Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Midnight Riot by Ben Aaronovitch

Peter Grant is reaching the end of his probation with the Metropolitan Police in London and the time has come to choose a role within that mighty institution. Unfortunately, he seems unsuited to the exciting life of a detective and he is heavily recommended to move into the Case Progression Unit, which spends all its days shuffling paperwork. It may be vitally important to the daily operations of the police force, but he fears that he might die of boredom.

Fortunately, Peter displays a rather unexpected talent for seeing the dead when a ghost approaches him and reports witnessing a strange case of beheading. Rather than gibbering or staying quiet about the details he gathers from his ghostly informant, Peter reveals his encounter and is quickly introduced to Detective Chief Inspector Thomas Nightingale, the head of a secret branch of the Met that deals with anything decidedly ‘uncanny’. He soon becomes embroiled in trying to catch a strangely familiar murderer with a penchant for hitting people with very large sticks. At the same time he needs to learn to do magic and settle an increasingly heated dispute between Mother and Father Thames.

* * * * * 

I have to admit that one of the advantages of running a book group is that I can occasionally misuse my power to add suggestions from my stupidly long ‘To Read’ list. I was aware that Rivers of London, the English title, had caused quite a stir when it was first published and the reviews of the subsequent titles had only added to my conviction that I needed to read this series. Being a serious fan of Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files, I was rather hoping that this would be something similar, only with a English feel. I was not disappointed.

Peter Grant is a suitably imperfect hero, who spends too much time thinking about random stuff to really pay attention to the process of police work. He gets hung up on seemingly trivial details and then misses the important stuff that seems blazingly obvious to his best friend, and potential love interest, Leslie. It is no surprise that she ends up working for the Criminal Investigation Division, whilst Peter seems destined to die by a thousand paper cuts. The fact that Peter is not perfect makes him much more appealing and relatable than some heroes, and I certainly appreciated the fact that Leslie is so much better at being a ‘copper’ than he is: I always like a bit of gender equality in my reading.

I was also rather pleased that Peter’s abilities were not as suddenly amazing as those that many heroes display. His progress with magic is slow and somewhat dangerous as he repeatedly sets fire to things and keeps destroying his mobile phone. This allows us to accept the fantastical elements of the storyline much more easily because we take baby steps into this slightly different version of the real world. Of course there are things that are incredibly ‘uncanny’ but we are surrounded by mundane details and so they seem wonderfully possible. However, I rather wish that the editorial team had put a red pen through much of the seemingly endless lists of travelling directions. At times the book did almost descend into feeling like a print out from Google Maps or the recitations of a GPS. They were unnecessarily detailed and were rather distracting to those of us who do not have an intimate knowledge of inner London. This is a minor point, though, and my only criticism of world building that was generally impressive.

The tone of the writing felt very British to me, with Peter displaying a dry humor and sarcastic turn of phrase that had me chuckling away as I read. His relationship with Leslie seemed particularly English, with his forlorn longing and inability to tell her how he actually feels. This lack of self confidence was rather endearing and helped to counteract the fantastical elements of his new found abilities and experiences. However, the very British feel included some cultural references that were rather obscure and caused slight issues for some of the group. They made the wise decision to simply go with the flow, though, so it did not detract from the experience very much.

As the first in a series, there was surprisingly little time spent on extensive world building and very few times that felt like we were being subjected to excessive exposition. This left me with many unanswered questions at the end of the book, although the plotlines reached satisfying conclusions. It left me wanting to move on through the series to see what else is revealed, rather than being frustrated by a lack of resolution or needless teasers.

Whilst some people might be a little uncomfortable with the descriptions of the strange injuries that we encounter, I heartily recommend this title to anyone who wants a good Urban Fantasy with a British feel.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Updated Schedule

Due to changes in staffing I have had to alter the date of the meeting in June to the 25th. I have also added dates for the rest of the year and marked those which have the earlier start time during our summer hours. You can check out the new schedule on the Meeting Schedule page above.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Books for April

Our choices for this month are Phoenix Rising by Pip Ballantine & Tee Morris and Shades of Milk & Honey by Mary Robinette Kowal, which is already available on the Red Nooks. The order has been placed with Barnes & Noble and they should be added to all the Nook libraries soon.

Phoenix Rising by Pip Ballantine & Tee Morris
(Steampunk / Fantasy / Mystery)

These are dark days indeed in Victoria’s England. Londoners are vanishing and then washing up as corpses on the banks of the river Thames, drained of blood and bone. Yet the Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences will not allow its agents to investigate. Fearless Eliza D Braun, however, with her bulletproof corset and disturbing fondness for dynamite, refuses to let the matter rest and drags her timorous new partner, Wellington Books along with her into the perilous fray.

For a malevolent brotherhood is intent upon the enslaving all Britons. And Books and Braun (he with his encyclopedic brain and she with her remarkable devices) must get to the roots of a most nefarious plot… or see England fall to the Phoenix.

Shades of Milk & Honey by Mary Robinette Kowal
(Fantasy / Romance / Historical)

Jane Ellsworth is a woman ahead of her time in a version of Regency England where the manipulation of glamour is considered an essential skill for a lady of quality. But despite the prevalence of magic in everyday life, life still revolve around vying for the attentions of eligible men

At the ripe old age of twenty-eight, Jane has resigned herself to being invisible forever. But when her family’s honor is threatened, she finds that she must push her skills to the limit in order to set things right–and, in the process, accidentally wanders into a love story of her own. 

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Books For March

Our choices for this month are Midnight Riot by Ben Aaronovitch and Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn, author of Gone Girl and Dark Places, both of which are already on the Nooks. They have been added to the Nook libraries for your reading enjoyment!

Midnight Riot by Ben Aaronovitch 
(Urban Fantasy / Mystery / Crime)

Probationary Constable Peter Grant dreams of being a detective in London's Metropolitan Police. Too bad his superior plans to assign him to the Case Progression Unit, where the biggest threat he'll face is a paper cut. But Peter's prospects change in the aftermath of a puzzling murder, when he gains exclusive information from an eyewitness who happens to be a ghost. Peter's ability to speak with the lingering dead brings him to the attention of Detective Chief Inspector Thomas Nightingale, who investigates crimes involving magic and other manifestations of the uncanny. Now, as a wave of brutal and bizarre murders engulfs the city, Peter is plunged into a world where gods and goddesses mingle with mortals and long-dead evil is making a comeback on a rising tide of magic.

Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn 
(Mystery / Thriller / Crime)

WICKED above her hipbone, GIRL across her heart
Words are like a road map to reporter Camille Preaker’s troubled past. Fresh from a brief stay at a psych hospital, Camille’s first assignment from the second-rate daily paper where she works brings her reluctantly back to her hometown to cover the murders of two preteen girls.

NASTY on her kneecap, BABYDOLL on her leg
Since she left town eight years ago, Camille has hardly spoken to her neurotic, hypochondriac mother or to the half-sister she barely knows: a beautiful thirteen-year-old with an eerie grip on the town. Now, installed again in her family’s Victorian mansion, Camille is haunted by the childhood tragedy she has spent her whole life trying to cut from her memory.

HARMFUL on her wrist, WHORE on her ankle
As Camille works to uncover the truth about these violent crimes, she finds herself identifying with the young victims—a bit too strongly. Clues keep leading to dead ends, forcing Camille to unravel the psychological puzzle of her own past to get at the story. Dogged by her own demons, Camille will have to confront what happened to her years before if she wants to survive this homecoming.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Books for February

The books for February are First Frost by our favorite author Sarah Addison Allen and The Secret Lives of Baba Segi’s Wives by Lola Shoneyin. Both books are now available on the Nooks and there are paper copies of the Shoneyin title could be ordered through Inter-Library Loans.

First Frost by Sarah Addison Allen
(Magical Realism / Women’s Fiction / Romance)

From the New York Times bestselling author of Garden Spells comes a story of the Waverley family, in a novel as sparkling as the first dusting of frost on new-fallen leaves...

It's October in Bascom, North Carolina, and autumn will not go quietly. As temperatures drop and leaves begin to turn, the Waverley women are made restless by the whims of their mischievous apple tree... and all the magic that swirls around it. But this year, first frost has much more in store.

Claire Waverley has started a successful new venture, Waverley’s Candies. Though her handcrafted confections—rose to recall lost love, lavender to promote happiness and lemon verbena to soothe throats and minds—are singularly effective, the business of selling them is costing her the everyday joys of her family, and her belief in her own precious gifts.

Sydney Waverley, too, is losing her balance. With each passing day she longs more for a baby— a namesake for her wonderful Henry. Yet the longer she tries, the more her desire becomes an unquenchable thirst, stealing the pleasure out of the life she already has.

Sydney’s daughter, Bay, has lost her heart to the boy she knows it belongs to…if only he could see it, too. But how can he, when he is so far outside her grasp that he appears to her as little more than a puff of smoke?

When a mysterious stranger shows up and challenges the very heart of their family, each of them must make choices they have never confronted before. And through it all, the Waverley sisters must search for a way to hold their family together through their troublesome season of change, waiting for that extraordinary event that is First Frost.

Lose yourself in Sarah Addison Allen's enchanting world and fall for her charmed characters in this captivating story that proves that a happily-ever-after is never the real ending to a story. It’s where the real story begins.

The Secret Lives of Baba Segi’s Wives by Lola Shoneyin
(Contemporary / Literary Fiction / Africa)

When Baba Segi awoke with a bellyache for the sixth day in a row, he knew it was time to do something drastic about his fourth wife's childlessness.

Meet Baba Segi . . .

A plump, vain, and prosperous middle-aged man of robust appetites, Baba Segi is the patriarch of a large household that includes a quartet of wives and seven children. But his desire to possess more just might be his undoing.

And his wives . . .

Iya Segi—the bride of Baba Segi's youth, a powerful, vindictive woman who will stop at nothing to protect her favored position as ruler of her husband's home.

Iya Tope—Baba Segi's second wife, a shy, timid woman whose decency and lust for life are overshadowed by fear.

Iya Femi—the third wife, a scheming woman with crimson lips and expensive tastes who is determined to attain all that she desires, no matter what the cost.

Bolanle—Babi Segi's fourth and youngest wife, an educated woman wise to life's misfortunes who inspires jealousy in her fellow wives . . . and who harbors a secret that will expose shocking truths about them all.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

It’s nearly January . . . where did the time go?

This year has been rather disappointing for me in terms of the number of books that I have been able to read. My shift to part time employment in March put a severe dint in my free time and I had to prioritize the gigantic tomes included in my epic Wheel of Time Read Along. Fortunately we are drawing to the close of that series, so I will hopefully get my life back in the spring of next year. We have been slogging through the series since December 2012, so I may need a period of mourning at that point, but at least I should have more time for other things! However, although I have read a lot of pages, I have unfortunately completed a surprisingly small number of titles. Nevertheless, there are have been some definite high points to my reading this year, so I thought that I would share one of my favorites.

Whilst I am sorely tempted to declare Jan DeLima’s Summer Moon as my most favorite read of the year I am afraid that there was one title (well, it is actually two volumes of a series) that I have raved about even more. I have read quite a few of Brandon Sanderson’s titles, so when some blogging friends suggested a Read Along for The Way of Kings I jumped at the chance. Mr Sanderson writes at a prodigious rate and The Way of Kings was announced as the first volume in The Stormlight Archive, which is supposed to be a huge ten volumes in total. Volume 2: Words of Radiance was published in early March of this year, so we read right through both volumes over a twenty week period.

I have always read Mr Sanderson’s works as Read Alongs and I am almost certain that this has contributed to my massive enjoyment of his titles. The restriction of only reading a set number of pages each week and then discussing the book as you go along is wonderful because it allows you to really absorb the rich detail and complex world-building that seem to characterize his writing. I fear that reading at a more normal speed would lead to me missing some aspects of the complexity of his plotting and character development. His worlds are just so lush and rich with tiny points of wonderment that it seems appropriate to stroll through them and enjoy every minute detail.

Firmly situated in the Fantasy genre, The Stormlight Archive is Epic in every sense of the word. We begin The Way of Kings by being plunged into the final moments of an ancient battle that has left almost everything in the world dead or destroyed. We see this through the eyes of an eternal warrior who has fought this battle many times in the past and is destined to fight it repeatedly for eternity. If that is not epic enough to take your breath away, we next move to the present where an unimposing assassin dressed all in white displays the most amazing magical abilities in order to murder a King. We see the attack through the assassin’s eyes and learn how he manipulates gravity in order to outmaneuver his opponents. If you have seen The Matrix, then imagine ‘bullet time’ writ large: the imagery conjured by this sequence alone is worth the cost of the book. The rest of the title builds upon this amazing start in ways that actually made me squeal with delight in some places. Not only do we have an amazingly creative and wonderfully imagined magic system, but we also have original races, cultures, geography, weather, vegetation, wildlife, languages, history, religions, socio-economic structures and a strange fascination with the number ten.

However, perhaps the most exciting creation to define this series is the concept of ‘spren’. These are mostly manifestations of emotions, such as anger or pain, or natural phenomena, like fire or the wind; however, it seems that some spren are different. In The Way of Kings we encounter Syl, who appears to be a normal wind spren although she has taken a special interest in one of our main characters. Only he can see and hear her and she seems to be linked to his burgeoning magical powers in some way, but even she has no idea what she is or why she is different. It is with such intriguing creations that we are sucked into this world and made to care about our heroes. As I would expect in such a complex world, nothing is black and white, so our heroes are flawed and sometimes behave like total idiots, whilst our villains are revealed to have motives that we can understand even if they commit the most unspeakable crimes. Characters develop in meaningful ways and make surprising decisions that can be massively frustrating or jaw-droopingly awesome. This series is original and packed full of surprises, so that even the most jaded Fantasy reader will be delighted and surprised by the interweaving plotlines.

I cannot truly convey how much I enjoyed these wonderful titles in such a short post: honestly, I could write about them for an awful lot longer and go into amazing detail of several hundred things that I LOVED about them. My only criticism is one of pure practicality: these books are both monsters (Words of Radiance is the maximum size that the publishers could bind into one volume) and I would definitely recommend obtaining ecopies for comfortable reading . . . but the illustrations that are included in the text make me want to say that you should get paper copies as well so that you can really marvel at the world that they portray . . .

Here are two of my favorite pieces of artwork, one from each title. If you want to see more, you can view them on Mr Sanderson’s website.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Road Trip!

Reading Into Paranormal Book Group has invited us to join them for their discussion of Summer Moon by Jan DeLima.

They meet at Gardiner Public Library at 6pm on the first Tuesday of every month and will be discussing Jan’s book on December 2nd. Jan should be there to answer any burning questions, or you could save them for OUR discussion on the 11th! This might also be a good time to revisit the first book in the series, Celtic Moon, which is also available on the Nooks.

I’m afraid that both Sarah and I will be unable to make the trip, so we expect a full report when we see you at our next meeting.


Monday, November 17, 2014

Books For December

The books for December are "Hard Magic" by Larry Correia and "Summer Moon" by Jan DeLima. Orr next meeting is schedules for December 11th at 6:00 in the Lecture Hall.

Here is a brief description of the two choices:

Hard Magic 
by Larry Correia
(Urban Fantasy/Mystery)

Jake Sullivan is a licensed Private Eye—with a seriously hardboiled attitude. He also possesses raw magical talent and the ability to make objects in his vicinity light as a feather or as heavy as depleted uranium, all with a magical thought. It's no wonder the G-men turn to Jake when they need someone to go after a suspected killer who's been knocking off banks in a magic-enhanced crime spree. Problems arise when Jake discovers the bad girl behind the robberies is an old friend, and he happens to know her magic is just as powerful as his, and the Feds have plunged Jake into a secret battle between powerful cartels of magic-users--a cartel whose ruthless leaders have decided that Jake is far too dangerous to live.

Summer Moon
by Jan DeLima
(Urban Fantasy/Paranormal Romance) 

Rosa Alban has been obedient her entire life. But when her alpha husband dies, she seizes the opportunity to flee the oppressive Guardians—the rulers of the secret shapeshifter world. Her flight instantly brands her as a pack traitor, and she has no choice but to seek protection from a neighboring tribe by marrying one of their sons.

Known as the Beast of Merin, Luc Black loyally plays the part of unwanted son and devoted brother. He realizes marrying Rosa will strengthen his tribe’s territory, but he has no intention of loving ever again. Still, he’s unprepared for the intense physical need the wild she-wolf awakens in him.

When the Guardians hone in on Rosa, Luc must fight to protect his new bride. And as war descends, the unlikely allies discover their destinies are irrevocably entwined.

Monday, October 20, 2014

November's Books

The books for November are "World War Z" by Max Brooks and "Whiskey Beach" by Nora Roberts. The next meeting is Thursday, November 13th at 6:00 pm.  For right now we are scheduled for the Lecture Hall, but that could change and we could get bumped to a different room.  

World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War
by Max Brooks

The Zombie War came unthinkably close to eradicating humanity. Max Brooks, driven by the urgency of preserving the acid-etched first-hand experiences of the survivors from those apocalyptic years, traveled across the United States of America and throughout the world, from decimated cities that once teemed with upwards of thirty million souls to the most remote and inhospitable areas of the planet. He recorded the testimony of men, women, and sometimes children who came face-to-face with the living, or at least the undead, hell of that dreadful time. "World War Z" is the result. Never before have we had access to a document that so powerfully conveys the depth of fear and horror, and also the ineradicable spirit of resistance, that gripped human society through the plague years. 

Ranging from the now infamous village of New Dachang in the United Federation of China, where the epidemiological trail began with the twelve-year-old Patient Zero, to the unnamed northern forests where untold numbers sought a terrible and temporary refuge in the cold, to the United States of Southern Africa, where the Redeker Plan provided hope for humanity at an unspeakable price, to the west-of-the-Rockies redoubt where the North American tide finally started to turn, this invaluable chronicle reflects the full scope and duration of the Zombie War. 

Most of all, the book captures with haunting immediacy the human dimension of this epochal event. Facing the often raw and vivid nature of these personal accounts requires a degree of courage on the part of the reader, but the effort is invaluable because, as Mr. Brooks says in his introduction, "By excluding the human factor, aren't we risking the kind of personal detachment from history that may, heaven forbid, lead us one day to repeat it? And in the end, isn't the human factor the only true difference between us and the enemy we now refer to as 'the living dead'?"

Whiskey Beach 
by Nora Roberts
(Contemporary Romance)

For more than three hundred years, Bluff House has sat above Whiskey Beach, guarding its shore - and its secrets.

To summer tourists, it's the crown jewel of the town's stunning scenery. To the residents of Whiskey Beach, it's landmark and legend. To Eli Landon, it's home...

A Boston lawyer, Eli has weathered an intense year of public scrutiny and police investigation after being accused of murdering his soon-to-be ex-wife. And though there was never enough evidence to have him arrested, his reputation is in tatters as well as his soul. He need sanctuary. He needs Bluff House.

While Eli's beloved grandmother is in Boston, recuperating from a nasty fall, Abra Walsh has card for Bluff House, among her other jobs as yoga instructor, jewelry maker, and massage therapist. She is a woman with an open heart and a wide embrace, and no one is safe from her special, some would say over-bearing, brand of nurturing - including Eli.

He begins to count on Abra for far more than her cooking, cleaning, and massage skills, and starts to feel less like a victim - and more like the kind of man who can finally solve the murder of his wife and clear his name. But Bluff House's many mysteries are a siren song to someone intent on destroying Eli and reaping the rewards. He and Abra will become entangled in a centuries-old net of rumors and half-truths that could pull them under the thunderous waters of Whiskey Beach...

Passion and obsession, humor and heart flow together in a novel about two people opening themselves up to the truth - and to each other.

Friday, September 19, 2014

October's Books

The books that I picked for October are "The Secret History" by Donna Tartt and "The Bride" by Julie Garwood.  "The Secret History" is somewhat of a departure from our usual reads.  It literary fiction and quite dark.  It is one of my favorite books and I want to see what others think about this book.  The other book "The Bride" is "old school" historical romance.

The Secret History
By Donna Tartt

(Literary Fiction)

Richard Papen arrived at Hampden College in New England and was quickly seduced by an elite group of five students, all Greek scholars, all worldly, self-assured, and, at first glance, all highly unapproachable. As Richard is drawn into their inner circle, he learns a terrifying secret that binds them to one another...a secret about an incident in the woods in the dead of night where an ancient rite was brought to brutal life...and led to a gruesome death. And that was just the beginning...

The Bride
By Julie Garwood

(Historical Romance)

By the king's edict, Alec Kincaid, mightiest of the Scottish lairds, must take an English bride. And Jamie the youngest daughter of Baron Jamison, is his choice. From his first glimpse of the proud and beautiful English lady, Alec felt a burning hunger stir within him. This was a woman worthy of his fearless warrior's spirit. And he aches to touch her, tame her, possess her...forever.
But with the wedding vows, Jamie pledges her own secret oath: She will never surrender her love to this Highland barbarian. He was everything her heart warned her against -- an arrogant, brooding scoundrel whose rough good looks and seductive embrace fire her blood. But when strange accidents begin to threaten Jamie's life and an old rumor that Alec killed his first wife spreads anew, something far more dangerous than desire threatens to conquer her senses.