Reading, Writing & Other Addictions

Facing Reality Through Fiction

Book Review: A Man Called Ove, by Fredrik Backman

The great thing about working for a book store is that you get your eyes opened to books you otherwise would have passed by.  Every Thursday at 10am, part of the Marketing Department of Half Price Books meets with one of the New Book Buyers to talk about what titles we are going to promote though signage, email, and yes, the book club.  I was given the job of coming up with eight questions for every book club title we choose.  So, it’s also my job to read every book club title we choose.  Most of them I like, a few are meh, and a couple I desperately wish I could get back the hours I wasted reading them.  A Man Called Ove, our August/September book club title, by Fredrik Backman is the best book club title we have ever chosen. But if we hadn’t chosen it, I never would have read it, which would have been a shame, because I truly believe it’s the best book I’ve read this year.

A Man Called Ove is a Swedish novel about a fifty-nine-year-old man called Ove (bet you never would have guessed that) who is forced into early retirement, so he spends his time patrolling the neighborhood, putting bikes back into the bike shed, making sure people are recycling correctly and complaining about dogs who pee on his paving stones.  All his neighbors think of him as the “bitter neighbor from hell,” and he doesn’t think much of them either, coming up with descriptive names for them like “the Lanky One” and “the Weed” because he can’t be bothered to learn their real names.  Then an accident prone man, his pregnant wife and their two girls move in next to him (smashing his mailbox in the process), and through a series of humorous and somewhat touching events they force Ove to come out of his shell and engage with his neighbors.  As Ove’s life is invaded by this family, you learn about Ove, and how he became the cranky old coot everyone believes him to be.

Backman uses clever chapter titles to draw in his readers, and the bittersweet humor that runs through the book makes Ove an endearing character.  I don’t want to give too much of the story away, so I’m not going to tell you why he tries to buy an iPad or why he needs to put up a hook, or why one of my favorite characters is a cat. What I am going to tell you is you need to read this book.

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Book Review: Cruel Beauty, by Rosamund Hodge

If you, like me, enjoy retellings of classic fairy tales, especially if they are clever, like Merissa Meyer’s Lunar Chronicles series, then you will love Cruel Beauty, by Rosamund Hodge.  This book explores how no heart is pure, and there is a little bit of a beast in all of us.

Nyx has always been told that she must marry the Demon Lord who makes his home in the tower ruins.  Her father bargained her life away before she was even born in order to make his wife happy.  His wife had desperately wanted children, so he made a deal with the Demon Lord. If the Demon Lord would grant them children, then one of their daughters would be given back to the Demon Lord as his wife. So, Nyx was chosen to be his bride. She was also chosen to destroy him and save her country of Arcadia from the Demon Lord’s evil bargains and demon horde. Resentful of her fate, and jealous of her sister’s blessed life, Nyx meets her fate with anger and intelligence, acknowledging that her attitude and hatred toward those who failed to save her, failed to love her, make her a suitable bride for a monster.  But her attitude seems to amuse her husband, as does the attempts on his life, and slowly, this woman who has never been shown love but has always been treated like a sacrifice, discovers what it is like to be loved and have another sacrifice for her.

Still, her mission remains: she must destroy the Demon Lord and save Arcadia.  But how can she save Arcadia after she sees the evil in their selfish hearts as they so willingly make their bargains, knowing what they will have to pay for it?  And how can she destroy the Demon Lord after she sees how much he has done to try to save her people, after she sees how much he is willing to do to save her?

Throw in a house that changes every time you turn around, much like the staircases at Hogwarts, though much more dangerous, and a servant called Shade, who isn’t much more than a shadow (literally), and you have an intriguing book that was firing my imagination long after I finished it.  (I even woke up this morning and reread the ending, after having finished it at 2a.m.)

I would suggest this book to anyone who enjoys a good fairy tale, or even just a good story.

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Book Review: The Finisher, by David Baldacci

 

I know I’m coming late to the game on this one, but I just finished reading it last week, and I can’t get it out of my mind (and I’ve read two and a half books since I finished).

Last year, David Baldacci came to my Half Price Books store in Dallas, TX, and I had the privilege of working the event.  Now, for those of  you who don’t know who David Baldacci is: He is New York Times (NYT) Bestselling suspense novelist responsible for the John Puller series, the King and Maxwell series and the Camel Club series.  However, the book he was promoting at Half Price Books was a new Science Fiction Young Adult novel.  That’s right, ladies and gentlemen, The adult suspense novelist has penned a Young Adult SciFi novel, and it is amazing!  I was a little reluctant to read it at first.  I thought what does David Baldacci know about SciFi. After reading it, I can tell you, the man is not only a spectacular storyteller but also a closet geek!

The Finisher follows Vega Jane, a fourteen-year-old “female,” who is struggling  to make ends meet and take care of her little brother after her parents end up in the Care facility. Then, when she sees her friend and mentor Quentin Herms disappear into the Quag, a place no one should ever go, Vega starts to wonder if there could be a way through the Quag and a life for her outside of her village. As she begins to investigate why her friend would have disappeared in the Quag and why the Council is lying about Quentin’s disappearance,  strange, mystical, magical things start happening to Vega. As enemies and allies begin to emerge, Vega must fight for her life in both the magical world she has been thrust into and the physical world she has always known.  This book keeps you guessing until the last page, so that when you put the book down, you want to immediately pick up the next book, (which was released last fall) The Keeper.

I will admit the book threw me off a couple of times as I adjusted to the way his characters talked (e.g. sliver is a unit of time, like a minute), but the more I read the more I was sucked in, and I ended up comparing the book to Tolkien’s works and the television series Firefly in regards to its use of language.

My admiration for Mr.Baldaccci continues to grow with every one of his books I read. If you like SciFi, this is a book you need to read.  Also, if you get a chance to meet David Baldacci, you should.  He is nice to all his fans, and he tells the funniest stories.

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