Saturday, December 31, 2011

2011 books, #126-130

Blood ties, by Lori G Armstrong. Kindle edition.

Julie Collins is a sheriff's secretary with a huge chip on her shoulder and the unsolved murder of her half-Native American half-brother hanging around her neck.  Then a girl's body is found in a river, and an investigation is launched.  Shortly afterwards, Julie's best high-school friend Kevin, a private investigator Julie helps out on occasion, tells her that the dead girl's family had hired him to find her.  The plot twists and turns nicely and stays pretty gripping from start to finish.  Julie is a bit irritating, and her choice in men is absolutely terrible, but her relationship with Kevin is interesting and makes the book more likeable than it would otherwise be.  One criticism - did it have to be set in a county called Bear Butte when no other humour is derived from this??

A cold day for murder, by Dana Stabenow. Kindle edition.

Former detective Kate Shugak is a hermit of sorts, after the end of an investigation left her with a ruined voice and a huge scar on her throat - she has retired from Anchorage to her homestead a long way outside Niniltna, Alaska.  However, a game warden has gone missing, and the investigator sent out from Anchorage has vanished too; the investigator was a friend and former colleague of Kate's and she reluctantly agrees to pursue the case.  The cast of characters here is interesting, and the Alaskan scenery is fascinating (and very, very, very cold...)  I'm hoping there are more of these.

A land of ash, by David Dalglish et al.  Kindle edition.

Five authors imagine a catastrophic volcanic eruption in the Yellowstone National Park, with an eastward drift of an enormous ash cloud.  A dozen or so short stories tell stories of the event, the deaths, the immediate aftermath and the struggle for survival as the ash hardens and begins to destroy buildings.  There are one or two stories which make very little sense, but most of them are fascinating in the John Wyndham tradition, and show the best and worst of humanity in the face of an apocalyptic event.

The water room, by Christopher Fowler [audiobook]. Read by Tim Goodman.  Rearsby, Leics.: W F Howes, 2004.

A Bryant and May mystery, and oddly the one I listened to after Rivers of London - there are many of the same elements here, with a supernatural component to the underground historical rivers of London, and a number of deaths in inexplicable circumstances.  The Peculiar Crimes Squad with octogenarian detectives John May and Arthur Bryant investigate.  The plot is maybe a little over-complicated in places but the relationships between Bryant and May and the other characters are beautifully written.

Flash and bones, by Kathy Reichs. London: Heinemann, 2011.

Tempe Brennan investigates a body found embedded in asphalt in a metal drum in a landfill site near a NASCAR race-track.  This leads in turn to the cold missing-persons case of a young couple who were seen leaving a nearby site almost 20 years before.  One of the investigators of that case is working as head of security for NASCAR, having been discredited as a policeman.  It's a good Tempe case, spoiled only by some really unconvincing scenes between Tempe, her ex-husband Pete and Pete's airhead fiancée Summer, and the lack of Andrew Ryan; but if you like the plot bits of Reichs's story but get fed up with the female members of her family, this is a good one.

2011 books, #121-125

Snowdrops, by A D Miller. Kindle edition.

A Kniterati book club book.  A confessional novel written by a Briton called Nick to his fiancée shortly before their wedding, with an account of his time in Russia in the middle years of the last decade.  It's a hallucinatory story, full of oil, booze, drugs and beautiful sisters, who may or may not actually be cousins.  There's a feeling of impending doom throughout the novel, and a sense of a general moral slide...  Pretty compelling stuff, and really draws you in.

Tilting at windmills: how I learned to stop worrying and enjoy sport, by Andy Miller.  London: Viking, 2002.

(Not the same A Miller as the first book, as far as I know!)  Andy Miller hates sport.  All of it.  Well, very nearly all of it - he has a love of minigolf, known to most of us as crazy golf.  Using minigolf as a starting point, he explores the reasons people enjoy sport, from supporting QPR to the Boat Race, tennis at Wimbledon and the British Open golf.  He talks to PE teachers, leading members of the sporting authorities and proponents of sport-as-entertainment such as publicists from the World Wrestling Federation.  Meanwhile, he plays in minigolf tournaments including the European finals in Riga, where the Baltic Times dubs him "the Eddie the Eagle of miniature golf".  It's a slightly puzzling book, in that there is one sport Miller wants to excel in, but it's also fascinating for those of us who were just a bit useless at sport in school, but keen on following sport from our armchairs - there's an interesting window into the psychology of real competitors such as Steve Redgrave.

Rivers of London, by Ben Aaronovich [audiobook]. Read by  Kobna Holbrook-Smith. Oxford: Isis, 2010.

Peter Grant is a trainee detective in the Metropolitan Police who tries to take a witness statement from someone who is dead; this brings him to the attention of Inspector Nightingale, the last wizard in England. Becoming a DC and trainee wizard simultaneously means that Peter's world becomes somewhat more complicated.  There is something very horrible going on in London, and Grant and Nightingale need to follow this to the end, or die in the attempt.  Thanks to Jackie for the recommendation for this - told with considerable wit and inventiveness and a huge amount of humour.  I also loved the reader, who can do everything from Nigerian grandmothers to upper-class twit with facility...

Locked in, by Kerry Wilkinson. Kindle edition.

This was an interesting story - middle-aged people are being found strangled in their own, locked, homes, with no sign of who may have been able to get in and kill them.  There's no obvious collection, and new DS Jessica Daniel is also being hounded by a news reporter who seems to be acquiring information before the police.  The plot is really tight - the main problem seems to be Daniel herself who is just incredibly grumpy for seemingly very little reason, and also prone to jump in without thinking.  It's a little difficult to admire a novel entirely when you think the main character is a little bit of a pillock.

Suicide run: three Harry Bosch stories, by Michael Connolly.  Kindle edition.

Effectively a publicity trailer for the new Harry Bosch book The drop (on order from the library), these three short stories are excellent and from different periods of Bosch's history.  If you have a Kindle, definitely an interesting addition to the Bosch canon, and well worth the 99p cover price.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

When geekeries collide

I should probably be saying something about Christmas and how lovely it was. It was.

But this has it all. Neil Gaiman, "Firefly" and academic freedom. 7 minutes of glorious liberal self-righteousness. (With added Nathan Fillion and plastic dinosaurs.)

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Unilateral declaration of Christmas

I'm still not feeling particularly Christmassy - but it's the last chance I have to put up decorations even though the house isn't tidy and the presents aren't wrapped!

This year, the tree has graduated to the dining table - it's not that the Bug was destructive, but she was inclined just to lean on things persistently enough to push them off the table, and some of these ornaments are fragile, and all have a story attached to them...  As this is a Flickr link, Blogger having changed (yet again) the way it posts photos) you ought to be able to click to embiggen...

Anyway, Tiny Clanger's in her heaven, and I'm off to a friend's house for dinner tonight...  Merry Christmas, all!