[reading] What have you read recently?

Maddz

Rune Priest
Keeping It Real, by Justina Robson (Quantum Gravity 1)

A very odd book - sort of a fantasy cyberpunk novel. In 2015 the Quantum Bomb happened and the boundaries between dimensions split. Earth now lives between the Elven, Elemental, Demonic, Faerie and Death realms. This is the story of Special Agent Lila Black who used to be human but after a disasterous mission to Alfheim is now a cyborg tasked with protecting a renegade elf.

Sort of Shadowrun-ish with echoes of Terminator, this is a rare print book which is being read to decide whether to keep or not. I’ll decide after I read the other book in the series.
 

Maddz

Rune Priest
Selling Out, by Justina Robson (Quantum Gravity 2)

This and the previous book are a couple of Paul’s print books we’re deciding whether to keep.

The further adventures of Lila Black. She’s on a mission to Demonia. Definitely odd, in much the same cyberpunk fantasy way as the previous book. It’s not bad, but it’s going onto the cull pile when we get home tomorrow. There’s another 3 books in the series, but I don’t think we’ll bother (especially as Paul never bothered to get them).

Interesting, but not interesting enough to keep.
 

Maddz

Rune Priest
Golden Barrier, by Mira Stables

A light Regency romance with echoes of Heyer’s A Civil Contract.

Katherine Martenhays is the daughter of a wealthy merchant and a gentlewoman. She has been raised by a maternal relation and has enjoyed three Seasons. However, she has not cared to accept any offer judging that it’s her father’s wealth that has prompted them.

Returning to her father, she renews her acquaintance with a neighbour’s poor relation, who has taken over the mismanaged estate. Mostly set in the country, the story is of their growing attraction and the barrier of her father’s wealth.

Light-hearted and a tolerable read, but not much meat to the story.
 

Maddz

Rune Priest
The Eversley Saga 1 & 2, by Alice Chetwynd Ley:

1 The Clandestine Betrothal
Susan Fyfield has sneaked into the gardens of Strawberry Hill and meets the owner, Horace Walpole and his guest, Beau Eversley. The Beau is the elder brother of her schoolfriend, Georgiana Eversley, and she has been day-dreaming about him.

Susan leaves school and returns to her aunt and betrothed cousin where she declares she, too, is betrothed, but not to who. In the course of the ensuing events, Susan discovers she is a fosterling and not a Fyfield after all - but does discover her true parentage.

2 The Toast of the Town
The action now focusses on Georgiana Eversley. In the course of a family visit to her brother Hugh and his wife, she meets the local doctor’s locum. Getting off on the wrong foot, she makes an ill-advised wager with her younger brother Freddy that she can bring the doctor to the point of proposing to her in the course of her visit.

As Georgiana is an arrant flirt (and has received seven proposals from six men), she is confident in winning wager - apart from one thing: she has finally fallen in love.

Very light, and I found both heroines objectionable - Susan Fyfield for being too young (I know, not considered too young at that point in time) and Georgiana Eversley for being too head-strong.

Unlike the previous series, I didn’t like these as much. I expect I’ll get book 3 when it’s in a sale, but I won’t be in any hurry to do so.
 

Guvnor

The Guvnor
Staff member
I am going to do the Goodreads book challenge in 2020. My target is 60 books.

First off: The Calculating Stars by Mary Robinette Kowal.
This is essentially the Right Stuff meets Hidden Figures, in an alternative time line where a meteorite strike off east coast USA generates an urgency that brings about an earlier space programme more dependent on human computers. Excellent feminist and anti-xenophic read and cracking Newtonian physics based SF.
I'll read the next one, recommended.
9/10
 

Maddz

Rune Priest
Sixteen Ways to Defend a Walled City, by K J Parker

An oddity of a book detailing a siege of the capital city of a large Empire by a group of auxiliaries of a different ethnicity to the rulers. The Empire isn’t the Byzantine Empire, and the capital city isn’t Constantinople. Honest.

Colonel Orhan is the milkface commander of the Imperial Engineers and by a set of circumstances finds himself the ranking military officer (and with the only troops) when the city comes under milkface siege. The milkfaces are a despised ethnic minority in the blueskin-ruled empire. Although overt discrimination is banned, there are a lot of discriminatory practices in existence.

The story is rather fun, Orhan is a snarky accidental hero. The anti-racist message wasn’t too heavy-handed.

Recommended.
 
Having got lots of time to read atm, I picked up the 'Outcast Marines' set by James David Victor for Kindle off Amazon for 99p. Premise (no spoilers): convicts from Earth are being trained to be a super-elite 'suicide squad' part of the Confederate Marine Corp. The books are easy to read (don't expect super in-depth sci-fi), but there are a lot of good ideas for a military RPG here and there is a slowly-building backstory. The books are short (by todays standards), around 240-250 pages. I'm just starting on Book 3.
 
Aliens: Earth Hive by Steve Perry. Novelisation of Black Horse Comics movie tie-in, uneasily retconned post Alien 3. Fairly competent hack job, I've certainly read worse.
Yeah, it's not too bad, considering that the author clearly had certain main characters in mind when he wrote it; then the filmmakers pulled the rug from under him. I've got the 'Rivers of Pain' series to read at some time.
 
The Invisible Library series, by Genevieve Cogman.

An Alternate Universe romp. Basically, the premise is that there are 2 poles to the multiverse - Order, ruled by the Dragon Monarchs, and Chaos, ruled by the Fae. Humanity, represented by the Invisible Library, is caught in the middle. Where neither Order nor Chaos predominate, humanity is it's own master; the Library does it's best to ensure neither faction predominates. In a high-chaos world, the Fae rule, and humans are supporting cast to the Fae archetypes. In a high-order world, dragons rule, and humans are at best servants in a Confucian order world. Neither faction sees humans as equals.

The Library sits outside the worlds; they are human - neither Fae nor Dragons find it easy (let alone possible) to enter. They hold the balance, and actively work to ensure specific worlds don't fall into either faction. They do this by stealing stories - generally by stealing books, but a copy is all that's needed. However, the story needs to be unique (or at least only known on a handful of worlds).

1. The Invisible Library
We are introduced to the librarian Irene Winters, and her mentor, Coppelia. Irene is saddled with an apprentice, Kai, and sent to a Victorian-alternate world to retrieve a version of Grimm's Fairy Tales with a unique story. Here she meets Lord Silver, a Fae with a libertine seducer persona, and Peregrine Vale, a Sherlock Holmes style detective. Complicating matters is the librarian Bradamant, a sometime mentor of Irene's (who doesn't seem to keep apprentices for very long), and the renegade librarian, Alberich, who has allied with chaos and is seeking to destroy the Library. In the course of the story, we discover Kai is a dragon prince.

2. The Masked City
Kai has been kidnapped by Lord Guantes and his wife, and taken to an alternate 17th Century Venice to be auctioned off. Irene is forced to follow to prevent this, aided reluctantly by Lord Silver (who stands to loose too much to Lord Guanted, a some-time rival of his should this be successful). Peregrine Vale follows as well (unbeknownst to Irene.) In the course of the rescue, Irene aids The Horse to break free from The Rider, and allies with some junior Fae, notably Sterrington and Zaytanna.

3. The Burning Page
Alberich is back, and this time has made his move on the Library. He's doing this by destabilising the links between worlds that the Library has created, and is killing Librarians as well. Aided by Kai, and reluctantly by Zaytanna, it falls to Irene to discover Alberich's lair and stop him. In the course of this, many unique stories are destroyed when Irene sets fire to the lair. Zaytanna dies in the course of this; it seems she had been suborned by Alberich and her loyalty ensured by a metaphysical choke-chain.

I'm sure I reviewed them before, but it must have been when we were on UKRoleplayers, and I never transferred the reviews to LibraryThing.

4. The Lost Plot
We're back in the worlds of the Invisible Library: Irene Winter is meeting with a family of vampires resident in Yorkshire to make an exchange of books. Unfortunately, the vampires have other ideas and try making her an offer she can't refuse. In the course of which, we are told that Peregrine Vale (the Sherlock Holmes analog in this parallel) is part of a rival vampire family - which will no doubt lead to complexity further along the series. Escaping from the vampires, Irene falls in with a dragon who also makes her an offer she cannot refuse. Unfortunately for the dragon, Irene is well aware that she must refuse as accepting will break the Library's neutrality between dragons (scions of order) and Fae (scions of chaos). The offer she was made was to locate a book for the dragon which was part of a political contest between two dragons. It was claimed that the other dragon had secured the services of another Librarian to do so.

Returning to the Library, Irene was given a mission to find out what was going on, and locate the other Librarian and bring him in for questioning. Oh, and to locate the book (a version of The Journey to the West replete with political satire) and make sure neither dragon got it - not that the Library needed another copy anyway. Irene and Kai (her dragon apprentice) travel to a Roaring Twenties analog of East Coast USA with a tight deadline...

The usual fun and games ensue; we learn more about dragon politics, fae assassins, and Kai has to retire from his position with the Library to prevent further political complications - but not from Irene's life. This instalment felt lighter in tone than others in the series. It seemed to me that this book would have worked as a stand-alone; I suspect it's going to be a bridging volume between the initial Alberich story-arc and a subsequent story-arc.

This got posted at LibraryThing, but it seems I didn't post it here for some reason.

5. The Mortal Word
Reviewed earlier: https://www.gamingtavern.eu/index.php?threads/what-have-you-read-recently.30/post-7031

6. The Secret Chapter
The Fae/Dragon Treaty is now in effect. Irene is sent to obtain a book from a non-aligned Fae. However, he wants a quid-pro-quo; Irene and Kai are asked to help steal The Raft of the Medusa from an alternate Vienna.

As a whole, the series comes across as a bit uneven; the characters can come across as cardboard (especially the Fae - it's how they define themselves), and the Dragons are a bit full of it, but it's pretty readable. I expect I'll get the next instalment when it's out.
My daughter lent me these, but I never made it past the first book. Somehow, it just didn't 'click' with me. The concept was interesting but it just didn't grip me.
 
Reading James Holland Dam Busters. The story of the bouncing bomb and the attacks on the dams. It is a very good read and with details declassified now makes great reading.
I must read this. Back in the 1980's I worked briefly with Bill Townsend. It was only at his funeral (when 617 Tornado squadron did a flyover) did I learn that he was a Dambusters pilot. He was very quiet, but had an air of command about him. Now I understand why.
 
Yeah, it's not too bad, considering that the author clearly had certain main characters in mind when he wrote it; then the filmmakers pulled the rug from under him. I've got the 'Rivers of Pain' series to read at some time.
I wouldn't go out of my way to read his stuff, but I've also read one of the sequels The Female War which was ok as well. Thought his novelisations worked better than the original comics, which had some nice art but were bang average in the writing stakes.
 
Getting Carter by Nick Triplow. Biography of seminal British hard boiled crime novelist Ted Lewis. A talented musician and artist as well as writer he seems to have been a difficult bloke, to put it mildly. Drank himself to death aged 42.

In a House of Lies by Ian Rankin. Late entry in the Rebus canon with little to contradict the late Julian Rathbone's assertion that Rankin writes the same book every year. I liked the mid-period novels which did a good job of exploring the boundaries between crime, business and politics but Rankin does seem to have been on auto-pilot for at least the last decade. I sometimes wish he'd do another "Jack Harvey" thick eared thriller, they were good fun.
 

Dom

Administrator
Staff member
Books from September 2019 until December 2019
Long time, no posts, sorry!

A Pocketful of Crows (Joanne M Harris)
I bought this on impulse, as I'm a sucker for more adult takes on fairy tales. I was pleased that it delivered. The protagonist is one of the travelling people, nameless and magical, capable of shapeshifting and working magic. She is captivated by the Laird's young son, falling in love, and abandoning her wildness to be with him. Promised marriage, he names her and binds her to him, away from her powers. Then his father returns and rejects the match the young master has made. The tale twists to one of hurt and revenge, as the slighted wilding seeks to regain her powers and release her anger. The book is well written, almost poetic and quite haunting. The illustrations are gorgeous, even on a Kindle. It's a short read, and well worth the time.

The Darkness (Hidden Iceland #1) (Ragnar Jónasson)
Having read the Dark Iceland sequence, I decided to read the new series coming out. I was surprised where this went and it was not entirely satisfying where the story ended. However, it did leave me wanting to read the next book to see if the threads start to pull together.

Palace of Treason (Jason Matthews)
An enjoyable sequel to "Red Sparrow"; it verges on the Jason Bourne and James Bond end of the genre rather than le Carré and Charles Cumming, but it's well paced and plotted. It does draw you on with action, sex and violence and a big dash of tradecraft and traitors. I'll be reading the third book in 2020.

The Lights Go Out in Lychford (Paul Cornell)
An enjoyable return to Lychford, as the consequences of previous events continue to roll through and the coven tries to deal with the deterioration of its senior member and a threat from outside. Worth considering if you like Liminal or Rivers of London, but read the earlier books first.

The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen #1
Century 1910 (The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen)
The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen #2
Black Dossier (The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen #3)
Nemo: River of Ghosts
Nemo: The Roses of Berlin
Nemo: Heart of Ice
Century 1969 (The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen)
Century 2009 (The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen)


So I went through nine books of Alan Moore and Kevin O'Neil's epic graphic novel series in preparation for reading:

The Tempest (The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen Volume #4)
A hot mess of a book, written in multiple styles, bringing to a close the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. 3D glasses included. A challenging but enjoyable read.

There's also a fair few RPGs read, but you've already seen those reviews.
 
A Pocketful of Crows (Joanne M Harris)
I bought this on impulse, as I'm a sucker for more adult takes on fairy tales. I was pleased that it delivered. The protagonist is one of the travelling people, nameless and magical, capable of shapeshifting and working magic. She is captivated by the Laird's young son, falling in love, and abandoning her wildness to be with him. Promised marriage, he names her and binds her to him, away from her powers. Then his father returns and rejects the match the young master has made. The tale twists to one of hurt and revenge, as the slighted wilding seeks to regain her powers and release her anger. The book is well written, almost poetic and quite haunting. The illustrations are gorgeous, even on a Kindle. It's a short read, and well worth the time.
As you enjoyed that one, you may want to check today's Daily Deal: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Blue-Salt-...?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1579507676&sr=1-4
 
Devices and Desires, by K J Parker (The Engineer Trilogy 1)

Like the previous K J Parker, this is a story about an engineer in a military setting. Ziani Vaatzes is an engineer in the Ordnance Factory of the Mezentine Republic. He falls foul of the Guild by improving on Specification - which is an abomination - when making a mechanical doll for his daughter. Escaping, he falls in with the retreating army of the Eremians - who have been massacred by massed scorpion fire by the Mezentines and accompanies them back home. Here he ends up designing scorpions for them - knowing that the Mezentines will be hunting him down and massacring anyone harbouring him. This is the story of the siege of the Duchy of Eremia and what happened.

I didn't enjoy this one as much as the other - it seemed much slower, probably because it's book 1 of a trilogy. I also wasn't rooting for the lead character either - I found him coming across as a bit of a self-righteous prig, trying to justify his actions, and basically deciding nothing was his fault - it was all inevitable. It's also quite a brutal story, so it might not be to everyone's taste.

Recommended with reservations.
 
Sweep with Me, by Ilona Andrews (#5 in The Innkeeper Chronicles)

A novella set after Sweep of the Blade. Dina is about to celebrate Treaty Stay, where innkeepers are obliged to accept guests. The inn is picked by a Drífan (extremely powerful magic users) to meet a relative on neutral ground. Also staying are 2 flocks of Koo-ko (flightless chickens with a taste for combat philosophy - or philosophical combat) and a Medamoth (a large warrior race) on pilgrimage. This is along with the usual inhabitants - Dina herself, her partner, Sean (the werewolf), the temperamental Quillonian chef and everyone's favourite grandmotherex-galactic tyrant, Caldenia. On top of this, the Innkeeper Assembly have summoned Dina about earlier events when the inn was besieged.

This has all the earmarks of a recipe for disaster...

Great fun, and recommended.
 
Top