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As the year draws to a close here's my reading list for 2017 - all of them book-logged here. I'm currently about 60% into John Scalzi's Old Man's War. which will become 1/2018. This was the year that I discovered Ben Aaronovitch's Peter Grant books, was delighted to finds that Lisa Shearin had written another Raine Benares book, and caught up with Nnedi Okorafor's first two Binti books, as well as continuing to read every Jodi Taylor as they came out. I've now caught up with all the Alex Verus books and am eagerly awaiting the next. Special mention for Karen Traviss' near future thrillers: Going Grey and Black Run, and also for Andy Weir's Artemis, not quite as good as The Martian, but still nail-bitingly good.

1.    Darcy Burke: The Duke of Deception – The Untouchables #3

2.    George Mann: Doctor Who – Engines of War

3.    Carrie Vaughan: Martians Abroad

4.    Rob Dircks: Where the Hell is Tesla?

5.    Brent Weeks: The Black Prism – Lightbringer #1

6.    Paul Cornell: The Lost Child of Lychford – Lychford #2

7.    Ellis Peters: A Morbid Taste for Bones – Brother Cadfael #1

8.    Danielle Harmon: Captain of my Heart – Heroes of the Sea #2

9.    Tade Thompson: Rosewater

10. Lisa Shearin: The Grendel Affair – SPI Files #1

11. Ben Aaronovitch: Rivers of London – Peter Grant #1

12. Ben Aaronovitch: Moon over Soho – Peter Grant #2

13. Ben Aaronovitch: Whispers Underground – Peter Grant #3

14. Ben Aaronovitch: Broken Homes – Peter Grant #4

15. Ben Aaronovitch: Foxglove Summer – Peter Grant #5

16. Ben Aaronovitch: The Hanging Tree – Peter Grant #6

17. Diana Gabaldon: I Give You My Body (Non-Fiction)

18. Julia Quinn: An Offer from a Gentleman – Bridgertons #3

19. Lisa Shearin: Wedding bells, Magic Spells – Raine Benares #8

20. Lisa Shearin: Treasure and Treason – Raine Benares world

21. Val McDermid: Northanger Abbey

22. Jodi Taylor: The Something Girl – Frogmorton farm #2

23. Nnedi Okorafor: Binti – Binti #1

24. Nnedi Okorafor: Binti: Home – Binti #2

25. Julia Quinn: The Secret Diaries of Miss Miranda Cheever

26. Ella Quinn: The Second Time Around

27. Ella Quinn: Three Weeks to Wed

28. Ann Aguirre: Perdition – Dred Chronicles #1

29. Georgette Heyer: The Corinthian

30. Emma Newman: Brother’s Ruin

31. Lois McMaster Bujold: Mira’s Last Dance - Penric and Desdemona #4

32. Georgette Heyer: Bath Tangle

33. Julia Quinn: Romancing Mr Bridgerton – Bridgertons #4

34. Jo Baker: Longbourn

35. Benedict Jacka: Bound – Alex Verus #8

36. Jodi Taylor: And the Rest is History – Chronicles of St Mary’s #8

37. Joe Abercrombie: Half the World – Shattered Sea #2

38. Joe Abercrombie: Half a War – Shattered Sea #3

39. Ella Quinn@ It Started with a Kiss – Worthingtons #3

40. Sebastien de Castell: Spellslinger

41. Robyn Bennis: The Guns Above – Signal Airship #1

42. Ben Aaronovitch: The Furthest Station – Peter Grant #5.7

43. Ben Aaronovitch: Rivers of London - Body Work – Peter Grant #4.5 Graphic Novel

44. Gwyneth Jones: Proof of Concept

45. Sarah M. Eden: A Fine Gentleman – Jonquil Brothers #4

46. Catherine Curzon & Willow Winsham: The Crown Spire

47. Gavin Smith: The Hangman’s Daughter

48. Richard Ellis Preston Jr: Romulus Buckle and the City of the Founders – Pneumatic Zeppelin #1

49. Karen Traviss: Going Grey – Ringer #1

50. Karen Traviss: Black Run – Ringer #2

51. Paul Cornell: A Long Day in Lychford

52. George RR Martin and others: Mississippi Roll - a Wild Cards Novel

53. Rod Duncan: The Bullet Catcher’s Daughter – Fall of the Gas-Lit Empire #1

54. Jennifer Ashley The Madness of Lord Ian Mackenzie

55. Lisa Shearin: Ruins and Revenge – A Raine Benares World novel

56. Jodi Taylor: The Long and the Short of It

57. Jodi Taylor: A Perfect Storm

58. Lois McMaster Bujold: Penric’s Fox – Penric #3

59. C.E. Murphy: Bewitching Benedict

60. Jodi Taylor: White Silence

61. Indrek Hargla: Apothecary Melchior and the Mystery of St Olaf’s Church

62. Patricia Briggs: Silence Fallen – Mercy Thompson #10

63. Andre Norton: The Crystal Gryphon – Witch World Series 2 High Hallack 5

64. Andre Norton: Gryphon in Glory – Witch World Series 2 High Hallack 6

65. Andre Norton & AC Crispin: Gryphon’s Eyrie – Witch World Series 2 High Hallack 7

66. Lois McMaster Bujold: The Prisoner of Limnos – Penric and Desdemona

67. Stephanie Burgess: Snowspelled

68. Adrian Tchaikovsky: Ironclads

69. Myke Cole: The Armored Saint – The Sacred Throne #1

70. Jan Guillou: The Road to Jerusalem – Knight Templar 1

71. Georgette Heyer: Black Sheep

72. Andy Weir: Artemis

73. Sandra Unerman: Spellhaven

74. Louise Allen: The Georgian Seaside (Non – Fic)

75. Jodi Taylor: Christmas Past – A Chronicles of St Mary’s short story

76. Gareth L Powell: Ack-Ack Macaque – Ack-Ack Macaque #1

 

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Ack-Ack Macaque is a cynical, one-eyed, cigar-chomping monkey, who is a Second World War flying ace... or is he?

France and Great Britain merged in the 1950s and the nuclear-zeppelin-filled present day is a definite alternative. We start off with two separate stories that eventually merge. Victoria Valois is on the run from the terrifying thug who killed her ex husband, took his brain and who wants to kill her and steal her soul catcher - an intimate record of her mind which can be used to make a duplicate. Meanwhile in France the heir to the British throne illegally breaks in to his mother's research facility with his girlfriend and then goes on the run.. with a monkey. Yes THAT monkey.

There's an international plot going on which looks all set to start a nuclear war with China unless our intrepid heroes can stop it.

It's a great page-turner and an original story. I'd read all the good reviews and they were right.

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Max takes another illegal Christmas Day time jump, this time to her son’s difficult past. They provide Christmas for some waifs and get a stellar but unexpected outcome. I live Jodi Taylor's St Mary's stories so getting a new one at Christmas is always a bonus.

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I’ve been reading this on and off all year, for research for my upcoming book, Rowankind. I tend not to blog non-fiction because I dip in and out of books for research without reading them from cover to cover, but I did end up reading all of this. It’s a fascinating study, full of rich (and useful) details about resorts, bathing machines, dippers and the saltwater cure. I was specifically looking for links to George III's bathing habits, and there they were!
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An intriguing premise. In the early years of the twentieth century, just before World War I, Jane, a flautist, is spirited away to Spellhaven where the spirits of the city have to be entertained to keep them sweet. Talented musicians, actors, entertainers of all kinds are brought to the city, some willingly, some not, signing contracts for (usually) a three year term with the Lords Magician (the alternative is to get thrown into Spellhaven’s jail). Jane signs up for longer than the minimum term on condition that she’s taught magic. She wants to force a duel on Lucian Palafox, the magician who brought her to Spellhaven against her will. But time passes and things change – and then there’s a catastrophe. This is a book of two halves, a before-and-after book. It's beautifully written, but sadly I found the ending unbearably sad, a little too bleak for my taste.
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Question: how to top a book like The Martian? Answer: You probably can’t.

However this is a pretty good attempt to produce a book that will appeal to those folks who liked the Martian for its main character’s ability to ‘science the shit’ out of any situation. It’s certainly a page-turner. This time the main character is Jazz (female) who has lived in the Moon’s only city (Artemis) since she was a small child. She’s fiercely intelligent, but pretty much a delinquent, using her talents to become a small-time criminal, doing a low-pay courier job while running a smuggling racket on the side. She takes on a job that she should walk away from (the money’s too good to refuse) and after that she’s scrabbling to recover from the consequences. If you enjoyed the problem-solving in The Martian, there’s problem solving a-plenty in this, plus intrigue and nail-biting peril.
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Abigail Wendover, a spinster in her late twenties and a respectable resident of Bath, is trying to detach her impressionable young niece from a fortune hunter with whom she is madly in love. Feeling as though she’s past the age where she needs to observe the strict regime demanded of young women of marriageable age, Abby’s a little more independent than your average Regency miss, and her direct speaking sparks off a friendship with a rogue, Mr. Miles Caverleigh, the black sheep of the title and also, unfortunately (or maybe fortunately) the uncle of the fortune hunter. Yes, it all turns out well in the end, this is Georgette Heyer, after all. Very amusing. One of the better Heyer ‘Regencies’, I think.
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This is the first part of a trilogy, translated from the Swedish. It’s a fictionalized story of real-life historical character Arn Magnusson, based around historical events before Sweden was a united single country. This is Arn’s early life, much of it set in a monastery where Arn grows up to be both pious and naïve, so when he’s sent back to his family he knows so little of the world that he manages to sleep with two sisters (consecutively, not together – it’s not that sort of book) which gets him into hot water with the church, especially since the first one is a scheming minx and the second one turns out to be the love of his life. The pace is measured (OK, OK, it’s slow) but there’s interesting detail and the Nordic background is fascinating.
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Not due for publication until March 2018. I had this short novel (maybe a novella) for review as an advance reading copy from Netgalley. This is a fantasy setting in which, following some kind of religious war, bands of holy warriors—the Order—have the power to root out and kill wizards without trial, often cruelly. If they decide a village is sheltering a wizard, there’s no mercy. Supposedly wizardry opens up the way for hell’s demons to come through into the world—and no one wants that. Heloise and her father meet up with the Order on the road to the next village, Hammersdown, and Heloise talks back, never a good idea. Her initial mistakes are compounded and eventually everyone suffers for it. Later the order takes it out on Hammersdown and Heloise is forced to see things that no one should have to see. It’s inevitable, therefore, that the order comes looking for Heloise and her family. Character-driven, this is a deep study of Heloise in adversity but the supporting characters work well, too. The writing is visceral. It drew me in quickly and didn’t let me go, even delivering something unexpected at the end.
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A military SF novella in which Sgt Ted Regan and a small crew of ne’er do wells are selected to go behind enemy lines when a scion – one of the heavily armoured, nearly invulnerable sons of the elite families – goes missing in the Nordic war. Five complex characters are quickly and effectively drawn. As usual the grunts have minimal equipment and support. Not for them the battle-suits, though they do get a drone tech, Cormoran, who is easily as tough as the boys. As they move behind enemy lines they have two main worries: the enemy and the Finns. This isn’t just shoot-em-up (though there’s a fair bit of that) it’s a commentary on Brexit, global warming and the corporate powers that gain from war. Excellent!
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In 19th century Angland, only gentlemen practise magic while the ladies get on with running the country. Cassandra Harwood became the country’s first female magician. Everything was splendid. She was engaged to the love of her life… and then it all fell apart. Now Cassandra must never perform magic again and she’s estranged from her love. Still in recovery she’s trapped at a country house party—snowed in—and worse still, her ex is there. It might have all passed with nothing more than a few hurt feelings, but Cassandra makes a promise she might not be able to keep, and if she fails there’s a vindictive elf who will make sure she pays for it. I really enjoyed this. At novella length is a quick read, but it sets the scene for sequels.
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The sequel novella to Mira’s Last Dance. Penric is in love with the widow Nickys whom he has brought safely out of Cedonia with her brother, the general, so when Nicky’s mother is imprisoned as a lure for the general it’s Penric and Nickys who venture back to Cedonia to save her. Nickys is attracted to Pen, but not sure she wants to marry his demon, Desdemona as well.
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Andre Norton: The Crystal Gryphon - Witch World Series 2 – High Hallack 5
This is a re-read of a book read and enjoyed many years ago. It’s sometimes a mistake to go back, but though it’s of its time, this stood up pretty wall. Kerovan, born with hooves instead of feet and with amber-coloured eyes, is his father’s heir, but he’s raised away from the castle, and by the time he’s ready to inherit invaders from over the sea, the Hounds of Alizon, have turned his homeland into a battleground. His proxy marriage to Joisan all but forgotten, he becomes a scout. Joisan in her turn, has nothing of her husband except for hids gift, a tiny globe which encases a perfect miniature gryphon. Told by the pair in alternating chapters we see the war unfold and each of them do their duty before finally coming together.

 

Gryphon in Glory - Witch World Series 2 – High Hallack 6

Another re-read. Like an idiot Kerovan leaves Joisan behind and heads off into the Waste, but she’s having none of it, and before long she’s packed up and trailing behind, having adventures of her own, meeting up with Elys and Jervon along the way (characters I’m sure I’ve met in other High Hallack novels). This begins the move from the dales to Arvon and we meet the Wereriders for the first time. It’s hard to get all of Norton’s stories in the right order because they weren’t written chronologically and I’m sure Norton herself sometimes had characters meeting who couldn’t possibly have co-existed.

 
Andre Norton & AC Crispin: Gryphon’s Eyrie -
Witch World Series 2 – High Hallack 7

Another re-read. Kerovan and Joisan have been travelling together for three years. He is drawn towards the mountains, she ends up following doggedly even though she’s rather stay with what looks like a tribe on Native Americans who seem to have found their way into the Witch World. They do, eventually find a home. Not as riveting or exciting as the previous two Gryphon books. I’m always a little wary of co-authored books. How much of it is actually Andre Norton’s fingers on the keyboard?

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I love Mercy Thompson books, about a Coyote shapeshifter married to an alpha werewolf.so I grab them as soon as they are published. Yes, Mercy’s in trouble again. This time attacked, injured and captured by a scheming vampire, possibly the most powerful vamp in the world, and carried off to Europe, so we have some of the story from Mercy’s point of view and some from her mate, Adam, head of the Columbia basin pack. Adam needs a team – vamps and werewolves - to get Mercy back, so they head off to Europe. In the meantime mercy is busy rescuing herself while trying not to start a war between Vamps and Werewolves. All good stuff.
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This was recommended to me because it’s set in Tallinn, which is where I went this summer to research the Baltic countries for a book I’m working on. It’s two hundred years before my time period, but It’s great for atmosphere and background. The pace is a little slow, or should I say, measured, but the mystery is solved in the end. The person who recommended it did warn me that it wasn’t the best translation, but I could forgive the slightly pedestrian prose because of the background with the merchants, the Hanseatic League and Lubeck Law. One thing that did puzzle me was that Tallinn was referred to as Tallinn but its old name was Reval. Was that a translation thing or have I misunderstood my history? Melchior is the town apothecary turned sleuth and he’s coopted when a important personage is killed on the Toompea, and pretty soon it seems as though the town has a serial killer on its hands.
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Jodie Taylor is a buy-on-sight author, so though this is not one of her St Mary’s books I was eager to grab it. This is a supernatural thriller, number #1 in a new series. Elizabeth sees emotions as colour, but she doesn’t quite know what else she is or what she can do, so she’s happy being a boring housewife with a kind husband, but when she’s widowed unexpectedly she ends up a virtual prisoner (for her own good) in the ‘private hospital’ where he worked as a security guard, and there she meets a fellow patient who seems to know more than she does about her plight. The ending wasn’t quite resolved, but…yay!... it looks like this is the start of a series. Roll on the next one.
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A straight Regency historical from an author I usually associate with urban or historical fantasy. I love Catie Murphy’s writing so was very pleased to read this. Benedict Fairburn stands to inherit his great-aunt’s fortune, but only if he marries. He doesn’t need the money and he’s inclined to let it go to the default inheritor, an orphanage, but his family are pushing every winsome spinster at him. He only has eyes for one, but sadly he once unwittingly insulted Claire Dalton past bearing and it’s going to take a lot to gain her forgiveness. A neat story, much enjoyed.

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No, I didn’t read these out of order, Ms Bujold has filled in a gap in Pen’s storyline with a novella detailing events that happened before Penric’s Mission. Anything from LMB is buy on sight as far as I’m concerned and if I can’t get another Vorkosigan book, I’ll settle for a novella from the world of the Five Gods.
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A new short story which is a riot of dangerous manuscripts and an egotistical film director. This proves that the staff of St Marys can get into trouble without actually time travelling anywhere. Leon, Guthrie and Markham are back, but on the sick list, while Peterson is still bereft. Despite the traumatic events, Ms Taylor manages to lighten the mood and start all the readers on the road to recovery after the devastating events in the last full length book. Professor Rhapson decides to recreate Hannibal’s methods of splitting rocks to impress a boorish film producer who might be persuaded to hand out a lucrative research contract. Professor Rhapson and exploding rocks. What could possibly go wrong?
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This collects together all the short stories (thus far) from the Chronicles of St Mary’s, which if you haven’t read them, go back and start from the beginning. I’ll wait. Done it? Good. Now you know about the time travelling disaster-magnets who comprise St Mary’s historians and their support teams, especially Max our (usually) main viewpoint character. (I particularly love reading about Markham in security.) I’d read (and reviewed) all but one of these before because I buy anything from Jodi Taylor on sight, but I was happy to buy it for the new story, which has since been published as an individual short, but it’s good to have all the short stories together in one place and if you haven’t read any of them yet, it’s a bargain.

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This picks up where Treasure and Treason left of on a cliffhanger (which I hate). Raine isn’t the centre of this pair of books. The main characters are Tam Nathratch, handsome Goblin enforcer and recovering dark magician, and Raine’s cousin Phaelan, a pirate captain with a healthy dislike of magic and a penchant for blowing things up. Tam, Phaelan and their team of combat mages must get to the Heart of Nidaar before the bad guys, the Khrynsani Goblins do or it’s the end of the world. Lisa Shearin writes good repartee, and though I’m missing Raine and her problems, I’ve enjoyed an outing with Tam and Phaelan 
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A historical romance (Victorian) with a difference. The hero is on a spectrum, protected by his place in society and his older brothers. His youth was spent in an asylum, thanks to his father, but he’s out now that his father has gone. He likes Ming pottery and beautiful women and is quite single-minded when he sets his sights on something.. Beth Ackerley is a young widow who wants no more drama in her life. She’s inherited money and would like to determine her own life now, thankyouverymuch. And then along comes Ian.

BTW, hideous generic cover.

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Elizabeth Barnabus is two people, herself and her twin brother, the private detective. She’s employed to seek out a missing aristocrat in a steampunky world. I’m a sucker for cross-dressing ladies competing in a man’s world. There’s a touch of romance, but the mystery drives the plot. The world is fascinating, if slightly skewed. Looking forward to reading the rest.

BTW, I love the cover.
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I hadn’t read any Wild Cards books before, but the blurb on this said it was a good jumping in point for new readers, so here goes. It’s the story of Mississippi riverboat, the Natchez in the not too far distant future, but a future in which humanity has been changed forever by a plague which either kills or turns the survivors into Wild cards – jokers or aces. Each affliction might be different. Aces tend to be the ones with superpowers whereas jokers might have not much in the way of talent, but a fox’s ears and tail or maybe half of them has turned into a fish. You get the idea. Edited by George RR Martin, the writers are Stephen Leigh, David D. Levine, John Jos. Miller, Kevin Andrew Murphy, Cherie Priest, and Carrie Vaughn. Each writer takes a a particular character and sees them through their part in the story. So… the story. The central characters in this ensemble piece are Steam Wilbur, the ghost of the builder and forst captain of the Natchez, and the Natchez herself. Steaming up the river with an illicit cargo of illegal joker immigrants, followed by a vindictive immigration officer and the Natchez’s current owner whose stated intent is to anchor her in port and strip out her boilers, turning he into a casino, but in reality has much darker plans. Without the boat’s steam, Steam Wilbur loses any means of acting upon the world (and he can’t leave the boat). So this is the story of how the ensemble cast fights a triple threat to Wilbur, the boar and the immigrants. I thoroughly enjoyed this and now I can’t decide whether to wait for the next one or whether to go back and start reading from the beginning.
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Lizzy, Judith and  Autumn are the three resident witches of Lychford, a sleepy Gloucestershire town. In the wake of Brexit, Autumn is questioning her place in Lychford because of her skin colour, while Judith is struggling to keep herself together and pass on her knowledge to Lizzy and Autumn before it's too late. When people start to go missing, our trio discover that they are being pulled across boundaries. There's political trouble at home and trouble in the world of faerie, too. Each woman is on her own to rescue a particular group of strayed humans. Cornell manages to bring real world concerns into the magical world and the wave of anti-foreigner sentiment affects Lychford, too. A thoroughly enjoyable read, if a little uncomfortable at times as the three women's sentiments are laid bare.
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I read this immediately I’d finished Going Grey. It continues the story of private military contractors, Rob Rennie and Mike Brayne, and Mike’s adopted son, Ian Dunlap, a genetically engineered teen sought by the biotech company that thinks they own his genes. Though the Braynes won the first round, they’re waiting for the company to make another move against Ian.

When Rob’s son and ex, back in England, are threatened by an unseen stalker, Rob goes into overdrive. Both Rob and Mike have families to protect and Ian’s unique chameleon skills could prove useful, but neither man wants to put him at the sharp end if things get dangerous. Ian proves difficult to keep down, however. He’s learned a lot from his two mentors, the main thing being that if you have friends, you make sure you have their back.

 You can class this as a near-future thriller, or military SF, but the characters are the heart of the story. Another hugely enjoyable book from Karen Traviss. I was disappointed to note that the third book, Sacrificial Red, won’t be out until 2018.

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This is a near future techno-thriller featuring illegal science, military contractors, family values and ethics.

When Ian Dunlop’s gran dies, suddenly and unexpectedly, the teen is faced with a problem. Ian is either going nuts or he has a talent that will make him the target of huge corporations, and he doesn’t know enough about the world or himself to make a plan. Luckily the first people to find him are a pair of private military contractors, Mike Brayne and Rob Rennie, with resources, connections in high places, and a conscience.

Mike and Rob, though coming from opposite sides of the Atlantic, and opposite branches of the magic money tree, are buddies in the way that has been forged by military comradeship. Ms Traviss has always been able to get under the skin of the common (and uncommon) soldier. Though the pacing of Going Grey is measured, it never loses interest, and I leaped straight from this to the sequel, Black Run.
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My second steampunky airship novel in under a month and my brain is still comparing the two. Set in postapocalyptic (snowy) Southern California, after a repulsed alien invasion, Buckell and his ragtag crew of the Pneumatic Zeppelin must rescue their kidnapped leader/clan chief, Balthazar Crankshaft, from the City of the Founders. Beset by human enemies, alien beasties and geography itself, Buckell and his crew must brave poisoned wastelands, forgewalkers and steampipers. 

The Pneumatic Zeppelin is a complex machine, fourteen stories high, yet Robyn Bennis’ The Guns Above had more technical detail. (I’m not saying that’s necessarily an advantage.) There’s still a lot (and I mean a LOT) of lush description in here, which makes it a great intro to the series, but the plot is a single strand rescue mission, albeit with twists and turns. There’s a lot of potential in this world, though the description of the ship’s bells and whistles slows the pace a bit, especially in the beginning. It’s setting-driven, so the characters didn’t grab me as much as I hoped they might. (Romulus Buckle, Balthazar Crankshaft, Katzenjammer Smelt are a bitt OTT as far as names go, aren’t they? Very Cartoony) However I think this is a series that will grow if the author can invest as much in his characters as he can in his tech.
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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.
jacey: (Default)


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.

jacey: (Default)


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?

jacey: (Default)

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.
jacey: (Default)


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.

jacey: (Default)

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.
jacey: (Default)
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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jacey: (blue eyes)
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.

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