Saturday, November 14, 2015

absence of light

An Absence of Light is a mid-nineties crime novel that I picked up at my library's ongoing book sale. I haven't read anything by this author before but the story telling is tight. Almost too tight. David Lindsey seems too careful about what he tells you. This seems especially true about the female characters. If I had to guess I'd say author has a high regard for some women and not as much for others; and they seem to be split by type. They may be frumpy or plain or elegant. They may be sexy or the girl next door. But he always describes their small habits and tics; what they wear and how the move; the looks on their faces and the fall of their hair.

The men? Yeah, not so much.

So how was it? Well, if you get past the distinctly male POV it was pretty good. The ending was a little weak and reminded me a few movies I've seen, that kind of withered away at the end. Lindsey does throw us a bone after all, but a share of the meat would been good too.

After all the bones are for the dogs, right?

Am I looking back at 1995 with the eyes of 2015? Sure. Is that fair? Maybe not, but it is a reality that books do last longer than the era in which they are written. I think that gives a window to look into the past and react as we see fit.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

jonathan strange and mr. norrell

This book is a big boy. And I'm happy to say that Susanna Clarke was able to close this story on a big upswing in action. I was a little worried; I thought the first half was a little slow. According to the book's website, Neil Gaiman wrote "... after 800 pages my only regret was that it wasn't twice the length."Well, I'm not sure I agree with that. Overall, I thought it was pretty good, but 200 pages could have been cut and it still would have been a good read.

Its seems to be a trend, which I assume follows on the heels of Game of Thrones, to turn books into TV shows rather than movies. The same is true for Strange and Norrell who have recently brought their powdered wigs to a BBC program. I assume it can be found here in the States. I bet its entertaining; there is plenty of room for period costumes, old-timely English accents, and magical special effect on the telly. What, what?

The second half of the book is reasonably well populated with intrigue, romance, magic, anger and spite, mystery, and madness. Sounds pretty good, right? Well, get some! Its been around long enough that its pretty easy to find at the liberry.

Friday, October 16, 2015

strange and norrell

Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell has been around for a few years but I haven't read it until now. I'm sure I've seen it, especially when it came out; its distinctive white-on-black book jacket, formidable size, and intriguing title. I saw it again just recently while browsing the titles in a tiny library in western Massachusetts, and I took a look through. Seems like my kind of book, so the next time I visited my own library, I picked it up.

Formidable is right! This beast is 782 pages and I'm about half way through it at this point. Susanna Clarke has taken it upon herself to write a 'historic' novel about the re-invigoration of English magic at the time of the Napoleonic wars, in the style of the era. What this means is that each of the chapters is titled, the story is carefully conceived, and told in that slow, deliberative style the seems well suited to you people of comfortable means, who may sit in a parlour and read to one another for a few hours each day to pass the time between tea and dinner whilst the servants busy about, out of sight

Think serial, a la The Count of Monte Cristo.

Just not as exciting.

I'm hopeful that second part of this tome has some action. It's been a little thin thus far, but I can see the chess pieces being set about the board, so there is plenty of opportunity for it. Let's bring it home Susanna!

More to come.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

love you more

Love You More is a suspense novel written by Lisa Gardener, whom I've never read before. My wife gave me this one and told me it was good. Love You More is ruthless in its suspense, having given away some of the background on this crime mystery in the prologue, we follow along as the police try to piece together the crime and the motive without the benefit we have of that critical prologian* information. And the closer the cops get to the truth, the more we realize that we don't have all the information needed to solve this crime after all.

It's a tightly woven and compelling story, told by a writer who clearly knows a fair amount about police procedures and believes in a strong female lead. In fact, the lead quickly takes on the role of the reluctant hero, and even makes us wonder at times if we're routing for the wrong team. As I said, there's a lot going on here and Gardener does a good job of meting out the info, switching back and forth from third person narrative to first person in the case of the protagonist. Nicely done.

* Yeah, I made that word up.

Saturday, October 3, 2015


It been a while since I've read science fiction, it used to be the bulk of my reading when I was a teen, so I was in the library thinking of what to get and I came across the SciFi section and decided to pick something up. I don't know Jack McDevitt, and frankly I was a little worried that this would turn out to be a horror story, but I was pleasantly surprised. chindi is what I would call old school SciFi, tracking a space adventure with a group of explorers in a kind of Odyssey retelling. Jason and his Argonauts are replaced by Priscilla 'Hutch' Hutchins and a group of amateur adventurers who are set on making first contact with intelligent alien life and have hired Hutch to captain their ship.

Hutch is similar to Jason, in that Jason leads, or captains, the Argonauts on their adventures, but the Argonauts are not just a crew. They aren't the invisible minions of say, the crew of the Nautilus, the Argonauts are somebodys. They have their own histories, and they make their own adventures. Hutch is in a similar position, she's the captain, but also the hired help, so her role as leader is tenuous at best, and when the crew wants to answer the Siren call, the best she can do is advise against it. don't. stop. danger.

This is where the tension lies in the story. As a good person, you can only help those who'll help themselves. And when they don't... you do your best to rescue their asses.

chindi is a great odyssey story, and a fantastic 'wouldn't-it -be-great-if' story. Well written, easy and fun to read. And you can't help smiling a little (in your horror) when you say, Oo, that's gonna leave a mark.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

assassination bureau

The Assassination Bureau, Ltd. is an unfinished Jack London novel, completed by Robert Fish, using London's notes. In the hard cover I read, London completed 122 pages of the 179 page total. London's notes about the conclusion of the story are located in the end matter of the book. Its interesting to see them after reading Fish's ending, I have a feeling that Fish did a better job than to simply follow London's notes to closely. I get the feeling that London didn't finish this story because he wasn't real clear on how to end it. Fish basically iginores most of what London jotted down and created a pretty good ending on his own for the most part.

The Assassination Bureau was made into an English movie in 1969 starring Oliver Reed, Diana Rigg, and Telly Savalas. Don't think I've ever seen that, but I found it while looking for a James McAvoy/Angelina Jolie movie with a similar theme that I thought might have been inspired by this book. Wanted isn't inspired by this book however, rather its based on a Mark Millar comics series of the same name. But who knows, maybe Millar was inspired by London?

The story follows the story of the founder of the Assassination Bureau, his niece, and her lover. These three make an odd triangle and the high-jinks soon ensues. The story revolves around whether or not the idea behind the Assassination Bureau is a net good or net bad for the world and society. The discussion becomes pretty philisophical, and I think that's really to point. Once London got to the point where he had established his view in teh dialog, I'm not sure he knew where to go from there.

An interesting literary bit of history, but little more than that in the end.

Sunday, September 27, 2015



Perched high above in velvet lair,
With stars like diamonds in her hair.
Glimm'ring dew drops, in hallowed lace,
Shimmer and shine about her face.

Her raiment dusky, luminous gray;
Edged with azure in light of day.
Delicate jacquard embroidered gown.
Our hope, and sight, when sun is down

Ever in eons; evermore!
A sign of love in ageless yore.
Longing pursuit of fiery mate,
Locked within our earth's embrace.

Glory, surely, in thy mien,
From oceans blue and forests green.
Ever there is turned her gaze,
But thoughts of Brightness fill her days.

Blissful is earth in his rapture,
Vies ever her love to capture.
But by our earth, her heart's not won,
Mate of her soul's within the sun.

Ever, anon, love pirouettes,
Just out of reach, and soon begets,
Tumult of fury, jealous rage,
Blinding earth for age upon age.

A plan is hatched in tortured mind,
Result of temper less than kind.
Reckless is he whom love has scorned.
Prudent thought now fettered and shorn.

"Attack!" he cries, with sundering seas,
"Lasting darkness, for thine and thee!"
Blackened veil o'er her face then crept.
In ageless exile then, she wept.

Only after foul deed was done,
Did she her warlike armor don.
Raiment gray was replaced in flood,
With wrathful, churning, tempest blood.

Silent screaming her battle cry,
Enraging champions from on high.
Fiercely they lit about her face,
Demanding redress for disgrace.

Her darkness trumpets their advance.
About her crown, formations dance.
If her honor they can't restore,
Gauntlet is thrown. They march to war.


Slowly moves the war of sky
In time not meant for men.
Fleeting crashes the tumults cry,
As men's eyes perceive heaven.

A thousand years within a day the mighty warriors lean.
A thousand more outside our time, with weapons yet unseen.
A moment more--the earth resigns--in black night calls "Parlay!"
A treaty drawn. A wrong redressed. Her face has won the day.

From her countenance, grudgingly,
The shadow slides away.
Retreating sad, but lovingly,
Earth has lost the day.

When battle gear has served its need
Blood then fades to gray.
Earth weeps now in insatiable greed,
Though she agrees to stay.

In dusky raiment again she's donned
More brilliant than afore.
Love's sparkling light upon her mons,
From he whom she adores.

Hung high above, in velvet lair
With diamonds in her crown.
Naught else on earth or in the air
More lovely than her gown.

Wisps of dew create hallowed lace,
Whilst stars shine about her face.
Glorious lantern in night's sky,
Who's love for sun will never die.

Verily now her vict'ry won,
Glory restored, her liege the sun.
With inert cruelty she now taunts
Her scorned lover, who's dreams she haunts.

A thousand, thousand years he'll grieve,
And about the sun a tapestry weave,
With endless streams of love's lost tears,
In avarice dance throughout the years.

-- --

I wrote this is October 2004 for the lunar eclipse then. Originally posted on Seemed like a good time to re-post. Enjoy the eclipse tonight everyone!

Monday, September 21, 2015

secondhand souls

I get a kick out of Christopher Moore. I've read a bunch of his books since my little sister gave me a copy of Lamb a number of years ago. But I haven't read everything. And that fact just bit me in the ass while reading his latest: Secondhand Souls. Why? Because it's a sequel to an earlier novel that predates my interest in Moore's work, namely A Dirty Job.

So do you have to have read A Dirty Job in order to enjoy this one? No, would it be more enjoyable if you did? I don't know. see above Would I recommend reading the first one first? you're really not paying attention here, are you? listen, I can't do this by myself

Christopher Moore is delight to read. You can read me gush about him in my previous book reviews, which you'll find links to in the body of this review if you're interested, but I'll spare you that pleasure now. As far as this story goes, it's a little creepy--macabre even--but in a funny way.* Moore has taken an interesting view of death and its machinations, it's very workings, which he has absurdly assigned to men, as if the whole enterprise was outsourced to private contractors, to save tax money or something. Almost as if God said, hey I gave you the Garden of Eden and you screwed it up, now we got this whole death thing, why don't you just take care of that yourself.

Who comes up with stuff like that? Okay, there are probably plenty of crazed lunatics and under-medicated conspiracy-theorists that come up with crap like that every day, but what kind of maniac turns it into a novel?

That's right. My hero.

Oh, and before we go, does the book jacket with the creepy skeleton-faced girl glow-in-the-dark and creep you out even more when you shut off your bedside lamp the first night you read this? Of course it does.

Read this book.

Yes, yes, read the other one first. I thought we covered that

* Funny 'ha-ha' or funny 'strange?' Yeah, both.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

fifth gospel

I didn't read Ian Caldwell's last book, The Rule of Four, but it apparently did very well. I tried to look it up in my library but they only have one copy and it was out. Presumably because they wanted to do what I wanted to do after finding his new book on the shelf; read the first one. But I checked with the librarian and there was no information about this book being a follow up or sequel to The Rule of Four.

Caldwell's latest book is called The Fifth Gospel, and it has apparently taken him something like 10 years to write. I think his previous publisher may have even given up on him, but this effort seems like it may have been worth the wait. I enjoyed it.

Caldwell takes a close look at the relationship between the Catholic Church and the Greek Orthodox Church, from a very interesting perspective; through the eyes of an Eastern Catholic priest, a religion that bridges the gap between the two faiths, which split about 1000 years ago. This Eastern or Greek Catholic, is the son of a Eastern Catholic father--this faith allows their priests to marry--is a priest himself, and his brother broke from the family tradition and has become a Roman Catholic Priest.

The kicker is; they grew up in, and still live in Vatican City, during the last years of John Paul II tenure as Pope.

At its core, this is a story of intrigue within Vatican City, and a mystery revolving around the split and current efforts to reunify the churches, ancient relics, and what it means to be Greek Orthodox vs. Roman Catholic, and how some of the higher ups in each of these traditions may still sting from the split a thousand years ago.

Its about family, brothers, marriage, love, church politics, friendship, faith, loyalty and betrayal, lost and redemption. You know, and murder.

This story swirls with activity, cloak and dagger, mystery about the churches and their histories, and is sprinkled with the fun and interest f what a day in the life of an inhabitant of one of the smallest countries in the world may be like. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Read this book.