Book Review – Bloodlist (Vampire Files #1) by P.N. Elrod

Bloggos,

My brain is all melty from the 16+ hours I worked on editing The Steel Armada over the last two days. It was a wild time, where each chapter got about two hours worth of work, including three separate read throughs. I added a total of 68 words to the manuscript, and that’s after counting all the stuff I cut.

My brain is pudding dribbling out of one ear right about now.

So, let’s talk about Bloodlist!

Goodreads Rating: 3/5 Stars

vampire files #1

You’re probably looking at that rating and cringing. You’re used to my other three star reviews, which are usually pretty negative. I’m not one to give a low rating lightly, and giving anything under a four usually brings me physical pain.

But, I’m not angry at this book. I’m not upset or even all that disappointed. I listened to it. It was interesting enough to ensure I kept coming back to it, although I didn’t think the narration was anything mind blowing. It’s hard to compete with James Marsters though, let’s be honest.

So, why the low rating then? Because I have no strong feelings about this book. I am neither disappointed by it nor would I recommend it. I read it. It wasn’t bad. It wasn’t necessarily good either. It just was.

The book is set in post-Prohibition Chicago, and the lead character has just become a vampire. It has a lot of noir storytelling elements, which I appreciated, but it also featured a lot of mobsters being the 1930s equivalent of dudebros.

The man character, whose name literally just escaped me for two whole minutes, Jack Fleming was all right, but I didn’t really root for him. I liked the side character, his Private Investigator buddy… Escott? Yeah, that guy. He was intriguing.

But, there was little to no explanation of what the rules of Elrod’s brand of Vampirism were. I mean, I think Jack didn’t really know and we’re learning along with him, but… still. It was a little boring. It took awhile to get going and actually get to the plot. Which is a really common problem with the first book in a series.

I would say Bloodlist definitely suffers from that. My Goodreads rating said, “I feel neither glad to have read it, nor upset that I took the time.” I think about this book and my reaction is… *shrug*.

That being said, I’m open to giving the second book a try, if I ever find myself with a lull in my audiobooks. It wasn’t bad it just wasn’t good either. I do wonder if I would have liked it more reading a hard copy. Sometimes the audiobook leaves something to be desired.

However, I did enjoy listening to it when that migraine struck. Always gotta have a audiobook queued up, just in case.

I just went to read the synopsis for the second book in this series, and it really didn’t pique my interest either. Maybe someday, when I’m real bored, I’ll come back to it. But for now I’m going to stick to the Peter Grant books.

I am glad I gave this series a shot though! You never know what you might like if you don’t give new books a try!

I don’t think I’ll be back again this weekend. I’m going to take some quality time to decompress from my editing marathon and just enjoy my time off with a good book. I’ll be back to talk at you all on Monday!

Until then, Blogland!

 

BZ

 

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Book Review – Moon Over Soho (Peter Grant #2) by Ben Aaronovtich

Bloggos,

I’m in the midst of a fierce battle with a migraine. After a dose of Excedrin and Advil Migraine, I think we’ve reached a stalemate; I’m functional, but the damn thing refuses to leave me be. I’ll take it, since it means i’m not cooped up in bed writhing with pain and boredom.

Moon Over Soho is the second novel in the Peter Grant series, and while I enjoyed it just as much as the first book, I did give it a slightly lower rating. Beware minor spoilers for Midnight Riot (Rivers of London in the UK). Now would also be a good time to read my review for the first book if you haven’t already.

Goodreads Rating: 4/5 Stars

Moon over soho

PC Peter Grant is a magician. Well, he’s still an apprentice, but man can he make a mean werelight! His mentor, Constable Thomas Nightingale, was shot at the end of the first book which has him largely out of commission in this one. That’s a bummer for me, because I love him dearly, but he pokes his head in frequently enough that I’m not too put out about it.

Peter’s been busy while his governor is on medical leave. A string of seemingly unconnected deaths all have one thing in common: the victims were all jazz musicians. And while that’s the biggest case he’s working, there’s also the matter of the vagina dentata attacks happening throughout London.

Yes, you read that correctly. Vagina dentata. There is a pale woman running about the city who’s chomping off men’s dicks with her genitalia. It’s horrid, but the way everyone speaks about it, uncomfortable and dancing around it, is kind of hilarious.

And of course there’s the river folk and all their idiosyncrasies that Peter has to navigate. It’s been a very trying summer. But when he follows up a lead on one of his possible murder victims, Peter meets Simone and he’s immediately smitten. She helps him pass the time, all while he investigates the magical jazz scene in Soho, where she lives.

Now, let’s not forget that Peter’s father is a jazz musician and, even though Peter doesn’t have musical talent of his own, Jazz is in his blood. He knows good music when he hears it, and appreciates it all like a sommelier does a good wine.

I think that’s such interesting character development for this character. Mid-twenties, sarcastic as hell, mixed race cop, who also loves jazz. Say what?

Meanwhile, both Leslie and Nightingale are off screen a lot, healing from their ordeals from the first book. In that way, this book is really about Peter. We learn a lot about him and his family in this book, whereas, in the first one, we were meeting a ton of characters and establish dynamics and setting.rivers of london

I really enjoyed this book, because Aaronovitch’s grasp of London is really on display. When I read these books I feel like I know the city too, even though I’ve only been there once, as a teen. And it really makes me want to go back.

So, why not five stars then, you ask? Well, here’s why: I called the outcome. I knew pretty much from the moment a certain character appeared that they were responsible for what was going on in some way. It was a little frustrating. I’m not entirely sure if this was intentional on the part of the author, but I thought Peter was a bit oblivious not to see it.

That being said, the ending was really freaking good, and it set the stage for the larger, over-arcing bad guy of the series. The Faceless Man. Turns out, there’s another magician besides Nightingale, and he’s been a very busy, very bad man.

And he’s been training apprentices too.

dun dun dun

I’m slowly making progress on Whispers Under Ground, the third novel in the series. I also have the first graphic novel waiting for me at the library. I’m swimming in Peter Grant books, and am running out of time to read them!

I finished Bloodlist yesterday, thanks to this stupid migraine and a mountain of laundry that needed folding. I started Amy Poehler’s Yes Please, and I’ve got the first volume of The Adventure Zone graphic novel just begging to be read. So there will be no shortage of reviews on the blog, especially if I get cracking on these Rivers of London books.

Sorry this one’s a little short today, but between the migraine and the heat, I think this is all I can manage. Talk at you all again Monday, when I check in for the weekly goals summary.

Until then, Blogland.

 

BZ

Book Review – Brief Cases (Dresden Files #15.1) by Jim Butcher

Blogland,

Sorry for the delay on this. I’m working hard to get The Steel Armada done in time for my August 1st deadline. And I’m working longer days at the library than I’m used to. Time to kick on those time management skills!

Brief Cases is Butcher’s second collection of Dresden short stories and novellas. I listened to it via my library’s Libby app which allows for downloads of ebooks and digital audio while simultaneously listening to its predecessor, Side Jobs, on CD in my car.

Goodreads Rating: 5/5 Stars

brief cases

This book was a ride, let me tell you. While Side Jobs has a couple stories from side characters’ perspectives, Brief Cases really branches out. Luccio, Marcone, Butters, Molly, Maggie, and Mouse all have moments of first person narrative and in the audio recording, everyone but Maggie and Mouse have their own narrator! And of course, James Marsters is back and fantastic as always as Harry Dresden.

I really loved all of these stories, though Molly’s broke my heart. Being in Marcone’s head was really fascinating. He’s cold, almost unfeeling. But he has a code and he keeps to it. His motivations, on the surface, are steeped in his business, but deep down there’s some sort of emotion there; he just won’t acknowledge it. But you get to see how he thinks towards Gard and Hendricks, and how fierce he can be when it comes to their well being. They are his responsibility and he takes that very seriously. Marcone.jpg

I loved every minute of it.

Butters’ story was a little scary, but mostly sweet as he finds his feet on his first mission with Fidelacchius. Remember that Fidelacchius is the sword of faith, but Butters is a doctor, a man of science. He’s learning how those two worlds can blend and be a force of good. It was a very heartwarming tale.

And then there’s the last story, where Harry takes his daughter Maggie and their dog Mouse to the zoo. Each of them has their own version of events and their own antagonists to face while keeping the others in the dark about what they’re doing. It was really nice to get some time with Maggie, because so far she’s been pretty non-existent since she came into the Dresden world. Which made her feel like a MacGuffin in Changes, and not actually a character we should have any feelings about. Seeing her and her struggles (she has anxiety and it was really touching to read about) helped make her more real in my mind. And of course, anytime we can be in Mouse’s head is a good time.

There are, of course, Dresden centric stories in this collection, but if I’m being honest, I don’t really remember them. The Bigfoot stories found a home here, and now that I’m researching I do remember them, and they were good, but the side characters really have the standout stories in this collection.

This is something that has me concerned about The Dresden Files for a while, that I like the side characters more than I like Dresden. I find them more interesting, more compelling, I want to know more about them. I thought this would be a universal problem, but when I spoke with a friend he said he has a love/hate relationship with Dresden, that he identifies with him A LOT, but that he finds his arrogance and his lone wolf tendencies frustrating.

Meanwhile, I’m over here dreaming of spin-offs. Thank goodness for short story collections, huh?

If you’re a fan of the series I hardly need to recommend this book to you. If you haven’t read The Dresden Files, you might tell from my reading and my reviews, but I highly recommend them. They are fun, action-packed, and chock-a-block full of a wide range of fascinating side characters. This book is no exception.

I’m still (slowly) listening to Side Jobs, so there will be one more Dresden review sometime this summer. Then it’s the long wait for the next book, Peace Talks

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I’ll be back this weekend to talk about Moon Over Soho, and hopefully share some good news about finishing this freaking book.

Until then,

 

BZ

Book Review – Binti: The Night Masquerade by Nnedi Okorafor

Bloggos,

The third and final Binti novel is the largest, coming in at a whopping 203 pages. That being said, I think it was the fastest read of the three.

Goodreads Rating: 5/5 Stars

binti the night maquerade

This novella is the direct conclusion to Binti: Home, resolving the mysteries of the Night Masquerade, Okwu’s fate, and the effects of the Zinariya. Binti struggles with her identity as she copes with the news of the Khoush attack on her family’s ancestral home while she was in the desert with her grandmother’s people.

How much of her is actually Himba? Not only is she part Meduse after the events of the first novella, but now she knows that her DNA is partially Zinariyan, allowing her to use an almost telepathic instant messaging system with fellow Enyi Zinariyans (formerly known as Desert People). If so much of her has changed, is she even Himba? Where does she belong?

And where does she want to belong?

This book is very visceral. Okorafor’s handling of anxiety and representation of panic attacks are wonderfully done. Her description of grief is extremely realistic and yet poetic. I understood Binti so much in those moments, I understood the people around her, trying to interact with her amid her grief. Poignant, powerful, heartbreaking. It was all of these things.

My only criticism, if you can call it that, is that this story doesn’t really feel done. Maybe that’s just wishful thinking on my part. I’m not ready for it to be done. I want more, especially now that Mwinyi has joined the front of the cast. I enjoyed him quite a bit.

Really, I enjoyed this whole series. I loved Okwu and his world of black and white. I loved Mwinyi and his patience and understanding. I loved Binti, with all her doubts and fears. I loved Third Fish and her wisdom.

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If you’re looking for an imaginative, quick read PLEASE give the Binti series a try. I doubt you’ll regret it.

I’ll be back early next week with the Goals Summary. Have a great weekend Blogland!

 

BZ

Book Review – Binti: Home

Bloggos,

I’m back, as promised, to discuss the second novella in Nnedi Okorafor’s Binti series.

Goodreads Rating: 5/5 Stars

Warning: Mild spoilers below

binti home

Binti: Home is exactly as it sounds; a year after the events of the first novella, Binti is desperate to get home and go on her Pilgrimage. She’s suffering from PTSD from the Meduse attack on the Third Fish and trying to cope with the otherness of being both Himba and Meduse. She thinks that, if she can go home, be with her people and breathe the desert air, things will get back to something like normal.

But, home is full of even more problems. Her family is mad at her for leaving the way she did, her friends have shunned her for being so “selfish” as to leave in the middle of the night and abandon her family, her duty, and her home. Add that she brought Okwu, and tensions are ratcheted about as high as they can go.

So instead of peace, Binti finds strife. Then she sees the Night Masquerade, a mythical being that supposedly only men can see, an omen of heroic achievements and struggle. And then the Desert People arrive to take her into the desert and learn her true heritage.

All the while tension builds between the Khoush and Okwu…

I loved Binti, but it wasn’t until I read this novella that I realized how thin it was. I wanted more. And Okorafor delivered in this installment. There’s more world-building, more character development, more intrigue as multiple plots begin to weave together to culminate in the final novella, Binti: The Night Masquerade.

This series is fantastic so far, and with installments under 200 pages, there’s really no excuse not to pick them up if you think it’d be even the least bit interesting to you. I highly recommend them!

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I’ll be off the blog for the rest of the week while I’m at the Writers Conference this weekend. Expect to see a bit of activity next week, however, as I update goals, gush about my experiences at the coast, and review the final Binti novella.

Until then, Blogland,

 

BZ

 

Book Review – Binti by Nnedi Okorafor

Hey Blogland!

As promised, I’m back to discuss the Tor novella, Binti.

Goodreads Rating: 5/5 Stars

Binti

I’m a little late to the Afro-Futurism party, but I feel like this novella was a really good place to start. It’s sparse, giving the reader only the details they need to understand the characters and the story, which is different from a lot of the Sci-Fi and Fantasy I’ve read. I’m used to long narratives with lush world building and drawn out histories. Okorafor’s novella doesn’t waste time painting the picture in broad strokes. Instead her novella is like pointillism, her prose is riddled with small details that build the world and characters just enough. The reader is expected to fill in the gaps.

Binti is a 16 year old Himba girl who is doing something none of her people have ever done: she’s leaving home. She’s been accepted to the prestigious Oomza Uni, a university that takes up an entire planet! But, her whole family is against the idea of her leaving their homeland. So, like any intelligent and headstrong 16 year old is wont to do, Binti leaves home in the wee hours to catch her transport off of Earth.

All goes well until a species of sentient jellyfish, known as the Meduse, attack the ship, leaving only Binti alive. If she wants to survive the long journey through space and prevent a slaughter once the ship arrives on Oomza Uni, Binti must do the impossible.

She must make peace with the Meduse.

Binti and OKwu

At only 90 pages, I was extremely impressed with Binti. On the surface, it is a story I cannot readily relate to. I am almost painfully white, I have no sense of tribal duty, my family is not rooted in one spot by any means. I have never been the minority in any setting. Also, I’ve never been any good at math, let alone the veritable genius Binti is.

By all reasoning, it should not be easy for me to identify with Binti. But I do. I understand her, even as her experience and her perceptions are so foreign to me. When she speaks of the desert near her home, I think of the Sonoran desert and I understand her immediately. She is young and uncertain, but also so incredibly gifted with the certainty of youth.

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This story is worth the afternoon you will spend reading it. And the hours you’ll spend mulling it over afterward. I’ve already started on the sequel, Binti: Home, and will start on Binti: The Night Masquerade after that. This world and the characters are simply too good not to spend my time with.

Next week will be a short one, posts-wise, since I’ll be at the Writing Conference next weekend. But, I should be back on Monday or Tuesday with the usual Goals Summary, and hopefully on Thursday or Friday morning with the review for the next Binti novella.

Until then, Bloggos.

 

BZ

Book Review – The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater

Blogland,

I’m coming out the gate strong with this one. I loved this book! It was such a fun read/listen and I wish I could go back and feel all the anticipation and curiosity all over again!

Goodreads Rating: 5/5 Stars

Scorpio races

Minor spoilers ahead!

The Scorpio Races is a YA Fantasy, though I’d use the term lightly. Set on a fictional island in the UK during the early 1920s, the only thing out of the ordinary is the existence of the Capaill Uisce (pronounced: kappol ish-kuh, roughly) . These are mythical Celtic Water Horses, but Maggie Stiefvater has taken them beyond their legendary origins and brought them to life on the island of Thisby.

The Capaill Uisce are wild sea creatures capable of shifting from aquatic bodies to large and athletic horses on land. They are carnivorous, portrayed as blood-thirsty and obsessed with the sea when kept on shore. Each autumn the men of Thisby try to catch one to ride in the Scorpio races. And each autumn people die beneath hooves and between teeth.

Secretariat
This is Secretariat, but that’s pretty much how I picture Corr.

Sean Kendrick is the returning champion. At 19, he’s won four out of the last six races on his chestnut stallion Corr. The horse was his father’s, who was killed during the race by the stallion when Sean was 10. Corr escaped that day, only for Sean to catch him a few years later. They’ve since forged a strong bond, but Sean keeps on his toes around the stallion all the same. It’s in the nature of the Capaill Uisce to attack, especially as November approaches.

Kate Connolly, aka Puck, is the middle child and the only girl in her house. Her older brother Gabe works constantly, and her younger brother Finn can’t seem to stop fiddling with things long enough to be a proper person. So, Puck spends all her time maintaining their old house in the wilds of Thisby and taking care of her island horse, Dove. The Connolly kids’ parents were killed in a Capaill Uisce attack an unspecified amount of time in the past, but the wound is still very much open in their house.

Dove
I imagine Dove looked this sweet in her little paddock.

And Puck’s about to pour salt in the wound: she’s decided to ride in the Scorpio races.

Her decision shocks the entire island. Though there’s no rule against it, no woman has ever participated in the race, and the men of Thisby are determined to keep it that way.

The Scorpio Races is a thrilling ride, pun intended. It has all the ingredients for a satisfying YA read: First person narrative, simmering first love, and family conflicts. But, it goes above and beyond by adding heavy doses of feminism and ‘a boy and his horse’. As a huge fan of The Black Stallion books as a kid, the appearance of this trope pretty much guaranteed my enthusiasm for this book.

 

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True love never dies…

I should also mention that the narration for the audiobook was very well done. Steve West as Sean was gruff and very internalized, and listening to him read Puck’s dialogue in Sean’s chapters was initially hilarious. Fiona Hardingham read for Puck and she was delightful! All fiery obstinance and strong opinions. Her voice for Sean’s dialogue was equally humorous, and it really gave a sense of what the characters thought of each other. They both have strong British accents, which wasn’t a problem to me, though my personal internal monologue was suddenly British for a few days.

If you want a gripping, standalone book with interesting and well-developed characters  and setting, I can’t recommend The Scorpio Races enough.

I’m still working through Gunpowder Moon. I got a bit distracted with listening to Snow Patrol after they announced their new album, so my reading has slowed down in general. but, I’m getting back on track and should have another review for y’all sometime this weekend.

Until then, Blogland,

 

BZ