Friday Faceoff – Like One, That on a Lonesome Road

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This is a new meme started by Books by Proxy, whose fabulous idea was to compare UK and US book covers and decide which is we prefer. This week’s topic is to find two eyecatching covers featuring a road.  This book seemed the obvious choice…

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 This haunting UK cover of Midnight Crossroad was produced by Gollancz when the book was published in 2014. I’d enjoyed the Sukie Stackhouse series and pounced on this offering with joy, when I realised I could lose myself in yet another Harris world. While it does give a sense of the book, Midnight Crossroad is not quite as dark and creepy as the cover suggests.

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The US version was produced by Ace, also published in 2014. While it doesn’t have quite the intensity and power of the UK cover, it does communicate the quirky sense that something isn’t quite right about this roadside settlement.

            This week, I’m really torn. I love the arresting image and sense of menace of the UK cover – and it’s the one I associate with the book. But I think in many ways, the slightly skewed perspective of the US version better represents the book… Nope – I think the UK cover just edges it for me. What about you?

 

 

 

Review of The Executioner’s Heart – Book 4 of the Newbury and Hobbes Investigations by George Mann

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This is the fourth full-length novel in this entertaining series featuring the pair of Victorian sleuths battling all manner of evil-doers, with gothic overtones and all manner of intriguing steam-powered contraptions. I have really enjoyed the books up to now – see my reviews of The Osiris Ritual and The Immorality Engine – so will I enjoy this latest instalment?

theexecutionersheartWhen Charles Bainbridge, Chief Inspector of Scotland Yard, is called to the scene of the third murder in quick succession where the victim’s chest has been cracked open and their heart torn out, he sends for supernatural specialist Sir Maurice Newbury and his determined assistant, Miss Veronica Hobbes. The two detectives discover that the killings may be the work of a mercenary known as the Executioner. French, uncannily beautiful, her flesh covered in tattoos and inlaid with precious metals, the Executioner is famed throughout Europe. But her heart is damaged, leaving her an emotionless shell, inexplicably driven to collect her victims’ hearts as trophies.

This book immediately plunges us into a tension-filled scene where we witness a terrible event overtaking one of the main protagonists – and then the narrative timeline jumps backwards to the events leading up to it… We regularly see this device in the CSI franchise, but it occurs less often in books. It certainly works here. The character in questions happens to be my favourite, so I was gripped by the need to discover exactly what went on and ensure that this major character emerges from her terrible experience unscathed.

I also liked the fact that we were taken into the world of this shadowy assailant, learning of her tragic past and how she turned into this merciless, brutal killer. It is always a bonus when the main antagonist has a convincing backstory which gives us an insight as to how she becomes a heartless murderer.

Alongside this ongoing investigation, is the ongoing tension from the overarching narrative arc and the continuing shockwaves from the shocking denouement from the previous book, The Immorality Engine. All series deserve to be read in the correct order, and while you could crash into the middle of this one (for once, something I didn’t do…) because of the characters’ journey and development, it really pays to read these in sequence.

I enjoy this world – steampunk at its best can be great fun, and Mann has Queen Victoria hooked up to a steam-powered life support machine, growing ever more paranoid and lethal. As those tasked with keeping law and order in her capital city, Newbury and Hobbes are unavoidably caught up in her machinations. But the newly emerging Secret Service is also causing concern – are they a nest of traitors, colluding with the German agents plotting for the Kaiser to overthrow Victoria? She certainly thinks so.

This could all collapse into a real mess if not handled with skill. It doesn’t. The climax is every bit as shocking as the explosive finish to The Immorality Engine and leaves the book on something of a cliffhanger. I’m not going to say more, but I’m certainly looking forward to the next instalment The Revenant Express, due out next year.

9/10

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of KINDLE Ebook The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi

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Having all the depth of a pavement puddle, I was lured into requesting the NetGalley arc of this book, because of the beautiful cover. Did my obsession with bright pretty things play me false?

thestartouchedqueenMaya is cursed. With a horoscope that promises a marriage of Death and Destruction, she has earned only the scorn and fear of her father’s kingdom. Content to follow more scholarly pursuits, her whole world is torn apart when her father, the Raja, has other plans for her.

And that is ALL I’m prepared to reveal of the blurb, which then immediately lurches into major Spoiler territory, as it happily provides most of the main plotpoints of the book. Please take my firm advice and avoid it until you have had a chance to read the book, first. Chokshi’s handling of the narrative in this book is non-linear and well executed – it would be such a shame if you read this lushly told novel with prior knowledge of the storyline.

The prose is rich and lyrical, spinning a beautiful world with a brutal undertow. It reminded me, in parts, of N.K. Jemisin’s The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms. Maya’s angry bitterness at being reviled for a horoscope she can do nothing about, informs her behaviour. She is outcast and resentful – I really liked the fact that she didn’t resort to victimhood or any form of self pity.

As I sank into Chokshi’s opulent writing, I prepared for the story to slowly unfold – but instead, the narrative steadily gains pace as it whisks up a gear once Maya escapes from her father’s palace and enters a completely different world. The success of this book entirely hinges on the protagonist – not only is the story in Maya’s first person viewpoint throughout, but narrative pivots around her and her actions. It would have been so easy for Chokshi to turn her into a Mary Sue, or some martyred victim and it is to the author’s credit that she manages to avoid both pitfalls.

It helps that there is a solid cast of supporting characters in this fantastic tale of rulers and deities – chief being Amar, the mysterious king. Again, the romantic element of the story is well controlled, with plenty of passion and emotion evoked without tipping into sentimentality or becoming clichéd. However, my favourite character is the flesh-eating horse who initially befriends Maya with the hope that she will let him snack on her arm. And yes… if that comes across as amusing – it is. At a time in the book when everything else is very grim, this mordant humour is both welcome and appropriate.

I read late into the night, half dreading the ending. This roller-coaster read was so enjoyable, I both didn’t want it to end, and was also afraid it would be a dismal disappointment. But Chokshi triumphantly pulls off a climactic, wholly satisfying ending to an accomplished Fantasy read that takes the story of an outcast princess and manages to turn it into something memorable and different, due to her beautiful prose. She is One to Watch.

The ebook arc copy of The Star-Touched Queen was provided by the publisher through NetGalley in return for an honest opinion of the book
10/10

Teaser Tuesday – 26th April 2016

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Teaser

Teaser Tuesday is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Books and a Beat.
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:
Queen of Hearts – Book 1 of the Queen of Hearts Saga – by Colleen Oakes
76%: In a week, she would be the queen, but all Dinah could feel was the heavy stone of guilt,queenofhearts pressing hard against her chest, heavier with each passing day. She gratefully surrendered to sleep, night after night, as the stars whirled above.

BLURB: As Princess of Wonderland Palace and the future Queen of Hearts, Dinah’s days are an endless monotony of tea, tarts, and a stream of vicious humiliations at the hands of her father, the King of Hearts. The only highlight of her days is visiting Wardley, her childhood best friend, the future Knave of Hearts — and the love of her life.

When an enchanting stranger arrives at the Palace, Dinah watches as everything she’s ever wanted threatens to crumble. As her coronation date approaches, a series of suspicious and bloody events suggests that something sinister stirs in the whimsical halls of Wonderland. It’s up to Dinah to unravel the mysteries that lurk both inside and under the Palace before she loses her own head to a clever and faceless foe.

This dystopian take of Alice in Wonderland is a tension-filled account of court life where no one trusts anyone else. I’ve enjoyed watching characters from Lewis Carroll’s original book pop up in unexpected places, in unexpected guises…

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of KINDLE Ebook Bright Blaze of Magic Book 3 of the Black Blade series by Jennifer Estap

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I saw this on the NetGalley shelves, read the premise and decided to go for it. It looked fun and besides, it had a nice cover that really drew me in…

brightblazeofmagicAs a thief, I’m good at three things: hiding in the shadows, getting in and out unseen, and uncovering secrets. I put these skills to work for the Sinclair Family, one of the magical mobs that run the tourist town of Cloudburst Falls. Everyone knows Victor Draconi wants to take over all the other Families – and kill every last Sinclair. What they don’t know is that I’m on to him, and no way will I let the man who murdered my mom get away with hurting all the other people I care about. Especially when I’ve got places to break into, stuff to steal, and Devon Sinclair fighting right by my side…

It wasn’t until I’d started the book that I realised I’d done it again… After all my best intentions – I’d crashed mid-way into a series as Bright Blaze of Magic is the third book in the Black Blades series. However, this wasn’t a problem as Estap is far too experienced and deft a writer to leave this clueless reader adrift. Without going into long, involved explanations, I was provided with all the necessary backstory to be able to get up to speed for this slice of the narrative arc. The process was helped by the fact that our feisty heroine bounces off the page with loads of personality and charisma. The supporting cast were easily distinguished and the antagonist was satisfyingly obnoxious – and as the story wore on, I learnt what had driven him to be the way he was. This was all delivered in a smooth, readable writing style that spoke of plenty of experience and ability.

I like the world very much. This swords and sorcery romp is set in the world with plenty of modern gismos, such as cars, mobile phones alongside capes, feathered hats and lots of sharp swords. Initially I raised my eyebrows, but it certainly seemed to work and once I became thoroughly engrossed, it didn’t matter. I also loved the monsters, including the Western-style pixie.

The climax was suitably enthralling, such that I stayed up reading far later than I should and really enjoyed the very satisfying ending. Though, if you like the sound of this – don’t repeat my mistake, go and track down the first book, Cold Burn of Magic, because this is a series that deserves to be read in the right order.

The ebook arc copy of Bright Blaze of Magic was provided by the publisher through NetGalley in return for an honest opinion of the book
8/10

Weekly Wrap-Up – 24th April

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Weekly Wrapup

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. It’s been a good week – a VERY good week… First piece of excellent news was that I was graded an Outstanding for my latest lesson observation at Northbrook College. I enjoy teaching and have a lovely group of students, so it’s gratifying to have such positive feedback.

The next slice of excitement came in the form of an email from Darren Pulsford, editor of the upcoming anthology Eve of War due to be published on 19th June by Fox Spirit. ‘Miranda’s Tempest’ by yours truly is the first story in the running order. To be honest, I’d sort of forgotten about it – making it a lovely surprise!

I’ve read four books this week:

Date Night on Union Station – Book 1 of the EarthCent Ambassador by E.M. Fonerdatenight
I needed something lighter in tone after a fairly hefty apocalyptic sci fi adventure – and this was Himself’s suggestion, which, as ever, was on the button. It is more of a comedy of manners than the gritted battle for survival we are more used to seeing on space stations brimful of alien races and gnarly tech. I shall be reviewing it in due course.

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Square Peg by Vivienne Tuffnell
I got know Viv’s writing through her accomplished blog Zen and the Art of Tightrope Walking and bought her book Away With the Fairies last year. I wanted to touch base with the contemporary world and Himself was nagging me to read this prequel, so I did. It’s another original, memorable read. No one writes quite like Viv and she deserves to be far more widely read. Another book I’ll be reviewing soon.

 

Outriders – Book 1 of the Outriders series by Jay Poseyoutriders
This military science fiction adventure starts with a bang and rolls forward as we get to see events spool forward in the viewpoint of Lincoln, the Outrider’s new commander. And the Outriders are an elite black ops team in a world teetering on the edge of war with Mars… This NetGalley arc is due to be published at the beginning of May and I was very pleased to be in at the start of what I think is going to be a very successful series, if the first book is anything to go by.

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The Executioner’s Heart – Book 4 of the Newbury and Hobbes Investigations series by George Mann
This latest steampunk whodunit has been loitering on by TBR pile for far too long – and as I’m learning to interleave my NetGalley arcs amongst the rest of the books piled up waiting for my attention – it suddenly jumped up and down and demanded to be read. Quite right too. It’s much too good to be ignored – and the ending was a major shock, leaving me agog to know what happens next.

 

 

 

My posts last week:
Weekly Wrap-Up – 17th April
Review of The Rhesus Chart – Book 5 of The Laundry Files by Charles Stross
Teaser Tuesday – Outriders by Jay Posey
Review of Space Hostages – Book 2 of the Mars Evacuees series by Sophia McDougall
Books I Wished I’d Reviewed
Friday Faceoff – Dead Men Tell No Tales featuring Doomsday Book by Connie Willis
The Spring Book Tag

I had planned to spend the week-end out in the garden, tackling all those early weeks and tidying up after the winter, but the grandchildren are staying, so inevitably the weather has turned cold. I only garden when it’s nice, so we’re going to snuggle down in front of the fire, read books together and watch some daft film together. Once more, thank you for taking the time out of your busy life to read my reviews and articles and have a great week.

The Spring Book Tag

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Daffodils @ Highdown (6)

I discovered this very appropriate tag, while reading Lizzie Baldwins’s fabulous My Little Book Blog and she came across it at The Reader and the Chef. So this my response…

 

1. What’s your Spring TBR?planetfall
Emma Newman’s Planetfall – I bought it in the depths of winter when thoroughly fed up and now green shoots are shooting and I’ve completed all the admin for my latest Creative Writing course, I reckon I deserve a treat.

 

Everyheartadoorway2. If someone asked you for a Spring release recommendation, what would it be?
I’ve read some cracking books this year, but one of the books published at the beginning of April is the novella Every Heart A Doorway by Seanan McGuire. I loved the pitch perfect pacing and the wonderful poignant tone of this story.

 

3. Which two books are you eagerly awaiting that releases within the next two centralstationmonths?
I have on my Kindle the arc of Central Station by Lavie Tidhar which looks fabulous (thank you NetGalley!) and I’m really excited about reading this one. And the other book I’m dying to get my hands on is Lesley Thomson’s latest crime thriller The House With No Rooms – and the bonus – I’ve been invited to the book launch up in London!

 

fuzzy nation4. Which character would make a great Easter bunny?
The fuzzy from John Scalzi’s Fuzzy Nation would make a fantastic Easter bunny. Apart from looking cute and enjoying interacting with friendly humans, the fuzzys are also smart, so would be good at hiding the Easter eggs.

 

 

5. What book makes you think of Spring?astra
The book that brings Spring to mind is Astra by Naomi Foyle – the book starts during springtime and young Astra is very in tune with her surroundings – as well as that, the beautiful green cover and the apparently cosy surroundings all seem very fresh and friendly…

thephilosopherkings6. Name a cover with flowers on it
My book cover with flowers on is The Philosopher Kings by Jo Walton. It’s the second book in her  Thessaly series, which explores the ideas that Plato expounded in The Republic, at the behest of Apollo, who is part of this experiment, and his sister Athene, who devised it. Yes… I know. It sounds barmy – but it really works and is a remarkable series. The cover also is a beautiful spring green colour, which adds to the seasonal feel.

7. Which two characters would you go on an Easter egg hunt with?
Chocolate often gives me migraines, so Easter is a tricky time for me. I’m mostly very good at not eating it, but it would be handy to have a couple of folks who would be both really good at finding the eggs before me and possessing a huge appetite for chocolate. I reckon Harry Potter and Ron Weasley would fit the bill nicely.

8. What is your favourite Spring bookish activity to do?
Curl up on a sofa in a pool of sunshine and read in front of the fire – it’s still far too cold to venture outside to read. I also regularly tell myself I’ll tidy up the sprawling TBR mass of books by my bed and put them into some kind of order, but I probably won’t get around to it just yet. So I’ll continue working up to it, while curled up reading in front of said fire…

9. Which book did you enjoy that had a Spring cover?daughterofsmokeandbone
Well… there’s this fantastic cover of Laini Taylor’s first book in her Daughter of Smoke and Bone series. With feathers that represent the Easter chick… And if you’re unconvinced, can I just mention that books featuring space and fantastic world generally aren’t portrayed in vibrant spring colours, or heaving with flowers. I happen to LOVE this cover, it makes me want to stroke it and coo… And the book is awesome, so I stand by my choice.

10. Who is your favourite contemporary author?
There are some amazing writers, whose skill I admire – C.J. Cherryh is right up there, as is Lois McMaster Bujold and then there is the mighty talent that is Jo Walton, who takes on a completely different aspect of speculative fiction with each new series. And absolutely nails it with something extraordinary and special. Yep. It would have to be Jo Walton…

Friday Faceoff – Dead Men Tell No Tales

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This is a new meme started by Books by Proxy, to compare UK and US book covers and decide which is the better. This week I’ve taken the idea in a slightly different direction – the book I’ve selected is a classic which has had a series of covers over the years, so I decided to pick the best.

I encountered Doomsday Book by Connie Willis in early 2013, and was blown away by the book – and it was from the library in this SF Masterworks series. I really love the striking difference of the cover, with the grim figure on the front. If I have a quibble, it is that it doesn’t convey the touches of humour that run through this outstanding read.

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And here is the SFBC 50th Anniversary edition, published in 2007. There are a variety of other covers for this book, but for me – this is the winner. Yes… there is still the brooding menace of death in this, but this cover also manages to convey more effectively the time travelling element and other major story strands. I think it is beautiful and unusual – and entirely apt. And this is the cover that wins it for me.

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What about you – do you agree with me? Have you read this book? If you haven’t, I strongly recommend it – it isn’t the bleak, miserable trudge you might imagine looking at the title and cover. In fact, it is a gripping time travel adventure with a fair amount of humour – and one of my all-time favourite reads.

Books I Wish I’d Reviewed…

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I read a number of these a long time ago, before the internet existed or I even considered there’d be a time when I would share my love of books and reading with numbers of other people who also take part in this most solitary of hobbies. And the rest are books that I read before I really got bitten by the reviewing bug. Either way, I occasionally tell myself that I’ll go back and reread them some day to write the review. But if I’m honest – I probably won’t because I generally don’t reread books, in case the second time around they disappoint. In which case, I will have gained two miserable memories – the one of revisiting a favourite book and finding it isn’t that impressive after all, but even more devastatingly – it will also have smirched the lovely glow around my recollection of the delight when I read the book first time around.

In no particular order…

 

Cider With Rose by Laurie Lee
Cider with Rosie is a wonderfully vivid memoir of childhood in a remote Cotswold village, a villagecider with rosie before electricity or cars, a timeless place on the verge of change. Growing up amongst the fields and woods and characters of the place, Laurie Lee depicts a world that is both immediate and real and belongs to a now-distant past.

I read this when I was fourteen and immediately fell in love with the book and the depiction of a lost time in rural Gloucestershire. Much later, when pregnant with my daughter, I encountered Lee’s essay on when his daughter was born and cried as I read it. I was probably a tad hormonal, but it is beautifully written…

 

The Go-Between by L.P. Hartleythegobetween
“The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there.” Summering with a fellow schoolboy on a great English estate, Leo, the hero of L. P. Hartley’s finest novel, encounters a world of unimagined luxury. But when his friend’s beautiful older sister enlists him as the unwitting messenger in her illicit love affair, the aftershocks will be felt for years.

Another wonderfully written book – a real mixture of humour and bitter poignancy and the ending is a shock. The dialogue is a masterclass in writing subtext and if you haven’t ever read it, do so. Set before WWI, it is another lost world, where poor little Leo is adrift in a social shark tank and is shamefully exploited by people who should have known better.

 

requiemforawrenRequiem for a Wren by Neville Shute
Sidelined by a wartime injury, fighter pilot Alan Duncan reluctantly returns to his parents’ remote sheep station in Australia to take the place of his brother Bill, who died a hero in the war. But his homecoming is marred by the suicide of his parents’ parlormaid, of whom they were very fond. Alan soon realizes that the dead young woman is not the person she pretended to be…

I’d studied A Town Like Alice at school and loved it, so went looking for everything Shute wrote, which was a fair amount. I loved most of it – but Requiem for a Wren stole a particular portion of my heart, as the story depicted all too clearly the personal cost of war. If you ever encounter a battered Neville Shute novel in a second-hand shop – they occur with surprisingly regularity – scoop it up. There is a solid reason why he was such a popular author for thirty-odd years in the last century.

 

Chocky by John Wyndhamchocky
Matthew, they thought, was just going through a phase of talking to himself. And, like many parents, they waited for him to get over it, but it started to get worse. Mathew’s conversations with himself grew more and more intense – it was like listening to one end of a telephone conversation while someone argued, cajoled and reasoned with another person you couldn’t hear. Then Matthew started doing things he couldn’t do before, like counting in binary-code mathematics. So he told them about Chocky – the person who lived in his head.

Another wonderful author, who is famous for The Day of the Triffids, but wrote a number of other really enjoyable science fiction stories. Again, I loved them all – but Chocky was a particular favourite.

 

rideratthegateRider at the Gate – Book 1 of the Nighthorses duology by C.J. Cherryh
Stranded on a distant planet that abounds with fertile farmland, human colonists appear to be in paradise. But all the native animals communicate by telepathy, projecting images that drive humans mad. Only Nighthorses stand between civilization and madness. When a flare of human emotion spreads to all the horses, chaos erupts.

I fell in love with C.J. Cherryh’s writing from the first sentence – and this is her at her unbeatable best. I’d also include the sequel Cloud’s Rider, which is another gem.

 

Sundiver – Book 1 of the Uplift Saga by David Brinsundiver
No species has ever reached for the stars without the guidance of a patron–except perhaps mankind. Did some mysterious race begin the uplift of humanity aeons ago? Circling the sun, under the caverns of Mercury, Expedition Sundiver prepares for the most momentous voyage in history–a journey into the boiling inferno of the sun.

I loved this take on what might befall Earth creatures should we encounter alien cultures – and how terrestrial species other than humans might fare.

 

fallingfreeFalling Free – Book 4 of the Vorkosigan series by Lois McMaster Bujold
Leo Graf was an effective engineer…Safety Regs weren’t just the rule book he swore by; he’d helped write them. All that changed on his assignment to the Cay Habitat. Leo was profoundly uneasy with the corporate exploitation of his bright new students till that exploitation turned to something much worse. He hadn’t anticipated a situation where the right thing to do was neither save, nor in the rules… Leo Graf adopted 1000 quaddies now all he had to do was teach them to be free

Another talented speculative fiction author, whose groundbreaking writing has taken me to wonderful worlds. I have reviewed a number of the Miles Vorkosigan adventures – but this particular story featuring the quaddies has always had a special place in my heart…

What about you – have you any books that you wish you had reviewed? Or books you dare not reread in case they aren’t quite as wonderful as you recall?

Review of Space Hostages – Book 2 of the Mars Evacuees series by Sophia McDougall

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Mars Evacuees is a solid family favourite – not only loved by Himself and me, but also by the grandchildren, who loved listening to the story of Alice and her adventures on Mars. So we were all excited and looking forward to reading this next instalment. Did it live up to expectations?

spacehostagesYou can’t cry in Space, but I was giving it a good go. After all, I’d just been THROWN OUT OF AN AIRLOCK by a horde of ALIENS had about three minutes left to live. So you can’t blame me for trying. But as it turned out, that was just the start of my adventures… Because very soon it became clear that if I was ever going to get back home, not only would I have to NOT DIE, but me, my friends and our floating robot goldfish would have to SAVE THE WORLD. No, scrap that. THREE WORLDS. All at the same time. Easy, right?

Firstly, huge kudos to the blurb. Sharp and snappy, with just enough information to tempt without providing too many spoilers, it also exactly captures the flavour of Alice’s first person narrative. I love this character. Alice is a tween, one minute behaving like a snarky teenager, while the next seeming a whole lot younger which is spot one for the age-group. She also has the hard edge that comes with having to deal with the privation that comes with war and its subsequent hardship. While McDougall ensures there are plenty of laughs in both books, she never disguises the wrenching fear and grief that children caught up in war have to deal with.

In fact, the worldbuilding is brilliant. While the adventures Alice and her companions undergo are all out of this world – McDougall ensures that their progression through the alien space ship and experiences on the planet are plausible. There is none of the sloppy nonsense in the name of science fiction we endured in that dreadful film Home, I’m delighted to say. The planet is vividly evoked in delightful detail, without holding up the pace of the narrative, giving us a sense of wonder and difference the best science fiction provides. While there aren’t quite so many laugh-aloud moments in Space Hostages as occurred in Mars Evacuees, Frankie and I still found ourselves giggling at the antics of the goldfish and Alice’s dust-dry sarcasm.

Any niggles? Reading this aloud, meant I had to negotiate the strings of weird lettering representing the alien’s language and frankly, I could have done with less of it. Inevitably, it was translated anyway and trying to decode it convincingly was something of a pain, as well as holding up the narrative. However, set against all the fun, thrills and wonder this book creates, it is a minor grumble, though I do wonder how newly independent readers might cope.

The denouement was beautifully handled and the story wrapped up to our complete satisfaction – and given the desperate straits Alice and her friends were in, that is no mean feat. My mission is to continue to provide my very dyslexic granddaughter with strong reasons to continue battling with her disability in order to become sufficiently literate to cope in a modern world. I’m humbly grateful that gifted authors like Sophia McDougall make my task a whole lot easier.
9/10