Friday, 29 June 2012

Moon Over Soho by Ben Aaronovitch

This is the sequel to Rivers of London which I thoroughly enjoyed last year. The hero is Peter Grant, who is a constable with the Metropolitan Police in London. He is a trainee at The Folly, the department which deals with magic. He is in fact the first trainee wizard there in fifty years. Grant's superior officer, Inspector Nightingale is still recovering from injuries sustained in Rivers of London so Grant has a lot more responsibility on his shoulders. The case he is investigating concerns the deaths of several jazz musicians. All are perfectly healthy men who die suddenly, apparently of natural causes. But Peter senses that there is something magical involved. His training includes learning to sense the 'vestigia'.

Vestigia is the imprint magic leaves on physical objects. It's a lot like a sense impression, like the memory of a smell or a sound you once heard. You've probably felt it a hundred times a day, but it all gets mixed up with memories, daydreams and even smells you're smelling and sounds you're hearing.

Peter can sense the vestigia in this case, and it gives a strong impression of the jazz standard Body and Soul, which was popular in the 1930s.

While Peter is investigating this case something else mysterious is happening. There seems to be another wizard at work in London. Nightingale was sure that there were no practising wizards left in England apart from himself and Peter - so who is this man and who trained him?

I enjoyed this book just as much as I enjoyed Rivers of London. I feel like I'm getting to know the characters better. Dr Walid ('world-renowned gastroenterologist, cryptopathologist and practicing Scot') plays a bigger role here. There are a couple of genuinely creepy parts, for example the gangster whose disembodied head is kept conscious as part of a fairground attraction. Ben Aaronovitch obviously loves London and this comes through in the writing. It reminds me a bit in that respect of Christopher Fowler's Bryant and May series, and in fact I think that anyone who enjoys those books would also enjoy these.

Thursday, 28 June 2012

Catch-up post

Unfortunately I didn't manage to complete all my reading for the Once Upon a Time challenge. I'll get it all done eventually, but thought that I'd do a catch up post for now, to show where I'm at with it.

I've completed Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister by Gregory Maguire and The Watchtower by Lee Carroll. I was looking forward to both of these but I was disappointed by both of them. The blurb for Confessions describes it as 'Set against the backdrop of seventeenth century Holland, Confessions of an  Ugly Stepsister tells the story of Iris, an unlikely heroine who finds herself swept from the lowly streets of Haarlem to a strange world of wealth, artifice and ambition!' It was a lovely setting, and Maguire described it well, but the story just didn't grab me. I still love his novel Wicked, and would definitely look for more of his work.

I probably wouldn't have finished The Watchtower if I hadn't been reading it for the challenge. It is the sequel to Black Swan Rising and it follows Garet to France as she searches for Will. I thought that it was just a series of set pieces, one after the other (something I also thought about Black Swan Rising) and she overcame her challenges so easily that they might as well not have been there.

I also finished The Last Battle by C.S. Lewis, which is the seventh and final book in the Narnia series. I read it aloud to Billy for his bedtime book. In this story a wicked talking ape - Shift, is parading his simple minded donkey friend Puzzle around in a lion skin, pretending that Puzzle is Aslan. This false Aslan is enslaving the Narnians. Eustace and Jill return to Narnia to help. I think that the Christian message is strongest in this of all the books - not worshipping false idols etc. And more than in the other books I felt that the story played second fiddle to the message. I think that The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe is my favourite of the series. I don't think that Billy was overly impressed with any of them, he much prefers Harry Potter.

So those are the books I've finished. I'm part-way through The Hobbit by JRR Tolkien. I'm loving it and will definitely be reading it to Billy at some time in the future. Bilbo Baggins is such an appealing hero. He is so reluctant to leave his comfortable home, but really proves himself when he needs to.

I'm also part way through Arabian Nights, which is a book for dipping into. I borrowed Arabian Nights: A Companion by Robert Irwin from the library to read alongside it and hopefully add to the experience.