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8. The Hanging Tree by Ben Aaronovitch

Woo hoo! I'm in to February now. Which means I still don't remember my thoughts on this book.

I've been a fan of this series since the start. I seem to recall that general consensus was that the last one, where Detective Peter Grant goes to the country, was less good. I loved it - it had psychopathic unicorns, for a start. The general consensus also seem to have been that this one is a return to form. (Did I mention I was a bit late reading it - I was number 46 on the list at the library when I put the reservation in). Whereas I never thought he'd gone off form.

Anyway, there's a mysterious death in One Hyde Park, the most expensive address in London, and there's Weird Shit, so Peter becomes involved. I can't remember much more; suffice to say it's a good addition to the series, and progresses the story arc so that I eagerly await the next one.

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20. A Time of Torment by John Connolly

The latest Charlie Parker thriller. A solid addition to the series, but not one of the best. The usual stuff - Charlie gets pulled into an investigation that centres around a creepy reclusive rural community, only this time it's based in West Virginia rather than Maine. All the usual supporting cast are around.

I did charge through it because I always wanted to know what happened next, but it doesn't have the magic that some of the books in this series do.
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28. A Song of Shadows by John Connolly

In the last book in the series, the protagonist Charlie Parker was shot and nearly killed. Now he is recovering and has taken a cottage in an even more remote part of Maine.

He's embroiled in trouble and murder straight away, as you might expect.

Not the best book in the series, but not the worst either. A real page-turner, and once again Parker isn't in a lot of it, due to his reduced physical abilities. There are hints applied with a sledgehammer that Connolly is looking to tie up the series and that all will be revealed in the not too distant future. In the meantime, Parker finally finds out who is behind the fact that he always manages to not only stay out of jail but also keep his PI licence, but not why.
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These are all from January, so I'm being crap again.

5. The Secret Rooms: A True Gothic Mystery by Catherine Bailey

I knew this book was going to suck, but I thought it would be at least amusingly sucky. Oh boy was I wrong. I only finished it because I was going to write a long scathing review, but now I find that I can't even be bothered. (Go read the Guardian's review - it covers most of the points I would have made).

This is history for people who know nothing about history, or how society used to work. I think it's for people who read chick lit. The author is all shock! horror! that aristocratic parents in the late Victoria era weren't all cuddly with their children. And that they abused their power. Apparently that came as news, or she thinks it will do to her readers. And then there's the "explanation" that while staying away from the war to be with one's young family is seen as a good thing these days (a huge insult to every soldier with children who has deployed in recent conflicts), it was considered desertion in WWI (unless you knew the right people).

If I'd ever stuck such irrelevant quotes and padding in any of my undergraduate essays I would have been deservingly failed and have no degree.

The stupid, it burns!

If I was in any way less than effusive about Jenny Uglow's achievement in In These Times, this book has thrown into perspective what a towering piece of scholarship it is.

On the other hand, I kind of want to visit the stately homes mentioned in the book now.

6. Foxglove Summer by Ben Aaronovitch

Regular readers will know that I adored the first book in this series, Rivers of London, but feel that recent efforts had somewhat gone off the boil.

Aaronovitch is back on top form with this one. I read it in two days.

Detective Peter Grant (in the division of all things spooky) is completely out of his element - in the countryside (Herefordshire). Some girls have gone missing and he is sent to make routine enquiries with a registered hedge wizard in the area. That's a dead end, but he feels the need to stay and help out as a regular police officer. Not surprisingly the case turns out to be all supernatural.

Alternatively funny and suspenseful (and unicorns are really scary!), I just couldn't put it down.

7. The Rights of Man by Thomas Paine

Have I mentioned lately how much I love Tom Paine?

Started reading it in the summer and then got distracted. This is Paine's treatise on the French Declaration of the Rights of Man and on government in general. It's longer and more difficult that Common Sense but still full of wonderful quotes which are still relevant today. The last chapter on "Ways and Means" could bog you down in figures, but some of his best points are found there.
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30 The Wolf in Winter by John Connolly

It's no secret that I love John Connolly's writing very much and I'm a big fangirl. However, I did feel that he'd lost his way with some of the more recent Charlie Parker novels.

He's found it again. I couldn't put this one down. It's got all the plot elements that tick my boxes, and some beautiful turns of phrase and perceptive writing, in particular a few paragraphs on the sheer hard work of keeping alive day to day when you're homeless that's breathtaking.

The last quarter is not quite what you expect. Charlie Parker is in a coma, and it's about the people who care enough to avenge him and to finish the job he was working on.

I tag this one supernatural detective series, but this has so little in common with, say, the Dresden Files or the London series that are doing the rounds. This is much darker, more elemental.
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24. Skin Game by Jim Butcher

The eagerly awaited (by me) new Dresden Files novel.

I had some issues getting into it at first – the central plot is that Dresden gets dragged into a heist operation thanks to his obligations as Winter Knight, and I'm not a big fan of heist capers as a rule.

But I stuck with it because I love the series as a whole, and was well rewarded. Harry does stupid stuff and makes wisecracks. He's spent the past year out on his island in Lake Michigan while a lot of bad stuff has been going down in Chicago, so his friends are (understandably) suspicious and resentful when he turns up asking for their help to do something which is obviously Not Good, and he has to win their trust back.

As always, there's a big piece of magic at the end that is genius and very silly at once. And a few developments.

This one's weird in that Harry's brother Thomas doesn't appear, and his apprentice Molly only comes in at the very end.

Not my favourite in the series but good fun, and the developments at the end mean I can't wait for the next one.
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21. The Severed Streets by Paul Cornell

The eagerly awaited (by me) sequel to London Falling. I finished it on Wednesday but wanted to think about some things before I wrote it up. Sadly my brain has been deader than a very dead thing, so I'm still not very articulate.

I'm still not sure how I feel about this. The main problem being that I came to the second book with expectations.

It didn't go where I thought it would - we still don't know a lot about the structure and nature of magical London.

Cornell shares my opinions on the Jack the Ripper murders and the hype. On the plus side, Paul Cornell has come to the same conclusion as me. On the down side, should I ever articulate such opinions, it'll just get written off as having stolen them from Paul.

I'm still not sure how I feel about his insertion of Neil Gaiman as a character, but I kind of like where he went with it.

And although we go in knowing that one way to gain insight is to "make sacrifice", the level of sacrifice here - well, it packs a punch. It's a Dresden-files level of having to give up too much to get the desired result. (Speaking of which, that's out tomorrow. Yay!)

Having said all that, yes it's a good ripping yarn. I was way over-thinking it.
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16. London Falling by Paul Cornell

This month's book club selection. I liked it so much the first time I read it again. I wanted to see if it still works when you know [spoiler].

The answer is yes, it does. Found things that I missed the first time.

And realised right towards the end why I like it - it's about what happens when scary shit happens to smart people rather than the horror story trope of people behaving stupidly. Even when they make wrong moves here it's made from a position of scientific enquiry and logical deduction.

The sequel's out on the 22nd of May. The week before the new Dresden Files. I may be some time.
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3. The Naming of the Beasts by Mike Carey

The premise for the final volume is set up in the last book. I couldn't put it down, and thought that it tied up the series nicely. A lot of other people didn't, apparently.

What impresses me most is the sense of place, for reasons I am unable to articulate. Not just because it's set in a city I know reasonably well. I think it's because place is very important to the story line, as in this fictional universe spirits tend to be bound to a particular place. The use of locus in books is something I've been thinking about lately
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2. Thicker than Water by Mike Carey

I had problems getting into the second book in this series, but not with this one (this is the fourth. I read the third a couple years ago). It gripped me right from the start.

This one ends on a cliffhanger - well, the demon is vanquished, but then something even worse happens. Fortunately I had the final volume and was able to start in on it right away.
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76. Vicious Circle by Mike Carey

The second Felix Castor novel. Maybe it was me, but I didn't like it as much as either the first or the third. Still read the second half in two days.
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71. The Devil You Know by Mike Carey

When I reserved London Falling from the library, it reminded me that I never got around to reading the rest of the Felix Castor novels after reading and loving Dead Men's Boots some time ago. So I reserved the lot (there are only 5 in total).

Read this one on the train to and from London last weekend.

It's closer to the Dresden Files than London Falling or the Peter Grant series in that Felix Castor is a freelance exorcist rather than part of an official institution. It's a world just like ours, except that just before the turn of the millennium, the dead started to rise, and they're everywhere, in various forms (ghosts, zombies).

It definitely suffered from being read so close to London Falling, but on the other hand it's a quicker, easier read with some good one-liners and some thought-provoking points. Although it's still pretty dark, it's less - for want of a better word, malevolent - than London Falling.

Good clean fun, as it were.
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68. London Falling by Paul Cornell

I was not convinced about this - I wasn't sure I needed more supernatural detective fiction set in London in my life, and the author is best known for writing Doctor Who, which I Do Not Do.

I didn't take to it straight away, either, finding it too police-procedural.

And then suddenly our detectives are in the creepy home of a serial killer, put their hands in a cauldron full of soil and can see things that other people can't. From there on in I couldn't put it down.

It is very police procedural, and at the same time genuinely creepy and scary. Unlike Rivers of London, where the protagonist sees something weird and is enfolded into the hierarchy that exists for dealing with the uncanny, the team here are having to make it up as they go along while pretending to find out everything by mundane means.

A lot of thought has gone into this, and there's some interesting complexity to it as well. Place is very important. There are two ways to gain power - to be "remembered", or to "make sacrifice". The detective who is most serious about making this whole magic thing work for them comes to realise that he is too complex to "be remembered" (he is black, and posh, and gay, a member of the Occupy movement AND a cop) so he has no choice but to "make sacrifice" and has to find a way to do this without becoming a monster.

Unlike the Rivers of London series which is mostly set in inner London, this book takes place mostly in Zones 3 to 5.

Can't recommend this highly enough. I pushed it on Jason on Saturday morning and haven't heard a word from him since. I eagerly await book two.
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51. Broken Homes by Ben Aaronovitch

The latest installment in the Peter Grant series.

Pretty much the same thing as the other three books. Enjoyed it slightly less - something was missing, not sure what.

The ending came as a surprise, till I thought about it, and it makes perfect sense.
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31. Grave Secret by Charlaine Harris

Yet another supernatural crime series; this one about a woman who can sense dead people & the last moments of their lives after being struck by lightning. This is the third in the series that I've read. It's the literary equivalent of candy floss, but I really enjoyed the other two. This one not so much, maybe I just wasn't in the mood.
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26. Moon Over Soho by Ben Aaronovitch

Second in the PC Peter Grant series featuring the apprentice wizard with the Metropolitan Police. Or, what I did at the weekend.

Most books that take this little time to read are disposable and not actually terribly good. These are. They are so very London - this one is set in the dodgy clubs of Soho as Grant investigates the deaths of several jazz musicians. There are good one-liners and some thought-provoking bits. And lots of laughs.

Can't wait till volume 4 comes out in July.

April reading

6 books total, 1 non-fiction.
1 borrowed from friends, 3 from the library. So only knocked two out of the two-read pile. Which I cannot remember if I added to or not.
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15. Whispers Under Ground by Ben Aaronovitch

The third installment in the Peter Grant series of supernatural detective series. The more perceptive of you will notice I've not yet read the second; but this one was sitting on the shelf at the library, and frankly if I've become too stupid to deal with the ambiguities presented by reading fluff like this out of order, the label Too Stupid To Live applies.

I enjoyed the first book, Rivers of London, but had some reservations. This one I just loved. Mainly because it's about the construction of Tube tunnels and addresses that don't exist. And magic art. It also made me realise how little of London I've actually been to (just about every location in this volume).

The one thing I could live without is the story arc of the Faceless Man that's going through the whole series. I think that it detracts from rather than adds to the work. But that could be just me.

Loved it. Would be ordering the remaining volume from the library right now if my "currently reading" pile wasn't almost level with the bed.
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4. Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovitch

This month's Bibliogoths book.

Just what I need - another supernatural detective series in my life.  This one's closer to Charles Stross' Laundry series in that it centers around the latest recruit to the Metropolitan Police's unit for dealing with the weird and wonderful.

It's an odd book - I was absolutely glued to parts of it, and found that it dragged in others.  The main character is a bit of an idiot, but that's the point - we learn with him.  I think the odd pacing has to do with the two simultaneous investigations - a pissed-off ghost making people do violent things, and arbitrating a dispute between the different personificatios of the titular Rivers of London.  Although I don't intrinsically have a problem with mixing supernatural elements - what is the modern novel for, otherwise - in this case, sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. 

Overall, a lot more that I liked than I didn't; part of its clunkiness is in its obvious setting-up for a series.  I will definitely be reading the other books, but from the library.


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