Books of the Month – August 2011

August wasn’t a good month for my reading, at least numerically. I only finished 8 books for the month and I normally make it well into double digits ūüė¶ Generally reading is my ‘go-to’ form of relaxation but for the last several weeks I have not been able to settle to much reading at all. Life and its ups and downs has gotten in the way a little more than usual but I can’t really put my finger on why I have been so easily distracted away from reading. I expect things will pick up soon. If not I’ll give myself a good, stern talking to.

I do have a great book of the month to recommend though. I read Stan Jones White Sky, Black Ice¬†for the global reading challenge and it was a thorough treat. Set in a small Alaskan town the book features an investigation into two deaths that locals first attribute to suicide. I was a little worried that the book might be a bit ‘worthy’ in the way it tackled the delicate matter of the issues facing Alaska’s indigenous population but I found it refreshingly honest and intelligent. A jolly good mystery and a warmth to the characters rounded out the experience nicely. 4.5 stars.

Other¬†recommended reads from the month’s haul are:

Burned by Thomas Enger: A Norwegiean journalist returns to work after 2 years absence due to some traumatic personal experiences and is immediately thrust into reporting on a high-profile case in which a young student has been brutally murdered. The debut novel had its problems, most notably with increasingly outlandish plotting, but the author shows promise and there was a real credibility about the depiction of journalism and the disparity between what we (the public) say we want from our media and what our behaviour shows that we will actually read. 3 stars.

Rip Off by Kel Robertson: An Australian book where someone is killing participants in various dodgy financial schemes that have ripped off mum and dad investors and Inspector Brad Chen of the Australian Federal Police has to solve the crime while battling jurisdictional tantrums and a general public who think the murderer should be given a medal (not stopped). It’s funny, cleverly written and¬†delightfully¬†playful with the genre’s conventions. 4 stars.

The Diggers Rest Hotel by Geoffrey McGeachin:¬†This is a wonderful piece of Australian historical crime fiction set just after the end of WW2. Charlie Berlin is a returned soldier still coming to grips with his war time experiences as he rejoins the police in Melbourne and is then sent to investigate a series of robberies in rural Victoria. The book’s atmosphere is absorbing and feels very authentic, the characters are insightful and the mystery well-crafted. I gave the book 4 stars and the Ned Kelly Awards judges went even further, awarding it Best Crime Fiction Book for 2011 in a ceremony held last night as part of the Melbourne Writer’s Festival.

The Stonecutter by Camilla Lackberg: To Sweden this time for a story surrounding the death of an 8 year old girl. I coined the phrase ‘the crime fiction you have when you’re not having crime fiction’ for this book (and its series) because there’s always a fair amount of other stuff going on. Here there are new parents dealing with post natal depression, various people uncovering secrets from their pasts and an abusive relationship simmering away in the background. The fictional¬†Fj√§llbacka police aren’t the most competent force you’ll find either. But the book is well written and these emotional dramas are engaging because Lackberg makes readers care about the people she carefully introduces us to. 3.5 stars.

Written in Bone by Simon Beckett: the fact there is no link to a full review is no reflection on the book’s quality (merely of my level of distractedness lately). It tells the story of forensic anthropologist David Hunter who is called to the remote Hebridean island of Runa (Scotland) to assess whether or not a body that has been discovered was subject to death by natural causes or something more sinister. Nasty weather keeps David on the island and he becomes embroiled in the small community’s many secrets in this very atmospheric book. My eyes did start to boggle at the dead body pile-up but Beckett gets away with it due to superior writing and plotting skills. The narrator of the audio book, David Thorpe, was outstanding. 3.5 stars

Interestingly (?) all but one of these (Lackberg) are new to me authors. I love finding new authors to love.

The other two books I finished to round out the month were Nicci French’s Blue Monday and Lars Keplar’s The Hypnotist but for me these were meh reads so I’m going to waste no more bytes talking about them.

Other happenings at the blog

I shared my observations on cloud-based reading, having bought a cloud book via the booki.sh service last month. There were pros and cons and overall I decided I would try this type of reading again given the right circumstances. A week or so after I wrote the post Amazon announced its new cloud-based web app for Apple devices (iPhone, iPad) which will allow them to neatly skirt around Apple’s demand for 30% of all sales made via the Apple app store. I’ll try this app next time I’m reading a kindle book on my iPad just to compare the services (and because choice is a good thing innit?)

I wrote the first of what is supposed to be ten posts to celebrate women crime writers as it is the 25th anniversary of the US Sisters in Crime organisation this year. The challenge is being hosted here and if you aren’t going to participate you should at least follow the excellent wrap-ups from challenge master Barbara Fister as there are many wonderful books and writers being discussed. I talked about the female PI novel in my first post because they provided my introduction into crime writing by women (well as an adult anyway).

I’m not feeling very creative just now so no chart this month. Normal charty goodness will resume next month. Fingers crossed

Hopefully today’s delightful start to spring here in Australia (it was a gorgeous day AND I won a bottle of delicious cabernet from my local bookstore) will mean the reading gods smile upon me once more and I can get back to being lost in other worlds instead of staring distractedly around this one.

What about you…was August a good reading month? Did you have a favourite book? Or did you acquire anything you’re itching to read?¬†

This entry was posted in books of the month, Camilla Lackberg, Geoffrey McGeachin (Aus), Kel Robertson (Aus), list, Simon Beckett, Stan Jones, Thomas Enger. Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to Books of the Month – August 2011

  1. Marg says:

    Sometimes it just doesn’t happen. Hopefully September will be a return to more normal reading!

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  2. Kathy D. says:

    This is a very good list. I sent the Stan Jones’ review to a friend who has done archaeological studies and digs in Northern Alaska, and she’s interested, as am I. Kel Robertson’s review reminds me to find his earlier books which I was introduced to through the Fair Dinkum’s quiz. This one and the others interest me; any books with social commentary and wit pull me right in.
    Your post on Sara Paretsky’s V.I. Warshawski was excellent and on target, as well as your commentary on other women detectives.
    I have also have a reading slump this month due to a family health crisis and other necessary responsibilities which took my time and energy. However, I am still reading Kerry Greenwood’s delectable Earthly Delights — I love everything about it, including the cats. (This will be a holiday gift for a friend who cooks and likes the Phrynne Fisher series, which I can’t seem to read either.)
    I have Indridason’s Outrage sitting here, Kjell Eriksson’s new book from the library, The Hands that Tremble, Hotel Bosphorus at the library. I’m going to order Katherine Howell’s prior books from Abe Books or Amazon;both sell used books. Cold Justice was just the right mood I needed last month. I’ve also gotten Very Bad Men by Harry Dolan to read, very clever and witty. And, of course, there’s the wish list I’ve copied down from MIP, this web site, Petrona and Crime Scraps, an I have to strategize on the priorities as the library has enacted an austerity program, in which global crime fiction seems to have been hit hard, except some Scandinavian authors and a few others.

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  3. I just got a few new books add to my future mystery/thriller list. Thanks so much. I think you had a great month.

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  4. Bernadette – I’ve had those months, too; sorry August was one for you. Here’s to spring bringing your reading back to life :-). I am eager to read Rip Off; I like Kel Robertson and Brad Chen. I’m also glad you liked Written in Bone. Whispers of the Dead is good, too.

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  5. Maxine says:

    I know what you mean about reading ups and downs, sometimes one’s mood is such that nothing seems to work. I shall definitely read that Stan Jones after your double recommendation (this post and your review). Some kind person is soon going to be lending me Burned. I do like Lackberg despite the fact that she is not “straight” crime, though some are stronger than others – I read the most recent of hers to be translated, The Hidden Child, in August and liked that (esp as the alert reader can usually guess the outcome but in a good way!) I also rather liked that Simon Beckett though it ends with a shocker and then I had to wait so long for him to write the next one that I’d completely forgotten what the shocker was and who did it by then ūüėČ
    I think I’ve read a lot of books in August but I must get my brain together and try to write a post about them. Asa Larsson was my standout.

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  6. At least August has been better than July with ten books rather than five or six.
    The best were both Scandinavian: Jussi Adler-Olsen¬īs fourth Carl M√łrck novel and √Ösa Larsson¬īs fourth Rebecka Martinsson novel (to be reviewed very soon).

    It is a bit hard to get back to work, though, as I have more classes than last year so though I get some reading done, I find it difficult to get the reviews finished.

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  7. My favorite from August was Julia Spencer-Fleming’s A Fountain Filled with Blood; and coincidentally I just read Simon Beckett, too, but haven’t reviewed it yet. There’s one before and one after that book so you may want to read all (but I thought the second was better than the first).

    And by the way, if reading is your relaxation you shouldn’t try to force yourself to do it. Go with the flow. ūüôā

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