Darth Pony

Ruling the galaxy is so overrated.

Guardians of the Whills

Star Wars Guardians of the Whills (Star Wars: Rogue One) - Greg Rucka

I was excited to get my hands on this book for two reasons. Firstly, it features my second-favorite Star Wars bromance. Secondly, I was hoping for more info on the Temple of the Whills and its Guardians and more insight into post-Jedi-purge Force beliefs. In retrospect, it was silly of me to hope for that kind of depth in a 234 page Middle Grade novel. The book delivers on the bromance, but not so much on the other stuff. I enjoyed it, but now I need to watch Rogue One again because I can’t remember if Baze or Chirrut ever mention a past association with Saw Gerrera and his extra-rebellious rebels.

 

Diogo Saito’s illustrations are a nice addition, though I wonder if they were commissioned before or after Rogue One was fully cast. Chirrut looks passably Donnie Yen-like, but Baze looks nothing like Wen Jiang. He looks like some random beardy white dude.

The Miss Silver Mysteries: Grey Mask, The Case is Closed, Lonesome Road

The Miss Silver Mysteries: Grey Mask, The Case Is Closed, and Lonesome Road - Patricia Wentworth

GREY MASK: 3.5*

 

I adore Golden Age mysteries. If it’s got a detective in it and a flapper on the cover, I am predisposed to like it. Consequently, I think I’m more forgiving of them than I otherwise might be. Take Grey Mask, for instance. Some of the characters and situations border on the absurd, some of the plot twists seem out of left field, and some of the villains are just short of mustache-twirling, but that’s all part of the charm for me.

 

Miss Silver herself almost failed to win me over until the very end. She pulls a bit of a Scarlet Pimpernel, having very little page time in her own debut novel. Once she’s introduced, she’s just some sort of Sherlockian investigatory oracle, popping in every now and then to drop little bombshells concerning the case and berate her client for his stubborn reticence whilst managing to make the knitting of baby clothes seem monstrously intimidating. If it hadn’t been for her performance in the final chapters, I can’t say I’d be so enthusiastic to continue the series. Now I’m very much looking forward to getting to know her better.

 

THE CASE IS CLOSED: 2.5*

 

I’m having trouble rating The Case is Closed. It’s entertaining, it’s charming . . . and it’s really, really similar to the previous book in the series.

Much like Grey Mask, this book has:

 

  • Hardly any Miss Silver
  • Fog!
  • Quarreling lovers
  • Shady servants
  • A pale, too-thin, tragic damsel in distress who scratches out a living as a fashion model
  • Shenanigans with wills
  • A worthless nephew who collects art and directly benefits from the will shenanigans

 

I’m not bothered by formulaic patterns in cozy mysteries. That’s part of what makes them cozy. The only thing I found truly annoying was the repetition. As the book starts, it’s nearly a year and a half since the titular murder case was tried. A man was found guilty, and the details of that trial and the evidence given are repeated ad nauseam. And as the characters investigate, looking to clear the convicted man, the details of their discoveries are also repeated ad nauseam. SO. MUCH. REPETITION. Miss Silver, when she does appear, is a mere expositional tool for revealing information the other characters weren’t in a position to discover on their own.

 

But I found Hilary and Henry far more likable than Margaret and Charles. And the author did a better job creating suspenseful scenes this time around. But if you cut out all that repetition, this book would be a good fifteen chapters shorter and the story wouldn’t suffer for it.

 

LONESOME ROAD: 3.5*

 

The third Miss Silver mystery features a blessed deviation from the pattern of the previous books. We still have inheritance issues (but no will shenanigans), good-for-nothing relatives (LOTS of those), and (of course) fog. But this time Miss Silver appears in the very first chapter and makes regular appearances throughout. And she does more than swoop in, drop an info dump, and swoop out again. The effect was rather pleasing. After three books, she’s still no Miss Marple, but I’m finally getting a read on her character and I like what I see. The only downside I can see to having more of Miss Silver in her own mysteries is that the more page time she gets, the more Tennyson she quotes.

 

There’s been a loose connection between each book thus far. The pattern has been that a character from the previous book recommends Miss Silver’s services in the current book. It’s a nice nod to past adventures, but nothing that would be too confusing should you wish to read these books out of order. I’d like to continue this series, but it will probably be through the local library. My wishlist and wallet both quail at the number of books involved.

Reading progress update: I've read 69%. (The Case is Closed)

The Miss Silver Mysteries: Grey Mask, The Case Is Closed, and Lonesome Road - Patricia Wentworth

I've edited my original review, but I have no idea how to push that up the feed without reblogging (which I don't want to do), so I'll just copy/paste here for convenience.

 

THE CASE IS CLOSED: 2.5*

 

I’m having trouble rating The Case is Closed. It’s entertaining, it’s charming . . . and it’s really, really similar to the previous book in the series.

Much like Grey Mask, this book has:

 

  • Hardly any Miss Silver
  • Fog!
  • Quarreling lovers
  • Shady servants
  • A pale, too-thin, tragic damsel in distress who scratches out a living as a fashion model
  • Shenanigans with wills
  • A worthless nephew who collects art and directly benefits from the will shenanigans

 

I’m not bothered by formulaic patterns in cozy mysteries. That’s part of what makes them cozy. The only thing I found truly annoying was the repetition. As the book starts, it’s nearly a year and a half since the titular murder case was tried. A man was found guilty, and the details of that trial and the evidence given are repeated ad nauseam. And as the characters investigate, looking to clear the convicted man, the details of their discoveries are also repeated ad nauseam. SO. MUCH. REPETITION. Miss Silver, when she does appear, is a mere expositional tool for revealing information the other characters weren’t in a position to discover on their own.

 

But I found Hilary and Henry far more likable than Margaret and Charles. And the author did a better job creating suspenseful scenes this time around. But if you cut out all that repetition, this book would be a good fifteen chapters shorter and the story wouldn’t suffer for it.

SPOILER ALERT!

Reading progress update: Grey Mask finished

The Miss Silver Mysteries: Grey Mask, The Case Is Closed, and Lonesome Road - Patricia Wentworth

I’ll be posting a review later. I just wanted to do my back-patting and forehead-slapping in a separate post. Spoilers abound!

 

 

The back-patting: I correctly guessed both Margot’s parentage and Grey Mask’s identity. The former I guessed when the near-identical desks with near-identical monograms showed up. The latter I guessed when Margaret told Charles her broken engagement tale of woe. Only one person in her immediate circle was both a member of Grey Mask’s group and ideally placed to come up with such a plausible false confession. First I suspected Freddy of stealing the jewelry himself, and then I realized that Margaret had never seen Freddy and Grey Mask together. Throw in a dash of “It’s always the person you least suspect” and you get a nicely seasoned pot of Overly Complicated Mastermind Stew.

 

The forehead-slapping: Things I totally did NOT see coming include but are not limited to: #40’s loyalties, the crooked lawyer (I really should've seen that one coming), 2/3 of the dead characters coming back to life, and the super-rushed ending. Since I’m reading a 3-book omnibus, I had pretty much no warning when I turned the page and was confronted by the cover art for the next book. It felt SUPER abrupt.

(show spoiler)

 

Reading progress update: Chapter 32

The Miss Silver Mysteries: Grey Mask, The Case Is Closed, and Lonesome Road - Patricia Wentworth

Was anyone else absolutely horrified that Charles let Margot get behind the wheel of an automobile?

 

Reading progress update: Chapter 17

The Miss Silver Mysteries: Grey Mask, The Case Is Closed, and Lonesome Road - Patricia Wentworth

I made it through Chapter 17 last night. I can't beat Themis Athena's excellent breakdown of the cast and plot thus far, so I'll just add this:

Is it just me, or do these Golden Age mysteries always make London feel like the smallest city ever? I swear. If you need to run into someone you haven't seen in ages, go to London. If you need to run into someone you only saw once from behind, go to London. If you need to run into someone  you've never met who is crucial to the plot, go to London.

London: The Biggest Smallest Foggiest City on the Murder Mystery Map

Reading progress update: Chapter 5

The Miss Silver Mysteries: Grey Mask, The Case Is Closed, and Lonesome Road - Patricia Wentworth

I got slammed with work and am way behind on the buddy read, only managing five chapters in three days. *sobs quietly* I'm also behind on reading everyone's updates as I'm trying to avoid possible spoilers.

 

I agree there's a Seven Dials vibe, and I'm also picking up on Jane Austen-ish-ness. Miss Standing strikes me as a sort of Lady Bertram/Lydia Bennet hybrid. Thoughtless, lazy, devoid of proper feeling, and utterly unconcerned with anything that isn't amusing. I think MbD was right, the conspirators are going to rue the day they conceived a plot involving her. I can't wait!

The Dark Lake

The Dark Lake - Sarah  Bailey

I won an ARC of The Dark Lake in a Goodreads giveaway. It was my first ever GR giveaway win after being a member for nearly eight years. Miracles do happen, people.

 

This is a competently written and plotted crime novel with an authentic Aussie small-town flavor. It’s predictable, but not annoyingly so, and it hits all the right beats and combines enough of the standard tropes to be successful, but I can’t rate it higher.

 

We spend most of the book in Detective Sergeant Gemma Woodstock’s head, and after a while that comes to be something of a chore as she spins in mental spirals around the murder victim, her dead high school boyfriend, her affair with her married partner, and her live-in boyfriend/baby-daddy. Adultery-as-character-development is one of my least favorite literary devices ever. The relationship drama is relentless and very soap-opera-esque, so much so that in my head the town of Smithson is populated entirely by cast members from Home and Away (Aussie primetime soap).

 

And let’s face it: I am never going to love first person present tense.

 

This is the kind of crime drama you read when you want to hang out with characters whose lives suck more than yours. If you don’t like too much relationship angst cluttering up your murder investigation, maybe steer clear, but if you don’t like too much murder investigation cluttering up your relationship angst, give this book a try. For me, it was just okay. Not bad for a debut novel.

Bellman & Black

Bellman & Black - Diane Setterfield

I have a bit of a love/apathy relationship with Diane Setterfield’s novels (all two of them). I think her prose is gorgeous. I think her plots and characters are boring. But enough time passed between her first novel and her second that I only remembered the former and forgot about the latter until I was reminded as I plodded through Bellman & Black. If she takes the better part of another decade to write her next book, I’ll probably forget again.

 

This book was originally advertised as a dark, atmospheric, Gothic ghost story. I guess enough people complained, because my mass market paperback version omits the “ghost story” part of the description. And rightly so.

 

This is not so much a Gothic ghost story as it is (in my opinion) a character study about a Victorian era businessman-savant who probably suffered from paranoid schizophrenia and maybe a congenital heart defect. Included is a bunch of bonus content on how rooks are pretty much vindictive avian assholes.

 

If you want to read about how a Victorian textile mill might’ve been run in tedious, excruciating but beautifully written detail, or if you’ve ever wondered how one might go about building a mourning emporium from the ground up in Victorian London, boy howdy! this is the book for you. If you want to read a chilling Gothic ghost story, pass on by, folks. Nothing to see here.

Jackaby

— feeling ghost
Jackaby - William Ritter

This book was an unexpected delight. It’s nothing new or groundbreaking; just your standard Sherlockian detective novel with a supernatural twist. But goodness me, it’s fun! And full of memorable characters, both living and formerly living, human and formerly human. Jackaby is adorably insufferable and Abigail is adorably ordinary. Jenny is adorably transparent (hah!) and Douglas is adorably, er, adorable. The one downfall for me is that the mystery is a bit lacking. I identified the murderer right away, but it didn’t lessen my enjoyment much (and looking at the GR reviews of people I follow, this seems to be a common occurrence). I’ll be picking up the next book in the series for sure.

My Lady Jane

My Lady Jane - Brodi Ashton, Jodi Meadows, Cynthia Hand

If you’ve ever wondered what it might have been like if William Goldman of The Princess Bride fame had written and directed some sort of Ladyhawke/The Tudors mashup for a YA audience, get yourself a copy of this book. It’s a bit of silly revisionist history featuring Tudor England with shapeshifters. I was after a light, fluffy read, and this fit the bill pretty well. I found it very entertaining, though the narrators’ asides got more annoying as the story progressed, and the references to Game of Thrones, Monty Python, The Princess Bride, etc., induced more eye rolls than giggles. And I really felt rather sorry for the way Princess Mary was portrayed. Poor Mary! You deserved better.

World of Trouble

World of Trouble: The Last Policeman Book III - Ben H. Winters

Well.

 

Well, well, well.

 

What an end to the series.

 

I don’t know what I was expecting when I picked up this series. I love disaster movies and EOTWAWKI scenarios, and I also have a certain fondness for mysteries and police procedurals. I had no idea how those themes would mesh. As it turns out, they mesh brilliantly.

 

Winters somehow seamlessly blended an existential literary novel with a gritty crime novel and a suspenseful doomsday novel. And then he did it again. And again. And he wrapped it up in a believable way that just felt genuine and right. He did it so very well and left me with so many feelings that I have officially decided to forgive him for Sense and Sensibilities and Sea Monsters. Life is too short to hold grudges anyway.

 

Cue book coma in 3 . . . 2 . . . 1 . . .

 

Countdown City

Countdown City  - Ben H. Winters

Solving crimes while the whole world has an existential crisis. Who knew these two things would go so well together?

 

Former Detective Henry Palace is still an interesting character. Though he’s officially retired from the force, being an officer of the law is pretty much all he knows how to do. It’s what gives him purpose. So while other people are off going “Bucket List” or choosing to exit the world on their own terms, Henry is searching for a missing man at the behest of the man’s wife. Because no impending cosmic cataclysm can keep Henry from being who he is and doing what he does.

 

Once again, Winters delivers an engrossing story. So engrossing that you almost forget to ask yourself things like: why civilization hasn’t gone full-on Lord of the Flies yet; where these mysterious government supply shipments are coming from; why no one has electricity unless it’s convenient to the plot; why everyone and their dogs aren’t stockpiling water while their kitchen taps still work; etc. They are persistent, nagging questions, but not too distracting.

 

I still don’t like first person present tense narratives, and I noticed a handful of typos, but the story is so good that if Winters can keep it up for another book, I just might forgive him for that whole Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters thing.

 

Maybe.

The Last Policeman

The Last Policeman  - Ben H. Winters

One of the things I love about science fiction, disaster movies, and pre/post-apocalyptic stories is the examination of the inevitable breakdown of society. To see it from a detective’s point of view, during the course of a murder investigation, was something new to me and it made for some damn fine reading.

 

Detective Henry Palace is an interesting character. He’s a pedantic by-the-book sort who sees no point in losing it just because a ginormous asteroid is on a collision course with Earth and set to render the planet uninhabitable if it doesn’t destroy it outright. Nope. He’s got a job to do and he’s going to do it. The impending doom of the entire planet is no excuse for people tossing their morals to the winds. Though he’s not entirely likable, he is relatable (to me, at least, being a fellow pedant and all), and I found this book absolutely engrossing. The thing I found most annoying about him was, as the investigation progressed, his repeating cycle of “Aha! That’s it! Why couldn’t I see it before? I’m so stupid! No, wait. That’s it! Why couldn’t I see it before? I’m so stupid!” with varying degrees of self-blame for his perceived slip-ups. Still, it’s a minor nit-pick and didn’t impact my enjoyment much at all.

 

Minus points for being written in first person present tense, which I’ve never liked but will tolerate for a good story, and this was a spanking good story.

Percy Jackson and the Last Olympian

The Last Olympian  - Rick Riordan

Super quick "review" for a book that took me way too long to get through (no fault of the book's, I assure you). A mostly satisfying end to an entertaining series. Perhaps I shouldn’t call it the end, though, as the last chapter sets up the sequel series. Percy’s a nice guy, but I’m a little tired of hanging out with him. Just in case he’s in Heroes of Olympus, I think I’d better take a break before diving in.

Reading progress update: I've read 64 out of 361 pages.

The Last Olympian  - Rick Riordan

"And I know some of you might be thinking: aren't all demigods related on the godly side, and doesn't that make dating gross? But the thing is, the godly side of your family doesn't count genetically speaking, since gods don't have DNA. A demigod would never think about dating someone who had the same godly parent. Like two kids from Athena cabin? No way. But a daughter of Aphrodite and a son of Hephaestus? They're not related. So it's no problem."

 

NICE TRY, RIORDAN. BUT IT'S TOO LITTLE, TOO LATE.

 

Behold! My unconvinced face:

Currently reading

The Cuckoo's Calling
Robert Galbraith