyone of his suspicions that dog-loving entrepreneur Eric Targo is a murderer. He has little evidence to support his theory, beyond his suspicions of the man, and the fact that Targo gives Wexford an unnerving stare.  There are more apparently motiveless murders whenever Targo is around, and Wexford becomes increasingly convinced they are down to Targo.

When Targo returns to the area and another murder occurs, Wexford finally confides his suspicions to his partner, Mike Burden, who dismisses him and his ideas as fantasy, in the same way Wexford has dismissed Burden’s wife of the belief a local Pakistani family is arranging a marriage for their only daughter.

How these two plot lines converge, and eventually involve Wexford’s  wife Dora, are examples of Rendell’s fine sense of story and plot. And along the way, you will find out what ‘the box’ signifies.

https://i0.wp.com/graphics8.nytimes.com/images/2007/07/16/books/16masl1-190.jpg

This is the 22nd Wexford novel, and if you’ve never read one of Rendell’s  novels, stand-alones or from the Wexford series, start right here and you will learn all you have to know about her compelling protagonist.

Along with PD James and Frances Fyfield, (whom are all friends) Rendell forms the triumvirate of English mystery writers who only get better with age.

Advertisements

Rough Country Wednesday, Mar 24 2010 

John Sandford has added to his prolific novel list with the second Virgil Flowers novel.

Author of 19 “Prey” novels featuring Bureau of Criminal Apprehension head Lucas Davenport, Sandford has added the unlikely investigator Flowers to his BCA staff.

https://i2.wp.com/www.bookswim.com/images_books/large/Rough_Country_Virgil_Flowers-60320.jpg

Virgil is good-looking, a devoted fisherman who likes to drag his boat to crime scenes, and chooses between his favorite rock group tee shirts as his uniform of the day.

In Rough Country, a fishing tournament he’s in is interrupted when the body of a young advertising executive is found floating in a nearby lake. Shot while kayaking, the victim was staying at a women-only resort on the lake.

This opens Virgil’s field of suspects wide: could the murderer be any one of several at the resort who had taken against the victim? Or someone from her business? Or someone from a woman’s band she has offered to promote?

The bodies pile up as Virgil investigates with Sandford’s usual instinct for plotting keeping you glued to the pages.

Sandford just keeps getting better and better.

Psychological Crime Novels Friday, Mar 19 2010 

If you’re a lover of crime novels (count me in) and especially those with a heavy emphasis on the psychology of the characters (ditto) you’ll find this list interesting.  Andrew Klavan, author of True Crime, Don’t Say a Word, and the recently published Empire of Lies, has compiled what he believes to be the top five most engrossing crime novels from1866 to1992.  Here are his choices, along with his {edited by me} reasoning:

1. Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky: Former student Raskolnikov conceives the idea that an “extraordinary man” should be free of socially constructed moral constraints. Working off that theory, he brutally ax-murders a pawnbroker and her sister–and discovers, to his horror, that he has violated not a mere social construct but the unfathomable Moral Law Within. His escape from the crime scene is as suspenseful as anything in Hitchcock. The scenes of his psychological duel with the canny police detective Porfiry Petrovich have been imitated endlessly yet never matched. But if Dosteovsky had written only the heart-wrenching scene in which the prostitute Sonya reads to the murderer from the Gospels, he could have retired after a life’s work well done. {I read this in high school but had forgotten its wonderful scenes. I may have to dig through it again.}

2. The Lodger by Marie Belloc Lowndes: This is a wonderful read and a forgotten genre classic. Two retired servants, The Buntings, find their respectable middle-class London life about to collapse into poverty. Then the same night a serial killer called The Avenger strike again, the mysterious Mr. Sleuth arrives to rent a room. Is it possible their new lodger and the murderous Avenger are one and the same? What’s so mesmerizing here is not just the suspect, but the way Mrs. Bunting’s desperation to hold onto her middle-class respectability compels her to become his tacit accomplice. {I’d never heard of this one but will check it out now.}

3. The Postman Always Rings Twice by James M. Cain: The gold standard for American noir, this is also a stark, incisive portrayal of human desire stripped of every spiritual gloss. Depression-era drifter Frank Chambers takes one look at diner waitress Cora and falls for her hard. The two want desperately to be together, but there’s the small matter of Cora’s husband. While most of Cain’s work were made into films, such as Double Indemnity, and often improved, this is not the case here. The story is still most powerful in its book form. The murder scene remains shocking. The sex scenes will put starch in your collar with nary a foul word. But it’s the depiction of petty weakness and selfishness as the motivation for unconscionable wrongdoing that’s uncomfortably seductive and reminiscent of our own lives. {Never read the book, just saw the two movie versions. I’ll have to read this now, though.  PS: The title comes from Cain’s own desperation of  the postman’s rings when dropping rejection letters.}

4. The Tiger in the Smoke by Margery Allingham: Sweet-natured war widow Meg Elginbrodde is about to marry a self-made millionaire when she receives photos suggesting her first husband migth still be alive. One of Allingham’s Albert Campion mysteries, her usual cast of appealing characters is overshadowed by the murderous treasure-hunter Jack Havoc.  He is the embodiment of a post-WWII atheistic materialism that Allingham understood to be nothing more than a new kind of superstition. Havoc is a remarkably original invention, the prototype of the soulless but philosophical killing machines who populate modern thriller novels and films. His final confrontation with the consequences of his worldview is deep, moving and spectacular. {This is a different twist from Allingham’s pleasant Campion series; reading it you feel the depth of her awareness.}

5. The Secret History by Donna Tartt: I love the scope and vision of this novel, its precise characterization and its beautiful prose. Richard Papen hopes to leave his working-class origins behind when he enrolls at an exclusive college in Vermont. Accepted into an elegant clique that centers on a charismatic Classics professor, the group’s immersion in ancient culture leads them to a moment of Bacchic ecstasy and murder. Erudite and compelling, the book is at once a riveting crime story and, I suspect, a meditation on the famous snowstorm scene in Thomas Mann’s “Magic Mountain;” a coming-to-terms with the cornerstone of human savagery on which even the greatest civilization stands. {My friend Melissa gave me this one birthday and it was engrossing and hard-hitting.}

Readers: Which ones have you read? Which ones will you give a try?

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society Sunday, Mar 14 2010 

Melissa told me I’d enjoy this book, and boy, did I ever!

https://i1.wp.com/media-file.net/11/cbs/images/The%20Guernsey%20Literary%20and%20Potato%20Peel%20Society_jpg.jpg

Set in the immediate Post WWII era of 1946, we are introduced through a series of letters to writer Juliet Ashton, searching for the subject for her next book.  The epistolary form works well here, as the letters fly between Juliet, her publisher and friends, and the people she comes to know and adore on the British Island of Guernsey.

The book club title was a spur-of-the-moment idea to protect the inhabitants during the Nazi occupation.  As unimaginable as the war has been to Juliet, she realizes she has not faced the challenges of a forced enemy occupation and its resultant hardships to her new friends. Their love of literature, and hers, forms the bond that will transform her life.

Juliet eventually travels to Guernsey, where she is captivated by the people and their differing stories and personalities.  This was a charming story, with quiet heroes and silent heroines. And yes, Juliet does find her next book on Guernsey.

The Blue Virgin: shameful self-promotion Friday, Mar 12 2010 

Auntie M is as excited as if she were having a new baby.  Her novel is being printed over the next few days. It feels quite good~Actually, it feels amazing!!!!

Well, it IS a baby of sorts, this process writers go through birthing a novel.  From its inception to the printer, there have been numerous rewrites, workshopping and critquing galore. Since the first draft, there’s even been a change in who done it! Then there’s the business side of a book that most authors fail to consider: working with a copyeditor and book designer on the layout, text issues, and choosing a cover; applying for an ISBN and Library of Congress number; researching (and researching and researching) copyright issues.  It goes on and on to bring a book into production.

The drive to get this in print was the support I’ve received from the members of my writing group, The Screw Iowa gals (www.screwiowa.com). You can check out our website and see how we met, how we got our name, and how the group functions.  You can try our Hooks section, where writers post excerpts of their works and get feedback. You can check out the News section, and blog about books and writing to your hearts content.

At Screw Iowa we like to say we have “the Power of Five” behind us, from editing to encouraging.  We keep each other writing, provides venues and resources for one another, are each others best and worst critics, and try to keep it all honest.

After April 1st, visit member Lauren Small’s press to order The Blue Virgin: http://www.bridlepathpress.com.  And today you can order Lauren’s book, Choke Creek. And you can go to http://www.kitsunepress.com and order another member’s book of poems, Nina Romano’s Coffeehouse Meditations.

Good reads all!

U is for Undertow Tuesday, Mar 9 2010 

Sue Grafton has another successful Kinsey Milhone mystery as she starts the race to the end of the alphabet. Only five books from the end of series, Grafton tells Writers Digest in the February issue that it hasn’t gotten any easier for her.  Grafton started the series in 1982 with A is for Alibi and has produced a new novel about every two years.

https://i2.wp.com/img.timeinc.net/time/daily/2009/0912/sue_grafton_1201.jpg

She describes the journals she writes for each of her novels, calling them “long, whiney conversations I have with myself about what I’m doing.” She says she thrown out far too many ideas that she decides would not be workable, hoping for inspiration to strike. She also tries very hard to keep the voice she calls “Ego” from taking over her work, preferring to let the voice she’s named “Shadow” to write. “Shadow knows how to write books. . .Shadow is that still, quiet voice in your soul that tells you if you’re on track or off track.”

This newest book has Kinsey’s curiosity roused when a young man presents himself in her office, claiming to have seen two men burying an abducted child when he was a youth. Although Kinsey finds out this fellow is known to stretch the truth, enough of his story checks out to involve her. And she’s off and running. . .

https://i0.wp.com/rgr-static1.tangentlabs.co.uk/images/bau/97803991/9780399155970/0/0/plain/u-is-for-undertow.jpg

The book has tons of twists and turns, enough to satisfy any Milhone fan.  Grafton says her husband is her first reader, and this is his favorite of the novels. “He loves this book.”

I found it interesting that Grafton admits that this series was born during a brutal divorce, when she imagined various ways to murder said ex!  She found a wealth of ideas to start Kinsey on her adventures.

Grafton says each book has gotten harder and harder to write.  Even as she admits one of her favorite sayings is “trust the process,”  she says she has to keep reminding herself that  writing “should be a form of play.”

As an author awaiting the release of my own first novel, I take great comfort in Grafton’s words:

I keep saying the fate of the free world does not hang in the balance. Even if I write a book that fails, nothing will happen. I’ll be mortified and embarrassed, but lives will not be lost over this.”

Amen to that!

A Bibliophile’s Dream Saturday, Mar 6 2010 

Auntie M is in the process of waiting for the bound proof of her novel to be delivered, almost shivering in anticipation the way my dog does when he sees a juicy bit of meat on its way to his mouth.

https://i1.wp.com/library.wustl.edu/units/westcampus/images/books.jpg

I’ve always been in love with my books. My library shelves were so filled to overflowing that I had a mega-clean-out a few months ago, and it literally took me days to decide which beauties I could bear to part with the for library in town or the prison library in our county, where my donations end up.

Now the Oxford University Press has published a two-volume compendium that will definitely be on my Christmas/Birthday list this year. Yes, it’s pricey at $ 275, but it’s one of those items I’d happily take for all of my gifts for both those occasions without batting an eye.

https://i0.wp.com/i.telegraph.co.uk/telegraph/multimedia/archive/01555/book-m_1555107f.jpg

The Oxford Companion to the Book promises to be the anything and everything you could want to know about books, from antiquity to the age of Kindle and Nook.  Since the earliest books were treated as sacred texts, reader and those who were read to treated books as a source of divine revelation.  The books were often kissed before and after use.

Now I’m not in favor of bringing back that tradition, but I do get a wonderful feel of satisfaction after finishing a wonderfully told story, written in clear prose with bright imagery. Although threatened recently with extinction by these new electronic devices, I believe nothing will change the heady anticipation of opening the pages of a new book. And as a writer, nothing will ever replace that feel of the blank page that becomes filled with words I’ve chosen.

A review in the Wall Street Journal by author Norman Lebrecht (The Life and Death of Classical Music), describes the enormity of this FIFTEEN-year project, written by 398 scholars from 27 countries and the results of its editors:

Unusually in an academic compendium, Father {Michael} Suarez, director of the Rare Book School at the University of Virginia, and Mr. {HR} Woudhuysen, professor of English at University College, London, set out to give as much pleasure as knowledge and to have some fun along the way. . .it is completely unnecessary but humanly warmaing to find out that “Lady Chatterly’s Lover” was originally titled “Tenderness.”

Lebrecht goes on to warm my heart even further as he discusses this set of books as being about the book as object:

It is a fount of knowledge where the Internet is but a slot machine. It refreshes where Google merely sates. We will always need books for the depth of memory, the free association of random thought. This dangerous two-tome sits on my living room shelf, an irresistible distraction.

Auntie M agrees; what say you, dear reader?


Coffeehouse Meditations Wednesday, Mar 3 2010 

https://i1.wp.com/www.kitsunebooks.com/assets/CM%20front%20cover%202_sm.jpg

Author Nina Romano is a prolific and wonderful storyteller.  She has traveled extensively and lived in Italy for twenty years.  She also happens to be a loving, sweet lady and a fantastic cook!

Nina has brought her observations from the coffee shops she visits, along with deeper poems of the heart, to her new collection Coffeehouse Meditations, now available from Kitsune Books.  Author John Dufresne (Florida Power and Light) says: “Reading Coffeehouse Meditations is a joy and an exhilaration. This is work that matters.”

Nina is a member of the Screw Iowa Writers Group, of which Auntie M is also a proud member, and I can attest to the high quality of these poems.  There is something for everyone, from her intense imagery to her exotic use of language. Nina’s poems make you think, bring you places, tell their truths, and leave you wanting more. This is Nina’s second book of poetry and she’s already working on the third.  Her first book ,Cooking Lessons (www.Rock-Press.com), where Nina’s love of food will take you on a whirlwind of Italian life, food and language. As Campbell McGrath said about Cooking Lessons: “…read this book right now, experience it all, and thank Nina Romano for creating a poetic banquet rich enough to feed a tonof hungry readers.”

https://i1.wp.com/www.kitsunebooks.com/assets/Nina%20headshot.jpg

Auntie M is going to give away a free copy of Coffeehouse Meditations to one lucky random winner between now and next Friday, so leave a comment and tell me why you want to be in the drawing!

Eco Women Monday, Mar 1 2010 

Head on over to Eco Women: Protectors of the Planet!

http://ecowomen.files.wordpress.com/2008/02/eco-women-comp.png?w=521&h=299

This group of delightful ladies has been blogging for TWO years on ways to bring eco-friendly goods and routines to your family, home and pets. There are blogs for babies, blogs about things to watch out for, blogs about stuff that’s good for you and bad for you and so much more.

For instance, today’s blog was by Enviro Girl, on how she has managed to take the harsh chemicals out of her household by substituting safer products, giving her a “Green and Clean” home.  She doesn’t hesitate to name products and tells why she likes them! The Eco Women are not employed by any of the companies they mention,nor are they compensated in any way. They are the first line of defense for you as they try products in their own homes on their own families.  It’s a great resource to check out. (http://ecowomen.net)

This is the Eco Women’s two year Blogiversary, and they are giving away prizes all this week just for reading and commenting. Check them out every day this week. All giveaways are open until 8PM EST on Friday, March 12th. Winners will be randomly selected and notified that weekend.

I’ll be blogging as Eco Lassie this Friday on new Eco Friendly toys and treats for your pets. Go ahead and check us out!

Liz Loves Books

The Wonderful World of Reading

The Life of Guppy

the care and feeding of our little fish

dru's book musings

Reading is a wonderful adventure!

JoHanna Massey

“Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known.” ― Carl Sagan

MiddleSisterReviews.com

(mid'-l sis'-tǝr) n. the reader's favorite sister

My train of thoughts on...

Smile! Don't look back in anger.

Make

Make Your House a Home

K.R. Morrison, Author

My author site--news and other stuff about books and things

Wicked Cozy Authors

Mysteries with a New England Accent

Some Days You Do ...

Writers & Writing, my own & other people's; movies, art, music & the search for a perfect flat white - the bits & pieces of a writing life.

Gaslight Crime

Author and reviewer of period crime fiction

Crimezine

#1 for Crime

Mellotone70Up

John Harvey on Books & Writing - his own & other people 's - Art, Music, Movies, & the elusive search for the perfect Flat White.

A thrilling Murder-Mystery...

...now being made into a radio drama

BOOK SHELF

"Tell me and I forget-Show me and I remember-Involve me and I learn"

Past Offences: Classic crime, thrillers and mystery book reviews

The best mystery and crime fiction (up to 1987): Book and movie reviews

forensics4fiction

Forensics demystified for the fiction writer

milliewonka

Just another WordPress.com site

Eco Women: Protectors of the Planet!

Saving the planet one day at a time.

Liz Loves Books

The Wonderful World of Reading

The Life of Guppy

the care and feeding of our little fish

dru's book musings

Reading is a wonderful adventure!

JoHanna Massey

“Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known.” ― Carl Sagan

MiddleSisterReviews.com

(mid'-l sis'-tǝr) n. the reader's favorite sister

My train of thoughts on...

Smile! Don't look back in anger.

Make

Make Your House a Home

K.R. Morrison, Author

My author site--news and other stuff about books and things

Wicked Cozy Authors

Mysteries with a New England Accent

Some Days You Do ...

Writers & Writing, my own & other people's; movies, art, music & the search for a perfect flat white - the bits & pieces of a writing life.

Gaslight Crime

Author and reviewer of period crime fiction

Crimezine

#1 for Crime

Mellotone70Up

John Harvey on Books & Writing - his own & other people 's - Art, Music, Movies, & the elusive search for the perfect Flat White.

A thrilling Murder-Mystery...

...now being made into a radio drama

BOOK SHELF

"Tell me and I forget-Show me and I remember-Involve me and I learn"

Past Offences: Classic crime, thrillers and mystery book reviews

The best mystery and crime fiction (up to 1987): Book and movie reviews

forensics4fiction

Forensics demystified for the fiction writer

milliewonka

Just another WordPress.com site