April 15th, 2011

  • cat63

Book 26 for 2011

Burning Brightly by Mercedes Lackey. 406 pages

In Lackey's earlier books set in the country of Valdemar, there are several references to a legendary figure called Lavan Firestorm. This books fleshes out the legend and tells his story more fully. The downside of that is that anyone who has read the other books already knows the end of the story - and probably only people already familiar with Valdemar would bother reading it anyway.

That aside, Lackey does a workmanlike job of filling out Lavan's story and tells an entertaining and engaging tale.

Ghost Country and Fever Dream

Ghost Country by Patrick Lee

B&N Synopsis

For decades, inexplicable technology has passed into our world through the top secret anomaly called the Breach.

The latest device can punch a hole into the future . . .

What Paige Campbell saw when she opened a door into seventy years from now scared the hell out of her. She and her Tangent colleagues brought their terrible discovery to the President—and were met with a hail of automatic gunfire after leaving the White House. Only Paige survived.

Fearing a terrifying personal destiny revealed to him from the other side of the Breach, Travis Chase abandoned Tangent . . . and Paige Campbell. Now he must rescue her—because Paige knows tomorrow’s world is desolate and dead, a ghost country scattered with the bones of billions. And Doomsday will dawn in just four short months . . . unless they can find the answers buried in the ruins to come.

But once they cross the nightmare border into Ghost Country, they might never find their way back . . .

This was a pretty quick read for me, but I really enjoyed it. I love all things associated with post-apocalyptic America, and after investing three years of my life in Fallout 3, anything that does PAA with Washington, D.C. has my complete attention.

The characters were believable, as was the plot, although I saw a few things before a few of the characters. That was its only sticking point. If I – a journalist with not a whole lot of tech skills and scientific can-do – can spot some obvious technological oversights, then you lose a few points.

All in all, if you’re looking for a fun read to pass the time on a rainy night, pick this one up. You won’t be disappointed.

Book 10/40

Fever Dream
by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child

B&N Synopsis

At the old family manse in Louisiana, Special Agent Pendergast is putting to rest long-ignored possessions reminiscent of his wife Helen's tragic death, only to make a stunning-and dreadful-discovery. Helen had been mauled by an unusually large and vicious lion while they were big game hunting in Africa. But now, Pendergast learns that her rifle-her only protection from the beast-had been deliberately loaded with blanks. Who could have wanted Helen dead...and why?

With Lieutenant Vincent D'Agosta's assistance, Pendergast embarks on a quest to uncover the mystery of his wife's murder. It is a journey that sends him deep into her past where he learns much that Helen herself had wished to keep hidden. Helen Pendergast had nursed a secret obsession with the famed naturalist-painter John James Audubon, in particular a long-lost painting of his known as the Black Frame.

As Pendergast probes more deeply into the riddle-the answer to which is revealed in a night of shocking violence, deep in the Louisiana bayou-he finds himself faced with an even greater question: who was the woman he married?

This was interesting, as it was set in New Orleans, which is something of a departure from the usual Pendergast novels. Having lived in Louisiana and visited the city a few times, I was better able to follow the book in my head. Many of the places they visited in the book are places I’ve also visited. It’s always nice when that happens.

We only really got three our regulars this time around – Laura, Vinnie and Pendergast. I’ll give Constance a half-day’s attendance, as she wasn’t in the majority of the book.

I liked the back story on Pendergast’s wife – Helen. It’s nice to see her finally fleshed out here. For the most part, the story was enjoyable. Not exactly what I’m used to in a Pendy novel, but still quite good. The only thing that was bothersome was toward the end at the house when Pendergast agonizingly drew out the thousand descriptions of sight, sound and smell to the “bad” guy. I literally told him to, “Get on with it already!”

But other than that, it was great. Wonderful story and the set up for the next novel was excellent!

Book 11/40


Book 35: A Vicious Circle by Amanda Craig

Book 35: A Vicious Circle .
Author: Amanda Craig, 1996.
Genre: Comedy-Drama. Social Satire.
Other Details: Hardback. 367 pages.

"If you want to say someone is a snobbish, humourless poof you should write that their book is "civilised, dry and graceful". Anything that is "lyrical" is rubbish, "off-beat" is unreadable and "original" means that the author is practically certifiable." - Veteran book reviewer, Ivo Sponge, to protégée, Mary Quinn - A Vicious Circle.

I decided to read this novel after seeing on Amanda Craig's website that her splendid Hearts and Minds was something of a sequel to this earlier work. Again there is an ensemble cast living in modern day London whose lives interweave with one another. The title reflects the way in which their fortunes rise and fall based on the moral choices they make.

Mary Quinn is a young Irish woman working as a waitress at London's Slouch Club, a favourite haunt for journalists. For a number of years she's been supporting boyfriend Mark Crawley, a freelance journalist. In the opening chapter another journalist, Ivo Sponge, arranges a confrontation between Mary and Mark in which Mark is forced to reveal that he is having an affair with Amelia, the rich, spoilt daughter of newspaper magnate Max de Monde. Also in the mix is Adam, Mary's gay best friend who is an aspiring novelist; Tom Viner, a junior doctor struggling to cope within the NHS; and Grace, a single mother living in a council high rise.

This was truly a comedy/drama with sections that were very witty and urbane and other sections that made fairly uncomfortable reading. It was written before the advent of 'Cool Britannia' yet the reflections on the effects of the recession and the decline of the NHS certainly still rings true. She also has lots of interesting things to say about journalism, writing and the incestuous world of professional book reviewing.

The novel itself was the subject of some controversy when Craig's ex-boyfriend decided that he was the inspiration for the book's villain and threatened litigation. This caused her publishers to cancel the novel's publication. Craig then submitted the manuscript to a libel lawyer who suggested a few changes. So the novel opens with a disclaimer stating that she made some "changes to several of the book's characters to dispel any question of there being similarities in this novel to living persons or real events". All the publicity meant that other publishers were keen to buy it and so she was paid twice for the same novel.

Amanda Craig is a great admirer of Charles Dickens in his role of social commenter and satirist and has sought to emulate him in capturing the richness and diversity of modern day London and its inhabitants. I certainly feel that she succeeds in this ambition creating though-provoking serious satires.