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review 2018-11-05 19:21
The Reader / Traci Chee
The Reader - Traci Chee

Sefia knows what it means to survive. After her father is brutally murdered, she flees into the wilderness with her aunt Nin, who teaches her to hunt, track, and steal. But when Nin is kidnapped, leaving Sefia completely alone, none of her survival skills can help her discover where Nin’s been taken, or if she’s even alive. The only clue to both her aunt’s disappearance and her father’s murder is the odd rectangular object her father left behind, an object she comes to realize is a book—a marvelous item unheard of in her otherwise illiterate society. With the help of this book, and the aid of a mysterious stranger with dark secrets of his own, Sefia sets out to rescue her aunt and find out what really happened the day her father was killed—and punish the people responsible.

 

Librarians, pirates, and assassins, oh my! Once again, I am charmed by a young-adult author.

I loved the magic of reading & literature—quite literally in this story. Sefia, our young female main character, has inherited a Book, her only legacy from her beloved parents. Somehow, Chee makes it seem not only likely, but inevitable, that Sefia would teach herself to read this book and then use it to see the past and explore the present. Her pursuit of the truth about the Book and the loss of her parents & her aunt, lead her to follow a criminal outfit and she eventually rescues a young man who they have been forcing to fight other youngsters to the death for some obscure purpose. He is so traumatized that he is unable to speak, but his fighting prowess leads Sefia to name him Archer.

Chee writes a very egalitarian world without making a big deal about it. For those of us who grew up with fantasy where we had to have a sex change to identify with most of the characters because they were almost all male, this is a very disorientating experience! To read about an assassin, and suddenly realize, wait this is a woman! Same on board the pirate ship—there’s a ship’s boy, but also a ship’s girl, not to mention numerous female crew members. It’s all written matter of factly, and I found myself running face first into my own assumptions on a regular basis. What a pleasant change!

There is the inevitable romance between Sefia and her rescuee, Archer, but it didn’t overwhelm the main plot and was gently developed. I will be pleased to follow their story further in The Speaker.

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review 2018-11-05 18:44
London Rules / Mick Herron
London Rules (Slough House) - Mick Herron

London Rules might not be written down, but everyone knows rule one.  Cover your arse.

 

Regent's Park's First Desk, Claude Whelan, is learning this the hard way. Tasked with protecting a beleaguered Prime Minister, he's facing attack from all directions himself: from the showboating MP who orchestrated the Brexit vote, and now has his sights set on Number Ten; from the showboat's wife, a tabloid columnist, who's crucifying Whelan in print; from the PM's favourite Muslim, who's about to be elected mayor of the West Midlands, despite the dark secret he's hiding; and especially from his own deputy, Lady Di Taverner, who's alert for Claude's every stumble.

 

Meanwhile, the country's being rocked by an apparently random string of terror attacks, and someone's trying to kill Roddy Ho.

 

Over at Slough House, the crew are struggling with personal problems: repressed grief, various addictions, retail paralysis, and the nagging suspicion that their newest colleague is a psychopath. But collectively, they're about to rediscover their greatest strength - that of making a bad situation much, much worse.

 

It's a good job Jackson Lamb knows the rules. Because those things aren't going to break themselves.

 

I think Mick Herron’s Slough House series just keeps improving! Herron brings his characteristic humour to the creation of the failed spies of Slough House, with characters who all exhibit personal problems that interfere daily with their ability to function.

Eight months of anger fucking management sessions, and this evening she'd officially be declared anger free. It had been hinted she might even get a badge. That could be a problem--if anyone stuck a badge on her, they'd be carrying their teeth home in a hanky.



Roderick Ho, the obnoxious computer nerd, gets to shine not-so-brightly in this installment. He’s been assigned to Slough House because of the ridiculous self-delusionary bubble that he inhabits, not because of a work screw up. And the nature of his personal fantasy life tips him into the hands of North Korean operatives, bent on showing the U.K. that the Hermit Kingdom is its superior.

Despite the fact that all the other damaged members of the House despise Rod, when a car tries to run him down while he is stalking Pokemon on his way to work, everyone decides that they need to protect one of their own. Needless to say, Ho didn’t notice the attempt on his life and remains pretty clueless throughout the book. After four other volumes, we would expect no less (or is that no more?) of the Rodster.

Jackson Lamb, the malignant supervisor of Slough House, is at his obnoxious best in this installment. He is smoking to excess, drinking to excess, not maintaining his personal hygiene, insulting everyone who crosses his path, and (still) emitting reeking farts at will. But as truly horrible as he is, he protects his own. I was particularly happy, when at the end of this book, Lamb insists

that Roddy Ho be returned to Slough House rather than terminated.

(spoiler show)

 

 

As Lamb remarks: Slough House, putting the “us” in “clusterfuck.”

 

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review 2018-11-05 17:33
Black Sun Rising / C.S. Friedman
Black Sun Rising - C.S. Friedman

Over a millenium ago, Erna, a seismically active yet beautiful world was settled by colonists from far-distant Earth. But the seemingly habitable planet was fraught with perils no one could have foretold, and the colonists found themselves caught in a desperate battle for survival against the fae, a terrifying natural force with the power to prey upon the human mind itself, drawing forth a person's worst nightmare images or most treasured dreams and indiscriminately giving them life.
Twelve centuries after fate first stranded the colonists on Erna, mankind has achieved an uneasy stalemate, and human sorcerers manipulate the fae for their own profit, little realizing that demonic forces which feed upon such efforts are rapidly gaining in strength. Now, as the hordes of the dark fae multiply, four people - Priest, Adept, Apprentice, and Sorcerer - are about to be drawn inexorably together for a mission which will force them to confront an evil beyond their imagining, in a conflict which will put not only their own lives but the very fate of humankind in jeopardy...

 

This book has been one that I’d been looking forward to in my SFF reading list and I was not disappointed! It has much more good/evil complexity than many of the fantasy books that were previously published (before 1991). Although it is in many ways a typical quest tale, Friedman gives it a couple of twists that distinguish it from earlier quest tales—one member of the party is undoubtedly evil and the party is looking to track down a demon-type entity which has stolen the memories of one of the party. This demon must be killed to restore her to some semblance of normality. Normally, all of the questers would be good guys (sometimes corrupted like Boromir in LOTR), but this is like inviting one the Nazgul to join you in your travels! They are not looking for an object, but for a target, bringing back a memory, not a trophy.

The world Erna, where this tale takes place, reminded me somewhat of Sheri Tepper’s world, Grass. There is a malign feeling to Erna and its inhabitants toward the humans who have settled there that felt familiar from that world. I also was reminded of Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Darkover series—the settlers of Erna didn’t actually choose the planet so much as get stranded there and have to deal with the fae emanations of the new world, just as the Darkover colonists must deal with their unchosen planet. Plus, the changes to humans and the rakh of Erna made me think of Julian May’s The Many Colored Land, and the adaptations of the ship-wrecked Tanu & Firvulag on ancient Earth.

Having enjoyed all of those books, these were all good associations for me. Although most groups fulfilling a quest have to deal with the price of success, I thought this one explored the notion of “how much power at what cost” very effectively. It is, of course, the first book in a trilogy, so I didn’t expect things to wrap up neatly, but I was pleasantly surprised at how unsettling the ending was—Ciani is restored, but has been very much changed by the whole experience; the priest has to let go of his preferred outcome; the Hunter has realized his limitations. I very much look forward to continuing the series.

Book number 296 in my Science Fiction & Fantasy Reading Project.

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review 2018-11-05 16:47
Diamond Fire / Ilona Andrews
Diamond Fire - Ilona Andrews

Catalina Baylor is looking forward to wearing her maid of honor dress and watching her older sister walk down the aisle. Then the wedding planner gets escorted off the premises, the bride’s priceless tiara disappears, and Rogan's extensive family overruns his mother’s home. Someone is cheating, someone is lying, and someone is plotting murder.

To make this wedding happen, Catalina will have to do the thing she fears most: use her magic. But she’s a Baylor and there’s nothing she wouldn't do for her sister's happiness. Nevada will have her fairy tale wedding, even if Catalina has to tear the mansion apart brick by brick to get it done.

 

My preferred retail bookstore had this novella on the shelf several days before the release date, so I hurried in to pluck it quickly before someone realized the error! (I was also on a Christmas shopping mission for my 2.5 year-old great-nephew, so it was a two-birds-one-stone shopping excursion).

I have read and re-read the Andrews’ Hidden Legacy series more times that I care to admit right now. I’m not exactly sure why this fantasy world appeals to me so strongly, but it does. When the authors wrapped up the initial trilogy and weren’t sure if they would be able to publish more, I verged on despondent! Three books was simply not enough for this world and these characters! I wanted more!

This charming little novella is the bridge between the Nevada-Rogan plot line and starting a new series that stars Nevada’s sister, Catalina. The first chapter features Nevada’s point-of-view, which the reader is used to, and then we are transitioned over to Catalina quite easily.

Catalina is in the throes of learning how to use her newly-acknowledged magic, to be an adult investigator for the family business, and to interact more comfortably with people outside her immediate family. I think any young person can relate to the last two, as can older people who remember those years. Her magic (labelled Siren by the testing committee) is unusual and powerful, leading to interesting situations. This makes the upcoming series very appealing and I will be watching eagerly for the release date in 2019 of the first book.

Thanks to the Andrews for continuing on with the series and to Avon for agreeing to publish them.

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text 2018-11-03 15:00
October Books

I read 32 books last month with an average score of 3.84. 14 of the books were young adult and 3 were graphic novels. My most-read genres were contemporary, mystery, and romance. Halloween Bingo is to thank for mystery being so high. I was surprised that I barely read any fantasy books at all since it's usually up there.

 

My favorite books were The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein - Kiersten WhiteCheck, Please!: #Hockey - Ngozi Ukazu, and A Gentleman Never Keeps Score - Cat Sebastian. My least favorite was Dear Evan Hansen: The Novel - Steven Levenson,Justin Paul,Benj Pasek,Val Emmich.

 

 

5 Stars

The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein - Kiersten White  A Gentleman Never Keeps Score - Cat Sebastian  Check, Please!: #Hockey - Ngozi Ukazu  

 

4.5 Stars

Kamisama Kiss, Vol. 01 - Julietta Suzuki,Tomo Kimura  The Witness for the Prosecution (Short Story e-book) - Agatha Christie  Puddin' - Julie Murphy  We Say #NeverAgain: Reporting by the Parkland Student Journalists - Melissa Falkowski,Eric Garner,Parkland Student Journalists  Give Me Your Hand - Megan Abbott  

 

4 Stars

A Gathering of Shadows - V.E. Schwab  Into the Drowning Deep - Mira Grant  I'd Rather Be Reading: The Delights and Dilemmas of the Reading Life - Anne Bogel  Fatal Throne: The Wives of Henry VIII Tell All - Linda Sue Park,Lisa Ann Sandell,Stephanie Hemphill,Candace Fleming,Deborah Hopkinson,M.T. Anderson,Jennifer Donnelly  We Regret to Inform You - Ariel Kaplan  S.T.A.G.S - M.A. Bennett  How I Resist: Activism and Hope for a New Generation - Libba Bray,Maureen Johnson,Rosie O'Donnell,Jacqueline Woodson,Jeffrey Rowland,Jason Reynolds,KC Green,Malinda Lo,Jennifer Weiner,Jodi Picoult,Sabaa Tahir,Alex Gino,Dylan Marron,Karuna Riazi,Jesse Tyler Ferguson,Dana Schwartz,Rebecca Roanhorse,Ali Stroker,  Dead And Gone - Charlaine Harris  The Other Woman - Sandie Jones  Sofia Khan is Not Obliged - Ayisha Malik  China Rich Girlfriend: A Novel - Kevin Kwan  

 

3.5 Stars

The Summer I Turned Pretty - Jenny Han  Emergency Contact - Mary H. K. Choi  Shock & Awe - Abigail Roux  Fatal Shadows - Josh Lanyon  Denton Little's Deathdate - Lance Rubin  It's Not Summer Without You - Jenny Han  

 

3 Stars

Our House - Louise Candlish  A Whole New World: A Twisted Tale - Liz Braswell,Parragon Books  All-New Wolverine Vol. 4: Immune - Leonard Kirk,Tom Taylor  Lizzie - Dawn Ius  The Fourth Man - Agatha Christie  Three Days Missing - Kimberly Belle  

 

2.5 Stars

Dear Evan Hansen: The Novel - Steven Levenson,Justin Paul,Benj Pasek,Val Emmich 

 

 

Books by author gender:

  • Male: 5
  • Female: 24
  • Male/Female/Non-Binary Mix: 3

 

Books by format:

  • Physical: 19
  • Audio: 13
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