The Furthest Station (Peter Grant, #5.7) by Ben Aaronovitch

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Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Date read: July 21 to 24, 2017

At the end of my write-up for The Hanging Tree, I said something along the line of wanting a break from the faceless man arc and more adventures of Peter doing some magical policing around London. Lo and behold, my request was granted in the form of this novella, or so I like to think. In truth, Ben Aaronovitch must have had this novella planned long before The Hanging Tree finished downloading in my inbox. The announcement just took me by surprise and the brief summary was basically what I asked for, so naturally I thought it was for me. Naturally.

This book was basically a solid 4-star most of the way through. And then that twist at the end happened that turned the investigation. 5 stars, easily, in the end.

Many spoilers scattered below, so that I don’t forget them.

Sargent Kumar (from Whispers Underground) called Peter and Nightingale in to help investigate what appeared at first to be a ghost infestation in a subway tunnel. Multiple people were reporting brief sightings in which figures clearly not of this world tried to harass or accost them, and what’s weird was it wasn’t the same ghost, but it appeared to be a different ghost each time. What’s weirder still were these people not being able to recall much of the incidents after reporting them; some even forgot they had spoken to the police at all, and the ones who did remember all said, before vanishing, the ghosts had a message to deliver and it had to be delivered to the police.

After following some leads and dead ends, Peter brought Abigail in to help with splicing and deconstructing hours and hours of CCTV footage. So it appears Nightingale has decided to take on another student, when she comes of age, of course. Right now though, she’s showing a great deal of talent for magic and will probably turn out to be a faster learner than Peter. And she has a friend in the foxes, which doesn’t really mean anything at this point. Interesting development; looking forward to seeing more.

On Peter’s end of the case, it was all very standard Falcon procedure, and all of it was hilariously described in his usual dry sardonic voice.

“Preliminary Falcon assessment,” said Jaget.

“We at the Folly have embraced the potentialities of modern policing,” I said

[…]

He would have liked blood samples as well, but we’ve found that people are strangely reluctant to give up their bodily fluids to the police for science.

[…]

From a policing perspective, motive is always going to be less important than means and opportunity. Who knows why anybody does anything, right?

[…]

The woman who answered the door gave a familiar little start when she saw us and hesitated before saying–“Ah, yes.”

We know that reaction well–it is the cry of the guilty middle-class homeowner.

This sort of thing always create a dilemma since the scale of guilt you’re dealing with ranges from using a hosepipe during a ban to having just finished cementing your abusive husband into the patio.

[…]

They started with a bell ring, a police knock, then a fist bang accompanied by shouts of “we’re the police” which was then bellowed through the letterbox.

Peter, being Peter, had quite a few hilarious turns in the investigation. He even managed to lure a ghost to him, using Toby as bait, to get her “statement,” which was the big lead he needed that turned this case from a weird ghost problem to a missing persons investigation, which then lead to a kidnapped woman trapped behind a solid brick wall in a cellar full of empty jars that used to hold ghosts.

Now I feel bad for previously saying Peter was bad at his job. So I wanna go on record and apologize. He may not be as advanced in his career as I’d like him to be, being a slower to catch on to magic than Leslie, but I must give credit where credit is due: he is quick on his feet and always manages to find a workaround for magic he isn’t yet capable of handling. Remembering those glow bats from Foxglove Summer and using Toby as a vestigia detector always make me laugh.

Anyhow. This case did not turn out to be what I expected. It was so much better and a huge surprise at that. I definitely did not see how a paranormal investigation could lead to missing persons during the read, but it was superbly done. What’s more is we’re introduced to a new kind of magic–trapping ghosts. Those ghost jars are no doubt a major development for the Folly, and,hopefully, they will feature in later books because I can’t see Nightingale not tinkering with them until he figures out a way to recreate the ghost traps and then using them for Falcon cases.

Overall, an excellent installment. I wouldn’t mind if there’s more like it in the works. *wink, wink*

Oh, and those little footnotes at the end for Agent Reynolds? Hilarious and very cute. Please add more. As usual, I had to look up a few things during the read like “mispers,” “pret,” “fried chicken stroke,” “waitrose bag,” “Nando’s,” “POLSA,” to name a few. And “refs” are apparently not short for referees, but refreshments.

The only thing I couldn’t find a definitive answer to was “tuck.” There’s a scene in which Nightingale tells Peter about how he used to snuck out to the woods with other boarding school boys to “swap comics and tucks.” What is a tuck?

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The Duchess Deal (Girl Meets Duke, #1) by Tessa Dare

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Rating: ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
Date Read: August 27 to 31, 2017

First of all, a big thank-you to the publisher Avon and GR’s giveaway program for sending me an ARC. Without them, I would have most likely bought this book and then regretted it afterward. More on that later.

Tessa Dare is probably my favorite strictly romance author and one I turn to for a break in reading, especially when I’m in the mood for vaguely historical, regency-esque, bodice-ripping romances that aren’t simpering or dull. The writing is usually fun, the characters are funny, and the stories are short and sweet, easily contained in one book and great as palate cleansers in between longer reads.

There are tropes, of course, like dashing love interests and young plucky main characters and happily ever-afters, and the stories are told from both POVs, but what makes Dare’s writing stand out from the overcrowded bodice-ripping shelf is her way of bringing modern sensibilities to her characters and stories, which jarred me at first, but I got used to them after a couple of books and then came to appreciate them later on.

I like that, although you get both POVs, Dare doesn’t spend too much time over-explaining motives and feelings or go on and on about each character’s insecurities. Instead, the focus is on the funny moments between the characters. There’s a sweetness to the writing, and once in awhile, it’s nice to read a book that I know will have a happy ending.

This book, however, is not like any of her other books that I’ve read so far. It’s actually more in line with those other “classic” bodice-rippers. I should have known by the cover.

The plot is a duke returns from war after being severely wounded in an explosion that left him physically scarred, and he returns to find his entire estate neglected by an idiot cousin he had left in temporary charge. And then his fiancee left him. Shortly thereafter, he becomes a recluse, shunning society and all who comes calling. That is, until one day, a seamstress bursts into his library demanding payment for the ex-fiancee’s wedding dress.

She’s desperate and in need of money; he needs an heir to secure his estate, so he makes her a deal. After some hesitation and a lot of convincing, she accepts the offer. They sign the contracts and proceed to have a pretend marriage.

By the way, all of this happens within the first 30 pages, so this book gets down to business quickly which was odd for Tessa Dare. I later learned why. It was because she needed the rest of the book to make the characters fall in love and heal their wounds. And there was definitely a lot of falling and healing. And a lot of it dragged on and on.

So yeah, I had some reservation early on, but since this was Tessa Dare, I thought she could pull through. Unfortunately, she couldn’t and the story dragged.

Making the main character a seamstress with a shadowed past was really interesting, and in Tessa Dare fashion, she gave her a group of equally interesting friends for support and comfort. That was fun, but too much attention was paid to the duke’s various insecurities and the seamstress’s haunted past and self-doubt, none of which did anything for me. This is such an over-used trope and basically the backbone of most, if not all, regency romances, and I was disappointed to see it rehashed here.

Also in Tessa Dare fashion, there were quite a few funny moments sprinkled throughout the story, but not enough to lighten the dragged-on feeling or make reading less of a chore. It wasn’t all a downer though. One scene in particular did leave me laughing out loud, and that was when the duke visited the seamstress’s father, who is vicar of a small village, to scare him in the middle of the night.

“A demon has come to drag you to Hell, you miserable wretch.”

“To Hell? M-me?”

“Yes, you. You crusty botch of nature. You poisonous bunch-backed toad. Sitting in this weaselly little house full to the reeking with betrayal and…” He waved at the nearest shelf. “And ghastly curtains.”

“What’s wrong with the curtains?”

“Everything!” he roared.

[…]

“Once you arrive in the eternal furnace, there are sinful debts to be settled. ‘Hell to pay’ is not merely a saying. Then there are the endless papers to be signed and filed.”

Papers to be filed?”

“Naturally there are papers. It should surprise no one to learn that Hell is a vast, inefficient bureaucracy.”

[…]

“Doesn’t your Holy Bible have something to say about forgiveness?”

The man covered in silence.

“No, truly. I’m asking. Doesn’t it? I’m a demon. I don’t read the thing.”

Still makes me laugh.

So this book isn’t a disappointment exactly, but it is a break from what I’m used to seeing from this author.

Perfumes: The A-Z Guide by Luca Turin and Tania Sanchez

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Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Date read: July 3 to August 24, 2017
Recommended for: anyone interested in perfumes

How could something as shapeless and evanescent as smell have a history and a culture?

[…]

For the moment, let’s just say that, like all other arts, perfume should engage our attention to a satisfying end, first creating an expectation and then satisfying it in a way different and better than you hoped.

[…]

Perfumes seem to come in various weights and sizes, to have different personalities, to wear different clothes, to worship different deities. Some perfumes are facile and some are complicated; some are representative, some abstract. Above all, some are better than others.

Shots fired. This book gets down to the point quickly, and the authors don’t mince words in their critiques.

As the title says, this is a large reference guide that contains a series of connected essays about perfumery. Before it gets into the reference part, you get history, science, methodology, etymology, explanation of the art and production of perfumery, chronology of hits and misses throughout the years, and a moment of silence for all the discontinued greats. Mostly though, what it is is a collection of reviews by two of the most trusted, respected, and valued reviewers in the industry.

The authors are husband and wife Luca Turin and Tania Sanchez, and they are considered pillars of the community. This in itself is a huge deal because the perfume community is quite–what’s the word–snobby. Turin is a biophysicist and Sanchez is a journalist, and reviewing perfumes is their hobby. Their backgrounds lend a scientific basis to this book and each review of the perfumes sampled. Turns out, there’s actually a science to the scents you’re drawn to, but of course it’s not a hard science. More research is needed here.

What I find most interesting about this book is that it’s made me realize I don’t have expensive taste. As a matter of fact, I’ve never had expensive taste. My taste in perfumes, and perhaps in art in general, veer toward simple, clean, and generic. Most of the scents I like are maligned or dismissed by Turin and Sanchez as “simple,” “too clean,” “too generic,” “mass produced”, or “has been done before and done better.” This last one is my favorite, and it’s in reference to DKNY’s Be Delicious–you might remember it as that perfume bottle that looks like a green apple.

While Turin and Sanchez and I don’t have overlapping taste, we do seem to hate the same type of scents, like those “made” by pop stars and 15-minute celebrities. Those concoctions, literally and hilariously called “trash perfumes” in the book, are often sickly sweet, full of synthetics, but ironically don’t last past the hour. Not worth the money and an offense to anyone within smelling reach because the wearer tends to over spray (to make it last longer).

Reading some of these reviews, especially the overly harsh ones, is exactly like reading well-written negative reviews of books I love. There’s a strange sense of enjoyment in the critiques, but it’s not all cattiness and snobbery. Turin and Sanchez do deconstruct the perfumes themselves and analyze each note and layer individually, to determine why it works or doesn’t work. Since they write so well, are consistent, and are themselves critical of the whole perfume industry, I enjoyed this whole book from beginning to end and I learned a lot, especially from the negative reviews of scents I love.

But if you have never smelled a certain perfume before, such as those discontinued ones, it’s hard to imagine what they were like just from descriptions of the notes. No matter how exact Turin’s and Sanchez’s words are, you’ll never grasp what they say unless you’ve smelled that scent before. In that, our language and biology are extremely limiting.

Learning about perfumery is like learning a new language to me, and this book was a good place to start because it’s got everything. While the language of perfume is new and foreign, the ideas are familiar because it’s mostly a language of memory. Therefore, there’s no accounting for taste. Hah hah. I’m only sort of kidding. The scents you’re most drawn to are often connected to pleasant memories.

I’ve never been a fan of perfumes because of the way they smell–not a joke–but I’ve always been interested in their creation–recipes, concoctions, history, happy accidents, years of dedication to make one memorable lasting scent. The combination of essential oils and synthetic chemicals and their results are fascinating to me. I’m not a purist, so I do have an appreciation for the synthetics, mostly for their lasting power. A perfect combination would be mostly organics with some synthetics to make it last, but an ounce of something like that would be worth a cool thousand easily.

The scents I’m most drawn to are organics with fresh clean light fruity notes–“simple” and “generic,” according to the authors. When combined with tea, these notes smell amazing to me. But what smells amazing to you (in the bottle) is not necessarily going to smell as amazing once it’s on you (because of your body chemistry). So I haven’t tried any on myself yet.

While I don’t wear perfumes myself, I do like some on other people, especially when I smell a scent that “fits” the person wearing it. Strange concept, that–a scent that “fits” you. This goes back to taste with the addition of body chemistry. Finding a scent that hits both targets for you is an art in and of itself. The industry should consider putting more research into this, rather than pumping out a new scent every couple of months. If people understand what works or doesn’t work for their body chemistry, they’re more likely to try more perfumes and buy more in general. Just saying.

This book was fun and a nice escape from the world burning all around me. It allowed to go back in time to a time when the world wasn’t burning all around me–how many years ago was 2016?

Anyhow, perfumery will never be something I take seriously because, at its core, it’s still a frivolous luxury past time no matter how you dress it, but learning about the culture and community was a pleasant experience. I liken it to visiting a corner of the world that rarely get tourists. And now the knowledge will most likely take up space in my head rather than be applied in real life. And such is the burden of those who like to learn but not necessarily do.

White Hot (Hidden Legacy #2) by Ilona Andrews

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
Date read: July 18 to 21, 2017

So this book.

It’s actually much better than the first one… but I kinda hated the first one, so that’s a very low bar to pass.

Good things first though, before I move onto the unsavory things.

Fast pacing, lots of action, interesting mix of sci-fi and fantasy, that comic-book feel from the first book is still here, and plenty of humor.

Imagine Kate Daniels in an alternate universe, one in which she had a normal, uneventful upbringing and has grown up to be a well-adjusted person who runs a private detective agency with some help from her family. Imagine Kate, but with parents, younger sisters, cousins, and a spunky grandmother who love her. That’s what I think this book is doing–imagining Kate in a world that’s more fun and with a lot less darkness.

Think of it as Kate without her past and burdan, running around Houston, having adventures, and saving people from megalomaniacs intent on destroying the world. Something like this should have appealed to me because I like Kate and I’m all for fun worlds, but somehow the execution doesn’t work here. Although I find this book much better overall than the first one, that’s not really an improvement because there’s this thing. I feel it hanging over every scene between the two leads, and it knocks all the fun right out. Maybe it’s just me though because loads of people seem to enjoy the writing just fine.

Another thing is the main character, Nevada Baylor, comes off as too young, and her gaggle of sisters and cousins are younger still, so you have extended periods in which the writing becomes too YA, filled with talks of high school, infatuation, dating, trends, social media, and the list goes on. This was too much for me, but you know, personal preference, your mileage may vary, and so on and so forth.

If any of that sounds mildly interesting, you might want to give this series a try.

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* * * * spoilers abound * * * *

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American Gods by Neil Gaiman

American Gods

Rating: – – – – –
Date read: June 5 to July 15, 2017
Read count: 2

This one gets an honorary 3-star rating because I liked it enough the first time to finish it, but not enough the second time to finish it, not even on audio.

So… is it a DNF if I already read it once but couldn’t make it through a second time?

I still recall a lot from the main story arc, surprisingly. For a book that was just “all right,” it has stayed with me longer than other equally “all right” books. Maybe because the settings and roads traveled were familiar. Maybe it’s the way Neil Gaiman writes scenes, with lots of focus on visuals. It’s been years and I still recall with lots of clarity Shadow’s trip through Spring and that scene on the frozen lake.

But despite all of that, I couldn’t get through the reread. Well, not exactly “couldn’t.” More like wouldn’t, like “ain’t nobody got time for this” kind of thing.

I mean, I tried and there was effort, but there was a lot going on at the time–still going on–and I could have tried harder, sure. But. Lack of time. Summer. Dogs. Broiling heat. Deadlines. New projects. The destruction of the planet. Treason. Institutions dismantling right before our eyes. These things tend to get in the way, you know.

I did, however, finish the TV series which was pretty good–for summer entertainment, with some caveats–so there’s that at least. Just to sum it up, because this was the thing that surprised me the most, I liked Shadow and how he was portrayed. There’s a raw, simmering, subtly volatile quality to the character on screen that really drew me in, and I did not get a sense of that at all in the book. So good on the show for adding interesting dimensions to him.

I’ve been seeing people compare the book and the show a lot over the past few weeks, which they ought to, I suppose. But to me, doing the book-vs-show side-by-side is like comparing apples to those yellow spiky fruit things* at the farmers market. They’re both fruit, but distinctly different flavors and texture. I can’t really say whether people who like/dislike the book would like/dislike the show. Just something you gotta try.

The book is the apple and the show is the spiky fruit in this analogy. Both are fine it in their own ways. I, however, much prefer the weird fruit thing because it’s more interesting overall and not something you see every day unless you frequent the farmers market. The farmers market here is the combination of Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, and all those other streaming providers. They’re producing great work and I wish I had more time to enjoy them. If only there’s much less treason so we could all stream a whole series in peace… This month’s been a long year.

 

*called horned melons or desert pears, depending on the region your local supplier is from

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Daughter of the Forest (Sevenwaters, #1) by Juliet Marillier

Rating: – – – – –
Date read: May 1 to July 15, 2017

I’m leaning toward 4 stars overall but with lots and lots of reservations which I can’t go into without hitting on spoilers. So beware of spoilers.

This book was Beth‘s pick for May and I just finished it today. In July. I’m not even sure where she is because we kind of let it drop after hitting a wall, but I think she’s still pushing on. I’d like to say it was my fault, because I’m usually the one dropping out of buddy reads, but this time it’s a combination of bad timing and a brutal rape scene that put a nail in this buddy read.

The story loosely follows the Six Swans fairy tale and it’s set in Medieval Ireland. There are druids, magic, and mysticism, and the writing does a lovely job of setting the scene and creating an otherworldly atmosphere. We follow Sorcha, the youngest and only daughter of a lord, and her six older brothers through their lives from when they lived at the castle in the middle of a strange magical forest to when tragedy struck and tore their family apart.

I had known of the rape scene going in–it’s part of some retellings of this tale–but I didn’t know about the aftermath, that the main character Sorcha had to live with it, alone and in silence, as she was in the middle of her vow of silence that she had to make to the fae in order to save her brothers. And then her dog, her only companion, was brutally killed. How much worse could it get, right? Not much worse, but bad things did keep happening. Sorcha had to continue knitting six sweaters from nettles to save her brothers and break the curse that turned them into swans.

I don’t like fantasies featuring the fae as it is, so when this scene happened, followed by the dog’s death and Sorcha’s suffering in silence and the fae’s meddling and the nettle knitting, I checked out. It was too much and the amount of brutality seemed somewhat unnecessary. But I get it–objectively, intellectually, whatever. I get why Marillier had Sorcha suffer in silence; I understand it from a big-picture perspective and see the need to portray the aftermath of rape, but still. It was too emotionally consuming, too close to real life, so I checked out and set the book aside. Every time I picked it up, I could only get through a couple of pages, and that’s why it took over two months to get to the end.

I’m glad to have read it because Juliet Marillier’s writing is always lovely and the stories she’s telling are much needed in fantasy. They exist in that tenuous border between folktale and historical fantasy, and Marillier weaves those elements so well, but this is one of those books I don’t think I’ll revisit. And I will pass on the rest of the series too, even though I know I’ll be giving up on an amazing world rich in history, culture, and magic.

Reading this book was kind of like a coming of age experience–I appreciate it and am glad I got through it, but I’m more glad it’s behind me now.

* * * * *

My first Marillier was Heart’s Blood, a retelling of the beauty and the beast fairy tale, and I loved it. I went into Daughter thinking it was like Heart, and in many ways, it is. The setting, time period, prose, magic, and atmosphere are very similar, but the amount of suffering the main character is put through is incomparable.

Witches of Lychford (Lychford, #1) by Paul Cornell

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Rating: ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆
Date read: May 29 to June 7, 2017

Quaint and very pleasant with a touch of autumn chill, like a brisk stroll through the cemetery at sunset when it’s just starting to drizzle. Not exactly what I expected from books with the urban fantasy label, but this was a nice surprise.

If you like charming small-town stories with a cast of oddball, neighborly characters and more magic than magical realism, give this a try.

But by “neighborly,” I don’t mean friendly, although I’m aware that’s how most people will interpret it. What I mean is they’re more like my neighbors and others I grew up with–somewhat hostile and suspicious of people they don’t know, very straightforward, aren’t really aware of personal boundaries or overstepping them, but caring and hilarious once you get to know ’em.

The writing is contemporary fiction loaded with trivial everyday life things–gossip, relationships, falling outs, homecomings, etc etc–but along the side, there’s a heavy dose of magic and other-worldliness for those who could see it and command it.

The town itself is near the border that separates our world from the underworld, so the people here are used to strange things happening without much explanation. That’s just part of the life, along with the gossips and falling outs.

Of course the big bad that threatens most small towns is a corporate entity. Here, it’s a superstore that wants to build a franchise right on the border, which would destroy it and let all the evil into our world. So the good townsfolk must fend off this superstore to save their town. And a lot funny moments ensue.

The humor is what you’d expect to see from British authors–dry, deadpan, and pointed. Reminds me of The Gates by John Connolly, but with adult characters and adult problems. For those unfamiliar with John Connolly, imagine Terry Pratchett’s humor, but less manic and more evenly paced and with fewer details crammed in.

Out this way there was the lonely last pub, the Castle, which now had an angry chalkboard sign up that said “drinkers welcome” to indicate its dissatisfaction with other establishments’ fads like pub quizzes, bands, food, and, presumably, conversation.

[…]

To human beings it won’t look or feel like a war, it’ll be more like… one of those modernist paintings you lot do, if it melted. Inside all your brains. Forever.

[…]

Judith hated nostalgia. It was just the waiting room for death.

[…]

Judith realised, with horror, that they were heading over to talk to her, and couldn’t find, at a quick glance, anyone else she knew well enough to get into a conversation with. There were, just occasionally, drawbacks to being a nasty old bitch.

Judith is the embodiment of gtfo-my-lawn, and she is very free with her feelings. When I grow up, I hope to be that free.

A couple of years ago, I tried London Falling by Paul Cornell, but couldn’t get into it. It was more like the traditional procedural urban fantasy that I was used to, but I just could not get into the writing. It was too… cold and staccato, too much like a police procedural, and there was nothing about it that pulled me in, not even London itself. So I gave up and didn’t look back. I almost gave up on Paul Cornell altogether, but I’m really glad I didn’t. This book is a gem. So different from that other one in almost every way. Worlds apart even. I’m not sure I believe it’s from the same author…

The Dispatcher by John Scalzi

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Rating: ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆
Date read: May 15 to 20, 2017

This is an interesting police procedural with an interesting hook that you don’t find out until somewhat later in the story. Or at least I didn’t find out until it happened. That caught me of guard and, at the same time, pulled me further into the plot. Best way to get into this story, or any short form fiction, is to not know anything about it.

Since it’s so short there’s not much to say without giving the hook away, but I’ll try anyway.

Set in present time Chicago and it actually feels like Chicago and not, say, New York or some other generic urban sprawl. The writing is short, to the point, and what we come to expect from John Scalzi. He doesn’t mince words or beat a morally gray topic to death. He has a minimalist style that I like.

We’re introduced to Tony Valdez just as he’s about to enter the OR, not as a patient or doctor, but a dispatcher. He’s there as insurance, so to speak, to make sure everything goes “smoothly.” What he is and what his job entails is the hook.

Shortly after the operation, Tony finds out that a friend and colleague has gone missing, and he’s pressured by a detective to help her solve the case. She thinks the job has something to do with the his disappearance. The investigation reveals all the gray areas of what dispatchers do off the books and all the ways in which life and death could be just a game.

And I admit I’m hooked. I hope this is just the beginning and that Scalzi has long term plans because there’s still so much left to explore. Crime statistics, law enforcement, religion, politics, the tenuous definition of homicide in this new age of mortality–an endless trove of gray topics to take on. 

I’m not a fan of short form fiction, so this novella feels somewhat incomplete even though loose ends are tied up and most questions are answered. But if this becomes a procedural series and each book an episode, I could totally get behind that.

A Rare Book of Cunning Device (Peter Grant, #5.6) by Ben Aaronovitch

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Rating: ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆
Date read: April 28 to May 6, 2017

Funny, too short, and available only on audio, for now anyway, and it’s still going for free at Audible.

Nightingale is out of town again, and Peter gets called to the British Library about what appears at first to be a poltergeist problem. But after some investigating, it turns out to be a book running amok after dark and keeping the librarians up at night.

The book isn’t actually a book, but an ancient device of magical origins. It has moving parts and seems somewhat sentient, or at least aware of its surrounding. I’d love to learn more about it and see it featured in later books.

Peter brings Toby and Postmartin along to the library and learns from the librarians that the good professor has a reputation for stealing rare tomes. This comes as no surprise to me because I’ve always suspected that about him. Gatekeepers like the people of the Folly have always seemed like the kind to “confiscate” rare books and other objects of magical origins for safe keeping.

This short story reads like another sequence from the cutting room floor, not unlike The Home Crowd Advantage. I get the feeling these two should have been part of the main novels, but for whatever reason, they had to be cut during the editing process. But they were too good to delete permanently, so we get these little snippets to entertain us while we wait for #7.

Foreigner (Foreigner #1) by C.J. Cherryh

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Rating: ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
Date Read: April 10 to May 5, 2017

This book ends when the story is just about to get interesting. And that’s the most effective way to lose an audience.

Up until the ending, it’s a real repetitive uphill slog, and I say that as someone who liked it more than most people. Reading it was a labor-intensive task that I never thought would end and I would never have been able to get to the end without the help of the audio–again, speaking as someone who liked the story. The prose and plotting could use a lot of editing, and the inner monologues could use some deleting. But the alien world and cultures were interesting, and they seemed to have the potential to become even more interesting. For that alone, I would pick up the second book.

Back to the ending and what I think most people don’t know about this book: it’s not an ending, but it’s not quite a cliffhanger either, and thus the reason behind so many frustrated reviews. While it’s not an ending, it does leaving you in the middle of a scene that could potentially be interesting if you were already invested in the story and characters. But if you weren’t, it wouldn’t be a huge loss to not know how it all ends or whether or not Bren Cameron survives and is able to navigate the delicate relations between humans and atevi.

I wouldn’t say I’m invested, but I do want to know what happens next–alien worlds and political intrigue are an interesting combination. Maybe not right away though because a break is in order after that slog, but as soon as the audio for the second book is available, I’m on it.

Full review when I get through the first the books or a complete story in the case of this series.

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