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The Fear Artist by Timothy Hallinan

Another Poke Rafferty mystery is always a welcome event and The Fear Artist was no exception. As you might have guessed by the title, this volume is a little darker. It is also a little more political – not in the partisan sense per se but in the worldview sense. It has a strong message that the war on terror has gone too far and allowed America to lose track of, or ignore, its ideals. But this message, whether you agree with it or not, does not overwhelm the story.

Publishers blurb:

An accidental collision on a Bangkok sidewalk goes very wrong when the man who ran into Rafferty dies in his arms, but not before saying three words: Helen Eckersley. Cheyenne. Seconds later, the police arrive, denying that the man was shot. That night, Rafferty is interrogated by Thai secret agents who demand to know what the dead man said, but Rafferty can’t remember. When he’s finally released, Rafferty arrives home to find that his apartment has been ransacked. In the days that follow, he realizes he’s under surveillance. The second time men in uniform show up at his door, he manages to escape the building and begins a new life as a fugitive. As he learns more about his situation, it becomes apparent that he’s been caught on the margins of the war on terror, and that his opponent is a virtuoso artist whose medium is fear.

Hallinan once again weaves a great story and continues to flush out these great characters (Poke, Rose, Miaow, etc.).

The Fear Artist by Timothy Hallinan

Another Poke Rafferty mystery is always a welcome event and The Fear Artist was no exception. As you might have guessed by the title, this volume is a little darker. It is also a little more political – not in the partisan sense per se but in the worldview sense. It has a strong message that the war on terror has gone too far and allowed America to lose track of, or ignore, its ideals. But this message, whether you agree with it or not, does not overwhelm the story.

Publishers blurb:

An accidental collision on a Bangkok sidewalk goes very wrong when the man who ran into Rafferty dies in his arms, but not before saying three words: Helen Eckersley. Cheyenne. Seconds later, the police arrive, denying that the man was shot. That night, Rafferty is interrogated by Thai secret agents who demand to know what the dead man said, but Rafferty can’t remember. When he’s finally released, Rafferty arrives home to find that his apartment has been ransacked. In the days that follow, he realizes he’s under surveillance. The second time men in uniform show up at his door, he manages to escape the building and begins a new life as a fugitive. As he learns more about his situation, it becomes apparent that he’s been caught on the margins of the war on terror, and that his opponent is a virtuoso artist whose medium is fear.

Hallinan once again weaves a great story and continues to flush out these great characters (Poke, Rose, Miaow, etc.).

My Favorite Reads of 2011

I wasn’t able to post thoughts on the books I read in 2011 by the end of the year so I am doing it this week.  I noted the general statistics yesterday and today want to tackle my favorite reads.  Like last year, I am going to break in out into categories.

Young Adult Fiction

A large chunk of my reading this year was YA (30 of 79 books were roughly in this category) so I had a lot of books to chose from in 2011. So here are ten of my favorites in no particular order:

  1. Cover of "The Wednesday Wars"

    Cover of The Wednesday Wars

    I am going to cheat a little and put two books by Gary D. Schmidt on the list, Okay or Now and The Wednesday Wars.  “Great stories, great characters, imaginative settings and clear writing make these two books great reads. I highly recommend them.”

  2. I am also going to put N.D. Wilson here because I can’t choose just one of his wonderful books I read this year: The Dragon’s Tooth (start of the new Ashtown Burials series) and the entire 100 Cupboards series)  “… if you like large, complex and imaginative fantasy series this one is a must read.”
  3. Icefall by Matthew J. Kirby “Kirby weaves a great tale. There is historical detail, psychological insight, mystery, intrigue and more.”
  4. Skellig by David Almond “It is a simple and yet powerful story of friendship, family, compassion and faith.”
  5. The Search for Wondla by Tony DiTerlizzi “The world DiTerlizzi has created is captivating and mysterious enough that you want to keep reading; not just to see the next illustration but to dig a little deeper into the mystery.”

Little Elvises (The Junior Bender Series) by Timothy Hallinan

As anyone who has trolled for cheap e-books knows, you often get what you pay for. There is a reason there are thousands of $.99 books on Amazon and other sites. They have to be priced low or no one will read them. Are there some gems amongst them? Sure, and there is always the occasional promotional offer from publishers that means a favorite author at a low price. But let’s be honest, even in this new world of publishing many self-published books just aren’t that good.

But what if a best-selling and award-winning novelist decides to write and sell a series on his own? That is another kettle of fish entirely.  Which brings us to Timothy Hallinan‘s Junior Bender series.

I am a huge fan of his Poke Rafferty series and so was interested to see how he handled this new series available only in the electronic format.  The first book, Crashed, was great fun so I was hoping the second would cement that reaction and mean another series to enjoy.

Well, Little Elvises didn’t let me down. It was another enjoyable romp through Los Angeles with a memorable cast of characters, Hallinan’s dry and wry sense of humor, and a twisting plot that leaves you rushing to figure out the mystery at the heart of the story.

Hallinan descirbes the story this way:

[A] Los Angeles thriller-with-a-laugh-track about old-time rock-and-roll, the Philly mob, missing persons, the world’s oldest still-dangerous gangster, and a terrifying if somewhat hapless hit man named Fronts.  And a whole bunch of other stuff.

My Favorite Reads of 2010

I mentioned on Twitter last night that it looks like I will close out 2010 having read about 60 or so books. A few people asked about my favorites so I figured it would be worth it to wrap up 2010 with a post.

After looking at the list I decided to do so by breaking it out a bit. The list breaks down into three categories which divide my reading into roughly thirds: Young Adult Fiction, Fiction, and Non-Fiction.  So below are my favorite reads in each of those categories.

Young Adult Fiction

Cover of "Leepike Ridge"

Cover of Leepike Ridge

Yes, I’m a grown man and I read young adult fiction. As I have explained a few times, I do this because I find the YA fantasy fiction genre creative and entertaining. Some of them are just fun relaxing reads (admittedly quick and easy as well) but some of them are complex and imaginative in ways that make the label superfluous. They are just great books.

The List (in no particular order):

  1. Factotum (The Foundling’s Tale, Part Three) by D. M. Cornish (If you love epic fantasy that is a mix of Tolkien and Dickens you will enjoy this series.)
  2. Boom! by Mark Haddon (A great little story – action, adventure, intrigue and humor all in less than 200 pages.)
  3. The Necromancer by Michael Scott (An enjoyable fantasy thriller where you race to read the book only to be forced to wait for the next release to dive back in again.)
  4. Leepike Ridge by N.D. Wilson (“An original mix of Robinson Crusoe, King Solomon’s Mines, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, and The Odyssey”)
  5. Wild Magic by Cat Weatherill (A creative and intelligent mix of myth, mystery and coming of age stories.)

“Adult” Fiction and Non-Fiction below.

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