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text 2018-10-16 23:11
"Silence Fallen -Mercy Thompson #10" by Patricia Briggs - read for the Shifter square in Halloween Bingo
Silence Fallen - Patricia Briggs

"Silence Fallen" is the tenth Mercy Thompson book, a point where some series start to creak, strain and repeat themselves. Patricia Briggs avoided this by filling "Silence Fallen" with firsts: the first time Mercy has been to Europe, the first time sections of the story are told from Adam's point of view and the first time that the Patricia Briggs has gone with a not-entirely-linear timeline.


It mostly worked.


The parts told from Adam's point of view did give me a different perspective and also rounded-out some of the secondary characters but Adam lacks Mercy's snarky optimism and, surprisingly, her ruthlessness, which made him less fun to be around. The politics was interesting but went on a little too long.


Mercy sparkles from the first line: 

"I died first, so I had to make cookies."

What a way to start a book.


The move from this kind of silly domestic humour, with werewolves LARPing as Pirates to Mercy taking sudden violence in her stride, is central to the appeal these books hold for me. 


Moving the story to Europe was a smart idea and opened up some interesting back stories but Mercy sometimes sounded too much like a guidebook to Prague without really giving a sense of the place. I didn't like the World War II stories being woven into the werewolf world. It felt a little exploitative and wasn't entirely necessary to the plot.


I enjoyed Mercy's resourcefulness and the way she thought her way out of difficult spots. There were some new developments on her relationship with ghosts that seem promising and I thought having her fight using a scythe was inspired.


This was fun but not more than that. I'm hoping the next book, "Storm Cursed", will go back to a more Mercy-centric way of telling the story.


Click on the SoundCloud link below to hear the start of the book. The audio version gets two narrators this time and manages the shifting timelines without too much fuss.


[soundcloud url="https://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/310662490" params="color=#ff5500&auto_play=false&hide_related=false&show_comments=true&show_user=true&show_reposts=false&show_teaser=true&visual=true" width="100%" height="300" iframe="true" /]

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text 2018-10-06 08:37
Reading progress update: I've read 4%.
Silence Fallen - Patricia Briggs

Bingos seem to be beyond me at the moment so I'm just using the bingo calls to test my appetite rather than to plan a game strategy. Having "Shifters" called reminded my how much I've been looking forward to reading the 10th Mercy Thompson book.


I've barely started it but my body had that same learned response to it as to holding a warm cup in cold hands and inhaling the scent of my first cup of coffee.


Thank you, Patricia Briggs. My your words never desert you and my your character always blossom.

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review 2018-09-27 17:44
"Civil Blood" by Chris Hepler
Civil Blood - Chris Hepler

"Civil Blood" is a self-published genre-crossing novel: part vampire, part courtroom drama, part science fiction.


"Civil Blood" starts in familiar territory for videogamers: The Umbrella Corporation A big Pharma company accidentally releases a vampire virus on America and tries to cover it up by using squads of Forced Protection subcontractors to round up and imprison quarantine the infected.


We leave the familiar behind partly by having a virus that is powered by a new technology that harnesses Qi, the lifeforce in biological entities and partly by having an infected lawyer turn whistle-blower and demand his day in court to get redress from whoever created the virus.


The book is told from the point of view of two strong characters. There's a first-person account from a screwed-up but kickass former enforcer for the evil corporation who has gone rogue after she was infected while rounding up targets, and a third-person account, focused on a senior enforcer inside the corporation who has a complex corporate history and some extraordinary talents. 


The story read more like science fiction than a traditional vampire or zombie apocalypse tale. There was a strong focus on the science, the politicals and the legal niceties.


I felt the legal parts were the weakest. The idea was intriguing: can the infected be declared non-human and have their rights taken away because they are dead and in the grip of a virus that compels them to fatal violence. Unfortunately, the lawyer character wasn't charismatic enough and the courtroom scenes felt flat and went on too long.


There were some great action scenes and some novel ideas but character development beyond the two primary characters was a little lacking.


It was a fun read but I felt the pace was uneven and there were too many changes in points of view to maintain high levels of engagement and tension.
I'll be looking out for Chris Hepler's next book. I think he's a writer who hasn't quite hit his stride yet but will be compelling when he does.
I read "Civil Blood" for the Deadlands square in Halloween Bingo.



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text 2018-09-16 09:58
Reading progress update: I've read 14%. - trying a self-published author
Civil Blood - Chris Hepler

I'm trying to balance ebooks and audiobooks for Halloween Bingo but that TBR stack is much smaller. Not a bad thing, it turns out, as it made me pay attention to this $2 self-published impulse buy.


This starts in familiar territory for videogamers. A big corporation (definitely NOT The  Umbrella Corporation - that could get a person sued) has accidentally releases a vampire virus in America and is trying to keep things quiet by rounding up the infected quietly and disposing of them. Then an infected lawyer goes public and promises revenge on whoever made the virus.


Two things have made it stand out so far:


Two strong story-lines: a first-person account from a screwed-up but kickass former enforcer for the evil corporation who has gone rogue after being infected and a third-person account focused on a senior enforcer inside the corporation who has a complex corporate history and some extraordinary talents.


A Sci Fi feel to the story rather than a traditional Urban Fantasy of Doomsday feel. There are new technologies in this near future America and some interesting politics.


Having tasted this, I'm going to eat the whole thing for my Deadlands Halloween Bingo square.

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review 2018-09-12 11:37
"Scouse Gothic - the pool of life and death" by Ian McKinney
Scouse Gothic: The Pool of Life... and Death - Ian McKinney

"Scouse Gothic" is a fun, if uneven read, strong on originality, dialogue and characters but sometimes a little under-written in its descriptions and not entirely satisfying in its structure.


The pull of the novel for me was that it was a vampire story set in contemporary Liverpool, a city that I know well. I recognised every building in "Scouse Gothic" and enjoyed seeing Ian McKinney coat them with a plausible gothic veneer.


McKinney makes Liverpool a character in the novel. In an early chapter, two (very) long-term residents try to sum up Liverpool in a way that shows McKinney's affection for the place (and explains the subtitle of the novel):

‘Carl Jung called Liverpool ‘the pool of life’,’ she said.
´What did he mean by that?’
´Who knows, babe. He was a Swiss psychologist so your guess is as good as mine.’
´What’s your guess then?’
´Well, I think he meant that it’s everything in one place, good, bad, rich and poor. Just like a pan of scouse —throw everything in together, then heat it up, and what you get is something unique.’


One Park West Chavasse Park

One of the vampires lives in a modern apartment building next to Chavasse Park, in the heart of Liverpool One which I'm fairly sure is the one in the picture on the left. The choice of building amused me as I think this is a block that reached for innovation and instead ended up having all the charm of a modern office building in Canary Wharf, so I assume Ian McKinney intended it to a symbol of soulless wealth, especially as the vampire living there decorated everything in beige and magnolia.



Unfortunately, the building isn't described in enough detail for anyone unfamiliar with Liverpool to get the reference.


What Ian McKinney does very well is to describe the people of Liverpool. It isn't easy to walk the line of accurate depiction without falling into parody because Liverpudlians are aware of their history and their culture and they feel free to take the piss out of it whenever they want. It’s their birthright, a sign of their affection and an irresistible impulse. This is something that gets summed up in a vampire's description of the use of humour in Liverpool.

"You can’t appreciate it unless you know the rules. It’s sort of a non-contact martial art. It’s like ‘Gob-Judo’.

It’s the great leveller in this city, why no one in Liverpool is allowed to get too ‘up themselves’.

You can be rich and famous, people don’t mind that —‘local boy made good’ etc… But, if you ever act as though you’re better than anyone else, watch out. One day you'll be out with your mates, bathing in the warm glow of your self-satisfaction, telling anyone who’ll listen that the sun shines out of your arse, when someone will have had enough and just say one line, a stiletto of wit to puncture your ego, and suddenly, there you are, flat on your back, feeling a twat while your friends laugh at you."

I loved the subtle mournfulness of a long vampire life filled with too many Emmas (women as food, also referred to as takeaways) to remember and too many lost loves to bear and yet surrounded by the life and vitality of Liverpool. Here's how two of the vampires talk about it:

‘I used to know the people who lived here,’ he said. ‘
´When?’ ‘
1918.’ ‘
And?’ ‘
They died.’ ‘
They always do, babe. They’re like goldfish, lovely to look at but don’t get too attached because they don’t last long.’

I was touched by the daily visits one vampire, who still looks late teens, makes to her younger sister, now in her eighties and suffering from dementia, When the old woman tells her carers that she's happy because her big sister is visiting her, none of them believes her.


The book was a little uneven. Some passages, like the one where a very dangerous man returns to his isolated farmhouse and finds four killers waiting for him, are vivid and completely engaging. Other seem too lightly sketched. This is partly a problem of structure. Reading "Scouse Gothic" is like bingeing on the first ten episodes of a bold new TV series and then realising that you've only bought Part 1 of a twenty episode set: you find it novel and stimulating, and you're hungry for more and then, suddenly, it comes to a halt.


There are three Scouse Gothic books in all and I suspect that all three are needed before the relationships between the characters in the first novel are understood. In "Scouse Gothic" their lives overlap, sometimes with violent consequences but the role of some of the characters remains unclear.


We spend the second chapter with a recently widowed man who had a:

"...simple plan: get drunk, buy drugs, take drugs, then more alcohol and commit suicide. But now all that was messed up..."

and he finds himself .talking to a pigeon-shaped angel. I was fascinated but, although the character reappears in some later chapters, why he is in the novel isn't revealed.


I liked "Scouse Gothic" well enough to want to read the other two books but I wish they'd all been published in one volume.


I read this book for the Raven square on Halloween Bingo


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