Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Tess Gerritsen: Ice Cold

It seems this is the US title (British one is Killing Place).  I really don't understand why they do that except that it makes me think I missed a book.

I don't think I ever wrote about Tess Gerritsen. A serious oversight. I enjoy the Isles & Rizzoli series immensely. It's like an improved version of Kay Scarpetta novels. This now sounds awful but I didn't mean it like that. It's just that here except for the forensic pathologist Maura Isles (like Kay Scarpetta), we also have a female police detective Jane Rizzoli (and there's Pete Marino in Scarpetta novels but he's a guy). There are many similiraties between the series and both are quite gruesome. But I sort of feel more faith in human nature coming through T. Gerritsen's books than in Scarpetta. And they both deal with some seriously scary stuff.

For example, this one (Mephisto Club as well) reads almost like a horror story, the way it's written. It definitely has all the characteristics of a horror movie. Incredible really. And then the story unfolds and even though it's unfortunately very possible and believable (as in it could happen for real after some bad circumstances piling up on each other but that's the way bad stuff usually happens), it ends on a relatively optimistic note for humanity. It also displays the fact that most of us are cowards in our daily lives which does not become visible until we are faced with adversity.

I would recommend this series to everyone who enjoyed Kay Scarpetta novels and likes some scariness mixed with the criminal story. I can't wait to see what comes up next.
And btw, if you are going to read it, start from the beginning.

Pic by: www.tessgerritsen.com

Sunday, August 29, 2010

I'm back!

And the vacation is officially over. It's been over 24 hours that I'm in Zagreb and I still cannot believe how soon one returns to the usual routine life most of us probably lead.
I actually feel quite rested and I no longer have bags under my eyes (although probably not for long). :) It's time to get back to my usual non-vacation life and I feel ready for all of it (blogging especially).
And like I promised, some pictures from my vacation. Most were taken on our brief visit to the wonderful beach on the island of Krk.

This one is of a garden in Smokvica - it looks very artfully done.

This is what a sunset on the path from Smokvica to the next village of Klenovica looks like:

View from the boat of our side of the island of Krk (you would never guess there was that little beautiful beach hidden somewhere in all these rocks):

View from the beach:

More beach:

This is me getting ready to swim (this was after two weeks in the sun and you can see I don't really tan, or at all when compared to everyone else around me):

View toward the island, very unhospitable for everyone except goats:

The beach is really a little recess among all the rocks:

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Perfume thoughts (from the seaside)

Each year as I prepare to go off to my vacation, I leave with so many plans as to what  I will do once I'm there enjoying all the free time. I'm old enough to know by now if it never succeeded before, the chances that it might this year were pretty much non-existent. Oh well, I'm the eternal optimist. And I managed to prove to myself I am as lazy as I appear after my vacations. :)

Once the house was clean and I put my feet up, that was the end. Laziness took over and still has its hold on me. I had so many plans about writing about all the many samples and decants I took with me (like I said, optimist), and I've been smelling them and wearing them, but I just have no will to write about them. I don't even take notes. I just enjoy the sun and the books and sniff my wrists to make the summer enjoyment more profound. And that's it. I still have several days of this left (not that many, I'm back to work on Monday) but while I'm here, I'll enjoy those last few days of not doing anything to the fullest.

One thing I love about spending vacations at the seaside is the fact that nothing smells as carefree and relaxing as a summer sea breeze. It is better in June though while the greenery is still alive, now it's a bit fried and dry by all the sun beating upon it. But it's still wonderful.
And then one day my first week here we had a real summer shower. You know the one that smells of wet dust, herbs and has a slightly metallic tang to it. Everything just smells better when sea is its background.

My batteries are full and I'm ready (as much as I can be, I'm always sad when my summer vacations end) to get back to my usual routine and that also means writing. I can't wait actually. And one thing I realized here when spending time surrounded by many people who visited us here is that I have a serious problem talking coherently. I just got used so much to writing my thoughts that now it seems I need to concentrate better when I want to sound as a person capable of coherent talk. :) Oh well, sea and sun will do that to you.

I'll post some pictures when I get back (I have some really nice ones) and until then, just this one which I took yesterday of a beach on the island of Krk which is right across from where we are  and this beach can only be reached by boat.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Laurell K. Hamilton: Skin Trade

It doesn't really happen that often that I cannot remember what the book was about or that I actually forget I read it.  I was completely sure when starting Skin Trade that I never read it before. Which was ok because I felt like reading it for the first time (even after I remembered some parts but didn't remember how it ends).

So, Vittorio from Incubus Dreams (that's where we met him first) sets a trap for Anita in Las Vegas and she has no choice but to get there (while Jean-Claude is still asleep so cannot argue against it). But since this is an already known vampire serial killer, Edward, Olaf and Bernardo also come to play. This is where we get to see Olaf trying to get more quality time with Anita (from his perspective of course).

 Spoilers ahead again. :)

And since Master of Las Vegas animal to call is a were-tiger and Anita is carrying the top were-tiger lycnathopy, there is a whole new set of problems with that. Standard stuff of the last several Anita books. :) While trying to find the resting place of Vittorio through the were-tiger that is helping him, they also seem to realize that there was not only a vampire problem the police in Las Vegas was dealing with but a demon as well. That turns out to be a lesser problem because Vittorio is not just an ordinary master vampire. He is Father of the Day to Mother of all Darkness who she stripped of some of his powers but they seem to be returning in this book. Of course, Anita is there to deal with that problem. :)
What interests me more is what happened with Marmee Noir? I mean the vampire council feared her waking so much that they blew up her resting place. But for some reason I cannot believe that was the end of her. :) You don't get rid of the mother of all vampires just like that. We'll see.

Laurell K. Hamilton: Blood Noir

First time around I thought this book was kind of plotless. Now I'm wondering how in the world did I get to that? Probably because it felt it was just Anita and Jason visiting his dying father and getting tangled up in his childhood problems because of a really big wedding starring a guy who looks exactly like Jason. Which of course leads to a whole bunch of problems on top of which Marmee Noir makes a surprise visit out of which Anita comes out with a new animal to call and loss of memory. Richard also makes an appearance, again causing problems for everyone but at least he gets to lose Anita's rage he inherited through the triumvirate and Anita learns how to feed ardeur through something else than just sex.

You know, there is a lot of parts in all the books when Anita is trying to explain metaphysics and magic to people (usually police) who are not sensitive and cannot imagine what it is like.  That also serves as a good reminder that the readers might have problems with getting the idea but I cannot say I had that problem. I just accept whatever comes up as the part of the world in which Anita lives. Although sometimes I do wish people around her wouldn't get that terribly hurt (including her).

Laurell K. Hamilton: The Harlequin

I shouldn't be mentioning their name, should I? I haven't received a mask, meaning it's forbidden to discuss them. The vampire policing band of seriously old and powerful vampires. And they've arrived to St. Louis under pretense of checking the Church of Eternal life.

Spoilers ahead. :)

That was the official line. When actually the head of the Harlequin just wanted territory for himself before Mother of all Darkness wakes (that would mean some kind of protection which I managed to foget what actually it was). Too many metaphysical explanations to keep them all in my head. Anyway, Anita and company manage to deal with them. Company this time includes Edward and Olaf. :) Olaf being the serial killer whose type of women are exactly what Anita looks like. Yeah, her life is never easy. But since Anita knows what Olaf is like, she tries to keep contact to a minimum, until the end of the book when she practically fulfills Olaf's fantasy with him (meaning he is now seeing her as an attractive partner and not prey).  Which will get more obvious in Skin Trade.

You know, I wouldn't be writing about each of the books in the series if I didn't participate in the Anita Blake challenge. I am glad I decided to read them again, those books make me feel brave and ready to face the world. It's because Anita is a character that is at the same time fragile and extremely brave and tough. I'm sure she would get angry with me if she were real and saw this. :) She, along with Harry Potter are the two characters that feel most real to me. As if they really could exist in this world. Or, and this is worse for me, as if I could get lost in their worlds forever and never want to leave. There are some books/series that make me feel like that. Like I need to learn to live my life again ince I'm done with them. Which is at the same time proof that the author in question does some excellent writing and a problem for me because I tend to want to go back and feel a bit depressed that I can't. One more book that does this is The Lord of the Rings.

One last thing about the book. It's even more vampire politics complicated with spies, rules, council politics etc. getting all mixed up in the story. I should have paid more attention when reading it because I got a bit surprised in the end with trying to figure who did what and why. :) Well, I am on a vacation after all. :D

Laurell K. Hamilton: Danse Macabre

Is it just me, or do other people get lost among the titles of Hamilton's books? I mean this one and the last two (I'm not including Micah here) get mixed up in my mind. Oh well.
I'm behind writing about the books again (vacation will do that to you - make you lazy I mean). So today I want to go through those I read  and then it feels like I'll be able to retain my writing schedule - I read a book and I can write about it.

Danse Macabre is the book where a vampire dancing troupe comes to St Louis to visit along with other Masters of City who want to offer people to Anita to choose another pomme de sang (apple of blood even though she is not that kind of vampire). You get a lot of vampire politics, machinations, metaphysical surprises (which are almost by definition related to sex), some gay sex with Anita at the same time (so be warned). The one thing that I remember this book by the most is the part where Asher and Anita  are not allowed to have sex alone after it. I won't say why now, if you read it you'll know, if you didn't, it's better like this.

One thing I realized while re-reading this series is that it's really not in the author's/series' best interest when you have to wait for a year to read the next one because you just forget so much. And reading through the progression of Anita's powers (not just the ardeur) and reading a bit interviews with LKH, made me realize that Anita's world was always about violence and sex even though at the beginning it might not have appeared so much in the novels. But I think the idea was always there for LKH. And if you are a prude, these books are so not for you (Danse Macabre is the book that will make you figure out if you aren't sure). :)

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Laurell K. Hamilton: Cerulean Sins and Incubus Dreams

I'm already quite late in writing about Anita Blake novels so I decided to group these two together because honestly, they are mostly about sex and Anita's problems with the ardeur.
Before I go on, there are going to be spoilers ahead so if you haven't read them, be warned.

Cerulean Sins brings us into vampire politics territory. Belle Morte has sent her envoys who have arrived too early and all manner of problems are occurring - one of them is that she wants Asher back (who of course doesn't want to go) and unless he is sharing Anita's and Jean Claude's bed, he will have to. Of course that Anita and J-C defeat all the problems they face with both their enemies and people who should know better (Richard and Dolph who bullies Anita because of her ties with the "monsters" since his son wants to marry a vampire). Told you there would be spoilers. :)
I don't want to go into details but Marmee Noir makes into the story and the start of the Anita's pornographic ardeur trip starts. There's been a lot of talk about how the series have downgraded from here (and honestly, re-reading the series I kind of got stuck in the middle of this book because I just didn't feel like reading through so much self-torture done by Anita through her I'm a lousy Catholic and shouldn't be having so much sex with so many people attitude). So I finished Cerulean Sins after reading some other books in the mean time. And then I went on to Incubus Dreams.

Which goes deeper into the whole ardeur=food=sex territory but is less problematic to read (unlike Danse Macabre I'm reading at the moment where there's so much ardeur philosophy and sex that it feels there is no story underneath it).
Although honestly, I just now take the books in the series as they come. I just hate it when people trash authors for taking the characters and story to a territory not approved by some of the readers. I mean, if you don't like, write your own books. Or just don't read them. There is really no need to add to the negativity we are surrounded with in our everyday lives. I love Anita Blake world even though it's darker and more pessimistic than I usually go for but it still displays that one should stick to one's own ideals and character even when it means going against the world. Because good is the choice one should take even though it would be so much easier to go the easier route. And faith is something we should never question or presume to know what the deity in which we believe thinks of our lives. We try. That is the best we as humans can do.
Ok, so, this has nothing to do with the story. :) But it seems I have some strong opinions about the series.

Well, again a lot of problematic sex. A new triumvirate. Richard eases his way back into the original triumvirate but is still making problems for everyone.
It just feels like the crime stories in these two are there just as the backdrop for all the sex. I know this sounds awful but it's still the truth. It's not that the books are bad, quite the contrary, they are easily read (ok, maybe some sex scenes are not for the faint hearted - ok, not maybe but for sure) but it still lacks the darkness and seriousness of the first several novels.
The interesting thing is, everyone (or almost everyone) who got hooked on Anita through those first books will forever read any story in her world because we are waiting for her to master that ardeur and start dealing with serious crime. And well, it's not like the sex is bad. :D

Pic by: http://www.laurellkhamilton.org/

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Scents of the Mediterranean the World Over

First off, I have to say that I love the idea for this blogfest - my love of the Mediterranean and my love of scents all in one. I feel lucky to live in Croatia where each time I go for a vacation, of course I go to the Adriatic coast and enjoy my little part of the Mediterranean. It is also why my idea of the Med is associated with the sunny summer days at the beach even though I know that any season at the Med can bring it's own scentful rewards.

But this also posed a problem. How to describe that fragrant Mediterranean air in terms of perfumes I know?
Well, nothing worth doing is ever easy in the beginning but I will do my best to highlight some of the scents that make my heart do a happy, dancing beat.

So, I decided to start with the figs. As those of you who read my blog know, I love the smell of figs but for today's purpose, I decided to choose just one. The one that evokes the best my summer time in a little village at the Adriatic coast named aptly Smokvica (which means "little fig"). It was a hard battle between L'Artisan's Premier Figuier and Molinard's Fleur de Figuier.

And Molinard won. This is the one that most closely resembles the cool shade and smell of the fig tree from which we gather figs in our summers there. The one that transports me straight to the summer even if I'm smelling it in the middle of winter.

When thinking about this topic, I came up with the fig straight away but then I got a bit stymied. There are so many scents out there that smell like tropical summer but that is not what my Mediterranean summers smell like. They smell more of the salty, herbal breeze that gives off coolness for the nose (not really to the body during the summer). The smell of heat rising from the dry soil amid firs and some sunscreen wafting on the air.

This made me realize I smelled something this year that instantly brought to my mind the image of a Croatian beach - Heeley's Oranges and Lemons Say The Bells of St. Clemens. It smelled like my idea of summer, being on a sunny beach in the shade of firs and junipers and the smell of Coppertone wafting in the air.

And I saved my last Mediterranean discovery for last. Actually, I can't say I discovered it, more like Carol made me discover it when she included me in her blog project of Unlocking an Unknown.
It's Mr. Webber's 6T.

This one doesn't smell exactly like my idea northern idea of the Mediterranean - this one smells like my southern idea of the Med. Where heat comes off in waves from everywhere - from the sun up in the sky and from the soil where you're standing and from the rocks scattered around and the salty breeze from the sea makes you feel coated in the smell of sun, sea and aromatic air surrounding you.

Honestly, I wish I had more scents in my mind that evoke the Mediterranean, but that's why I'm hoping that all other blogs participating in this blogfest will come up with new scents for me (and you) to try so please go visit what they all had to say on the topic. :)

I would just like to say thank you to Elena of the Perfume Shrine for joining me in organizing this and to everyone participating, thank you for joining us in this quest after the scents of the Mediterranean.

Bonkers about Perfume

I Smell Therefore I am

Notes from the Ledge

Perfume Journal
The Non Blonde

Waft by Carol
Hortus Conclusus

A Rose Beyond the Thames

Smelly Blog

Katie Puckrik Smells
Perfume in Progress

Roxana Illuminated Perfume

Scent Hive

Perfume Shrine

Under the Cupola