Mike Finn - Audio Book Junkie

Mike Finn - Audio Book Junkie

My name is Mike Finn and I'm an Audio Book Addict.

I'm here to share my experience of the books I listen to.

Review
4 Stars
"Crossed - Soul Eaters #3" by Eliza Crewe - excellent end to this original trilogy.
Crossed - Eliza Crewe

In "Crossed", Eliza Crewe pulls off something unusual, an end to a trilogy that is satisfying, surprising and not focused on blowing stuff up.

You know how trilogies go: you've built up the power of the big bad and the scenario where you have to save the world and then you have a final battle and, with varying degrees of sacrifice, blow the big bad away.

That doesn't happen here. But then this trilogy has always been at least as much about how we choose between good and evil in a way that is true to our nature. Consequently, none of the sides in this triangular struggle between demons, crusaders, and Meda and her friends have been either entirely good or entirely evil. Winning had to be about more than one side surviving. It had to be about Meda and her friends finding out what the right thing was and finding the courage and the ingenuity to do it.

I liked the twists not just in the plot but in the circumstances of the main characters. The twists are there to do more than surprise and entertain, although they do both. They are there to build empathy for incompatible points of view. We get to see what Jo is like when she lets herself of the leash, we understand that jovial Chi has a deeper understanding of events than he normally lets show making his bravery an act of faith rather than optimism. We see some of that nightmare that Armand survived. Everything that we learn makes right and wrong less easy to define but makes the bonds of friendship stronger.

One of the challenges of this book is that it's set in Hell. This is tough in adult books but in YA books you can't default to graphic sadism and you have to avoid a Disney devil feel.  The Hell that Meda and her companions make their way through feels soul-destroying: full of despair and suffering and the pain of pretended pleasure used to humiliate and wound. Most of the really bad things happen off screen but that makes them bite harder. Jo spent four days alone in Hell at the mercy of demons. Not knowing EXACTLY what happened is more chilling than a sensitivity-numbing blow-by-blow account.

Meda's character continues to be the main thing that makes the trilogy special. We see the world through her eyes but in a way that lets us see inside her, perhaps better than she sees herself. She wraps her comments in wit and sometimes temper but her comments go beyond insight to empathy, showing us what she loves and why. For example, at one point Meda describe giving Chi some news about Jo when he just wants to go to her. She says:

"I might as well try to make a lab puppy sit still in a room full of bouncing tennis balls. He doesn't even hear me."

This captures Chi perfectly but the choice of image also shows us who Meda really is.

Physically, Meda is one of the most powerful and potentially destructive creatures on the planet. In a more Jack Bauer, we-have24-hours-to-save-the-world-using-any-means-necessary worldview, Meda would have become more and more violent, wreaking more and more destruction, regardless of the cost to herself and her friends, in order to triumph over evil. Eliza Crewe offers an alternative worldview where Meda triumphs because she refuses to be nothing more than a weapon, because she will not give up on her friends and because, even in the midst of deadly combat, she is capable of feeling sympathy for the devil.

"Cracked", "Crushed" and "Crossed" have given me a lot of pleasure. Whatever Eliza Crewe writes next, I'll be reading it.

Reading progress update: I've read 22%. Whatever this is, it's messing with my head.
Claire DeWitt and the City of the Dead - Sara Gran

I'm two hours into this book and I have no idea what it's about. I know what's happening but I'm not sure that that's answering the same question (actually, that's the book talking).

 

This is Noire but not as I know it.

 

This is the lovechild of Raymond Chandler and Jean-Paul Satre.

 

Claire Dewitt, who makes Philip Marlowe seem like a romantic softy with a tendency to take things too literally, solves cases, sorry, mysteries, by using a kind of muscular mysticism that is stretched tight over a skeleton of existential panic with grief as its marrow.

 

More than a year after Katrina, Claire, a PI, is investigating the disappearance and possible death of a wealthy man in New Orleans during the storm. She is guided in this by a book called "Détection" by Cillette, a French criminologist who has a very out-there view of what detection is.

 

There is little action and what there is involves many mundane frustrations and a lot of waiting.

 

Yet I'm carried along by the absolute authority of the writing and the vivid descriptions of the desolation of much of post-Katrina New Orleans.

 

At one point Claire talks about the first time she and her teenage friends read "Détection". Her experience of it is eerily similar to what Sara Gran is putting me through.

 

"'Détection' was a door to another world.  A world where, even if we didn’t understand things, we were sure they could be understood. A world where people paid attention, where they listened, where they looked for clues. A world where mysteries could be solved or so we thought.

 

By the time we realised we were wrong, that we had misunderstood everything, it was too late, Cillette had already branded us. For better or worse, we were not the same girls any more."

Reading progress update: I've read 49%.- I'll try a little more
Staying Dead - Laura Anne Gilman

This book reminds me of those mass-produced-in-Dutch-greenhouses-tomatoes that look perfect but don't deliver real flavour.

 

I was about to DNF it at the 50% mark when a group called "The Silence" was introduced.

 

Apart from the fact that "The Silence" is the sort of name I associate with 1970's college bands that used a Moog and released concept albums with a straight face, this organisation sounds intriguing so I'll stick with the book a little longer.

Reading progress update: I've read 37%. -not sure about this yet
Staying Dead - Laura Anne Gilman

This is book 1 in an Urban Fantasy series. It has a lot of the right element: originalish magics, sassy heroine, creepy baddy and lots of foreboding but it hasn't gelled with me yet. 

 

I'll give it to the halfway mark to get its hooks in me.

 

Anyone else already read this series?

If you're looking for women writers to read as part of your Summer Of Spies, try this

"Who Is Vera Kelley?" by Rosalie Knecht. It's due for publication on 12th June so I haven't read it yet, but I liked the write up on the IndieList. 

 

Here's the summary

 

New York City, 1962. Vera Kelly is struggling to make rent and blend into the underground gay scene in Greenwich Village. She's working night shifts at a radio station when her quick wits, sharp tongue, and technical skills get her noticed by a recruiter for the CIA.

 

Next thing she knows she's in Argentina, tasked with wiretapping a congressman and infiltrating a group of student activists in Buenos Aires. As Vera becomes more and more enmeshed with the young radicals, the fragile local government begins to split at the seams.

 

When a betrayal leaves her stranded in the wake of a coup, Vera learns the Cold War makes for strange and unexpected bedfellows, and she's forced to take extreme measures to save herself.

An exhilarating page turner and perceptive coming-of-age story, Who Is Vera Kelly? introduces an original, wry and whip-smart female spy for the twenty-first century.

 

Review
4 Stars
"Sal" by Mick Kitson - an original and engaging read that works perfectly as an audiobook
SAL - Mick Kitson

 

"Sal" is an original, engaging, story that deals with child abuse with empathy and compassion without turning the children into victims defined by their abuser. It made me think, cry, smile and get angry, sometimes within the course of a single page.

 

Sal is a thirteen-year-old girl who, after months of planning, has fled with her ten-year-old sister, Peppa, from their home in Glasgow to the forests of the Scottish Highlands, where, with a Bear Grylls knife, a compass, waterproofs, a first aid kit and what she's learned from the SAS Survival Handbook and watching YouTube videos, she intends to survive.

 

The main strength and the main limitation of the novel are that it is told entirely from Sal's point of view. Sal has a unique voice, that Sharon Rooney brings to life with wonderful clarity in the audiobook version. When Sal is describing the mechanics of survival, from making a bender to shelter in or snaring, skinning and cooking a rabbit, she is matter-of-fact, competent and well-researched. When she thinks about her past, the reason for their flight and what she had to do to achieve it, she is initially much more oblique and finally heart-breakingly dispassionate.  Only when she describes her sister, the always energetic, irrepressibly optimistic Peppa does real joy enter her tone.

 

I was quickly invested in Sal and her endeavours and then, as I slowly began to understand their cause and their cost, deeply worried for her.

 

The first half of the book was totally engrossing but I couldn't see how the Sal could resolve the situation she was in. Then a new character is introduced, a doctor in her seventies, who is living in a bender in the forest. She helps the girls both to survive and to resolve their situation. 

 

The Doctor an interesting history: childhood in wartime Germany, trauma in the fall of Berlin to the Russians, being a doctor in the DDR and defecting to Scotland, building a life here and then the choices that led to her woodland life. One of the problems is that we learn all of this from Sal, filtered by her understanding of the story and her fact-focused way of collecting a story. I found the Doctor to be a little too much of a plot device.

 

Yet the plot remained original and surprising. The final resolution was perhaps a little too neat or perhaps Sal just doesn't want to talk about the messy parts or isn't willing to see them yet.

 

"Sal" is a very satisfying, thought-provoking but accessible novel. Sal herself is someone who will live in my memory for a long time. What more can I ask of a novel?

 

OFF TOPIC POST: Small Pleasures: Lakeside Streetfood Festival

The best pleasures often arrive as unlooked for gifts. This evening was one of those.

 

We went into town to get some laundry done. It was a beautiful evening, warm but not too hot and bathed in a golden light that lent everything an air of optimism and happiness. When our chores were done, we went for a stroll by the side of Lake Geneva and found ourselves in the middle of a Streetfood Festival.

 

streetfood 1 masked.jpg

 

Music was everywhere, some live, some recorded, all exuberant. Some people had planned their evening, arriving in groups, occupying the long trestle tables by the lake and eating and drinking as if they were at a banquet where all the food could be eaten with your fingers. Others strolled in couples or small family groups. Everyone was relaxed. There was no tension, no police and no problems. There was even a rainbow at the end of the lake.

 

Streetfood 2 masked

 

We decided to join in and have our evening meal looking out over the lake. We prowled the food trucks and chose an ethnic dish seldom found in Switzerland: fish and chips with mushy peas and malt vinegar. It was served in a clever cardboard cone with a little pocket for the mushy peas. The team making it were Australian but the meal could have come straight from an English seaside town.

 

streetfood 3 masked

 

We moved further down the lake for dessert: crêpe au sucre and perfect café creme served from a converted silver slipstream trailer. There were people on the lake wall, on the rocks, even swimming in the lake. It was calm and quietly joyful.

 

Moments like that drag me out of the noise in my head and fully into the world, reminding me that people can come together peacefully to celebrate being alive in the midst of beauty and when they do, they amplify each other's emotions and create something magical.

Reading progress update: I've read 56% - I love the writing is has the same dank smell as a London Underground stairwell on a Sunday morning.
Real Tigers - Mick Herron

I'm more than halfway through now and while the plot is intriguing and the characters are painfully engaging the main star is the quality of Mick Herron's writing which blends the lyrical perfectly with the cynical. He describes an online forum for conspiracy theorists or whack jobs as the professionals describe them as a place where:

 

"the prevailing attitude resembled what you’d get if you spliced the DNA of an only child, a Daily Mail reader and a viciously toxic bacillus: an organism that was self-obsessed, full of pent-up rage, and sprayed poisonous shit everywhere. Symptoms included a tendency to lapse into capitals, the dismissal of all dissent as Establishment toadying, and a blinding ignorance of Occam’s razor."

Reading progress update: I've read 10%. - my first "Summer Of Spies" book
Real Tigers - Mick Herron

Not that I'm easy to influence or anything but all this talk of "Summer Of Spies" got me to reshuffle my TBR pile and bring the next Mick Herron Slough House spy novel to the top.

 

I'm on book three, *Real Tigers". I'm only through the first chapter but I'm already happy because the book reaks of quiet desperation sustained through sheer bloodymindedness in the face of failure, weakness and disregard. Can you get more English than that?

OFF TOPIC POST: Reducing the power of charisma and glamour

As I grow old, my eyesight is changing. I am less and less inclined to believe what I see. I attribute this to an over-supply of hindsight.

 

Looking back, I am humbled not only the number of things that I failed to see when they were right in front of me but by the number of things, I saw that weren't actually there.

 

So how do I get the same acuity of vision in the here and now that I will have a decade after it's too late to be of any use?

 

The two main culprits for my previous inability to see clearly are charisma and glamour.

 

Chsrisma is a lie

 

Charisma is a "compelling attractiveness or charm that can inspire devotion"

 

Some people are born with charisma, some cultivate it and some only have it because we give it to them. Whenever I've given way to charisma it's been because I enjoyed the feeling of being in the presence of someone special or because the image they projected was something I wished to be true. It has always been more about my need to be devoted than about the attributes of the charismatic person.

 

Charisma is a lie we want to believe.

818029.TIF

 

A glamour is a charm or spell cast by someone to make you desire them.

Glamours are contextually specific and deliberately constructed. Glamour is a form of augmented reality, something our brains overlay on the information we receive. It drives us to focus on things that support an attractive image or story and ignore things that challenge that image or story.

 

Although glamours are built by others with the intent to attract, I believe that they work only because we want them to. Glamour is a distortion we collude in maintaining.

I think that hindsight gives us better vision partly because, over time, charisma and glamour wear off.

 

The leader I found charismatic in my teens may sound manipulative or naive to my sixty-something self.

 

The hairstyles and fashions that were the height of glamour in the 1980s are now laughable or grotesque.

 

As the glamour wears off, "Norwegian Wood" stops being a witty song with a catchy tune and becomes a smug piece of spiteful misogyny with a catchy tune.

 

I think this wearing off is partly caused by changes in my own desires and partly by the themes being pushed in the culture I live in. The lies I want to believe change. The deceptions I'm willing to collude in sustaining shift.

 

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rl2xQAeCvOc?rel=0&w=560&h=315]

 

So how do clear my sight of charisma and glamour in the here and now?

I think we get a better view of what's in front of us when we question why we like something or someone.  We need to answer two sets of questions

 

"What am I being invited to see, by whom and why?"

 

and

 

"Why do I want to believe in what I'm being invited to see?"

 

If either set of answers invite a LIE in the middle of beLIEve than it's time to dig deeper.

Perhaps, with practice, we can start to teach ourselves pre-emptive hindsight.

Review
5 Stars
“Terminal Alliance – Janitors of the Post-Apocalypse #1” by Jim C Hines – highly recommended.
Terminal Alliance (Janitors of the Post-Apocalypse) - Jim C. Hines

I'd never read Jim Hines before but I was in a mood for something light, so I picked this up expecting some kind of zany, "Guardians of the Galaxy" witty space romp.

 

What I got was a five star SF read. This is a funny, fast-paced, witty and original novel that also has a clever and quite serious plot.

 

The story takes place in a universe where most humans have been turned feral by a zombie plague from which 10,000 or so have been rescued by an alien race who now use them as a military force. The post-plague humans are hard to kill, aggressive and loyal. For the aliens, it's a great deal.

 

The janitors of the title humans who keep the warship clean and plumbing functioning, albeit that their leader, nicknamed mops, is occasionally consulted by the humans in battle command because she has good strategic insights and keeps a cool head.

 

When the warship gets caught in a trap that kills the alien officers and turns most of the humans feral again, it's left to Mops and her crew to find out what happened and save the universe, or at least humanity.

 

The pace is fast. The humour is irresistible. Yet this is not a shallow book. The universe-building is robust and complex. The characters, including the alien characters, are believable and engaging. The plot stands up against more mainstream SF and contains a big, skillfully revealed, secret.  Best of all, Mops turns out to be a giant amongst humans: a natural leader, a shrewd tactician, an insatiable reader (Jane Austin's and Mary Shelley's works have survived the holocaust), quietly brave and always witty.

 

What more could I want?

 

The book works as a standalone novel but sets up the sequel, "Terminal Uprising" beautifully. It comes out in February 2019 and I'd have already pre-ordered it except Amazon want to gouge me for a you-cannot-be-serious $18.42 for the privilege. I figure time is on my side.

 

Amazon pricing policy to one side, I highly recommend this book to anyone with who loves SF and has a sense of humour.

 

Review
4 Stars
"Crushed - Soul Eaters #2" by Eliza Crewe
Crushed - Eliza Crewe

It is a truth universally acknowledged that the second book of a trilogy is always the weakest... but not this time. "Crushed" takes all the things that were good about "Cracked", amplifies them and then adds a depth of thought that grabbed hold of my brain while the rest of the story twisted my emotions.

 

The plot, full of twists and surprises and peppered with violence, unfurls at a pace designed to maximise the tension without rushing thoughtlessly from one fight to another. Describing the plot would spoil the enjoyment of the book, so I'll confine myself to saying that Meda is at risk from both sides in the newly-started all-out-war between Demons and Crusaders, with only her friends standing between her and destruction. All she has to do now is figure out who her friends are.

 

Although the plot is strong, I see it mostly as a vehicle for working through the big themes of this book: the futility of trying to be someone you're not, the different definitions of being good, the fundamental evil of the removal of choice, the appeal of stolen fun, the price of control, the nature of friendship and, right at the centre of all this, what it means to be a monster. 

 

The book starts fairly gently, lulling me into thinking that I'm in some kind of Hogwarts for Crusaders High School drama where poor misunderstood Meda is defended by her friends and treated unfairly by adults and abused by the mean kids.

 

To be fair, that's more or less how Meda sees things at the beginning, She get's frustrated by Jo's constant appeals to her, half-demon that she is, to be good. She wants to be good, in theory anyway but tells herself that she can't manage it to Jo's satisfaction because:

"... Jo’s and my definitions of “good” are about as similar as an Eskimo’s and a Jamaican’s definitions of “cold.”

The idea of having to define for yourself the good that you are capable of rather than accepting the good that others expect from you drives much of the plot of this story.

Of course, Meda also fails to be good because she doesn't want to be. She lets herself be distracted by the charming Armand, the half-demon she met in "Cracked". He offers her fun. Forbidden fun.  As Meda says: 

"Fun is so much better when it' stolen"

The fun stops when the Crusaders do things to Meda against her will. I found this part as fascinating as it was unpleasant. Meda can't stop what's happening but she still resists. Resistance isn't just an instinctive reaction, it's a decision. Meda says:

But I want there to be no doubt in their minds that I do not consent. I do not agree. I have no choice, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to make it easy on them.

This is a powerful way of confronting that the removal of consent is always a violation but it also shows the two sides of Meda's character: her outrage at a wrong being done (especially by the good guys and especially to her) and her absolute determination to make her enemies pay.

 

About a third of the way into the book, just at the point where I was tiring of reading about High School pranks and rivalries, things got serious. Then I realised they had always been serious but Meda has been unable to see what was really going on.

 

For a while, we get to explore Meda's demon side. I was impressed by this because it doesn't show Meda as a good guy handicapped by her demon heritage, like some angst-ridden sparkly I-didn't-choose-to-be-this-way vampire. Meda IS as much demon as she is Crusader. She's also as little demon as she is Crusader. 

 

When Jo re-enters the story, the rest of the book, apart from the fights and the things that move the story arc along, is about the nature of friendship and what it means to be a monster.

Meda's relationship with Jo is the thing that keeps her linked to the non-demon side of herself. Jo is her best friend. Jo is the only person Meda would willingly risk herself for. Meda understands this but is unable to articulate it to Jo. At one point, Meda demonstrates the nature and depth of their friendship by saying:

"But seriously, what do you say to your best friend when you stand at the gates of the Gates of Hell? Nothing. If it’s your best friend, she already knows."

Armand calls to Meda's demon nature. They fit each other. He lets her be herself. Yet she always holds something back from him because she understands what he is.

At one point, Armand describes himself and by inference, Meda herself by saying:

“I’m a monster, Meda. I’ve never claimed to be good; I’ve never claimed to be anything other than what I am. I’m selfish and evil and greedy, I want many, many things, most of which I shouldn’t have.”

By the end of the book, after tears and blood have flown freely, lives have been lost and intrigues have played out, Meda has grown up a great deal. When she reflects on her relationship with Armand, she doesn't go for easy answers, She says:

"Our friendship was real, as real as is possible between two monsters."

She then adds:

"You can love a monster, it can even love you back, but that doesn’t change its nature."

I don't want to give the impression that this book is an ethics essay. It's a fast-paced, emotionally taxing, urban-fantasy thriller, but what lifts it from the cliché of the eternal struggle between the forces of good and evil, is an honest and thoughtful exploration of what good and evil are and how all of us feel the call of both. We are all potentially monstrous and we all have to decide what kind of good we're able and willing to be.

Review
3.5 Stars
"An Argumentation Of Historians - The Chronicles of St Mary's #9" by Jodi Taylor
 An Argumentation of Historians: The Chronicles of St. Mary's - Jodi Taylor, Zara Ramm

 

 

So the last St. Mary's book, "And The Rest Is History"mangled my emotions with great skill, putting me through much more angst than any allegedly light story about time-travelling historians has a right to. In her introduction to "An Argumentation Of Historians", Jodi Taylor says that her publishers asked if she could make this volume a little less depressing.  I think she managed that, but only just.

 

When Max says towards the start of the book:

"It had been a bad year but it was over now. I could look forward to the future"

I'm sure not a single reader will believe her.

There are lots of good things in this chronicle of St. Mary's. I was immediately back at home watching St. Mary's muddle through with stout hearts, awful luck and a reckless excess of pluck. We started off at a joust with Henry VIII and at the burning of Persepolis with Alexander the Great. It was all good stuff.

 

When it turned out that Clive Roland was back as the big bad and I became less pleased. This is a man with all of Time to choose from who still chooses to spend his energies plotting revenge on Max. He's apparently clever enough to avoid the might of the Time Police yet too dumb to kill Max on sight. I've had enough of that. I'd like a new bad guy. or at least the slow, painful and definitively final excoriation of this one. I found myself saying: "New balls, please!"

 

Then Jodi Taylor did it again. Just as I'd grown dissatisfied, Max ends up, lost, alone and with no hope of rescue in England in 1399 and we are treated to an engaging story of her efforts to make a life for herself there. This part of the book, which seemed like half of it, is wonderfully done.

 

The plot twist at the end holds up and explains a lot of the action but I didn't find it as satisfying as the 1399 section.

 

This was a good St. Mary's episode with some evocative pieces and it moves the story arc along but I'll be happier if/when we get a different big bad on the scene (although I'd be happy to applaud clever and violent revenge in the meantime.

 

 

“Her Body And Other Parties – second story: Inventory” by Carmen Maria Machado
Her Body and Other Parties: Stories - Carmen Maria Machado

 

"Her Body And Other Parties" is such a rich collection that I'm reviewing it one story at a time, mostly to enhance my enjoyment and understanding of these stories.

 

Inventory

 

"Inventory", the second story in this collection, is about thirteen pages long and fine example of the fact that short stories, even ones as short as this are not literary snacks that you consume between novels. This story has a dense mass to it that lodged in my imagination, demanding attention and thought. I read it twice, not because I didn't understand it the first time but because there is so much there that once just wasn't enough to absorb it. I don't think twice was either. I'll be coming back to this one.

 

So what is it that has me so engaged?

 

I found the style of the storytelling hypnotic, It is presented as an inventory of encounters with always-nameless lovers: men and woman singly or in combinations. Each encounter starts with a sentence inventorying who was involved in addition to the narrator: "One girl." "One boy, one girl", "Two boys, one girl". The next sentence often qualifies the inventory "One boy, one girl. My friends" or "Two boys, one girl. One of them my boyfriend." Then there is a description of where the encounter took place: "We drank stolen wine coolers in my room." or "His parents were out of town, so we threw a party at his house." The sex and its attendant affection, ecstasy, disappointment, mess, betrayal, solace or regret are described with a rhythm that documents the moment neutrally but in a way that is neither sterile nor erotic but deeply human and often sad.

As the encounters passed I got caught up in trying to understand the pattern they were making, trying to discover the lesson being taught. There was no pattern except accumulated experience and more informed choice and no lessons being taught, just a life being lived.

 

Life is not lived in a vacuum and this life is lived against the background of the outbreak of a global pandemic that destroys most of the population. In other stories, the pandemic would BE the story. We'd have a valiant against-the-odds struggle between man and bacteria, end-of-the-world symbolism, violence. conflict and heroism. "Inventory" is not that story. Its focus stays firmly on the encounters the woman has. The pandemic appears in the death of partners or the change of circumstances and choices but it never takes centre stage. Curiously, perhaps, this makes the pandemic much more sinister and threatening.

 

By the end of the story, it seemed to me that our narrator, faced with the possible end of days, has inventoried her own life. So what does it mean that there are no names, not even the narrator's own? Or that there are no encounters other than with lovers, however inept or opportunistic? Or that the narrator remains, always, fundamentally alone?

 

Answering those questions is the job of the reader. Asking them so that they demand an answer, or several answers is the job of the writer.

Review
3.5 Stars
"Coyote Dreams - Walker Papers #3" by C E Murphy
Coyote Dreams - C.E. Murphy

 

 

Overview:

 

This third instalment of the Walker Papers sets itself a significant challenge that it doesn't entirely rise to: how do you make fighting sleep exciting?

 

The strength of this book lay in the character development and the dialogue.

 

The weakness lay in an excess of metaphor-heavy astral combat.

 

Moved the series along but if this is the shape of episodes to come, I'll be tuning out of this series.

 

The Story:

 

Joanne Walker's actions in the first two books, "Urban Shaman"and "Thunderbird Falls", have caused a disturbance in the Force, or at least woken up an as-yet-unknown big bad that is sending all Joanne's friends (which includes half a Police Precinct) into a potentially lethal sleep. Joanne has to figure out what the threat is and how to stop it while dealing with big changes in her social life (she finally seems to have one) and confronting trauma in her past that made her the late-developing Shaman she is today.

 

Things I Liked:

 

The humour remains sharp and well-dressed. Joanne's progress through her day is a chaotic rush from crisis to crisis lubricated by witty or sometimes regretful exchanges with her friends, bosses and even her maybe-enemies. This is done in a way that is smooth without being slick, makes me care enough about the characters and often gives me cause to smile.

 

The introduction of two new characters, (one of whom Joanne wakes up next to in the opening paragraphs - even though she doesn't know his name or remember how he got there) freshened up the ensemble cast and gave lots of room for jealousy, misunderstanding, wit and a little bit of genuine insight.

 

I enjoyed going back and seeing Joanne Walker's earlier self and getting a better understanding of how she got to be where she is. It was a welcome origins story that was done well.

The book ended with some decisions about Joanne Walker's future that could set the series on a new and more varied path, which would be very welcome.

 

Things I Thought Could Have Been Better

 

The astral-projection dream-landscape stuff went on for too long and without enough physical action in between. The Walker Papers has the same problem as Marvel's "Doctor Strange" comics, most of the conflicts happen at a level and in a place the rest of us can't even see. This places a heavy burden on the metaphor machine. C.E: Murphy does this well but this novel had an over-abundance of it. I hope future episode will vary the pace a little.

Reading progress update: I've read 40%. -Clive Roland - AGAIN? New balls please
 An Argumentation of Historians: The Chronicles of St. Mary's - Jodi Taylor, Zara Ramm

I'm loving being back in St. Mary's and watching them muddle through with stout hearts, awful luck and a reckless excess of pluck. This time we're at a joust with Henry VIII and at the burning of Persepolis with Alexander the Great. It's all good stuff.

 

Except...

 

Clive Ronan is back as the big bad. This is a man with all of Time to choose from who still chooses to spend his energies plotting revenge on Max. He's apparently clever enough to avoid the might of the Time Police yet too dumb to kill Max on sight.

 

Enough.

 

Time for a new bad guy.

 

Or at least the slow, painful and definitively final excoriation of this one.

 

New balls, please.

currently reading

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