All The Books I Can Read

1 girl….2 many books!

Immortal Combat – Leah Giarratano

Immortal CombatImmortal Combat (Disharmony #3)
Leah Giarratano
Penguin Teen Aus
2013, 373p
Copy courtesy of the publisher

The Psychopath, the Empath and the Genius have figured out what they think they need to do. The three children of The Telling will either end the war that threatens the world or contribute to its ultimate destruction.

Luke, Sam and Jake all have their own talents and their own destinies. Separated from his siblings after they retrieve an artifact, believing that they think the worst of him, Luke seems certain to run headlong into his fate of destroying the world. He embraces the powers and gifts his mother gave him – but will he go back to his siblings when they call for him? Maybe only his twin Samantha, the Empath can help him realise what his true potential is.

Sam’s powers are growing as well and it threatens to unravel her as she suffers along with everyone who has ever suffered before. Along with the street urchin she has known nearly all her life, Birthday Jones, the two travel to Japan to try and gain some allies in this fast escalating war that threatens to destroy the world before they have the chance to save it and restore the harmony again.

Jake is the Genius. He’s possessed of a knowledge and intelligence most people could only dream about. But there’s something Jake doesn’t know – but he’s about to find out. And when the new family secrets come out, along with a powerful warlock who has waited centuries to take control of the world, the three of them face an even harder task.

Are they up for it?

Immortal Combat is the third and last novel in the Disharmony trilogy by acclaimed crime author Leah Giarratano. The first two books have all been building up to the showdown in this one, everything coming together for the three children of The Telling to either embrace their combined destiny and work together or reject it and cause the destruction of the world. We have gotten to know Luke, Sam and Jake – their different backgrounds, the way in which their mother, the witch Morgan Moreau shaped their upbringings to give them the skills and talents they would need (or strip them of them) in order to fulfill the three facets of the prophecy. In this novel they discover there are more siblings: failed psychopaths, empaths and geniuses, those whom Morgan gave birth to and attempted to shape and failed. Some of them will be necessary to their cause.

This series is very clever, very well thought out and very detailed – I’ve thought that since the beginning. There’s so much that I forget in between reading installments that it always takes me 30-50 pages to settle into the rhythm again, remembering who is who and what role they’ve played in the past and how it has affected everything that’s happened and where they’re up to right now. I was super confused at the beginning of this book but once everything began to fall into place again for me, I was engrossed in the story. There’s so much happening in this one – the action jumps around from Bulgaria to Romania to Mexico to Switzerland to Japen to Australia at breakneck pace.

But the characters aren’t neglected in favour of the plot. All 3 of the children of the Telling undergo a lot of growth in this book – or in Luke’s case growth then regression and then growth again. I think I found Luke, the Psychopath the most interesting character of them all. He believes that he doesn’t have feelings, that he can’t connect to anyone but that’s not precisely true. He does feel things, but it takes him a while to process that he is feeling something and then identify what it is. His first instinct is to retreat, to be alone, to destroy. He isn’t able to really connect with Jake and Sam the way that they connect with each other and he thinks that they also believe the worst of him. So rather than face that, he backs away. However when they come calling, when they need him on their side, he is there for them and the three of them are united once more. In this book Luke meets one of their siblings, a failed psychopath which was interesting because she actually seemed more of a psychopath than Luke himself. Their interactions were interesting and highlighted the differences between them and between the others.

Even though this book led the way to one final showdown and conclusion, I liked that the author threw in quite a lot of things that I didn’t expect along the way, including one final opponent that was quite a surprise. I think this trilogy would definitely benefit from a re-read when I could read all 3 books together, in a row, without long gaps between them. It would definitely highlight the intricacies of the plot and keep everything fresh in the mind because I know that a lot slipped through the cracks in the gaps between books. However despite that, I think that Leah Giarratano has attempted something very new and different here and has managed to pull it off pretty well.

7/10

Book #231 of 2013

AWW2013

Immortal Combat is book #85 of the Australian Women Writers Challenge

 

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Disharmony – Leah Giarratano

Disharmony
Leah Giarratano
Penguin AU
2012, 345p
Copy courtesy of the publisher

A psychopath. An empath. A genius.

They are supposed to be the ones who can save the world – the thousands of years of wars, tragedies and disasters. Who can restore the natural balance and peace, the way things used to be. Before.

They are siblings. Two of them are twins. They know nothing of their destiny – they don’t even know the others exist. They know nothing about the mysterious thing known as The Telling, which their destinies are tied up within. They are fast approaching a time where they will be hunted. They are useful to more people than they could ever imagine and they are about to learn all about who they are, and about each other.

Because saving the world isn’t the only possible outcome. They could also destroy it.

Disharmony is the first young adult novel from acclaimed Australian adult crime author, Leah Giarratano. Already well known for the Detective Jill Jackson series, Giarratano has tried her hand at something very, very different for her YA debut and the result is incredibly interesting. This is the first in the series and it’s fabulous at setting up the story, introducing the reader to several of the very important characters but also creating a shroud of mystery around some others. It’s one of those books where I’m going to be annoying and say ‘I don’t want to spoil it’ because I think that to write my usual detailed review would seriously detract from the experience that is reading this book knowing very little about it. All I knew was the blurb when I picked it up, which is brief to say the least. It had been talked about a little at a Penguin YA event I attended last year but mostly, the plot of this book has been a well kept secret.

The story switches between a juvenile detention centre near Windsor in Sydney’s north-west and a Roma gypsy camp near Bucharest, Romania. Luke Black is a teenager who was abandoned by his mother as a baby and bounced from one foster home to the next. He has a rap sheet a mile long and is currently serving time in the centre, targeted by one of the employees, a Mr Holt and the little band of inmates that are Holt’s personal favourites and perform all his dirty work, including beating ‘lesser’ inmates. He finds himself befriended by Zac Nguyen, a freakishly fast young kid. Together they realise it’s in their best interests to no longer be in the detention centre. I really enjoyed the sections that revolved around Luke, I found both him and his background fascinating and I was always wanting to know more about his previous foster homes and the sort of things he’d done that had landed him in the juvenile facility. His friendship with Zac was awkward and often strange, with Luke not really having much of an idea just why Zac had befriended him to possibly his own detriment and the two of them go from tentative reluctant alliance to two people on an important quest.

By contrast, Samantha White may not have known her real parents, but she has always known love. Raised by a group of Roma, with one in particular raising her as if Samantha was her own daughter. She spends her days telling fortunes to the non-Roma population and shyly crushing on Tamas, a gypsy boy in the same camp who works with the horses. I think I enjoyed the scenes set in Romania even more than the ones in Australia. The gypsy culture was so well portrayed and I could picture their campsite, the horses, their celebrations and their caravans. There’s a carnival that takes place during the book and I think it might’ve been one of my favourite scenes. It was like so many carnivals I’ve been to as a teen, overpriced rides and sideshow stalls but with a colour and atmosphere that still hooks you in, no matter how many times you’ve been before.

Disharmony is such an exciting and unique concept – it’s like nothing I’ve read and that itself makes it so interesting to me. The whole idea of these three different but connected characters, the psychopath, the empath and the genius who are so utterly unaware of their importance and their connection to each other, just going about their individual lives in different parts of the world….until they all get a serious shock. People trying to kill them, or capture them. They have to find each other and they have to learn all they can about the mysterious thing known as The Telling. I have no idea when the next installment will be out (2013 I’m guessing?) but I already want to know more. The last section of this book was action packed and contained such development and then it ended on not a cliffhanger exactly, but at a spot that left me wanting more about the third point in the triangle. Plus there’s that curious narrator that kept popping up….

One of those enjoyable, appealing reads that had me seriously thinking, trying to figure out bits that we haven’t been told yet.

8/10

Book #88 of 2012

Dr Leah Giarratano is an Australian clinical psychologist, an expert in psychological trauma, sex offences and psychopathology. She is the author of four Detective Jill Jackson crime novels and now Disharmony, her first book for young adults. This is the 31st book read and reviewed for the Australian Women Writers Challenge 2012.

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Voodoo Doll – Leah Giarratano (Aussie Author Month Review)

After the events in Vodka Doesn’t Freeze and her part in bringing down the pedophile ring, Jill Jackson is promoted and that leads to her being invited to work on a task force based out of Liverpool in south-western Sydney. A fish out of water, far from her comfort base of Maroubra on the other side of Sydney, Jill also has to meet a whole group of new colleagues and also adjust to having a new partner. Her old partner Scotty she’d come to trust but Jill doesn’t trust people easily and she’s feeling the strain of having to meet and become involved with new people.

The task force has been established to apprehend a gang who are subjecting Sydney to home-invasions, each one more vicious and violent than the last. Originally victims were tied up and guarded whilst other members looted the house, then victims were subjected to bashings and cuttings. The last home invasion has led to someone being carried out in two body bags, hacked to pieces by the sadistic leader and the pressure is on from the media and the public for the task force to find this gang and bring them all to justice so that residents can feel safe again.

In a task force numbering five including the senior officer in charge, Jill is paired with Gabriel Delahunt, a Federal Investigation Officer who specialises in interrogation techniques. Despite her past leading her to usually distance herself, even professionally, from people, she finds herself working well with Delahunt and even relaxing around him, something that is almost unheard of for her. Her usual strict exercise regime has slipped too, since putting some childhood demons to rest and she finds herself mellowing out in more ways than one, feeling safer in herself than she has since the fateful day long ago that changed her life forever.

It isn’t long until the task force is given a name to investigate via an anonymous tip off to the hotline set up for the public to call with information. They know who they’re looking for, they know his violent past and his connection (inadvertent) to one of the victims of the home invasions. Can the task force find him before he goes after the one person that knows who he is and that he is the one behind these vicious crimes? Or will he act out his sadistic need to cut on yet another victim before the police can intervene?

I always know when I open one of these novels that I’m going to be squirming in my seat occasionally. They deal with some pretty ugly topics (the first being pedophilia, this one being a vicious gangster who likes to slice and dice both himself and others for his sexual pleasure) but I also know I’m going to get a brilliantly executed story. They’re compelling, exciting and make you confront the more seedier parts of the Australian crime underbelly. Giarratano is a criminal psychologist who has worked with both victims and criminals and clearly knows what she’s talking about when it comes to portraying both in her novels.

Jill experiences some real character growth from the previous novel to this one – she’s still quiet and socially awkward, reluctant to get close to people and let her guard down but she seems to find herself doing it anyway. And no one is more surprised than she is when she finds herself doing things like eating meals with her new work partner in her apartment soon after they meet and relaxing enough in his home that she finds  herself drifting off to sleep. Completely unheard of for her in the past. She’s more likable in this book as she starts to soften up a bit and become more than just a victim who lives a strict life of control and order in order to feel like she is running her own life. However she’s bemused and sometimes a bit concerned by these changes within herself, rather than comfortable with them so I’m not sure how long they’ll last and if she’ll continue to relax in further novels. I think part of her appeal as a different sort of protagonist is that she is disturbed and still traumatised from her terrible childhood event which makes her instincts honed to a fine point and makes her the cop she is. I wouldn’t like to see her change so much that she’s just like everyone else because her spiky and neurotic character contribute to what makes these novels exceptional.

When I first read that this book saw Jill departing to another station with her promotion I felt a bit ripped off because I had come to really like her partner Scotty from Vodka Doesn’t Freeze but I was pleased to find Scotty does still pop up here and there and that I also really enjoyed the addition of Gabriel Delahunt, the Fed with a tragedy in his own past. He and Jill certainly made a formidable team and it was nice to see them slipping into comfortable roles with each other rather than us getting a whole book of them being awkward and polite while they got to know each other. I find myself hoping that Delahunt reappears in future books and we get to spend some more time getting into his head.

As always the villain was suitably skin-crawling and made me think about making sure my doors were securely locked at night, even though I was reading this in the broad light of day!  I think that I’d have been a bit of a sook if I’d been reading this late at night, home on my own while the husband was still at work! I’m not usually scared in books but I have to admit some of the ideas in this book were quite uncomfortable – the ease with which the gang broke into houses and assaulted the occupants was disturbing to say the least.

I have the next book in this series, Black Ice (which from the title is about drugs, at a guess) on my shelf to read at some stage during this month as well. Reading Voodoo Doll and then Black Ice will also knock two titles off my TBR pile that have been there for some time so I’m happy to be moving books from that shelf to the already-read pile.

7/10

Book #43 of 2011

Voodoo Doll was read as part of my participation reading and reviewing books for Aussie Author Month. It’s the fifth novel I have completed for the event.

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Vodka Doesn’t Freeze – Leah Giarratano

I’d been wanting to read this book for a while, as previously mentioned, because I’d seen a very large spread on the author in the newspaper. The author sounded extremely interesting and the books even more so. Despite the fact that there are 4 books in this series, the article focused a lot on this first one, Vodka Doesn’t Freeze and the research that went into it. The author interviewed pedophiles and child sex offenders and is a clinical psychologist, an expert in psychological trauma.

The book opens with the murder of a man on a high point overlooking a pool where plenty of children play. The digital camera nearby and the fact that his fly is open give a pretty good clue that he’s not there to catch some rays. He’s the first of a series of similar murders. All are unhealthily interested in small children. All are violently bludgeoned or stabbed to death. And all are linked to a psychologist in outer western Sydney who was treating victims of all of them. Something isn’t quite right with the psychologist either – could she be the killer? Turned crusader after years of hearing trauma after trauma and having perps walk on lack of evidence? Is it a victim of an attack? A relative of a victim? There are questions and Jackson needs to find answers.

Detective Jill Jackson is a flawed protagonist who at times, seems to barely keep it together. The victim herself of a chilling and traumatic kidnapping as a child, she fights the demons that haunt her everyday by keeping to extremely strict routines (OCD), working out until she drops and barely eating enough to exist. This case touches her personally, more than it would most. From a raped transvestite that she befriends, she gets information on a group of pedophiles in Sydney who meet up to swap videos, photos and occasionally, participate in sessions with victims.

It’s a subject that raises a lot of hackles and thankfully, Giarratano keeps the descriptions of meetings and encounters with children to a bare minimum, working on the less is more type theory. She saves her best writing for the delving into Jackson’s psyche and the construction of her character. She is beautifully multi-layered and you get glimpses of her many facets: the businesslike detective. The sibling that’s full of regret. The drive to protect herself, physically, from any threat – real or perceived. The interest she has for her partner, that she cannot bring herself to ever act upon. She’s a wonderful character and I’d read the remaining books in this series for that alone, even if the writing wasn’t as tight and well done as it is.

There is one thing that I have come to view with a bit of frustration though, and that is protagonists doing stupid things. They usually involve not waiting for back up and going into situations unarmed, without back up and without much of an idea. It happens quite often in the Kathy Reichs novels, made worse by the fact that Temperance isn’t even a cop. Even though Jackson is, I did find it a tad ludicrous that she would go into that mansion alone where there were a whole heap of ‘persons of interest’, in the dark, unarmed, when her parter and a whole team was probably no more than 20-30 minutes away. It happens so often these days on TV also. I’m a veteran of Crossing Jordan, CSI, CSI:NY, Cold Case and countless others where people think nothing or running headlong into danger without a second thought and mostly in real life, it’d get you a bullet in your head for your trouble.

But that moment aside, I enjoyed this book immensely, despite the absolutely stomach-churning themes. It was amazingly well put together, pacy and interesting. I read it in one sitting before dinner, page-turning anxiously so that I wouldn’t have to put it down to eat. I’ll definitely be picking up the other books in this series. Giarratano, with her experience, sure knows how to put together nasty bad-guys and well thought out good guys.

8/10

(Book #38 of my 50 Book Challenge)

This book counts towards my 2010 Global Challenge!

The Medium Challenge
Read two novels from each of these continents in the course of 2010:
Africa
Asia
Australasia: #1: Vodka Doesn’t Freeze, by Leah Giarratano. Set in Sydney, Australia.
Europe: #1: Cold Granite, by Stuart MacBride. Set in Aberdeen, Scotland.
North America (incl Central America)
South America
Try to find novels from twelve different countries or states.

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