Reading Round Up – February 2019

Blogland,

I really liked last month’s Round Up. It was  nice to write up smaller thoughts and impressions of books I’d read, and it really streamlines my search for “what the heck I read last month” when I’m writing other posts or want to look at my reading to look for book recommendations at the library. Useful and convenient? Yes, please!

Title: Rivers of London vol. 4: Black Mould
black mould.jpgAuthor: Ben Aaronovitch, Andrew Cartmel, and Lee Sullivan
Format: Graphic Novel
My Goodreads Rating: 4/5 Stars
Thoughts: This is a fun side story in the Rivers of London universe, following Peter and Guleed as they chase down a sentient, malicious, magical mold (mould if you’re British). What I really like about all of the graphic novels is that they give side characters a chance to shine. Guleed, Molly, and even Toby the Terrier get their time in the spotlight. The only reason I didn’t give this a 5 star rating is because they tend to be so fluffy. This are fun spin-offs and nothing more. And there’s nothing wrong with that.
Recommend: Absolutely, for fans of the novels.

Title: Rivers of London vol. 5: Cry Foxcry fox.jpg
Author: Ben Aaronovitch, Andrew Cartmel, and Lee Sullivan
Format: Graphic Novel
My Goodreads Rating: 4/5 Stars
Thoughts: Another good installment, although this one bummed me out a little. The character Renard was introduced in one of the later novels of the series, and I found his true neutral personality to be very intriguing. but in this story, Renard firmly plants himself in the realm of the baddies. *sigh* But, this was another example of side characters getting their time to shine. This issue featured Abigail and Guleed as unwilling players in a modern-day version of The Most Dangerous Game.
Recommend: Absolutely, if you liked the novels.

Title: I’ll Be Gone in the Dark: One Woman’s Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killeri'll be gone in the dark
Author: Michelle McNamara
Format: Digital Audiobook
Narrator(s): Gabra Zackman, Gillian Flynn – Introduction, Patton Oswalt – Afterword
My Goodreads Rating: 5/5 Stars
Thoughts: Oh my god, where do I even start with this book? I loved everything about it. The prose, the narration, the details. McNamara did an amazing job of not shying away from the horror the Golden State Killer wrought across California, but painting it in an incredibly human light. She focused on the victims and how it felt to be one, or to know one, or to fear you might become one. She also did an incredible job of humanizing herself without making the book about her. She acknowledged the insanity of her obsession and the toll it had on her life and her relationships, without coming across as whiny or unaware of her own privilege. She was thoughtful and that showed in her narrative. The narrator did a fantastic job of bringing this book to life for me, and her voice could be so soft and quiet, and then so gravelly and terrifying. Her range astounded me. I even liked the introduction, afterword, and extras included at the end. A really wonderful book if you have even the slightest interest in true crime or serial killers.
Recommend: Yes. Yes, yes, yes.

Title: Firefly: Big Damn Herobig damn hero
Author: James Lovegrove (original idea by Nancy Holder)
Format: Hardback
My Goodreads Rating: 2/5 Stars
Thoughts:
 You know I hate giving low reviews, but this was an underwhelming and trope-filled adventure through the ‘Verse. There’s better fanfic available for free on the internet. See my full review for more details.
Recommend: Nah. There are better media tie-ins out there. Or better yet, just go back and watch the show. If you really have a hankering, you could always find some high quality fanfic to scratch that itch.

Title: Lies Sleeping (Rivers of London #7) 
Author: Ben Aaronovitch
Format: Hardbacklies sleeping
My Goodreads Rating:
5/5 Stars
Thoughts: Aaronovitch is a really consistent author. I have a great time reading the Rivers of London series no matter which installment is currently in my hands. This latest novel is no exception. It was a little slow to start, but that is likely more my fault than the book’s. This book really picked up in the second half and even brought me to tears once. It’s at once fun, harrowing, and emotional. I really enjoyed my time with it. See my full review for more details.
Recommend:
Yep! But you’ll need to read all the others first. Oh no… more books to read!

Not too shabby for the shortest month of the year, and one with a major video game release. I’ll count this as a win, for sure. In March I’m reading a short story a day on top of my normal reading, so keep an eye on the What I’m Reading page for updates!

Talk soon, Bloggos.

 

BZ

 

 

Book Review – Lies Sleeping (Rivers of London #7) by Ben Aaronovitch

Blogland,

I’ve had a really great and productive weekend, and just finally made time to sit down and write this review. I’m also watching N.K. Jemisin play Mass Effect 3 on Twitch right now, so I’m a little distracted. But, man, what a time to be alive!

On to the review!

Goodreads Rating: 5/5 Stars

lies sleeping

Lies Sleeping is the long awaited seventh novel in the Rivers of London series. If you’re not caught up, you should probably stop reading now. No. Seriously. SPOILERS AHOY. If you are caught up, but could use a refresher, I have posted reviews of all of the previous six novels and you can find links to them in my 2018 What I’m Reading list.

But, for real. There’s no going back after this. Are you sure you wish to proceed?

…..
…..

…..
…..

All right. If you’re sure…

At the end of The Hanging Tree the Faceless Man was identified as one Martin Chorley, overall rich white dude with an obsession with Tolkien and, oh. Right. Magically splicing people with animals, murdering several individuals, and even accidentally having a hand in his own daughter’s death. Dude’s as bad an egg as can be. And he’s got Lesley on his side.

The plan this time? Summon Mr. Punch, kill him, and take his power à la Highlander in order to become a god. Honestly? That sounds about right for the Faceless Man. Not like he ever had small ambitions.

mr punch
as if this face isn’t terrifying enough, I’ve also read these books. Punch and Judy is forever ruined.

In this newest book, things seem to come full circle. Mr. Punch gets what’s his. Bev, Guleed, Nightingale, and even Molly all have some plot points either established or resolved, and Peter kinda sorta saves the day.

Well, actually, he cocks everything up trying to do the moral thing and Lesley saves(?) the day while simultaneously getting Peter in deep shit at the Met. She takes off with an ominous, “Don’t try to follow me,” and Peter’s left to clean up the mess of Martin Chorley. Literally.

The book is a blast. A little slow to start, but there are a lot of pieces to weave together and not so many pages to do it in. There’s also a lot of hints at where the series may go from here, with little tidbits about what some of the side characters might get up to in the coming books. I even cried at one point, because something really wonderful happens to Molly and I was legitimately overjoyed for her.

My only gripe is the ending, which I don’t want to get into in too much detail. And it’s not the ending necessarily, but what Aaronovitch decides to make of that ending in whatever story comes next. He’s set himself up for some wicked trope potholes, and I hope he’s able to navigate them in twisted and interesting ways.

But I’m afraid he won’t. He hasn’t fallen into any of them yet, so I’m not sure why I’m so worried, but I am. Time will tell how he handles this new development in the series.

However, as a book in a series, Lies Sleeping was quite, quite good. A fast read with the expected witty dialogue and great character development and setting. Yet again, I felt like I’ve known London my whole life, instead of only having visited for three days when I was fifteen. In just under 300 pages almost every side character known in the series had a moment in the spotlight, which was a bit busy, but still welcome. I love these characters.

I hope there are many Rivers of London books to come, and we at least know that Aaronovitch is working on another novella in the Rivers of London series, The October Man. In the meantime, I’m reading The Black God’s Drums by P. Djèlí Clark right now, and likely to finish it tonight or tomorrow. Since it’s a novella, look for my thoughts on it in the March Reading Round Up.

I’ll be back tomorrow to talk about goals and such, and the have the February Reading Round up posted later in the week. Then we’re on vacation!

Talk soon, Bloggarts!

 

BZ

Book Review – The Furthest Station (Peter Grant #5.5) by Ben Aaronovitch

Hey Bloggos,

Just a quick post today. This novella takes place between Foxglove Summer and The Hanging Tree, so I made a point to get it through the Interlibrary Loan program at my public library before I crack open the last book.

Goodreads Rating: 3/5 Stars

furthest station

In a city as old as London, Peter Grant and the other members of the Falcon unit (aka, the branch of the Metropolitan Police that deals with “weird shit”) have come to expect their fair share of ghosts. But when there are multiple sightings along a particular line of the underground the Folly takes notice and sends their best: Peter Grant and his 14 year old cousin, Abigail.

Since these ghosts keep manifesting on train cars, we also see the return of Jaget Kumar, the BTP (British Transport Police) equivalent of The Folly, unit of one. Lucky for me, I really liked Jaget in his debut in Whispers Under Ground, and I was happy to see him make a reappearance.

So, Peter, his cousin, Jaget, and Nightingale all swoop in to try and figure out what these ghosts are all about and why they’re just now manifesting. It doesn’t take long for the team to discern that the ghosts are trying to send a message, and that a “Princess” is in danger, held captive in a “dungeon”.

Peter is the one to make the leap from ghostly poetry to kidnapped woman in the suburb of Chesham, and the hunt begins!

This novella was a ton of fun. Beverly Brook makes an appearance along with a River God toddler, as does Toby the magic-sniffing dog, and there’s plenty of light-heartedness and humor. I think that’s why I gave it such a low rating. After Foxglove Summer, I need more answers about Lesley and the Faceless Man. I wasn’t ready to read light-hearted.

It’s probably my fault for reading it in between, but that’s the timeline of the story! And, I understand that meaty, series-wide storylines are unlikely to get much focus in a novella since novella readership is typically much lower than novels. I get it.

But I ultimately felt a bit underwhelmed by this story. It was too topical. Too… fluffy. I wanted more. So, three stars it is.

My reading slowed down a little this week because I finally got my hands on Detroit: Become Human! I loved it, by the way, and will probably waste a lot of time playing it and exploring all the different possible scenarios. borne

 

I’m ingesting Borne in leaps and bounds, just few and far between. I’m also reading a lot of short stories right now to do some research for when we get back from Germany and it’s time to edit That Which Illuminates Heaven.

I don’t know if I’ll have a book review for next week. It’s a holiday weekend and my best friend is in town from Iowa. But, maybe later in the week? Hopefully?

I hope you all have a great Labor Day weekend! I’ll be around tomorrow for the monthly recap, and then again on Monday for the usual weekly goals summary.

Until then Blogland,

 

BZ

Book Review – Broken Homes (Peter Grant #4) by Ben Aaronovitch

Hi Blogland,

This week got off to a slow start with a migraine that refused to respond to medication. Yesterday was my first day without pain, and I had some obligations in the morning and then work in the evening. So, now it’s Friday and I’m finally here with the review for the next Peter Grant book! Beware some minor spoilers below.

Goodreads Rating: 5/5 Stars

broken homes

I think this was my favorite of the books so far. As I’ve come to expect, Peter takes the reader through an all new area of London, furthering my mental image of the city with each flip of the page.

A string of suspicious but seemingly unrelated murders have piqued Nightingale’s interest, which means Peter and Lesley are on the job. From the car accident that revealed a murder in progress to the Housing Authority worker that committed suicide on the Underground. It all links back to a stolen book, a German tome on the industrial uses of magic and an architect from the 60s.

You see, the Faceless Man wants that book, and he wants the building the architect used to mine magical energy.

So, Peter and Lesley move into a vacant flat in the rundown Skygarden Tower. It’s a low income area with passionate tenants that have called the tower home for decades. They have monthly meetings to discuss how to combat the city council and keep the building protected.

Which is unfortunate, because the Faceless Man intends to blow it up.

This book takes its time setting up the history and lore, including how Skygarden Tower was designed, the purpose it serves, and the lives of those who call it home. Including a wood nymph named Sky who may be the spirit of the land the tower is built on. The Rivers are present, including the return of Peter’s almost lover Beverly Brook, and Zach the half-fae even makes a comeback!

But, once you reach the last 70 pages or so, things really take off. I felt like there were more action sequences in this book than in the previous one, and we get to see Nightingale really take off the gloves and unleash some monstrous power on the Faceless Man’s flunkies.

And, you know, Peter throws himself into danger in order to save civilians, like the proper copper he is.

There’s a lot more going on in this book, including some very interesting character developments, but I don’t want to give too much away. Suffice it to say I really liked this book and it launched me into Foxglove Summer the very next morning. foxglove summer

I’m hoping to get a ton of reading done over the weekend. I’m running out of time on these Interlibrary loans!

I should have another book review out next week, and I think it’s just about time to have a big Submission discussion, where I talk about my submissions so far and then share what my submission process looks like and what resources I use.

So, keep an eye out for both of those sometime next week.

 

Until then, Bloggos,

 

BZ

Book Review – Whispers Under Ground (Peter Grant #3) by Ben Aaronovitch

Bloggoroonies!

It’s midnight, I just received another personal rejection on The Cost of Rain, so while let’s talk about Whispers Under Ground so I can ignore this damn unpleasant feeling in my chest for a few more minutes.

Goodreads Rating: 4/5 Stars

Whispers_Under_Ground

The third book in the Peter Grant series continues the tradition of sharp wit and dialogue with another twisty-turny plot that leads Peter and Co., throughout London. This time it’s a US Senator’s son that’s been murdered in the underground. There doesn’t seem to be anything too magical about it, except that the murder weapon appears to be a shard of some sort of ceramic. A shard with an incredible strong vestigia (magical odor/signature of sorts).

So in come Peter and Lesley, searching out the elusive origins of the pottery. But between the unofficial interference from the FBI and the erratic behavior of the victim’s fae roommate, Zach, things aren’t quite as easy as they could be.

railway lines
Turns out even ghosts aren’t safe from trains.

The pottery leads them all over the city, until they finally find a secret passage down into the underground. That means that the BTP (British Transport Police) have to be brought in, which really means that their one-man X-Files agent assists Peter on the case. And they have to dodge the over-eager, religious FBI agent that’s so keen to solve the murder that she (illegally) carries a firearm through the city. And, as always the Rivers have a role to play.

Peter had his hands full in this book. Poor guy.

This book was a lot of fun. I really liked Lesley’s added role as she’s become Nightingale’s second apprentice and Zach was an unexpected delight. He’s half fairy which makes him, well, a bit of a shit, but I found it endearing. He eventually proves to be very integral to the investigation, and I was glad to have him around as much as he was.

As I’ve come to expect from this series, London is vibrant and almost shockingly real on the page. I feel like, even though it’s been thirteen years since I’ve been there, that I have a familiarity with the city thanks to these books. To clarify, I know I don’t. It’s a monstrous metropolis and reading a few books will not help me navigate it should I ever return, but at least I’ll remember some points of interest!

So, if I liked the plot overall, liked the characters and the setting, why only four stars? Well, I guessed the ending AGAIN! Though, this time I think I just happened to be very perceptive. It wasn’t as obvious and really hinged on my being suspicious of a certain detail early on in the book. But still, I called it two books in a row!

Another factor in my rating was that, after the intense end of Moon Over Soho and the revelation of the existence of The Faceless Man, this book had very little to do with him. There’s some legwork to be done, some old school policing in researching who went to the right school at the right time to have been a rogue Magician’s apprentice and so on. There’s more character development and we get to see the full breadth of the Folly’s network and resources, including the Bodleian library at Oxford!bodleain library.jpg

I will admit, as a library worker, that bit made me really happy.

But, there’s still surprisingly little about the biggest threat in the series so far. So, four stars it is.

I’m about one hundred pages short of finishing Broken Homes. I’m looking to finish it tonight or tomorrow. I’m running out of time to get all these books read before the due dates, and they aren’t eligible for renewal. I need to step up my reading game!

I’ll be back on Monday to talk about my week and complain about writing my query letter, which is my main goal for the day. Wish me luck y’all, because it’s gonna suck.

Until then,

 

BZ

Book Review – Midnight Riot (Peter Grant #1) by Ben Aaronovitch

This book was recommended to me by reader David, so thank you so much! I may have never discovered this series without your suggestion!

Midnight Riot, published as Rivers of London in the UK, is the first in an ongoing Urban Fantasy series that follows PC Peter Grant as he investigates paranormal crimes in London.

Goodreads Rating: 5/5 Stars

Midnight Riot

While guarding a murder scene, Peter Grant discovers a witness to the crime, but there’s a problem. The man is a ghost. Not the figural “difficult to pin down” sort of ghost, but the literal “lingering manifestation of the dead” sort. And to make matters even worse, Peter’s learned that he’s being relegated to a desk job.

Needless to say, he’s had a rough night.

That is, until he crosses paths with one Inspector Constable Nightingale and admits to the man that he’s trying to talk to a ghost. That catches the Constable’s attention, and suddenly Peter is out of the pan and into the fire; Nightingale is a bonafide magician, and has selected Peter as his apprentice.

He’s pretty sure Nightingale is bonkers, but anything’s better than desk duty, right?

But, as the months go by, there are more disturbing murders, in which people are being psychically controlled, and then their faces are broken to the point of death, and Peter actually learns to do magic! Turns out, Nightingale is the last member of what was once the Metropolitan Police’s magical investigations unit (that’s not the actual name of it, but you get the idea). They have their own headquarters, a big old house known as The Folly, where Nightingale begins the long and arduous task of teaching Peter magic. And latin. And history. There’s a lot more to being a magician than just saying funny words, you know.

This was an incredibly quick read, mainly because I opened it on a Sunday, a day off, and simply could not put it down. I credit that to the incredibly witty narrative and the tight and concise action sequences. Ultimately, the book is fun. Just pure, hilarious, and even gritty fun.

Peter’s first person narrative is distinct from Dresden’s because he has lived his life so far as an exceedingly normal man. He’s smart, with an interest and passion for science, but he’s also an underachiever. He was just a normal Constable until he met a ghost. Which is a pretty typical approach to fantasy, make the point of view that of the newcomer, so that the reader learns along with them. Peter Grant

But, it works really well in this book thanks to Peter’s dry sarcasm and his unique perspective as a mixed-race PC. His mother is from Sierra Leone and his father is a local jazz legend, brought low by a heroin addiction. Aaronovitch was sneaky in this regard, painting Peter as quite normal, the canvas for all the weird and paranormal to happen against, but as you get to know him, he grows into someone wholly interesting in his own right.

This series has a lot to recommend it. Peter’s narrative, well composed action sequences, exploration of local folklore and a wonderfully developed sense of place. The plot is really well done, original, with magic used in ways I haven’t really seen before. While there are similarities to Dresden (sarcastic magic wielders take on paranormal baddies), this series takes a different path to get there.

PC Peter Grant GN

I’m pleased to say that the second book holds up to its predecessor, as you’ll see in my forthcoming review. There are six books currently out in this series, as well as a novella, a free audible short story, and a slew of graphic novels. AKA, it’s perfect for me. I’ve got all the novels from the library, and have requested the novella and the graphic novels through Interlibrary Loan, because I cannot get enough of this series.

If you find yourself with a free weekend, give Midnight Riot (or Rivers of London if you’re outside the US) a shot. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

I’ll be back this weekend to talk about Brief Cases, and will have a couple of book reviews ready for next week as well. As usual, thank you for reading this far!

Talk at you soon,

 

BZ