Jim Butcher, White Night
My brain in summer: I can read things, but not a lot of it absorbs; I can enjoy things at the time then later forget the details. Such was my state of mind when reading this instalment of ‘The Dresden Files’. Bob’s great, Carlos Ramirez is great…and if I remember correctly (which I may not) Priscilla the Bitch was great too. As for other details of the book? Molly Carpenter is a sex symbol for horny old men. Now my brain rests.
Justin Gustainis, Black Magic Woman
Ever read a book where the protag doesn’t really interest you, but everyone else does? That was the situation for me with this novel: our protag is Quincey Morris, an occult investigator who’s a descendant of the Quincey Morris from Bram Stoker’s Dracula. That gimmick put me off, but Quincey’s partner in crime, white witch Libby Chastain, is very interesting. Less Quincey and more Libby, Mr Gustainis, please! Some scenes seem unnecessary, and others seem like short stories more than part of a novel, but keep reading. The main reason to continue is the subject of muti killings, something I hadn’t heard of before. An important character whom I rather like is Garth Van Dreenan from the South African Police’s Occult Crime Unit. I just happen to love the South African accent, so of course I was going to like the man. A character I particularly didn’t like is Snake Perkins, a bigot who thinks of his partner-in-crime as…an N-word. Only the N-word is actually written, which made me really uncomfortable. I can handle murderers and such in fiction, but a racist? That’s just too much for me. I would’ve liked to learn more about Project Violet (Scotland Yard’s unit investigating witchcraft crime), and an incubus unlike any other I’ve come across before in fiction. And keep an eye out for what I call ‘A Series of Hallucinogenic Events’. I would’ve edited out some scenes, but this is still a great read, and we can all look forward to more from this author.
Libba Bray, Rebel Angels
At 549 pages, this is a big read, and rather a stretch for my fingers to hold. But I’ll forgive the author because there’s a lot of interesting stuff in here: Opium! Absinthe! Felicity’s family secret! Anagrams! (Yes, I have to exclaim those, though the book didn’t.) Now who wouldn’t want to read about them?
Cynthia Leitich Smith, Rain Is Not My Indian Name
Even with the happy ending, this book was still too depressing for me. Was an interesting look at race relations, though.
Rachel Cohn & David Levithan, Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist
I thought I was enjoying the book while I read it, but now I can’t pinpoint what I liked about it. The downside, however, is that I sometimes wanted to yell at the characters ‘Get over them, they’re not worth it’. Keep an eye out for Tris, who’s the most fascinating character.
Gabrielle Lord, Jumbo
This was first published in 1986, but still has relevance today. Lisa Brand is a school leaver who’s finding it impossible to land a job. She’s tried everywhere and keeps getting knocked back, and when her father is laid off from his job, tensions are even higher in the household. With so much pain, suffering and horror in the world the only thing that brings Lisa any joy is caring for three children. They deserve to live somewhere better than this world, especially because their mother’s new suitor doesn’t like them. So Lisa decides to give the kids a good Christmas by the beach, but she hadn’t counted on smart Brenny, a thinker who realises that something’s terribly wrong with Lisa, and that it’s up to Brenny to save him and his siblings. Even though Lisa is the antag, she is so utterly believable that you can’t help but sympathise, and this is a sign of a very good writer. If you’re looking for psychological suspense, here’s one novel you can’t go past.
Rachel Caine, The Dead Girls’ Dance
The copy is misleading: Claire Danvers and Eve Rosser didn’t have dates for the Dead Girls’ Dance (whose name is also misleading; it was just a fancy-dress boozer). The action starts on the first page: Claire and Eve believe one of their housemates has been murdered, but instead of being dead he’s some kind of ghost. College town Morganville is basically run by vampires, a bitchy bunch of people who prove that power corrupts absolutely. But who are the evil ones: the vampires or those seeking them? It’s all a bit confusing, but is nonetheless an interesting read. There are some scenes with college girls and guys being lame that I would’ve cut. We’re simply told that Claire is an early-admissions genius, yet we don’t get solid proof. Sure, she reads ahead in her texts and likes physics…but this is the same chick who drinks from an opened bottle offered to her by a stranger. You may be familiar with the phrase OMGWTFBBQ, but for me it was an OMGWTFSVH moment. (The 1bruce1 LiveJournal community should educate you.) Drink-spiking! Attempted statutory rape! Dance at a frat house! This is not a bad thing, though, it made me smile. I’ll be reading more from this author, and hoping for more OMGWTFSVH moments.
Laurell K. Hamilton, A Lick of Frost
Well, this was astounding. I hadn’t really connected with these books before, so this was a bit surprising. Three of Princess Meredith NicEssus’s guards have been accused of raping someone from King Taranis’s court, but this is thrown by the wayside when King Taranis brutally attacks Merry’s people through a mirror. But that’s not all: in a strange event that I didn’t understand, Merry receives her most devastating blow yet, and even though it comes with good news she can’t be merry. (What? Someone had to say it.) But King Taranis isn’t done with Merry yet. Unfortunately, it takes a while to get to the good stuff: I was reading but not particularly immersed until circa page 200, so the bulk of the action happens in the last 75 pages. There were moments when I was pissed off with Merry: she used magic to get a human doctor to do her bidding. And talk of Merry’s favourites seemed to be quite an issue. Quoth Merry: ‘Wasn’t I entitled to have favourites?’ Yes, you are, but if you’re still shagging your non-favourites you’re leading them on, and that’s not nice. Those points aside, this is by far my favourite of the Merry books.
Gabrielle Lord, Tooth and Claw
Though first published in 1983, this novel still holds up well. On an isolated farm, finances aren’t looking good for Beth after her husband’s death. Fearing she’s being watched, Beth hunts for shelter elsewhere. But there are signs that someone’s still on her property, so she returns to face the music, armed with a gun, her dog and a jar of magic mushrooms. Fans of Gwen Hunter’s Shadow Valley should enjoy this Australian location with its strong protag.
Elizabeth Flock, But Inside I’m Screaming
This novel took the author four years to write, and it’s clearly understandable why: it’s so harrowing. Broadcast journalist Isabel Murphy freezes on screen and after one too many suicide attempts checks herself into a psychiatric hospital. This is a disturbing read filled with memorable characters who are all too real, with heart-wrenching back stories. The road to mental wellness is so difficult with numerous setbacks, and Isabel does her best to struggle through. But perhaps the most powerful thing about this novel is that it makes the reader think about themselves, their own life, what breaks them down. As someone mentally ill, this novel really did get to me, articulating feelings I’d found indescribable. This novel gives a voice to those who can’t find the right words. It’s a real effort to keep reading this emotionally draining story, but it’s worth it. Buy it for yourself and your loved ones. Share it with the world. And may it help us all on the road to recovery.
Nury Vittachi, The Shanghai Union of Industrial Mystics
Readers who’ve found Alexander McCall Smith’s work too cutesy will be better off with this light novel with a social conscience. Feng shui master CF Wong and his Australian assistant Joyce McQuinnie have moved from Singapore to Shanghai…only their new office is blown up. Traffic jams are abundant, and a bomb is discovered inside a live elephant. However, sometimes the author’s humour appears at inappropriate moments: a major murder scene (recalling Robert Muchamore’s Man v Beast) should’ve been harrowing for the reader, but it wasn’t. Still, the author makes up for it with social commentary, when an American character says, ‘How come every goddamn nation on this planet counts in kilos and we count in pounds? What’s wrong with them all?’ Of course it would make more sense for Americans to join in counting kilos, but do you think they’d see it? Not Thomas ‘Cobb’ Dooley!