Mini Reviews – December 2018

Ben Aaronovitch – Lies Sleeping
(Urban Fantasy)

3/5 for the first half, 7/5 for the second

The book started somewhat slow and aimless. Peter and the others knew that the faceless man was planning something. And that bells were involved in his plan (it makes sense in context). But for quite a while that’s all they know. Something so vague just failed to really hook me. It was watching people go “We have to stop…the thing…whatever it is. And we need to do it quickly. Probably. Because otherwise…something will happen. Probably.” For my taste, it simply took to long until they had at least a somewhat clear picture of what exactly their task was but once they did I was glued to the pages until the very end. And once again it ended with a loud BANG that made me go what? without giving me the feeling that Aaronovich is trying to add shocking twists for the sake of being shocking and not caring if it fits the flow of the story.

Gif: New Star Treck: Spock removing his glasses. Caption "Mother of God"

Miles Burton – The Secret of High Eldersham
(Mystery)

10/10 witches want to curse the author

This book and I already didn’t start off very well because it became clear very early on that it featured one of my least favourite tropes: The Village With A Secret. Yes. A whole village is in on it, so when the Scotland Yard detective appears he has to deal with far more than the usual hostility towards strangers.

Now that whole conspiracy is more of a backdrop. The murder still had a typical mystery-motive and wasn’t “The villagers sacrificed him to the Old Gods” but that typical mystery at the core wasn’t very good. It had a moustache-twirling villain who must have fallen straight out of a cheap gothic novel – and he brought the damsel in distress he could threaten and abduct with him. And of course, our sleuth falls madly in love with her after talking to her once for five minutes. So madly, that he withholds evidence that implicates the damsel’s family members because surely her poor female nerves wouldn’t be able to cope with the shock.


George Bellairs – Death of a Busybody
(Mystery)

Extremely average

Death of a Busybody is set in a small village in which – as the title suggests – one of its more unlikeable inhabitants comes to an unnatural end. A Scotland Yard detective is called in and he works together with the quirky but loveable village constable to discover which of the quirky villagers not only wanted her dead but also acted on that impulse and why the victim changed her will only days before her death. It’s all a bit paint-by-numbers-mystery and has nothing that distracts from that fact. There’s humour but it’s not sparkling wit, just “Haha! Aren’t those villagers backwards?!?”, the detective is entirely bland and I called the “How was it done?” very early and after that, most of the rest of the mystery also fell into place. Admittedly, at the time of writing, it was probably less obvious but that left me with nothing to catch my interest.

Mini Reviews November 2018

35218493Niamh Murphy – Escape to Pirate Island
(Historical f/f romance)

dnf

At the start of the book, Cat, one half of the designated couple, is on a smuggling mission that goes badly wrong and gets a lot of her comrades killed. Lily, the other half, just lost her father and he left her seemingly nothing but a huge mountain of debt. So, neither of them is in a very good place emotionally…and that was in no way conveyed by the narration. Sure, we got occasionally told that they were Really Very Sad but it never felt like it because there wasn’t to much time spent on it. We just got a lot of action-scenes and I grant the author that they were good. Only, well-written action scenes can only get you so far if they involve characters I don’t care about. And I didn’t really care about *checks notes…how were they called?* Cat and Lily.

Besides, the author seems to think you can make your dialogue old-timey by characters happily switching between Ye, You, Thou and Thee without any consideration of the fact that they were used differently.

I feel when trying to find good historical f/f romances the inofficial moto is:


23166591Melissa Scott – Fair’s Point (Astreiant #4)
(Fantasy m/m mystery romance)

A fun day at the races

Another fun entry in the series but also one I can’t say much more about that I haven’t already said about the previous books. I’m always there for murder meets magic and this magical murder has likeable characters and a really cool world 😉

Dogs are involved in this books so I have an excuse to post this gif (psst…it’s actually a wolf but we don’t really care, do we?):



28170940

Robert Galbraith: Lethal White (Strike #4)
Crime fiction

4/5 dark family secrets

It takes almost 300 pages till a murder happens. (Well, a fresh murder, there is a perhaps-murder that happened long ago that Strike isn’t supposed to be investigating and that mostly stays in the background). I did not miss anything in these 300 pages and actually only realised that I had been glued to a story that was ‘just’ about blackmail a few pages after the murder. The mystery was just so engaging. It did remind me a lot of Agatha Christie: a highly dysfunctional family (and some people connected to them) with lots of secrets and grudges and the investigator has to figure which of those are connected to the crime. (There was more blood and general ugliness than in the average Christie, though).

And that is what I want from my crime-novels: a good puzzle. Of course, Strike’s and Robin’s private life still features prominently but it never overwhelms the story (a reason I gave up on so many crime novels).

I could have done without certain parts of the ending but that didn’t ruin my reading experience too much.

And it was a very nice murder.

Mini Reviews: October 2018

36896898Naomi Novik: Spinning Silver
(Fantasy)

7/7 magical golden coins

This book was beautiful. I love fairy tales and fairy tale retellings but the latter can come over a bit creepy when the author copies things from the original too closely (complete a quest, get the girl even though you never talked to each other before). But Spinning Silver isn’t just a Rumpelstilsken retelling. Of course, it takes a lot of inspiration from it – as well as from Cinderella and many other tales but it turns it into something completely new and different.

Gif: belle from Beauty and the Beast saying "I just finished the most wonderful story"


41724928Aliette de Bodard: In the Vanisher’s Palace
Sci-fi f/f romance

(Sadly) not my cup of world-ending tea

Talking about books inspired by fairy tales: In the Vanisher’s Palace is a retelling of Beauty and the Beast and that is certainly a story that can come over not too great if you don’t pay attention. But the author did pay attention and clearly put a lot of thought into the whole ‘You have to live in my palace now and if you don’t want to that’s your problem’-bit. And I really enjoyed the way it was treated in the book. I liked the characters. There were dragons. But I’m just not really into post-apocalyptic stories and this book is ‘hard’ post-apocalyptic. As in: you can’t just ignore it for most of the story. Which is great if you like it because authors just paying lip-service to a genre when the story could just as easily have taken place anywhere else is usually disappointing. But in my case, it just reminded me over and over again that I don’t care much for that genre.

Gif: Eyeore saying "It's OK, I'll learn to live without it"


42242896Anthology: Teacher’s Pet Volume 2
Romance-anthology

Not my cup of healthy green tea

In short: I started this with the exception there would be rather diverse settings in the stories (contemporary, fantasy, historical) but got three fantasy stories and the rest contemporaries, which isn’t my thing at all. And even the fantasy stories didn’t overwhelm me that much. A more comprehensive review is over at Love in Panels.

Gif: Damien Lewis on HIGNFY looking unimpressed

Mini Reviews – September 2018

Cover: Lia Cooper - Death Days Lia Cooper – Death Days
(Urban Fantasy, m/m romance)

DNF

I made it 30% into this book and I feel that at this point I should have a vague idea where the plot is going. But I had none. Things just happened. At first, Nick, our hero, tries to summon a demon but fails. He gives some lectures at university and it seems like he doesn’t exactly enjoy it (or care much about his student) which makes him incredibly likeable. His sister turns up and is horrid, there is some stuff with a magical council who want him to join but he doesn’t want to (why? For all I could tell because he is a contrarian jerk), he gets hunted by…something but escapes, his TA is hot, Nick is supposed to help the TA with his paper but he keeps being a horrible teacher. Then some vampire witches appear and threaten/warn him about…something. And that’s when I stopped. I didn’t know what was going on. I didn’t care about the hero. Or the fact that the only female characters that had appeared so far were horrible. And the weird forth and back between flowery, almost purple prose in some chapters and dull, functional in others didn’t help either.

tumblr_obix0sGEM31uiohk2o3_250

 


3413543David Dickinson – Death on the Nevskii Prospekt
(Historical Crime)

DNF

Lord Powerscourt is simply an a-ma-zing investigator but sadly his horrible wife has forced him at gunpoint (or at least while he was recuperating from one of the near-fatal wounds he got while being an a-ma-zing investigator) to promise her to give up investigating. Her very unpatriotic reasoning for that is that she would love for her children to not grow up fatherless. Now another mysterious crime has occurred that threatens the world (or at even worse – the British Empire) and only Powerscourt can help. There isn’t a single other capable person in Her Majesty’s service. So the whole first chapter is just a number of more and more important people throwing themselves in front of Powerscourt, begging him to take the case and telling his wife how unpatriotic her silly feelings are.

tumblr_p6uehssrcG1x47bsho2_400

OK, I’m not smiling. I’m just furious.


41722254Devan Johnson: Any Other Name
(Historical f/f Romance)

Fly, you fools

A badly formatted and unedited mess. The plot and I’m using that term quite wrongly is incoherent and reads more like multiple one-shots that were glued together. No character has any depth whatsoever. The side-characters are there to tell the main characters how great they are and the main characters seem to love each other because the sex is just so great. The plot-holes have the size of the grand canyon.

tumblr_nikbjgqgcW1rk15i2o3_500


39345944KJ Charles: Band Sinister
(Historical m/m romance)

Not my cup of Regency Tea

I’ve always loved Georgette Heyer and KJ Charles, but this book made me realize that I enjoyed both for very different reasons. The couples in Charles’ books usually both have experience. Perhaps not always on the romantic front but certainly on the sexual one. The romantic troubles they face are rooted in more than their lack of communication and they usually have bigger problems anyway (killers/demons out to get them, getting framed for murder etc.)
Heyer, on the other hand, is light-hearted, humorous, and the reasons that the couple can’t get together often involve miscommunication and/or horrible relatives. Now, Heyer usually manages to portray even the dreaded miscommunication in a way that doesn’t annoy me. The reasons the couple can’t (or won’t) talk to each other make sense and she usually writes with a twinkling eye that says “Yeah, they are a bit stupid but aren’t we all sometimes?”
KJ Charles manages to imitate all that perfectly. Some of the problems the couple face, are quite ridiculous – at least if you look at them from the outside – but it’s believable that for them it is a big deal. But at the same time, I kept thinking “Other KJ Charles-characters would be so much more reasonable about all of this.” Which is unfair of me. After all, it still works. I just don’t like it
I had also known from the blurb that this novel would feature a virgin hero. And just like the misunderstandings, the issue isn’t drawn out. There’s no panicked yelling of “But I’m not gay!” Guy soon admits that he always had certain urges, but he suppressed them. So, he quickly loses all objections to some sexy-times. And unlike many other virgin hero(ines), he doesn’t just lean back and lets the experienced partner take charge. He learns quickly (very quickly but which romance-character doesn’t?) and soon experiments and figures out his own wishes. And all of that is great, except that it made me realise I don’t care much for the Virgin!hero(ine) trope. So all in all this book isn’t bad, it just didn’t really work for me.

d9081350-9540-0133-6de9-0efce411145f

Mini Reviews – August 2018

I don’t always get round to write long reviews for everything so:

Cover: The House of Shattered WingsAliette de Bodard – The House of Shattered Wings (Dominion of the Fallen #1)

It’s not me it’s you

It’s not a bad book. In fact, the prose is beautiful and I definitely want to check out more by the author.
But it has a very strong post-apocalyptic feel to it. True, it’s fantasy with angels and magic but there are regular references to the Big Event That Changed Everything. Society has pretty much collapsed and it’s survival of the strongest (or survival of those who are protected by the strongest).
I just can’t get into post-apocalyptic stuff at all. And this book won’t change it.

 

35068705

R.F. Kuang – The Poppy War

Same.

This book just combined several of my pet peeves: it starts off very YA-ish with a special child who goes to a magical school, makes a friend but also an arch-nemesis and so on. But at the same time, it also likes reminding us how Dark And Gritty everything is (LOOK! He killed the child because he didn’t want to pay for the rest of his life for injuring it!) Now I don’t mind grittiness in general. Or special children. But I guess the combination is getting on my nerves? Or the audiobook was a bad idea because if I just could skim-read the boarding school parts it might have been better? I have been assured that after about a third the book gets away from the school but I couldn’t even get that far.

 

Melissa Scott & Lisa A. Barnett – Point of Dreams (Astreiant #3)

I’m getting addicted to this series.

I am not a big fan of mysteries where stubborn higher-ups want to stop the detective from investigating a murder because of reason/politics/whatever and they get into more and more trouble because they, of course, investigate anyway. And Point of Dreams started with exactly such a situation which is why I had a hard time getting into it at first. But Rathe got quickly distracted by other murders (lots of them) he was actually supposed to investigate and the first murder was pushed into the background.

The plot about the theatre murders was then really intriguing (and of course since this is a mystery…are perhaps all murders connected? I couldn’t possibly say). I also enjoyed how it got deeper into the magic of Astreiant and showed more of it since so far I had very little sense of how it works.

I also read Salt Magic, Skin Magic and reviewed it over at Love in Panels. (Short version: go and read it)