New year bloggers’ book reviews

A selection of reading recommendations (and a film review if you get to the end) that have been accumulating in my reader since the start of the year. As I’ve already bought about 20 books this year based on various "best of" lists, I’m already not sure how to cope with 2008.

Max at Revish reviews Judas Heart by Ingrid Black, calling it one of the best crime thrillers he’s read in 2007. I have recently read the second in this series, The Dark Eye, and although I quite enjoyed it, I need a break from the slightly claustrophobic atmosphere and slow pace before I start on Judas (which I am lucky enough to have, thanks to winning a fiendishly difficult competition set by a man who is not himself mean, on Crime Always Pays).

Stephanie Sweeney on the Picador Blog asks us what we would read again if we had a day to ourselves and only one book to return to. There are about 20 suggestions in the comments, but some people have cheated and suggested more than one.

I haven’t read any of the Richard and Judy selections for this year, but flicking through them in British Bookshops (formerly known as Sussex Stationers) and WHS on Sunday, most look pretty good. Mark Thwaite of the Book Depository has a useful post here, in which he lists them all and links to short reviews (and a purchase page!) for each. Thanks to Mark.

Martin Edwards describes the latest issue of Deadly Pleasures magazine, which sounds my cup of tea – but would I ever have time to read it? The magazine’s (long) selection of best books of 2007 is here, a few of which I’ve read and enjoyed.

For another list, see Aust Crime Fiction for Karen Chisholm’s selection. I’m delighted to see Adrian Hyland’s excellent Diamond Dove at the top of the list ("local" category), and that another of my 2007 favourites, Ice Moon by Jan Costin Wagner, is there. Maj Sjowall and Per Wahloo’s Martin Beck series rightly gets a special award for "best series revisit". I couldn’t agree more with Karen: "their entire series is being re-released by Harper Perennial and it’s an absolute joy to go back and reread books which are just as good now as they were when first published.  If you’ve not read any of the books from this breakthrough Swedish series – then head off to the bookshop / library!  If you have – this re-released series is a ripper because it includes interviews with Maj, introductions from a stunning range of current day writers – all of whom have been influenced by these books, and other bits and pieces to enhance the stories." What’s more, I’ve only read the first three, so I’ve got seven more to go ;-).

Karen C has been on a roll recently in reviewing books that I haven’t read but which look good. One such is a book I’ve had bookmarked in Amazon for about two years but have never got around to buying, The Butterfly Effect, by the exotically named Pernille Rygg. And here’s another, a historical thriller, Equinox by Michael White. And another, Clean Cut by Lynda La Plante, third in a series. (I stopped reading her a while back when she began franchising out, but this Anna Travis series looks to be worth a try.)

Also in Australia, Damien of Crime Down Under reviews The Perfect Suspect by Vincent Varjavandi, a debut psychological thriller "that soon blossoms out into a much more complex thriller that becomes increasingly confrontational."

Had enough yet? If not, here are Crime Fiction Dossier’s top five debuts of 2007. I’ve read none of them, nor the honourable mention, so there are a few more for my list, should I ever be short of ideas.

Finally, a complete change of pace, here is Jennifer Rohn of Lab Lit reviewing the Will Smith movie version of I am Legend (book by Richard Matheson), from a scientific perspective. Still not sure whether to go and see it, though — realistically, it will be a DVD if anything, I suspect.

Mars and world end, what next?

Well, 2008 has started explosively. Last week (2 Jan), we had an asteroid about to smash into Mars. Now, via the same source, The Great Beyond, I read a post Sunspot heralds end of the world!:

"A rather hysterical press release from the US warns us that a sunspot heralds a new solar cycle that could “bring down power grids, disrupt critical communications … threaten astronauts with harmful radiation … knock out commercial communications satellites and swamp Global Positioning System signals”. Run for the hills!"

When I read this kind of thing, I always wonder what the perpetrators think when they wake up the next morning and we (or the martians) are all still here. This particular example is the press office of the US Space Weather Prediction Center of the National Weather Service (part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration). The Mars effort was NASA.

Anne Frank strikes a false note

Via the Guardian: Anne Frank the Musical strikes a false note. Yes, it seems there is to be a musical based on the life of Anne Frank, backed, apparently, by the Anne Frank foundation – but not by me. The news immediately made me think of Mel Brooks’s film The Producers, in which Zero Mostel, for crazy plot reasons, needs a sure-fire loss maker to put on Broadway, so he decides upon a musical, Springtime for Hitler. Against all expectations, the show is an overnight sensation, which is ruinous for Zero. Much later, the movie was made into an (also successful) theatrical musical — called, unsurprisingly, The Producers rather than Springtime for Hitler – that would have taken irony a step too far.

Back to Anne Frank. Michael Billington puts it perfectly in his Guardian piece:

Anne Frank’s diary exists as a record of a young girl’s thoughts and feelings. Even the play based upon it, according to Kenneth Tynan when he saw it in New York in the 1950s, "smacked of exploitation". And a musical will surely take us even further from the world of raw truth. This is a vital aesthetic question raised by David Hare in Via Dolorosa. Visiting Yad Vashem, the museum of the Holocaust, Hare was struck by the thought that the paintings and sculptures on view seemed superfluous when one was confronted by the matchless horror of fact.