I had a superb two weeks of reading after I got out of the hospital. I read 6 books in total! A quick summary of each follows:
Blood on the Tongue - Stephen Booth - Number 3 in the DS Ben Cooper/DI Diane Fry series, set in the Peak dales in the UK. Very atmospheric, the murder is entwined with a crashed plane that went down WW2 in the Peaks, and a granddaughter's search for what happened to her grandfather after the crash. I really like this series. A feel for the location, the townspeople, and especially the weather and the landscape, looms over all the action in this series. 4.5/5
Wide Open - Deborah Coates - I saw this title first over at Lesa's Book Critiques in the round up of her favourites from last year. I had to get this book as soon as I saw her review, and fortunately the library had in their system so I could request it before the Double dare started! This is a debut mystery, and is it ever good. Sergeant Hallie Michaels is on duty in the Middle East - Afghanistan, and is granted 10 days personal leave to come home for her sister's funeral. Dell's ghost is waiting for her at the airport. Is her death suicide and everyone thinks, or murder? Hallie investigates, along the way discovering that she is drawing the ghosts of other dead people to her as well. Very well done, set in the American state of South Dakota, in the wide open spaces of horse and farming country, as well as Hallie learning what wide open means for her. I loved this mystery. She is practical, no-nonsense, and has to deal with the ghosts and it's done so well, that the story is believable, despite the slight hitch of the magic that might be involved - not for Hallie, she has one. There is no witch here, non of the usual lightness or sweetness about it. People die, and the novel is gritty and bittersweet. Highly recommended. 4.7/5
The Annotated Persuasion - ed Robert Morrison - linked to my last post, which is the review. 5/5
The Vampire Tapestry - Suzy McKee Charnas - read for Women of Genre Challenge, link here. and Carl's Science Fiction Experience. This is my second book read for this challenge. I have heard about this novel for years and years, and during my recovery, felt like reading a horror novel. Luckily I've had this for about a year, and I happily read it last week. It is as good as anything you will read about vampires. One note: the book is set up as a series of short stories, 5 in total, linked together by the vampire in question, Dr Edward Weyland. This novel was published in 1980, before the vampire craze was started by Anne Rice (or about the same time as). I'm a huge fan of Lestat etc by Rice. It's lush and vivid and creepy and a bit scary, just like the swamps of Louisiana are. The Vampire Tapestry is different. It's set in New England, New York City, and Arizona. How Dr Weyland is discovered to be a vampire, how he exists as a vampire, and what the people do to him who discover his secret, makes for a gripping, tense read. How does he survive? What is it like to look human, but not be one, and to have to live off of them? You will never look at vampires again after reading this novel. He's like an anti-hero hero. I want him to live, even though I am horrified because he is a vampire. The Unicorn Tapestry, which is the middle story, won the Nebula award for novellas. It will leave an impression on you, as the novel does, long after finishing it. It's smart, clever, and in comparison with Lestat - Lestat is still grand, and passionate, but Weyland is believable, and that makes him much more frightening a figure to my mind. You will never forget that we are prey, after reading this book. Excellent vampire reading. 4.8/5
Gift From the Sea - Anne Morrow Lindbergh I love this novel. I have read it at least twice before in my life, and lost every copy I had. I recently picked up the hardcover (recently being sometime in the past two years or so), and in the midst of all my fiction reading, I suddenly wanted to read this. It spoke to me as someone who is about to turn 50, and as someone who is examining her life and deciding what I want to do for the next 40 odd years (everything willing.....) left. How do I want to live? What do I want to do? The funny thing I found reading Gift From the Sea, is how much I have learned about love, and marriage, and life, in the intervening 15 years or so since I last read this. I understood what Anne was talking about, when she talks about the shell for first love/early marriage, the double-sunrise shell, where everything is about the two people in love, staring at one another. Soon enough it changes, to the oyster shell, which is all the changes that the couple go through as they live and work and build a life together, as they have children and make a life that is them, looking outward from the same space. Then, is the empty nest shell, the argonauta, where if successful, the woman - the couple - can leave behind all the work they have done, and start over again for themselves. They can't go back to the double-sunrise, that is for first love. The argonauta is left to each to shape for themselves, as they give themselves space to discover new things. Isn't that a lovely series of shells to describe life with?
She begins with the Moon shell, talking about the woman in particular, because life is about the self first, before love and marriage can come. In this section, she describes why she needs to get away from her five children and her husband, for a week break at a cottage all by herself: she is suffering from Zerrissenheit - a German word meaning "torn-to-pieces-hood". I suddenly knew exactly what this word means, sitting in my kitchen reading this book, because this is how I felt and have been feeling for some time in my life. It's not that I don't love my live, I do! I love my family, I am so happy to be back with my husband, I love my home and my garden and my cats and my books and my friends. What I don't like is my job. There, I'm saying it out loud. I don't like the work that I do, I'm bored, and I've been trying for some time to change my job without success. I don't fit the work that my job has changed into over the last 6 years, and it has taken a deep toll on my health. I've never been sick or hospitalized like I have been these past 7 years, and I don't like it. So I am searching for a way to change my job, or looking into the possibility of taking early retirement, and if that is possible. The two weeks here in my house recovering from the surgery, I took the opportunity to be as still as possible. I feel much less torn to pieces hood now - of course, we'll see how long that survives, once I return to work on Monday! It is very hard to do work at the maximum output all the time, with no quiet time or respite allowed on the job.
Gift From the Sea allowed me to look at my time at home and pretend I was away from it all, that I was at a cottage somewhere, alone during the day. I had silence each day - no music, no tv, no radio - I needed to rest, and to heal. This book is a lovely reminder of how easy it is to get pulled from the center, and how it is our work to return to the center, so we can hold our lives together and not be pulled apart. It is also important that we learn how to find that quiet center in our day, each day, even for 1 or 15 minutes. This is a wonderful book, and highly recommended. 5/5
Leviathan Wakes - James S. A Corey - Read for Carl's Sci-Fi Experience. I discovered this book through Locus Magazine, which had the annual best books of 2012 waiting for me the day I had my surgery, Feb 14. How awesome to come home to this issue! Last weekend I was finally ready to look through it, and I circled so many books to get, as well as happy to see I already own some (not read yet, waiting for Once Upon a Time to start): Hide Me Among the Graves by Tim Powers, Some Kind of Fairy Tale by Graham Joyce, and then others are on the list like Brides of Roll Rock Island by Margo Lanagan, Wide Open by Deborah Coates (because of the ghosts and the hint of magic), Whispers Underground by Ben Aaronovitch (Book 3,must read the second one before this, on my shelf), Boneland by Alan Garner (we can't get it here in Canada!), And Blue Skies From Pain by Stina Leicht (Book 2, I have book one to read on my shelf!), etc, just to give you a hint of how awesome this year's recommended list is. The list is comprehensive, covering young adult, and short stories and novellas also. Here is the link to their site and the list, which you can get online as well.
Leviathan Wakes is the first in a series; the second book, Caliban's War, is the one published last year, that made it onto the recommended reading list. Leviathan's Wake was on the 2011 reading list, somehow I missed reading that it had a creepy Lovecraftian like monster thing too. Sold! I rushed out to Chapters (luckily close to the one event I went to while out, my sister's birthday party) and grabbed a copy, and started reading it the next day. It was so much fun. It's a huge book, at 561 pages, chock full of adventures in space. Man has gone to Mars, and colonized it, and the planets in and around the asteroid belt between the inner and outer planets. Ceres is colonized at the outer edge, as are several asteroids with science stations on them. The story covers two main characters: Detective Miller, hired to look into a missing girl whose parents want her to return to the fold; Jim Holden who is XO of a ice miner going to the asteroid belt for ice and bringing back the ice for water supplies to different planets. He is called to investigate an sos signal. while on a return journey, and what he discovers puts him at the heart of a deadly race that has the survival of the known galaxy at stake. How their paths intersect and how they try to prevent an all-out war, is fun. The creeping Lovecraftian monster? Awesome and creepy and it will give you visionary nightmares after. Satisfying fun space romp, with good characters, tight plotting, and and ending that is a proper ending to these characters, but not to the galaxy. Great fun! 4.7/5
The Burning - Jane Casey The first in the DC Maeve Kerrigan series. My husband had brought this back from England two years ago, and it took me this long to read it. Bad me! this was a very good mystery. I did guess who dunnit before the character did, but this was not a flaw for me in this book - the challenge was seeing if I guessed right, and my reasoning was sound, which it was. That made it very satisfying to read! The mystery itself is well done: 4 women's bodies have been found murdered and burned in different parks, over a series of weeks, in London. The police are at a standstill. No clues. Then a fifth woman's body is found, also murdered and burned, in a park. Maeve is not sure it is the same murderer, as there are some minute differences,and she is pulled from the big investigation to prove or disprove if it is the serial killer's work.
This books sounds gruesome, however not a lot of time is spent with the bodies. Most of it is with the investigations, with following Maeve as she pursues the one case, especially after it is revealed a different killer is at work. Now they have two killers to find..... It is well written, and I enjoyed it very much. It isn't a perfect debut, the killer does something uncharacteristic at the end, yet it doesn't detract from the book. 4.5/5, and recommended.
Whew! Apparently I did have a lot to say!
And this brings me to the 2013 Science Fiction Experience Wrap-up
I read 7 books in total for the science fiction experience. I enjoyed all of them so very much. Thank you Carl for hosting it! I am really enjoying increasing the books I am reading each year in this area. Here is the list:
One Second After - William Forschten
Cat's Eye - Andre Norton
Mars - Ben Bova
Timescape - Gregory Benford
Wide Open - Deborah Coates (this also counts as a mystery read, for me!
The Vampire Tapestry - Suzy McKee Charnas
Leviathan Wakes - James SA Corey
Even more amazing, is that I have reviewed them all except for Mars, which is coming shortly.
My only problem now is that reading 6 books in two weeks, has left me not able to settle down to anything for a couple of days now. I'm even happier to report that other than Leviathan Wakes, I am still in the Double Dog Dare Challenge. I'm feeling very proud of myself that I have kept to reading books I owned on my shelf since Jan 1. One month to go!