Archive for category Three of 5 *

Star Island – Carl Hiaasen

Fun splashing, but same old ocean.

Stars: Three of five.

Review format: Comment plus links.
Summary:   Meet twenty-two-year-old Cherry Pye (née Cheryl Bunterman), a pop star since she was fourteen—and about to attempt a comeback from her latest drug-and-alcohol disaster. 
Now meet Cherry again: in the person of her “undercover stunt double,” Ann DeLusia. Ann portrays Cherry whenever the singer is too “indisposed”—meaning wasted—to go out in public. And it is Ann-mistaken-for-Cherry who is kidnapped from a South Beach hotel by obsessed paparazzo Bang Abbott.Now the challenge for Cherry’s handlers (über–stage mother; horndog record producer; nipped, tucked, and Botoxed twin publicists; weed whacker–wielding bodyguard) is to rescue Ann while keeping her existence a secret from Cherry’s public—and from Cherry herself.

The situation is more complicated than they know. Ann has had a bewitching encounter with Skink—the unhinged former governor of Florida living wild in a mangrove swamp—and now he’s heading for Miami to find her . . .

Will Bang Abbott achieve his fantasy of a lucrative private photo session with Cherry Pye? Will Cherry sober up in time to lip-synch her way through her concert tour? Will Skink track down Ann DeLusia before Cherry’s motley posse does?

All will be revealed in this hilarious spin on life in the celebrity fast lane. (from goodreads)

Provenance: My bookshelf, family purchase… 
Date Read: June 2012 

I needed something new to read, and lookit: a new-to-me Carl Hiassen book sitting in the basement.  It delivers what I have come to expect – protagonists of spunky run-down investigative male and feisty and hot female on a mission; Skink, calls to conserve not pave-over the environment, grotesque bad guys, grisly ends for some bad guys.  A little bit forgettable, but perhaps that’s because I feel like it’s a Hiassen formula.

Many of the supporting characters are standouts from previous books – notably Skink and the bad-guy with the weed-whacker hand.  It’s nice to see them return, but it’s also a short-cut instead of introducing amazing new characters.  The botoxed-scultped-identical fraternal twin sister publicists: they were new and funny.  Cherry’s parents? Reminded me a little too much of Elizabeth Bennett’s parents in Pride and Prejudice, though Pa Bunterman is not quite as cool as Mr. Bennett.

In summary:

  • If you’ve liked other Hiaasen books, then expect some enjoyable but very-slightly-stale more of the same.
  • If you’ve disliked other Hiaasen books, then this is not the book to convince you otherwise.
  • I think Double Whammy is my favourite of his books. Not that I’ll go re-read it right now, but it was more zingy and edgy.

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Working Stiff – Rachel Caine

Love the title, love the cover. Content? well, s’ok.

Stars: Three of five.

Review format: Note plus links.
Summary: Bryn Davis never really knew what to do with her life but after a stint in the military dealing with death and destruction on a daily basis, Bryn believes she has found her true career calling as a funeral director.  Giving dignity to the dead and comfort to those left behind has given her a purpose.  Unfortunately, her curiosity leaves her much closer to death than she bargained for.
 (from goodreads via fellow blogger)
Provenance: e-book from my local library.  Needed something to bring on vacation.
Date Read: December 27, 2011.  Review written January 2011. 😦

While reading Working Stiff, I was carried along by the confidence and competence of the writing; but afterwards, what was I really enjoying?

There’s fairly-good existential angst about being a reanimated corpse, certainly… But in some ways it’s equivalent to Monster Hunter, International dressed up as paranormal-romance plus dead people.  It’s grim… but in a just-for-entertainment way. I didn’t feel like my world was expanded.

I won’t avoid future books by this author, but on the basis of this one book, I am not going to search out sequels or her other series.

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Tritcheon Hash – Sue Lange

Stars: Three out of five.

Review format: Brief review plus links.
Summary: This book is super-hard to classify.  It’s funny, crude, feminist, absurd, SF, toys with romance,and detours through adventure. You never know what’s coming next.
 
Provenance: e-copy suggested for review by author about 12 months ago.

I wish I’d taken some notes while I read this, rather than just the star rating. There were some laugh-out-loud moments, and some snickers. Even a year later I remember enjoying Trish’s running commentary as she waits for a test flight in a very uncomfortable cockpit.

 

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The Family Trade – Charles Stross

Too naive to survive – will the series be worth it?

Stars: Three out of five.

Review format: Review plus links.
The Family Trade – Charles Stross. Book 1 of The Merchant Princes. Summary: Miriam Beckstein is happy in her life. She’s a successful reporter for a hi-tech magazine in Boston, making good money doing what she loves. When her researcher brings her iron-clad evidence of a money-laundering scheme, Miriam thinks she’s found the story of the year. But when she takes it to her editor, she’s fired on the spot and gets a death threat from the criminals she has uncovered.
Before the day is over, she’s received a locket left by the mother she never knew-the mother who was murdered when she was an infant. Within is a knotwork pattern, which has a hypnotic effect on her. Before she knows it, she’s transported herself to a parallel Earth, a world where knights on horseback chase their prey with automatic weapons, and where world-skipping assassins lurk just on the other side of reality – a world where her true family runs things.
The six families of the Clan rule the kingdom of Gruinmarkt from behind the scenes, a mixture of nobility and criminal conspirators whose power to walk between the worlds makes them rich in both. Braids of family loyalty and intermarriage provide a fragile guarantee of peace, but a recently-ended civil war has left the families shaken and suspicious. Taken in by her mother’s people, she becomes the star of the story of the century- as Cinderella without a fairy godmother. As her mother’s heir, Miriam is hailed as the prodigal countess Helge Thorold-Hjorth, and feted and feasted.
Caught up in schemes and plots centuries in the making, Miriam is surrounded by unlikely allies, forbidden loves, lethal contraband, and, most dangerous of all, her family. Her unexpected return will supercede the claims of other clan members to her mother’s fortune and power, and whoever killed her mother will be happy to see her dead, too. Behind all this lie deeper secrets still, which threaten everyone and everything she has ever known. Patterns of deception and interlocking lies, as intricate as the knotwork between the universes. But Miriam is no one’s pawn, and is determined to conquer her new home on her own terms.  (from the cover)
Provenance: Borrowed from the local library.

The Family Trade’s Miriam Beckstein at first struck me as a heroine too naive to survive.  Having uncovered her boss’ complicity in a multi-million-dollar money-laundring deal, Miriam is bogglingly placid.  Even the death-threat voicemail left on her answering machine doesn’t rattle her much – she ponders what freelance for her next article, and frets a little over the gap this unjust firing will leave on her resume.  No excuses: she’s not a dairymaid from a fantasy kingdom, or an eight-year-old girl: she’s supposed to be a gutsy investigative reporter.

I was starting to develop sneer-lines from an incredulous frown, when luckily Miriam decided to unleash the magical locket, travel to the parallel world, and discover her true birthright. The book summary makes this book sound a star-or-so better than I think it is.  From this point onwards in the book, Stross’ little universe clicks along happily and enjoyably.  Miriam starts to work out her place in the new world, and begins scheming how to reform it.

Speaking of scheming, the plot momentum is on the weak side.  Miriam travels hither and yon, makes some alliances and possible enemies, and … gets to the end of the book.  There’s no goal attained or enemy identified.

Overall, The Family Trade is an easy-reading book.  It’s establishing context for the rest of the Merchant Princes series, and the context sounds pretty good in summary form. I will give a try to the second book, The Hidden Family, and I hope my invested time pays off with at least a three-and-a-half stars. [update noooooooooooooooo – it’s not any better at all – disappointment – nooo]

Linkage, Comments, and Quibbles: below

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