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All art is unstable. It's meaning is not necessarily that implied by the author, There is no authorative active voice. There are only multiple readings. David Bowie, 1995

Friday, December 16, 2011

Hoo… Rah! Prepare to sacrifice!

DEA Diet, Exercise, Attitude are the author’s 3 basic components of philosophy for weight loss.
And I agree but (…she wails, and pummels the nearest cushion) it’s just SO HARD!!
The author asks, ‘Do you feel overwhelmed?’ Yes, I do and I’m not even out of the preface.
This guide to weight loss certainly presses all the right buttons and uses today terminology touching upon aspects that are being discussed in many venues—from magazines to doctors’ consulting rooms.
We have ,(not in any order), BMR or Basal Metabolic Rate and calorie importance, Glycemic Index facts, Insulin levels and clearing the body of such cravings. Those carbs and sugars are so pernicious!
I particularly went into alert mode at the little gem that it takes 28 days to change your taste buds—is everything cycled to the monthly calendar? But, I take note and take heart. If I can stay away from sugar (in things like wine, chocolate, Haagen-Dazs and various loved fruits) maybe I have a chance. And of course not skipping breakfast—guilty according to the day and the time I wake up.
There are food logs, suggested menus, recipes, support group websites, a Pledge to pin on you fridge, and the slash and burn Exercise program (to exorcise that unwanted flab). Actually, this is where I went, ‘Oh No! Its boot camp with another name—Hoo…Rah!”
I must admit I was dismayed but reconciled up until the exercise program. Then I realized that I have a bad back, need to be careful and cognizant of my age, and find it so...ooo difficult to follow an exercise regime from a page. However, once more I can take heart because there are online video clips I can visit to see how the exercises work.
So at the part where the reader is confronted with being either a Risk Taker or an Excuse Maker, I freely admit that I’m leaning towards the latter.
If you however have the will and aptitude, the DEA, then this guide to loosing weight will appeal and obviously will give results! So 6 weeks and skinny jeans! Who’s up for it?
Me, Mmm! I have to think about this for 6 weeks—so maybe my personal best will be 12 weeks to skinny jeans! Well… Jeans on a skinnier bod!
All interest and no commitment—yet!
A netgalley ARC (available Dec 20, 2012)

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The Bastard

...'There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio!

The Shakespeare segue only connects via my head and that because of the battles, lieutenants and the Royal navy, and the improbability of the plot.  
When reading The Bastard, (by Brenda Novak) suspend any preconceived ideas about feasibility. Do that and you’ll find yourself in the midst of an amusing and crazy Regency romp.  There’s the young French émigré noblewoman, Jeanette Boucher. She disguises herself as tar boy and hides out on an English warship. Our heroine fortunately runs across an honorable and delicious officer and gentleman—albeit a ‘bastard’.  Against the backdrop of England at the time of the French Revolution and the dawning of the great sea battles, the scenes on the ship conjure a gritty reality of life aboard such vessels—definitely not for the faint hearted. In fact the stark descriptions of seaboard conditions, and even more so, the horrors of war at sea, are some of the book’s stronger points. Throw in a hero of Midshipman Horatio Hornblower stature, (ah ha! my Horatio connection!) a feisty and endearing heroine—mutual feelings of suppressed attraction, a dastardly brother officer, a motley assorted swag of crew—ranging from benign to vicious, a perniciously rapid husband in hot pursuit, topped off with the mystery surrounding the birth of Lieutenant Crawford Treynor, and you have a good read for those moments when a good read is just the thing.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

..... all's well that ends well!

For an easy read in between the hustle and bustle, the hurdy gurdy of the Christmas Season, this collection of four Regency novellas which comprise A Regency Holiday is timely.

Sure, sometimes the resolution of a story came so quickly that I thought surely I’ve missed something … but these are short stories, so, no time to dawdle or extend the plot. Mind you I’m not sure that I really ever liked Deverel Brookfield (I had just finished watching Samuel Richardson’s Clarrisa) but ‘tis Christmas time and even the devil is apparently redeemable. And after all these stories are Regency Romances!
In short, a graceful introduction to authors that I didn’t know and a quick read during the holiday season when I’m looking for something light and fluffy other than a meringue parfait, particularly post Christmas turkey.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

...walking the Dream, waking In-Deed

Prior to reading Dreaming of the Wolf (thanks to Netgalley), I decided to start from the beginning of Terry Spear’s Heart of the Wolf series by reading her Wolf Bundle (v.1-3). I am glad I did.
Now, having read my way through v.1-7, I have a richer understanding of the relationships between the various lead characters in the series and an entrée into wolf behavior as it translates into werewolf behavior.
Each story throws into focus the arresting and often startling journey of discovery—both romantic and mysterious between the lead male and female lupus garou (werewolf). No you don’t have to start with the first volume. I am glad I did. It deepened my enjoyment of the series as I rode the warp and woof of the Heart of the Wolf tapestry.
What can I say? Steamy and sizzling? Definitely!  Filled with personalities who grab your attention? Most definitely?  A series I am now hooked on and will continue to read? Truly and definitely, yes!
Journeying through the various stories, the strength of the series develops and adds a confidence to the panoramic offerings of Terry Spear's inventive writings.
Dreaming of the Wolf, the 8th in the series follows the feisty yet piquant relationship that develops between Jake Silver and Alicia Greiston–leading in with the rescue of Alicia by Jake, tantalized by the palpable overwhelming force of attraction between the two. Add in a dash of mystery and intrigue all liberally peppered with mob trouble and this becomes a tour de force to add to your collection of paranormal romance of the werewolf variety and of this series in particular.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

...what are they doing to us!

So I’m watching Forest Gump on TV and, in between, the Ads. And there’s an Ad just come on for fiber and the importance of fiber from grain products. (Just exactly what this book, Wheat Belly is talking about in terms of wheat and other whole grain products and belly fat)….and Oh Yes, it’s not just wheat we have to worry about!
But an eye opener of a detail I picked up on is the concept that today’s wheat is not what it was during our grandparent’s day due to several factors including gene modification. This central point of the way wheat has changed and how that change in turn affects our bodies is pretty compelling. What are the scientists and producers doing to us!!
Not to mention that we should be reading all the nutritional info on our bottles and cans and jars of food as wheat is an ingredient present in heaps if products.
If you’re a celiac this is beyond grim.

I must admit I have been toying prior to reading this book, about reducing or cutting out wheat, but the arguments in this book are clinchers.
On the other hand, can I really use zucchini strips instead of pasta when eating my Spag. Bol? According to this book not even rice noodles are safe.

Wheat Belly contains interesting meal plans if you want to change your diet, shopping lists, and other handy tidbits. The use of more protein fits in with my flirtation with the South Beach diet, and prior to that Atkins and you name it—a million other ways of eating.

Certainly this book makes a lot of sense. Particularly as one friend has avoided wheat for a number of years and swears that that has resulted in a flattened stomach and an absence of that bloated feeling. So if I may paraphrase, if you’ve ‘got that bloated feeling, Oh No, that bloated feeling,’ then this may be the book for you.
I am tempted to pursue the regime more diligently, but then I break all my New Year’s promises prior to the New Year. Here’s hoping though. I feel that even if I do half what is suggested my body will feel better for it.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

…turbulent and torrid times

Romance and intrigue in a time of King making and wars against the background of Eleanor of Aquitaine's courts and the rules of honor and love--The Courtly Code--made much of by our heroine.

Adding romantic intrigue we have a tall, dark and, much maligned hero fresh from the Crusades albeit tainted with Saracen blood. To match him we have the gorgeous, honorable, ice-maiden heroine. Unfortunately she does becomes somewhat tiring with her proclamations about courtly conduct.

Trapped in the middle of royal intrigue and whim, the machinations of claiming thrones and kingdoms by Henry, Eleanor and Eleanor’s sons, Alienore is never sure which side she should take, which is more honorable.

Of course the pages sizzle with sexual frission as Ailenore and Raven fight their attraction, caught between their particular loyalties and duties and their desire.
They both do their best to repudiate and stamp down this attraction but the fires of desire consume them and ignite the pages in either anger or lust, yet honor must have its way.

Not great literature but The Devil’s Temptress is a good medieval romance set against the turbulent history of the times.
ARC netgalley

...what is it about Red and the Wolf?

Locked as I have been into the Valdemar universe, Mercedes Lackey’s Five Hundred Kingdom’s series is far more enjoyable than I originally anticipated. I guess as writers develop and explore new avenues their fans must join them—or leave. I chose to stay.
It seems that every time I turn around there’s a new movie, book or television show that’s centered on Grimm’s story of Little Red Riding Hood where surprise the wolf is no mere wolf but a Were. Yes and the cover seemed to set that up. So, I wondered!
After reading Beauty and the Werewolf I wondered no more. Lackey’s insightful development of the Little Red Riding Hood--and Cinderella (Bella) and Beauty (of the Beast variety), archetype or rather archetypes, is an excellent read. The characters are strong and believable yet the story retains its fairytale/fantasy essence.
Isabella Beauchamp is cast in the role of Beauty/Little Red Riding Hood—. She is also the eldest daughter of a wealthy merchant, with a stepmother and two stepsisters. Of course no archetypal fairy story would be complete without a duke who’s a wizard, an bastard son, a Granny and the ever present Godmother (plus magic mirrors and commanding Kings).  Let’s not forget the Beast and the Wolf., or rather the Beastly Wolf. With all this raw material ‘TheTradition’ has plenty of ‘grist for the mill’ to intervene in if allowed.
Isabella becomes aware of ‘The Tradition’ at the same time as her own powers awaken, and the readers explores with her the influence and possible ramifications of ‘The Tradition’ upon her life. As the various facets of hero and villain become interwoven, Lackey produces a startling and fresh take on this age old fairy story. Little Red Riding Hood and the Wolf, not forgetting the Granny (albeit a minor role), are revealed in a new and lively dimension.
Further, the exploration of ‘The Tradition’ woven into the story via Isabella strengthened my understanding of the genesis of the series as a whole. A first rate read!
a Netgalley ARC

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

What Ho, Automation! By Chris Dolley

The mind boggles perceiving Reeves (Jeeves of Steven Fry fame) as an automation being charged via his belly button--unlike those German automations!
Automation or not, Reeves has lost none of his ‘grey matter’ (as Bertie calls it) due to incarceration in a cupboard in an attic for many years.
Bertie Worcester is still the inane upper British class feather brain he’s always been—only more so if that’s at all possible!

This is an amusing romp that doesn’t tax the reader’s brain cells, although it may at times strain their credulity. The action is scattered throughout with hapless British sayings and amusing anecdotes and strange automations. For instance, at the Drone’s club, when it is declared that this was an emergency because Reggie has aunt trouble and needed to consult “like the Red Sea, when confronted by Moses holding a note from his mother’s sister, the throng parted,”. Such is the understanding of the gentlemen.

I kept visualizing Steven Fry and Hugh Laurie in full flight complete with their voices throughout this misadventure. Events unfold in vivid color with high definition overtones.
If he’s not confronting his ex fiancé and her Pomeranians, giant pigs and other Prometheans, Bertie is cavorting all over the countryside searching for missing debutantes! What Ho indeed! A fine salute to Wodehouse masquerading as steampunk!

An early reviewers ebook from LibraryThing and Book Cafe

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Pale Demon by Kim Harrison

Having driven around the area of Las Vegas and down to the Grand Canyon a couple of years ago, and having travelled many times through Central Australia to Cooper Pedy and Alice via the Oodnadatta Track, I felt the searing desert heat lift from the pages of the book and through to my skin.
Yes, Harrison certainly captured the heat. I must admit I thought what are you doing here people!
Well, I know they were following the storyline.
Me, I was experiencing the way the desert sun sapped every ounce of energy, every drop of moisture from you and the recollection of murmured prayers to keep the Holden moving, air conditioning turned off to lessen pressure on engine.

‘…we do stupid stuff for each other just because we like you.’

Get ready for the ‘Great American Family Road Trip … full of unhappy people heading west’ across the searing landscape from Cincinnati via Las Vegas to San Francisco. Rachael and the gang are off to the annual witches’ convention to have her reinstated, and to attend her brother’s wedding. Trent has his own mysterious reasons to urgently get to the West Coast. Of course before they even leave Rachael and company are attacked by assassins. En route they battle demons (naturally), more assassins and wild pixies. Rachael’s battered and bruised and I’m battered and bruised following her story.
There were moments when I cried for her and moments when everything was going to ‘hell in a hand basket’ (literally) and I wished the story would just hurry up and come to any conclusion that I could be happy with.
There are moments of clarity when this is the ass kicking, feisty, foolish, demon brushed, itchy witch is doing her thing, intermittently offset by the vulnerable, forlorn, and broken hearted person that inhabits her heart and head. The real Rachel emerges, battling with those who love her, use her, and fighting her own inner turmoil.
Pale Demon has moments of frustration and confusion, of despair and hope—all reflecting the impossible characters of Rachel and her strange family. As Jenks says to Trent, ‘You’ve seen what it’s like to be in a family, with all the touchy tempers and irritation that goes on. Now you get to see the other side, where we do stupid stuff for each other just because we like you.’
Despite my moments of irritation with Rachael, I enjoyed Pale Demon. I want to give it 3&1/2 stars

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Northlight by Deborah J. Ross

                                                         … ‘another Kardith’s leap?’

I quite enjoyed Northlight. Enough that I bought Ross‘s other novel Jaydium in order to explore her writing further …and of course I am a Darkover fan.
For some reason I was left with the feeling that the characters in Northlight had more going for them than what was in print. (Very post modern)
Don’t get me wrong. The characters are forceful, they are fully present, and I liked them, yet somehow their potentials are not as realized as I felt they could be. Or maybe it’s the novel’s ending that is not as fully realized for me.
Ross‘s evocative use of language is excellent. Having just come through a snow filled, minus temperatures winter, I particularly appreciated her sketch of the landscape where,
‘the smaller tributary snak[ed] in from the northwest. Where it dumped into the Serenity, colder than winter snot.’
A post apocalyptical story (I’m seeing early Andre Norton-ish here) situated on the world of Harth, with some interesting twists centering around the interactions of Kardith, a Starhall ranger, missing ranger Aviyya, and Aviyya’s brother Terricel, a scholar. Set in a time when the society is struggling with traditions and rules whose origins and meanings have been lost down through the ages. A time when Guardians and Rangers and religious politics intertwine and collide.
The central characters journeys take them across Harth, (in unexpected ways) from Starhall to the Northlight,
‘…two ends of the road, two poles with all of Harth strung out between them,
’with a mountain range of angst, misunderstanding and danger in between.

At one point, when the travelers emerged from the volcanic cone, I was reminded of an experience in the Azores, standing in the volcanic vent, Algar do Carvo, on Teceira Island, looking up towards the sky, outlined by slabs of rock, mosses and ferns.

I wondered if the travelers’ experience of emergence paralleled my own.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Pegasus by Robin McKinley ‘…and they were haloed in all thee colours of thee rainbow.’

A McKinley fan from way back, I’m unsure as to whether I enjoyed Pegasus because I’m a fan or for the story. It could simply be that I realize that I have to wait for the next book to be published and I am in no mood to leave this place.
All the right ingredients are here but things seemed a little wordy to begin.
We have a story filled with feisty and believable heroes, a Magician’s Guild with dastardly mages like Fthoom, ‘whose eyes glittered-like jewels in sunlight, not like human eyes at all’, pegi shamans; indeed a myriad of aspects colliding in the mystery of time and happenstance, of tradition and what is and what could be. Towards the end of the book I had more questions than at the beginning. I found myself fearful of what the future holds for this amazing world—what wicked plots. It seems an unnamed dread overshadows the pegi-human alliance, possibly its very survival. Overtones point to Fthoom as a key player here.
The cross cultural relationships between Pegasus and human, between Princess Sylviianel and Ebon are the stuff of fabulous fantasy whilst reflecting very human interactions. I was always sure Sylvi and Ebon were going to be caught practicing their flying. This would have been a major incident and breach of Alliance protocol.
The story brings into focus many questions. Why can Sylvi and Ebon communicate more than others with Pegasus-human bindings? What is it about the magic of the human magicians? The mystical caves where the pegi sculpt their story appear to be at the heart of the of the pegi culture and hold importance for the world in general. The caves impact leaves the reader as confused and overwhelmed as Sylvi.
Again I admit to being a tad disgruntled about Pegasus and I can’t clarify why. Maybe because it didn’t end with one book, maybe I just don’t like having to wait to continue the adventure.
(Should I be like one acquaintance who doesn’t start to read a series until the whole series has been published—in the case of Jordan’s, Wheel’s of Time series that would have been a very long wait! I first started reading the Eye of the World in 1990. I finally gave up because I couldn’t take it anymore. Interestingly I don’t feel like that about Steven Erikson’s Malazan’s series).
McKinley has created a vivid world. I enjoyed my time here even though this is not the best McKinley novel I’ve ever read (certainly Deerskin and Sunshine are up there at the top of that list). The words Sylvie read about the pegi from the first contact group give voice to their beauty and presence, imparted to us as reader.
They are a little like horses, but yet far more fine than any horse, even a queen’s palfrey: they are a little like deer, except deer are rough and clumsy beside them; and their wings are huge, huger than an eagles’, and when thee lowering sunne struck through their primaries, for as they cantered towards us they left their wings unfurled, thee light was broken as if by prisms, and they were haloed in all thee colours of thee rainbow.’

Monday, March 21, 2011

Serpent in the Thorns by Jeri Westerson

'announce me to you master...the name is Crispin Guest'

Murder and courtly intrigue recalling the people involved in the Tracker’s fall from grace are woven into Book 2 of the Crispin Guest novels including Lancaster, the Abbot of Westminster Abbey, and of course Richard.
As a character, Guest has developed further in Westerson’s second novel. He’s rounding out, has substance and feels like an old friend. He’s still being beaten up by the Sheriff, still stiff with pride about being a knight and the inherent differences in class in 14th Century England, and still quoting Socrates.

We glimpse his unbroken ideals when he talks about his philosophy about life to Liveth. She asks him,
‘Why not become an outlaw on the highways? Other knights struck by poverty take to it readily enough.’
Eventually Crispin replies that life is more than climbing out of poverty,
‘…men need a challenge. They need to feel useful, that they fill an important place in the world.’  (p.108)
The Tracker’s London is as ever, a dangerous sewer pit-–the reeking streets, the polluted Thames, the ragged beggars, occasionally overlaid by descriptions of early morning crispness. All leap off the page and assault the reader’s senses.

Once again there’s a religious relic involved. Once again Crispin is determined such things are nonsense. But...!
Jack’s encounter with the relic and reaction to it is a gem of delight. Here again a character under growth in situ and I am becoming more attached to him–-as is Guest (behind the grumpy exterior)

The tracker’s confrontation with the King Richard is reminiscent of Matthew Shardlake’s with King Henry VIII in C.J.Sansom’s novel Sovereign.
Again honor over expediency. But we love him for it. The Tracker reminds me of the Clint Eastwood anti-heroes. But then Westerson says that Guest is based on Sam Spade a definitive anti-hero!
I am certainly well pleased with the Serpent. The novel is rollicking good fun and Crispin Guest is a hero to enjoy.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

ramblings across readings of renown

So I've just reread Veil of Lies (thank you local library) by Jeri Westerson as a prelude to reading her latest novelThe Demon's Parchment. This has been burning a hole in my Kindle pocket since I bought it before Christmas - as a re a couple of titles. Now to reread Serpent in the Thorns and then start on my Westerson's latest title! Yay!

Oh! I did divert by way of Robin McKinley's new title Pegasus, and then of course had to reread The Blue Sword and The Hero and the Crown.

And somewhere in between all that I reread Georgette Heyer's, Devil's Cub (I cut my reading teeth on Georgette Heyer, Rosemary Sutcliffe, Mills & Boon, Barbara Cartland and my mother's True Romance comics, or rather in today speak, 'graphic' novels')

Oops! I did digress to Never After that contains 4 short stories by Lauell K. Hamilton, Yasmine Galenorn, Marjorie M. Liu and Sharon Shinn. I had this title on hold at the library as I can't afford to be buying books for my kindle as much as I want to-although I am tempted to 1-click all over the place.

Yes, as a child I lived opposite a library. Wow! Was that ever a major happen stance that pointed me towards a lifelong love dedication for the worlds and realms that could be discovered, entered into, even fled to, as I grew up. That love of reading, couple with the fact that my Great Aunt was the Teacher Librarian (one of the first such in the State of Victoria, Australia) probably led me towards my career as a Teacher Librarian and various off shoots from that profession.

But I haven't mentioned that my great love for the past 40 years has been Science Fiction & Fantasy. Ever since a college assignment during my librarianship training, which was to compile a bibliography for primary (elementary) and secondary school students on a subject of our choice.
I chose Science Fiction & Fantasy and used Space Age Books - early 70's, in Swanston Street, Melbourne, Australia (of Lee Harding fame) to source my list - not much available in the Primary area then-but I met (on paper) Robert A. Heinlein & Andre Norton.
After that I followed women writers in this area ('cause it was the days of Women's Electoral Lobby--WEL, Germaine Greer etc.) like Ursula LeGuin, Vonda N. McIntyre, C.J. Cherryh, Marion Zimmer Bradley, Sherri Tepper, Elizabeth Moon, Janny Wurts, Tanya Huff, Mercedes Lackey and Lois McMaster Bujold. Mind you I have my favorite titles from these authors. For example, I do love Raymond Feist & Janny Wurts', Empire Trilogy.
Women striding out in a male dominated domain. Yes, when I close my eyes I am 6 feet tall, athletic and able to bound across mountain tops in a single stride. In reality I am 5'2" and tending towards a well rounded figure that takes small steps due to ice and snow found in the North American landscape.

Really as a fairly eclectic reader I am open to many genres.

Although I must say that my discovery of Steven Erikson a few years ago when I was working as a buyer for a major wholesale book company was another of those heart stopping moments. What a writer! I felt like I was embarking on an epic journey of Iliad & Odyssey proportions when I fell into his Garden of the Moons (paperback) and the Malazan Empire. The breadth, richness and complexity of this world he has birthed is truly amazing. Mind you, I took one look at his background in archaeology and anthropology, coupled with years in the UK and went Ah Ha!! ...coupled with his enormous vision and talent! Wow!
I have lately purchased the Kindle edition of Moons (it was on sale) and have been following the discussion at tor.com ... and now they have started a reread of Memories of Ice! Yikes!

Meanwhile, back at Jeri Westerson and Crispin Guest....The Tracker. I do love Crispin's soliloquies as he back and forths between now being one of the common people and in his heart of hearts holding to the fact that he is a Knight. Albeit a knight stripped of title, lands, and betrothed due to treason. He ill advisedly joined a movement to place his mentor and Lord, John of Gaunt, the Duke of Lancaster, on the throne rather than the boy king Richard, in 14th Century England.
Now he frequents thieves dens and dubious ale houses in the underbelly of a truly dank and dreadful London, with his trusty but unwanted servant boy Jack who sticks to Crispin like a burr. Here he barely makes a living, pitting his wit and knife (no sword now) in such endeavors that may earn a very minimal living as 'The Tracker'-- investigator for hire.
Westerson likens Crispin Guest and her Medieval Noir to the Sam Spade of medieval London at ' a period rife with intrigue, codes of honor, mysterious doings and dim, shadowy light.' (Veil of Lies- Afterwards)
... and Crispin does have that hard boiled honourable edge, coating the occasional softness inside. In this chapter of his life he is hired to track the wherefores of a young wife (Philippa Walcote), has to solve two murders, gets caught up in courtly and international intrigue, physically beaten by the Sheriff at almost every encounter, pursued by foreign thugs (of the Mafia disposition) with a Saracen thrown in for good measure, and falls in love, all the while tracking an obscure, mystical and dangerous religious artifact. The Mandyllon, the face cloth of Christ that in Westerson's fiction forces those in it's presence to only ever tell the truth, to reveal their 'true image' their 'true self.'
A fascinating and fulfilling contribution to the Medieval Mystery genre. I am looking forward to my reread of Serpent in the Thorns.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Wren Journeymage (Wren series) by Sherwood Smith

Having read 'Wren to the Rescue' many moons ago it was interesting to see how far Wren had come as a character. I quite enjoyed catching up as it were and may go back and read the in between happenings from the series. 
Look for further reviews at: http://www.librarything.com/work/10617132

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The End of Marking Time, by C.J. West

Opening with the main protagonist explaining how he had arrived at his current state throws us right into the action
Michael O’Connor has been in a coma for four years as a result of a fellow prisoner’s escape en route to jail. Michael has awoken to a different US justice system, where criminals are no longer jailed but tethered, where on the surface the system appears to be working, but below that surface is a sinister, vigilante attitude towards criminals. Circumstances have no place. Prisoners are less than human. Human rights are dead. (and by extension the society's)
I felt like I was reading Clockwork Orange meets Big Brother meets 1984. (I later read that C.J. West sees his novel as “a modern 1984 meets Prison Break.")
The supposition of the novel was fine, I did get drawn into the action and followed Michael‘s rehabilitation process in this changed society.
The controllers of this process are one dimensional, dehumanized by their very role.
The ending was somewhat surprising, although truth-to-tell; as I approached the final pages I had already surmised parts of it. Let me just say that some things came together too neatly – but then perhaps that is a reflection of this changed society that West portrays where the majority of  people are being forced into neat, little boxes, and the law enforcers have become the oppressors. The color “dark grey” and the word “dangerous” kept floating across my reading as I reflected on the portrayed society. Certainly the premises are disturbing.
Personally I found the closing unsatisfactory and kept asking…Why...or… How else?
… but maybe that’s the author’s very point, particularly as the story ended up haunting me for quite sometime!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Spirit Dances by C.E. Murphy (ARC)

The exploits of urban shaman Joanne Walker, Seattle police detective extraordinaire, continue. Once more Walker’s best planned intentions go astray creating havoc during a new murder investigation. Sure she intuitively connects many of the dots of the case, if she could only solve her own relationship challenges and inner turmoil this would be an added bonus.

As Joanne herself explains,
‘I was bad at relationships. I was bad at reading between lines, at figuring out what people really meant if they didn’t actually say it, and at being charming or flirty or whatever I was, exactly that women were supposed to do to attract men. My skill sets lay along the lines of taking apart car engines, drinking grown men under the table—and more recently—solving esoteric murders.'

The death of a Native American dancer under bizarre circumstances and the disappearance of some of the homeless of Seattle are seemingly unrelated. Yet even the most distant of relationships sometimes merge and dance to a different rhythm.

A foot-in-mouth heroine who goes from incredibly wise, to a gangly teenage in under 30 seconds, Walker treads her world as a warrior-shaman, dealing with cases that would make the rest of us shudder.
Here is a character we can laugh with and wince with. A heroine we readers can enjoy standing alongside—quirky, irreverent, yet sparklingly sincere and loveable. The self-deprecating humor and irony Murphy laces the direst of situations with is wonderful.

The supporting characters of Billy and Melinda continue to grow and add strength to the story. Joanna’s relationship with her boss Morrison continues to fascinate and frustrate both her and us. 
Another fast paced, well crafted read from Murphy.

Pub Date: 03/29/2011
Harlequin: Luna Books
ISBN: 9780373803255