Six Favorite Reads of 2016

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Here are a few of the books I enjoyed over the year.

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2016 was a surreal year (in more ways than one), so I dove right in at the source and refreshed my sensibility with THE SURREALISM READER: An Anthology of Ideas, edited by the goddess of surrealist studies, Dawn Ades (also  Michael Richardson and Krzysztof Fijalkowski). This seminal collection includes contributions by both critics and movement luminaries. Among the latter,  two not to be missed highlights: Marcel Mariën’s “Non-Scientific Treatise on the Fourth Dimension,” and Leonora Carrington’s “What Is a Woman?”
My kind of reference—and it sure beats Trump’s surreality TV.  Thank you, University of Chicago Press!

 

sphinx

 

While swimming in  experimental waters, I’m glad I found a sandbar and Anne Garréta’s novel SPHINX. It’s not surprising that one of the few female members of Oulipo penned  one of the most engaging Oulipian novels to date. It’s a remarkable genderless love story— complex and mesmerizing.

 

 

 

 

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I couldn’t wait to curl up with RAZOR GIRL and—sure enough—Hiaasen had my number again. As expected, the book had  enough black humor to float the boat and a finely drawn character— (how could he miss with a detective demoted to a food inspector in Key West)— Andrew Yancy . The guy  surely  deserves  a sequel (Ya listening Carl?) But I won’t call this novel  a “page-turner” because I refuse to resort to cliches.  (Oops, too late.)

 

 

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What? Another book with “girl” in the title, there must be some mistake. Well, instead of GIRL ON THE TRAIN which derailed midway through for me, I’m recommending THE CROW GIRL  If you’re hungry for a hefty helping—784 pages—of Swedish noir., it doesn’t get any better (or darker) than this. A superb translation, too.

 

 

 

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Got twists? This novel is a corkscrew,  and, yes, there are moments when you say “couldn’t happen,” but then you have those nagging second thoughts after watching the local news and it doesn’t matter anyway because THE COUPLE NEXT DOOR is just plain creepy fun. A clever first novel by author Shari Lapena.

 

 

 

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French PI Aimée Leduc needs no introduction, of course, nor does her creator, Cara Black. I was a bit worried Cara. Black had run out of Paris neighborhoods, but then along came MURDER ON THE QUAI and I gladly donned my beret. The book is a “prequel” that will satisfy fans of the series—especially since Aimée’s backstory has often been alluded to and was begging to be told.

For those who’ve yet to meet Ms. Leduc, there’s no better place to start than at the beginning.

 

 

Enjoy these wintry reads and have a great 2017!

 

 

Apples and Oranges

appleWe finally made the big move from Windows to Mac. That’s right, since 2008 we’ve been working with Windows computers and software. Changing tools was not as simple as, say, switching from an old car to a new model from a different manufacturer. It required several months of planning, as well as implementation.

The first order of business was porting over thousands of files created over the years, reorganizing them, archiving, and (in some cases) deleting, and then setting up shop in the clouds — namely,  Adobe’s Creative Cloud. That meant getting all new versions of the apps we reply on, as shown in the screen-shot below.

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Adobe Photoshop topped the list, and switching to the Mac version required updating all the various plug-ins, such as Retrographer for special effects. (A review of the Mac version will appear in January.) In some cases the apps we used had no Mac version, so replacements had to be found and tested.

But now all the grunt work is behind us. We’re back!—armed with MacBooks and iPads and ready for action.

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Thanks for your patience.

Happy New Year to all!

Chills

Here are a few cool  titles we’re looking forward to.

[click on covers for more info]

crow girl

cabin 10

You Will Know Me

Harrow

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loney

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

AND watch for our reviews of  Peter Lovesey’s new novel and a prequel to Cara Black’s popular series.

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Hot Summer Quick Picks

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Gallic Press guarantees a long hot summer with the latest translation of Pascal Garnier‘s TOO CLOSE CLOSE TO THE EDGE. We first discovered this novelist with the release of MOON IN A DEAD EYE which was one of our Favorite Books of  2014.  Then we read THE PANDA THEORY and became hopelessly addicted. This latest short novel is noir for the course.
CLICK TO BUY

dd

You can’t miss with Don DeLillo—his best novel since WHITE NOISE.
CLICK TO BUY

 

loney

If it’s too hot in the sun, this one will give you chills. THE LONEY is eerie, odd, and beautifully written. Andrew Michael Hurley is a poet of terror.
CLICK TO BUY

 

Simon & Schuster

Wrong is an understatement with Trump at the helm, but E.J, Dionne sets the record straight on how far  out the GOP has gone.
CLICK TO BUY

 

CHEDDAR

C’mon, who doesn’t love it. Here’s the scoop,  CHEDDAR: A Journey to the Heart of America’s Most Iconic Cheese? Is it lunch time yet? Say cheese!
CLICK TO BUY

 

 

Spring into Summer Reading

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I made it through the spring thanks to Overlook Press and their scrumptious The Collector’s Wodehouse series. That’s not to imply that I own or have read all the titles in the series—far from it!—but I have a sizable tower of mirth within reach.

Now I’ve raved about this vast collection before (see this LINK), but it bears repeating, since you’ll not only find the seminal titles (the Jeeves & Wooster series and Blandings Castle books) but lesser known gems and stand-alones such as THE MATING SEASON and THE GIRL ON THE BOAT.  All the books are beautifully crafted hardcovers, of uniform design, with wonderful cover art by Andrzej Klimowski. And these editions make grand gifts that will certainly whet one’s appetite to start collecting them. (I wonder if Overlook offers a discount for the entire series? I daresay it would cost a fortune to ship.)

Wodehouse novels and stories are a delight for all seasons. In winter,  they provide spring breezes. In summer, they put you in a gently swaying hammock.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have some swaying to do.

Right ho!

 

 

Lost and FOUND!

I hope you’ll forgive a bit of self-promotion here,  as this has been a long time coming.

I’ve been on the missing persons list for a few months, putting the finishing touches on my book MISSING MYSTERIES: A PICTORIAL HISTORY OF NONEXISTENT MYSTERIES. I began this massive satirical reference back in 2011 and it has finally launched—in a shiny,  full-color, large format paperback edition from Black Scat Books.

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I might as well let the blurbs speak for themselves because—frankly—I’m pooped.

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“Derek Pell is quite mad, in rather a brilliant way.”Lawrence Block

“Pell’s satire doesn’t lack for sharp edges. His twisted humor is sure to appeal to crime-fiction lovers.”J. Kingston Pierce, THE RAP SHEET

“This book is a lot of fun!” —Steven Heller

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Copies are now available worldwide on Amazon. CLICK HERE TO ORDER

Give & Keep (a holiday book guide)

We’re not doing a “Ten Best” list this year — it’s too frustrating having to leave out so many good titles. Instead, below, you’ll find cool new books that’ll make great holiday gifts.

Merry Reading!

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SONDHEIM

ON SONDHEIM: An Opinionated Guide
by Ethan Mordden
Oxford University Press

Here’s a smart (and, yes, highly opinionated) guide to the master’s works. Stephen Sondheim is, of course,  the brilliant lyricist-composer who has redefined American musical theatre. Mordden’s guide is an illuminating introduction to the man and his work.

CLICK TO ORDER

 

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A

A IS FOR ARSENIC: The Poisons of Agatha Christie
by Kathryn Harkup
Bloomsbury Sigma

OK, here’s a fun one for Christie fans. Clearly,  Christie’s cup of tea was tainted; that is to say, she preferred using poison to kill off her characters than other messier methods. This penchant for the deadly dose is, in part, explained by the author’s education  and knowledge of lethal chemicals. Kathryn Harkup explores the poisons used by the murderer in fourteen Christie mysteries, and illuminates  the science behind the author’s fiction.

Drink up!

CLICK TO ORDER

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trolley

THE TROLLEY PROBLEM MYSTERIES
(The Berkeley Tanner Lectures)
by F. M. Kamm
Edited by Eric Rakowski
Oxford University Press

For the budding philosopher on your list,  Kamm’s work poses the  classic “trolley problem” that asks the reader to confront a moral dilemma. “A train is ripping down the track at full speed, headed straight for five unsuspecting workers. If you could push the person walking next to you onto the track and save those men, would you do it?” Hmm. Those two sentences lead us to a variety of complex questions and scenarios. Indeed, a ride on this trolley won’t soon be forgotten.

CLICK TO ORDER

 

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GRAPHIQUE de la RUE: The Signs of Paris
by Louise Fili
Princeton Architectural Press

If you love Paris (and who doesn’t?) then this love letter to French lettering is for you. Graphic designer Louise Fili has been photographing street signs in the city for over 40 years and her  book is filled with glorious color reproductions of distinctive typography. Includes  classic gold-leaf and dimensional Art Deco, Futurist, and Art Nouveau architectural lettering.

It’s a visual delight!

CLICK TO ORDER

 

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And speaking of France…

DEATH IN BRITTANY
A novel by Jean-Luc Bannalec
Minotaur Books

A new mystery series,  introducing Commissaire Georges Dupin, a slightly cranky detective who solves his cases via injections of coffee and fine  food. In fact, it’s his frequent pauses to partake during the murder investigation that make  this novel such a delight.

Bannalec’s  descriptions of this quaint coastal region will have you booking a flight there. DEATH IN BRITTANY was our favorite mystery of the year. A most promising debut and  we can’t wait for Dupin’s next case.

CLICK TO ORDER

 

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calm

COLOR ME CALM: 100 COLORING TEMPLATES FOR MEDITATION AND RELAXATION
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y Lacy Mucklow
Race Point Publishing

Last but not least, when the stress-filled holidays come to a roaring end on New Year’s Eve, chances are you’ll be left feeling wiped out and jittery. If so, here’s a gift you can give yourself— an adult coloring book designed to erase the stress and, perhaps,  send you into a Zen-like trance. You’ll not only feel relaxed, but you’ll have a book filled with your own colored art. It’s soothing, fun to do, and lovely to look at.

Heck, coloring ain’t for kids anymore!

Color Me Calm

example by Carla M. Wilson

CLICK TO ORDER