Review ~ Last Winter We Parted

This book was provided to me by Soho Press via NetGalley.

Last Winter We Parted by Fuminori Nakamura, translated by Allison Markin Powell

Cover via Goodreads

A young writer arrives at a prison to interview a man arrested for homicide. He has been commissioned to write a full account of the case, from its bizarre and grisly details to the nature of the man behind the crime. The suspect, while world-renowned as a photographer, has a deeply unsettling portfolio—lurking beneath the surface of each photograph is an acutely obsessive fascination with his subject.

He stands accused of murdering two women—both burned alive—and will likely face the death penalty. But something isn’t quite right, and as the young writer probes further, his doubts about this man as a killer intensify. He soon discovers the desperate, twisted nature of all who are connected to the case, struggling to maintain his sense of reason and justice. What could possibly have motivated this man to use fire as a torturous murder weapon? Is he truly guilty, or will he die to protect someone else?

The suspect has a secret—it may involve his sister, who willfully leads men to their destruction, or the “puppeteer,” an enigmatic figure who draws in those who have suffered the loss of someone close to them. As the madness at the heart of the case spins out of control, the confusion surrounding it only deepens. What terrifying secrets will this impromptu investigator unearth as he seeks the truth behind these murders? (via Goodreads)

My expectation when reading a mystery is that I am going along with the investigator as he/she solves the case. Sometimes, as a reader, I know more than the sleuth. The enjoyment of that situation is in seeing how the investigator will catch up, or how they’ll avoid the peril I see coming. Generally, when reading a mystery, I believe I shouldn’t know substantially less than the protagonist. I should have seen what they’ve seen, heard what they’ve heard. If the fictional investigator makes a leap of logic, it should always be based on what has been shown to the reader.

Last Winter We Parted is told in the form of first person narration by the young writer and through the archived documents surrounding the murder case. Unfortunately, these archives have no context for the reader. If it’s a letter, we don’t know who it’s from or to, information that is presumably available to the narrator. There is even one archive written in first person, not by our narrator, with no context other than “archive.” At least, I think this is the case. Honestly, the structure was a little confusing and obfuscatory. The matter wasn’t helped by a pretty poor Kindle version of the ARC. By the end, the vague pieces are put together for the reader, allowing for no sense that I could have ever figured it out without it being told to me.

And all this is a shame. The labyrinth of photos, fires, philosophy, and doll fetishist that Nakamura leads the reader through is genuinely unnerving. The crux of the tale relies on a tension between beauty and grotesque, but the narrative itself gets in the way.

Publisher: Soho Press
Publication date: September 21, 2014
Genre: Horror thriller


Deal Me In, Week 42 ~ “The Fall of the House of Escher”


Hosted by Jay @ Bibliophilopolis

“The Fall of the House of Escher” by Greg Bear

Card picked: Nine of Hearts

From: David Copperfield’s Beyond Imagination

Review: I could not get through this story, despite its intriguing title. Maybe it was because I was reading it during my 17th straight hour of readathon-ing yesterday. Maybe it’s because I have trouble with allegories, which, with character names like Cant, Shant, and Musnt, this probably is. Or maybe I’ve been reading an anthology of speculative fiction stories that are so deftly written that this story felt very clumsy in comparison. If you’re going to allude to Poe and spend time describing architecture, man, you need to be lush in your language. This fell short.

I feel bad bailing on a story which is obviously challenging, but I’m also an adult who can put it aside for a day when I’m not actively annoyed by it. Some other time, “House of Escher.”

About the Author: Greg Bear is an SF writer that I’ve been aware of for years, but have never read.

Deal Me In, Week 41 ~ “Eagle”


Hosted by Jay @ Bibliophilopolis

“Eagle” by David Copperfield

Card picked: Ace of Hearts

From: David Copperfield’s Beyond Imagination

Thoughts: Each of the Copperfield anthologies opens with a story by the man himself. After starting both anthologies in January for Deal Me In, it’s taken me *this* long to end up reading one!

Adam is a loner. While other third-graders are playing kickball and other sports, Adam is content to make up stories and build things. A favorite among the others is the tale of Adam’s invisible eagle. To avoid being overly teased, Adam tells a lie: The invisible eagle is real. Now all Adam has to do is prove it to them.

While Adam isn’t labeled as such, this is sort of a quintessential magician story. Magicians tell the lie and then make it seem true, whether it’s making cards appear and disappear or devising ways to make an invisible eagle seem real.

The other question, of course, is did David Copperfield really write the story? I’m going to say ‘yes.’ It’s short and simply told. In his intro to the story, Copperfield admits that the story is very much like what happened to him as a kid. If it wasn’t written by David Copperfield, the illusion is pretty good.

Is This Your Card?

I figured it was appropriate to linked up Copperfield’s version of the four aces. I believe I’ve included Ricky Jay’s four queens in the past, but I’m not sure about Copperfield’s aces. In any case, this performance includes a bit about Copperfield’s childhood which dovetails nicely with the story.

Fright Fest Update ~ The New Girl


I missed the R.L. Stine/teen horror phenomena in the nineties. For me, the nostalgia of these books, or at least The New Girl which I read last week, is in the setting. Published in 1989, it is just *so* 80s. At least in the original printing I have. I’ve heard that new editions have updated references as well as grittier covers. I’m glad my Fear Street editions have the ditto machine still intact! Honestly, I was surprised at how much fun The New Girl was to read. Cory Brooks, our smitten hero, is a bit of a bone head, but still likeable. The plot twist was appropriately sensational and I enjoy the concept of horror novels that are all set in place. I’ll be reading Fear Street #2 next week, probably during Dewey’s Readathon.

The New Girl (Fear Street, #1) The New Girl (Fear Street, #1) The New Girl (Fear Street, #1)

Actually, what is up with the new covers? They’re a little racy for book that only has kissing and non-graphic “excitement.”

Review ~ The Kiss Murder

The Kiss Murder by Mehmet Murat Somer, Kenneth Dakan (Translator)

Cover via Goodreads

Bestsellers in Mehmet Murat Somer’s home country of Turkey and set to take the world by storm, the arrival of the Hop-Çiki-Yaya mysteries is cause for excitement (and lip gloss!) here in the United States. A male computer technician by day and a transvestite hostess of Istanbul’s most notorious nightclub by night, the unnamed heroine of The Kiss Murder is the most charming and hilarious sleuth to debut in recent memory. When Buse, one of the “girls”at her club, fears someone is after private letters from a former lover, she comes to her boss for help. The next day Buse is dead and our girl must find the murderers before they find her. Fortunately, she is well armed with beauty, wit, the wardrobe of Audrey Hepburn, and expert Thai kickboxing skills. With a page-turning plot and an irresistibly charming protagonist, The Kiss Murder is sure to attract mystery lovers and nightlife mavens alike. (via Goodreads)

I was intrigued by the main character of this mystery: a transvestite amateur detective looking into crimes within her community.

First, I have a couple of issues:

Issue #1 – Somer isn’t a transvestite or transgendered. While obviously a writer doesn’t *have* to have first-hand knowledge of what they write about, I’m taking it on faith that he’s giving me an accurate portrayal of the cross-dressing and trans community in Turkey. It’s a tricky thing when writing outside yourself to get it right.

Issue #2 – The translation. In relation to the above, the concepts of cross-dressing and being transgendered are munged together and used semi-interchangeably in the novel. I wonder if this is a problem in the translation. In general, I found the writing choppy. In the case of dialogue, it weirdly felt like a bad dub, a problem I’m never encountered when reading.

On a story level:

Our narrator’s voice felt a little forced sometimes. Maybe I’m just not enough of a girl, but the continual swooning over fashion and hot-bodied men was tiring. The plot was okay, but the end seemed inevitable despite the main character’s actions. This was an okay book, it read quickly, but it wasn’t super-awesome.

Publisher: Penguin Books
Publication date: December 30th 2008 (first published 2003)
Genre: Mystery/Thriller


Short Review ~ Film in Five Seconds

This book was provided to me by Quercus Publishing via Edelweiss.

Film in Five Seconds by Matteo Civaschi & Gianmarco Milesi

Cover via Goodreads

In today’s jet-fuelled, caffeine-charged, celebrity-a-minute world, who actually has the time to watch a film from start to finish? Let’s face it, life’s too short. Now, Film in Five Seconds lets you fast-forward to the best bits so you can enjoy all your favourite movie moments in – literally – moments.

Design studio H-57 have taken over 150 iconic films and cut away all the useless details, boiling them down into ingenious pictograms and creating hilarious visual snapshots that are witty, provocative and to the point.

From Batman to Bridget Jones, Grease to The Godfather, King Kong to The King’s Speech, via slapstick, sci-fi and superheroes, you’ll laugh out loud as you identify some of the greatest screen moments of all time. This is the perfect book for film buffs and anyone with a sense of humour or a short attention span. (via Goodreads)

Less a book to read and more a solo party game, Film in Five Seconds presents classic and popular current movies in the form of pictograms. Sometimes the pictogram shows plot, sometimes an iconic movie moment. The fun is obviously in trying to figure out what movie is being represented. After a few “easy” ones, I started to learn some of the pictogram vocabulary, but it might have been nice to have a minor “glossary” of what certain arrows and equal signs meant. On the whole, I think the short-attention-span pitch sells this book short (no pun intended, for once). These puzzles are quite clever, take more than five seconds to solve, and deserve more than five seconds of appreciation. This would be a fun gift for a film buff.

Publisher: Quercus Publishing Plc
Publication date: October 7th 2014
Genre: Er…
Why did I choose to read this book? Fun during a readathon.

Deal Me In, Week 40 ~ “A Cascade of Lies”


Hosted by Jay @ Bibliophilopolis

“A Cascade of Lies” by Steve Rasnic Tem

Card picked: Queen of Clubs

From: David Copperfield’s Beyond Imagination


When Alan and his brother Billy were seven and eight the boys began touring with their father. … their mother had claimed the doctor told her they were too frail. It was the only trick she’d ever pull.

But she could not stall Max forever, and the day finally came when the boys were onstage, dressed as girls, midgets, animals, specters, until Max promoted them to victims: target of the bullet-catching trick, a neck for the Sword of Damocles.

This is a dark story. It begins with a son questioning his father’s lies (because aren’t all magic tricks lies). As he gets older, Alan backs out of performing, a decision which leaves him guilt-ridden when his brother dies during an accident. Alan loses touch with his father, marries, and has a daughter. Unfortunately, he hasn’t outrun his father’s grasp. When his daughter starts asking about her famous grandfather, Alan’s life falls apart. The last several pages of this story descend into a phantasmagoria as Alan seeks out Max. This whole story felt like it could be a much longer work instead of 15 pages in a mass market paperback.

About the Author: Though well-published in the realm of speculative fiction, I’m not sure I’d ever heard of Steve Rasnic Tem before.

Is This Your Card?
The description of Max’s show reminded me of magician Richiardi Jr. His act pulled from a Grand Guignol tradition. Introduced here by the great Vincent Price.