Saturday, July 28, 2012

The Sisters Brothers by Patrick deWitt

The Sisters BrothersThe Sisters Brothers by Patrick deWitt

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The description of The Sisters Brothers in Goodreads is “...a darkly comic novel about the picaresque misadventures of two hired guns.” What I liked most about Patrick DeWitt's novel is the way he treated his two main characters, Eli and Charlie Sisters, as if they are going through life with a normal goal that has nothing to do with killing someone. DeWitt seems to be commenting about the value of human life in that period (The California Gold Rush – 1848-1855) and in some ways about the value of human life in all times. Comic is not a word I would choose to describe this work, although other readers seem to appreciate the humor more than I did.

The novel is written from the point of view of Eli Sisters, the younger of the two brothers. Eli is sensitive and spends most of the book evaluating the choices he's made in life. He's looking for a relationship, specifically with a woman, that will give him a mental and spiritual connection. Charlie, however, is more interested in having sex and getting drunk, not necessarily in that order. Because we see their world through Eli's eyes, we appreciate the goals of the younger Sisters brother, even if the objects of his affection are unworthy.

Eli loves his horse. Tub was chosen for him by Charlie, who bought two horses and kept the best one for himself. Eli is disappointed with the animal he's received, but Tub is the first horse he's had with a name and after awhile Eli is impressed. Eli sticks with Tub even after the animal suffers the loss of one of his eyes. Just like the relationship Eli is seeking with a woman, the relationship with his horse is based on a connection of mind and spirit rather than a simple evaluation of what he can get from the animal.

The most important relationship Eli has in this book is his relationship with his brother. He's very protective of Charlie, even when Charlie takes the best for himself and leaves Eli with what is left. In the end the brothers are family and that is important, even to killers.

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Friday, July 20, 2012

Birthright by Nora Roberts

BirthrightBirthright by Nora Roberts

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I like stories that include romance, but I don't read very many books that specifically fit into the category of romance novels. I have, however, read a few Nora Roberts novels and enjoyed them. So when I was browsing through the NC digital library a couple of weeks ago, I picked Birthright by Nora Roberts as my next choice. I wasn't disappointed.

Birthright is the story of a woman (Callie Dunbrook) who discovers she was adopted and had been kidnapped from her birth parents when she was an infant. Although her adopted parents led her to believe she was their natural child, they were unaware of the crime and were victims along with Callie’s birth parents and Callie herself. Even though the plot is about finding the truth and seeking justice, the story is more about adjusting to a difficult situation than the crime itself.

There are multiple plots going on in Birthright including the story of an archaeological dig near Antietam Virginia that isn't appreciated by some people in the community and, of course, two budding relationships. One of these is between Callie and her ex husband. The other is between Callie's lawyer, Lana, and Callie's newly discovered brother, Doug. The first is about overcoming past mistakes and a history of mistrust. The other is about discovering someone new. All the plot lines interweave wonderfully while adding to and commenting about each other.

Although in some ways this book could be considered a mystery or, especially toward the end, a thriller, it is primarily a romance novel and there are many sex scenes. What I found interesting is that the sex in Birthright has nothing to do with power or manipulation or dominance. It is all about mutual attraction and love. Contrast this with the scenes in books such as The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo or Fifty Shades of Grey or Once Upon a Secret (Mimi Alford’s JFK memoir) and it is a nice change.

I had some issues with some of the choices the characters made in the story. For example, there were college students working the dig who continued to work and even camped out on the site after a murder occurred there. I didn’t think that was realistic, even if there was an emphasis on the importance of the project. But the book is well written and a good read, especially for anyone who enjoys the genre.

Steve Lindahl – author of Motherless Soul

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Saturday, July 14, 2012

The Pact by Jodi Picoult

The PactThe Pact by Jodi Picoult

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The first Jodi Picoult book I read was Harvesting the Heart. I liked it, but wasn’t impressed enough to try another. Yet a friend in my bookclub kept raving about her, so I decided to read The Pact. It is an amazing, intense book that I couldn’t put down.

Good writers have to accomplish many things: interesting plots, intriguing ideas, tension that keeps the reader involved, careful use of language that stimulates emotions without distracting from the overall work, but the most important goal of a fiction writer should be full, believable characters. The reader has to know and understand how the characters think.

The Pact is about teen suicide, so Picoult had to get into the minds and emotions of two unique teenagers to explain why their decisions made sense to them at the time they made them. She achieved that goal remarkably well. There is no single reason for “the pact.” Instead, both teenagers are complicated and confused. Of the two, Emily is the one who is likely to be similar to someone a reader knows. She is impacted by her own perfectionism, an incident of sexual abuse, and the confusion of her relationship with Chris as they change from children to adults.

The Pact’s other characters were not forgotten by Picoult. Her novel is also about the impact of the tragedy on the parents of the two teenagers involved. Each one of the four carries the weight in a different fashion, yet each one’s response makes sense for that person. Picoult’s world is as real as the one we live in day to day.

This book is a great choice for anyone interested in reading an intense novel that is a page turner. But more importantly it is an outstanding choice for anyone who wants to understand the way teenagers think. I intend to read more of Picoult’s work.

Steve Lindahl – author of Motherless Soul

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Saturday, July 7, 2012

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

To Kill a MockingbirdTo Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

For the few people out there who haven’t read To Kill a Mockingbird, I have to say that there are ***SPOILERS*** in this review. I also have to confess that I did not read this novel back in high school, the way most people did, and only recently have remedied that situation. It lives up to its reputation. It’s great!

I was surprised that the novel wasn’t about race relations, or at least racial prejudice wasn’t the primary focus. It is a story about a man, Atticus Finch, who tries to live his life with integrity and does his best to provide an example for his children of someone who is “the same in his house as he is on the public streets.”

The story centers around the case of a black man who is wrongly accused of rape, but the emphasis is on Atticus’ decision to risk his life, his reputation, and his family’s safety by accepting this case and working hard to provide a good defense for the man. I wasn’t surprised that the man, Tom Robinson, was falsely accused by Bob Ewell, someone who lived his life with very low standards. But I was surprised that the defense Atticus provided involved revealing that Tom had a crippled arm. Didn’t the people know that? The woman he was accused of raping had seen him repeatedly. At least she should have noticed his arm. It was as if the people of that town couldn’t see Tom, as if he was invisible. Hatred, discrimination, and abuse are aspects of prejudice we all know about. But ignoring someone’s existence is a form that in some ways is worse than the others.

To Kill a Mockingbird is written from the point of view of Scout, Atticus’ ten year old daughter. She’s a tomboy who loves to get in fights and go on adventures with her brother Jem and her friend Dill. The book covers a great many aspects of growing up in a small Alabama town in the 1950’s that have nothing to do with race, but that theme is always hanging over the story. Scout and Jem have lost their mother and have been raised by Calpurnia, their African-American cook. When Atticus’ sister, Alexandra, comes to live with them, she suggests getting rid of Calpurnia. But Atticus tells Alexandra that Calpurnia is, “a faithful member of this family and you’ll simply have to accept things they way they are.”

I recommend that anyone who didn’t read this book in high school should read it now and anyone who did, should reread it.

Steve Lindahl , author of Motherless Soul

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