17 July 2009

Reality Check by Peter Abrahams

First heard about Reality Check on NPR a few weeks ago and, though I don't usually read thrillers or suspense novels, thought the novel sounded pretty good. Happily, a couple libraries in our consortium owned it so I placed a hold and it arrived just in time for vacation. Nothing like starting vacation with a fat pile of books to read!

Clea is much cleverer,‭ ‬much richer,‭ ‬and destined for far greater things than her boyfriend Cody.‭ ‬Alas,‭ ‬poor Cody,‭ ‬with his mom dead from cancer and ‬a dad driven by‭ ‬anger and alcohol … ‬he's a boy from the wrong side of the tracks who is going no-where fast and is bound to take Clea down with him.‭ ‬Or so Clea’s father supposes when he packs her off to Japan after Clea comes home with a C is calculus.‭ ‬A C‭! ‬That boy’s no good,‭ ‬I tell you!

Love survives Japan,‭ ‬but when Clea leaves again (this time for a posh boarding school in Vermont),‭ ‬Cody breaks up with her.‭ ‬Not because he doesn’t love her,‭ ‬anymore,‭ ‬no.‭ ‬But,‭ ‬because he loves her enough to set her free of his influence.‭ ‬Clea goes away,‭ ‬Cody’s life continues its downward spiral and then‭ …

And then the chickie ups and disappears‭! ‬Yes,‭ ‬Clea goes missing from her boarding school.‭ An unfortunate accident, everyone suppose. Everyone except Cody, ‬of course. And there begins the tale …

Reality Check by Peter Abrahams (HarperTeen, 2009).

12 July 2009

Ally (Wess'har Wars, Book Five) by Karen Traviss

The Eqbas Vorhi (the militant branch of the Wess'har ) are still bent on tidying up the ecological disaster that is Umeh before they head off to Earth to do the same thing for us. Alas, they are overextended and call in help from the Skavu -- a species so militant in its commitment to ecological protection that it makes the Eqbas Vorhi look positively cuddly.

Meanwhile, Lindsey continues to help the bezeri migrate to land ( thanks to a handy infusion of c'naatat ) to rebuild their lost civilization. Of course, she doesn’t think this through and all sorts of not-really-good things happen.

And Aras, Shan, and Ade all continue to try to cope with the aftermath of Shan’s abortion … which was a whole book ago. (And I wish they would get over it already. Which makes me heartless, I know, but A/S/A seemed to spend most of this book not doing much besides moping and having conversations they'd already had in other books. Goshdarnit).

And, if that weren’t enough, c'naatat finds a new host !

(Insert ominous drum roll here‎)‏.

Overall, not the best book in the series as much of it just felt like set-up for Judge. All I can do now is cross my fingers and hope that the finale lives up to my expectations ...

RYOB Challenge 2009: Ally (Wess'har Wars, Book Five) by Karen Traviss (Eos, 2007)

09 July 2009

A Real Lady Killer

Graceling by Kristine Cashore (Harcourt, 2008).

Lady Katsa of the Middluns (unsurprisingly, the most central of the Seven Kingdoms) bears a terrible killing Grace. Her ruthless uncle, King Randa, makes good use of Katsa’s skills by having her torture, maim, or kill those who interfere with his governance. Understandably, Katsa doesn’t like living under her uncle’s tyrannical thumb, but it isn’t until Katsa meets Prince Po, a fine fighter (and figure of a man) with a secret Grace, that she begins to believe she can gain her Independence …

Together with Po, Kata sets out to save his cousin, Princess Bitterblue, from her abusive/insane/creepily Graced father. Along the way, Katsa will display her totally l33tin' killing skills by taking on an army (and let's not forget the mountain lion!). Of course, she will also discover her true love, her true self, and her true Grace.

Unfortunately, I didn’t like Graceling as much as I expected to. The plot was quite unique, nearly all the characters were well written, and Katsa was the kind of smart, resourceful, kick-ass heroine I am inclined to like and yet … I don’t find myself dying to read the prequel (Fire) or sequel (Bitterblue). The world of the Seven Kingdoms never seemed as real to me as its inhabitants did and so I'm not dying to revisit it.

05 July 2009

North and South

"... a strong-minded woman, equal to any emergency."

This was my second attempt at reading Elizabeth Gaskell's North and South. The first time was immediately after viewing the BBC production and the film was too much in my mind. I also made the mistake, in my eagerness to "really get into the novel," of reading the introduction first. Since I left college, I never start with introductions as I find they tend to make me read novels in a more scholarly/literary way ... I find myself looking for motive and meaning, device and theme, when I should just be eating up the actual meat of the story.

Anyway, by the time I picked North and South up again I had forgotten enough of the film and the introduction to not be hindered by suppositions as to what awaited me in the novel. I knew it would be good and that was quite enough ...

Margaret Hale, a proud vicar's daughter from rural southern England, must adjust to the changes in her life when her father leaves the Church after a "crisis of conscience" and moves the family to the northern industrial town of Milton (where no-one will know them and he will not be reminded of his failing -- he pays poor thought to his family's ability to cope with this life change and I found his handling of the situation to be rather appalling).

In Milton, Margaret slowly discovers her own inner strengths as she takes over the running of their new (impoverished) household when it becomes clear her mother is too ill (and weak) and her father too impractical (and weak) to do so.

Despite her reduced circumstances, Margaret still entertains the same shocking class prejudices she picked up from living in London with her gentrified relations. She is appalling snobbish and close-minded in her opinion of the industrial North, its manufacturers and tradesmen, its hustle and bustle. Happily, Margaret soon gets a rude awakening from mill owner John Thornton, who is well respected by his peers and his employees, but no gentleman as Margaret would define such a man. As the two interact, Thornton comes to love her even though he knows Margaret will never have him ...

But, of course, she does. In the end. After they both learn not to be all proud and uppity and stop making terrible presumptions about people.

In a nutshell: It's Pride in Prejudice in the Industrial Revolution! (Let's face it, Mr. Darcy would have been so much sexier with his own steam engine ... or is that just me? I like a strong, principled, working hero who will probably not, in a fit of ennui, gamble the family estate away).

North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell (Penguin Books, 2003)

03 July 2009

Catching Up With That Sookie Girl: The Sookie Stackhouse Reading Challenge

I read the first five Sookie Stackhouse ("Southern Vampire Mysteries") novels quite a while ago now and liked the series so much I couldn't stop talking about it. Ended up turning The Husband and Mother-in-Law on to them and now they have overtaken me in reading the series and are all fidgety waiting to read A Touch of Dead while I am still stuck at "OMG, Alcide is so irritating!" The sad thing is that I loved the first four Sookie books and truly meant to go on and read more, but Dead as a Doornail (book five) was not so fantastic and ... well, the terrible truth is that the world is full of interesting books and I am, quite frankly, easily distracted ...

Ooo! Shiny thing!

Happily, Beth Fish is hosting a reading challenge to help me "catch up on Sookie and all her friends -- living and undead, fully human and not." I know I don't have to start back at the beginning, but why wouldn't I want to revisit old friends?

I will be (re)reading:
  1. Dead Until Dark
  2. Living Dead in Dallas
  3. Club Dead
  4. Dead to the World
  5. Dead as a Doornail
  6. Definitely Dead
  7. All Together Dead
  8. From Dead to Worse
  9. Dead and Gone
There's also a bunch of Sookie-related stories included in supernatural-themed collections like Many Bloody Returns, Bite, Wolfsbane and Mistletoe, and My Big Fat Supernatural Wedding, but I don't think I'll be revisiting them. Although, who knows? I have a whole year to catch up.


02 July 2009

"'Hooray, hooray for the spinster's sister's daughter.'"

Guards! Guards! by Terry Pratchett (Corgi Books, 1996).

In the midnight heart of the City of Ankh-Morpork (the Discworld's oldest, greatest, and grubbiest city), The Unique and Supreme Lodge of the Elucidated Brethren of the Ebon Night (guardian of the sacred knowledge since a time no man wot of last February) plot to overthrow the tyrant and install a puppet king ...

Who dares to stand in their way? The Night Watch, of course! Captain Vimes, Sergeant Colon, Corporal Nobbs, and shiny new volunteer Carrot Ironfoundersson will save the day with a little help from a lady, a librarian, and a total wittle ...

Third time I've read this book and it still made me chuckle.

Next up, Men at Arms.