Thursday, 14 January 2016

The Coroner's Lunch

Image sourced from here
Dr Siri is ready to retire. He is 72, a doctor, who and also been a jungle fighter trying to bring about Communist change for years. Now the Communists are in power, and his loyalty will be rewarded with retirement, right? Hmmmm. Not so surprisingly he is "rewarded" by the Party by being appointed Chief Coroner (which he has no training for), and expected to work until he no longer can do so. And on top of that, working for a large amount of young men who don't have any understanding of their positions and are only appointed due to their Soviet university degrees.

Easily enough to drive you mental I would say. But not Dr Siri. He takes it all in his stride with a large amount of humour and sarcasm, and makes it a pleasure to read. We get pulled along with him through some of his investigations, that take him all over Laos and introduce us rather comprehensively to the situation of the 1976 newly Communist country.

The mysteries are good and not too obvious. There is an element of the fantastical/supernatural to the story which I was worried would be heavy handed and out of place, but works rather well. And there are just some great characters that I want to go back and visit again. Luckily there are another nine books for me to do exactly that.

Wednesday, 4 November 2015

Rosemary and Rue

Image sourced from here
I wasn't sure what to make of this book. Hands down, it's got probably the best intro twist in the first 10 pages that I have read out of any urban fantasy. But after this, I was wondering if it was just going to be a Dresden rip off. You know, fairies instead of wizards, San Francisco instead of Chicago, female instead of male, still drives a punch buggy.

But I was pleasantly surprised as the book comes into it's own. The lore and the magic system is fun and detailed, and hints back to real world myths and legends. I love it when a book does that. Toby is sassy and competent, which is always annoying that I find this a surprise in a female character.

Toby was a private detective of the fairy variety, and is a changeling herself. Until something happens that makes her want to stay the hell away from the fairy realm and society. Of course, until something happens that can't keep her away and also requires her special private detective skills. Throw in an ex-lover or two, and we have a great vaginal fantasy read.

And it was for about 250 pages. First 200 are good, the last 50 are good. But the middle 100 needed an editor or a tidy up or something. But I am hoping that is something that will come with experience as a writer for her. As this is the first book in the series, and I believe published by her, and there are many more of both I will pick up and try. I do like me a fairy.

Sunday, 4 October 2015

Crocodile on the Sandbank

Image sourced from here
I was a bit excited for this book. Archaeology. Mystery. Victorian era. Sassy, societal and gender role shunning protagonist. Sounded like a rip roaring adventure through pyramids with parasols.

However, all I wanted to do was smack Amelia Peabody and her smug little face with her smug little parasol. The woman was insufferable. I am all for smartarse, outspoken, sarcastic, pushing society's role for you, female protagonists. But don't give it to me coated in smug.

I struggled through the book. In fact I put it down as I thought I was in a reading slump, but now I have finished the book, I think the book was the slump. But I waded through to show myself she got better and it was a fun little cozy that everyone enjoys. Nope. I just saturated myself in the smug.

And don't even get me started on the most forced love interest. I can sort of see what was being attempted but it was "sneaking" up on you from page 20 like a four year old hiding behind a pot plant, and wasn't convincing at all.

Urgh. Now I feel like I need a shower again.

Monday, 28 September 2015

Salmon Fishing in the Yemen

Image sourced from here
My Dad read a lot. But he read things you could learn stuff from (gardening, wildlife, natural history, woodworking, diy, history, military, politics, etc books) or biographies/autobiographies of sportsmen or military persons. So much so that when he passed away and my Mum came with us to his flat, she remarked that copy of The Bourne Identity was the first novel she had ever seen in his possession. And she had been married to the man for 15 years at one time.

So that being said, the only novel my Dad ever recommended to me to read was this one. From what I can piece together, I think he had borrowed it from the library as he thought it actually was a book about fishing in the Yemen. It wasn't, and isn't, but Dad being Dad, seeing it was in his house for a month, he'd give it a go. And apparently he loved it.

I can honestly see why. It's the British kind of absurd he loved. It pays the crap out of those ridiculous people in London doing ridiculous things that his kind of Northerner doesn't get, and really, I only do as I live in the bureaucratic capital of another country. It's Yes Minister, but with fish and the Middle East. It is bloody funny.

It's a tongue in cheek look at the most boring man in British history who has been commissioned against his will through his civil service job to see if salmon fishing in the Yemen is possible. The book then follows him and his colleagues through the project and it's misadventures, and how it changes them.

It's also a rather insightful look into the political machine and British foreign policy regarding the Middle East in the 2000s. I'm glad Dad told me to read it actually. What I like about this book is very similar to what I loved about Dad honestly. Something so ridiculous and outrageous, in him the crazy Yorkshireman with the outrageous stories and the cheeky smile, but if you push further there was actually an incredibly nuanced understanding of foreign and military policy hiding within, both in the book and Dad. But Dad also had great information about growing tomatoes ;)

Sunday, 6 September 2015

I'm Not Dead!

2015 has not been my reviewing year. I do apologise if people do follow this blog for reviews. I have been slack and lame. I also have been through such an intense reading slump. I didn't finish a book from mid-June to August. Just nothing I picked up worked for me, and I now have a whole heap of half read books littering the house.

I also have a pile of books from pre-slump and post-slump sitting here to review. So once again, let's knock those over quickly, and then I'll get my shit together from now on.

A Study in Scarlet

First Sherlock book I have read, although obviously well acquainted with the world and characters. I really enjoyed the original book though, and felt that the book was incredibly easy to read over a hundred years later. Also made me really respect the latest BBC series SOOO much more, and I didn't think that was possible.

The War of the Worlds

Wins for the best use of the word "ejaculation" I have seen for a long time. I can see why it is a classic, and I can see it was completely mind blowing at the time. I did find it dragging in parts, just a slow pacing that Victorian novels can have. I am glad I read it, but I was a little let down due to all the hype I have heard for years.

Cocaine Blues

Phryne Fisher is more badass in the book than the series. Sometimes to the point of ridiculous, but more badass. But great intro to the 1920s lady detective running around Melbourne causing mayhem. And different enough from the series that you can happily read and watch with only minimum spoilerage.

Faceless Killers

Another intro to a detective I have watched on TV. Due to this, I spent the entire book imagining Wallander as Kenneth Branagh, and his offsider as Tom Hiddleston. I was slightly annoyed as I had watched this story a few times, but couldn't remember the ending and it bugged me. But this was not the book's fault, it was a victim of it's own success. Another good Nordic Noir series to stick your teeth into.

The Ocean at the End of the Lane

Oh my. Neil Gaiman. Gush. This book delivered on all the things you want in a Neil Gaiman novel and I devoured it in hours. Just a beautiful book.

The Oxford Murders

An Argentinian maths student gets a scholarship to Oxford to study, and it quickly drawn into the investigation of a serial killer. Maths puzzles, logic sequences and pattern recognition plays a large part in the book and takes it to another level than a standard murder mystery. I couldn't work out the time period though, and that bothered me with the attitude to women by the main character.

Jar City

I've avoided reading this book for a while, due to the English publishers ignoring series order and just publishing willy nilly. But I've waited so long, and it fitted a Toppler read so well, I just went for it. I am glad I did though. Icelandic murder mystery, not as dark and gritty as other nordic noir, but quite enjoyable. Standard fare really, but enjoyable and well told.

Ready Player One

How much nostalgia can you fit into one book?! This is an 80s-early 90s kid's heaven. So many memories, in a great adventure thriller. The world has descended into a dystopian future, where we spend all our time if we can plugged into a virtual world. It's like what would have happened if all the predictions about Second Life had come true. But throw in a quest and pursuit of an evil corporation, and it's just brilliant.

Moon Called

Too many hairy werewolves, for me, to, bear. I'm not a fan of werewolves and this is the best werewolf book I have read. I really like Mercy, I liked the world, the story was not too bad. I wanted to know more about everything else besides the werewolves though, like the fae and how they all worked. I would continue the series, as I enjoyed it enough, but it seems to be all werewolf based. I'm not sure if I can handle that.

The Messenger of Athens

Death of a young woman thought to be an adulterer on a small Mediterranean Greek island. Written off as an accident but thought by all as a suicide. Until an investigator from Athens shows up and asks questions. I liked the setting and the place. I wasn't fussed with the story. Didn't care for the characters, and again, was pissed off with the treatment of women in the book. I thought it was 1960s or so, then right at the end of the book we are given a timeline and I worked out it was 1994. Not on. Don't think I'll carry on with this one.

Sunday, 21 June 2015

The White Woman on the Green Bicycle

Image sourced from Lee Cannon
This is a novel of two parts. The first part is set in modern day, looking at the lives of Sabine and George as 70-something expats living in Trinidad. They have been there since Trinidad achieved it's independence and there is lots of discussion regarding what is still wrong with the country 50 years on. But more importantly, there is a lot going on with George and Sabine. And you're not sure what is happening, or what the history is. It slowly is revealed as the part, and the book goes on however.

The second part of the book is set 50 years earlier. It tells the story of George and Sabine coming to Trinidad as newly weds from London. The story is told from Sabine's perspective mainly, so you find out what it is like as a woman particularly on the island, where work wasn't an option as it would be for a man. But from Sabine, we get a look at the independence movement and the political atmosphere on the island from the observations in the street and the domestic house workers.

If I'm honest, the story was okay. I didn't like Sabine, so that made it hard. But the themes explored in the story, race, class, expat workers, political independence and agency was all well handled. I learnt a lot about Trinidad and it's history. I had a demonstration from my Trinidadian friend what steupsing was, which is important.

But the saviour was the writing, which was beautiful, descriptive and immersive. The descriptions of the island and the environment were invocative. I felt like I was on the island, looking at the flowers or iguanas, and feeling the heat. It lost the Prize-Formerly-known-as-Orange to The Lacuna, which I also enjoyed a lot more, but I can see why it was a contender.

Daughter of Smoke and Bone

Image sourced from here
Well. Why on earth have I not read this earlier? Why has no one forced this book upon me and told me I had to read it? Considered yourself cornered by me with wild crazy eyes, telling you to read it.

Welcome to the world of Karou. Karou is a 16 year old art student living in the beautiful city of Prague (seriously, the city descriptions are gorgeous. If the city is half as nice as the book suggests, I'm going to live there). She draws by day, hangs out with her friend in a weird gothic bar, and runs errands for her family at night. Her family however is a random group of mixed animal constructs. Who have portals that open up anywhere in our world. And trade in teeth.

You interested yet? I was. I wanted to know as much as I could about this world. It was different, interesting. Something a bit lacking in urban fantasy.

Add in a conflict, particularly with Seraphim (not what I learnt about in Bible study, but just as terrifying) and I was sold. There was the obligatory romance element to the story, but it was interesting enough to not be teenage angsty.

I want to tell you more. I really do. But I don't, as I don't want to spoil it for you. I'm leaning to 4.5 stars as I was annoyed at the ending. But I know there are another 2 books now, so I am glad I waited to read it for that reason. And I am going to find them. As soon as I can!