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The coach carrying Alice Ingram and her niece, Beth, along the Great North Road is attacked and the ladies are rescued by a pair of dashing highwaymen and deposited in a wayside inn where Beth meets and falls for Ed, the landlord and Alice has her sprained ankle attended by a somewhat austere doctor. This is a story of double identity, of Alice’s flight from a brutish husband and Beth’s attempts to avoid marrying one. It’s also a double romance, for neither the innkeeper not the doctor are quite what they seem. Though parts of this book were enjoyable there were bits that my brain kept stumbling over as being impractical. The chaps seemed very adept about climbing into bedroom windows as if there was a staircase outside, and I wasn’t sure how Alice intended to flee from her husband merely by changing her name, when her place of refuge was her SISTER. For goodness sake, wouldn’t that be the first place hubby looked? The husband is mentioned a few times but apart from the highwaymen in the opening, all the danger and action is in the last ten percent of the book, which felt slightly out of balance.Save
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A Regency romance with a bit of a twist. Jason Jonquil is a younger brother of a titled household, making his own way in the world as a barrister and trying to uphold his station in life as a gentleman, but when Mariposa Thornton walks into his life with a task which is somewhat beneath his dignity, he finds himself doing all he can to help the infuriating woman. She's been ousted from her home in Spain by the Iberian Peninsular wars and is desperately trying to find what's left of her family whom she believes may have fled to their English relatives.There are a few twists and turns, largely caused by Mariposa not being entirely forthcoming about her real quest or the man she believes means to harm her family. It took me a while to warm to Mariposa and Jason as a characters. In the end it's all resolved without bloodshed. I was somewhat disappointed that a character whom we never meet, but hear much of, doesn't have his story resolved at the end. It may be resolved in one of her other Jonquil Brothers books, but I had this as a review copy from Netgalley and the blurb didn't mention that it was number four in a series. To its credit it stood up on its own, except for resolving this particular character. Now that I know it's a series, I guess the next brother will be resolved in another book.
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Locked away in an underground bunker (a massive cave) for a year-long experiment to find the secret of star-travel, Kir, a young scientist with a super-computer in her brain tries to figure out what’s really going on.

Is it me? I read a lot of science fiction, but there were times when I simply didn't follow this. Not sure it makes me like it if it makes me feel stupid. And I REALLY wanted to like it. The blurb for the book explained things far more clearly than the text did. Sadly the jargon, somewhat hazy explanations and the heroine Kir who seemed strangely incurious and unemotional even when her emotions should have been screaming at her, put me off this.
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Peter Grant #4.5 Graphic Novel

I'm not generally very good at reading graphic novels (I don't always identify the drawn characters from one frame to the next) but this is an exception. The artwork (Lee Sullivan and Luis Guerrero) is sumptuous and every frame is clear. I got the hardback edition which combines the five 'chapters' issued separately, and I'm so glad I did. It's even a signed limited edition - number 84/1000 - from Forbidden Planet.

The story, by Ben Aaronovitch and Andrew Cartmel, is a case for Peter Grant. A haunted car (or maybe cars). It's short and sweet, but a welcome return to the London of Peter Grant and the weirdos at the Folly, with a host of favourite characters, Nightingale, Molly and Toby, of course, but also Guleed and Stephanopoulos.
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A novella set in the period between Foxglove Summer and The Hanging Tree which sees Peter Grant and Jaget Kumar of the British Transport Police (one of the regularly recurring characters in the series) trying to sort out a ghost on the underground. As a novella, there’s not as much time for the ongoing story ark, so this doesn’t delve into the defection of Lesley May, but it does bring in Peter’s teenage proto-wizard cousin and a nascent river god who has been adopted by a well-meaning childless couple. An excellent stopgap while we’re waiting for the next full length book. It’s got all the trademark elements of the series and Peter’s wry and funny ‘voice’.

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Lieutenant Josette Dupre is a female auxiliary in Garnia’s air corps fighting both in the never-ending war against the Vins, and against the position of women as second class citizens. Chauvinism is rife. The female auxiliaries are banned from combat, but when her Captain is killed in battle, Josette’s bravery and resourcefulness earn her command of her own ship. Garnia’s first female captain is regarded as an affront as far as the general is concerned, so he sends a spy, his foppish nephew Bernat, to observe and send back reports that will effectively construct a character assassination in order to get Josette demoted and posted to the fever swamps. Bernat is a hedonist, a flirt and a gambler with as much military savvy as a teacup (He can shoot straight, but he doesn't know how to load a rifle because they have servants for that kind of thing.). In addition to everything else, Josette’s new ship is a new and untested design. While she’s still conducting air trials, she’s swept into combat. The one thing that Josette is good at is military strategy, but being female, she still doesn’t get any credit for taking down an enemy airship and scouting to discover that the Vins are about to attack on a second front.

I really wanted to like this book. The blurb made it sound amazing, but it was a bit too much of a one-note for me I wanted more from the characterization, or maybe more change in the characters over the course of the book. Neither Josette nor Bernat are particularly likeable Josette is angry most of the time and admits she’s not good at getting people (especially her crew) to like her. Bernat suggests that she gets more out of them by being relentlessly scary, which is not innately appealing. Other reviewers said they thought the book was funny as well as violent. I must need a sense of humour transplant because it didn’t strike me as funny at all. Josette was very much the angry young woman while Bernat was the clueless fop. And though there were moments when it seemed that both might be inching towards a change of attitude, those moments were few and far between. Bernat found his spine towards the end, but I didn’t feel that Josette had changed much throughout the story. The war between Garnia and the Vins seems to have no real cause and is masterminded by incompetents if the general is anything to go by, (He’s very two dimensional.)

Kudos to the author for working out exactly how a steampunky airship works, from where the struts go, and the properties of luftgas, to how the whole shebang reacts when a canon is fired from her hurricane deck, or how the riggers need to move to keep the vessel balanced. It’s a great authorial feat, but I’m not sure we, as readers, need to know all the nitty gritty several times over. This book seemed to be little more than battle after battle. I would have liked to know a little more about what made Josette and Bernat tick.
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Kellen is a fifteen year old mage in training, but despite his father being one of the greatest wizards of the age, and his younger sister already having more potential than is good for her, his own magic seems to be fading fast. If he can’t pass the three mage trials he’s going to end up in the servant classes, something he dreads. Apart from his own future, his failure will also threaten his father’s standing as he hustles for the leadership of the clan. But Kellen is not entirely without resources. He’s intelligent, observant and asks the right questions. He wins his first mage duel, the first trial, by cunning and psychology rather than magic, but it all goes sour when his own sister accuses him of cheating and nearly kills him. He’s saved by Ferius Fairfax, a mysterious Argosi traveller who lives by her wits and a deck of cards. Difficult and unpredictable, Ferius nudges Kellen in the direction of doing the right thing, which loses him friends, but gains him a somewhat fierce talking squirrel-cat. There are a lot of twists in this. Characters are not always what they seem to be. Kellen is let down by the people he trusts the most, and finds help where he least expects it. This is an excellent introduction to this magical world. I haven’t read any Sebastien de Castell before, but I’ll certainly be looking out for the rest of this series.

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Gideon, Duke of Rothwell should probably have stayed at home instead of going adventuring in Canada. (Which I’m not altogether sure was simply ‘Canada’ during the Regency, as Upper Canada and Lower Canada were ‘the Canadas’ – what is now Ontario and Quebec. The provinces weren’t merged until 1840.) Anyhow, that’s not the point of the story… Gideon returns to find that he’s inherited a dukedom impoverished by his father’s strange behaviour and his father’s grasping mistress. He’s not in a position to marry until he’s set his finances in order, so meeting and falling for his best friend’s sister, Lady Louisa Vivers, is somewhat unfortunate, or at least the timing is. Louisa, however, is a force of nature. She hadn’t intended to marry during her first season in London, but she decides that Gideon is the one for her. There are, of course, speedbumps along the road to true love, mostly Caused by misunderstandings. (Sigh.) Why don’t people just talk to each other?

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Here are the second and third books in the Shattered Sea triligy

Joe Abercrombie: Half the World – Shattered Sea #2

Following on from Half a King, Half the World concentrates on two new characters, Thorn Bathu, a fighter from the word go, but deeply disadvantaged by her gender, and Brand, a young warrior who wants to do right, and who hates senseless killing.  From the training ground straight into a dangerous journey with Yarvi (from Half a King). Now Father Yarvi, a deep cunning man and the King’s (or the Queen’s) minister. Joe Abercrombie has a knack of writing deeply flawed characters that we like despite what they are and what they do. Thorn pretty much hates everyone, and those she doesn’t hate, she doesn’t trust, but while Yarvi hones her as a weapon, Brand offers her his humanity. There’s a love story which would be resolved more quickly if only the two protagonists would damn-well TALK to each other, but I can forgive that for all the other many good things about this book: characterization, worldbuilding and twisty plot. Though this is the second book in the trilogy, you could actually read it without having read Half a King.

 

38) 29/05/17

Joe Abercrombie: Half a War – Shattered Sea #3

War is coming. In this third book in the Shattered Sea trilogy we have yet another set of main viewpoint characters, Princess Skara of Throvenland, the last of her royal house, who has to use deep cunning herself to keep up with Father Yarvi. Only half a war is fought with weapons, the other half with words. There’s also Raith, a warrior who thinks of nothing but blood, but learns that there’s more to life than killing. We also see some of this story from the point of view of Koll, who was an inquisitive boy in Half the World but three years on is a young man torn between his apprenticeship to Father Yarvi and his attraction to Brand’s sister This conclusion to the Shattered Sea brings together the main characters from all three books in a final desperate fight against Grandmother Wexen and the High King. Is it simply a fight against tyranny or is there more to it? As you might expect from Abercrombie, there are some clever twists, but though it’s a YA book it’s dark (and the characters are dark), with some gut-wrenching moments, and the ending is satisfying but with typical Abercrombie bleakness.
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Jodi Taylor - And the rest is HistoryI adore Jodi Taylor’s Chronicles of St Mary. This is the eighth and she’s not running out of places to take the story. Still quirky, this is darker than the rest because Clive Ronan is back and he’s even more determined to inflict pain and suffering on Max, her family and all the staff at St Mary’s. There’s some gut-wrenching stuff in this as well as Jodi Taylor’s usual wit. It’s a laugh-and-cry rollercoaster and not everyone makes it to the last page. The history side of it is, as usual, fascinating, from the Egyptian desert to the Battle of Stamford Bridge.

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Book cover: Bound by Benedict JackaAlex Verus is in trouble - again. Or perhaps that should be Alex Verus is still in trouble, because this is a continuation of the trouble he was in last time, under a death warrant from the Mage Council. He's only managed to sidestep it because his old boss and longtime enemy Richard Drakh has once again got him in his power and this time Anne is involved as well. Alex feelings for Anne are... complicated (even more so because he won't acknowledge them). 

Apart from the fact that Richard has threatened to kill all of his friends if he doesn't return to work for him, Alex is somewhat surprised when his old enemy turns out to be almost reasonable, seconding him to the Dark Mage Morden, who is the only Dark Mage on the Light Council. Morden - after being a deadly enemy in several previous books - also turns out to be a decent boss, and Alex is drawn closer to the political centre of magic in Britain. But he still has a foot in both camps and the light mages are convinced that Richard and Morden are planning something big, so Alex is conscripted to report back. Finally, with some bargaining power, Alex gets the Council's death sentence lifted. It's interesting to note that the Light Council has actually done more to hurt Alex and his friends than the Dark mages have, and they remain unpredictable and vindictive, while the Dark Mages have some obscure objective that Alex can only guess at.

This story is spread over a longer period that previous Alex Verus books, but the pacing is still smart and the twists many and various. At last Alex is starting to be proactive and (prompted by Arachne) starting to plan long-term. There's a twist in the ending that makes me eager to see what happens is Alex Verus #9.

I galloped through this in less than a day. Highly recommended.
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Lonbourn book coverThis is supposedly the story of Pride and Prejudice from the servants point of view, except it isn’t, really. Yes it’s set in the Bennett household and the story of Pride and Prejudice is happening in the background, but it’s not Rozencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead. The story doesn’t spin round pivotal scenes in Pride and Prejudice and, in fact, continues beyond Elizabeth and Darcy’s marriage. I was expecting something like Tom Stoppard meets Jane Austen and in that I was disappointed. There’s not much here in the way of wit and humour. What there is is a completely separate story that just happens to be running parallel to the romantic adventures of the Bennet girls. Mrs Hill, the cook/housekeeper is keeping everything together while Mr. Hill quietly drinks the sherry and gets on with his somewhat unexpected lifestyle. The story really belongs to Sarah the elder of two maids (though still in her teens) and to James Smith the enigmatic new footman in the Bennet household who should be more than he seems, but somehow isn’t. This is a realistic look at life below stairs. The main characters are the people who have to scrub that white muslin dress clean after Miss Elizabeth has trailed it through the mud. There are fires to light, floors to scrub, chamber pots to empty and monthly rags to wash. We are spared no detail of the minutiae of daily life in the early 1800s. Unlike P&P the Napoleonic Wars feature in a long (maybe too long) middle section detailing James’ backstory, revealing the hardships of the ordinary soldier for whom life is never fair.

I had this as an audiobook, and though beautifully read by Emma Fielding, the story is slow. The language is literary with some nice turns of phrase. It could have been set in any household in the time period as the happenings in Pride and Prejudice are only peripherally mentioned. Darcy hardly gets a look-in and Elizabeth comes over as flat and uninteresting. Wickham gets some page time as he letches after Polly, the pre-pubescent maid, but otherwise only Mr Bennet is an ‘actor’ in this story. All the ladies do is create work for the servants.

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Mira's Last DanceThis picks up immediately after the last Penric Novella, Penric’s Mission, and should be read after it. Not without cost to himself, Penric has succeeded in rescuing and healing the betrayed General Arisaydia and they are now fleeing across the last hundred miles of hostile Cedonia towards Orbas with Arisaydia’s widowed sister Nikys. And Penric is falling in love. Penric is complicated. He’s inhabited by a demon, Desdemona, who carries the echoes of her previous ten human riders and at any moment they can pop up in Pen’s head offering help, advice, or sometimes unhelpful suggestions. When the trio takes refuge in a whorehouse, Mira, one of the aforementioned previous riders, a courtesan comes to the forefront with some rather alarming knowledge. No spoilers because it’s funny and sweet, and Penric certainly has to step out of his comfort zone to get them all to safety.

Anything by Lois McMaster Bujold is buy on sight. She’s one of my all-time favourite writers (perhaps at the very top of the list, in fact). If you haven’t read any of the Penric stories yet, I heartily recommend them. I would suggest reading all four in order, but to enjoy Mira’s Last Dance, you need only read Penric’s Mission to catch up with the story.
jacey: (blue eyes)
Brother's RuinVictorian England with magic. Charlotte (Charlie) is a powerful but untrained mage who is trying to avoid being noticed by the Royal Society, because then her life will never be her own again. She’ll have to abandon her family (parents and brother), her sweet fiancé, George, her (secret) career as a book illustrator, and devote her life to magic. Her brother, Ben, however, is happy to be swept up by the Royal Society when they mistakenly believe him to be talented. It’s all about the money, you see. Families are compensated for the loss of their talented children (and punished for not giving them up), and Charlie’s dad has borrowed more than he can pay back from an unscrupulous moneylender who is in some kind of partnership with an even more unscrupulous mage.

This is obviously a set-up book for a series, so not all questions are answered. Charlie is an engaging character, her brother less so, but Charlie, in trying to protect him and help her father, gets herself into a few scrapes which might have disastrous consequences but for one Royal Society mage who seems to know more than he should.

I’m a bit worried about George, the fiancé. It seems to be Charlie’s dream to settle down with him, yet she hasn’t told him about her secret life as an illustrator (under a man’s name, of course because this is Victorian England) and though she seems quite fond of him she’s not burning with passion. Now that young mage chap… he really seems to make her blood race.

This works as an introduction to a new setting, though I’m not entirely sure the moneylender plot makes a lot of sense. Why do the moneylenders need magic to off their debtors who don’t pay up, and what benefit is it to the mage in question to provide such a device. I suspect we shall find out in subsequent books. I certainly hope so, anyway.
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
No, I haven't--dropped off the face of the earth, I mean. I've been writing, and I'm just in the throes of finishing 'Nimbus' with the deadline rushing towards me like an oncoming train.. I will catch up with my booklogs and my film logs, just as soon as I've written The End, but in the meantime, these are the books that I need to log:

  1. Julia Quinn: And Offer from a Gentleman (Bridgertons #3)

  2. Lisa Shearin: Wedding Bells, Magic Spells (Raine Benares)

  3. Lisa Shearin: Treasure and Treason (A Raine Benares World novel)

  4. Nnedi Okorafor: Binti

  5. Nnedi Okorafor: Binti - Home

  6. Lisa Shearin: The Grendel Affair

  7. Ben Aaronovitch: Rivers of London (Peter Grant #1)

  8. Ben Aaronovitch: Moon Over Soho (Peter Grant #2)

  9. Ben Aaronovitch: Whispers Underground (Peter Grant #3)

  10. Ben Aaronovitch: Broken Homes (Peter Grant #4)

  11. Ben Aaronovitch: Foxglove Summer (Peter Grant #5)

  12. Ben Aaronovitch: The Hanging Tree (Peter Grant #6)

  13. Diana Gabaldon: I give you My Body

And the movies:


  1. Star Wars Rogue One (again)

  2. The Great Wall

  3. Logan

jacey: (blue eyes)
RosewaterIn a near future Nigeria the city of Rosewater has grown up around a strange biodome, Utopicity, with life-enhancing powers (thought there's a creepy flipside to the 'cures' that happen when the dome opens). Kaaro is a 'sensitive', by day providing psychic security for a bank, but, when called for, an operative of the government's secret Section 45. He's actually one of their most senior psychics, but there's still an adversarial element to his relationship with his bosses and Kaaro has never quite outgrown the echoes of his youth when he spent most of the time using his talents to steal. He doesn't like working for the government. He especially doesn't like having to interrogate prisoners, using his talents.

When his fellow sensitives begin dying, Kaaro is motivated to investigate before he becomes the next victim - always circling back to Utopicity. This isn't a linear story. We get flashbacks to Kaaro's less than admirable past and Kaaro acts as our tour guide to the xenosphere and a greater understanding of what it is. There's a gritty realism, and Kaaro is no hero, but he tells it like it is.

Extremely well-written, this is essentially an alien invasion story, or possibly an aftermath story. They're here. They're staying, and they don't give a flying f**k what humans think about it. We gradually come to understand as Kaaro does.
jacey: (blue eyes)
Captain of My HeartBrendan Merrick, lately of His Majesty's Navy and now an American Privateer fighting King George's shipping, has designed the perfect tops'l schooner and arrives in town to have her built at the Ashton shipyard, unfortunately in a somewhat soggy condition, having been washed overboard from his own ship which is subsequently wrecked. Misunderstandings notwithstanding, he meets Ashton's daughter, Mira, She's a hellion, brought up in a household of noisy, argumentative men, who runs a riding school and to sails on her brother's privateer as a gunner when she can sneak past their father. (Unsurprisingly the riding school doesn’t appear to have regular customers.)

Yes, this is a romance so you can already see the ending looming on the horizon, and that's fine, but before then Merrick and Mira have adventures on sea and land -- she managing to fool Merrick into thinking she's a strange little sun-allergic gunner (with her hat pulled down over her face) on board his newly built schooner. There's a lot to like here--the research into ships and sailing seems particularly sound -- but there several occasions when I bounced out of the story needing a reality check. For someone who is supposed to be an excellent horsewoman, Mira managed to have a lot of out-of-control accidents/incidents, and shows next to no patience when teaching a nervous pupil. Merrick himself doesn't know how to ride, which is next to impossible as he's the son of reasonably well-off parents. He'd have been put on a pony as soon as he could walk. When horses (and carriages) are the only mode of transport, you learn how to use them or you do an awful lot of foot-slogging. Merrick must be as blind as a bat not to have rumbled Mira's disguise -- though all his sailors connive against him to keep her secret. And the Ashton family arguments escalate out of nothing at all. At least if people are going to start screaming at each other, give them a logical reason. Mira judgmentally jumps to a wrong conclusion at one point and I really didn't like her for it.

Merrick is a decent character, though I find it surprising that the son of an admiral and a committed Royal Navy officer would so easily turn himself into a privateer to fight against his king and country. His argument is with one particular Navy officer, not with the whole damn navy. And how did his crew manage to follow him to the Americas?  Getting off a British fighting ship is not so easy. Ms Harmon glosses over the mechanics of that. Merrick starts off on the wrong end of a rival officer's pistol and is plunged overboard. Then, suddenly, he's reinvented as an American privateer and his crew has defected, too.

Merrick's sister is a somewhat confused and confusing character. She's depicted as not particularly likeable, but I think we're supposed to like her. There's a villain - an English naval captain, whose enmity for Merrick stems from a promotion Merrick got while still in the Royal Navy. He's very one-dimensional (evil through and through).

I gather this is one of Harmon's early stories. This is supposed to be updated from the 1992 edition, but I think it shows the need for an astute editor. As it is, it's a bit of lighthearted fluffy romance which you mustn't think about too much. (And it has a terrible generic cover.)
jacey: (blue eyes)
Morbid Taste for BonesI've seen all of the Cadfael TV shows, of course, so Derek Jacobi is my default Cadfael and it’s gard to get that image and voice out of my head when reading what came before. This is the first book in the series that I've read, though I'm familiar with the story, of course. Cadfael, Welshman and late adopter of the Benedictine habit is a man happy in his own skin, content with tending the abbey's vegetable garden and brewing healing potions from herbs. He's the nearest thing to a medieval forensic scientist and because he spent close to fifty years in the world before retiring to the cloister, he has a wider knowledge than most of the brothers in Shrewsbury.

The abbey is short of funds and it seems that if they can acquire suitable relics as the focus for pilgrimage, then their finances and their standing might both take a turn for the better. When one of the young monks has a vision, an expedition to find and recover the bones of Saint Winifred from the small Welsh Village of Gwytherin includes Brother Cadfael, a native Welsh speaker.

The villagers haven't exactly looked after the Saint's resting place but they are still reluctant to allow some English 'foreigners' to dig her up and take her away. When the leader of the opposition id shot with an arrow and the wrong man is blamed for it, Cadfael begins a quiet investigation which not only catches the killer, but smooths the path of true love - twice.
jacey: (blue eyes)
Lost Child of LychfordThe three witches of Lychford are challenged once again when a ghost child finds its way into Lizzie’s church. What does it want? When Lizzie realises that it’s the ghost of a child still happily living in Lychford she enlists the help of her two witchy friends, Judith Mawson and Autumn, the local witchcraft shop owner, to track down the significance of the apparition. They’re on a deadline. Christmas is coming and unless they can do something about a magical incursion it may never arrive. Each one of them faces a personal challenge. This is the second of Paul Cornell’s Lychford novellas and the characters continue to develop. Lovely.
jacey: (blue eyes)
Black PrismHaving adored Weeks' Night Angel series I was surprised that it took me a while to get into this. I put it on one side, almost stopped reading, and then came back to it after a couple of months. Reasons for putting it aside included not being able to feel much empathy for the main characters... but that changed as the book progressed. .

OK, from the beginning. This is a world of magic and the magic system is complex and well thought out. Drafters use light to draft coloured luxin that can have different properties, temporary or permanent. Most drafters can handle one colour, some can handle two, but Gavin Guile is the Prism, who can handle all the colours at once, which makes him tremendously powerful. He's nominally the 'emperor' figure, but not quite as grand as he eschews sitting in his ivory tower for being a hands-on prism, sorting out problems in the satrapies. The Chromeria - the governing guild which rules the drafters from training to their 'freeing' - is presided over by 'The White' and between them the White and the Prism are the head honchos of the magical fraternity. Unfortunately the more a drafter drafts, the closer he or she gets to going bonkers and turning into a colour wight. Before they get to that stage drafters are expected to volunteer to be 'freed'.

We pick up the story some fifteen years after a war between Gavin and his brother Dazen (the False Prism's War) which laid waste to a fair amount of real estate (and people), but Gavin is trying to put things right and turn things around. He doesn't have much time left. A prism doesn't usually last more than 21 years and he's had 16 already. He has goals for his final years (but we aren't party to them).

It turns out that in the heat of battle (well, maybe not during the battle, but you get what i mean) Gavin fathered a son and is now introduced to his 15 year old bastard, Kip, a potential drafter. There's something slightly awry (but we don't find out what until later in the book and no spoilers) however Gavin duly accepts Kip and sends him to be trained at the Chromeria as his... nephew.

It's a sprawling plot involving an uprising and a battle. There's tension between Gavin and Karris (his ex fiancee) who is also a super-soldier. Kip's point of view is on the point of being amusing as we get insights from his fifteen year old viewpoint. There's a reveal part way through the book that suddenly makes Gavin's character much more complex.
jacey: (blue eyes)
Where the hell is TeslaChip is a bit of a slacker, working as a security guard on the night shift, but when he demands a desk for his empty room and discovers the lost notebook of Nikola Tesla in a locked drawer everything changes. Chip and his friend Pete decide to test out the Interdimensional Transfer Apparatus that Tesla set up in the hotel room where he lived. Having figured out the portal into the multiverse – they forget to mark the way back home and the adventure begins. Humour is so subjective and I suspect I’d find this funnier if I were a leftpondian. It’s not laugh out loud, but it’s quirky in a ‘Hey, dude, where’s my flying car?’ kind of way. There are times when Chip’s voice gets a bit wearing and the comedy is a bit thin, but Tesla saves the day in more ways than one. If you’re a Bill and Ted fan, you’ll like this.
jacey: (blue eyes)
Martians AbroadBook blurb reads: Polly Newton has one single-minded dream, to be a starship pilot and travel the galaxy. Her mother, the director of the Mars Colony, derails Polly's plans when she sends Polly and her genius twin brother, Charles, to Galileo Academy on Earth—the one planet Polly has no desire to visit. Ever.

This is a traditional school story (YA) with a difference. Raised on Mars in low gravity the Newtons have immense trouble adapting to Earth gravity, and since they have spent their lives in a closed environment, just stepping put under an open sky without protective clothing and a breather mask is scary in the extreme. The school they are sent to thinks itself to be super-elite where all the kids of 'people who are somebody' are sent, so their classmates are snobby and elitist, looking down on the non-earthers, because - hey - there has to be someone to look down on if you want to feel superior. Polly doesn't fit in, and doesn't have much desire to fit in, while Charles - too clever for his own good - seems to manage just fine.

But then a series of accidents involving high profile kids starts to happen. Polly, Charles and a few of their trusted classmates try to get to the bottom of it. Charles is the brain, but Polly is the heart.
jacey: (blue eyes)
Dr Who - Engines of WarFeaturing a battle-weary Doctor as depicted by John Hurt, i.e. the War Doctor, who only had a very brief outing on TV in Day of the Doctor. I expected more from this because the blurb promises: ‘Searching for answers the Doctor meets 'Cinder', a young Dalek hunter. Their struggles to discover the Dalek plan take them from the ruins of Moldox to the halls of Gallifrey, and set in motion a chain of events that will change everything. And everyone.’ Like many spin off books it has to leave the main character more or less reset for the next book, so there's action, but no insight into the War Doctor's final act, which was what I thought I was going to get. This reminds me why I tend not to read franchise books. The authors don't get free rein to go where (if it were an independent book) the characters need to go. Well written as far as it goes.
jacey: (blue eyes)
Duke of DeceptionAquilla Knox is still unmarried after five London seasons, largely because she’s developed a way of deterring prospective husbands. She doesn’t want to marry - she’s seen what marriage can be – but a fifth season in London gives her the chance to get away from home. Edward Bishop, Earl of Sutton, is in need of a wife, but no one has yet fulfilled his list of requirements. He needs someone who can keep a secret. To be honest neither secret is desperately painful, but the two prospective partners are kept dancing around each other in an amusing way.

The cover is boring (so similar to so many others), but though it's fluffy, some of the dialogue carries the story well.
jacey: (blue eyes)
VeiledThe sixth adventure for Camden’s mage-on-the-edge. Alex Verus is horribly aware that his old master, dark mage Richard Drakh, has returned. He and his group of friends (Anne, Luna and Variam) have been working under cover for Talisid to try and expose Richard’s plans, but they haven’t made much headway. There’s a lot of mage-politicking going on in this book. The Council (light mages) don’t trust Alex, so he’s stuck between the proverbial rock and hard place, To protect himself and his crew Alex volunteers his services to Caldera and the Keepers (who police magicians) but soon finds out that even the simplest of investigations can go south in a heartbeat. What seems to be a routine enquiry is connected to a larger enquiry… and it all leads back to Richard Drakh (though he stays completely veiled in this book, but the potential threat is ever present). This is a good addition to the series. The tension is ramping up. Alex has choices, but no good ones. Does he choose ‘bad’ or ‘worse’? I’ve already got the next one in the series loaded up on my Kindle.

August 2017

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