The Sisters Brothers

I see Patrick deWitt’s brilliant book as ‘Pulp Fiction’ meet Annie Proulx!  It has cowboys, Indians, gold, prospectors (I’ve never read or seen a movie with prospectors so I kept visualising Stinky Pete in my head!) and murders and dodgy deals aplenty.  The story is set in 1851 and tells the story of Charlie and Eli Sisters, two notorious hit-men working for a man known only as the Commodore.

Their story is told through the younger brother, Eli’s eyes.  Eli is by far the better narrator as he isn’t as bent on destruction and killing as his brother.  Through Eli’s eyes, we see how the life they live is impacting on all those around them and we feel and hear Eli’s regrets and yearning for a better, simpler life.  The two brothers are alike in so many way but also poles apart, and like all siblings, they bicker with each other.  These petty arguments add some light, comic relief to what is otherwise a grim, dark story.

Charlie poured me a drink, when normally we pour own own, so I was prepared for bad news when he said it: ‘I’m to be lead man on this one, Eli.’

‘Who says so?’

‘Commodore says so.’

I drank my brandy. ‘What’s it mean?’

‘It means I am in charge.’

‘What’s it mean about money?’

‘More for me.’

‘My money, I mean. Same as before?’

‘It’s less for you.’

‘I don’t see the sense in it.  It doesn’t make sense.’

‘Well, it does.’

He poured me another drink and I drank it.

‘It’s bad business…  and stop pouring for me like I’m an invalid.’  I took the bottle away and asked about the specifics of the job.”

I loved this book and really felt like I’d stepped back in time.  Their way of life was exhausting and I’m surprised anyone survived this cruel,’ wild west’ era.  Eli Sisters is a great character as are his brother and the other characters we meet in the book, including the elusive prospector, Herman Kermit Warm, who is their current ‘job.’  If you haven’t yet met the Sisters brothers, I urge you to do so pretty pronto!  You won’t be disappointed…

Prospector Pete!

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‘So Much Pretty,’ so much violence.

This is a creepy, sinister and dark read… and I loved it. I have to admit that it took me awhile to get into it but once I was there, I couldn’t read it fast enough. The last time that happened to me with a book was when I read ‘The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.’  I almost threw TGWTDT away after the first few chapters but I persevered and so glad I did as it is one of my all-time favourite books. Funnily enough, on the cover of ‘So Much Pretty,’ Booklist compares it to a ‘mixture of ‘The Lovely Bones’ and ‘The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.’

The story of ‘So Much Pretty’ is about Wendy, a nineteen year-old waitress living a small-town life in Haeden, New York.  The story is about so much more than Wendy though.  Her story is the catalyst for what else happens in the book, which is told though the eyes of a few different characters, all of whom are fascinating.  My favourite is Alice.  She was at school the same time as Wendy but now Wendy’s tortured and violated body has been found, 6 months after her disappearance.  No one in the town is talking but someone sure knows something.  We only get to really hear Wendy’s voice once in the book and it is the chilliest, darkest chapter I have read in a book for a long time.

I don’t want to write more about Alice as she is essential to the whole book and I would hate to give something away inadvertently.  On a side note though, I don’t think I’ve mentioned on ‘Reading in the Bath’ so far that when I read a book, I always look forward to deciphering or finding out in the book how it got its’ title.  Some are obvious but others are more subtle.  This one was hidden in one of the many little conversations that happen in the book, which make you feel just a little shiver creeping along just underneath the skin:

“A man can only take so much pretty walking back and forth in front of him.”  He said pretty like he meant something else.

Sister

I loved this book. It is a very clever, well-planned book with a fantastic twist at the end. It had me screaming at the main character in parts as I seemed to value her life more than she did! When the twist happened, it forced me to rethink quite a few elements of the book. When I woke up three days after I’d finished the book thinking about a particluar scene and realising that maybe it wasn’t what I’d first thought it was, then I knew I’d found a great book and author.

The story is told by one main character,Beatrice, following the disappearance of her sister, Tess.  Everyone believes that Tess killed herself but Beatrice says no one knew her sister like she did and she goes all out to prove that it was a case of murder, not suicide and is determined to track down the killer herself.  The story is told exclusively through Beatrice’s eyes as she hosts monologues in her head to Tess, and as she shares the conversations she has with their mother, the police and Tess’ work colleagues.  It is a great read and thriller, and I urge you to read it too and see what you make of the ending.

 

The Poison Tree


I stayed up til 3am today to finish this book. Not so much because it gripped me so much that I had to stay up to finish it, but more that it seemed to have been lying around the house for days and it seemed to be taking me too long to read it. In my defence, I have a sore shoulder at the moment and holding a heavy book like this one is pretty hard going and I wanted to get it done so I could revert to reading on Charlotte (my Kindle) until after my shoulder surgery next week. Charlotte being a much easier ‘book’ to hold! Anyway, I digress…

‘The Poison Tree’ tells the story of studious, clever (but dull) Karen who meets Biba, a free spirit (and a rich one at that!) and becomes completely enamoured and besotted by her, her brother and her lifestyle.  Biba is not an especially nice person and is selfish, egocentric and believes the world revolves around her but you can understand why Karen holds her in such high regard and awe, as does her own brother, Rex.  The whole Biba-Karen-Rex thing is creepy and doesn’t sit too well with the reader but this is what makes the book so  good.  It has been described as an atmospheric, Gothic novel and I tend to agree.  The plot is fairly simple and the book doesn’t really go anywhere but the little things that happen – which are not so little really – have such a huge impact and there’s a pretty cool twist at the end!  Enjoyable but not in my Top 10 of 2011 reads so far.  If you read it, let me know what you think…

The Tenderness of Wolves

This book has been sat on my shelf for some time, ever since I picked it up at an Op Shop (‘Charity Shop’ for all your English followers) and liked the cover instantly. (I have to admit to being a judge a book by its’ pretty cover sometimes, which usually pans well but sometimes leaves me a’cropper.) I was pleased when Adele chose it for our Gloopers book club choice this month as it finally got to be taken off the shelf and read…

Unfortunately, two of the Gloopers gals had read this book before I got round to it and weren’t telling me favourable things about it, which sucks as it always puts me off reading a book when I hear negative things beforehand. They said it was hard to get into and takes 50 pages or more before the story gets interesting. Well, last Friday, I was at a second-hand kids’ market doing a stall, so I had nowhere to go and no distractions (apart from the odd customer,) so used this opportunity to get the first 100 pages under my belt and I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised and enjoyed what I read. Phew! Now, a week later, the book is finally done so here’s my synopsis and review (oh, and a picture of my market stall!)

‘Tenderness of Wolves’ is set in a remote, snow-covered, isolated part of Canada.  The small community the novel is set in seems uninviting and cold (and I don’t just mean in terms of the weather.)  The main story is told through Mrs Ross’ eyes, who in the opening chapter of the book finds the mutilated corpse of one of her neighbours.  She then adds together 2 + 2 to make something other than 4 and proceeds on somewhat of a wild goosechase though this harsh, unforgiving land in search of her son who she believes is involved in the murder somehow.  She takes with her a guide, and ‘their’ story then becomes entwined in the main story of the search of a murderer.  More characters then come into play – the people left behind in the village, Francis himself (the ‘missing’ son), a Native Indian family, and a small group of men (one bumbling, one thirsty for blood, none trustworthy) from a fur-trading company who have their own ideas as to how things need to be handled… and running along in the background is the story of 2 missing children from the past, who people believe were eaten by wolves as they were never found.

The book is very clever in that all these stories entwine effortlessly and the characters (and there are a few ‘main’ ones) are constantly juggled by the author.  Each story blends into the other effortlessly and I found myself engaged in the book pretty much from the start.  However, Mrs. Ross is quite annoying at times and I didn’t warm to many of the characters, which is perhaps the books’ greatest flaw.  The wilderness and harsh, unforgiving climate seeps through the book and is very visual.  We don’t really get to meet many wolves though and I question the book’s title.  There is a scene where a wolf comes face to face with one of the characters (incidentally, another annoying female character!) and he chooses not to kill her.  This is perhaps the only reference I found to any ‘tenderness’ on their part.  Maybe, like I mentioned in an earlier posting, the wolves the author speaks of are actually the characters themselves?

Sophie Hannah

 

Last month for Gloopers (my Book Group) we read Sophie Hannah’s ‘Room Swept White.’  This was the first time I’d ever read one of her books, although I’d seen them and probably touched them plenty of times!  Coincidentally, Sophie was being interviewed on The Book Show with Mariella Frostrup the week one of our BG members chose one of her titles as our next book.  She came across as being lovely and very ‘English’, and I was really loking forward to getting stuck into ‘A Room Swept White.’

The story is about cot death.  Well, not cot death itself but about the mothers who were accused of murdering their babies, and criminal injustice as Fliss Benson, a television producer, is about to produce a documentary about their cases.  There are lots of mini storylines going on and the story flits between Fliss and her work colleagues, the police and their (love) lives and there’s also the accused women and their families.

When I first read the blurb, I thought it sounded really intruguing and a storyline I’d not come across before.  However, I soon got bored of the book and found it quite tedious, the characters shallow and not particularly likeable.  I later learnt that this book is actually part of a series and that then made sense as to why I just wans’t ‘getting’ the relationships that were going on in the police station.  They all seemed a bit odd, very egocentrical and possessing the emotions of a gnat!  Fliss herself comes across as a silly, boss-infatuated girl that has no clue as to what she is doing.  She refuses to coooperate with the police and blatantly lies to them on occcassion.  The reasons why are explained later in the book but to me, they didn’t seem particulary valid.

A card, with four rows of four numbers on it is central to the plot.  Fliss receives one of these as does her boss and other characters.  Of course, none of these characters talk to each other so links are frustratingly not made.  I’m still not totally clear as to the meaning of all of these numbers but that may be due to my lascklustre approach to the book and not bad writing/editing.

I was looking forward to discussing this book at Gloopers, only to find that one member had given up after the first couple of chapters as it hadn’t gripped her, and none of the others who had read it particulary raved about it and none of us felt strongly enough to want to recommened it to a friend.  I actually felt quite bad for Sophie Hannah after we slated ‘A Room Swept White’ at our meeting, so I decided to read another of her books to see how I found that.  I chose her latest, ‘Lasting Damage.’

Straight away, I was very ‘into’ this one and liked the main characters this time.  There were some familiar faces but I didn’t find them quite as grating this time although I do have to say that Simon Waterhouse and his wife, Charlie, are just as annoying as previously encountered!  They talk in riddles and it drive me nuts as they have no emotion or passion.  The only police office I like in the series is Sam, and he can be fairly dopey and weird at times.

The story is about a woman who watches a virtual tour of a house for sale on a real estate website.  She sees a murdered woman lying in one of the rooms but when she calls her husband to see it, the body has disappeared without a trace.  How do you make the police – and indeed, members of your own family – believe you when there is no evidence whatsoever to be found.  I loved this premise.  As the book progresses, you get more and more confused by what is happening and I was at a total loss as to what was going on!  I was kept guessing right til the end.  There were all these little weird things happening between the main character, Connie, and her husband, Kit, and you never knew which one was telling the truth (if either of them.)  I love suspense novels like this one that really do get under your skin and you just have to keep dipping  into it as soon as your husband and kids’ backs are turned!

I am so glad that I didn’t give up on Sophie Hannah.  I now want to read all the ones I’ve missed previously to see if they’re as good as ‘Lasting Damage’ is.  Which ones do people recommend I try?

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