Dueling Wizard…

Taken (Alex Verus, #3) by Benedict Jacka

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Alex Verus #3. It was fun. Probably the best so far? Urban Fantasy with a mature tone. People are actually treated as adults, there is no gratuitous sex just for the heck of it, the bad guys are not cardboard cut-outs, there is a lot of grey areas and Jacka writes good action sequences.

The mystery plot was good, although the additional, final revelation was a bit too detached from the main story for my taste. Set-up for later shenanigans, maybe? 

The dueling apprentices is a fun idea and a nice way of explaining the magical mechanics of this world. I appreciated the juxtaposition to Alex‘s duel towards the end.

The tone still reminds me a little of Peter Grant, but grittier, with less focus on being funny (though it is).

This series should definitely be read in order and I have the next one lined up to read in a few months…

My January 2022

And the first month of the year is over already! Here is what read, listened to and watched…

Activation Degradation ★★★★☆, audio, SF, not Murderbot, just ignore that. Different take on robots/cyborgs/AI.
Cursed ★★★★½, Alex Verus #2, ebook, UF, wizards in London battle it out, good fun.
Black Powder War ★★★☆☆, Temeraire #3, ebook, Fantasy, the way back from China to Europe over land, with stopovers in Istanbul and Prussia, set in 1806.
– Fruiting Bodies ★★★★★, short story, SF Horror, a little creepy.
– Life on Earth ★★★★☆, audio, TBR pile, David Attenborough narrates his book, natural history.
– The Sweet Rowan ★★★★¼, ebook, TBR, sweet Regency romance, set in Scotland, with a wee bit of magic.
– Saga #55 ★★★★☆, eComic, SF, finally back after three years of waiting.
– The Marrow Thieves ★★★☆☆, ebook, TBR, dystopian YA set in Canada. People have lost the power to dream, except for indigenous people, who are hunted for a cure.
– Tietjen auf Tour: Warum Camping mich glücklich macht, paper, DNF after 84 pages reading and skimming to 150 pages / 55%. Travel anecdotes, nice enough, but very repetitive.

Still reading, carry over into February:
Fire and Ice: The Volcanoes of the Solar System, audio. Fascinating!

Specfic Movies & TV watched:
– The Expanse, S6, Ep. 3-6 ★★★★☆ Season finished. They went off script quite a bit. Not sure yet how much I liked this.
– Foundation, S1, Ep. 4-10 ★★★★★ Season finished. Excellent!
– Venom ★★★¾☆ Entertaining and a little too silly.
– Kingdom, S1, Ep. 1-3 ★★★☆☆ Korean zombie series in a historical setting. Unintentionally funny at times. Different. The people in this have the survival instincts of gnats.

Some StoryGraph statistics:

(yes, the last and first page counts are different, I updates something in between screen shooting the stats… 😝)

How to deal with your curse 101

Cursed (Alex Verus, #2) by Benedict Jacka

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

The second Alex Verus novel. I read the first one a few years ago and didn‘t like it, then tried again recently and changed my mind. 

So I am back in London, in a magic shop that reminds me of the Iron Druid‘s shop, with a mage that is definitely not Harry Potter. Alex gained a small amount of fame after the events of the first book. He went back to his old life, with Luna in tow as his sort-of-apprentice. Training her is not going terribly well and then something turns up dead, someone need his help and people start trying to kill Alex. He doesn‘t take that well.

The first two chapters rehash the set-up of this world, the magic system and the events of the first book. Especially the first chapter was pretty dry reading for me. But I guess you are not supposed to read these books back-to-back, so the reminder should work in most cases. The action started to pick up in the second chapter though and from then on it was quite a rollercoaster. If you like plot-driven books with a lot of action, that also have well developed characters, this is a winner.

At the end of my kindle edition is a preview to Hounded by Kevin Hearne, which is very fitting. They are both similar in tone. Alex Verus is the more mature one, with a world that feels more solid and well-developed. However, if you like Verus, you might have a lot of fun with the Iron Druid Chronicles as well. I did, at least for quite a few books.

If the first one-an-a-half chapters hadn‘t been so dry, this would have been 5 stars. The next books is on my shelf already.

After posting my review, I always look at other reviews, to see what my GR friends thought of the book. To my amazement one of my buddies really flamed this book as being very sexists, women just being helpmeets, etc.

Yes, Luna and Meredith only serve as facilitators. Well, at least Meredith does. And the book probably doesn‘t pass the Bechdel test, but it didn‘t bother me terribly much. And you?


Currently still reading:

Life on Earth by David Attenborough (audiobook)

Activation Degradation by Marina J. Lostetter (audiobook)

Reading next:

Black Powder War (Temeraire, #3) by Naomi Novik, buddy read, part of my TBR-pile, ebook

New year, new opportunities…

So, I spent most of today sorting my reading shelves and looking through possible challenges and whatnot. This is what I came up with…

Planned reading for January:
– Buddy Read Cursed, Alex Verus #2, ebook, started today and made it to chapter 2.
– Buddy Read Black Powder War, Temeraire #3, ebook. I will pick this up after the above. More dragons!
– Saga #55, eComic, pre-ordered, pub date Jan 26. I can‘t possibly wait for the collected volume, after waiting for this since they went into their extended hiatus in 2018!

Also reading / ongoing:
– Life on Earth, audio, narrated by David Attenborough. I made it to chapter 9, all about birds of paradise. Fun chapter, but even so I feel a bit bored by this book.


I settled on a TBR Challenge for 2022 for the 217 owned books currently on my physical and digital shelves:

This reading challenge is for folks who have an obnoxiously large TBR (over 100 books) and need a kick in the pants to get it whittled down. These prompts will help you randomly select 24 books (2 for each month) from your TBR in the hopes that you pick up books you keep forgetting about or putting off. 

RULES:
1. You must start AND finish each book in 2022.  
2. A DNF still counts! The purpose of the challenge is to get you to at least try reading some books you might not otherwise pick up.
3.  Audiobooks count!
4. You must use a random number generator for each prompt. Here is an example of one you can use, but you can use any random number generator of your choice. 
5. You must use the first number that is generated every time you select a book for a prompt. 

Here is what I got from that numbers generator and my owned-books-shelf over at Goodreads:

1. January: Book 1 
Using the default order of the books on your spreadsheet (or my sorted-by-numbers GR list…), generate a random number from 1 to the number of books on your TBR. Use this number to find the book on the corresponding row in your spreadsheet.

– January #1 The Sweet Rowan

2. January: Book 2 (126 books added)
Sort your TBR by date added in ASCENDING order. Generate a random number from 1 to 100 and choose the book on the corresponding row. 

– January #2 The Marrow Thieves

I just realized that I didn‘t just pick between 1 and 100, but between 1 and all of my owned books. Never mind, not doing it again. So, we‘ll see how long I can keep up with this challenge!


And then there is my Pern Re-read:
I am deleting, as I progress through my re-reads. I made a nice dent in my list in December. Here is what‘s left! I probably won‘t get to the next one until February though, looking at my above plans.

Publication Order
* 1983 – Moreta: Dragonlady of Pern — part of On Dragonwings
* 1984 – Nerilka’s Story
* 1989 – The Renegades of Pern
* 1991 – All The Weyrs of Pern
* 1994 – The Dolphins of Pern
* 1998 – The Masterharper of Pern
* 2001 – The Skies of Pern
* 2003 – Dragon’s Kin
* 2005 – Dragonsblood
* 2006 – Dragon’s Fire
* 2007 – Dragon Harper
* 2008 – Dragonheart
* 2010 – Dragongirl
* 2011 – Dragon’s Time
* 2012 – Sky Dragons

I should not run out of ideas of what to read next, what do you think?

Blast from the Past

In yesterday‘s review of Fated I mentioned other novels with a similar setting and feel. And because I haven‘t posted those review here before (well, ok, pretty sure I talked about Peter Grant plenty), I give you another Blast from the Past…

Hounded (The Iron Druid Chronicles, #1) — read and reviewed in 2013
by Kevin Hearne

I struggled a bit in the first third of the book. For an over 2000 years old druid this guy seems to be pretty silly and not very smart or wise. The talking dog is a tad annoying, too. It sometimes sounds very smart and at other times it’s pretty much like I would expect a dog to be. 
In the beginning you also get swamped with every supernatural being you can think of and you’re pummeled with a ton of complicated, celtic names. The werewolves could do with being fleshed out a bit more. And a tad of world building would not go amiss. Thor? Really?
I was prepared to be royally disappointed and give up. But I stuck with it and the action picked up eventually. The fight scenes are well written. The bad guys are pretty stupid, though. And the author is not as funny as he thinks he is, Maybe he is trying too hard. Or I am too old to be that easily amused. Take your pick. But I ended up reading pretty much two thirds of the book in one sitting and I enjoyed myself. Go figure. I might even get the next book of the series.

PS: I threw in the towel after book 7 of the series…


Rivers of London (Rivers of London, #1) — read and reviewed in 2012 and 2018
by Ben Aaronovitch

First re-read, July 2018:

My first re-read, six years later and having read and liked all the other available full-length novel. I liked it a lot better than the first time around, although it still felt a bit slow in the middle. I didn‘t remember much of the plot and it was interesting to see, how much this world has developed with the consecutive books.

I guess the perceived slowness was probably due to Aaronovitch spending time on world building and introducing various characters, which are relevant in later books. The plot suffered a bit for it. It was worth reading this again, though. And if this is your first read and you are maybe not totally sold yet, please give the next book a chance.


April 2012, original review:

Modern day London, a copper takes a witness statement, not realising that he is interviewing a ghost. He ends up working for the last wizard of England in a special police unit dealing with the supernatural.

I read the first 70 pages in one sitting. Fresh, witty, great plot, I laughed a lot and had fun. Murder, sleuthing, magic, talking to ghosts. And then those rivers started showing up and the story wandered off into the distance aimlessly. The plot lost its way and I lost interest. I kept putting the book down for days on end, to read something more interesting. Finally I forced myself to finish it with a fair bit of skimming.

What shame. I really wanted to like this book. There was too much going on that had nothing to do with the actual plot. I wish the author had just stuck to the murder mystery and concentrated on developing the three central characters of of Peter Grant, Inspector Nightingale and Lesley. Instead he sidetracked into the story of Mother Thames, her daughters and the Old Man. Which was a nice plot bunny by itself, but had nothing to do with the murder mystery. In the end it was boring and frustrating, because it was so scattered.

PS: Re-reading the first book spawned into a re-read of the entire series and this is currently one of my favourite UF novels written by a male author. Currently waiting for book #9, due to be published in April 2022! Instabuy / pre-ordered!


Storm Front (The Dresden Files, #1) — read and reviewed in 2008
by Jim Butcher

Love the Endless Purse, I want one! What an excellent read. Liked it right from the start, Harry is a guy who likes his sarcasm and has a sense of humour. Harry Potter has grown up and moved to Chicago. Thoroughly enjoyable, good suspense story, well fleshed out characters, and the tension just keeps on rising.

PS: I threw in the towel after book #5. There was zero character development and Harry was just too immature for my taste.

Better the second time around…

Fated (Alex Verus, #1)
by Benedict Jacka

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Harry Dresden meets Peter Grant. Jacka probably wrote this because he is a massive Dresden fanboy!

“I’ve even heard of one guy in Chicago who advertises in the phone book under ‘Wizard’ though that’s probably an urban legend.“

He gives us some great characters, for example the air elemental Starbreeze…

“She’s ancient and timeless. I don’t know how old she is, but I think she might have been born at the time the world was made. She’s also dumb as a sack of rocks.“

In tone it‘s actually more Hounded by Kevin Hearne than Rivers of London (Rivers of London, #1) by Ben Aaronovitch. Well, maybe both. But it is set in London, which I always love to read about as a place setting. And it‘s the kind of humour I like. Tongue-in-cheek, not too silly. Roughly in the middle of this book the story starts to take a darker turn. Unexpected and pretty fun.

For me this is a re-read and I am actually raising my star rating from 3 to 4. I still have the issue that there is a little too much telling instead of showing, but for a first entry into the world of adult UF Jacka did a good job and this time around I will definitely pick up the next book in the series. I am especially looking forward to how Luna will develop.


Here is my slightly harsh sounding review from December 2012:

Nice setting, interesting plot, reminiscent of Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files. Likeable characters, especially Luna, Sonder and Starbreeze. Hopefully they will be part of the next books. I am not quite sure yet, if I will pick up the next book though. Although I liked Fated, it left me a little unsatisfied. Too many times you are simply told what happens, but you don’t get to see it happen. I would have liked a more graphic story telling. I doubt Jacka is lacking imagination and therefore leaves it to us to fill in the blanks. So what is the problem? Is he just lazy or does he maybe not want to scare us away with more violent scenes during the battles and so on? It made it a little harder for me to build an emotional connection with the characters, making the story feel a little sterile at times. Maybe Jacka just needs a little warming up to the world of adult Urban Fiction…

Top Ten Tuesday, counting to 10…

Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018. It was born of a love of lists, a love of books, and a desire to bring bookish friends together.

http://www.thatartsyreadergirl.com/top-ten-tuesday/

 This week‘s topic / September 13: Books with numbers in the titles

Let‘s see if I manage from one to ten on my shelf of read books…

One Fell Sweep (Innkeeper Chronicles, #3)
by Ilona Andrews

I first read this as an online serial on Ilona Andrews’ website, which took most of 2016. I had fun reading the weekly bits and agonizing over them with my reading buddies. However, reading a finished book in one go is a more cohesive affair. It runs smoother, you can read as long as you want, no waiting for the next gripping bit. Also more editing and small improvements on various details. Plus a maturer rating.

“Look, it can be fast, good, or cheap. You can have any two but never all three.”

― Ilona Andrews, One Fell Sweep

Two Ravens and One Crow (The Iron Druid Chronicles #4.3)
by Kevin Hearne

You read that right. I purposefully did not pick The Two Towers (The Lord of the Rings, #2) by J.R.R. Tolkien… 😜 Instead I picked a short story from The Iron Druid Chronicles. A fun series, if you manage to ignore that a 2000-year-old druid is this dumb and juvenile.

Three Days to Dead (Dreg City, #1)
by Kelly Meding

Great fun! I almost read it in a day. Our heroine is a bounty hunter for all things that go bump in the night. There are shapeshifters, vampires, bridge trolls, the fey… Nothing really unusual or terribly new, but an entertaining read nonetheless, if you like Charlaine Harris, Patricia Briggs or Carrie Vaughn.

The Eye of the World: The Graphic Novel, Volume Four
by Chuck Dixon, Robert Jordan

Another attempt to make headway with this series. I got a very nice hardback edition. Starts with chapter 27 of the book, Shelter From the Storm, and ends with chapter 34 of the book, The Last Village.

Very close to the book. The artwork is nothing breath taking, but well done. Especially the cover gallery in the back has some very nice images.

This takes place roughly in the middle of The Eye of The World, which dragged for me. The pacing of the comic is not much different. I liked it, but it didn‘t tempt me to get another volume right away. If I saw some WoT comics in a second hand store at a reduced price, maybe…

Five Quarters of the Orange
by Joanne Harris

Framboise is running a creperie in a small village in rural France. She spent her childhood years during WWII in this village, but nobody knows that. She now lives under another name, to protect a dark secret in her past. One day her nephew and his wife appear at her doorstep, to ask for the use of her name and recipes. When she refuses – to protect her true identity – she quickly realises that they will stop at nothing to get those recipes. But she is not easily defeated. And while she struggles against her nephew, she tells us her story….. Very good book, recommended! Great storytelling.

Rainbow Six (Jack Ryan Universe, #10)
by Tom Clancy

Unusual, as it is one of the rare books where Jack Ryan is not the main character. John Clark is not as black and white and makes for an interesting character. There is the usual body count and a lot of gadgets, all in all a solid thriller.

Sherlock Holmes: The Seven-Per-Cent Solution
by David Tipton,  Scott Tipton,  Ron Joseph (Illustrations) 

I have the seen the movie several times, it is one of my favourite Sherlock Holmes movies. 

This is a very close retelling of the story. The dramtic chase and the big reveal of Holmes’ secret at the end are well done, as well as the artwork. An enjoyable read and a surprising take on the life of the great detective. Sherlock Holmes fans should not miss this.

Eight Feet in the Andes: Travels with a Mule from Ecuador to Cuzco
by Dervla Murphy

I really wanted to like this, but after spending ages getting past the first 50 pages I decided to give up. The great thing about travel literature is the things that happen on the way. But as far as I got, the main thing was going up the mountain, over the mountain, down the mountain…. And I did not think the descriptions of the most likely stunning scenery were very good either. Very disappointing.

Nine Last Days on Planet Earth
by Daryl Gregory

Free short story on Tor.com.

“When the seeds rained down from deep space, it may have been the first stage of an alien invasion—or something else entirely.“

https://www.tor.com/2018/09/19/nine-last-days-on-planet-earth-daryl-gregory/

I‘m Groot! Interesting. I liked it, fascinating take on evolution and alien invasion, great character development. I felt with LT and almost cried with him at the end. Not sure if I am a fan of that quasi open ending. 

Soonish: Ten Emerging Technologies That Will Improve and/or Ruin Everything
by Kelly Weinersmith,  Zach Weinersmith

My NetGalley version only consisted of the introduction and the first two chapters: How to get into space cheaply and asteroid mining. Once I realized that, I mostly skimmed and just perused a bit here and there.

Entertaining, amusing style, that borders on slightly silly. Amusing, very simple comic strips—I recommend reading the ebook version on something that allows colour. Easy to understand explanations of complex topics. Space elevators, reusable rockets, Elon Musk and the odd Star Trek joke make an appearance.

It‘s ok, if you are looking for something light to flick through, when you have a few minutes to spare. Coffee table reading, mostly decorative.

Same old, same old

Triad Soul (Triad Blood, #2)Triad Soul by Nathan Burgoine
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

„Luc, Anders, and Curtis—vampire, demon, and wizard—sidestepped tradition by binding themselves together.“
Without this sentence in the book synopsis I would have been completely lost. Even with it I struggled to keep the characters and names straight.

Minimal to no set-up or world building. All the characters felt the same. The magic kept reminding me of other UF or PNR I have read. Same old, same old, read this many, many times over.

Everybody else seems to like this, but it is not for me, DNF at 24%, 2 not very sparkly stars.

In a galaxy far, far away I received this free e-copy from the publisher/author via NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review, thank you! Sorry that it took me so long. Too many books, too little time. I will try to do better.

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Battle mages at work

Broken Homes (Peter Grant, #4)Broken Homes by Ben Aaronovitch
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Slightly spoilerish.

The beginning confused me. I couldn‘t figure out how we got from the guy in the car accident to him being a suspect. I also struggled a little with keeping some of the other characters straight. Not sure if that was me or Aaronovich. Might be me, as I am still not quite sure about the evolution of the Faceless Man and his various iterations.

Most of the book seemed slower than the other books and the plot a bit directionless. It all sort of meandered along. The spring festival for example felt like a completely pointless addition without any impact on the main plot. Set-up for later books?

Pity that we didn‘t get to see more of Abigail.

Once it all picks up speed at the end, it‘s great. Loved the battle at the farm. Although the best parts happened in the off. Really liked the finale. Great visuals, would make an excellent ending for a movie with spectacular special effects.

Surprising plot twist was surprising. I did not see that coming. Well, there was a small twitch earlier, when you-know-what was mentioned and I though uh-oh, potential for problems! But oh my, that was a shocker.

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Underground

Whispers Under Ground (Peter Grant, #3)Whispers Under Ground by Ben Aaronovitch
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Out and about in London. Love and geographical knowledge of London makes this even more fun. I recommend to have a map of the London burroughs handy or maybe an AtoZ. I did.

Entertaining police procedural with a magic twist. I am finally hooked on this series. And once I am through with this series buddy read, I will re-read the first book. This time around my rating will most likely be quite a bit higher.

Some editing mistakes in the ebook, mostly missing prepositions and articles.

I am picturing Zach as Rhys Ifans in the movie Notting Hill. Having more of Lesley was fun. Abigail was a good addition. She has potential.

Was Peter‘s architectural interest there in the previous book and I missed it or was that new?

When did it become a standard that magic and technology don‘t interact well? Harry Dresden doesn‘t do well with electronics and Kate Daniel‘s world jumps from one to the other, but they don‘t coincide. It feels like a theme.

The plot was good, I liked being underground. Good humour. I liked what they found there and I have actually seen the movie. Reminds me of my horrible Hammer movie adventures. Loved all the quotes and hints at books and movies, Ben Aaronovitch is my kind of nerd.

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