Tag: SF/F


Review – The Regional Office is Under Attack!

Posted 15 August, 2018 by Nikki in Reviews / 0 Comments

Cover of The Regional Office is Under AttackThe Regional Office is Under Attack! Manuel Gonzales

Hm. I’m not quite sure what to make of this. I found some parts of it quite interesting — like, I’d love to know what the hell is up with Sarah’s arm and then her foot and then, well, that’s spoilers. And I found it quite a fast read, too. But the narration drove me a little nuts: it’s rather stream-of-consciousness, and things keep repeating, or thoughts don’t quite seem to finish. Or you get through a long paragraph and then realise it was all hypotheticals and the character has yet to act at all.

I’d love to know a bit more of the background stuff, really: Oyemi, and what was going on there; why any of these powers and people existed; what’s going on with Sarah, because that was creepy and weird and fascinating. It feels like a mash-up of superhero/sci-fi tropes that doesn’t quite go anywhere, leaving you not even knowing which side to pick. It was fun enough to read, but at the end, I’m left staring a bit blankly, and I don’t think I could really explain why any of it happened. It just… peters out, boom, the end. I don’t get it.

Rating: 2/5

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Review – Dreadful Company

Posted 14 August, 2018 by Nikki in Reviews / 6 Comments

Cover of Dreadful Company by Vivian ShawDreadful Company, Vivian Shaw

I was so excited to get this, and then I didn’t want to be over, and took longer than I should’ve to actually finish it. But while I was reading it, I was mainlining it: chunks and chunks of it all at once. I find Vivian Shaw’s writing just really easy to read, and it helps that I adore the characters. I was sad that there wasn’t more of Fass in this book, and I didn’t love some of the newer characters as much (Grisaille, but that’s obvious; Emily needs more development; more St. Germain wouldn’t go amiss; etc, etc), but I loved some of the little details — like the croissant-baking demon.

I think I prefer the first book, because it has more teamwork, more togetherness. This book is less comfortable, somewhat, even though I find myself sure Greta can get herself out of anything with her knowledge and her level head. On the other hand, Varney and Greta are just sweet — this is a romance that kinda works for me, though I feel like some development was missed out on in the time between books. (A bit unavoidable without making it a romance straight up front, though, and it isn’t: the romance is just part of it. Friendship is a far bigger part, to my mind, particularly that of Ruthven and Greta.)

All in all, I had a lot of fun and I think it lived up to how much I loved the first book. I’m looking forward to more with great eagerness! Also, I kind of want a whistler of my own. And a wellmonster.

Rating: 4/5

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Review – The Masked City

Posted 12 August, 2018 by Nikki in Reviews / 2 Comments

Cover of The Masked City by Genevieve CogmanThe Masked City, Genevieve Cogman

The Masked City follows on admirably from The Invisible Library, providing the same madcap mix of genre with aspects of metafiction (one of the main characters is a Great Detective; the Fae are living archetypes who really get on best by living up to their cliches) and the same pacy narrative. Vale, Irene and Kai continue being a heck of a team, although they’re all separated for a while. There’s some fascinating new layers to the Fae, there’s more contact with the world of dragons…

If you didn’t enjoy the first book, I can’t imagine this would really hit any new notes for you. But as the second book of the series, it works quite well. There’s an element of middle-bookness, in that Alberich doesn’t play any kind of serious role, after being set up as a Big Bad. But there’s plenty of adventure and interest, and I mainlined it the second time just as much as I did the first.

Rating: 4/5 

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Review – Witchmark

Posted 11 August, 2018 by Nikki in Reviews / 3 Comments

Cover of Witchmark by C.L. PolkWitchmark, C.L. Polk

Received to review via Netgalley

Witchmark is a little bit of a lot of things — a romance, a mystery, a family power struggle against a fantasy background, dealing with social upheaval and war… It feels like quite an odd mixture of things if I think about it from outside, but while I was reading it I had no quibbles.

Miles is the only character who I feel is really well fleshed out, and I really could use knowing more about Tristan before I can really fully buy into the romance and the Big Romantic Thing that happens near the end. Grace is… interesting, and surprisingly weak — and I don’t mean that in a disparaging way. It’s just that she comes along and takes command and she’s meant to be the strong one, and yet she’s so led by her family and by adhering to the social customs. It’s interesting as a character study, and I think there was a surprisingly good job done of making her likeable if only she wouldn’t participate in what’s expected of her.

Everything builds together pretty well for the finale, except maybe that romantic plot. I felt like we needed less of the magical attractiveness and more of the two talking to one another and figuring each other out: there wasn’t enough to make me really root for them. It’s the interplay between Grace and Miles that really made the story, for me.

I’ve kind of been avoiding getting this review written, because I wasn’t wholly sure what to say. I wasn’t as wowed as I hoped to be, but I think on reflection it was enjoyable and I’d read more. If I went in for half-stars, this would probably get another 0.5.

Rating: 3/5

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Review – Fury from the Tomb

Posted 9 August, 2018 by Nikki in Reviews / 4 Comments

Cover of Fury of the Tomb by S.A. SidorFury from the Tomb, S.A. Sidor

Received to review via Netgalley

I loved the idea of this, a pulpy horror story in the tradition of something like The Mummy (not that I’ve seen that film). And honestly, it was quite a lot of fun, in a fast-paced way, with interesting stuff going on with the various mythical stuff brought into the story. It’s fairly tropey and predictable, and the pacing is a bit jerky, but I stuck with it and had a reasonable amount of fun. Not something that I’d recommend unless you really love pulpy Penny Dreadful type stories with mummies and vampires and all kinds of weirdness, but it wasn’t the worst way to spend the time either.

Things that would have made me like it more… more of Evangeline, less of Evangeline being an object of desire for Rom and apparently everyone else; more flesh on the bones of McTroy and what went on in his head; and… some kind of change to Rom’s character. He struck me as stuck up and ignorant in many ways, and the effect was something like Simon Tam from Firefly, except with no willingness to get his hands dirty (except maybe with grave dirt) and no trust of the people around him. Basically, Simon Tam without the good bits.

Rating: 2/5

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Review – At Amberleaf Fair

Posted 8 August, 2018 by Nikki in Reviews / 0 Comments

Cover of At Amberleaf Fair by Phyllis Ann KarrAt Amberleaf Fair, Phyllis Ann Karr

This is a relatively quiet fantasy with a spot of mystery and romance, with a rather fascinating world. I didn’t follow the economics entirely, but the magic, the metaphors, the people’s roles in lives — it was very clear that this was all set up with a great deal of thought and care. I didn’t absolutely love the characters — and I have no idea why Torin liked Valdart at all, or thought he wanted to marry Sharys — but some of the interplay was pretty good, and I enjoyed the fact that the gender of the judge was never mentioned at all.

If you read the author’s note, it’s obvious she envisioned it as our world, post-apocalypse and a lot of growing up for the species. In that light, it’s interesting to see what she thought would change and what she thought would stay the same, and why she thought that (for example, she thought that theft would continue to be a problem, largely because the idea of individual property was breaking down; I’m not sure that follows, since we have a pretty robust idea of individual property now and plenty of theft).

All in all, it’s not groundbreaking, but it works as a gentle read for a quiet evening.

Rating: 3/5

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Review – Strange Practice

Posted 6 August, 2018 by Nikki in Reviews / 11 Comments

Cover of Strange Practice by Vivian ShawStrange Practice, Vivian Shaw

It hasn’t been that long since I first read this book, but the sequel is now out and I wanted to refresh my memory, and honestly I found Strange Practice just delightful. I adored what it did with the idea of a doctor for the monstrous/undead/etc, and I don’t know who would fail to smile at the idea of treating a banshee for a sore throat or a ghoul for depression (I’m not sure I agree with the choice of venlafaxine for the reasons actually mentioned — it’s nasty for withdrawal — but that’s by the by). I loved Ruthven and his concern for all the supernatural denizens of London, his hospitality and generosity, along with his little flaws and quirks. I loved the examination of what it might be like to be immortal, to be Ruthven or Varney or Fass: the years seeing other people die, the years of having to come up with something to do all the time.

I adore that Ruthven drove an ambulance in the Blitz, speaks a bunch of languages and knows how to darn socks. It just makes sense.

The plot itself is maybe less delightful, because hey, crazy cult, but the way the characters come together is glorious, and the climax of the story is just whoooa. The Devil himself shows up, and nothing is quite how you’d expect.

Greta Helsing, who is really the main character, is pretty awesome too. She’s the kind of doctor who recognises her duty to help people, but she’s also a brave young woman who is determined to do what she can, no matter what. She’s not perfect, and sometimes her reactions are very human — there’s a bit at the climax where she’s meant to be helping her friends, something goes wrong concurrently, and just… aaah.

Normally I can see why other people don’t like books (apart from personal taste stuff on the genre level), but I don’t really get it with this one. I enjoyed the heck out of it and I want some of my other friends (and my wife, hello dear) to read it soon so we can discuss Ruthven’s silk curtains and whether Varney is ever going to stop being melancholy.

Rating: 4/5

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Review – The Invisible Library

Posted 3 August, 2018 by Nikki in Reviews / 2 Comments

Cover of The Invisible Library by Genevieve CogmanThe Invisible Library, Genevieve Cogman

Another reread! Mostly because I felt like it, and partly to refresh my memory of the series to read The Lost Plot. It remains tons of fun: heists, steampunk trappings, magic, dragons, fae and most importantly, books. I love Vale and Kai and the way they interact with each other and with Irene, and Alberich remains a creep-as-heck villain (come on, he impersonates people by wearing their skin). The whole lore of the worlds, the way Fae work and the way that chaos/order affect magic… that all makes a good background for a story that ticks along at a fast clip. It feels like Cogman’s put everything and the kitchen sink into these books (especially with the more sci-fi trappings of some of the other worlds) and it works.

Above all, I think, I love the fact that the people who work for the Library genuinely love books. That’s one of their chief motivations in life. They’re not after keeping the worlds in order, just after books — on the surface, at least, and definitely for the junior Librarians like Irene — and that’s just… fun, nice to read, because in that secret kid part of you that hoped for a Hogwart’s letter (if you’re that kind of person), maybe you could be a Librarian

So yeah. No surprises I’m giving it a high rating again. It’s not perfect, perhaps, but it’s so much fun.

Rating: 4/5

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Review – The Battle of the Sun

Posted 29 July, 2018 by Nikki in Reviews / 4 Comments

Cover of The Battle of the Sun by Jeanette WintersonThe Battle of the Sun, Jeannette Winterson

I remember quite enjoying Tanglewreck, so I was somewhat surprised to be rather unhappy with The Battle of the Sun. The opening is fairly promising — the description of Jack being so, so eager for his spaniel, so full of thoughts of the spaniel, that he’s practically a spaniel himself, it really works and paints exactly the picture it needs to. Not that vivid imagery has ever been a problem for Winterson, and it’s so surprise that her writing is poetic and vivid and phantasmagoric.

However, it’s also quicksilver, jumping from thought to thought, and things aren’t explained — they just happen, one after another, and who knows why? I can’t remember if I found Tanglewreck to be like that, but I can’t say I enjoyed it in this book. In the end, I zipped through to the end on my ereader and put it down with a sigh of relief. Just not one that worked for me.

Rating: 2/5

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Review – Crooked Kingdom

Posted 28 July, 2018 by Nikki in Reviews / 4 Comments

Cover of Crooked Kingdom by Leigh BardugoCrooked Kingdom, Leigh Bardugo

It took me a while to get into this — around 50% of the book, actually — because it all felt like Kaz was being driven by Van Eck, instead of the crew banding together and calling the shots, which I badly wanted after the ending of Six of Crows. Kaz felt too cold and distant for a lot of it, and his POV took a long time to come round. Still, once it did, I did enjoy the way Kaz’s need for vengeance was handled, and his difficulties in touching people and expressing his feelings, etc. There’s a great bit which just describes perfectly how those OCD behaviours get established if you don’t fight them every step of the way.

And once you hit that 50% mark, the crew really start to take back what’s theirs and fight back, and it’s a lot of fun. Wylan and Jesper’s relationship is adorable, and I rather enjoy Jesper’s father’s part as well. The comeuppance is great, and the end of the book did not go quite exactly as I’d pictured. Gah, some of the last imagery of Nina and Matthias… But ahh, Inej’s ending is everything I needed, and Wylan’s position at the end is awesome.

If you enjoyed Six of Crows, you’ll probably enjoy this, and if you find it slow at first you probably just need to hold out for about 50% of the way through.

Rating: 4/5

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