Thursday, January 17, 2008

Reading more is always good

This is a brief note to alert readers to the many "challenges" one can participate in that involve reading in 2008. I direct you to Gautami's book blog for a nice list of the opportunities, as well as lots of great commentary on a wide variety of books.

Also, for my readers who speak Spanish, or read Spanish, I direct you to the highly engaging, personal Argentinian blog by Mario Rabey, which I found after the author kindly reviewed this site, and which I enjoyed very much.

Unfortunately, my commenting system is not working well at the moment. I'll try to have it debugged ASAP. If necessary, I will reconstruct any comments with appropriate links (somehow!), so don't hesitate to keep them coming! Thanks.

Sphere: Related Content

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

BlogRush removed; Rare Negative Review; Resources and thanks

For all: As regular readers will know, I rarely publish a negative review. I operate on the principle that there is enough negative "stuff" already. Nevertheless, sometimes I have to speak out. My review of "On, Off" by Colleen McCoullough was pretty negative and, for rather specific reasons, it is featured in the current blog carnival Against Child Abuse (thanks to annaleigh for this edition and to "Marj aka Thriver" for running the whole carnival).

Any comments on negative reviews?

Sites that have helped me and might help you: Although BlogRush is gone from this site (see below), BlogCarnival has just appeared in the right-hand sidebar. I wish I could list all of my favorite carnivals instead of featuring just one, but wait! (as the late-night TV advertisements say), I can do so in here. BlogCarnival is a valuable resource for bloggers and readers (thanks to Walter at HighLight Health for alerting me to the carnivals). If you don't know how these work, here is the rundown: the carnivals are collections of articles from blogs around the world, the "home site" can rotate from one blog to another or have a permanent location, authors submit articles for consideration, and the hosts pick the (sub)topics and which articles to include.

The Natural Sciences Carnival encompasses science broadly, as does Philisophia Naturalis. Oekologie is devoted to ecology and the environment, The Philosophers' Carnival is self-explanatory and kindly included my post on Denis Diderot a while back (this was an overt break with crime fiction, if not a lengthy one), the Carnival of Australia covers all topics connected with Australia (including great crime fiction), the Carnival of the Criminal Minds is a great place to lean about crime fiction, and, for readers of all kinds, we have Readers and Writers Carnival, Books Carnival, and A Carnival of Bookworms. Thanks to those who run these blog carnivals!

What to expect and what not ...: I finished my first foray in to the world of George Pelecanos two nights ago, and will review "Soul Circus" soon. I am currently reviewing "The Shadow of the Shadow" by Paco Ignacio Taibo II, or PAC II. The author is a very interesting fellow and I love his writing. I read this particular book a while back and am having to refresh my memory as I go along. This will not be an "impressionistic review." I finished "Sacred" by Dennis Lehane but may not review it (I think I've said enough about the fine work by Mr. Lehane). I started reading "Legends" by Robert Littell only to realize in the first paragraph that I had already read it. If I haven't already reviewed it, I might do so. I just started reading "A Corpse in the Koryo" about North Korea, by James Church. I will not be reviewing "You Don't Love Me Yet" by Jonathan Lethem.

For bloggers only: In this world, we mustn't believe everything we read, so you will need to judge this for yourself, but, after reading the following post (here), I removed the BlogRush widget from this site. If you aren't a blogger, this won't concern you, but if you blog, it is worth a look. Maybe it is disinformation, but I acted on it. Entrecard is also discussed.

Final update of the day: I installed a system called Intense Debate, which is supposed to be an enhanced commenting system. I have used it on other people's blogs with success (and you can read many of my comments in the side bar). However, it was quirky to install and has been quirky to use on this site; I will dump it soon if things don't right themselves, though I'm keeping the faith for the moment. Please let me know if you have problems. Tech service has been contacted.

Addendum: lost comments added back as text here:

James K. Bashkin

Thanks for the feedback, yellojkt. Your approach makes perfect sense. I guess I felt that there is so much negative stuff online that I didn't want to add to it unless I really felt strongly about something.

Maybe I should do more negative reviewing. At the moment, mentioning that I will not review a book is an indication that the review would be negative (unless I give some specific reason, like my over-saturation with Dennis Lehane reviews at the moment),

  • yellojkt
I do publish negative reviews because if I was disappointed by a book I feel its honest to say so.
Frank, this was a little odd for me but I deleted the code for the blogrush widget which shared a sidebar box with an advertisement. Then, there was a ghost of the blogrush page that I could not get rid of until I deleted the entire page element, even though no BlogRush code was visible anymore. I just copied and pasted the Amazon code into a new page element and BlogRush was finally gone for good. I definitely don't like code that tries to stay alive like HAL in 2001 A Space Odessy.
Frank, thanks for the response. I'll have to read up more on EntreCard. I like the blog carnivals a lot, but I wish I could control the widget better. Some carnivals I'm not too keen on advertising. Oh well, perfection is rare (present company excluded). Best wishes, Jim

  • Frank C
Thanks for the mention Jim. I'll give your new comment system a try.

BlogRush was a good idea that was implemented poorly by the people behind it. They failed to deliver on promises and made a lot of people mad with them.

EntreCard, while not for everybody, might work for you so you could give it a trial run and see. The blog carnival widget might be a better idea for your blog though.

Thanks Again

Sphere: Related Content

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Murder and Madness, Swedish Style

Crime fiction master Henning Mankell starts and ends Before The Frost (BTF) with some serious and largely American tragedies: the Jim Jones/Jonestown affair and 9/11, but the story largely takes place in Sweden. A familiar friend to fans of international crime fiction, police inspector Kurt Wallander, is joined in this novel by his daughter, Linda, who recently graduated from the police academy. Linda is in a sort of suspended-animation, living with her Dad and waiting for the budget to be freed up so she can start work as a police officer. Linda will work out of the same police station in Skane as her Dad, and this book has a lot to say about father-daughter relationships- one theme involves Linda's long-time friend Anna and Anna's father, who abandoned the family 24 years earlier.

One pleasure of the book is a re-acquaintance with officer Stefan Lindman, whom I first met in The Return of the Dancing Master. However, the story itself is sobering. Though murder and disappearance occur throughout, they are also accompanied by cults, religious fanatics, infanticide, lies, and issues of how well we really know anyone.

The book is complex, but not needlessly so. Some events are not linked to the main thread in the way one might expect, and Linda shows her innate intelligence, as well as her inexperience, while pursuing various clues and crimes before she officially puts on the police uniform. Linda jumps into the fray because her friend Anna disappears shortly after mentioning a glimpse of her long-absent father in a nearby town. This is a claim that Linda has trouble believing.

Linda accompanies her own father to several crime scenes and to interview witnesses, initially more by coincidence than design. Linda's involvement increases out of necessity as the crimes begin to escalate, Anna's disappearance grows more troubling, and even more people disappear. Linda also travels around Sweden and to Denmark in search of answers about her missing friend, putting herself at risk and being assaulted several times. Linda is afraid now and then, but she has the determination of her father, and fights through encounters with thugs, steel hunting traps, and Christian terrorists (and no, they aren't a fictional construct outside of Northern Ireland).

During the story, we learn about Linda's troubled teenage years, two suicide attempts (one of which was very serious), her struggles with both parents (before and after their divorce), her failed relationships with boyfriends, and her decision to change careers and join the police. In spite of these difficulties, Linda grows closer to her father in many ways as they pursue the case.

There are no easy answers for the Skane police force or its Baker Street Irregular, Linda, on this case. The contributions of many, including colleagues who don't like each other, help at various stages, and Kurt orchestrates the team with his usual, gruff skill. Ultimately, however, the story and final triumph are Linda's, even if the victory is partly hollow because of the story's casualties.

I've read a lot of Mankell's books now, including Faceless Killers, The Fifth Woman, The Dogs of Riga, The White Lioness and more. The books can be very violent at times, but Mankell never exploits the violence by overdoing things, he only introduces violence that is integral to the stories. These novels maintain a very high quality and never rehash the same territory. In his books, Mankell doesn't shy away from moralizing about intolerance, greed, selfishness, neglect, fanaticism, racism, fascism and more, but he usually has a pretty light touch with the moralizing. Kurt Wallander himself is refreshingly non-judgmental, though he meets a realistic cross-section of people from all sides of the moral universe in his police work.

Read BTF to find out who survives unscathed, who "makes it" but bears lasting scars, and who doesn't make it at all out of the tangled web.

Lost comments recovered as text (reverse chronological order):

  • James Bashkin

Peter, I agree. The last two I've read mainly deal with crime in rural or small-town Sweden, yet they manage to incorporate WW2, contemporary fascism, Jonestown, 9/11, Christian terrorists, international Christian cults, and even more. The remarkable thing is it doesn't seem forced at all. Best wishes, Jim

  • Peter
I haven't read Mankell's last few novels, but in the earlier books, I was always impressed by his ability to combine narration on international and local scales.
Detectives Beyond Borders
"Because Murder Is More Fun Away From Home"

  • James Bashkin

Thanks so much, Chhaya! Yes, definitely friends. I'll reply in blogcatalog, too.

  • Chhaya
even tough i write mostly romance, i NEVER read it. i love reading the criminal/thriller type! so glad to have found u... friends?

Technorati Tags:, , , , , , , , , ,
Generated By Technorati Tag Generator

Sphere: Related Content