Wednesday, September 18, 2013

'Bellman and Black'

I have been very busy, lately.  Not only am I working extra hard at my job for a non-profit, but I am now doing our Ebay listings.  It's amazing what we've found, what treasures people have donated.  When I hold a sweet little teacup and saucer, I immediately think, "This one was in someone's collection.  Did someone's grandma die?"  I then wonder if that person's personality is imprinted on the object.  I know, I

That brings me to Diane Setterfield's new book, 'Bellman and Black'.  I'm a huge, huge fan of her first novel, 'The Thirteenth Tale', an atmospheric story that is full of gothic undertones and dark secrets.  A novel I could not put down.  A story I've read at least six times.

So, I was more than excited to learn that she had a new novel coming out.  I requested an advance reader's copy, and lo and behold!  It arrived before I knew it!

I settled on the couch with a cozy blanket (even though it's Summer with the hottest temps we've experienced in  few years), a cup of tea, and numerous cats hanging out on my stomach.  I opened the book and started to read...

...and I continued into the night.  And the morning.

And I set it aside.  Horrors!  I had not done that with Diane's first book.  In fact, I read it in (almost) one sitting.

But I'm sorry to say that 'Bellman and Black' did not give me the payoff that I was expecting.  It's labelled a 'ghost story', and I wondered throughout, "Where is the ghost?  Is it the rook?  If it is, why is it not...ghostly?"

When he was but a boy, William Bellman kills a rook with his slingshot.  He and his friends are but a tad remorseful, but the act is soon forgotten, yet it holds terrible consequences.   When William is grown, and he has a wife and family, he soon finds that his act has caught up with him.  He loses almost everyone he holds dear, although his work life has progressed well beyond his dreams.  But when the last precious thing he has is threatened, he enters into a bargain that could be his undoing.  He soon has a partner in a rather macabre business, and that is when Bellman and Black is born.

Diane's characters are well represented and fully-fleshed, and her insights are quite remarkable, especially her insights into the human psyche.  But it was the ghost I was waiting for, the ghost that would ultimately lead to the pay-off.

But, I'm sad to say, it took forever to reach that point.  

True, it's atmospheric and rather creepy.  And, yes, I was worried about William's sleep patterns.  But I was waiting for more.  More Mr. Black.  

Dear, brilliant, Diane:  Please give me more next time.

'Bellman and Black' will be released on October 8, 2013 from Emily Bestler Books, an imprint of Atria Books, a division of Simon & Schuster.  Find it at your library and local independent bookstore.  Then, tell Book Hog what you think!

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

'Let Me Go'

"Dear Chelsea Cain:

Stunning.  Brilliant.  Crazy.  Exciting.  Intense.

Oh, what other adjectives can I use to describe your new book, 'Let Me Go'? Thrilling? Suspenseful?  Sex-filled  ('Fifty Shades of Gray' pales in comparison)?

Let's just say that although I could have read your story in one sitting, I chose to savor it, like the last piece of chocolate in the box, delighting in the elegant creepiness that is Gretchen Lowell, and standing stoic beside your conflicted detective, Archie Sheridan. Susan, who I've rather considered the 'comic relief' of the series, really came into her own in this newest addition, but she still makes me smile. She's brave, and it's a gimme that her inquisitive nature will get her into trouble, and in this one, it's big trouble.  Leo is back, and more mysterious than ever.  I just wonder how many strip clubs you had to visit to nail down the experience for curious readers.  

But it is the dynamic between Gretchen and Archie that kept me reading.  Sure, the story flowed like the Sandy River in Summer, and the characters are so fully realized.  But when Gretchen appeared in the strangest, most insidious way, I knew that things were about to get really intense.  

Thanks so much for keeping everything in Portland.  Thanks for enlightening this Portland girl about all-things-Lake Oswego.  Thanks for challenging your readers.  Thanks for writing such a brilliant, frightening mystery series that has a place of honor on my bookshelves.

But, most of all, thanks for championing independent bookstores.  You take the time to make the event a true experience.  You appreciate each and every one of your fans, and they, in turn, appreciate you.  

And I'm one of them, dear Chelsea.

Love, Book Hog"

'Let Me Go', Chelsea Cain's sixth book in the Gretchen Lowell & Archie Sheridan series, is now available at your library and local independent bookstore!  Published by Minotaur Books, a division of St. Martin's Press.  You can visit Chelsea at

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

'Tamarack County'

Autumn is fast approaching, and with it comes a huge desire to dive into the season's best-and-brightest books.  It's almost time to snuggle on the sofa, covered by a handmade blanket, cup of tea nearby, with a clowder of cats vying for your attention.

So, it's important to read a story that totally takes you away from feline interruptions. For me, it was 'Tamarack County', the new novel in the Cork O'Connor series, and written by the always-wonderful William Kent Krueger.

During a harsh Winter in Tamarack County, Minnesota, Cork O'Connor, former sheriff and now a private investigator, is called in to help solve the mystery of a missing woman who is married to a retired judge. When the beloved pet dog of a friend is found brutally killed, Cork begins to see a pattern.  At the center is a murder from twenty years ago, for which an innocent man may have been convicted. Someone is spinning a deadly web in Tamarack County, and it seems no one is safe...not even Cork's family and friends.

The premise of this story is not unique, but the way Krueger presents it makes it special.  He has a real talent for creating a family unit that is at once close, yet full of secrets.  The reader cares about this family; Cork questions his relationship with a woman who has left to care for a member of her family.  Stephen, his son, is involved with a young local woman.  Jenny, his daughter, is a devoted mother, but it is Anne, the eldest child, who solicits the most interest.  She is questioning her religious calling, and comes back home to find some answers.  

'Tamarack County' is a quick read, but one that will stay with you.  The surprises are many, although I did manage to figure out one in particular. 

I, for one, can't wait for the next Cork O'Connor mystery as I try to keep the clowder off my books...

...and out of my tea cup.

'Tamarack County' can be found in independent bookstores and your local library.  Published by Atria Books, a division of Simon & Schuster.