Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Book Review: Frozen Heat by Richard Castle

Frozen Heat is by far the best novel in the Nikki Heat series. In here we have lots of action, mystery, secrets and lies, and a love affair that comes to full blossom in the streets of Manhattan, Boston and Paris.

While reading this book I have somehow felt that Nikki Heat and Jameson Rook have stepped into Derrick Storm’s shoes; however that’s because the novel at hand reads not only as a classic whodunit but also as a spy story.

The body of a woman, stubbed to death, is discovered in a suitcase and Nikki Heat is called to the scene to investigate. And before too long she’s shocked to discover that the suitcase used to belong to her. It was stolen by the man who murdered her mother.

But why? Why did he use that specific suitcase to dispose of the body? What does he seek to achieve by leaving such an obvious clue behind? Was the dead woman in some way connected with her mother? If yes, how did she know her? And when?

She feels at a loss at first, and as the story unfolds, she doesn’t get to feel any better. In fact, if it wasn’t for Jameson, she’d probably go nuts. Her partner in bed and in crime solving, is always there, for whatever she needs. And since he took a bullet for her, while trying to save her life, he’s become a hero of sorts for the cops. And it’s exactly this newfound popularity that they are going to use in order to solve the crime; but also, oh yes, some of his money.

As we follow Nikki and Jameson from place to place, while they retrace her mother’s footsteps and she’s trying to make peace with her dad, we see this strong and determined woman at her most vulnerable moments. The past seems to haunt her all the way, and until she finds the answers she’s looking for, she’s not going to rest. But will the answers give her the peace of mind that she needs? By the looks of it, no, they won’t.

So, what do you do when you find out that your mother was not at all the person that you remembered her to be? How do you react when her dark secrets come to light? How do you live today and plan for tomorrow when you come to realize that most of yesterday was nothing but a lie?

The reader watches Nikki closely as she takes a deep breath and dives into her mother’s secret past, and in the end he can feel nothing but sympathy for her plight. However, at the same time, one can say that that poor soul is blessed since right there, standing next to her, is Jameson, somebody who would do everything in his power to help and protect her, and, most important of all in times of darkness, make her smile.

Well-written, action-packed, rich in character development and with light touches of humor, Frozen Heat is the complete package. Read and enjoy.

By the same author:

A Brewing Storm
A Raging Storm
A Bloody Storm

Monday, October 29, 2012

Book Review: Swimming Home by Deborah Levy

Swimming Home by Deborah Levy is a work of beauty. Every year I read a novel or two that take my breath away with their prose. Last year those were Please Look after Mom by Kyung-sook Shin and On Canaan’s Side by Sebastian Barry. So far this year, this was the only book I’ve read and thought: wow! I’m sure I’ll squeeze another one in before 2012 expires.

What did I like about this novel? Well, it would be easier to say what I did not like; the fact that I wasn’t the one to write it.

At first the story seems quite simple. A couple, Joe and Isabel, a poet and his war correspondent wife, arrive for a holiday in the hills above Nice, France, accompanied by their young daughter and a friendly couple. So far so good, one would say. The thing is though, that there’s more to this group of people that at first meets the eye. To start with the poet he is an egocentric man who’s in love with his own voice and a womanizer. His wife doesn’t really like him anymore, and seems to be looking for a way to break up the marriage. The other couple hides a big secret, and as for the daughter, well, to put it in a Chinese proverb way: she was cursed to be born in interesting times, and under unusual circumstances.

Things get even more complicated when Kitty Finch, a young and almost ethereal woman, shows up all of a sudden in their holiday villa. She claims that there was a mix-up in the reservation dates and now she has no place to stay.

Well, normally, given the setting and the circumstances, one would offer her a cup of tea and sent her on her way. Isabel though things differently, so she invites her to stay with them, knowing all too well that, sooner rather than later, Joe will go after her.

The daughter, 14 year old Nina, can’t really understand her mother’s decision, but she can’t really question it, so she keeps quiet. Besides, she likes Kitty, with her green fingernails and her wide knowledge about flowers and plants, and the, to put it mildly, strange way she behaves.

Little by little the tension starts to mount in that holiday villa, but it’s not so much the agony that the reader comes to enjoy the most but the author’s masterful turns of phrase, the seemingly simple way she writes.

“Couples were always keen to return to the task of trying to destroy their lifelong partners while pretending to have their best interests at heart. A single guest was a mere distraction from this task.”

Well, that says it all. But if you are wondering whether there’s nothing more but beautiful language in this novel, I’d say, wait until you reach the last pages of it before you pass on a verdict. Even though the prose was good enough for me to proclaim Swimming Home as one of the best books of the year, the end did take me by surprise and made me think: That’s how you write a story; a very good story.

Highly recommended.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

The TS Eliot prize for poetry shortlist

The TS Eliot prize for poetry shortlist has been announced today. The shortlisted books are:

The Death of King Arthur by Simon Armitage
Bee Journal by Sean Borodale
Ice by Gillian Clarke
The World's Two Smallest Humans by Julia Copus
The Dark Film by Paul Farley
P L A C E by Jorie Graham
The Overhaul by Kathleen Jamie
Stag's Leap by Sharon Olds
The Havocs by Jacob Polley
Burying the Wren by Deryn Rees-Jones

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Mo Yan wins the Nobel Prize for Literature

It has just been announced that Chinese author Mo Yan has been awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature for 2012.

Mo Yan was born Guan Moye to a peasant family in Gaomi in Shandong Province in 1955. His education ended in 1966 when the Cultural Revolution broke out when he worked as a peasant. He subsequently worked in a factory before joining the army, where he became a member of the cultural department. His main inspiration still remains the Gaomi area though he combines both the urban and the rural and the historical and the present. His pen name means don't speak.

To read more about him visit Wikipedia

The 2012 National Book Award Finalists

The finalists for the (US) 2012 National Book award finalists were announced yesterday. The shortlisted books are:


This Is How You Lose Her by Junot Díaz
A Hologram for the King by Dave Eggers
The Round House by Louise Erdrich
Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk by Ben Fountain
The Yellow Birds by Kevin Powers


Iron Curtain: The Crushing of Eastern Europe, 1945-1956 by Anne Applebaum
Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity by Katherine Boo
The Passage of Power: The Years of Lyndon Johnson, Volume 4 by Robert Caro
The Boy Kings of Texas by Domingo Martinez
House of Stone by Anthony Shadid


Bewilderment: New Poems and Translations by David Ferry
Heavenly Bodies by Cynthia Huntington
Fast Animal by Tim Seibles
Night of the Republic by Alan Shapiro
Meme by Susan Wheeler

Young People's Literature

Goblin Secrets by William Alexander
Out of Reach by Carrie Arcos
Never Fall Down by Patricia McCormick
Endangered by Eliot Schrefer
Bomb: The Race to Build — and Steal — the World’s Most Dangerous Weapon by Steve Sheinkin