Tuesday, June 30, 2009

The Last Child by John Hart

This is the third book by this North Carolina author. In fact, he's not only a North Carolina author, he's also from my home town, which is pretty darn cool. His first two books, King of Lies and Down River, are both set in Rowan County. I read King of Lies, and I have Down River but haven't read it, yet. Hart has sold the film rights to both of these books, and I think they would both make great movies. He won the Edgar Award for Down River, as well. I finished The Last Child over the weekend and really enjoyed it. In fact, I liked it better than the first book. They are all stand alone books so it doesn't really matter in what order you read them -- just read them, especially if you like well-written, mystery/suspense/thrillers.

This book has quite a bit going on, but it all comes together nicely in the end. There are two main characters -- Johnny Merrimon and Clyde Hunt. Hunt is a lead detective in charge of the most serious crimes. Johnny is a 13 year old boy who lost his twin sister a year previously to an apparent abduction. Hunt has been investigating the case, but has yet to find Alyssa or anyone who may have taken her. Of course, as you can well imagine, this event takes its toll on everyone in this small community. A once happy family is torn apart. Johnny's dad walks out the door one day following the incident and never comes back. Johnny's mom drinks herself into a stupor because she can't cope with the situation. Johnny is left to care for his mother while obsessively looking for his sister and whoever may have taken her. He skips school and sneaks out of the house as he methodically searches every street focusing on the addresses of known sex offenders.

This is a very brief summary of the book. There is a great deal more to the plot, but I don't want to risk spoiling anything. I thought I had part of it figured out early on, but then I began to doubt myself at the midway point. In the end, I figured out part of it, but not the whole thing. I wasn't sure how Hart was going to tie all the loose ends together, but in the end he does. This genre is not always my first choice in reading, but I enjoy a good mystery/suspense book every once in a while. This one is well written and done in such a way as not to rely on too many coincidences to further the plot. I think Hart is an author we will definitely be hearing more from. I love it when a hometown boy (or girl) makes it big.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Still Alive and Reading

It has been a month since I last posted. I'm not really sure why, either. I've been reading, and I've been keeping up with everyone else's blogs. But, for whatever reason I can't seem to find the time to post. I enjoy blogging immensely, but it has begun to stress me out a little bit. I'm way behind on my reading challenges, as well. Therefore, I'm making some mid-year resolutions. I contemplated giving up the blog, but I do enjoy it. So, as a compromise with myself, I will no longer stress over how long it has been since my last post. Hopefully, you'll keep reading it even if I don't add to it weekly. I'm also going to drop all of my reading challenges. I love the idea of reading challenges, but I just can't stick to a reading schedule. I'm a mood reader and don't want to feel like I have to stick to a timetable. There is just way too much going on in my life for me to stress over one of the things that brings me the most joy -- reading. Maybe, one day when I'm retired I'll be able to devote more time to blogging and can join the ranks of some of you super bloggers who post daily. It's just not realistic for me right now. O.K., if you're still reading this, I do have a few quickie reviews just to catch up.

Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson
I liked this book even though it is rather dark. It's definitely not one you want to read if you're already depressed. It's about two sisters who are raised by a succession of family members, all of whom have different degrees of eccentricity and/or mental illness. This is the first book I've read by this author, and it was the first book she wrote. I have Gilead and Home in the tbr pile. I'm not sure how similar they will be to this book, but I've heard great things about them both. My favorite thing about this book is Robinson's language. Her prose is beautiful.

Valeria's Last Stand by Marc Fitten
This was a really fun book. It reminds me a little of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society in that it is funny while also dealing with serious issues. At it's heart, is Valeria who has spent her entire life alone and standing in judgment of everyone in her tiny village. Unexpectedly, she falls for the local potter, which sets into motion a string of events that changes the little village and Valeria forever. This book is not necessarily on the same literary level as Housekeeping; however, it is a perfect antidote the melancholy you may feel after reading Robinson's book.

The Camel Bookmobile by Masha Hamilton
I read this book for one of my book clubs. I had heard of the real camel bookmobile and assumed that this was a nonfiction account. However, this is indeed a novel, which is loosely based on the Kenyan Camel Bookmobile. The heart of this story for me is the culture clash between the traditional ways of the itinerant villagers and the well-meaning American librarian who wants to bring literacy to the desert. This was probably one of our better discussions for this reason. Western society tends to assume that we have all the answers and that our way of life is always better. However, what happens if people are happy living the life they are living? This is brought up in the novel when someone brings to Fi's attention the fact that even though Westerners are literate, they rarely know their ancestors just a couple generations back. In stark contrast, the nomadic tribes enjoy an oral tradition in which they remember, recite, and pass on the stories of their forefathers. Of course, I believe in the value of literacy and education, but we must always be careful to try to understand and respect the cultures we encounter and not just assume that different means not as good.

To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf
I don't really even know where to start with this book. I know people either usually love or hate Woolf's work. I'm quickly falling into the LOVE category. Her writing is so different and does take a little getting used to; however, it is well worth the effort. It is so difficult to explain. She tells very intricate stories, and the reader gets to know quite a few characters all from inside the characters own heads. There is very little direct dialogue and very little background information. I'm not sure how she pulls it off, but it works. To say that her writing is gorgeous is an understatement. In this book, we get a glimpse into the lives of the Ramsey family as they live out one summer at the beach. Again, it defies description. If you haven't tried her writing before, give it a try. Just know that you can't read this fast or you'll miss too much. This is the kind of writing that you should linger over. In fact, I found myself rereading the same passages over and over.