Tag Archives: 2.5 Stars

The Affinity Bridge, George Mann

The Affinity Bridge, George MannThe Affinity Bridge by George Mann

First Published: 2008

Pages: 350 (Paperback)
Form: Novel
Series: Newbury & Hobbes #1

Rating: 2.52.52.52.52.5

Welcome to the bizarre and dangerous world of Victorian London, a city teetering on the edge of revolution.

Its people are ushering in a new era of technology, dazzled each day by new inventions. Airships soar in the skies over the city, whilst ground trains rumble through the streets and clockwork automatons are programmed to carry out menial tasks in the offices of lawyers, policemen and journalists. But beneath this shiny veneer of progress lurks a sinister side. For this is also a world where ghostly policemen haunt the fog-laden alleyways of Whitechapel, where cadavers can rise from the dead and where Sir Maurice Newbury , Gentleman Investigator for the Crown, works tirelessly to protect the Empire from her foes.

When an airship crashes in mysterious circumstances, Sir Maurice and his recently appointed assistant Miss Veronica Hobbes are called in to investigate. Meanwhile, Scotland Yard is baffled by a spate of grisly murders and a terrifying plague ravaging the slums of the city.

So begins an adventure quite unlike any other, a thrilling steampunk mystery and the first in the series of Newbury & Hobbes investigations.

This book has all the ingredients for a fun steampunk romp that doesn’t take itself too seriously: zombies, automatons, airships, a ghostly murderer, Queen Victoria being kept alive by crazy steampunk science! Unfortunately, somewhere in the putting all those elements it all went horribly, horribly wrong. The plot is there, but my god, these are the blandest flattest characters I’ve read in a long long time. The dialogue is clunky and sometimes painful, oscillating between modern and exaggeratedly faux-victorian. The narrative can’t decide if it’s third person limited or third person omniscient, flicking between character perspectives randomly for a paragraph or two with no warning before flicking back… It’s not good writing. And that’s a shame because the plot, clichéd and predictable though it might be, would have been fun otherwise. There’s even a germ of fun to be found in the basic characters of Newbury and Hobbes but that is quickly extinguished by their poor execution. Continue reading

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Death of a Red Heroine, Qiu Xiaolong

Death of a Red Heroine, Qiu XiaolongDeath of a Red Heroine by Qiu Xiaolong

First Published: 2000
Pages: 464(Paperback)
Form: Novel
Series: Inspector Chen #1

Rating: 2.52.52.52.52.5

SHANGHAI IN 1990. An Ancient city in a Communist country: looking to the future for its survival. Chief Inspector Chen, a poet with a sound instinct for self-preservation, knows the city like few others.

When the body of a prominent Communist party member is found, Chen is told to keep the party authorities informed about every lead. And he must keep the young woman’s murder out of the papers at all costs. When his investigation leads him to the decadent offspring of high-ranking officials, he finds himself instantly removed from the case and reassigned to another area.

Chen has a choice: bend to the party’s whishes and sacrifice his morals, or continue his investigation and risk dismisal from his job and from the party. Or worse . . .

How good does that blurb sound? A detective novel that takes place in Communist China! Unfortunately, and despite almost every other person I know enjoying it, I found it underwhelming. Proof, I guess, of just how subjective reading can be. It’s not a ‘bad’ book, it had a lot of promise, and it picked up in the middle after a slow start. But in the end it just wasn’t for me and I can, mainly, pinpoint this to four things; way too much exposition and introspection on unimportant details, obvious clues going unnoticed for far too long, descriptions and portrayals of female characters that consistently skeeved me out, all rather leading to a main character that was hard to feel anything for.

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The Crystal Cave, Mary Stewart

The Crystal Cave by Mary Stewart

Publisher: Coronet Books
Pages:
464 including Authors notes (Paperback)
Form: Novel
Series: The Merlin Trilogy #1, The Arthurian Saga #1

Rating:

The Crystal Cave plunges the reader deep into Fifth Century Britain, a country in chaos and division after the Roman withdrawal, where minor kings plot and intrigue against each other in draughty fog-bound settlements.

This is Merlin’s world. The illegitimate son of a South Wales princess, his young life precariously in balance as the shifting tide of events wash over his homeland, he is aware at the earliest age of a great natural gift – the Sight.

Against a background of invasion and imprisonment, wars and conquest, we see his emergence into manhood equipped with learning and wisdom far in advance of his years and his time (which some call magic), and his dramatic role in the New Beginning – the coming of Arthur.

I’ve spoken about my love of all things Arthurian before, so I was really expecting to enjoy this book. All the ingredients are there – it’s centered on a character I normally like, on events that are often just skated over as prologue, and grounded in more unique ‘realistic’ Dark Age Britain than the typical ‘castles and knights’ setting. It was also pretty popular back in its day. Alas, I learn, yet again, that popularity often has little to do with quality. It’s not that I actively dislike the book – it’s solidly in ‘ok’ territory – but I can’t really think of anything I liked about it either. There were a lot of neat ideas but, like every character in this novel, they were never developed.

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Cinderella: Fables Are Forever, Chris Roberson and Shawn McManus

Cinderella: Fables Are Forever

Form: Comic Book (Trade Paperback)
Writer: Chris Roberson
Artists:
Shawn McManus
Publisher: Vertigo (DC)
Series: Cinderella #2 (Fables spinoff)

Rating: 

Fashionista, socialite – spy?

Hey, if the shoe fits…

She poses as a haughty socialite in glass stilettos by day – and okay, sometimes by night. But Cinderella is actually Fabletown’s master spy. Tasked with doing jobs too dirty and deadly for the average Fable, Cindy’s faced down dangers from a dozen worlds and lived to tell the tales (over cocktails in a hot tub, if you’re lucky).

But every secret agent has one annoying ruthless archnemesis and Cindy is no exception. Back in the Big ’80s, Cindy encountered her dark mirror, a rogue American Fable, who was in league with the mysterious Shadow Fabletown. Cindy thought she’d destroyed her rival years ago. But when a powerful magician turns up dead and another seeks her help, Cindy’s hunt for her old enemy begins anew.

From the frigid back alleys of Russia to the steaming desert, Cindy will follow the clues down the blood-flecked yellow brick road and risk everything she’s got – including her secret identity – to solve the crime and finally get revenge on Silver Slipper.

Eugh. I really wanted to like this one. I was looking forward to it as some superlight reading after my dissertation but no. And it makes me sad because, despite the recent lackluster issues, I do love Fables and Cinderella was one of my favourite characters. I enjoyed her last miniseries too – not as much as the main comics but enough to buy the second – but this is just…underwhelming on all fronts. Continue reading

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The Time Traveler’s Wife, Audrey Niffenegger

The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger

Publisher: Vintage Future Classics (Random House)
Pages:
519 (Paperback)
Form: Novel
Series: Standalone

Rating:

This is the extraordinary Love Story of Clare and Henry, who met when Clare was six and Henry was thirty-six, and were married when Clare was twenty-two and Henry thirty. Impossible but true, because Henry suffers from a rare condition where his genetic clock periodically resets and he finds himself pulled suddenly into his past or future. In the face of this force they can neither prevent nor control, Henry and Clare’s struggle to lead normal lives is both intensely moving and entirely unforgettable.

Not to mention ‘mind-numbingly tedious’.

I really wanted to like this book, after all the reviews I expected to like this book. I pretty much knew I wasn’t going to give it 5 stars – I’m not a romance kinda girl, but I loved the idea of the story and, based on what I’d heard, expected it to earn a solid 4 stars. As you can see that didn’t happen. I don’t actually hate – or even actively dislike – this book. I can even see why some people love it, but to me it just read as a very interesting idea ruined by mediocre execution. It’s not ‘bad’, there are glimmers of ‘good’ but for the most part it’s simply so ok it’s average. And when a book is over 500 pages long it really needs to be more than ‘ok’. Continue reading

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