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22 March 2017
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21 March 2017
a series of murders with at least two tenuous connections, how would
you go about deciding which avenue to pursue? Paris Commissioner of
Police Jean-Baptiste Adamsberg, relies on his instincts, much to the
chagrin of his detective team.
Only another twenty metres, twenty little metres to reach the postbox, it was harder than she had expected. That's ridiculous, she told herself, there aren't little metres and big metres. There are just metres, that's all. How curious that at death's door, even from that privileged position, you should go on having such futile thoughts, when anyone might think you would come up with some important pronouncement, one that would be branded with red-hot iron in the annals of human wisdom. A pronouncement that people would repeat now and then in days to come: 'Do you know what Alice Gauthier's last words were?'—A Climate of Fear by Fred Vargas (Penguin Books, 2017, p. 1 [originally published in French, 2015])
- Setting: modern times; Paris and surrounds and remote Iceland
- Circumstances and why I want to read this novel: Although this is the 8th Commissioner Adamsberg book, it will be my first experience with the series, which is translated from the French. What caught my eye is that protagonist, commissioner of police in Paris, travels to rural Iceland, which provides a link between two murders that took place in France. A complicating element is another thread that ties several murders to a historical reenactment group that focuses on The Reign of Terror. I'm curious about the investigation in Iceland, which leads the police team down a dark path of local folklore and demon beasts.
- Genre: police procedural, murder mystery
- Other elements: Icelandic folklore, French history, quirky characters, good plotting
- Thoughts gathered from reviews: Adamsberg's team includes a diverse cast with a range of unique personalities (though I'm not sure if they are diverse in gender or ethnicity). Most reviewers liked the Icelandic folk belief aspects and mentioned that the plot keeps you invested. In addition, a couple of reviews specifically noted that readers need not read the previous books to enjoy this one. At least one reviewer thought Climate of Fear is not Vargas's strongest installment in the series.
- About the author: Fred Vargas, a Paris native, has won several International Crime Writers' awards and is also a professional historian and archaeologist.
20 March 2017
Happy first day of spring (or fall)! Last week there were signs of daffodils and tulips in my yard, but the sprouts are currently buried under snow. I'm pretty sure these kinds of bulbs can handle the cold, but I'll have to wait a little longer before I see flowers in my gardens.
I finished three books this week and started three more. I love it when I'm in a good reading groove. I also managed to watch a couple of movies: Foodies, which I reviewed on Saturday and Jackie, which I'll talk about later in the week.
I hit a new stride with my (in)famous unified database. I have all my print books cataloged and I'm through the letter O for my eBooks. I may finish this project before the end of year.
Books I Read
I Liked My Life by Abby Fabiaschi (St. Martin's Press): Don't be put off by the publisher's summary, which mentions suicide. The novel, which is told from three points of view -- the dead mother, the teenage daughter, and the widowed husband -- is less about suicide than it is about sudden death, life after death, grief, finding a new path, unanswered questions, family, and women's choices. While I wouldn't call the book life affirming, it is not a downer, and I liked the ending. I'm recommending the unabridged audiobook (Macmillian Audio; 9 hr, 47 min). Therese Plummer, Susan Bennett, and Dan Bittner, each of whom performed a different narrating character, had age-appropriate voices, projected a range of emotions, and blended well with each other. My full audiobook review will be available from AudioFile magazine.
One of the Boys by Daniel Magariel (Scribner): I was expecting a rough story but not a book that was so emotionally gripping that I ended up reading all in one go. The story involves a man who pits his sons against their mother and then, after removing them from her life and transporting them across state lines, sets the brothers against each other. The boys, especially the twelve-year-old, find their father hard to resist, until they are trapped in his downward-spiraling life and become the target of his abuse. The older boy sees the truth of their father first, and tries to blaze a trail to safety for himself and his brother. Tough subjects, but a not-to-be-missed debut.
City of Saints & Thieves by Natalie C. Anderson (G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers): Confession: I started this audiobook a couple of months ago and decided it wasn't for me. Then I started it again this week and couldn't stop listening. The book takes place in Africa and explores white businessmen, the criminal underworld, the guerilla armies, and especially the hardships faced by African women, not only in war-torn Congo but in the cities as well. Tina, the sixteen-year-old daughter of a murdered maid, has lived on the streets for five years, joining a gang and becoming a thief to keep her younger sister safe in a convent school. As Tina plans her revenge on the man who killed her mother, we are shown just how hard life can be for women in dangerous places. The audiobook (Listening Library; 11 hr, 12 min) was narrated by Pascale Armand. I was impressed with her range of accents (Swahili-English, American, French), her emotional depth, and her pacing. Armand's performance transported me to Africa, and I am recommending this audiobook. According to the author's note, although the characters are fictional, the story itself is based on the true conditions and recollections of Congolese refugees.
Books I'm Reading Now
My next audiobook (starting soon after writing this post) is Sam Shepard's The One Inside (Random House Audio; 4 hr, 31 min) read mostly by Bill Pullman, though Patti Smith reads her foreword. My print book is My Husband's Wife by Jane Corry (Pamela Dorman Books), which is a psychological thriller. My ebook is Himself by Jess Kidd (Atria), which is set in Ireland, making is perfect for March.
- Attention writers: SFK Press is hosting the 2017 Southern Fried Karma Novel Contest for authors who write about the American South. Details (including the application form and prizes) can be found on the publisher's contest page.
- The National Book Critics Circle announced the winners of their 2016 awards. Louise Erdrich's LaRose won the fiction award, and the full list of award winners can be found on the NBCC website.
- Finally, the Read It Forward editors (Penguin Random House) share six recommended debut novels in the following short video. Take a look.
18 March 2017
Did you know there are food bloggers and then there are food bloggers? I'm not either. You might be the first type, but I wonder if you could also be the second type.
Foodies: The Culinary Jet-Setters. a 2014 documentary from Thomas Jackson, Charlotte Landelius, and Henrik Stockare follow five food bloggers of the second type as they travel the world for the singular purpose of eating at Michelin-starred or exotic restaurants. This is not "extreme eating" or eating local. This is $8000-a person eating; this is peons like us could never even get a reservation eating.
Before I get into my reactions to the bloggers and the lifestyle and the food, I'd like to say bravo to the filmmakers, who captured the culture and the personalities of the two women and three men featured in Foodies. The documentary itself was well filmed and the story was nicely put together.
My only complaint is that these people were billed as bloggers, and we didn't really learn anything about their blogs or their following or how they wrote up their experiences. We did see them eating in fabulous restaurants, talking to the chefs, and taking a lot photos of their food.
Bloggers Andy Hayler, Katie Keiko, Aiste Miseviciute, Perm Paitayawat, and Steven Plotnicki represent the twenty-first-century restaurant critics. Some are wealthy, some are funded, and others live with their parents so they can save enough money to eat their way through Paris, Moscow, Tokyo, and New York. It appears as if they had unlimited resources and connections.
The food was beautiful, one of kind, and sometimes totally way out there (bird brains, anyone?). The presentations, however, are worth your viewing time--tropical forests, smokey globes, mini ice cream cones. But would I spend $5 for a single cherry? I just can't see it. Would I love to spend a zillion dollars for a tasting menu at a three-star restaurant. Maybe, kind of -- I don't know.
A couple things I noticed: This level of food blogging is a lonely business. For most part, travel and meals are solitary experiences. As one of the bloggers said, not too many of her friends are willing to plan an entire overseas vacation around a set schedule of restaurant reservations. In addition, there is no serendipity here -- the dining is planned, reserved, and well thought out.
Perhaps I'm just one of the boring commoners, but when I travel, I like to poke around and discover a fun cafe, a great slice of pie, and a family-owned local favorite. I'm not keen on too tight of a schedule. And more than anything, I like to share my meals with Mr. BFR, friends, and family.
Watch Foodies to get an idea of how the other type of food blogger lives. Aspire for the lifestyle if you can afford it and want it, but I'm pretty sure I'm happy as I am.
16 March 2017
March 2017 is shaping up to be a stellar month for new book releases.
Although I'm still very much a print kind of reader, I like adding
books to my eReader so I can carry a piece of my library with me
wherever I go. Here are 8 new books by women you'll find on my tablet.
- The Bone Witch by Rin Chupeco (Sourcebooks Fire): This start of a new fantasy series involves resurrection, witches, siblings, and self-discovery.
- The Cutaway by Christina Kovac (Atria / 37 Ink): In this psychological thriller set in DC, a TV producer gets caught up in the disappearance of a lawyer.
- The Fall of Lisa Bellow by Susan Perabo (Simon & Schuster): Billed as a coming-of-age story, this novel explores what happens when a teenager survives a crime that results in the abduction of another girl.
- Himself by Jess Kidd (Atria): A man returns to the Irish village of his youth to investigate why the mother he never knew abandoned him to an orphanage. A mix of humor, folklore, and mystery.
- It Happens All the Time by Amy Hatvany (Atria): Can best friends reunite and change the nature of their relationship? A contemporary look at love and gender roles.
- The Night Mark by Tiffany Reisz (Mira): In this time travel novel set on coastal South Carolina a grieving widow finds an unexpected second chance at happiness.
- Our Short History by Lauren Grodstein (Algonquin): A single mother facing her own mortality must find a way to do the right thing for her young son.
- The Wanderers by Meg Howrey (Putnam): When three people agree to live in an isolated simulated environment for the chance to be the first people to travel to Mars, they face unforeseen challenges.