Mar. 25th, 2017

jacey: (blue eyes)
Yay, last night I finished the first draft of 'Nimbus' - which is the third book in the Psi-Tech trilogy. It has taken a lot longer than I expected due to ending up at 163,000 words - and that's just the first draft. I was anticipating finishing the first draft in around 120,000 words and then adding some in the revision. Eeep! (I may still need to add some in the revision, of course, depending on what my editor wants.)

Anyhow, now I can take a couple of days and catch up with book logs and movies of the week, so expect a flurry of reviews. I read these while writing, but have only just managed to log them.
jacey: (blue eyes)
Grendel AffairMackenna Fraser is a seer working for ‘Supernatural Protection and Investigations’ (SPI) investigating things that go bump in the night. Working with her far more experienced partner Ian Byrne she’s still a newcomer. She’s not supposed to take on monsters, simply identify them and let Ian and the team do the rest. So when she gets involved in the hunt for a serial killer that tears the head and one arm off its victims, she’s at a bit of a disadvantage. I loved Lisa Shearin’s Raine Benares books. I’m less convinced about the SPI files, maybe because I prefer a straight fantasy setting to urban fantasy - especially urban fantasy set so firmly in America. It’s good. It’s readable. It just didn’t grab me like the Benares books.
jacey: (blue eyes)
Because I'm catching up with my booklog I'm going to review all of the first six Peter Grant books together. I read them together because they were so goof I have to bounce on from one to the next.

Rivers of London11) 10/02/17
Ben Aaronovitch: Rivers of London – Peter Grant #1
(Midnight Riot in the USA)
New mixed race copper in the Met, Peter Grant, has his life turned upside down when he discovers that he can see ghosts and that he has the potential to be a wizard. Also that the Met has its own wizarding department – though no one ever talks about it – run by Detective Chief Inspector Thomas Nightingale. Seconded to Nightingale to learn the magical ropes, Peter discovers a world where the gods and goddesses of the Thames and its tributaries are real and interact with humans. This is a smart blend of urban fantasy and police procedural. The main character, Peter Grant, has a great ‘voice’ and his witty observations are crisp and funny. London itself becomes a character, too and there’s a solid sense of place. The supporting characters are well fleshed out, Leslie, the mysteriously silent Molly and her culinary experiments, the enigmatic Beverley Brook, Lady Tyburn and the other River gods and goddesses, Dr Walid the pathologist, Guleed, Seawoll, Stephanopoulos and even Toby the dog I enjoyed this so much that I galloped through all six available Peter Grant books without coming up for air. Highly recommended

Moon over Soho12) 12/02/17
Ben Aaronovitch: Moon over Soho – Peter Grant #2
Peter Grant’s Dad is an ex jazzer, so Peter instantly recognises the tune that’s hanging about the corpse in Dr. Walid’s mortuary. Yes, that’s ‘vestigia’ the after-trace of strong magic. So this book hinges on the jazz scene and a strange magically created menagerie, though aside from the current crime, there’s an ongoing plot featuring the Faceless Man and Leslie who is also faceless due to unfortunate consequences in Rivers of London.

Whispers Underground13) 14/02/17
Ben Aaronovitch: Whispers Underground – Peter Grant #3
A dead American art student in the underground seems like a fairly mundane mystery but when the murder weapon is a shard of strange pottery. There’s something slightly off happening, which is why the Met’s magical department is called in. Peter goes exploring underground (too far underground in one instance) and we meet a new character, Jaget Kumar a member of the transport police and explorer of hidden London. And Leslie is back—wearing a mask because of her facial disfigurement—but back.

Broken Homes14) 16/02/17
Ben Aaronovitch: Broken Homes – Peter Grant #4
More Mayhem for Peter Grant and Leslie following a grisly murder which ends up with them going undercover in a tower block with impossible architecture. The Faceless Man, developing as the big bad over the whole series, is here but unseen… until the very end when there’s a dramatic escape and interesting plot twist that I didn’t see coming.

Foxglove Summer15) 18/02/17
Ben Aaronovitch: Foxglove Summer – Peter Grant #5
London has always been a major character on the Peter Grant books, but this time Peter is out of his city and his comfort zone when sent to Herefordshire to assist with aspects of the disappearance of two girls that don’t quite fit ‘normality’. Ptere’s girlfriend Beveley Brook, the goddess of a small London river that feeds into the Thames, is even more in evidence in this one.

Hanging Tree16) 20/02/17
Ben Aaronovitch: The Hanging Tree – Peter Grant #6
The Hanging Tree was the Tyburn gallows, and Lady Tyburn, the goddess of that particular river has never been kindly disposed towards Peter, but she calls in a favour that’s been hanging over his head since Whispers Underground. Her teenage daughter has been at a party in an exclusive Mayfair apartment where someone dies of a drug overdose and Lady Ty wants Peter to get her off when she’s implicated. It’s not all that simple, of course. The Faceless Man is back, and Leslie is back – with a face.

I love all these books and read them quickly, one after the other. Especially good is Peter’s cheeky voice, often with added pop-culture references, but quickly snapping to attention when things get serious,. Nightingale as the mentor is very old school British but the rest of the cast of characters run the gamut of inclusivity. As you would expect in multi-cultural London the characters are multi-ethnic, too, from Peter himself who is mixed race to Guleed and Kumar. And it doesn’t stop there. There are half fae and a housekeeper who has more teeth than seems strictly necessary and a strange culinary relationship with offal. The orverarching story ark is a puzzle to be solved and I’m looking forward to the next one in the series.
jacey: (blue eyes)
I give you my bodyThis is an interesting take on how to write sex scenes from Diana Gabaldon, author of the Outlander series. I know a lot of writers who would rather write a bloody battle than a sex scene (actually there are some similarities), so some of the advice offered here is interesting. Note that at no time is she prescriptive and her take is this is how she does it – not necessarily the only way to write about sex.
jacey: (blue eyes)
Offer from GentlemanJulia Quinn has a light touch when it comes to Regency Romance. (And I've been reading a lot of it while I've been writing science fiction.) Her Bridgertons series is laced with humour, and if characters behave in a slightly more modern way that you’d expect from regency characters, I can forgive this because it is, after all, fiction and not a history book on etiquette.

This is a Cinderella story. Sophie Becket, born on the wrong side of the blanket, has been cheated out of the inheritance her father, the Earl of Penwood, left for her by her wicked stepmother and two stepsisters. She’s treated like a servant, but when she gets the opportunity to go to a masked ball she grabs it with both hands. There she meets Benedict Bridgerton—the second Bridgerton brother—and he becomes her prince charming. But Sophie’s fortunes take a turn for the worse and three years pass before the couple meet again. Though Sophie immediately recognises Benedict, he doesn’t recognise her and he still has his heart set on the mysterious masked woman from the ball. Another enjoyable romp from Julia Quinn.
jacey: (blue eyes)
Wedding Bells Magic SpellsI didn’t realise there was going to be another Raine Benares novel after everything seemed to be all set for a happyeverafter in Book 7, but I’m delighted to find that there is. All the old favourites are back again as Raine, Elf soldier Michael and dark Goblin lord Tam Nathrach try to prevent peace talks between the various kingdoms from being undermined. If Raine thought she’d given up her magical powers when she parted from the soul-sucking stone, the Saghred, she’d better think again.
jacey: (blue eyes)
Treasure & TreasonRaine Benares family are a bunch of pirates, very successful ones, which is why when Tam Nathrach needs to sail off to a place that few return from to deal with another stone of immense power – the Heart of Nidaar – he takes ship with Raine’s cousin Phaelan Benares. Phelan doesn’t trust magic, and with good reason. This is the usual fast-paced plot that I’ve come to expect from Lisa Shearin. It was all going so well... until it simply stopped. Beware it ends on a cliffhanger – one of my pet hates.
jacey: (blue eyes)
Northanger Abbey McDermidI read Austen’s Northanger Abbey for ‘O’ Level many (many) years ago and haven’t read it since, so I came to this with only vague memories of the original book being a satire on gothic novels of the day and the impressionable mind of the young woman who’s hooked on them. Val McDermid brings the story into the present day. It's set, not in Bath, but at the Edinburgh Festival where impressionable (and sheltered) Catherine Morland takes her first tenuous steps in society away from her overprotective, homeschooling parents. She falls for Henry Tilney and is then swept sideways by Bella and obnoxious and overbearing John Thorpe. It’s been called a ‘brilliant reworking’ and ‘very different’ from the original’, but to my dim recollection it follows the original quite closely – given that the settings are 200 years apart. Bella’s modern day slang is appalling. ('Totes amazeballs'  - ugh!) Do people really speak like that? She seems to pounce on every verbal cliché and use them repetitively to the exclusion of all else. There are times when the author uses a shoehorn to keep the story on track, scene by scene, and to my mind is shows and thus feel a little selfconscious at times. Carriages have been replaced by cars, of course, and letters with texts, gossip with social media. I feel this updating is so faithful to the original that it still feels out of place in a 21st century setting. Sadly not for me, though I’m sure Val McDermid’s thrillers are exemplary there was not much in here to thrill.
jacey: (blue eyes)
Something girlI love Jodi Taylor’s voice. The Frogmorton Farm books began with The Nothing Girl, had a brief short story appearance in Little Donkey and this is the second full length book featuring Jenny who took back her life from her hideous family in the Nothing Girl, married anarchic Russell, and ended up at Frogmorton Farm with Mrs Crisp and a variety of animals that are possibly even more bonkers than Russell. Now Jenny has a baby (Joy) and responsibilities which quickly encompass Russell’s Patagonian Attack Chickens. Thomas the magic horse shows up again to help, and Jenny has to finally deal with the relatives who almost convinced her that she was going mad, while quietly spending her inheritance. I started reading JodiTaylor’s Chronicles of St Marys and although there’s no time-travel mayhem in this, it’s set broadly in the same world and has the same kind of quirky character voices.
jacey: (blue eyes)
Binti23) 14/03/17
Nnedi Okorafor: Binti – Binti #1
This is very short – novella length – telling the story of Binti, a mathematical genius, who is the first of the Himba people (Namibia) to leave home and travel to university on another planet. Her customs are strange to her fellows. She uses otjize paste made from butterfat and ochre paste on her skin and hair – which is traditional because of the lack of water in the hot desert climate. (Despite the fact that water is plentiful on board ship and at university – her otjize is her cultural norm.) On the way to the university, the ship she is on is invaded by the alien Meduse. Binti is the only survivor and must use all her skills to effect a rapprochement between the Meduse and the people of Oomza University who have inadvertently wronged the Meduse through not understanding their culture. Basically it’s a novel about acceptance of other cultures and miscommunication. Binti mediates between the two groups and all is forgiven, which rather makes light of the shipload of people who have been horribly done to death and don't seem to count for anything.

Binti Home24) 16/03/07
Nnedi Okorafor: Binti: Home – Binti #2

When I read Binti, I wasn’t aware that it was the first part of a series of three novellas, and when I read Binti: Home I wasn’t aware that there was still one more novella to come. I’m going to state right at the beginning that I hate cliffhanger endings. Once again this is about acceptance as Binti returns home to Namibia of the future with her Meduse friend, Okwu, the first of his people to come to Earth in peace. Binti is now an oddity. Her family never wanted her to leave, now they aren’t sure about her return. It may be the old story of ‘you can never go back’. Something bothers me about the plotting of this. Binti still suffers from PTSD after the attack in which Okwu and his people killed everyone on the spaceship she was travelling on (except her) but despite this her only friend is Okwu one of the Meduse mass-murderers. Then because she is homesick she travels back to Earth and takes Okwu with her, despite the fact that the neighbouring people in Namibia regard all Meduse as the enemy. Okwu seems to have no status or protection or even a real reason for being there. He’s an odd choice of travelling companion.
jacey: (blue eyes)
Secret Diaries Miranda CheeverOne of Julia Quinn’s one-off (so far) stories with a familiar Regency setting, but otherwise unrelated to her main series. Miranda Cheever fell in love with Nigel Bevelstoke, Viscount Turner, when she was only ten. Nine years later, Turner is a changed man. He’s a widower who can’t even mourn his faithless wife, but can’t bring himself to contemplate remarriage. Miranda has to change his mind. There’s some good dialogue in here and Quinn’s usual light touch despite such a joyless main (male) character.
jacey: (blue eyes)
Second Time AroundElla Quinn: The Second Time Around
Worthingtons
I read two Ella Quinn’s in the wrong order. (Ella Quinn not to be confused with Julia Quinn), so the beginning of this was more than a little confusing with rather a lot of characters (including 12 children) which made me boggle somewhat. Patience is a widower with four children from a loveless marriage. Richard, Viscount Wolverton lost her many years earlier, entirely due to carelessness on his part. Now he’d like to marry Pae, but her four children are officially the wards of her stepson and she’ll lose them if she marries. Complications abound even though sitting the characters down together and making them talk would solve everything. But, hey, it’s a fast read and even though you know everything will be all right in the end it keeps you guessing as to how. This is a confusingly numbered series, however, which doesn’t seem to include this one – though it obviously is.


Three weeks to Wed27) 23/03/17
Ella Quinn: Three Weeks to Wed
Worthingtons #1
I should have read this one before ‘The Second Time Around’ because it tells the story of how Matt and Grace, each with responsibilities which seem insurmountable, manage to get together despite twelve children, an entirely unsuitable night of passion, two great Danes, a disreputable cousin in need of funds, and an over-eager investigator.
jacey: (blue eyes)
PerditionAlmost a spin-off book from the Jax books, taking a minor character, Jael and making him one of the two central characters in this along with the Dred Queen. This is set on a prison ship in space where the inmates are left to their own devices and death takes the weak and the meek very quickly. Jael is a new fish, straight off the transport, and Dred is one of the bosses who have carved out little kingdoms for themselves. No one there is innocent. Mostly the inmate population consists of psychopaths, sociopaths and mass murderers – those considered beyond redemption. Jael and Dred both have secrets, but no one here is interested. A person is what a person is, and Dred is a queen, trying to keep her little empire from being overrun by neighbouring overlords, each worse than the last. Food and kindness are in short supply, but Jael and Dread come to an understanding and with the help of a couple of loyal followers deal with the immediate problems of incursions from neighbours and defeat a tough enemy. This is the sort of book that makes you want to climb in the shower after reading. It’s full of blood, guts and excrement, but there are moments of human emotion, too and it’s certainly a page turner, like all of Ann Aguirre’s Jax books.
jacey: (blue eyes)
CorinthianYou always know what you’re going to get with one of Heyer’s Regencies: a tangled plot, misunderstandings, a solid hero and a touch of adventure. With this one, throw in some missing diamonds, and a murder which doesn’t seem to upset too many people.

Sir Richard Wyndham – age 29 and the wealthy Corinthian of the title – needs a wife according to his family, so he’s about to be pressured into marrying a bit of a cold fish, the daughter of a family well bred, but constantly in debt. Since he’s never actually been in love he’s almost ready to give in. Then Pen drops into his arms – literally – and everything changes. Seventeen, young and impulsive, Pen, dressed as a boy,  is running away because her aunt is pressuring her into marrying her cousin to keep Pen’s fortune in the family. Sadly the fortune-hunting cousin looks like a hake, so Pen is running off to marry her childhood sweetheart (whom she hasn’t actually heard from in 5 years).

Richard’s excuse for getting involved in Pen’s wild schemes is that he was drunk at the time, but once he sobers up, he keeps up the act of being Pen’s uncle/cousin/tutor (the story keeps changing). Of course, there are misadventures on the road, a meeting with a chap who speaks almost unintelligible thieves cant, the above mentioned missing diamonds and a murder. When Pen finally meets her childhood sweetheart his feelings have changed (and to be honest, so have hers. But it takes a little persuasion for Richard to finally convince Pen that they are right for each other.
jacey: (blue eyes)
great_wallA couple of European mercenaries, journeying to China to find the secret of (or supplies of) black powder get embroled in a battle on the great wall to keep out creatures that rise every 60 years. Matt Damon plays William who finally finds a cause worth fighting for after many years of being a mercenary. It's a slight plot with lots of monster action and some breathtaking visuals. Despoite what I read in one review it's not 'white man shows the locals how to save themselves'. The locals are doing just fine on their own. Matt Damon is always worth watching so this was a good way to spend a wet Wednesday afternoon on the two-for-one deal.
jacey: (blue eyes)
LoganPossibly the best Logan outing of them all featuring Old Man Logan after the rest of the X-men are history. Logan (Hugh Jackman) is trying to live as unobtrusively as possible, working as a driver to support a ninety year old Charles Xavier, Professor X (Patrick Stewart), who is frail and liable to dangerous psi-fits if he's off his meds. Caliban (Stephen Merchant) is helping out as a babysitter. Logan calms Charles with stories of the boat they'll buy when they have enough money, but of course this is just a pipe dream.

Logan is essentially the gunslinger archetype, trying to hang up his six guns, and, of course, something happens to make him take one last X-shaped chance.  Following a shady breeding programme a bunch of mutant kids have escaped from custody, helped by their nurses who didn't want to see them put down like animals. Dafne Keen plays the child who is like Logan, claws and everything. (She's brilliant, by the way.)

Charles, not as senile as he sometimes appears to be, persuades Logan to help the child and thus begins Logan's (and Xavier's) last journey to take her to safety.

It's a thoughtful film, eschewing the flashy CGI super-hero mode for camera work that's more personal. This is a Logan who is more Logan than Wolverine. More human that super-hero. We all know he's going to suffer for his efforts, but that's OK because in the end Logan is going to do what he has to do, and do it well.

Highly recommended.
jacey: (blue eyes)
Kong Skull IslandTom Hiddleston takes the weight of this film making a good action hero. A team of scientists go on an expedition to explore a hitherto uncharted island taking with them Hiddlestone as a jungle tracker, Brie Larson as a world-class photographer and a military flotilla of helicopters with a somewhat unstable commander. Of course, nothing goes according to plan. There are people on the island already - and the inevitable ape the size of a skyscraper who isn't the monster the military types suppose him to be. There's also a pilot who crashed there in World War Two who provides information and a boat (of sorts) when the mission turns into 'get out alive'. It's all a frothy bit of fun with explosions and dismemberments and the sort of thing you expect from a movie called Kong: Skull Island. Leave your critical brain at the door and collect it again on your way out.
jacey: (blue eyes)
Beauty & the beastA live action remake of Disney's animated Beauty and the beast, complete with talking household knick-knacks and singing furniture. Emma Watson apparently turned down LaLa Land and that was a very wise decision. Her singing is excellent and she makes a very fetching Belle. Kevin Kline is very sweet as her dad and Luke Evans takes the mickey out of himself beautifully as the self-absorbed Gaston. Dan Stevens is the Beast/Prince, but to be honest it's hard to tell how much is him and how much is CGI.

Yes, we all know the story, so no recap of that, except to say that the Beast gives Belle a whole library! Wow! Who cares what he looks like? He's a man with a library!

Yes, of course they all live happily ever after, even the kindly teapot (Emma Thompson), the annoying animated candlestick with the cod French accent (Ewan McGregor), and the stuffy old Ormolu clock (Ian McKellen). It's sweet and the singing is qualiity. Now if only I could get rid of this damned earworm.

Recommended.

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