Daily Archives: February 26, 2012

Sunday Salon – February 26, 2012

February 26, 2012

Good morning and welcome to this week’s edition of The Sunday Salon – get all the links by visiting the Facebook page.

I can’t believe it is almost March – this month has just flown by. I have two reviews to share with you today from my reading over the last week.

I blew through The Brothers by Asko Sahlberg which I completely loved (read my review). This translated work is less than 150 pages but it reads like a longer novel in that the characters are fully developed and the story feels like a saga. There are multiple narrators and the lives of the characters are slowly revealed and surprising. Peirene Press has another winner in this latest release. If you love literary fiction and family sagas, don’t miss The Brothers.

I did a 180 degree turn from literary fiction to psychological suspense-thriller with Blue Monday by Nicci French. This is the first in a planned eight book series and I really liked the main character – a psychotherapist named Frieda who is quite complex (read my review). This is the first book I’ve read by this author (actually this is a husband wife team writing under the pseudonym of Nicci French) and I enjoyed it. I will be interested to read the future books in the series as they are published.

I’m hosting a giveaway for this book which will run through March 4th (sorry, the contest is only open to US and Canada mailing addresses). You can read a terrific Q&A with the authors and enter the giveaway by visiting this post.

My current read is Half-Blood Blues by Esi Edugyan which was short listed for the 2011 Booker Prize. The novel opens in Paris in 1940, then shifts to Berlin in 1992. The story is about the disappearance of a black jazz player. I’m about a third of the way into the book and am just now getting used to the dialect which is German American slang. One thing I am really enjoying is the ability of the author to set the reader into the scenes. Edugyan is a gifted writer. So, watch for my review early this week (I hope!).

I feel the need to apologize to all the wonderful readers who have consistently left comments on my blog. These last two months have been odd for me – and I have found myself falling very far behind in responding to comments. I have vowed to be better about that in the coming months – but, because I was so far behind, I have decide to just move forward from here. So, if you left a comment on my blog in January and early February and I did not respond to it – please accept my sincere apologies…but, know that I did read all the comments and very much appreciated them!

I also have made a decision not to attend BEA this year. This decision was difficult for me because I was looking forward to connecting to other bloggers as well as industry professionals who I have gotten to know through my blog. A combination of some personal things happening in my life and financial considerations led me to this conclusion. Despite the fact that I won’t be in New York City in June, I will be (hopefully) participating in the Armchair BEA again this year.

Those of you who regularly read my blog have probably noticed more quilting posts of late. I still consider Caribousmom a book review blog, but I also want to continue to share other parts of my life with my readers…so the quilting posts will be mixed in between reviews and discussions about books. I hope my followers will want to read along despite my expansion into other areas. Those of you with crafty leanings may also find some links in my sidebar to quilt-alongs and other sewing related sites.

So, what is on my reading agenda for the remainder of this month? I would love to get at least two more books read including Alice in Bed by Cathleen Schine and A long-Forgotten Truth by Rachel Ballard. I also need to start reading Stephen King’s massive Tome 11/22/63 for the Chunky Book Club which is debuting in March (watch for some introductory posts the first part of the month and formal discussion questions beginning the second week of the month). I have another chunkster slated for early March as well. My Yahoo Book Group is reading The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton.

What about YOU? Are there books you are looking forward to reading in the next couple of weeks? Are you reading something wonderful right now?

Giveaway and Author Q&A: Blue Monday by Nicci French

Blue Monday by Nicci French
ISBN 978-0-670-02336-3
385 pages
Pamela Dorman Books/Viking (March 5, 2012)

Thanks to the generosity of the publisher, I am happy to be able to offer a copy of Blue Monday to one lucky winner. I recently read this book, the first in a new series, and really liked the protagonist (read my review). Blue Monday will hit bookstores March 5th. Before I tell you how to enter the contest, first let me share a terrific Q&A with the authors, husband-and-wife team Nicci Gerrard and Sean French who write under the pseudonym Nicci French.

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BLUE MONDAY is your thirteenth book and the first book in a new series of psychological thrillers, introducing Frieda a psychotherapist. It’s also the first series you’ve ever written. What was the inspiration for this new series?

Frieda came along before the idea of writing a series did. We had always said we wrote stand-alone thrillers, but then we thought about a central character who is a therapist, someone who believes you can’t solve the mess in the world but you can try to address the mess in your own head, the pain and fear and anxiety inside of you. We thought of her as a different kind of detective, a detective of the mind, who is unwillingly dragged by the events that unfurl in the novel out into the real world.

Once we had imagined Frieda—solitary, insomniac, prickly, difficult, honorable, trustworthy, fiercely private—we knew she needed more than one book. She has to be discovered over time. And from that the octet gradually emerged. The books will cover a decade in Frieda’s life and the lives of the cast that she assembles around her; we want to see how time marks them, how they are changed by the experiences they live through together.

Also, we became excited by the idea of writing eight books that could stand as gripping thrillers in their own right, but which are also connected by one over-arching story. In BLUE MONDAY a fuse is lit that then will burn its way through the remaining seven books, coming to a climax in the final novel.

Where did the title BLUE MONDAY come from?

This is the first book of a planned series of dark thrillers that will be named after the days of the week. The title BLUE MONDAY seemed perfect to us because it is both about beginnings but also about the difficulty of beginning, its pains and regrets and fears. It also happens to be the title of not just one but two (very different) great songs – by Fats Domino and New Order.

Set against a backdrop of a dark, tangled London, BLUE MONDAY illustrates your power over a sense of place. As Frieda navigates its streets one can almost feel the damp chill of London’s foggy night air. What is your writing process? What are some things about the London you depict in your books that those of us in the US might not know?

As regards London, our writing process is to do what we have always done, which is to spend a lot of our time walking, cycling—and sometimes running—around the city, exploring its hidden alleys, squares, canals. We have both spent many years living in the city and every time we go out we see something completely new. Much of BLUE MONDAY came out of those walks.

A few things you need to know about London:

It’s big; really big. Greater London is about thirty-five miles across.

It’s really old. It’s been a continuously functioning (and dis-functioning) city since the Romans and it has been built on, burnt down, bombed, demolished, built on, over and over again.

London is really a collection of villages that used to be separated by fields and meadows and woodlands and orchards that gradually got filled up but they still hang on to their identity. In good ways and bad, London is a jangling mess. North Londoners don’t like South London, East Enders feel persecuted by everybody, West Kensington isn’t really in Kensington, and wherever you’re from anywhere in the world, you’ll find a community somewhere in London.

London is a landscape as much as a city, one of the oldest and most complicated landscapes in England.

And still, there’s so much that we don’t understand about London. For example, why do tourists always go to Madame Tussaud’s?

Frieda is a psychotherapist. What kind of research did you do to make her so real?

Sean: Frieda emerged from our fascination with the whole subject of doctors whose job it is to make sense of our lives just by the way we talk about them. We have friends who are therapists, we have a certain experience of therapy, we’ve talked to people who have undergone therapy and we’ve read an awful lot about it.

Nicci: And also, in a way, therapy is a bit like writing itself: you take chaos and put order onto it, a road out of the dark woods.

You are known as the internationally bestselling author Nicci French, yet really there are two of you: Nicci Gerrard and Sean French, writing partners and husband and wife and you live in England. Why did you decide to start writing fiction together?

Sean: In the first years we were married, we talked about the idea. We knew that people could collaborate in different ways but we were interested in whether two people could write a novel that had one voice, where you were really creating a new person.

Nicci: It was like an experiment. But looking back at it, all these years and fourteen books later, it seems so odd, such a strange thing to do when we were both working flat out anyway, with four tiny children racing around the house. We didn’t do it because we thought we would write a book, get it published, become Nicci French. We did it to see if we could do it, because it seemed like a shared adventure—and it has been a shared adventure, a way of exploring the world together.

How do you manage co-authorship? Do you sit down and write together or do you take it in shifts?

Nicci: When we talk about how we write together we tend to make it sound much neater and better managed than it actually is, it’s a rather chaotic and messy business. The one thing we never do is actually sit down and write together, and the thought of one of us dictating to the other is a kind of madness, it just wouldn’t work. We spend a long time talking about the shape of the novel, the story, the way the plot goes, the development of the characters and above all the voice of the narrator into whom we both have to write, and once we’re satisfied with that then we’ll start to write. The writing will quite often take us away from the plan, but that’s what we do. One of us will write, say, the first chapter and then hand it over to the other who is absolutely free to change it, edit it, erase it, add other words to it, and then they will write the next chapter and pass it back. It’s a question of moving between the two of us. We never decide in advance who’s going to write what chapter, there’s no division.

Sean: We felt that in order for it to work we both have to be responsible for everything, whether we (individually) have written it or not. If there’s any research that needs doing for a book then we both have to do it, we both have to have all of it in our heads.

Nicci: If Sean writes something and I change absolutely nothing about that whole section, but I read it and approve it, then it becomes mine as well. It becomes a kind of Nicci French thing so we both own each word of it.

Why did you choose to write crime novels?

Nicci: I’m interested in crime in the sense that I’m interested in the strange path that people’s lives can go down. I’m not so much interested in the criminal; I’m much more interested in the victim, the effects of the crime and what lies beneath the settled surface. Most people, when you meet them, present themselves as ordered and controlled; they have a self-possessed image. Underneath that everybody is a welter of doubt, grief, loss, nostalgia, love and hate; that’s what I’m interested in. The thrillers that we write are not about fiendishly clever serial killers outwitting the police, they’re about ordinary people who have extraordinary things happening in the middle of their lives, and the way that they change and have to resolve things. I think that attracts us to the thriller genre.

You chose to use a female pseudonym, and almost all your novels so far have been written from a female viewpoint. Is there a reason for this?

Sean: The first idea we had was about recovered memory, and 99% of people recovering memory in therapy are women, so it obviously had to be a woman. Once it was a woman as the main character then it just seemed obvious that if we were going to choose a name, that it should be a female name. Women have achieved a kind of independence and equality, a nominal independence, and yet so many things haven’t changed. There are so many kinds of unexpected pressures that have come along with that, and that seemed an interesting road to go down.

Nicci: It is that sense of there being a cross-current between what modern women are like now; assertive, independent, strong, ambitious, and yet still very physically vulnerable, but also vulnerable to all the things that attack us from the past, all the things we’re conditioned to feel. There’s a kind of emotional vulnerability and intelligence, a particular kind of female intelligence that seems to be a good way of looking at the world.

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HOW TO WIN A COPY OF THIS BOOK

  • Giveaway is restricted to U.S. and Canada mailing addresses.
  • Giveaway is open from February 26th through March 4th, 2012 (5:00 pm PST)
  • One entry per person please.
  • Click here to take survey to enter contest
  • ONE winner will be randomly chosen on March 4th after 5:00 pm PST – that winner’s name will be announced here on my blog on March 5th and they will also receive an email notification.
  • The publisher will mail the winner their book.

GOOD LUCK!!!

FTC Disclosure: Blue Monday giveaway copy provided by the publisher. I received NO monetary compensation for this giveaway OR for the review I provided.

Blue Monday – Book Review

She had exposed dreams and fragments of memories, or images that felt like memories, likenesses. Because that was what she did, that was her currency: the things that happened inside people’s heads, the things that made people happy or unhappy or afraid, the connections that they made for themselves between separate events that could lead them through chaos and fear. – from Blue Monday –

Frieda Klein is a reticent woman, a psychotherapist living in London who helps others work through their inner turmoils while she is reluctant to open up in her personal life. She has trouble sleeping, walking the streets of the city at night where she feels most comfortable. When a troubled and anxious man named Alan comes to her for help, Frieda at first approaches the case as any other. But when a young boy named Matthew Farraday goes missing, Frieda recognizes something disturbing: Alan’s dreamlike expressions about wanting a child are uncannily similar to Matthew’s disappearance, and Matthew looks like he could be Alan’s son with his red hair and freckles. Frieda takes her worries to chief inspector Karlsson, a surly man who reluctantly listens to her. As the case unfolds, disturbing questions arise: Who is Alan and is he capable of stealing a child? And is Matthew’s disappearance related to another child abduction from 25 years ago?

Blue Monday is the first in a new series featuring Frieda Klein, and it is a suspenseful and twisty psychological thriller. Frieda is a complex character who at first left me a bit cold with her reserved and careful demeanor. But as the novel progressed, I found myself empathizing with her character and wanting to understand her psychological underpinnings. People seem to move in and out of Frieda’s life – an immigrant who literally falls in front of her, a colleague on the verge of professional collapse, a lover who no longer wants to live in London, and her dysfunctional sister and troubled niece. Frieda is the unflinching and constant influence in all these people’s lives, and yet she seems almost untouched by them.

Perhaps the most interesting part of this novel is how the connections are revealed between characters. Nothing is really as it first appears. There is a terrific twist about half way through the book which I didn’t see coming and which adds another layer to the mystery.

If I have any complaints with the book, it was with the latter half which felt a little slow to me. Some of the plot turns at the end were a bit predictable as well. That said, I did enjoy this novel for its psychological depth and because of Frieda who, despite her short comings (and maybe because of them), is a strong enough character to carry a series.

Readers who love psychological suspense will want to read this book. Atmospheric with strong characterization, Blue Monday is the type of book that will appeal to readers who like their novels dark and mysterious. I will undoubtedly be looking for the second book in the series when it is eventually released.

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Overall Rating:

Would you like to win a copy of this book? Visit THIS POST to read a Q&A by the authors and to enter to win Blue Monday (contest open to US and Canada and closes on March 4, 2012).

FTC Disclosure: A copy of this book was sent to me by the publisher for review on my blog.

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