Thursday, March 25, 2010

The Tomorrow Series # 6: The Night is for Hunting by John Marsden

The Night is for Hunting is the 6th book in John Marsden's Tomorrow Series about the teenager Ellie and her friends who find themselves in the middle of an invasion of their country after a camping trip to the Australian Bush. If you haven't read this series and plan to do it, don't read furter, since the review will contain minor spoilers about the previous 5 books.

In book 5, we left Ellie and her remaining friends in the larger city of Stratton, where they were holed up in Ellie's grandmother's house after one of their biggest guerilla attacks yet. In Stratton they were mugged by a gang of smaller kids, and now Ellie and the group are taking action. They want to find out who the kids are, they want to take care of them, even though the kids themselves are not overly interested.

Stratton soon becomes too dangerous to hide out it, and the group of friends must make a dramatic flight towards their old hideout deep in the Australian Bush, the place called Hell. In Hell they face a new set of problems which will put their friendship to the test. Christmas is also near, and they decide to celebrate the event even though it means dangerous expeditions to find food.

Meanwhile the war is continuing, and Australia is still invaded by enemy forces. Ellie and her friends are feeling the effects of war deeply now, and they dream of it to be over. They are still in regular radio contact with their allies in New Zealand, and just before book 6 ends, they receive a message which they cannot ignore.

Again John Marsden has managed to capture the spirit and the lives of this group of teenagers, caught in the middle of a war. A war that they decided to fight from day one, doing everything they could. In the first books in the series the group also tried to keep a certain level of normality, but in the later books they are so war-torn and shell shocked that it makes the books as believable as possible. There are not really any love stories between the teenagers anymore, instead they have become insufferable to each other in certain ways, and especially the way Ellie has changed during the war is shocking, not the least to herself.

Great read, but read the five previous books first. This is read as a part of the 2010 Global Reading Challenge and is my book in the Australasian section.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

International book bloggers are hot stuff

I know I've been away for a while. And while I was gone, international book bloggers has become the new it-thing. We are suddenly hot stuff with our clumsy English, written in the shadow of our big sisters and brothers from (mainly) North America, UK and Australia.

Jokes aside. I'm only speaking for myself of course! And I've never met more open and open minded bloggers than the book bloggers, no matter what nationality. And I've never felt I lived in the shadow of any bloggers - in fact, I need to immediately stress that I've been invited to many fun features (guest blogging, guest bloggers etc) by book bloggers regardless of me being Danish. My English problem mainly exists in my own head and it is mainly myself setting up those limits I feel the obvious language barriers presents.

And this is just plain, great news. I'm honestly thrilled.

In a matter of minutes, looking for something else entirely, I found two new features actively involving international bloggers. If you are not already aware (again, I have been MIA for a while and this may have been discussed at length before) I think you should check out Charlotte's blog The Book on the Hill and her feature Book Blogging Around The World.

International Book Tours is another new (to me) feature where all bloggers, regardless of country, can join the various tours. IBT deals with YA for the time being, and I hope to both donate and read for IBT. What a great, new feature. IBT is managed by the young ladies Reggie from The Undercover Book Lover and Mavie from The Bookologist.

I doubt that James Patterson can actually write

Promise me you will not think badly of me. This is something I've been wanting to write for a long time, but certain things has kept me from doing it. Everything is in the eye of the beholder, right? And I am also pretty sure that we all agree that one person's trash is another person's gold. Reading Suey's (of It's All About Books) post True or False: 90% of Everything is Crap gave me the final push to do this post.

Suey writes an excellent post about how and why some critics hate and bash very popular books like The Twilight Series. Can it really be true that 90% of Everything [we read] is Crap? There are a lot of great comments to that post, and in my own comment I write that bashing of Twilight (and Dan Brown and Harry Potter etc etc) is the same when I hear people (in Denmark) bash a phenomenon like Facebook, and still almost half the population is on it - there must be something about being on FB when so many people are on it! Its also like how its become a popular sport to bash Stieg Larsson's Millenium Trilogy - not so many years ago everyone I knew loved it. Now they simply hate it.

Anyway. I digress a little here, plus I am basically just copying what has already been said on Suey's site. I just want to stress that:
  • I read many books which without a doubt is considered complete crap by this undefined group called book snobs.
  • I reserve the right to consider whatever books I want crap, even though its popular, and fully accept that my crappy reads are another reader's gold.
  • I'm not into hate. This post is meant as more of a pet-peeve thing.
That said, I can return to my headline: I doubt that James Patterson can actually write. This has been a pet-peeve of mine for ages. Taking a tour on my blog will reveal that I've read some of Patterson's books. Here is what I wrote in 2006 about the book London Bridges:
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.
But I have actually read many more in my pre-blogging days. I used to like the Alex Cross-series, and actually found the first ones to be rather good and entertaining reads. Then something happened. Perhaps it was Mr. Patterson's collaboration with an endless stream of other writers, perhaps it dawned on me that James Patterson is a bad writer. Because he is still (presumably) writing the Alex Cross-series on his own.

Okay, then. Maybe his books are not deeply literary. I usually couldn't care less about that. James Patterson's books are not meant to be that, and the main part of the books I read are not considered literary anyway. But his writing is bad. His style is non-existent. His co-authors equally bad. The plots are bad. Everything about his books is bad, bad, bad.

Come on, I hear some of you saying, we read for our entertainment and enjoyment, and if nothing else, Patterson's books are easy and entertaining. Nope, I say, they are not even that. At least not to me. I have serious doubts that any author is able to write 5-10 books a year, no matter how fabulous a writer they are and no matter how many co-authors they have, and still keep an acceptable quality in their writing. That is mission impossible. I guess James Patterson is laughing all the way to the bank, and that is absolutely fine by me. How I wish I had come up with his ideas and how I wish I could make a living writing (less than mediocre) books. Oh yes. I wouldn't care what critics said about my books if I made gazillions. I don't think James Patterson cares.  So what exactly is my problem with this rant? I even admit that I could easily be found reading another James Patterson any day - and I can definitely be found reading "crap" any day. I don't know. I just don't like his books and I honestly think they are of less quality than most other things I read.

Maybe it is that I feel so alone with this. Okay, glancing over reviews on Amazon, I see a lot of readers complaining about Patterson's books and their lack of quality and his endless co-authors. But every time I see one of his books, I feel annoyed and I feel the need to bash the book, and it seems all others are loving it. I guess that is what pet peeves are all about.

This is a post made for the Blog Improvement Project # 2 which was about pumping up post titles. Now lets see if this post will generate any interest or discussion. I would welcome that.

Also - I am trying to go after the ball instead of the man. James Patterson has done a lot to get people to read with special programs and fundings, and I applaud that. He is also just one out of several "pet peeve authors" of mine, whose work I can't stand whose work I sort of get a kick out of bashing a bit.

Blog Improvement Project # 3

I love The Blog Improvement Project. And I love how Jackie and Kim devote their precious time among their other obligations with studies and family to do this. And both of them manage to blog way more often than myself - usually with much better posts as well.

BUT! With the Blog Improvement Project task # 3: Organising your tags and categories I was way ahead of them ;-)  I did that already!

This should leave me with more time to finalize task # 2: Pumping Up Post Titles, which I am having major problems with. But it will get done. Maybe even today :-)

Friday, March 12, 2010

Mudbound by Hillary Jordan

Mudbound by Hillary Jordan takes place during some months in 1946 in the Mississippi Delta. The Second World War has just ended in Europe, and the American troops are returning home one by one. Some more reluctantly than others.

We begin some years before with the 31 year old spinster Laura, who has just come to terms with her unmarried life, which is pleasant enough. When Henry, who is 10 years her senior, begins courting her, she has no doubts though, and they marry.

After a few blessed years as a relatively carefree housewife in the city, Henry moves Laura, their two daughters and his old father to the countryside. And then things begin to unravel. Henry's brother Jamie returns from the war, broken down and with more than a healthy need for alcohol, and the mean spirit of Laura's father in law becomes so evident, that Laura is not sure she can stand living with him. Only Henry seems to thrive with the hard farm life, while all other around him fall to pieces.

The black sharecropper family helping out on the farm and with housework is also waiting for a son to return from the war, and when he is finally home, he ends up in the middle of a tragedy also involving Jamie and the rest of the small circle of people on and around Henry and Laura's farm.

Mudbound is not a happy story. It does however begin and end with love, so that the reader is not left with a too sour taste. Racism in the Mississippi Delta in the late 1940'es is one of the main themes in the book along with the alienation a husband and wife can feel, even if they are happily married. It is also about how one small thing can set a whole train of events in motion, sometimes leading to immense tragedy.

Mudbound is a quiet and dark story. It is well written, sometimes almost poetic. The rain, the mud, the pain and the hatred is the background for the glimmers of love that we also encounter. Its not a fun read, but I liked it. Recommendable.

Book Blogger Hop & Finally Weekend

I haven't been much around for the past weeks. I've been caught up in work and personal stuff, and am wondering when I will ever find the time to post on a regular basis. I miss it, and I miss visiting all the other great blogs around.

Through Trisha of eclectic / eccentric I found a link to Jennifer's blog Crazy-for-Books, which is a new-to-me book blog. Jennifer has a fun Friday feature which is Book Blogger Hop. I know that most of us have loads of blogs to visit, but its always great fun to discover new bookish blogs, so I think you should take a look at Jennifer's blog and the Book Blogger Hop-feature. I am going to Blog Hop a bit this weekend, and visit as many blogs as possible.

Have a great weekend! Its not that I am going abroad - just wanted to post a warm and sunny pic.

Monday, March 08, 2010

Evermore by Alyson Noël

Evermore by Alyson Noël is the first book in the series about The Immortals. The main character is Ever. She is 17 years old, and her family has died in a tragic accident. An accident that Ever feels is her fault. After this accident, Ever moves from Oregon to live with her aunt Sabine in California. Sabine is her only living relative, and she makes sure that Ever has all she needs and more. This does not help Ever, though, since she is battling with guilt. Ever used to be the popular girl at school, but she is withdrawing from the world, hiding beneath large hoodies, always with her Ipod securely plugged into her ears.

By having an Ipod in her ears at all times, she cannot hear the ugly thoughts everyone seems to be thinking about her. The music helps drown out other people's thoughts (Ever has been able to hear other people's thoughts since she woke up from the accident). Ever has become an outcast. But she is not completely friendless. Goth girl Haven and homosexual Mike, who are both outcasts themselves has befriended her. None of them knows that Ever can read their minds though.

The three friend's lives are turned upside down when mysterious and seriously hunky Damen begins at school. The popular girls in school thinks that Damen should be theirs, and when Haven also declares that Damen is hers, Ever withdraws more into herself, even though she also feels an immense pull towards him. Damen shows an interest in Ever, though, and soon she is caught between her own guilt, her feelings, a lot of secrets and secrecy and her friend's feelings.

Who is Damen, and what exactly is he doing at their school? Who is the redheaded beauty following him everywhere and why is Damen so interested in boring and freakish Ever? And what is it about Ever's dead little sister who keeps visiting Ever even though she is dead?

Evermore is about love, its about finding love even though you are not like the others, its about being an outcast, its about mourning and living with tragic events. Its about coming of age and about those choices you make along the way, like sex, friendships and love.
No doubt in my mind that Alyson Noël is extremely inspired by the Stephenie Meyers Twilight-series (which I haven't read), although there are no vampires in Evermore. The main target group is girls between 10 and 15, and I am sure most girls in the target group will find Ever and the other characters mildly interesting.

But...its like this book really doesn't live up to all that it is promising. There are so many interesting topics to deal with, but they are never really followed through. It would've been nice with some indepth thoughts about for instance Ever's approach to sex, the bullying she has to take from her classmates, the whole issue about not being like the "normal kids" and so on.

The plot is too loose for my liking and Evermore is not the best book in the genre, but should I stumble upon the others in the series, I will probably read it, but there is a long way from Evermore to some of the other YA-book I've read lately.

American Wife by Curtis Sittenfeld

Written with an eye for even the smallest detail in a fluent and easily read language, I will begin by recommending Curtis Sittenfeld's American Wife. Its definitely a good read. It is however also a huge read of more than 600 pages. And while the novel really is easy to read, it is also so densely packed with the main character Alice's thoughts and reflections that it does take a while to chew through it. I am not by any means a super fast reader, but neither am I a particularly slow reader.

Its a serious novel, but there is also humor scattered around those 600+ pages. We follow Alice Lindgren, a naive Wisconsin girl, from her early childhood and until she is about 60 years old. We know from the beginning that she becomes America's First Lady, but we are not told when in her life this happens. We need to read the book to find out about Alice's life and her uneven path to being married to the American president.

The whole book is told through first person, and the result is that you really feel you get to know Alice. She is a likeable woman, and I enjoyed reading about her.
The first two thirds of the book is great! It I have to repeat that it is a joy to read about and follow Alice through her childhood, teens and adulthood. Its not that her path through life is a walk in the park, there are plenty bumps along the road, and some tragedies as well.

The last third of the book is a bit disappointing though. Alice has become First Lady (according to the book itself and several articles and reviews the character Alice is build loosely on Laura Bush), and the plot becomes a bit unlikely. I am not going to reveal why here, but plenty reviews on Amazon will gladly tell you why. I do agree with those reviews, but I will have to reveal too much of the book by telling you here, and I would have been annoyed myself if I had read those reviews beforehand.

If you are interested in a good piece of fiction, taking you all the way from the 1950'es to 2007 you should read American Wife.