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review 2019-01-27 10:13
General of the Dead
SLEEPY HOLLOW: General of the Dead (Jason Crane Book 3) - Richard Gleaves

by Richard Gleaves

 

Having enjoyed the first two books of this series, I really did have to finish the trilogy. Oddly, it seems to have become tradition for me to read one of the books each Halloween! Very fitting for the theme of the story.

 

This one opens with what I could see had to be a nightmare sequence, but how much of it was dream and how much reflection on the real situation? That isn't given away right away.

 

The second book had left the situation in a mess and I have to admit, I couldn't imagine how the author was going to untangle it all. However, slowly, one strand at a time, the various convoluted happenings took form in the early chapters until it all began to make sense.

 

Several chapters in the middle were devoted to giving back story on Agathe. While I found these slow reading, the information did help see where her character was coming from. There is a lot of artistic license taken on the original Headless Horseman tale, but that's to be expected.

 

I had mixed feelings about the book as a whole. Sometimes I was caught up in the action and other times I felt it went too far afield of believability, considering I was reading a ghost story! The one thing that really took me out of the story was an inaccurate use of tarot cards, changed to fit the story. I figure if an author is going to use something like that as a device, they should read at least one book on the meanings and use them as they are supposed to be! Otherwise they could invent their own divination system, like the cards used in the Thieves World series.

 

The other thing that didn't work was inconsistency in the villain's behavior. Once incident in particular at the lighthouse was completely out of character and struck me as a lazy way to get out of a tight situation. Also the townspeople don't react much to widespread murder and with enough shooting incidents in the U.S. to show how people really react in recent history, it just felt neglected.

 

Mostly the ending resolved things, though a bit at the very end felt insufficiently related and just thrown in as a jumping off point for another series within the same world. I'm done though. The supernatural world built through this series didn't quite work for me, although I did enjoy Jason's story for the most part.

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review 2018-12-16 01:10
Hogfather by Terry Pratchett (audiobook)
Hogfather - Terry Pratchett,Nigel Planer

Series: Discworld #20

 

A seasonal read that is just as fun as always, pretty much. There's lots of snarky commentary and adventures with the wizards, Susan, and the Death of Rats. I'm not sure what else to say, so I'll point you to my previous updates and a previous review.

 

Previous updates:

65 % (stuff to give the troops)

39 % (we have a fake imposter)

 

Previous review

 

 

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review 2018-12-04 22:32
The Water Rat of Wanchai
The Water Rat of Wanchai - Ian Hamilton

They had been profitable years, with Ava earning enough money for the condo and the car and an impressive investment portfolio. But the best thing about the jobs she and Uncle did was the ride getting to the money - it was never the same twice, and though it taxed her emotionally, it also forced her to expand her senses and her thought processes. Then there were the clients. Although she complained about them sometimes, especially those who in utter desperation were far too clinging and demanding, she also accepted Uncle's conviction that they were simply lost souls looking for redemption. "When we get them their money back, what we are really doing is saving their lives," he would say. Ava believed that, too.

Ava Lee is a forensic accountant, but we learn very little about what forensic accountants do in this book, because right from the get-go, Ava Lee turns into this shady figure tracking down people and information by using any means necessary - deception, coercion, chloral hydrate, but very little accounting.

 

Oh, I am so conflicted about this book. I really wanted to like this a lot. I was really hoping to find a new series that would fill that silly void left by other series about action-packed espionage. And this one looked good because the idea of a Bond-like figure written as a woman sounded too good to pass by.

 

However, the execution of the book didn't live up to my expectations at all. There are silly plot elements that required me to suspend disbelief just a little too much, like when Ava calls up a shipping company out of the cold and they remember every single detail about a one-off, very ordinary, transaction from 8 weeks earlier, and they didn't even have to consult their files? I found that hardly credible.  

 

There were other elements of the writing that also grated on me: the use of brand names instead of descriptions, was a major annoyance. I find this so lazy. Even if we get to learn that someone wore Adidas pants, it still doesn't tell me what colour or style or whether they were tracksuit bottoms or the more fashion-conscious kind. All I know is that they may have stripes down the sides (tho not all of them do...). 

So lazy. Yet, this book is full of this. Brand names appear so often that I once even laughed at how the multitude of product placement compared to a James Bond film, which is famously full of the same advertising. 

 

There was one particular scene where the author has Ava decide between two hotels in Hong Kong (or was it Macao), and I literally had to skip the page because I was not going to put up with reading an advertising leaflet for the Mandarin Oriental. Still, as we can see, the advert worked as I will forever remember the name of the hotel. Gaaaahhh...

I'm so annoyed about this. And I haven't even mentioned Ava's addition to a particular kind of Starbucks coffee sachet...

 

In all of this, what I can only describe as an exercise to replace descriptive writing with consumerist imagery, the plot and character development gets left behind. 

In the first half of the book, Ava does little else than answer phone calls and jump on planes to exotic locations. 

In the second half of the book, the plot thickens. Or rather, Ava breaks out her martial art skills to kidnap someone...

Ironically, this is where I should have really gotten into the book and just didn't. It took me a lot longer to finish the book than I thought, because I just could not face the tedium of reading about Ava's attempts to restore money to a company account. I think I'd have been more interested in it if the underlying purpose had not been quite so ... transactional, and if there had been more emphasis on the characters involved.  

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text 2018-12-02 14:17
Reading progress update: I've read 64 out of 412 pages.
The Water Rat of Wanchai - Ian Hamilton

I should be able to finish this book today, as I am having up to 2 hours of uninterrupted reading time while my car is getting new winter tyres put on.

The gent at the garage told me I could wait or I could leave and he'd give me a call when they have finished. Even he smiled when I pulled out my book asking him to point me to their waiting room.

 

So, reading the heck out of this book while fuelled by garage coffee. :)

 

As for the book, I'm still interested but there are elements that really annoy me.

 

For example,  I find it a stretch to believe that a shipping company would remember the details of a one-off job from 8 weeks ago, that was a normal job, without consulting its files.

That does not happen, and yet, this happened twice already.

 

Anyway, onwards...

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review 2018-11-25 08:57
"The Mermaid's Madness - Princess #2" by Jim C. Hines - the series gets a little darker
The Mermaid's Madness - Jim C. Hines

"The Mermaid's Madness" is the second book in this series about three princesses who aren't quite the ones you know from the fairytales and the Disney movies. The first book, "The Stepsister Scheme" brought together Snow White and Sleeping Beauty as agents of Cinderella's new mother-in-law, the Queen Beatrice of Lorindar. Snow is a sorceress with a slightly ribald sense of humour, Beauty (never call her that to her face) is a trained assassin and the Cinders, who now has a young son, has a magic sword and an ability to lead.

 

"The Mermaid's Madness" gives us a different look at what the story of The Little Mermaid looks like if you drop the soft-focus and treat the mermaid at the centre of the story as a real person. The story starts with the Undine/merfolk, who are lead by the most senior female undine, breaking a long-standing truce with Lorindar and attacking and wounding Queen Beatrice.

 

As the Undine will only treat with women, the three princesses set out to try and end the war with the Undine and save Queen Beatrice's life.

 

The Undine, as Jim Hines imagines them, are not just humans who can swim underwater, they are an aquatic species with their own culture, gifted with significant magical abilities, especially via their voices, who are able to communicate with humans. When an undine princess falls in love with a human prince who betrays her, she goes mad with grief and everything else follows.

 

Like it's predecessor, this is, at least on the surface, a boisterous, trope-twisting, witty romp of a book but beneath that shiny surface is something much darker. There is a vein of sadness that runs through the book whenever we get to how the young women in the story have been treated by the powerful, especially powerful men. The book is filled with strong women but almost all of them have been damaged or at least wounded by their encounters with people who fail to see them as fully human.

 

I admire Jim C. Hines' ability to write a rollicking tale with mermaids and selkies and sea battles that has a fast pace and is lubricated with humour and yet still bring the reader back time and again to real sources of pain.

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