Rivers of London: Night Witch by Ben Aaronovitch, Andrew Cartmel, Lee Sullivan

Rivers of London: Night WitchRivers of London: Night Witch

by Ben Aaronovitch, Andrew Cartmel, Lee Sullivan (Artist)
Series: Rivers of London Comics, #2

Trade Paperback, 128 pg.
Titan Comics, 2016
Read: January 21, 2017

I enjoyed the first collection of Rivers of London comics, Body Work, but it felt like something was missing — I’m not sure what. Night Witch, on the other hand, built on that good foundation and topped it. This one felt whole, complete — there wasn’t anything lacking here.

Some Russian bigwig’s child has been taken — his wife is certain it’s by someone/something supernatural. They try to take care of it on their own, recruiting Varvara Sidorovna — well, trying to. She tells them to get the police involved, specifying they request Nightingale’s involvement. It’s not that easy to sell official police involvement on this couple. The way they go about doing so isn’t really that typical, either.

Still, Peter and Nightingale get into things and start turning up all sorts of interesting magical things — including The Faceless Man and Lesley. Speaking of which — comics-Lesley? Perfectly creepy.

The story feels a little scattered, but when it’s all told, you can reflect on things and get all the pieces to fit into place nicely — moreso than you can when reading from front-to-back. But it’s easy to forgive that because the story is so strong — and the little character beats are great.

The art is good — it’s great to see the magic –as well as the characters — in these stories brought to life.

Bev’s way of dealing with a home invasion crew of Russian mobsters made me laugh out loud — I don’t know if Aaronovitch could’ve pulled it off in a novel, or if that’s something he only could’ve accomplished with the help of an art team. Either way, I’m glad I got to read it.

There’s not much more to say, a good story with some real enjoyable moments with these characters we want to spend time with. Sure, more novels would be nicer, but these do a good enough job helping to fill the time between them.


3 Stars

Pub Day Repost: The Hanging Tree by Ben Aaronovitch

I really hadn’t intended to make this a Rivers of London day, but I had notes and partial drafts for those other two, so I figured I might as well as a way to lead up to this. Which, sadly, is going up later than I wanted, but Dadding before blogging, right?

The Hanging TreeThe Hanging Tree

by Ben Aaronovitch
Series: The Rivers of London, #6

eARC, 336 pg.
DAW, 207

Read: November 11 – 15, 2016

I lost track of how many times a certain retailer let me know that my pre-order for this had been rescheduled, but now a little more than 2 years after The Rivers of London most recently flowed through these books, The Hanging Tree is out (in parts of the world, anyway). I’m firmly in the camp of those willing to let authors take their time to get the book right, but I’m just as firmly in the camp wanting authors of my favorite series to hurry up. Thankfully, whatever delayed this publication gave Aaronovitch the time he needed to deliver his best yet.

Peter’s pushed into investigating a drug-related death, which soon shows itself to actually need a man of his particular skills when one of the parties involved (perhaps very involved) is the daughter of Lady Tyburn herself. Mostly anonymous teens up to illegal things, an overbearing mother to a suspect/witness, and the natural teenage disinclination to telling the police anything and you’ve got yourself a mess — particularly when the overbearing mother isn’t your biggest fan, and is a deity of sorts.

Poor Peter.

Along the way, Peter and Nightingale find the trail of a lost Newton masterpiece, a couple of interesting allies, and the return of some familiar, but not recently seen, foes. Some of what happens with returning adversaries will surprise, please, and frustrate long-time readers.

For series like this, more important than the plot are the characters — and Aaronovitch did everything right on this front. A few notes on this Peter’s more confident — professionally and personally. He’s coming along pretty well with his magic — yay! At the same time, you can see the way that he’s bringing change to the Folly little mannerisms and activities with Nightingale and Molly that you know they weren’t going to be up to until Peter moved in. I liked how Bev was used — even if she wasn’t around as much as usual — and the way their relationship is developing; her sister Lady Tyburn is probably used better here than ever before. There’s a new assistant for Dr. Walid, Dr. Jennifer Vaughan — we don’t get a lot of her, but there’s promise (and I like the fact that this universe is expanding). Lastly, I need to talk about Guleed — I know she’s been around awhile, but I didn’t really click with her until this book (as much as I enjoyed her in Body Work) — I like the way she works with Peter, the flavor she brings to things — I hope we see a lot more of her.

Oh yeah, I almost forgot, there’s a brief appearance by an author of note early on in the book — I’d love for him to show up again in some context where Peter doesn’t have to be so diplomatic with him. I chuckled a lot, and would love to hear Aaronovitch talk about this character and any real-life models he drew upon.

Not only do we get the typical Aaronovich-level stories and action, we get a big expansion in the number, types, and nationalities of magic users in this book. Not only are there the official practitioners of magic that The Folly is aware of, there are those they’re not tracking (but probably should start). Just this shift alone in the universe makes this book a winner — adding it to the rest is just frosting.

I’m really glad, incidentally, that I recently listened to the first audiobook in the series — there’s some significant call-backs to it throughout this book. I’d probably have been okay relying on memory, but the connections worked better for me with everything fresh in my head. Ditto for the number of references to Body Work – I’d have been fine not understanding the references made to it, they’re not integral to anything, but it was fun knowing what Peter was talking about.

This took me too long to read — which isn’t Aaronovitch’s fault, it’s just been one of those weeks, every time I started to really get into this book, I was interrupted by something — and it drove me crazy. Do what you can — kill the phone, lock the door, grab some snacks and a beverage of your choice and settle in for Aaronovich’s best yet, you won’t want to put it down. I can’t say enough good things about this.

Disclaimer: I received this eARC from DAW via NetGalley in exchange for this post — thanks to both for this.


4 1/2 Stars

Souls to the Polls by Patricia Murphy

Souls to the PollsSouls to the Polls

by Patricia Murphy
Series: Demon Campaign, #1

Kindle Edition, 394 pg.
Patricia Murphy, 2016

Read: January 18 – 19, 2016

I really liked the writing, the setting, the characters, the tone and significant amounts of the plot of Murphy’s debut. But, I just could not connect with the supernatural aspects of it. Since it’s a Supernatural thriller/Urban fantasy, that’s a pretty big problem.

Maggie Frew is a young political campaign manager — all low-level stuff, but she’s just starting out. Her parents are pretty big fish when it comes to the small pond that is Washington, D.C., but Maggie’s little more than a guppy (to stretch this metaphor as far as we can). She’s bouncing from campaign to campaign, year to year — struggling to gain a little more credibility. Her colleagues — notably the opposing candidate’s manager in this book, are in the same boat, really.

She’s come to Virginia to help a businessman running for a local legislature spot — she doesn’t know much about him, beyond that he’s rich, clearly elderly (but won’t say how old, seemingly very), and pretty unprepared for politics. He has a couple of campaign employees and an intern — none of whom have any real business doing what they’re doing. I enjoyed every character with the campaign — they were lots of fun.

The inter- and intra-campaign antics were the best part of the book. Not only does Maggie have to wrangle with the employees, volunteers and candidate she’s working for — but a friend/romantic interest/rival (who she beat pretty soundly in her previous campaign). I ate up just about everything about the campaigns — seriously, I’d read a half-dozen or so books about Maggie Frew, Campaign Manager.

Maggie Frew, Urban Fantasy protagonist, on the other hand — nah. Maggie’s a vessel for a demon — she’s not evil, but humans providing vessels for demons — and getting them access to sinners to feed on — is what keeps them from running amok and laying waste to humanity. So the Roman Catholic Church has been helping demons to have good vessels on Earth, and helping the vessels to feed. Maggie’s having a rough time as a fairly new vessel, and running into people who don’t think this way of dealing with demons is proper — things ensue from there.

Murphy writes with a light and assured tone — one that doesn’t detract from both Maggie’s character, or flaws, but one that communicates in an engaging, winning way. I’m not sure we see a lot of growth in the principal characters, but the others grow a lot (and Maggie does grow in a few ways, I should stress).

I really can’t put my finger on why the supernatural material didn’t click with me — I’ve argued myself out of every theory I’ve cooked up, but it didn’t. I can easily see where this would work for other readers — there are going to be plenty of readers who call this a sure-fire pleaser. But I’m not one, sadly. Would I read more by Murphy? In a heartbeat — just probably not something in this series. I liked the writing and the humor, just not the way she used them.

Disclaimer: I received this from the author in exchange for this post — thanks!


3 Stars

Once Broken Faith by Seanan McGuire

Once Broken FaithOnce Broken Faith

by Seanan McGuire
http://seananmcguire.com/bio.php #10

Mass Market Paperback, 350 pg.
Daw, 2016

Read: January 14 – 17, 2017

My name is October Daye. My father was a human; my mother was, and is, a Firstborn daughter of Oberon, making her one of the more powerful people among the fae, and a definite pain in my still-mortal changeling ass. I was born and raised in San Francisco, which explains my willingness to stay in a city that’s historically been full of people who insist on trying to kill me at the slightest provocation. Faeries are real. Magic is real. My tendency to greet dangerous situations by plunging headfirst and seeing how long it takes to get myself covered head to toe in blood is also real.

I live an interesting life.

It drove me crazy to not be able to get to this for four months — and now having read it, I think I’m even more mad that I put it off. But the important thing is that I got to read it. Now I have to try to do something more than sound like raving, mindless fanboy here. Which will be difficult, because when it comes to Toby Day, that’s what I’ve been since book 3 (and was pretty close to it since halfway through book 1).

It’s been a few weeks since Toby overthrew the King in the Mists and things are pretty calm — she, her Fetch, her Squire, her fiancée and the rest of her friends are happy and comfortable. Which we all know can’t last for long.

What ruins this state this time is a giant conclave of North American Fae royalty being held in Queen Arden Windermere’s knowe — overseen by the High King and Queen. Kings, Queens and other nobles that we’ve met and/or heard of already — and many others — are meeting to discuss and decide what to do with the cure for elf-shot. The political and legal ramifications of the new cure are far bigger than anyone — including readers — thought. The discussion will prove to be a clash of traditionalists, reform-minded people, class-conscious rulers, those in favor of helping Changelings, and those who can’t be bothered to care about Changelings.

As this is a Toby Daye book, it doesn’t take too long for dead bodies to start to show up — and the blood (much of it Toby’s) starts to flow. As the hero of the realm, it’s Toby’s job to find out who’s responsible and stop them from shedding any more blood.

So there’s political intrigue, a closed room (well, knowe) murder mystery — but that’s not where the heart of the book is. It’s in Toby and her family. Toby and her liege are still on the outs, Arden’s brother and closest friend were elf-shot, Quentin’s parents are in town and watching him closely, Tybalt has to keep her at arm’s length to preserve his independence as King of the Cats in this setting, and so many other things. There’s plenty of drama in each area of the book, enough to satisfy any reader, but when you add them all together — it’s that special blend of magic that only someone as good as Seanan McGuire can conjure.

This one ticked every emotional check box for me — including the ones that made me very aware of all the dust in my immediate vicinity. I can’t think of a problem with this one — I’m not so much of a fanboy that I can’t see problems with McGuire’s work, but the last few in this series have been so great. There are few books this year that I’m looking forward to as much as/more than the next Toby Daye, and books like Once Broken Faith are the reason way. It doesn’t get much better than this.


5 Stars

Shadowed Souls edited by Jim Butcher, Kerrie L. Hughes

Shadowed SoulsShadowed Souls

edited by Jim Butcher, Kerrie L. Hughes
Series: The Dresden Files, #14.5; InCryptid, #531; Simon Canderous, #0.5 (I’m guessing) ; and some others that I don’t have a tag for right now

Paperback, 330 pg.
Roc, 2016

Read: January 10, 2017

This is a collection of stories

based on the idea that good and evil are just two aspects of a complicated and very human story . . . [with plots that] play with the concept and invite the reader to explore the edges of their own darkness.

Eleven of the best Urban Fantasy authors working today contributed to this book, each bringing their worlds to life from that basis.

I’m not going to talk about each story, just about those from authors I talk a lot about here — I don’t have the time and energy to talk about Kevin J. Anderson, Kat Richardson, Tanya Huff or the others. If for no other reason, I feel like I should read more of these series/characters/authors before talking about them — many of whom are on my “Try Out Sometime” list.

We, like the book, have to start with “Cold Case” by Jim Butcher. Harry’s former apprentice, Molly, gets to shine in this story. This is one of her first tasks in her new role as Winter Lady — in Alaska, fittingly enough. There’s a large amount of on-the-job training going on for her — more than she bargains for, really. We also get to spend some time with Warden Carlos Martinez — been too long since we saw him. Perfect mix of action, humor and atmosphere — we also get a good idea what’s in store for poor ol’ Molly.

We got to meet another member of the Price family in Seanan McGuire’s “Sleepover”. Elsie Harrington is a half-succubus cousin to Verity, Alex and Antimony. Their presence is felt in the story, but other than a couple of name-drops, they don’t factor into things, it’s just in that series’ universe. Elsie’s watching Antimony in a roller derby match and finds herself kidnapped. Not for any nefarious reasons — just because some people needed her help and are bad at asking for favors. Elsie has a very Price-like voice and outlook on life, but she’s got her own way of doing things. I really enjoyed this — even if the ending felt abrupt.

Anton Strout got to revisit the series that gave him his start in “Solus,” which featured Simon Canderous as a rookie DEA Agent dealing with a haunted house. His partner/mentor, Connor Christos, has almost no use for him at this point and seems to have no interest at all in working with him/training him. Maybe I’m not remembering the character as clearly as I thought, but I thought I liked him as a person more. Still, this was early enough in the relationship that it was probably the right way to deal with it. Other than happening before I was ready for it, I really enjoyed the conclusion of this story. In short, “Solus” was good, it reminded me why I liked the series and why I miss it.

My one complaint about all these stories (save for “Cold Case”), was that they were too short. It’s not just Strout and McGuire. In all the stories, just as things started to get going, they resolved. I’m not saying I wanted a collection of novellas, but another 5-10 pages each, maybe?

Yeah, like all collections, you’re going to get some that just don’t work for a particular reader, and others that are going to get a reader pumped – and maybe one that’ll make you wonder why you bothered. Your lists of each will be different from mine — but there’ll be more than enough of the good ones to make it worth your while. You may even find a new series/author to check out.


3 Stars

2017 Library Love Challenge

Mostly Human by D. I. Jolly

Mostly HumanMostly Human

by D.I. Jolly

Kindle Edition, 494 pg.
TinPot Publishing, 2016

Read: January 2 – 4, 2017

When Alex Harris was 10 years old and visiting his grandparent’s farm in Canada, he is attacked by an injured wolf. He recovers more quickly than the doctor predicts and at the first sign of stress after returning from the hospital, hulks out. But instead of turning green and growing a handful of sizes, he sprouts hair everywhere and his body transforms its shape into a large wolf.

The book follows Alex for the few days following the bite, then high school (learning to cope with the wolf), and then his career as a rock-star. I loved this approach, this way of dealing with the werewolf. Not just Jolly’s way of dealing with the werewolf, but Alex’s family’s way of dealing with his animal form (I’ll keep the details up my sleeve, read it yourself). There’s a lot of emotional ups and downs for Alex — like any pre-adolescent and adolescent male (and, like most rock stars, a post-adolescent male that acts like a teenager) — he’s emotionally volatile, and trying to learn to deal with the world in general. It’s a little harder for him than most teens — thanks to his resistance to injury and disease, and his strength. Once he reaches his adult years, there’s some interesting developments regarding his artistic career and his family’s brush with organized crime.

I love a good werewolf story — I really enjoy a decent one, out of all the various types of Fantasy Creatures/Races/Monsters out there, I don’t think there’s one I enjoy more than a lycanthrope. Mostly Human keeps that streak going.

One of the best parts of this book is how the curse/infection/condition affects not just the human who goes furry every now and then, but everyone around him (whether they know it or not). When Alex was on the farm and initially turned, everyone was supportive and encouraging — just the way a good family should treat a kid going through something major. But then later, when the initial crisis had passed, everyone falls apart (at least for a few minutes). Not en masse or anything, but individually they express some sort of anger or grief, puzzlement, despair, etc. Once that time is passed, they regroup and come together to support Alex. That was so great to see — I’m not sure that there’s anyone I’ve read who shows a family coming together to support the lycanthrope the way this family does.

Alex’s sister, Annabel, is a gem and my only complaint about her is that we don’t get more of the character — and every age and stage. I liked his friends, doctors, and relatives, too — actually, every character that gets more than a handful of paragraphs is well-used and appealing. But Annabel outshines them all.

I don’t have any major concerns or problems with this book — it was a fun escape. Not that it was perfect, there were three things that didn’t work for me, none of them were deal-breakers, but they were things that kept nagging at me.

I have no idea why Jolly felt the need to invent a fictional setting for the Harris’ home — it may become clear in a sequel (which I can only assume is forthcoming), maybe it won’t. I liked the setting, but I don’t see where it helps (it doesn’t hurt). I’d feel better about things if I could figure it out — too much time was spent describing it for it to be a throw-away detail, there’s something to it and I can’t see it.

The first sex scene was more detailed than I really needed — I see where he was going (not just the comedic intent) with it, but still, I didn’t need that. Thankfully, after that, Jolly gave everyone the privacy they deserved when it came sex.

The 10-year old version of Alex doesn’t talk like a 10 year-old. He’d be a stretch at 13. Still, I enjoyed that part of the book so much I shrugged it off.

This was a lot of fun, with a large cast of characters that draw the reader in and keeps you engaged. The story seemed secondary to character development — not just Alex, but his whole family (both officially and those considered family). Yeah, I’d have liked some more of Alex the rock star — and the organized crime thing the book description promised — but what we got was good, and saying that the book was mostly character development isn’t a bad thing. It’s just not what I expected.

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this novel from the author in exchange for my honest opinion.


4 Stars

Mostly Human Giveaway

I really don’t know much about the book Mostly Human by D.I. Jolly — it’ll either be the last book I read of 2016 or the first of 2017. But it looks appealing — and the author seems like a nice guy. So I was glad to chip in when he asked if I’d help spread the word about a Goodreads Giveaway for some physical copies of the book.

Mostly HumanAlex Harris is a world famous rock star, lead singer of the Internationally acclaimed band The Waterdogs. But Alex is no ordinary rocker, and has a secret that he and his family have painstakingly kept since he was ten years old.

While playing on his grandparents farm, Alex discovers what he presumes is a dead wolf. With a slip of the hand he realises it’s not as dead as he thought, and come the first full moon, everyone realises it wasn’t just a wolf.

What would you do if your son could never be normal again?

There ya go: Rockers, Werewolves, British spelling, and (according to another description I read) Organised Crime — sounds like a quiet weekend for Ozzy Osbourne or the makings of a fun book. I can’t help you enjoy the former, but if you click this link, maybe I can help you enjoy the latter.