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Review: David B. Coe – Spell Blind (2015) (Justis Fearsson #1)

SpellBlindSpell Blind is the first in a new urban fantasy murder mystery series by David B. Coe, who has published lots of other fantasy novels both as David B. Coe and under his alias D.B. Jackson.

Spell Blind is a murder mystery about catching a magician turned serial killer. Justis Fearsson is a private investigator who used to work on the serial killer case when he was a cop. A couple of years after he was kicked off the police force, his help is asked in solving the serial killer murder series.

But Justis is a weremyste (= some kind of magician). While he can work spells most of the time, his magical abilities make him go nuts for a couple of days every month according to the phases of the moon. This, of course, interferes with regular employment such as life as a cop, hence he is self-employed as a PI. The magical system in the novel makes sense and is not too complicated. Justis even has a ghost teacher who helps him to learn new spells and to control his abilities.

Still, the novel did not grab me. It took me about 3 months to read this book. All the time while reading I kept getting distracted by other (more exciting?) books that I had been waiting for/seemed more interesting to me. This does not mean that this novel is a bad book. It’s not great but it’s an OK read. I might pick up the second part of the series when it is published. it just didn’t grab my attention the way other novels from this sub-genre did.

Why? For one, the novel is slow to start. I believe one could remove the first two chapters from the book without affecting whether the novel works for the reader: Chapter 1 introduces the magical system. It’s about Justis solving a minor case which is wholly unconnected with the rest of the plot. Same with Chapter 2. Here we meet Justis’s teacher. He is shown again later in the book when the plot has started where his presence is explained again, so Chapter 2 is not really needed. This made for a slow start into the novel for me. Then there were a lot of developments which I had expected way beforehand. So maybe there was just a bit too much foreshadowing for me. Or maybe I am too familiar with the murder mystery genre. (I am very familiar with the murder mystery genre. I’ve read tons of murder mysteries.)

Disclaimer: I received a free e-book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This was an eARC so the final version of the novel might diverge from the version I read.

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Review: Katherine Addison – The Goblin Emperor (2014)

goblinemperorAnother book from 2014. I first came across recommendations for this novel from very trusted sources at the time of publication of the book. The idea behind the book sounded promising: Maia, fourth and despised son of the emperor of the elflands unexpectedly is crowned emperor after his father and older brothers die in an accident. Will he be able to survive at court? Or will he perish?

While Maia is half-goblin, his father and brothers and almost everyone around him were/are pure blooded elves. This puts him at a disadvantage because elves consider themselves to be superior to the foreign goblins. At least he has the luck of knowing how to behave at court, although he did not grow up there and in fact visited the court only once in his life to attend his mother’s funeral.

After his mother’s death, his childhood and youth were mostly unhappy. He was raised by an elf who had been banished from court and who despised him and terrorized him.

The court of the elves is very complex and old-fashioned. Some readers have called the setting a steam punk setting, which is a good description. The elves’ industries are developed to a level of about 1880-1900, but they use steam-power for everything. The court itself is very old-fashioned. The reader only sees glimpses of modern appliances.

The structure of the court and how it works reminded me a bit of C.J. Cherryh’s Atevi court from her foreigner novels: It’s very complex, people behave weirdly and the are many rules which are not explained. People have agendas and hidden agendas, everyone is awfully polite and formal while at the same time schemes and conspiracies are thought out behind closed doors. While reading the book, I kept thinking “This is a little bit as if some one such as Emperor Gregor from Bujold’s Vorkosigan series had been thrust into an Atevi court as emperor.” This is, of course, not an exact or even good description/summation of the novel, but it’s what certain elements of the book made me associate it with.

Having said this, it will not surprise you, that I loved this novel. It was fun to read and I am a bit sad that there will be no continuation of the novel. This novel will be on my Hugo nominating ballot.

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New books and reading update 02-03-15

Last week I bought some new books:

Do you see the snow? There's snow on my porch!

Do you see the snow? There’s snow on my porch!

Max GladstoneFull Fathom Five: I loved the other two novels of the Craft sequence that I read last year. I have no idea what it is about except that it’s set in the same universe as Three Parts Dead and Two Serpents Rise, but I am looking forward to this one. It will be a surprise reading :-) .

Terry Pratchett and Stephen BaxterThe Long War: Sequel to their parallel earths series which starts with The Long Earth. I loved that book. I’m half-way in already and I like it.

Terry Pratchett and Stephen BaxterThe Long Mars: I never not liked a novel by/with Terry Pratchett, so there’s a good chance I’ll like this one. Will it be The Long Earth in space? Will there be aliens? I have no idea, but I’m dying to find out.

Reading update:

Last week, I finished two novels: The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison (loved this one, will definitely be on my Hugo ballot) and Spell-Blind by David B. Coe (which was ok.)

And that’s it.

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Review: Ben Aaronovitch – Foxglove Summer (PC Peter Grant #5) (2014)

Foxglove-Summer1Foxglove Summer is the fifth installment of Ben Aaronovitch’s urban fantasy murder mystery series about PC Peter Grant. It’s one of my favorite series, so let me briefly introduce the series for everyone who does not know it.

Peter Grant is a English policeman patrolling the streets of London when he first encounters a ghost who witnessed a murder that Peter is investigating. He is then transferred to The Folly, the police department for all crimes with magical elements. This sounds pretty neat, but actually this department consists only of the boss, Nightingale, Peter and the “house maid” Molly. It’s located in an old building that houses the Folly since in pre-World War II times, but back than it was a much larger organization. Most practitioners of magic had been killed in the War, leaving Nightingale as a lone survivor. Peter becomes the first apprentice since ’45, while he also works as a full member of the police force on magical cases. Possible spoilers for books 1-4 below the cut-off.

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New Books: 01-19-15

I had planned to participate in Vintage SF month this January, but I have now decided to spend my time reading fiction from 2014, both short and long. Which brings me to the point of this post:new books that I acquired last week:

190115 klein

Foxglove Summer by Ben Aaronovitch: It’s part 5 of the primary world fantasy series starring PC Peter Grant, a police officer. So, as you might guess, it’s one of those fantasy/murder mystery hybrids. I love it. The whole series is well written and most books are very good reads. I’m looking forward to devouring this one.

The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison: A secondary world stand-alone fantasy novel. Maia, a half-goblin and the late emperor’s unloved son, unexpectedly becomes emperor of the kingdom of the elves. (All his older brothers die in an accident along with his father.) I’ve read the free kindle sample before buying the book and I can’t wait to read the rest of the novel.

For next week’s post, I already ordered another new book.

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2015: Hugo Awards (Warm up post)

Slowly, slowly I am looking into what I read last year that might be suitable to nominate for the Hugo Awards. This is the first year that I will be nominating and I actually am a little bit excited about the process. As I did last year, I will try to read all the nominated works, or at least as much of as many nominated works as possible for me and then vote on the Hugos. Until then, I will try to read some things that were published in 2014, especially short fiction, to be able to nominate for the Hugos. Right now, I have read very little fiction from 2014. I don’t think I’ll manage to read very many novels, and I can’t afford to buy all those expensive hardcovers, but there’s so much short fiction available on the Internet that I hope to be able to find some stories that I like well enough to nominate them.

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Review: Silvia Moreno-Garcia – Signal to Noise (2015)

SignaltonoiseIt’s 2015 and this is the first book that’s to be published in 2015 (10th February by Solaris) which I have read. It’s a very good start of my reading year.

Disclaimer: I received a free eARC of the book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Silvia Moreno-Garcia was born in Mexico, but lives in Canada now. So it’s not that surprising that her debut novel Signal to Noise is set in Mexico City. The protagonist of the novel is the teenage girl Meche who lived in Mexico City in the late 80s (I forgot which year, exactly). Meche and her friend Sebastian and Daniela do magic with music. Back then, CDs were (mostly) unknown and people listened to music from records and carried around Walkmans with cassettes. (And I had to use the spell-check on those words because I don’t even remember how to spell them properly.) They are in high school, each has personal problems of some kind and they are NOT the cool kids. They form the out group of kids who are friends more because there’s nobody else who wants to be friends with them rather than because they have so much in common.

They all have typical teenager problems and not so typical ones. Meche’s parents are unhappily married, Sebastian is very, very poor, so poor that he borrows food from Meche all the time, and Daniela is rich but suffers from the chronic disease lupus. And then, Meche discovers that she can do magic by playing magically charged records. The teenagers have a lot of problems to solve and their magic might help them with it.

Today (or rather in 2009) Meche returns to Mexico from Scandinavia, where she lives and works, for the burial of her father. It’s clear that she no longer is friends with neither Sebastian nor Daniela. Something must have happened in the past, probably related to their magic. All the time while reading the book, I wondered why. What had gone wrong? I think the author did a very good job with the characters in this book, because I really wanted to know what had happened between them. I read the book in a very short time span because I really wanted to know how everything would turn out. The book is that good.

Apart from the excellent characters, the novel manages (at least for me) to give a very good impression of how life for a teenager in 80s Mexico City might have been like. I liked the atmosphere of the novel. I am actually a bit sad that I have no knowledge of Mexican popular music at all so many music references had no meaning for me, they might be fun for someone who is familiar with Mexican music. There are enough English/American references for people like me.

Right now, I can not think of anything that I did not like about the novel. So, as I said at the very beginning of this post: This is a great book to start the year with.

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Review: Julie Czerneda – A Thousand Words for Stranger (1997)

I finished the book a bit over two weeks ago – which is a long period of time where my memory for details is concerned. I hope I have succeeded in writing a coherent review.

lego space ship

A Thousand Word for Stranger uses some plot elements I like, even if I’ve encountered them a hundred times before, throws them together and presents a fun-to-read space opera. There’s the strong female protagonist who’s lost her memories, there’s the lone star ship captain who saves her and there are the mysterious strangers who hunt her. Of course there’s romantic tension between her (Sira) and him (Morgan).

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Looking back and looking forward: The End of 2014

2014 is coming to en end. I started this blog in April this year to:

  • keep track of my thoughts regarding this year’s Hugo nominees.
  • improve my confidence in my English writing skills. And to also improve my English writing skills in general.

The blog has been successful in both these aims I had set for myself. What do I want to do with this blog in 2015?

  • I want to keep blogging consistently. This means I want to write a review for every book I finish. I already am two books behind on this one…
  • I want to read the Hugo nominees and vote on them again this year. It was a lot of fun last year, I found some new favorite authors I had never heard of and I learned a lot about current popular SFF.
  • I have never (so far) participated in any blog tours, memes or the like. I want to try out the Vintage SF month which is hosted by “The Little Red Reviewer“. It’s about reading and reviewing SF novels which were published before 1979. I should be able to manage to read one vintage SF novel in January, shouldn’t I?

And that’s all I want to accomplish with this blog in 2015. What are your goals for 2015, blogging wise?

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New Books and Reading Progress: 12-16-2014

Everyone’s healthy again and I have finally had time to read and acquire new books.

So, what’s new?

thousand130sties130strade130s

I got all three books from Julie Czerneda‘s Trade Pact-trilogy as used paperbacks, namely A Thousand Words for Stranger, Ties of Power and To Trade the Stars. The trilogy is about Sira, a human-looking but non-human telepath, who has lost all her memories and is being hunted by various parties. The human love-interest, Morgan, takes her with him on his trade ship as crew, and you can guess where this is going…

And, from NetGalley:

SignaltonoiseSignal to Noise by Silvio Moreno-Garcia. I really like this book’s cover. It is an urban fantasy novel which is set in Mexico City. In the 80s a group of kids could do magic by putting songs on mix tapes in just the right order. Now they return to Mexico City and…, I don’t know, yet.

Reading Update:

SpellBlindI’m half-way finished with David B. Coe’s novel Spell-Blind. It’s a  private investigator murder mystery (magical serial killer) + magic type of novel.

And I’ve already finished A Thousand Words for Stranger. This was a fun and engaging read and I will continue the trilogy as soon as I have the time for it.

This should be enough reading material for the holidays but, just in case, I am planning a trip to the local library at the end of the week. So there will be more books to display next week. And enough to read during the holidays.