Tuesday, June 23, 2015


Below are a few (somewhat) brief, $.02 opinions about several books I've read (or listened to) recently but don't and won't have time to review in full. Their appearance here has nothing to do with merit, many I enjoyed as much or even more than those that got the full court press. I hope you'll consider one or two for your own TBR stack.

Kickback by Ace Atkins  I still remember where I was when I learned Robert B. Parker died in 2010. I read and enjoyed all of his series, but the Spenser series I particularly adored. Opening a new installment was like turning into the driveway to home after a long road trip. As much as I was going to miss the series and characters that felt like family, I was skeptical when I learned the it would be continued by another author. This is Ace Atkins' fourth turn at the wheel and I have to say he won me over with his first. Ace does a great job capturing the dialogue, relationships, and spirit Bob Parker infused into the Spenser series, and with very few missteps. Kickback is a fine addition to the mix, with Spenser trying to put an end to some questionable juvenile court practices in a small neighboring town under the thumb of some bad actors. Although you could read it out of order, I highly recommend you start at the beginning; there's tons of history and back story that colors all the entries through this, the 44th (which may sound daunting, but they're quick, easy reads).

Reykjavik Nights by Arnaldur Indridason Arnaldur Indridason may be one of the best crime fiction authors people are missing out on. I was almost one of them. I have so little time for what I already read, it takes a lot to get me to undertake a new series, but boy am I glad I started this one. I have audiobooks to thank, as that's how I crammed this one into my reading schedule. The narration is by George Guidall, one of the top narrators going, and he's fantastic. In the 10th book in the series, we get a glimpse of protagonist Inspector Erlendur as a young detective. When a homeless man Erlendur has befriended on his beat is found dead in a ditch, no one seems to care. But the stubborn obsessiveness in Erlendur began at an early age, and he investigates on his own time, uncovering more than he bargained for in the process. Reykjavik Nights isn't my favorite entry in this series I love, but there's not a bad apple in the bunch. If you like your protags a little prickly and dour but with a sense of humor, the Inspector Erlendur series may be your bag. Intriguing stories with compelling characters and a wonderful sense of place.

You Are One of Them by Elliott Holt  This is another title I squeezed in on audio as I found the premise quite interesting. Set against the highly political backdrop of the Cold War, You Are One of Them is the story of Sarah Zuckerman, 10-years-old when the story begins, and her golden child best friend Jennifer Jones. Sarah decides to write a letter to Soviet Premier Yuri Andropov, telling him how she feels about the threat of war. Jennifer piggybacks on Sarah's idea, and yet it is only Jennifer's letter that receives a response. Jennifer is thrust into the limelight and becomes a national sensation when she's invited to visit Russia and Andropov, and Sarah is left behind. The book centers on Sarah, her journey to adulthood and how she deals with what becomes of Jennifer and their friendship, which ultimately moves her to travel to the Soviet Union herself. This book was different and interesting, but while I found myself immersed in the early going, I lost the connection with both girls as they grew up. No pun intended, the story ultimately left me a little cold.

The Power of the Dog by Don Winslow Those of you who know me at all know Don Winslow is my favorite badass author and I tout this as the best book I've ever read. Which is saying something since it had so much going against it: it's long and it's about the drug war. But it's fantastic. Not easy, but an epic. The sequel, The Cartel, is out today, and I decided to do an audio re-read of TPOTD so the story and characters would be fresh in my mind when I picked up The Cartel (started it over the weekend - EEK!). TPOTD was just as good and brutal and important and epic as I remembered and Ray Porter does a fabulous job with the narration. Multiple dialects, men and women, he nails them all. I highly recommend The Power of the Dog and even though I'm just cracking it open, I'll go ahead and recommend The Cartel as well. Faith.

Have you read any of these? If so, I'd love to hear your thoughts, especially if you read You Are One of Them and loved it. If you're looking for a new crime fiction series, I really recommend the work of Arnaldur Indridason, audio or otherwise.


Shannon @ River City Reading said...

I think I told you before, but I just love the name/idea of this little feature. I've heard so many mixed things about You Are Not One of Us...I think I've gone back and forth five or six times over whether or not I want to read it but I think I've finally set it on the backburner.

Malcolm Avenue Review said...

Thank you, I appreciate that! I was exactly the same about YAOOT, but finally bit the bullet when it was the daily deal at Audible. I don't know anyone who has read it, so I'm interested to learn reviews are mixed. I think the backburner is a good choice.

About Malcolm Avenue Review

I was lucky enough to be born and raised in a nifty, oak-shaded ranch house on Malcolm Avenue, a wide-laned residential street with little through traffic, located amid the foothills of Northern California. It was on that street and in that house I learned most of my adolescent life lessons, and many grown-up ones to boot. Malcolm Avenue was "home" for more than thirty years.

It was on Malcolm Avenue, through and with my family and the other families that made up our neighborhood of characters, that I first learned about and gained an appreciation for the things I continue to love the most to this day: music, animals, photography, sports, television/movies and, of course, books.

I owe a debt of gratitude to that life on Malcolm Avenue. It gave me a sense of community and friendship, support and adventure. For better and worse, life on that street likely had the biggest impact on the person I've become. So this blog, and the things I write here, are all, at their base level, a little bit of a love letter to Malcolm Avenue.


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