Monday, October 25, 2010

On the Couch

By Alisa Kwitney

Marlowe is a psychologist in New York City. One night she receives a phone call from a stranger who later is found dead. It was a wrong number but the policeman investigating the death doesn't know that. He thinks that Marlowe is a call girl and that she may have been involved in the man's untimely death. He contacts Marlowe and she quickly realizes he believes her to be a call girl and, because she finds him rather appealing and also because her life, at that point, is rather barren and dull, she pretends she is a call girl, not realizing that the policeman, Joe, thinks she may have had a hand in the victim's death. The attraction she feels towards Joe is reciprocated and involves into a real relationship. Joe, however, is still yearning for his ex-wife and, combined with Marlowe's pretending to be a prostitute, this promising relationship may end up on the rocks.

I enjoyed this story a lot, mainly because I found it to be very amusing and not the usual "chick lit" story. Yeah, the premise is kind of goofy and unlikely, but the humor made up for that, as far as I am concerned. It was a fun and lighthearted read.


By Terry Pratchett

Mort is an awkward young man who doesn't seem to fit into the small rural community where he lives. His dad has tried to teach him farming but it didn't seem a good choice for Mort. So his dad takes him to an apprentice fair in a nearby town. At the fair, employers come looking for lads to hire as apprentices. Mort and his dad wait at the fair all day and evening but no one wants to hire Mort. Finally, at midnight, when Mort is the last boy left, someone finally shows up who wants to hire Mort -- Death.
Death has been performing his duties for forever and he is frankly getting a little tired of it. So he has gotten the bright idea of taking on an apprentice, training him in all he needs to know, and letting the apprentice take over his duties so Death can have some time off.
Problem is, Mort is human, and although he learns all the tricks of the trade, his heart gets in the way. Death is off trying to have fun and Mort screws up big time when he prevents an assassin from killing a beautiful young princess. Now the march of history is totally bollixed up and when Death finds out, Mort will be up that proverbial creek.

This was a pretty interesting book as Mort grows into the roll of Death and Death turns his hand to being a short order cook in an inn in Ankh-Morpork. The best parts though, were learning the back story about Albert, Death's decrepit servant and then Albert's brief return to the land of the living. While not as funny as some of Pratchett's stories, this was still a pretty good read.

Monday, October 18, 2010


By Orson Scott Card

This is the story of Ansset, a Songbird, one of the most coveted singers in the empire. Trained since a tiny child, Ansset doesn't sing just any old song. He sings what people feel, what he himself feels and his songs have the power to soothe, influence, instruct and lead.
Not just anyone can have a Songbird. The Songmaster of the Songhouse judges who is worthy to have a Songbird. (It is also very expensive to have a Songbird.) A person can only have a Songbird if they have the ability to truly appreciate it. Traditionally this meant that Songbirds could never go to someone who had killed, who was greedy or a glutton, to a person who loved power. So when the terrible, ruthless conqueror Mikal showed up at Songhouse demanding a Songbird, the Songmaster naturally assumed Mikal did not have the qualities required to possess a Songbird. But amazingly Mikal did have the required appreciation and so the Songmaster promised to send him a Songbird as soon as they found a child best suited to sing for Mikal. They warned him it might take a while to find the perfect candidate. It ended up taking more than seventy years until Ansset, the beautiful young boy singer who was exactly what Mikal needed.
So after spending his early childhood training at songhouse, Ansset is sent to Earth to live with Mikal in the imperial palace. He sings for Mikal and gradually a strong trust and affection is built between the two, as Ansset comes to veiw Mikal as his foster father. But uneasy lies the head that wears the crown and Mikal is very old and there is much plotting going on as factions struggle to gain control of Mikal's throne. And little Ansset is smack in the middle of it all.

This book was not to my taste. Ansset was too perfect for me. I found him rather repulsive and felt the whole book reaked of pedophilia. Ansset was just too precious for words and not in a good way. Plus, I don't really care for books about politics and all the dynastic stuff. Still, it was an interesting story, even if I found the characters all pretty unsympathetic. So I will rate it a fair read.

Murder Must Wait

By Arthur W. Upfield

Mitford, a small town in Australia, has a serious problem. Four baby boys have been snatched. No ransom has been demanded and the local police are at a loss. Now a fifth baby boy has been stolen but this time the baby's mother has been killed. Fortunately for the local cops, Inspector Napoleon Bonaparte has been sent to oversee the investigation of the missing babies. Using his canny wits, his uncanny tracking ability and with the help of a keen young policewoman, Bony will unravel this strange mystery.

This was a pretty interesting book. Reading about Australia of the 1950s and about Upfield's half Aboriginal detective, Bony, was very interesting. I have only read a couple of these mysteries, as they are hard to find anymore, but I have always enjoyed reading them, this one included.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Fevre Dream

By George R. R. Martin

Abner Marsh is a riverboat captain in the middle 19th century and he has had some really bad luck. His riverboat company is down to one small vessel when the rest of his fleet was destroyed in an ice jam. So when wealthy young Joshua York offers to become his partner and build him a beautiful new boat, the boat of Abner's dreams, Abner thinks maybe things are finally turning in his favor. But what he doesn't know is that his new partner, who only comes out at night, is a vampire. And soon Abner finds himself involved in a nightmare that will plunge him into financial ruin and maybe even cost him his life.

This was an OK book. The hero of the story turns out to be ugly, fat, middle-aged Abner Marsh, an unlikely hero indeed. The story is mainly about the conflict between Joshua, a forward thinking young vampire who wants to lead his fellows away from preying on humans, and Damon Julian, an ancient, ferocious vampire who is stuck in the old, bloody way and who will not change, with Abner there to help Joshua and to back him up as best he can. I thought it was a kind of depressing story, grim and gruesome, with old Julian having the upper hand throughout most of it and poor Abner losing everything that meant so much to him. Especially at the end, when Abner finds his beautiful dream riverboat, beached in a backwater, rotted and decaying, rusty and falling apart and beyond repair. Just a dark, sad story.

Thursday, October 07, 2010


By Olivia Goldsmith

Sylvie knew that her husband was spending a lot more time at work. What she didn't know, yet, was that it wasn't work that was detaining Bob, it was a younger version of herself. After her suspicions became aroused when neighbors reported seeing her and Bob together in places where she knew she had not been, a little snooping in Bob's desk revealed several incriminating receipts, receipts she was able to use to track down her rival. A rival that looked enough like Sylvie herself that it was like looking at herself only ten years younger and several pounds lighter.
This younger woman, Marla, was getting all the affection from Bob that Sylvie herself craved. And although her first impulse was to leave Bob, upon reflection and after meeting Marla and liking her, Sylvie came up with an improbable scheme. With the help of a plastic surgeon, a hair dresser, and several weeks of diet and exercise, Sylvie would switch places with Marla. She would become Marla and be Bob's lover and Marla would gain some weight, die her hair and become Sylvie and get to be the wife that she yearned to be. And maybe Bob would learn something in the process too.

This was a silly story and not in a good way. The idea that a few pounds, a face lift and a new hairdo would fool not only her husband but her two grown kids is just silly. The first time she and Bob had sex wouldn't he immediately tumble to the fact that he was boinking his old wife and not his young mistress? I just couldn't buy the whole premise and that spoiled the story for me. Also, Marla discovers that marriage to Bob isn't quite what she thought it would be in that all his spare time is spent with his mistress, who is really Sylvie. Like that would really matter to a woman who sees nothing wrong with dating married men because they are proven to be the marrying kind. Bob is her sugar daddy, leasing her a condo and a BMW, and buying her jewelry and taking her on expensive vacations. Once she got into that big, fancy house of his you'd have to blast her out with dynamite. I just didn't find the story at all believable, especially the unlikely happy ending. Forgive and forget? No way!

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Blind Submission

By Debra Ginsberg

Angel Robinson loves books. So a job at a literary agency would be the dream job. Except for one thing: her boss, Lucy Fiamma. Lucy is demanding, unreasonable, self-centered and impossible. Angel finds herself swamped with tons of work, surrounded by hostile coworkers, trying to satisfy her difficult new boss and explain to her boyfriend why having his girlfriend working for a famous literary agent does not translate into getting his novel accepted by the agency.
But it turns out Angel has a knack for spotting potential new books and for helping the authors fine tune their books to make them more saleable. Lucy gives her a huge raise and takes her on a trip to New York to meet with some very important publishers.
But it isn't all good news. Angel's boyfriend is upset that his book was rejected by Lucy and he blames Angel. And Angel has received an anonymous manuscript for a book that seems to be based on Angel's own life. More and more chapters are sent to the agency and Angel is afraid that someone close to her is writing a rather hateful book in which the character based on Angel is conniving, selfish and homicidal. Who would do such a mean thing? And why?

Reading this book was kind of like reading The Devil Wears Prada again. Angel's boss Lucy is very similar to the boss in The Devil Wears Prada, unreasonable, demanding, ambitious & successful. The stuff about working in a literary agency was interesting. But, as I got further into the book, it seemed to be dragging on too long and I just wanted it to be over.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Shades of Grey: The Road to High Saffron

By Jasper Fforde

Eddie Russet is an average young man with high ideals. As he comes to find out, high ideals won't get you anywhere in his world. What his society values above all is conformity. What it doesn't want is someone like Eddie with his impertinent questions, his new ideas on how to make things better and his refusal to look the other way.
In Eddie's world, social status is defined by color. Not by the color of one's skin. But by the color you can see. Everyone in Eddie's world is colorblind. People of Eddie's bloodline can see shades of red, to varying degrees. Other groups perceive violet, blue, green, yellow, or orange. No one sees the full spectrum and at the bottom socially are the Greys, who see no color at all. To them the world is just shades of grey.
Which makes for a pretty drab world. Except for the work of National Color. National Color pipes artificial dies of the brightest hues to towns and villages across the land and these dies are used to color the grass, the flowers, whatever and these artificial colors can be seen by all the citizens, even the Greys.
Not only are the people of this world unable to see the full spectrum of visible color, they are very susceptible to the artificial colors created by National Color, which act on them like a narcotic and like medication. Eddie's father is a Swatchman, a kind of physician. He carries a pallet of swatches of color that he uses to treat his patients simply by placing the swatch in the person's line of sight. And if the patient is suffering from a fatal disease, he can view "Lincoln" which is an intense shade of green that induces pleasant hallucinations and eases pain as the person is dying. Naturally, there is a black market in swatches for people using the colors just to get high.
Eddie gets in trouble with the authorities for playing a prank and is sent to a village on the outskirts of society to do a chair census, to count the number of chairs in the village. Going along with Eddie is his dad the Swatchman. The village's resident swatchman has died under suspicious circumstances and Eddie's dad is to fill in until a new swatchman can be found.
Since class is based on color perception, the rule for society is to marry to improve your children's color vision. Reds are only one step up from Grey, and Eddie's family, the Russets, are pretty low in Red. So Eddie has set his sights on a young woman of the Oxblood family, who not only are higher in the social scale but who also own a string factory and are very well off. The Oxblood girl has other suitors and Eddie is sorry to have to leave town and loose his advantage to the other guys.
But while Eddie and his dad are doing some sightseeing, they stumble across a crime scene that may involve black market swatches. And Eddie meets a angry young Grey girl named Jane. Jane knows a lot more about the true state of things than poor, naive Eddie does and as Eddie gets to know Jane better, he finds out that his society is not quite an innocent and benign as he has been brought up to believe.

Eddie lives in a strange world, a world where lightning strikes are frequent and people have to be on the look out for killer swans. Spoons are good as gold. People get high by looking at swatches of color. Most people die of the Mildew, which is a kind of fungus infection that kills within a few hours of exposure. Everything and everyone is tightly controlled, even to the kind of clothes worn in various situations. Being different gets a person a trip to Reboot and no one ever comes back from Reboot. Their society lives on the remains of the highly advanced society that came before, a society so technologically advanced that the roads they created repair themselves.
I found this wonderfully complex new world of Jasper Fforde's simply fascinating. And much more accessible than his Thursday Next series or the Nursery Crime series. Eddie is an innocent who stumbles on the grim truth about Reboot and National Color and even about his own father's profession of Swatchman. It's a strange world, but it works. And I really enjoyed reading about it. Apparently there are two more in the works, Painting by Numbers and The Gordini Protocols. Looking forward very much to reading them when they are published.