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Nerdy Special List July 2016

Hope you all have been enjoying summer! People usually go somewhere around this time for vacation, and this year they are all coming to stay with me. I’ve been hosting family and friends, and though their visits create total cleaning panic, it’s the only way I can be motivated to clean.

Before I go back to stuffing crap into closets scrubbing the kitchen sink, I present you with this month’s reading recommendations. It’s a varied list as usual; hope at least one selection sparks your interest!

From Jen at Jen’s Book Thoughts:

The Promise of Jesse Woods by Chris Fabry (Tyndale House Publishers, July 1)

jesse-woodsChris Fabry’s lyrical writing style makes this charming story of three young outcasts growing up in t1970s Dogwood, West Virginia, moving and memorable.

Matt Plumley is the new kid in town. Besides being the preacher’s son, Matt is overweight. The first people he meets in Dogwood are Dickie Darrel Lee Hancock, a mixed-race boy, and Jesse Woods, a dirt-poor, fatherless tomboy. Matt’s parents aren’t so thrilled with his new friends, but Matt sees the best in them and finds acceptance in their eyes. The three-way friendship bonds the young teens until a fateful night in 1972.

The Promise of Jesse Woods is a beautiful novel with sharply drawn characters, rich in authenticity and passion. The atmosphere of the period echoes the beautiful simplicities as well as the ugly complexities. With the engrossing magic of exceptional storytelling, Fabry will envelop readers in a time gone by wrapped in themes that transcend time. Stunning.

From Rory at Fourth Street Review:

The Heavenly Table by Donald Ray Pollock (Doubleday, July 12)

heavenly tableDespite only having two published books, Donald Ray Pollock is one of my favorite contemporary authors. For over a year, I’ve been looking forward to the release of his new novel, The Heavenly Table. I was not disappointed, though I can’t quite say that his sophomore novel is better than his debut (The Devil All the Time is in a league of its own).

Following the Jewett brothers—Cane, Cob, and Chimney—-Table takes place in 1917 southern Ohio. After the sudden death of their father, the three brothers become outlaws in the tradition of (the fictional) Bloody Bill Bucket. Before they know it, they are a legendary gang of thieves, rapists, and murderers with a huge bounty on their heads, though the legends are far more preposterous than their true crimes.

On the opposite end of the spectrum are Eula and Ellsworth Fiddler, a naïve farming couple barely scraping by. An assortment of other characters fill the novel, from outhouse inspector and manhood wrangler Jasper Cone to the Roman military enthusiast Lieutenant Bovard.

Both perverse and violent, this novel is not without humor and heart. It’s absolutely filled to the brim with southern Gothic goodness; just don’t expect any good. In Pollock’s distinctive prose, the reader is taken for a wild, gritty ride that cannot be easily forgotten.

From Erin at In Real Life:

Revolver by Duane Swierzynski (Mulholland Books, July 19)

revolverDuane Swierzynski never fails to surprise readers. His latest novel is his finest work to date, and is a story readers will be well advised to start without any preconceptions.

Revolver is an intricate police procedural involving the murder of two Philadelphia police officers 50 years ago. It is told in three time periods (1965, 1995, and 2015), and Swierzynski weaves these narratives together with beautiful and graceful skill.

The 1965 murders haunt the Walczak family across generations, and each contributes to the story as it unfolds. As much as the family is central to the story, though, this is a tale about Philadelphia, a love story (of sorts) to a city whose history is, in so many ways, part and parcel of the whole of the United States.

Revolver is populated with a range of fascinating characters, including Stan, one of the victims of the 1965 murder; his son Jimmy and Jimmy’s siblings; and Stan’s granddaughter, Audrey. They are as different as most family members are, and each is fascinating in his or her own right.

Revolver will absolutely be on my Best of 2016 list.

From Julie at Girls Just Reading:

The Perfect Neighbors by Sarah Pekkanen (Washington Square Press, July 5)

perfect neighborsThe Perfect Neighbors is a peek into the lives of those we live around and see daily but may not really know. It is about the facades we put on for the public vs. how we really are behind closed doors. It’s about how we all have secrets that we might not want to share, things that are private in our heart of hearts.

We are introduced to four women—three close friends and one newcomer. Each has something they are hiding from the others mainly because they are ashamed of their behavior but don’t know how to let go of it. What Pekkanen added to this was a mystery surrounding one of the couples.

I loved how Pekkanen kept you on the hook and laid out breadcrumbs for you to eat up. I liked how each storyline developes and is resolved. I have a been a huge fan of Pekkanen for years due to her realistic plots and ability to write characters we all can relate to.

From Lauren at Malcolm Avenue Review:

The Trap by Melanie Raabe (Grand Central, July 5)

the trapBestselling author Linda Conrads hasn’t stepped outside her house in eleven years. Twelve years ago she discovered her sister stabbed to death, and her eyes met those of the murderer as he fled. When the investigation ultimately goes cold, Linda retreats from the world.

More than a decade later, Linda sees the man again on a television newscast. Determined to bring him to justice yet unable to leave home, she decides to lure the man into an elaborate trap she designs by writing a book mirroring her sister’s murder. Linda hasn’t given an interview in years, but she plans to break her silence and give one to the journalist she’s certain killed her sister and who knows she saw him leave the scene.

Alternating between Linda’s first-person narrative and the chapters of her book within the book,The Trap is a fun, engaging read that flows despite getting a bit bogged down by repetition in Linda’s head as she obsesses over the murder and her plans to solve it. At times the story felt like a twisted game of cat-and-mouse, at others a game taking place only in the head of a really unstable cat.

Part of what made the book enjoyable was wondering who to believe and when, and despite one loose thread that nagged at me, Raabe brought the story to a satisfying conclusion.The Trap is an entertaining summer read with a unique premise that doesn’t feel too heavy despite the subject matter.

From Patti at Patti’s Pen & Picks:

Nine Women, One Dress by Jane L. Rosen (Doubleday, July 12)

nine womenThe one dress is more a style of a dress, not one dress worn by nine women. This is not The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants.

The book starts with a fashion show. A little black dress is featured and becomes the dress of the season. People shopping at Bloomingdale’s enter and exit the book’s stage, trying on the dress, purchasing it, returning it. The dress is perfect for some but not for others, and occasionally the book seems to ask: Which person deserves to wear this dress?

The book is also about the relationships the women have—with each other and the people they meet and let go—not just romantic partners but also friends and coworkers.

I loved this book, for the New York that exists in it, for the adventures people have in it, and for the endings. It’s a perfect light book for summer. Enjoy!

From PCN:

The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware (Gallery/Scout Press, July 19)

woman in cabin 10My recommendation this month was going to be Revolver, but since Erin eloquently covered it above, I’ll go with another July release I enjoyed.

In Ruth Ware’s follow-up to 2015’s In a Dark, Dark Wood, Lo Blacklock is a travel journalist covering the maiden voyage of an exclusive cruise ship with only ten cabins. On her first day aboard, she meets a woman in the cabin next door, but later that night, Lo hears a scream and a splash—and the woman is gone. Leaving behind a bloody smear.

No one on the ship seems to know who the missing woman is, and the head of security insists the cabin next door to Lo’s has always been empty. Lo decides to investigate, even after mysterious messages tell her to stop. Of course she doesn’t, until it’s too late.

Lo is frustrating at times, repeatedly making foolish choices, but Ware’s propulsive writing locks you up and won’t let you out until the end of the journey.


Which books are you reading this month?

(See previous NSLs here.)



Book Review: CANARY by Duane Swierczynski

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

canary coverSarie Holland, the protagonist in Duane Swierczynski’s Canary, is a 17-year-old college student who’s busted after unwittingly helping another student on a drug run. But Philadelphia narcotics cop Ben Wildey doesn’t want to arrest her. He promises not to ruin her future if she gives up the name of her drug-dealing friend, mostly referred to only as D., hoping the guy would lead Wildey to the supplier at the top of the drug chain.

Sarie refuses to rat out D., so she reluctantly agrees to be a CI–confidential informant–and is plunged into increasingly harrowing situations as she tries to give Wildey the info and dealers he wants without betraying D. Along the way, Sarie gets a brutal crash course in the drug underworld, one she might not pass.

For an honors student, Sarie repeatedly makes foolish choices that strain credulity for any sane person with a basic survival instinct. And she does it all to protect a guy she barely knows, who got her into trouble in the first place and doesn’t deserve her loyalty.

But, as in Swierczynski’s Charlie Hardie series, the action just doesn’t stop, with Sarie bumping into big and bigger trouble around every corner. Even as readers internally scream at her to smarten up and do the right thing, they’ll keep reading to see just how she extricates herself from these bad situations–and resourceful she is. The author’s skillful handling of suspense and multiple points of view, as well as a sardonic wit, keeps Canary in flight.

Nerd verdict: Fast-paced but frustrating


To Be Read

I often pester my pals on social media to post pics of their TBR stacks, or of their loot after they go book shopping, or attend a library sale. Pictures of books make me happy.

Then I realized I never post pics of mine, partly because they’re everywhere, and I’d have to wrangle them into submission before I can take photos of them. But I decided to bite the bullet, and not only arranged them all prettily, but grouped them according to their month of release.

The following are the TBR books I’m most excited about tackling. I’m seriously considering cutting off cable so I can get through all these without distractions.


I’m currently reading Leopards, Owls, and Cuckoo’s (the animal theme was not planned) and enjoying them all so far. Sedaris makes me rock with laughter.

Plus e-galleys: 

Life After Life by Kate Atkinson

The Famous and the Dead by T. Jefferson Parker

Penance by Dan O’Shea

Ordinary Grace by William Kent Krueger





Plus e-galleys:

The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes

The Execution of Noa P. Singleton by Elizabeth L. Silver

The Impossible Lives of Greta Wells by Andrew Sean Greer

Bad Monkey by Carl Hiaasen

The Last Whisper in the Dark by Tom Piccirilli

Any of these look good to you? What’s in your TBR stack?


Stalker Award Nominees 2012

Happy Tuesday after a long weekend! Hope you’re all well rested, sun-kissed, loaded up on burgers and potato salad, and caught up on your reading. Me, I’m still pasty, but I did manage to ingest a healthy amount of ice cream. In this heat, I consider it a survival technique.

I also snapped out of my sedentary stupor long enough to tally up the nominees for this year’s Stalker Awards, given to crime novels and authors readers are obsessed about. Nominations were submitted by genre lovers at large over the last two weeks.

The poll will be open for one week, so you can now vote for one winner in each category until June 5, midnight PST. I’ll reveal the results soon thereafter.

My profuse thanks to all who took time to submit nominations and/or spread the word. I hope you see some of your favorites on the ballot!

*Voting has ended. Winners will be revealed next week. Thanks for stopping by!*


Nominated covers:


Book Review: BLACKBIRDS by Chuck Wendig

This originally ran in Shelf Awareness for Readers, and is republished here with permission.

Miriam Black, the protagonist of Blackbirds, has the Dead Zone-ish ability to see a person’s future when she touches him or her, but Chuck Wendig takes it one step further by having her foresee only how and when the person dies. She becomes a grifter, paying visits to people she knows will kick the bucket and then taking their money so she can pay for food and shelter until her next target dies. Things get complicated when she runs into Ashley, a punk who wants in on her game, and meets Louis, a kindhearted truck driver whom she sees murdered in the near future while he utters her name. Does she somehow bring about his murder? And how can she stop it when the last time she tried preventing one of her visions, she ended up causing the death?

Wendig’s dark and twisty adventure is filled with misfit characters who defy easy stereotypes. Miriam is self-destructive, but she’s doing the best she can to survive the difficult hand life has dealt her. Louis, big as Frankenstein, shows Miriam more sweetness than she’s ever experienced. Stone-cold killer Harriet has a scene that makes readers understand her first kill; her story is even funny the first time it’s told.

Wendig inserts surprising moments of humanity among all the profanity. There’s a tale of a little boy and his balloon that should crack readers’ hearts. And despite fate being hell-bent on keeping her down, Miriam’s stubborn struggle to change it makes Blackbirds take flight.

Nerd verdict: Black, twisty tale with as much humanity as profanity

Buy it now from Amazon| Buy from an indie bookstore


Favorite Books and Movies of 2011

I haven’t dropped off the face of the earth, just traveling still and wrapping up my magical, mystery tour. During the past two weeks, I’ve often been uncertain of what day it was, but I’m pretty sure today is the last in 2011 so I thought I’d write about some favorite books and movies I experienced this year. I’m lurking in the parking lot outside a Dunkin’ Donuts stealing its Wi-Fi so hopefully I can do this quickly. Click on links to read my reviews.

Favorite revival of a classic character: The House of Silk by Anthony Horowitz. The author perfectly captured Dr. Watson’s narrative voice, and provided not one but two clever mysteries that could only be solved by the inimitable Sherlock Holmes.

Favorite Scandinavian crime novel: The Keeper of Lost Causes by Jussi Adler-Olsen. I read some excellent ones, including Lars Kepler’s The Hypnotist and Lene Kaaberbol & Agnete Friis’s The Boy in the Suitcase, but Keeper has the edge because of the engaging crime-solving duo of Carl Morck and his assistant, Assad, and the humor Adler-Olsen injects into a grim story.

Book that caused me to lose most water weight: Alice Bliss by Laura Harrington. The story of a fifteen-year-old coping with her father going away to war made me weep copiously, while also making me laugh in parts and swoon over the beauty of its prose.

Craziest adventures: Duane Swierczynski’s Fun & Games and Hell & Gone. You don’t just read these novels—the first two in the Charlie Hardie trilogy—you experience them in a visceral way, the whole time thinking, “What the hell?” and “More!” Luckily, there is more coming in March—the final installment, Point & Shoot.

Favorite thriller that made me invest in Purell: Brett Battles’ Sick. Technically, life as we know it hasn’t ended yet, but it will if Daniel Ash and his colleagues can’t stop some seriously screwed-up people. No one is safe in this story, not even children, which ratchets up the tension. Full disclosure: I was a Beta reader and copyedited it, but the novel was already pretty kick-ass when it came to me.

Favorite dystopian zombie sexy hybrid: Sophie Littlefield’s Aftertime. I read neither dystopian nor zombie novels, but this one, about a mother searching for her child in a world after something terrible happened, moved me and scared me. It also has a really hot sex scene that you probably shouldn’t read in front of your parents or a priest.

Most entertaining true stories: Tina Fey’s Bossypants. I don’t read memoirs, either, but devoured this thing in about one sitting because it’s hilarious and insightful. If she writes another book on the correct method of flossing, I’d read that, too.

Favorite overall movie: The Artist. It made me happy and the smile lingers weeks later. This ties in with the next award for…

Best supporting animal: Uggie from The Artist. He had strong competition from the horses who played Joey in War Horse and Snowy in The Adventures of Tintin, but Uggie did all the acting and stunts himself, while three horses shared duty as Joey and Snowy isn’t real.

Most surprisingly good rom-com: Crazy, Stupid, Love. Romantic comedies are hard to pull off and usually end up being corny, but this one is actually romantic and funny, thanks to Steve Carell, Emma Stone, Julianne Moore, and Ryan Gosling. Gosling’s abs should’ve also received top billing.

Most jaw-dropping stunts: Mission: Impossible—Ghost Protocol. All-out fun, with innovative action scenes that did look pretty impossible to pull off.

Darkest, coolest noir: Drive. This movie left me shaking, it was so tense and good. Out of all the stellar performances Gosling turned in this year, this was my favorite.

Most affecting performance by an actor playing an icon: Michelle Williams as Marilyn Monroe in My Week with Marilyn. Everyone has an opinion about Marilyn and knows so much about her already, but Williams still manages to bring out interesting facets of the legend’s psyche and make our heart break all over again.

My battery light on the laptop is flashing so I’d better wrap this up. Plus, the Dunkin’ Donuts manager is eyeing me suspiciously from the window. Hope you have a fun but safe New Year’s Eve and a magnificent 2012 that goes beyond your imagination.




Book Review: HELL & GONE by Duane Swierczynski

When I’m not blogging here, I’m A) goofing off, B) running with bears, or C) writing for Criminal Element and Shelf Awareness. If you’re not stalking me on the Internet, here are helpful links to recaps and commentary I did for CE of Whitechapel‘s season oneepisode one, two, and three (there are only three eps per season). It’s a dark British crime drama starring Rupert Penry-Jones (MI-5) and Phil Davis about detectives trying to catch a Jack the Ripper copycat. Season two just started last night on BBC America, with the detectives chasing killers emulating the Krays.

I’m also posting, with permission, my following review that ran on Shelf Awareness for Readers last Friday. If you haven’t started this series, now’s the time to jump in.

Hell & Gone by Duane Swierczynski

Many people use “hell” as a simile, but Duane Swierczynski uses it almost literally to describe the place where most of the action takes place in Hell & Gone, the second installment in the trilogy that started with Fun & Games. Charlie Hardie is kidnapped by the nefarious Accident People—killers who make their hits look like accidents—and sent deep underground to run a prison that supposedly holds the world’s most dangerous criminals. Life is hell in a place with no windows or sunlight, but if anyone tries to escape, everybody dies. Things turn topsy-turvy when one of the prisoners, a gorgeous woman, says she didn’t do anything wrong, that she was looking for Charlie when she was abducted and ended up there. The guards had warned Charlie about how she can mess with people’s heads, so who—and what—should he believe?

Like the previous book, the pace here is unrelenting. The story takes many bizarre turns, but Swierczynski is inventive enough to keep readers from guessing where it’s headed. Poor Charlie can never get a moment’s respite from the craziness around him, a situation whose purpose he still doesn’t understand, much less his role in it. It’s difficult to see “Unkillable Chuck” weakened by injuries he sustained during his first encounter with the Accident People and the mysterious medical procedures they inflict on him at the beginning of this novel. He does get to strike back in the end, though his actions don’t achieve all the desired results. It’s okay, because Point & Shoot is yet to come next March. And if the cliffhanger is an indication, the finale promises to be out of this world.

Nerd verdict: Hell for Charlie; fun for readers

Buy it now from Amazon| Buy from IndieBound


Nerdfest: Day Four

We’ve arrived at day four of Nerdycon, with more crime authors sharing spectacularly nerdy moments. Think you know them from their work? Well, you may never have seen them like this.

Today’s panelists:

*Tess Gerritsen—Tess is the internationally bestselling author known for her medical thrillers and the Rizzoli & Isles series that inspired the hit TV show. She’s won a Nero and a Rita Award, her favorite word is “cocktails,” and she was once almost arrested by hospital security while doing research.

*Jonathan Hayes—Jonathan’s series, starting with Precious Blood, is about burnt-out New York City medical examiner Edward Jenner. Jonathan is also an M.E. and forensic pathologist in NYC but finds his work rewarding and has lectured all over the world, including for the FBI in Quantico. He collects Victorian taxidermy, has been cursed with black magic, and believes the greatest gift of all is “irredeemably filthy friends.”

*Hilary Davidson—Hilary won an Anthony and a Crimespree Award earlier this month for her debut novel, The Damage Done. Her short stories have appeared in numerous publications, including Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine and Beat to a Pulp. She might have a thing for feet because her stories often include foot fetishes and high heels doing kinky things.

*Duane Swierczynski—Duane recently won both an Anthony and a Crimespree Award for his novel Expiration Date. He’s also the author of the Charlie Hardie trilogy—the second installment, Hell & Gone, comes out October 31—which is so addictive, there was a secret operation to steal his laptop during Bouchercon. This was terminated when he threatened to turn one of the operatives into an explosive device.

*Lisa Lutz—Lisa writes the Spellman mysteries, about private investigator Izzy Spellman and her adventures working for her eccentric family’s PI firm. Lisa also co-wrote with David Hayward a standalone, Heads You Lose, released earlier this year. She actually has worked for a private detective agency, and hopes to play a subway thug before she dies.

The anecdotes:

A. Back in high school, whenever I wrote a horror story, I’d spend a lot of time coming up with fake blurbs to include at the beginning. Usually self-deprecating things like:

“Neatly typed.”—Kirkus

“… [good]…”—New York Times

“If you’ve ever wondered how to regrout your sink by yourself, this is the book for you. Concise, helpful, and full of lively illustrations…this may become a permanent addition to your workshop bookshelf.”—Bob Villa’s This Old House magazine

“Not to get ad hominem about it, but [this author] sucks.”—Creative Sex Drive magazine

That way, when friends would read the story and then tell me, “Man, this sucked,” I could point to the blurbs and reply: “Well, I warned you!”

B. Taught myself to read basic Egyptian hieroglyphs.

C. I wasn’t always this effortlessly cool. For a while there, in fact, I really struggled. Probably the low point came when I went to see DEVO on their Duty Now for the Future tour. I got my mother to draw an Atomic Future Man logo on my T-shirt, wore a white lab coat and weird maroon wrestling-type headgear outfitted with a brassy metal mesh visor. I can’t for the life of me remember why I thought this would be a good thing, but I wore it with pride all night. This was after my dog collar-and-“EAT FLAMING DEATH!!!” T-shirt days, and well after my All White Clothing phase.

D. Growing up I was completely obsessed with Marlon Brando. Wrote numerous unsent letters to him. I had to get the tone just right and always failed. I was certain that we were going to become close friends. When he died I got several condolence calls.

E. Looking back at my elementary school years, I’d like to think I was quirky. Seeing photos of myself from that time makes me understand why other kids thought I was weird. What eleven-year-old adds a long, floral-print chiffon scarf to her T-shirt-and-shorts combo? Me, apparently. When I was fourteen, I discovered the joys of secondhand clothes and vintage shopping. By then, I was going to school with kids who were as nerdy as me. We thought it cool to recite lines from Monty Python. Our idea of a decadent night out was to go to the revue cinema that played The Rocky Horror Picture Show every weekend. In other words, I was in my element. I felt free to experiment, and I did.

My parents, much to their credit, never once said, “You’re wearing that?” when I went out. They had rules—I wasn’t allowed to wear makeup until I was fifteen—but they accepted my experiments with lace tights and sweatshirt dresses and shiny belts and bowler hats as par for the course. They knew I was a nerd, but I was a happy nerd. As I write this, I realize that I’ve never told them how much I appreciated that. Thanks, Mom & Dad!

Put on your guessing caps! This is the final batch of authors’ nerdy stories (click to read them from days one, two, and three). Check out authors’ sites if you’re flummoxed, then leave answers in the comments. You need to get only one right to be entered in the giveaway. Come back tomorrow for all the answers, and a “Before They Were Authors” slide show featuring pictures of some of the participants!



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?



Nerdy Recycling

I’m copyediting a couple of manuscripts right now (Brett Battles’s Becoming Quinn is in da house!) and sleeping showering blogging time is a little scarce. So, I’m posting a link to a piece I did at Criminal Elements about how casting can ruin police procedurals, and, with Shelf Awareness’s permission, my review of Duane Swierczynski’s Fun & Games that ran in its newsletter recently.

Enjoy! It’s almost Friday!


Duane Swierczynski’s Fun & Games, the first in a trilogy, is aptly titled because it blows your hair back and leaves you gasping for more. What the title doesn’t tell you is that the games being played are stone-cold deadly.

Charlie Hardie is a professional house-sitter whose latest assignment is a film composer’s lair in the Hollywood Hills. All he wants to do is spend the week on the couch drinking and watching DVDs. Instead he finds drugged-up actress Lane Madden hiding in the house, yammering about how “they” are out to get her. Her claims soon prove to be true, and Charlie unwillingly gets caught up in her life-or-death struggle, trying to vanquish the ruthless people who are determined to trap and kill them inside the house using various methods from the murderers’ manual. Along the way, Charlie discovers why the killers are targeting Lane, a reason almost as terrible as his own secrets.

Charlie is the most entertaining protagonist I’ve met in a long time. He’s a reluctant hero who fights back only because he’s angry, like a sleeping bear who’s been poked too many times with a stick. Once he’s on the warpath, though, there is no stopping him. And Lane is no stereotypical actress. She’s a resilient yet vulnerable character whose life hasn’t been made easier by her fame and beauty.

The pulp noirish story has more turns than the twisty L.A. canyon roads that provide its setting, and the pacing is as fast as a car careening down those same roads without brakes. Though Swierczynski lives in Philadelphia, he describes Los Angeles landmarks like a local. But his biggest gift to readers here is the creation of Charlie, a winning protagonist I’ll follow to Hell—Hell & Gone, that is, the next installment coming this October.

Nerd verdict: Explosively Fun & Deadly Games


Nerdy Links

Got lazy busy this week despite (because of?) the short week so I’ll just post or link to a few things I found interesting around the web.

Here’s the international poster for David Fincher’s adaptation of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. I have no idea why Lisbeth is half-frontal naked. Because she’s not objectified enough or the movie needs more attention?

Entertainment Weekly reports that Martin Scorsese might direct a biopic about Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton. Not sure this would be a good idea. Who amongst our contemporary stars could play the iconic couple? EW suggests Clive Owen and I’d be completely behind that, but I’d have to say no to Catherine Zeta-Jones. The actress is gorgeous but oddly lacks charisma. Do you have any casting ideas?

The funny video below, George Lucas Strikes Back, explains why the Star Wars prequels were so awful: Lucas was kidnapped twenty years ago and an impostor made those movies. Short Round makes a cameo in this “trailer” and the actress playing Leia really has her Carrie Fisher impression down.

The Rap Sheet put together a list of 100 crime fiction novels you should check out this summer. I’ve read some of them; there’s some good stuff on there.

One of the books on the list, Duane Swierczynski’s Fun & Games, is in my top three of favorites so far this year. It’s the first in a trilogy featuring a great new character named Charlie Hardie. Duane is doing a fun giveaway for those who pre-order F&G. Prizes include personalized copies of his five previous novels, postcards from him as he travels across America on his book tour later this month, and the chance to name a character in the third Hardie book. Get the scoop here.

David Sedaris has a new short story out. It’ll be published in the paperback version of his Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk but you can read it here now. It’s titled “Vomit-Eating Flies” and isn’t for readers with weak stomachs but it has his trademark wit and commentary.

June 1 would’ve been Marilyn Monroe’s 85th birthday, so LIFE released rare photos from when she was a 22-year-old actress just starting her career. The pictures show her taking ballet, acting and singing lessons, and Marilyn seems delighted by everything. See the rest of the gallery here.

Photo by J.R. Eyerman/LIFE

Finally, my Friday reads are Liane Moriarty’s What Alice Forgot and Karin Slaughter’s Broken. What are you reading?

Have a great weekend!

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