Category Archives: challenges

An Accident in August by Laurence Cosse’

12th July 2011

*I received this galley from the publisher. An Accident in August is available 08/30/11, but you can preorder here.

When Julia with Europa Editions contacted me about reading and reviewing An Accident in August by Laurence Cossé, I was excited because it would be my first review copy from Europa Editions. I was also slightly unsure because the premise was based on the accident wherein Princess Di lost her life. Though I typically love fiction based on fact, there are some topics based on real events of which I am not wild – 09/11 and Princess Di’s death are two. However, I had heard quite a bit about Cossé and thought I’d give it a try. I am so glad I did.

An Accident in August is not about Princess Di. Instead, Cossé focuses her story on the theory that a slow-moving vehicle at the mouth of the Pont de l’Alma tunnel was the proximate cause of Princess Di’s fatal accident.

The story opens with Lou, sitting in her car parked in her garage, shakily replaying an accident she had on her way home from her job in Paris. She was driving cautiously through the Pont de l’Alma tunnel when a vehicle came up quite suddenly behind her, striking her and then ricocheting into the tunnel wall. Lou speeds home, shaken up and not thinking rationally. After all, the accident wasn’t her fault.

The next morning, Lou listens to the radio and understands the occupants of the car were none other than Princess Di, her companion Dodi, their bodyguard, and chauffer. From that moment on, Lou is panicked, knowing she should go to the authorities, yet desperate to avoid the scrutiny she knows will come, and her actions, though seemingly well-thought-out and rational, bring her ever closer to the brink of ruin.

This is the sort of book that only a brief synopsis will prevent giving away vital pieces of the plot Рand there were a lot of scenes that caught me by surprise with their intensity. Coss̩ (along with the translator Alison Anderson) has created a taut, quietly-suspenseful story about the nameless, faceless characters in a tragedy Рthose to whom we never pay much attention but whose lives are irrevocably altered. An Accident in August is riveting, tense, and thoroughly unexpected.

jenn aka the picky girl

P.S. Prepare to do some Googling, if like me you like to find the truth behind a story.

**Cross posted at the Europa Challenge Blog**

The Europa Challenge

11th July 2011

In my pre-book blogging days, I will freely admit I paid no attention to publishers whatsoever. I just read, looked for my next book, read, looked for my next book… rinse and repeat. I don’t regret it. Reading, and reading and blogging about what you read, are very different.

As a blogger, I have become much more conscious of publishers, imprints, and independent publishers v. The Big Six. At BEA, this was further reinforced, and one publisher’s booth to which I kept returning was Europa. At BEA, the New York Review of Books and Europa stood out in terms of their iconic, consistently well-designed covers. Plus, Europa publishes translations – books we don’t traditionally see in the States! This is something to be excited about, so I’m pleased to join in The Europa Challenge, a celebration of the publisher.

Thus far, I just finished my first Europa book, An Accident in August by Laurence Cossé (watch for the review this week). In addition to that, here are the other books I either have lined up or plan to line up for the challenge to meet the Europa Ami level:

You Deserve Nothing by Alexander Maksik (I always use this phrase because I think people overuse the word “deserve” so it hooked me with the title alone)

The Hottest Dishes of the Tartar Cuisine by Alina Bronsky (talk about HOT! this one has made its rounds around the blogosphere)

A Novel Bookstore by Laurence Cossé

Everything Happens Today by Jesse Browner

Check out Europa’s site. See any titles (or covers) that interest you?

jenn aka the picky girl

The Name’s Bond: Casino Royale audio/film review

21st June 2011

Can I gush?

For years now, I have thought about reading Ian Fleming, but all I knew of Bond were the oversexualized, often-ridiculous films of my (or more likely my parents’ and grandparents’) generation. However, after really, absolutely loving the newly-conceptualized, rugged Bond in the film Casino Royale (like, I’ve seen it half a dozen times), I revisited the idea of reading Ian Fleming. After Jennifer at Literate Housewife posted her Shaken Not Stirred challenge last week, I immediately downloaded the audiobook, narrated by Simon Vance. (And, may I say, his narration is seamless).

In this, the first of the James Bond novels, Fleming tells the tale of Le Chiffre, a pawn of SMERSH, a Soviet operation comparable to the KGB. Le Chiffre is bankrupt and arranges a Baccarat game at the Royale Les Eaux casino to win back the money he owes SMERSH. M, head of MI6, sends Bond in to stop Le Chiffre with another agent, Vesper Lynd, assistant to agent S (with Soviet relations). His cover is to be that of a Jamaican millionaire, thus, the beautiful woman on his arm. French agent Mathis orchestrates much of the game play, while Felix Leitner, a CIA agent, watches anxiously. No one is eager for Le Chiffre to win, and when Bond goes bankrupt in the first few hours of play, Leitner ups the ante, passing over his money for Bond to play. When Bond wins, Le Chiffre raises the stakes, and Bond falls victim to a ruse. His subsequent torture is only stopped when a SMERSH agent takes control of the situation.

The genius in the novel is not the plot, though it is tightly woven. Instead, Fleming relies on observation and his relation of that keen observation to satisfy and grip the reader. I listened at work, in a bubble bath, and in the car, and still I couldn’t leave the casinos of the French coast, which Fleming describes as “nauseating at three in the morning.” The game of Baccarat with its rules and odds kept me edgy, and Le Chiffre’s desperate move to recapture his losses was brutal.

What most surprised me was Bond’s humanity. He remarks early on that Lynd is a “silly bitch,” and he is displeased to have to work with a woman. However, by the end of the novel, he has decided to throw in the towel after a particularly horrific torture session and open himself to her. Whether or not he can trust her is another matter entirely.

Keep in mind, because I have seen the film several times, I was curious to see how closely the two would align. Surprisingly, even with the difference in decades (the novel was published in 1953), the film was very true to the book. The conflict is adapted from the KGB to arms dealers and Baccarat is traded in for Texas Hold ‘Em, but much of the story remains the same, including Vesper’s role.

One of my favorite lines, however, is missing. When Bond first meets Vesper Lynd (who provides the bank line for the gambling) on the train, she strides toward him in her masculine attire (which Fleming’s Bond girls were known for) and says:

Vesper Lynd: “I’m the money.”

James Bond (looking her up and down): “Every penny of it.”

Isn’t that an absolutely fantastic line? This is also the book introducing Bond’s famous martini:

James Bond: “Dry martini.”

Bartender: “Oui, monsieur.”

James Bond: “Wait. Three measures of Gordon’s; one of Vodka; half a measure of Kina Lillet. Shake it over ice; add a thin slice of lemon peel.”

I’ve actually attempted to replicate this martini, and let’s just say, I understand why Bond only had one…

All in all, I was highly impressed with the book and its adaptation and cannot wait for the Twitter viewing party June 30 at 9:30 p.m. EST (using hashtag #shakennotstirred).

Will you be joining us, either by reading the book or attending the viewing? If so, leave a link to your post, and I’ll add it here.

jenn aka the picky girl

Shaken or stirred?

6th June 2011

“Do I look like I give a damn?”

There are a few things you should know about me. I don’t eat seafood. I love champagne. And I have two great loves: Cary Grant and Daniel Craig. Yes, ladies, I am a lover of James Bond. Before Daniel Craig stepped into the recently-revised James Bond role, I still loved the films. (Sean Connery was my favorite until now.) Yes, they could be cheesy and appallingly sexist, but I loved the chase scenes, M, and the gadgets. When the rugged, psychological James Bond in Casino Royale came out, I thought “yes, please” and watched it way too many times.

So a couple weeks ago when Jennifer from Literate Housewife posted this teaser, I knew I was in – no matter what it was. I mean, I was pretty sure it had to do with reading, but hell, if it made me do some sort of crazy scavenger hunt to prove my love, I was ok with it.

Today she posted the Shaken, Not Stirred audiobook challenge, where each month participants will listen to an Ian Fleming James Bond novel narrated by Simon Vance, and then have a viewing party of the film via Twitter. June is Audiobook Month, and while I don’t often listen to audiobooks, I will definitely be diving in for this.

Why don’t I often listen to audiobooks, you may ask. Good question. I used to listen to them a lot when I had a commute. Now I have a 10-minute commute, so it seems pointless. However, I am going to attempt to download Casino Royale on my iPhone from audible today and listen while I’m at work. I’ll let you know how it goes…

Keep in mind, you do not have to have a blog in order to participate. Even if you just want to comment, there is a way for you to sign up and do that too. So come on, you only live twice…

jenn aka the picky girl 009

Ooh! Ahh! Happy New Year!

1st January 2011

I hope everyone had a fabulous New Year’s Eve. 2011: Better known as the year I turn 30. This will be a banner year. In that vein, I am cleaning house today. No reading or lounging around or blogging. I am taking down Christmas decorations, being ruthless about my closet, and trying to make decisions about my bookshelves.

2010 was a great year. It was my first year as a book blogger, and I have really enjoyed finding others’ blogs, connecting with bloggers on Twitter and sharing in discussion right here. I hope for much, much more discussion in the year to come. I read over 100 books, and as it was my first time ever to keep track of that, I was thrilled. You may have noticed, I have no charts or graphs detailing number of pages, number of female/male authors, etcetera. I am a laidback blogger. I love seeing charts and graphs, but I’m just not that kind of gal.

Here are some other things I’ve learned about myself as a blogger: I suck at challenges. No, really. My title “My First Challenge!” is the only post. I felt so guilty. Still feel guilty. Ugh. The sad thing is, I probably actually DID finish the challenge but didn’t post about it. I don’t like memes, except this one. Readalongs are awesome. The library is mega awesome. Twitter is not evil. If there is a blogging tiff, I will know nothing about it. Romance novels aren’t all that bad. Meeting bloggers in person is fun! And last but not least, I can read anywhere.

So that’s my wrap-up. My goals for 2011 for my blog? Blog more regularly. Try to increase comment discussion for the simple reason that I love discussing the books I read. Other than that, I plan to keep it simple. What do you guys think? If there are any lurkers (those who read but don’t comment), please say hi. I’d love to meet you – and to maybe twist your arm to read a couple of my favorite books!

Happy New Year, and as always, happy reading.

jenn aka picky girl