What have you read recently?

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Re: What have you read recently?

Postby maddz » 7:25pm on 12 Sep 17

Red Hot Steele, Bk 1 of Daggers and Steele, by Alex P Berg

A fantasy police procedural, set in a large city with many non- and demi-human races. I didn't expect much from it given the fantasy murder mystery I read earlier in the year, but I was pleasantly surprised. Rather similar to Simon R Green's Hawke and Fisher series, but with rather more humour to leaven the grittiness (but not as much as Glen Cook's Garrett PI series). If Hill Street Blues was set in a fantasy metropolis, this would be it.

The story opens with homicide cop Daggers and his partner Griggs arresting a bunch of cannibal goblins. Daggers is your thirty-something cop, and Griggs is an old-timer. In the course of the arrest, Griggs is injured, and decides to retire. Daggers is faced with a new partner - Steele, who is apparently a psychic and female to boot (in the all male atmosphere of the homicide squad). He does get off on the wrong foot when he mistakes Steele for a secretary... In the course of an investigation, they get to know each other and learn respect for the other's talents.

A fun read, and one I can recommend.

(It's currently free on Amazon: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Red-Hot-Steele ... players-21 )
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Re: What have you read recently?

Postby maddz » 8:02am on 18 Sep 17

The Silver City Trilogy, by Pamela Belle: The Silver City, The Wolf Within, and Blood Imperial

A set of print books I replaced by ebooks earlier this year. Pamela Belle is better known as a historical romance writer, but she wrote this fantasy trilogy, presumably as a one-off.

Set in an early Iron Age fantasy world, the trilogy follows various members of a royal family who have natural magical talents. As the story opens, magic is mostly drug-induced, and requires the ingestion of an addictive drug that also causes premature aging and longevity. The Silver City details the fortunes of the Prince of Zithirian (later King), and the invasion of his lands by the Skai, horse nomads worshipping Ayak the Devourer, the wolf-god. He starts the story as a drug-mage, but with the assistance of a horse nonad woman (from a different and friendly tribe), survives the withdrawal (usually fatal) and finds that he has natural magical talent which is more powerful than the drug-induced variety. With the assistance of various relatives (including the Emperor of Totelyaki), he beats back the Skai who are destroyed by his bastard son.

The second book, The Wolf Within, details the fortunes of Bron, the King of Zithirian's bastard son. Born as a result of incest, Bron was dedicated at birth to Ayak by the High Priestess of Zithirian. She was killed by the Skai (her treacherous allies), but Bron is still protected by Ayak. As he matures, he realises he must drive out Ayak or die trying - he is too much of a danger otherwise. A natural mage like his father (and presumably his dead mother), he leaves Zithirian in order to try and find Jo'ami, the legendary island of magery. He wanders the Empire and Kerenth, the land ruled by women, before eventually finding Jo'ami and driving out Ayak.

The third book, Blood Imperial, focuses on the Empire. Originally ruled by an indolent and decadent Emperor, he is assassinated by his son, who decides to invade Kerenth, but is beaten back by a storm, then decides to invade the Northern Kingdoms, but is assassinated by Bron before he can do so. The Empire then goes through sort of a year of 4 Emperors, before the last man standing (bar one) takes over. Here the focus is on Bron's daughter, also a powerful natural mage. Eventually, the Emperor is killed, and his wife takes over as regent for her son (who isn't actually the Emperor's son).

A sweeping epic fantasy in scale, there is enough detailing and low fantasy elements to make it an entertaining read. Recommended.
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Re: What have you read recently?

Postby maddz » 1:10pm on 22 Sep 17

The Stress of Her Regard, by Tim Powers, bk 1 of Romantic Poets and Nephilim

An excellent and densely-plotted historical fantasy featuring Byron, Shelley, Keats, Polidori, Mary Shelley and Francois Villon. The premise of the story is that the Nephilim are vampires but also give poetical inspiration and (to some) effective immortality. Having mistakenly 'married' a nephilim, an obstetrician tries to divorce it, and is drawn into Byron's set as a consequence. Eventually, he manages to break the Nephilims' connection with the world. It's quite dark in tone, but enjoyable for all that.

Medusa's Web, by Tim Powers

A non-series fantasy, set in modern Hollywood, with some time-travel elements. Following their aunt's death, Scott and Madeline return to the run-down Hollywood estate where they were raised by their aunt. It's not exactly an urban fantasy as there are no para-normal elements associated with it, but's not exactly science fiction either. It's one of Tim Powers' trademark fantasies that defy genre. Very strange.

Dancers in the Dark & Layla Steps Up: The Layla Collection, by Charlaine Harris

Two related novellas set in the Southern Vampire Mysteries universe, but not connected to the Sookie Stackhouse series. Readable but light.
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Re: What have you read recently?

Postby maddz » 6:18pm on 22 Sep 17

The Annam Jewel, by Patricia Wentworth

Straplined as 'A Golden Age Mystery', this is a non-series title from the author of the 'Miss Silver Mysteries'. Set in the 1920s, it follows a storyline familiar to aficionados of Sax Rohmer or Dornford Yates albeit with less overt racism. (Yes, there's some, but given when it was written I would be extremely surprised if there wasn't any.)

A mysterious jewel is stolen by some adventurers from a mysterious monastery somewhere in the East (probably China). The young nephew of one of the adventurers inherits what is supposed to be the jewel and the story details the efforts of one of the adventurers to obtain the jewel and what happens to the jewel in the end.

Very much of it's time (published 1924); it's the sort of title one would expect to find when staying with an elderly relative. Light and mildly amusing. If you're into this sort of thing, these Golden Age mysteries are rotating freebies on Amazon from the publisher, Dean Street.
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Re: What have you read recently?

Postby maddz » 7:59pm on 24 Sep 17

Just a heads up if you want to try the Pamela Belle 'Silver City' trilogy I mentioned earlier - the 3 books are currently 99p each Kindle Countdown deals.

The Palace Job (Rogues of the Republic bk 1), by Patrick Weekes

A fantasy caper story with an ensemble of various rogues. A lot of double-crossing going on, and the switches in PoV were distracting but I suppose made sense. Light, and I probably won't bother reading the sequel even if Paul gets it (this was one of his Amazon purchases).

Miss Ellerby and the Ferryman (Tales of Aylfenhame bk 2), by Charlotte E English

Another of Charlotte English's Regency historical fantasies, set some 2 years after the first book in the series (Miss Landon and Aubranel). The mundane world of Lincolnshire and the faerie realm of Aylfenhame are drawing closer, and Miss Landon's friend, Miss Ellarby is drawn into Aylfenhame and releases the Ferryman of the title from a curse, in the process discovering and coming to terms with her Ayliri heritage and witch powers, and finding true love with the Ferryman. We discover more of the history of Aylfenhame and what happened to the Royal Family.

Midnight Crossroad (Midnight, Texas bk 1), by Charlaine Harris

This is a mash-up of various of Harris' mystery series and is set in the same urban fantasy world of Sookie Stackhouse. It brings together various secondary characters from the Aurora Teagarden and the Lily Bard crime series, and the Harper Connelly Paranormal crime series. They all happen to inhabit a small, decaying town in rural Texas miles from anywhere along with various other supernatural characters. It's been turned into another HBO series (probably as a result of the success of True Blood).

The story begins with new resident Manfred Bernardo (the psychic from the Harper Connelly series) moving into Midnight, where his landlord is Bobo Winthrop (from the Lily Bard series). In the course of his getting to know the other residents, a town picnic to a local 'beauty' spot is proposed, during the course of which a corpse is discovered - which turns out to be the remains of Bobo's girlfriend who had vanished (apparently moved out) some time previously. The investigating sheriff turns out to be Arthur Smith (from the Aurora Teagarden series).

One of Harris' trademark cosy mysteries with strong supernatural elements and links to the Sookie Stackhouse series, albeit the vampire revelation does not appear to be a feature in this version, although True Blood is mentioned (the town vampire cannot tolerate it apparently).

This concludes my holiday reading; I finished Midnight Crossroads on the plane (I'm currently working on the next in series.)
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Re: What have you read recently?

Postby maddz » 2:21pm on 25 Sep 17

Day Shift and Night Shift (Midnight Texas bks 2 & 3), by Charlaine Harris

I hadn't bothered buying these full price, but as 99p Daily Deals, they're worth it. Following on from Midnight Crossroad, we learn more about the paranormal inhabitants of Midnight and their human neighbours.

Day Shift follows Manfred Bernado, the psychic, and Olivia Charity, the vampire's companion who is a skilled assassin. Manfred occasionally does face-to-face readings, and in the course of one, his customer dies and he is subsequently accused of the theft of some jewellry by his client's mentally unstable son.

Night Shift follows Olivia Charity and Fiji Cavanaugh, the witch in dealing with the secret threat that Midnight hides.

As with the first book, rather cosy, but enjoyable reads with strong supernatural elements. It's possible there will be further installments in the series, but enough loose ends have been tied up it would be fairly hard to add more. I suppose it will depend on the success of the TV adaptation.
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Re: What have you read recently?

Postby maddz » 7:30pm on 29 Sep 17

Bessie Bell and the Goblin King (Tales of Aylfenhame bk 3), by Charlotte E English

Following on from the previous 2 installments, the 3rd book is another self-contained historical fantasy. It's still very much in the same vein as the earlier works, but is rather darker in tone starting with an attempted rape and ending with the heroine declining to live happily ever after even though she is in love with the hero. Also, the heroine is a servant, not a member of the local gentry like the previous installments. I think I preferred this one with the grittiness. It looks like there will be further volumes appearing.

Ghosts of Tsavo (Society for Paranormals bk1), by Vered Ehsani

A self-published steampunk adventure in the same vein as the dire Ministry of Peculiar Occurences novella I reviewed earlier. However, this is much better written and distinctly more coherent. It does seem to start in media res, so it's probably worth checking the author's website for the free prequel. Not bad, and interesting enough for me to make a start on book 2.

Cleopatra's Heir, by Gillian Bradshaw

A historical novel about Caesarion, the son of Cleopatra and Julius Caesar, after the Battle of Actium. Well-written and plausible (although he was almost certainly executed by Octavian instead of being allowed to live). Recommended.

The Furthest Station (A PC Grant novella), by Ben Aaronovitch
Ghostly goings-on on the Metropolitan Line involving a missing person. Far too short! (And in all honesty, over-priced at the same price for a full novel.) Recommended if you're willing to pay the price.
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Re: What have you read recently?

Postby maddz » 3:44pm on 01 Oct 17

A Rare Book of Cunning Device, by Ben Aaronovitch

A PC Grant audiobook, currently free at Amazon. Strange goings on at the British Library. Not bad, although I thought Harold Postmartin came across a bit plummy.

Rivers of London vol 2: Night Witch (collected edition), by Ben Aaronovitch & Andrew Cartmel

Set after Foxglove Summer, Peter and Nightingale get involved with the Russian mafia. The Russian mafia get involved with Beverley Brook to their loss...

Rivers of London vol 3: Black Mould (collected edition), by Ben Aaronovitch & Andrew Cartmel

More supernatural goings on, this time involving a slum landlord and a jazz musician with an interest in voudoun. Make sure you have the vinegar bottle to hand.

The Wolf Hunt, by Gillian Bradshaw

Based on the Lai de Bisclaveret by Marie de France, this is an entertaining historical romance set in Brittany during the Crusades. Not slushy in the least, I can see it forming part of an Ars Magica campaign. On the strength of it, I've got a copy of the Lais. Recommended.
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Re: What have you read recently?

Postby maddz » 10:27am on 04 Oct 17

Black Opera, by Mary Gentle

A rare print acquisition, in part because Mary Gentle's works weren't digitised until recently.

An alternate history set in the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies after Waterloo. A Manichean secret society tries to trigger a volcanic eruption by performing an opera to provide a blood sacrifice to summon the god of this world. The king of the Two Sicilies forms an opera company to prevent this by means of a counter opera - they have 6 weeks to write the libretto, compose the music, rehearse and stage the opera...

No One Noticed the Cat, by Anne McCaffrey

A light YA fairy tale, I would say aimed at the younger end of the range. Readable, but not as good as Black Horses for the King.

The Lays of Marie de France, by Marie de France

An accessible translation by Eugene Mason, which is eminently readable: no cod-medieval language, although the syntax tends to the archaic. Various tales of love, both courtly and profane set mostly in Brittany. Enjoyable.
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Re: What have you read recently?

Postby Dom » 10:27pm on 08 Oct 17

# Books in September 2017
Only two books this month but they were ace.

## *Rotherweird* (Andrew Caldecott)
I think that this is best described as urban fantasy. The story revolves around the town of Rotherweird, isolated from the rest of the UK since the reign of Queen Elizabeth, Gloriana. The story starts with a teacher being hired to teach modern history to the children at the school, discovering that he is not allowed to delve into or explore or even talk about the past of the town due to the ‘History Regulations’, the breach of which caused the dismissal of his predecessor. The first half of the book is slow[^1], but as the plot gets going it becomes more and more entertaining.

## *A Legacy of Spies* (John le Carré)
My views on this are not unbiased. I have loved le Carré’s writing since my teenage years, and this story pulls together threads from the various novels which involve George Smiley. If you haven’t watched or read ‘The Spy who Came in from the Cold’, or ‘Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy’, don’t bother reading this book. Instead, settle back and watch Richard Burton’s masterful performance in the former (on Netflix at the moment) and Garry Oldman’s in the recent film of the latter. Or watch the Alec Guinness BBC TV series. Or listen to the BBC Radio Smiley Adaptations. Or even, as this is a thread on books read, read the books.

That said; the plot is a holding to account of the actions of the Circus from a modern day perspective. Peter Guillam is called back to the UK from retirement in France[^2] to have his passport taken from him and find that SIS is facing legal action from relatives of two people killed on an operation at the Berlin Wall. Peter Guillam is the only person involved that they have tracked down; Smiley’s location is unknown.

The character elements of this story are excellent, but don’t expect a high octane plot. This is an exploration of past deeds and the morality of the actions taken and their consequences. Along the way other characters from the past emerge as the story moves towards George Smiley - once more - stepping out of the shadows. Loved this. Part of it is revisiting old ground and friends from a different perspective, and part of it is the joy of le Carré’s prose. He’s said that this is the last book that will include Smiley, but he’s working on the next. I wish him a long and healthy life so I can continue to be enthralled with his work.

[^1]: Thankful not as hard going as Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell

[^2]: Those gamers who played the Dracula Dossier with me will know why this make me smile.
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Re: What have you read recently?

Postby negromaestro » 1:46pm on 09 Oct 17

Blade Runner 2049

Need more be said?
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Re: What have you read recently?

Postby ajevans » 3:50pm on 09 Oct 17

negromaestro wrote:Blade Runner 2049

Need more be said?


Yes. For instance, how did you read a film? :lol:
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Re: What have you read recently?

Postby thenovalord » 3:54pm on 09 Oct 17

He meant the movie poster
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Re: What have you read recently?

Postby maddz » 9:18pm on 11 Oct 17

Oddjobs, by Heide Goody and Ian Grant

OK, but Charles Stross does this sort of thing better. A mildly amusing romp about things that man was not meant to know residing in Birmingham prior to the end of the world.
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Re: What have you read recently?

Postby maddz » 1:47pm on 13 Oct 17

Maps to Nowhere, by Marie Brennan

From the LibraryThing Early Reviewers programme.

I really enjoyed this collection of short stories from Marie Brennan, especially the 3 anthropological stories - one set in an Ancient Egyptian style culture, one in a Meso-Anerican style culture and the last in a Venetian style culture, but all the other stories I thought were good as well (I had seen one previously which I think may have been a Tor.com short).

Recommended.
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