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review 2017-03-15 02:24
Midnight Riot (or, Rivers of London)
Midnight Riot - Ben Aaronovitch,Kobna Holdbrook-Smith

Oh, boy, that was fun! And funny! This is like the UK's answer to Harry Dresden - if Harry was way more mellow and his dog was a slipper with ears. Harry's dog might be named Mouse, but he ain't tiny. :) Toby still has it where it counts though.

 

Survey says: Harry kicks ass; Peter is swell bloke.

 

The world-building was pretty well-developed throughout the story, not just for the magic stuff but for London itself for us non-Londoners who don't know how London works. I imagine it's told in a politely backhanded enough way to still be amusing to those who live there though. We're told only what we need to know when we need to know it, and aren't info-dumped for no reason, yet it still manages to set things up for later books.

 

The case was interesting and certainly unexpected.

Punch and Judy is just messed up, y'all. And to think that was considered appropriate entertainment for the whole family back in the day.

(spoiler show)

Leslie looks like she's getting set up to be the Murphy of this universe, only much more mellow and less awesome. Though she could still end up being awesome later. We'll see. 

 

I'm not sure at all why the American publisher changed the name of the book from Rivers of London - since the rivers actually are pretty important - to Midnight Riot. Sure, there's a riot and it happens at night, but it's not even the climax of the book. Com'n. Did they really think we'd need the promise of a riot to get us interested? That's horrible. This isn't like trying to get kids interested in a bunch of old guys sitting around discussing the meaning of life to a bunch of rocks (BORING!) versus wizards doing cool magical stuff with stones (AWESOME!). There was just no reason to change the title, and maybe it's just me, but it also introduces an unfortunate (most likely completely unintentional) racial implication. Peter's mixed-race. There's a riot. Must be connected, yeah? Let's make it the title! Boo! Bad job, American publisher! Bad job! 

 

The narrator, Kobna Holdbrook-Smith, did an okay job. He has a nice voice, all silky and rich and mmmmm...wait, what was he saying? ;) I did tend to get caught up in the sound of his voice and miss the actual words he was saying, having to go back and re-listen and mmmmm... :D The downside is that he really needs to learn how to breathe properly when he's narrating. Lots of deep inhales at pretty much every stopping or pausing point. Comma? Time to breathe. End of sentence? Time to breathe. I did listen to the sample for the next book, and he seems to have improved on this point, so I'll continue with the audios.

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review 2017-03-09 01:36
Tipping the Velvet
Tipping the Velvet - Sarah Waters

This was well-written and well-narrated by Juanita McMahon, just like Fingersmith was, but it didn't quite grab me the way Fingersmith did. Nancy King and her plights and travails through London on her quest to find herself, love and acceptance are all just a little too over the top for me. And talk about your coinkydinks! The last chapter especially was loaded with them. Maybe Waters was doing a final curtain call thing, but it was a bit too much, ya know?

 

I do like Nan's tenacity to keep going and never get knocked down no matter what life threw at her, and it was an interesting journey through London in the late 1800s, when things were still very dangerous for LGBT people. I didn't always understand why Nan made some of the decisions she made. They at times felt kind of generic, like she needed to make x decision so the story could go to y plot line, and the story just kind of meandered at points. 

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review 2017-03-03 00:55
Anansi Boys
Anansi Boys - Neil Gaiman,Lenny Henry

Well, this certainly has everything that makes a Neil Gaiman book a Neil Gaiman book. There are gods, weird things happening to apparently ordinary people, and interesting enough characters. But... It's my understanding that Gaiman actually wrote this book before American Gods, and it shows, and just from the way it reads, it has to be one of his earliest works. There's none of the lyrical prose that comes in the later stories, none of the quiet irony that gives flavor to his later worlds. Oh, there's still plenty of irony, it's just the kind that clubs you over the head to make sure you noticed it there. 

 

Not being African, or even African-American, I can't say if how these gods/legends were treated were accurate or not. Anansi is a trickster, that much is clear, but I'm not sure about the others. Since this is Gaiman, I have no doubt the man did his homework and approached this with nothing but love for the material. 

 

The one thing that really rubbed me the wrong way was Rosie. There's an unfortunate bit of non-con here. Since Spider is a trickster and is used to just mind-whammying people into doing or believing whatever he wants, the earlier stuff with him and Rosie was only to be expected. I guess of all it was really to be expected but I didn't like how

Spider mind-whammying Rosie into sleeping with him, when she was so set on remaining a virgin until her marriage to Charlie, was treated in the text. This is non-con, people. Yes, Rosie slaps him when she finds out and breaks up with him and Charlie as a result, but there wasn't the level of fury there I'd expected from her. Just one slap? And then she goes on immediately to tell her mother that she's in love with Spider (due to the mind-whammy, no doubt) and even later goes on to get back together with Spider. The non-con/rape is never brought up again, and while it's good that Spider stopped mind-whammying her, it was just never really addressed to my satisfaction.

(spoiler show)

 

So yeah...I can't really recommend this one on the strength of Gaiman's later works. It was entertaining enough, to a point, and certainly interesting - though I figured out the "twist" pretty early on and thought that was drawn out a little too long. Still, if you like fantasy, and particularly mythology that's not usually covered in most Western literature, then this is certainly worth a perusal. 

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review 2017-02-17 23:39
Pressure Head
Pressure Head - J.L. Merrow

It took me awhile to get into this one because the snipping-at-each-other form of enemies to lovers is just not that entertaining to me. I also couldn't understand why Tom was allowing Phil to drag him along on his investigation, when he really shouldn't be giving him the time of day. Also, Tom has a day job he was constantly neglecting and Phil wasn't pay him. Though to his credit, Phil did make an attempt.

 

Here's the deal: Phil had bullied Tom back in high school, which resulted in an accident that permanently injured Tom and altered his life in significant ways. Even if that was 13 years ago, I just don't get the "fancying the guy who bullied you" trope, and Phil kind of quasi-stalking Tom didn't help. Nor do I get Tom just going along with Phil's demands for help before anything was really resolved between them. Thankfully, things do eventually get resolved and in satisfying enough ways to make me forgive the slow, awkward, weird start.

 

The mystery was well done and there was no obvious villain, though I do admit I wasn't paying as much attention to the details and clues as I usually do since I was getting hung up on trying to figure out Tom. Still, there were enough red herrings and everyone had possible motives, so it wasn't easy to pick any one character out as the whodunit. 

 

Gary and Darren were the standouts here. They're only side characters, but they steal the show every time they're on page, and they're a hoot and a half. Then there are Merlin and Arthur, Tom's cats, who are very catty and fluffy. :D And even though there were a lot of Britishisms, there was only one I couldn't figure out. The humor is very dry though, so might not be to everyone's taste.

 

 

Actually, that's a good way to sum up Tom and Phil, innit?

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review 2017-02-14 04:47
Voyager
Voyager - Davina Porter,Diana Gabaldon

Oh, Voyager. You get so many things right, but that one little thing...

 

I've said numerous times over this "reread" while I've listened to the audiobooks for the first time that one of the things Gabaldon does best is write fully realized characters, even third-tier characters, and she certainly continues to do that here. Her attention to detail, her descriptions, the way she lets the characters pop out of the page give them all life. It's really amazing.

 

And then there's Mr. Willoughby, or make that Yi Tien Cho, a Chinese refugee stowaway who landed in Scotland and was taken in by Jamie. First, I need to acknowledge that none of these characters are perfect. Even Claire, who comes from the more contemporary 1940s-1960s, has her prejudices and she doesn't even come close to how close-minded and insular everyone else is once we get back to the 1700s. So Cho's pure hatred of the white men isn't what bothers me. No, it's that he's a walking stereotype of all the worst things you can imagine about the Chinese. Even when I was reading this for the first time in my relatively clueless late-teens, Cho made me uncomfortable. Now, I was gritting my teeth nearly every time he was on the page. It was grating. There was not one redeeming trait to him, and to make it worse, he's the only Chinese character in either of these series - in fact, the only Asian character, which makes his representation even more troubling. So I'm glad he's only in this book and none of the others. And all because Gabaldon needed a way for Jamie, with his severe seasickness, to survive the crossing of the Atlantic. Because all Chinese know acupuncture, don't you know. *sigh*

 

But onto the good things, mostly John Grey. <3 I decided to experiment with this listen and do something I've been planning to do for years, and that's read Voyager and the Lord John Grey books in chronological order. While I don't think I'll ever do that again, it was still a fun way to experience the stories and get in John's adventures alongside Claire's and Jamie's. I just love John and I hope Gabaldon plans to write more of his adventures, especially since I'm not planning to read any more Outlander books. Voyager will even be the last one that I reread since I didn't really enjoy the others that came after this.

Though I may just have to reread William falling into the privy in the next book some day. That scene is golden. Willie is just a prat and totally deserving of that fate. :D

(spoiler show)

The cast for those have just gotten too huge, the focus has moved away too much from Claire and Jamie, and they just refuse to end. Plus, all the rape. What is Gabaldon's obsession with rape? And while there's no on-page in this book for a change, we still have to hear about

poor Young Ian's recount of his rape by Gellie Duncan.

(spoiler show)

 

Other good things: the reunion between Claire and Jamie was great, and getting to see the Murrays again, even if just briefly, was fun. Fergus is all grown up and not yet a lazy drunk. Spending so much time on the Atlantic crossing could've been dull as hell, but Gabaldon keeps the tension up wonderfully with several adventures - though I do have to say this is the point where all these characters randomly running into each other gets a bit eye roll inducing. It's one thing when they're all confined to Great Britain because that's a tiny little island (sorry, my British friends, but it is), but when they're shipwrecking onto random islands and whatnot, I think it's okay to have them run into people they don't know in any capacity. 

 

And I do have to say, I prefer my Loa to come in the form of a hamburger-shaped drive-thru speaker than I do a creepy possessed mentally unstable white woman. Because problematic ableist tropes aside, who doesn't want their drive-thru speaker to also give them cryptic messages about the future?

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