Looking for a Christmas Read?

In previous years, I've suggested popular fiction for holiday reads. This year I have decided to concentrate on two of my favorite genres: Romance and Mystery.

Recently, I buried myself in Lisa Kleypas' Wallflower Series. The final book in this 5 part series is Wallflower Christmas. Once Lillian Bowman and the other Wallflowers are settled with beaus, it's time to find her elder brother Rafe a wife. If romance, action, mystery, and the supernatural meets your interest, try Kerrelyn Sparks' All I Want for Christmas is a Vampire part of the Love at Stake Series. If short stories are your thing try this Christmas compilation: Wish List with stories by Lisa Kleypas, Lynsay Sands, Claudia Dain, and Lisa Cach.

For good Christmas mystery reads try Deck the Halls and it's sequel He Sees You When Your Sleeping co-written by bestselling author Mary Higgins Clark and her daughter Carol Higgins Clark. Regan Reilly, Carol Higgins Clark's dynamic young sleuth, meets Alvirah Meehan, Mary Higgins Clark's famous lottery-winning amateur detective, and both embark on a desperate search for Regan's kidnapped father and then reassemble in the sequel to help a family reunite during the holidays. Additionally, there is the short story collection Wolfsbane and Mistletoe with tales by talented authors such as Charlaine Harris, Patricia Briggs, Keri Arthur, and Carrie Vaughn.

For more suggestions of Romance, Mystery, as well as other Fiction Christmas reads, Check out: http://www.overbooked.org/booklists/subjects/themes/christmas.html

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #187

In Lou Manfredo's Rizzo's War*, veteran NYPD detective Joe Rizzo has always subscribed to the notion that “there is no right, there is no wrong, there just is” – a rule he tries to instill in his movie-star handsome, young and freshly-minted partner Mike McQueen. Their beat – the Bensonhurst, Brooklyn neighborhood where their savvy, courage and compassion is called on daily to keep the streets safe. But when a councilman’s daughter goes missing and they are forced to operate under the radar, with dubious boundaries, and no safety net, it is their trust in each other that's sorely tested.

Strongly character-driven, this police procedural sparkles with authenticity. (Born and raised in Brooklyn, Manfredo served in the Brooklyn criminal justice system for twenty-five years). The well-paced plot is firmly anchored in the physicality of the setting. Big city politics, organized crime, corruption, compounded by personal and family drama, old wounds, and new threats add complexity and suspense to the storyline.

Comparison with Joseph Wambaugh's The Choirboys(1975) is inevitable. This projected series debut and FFF will also please fans of the late Ed McBain's ever-popular 87th Precinct mystery series.

* = Starred Reviews

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #186

Seriously one of the best nordic crime fiction of the year, Anders Roslund's projected new series debut Box 21* is violent, horrific, and strangely gripping.

Over the course of a rainy summer's week in Stockholm, a Lithuanian prostitute viciously beaten close to death, three Stockholm police detectives investigating the case, sundry petty criminals, and a young doctor at the edge of despair cross path when one of them holds the the city hostage at gunpoint. While lives are lost, scores settled, secrets unearthed (Locker no. 21), friendship and honor severely tested, it is shame that drives the well-crafted thriller to its explosive and tragic conclusion.

Students of human nature and readers of Maj Sjowall and Per Wahlöo's Martin Beck series, Henning Mankell, and Karin Fossum - "Norway's Queen of Crime," will find this irresistible and affecting.

* = Starred reviews

Like Sookie Stackhouse?, Try the Harper Connelly Series

As a fan of Charlaine Harris, I was upset by the abrupt end to my 9 book reading spree of the Sookie Stackhouse Series. (Book 10 in the series is not released until the spring of next year.) After dealing with the bereavement of finishing what has been published of the engrossing Southern Vampires Mysteries, I needed a Charlaine Harris fix in a bad way. I started reading Grave Sight (Book 1 in the Harper Connelly Mysteries) Harper Connelly is a woman who uncannily survived a lightning strike as a child and now makes her living by finding dead people and correctly determining their cause of death with her acquired “sixth” sense. In this first novel, Harper and her stepbrother (this distinction is important) Tolliver Lang travel to the small town of Sarne, Arkansas to help locate the body of a missing girl. Finding the body proves easy for Harper, but leaving Sarne becomes the problem when the sheriff and other town members become suspicious of Harper's abilities. Along the way, Harper gets attacked and Tolliver ends up in jail, but eventually the mystery is resolved and the dynamic duo move on to another assignment.

In the second novel in the Harper Connelly series, Grave Surprise. Harper and Tolliver head down to Tennessee to do a "graveyard" job identifying and determining the COD (Cause of Death) of ancient remains at Bingham College. In a surprise twist Harper discovers that one of the graves has two bodies inside, one of which is a missing girl, Tabitha Morgenstern, Harper had been hired to find previously. The FBI become involved and Harper and Tolliver are suspected of being somehow involved with Tabitha's disappearance. Then, Dr. Nunley, the professor that requested Harper's services is also found dead in the cemetery. Along the way, we also meet some quirky psychic friends of Harper's: Manfred and Xylda Bernardo.

In the third novel in the Harper Connelly series, An Ice Cold Grave, Harper and Tolliver get an assignment in North Carolina trying to find the bodies of a half dozen young men considered to be "runaway" age. After searching the final disappearance site, Harper gets a reading and discovers a mass grave sight behind an old dilapidated house. The cause of death for the victims was so traumatizing that at first, Harper finds it difficult relaying the cause of death of the boys. Then on their first attempt out of town, Harper gets hit over the head and sentenced to a few days recuperation in the local hospital. Even though looking for more bodies is the last think Harper wants to do, the local authorities and State Bureau of Investigation agents demand that she stay in town to help with their investigation. Harper's friends Manfred and Xylda Bernardo reprise their roles and add unwanted media attention on the town and the murder investigations. Also, Harper and Tollivers relationship escalate to a new level.

Grave Secret is the fourth book in the Harper Connelly Series and will be released October 27th. Place your hold on the latest book in this series today!

The books are a treat, especially if you’re a Charlaine Harris fan and they contain developed and intricate plots, interesting characters, and a unique style of writing!

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #182

From the creator of CSI television series Anthony E. Zuiker come this sensational debut Level 26 : Dark Origins.

This is no ordinary crime thriller. In fact, it is the first digi-novel. It combines the book format, film, and interactive digital technologies into an intense storytelling experience.

Level 26 refers to law enforcement personnel's category of evil - with 25 being the most sadistic of torture-murderers. Now Steve Dark, the ultimate crime-scene tactician is on the trail of the most brutal of killers - one that they have invented a new level for. Code named "Sqweegel", this clever, twisted serial killer has been taunting the police and eluding capture for decades. His choice of victims appears to be random. Nobody is safe.

Readers will be able to log onto www.level26.com (special code and clues scattered through the text) to access digital movies featuring the characters, crime-scene details and more. It is an experience like no other.

Go ahead, double-check doors and windows and sleep with the lights on. I did. I drew the line on taking sharp objects to bed though.

Hidden Gems: Books Unjustly Dusty #5

berlinberlin

Readers of mysteries know that a good mystery writer is a rare find. Even though we’ll put up with mid-grade “who done its” to find out what happened in the end; the feeling left is similar to drinking flat ginger ale.

Philip Kerr a well known author of chidren’s books has also written a series of novels based in Berlin during the 1920's and 30's with a character named Bernard Gunther. Bernie is a former homicide inspector turned private detective trying to survive while the Nazis are taking over. Kerr is a master at intertwining a good story it into this fascinating, grim period. Try solving a crime when the biggest crime in world history is happening all around you.

The library has the Berlin Noir Trilogy: the first of which, March Violets published in 1989, won the Prix du Roman d'Aventures, The Pale Criminal published in 1990 and A German Requiem published in 1993.

Philip Kerr returned to writing more Bernie Gunther mysteries in the past few years but they are not Unjustly Dusty so you have to find out about them on your own!

My Soul to Take, a novel of Iceland

My Soul To TakeMy Soul To Take

If you’re like me and breezed through Arnaldur Indridason’s Reykjavik Murder Mysteries and are anxiously waiting for the next book to be translated into English (Hypothermia will be released at the end of the month, and the reviews are great), take a peek at Yrsa Sigurdardottir’s novels. As with many of Indridason’s books, they are also translated by Scudder, before his death. Thus far we have Last Rituals and the newest, My Soul to Take. The novels feature lawyer Thóra Gudmundsdóttir as an investigator helping solve random crimes she gets involved in. I am enchanted and awed once again at how well these Icelandic authors paint the Icelandic setting with such description that it becomes an important character in the books.

In My Soul To Take Thóra heads to the Snaefellsnes Peninsula to talk a frantic and spooked hotel owner out of the idea that his hotel is haunted by ghosts and that they are decreasing his property value. Of course while there a body washes up nearby, and she starts digging into the hotel’s history, the mysterious hauntings, and the history of the farms on the land the hotel now resides. Haunting, ethereal, lovely. Snaefellsnes is the perfect setting, as it has a history of its own magical and other worldly powers. This novel is an excellent whodunnit with a full cast of characters.

Teen Stuff: Being and Nothingness

In his 1943 essay, Being and Nothingness, Jean-Paul Sartre claims, "It is evident that non-being always appears within the limits of a human expectation." Sartre's awareness of the ability of death and/or absence to create meaning in life continues to resonate with authors and readers sixty years later. What has brought the authors below to reexamine this theme of loss and recovery? The sudden destruction of the WTC towers perhaps, or the disappearance of a viable American job market, or maybe something darker still.

Take Gregory Galloway's 2005 fiction, As Simple As Snow, a teen/adult crossover novel about a homogenized high school boy whose life suddenly becomes meaningful when his quirky, spontaneous girlfriend disappears the day before Valentine's Day. Or Carol Plum-Ucci's 2001 Printz Honor Book, The Body of Christopher Creed, where the titular character's mysterious absence casts a menacing shadow over a small town, eventually exposing the dark secrets of the people closest to him. And in John Green's 2006 Printz Award Winner, Looking for Alaska, Miles Halter's new life at Culver Creek boarding school is everything he could have hoped for in the "great perhaps" he was seeking, until tragedy gives his life new focus. Check out all of these novels from the AADL today.

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #178

Ann Arbor author Harry Dolan's sensational debut Bad Things Happen* has garnered rave reviews everywhere.

Patrick Anderson of the The Washington Post thought it "Witty, sophisticated, suspenseful and endless fun -- a novel to be savored by people who know and love good crime fiction, and the best first novel I've read this year."

Marilyn Stasio of The New York Times praised Dolan's gift of storytelling.

Publishers Weekly liked that "Dolan gets everything right in his debut. . . . Pitch-perfect prose and sophisticated characterizations drive the noirish plot, which offers plenty of unexpected twists."

Equally enthusiastic in endorsing this newcomer to crime fiction are Nelson DeMille, Karin Slaughter and James Patterson.

And where would Dolan set this mystery? Where else?

* = Starred reviews

Youth Stuff: When You Reach Me, by Rebecca Stead

When You Reach MeWhen You Reach Me

When You Reach Me is Rebecca Stead’s follow up to the acclaimed First Light, and it’s a good one, worthy of the Newbery Medal Award buzz that surrounds it. Miranda is a 6th grader living in New York City in 1979 with her mother. Her best friend Sal stops talking to her one day, and then she starts receiving mysterious notes predicting the future. So on top of day to day city living, being a latch key kid of a single mom (who is trying out for The $20,000 Pyramid), squabbling with other girls in her class, and having a slight crush on a boy, she has to figure out who is sending these notes and why. She finds it soothing to carry around a beat up copy of A Wrinkle in Time, and eventually has a rather interesting conversation on time travel with the new kid on the block. In the end Miranda figures it all out.

I liked the nostalgia in this book. I liked the setting, a few of the characters, the laughing man, the bit of time travel involved. I do wonder about the idea of having A Wrinkle in Time play such an important role in the book, but at the same time I love how young Miranda finds a book so fantastic she has to read it over and over and carry it around with her.

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