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Since I’m trying to aggregate multiple loves into one blog (books, brunch, bites and booze), I have a new plan for posting reviews on my City Imbibing page.

  1. I’m first going to write my review on this main page
  2. If the experience lends itself to a book, I will make the connection
  3. I will then add a shortened review to my City Imbibing section
  4. I know this isn’t all that exciting, but it feels like a personal epiphany

My inaugural post now begins –

Shoolbred's

“Get drunk by the fire at Shoolbred’s.  We did that last winter and Fab Moretti showed up.”

— Chris Baio (Vampire Weekend Guitarist)

Shoolbreds: A neighborhood favorite (East Village – 2nd Ave btwn 12th & 13th), this bar is my go-to hangout on these cold winter evenings (afternoons, mornings…).  It boasts four coveted seats by a crackling fireplace (you have to lurk, ready to pounce as soon as the seats are available) as well as a “buy one get a token for another free one” beer and well-drink special from 4-8pm every single day.  Though not included in this special, they make a wonderful hot toddy (may beat my own personal recipe), delicious spinach and artichoke dip and lamb sliders.  Another advantage to the flocked-velvet decor is the lack of tacky illumination due to flickering TV screens – this is moving-picture-free-zone.

My beloved fireplace experiences with Shoolbred’s does lend itself well to Winter-based novels.  Two very different titles immediately come to mind:

  • SNOW ANGELS by James Thompson: I reviewed this in greater detail here, but this thrilling noir mystery set in the very cold, snow covered, 24-hours of darkness country of Finland will make you shiver and have a greater appreciation for the fireplace.
  • NERD GONE WILD: The antithesis of Thompson’s scary debut, this book is in Vicki Lewis’s humorous Nerd Series.  It’s a cozy, quirky romance set in the wildness of Alaska, with endearing character and laughable “enemies.”  This is a total guilty indulgence – get your hand out of that cookie jar and give this a try (hold the neon-colored jacket proudly).
  • THE GLASS CASTLE: Most of you have probably already read this memoir from Jeanette Walls, that became a bestseller after astounded readers all over told their friends about the author’s horrible childhood.  It’s a book that makes you appreciate what you have – and respect those who go without.  At the same time, I hated the book and found it hard not to shake it (as a way to reach the characters), since the parents were so capable and made life hell for their children, when it may not have been necessary to suffer…

I’ll leave you with these pictures our assistant took of Central Park yesterday afternoon, of the “SnOwMG” (she was brave to venture into the weather, while I was safely ensconced at, you know this, Shoolbred’s)-

Central Park 02/10/2010

Some authors hide behind their words and author photos, unrecognized by the general public and are happy with that. On the other hand, there are authors who become a celebrity in their own right (and no, I don’t mean the celebrity “memoirs” or, God-forbid, the “books” written by Lauren Conrad or Heidi & Spencer).

Some authors achieve this status through talk show appearances (James Frey, anyone?) while others build a hugely loyal reading fan base.  I think Robert Crais, bestselling crime fiction author, is the latter.

The video you see above is the second author video I’ve worked on, and working with Bob was like working with a seasoned journalist.  You can tell he’s comfortable in front of the camera and gave us so many sound bites to work with, it was hard to keep the video under three minutes!  So Oprah, if you’re reading this, I suggest you have this charismatic and well-written author on your show before you retire.

In other Crais news, his latest Joe Pike novel (you all should know who Joe Pike is, of the sexy tattoos who exudes sex appeal) went on sale yesterday!  You can find THE FIRST RULE at your favorite bookseller nationwide.  It was my first Crais novel, and I’ve since visited his backlist and never been disappointed.

There’s something unique about Crais’s two main characters, Joe Pike and Elvis Cole.  They’re smart and dangerous, but not unemotional.  Though they’re crime books about very bad people (ahem, the Serbian mob – scary), the friendships and relationships depicted go much deeper than the surface, giving these novels a depth beyond the typical title in this genre.

Bob is on tour for several weeks (details) and if you’re anywhere in the vicinity I highly suggest you stop by.  My sister is attending the event in Dayton, OH and I’m going to try to convince her to do a guest post about it.  I know Jen Forbus is driving several hours to the same event (now that is a loyal fan!).

JUST IN: I am not the only one to think of Crais as a leading man!  Check out this new post, “Hot (& Talented) Authors!” – don’t miss the People’s Sexiest Man article they link to as well!

What other authors do you think have achieved a celebrity status and following?

Me in the cold!

Brrrrrrr… I thought moving from Chicago to NYC would be a breeze, since I literally would be escaping the Windy City (yes I realize that refers to politics and not weather, but anyway you look at it Chicago has damn bitter gusts) to the land of a more mild temperate.  But last week Gothamist burst my bubble, reporting that this may be the coldest NYC winter in almost 30 years!  Totally unnecessary, and unappreciated.

I’ve brought out my woolies and curled up next to my radiator (yes, this is also my first experience with a radiator – the little things like thermostats I used to take for granted <sigh>) and have managed to survive this cold snap. While I love paradise, drinks with a straw and my hammock on the beach, sometimes I get bitter at reading about these places when my own surroundings are far different.  So as I avoid beach reading, I wait, along with many others, for the third installment in Stieg Larsson’s trilogy, THE GIRL WHO KICKED THE HORNET’S NEST… Not only has this proven to be a fantastically thrilling series, but the fictional weather tends to be more dismal than I’m experiencing – which makes me both selfish and happy.

SNOW ANGELS

Due to this new found love for Scandinavian thrillers, I was doubly triply excited for the recent U.S. debut of SNOW ANGELS by James Thompson, an author out of Finland.  Not only did this novel make my winter seem decidedly less severe (considering 24-hours of darkness, like they have in Finland, tends to put things in perspective) but I found the characters and the setting compelling… and add in the twisting and turning plot and it was overall un-put-downable!

I am unbiased.  For real.  But James is a Putnam author, so instead of giving too complete a review and have you guys think that my having spoken to him on the phone and listened to his nice Finnish accent gives me a clouded opinion, I’ll share those of others (beyond the “MASTERFUL” Michael Connelly quote on the jacket).

Jen Forbus at Jen’s Book Thoughts reviewed SNOW ANGELS and also shared a Q&A with James.  I also direct your reviewing eyes to the thoughtful reviews on Jenn’s Bookshelves and Whimpulsive.  And there are more – if you’d like to share your thoughts on SNOW ANGELS I invite you to leave a link in the comments and I will add you here!

So next time you’re staying in a cold winter night, take my advice and make a hot toddy (yummy & easy: tea *I’ve tried black, lemon, raspberry and mango- all delicious*, lemon juice, cinnamon stick or clover, honey… don’t forget the whiskey!) and escape to Finland with SNOW ANGELS – though you may have to sleep with a nightlight on.

James Thompson

Although many argue that there’s a lack of women authors acknowledged in the literary world, I’m consistently surprised, impressed and intrigued by the women protagonists kicking ass in the mystery and thriller genre, written well by authors of both genders.

From the talented hand of Sue Grafton, private investigator Kinsey Millhone has had many bestselling mysteries and is starring in Grafton’s 21st, U IS FOR UNDERTOW out 12/1/09.  There’s also V.I. Warshawski written by Sara Paretsky, the Women’s Murder Club series from James Patterson, and I’ve also discovered many strong female characters on both sides of the law in John Sandford’s titles.  I’ve found the mystery genre is especially generous with women in important roles (CERTAIN PREY, my favorite Sandford title, features a hit-woman) instead of simply being the victim.

Kay Scarpetta?

One of the most iconic and recognizable female characters is Kay Scarpetta, penned by the renowned Patricia Cornwell.  Cornwell’s latest, THE SCARPETTA FACTOR, hit the NYT bestseller at #2 (behind only Dan Brown).  For those rare readers unfamiliar with the series I urge you to give them a try (and I have found they’re not necessary to read in order); not only are they tantalizing and smart mysteries but you’ll want to be ahead of the media storm when, drumroll please, Angelina Jolie appears on the big screen as Kay Scarpetta (watch Cornwell share this information on Good Morning America).

Because I enjoy Scarpetta’s character, when shopping for a new mystery I found the following quote from James Patterson:

“Karen Vail is as compelling a character as any created by Patricia Cornwell, or yours truly…”

I bit it hook, line and sinker and proudly walked away from the register clutching THE 7th VICTIM by Alan Jacobson in my hands.

Some may say my standards were set too high by the Cornwell quote, but whatever the reason my disappointment was genuine.  Karen Vail is supposedly a profiler (comparable to Benton), so I find it either too far fetched, or just doubt her skills, that she would be completely clueless as to the background of her own immediate family.  Additionally, I understand we as readers are supposed to connect with “flawed characters” – but she was too unrelatable.

Also, I enjoy mysteries with some clues to keep the pages turning and not just assumptions, hints and lucky guessing.  This book offered very little to the reader by way of the serial killings taking place and seemed to focus much more on the personal life and happenings of Karen Vail.

Bottom Line: Scarpetta gets a blackberry in her latest, and while SCARPETTA FACTOR may not be my favorite Cornwell title, it’s worth reading.  While I suggest avoiding THE 7TH VICTIM for reading purposes, I think the book is very high quality as it’s been keeping my big heavy window open for the last three weeks with hardly a divet in the board of this repurposed hardcover.

**Mark your calendars to join me this Tuesday, November 24, as I guest blog about mysteries (and working on some of the biggest names in the genre) on Meritious Mysteries! **

It appears I need to change my gmail signature from “Visit my digital book nook, obsessed over & updated regularly: http://www.novelwhore.wordpress.com&#8221; to read more along the lines of:

“Visit my digital book nook, obsessed over regularly, but rarely updated, though every time I write I really enjoy it, so keep on visiting until it  gets more exciting.”

And, like the headline suggests, I am going to re-post my article from http://www.beneaththecover.com right now, since not only does it take  minimal effort since it’s already written, but I’m able to justify to myself that my blog is now updated!  So, for all you readers that I really do appreciate, here’s my latest column:

HANDLE WITH CARE

What are books, exactly—treasured artifacts to be displayed behind glass, or objects to be enjoyed and devoured, like a good meal?

I know that no book I actually enjoy leaves the experience unscathed. For the lucky few that I enjoy, I’ll refer back to the content often, dog-eared pages in my wake. While stories offer escape within the language, for the books I reread I get taken back to where I was the first time, whether it be via the stains of soy sauce from unsuccessfully trying to read while enjoying sushi, or the sand that spills out as remnants of a long-forgotten vacation.

Obviously, with that description in mind, you can see that the books on my shelf may never make it into a museum exhibition of classics preserved in immaculate conditions. But what are books for if not to be loved, smelled, handled, and passed around? To me, the print medium is so important—though after lugging home a complete manuscript to read this evening (even with double-sided printing, 204 sheets is heavy!), my shoulder disagrees and would prefer a Kindle copy.

I admit that so much of my fervor for print comes from its history. I didn’t stay up past my bedtime with a computer screen under my bedspread, but a flashlight, as I stealthily flipped pages. I get a special thrill from going back to my parents’ house and seeing the children’s books I wrote my name in, using my “best hand writing” in 4th grade. While it took me a while to get to this rather obvious realization, it came with the help of journalist and author Allison Hoover Bartlett.

Her upcoming book (available from Riverhead Books next month, September 2009), The Man Who Loved Books Too Much, tracks an unrepentant book thief and the “bibliodick” determined to take him down. It’s a story of passion and addiction, and has made me compulsively check all the books sold out of boxes on the streets of NYC for rare 1st editions awaiting discovery.

In this true tale about catching a wily 1st edition book thief, books are believed to be treasures, investments, or a drug, pacifying a need. While I admit it would be nice to have that 1st edition of Gone with the Wind standing proudly on my shelf (actually, it would be behind glass, it’s so rare!), I don’t need an intact dust jacket to accompany it that’s worth far beyond the cover price. The content and history between the pages is enough for me.

And the stuff within the pages may be enough for you, too. On the publishing blog GalleyCat.com, Ron Hogan thoughtfully deciphered a recent survey from the Pepsi Optimism Project citing the “optimism booster” cited by more respondents than any other—88 percent—was “books.”

As Bartlett notes towards the end of her book, “[Books] root us in something larger than ourselves, something real. For this reason, I am sure that hardbound books will survive, even long after e-books have become popular . . . I can’t help think that our connection to books is still, after all these centuries, as important as it is intangible.

So while I may want that Kindle for the sake of my poor shoulders, I don’t think I’ll give up my search for the elusive and meaningful hardcover finds, including a Margaret Mitchell 1st edition.

My booklist has taken an R-rated twist

I consume books regularly and try to be open to all genres (except Twilight and Harry Potter; I refuse based on principle), but tend to stick with titles that offer some literary content or even just a thrill.  Lately, my titles have been more suspect and less something I would proudly read while riding on public transportation (yet another reason I need an EReader!).  Strippers and womanizers have dominated a few of my recent literary ingestions.

 

Tucker Max

Tucker Max

Drunkenness & Debauchery with Tucker Max: To some, Tucker Max is a hero: One to emulate, live vicariously through and high-five. To me, he is a cringe-worthy example of all that’s wrong in society today – a mediocre looking man who somehow has managed to find innumerable women who willingly exploit themselves and become a topic of Max’s only talent – writing.  I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell is written as a memoir, filled with vignettes of stories, aka one-night stands.

For Max, sex is an activity akin to my shopping habit.  He just walks out on the street, sees something he likes and takes it home – nothing personal or even especially friendly.  I don’t even care enough to go on a tirade about this, because the strongly offensive nature is exactly why this exaggerated content is so popular.  If everyone just ignored it, Max would hopefully disappear, and suffer from some STD, alone.

  • Novelwhore’s Grade: C (Mediocre, like the author)
  • Title: I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell
  • Author: Tucker Max
  • Publisher: Citadel Press (Kensington)

candygirlOn-Stage with Juno’s Screenwriter, Naked: The blockbuster success of the Summer Movie of 2007, “Juno”, about the pregnant high-school giving her baby up for adoption, resulted in an umbrella effect of PR for the author, Diablo Cody.  Not the typical glitzy Hollywood Screenwriter, Cody had already been around the block before achieving fame and there is no doubt many people who became fans experienced her naked at multiple strip clubs in Minnesota.

Yes, Minnesota.  The cold state in which the taking off of clothes makes me shiver was the setting of Cody’s memoir Candy Girl: A Year in the Life of an Unlikely Stripper. College-educated with a normal childhood (if there is such a thing), she had a job in an advertising agency before wandering into an Amateur Stripping contest and becoming rather addicted to the thrill.  This memoir reminds me of Chelsea Handler’s Confessions of My Horizontal Life, as both women managed to maintain a conversational, self-deprecating voice while describing intimate things.  Entertaining throughout, this memoir offers a subversive thrill to a taboo subject and ends before getting overly disgusted from the vivid descriptions of what is done for cash.

  • Novelwhore’s Grade: B+
  • Title: Candy Girl: A Year in the Life of an Unlikely Stripper
  • Author: Diablo Cody
  • Publisher: Gotham (Penguin)

Expected Stripper-Tale, with Political Twists: From my experience, Carl Hiaasen takes a normal murder/suspense/power plot and adds tidbits of sex and humor to keep the reader engaged.  Striptease (an old title, found at library sale for $1) stays to this obviously successful formula and follows a young mother, driven to strip by the piling up of legal bills as she fights her ex-husband for custody of their young daughter (typical stripper sob-story, right?).

Seedy tale with the emotional mother-daughter pull, Hiaasen weaves his web of politics, blackmail and murder through the sleazy Governor of Florida, who’s in love with the stripper (like that Akon song!) and in bed with $millions$ behind the illegal farming of sugar cane.  The stripper is realistic and smart, the bouncer muscular and clever, the Congressman aging and not aware of all that’s happening for his behalf, this book is another look at the different cogs in society and what happens when they interact.  Definitely entertaining, but without the introspective angle of Candy Girl or the disgust-worth content of I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell.

  • Novelwhore’s Grade: B-
  • Title: Striptease
  • Author: Carl Hiaasen
  • Publisher: Vision

Sundays are notoriously unproductive (is this true across the board or just for my roomies and I?), typically spent lolling around in front of the Lifetime Movie Channel or, weather permitting, relaxing on the pool deck, rejuvenating from what was undoubtedly a raucous weekend.  So it makes me proud to say that yesterday, I accomplished quite the feat: one sushi meal with Char at RA, one Lifetime movie (the disturbing & sad Natalee Holloway one), three cups of tea and two books!

Quite unintentionally, both books I read dealt with ghosts/spirits/other-worldly forms of energy.  The protagonist in Joshilyn Jackson’s The Girl Who Stopped Swimming saw the ghost come to her of the young girl who drowned in the pool while Ronlyn Domingue writes a captivating tale from the ghost’s perspective in The Mercy of Thin Air.

girlwhostoppedswimmingThe Girl Who Stopped Swimming is Jackson’s third novel, following Gods in Alabama and Between, Georgia.  Having read them all, I’ve come to realize that Jackson employs a formula in each: Takes place in the South, involves a family secret, poor relatives and a young woman.  While these traits are shared, each book is individual, offering a different story and secret to be uncovered.

The secret in The Girl Who Stopped Swimming begins to unravel once Laurel finds the body of her daughter’s tween friend floating in her pool.  After enlisting her free-spirited sister, Thalia, to help, Laurel discovers more than she had anticipated about her marriage, her daughter, DeLop (the oppressed town of impoverished relatives), the murder in her past and even about herself.  An enlightening novel that makes the reader question happiness and wonder about their own ghosts, outside their line of vision.

  • NovelWhore’s Grade: B+
  • Title: The Girl Who Stopped Swimming
  • Author: Joshilyn Jackson
  • Publisher: Grand Central Publishing (Hachette)

mercyofthinairHard to believe The Mercy of Thin Air is Domingue’s first novel.  Written with such insight and conviction, even a non-believer like myself questions reality.  Told in first person by the intelligent and vivacious Raziela Nolan after her tragic death at the turning point of her life, it tells the story of love that doesn’t die with the body.

Even though Razi dies in 1929 at the age of 22, the story carries the characters up into the 21st century, as she stays “between” – invisible to mortals but remaining on Earth. Her  tale is intertwined with the love story of a couple struggling through their relationship and hidden past, whose lives intersect with the one Razi left behind.  Interesting subplots abound: Razi’s dedication to educating women on their reproductive options when this knowledge was illegal (apparently in the 1920s pregnancy was the only job women were expected to do), the growth and development of independent women, the relationships with other souls in “between” and the life of her great love.

Both The Girl Who Stopped Swimming and The Mercy of Thin Air are more than love stories, though I do feel they appeal to women readers much more than men.  I consider myself to be grounded in reality and both these books made me more open to the presence of those we can’t see.  The next time I feel a cold draft or smell a scent that seems out of place I may have to smile, wondering if possibly a spirit is sharing in my experience. Who is to say otherwise?

  • NovelWhore’s Grade: A-
  • Title: The Mercy of Thin Air
  • Author: Ronlyn Domingue
  • Publisher: Atria Books (Simon & Schuster)

I do, however, suggest you read these books at least a few days apart.  I had a hard time sleeping last night imagining the spirits hovering around my bed!

Below is an interesting article about the latest venture in the publishing world, a partnership with James Patterson (who I think is a B-list author at best, I am often surprised by how well his mediocre thrillers perform), Borders and RandomHouse.

An interesting concept given that all 29 participating “guest” authors undoubtebly have a unique writing style, I am curious as to how well the chapters will mesh.

While much more a promotional idea than a money-making venture (or so I would assume), the companies and individuals involved seem to be enjoying free publicity, so I wonder if their only goal has already been achieved…

patterson-chain-thrillerFull Article:

It was about a year ago that Pandora—the first community-sourced thriller from book collaboration site WEbook—was officially released. Pandora features the work of 17 different authors, and now a similar project from Random House and Borders Australia aims to combine the work of 29 authors in what it calls the world’s first chain novel. Best-selling crime author James Patterson will write the first and last chapters of AirBorne, a 30-chapter thriller that will be released one chapter at a time beginning next month. For those in between, Borders and Random House held a contest to find 28 writers who could each create a fast-paced and thrilling chapter in less than 750 words. The contest closed on Sunday, and now judges are in the process of selecting the winners, each of whom will receive a copy of the finished book; one lucky author will also get a one-on-one master class by phone with Patterson himself. Once completed, AirBorne will be released one chapter at a time beginning on 20 March. Readers will be able to download each chapter electronically, but the final book will be published in print only for participants in the competition, according to digitalOZ. Meanwhile, one aspiring collaborator’s entry is posted online. Though clearly being held primarily for promotional purposes, the AirBorne competition makes smart use of Generation C’s wild enthusiasm for creating content of every kind. As the saying goes, the pen is mightier than the sword—or, in this case, the mass-market ad campaign! 😉

Website: http://www.borders.com.au/chain-thriller/

Contact: http://www.borders.com.au/customer-enquiry-form.asp

Source:  Springwise, February, 18, 2009

Wow, I feel this blog is like a tattoo – once you get started it becomes addicting and you want to add more and more (while I have no tattoos myself, I’ve been told this is true…). I would like to send a big thank you to both Nick and Jaxibella, while I have no idea how each of you discovered my blog I am so excited you did!

As I sit here drinking coffee in my pajamas looking at the foggy day out my window, in awe of the www (world wide web), I think about what else I am willing to share.  What immediately comes to mind is the sketch drawing I’ve been meaning to frame and hang on my wall for inspiration from Antoine De Saint Exupery’s “The Little Prince.”

My advice to you (and I tend to give decent advice, at least when my beer goggles aren’t in place at 2am) is to get out and buy this book.  An even $10 at any book store (though I suggest supporting your local independent seller) it will change your life.  A mere 85 pages, with pictures included, this is a story that will stick with you.

A life fable wrapped up in a cute fairy tale, this story encourages you to never just accept things at first glance and to always look deeper, both at the object and within yourself. Similar to Paulo Coelho’s “The Alchemist” (we’ll look at that book another time), it encourages the reader to follow dreams and reminds each person to “never fully become a grown up” – quote courtesy of an old friend.

From the back of “The Little Prince”: “And the pilot realizes that when life’s events are too difficult to understand, there is no choice but to succumb to their mysteries.”

The Little Prince, enlightening on an abysmal Chicago day

The Little Prince, enlightening on an abysmal Chicago day

  • Title: The Little Prince
  • Author: Antoine De Saint-Exupery
  • Publisher: A Harvest Book, an imprint of Harcourt, Inc.
  • NovelWhore’s Grade: A

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