Saturday, October 21, 2006

The Undomestic Goddess by Sophie Kinsella

Having dropped off the chick lit bandwagon some years ago, I still pick one up once in a while, and Sophie Kinsella's Shopaholic series has always (well, almost always) been a fun distraction from life and the daily grind. The Undomestic Goddess aka Samantha Sweeting follows in the footsteps of Kinsella's other 20-30something heroines. She is sweet, and we basically like her, even though she has major flaws. Samantha is a lawyer with a big fan, until an unbelievable mistake has her running blindly from the office, very much disgraced, being called a liability and fallen from her pedestal. Next she finds herself in the English countryside, where she takes a job as a housekeeper with a rich and nice middleaged couple, even though she doesn't know a saucepan from a vacuumcleaner. Here she meets the handsome gardener Nathaniel, his mother, the people at the local pub etc, and she finds out, that the cosy and slow moving life suits her much better than the workaholic life she led - and left - in London. But the question is, whether it is once a lawyer always a lawyer for Samantha, or if she will be able to settle for peace and quiet? The book is well written with lots of fun and charming situations, but I'd say that Kinsella has milked the chick lit cow enough now, and her heroines, charming and cute as they are, need to grow up.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

What Looks Like Crazy on an Ordinary Day by Pearl Cleage

Ava Johnson has been diagnosed with HIV and she wants to move to the more open-minded San Francisco. Before heading to San Francisco, she makes a stop-over in her childhood town, where her widowed big sister lives and works as a social-worker. Ava wants to hang out with her sister and relax, but she soon discovers that the big city problems have moved to the small towns as well. She becomes involved in her sister's social work with teenage mothers, crack addicts etc. The story is written like a sort of diary, and we follow Ava during a few summer months where all sorts of things happen. The subjects being brought up in this book are not happy, and it is hard to imagine that this can be a happy book, but it is. It is also funny, well written, moving, dramatic, touching and very good. The characters are easy to love or hate and you feel like you want to know more about the persons when the books ends.

Monday, October 16, 2006

London Bridges by James Patterson

I usually enjoy James Pattersons' Alex Cross stories. I am not a die-hard fan, but I have always found myself entertained when reading most of the previous novels. But London Bridges hit rock bottom almost from the very beginning. The story is made from the same formula the past 3-4 Cross-stories has been, and you can almost guess what will happen in the super-short chapters. First we are inside the mind of one or more of the villains while they commit some gruesome crime, and the plotline is laid out. Then Dr Cross enters the stage, usually semi-depressed over something in his private life, a condition not made any better by the crime he is called in to solve, again usually with a bunch of colleagues, who can be detectives or federal agents, depending on where you are in the series. This time he is upset because of his youngest son, who lives with his mother in Seattle, a long way from Washington DC, where Cross resides with his older kids and his grandmother. Cross is also upset because he has to break up a date with his girlfriend Jamilla, a detective living in San Francisco, in order to get to the scene of this novels 'basic' crime. This time the villain The Wolf has blown a trailerpark community off the face of the earth, and threatens to do the same to some of the world's major cities, if he is not paid a gazillion dollars and if some political prisoners are not set free. A deadline is given, the clock is ticking and Cross travels from America to Europe and back again and then to Europe and then to USA again within a week or so, in order to catch The Wolf and his fellow thugs, each of the thugs acting out their piece of The Wolf's big puzzle and way to world dominion. The last 10 pages are utterly confusing, there is no tail nor head, the story seems to be all over the place, and at last you really could not care less if Cross and his whole family will actually survive the ordeals. This book is not recommend for anyone excpet die hard Patterson/Cross fans. It does not live up to the expectations, but if Patterson can write 5-6 novels a year, then maybe there is an explanation for this book's lacking in quality!

Thursday, October 12, 2006

The Deep End of the Ocean by Jacquelyn Mitchard

When 3-year old Ben Cappadora goes missing in a Chicago hotel, everybody thinks he is just playing hide and seek, and will be found again in a matter of minutes. As the hours go by and Ben remains missing, the horrible truth dawns on his mother Beth, and the rest of her high school class, who were at the hotel to celebrate their 15 year reunion. Ben has been kidnapped, while being looked after for a few minutes by his older brother Vincent. No one has seen or heard anything, and the police come up completely emptyhanded, as the weeks, months and years drags on and goes by. Beth and her family slowly falls apart as the years go by, and the dynamics of this tragedy is described in well written language and with a good eye for even the smallest details,and the story is told from different points of view. The whole family copes or tries to cope with the tragedy in different ways, and when life finally seems to be almost back to normal, another event happens, which open up old wounds and tear the family apart anew.

Mother of Pearl by Melinda Haynes

I wasn't completely put off by Melinda Haynes' 'Mother of Pearl', but neither was I completely satisfied. I have debated with myself if I should award two or three stars, and I decided on three stars, because there are some well developed characters in this strange story. The reader will sometimes get the feeling that the author is trying too hard making this story the story of the century, and I am not sure this book deserves it. Perhaps it is just me, but there were parts I had to skim. I had trouble understanding what the whole thing was about, and I felt too many things were left unsaid. It is not that a story needs to be pinned out, but too much symbolism and too many unsaid things makes one confusing story. And I was confused at times. And it is not like the plot is so unusual that you'll HAVE to make it that difficult to read. All that said, the plot was good, and the book well written for the most parts. It is about the girl Valuable, growing up with her grandmother in a little town in Mississippi in the 1950'es. Due to coincidence (or is it?) Valuable make friends with black 'witch' Joody TwoSun, who lives by the Creek. Through this 'friendship', she also meets Joody's lover, Even Grade, his friend Canaan and Canaan's woman-friend Grace. There is also Valuable's boyfriend Jackson, and the troubled teenager Joleb. All of them has a voice in the story, and it is not always pleasant what they'll have to say. There is much drama in the story, most of it circling around Valuable and Jackson's relationship and around Even Grade, and his thoughts on life, him having grown up as an orphan. The racial problems in the South in the 1950'es and 60'es are touched upon, but it it not this story's main plotline, although it lures in the back of your mind while reading. It took me a long time to plow through this one, and I am torn between recommending it or not!

The Sweet Potato Queens' Book of Love by Jill Conner Browne

The Sweet Potato Queens' Book of Love is a fun, easily read little book. It is about being a woman, and it is about making most of life. It is about love, life, men, marriage and being prepared as it says on the cover of the book. Jill Conner Browne and the rest of the Sweet Potato Queens offers lots of advice on the abovementioned subjects, and it is always funny, there are some wonderful mouthwatering recipes in between the advice, and if nothing else, this little book will definitely make you smile. Three good and well deserved stars in honor of the Sweet Potato Queens.

Triptych by Karin Slaughter

A start of a new series or just a onetime stray-away from the Grant County series? No matter what, I was not disappointed with this interesting new Karin Slaughter novel. The characters did not feel well developed and the story and the plot could've been somewhat tighter, but all in all I felt very entertained by this easy read and well written book. A heroin addicted prostitute is found murdered in one of the projects in Atlanta. Detective Ormewood is put on the case, where he soon finds himself teamed up with an agent, Will Trent, from the Georgia Bureau of Investigation. Agent Trent is put on the case because there are some gruesome similarities between the way the prostitute was killed and some cases Trent has worked with earlier, cases which are still not solved. The murder of the prostitute is the frame set up to bring those new Karin Slaughter-characters together, adding to them some other new characters, and the story unfolds from page one, making room for a good handful of suspenseful surprises along the way. I am looking forward to see if there will be other books about the characters in Triptych, because some of them are definitely worth following. And like I said, they could've been developed better, but it was still a good book, and if you like a good and easily read thriller, this is a good one!