Monday, August 23, 2010

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson

I don't believe I have reviewed the mystery/crime genre before and I don't really know how to go about it. The emotions evoked by this genre are entirely different than romance, historical, biographical or other genres. There is no crying and no social appall at the actions of the villains. There are villains, of course, but the emotion is of a sharper sort. There is seldom a middle ground, a place where you contemplate if the villain is ignorant and/or misguided, or whether you yourself could conceivably be in the same place if not for the grace of God. No, the villains in this type of a novel are simply evil.

Stieg Larsson created a fascinating tale around the disappearance of a young woman in 1966. It is the first of a series of which he wrote three novels. He had considered these novels his "retirement" fund planning on writing ten. Unfortunately, for us as well as himself, he died prior to completing the series.

Blomkvist is an investigative journalist and has recently been found guilty of libel. His desire is to distance himself from his magazine to allow it to recover as he prepares for his jail time. It's during this period of time he is hired to solve the murder of Harriett Vanger nearly 40 years earlier.

Larsson introduces his audience to a wonderfully entertaining cast of characters. They are complex and well developed. They are people I came to care about or to dislike, making me happy or on edge each time the story came back around to them.

This is not a story that reveals itself too easily. As the mystery comes unravelled I experienced my "Oh-My-God!!" moments but I also had the satisfaction of an occasional "I knew it!" moment, too. If you are a fan of a well written mystery I think you will enjoy Larsson's book, and mourn that he had only written three.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Certain Girls by Jennifer Weiner

"Certain Girls" by Jennifer Weiner

I recently referred to Jennifer Weiner as one of my favorite chic lit authors. I think I did her a disservice. Her novels are filled with themes and issues that are certainly of interest to women but they are nowhere as light as chic lit. I find them a bit meatier.

"Certain Girls" is a sequel to "Good in Bed" picking up Cannie's life several years later. She is now happily married and her daughter, Joy, is a young teen. Joy is aware that she was conceived out of wedlock and her father isn't the man she calls her Dad. After "Good in Bed" left off Cannie became a minor celebrity with publication of a novel that was a fictionalized autobiography, written in anger. Joy decides it's time to covertly read the novel her mother wrote years before and takes it as truth.

Certain Girls is written from both Cannie's and Joy's voices. It looks at adolescence from the confused perspective of a child struggling with too many questions, wondering if her mother truly didn't want her, why her birth father disappeared, who her mother really is - the woman in the novel? - and much more. She is a daring and brave young girl with too many misconceptions. It also looks at the bewilderment of a mother who couldn't love her daughter more as she is excluded from a life she wants desperately to protect.

Unlike chic lit, Jennifer Weiner doesn't tie up her novel with a pretty ribbon and give us the perfect ending to a perfect story. The ending is satisfying but as in real life, lacks happily ever after.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Saving CeeCee Honeycutt by Beth Hoffman

"Saving CeeCee Honeycutt" by Beth Hoffman

I picked this up on audio at the library for listening to in my car. Unfortunately, I just don't travel alone in my car often enough... I had to bring it inside and listen while I crafted. It was a good choice.

CeeCee Honeycutt is a young girl with a mentally ill mother and a father who has quite successfully distanced himself from a bad situation through his sales job. Caring for her mother has fallen to her with all it's problems and embarrassments. When her mother dies in an unfortunately "accident" CeeCee's father chooses to send her off to Savannah to live with her great aunt. Poor CeeCee hating her dead mother for her illness and hating her father for not wanting her, bravely ventures forth into her new life.

The story reminds me of the writing of Fanny Flagg, full of wonderful quirky characters brought to life on each page and endearing themselves to us and CeeCee who eventually realizes the truth in her father's words, "Someday you'll thank me for this." Indeed, through the summer following her mother's death, CeeCee meets a charming variety of new friends who become her "family" and comes to trust that loving the present as well as the past is good.

CeeCee Honeycutt gets a thumbs up from me.