October 24th, 2012

Reading - La Liseuse

Books #31 & 32

31. Nora Roberts writing as J.D. Robb, Rapture In Death, 294 pages, Mystery, Paperback, 1996 (In Death, Book 4).

Lieutenant Eve Dallas has her honeymoon cut short by a suspicious suicide on her new husband’s hotel in space. When she gets home, she starts working another suspicious suicide, then another – with a small burn inside the brains of the recently deceased mystifying everyone. This is a tight story of nature vs. nurture, pre-programming vs. self-made, the collision of music and emotion, and if mind control could ever become a good thing.

32. Nora Roberts writing as J.D. Robb, Ceremony In Death, 310 pages, Mystery, Paperback, 1997 (In Death, Book 5).

An internal investigation into a dead cop with illegals (drugs) in his system takes a strange turn into the dark and mystical when his granddaughter tells Lieutenant Eve Dallas about her recent past with a satanic cult and her current attempts to protect herself, both by aligning with Wicca and by informing her grandfather of what had been going on, and her belief this lead to his untimely death. I’m not fond of earth religions as a plot device since I don’t know enough to say where they are getting it wrong. But neither is our heroine (fond of religion of any sort, really), so after a while it became more an exploration of good, evil, family, vengeance, and the standard nature vs. nurture we’ve been doing since Eve started regaining her memories of her abused childhood. This is my least favorite of the series so far, but I’m very interested in reading more.
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Book 135: Angel Rock by Darren Williams

Book 135: Angel Rock.
Author: Darren Williams, 2002.
Genre: Period Fiction. 1960s Australia. Suspense. Crime Fiction.
Other Details: Paperback. 304 pages

In December 1969 two half-brothers become lost in the wild countryside around the small town of Angel Rock in the Australian outback. An extensive search reveals nothing. Then ten days later 13-year-old Tom, finds his way home though is in a disorientated state with no memory of what happened to 4-year-old Flynn. Darcy, a 16-year-old girl, goes missing from the town and is later found in Sydney an apparent suicide. Gibson, the detective assigned to the case, is a troubled man with a burning need to understand the meaning of this tragic death. He follows the trail back to Angel Rock where he finds that these events have stirred dark secrets within the town's residents.

I found this a well-crafted period mystery that made good use of its late 1960s setting in rural Australia. Its theme of the two boys going missing and one returning with no memory did have echoes for me of Joan Lindsay's 'Picnic at Hanging Rock' and this also heightened by the presence of dreams and spiritual elements, which were not overplayed within the narrative but felt very much a part of the essence of the landscape.

The novel was well received by our reading group generating discussion about various themes such as the role in such tales of a catalyst, in this case the presence of Sydney police detective Gibson, who as an outsider brings a unique perspective to the situation.
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Book 53 for 2012

Vampirates by Justin Somper. 298 pages.
Not quite as vacuous as the title makes it sound, but still a quick, undemanding read, with a reasonably decent plot. One of the characters takes a hugely long time to work out something which is blatantly obvious to the reader (but then they've been through some pretty traumatic events by this point, so perhaps I should cut them some slack on that) and the eponymous Vampirates don't seem to do much in the way of pirating, but those are minor niggles really.
The book seemed rather like a prelude or introduction to a much wider plot, and I shall probably read more in the series if opportunity presents.
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Books 27, 28 & 29 - 2011

Book 27: The Legend of Banzai Maguire by Susan Grant – 327 pages

Description from bookdepository.co.uk:
Waking up in the year 2176 as a captive of the Emperor Prince of Asia, USAF pilot Bree "Banzai" Maguire, after being rescued by Ty Armstrong, a sexy U.C.E. SEAL commander, must race against time to restore democracy to the world. Original.

I’d read nearly all of Susie’s books by the time I picked up this one, and I’m a big fan so I had a fair idea of what to expect (ie. Awesomeness). This book, unlike all of Susie’s other books (excluding ‘The Scarlet Empress’ which is in the same series) is written as a series alongside three other authors (Susie writes the bookends to the series, first and last). The idea is that in 2176, Banzai Maguire wakes up after having spent 170 years in stasis, a position she comes to not by choice. Not only are all her family dead, but the world is a very, very different place. A clever enough idea, even if Susie probably doesn’t really support the idea of Banzai ending up in stasis in the first place. That aside, the story heads off at breakneck speed from that point forward. Banzai is initially discovered by Ty Amstrong, a sort of philanthropic adventurer (think Bear Gryllis without the cameras) with SEAL training in what is now the United States, the United Colonies of Earth. She is revived but then captured by the Emperor Prince of what is now the Kingdom of Asia (with its capital in modern day North Korea for those of you playing at home!). The Emperor, Kyber, tries to win on to Banzai, but though he’s a nice enough fellow, she’s not interested – Ty has already wormed his way into her imagination. Thankfully, Ty is also taken with her, and given that the Kingdom of Asia and the United Colonies of Earth don’t much like each other, Ty sets out to rescue Banzai a second time.
The idea behind this series is quite clever, and being a Susie book it’s pulled off pretty well. Susie manages to do a fairly good job of pulling off the sheer shock Banzai experiences upon realizing her situation (something many fantasy books with equally bizarre situations consistently fail at). Perhaps the only disappointing thing is the plot itself is brief because of the requirement to set up the background of the story that goes onto to be used in the rest of the series. Nonetheless, a nice little fluffy sci-fi romance (is there anything better?).

27 / 50 books. 54% done!

9887 / 15000 pages. 66% done!

Book 28: Day of Fire by Kathleen Nance – 372 pages

Description from amazon.com:
In the year 2176 Canada may be ready to join the rest of the world after being quarantined since terrorists unleashed smallpox, Ebola, and anthrax. Mountie Day Daniels has been investigating a radical group that killed a fellow Mountie. She is used to working alone, but she is now assigned to assist plague-hunter Dr. Lian Firebird. Their quest leads to a group of activists who may or may not be working with one of the native Indian tribes. Lian is conflicted because the tribe may be his own, while Day represents the law in this dark portrayal of a future where human contact is limited because of the fear of deadly contagious diseases. Sizzling with sexual and ideological tension, Lian and Day want to help people, he with medicine and she via her strict adherence to procedure. Nance's tense futuristic thriller, the second in a series of five romances by different authors based on strong women in the future helping to reshape the world, balances romance and action, making it an exhilarating roller-coaster read.

This was the second of the 2176 books, with this one set in Canada. I’ve been to Canada, and I know a lot of Canadians (there are a lot in auditing working in Australia) and the only books I’d read set in Canada prior to this one were the Bones books. So it was cool to read a story from a Canadian perspective, especially with a Mountie main character (I just love the Mountie outfit). I did not know a huge amount about the indigenous populations of Canada or the United States and while the scenario this book presents is pretty fanciful, it did teach me a little. I also really like the idea of a country, but particularly a country as innocuous as Canada, closing its borders to the rest of the world, especially when it shares a border with the US (a concept completely foreign to me being Australian and therefore not having to share a border with anyone but nice big oceans!). I’ve watched enough American TV to know that border control is a big issue in North America (though I must say, despite all our nice ocean protection Australia still struggles to protect its borders – except in our case, we have people come from the sea), and I found the measures taken by both sides in this story quite fascinating. All in all, it’s a bit of a slog (there was a lot of background to set up, even in this pre-established world) but I enjoyed the story, and the idea. An enjoyable addition to the series.

28 / 50 books. 56% done!

10259 / 15000 pages. 68% done!

Book 29: The Shadow Runners by Liz Maverick – 327 pages

Description from lizmaverick.com:
Newgate, Australia: In the 22nd century, history repeats itself. The land is controlled by “the Parliament,” a gang of dissipated self-styled aristocrats who rule in a mockery of the English Regency.
To survive here, you have to know the tricks. Like Jenny Red. She knows the score. She’s been Down Under and made it out to tell the tale. And she’s not alone. Whether she likes it or not, ex-prince turned bad-ass D’ekkar Han Valoren is on her side.
I think she’s gonna learn to like having Deck around.

This is the third of the 2176 books and my least favourite, which I didn’t expect because it’s the first book I’ve ever read by a foreign author set in Australia. I thought this would really endear me to the book, but in the end it just made me mad. Maverick’s future version of Australia was bizarre and seemed to me to mock our heritage as a British penal colony (don’t, whatever you do, call an Aussie a convict – you’re liable to start a fight one way or another). I’m still to work out where the hell Newgate is within modern day Australia, and contrary to popular belief, the Outback is not just down the road, unless you’re talking 1000+ kilometres down the road. I get the fact that this book is set some 100+ years in the future, but when a country is as rich in minerals as Australia is, it would take a much bigger lapse in time for my beautiful country to end up a wasteland (which it never was before, it was a convict settlement – this book seems to blur the lines). The story itself wasn’t too bad, and to a non-Australian, it would probably prove to be an enjoyable read, with an interesting romance aspect, but for me, the marring of my beloved country really overshadowed anything the story had to offer. A shame, because it could have had a lot more to offer.

29 / 50 books. 58% done!

10586 / 15000 pages. 71% done!

Still trying to finish 2011 and so many 2012 ones to write - eek!

Currently reading:
- The Iliad
by Homer – 408 pages
- The Other Queen
by Philippa Gregory – 437 pages
- The Pact
by Jodi Picoult – 451 pages

And coming up:
- The Second Chronicles of Thomas Covenant: Volume 3: White Gold Wielder
by Stephen Donaldson – 500 pages
- The Odyssey
by Homer – 324 pages
- One for the Money
by Janet Evanovich – 290 pages