Saturday, June 22, 2013

The Snowman by Jo Nesbø

The Snowman (Harry Hole, #7)The Snowman by Jo Nesbø
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Snowman is intense and gripping. Although parts of the story are unbelievable, Jo Nesbø's writing keeps the suspense alive. At times it is a difficult book to put down, which is the best compliment I can give to a crime novel. However, just as in action films such as Die Hard or The Eraser, plausibility takes a backseat to tension.

The Snowman is the first Harry Hole mystery I've read. It's neither the first in the series nor the last, but it stands on its own. It tells enough background to allow a new reader to understand the character relationships without slowing the book down. Harry holds back on his emotions. He's drawn to Rakel, his ex, but understands how his need to solve crimes will always get in the way of his relationship with her. He's more open with her son, Oleg, who responds well to him. But that isn't enough. Another person in his life is Katrine Bratt, a young police woman who also works on the snowman case. I expected the relationship between those two to be different from how it turned out.

The plot seemed to come to an end a couple of times during the book, but there were still many pages to go through and so the story turned out different than what was expected. That's good, although a little overdone. Yet the psychological reasons that point to each of the suspects are rationalized well, so the reader doesn't feel cheated at the end.

Another aspect of Nesbø's writing I like is his attention to small details that don't appear to advance the plot, but establish what life is like in Norway. For example there's a shop owner in the story who sells African art. The shop exists because government grants are available for this type of store, so the fact that there are few customers doesn't make any difference. The setting is also interesting. The cold of Norway suits the cold relationships between the characters.

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Saturday, June 8, 2013

Pandemonium by Lauren Oliver

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Pandemonium is a YA book, the second release in the popular Delirium series. Its target audience seems to be teenage girls and judging by the other reviews I'd say it impressed that group of readers. This series, by Lauren Oliver, is the story of a young woman, Lena, who lives sometime in the future after a ruthless, dictatorial government has taken over the United States and has banned love. At age eighteen anyone living in one of the government controlled areas must undergo a cure, which is a brain operation that limits their emotions. There are, however, areas outside the major population centers called the Wilds. In these places the people still have their emotions and their freedom, but they have to struggle to find food and shelter and they have to put up with constant attacks from the cities.

I liked both of the books I've read in this series because Lauren Oliver has done an excellent job of getting into the mind of Lena. In Pandemonium Lena has matured somewhat. When this book begins she needs help to recover from what she experienced in the first book, but once she works her way through that she becomes a much stronger person. She has a relationship with a young man, Julian, who needs her help to deal with both emotional and practical problems. I liked that because in Delirium she was the one who needed to get her strength from someone else.

The book bounces back and forth between sections entitled Then which are set in the time when Lena was first in the Wilds and sections entitled Now which are set after she has regained her strength and is part of the resistance. Yet Pandemonium is consistently written in the present tense, keeping an intensity throughout the novel.

The rat-man stops. He doesn't look at us, but I see his shoulders rise and fall: an inaudible sigh. “They'd already taken her from me once,” he says quietly. “I didn't want to lose her again.”

I have the urge to lay my hand on his shoulder and say, I understand. But the words seem stupid. We can never understand. We can only try, fumbling our way through the tunneled places, reaching for light.

I had a few problems with the book that had to do with too many coincidences and situations that required suspension of disbelief, but the character of Lena is strong enough to keep the pages turning. I'm looking forward to reading the next book in the series.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

The Woman Next Door by Barbara Delinsky

The Woman Next DoorThe Woman Next Door by Barbara Delinsky
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Woman Next Door is a woman's book. I glanced through pages of reviews on Goodreads and found only one other man who had reviewed it. The book covers a number of problems in suburbia that surround a threesome of friends, Amanda, Karen, and Georgia, who try to help each other but also spend a great deal of time gossiping. The group of friends include the women's husbands and used to include another couple, Ben and June.  June died, Ben remarried a younger woman, Gretchen, and then also died. So this suburban circle has been left to deal with a young, attractive widow who doesn't make an obvious effort to reach out to them, but does call on their husbands for help around her house. The situation is complicated when the widow becomes pregnant and the women realize too much time has passed for the baby to be Ben's.

The plot of this book revolves around family issues from problems conceiving to problems dealing with teenage angst, with trust and jealousy issues along the way. Amanda is a school counselor and also the woman who is trying to have a baby. Her husband, Graham, comes from a close knit family and that family isn't very supportive of Amanda. So there are problems there as well.

The major characters are well developed, especially the women. They have their flaws, but also qualities such as strength and loyalty. I think more men should read books such as this. The issues belong to both genders, but the perspective is different. I think it's important to understand that. I plan to read other books by Barbara Delinsky.

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