Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Eva Trout by Elizabeth Bowen

" Iseult Arble seemed destined to have Eva - destined, she sometimes wondered, never to lose her? Everything had indicated Iseult. She and her husband needed the Eva money, to make ends meet- could they, otherwise, have gone on very much longer?"

I began reading this novel with interest and the odd chuckle, but confess to being preoccupied with other things going on in my life. Upon completing the reading, I felt compelled to immediately re-read to make some kind of sense of it. An online search and a review of the introduction confirmed some of my worst suspicions - it would appear I had kind of missed the plot in many ways.

How did I not understand that Eva's father was gay and that Constantine was his lover? It really didn't jump out of the page to me. I did sense there were complications in the relationship with Constantine but that was not what I took from it. In fact, I thought Constantine and Iseult were having, if not an affair, then a serious flirtation.

Then we come to the baby. I was left wondering who the father was, since Eva seemed somewhat disinterested in the pursuit of physical pleasures - other than admiring her female room-mate at school. Wikipedia saved the day and explained Jeremy was purchased from a child smuggling ring in America - clearly I had been skimming again. I blame the dense blocks of text that flitter about just like Eva's personality.

Was Eric in love with Eva, were Iseult's suspicions based on some kind of physical intimacy - I grew more and more confused. Nay, I was downright 'confuddled'.

There were moments that drew a giggle and held my interest, and yet as a whole this book was really not for me. The shock ending was particularly dumbfounding  and not dissimilar to a soapie cliffhanger at the end of a series, prompting a "they did what?" moment.

I feel I need to revisit to gather any further thoughts, as such its a  3 out of 5 castles make good honeymoon destinations.

Thursday, 25 April 2013

The Lover by Marguerite Duras

"You didn't have to attract desire. Either it was in the woman who aroused it or it didn't exist. Either it was there at first glance or else it had never been. It was instant knowledge of sexual relationship or it was nothing. That too I knew before I experienced it."

Where do I begin with this one? Equal parts beautiful and wretched, it has to be a must read! It depicts the tale of an unnamed fifteen year old protagonist  who escapes her traumatic home life through an affair with a much older man. This white, French girl in Saigon whose family is in dire financial straits finds short lived solace in the arms of a French educated Chinese man, causing significant upheaval due to their differences in age and race. As the girl is transported via black limousine from school to fancy restaurants and her lover's rooms, her dysfunctional family turn a blind eye while enjoying the largess provided by the Chinese lover.

The exploration of her familial relationships is fraught with torment and violence. The fragile mental state of the girl's mother, combined with the sadistic nature of her elder brother make for an untenable family situation which is difficult to read and yet expressed so succinctly it is almost poetic.

This edition was an amazing translation from the French. Having previously read Moderato Cantabile in French, what seems like eons ago for university, I'm surprised it has taken me this long to read this, her more famous ( and supposedly partially autobiographical) work.

The prose is a delight for all the senses. The most tragic, poignant scenes are rendered with an immediacy that is breathtaking. At a mere 117 pages, it is quite astonishing that so much feeling is housed within its compact confines.  5 out of 5 

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Red Planet Blues by Robert J. Sawyer


'My place was on Fifth Avenue, which was a great address in New York, but a lousy one in New Klondike, especially out near the rim; it was mostly home to people who had tried and failed at fossil hunting, hence its nickname "Sad Sacks Fifth Avenue".'

I had been counting the days until the latest Robert J. Sawyer novel landed in my mailbox and might have been guilty of an over jubilant fist pump on receiving this attractive hardcover beauty. My anticipation dates back to the author's online posts regarding a prospective title for this genre melding Martian detective tale and has only grown while awaiting its release.
My praise is about to get effusive, so settle in peoples. Two of my favourite cinematic genres are film noir and science-fiction, combine them in a novel and you can understand my enthusiasm. Referencing classic films like Casablanca,  the gumshoe protagonist gives out a world weary Humphrey Bogart feel and the human transfers are reminiscent of the neo-noir Blade Runner.  While Sawyer draws on these popular references, he also elevates them, transforming them into a compelling and original story with his token "unputdownable" touch. Yes, I am well aware that is not a word.
I really don't want to give much of the plot away, it is far more enjoyable to immerse yourself without preconceived notions of what might occur. Having said that there will be Martian fossils, nifty transportation, dangerous dames, sex, violence and a fascinating planet full of adventure that had me reading until 3am this morning. 5 out of 5 get me on a shuttle to Mars along with requisite hot new transfer body!

Tuesday, 23 April 2013

The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers


"The two mutes had no other friends, and except when they worked they were alone together."

I usually consider myself a fairly decisive person. The kind that reads a book and can quickly determine its worth to me. This book presented a challenge in that regard. In fact, I changed my score three times. The writing is in of itself beautifully fashioned and it is hard to contemplate the author was a young woman of twenty three. One wonders however, how much of the author can be found in the character of Mike.
The deaf-mute protagonist, John Singer acts as a magnet for a diverse group of characters, each with their sad tale to tell. I found reading this book particularly hard going, every hint at a moment of joy is tempered by sadness and ultimately violence. Depression era novels seem really trying of late, oh yes, I get that they should be. It just seems that constant bad news on the television, lay offs, unemployment and other nasties, add a sense of immediacy that may not have been there in rosier times.
By far a more serious read than some of the other pulp fiction items that have traversed my bookshelf, this is, after all, an intriguing novel. It would be really interesting to hear other's thoughts on the text. The introduction in my edition certainly proffered an alternate slant on the reading that I hadn't previously noticed. Yes, this book has book club written all over it.
5 out of 5 mutes that go out with a bang. 

Sunday, 21 April 2013

Blue Moon by Laurell K Hamilton

“Standing there, caught between Richard's power, the wereleopards' needs, and that awful touch of Raina, like some foul perfume, I prayed: Dear God, don't let me fail them.”

Okay, I’ll admit it, occasionally I can be a little weak willed. I gave into the temptation of another peak into the world of Anita Blake, I was having a bad day, feeling a cold coming on and paranormal romance can be as restorative as chicken soup.

The werewolves and wereleopards really take centre stage in this adventure, as Anita heads to another state to save Richard who has been imprisoned on rape charges. Peace loving, school science teacher Richard has obviously been framed and Anita manages to tear herself away from her hunky vampire amour to come to his aid.
Dark magic is afoot and combined with police corruption, the welcome Anita receives is far from friendly. Perhaps a more fitting title might have been ‘embrace your beast’? Prepare for some bloodletting, getting extra close and personal and new developments on the triumvirate front.
5 out of 5 fang-tastic for a cold day's reading.

Thursday, 18 April 2013

Burnt Offerings by Laurell K Hamilton

“The fact that the punishment worried me more than the crime said something about my moral state.”


The chaste and frustrated Anita Blake at the core of the first 6 books is well and truly put to bed in volume seven of the series. The sex and violence aspects are amped up to the max with a possible pyromaniac and the vampire council causing havoc for the perpetually armed necromancer.

There are the requisite make out sessions with her hunky vampire boyfriend, tedious awkwardness with her ex-boyfriend – the werewolf and a lot of getting up close and personal with various paranormals as part of the ‘healing’ process. Did I mention the repugnant vampiress who likes to rot all over her victims – don’t read this one before a meal!

Killing off the leader of there wereleopard pack has provided additional complications for Anita. Is there ever such a thing as a boring, run-of-the-mill day at work for this eye of the storm?

I'm almost embarrassed to be sharing my love of paranormal romance with the world - perhaps its a sad indictment of the lack of magic happening in my life at the moment? In any case, I think its time I moved on to something different. 4 out of 5 more of the same kinky creatures and body count - throw another vamp on the barbie.

Monday, 15 April 2013

When Maidens Mourn by C S Harris

"Sebastien's first inclination was to dismiss the man's tale of ghosts, robber barons, and buried treasure as just so much nonsense."

Sadly, I accidentally deleted my first attempt at this review, so my memory might have grown a little sketchier in the intervening days. A big shout out to the lovely Nicki for lending me this eagerly anticipated next instalment in the Sebastien St Cyr saga.
In this, the seventh book of the story, we rejoin Sebastien after his quickie marriage to Hero Jarvis. A murder with a distinctly Lady of Shallot theme is at the centre of this story with Hero personally involved - the victim is her friend.

The continuing mystery of St Cyr's parentage comes to the fore once more with his meeting with the man who so resembles his personage. It has been a long wait for this book (in paperback) but the wait was worth it. A delightful morsel to be quickly enjoyed in the anticipation of more of the same next year. 5 out of 5.

The Killing Dance by Laurell K Hamilton

Somewhere out there, by tomorrow, someone would have my name on a to-do list. Pick up dry cleaning, buy groceries, kill Anita Blake.”

The arrival of a weirdly decomposing vampire,  Sabin, sparks a new adventure for necromancer and vampire executioner, Anita Blake. Finally, hallelujah, Anita gives in to her baser urges and the sixth novel (yep it took six novels to get there) moves from the realms of Twilight style abstinence and longing, into something more in keeping with its adult audience.

The complicated love triangle is transformed into a triumvirate that unleashes greater powers than any of the three could have previously predicted. Anita faces some particularly challenging circumstances  including a horrific encounter with Gabrielle and the prospect of succumbing to a professional hit. A generous serve of sex, violence, drama and action peppers the pages of this easy to devour read. 5 out of 5.

Sunday, 14 April 2013

Swimming Home by Deborah Levy

"The swimming pool in the grounds of the tourist villa was more like a pond than the languid blue pools in holiday brochures."

Shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize last year, Swimming Home makes for an interesting read. An idyllic villa on the French Riviera is the scene for subterfuge, depression, adultery, and a powerful finale. The prose is beautifully executed. Outward perfection masks inner turmoil at every level. A rather quick read, this novel would make a great book club selection. In any case, it is certainly worth exploring.  Dive in, 5 out of 5.

Bloody Bones - Laurell K Hamilton

"I huddled against the side of the helicopter, one hand in a death grip on the strap that was bolted to the wall. I wanted to use both hands to hold on, as if by holding very tightly to the stupid strap it would save me when the helicopter plummeted to earth."

As you might have guessed by now, I've succumbed to a little bit of a Laurell K Hamilton-fest of late. There is something about Anita Blake's necromancy, complicated love life and supernatural adventures that is hard to resist.

It seems that my complaints about the supernatural love triangle were heard and things appear to be getting more interesting. In this volume we meet more varieties of supernatural folk including fairies - quite scary fairies.

Just typing that last sentence makes me sound about five years old. So as to escape the paranormal romance genre, I shall explore something more high brow for my next literary adventure. In any case, it was a fun read and  5 out of 5 vampire bites.

Gardens of the Moon - Steven Erikson

"Walk with me
on Thieve's Road
hear its song
how clear its
note in misstep
as it sings
you in two"

I really wanted to like this more. A good friend of mine let me borrow his copy  which was handy as I didn't feel it warranted space in my cramped completed books pile. Lately, I've escaped to quite a few different fantasy realms, swept up in a Game of Thrones frenzy. I expected this to illicit the same thrills and spills. Sadly an overdose of names and characters merely confused me.  2 out of 5 spells fatally flaccid fantasy.

Tuesday, 2 April 2013

The Lunatic Cafe - Laurell K Hamilton



Where to start with this one. A little disappointing in some ways. Why insist on a heroine saving herself for marriage when the story is a sexy supernatural saga? This makes no sense to me. I say give in to the dark side and actively pursue either Jean-Claude or Richard but just, please, ditch the love triangle. SO predictable, or perhaps I'm just overly decisive.
The action, however, does not disappoint. Whether wielding guns or knives or a grimace, Anita is her usual kick ass self. Jean Claude is his usual brooding hotness. I admit, he keeps me reading this series. So, I didn't hate it, I still rushed through the end to see the resolution to the case of the missing shifters. Perhaps it is the police procedural aspect that holds the reader's interest and overcomes some of the more predictable paranormal romance aspects? In any case, I'm still giving it  4 out of 5 silver bullets.