May 7, 2012

Book Review: The Keeper of Lost Causes by Jussi Adler-Olsen

Posted in Book Reviews tagged , , , , , , , , , at 2:48 pm by The Word Jar

Nothing is hotter than Scandinavian thrillers right now, and Denmark is throwing its hat in the ring with The Keeper of Lost Causes by award-winning author Jussi Adler-Olsen. Adler-Olsen does what most recent Scandinavian imports do best—serves up a compelling, dark story with enough cruel twists to leave the reader thinking, “What is in that coffee over there?”

The Keeper of Lost Causes follows Copenhagen detective Carl Morck a few months after he has been shot on the job. When Carl returns to the force and refuses to play nicely with his fellow detectives, he is unexpectedly promoted to head up the new cold cases division, Department Q. Given only a stack of case files and Assad, a jack-of-all-trades assistant, Carl begins to investigate the disappearance of Merete Lyngaard, a rising politician.

The narrative alternates between Carl’s investigation and the real circumstances of Merete’s disappearance. The investigation bumbles along at times, with a few lucky breaks and a lot of help from unassuming Assad. But the chapters that follow Merete are tight, twisted, and intensely pressure-packed, leaving the reader wanting more but afraid to admit it (and more than a little worried that Adler-Olsen might gladly give it to them).

Adler-Olsen excels at weaving in the secondary characters and plots. While Carl comes across as a first-rate jerk and second-rate detective at times, Assad, with his secretive past and sundry talents, puts the clues together and makes a mean curry. The Keeper of Lost Causes spins an interesting investigation tale, but Adler-Olsen’s true talent is creating horrific crime scenarios. The Keeper of Lost Causes is the first* in the new Department Q series from Adler-Olsen, and he would do readers a favor by revealing more about Assad in future books, as well as keeping the terrifically twisted narratives coming.

* According to Amazon, The Absent One, the second Department Q case, is scheduled to be released August 21, 2012.

(Review copy source: Dutton via NetGalley)


May 3, 2012

My (Editing) Mark on True Crime

Posted in Publishing tagged , , , , , , , , at 1:55 pm by The Word Jar

I love true crime books. It’s really a strange fascination, to love true crime books. They aren’t written as instruction manuals. If you read The Stranger Beside Me, it’s not likely to keep you from falling into the clutches of the next Ted Bundy. I guess it’s a voyeuristic venture. Peering into the minds and lives of those who are so utterly different than who I am. Unless I become an unfortunate victim, I doubt I’ll be written about in a true crime book. I don’t even eat grapes at the grocery store.

But, I will be leaving my mark on a true crime book. I’m currently editing Ghost Burglar: The True Story of Bernard Welch—Master Thief, Ruthless Con Man, and Cold-Blooded Killer by Jack Burch and James King. Ghost Burglar chronicles the life and crimes of Bernard C. Welch, who stole millions of dollars of goods from the elite in Washington, D.C., in the late 1970s. Co-author James King lends an insider’s knowledge to the book, as he was one of the detectives hunting Welch at that time. He was the first to identify Welch as the suspect, even as police struggled to locate and apprehend him. Welch was finally arrested on December 5, 1980, after murdering Dr. Michael Halberstam (brother of author and journalist David Halberstam) in a botched burglary. Even though he had been shot multiple times, Halberstam ran over the fleeing Welch with his car on his way to the hospital. And as if being a thief and murderer wasn’t enough, Welch also successfully (for a time) escaped from prison twice.

It’s been a fascinating experience to edit a true crime book. The authors did a wonderful job with the writing. The majority of the work I’ve done is to structure the book so that it flows smoothly, weaving between Welch’s lavish life on the lam and the police desperately pursuing him.

Ghost Burglar is also my first attempt at being more than just an editor. I’ve been put into a sort of publishing coordinator role for this bookcreating the publishing schedule, designing marketing materials, setting up a blog, creating and sending out ARCs, as well as trying to gather reviews. As the editing process winds down now, Ghost Burglar will go for layout and design next week, and then ARC distribution will soon follow. It’s off to the printer in June and into bookstores in September.

If you’d like to review Ghost Burglar, let me know. I’d love to hear what you have to say. I’ll have a few ARCs to distribute here, and I’m also trying to set up a giveaway through LibraryThing’s Early Reviewer program.

Check back soon for more Ghost Burglar updates!

January 24, 2012

Teaser Tuesday January 24: Domestic Violets by Matthew Norman

Posted in Book Talk tagged , , , , at 10:29 am by The Word Jar

Teaser Tuesdays asks you to:

* Grab your current read.
* Let the book fall open to a random page.
* Share with us two “teaser” sentences from that page.

You also need to share the title and author of the book that you’re getting your teaser from…that way people can have some great book recommendations if they like the teaser you’ve given!

As always, please avoid spoilers!

*   *   *   *   *

I sit down and am prepared to feel the appropriate amount of anxiety, but I’m interrupted by a knock on my door–my open door. In my career, I’ve found that only annoying people knock on open doors.

Take one man stuck in a mind-numbing career as a copywriter for a soulless corporation. Mix with his dream of being a novelist. Stir in the fact that his father has just won the Pulitzer Prize. Add a dollop of marital strife, a spoonful of an office crush, a spot of Daddy issues, and one neurotic dog. Blend well and you have Domestic Violets by Matthew Norman, a fun read with an unapologetically witty and clever male protagonist. (That’s a good thing!)

What are you reading this week?

(Teaser Tuesday is hosted by MizB at Should Be Reading. Check it out for more teasers!)

January 23, 2012

Dancing Books for the Monday Blues

Posted in Book Talk tagged , , at 11:23 am by The Word Jar

It’s winter. It’s Monday. You could use some cheering up. Bring on the dancing books!

*     *     *     *     *

Everybody thinks that bookstores are magical places. Here’s proof that they are right.

*     *     *     *     *

Perhaps the most important activity for any book lover is organizing her beloved bookshelf. Alphabetical? By subject? Dewey Decimal? By color? Here’s some more inspiration.

(Kudos to Sean Ohlenkamp and his team for creating these celebrations of books!)

November 15, 2011

Teaser Tuesday November 15: The Family Fang by Kevin Wilson

Posted in Book Talk tagged , , , , at 10:53 am by The Word Jar

Teaser Tuesdays asks you to:

* Grab your current read.
* Let the book fall open to a random page.
* Share with us two “teaser” sentences from that page.

You also need to share the title and author of the book that you’re getting your teaser from…that way people can have some great book recommendations if they like the teaser you’ve given!

As always, please avoid spoilers!

*   *   *   *   *

As he sat in the airport bar and drank glass after glass of lemon-lime soda and ate handfuls of peanuts and pretzels, he had decided that, should someone ask, he was not a real child but a robot built and designed by a scientific genius. A childless couple had ordered him and he was now being delivered to them in Florida. Beep-bop-boop.

The Family Fang by Kevin Wilson is about a family with performance artist parents, Caleb and Camille Fang, who insist on including their reluctant children, Annie and Buster, in their very public performances. So far their performances have included Annie snitching on a woman (Camille) who is stealing candy from a candy store and Annie and Buster horrifically singing while trying to earn money, street-performer-style, for “their dog’s” operation, with Camille and Caleb in the surrounding crowd shouting about the kids being horrible performers. The scene I’ve taken my teaser from shows the family’s preparations before they all separately board a plane, with fake IDs, for an in-flight performance. As noted in the book, the date is July 1988–well, before our current airline security measures were implemented. These performances are interspersed between chapters about adult Annie, an actress, and Buster, a down-on-his-luck writer, and how their lives were affected by these performances.

An interesting read so far. Oh, and the boy’s name is Buster? Who doesn’t love a boy named Buster? (Fans of Arrested Development, anyone??)

What are you reading this week?

(Teaser Tuesday is hosted by MizB at Should Be Reading. Check it out for more teasers!)

November 14, 2011

Book Review: Arcadia Falls by Carol Goodman

Posted in Book Reviews tagged , , , , , at 9:53 am by The Word Jar

Fairy tales provide the backdrop for Arcadia Falls by Carol Goodman. But these fairy tales bleed from the dark, gothic vein of the Brothers Grimm, not that of technicolor Disney. They are filled with difficult choices and moral repercussions reflective of the tumultuous life of their author and indicative of the mysteries and struggles facing the characters of Arcadia Falls.

Centered around the mysterious death of a student at Arcadia School, a secluded upstate New York boarding school, Arcadia Falls follows two threads—the life of Meg Rosenthal, a recent widow and new teacher at the academy, and the lives of the academy’s two founders, Vera Beecher and Lily Eberhardt, through a diary that Meg finds in her cottage. Meg accepts a teaching position at the school because she needs a source of income, but the position also allows her to return to her passion of fairy tales. Her college thesis focused on fairy tales, particularly The Changeling Girl, written by Lily Eberhardt, and coming to Arcadia School allows Meg to delve into the mysteries of Lily and Vera firsthand and walk in their footsteps.

Goodman uses this book to examine the many roles of women—mother, daughter, lover, teacher. The most interesting angle Goodman examines is the notion of woman as artist. The characters of Arcadia Falls, primarily women, serve as subjects to test the theory of whether or not women can be both successful artists and mothers, or if one profession ultimately suffers because of the other. Although both sides are argued throughout, the story provides a definitive final verdict.

While Arcadia Falls wraps up quite quickly and a bit too neatly, the journey through the upstate New York woods is well worth the time. A good gothic read for the autumn season.

(Review copy source: Ballantine Books via LibraryThing)

November 1, 2011

Happy NaNoWriMo!

Posted in Events tagged , , at 12:01 am by The Word Jar

Sending out lots of wordy wishes to the intrepid writers who are tackling National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) this year! These wily wordsmiths will attempt to write a novel that is at least 50,000 words long in the mere thirty days of November. That’s approximately 1,667 words a day. Every day. This is no small feat. Just try it and you’ll see. Thankfully for some, there is no rule saying that the novel has to make sense. But the sheer act of creativity from these writers inspires awe in the less intrepid among us.

Write on, WriMos! I wish you well!

August 30, 2011

Teaser Tuesday August 30: Oink: My Life with Minipigs by Matt Whyman

Posted in Uncategorized at 9:03 am by The Word Jar

Teaser Tuesdays asks you to:

* Grab your current read.
* Let the book fall open to a random page.
* Share with us two “teaser” sentences from that page.

You also need to share the title and author of the book that you’re getting your teaser from…that way people can have some great book recommendations if they like the teaser you’ve given!

As always, please avoid spoilers!

*   *   *   *   *

From the dog’s point of view, a light pork snack had just offered itself up on a plate. I could only think that Sesi was too stunned to act, for Roxi calmly trotted through the space between her forelegs.

To clear things up, Sesi is a white wolf-like dog and Roxi is a minipig. Roxi definitely has moxie, and when the large canine comes to observe the minipigs behind a protective baby gate, Roxi saunters right through the bars and proves she has just as much a right to be in the house as Sesi.

Oink: My Life with Minipigs is an entertaining account of how chaotic life becomes for author Matt Whyman when his wife decides that two minipigs would be a great addition to their already abundant family (four kids, one dog, one cat, and some chickens). I’ve been looking forward to this lighthearted book after some of the heavier psychological thrillers I’ve been reading this summer.

What are you reading this week?

(Teaser Tuesday is hosted by MizB at Should Be Reading. Check it out for more teasers!)

August 29, 2011

Coming Attractions, Book-style

Posted in Book Talk tagged , , , , , , , , , , at 1:53 pm by The Word Jar

Confession: I’m new to book trailers. In a far corner of my mind, I knew they existed as a publishing world marketing tool, but I never bothered to check any out. I assumed book trailers would be guilty of the same thing that movies based on books are guilty of–giving the reader preconceived ideas and images about the characters, places, and plots of the book instead of letting the reader *read* the book and form her own book-based universe.

Now that I’ve done some research and checked out a few book trailers, I’ve found that many of them aren’t what I expected at all. I envisioned short film versions of the books, but I found they are more like commercials for books. As with commercials for every product, there are hits and misses (as highlighted below). But in most instances, these book trailers are not guilty of anything except selling me on reading the books they are promoting. Even though book trailers can be entertaining, I still prefer to get my book recommendations from friends and family and other trustworthy review sources. (Full disclosure: The book trailers I highlight below are all for books that I had already planned to read. Whether or not a book trailer could make me want to read a book I hadn’t already heard of remains to be seen, but in one instance, the book trailer did make me a little hesitant to read the spotlighted book.)

And now dim the lights, here are your coming attractions…

A few weeks ago I featured the book trailer for Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus. I just stumbled onto this book trailer while reading through some of the publicity it was receiving at BEA. It was my first time viewing a book trailer, and it is going to be pretty hard to top. It’s a winning combination of music, whimsy, and story description. It still makes me smile every time I watch it, so let’s feature it again.

Recently a publisher alerted me to another, quite different, book trailer. The Keeper of Lost Causes by Jussi Adler-Olsen is a Scandinavian thriller (who can get enough of those these days?) about a cop who recently got shot on the job and gets promoted to run a new department that focuses on cold cases. The first case handled by the new department is the alleged accidental death of a rising politician. Her body was never recovered, and some believe that she was murdered. In actuality (not a spoiler) she has been kidnapped, imprisoned, and tortured for five years. The book trailer for The Keeper of Lost Causes effectively conveys the dark, twisted mood of the book.

Another book that’s coming up on my reading list is Just My Type by Simon Garfield. Just My Type is being described as an entertaining history of fonts, but I didn’t find the book trailer to be too entertaining. I still consider it a successful book trailer because it puts a unique spotlight on the book’s title and subject matter.

I’m disappointed to say the book trailer for Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs is a miss. The actors make the book trailer feel too much like a movie, and that is what I didn’t want book trailers to be. I imagined Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children being much darker than what the book trailer leads me to believe. With a grandfather telling his grandson this story, it feels lighter and more whimsical rather than dark and peculiar. The end of the book trailer delves into that darkness a little, but for now, I’ve moved this book a few notches down my reading list. (Another miss, from the same publisher, Quirk Books, is the book trailer for Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters. Again, it’s the acting.)

And we’ll end on a high note. A hit for Quirk Books is the book trailer for Meowmorphosis by Franz Kafka and Coleridge Cook. This is a close second to The Night Circus. If you don’t want to read this book after seeing this book trailer–hairball and all–I don’t know what will make you want to read it.

What do you think of book trailers? Are they an effective way for publishers to get people to read their books? What are your favorite book trailers?

August 25, 2011

The Old Navy Typo T-Shirt (Now Available for Your Back-to-School Wardrobe)

Posted in Word Fun tagged , , , , at 9:49 am by The Word Jar

Nothing says, “I’m a collegiate success!” quite like a huge typo across your chest. If Old Navy has their way, college sports fans across the country will be sporting their new Typo T-shirts as they cheer for their favorite teams this fall.

Image from

In case the typo eludes you, as it did the Old Navy proofreader, “Lets” should be “Let’s.” And don’t even get me started on “Dawgs.”

I know it seems frivolous to harp on missing apostrophes on T-shirts when there are clearly bigger issues in the world, but searching out and destroying typos is why I get paid the big bucks. And I have to imagine that someone at Old Navy also gets paid the big bucks to prevent just this sort of thing from happening before the items hit the store. Perhaps there isn’t an individual dedicated solely to proofreading clothing, but surely this T-shirt passed in front of dozens of pairs of eyes before being given the final approval. No one caught this? Even more discouraging is that these T-shirts represent many different institutes of higher learning, not to mention some heavy hitters. Is this a good way for colleges and universities to represent *their* product, a rather pricey education?

I know no one was harmed in the making or wearing of these T-shirts, so I’ll go easy. But if Old Navy would like to prevent such an atrocity (at least in my proofreading eyes) on future products, I’m officially offering up my editorial services.

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