Nerdy Special List June 2014
How can it be June already? This year is flying by so fast, I can almost hear Christmas music.
But before we get there, we still have summer and summer books. Jen of Jen’s Book Thoughts has two recommendations this month:
The Red Room by Ridley Pearson (Putnam, June 17)
The third book in Pearson’s The Risk Agent international thriller series, featuring protagonists John Knox and Grace Chu, is an exciting, intense, smart adventure with a multilayered, fast-moving plot set in Istanbul, Turkey. The characters are exquisitely developed, as is the setting. Knox and Chu are contractors for Rutherford Risk, a security company. Knox is an import/export dealer by trade and Chu is a forensic accountant. Their backgrounds and cultures are almost complete opposites, so their skills and personalities complement each other as a team.
In The Red Room, the duo is brokering the sale of a priceless statue as a cover to get in the same room with the buyer. Neither Knox nor Chu has been told why they need to get close to the buyer, so they begin investigating on their own, unearthing more questions than they originally had and a whole lot of danger. Thriller fans shouldn’t miss this one!
Jen’s second June recommendation has the best title I’ve seen so far this year:
Poking a Dead Frog: Conversations with Today’s Top Comedy Writers by Mike Sacks (Penguin Books, June 24)This is a collection of interviews with today’s comedy writers, from television, books, comics, and the stand-up circuit. Mike Sacks conducts the highly-researched interviews, asking engaging questions specific to each writer. The questions are fresh and the interviewees provide insightful, honest responses.With a few exceptions, most notably George Saunders, the interviewees aren’t hysterically funny in their responses, but their candor and anecdotes make the interviews fascinating. I found myself wanting to read “just one more interview.” The individuals in the book span decades of comedy writing, from ninety-two-year-old Peg Lynch, who started in radio, to Megan Amram, a Parks and Recreation writer, who was discovered through her Twitter feed.
Poking a Dead Frog gives the reader an inside look at publications like The Onion, television shows including Saturday Night Live and Cheers, even children’s books. Readers will learn a tremendous amount about the world of humor writing, and they’ll have fun learning it!
Those Who Wish Me Dead by Michael Koryta (Little, Brown; June 3)
The opening of Koryta’s thriller is incredibly nerve-wracking, with 13-year-old Jace Wilson encountering a dead body and then witnessing the execution of another person—by two men dressed as cops. A US marshal puts Jace into a wilderness survival program, asking the instructor, Ethan Serbin, to take the boy and the other young students into the mountains, where there is no GPS or cell phone service or Internet, which would hopefully make it difficult for the killers to find Jace, who only needs to stay safe until he can testify against them.
But things go horribly wrong, and Jace and Ethan—as well as Ethan’s wife, Allison, and a fire lookout named Hannah Faber—must employ every trick they know just to stay alive.
The suspense is relentless, and at times I found myself tearing up from frustration at how the killers keep getting away with their horrific deeds, always while remaining disturbingly calm. The two men—brothers—are the most unsettling and formidable villains I’ve come across in recent reads, and I very much wished them dead. This book, however, I heartily recommend.
What are you looking forward to reading this month? (See past lists here.)