Tuesday, April 30, 2013

107. The Hypnotist by Lars Kepler.

The Hypnotist by Lars Kepler. Translated by Ann Long
Joona Linna (1)

Rating: (5/5)

(US) - (Canada) - (Kindle)

2009 (Sweden), Jun. 12, 2012 (English), McClelland & Stewart, 503 pgs
Age: 18+

"Tumba, Sweden. A triple homicide, all of the victims from the same family, captivates Detective Inspector Joona Linna, who demands to investigate the grisly murders -- against the wishes of the national police. The killer is at large, and it appears that the elder sister of the family escaped the carnage; it seems only a matter of time until she, too, is murdered. But where can Linna begin? The only surviving witness is an intended victim -- the boy whose mother, father, and little sister were killed before his eyes. Whoever committed the crimes intended for this boy to die: he has suffered more than one hundred knife wounds and Lapsed into a state of shock. He's in no condition to be questioned. Desperate for information, Linna sees one mode of recourse: hypnotism. He enlists Dr. Erik Maria Bark to mesmerize the boy, hoping to discover the killer through his eyes. It's the sort of work that Bark had sworn he would never do again-ethically dubious and psychically scarring. When he breaks his promise and hypnotizes the victim, a Long and terrifying chain of events begins to unfurl."

Received a review copy from Random House Canada.

Wow. Wow. Wow. Fantabulantanticous!!! First book in a new Swedish detective crime series has all the ingredients for a major high stakes serial killer thriller mystery story.  There are so many related storylines and plots in this horrifying crime that one never knows where the next thing will come from.  At first the book seems to be going in the ordinary way of any ordinary mystery and a perp. has been found but... what? only 1/4 of the way into the book... what could possibly happen next?  Kepler has oh so much more in store that it is page-turningly impossible to keep up with him.  I adored his use of being in the past switching to the present then going back into the immediate past, back and forth until a certain part of the book we need to be immersed into a time period ten years earlier to learn the background that is connected to this present state of affairs.  The author manipulates both the multiple time scene changes and multiple cast members with dexterity, never once leaving me feeling dangling.  I had a firm grip the whole time and was on the edge of my seat literally from paragraph one.  It is hard to tell who the main characters that will follow over into the next volume will be though.  Of course DI Joona Linna, but we don't get to know him very well, in this book.  We do get to know Dr. Erik Bark much more personally but was he just around for this event or will he be a recurring character.  I'd like to see his return.  Guess I'll find out soon as "The Nightmare" is coming up soon on my bedtime table. Highly recommended for Scandi-crime fans!

Friday, April 26, 2013

102. The Horla by Guy De Maupassant.

The Horla by Guy De Maupassant. Translated by Charlotte Mandell
The Art of the Novella

Rating: (5/5)

(US) - (Canada) - (Kindle)

1887, 2005, Melville House Publishing, 74 pgs
Age: 18

"This chilling tale of one man’s descent into madness was published shortly before the author was institutionalized for insanity, and so, The Horla has inevitably been seen as informed by Guy de Maupassant’s mental illness. While such speculation is murky, it is clear that de Maupassant—hailed alongside Chekhov as father of the short story—was at the peak of his powers in this innovative precursor of first-person psychological fiction. Indeed, he worked for years on The Horla’s themes and form, first drafting it as “Letter from a Madman,” then telling it from a doctor’s point of view, before finally releasing the terrified protagonist to speak for himself in its devastating final version. In a brilliant new translation, all three versions appear here as a single volume for the first time."

Purchased a copy on subscription from Melville House.

The Horla - 1887 (final version) -  Fantastic piece of Gothic horror!  I've read Maupassant before but this is my first time reading this story.  A series of journal entries as a man tells how he is not feeling well.  He takes various vacations, feels better but his illness always returns when he gets back home.  He starts to believe he is going mad as his physical ailments lead to hallucinations and eventually he muses upon whether he is a rational man having hallucinations or simply a madman.  However, things take a different turn when he believes his hallucination may be real and perhaps his problem is a being not of this plane.  A perfectly paced example of the Victorian Gothic.

Letter From a Madman - 1885 (first draft published under a pen name) - This is a mere 10 pages compared to the over 40 of the final story and is only a hint of what would become "The Horla".  A man writes a letter to a doctor asking him to be put away in the madhouse and then explains what he has been suffering.  Starting out as an essay on the five senses and then going on to the man's hallucinations of experiencing the missing senses, this is not a particularly exciting short story though it does end on a creepy note.  There are a lot of scenes and ideas that have been used in the final story "The Horla".  One can see how this story must have left the author feeling there was much more that could be told from the basic idea he had presented here.

The Horla - 1886 (first version) - Not the novella of the final version but a much longer short story than the "Letter..."  A good story which I quite enjoyed and would have been satisfied with giving a 4*, but having read the final version see how the story lacks its haunting Gothic creepiness.  For this version a doctor invites colleagues over to hear his patient's story; which the patient then proceeds to recount.  First off with this set up, we know the "madman's" fate from the beginning which is unknown in the final version and part of the pacing.  The story does now contain all the same elements and events that will fill the final story but since the patient is telling a story which has happened in the past it does not have the same eeriness as the final story which is told in real time journal entries.

Altogether a wonderful experience reading the progress of an idea into a brilliant novella.  Even though I enjoyed the first story (the final version) the most, the whole reading experience was a 5* event!

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

101. Jungleland: A Mysterious Lost City, a WWII Spy, and a True Story of Deadly Adventure by Christopher S. Stewart

Jungleland: A Mysterious Lost City, a WWII Spy, and a True Story of Deadly Adventure by Christopher S. Stewart

Rating: (3.5/5)

(US) - (Canada) - (Kindle)

Jan. 8, 2013, Harper Collins, 288 pgs
Age: 18+

Received an egalley through from the publisher through Edelweiss.

""I began to daydream about the jungle...."
On April 6, 1940, explorer and future World War II spy Theodore Morde (who would one day attempt to assassinate Adolf Hitler), anxious about the perilous journey that lay ahead of him, struggled to fall asleep at the Paris Hotel in La Ceiba, Honduras. 
Nearly seventy years later, in the same hotel, acclaimed journalist Christopher S. Stewart wonders what he's gotten himself into. Stewart and Morde seek the same answer on their quests: the solution to the riddle of the whereabouts of Ciudad Blanca, buried somewhere deep in the rain forest on the Mosquito Coast. Imagining an immense and immaculate El Dorado–like city made entirely of gold, explorers as far back as the Spanish conquistador Hernán Cortés have tried to find the fabled White City. Others have gone looking for tall white cliffs and gigantic stone temples—no one found a trace.
Legends, like the jungle, are dense and captivating. Many have sought their fortune or fame down the Río Patuca—from Christopher Columbus to present-day college professors—and many have died or disappeared. What begins as a passing interest slowly turns into an obsession as Stewart pieces together the whirlwind life and mysterious death of Morde, a man who had sailed around the world five times before he was thirty and claimed to have discovered what he called the Lost City of the Monkey God.
Armed with Morde's personal notebooks and the enigmatic coordinates etched on his well-worn walking stick, Stewart sets out to test the jungle himself—and to test himself in the jungle. As we follow the parallel journeys of Morde and Stewart, the ultimate destination morphs with their every twist and turn. Are they walking in circles? Or are they running from their own shadows? Jungleland is part detective story, part classic tale of man versus wild in the tradition of The Lost City of Z and Lost in Shangri-La. A story of young fatherhood as well as the timeless call of adventure, this is an epic search for answers in a place where nothing is guaranteed, least of all survival."

A modern day reenactment of an old explorer's search for a lost city in the same vein as David Grann's The Lost City of Z but not of the same calibre as that book.  Christopher Stewart follows in the footsteps of Theodore Morde who explored Honduras during the late 1930s looking for the fabled "White City".  Chapters alternate between telling Morde's story and Stewart's.  Morde's story comes from extensive diaries he kept during his expedition and life.  An entertaining story, well-written and an enjoyable read.  The title of the book is a bit of a misnomer mentioning the WWII Spy bit as Morde did go on to do this after his exploration but this occupies only about two chapters of the book near the end.  The book is about explorers, exploration, and lost civilizations, not wartime espionage.  While the tale is a captivating read for those who enjoy jungle exploration, nothing much of actual note really happens.  Neither Morde nor Stewart faced any unusual or unique dangers nor enthralling experiences.  I enjoyed Morde's story the most.  Stewart I found hard to like from the get-go.  Here is a married man, father of a three-year old child who picks up and takes off for the jungle, a potentially life threatening action, for purely selfish reasons, trying to "find himself", etc. mostly against his wife's wishes though she doesn't make much fuss according to the author.  I just found him an unlikeable, immature person and though he laments what he's done and "grows" through the experience, I found myself thinking about his poor wife and daughter left worrying about him back home while he basically traipsed around on this fool's errand.  So, an interesting story but mostly for the historical aspect of Theodore Morde's story, in my opinion.  I would have preferred a book just about Morde and not the author and his ego.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

99. The Alienist by Machado De Assis.

The Alienist by Machado De Assis. Translated by William L. Grossman
The Art of the Novella

Rating: (3/5)

(US) - (Canada) - (Kindle)

1881, June 2012, Melville House Publishing, 86 pgs
Age: 18

"Brilliant physician Simão Bacamarte sacrifices a prestigious career to return home and dedicate himself to the budding field of psychology. Bacamarte opens the first asylum in Brazil hoping to crown himself and his hometown with “imperishable laurels.” But the doctor begins to see signs of insanity in more and more of his neighbors. . . .
With dark humor and sparse prose, The Alienist lets the reader ponder who is really crazy."

Purchased a copy on subscription from Melville House.

Taking place in a fictional small town in Brazil, this is a farcical look at the new science of psychiatry, whose practitioners are called Alienists, and what exactly it means to be mad.  Who can claim someone is insane versus someone else? What exactly is normal? Are we all mad? Is normalcy a sign of insanity?  Many such circular questions are examined in this farce.  I enjoyed the story but wasn't overly taken with it.  The main character, Bacamarte, a scientist, physician, alienist is studying and experimenting madness and sanity on the residence of a small town.  I found him quite over the top and unbelievable, while the residents were gullible and also unrealistic but then one is aware at each turn that this is a farce and over the top unrealistic characters are the norm for such fare.  An interesting and enlightening take on sanity/insanity especially coming from this Victorian era.  I'm glad to have read it but does not make me interested in the author's other work.

Friday, April 19, 2013

96. Woe To Live On by Daniel Woodrell.

Woe To Live On by Daniel Woodrell. Foreword by Ron Rash

Rating: (5/5)

(US) - (Canada) - (Kindle)

1987, 2012, Back Bay Books, 226 pgs
Age: 18+

"Set in the border states of Kansas and Missouri, WOE TO LIVE ON explores the nature of lawlessness and violence, friendship and loyalty, through the eyes of young recruit Jake Roedel. Where he and his fellow First Kansas Irregulars go, no one is safe, no one can be neutral. Roedel grows up fast, experiencing a brutal parody of war without standards or mercy. But as friends fall and families flee, he questions his loyalties and becomes an outsider even to those who have become outlaws."

Borrowed a copy from my public library.

I hadn't planned on reading any Civil War books this year but I am reading all of Woodrell's works and have had this on order with my library for close to a year now.  So it was a welcome surprise when it showed up with my library holds!  While this is an historical fiction Civil War book it is like none I've ever read before, nor expect to ever read again.  Not so much a story of the war itself as it is of a small group of southern men fighting independently as raiders, most are from southern states, a few are from neutral states and one is a black man based on a real photograph of Quantrill's Raiders.  This story doesn't take anybody's side as being the right one, neither side is the courteous one.  Told from the southern point of view, these men and boys fight because they believe in their cause or because it's what they want to do.  As raiders they've chosen not to follow the rule of the military and are hard-knuckle folk who shoot to kill and raid for the rewards.  Fresh young Jake Roedel is the main character and the story is told through his eyes.  Jake learns to kill, lynch, shoot in the back, raid and pillage all because if he doesn't first, "they" will.  At some point he realises that "they", the Yanks, are no different than him in a human way but also no different in that if he doesn't shoot first he'll drop dead first.  There is no honour among killers.  The black man, Holt, plays a strange role in the story first belonging to one of the men but in an equal relationship with him and then actually befriending our young Jake.  The N-word is used superfluously until by the end of the book one has become desensitized to it.  There is blatant racial prejudice and at other times as Jake and Holt become friends, between them Holt will always be the n-, but it is as if it were left-handedness rather than race that makes them "different" in Jake's eye, but Holt himself knows his identity is bound up in his race even when it comes to friendship.  A very real book, written as if of the time period.  The author holds back on nothing never trying to appease political correctness, the south or the north.  The attitudes are all here as they were back in the 1860s.  A brutish, hard, difficult story that does not end without some redemption and hope for its characters.  A fine piece of writing.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

93. More Twisted: 2 by Jeffery Deaver

More Twisted: Collected Stories 2 by Jeffery Deaver
More Twisted (Vol. 2)

(US) - (Canada) - (Kindle)

2007, Simon & Schuster Canada, 448pgs
Age: 18+

Rating: 3.5/5

"New York Times bestselling author Jeffery Deaver, who crafted first-rate thrills in the collected stories of Twisted, presents sixteen more tales -- including an all-new Lincoln Rhyme entry -- spawned from his darkly brilliant imagination. From a stressed-out commuter to a death-row inmate, Deaver's characters are never what they seem -- and every jaw-dropping curveball he delivers is nothing less than "ingeniously devious" (People). "

Purchased and downloaded the Kindle edition onto my Kindle. .

I've read one Deaver novel, A Kathryn Dance one, which I enjoyed very much; and several of his short stories now.  I enjoyed most of these stories with them ranging from excellent to mediocre and, imho, most were good-very good.  My average rating comes to a 3.5 for the stories and I feel happy with that; just a bit better than good!  Deaver shows himself to be a good writer and the master of the twist ending.  He's been on my tbr list forever.  Perhaps next year I can devote some time to him.

1. Chapter and Verse - Good one!  I played right into the author's hands! A witness in protection is threatened before going to trial and the police try to figure out a clue left by a dead man.  I thought I'd figured it out right at the beginning and when the twist came I was proven right until the second twist that is!! Fun.  Great start. (4/5)

2. The Commuter - This starts off by telling us about a serial killer currently on the loose killing middle class men.  A wife is worried about her husband and then we follow his day to day life and end up watching it unravel in a tale of revenge.  Love how this just completely went in unexpected directions at ever turn.  (5/5)

3. The Westphalian Ring - An historical fiction piece set in Victorian London.  Not exactly a mystery but the tale of an accomplished burglar who suddenly finds himself under suspicion and how he races against time and the police, now using the latest investigative techniques, to avoid being caught.  I actually found myself getting a little bored in the middle as it seemed to be unravelling quite naturally, then, swish, there was the twist, and what a fun story it was.  Enjoyable. (4/5)

Note:  I am hoping some of these stories will start becoming scary or tense rather than just fun soon.

4. Surveillance - Similar to the previous story but modern.  A police officer is determined a certain man is the thief in a recent burglary and uses all the latest surveillance techniques to find proof.  At the same time the man uses his wits to get the police off his tail.  A cat and mouse chase.  The twist changed the story but wasn't very shocking. Just ok.  (3/5)

5. Born Bad - This is a mysterious story.  A mother gets a phone call from the daughter she hasn't seen or heard from in three years and nervously waits the 30 mins for her arrival.  Her thoughts turn to the past and we get the picture of a wild, disobedient girl, always trouble, who eventually ran off as soon as she was old enough to.  When the daughter arrives the scenario starts to unwind but in a new perspective.  Clever and fun. (4/5)

6. Interrogation - This is what I've been waiting for!  Days before his sentencing, a killer agrees to see a detective.  It has been planned that this man would do the final interrogation to try to find the motive for the man's apparent random act.  Once he thinks he has it all figured out, only then does the detective realise the killer has turned the tables on him.  Chilling!  (5/5)

7. Afraid - Whoa!  A tour de force! A woman is going away for the weekend with a man for the firs time whom she has been dating for about a month as he drives to their destination he starts using backroads and eventually enters a rundown part of the city.  Set in Florence, Italy.  Terrifying and creepy!  (5/5)

8. Double Jeopardy - Another great story!  This one is a bit different.  We see a defense attorney use his skills to play the system and get his (guilty) client off; this *is* what he is known for.  But this time he finds out that those who hired him are not who he thought they were and he gets played in the end.  Very clever and fun!  (5/5)

9. Tunnel Girl - A coed walking home one evening falls in a hole and an abandoned building collapses on her.  The story of her rescue is told from the man who owns the building across the way which city officials say has a connecting underground tunnel.  I could see the twist coming in this one but it was still a good story. (3/5)

10. Locard's Principle - At this point we have what is probably the piece de resistance for most of the author's fans: a Lincoln Rhyme novella. I haven't read any of this series yet but I have seen The Bone Collector movie.  I loved this story! A nice long story, the novella takes up the middle section of the book and has Rhyme on the case of a retired billionaire CEO turned philanthropist who was murdered in his bed.  Not only is the killer unknown to the reader but several other people's identities are left unidentified causing the ending to be quite exciting as everything is revealed in the last few pages.  Makes me want to get to this series even more than before.  (5/5)

11. A Dish Served Cold - Another fine example of mounting tension and psychosocial suspense.  When a when a wealthy man is made aware by the police that an attempt on his life is possibly in the works he doesn't know what to think.  A t first no too serious, but the police are protecting him with bodyguards and things begin to happen that are a bit too close for comfort.  Who could want him dead?  He's not a horrible person but he sure has done enough things to piss a lot of people off.  It could be any of them, or they could have paid someone to do it.  The police know who the hitman is but not who is behind it.  Then the story starts to slowly piece by piece fall apart and have the police been made to play the fool here?... Devilishly sneaky.  (5/5)

12. Copycat - Two girls have been murdered and a civilian notices that they mimic the crimes in a book written a while ago.  But it doesn't end their, previously, there were two other murders which have the same MO.  A reporter brings this coldcase to Detective Alltman and a wild ride follows as he unravels who the Greenville Strangler is.  Full of twists and turns and just when it's all sorted out Deaver throws in a final twist to completely shock you.  Loved it.  This one was more novella size as well.  (5/5)

13. The Voyeur - A man is watching a young woman in the next apartment building trying to figure out a way to actually meet her when he spies another man watching her from the bushes.  Well, this certainly had a twist and it totally surprised me with where it went.  I was a little disappointed though as it could have been pretty creepy but instead ended up being dark humour instead. (3/5)

14. The Poker Lesson - An 18yo joins a high stakes poker table.  One guy tries to take an other while the other has his own take on the go.  In the end the whole table is taken by a twist.  Surprise ending but way too much information about poker and gambling that I never had any interest in that it was quite boring at times.  (2.5/5)

15. Ninety-Eight Point Six - A man's car breaks down in the middle of nowhere and when he reaches the only house nearby to call AAA he encounters a couple who seem very strained with the tattooed young man with them.  The man get suspicious and the twist and turns keep rolling in this one!  Creepy and fun!  (5/5)

16. A Nice Place to Visit -  Starts out with a tourist in New York City and works its way down to petty thieves, crooks, scam artists, dirty cops, and killers.  Then someone is out for revenge and you won't believe who it is.  Quite intense, but not exactly twisted. (4/5)

Monday, April 15, 2013

92. Patrick, Patron Saint of Ireland by Tomie dePaola

Patrick, Patron Saint of Ireland by Tomie dePaola

Rating: (5/5)

(US) - (Canada) - (Kindle)

1992, Mar. 5, 2013, Holiday House, 32 pgs
Age: 4+

"The story of Patrick’s life, from his noble birth in Britain, to his being captured and taken to Ireland by a group of bandits, to the “dreams” that led him to convert the Irish people to the Christian faith. DePaola also retells several well-known legends, including the story of how Patrick got rid of all the snakes in Ireland. Full color."

Tomie dePaola is one of my favourite children's illustrators and I love the books he writes and illustrates, especially his Catholic books. There is really nothing else that can compare with them in pure quality and delight.  I've read this one before many times and it deserves a permanent place in any home library.  Not much is known about the real St. Patrick and dePaola starts off with telling us Patrick's life story as far as we know it factually.  It is a wonderful story of a young man who is captured and enslaved but through his love of God perseveres.  Upon escaping and returning home, he becomes a priest and eventually a bishop who feels called to go back to his place of enslavement, Ireland, to spread the Good News.  And this is Patrick's legacy as we know it, how he brought Christianity to Ireland.  Following this dePaola devotes a spread each to the common legends surrounding St. Patrick which may be true or may just be simple legends such as his driving the snakes out of Ireland, his use of the shamrock to explain the trinity, his floating on a stone across the sea, the light that shone from his fingers, and a few others.  A wonderful picture book and offered now for the first time in ebook format.

Friday, April 12, 2013

88. Island of Doom by Arthur Slade

Island of Doom by Arthur Slade
The Hunchback Assignments, IV

Rating: (5/5)

(US) - (Canada)

Jul. 9, 2012, Harper Trophy Canada, 272 pgs
Age: 12+

Borrowed a copy through Inter-Library Loan.

"Modo is stationed in Paris, and is directed to follow the trail of a mesmerist and illusionist. In the course of his explorations Modo discovers that he is French and was born near Notre Dame. The revelation makes him question his allegiance to the very British Permanent Association.He forsakes his mission attempting to find his parents. The final scenes will be played out in the cathedral of Notre Dame, where Modo will learn his true origin. (Or is he merely manipulated by the illusionist?)"

The final book in this series is a splendid, rollicking adventure.  Almost every kind of derring-do meets our favourite team of 'Tavia and Modo as they travel from Montreal, Canada to France then London and end up on a South Pacific Island.  A mixture of steampunk and Frankenstein meet with the horrid collection of human and steel warriors vs super creatures sewn together from parts of corpses and enlivened by the maternal blood of Modo.  Even though it has been a year since last reading about Modo, I jumped straight into this volume and was hooked from chapter one.  This is one of those books that you wonder why you are reading so slowly then all of a sudden your brain just can't keep up with your hand's eagerness to turn the pages.  I'm very pleased with how everything has been finished off.  There is a satisfying final end but various threads are left to quietly dangle and any one could easily be picked up to start anew somewhere else down the line.  In fact, I've seen the work for the new Graphic Novel that will be coming out as a standalone story and can only say "Thank God" this really isn't the end for Modo!

Saturday, April 6, 2013

80. Bone: Quest for the Spark, Book Three by Tom Sniegoski.

Bone: Quest for the Spark, Book Three by Tom Sniegoski. Art by Jeff Smith
Quest for the Spark: Book Three

Rating: 4/5

(US) - (Canada)

Feb. 1 2013, Scholastic Canada, 288 pgs
Age: 8+

"The Nacht is growing stronger, and it's a race against time for Tom Elm and friends to find the final piece of the Spark before the entire Valley — and possibly the world — are plunged into eternal darkness. In this installment, the Queen of the Sky is brought down in the Pawa Mountains and our intrepid band of heroes is separated. What secrets can be found deep inside the mountains' caverns? Will the great mountain cat, Roque Ja, be ally or enemy? And will one of their very own betray them to evil?"

Page turning finish to this fantasy quest trilogy!  I thoroughly enjoyed the story, characters and plot with brief cameos from a couple of characters from the Bone comics for added fun.  Having been a year since reading book two I did find my memory hazy, as the book jumps right into the story with no triggers to get you oriented; but as I read, events started to fall into place and after a couple of chapters I was feeling quite at home again.  This is a great read that doesn't turn dark and has a slight sense of humour that continually lightens the story when the plot does get intense.  I didn't feel a lack of illustrations this time with the book either.  The others followed a one illustration per chapter rule and this does generally as well but either I've grown accustomed to it or the little trick they pulled worked.  You see it starts off with two illustrations per chapter for several chapters then it settles back into to the one-per routine and even skips illustrating very short chapters!  Worked for me though.  I loved Smith's art and Sniegoski pulled off a satisfying ending for all the characters involved.  This book does completely conclude the trilogy plot-wise, however the final paragraph of the book sets up the situation for a completely new plot.  From this I'm gathering the next book will be called something or other, Book One; starting a new trilogy.  I hope so, anyway, as I prefer trilogies over multi-book series.  Good show!  A fun middle grade fantasy quest trilogy.

Monday, April 1, 2013

No Joke April Fools Giveaway

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1 winner will receive their choice of a Kindle Fire HD (US Only), $199 Amazon Gift Card or $199 in Paypal Cash (International).

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