HelenEdith's Blog

The minutiae of my life, plus website updates and book reviews

Archive for March, 2008

Book Review: Clive Cussler with Paul Kemprecos – Serpent

Posted by HelenEdith on March 22, 2008

I hadn’t come across this collaboration before. This novel is set against the background of NUMA operations, as are Clive Cusslers solo novels featuring Dirk Pitt and Al Giordino. Characters such as Admiral Sandecker and the computer expert Hiram Yaeger pop up, but the main characters are Kurt Austin and Joe Zavala. They’re a little different from Dirk and Al, but come out of much the same mould.

The book starts with the sinking of the Andrea Doria off the coast of Nantucket in 1956.

It then fast-forwards to the year 2000, when Nina Kirov, a marine archaeologist, narrowly escapes being murdered when the rest of her expedition is killed in the middle of the night. She manages to escape by jumping in the sea and swimming through the underwater ruins she has been working on. The bad guys follow in a hovercraft and she’s just about to tire and get caught when she gets pulled down to safety by a diver who just happens to show up at the right moment. It’s Kurt Austin, and he shares his air with her and takes her underwater to his NUMA ship, which is nearby.

That’s only the start of the killings, as the bad guys board the NUMA ship to try and take out Nina. Kurt and Joe just happen to hear the first of the grappling hooks when the boarding party arrive, and they improvise and manage to repel them.

However, everyone then starts taking an interest in why Nina’s expedition was wiped out, and discover a number of other expeditions which have also been wiped out. All share one thing in common: they include people who have paid to join the dig as a holiday activity, and those people all came via the same charitable organisation. One starts to suspect that it isn’t quite as charitable as it seems!

We do eventually get back to the Andrea Doria, which turns out to contain a vital artefact. The bad guys want it, too, and they pop up where Kurt and Joe are several times.

All comes to a fitting conclusion at the end of the book, with Kurt and Joe saving the day and the bad guys getting their come-uppance.

I don’t think I “know” Kurt and Joe as well as Dirk and Al, but maybe if I read another book or two from the Cussler/Kemprecos collaboration, I will do so. To date, there are already seven, so there’s plenty of scope!

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Book Review: Clive Cussler – Dragon

Posted by HelenEdith on March 22, 2008

Stephen brought home a whole pile of Clive Cussler’s books from the charity shop, and I’ve been working my way through them.

Dragon starts off with a B-29 bomber taking off for Japan with a nuclear bomb as its payload. It never makes it, but is shot down by the Japanese, who have no idea what they’ve shot down, so the B-29 sinks into the Pacific off the coast of Japan and lies forgotten.

Then the story proper starts, and the reader is left wondering where on earth the missing B-29 is going to feature, as we start out with a deserted Japanese car-carrier bound for the US being boarded by a Norwegian crew who hope to salvage her. Unfortunately, it turns out that she has a nuclear bomb on board and it is causing radiation sickness, which accounts for the disappearance of her original crew. The radiation sickness drives one of the boarding party mad and he shoots a car in the hold, setting off the nuclear bomb it contains. The car carrier is instantly vaporised, and the other two boats in the vicintiy, the Norwegian boat that supplied the boarding party, and a British oceanographic vessel, are also sunk, although they go down intact.

It turns out that there’s more going on under the sea that you would think: a submersible launched from the British vessel was underwater at the time of the explosion, and with the destruction of their support ship, the personnel in the submersible are in dire danger. Who should pop up at this point but Dirk Pitt, who just happens to be on-site carrying out an undersea mining trial which nobody knows about! He rescues the crew of the submersible in the nick of time and takes them back to his hush-hush underwater habitat, but the nuclear explosion has set off an undersea earthquake which is likely to wreck their habitat, so they have to evacuate in rather a hurry. The additional personnel mean that there aren’t enough places for everybody in the evacuation, so Dirk volunteers to stay down and wait for someone to come back for him. By this time, people from NUMA have arrived at surface level, and those escaping from the undersea habitat go on board a Chinese sailing ship which just happens to have friends of Admiral Sandecker on-board. Their submersibles can’t go down and rescue Pitt, who has to formulate his own escape plan. He’s an ingenious man, and his plan works and Pitt is eventually recovered from under the sea.

Then people turn their attention to the nuclear explosion and figure out that there are nuclear bombs hidden in cars being exported all over the World from Japan. Naturally, Dirk Pitt and his friend and colleague Al Giordino get involved in figuring out where the cars are and how they are going to be used.

We do eventually get back to that missing B-29 bomber on the sea floor near Japan, and it does play a part near the end of the story.

Oh, and one other thing I enjoyed in this book: Dirk Pitt gets to meet Clive Cussler and they have a classic “Do we know each other?” moment at a classic car meet!

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Book Review: Jonathan Kellerman – Twisted

Posted by HelenEdith on March 22, 2008

I have apparently read this book out of order as it’s the second Petra Connor novel by Kellerman, but this book is complete in itself and I didn’t miss the earlier unread book – although it could be interesting to track it down and read it anyway.

In this book, Petra Connor, a Hollywood homicide cop, is baby-sitting an intern, Isaac Gomez, who is something of a prodigy. He’s doing a Ph.D. for fun before starting medical school! His Ph.D. studies have taken him into Petra’s orbit, and while studying a number of old cases, he comes up with a startling link between them, which is that all the crimes took place on June 28th.

Petra is initially sceptical, and only agrees to look into it because she doesn’t want to drop the whole thing and have it come back to bite her later. She works it in her spare time alongside the other case she is working on, and the deeper she gets into it, the more convinced she becomes that the June 28th murders are indeed linked.

Petra’s some-time partner Eric pops up from time to time and renders assistance, both with Petra’s official case and with her June 28th investigation, but in the end it’s Isaac who manages to be in the right place at the right time to crack the whole case.

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Book Review: Jayne Ann Krentz – All Night Long

Posted by HelenEdith on March 22, 2008

Although the library categorises this book under ‘Crime’ I would say that it’s part of the sub-genre of romantic thrillers.

Irene Stenson is revisiting the lakefront town of Dunsley, Oregon, which she left years ago after the sudden violent deaths of her parents. At the time, these deaths were described as murder-suicide, but Irene’s never been convinced of that, and when her one-time best friend from her mid-teens makes contact and says that she has information, Irene goes to Dunsley to see Pamela.

Unfortunately, Pamela turns up dead before Irene can meet up with her – a death described as a suicide, but once again Irene isn’t convinced.

Luke Danner is the proprietor of the motel where Irene is staying, and he makes a most unlikely landlord, as he seems more interested in driving guests away than accommodating them. Irene manages to hire a cabin from him anyway, and Luke, an ex-Marine, takes an interest in Irene’s comings and goings and is generally on-hand when Irene gets into hot water – which she does from time to time.

It turns out that there really are secrets to uncover about the death of Irene’s parents, and also about Pamela’s recent death. They turn out to be dangerous secrets, but Irene and Luke join forces and set about it.

There is also romantic interest between them, but it doesn’t get in the way of the grittier story of old crimes covered up by newer crimes.

Posted in Book Review, Crime Fiction, Romantic Fiction | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

Book Review: Anne McCaffrey & Elizabeth Ann Scarborough – Changelings

Posted by HelenEdith on March 22, 2008

(Book one of The Twins of Petaybee)

It is some time since I read the original three Petaybee novels, and I was pleased to see that McCaffrey and Scarborough have revisited Petaybee and produced a new series set there.

Petaybee is a planet which has been terraformed and settled, with the settlers mainly being Irish and Innuit. It’s a cold planet, and Sean Shongili, who appeared in the original series, is genetically modified and able to shape-shift between human and seal forms – which makes him a Selkie – a useful adaption in such a cold climate.

He is married to Yana Maddock, who also appeared in the original series, and this novel starts with the birth of their twins Ronan Born for Water Shongili and Murel Monster Slayer Shongili. The twins have inherited their father’s shape-shifting ability.

This novel follows the twins from babyhood to adolescence, and charts the mishaps and dangers encountered by a pair of Selkie children whose abilities need to be kept secret from off-worlders who would like to capture them and study them.

As always, McCaffrey and Scarborough manage to spin a good tale and I’m looking forward to reading the next book in the series.

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Entry for March 14, 2008 – Music, Tractors and Wind!

Posted by HelenEdith on March 14, 2008

It’s a month since I last wrote anything here. Where has the time gone!

Last week I had musical activities two nights running: on Tuesday I took my bassoon to work and went straight from work to the home of a cellist who had arranged for me to meet up with her string quartet to run through some 18th Century bassoon concertos by the Nottingham composer Henry Hargrave.

These are charming but fairly lightweight pieces, and the same thematic material crops up more than once in the course of the three bassoon concertos. We ran through all three concertos for bassoon and strings and came to an agreement to offer Concerto No.I for performance at Bromley Music Makers in May, when the programme is going to consist entirely of British music. The music secretary has lots of offers of 20th Century music, so she’s intrigued by this piece, which should be different from most of the rest of the concert.

Now I’ve got to practise the bits in the final movement that give the bassoonist a bit of a workout!

During the Tuesday night session, my bassoon wasn’t playing bottom F properly. I found a workaround, but on Wednesday I had a good look at the bassoon and discovered a spring-loaded wire which had unhitched from behind the little post it should have been tensioned on and put it back, and hey presto, my usual fingering worked again!

It was just as well, because Wednesday evening I was meeting up with the augmented Marlowe Ensemble for an evening of music making. I figured I’d never manage to sandwich a day’s work between two evenings out, so I took Wednesday off. It paid off, as I felt full of energy for my evening’s exertions, which turned out to be:

  • Haydn – Symphony 104 “London” in D Major
  • Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy – Overture “Meeresstille und glückliche Fahrt” Op.27 which my clarinettist neighbour Terry who knows German translated for me as “Calm Sea and Prosperous Voyage”, which is a little easier to say without sounding rude!
  • Mozart – Magic Flute Overture
  • Johannes Brahms – Symphony No.4 in E Minor Op.98 – which we didn’t play all the way through. We had clarinets in C that evening, so we made sure we did the third movement, which requires them (or requires the clarinettists to take the parts home to transpose)

Now, on to the tractors. I’ve been admiring the tractors that roll off the production line at the New Holland tractor factory at Basildon. I can see part of the factory from the office windows, but when I drove up Cranes Farm Road the other day and went past the other side of the factory, I passed the parking lot where the completed tractors are parked.

Last Friday, I took my camera with me, and at lunch time I drove my car to the Cranes Farm Road end of the Festival Leisure Park, where I parked it and went for a walk up the road to the tractor plant. I took a few pictures of the Festival Leisure Park and found evidence of spring along the way, but eventually reached my goal: that parking lot full of tractors. I would have liked one red one to add a touch of something different, but the red ones aren’t parked in that lot, so I got a picture of a sea of shiny new blue tractors. That’s the picture at the top of this entry. More of my pictures from last Friday can be found here.

The weather forecast for this week wasn’t good, with high winds forecast. Having seen the forecast on Sunday evening, I’d pretty much made my mind up that I would need to work from home on Monday, and in the morning the traffic reports confirmed that. The huge cable-stayed QEII Bridge over the Thames Estuary was closed and M25 traffic from both directions was having to use the tunnels at Dartford. Trying to fit eight lanes of traffic into four lanes doesn’t work very well and there were delays of an hour to cross the River. Working from home was the only sensible solution.

The wind dropped on Tuesday and I made it into the office. Going home, the Bridge was open, but only just: there was a 30mph speed limit in place, and I wouldn’t have wanted to exceed it.

Wednesday’s my usual home-working day, and with the winds picking up, I didn’t volunteer to attend the office as I’d home-worked earlier in the week. It was actually just as well I was home that day as Stephen’s Mum called us a bit after 6:30pm to say that she was on the floor and couldn’t get up and Stephen can’t get her up unaided. She wasn’t hurt, just stranded, so we piled in the car and went and rescued her.

Come Thursday, wind wasn’t the problem, but a multiple vehicle collison was. Two northbound lanes were closed at the Dartford Crossing, so we were back to 1-hour delays. I emailed work and said I was signing on from home and would come in later if the traffic improved. It hadn’t done so by 1pm, so I ended up working at home for the day. That was fortunate, too, as the doorbell rang and it was the delivery man with my order of Permajet papers, which had to be signed for. I’d been on the lookout for them, and as Stephen had an unexpected extra shift at the Hospice Shop, had I not been home, my paper would have had to go back to the depot and been tracked down later.

Today I logged onto the traffic reports and they were unbelievably good. There were no little speedometer signs on http://www.trafficmap.co.uk/ anywhere along the stretch of the M25 that I use. They even had a matrix sign switched on somewhere down near Sevenoaks announcing 12 miles to Dartford in 12 minutes! http://www.trafficmap.co.uk/ is great for finding out information like that. I got a good run all the way to Basildon and managed to show my face in the office for the second time this week.

Posted in Bromley Music Makers, General, Marlowe Ensemble, Music | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »