Sunday, February 16, 2014

'The Sisters Brothers'

In a reader's Book World, it's a delight to have two good books on the nightstand. But when a reader has three or four, it's more than a delight; it's a Book Hog paradise.

What's very nice is if one of the books is The One.  The One you've really really waited for; The One that is most probably the next in a beloved series. The One you've set your sights on.  You stupidly think that the other books won't be as wonderful.

But this time, Book World slapped me in the face.  The book I'd been waiting for for years turned out to be...meh.  Not what I expected.  The other two?

Couldn't put them down.

One was 'Above' (I reviewed it just yesterday).

The other was 'The Sisters Brothers'.  I can now see why this strange, wonderful western was shortlisted for the Man Booker prize.

It was interesting trying to juggle my reading time between the two, although both of them accompanied me to my favorite reading place, the bath tub.  

'The Sisters Brothers', by Patrick deWitt, tells the tale of Eli and Charlie Sisters, hired killers employed by a mysterious, powerful man known only as Commodore. Charlie and Eli are sent out in pursuit of Hermann Kermit Warm, a man who has something that the Commodore wants. During their journey from Oregon City to Warm's gold claim outside of Sacramento, the brothers run into situations that test their nerves. And the characters they meet are an assortment of ne'er-do-wells, prostitutes, liars, and scoundrels. It is during this journey that the quiet, thoughtful Eli begins to question why he chose that particular role in life...and who is he really working for?

I dip my toe in many genres, and I've always appreciated and respected western novels. Robert Parker left us with many fine westerns, and Zane Grey is tops on my list, as is Charles Portis. And although 'The Sisters Brothers' is set during the 1850's, it left a contemporary taste in my mouth. The narrator, Eli, has musings that are timeless; Why am I here?  Why do I do what I do?  How can I change it?

Eli, unlike Charlie, falls in love easily, and has a charitable heart, which is rather ironic for a man who kills people for a living.  And Charlie...oh, Charlie. A boozer, brilliant with his gun, living day-to-day, and not questioning what his future holds. Both brothers are so very close, yet so far away.  

deWitt's characters are beautifully realized, and I cannot for the life of me ever forget them. The whole novel is a comic tour de force, and brought to mind the work of Mark Twain, one of my favorite authors.  

But most importantly, it doesn't matter if you don't enjoy reading western novels. 'The Sisters Brothers' has something for everyone.

Give it a chance...and prepare to laugh your butt off.

'The Sisters Brothers' is available at your favorite bookstore and local library.

Saturday, February 15, 2014


Claustrophobia is a funny thing.  One moment, I can be happily soaking in the tub, and the next, I begin thinking about death...and coffins...and being buried...while I'm still alive.  Then, I start thinking about being in prison, where there is no freedom, where I cannot go where I please. I even think about being locked (usually by accident) in a room and not being able to get out.

Yeah, it's a funny thing.  But when I start to think about other things (like taking deep breaths, or picking up a book), the feeling goes away and I'm once more able to go on with my life.  Claustrophobia can appear unbidden, even when one is standing in an open field.

So, it's rather hard to for me to read stories about people locked away against their will.  It's bad enough that I learn about real-life incidents from the news.  But the captive has escaped (which makes me joyful) and I know that person will write a book about her experiences...but I really don't want to read it.  

As I said, claustrophobia is a funny thing.  

'Gerald's Game' by Stephen King was a hard story for me to read.  Imagine participating in a sex game with your partner; you're handcuffed to the headboard...and your partner suddenly dies.  And there you are.  No water, no food, no telephone.  I read the book one time, and I'll never read it again.

Then came 'Room' by the always brilliant Emma Donoghue.  A woman captured and held against her will. She has a child, and the story is told through his eyes.  Such innocence did not comfort me.  

Placing the reader inside the skin of the major protagonist is the mark of a talented storyteller; you feel the pain, the joy. You take each step with them, no matter how hard it is for you the breathe.

And the newest hard-to-breathe book is 'Above' by Isla Morley, whose previous novel, 'Come Sunday', left a huge impression on me.  Morley is a stunning talent, and her well-drawn characters will leave their marks upon you (I. See. A. Movie.).  I was so mesmerized that I couldn't put down the book.

'Above' is the story of Blythe Hallowell, a teenager living in Kansas, who is abducted and forced to live in a silo.  Her abductor tells her that the world is coming to an end, and he wants to protect her.  Left without her family (and always hoping that they will find her), she learns to adapt to her sterile surroundings, but retains her dreams of standing in the sun and clean air, and appreciating everything she once took for granted.  Her captor is a madman, and someone who lived in her town.  Someone who lurked in the corner of her life.  She tries to escape numerous times, but her captor is always a step ahead of her.  The years pass, but she still retains her resistance despite the crushing loneliness.  But when a child comes into her life, she is determined to do anything to give him the life above that he deserves.

I could go on, but I hate providing spoilers.  Let's just say that I was surprised, to say the least.  Like 'The Lovely Bones', this one will promote serious discussions among reading group members.

We'll let it go at that.  Read 'Above'...

...and be sure to breathe.

'Above', the brilliant new novel from Isla Morley, will be published in March 2014 by Gallery Books, a division of Simon & Schuster.  You will be able to find it at independent bookstores and your local  library.    

Wednesday, February 5, 2014


If you haven't explored the Young Adult genre yet, I suggest you do it.  When I go to the library, I generally check out the YA section before I wander over to Fiction. There are some incredible YA books being published right now, and one series in particular has kept me awake as I read far into the night.  

I love the dystopian settings in many adult S/F-Fantasy books, and it seems to be the setting of choice for many new YA novels.  'Hunger Games' is a prime example.  

But the main theme of 'female revolutionary' grabbed my attention.  It's about time that girls evolved into human beings capable of fighting alongside boys.  In fact, most of the girls portrayed in these books are total bad asses, which, to me, is a breath of fresh air.

Of course, there will always be a bit of romance in the stories.  And why not?  People are attracted to each other; it's nature.  And sure, the girls feel all tingly inside when they are kissed.  Who isn't?  But when that kiss is followed by a bad-ass fighting scene, I'm in reader's heaven.

That brings me to 'The Lunar Chronicles', a fantastic series written by the equally-fantastic Marissa Meyer.  By the way, Marissa, thanks for putting Book Hog on the cape! *wink* *wink*.

'Cinder', the first in the series, is about a young female cyborg mechanic who is ignored/used by her awful stepmother.  But Cinder has a secret, a secret that she discovers not far into the series.   The Lunar Queen Levana is hell bent on conquering Earth, and in order to do that, she becomes betrothed to Prince (soon to be Emperor) Kai of Earth.  It is a stimulating, beautifully-written story, which leads us to...

'Scarlet', the second in the series.  Scarlet lives on a farm in France with her grandmother, and...well, read my review from last year.

And now we have 'Cress', the third book.  A book I couldn't put down.  Cress is Meyer's Rapunzel, a young Lunar girl trapped not in a tower, but a satellite.  She monitors the comings-and-goings of Earth's military, discovering their secrets for her Queen.  But Cress is lonely and, left to herself, becomes a serious hacker.  When Queen Levana wants her to find Cinder and her accomplice, Captain Thorne, Cress uses her hacking talent to find and contact Cinder.  A revolution is in the making, and Cress, Wolf, Scarlet, Thorne, and Cinder lead the charge.

It's wonderful to be so excited about a series, be it adult or YA or Independent Reader.  And once you read 'Cinder', you'll be excited, too.  Book Hog bets this series will be just as popular as Suzanne Collins' 'Hunger Games' series. Marissa Meyer has a genuine gift of putting her readers right inside the action and stimulating so many emotions. The quality of her writing remains consistent throughout. 'The Lunar Chronicles' is a great take on the familiar fairy tales we all love...

...and now with kick-ass heroines.

'Cinder', the third book in 'The Lunar Chronicles' by Marissa Meyer, is now available at your library and local bookstore.