Thursday, 21 February 2013

What I've been reading

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Kiss the Dead
by Laurell K. Hamilton
"My name is Anita Blake and I am a vampire hunter and necromancer, as well as a US Marshal. So when a fifteen-year-old girl is abducted by vampires, it's up to me to find her. And when I do, I'm faced with something I've never seen before: a terrifyingly ordinary group of people - kids, grandparents, soccer moms - all recently turned and willing to die to avoid serving their vampire master."
Fourth of my 12 Books of Christmas. It's like nothing I've ever read before. My literary education has clearly been incomplete, because I had no idea there was a well-developed body of vampire literature for adults. I would never have chosen to buy or borrow this type of book, and probably wouldn't read another, given the choice. It started well, and I thought the story and the world that the author had constructed to hold it were interesting. But the story petered out in favour of the explicit sex scenes - I would have preferred the emphasis to be the other way round.

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It happened in Venice
by Molly Hopkins
"He cheated, but only once! Evie Dexter has promised to forgive and forget her fiancé Rob - and her efforts to absolve his sins are paying off: in the past ten days she's only called him a two-timing love rat eleven times. Thank goodness her flourishing career as a tour guide takes her to fashionable Dublin, in-vogue Marrakech and cool Amsterdam. So when Evie's offered a luxury visit to the sensual city of Venice she jumps at the chance."
Number five out of 12 books of Christmas, and this one really strays into 'chick lit', which I loathe. It wasn't as bad as it could have been because she writes quite well, but characters were somewhat two-dimensional, the plot was predictable, and (this is becoming a theme) there was too much sex in it - the only book out of the five so far not to have too much sex in it was the self-published one, and that was awful in most other respects. Here, the men are all rich, powerful and attractive, the women are irresponsible, ditzy, self-obsessed and caring only for clothes, make-up, alcohol, spending money and sex. Is it my age? Or was I always like this?

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by Terry Pratchett

narrated by Nigel Planer
"Although the scythe isn't pre-eminent among the weapons of war, anyone who has been on the wrong end of, say, a peasants' revolt will know that in skilled hands it is fearsome. For Mort however, it is about to become one of the tools of his trade. As Death's apprentice he'll have free board, use of the company horse, and being dead isn't compulsory."
Back to the lovely audio books now that I can spend about three hours a day on uninterrupted listening pleasure. And pleasure it is - I'm so glad that I finally managed to penetrate the world of Terry Pratchett, although it still reminds me of Douglas Adams, which is a compliment to both writers. Witty, clever, beautifully crafted, and this book didn't take much time to get started, which is an improvement on the other books of his that I've read. And a happy ending. I couldn't wish for more.

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The Naked Sun
by Isaac Asimov

narrated by William Dufris
"The victim had been so reclusive that he appeared to his associates only through holographic projection. Yet someone had gotten close enough to bludgeon him to death while his robots looked on. Now Baley and Olivaw are faced with two clear impossibilities: either the Solarian was killed by one of his robots, unthinkable under the Laws of Robotics, or he was killed by the woman who loved him so much that she never came into his presence."
I know I read this as a child, because I read lots of science fiction back then and remembered the setup for the crime, although I didn't remember the solution. It was published in the 1950's, but you wouldn't know it. There was some interesting comment on the evolution of societies where physical presence is taboo, and another where exposure to the open air has become impossible for its citizens to endure. A good read.

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The Devotion of Suspect X
by Keigo Higashino

"Yasuko lives a quiet life, working in a Tokyo bento shop, a good mother to her only child. But when her ex-husband appears at her door without warning one day, her comfortable world is shattered. When Detective Kusanagi of the Tokyo Police tries to piece together the events of that day, he finds himself confronted by the most puzzling, mysterious circumstances he has ever investigated."
Oh. My. Goodness.This is an amazing book, the best I have read for a very long time indeed. I gave it to Mr A for Christmas, along with another that I'm still waiting for him to finish and pass on. I chose it without knowing anything about it, just because I know he has enjoyed Japanese crime fiction in the past. Unusually, it starts with a full description of the crime, and then the police get involved trying to find the perpetrator, but you (the reader) already know who the perpetrator is. So that's not the mystery; in fact, I didn't really work out what the mystery was until very nearly the end of the book. It's really good.

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