Stuff and that.

Stuff. And yeah. That

Month: June, 2014

New Charlaine Harris. Less vampires, more creepy!

It was with a mixture of glee and trepidation that I opened up “Midnight Crossing” by Charlaine Harris. Trepidation because of the whole dragging out of the inevitable and general silliness of the whole Sookie Stackhouse series; and glee because, well TRASH!!!! I do like me some trashy fiction. I just prefer my trash to include serial killers, crime and death and/or general ridiculous gruesome rather than lovey dovey stuff and not too much of the sexuals. If I want to read raunchy stuff, well hey I know where to look. Ahem. I digress. Often. But you’re aware of that by now. Back to the book. It’s set in the town of Midnight, Texas, which pretty much consists of a diner, service station, antique shop and manicurist, pawn shop and a magic shop and maybe 20 residents. Some of the characters have popped up in other books – the main character, Manfred Bernardo is the cousin of Harper Connolly from that series, Lily Bard rates a mention, and I am sure there’s going to be some cross referencing to all the other series written by Charlaine Harris.

Now, there’s not going to be a lot I can really say about the book because it was only 258 pages long (walk in the park after the last couple of epic marathons I’ve been reading) without giving away too much of the plot, such as it is. Yes, light on with the plot, up there with the character introductions and peculiar events; and potential for general amusements in an ongoing fashion. Saturday was wet and windy where I live – normally, I spend Saturdays ferrying kids around, foraging for the family and generally catching up with the bits of housework the cleaner doesn’t take care of (like washing, meal planning, bill paying, that sort of thing – all the time consuming and tedious stuff that nobody notices when it’s done, but everyone complains about when it’s not), but this last Saturday, not only was I a little shabby from the late night before coupled with an inadvertent early morning (and in dire need of a couple of hours sleep), I had a haircut and colour booked for Saturday morning. So all I had to do was drop off the kids and enjoy sitting back for an hour and a half getting prettied up. And reading my book! Uninterrupted 45 minutes of reading while my colour did its thing and whadderyou know, I’m a fair chunk of the way through the book. Fast forward to the afternoon when apathy had taken hold and used its super strength gravitational pull to cement me to the couch for the duration, only leaving the couch to switch over a load of washing or throw food at the kids. I finished the entire book in one day.

Can’t remember the last time I did that – partially because I’ve been reading epicly long books of epic epicness, and mostly because I don’t often take the time. But it was a wet, miserable day and it was warm and comfy inside on the couch with a book. I think this book would work just as well as a loll on the beach under an umbrella kind of book with a nice, cool drink as well. It’s easy to whip through in one (or two) or two sessions, and perfectly trashy. It’s definitely a McBook; hence my need to write it up before it vanished from memory, which I’m quite sure it will in a couple of days. The ‘mystery’ was sorta weird, and the wrap up was equally peculiar, but hey. I didn’t mind it at all, and while I won’t be chomping at the bit waiting for the next one to show up, I’ll certainly acquire it when the time comes.

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Crikey, now I have to wait another five years.

Old George RR Martin isn’t the only writer who likes to torment his fans by making them wait an INORDINATE amount of time between books. Diana Gabaldon is another writer that likes to make sure her readers are tormented for as long as possible between books. Ok, she does offer the shorter novels in between the big monsters, but still –  five years between books is a long time to wait. Although, unlike Mr Martin, Ms Gabaldon doesn’t feel the need to have a cast of thousands and a death list of hundreds. Most of the people who bite the dust in her books well and truly deserve it. A couple of them deserve it twice.

The Outlander series is a timey wimey wibbly wobbly series of books that flits between the twentieth century and 18th century. They don’t fit strictly into one genre in that while they’re historical romances, there’s time travel, loads of gruesome battles (Culloden for one, plus chunks of the American Revolution and battles around and about Scotland and the South of America between the 1740s through to the 1780s). There are a mixture of ‘real’ historical figures dotted throughout the stories as well, and Claire’s recollection of history from a relatively modern perspective adds to the – well, general coolness of the books.

Written in My Own Heart’s Blood is the eighth book in the series and starts shortly after the end of  An Echo In the Bone, when Claire discovers Jamie isn’t dead… (not a spoiler – happens in the first page or so!) and the fallout from all of that, and Willie discovering who his father is and being a complete idiot about it. It races off out of the blocks and barely pauses for breath in 1100 odd pages. Brianna is having a dire time in the 20th century, and while sometimes the “modern” stuff is a bit of a mood crusher, this time, I was pretty keen to keep up with their story as well. It was worth it. So many things happen in this book – it doesn’t stop for a minute.

An Echo in the Bone had a dirty great cliffhanger which was all very well and good, but when you have to wait for FIVE YEARS…  well, that’s just mean. This one didn’t end with a cliffhanger as such, but left me waiting and wanting to read the next one now please. It had a really nice ending. The ending was nice enough that if Ms Gabaldon never picked up a pen again, the ending of this book was quite satisfactory. One thing I will say, that’s not really a spoiler, but more of an alert – there’s a hell of a lot of sexy bits in this one. Crikey. EVERYONE was either at it, thinking about being at it or remembering being at it. And there’s a couple of REALLY gross operations. In detail. More than one of which had me squirming as I read it.

Anyway, I read the 1100 odd pages in under a week, couldn’t put it down and stayed up way too late. And it was worth it!

The Purity of Vengeance

What a title, hey?

The Purity of Vengeance is by Jussi Adler-Olsen. He’s a Danish writer, and writes gloomy and always slightly twisted crime novels set in Copenhagen in the mysterious Department Q. They’re set up to solve cold cases (but also to keep Detective Carl Morck sort of out of mischief) and I think there’s something peculiar going on in that there’s copious money allocated to Dept Q and only a relatively minuscule amount of money is actually used to fund the Department.

I definitely missed the third book in this series – I get confused because there’s a British translation and a US translation, and I think I’ve acquired two versions of all of the books EXCEPT for #3. Anyway, because I am a lazy girl and couldn’t be bothered working out which one was number three, I just read number four. This one was more historical than some of the others, and was loosely based on a real place and a real dark spot in Danish history. There was a small island called Sprogo where ‘unsuitable’ women were sent until they were safe to return to civilised society – this generally involved them being sterilised before they were returned to polite society so they couldn’t breed. Nasty stuff. And we tend to consider the Scandinavians to be just that bit more civilised with their approach to social welfare… #yesallwomen indeed.

Anyway, this mystery revolves around one of the inmates getting revenge on a group of people who were involved in her incarceration, with a revisitation of the crime from the first book that led to Morck being banished to the basement, more derrings do by Assad, leading to suspicions about who he was in his past life. The story switches between the perspective of the detectives in 2010 and with Nete Hermansen in the 1950s and the 1980s. There’s not so much mystery, and more a string of coincidences that lead the detectives to discover  what’s going on.

I really enjoy these books. They’re morose and wryly humourous at the same time. Not HAHAHAHA laugh out loud funny, more a sly half smile here and there. And there’s links between the two other books and the fourth one, and I assume the third as well, which makes reading the books an investment of time (not like Game of Thrones or anything. That’s a marathon). But you have the same characters, and it always seems to be winter. Raving flu going around this time, complete with descriptions of excessive bodily fluids. I really should get hold of the third one.

The Gods of Guilt

Michael Connelly is one of my favourite writers despite being a bit of a McAuthor. His books are totally readable and quick; which is a good thing. But at the same time, they’re eminently forgettable. McBooks. This one was a Mickey Haller one, (Think I prefer Harry Bosch to be honest. Mickey is a bit light on.) and I think I must have missed one, or a hell of a lot of stuff happened between the last Haller book and this one.

Still, it was an absolute cracker read -super fast and action packed. Because of the gap between the two stories, I really felt like I was missing something about the changes in the relationship between Mickey and his ex wife, and it seemed like it was important. Maybe there’s a novella or something? Anyway, aside from the whole “huh? I thought they were getting along?” feeling I had throughout, it was good fun. There were a couple of totally OMFG moments – the first of which wasn’t a surprise.  You could see something coming. The second one? Nope. That was definitely a BLOODY HELL. WTF. Um. What just happened there? It made the book better than it was. I wouldn’t give it four stars, even though I enjoyed it – but that’s mainly because I don’t love the Mickey Haller books as much as the Bosch ones, and there were too many excellent coincidences that nicely moved the story along for it to be anything more than a three and a bit.

I did like the title though. The “Gods of Guilt” refers to the jury, and the role they play in determining the guilt of the defendant; and how the Gods of Guilt translate to real life; and how people get judged by a jury of their peers for so many things they do, don’t do and probably should do (yes, I’m talking women again. I was reading this at the same time as the #yesallwomen hashtag was going off after that nutbag murdered seven people because he couldn’t get a root. Newsflash, mate – it’s not women that have a problem, it’s you.) But yeah, the whole “Gods of Guilt” made me think about the blame game and how people are so damn judgmental about pretty much everything anyone else ever does; and how being that judgmental doesn’t really help anyone get along. But yeah, bit off on a tangent there.  Nowt to do with the actual book at all!

 

Aliens

Not that kind of aliens…

The Alienist, by Caleb Carr.

Now, I didn’t do very well with the Blog Every Day in May challenge – partly because some of the post topics were a little um. Personal, I guess. And the main intent of this blog is to talk about books and cooking. Plus, I was getting all outraged and shouty about the Budget, which coloured my thoughts about writing everything really. I’m still outraged and shouty, but being outraged and shouty has just been reducing my blogging mojo and not stopping my reading mojo… Which is really what this blog is all about.

Back to The Alienist.

It’s set in 1896, at the dawn of forensics and psychiatry, and Theodore Roosevelt is thinking about politics and being the Chief of Police.  A good friend of mine recommended it to me, knowing that I like crime n death and serial killers and forensics and all that. And she was right, I liked it quite a lot. It was peculiar reading a book where the fictional characters were also real people at the same time. It was pretty gruesome, but all the gore and grossness seemed to happen in the dimly lit gaslight. It was never obvious exactly where it was going, and sometimes I wasn’t sure that the author knew where it was going. But while I wouldn’t exactly call it a gripping page turner, it certainly held my interest for the duration, and I’m definitely going to read more of Caleb Carr later on.

One thing I did find interesting was the relationships between the characters. Dr Kriezler was a bit of a meglomaniac, Moore was a bit of a dilettante playing at being detective at first, then he seemed to get his act together. The role of women in the book was quite interesting, in that Sara Howard was the first female hired as a police officer in New York – however, it appears that the more things change, the more they stay the same, and she was still subject to the same bullshit that women cop every day today (another thing that makes me feel all outraged and shouty – because, yes. All women.) plus with the added expectation that she get married and be a good wife.

Actually finding the bad guy was almost secondary to the quest and the relationships between the characters and the role of forensics and psychiatry; the actual finding was a bit disappointing and a bit of a let down. I was expecting something/someone different. So I would say that if you like a bit of history with your mystery, it’s well worth your time.