Monthly Archives

June 2013

Book Review + Giveaway: THE SHADOW TRACER by Meg Gardiner

The following appeared as a starred review in Shelf Awareness for Readers last week. I’m reposting it here with permission, and adding a giveaway! See rules below the review.

Skip tracer Sarah Keller, the protagonist of Edgar-winner Meg Gardiner’s The Shadow Tracer, has just nabbed an elusive target when she hears her five-year-old daughter, Zoe, is at the hospital after a school-bus accident. Zoe is deemed fine—until doctors make a shocking discovery, one that causes Sarah to take her daughter and run. And keep running, from a trio of killers who want Zoe for nefarious reasons, and an FBI agent who wants to use the girl and Sarah as bait. Sarah gets help from a US marshal and a nun, but knows it’s up to her to save her child.

Readers will go on the run with Sarah, too, because the story hits the ground at 60 mph and keeps revving from there. Sarah is a believable combination of everywoman and someone who uses her skip-tracing skills to keep Zoe and herself off the grid. There’s a delicious hint of sexual tension between her and the marshal named Lawless (yes, Lawless), whom she alternately needs and hates.

The action scenes are fun, especially one involving a baby in the back of a pickup truck; one can almost imagine Gardiner laughing with glee while writing it. The denouement in an airplane junkyard is highly suspenseful and cinematic, too. But none of this would matter if not for the characters, equally vivid whether they’re bad or good or somewhere in between. Combined with the blistering pace, The Shadow Tracer is a thriller that fans should not skip.

Sounds good, right? Would you like a free copy of the book, courtesy of Dutton? Enter by leaving a comment about how you would stay off the grid if someone were after you. Close your Facebook account? Use cash only?

Giveaway ends next Monday, July 8, 9 p.m. PST. One winner will be selected at random and have 48 hours to claim prize. US/Canada addresses only. Good luck!


Book Review: LOST by S. J. Bolton

Wait, what? Could this be…a new blog post? Gasp!

In case you were wondering where I disappeared to, I’m still here, just up to my front teeth in deadlines for various projects. I’ve been editing as usual, reviewing lots of books for Shelf Awareness (one of which I’m sharing below), took on a columnist gig (will reveal where after the first article runs), and last weekend I had a great time as part of the faculty (!) at the California Crime Writers Conference in Pasadena, doing a seminar with Brett Battles on the nuts and bolts of self-publishing. I talked at a podium and everything, like an adult.

I have a giveaway I’ll post either later this week or early next week, and after I get some time to review the Stalker Award ballots submitted weeks ago, I’ll announce nominees, too.

Meanwhile, here’s my review of S.J. Bolton’s Lost (Lacey Flint #3), which originally ran in Shelf Awareness for Readers. I recommend this series if you like dark, creepy stuff.

As Lost begins, twelve-year-old Barney and his friends are concerned about the local killings of boys around their age in south London. They obsessively monitor a Facebook page named Missing Boys to see latest updates on the police investigation. Someone who posts regularly seems to have inside info before the cops do, and Barney is startled one day when this mysterious person turns out to know personal details about him, too, including where he lives.

Detective Constable Lacey Flint lives next door to Barney and is on leave (following the events of Bolton’s previous novel, Dead Scared). Lacey notices Barney is often left alone at night by his single dad, so she watches after the boy and sometimes keeps him company. She suspects he knows something about the murders that he’s not telling her, and though she’s not technically on the job, Lacey will put her life on the line to prevent Barney from being the killer’s next victim.

Bolton is adroit at ratcheting up tension in a story that’s hard to stop reading despite its creepiness and unsettling plot points. Children being murdered doesn’t make a heartwarming tale, but readers will care about what happens to the brave and resourceful Barney.

Lacey is difficult and abrasive, but more likable than if she were glossy or bland. She makes mistakes and even does something very troubling to herself. The sexual chemistry between her and Detective Inspector Mark Joesbury is tantalizing and could use a bit more attention, but it’s OK, too, if Bolton wants to keep readers lost in suspense for a little while longer.

Buy it now from Amazon | IndieBound

When deadlines are hammering at my door, the blog sometimes gets neglected, but I miss writing and connecting with you here. I hope you’re having a great summer; let me know what you’re up to in the comments.

What are you reading/watching? Gone anywhere/met anyone special? Summer goals?


My Favorite Superhero Movies

Christopher Reeve

If you’ve seen the eleventy-four hundred thousand trailers and advertisements out there, you know a new Superman movie is coming out this Friday, the 14th. I’m just excited as any fanboy out there, if not more.

I still have vivid memories of exiting a movie theater in 1978, after seeing Richard Donner’s Superman, and believing a man could fly, just as the tagline promised I would. I can’t describe that feeling, except to say it was like believing in magic. Not the sleight-of-hand kind—the kind you can’t explain but know exists.

I don’t know if Man of Steel will have that effect on me, but on the eve of its release, I’d like to share my list of favorite superhero movies ever, ones that made me think big things were possible for even the smallest and most awkward of us.

In no particular order, my top five are:

  1. Superman. In addition to the reasons above, Margot Kidder’s Lois Lane had great chemistry with Christopher Reeve’s Superman, and I still know all the words to their theme song, “Can You Read My Mind?” Don’t judge.
  2. Batman Returns. Michelle Pfeiffer’s Catwoman did it for me.
  3. Iron Man 3. More fun than the first two, and Pepper got strong.
  4. The Dark Knight Rises. I’m a Christian Bale fan, but the first two entries in Christopher Nolan’s reboot had Katie Holmes and Maggie Gyllenhaal as female leads. Bale finally had not one but two formidable actresses—Marion Cotillard and Anne Hathaway—to play against in the third one.
  5. Spider-Man 2. This was fun for me all around, in every way.

Now someone just needs to make a good Wonder Woman movie so I can add it to my list.

Which ones are your favorites? Or are all superhero movies the same to you?


Book Review: A CONSPIRACY OF FAITH by Jussi Adler-Olsen

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

Danish detective Carl Mørck and his Syrian assistant Assad are back with their third Department Q case in Jussi Adler-Olsen’s A Conspiracy of Faith, taking on an old mystery involving a message in a bottle. The note was written in blood in 1996, and the heading clearly says, “Help,” but time and exposure to the elements have obscured most of the rest of it.

Mørck, Assad, and the department’s temporary assistant Yrsa slowly piece together the message, and realize the writer was in a deadly situation. They track down his family, but the parents refuse to talk about him or even confirm whether their son is alive.

Despite their silence, the Department Q team discovers a serial killer preying on the fears of certain religious sects to murder and get away with his crimes. Mørck and Assad put their lives on the line to confront this cruel and violent man, but will they be in time to save his latest victims?

One of Adler-Olsen’s trademarks is creating hideous villains, and then giving them a backstory that makes readers almost feel sorry for them. The killer here is no different, having suffered a horrific childhood. It does not justify his actions, but at least gives him a strong motive. He’s not just evil for evil’s sake.

The main plot has holes and several subplots seem unnecessary, but Mørck and Assad remain an engaging duo, trying to help sympathetic victims in a disturbing case that’s timely in its portraiture of people who use religion to inflict unutterable grief on others.

Nerd verdict: The story has holes, but have Faith in Carl Mørck and Assad 

Buy it now from Amazon | IndieBound


Sixty-Second Book Review with Eric Beetner

I’ve been meaning to put this up for a couple of weeks now, because I think y’all should have a little Eric Beetner in your lives. He’s a gifted writer, funny man, and winner of last year’s Stalker Award for Most Criminally Underrated Author. He also edited the Rodney Yee yoga video I bought 10 years ago.

Eric does these nifty 60-second video book reviews, with fast cuts and fancy angles, not to mention the cool posters in the background. But the best thing is his passion.

This review is for Joe R. Lansdale’s Sunset & Sawdust. It’s only 60 seconds—check it out! Then leave Eric a comment!



Nerdy Special List June 2013

Summer will begin officially later this month, so maybe that’s why there’s a truckload of good June releases (several this week alone!). Overwhelmed by choices and don’t know what to read first? Perhaps my blogger friends and I can help you with our selections below.


From Jen of Jen’s Book Thoughts, who has two recommendations:

A Serpent’s Tooth by Craig Johnson (Viking, June 4)

When a teenage boy shows up in Durant, Wyoming, Walt Longmire sets off on a mission to find the boy’s mother, whose last known whereabouts were with a polygamous group. Along the way, Walt stumbles into much more than he bargained for. When it comes to Craig Johnson’s work, I know I can count on humor, complexity, emotion, a strong integration of setting, and some of the most spectacularly diverse characters. What I can never predict, however, is the plot. There’s no formula and that freshness in each book is exciting and fun. Whether you’re a long-time Walt Longmire fan or you’ve not yet experienced him, A Serpent’s Tooth is a great summer choice.

Buy it from AmazonIndieBound

Beautifully Unique Sparkleponies by Chris Kluwe (Little, Brown; June 25)

If you summed up this collection of essays, letters, and stories in one word, it would have to be “empathy.” Chris Kluwe is at turns hysterically funny, sharply poignant, and abstractly philosophical, but he always comes back to the theme of empathy. He’s created brilliant analogies: comparing his sports injuries to wine tasting, using toilet paper to compare short-term gains to long-term gains. And through it all, he expresses brutal honesty. The pieces are short and the book goes by quickly, but it leaves a lot to chew on afterward. Plus, that title is just magnificent. Even more so when you discover what it is. A must-read!

Buy it from Amazon| IndieBound

From Julie at Girls Just Reading:

The Doll by Taylor Stevens (Crown, June 4)

From the first pages, I was hooked on this heart-pounding, adrenaline rush of a novel. Ms. Stevens always pulls relevant subject matters from headlines and makes them her own. The subject matter in The Doll is no less disturbing than an expose in the paper on it. What makes her novels is the main character, Munroe, a chameleon who is excellent at what she does. Ms. Stevens puts her in a precarious situation here.

This is the third in the series and while you could read this first, you really should go back to the beginning. The relationships in this novel are pulled from the previous ones. If you haven’t read Ms. Stevens, you are missing out. If you have, get your hands on The Doll.

Buy it from Amazon| IndieBound

From Rory at Fourth Street Review:

Stoker’s Manuscript by Royce Prouty (Putnam, June 6)

Joseph Barkley, rare-manuscript expert and used-bookstore owner, is hired to authenticate and purchase the original draft and notes of Bram Stoker’s Dracula for a reclusive buyer. He transports it personally to Romania, where things quickly get out of hand for the mild-mannered Barkley. Mixing fact and fiction, Royce Prouty’s debut novel is a riveting page-turner building on actual events surrounding the publication of Dracula. Ranging from late-nineteenth-century Chicago, London, and Transylvania to the present, Stoker’s Manuscript will appeal to fans of historical fiction, Gothic horror, and Dracula who enjoy a well-told story.

Buy from Amazon| IndieBound

From PCN:

The Shadow Tracer by Meg Gardiner (Dutton, June 27)

Sarah Keller and her five-year-old daughter Zoe are on the run, hunted by a trio of stone-cold killers and an FBI agent. The chase is relentless, and, like Sarah, readers won’t have much chance to catch their breath. There are craaaazy action scenes, and my favorite is one involving a baby in a pickup truck—it’s suspenseful and wacky (or, I should say, whacky) at the same time. My full review will be in Shelf Awareness for Readers closer to release date, but in the meantime, I wanted to let you know this is one fast, fun ride so you can hunt it down yourself.

Buy it from Amazon| IndieBound

What’s on your list?