Book Chase

Lots of Good Books and Some Real Country Music

>Best of 2011, Update 3

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>Well, it looks like Blogger figured out what caused its “routine maintenance” to go so badly yesterday – things appear to be up and functioning correctly again after the crash that lasted for the better part of the last two days.  While things are working again (I’m a little gun shy about the whole Blogger experience after this and other similar incidents), I’ll update my Top Ten lists.

Of the 32 fiction titles considered, Beach Music, Love at Absolute Zero, One Thousand White Women, and The Keeper of Lost Causes appear on the YTD Fiction Top Ten list for the first time.

1. The Glass Rainbow – James Lee Burke (Dave Robicheaux series)

2. Dead Man’s Walk – Larry McMurtry (Lonesome Dove series)

3. Nemesis – Philip Roth (novel)

4. Beach Music – Pat Conroy (novel)

5. Love at Absolute Zero – Christopher Meeks (novel)

6. Autumn of the Phantoms – Yasmina Khadra (Algerian detective fiction)

7. Standing at the Crossroads – Charles Davis (British novel)

8. Robinson Crusoe – Daniel Defoe (classic British novel)

9. One Thousand White Women – Jim Fergus (Western novel)

10.The Keeper of Lost Causes – Jussi Adler-Olsen (Norwegian crime fiction)

Of the 14 nonfiction titles considered, Tiny Terror, How Literature Works, and The Long Goodbye make their first appearance on the YTD Nonfiction Top Ten list:

1. Wolf: The Lives of Jack London – James L. Haley (biography)

2. Hitch 22: A Memoir – Christopher Hitchens (memoir)

3. Tiny Terror – William Todd Schultz (psychobiography of Truman Capote)

4. Chinaberry Sidewalks – Rodney Crowell (memoir)

5. We Were Not Orphans – Sherry Matthews (memoirs from a Texas home for neglected children)

6. Lincoln’s Men – William C. Davis (Civil War history)

7. The Siege of Washington – John and Charles Lockwood (Civil War history)

8. How Literature Works – John Sutherland (Instructional Text)

9. The Long Goodbye – Meghan O’Rourke (memoir)

10. A Widow’s Story – Joyce Carol Oates (memoir)


The year is not yet half over, so it will be interesting to see how many of the books on the list are still there at the end of December. I would guess about one-third of the titles will survive – at most.

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Written by bookchase

May 13, 2011 at 5:11 pm

>The Snowman

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At least according to author Jo Nesbo, Norway has had no experience with the modern day serial killer.  But since the star of his seven-book crime fiction series, Detective Harry Hole, is a U.S. trained expert on serial killers, when one does turn up in The Snowman, the ensuing investigation is in good hands.  The Snowman is the Norwegian author’s U.S. debut, and its release in this country seems well timed to take advantage of the current huge popularity of Nordic crime fiction here.  
On the morning of the first snow of winter, a young boy awakes to find himself alone in the house.  His father is away on business, and the only sign of his mother is her favorite winter scarf – which someone has wrapped around the neck of the mysterious snowman that appeared in front of the house during the night.  Detective Harry Hole, lead investigator, has a feeling that this will be no ordinary missing person investigation.  Only weeks before, Harry received a strange letter, almost a challenge, that was signed “The Snowman.”  Now he wonders if the letter and this missing woman are connected.
As Harry and his small investigative team search for clues into the young mother’s disappearance, they uncover past cases in which the only witness seems to have been the large snowman left behind at the scene.  The oldest case goes back to 1980 but, up to now, no one has connected the cases via the icy calling card left behind by the killer in each instance.  Harry, though, is certain they are connected based on what they have in common: each victim was the mother of young children, each crime coincided with the first snow of winter, and a large snowman was present at each crime scene. 
As the bodies pile up, Harry begins to feel that it is all getting too personal, that the killer now known as The Snowman is playing with him and manipulating the investigation.  In what turns out to be a desperate race to save those closest to him, Harry is led around the country and taunted by the killer’s false clues and finger-pointing right until the moment that it all finally makes sense to him- exactly as the Snowman planned it.
The plot of The Snowman will prove to be more than a bit farfetched for some readers, but the book’s well developed characters, even to the minor ones, make up for some of the stretch required by the plot.  But Harry Hole, even as well developed a character as he is, is still predictable in the sense that he has so much in common with other popular fictional detectives from around the world.  Harry is an alcoholic detective struggling to stay sober (not entirely successfully), a loner both in his personal life and on the job, a roots music lover who makes frequent reference to the song he is listening to at the moment, a man who has perhaps let the love of his life slip through his fingers forever.  That description probably sounds familiar – but Nesbo pulls it off as well as anyone.  The Snowman is, in fact, as intricately plotted as any crime novel I have experienced in recent months.  I am, however, looking forward to the American release of earlier, and likely to be more realistic (that is, less spectacular), Harry Hole novels. 
Rated at: 3.5
(Review Copy provided by Publisher)

Written by bookchase

May 11, 2011 at 4:49 pm

Posted in Reviews

>Christopher Hitchens’s "Year of Living Dyingly"

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Christopher Hitchens has written another poignant article (for Vanity Fair magazine) in which Hitchens updates his fans and admirers on his physical and mental condition after having enduring cancer treatments for the past several months.

Now that the cancer has taken direct aim at his vocal chords, Hitchens sees “writer’s voice” much differently than before:

Deprivation of the ability to speak is more like an attack of impotence, or the amputation of part of the personality. To a great degree, in public and private, I “was” my voice. All the rituals and etiquette of conversation, from clearing the throat in preparation for the telling of an extremely long and taxing joke to (in younger days) trying to make my proposals more persuasive as I sank the tone by a strategic octave of shame, were innate and essential to me. I have never been able to sing, but I could once recite poetry and quote prose and was sometimes even asked to do so.

[…]

My chief consolation in this year of living dyingly has been the presence of friends. I can’t eat or drink for pleasure anymore, so when they offer to come it’s only for the blessed chance to talk. Some of these comrades can easily fill a hall with paying customers avid to hear them: they are talkers with whom it’s a privilege just to keep up. Now at least I can do the listening for free.

Please click over to the article at the Vanity Fair website. Christopher Hitchens has definitely not lost his writer’s voice – as you will see from the way he expresses himself in this two-page piece.  But for a man who has been such an effective debater for his entire life, one can imagine the devastating impact the imminent loss of his voice must be having on him.  Hitchens uses exactly the right words (impotence and amputation) to describe the impact of something like this on a man like him, proving how powerful his writer’s voice still is.

Written by bookchase

May 10, 2011 at 6:31 pm

Posted in Authors

>The Keeper of Lost Causes

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 The best writers of crime fiction, those whose work is translated into a dozen or so languages every time out, have a way of reminding the reader of just how much we all have in common.  These authors do not settle for writing a series of formulaic whodunits.  They, instead, develop complex, imperfect characters whose personal side-stories are often as interesting as the mystery within which they are intertwined – and they use setting as if it were another main character.   In recent years, so many Scandinavian and Icelandic crime thriller writers have found success in the U.S. that they have carved out their own little subgenre.  Now, it is time to welcome Danish writer Jussi Adler-Olsen, author of The Keeper of Lost Things, to the club.
Chief Detective Carl Morck was one of Copenhagen’s finest policemen for a long, long time.  That all changed on the day that Morck and his two partners were ambushed at the scene of a murder they had just begun to investigate.  When the shooting finally stopped, one cop was dead, one was paralyzed, and Morck blamed himself for letting it happen.  Now finally back on the job, Morck is so grumpy, cynical, and uncooperative that no one, including his direct superiors, really wants to work with him.   So, spying the opportunity to get rid of Morck by promoting him to a dead end job while, at the same time, locking in a larger departmental budget for themselves, the higher-ups jump all over it. 
Thus does newly created Department Q, a one-man, cold-case shop located deep in the department’s basement, become Carl Morck’s baby.  Only after tiring of reading magazines and working Sudoku puzzles (and learning about the extra money allocated to the department on his behalf), does Morck demand that someone be hired to make coffee and organize the departmental files.  He gets more than he bargains for in Hafez al-Assad, a political refugee from somewhere in the Middle East who seems to think that he has been hired as an investigator, not as a broom-pusher.
When, as much to humor Assad as anything else, Morck agrees that they should study a five-year-old file involving the disappearance of a prominent Danish politician, he is surprised that the case actually captures his interest.  Merete Lynggaard was a beautiful woman with unlimited political upside when she disappeared from her holiday ferryboat but, despite her high profile, no trace of her was ever found and it has been assumed that she either fell or jumped to her death.  The more Morck learns from the file, the less he is impressed by the original investigation into the woman’s disappearance.  Might she still be alive after all this time?
The Keeper of Lost Things is a definite thriller, a real race against the clock in every sense, but its particular strength is in the unusual relationship it portrays between Danish detective Carl Morck and mysterious Middle Eastern refugee Hafez al-Assad.  Morck is a burned-out cop and Assad is a man who was hired for his coffee-making and janitorial skills – but together they add up to something much greater than the sum of their parts.  They become one of the most effective, and one of the most entertaining, crime fighting teams in modern crime fiction.  This one is fun.
Rated at: 4.0
Review Copy provided by Publisher

Written by bookchase

May 9, 2011 at 6:29 pm

Posted in E-Books, Reviews

>Laura Lippman Winners Announced

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The famous Book Chase Random Number Selector has chosen our three Laura Lippman book winners:

1.  DarcyO – wins I’d Know You Anywhere
2.  Shirley – wins Life Sentences
3.  Marjorie – wins I’d Know You Anywhere


Ladies, please email me at: samhouston23atgmaildotcom with your mailing details.

I will forward the information to the publisher as soon as I have all three addresses – and you will receive your books directly from those kind folks.

Congratulations to the winners, and thanks to everyone who participated in the drawing.

Written by bookchase

May 9, 2011 at 6:09 pm

Posted in Blog News

>Last Chance to Enter Laura Lippman Giveaway Contest

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Last call for entries in my Laura Lippman book giveaway.

I’ll be announcing the three lucky winners tomorrow evening, but there is still time to throw your name into the hat.

Just go here: Laura Lippman Book Giveaway and follow the instructions.

Good luck.

Written by bookchase

May 8, 2011 at 12:50 pm

Posted in Blog News

>Happy Mother’s Day 2011

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Happy Mother’s Day, ladies.

Here’s hoping that you are enjoying a nice, restful day wherever you might be – maybe even snaring a little extra reading time.

For some reason (probably because it is so close to Easter this year), this one really sneaked up on me – I recovered my senses just in the nick of time!

Written by bookchase

May 8, 2011 at 12:42 pm

Posted in Blog News