Blast from the past with Nora Roberts and J.D. Robb

Do you read romance? In that case you probably have come across Nora Roberts and her alter ego J.D. Robb. My mother loves the In Death series by Robb and in 2016 I finally got the first book of the series. Here is what I thought of it.

Naked in Death (In Death, #1) — read in 2016
by J.D. Robb

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Fairly stereotypical police procedural, with some futuristic gadgets and a love interest who is, at first, a suspect, as well as tall, dark, mysterious and the common alpha male of romance novels. I think the correct label is romantic suspense. The first book in the very successful In Death series by The Nora. My mum is a huge fan, so curiosity made me pick it up, to see what all the fuss is about.

I did not really like the relationship much at first between Eve and Roarke. He definitely had problems accepting her wishes, which bugged me. If you do not mind his consent issues, he’s fine as a romance MC. 

The world building could have been better. The gadgets and some futuristic concepts were not explained, so if they weren’t self-expalantory, you were left to guess. However, they only play a very small part in the story. If you want to read sci-fi with suspense, hands off this book.

This is mostly told from Eve’s view, third person. There is the odd change of POV, mostly to Roarke and sometimes to others. These changes are not well done and jarred me every time. It could be the formatting (or lack thereof), the various protagonists do all sound exactly the same as well, though.

The mystery wasn’t very gripping and, at least from the second half onwards, pretty predictable. 

The romance and sex were ok. Fairly tame, I like my nooky more explicit.

Bottom line: Ok, nothing gripping, as light entertainment on the side not bad. Decent writing. I wasn’t very happy with the early Roarke and his consent issues. I would recommend it and will probably read the next book in the series, to see where their romance goes.


PS: I never got the next book in the series and don‘t feel tempted to get back to this series.

And a long, long time ago I read two romance novels by Roberts…

Birthright by Nora Robert — read in 2003

Rating: 3 out of 5.

5000 year old bones are found at a construction site in a small town in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Our heroine Callie, an archaeologist, comes to investigate. So does her ex-husband, annoying, but good-looking and charming Jake. And then a death occurs. Is the site cursed? And, least but not last, someone gives Callie some shocking news about her past that shake the foundations of her life.
If you are looking for a book with a serious archealogical twist, forget it. You are looking at a slightly upscale romance novel with a bit of mystery strewn in for added suspense. Not too trashy and quite a good read to relax after a hard day at work.

Three Fates by Nora Roberts — read in 2004

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Great fun! Roberts manages to give you low-brain-power entertainment, but with wit and a lot of humour, without getting too sloppy on the romance side of things. Did I mention steamy sex? 🙂

This is what the story is about: Three siblings embark on a quest to re-unite 3 parts of a mythical statue. They are not sure that it even exists, but they are determined to find out and try. From Ireland they travel to Eastern Europe, Helsinki, New York, to follow clues and find romance, adventure and a deadly enemy…

Out of this World by J.D. RobbLaurell K. HamiltonSusan KrinardMaggie Shayne

And this one has been languishing on my bookshelf since 2015. Maybe next year?

Have you read anything by Roberts? What is your favourite?

Sloan McPherson, Pirate Cop.

The Girl Beneath the Sea (Underwater Investigation Unit, #1)
by Andrew Mayne (Author), Susannah Jones (Narrator)

New to me author that I picked up because of the glowing reviews of a goddreads friend, along the lines of „guilty pleasure“. My usual brain candy is romance or creature feature horrors, but why not! Added bonus: the main character, aka the titular girl beneath the sea, is a scuba-diving police officer in South Florida, dipping underwater for fornsic reasons. I love all things underwater.

Ok, so she goes diving and finds a corpse that has practically been murdered and tossed in the water while our MC was down there. Her dad is a treasure hunter and her uncle is in jail for drug trafficking, so naturally she comes under suspicion right away. To save herself and solve the case, she has to team up with the police officer that arrested her uncle and wrecked her youth. What else could go wrong?

Nothing special, but entertaining enough for a long trip by train. I might even be tempted to pick up the next one in the series.

Inside out

Eversion
by Alastair Reynolds

Rating: 4 out of 5.

In the 1800s, a sailing ship crashes off the coast of Norway. In the 1900s, a Zepellin explores an icy canyon in Antarctica. In the far future, a spaceship sets out for an alien artifact. Each excursion goes horribly wrong. And on every journey, Dr. Silas Coade is the physician, but only Silas seems to realize that these events keep repeating themselves. And it’s up to him to figure out why and how. And how to stop it all from happening again.

From the book blurb

I read the book blurb, took a good look at the cover (blue version) and googled Eversion, which led me to watch animations of what sphere eversion could look like. Other than I tried to stay away from spoilers (this is me, going over my review again, shortening and „de-spoilering“ it…).

The story is quite odd, actually. It feels a bit like those idle games for smart phones, where you have to destroy your current evolution of the game in order to progress to the next level. Silas keeps figuring things out slowly and a little further with each progressive step of the plot. It‘s a neat way to create suspense. 

I am surprised that this book hasn‘t been shelved as horror. I found it quite claustrophobic and not a little creepy. It has been tagged as Space Opera though, which I don‘t think applies. Gothic steampunk time-travel space-exploration mystery?

I would have liked to connect more deeply with Silas on his journey of (self-)discovery. His ethical dilemma was well-done, but could have been… just more? Funny, I never thought I would turn into a reader wanting more character development.

Very good audio narration.

What I have read so far by Reynolds, I liked. I am going about it quite haphazardly though. Perhaps I should have a closer look at his back catalogue and make an attempt at a more coordinated reading experience. 

Read so far by Reynolds, both 5-star reads:
The Prefect (Prefect Dreyfus Emergency, #1)
Blue Remembered Earth (Poseidon’s Children, #1)

On my shelf, to be read:
Permafrost
Revenger (Revenger, #1) 

Unrest in the countryside

Sword Dance (Sword Dance, #1)
by A.J. Demas

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Interesting world. Names sound Greek, the architecture sounds a little more Roman. And the far away land of Zash reminds me a bit of Persia, maybe the hanging gardens of Babylon made an indirect appearance?

Damiskos, the main character, is a likeable fellow. Former soldier, not a terribly exciting job, gets sent to the countryside to make a deal about buying fish sauce for the troops. Fishy things start to happen, not just sauce-related. 

“Terza’s head, what a lot of ghastly people Nione seemed to have gathered around herself. Did he really have to stay out the week?“

Apparently he did. If Agatha Christie had ever written Fantasy, this is probably what it would have looked like. The requisite body might or might not have turned up. Damiskos gets support from unexpected quarters and has to pretend to be romantically inclined to towards the sword-dancing eunuch. Things do not go as planned. Do they ever?

Thrown in were some rather odd philosophers, some violence, a little not too graphic sex and various shenanigans. I liked the underhanded humour. Oh yes, and there were some serious topics woven into the narrative, about gender identity, equal rights, racism, power over and perception of others—nicely done.

This is not quick, the pace is rather sedate. Damiskos and the story take their time. It is well plotted though.

The world has potential for some more sweeping stories and there are two more books in this series. Recommended, if you are looking for a relaxed mystery with some action, light humour and a little m/m romance.

„… a dizzying week of intrigue, assassinations, and a fake love affair that—maybe—turned real.“

Dewey‘s 2022 Reverse Readathon > Hour 14 (9am EST): Audiobooks

Do you like listening to audiobooks?

I struggled at first with audiobooks, because I kept nodding off, when sitting still and listening to them. I have to do something else, that doesn‘t engage my mind, while I listen. 

I still do more eye-reading, my average for audiobooks is one per month. I always listen to a sample first, it is very important for me that I like the narrator. I even have some favourites and I sometimes even pick a book purely based on who narrates it. Case in point: I am a Sherlock Holmes fan, but the deciding factor for picking up my current audio, Sherlock Holmes: The Definitive Audio Collection: it is narrated by Stephen Fry.

I read faster than a narrator usually reads out the books, so I tend to listen to audios at a speed of 1.5. 

Sherlock Holmes: The Definitive Audio Collection
by Arthur Conan DoyleStephen Fry (Narrator)

I am reviewing this 72-hours monster in chunks, the first part you can read here. For this readathon I am currently making my way through The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes.

I have listened to these stories today: A Scandal in Bohemia, Holmes & Watson meet The Woman / The Adventure of the Red-Headed League / A Case of Identity / The Boscombe Valley Mystery / The Five Orange Pips / The Man with the Twisted Lip / The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle ★★★★☆

Some of these stories are more obscure or I have actually never read them. The stories span a good amount of years, in which Watson lives away from Holmes, happily married to Mary and running a doctor‘s practice. He very much leads a life of his own, but frequently accompanies his friend Holmes on his cases. This Holmes, the real one, is never as aloof, hurtful or downright dismissive of others.

There are many visuals know from the many screen adaptations though and sentences and remarks that have made their way into the shared consciousness of Holmes‘s fans.

More reviews to come, as I slowly progress through this audio.

Reading the real deal

Sherlock Holmes: The Definitive Audio Collection
by Arthur Conan DoyleStephen Fry (Narrator)

A Study in Scarlet 
The very first Sherlock Holmes story. John Watson meets Sherlock Holmes. The mystery wasn‘t terribly exciting. Two Americans turn up dead. Obviously there is a back story. Utah, Mormons, romance… ★★★½☆

The Sign of the Four 
The sequel. Holmes & Watson meet Mary Morstan. And Toby, the dog with the supernose. The backstory takes us to the Andaman islands. I have read this one several times and so far it is my favourite.

I still astonishes me how (relatively) human and social Holmes comes across in the original. TV has a lot to be answered for.

This audiobook monster is narrated by the adorable Stephen Fry, who did his usual stellar job. Some interesting forewords are included.

More reviews to come, as I slowly progress through this audio.


The last time I read The Sign of the Four was in 2016. Here is what I had to say about it back then:

Re-reading a classic.

This is my favourite Holmes story. I was fascinated about the description of his drug use, when I read this first as a teenager.

With his long, white, nervous fingers he adjusted the delicate needle, and rolled back his left shirt-cuff. For some little time his eyes rested thoughtfully upon the sinewy forearm and wrist all dotted and scarred with innumerable puncture-marks.

The plot is (mostly) fun. We meet Mary, Toby, Wiggins and get to read many immortal sentences from the Sherlock Holmes universe.

I know the plot so well that I find it hard to be critical about it. The only part I truly do not like, is Jonathan Small’s story. It drags and I find it a little boring. It’s too long and feels like an afterthought, that got stuck on to inflate the page count. 

And from today’s point of view Doyle’s description of Tonga comes across as pretty offensive. But this was published in 1890, so I can acknowledge that and live with it.

And even back then they wrote bad insta-love! It also struck me as strange during this re-read, how jovial Holmes is and how often he laughs. Should I blame the BBC for that?

Behind the Three Pines

Hinter den drei Kiefern: Ein Fall für Gamache
by Louise Penny

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

My first Gamache, but the 13th of the series, so I am most likely missing some context.

Gamache, the chief of police of the province of Quebec, is in the witness stand of a murder trial. The chief prosecutor is pretty hostile towards his main witness. Through the questioning we are told the story of the murder that happened in the village of Three Pines. So much for the beginning. There is more to it, with a pretty modern problem.

Slow. A lot of talking and reminiscing. Set-up for the community that lives in Three Pines and its guests. More talking. Little doing. The murder only happens a third into the book. And the accused sitting on that bench during the trial is never named, which in my opinion is a pretty lame gimmick to create suspense. Of which there was little to none. The last 30% are a bit more speedy, but the wrap-up is quite repetitive.

Some of the characters stay one-dimensional, I struggled to keep them apart until the end. The woman with the duck was just a silly caricature.

Many of my reading buddies love Gamache, but this was way too cozy for me. And the plot was a little silly. It is very unlikely that I will pick up another one of the series or by this author, unless I come by it very cheaply. Maybe #14…

2.5 pine cones, rounded up to 3 for the tears-inducing ending.

PS: 
– Initially bought for my mum, who did not finish it. I should have listened to her reasons.
– I don‘t read many straight mysteries anymore and never in German, so this was a bit of an an uphill struggle.
– Reading a novel in German again wasn‘t as much work as I had feared. 
– This is the first book of the series published in Germany and consequently released books do not seem to follow the original sequence either—I didn‘t check too deeply though. Very odd, why didn‘t the German publishers start with the first book?
– The first book of the series, Still Life, was made into a movie and I would watch it.
– The English original is called Glass Houses: A Novel, which is more meaningful for the book than the German title „Behind the Three Pines“.

Literary Awards: Anthony Award Nominee for Best Novel and Nominee for Best Novel in a Series (Bill Crider Award) (2018)Agatha Award for Best Contemporary Novel (2017)Lefty Award Nominee for Best Mystery Novel (2018)Goodreads Choice Award Nominee for Mystery & Thriller (2017)

Titanic meets The Shining

Dead Silence by S.A. Barnes (Author), Lauren Ezzo (Narrator)

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Space — a repair crew, about to travel back home after a last finished job, picks up a distress signal. They follow the signal and discover a luxury liner that was lost in space many years ago. Think Titanic in space. In international waters or space the deal is Finders / Keepers, so after some brief deliberation the crew decides to salvage the ship. 

Haunted house territory, suspicious noises, ghostly sightings in a ship in space. So not my thing, really, psychological horror… The suspense did not kill me. And I did not really feel creepy horror vibes either. Mostly I was rolling my eyes, not in fright, but acknowledgement.

The traumatic past of the main characters is revealed in flashbacks. I figured that was just window-dressing, but it actually served a purpose towards the end, when it was revealed why and how the disaster came to pass. The reveal was a disappointment for me, I had hoped for something more ingenious. 

The audiobook narrator with her breathy and sometimes frantic voice grated on my nerves a bit. And the MC was much too whiny. I also could have done without the romance thing.

Bottomline this was not a winner for me. It‘s a decent book, but for me it lacked suspense, it lacked horror, the reveal was meh, I didn‘t like the MC… so this is a 3-star read at most.

I can see this as a pretty good, light horror / action movie.

Blast from the past, a comic series from the 70s…

Yoko Tsuno: TWO-IN-ONE: Unterirdische Begegnung / Die Orgel des Teufels
by Roger LeloupHarald Sachse (Translator)

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Two issues collected in one softcover edition, in celebration of the 50th anniversary of the German comics publisher Carlsen, translated into German from the original French.

Roger Leloup is a Belgian comic strip artist, novelist, and a former collaborator of Hergé, for whom he created drawings for The Adventures of Tintin. He is most famous for the Yoko Tsuno comic series, which was first published in 1970. (info transcribed from Wikipedia)

The first issue, Yoko tsuno le trio de l’etrange (CROSS OVER, was published in 1972. Yoko Tsuno and her colleagues get sucked into an underground world while scuba diving and meet aliens living in a subterranean colony. It‘s an SF adventure story with quite a lot of action and conflict. The story was not my cup of tea, I skimmed through the last few pages.

The second issue in this collection is L’Orgue du diable, first published in 1973. Katz Castle, a real castle towering above the river Rhine, and its surroundings are the place of action for this one. This part of the Rhine Gorge is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. I have come past this particular stretch by train many times, trying to catch a glimpse of the Lorelei from my train window. The first frame of this comic gives a realistic view of the setting…

(Photo at the top taken from Wikipedia)

Here is the text of Heinrich Heine‘s poem Die Lorelei with an English translation:
https://www.ogn.ox.ac.uk/sites/defaul…

Anyway, back to Yoko Tsuno! Another mystery, this time a less speculative story, about a massiv pipe organ. I liked the artwork depicting real settings. But generally, as mentioned above already, this type of comic is not really my thing. Not bad, but I won‘t pick up any other issues of this series.

Top Ten Tuesday — Adjective In the Title

Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018. It was born of a love of lists, a love of books, and a desire to bring bookish friends together.

http://www.thatartsyreadergirl.com/top-ten-tuesday/

This week‘s topic / March 22: Books With an Adjective In the Title

Tricky topic. Lets see what I can did up on my shelf. For variety‘s sake I‘ll start with the books I added to my shelves last and work backwards…

Under Fortunate Stars by Ren Hutchings — my latest NetGalley addition: Two Ships. One Chance To Save The Future. Fleeing the final days of the generations-long war with the alien Felen, smuggler Jereth Keeven’s freighter the Jonah breaks down in a strange rift in deep space

The Art of Cursive Penmanship: A Personal Handwriting Program for Adults by Michael R. Sull — A practice guide to improve one‘s handwriting. We start with a discourse on the history and technicalities of handwriting. There is instructions on the correct sitting posture, how to place the paper, how to use your writing implement, on fountain pens and so on. Chapter 5 is the beginning of the practical part. That‘s roughly where I am right now. Haven‘t started with the exercises yet…

Ancestral Night (White Space, #1) by Elizabeth Bear — not quite sure why I added this one to my stack: A space salvager and her partner make the discovery of a lifetime that just might change the universe in this wild, big-ideas space opera from multi award-winning author Elizabeth Bear.

Dying Earths: Sixteen Stories from the Ends of Times by Sue Burke and others — sounds depressing, but I want to read Sue Burke‘s story: The writers and contributors to the little corner of the web called SFFWorld.com have brought together a collection of stories about a dying Earth. 

Dead Silence by S.A. Barnes — this was a buddy read that I skipped. Everybody really liked it, so I got it after all: Titanic meets The Shining in S.A. Barnes’ Dead Silence, a SF horror novel in which a woman and her crew board a decades-lost luxury cruiser and find the wreckage of a nightmare that hasn’t yet ended.

An Easy Job by Carrie Vaughn — short story, read it already… Carrie Vaughn is worth mentioning again.

The Black Coast (The God-King Chronicles, #1) by Mike Brooks — another buddy read that I skipped and my reading buddies all loved it: When the citizens of Black Keep see ships on the horizon, terror takes them because they know who is coming: for generations, the keep has been raided by the fearsome clanspeople of Tjakorsha. Saddling their war dragons, Black Keep’s warriors rush to defend their home only to discover that the clanspeople have not come to pillage at all. Driven from their own land by a daemonic despot who prophesises the end of the world, the raiders come in search of a new home . . .

Six Crimson Cranes by Elizabeth Lim — I like the original fairytale and the cover is pretty, so I couldn‘t resist: Shiori, the only princess of Kiata, has a secret. Forbidden magic runs through her veins. Normally she conceals it well, but on the morning of her betrothal ceremony, Shiori loses control.

Diamond Dogs, Turquoise Days by Alastair Reynolds — two novelettes set in Revelation Space. And the blurb of one of them is something aquatic. I had to get it: In the seas of Turquoise live the Pattern Jugglers, the amorphous, aquatic organisms capable of preserving the memories of any human swimmer who joins their collective consciousness. Naqi Okpik devoted her life to studying these creatures—and paid a high price for swimming among them. 

Digital Divide (Rachel Peng, #1) by K.B. Spangler — not quite sure why I picked this one. Genre bender with cyborgs: Rachel Peng misses the Army. Her old life in Criminal Investigation Command hadn’t been easy, but she had enjoyed it. Now, as the first cyborg liaison to the Washington D.C. Metropolitan Police, Rachel is usually either bored senseless or is fighting off harassment from her coworkers.

Yes, not 100% certain that those are all adjectives… *shrugs*

What interesting reads have you added to your shelves recently?