July 15th, 2012

Reading - La Liseuse

Books #15-21

15. Charlaine Harris, A Bone To Pick, 262 pages, Mystery, Paperback, 1992 (Aurora Teagarden Mysteries, Book 2).

Aurora Teagarden has inherited a house, complete with a hidden human skull showing obvious signs of foul play, as well as a cat about to have kittens. The book is a little slow, focusing on Roe’s every day life – sometimes in too much detail. And the murder investigated involves a lot of angst from Ms. Teagarden, and is solved by the murderer making the next move. Overall, it is an enjoyable book for those who like Roe Teagarden as a character, but probably dull for everyone else.

16. Charlaine Harris & William Harms, Grave Sight: Book 1, Illustrated by Denis Medri, 64 pages, Graphic Novel, Paperback, 2011 (Grave Sight, Book 1) (re-read).

17. Charlaine Harris & William Harms, Grave Sight: Book 2, Illustrated by Denis Medri, 64 pages, Graphic Novel, Paperback, 2011 (Grave Sight, Book 2).

Part of the 4-issue adaptation of Harris’ Grave Sight into graphic novel format. Harper Connelly has been able to detect the dead, and see some of their final moments, ever since she was hit by lightning as a teenager. In helping a family find closure over the death of their boy, Harper discovers his girlfriend’s body. Turns out the girl’s sister, also recently dead, was murdered instead of accidentally drowned. And now the body count is starting to rise. The art is decent for the comic, and it is pretty faithful to the book.

18. Justin Cronin, The Passage, 766 pages, Horror, Hardback, 2010 (The Passage, Book 1).

An excellent horror/dystopian society/post-apocalyptic/science fiction novel, The Passage starts with the events that lead to the catastrophic events the lead to the end of the world as we know it. A scientist finds a virus that makes the victim into a variation of vampire. The army decides to test it out on 12 death row inmates, and 1 little girl named Amy. The unthinkable happens – the 12 get loose. In the process, Amy is rescued mid-transition and is different than the rest – she lives longer, ages slower, and can communicate telepathically, but she is not the killer the others are. As the novel progresses, fewer humans are left and form whatever societies they can muster. But when Amy comes back, what is left of humanity must set out on a quest and find a way the original 12 can be destroyed.

19. Queenie Chan & Dean Koontz, In Odd We Trust, Illustrated by Queenie Chan, 204 pages, Graphic Novel, Paperback, 2008 (Odd Thomas Graphic Novel, Book 1).

20. Fred Van Lente & Dean Koontz, Odd is On Our Side, Illustrated by Queenie Chan, 186 pages, Graphic Novel, Paperback, 2010 (Odd Thomas Graphic Novel, Book 2).

21. Fred Van Lente & Dean Koontz, House of Odd, Illustrated by Queenie Chan, 224 pages, Graphic Novel, Paperback, 2012 (Odd Thomas Graphic Novel, Book 3).

The graphic novels featuring Odd Thomas pre-date the novels; Odd and his girlfriend, Stormy, solve mysteries as only Odd can – he sees the spirits of the dead and tries to help them move on. The art is a bit manga, but it looks good. I really enjoyed this; Odd Thomas is one of my favorite literary characters, and it was great to read more of his adventures.


Charlie Schroeder, who makes a living covering sports for National Public Radio, discovers the world of military reenactments, and writes about it in Man of War: My Adventures in the World of Historical Reenactment.  He admits to drawing some inspiration for his efforts from Tony Horwitz's Confederates in the Attic, reviewed here.  What he learns about deficiencies in his own historical knowledge provide the material for a brief Book Review No. 25.  By the time he's done, he's found reenactors, some performing at public events such as medieval faires or encampments, others engaging in their hobby -- craft? -- out of public sight, on private grounds, sometimes with the use rights not as well established as the participants have been led to believe.  These people present -- subject to the limitations of the modern world -- conflict spanning the years from the Roman Empire in northern Europe to the Fall of Saigon.  The Vietnam era is too recent, though, to be as uncontroversial a public reenactment as Civil War reenactments have become.  The interests of reenactors of other eras also intrigue ... the most exotic possibly being the seventeenth century Polish Winged Hussars, whose warbonnets served to confuse horses acclimated to the idea of mounted humans, even humans wielding weapons, and whose lances were longer than those carried by other warriors of the day.  Mr Schroeder's education culminates when he works out that there was a Los Angeles before the Beach Boys and the freeway, and he plans his own re-enactment based on the peregrinations of the Spanish monks.

There's probably a Deep Implication in Man of War about deficiencies in the standard school curriculum.      Here the reader encounters people who didn't always do so well in school, and who often lack the author's establishmentarian credentials, yet who grasp deep currents of world history in ways the author had no prior awareness thereof.

(Cross-posted to Cold Spring Shops.)

#11 and #12

#11 Ngaio Marsh: Vintage Murder 4/5
Another nice old-fashioned detective story from Ngaio Marsh. This time, it actually happens in New Zealand.

#12 Deborah Challinor: Tamar 3/5
Tamar is a young woman, emigrating from Cornwall to New Zealand in the later half of the 19th century. All her family members are dead, so she is alone. And before she even gets on board the ship, she gets acquainted with a rather strange woman, who is obviously a madame from a brothel. This might sound like a horrible start to a traditional story of a poor naive girl being seduced and taken advantage of, but in fact nothing like that happens. Every seemingly predictable twist of the plot has a rather unexpected result, which made this book a nice read.

However, I did not find Tamar herself interesting. Rather, people around her. I also thought that there were too much details about protagonists' bodily functions. There is a lot of 'farting','pissing','belching'. I am not sure if it adds reality to the story. I found the frequency of these references a bit ridiculous.

It is, in fact, the first part of the trilogy, but I am not sure so far if I will continue with it.
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Book 93: Abandon Book 1 of the Abandon Trilogy by Meg Cabot

Book93: Abandon (Abandon Trilogy Book 1).
Author: Meg Cabot, 2011.
Genre: Paranormal Romance. Death. Mythic re-telling. Young Adult.
Other Details: Softback edition. 297 pages.

She knows what it's like to die .... Now Death wants her back. - cover tag lines.

When she was 15, Pierce Oliviera died in a drowning accident and found herself by the side of a dark lake where she met John Hayden, a tall, dark handsome young man whose job it was to oversee the newly corporally-challenged's crossing from one realm to the next. There is an instant attraction between them yet as Pierce is familiar with the myth of Persephone she has no intention becoming a permanent resident in John's gloomy palace. She manages to escape and wakes up surrounded by medics who have managed to revive her.

Now nearly two years later it is clear that she has been fundamentally changed by her near death experience. She has lost focus and retreated into herself. She often uses the metaphor of Snow White's glass coffin to describe this sense of withdrawal. After her parent's marriage fails and a number of incidents at school lead to her being expelled, her mother elects to leave Westport, Connecticut and return to her family's home in Isla Huesos, off the coast of South Florida. There Pierce is enrolled in a special programme for troubled teens at the local High School. She cannot tell anyone about John, who has made a couple of other dramatic appearances in her waking life. Then she meets him again in the island's cemetery and he is full of dire warnings about the danger she is in. These prove to be all too true.

I have long loved the myth of Persephone and Hades and learning that Meg Cabot had written the first in a planned trilogy with a modern take on this story I very much wanted to read it. I do feel that these kind of novels will either appeal to readers or turn them off completely depending upon how they feel about the narrator. From the opening chapter I loved Pierce's voice. Yes, she is a mess though I found it credible given her circumstances. I also felt she was quite self-aware and quite importantly was a kind-hearted young woman. I also could identify with her situation as I had moved to an island off the South Florida coast when a teenager and found myself somewhat of an outsider.

I am a great admirer of Meg Cabot's skill as a writer and also appreciated her use of passages from Dante's Inferno as chapter headings. Her exploration of the question of 'what happens after death' was also the theme in her Mediator series though Abandon is a darker story. I appreciated the narrative's grounding in myth, yet Cabot's willingness to explore new interpretations. It conveyed to me a sense of confidence in working with these archetypal stories. From her Author Notes it is clear that we both share a long fascination with death deities. I also had to wonder if Pierce's use of the phrase 'Don't Blink' in the opening chapter reveals Cabot as a fan of Doctor Who.

On a side note the UK edition cover art is exquisite. I can hardly wait for the next book, which is to be published in the UK in September, though the US edition is already out. Rather than buy an imported copy, I'm willing to wait a few months so I can have a matching cover.