Bookworming In


05/30/2013 by syrbal-labrys

My, time has gotten away from me; I forgot to update my book notes! In my continuing attempt to read at least one book per week this year…and failing (slightly) to keep to the fiction stacks for a year, I have been booking along…books #15 thru # 24 below:

15. “The Book of Fate” by Brad Meltzer is nothing of the sort. It is your average “thriller” teasing about a Masonic plot and with a nutjob religious kook as assassin, again. (Does Dan Brown get tired of being copied?)
There is no plot, it is actually three disenchanted and crooked g-men running a scam for money. Yeah, I spoilt it, and you are GLAD, I tell you. Also really hated the “venal power-maddened First Lady” trope employed for misogynistic shits and giggles. Mr. Meltzer? Go apply at Walmart.

16. “Purgatory Ridge” by William Kruger is a decent mystery of Amerindians versus logging companies. His characters were chugging along quite nicely and realistically until he took the cheap trip to making the logger -in-chief into a complete nutcase murdering his rich wife to save his corporate bankrupt ass, and oh, bonus points for the “murderous ex-military SEAL as number 2” trope. Geez, Mr. Kruger, I was semi-excited about checking out other books of yours till you did that!

17. “The Plucker” by Brom is a visual delight. It is not only a spooooky bedtime story for teens and adults, but as with most of his work, embellished with his delicious artwork. This one gets five heart-felt and spine-tingled stars!

18. “Animal Dreams” by Barbara Kingsolver is a sweet tale about sisters orphaned by their mother’s death in childbirth —and their living father’s inward turn from their small town of curious genetic oddities. The older sister grows up running from her past; the younger girl becomes the rebel chasing causes. The rebel dies and love triumphs…mostly, I enjoyed descriptions of the Southwest venue of the story. But not bad if you like love stories.

19. The “Mermaid Chair” by Sue Monk Kidd was a terrific disappointment since I liked her “Secret Life of Bees”.
But then, my inner beekeeper loves anything to do with bees! Her character, a 40-ish woman feeling stalely wed to a very nice man rebels and falls for a Catholic monk….I was unsympathetic even tho’ I know something about stale marriages; mostly because her affair felt like delayed adolescence to me. The toed-in mystery of her mother’s insanity brings out a tale of a conspiracy of friends committing a mercy-killing of her father years before and in the church’s “Mermaid Chair”. The entire trauma could be averted by a society AND a Church that didn’t advocate crap like “redemptive pain” in terminal illness. So, the very patriarchally correct ending…wife returned gratefully to husband, monk to his cloister didn’t surprise me. Status quo, status quo….the bell really SHOULD toll for you.

20/21/22 “The King Raven Trilogy” by Stephen Lawhead (“Hood”, “Scarlet”, and “Tuck”) Over 1100 pages. Yee bloody haw. Back in the 70’s I read a series of books by Lawhead….beginning with “Lord Foul’s Bane” and my biggest memory was of a lot of TORTUROUS text. But my son recommended this, knowing I love Robin Hood tales.
Ahem. Still torturous. He did pull a couple rabbits from the hat: he places Hood in the rule of William Rufous…son of William the Norman-bastard Conqueror. The Normans are cardboard cut-out creeps, as expected.
Trouble is, it is hard to feel much for his King Raven either —now a Welsh princeling. He did his research of the host of stories and legends that went before, I give credit for that. His second book…about Will Scarlet’s acts is better and the character warmer. But that is when reality begins to slide…they’d have tortured a captured Will into revelation of Hood’s hideaway “tres rapidement” and that would have been that.
“Tuck” wraps up the story bringing all to a very merry conclusion…not quite how I recall other legends ending. If you are trapped in an airport during a week long snowstorm? This is your book, but still Lawhead is TORTUROUS. And remember, this is said by a woman who LOVES Dostoyevsky…so it isn’t length alone.

23. “The Last Battle” by Stephen Harding was my NON-fiction diversion, picked up because it SOUNDS like fiction. Imagine an American tank crew, German Army, French politicians, and even an SS officer all fighting on the SAME side in a battle at the ragged ends of the WWII war in Europe? See, told ya it was fiction-worthy.
But it read boringly because the writer is not a novelist. He tries hyperbole here and there and sounds like HIS fictional reading was Gothic horror or something. (Sorry, Stevo, hatbrass does NOT glower with malevolence.) It is a rather inspiring tale of the rescue of a bunch of imprisoned French dignitaries being saved by Americans and anti-Hitler Germans. I recommend waiting for the movie, done by a script-writer with a soul.

24. “Incubus” by Anne Arensberg was my return to fiction. Oy. Someone should tell Anne that even bad movies that do stupid plot twists in the last 15 minutes (Need I tell you which Star Trek film?) can survive if the special effects are awesome AND the audience is lulled into a sugar high coma by popcorn and 32 ounces of Pepsi; books canNOT. She begins well enough with a semi-snarky tension between a minister and his skeptical wife set in a mid 70’s Maine town hit with a heat wave witheringly summer-long AND sexual assaults by an invisible entity. Much like an M. Night Shaymalen (sp?) movie, nobody summons outside investigators of either issue. Instead they all seek counsel from an Episcopalian priest?? The wife, finally becoming a victim, determines that the perpetrators are ALIENS that have “been here forever”…and furthermore, likely created ALL our religions to further their what-the-fuck-ever agenda. Honey, lay OFF that valium! Still, one could forgive a bit of waffling then, if it hadn’t wrapped up with said losing-HIS-religion priest in church with his assaulted village doing an exorcism/bannishment while attacked by alien ‘black fog’ (OMG…it’s a lost overdose, isnt’ it?) And with a crash of thunder and hail on the roof, GOD comes when calls…and it is over. No explanation or description of where the aliens went. Poof. And never mind that “God” had ignored frantic prayers for the entire summer beforehand; apparently you gotta get out the gold threaded vestments and have a surfeit of drafted acolytes to help put on a show worthy of ‘Him.” And then said successful alien-exorcising priest resigns and becomes a psychic investigator. You are welcome, I’ve saved you wasting three hours reading this tripe.

And now? I’m reading LeCarre. Pretty sure he won’t pull aliens or God out of his hat.


12 thoughts on “Bookworming In

  1. Rowan says:

    Yeah, it’s Donaldson. And not only did he write Lord Foul, he followed it with five more books and then, about five years ago, returned to that world with another, I think it’s four books. He changed the viewpoint for the second trilogy from the main character to a female character. The books have their moments – you just have to be willing to wade through them to find them My son is a fan and as my policy was to read everything he read growing up, yeah, I read them. I loved the giants in the second spate of books.

    Thankfully, the son’s all grown up and I don’t have to read what he does anymore. That said, have you ever read the Cryptonomicon by Neal Stephenson? The son recommended it to me and while it’s a huge book and it took me ages to get through – mostly because I needed someone computer-wise to decipher some of the modern storyline, I found it to be interesting enough that I want to read it again. It deals with two time-lines – one set in WWII Bletchley Park and the other in modern times dealing with cryptology, telecom and computer technology and data centers with the descendents of the first group. I thought it was good enough to recommend to friends.

    And now I’ve set you up to be confused with another Stephen… *wicked smirk*

    • syrbal says:

      Evil woman! I’ve heard of the the new Stephen’s book, but no not read it. I’ve looked it over a couple times…but it did not grab me. A bit too nerdy for me, and then, all the “crypties” I knew in service? Completely BONKERS, so I don’t play with THAT fire, lol.

      • Rowan says:

        I try to do evil well. *chuckle*

        I’ve become fascinated with Bletchley Park lately due to the PBS series The Bletchley Circle. I just stumbled across that one night – four women who had worked at Bletchley Park, and who signed the secrecy act paperwork, dealing with life after war, seeing patterns to catch a seriel killer. It was interesting and the Bletchley girls were a part of history of which I wasn’t more than passing aware.

        Bonkers, huh? I can believe that.

      • syrbal says:

        Basic analysis stuff, that…the entire “patterns” thing.
        That was my job, once upon a long ago time.

  2. E.A. Blair says:

    If I’m not mistaken, “Lord Foul’s Bane” was written by Stephen R. Donaldson, not Stephen R. Lawhead (in fact, Lawhead did not publish his first book until some five years after “Lord Foul”). I vaguely remember L.F’s. B. as one of the worst fantasy novels I ever read, and the foul reek it left in my head had me never going back to Donaldson’s stuff again.

    • syrbal says:

      DAmn, am I mixing up my Stephens? Either way, foul it was. … but both are torturous! Thanks for the brain shake…I had an insomniac night and should have known better than to trust my memory!

      • E.A. Blair says:

        There were obviously a lot of people who disagreed with me on Lord Foul, since it won an award and sold a lot of copies, but I found it, not poorly written, just horribly derivative. They’re both Stephen R. – had I been Lawhead, I would have left the initial out of my name. Meanwhile, I’m going back to rereading some vintage Jack Vance.

      • syrbal says:

        :::sigh::: Yes, now that we are Vance-less, we better cling to what we have. Foul was derivative, but more….just AGGRAVATING. I wanted to kill his Hansen’s Disease character for being so whiny and indecisive….arrrrgh. Existential angst is one thing, being a total wuss is another. First fantasy I recall ever preferring the villains…

      • E.A. Blair says:

        Rereading his best is a fitting tribute – Vance was one of the first SF authors I encountered and I loved his eccentric style. If you haven’t run across the volume yet, may I recommend Songs of the Dying Earth: Stories in Honor of Jack Vance. It was edited by George Martin and Gardiner Dozois and has twenty-two stories by assorted authors (info at On first reading it, I sought out and wrote to one of the writers to verify my suspicion that her story was inspired as much by the early music of King Crimson as by Vance. It was. Should this be your first reading, I wish you the joy of discovery.

      • syrbal says:

        I’m pretty sure I read a good deal of Vance back in the day….I no longer own any because of so many military moves and book thinning to the point of official mourning screams! I am all out of bookspace in my small separate dwelling here…I think I may look for ebooks to add to my iphone; that is my favorite new stash place for fiction. And sci-fi is my favorite fiction.

      • E.A. Blair says:

        I used to have a large collection of Vance, many of which had been signed. I must confess to having been somewhat disappointed when I finally met him, since I expected someone tall and dashing like the heroes in his stories, but he was actually kind of short and dumpy (in fact, he reminded me of my grade-school janitor). But his intellect was towering and his personality was both engaging and infectious.

        Alas, a majority of my books were lost some years ago. A couple thousand of them had been stored in my mother’s attic, and when she died, my sister changed the locks and either threw out or sold everything of mine that was in the house. I managed to recover some items from used bookstores, but only a few and not the best. I have had no contact with my sister since that happened except for a birthday card I sent her two years ago. I made it myself, and on the front, it read, “Wow! I can’t believe you’re sixty years old!” On the inside it said, “I was hoping you’d be DEAD by now!” If she dies before I do, I may go to her funeral, even if only to stick a pin in her to make sure she won’t wake up.

      • syrbal says:

        Lol, I have a similar relationship with some family members of mine. I’ve threatened to take a beer bong to such funerals for the purpose of pissing on the grave without squatting!

        So sorry about the book losses, those are heart-breaking in every instance.

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The name of this blog, and my Dreamwidth blog, Herlander Refugee, is taken from a 1915 feminist novel "Herland". It makes my heart sing that modern women are experimenting with creation of a new "Herland"! Yes, comments are closed. Anyone who just MUST reach me can do so at syrbal6 at gmail dot com.

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