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Bone Song (Gollancz S.F.) - John Meaney Ooof but this was a struggle. I don't think I've ever been so quickly disappointed with a book I really, really wanted to like. And I'm not even a fan of urban fantasy! But Bone Song is also a noir thriller, and I'm a sucker for those, plus I'd heard the world building was amazing, so I threw myself at the book with abandon...and ended up frequently throwing the book at things (wall, floor, bed, etc.). Let me count the ways...

The Awesome
The world building. Seriously, I love the concept of a person's bones storing their memories after death, and the fact that they can be used to power entire cities. Necrofusion! Oh my.

Also, the creature show. Zombies and deathwolves and wraiths - the latter especially, as they allow for semi-sentient motor bikes. I WANT A SENTIENT MOTOR BIKE!

The Not-So-Awesome
The plot starts out as a proper noir detective story and paces along merrily until about half-way through, when the cast's Jump To Conclusions map breaks and suddenly nothing makes any sense anymore. Or maybe it does, but while Meaney spends a lot of time over-explaining consequences and correlations in the beginning of the book, there's a marked absense of logic in the latter half. By that time I was so fatigued with the writing (see below), though, I couldn't really bring myself to turn back a few pages to see whether I'd missed anything.

The Bad
Logicfail: When your own characters know they're being stupid or irrational, don't you think they're trying to tell you something?

Pacingfail: I don't know whether Meaney made a deliberate choice to slow down the plot at various places throughout the book, but if it was on purpose, it back-fired, for it was most frustrating. To give you an example: as early on as page 44, we are treated to Donal's after-work rituals. On four long, long pages, Donal comes home, changes, warms up, goes back outside for a run, comes back, eats something, reads a book and goes to bed. This wouldn't be so bad if anything interesting happened along the way, but it doesn't. IT DOESN'T.

HeroComplexFail: Towards the end, when everything is coming to a head and I've just gotten a bit of interest back in how it all ends, Donal arrives in Illurium to hunt down the evil mastermind behind the murders. But first he sends his driver away and goes to hang out on a station platform. You'd think he was there to catch a train, but no, it seems he's only there so that he can accidentally spot and save a young girl from a pimp trying to snare her. He beats him up, gives money to the girl, takes his gun, and then! Returns to the driver. BECAUSE THAT MADE SENSE.

WritingFail: The worst, the worst thing about Bone Song - and the reason the book flew so often - was the writing. It was okay in most places, but awkward in others, and downright atrocious in too many places to ignore. I don't want to bash the author - I couldn't write a book to save my life, so I have respect for anyone who can. However, the over-use of sentence fragments became so obnoxious, I'd be dishonest if I didn't at least mention it here. I think it's done for dramatic effect, and it sometimes works, for example:

But as Donal walked, he remembered something more, against his will: the deep richness of the world seen through Jamix Holandson's eyes.
Through his lifeless bone.

Dramatic, right? But trust me, when this kind of structure occurs on every other page, all drama is lost and the only effect left is one of intense frustration.

Now, on other rooftops, pairs of scarlet eyes blinked, feline and knowing, at Laura sitting at the base of Darksan Tower's spire, straing into the night.
The night to which she belonged.


Maybe it's just me. Maybe you won't mind at all. If you like your urban fantasy and you're ready for some pretty cool concepts in world building, go right ahead and read this. It's not a bad book. It just has issues.
The Forge of Darkness - Steven Erikson Reading this I felt like I had already been given the biggest, bestest, tastied birthday cake EVER (the Malazan series) and then somebody delivered the icing. I loved this. LOVED IT with the fire of a thousand suns. It's no secret that I worship at Erikson's altar, but still, I was nervous to begin with (witness the fact that it sat on my bookshelf for nearly a year before I dared open it). I needn't have been. Erikson's voice is there from page one, and the more I read, the more I remembered why I'm so in love with this universe.

This prequel takes place hundreds of thousands of years before the events in Gardens of the Moon. Clearly, it's meant to add more detail to the ancient history of the world we've so far only seen in flashbacks and extracts from Gothos' Folly etc. So, if you're at all interested in that history and origins of the gods and the mythologies, this book is for you.

The story opens in Kurald Galain, still a country, still whole, where Mother Dark reigns and the Tiste Andii have ony just become Andii, where Draconus is alive, in the world, and has children. The Jaghut live next door and the Azath are...well, alive. Not, you know, houses. And they're awesome!

50 pages in I knew I was in for a treat, and then some of my favourite characters showed up and I was punching the air because a) it's so lovely to see them again (OH HAI ANOMANDER I MISSED U!) and b) I know they won't die. Not this time. NOT THIS TIME!



As usual, you won't get a plot summary from me. Suffice it to say, the Tiste are heading for a civil war. There are armies and soldiers and alliances and pledges of allegiance. There's betrayal and horror and violence. (My only disappointment with the book, and hence the 4 stars. TRIGGER WARNING: The rape scene is horrifying. Absolutely horrific, overly graphic and entirely superfluous. It could easily have been handled off-page. There was no need for that. None at all.)

In lighter news, Andarist, Silchas and Anomander are BROS and it's so sweet. Also, Caladan Brood, you guys. And wait until you meet [REDACTED]! In fact, I'm going to put the rest below the cut because I want you to read this so badly and I should hate to spoil it for anybody. But wait until you realise who the Dogrunners are!

- the first ever meeting of Anomander Rake and Caladan Brood!
- the birth of the Tiste Liosan!
- the forging of Grief/ Vengeance!
- Draconus be a dad!
- Spite and Envy as horrible little girls!
- Olar Ethil before she loses her mind!
- Gothos! IN HIS GODDAMN FOLLY! (I punched the air so hard. So hard.
- the birth of the warrens!
- Kilmandaros omg.

Considering all the background infil the book provides, I reckon this trilogy seems like a prime opportunity for us to finally learn who Quick Ben is. Please, Steven? Pretty please, with skulls on top?

Anathem - Neal Stephenson Disclaimer: I have ten thousand things to say about the book but it's not here where I can refer to it. Proper review to follow in a couple of months' time. Here's the tl;dr for Cyron. ;)


The End.


Seriously, I don't think I've ever found it more difficult to write a review. Listen: The readers who say that nothing much happens, especially in the first 400 pages? THEY ARE RIGHT. But do you know what else? It doesn't matter. Stick with it. Let yourself be swept away (or dragged along) and you won't regret it.

To begin with, Stephenson cheerfully engages in some of the most meticulous worldbuilding I've ever seen, starting with a 3000-year historical timeline (a bit daunting but very much helpful, in the end) and taunting us with freshly minted words that the narrator "was forced to coin" in order to explain the world. I can see where this puts some people off, but if you are at all interested in language, the whole exercise becomes fascinating. Every chapter is introduced by a dictionary definition covering not just a word's meaning, but also how its meaning has changed over three distinct eras in his world's history. This is awesome. Also, freshly coined or not, if you're an English speaker with a bit of linguistic awareness you'll note how Stephenson draws on Latin/Italian, French and Dutch/Anglo Saxon - much like English did itself. Again: THIS IS AWESOME.

Maybe you're not interested in languages. Fine, how about western philosophy? The brothers and sisters in Stephenson's 'maths' (cloisters) are engaged in science, logic, ethics, and metaphysics - basically, Anathem is a primer on Aristotle. Once more: This? Is awesome.

This is not to say they live in some kind of pre-industrial world. This is science fiction, after all. From genetic engineering to mobile phones and 'new matter', Arbre is technologically slightly more advanced than Earth in the 21st century. However, the entire first half of the book isn't really concerned with the world outside the math's walls. If you find that boring, I can't help you. If you don't, you're in for a treat.

The story unfolds slowly, giving you a chance to wrap your head around the world and the concept of the maths and the role they play in the wider scheme of things. These people are the foremost scientist in Arbre, after all. By the time the aliens arrive, it's clear that it's the fras and surs who are called in to deal with the problem. This is where the pace picks up, but not by much. Even in times of crisis, these folks have time for a Dialogue or two.

All in all, Anathem won't be for everyone. This is not a quick read. Sometimes, you need to refer to the glossary. Sometimes, they totally lost me in their logic puzzles, and I certainly didn't get most of the mathematic principles discussed, but the point is: I didn't care. It didn't matter. I worship unrepentantly at Stephenson's altar. The man is a genius.
Perfect Chemistry (Perfect Chemistry, #1) - Simone Elkeles I nearly didn't finish this. I'm usually a sucker for the opposites-attract trope, but these two just didn't work for me. Their inner monologues make no sense; the process of both of them realising that they like each other much more than they want to is a torture (and not of the good kind) to behold; Alex's mamacita makes me gag; Brittany's constant "I won't/can't/shan't let them send Shelley away" is sweet but it's also POINTLESS AND THEY SEND HER AWAY ANYWAY, and look, it's not even a problem because "Brit" can just go to a different college and be as close to her sister as she would have been had her sis stayed at home.

Don't get me wrong, I loved how much Brittany cares for her sister and how protective she feels of her, so when the conflict turned out not to be one, I felt cheated and frustrated and annoyed that I'd invested any emotional energy here.

The epilogue made my eyes roll. Of course they live HEA, that's all fine, but did they have to be modern-day Curies, as well?

On the plus side, the sexual tension is great. Also, I liked many of the secondary characters, probably because I couldn't read their inner monologues.

Maybe I'm getting too old for YA romance. Or maybe [b:Pushing the Limits|10194514|Pushing the Limits (Pushing the Limits, #1)|Katie McGarry|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1322770025s/10194514.jpg|15093690] was so awesome that it's ruined all other YA romance for me. Guess I'll have to stay away from the genre for a while.
Look to Windward  - Iain M. Banks This is spectacular. It deals with huge, terrible themes (war, loss, revenge, suicide, suicide bombings) and philosophical questions (exile, redemption, forgiveness), in multiple storylines spread across hundreds of years. The scope is HUGE.

There are three things that came out of Banks's mind I desperately want to be real: GSVs, drug glands and Orbitals. The fact that a large chunk of the story takes place on an O made me very happy indeed. The geography, the landscapes, the subway system - I ate up every bit of physical description I encountered. Conversely, I wasn't quite so interested in the airspheres with the behemoths, so those sections got a bit long for me - hence the 4 (.5) stars.

This time, the AIs, while present, disappear behind the towering humanoid characters. Kabe is magnificient, Ziller is brilliant, Quilan is heartbreaking. The philosphical debates between Kabe and Ziller, in particular, are an absolute joy to behold. I'm gonna quote a short passage for my own amusement:

Ziller was staring at him. 'Are you saying the sun could explode?'
'Well, sort of, in theory. It's a very--'
'You're not serious!'
'Of course I am. The chances are--'
'They never told me that!'
'Actually, it wouldn't really blow up as such, but it might flare--'
'It does flare! I've seen its flares!'
'Yes. Pretty, aren't they?'

:) And this isn't even one of their great debates, just a small thing that made me laugh. It might not work out of context, but I don't care.

Read this, if you haven't already. You will laugh. You might cry a little. (I did.) You will stare into space, lost in wonder, hoping against hope that someone, somewhere has built such marvels and is going to invite you along for a visit.
The Hydrogen Sonata (A Culture Novel) - Iain M. Banks I finished this one two days before the devastating news of Iain's cancer hit. I've not been able to review it because I didn't have enough emotional distance in order to talk about the book, and not about what Banks-the-author means to me. But it's time. The review pile isn't getting any smaller. Thus, to work:

The Hydrogen Sonata is Banks at his finest. It has Culture minds high on galactic politics and their own superiority over biological intelligence, a little bit of violence, a little bit of gross, and a large dose of snark and sarcasm, all mixed into the enormous social and psychological troubles of an equiv-level civilisation about to Sublime.

I've read a criticism somewhere that Banks doesn't introduce anything truly new and gobsmacking here, but I will say unto those heathens, ANTAGONISTIC UNDECAGONSTRING. No, there's no earth-shatteringly new concepts here, but this is a Culture novel, exploring the political difficulties you encounter when you ask an entire civilisation to leave all that's wordly behind.

I enjoyed it hugely. HUGELY. I love the Culture, so if it's 'more of the same', then I'll have a LOT more of the same, please. In fact, some of my favourite moments were the hat-tips to [b:Excession|567677|Excession|Iain M. Banks|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1201732519s/567677.jpg|1494164], probably my all-time favourite science fiction novel. The first mention of the Interesting Times Gang had me punch the air with joy, and I loved that the current group of involved minds played out their cloak-and-dagger roles in very much the same style. What's not to like? In short, while the humanoid protagonist left me pretty cold, I loved the AIs, as always.

My favourite, favourite thing about the entire book are the chapters told from the Ronte's perspective. Banks displays an incredible knack for POV-writing here, where the POV is a hive mind encompassing an entire fleet of ships. I laughed like a fool every time "a ship dance was required." May I quote?

On entering a new environment, a ship dance was required. [...] Accordingly, the fleet drew to a local stop halfway between the stellar systems of Barlbanim and Taushe and the ship dance "Glowing Nymphs Dance Ascending And Descending In The Light Of An Alien Sun" was performed.

COME ON! This is awesome.

I liked this an awful lot. 4 stars because I really, really could've done without the sexy times - superfluous at best, gratuitous at worst. Seriously, what did Banstegeyn's sexual adventures add to the story? Nothing. His escapades with Orpe were introduced as a necessary set-up for the assassination of the president but ended up not being necessary at all. And, unless I missed something fundamental, everything would've gone pretty much to plan even without that assassination.

I'll finish with my favourite quote:

There was something comforting about having a vast hydrogen furnace burning millions of tons of material a second at the centre of a solar system. It was cheery. - The Mistake Not..., contemplating stars

What? No, I'm not crying. Something in my eye, is all.
The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie: A Flavia de Luce Mystery (Flavia de Luce Mysteries) - Alan Bradley I was worried I might not like this, for exactly two reason: The story is told from first person POV, by a Precocious Child (TM).

However, I shouldn't have worried, because Flavia is brilliant. BRILLIANT. Her voice is incredible - highly intelligent with a side order of naive innocence that had me imagining her winking at me furiously from the page whilst she plays 'who, me?' with the police.

I liked this a lot. Flavia's thought processes and deductions are believable and natural. I feel jealous of her (who wouldn't love to have a fully pimped-out chemistry lab at their disposal?), and sorry for her (she has lost her mother; her father is emotionally distant because he's unable to show/share his grief, and her two sisters aren't really interested in her most of the time) and proud of her (she never complains and she reacts to most situations with such aplomb it makes you grin).

Quibble: Overall, the book is too long. The plot ambles along at the pace of a Sherlock Holmes story, which is great for shorter stories, but not for novels. Certain passages (for example, when she visits the school and climbs the tower), spend so much time on recording the minutest details, I got a bit impatient here and there.

Length and pacing aside, I really enjoyed this, and I will most definitely be picking up the next one in the series. Thanks again for the rec, Jana! :)
Locke & Key, Vol. 2: Head Games - Joe Hill, Gabriel Rodríguez Blown away. Again.
Pushing the Limits - Katie McGarry Heartbreaking. Wonderful. I couldn't put it down, I cried a lot, I smiled at the end, and I'll have to read it again to write anything resembling coherence.
Catching Jordan - Miranda Kenneally Awwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww

This was So. Cute.

I probably would've given it 4 stars but I read [b:Pushing the Limits|10194514|Pushing the Limits (Pushing the Limits, #1)|Katie McGarry|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1322770025s/10194514.jpg|15093690] immediately afterwards and it blew me away. But make no mistake, Catching Jordan is really sweet and everything I ever wanted from YA romance. Until I read that other book.


Now I feel bad.
The Ghost Brigades - John Scalzi Even better than Old Man's War. Less with the self-insertion, more with the exploration of themes like choice and cloning and slavery. Plus a thrilling plot. Plus giggles. I loved it. Loved it.
The King's Assassin - Stephen Deas Ack. Great series, lovely concept, awesome worldbuilding, but I hated the direction the characters went in this last book. Very, very disappointing ending. Sadface!
Locke & Key, Vol. 1: Welcome to Lovecraft - Joe Hill, Gabriel Rodríguez Insta-love. There are only three graphic novels that managed to drawn me in this instantly: Sandman, Fables, and Fell. In fact, Welcome to Lovecraft does remind me of Preludes & Nocturnes, in that they're both intriguing introductions to mysterious worlds and characters, knock you flat with beautiful art - seriously, Bode is a MASTERPIECE in every panel he's in - and leave you hankering for more, NOW, please.

In short, I'm blown away. 6 stars.

Lord Foul's Bane

Lord Foul's Bane - Stephen R. Donaldson AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHH! NO. Begone, thou foul piece of pond slime.

20 percent through and I've seen nothing but exposition-by-folklore and the rape of a 16-year-old girl. I'm all for anti-heroes, but if I have to read any more of Conventant's whine-wallow-pity-me-ANGRYANGRYANGRYRAPEYOU-whinge-whine-self-loathe-pity-me-pity-me-ANGRYANRGYKEELYOU bullshit, I will lose restraint and unwittingly destroy my reading device.

In a Treacherous Court - Michelle Diener She's a beautiful Belgian painter sent to England to paint for the king. He's a handsome, non-courtly courtier and loyal royal spymaster. Together, they fight crime!

I wanted to like this more because I like the idea of the crime-flighting couple in Henry's court. Alas, they're...boring. I might read the next one, just to be sure.
This Duchess of Mine (Desperate Duchesses, #5) - Eloisa James I'm reading romance - it must be November. I like the Desperate Duchesses series, but this one didn't quite work for me. Too...nice. Too easy and too predictable.