Saturday, 8 October 2016

Review: Never Pick up Hitch-hikers!

Never Pick up Hitch-hikers! Never Pick up Hitch-hikers! by Ellis Peters
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I read this again to counteract the rather disappointing The Giver Quartet, since Never Pick up Hitch-hikers! is one of my favourite novels, and realised I never wrote a review about it.

Never Pick up Hitch-hikers! is a "classic whodunnit", like the cover says. It follows 20-year old Willie Banks, who is trying to move out from under the protective wings of his mother - and accidentally ends up in the middle of a plot to fake a bank robber's death and recover the loot. Worst of all, it's Willie who was selected as the stand-in to die, but with luck and a girl he met on his way, he gets away in time. Since someone else was there to burn in the flat of the bank robber, it takes the bad guys some time to realise that Willie is still around - and meddling, taking the attempt on his life quite personal. Together with a London mob and police involvement, things are getting a little bit complicated as the treasure hunt is on...

Personally, I love Willie. He's clever, fun, and self-reliant, which is surprising considering he just left home for the first time on his own.
I'm also a huge fan of Ellis Peters' writing style, the way she describes people, places, happenings... I have many of her books (excluding Brother Cadfael, which I never looked into), but this one - my first - is still by far my favourite. Willie and Calli, they way they interact and work as a team, the ease they both show when pretending to be innocents and when dealing with people in general... It's very enjoyable to read. In fact, it's such a joy (for me), that this time was the first occasion on which I noticed a - rather glaring - inconsistency in the plot: Willie has to hide from one of the mobsters, since he has seen him before and could get suspicious. This can't be true, since at the only occasion when the mobster could have seen Willie in connection with the case, Willie was hiding and couldn't be seen. His having to hide is an important part of the plot at that point, but, actually, it's quite unnecessary.
I still love the book, though. ;-)

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Review: Son

Son Son by Lois Lowry
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

This book is really difficult for me to rate. It was relaxing to read - except for the bouts of rage it caused with every new mistake made. Interestingly enough, while I have a list of these mistakes, I can't remember most of them from the top of my head. They were horrible when encountered, but as easily forgotten, it seems. Nevertheless, I don't know much else to say about Son, so this review will mostly consist of spoilers.

Anyway, before I list the things that made me angry, some general disappointments:
I was hoping to learn more about the consequences of Jonas' leaving the community in The Giver, since the first part of this book starts around the same time, at the same place. Sadly, Claire left shortly after Jonas and Gabe, and can't remember much about what happened in between learning that Jonas took her son and being washed up on the shore of a village she spends the second part of the three-part novel in. Similarly, we never really learned in which ways Kira changed the village she was born in, in any of the Giver Quartet books - I had high hopes for Messenger in that respect.
Talking about Messenger - in the third part of Son, which is set at the same village as Messenger, they finally gave up calling it "Village" with a capital "V" and no article. Thank goodness for that! On the other hand, Jonas is not Leader any more, which is weird considering that those capital letter occupation names were supposed to be the "true names" of the people. They're not true forever, then?

Right, on to the many inconsistencies...
They start early, with Claire thinking of Sophia, a girl from her year who was assigned nurturer when Claire was assigned birthmother. Allegedly they sat next to each other at the December Ceremony - BUT later they talk about their numbers (remember, newchildren are numbered before they are named in December) and Claire was 11, while Sophia was 27. In The Giver it was made very clear that the children are sitting ordered by their numbers at every Ceremony, so it was impossible for Claire to sit next to Sophia.
According to Claire, she never visited another community, and also never met anybody from somewhere else. In The Giver, on the other hand, Jonas' younger sister complains about children from another community coming to visit and not knowing their rules. Jonas then mentions that he had visited another community some years previously with his class, and I kind of assumed that was the norm - and that there were more communities like that of Jonas and his people. Nevertheless, with Claire it sounded like that never, ever happened...?
According to Claire's colleagues, the assignment of Jonas had something to do with "Giver and Receiver". This is simply not true. At his Ceremony, only the Receiver of Memory was mentioned. He later called himself the Giver, when Jonas started receiving, but this was never made public, and he was still called "Giver" by everybody else. Plus, this position is supposed to be very prestigious, and everyone was supposed to respect Jonas, know what he is, answer all personal question he might ask... Well, it sounded like people would know better than what was mentioned in Son.
A minor thing I also wondered about in the first part of Son is that Claire and her colleagues at the Fish Hatchery appear to be too lazy to read the rule book. I thought this was, for one, an important part of the school system, to learn about the rules, and in The Giver, the community left a distinct impression of being very fixated on rules, and everyone knowing everything.
In the same line, "they" (the government, Elders, whoever) forgot to tell Claire that she should take pills (the ones that suppress feelings). I didn't think that was even possible in this tightly regulated community.
And, talking about rules and regulations, Claire's POV also made it clear that feelings were never discussed. Well, except for the mandatory discussion of feelings every night for every family over dinner??

That were the most prominent inconsistencies I noticed in the first part of Son compared to The Giver, and they gave me strong feeling that Lois Lowry doesn't know the world she created very well...

And then there were some more things I wondered about in the other two parts.
For example, how did Claire become able to see colours? Is this magic again? Because inside the community nobody but the Receiver can see colours, and I assumed this had a biological background, maybe a mutation or something, or medication. But as soon as Claire is someplace else, she can see colours, too. How is that possible? She never took the pills, so it couldn't have been caused by them. The Receiver (and Jonas) could see colours inside the community, so they were definitely there. How is that possible??
The rest of the second part was, well, ok. The ending with the story of Einar was weird, but, well, the rest of the book wasn't better than that, anyway.

The worst inconsistency in the third part was that of Kira father, who apparently "stumbled sightless to the village" after someone from his own home tried to kill him. Oh, the bullshit. Gathering Blue clearly describes that people from the (nice) village came in the night to the field where the dead are left, took him and carried him through the forest for days to bring him to their village, his new home. Seriously, Lois Lowry, read your own books again before you write a successor novel.
Same with Trade Mart (from Messenger). Matty went there to see what was going on, and told Jonas about it. Maybe Jonas went after that, while Matty was gone to fetch Kira, but him saying that he went there to check it out is just plain wrong and an insult to the dead Matty.

The third part of Son was, generally, not very good. Jonas decides to send Gabe to fight and kill (?) Trademaster even before he looked beyond to find him and learn that he is waiting for Gabe anyway. That's a nice confirmation for his plan, but he planned to send the boy even before he knew that! And without knowing what his "gift" was, too. Absolutely irresponsible and not at all like Jonas/Leader, especially after Matty died trying to save the village with his gift (which was also never satisfactorily explained, by the way).
The "fight" between Gabe and Trademaster was then also very boring and disappointing - to the point of being actively annoying. Oh, what Terry Pratchett could have made out of that material! What a waste...

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Sunday, 25 September 2016

Review: Messenger

Messenger Messenger by Lois Lowry
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A nice thing about the first three books in The Giver Quartet is that they are quite fast to read. A connected sad thing about the second and third book is that it seems the short reading time is caused simply by a lack of story (which wasn't so bad with The Giver).

Nevertheless, I upped the number of stars from two for Gathering Blue to three for Messenger again - because this time the ending was gripping and tragic enough to hold my mind captive after I finished the book. Sadly, I didn't really understand the connection between most of the story and this ending, but from other reviews I'm hoping that the fourth book in the quartet - Son, which is also a lot longer - will resolve some questions.

In general, it was nice to see how Matty evolved from the last book to this, and that Jonas from the first book is indeed healthy and well. Most of the story takes place in the Village where the "broken people" live happily together, accepting and helping one another. It would have been nice - knowing other parts of this world, other communities - to see simply nice life like that. But, to fit in with the other utopia/dystopia novels, things are turned around, people become selfish and tired of helping others, and (fitting also for politics these days) some want to close the borders to newcomers, who are most likely weak and poor and talking in other languages.
Matty sets out to post messages about the coming closure in the Forest, because apparently people travel to Village on purpose by now (I thought it was more a kind of coincidence thing), and to bring Kira to her father. In parallel to the people, the Forest is growing more hostile as well, though, causing them trouble on the trip back. THAT was the interesting part of the story, and could have been much longer to build and release tension.

As you can probably imagine, things have moved from scientific advancements more into the fantasy and magic realm, which I have now come to accept. The community where Jonas came from seems to have been the only place where technological knowledge survived after the Ruin (I assume, since world history is not part of that story line), while all the others stick to simpler ways of life (I wonder how difficult it was for Jonas to get used to that). They also seem to have partly let go of the use of articles, which I found a bit annoying - even if you write Forest with a capital "F", it would still be nice to have people walk through "the Forest" and not simply through "Forest". That was just weird.

I hope the last volume in the quartet will now give an overview of the changes in Jonas' community as well as Kira's original village. At least for the latter we've heard in this book that it changed because of Kira (and probably Thomas?), but we don't really know how or how much. I find that very sad, since Kira did not accompany her father, and instead chose to change the ugly place she was born into, and that must have been quite an effort. Without a description of what she did and what she achieved, that effort seems kind of wasted, though.

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Friday, 23 September 2016

Review: Gathering Blue

Gathering Blue Gathering Blue by Lois Lowry
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

So this was the first "companion to The Giver"...

The world here, while apparently the same as in the first book, is absolutely different. I've been wondering if, maybe, after the Ruin, the ancestors of Jonas' Community settled with their technological advances and dreams of a better world - and kicked out all the a**holes and sociopaths in the process. Those outcasts, then, must have founded the village where Kira lives. Here, people are noisy, dirty, and very egoistic. Anybody who is of no use is condemned to death, children are treated like the greatest nuisance in the world, and everybody is very aggressive on principle.
While this was made very clear by the author, the village itself wasn't well described. There's the Council Edifice, which must have been a church before the Ruin, although the description of the inside doesn't sound like a church, except for the Worship Object (a cross). Other than that, there's not much to go on, and apparently even Kira, who grew up there, doesn't know many of the other villagers, or anything about the politics.

It was difficult to find a way into this world as the reader, thanks to spiritless writing (is my guess). And some things were just weird, e.g. Kira meeting Jamison after her trial inside the Council Edifice and being taken to her new quarters - as far as I know by walking down a long corridor, or at least by staying inside the building. Nevertheless, she later has to ask if it is possible to get from the big hall to her quarters. How come she didn't know about that? And, can someone draw me a picture of chairs in front of the stage, facing the audience, from which you can watch the proceedings on the stage? I assumed that maybe the moment when they were turned, or when the children were re-seated was missing, but at some point in the performance, it's again mentioned that they are facing the audience while watching the stage. I don't get it.

Kira seemed a nice enough girl, but the characters lacked so much depth it was impossible to actually related to them or care for them. Jonas, in The Giver, now he had enough time to learn and grow, and it was well enough described for the reader to learn with him. Kira, in Gathering Blue, on the other hand, was at least in the same place, getting to know everything, for a few months, but... what did actually happen there? It feels like there wasn't really a story, no development, just words that I quickly read in two days, with maybe an interesting idea what the human future could look like, after the Ruin, but without any connection, any suspense, anything to spike my interest. It was nice to hear that probably Jonas is still alive somewhere, but other than that I was disappointed.

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Tuesday, 20 September 2016

Review: The Giver

The Giver The Giver by Lois Lowry
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I read the German version of The Giver (Hüter der Erinnerung) many years ago, and apparently liked it enough to take the book with me when I moved out. More recently, I happened to watch the movie that was made out of it, and then also read my copy of the book again. I still enjoyed it, but remembered that I never really understood the ending. So I went online to learn more about that, and found that there's three more books from the same universe. Obviously, I went right ahead and bought the whole The Giver Quartet in English. Now, about The Giver...

This novel takes place in a utopian/dystopian community that has converted to Sameness. Sameness means that there are no different skin tones (though they still have different hair and eye colours, apparently), no changes in climate/weather, and no hills. The people in communities with Sameness have also lost their ability to see colours, and can only have shallow feelings. Age is only important until you are 12, and all children become a year older at the December Ceremony, regardless of their actual date of birth (which is always 50 children per year, by the way). Sameness! Different genders and character traits are still allowed, though, and adults applying for a spouse will be matched meticulously, just like the Twelves are matched with their future assignments.
An Eleven boy called Jonas is the main character of the book. He is chosen to become the next Receiver of Memory - a very high honour, but most people don't actually know what the Receiver does. That's because he (or she, but he in this case) is the only one who carries the memories of the past, of the days before Sameness. And there is no way to describe to the Community what colours or death or real feelings are. Therefore, the Receiver is honoured, but also lonely and suffering from the knowledge the rest of the Community doesn't want to suffer from.

The ideas of The Giver are certainly interesting, and it's fascinating to get to know the way of life in Sameness. I can imagine that genetic engineering for this could be possible some day. Things get a bit weird at some point, though, when you're looking at the book scientifically. Jonas being able to see colours? Hmm, fine, could be a mutation or something. Transmission of memories from the past by the touch of hands on backs? Huh. And the ending? I still don't get that at all.

In the end, I'll just have to accept that this is not only scifi, but also a bit magic - a strange mix, and unexpected when you first start reading the book. Nevertheless, I enjoyed it, and I'm looking forward to reading Gathering Blue next.

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Saturday, 10 September 2016

Review: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by J.K. Rowling
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Disclaimer: This is not the first play I have read.

I really enjoyed Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. Of course it was different from the Harry Potter novels, lacking J.K. Rowling's writing style, the wonderful descriptions, and the length that comes with this. It was a play, and I believe it would be awesome to see it played out.

I didn't know anything about the story before I started reading (thanks for keeping the spoilers to a minimum!) so I'm not going to spoil it for anybody else.
The plot surprised me, obviously, even though I had no specific expectations. It was well thought out, leaving almost no questions open (just for one thing, my imagination did not suffice). It kept me reading, being quite fast paced (but then, having only dialogue to read can save you a lot of time) and containing many interesting turns of events.
Yes, there were also some things I believe the play could have done without. But these were smaller things that got drowned out in the overall story arch.

I hope I'll get to see the play at some point.

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Monday, 5 September 2016

Review: Driving Heat

Driving Heat Driving Heat by Richard Castle
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Apparently it's getting more and more difficult to get these books out in time (with the TV series, I guess that's where the pressure comes from). This is easy to spot, and could probably even be quantified by the increasing number of sloppy writing and spelling mistakes. I even photographed my two "favourites": "It's like your reading my mind," (seriously??) and "There's plenty off pissed-off people" (also, seriously??).

The story is practically the same as before in Raging Heat: Nikki suspects a high-ranking member of society, but can't do her job properly due to political obstacles and lowly criminals that add some confusion to the case. Difference is, she's a Captain now and also has to deal with administrative tasks, which get loosely and unspiritedly strewn into the story at random, nonsensical intervals.
Nikki Heat herself seems to have somewhat recovered since the last book. She's not an emotional wreck anymore, but there's still some turmoil left, and she's still acting irrational. God, I miss the strong, compartmentalising Heat!

Last, but not least, Yardley Bell, Rook's ex, is back! And... She's totally different from her previous appearance, or is that just me? I remembered her as an intelligent, good looking and hard working agent. Now she's quirky and always smiling? Huh, maybe I remember her wrong...

Anyway, I'm not sure if I didn't enjoy Driving Heat because of the lack of proofreading and therefore also disliked the story, or if the stories are really getting worse. In the first books, the cases were a lot less spectacular, but also a lot more interesting.

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Saturday, 27 August 2016

Review: Raging Heat

Raging Heat Raging Heat by Richard Castle
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

While I still really enjoy the Castle TV series, the books are just getting worse.

This one happens around two years after the last one (Deadly Heat), and with solving the murder of her mother and stopping the terror plot that she uncovered before her death, Nikki Heat seems to have lost it all. She seems caught in a maelstrom of feelings, from missing Rook to not trusting him to almost hating him... Nikki seems to have let go of her self-control (and -respect?) completely, substituting it with rage (as of the book title) and paranoia. I was constantly wondering - if the TV series were real, and Richard Castle had written that book about his love interest Kate Beckett, how much she must have hated him for it. For turning her from a strong, intelligent woman into an emotional wreck. It's definitely not a pleasure to see her - read about her - like that.

The plot itself wasn't too bad, revolving around two illegals who got killed for, well, knowing too much. With a possible involvement of a politician, and impending hurricane Sandy impact (I still like how the books play out in the here-and-now), the investigation goes slowly. Not helping is Nikki Heat herself, who actually, and non-understandably - seems to be on a vendetta against said politician, disregarding other hot leads. Seriously, she's just not herself and I don't blame her colleagues for being angry at her for it.
Nevertheless, they all come together in the end to solve it all. Well done?

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Review: Deadly Heat

Deadly Heat Deadly Heat by Richard Castle
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is where the series starts to go down, in my opinion. The book is still interesting and entertaining, with two cases to solve - a serial killer who chose Nikki as his final victim, and a terror plot that led to the death of her mother ten-something years before.

Spoiler warning, don't read on if you still haven't read that book.

While I can't say that the plot was very predictable, like others did, I have to say that it felt a bit forced to me. Suddenly, almost all of the people Nikki's mother spied on are involved in the terror plot? And nobody ever wondered why Mrs. Heat was tutoring at all of their homes? Really?
And that serial killer, because he didn't get enough attention from Nikki, had to go and get involved himself? And the people behind the terror plot weren't clever enough to get rid of that one guy? How convenient for Nikki and the plot...
No, this was simply a bit too fantastic/unrealistic for me.

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Monday, 20 June 2016

Review: The Shepherd's Crown

The Shepherd's Crown The Shepherd's Crown by Terry Pratchett
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I'm very undecided about the rating - 3 or 4 stars? As the last book Sir Terry has ever written - for that heartbreak alone - it would probably deserve 4, right? On the other hand, it is very clear while reading the book that he never got to finish polishing it. It is not, quality-wise, a VERY GOOD book. In the end, I went with quality as guide.
Reading The Shepherd's Crown made me very sad, because it was so clear that it wasn't done yet, because of all that is missing (is Tiffany always wearing black now?), because of the deaths, and because there will never be another Discworld book. There were some small sections that made me laugh, too, though. The book is like a minimal, shortened version of a good Discworld novel, and I am glad that Sir Terry got far enough into it that it could be published.
The world is changing...

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Saturday, 19 March 2016

Review: Foxglove Summer

Foxglove Summer Foxglove Summer by Ben Aaronovitch
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

In Foxglove Summer, DC Peter Grant travels to the country to look into the disappearance of two eleven year old girls, just to make sure that there is no magic involved. Peter is a pure-bred Londoner, though, and has some trouble adjusting - especially when his stay lasts a lot longer than planned. Luckily, he's got local police man (DC) Dominic Croft and river goddess Beverly Brook to help him along. Oh, and it turns out I love Beverly. She's awesome, clever and fun, and one can but hope that she will be as involved in the next book as well. Dominic also turned out to be a great partner to Peter, but I guess he was a one-time character, seeing as he has his life out in the country.

The editorial stuff wasn't very well done, sadly. There was one time when Ben Aaronovitch confused the name of the mother with that of her (vanished) daughter and let her contribute something to a conversation. There was one time when someone wrapped the end of a string around his wrist, only to give it to someone else in the next paragraph, and some minor mistakes as well. Nevertheless, I gave this book five stars, because...

THIS IS THE BOOK! This is the book in which we learn more about Ettersberg. This is the book in which we learn more about Molly. This is not a book with the Faceless Man in it, though, only with the promise that it will take a few more books to close that story arc.
The story itself was very interesting, with lots of twists and some unicorns (and who doesn't like unicorns in a story about magic?). Some twists I could see coming, some were pleasantly shocking. In the end, many loose strings were still dangling around, so the book could have been longer. I'm relying on the author to tie them up in The Hanging Tree, though, because he's done a good job of picking up loose ends before.

Foxglove Summer is dedicated to Terry Pratchett - a dedication which, if I can read dates correctly, happened before he died. That, of all Peter Grant books, this one was dedicated to Sir Terry could merely be a coincidence, or due to some inspiration Ben Aaronovitch took from discworld books. I've seen some parallels to my favourite mini series around Tiffany Aching (Tiffany Aching Complete Collection: 5 Books) here, which I enjoyed immensely. This also gave me a pretty good idea what to read next, while I'm waiting for the release of the next Peter Grant novel (I still haven't read The Shepherd's Crown, because I'm waiting for the paperback). ;-)

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Sunday, 13 March 2016

Review: Broken Homes

Broken Homes Broken Homes by Ben Aaronovitch
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Broken Homes is the fourth instalment in Ben Aaronovitch's Peter Grant series mixing magic and today's police work, and while there's still a lot of policing going on, I didn't feel like the case (or a case) was the focus of the story. So many things happened...
The rivers had a party, which was a convenient way to introduce another one of them and bring Beverley back. Ordinary people did things without always knowing why, bringing the Faceless Man back into focus. Lesley started a thing with Zach, and Zach brought the quite people up for a pub crawl. Oh, and a late German architect did some pretty weird things... (Also, as always in English books, they didn't get all of the German right, but it was close.)

The pacing of the book wasn't so great, which is probably why I lost track of the story line inbetween. The humour was great as always, though, and I loved learning a bit more about what Nightingale can actually do, and what's going on (or was going on) with magic in other countries. There was also, once more, the introduction to a new character who will hopefully get a place with the other regulars, even though it's getting a bit crowded. I think everyone from before was included in Broken Homes, but sometimes only with pretty minor roles that could have been left out to leave more room for an overall story arc.

The cases mostly couldn't be solved in a satisfactory way, at least not for the public. I won't add spoilers here, so just assume that the Faceless Man was quite active in the background. He was also very active behind Peter's back, showing how convenient it can be to have a first person narrator sometimes. Ben Aaronovitch really dropped a bomb on us readers in the end, holy shit!

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Tuesday, 1 March 2016

Review: Whispers Underground

Whispers Underground Whispers Underground by Ben Aaronovitch
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I really liked Whispers Under Ground, the third PC Grant novel after Rivers of London. Peter starts out with a visit to a girl from his parent's neighbourhood, who saw a ghost and knows that Peter can do magic and stuff - so she called him. That has nothing to do with the actual story, though, which starts the following night with the discovery of a dead man at Baker Street station. Peter got called onto the case because something seemed off, but it is "only" the murder weapon that seems to be imbued with magic. At the same time, the people from the Folly are also busy trying to find the Faceless Man, an "ethically challenged" magician hiding and working in London.

The story around the Faceless Man is definitely set out to continue for some time, and didn't play a major role here. Nevertheless, it was nicely interwoven with the story. Just like Abigail, the girl from the neighbourhood, who kind of closed the circle of the book.
The cast is generally still increasing, it seems. The rivers from the first book still always appear somehow, Abigail was already introduced in the last one (Moon Over Soho), and Peter again got to know a few new characters from the "magical London" who, at least I suspect that, might turn up again. It seems that the magical world is a small world indeed.

My only qualm - no, disappointment - with the book was the final reveal of the murderer and his motive. It seemed so... dumb, dull, something like that. And it most certainly wasn't what the blurb on my copy said: "whispers of vengeance from beyond the grave". I wonder who made that up.

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Thursday, 11 February 2016

Review: The Rosie Project

The Rosie Project The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

The Rosie Project is a "romantic comedy" (I guess) about a genetics professor trying to find a life partner. He's clearly somewhere on the autistic spectrum and reading the story from his (quite) unfeeling point of view is interesting, though it didn't always work.

I wasn't very impressed with this book; for me, it couldn't deliver what it (and the critics) promised. Here are some of my main qualms with The Rosie Project:

Right at the beginning, Don's supposedly best friend Gene has asked him to deliver a lecture that he was supposed to give himself. Fine.
The lecture is on a topic Don knows nothing about (Asperger's syndrome). Ok, weird, but he's very intelligent, so he can probably cope (at least he didn't complain).
Gene also neglects to mention what kind of lecture is required or whom it's for. This leads to a near-catastrophe when Don launches into a genetics (because that's what he's a professor of) focussed lecture on Asperger's in front of parents with kids affected by this illness. Why would Gene, as a friend, not warn Don who would be his audience? And why would an always deliberate, plan-based individual like Don not ask for this information in advance?
The same question, about Gene being a friend, also applies to Don's shock when he learns that these lectures never start on time. A warning would have been nice...

The time it takes to test the first blood sample against Rosie's cheek swap was way too quick. Even considering that he prepared the blood sample before the written part of their conversation occurs, even with that "very quick" new equipment... It looks like only a few minutes, and that's just not possible.
And, by the way, for someone who is so much into science and has lots of high quality science discussions, Don is incredibly reluctant to mention anything scientific in his account of these events. Neither about how the equipment works, nor what he actually does or what his group/institute is working on. We only have that information about Gene.

Upon their first arrival at the lab, Don takes two beers for himself and Rosie from the lab fridge. Later, he even goes from his office to the lab to get one from that fridge. I don't know about Australia, but in Germany you don't usually keep beer in a lab fridge. We have social rooms and kitchens for that, and knowing what's also in a lab fridge really makes you think twice about keeping food or drink in there. Plus, it's of course absolutely forbidden. And, seriously, in the same room with that new, high-tech and probably expensive machine?? Why would they place it in a former tea-room, anyway?

The book is written in first person, from Don's point of view. There's a ball scene which starts with him not being able to apply the theoretic dancing skills he learned in ten days to actual music and a live partner. He blames this on having not trained with actual music. Soon after that disaster, he dances with someone else - perfectly. A few pages on, he admits that he could have done better, but failed on purpose because he didn't like his partner. What kind of first person POV is that??

Last but not least, Don changes his appearance and his behaviour for a woman who doesn't quite match with him (she's a smoker, for God's sake!). He gives up almost everything that kept him grounded, turns his whole life around (at age 40) - for whom? The woman he apparently (for the more emotional reader) fell in love with on first sight, with no rationality behind it. It's so dumb it made me realise I shouldn't read any "romantic comedy" any more.
Also, imagine the gender roles were switched - feminists would be all over this!

Overall, The Rosie Project neither entertained me nor did it make me laugh (although I did recognise some scenes that were supposedly funny, just not for me). The only light in all this mess was the preview of the next book, where Don apparently starts regretting how he changed - at least partly. I'm not sure I should dare to read that, though...

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Monday, 1 February 2016

Review: Moon Over Soho

Moon Over Soho Moon Over Soho by Ben Aaronovitch
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

"Moon Over Soho" took up the story that Rivers of London left us with: more men who got their penises bitten of by a woman's vagina. In addition, PC Peter Grant has to deal with a number of jazzmen who apparently died of natural causes, but maybe not... Then there's of course the recoveries of his superior, DCI Thomas Nightingale, who got shot in the chest and can't be bothered to take time off to recover, and of PC Lesley May, whose face fell of at the end of their last big case.
The rivers, i.e. the Thames family, also get their chance to participate, although that felt a bit forced. And there's more of the science aspects of magic, which I liked very much. After all, it was Isaac Newton who started all this, and that Peter and Dr. Walid try to figure out some of the basics is awesome.

All in all, the book was again a great read. A bit more creepy this time, while not feeling much more dark - somehow, Peter's voice won't let that happen.
Two style things irritated me while reading: as in the last book, there were sometimes - from my point of view - small words missing, like "the" or "in". I noticed this in "Rivers of London" as well and am still not sure if that is on purpose or not. The other thing started in "Moon Over Soho" and is one of my pet peeves: forgetting that there's a singular for that plural word the author invented. In this case, it's "vestigium" as singular for "vestigia" - Ben Aaronovitch/Peter Grant almost always uses "vestigia" here, with apparent disregard to how many there are. Why would any author do that??

Below follows a minor spoiler, so consider not reading on.

There are certain clichés that are always followed (in this case in crime novels and shows), when you're trained to expect foul play. Examples would be that old partner that suddenly turns up and assists in an investigation, or a new relationship of one of the main characters which seems to get a little too much attention. That person who turned up out of the blue is normally one of the bad guys messing with the main character(s), usually on purpose. I saw it coming here, and needed some time to adjust to the fact it was not (really) the case. Great!

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Friday, 29 January 2016

Review: Rivers of London

Rivers of London Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovitch
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I finally got around to reading that book! It was on my reading list for some time, but in the end it was my better half who bought it for me after hearing about it in one of his podcasts.

"Rivers of London" is told in first person narrative by a young constable, Peter Grant, who discovers that there's magic to be found even in modern day London. He describes how he learns to do spells and meets and deals with gods and ghosts and vampires in a very entertaining, slightly sarcastic tone of voice that makes it all sound natural and perfectly normal. That is what fascinates me about the book - the way Peter barely sounds surprised by or excited about learning magic or meeting Mother Thames and other London rivers (hence the title, I suspect). There's no Harry Potter style weirdness or insecurity ("Where's platform 9 3/4, why did nobody explain that?"), and also no official hiding or separation of the "magic world" from the "normal world". There's only this one world, and it contains magic that most people just never notice.

Therefore, the focus of the book is not learning magic, or learning about the magic world, but about crime and politics. The crime part deals with multiple people going insane and murdering other people, and the politics deal with the rivers of London and their territoriality. Peter has to deal with both, only sparsely guided by his Master/Instructor/superior, but I don't want to write spoilers, so let me just say that it was a very interesting book both in style and story. I'm looking forward to the next part.

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Saturday, 2 January 2016

Review: Blade of Tyshalle

Blade of Tyshalle Blade of Tyshalle by Matthew Woodring Stover
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Blade of Tyshalle is the follow-up to Matthew Woodring Stover's Heroes Die. Sadly, it's only available as eBook, but since I enjoyed the first book so much, I got it anyway.
This volume follows Hari Michaelson in his life after the events of Heroes Die, and shows his return to his life as Caine - but I don't want to add spoilers, so we'll not talk about that.

Overall, I didn't enjoy this book quite so much as the last one. Every chapter ended on a cryptic note about strange gods, crooked knights and others. It took me some time to figure them out, and in an eBook, it's difficult to go back and read them with more understanding. That was a bit annoying.
Additionally, the story itself was a bit more obscure. I especially hated the description of the virus, which was said to sporulate (as far a I know, viruses don't do that). The unexplained panic everyone got when just thinking about HRVP was irreproducible for me as a reader, so I probably missed out on some of the feelings. There were some really disgusting things included this time, too, which were even more random, and a bit too much for me.
The ending, on the other hand, was interesting enough to make me consider getting the next volume (also only as eBook) as well.

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