jacey: (Default)
2019-02-13 11:20 pm

Booklog 9/2019 - Leigh Bardugo: King of Scars - Nikolai #1

I love Leigh Bardugo's books with a deep passion. I started with Six of Crows and Crooked Kingdom, and then went back to read the three Grisha books: Shadow and Bone, Siege and Storm, and Ruin and Rising. This book goes back to the Grisha setting, but takes place shortly after the events in the Crows duology. Nina, the Grisha heartrender, is the link between the two. There are two separate stories here. Nina, still in deep mourning for her lover, is in Fjerda as a spy for Ravka, committed to saving the Grisha who are persecuted. They are also being threatened by the highly addictive drug, Jurda Parem, which increases their powers, but with devastating results.

The main characters are Nikolai Lantsov, young King of Ravka, and Zoya Nazyalensky, his general. (She's a talented Grisha squaller with power over wind and water.) Ravka is a country deeply in debt and threatened from all sides. Nikolai is desperately trying to keep everything together, juggle religion and politics, and pioneer new innovations in technology which will give Ravka the edge over their enemies, however he has a problem; Nikolai has been cursed with dark magic (by the Darkling in the earlier Grisha books) There's a monster living inside him. If it gets loose at night it will rampage across the countryside. Nikolai is expected to marry for political and dynastic reasons, but how can he until the monster is ejected?

This is the first in a pair of books which explores politics and curses, as well as different aspects of love and loss. Zoya and Nikolai's combative relationship dynamics are excellent. I've seen some reviews that hate the ending, but I thought it wholly appropriate, and, besides, there's another book to come, yet, so though one book has finished, the story is not yet ended. I can't wait for the next instalment.

Highly recommended.

jacey: (Default)
2019-02-13 10:17 pm

Movie of the Week: All is True

It's 1613. After the disastrous fire which destroys the Globe Theatre, William Shakespeare returns to Stratford to a family who have become strangers. He must struggle to come to terms with his relationships with his wife and daughters, with his grief over the death of his son, Hamnet, some years ago. Written by Ben Elton and directed (and acted) by Kenneth Brannagh this is a contemplative study of Shakespeare's later life, exploring, alongside Shaespeare himself, his failings as a husband and a father and his attempt to mend relatiuonships.

It's beautifully acted by Brannagh who morphs into Shakespeare so well that the actor himself is unrecognisable. Kudos to Judi Dench as a very restrained and dignified Anne Hathaway. There's a cameo by Ian McKellen.

One of the stars is the filming location, Dorney Court, which has been in more movies than many actors. It's a grade I listed early Tudor manor house, dating from around 1440, located in the village of Dorney, Buckinghamshire. It's filmography includes: Sliding Doors, Elizabeth: The Golden Age, Sense and Sensibility, Cranford, The 10th Kingdom, A Man for All Seasons and many, many more.

jacey: (Default)
2019-02-05 07:18 pm

Movie of the Week: How to Train Your Dragon - The Hidden World

I'm a sucker for the How to Train Your Dragon movies with Hiccup and his Night-fury dragon, Toothless, and a whole host of recurring characters voiced by a plethora of recognisable actors from Gerard Butler and Cate Blanchett to Kit Harrington and David Tennant. This is the third outing for Hiccup and co. This time Hiccup's Viking settlement is overrun by the dragons they've rescued and they are attracting the attention of dragon catchers and, in particular, dragon hunter, Grimmel, who speciales in killing Night-furies. Hiccup is now the leader of their small but expanding community and he has an understanding with Astrid (but they aren't married yet). He's desperately trying to shoulder the burden of leadership alone. As the dragon population increases and the bad guys get closer, Hiccup dreams of finding the Hidden World his father talked about, where humans and dragons will be safe together, but he has some tough choices to make as Toothless falls in love, and things change. It's a sweet story with some nail biting action and tense moments which lead to a satisfying resolution. The moral of the tale? We are stronger together. As usual the animation is superb.

This whole franchise is particularly noted for having an amputee hero who grows past his disability and never lets it slow him down. Great for children and pretty darn good for adults as well.

And just in case you haven't seen this Jon Snow/Toothless 'audition on Youtube, take a look. It makes me laugh every time. https://youtu.be/pXCpc2Bcirs

jacey: (Default)
2019-02-05 10:40 am

Booklog 8/2019 - Nancy Holder: Firefly, Big Damn Hero

I don't usually read tie-in fiction because I usually find that on some level it disappoints, however right from the get-go Nancy Holder (and James Lovegrove) capture the spirit of what is possibly my all-time favourite TV show by my all-tine favourite TV writer, Joss Whedon. The trick to Joss Whedon's writing (if you can call it a trick) is to delve deep into character while turning up the comedy one-liner-quotient to eleven, and all this while not losing sight of the drama and plot line. His writing is a tour-de-force whether you're looking at Firefly and Buffy the Vampire Slayer or the fabulous one-liners in Toy Story 1 (Whedon was the script doctor.) I didn't expect Whedon to write his own tie-ins. He's somewhat busy with – y'know – directing major movies, but I do feel that the authors mostly capture Whedon's spirit, especially at the beginning of the book.

This Firefly adventure is pretty much like watching an episode and covers approximately the same type of ground. It's set part way through the first and only season, more towards the latter end. The major characters are all assembled. River is still wambly in the brain-pan; Simon still hasn't made a pass at Kaylee; Zoe and Wash are happily married, and Jayne has the knitted hat and a gun called Vera. Mal is his usual cynical self, but he can't afford to turn down a job, which is why they all find themselves on Persephone's Eavesdown Docks getting ready to transport crates covered in warning stickers (as in warnings of imminent explosion should the crate be rattled, wet, warmed up etc.) Maybe they shouldn't have taken another job from Badger, but they need the cash to keep flying (presuming he pays them this time).

Oh, yeah, this is gonna be great!

Badger's job (transporting unstable mining explosives) is one thing, but when Mal is kidnapped he ends up being tried in a kangaroo court as a traitor to the Browncoats while his crew follows every clue available to trace him. There's some interesting backstory from Mal's youth on Shadow, before the war, which I assume can be taken as canon since this is an official tie in.

jacey: (Default)
2019-02-02 07:12 pm

Booklog 7/2019 -Jaine Fenn: Broken Shadow - Shadowlands #2

The world is divided into city states protected by giant skyborne sunshades, and the surrounding skylands, inhabited by the skykin who are bonded with a symbiote which changes them so they can resist the unfiltered sun's radiation. This picks up the story begun in Hidden Sun. It's two years later. In Shen, Rhia is still hidden away in her garret in the Harlyn town house, making her observations, corresponding with other natural scientists in other shadowlands, and working on her own theory that their world travels around the sun, not the other way round. Etyan, her younger brother and the heir to the Harlyn lands and fortune still refuses to own up to his responsibilities. Since he was changed by a (mad) scientist in the first book, he's halfway to being skykin himself, which is just as well because his girlfriend/lover, Dej, is all skykin, though estranged from them. Etyan and Dej are keeping out of the way of polite society in a self-built shack in the Umbral forest so they can come and go to the Skylands as they please. Etyan has been cleared of his great crime in a court that was bound to find a noble 'innocent', but the deed still haunts him. And when Dej discovers his secret her reaction is devastating.

When Rhia is accused of heresy for her scientific ideas she stands in danger not only of losing her life's work, but her life itself, if the court finds her guilty. Being the cousin of the ruling Duke can't save her. But it turns out that the night sky holds something far more devastating than losing her work.

Just when you think you know what this book is about, it becomes something else entirely. Old friends turn into enemies and enemies have to work together. Rhia knows part of it, the skykin know a lot more. Yah-boo-sucks to all those who shoved the Shadowlands books into the fantasy pigeonhole. Though Ms Fenn was playing a long game this book finally outs itself as true science fiction. Highly recommended, but start with Hidden Sun for the best effect.
jacey: (Default)
2019-01-30 02:45 pm

Booklog 6/2019 - Stephanie Burgis: Thornbound – Harwood Spellbook #2

Publication 25th February 2019. Advance review copy supplied by the author.

I love Stephanie Burgis' Harwood books. This is the second short novel (or maybe novella – not sure of the word count) which follows on from Snowspelled. There was a prequel (shorter) novella (Spellswept) featuring Amy and Jonathan Harwood between the two longer stories. Quick background note. This is a version of Britain (Angland) where strong women become politicians and the more 'delicate and emotional' men (well, those with talents, anyway) become magicians. And woe betide anyone who bucks the gender trend. In Thornbound. Cassandra Harwood is newly married to magician Wrexham, and work-life balance for both of them is proving problematical. Some years earlier she managed to scandalise the nation by becoming the first female magician, but a year ago she overstepped magical boundaries so can no longer practise magic herself as casting a spell would kill her. She still has the knowledge, however, so she can teach it. Despite the strong disapproval of the Boudiccate (Angland's all-female government) she begins the radical task of setting up a school for female magicians. A team of antagonistic inspectors from the Boudiccate are an immediate threat to the new school, but there's an even bigger threat looming from the direction of the bluebell wood adjacent to the school. An ancient treaty with the Fey is in danger. Cassandra (and her friends) must battle political and magical enemies.
Cassandra is a good, if flawed, character. She's altogether too impulsive for her own good sometimes. We don't get to see much of Wrexham in this particular story, but it's nice to see Amy in a strong supporting role. I'm looking forward to seeing more Harwood books in future.
jacey: (Default)
2019-01-29 01:18 am

Booklog 5/2019 - Suzanne palmer: Finder

Fergus Ferguson is an interstellar repo man working for the shipmakers of Pluto to repossess Venetia's Sword, a state of the art intelligent ship from Arum Gilger, the criminal who ran off with it. His destination is Cernee, a higgledy-piggledy series of habs in space around a gas giant. They are connected by transport lines, but Fergus's first ride proves almost fatal. When his cable car is targeted by Gilger, he gets away but his fellow passenger, Mother Vahn, matriarch of a clan of (he assumes) clones, is killed. Quite rightly the clones don't trust him, even though they save his life.

The plot thickens as Fergus becomes invested in some of the locals, including Mari, one of the clones, spiky as hell, and Harcourt, arms dealer, one of Cernee's powers, and Bale his surprisingly likeable henchman. Pretty soon Fergus is in the middle of a war between factions that he unwittingly helped to start. He lurches from one desperately improbable situation to another, managing to end up (several times) not-dead by the skin of his teeth. Fergus is a quick-thinking schemer with a conscience. He's a likeable character with a backstory which eventually returns to bite him.

There are aliens, and then there are Aliens, in particular the ineffable Asiig who sometimes take humans and 'alter' them. Some come back, some don't. They take an unnatural interest in him, so Fergus is wary, but when they intervene things get very strange.

Ms Palmer makes her characters work hard. Finder is a breathless ride. The pacing is good and the characters nicely complex. (I particularly liked Mari with her sandpapery attitude towards everything.) Though this is a complete story there's a neat little opening at the end which offers the possibility for Fergus to have more adventures. I'm looking forward to that.

Published April 2019. Advance reading copy supplied by DAW
jacey: (Default)
2019-01-26 12:34 pm

Booklog 4/2019 - Gaie Sebold: Shanghai Sparrow

I've loved everything I've read of Gaie Sebold's so far, so I'm not sure why it took me so long to get around to reading this (except the usual excuse: too many books; too little time). I loved it, though I didn't think I was going to at first. It took me a few chapters to get into it, possibly because of the Holmforth chapters as he's not a sympathetic character (which becomes obvious later, so that's OK). Once I read more about Evvie I was hooked. Eveline Duchen is a sparrow, one of the flocks of unnoticeable London children doing what she has to do to survive. She's part of a thieving gang (all girls) run by Ma Pether, a benign Fagin-type character. When she attracts the attention of government man, Mr. Holmforth she's not sure why he insists on sending her to a school for spies, but it's an education of sorts, though not always a comfortable one. Holmforth, however, wants her for her special skills in Etheric Magic. Unfortunately she doesn't have any. Eveline is a great character. Once she gets the opportunity she soaks up knowledge like a sponge (particularly languages). Despite her rough upbringing she looks after those she considers to be hers and thinks her way through problems, aided by Chinese enigma, Liu, and school friend, Beth. Highly recommended.
jacey: (Default)
2019-01-21 06:28 pm

Movie of the Week: The Favourite

I'm not quite sure why Olivia Coleman got a Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy. Undoubtedly she deserved an award, but surely not the musical or comedy category! It certainly wasn't a musical and nowhere near comedy. The portrait of Queen Anne was that of a pathetic, mercurial, sick woman with little understanding of her country's politics. She almost seems educationally challenged, which doesn't seem likely given her actual political record. Laughing at her is not an option, though she does some ludicrous things, more winceworthy than funny.

The story is basically about the Queen's favourite Lady Sarah Churchill, Duchess of Marlborough, being ousted by Abigail, her own cousin (recently impoverished and on the make). Abigail is newly come into the Queen's service as a servant and schemes to make herself indispensible to the ailing queen. If that means climbing into her bed, she's determined to do it. Success is not what she imagined it might be. The triangular (sexual) relationship between these three women is central to the plot. The performances  (Coleman, Emma Stone and Rachel Weisz) are exemplary.

The filming locations are Hadfield House in Hertfordshire and (more briefly) Hampton Court. It's atmospheric, but forget historical accuracy. It's not attempting to be a biopic. It's a film to admire, but not neccessarily to see twice.
jacey: (Default)
2019-01-16 12:16 pm

Booklog 03/2019 - T. Kingfisher: Swordheart


What a marvellous read. This is set in the same world as the Clocktaur War books, but not connected. Halla is a widowed poor relation housekeeper who has kept house for her great uncle. When he dies she finds she is the sole beneficiary of his will, which doesn't please his (closer) relatives. They lock her into her own room so that she will agree to marry her odious cousin. She knows her life will be worthless once they get their hands on the estate. Enter Sarkis, an immortal barbarian swordsman trapped in an enchanted sword and doomed to protect wielder after wielder – for eternity. When Halla draws the sword, Sarkis finds himself defending her against everything from her own in-laws to bandits and evil priests. The story may be relatively simple, but what lifts this head and shoulders above the crowd is the sparkling dialogue and the repartee. Halla is not well educated, but she questions all the time and genuinely wants to know the answers, but also she's developed a protective I-am-a-stupid-female mode when she runs off at the mouth and generally confounds and bewilders people into thinking she's insignificant. Sparks fly between her and Sarkis who is a grim barbarian type with more of a heart than he realises, despite being – you know – dead and immortal at the same time. Halla and Sarkis are simply fabulous characters. I couldn't stop reading. I raced to finish it, and at the same time didn't want it to end. It does look as though it's the beginning of a trilogy. I can't wait for the next one.

jacey: (Default)
2019-01-15 09:35 pm

Booklog 02/2019 - Tanya Huff: An Ancient Peace – Peacekeeper #1 or Confederation #6

This is the beginning of another sub-series of books about Marine Gunnery Sergeant Torin Kerr. (Now ex-marine, though still tied in to the methodology and the code of the service.). She's pulled together a team of elite ex-marines plus her lover, Craig, and one somewhat needy diTaykan crack programmer, barely this side of legal. Together they work for the Justice Department, taking on missions that officialdom balks at. This time they are sent after a gang robbing a H'san gravesite which potentially holds planet-killer weapons. Torin's company needs to find the grave-robbers before the robbers find the weapons, otherwise a war looks likely.

An engaging premise, and I've loved all the previous Torin Kerr books, but somehow this one was a slow starter. I admit it's a few years since I read the last Torin book, but I'd forgotten a lot of the detail about the different races and lost site of some of their language, (often used without explanation). To be honest I found the first half of this book slow going as the team thrashed about, trying to find a lead (unsuccessfully). It picked up the pace when they got to the cemetery planet of the H'san and entered the catacombs following the grave robbers, but all in all not my favourite Torin Kerr book. I was intending to read the other two straight away, but I might give it a bit of a rest before trying the next one. I would recommend if you haven't read any Torin Kerr books that you start from the beginning with Valor's Choice, which is #1 in the Confederation series.
jacey: (Default)
2019-01-15 09:11 pm

Movie of the Week: Mary Poppins Returns

A perfect children's film. Emily Blunt makes an excellent Mary Poppins. She admits no one can out-Julie Julie Andrews, but she makes a very creditable showing and you're certainly not left making comparisons. She owns the role in this Poppins iteration. Lin-Manuel Miranda plays Jack the lamplighter in the Dick van Dyke type role as the honest, cheerful salt-of-the-earth Londoner, and manages it without the excruciating Dick van Dyke cockney accent. Let's face it, the standard of Hollywood dialect coaching is way higher than it used to be in the 1960s.

The plot is fairly simple. Michael Banks (Ben Wishaw), one of the children from the first film, now grown, married, father of three children and recently widowed, is understandably depressed, not keeping up with the family goings-on and about to lose the house to the bank. His sister, Jane, is unable to snap him out of it. He has the soul of an artist but slogs away in the same bank his late father worked at.

Enter magical nanny, Mary Poppins aided and abetted by lamplighter, Jack. Cue a string of entertaining songs and set-piece dance scenes which map onto the original movie. You get the magical song and dance with cartoon characters. The lamplighters have a set piece to replace the chimney sweep scene in the original. But it's all good fun and it all ends happily, of course.

If you have kids in the 6 - 12 age group take them. You (and they) won't be disappointed. A bonus for all grownups who saw the original as children is Dick van Dyke (now well in his 90s) making an appearance, both singing and dancing (without the risible accent). And who doesn't love Dick van Dyke? There's a bonus Julie Walters as the Banks family housekeeper, David Warner as Admiral Bloom, and Angela Lansbury as the Balloon Lady.
jacey: (Default)
2019-01-03 08:32 pm

Booklog 01/2019 - Heather Graham: When We Touch


 

 

 

This is somewhat confusing. On Goodreads the author is listed as Shannon Drake (Heather Graham's pen name), while on Netgalley (which is my source for this book, it's listed simply as Heather Graham.

A Victorian story of forbidden love set in at the London of Jack the Ripper. When her brother, Justin, gambles away his Baronial fortune Maggie, a young widow agrees to marry Charles, Lord Langdon, an elderly and very wealthy viscount who, as part of the deal, will settle Justin's debts. Charles' great nephew and heir, Jamie, is determined to prove that Maggie is a fortune hunter, which she freely admits that she is, but also that she's very ford of her husband to be, and intends to be a faithful wife. Starting out at loggerheads with each other, Maggie and Jamie are irresistibly drawn together. The situation is further complicated by Charles' headstrong seventeen year old daughter who hates Maggie on principle—and very soon has excellent reason to do so.

The romance plot is intertwined with a revenge plot. One of Maggie's hobbies is exposing fraudulent mediums preying on the recently bereaved, and one such vows his revenge. Maggie's other hobby is feeding the poor gin-sodden prostitutes of Whitechapel, putting her right in the Jack-the-Ripper danger zone. Maggie has no sense of self-preservation at all, which is something I find quite difficult to believe. Jamie is on hand to help more often that I would expect—all very convenient.

This is apparently Book 6 out of 7 in the Graham series, first published in 2004, but it works as a standalone. The other Graham novels appear to be set in medieval Scotland and are unrelated.

It's funny how little things can lurch you out of an otherwise perfectly acceptable story. The author seems to think that a young woman in late Victorian England reached her majority at the age of eighteen, which is a pity because one of the sub-plot points hinges on this. Also Lord Langdon and Lord Jamie are not interchangeable forms of address.

I quite enjoyed this but got exasperated with Maggie's foolishness. Firstly acquiescing to her uncle's demands that she marry a chap close to four times her age, just for his money. Secondly for abandoning her intentions to be a good and faithful wife on the night before her wedding. And then (several times) she crossed the too-stupid-to-live line.

A Victorian story of forbidden love set in at the London of Jack the Ripper. When her brother, Justin, gambles away his Baronial fortune Maggie, a young widow agrees to marry Charles, Lord Langdon, an elderly and very wealthy viscount who, as part of the deal, will settle Justin's debts. Charles' great nephew and heir, Jamie, is determined to prove that Maggie is a fortune hunter, which she freely admits that she is, but also that she's very ford of her husband to be, and intends to be a faithful wife. Starting out at loggerheads with each other, Maggie and Jamie are irresistibly drawn together. The situation is further complicated by Charles' headstrong seventeen year old daughter who hates Maggie on principle—and very soon has excellent reason to do so.

The romance plot is intertwined with a revenge plot. One of Maggie's hobbies is exposing fraudulent mediums preying on the recently bereaved, and one such vows his revenge. Maggie's other hobby is feeding the poor gin-sodden prostitutes of Whitechapel, putting her right in the Jack-the-Ripper danger zone. Maggie has no sense of self-preservation at all, which is something I find quite difficult to believe. Jamie is on hand to help more often that I would expect—all very convenient.

This is apparently Book 6 out of 7 in the Graham series, first published in 2004 under the Drake pen name and now reissued as heather Graham's., It works as a standalone. The other Graham novels appear to be set in medieval Scotland and are unrelated.

It's funny how little things can lurch you out of a story. The author seems to think that a young woman in late Victorian England reached her majority at the age of eighteen, which is a pity because one of the sub-plot points hinges on this. Also Lord Langdon and Lord Jamie are not interchangeable forms of address.

I quite enjoyed this but got exasperated with Maggie's foolishness. Firstly acquiescing to her uncle's demands that she marry a chap close to four times her age, just for his money. Secondly for abandoning her intentions to be a good and faithful wife on the night before her wedding. And then (several times) she crossed the too-stupid-to-live line.
jacey: (Default)
2019-01-01 11:22 pm

Booklog 2018 - The Full List

Here's my list of books read (or re-read) in 2018. I don't blog non-fiction that I've used for research unless I've read the whole thing from cover to cover (rather than dipped in and out for information). All these booklogs can be found here in my blog (in reverse order) using the search tag booklog 2018 - (https://jacey.dreamwidth.org/tag/booklog+2018)

I particularly enjoyed books by Jodi Taylor, Rod Duncan, Julia Quinn, Juliet McKenna, Sean Grigsby and T Kingfisher (whom I only discovered in the closing days of the year. Only one novella from Lois McMaster Bujold this year. I might have to go and re-read all her Vorkosigan books and The Curse of Chalion.

Next year I intend to read the second of Scalzi's Old Man's War books, which I've heard very good things about, Tanya Huff's Peacekeeper trilogy, and, as the year starts I have Heather Graham's  When We Touch open on the kindle. As usual I have more books in my strategic book reserve that I can ever get through in a year (or maybe even in a lifetime), though I'm sure that won't stop me adding to them.

Happy New Year. Happy New Reading.

 

1.    John Scalzi: Old Man’s War – Old Man’s War #1

2.    Ian Mortimer: The Outcasts of Time

3.    Elizabeth Bear: The Stone in the Skull

4.    Diana Wynne Jones: Deep Secret

5.    Ursula LeGuin: A Wizard of Earthsea

6.    Georgette Heyer: Frederica

7.    Julia Quinn: What Happens in London

8.    Sean Grigsby: Smoke Eaters

9.    Ashley Gardner: The Hanover Square Affair – Captain Lacey Regency Mysteries #1

10.  Peter Ackroyd: Foundation – The History of England Vol 1

11.  John Heywood: Beside the Seaside

12.  Danielle Harmon: The Wild One – De Montfort Brothers

13.  Krista D Ball: What Kings Ate and Wizards Drank

14.  Ella Quinn: The Marquis and I – Worthingtons 4

15.  Patricia Briggs: Burn Bright – Alpha and Omega

16.  Julia Quinn: The Lost Duke of Wyndham – Two Dukes of Wyndham 1

17.  Julia Quinn: To Sir Philip with Love – Bridgertons 5

18.  Julia Quinn: To Catch an Heiress – Agents of the Crown 1

19.  Julia Quinn: How to Marry a Marquis – Agents of the Crown 2

20.  Julia Quinn: The Girl with the Make-Believe Husband

21.  Jim C Hines: Terminal Alliance - Janitors of the Post-Apocalypse, #1

22.  Lindsey Davis: The Silver Pigs – Falco 1

23.  Jodi Taylor: An Argumentation of Historians – Chronicles of St Mary's

24.  Sheila Walsh: The Sergeant Major's Daughter

25.  Jodi Taylor: The Battersea Barricades – Chronicles of St Mary's

26.  Jane Aiken Hodge: Marry in Haste

27.  Peter Ackroyd: Revolution – The History of England Vol 4

28.  Nancy Springer: The Oddling Prince

29.  Maggie Fenton: The Duke's Holiday – Regency Romp Trilogy #1

30.  Ella Quinn: When a Marquis Chooses a Bride

31.  Rod Duncan: Unseemly science – Fall of the gas-Lit Empire #2

32.  Rod Duncan: The Custodian of Marvels – Fall of the Gas Lit Empire #3

33.  C.L. Polk: Witchmark

34.  Georgette Heyer: Faro's Daughter

35.  Juliet McKenna: The Green Man's Heir

36.  Lois McMaster Bujold: The Flowers of Vashnoi -  Vorkosigan 14.5

37.  Rod Duncan: The Queen of All Crows – Map of Unknown Things #1

38.  Kameron Hurley: Apocalypse Nyx – Bel Dame Apocrypha #1.5

39.  Michael J Sullivan: Theft of Swords – The Riyria Revelations #1 & 2

40.  Robert Jackson Bennett: Foundryside

41.  Peter Watts: The Freeze Frame Revolution

42.  Jodi Taylor: The Steam Pump Jump – Chronicles of St Mary's

43.  Jim C. Hines: Revisionary – Magic Ex Libris #4

44.  Benedict Jacka: Marked – Alex Verus #9

45.  Mimi Matthews: The Matrimonial Advertisement – Parish Orphans of Devon #1

46.  Jaine Fenn: Hidden Sun – Shadowlands #1

47.  Sarah M. Eden: Loving Lieutenant Lancaster – Lancaster Family #4

48.  Tanya Huff: The Fire's Stone

49.  Tanya Huff: The Future Falls -  Gale Women #3

50.  Jodi Taylor: Dark Light – Elizabeth Cage #2

51.  Brandon Sanderson: The Final Empire – Mistborn #1

52.  Rod Duncan: The Outlaw and the Upstart King - Map of Unknown Things #2

53.  Julia Quinn: The Other Miss Bridgerton

54.  Sean Grigsby: Daughters of Forgotten Light

55.  T Kingfisher: Clockwork Boys – Clocktaur War #1

56.  T Kingfisher: The Wonder Engine – Clocktaur War #2

57.  Scott Lynch: The Effigy Engine – A Tale of the Red Hats

58.  Jodi Taylor: And Now for Something Completely Different – Chronicles of St Marys

59.  Scott Lynch: In the Stacks

60.  Catherine Johnson: A Nest of Vipers

61.  Stephanie Burgis: Spellswept – A prequel to the Harwood Spellbook



jacey: (Default)
2018-12-31 11:43 pm

Booklog 61/2018 - Stephanie Burgis: Spellswept – A prequel to the Harwood Spellbook

I read Stephanie Burgess' Snowspelled last year and was very happy to make another trip into her Angland, where the women are the politicians and the men are magicians. Politicians who enter the Boudiccate always have a magician husband. Amy Standish is an ambitious young woman who has taken a position with powerful politician Miranda Harwood in order to be boosted to the ranks of the Boudiccate. For that she needs an advantageous marriage with a magician, and Miranda has introduced her to the perfect one, except he's neither perfect nor 'the one'. Unfortunately the one Amy is drawn to is Amanda's son, Jonathan, who has flatly refused to train as a magician, something no one can understand. Amy doesn't understand either, until she discovers something about Jonathan's sister, Cassandra. This is a story about turning the established order on its head. At novella length, it's a perfect read-in-a-day story. (And 10/10 for a lovely cover.)
jacey: (Default)
2018-12-31 11:41 pm

Booklog 60/2018 - Catherine Johnson: A Nest of Vipers

Supposedly a novel for 'middle grade' readers this is definitely for the older end of that age range. Cato Hopkins is a member of Mother Hopkins' criminal gang in 18th century London. An aging Mother Hopkins wants to pull one last con, this time on the daughter of a cruel slave-owning sea-captain. The story unfolds as told by fourteen year old Cato from his condemned cell, the night before his execution. (See what I mean about the age of the readers?) What he tells the clergyman bookends the story, but between the bookends we also get his recollections. He's a foundling, a brown skinned babe bought from his mother for a few pennies and reared, nit unkindly, by Mother Hopkins in a gang of similar unfortunates. Their base being rooms in the inn called A Nest of Vipers, comfortable in its familiarity. The little gang specializes in conning marks out of their money, choosing the greedy as their victims because, as Cato says, you can't con an honest man. Their con is planned down to the last detail, but it doesn't go according to plan. The characters are sympathetic, the setting (London 1712) feels authentic and the action carries you along nicely. This is an engaging read and you are certainly rooting for Cato as his story is told and the cart comes to take him to Tyburn. No spoilers, but this is a book for children, so take a guess at the ending.
jacey: (Default)
2018-12-30 02:00 am

Booklog 59/2018 - Scott Lynch: In the Stacks

An augmented short story from Scott Lynch about a bunch of fifth year magic students whose end of year exam consists solely of returning a grimoire  to the library stacks. Unfortunately the Living Library of Hazar is, if not entirely sentient, malevolent in the extreme. Lazlo and his room-mate Casimir, under the supervision of two tutors and in the company two other students have to fight their way through all manner of deadly traps includiong rampaging vocabuvores. The deadly creatures (and books) in the library are not the only danger.
jacey: (Default)
2018-12-30 12:56 am

Booklog 58/2018 - Jodi Taylor: And Now for Something Completely Different - Chronicles of St Marys

#9.7 in the Chronicles of St Marys.
It's tradition that every Christmas the staff of St Marys (usually Max plus the usual suspects) makes an unauthorized time jump for whatever good reason pops into their heads after they've downed a large helping (or several) of mulled wine. This time the idea is not Max's, but Director Pinkerton's (she of that future St Mary's). As the world (in max's timeline) watches telly for news of the first manned Mars landing, Pinkerton (engineering genius) decides to (from her perspective) record the historic Mars Landing in contemporary time, and she hops back to Max's St Marys to invite Peterson and Maxwell along for the ride. In this short story Pinkie is explaining exactly what went wrong to the Time Police. I look forward to the annual Christmas excursion of St Mary's. This did not disappoint.

jacey: (Default)
2018-12-23 02:37 am

Booklog 57/2018 - Scott Lynch: The Effigy Engine

While waiting for the next Locke Lamora book I thought I'd give one of Scott Lynch's shorter works a go. A short story (or maybe a novella) featuring the Red Hats a company of magical mercenaries who fight for right against might. The narrator of this story (and chronicler of the Red Hats) is Watchdog. On this occasion they are fighting with the Elarans against the Iron Ring when a new war machine is deployed against them, a huge tank-like machine. There's not much room for character development in such a short piece. The author introduces Runstandel, a wizard exceedingly ford of himself and somewhat annoying, Tariel a musketeer and the leader of the company, the sorceress Millowend, who also happens to be Watchdog's mother. These four have to figure out a way to defeat the war machine.
jacey: (Default)
2018-12-22 04:41 pm

Booklog 55-56/2018 - T. Kingfisher: The Clockwork Boys and The Wonder Engine - Clocktaur War #1 & 2

Three condemned criminals, a forger, an uncouth (but efficient) assassin, and a disgraced paladin in possession of a dead demon, are given a second chance. If they can travel to the neighbouring country and find out how the terrifying clockwork boys (deadly manufactured beings, more siege engine than creature) are made and how to stop them, they'll get a pardon. It's not much of a chance. They all think it's going to be a suicide mission. They are joined on their journey by a scholar, all innocence and preconceived ideas.

This is a quest tale. Four disparate individuals forming some kind of team, but what lifts it well above average is the characterisation and dialogue. Bleakly funny and heartbreaking by turns, I raced through this and immediately bought the second book, The Wonder Engine, because this is a story of two halves. This book deals with the journey, and now i need to know what happens when they arrive.
 

The Wonder Engine follows on immediately from the Clockwork Boys continuing the quest of Slate, Caliban. Brenner and the Learned Edmund who finally arrive in Anuket City to try to discover what the Cloktaurs (Clockwork Boys) are and how they can be stopped. Slate is a guerilla forger, Caliban a disgraced paladin/demon killer, Brenner is simply a killer, a ruthless assassin, and Learned Edmund is a nineteen year old scholar with no experience of the real world.

The two books are simply one continuous story. In the first book they were given their task and in the second they have to carry it out. There's a new character, Grimehug, a gnole (a badger-like being) who is crucial to the end game.

No spoilers. Just read the pair of books for yourself. You'll thank me for that advice. The characterisation is smart, the dialogue snappy, the internal monologues of each viewpoint character, crisp and revealing. I said the first book was alternately funny and heartbreaking and this goes double for the second one. If not laugh out loud, the humour is wry and the characters self-deprecating. The final showdown is gut-wrenching and the aftermath shows that there are always consequences to every action. Everyone is changed by events.

The romance aspect, a very slow burn in the first book, is more to the fore here, and it works well with the main plot, adding tension. The end is entirely fitting and satisfying in a gruelling way. Highly recommended.