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review 2018-07-11 02:32
Great characters, strong writing, and a clever solution to the mystery make this one of 2018's best.
Needle Song - Russell Day

He'd changed again in some way. Like he had the night in The Jericho putting out The Jive. But this was different again. The Jive was showmanship. The good Doctor Slidesmith in full sail. This was more intense. I'd see him like thus on occasion in the shop, absorbed in the ink and the song of the needle. I wouldn't say lost in what he was doing. Lost implies lack of control.


For the first time that evening, it struck me he needed an audience, not to watch him but for him to watch. Like a dial on a machine, not part of the process, just a way of monitoring it.


Back when I posted about the short story featuring Doc Slidesmith, Not Talking Italics, I said that if Needle Song was anything like it, "I'm going to have to go down to the superlative store this weekend to stock up before I write anything about it." I'm fully stocked (now) and ready to go.


I was disappointed -- somewhat -- and relieved to see that the all-dialogue, no narration, no other description approach of Italics was nowhere to be seen. I could've read 380 pages of that (see my love for Roddy Doyle), but I know it's not that approachable and will turn off some readers.


Now, I don't know if anyone but Karen E. Olson has envisioned a tattoo shop as a hotbed of crime fighting -- or the staff of such to be the source people would turn to for help with legal difficulties. But it works -- all because of the owner of the shop, former psychologist, current Voodoo practitioner and Tarot reader, Doc Slidesmith. On the surface, you see a rough-looking -- striking, I think, bordering on handsome -- but your basic leather-glad biker type, covered in ink -- and will underestimate him. Only those who've been in conversations with him, those who've given him a chance will see the charm, the intelligence, and the indefinable characteristic that makes people come to him for help in times of trouble. In many hands, Doc's...peculiar resume, shall we say, would end up this cartoonish mish-mash of quirks. But Day is able to make it work -- there's a reason that Doc ended up where he is, we don't need to know it, but it makes him the man (and armchair detective) that we want to read about.


Andy Miller -- known to many as "Yakky" (he's not a chatty type, his tattoos are all placed so that he can hide them all with this clothing, like a member of the Yakkuza), is the tattoo apprentice to Doc Slidesmith. He lives with his father -- a thoroughly unpleasant and manipulative man, that Yakky feels obligated to care for. While clearly appreciative for Doc's tutelage, and more in awe of his mentor than he'd care to admit, he's also more than a little skeptical of Doc's interests, beliefs and practices that aren't related to his tattooing. He's our narrator. He's not your typical narrator -- he's too frequently angry at, dismissive of and unbelieving in the protagonist for that. Which is just one of the breaths of fresh air brought by this book. Yakky is singularly unimpressed by Doc's playing detective -- but in the end, is probably as invested (maybe more) in the outcome.


Jan is brought by Chris Rudjer (a long-time client and friend of Doc's) for a Tarot reading, which brings her some measure of comfort/reassurance. So that when, months later, her husband kills himself, she comes looking for another reading -- which turns into seeking help in general. Not just for her, but for Chris, with whom she'd been carrying on a not-very-secret affair for months. While it seemed obvious that her husband had taken his own life when she found his body, there were some irregularities at the scene. When the police add in the affair Jan was having with someone with a record for violent crime, they get suspicious. Slidesmith does what he can to help Chris prepare for the inevitable police involvement, and enlists Yakky to help, too.


Yakky takes Jan home to stay in his spare room. She can't stay at home -- the memories are too fresh, there are problems with her husband's family, and (she doesn't realize it yet) there are people following her and Doc and Yakky are worried. The dynamic between Jan and Yakky, and between Jan and Yakky's father, end up providing vital clues to her character and psychology. This will end up proving vital to their case.


As Doc and Yakky begin digging around in Jan's life, it's immediately obvious that very little is as it seems. Now, if you're used to reading Crime Fiction featuring serial killers or organized crime, you'll think a lot of what they uncover is pretty small potatoes. But it actually seems worse -- it's more immediate, more personal -- serial killers have their various pathologies, mobster's are after profits and power -- these people are just about hate, cruelty and control. Maybe it's just me, but it seems worse in comparison.


There's a depth to all of these characters that I could spend a lot of time thinking/writing/reading about -- for example, our narrator, Yakky. I have at least a dozen questions that I feel I need answers to about him. At the same time, I think at least eleven of those answers could ruin the character for me. Ditto for Doc, Gina (another artist in the shop), or Chris. It's a pretty neat trick -- one few authors have been able to pull off, creating a character that you can tell has a compelling backstory, but that you don't really want to know it (see Parker's Hawk or Crais' Pike -- or the other mercenary Crais has had to create now that we know too much about Pike). I know who these people are now, and look forward to seeing what happens with them -- and that's good enough. It's hard to tell, always, just why Doc's working on this -- is it for fun, is it out of a sense of obligation to Chris, does he feel bad for Jan, is it some of all three? Yakky will frequently talk about The Jive -- the showmanship that Doc brings to Tarot readings, conversations, and dealing with difficult witnesses -- it reminds me frequently of B. A. Baracus' complaining about Hannibal's "being on The Jazz."


The plot is as intricate as you want -- there are twists, turns, ups, downs -- both with the investigation and in the lives of those touched by it. This doesn't have the flair of Not Talking Italics, but the voice is as strong, and everything else about the writing is better. It's a cliché to say that Day paints a picture with his words, so I won't say that. But he does etch indelible patterns with the tattoo-gun of his words -- which isn't a painless process for all involved, but the end result is worth whatever discomfort endured. Day doesn't write like a rookie -- this could easily be the third or fourth novel of an established author instead of someone's talented debut.


I'm torn on what I think about the details of the ending, wavering between "good" and "good enough, but could have been better." It's not as strong as the 94% (or so) before it, but it's probably close enough that I shouldn't be quibbling over details. I'm not talking about the way that Doc elicits the answers he needs to fully explain what happened to Jan's husband (both for her closure and Chris' safety), nor the way that everything fits together just perfectly. I just think the execution could be slightly stronger.


Whether you think of this as an amateur sleuth novel, a look into the depravity of the suburbanite, or an elaborate Miss Marple tribute/pastiche, the one thing you have to see is that this is a wonderful novel. I'm underselling it here, I know, this is one of those books that you best understand why everyone is so positive about it by reading it. You've got to expose yourself to Doc, Yakky and Day's prose to really get it. One of the best books I've read this year. My only complaint with this book? After reading so much about the "song of the needle," the shop, the work being done there -- I'm feeling the pressure to get another tattoo myself, and soon.

Source: irresponsiblereader.com/2018/07/10/needle-song-by-russell-day-great-characters-strong-writing-and-a-clever-solution-to-the-mystery-make-this-one-of-2018s-best
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review 2018-07-08 14:26
Song of the Lion
Song of the Lion - Anne Hillerman Song of the Lion - Anne Hillerman

Anne Hillerman continues the stories her father started. Leaphorn helps the police with some cases, providing help, but is still having trouble with communication due to the bullet wound to his head from the previous case. Bernie was at a basketball game, basketball is a big thing in the area, and is present when a bomb goes off and takes charge and then spends her time off helping Chee with protective duty work, assigned to him after the car that was bombed was the one owned and driven by Asa Palmer, the mediator of a big event, the adding of things to make it easier for people who can't move well or are older to see the Grand Canyon. 


Asa's son, Robert, is involved and his nephew was the man found near the car and dying. They work to find out who is behind the car bombing and why they were trying to kill Palmer. 


It was a very good story and it is nice to see the stories of Bernie and Chee and Leaphorn continuing. 

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review 2018-06-28 19:55
Brodelt vor Spannung, entl├Ądt sich aber noch nicht
Sturm der Schwerter (A Song of Ice and Fire #3.1) - George R.R. Martin


Die Sieben Königreiche befinden sich im blutigen Bürgerkrieg. Einer der Anwärter auf den Thron ist bereits tot, ein anderer in Ungnade gefallen, doch der blutige Machtkampf in Westeros tobt erbitterter denn je. Robb Stark, der Herr von Winterfell, leistet dem tyrannischen Haus Lennister hartnäckig Widerstand, obgleich seine Schwester als Geisel am Hof des Kind-Königs Joffrey gefangen gehalten wird. Da sehen sich die Streiter von Winterfell plötzlich einer ganz neuen Gefahr gegenüber: Aus dem Norden drängen unbekannte Kräfte zur Grenze vor…


Meine Meinung

  1. Band

(kann Spoiler enthalten!)


Gleich zu Beginn des 5. Bandes der Reihe entwickelt sich eine Hass- Freundschaft, wenn man dies so bezeichnen mag zwischen zwei Charakteren, die mir dadurch wieder mehr in den Fokus rücken. Brienne von Tarth und Jamie Lennister.  Unterschiedlicher könnten sie nicht sein und dennoch gelang durch deren Weg in Richtung Königsmund und der schnippischen Konversationen ein super Start in die Geschichte. Jedoch werden sie auf ihrer Reise aufgegriffen und dies hat vor allem für den Königsmörder schwerwiegende Folgen.


Robb Stark versucht weiterhin Widerstand zu leisten. Während seine Mutter auf ein Versprechen mit dem Haus Frey setzt, welche die Starks bei ihrem Kampf unterstützen wollen, bricht Robb das Versprechen. Welche Folgen dies für die Starks wohl haben wird? Dass sein Handeln folgenlos bleibt, daran glaube ich in dieser Reihe nicht mehr.


Wer mir in diesem Teil ein wenig zu kurz gekommen ist, wobei dafür andere Charakter und Charaktergruppen Vollgas gegeben haben, ist Arya Stark, Robb’s Schwester. Aber sie trifft auf einen alten Bekannten und lernt die Bruderschaft um Lord Beric Dondarrion kennen.


In Königsmund regiert weiterhin ein Kind. Allerdings beschließt der Rat, dass seine Verlobung zum Hause Stark gelöst werden soll. Der Rat sieht größeres Potenzial, wenn sich das Haus Lennister mit dem Haus Tyrell verbindet.

Die Auserwählte Margery Tyrell mag ich sehr gern. Ich mag ihre frischen Charakterzüge und wie sie mit ihrer Großmutter, der Dornenkönigin und Sansa Stark umgeht. Für Sansa ist allerdings ganz schnell ein neuer Heiratskandidat gefunden. Die Lennisters versuchen wirklich mit allen Mitteln an der Macht zu bleiben.


Etwas kleine Rollen zugesprochen werden dieses Mal der Sturmtochter Daenerys, welche ihre Armee für den Kampf um den Eisernen Thron vergrößert und Brandon Stark zugesprochen. Bran, der aus der Ruine Winterfell im letzten Band flüchtete, macht sich mit seinen Freunden auf in den Norden.

Was hat es mit dem 3-äugigen Raben auf sich, nach dem er suchen soll?


Und nun zu den beiden Handlungssträngen, die mir in diesem Band am meisten gefallen haben. Die Nachtwache heimst Verluste ein. Hier kommt es zu einigen actionreichen Szenen und die Anderen rücken immer weiter ins Bild. So langsam bekomme ich eine Vorstellung, war mir dieser Teil bisher immer noch sehr suspekt erschienen. Auch die Geschichte um Jon Schnee geht spannend weiter.

In diesem Teil vermischt sich bei ihm Verrat und Liebe.

Beim Hören treibt es mich immer weiter weg vom Süden. Ich mag die Beschreibungen des Nordens und nun auch des eisigen Teils des Nordens hinter der Mauer sehr.


Abschließend ein Mann, der zum Schluss meine ganze Aufmerksamkeit hatte.

Oberyn Martell aus Dorne reitet in Königsmund ein zu Ehren der bevorstehenden Hochzeit zwischen Joffrey und Margery. Aber in seinem Inneren hat er ganz andere Dinge vor, als dieses Ereignis zu feiern. Tyrion bekommt einen kleinen Einblick in sein Vorhaben und ist nicht allzu abgeneigt von dem, was eventuell kommen wird.


Mein Fazit

In dem 5. Teil der Reihe spürt man wieder, wie der Autor jegliche Spannung wieder erst aufbaut, um diese dann im kommenden Teil zu entladen.

Lange kann ich mit diesen vielen Cliffhangern und Eventualitäten nicht leben.

Das Hörbuch zum 6. Band muss schleunigst zu mir finden.

Wie der Autor es schafft, fast alle erschaffenden Charakteren auf der Seitenanzahl bzw. den Hörminuten seine Aufmerksamkeit zu schenken, ist einfach grandios.

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review 2018-06-08 20:51
This novel is about a woman that could not be stopped from achieving success regardless of the obstacles she faced.
Song of a Captive Bird - Jasmin Darznik

Song of a Captive Bird, Jasmin Darznik, author; Mozhan Marnò, narrator

When the author and her family left Iran because of the ongoing unrest, she discovered a book of poems by Forough Farrokzad, among her mother’s belongings. She became fascinated with the poetess who could not be said to have been born either before her time or wished to have been born after it, for even today, her place in time has not yet arrived. Yet her place in Iran’s history was and still is profound. She was a woman who found her voice, although the powers that be tried to silence her, and she was alternately praised or condemned for making it heard. Forough wrote poetry in Iran at a time when women did not write poetry or even work outside the home. Women, even before the Islamists took control, had little power of their own.

As the reader becomes drawn into the story, it will be hard to believe that it is a novel or that it is historic fiction, because the author, Jasmin Darznik, has imbued the character with a personality that is believable, that makes the character very authentic. I could not tell where the real and imagined parted ways. She gave Forough all the wisdom, strength and courage she needed in order to become the defiant young woman who affected so many lives in Iran, many positively, and some, even negatively. Although the story only covers about a decade and a half of Forough’s life, from her mid teens to her early thirties, it feels like it covers far more of the history of Iran since so much other information is imparted by the author with historical facts and through the inserted verses of Forough’s poetry. At the time of Farrokhzad’s life and even more so today, the men made the decisions and controlled the rules that governed the lives of women. They could be seen, but basically, not heard. Their opinions were not considered. Once the Islamists came to power and the Ayatollah became the supreme ruler, the women became even more unimportant; they became invisible, shrouded and silent.

Iran was a country that other countries wanted because of ifs oil. The United States had wanted that oil and had basically established rule in Iran. Under the Shah, there were seeds of unrest budding and blooming. There were Iranians who believed that the oil was theirs, and they wanted to control their own country. They resented the relationship that the Shah had with the West, the control the West had over their country’s economy, and the clash of the cultures which they found degrading to their own and to their women. There were even some Iranians who wanted to return to the traditional ways of Islam, the ways which gave women even less freedom, which demanded that they be covered and silent, completely divorced from having any influence on society.

Forough was just a teenager when her heart was stolen by a young man, just over a decade older than she was. He liked poetry and was the one who inspired her in that direction. When her mother discovered their secret relationship, she forced her to submit to a virginity test, which, although it proved she was a virgin, also accidentally stole her virginity from her. In the eyes of any observer, she would be tainted, since no blood could be shed on her wedding night. She had squirmed and the tool being used unfortunately slipped. She never revealed the truth, although she knew it, because she knew no one would believe her. However, that slip of the knife foretold the future tragedies in her life.

Forough was defiant and did not obey the mores of the times. She wrote poetry described often as risqué; she traveled alone and dressed immodestly at times. She had affairs of the heart which were shameful, at the time, and tongues wagged and unmercifully condemned her. Unscrupulous people, her father and husband among them, had her confined to an asylum when she refused to stop writing or to change her ways and return to her child, husband and his family. In the asylum, on a former beautiful estate, she was subjected to shock treatment and medications she did not need. She was not sick, she was not insane. She was only hungry for her own independence.

After she was rescued from the institution by a dear friend, her husband divorced her and obtained complete custody of their child. Her mother-in-law turned her son against her and made him fear her. Although her behavior was unconventional, she was sane. Although her behavior was sometimes promiscuous, she was not a whore, as she was often called. She was, however, someone who wrote her own rules, defied her own culture, and was punished by the behavior of those that disagreed with her. Still, she always knew one thing, she wanted to be free to think for herself, walk about by herself and make her own choices. She wanted her independence and resented her need to be dependent upon others. As she defined alternate mores for women, she was ridiculed and punished by those who had more power than she did and those who wanted more stringent rules. Still, she always seemed to manage to pull herself together and survive.

In her brief lifetime, she became an accomplished poetess, film director, and photographer. However, the fact that she was a paramour in a place that did not accept paramours, colored the perception others had of her. She was a woman out of her time or any other defined time period in Iran, for she would have less freedom, even today, than she had in the nineteen fifties and sixties.

Due to the cloistered nature of Iran, there is not much written about Forough that has survived, except for her poems. The poems reveal her life, as she drew on her own experiences in her verses. Because of her behavior, she lost her reputation, her family and her child. However, her intelligence and sensitivity shone brightly in her writing. Even with little education, she was able to convey her pain, her joy and sadness, and her desire for women’s rights and freedom. Her writing also illustrates the abuse and cruelty she and others suffered during her time of life in a world ruled by men and/or extremists of different stripes. She lived in a world in which a man could have many wives, but a woman could only have her arranged marriage; it was a time in which a man could discard a wife and even have her confined to a prison or insane asylum, simply to get her out of the way. There she would be subjected to cruel attendants, abusive treatments and doctors who also believed women should not have the right to make their own decisions, and there she would be helpless and hopeless. Has that much changed in Iran? I think it may have gotten worse. Do the women want freedom, or are they happy to be shielded from the world? One can only wonder. The one thing the reader will know, in the end, Forough was the mortal bird of the poem.



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review 2018-06-04 03:13
Ride Wild, Ride Free
Mary's Song - Ruth Sanderson,Susan Count

Texas, 1952. Twelve-year-old Mary has spent much of her young life in a wheelchair due to a virus that also took her mother’s life. Despite her disability, she has big dreams, and one of her favorite activities is drawing the horses that live in the neighboring fields. “Each sketch was a wish to ride, wild and free, someday.” She becomes friends with fellow horse lover, Laura, and together the two strive to fulfill their aspirations.

Poignant and inspirational, “Mary’s Song” takes young readers along for a spirited ride. Along with a strong theme regarding friendship, the story has a gentle faith angle and also explores other issues germane to modern readers. One girl’s parents are too uninvolved in her life, while the other’s father is overly protective. The narrative delves into tough subject matter such as dealing with loss and disappointment and persevering amidst trials while still maintaining an overall optimistic tone. Middle-grade readers will be encouraged and entertained by this horse tale, which will appeal to those who enjoy some of the horse classics such as “Black Beauty”, “National Velvet”, and the works of Marguerite Henry.

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