*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of KINDLE Ebook The Scattering – Book 2 of The Outliers trilogy by Kimberley McCreight

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I enjoyed the first book, The Outliers – see my review here – and was pleased to see this offering on Netgalley so that I could find out what happens next…

Wylie may have escaped the camp in Maine, but she is far from safe. The best way for her to protect herself is to understand her ability, fast. But after spending a lifetime trying to ignore her own feelings, giving in to her ability to read other peoples’ emotions is as difficult as it is dangerous. And Wylie isn’t the only one at risk. Ever since they returned home, Jasper has been spiraling, wracked with guilt over what happened to Cassie. After all they’ve been through together, Wylie and Jasper would do anything for each other, but she doesn’t know if their bond is strong enough to overcome demons from the past. It is amid this uncertainty and fear that Wylie finds herself confronted with a choice. She was willing to do whatever it took to help Cassie, but is she prepared to go to the same extremes to help complete strangers . . . even if they are just like her?

This second slice of the adventure has the same tension surrounding the first book, but I did prefer the fact that this time around, McCreight put in the groundwork to establish what outliers are. There are flashbacks to key moments that have influenced Wylie’s life to date, which I really appreciated as the major quibble I had with the first book was the speed we were plunged into the adventure, leaving me at times a little unconvinced about the issue of Wylie being so special. While reading The Scattering, however, I didn’t have any doubt that she was both unusual and still surrounded by unanswered secrets. Indeed, McCreight has so effectively covered the backstory that if you wish to start with this book, you wouldn’t be floundering all that much. That said, if you enjoy a roller-coaster, adrenaline-filled adventure, then you may well wish to read The Outliers anyway.

I also appreciated the fact that Wylie didn’t make such a habit of immediately reacting in any tricky situation by doing the one thing that would put her in more danger – there were a couple of occasions where she pulled such a stunt, but I could see why. Once more, though, she is plunged right into the middle of a horrible situation and the stakes just continue getting higher as it all goes on getting worse. No wonder she’s becoming very fond of Jasper – almost everyone else in her life has some kind of hidden agenda.

As for the ending – McCreight leaves this one on a major cliffhanger. So I shall be looking forward to getting hold of the next book in due course. And if you’re looking for an enjoyable YA adventure with plenty of tension and double-dealing, then this one comes highly recommended.
9/10

Friday Faceoff – Of all the words of mice and men, the saddest are, ‘it might have been’

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This meme was started by Books by Proxy, whose fabulous idea was to compare UK and US book covers and decide which is we prefer. This week the theme is mice, so I’ve chosen Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes.

This cover, produced by Mariner Books in May 2005, is the classic mouse in a maze. The red colour gives this cover punch and while I don’t normally like the blocks of colour featuring the title or author, the teal band at the bottom is part of the maze, which is far more elegant. I like this one.

This edition, produced in June 2004 by Harcourt Inc. Harvest Books also features a little white mouse. For some reason that escapes me, the cover designer thought that a white background would work. While I love the mouse and the font, this would have been so much more effective with another colour.

Published by Gollancz in 2000, this is yet another cover with a white mouse in the foreground. However, the backdrop is so much more interesting with a maze made of microcircuits in a beautiful cobalt blue. This one is my favourite.

This Romanian cover, produced by Editura Art in May 2013, is also another really effective cover. The backdrop is eye-catching and effective with the mottling – I’m not sure if it’s old blood or rust, either way, it looks disturbing. The little mouse looks small and vulnerable, while the maze – or is it a brain? – seems both makeshift and menacing.

This edition was produced by Harcourt, Brace and World in March 1966. This is the only cover that doesn’t include a mouse – instead the flowers of the title are featured in the middle of an ink blot. Again, I think this is yet another really strong contender. Which is your favourite?

Discovery Challenge 2017 and Tackling My TBR – April Roundup

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After reading Jo Hall’s post on the problems women authors have with getting discovered, I’ve been taking part in the challenge to read and review at least 24 books by female authors each year that were previously unknown to me for the last two years. During April, I read – six books towards my 2017 Discovery Challenge, which brings my annual number of books written by women writers I hadn’t read before to thirteen. They are:

Winter Tide – Book 1 of The Innesmouth Legacy by Ruthanna Emrys
After attacking Devil’s Reef in 1928, the U.S. Government rounded up the people of Innsmouth and took them to the desert, far from their ocean, their Deep One ancestors, and their sleeping god Cthulhu. Only Aphra and Caleb Marsh survived the camps, and they emerged without a past or a future. The government that stole Aphra’s life now needs her help. FBI agent Ron Spector believes that Communist spies have stolen dangerous magical secrets from Miskatonic University, secrets that could turn the Cold War hot in an instant, and hasten the end of the human race. Aphra must return to the ruins of her home, gather scraps of her stolen history, and assemble a new family to face the darkness of human nature.
For those of you who don’t recognise the references, Winter Tide is set in the world of H.P. Lovecraft, the famous horror and dark fantasy short story writer and novelist. The story, without any apparent headlong rush, nonetheless steadily unspools, gathering momentum as this odd, compulsive world continues to beguile. This is one of my outstanding books of the year so far – see my review here.

 

Magic in the City by Heather Dyer
Brothers Jake and Simon Grubb are not happy they have to leave their home in Canada to move in with their cousin Hannah and her family in England. But things get interesting for the boys when, on the way there, they encounter a retiring magician at a highway rest stop who presents them with three gifts he claims have magical properties: a carpet, a camera and a stopwatch. Unfortunately, the magician doesn’t provide them with any instructions. So when the boys and Hannah find themselves being swept away on a wild adventure fueled by the magic in these curious objects, they have to learn as they go. But who cares when it’s this exciting!
I found the three child protagonists all appealing and believable. The boys, in particular, I thought were done well. I also very much liked the way Dyer handled the major life event that brought the boys and their mother across to resettle in Britain – I had assumed one thing was the problem, but it turned out to be something quite different – see my review here.

 

Saven Deception – Book 1 of the Saven series by Siobhan Davis
Sadie Owens has been slowly dying inside. Bit by bit, piece by piece, day by day. Trapped in a life she hates, she relies on only one person—herself. Despised by her family and betrayed by an unscrupulous government, Sadie dreams of a different life. When she is chosen to participate in the government’s new social experiment, she is ecstatic at the prospect of spending six months in Thalassic City, the shiny new city under the sea. Sadie is captivated by Logan, the beautiful boy with the ocean-blue eyes, but he isn’t all he appears to be. When she finally uncovers the government’s real agenda, the truth is more shocking than anything she could ever have imagined.
I very much enjoyed Sadie’s character – she has clearly had a rough time at home with a hostile, unloving mother and siblings who took their cue from her. I like the way Davis fed us a continuous stream of information as the story progresses, so that our perceptions are continually changing throughout – see my review here.

 

Dancing with Death – Book 1 of the Nell Drury mysteries by Amy Myers
1925. The fashionable Bright Young Things from London have descended on Wychbourne Court, the Kentish stately home of Lord and Lady Ansley, for an extravagant fancy dress ball followed by a midnight Ghost Hunt – and Chef Nell Drury knows she’s in for a busy weekend. What she doesn’t expect to encounter is sudden, violent death.
This cosy mystery is a thoroughly enjoyable, engrossing read. Myers evokes the period well as steady, sensible and very ambitious Nell Drury, working at Wychbourne Hall as Chef, suddenly finds herself confronted with a violent murder of one of the guests – see my review here.

 

Fool’s Gold – Book 8 of the Liberty Lane series by Caro Peacock
September, 1841. A new arrival has taken London society by storm. Lord Byron’s handsome illegitimate son, George, recently arrived from the exotic island of Cephalonia in the company of his guardian, the mysterious Mr Vickery, has been setting female hearts aflutter. But not all the attention George attracts is welcome. Mr Vickery has been receiving disturbing letters from a woman who calls herself Helena, and he hires Liberty Lane to find out who Helena is and what she wants.
Of course, the catch is that it is the eighth book in the series, so would I find myself floundering at all? Nope, not for a second. Peacock is far too adroit and experienced a writer to fall into that pitfall and from the first page, I was pulled into this twisting story where the plot snaked in all sorts of unexpected avenues – see my review here.

 

The Sorcerer’s Garden by Wallace D. Peach
Recently fired and residing with her sweetly overbearing mother, Madlyn needs a job—bad. In a moment of desperation, she accepts a part-time position reading at the bedside of adventurer and amateur writer Cody Lofton. A near-drowning accident left the young man in a vegetative state, and his chances of recovery wane with each passing day. Cody’s older brother, Dustin, and eccentric grandmother aren’t prepared to give up on the youngest son of Portland, Oregon’s royalty. Dustin’s a personable guy, bordering on naïve, and overwhelmed by familial corporate duties and cutthroat partners. Grandmother Lillian’s a meddler with an eye for the esoteric, dabbling in Dustin’s life and dealing out wisdom like a card shark. One innocent conversation at a time, she sucks Madlyn into the Lofton story, dubbing her the princess and bestowing on her the responsibility of both grandsons’ destinies. And all Madlyn wanted was a simple reading job.
I really like Madlyn and her struggle to fit into modern life. When she gets the job, I also like the fact that she finds the setup in the Lofton household a bit weird, if not creepy. But it was a refreshing change to have an elderly woman at the helm of the household and keeping control by an unnerving knack of knowing what is happening before anyone else. Review not yet posted.

 

Because I spent most of one week confined to bed either sleeping or reading, I also managed to clear eight books from my TBR pile. They are:

How To Twist a Dragon’s Tale – Book 5 of How to Train a Dragon series by Cressida Cowell
The heat is on for Hiccup as he is called to save the day once again. Someone has stolen the Fire-Stone. Now that the volcano on Volcano Island has become active, the tremors are hatching the eggs of the Exterminator dragons! Can Hiccup return the Fire-Stone to the Volcano, stop it from erupting, and save the Tribes from being wiped out by the terrible sword-claws of the Exterminators?
After having thoroughly enjoyed the first four books in this funny, thrilling series, I was interested to see if Cowell could continue to provide yet another rip-roaring adventure full of intriguing twists. I’m delighted to report that she does – see my review here.

 

Saven Deception – Book 1 of the Saven series by Siobhan Davis
See above.

 

The Tropic of Serpents – Book 2 of A Natural History of Dragons by Marie Brennan
Attentive readers of Lady Trent’s earlier memoir, A Natural History of Dragons, are already familiar with how a bookish and determined young woman named Isabella first set out on the historic course that would one day lead her to becoming the world’s premier dragon naturalist. Now, in this remarkably candid second volume, Lady Trent looks back at the next stage of her illustrious (and occasionally scandalous) career.
This is, if anything, even better than the first book. I love the first person narrator – Lady Trent is a feisty, unconventional woman driven by an insatiable scientific curiosity and a real concern that dragons will shortly be driven to extinction. Review not yet posted.

 

Reaper – Book 1 of the End Game series by Janet Edwards
In the year 2519, people on Earth don’t grow old and die any longer, their bodies are frozen and they start a new life in the virtual reality of the Game. Jex is almost eighteen, working twelve hour shifts, and dreaming of when she’ll be legally adult and begin her long-planned idyllic life in Game. When a bomber attacks a Game server complex, one of the virtual worlds of Game crashes, and eleven thousand immortal players die during emergency defrost. Death has struck Game for the first time in centuries, and Jex is questioned as a suspect in the bombing.
I really enjoyed this one. Edwards has a knack for writing strong young characters with plenty of depth and suitable lack of experience, but who don’t come over as whiny and annoying. Review not yet posted.

 

Scavenger Alliance – Book 1 of the Exodus series by Janet Edwards
In the year 2408, a century after the invention of interstellar portals, seven hundred people scavenge a living in abandoned New York. The respectable citizens have either withdrawn to new settlements in the countryside, or joined the great exodus of humanity to new, unpolluted colony worlds, but eighteen-year-old Blaze is one of the undesirables that neither the citizen settlements nor the new colony worlds will accept. Blaze’s mother died six years ago. She thinks her father is Donnell, the leader of the uneasy alliance between the remnants of the Earth Resistance and the old criminal gangs. It’s less clear what Donnell thinks, since he barely speaks to her. The alliance is crumbling under the strain of its hardest winter ever, when an old enemy tries to use Blaze as a pawn in a power bid. She thinks her life can’t possibly get more difficult, but then an aircraft carrying three off-worlders arrives in New York.

I loved this one – I think it’s the best book she’s written to date. The sense of danger and tension with a likeable protagonist made this one difficult to put down – see my review here.

 

Cold Welcome – Book 1 of Vatta’s Peace by Elizabeth Moon
Summoned to the home planet of her family’s business empire, space-fleet commander Kylara Vatta is told to expect a hero’s welcome. But instead she is thrown into danger unlike any other she has faced and finds herself isolated, unable to communicate with the outside world, commanding a motley group of unfamiliar troops, and struggling day by day to survive in a deadly environment with sabotaged gear. Only her undeniable talent for command can give her ragtag band a fighting chance.
This is a full-on survival adventure which I loved. And even if you haven’t already had the pleasure, this is an ideal introduction to Moon’s world – see my review here.

 

Scarlet – Book 2 of the Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer
Cinder, the cyborg mechanic, is trying to break out of prison—even though if she succeeds, she’ll be the Commonwealth’s most wanted fugitive. Halfway around the world, Scarlet Benoit’s grandmother is missing. When Scarlet encounters Wolf, a street fighter who may have information as to her grandmother’s whereabouts, she is loath to trust this stranger, but is inexplicably drawn to him, and he to her.
This series niftily blends the current trend for fairytale retellings and rejigs it into a science fiction world where the terrifying Lunar Queen Levana is determined to bring Earth under her control. Review not yet posted.

 

The Sorcerer’s Garden by Wallace D. Peach
See above.

So that is my April roundup. Due to a rush of new releases at the start of May, a number of these reviews have not yet seen the light of day. What about you – have you read any of the above books? If so, what did you think of them?

Review of KINDLE Ebook A Second Chance – Book 3 of The Chronicles of St Mary’s by Jodi Taylor

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While still not feeling all that well, I dived into this one for a bit of fun and escapism…

St Mary’s is back and nothing is going right for Max. Once again, it’s just one damned thing after another. The action jumps from an encounter with a mirror-stealing Isaac Newton to the bloody battlefield at Agincourt. Discover how a simple fact-finding assignment to witness the ancient and murderous cheese- rolling ceremony in Gloucester can result in CBC – concussion by cheese. The long awaited jump to Bronze Age Troy ends in personal catastrophe for Max and just when it seems things couldn’t get any worse – it’s back to the Cretaceous Period again to confront an old enemy who has nothing to lose. So, make the tea, grab the chocolate biscuits, settle back and discover exactly why the entire history department has painted itself blue …

As you may have gathered from the blurb, in parts this book is laugh-aloud hilarious – what isn’t quite so obvious is that in other places it is heart-breakingly sad. What it never does is stand still. Taylor writes with a frenetic energy that pulls me into her story, holds me there – and when I’m finally flung out at the other side, I’m dizzily certain that I’ll never feel quite the same again. Even though this is the third time I’ve been smacked around the chops by Max and the St Mary’s gang, it is still an onslaught as much as an adventure.

As the blurb mentions, the historical trips are still going strong and Max, along with the rest of the disaster-magnets that make up St Mary’s history department, fling themselves into each time-travelling adventure with reckless enthusiasm. Taylor could have so easily opted to make these books straight comedic adventures – she certainly writes humour with verve and skill that has me sniggering aloud all the way through. But what, for me, elevates all these books, are the interludes where Max is dealt a lethal blow to prevent her from fully enjoying her life. Despite her love for the job and St Mary’s, she is to be denied personal happiness alongside a special someone. I know I was feeling poorly, but even if I’d been bouncing with health, I think I would have still wept.

I blew my nose, blinked away the tears so I could continue reading – it’s hard to focus on the print when you’re bawling like a fallen toddler – and just as I was settling down to rejig my expectations and read something instead a whole lot more sombre than I’d initially intended – a thing happens which once again transforms the mood and tenor of the story.

I’ve been reading avidly for over fifty years and during that time, I’ve learnt that the majority of books follow certain rhythms. But Jodi Taylor ignores those precepts and instead, mixes it all up quite outrageously. Furthermore, she gets away with it. I’ve been thinking about this one a lot since I read it. It won’t be long before the fourth book, A Trail Through Time, will be summoning me back to St. Mary’s. I just need another box of tissues, more emotional energy and then once more, I’ll be good to go. In the meantime, if you crave a real roller-coaster ride through Time, track down the first book in the series – Just One Damned Thing After Another – I can guarantee that you won’t have read anything else quite like it.
9/10

Teaser Tuesday – 23rd May, 2017

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Teaser Tuesday is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by The Purple Booker.
Anyone can play along! Just do the following:
• Grab your current read
• Open to a random page
• Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
• BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
• Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

This is my choice of the day:

Sungrazer – Book 2 of the Outriders series by Jay Posey
71% He was clearly struggling, relieved to be letting it out after who knew how long, uncertain how much was safe to share. “It isn’t like when you forget an appointment, or something that happened a long time ago that a friend reminds you of. It’s a hole. A blank spot. I know something should be there, but I don’t know what it is.”
“You talk to medical?”
“No, sir,” Mike answered. He looked up at Lincoln then, his eyes resolute. “And no sir, I won’t.”

BLURB: In a new Cold War between Earth and the colonies on Mars, when devastating weapons go missing, there’s only one team you can call – the Outriders. A crack force of highly specialised super-soldiers, their clone bodies are near-immortal.
When a fully-autonomous vessel with orbital strike capabilities goes missing, it’s up to the Outriders to track the untrackable. But when the trail leads them to the influential Martian People’s Collective Republic, the operation gets a lot more complicated…

This is well into this second book in the Outriders series – I enjoyed the first book in this military science fiction adventure – see my review here – and this second one is certainly full of tension and incident. Once again, an entertaining, enjoyable read that I will be reviewing in due course.

Review of KINDLE Ebook Spellbound – Book 2 of the Spellwright series by Blake Charlton

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I’ve loved this series – to the extent that after reading the third book in the series Spellbreaker, one of my favourite reads last year, I tracked down this second instalment for more Spellwright goodness.

Francesca DeVega is a healer in the city of Avel, composing magical sentences that close wounds and disspell curses. But when a newly dead patient sits up and tells her that she must flee the infirmary or face a fate worse than death, Francesca finds herself in the middle of a game she doesn’t understand—one that ties her to the notorious rogue wizard Nicodemus Weal and brings her face-to-face with demons, demigods, and a man she hoped never to see again. Ten years ago, Nico escaped Starhaven Academy, leaving behind his failed life, in which he was considered disabled and felt useless. Now, in Spellbound, he’s starting fresh, using his newfound gifts in the dark Chthonic languages to pursue the emerald that holds his birthright. Unfortunately, he can’t escape the chaos of his old life. His mentor suffers from an incurable curse, agents of the fabled Halcyon hunt him day and night, pieces of Francesca’s story don’t add up, and the prophesized War of Disjunction looms on the horizon.

This epic fantasy adventure is about magical systems and how those imbued with magic have to cope with the way it bends and warps their lives in unimaginable ways. I don’t think I’ve ever read a book or series where the rules of magic are so pervasive and have so many unthinkable and frightening consequences. Charlton’s febrile mind has worked out a system where words and will create spells – but what if different spellcasters regard others from different systems with suspicion and fear? What if there is a constant tension between those systems that teeters on the brink of open warfare? And what if in the middle of this tense political landscape come several powerful entities that threaten to overturn the status quo?

Inevitably there is quite a lot of explanation and passages of description throughout the book, but this doesn’t stop Francesca pinging off the page. I love her character – and the scenes where she is fighting to save the life of an injured patient are both exciting and highly plausible, which isn’t surprising given that Charlton is a fellow of Cardiology at the University of California. Nico is a spellcaster whose power undoes and subverts the spells of those who try casting spells against him, as he is unable to accurately spell his spells, thus echoing the pain and confusion Charlton must have endured as a child struggling with severe dyslexia. I can relate all too clearly, watching my granddaughter’s battle with this miserable condition.

While I knew one or two of the shock outcomes near the end of the book, given I had already read the final book in this trilogy, it didn’t prevent me really enjoying the journey which had its own share of surprises. Francesca’s character is a revelation and the way we discover who she is and how she got here is masterly and highly original.

This world is so cleverly devised and smart, it deserves to be far better known and Spellbound, along with Spellwright and Spellbreaker, comes highly recommended.
10/10

Sunday Post – 21st May 2017

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This is part of the weekly meme over at the Caffeinated Book Reviewer, where book bloggers can share the books and blogs they have written.

Last Sunday was another major gathering of the clan – my parents, both sisters, along with my brother in law and two nephews met up at The George pub at Burpham for a birthday meal to celebrate my sister’s birthday. It was an additional celebration – she is returning next month to England and will be settling in Littlehampton just up the road. We had a lovely time all catching up with each other with lots of laughter and good food.

This week has been a better one, in that I have started to catch up on my admin backlog from when I was ill and feel that at last I’m regaining my energy levels, although I did miss my Pilates session again this week, as I still felt less than my shiny best. This afternoon, we’ve been invited up to a BBQ at my daughter’s house – and I’m providing the vegan pudding… So I won’t be around to nteract though I’ll catch up later.

This week I have read:

The Ninth Rain – Book 1 of The Winnowing Flame by Jen Williams
The great city of Ebora once glittered with gold. Now its streets are stalked by wolves. Tormalin the Oathless has no taste for sitting around waiting to die while the realm of his storied ancestors falls to pieces – talk about a guilt trip. Better to be amongst the living, where there are taverns full of women and wine. When eccentric explorer, Lady Vincenza ‘Vintage’ de Grazon, offers him employment, he sees an easy way out. Even when they are joined by a fugitive witch with a tendency to set things on fire, the prospect of facing down monsters and retrieving ancient artefacts is preferable to the abomination he left behind. But not everyone is willing to let the Eboran empire collapse, and the adventurers are quickly drawn into a tangled conspiracy of magic and war.
Jen Williams’ first series, The Copper Cat – see my review of The Copper Promise made a great impression. She has an energy and buzz that has her writing crackling off the the page and this post-apocalytic sci-fi/fantasy swords and sorcery mashup ticks all the boxes for me. The worldbuilding, in particular, is outstanding…

Sweep in Peace – Book 2 of The Innkeeper Chronicles by Ilona Andrews
Dina DeMille doesn’t run your typical Bed and Breakfast. Her inn defies laws of physics, her fluffy dog is secretly a monster, and the only paying guest is a former Galactic tyrant with a price on her head. But the inn needs guests to thrive, and guests have been scarce, so when an Arbitrator shows up at Dina’s door and asks her to host a peace summit between three warring species, she jumps on the chance. Unfortunately, for Dina, keeping the peace between Space Vampires, the Hope-Crushing Horde, and the devious Merchants of Baha-char is much easier said than done. On top of keeping her guests from murdering each other, she must find a chef, remodel the inn…and risk everything, even her life, to save the man she might fall in love with. But then it’s all in the day’s work for an Innkeeper…
It’s been longer than I’d planned since I read the first book – see my review of Clean Sweep in this original, quirky fantasy/sci fi portal adventure and it was every bit as enjoyable as I’d hoped. It’s a really nifty trick to be able to effectively portray an multi-world epic from a normally quiet inn in a half-forgotten corner of America, but Andrews pulls it off.

Cold-Forged Flame – Book 1 of the Ree Varekai novella series by Marie Brennan
The sound of the horn pierces the apeiron, shattering the stillness of that realm. Its clarion call creates ripples, substance, something more. It is a summons, a command. There is will. There is need.
And so, in reply, there is a woman.
At the beginning—no—at the end—she appears, full of fury and bound by chains of prophecy. Setting off on an unexplained quest from which she is compelled to complete, and facing unnatural challenges in a land that doesn’t seem to exist, she will discover the secrets of herself, or die trying. But along the way, the obstacles will grow to a seemingly insurmountable point, and the final choice will be the biggest sacrifice yet.
This takes writing chops to effectively depict a woman warrior who knows nothing about who she is or where she came from, only that she is bound to complete a mysterious quest for the people who summoned her. Marie Brennan pulls it off and I’m really looking forward to reading the next instalment, Lightning in the Blood at the end of the month.

 

My posts last week:

Sunday Post – 14th May 2017

NEW RELEASE SPECIAL Review of Assassin’s Fate – Book 3 of The Fitz and the Fool trilogy – Book 16 of the Realm of the Elderlings by Robin Hobb

Teaser Tuesday featuring Cold-Forged Flame – Book 1 of the Ree Varekai novella series by Marie Brennan

Review of Goldfish from Beyond the Grave – Book 4 of the Undead Pets series by Sam Hay

Shoot for the Moon 2017 Challenge – April Roundup

Friday Face-off – Airplane travel is nature’s way of making you look like your passport photo – featuring No Highway by Nevil Shute

Review of The Ninth Rain – Book 1 of The Winnowing Flame by Jen Williams

 

Interesting/outstanding blogs and articles that have caught my attention during the last week, in no particular order:

John Fogerty, Johnny Winter & James Burton hit that Riff! : Susie Q! https://theimmortaljukebox.com/2017/05/20/john-fogerty-johnny-winter-james-burton-hit-that-riff-oh-susie-q-oh-susie-q-susie-q/  Thom’s wonderful, indepth articles about music are always worth reading. And this one is a delight – the Johnny Winter version is my favourite, for what it’s worth…

10 of the Best Poems About Gardens  https://interestingliterature.com/2017/05/19/10-of-the-best-poems-about-gardens/ The day when all the marvellous BBC coverage from Chelsea Flower Show starts seems apt to consider poems about the garden.

Thoughts on writing and publishing, from me and others  http://www.julietemckenna.com/?p=2586 Juliet McKenna’s blog is always worth reading, but this article also includes links to other interesting, articulate authors

Seven Steps to Honoring Your Reality  https://diymfa.com/writing/seven-steps-to-honoring-your-reality#disqus_thread This excellent article by Sara Letourneau certainly arrived at my Inbox in time to remind me not to panic as I’m trying to catch up after a spell of not feeling my best…

Oceans of Life? The Solar System and beyond  http://earthianhivemind.net/2017/05/17/oceans-life-solar-system-beyond/ Another superb roundup about what is going on in the scientific community – and it has never been more exciting…

Thank you for visiting and taking the time and trouble to comment – and may you have a wonderful reading and blogging week.

Review of KINDLE Ebook The Ninth Rain – Book 1 of The Winnowing Flame by Jen Williams

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Williams is already a go-to author whom I love – her Copper Cat trilogy saw to that – see my review of The Copper Promise. But this time around, I think she’s excelled herself…

The great city of Ebora once glittered with gold. Now its streets are stalked by wolves. Tormalin the Oathless has no taste for sitting around waiting to die while the realm of his storied ancestors falls to pieces – talk about a guilt trip. Better to be amongst the living, where there are taverns full of women and wine. When eccentric explorer, Lady Vincenza ‘Vintage’ de Grazon, offers him employment, he sees an easy way out. Even when they are joined by a fugitive witch with a tendency to set things on fire, the prospect of facing down monsters and retrieving ancient artefacts is preferable to the abomination he left behind. But not everyone is willing to let the Eboran empire collapse, and the adventurers are quickly drawn into a tangled conspiracy of magic and war.

For starters, this isn’t a straight swords and sorcery. The city of Ebora might be a faded version of its former self, driving Tormalin to seek his fortune elsewhere, but it isn’t the only place enduring sustained and catastrophic deterioration. Sarn and the other surrounding countries are still suffering the ravages of the last invasion by the lethal aliens, the Jure’lia. Wildlife and vegetation have been mutated wherever the huge spaceships have crashed, which also attracts the very dangerous parasite spirits that turns their unfortunate victims inside out if they so much brush against them. Where the huge maggots crashed through, they excrete a thick transparent sludge that hardens to an impervious block of varnish, trapping people inside like flies in an amber. In short, the world is still reeling from an apocalyptic attack several generations earlier.

As you must have gathered, William’s depiction of her ruined world made a deep impression – I’ve even dreamed about it. This could have been a completely bleak tale, but it’s not because the main protagonists, particularly the wonderful Lady de Grazon, ping off the page with a fine disregard for local customs as she insists on investigating every aspect of the alien wreckage, instead of trying to ignore it like most of the population. There is a fair amount of humour scattered through this story, which makes it far easier to read, though that doesn’t mean it’s innately funny – it isn’t.

Tension winds through the story as we are pitchforked right in the middle of this fascinating wrecked world and then try to figure out exactly what is going on as slices of information is steadily fed our way. I also loved the young fell-witch, Noon, kept in a horrible prison called the Winnowry, where others like her who involuntarily summon fell-flame, are incarcerated – apparently so they can atone for their innate wickedness and to protect the rest of society from their fell-fire. Though the fact that their flaming energy is harvested and used to craft a number of exclusive, highly expensive artefacts is also a major factor.

Each one of the three protagonists have their own journey through the book which involves different aspects of this shattered place and unlike a number of epic fantasy tales, I didn’t find myself wanting to know more about one of them such that I skimmed through the others to get back to it. For this rich world sank its hooks into me and since I have finished reading it, I still find myself thinking of it. And I’ll be on the lookout for the sequel as I’m looking forward to revisiting this unusual world.

While I obtained the arc of The Ninth Rain from the publisher via NetGalley, this has in no way influenced my unbiased review.
9/10

Friday Faceoff – Airplane travel is nature’s way of making you look like your passport photo

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This meme was started by Books by Proxy, whose fabulous idea was to compare UK and US book covers and decide which is we prefer. This week the theme is planes, so I’ve chosen Nevil Shute’s thriller No Highway.

 

This cover, produced by Vintage Classics in September 2009, is cool and retro. However, there’s such a thing as being too restrained and tasteful – could the title be less obtrusive? While it’s attractive, it isn’t eye-catching enough.

 

This paperback edition, produced in 1963 by Pan is more effective in depicting the tension that thrums through this novel. The fear on the man’s face is evident, even if this cover is clearly dated and of its time.

 

Published by Ace, this is another older cover full of drama and darkness. The crashed plane, the dark landscape and the chevron-shaped title and author name is attention-grabbing and links directly to the book’s content. This one is my favourite, despite its evident age.

 

This cover, produced by Ballantine, is another one full of drama with the plane evidently losing height and a mountain in the background looming menacingly. The prominence of the author’s name indicates that it was produced at the height of his popularity.

 

This Kindle edition, produced by Lion Books in May 2014 is another innocuous, well behaved effort that shows us a cloudscape from a plane seat. It is another cover that isn’t bothering to reach out to customers – a shame, really as it is a book that deserves to be read, like all his books. Which is your favourite?

Shoot for the Moon 2017 Challenge – April Roundup

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How have I got on with my writing, reading and blogging targets now that we are a third of the way into 2017?
• Rewrite Miranda’s Tempest
Complete my rewrite of Miranda’s Tempest in response to some very detailed advice on how to improve it by an agent during the submission process. I had intended to have it completed by now, but got seriously stalled halfway through December…
My schedule regarding Miranda’s Tempest got completely chewed up due to my illness after Easter. I wasn’t able to attend my Writing Group, so didn’t get to touch base with my two main beta-readers.

• Write at least 100 reviews for my blog during 2017
I hope to continue to read and review at least 100 books, with at least 24 being by women authors previously unknown to me as part of the Discovery Challenge, thanks to Joanne Hall’s post. I also would very much like to get more of my To Be Read pile read and reviewed, so will have another go at the Tackling my TBR Pile this year with the aim of reading at least 30 books during the year from this teetering stack.
During April, I read and reviewed 22 books, writing just under 22,500 words. The reason for this high number was my sojourn in bed for nearly a week doing little other than reading and sleeping. It was another month of wonderful books – the bar just keeps getting higher in terms of overall quality, it seems to me. As for book of the month – I can’t decide between Winter Tide by Ruthanna Emrys, A Tyranny of Queens by Roz Meadows and Scavenger Alliance by Janet Edwards.

• Creative Writing courses
The new term is under way.
We had a bit of a glitch at the start of the Tuesday group when I had to cancel the first session because I was feeling so ill, which is only the second time in 8 years that I’ve gone sick. Fortunately, I am able to add the missing session to the end of the course so the students are not short-changed.

• Continue teaching TW
Continue delivering the customised syllabus we have managed to find and devise in order to meet Tim’s specific learning requirements.
Tim continues to progress and develop – this term he is flying, which is wonderful to watch. I’m hoping he can continue to sustain his progress throughout the summer as he has a series of major challenges in the coming few months.

• Continue to improve my fitness
To continue to attend Fitstep and Pilates classes to improve my fitness and regain the strength and stamina I lost after a decade of chronic lower back pain.
Nope. I missed a chunk of my classes and so far, while I’ve felt well enough to resume Fitstep, my lack of energy has meant that by the time I get to Wednesday, I cannot face my Pilates class. I am taking some vitamin supplements which hopefully will boost my stamina and general well-being so that I can resume my normal level of activity.

Frankly, April was a frustrating month. I simply haven’t had sufficient energy to sustain any area of my life to the standard I like to generally achieve. I’m not keeping up with comments on my blog and for three days during the month didn’t post anything at all. Neither am I fully up to date with my teaching admin and as for writing anything worth the name – that is a distant memory. The only thing I seem to be fit for is reading and writing reviews, which would be great if I was hankering after a life as a book reviewer, but that is my hobby activity… Let’s hope the second half of May is a vast improvement.

I wrote just under 28,000 words during April, mostly on my blog, which brings my yearly total to just over 142,000 words so far.