Friday, May 22, 2009


I've completed another audio book, Bittersweet, by Nevada Barr. Followers of this blog will know that I have a fairly long commute to work each day and I like to listen to audio books (at least as long as my son isn't in the car...he prefers his iPod music). I pick out my audio books from the library, usually on a whim. Often I pick based on the quality of the case. That's not to say I am judging the "book" by its cover but rather I have borrowed several older recordings only to suffer through lots of scratches and skipping on the CDs so I would rather take my chances on the newer aquisitions.

I selected this novel because of the author, Nevada Barr. I have never read any of her work but have heard great things about her mystery series involving a park ranger. Supposedly, they are a "different" sort of mystery. Since this was a stand-alone book I thought I'd give it a try. Overall I can say Ms Barr impresses me as a writer. This is basically a western novel but definitely a "different" sort of western.

Ms Barr's word choice is superb. Her descriptions of the locale, the scenery, the very sounds and smells of each scene put the reader right there. Her characters are well rounded and react to their situations as real people would. They change and grow and evolve throughout the book and the reader grows with them. The emotions they go through are so real that we feel it too. Almost too real. The novel itself is bleak as can be and the overall experience was one emotional catastrophe after another. It centers around Imogene, a lady school teacher in rural 1800's Pennsylvania and Sarah, one of her female students. Through a series of circumstances they are forced to move to Reno Nevada and then once again to the middle of nowhere in Nevada where they manage a stagecoach stop. Sarah grows from a weak-kneed wishy-washy girl to a strong willed matron of the West. Along the way is one personal tragedy after another leading to what could be a rather depressing reading experience. If you don't like to read depressing novels then this may not be for you. However, Ms Barr's story-telling ability makes this more of a poignant work than just a novel of tragedy. The main characters overcome (or succomb to, depending on your point of view) rape, spousal abuse, being outcast from their homes, the death of an adopted child, the stigma of lesbian love, and of course the trials and tribulations of being women in the West during that era. But through it all is the experience of being there. It is a story of true love and the willingness to live outside accepted practices...and all of the consequences that are thereby inherent.

I'll be happy to try out her mystery series now and will expect a "different" sort of mystery than the formula series we see so often.'s off to the library once again!

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Top 10 Books in no particular order (Well Known Authors)

  • "The Stand" by Stephen King
  • "Kane and Able" by Jeffrey Archer
  • "The Killer Angels" by Michael Shaara
  • "The Dark Elf Trilogy" by RA Salvatore
  • "Name of the Wind" by Patrick Rothfuss
  • "River God" by Wilbur Smith
  • "Mortalis" by RA Salvatore
  • "Ender's Game" by Orson Scott Card
  • "Centennial" by James A Michener
  • "The Repairman Jack" series by F. Paul Wilson

Top Books/ Series in no particular order (Lesser Known Authors)

  • "The Sculpter" by Gregory Funaro
  • "Power Down" by Ben Coes
  • "Revolution at Sea Saga" by James L. Nelson
  • "Black Rain" by Graham Brown
  • "Top Producer" by Norb Vonnegut
  • "Prairie" by Anna Lee Waldo
  • "The Wild Blue" by W. Boyne & S Thompson
  • "Unsolicited" series by Julie Kaewert
  • "Freedom" by William Safire