Aug 8, 2009

The Girl Who Played with Fire by Stieg Larsson, review

The Girl Who Played with Fire by Stieg Larsson
Published July 28, 2009; Knopf
Genre: thriller
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

If you liked Lisbeth Salander, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, you have a chance to see her again in the sequel by Stieg Larsson, The Girl Who Played With Fire.

From the publisher's description:

"Mikael Blomkvist, crusading journalist and publisher of the magazine Millennium, has decided to run a story that will expose an extensive sex trafficking operation between Eastern Europe and Sweden, implicating well-known and highly placed members of Swedish society, business, and government.

But he has no idea just how explosive the story will be until, on the eve of publication, the two investigating reporters are murdered. And even more shocking for Blomkvist: the fingerprints found on the murder weapon belong to Lisbeth Salander - the troubled, wise-beyond-her-years genius hacker who came to his aid in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, and who now becomes the focus and fierce heart of The Girl Who Played with Fire."
Blomkvist is reluctant to believe Lisbeth guilty of these murders. After all, he and Lisbeth went back a long way, taking part in a manhunt for a serial killer, a story told in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.

"During the manhunt he had met Salander. Blomkvist unconsciously stoked the faint scar that the noose had left beneath his left ear. Salander had not only helped him to track down the killer - she had saved his life."

Read the books in order if you can. Characters in the first book show up again in the second novel, and understanding who they are and how they relate to Lisbeth makes it easier to follow The Girl Who Played With Fire.

In the sequel Blomkvist and Lisbeth are together once again on the trail of murderers. The past comes back to haunt Lisbeth and seriously threaten her life. The ending chapters are stunning - a great thriller.

Book provided by the publisher for my objective review.

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Aug 6, 2009

Interview: John Shors, author of Dragon House

leftDragon House has been described as a "moving, deeply descriptive novel that brings all those frequently hidden qualities of compassion, purity of mind, and, yes, love—the things we used to call the human spirit—into the foreground of our feeling as readers." (author Gregory David Roberts)

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Here's what John Shors, author of Dragon House, has to say about the plight of street children in contemporary Vietnam.

Interview with John Shors
1. What first drew you to the history of the Vietnam War and to visit Vietnam?

I lived in Asia for several years, and was in close proximity to Vietnam. Of course, the country's history had always fascinated me. I had heard both sides of the arguement regarding U.S. involvement in the war there, and was interested in coming to my own conclusions. I continue to think that Vietnam is one of the most interesting countries in the world.

2. Were there specific street children that impressed you during your trips?

I spent many nights in Thailand playing Connect Four with a boy who in some ways inspired one of my characters in Dragon House. This boy was remarkable--smart, brave, and hard-working. I met hundreds of street children in Asia, and had wonderful conversations and interactions with them. I couldn't have been more impressed with the tenacity of these children.

3. What other Asian countries are featured in your novels? Did you travel extensively in those areas as well?

My first novel, Beneath a Marble Sky, is based on the story behind the creation of the Taj Mahal. I spent a month in India researching it. My second novel, Beside a Burning Sea, is set in The South Pacific during WWII, and again, I spent about a month in that area. My fourth novel, which I'm currently working on, occurs in seven countries in Asia, all of which I've spent a fair amount of time in and know well. In order for me to bring a place to life on the page, I need to have experienced it firsthand. Some writers don't work that way, but it's necessary for me.

4. Do you plan a follow-up novel to this one in Vietnam, or are you moving on to other locales?

Well, my fourth novel, which is called The Wishing Trees and will come out in September of 2010, takes place in Japan, India, Nepal, Thailand, Vietnam, Hong Kong, and Egypt. It's a lot of fun for me to bring these places and cultures to life in my novels.

5. Anything else you would like to add?

I am grateful for the support of my readers, and I try to share that support with others. With regard to Dragon House, I am donating some of my royalties to an organization that supports homeless children. If anyone would like more information on Dragon House, please visit

Thanks for sharing your experiences with us, John!

(See my Review of Dragon House here or in the post below). The book will be released Sept. 1, 2009.

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Book Review: Dragon House by John Shors

Dragon House by John Shors:


I saw this exceptional novel as a story of redemption - a daughter promising her father to help heal some of the wounds left by a long, protracted war and a depressed and scarred Iraqi War veteran rescued from self destruction. Both travel to Vietnam to help street children.

I found the stories of people helping each other to heal, physically and mentally, very moving, and the conditions of abandoned street children heartrending. Shors' writing and descriptions of the Vietnamese environment are sharp, clear, and vivid.

In "Dragon House," two Vietnamese street children, forced into a life of begging by an opium addict, are befriended by the young American woman in Ho Chi Minh City, the former Saigon.

The American woman, Iris, has promised her dying father, a Vietnam veteran - to finish his dream of opening a center for homeless children. She takes with her to Vietnam a crippled Iraq War veteran, Noah Woods, who is suffering from physical and mental war wounds and about to give up on life. It takes some time for both to adjust to living in this very foreign city, but together they manage to navigate the pitfalls and obstacles to opening the Tam Tran Center for Street Children and meet people whom they help and who help them in turn.

Some of the characters include Minh and Mai, children who sleep in a basket underneath a bridge at night, and are forced to beg during the day. Qiu, a old grandmother struggles to help her terminally ill granddaughter. Sahn the policeman tries to enforce the law though suspicious of the activities of Iris and Noah, and their Vietnamese helper Thien.

John Shors on his travels and experience with street children:

"I spent many nights in Thailand playing Connect Four with a boy who in some ways inspired one of my characters in Dragon House. This boy was remarkable--smart, brave, and hard-working. I met hundreds of street children in Asia, and had wonderful conversations and interactions with them. I couldn't have been more impressed with the tenacity of these children."

The author's plan is to donate a portion of the proceeds from "Dragon House" to the Blue Dragon Children's Foundation in Vietnam, a support organization for children "in crisis" which also helps children get into school and away from life on the streets. Many thanks to the author for the opportunity of reviewing "Dragon House".

Publisher: NAL Trade, available September 1, 2009
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0451227859
ISBN-13: 978-0451227850

(See my Interview with John Shors here or in the following post.)

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Aug 5, 2009

Author Interview: Ridley Pearson, Killer Summer

Ridley Pearson answers a few questions about his writing and his current novel, Killer Summer. Pearson is author of three thrillers featuring Sun Valley, Idaho sheriff Walt Fleming: Killer Weekend, Killer View, and Killer Summer.

Welcome, Ridley.

Q: How did you come up with the plot for Killer Summer?

Ridley: I shop at WalMart. Actually... the second half of Killer Summer has been in my head and my files for over five years. The idea of writing a "heist novel" appealed to me. It was real challenge to write because the idea in a heist novel is that the sand is constantly shifting beneath your feet.

Q: Can you tell us how you came to be a thriller writer?

Ridley: No useful skills.

Q: I understand you are now in Shanghai, China. Is this trip related to a future novel?

Ridley: I'm just back, but my family lived in Shanghai for the past year. I taught creative writing at the university level there, and I came away with some amazing experiences and contacts; I hope very much they find their way into novel form.

Q: Do you do a lot of reading? If so, what kind of books do you prefer?

Ridley: I read quite a bit. I'm a slow, "gourmet" reader. I read non-fiction (Bill Bryson, currently), women's lit, other thriller/mystery writers (many, many for possible endorsement), and the backs of shampoo bottles.

Q: Is there anything else you would like to tell us about Killer Summer or your other books?
Ridley: Writing a novel is like taking an adventure. I outline my books, so I (basically) know where I'm going. But it's like any trip. Just because you know where the car, ship or plane is destined doesn't mean you know what the voyage will be like. Each day I encounter setbacks, excitement, romance, challenges. I have the greatest job in the world--in part because I create the world. I have my readers to thank for that, and I try to work hard to keep those readers engaged and get them telling others about the books.


Thanks for your input on writing the thrillers, Ridley!

Review of Killer Summer (reposted):

Some books are memorable for the characters and the setting, just as much as the plot. In Killer Summer, the memorable character is Walt Fleming, a county sheriff in Sun Valley, Idaho, that playground of the wealthy and ordinary tourists alike. Walt appears in a series of thrillers by Ridley Pearson, and this his latest, Killer Summer, is out this summer!

The book begins with Walt on a fishing trip with his nephew, Kevin, an 18-year-old who is set to give him no end of trouble. They are fishing in the Big Wood River when Walt spots a tow truck rattling across a nearby bridge, pulling a Taurus with what could be a man slumped behind the wheel. Walt is still on duty and decides to follow the truck and investigate. This leads to a series of events that will involve Kevin, a plot to steal a case of rare and costly wine set to be auctioned at Sun Valley, and a harrowing trip through rugged mountain terrain to a plane crash site and an isolated mountain cabin.

Walt is a sympathetic character, estranged from his father, working side by side with a deputy who is also the lover of Walt's ex-wife. He also takes it on himself to keep an eye on his nephew Kevin who has only a mother to rely on. The scenic descriptions of Sun Valley, its resorts, and the mountain terrain around are worthwhile in themselves, but also essential to the plot and the fast action sequences.

I enjoyed reading the book for many reasons - character, plot, and setting. An excellent thriller. It's a cliche to say "I couldn't put it down," but I only put the book down when I absolutely had to!

Advance readers copy provided by the publisher for my objective review.

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Aug 4, 2009

Teaser Tuesday: Lizzi & Fredl, A Perilous Journey of Love and Faith

"What's wrong?" Fredl asked, alarmed.

"I don't know, but something bad is going to happen. I can feel it in my bones. We have to leave right now!"

p. 19, Lizzi & Fredl, a biography by William B. Stanford.

Who and where am I? A young couple, master jeweler Fredl and dressmaker Lizzi, in Austria in 1938 decide to leave their home country for France, frightened by the "spreading threat of Nazism." Will France prove to be the safe haven they envision?

Here is the link to the full review of the book: Lizzi and Fredl review

Book provided by the author in exchange for my objective review.

TEASER TUESDAYS is a weekly meme hosted by Should Be Reading. Choose two sentences from your current read, and add the author and title for readers. Anyone can join in.

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Macavity Awards 2009 Nominees

Heads up for mystery/suspense lovers looking for good reads!
The following mystery works have been nominated for the Macavity Awards 2009. Members and subscribers to the Mystery Readers Journal will be considering the following nominees:

Best Mystery Novel

Trigger City by Sean Chercover (Wm. Morrow)
Where Memories Lie by Deborah Crombie (Wm. Morrow)
The Dying Breed (UK)/ The Price of Blood (US) by Declan Hughes (John Murray/ Wm. Morrow)
The Draining Lake by Arnaldur Indridason (Minotaur)
Curse of the Spellmans by Lisa Lutz (Simon & Schuster)
The Cruelest Month by Louise Penny (Minotaur)
The Fault Tree by Louise Ure (Minotaur)

Best First Mystery

Finding Nouf by Zoe Ferraris (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson (Knopf)
Death of a Cozy Writer by G.M. Malliet (Midnight Ink)
Calumet City by Charlie Newton (Simon & Schuster)
An Innocent Client by Scott Pratt (Onyx)
A Carrion Death by Michael Stanley (Harper; Headline)
The Blood Detective by Dan Waddell (Minotaur)

Best Nonfiction/Critical

African American Mystery Writers: A Historical & Thematic Study by Frankie Y. Bailey (McFarland)
Hard-Boiled Sentimentality: The Secret History of American Crime Stories by Leonard Cassuto (Columbia Univ.)
How to Write Killer Historical Mysteries by Kathy Lynn Emerson (Perseverance Press)
Scene of the Crime: The Importance of Place in Crime and Mystery Fiction by David Geherin (McFarland)
Edgar Allan Poe : An Illustrated Companion to His Tell-Tale Stories by Harry Lee Poe (Metro)
The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher: A Shocking Murder and the Undoing of a Great Victorian Detective by Kate Summerscale (Walker)

Best Mystery Short Story

"The Night Things Changed" by Dana Cameron (Wolfsbane & Mistletoe, ed. by Harris & Kelner, Penguin)
"A Sleep Not Unlike Death" by Sean Chercover (Hardcore Hardboiled, ed. by Todd Robinson, Kensington)
"Keeping Watch Over His Flock" by Toni L. P. Kelner (Wolfsbane & Mistletoe, ed. by Harris & Kelner, Penguin)
"Scratch a Woman" by Laura Lippman (Hardly Knew Her, Wm. Morrow)
"Between the Dark and the Daylight" by Tom Piccirilli (EQMM, Sep/Oct 2008)

Sue Feder Memorial Historical Mystery

A Royal Pain by Rhys Bowen (Berkley)
Stealing Trinity by Ward Larsen (Oceanview)
The Whiskey Rebels by David Liss (Thorndike/ Random House UK)
Veil of Lies by Jeri Westerson (Minotaur)
Company of Liars by Karen Maitland (Michael Joseph/ Delacorte)
Nox Dormienda by Kelli Stanley (Five Star)

Awards will be presented in October at the Bouchercon conference in Indianapolis.
For information, contact Janet Rudolph, Editor, Mystery Readers Journal
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Heartfelt Award

Thanks to Tea Norman of Summer Travel and Read for the Heartfelt Award. I love getting awards from blogger readers and friends. Thanks much, Tea.

And thanks to Michael of A Few Minutes With Michael for the Let's Be Friends award! Love the colors in this award!

Update: Sept. 9 and 10

Thanks to Tea again and to Vicki of Reading at the Beach for the Who Loves You Baby award!

Sunday Salon: Japanese Authors and a Mystery

  Klara and the Sun   by Kazuo Ishiguro. Intellect having "heart" Klara and the Sun was easy to read for a literary novel of suc...