2010 Books in Translation Crime Richard and Judy Book Club Thriller

The Snowman – Jo Nesbo

 Richard and Judy 2010 Winter Read

Translated from the Norwegian by Don Bartlett

The Snowman is the 7th book in the Harry Hole series, but as the first two books haven’t been translated into English yet, it is the 5th available in the UK. I have been told that it is the best book in the series and that it is not necessary to read them in order. I can’t comment on the first statement, but I pretty sure the second one isn’t true.

The book follows Harry Hole, a detective skilled in tracking down serial killers. Harry has an international reputation, but hasn’t had to find a murderer on his own turf before. All this changes when women in Oslo start disappearing. At first the only link between the victims is that a snowman is found at each crime scene, but as the investigation continues everything becomes much more complicated.

The Snowman is a well paced thriller with plenty of twists and turns. It has been compared to Steig Larsson’s trilogy, but apart from the fact both authors are Scandinavian, there are few similarities. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is slow, with an extraordinary amount of detail and a dark, depth. The Snowman is much easier to read and has a faster pace, but it didn’t have the disturbing scenes that were present in the Larsson trilogy. The Snowman isn’t without its scary moments – it did contain a few chilling scenes and I don’t think I’ll ever look at snowmen in the same light again!

Then he caught sight of the snowman. It stood there as before, immovable, facing the house, bathed in the cold moonlight. Yet there was something different about it, something almost human….

My only regret is that I didn’t read the rest of the series first. I can’t be sure as I haven’t read any of Nesbo’s other books, but I think I now know some major spoilers for the earlier books. I also found that these references to previous books meant that some sections made little sense to me, a person starting the series at book seven. It didn’t affect my understanding of The Snowman, but many references to earlier cases went over the top of my head.  

The Snowman is an enjoyable crime thriller with an impressive plot, but I wasn’t bowled over by it. I didn’t guess the killer, but I didn’t feel a sense of amazement when all was revealed. An entertaining read, but not one which is going to become a classic.

Have you read any of Jo Nesbo’s books?

Which one do you think is the best?

Would I find the plot in any of the earlier books more impressive?

Audies Audio Book

Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim – David Sedaris (Audio Book)

 Winner of 2005 Audie Award for Humor

I hadn’t read anything by David Sedaris before, but had heard his name mentioned so many times that I thought I should give him a try. I had also heard that he is one of the few authors able to successfully read his own books and so I decided to try the audio version of Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim. Unfortunately humor is a very personal thing and I don’t think David Sedaris and I find the same things funny.

Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim is a series of short stories about family life. They contain many perceptive observations about childhood relationships and the difficulties of growing up, but unfortunately I didn’t find them at all amusing. David Sedaris reads the book in such a dry, dead-pan voice that I actually found it difficult to concentrate on what he was saying. His monotonous tone bored me and I have a feeling I’d have enjoyed the book much more if I’d read it. This was emphasised when I went to look for quotes from the book  (it is really hard to get quotes when listening to a book) and I actually found myself laughing at some of the quotes on Good Reads. In fact I laughed more times reading that page of quotes than I did in the 6.5 hours I spent listening to the book.

“He took a sip of my father’s weak coffee and spit it back into the mug. “This shit’s like making love in a canoe.”
“Excuse me?”
“It’s fucking near water.”

The only time I actually laughed when listening to the audio was during disc 4. I had a double-take moment when I put this into my CD player as the tone changed completely. David Sedaris launched into a comedy routine which I found quite funny, but I was very confused. It seemed to have no connection to the story that went before it and I actually took the CD out to check that they hadn’t accidentally sent me the wrong disc. Unfortunately the CD returned to the same dull monologue after just a tantalising glimpse of his comedy skills and I ploughed on to the end of the book (disc 5) without being rewarded with any more comedy routines.

I might be tempted to try another of his books in the future, but next time I’ll stick to physical copies.

 (4 stars for start of disc 4)

Most people seem to love this book:

Is there anything funnier than having David Sedaris read his own books to you? Not much, I’m thinking. Books N’ Border Collies

…it didn’t really have the ‘wow’ for me that it does for others. A Good Stopping Point

David Sedaris is hilarious and had me laughing out loud several times. She Treads Softly

Do you think I’d enjoy any of his other books?


Would you like your name to appear in a book?

AutisticaAutistica, a charity funding research into the causes and treatment of autism, is holding a character auction to raise money.


A number of authors have agreed to allow the highest bidder to name a character in their next book. The full list of authors involved can be found here, but I’m especially excited to see David Mitchell’s name on the list. Other authors who may interest you include Ken Follett, Hari Kunzru and Maggie Gee. The auctions end this Sunday so you still have a few days left to bid.

Happy Bidding!

Discussions Other

Has Reading Ruined Your Facial Recognition Skills?

I have always had a facial recognition problem. If two actors have the same coloured hair then I can’t tell them apart and if a good friend changes her hair style then I won’t recognise her until she speaks. At the age of 25 an eye test revealed that I have a depth perception problem. It means I’ll never be allowed to fly a plane and it explains my inability to park a car, but luckily I didn’t have any dreams of becoming a pilot. My problem seems to be more severe than most, but new research may explain why more and more people are having problems recognising faces.

Photo: Pedro Vezini, Flickr

This week New Scientist revealed that the same area of the brain is responsible for both reading and facial recognition. They think that having a high skill in reading may impact the brain’s ability to recognise faces. Research into this possibility is going to begin soon, but I wondered if you’d noticed any truth in this hypothesis?

Have you noticed that your ability to recognise faces reduced as your reading skill increased?

Are your non-reading friends more able able to distinguish differences between people? 

Edited to add: Test how face blind you are here: 
I got 57% right (scores of less than 65% indicate facial blindness problem).

2010 Books in Translation Richard and Judy Book Club YA

No and Me – Delphine de Vigan

 Richard and Judy 2010 Winter Read

Translated from the French by George Miller

No and Me is a simple story about a 13-year-old girl who has an intelligence that isolates her from her peers. Difficulties at home make her life even harder, but everything changes when she befriends No, a homeless girl a few years older than her.

The book is very quick to read and contains a nice, heartwarming story, but I found it too straightforward to satisfy me. It felt like a children’s book and the teenage protagonist emphasised this classification.

Several serious issues were raised, but although it contained some emotional scenes I thought the book lacked subtlety. Everything was explained in easy to understand terms – perfect you teenagers, but a little patronising for intelligent adults.

Before I met No I thought that violence meant shouting and hitting and war and blood. Now I know that there can also be violence in silence and that it’s sometimes invisible to the naked eye. There’s violence in the time that conceals wounds, the relentless succession of days, the impossibility of turning back the clock. Violence is what escapes us. It’s silent and hidden. Violence is what remains inexplicable, what stays forever opaque.

I also thought that some of the story line was a bit far fetched, or at the very least over simplified. I don’t want to give anything away (although you can probably guess what happens!) but I have serious doubts about whether the events in this book could happen in real life, especially in the given time frame.

If you are interested in books about teenagers coming to terms with difficult situations then I recommend that you read Luke and Jon instead. The writing quality is far higher and I guarantee that you’ll find it more emotional.

Recommended to those who like simple, sentimental books.

The thoughts of other bloggers:

…its simplicity is part of its charm. Lovely Treez Reads

Beautifully written, touching and original…. Steph Bowe

No and Me is a very powerful book and I think that it is perfect for young adult readers…. Dot Scribbles


The Well and the Mine – Gin Phillips

The Well and the Mine has one of the best opening lines I’ve ever come across:

After she threw the baby in, nobody believed me for the longest time. But I kept hearing that splash.

The book is set in a small American mining town during the 1930s and gives a vivid portrait of a community struggling to cope with the Depression.

The blurb implies that the book is a mystery revolving around who threw the baby into the well, but anyone looking for a mystery will be disappointed. The identity of the person who throws the baby is revealed, but is really of no consequence. Instead the book is more like a character study; revealing the thoughts and relationships of those living in the American South at the time.

Unfortunately the book was too slow for me. Very little actually happens. I admired the quality of the writing and the rich characters that were described, but I longed for the people to actually do something.

Recommended to people who enjoy gentle books.

Others enjoyed this more than I did:

The writing is pitch perfect. There is a subtle dialect that is charming without being over-powering. Educating Petunia

A real gem of a book paved with so many perfect moments that I can do no justice… Leafing Through Life

I loved this book. The writing style is sparse and yet at the same time lyrical. Page After Page