Thursday, July 14, 2011

Book Report: Texas Gothic by Rosemary Clement-Moore

Texas Gothic by Rosemary Clement-Moore
It has been a little while since I did a book report, and it looks like the last one may have been a ghost story as well. But these are nothing alike. AND, I suppose, because the book is NEW, this will be more of a review than other book reports I have done in the past.

So, What is it like?
There are a number of reviews out there on Texas Gothic, and a number of them... maybe /all/ talk about the hunky/hot/gorgeous cowboy, Ben, and the romantic tension between him and Amy.  Well, although I have a few "romantic" books like, and moreover, I like, in general, when a little romance is tangled in the overall story, but unlike what is implied in those reviews, the romance is so far sidelined, that it is tucked neatly away and does not intrude more than is should.  But more about that later - this is a ghost story.
The players:
Amaryllis Goodnight (Amy) - the "reluctant" hero
Delphinium Goodnight (Phin) - my personal fave, amusing sidekick, required techie nerd, and... well, you'll see.
Daisy Goodnight - 
Aunt Hyacinth Goodnight - albeit obliquely... by reputation... and phoned in from a cruise.
Uncle Burt, in his special way.
Ben McCulloch - the "hottie"
Old Man McCulloch
Deputy Kelly
Dr Douglas
And, of course,
Well, I do not want to give too much away, so I will stop there - but not without mentioning Taco and Gordita for good measure.

A bit about the mood of the book.  It was funny.  Not Terry Pratchett or Douglass Adams funny, but defiantly Janet Evanovich funny.  Actually, I see a number of similarities between Stephanie Plum and Amy Goodnight, but they may not be meaningful to discuss.  So, there is humor, and the previously mentioned romantic tension, supernatural mystery.

In contemporary Texas, the Goodnight womenfolk are witches - kitchen witches, that is.  These are not your flames-shooting-from-the-wand - turn-you-into-a-newt sort of witches mind you.  The Goodnights use Earth/Nature magic, generally speaking. If their aroma therapy body wash works like magic, it is because it /is/ magic. That and talking to the dead is common among them. They are not all farmers and ranchers as such, but the vacationing Aunt Hyacinth is leaving the Goodnight Herb Farm, smack dab in the middle of Texas ranchland and good and gone from civilization and cellphone coverage, in the hands of Amaryllis & Delphinium ... and adventure ensues.

While the Goodnights are witches, Amy fancies herself more compatible with "normal" society, struggling to find sanity on both sides while buffering each from the other.  Her older sister Phin is about as opposite as could be possible, which is why they need each other so much. Technical to the core, the paranormal is more normal to her than the mundane and she is the supernatural equivalent of the proverbial absentminded professor. (On a personal note, Phin reminds me of the way my dad is with wildlife, but pay that no mind.) 

Enter Ben, the antagonistic hero. Bringer of tension and frustration... and one of the tools used by our heroin to out-wit the evildoers. So, no, he is not an antagonist from a plot perspective, just a character trait because Amy and the Goodnights are just one of those things standing between him and a normal life, or so he thinks. (My way of saying that he is a little bit of a jerk, even though he is a good guy.)

When Amy gets abruptly and reluctantly sucked into a quest, of sorts, everyone surrounding her is involved, like it or not, in their own way and see it (the obstacle, plot-wise speaking) coloured with their own objectives, frame of mind and way of thinking. Phin sees a scientific opportunity, Dr Douglas sees a roadblock between her team and a great archaeological discovery, Mark sees a mystery brewing, Ben is faced with a near insurmountable obstacle keeping him from efficiently managing a ranch and Lila is looking for some affection in return for a job well done. Amy and Ben, primarily, just want to have their lives turned back up-side-right so they can go on living in a normal, reasonable fashion. See? That is why they get along so well - they have the same goals. Hehehe.

The hot cowboys... it is summer, in Texas, on a ranch. Everyone is hot, no matter what they look like, right? So, here is the deal with the "romance" between Amy and Ben. They each find the other in the way. Each are struggling with what promises to be a pleasing distraction from conflict at hand, but they are each chin deep in their own path that they cannot see that they are indeed working for the same solution.

I compared Amy to Stephanie Plum, and there are other strong, leading characters that fall under this similarity as well. When I look at each of the character's traits individually, it seems that there is no way that anything is going to get solved. Collectively, however, when the character is forced to step back and reassess things from a different angle and leverage their full, collective talent base in ways that make them grow overall - defeat the greater odds - this is what makes them greater than the sum of their skills. The Hero Gestalt. Moreover with Amy and Stephanie, they manage to leverage other people as well to fill in the talent gaps. They see the good and value in the people around them and do not try an tackle it all on their own, but not in a whiny-come-rescue-me sort of way.  Well, not all the time anyway.

I do not think that I am giving too much away when I say that the way the plot unfolds, I kept wondering up until the dramatic end, what role the supernatural was playing in this quest; which hands were being dealt by magic, ghosts, or ill-willed muggles.

Clement-Moore's writing style is amazing. I read my fair share of YA books as well as adult fiction and this is a pleasing bridge between - subjects, voice and characters I can relate to and connect with; told in a beautify, meaningful way where the text does not get in the way, but rather envelopes me and carries me through the journey as though I am a part of it, not just a passenger.

Texas Gothic is a must read of the decade.

Take Care

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