Friday, February 20, 2009

Disappointed - Throne of Jade

For musicians, the say the follow up second album is always a difficult one. I think this also applies to writers.

I am really, really, really disappointed with the second book in Naomi Novik's Temaraire series - Throne of Jade. If I had to use just one word to describe it, I would say it was 'pedestrian'.

Not enough action scenes, suspense or thrills. The narrative is weighed down by a lot of conversations between characters explaining things to each other. Hello? Bring back the aerial battles between dragons and the French and English!

And when there was some action, it is quite rushed and badly written. The scenes set in China are totally unbelievable and lacking in any subtley. Plus the post-colonial in me was a bit put off with the stereotypical descriptions of Chinese as inscrutable, emotionless and wearing funny clothing.

Maybe my expectations were too high?

They say third time lucky – Fingers crossed as am about to start the 3rd book in series this weekend Black Powder War.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Hooked - Naomi Novik's Temaraire series

Why did it take me so long to get to this series? I'm hooked, line and sinkered into Naomi Novik's brillant Temaraire series.

Just finished the first one His Majesty's Dragon (read the excerpt) and am eagerly awaiting my request for the second bo0k - Throne of Jade - to arrive at my library.

A historical fantasy series set in the Napoleonic era, Temaraire is an inventive re-imagining of this period in which dragons exists and are 'weapons' in the war between the French and English.

The series follows the adventures of ex-naval captain William Laurence and his dragon Temaraire as they battle the French.

This book is one of these rare sci-fi/fantasy books that actually engages you because of its well developed characters. The relationship between the gentleman captain William and the extremely intelligent Temarair unfolds in a well plotted and tightly drawn narrative.

The action scenes are real page turners too.

Really, what more can one ask for?

As Mary Jo Putney says in her review, it's like "Horatio Hornblower has become a dragon rider!"

Not sure I can wait too long and may have to buy the book! Yes, it's that good that I am contemplating buying a book!

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Good fun read – The Brotherhood of the Holy Shroud

Just finished Julia Navarro's The Brotherhood of the Holy Shroud.

In similar vein to The DaVinci Code - this book is a historical thriller with the subject matter the Turin Shroud.

The book starts with a strange fire and death at the Cathedral of Turin which brings in Italy’s Art Crimes Department to investigate.

It is a good fast paced fun page turner that interweaves the present and past, cris- crossing periods from the Byzantium to the Crusades.

Gotta say I love a good story involving knights, especially the Knights of Templar – which DaVinci Code also delves into.

Navarro is most effective when telling the story of the shroud from the death of Jesus through to the 14th century. Whereas the contemporary characters sometimes err on the side of the implausible – such as the character of Sophia Galloni. Really what is it with writers who create characters who are not only beautiful, smart but also hold PhDs? Please I know it’s fiction, but give me break!

The most dissatisfying part of the book is the ending – which wraps up quite too abruptly and quickly with one of the main character relegated to almost a footnote.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Improvement but undecided - Patricia Cornwell's Scarpetta

Ever since finishing Cornwell's Predator in disgust I vowed never to be sucked in and read another Cornwell Scapetta novel again. Ever.

Marc Ruby's review of Predator says it all. Plus the really short chapters annoyed me - I couldn't work out if whether Cornwell was trying something new for the hell of it or cos she thought it would help build any suspense or anything.

Well, never say never!

Just finished the latest Scarpetta. Good news is that it is an improvement, but bad news is that I'm not sure it matters anymore. The suspense and thrills just aren't there and the red herrings a little too obvious.

More problematic is that mid way through the book, and it takes her half the book to get the main characters together, you kind of lose track of why you care about the murder and who did it! Also the villian is just sooo obvious, oh from about page 3, it's hard not to think - c'mon that's it?? Oh yeah call me cynical but happy families ending struck such a false note to it all.

I just get the feeeling Cornwell doesn't know what to do with her characters anymore and so just keeps inventing these rather contrived stories. It seems every new book, Kay Scapetta has a new job or moved to new state. I think it is time to gracefully let them retire.

While I've got the claws out - the back cover of my version has a pretty scarry picture of Cornwell. Three words - "major plastic surgery". Actually let me add two more - "gone crazy".