Saturday, November 21, 2009

The Best American Mystery Stories of 2008, edited by George Pelecanos

I finished this book last Sunday, right before bed. I stayed up a little late to finish it, in fact, which I almost never do. And then? Then, I proceeded to have nightmares about serial killers until dawn, thanks to Hugh Sheehy's story "The Invisibles." I think that one was my favorite out of all of the stories in the book, although it's hard to choose.

This series has been around for quite a while now. I have a collection of these books that goes back ten years. The editor at large accepts submissions of stories published by American or Canadian authors in American or Canadian publications, during the year in question. For this compilation, the story must be a mystery, or a story that revolves around some sort of crime. The editor at large then goes through all the submissions and picks the fifty best ones. He passes them on to the guest editor, George Pelecanos this year, and the guest editor picks the twenty bestest of the bestest. Those are included in the book.

I loved this book. So many different kinds of mysteries! That's one thing I love about the book: it goes from police procedural to noir fiction to straight-up murder mystery in the blink of an eye. As I said above, "The Invisibles" was easily my favorite. Maybe it was the oh-so-familiar Midwestern setting; maybe it was the oh-so-familiar guy-in-a-van-coming-to-get-you plot. Whatever it was, it terrified me. And I loved it.

I also loved Michael Connelly's "Mulholland Dive," about an accident reconstructionist who gets what's coming to him; "One Good One" by Chuck Hogan, which reminded me of my job; "The Monks of the Abbey Victoria" by Rupert Holmes, which had a distinct Mad Men feel to it; "Car Trouble" by Jas. R. Petrin, which I hope is really going to be expanded into a full novel, because I LOVED the character of Leo "Skig" Skorzeny; and I want to keep going, because they were pretty much ALL so good, but you should really just go buy or check out the book for yourself.

Definitely five out of five Whatevers. Great for the mystery/crime fiction lover in your life. I got this for Christmas last year, so I happen to know it makes a wonderful holiday gift. I hope I get 2009's this year!

Non-Reading-Related Things

Haven't been doing much reading this week. My social life seems to have picked up. I had a VERY long week at work, which led to more socializing than usual. Tuesday night, I joined some colleagues for "one drink," which inevitably turned into a couple. Wednesday night, Ricky and I went to his parents' house for dinner, since we haven't seen them in forever. Thursday night, we went to our friends' house to watch the Dolphins game. And last night, I was too tired to MOVE, let alone read anything. Since most of my reading time is in the evenings while Ricky watches TV, that means that I'm in the same place I was on Sunday night. Sigh.

I booked my ticket home to my parents' for Christmas. Ricky is not joining me. Which everyone else seems to think is very weird, but I think is normal. He doesn't have the vacation time, since he took it all for our honeymoon earlier this year. And he's never come with me to my parents' before, when we were dating/engaged, so it would be weirder to me if he DID come with. I don't know. Maybe, since I'm a married lady, I should be staying here with my husband and having Christmas. But I've never missed a Christmas with my family. And the only time I usually get to see them is at Christmas. So we've worked out this compromise. I don't think he's HAPPY about it, but it's good for him to have to take care of himself for a while, and it's good for me to get away from my responsibilities for a while. Next year...well, we'll cross that bridge when we come to it.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Mailbox Monday!

Today is Mailbox Monday, where we share what books we've received in our mailboxes over the past week. Mailbox Monday is hosted by Marcia at The Printed Page.

This week, I received three books, courtesy, primarily, of the Powell's gift card I won from the illustrious Jill during the Read-a-Thon! I am not one to let a gift card burn a hole in my pocket, so I ordered these books shortly after the RaT was over, and they arrived last Tuesday (I think).

First up is the last Mary Russell novel to complete my collection, O Jerusalem! I have all the others, but for some reason, I skipped over this one completely in my quest to have the entire series. Once I had my gift card in hand, I knew the first thing I wanted to spend it on was this book.

Next up, I snagged a used copy of T.S. Stribling's The Store. Stribling is a Southern author who wrote a trilogy of novels in the 1930's, the first of which was The Store. I already have the third in the series, The Unfinished Cathedral, which I Mooched a while back, but I have not been able to find an affordable copy of either The Store or The Forge (book two). You WOULD NOT BELIEVE how expensive these books are. I've seen them going for over $100. It seems as though the only copies left available are collectors' editions. I didn't want something that expensive, as I'm not sure these books will be keepers. The average going rate seems to be somewhere between $35 and $40. When I saw, however, that Powell's had a (gently) used copy for $20, I knew where the rest of my gift card was going. The edition I received is GORGEOUS...leather-bound, hard-backed, gilt-edged, in almost-new condition. I cannot praise Powell's enough for the wonderful quality of all three of my used books. You can hardly tell anyone else has read them, but they were all great bargains!

Finally, last but not least, I hadn't used QUITE all of my gift card (ummm, I think I had like 50 cents left on it), so, in order not to waste any of the card, I simply HAD to get a third book. I found Jim Shepard's Like You'd Understand, Anyway, a book of short stories, for about $6...hardback. Only my fellow bibliophiles will understand what a value that was...especially for another hard-to-find book, which I've been searching BookMooch for since FOREVER.

Really, I was so impressed with the quality of my Powell's books that I am thinking about ordering exclusively from them when I shop for books online. Their used books are such a great value, I love that I'm buying from an independent bookseller, and it just warms my heart to remember my time in Portland, OR, in the summer of 2004, wandering the aisles in Powell's until I had to catch the bus back home. The only drawback was that the shipping time was a leeeetle longer than predicted, but I can live with that for the value I'm getting.

What have y'all received in your mailboxes this week? Where do YOU shop for books online?

Monday, November 9, 2009

Mailbox Monday!

Today is Mailbox Monday, when we share what wonderful books found their way into our mailboxes this week. See Marcia at The Printed Page for more Mailboxers and their lists!

I was lucky enough to receive two books this week. The Fatal Shore by Robert Hughes is a new non-fiction read. It details Australia's founding. All I really know about Australia is that it was started as a penal colony, so it will be interesting to learn more about it. I feel like it was Bookfool who turned me on to this book, but I don't really keep track, so that could be totally wrong. (P.S. I have no idea why the image is so FREAKIN' HUGE and no idea how to change it. Sorry.)

Also, I received Season of Ash by Jorge Volpi from LibraryThing Early Reviewers. This novel is partially set during the time of Chernobyl (by which I am absolutely fascinated) and the fall of the Berlin Wall, which makes it perfect to receive today on the twentieth anniversary of that momentous event. The book supposedly also deals somehow with the Human Genome Project, a scientific endeavor in the 1990's to map all the genes of the human body. Sounds like it covers a lot. Here's hoping it does justice to all of these big events!

In other news, I'm speeding through (okay, relative to my speed with Shaking a Leg) The Best American Mystery Stories 2009. I've read eight of them and, so far, they are almost all REALLY GOOD. Even the ones I didn't LOVE have been good stories, just not my cuppa tea. Check out this anthology. I have a feeling it will get a high rating from's always one of my faves!

Monday, November 2, 2009

Shaking a Leg by Angela Carter

I've been reading this book for what seems like FOREVER. It's a hefty tome, weighing in at 608 pages. 608 pages of NON-FICTION. I thought it would be tough for this fiction lover to get through so much non-fic reading. The Read-a-Thon definitely helped...I read the bulk of this book then. But, really, when it comes down to it, the simple magic of Angela Carter's prose style, coupled with the abundance of interesting ideas and topics she covered, made this book a breeze to read.

The book is a compilation of her non-fiction writings (she also wrote fiction, which is now all over my TBR list), specifically articles she wrote for New Society in the seventies and eighties, her literary criticism (LOVED IT!), and a few speeches she gave at various events. Carter was a feminist. If you are not a feminist and/or don't want to read some, ahem, quite acidic invectives against the male-dominated world of the seventies and eighties, you might want to skip this work. While not all of Carter's pieces contained these sentiments, it was a large part of who she was, and a thread of it does seem to run through her work.

That being said, I LOVED this collection. I loved Carter's writing style, which was facetious and intelligent and hilarious when she poked fun at the intelligentsia or the fashion industry, or whatever subject she was taking on. Carter's writings are divided into topical sections: "Self" - pieces about her home life and family; "Body Languages" - pieces about fashion, eating disorders, food writing (before it was popular); "Home and Away" - travel writing and works on England, including a couple political pieces, Japan, her home away from home, and America, where she also lived for a time; "Looking" - pop culture, including music, animals, movies, art, television, etc.; and "Stories and Tellers" - lit crit, reviews, essays on authors.

Particularly, I loved the review of Linda Lovelace's autobiography and the essay on Wuthering Heights. I'm not sure I can convey what I liked so much about the body of work Carter produced. I think it was mostly her voice, her attitude. She wasn't afraid to throw a good "fuck" into her work, when it was really needed (and, frankly, I believe that sometimes it's really needed!). She wasn't afraid to let her voice be heard, in a time when women were still struggling for that right. She had guts, moxie, and I love it. The only thing that was a stumbling block for me was the fact that I don't know enough about England - geography, politics, history - to get some of the references in her work.

Four and a half out of five Whatevers. This book might be a bit much for any but the Angela Carter completist. If you'd like a taste of some of her work, but don't want to commit to this behemoth, try one of her shorter volumes of essays. Try some of her fiction; I plan to. Recommended for feminists of all stripes, people who enjoy having their eyes opened to new ideas, really anyone who wants a new view of the 70's and 80's - being a child of that generation, I can honestly say that Carter made me think about those decades in a completely different way.