Sunday, October 31, 2010

A Ghost Story for Halloween

My twenty-third book of the year was "Heart-Shaped Box" by Joe Hill. I had previously read his book of short stories, "20th Century Ghosts", and loved it. I loved it so much that I gave the book to my husband and told him he would love it too. After reading three stories, he gave it back to me and told me he couldn't read it "because it's just too weird." I did not let that deter me from reading another of Mr. Hill's books!

"Heart-Shaped Box" is about an aging rock star, Judas Coyne, who has a penchant for macabre items. He owns all kinds of creepy stuff already when he sees the opportunity to buy a ghost. He buys it, but soon comes to regret the purchase soon after the ghost's suit arrives in that heart-shaped box. The ghost terrorizes Judas and everyone close to him.

I really liked the way the book was laid out. There were several very short chapters which tends to keep me reading for longer stretches. Something I wasn't crazy about was the initial character development. I didn't really like Jude's girlfriend at first and it took me a while to change my mind. For several chapters, I was ready for her to be sacrificed to the ghost. I also felt that Jude's character was pretty predictable for a rock star, but maybe that wasn't so bad. I guess the typical rock star characteristics (greed, lust, extravagance) are what got him to where he was in the story.

I did like the way the book ended. I enjoy having things wrapped up in neat little packages at the end of the story and that definitely happened with this book. Joe Hill gets a big thumbs up from me on that part! Wanna know what happened? You'll have to read it. No spoilers here!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Book #22: A First Reads Win

I saw a review of "Bound" by Antonya Nelson in the Kansas City Star one Sunday and was intrigued. It was partially set in Wichita around the time that a long-quiet serial killer had reappeared on the scene. Being from Wichita and living there during that time, I wanted to read the book. It happened that it was part of a "first reads" giveaway on Goodreads. I entered and was one of the lucky winners of a copy of the book.

In "Bound", Catherine Desplaines is married to a cheating husband, going innocently about life, when she learns that her high school best friend has been killed in a car accident and has given custody of her teenage daughter to Catherine. My expectation was that the story would center on the relationship between Catherine and this new child in her life, but that relationship didn't begin until there were about 40 pages left in the book. Instead, the book focuses on Catherine and her memories of this long ago friend that she was no longer in touch with. It also spends a great deal of time on the teenage girl and the cheating husband-all separate from Catherine. It was an interesting plot development that I enjoyed, even if it wasn't what I anticipated.

There were several scenes of Wichita that were described throughout the story. I paid very close attention and they all seemed to be accurate except for one detail. Ms. Nelson speaks about the newspaper in Wichita and calls it the Wichita Eagle-Beacon. At one time this was the name of the paper, but at the time in which the book was set, the paper was called (still is, in fact) the Wichita Eagle. If there were any other inaccuracies, they didn't catch my eye.

This was an enjoyable book to read, although I didn't become very attached to any of the characters in it. I never felt especially connected to Catherine, which surprised me. I never felt like she needed my sympathy for the life she had now or in her past. It was as if she was comfortable with it, so I didn't need to feel sorry for her or her situation.

This was a book that I received for free from the publisher, Bloomsbury. Winning a copy in no way influenced my review of the book or the author. The opinion expressed in this review is my honest opinion about the book.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

I'm Glad I Didn't Pay For This Book

"Under The Wall" by Troy Blackford was my 21st book of 2010. It was given to me by a friend and came with a warning: "Don't get too excited", she said. "The author is obsessed with blood." She was right. This guy might have issues.

The book centers around Leviticus, a housecat who is anything but ordinary. He has the ability to feel the thoughts of those around him. Most of these thoughts don't make any sense to him, being a cat and not understanding the human language. Often, the thoughts pass through him without much attention; they come and go, but he ignores them not realizing it is not normal for a cat to sense these things. When a serial killer begins to stalk his family, however, he picks up on horrific images that he immediately realizes he must act upon.

The author is very descriptive, but excessively so. Scenes seem to go on forever when it just isn't necessary. Blood plays a huge role in this book and is described in every way possible. It got to the point where I was skimming over parts just because I was bored with the endless rambling.

The story was a good one, but it was poorly told. I think this may have made a very good short story. Unfortunately, the author went too far. I got the feeling that the author is the kind of person who talks a lot, just because he likes to hear his own voice. It was annoying. On top of that, there were several typos in the book that stood out like flashing neon signs.

Needless to say, this is not a book I will not be keeping on my bookshelf.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Book #20: Cop Turned Cat-Sitter

I just finished reading my twentieth book of the year, "Curiosity Killed The Cat Sitter" by Blaize Clement. It is the first in the Dixie Hemingway cozy mystery series. I chose this book as my second selection for this month's book club discussion on Twitter.

Dixie Hemingway was a deputy in the local sheriff's department when her life was turned upside down. She left her law enforcement career to become a pet sitter and leave her former life behind. On one of her routine assignments checking on a cat whose owner hired Dixie to watch her pet while she was out of town, Dixie discovers a dead body face down in the cat's water dish. All signs point to Dixie as a suspect; she had a key to the house where the body was found, nobody had seen her on her early morning assignments and she was already looked upon as a bit unstable in the community.

Dixie uses her skills she developed in law enforcement to dig deeper into the mystery of the dead man and the missing owner of the cat she is tending to. Her questions come naturally, as does her ability to read people. Soon, she is getting in further than she should, but she can't stop the nagging thoughts about the case until everything finally becomes clear, with a little assistance from the cat.

Throughout the book, Dixie shows compassion for all the animals on her watch, but indicates that she doesn't want one of her own. Because of the recent upheaval in her life, Dixie can't seem to get close to anybody, including a pet. I'm hoping to see that change in future books of the series.

The only thing I really didn't like about the book was how it was wrapped up after the case was solved. There were a lot of loose ends that I had to make assumptions about and I would rather have had some more details about the characters I had gotten to know in the story. Overall, it was a fun mystery and I will check out the next book in the series, "Duplicity Dogged The Dachshund".