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

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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

 

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 – 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

Book Review – Cold Days (Dresden Files #14) by Jim Butcher

Blogland,

Sorry this book review is so late. It’s been a while since I finished the audiobook, so there are only minor spoilers below. Beware that I am a bit Dresden critical in this review

Goodreads Rating: 4/5 Stars

cold days cover

Harry’s back in Chicago for less than six hours and he almost dies at least twice. The stakes are high in this book, as they always are whenever Mab is involved. There’s a lot of tension and fallout between Harry and his friends/family over what he did in the last couple books. It’s been a long year, and everyone in Chicago has felt Dresden’s absence.

So what’s he up to? Oh, you know, the usual stuff. Preventing a horde of spiritual inmates from escaping into the world and rending it asunder. All while coping with a power grab from Maeve and dodging the Summer Lady and her Knight. Oh, and it’s Halloween, so all kinds of weirdness is afoot.

Blessedly, this book is full of characters I want to spend time with. Thomas, Murphy, Butters, Molly, Mouse, and Bob all play major roles. Which is for the best, because Harry is on a slippery slope and it won’t take much for him to be on the fast track to unlikable.

I think that’s good tension, story-wise, but as a reader it is exhausting to read book after book of Harry internalizing all this supposed temptation. Dude. Molly has been your apprentice for years. You’ve known her for more than a decade. We get it, she’s hot. But you shouldn’t still be distracted by the fact. Move on.

The sexualization of every single female character is a big part of why I’ve stepped away from this series for a moment. I get that the White Court Vampires are inhumanly gorgeous. They are succubi, they are literally supposed to preternaturally sexy and tempting. And I have zero beef with Dresden spending a paragraph or two describing and coping with the Raith sisters’ insane sex appeal.

molly stupid stance
She’s looking at something slightly to her left. So of course she angles her body toward the right…

But Molly? Dresden has known her since she “was in a training bra” (which is his super cringe-y way to say he’s known her since she was a kid, btw), she’s the daughter of his BEST FRIEND, and yet every single book we get a paragraph or more to see just how incredibly hot she is and how Harry constantly has impure thoughts about her that he has to beat back with a mental baseball bat.

There’s a word for that…. Oh. Right. Gross.

And it’s not just Molly. Murphy is starting to get this treatment too. Now, she gets a lot more respect from Dresden’s narration, mainly because Karrin would kick his ass if it was ever otherwise, but now that they’re addressing the sexual tension between them and talking through the idea of the two of them dating, suddenly Murph is reduced to physical descriptions and lips that “taste like strawberries”.

Yep. Strawberries. After a crazy midnight ride through Chicago with the Wild Hunt and an even longer day coordinating movement against bad guys and helping Dresden, Murphy’s mouth tasted like strawberries.

I call bullshit. What did she do, pop an altoid right beforehand? Does she have a secret strawberry stash in her Harley’s saddlebags for just this exact reason? Please.

molly_wildcard
The most modestly dressed Molly is ever portrayed, but it’s all skintight. Because sitting criss-cross applesauce in jeans that tight is even possible.

This is a little bit of a tirade on my part, and I apologize, but this really took me out of the story. I was walking through a parking lot, listening to the audiobook in my headphones, and I went from cheering that they kissed to screeching at how preposterous that was. It made me so mad. It was a stupid little superfluous line and it ripped me from the book completely.

But, there are some really good elements in this book. Thomas is in peak form, giving Harry the patience, care, and good sense of humor he probably doesn’t fully deserve. Murphy is realistic and a total badass when it comes to standing up to Harry when he’s wrong and holding her own once she’s made a decision.  Molly has truly come into her own, and seems to have coped well from her time as the Rag Lady. And even Butters has grown into a character with some semblance of spine.

Queen Mab
She changes her appearance at will, but pale and icy blonde tend to be the favorite interpretations.

And, surprisingly, Mab was fantastic. I have never once liked Mab, in all fourteen books. I still can’t really say that I like her, even now. But by the end of this book I saw Mab as more than a force of cold devastating power, as more than just a mad, tyrannical queen. For the very first time, I saw Mab for what else she is; a mother, a woman, a person.

And man, that was a powerful moment.

Mab
Mab concept

I’ll be frank, this was my least favorite Dresden book. It dragged. It was fifteen discs, and only the last six were actually fun or enjoyable. Everything before that felt like needless preamble. Another big problem is that Harry isn’t as likable to me as he used to be. I struggle with him. He says, thinks, and does things that make me sigh and roll my eyes.

Increasingly, my enjoyment of this series is reliant on the side characters. And that is a dangerous thing for a series. I shouldn’t like the secondary characters more than I like the main character, especially in a first person narrative. I guess I just have very little patience for Harry right now.

Which is why I’ve taken a bit of a break from the series. I keep meaning to start Side Jobs, but I can’t seem to muster the will to do so. With Brief Cases coming out in less than a month, I really need to finish Skin Game so I can read the book when it comes in at the library. So, I’ll be changing my reading page once more to reflect my decision to listen to the fifteenth book in the series, and then the first short story collection.

I’ll be back this weekend with the review for Blackfish City. I’m excited to talk about it with you all!

Until then, Bloggos,

 

BZ

 

P.S. It should be noted that, once again, James Marsters narration was fantastic! I absolutely love his voice and his efforts to give each character something unique in their tone or cadence. I always know who’s speaking, even before the narration explains it to me. It’s the main reason I keep coming back to this books. So thanks for that, James.

 

 

Book Review – Ghost Story (Dresden Files #13) by Jim Butcher

I almost forgot about this book review. I was so excited that I finished reading The Stone Sky and Dark Deeds that I was going to write both of those instead. Depending on how the week goes, I still might.

ghost story

Goodreads Rating: 4/5 Stars

This book was probably my least favorite Dresden book so far. That makes it sound like a bad book, which I don’t think is actually fair. It is not a bad book. In fact, as far as action, plot, and character development are concerned, it’s a really good book. But, by the end, I found myself asking, was it really necessary?

I mean, it was good to see Dresden finally realize the ramifications of his actions, to see how much his decisions (good or bad) affect the people around him. I did not like seeing Murph, Molly, and Thomas in their various states throughout this book, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t necessary for Dresden nor good for the story.

It was also nice to see Mort again, reunite with some old faves like Butters and the Alphas, and meet new folks like Sir Stewart and Daniel Carpenter. There were some interesting viewpoints explored and some good character development that might not have happened otherwise.

But overall this book just left me with a big old question mark over my head. Was this really necessary? Did anything in this book matter to what came before? Will it matter to what comes after? I’m unsure. I’ve started Cold Days, but just barely, so there’s nothing to report on that front.

I think what made this book so difficult for me is that, despite the Dresden first person POV, this book wasn’t really about Harry. It was about his friends and allies, all characters I love, but am unused to having such a priority in the narrative.

I should mention that I still thoroughly enjoyed my time reading this book. It was a good story, and I’m always happy to be in Dresden’s world, especially if James Marsters is narrating it. I had to join Audible to get the Marsters version, because the original recording was with a different voice actor. There was no way, after twelve books with Marsters’ fantastic readings, that I could listen to somebody else pretend to be Dresden. To me, it was worth the effort to sign up and get the 30-day trial.

By now you’ve probably noticed that I am avoiding any concrete details in this review. That’s because this book is one great big spoiler. I will do my best, going forward, to keep spoilers in my reviews from being too egregious. I don’t want to accidentally ruin anything for anyone, especially in a series this long. It’s a lot of time and dedication to read/listen to all of these books. I refuse to be the person that let’s the cat out of the proverbial bag.

Later this week I’ll post the review for The Stone Sky. If all goes well with my goals for the week, I might post the Dark Deeds review. If not, it’ll get slated for next week.

Until then, Blogland,

 

BZ