June 14th, 2014

Reading - La Liseuse

Book #14

14. Dead of Night by Charlaine Harris & Amanda Stevens, 456 pages, Horror, 2013 (Southern Vampire Mysteries, Book 4.2).

Two tales in this volume, one a story of a dancer who works with vampires, the second a novel with a decidedly spooky serial killer, one who leave cloven hooves behind as footprints. Charlaine Harris’ short story was very good. I wasn’t so sure about Amanda Stevens’ story, but the more I read, the deeper I got into it.

(1) Dancers in the Dark by Charlaine Harris (Southern Vampire Mysteries, Book 4.2). Rue signs on with Blue Moon as the human half of a vampire/human dance team. Sean is the vampire she’s partnered with, and they start off a little rocky, just to find they are attracted to each other. But Rue is in trouble; she was running from her abusive past, and someone doesn’t want to let her go.

(2) The Devil’s Footprints by Amanda Stevens. The legend has it that when oil was being drilled, that the rig dug straight down to hell and a devil got out, leaving cloven hoof prints everywhere. But Sean, the policeman in New Orleans trying to solve a murder where the victim had been kicked by cloven hoofs, doesn’t know the legend. He does get his ex-girlfriend, Sarah, to interpret the tattoos on the victim. All Sarah sees is links back to her sister’s unsolved murder. It was an intense read.
Dead Dog Cat

(no subject)

A few more books finished lately, in between various duties.

First was Osprey Men-at-Arms #127: The Israeli Army in the Middle East Wars 1948 – 73. The information seemed familiar somehow. The photos included weren't particularly terrific, I'm afraid, and the plates not impressive.

Next was Osprey Campaign #Teutoburg Forest AD 9: The Destruction of Varus and his Legions which discusses a major disaster in Roman history. This may have turned the tide of Roman expansion into Central Europe once and for all. Interesting read.

Finally, Osprey Campaign #248: Coronel and Falklands 1914: Duel in the South Atlantic; this is a topic upon which I had no previous knowledge. It deals with British and German naval forces battling in the waters off of South America in the early stages of WWI. Quite interesting.
smirk by geekilicious

Book 52

The Crimson Spell, Volume 2 The Crimson Spell, Volume 2 by Ayano Yamane

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

In spite of the eye rolling claim of the mangaka that she would rather cut plot for sex scenes, there is plot and there is a pretty good one at that. Vald and Havi are still trying to break the curse. to that end, Havi steals magical tomes from the wizard guild (and they're after them). They meet up with a vagabond swordsman who robs them of the valuable tomes.

When they get to the next town looking for him, they find out its overrun with demons. But before much can happen, Havi oversteps Vald's line, kissing him. The Prince freaks out (it's unclear if he's accepted his own homosexuality but he is an untried eighteen year old in his own mind, the demon in him is something else). Vald is also puzzled why it feels so familiar when Havi kisses him (Havi has not told him what he's been up to). But they fight and go their own ways.

This spells danger for both. Havi ends up under demonic control and the demon in Vald freaks out, surfaces in Vald and tracks Havi down only to have Vald captured as well.

For me the sex scenes in this one were not really hot. They were creepy. Mind-controlled Havi screwing Demon!Vald through the iron bars of his cage (in spite of how hot the mangaka seems to think it was) was more uncomfortable than sexy. And last volume Vald got tentacle raped by a tree. This time he's tentacle raped by an incubus in the shape of a snake. Tentacle rape in anime/manga was old 20 years ago. I don't like it any better now.

For all that, it's beautifully drawn and unlike a whole lot of yaoi, it does have a coherent plot.

View all my reviews

Book #30: NW by Zadie Smith

Number of pages: 333

The back cover of this book describes it as "tragi-comic", as it focusses on four characters living in north-west London; Leah, Natalie, Felix and Nathan; the title comes from the first two letters of the north London postal code.

The book feels somewhat abstract and unconventional, particularly as it often focusses on what the characters are thinking, instead of talking about what is happening, so you have to read "between the lines"; there were some paragraphs where I had to go back and read them again to fully understand what was going on.

I noticed that each part is written in a different style, with part 1 is written in mostly short sentences, with a lot of focus on internal thoughts; it mostly focusses on Leah, and it is presumably written this way to express the fact that she has not had a good education. The whole part is divided into short chapters, individually numbered, and mostly in the order you would expect them to be in, except for about three chapters, all numbered "37", to indicate that one of the characters had a fixation of some kind with this number. The second part is written in the past tense and is a lot more detailed, while part three is divided into a large number of chapters, ranging from one sentence to about three pages in length.

I noticed a lot of themes running throughout the book; race and class were common ones, and seemed to be an accurate depiction of what London is like in real-life; towards the end, I got the impression that it was also about life choices and the regrets the characters had. Drugs are also mentioned early on, with one of the characters shown as being an addict.

I noticed that the storyline of the book is not written in a linear fashion, and when you get to a new chapter, you will often find that you are in a flashback; for example, the first part shows Leah's adult life, while part three shows the characters as teenagers, with one of the main spines being the relationship between Leah and her friend Keisha. I also noticed that often not a lot happened in what was describing, and this was more of a story about lives and seeing through the eyes of the characters; the exception is as follows...

[Spoiler (click to open)]

When Felix is first mentioned, he has been murdered, but this event ties together part one to part two, which focusses entirely on him and the events leading up to the moment when he is fatally stabbed.

My understanding is that this book is more of a social commentary and a portrayal of life in London, and it contained some good observations on how Londoners behave; one of my favourite lines was after Felix had given too much money over in a shop; Someone behind him sighed; he moved aside quickly with the shame of a Londoner who has inconvenienced, even for a moment, another Londoner; a minor incident, but painstakingly observed. I also liked the chapters that described the atmosphere on London's underground trains.

Overall, I found this book difficult at first, but ultimately enjoyable. You might get through this and not understand entirely what is happening, but it feels like something that you have to read over and over, to get the most out of it. A recommended title.

Next book: Simpsons Super Spectacular (Bongo Comics)

Book 120: Austenland by Shannon Hale

Book 120: Austenland.
Author: Shannon Hale, 2007.
Genre: Comedy of Manners. Chick-Lit. Romance.
Other Details: ebook. 208 pages.

Jane Hayes is a seemingly normal young New Yorker, but she has a secret. Her obsession with Mr. Darcy, as played by Colin Firth in the BBC adaptation of 'Pride and Prejudice', is ruining her love life: no real man can compare. But when a wealthy relative bequeaths her a trip to an English resort catering to Austen-crazed women, Jane’s fantasies of meeting the perfect Regency-era gentleman suddenly become realer than she ever could have imagined.

Decked out in empire-waist gowns, Jane struggles to master Regency etiquette and flirts with gardeners and gentlemen—or maybe even, she suspects, with the actors who are playing them. It’s all a game, Jane knows. And yet the longer she stays, the more her insecurities seem to fall away, and the more she wonders: Is she about to kick the Austen obsession for good, or could all her dreams actually culminate in a Mr. Darcy of her own?
- synopsis from author's website.

This proved to be a short delightful slice of chick-lit with a Jane Austen theme that proved perfect reading for a summer afternoon. I enjoyed it very much.

Jane's adventures at Austenland are punctuated by amusing short interludes about her various failed relationships to date. While not quite up to the wonderful Bridget Jones' Diary it did contain insights into the difficulties faced by a 30-something singleton with a romantic temperament. Certainly Jane isn't the only woman whose heart has been lost to a fictional love.

Austenland had been a Kindle Daily Deal last year. However, it lingered on my TBR e-list until this week when the film adaptation started to be shown on Sky Movies. As I always prefer to read a novel before watching its adaptation I plunged in. I watched the film today and though there were some minor changes, I felt it was quite a faithful adaptation of the main text. In addition, the actors obviously had great fun filming it. One small aspect of the novel's final scene that struck me as improbable was corrected in the film. I plan on reading the sequel Midnight in Austenland.

Shannon Hale's web page for 'Austenland' - lots of links including excerpt, background on the novel and film adaptation.