Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Book Review: Moon over Soho (Peter Grant #2) by Ben Aaronovitch

 Moon Over Soho (Peter Grant, #2) 

Synopsis: My name is Peter Grant, and I'm a Detective Constable in that mighty army for justice known as the Metropolitan Police (a.k.a. the Filth). I'm also  a trainee wizard, the first such apprentice in fifty years. Officially I belong to ESC9, Economic and Specialist Crime Unit 9, otherwise known as 'The Folly', also known as the unit that nice, well-brought-up coppers don't talk about in polite company. 
When I was a kid, I was in charge of changing my dad's records while he lounged around drinking tea - that's how I know my Argo from my Tempo. And that's why, when Dr. Walid called me down to the morgue to listen to a corpse, I recognized the tune as 'Body and Soul' - something violently supernatural had happened to the victim, strong enough to leave its imprint on his corpse as if it were a wax cylinder recording. The former owner of the body, Cyrus Wilkinson, was a part-time jazz saxophonist and full-time accountant who had dropped dead of a heart attack just after finishing a gig. 
He wasn't the first, but no one was going to let me exhume corpses to see if they were playing my tune, so it was back to old-fashioned police legwork, starting in Soho, the heart of the scene, with the lovely Simone - Cyrus' ex-lover, professional jazz kitten and as inviting as a Rubens portrait - as my guide. And it didn't take long for me to realize there were monsters stalking Soho, creatures feeding off that special gift that separates the great musician from someone who can raise a decent tune. What they take is beauty. What they leave behind is sickness, failure and broken lives. 
And as I hunted them, my investigation got tangled up in another story: a brilliant trumpet player, Richard 'Lord' Grant - my father - who managed to destroy his own career. Twice. 
That's the thing about policing: most of the time you're doing it to maintain public order. Occasionally you're doing it for justice. And maybe, once in a career, you're doing it for revenge.

While I absolutely loved the first book, I'm just going to go ahead and say it: this one was better. It has jazz vampires and cat girls and all sorts of freakish things. Plus, Peter finally has a love interest who likes him back - for all sorts of reasons. 

The synopsis above doesn't really explain the other main plot point: there is a seriously evil magician offing people by using a girl with teeth in her vagina as an assassin. Perhaps not the most practical of weapons but I think we can all agree when I say that is legitimately frightening. Also, kind of bad-ass. 

So, yes, this book, much like Rivers of London, has two seemingly disparate plot threads until the very end where Aaronovitch ties them neatly together. There were some reviewers who had a problem with the fact that Aaronovitch left so many questions unanswered at the end but he was obviously setting up for future sequels and it didn't leave me frustrated - it made me want to read the next book. Which I will be doing very shortly. 

Also, I love the fact that this series seems to be getting its own Voldemort. The Faceless Man is powerful, mysterious, and very, very dangerous. He only appears at the very end of the book for a showdown with Peter. It is still unclear what his motive is - why the human experiments? why does he need to hide his identity? - but I am positive that all will be revealed in future books. It's not like J.K. Rowling spelled out Voldemort's life story in the first Harry Potter book. (Yes, I know I keep making Harry Potter references when reviewing these books but in my defense, Ben Aaronovitch drops them in his books all the time.)

I highly recommend this book to urban fantasy fans, and fantasy fans in general. You know what, I recommend this book to people who just like to read in general. If you are not reading Peter Grant then you are missing out. 

Friday, April 25, 2014

Book Review: Rivers of London (Peter Grant #1) by Ben Aaronovitch

Rivers of London (Peter Grant, #1) 

Synopsis: 'My name is Peter Grant. Until January, I was just another probationary constable in that mighty army for justice known to all right-thinking people as the Metropolitan Police Service, and to everyone else as the Filth. My only concerns in life were how to avoid a transfer to the Case Progression Unit - We do paperwork so real coppers don't have to - and finding a way to climb into the panties of the outrageously perky WPC Lesley May. Then one night, in persuance of a murder inquiry, I tried to take a witness statement from a man who was dead, but disturbingly voluble, and that brought me to the attention of Chief Inspector Nightingale, the last wizard in England. And that, as they say, is where the story begins. 
Now I'm a Detective Constable and a trainee wizard, the first apprentice in fifty years, and my world has become somewhat more complicated. I'm dealing with nests of vampires in Purley, negotiating a truce between the warring god and goddess of the Thames, and digging up graves in Covent Garden - and that's just routine. There's something festering at the heart of the city I love, a malicious, vengeful spirit that takes ordinary Londoners and twists them into grotesque mannequins to act out its drama of violence and despair. 
The spirit of riot and rebellion has awakened in the city, and it's falling to me to bring order out of chaos - or die trying. Which, I don't mind telling you, would involve a hell of a lot of paperwork.'

I am not typically a fan of the Urban Fantasy genre; I'm more of an Epic Fantasy girl - give me books the size of bricks that are stuffed with dragons, swords, and sorcery. However, I will make an exception for an Urban Fantasy series that is inventive, original, and action-packed. And that's where the Peter Grant series comes in. 

Rivers of London is one of the best fantasy books I have ever read. Not quite up there with Harry Potter but pretty close. The main character is Peter Grant, a sarcastic, whip-smart police constable who discovers magic is real and starts training to be a wizard. Peter is so incredibly believable that sometimes I have to remind myself that he's not a real person. Same goes for all the other characters in the book: all of them are fleshed out so well, even the most minor ones. 

And can we please talk about the female characters in this book? They are so well-written, it just blows my mind. Whether we're talking about Lesley May, Beverly Brook or Mama Thames, they all have distinct, complicated personalities. None of them are just there to be simpering love interests. It's incredible. 

One of my favorite characters is Chief Inspector Thomas Nighingale, the last wizard in London and Peter's boss. I'm not completely sure but I have a strong suspicion that he's based on either Benedict Cumberbatch or Tom Hiddleston, judging by Nightingale's physical description: 'He was about one-eighty in height - that's six foot in old money - and dressed in a beautifully tailored suit that emphasized the width of his shoulders and a trim waist. I thought early forties, with long, finely boned features and brown hair cut into an old-fashioned side parting. It was hard to tell in the sodium light but I thought his eyes were grey.' p. 28

See what I mean? Mmmm, Benedict Cumberbatch and Tom Hiddleston....

I'm sorry, what were we talking about? Oh yeah, back to the book.

Another thing I really liked about this book was the unique magic system. Peter desperately wants to know how magic works but the trouble is no one has really figured it out yet. The only thing Nightingale knows for sure is that magic is generated by life, so in theory, anyone could learn how to do it. This detail makes it seem so scientific and that much more real. There's this really good part in the book where Peter is trying to explain it to Lesley: 

'"It's all real,' I said. 'Ghosts, magic, everything.'
'Then why doesn't everything seem different?' she asked.
'Because it was there in front of you all the time,' I said. 'Nothing's changed, so why should you notice anything?' ' p. 51

The book is filled with so much history and detail but it never bogs the story down or feels irrelevant. The action is fast-paced but never clumsy or confusing. It is all written so vividly that it plays like a film in my head when I'm reading it (as good books are supposed to do.) This book needs to be a TV show.

Oh it is getting made into a TV show? That's awesome.

I highly recommend this book to fantasy fans, particularly fans of Harry Potter. I will be reviewing the next three books in the series so stay tuned. 

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Retrospective Reading Wish List-March 2014

 #1. The Winner's Curse (The Winner's Trilogy #1) by Marie Rutkoski
The Winner's Curse (The Winner's Trilogy, #1)

The first book in a highly-anticipated YA fantasy series, it features a love story between a general's daughter and a slave.

#2. Promise of Shadows by Justina Ireland
Promise of Shadows

Come on, that cover! It's so gorgeous I don't even care what the book is about. Just kidding, the book's about a teenage Harpy assassin. Enough said.

#3. Gilded (Gilded #1) by Christina L. Farley
Gilded (Gilded, #1)

A YA fantasy novel about a girl who must deal with moving to Korea from LA, a cranky grandfather, and a soul-stealing demi-god.

#4. The Tropic of Serpents (Memoir by Lady Trent #2) by Marie Brennan
The Tropic of Serpents (Memoir by Lady Trent #2)

The sequel to last year's A Natural History of Dragons. When I heard the sequel was coming out, I started freaking out. And I nearly died when I saw the cover. 

#5. The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender by Leslye Walton
The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender

A magical realism YA novel about a girl born with the wings of a bird.

#6. Words of Radiance (The Stormlight Archive #2) by Brandon Sanderson
Words of Radiance (The Stormlight Archive, #2)

This is probably one of the most highly-anticipated fantasy novels being published this year. I've gotten through the first half of the first book so far and it is amazing. I'm thinking this one will be even better. 

#7. Death Sworn (Death Sworn #1) by Leah Cypess
Death Sworn (Death Sworn, #1)

A YA fantasy novel about a sorceress who is losing her powers.

#8. The Weirdness by Jeremy Bushnell
The Weirdness: A Novel

Here is the synopsis of this book: 'A struggling novelist gets a visit from Lucifer, who promises to get him a great book deal if he helps save the world by retrieving Satan's magical Welcome Cat.' How could you go wrong with this book, really?

#9. The Enchanted by Rene Denfeld
The Enchanted: A Novel

This debut novel has been getting rave reviews. The title refers to an ancient stone prison.

#10. Boy, Snow, Bird by Helen Oyeyemi
Boy, Snow, Bird

A novel that retells one of my favorite fairy tales, Snow White.

#11. The Pilgrims (Pendulum #1) by Will Elliott
The Pilgrims (Pendulum, #1)

A fantasy novel that features an ordinary man traveling to a another world that features Dragon-Gods. 

#12. Last God Standing by Michael Boatman 
Last God Standing

God decides to quit being God and become a stand-up comedian.

#13. The Undertaking of Lily Chen by Danica Novgorodoff
The Undertaking of Lily Chen

A boy in rural China who accidentally kills his brother must go on a journey to find the perfect bride to join his brother in the afterlife. The only trouble is the woman he chooses is very much alive. 

Retrospective Reading Wish List-February 2014

 #1. Cress (The Lunar Chronicles #3) by Marissa Meyer
Cress (The Lunar Chronicles, #3)

I haven't had a chance to read any of the Lunar Chronicles books yet, but you can bet I'm buying them as soon as they're released. They look so lovely on my bookshelf.

#2. The Shadow Throne (The Ascendance Trilogy #3) by Jennifer A. Nielsen
The Shadow Throne (The Ascendance Trilogy, #3)

The conclusion to a YA fantasy series that started with The False Prince.

#3. White Space (Dark Passages #1) by Ilsa J. Bick
White Space (Dark Passages, #1)

A horror story about the blurred lines between reality and the written word. 

#4. Maybe One Day by Melissa KantorMaybe One Day

A YA novel in the same vein as The Fault in Our Stars, only this book features two friends. Be sure to have some tissues handy.

#5. The Waking Engine by David Edison
The Waking Engine

In the world of The Waking Engine, there is no afterlife. A person dies on one planet and is reborn on another multiple times until they end up in the City Unspoken 'where gods and mortals come to die.'

#6. Three Souls by Janie Chang
Three Souls

In 1935 China, a woman dies and is trapped on Earth with three souls.

#7. The Martian by Andy Weir
The Martian

A novel about one of the first astronauts on Mars.

#8. Three Princes by Ramona Wheeler
Three Princes

An alternate history novel where the Egyptian Empire never collapsed and now runs the world.

#9. The Gospel of Loki by Joanne Harris
The Gospel of Loki

What with the popularity of Loki in Marvel Comics' Thor movies (played by the delicious Tom Hiddleston), it seems inevitable that a book told from the perspective of the Trickster God was released. 

#10. Archetype (Archetype #1) by M.D. Waters

A woman wakes up in the hospital with no memory of who she is. 

#11. The Flight of the Silvers (Silvers #1) by Daniel Price
The Flight of the Silvers (Silvers, #1)

The world ends and only six people survive. They acquire superpowers.

#12. The Swan Gondola by Timothy Schaffert
The Swan Gondola

A romantic fable set at the Omaha World's Fair in 1898.

#13. Moth and Spark by Anne Leonard
Moth and Spark

This book has dragons in it. Dragons are my life. I need this book in my life right now.

#14. While Beauty Slept by Elizabeth Blackwell
While Beauty Slept

A gothic retelling of the classic fairy tale, Sleeping Beauty.

#15. Burn (Pure #3) by Julianna Baggott
Burn (Pure, #3)

To be perfectly honest, I'm not exactly sure what this series is about. But the covers are beautiful and I've heard good things.

#16. Alienated (Alienated #1) by Melissa Landers
Alienated (Alienated, #1)

Girls meets alien in this YA science fiction novel.

#17. Lady Thief (Scarlet #2) by A.C. Gaughen
Lady Thief (Scarlet, #2)

The second novel in this Robin Hood inspired series. 

#18. The Future of the Mind: The Scientific Quest to Understand, Enhance, and Empower the Mind by Michio Kaku
The Future of the Mind: The Scientific Quest to Understand, Enhance, and Empower the Mind

Always looking to expand my scientific horizons and Michio Kaku has a knack for explaining difficult concepts in a fun and engaging way.

#19. Red Rising (Red Rising Trilogy #1) by Pierce Brown
Red Rising (Red Rising Trilogy, #1)

This book is being compared to The Hunger Games, but not in a knock-off way, in a this-is-the-new-literary-phenomenon-that-everyone-will-be-talking-about way.

#20. Cold Storage, Alaska by John Straley
Cold Storage, Alaska

A quirky crime novel set in small-town Alaska. Comparable to Michael Chabon's The Yiddish Policeman's Union, perhaps? Either way, it sounds good.

#21. A Burnable Book (John Gower #1) by Bruce Holsinger
A Burnable Book

A literary mystery set in Chaucer's London.

Retrospective Reading Wish List-January 2014

Since I only started blogging in April, I haven't made Reading Wish Lists for the first three months of 2014. Totally unnecessary, you say? Maybe so, but I'm doing it anyway.

 1. Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge
Cruel Beauty

Any book that is billed as Graceling meets Beauty and the Beast immediately goes to the very top of my TBR list. We don't even have to talk about how beautiful the cover is. It's right there, you can see it for yourself. 

2. Infinite (Newsoul #3) by Jodi Meadows
Infinite (Newsoul, #3)

The final book in the Newsoul trilogy. Only own the first one, still need this one and the second one. 

#3. Unhinged (Splintered #1) by A.G. Howard
Unhinged (Splintered, #2)

Yet another YA series retelling the classic children's story, Alice in Wonderland. This one looks worth the read, however, if only because of the magnificent covers. 

#4. The Impossible Knife of Memory by Laurie Halse Anderson
The Impossible Knife of Memory

Hayley Kincain has been on the road for the past five years with her father, Andy, who struggles with PTSD after he served in the Iraq war. 

#5. No One Else Can Have You by Kathleen Hale
No One Else Can Have You

A YA mystery that is said to be like the film Fargo in book form.

#6. Defy (Defy #1) by Sara B. Larson
Defy (Defy, #1)

A YA fantasy that follows a girl who must disguise herself as a boy to serve in the king's army. Kind of sounds like Mulan, which I love. 

#7. I Shall Be Near to You by Erin Lindsay McCabe
I Shall Be Near to You: A Novel

A historical novel that follows a woman who disguises herself as a man to fight alongside her husband in the American Civil War. 

#8. On Such a Full Sea by Chang-Rae Lee
On Such a Full Sea

A science fiction novel written by a critically-acclaimed literary great. 

#9. Evertrue (Everneath #3) by Brodi Ashton
Evertrue (Everneath, #3)

The last book in the Everneath trilogy, a series based on the Hades and Persephone myth. 

#10. All the Broken Things by Kathryn Kuitenbrouwer
All the Broken Things

A Canadian novel about a powerful bond between a boy and a bear cub. (A lot of Canadian fiction features bears. Don't ask me why.)

#11. Dreams of the Golden Age (Golden Age #2) by Carrie Vaughn
Dreams of the Golden Age (Golden Age, #2)

The second book in a sci-fi series that features superheroes. 

#12. Pandemic (Infected #3) by Scott Sigler
Pandemic (Infected, #3)

The conclusion to Sigler's Infected trilogy, about an alien infection that destroys humanity. 

#13. A Highly Unlikely Scenario, or a Neetsa Pizza Employee's Guide to Saving the World by Rachel Cantor
A Highly Unlikely Scenario, or a Neetsa Pizza Employee's Guide to Saving the World

In a not-too-distant future, where giant fast-food corporations rule the world, one Neetsa Pizza employee is forced to go outside. And that's where the trouble starts.

#14. Archduke Franz Ferdinand Lives!: A World Without World War I by Richard Ned Lebow
Archduke Franz Ferdinand Lives!: A World without World War I

It's a little hard to categorize this book. Historical fiction? Alternative history? Anyways, no matter what you call it, a book that speculates what the world would be like if there was no First World War has gotta be interesting.

#15. The Emperor's Blades (Chronicles of the Unhewn Throne #1) by Brian Staveley
The Emperor's Blades (Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne, #1)

The first book in a new high-fantasy series that is said to rival Game of Thrones. 

#16. Radiance of Tomorrow by Ishmael Beah
Radiance of Tomorrow

Ishmael Beah's 2007 memoir, A Long Way Gone, was a harrowing account of his years as a child soldier. This is his first novel. 

#17. Indexing by Seanan McGuire

An urban fantasy that features an agency that protects the world from fairy tales. Sounds like a mix between Once Upon a Time and Fables.

#18. A Darkling Sea by James Cambias
A Darkling Sea

Alien cultures collide in this first-contact science fiction novel. 

#19. Shovel Ready by Adam Sternbergh
Shovel Ready

Set in a future dystopian New York City, a garbageman named Spademan decides to become a hitman. Man.