Thursday, September 17, 2015

Less Valued Checkmate

Only two to report of this time.

Book #23 is Checkmate by Dorothy Dunnett. This is the 6th and final book in the Lymond Chronicles, and I am a little sad to see them go. This definitely wasn't my favourite of the books, the series hit its high points for me with books 3 & 4, but there was still much to enjoy in this. As usual, Dunnett gets in her wonderful, action set pieces. She really is a fabulous writer of action. This book, weirdly, came across as an out and out romance novel. It hits so many beats of one; the couple realizing separately that they're in love with one another, trying to hide it from the other person, finally telling one another of their true feelings, the rivals for their affections, the families saying they shouldn't be together, trauma to the heroine she can barely overcome, and then finally, happiness in the end. Well, for most. Jerrott Blythe is back, but wow, he is not a happy camper, as his marriage to Lymond's half-sister, Marthe, is... going badly, to put it politely. But aside from the romance, the main thrust of this book is to uncover the truth behind Lymond's parentage. And we do, and I just found it... odd? Like why did Sybilla marry who she married after she thought her true love was dead? It was kinda... weird really. But whatever. I'll just overlook it.

Book #24 is The Table of Less Valued Knights by Marie Phillips. I needed something frivolous after all the Lymond, and this book fit the bill nicely. It's Arthurian in the loosest way possible (Arthur shows up at the beginning, at the Feast of Pentecost, waiting for this year's quest to show up), and is quite anachronistic, but it's obviously not taking itself seriously, so it's fine. Sir Humphrey is a bit of a wash out at Camelot, and after a distasterous quest a few years ago, has been relegated to the Table of Less Valued Knights. He's like two tiers below the Round Table, and despairs of ever returning to the box seats. Enter (after everyone else has left) Elaine (cause every other woman in the Arthurian legends is named Elaine). She has a perfectly good quest to find her kidnapped fiance, so off they go. It's a fun tale, the badguys are pretty bad, and the book is a perfectly good example of entrelacement, when we go off and meet Martha and follow her for awhile and then of course, her story links up with Humphrey's and Elaine's. So yeah, a fun little read by someone who obviously does know the conventions of what they were spoofing. That always makes the spoof better.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Gone, but not forgotten

This blog I mean.

Summer comes and life is anything but routine for 8 weeks, and while I can get reading in, the recording of said reading has taken a serious hit. 

Last I wrote, I was on Book 14. I've read like another ten since I last blogged. 


So here goes: 

Book # 15 is Whispers Underground by Ben Aaronovitch. Number three in the Peter Grant, magic cop series was good, but I didn't like it as much as the first two. Aaronovitch does continue to seemlessly blend the fantasy with the urban part of urban fantasy, but London really does lend itself to that. I believe it was Chris Claremont who, way back when in an issue of Excalibur, called London "the haunted capital of a haunted realm.". Yup. 

Book # 16 is the Crown Tower by Michael J. Sullivan. This is the first of the prequels about Hadrian and Royce and details how they met. It really is a fantasy buddy road series, right down to them hating each other when they first meet. It does nicely set up what we know will eventually happen. And as much as I like reading about the two boys, it was actually the sections on Gwen and her girls attempting to set up their own brothel that I found most interesting. And left me feeling the most anxious in my hope that they would succeed. 

Book # 17 is Hild by Nicola Griffith. This book is incredibly well researched and it shows, but I think it shows too much? In trying to flesh out the early history of the girl who would become St. Hilda, I think Griffith gets a little too bogged down in her time period. I had a hard time connecting with any of the characters, and I'm still not certain if the book ended with Hild marrying her half-brother?

Book # 18 is Broken Homes by Ben Aaronovitch. This is Peter Grant, magic cop book 4. Where Peter discovers an old, about to be destroyed, housing project is actually a magically significant piece of architecture. Shades of Ghostbusters to be sure, but I liked it quite a bit. Aaronvitch paints such a vivid picture of his Skygarden Estates that I had to google it and see if it was real. It's not, exactly, but based on a place called Heygarden. Either way, the place certainly came to life. Oh and the betrayal at the end of the book? Well set up enough that I could see it coming, and yet was still shocked it actually happened.

Book # 19 is Foxglove Summer by Ben Aaronovitch. And with this one, I have reached the end of the currently published Rivers of London novels. Damn. Anyway, I think this was my favourite, mainly cause Faeries. I usually always like Faeries. Also, there is totally an acknowledgement of a universal law that Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman put forth in Good Omens and I was totally chuffed to see it used here.

Book # 20 is Pawn in Frankincence by Dorothy Dunnett. Holy crap. What a book. Lymond journeys all over the place to find the son that Graham Mallet has hidden from him. The twists and turns and ultimate heartbreak are.. heartbreaking. On the upside? I really liked Jerrot Blyth and Phillipa Sommerville is all kinds of awesome.

Book # 21 is Half A War by Joe Abercrombie. The conclusion of the Shattered Seas trilogy, it concluded well but also with a bit of WTF on my part. The revelation of who the Elves may have been didn't sit well with me, but oh well. But Yarvi was his wonderfully conniving self, Princess Skara was a nice addition, but the killing of a certain character wasn't really called for. This was my least favourite of the trilogy.

Book # 22 is The Ringed Castle by Dorothy Dunnett. Definitely not the emotional wallop of the last book, this one sees Lymond escape that emotional turmoil by heading to the wilds of Russia with Guzel, so he can advise Tsar Ivan the Terrible on all things military. There's some numerous, lovely action set pieces as usual, and once again, Phillipa Sommerville is awesome.

And now we are all caught up.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Some not so light jazz and some fantasy

Book # 13 is Moon Over Soho by Ben Aaronovitch

The second of the Peter Grant books, still much fun and Aaronovitch is developing his fantastic London very well. We learn more about Nightingale's past and the toll WWII took on magicians, and we also meet Peter's parents. I found this one slightly more predictable than the first one, but that didn't really detract from it. There seems to also have been a more major, long term nemesis introduced with the Faceless Man, a dark magician into all sorts of sordid things, and so far, completely unidentifiable by either Peter or Nightingale. So I'm interested in seeing where that goes.

Book #14 is Half the World by Joe Abercrombie.

The second book in Abercrombie's Shattered Sea series, I liked this one just as much as the first. We meet Thorn, a girl very much built in the mold of Brienne of Tarth, although even more rough around the edges. After a training mishap, Father Yarvi takes her amongst his crew for some adventures and further world building by Abercrombie. Face paced, fun, still that dark humour, intrigue and even some romance. "Fools boast of what they will do. Heroes do it." had to be my favourite line. It's a very Abercrombie line. 

Saturday, May 02, 2015

Catch all

Shit, fallen behind again. Books 10, 11, 12 are

Midnight Riot by Ben Aaronovitch, The Snowman
by Jo Nesbo, and Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro.

I loved Midnight Riot (also known as Rivers of London). Lovely urban fantasy set in London (who is definitely a character in this book) about not great cop Peter Grant who finds his calling when he gets sucked into the magical part of London and ends up part of the London police who work supernatural crimes. It's a lot of fun and I'm glad there seems to be a zillion of them.

The Snowman is my second Jo Nesbo book and I liked this one better than the Bat. The native Norweigian setting suited Harry better. The badguy was suitably creepy, but to be honest, I pretty much figured this one out fairly early on.

Buried Giant... I was looking forward to this, Ishiguro's first foray into 'fantasy', set in post-Arthurian Britain... thought it sounded right up my ally. But I found this book hard to like. Partly because I was so busy deconstructing it. It's not high fantasy, it's not epic fantasy, it's certainly not urban fantasy... it felt more like a throwback to early Arthurian legends or even Old English ballads and other Saxon tales. Which y'know, good on Ishiguro. And at one point, I thought, oh is he going to do some entrelacement now? No... not really. Anyway, when it boiled down to it, the plot is a fairly simple quest framing, to discover what is responsible for the mist that lies over Britain and tampers with everyone's memories? I did like the ultimate reason behind the mist, and I liked the journey for the most part, but despite the simplicity, it also felt like Ishiguro was trying to do too much? I don't know, it's just a hard book to warm up to. (and I say this as someone who has read early Arthurian stuff, quite a few Old English epics/ballads what not, and a lot of medieval works. So the writing style he might've been trying to emulate is not beyond me. heh)

Sunday, April 05, 2015

More confusing than the Wars of the Roses

Number 9 is Trinity, book 2 in Conn Iggulden's Wars of the Roses series.

This one starts off pretty interesting, as Henry VI comes out of his catatonia (modern efforts to diagnose Henry's mental illness have suggested schizophrenia) and becomes quite a strong-willed man. Completely different from what he's been before. He feels he must take back his kingdom from York and Salisbury (who have been running things since he's been ill), and so launches on a procession of his land, showing the people of England that he is able to rule again (this was his extremely capable and wily wife Margaret's idea). Of course though, York and Salisbury don't take kindly to what they see as them being forced to step aside; they want recognition for their help, and they feel that Henry is being unfairly poisoned against them by other councillors, which they kinda are, but it's still a pretty flimsy excuse for them to gather an army and go meet up with Henry at the town of St. Albans so they can talk it out.

So that goes badly.

Basically, this book deals a lot more with battles and political machinations, and we get more heavily into the Percy/Neville feud... which felt rather misplaced. Only a little time was spent on getting to know Warwick further (and given how important he's going to become, I think we need some more building there), and there was a very unfortunate lack of spymaster Derry Brewer. I did appreciate that we spent some more time with Edward of York, that's kinda important too.

While I didn't like this one as much as Stormbird, I'm still enjoying the series, and Margaret was still kick ass as she does all she conceivably can to keep and win back her husband's throne, although really her motivation is now to secure it for her son.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Kings without a Kingdom and Disorderly Knights

#7 is The King Without a Kingdom by Maurice Druon. The final book of the Accursed Kings series, this is a departure from the others in that it's a first person narrative, and has skipped forward a decade to be right in the thick of the Hundred Years War. Crecy has already happened and Edward III is well established in France. The story is told from the POV of  Cardinal Perigord tells the story of King John II, second of the Valois monarchs, who is vain and cruel and a lousy king. His father was defeated horribly at Crecy, and John follows suit by getting his ass kicked by Edward the Black Prince at Poitiers. The narrative was took a bit of getting used to, as did there basically being no real 'characters' left from from the previous books. Frankly, The Lion and the Lily probably would've made a better ending to the series.

#8 is The Disorderly Knights by Dorothy Dunnett. Third of the Lymond Chronicles, we journey with Lymond to Malta, where he becomes embroiled with the fabled Knights of Malta, the Order of St. John. He arrives there just as Suleiman the Magnificent was making his push to expand the Ottoman Empire. Lymond meets the 'perfect' knight, Graham Reid Malett, who has decided to make it his mission in life to convert Lymond to the faith. Which goes about as well as you think it will. I liked this book, but almost in spite of itself it seems, because Dummett seemed to go out of her way to make Lymond thoroughly unlikeable. I mean, Lymond is often hard to like, but this time, we were talking about maybe despicable levels, especially when it came to Malett's ridiculously beautiful sister, Joleta. Of course, I knew that there was a reason for the horribleness, and Dunnett pulls it off quite well. Also, an ending that will lead neatly into the next book.

Sunday, February 22, 2015


Number 6 is The Well of Ascension by Brandon Sanderson.

The second book of his Mistborn series and whooboy I did not like this book at all. I started it just after Christmas, and gave up on it for awhile. But as I have a real hard time leaving a book behind, I persevered. But I realized pretty quickly in that I do not like Vin as a character at all. I don't find her interesting nor engaging. The same with Elend. And their melodramatic relationship just made me go 'ugh, please just breakup' (and I'm not one who is easily bothered by silly, young relationship drama). Some of the stuff with Sazed would've been interesting, and I wanted to see what happened to Marsh and got him to where he would be at the end, but nope. And the ending just came across as such a big mess that I don't care what happens next. I won't be continuing on in this series.