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

Mavis Doriel Hay: The Santa Klaus Murder

Mavis Doriel Hay: The Santa Klaus Murder

Globe and Mail Aunt Mildred declared that no good could come of the Melbury family Christmas gatherings at their country residence Flaxmere. So when Sir Osmond Melbury, the family patriarch, is discovered – by a guest dressed as Santa Klaus – with a bullet in his head on Christmas Day, the festivities are plunged into chaos. Nearly every member of the party stands to reap some sort of benefit from Sir Osmond’s death, but Santa Klaus, the one person who seems to have every opportunity to fire the shot, has no apparent motive. Various members of the family have their private suspicions about the identity of the murderer, and the Chief Constable of Haulmshire, who begins his investigations by saying that he knows the family too well and that is his difficulty, wishes before long that he understood them better. 

Rating: C

The house seemed full of lunatics who never gave away anything they knew until it was too late.

At first, I was worried I would be in for a similar reading experience as in The Moonstone, a story with multiple first-person narrators, most of which were annoying people, I couldn’t stand and hated having to spend time in their heads.  The Santa Klaus Murder five first-person narrators, telling the first five chapters and some of those are extremely unlikeable. But then the murder happens and the narration is taken over by Colonel Halstock who investigates the crime. Halfway through we learn that as part of his investigation he asked five of the people who were at the house to write down how they experienced the days leading up to the murder and the first five chapters are those stories. It sure is convenient, that their stories match so perfectly; each person begins his narration just at the point the other ended. And it’s even more convenient that the very first person gives a short rundown of the backstory of everybody involved in the story so that the reader knows who has what motive to murder Sir Osmond. It is however somewhat inconvenient that towards the end of the story there are some major occurrences that happen while Halstock is not around, so we get two more chapters told by somebody else but this time no flimsy excuse for where they come from.

If done well, stories with multiple narrators can be great but this one isn’t done well. I might have even accepted the weird switching around with most chapters told by Halstock and a few by others if the ridiculous explanation that it’s part of the investigation hadn’t been. Of course, mysteries usually don’t portray a realistic picture of police work but this went too far for me.

The story under all this is decent but relies a lot on every single person not telling everything, because they thought it wasn’t important because they don’t want to get in trouble or because they don’t want to get somebody else in trouble. This is a staple of mysteries but unhelpful witnesses usually aren’t the only thing that’s hindering the investigation. Besides, it has a paint-by-numbers feel to it. Halstock finds something out, questions a witness about it, the witness gives new information, he goes to the next witness with that new information, they tell him something new…

In between all that, there are characters that go beyond being black or white cardboard-cutouts and the solution to the mystery is not easy to guess without being unfair. Perhaps the book also suffers from having a plot (horrible family patriarch gets murdered over Christmas) that reminds me a lot of Portrait of a Murderer and Hercule Poirot’s Christmas and in comparison with those it can only lose. I’m willing to give another book by the author a try but I’m not rushing to getting it.

State of the Reading Challenges

Spoiler: It’s…not great

The main post of my 2018 challenges is here.

My personal challenge was to buy one new book for every five books from my tbr-pile I read. I read nine books and bought three so I have clearly a small math problem 🙄. In my defense: There was a limited offer from Amazon for two months Kindle Unlimited membership for 99 Cents. So I ended up reading lots of books that were on KU instead of on my tbr-pile. Additionally, I ended up requesting (and getting) some ARCs which I also read and which also didn’t count as tbr-pile. This challenge is much harder than expected. I also might have read so much fanfiction that put together would probably be as long as two or three books.

And talking of ARCs: I went from having twelve to having ten, which is, well, less but not quite near my goal of having less than five. But why are there always new British Crime Library Classics on NetGalley? I just can’t resist them.

Continue reading “State of the Reading Challenges”

Ash and Silver (Sanctuary #2)

25176096Title: Ash and Silver
Author: Carol Berg
Series: Sanctuary #2

Ever since the Order of the EquitesCineré stole his memory, his name, and his heart, thinking about the past makes Greenshank’s head ache. After two years of rigorous training, he is almost ready to embrace the mission of the Order—to use selfless magic to heal the troubles of Navronne. But on his first assignment alone, the past comes racing back, threatening to drown him in conspiracy, grief, and murder.

He is Lucian de Remeni—a sorcerer whose magical bents for portraiture and history threaten the safety of the earth and the future of the war-riven kingdom of Navronne. He just can’t remember how or why.

Fighting to unravel the mysteries of his power, Lucian must trace threads of corruption that reach from the Pureblood Registry into the Order itself, the truth hidden two centuries in the past and beyond the boundaries of the world…

RatingC-

I stand by my opinion that people who are not me might enjoy the Sanctuary Duet a lot. Unfortunately, I am me and I still don’t enjoy conspiracy thrillers. And while Dust and Light had at least a very entertaining murder mystery B-plot, Ash and Silver is all about the conspiracy. Well, and Lucian’s lost memories. I like the amnesia trope about as much as conspiracy plots. Still, like for the first book, I have to say that I might dislike the trope in general but it’s still well written. The complete confusion before Lucian’s memories come partly back isn’t drawn out too much and there are enough other things to keep him (and the reader) busy. Very busy in fact. And that’s where I’m again back to a complaint I already had about the first book: there is only so much of a character being constantly on the run and almost getting killed or seriously injured I can take before I refuse to believe that a single person could get through this. At some point, I just crossed the line where I felt for Lucian because yet another thing went wrong and just rolled my eyes and thought ‘seriously?’

Besides, one of the things I always enjoy about Carol Berg novels are the friendships. Her characters might start off as lone wolves but over the course of the story, they meet somebody with whom they form a strong bond. And all of these friendships feel so well-developed and go far beyond what you usually find in fantasy novels. In Dust and Light Lucian had Bastien but while he still appears in the second book his screen-time is much shorter. And, with the conspiracy plot getting turned up to 11, there really isn’t anybody else he can form such a friendship with. He can trust nobody and everybody at least quadruple-crosses him because that’s what happens in conspiracy thrillers…

Last but not least: I wasn’t a fan of the ending. I am used to endings that don’t rule out another book completely from Berg’s other novels. But this one felt a lot like a very strange sequel hook.


Review of book 1

Freebie Alert: Rivers of London Short Story

61l02kXcJDL._SL300_

Somewhere amongst the shadowy stacks and the many basements of the British library, something is very much amiss – and we’re not talking late returns here. Is it a ghost, or something much worse? PC Peter Grant really isn’t looking forward to finding out….

A charming short-story featuring Peter, Toby, a dedicated librarian, possibly a pirate and definitely no spiders is available for free. All you need is an Audible account.

Audible.de | Audible.co.uk | Audible.com