Category Archives: Book Banter

Book Banter: Moon over Soho

sohoTitle: Moon over Soho (Peter Grant #2)

Author: Ben Aaronovitch

Length: 375 pages

Genre: urban fantasy/police procedural

Where Bethany’s Copy Came From: IndyPL digital collection

Plot Basics: When a jazz musician suddenly drops dead, Peter Grant doesn’t seem to think it’s case that falls into his specialized (aka, magical) territory. But when the coroner realizes it’s the latest in a string of jazz musicians falling dead, Peter is on the case, while still trying to learn both policing and magic.

Banter Points: Sometimes, series suffer from the sophomore slump, but “Moon over Soho” is maybe even better than “Midnight Riot.” Peter is still learning what it means to be a magical wizard cop and dealing with the aftermath of what happened to Leslie and Nightingale in the first outing.

Because of the links to jazz, Peter turns to his dad, the famous “Lord Grant” and former jazzman to understand the players — and how they are being played — and it gives a nice insight into Peter’s background. The books is peppered with brilliant one-liners from Peter that are soaked in British thought. They might some of the best parts of the book.

Also — Aaronovitch clearly has a sense of how magic works in the book and while the reader gets small lessons it’s not overwhelming. The lack of long explanations helps to make it, well, magical.

Bummer Points: Because I’m discovering him for the first time, Peter is still possibly edging Harry Dresden off his perch.

Word Nerd Recommendation: Loving this series. If you are looking for a great read, this is it. The magic is subtle enough that if you’re mostly a mystery book reader, you can still like these. If you’re more of an urban fantasy person, these are great crime books with a solid police procedural core.

Book Banter: Generation V

generation vTitle: Generation V

Author: M. L. Brennan

Length: 312 pages

Genre: urban fantasy

Where Bethany’s copy came from: IndyPL Downloadable collection

Plot Basics: Fortitude Scott is a baby vampire, meaning he’s still mostly human, and trying to make a human go of it, barely making ends meet with a coffee shop job and a deadbeat roommate. When his mother accepts a vampire guest into their territory, Fort is stunned at the way that vampire behaves and is determined to do something about it. With his new bodyguard, the shape-shifting fox Suzume, Fort goes up against a menace and has to figure out how to use his family legacy to get the job done.

Banter Points: If I hadn’t already found Ben Aaronovitch’s Peter Grant series, this might be in the running for Best Discovered Author. I haven’t picked up an urban fantasy in a while that entertained as much as Generation V.

While Brennan plays with the vampire mythos, her changes were good ones. She kept familiar items — such as their weakness with sunlight — but gave it a nice twist so that it’s an affectation that gets worse as the vampire gets older.

Fort and Suzume have a fun banter between the two of them, but it works both as sidekick material and ways to move the story forward and propel characters to action. Also, at least so far, the vampires are not sex symbols. More like Rachel Caine’s Morganville vampires, they are bad guys but trying to stay under the radar of humans.

Bummer Points: I got nuthin’.

Word Nerd Recommendation: I’m definitely going to keep going in this series of fun reads.

Book Banter: The Invasion of Tearling

Title: The Invasion of Tearling41MT-Ny8w6L._SX294_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg
Author:  Erika Johansen
Genre:  Fantasy
Length:  544 pages
Where Stacie’s Copy Came From:  Oshkosh Public Library
Plot Basics:  The kingdom of Tearling is facing invasion from the Red Queen after her shipment of slaves does not arrive. The treaty between the two countries is void and only one thing will satisfy her. At the same time, Kelsea is learning more about the founders of Tearling as the Tear Sapphires reveal it to her through the memories of Lily.
Banter Points:  The questions I had after reading Book 1 — The Queen of Tearling — were answered. The founders of Tearling fled the U.S. for a New America, one where they could create A Better World, which also serves as their rally cry. One of the founders, Lily, a house wife who stumbles into the rebellion, serves as Kelsea guide. It is through Lily’s memories that Kelsea sees what the founders envisioned for the world she now rules.

Like all good trilogies, the protagonists are in peril at the end of the book, leaving the reader wondering how on earth they are going to get out of the mess that they are in. Added to that, I now have questions about what happened between the founding of Tearling, specifically the nobel ideals that were to guide them. The vision painted of Tearling’s ideals and the reality facing Kelsea are polarizing opposites. I don’t yet understand how this happened, but the author has gained my trust so far of answering my questions.
Bummer Points:  No bummer points. I’m eager for book 3.
Stacie’s Recommendation: This is a solid read. I think Book 3 — The Fate of Tearling — will make or break this one for inclusion on the top ten list this year.

Book Banter: Faithful Place

faithfulTitle: Faithful Place (Dublin Murder Squad #3)

Author: Tana French

Genre: mystery

Length: 400 pages

Where Bethany’s copy came from: Personal collection via IndyPL used book sale

Plot Basics: Frank Mackey is a specialist at running undercover operations, but he’s determined to keep his family at arm’s length, or farther. When he gets a call that a suitcase is found that likely belonged to his first love — the girl who never showed on the day they were to run away together — Frank is forced back into his family’s broken dynamics. While he’s not officially allowed to work on the investigation, Frank knows that if anyone can uncover the truth, it’s him.

Banter Points: Tana French won my 2017 Best Discovered Author award… but I only managed to read two of her books last year. I was dawdling because I didn’t like Frank from his secondary character appearance in The Likeness. He was a manipulative jerk. On the whole, reading books about manipulative jerks isn’t something I prefer to do.

But WOW — French made me care about this manipulative jerk. A lot. Which is pretty amazing as I was sure I wasn’t going to like him going in. I was probably more hooked by wondering how Frank would fare through the events than the actual mystery itself.

Bummer Points: The case isn’t as compelling as the first two. It’s a good, seemingly unsolvable mystery, but this one is the least police-procedural-y of the bunch so far. Frank was involved in the case, but it’s much more of a character books than a crime book. Her first two involved more of cops being cops. The story has reasons for it, but as a police procedural fan it was a change.

Word Nerd Recommendation: I’ve got book 4 on hold already after wondering why I was waiting so long.

Book Banter: Midnight Riot

midnightTitle: Midnight Riot

Author: Ben Aaronovitch

Genre: urban fantasy

Length: 298 pages

Where Bethany’s copy came from: IndyPL

Plot Basics: Rookie constable Peter Grant is hoping to be a detective, but it seems like he’s doomed to a life of paperwork. Lucky (or unluckily) for him, a gristly murder case brings him face to face with the crimes only witness, who just happens to be a ghost. Peter is reassigned to DCI Thomas Nightingale, the Metropolitan police’s only wizard/detective. As the crimes spread over the city, Peter and Nightingale must take on feuding river gods and the ghosts of London long-past to bring order back to the city.

Banter Points: If anyone has the power to even jostle Harry Dresden in his number one spot for favorite crime-fighting-wizard, Peter Grant may be that contender. “Midnight Riot” is a mash-up of Dresden, Harry Potter and Endeavour, with a less-mopey Brit detective. It’s straight-up English police procedural, with all the slang (like nick, copper, guv’nor, etc.) and sorting out the crime over a pint at the local that you’d expect.

Aaronovitch has given Grant just enough of a cheeky first-person narrative voice to make him entirely endearing. Likewise, Nightingale, is so stingy with details about the relationship between magic and the police and how long he’s been a part of both that it makes him enigmatically endearing.

Bummer Points: I can’t really say much without giving anything away, but I will say the ending felt very abrupt for all the build up through the book.

Word Nerd Recommendation: It’s only March, but it’s highly likely I’ve already found my 2017 winner for “Best Discovered Author” for the Word Nerd awards this year. There are five or six more of these and you can bet they are going in my TBR pile!

Book Banter: The Glittering Court

Books-Richelle MeadTitle: The Glittering Court

Author: Richelle Mead

Length: 13 hours/audio

Genre: YA

Plot Basics: Elizabeth Whitmore can’t stand the idea of her arranged marriage to keep her title of Countess. So she takes her maid’s place in a firm that trains common born girls to be wives for the growing upper class in a new colony. As she becomes Adelaide, she’s drawn to one of the firm’s workers and ends up on an adventure for love in the new colony.

Banter Points: Mead has done quite a bit of world building for this book that flows together nicely in the story.

Bummer Points: I can’t believe I actually made it through all 13 hours of this audiobook. First, a confession: I mean to look for Rachel Vincent, got my author names confused and ended up with Richelle Mead. At first, I was expecting this to be a Prince and the Pauper type swap story, but instead it became a rambling YA romance.

Adelaide goes through all the machinations of pretending she’s common while learning how to be noble. Meanwhile, she’s nursing a big crush for Cedric, the son of the owner of the bride-procuring company she’s working for. She’s dealing with new friendships with her two roommates.

Then the book traipses off to the colony where the girls have to go through suitors and get married off. The whole premise is thinly-disguised gold-digging so Mead throws in real gold-digging too, along with some religious freedom issues and pirates.

I kept listening thinking that at some point the book would get good. But it never materialized into a solid story. I kept trying to care about the characters, but there was too much description of clothing and not enough description of anything else. The romance felt contrived and unbelievable; if Adelaide was as pragmatic as she was made out to be, she wouldn’t have gone through everything she did. She would have packed it up, gone home and been a boring lady.

Word Nerd Recommendation: I’m not going on with the rest of this series.

 

Book Banter: All the Birds in the Sky

birdsTitle: All the Birds in the Sky

Author: Charlie Jane Anders

Length: 319 pages

Genre: literary sci-fi

Where Bethany’s copy came from: IndyPL

Plot Basics: Patricia and Laurence are two outsiders — she, apparently, is a witch and can talk to birds and he is a geek of the first-degree, building time machines and AI interfaces in his bedroom. They become friends in middle school, trying to stick up for each other when the world seems against them. But, sinister forces tear their friendship apart. Until 10 year later when they reunite in San Francisco on opposite side of what might be a war for the planet, pitting magic against science.

Banter Points: Thank goodness for The Morning News Tournament of Books or I might never have encountered this quirky gem of a novel. When #ToB2017 announced the short list, I realized with some level of chagrin, that I hadn’t read any of this year’s choices. I read the descriptions and “All the Birds in the Sky” was the one to pick up immediately.

For all the kids who grew up on Harry Potter, this is the next book for them. Anders has crafted a serious and yet charming book with a plot line that hangs on the edge of apocalyptic/dystopian fiction. She edges up to that line — major world disasters are hinted at, but never fully explained — in such a way that creates a wonderful blend of tension but doesn’t take the reader away from the main story. It’s really a book about friendship and fate and big picture questions about science and magic, all while retaining a heart and a soul.

Bummer Points: This book isn’t any one thing which might aggravate some readers. It’s not just a story about friendship. And it’s not hardcore disaster sci-fi. It’s both. Additionally,  Anders makes some jumps and then goes back to tell the reader what happened. I’m sure she had her reasons, but I had to wonder if a straight-line narrative would have worked just as well.

Word Nerd Recommendation: I’ve already gotten one co-worker to pick this up after a #FridayReads post and I highly suspect this is 2017’s first pusher book of the year.

ToB Thoughts: To read the Opening Round critique of “All the Birds in the Sky,” click here.

Tomorrow it’s up against Colson Whitehead’s “The Underground Railroad,” which just seems highly unfair. I haven’t read “Underground Railroad,” not for lack of interest, but more for lack of time, but I suspect it’s going to sail through the Quaterfinals. I’ve got my fingers crossed that tomorrow’s judge will go for the upset, not because Whitehead’s book about race is not timely and important, but because Anders’ book about science, magic and friendship speaks to a different zeitgeistic (can I make that an adjective?) element and one that we’re not talking about very much.

 

Book Banter: Black Dawn

black dawnTitle: Black Dawn (Morganville Vampires #12)

Author: Rachel Caine

Length: 370 pages

Genre: YA Fantasy/vampire

Plot Basics: Fearless foursome Claire, Shane, Eve and Michael have gone up against their share of bad guys in Morganville, Texas, secret vampire stronghold town. But that was before the draug — the thing vampires are scared of — shows up. Nothing is the same in town and it’s an all out war. The four friends will have to learn how to re-trust each other if they have any chance of keeping their town alive.

Banter Points: I have every intention of finishing this series and have for a few years. I also am making a new intention of writing well-put-together reviews of them. This is series where I got blurbed, and yes, on the back of this one, is my oh-so-poignant statement: “Fans of Twilight should really check this out.” Because it’s better. Because that was a review written in the hey-day of Twilight madness and I was doing my self-appointed duty to try to point out other, better books.

First, I think Caine must have studied at the Joss Whedon school of “how to hurt your characters” because she definitely stepped it up in this one. I’ve always liked her as a writer because of how well she raises the stakes at the end of each book. All her characters have to face real and imagined losses in this book.

Second, this series remains a great page-turner. Twelve books and it’s not getting rote or repetitive. Yes, the basics of the four friends keeping each other safe and going up against the bad guys is the same, but Caine continues to invent new and different circumstances.

Bummer Points: The big, and flawed, difference between Caine and Whedon is that the main characters aren’t ever really in danger. She does a good job of breaking the relationships between Eve and Michael and Shane and Claire, but she also put them back together. I think Whedon would have left one of them fractured and forced them to keep working together through it until it was really fixed or irreparable.

Word Nerd Recommendation: These books are great for readers in their late teens/20s. The action keeps the books going and the relationships presented are far healthier examples.

Book Banter: The Shadowed Sun

shadowed-sunTitle: The Shadowed Sun (The Dreamblood #2)

Author: N. K. Jemisin

Length: 492 pages

Genre: fantasy

Plot Basics: Ten years have passed since the end of “The Killing Moon,” and the once-powerful city of Gujaareh is still under the rule of the Kisuati. Wanahomen, the exiled Prince, is working to regain his city but it will take all the political manueverings with nobles, the army and the magical Hetawa to do so. But, for Hanani, a Sharer left with Wanahomen as a hostage, the conquest will also try her faith as a magical, dreaming plague presents a new danger.

Banter Points: As good at The Killing Moon was, for once, a sequel definitely surpassed the original. Wanahomen and Hanani — the two protagonists — were much more relate-able as characters. Also, the plot had  a brisker pace than the first one.

Bummer Points: There are no more books in this series yet. Jemisin says she has more ideas, but nothing sounds like it’s on the horizon for this series.

Word Nerd Recommendation: Definitely worth reading both.

Book Banter: His Majesty’s Dragon

dragonTitle: His Majesty’s Dragon

Author: Naomi Novik

Genre: Historical fantasy

Length: 342 pages

Where Bethany’s Copy Came From: personal collection

Plot Basics: Will Laurence is happy as a British naval captain, but when his ship captures a French ship carrying a dragon egg about to hatch, Laurence ends up as a dragon aviator with his unusual dragon, Temeraire. They rush through training to be ready to head to the front lines of Britain’s offensives against Napoleon.

Banter Points: I picked up the first four books in this series at my library’s used book sale (yes, please just take my money) because I’d heard good things about this series and the premise of dragons in the Napoleonic War is just too good to pass up.

Temeraire and Laurence are a delightful pair of characters, so much so that I might like the dragon more than the people.

Novik does a great job of world-building — and there’s a lot of it — without it overly bogging down the story. Also, she does major scale aerial combat with dragons in a believable, readable way. I could see the battle and the dragons and it was a really fun read.

Bummer Points: I don’t know much about Napoleon’s conquest (other than he ultimately lost…) so I sometimes felt a little lost in how Laurence and Temeraire fit into the actual history. Also, there are a lot of characters and sometimes they got confusing too.

Word Nerd Recommendation: There are eight more books in this series and you can bet I’ll be reading more.