December 14th, 2012

Reading - La Liseuse

Books #35-36

35. Gareth Roberts, Doctor Who: Shada (The Lost Adventure by Douglas Adams), 385 pages, Science Fiction, Hardback, 2012.

Set in the era of the Doctor’s 4th regeneration (when he was portrayed by Tom Baker), the TARDIS arrives in Cambridge during the 1970s. The Doctor and Romana II (Lalla Ward) are there to visit an aging Time Lord, Professor Chronotis. But another alien, Skagra, is also there to see the Professor. It seems that Chronotis has many secrets, and one of them is that he is in possession of an artifact that would lead one who knew how to use it to Shada, the mysterious location that the Time Lords seem to have forgotten. As usual, the Doctor stands in the way of another madman trying to take over the universe. Taking the original script, hand-written notes from rehearsals, the various attempts to complete the work, elements of the episode that were reworked and found in Douglas Adams’ Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency, and his own experience with working on Doctor Who, Gareth Roberts does an impressive job of bringing to us this lost Doctor Who episode.

36. Nora Roberts writing as J.D. Robb, Vengeance In Death, 357 pages, Mystery, Paperback, 1997 (In Death, Book 6).

Lieutenant Eve Dallas once again faces off against a brilliant, twisted serial killer, fueled by revenge and wrapped up in the trappings of religious fanaticism (Catholicism this time). He leaves riddles for Dallas, with never enough time to actually save the victim. Turns out the victims have a common link – they were known to Eve’s husband, the mysterious and rich Roarke. We discover more about Roarke’s childhood, his revenge for the murder of Summerset’s daughter, and delve into the life of Summerset himself. It’s a fast-paced book, probably one of the quickest reads of the year, and a lot of fun.
  • maribou

Listening for Stone Revenant; Brief Werewolves Promise End; World Wide Fallout

Revenant Eve, by Sherwood Smith
The first two books in this series were set in the present day (albeit in a Ruritanial setting), so I was surprised to find myself swooped back to the 18th century along with the main character, in this one. Every bit as delightful as the previous books though. Humor, derring-do, and excellent storytelling.

A Stone Bridge North, by Kate Maloy
Slow, gentle collection of polished journal entries about the interior experience of moving to rural Vermont with a third husband and teenage son. Also, lots of Quaker theological musings and thoughts about falling in love with someone over the internet. A lovely book, if those things suit you (they do me).
(229, O52)

Listening for Madeleine, interviews by Leonard S. Marcus
Hm. I'm glad I read this, and some of the bits were particularly good - but overall it was a stutter-steppy reading experience for me. I think I still have a bias against interview formats. And, I was really really sick while I read it. One of those "it's not the book, it's me" situations.

Sandman, vol. 7: Brief Lives, and vol. 8: Worlds' End, by Neil Gaiman (rereads)
I liked Brief Lives even more than I remembered (Delirium! Marvelousness!), and Worlds' End just as much. This whole series is bearing up very well to rereading - so, so many layers.
(231, 232)

Fables: Werewolves of the Heartland, by Bill Willingham et al
This was nifty. Very old school / Twilight-Zone-y. Love the weird-creepy-small-town subgenre :).

Avatar: The Last Airbender: The Promise Part 3, by Gene Luen Yang et al
Satisfying wrap-up. Like the rest of these - I can't imagine a more faithful comic-book iteration of the show.

Scott Pilgrim 2: Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, by Bryan Lee O'Malley
This series is growing on me in a big way. Far more clearly self-mocking than the movie, but just as lovable.

Fairest, vol. 1: Wide Awake, by Bill Willingham et al
This was pretty great! Kind of weird seeing some of the art done in Implausible-Boobage Superheroine Mode, but most of it wasn't - and the story was awesome. Can't wait for more stories of the female Fables. :)

Ultimate Spider-Man: Death of Spider-Man Fallout by Brian Michael Bendis et al
This was weird and confusing. And yet, it made me want to get back into reading the Ultimates stuff... I don't quite understand *why*, but there it is.

Angel Omnibus, vol. 1, by Scott Allie et al
Meh. Very meh. Way too much of the abovementioned IBSM, and I didn't feel like they got to know the characters until the last few stories. The new series is way better.
  • Current Music
    watching Freaks and Geeks

Books 163 & 164: The Shuttered Room and Hard Eight

Book 163: The Shuttered Room.
Author: Charles J. Harwood, 2011.
Genre: Thriller. Sexual Violence
Other Details: Paperback. 285 pages

Young wife and mother Jessica Fraser's life takes a dramatic turn when she is kidnapped and held in an upstairs room of a suburban house by two men and a woman who are demanding a huge ransom from her rich parents. After a failed escape attempt Jess cuts a hole in the bedroom floor with a stolen cutlery knife and from there she is able to covertly observe her three captors as they go about their daily routines. Her spying becomes an obsession as she draws her abductors into a dangerous psychological game.

I was asked to give feedback on this novel by one of our librarians as the author is local and a former member of our library reading group. I did find it something of a mixed bag in that the focus on Jess' incarceration did became somewhat repetitive in the middle section of the novel though did quite effectively create a claustrophobic atmosphere. Personally I find kidnapping and hostage themes in novels and other media uncomfortable and so a plot where the focus is upon the victim's situation was going to have limited appeal. However, I did feel Harwood took risks in terms of the novel's resolution and the final part was very startling and quite satisfying.

There was a sub-plot involving Jessica's visions of what she describes as people's 'inner toads' but I felt this was somewhat of a distraction as it was not really developed in terms of whether this was a symptom of a psychological promblem or whether she had some kind of psychic ability. Still while I have nothing against frogs and toads it did seem a strange type of visionary gift.

Book 164: Hard Eight (Stephanie Plum #8).
Author: Janet Evanovich, 2002.
Genre: Chick Lit Crime Fiction. Comedy/Drama.
Other Details: Unabridged Audio. (Length: 8hrs, 36 min ) Read by Lorelei King.

In this eighth outing for Stephanie she gets involved in a case on the request of her mother. A neighbour's granddaughter, Evelyn, and great-granddaughter, Anne, have gone missing and she has asked Stephanie to find them. The disappearance has also triggered a child custody bond with another bond agency. Stephanie agrees to help but soon finds herself being stalked by the sinister Eddie Abruzzi, who is Evelyn's landlord and also interested in her whereabouts.

Some very scary things happen in this novel and it does end on a darker note than the others. There are plenty of comic moments but I feared for Stephanie. Still with Book 19 out, I was somewhat more at ease with the plot line than if I had listened to it in 2002!
  • cat63

Book 63 for 2012

The Merry Misogynist by Colin Cotterill. 263 pages.
Another outing for Dr Siri Paiboun, reluctant coroner and shaman in 1970s communist-run Laos.
This time he has to contend with a serial killer who targets virgins on their wedding night and the disappearance of local eccentric "Crazy Rajid" along with the attempts of the housing department to get him evicted.
I like this series very much - the characters' sense of humour appeals strongly and there is considerable emotional depth too, but the author sometimes makes me uneasy with his treatment of gender issues. In fairness, some of this may be attributed to the place and time where the books are set -1970s Laos is bound to have different attitudes to modern-day England - but I'm not sure that all of it can be written off so.

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book and cup

#128 The Starboard Sea - Amber Dermont (2012)

(Read in un-corrected proof)
I was fortunate enough to receive this novel and three others from Constable and Robinson a few weeks ago. First published in the USA by St. Martin’s press – a new edition is due for publication in January 2013.
In the privileged world of the 1980’s super rich, Bellingham Academy is the last stop for those kids kicked out of other prep schools. On the day of his eighteenth birthday, Jason Prosper leaves his New York home with his father for Bellingham in New England. Jason is still nursing a raw grief for his best friend and sailing partner, Cal, who recently killed himself. At Bellingham Jason meets up with the sons and daughters of families he already knows – such is the insular world from which he comes, and he is immediately courted by the sailing coach. However an accident aboard results in Jason taking risks in order to save a fellow student and forces him to re-consider his desire to sail, especially now that he has to do it without Cal. Haunted by the death of his friend and the secrets he carries with him of the time before his friend died, Jason meets Aidan, a girl who he at first mistakes for a cormorant – standing arms outstretched on rocks by the sea. She is unlike anyone he has met before, and a fledgling friendship blossoms between the two. Aidan is a strange and beautiful creature, who owns Fred Astaire’s shoes and is not really a part of the group of friends that Jason has found himself attached to. The tender and emotional relationship that starts between these two ostracised young people is beautifully and deftly handled by the author. Chester, the only black student at Bellingham is also on the outside of those who are accepted, there is a quiet coolness to Chester that Jason notices right away and tries to befriend the young tennis player. However in the aftermath of a terrible storm, events take a tragic turn once again, and Jason numbed and disbelieving comes to re-evaluate the group of classmates he been spending his time with. Bellingham is a world where friendships are really alliances, Jason understands this world, understands what he needs to do to survive, yet at times seems happy to ignore these unspoken rules. Thus we see Jason playing pranks and sneaking out to party with the hedonistic youngsters of Bellingham Academy one minute, yet talking deeply and emotionally with Aidan the next. Prompted by Leo – who is a kind of servant to the rich kids – called “plague” by everyone else, Jason determines to find out what really happened on the night of a hurricane party that he missed.
In The Starboard Sea, Amber Dermont has re-created a world of selfish privilege and boarding school lore. Despite the title - sailing actually only plays a fairly a small part in the novel – but there are some beautiful descriptions of sailing and the sea, and I feel sure the author must have a love of the ocean herself. Dermont has packed a lot of fairly meaty issues into this novel, grief, suicide burgeoning sexualities, racism and class set against the backdrop of a storm lashed New England coast and the Wall Street crash of 1987. This is not entirely a faultless novel, it does take a while to get going, and there are times when Jason sounds rather older than his years, these though are small gripes and do not detract at all from the overall excellence of this beautifully written novel, for me there is far far more to recommend it. The writing is excellent the images created by the author will stay with me for some time. At various times this novel made me think of The Great Gatsby and The Secret History by Donna Tartt, although it’s not really like either of them, I know that’s confusing, but The Starboard Sea has an emotional quality to it that those works had too. This is a quite remarkable debut by a talented writer, who I really look forward to reading more of in the future.