Monday, July 31, 2017

Outside Passage

By Julia Scully

Julius and Rose went to Alaska to make their fortune. But things turned out badly and they ended up in San Francisco, where their luck went from bad to worse. So bad, that Julius killed himself, leaving his wife and two young daughters stranded.  Rose got so desperate that she put the two girls into a orphanage and went back to Alaska, hoping to achieve what had eluded her and Julius in the past.
Julia and Lillian were fairly happy in the orphanage. It was an orderly place, although, of course, some problems existed. But overall it was a secure and safe environment and the kids there attended public school. But then Rose came back and moved the two girls to another orphanage, this time in Seattle. This place was not as well run as the previous place and the children were underfed. Julia even resorted to stealing food from the kitchen.
But eventually, their mother felt secure enough at her work in Alaska that she sent for the girls to join her there.
Life in Alaska was the opposite of everything the girls had know before. Rose was living on the barren tundra, running a roadhouse patronized by the local gold miners. Used to the city, now there was just a few buildings and the vast, gray outdoors. Used to life in an institution with rules and order, now they were free, nothing really expected of the two girls.
Then World War II happens and once again they are on the move. Nome, Fairbanks, even back to California. And as the world changes, Julia begins to realize that she wants more out of life than her mother's seeming content with the small, narrow life of a small town in Alaska.

This was a pretty interesting story. I would have liked it to go on beyond the author's youth, but it ends with her heading off to college. It's not really a story of roughing it in the wilderness, which is sort of what I was expecting. It's really about a young girl surviving the trauma inflicted upon her by fate and by her parents, especially her mother. But it is a good read.

The Traveler in Black

By John Brunner

The traveler in black is a being who sole purpose is to oppose chaos. He does this by granting people's  poorly considered wishes, with a result much like that of King Midas: everything  Midas touched turned to gold, including his loved ones and his food. (If he hadn't had his wish reversed, Midas would have soon starved to death.) Although how this is supposed to reduce chaos eludes me. Anyway, this is a collection of stories where the travel in black confronts the illogical locals and tries to set them on the path from chaos to order, from superstition to logic, mainly by granting wishes that were better left unsaid.
I enjoyed the stories and the comeuppances the ill-considered wishers find themselves facing. Just a nice, light, amusing read, one I have enjoyed over and over again.


By Paul Magrs

Robin likes to spend his nights in chat rooms, chatting up the "ladies." A new chatter enters, using the handle Iris Murdoch, which is the name of a famous, deceased British novelist. Robin is immediately intrigued, especially when it seems that this woman is claiming to be the real Murdoch.
Meanwhile, Robin's wife, Glenda, is helping Tony cope with the sudden death of his wife in a car crash. Glenda and Tony were at a retirement party for Glenda.  Tony's wife was running late and was on her way to join them when she lost control of her car on an icy stretch of road.

And that is about it. There are also a couple of gay guys who are fooling around. And Robin keeps chasing after the elusive Murdoch. As a story, there really isn't much to this one. Total waste of my time, reading it, and a huge disappointment.

Razor Girl

By Carl Hiaasen

Buck Nance is a reality TV show star doing an appearance at a club in Key West when his racist and homophobic comments and jokes upset the patrons and send Buck fleeing into the night. His agent, Lane, is usually there to keep Buck safe and happy, but Lane is a no-show. In fact, Lane has been kidnapped.
While driving to join Buck at the club, Lane was in an accident that was really an on-purpose. Rear-ended by a pretty young woman, Merry Mansfield, Lane lets her hitch a ride in his car and he soon finds himself kidnapped. But it turns out to be a case of mistaken identity, wrong man, wrong car.
Merry's accomplice plans to murder Lane just to get rid of him but Merry lets him go free (he is  quickly kidnapped again by a local whack-o). She and her accomplice then proceed to kidnap the correct man, who has run afoul of some East Coast gangsters.
Meanwhile, Andrew Yancy, ex-cop and current health inspector, is alarmed to find the empty lot next to his house is under assault by people who plan to build a large house on it and block off his view. This is not acceptable and Yancy is determined to go the limit to scare the potential new neighbors away. He gets drawn into the Buck and Lane fiasco when Buck's shaved off beard is discovered in the kitchen off a local restaurant.  And once again, Yancy is hoping to get his police job back if he can prove himself to the sheriff and solve the mystery of Buck and Lane's disappearance. Which leads him into the conniving arms of little miss rear-ender, Merry Mansfield.

A very satisfying story, a complex plot but told in an easy to follow style, sort of amusing in a twisted kind of way, the only thing I didn't like about it was Merry Mansfield who sends Yancy's lover from the first Yancy novel, Bad Monkey, packing. Merry Mansfield is just Hiaasen's Florida Man in a sexy female package and she set my teeth on edge.


By Taran Matharu

Arcturus is an orphan. He works as a stableboy at an inn but is very unhappy and has a plan to run away. On the chosen night, he wants to steal a horse from the stable. A rich young man is spending the night at the inn and Arcturus tries to steal the man's horse. But the horse gets loose and runs off.  The saddlebags are still in the stable and Arcturus proceeds to rummage through them, hoping to find food or money or anything of use. Instead he finds a paper which he proceeds to read. The paper contains the formula for summoning a demon and the spell shouldn't work for a commoner like Arcturus. But it does work and it summons a large, cat-like creature who immediately bonds with Arcturus. But before Arcturus can continue on with his plan to run away, he is caught and locked up.
Since he has summoned a demon, the king decides he needs to be watched and Arcturus is sent away to an academy for those with the talent to summon demons. Being a commoner, he is not well received by his fellow students. And he is targeted by the young man whose saddlebags he rifled, who, it turns out, is also a student at the academy. And who, spoiler here, turns out to be related to young Arcturus.

This book is the prequel to the first book in the Summoner series, Novice. It is a stand-alone novel and fills in the background of one of the characters in the series.

This was an OK read. It is definitely geared towards preteens, teens and young adults. The plot of young, special children at a boarding school has been done to death, in my opinion. It really didn't interest me much and I found the intolerance of the privileged classes and the resultant drama more annoying than interesting.
I bought both this book and the first book, Novice at the same time. But after reading this one, I now have no interest reading Novice. I am not the right audience for this series.