reviews: books: When Will There Be Good News?

whenwilltherebegoodnews [Cross-posted to GoodReads and LibraryThing.]

One of the reasons I adore Kate Atkinson so much is that her books are mysteries that you didn’t know were mysteries until the very end. She has a writing style that I have found to be fairly unique. Her prose tends to border on stream of consciousness and twisted plot lines, but doesn’t come off as being too presumptuous or even at times, wordy. Her gift is for creating characters that are not always what they seem and at the same time, are fully formed and believable. Her latest book, When Will There Be Good News? imagines a world where Joanna Hunter (in the now) is re-visited by the horror of her past, her family (mother and siblings) brutally killed when she was six in front of her. Thirty years later, the killer is paroled and Joanna suddenly disappears. The question then becomes, is Joanna Hunter the innocent she has portrayed after all these years?

This is the third book by Atkinson that features Jackson Brodie, a character she created in Case Histories, who has re-appeared in her previous book, One Good Turn. Ex-solider, ex-policeman, Brodie is now a retired millionaire whose own faults seemingly are also his weaknesses. Brodie, who this time around plays a subtle minor character in the drama as it unfolds, seemingly is one step away from the realities that surround him. What he desires and wants, is what we all desire and want an yet for Brodie, everything is almost out of reach. As with her other books, Atkinson has a gift for sly observation and reporting on and grasping the intricies of the human condition that so many of us either can’t grasp or want to forget.

When Will There Be Good News? is a taut novel but this is the first of her books I have found to be a little bit more messy in the wrapping up of the plot. Things happen, and to Joanna Hunter, Reggie Chase and Jackson Brodie, they seemingly happen for a reason. We root for them in ways we cannot think we would, and we excuse them of their flaws but it is in their flaws (Brodie’s and Hunter’s) that seemingly were a little too gapping to make believable. But in Atkinson’s own problems with the writing, it is also her greatest strengths. Atkinson’s books are not “skimming” books, you really do have to pay attention as she will throw out a word or a line of dialog that suddenly makes some prior related instances, much more sense. Once she throws that word or line out, it will not be repeated or revisited. Miss that key, and the book will not be as good as you think it could be.

I adore her plot twists and devices as it makes her books wholly full filling. I love the fact that everytime I finish one of her books, I can revsit it at another date and find something new that I missed the first time. I adore the fact that she asks questions that may not always have the easiest answers and her answers (and questions) are not presumptious or overworked. Pick up any of Atkinson’s works and you will not be disappointed — she’s not as well known in the States as she is in the U.K., but while this is not her strongest book, this will hopefully push her over the edge.

reviews: books: The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo

Girl with Dragon Tattoo [Cross-posted to GoodReads and LibraryThing.]

I work in a bookstore and this arrived as an ARC several days before the promotional material, and thusly the hype surrounding it, arrived. I had no idea upon grabbing it that it was to become of falls “hot new reads.” That’s my story and I’m sticking with it.

The back story is this: Stieg Larsson, political journalist and activist in Sweden, completed a trilogy (with The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo being the first), which were eventually sold to a publisher. Shortly before the publication of the book, Larsson died of a massive heart attack in 2004. Rumours of his death as not being natural have been swirling, which perhaps have lent greater mystique to the series. The books were published to great acclaim and became international bestsellers. The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo was released in the U.S. in September, 2008.

Mikael Blomkvist, a middle-aged journalist/activist, has been found guilty of libel for a piece he wrote against Hans-Erik Wennerström, a corrupt Swedish industrialist. Blomkvist, known for his insightfully and well researched pieces, leaves his old life defeated and broken. He is contacted by Henrik Vanger, an aging patriarch of a well-connected family to help him with one thing: Solve a 40 year old mystery of the possible murder and kidnapping of the patriarch’s beloved niece while working under the guise of researching the Vanger family history. In return, Vanger will hand over evidence to Blomkvist that will nail Wennerström to the wall for good.

What follows is a twisting, complex and at times horrifying, thriller that scourges to the bottom of human nature. As Blomkvist continues to dig into the history of the Vangers, and discovering what actually happened on that fateful day in 1964, the more of the family horrors began to surface.

There is a reason why the book was originally published in Sweden under the title, “Men Who Hate Women.” Larsson is graphic in his descriptions and at times, the brutality of what he describes is off-putting. One one level, are we really all that innocent or are we just oblivious to what happens around us? Are some family histories better left buried or will redemption come if they are unearthed? One would like to think that not all humans can be as bad as apparently some of the Vanger (and other minor characters laced neatly through the book) can be, but on the other, we hear and see about these horrors in our daily news consumption.

Larsson addresses many themes in his novel, good versus evil, love and redemption, self-sacrifice and luck versus chance and fate. Lisbeth Salander, the girl with the dragon tattoo, has been discussed as an unforgeable character and enlightened character who works with Blomkvist on researching the mystery. What has happened to her, in her life, is as equally shocking and despairing as what occurred within the Vanger family – but Salander is not a victim and she despises those who, in her mind,  are regardless of situation and circumstance. She is a woman whom on some level we all want to be and yet on another, repulse from.

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo will pull you in and and keep you hooked until the very last page. Some of the same reviews mentioned early stated that they found the ending incomplete and wholly unsatisfying. On one hand, I can see why that would think that, Larsson’s intention for a trilogy (hopefully the next two books will be available in the U.S.) leaves a lot of things unsettled and unfinished. But do not let that dissuade you from reading this novel, it will make you think, act, hope and hug your loved ones close to you.

Library smut

STIFTSBIBLIOTHEKST.GALLEN I found the Hot Library Smut page again recently and couldn’t resist posting an image and a link back to the source.

I’ve wanted this book for ages and now that I’m officially in MLIS school, the time seems right. Amazon.com has it on sale, currently, for 37% off and if I can hold out until “employee appreciation days” at $corporate_bookstore, I can get it for 40% off. Yes, I know, 3 whole percent but hey, when you are a starving graduate student, 3% is a a gallon of gas (roughly).

Henry Rollins, as part of his schitck, talks about leaving libraries and bookstores angrier then when he walks in. The reason? All that human knowledge accessible to him and he will never, ever be able to contain or grasp it all. He, as he is wont to do, flips off the store/library on his way out in a double barreled salute because of said frustration of not being able to obtain that knowledge. This is the reason why Hank is one of my future husbands and I kinda miss having his glare burn into me when I wake up in the morning.1

I’ve seen Hank perform his spoken word a number of times, the last time having grabbed an autographed poster of Hank, barefoot and in a tux (and of course, flipping off the world). The poster was framed and hung directly across from my bed so that literally the first thing I’d see in the morning would be Hank’s snarling face. While I’m in temporary digs, the artwork and such are in storage, hence why I miss Hank’s snarling face every time I wake up.