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Nerdy Special List February 2016

I’m baaack!

I’ll wait until all 3 of you are done thinking, “Wait, she went somewhere?”

This past month was challenging because Mr. PCN had surgery, but he’s well on his way to recovery so life has returned to a semblance of normalcy. Actually, normal might be stretching it, but at least I have some time now to sleep and blog.

First order of business is to post this month’s Nerdy Special List. It may be a short month but there’s no shortage of good reads. Below are the February releases my fellow bloggers and I recommend.

From Jen at Jen’s Book Thoughts:

Incarceration Nations: A Journey to Justice in Prisons Around the World by Baz Dreisinger (Other Press, February 9)

incarceration-nationsOver the course of two years, John Jay College associate professor and Prison-to-College Pipeline founder Baz Dreisinger traveled around the world visiting prison facilities. She volunteered in workshops and taught writing classes everywhere from Rwanda to Australia, in order to examine innovated programs the various countries were implementing to reduce recidivism, improve rehabilitation efforts, and aid reentry.

Dreisinger combines her experiences with research, data, and history on incarceration to present an eye-opening—and compassionate—look at a global issue. Her optimism and zeal make Incarceration Nations not only a fascinating read but the inspirational journal of “characters” one that audiences won’t want to leave.

Listen to the Lambs by Daniel Black (St. Martin’s Press, February 16)

listen-to-lambsLazarus Love III gives up his affluent upper-middle class life when he realizes his corporate job is slowly killing him. He despises the materialism and wishes to truly live. Lazarus finds the life he’s looking for as a homeless man living under an overpass, sharing his existence with a small tribe of idiosyncratic vagabonds.

But his Utopian bubble pops when his life is threatened, forcing this newfound family to band together and rise above its cultural invisibility in order to try to save Lazarus. Allegorical, symbolic, and richly layered, this novel about race, class, family, and redemption is stunningly written and powerfully delivered.

From Lauren at Malcolm Avenue Review:

Floodgate by Johnny Shaw (Thomas and Mercer, February 16)

floodgateAuction City has a violent history. In the Gang Wars of 1929 (the Flood), warring factions came close to destroying it altogether, until representatives from each group formed a vigilante force called Floodgate to quell the violence.

In 1986, former cop Andy Destra is waging a war against the corrupt department that blacklisted him. Little does he know he’s stirring up a hornet’s nest, the likes of which hasn’t been seen since 1929, and Floodgate will once again need to rise to the challenge of saving the city.

Johnny Shaw’s genius shines most brightly in his humor and family relationships. That said, this epic and mythological work is much different from Shaw’s prior offerings. Alternating between the Flood of 1929 and the ultra-violent yet madcap conflict of 1986, Floodgate is grander in scope and themes, and almost impossible to synopsize. But the cast of characters, which includes a giant, bald, Bible-wielding, soup-can-chucking black woman; a one-armed female leader of a gang (there are tons of kickass women characters); sewer-dwelling cannibals; a literate troll; and countless other intriguing ones should be teaser enough to get you to crack the cover on this one.

From Patti at Patti’s Pen & Picks:

The Language of Secrets by Ausma Zehanat Khan (Minotaur, February 2)

language of secretsThe first in this series, The Unquiet Dead, was very well written, and The Language of Secrets is as well, with a lot of excitement thrown it. Detective Esa Khattak, a Muslim who runs the Community Policing Department in Toronto, is called to work on a case that involves a possible terrorist cell (or two), a mosque, and the death of a friend. His partner, Rachel Getty, goes undercover as a potential new member of the mosque. Esa is asked to work in a very minimal way on the murder investigation, and has his hands tied at every turn. How the murder is solved and a terrorist attack prevented come at a breakneck pace, all the way to the conclusion of this smart book. Highly recommended!

From PCN:

Back Blast by Mark Greaney (Berkley, February 16)

back blastI had to interview Mark Greaney for Shelf Awareness but hadn’t heard of him, so I picked up his latest thriller, which is number five in the Gray Man series. It’s 528 pages long. “Dang,” I thought. “This is a lot to read for research.”

But from the first page, I was sucked in like dirt into a Hoover. The Gray Man—real name Court Gentry—is a former CIA black ops officer who’s had a shoot-on-sight order against him for the past 5 years. Who put it there? The Agency. Why? He has no idea.

Tired of running all over the globe to evade the kill order, Gentry returns to DC to confront his opponents/former bosses. What ensues is a fast-paced adventure that shows why the CIA should be very, very afraid of the Gray Man, not the other way around. Think Jack Reacher with James Bond’s toys and you get an idea of what Gentry can do. This is a thick book but it’s, well, a blast.

What are you looking forward to reading this month?

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Book Review: NEVER GO BACK by Lee Child

This review appeared last week in Shelf Awareness for Readers, and is reprinted here with permission.

never go backAfter trying for several books to get to Virginia, Jack Reacher finally makes it there in Lee Child’s Never Go Back, the 18th installment in the popular series. Reacher had long conversations with Major Susan Turner back in 61 Hours, and, liking her voice, decided to hitch his way to the DC area to meet her. Major Turner now runs the army’s 110th MP, a position he once held.

When he gets there, however, Turner is missing, with a shifty colonel in her place. The colonel gives Reacher a surprising order, along with news about two serious charges against him that could get Reacher arrested. The cases involve people supposedly from his military past but Reacher can’t remember them. Someone powerful is out to get him, but who, why, and what does Turner have to do with it?

But does the plot really matter if Jack Reacher is in it? Child is a reliable storyteller, and Reacher’s latest adventure contains the elements fans like best: the bone-crushing fights; Reacher going up against corrupt, powerful people; and the hot, smart female protagonist who’s very good at her job.

There’s a small downside to being reliable, though. One subplot suggests Reacher’s life might change drastically, but longtime fans will probably guess the outcome. And the coincidence of that subplot is too farfetched. But this is the beloved tough guy doing what he does best, and fans will probably go anywhere with him.

Nerd verdict: Go there

Amazon | IndieBound

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Nerdy Special List September 2013

nerdyspecialfinalSeptember is finally here, which makes me happy, because fall is one of my favorite seasons, though it’s been ridiculously hot, so I may have to wish winter would hurry.

It didn’t help at all that our A/C broke over the long weekend, and I walked around here like a sweaty zombie, too heatstroked to form cohesive thoughts or sentences.

But I did manage to read a little, and am finally able to function well enough to post this month’s Nerdy Special List. Here’s what my fellow book bloggers and I recommend this month.

From Jen at Jen’s Book Thoughts:

The American Way of Poverty: How the Other Half Still Lives by Sasha Abramsky (Nation Books, Sept. 10)

american way of povertyThis powerful nonfiction look at poverty in the United States should be required reading for every American citizen. We’ve created a culture that blames the poor for their situations, when in fact many, if not most, have been powerless to battle the forces that pushed them below the poverty line. Working one’s way back up and out of poverty is becoming more and more impossible in this country.

Sasha Abramsky looks at those forces, the systems we have in place that are failing miserably, the myths about poverty that many of us have been conditioned to believe as truths, and he also looks at how we can work to change the devastating momentum. The first and most important step is educating people about the truths of poverty. This book is a good first step. Abramsky’s passion for this subject will not only open readers’ eyes, it will motivate them to work for change.

Amazon | IndieBound

From Julie at Girls Just Reading:

Songs of Willow Frost by Jamie Ford (Ballantine, Sept. 10)

songs willow frostI’ve been waiting for this book since I finished Hotel on the Corner of Bitter & Sweet, and let me tell you, it doesn’t disappoint. Mr. Ford has a way of painting the setting so vividly that you feel transported to that time and place. It envelops you.

William is a character you cheer for from the beginning, along with his best friend, Charlotte. You want them to succeed on their adventure and to find answers. This isn’t a book that will leave you feeling happy, but it is a book that makes you believe in forgiveness and hope. Fans of historical fiction will want to read it.

Amazon | IndieBound

From Rory at Fourth Street Review:

The Thicket by Joe R. Lansdale (Mulholland Books, Sept. 10)

the thicket“I didn’t suspect the day Grandfather came out and got me and my sister, Lula, and hauled us off toward the ferry, that I’d soon end up with worse things happening than had already come upon us, or that I’d take up with a gun-shooting dwarf, the son of a slave, and a big angry hog, let alone find true love and kill someone, but that’s exactly how it was.”

I imagine it’s rare that a story can be summed up by its opening line, but Joe R. Lansdale does just that in his darkly comic new novel. The Thicket is a wonderful, bizarre story with East Texas roots, and enough humor to take the edge off his typical darkness. There are gun fights, torture scenes, whorehouses, and humor. In this part Western, part coming-of-age story, none of the characters remain unscathed, but the battle might produce a loyal hero or two. This book is bloody, funny, and, at times, brilliant.

Amazon | IndieBound

From PCN:

never go backI wanted to feature a smaller book, something you may not have heard of, but I found several September releases underwhelming, so I’ll just cheat and point you toward the latest Jack Reacher adventure, Never Go Back by Lee Child, which Delacorte Press released yesterday, Sept. 3.

Reacher finally makes it to Virginia to meet up with Major Susan Turner, the woman with the alluring voice with whom he had long conversations back in 61 Hours. I don’t have to tell you much about it, because Reacher fans will snap it up anyway, right? Did I tell you I’m suffering from heatstroke, which I’m using as an excuse for not writing a more detailed blurb? It’s Jack Reacher. Enough said.

Amazon | IndieBound

Hope you find one of these titles enticing. What are you looking forward to reading this month? (Check out past Nerdy Special Lists here.)

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Book Reviews: BREED by Chase Novak & A WANTED MAN by Lee Child

Even though I haven’t been home much, I carry a book with me—a big, physical, heavy one—wherever I go. I may end up stoop-shouldered but at least I manage to squeeze in some reading whenever I get a moment, like while I’m stuck in traffic or waiting for the Subway employee to make my sandwich.

This allowed me to finish two books recently so I thought I’d share some thoughts, even if I’m only on a ten-minute break and typing with my iPad on my knees while one hand is clutching a protein bar.

Breed by Chase Novak (Mulholland Books, out now)

Alex and Leslie Twisden, who have everything except children, go to great lengths for Leslie to conceive. They go to a shady doctor in Slovenia, who grants them their wish, but with horrible consequences. Ten years later, the children—twins—are locked in their rooms at night, which doesn’t prevent them from fearing for their lives.

Novak (a pseudonym for Scott Spencer) used omniscient POV so it’s hard to get attached to one character, and there are many. The detached tone helps keep some of the gruesomeness at bay, but it also prevented me from being completely sucked into the story. And some of the details were still too disgusting for me to have much fun while reading. (People with stronger stomachs may not have this problem.)

I also had a hard time suspending my disbelief at the beginning of the book, when the Twisdens visit the doctor in Slovenia. The man is such a crackpot; the ingredients in the magic, ah, serum are so wrong (foreign substances that should never be injected into your body); and the implantation process is so horrifically ridiculous that it’s a wonder the couple didn’t run out of the office screaming. I’d guess any sane person would, no matter how much he/she wants a baby. Since Alex and Leslie went through with the procedure, I thought, “Well, what did they expect?” Yes, I got judgmental, which took away from my empathy for them, even though I could tell they loved their children and tried to be good parents despite what was happening to them.

Nerd verdict: Creepy and gruesome, but lacking emotional heft

Buy it now from Amazon| Buy it from an indie bookstore

A Wanted Man by Lee Child (Delacorte Press, out now)

I think Child and Jack Reacher are review-proof by now; fans will buy the books no matter what critics say. It’s especially fortunate, then, that Child doesn’t just coast and churn out the same ol’ thing every year. For the first 200 pages, Reacher doesn’t do any butt-kicking at all, but the book is no less engrossing for it. The story picks up where Worth Dying For left off, with Reacher hitchhiking out of Nebraska, trying to make his way to Virginia to meet Susan, the woman behind the sexy voice that was on the phone with him for much of 61 Hours. His 6’5″ frame, bruised face, and broken nose don’t make him look desirable as a passenger, especially at night, but one car containing two men and one woman does stop for him. Reacher soon realizes something’s off when the men ask him to drive…right before they encounter police roadblocks.

Much of the suspense comes from Reacher recognizing he probably shouldn’t have accepted the ride, and our wondering what he’ll do about it. One of the passengers might be a hostage so whatever he does must prevent the innocent from being harmed. It’s also interesting how the arc about Reacher heading to Virginia to meet Susan is being teased over several books.

(SMALL 61 Hours SPOILER)

The last we saw of her, she was being deployed to Afghanistan. What will Reacher do when he finds out?

END OF SPOILER

The bone-crunching does eventually happen, along with some expected humor and unexpected twists, making Child’s novels something I’ll always stop and pick up, no matter the time of day.

Nerd verdict: Reacher is definitely Wanted

Buy it now from Amazon| Buy it from an indie bookstore

What are you reading? How do you squeeze more reading into your day?

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First Impressions 7.27.12

I hope you all have had a good week. I was out of town, though not on vacation, and in a mostly no-Wi-Fi area. It’s good to unplug once in a while, but it’s also nice to be back.

A bunch of books were waiting for me upon my return, and these three openers passed the test of not containing long descriptions of weather or scenery or people doing boring things.

The Other Woman’s House by Sophie Hannah (out now, Penguin paperback original)

Saturday 24 July 2010

I’m going to be killed because of a family called the Gilpatricks.

There are four of them: mother, father, son and daughter. Elise, Donal, Riordan and Tilly. Kit tells me their first names, as if I’m keen to dispense with the formalities and get to know them better, when all I want is to run screaming from the room. Riordan’s seven, he says. Tilly’s five.

Shut up, I want to yell in his face, but I’m too scared to open my mouth. It’s as if someone’s clamped and locked it; no more words will come out, not ever.

I discovered Hannah last year, and really liked her style of combining wit and gut-wrenching drama. Can’t wait to dive into this one.

 

A Wanted Man by Lee Child (September 11, Delacorte)

The eyewitness said he didn’t actually see it happen. But how else could it have gone down? Not long after midnight a man in a green winter coat had gone into a small concrete bunker through its only door. Two men in black suits had followed him in. There had been a short pause. The two men in the black suits had come out again.

The man in the green winter coat had not come out again.

Did you even need to read that opening? You probably already have this on your TBR list, right?

 

Say You’re Sorry by Michael Robotham (October 2, Mulholland Books)

My name is Piper Hadley and I went missing on the last Saturday of the summer holidays three years ago. I didn’t disappear completely and I didn’t run away, which is what a lot of people thought (those who didn’t believe I was dead). And despite what you may have heard or read, I didn’t get into a stranger’s car or run off with some sleazy paedo I met online. I wasn’t sold to Egyptian slave traders or forced to become a prostitute by a gang of Albanians or trafficked to Asia on a luxury yacht.

I’m almost done with this book and it’s another good one from Robotham. If you’re not already reading him, I recommend you start.

Any of these pique your interest? What are you reading?

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Why Write the Great American Novel When You Can BE in One?

I saw this on Twitter this morning via @PenguinLibrary and thought it was such a fun idea, I had to share. Flavorwire had written an article about a service called U Star Novels that will allow you to insert yourself and your friends into classic novels, Mad Libs-style, for just $24.95. The clear choice for me would be The Hound of the Baskervilles because I’m a Holmesian nut, and second choice would be The Importance of Being Earnest, because it was one of the required-reading books in school I actually enjoyed. I’m also perusing the list of available titles to see which would make good gifts for my sisters, who had both been English majors.

But I also started thinking about which contemporary novels I’d like to insert myself in. Top of the list would probably be something by Robert Crais. If I’m Elvis Cole, that means Joe Pike’s my partner and who wouldn’t want that?? The Cat would also be mine. I’d also consider wedging myself into a Lee Child novel as Jack Reacher, because being a 6′ 5″ asskicking dude is not something I’d ever get to experience in real life.

So, which classic and contemporary novels would you “reimagine” starring yourself?

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Book Review: THE AFFAIR by Lee Child

If you’re looking for something good to read this weekend, check out the new Jack Reacher. My review originally ran in Shelf Awareness and is reprinted here with remission. Happy Friday!

Ever since Jack Reacher hitchhiked his way into crime fiction in the 1997 novel Killing Floor, many fans have wondered why he became a drifter in his mid-30s after spending his entire life—born and raised—in the U.S. Army. The Affair finally details the case that prompted Reacher to leave the military police behind, if not his crime-fighting career.

It’s 1997 and Reacher is sent undercover to Carter Crossing, Miss., to shadow the official army investigator in the case of a civilian woman murdered near a base. Reacher’s role is to observe and make sure the situation is handled properly because of tension between the soldiers and the townies. Reacher realizes he’s on a doomed mission when he discovers there have been three similar murders in the area and the army is ordering him to destroy evidence. He gets help from the lead investigator, Duncan Munro, and the beautiful sheriff, Elizabeth Deveraux, but can he trust either one?

The Affair is written in first person so readers really get a glimpse of how Reacher’s mind works (some of the novels are written in third, which has its advantages, but this reviewer prefers the more personal treatment). The younger MP Reacher is not much different from the drifter we already know and love; i.e., he kicks butt and has sex. Readers are only reminded of the story’s setting when VHS tapes and film cameras are mentioned. It’s amusing to see the origin of Reacher’s later traveling style when he goes undercover as a bum and learns he doesn’t need anything more than a foldable toothbrush. Child also includes references to Reacher’s brother, Joe, that will lead up to the beginning of Killing Floor. Newbies can start their affair with Reacher with this latest installment, but those who have read the series may find poignancy in these foreshadowing allusions.

Nerd verdict: Reach for The Affair

Buy it now from Amazon| Buy from an indie bookstore

What are you reading?

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Bouchercon Adventures 2011

There’s been a thousand Bouchercon posts already everywhere but I figured no two experiences are exactly the same, right? So, if you’re not tired yet of reading about it, below are my highlights.

For those unfamiliar with B’con, it’s an annual world mystery convention for authors and fans. And by “world,” I do mean people come from all over, such as Thailand and Scotland in the case of international guests of honor, Colin Cotterill and Val McDermid, respectively.

So much happened and some of it is a blur, but among the things that stood out:

Meeting authors I’ve gotten to know a little online and finding they’re just as charming and funny in person. It was a pleasure having tea with Laura Benedict, though I didn’t actually drink tea and just ate a cookie half standing up. Seeing her, as a panel moderator, handle an audience member who talked endlessly without actually asking a question was also quite satisfying.

Squeezing into a photo booth with Ben LeRoy (of Tyrus Books and F+W Crime) and my friends Christine and Lauren to take goofy pictures. Ben’s passion for life and efforts to make the world a better place neutralize the damage done by at least twenty a**holes.

Being packed into the Meshuggah Cafe for Noir at the Bar with some of the best crime writers working. They have sick, twisted minds, just the way I like ’em.

Eating Vietnamese food and sharing cab rides with Brett Battles, Meg Gardiner, and Lauren that threatened to turn into Noir on the Streets. Our driver Jill started talking up the local asylum to us and I couldn’t blame her.

Having breakfast—and coffee, and brownies, and nuts—while talking with Mike Cooper, who raised my IQ.

Hearing Matthew McBride, who writes brutal fiction, fret about his bowling skills, afraid he wouldn’t be good enough for the tournament. (He did just fine.)

Witnessing Hilary Davidson win her Crimespree and Anthony Awards for Best First Novel. I’m hoping she’ll wear the plaques as earrings at next year’s B’con.

Sitting next to Taylor Stevens at the Anthony Awards brunch and seeing S.J. Rozan and Laurie R. King come up to her to introduce themselves; gush over her book, The Informationist; and offer to blurb her future novels.

Chatting with Katrina Niidas Holm and observing her husband Chris‘s petrification when an idol of his, Daniel Woodrell, sat with us in a booth in the hotel bar.

Waving at Clare from Criminal Element at the auction and almost losing $300 because auctioneer Mark Billingham thought I was bidding on something.

Encountering Jonathan Hayes in the elevator and having him say, “I didn’t know you were Asian!” I also got “I didn’t know you were a woman” from some but let’s not go there.

Running into Robert Crais in the hotel lobby within minutes of my arrival. ‘Nuff said.

From L.: Naomi, Paulette, Michael, Christine, me. Not pictured--Jen and Carolyn.

Finally meeting super Craisie Naomi and her friend Carolyn, as well as hanging with the rest of the gang—Michael, Jen, Paulette, Lauren, and Christine—culminating in dinner at Mosaic. I shall think of you whenever I lick spicy ice cream. (For more on the Craisies, go here.)

Briefly spending some time with my friend Rae, one of the classiest people I know. (She chaired last year’s B’con.)

Meeting the extremely thoughtful Sabrina, who’s about to make someone’s day, if not month.

Rooming with the divine Christine, who is just beyond words as a human being.

The risk of doing one of these posts is that I omit someone, so I apologize if I got to meet you and failed to mention you. Please know I had an over-the-moon experience and you contributed to it.

Many thanks to Jon and Ruth Jordan, Judy Bobalik, Jen Forbus and all the other organizers for putting on such a fantastic show. I heard that some people thought they were paid; they were not. They did it purely out of love and isn’t that the best reason to do anything?

I’ll leave you now with a set of videos regarding the Joe Pike vs. Jack Reacher debate. At last year’s Bouchercon, Lee Child was asked who would win in a Reacher-Pike fight. I captured his answer in the first video. This year, Gregg Hurwitz asked Crais for a rebuttal, which you can see in the second clip. The video quality isn’t great because I recorded it on my photo camera, but I think his answer is loud and clear.

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Reading Wrap-up & Fall 2011 Mini Preview

At the year’s halfway mark, which was, ah, a month and a half ago, I wanted to take a look at the books I’ve read so far to see if I was on track to meet my reading goal of 100 books this year. Seems I’m a little behind; I don’t count ones I didn’t finish or all the manuscripts I read as a copyeditor unless they were published.

But what the hey, I thought I’d share my underachieving list with you anyway, as well as some of the titles I’m most eager to tackle in the coming months. I decided to limit the preview list to books I already have in my TBR pile or else I’d be here ’til next Thursday.

Here’s what I’ve read, with links to my reviews/posts if I wrote one:

1. Heads You Lose—Lisa Lutz and David Heyward
2. Banished—Sophie Littlefield
3. The Brothers of Baker Street—Michael Robertson
4. Learning to Swim—Sara J. Henry
5. The Little Sleep—Paul Tremblay
6. Shadow of Betrayal—Brett Battles
7.  Iron River—T. Jefferson Parker
8.  L.A. Requiem (re-read)—Robert Crais
9.  The Poison Tree—Erin Kelly
10. Spider Bones—Kathy Reichs
11. Djibouti—Elmore Leonard
12. Aftertime—Sophie Littlefield
13. Eyes of the Innocent—Brad Parks
14. When the Thrill Is Gone—Walter Mosley
15. The Border Lords—T. Jefferson Parker
16. The Tiger’s Wife—Téa Obreht
17. Live Wire–Harlan Coben
18. Started Early, Took My Dog—Kate Atkinson
19. Sick—Brett Battles
20. What You See in the Dark—Manuel Muñoz
21. The Informationist—Taylor Stevens
22. Guilt by Association—Marcia Clark
23. Here Comes Mr. Trouble—Brett Battles
24. Bossypants—Tina Fey
25. The Two Deaths of Daniel Hayes—Marcus Sakey
26. Fun & Games—Duane Swierczynski
27. Little Girl Gone—Brett Battles
28. Purgatory Chasm—Steve Ulfelder
29. Summer and the City—Candace Bushnell
30. Fallen—Karin Slaughter
31. Before I Go to Sleep—S.J. Watson
32. The Devil She Knows—Bill Loehfelm
33. Creep—Jennifer Hillier
34. A Game of Lies—Rebecca Cantrell
35. Broken—Karin Slaughter
36. What Alice Forgot—Liane Moriarty
37. Alice Bliss—Laura Harrington
38. The Hypnotist—Lars Kepler
39. The Taint of Midas—Anne Zouroudi
40. A Bad Day for Scandal—Sophie Littlefield
41. The Gentlemen’s Hour (re-read)—Don Winslow
42. You’re Next—Gregg Hurwitz
43. One Dog Night—David Rosenfelt (review coming on Shelf Awareness)
44. Killed at the Whim of a Hat—Colin Coterrill (review coming on Shelf Awareness)
45. Stigma—Philip Hawley Jr.
46. The Most Dangerous Thing—Laura Lippman
47. Becoming Quinn—Brett Battles
47. Hideout—Kathleen George (review coming on Shelf Awareness)
48. The Cut—George Pelecanos (review coming on Shelf Awareness)
49. The Cradle in the Grave—Sophie Hannah (review coming on Shelf Awareness)
50. The Pull of Gravity—Brett Battles

51. Ready Player One—Ernest Cline

Below are the books in my stack, in no particular order, I’m most looking forward to devouring this fall (after I finish my last few summer releases). What titles are on your fall list? How are you doing on your reading goals this year?

 

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VIDEO: Lee Child on Jack Reacher vs. Joe Pike & Research

To celebrate the release of Lee Child‘s Worth Dying For today (my review here), I’m posting a couple clips of Child being interviewed by Jacqueline Winspear in a spotlight interview at Bouchercon 2010, the fantastic event from which I’m still recovering.

In this first clip, a fan asked Child something he’s been asked often: If Jack Reacher fought Robert Crais’s Joe Pike, who would win? Click play for his answer. (Go here to see Crais’s rebuttal.)

This next clip has Child talking about his diligent research process:

Do you agree with Child’s assessment of how a Pike vs. Reacher fight would turn out? Where should he set his next book and what movie should he watch for research?

Check back later this week for more Bouchercon videos!

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Book Review: Lee Child’s WORTH DYING FOR

In Worth Dying For (Delacorte, Oct. 19), Jack Reacher is making his way to Virginia to hopefully meet the woman with the sexy voice with whom he spent much of 61 Hours conversing on the phone. But a driver who gives him a ride drops him off in Nebraska where Reacher intends to spend only one night at the sole motel in a desolate town.

His plans change when he runs into a drunk doctor at the motel bar and offers to drive the man to a patient’s house to treat a broken nose. When Reacher realizes how the woman’s nose got broken, he tracks down the husband to teach him a lesson. This gets him embroiled in a power struggle between the townspeople and the nasty family of four men who control almost every aspect of the residents’ livelihood. When the fight is over, as Reacher says, “some will be dead, some will be sheepish, some will have self respect.”

You’d think that by this time, the fifteenth book in the series, Reacher has seen and experienced everything. But something happens to him in this installment that has never happened to him before. And boy, is he not happy about it. He kicks butt a plenty and engages in some spectacular fight scenes but we also see him in pain. There’s a sense that the wear and tear of his exploits are catching up to him but this only humanizes him. At one point, he even frets if his roughed-up appearance would be acceptable to Susan, the woman he’s traveling across the country to meet. I can’t remember any instances in the other novels where he worried about his looks.

The situation Reacher gets entangled in carries more emotional resonance than some of his previous cases. The locals have long been beaten down by their hard lives but Reacher lights a spark that restores their fighting spirit. One resident in particular, Dorothy Coe, has such a heartbreaking story, it demands the kind of justice Reacher excels in doling out.

Nerd verdict: Worth the price

Buy Worth Dying For from Amazon| B&N| IndieBound| Powell’s

Note: I’m heading up to Bouchercon so I’ll be back next week with a report on all the hijinks!

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Book Review: Lee Child’s 61 HOURS

After 13 books, you may think you know Jack Reacher pretty well but in 61 Hours (Delacorte, May 18), Lee Child allows small, revealing glimpses into Reacher’s psyche that might surprise you. This 14th novel is different from the rest in quite a few ways, hinting at more revelations in future installments, starting with the one coming out October 19 (two books in one year is also a change for Child).

Reacher is on a bus doing his nomad thing when it skids on ice and crashes in Bolton, South Dakota in the middle of a blizzard. The cops can’t come to the passengers’ aid right away because they have another situation on their hands—providing 24/7 protection to an important witness in an upcoming drug trial. Knowing a useful ally when they see one, the police recruit Reacher to become part of the witness’s protective detail against an unknown assassin. The case is complicated by riots at the newly installed prison and mysterious dealings in an abandoned military building just outside of town. During all this, a clock is ticking down from 61 hours to an explosive, cliff-hanging ending.

One of the reasons I love Child’s books is the rocket-speed action. Here, it slows down as Reacher spends most of the 61 hours waiting in the witness’s home for a showdown with the hitman. At first, I thought, “Come on! Knock some heads!” But as the book moves along, I realized the tradeoff is the lovely bond Reacher forms with the witness, a wise old woman who sees through his tough-guy exterior and asks him hard questions about the real reasons why he chooses a rootless life.

His relationship with the requisite Reacher babe, a woman who has his old army job as CO of the 110th Special Unit, takes on an entirely different nature than what we normally see him engage in. The CO eventually uncovers information about Reacher dating back to childhood. As she wonders, “Why was the army holding paper on a six-year-old kid?”

In the end, Reacher does kick a little ass (literally—you’ll see when you read it) after experiencing a moment of vulnerability that scared me a little (Reacher can NOT doubt himself!). This just means, though, there’s still a lot left to learn about him, a good thing in a long-running series.

Nerd verdict: Reacher is changed in Hours

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