WWW Wednesdays- August 13

WWW Wednesdays is an event hosted by Should Be Reading that asks three questions:

What are you currently reading?
Alright well, I’ll admit I didn’t stick to the plan I set in my last WWW, which was to read Silent Killer by Beverly Barton. I decided that it had to wait because I was loitering in my school library out of the cold and away from people, when I happened upon Love Letters to the Dead by Ava Dellaria, which was rather high on my TBR list. When I saw it I got super excited and had to borrow it, so Silent Killer will just have to wait for now!

I’m also currently reading The War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells for an English assignment at school. I was excited to start this, because I’ve wanted to read the book for ages. I’m a bit more experienced when it comes to the classic-style of writing that Wells uses because I’ve read a number of classics in previous years, so I’m quite enjoying it so far!

What did you recently finish reading?
I recently finished reading The Stranger by Camilla Lackberg, about which I had very mixed feelings. My review of it can be found here.

What do you think you’ll read next?
Well, hopefully I’ll be able to commit to my original intentions this time, and I’ll start Silent Killer when I’ve finished Love Letters to the Dead. But you can’t blame me for seizing the moment!

What have you guys been reading? And suggestions? Let me know in the comments!

-Christie xx 🙂

Not forgotten. And never forgiven…

Today’s review: The Stranger

Author: Camilla Lackberg

Cover of The Stranger by Camilla Lackberg

Publisher: Harper
Number of Pages: 381
Genre: Mystery/Crime/Thriller/Scandinavian Literature
Series: The Patrik Hedström Series

A series of tragic road accidents and the murder of a reality TV contestant mark the end to a quiet winter for Detective Patrik Hedström.

– Goodreads.com

The Stranger is the fourth instalment in the Patrik Hedström series by renowned Queen of Scandi-crime, Camilla Lackberg. After a predominantly quiet winter at Tanumshede police station, Detective Patrik Hedström and his colleagues are called to the scene of a car accident. The female driver reeks of alcohol and the case is destined to be written off as a tragic accident. After Patrik discovers a number of discrepancies around the case however, the team at Tanumshede are led to believe that there is more to this accident than meets the eye. On this same day, the station welcomes the newest member to their task force, Hanna Kruse, an officer with a wealth of experience and ambition who hopes to one day climb to a position of chief of police. Meanwhile, the small town of Tanumshede is alive with excitement; cameras are being set up all over town for the beginning of the filming of a new reality TV programme. When an unpopular cast member of the show is later found murdered, Patrik is forced to stretch his mind and his resources to the limit in order to tackle the two cases at once. In addition, his wedding is less than a month away…

If I could summarise this book in one word, it would probably be… comfortable. That’s a little odd for a crime novel, isn’t it? But that’s what it is, it’s comfortable. Which, admittedly, can be a little disappointing. I didn’t actually understand anything that was going on at the start of the novel, but I suppose that was my fault, because I hadn’t realised at first that this novel was part of a series, and so it probably would’ve made more sense at the beginning if I had read the first three books in the Patrik Hedström series. The story did, however, touch more on the background of each of the characters and previous events as the story progressed, so I was eventually able to understand where these people came from and what had happened previously.

I really liked the main characters in this novel, especially Patrik and his fiancee Erica. They are both warm-hearted, yet flawed people, each laden with their own emotional baggage. I loved Erica as the independent, smart, free-thinking woman who is almost like a best friend to Patrik, as well as a lover. What I find even better is that Patrik respects and admires her, and even though she is not a part of the police force, still values her opinions on the cases. I felt that this was a prime example of women treated as equals by their male counterparts in books, instead of just being add-on characters to complain about how their husband is never home, or to provide the cliche “troubled family life of a cop” scenario. Erica respects her husband’s work and understands that the weight of the cases require him to be at the station more often, and even though this is so, Erica is not just an object to be pushed aside when something big comes along. Erica is always a close thought in Patrik’s mind.

I did however find that this very focussed view on the lives and workings of each character took away the suspense and mysterious air of the plot. I mean, accidents that are more than they appear and reality TV-star murders sounds really intriguing, doesn’t it? Well, it never really came off that way in this book. There was so much focus on characters that at some points it’s almost as though Lackberg went “oh yeah, I forgot. I’m meant to be writing about a murder”. What I’m trying to say is that the main plot line of the story sometimes felt almost like an afterthought. I found it disheartening, because the outline of the plot in the blurb really got me interested. I also felt a bit disappointed because I managed to solve the case four chapters before Patrik did. At first I was pretty pleased with myself, then I was just sad, because for me, whatever mystery had been present had all but disappeared.

I also found the language and writing style of the book to be rather dry and bland. Perhaps this is because it has been translated from its original Swedish language, but at times it sounded like Lackberg was writing an informative essay instead of a novel. I think a bit more colour and variation in each of the characters’ speech would have been much more effective, as they all ended up sounding like the same person.

Overall, this book wasn’t incredibly exciting. It doesn’t venture too far out into the unknown, and the loose ends are tied up nicely, save a few to continue into the next book. Lackberg’s characters are enjoyable, and the story’s concept is interesting enough, but I felt that more appeal to senses would be needed in future novels to heighten the tension in scenes where it is necessary.

As I said previously, this is a comfortable novel, good for a bit of light reading, and perhaps for those new to the crime genre who aren’t quite ready for the heavier stuff yet (for those into that, I’d recommend the Kate Burkholder series by Linda Castillo), but I certainly wouldn’t class it as one of my favourite crime novels.

Rating- 6/10

We become the stories we tell ourselves

Today’s review: A Home at the End of the World

Cover of Michael Cunningham’s A Home at the End of the World

Author: Michael Cunningham

Publisher: Penguin
Number of Pages: 343
Genre: Fiction/Contemporary/Romance
Series: Standalone

From Michael Cunningham, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Hours, comes this widely praised novel of two boyhood friends: Jonathan, lonely, introspective, and unsure of himself; and Bobby, hip, dark, and inarticulate. In New York after college, Bobby moves in with Jonathan and his roommate, Clare, a veteran of the city’s erotic wars. Bobby and Clare fall in love, scuttling the plans of Jonathan, who is gay, to father Clare’s child. Then, when Clare and Bobby have a baby, the three move to a small house upstate to raise “their” child together and, with an odd friend, Alice, create a new kind of family. A Home at the End of the World masterfully depicts the charged, fragile relationships of urban life today.

-Goodreads.com

Michael Cunningham’s A Home at the End of the World follows the story of three friends, three lovers, and three non-conformers to the social boundaries of acceptance in 70s and 80s society. Jonathan is sheltered; doted upon by his possessive mother; isolated from the dangers and wonder of the outside world. He possesses habits that would not otherwise be considered “normal” in such an unforgiving society; he prefers playing with dolls and trying on his mother’s makeup to activities usually taken up by other boys of five. A few years later sees Jonathan starting seventh grade. It is there that he meets Bobby. Bobby is the poster boy for what Jonathan’s mother had been protecting him from; heavy with burden, high on drugs, not…. “all there”. And Jonathan finds himself falling in love. After graduation, Jonathan and Bobby grow distant. Jonathan moves to New York to attend college, and Bobby stays in Jonathan’s former home in Cleveland with Jonathan’s parents, who took him in after his father passed away.

New York city finds Jonathan writing a food column for a newspaper and sharing an apartment with the colourful-yet-haunted Clare. Although openly gay, Jonathan shares a deeply emotional and loving relationship with Clare, and the two plan to have and raise a baby together.
Re-united through fate, Bobby moves into Jonathan and Clare’s apartment, and soon finds himself to be Clare’s lover and later the father of her child. All three friends are in love with one another, but Jonathan, seeing himself as the third wheel in the relationship, decides to move on.
Jonathan, Bobby and Clare meet again, brought together over a series of tragic events and on impulse, decide to buy a house together and raise the child that all three of them claim to own. All in love with one another, Bobby, Clare and Jonathan form a new and unusual kind of family and create for themselves a home in which to live.

A Home at the End of the World was beautifully written. It was deep, intimate, and intensely real. But it was very, very slow.
You know how books are meant to have story arcs? Like, a build up to a climax, or a series of these? Well, in this book, they were more like speed bumps. The story was like travelling on a long, straight road, and every “major event” that happened in the book was really not very big; like small bumps in the road. Not very exciting, and didn’t have any huge impacts on the story.

But it was very real. The characters were exquisite and the most unique people I have ever read about. Michael Cunningham must have incredible insight into human psychology, because he could expertly enter the minds of each of his main characters and pick out their flaws, highlight their best qualities, accentuate their struggles, and avoid any generic stereotypes. Each character was totally individual, and none of them felt like the “same-old” characters that appear far too frequently in contemporary romance novels.

Each chapter is told from the point of view of a different character. There were some characters, like Jonathan’s mother Alice, that I initially didn’t particularly like, mostly because of the way each of the other characters viewed her personality and nature. But this was because they were outsiders, and didn’t have an understanding of the workings of her mind and why she does things the way she does. But when Cunningham introduced chapters written from Alice’s perspective, I really grew to like her, now that I had been enlightened to her point of view of the world.

In this novel, there’s no defined “bad guy”. Each character feels as human and as real as the reader, and by giving each character such life, it’s really hard to view any of them as annoying or dislikable or evil. I personally shipped Bobby and Jonathan since their first meeting, and I thought that when Clare appeared, that I would hate her throughout the whole novel for intruding on their relationship. But I didn’t. I actually loved her so much. I loved her quirks, her humour, her patient understanding, and her diversity. I even related to her a little; we use some of the same words when addressing people, like “darling”, “dear”, and “sweetie”. Not in like, a patronising way, but in a “you are a lovely person and I will address you as such” way.

I did find this book very slow, and because it was basically just following the, well, slightly-less-than-ordinary lives of the characters, there wasn’t a lot in the way of gripping rising action or dramatic climaxes. I’ll admit that I mainly liked it for the diversity of the characters. Cunningham was very, very good at delving into the intimate and unusual lives of his characters, but there is definitely room for improvement in the gripping story department.

I’ll recommend it for patient readers, but for those who are a little tired of the run-of-the-mill romance characters, this one might also be for you.

Rating- 5/10