Game of Mirrors by Andrea Camilleri

Game

A couple of years ago I stumbled onto this wonderful series thanks to my library’s audiobook collection. It was one of those, “Come on Overdrive, just have something good available now. I need a book for the drive tomorrow” moments. Those moments don’t always produce memorable results…Not so that time. I immediately fell in love with the Montalbano series and have kept up ever since.

Inspector Salvo Montalbano is a smart Sicilian cop in the fictional Vigata, with wry sense of humor and a somewhat rag-tag crew of people around him that he often enjoys messing with. Many might want to pigeonhole the mysteries as somewhat cozy, but they often confront many real social and political issues that your average cozy doesn’t touch. Montalbano gets results, but his methods aren’t always conventional or even strictly legal. He’s a smart ass with a heart of gold who gets the job done.  You can’t help love him for it.

Another things that sets the series apart is the language. Camilleri interweaves a whole heap of Italian and the Sicilian dialect into his books without leaving English speakers behind. I credit Camilleri (and Donna Leon’s Guido Brunetti Series) with the wee grasp I have of Italian because he makes is natural and easy.

However, this is the first book in the series that I have read as opposed to listening to and there was a huge difference. Grover Gardner narrates the audiobooks and he pronounces all of the Sicilian that doesn’t roll off of your tongue easily. As I was reading this, I heard his voice in my head and would have been lost a few times if I hadn’t already heard him say some words in the prior books. I can’t think of another series or even standalone that I would suggest audio versions more strongly.

If you’re like me and have a yen for Italy, a sarcastic sense of humor, and like your mysteries served with a side of well hidden social commentary….check out Inspector Montalbano. You can start anywhere, but I always try to start series at the beginning for the full experience.

 

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Gethsemane: An Epic Poem About Us by R. Douglas Jacobs

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I don’t know about you, but as a reader, there are times that I need to step outside of the usual and try something new. Gethsemane was so far outside my comfort zone that it’s hard to know where to start talking about it.

It’s an epic poem…woah, there Nelly, the last time I read one of those was by force in high school and let’s just say it wasn’t a pleasant experience. Gethsemane was different and not only because I wasn’t being forced to read it. Perhaps the author explains it best…

Gethsemane is not your epic poem in the traditional sense. Its body of work is composed as an ode in three acts, but formatted as a linear narrative that is divided by one hundred forty-eight verses that read like sonnets. Each stanza (or poetic sentence) is no longer than twelve syllables in length, and each ends in a unique rhyme. Not a single rhyme was repeated, which accentuates the melodic beauty of each verse.

The key for me here was the “melodic beauty”, it was lyrical in a really calming non-Gilgamesh way. Music also plays a big part in the author’s original conception and that was a huge part of the overall reading experience. Jacobs went above and beyond for the audio version of the work (note: I say work, I don’t see this as just a book.) and he was kind enough to send me both the audio and printed version. There’s a sense of fullness and commitment that is such a unique experience that it’s hard to describe.

 

My thoughts? Obviously, I’m a bit dumbfounded on how to describe it…it wasn’t anything like reading or listening to a book, more like experiencing it.  It left me in an amazing meditative state and the entire concept just continues to blow me away. I may have to listen a few more times to allow it to really sink in.

 

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8 Ways to Read More

Do you want to be a writer like Daniel Handler? Maybe you love Daniel and his work, but you really just want to expand your literary education. Either way, it’s important to invest more time to reading. Read on for ways to squeeze this important pastime into your day.

1. Figure out your purpose for reading. Why do you want to read? What do you want to get out of it? Do you want to learn about a certain topic? Maybe you want to get inspired for your own writing or read all of the classics. By having a purpose, you’ll make reading more of a priority.

2. Only read books you’re attracted to. There’s no point in making yourself read books you don’t have a genuine interest in!

3. Don’t feel guilty about skipping pages. If you’re reading educational books, you may already know some of what’s written. In this case, skip over it! No need to revisit information you already know when you can spend that time soaking up new knowledge.

4. Create reading goals. For example, you may want to read one new book every week or every month, or get through a certain number of pages or chapters every night. By giving yourself a goal and a deadline, you’ll make sure to reach for your book every day.

5. Add reading to your daily routine. For example, you can read every weekday during your train commute to work or every evening right before you go to sleep.

6. Always have your next book chosen. By knowing what you’re going to pick up after you’ve finished your current book, you won’t have down time between reads. This means you’ll stay in the habit of reading.

7. Use your free time to read. By always having a book or e-reader on you, you can get a few pages read when standing on line, waiting for a friend, or being stuck in a traffic jam.

8. Read in a quiet place. If there are fewer distractions around, you’ll find it easier to read and you’ll get through your daily reading goal faster. Plus, you’ll soak up the information more than if you were in a noisy place.

With these tips, you’ll hopefully be able to get through all of the reading you have planned for the year!

 

This was a sponsored post full of grand ideas. If I was to write the list, it wouldn’t have been practical. #1 would have been quit your job, farm the kids out to family and or neighbors, and change the locks on your house so your husband can’t get in. See? Not really practical. 

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Empire of Sin: A Story of Sex, Jazz, Murder, and the Battle for Modern New Orleans by Gary Krist

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To compliment my earlier review, The Great New Orleans Kidnapping, let’s turn the clock forward a bit from 1870 to the turn of the century and Empire of Sin.

Have you ever heard of Storyville in New Orleans? I had only because of my interest in WWI and had read a bit about how the War Department played a big part in making Storyville a thing of the past. Well, Gary Krist has taken on how it was before vice was “contained” in New Orleans, what happened when it was, and how it ended up just another interesting way to deal with vice that was abandoned. The best part is he does it in a way that isn’t all in your face with salacious specifics. It is so tasteful that you could be reading a story about how Detroit became the motor city, a subject much less objectionable.

Prostitution is/was, at the end of the day, a business and in the Victorian era and for a period after it was more or less seen as a needed thing that will-not-be-named in gentile company. So what is an up and coming city supposed to do? New Orleans decided that no longer would the pleasure palaces be scattered around the city willy nilly and while they didn’t think they could lick it entirely, the fine city leaders (some of them brothel owners themselves or at least backed by the owners) came up with the idea to corral it in one specific area. Genius right? Okay, perhaps not in today’s way of thinking, but it worked for many years for them.

There were murders, bumbling cops, paid off city and state leaders, a brothel owner in the State house, and even the aging Carrie Nation came by, set aside her ax, and had tea with a lady brothel owner. It was what it was and Krist’s take on it allows you to learn without feeling like you have to hide the book in last week’s New Yorker.

I said it last time and I’ll say it again, New Orleans has an amazing history of acceptance and in the South at that period of time, that is saying a heck of a lot. Read it…now.

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The Paris Homicide Series by Frédérique Molay

 

Paris Homicide

I love the gritty psychologically driven Scandinavian crime novels and they led me to reach out for a broader view of European Crime.  Let me tell you, it isn’t all gritty, but that doesn’t mean you have Ms. Marple in the library sipping tea either.

Paris, oohhh, Paris, with the tragic history and all of those romantic spots…Just like any modern city, there are murders there too, fictional and otherwise. In comes, Frédérique Molay, and her creation, Chief of Police Nico Sirsky.

The three part (so far) Paris Homicide series has opened my eyes not only to real-life Paris, but to the interesting way that La Crim’ investigates murder. I say interesting, because the mechanisms and procedures are different from what we are used to here and that adds to the intrigue of the plots for non-native readers.

The plots kept me reading as well. The 7th Woman features a killer of women, Crossing the Line starts with a freaky message secreted away in an odd body part, and City of Blood plays havoc with modern art at the site of a former massive slaughter-house with is now Parc de La Villtte, a world-class cultural center.

Nico Sirsky is different in that he isn’t really some tragically flawed alcoholic with decades of self-imposed wreckage behind him. He has a past just like we all do, the same with sad events, but it doesn’t define him like many fictional crime fighters. He is a good compassionate guy, who is very good at his job, with a teenage son, and a relationship in bloom. He’s multi-dimensional not for his bad habits, but because one can relate to him.  He’s a shift from the norm and really a breath of fresh air because of that.

So, if you want to see more of Paris and how they fight crime, not be afraid of turning the lights out at night, and yet still want some murder in your reading….check out Frédérique Molay, and her work, The Paris Homicide Series.

Check out the review at The Bowed Bookshelf

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