Monday, March 20, 2017

A MAN CALLED OVE by Fredrik Backman

Fredrik Backman

            In A Man Called Ove, by Swedish author Fredrik Backman, there is this man, and he is called Ove.

            When we first meet Ove, we see a grouchy old geezer. But at 59, Ove is not really old – perhaps he is old in spirit, rather than old in age. Nonetheless, he is a fixture of sorts in his neighborhood. We see that Ove is rather rigid. There is a way things should be – a way things should be done – and, according to Ove, young ‘uns these days aren’t taught this. Ove cannot understand this generation that has not been taught these basics in self-sufficiency – but does that really make Ove rigid? Ove’s neighbors push themselves into his world – a cat insinuates himself into Ove’s life– and then Ove’s orderly world seems shot to hell.

            Backman has created a thoughtful examination of stereotype versus reality. As we learn more about Ove, peel away layers, so to speak, we learn that people are not always what they appear to be. There are underlying complexities which, once understood, demonstrate how misleading stereotypes and first impressions can be. We have all known an Ove – but how many of us have ever gotten to know our Ove?

            A Man Called Ove is well written, engaging, entertaining, sad, yet a poignant study about our contemporary world. The book has been made into an Oscar nominated movie – I recommend that you read the book before seeing the movie.


Friday, March 10, 2017


Paul Kalanithi

            Paul Kalanithi was a bright young doctor with a promising future. He had completed graduate work in English and in the History and Philosophy of Science. He was just finishing his residency in Neurosurgery when he was dealt a serious blow – Kalanithi was diagnosed was cancer.

            The gifted young Neurosurgeon who had helped so many people in his role as their doctor now became a patient. The scholar who was concerned with questions about death now faced death. To say that receiving such a diagnosis is life altering is an understatement.

            To deal with the situation, Kalanithi wrote When Breath Becomes Air. The book gives us insight into the life of a doctor. We get a glimpse of life as a medical student, as a resident, and some of the difficulties and decisions young doctors face. Kalanithi takes us through his learning of his diagnosis, which is staggering to one who understands precisely what is being said – and not said – by that diagnosis. We see how Kalanithi applies his years of practical and theoretical learning. We are privy to the decisions that he and his wife make, such as having a child at such a difficult time.

            When Breath Becomes Air was published posthumously. The book is well written, its author was very brave, and the overall reading experience was very, very sad.


Wednesday, March 1, 2017

CAREER OF EVIL by Robert Galbraith

Robert Galbraith

            Cormoran Strike and Robin Ellacott are back in Robert Galbraith’s third Cormoran Strike mystery, Career of Evil. As I thoroughly enjoyed Galbraith’s first two classic who-done-its, The Cuckoo’s Calling (see review, January 27, 2017) and The Silkworm (see review, February 12, 2017), I was very excited to reunite with Cormoran and Robin in Career of Evil.

            I think of Career of Evil as the “Blue Oyster Cult” mystery, as the chapter epigraphs are drawn from the rock group. The book, like the group, runs to the dark. And, I think that Career of Evil is the darkest Galbraith novel yet.

            In Career of Evil, there is a serial killer and severed body parts. After Robin receives a severed leg, it becomes clear that she is in the killer’s crosshairs. Can Cormoran find the killer before the killer can reach Robin?

            The plot is engaging, convoluted, and very scary. As I have stated before, however, it is Galbraith’s masterful character development that wows me every time, and Career of Evil does not disappoint. In addition to further fleshing out the main characters, Cormoran and Robin, Galbraith shows us more of their backstories. In addition, Career of Evil shows the development in Cormoran’s and Robin’s relationship, both professionally and personally.

            At the end of the book, J.K. Rowling included a note along the lines that this was the book she enjoyed writing the most and that Robert Galbraith is her “private playground”. This feeling comes through in Career of Evil. Although the Cormoran Strike series is a high quality classic who-done-it in and of itself, there is a sense in Career of Evil of the fun and freedom that I envision Rowling experiencing.

            Cormoran Strike is growing and developing at an incredible pace – and so is my love of Galbraith’s series. I cannot wait for the next installment!


Monday, February 27, 2017

FEVERSONG by Karen Marie Moning

Karen Marie Moning

            Feversong, the long awaited Fever finale, is here!

            At then end of Feverborn (see review February 1, 2017), all seems lost. Mac and the Sinsar Dubh and the black holes – the end is nigh. But then….

Feversong, the final installment in the series, is a fitting end to a complicated and convoluted plot. I was surprised to find how many loose ends remained to be tied up; and, most of these are resolved in this finale. There are parts of the Fever world about which I would like to have learned more – for example, the origin of the Nine – but while reading Feversong, I came to appreciate the enormity of the job Moning had in finalizing plot lines. In the end, she achieved an adequate balance between resolving the unresolved and leaving open the possibilities. The writing and twists and turns of the plot are reminiscent of the earlier books in the Fever series, the first five that hooked me into this world. Feversong is complex and moves at a very fast pace. I often felt confused, as if I have missed something (at least one “something”). But, I have been left with a great deal to mull over, and I am sure that there will be at least one reread for me.

Karen Marie Moning’s finale to her Fever series is fitting and masterful.

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED – provided you have read the prior books. I do not recommend that you jump into the series with this book.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

BOAR ISLAND by Nevada Barr

Nevada Barr

            Boar Island is Nevada Barr’s latest Anna Pigeon novel. Anna, a park ranger, is temporarily assigned to Acadia National Park as Acting Chief Ranger. And, we are once again reunited with Heath, Elizabeth, Gwen, and Wiley.

            Elizabeth is being cyber-bullied, at her home in Boulder. So, while Anna goes to Acadia, the others go to nearby Boar Island, owned by a friend of Gwen. Naturally, during Anna’s tenure at Acadia, there is murder in Maine. We meet a ranger at Acadia, Denise Castle. And, the threat to Elizabeth has followed them east.

            The writing in Boar Island is better than the last few of Barr’s Anna Pigeon books. Although I like Heath and the others with whom we are reunited, I feel like their reappearance is overdone. While reading the book, I sometimes felt like it was more about Heath and Denise than about Anna. Furthermore, I miss Paul – there was only a brief mention or two about him.

Each of Barr’s books is set in a different National Park, and the reader usually learns a great deal about that park. But Boar Island left me wishing that Barr had included more detail about the featured park, Acadia. And, I would have preferred that the book focus more on Anna, front and center.

            But, Anna Pigeon is one of my all time favorite characters. I have been a long time fan of this series. Although I have found some of the more recent installments to be somewhat wanting, Boar Island is reminiscent of the Barr of old. I cannot wait for the next Anna Pigeon adventure.