Stuff and that.

Stuff. And yeah. That

Category: Books

Here be monsters…

In between procrastinating and writing reports and the like, I’ve done a bit of reading. I have given up on The Angel of Darkness. It’s not that I don’t like it – it’s interesting and well written and all that, but it’s so goddamn long and there’s a whole lot of other books I’m hanging out to read (Randomly, Caleb Carr’s dad was Lucien Carr – one of the Beat Generation, he hung out with Kerouac and William Burroughs. This may explain some things. Hrrm.) So, it’s gone back on the virtual shelf while I read some other stuff like “Trigger Warning” by Neil Gaiman and “Resistance” by John Birmingham which both had the advantage of being fast paced and action-y with explosions and the like, coupled with a decent degree of squicky disturbance.

Ok, Trigger Warning was light on with the explosions, and most of the stories weren’t exactly fast paced. But squicky? Yep. Bit squirmy? In places, definitely. The title comes from those earnest warnings at the beginning of stories and articles and letting people know there might be something they don’t like or find upsetting contained within the pages. To be honest, I personally find those warnings to be bit of a wank, like those “here be monsters” signs on old maps warning of who knows what lies beneath. (Apologies of sorts to those of you who appreciate those warnings. You can continue to be suitably warned and I shall continue to be mildly irritated by them. And yes, I have things that I don’t like to read about, and yes, I have *issues* but bloody hell, I do not want to be warned at the start of every bloody thing I read that the contents may disturb, if I come across something that presses my buttons, I move right along. Life is too short. But that’s just me and I am digressing. As usual)

Back to Trigger Warning. It’s short stories, which is good when one is accidentally reading a book in between another book. Some of the stories feel like snippets of longer stories, and some of them are completely satisfactory on their own. My favourite is the one about the uninventor, and the story in the world of American Gods. Roughly a month after I finished it, these two stories are the ones that have stuck with me the longest. I think I prefer Mr Gaiman’s longer fiction generally, but there’s nothing wrong with this collection at all. I’m looking forward to the next one. Whenever that may be…

(Ironically, the most viscerally unpleasant reaction I’ve ever had to reading something came from reading one of Mr Gaiman’s books. It was a kids book, and not something one would expect. I took something from the experience, and have continued to read and love Mr Gaiman’s books.)

And now, onto The Dave.

Complete with actual monsters.

Resistance is the second in the Dave Hooper trilogy. Dave is still a dick, however, in amongst the sexy times and the biffo with the monsters and Dave following his dick instead of listening to other people, Dave is starting to develop a hint of self awareness (and I don’t think he really likes what he sees.) This trilogy really feels like a bigger book in three parts, and I cannot wait for part three. There’s a character who’s name escapes me (Tinder? Trinder? because the book is in my room along with my own sleeping monster, I can’t go and check) anyway, what ever the hell his name is, Tommy Lee Jones should play him in the movie. The monsters are still monstrous, and they’re learning the ways of the food and how the food has evolved a tiny bit since they last walked on the earth. And they’re quite funny, these grumpy and outraged monsters.

I love these books. they are so totally and outrageously ridiculous, you can’t help but snigger like a grubby school boy the whole way through. It’s a beer and pizza kind of book and there’s absolutely nothing at all wrong with that! There’s explosions and fighting and neck beards. What’s not to love.

I think that means I’ve read nine and a half books in 12 weeks. That’s some kind of record since BC*, I reckon. Aside from the three months I spent commuting, that is – when I think I read three books a week for three months!

*BC = Before Children. I’m old. Not that old!



So much for not swearing, hey? Actually I’m not doing too badly at that, to be honest. I’ve reduced swears by at least 75% which means I’m down to swearing like a trooper from using swears as punctuation. No, the grumbles (and swears) are down to having hurt my back. Not sure exactly what I did this time – normally, there’s some form of twisting and bending involved. This time it was more of a gradual collapse of all the things to the point where I was standing there like a stuffed mullet looking at my feet and my shoes and wondering how on earth I was going to get these things together. Also, regretting my dislike of shoes that don’t attach firmly to my feet (you know, like slides and slip ons and thongs and the like)

But yay, I hears you say. All the reading you can do while you’re resting. You will have 50 books in no time.

Except for the can’t lay down in bed. If I’m sleeping, that’s fine. If I am awake and in my bed, it’s get up right now or else. Sitting on the rock hard dining chair is quite fine, sitting on the same chair with a cushion – not so much. Sitting up nice and straight in the recliner – if you must. Reclining said recliner? OMG NOOOOOOO. Fortuitously, I can lie across the couch. Weird, hey? But it’s not practical, so I’ve been mostly making like an old, slow, fat shark and keeping on moving. I can’t bend over, and I can’t lift stuff – Awkward.

I’ve improved a lot since it went all doo-lally on me, but there’s still at least four more weeks of me wombling around nagging the Minions to do all the housework. Chaos is rather good at putting on the washing (and has learned that it is important to pop the washing in the machine before he turns it on. Oops.) Mayhem still complains vociferously, and his sweeping technique involves idly swirling the broom around in circles not doing much of anything, however, he is quite good at vacuuming. Their future selves will thank me (and I may or may not be hoping they forget I really only need help while my back is in a state, and that they will continue to actively participate in housework when I’m back to what passes for normal.) Sir Reg is penciled in for some lifting of heavy things tomorrow.

Anyway, I’ve finished one more book – the second Veronica Mars book, Mr Kiss-and-Tell. OMG, it’s trash. But it’s the best kind of trash. There’s a fair bit of Logan, and Veronica *finally* moves out of her dad’s place (Ok, I know, she was living in NY for ages and went to college and everything, but this feels like a proper moving out of home type of moving out of home).   It’s a perfect read when one is a bit unable to concentrate on anything much. I liked it – two thumbs up from me. Plenty of snappy dialogue, lots of relationship angst and a couple of ooo-er moments. And yeah, looking forward to #3. Which is undoubtedly aaaaaaaages away.

So, I am alternating between lolling across the couch, and wandering around shouting orders at everyone else. House is tidy and the washing is done, so it’s working out ok so far. And if the whole thing is in fact down to stress (which it appears to be) – getting someone else to do the housework isn’t such a bad idea. Even if I have to nag a lot! Oh, and I’ve taken up my embroidery again – ok, I’ve done about five rows of a postcard sized piece, but it’s still NOT CANDY CRUSH!

The shoulder bone’s connected to the knee bone…

Or something along those lines…

After a ridiculous couple of weeks months, it appears that

  1. Summer is here.
  2. We have NOTHING on this weekend.
  3. I may get a chance to tidy up my damn house.
  4. And buy food.
  5. And bake (assuming it’s not ridiculously hot all weekend)
  6. And I may get to loll on the couch with one of the three books I’ve bought in the last couple of weeks.

Since my normal source of reading material has been in hiatus so to speak (Arrrr) and as my dalliance with its replacement seemed keener to offer me viruses than literature, I’ve um. Resorted to actually buying books Real, live PAPER books. This is quite unheard of – over the last few years, I’ve mostly bought cook books and the odd e-book, and acquired several dozen books by slightly nefarious means. So, since Christmas I have read three real live books and three and a half e-books. And a bit of another paper book (I think, it’s all getting confusing). And while I haven’t been writing about things, I have been wasting my limited time actually reading!

Here’s a wee list of the books I’ve read over the last month.

  1. Emergence by John Birmingham – explode-y goodness with monsters.  This book is best descried as a full ridiculous boys own ripping yarn. Now, Mr Birmingham shot to fame with a book about a felafel. However, since I’m not sure when, he’s been writing cracking alt.history type books (Axis of Time trilogy and Without Warning which are both pretty awesome. He also writes strong, proper women which is a bit unusual in this type of book where chicks aren’t purely decorative). Emergence is different in that the main character, Dave, is a bit of a dick. He’s a text book “looser” dead-beat dad and generally a bit of a moron. He’s the security guy on an oil rig heading back to work, and discovers there’s monsters on the oil rig. He whacks one about the head and it all starts from there. I was amused the whole time I was reading it – it’s just, well, funny. It’s not a laugh a minute type of book, but it’s a laugh. I can’t wait for the next one (March 1st. I’ve ordered it already!) My only gripe was, in light of the other books I’ve read of Mr Birmingham, the only two women in the story were side characters – one was a foil for The Dave at the start, and the other seems to be a bit of a lerve interest. However, I have it on good authority that there’s more women in the next one and Dave gets pulled into line a bit. I am looking forward to Book 2 (and Book 3, to be honest!). I’ll give it four solid stars.
  2. Three of those Preston and Child books. Again with the ridic, but strangely compelling as well.They’re not very good if you think about them too much, but as far as trashy holiday don’t want to think about too much goes – yeah. Definitely readable. I think I read book #8, #9 and #10, and I’m pretty sure I’ll go back and read the rest of them later (after I’ve forgotten how much they irritate me while I’m reading them!)
  3. The first Veronica Mars novel. Started slowly but finished well (I’ve just started the second one) It’s called “The Thousand Dollar Tan Line” and it’s true trash crime. Veronica Mars was always a secret pleasure of mine when it was on the telly, and I downloaded the film when it came out as well. She’s sassy and a bit of a smart arse and makes some pretty daft choices. But as I said earlier, this started slowly and got stuck right in and was pretty good by the end of it.
  4. Foxglove Summer by Ben Aaronovitch – yep. Another favourite series, and a worthy entry – although it ended a bit abruptly. I read most of it on a wet afternoon on our best winter holiday in the middle of summer we’ve ever had. This book is best described as urban fantasy – where weird shit happens and it’s usually down to a wizard. It’s very British in the humour, but hey – I like that sort of thing, plus I grew up with Python and The Goons. There’s a lot going on in this one – some flashbacks to earlier books, as well as the discovering a few things about a few characters. It really felt like the last two chapters were left out though. Disconcerting.

Anyway, that’s about it. I’ve read SEVEN books in about seven weeks. Winner! I’m reading Angel of Darkness by Caleb Carr as well as the second Veronica Mars. Plus, I have the new Neil Gaiman on the cupboard waiting for me. I’m also considering re-starting my library membership, but their e-books seem to lean toward cosies and not so much the thriller-y types that I prefer.

Resuming usual programming…

Yes, I am back! Much to write about but first, I have the need to get this off my chest. I’ve just read a book and I DID NOT LIKE IT.

Weirdly enough, I can’t quite put my finger on why I didn’t like it, but there – I said it. I did not like Big Little Lies by Liane Moriaty. I’m definitely in the minority – it gets rave review everywhere. And it’s not that I’m a literary purist or anything. I read Charlaine Harris un-ironically. I like mysteries. I don’t mind an amusing book. And I wasn’t even put off by the whole humorous domestic violence angle. It was well written – enough that I kept on reading it while it was irritating the hell out of me. I mainly wanted to find out who did it and confirm who it was who got killed. I figured out who was going to get his or her comeuppance pretty quickly – as soon as I worked out the other *twist*, it just made sense that that would be whom got killed. (Man, it’s hard to write without spoilers. Just because *I* hated it, 50,000+ people loved it totally sick, so I shall endeavour not to spoil it.)

Now, as I mentioned, the book was well written – there was nothing wrong with the characters. Ok, some of them were a little cardboard cut-out, but on the whole, there was nothing wrong with any of them. I recognised a few of the types, having lived the playground dramas for the last seven or so years. There’s definitely a playground totem pole, and at the school my kids are at, the working full time mothers are definitely the lowest of the low, and need to volunteer ALL of their spare time to get past the lowest rung. Pfft. Bugger that. I’ll just take the fundraising chocolates to work. And sell them all. Bwhahaha.

Digressing again.

Also, I didn’t really find the book to be funny. At all. I could tell when it was supposed to be amusing. Little bon mots, sly asides and all that. Very droll. Like reading a book with a laugh track. And it wasn’t just the juxtaposition of humour with a very serious topic. Sometimes humour can go a long way toward getting a serious message out to people that would not normally listen. But this wasn’t funny. This was like “Everybody Loves Raymond”. Not even a wry smile. (OK, I hate Seinfeld and I’m generally not amused by the Simpsons, so again – it could just be me. I do actually have a sense of humour. It just wasn’t THAT).

The two key themes were domestic violence and how it can happen to anyone, and bullying – and yes, one does go hand in hand with the other. Body image and blended families and well, you name it. With the (alleged) humour to make it not one of those Wall of Pain books. Hrrm. The bullying part was interesting to me in the way it was handled – been living that as well. From both sides. That was one section that did not have any ring of truth to it, although hey – again. Different to my experience, which doesn’t mean it’s less valid. And one of the bullies involved at my kids school is pretty hard core (won’t be starting school until a couple of weeks after everyone else) BUT all the kids know who’s doing what to whom, and the Playground Grapevine means someone will call someone else (even the working full time pariahs get a call if their kid is in the equation) and everyone knows which kid is beating on other kids. So, I suppose nobody knowing who’s kid was actually doing the whack struck me as strange. The kids *always* told. And the resolution of the bullying fitted in oh so well with everything else that was going on.

I still can’t put my finger on why I didn’t like this book. I honestly couldn’t give it one star though – I read it over a couple of days because I just wanted to confirm what I thought was going to happen. Which it did (except for who actually done it. That was surprising and still irritating). I’m still irritated by the damn book – so it’s stuck with me. But it’s more like poking a bruise to see if it still hurts.

Crikey, I was hoping to get to the bottom of why I didn’t like it and I still can’t really say.

  1. It was predictable (I probably read too much crime)
  2. If it really was a crime story, rather than a book where someone got killed, it would be a cosy.
  3. I don’t like cosies. I like my crime and death more um. Crime-y.
  4. It’s really chick lit.
  5. Chick lit with Issues.
  6. Also, I appear to have grown out of chick lit.


  1. It was well written.
  2. The story was fast paced.
  3. You’ll probably at least like it, 97% of reviewers can’t be wrong.


What else have I been up to when I’ve not been allocating pieces of my mind to the reeducation of young whippersnappers? Spot of reading, believe it or not… Since I last posted about books, I’ve read THREE books. Two were new installments by old favourites, t’other was a newish find.

In no particular order, I’ve read Personal by Lee Child – this is the 19th installment in the Jack Reacher series. This time, Jack’s off to London to show those poms a bit of what for. It was one of the better ones, strangely enough. Even though it totally overstepped the bounds of plausibility on so many levels. As if the US Army would fly a loose cannon such as Mr Reacher to Paris then London to track down a sniper… Hrrm. I’ve checked a couple of other reviews of this book, and the pendulum is swinging. This is a love or hate book for a lot of people that read it.

Personally, I found it to be better written and less formulaic than the last few. I suppose there’s only so many towns someone can casually arrive in, beat the crappers out of a few people then get on the next bus out of town, so it wasn’t a bad thing that Mr Reacher left the country. (You would think in these days of the interwebs and all that, the small town police would be on to Jack Reacher by now). Plus the ‘obvious shag interest’ wasn’t. This wasn’t a bad thing at all. I mean, the actual Jack Reacher (as distinct from the small and shiny Mr Cruise) is probably quite hot in a manly kind of way, but he gets laid way more often than one would consider seemly. I digress. Not so much shagging. Only a relatively small amount of biffo and a greater reliance on weaponry, which is ironic seeing as it’s set in the UK where (mostly) only the villains have guns rather than well, just about everybody. So yeah, enjoyed it. Bit of serious couch time invested in this book, and it was a good old fashioned straight up mystery rather than secret agendas and personal politics.

Now, onto the second book…

The Skeleton Road by Val McDermid is a stand alone thriller with a different detective (DI Karen Pirie –  who was in A Darker Domain as well). Now, I do enjoy Ms McDerimd’s books as a rule. She does really good slightly icky crime and decent whodunnits as well. This falls into the second category. A skeleton is found on the roof of an abandoned building, and DI Pirie and her colleagues work to find out who the body belongs to. In parallel, Maggie Blake, an Oxford don is turning 50 and she’s reflecting on parts of her life, including her younger days in the Balkans during the Balkan wars.

I didn’t mind it, but it was sort of paint by numbers. Like, I worked out who it was what was dead, *and* had a fair idea about who it was what dunnit well before the reveal. I don’t like that in a book. I want to go along for the ride, and be surprised and shocked along with everyone else when the denouement is reached. It wasn’t bad by any stretch of the imagination. It was well written, the characters were well rounded, the story was actually quite interesting. It was just a bit meh. Disappoint.

And the third book…

Now, this one was a wild ride. Night Film by Marisha Pessl is really trippy. I’m a fairly visual reader and generally read in full, glorious technicolour. This was black and white, with a splash of colour here and there, shaky hand held camera and everything. Sort of a cross between a David Lunch film and – not really sure what else.  It was creepy and spooky and nothing at all like Special Topics in Calamity Physics. This is a good thing because of the whole didn’t love the first half of it and didn’t start liking it until it stopped trying to be something else. Night Film, however. Not like anything else I’ve ever read. It was about Stanislas Cordova, a cult film director who had vanished from public life, and Scott McGrath, a has been hack journalist who lost his entire life after going after Cordova. This book was weird, strange, compelling, infuriating (Scott McGrath needed a couple of swift punches to the side of the head. More than once.) and so totally not putting this down-able. To the detriment of that stuff I am supposed to do on weekends… This book was good. You know how I mentioned earlier I liked being taken along for a ride – definitely the case here. And it surely was wild and exciting and peculiar, and I didn’t work it out. Even at the end, I sort of half wasn’t sure about what it was I was reading. I was disappointed to finish it, I wanted to know what happened next next.

That side of the book reminded me of American Psycho. That book was disgusting and disturbing, I couldn’t read it at lunch time, and I couldn’t read it before bed because nightmares. BUT at the end of it, all I could think was that it was all in his head. You know how some people stand away from the edge because they’re worried someone will push them in front of a train. Other people stand back from the edge because they know they’re the someone who might push someone else.

Ok, there were a couple more books in the mix as well…

Ok – the first book was called Lexicon, by Max Barry.

It was fucking brilliant.

For me, the dead giveaway of a good book is when I don’t want to do anything else but read my book, and when I was reading that book, that was all I wanted to do. The story and the world within it were so different to anything I’d read before – and while completely outrageous, at the same time you could believe it was plausible. It opened with a young Australian guy being kidnapped at the airport on his arrival in America, gets a needle in the eyeball (ew) and is generally dazed and confused –  when all he wanted to do was catch up with his girlfriend. On the other hand, a second story starting somewhat earlier involving a really young girl who is doing card tricks for money and she ends up at a special “school”  where she learns to use power of words to persuade people to give her what she wants. It’s insane.

There are people that you come across that have things and get things and have things just fall in their lap, and you wonder what it is exactly that they’ve done to find themselves in that position. And reading this book makes you wonder if it’s true… The story crosses from the past story thread to the future one and back again until they intertwine so completely you’re reading one story again. There’s guns and chasing and violence and conspiracies and it’s non stop. Savage and brutal and completely merciless.

I didn’t realise that the Max Barry that wrote this was the same one that wrote Jennifer Government and Syrup. Both books I read a long time ago, but I don’t really remember them all that well  – might have to look them up again, hmm.

T’other book I read was the latest Jim Butcher – Skin Game  – this is the fourteenth (or fifteenth) novel in Mr Butcher’s series about Harry Dresden, Chicago’s only Wizard detective. Although, I’m pretty sure that he’s not listed in the phone book any more, what with all the Winter Knight stuff, and living on a haunted island and the like. It was pretty cool. I like them – they’re quality trash and make for awesome winter afternoon reading material (as an aside, is it always winter in Chicago? Or is it just that the last few books seem to have been set in winter?) Not a lot else I can say about this one, really – if you’re going to take up reading them, start at book one. There’s a LOT going on that won’t make a heap of sense unless you start at the start. So, if you like a bit of biffo smacko, bit of magic, bit of actual nasty vampires, few demons, not too much of the sexuals and kissy bits (so it’s probably good for young lads who like that sort of supernatural thing but aren’t keen on  the lovey dovey bits)

Not sure if you’ve noticed or not, but I appear to have got myself into a bit of a funk-ish writer’s block-ish kind of spot (which is currently not being helped by laptop keyboard misbehaviour. I’ve given it a spanking but to no avail. And a jolly good shaking. May need to get the compressor onto it. Or a new one. A new one would be nice). This blockage is extending to other areas – including the writing I get paid to do, so I am sitting here, trying to bash the keyboard into submission along with the blockage of writing… 

Man, this keyboard is annoying me! My imaginary husband is on the telly again, so I might just succumb to the pain in the arse that is writers block and this equally painful damn keyboard and go enjoy a bit more of the technicolour biff while I work out what on earth I am going to read next and suss out whether it’s the computer or me that’s got issues…

The Diogenes Trilogy

One thing I must say since motoring through Game of Thrones – the idea of binge reading a trilogy back to back is no longer as disconcerting. Particularly when the three volumes together are a mere 1,400 pages. That’s child’s play, I tell you, child’s play!

The Diogenes Trilogy is by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child. This series features Aloysius Pendergast and Vincent D’Agosta, plus a heap of other characters that have been in earlier books (in hindsight, I probably should have started at the start because some stuff would have made a lot more sense, but no matter – they certainly made enough sense without the earlier ones, and there was enough back story with most of the characters that it was pretty clear). Brimstone (the first one) is fairly creepy and weird with people dying in suitably gruesome fashions; the second one  (Dance of Death) – was pretty good, and left you hanging to read #3 (The Book of the Dead). I would have to say that Brimstone and The Book of the Dead were my two favourites, with Dance of Death coming in third. It’s probably a bit difficult to go into too much detail about the stories themselves without spoiling things. Plus, I read the three one after the other, so a couple of the side-stories have got muddled in my mind. Now, there’s loads of homages to other famous detectives and detective fiction – for me, this was an added thrill because I’ve been reading crime n death since – well, since I grew out of the Famous Five books when I was a kid (I moved on to Sherlock Holmes, Agatha Christie, Ngaio Marsh and the like), and Preston and Child have filched entire characters (with due credit!) from other crime novels. And the odd scene that is reminiscent of crucial moments in other books (spoilers if I go any further, so I won’t – suffice to say I was sort of not expecting that particular ending, and I’m almost not sure that the ending won’t be reminiscent of the one it is copying. Clear as mud, yes?)

This isn’t the first time I’ve read books written by two people, but in these, you can almost tell which sections are written by one, and which by the other (don’t know which is which, however) and there’s one I do prefer over the other – I liked the Pendegast sections, and the D’Agusto bits, and not so much the Nora parts. But that’s me and my own particular preferences. But the three of them were a cracking read and I’m not sure what I am going to read next to be honest… Something different, maybe?


One of the many books I got stuck into while spending 14 hours on public transport was The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith.

Now, I didn’t hate it. Not by a long shot. And I’ve read a LOT worse. It also won’t stop me from acquiring Book #3, either. BUT what I have said before and I’ll say again – JK Rowling needs a decent editor. More on that later…

The Silkworm is set in the world of literary editors and small publishers and that sort of thing and involves the demise of a rather unpleasant chap who has written an equally unpleasant book about a whole heap of not particularly pleasant people, none of whom are particularly pleased.

Cormorant Strike is hired by said writer’s wife to find him when he goes missing, and the bulk of the story is Strike looking for Quine and dealing with the people in his life while trying to a) find out where he is and then b) find out who it was what dunnit. The police are exceedingly dim and frustrating in this book – I am used to my British bobbies being a bit more on the clued up side. American police, however – Sheriff Roscoe P Coltrane I am looking at you. Actually, I suspect the policeman in this book was using the aforementioned Sheriff as a role model. Yes. That bumbling.

There’s a decent amount of tension between Strike and Robin, his secretary and the relationship between Robin and her fiance, Matthew (who is a bit of a dick, and reminds me vaguely of an ex boyfriend so I am inclined to dislike him on principal without his dislike of Robin’s job and employer.) is a bit fraught and full of “he doesn’t understand me” but I get the distinct impression Robin doesn’t talk to him about it, plus Matthew is a dick.

Now, there’s not really a lot I can say about the book without giving away the entire plot. So instead, I shall whinge a little about the padding. In A Cuckoo’s Calling, JK Rowling banged on and on and on about how damn HAIRY Cormorant Strike is. This time, not so much about the hair – but on and on and on about his leg and how damaged it was and how woe was him. Toughen up, princess. Get a cane and use it. No need to go on and on and on and on and on and on about it. Some of it was really good, really well written and really tight. Then there were bits that were so – I dunno.

Sometimes, when I was studying literature at school, I would think hey, maybe this part of the book is just there to move the plot along from one place to another and there’s really no deeper meaning. That’s sort of how I felt with this – that the writer was trying to impose meaning on something that really was just moving the plot along from one point to another. I found that a little frustrating (it’s like when people use words that don’t mean quite what they think they mean which makes them come across as a bit try hard and stupid.)

So yeah, didn’t hate it, didn’t love it either. Definitely will read the next one whenever it comes out. They don’t totally suck, but there is surely an editor out there who can trim between 50 and 100 pages from these books. With some of the fluff cleared out, I reckon they have the potential to be a cracking read. Just not yet.

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.

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!