Friday, October 31, 2008

Weekly Geek #22

I have just joined Weekly Geek which is a sort of an assignment posted each week by Dewey at The Hidden Side of a Leaf. The assignments are different from week to week and I look forward to participate a lot :-)
This week the assignment is about digging into other Weekly Geek-participant's blog-archives and find interesting bits there.

First I had a look into Suey's blog called It's All About Books and went to her 2007 posts. I found many interesting posts there, but decided to mention this post from Thursday, December 13, 2007. I like it because it is about Shelfari and other types of online catalogues/shelves where you can list all your books, make TBR-lists and much more. I have enjoyed Shelfari for more than a year and have more than 400 books listed there. I am also on Library Thing, which was actually my first try with an online catalogue, but forgot my login after not having updated it for ages. Now I am currently trying to import my Shelfari-books to GoodReads, because I think their widget will look better on my blog than the Shelfari one, which I am not too fond of. I mean, I really like all the options you have on Shelfari and the look of my shelves on their homepage. I just don't think the widget looks cool on my blog ;-) But I do not have the patience to start all over logging books into GoodReads. If you want to find me on Shelfari, my name there is LouiseA.

Callista at SMS Book Reviews recently (Saturday, October 04, 2008) wrote post about banned books. Living in Denmark, we really have no such thing as banned books, although there are books which certain groups does not want their kids to read and there are schools refusing to have certain books in the libraries etc. But it is not a big thing here. Not that I know of at least. There was some debate about Harry Potter some years back, but that seems to have been forgotten now. I have seen banned books lists before, and I always wonder why this or that book was banned. Not saying that I have read each and every book on the banned books lists, not at all, but I have read some. And wondered.

I've only known the Sophisticated Dorkiness blog for a few days and I am already a fan. The blog is maintained by Kim, and she had an interesting post July 2, 2008, about a New Classics List made by Entertainment Weekly. I have read 8 from a list of 100! And I have to say that some of those titles on the list surprised me. Not that they were not good or at least readable books, but New Classics...?! Hrrmpphh.

I also had a look at Megan's blog Leafing Through Life to see what she had said about this Weekly Geek and I checked out Jackie at Literary Escapism. Jackie seems to like at least one author I have also enjoyed: Laurell K. Hamilton, and I look forward to check out Jackie's reviews.

A giveaway to celebrate blog post no. 100

Blogger Kim from Sophisticated Dorkiness is having a giveaway this week in honor of her 100th blog post. I think that is as good a reason as any to head over there and check her fab and pretty blog out. There are cool prizes for both national and international participants - granted you win of course :o)

Check it out!
PS. By some weird coincidence, the post I made on my Danish version of this blog was also my blog post no. 100. There are not as many posts on this English version, as I do not review Danish/Scandinavian books here, unless they are also available in English.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Danish and Scandinavian books

I made a short post yesterday about not going to review all the Danish and/or Scandinavian books I read in between my reads in English. But it appears as some of those reads are actually found in English translations, so I am definitely reconsindering and will probably post some reviews the next couple of days for some of those books.

My current read these days is a book called The Blood Spilt by Swedish author Aasa (Åsa) Larsson. Her books has female counsellor Rebecka Martinsson as the main character and while I wasn't terribly fond of the first one I read called Black Path (which was no. 3 in a series of 3 at that time) I decided to give this author another chance and picked up no. 1, Sun Storm, this summer, finished it and am now reading no. 2, which is The Blood Spilt mentioned above. In Danish, the titles are very good, but I think they sound even more poetic in English. There is nothing poetic about the books though, they are rather dark. They take place mainly in Kiruna, a northern Swedish city close to the polar circle. I have never been there, but it looks like an intriguing place.

The photo on top of the page of the pretty house in Kiruna is taken from the photostream of the user Köttbullekvist on flickr.

Ellen Foster by Kaye Gibbons

A short, intense novel about 11 year old Ellen Foster (or that is what she calls herself) growing up in a severely dysfunctional family in Southern USA. Her poor mother dies in the beginning of the story and leaves Ellen with her mean, drunk and violent father. She also stays for a while with her aunt and cousin and finally her grandmother takes her in. But that is not necessarily a good thing, because grandma is one mean woman and there is no love lost between her and Ellen. When the grandmother dies, Ellen goes to live with a foster-family, which is the first time in her life she feels some love, but this also ends and she goes to a new foster-home, which is where she is as she is telling her story. She is happy there, at last, but what will the future hold for her? The above description may sound sentimental and too much, and even though the story is told with the voice of a child, the whole story is also so ironic and filled with dark humour. And that is what makes it bearable. Otherwise Ellen's story would simply have been unbearable- Ellen's only friend is a black girl, for whom Ellen will do anything, but in Southern USA some years back that wasn't always the easiest thing. I was caught up in this book and could easily see all the humour, but it also made me a bit sad. Its a dark story for sure. Makes the reader think of the evil of mankind.

Lisa from Books and Cooks also reviewed Ellen Foster. Click here.

The Stranger House by Reginald Hill

Superbly well written mystery (and more) about you Aussie mathematician Samantha Flood/Sam and young Spanish/English catholic Miguel Madero/Mig. They meet each other by coincidence in Illtwaithe, a small town far out in the country side in England. Sam is in Illtwaithe to find out what happened to her grandmother who used to live in Illthwaite - or did she - before she begins her studies at the university in Cambridge. The people of Illtwaithe are not the most talkative ones and specially not when Sam begins enquiring about her grandmother. Mig is in Illthwaite in order to study early catholicism, having dropped out of a priestly seminary. He experiences much the same as Sam, no one really wants to talk. Something dark and sinister runs hidden beneath the layers of time through Illtwaithe, and the town close ranks against the two foreigners. Whatever happened involving Sam and Mig began almost at the time of the Vikings when people believed in the Nordic gods and continued up through time. Sam and Mig must dig deep to come to the bottom of things. Reginald Hill is amazing in his descriptions of chararacter and places and you really feel you get to know those people. Both the sympathetic ones and the un-sympathetic ones. The book is rather long and perhaps takes some time to get into, but I really liked it, also because it is so well written and the plot is more than just a simple plot.

Friend of the Devil by Peter Robinson

I just reviewed Gallows View which was the first Inspector Banks novel. This one, Friend of the Devil, is the no. 17! I haven't read many inbetween, but I will. It wasn't a problem reading no. 17, so I am pretty sure they can all be read independently, although I think I like better to read them in the way they were published. Characters usually develop through such a long series, so...
In Friend of the Devil there are two cases running side by side. One of the cases is in Eastvale, Inspector Banks' town in Yorkshire, and the other case is from another town in the area, where one of Bank's detectives is running it.

A young girl has been found raped and murdered in Eastvale in a shop placed in an area called The Labyrinth. The Labyrinth has all those narrow streets and nooks and crannies and Banks soon has his share of witnesses and suspects as the crime was comitted on a Saturday night when everyone were out having a good time.

The other case is lead by slightly frustrated detective Annie Cabbot, and her case seems difficult from the beginning. A young woman in a wheelchair has had her throat slit and has been pushed over a cliff top. When Annie begins her enquiries at the home for disabled where the young woman lived, everything turns blind. No one seems to know anything about anything and it seems like the young, dead handicapped woman had no life prior to coming to the home. Annie is frustrated, not only because of the case but because she has a messy privat life. A private life which may or may not involve Inspector Banks.

Friend of the Devil has good descriptions of characters and places and I definitely look forward to read more Inspector Banks novels.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

The Thief and the Dogs by Naguib Mahfouz

The Thief and the Dogs is a little, compact novel by the Egyptian Nobel Prize winner Naguib Mahfouz. It is not hard to read as such, but if you are not used to the literary style Mahfouz uses (and I am not) then it might feel a little too compact and heavy. Happy it isn't by any chance!
Main character is the thief Said Mahran, who, after being released from prison finds that he is alone. He is utterly and completely alienated and that knowledge creates a deep furrow in his haunted soul. His wife has married another man, his daughter doesn't recognise him and even his old mentor, the former thief Rauf Ilwan, has turned his back to him. Rauf Ilwan has become a succesful businessman and has nothing more to say to a simple con man such as Said.

The only place Said can find a bit of piece of mind is with an old sheikh in the mosque where also his father used to go. But the sheikh cannot help Said as long as he will not help himself and in the course of a few intense days, everything disintegrates for Said. One tragic and unfortunate incident follow the other and it is only during short moments with a prostitute, another unwanted soul in the Egyptian society, that Said can find peace and think about the future. The Thief and the Dogs is a very good novel, but it does leave you thinking if there is any hope for mankind at all.

Gallows View by Peter Robinson

This is the first in a long series with InspectorAlan Banks as the main character. I had already read a couple when I decided to read the whole series and begin with the beginning.
I am under no circumstances familiar with the topography of England, but I do know that this series takes place in the fictious town called Eastvale in Yorkshire. Readers with a knowledge of Yorkshire will probably be able to see the town before their eyes, I am imagining somthing like Cambridge, but that is probably dead wrong....
As this is the first book, there is a "list" of persons the reader needs to get to know. First and foremost we have Inspector Banks, who has moved to Eastvale from London with his family, hoping that country life would be more quiet than London-life. But he soon discovers that also Eastvale has its share of crime and bad guys. In this first book, Banks is involved in three cases. There is the peeping Tom who follows single women who has been out drinking, there is a series of break ins and then there is the murder of an elderly woman. The book is a classic crime/mystery with a sympathetic cast (except for the bad guys of course) and with my knowledge of the few other books in the series I have read, I do look forward to read them all.

The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield

I cannot decide whether I like this book or not. Was it boring, did I hate it? I really don't know. I liked the gothic atmosphere with old English halls, mysteries and depraved upper-classes, dark secrets...I also liked the quiet heroine Margaret who loves old books and who definitely has some skeletons in her closet. On the other hand, I also felt that the story took ages to get going and that it, when it got going, tried too hard. And I hated Margaret's obsesseion with her dead twin, a distand mom suffering from migraines and her loveable daddy-o. It felt very constructed and made from some recipe called "how to write real literature".
But anyway! Our heroine, the quiet and nerdy Margaret is suddenly asked to write the enigmatic writer Vida Winter's memoirs. Vida Winter is one of the giants of literature, but she has never told anything private about herself. Now time is running out, and Margaret is quickly deciding that she will write the memoirs. So she moves to Miss Winter's great hall in the country side and soon discovers a lot of layers in Vida Winter's life-story. It is a life filled with let downs, incetuos relationships, darkness and decadence. Soon Margaret can also see sides of Miss Winter's life which are like her own life. Margaret has been obsessing about her twin who died at birth, and she discovers that Vida Winter herself is a twin. But what happened to the other twin? That is not something we are told until the very last pages of the story. There are a lot of dysfunctionality, abandonment and traumatic experiences in this book, and that is perhaps what the book is about? The Thirteenth Tale is a debut, and even though I cannot decide if I like it or not, it isn't a bad book. I am just not sure that it is a book for me.

The Murder Ballad by Jane Hill

It is pretty easy to detect that The Murder Ballad is written by the same author who wrote Grievous Angel. This book is just as easy to read and build over much the same mould. But I still liked it. Much more than I had expected. The plot is better than in Grievous Angel. Still a little silly, but definitely not as silly as in the former book. It is the same type of main character though: English thirtysomething woman, living an okay but half-bitter life. In this book her name is Maeve, whose boyfriend has died. Maeve has begun going out again though and at a concert she falls in love with the weird American country singer/songwriter Trey. He also falls for her and much to everybody's surprise, after a few months they are married and Maeve has packed her bags and has moved to USA, where she finds herself in a house far away in a little town in the Appalachian Mountains. It soon turns out that there are things which are not what they look like. The house the newly weds are going to live in is old and moldy and the spirit of Trey's mean grandfather looms over the house. Maeve also finds out that she is not the only woman in Trey's life and that there are so many layers in their relationship that she is not even aware of. Not to speak of all the layers her husband seems to have. Maeve has a tough time getting to know the people of the town and her husband's past. The Murder Ballad was a little silly and predictable but I actually really liked it.

Grievous Angel by Jane Hill

Very easily read story about Justine Fraser, an English woman somewhere between 38 and 34. The book is such an easy read that it is hard to believe that it has been written for a grown up audience. But on the other hand, the story has a nice flow, so no complaining about that. I had a good time reading this book, but found the plot a tad unlikely and foolish.
But okay, it goes like this: Justine lives and works in a small English town and she is a little bitter. She cannot hold on to her boyfriends, she has never really been able to cope with her sister's suicide and most of all, she is still thinking too much about Nicky Bennet, an American superstar. Justine met Nicky when she was studying a term on an American university, and this was years before he became a star. They had a brief and hot affair. When Justine went back to England, she never thought she would see Nicky again, but he comes to her and for a short while they are happier than anything. Then he leaves, become a superstar and seems to have forgotten all about Justine. She, on the other hand, has not forgotten Nicky, and when news break that he has gone missing, possibly to commit suicide. When Justine reads in the news, what is supposedly Nicky's suicide note, she decides to go over there and look for him. She is determined to find him and get to the bottom of why he left her back then. Justine is in for a good handful of surprises on her quest to find Nicky Bennet and this book is highly entertaining. But also a little silly. It is supposed to be a thriller, but I think it is as much a chick lit as it is a thriller

At Risk by Patricia Cornwell

What the hell has happened to Patricia Cornwell? I usually love her books, specially the very well written ones about medical examiner Kay Scarpetta, seven though a couple of them has been rather weak as well.
This one, At Risk, has a new hero as the main character, the policeman Win Garano. He is sent to Southern USA on a special forensics course by his super ambitious employer, DA Monique Lamont who resides in Massachussetts. Suddenly he is called back to Massachussetts where he is told to look into a 20 year old murder case in Tennessee, in order to boost the DA's political ambitions. Confused? So was I.

Win Garano never gets the time to go to Tennessee, because suddenly a lot of unforeseen stuff happens, which makes it crucial that he stays in Massachussetts. He then has to crack the case with the help of a colleague, a slighty akward police woman in Tennessee, via mail and phone. At the same time he has to look into those unforeseen things mentioned before. All persons are rather unsympathetic, including Win Garano who I really did not care for at all. The plot is everywhere and there are many loose ends. I didn't get halft the plotline at all. That the book is rather short was a relief, although a good editor would have tightened the story up a bit. Not a good read and not recommendable. Boring and confusing.

The 5th Horseman by James Patterson

At some point, I am probably going to say that I have read all James Patterson's books. Even though I think that his writing and his stories get weaker and weaker and weaker. And every time I finish one I swear it will be the last.
But after a trip to the library where I did not find what I was after, I ended up loaning his The 5th Horseman. It is book no. 5 in his "Women's Murder Club" series. I have read no. 1 and 2. They were definitely not very good and neither is this one. Patterson has a co-author on almost all his books and that is the same for this one, but that does not make the quality any better.

There are two cases which our heroine, police-woman Lindsay Boxer has to crack in this book, with her "Women's Murder Club". This "team" has a forensic pathologist, a journalist and a lawyer.

First case is about one or more serial killers who displays their victims in luxury cars, dressed in designer gear.

The other case is about a hospital being sued for malpractice. Apparently healthy patients die like flies after being admitted to this hospital. Both plots are very weak, to put it mildly and that, which really bugged me was that the two plots are not even connected. Middle into the book, one of the cases is solved and then we hear nothing more about it. That is so not good enough. It is YAWN! The book is divided into super-short chapters, which is not necessarily a bad thing, and when they are so badly written as is the case here, it is almost a relief.

The book is a real fast read and while reading I did wonder why on earth I bothered, seeing as there are so many good books out there waiting to be read. Apparently I cannot really stay away from badly written mysteries ;-)

Trash by Dorothy Allison

That Dorothy Allisons has had a horrible childhood can come as no surprise if you have read her Bastard out of Carolina. Trash is about both her childhood and her adult life. Trash is a collection of short stories and poems, and some of the short stories are very hard core.
Allison grew up way out in the sticks in Southern USA, where thrashings, violence, drinking, and incest were part of saily life in her large, white-trash family. Despite all this, her dysfunctional family stuck together in a bizarre way and perhaps there was even love between the some of the family members.

As a young grown up Dorothy Allison goes far, far away and manages to get into college and break her social heritage. At university she comes out of the closet, and some of the short stories are about her life as a lesbian in USA in the 1970's.

The short stories can stand alone, but are best if all of them are read. Like I said, it is pretty hard core reading and some of the short stories are most definitely not for weak souls.

Allison's style is a little 70's-ish and her poems were not my cup of tea. But Trash is still a strong book I want to read again at some point.

The Plot Against America by Philip Roth

This book is fiction, although it has been written as a kind of a memoir. A memoir of a childhood in an America, where the hero Charles Lindbergh is president of the United States with connections to Hitler's Germany. It is fiction and it is about how the American jews were treated under the reign of Lindbergh. It is intense and it is written in a way leaving no doubt that Philip Roth can really write! At the same time, the language is compact and the reader has to get used to the style with the very long sentences before the reading really gets going.
The young boy Philip grows up in a Jewish neighborhood outside New York in the 1940's. He lives with his mother, father and older brother. Later in the story, his cousin moves in after having been to Europe fighting in WW 2.
Slowly it dawns on Philip that the world is much bigger than he thought and the even in his safe haven, USA, there are dangers for Jewish families, even though they are just minding their own business.

Lindberg and his borderline facist government is going to get a lot closer to Philip and his family than they had ever imagined and the reader witness how the family and the family ties slow disintegrate

The Plot Against America is first and foremost a story about a childhood being hit suddenly by a force, which the child is powerless against.

But even though this doesn't sound like much fun, this book is packed with humour which hits hard and is on the spot. It is not a book you read in one sitting on a rainy afternoon. There are way too many things to think about to be able to do that.

As an experiment, it is a great plot and it is quite scary to think about how the world would have looked today if any president of The United States had been in collaboration with Nazi Germany. Highly recommendable.

The History of Love by Nicole Krauss

The History of Love is about at least two persons: Leo Gursky and Alma Singer, both living in New York. Leo is an old Polish-American jew and Alma is a 12-15 year old girl, who has lost her father and is living with her intellectual mother and her religious kid brother. But the book has many more layers. It is not hard to follow....but then again, maybe it is hard to follow all the layers. It is not until the last pages, or close to the last pages, that all loose ends are being tied and you actually understand what has been going on - or rather why it has been going on.
Leo is a refugee - he made his way to America in his youth, trying to get away from the nazis in Europe and ended in New York. He immediately find that girl he fell in love with back home in Poland and who had gone to America before him. But when their first meeting in New York does not go well, Leo (tries to) forget all about her and abandons every though of seeing her ever again.

But in the next many, many years to come, he still follows her and her family from the hidden siedlines.

Alma, the young girl, has one simple wish, and that is that her mother will come out of her loneliness and find happiness again.

When her mother is asked to translate a certain book - The History of Love" - Alma hopes that the man who has asked for the translation, perhaps could be a good match for her mother. It is because of this book that Leo's and Alma's lives are connected, but before that happens, all characters are going to go through a lot.

This very short review really does not show just how complex this book is. There are all the layers that I mentioned before and many more persons than mentioned here. I didn't really get through this book as easily as I had expected and actually I really do not know what I think about it. But it wasn't a bad read at all.

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer

What exactly is wrong with Oscar Schell, the nine-year old, who is the protagonist in Jonathan Safran Foer's talked about and critically acclaimed Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close? Is he an autist? Psychologically ill? Deeply traumatized? I don't know, but I know that he is hunting for something. A solution, a keyhole, a door, an explanation. An explanation helping him understand why and maybe how his father died in one of th WTC-towers on September 11, 2001.Oscar's hunt for explanations sends him on a quest through streets and buildings in New York, while at the same time he plays his tambourine, writes fanletters to Stephen Hawking, reharses Hamlet, makes jwellery and googles words he does not yet understand the meaning of. At the same time, the reader follows the life, or non-life, of Oscar's grandparents. Their life-stories are told through letters, written either by the grandmother or the grandfather. The parralel between the bombing of Dresden in Germany during WW 2 and September 11, 2001 is easy enough to understand, but other than that, this is a story where the reader must think about almost everything, like the style, the storylines, the persons etc. The book is not hard to read, but the symbolism tends to be too thick in places, and both storyline and persons (specially Oscar) can be very annoying in places as well. Sometimes Foer leans a little bit too much toward another New Yorker writer, Paul Auster, but I do not think this book was plagiarized in any way. I wanted to love this book, but I am still not convinced that it is the masterpiece some call it. I give it 4 stars, but it is 4 small stars.

Kim from Sophisticated Dorkiness reviewed the book here.

A Kiss of Shadows by Laurell K. Hamilton

This is a fun, sexy, erotic and easily read novel about Faerie Princess Merry Gentry. Merry is hald human half fey, and belongs to the Unseelie Court, ruled by her ruthless aunt, the Queen of Air and Darkness. Because Merry has not always lived up to her aunt's standards, she is on the run from her, and hiding in LA, where she works as a PI. But her aunt wants her back, at all costs. Before Merry can be persuaded (or forced) back to the court, and before this series can really begin, we need a lot of background information on the special world being described in vivid detail in this book. We also need background info on the certain ways of feys and goblins and trolls and humans - and we specially needs to be aware of the huge sexual appetite these beings have. Merry is indeed interested in sex, and in the beginning, her boyfriend is a seal! changed into a human by accident. His greatest wish is to be changed back into a seal. But Merry is not only enjoying the wonders of sex with her boyfriend. Pretty soon she is forced to make some tough choices, involving her status as a Princess of the Unseelie Court, her evil aunt, her even more evil cousin and much more. Beautiful faerie-men surround her, and her choices are not easy. This is a fun book, very hot and steamy with a heroine who is definitely living life to the max. I enjoyed it very much, and look forward to read the next one. Am also a huge fan of the other Laurell K. Hamilton-series about vampire hunter Anita Blake.

Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Yes, this is a good story. And it is well written too. The story about Fermina Daza, Juvenal Urbino and Florentino Aziza grabbed me from the beginning. We are in South America in the late 1800'es/beginning of the 1900'es in a country ravaged by civil wars, cholera and love. The weird Florentino Aziza falls in love with the very young Fermina Daza and starts courting her with letters, lots of them. Fermina Daza also falls in love with him, and they write letters to each other for years, even after her father finds out and forbids her to have anything to do with Florentino Aziza. After a trip her father arranged in order for her to forget about him, she comes back with no plans of forgetting Florentino Aziza. But when she sees him, she changes her mind and tells him, that they should stop sending each other letters. And then we follow Florentino Aziza, Fermina Daza and Juvenal Urbino through the next 50+ years, which goes by without Florentino Aziza ever forgetting Fermina Daza. When her husband dies, he goes to his funeral and tells the widow, that he still loves her. This is actually more or less what the book begins with, so this is not meant as a spoiler. The style this novel is written in is called magic realism, and it reminded me from the beginning of some of the novels by Isabel Allende. The reason I am not giving this book 5 stars is that I felt it should have been maybe 30 or 40 pages shorter. To me, the story began dragging in the end. Otherwise highly recommendable.

Cross by James Patterson

Yes, this one was better than the last Cross I read: London Bridges. But only a little better. The story and plot is weak and I am losing more and more patience with the lack of character development. Nana Mama is still bossy yet loveable, Alex is still struggling with family, the past, his job/jobs, the kids are still just soooo good and John Sampson, old partner from DCPD, still calls Alex Sugar. All that said, I was still entertained in a mild way, but the story did not grab me much. Alex has 'retired' from police and murder business, and has begun practicing as a psychiatrist, having his own business now, after Nana put her foot down, and told him to spend more time with family. However, when it turns out that a series of rapes and murders in the DC area may be connected to Alex' wife Maria's death 10 years ago, he finds himself drawn into the police-work yet again. The villain in this book is mob-hitman Michael Sullivan, aka The Butcher. We know this from the beginning, where we are presented with some of The Butcher's specialties re. his nick name. Sullivan likes to take pictures of his victims and showing them to other victims, to ensure that they do not go to the police. I am not completely sure how and why it happened, but something goes wrong, and Sullivan is suddenly hunted by the mob, all the while Alex and John somehow makes a connection between Sullivan and the murder of Maria. How they did that, I never really found out either. There are some minor twists and turns making it a little harder to guess the ending and making this Cross readable. But it is still not nearly good enough.

Book of the Dead by Patricia Cornwell

I am one of those who actually liked the 'new' third-person style and also found Blow Fly, Trace and Predator surprisingly good, after a long pause from the Scarpetta books. So I was looking forward to this new one, and the first few pages are promising. Until you reach the first dialogue between Kay, Benton and their Italian colleague. Scarpetta and Benton are in Rome to help local police and forensics solve the murder of the American tennis star Drew, who was murdered in a horrendous way a few days before. The dialogues (of which there are MANY in this book) are slow and boring, and I actually found the storyline very confusing. Back in Charleston Scarpetta has her problems with Lucy and Marino and local coroners and funeral home directors and the story moves slowly forward. We are inside the murder's mind, which is also boring, and Lucy and Marino behaves so annoying, that you lose all you might've felt for them before. Scarpetta herself is trying to keep her emotions in check, making her look like the icequeen par excellence. And then add the psycho-psychologist Marilyn Self, some doctors from Benton's hospital (he is not FBI anymore, but a psychiatrist at a famous hospital) plus Scarpetta's secretary, her new gardener, Marino's trashy girlfriend and you have an extremely confusing and disappointing story, which really doesn't go any where and which presents the characters in such an irritating way, that you couldn't care less what happens to them in the end. It is almost like P. Cornwell has grown completely tired of those characters and doesn't care about them at all. This is only recommended for real fans who must read all the Scarpetta books. It cannot stand alone.

The Risk of Darkness by Susan Hill

This is number three book in the series about chief Simon Serrailer, his family, colleagues and other persons in the fictious English town Lafferton. The two first books "The Various Haunts of Men" and "The Pure in Heart" has just been mentioned, click here to check it out. I recommend that you read the books as they are written, otherwise you will not get anything out of this one.
The last book ended without all loose ends being tied up, and thus my expectations of this one were great¨. The series is being branded as crime/thrillers, men I found out that that is definitely not the case reading the first one. They are adult chick lit slash slightly romantic. Perhaps not the best label. And I am a bit disappointed over this one. The descriptions are still fine, you feel like you know those persons. I do feel they are dangerously close being stereotypes, but the atmosphere in the book holds water all the way through the book.

When all this is said, there is actually not much more to say! Simon and his team of cops are still looking for the kidnapper who kidnapped the boy David Angus in the previous book. Already in the beginning of the story, the are getting very close, and there is a surprise for all involved. But most of the book is about the persons around Simon Serrailer and about how the society reacts to the kidnapping of a child, murders etc. There is not much policework involved in this story and the whole kidnapping-case seems like an excuse to write about an English town and it's people. No harm done in that, but then do not label those books as crime/thriller/mystery. I had expected more policework and excitement and not so much babble about life as a baby-mother or as female priest in the Church of England. Not too happy about this book, but did finish it without being bothered too much.

Bones to Ashes by Kathy Reichs

The latest Tempe Brennan mystery is well written and moderately exciting. The last Tempe mystery, Break No Bones, was set in USA, so in this one, we are back in Canada. Before going there, we head down memory lane, because the story begins with Tempe looking back at her childhood summers, where she met the two year older French girl Evangeline. For the next years, each summer Tempe and Evangeline spent their summers together, until the summer where Evangeline and her sister Obeline disappears without a trace. Tempe and her sister Harry tries finding out what happened, but no one are willing to talk, and soon their Nacy Drew-investigations stop, and they forget all about it. That is, Tempe hasn't forgotten. From time to time she remembers and speculates. Memories float to the surface again when an old skeleton lands on her desk. She is asked to find out about it from cold case investigator Hippo, and pretty soon she suspects that the skeleton could be the skeleton of her long lost friend Evangeline. The skeleton comes from the same area as Evangeline, and Tempe gets more and more convinced, that it is the skeleton of her friend. But Tempe, Hippo and on again/off again boyfriend Ryan has other, more pressing matters at hand, even though some of these cases are cold cases. In between speculating about Evangeline,the skeleton, the cold cases and her relationship with Ryan, Tempe's sister, the flamboyant Harry, announces her arrival. She is soon entangled in the mystery of the old skeleton, and soon some of the cold cases can be linked with Evangeline's disapperance. Bones to Ashes is good, easy reading and a must for Tempe Brennan-fans, but this one was not as exciting as the last one. Still lightyears better than Cross Bones, which has to be Kathy Reich's worst Tempe Brennan book to date.

Beyond Reach by Karin Slaughter

Been waiting a long time for this book, and finally I got it. Read it in less than two days, and enjoyed it very much. But because of the ending, I will give it 3* instead of 4*. Somewhere on Amazon I read someone who said, regarding this book, that the author 'owns' the characters, and can do with them as she wants, and I agree with that.
But I have to say, if the next book doesn't have Lena Adams clean up her act and grow up, I will get extremely annoyed. Hopefully she will, she shows signs already in this one. Sara and Jeffrey has finally re-married, and while they cannot have kids on their own, they are now about to adopt, and their love is greater than it has ever been. The reader is not left wondering if they can live without each other, because it is said many times, that they can't. Maybe that is why Sara goes with Jeffrey to a crime-scene, some 100 miles from their home in Heartsdale, Grant County, Georgia. Jeffrey's officer Lena Adams is accused of exploding a car, sitting on a football-field in the small town of Reece, which is also Lena's childhood-town. And what makes Jeffrey hurrying down to Reece even more, is that Lena has been arrested, not only for the explosion, but because there are remains of a person sitting in the burnt out car. Lena is stubborn and acting childish as she usually is, and will not reveal anything to Jeffrey or Sara. Sara, who are the Heartsdale pediatrician, is depressed herself, being in the middle of a malpractice suit, brought upon her by the parents of a boy, who died of leukemia. So in the beginning, she is not much help solving anything or making Lena speak. But as the story moves forward, she wakes up and offers to do the post-mortem on the body in the car. Meanwhile Lena is out on her own, doing her own investigation, and actually trying to get Sara and Jeffrey completely out of her hair and the whole situation, which also moves around crystal meth addiction, life in small, rural Southern towns and family secrets best kept secret forever. Or....? This book cannot really be read without knowing the characters from the previous books in the series, otherwise the characters will stand out as even more annoying than they usually do. The ending is surprising, and not exactly conclusive, and hopefully next book in the series will bring a conclusion.

Restless by William Boyd

Strange book indeed. And not necessarily strange in a good way. But it is about the young woman/old woman Eva Delectorskaya/Sally Gilmartin and her daughter Ruth Gilmartin. Eva/Sally was a British spy during the Second World War, taught and trained by the enigmatic Lucas Romer, with whom she also has a steaming love affair, mainly during their stay in America in the beginning of the 1940'es, before Pearl Habor. The story moves back and forth between Eva's spying-days in the 1940'es and the present day, which in this book is the 1970'es. Eva/Sally, the former master-spy, has become and older lady, and some things which happened during the war is still gnawing at her soul. She manipulates her twenty-something daughter Ruth to dig a little in the story and the history, without telling Ruth exactly what it is she wants her to find. Very slowly the story unfolds, and I had a hard time following. Maybe because I am definitely not an expert in neither the Second World War nor spying and spies. I discovered that the author comes highly acclaimed and has written several works. It took me months to finish Restless, but it wasn't exactly a bad book, and it wasn't exactly boring. I just didn't get half of it, and had to read other books in between. The writing style and the character-development is excellent, but there are definitely som loose ends, which has nothing to do with understanding the book or not. I do not know if I should recommend this book or not.

The Other Side of the Bridge by Mary Lawson

We are far away in Northern Canada, in the small town of Struan. The life is rough, tough and simple. Or so it seems. We are in the years before, during and after World War 2, and we follow the lives of brothers Arthur and Jake, and Ian, son of the town's respected doctor. Arthur is the older brother to Jake, and their relationship has been bad almost since before Jake was born. Arthur is the one who works hard and who does his chores without complaining and without asking why he has to them. Arthur thinks a lot, doesn't talk much and hates going to school. Jake is the younger brother who is not all pleasant and nice. He doesn't like to work, not too hard anyway, he is quick and smart and he grows up to be a regular ladies man. When World War 2 begins, neither of the brothers enlist, for different reasons, but they stay at home, while their friends go overseas to fight. Arthur devotes his time to farming and thinking and feeling guilty, while Jake seems to celebrate life by sleeping with as many girls as he can, drink and have fun. The brothers never really find each other, and specially Arthur is consumed by guilt and thoughts, until they are both grown up, and the high school kid Ian enters their world. Or enters Arthur's world. Ian is at a point in his life where he needs to find out what he wants to do with the rest of it, and while thinking about this, he goes to work for Arthur on the farm he inherited from his parents. Jake is long gone, and life goes on in a quiet way. Until Jake suddenly surfaces again, and Ian senses that there is something more behind his visit than just feelings for the good ole family. The story moves between the childhood of Arthur and Jake over, their youth during World War 2 and the 'present day', which in this story is the 1950'es and 60'es. The story moves slowly, and much of the things happening, is happening in the minds of Arthur and Ian. The story moved a little too slow for this reader, but is wonderfully written, with good character-development and wonderful descriptions of nature, wind, weather etc.

The Mermaid Chair by Sue Monk Kidd

Until the last 80 pages of this book, I was sure it was going to be a 3* read. Meaning I have been entertained, I have thought a little about what I am reading and that I have found the story flowing nicely along some safe streets, wandered before. The story of middleaged Jessie, and her facing her demons and looking at her life has been told many times before. And maybe also in better ways than in the Mermaid Chair. But there are some wonderful descriptions in this book, and in the book's best moment you can feel the nature, the sceneries and the interaction of the characters, and that is what makes this book rank a bit higher than 'just' 3*. Jessie leaves her husband Hugh in their home, as she is somewhat reluctantly forced to go to the island of her childhood to take care of her mother. The mother, Nelle, is sick and very disturbed, and Jessie soon senses that something she does not know about is going on. Jessie herself faces her childhood demons, and the reader also senses that there must be more to the story. The story is taking another turn, when Jessie falls in love with a monk from the nearby monestary. But all things are connected, either directly or in-directly. Also the Mermaid Chair plays an important role in Jessie's life, in all the characters lives in fact. What makes me rate this 4* instead of the 3* planned is the pace and happenings of the last 80 pages of the book. Happenings that made me think and feel.

Faithless by Karin Slaughter

I've read all the Sara Linton/Grant County books and I have finally begun actually liking them. I've had a tough time with some of the characters and their extremely stupid behaviour and choices. But the story in Faithless moves forward fast with a highly interesting plot, which makes it hard to put the darn book aside when you have begun reading it.
Sara and Jeffrey, her ex-husband, are having the usual problems in their relationship, and I am at a point, where I want to them to finally figure out to split for good or re-marry. It is looking like it is Sara who thinks about those things, more than Jeffrey does, and I really, really hope that this will be solved. It's getting OLD! Same thing goes for detective Lena Adams and her childish behaviour. She SO needs to grow up and stop acting like a spoiled brat, even though a lot of things in her life (and childhood) might justify her behaviour. I am just getting very tired of it. Those characters need to learn!

After the presentation of the book's characters, the plot quickly moves to the gruesome case they are trying to solve: Young girls being buried alive in the woods.

Sara and Jeffrey are led to a religious sect, whose members are not too friendly. At least that is how it looks on the surface. The members of the sect act weird and all that they say or doesn't say seems suspicious.

But how far back in time does Sara and Jeffrey have to go to find out what had "justified" the liveburial of those girls. That is definitely nervewracking reading and I was totally caught up in the story. Much more than I have been with the other books in the Grant County series.

Case Stories by Kate Atkinson

The story begins at once, and it is exciting. The reader is presented with three different case-files of un-solved mysteries: the case of the little girl Olivia, the case about Michelle and her daughter Tanya and the case about Laura. All cases are years old, and after the presentation, we move forward to the present day, where the ex-cop and ex-soldier Jackson Brodie enters the stage as some kind of a private eye, hired to solve the three old cases. Jackson is a philosofical dreamer, and he is chronically worried about his 8 year old daughter. In his quest of finding answers, not just to the old cases but to life in general, he manages to crack open the three old cases again and get small glimpses of what happened back then. Unfortunately, what promises to be a great story, a great mystery, fade out pretty fast. Jackson seems too philosofical and yet cynic, the disappeared Olivia's three, now grown, sisters seem too cartoon-ish and it is hard to find the rhythm in the story. We also find out the Jackson's cynisims has grounds in his own childhood and upbringing and recent divorce, and it makes the story all the more annoying in this reader's opinion. The story is set in Cambridge in England, and I would have liked a little more atmosphere of the town. The story is not very tight, and what could have been a great book and a great mystery seems lost. All in all, this was a 2* plus book, and I decided to give it 3* on Amazon.

The Various Haunts of Men & The Pure in Heart by Susan Hill

Susan Hill is an English write, who apparently has a large back-catalogue consisting of romances, children's books etc. I did not know her before I by coincidence got hold of her crime/thriller "The Various Haunts of Men" which was published in 2005. Crime/thriller are maybe too big words for those two books, as they as much about life in a smaller English town as they are about the actual crimes being comitted, although the town is not so small that there are no crimes being comitted.

In "The Various Haunts of Men" the plot is about women being vanishing and in "The Pure In Heart" the plot is about kids, or rather the kidnapping of a single kid, which is the case Simon Serrailer, the town's chief, needs to investigate. Simon Serrailer is, together with the rest of his family and a large cast of "supporting roles" the main persons in those two books. The stories are very well writen and I was caught up in the light melancholy and the "English flavor".

I did miss some "real" crime/thriller/mystery elements and felt at times, that the book was dwelling too long at family-stuff.

In "The Pure In Heart", there is virtually no descriptions of the police work, it is more about how a kidnapping affects family, society and police. Perhaps because the book is being continued in number three, called "The Risk of Darkness".

Persons and places are described in a very authentic way, specially if you know a little about smaller English towns. The books are not cosy reading though, and in my opinion they appeal more to women who likes grown up chick lit with an addition of a couple of henious crimes.

Wifey by Judy Blume

Wifey is written in 1978, and it is funnily outdated in 2008. The story about Sandy, the bored housewife with a dirty mind, and her husband Norman, their friends and families is funny and well written, but not as charming as other Judy Blume books. I am sure it created an outrage when it was first published, but today most adult readers will have read both sexier and more mature stuff than this. Not that it makes the story bad, but there are things a wife would never accept in our day and age, which she may have accepted in the 1970'es. Sandy is married to boring Norman, everything is planned, and Norman feels like they have a good life. On their wedding night he stated that he loved her, and then he also said that he did not expect her to ask or inquire about that again. When the story starts Sandy and Norman has been married in 12 years and Sandy is more than bored with Norman, their friends, their life, bored with everything. She starts to daydream, and her dreams are not pure and clean. They are dirty. Again, this is not something that will chok a reader in 2008, but there are funny and also touching moments in this book. The humour is definitely there, and it is a fast and easy read, which deals with universal problems - problems that couples had in 1970'es as well as in the 21. century.

Lou's Pages on

While I really haven't been very good updating this blog, I have been reviewing from time to time on Amazon. As I am now determined to get this blog up and running as well as my Danish blog, I will review most of the books that has been reviewed on the Danish blog, but you could be surfing Amazon and find the exact same review there in English. That is because I am simply going to copy-paste my reviews there onto this page. It may seem stupid to put the reviews so many different pages - but luckily I can do whatever I want ;o) Hope you will enjoy reading and drop a comment as well from time to time!

I am not going to review any Danish books here, unless I am sure they have been translated to English. If there are any Danish readers here, they can easily pop over to the Danish blog here and read the reviews there for the Danish books.

Monday, October 20, 2008

So its definitely been a while

I began this blog at about the same time as I began my Danish blog. They were supposed to be mostly about the books I read. But it became too much of a "chore" to translate each and every entry to English, so I sort of gave up on this blog pretty fast. But having quite a lot of English speaking friends, I am trying to become determined enough to start up here again. I hope so anyway.