Sunday, February 24, 2019

Review: Foundryside by Robert Jackson Bennett

Foundryside (Founders, Book #1)
by Robert Jackson Bennett
Release Date: August 21st 2018
2018 Crown
Kindle Edition; 512 Pages
ISBN: 978-1524760366
ASIN: B077RG422Z
Genre: Fiction/ Fantasy
Source: Review copy from publisher

5 / 5 Stars

Sancia Grado is a thief, and a damn good one. And her latest target, a heavily guarded warehouse on Tevanne’s docks, is nothing her unique abilities can’t handle.

But unbeknownst to her, Sancia’s been sent to steal an artifact of unimaginable power, an object that could revolutionize the magical technology known as scriving. The Merchant Houses who control this magic--the art of using coded commands to imbue everyday objects with sentience--have already used it to transform Tevanne into a vast, remorseless capitalist machine. But if they can unlock the artifact’s secrets, they will rewrite the world itself to suit their aims.

Now someone in those Houses wants Sancia dead, and the artifact for themselves. And in the city of Tevanne, there’s nobody with the power to stop them. 

My Thoughts
Foundryside is the first book in new series by Bennett and I enjoyed it tremendously.  Having read The Divine Cities trilogy, I was a bit anxious about whether the author could live up to those books which is why it took my awhile before attempting this one; luckily, it more than lived up to the expectations put upon it.  

I loved the main character, Sancia, who really set the tone for the entire book, even though it was told in different POVs.  A thief, living in really difficult conditions, takes on a job that anyone else would be crazy to do, putting herself in extreme danger and involving herself in a major conspiracy involving the big houses in her realm.  She is tough as nails on the outside, capable of doing amazing things, but has a very soft spot on the inside as well, which I loved.  To be honest, I never really knew what to expect from Sancia as the story developed and I enjoyed that tremendously; the author did a fantastic job developing her character, revealing important information piece by piece as the story progressed.  In fact, I could say that about all of the characters in this book, all of whom I liked very much, even the villains.  Sancia is smart, capable, and very different from the typical main character, to the point where I definitely rooted for her throughout the book and sympathized whenever I learned about her past..  

The plot itself was great. As soon as one tricky situation resolved itself, another one popped up almost immediately so you don't really have time to catch your breath.  The novel opened up with a bang, literally, as Sancia attempted to steal a precious object for a job.  That things didn't quite go as planned sets up the plot for the rest of the book, very nicely too I might add.  All of this is wrapped around a plot that includes major heists (so fun), sacrifice, betrayal, long-buried secrets, and so many hints, that it just becomes so fascinating to read and you want to find out more and more.  

All of the above though, is wound around a unique magic system that kind of took me awhile to figure out.  And I'm still not sure I fully understood it.  The magic system is one involving scriving, a system of codes embedded in objects to make them behave in a different manner for which they were meant to behave.  It's complex and so, so interesting.  I loved it when things when wrong and there are consequences; not that I am happy to hear about people being killed or anything, but it was interesting nonetheless and I am so glad the author included these kinds of things in the story, and so cleverly done as well. The author actually, quite cleverly I thought, showed how the use of innovative technology becomes immeshed in one's society and what happens when it is no longer there, kind of mimicking out own world and what would happen if we were suddenly without something on which we depend.  A bit scary that!!

Foundryside was a fantastic start to a new series and I had a hard time putting it down.  I enjoyed the characters a lot, thought the plot was amazing, and loved the magic system.  I am definitely looking forward to the next book in this trilogy. 
Monday, February 18, 2019

Review & Giveaway: Past Due For Murder by Victoria Gilbert

Past Due for Murder (Blue Ridge Library Mysteries, Book #3)
by Victoria Gilbert
Release Date: February 12th 2019
2019 Crooked Lane Books
Kindle Edition; 304 Pages
ISBN: 978-1683318743
Genre: Fiction / Cozy
Source: Great Escapes Virtual Book Tours / Publisher

4 / 5 Stars

Spring has sprung in quaint Taylorsford, Virginia, and the mayor has revived the town’s long-defunct May Day celebration to boost tourism. As part of the festivities, library director Amy Webber is helping to organize a research project and presentation by a local folklore expert. All seems well at first―but spring takes on a sudden chill when a university student inexplicably vanishes during a bonfire.

The local police cast a wide net to find the missing woman, but in a shocking turn of events, Amy’s swoon-worthy neighbor Richard Muir becomes a person of interest in the case. Not only is Richard the woman’s dance instructor, he also doesn’t have an alibi for the night the student vanished―or at least not one he’ll divulge, even to Amy.

When the missing student is finally discovered lost in the mountains, with no memory of recent events―and a dead body lying nearby―an already disturbing mystery takes on a sinister new hue. Blessed with her innate curiosity and a librarian’s gift for research, Amy may be the only one who can learn the truth.

My Thoughts
Past Due for Murder is the third book in the Blue Ridge Library Mysteries series and while I definitely liked this one better than the previous entry in this series, with a cast of pretty interesting characters, I still felt like it wrapped up way too early, leaving an ending that felt far more like a fiction novel than a cozy mystery.

I personally feel the real strength to this series lies in the characters and their interactions with each other.  I really liked Amy far better and felt like her character had really grown in this one, becoming much more confident and able to tackle things (and people) without coming across as whiny, which was sometimes the case in the past.  Even though she had some small problems with Richard, they were able to work them out in a mature way rather than yell and scream at each other, or sulk, something which drives me nuts, and something which Amy used to do.  Amy is very relatable and I liked that in a character.  She's not perfect, which makes her more fun.  We also got to learn a bit more about her past relationship with Charles, which just made me wonder what she saw in that man or why she would stay with someone like that.  It was a great way to learn more about Amy and how much she had changed since coming back home.

I did enjoy the mystery, but it was very easy to figure out.  I do like that the action can be typically more sinister than in a typical cozy mystery, which makes it a bit more fun to read, but I do have to admit that the pacing is somewhat off at times, and sometimes the plot feels a bit forced in order to keep the action moving forward.  However, the relationships, the drama, the interactions, and the dialogue all work very well together which sort of makes up for the feeling of being forced.  I was not too impressed with the way the story ended however, as I felt it dragged on quite a bit and also, the resolution came way too early.   

Past Due For Murder was overall, an enjoyable read.  While I suppose this one could stand on its own, I don't recommend you start with this one as there are references to previous novels which kind of give away important plot points from previous novels, something of which I am not a fan.  While it was easy to figure out the mystery, there were enough layers to it that it did keep my interest and I definitely liked the folklore aspect to it.  The Blue Ridge Mountains has so many interesting tales that it was nice to see some of them incorporated into the story, even if I have no idea if any of it was real or not, although I am sure there are lots of tales like it that are.  I do recommend this book, but I would start with the first book in the series.


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Sunday, February 10, 2019

Review: Carless Love by Peter Robinson

Carless Love (Inspector Banks, Book #25)
by Peter Robinson
Release Date: February 12th 2019
2019 William Morrow
Kindle Edition; 320 Pages
ISBN: 978-1444786996
ASIN: B0746LN968
Genre: Fiction / Mystery
Source: Review copy from publisher

2.5 / 5 Stars

A young local student has apparently committed suicide. Her body is found in an abandoned car on a lonely country road. She didn't own a car. Didn't even drive. How did she get there? Where did she die? Who moved her, and why?

Meanwhile a man in his sixties is found dead in a gully up on the wild moorland. He is wearing an expensive suit and carrying no identification. Post-mortem findings indicate he died from injuries sustained during the fall. But what was he doing up there? And why are there no signs of a car in the vicinity?

As the inconsistencies multiply and the mysteries proliferate, Annie's father's new partner, Zelda, comes up with a shocking piece of information that alerts Banks and Annie to the return of an old enemy in a new guise. This is someone who will stop at nothing, not even murder, to get what he wants - and suddenly the stakes are raised and the hunt is on.

My Thoughts
Careless Love is the latest in a long line of Inspector Banks books and I usually look forward to these books with pleasure.  Lately though, it has been with a bit of trepidation as I just felt they weren't up to their usual snuff, and unfortunately, this one fell into that same list.  I tried to like it, I really did, but I just...didn't.

First of all, the actual story is intriguing, or perhaps I should say, parallel stories. If they were written in a different way, with less ho-hum procedural work that I normally love but just set my teeth on edge, the story could have been quite good and suspenseful. However, the first one was very easy to figure out, and the second one actually goes nowhere.  While I don't usually have an issue with secondary story lines continuing in a series, the way it was done didn't quite work out for me and I was left feeling a bit let down.  

Now, I have really enjoyed this series for years, and I am always willing to give a series another shot when there is a book that I don't really enjoy, but I really feel like this series has been going downhill for a little while. I have always enjoyed the issues this series has brought to attention, but lately, I am feeling a bit discouraged when it comes to character development.  I don't typically have an issue when it comes to relationships in books, but lately, it just feels a bit...ageist.  The author does try to justify the reasons behind why Annie's father is in a relationship with a young 30 something, drop-dead gorgeous Russian woman, while Annie herself has been interested in Banks for a long time.  Banks himself often ruminates over his old flames, a lot of them half his age.  It gets old fast, sorry for the pun.  

Normally, the actual procedural work is well done, and quite suspenseful, leaving the reader to figure out the events in the murder / mystery.  In this one, the suspense is lacking, and the interviews and procedural work felt a bit sloppy.  Banks seemed to spend an awful amount of time in pubs and the like, and I grew frustrated with what was happening.  Typically, the banter between the characters has been quite good, but everyone seemed to be on edge in this one.  When such high standards have already been set in earlier novels, I guess attaining those standards can sometimes be difficult.

Careless Love has some interesting and intriguing ideas, but they just don't work.  And while I love the setting, and usually love the procedural work in a Robinson novel, it just fell a bit flat in this one, losing focus in unnecessary details that I think were meant as an attempt to develop characters but ended up being more annoying than anything.  Every series tends to have its downturn and the last few books have definitely not been up to the par we've seen in earlier books.  And I definitely do not recommend starting with this book. Start at the beginning and see why so many people liked the earlier novels, including myself.  I am willing to attempt another novel and see what happens, but if it's the same as this one, sadly I think Inspector Banks and I will part ways.