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Search tags: halloween-bingo-2018
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review 2018-12-04 22:32
The Water Rat of Wanchai
The Water Rat of Wanchai - Ian Hamilton

They had been profitable years, with Ava earning enough money for the condo and the car and an impressive investment portfolio. But the best thing about the jobs she and Uncle did was the ride getting to the money - it was never the same twice, and though it taxed her emotionally, it also forced her to expand her senses and her thought processes. Then there were the clients. Although she complained about them sometimes, especially those who in utter desperation were far too clinging and demanding, she also accepted Uncle's conviction that they were simply lost souls looking for redemption. "When we get them their money back, what we are really doing is saving their lives," he would say. Ava believed that, too.

Ava Lee is a forensic accountant, but we learn very little about what forensic accountants do in this book, because right from the get-go, Ava Lee turns into this shady figure tracking down people and information by using any means necessary - deception, coercion, chloral hydrate, but very little accounting.

 

Oh, I am so conflicted about this book. I really wanted to like this a lot. I was really hoping to find a new series that would fill that silly void left by other series about action-packed espionage. And this one looked good because the idea of a Bond-like figure written as a woman sounded too good to pass by.

 

However, the execution of the book didn't live up to my expectations at all. There are silly plot elements that required me to suspend disbelief just a little too much, like when Ava calls up a shipping company out of the cold and they remember every single detail about a one-off, very ordinary, transaction from 8 weeks earlier, and they didn't even have to consult their files? I found that hardly credible.  

 

There were other elements of the writing that also grated on me: the use of brand names instead of descriptions, was a major annoyance. I find this so lazy. Even if we get to learn that someone wore Adidas pants, it still doesn't tell me what colour or style or whether they were tracksuit bottoms or the more fashion-conscious kind. All I know is that they may have stripes down the sides (tho not all of them do...). 

So lazy. Yet, this book is full of this. Brand names appear so often that I once even laughed at how the multitude of product placement compared to a James Bond film, which is famously full of the same advertising. 

 

There was one particular scene where the author has Ava decide between two hotels in Hong Kong (or was it Macao), and I literally had to skip the page because I was not going to put up with reading an advertising leaflet for the Mandarin Oriental. Still, as we can see, the advert worked as I will forever remember the name of the hotel. Gaaaahhh...

I'm so annoyed about this. And I haven't even mentioned Ava's addition to a particular kind of Starbucks coffee sachet...

 

In all of this, what I can only describe as an exercise to replace descriptive writing with consumerist imagery, the plot and character development gets left behind. 

In the first half of the book, Ava does little else than answer phone calls and jump on planes to exotic locations. 

In the second half of the book, the plot thickens. Or rather, Ava breaks out her martial art skills to kidnap someone...

Ironically, this is where I should have really gotten into the book and just didn't. It took me a lot longer to finish the book than I thought, because I just could not face the tedium of reading about Ava's attempts to restore money to a company account. I think I'd have been more interested in it if the underlying purpose had not been quite so ... transactional, and if there had been more emphasis on the characters involved.  

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text 2018-12-02 14:17
Reading progress update: I've read 64 out of 412 pages.
The Water Rat of Wanchai - Ian Hamilton

I should be able to finish this book today, as I am having up to 2 hours of uninterrupted reading time while my car is getting new winter tyres put on.

The gent at the garage told me I could wait or I could leave and he'd give me a call when they have finished. Even he smiled when I pulled out my book asking him to point me to their waiting room.

 

So, reading the heck out of this book while fuelled by garage coffee. :)

 

As for the book, I'm still interested but there are elements that really annoy me.

 

For example,  I find it a stretch to believe that a shipping company would remember the details of a one-off job from 8 weeks ago, that was a normal job, without consulting its files.

That does not happen, and yet, this happened twice already.

 

Anyway, onwards...

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review 2018-11-25 08:57
"The Mermaid's Madness - Princess #2" by Jim C. Hines - the series gets a little darker
The Mermaid's Madness - Jim C. Hines

"The Mermaid's Madness" is the second book in this series about three princesses who aren't quite the ones you know from the fairytales and the Disney movies. The first book, "The Stepsister Scheme" brought together Snow White and Sleeping Beauty as agents of Cinderella's new mother-in-law, the Queen Beatrice of Lorindar. Snow is a sorceress with a slightly ribald sense of humour, Beauty (never call her that to her face) is a trained assassin and the Cinders, who now has a young son, has a magic sword and an ability to lead.

 

"The Mermaid's Madness" gives us a different look at what the story of The Little Mermaid looks like if you drop the soft-focus and treat the mermaid at the centre of the story as a real person. The story starts with the Undine/merfolk, who are lead by the most senior female undine, breaking a long-standing truce with Lorindar and attacking and wounding Queen Beatrice.

 

As the Undine will only treat with women, the three princesses set out to try and end the war with the Undine and save Queen Beatrice's life.

 

The Undine, as Jim Hines imagines them, are not just humans who can swim underwater, they are an aquatic species with their own culture, gifted with significant magical abilities, especially via their voices, who are able to communicate with humans. When an undine princess falls in love with a human prince who betrays her, she goes mad with grief and everything else follows.

 

Like it's predecessor, this is, at least on the surface, a boisterous, trope-twisting, witty romp of a book but beneath that shiny surface is something much darker. There is a vein of sadness that runs through the book whenever we get to how the young women in the story have been treated by the powerful, especially powerful men. The book is filled with strong women but almost all of them have been damaged or at least wounded by their encounters with people who fail to see them as fully human.

 

I admire Jim C. Hines' ability to write a rollicking tale with mermaids and selkies and sea battles that has a fast pace and is lubricated with humour and yet still bring the reader back time and again to real sources of pain.

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review 2018-11-18 15:34
Dark Voyage
Dark Voyage - Helen Susan Swift

by Helen Susan Swift

 

Two people are out on a pleasurable boating trip on the North Sea when storm clouds suddenly move in and turn the sea violent. As if that weren't enough to ruin their day, things take a strange turn.

 

This is a ghost ship story with a few weird turns. It did stretch believability in some places, but was overall an interesting read. My one complaint is some lazy writing where one of the main characters would 'just feel' what she was meant to do or that a ghost wanted her to do something.

 

The majority of the story is told through the voice of a doctor who had been on the ghost ship and what happened to the rest of the crew. There are some triggers here. It was a sealing ship and animal lovers like myself may find some passages difficult, though it isn't gratuitous gore. Just the thought of a sailing expedition whose purpose is to slaughter animals, including baby animals, is enough to be upsetting.

 

The writing is excellent and the supernatural aspects of the story are very well done. The beginning and end sequences felt rather rushed, but the bulk of the story, told by the doctor's journal, made for a very good read.

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review 2018-11-15 17:58
"The Elementals" by Michael McDowell
The Elementals - Michael Rowe,Michael McDowell

If you're looking for a deeply atmospheric, well-written and perfectly narrated novel to fill you with an inexorable dread, "The Elementals" is the book for you.

 

"The Elementals" has a remarkably powerful, cliché-free start, that embeds your imagination in the South like a throwing knife splitting a rotting log. What better way to start than with a funeral that goes from dire and depressing to deeply disturbing in a few pages.

 

I'd never read Michael McDowell before but I wasn't surprised to learn later that he was an excellent screenwriter.  The style of"The Elementals" is cinematic in a lots-of-close-ups, see-the-motes-in-the-sunlit-air lighting and strange but intimate camera angles kind of way.

 

The characters, especially Luker and his preciously independent daughter India are engaging and believable. Despite being unconventional people (Luker came from around hear but he raised his daughter in New York City so you can't exactly expect them to be normal, can you?) become the anchor points for sanity in a world that is sliding towards the lethally strange with the slow grace of an unmoored house sliding of a cliff into the sea.

 

The heat becomes almost a character in the story in its own right. India discovers for the first time the heat and humidity induced languor of the South that bends time and alter perceptions. Luker explains to her that this hot humid coastal resort of Beldame is:

"...a low energy place. The kind of place where you can only get one or two things done in a day and one of those is getting out of bed."

 

Not surprisingly, the horror in this book is of the slow but deeply disturbing kind. It seemed to me that the dread in this book had a pulse: slow and strong, like an ambush predator waiting on a branch.

 

Having this atmospheric tale delivered to my ear in R.C. Bray's gravelly but insistent voice was a remarkable reading experience.

 

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