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Friday, February 29, 2008

More Review Books and a Give-Away

More and more review books keep arriving from various publishers. I do love free books, but I'm beginning to have difficulty keeping up with all of them. These have all arrived within the last week.
I have finished Nameless Night and The Sonambulist and reviewed them (previous posts), but the rest are going to be stacked with all of the others that I've not yet gotten around to reading.

If you are interested in either of these books, leave a comment saying which one, and next Wednesday, I'll draw a name for Nameless Night and a name for The Sonambulist.

Nameless Night

Ford, G.M. Nameless Night. Another ARC, I found this mystery to have some flaws, but still a fast read and a bit of a page turner. Paul Hardy (real name unknown) lives in a home for the disabled as a ward of the state. He has terrible facial injuries and is unable to speak until, following a car accident, he is given a new face. The plastic surgery that repairs the horrific injuries to his face also removes some of the pressure on Paul's brain, and he regains his ability to function normally.

As Helen Willis, director of the facility where Paul lives, tries to discover more about the man he was before losing his memory, her inquiries catch the attention of someone in government, and things begin to go haywire. Paul is forced to flee for his life and to try to discover on his own what happened seven years ago.

The novel starts out pretty strong (maybe a bit far-fetched, but certainly interesting), then wanders a bit and begins to feel repetitive. I liked Helen and Ken best; they were minor characters, but had a stronger sense of reality than many of the other characters. "Paul" never seemed to move much beyond two-dimensional, but I certainly wanted to know what had happened to him and how he was going to survive.

From what I've read, most fans of G.M. Ford recommend his Frank Corso series and his Leo Waterman series as better examples of his work.

Fiction. Mystery/thriller. 2008. 338 pages.

The Sonambulist

Barnes, Jonathan. The Sonambulist. Described by someone as reminiscent of Neil Gaiman and of China Mieville's Perdito Street Station, this novel can only be described as bizarre. I toyed with using Eva's 6 word review for this and came up with: Bizarre - murders, freaks, magician, poet, time-travel. Of course, as time-travel is hyphenated, it counts as one word. My rule. :) But decided to give a little additional information.

Edward Moon, magician/detective, and his current partner the Sonambulist become involved in some strange murders in Victorian London. The narrator lets you know from the beginning that he has problems with Moon, admits to lying on occasion, and informs the reader that he will tell you when he has lied.

Initially, I was rather enjoying the novel, but by the end, something failed to coalesce. Maybe it was because the characters were all so separate. For example, Moon's connections to the Sonambulist, to his former partner, to Mrs. Grossman, to Merryweather, to his sister, etc. never seem to quite gel for me. Like puzzle pieces that you know should fit together, but that have to be forced.... By the time the identity of the narrator was revealed, I'd lost much of my interest in the resolution.

Fiction. Mystery/fantasy? 2007. 353 pages.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Silent in the Grave.

Raybourn, Deanna. Silent in the Sanctuary. I thoroughly enjoyed Silent in the Grave, and when Jill offered to send me the second in the series, I was delighted. Sanctuary picks up Lady Julia's story in Italy, where she has been recovering from the events in Silent in the Grave. When their father requests that Julia and her brothers return to England for Christmas, the siblings leave Italy and return to their father's estate, Belmont Abbey. On arrival, they find themselves in the midst of a house party that includes Nicholas Brisbane and his fiancee.

The tension between Brisbane and Lady Julia, her suspicions about his engagement, a murder, a jewel thief, poor relations, gypsies, a ghost...all help make this a Christmas house party to remember.

I enjoyed the novel, but missed the humorous tension between Nicholas and Julia that was such a large part of the first novel. There were so many characters in this one that the relationship between Nicholas and Julia is less prominent and less adversarial. Still--it was a fast, fun read!

Fiction. Historical mystery. 2008. 552 pages.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Why Mermaids Sing

Harris, C.S. Why Mermaids Sing. The third in Harris' Regency mysteries about Sebastien St.Cyr, Lord Devlin, Why Mermaids Sing continues with the events in Sebastien's personal life -- his knotty relationship with his father and his love affair with Kat Boleyn, an actress from a different social class entirely. When a magistrate asks Sebastien St. Cyr to aid in a murder investigation, Sebastien demurs. He discovers, however, that the image of the murdered eighteen-year-old young man bothers him, and he finds himself doing a little research almost without intention. Dominic Stanton is the second young man to have been gruesomely murdered, and from the nature of the wounds inflicted, Sebastien realizes that a message is being sent. And that there will most likely be more murders to come.

I have a little trouble with the use of John Donne's Song: Go and Catch a Falling Star because Donne is one of my favorite poets, and I love this poem from that stage in his life when he was still something of a rake ("Donne spent much of his considerable inheritance on women, literature, pastimes, and travel" -- Wikipedia).

A metaphysical poet, Donne wrote a number of humorously satiric poems about love and women. Another of my favorites is The Flea, an attempt to persuade a woman to sleep with him. After his marriage and his conversion to the Church of England (an almost forced conversion) when he became a preacher, he wrote sincere love poems (my favorites in this category include A Valediction Forbidding Morning , a love poem to his wife and Death, Be Not Proud, one of his Holy Sonnets) and then there is his unforgettable sermon, Meditation 17 that has some of the most quoted lines in history: " no man is an island," "any man's death diminishes me," "never send to know for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee."

But I digress, aside from that the novel is a fast-moving bit of adventure with lots of intrigue and a bit of surprise at the end which will undoubtedly be picked up in the next in the series.

(I know Danielle has read some of this series...anyone else?)

Whew! I'm almost caught up with my reviews.

Fiction. Historical mystery. 2007. 342 pages.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

War of Honor

Weber, David. War of Honor. It is almost impossible for me to understand how Weber can create so many well-rounded characters and keep track of all of them. I've written several reviews of others in the Honor Harrington series, and I'm still enjoying them.

One thing that differs in War of Honor is the increased time spent on the political aspects. All of the political maneuvering, misunderstandings, deliberate misleading, and actual editing of diplomatic missives reveal what must be some of the problems involved in real diplomacy. Pretty scary.

However, all of the political machinations get a bit overwhelming. The book is over 800 pages long...that's a lot of politics. It reads much slower than the others in the series. I'm a pretty dogged reader, but I'm not sure that this one would appeal to everyone.

I love this series and enjoyed catching up on all of the characters, both major and minor, and I will definitely continue, but I do hope for more action and less politics.

Fiction. Space Opera. 2002. 861 pages.

Standing Still

Simmons, Kelly. Standing Still. Claire Cooper suffers from an anxiety disorder and frequent panic attacks. Her irrational fears cripple her emotional life. Then one night, her fears become real, and she discovers an intruder who is about to take one of her daughters. Faced with this unbearable possibility, Claire says, "Take me instead."

The kidnapper does take Claire, and the two of them spend the next week together as the ransom gets worked out. In that time, Claire finally accepts the fact that the kidnapping is not associated with something from her past and faces another unpleasant possibility concerning her husband.

Another first person narrative, although in this case, probably a necessity. I found Claire pretty annoying and didn't like the choppy effect caused by flashbacks. I usually like flashbacks, but these seemed a bit abrupt. Still, I wanted to know what happened, who "David" was, and the reason for the kidnapping.

Another ARC, this one came from ATRIA Books.

Fiction. Suspense. 2008. 262 pages.

Friday, February 22, 2008

The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents

Pratchett, Terry. The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents. While on a visit to the library, I was looking for Wintersmith by Terry Pratchett. It wasn't there, but I happened to see this one and remembered that I'd seen something about it on The Indextrious Reader.

What a smart book! Thoroughly enjoyable and both very clever and The characters --whether human, feline, or rodent-- are comically and seriously full of the elements of the human condition: arrogance, pride, greed, loyalty, enterprise, courage, hope. The book covers some pretty serious territory, but this Pied Piper tale is compelling, satiric, and fun! A winner!

Fiction. Fantasy. YA. 2001. 241 pages.

Raven Black

Cleeves, Ann. Raven Black. Set in the Shetland Islands off of Scotland, the novel provides an interesting glimpse at the insularity of the inhabitants. When Catherine Ross is found murdered, the prime suspect is an old man with limited abilities, but Inspector Jimmy Perez wants to keep an open mind.

As he begins interviewing people to find out more about Catherine, Perez is also sorting through some of his own memories of being a student at Catherine's school, the island hierarchy, and the meshing and inter-meshing of island relationships. A lot goes on beneath the placid surface of the isolated locale.

The end may come as a surprise.

The first in a quartet of novels that Cleeves plans to set in the Shetland Islands; I rather liked Jimmy Perez and look forward to the next in the series.

Fiction. Mystery. 2006. 376 pages.


Slatton, Traci L. Immortal. Uh oh. The buzz around this one is good. I did not feel the same way. At all. The fact that Luca Bastardo is immortal (or pretty close to it) has little impact except that he was able to live through an interesting period of history involving his beloved Florence.

First, I frequently have a problem with first person narration. It must be extremely difficult to do. First person narrators are (for me) the most unreliable of unreliable narrators. I'm always second-guessing them. Is he saying that to convince the reader or to convince himself? Such ego in first person.

Second, the book moves very quickly into violence and degradation. When it is over, however, no matter how often Luca refers to his terrible experiences, I have the feeling that he is actually untouched by them. Impossible, but still...

Third, nothing much really happens, although the artistic and political aspects of Florence are fascinating.

Fourth, what's up with all of that spiritual mumbo jumbo? I got the Wandering Jew right away, but the Cathars, the alchemy, the repetition, the repetition, the repetition...

I wanted to like this one, and didn't, but I evidently stand alone in my opinion.

Fiction. Fantasy/historical? 2008. 513 pages.

Excuses, Excuses

I have plenty of excuses for neglecting this blog, but they are all excuses. The problem is that the longer I neglect it, the harder it becomes to catch up.

Here's what I've read so far this month:

Immortal by Traci L. Slatton (ARC)
Why Mermaids Sing by C.S. Harris
War of Honor by David Weber (I hate the covers, but love the books)
Raven Black by Ann Cleves
The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents by Terry Pratchett
Standing Still by Kelly Simmons (ARC)
Silent in the Sanctuary by Deanna Raybourn

That quite a few reviews that I need to catch up on.

Silent in the Sanctuary was a generous gift from Jill at My Individual Take, who kindly sent me her copy. I sent her Long Ago in France by M.F.K. Fisher in exchange, but when my package arrived, Jill had included Walking a Literary Labyrinth and a beautiful bookmark as well! Thanks again, Jill!

One thing I've been busy with lately is trying to make something for each day in February. My record of that challenge is over at Bayou Quilts. I have not exactly succeeded as there were several days when I wasn't feeling well enough to make anything, but on several days, I've made more than one thing...and I make up the rules as I go along anyway.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Links and Uh, Oh

Many bloggers posted poems yesterday; I found this one by one of my favorite poets on Ann's blog. Perfect, perfect, perfect!

Lisa (Pfeiffer Booknotes) posted this link to an article in the New York Times about a new literary program. Sounds great!

Over at Pages Turned, Susan posted her January Recap and noted that she, too, had enjoyed An Absolute Gentleman.

I've received nominations for the You Make My Day Award from Iliana, Lisa, and (a long time ago, Lotus) and have neglected to mention it here. Thanks to all of you for including me among the blogs you read and enjoy! All three of you have Made My Day many times!

Here are some (by no means all) of the blogs that make my day:

A Reader's Journal
A Striped Armchair
A Fondness for Reading
Bookfoolery and Babble
Book Chase
Maggie Reads
My Individual Take on the Subject
Off Books and Bicycles
So Many Books
Stainless Steel Droppings

Oh, shoot! I've done something stupid and now all my book blogs have disappeared from Bloglines. They are there in Edit, but not in Feeds. What...?