EVE (by Lynne Rees)

When she’s taken off her clothes, stood naked
in the garden, she still doesn’t feel quite right.
5.30 in the afternoon, the sky neighing its thunder
and the neighbours’ eyes worming over the fence.
Then the rain comes in on a wind, thick fingers
wrapping her shoulders, pooling her feet on the path.
She opens her mouth and knows that she will die
of thirst if she has to wait here. If only
she could drop the clothes she’s holding and dance
right through that gate, out of this garden.
If only the thunder could teach her how to move,
how to follow a pattern of raindrops. She sees the flick
of curtains, feels eyes scaling her body. Wet trails
of hair slither on her back. She should go in.
When he comes to the door, sees her tasting the rain,
and yells What are you doing?  the lightning is born in her.
She pulls him into the storm, starts tearing at his clothes.
He feels the shirt buttons pop, his belt unbuckle,
the sudden cool around his hips. She takes him warm,
the sky cracking above them in stormlight.
They scream until the heaviness has gone.
They may have to move.

Advertisements

DEAD GORGEOUS by Elizabeth Flynn (Review)

I received a free copy of this book from the publisher via Netgalley
in exchange for an honest review. Thank you!

I didn’t know this book was the second in a series until I’d finished it and at the end came across a blurb for Game, Set and Murder, the first book. So there you are. It stands alone. It needs no prequel and it ends neatly with no cliff-hanger. I like that.

To tell the truth, the title (Dead Gorgeous) grabbed me because I do love a good vampire and/or zombie story, but the word “Dead” in the title here signifies what it used to signify before the vampire and zombie craze, and it is actually one of a new series of police procedurals featuring D.I. Angela (Angie) Costello. About whom, it has to be said, there is nothing particularly special or memorable. She is married to a retired policeman and has a grown-up step-daughter who returns home to live early in the story. A bit like Mr Wilkinson the clergyman.

What I most enjoyed about the book was the setting, the London fashion scene. The author is clearly at home there but I was moving into a new world, and that for me is the acid test of a novel and a novelist.

The eponymous victim is indeed “dead gorgeous” (though still alive) when the story opens. But though she looks like an angel, her character is far from angelic, and when she is murdered there is, as her flat-mate Sandra remarks, going to be no shortage of suspects.

The plot is original, the setting interesting, the characterisation good, the writing professional and the editing competent. I enjoyed it, and if you are into UK police procedurals, then you will, too. However, Angie Costello herself  is, as I say, depressingly ordinary – reality personified – and that is just what I don’t want when I pick up a book. (See the previous post!)

A SEASONING OF LUST by Jane Kohut-Bartels (Review)

Seasoning of Lust coverA little book of erotica that came my way, left behind by a visitor actually, and though I try to return books lent to me I don’t feel I need to return this little gem to him. In fact he may have left it on my bedside table intentionally: there are things in here that every woman should ponder, and, if the cap fits (so to speak) take to heart;  and things that any man with imagination will thrill to.

It is a book of “very short stories” and “very short poems”, miniature masterpieces, many of them set in the world of the professionally beautiful and submissive geisha, a work of art in herself, there only to give pleasure.

Not a world we know, most of us, here in the West, though I have had some experience (some experiences) of it – that world, the East – on my travels and during my stays in India and Burma (yes, I know, Myanmar) and Thailand. But I have never been to China or Japan, and now perhaps never will. Being one for Tibet and for freedom I have no wish to visit imperialist China, and the Japanese men I have known have put me right off working there.

However, if anyone could make me change my mind, it would be Jane. I love nearly everything in this book.

Among my favourites are the 200-odd-word story Bad Karma.

“Who is coming?” she said as Midori painted her eyebrows high on her forehead.
“So sorry, but it’s Tanaka-san today.”
Bao’s eyes widened. “Aiiieee! He likes things pushed in odd places!”
“Just do as he wants. We’ll have rice balls later.”
Tanaka-san’s karma was to be short-shafted and have peculiar desires. Bao mourned her own karma.

And Ali Baba And His Four Thieves, where we get something different: belly-dancing. Jane is a belly-dancer (another thing we share) and the belly-dancer here is a silly western girl who is asking for it, and gets it. I found that of all the girls in the book, I couldn’t help identifying most fully with her! (Very embarrassing, but I’m being honest.)

Then there is the Shibari series of thirteen exquisite miniatures. “Shibari”? Synonymous with “Kinbaku-bi”, which apparently means ‘the beauty of tight binding’. (Was this why he left it by my bed?)

And the Haiku. Listen to this:

The glance at a wrist
White, the pulse of a river
Tiny beat of life

And the Tankas:

The morning wren sings,
I stand in the moonlit dawn
kimono wrapped tight.
Last night I made my peace
now free from all attachments.

The collection finishes with three slightly longer stories, two, both unforgettable, set in France, and the third – my favourite, because so original, so surprising – set in Venice. It is called La Vendetta and tells of the spoilt Signora Maria de Guiseppa Agnesi Faini; her husband, Signor Faini; her lover, Alfredo, “an officer, a dashing lieutenant, now on maneuvers somewhere across the Alps”; and her “friend” – Signor Alessandro Balsamo was her friend. Actually he was her cisebo, tolerated by her husband because Signor Balsamo was a castrato. He had been cut when only a young boy (“Viva il coltello![Long live the knife!] the audience yelled when he appeared on the stage) and sang until his voice disappeared.

But now the castrato is growing old and can be treated with contempt. … Or can he?

To be dipped into, then, rather than read straight through. You’ll love it too, I’m sure.

I, CLAUDIA by Marilyn Todd (Review)

What a title! And the protagonist, Claudia, is not so different from the women surrounding Claudius himself (at least in the Robert Graves version) except that she was born and bred in the gutter while they were brought up in a palace.

Claudia is married to a wealthy wine-merchant. He is fat and middle-aged and yes, she is his third wife and she married him for his money, but, as she says, so what – he married her for her youth and beauty.

Nothing wrong with that.

What is wrong is that Claudia is a compulsive gambler and has run up enormous debts which she cannot pay and her husband must never know about. So she turns to a particularly lucrative form of prostitution – servicing senators who get a kick out of being beaten and humiliated by a beautiful dominatrix. However, four of her clients – then a fifth – turn up dead, and if the link between them – her! – should be discovered it would certainly be the end of her luxurious lifestyle and probably the end of her, literally.

So she sets out to catch the serial-killer of masochistic upper-crust Romans herself.

Great fun.