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Nerdy Special List September 2015

Happy September! Even though fall in L.A. looks the same as summer, I always welcome it because it’s a good season for books and marks the start of TV and movie awards season. From now until the end of the year, lots of noteworthy titles will be released, including what my blogger pals and I recommend for this month.

I’m happy to welcome new contributor Patti from Patti’s Pen & Picks. Patti is the Adult Materials Selector for the Collection Development Office of the Pima County Public Library in Tucson. In other words, she knows books.

Here are our September selections.

From Jen at Jen’s Book Thoughts:

Saving Capitalism: For the Many, Not the Few by Robert B. Reich (Knopf, Sept. 29)

saving capitalismBefore you skip over this title because it’s *shudder* nonfiction about economics, give me a minute to tell you why this may be the most important book you read this year. Saving Capitalism isn’t about liberals and conservatives, even though Reich is liberal in his political standings. Saving Capitalism is about debunking the myths that continue the financial spiral sending a minute few almost everything and a vast majority little to nothing.

This book explains why the debate of “free market” vs. large government is a fallacy that effectively prevents people from seeing the reality, why meritocracy doesn’t hold water, and why the partisan divide needs to be overcome in order to right the American economy. A capitalist society where over 90% of the people can’t afford to buy in cannot sustain itself. Both Democrats and Republicans are at fault for the current state of affairs, but it can be reversed—and the system can be saved—if we have the facts and work together as a single powerful voice.

While some of the concepts Reich outlines in Saving Capitalism are complicated and complex, he delivers them in a clear, accessible approach with relatable examples and explanations. He offers realistic solutions and sound, experienced advice. Relevant, well researched, and so vitally important, this is a book that shouldn’t be skipped.

From Rory at Fourth Street Review:

Girl Waits with Gun by Amy Stewart (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, September 1)

girl waits with gun

If you’ve never had the pleasure of reading Amy Stewart’s nonfiction, you’re missing out. The Drunken Botanist and Wicked Plants are two of the most charming and hilarious books about plants ever written. I say this as a horticultural librarian, so my range of plant-based literature is actually quite large. Needless to say, I was very much looking forward to reading her first novel. I was not disappointed, not even a little.

Truth is sometimes stranger than fiction, and women’s history is often more relevant than we’d like to admit. Those two things combine to make one delightful mystery. Constance Kopp, soon to be thirty-five, is having a more adventurous year than she anticipated. The destruction of her buggy by an automobile sets off a series of increasingly alarming events. Constance and her sisters make quite the trio standing against the bullying, harassment, and threatening behavior of Henry Kaufman, the driver of the car.

Based on the true story of Constance Kopp, Amy Stewart’s witty debut novel is full of charm. Although I imagined it as rather effective deadpan humor, Constance’s pragmatic voice is also one of a woman eschewing the expectations of 1914. The novel is fun and fresh, and Amy Stewart has managed to impress me once again. I highly, highly recommend it.

From Lauren at Malcolm Avenue Review:

Did You Ever Have a Family by Bill Clegg (Scout Press, September 1)family bill clegg

Did You Ever Have a Family will shoot hundreds of tiny arrows into your heart, then take advantage of the breaches to crush it to a pulp. Hands down one of the best books I’ve read this year, Family is a before-and-after story, told from multiple perspectives and time periods, all anchored to an epic tragedy occurring just as the curtain opens on the small resort town of Wells, Connecticut.

A tightly written, continuous rabbit-puncher of a novel, Family is about connections (family and otherwise), burdens, guilt, loss, secrets, misconceptions, judgments, betrayal, love, sacrifice, grief, and, ultimately, forgiveness. Clegg manages to give unique voices to more than ten character perspectives in a truly magnificent portrait of sacrifice and loss at their deepest. Get your Kleenex ready. (Read Lauren’s full review here.)

The Big Bad Book of Bill Murray: A Critical Appreciation of the World’s Finest Actor by Robert Schnakenberg (Quirk Books, September 15)

bill murray bookThe Big, Bad Book is really a glorious encyclopedia, right down to the alphabetical format, thick glossy pages, and numerous photographs. It’s a dense, almost square volume that will look great on any coffee table, and is packed with material, which lends itself perfectly to parsing out the goodness an entry—or a letter—at a time.

There is a piece on every movie Murray has been in (and some he missed out or passed on), personal facts and opinions (he has many), history, weird tidbits, quotes, and fantastic stories, some told in Murray’s own words, some by others.

If you’re a fan of Bill Murray, who, if not the best, is certainly the most versatile actor of our time, this book is a must have. It exceeded my expectations even though it was one of my most anticipated books of the year.

From Patti at Patti’s Pen & Picks:

A Curious Beginning by Deanna Raybourn (NAL, September 1)

a curious beginningA Curious Beginning is an interesting beginning to a new series. The main character is Veronica Speedwell, a cross between Temperance Brennan (as played in the TV series Bones), and Amelia Peabody, the wonderful character from Elizabeth Peters’s series. Veronica is blunt, occasionally naive, will attempt almost anything, and is a very strong-willed woman supporting herself in the 1880s.

Veronica, an orphan raised by two spinster aunts, is a lepidopterist who travels the world catching a variety of butterflies for clients. She’s visited by a baron who knew her mother and tells Veronica her life is in danger. She accompanies him to London, where his friend Stoker, a natural historian, will protect her. The baron is murdered after Veronica and Stoker meet, and the two take to the road, trying to unravel the murder mystery and why Veronica’s life is in danger.

I really liked how Veronica is always full steam ahead and not afraid to try new things or adventures. I look forward to more books in this series!

From PCN:

make meMake Me by Lee Child (Delacorte Press, September 8)

Jack Reacher is back for his 20th outing, and this one is more unsettling than the series’ recent installments. Reacher finds himself in a small town called Mother’s Rest, and though he starts out wanting to learn only the origin of the name, he ends up entangled in a much deeper, sinister mystery after he meets an FBI-agent-turned-PI named Michelle Chang who’s searching for a missing colleague.

Make Me has the requisite bone-crushing action, and is as entertaining as it is haunting. Reacher takes some hard physical blows in this book, but the series is still going strong.

Which books are you looking forward to this month?

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Book Giveaway: THE MYSTERY WRITERS OF AMERICA COOKBOOK

A couple weeks ago, I received a cookbook for review. Since me in the kitchen is the equivalent of a child running with scissors while chased by wild dogs across a freeway, I might seem like the last person who should be reviewing a cookbook.

MWA cookbookBut this one is different. Edited by Kate White, The Mystery Writers of America Cookbook (out March 24) has recipes from some of today’s most popular crime fiction writers, including Mary Higgins Clark, Meg Gardiner, Harlan Coben, Charlaine Harris, Peter James, and Lee Child (who contributed recipes for “A Delicious Best Seller” and “Coffee, Pot of One”).

Even a person with limited culinary skills like me can handle a pot of coffee, “Kinsey Millhone’s Famous Peanut Butter & Pickle Sandwich,” and Lisa Scottoline’s “A Tomato Sauce for All Seasons.” Many of the recipes are accompanied by mouth-watering color photos—why wasn’t I sent the actual dishes to review?!—making the book a handsome gift for crime-loving cooks.

Want a taste? Check out this recipe from Gillian Flynn.

Beef Skillet Fiesta

Photo: Steve Legato

Be warned: I am no gourmet. I come from a long, proud Midwestern tradition of meals made from snack chips and canned soup. My characters tend to follow suit: They like their food simple and tasty. So here’s my favorite stove-top recipe, Beef Skillet Fiesta, which my mom cooked for her family and I now cook for mine.

Yield: 4 servings

1 pound ground beef

1/4 cup diced onion

2 teaspoons salt

1 teaspoon chili powder

1⁄4 teaspoon black pepper

1 16-ounce can diced tomatoes

1 12-ounce can corn

11⁄4 cups beef bouillon

1⁄2 cup thin strips of green pepper

11⁄3 cups Minute rice

1. Brown ground beef in a skillet and drain. Add onion and cook until tender.

2. Add salt, chili powder, pepper, tomatoes, corn, and bouillon and bring to a boil. Stir in green pepper. Bring to a boil again.

3. Stir in rice, remove from heat, and cover. Let stand for 5 minutes.

4. Fluff with a fork.

5. Serve with cottage cheese. (The cottage cheese part isn’t strictly required, but highly recommended—cottage cheese makes everything better.)

Note: If you prefer regular rice to Minute rice, cook the rice separately and spoon the Skillet Fiesta over it.

GILLIAN FLYNN is the author of the #1 New York Times best seller Gone Girl, the New York Times best seller Dark Places, and the Dagger Award–winning Sharp Objects. She is also the screenwriter for the film adaptation of Gone Girl, directed by David Fincher and starring Ben Affleck.

Excerpted from The Mystery Writers of America Cookbook edited by Kate White. Reprinted with permission from Quirk Books.

If you’d like to get a hand on a copy, you’re in luck. I’m giving away two copies, thanks to Saichek Publicity. To enter, leave a comment telling me what recipe you’d like to have from one of your favorite fictional characters. It doesn’t have to be something they’ve actually made in the book(s) they’ve appeared in, just something you think they’d be good at making.

Giveaway ends next Friday, March 27 at midnight PST. US addresses only, please. Winners will have 48 hours after notification to reply before alternate winners are chosen.

 

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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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Lee Child Reads from Gregg Hurwitz’s THE SURVIVOR

I’ve been rehearsing a play six days a week while still editing and reviewing books, so my blog posts will probably be short—but hopefully not boring—for the next month or so.

I got a kick out of Lee Child reading the opening to Gregg Hurwitz‘s The Survivor, out August 21 from St. Martin’s Press. I think it’s a nifty idea, and it got me thinking about other authors reading someone else’s work. How about Robert Crais reading Fifty Shades of Grey (first and last time I’ll mention that book here)? Stephen King narrating a Harry Potter novel? Which matchups would you like to hear?

If you can’t listen to Child’s recording where you are, you can read chapters 1-4 here. You can also order from Amazon here or an indie bookstore here.

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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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