Rivers of London – Ben Aaronovitch

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Peter Grant #1

I read this book ages ago but was debating about whether to review it on here because I’m not sure exactly what genre it sits in. I read books 3 & 4 over half term and concluded that, although there is some sex and violence, it’s no worse than some other YA novels and the writer Ben Aaronovitch also writes Doctor Who episodes. Can you get much cooler than that?!

The book begins with PC Peter Grant. His mum is from Sierra Leone and his dad is a white jazz musician who probably takes a bit too much coke; which Peter has to ignore in his professional capacity. He is securing a crime scene in Convent Garden when he bumps into a ghost. He was previously unaware that he could talk to ghosts so it was a bit of a surprise. His partner is the switched on (and gorgeous) Lesley May and when he isn’t trying to get her in to bed she is giving him her sage advice about how to get on in policing. Peter is a born and bred Londoner and I suspect that the author is too because the wealth of information about London is amazing. Peter is absorbed into a section of the Met run by the enigmatic (look it up people!) Nightingale who seems to have been alive for a very long time. He drives a lovely jag and lives in a place off Russell Square called the Folly with his dog Toby and a very strange servant type lady called Molly.

As Peter starts investigating a murder and other magical goings on in London, Nightingale explains to him that all the previous magicians were killed in an offensive during WW2 and he is the only one left. Peter is the first apprentice magician for 50 years and magic takes an awfully long time to learn.

This book is witty, entertaining, funny, a little bit rude – and brilliant. If you love Doctor Who you will love this. The series is currently five books and The Hanging Tree is being published in the next couple of days. Aaronovitch is so knowledgeable about London, police procedure and rivers (this will become clear when you read the  books!) that you become absorbed in his world. The Faceless Man is a little like ‘he who shall not be named…’ and there is a lot of tongue in cheek references to HP but, if you enjoyed them and are looking for a new series to become obsessed with, look no further.

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Battle Lines (Dept. 19 #3) – Will Hill

battle-lines

Spoiler Alert – MAKE SURE YOU HAVE READ THE FIRST TWO BEFORE YOU READ THIS REVIEW

 

 

 

 

Read them?

Ok, so Larissa is in America with SP9, Kate has joined a special unit that is investigating all the operators to try and find out who the leak is, Jamie is still angry and Matt is still working on the Lazarus Project and fancying a Russian girl. They are all still friends though. Jamie’s Dad is still locked up in the base in America and Larissa starts to get curious about who the mystery man is that’s in the cell, she starts to do some investigating of her own, while fending off the advances of a chap called Tim who wants to go out with her (never mind the fact that already has a boyfriend). She is, however enjoying being in America where people are a little more accepting of the fact that she is a vampire. She has also made some great friends as well and is in two minds about whether she wants to return to the UK, despite the Jamie situation.

In the meantime, Kate and Matt’s dads have made friends and have started to investigate the possibility that Dept. 19 actually exists. Several high security facilities have been attacked and all the patients have been turned into vampires. The problem is that they are much more powerful then normal newborns and Matt has some ideas as to why that is.

Lots of things happen in this book, despite the fact that they are all only about 17 the four main characters have all been promoted to Lieutenant and take on loads of responsibility. The interesting thing about this one is that one of them is starting to question the need to just goes out and kill vampires because they’re vampires. It’s likened to ethnic cleansing, which I suppose in a way it is. The team are starting to struggle a little bit with the concept of what they are doing. This is setting the last book up to be really explosive.

This is also a big book. At 701 pages it took me a week to read. I love the way they are written and really like the characters but, time doesn’t seem to move on very much and you kind of get the feeling that a lot is happening in a really short space of time, which in turn becomes a little unbelievable. It’s also a bit unrealistic to accept that grown up people with years of battle hardened experience listen to a bunch of kids. There is also the relationship between Jamie and Larissa, which is all a bit intense but at the same time, not.

That said, this is a great series and I really like it. I think it appeals to both boys and girls and has the right amount of horror to not make it too gory and the right amount of romance to make it not too gushy.

Another great book by Will Hill and I cannot wait to read the last one. The conclusion should be fantastic and I really hope that Dracula gets his comeuppance. He really, really deserves it.

The Hundred Lies of Lizzie Lovett – Chelsea Sedoti

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This a also a pre release copy from Netgalley. This book is due to be released on the 30th January 2017.

The main pretext of this book is almost identical to the 1980s film Stand by Me starring Will Wheaton and River Phoenix. If you put the two stories together it would be pretty difficult to tell them apart. The more I read the more it made me think about this film and how much I loved it. Anyway…

Lizzie Lovett is the stereotypical cheerleader at High School (we’re in America – Griffin Mills to be exact). Everyone loves her or wants to be her. Hawthorn Creely was one of those girls and her brother Rush – typical high school jock – dated her. Hawthorn has a surreal meeting with her and thinks they are friends but instead of sharing her feelings with her she is humiliated by her instead. Five years after her humiliation Lizzie has left school and Hawthorn is a loner with no friends, except the musical Emily. She sits behind the gym to eat her lunch and is periodically humiliated by most of the other students, including a very nasty character called Mychelle (yes its really spelt that way!) One morning Rush comes down to breakfast and announces that Lizzie has gone missing while camping in the woods with her older boyfriend, Lorenzo. He seems pretty upset about it and Hawthorn is ascerbic. After all, he hasn’t seen her for years. But the more the story unfolds, the more Hawthorn is fascinated by it. As the days go by she tries to find out more. She goes to the café where Lizzie was working and manages to get herself a job there. She meets Lizzie’s boyfriend and offers him a theory as to what she thinks happened to Lizzie in the woods. I’m not going to spoil it for you but lets just say, it involves werewolves. Pretty soon she has taken over Lizzie’s life. This doesn’t help with the bullying at school.

There is also the situation with the hippies in the garden. Hawthorn’s mum is a hippy and a vegan. Her group of friends arrive and camp out in the garden, led by the enigmatic Sundog. They are all a bit crazy but, as Hawthorn slowly falls apart they are a great support to her, helping her figure out what is going on in her head. If you have seen Stand by Me then you will know what happens at the end. It has an inevitable conclusion and, like Occum’s Razor, the most obvious theory is also what happens. There is also a whole host of supporting character’s but Connor is my favourite; the silent constant.

At the beginning I didn’t really like Hawthorn. I could see why all the other kids thought she was weird. She is horrible to everyone, including her best friend, and thinks that the world owes her something because she has a rough time at school. Get over it, I thought. She grew on me though. I think that she needs professional help but….. The saddest thing is that, in so many of these books it shows how much your school days define you. Like in Tommy Wallach’s We All Looked Up each character had their role to play in school life. I didn’t go to school in America but I can imagine that this is what its like. Luckily for us in Blighty  there is less of this pigeon holing and we can be a bit more free with our characters. Plus, and I will tell you this for free, every time you start somewhere new you can reinvent yourself. You don’t have to be the person you were at school, the only people who will suffer from this are the popular ones, and this may be the key as to why Lizzie disappears. Perhaps she could never attain the popularity and adoration that she had when she was at school and everything after was just a dull imitation of life. I also didn’t like Enzo, he is a real messed up creep.

it’s an interesting interpretation of small town America and some of the characters were really well done. Rush isn’t in the book too much but he is the kind of older brother that we should all have. If you see it on the shelf, try it.

Further watching: The classic Stand By Me.

Further Reading: We All Looked Up by Tommy Wallach, All the Bright Places – Jennifer Niven

Dept. 19: The Rising – Will Hill #2

the rising

So if you loved the first one that it will come as no surprise that you will love this one too. This book starts off where the last one finished. Frankenstein is dead after fighting with a giant werewolf and falling off a  cliff after the Lindisfarne incident. Jamie and Larissa are now an item but are keeping it secret from Kate, who has a secret of her own. Alexandru Rusmanov is dead but his brother Valeri has managed to find Dracula’s ashes and resurrect him – sort of. Valeri calls on their other brother, Valentin, currently living quite pleasantly in New York, to join the battle and attack Blacklight and kill them all. He’s not to keen on this and comes up with a plan of his own.

The other part to this story is that Frankenstein is not dead but has lost his memory. He is lost in Europe but a nagging memory makes him head to Paris where he meets his old ‘friend’ Latour. He ends up in this weird version of hell with a crazy vampire called Lord Dante, the self proclaimed Vampire King of Paris.

Jamie is settling in at Dept. 19, as are Larissa and Kate. His mother is now, unfortunately, a vampire but she lives quite happily in the secure basement and he goes to visit her. They are all supposed to still only be about 16 so they have a lot of responsibility on their shoulders. Jamie is also a pretty angry bloke. He befriends the doctor who is doing secret experiments in the secret lab and discovers that he is trying to find a cure for vampirism. Sounds like a good thing right? Hmm, well wait and see. There is also the appearance of another character who everyone assumes is dead but is also on a quest to find the cure so that he can save his wife.

This is a big book. I loved it. I was a little bit excited to read it and cannot wait to read the rest- they are so well written and gory and just a bit crazy, but I think that’s why I like them. I did also really like The Enemy Series by Charlie Higson so that might be why! The idea that the government has a secret department to deal with the supernatural is kind of conspiracy theory gone mad, but how exciting if it were actually true! I also like the historical element of it. I liked the way that it had a split narrative in the first one and this isn’t quite the same but, there are some bits set in the past and it fleshes out some of the main characters and how they got to be in Blacklight in the first place. Also, because of the first one it’s difficult to know which people to trust, especially in the organisation.

If you haven’t read this series then why are you ignoring me?! Get to it….

Further reading: Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Frankenstein by Mary Shelley and anything gothic. Also The Enemy Series by Charlie Higson but definitely not Twilight – it’s too wholesome!

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children – Ransom Riggs

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Thanks to Jodie Lee for recommending this one; it was a little weird! This is also, coincidentally, the second book I have read this summer that has a story and random photos in it. Both books use photographs that the authors have found and  intertwined them with the story. At first the technique is a bit strange because how could the author have found photographs that exactly match the story?! But, I read an interview with Ransom Riggs and he explained that he had hunted through thousands of photos to find the ones that would exactly fit the story: clever huh?

So, Jacob lives in America with his mum and dad. His mum is part of a family that have a chain of stores and are incredibly rich. His dad is a part time author and all round not very successful person. He also lives near his Grandad, Abe. When Jacob was little his Grandad used to tell him stories about when he was young. His family were Polish and Abe was sent from Poland to a small island in Wales as an evacuee. He goes to a ‘children’s’ home run by Miss Peregrine. He has some photos of the friends that he made in the children’s home who all have special abilities. Some of the photos are pretty strange but Jacob believes his Grandad and thinks its pretty cool. But as he gets older he starts to realise that the stories Abe told him can’t possibly be true and starts to distance himself from his Grandad and everyone else. He is not exactly Mr Popular and, although he has a job in one of the family stores, his life is not going too well. One day he gets a call from Abe saying that he is being attacked and, thinking that Abe is going crazy but not wanting to be at work, he calls his one and only friend Ricky and they head over to Abe’s house. They find Abe dying in the woods behind the house, and Jacob sees a creature that he cannot explain.

Several trips to the psychiatrist later and Jacob convinces his parents to let him go to the island to investigate the children’s home and get some closure (as the Americans like to call it!). His dad insists on accompanying him and off they go. At first it all seems pretty crazy but the further he investigates to more he finds, including a matching set of photos in an old trunk in the now derelict Home. Then he hears whispering voices and running feet and his adventure begins…

I really liked this book. I made the mistake of watching the trailer for the film and they trying to compare the storyline but I think the film will be really different. Jacob is a bit of a lost soul, which kind of influences his decision making process at the end of the book, but I loved the characters. Emma can create fire, Olive can fly, Enoch can bring things back to life and Bronwyn is the strongest girl at the fair. And Miss Peregrine? Well she’s a shapeshifter of course! The clue is in the name!

This is the first in a series and I will get round to reading the next one at some point. The trick with the photographs really made the story come alive and I’m guessing the film will be spectacular. This also a debut novel and the author works in films so really gets the connection between visual and words spot on. I’d hate to see what his attic is like though, what with all those photographs just waiting to be written about!

Further reading: Sweet Caress by William Boyd (This is the other book and although anything by William Boyd is good, this is really good!)

A Darker Shade of Magic and A Gathering of Shadows – V E Schwab

a darker shade of magica gathering of shadows

This is a series and I have read the first two, so for the sake of ease I will review them both in the same section.

Most people only know one London, in this book there are four and Kell who is one of the last Travelers—magicians with a rare ability to travel between parallel Londons – goes between them as a messenger.

There’s Grey London, dirty and crowded and without magic, home to a girl who is scrapping a living together by thieving but who dreams of being the captain of her own pirate ship and ruled by the mad king George III.

There’s Red London, where life and magic are revered and people live under the watchful eyes of the Red King and Queen.

Then, White London, ruled by whoever has murdered their way to the throne; in this book the evil twins.

But once upon a time, there was Black London… so powerful and deadly that is has been sealed off and not even Kell and Holland, the other Traveler can go there. They are the most powerful magicians left and each has a grudge with the other.

Kell is owned/ adopted by the King and Queen of Red London and is brother to Rhy, a self absorbed prince who always gets his own way. Kell’s two main jobs are to take letters to the rulers of the other Londons and look after Rhy. He is also not allowed to take anything between the worlds, a rule he often breaks. White London is ruled by a sadistic pair of twins who are controlling Holland, who is also their messenger and just as powerful in magic as Kell.

When Kell collides with Lila Bard in Grey London and Rhy is given a gift by Holland, all hell breaks lose. The first book introduces all the main characters and, at some points I was on the edge of my seat because I wasn’t sure what was going to happen next. Kell and Lila are likeable characters and the sadistic twins in White London made me wince. The elements are also really interesting, and how magic controls each one.

The second book leads directly on from the first so it would be good to read them back to back (I didn’t and I forgot some of the key things that happened!) and is a little reminiscent of the Hunger Games. Red London is hosting the Elemental Games where competitors from all the other lands can compete by showing off their magical skills.

Lila is off on her travels and meets Alucard Emery; who has a connection to the royal family and one in particular which I wasn’t expecting! They are called back to London for the games and Lila reconnects with Kell. The plot has some great twists and Kell and Lila (and their relationship) grows a little more. A character that you think has gone also makes a surprising reappearance with devastating consequences.

Get in to this series, it’s excellent. The author’s knowledge of London is amazing considering she is American, some of the language let’s it down because of this but in general it’s really well written. If you are a fan of fantasy fiction that is a little less soppy then some of the others then this is for you, and by you I mean you Jodie Lee!

Further Reading: The Peter Grant Series by Ben Aaronovitch – these books are fantastic, if a little wacky. The first one is called Rivers of London.

Further further Reading:  Department 19 Series by Will Hill – also fantastic (see review of Dept 19 and a review of The Rising    to come)

 

Five Children on the Western Front – Kate Saunders

five children

 

This book is one of the Carnegie shortlist books and was probably one of the easiest to read. It is a kind of sequel to Five Children and It by E Nesbit which was first published in 1902. The original book follows five children (Robert, Anthea, Cyril, Jane, and their baby brother, known as the Lamb) and their adventures with a sand fairy or Psammead who they discover in a gravel pit at the bottom of their garden. He allows them to make one wish a day that will only last until midnight. Unfortunately they keep making mistakes with their wishes and end up in silly situations. Finally, because the wishes were so disastrous, the Psammead agrees to correct the last wish under the condition that they will not make any more wishes. They agree, but Anthea wishes that they will meet the Psammead again one day and then he disappears. End of book.

Five Children on the Western Front starts with the five original children waking up the Psammead two years later in their old nanny’s home in London and wishing to see the future. Not too far but far enough. The Psammead takes them to 1930 where they meet their old friend the Professor. Jane notices that the professor has photographs of the girls when they are older, but realises there are no photos of the boys. After they have left, the professor starts to weep; a portent of what is to come. The story then jumps forward nine years to October 1914 and England is on the brink of war with Germany. Anthea is now at Art School, Robert at Oxford, Cyril has joined the army and is hoping to be posted to India and the Lamb is at school with his best friend and neighbour Winterbum. They also have a new sister (not in the original book )  called Edie. Edie and the Lamb discover the Psammead one day when they are playing outside and realise immediately that he is the sand fairy of their older brothers and sisters stories. Edie falls in love with the Psammead and treats him like a pet – while the professor is doing some research about the Psammead and realises that he is more powerful then they thought. He has lost his powers and, after a visitation from a skeleton, they realise that to get his power back he needs to make amends for his past mistakes. Meanwhile the war is going on around them. Cyril has joined up and is on the Western Front, Robert is just finishing at Oxford and is then going to join the army and Anthea and Jane both help nursing the wounded. The Lamb and Edie help the Psammead to finish his quest and regain his powers and their last wish is the most heart breaking – I will admit I shed a tear.

I liked this book but I wasn’t really sure why the author decided to make the connection with the original. The book could have just been about the children’s experiences of the war and what happened to them without adding the quest to save the Psammead’s powers. Although if you had read the original it would be nice to reconnect with the characters and see what happened to them, it was a well written book about the consequences of war, and a most brutal war, and how it affected a nice middle class family. I enjoyed the relationship with the children and their reactions to the glimpses of the future – it was clever the way the author made them witness scenes so that we all knew what was going on. On the whole, if you have read the original book or seen the film then this is a nice book to read, or even if you haven’t you will still enjoy it.