Review of Hag-Seed: The Tempest Retold by Margaret Atwood

Standard

As I have spent the past couple of years writing and re-writing Miranda’s Tempest, my follow-up to Shakespeare’s The Tempest after teaching it as part of the GCSE syllabus, I was intrigued to find out how such a respected author would tackle this one.

The Tempest is set on a remote island full of strange noises and creatures. Here, Prospero, the deposed Duke of Milan, plots to restore the fortunes of his daughter Miranda by using magic and illusion — starting with a storm that will bring Antonio, his treacherous brother, to him. All Prospero, the great sorcerer, needs to do is watch as the action he has set in train unfolds.

In Margaret Atwood’s ‘novel take’ on Shakespeare’s original, theatre director Felix has been unceremoniously ousted from his role as Artistic Director of the Makeshiweg Festival. When he lands a job teaching theatre in a prison, the possibility of revenge presents itself – and his cast find themselves taking part in an interactive and illusion-ridden version of The Tempest that will change their lives forever.

This book starts just as Felix is retreating, licking his wounds after having been ejected from this prestigious post of Artistic Director. What will he do next? In third person viewpoint, we follow Felix as he struggles to come to terms with this latest body blow in a life punctuated by tragedy. As a response, or perhaps even a retreat from his grief, Felix has thrown himself into his work by creating increasingly edgy and challenging productions. While his ever-ready assistant Tony, is all too willing to attend the boring meetings and charity functions that come with his post in his stead.

This apparently straightforward tale is a joy to read – particularly if you have a detailed knowledge of The Tempest. During the parallel retelling, there are all sorts of echoes and nods to the original text which I very much appreciated – all the more because Atwood leaves it to us to play that particular game. For the usurping brother Antonio, who deposes and exiles Prospero, read Tony the double-crossing assistant for instance. It takes twelve years for Felix to regroup, before putting on this keynote play and decide to make a move against his enemies, just as Prospero and his daughter, Miranda, languish on the enchanted island for twelve years before the tempest strikes, bringing Prospero’s enemies to him… It goes on throughout the book and is great fun to spot.

I very much liked the prison setting and the fact that Felix decides to give the prisoners an annual project of learning about a Shakespearean play, rehearsing and preparing it and then filming it. Atwood’s story very neatly reflects all sorts of themes that run through The Tempest such as the idea of imprisonment, revenge and the healing power of forgiveness – and what happens when there isn’t sufficient forgiveness. I’m aware I have talked at some length about the similarities between the Shakespeare play and Felix’s journey after losing his career – what this isn’t is some dry-as-dust, semi-academic treatise on a classic play by some long-dead playwright. This is a vibrant, interesting story about a sympathetic protagonist down on his luck and who gradually manages to retrieve his sense of self-worth and a place in society after years of privation.

You don’t need to know a thing about The Tempest in order to enjoy the story, though there are all sorts of enjoyable little extras if you do. Atwood is known for her rather grim endings – so I was rather dreading the end as I’d grown unexpectedly fond of Felix, which was a surprise as I loathe Prospero in The Tempest. However, Atwood very satisfactorily brings his story to an appropriate conclusion, after my favourite part of the book – when each prisoner playing the main part had to give a report on what he thinks happens to his character after the play ends. I thought their ideas were brilliant and quirky – but then this is Atwood. So of course it’s brilliant and quirky.

I shall remember this book with great affection for a long time to come. Very highly recommended.
10/10

Review of KINDLE Ebook Sweep in Peace – Book 2 of the Innkeeper Chronicles by Ilona Andrews

Standard

Back in February, I read the first book in this entertaining series, Clean Sweep – read my review here. At that point, Himself bought the other two books in the series so far and tucked into them, but I don’t like reading books from the same series back to back. However, I hadn’t planned on leaving it quite so long before returning to this world.

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…

Dina is on a mission. Her parents, along with their magical inn, disappeared without trace some six years ago and despite an exhaustive search, no one has seen any hint of them. She has now decided to settle down and run her own inn – though she has also posted pictures of her missing family and watches every guest’s reaction as they walk through the door, hoping that one day someone will offer valuable information – or betray a shocked jolt of recognition. However taking on this particular mission is doing things the hard way.

I loved the sense that Dina is plunged into a situation well over her head and scrambling to keep up, often several steps behind. She is a likeable protagonist – steady and determined, particularly when under pressure, but with the ongoing vulnerability of constantly missing her parents.

Andrews is also good at writing animals – Dina’s little dog is suitably annoying and yappy, except when he… isn’t. And when a cat makes an appearance, I was also convinced – I get a bit fed up when pets are depicted with too much treacly sentimentality. But what sets this intriguing fantasy/science fiction mashup apart is the originality of the premise – and how effectively Andrews raises the stakes. We are left in no doubt as to the high cost of this terrible war raging between two warlike species – and the impact on everyone, those taking part as well as those caught between them.

In addition, Dina finds her own happiness held hostage as to the outcome of the peace conference. Andrews’ pacing and handling of the narrative tension is spot on as she steadily ramps up it up with a mixture of the domestic mundane with a twist of fantasy – the galactic superchef produces wonderful meals and Dina has to spend a lot of time and magic ensuring each delegation’s needs are fully met – with the crucial details we need to understand exactly how important it all is. This is all deftly done, producing a smooth, enjoyable read that covers all the epic consequences of this nasty war through the fallout in Dina’s magical inn.

I have the next book in this entertaining series – One Fell Sweep – and I won’t be waiting so long to get to it and if you are seeking an interesting fantasy with a sci fi twist, then this series comes highly recommended.
9/10

Teaser Tuesday – 25th July, 2017

Standard

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:

Spoonbenders by Daryl Gregory
70% There are no memories of future poker games. This is the last he will ever play. He will never win another hand from his brother, or watch his sister frown over her cards. And he will never see Cerise again.
Irene touches his arm. “Buddy?”
He tries to focus on his cards. There are no sevens in this hand, merely a loosely connected series of cards that will never become a straight or a flush, and he knows better than to try to bluff Irene. He mucks his cards, folding.

BLURB: The Telemachus family is known for performing inexplicable feats on talk shows and late-night television. Teddy, a master conman, heads up a clan who possess gifts he only fakes: there’s Maureen, who can astral project; Irene, the human lie detector; Frankie, gifted with telekinesis; and Buddy, the clairvoyant. But when, one night, the magic fails to materialize, the family withdraws to Chicago where they live in shame for years. Until: As they find themselves facing a troika of threats (CIA, mafia, unrelenting skeptic), Matty, grandson of the family patriarch, discovers a bit of the old Telemachus magic in himself. Now, they must put past obstacles behind them and unite like never before. But will it be enough to bring The Amazing Telemachus Family back to its amazing life?

It took me a while to fully connect to this one, as the family lurches from one disaster to a steady downward slide. I’m aware humour is highly personal, but I haven’t found their situation remotely hilarious as promised by the front-cover blurb. Though now I’m caught up in the story, I’m enjoying the strong writing and really, really hoping they get out of this in one piece – especially poor tormented Buddy…

Review of Chocolate Chocolate Moons by Jackie Kingon

Standard

I enjoyed Kingon’s quirky cosy murder mystery featuring her irrepressible protagonist Molly Marbles in Sherlock Mars – see my review here. So when the author contacted me, offering me the opportunity to read and review the prequel, I jumped at the chance.

It is a novel set in the future that tells the story of plus-sized Molly Marbles, who wins a scholarship to Armstrong University on the Moon, a haven for the plus-sized set where her weight drops from 287 Earth pounds to 47.6 without so much as passing up a piece of pie. When boyfriend Drew Barron dumps her, then jumps at a job at Congress Drugs, a company that makes low calorie food supplements, Molly’s weight is the least of her woes. And when her favorite treats, Chocolate Moons are found poisoned, she finds she has bitten off more than she can chew.

This space opera cosy mystery featuring food tells of how Molly recovers from her initial lost love and rebuilds her life – and about a crime that causes a number of chocolate lovers to fall into a coma. I love the details of the future depicted by Kingon’s breezy writing style – some of it is plainly a bit nonsensical, driven more by the word-play and humour, rather than any real possibility. So it is far more space opera than hard-core science fiction.

There is a large cast in this busy story, where by necessity a chunk of the narrative is told in semi-omniscient point of view. The plots and counter-plots where a number of the characters are trying to outwit each other and gain access to business opportunities or expensive works of art means I had to pay attention. Though I was far more interested in Molly than these nefarious deals, which tends to make the plotting something of a hot mess.

What kept me riveted to Molly’s narrative arc is the fact that she is a hefty lady who loves her food – and in Mars, where children are naturally born much slimmer and taller than Earthborn humans, she attracts a lot of attention, much of it hostile. I have read science fiction stories where the different body shape caused by different gravity drives a racist reaction – but what Kingon has done is to have a population define themselves by their body shape, which impacts on their diet and what they want to eat. In this book, Kingon highlights this consequence mostly as a humorous backdrop to the main action – but I did find this a really interesting aspect. Perhaps the reason why I zeroed onto this issue is because most of my family, including me, are allergic to dairy products, including milk, cheese, yoghurt and butter – and we are also vegetarians. So we also have foods we classify as ‘good’ and ‘bad’.

While I found some of the humour and word play not particularly funny, I did really enjoy Molly’s character. Overall, this book isn’t without some structural flaws, but Kingon writes with such sunny energy that pings off the page, I was drawn into the story and enjoyed the originality and quirkiness. Recommended for someone who likes to read something a bit different.
8/10

Sunday Post – 23rd July 2017

Standard

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 week was once again, a busy social one. On Tuesday I spent the morning with a good friend – we visited Highdown Gardens and had lunch there, before making our way to the pier at Littlehampton to enjoy the cooling sea breeze as it was a wonderfully hot day. In the afternoon Himself and I went to see Frances in her school play which was devised by the students about the difficult subject of bullying. It was a passionate and moving piece and we were very proud of her. I fitted in my Fitstep class on Wednesday morning and taught Tim in the afternoon. I was able to listen to the professional recording of the cast singing the songs that Tim wrote for the film – it was amazing to actually hear them being sung and a fitting end to a fantastically successful year.

On Friday I ran my one day Creative Writing course at Northbrook. Though it was rather hot, we had a very enjoyable day listening to students’ writing and working on exercises designed to spark creativity through the summer break. Both my classes for the autumn term are now full. In the evening I went out to celebrate Sally’s birthday with a meal at The Fish Factory. She had an extra present – the wonderful news that Tim has passed his first English external exam. Last night we went round to my sister’s for a lovely meal and played some games in what is fast-becoming a really enjoyable weekly routine.

This week I have read:
The Masked City – Book 2 of The Invisible Library series by Genevieve Cogman
Librarian-spy Irene is working undercover in an alternative London when her assistant Kai goes missing. She discovers he’s been kidnapped by the fae faction and the repercussions could be fatal. Not just for Kai, but for whole worlds.
This is a real treat. The spiky characters we met in the first book are now tested as they struggle in a very personal way with this latest threat to the fabric of the world. We also get to meet more of the Fae – and a thoroughly annoying, self-centred bunch they are. I loved the depiction of this fantastic version of Venice – highly recommended. Review to follow.

 

One Fell Sweep – Book 3 of The Innkeeper Chronicles by Ilona Andrews
Gertrude Hunt, the nicest Bed and Breakfast in Red Deer, Texas, is glad to have you. We cater to a particular kind of guests, the ones most people don’t know about. The older lady sipping her Mello Yello is called Caldenia, although she prefers Your Grace. She has a sizable bounty on her head, so if you hear kinetic or laser fire, try not to stand close to the target. Our chef is a Quillonian. The claws are a little unsettling, but he is a consummate professional and truly is the best chef in the Galaxy. If you see a dark shadow in the orchard late at night, don’t worry. Someone is patrolling the grounds. Do beware of our dog. Your safety and comfort is our first priority. The inn and your host, Dina Demille, will defend you at all costs. We ask only that you mind other guests and conduct yourself in a polite manner.
This series just goes on getting better and better. I love the steady character development and how we learn more about Dina and her family in each book. This time around, we discover a bit about her sister’s adventures in between another cracking adventure. This is one of my favourite series of the year. Review to follow.

 

Chocolate Chocolate Moons by Jackie Kingon
It is a novel set in the future that tells the story of plus-sized Molly Marbles, who wins a scholarship to Armstrong University on the Moon, a haven for the plus-sized set where her weight drops from 287 Earth pounds to 47.6 without so much as passing up a piece of pie. When boyfriend Drew Barron dumps her, then jumps at a job at Congress Drugs, a company that makes low calorie food supplements, Molly’s weight is the least of her woes. And when her favorite treats, Chocolate Moons are found poisoned, she finds she has bitten off more than she can chew.
When author Jackie Kingon read my review of Sherlock Mars, she got in touch and asked if I would like to read the prequel, which gave an account of how Molly got her nickname. I jumped at the chance, finding this quirky read had stuck in my head. I enjoyed this science fiction cosy mystery. Review to follow.

 

My posts last week:

Sunday Post – 16th July 2017

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Face the Change – Book 3 of the Menopausal Superheroes series by Samantha Bryant

Teaser Tuesday featuring Chocolate Chocolate Moons by Jackie Kingon

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Star Witch – Book 2 of The Lazy Girl’s Guide to Magic by Helen Harper

Discovery Challenge 2017 and Tackling my TBR – June Roundup

Friday Face-off – Any planet is ‘Earth’ to those who live on it… featuring The Empress of Mars by Kage Baker

Review of The Invisible Library – Book 1 of The Invisible Library series by Genevieve Cogman

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

50 Word Stories: The Catch https://richardankers.com/2017/07/21/50-word-stories-the-catch/
A nicely sharp story from talented wordsmith Richard Ankers.

Untitled https://photolicioux.wordpress.com/2017/07/17/untitled-110/ I love this rippling effect on the building, which turns it into something far more interesting…

…Istanbul is Constantinople… however many letters it takes to spell it… https://seumasgallacher.com/2017/07/20/istanbul-is-constantinople-is-istanbul-however-many-letters-it-takes-to-spell-it/ This recollection from best-selling indie author Seumas Gallacher reminded me of hours of fun playing similar word games when going away on holiday with my grandparents…

Reverse Bucket List https://dogdaysanddelights.wordpress.com/2017/07/18/reverse-bucket-list/ I really like this idea – as well as striving for more adventures, why not celebrate and recollect those we have already experienced?

British Fantasy Awards 2017 – Good News! https://hierath.wordpress.com/2017/07/14/british-fantasy-awards-2017-good-news/ Good news indeed! This is an impressive and astonishing number of nominations for a small indie press – and I’m honoured to be one of the authors they have signed up this year…

Thank you very much for taking the time and trouble to visit, like and comment on my site and may you have a great week.

Review of KINDLE Ebook The Invisible Library – Book 1 of the Invisible Library series by Genevieve Cogman

Standard

I have read a steady stream of positive reviews for this book – and being a bibliophile myself, I treated myself to this one a while ago… It was high time I got around to it, so I did.

Irene is a professional spy for the mysterious Library, which harvests fiction from different realities. And along with her enigmatic assistant Kai, she’s posted to an alternative London. Their mission – to retrieve a dangerous book. But when they arrive, it’s already been stolen. London’s underground factions seem prepared to fight to the very death to find her book. Adding to the jeopardy, this world is chaos-infested – the laws of nature bent to allow supernatural creatures and unpredictable magic. Irene’s new assistant is also hiding secrets of his own. Soon, she’s up to her eyebrows in a heady mix of danger, clues and secret societies. Yet failure is not an option – the nature of reality itself is at stake.

I really enjoyed Irene’s character – brought up knowing that she would eventually always work for the Library as her parents were both Librarians, she is slightly apart from many of her colleagues. She is also cool-headed and used to keeping her own counsel – quite different from many of the rather emotional protagonists we are used to seeing in fantasy adventure. I enjoyed watching her character progress throughout the book, particularly as she has to accept that the Library might not be as principled about using its hapless employees as she likes to think.

She is supported by her new assistant Kai, who is something of a puzzle. Cogman nicely builds up the tension as Irene struggles in a hostile world someone alongside that she does not fully trust. I really enjoyed Cogman’s trick of presenting us with the situation only for us to discover that all is not what it seems – my favourite kind of storytelling. The pacing and steady increase in the stakes and danger level of this adventure is very well handled. Given the rigorous rules Irene has to abide by and the particular way the world works, it would have been all too easy for the tension to trickle away in wordy explanations. Cogman avoids this trap with the dexterity of someone who clearly knows what she is doing.

Having wound up the story so that I stayed up way too late to find out what would happen next, the climax had to be something special. And it is. We have a nicely nasty antagonist who I outright hated and will clearly continue to pose all sorts of dark threats in later books. Several other book bloggers have mentioned how as soon as they completed The Invisible Library, they immediately went on to read the second book in the series, The Masked City. If I had had the second book to hand. I would certainly have done the same thing. As it is, I have ordered it from the library (sadly not the invisible variety) and look forward to reading the next slice of Irene’s adventure very soon. Highly recommended.
9/10

Friday Faceoff – Any planet is ‘Earth’ to those who live on it…

Standard

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 planets, so I’ve chosen The Empress of Mars by the wonderfully talented Kage Baker.

 

This is the cover produced by Tor in May 2009. I like this one – the depiction of the half-terraformed planet is vividly portrayed without any undue clutter or blurb, which makes this one very effective.

 

This Italian edition, produced in October 2007 by Delos Books is more static with the red desert landscape featuring, rather than showing any of the feisty characters that ping off the page. I don’t feel this cover does the book justice, but neither is it an egregious travesty either.

 

Published in December 2008 by Subterranean Press, this cover is less about the Mars environment and more about the characters. It tends to have a sense of fantasy about it, which isn’t quite right. That said, it is eye-catching and effective and anything that encourages a reader to pick one of Baker’s books off the shelf is to be encouraged.

 

This cover, produced by in 2003 by Night Shade Books, once again features a Martian landscape. This depiction certainly looks very like a lot of the images we have seen of Mars, especially the pink-tinged sky and rather foreshortened horizon. I particularly like the font on this one. As for my favourite? This week I simply cannot decide. What about you – do you have a preference?

Discovery Challenge 2017 and Tackling My TBR – June Roundup

Standard

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 June, I read three books towards my 2017 Discovery Challenge, which brings my annual number of books written by women writers I hadn’t read before to nineteen. They are:

River of Teeth – Book 1 of the River of Teeth novella series by Sarah Gailey
In the early 20th Century, the United States government concocted a plan to import hippopotamuses into the marshlands of Louisiana to be bred and slaughtered as an alternative meat source. This is true. Other true things about hippos: they are savage, they are fast, and their jaws can snap a man in two. This was a terrible plan. Contained within this volume is an 1890s America that might have been: a bayou overrun by feral hippos and mercenary hippo wranglers from around the globe. It is the story of Winslow Houndstooth and his crew. It is the story of their fortunes. It is the story of his revenge.
This is a real roller-coaster ride with plenty of mayhem and violence along the way. That said, there is also a large dollop of humour amid the tension – think of The Magnificent Seven set in a swamp with hippos. See my review here.

Sherlock Mars by Jackie Kingon
Molly Marbles runs a successful bistro on terraformed Mars. But a virtual restaurant opens near her place, offering the experience of delicacies from across the Solar System with none of the calories. What will this do to her business? Then its owner is murdered in her kitchen. Molly, an amateur detective, springs into action to help the police solve the mystery, while also planning her pop-star daughter’s wedding, keeping her kitchen staff from feuding, and protecting her cyborg friend from the humans-only mob. Meanwhile, the infamous Cereal Serial Killer has escaped prison on Pluto and has everyone worried. Things are getting hectic, but Molly is a resilient and resourceful woman. And her knack for mysteries sees her nick-named ‘Sherlock Mars’.
This is basically a cosy mystery set in space. It has the classic ingredients – a victim that no one seems to care all that much about; a quirky, successful restaurant owner who inexplicably has sufficient time to shoot off here, there and everywhere to run down a number of clues; a friendly law enforcement officer who is happy to let Molly have crucial details of the ongoing case; lots of foodie details along the way. See my review here.

The Invisible Library – Book 1 of The Invisible Library series by Genevieve Gogman
Irene is a professional spy for the mysterious Library, which harvests fiction from different realities. And along with her enigmatic assistant Kai, she’s posted to an alternative London. Their mission – to retrieve a dangerous book. But when they arrive, it’s already been stolen. London’s underground factions seem prepared to fight to the very death to find her book. Adding to the jeopardy, this world is chaos-infested – the laws of nature bent to allow supernatural creatures and unpredictable magic. Irene’s new assistant is also hiding secrets of his own. Soon, she’s up to her eyebrows in a heady mix of danger, clues and secret societies. Yet failure is not an option – the nature of reality itself is at stake.
I really enjoyed Irene’s character – brought up knowing that she would eventually always work for the Library as her parents were both Librarians, she is slightly apart from many of her colleagues. She is also cool-headed and used to keeping her own counsel – quite different from many of the rather emotional protagonists we are used to seeing in fantasy adventure. Review to follow.

I also managed to clear two books from my TBR pile. They are:

The Dog Walker – Book 5 of The Detective’s Daughter series by Lesley Thomson
January, 1987. In the depths of winter, only joggers and dog walkers brave the Thames towpath after dark. Helen Honeysett, a young newlywed, sets off for an evening run from her riverside cottage and disappears. Twenty-nine years later, Helen’s body has never been found. Her husband has asked Stella Darnell, a private detective, and her side-kick Jack Harmon, to find out what happened all those years ago. But when the five households on that desolate stretch of towpath refuse to give up their secrets, Stella and Jack find themselves hunting a killer whose trail has long gone cold.
I thoroughly enjoyed this one. Thomson’s atmospheric writing this time around has taken us to another obscure corner of London – she seems to specialise in those – where a crime was committed that shatters one family and blights the lives of others, including the husband of the victim. See my review here.

The Invisible Library – Book 1 of The Invisible Library series by Genevieve Cogman
See above

This means I’ve managed to clear thirty-two books from my teetering TBR pile so far this year – a lot better than last year so far. Have you read any of the above books? If so, what did you think?

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of KINDLE Ebook Star Witch – Book 2 of The Lazy Girl’s Guide to Magic by Helen Harper

Standard

Himself spotted the first book in this series Slouch Witch – see my review here – which I loved, and was delighted when he told me the next book in the series would be shortly released. Right now, I could really do with an amusing, snappy urban fantasy series to dive into…

Ivy Wilde, the laziest witch in the West, is still entangled with the Hallowed Order of Magical Enlightenment. That’s not a bad thing, however, because it gives her plenty of excuses to spend more time with sapphire eyed Raphael Winter, her supposed nemesis. And when he comes knocking because he needs her to spy on the latest series of Enchantment, she jumps at the chance. Hanging around a film set can’t be hard … or dangerous … right?

One of the reasons why I enjoy this series so much is that it is set in the UK and draws on Brit humour. I particularly liked the fact that Ivy gets involved in a reality show about magic which ends up being on location in Scotland – think of The Great British Bake-Off with magic instead of muffins and an over made-up announcer called Belinda instead of Sue Perkins and a wannabe magician wafting around in a purple robe called Terry instead of Paul Hollywood. And rather than working in a marquee with the rain lashing down – the contestants are thigh-deep in heather on the edge of a small Scottish village miles from anywhere…

While there were moments when I laughed aloud, there is still danger and bloody mayhem to deal with as a gruesome murder takes place – and no one quite knows whodunit. Or even if the murderer is human… In the meantime, Ivy opts to become a contestant to get out of the exhausting job of being a runner on the TV set, thinking it must be less tiring. Until she is faced with a muddy obstacle course and a hike up a mountain. The farce and rising tension in the story is really well handled – Harper manages to ensure that the humour doesn’t detract from the seriousness of the crime as the stakes are raised ever higher. It would have been only too easy to have turned this into a knockabout comedy, which doesn’t happen.

The emerging romance between Ivy and Rafe is also well done. I’m not a huge fan of romantic fiction and yet I found myself rooting for this couple, despite their very different attitudes to Life. Any niggles? Nope – not a one. The climactic final scene works brilliantly, wrapping up the mystery satisfactorily yet leaving us with a huge cliff-hanger regarding our main protagonists. However that hasn’t wound me up – because the very good news is that the next book in this series, Spirit Witch, is due out in August.
9/10

Teaser Tuesday – 18th July, 2017

Standard

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:

Chocolate Chocolate Moons by Jackie Kingon
45% When I look up my jaw drops. I think there is no ceiling, only infinite black sky. I think it’s more convincing than the real black sky that I saw when I first came to the Moon with Drew. My sweaty hand grabs Cortland’s sweaty hand.
A robotic porter approaches. “Happy anniversary, Mr and Mrs Summers. Welcome to Nirgal Palace.”

BLURB: If you struggle with your weight, and was offered an opportunity to become light, fit and have a wonderful life without dieting, would you accept?

Molly Marbles wins a scholarship to Armstrong University on the Moon, a haven for the plus sized set and is delighted to discover that 287 Earth pounds instantly become 47.6, without so much as passing up a piece of pie.

But when her boyfriend Drew Barron dumps her, then jumps at a job at Congress Drugs, a company that makes low calorie food supplements, Molly’s weight is the least of her woes especially when the popular candy, Chocolate Moons is found poisoned.

I recently read and reviewed Kingon’s quirky space-based cosy mystery Sherlock Mars – see my review here – and was delighted when author asked if I would like to read the prequel.

Ostensibly, this is a story about some nefarious double-dealing where unscrupulous characters try to get richer quicker at the expense of hapless chocolate lovers. In reality, it’s an examination of our relationship with food. Kingon’s bouncy prose and quickfire one-liners uncover our issues with what we love over what is good for us – or is it? I’m really enjoying the nonsense, along with the underlying message that many of us are really, really messed up now that food has become something more than mere fuel to keep us alive.