Thursday, 19 July 2018

Changes / Jim Butcher

4 out of 5 stars
Long ago, Susan Rodriguez was Harry Dresden's lover-until she was attacked by his enemies, leaving her torn between her own humanity and the bloodlust of the vampiric Red Court. Susan then disappeared to South America, where she could fight both her savage gift and those who cursed her with it.

Now Arianna Ortega, Duchess of the Red Court, has discovered a secret Susan has long kept, and she plans to use it-against Harry. To prevail this time, he may have no choice but to embrace the raging fury of his own untapped dark power. Because Harry's not fighting to save the world...

He's fighting to save his child.


Jim Butcher must sit up nights thinking up ways to make Harry Dresden’s life miserable! Just when you think that his life can’t get any more complicated, Butcher dreams up worse things for him to deal with.

Susan Rodriguez returns to mess with Harry’s reality—and inform him that he’s a father and his little girl is in tremendous danger from the Red Court vampires. Harry has spent the last 11 books gathering friends, allies, and frenemies. He has to call on all of them, all his talents, all his anger & power, and all of his cunning to get through this tangle.

So Butcher throws everything into the blender and gives it a good whirl. There is a lot of action, a lot of blood, a lot of characters. I was happy to see the return of Butters and Toot-Toot. Also, it was great to have Mouse get to show off his powers. Harry makes a questionable deal in order to cope with the situation and gets assistance from unexpected quarters. The book ends on a cliff-hanger, so if you object to that sort of thing, consider having the next book queued up and ready to roll. Because, let’s face it, if you’ve read this far, you’re not going to quit now, are you?

The Bloodforged / Erin Lindsey

3 out of 5 stars
As war between Alden and Oridia intensifies, King Erik must defend his kingdom from treachery and enemies on all sides—but the greatest danger lurks closer to home…

When the war began, Lady Alix Black played a minor role, scouting at the edge of the king’s retinue in relative anonymity. Though she’s once again facing an attacking Oridian force determined to destroy all she holds dear, she is now bodyguard to the king and wife to the prince.

Still, she is unprepared for what the revival of the war will mean. Erik is willing to take drastic measures to defend his domain, even if it means sending Prince Liam into a deadly web of intrigue and traveling into the perilous wild lands of Harram himself.

Only the biggest threat to the kingdom might be one that neither Alix nor Erik could have imagined, or prepared for…


I know for a fact that I would have enjoyed this book much more if I had read the books in order. Unfortunately, I goofed—I read book 3 before this one and so I already had a pretty good idea of what was going to happen. I’m usually a stickler for reading series in order and this experience just reinforces that habit!

I enjoyed this series and I liked the fantasy world that Ms. Lindsey created. Her system of blood magic, in particular, was novel (at least to me) and I thought it was effectively used. I enjoyed having a strong female lead character too. I just wish there had been a little less agonizing over decisions. Lady Alix, her husband Liam, and King Erik all seem to overthink and overanalyze everything and it get tedious after a while. Especially when they are leaders in all other ways.

I suspect that this is Lindsey’s way of letting you know that these characters are “good people.” It seems that good people are unsure and question themselves continuously, while the villains never question their actions or motivations.

I’m glad that I circled back and read book 2 despite that. Now I know the rest of the story, only alluded to in Book 3.

Even / Andrew Grant

3 out of 5 stars
David Trevellyan is a Royal Navy intelligence operative who usually works undercover, sometimes with the approval of his masters—and sometimes not. On a seemingly normal evening, he takes a lonely late-night walk between a restaurant and his New York City hotel. A familiar huddled shape in the mouth of an alley catches his eye—a homeless man has been shot to death. Trevellyan steps forward…and a cop car arrives. A split second too late, Trevellyan realizes he’s been set up.

But Trevellyan isn’t worried. He’s a hard man from the shadowy world of Royal Navy Intelligence. He’s been in and out of trouble a thousand times before. But the NYPD quickly hands the problem to the FBI. Trevellyan is sucked deeper into the system. And the British Consulate tells him: You’re on your own now, mate.

With no idea who’s a friend and who’s a foe, he penetrates deep into a huge international conspiracy. The price of failure will be death, and the reward for success will be redemption, both for himself and the huddled corpse from the alley. The motivation will be his cherished life-long belief: You don’t get mad—you get EVEN.


***2018 Summer of Spies***

It’s nice when two different reading plans come together. I’m trying to read at least one book by each of the special guests coming to the When Words Collide conference in Calgary in August and I’m spending my summer concentrating on Spy fiction. So I was delighted to find out that Andrew Grant has written a spy trilogy.

If you are a fan of fantasy spy thrillers like The Bourne Identity or Ian Fleming’s fiction, I think you may also enjoy Grant’s adventures of David Trevellyan. If you lean more towards the John Le Carré or Len Deighton style, you may find this tale a bit ridiculous (as I did). Notably, this author is the younger brother of writer Lee Child of Jack Reacher fame (and he’s probably sick and tired of people pointing that out). Several years ago, my real-life book club read a Jack Reacher novel during our Year of Reading Fluff. We hooted with laughter, speculating about Reacher wearing his underwear inside out or backwards to make it last longer without a wash and were amused by the general unreality of his circumstances. In that regard, it is obvious that Grant and Child share DNA—you need to be expert at suspending disbelief to get into this one!

My biggest hurdle was the “evil genius” Lesley (a bond type evil villain if there ever was one). This woman ran a supposedly intricate empire and kept her minions (all men) in line by threatening castration. In fact David Trevellyan actually witnesses one of these events about halfway through the book. Now, I don’t know about you, but if I was a guy I wouldn’t be working for someone who punished her employees this way. I’m thinking she would need an all-female staff, as men would be gone as soon as the possibility was mentioned.

So, this is spy-fiction lite, as much fantasy as espionage. Lots of action, lots of violence, not much relation to reality. Dick lit, as opposed to chick lit. I will be very interested to hear Mr. Grant’s thoughts at the conference in August.

Friday, 13 July 2018

Once Broken Faith / Seanan McGuire

4 out of 5 stars
Politics have never been October “Toby” Daye’s strong suit. When she traveled to the Kingdom of Silences to prevent them from going to war with her home, the Kingdom of the Mists, she wasn’t expecting to return with a cure for elf-shot and a whole new set of political headaches.

Now the events she unwittingly set in motion could change the balance of modern Faerie forever, and she has been ordered to appear before a historic convocation of monarchs, hosted by Queen Windermere in the Mists and overseen by the High King and Queen themselves.

Naturally, things have barely gotten underway when the first dead body shows up. As the only changeling in attendance, Toby is already the target of suspicion and hostility. Now she needs to find a killer before they can strike again—and with the doors locked to keep the guilty from escaping, no one is safe.

As danger draws ever closer to her allies and the people she loves best, Toby will have to race against time to prevent the total political destabilization of the West Coast and to get the convocation back on track…and if she fails, the cure for elf-shot may be buried forever, along with the victims she was too slow to save.

Because there are worse fates than sleeping for a hundred years.


Thank goodness for Toby Daye. Yes, she’s a Fae hero who spends more time than she wants to rescuing the unwary and binding the wounds of her friends. And she even helped me—it’s true, this novel saw me through the last bit of the worst headache that I have had in many, many moons.

When I’m not feeling well, I reach for urban fantasy. It, along with pain killers, coffee, and soft lights, will see me through whatever is wrong in my world. This series is a particular favourite because I am also nuts about the Fae. Love ‘em. It all started with Patricia Briggs—I first encountered the Fae in her Mercy Thompson series—but it may culminate in McGuire’s October Daye series.

These books have perhaps become a bit predictable—Toby will end up covered in blood at least twice and will probably die/be on death’s door once. Two or three of her Buffy-like circle of friends will have something dire happen to them, which Toby must defy death to fix. Fae royalty will have to be told to get their heads outta their butts. But you know what? When you’ve got a migraine, predictable is good. It doesn’t take your best literary analysis skills to appreciate the book.

I enjoy all the various forms of Faerie found in these pages—someday I have to find time to read some folklore and get caught up on Selkies, Pixies, Coblynaus, etc. I also must reiiterate my fondness for the sea witch, the Luidaeg. She’s fierce and loving and uncompromising and loyal. And she’s got plans for our Toby girl. I’ll be reading on in the series to learn more about that, you betcha!

Tripoint / C.J. Cherryh

3 out of 5 stars
Merchanter Cargo Chief Marie Hawkins has never forgiven the crime, nor sought justice. Only vengeance. And, for 23 years, the Hawkins's clan ship, Sprite, has lived with her vendetta - and with her son, Tom, the boy sired in the violent assault.
Marie's attacker, Austin Bowe, is captain of the Corinthian. When both ships dock at Mariner Station, Marie vanishes and Tom searches for his mother...only to find himself trapped on Austin's ship with a half-brother he never knew he had and a crew fanatically loyal to Bowe. Now as the Corinthian flees the pursuing Sprite and a raider guns after both, the lives on board the two Merchanter ships are in the hands of Tom Hawkins. To save them all, Tom must trust his sworn enemy...His father.


Normally, I enjoy Cherryh’s work a lot—but this novel I struggled with. It’s that whole “story based entirely on a rape” scenario that I have a hard time with. I’m having exactly the same difficulty with Stephen R. Donaldson’s Gap series, which I still plan to continue on with and it’s the reason that I stopped reading Donaldson’s Thomas Covenant series after two books.

I had hoped that Cherryh would make Marie Hawkins a more understandable character, a woman who had a son as a result of a long-ago rape and dealt with it. Instead, it seemed to me that Marie was pretty unstable and had made her son Tom’s mental state questionable too. Is it a good thing when the son is better off as a prisoner/crew member with his pirate father than with his mother on a family ship? I guess this is Cherryh’s exploration of some of those problems that we can’t seem to get rid of, rape and child abuse. I don’t know about you, but I really want to believe that we can conquer those problems before we make it into space. Perhaps I watched too much Star Trek as a child.

The ending made me happier with the book, so if you find yourself floundering during the first chapters like I did, I would encourage you to read on. I’m not saying the end justifies the means, but I was quite satisfied with the end result.

Book number 290 in my Science Fiction and Fantasy reading project.

Bog Child / Siobhan Dowd

4.25 stars out of 5
Digging for peat in the mountain with his Uncle Tally, Fergus finds the body of a child, and it looks like she’s been murdered. As Fergus tries to make sense of the mad world around him—his brother on hunger-strike in prison, his growing feelings for Cora, his parents arguing over the Troubles, and him in it up to the neck, blackmailed into acting as courier to God knows what—a little voice comes to him in his dreams, and the mystery of the bog child unfurls.

Bog Child is an astonishing novel exploring the sacrifices made in the name of peace, and the unflinching strength of the human spirit.


A charming YA novel. It combined two things that I love to read about—Ireland and those archaeological wonders, the bog bodies. Fergus, the main character, is out early one morning surreptitiously digging peat with his Uncle Tally when they discover the peat-stained body of a young girl. When it is determined that she is an Iron Age body, not a modern murder victim, Fergus is encouraged by the archaeologist in charge of the dig to stay interested & involved. As she has a charming daughter, Fergus is only too happy to assist them.

There are some interesting juxtapositions—Fergus’ brother is on hunger strike in prison and Cora, the archaeologist’s daughter, is struggling with an eating disorder. [As an aside, I remember listening to the news regularly in 1981 to hear about the fates of those Irish hunger strikers, especially Bobby Sands.] Fergus is a runner and is pressured into moving envelopes during his runs which presumably have something to do with IRA explosions, but he has also befriended a young Welshman stationed at the village to guard against such things. Both are seeking escape, Fergus from rural Ireland and the young solider from the coal mines of Wales. During all these pushes and pulls, between family and community, law and anarchy, Fergus must pass his final exams with at least three B marks in order to enter University at the end of the summer, to achieve his way out.

We also get some flashbacks to the life of the Bog Child, with some choices of her own to make. I went to a museum display of Bog Bodies that visited my city years ago—there was a large photo of Tollund Man who was found in Denmark and my sister & I both thought that he looked very much like our Danish grandfather, also from Jutland. What a link to the past!

Thursday, 12 July 2018

Berlin Game / Len Deighton

4 out of 5 stars
When a valuable agent behind the Iron Curtain signals he wants out, it's up to Bernard Samson, once active in the field but now anchored to a London desk, to undertake the crucial rescue. But soon, Samson is confronted with evidence that there is a traitor among his colleagues. And to find out who it is, he must sift through layers of lies and follow a web of treachery from London to Berlin until hero and traitor collide.

***2018 Summer of Spies***

Whether you’re reading the rather fanciful spy fiction of Ian Fleming or the gritty tales of John Le Carré, there seems to be liquor involved and in rather high quantities. Make Len Deighton’s protagonist, Bernard Samson, another of the spies who is a fan of copious amounts of liquor. I was right on track when I laid in a good supply of gin when starting my Summer of Spies.

Other than the liquor, Deighton’s work leans more toward the grittier realism of Le Carré. I’d never read either one of those authors before this summer and I’m impressed. Berlin Game is set in the same time period as The Spy Who Came In from the Cold and is also concerned with Cold War politics and the Berlin Wall. There’s a traitor in London somewhere and it is up to Samson to suss them out.

It’s not too long, not overly predictable and decently written. I don’t think I’m a big enough fan of the genre to continue on with the series, but I’m glad to know a little bit about Deighton now.