Monday, February 22, 2010

Silent Killer by Beverly Barton

Cathy is a witness to the murder of her husband, a town minister, and when another minister is killed in the same fashion only a few months later, Cahty breaks down and admits herself into a mental facility where she spends a lot of time coming to terms. Arriving back in Dunmore, Alabama as a new and improved woman, she meet up with Jack, her highschool sweetheart who has become a deputy in the town. Jack also carries some baggage, and both he and Cahty take small steps towards each other while they rekindle their old love. Pretty soon another clergy man is killed in the same gruesome fashion, and we now know that a serial killer is on the loose, a serial killer preying on clergy men.

The murder-plot is just one of the many plots in this below average thriller by Beverly Barton. An endless array of characters are introduced, making it hard to keep track, even for seasoned readers. Some loose ends, which actually seem very important, are never mentioned again and almost all the main characters are annoying. The writing is mediocre at best, and at first I thought that this was a first novel. At that point I was ready to forgive the bad plot(s) and the mediocre writing. But then I found out that the author has actually penned dozens and dozens of novels, and I must admit that I am not impressed.

There was absolutely nothing new in this story, and I am sure I will never pick up another book by Beverly Barton. It is not the author's fault that I mistakenly thought that this was a mystery when it was more of a romance with a thriller plot added though. Had it only been well written, I wouldn't object that much. As it is now, this one cannot be recommended at all.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Blog Improvement Project # 1

Yep. I'm late doing this. There will be a new BIP-post up tomorrow, but since the first one is about creating a Blog Improvement to-do-list, I feel like I should do that first of all, and then hopefully stick to it throughout the year.

Anyone can join The Blog Improvement Project. I participated whenever I had the time last year, and this year I will try to do as many of the "tasks" as possible. I do think it is a good idea, and I know for sure that my blog can use improvement.

Its not that the blog doesn't work fine as it is, because it does. But that doesn't mean that I cannot make improvements, since there are some things which I've wanted to change for some time now
  • Fix labels/categories so that I do not have so many, many of which only used once.
  • Find out how to get tabs into a Blogger-blog
  • Find a more professional looking template*
  • Make bookish links to stores, libraries, publishers etc
  • Participate in the book blogger community more. This means more commenting and more time spend on replying to peoples comments
  • Try to write some posts that are not just book reviews, but still about books/literature/bookish things
  • Mix short and long reviews (actually, I think I am already doing this)
  • Link to others reviewing and reading the same books as myself
  • Look into social media
  • Categorize reviews
*By professional I don't mean in that I am going to make the blog a business. It is and has always been a hobby for me to blog. I am not a book professional, and I am not here to sell stuff.

I am right now going to clean up the categories and maybe find some new ones which will fit better. So, the Blog Improvement Project has begun :-) Thanks to Kim and Jackie for the work in doing this.

Property by Valerie Martin

Set in Louisiana in 1828, Property by Valerie Martin is about Manon Gaudet, married to a sugar plantation owner she cannot stand and her slave Sarah, whom she cannot stand either. Manon takes a lot of her anger and resentment out on Sarah, who in turn is not a likeable character either, slave or not. Manon is unable to conceive, which she is happy about, and we know that it is not her husband's fault, since he has fathered two children with Sarah, the oldest child Walter allowed to roam the plantation when Manon's husband feels like it. Manon's resentment, depression and anger grows. She is missing New Orleans, love and frienship, a life, any life not her own. She is totally unable to take the outstretched hand offered to her by her frustrated husband, and things reach a dramatic climax when a group of rebellious slaves break into the plantation one night.

It struck me that I could not find any sympathy any of the main characters in this story. They were all rather despicable characters, although for various reasons. The writing is clear and cut to the bone. No unneccessary wording or descriptions. The reader is left with a feeling of slight despair on behalf of all characters, although I really didn't like them much. I did like the book though and it is highly recommendable. Now I just need a more non-fiction approach to life in Louisiana in the early 19th Century. Very interesting.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

The Road by Cormac McCarthy

America has burned to the ground, the land is freezing cold, black ash mixed with snow falls upon the few survivors in this dark and postapocalyptic tale which won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 2007. The Road by Cormac McCarthy was a spectacular reading experience, and I am left wondering why I did not read it before now.

Nothing is alive anymore, no trees, no birds, no fish, no flowers except those few unlucky human survivors who have formed small communes across the land, not welcoming any strangers. The Man and his son The Boy are wandering the land, heading for the ocean while trying to avoid the packs of road rats (cannibals) roaming the desolate and soot ridden land in search of anything to eat. The Boy is everything to The Man and vice versa. They are searching for people like themselves - good people - but as their journey continue, it is getting harder and harder to believe that there is actually much humanity left on this desolate and dark earth.

The Road is read as part of the 2010 Global Reading Challenge.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Fun Home by Alison Bechdel

Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic is a memoir done in the form of a graphic novel. Its written and drawn by Alison Bechdel who is also the brain behind series such as Dykes To Watch Out For. I am not all that familiar with GLBT-literature, but have read some books which can be "labelled" as such. Bechdel is lesbian, and Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic is about realising this and coming out, but it is definitely also about much more, and while homosexuality can be said to form the core and back bone of the story, the main theme is the relationship between parents and their children, in this case the relationship between Alison and first and foremost her father, but also her mother.

Alison grows up with seriously distant parents living in a less than happy marriage, both her mother and father somewhat desilluisioned. Her father is working as an English teacher, her mother is writing an academic thesis and also trying to form a local career as an actress.Alison's father is mainly interested in literature and architecture and spends most of his free time reading and decorating their house in various styles. In between this he and the family also own a funeral home, in short The Fun Home. We follow Alison from her earliest years and until she is around 20 years old and away at college. All the way through her childhood she keeps a diary. Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic use a lot of Alison's early diary-material, but seen from the wiser and grown up Alison's viewpoint. The novel is full of literary knowledge, and while the story as a whole is rather dark, there is a definite and clear current of humor and irony running underneath the sadness throughout the story.

Bechdel's drawings are pieces of art, and she is also a great writer. I really liked this story and recommend it highly. I have read it as part of the Women Unboun Reading Challege, which you can read more about here.

Monday, February 01, 2010

Tender Graces by Kathryn Magendie

Tender Graces is Kathryn Magendie's first book, and it is a good read. If you liked the YaYa-books you will probably also like Tender Graces.

The beautiful, wild and somewhat uneducated Katie Ivene from the mountains in West Virginia meets the fancy Shakespeare quoting door-to-door salesman Frederic, and within a short period of time they have gotten married with three kids: Micah, Virginia Kate and Andy. Virginia Kate, whom we meet on the first page as a grown up heading back to her childhood home in order to come to terms with her past, is telling the story of her mother, her father, her siblings and her family and their life from the early 1960'es to the early 1970'es.

The story takes place in the American South and have a lot of the ingredients of the traditional Southern Gothic novel. For one thing its full of ghosts, ghosts which only Virginia Kate can see. Ghosts that she use as the story unfolds and the childhood memories come pressing in, helped along by her grandmother's journal.

The first half of the story is very dark, and although it lacked some important information I would've liked to know more about (for instance about her grandmother's life) it is a gripping story. Halfway through things take a turn for our protagonists, and from then on the story moves to be a bit too predictable and definitely not as strong as the first part. Character development and descriptions are fine and well done throughout the book (but there are some minor characters who still play a large part, and more about them would have suited the story as a whole). I am sure I will read more by Kathryn Magendie if she keeps up her fine style and fine grip on believable characters.

Read more on Kathryn Magendie's website here - where it also states that a new book about Virginia Kate will come out in 2010.

This book is read as part of the Twenty Ten Reading Challenge hosted by Bart's Bookshelf. It has been read in the category Bad Bloggers. Bad Bloggers was invented by Chris from Stuff As Dreams Are Made On and is basically a blame game for fun, where you blame the blogger who made you want to read a certain book and make you TBR grow. You can read more about Bad Bloggers over at Chris'. Click the link above.

I am blaming Natalie from The Book Inn for making me want to read this book. She reviewed it last summer, and I went straight out and bought it. Read Natalie's review here.