I’m just hot, hot, hot. My brain is frozen like when you drink something really cold and your head hurts until you think it will explode.
So the best I can do today is tell you what I added to my reading list.
Along the Watchtower by Oklahoman Constance Squires.
The Bookman by Lavie Tidhar.
Dandy Gilver & an Unsuitable Day for a Murder.
Wickedly Charming by Kristine Grayson.
the Half-Made World by Felix Gilman.
Embellishing with Felted Wool by Mary Stori
Here’s a Library (bookstore) YouTube Break, thanks to the folks at GalleyCat, this morning.
So many books, so little time….
No respite from the searing heat, so I’m staying parked inside flipping pages. Here are my latest reads…
The Snowman by Jo Nesbo
The Gist: Oslo police detective Harry Hole investigates the disappearances of several women that have occurred over a number of years. All of the cases have a few things in common: the missing women are all mothers; each disappearance occurs during Norway’s first snowfall of the winter season; and a freshly built snowman is left in the wake of each disappearance. Meanwhile, Harry mulls over an anonymous letter he received earlier about the impending return of The Snowman. Could these disappearances be the work of Norway’s first serial killer?
Status: Read cover to cover.
Summer Escapism: A (The best! In addition to an addictive mystery, you’re treated to a chilly Nordic winter. That’s one way to beat the heat.)
Strength of Writing: A (Nesbo pulls you in and doesn’t let go until you finish. He’s a master at this kind of writing.)
Stimulation of the Little Grey Cells: B. (A crime thriller that doesn’t make you think isn’t really worth much. Nesbo keeps you guessing.)
Social Relevance: C (Good novels always have something to say about the nature of human existence. Readers are treated to some interesting stats about a couple of human diseases, as well as the promiscuous behaviors of the naked ape.)
General Reaction: A corker of a good read! Nesbo is being promoted as the “next Stieg Larsson,” and it’s easy to get on board this description. Harry Hole is a likable protagonist; flawed, obsessed, and a master sleuth. He struggles with alcohol. His relationships with the beautiful Rakel and her son Oleg are achingly relevant to the main plot line. There are red herrings galore in this book, but Nesbo makes them work. And there are some gruesome scenes; but if you like your crime thrillers served up bloody, then here’s your ticket!
Watch the book trailer for The Snowman.
Check out other Nordic Crime Thrillers.
Ikigami: The Ultimate Limit, Volumes One through Four, story and art by Motoro Mase
The Gist: My friend Sadie wrote a review of Volume One on her now defunct Extremely Graphic blog. I’ll let her give you the gist: “In Ikigami: the Ultimate Limit, the government has developed a vaccine that can protect the population from every single known disease. However, to keep the citizens’ appreciation for life, a small percentage of vaccines kill the child before he or she turns 25. A day before their death, a man delivers an ikigami or death card to the victim. Fujimoto delivers these cards.” Yep, that sums it up rather well. Each volume contains two stories about a character who receives an Ikigami, and shows us what happens during their last day on Earth. An overarching storyline concerns Fujimoto’s discomfort over his job as messenger of death.
Status: I’ve read the first four volumes of this series
Strength of Writing: Volumes One and Three get a B; Volumes Two and Four get a C (Volume One is rated highly because of the originality of the idea and the explanation of how the Ikigami program works. Volume Three has the two best stories so far in the collection.)
Strength of Art: A (If you like Manga art, which I do.)
Stimulation of the Little Grey Cells: C (What would you do if you were told you had 24 hours to live? Would you do what the characters do? Yeah, there’s a bit of stimulation and neural activity.)
Social Relevance: ummm… OK, I’ll give it a C-
General Reaction: While reading about the reaction of people who receive their death notices is interesting (the stories in Volume Three really are very good), I am more interested in Fujimoto’s growing distrust of the Ikigami program. The introduction of psychoanalyst Dr. Kobo, Mr. Fujimoto’s attraction to her, and my suspicion that she may be working against the Ikigami program despite appearances, are intriguing. But this overarching plot needs to develop faster. If it never does, or if it’s ultimately disappointing, I could end up rating the series a fail. Will I keep reading? Yeah, probably.
Read Ikigami online for free!
Wonder if we’ll get to see the Ikigami movie here in the USA?
OK, folks, now it’s your turn. What are you reading this summer?
It’s 110 in the shade! You need something to cool your body and your head! The ungodly hot weather is the inspiration for this week’s Literary Site. Literary Kitty has been panting the last few times he’s brought in the weekly selection. (You know it’s really hot when a cat looks like a smiling dog. Pant, pant!) So, obviously, something refreshing was called for.
Nordic Noir Book Club is just the ticket. I just finished reading Jo Nesbo’s The Snowman (review to come later this week), and I have to tell you that one of the things I enjoyed most about the book was its cold, icy setting. Summer really is the perfect time to pick up a mystery from the Nordic countries. Brrrr! Happy reading!
Take a look at this list of First World Countries from the collaborative Nation’s Online Project. Based on this list, I‘d guess that only in Turkey and Israel does religion play as big of a role in politics as in the U.S. (OK, I’ll give you Italy, too. Probably can’t have The Vatican in your backyard without it having a big influence.)
The truth is, America is a very religious nation. The fact that we can practice the religion of our choice without government intervention, does not, of course, mean that people can not bring their religious views into their politics. There are books out the wazoo concerning the interplay of these strange bedfellows in America.
We’re going to look at some examples…
Is this one too far to the right?
The Stoning of Sally Kern: the liberal attack on Christian conservatism and why we must take a stand by Sally Kern
It may be awhile before Oklahoma has another politician who gets as much press for controversial comments as State Representative Sally Kern. In this book, Kern addresses her critics. You can read the raison d’étre for her book in her own words from this article in the conservative Tulsa Beacon.
Is this one too far to the left?
Why the Christian Right is Wrong: A Minister’s Manifesto for Taking Back Your Faith, Your Flag, Your Future by Robin Meyers
So often, when politics and religion meet in a book, one side/party is explaining why the other side/party is wrong. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that, as Jerry Seinfeld might remind us.) In this YouTube video interview, Oklahoma author Rev. Robin Meyers gives us his reason for writing this book.
Ah! Perhaps this one is just right!
American Grace: How Religion Divides and Unites Us by Robert D. Putnam and David E. Campbell
I’ll be honest with you. I would be much more apt to read Robin Meyers’ book than Sally Kern’s tome. That’s because my religious and political sympathies lie more in Rev. Meyers’ court. But, perhaps, I would be better served reading American Grace, which is being touted as a “groundbreaking examination of religion in America.” The book is based on two of the most comprehensive surveys ever conducted on religion and public life. One reviewer says it “will do to religion what the Kinsey Report did to sex: document, dissect, and assess the role religion plays in our national experience.”
In addition to assessing the role religion plays in American culture and politics, the authors address three “seismic shocks” they say have lead to polarization in our society: the plummet of religious observance in the 1960s; the resultant rise of evangelism and the Religious Right in the 1980s; and the disaffection from religion by the young in the 1990s and 2000s.
The book is full of charts, graphs, maps, and surprising findings—like how the the growth of interfaith marriages and friendships, and the exploration of different faiths (even the proclivity of Americans to change their faiths) is making it difficult to sustain interreligious hostility in our country. Perhaps, the authors surmise, this is America’s grace.
Your Library YouTube Break this week is the book trailer for the work I’m reading right now, Jo Nesbo’s The Snowman. I’m fascinated by book trailers, and I have to say this one does a good job of communicating the creepiness of this crime novel. Enjoy! (Oh, and I will have a review of the book once I’m finished.)
Good Lord, is it ever hot!! But what a great excuse to stay in the cool, or find an exceptionally generous shade tree to park yourself under, during the extreme heat. And what better friend to bring along than a book? Here’s what I’ve been reading…
The Idea of America: Reflections on the Birth of the United States by Gordon S. Wood
The Gist: Putltzer Prize Winner Brown takes a page from both the traditionalist view (An Idea drove us toward Revolution) and the early twentieth-century progressive view (Ideas don’t create revolutions; cultural, social and economic conditions do) to plot a middle ground in these essays exploring the birth and early years of the Republic. Yet, in doing so, he reveals how the “idea” and “ideals” of a self-governing country remain America’s strongest suit. Indeed, in much of the world, America is an idea to adopt, and an ideal to strive for.
Status: Read intro, conclusions and selected essays.
Summer Escapism: C (This is not a bad thing. You can’t help but reflect on our current government and economic woes while reading this book. You’re learning and thinking. You’re not really escaping. And that’s a good thing.)
Strength of Writing: A
Stimulation of the Little Grey Cells: A
Social Relevance: A+ (In the Post-Great Recession, as in so many other times of crisis in our country, Americans often turn to America’s beginnings for renewal. Would that they also were inclined to turn to our country’s historians and read more to enlighten themselves about our great land before shooting their mouths off.)
General Reaction: For Brown, the beginning and early formation of America remain the most important events in our country’s history, and he presents a convincing case for this through his essays. The intellectual and ideological values we hold dear, the creation of both a public and private sphere of rights (which our courts must traverse), and our feelings about America’s place and role in the world, have all been influenced (and continue to be) by the Idea of America. Brown’s specialty is the American Revolution, and you know you are in the company of a great mind when reading this book.
Embassytown by China Miéville
The Gist: Humanity has colonized space. Embassytown is a human settlement on the planet of the native Ariekei, sentient beings with a language unique in the known universe. The problems of communication between Ariekei and humans lead to catastrophe and, ultimately, revelation and transcendence for the Ariekei.
Status: Gobbled it up!
Summer Escapism: A (For sci-fi fans, that is.)
Strength of Writing: A
Stimulation of the Little Grey Cells: A (Interesting take on language and its impact on culture and progress. Plus, you’ll never look at lying the same way again!)
Social Relevance: B (It’s always relevant to explore differences, and the importance of finding common ground.)
General Reaction: I have to tell you, I wasn’t sure that Miéville was going to be able to pull this off. But he does, and it’s a wonder to read. The book has mystery (why are the Arikei trying to make “figures of speech” out of neighboring humans?), excellent characters (especially human protagonist Avice Benner Cho), adventure, conspiracy, war, and an intriguing and satisfying conclusion. He just bats it out of the park!
OK, it’s your turn. What have you been reading during this hellish summer?
It was so hot again this weekend that I decided to play a BBC video of the Kurt Wallander crime dramas. Kurt Wallander is the detective creation of Henning Mankell. Manell is a famous Scandinavian crime writer well before Stieg Larsson came on scene. The DVD stars Kenneth Branagh as Wallander. There are three 90 minute movies. I thought they were excellent, if perhaps not for the faint of heart. It really makes me want to read more Henning Mankell, particularly after viewing the extra bits on the DVD of his interviews with Branagh. I’m off to find the first in the series, Faceless Killers. Mankell doesn’t just write Wallander books, even though he is most notably recognized for them. Henning Mankell masterfully draws our attention to social issues through his novels. Human drama and violent acts are the same in every climate.
All of this reinforces the need to keep checking Detectives Beyond Borders to find out what the rest of the world is reading. And amazingly enough look what I just found there, a link to a Scandinavian Crime Fiction website. And blog. This should add a chill to your summer reading.
Literary Kittie has been loafing because it’s so HOT. 108 degrees, no less! After my little talk about bestseller lists getting off the mark it was surprising to find this gem for the Site of the Week. So for all my talk I love lists, love making them, love reading them, love not being able to accomplish what is on them.
Bestseller lists for these categories:
There’s bestseller lists by specialty,and there’s Indie next lists (recommendations as to what to read NEXT). All of this brought to you by the Independent Booksellers of America. You can also search the Indie store finder for the closest Independent Book Store to you.
I think Michael Dirda has a real point here. Who needs to know how many times John Grisham, Stephen King or James Patterson can make the best seller list.
No, my dislike (Michael Dirda speaking) of the list is directed entirely at the thing itself. I think it’s bad for readers, bad for publishing, and bad for culture. Above all, despite appearances, the best-seller list isn’t populist; it’s elitist. If there are a dozen slots, six are filled by the same old establishment names. For every James Patterson novel on the list, that’s one fewer novel by someone else. This is a tight little clubby world.
A version of this same conversation came up during the ALA Science Fiction panel discussion. One reason given by sci/fi authors as to why they like librarians –Librarians take a chance on new authors and suggest books not on the spin cycle of talk shows and best-seller lists. They can usually suggest what you might like to read next, based on your past reading preferences. They will suggest the new title that they’re happily passing around among colleagues as a good read. They know the best is often overlooked for the glitzy, crass and badly written.
I like the idea of an author only making the best seller list once. Let’s get some new names circulating. Let’s learn to browse the book store shelves or the library shelves and pick up something new. Your opinion is just as valid as the NYTimes Book Review, Oprah or Amazon’s recommendations. And if you can’t find something, go ahead and ask your librarian, that’s why they’re there.