Klickitat

Peter Rock wrote a book about teen rebellion and idealizing an older sibling while incorporating an underworld of teen runaways on the streets of Portland. Klickitat is the street that Ramona Quimby lives on in Beverly Cleary’s world. Its also close to where the sisters Audra and Vivian live and a secret code between them.

Audra is a rebellious teenage runaway that sneaks back home to get her younger sister. They live with a strange man who supposedly has lots of experience living off the grid, but so far they’re petty thieves living under someones home.

The writing is almost lyrical with beautiful sentences and phrases. This help paint a magical setting for the sisters relationship, which is strained by mental disorders and jealousy.

This was a gripping story with unexpected twists.

Read August 2016.

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One Kick

Chelsea Cain’s newest character is not for the faint of heart. She introduces us to Kick Lannigan in One Kick and it is a memorable meeting.

Kick has not had a normal life. She was kidnapped at a young age to be transformed into a child porn starring in her own series of films where she is known by her alter ego Beth. It took a lot of isolation and torture to transform a regular 6 year old into a pedophile’s dream. Now 21, Kick is still dealing with issues from her abuse and dedicates herself to never being powerless again. She is strong and armed, no matter where she goes.

She is recruited by Bishop, who is looking into the recent disappearance of 2 children. Bishop, who has his own messed up childhood, is focused on finding the missing children in a separate investigation from the FBI. He has resources and methods that far exceed the government’s ability and he wants Kick’s memories and instincts to help located the children.

Cain writes of brutalities against children and this might turn off many readers. This is not an easy book to read, especially since so many details of her fiction are reality for some children. It breaks my heart to think that there are children in the world who have experienced Kick’s childhood and many who are never returned home. By having Kick as the main character, Cain explores the psychological response that a child might have to regular life. All the while engaging Kick in an investigation that threatens her life but might help save a child like her.

This is a hard, but great read. Cain is a great horror writer.

Read October 2014

Kill You Twice

Chelsea Cain’s Kill You Twice follows the female serial killer Gretchen Lowell and her bizarre relationship with Archie Sheridan, the detective heading the task force that previously captured her. Cain really plays with the serial killer archetype by making her a beautiful, glamorous woman who is always several steps ahead of the police.

This is the 5th novel in this series and I haven’t read them all so I won’t do a comparison. In “Kill You Twice” Cain does a fantastic job of creating a sense of unease in the reader. Having followed Sheridan around and witnessing how his distrust manifests itself, I found myself being suspicious of all characters in the novel. It is a world where the truth is missing and killers lurk around every corner. The pace dipped in the middle of the novel, but picked up nicely and then and I couldn’t do anything until I finished it.

Even with Gretchen locked up in the Oregon State Hospital, when a serial killer starts a spree in Portland, Susan Ward a local journalist meets with Gretchen who gives her information on her first kill. While trying to dig up the story, Susan and Sheridan uncover unknown connections in Gretchen’s mysterious past.

There are some gruesome scenes in this novel, but it is about a serial killer so its to be expected. It may be sexist, but the scenes were more shocking for me because they were committed by a woman. Cain likes to play with our expectations of who is good and how external appearances can affect perceptions. When Gretchen is drugged and restrained in the hospital, Sheridan has to fight his perceptions that she is less dangerous now that she looks so helpless. He doesn’t let his guard down and Cain never allows the reader to either.

I love that Cain captures the feel of Portland and includes local history or news stories as part of the backdrop which is a fun bonus to reading a Portland writer.

Read March 2013

Glaciers

Glaciers is a very short novel or a long free-verse poem about a young woman Isabel who has lived in Alaska and now Portland, OR. She works at the Central library with damaged old books. This work has the feel of stream of consciousness as she jumps from one story to another and the entire novel doesn’t have a cohesive thread or much of an ending, more like a brief look into someone else’s mind. But maybe that is the intent.

The stories are beautifully told and the author whisks the reader through a brief love interest, childhood dreams, and old postcards. It flows from beginning to end without me wanting more that what it gave.

Living in Portland, I particularly liked her use of the city as part of the story and her rummaging through the old parts of town to secure a beautiful vintage dress or eating veggie Chinese food. Portland seems like a good city to choose since its filled with a generation that seems to try to hold onto the past while creating their own future.

Read December 2012