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.

Reading Challenge: March 2017

March was a tough challenge month for both Word Nerds.  The challenge was a “Best Books before…<insert your age here>.” One of the Word Nerds has a milestone birthday this year. We liked the list from here: http://www.listchallenges.com/oprahs40book

Each chalks up a DNF, which doesn’t necessarily bode well for “Must Read” book lists for either of us…Read on for more details.

download.jpgStacie’s Pick:  I selected Daring Greatly by Brene Brown.  A friend loaned me a copy and a few days later, the audio version from the library showed up as well.  It was a win all around…until it was time to read the book.  I really liked the style of the author and the narrator, but given the already heavy brain work I was doing in order to pass the exam (results in 5-7 weeks time) I couldn’t absorb this book.  I need time to pause, reflect, and process against my own journey.

I’m starting to recognize a pattern for myself with books like this.  I put them down to think about them, and don’t always pick them up.  I definitely read for entertainment, primarily, and thoughtful books like this are always good, but take me time to actually finish in a way that applies them to my life (I’m still working on the January Reading Challenge book, which was along these lines as well.)

Bethany’s Pick: Mine was a DNF. Technically, a DNS (Did Not Start.) All the books on the list seemed so heavy and I was not in a place for a heavy book. I checked out Ann Patchett’s “State of Wonder” with the best intent… but I took it back unread.

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.

Reading Challenge

New month and a new challenge! The March Challenge was to read a “Best Before…” book since I had a significant birthday year.

April’s challenge is to read a book with food in the title. Bonus points if there are recipes in the book from the author. Triple points for making one of the recipes.

Post Exam FAQ

Q: How do you feel?

A: I feel good about how I did, relieved that it’s completed, and impatient for the results.

Q: When will you know?

A: Crazy enough, four to six weeks, assuming nothing happens. It was a Scantron based test so it seems nuts that it isn’t faster, but that’s the way it is.

Q: What are you going to do next?

A: Sleep. Definitely sleep.

Q: No, for reals. What is next on the list of things to accomplish?

A: Sleep. And stalk the mailbox.

New toy

kindle

I finally caved and bought myself an actual eReader. For years now, I’ve done eBooks on my iPad. But not very often, because that perpetual reading on a computer-like screen would do my eyes in. Last week, Amazon was offering a deal for Prime members and so I did it: one new KindlePaperwhite.

In other news, the hubz and I did the Amazon Household thing too. It’s like we’re grown-ups or something.

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!