Sunday Post – 24th July

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Sunday Post

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.

Yippee! Summer finally blazed into being in our damp corner of the world… Finally I get to shed my winter weight clothes, wake up to sun streaming through the window and have the back door open while cooking.

I’m now timelining The Sunblinded trilogy and have got halfway through Dying for Space as the next stage of the editing process. It’s been a busy week with a writing group meeting on Wednesday evening; the last lesson of the year with my autistic student; my son coming down for a few days; out celebrating a birthday with a friend and my one-day Summer Surgery writing course at Northbrook on Friday.northbrookcollege

It was lovely to meet up with a number of my regular students and welcome a talented young writer. We had a great day, catching up with students’ writing during the summer break and working on writing exercises – the bonus being the promised spectacular thunderstorms decided to stay away.

While I’m fitter and feeling better than I have for a decade – despite not losing any weight, my clothes are all noticeably looser – I have struggled with eczema around my eyes for a month, which has been steadily getting worse. So this week, I turned to Debbie Watkins, one of my writing buddies, who also specialises in health screening. I’ve changed my diet so radically in the last few months, I knew it would take me ages to work out which food I’m eating was causing the problem. Debbie nailed it, giving me some necessary supplements and a detox programme and now the eczema is beginning to ease down – thankfully the culprit turned out to be chickpeas, something I can easily avoid.

Yesterday, my mate Mhairi Simpson came over for the day and we completed on our tax returns online  and submitted them as a team effort. What would have been a daunting, miserable business alone, became far more of a semi-hilarious adventure when working through the form together. And they’re now done for a whole year – yessss!

This week I’ve managed to read:
Shift – by Em Bailey
Olive Corbett is not crazy. Not anymore.
shiftShe obediently takes her meds and stays under the radar at school. After “the incident,” Olive just wants to avoid any more trouble, so she knows the smartest thing is to stay clear of the new girl who is rumored to have quite the creepy past. But there’s no avoiding Miranda Vaile. As mousy Miranda edges her way into the popular group, right up to the side of queen bee Katie – and pushes the others right out – only Olive seems to notice that something strange is going on.

This YA read has some interesting twists and turns, giving an eerie twist on the intense teen relationships, while Miranda grapples to come to terms with a family upheaval. I shall be reviewing it in due course.

 

 

 

Riddler’s Fayre: The First Matter by Steve Carroll and Jeff Anderson
Aeden is young man with no memory, adrift in a world of riddles. His only friend – a man hated for his Riddler's Fayrerace and creed, their only hope – a nun on the run for opposing the Holy Wars. Meanwhile a veteran of the Third Crusade is hunting Aeden, believing him to be the clue to discovering the greatest secret in alchemy – the identity of the First Matter.

Steve Carroll is a fellow tutor at Northbrook, a talented artist and a really great bloke – none of which would count if I didn’t also think his series of graphic novels set in the Middle Ages was something special. This first instalment has recently been re-released and I reviewed it during the week.

 

 

 

Solar Express by L.E. Modesitt, Jr.
solarexpressYou can’t militarize space. This one rule has led to decades of peaceful development of space programs worldwide. However, increasing resource scarcity and a changing climate on Earth’s surface is causing some interested parties to militarize, namely India, the North American Union, and the Sinese Federation. The discovery of a strange artifact by Dr. Alayna Wong precipitates a crisis. What appears to be a hitherto undiscovered comet is soon revealed to be an alien structure on a cometary trajectory toward the sun. Now there is a race between countries to see who can study and control the artifact dubbed the “Solar Express” before it perhaps destroys itself.

This enjoyable sci fi adventure took me a while to get through, given it is reasonably densely written and littered with techie detail – all adding to the story, but meaning I couldn’t just burn through the prose at my normal reading speed. It was worth the effort, though – I thoroughly enjoyed this one and will be reviewing it here in due course.

 

My posts last week:
Sunday Post – 17th July

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* – Review of Woman of the House – Book 1 of the StoryWorld series by Jane Lythell

Teaser Tuesday – Solar Express by L.E. Modesitt, Jr.

Review of Speak by Louisa Hall

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Inborn – Book 1 of The Birthright series by Amy Saunders

Friday Faceoff – Who’s at the Door? Featuring Overbite by Meg Cabot

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Riddler’s Fayre: The First Matter by Steve Carroll and Jeff Anderson

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

Adventures in Science Fiction Art: Haunting Landscapes and Cityscapes: The 1970s Italian SF Art of Allison aka Mariella Anderlini
https://sciencefictionruminations.wordpress.com/2016/07/23/adventures-in-science-fiction-art-haunting-landscapes-and-cityscapes-the-1970s-italian-sf-art-of-allison-a-k-a-mariella-anderlini/
This site is a goldmine if you enjoy perusing the extraordinary artwork that flowered during the ‘golden age’ of science fiction. Joachim Boaz also reviews a wide range of books written during that time. But this particular article features some really beautiful covers…

Another book cover feature – this week’s Friday Face-off was nailed by Lynn’s wonderful selection of covers for the children’s classic The Secret Garden
https://lynns-books.com/2016/07/22/i-am-the-keymaster-are-you-the-gatekeeper/
Check this out if you fancy a delightful stroll down memory lane.

Viv Tuffnell’s articles are some of the best written in the blogosphere – and this one is right up there – Lost books, libraries, L-space and the odour of bananas
https://zenandtheartoftightropewalking.wordpress.com/2016/07/21/lost-books-l-space-libraries-and-the-odour-of-bananas/
She writes excellent books, too…

By contrast, this offering is short – The Meaning of Travel in 5 Quotes – https://memoirsonthemove.com/2016/07/17/the-meaning-of-travel-in-5-quotes/

The grandchildren will be arriving this coming week, so I have to get going and do some housework before they arrive. Let’s just hope the weather stays fine – this is a fabulous part of the world to spend a summer, so long as it isn’t wet and rainy! Many thanks for visiting and taking the time and trouble to comment – and may you have a wonderful reading and blogging week.

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Graphic Novel Riddler’s Fayre: The First Matter By Steve Carroll and Jeff Anderson

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I need to declare an interest – Steve is a fellow tutor at Northbrook College and a thoroughly nice chap. That said, I wouldn’t have volunteered to spread the word about Riddler’s Fayre: The First Matter if I didn’t believe in the quality of the story. Steve and Jeff are delighted that Riddler’s Fayre is in the process of being re-released with a new publisher, with changes to more closely reflect the nuanced taleRiddler's Fayre they had originally envisaged.

Aeden is young man with no memory, adrift in a world of riddles. His only friend – a man hated for his race and creed, their only hope – a nun on the run for opposing the Holy Wars. Meanwhile a veteran of the Third Crusade is hunting Aeden, believing him to be the clue to discovering the greatest secret in alchemy – the identity of the First Matter.

As you may gather from the blurb, this is set in 1199 in the Middle Ages and there is a lovely map at the front of the book, along with a short prologue, giving us plenty of information about the period in order to appreciate the story. Aeden is a young man struggling to cope – and the only clue to his identity are a number of peculiar tattoos on his arm. Meanwhile, a returnee from the Crusades, Ludovic Parvell, is on a mission of his own. A mission that will ensure he will be on a collision course with Aeden and those looking out for him. The artwork is lovely – in graphic novels, the characterisation is achieved with the dialogue and the drawing. Facial expressions, gestures and their movements tell you as much about who they are and their role in the story as what is contained in the speech bubbles. In a good quality graphic novel, the drawings provide you with a rich seam of information, as each page adds another layer onto the story. Anderson has done a lovely job.

The mood in the castle is effectively portrayed as brooding and ominous by the dark colours and confined settings, with Parvell’s uncertain temper kicking off as he snaps out orders to his apprehensive underlings. I really like the story arc – if I have a grizzle, it was that I was just really getting into the story when it suddenly stopped to be continued in the next slice of the adventure.

But if you enjoy graphic novels, this beautifully drawn and engrossing tale of religious intolerance and growing distrust of strangers may be set in the distant past, but it also has something to say about our own turbulent times.
9/10

Friday Faceoff – Who’s at the door?

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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 we got together in Proxy’s absence and decided to feature covers with a door or gate on them – so I’ve gone with the second book in Meg Cabot’s enjoyable vampire tale – Overbite. Though looking at it, I’m now wondering if I should have used this one for last week’s Lady in Red…

 

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This cover was released by Harper Collins back in July 2012. It is stylish, with plenty of eye appeal – though whether it effectively reflects the sheer fun and humour of this book is debatable…

 

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This is the German publication, produced by Blanvalet Verlag in June 2011. This version of Meena (presumably that is the mysterious woman depicted) is more demure – however we still have a door in the background…

 

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This is the Portuguese version, published by Galera Record in June 2011. I’m not sure if Meena is even dressed to go through the door! Still rather brooding and menacing, whereas the book is anything but…

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This Kindle version was produced by Harper Voyager in 2013 – she now looks like Little Red Riding Hood. However, I personally like this cover the best. There is a playful quality about the font, hinting that this book may be funny rather than horrific. Which is your favourite?

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of KINDLE Edition of Inborn – Book 1 of The Birthright series by Amy Saunders

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My attention was caught by the cover and the intriguing blurb – would it live up to the premise?

Rosamund Brandt has had a semi normal life for sixteen years. Well, semi normal for a family descended from aliens. Sure, she could create portals and her family had a secret basement. But she went to school, had a best friend, and got her driving permit like every other teen. However, her definition of “normal” Inbornunravels when a killer with multiple powers and an agenda steps into town. When Rosamund herself becomes a target, she has a choice between playing the killer’s game and saving a few, or getting to the core of the murders and stopping them for good. Rosamund’s choice will save everyone she cares about–or unleash a new era for herself and her family, shattering whatever hope for going back to normal she had.

Saunders writes with fluidity and ease – her dialogue is punchy and the action scenes are well written, with plenty of description and I very much liked the premise and backstory that unfolds as the story progresses – and I certainly didn’t see the big twist coming, at all. It is a nicely cool notion and should provide plenty of material for a number of original, intriguing adventures. However, you’re probably sensing a ‘but’ here – and there is one.

This story tips us right into the middle of the action at the beginning of the book, as Rosamund immediately is pitchforked into the initial action that triggers the cascade of events that then continually ricochet through the book. And this is my main problem with this novel – the premise is interesting and I think Rosamund could be a satisfying protagonist. But the pacing compromises this book. We could have done with getting to know the family dynamic before it all kicks off. In order to really care for Ros and her family, we should have at least one scene when life is normal so we can see what she has lost. I turned back to see if this book came partway through the series – it certainly has that feel – but, no, it is the book that starts it all off and the basic groundwork is simply rushed.

The same issue applies with the antagonists – we hardly have time to get to know them, or who they, before it all starts kicking off again. There were a number of suspects introduced throughout this tale, which is essentially a murder mystery – but, again, Ros doesn’t have much time to ponder who is doing what to whom. And I became very fed up with the amount of lying she does to her concerned parents – she appears to take on board their worries and promptly takes off again on another harebrained adventure without telling anyone, including her exasperated, put-upon brother. I found it hard to warm to her, given her crazy impulsiveness.

Perhaps Saunders, full of the potential of this series, has rather rushed this first effort and the subsequent books will settle down. Because if only she could get the pacing right, this could be really, really good.
7/10

Review of Speak by Louisa Hall

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I scooped this off the library shelves, caught by the arresting cover and opened up the book. The riveting opening pages and high quality of the writing pulled me in and despite the fact that my own TBR is now in danger of engulfing a small grandchild, decided to take it home.

speakA young Puritan woman travels to the New World with her unwanted new husband. Alan Turing, the renowned mathematician and code breaker, writes letters to his best friend’s mother. A Jewish refugee and professor of computer science struggles to reconnect with his increasingly detached wife. An isolated and traumatized young girl exchanges messages with an intelligent software program. A former Silicon Valley Wunderkind is imprisoned for creating illegal lifelike dolls. Each of these characters is attempting to communicate across gaps — to estranged spouses, lost friends, future readers, or a computer program that may or may not understand them. In dazzling and electrifying prose, Louisa Hall explores how the chasm between computer and human — shrinking rapidly with today’s technological advances — echoes the gaps that exist between ordinary people. Though each speaks from a distinct place and moment in time, all five characters share the need to express themselves while simultaneously wondering if they will ever be heard, or understood.

And there you have the rather long blurb. However, given the nature of the book, I think it is justified. There are five distinct narrative voices that spool through the book, giving their own experiences, reaching from the past with Mary’s account of the long Atlantic crossing and Alan Turing’s moving letters, to the future inventor of the babybots, reflecting on his experiences. However this isn’t, is a foot-to-the-floor, adrenaline-fuelled adventure. What it does is reflect upon the issue of voice, who is heard and continues to be heard and what it means to communicate.

It’s no accident that the two historical voices are from marginalised groups – one a young Puritan woman and the other a homosexual in post-war Britain when people born with such sexual preferences were officially outlawed and disgraced. Both accounts are moving and I found Turing’s letters very poignant, given that I knew before I started the book what his fate would be.

It is a very neat plot twist – to bind up the voices and slices of people’s history inside a discarded AI, struggling to conserve her battery as she is stored in a warehouse with other bots for the crime of being too lifelike. I have a feeling this book is one that will stay with me for a long time – after all, what will be our legacy, those of us who have gone, now we no longer write down our feelings and emotions on paper, but instead, consign them to our computers? What will happen in the future when those computers can talk back to us? Will we get to rely far too much on them, until they are banned and outlawed? Considering these kinds of issues before we – inevitably – reach the stage where they are technically feasible, which isn’t that far away when you look at the likes of Cortana and Siri, is what science fiction does at its best.
10/10

Teaser Tuesday – 19th July, 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:
Solar Express by L.E. Modesitt, Jr.
p. 106: Unlike on transport flights, he was wearing a skintight pressure suit, with his helmet secured solarexpressunder the couch. He had his doubts about the usefulness of the suit. While it would allow him to survive decompression and would provide insulation for several hours, and oxygen for roughly the same time, its usefulness was limited to instants where damage to the burner did not affect the drives, since if he could not return somewhere quickly, he doubted that anyone could rescue him in that time – or would be terribly interested in doing so.

BLURB: You can’t militarize space. This one rule has led to decades of peaceful development of space programs worldwide. However, increasing resource scarcity and a changing climate on Earth’s surface is causing some interested parties to militarize, namely India, the North American Union, and the Sinese Federation.

The discovery of a strange artifact by Dr. Alayna Wong precipitates a crisis. What appears to be a hitherto undiscovered comet is soon revealed to be an alien structure on a cometary trajectory toward the sun. Now there is a race between countries to see who can study and control the artifact dubbed the “Solar Express” before it perhaps destroys itself.

This is hard science fiction with emphasis on the ‘hard’. Modesitt’s writing is dense, scattered with acronyms and allusions to space stuff, without stopping to explain much along the way. That’s okay. I don’t have a problem with that, so long as the protagonists are three-dimensional and believable. So far, so good – although this isn’t a book I’ll be whizzing through. Still… it’s good to let out my inner geek every so often.

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Woman of the Hour by Jane Lythell

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Jane came to talk to West Sussex Writers in June about characterisation, using the main protagonists in her two published novels The Lie of You and After the Storm. It was an enjoyable talk by a fluent, articulate speaker, but I was particularly intrigued by the sound of her new book and delighted when Jane kindly invited me along to the book launch.

womanofthehourLiz Lyon is Head of Features at StoryWorld TV. It’s exhilarating and sometimes glamorous work, but as a single mother with a demanding career, her life is a constant balancing act. Then simmering tensions erupt at the station, trapping Liz in a web of rivalry, manipulation and deceit. If she trusts the wrong person, she could lose her job. But with everything she thought she knew crumbling around her, can she even trust herself?

Jane used to work for the likes of Anne Diamond at Breakfast TV – and she clearly is drawing on her own experiences as StoryWorld deadlines come and go and Liz is frantically trying to hold it all together. The narrative is in first person present tense which gives the book immediacy as Liz pings off the page with Jane’s fluid, readable style. I had intended to read this book over three or four days, but once I opened up the book and got engrossed, it proved very hard to put down again.

The characters are well depicted and even the nastiest character in the book – the bullying, sexist Julius Jones – has a major redeeming feature, which I appreciated. I do get very sick of pantomime-villain antagonists. What is also enjoyable, is that this book focuses on Liz’s work life, instead of her domestic and romantic life. While those elements are addressed and discussed, Liz’s focus is on her job as it consumes most of her waking life and thinking time.

However, the joy of this book isn’t just the protagonist – it is the ensemble who work at StoryWorld, who are mostly larger than life with flaws and talents to match. It is Liz who has the unenviable job of keeping them running as a team, while constantly working to punishing deadlines. As Lythell braids the different stories about the likes of Fizzy the main presenter, Betty the agony aunt, Ledley the chef and Harriet, the latest intern who has the job because her prominent father pulled strings, I found myself pulled into the febrile world of big egos, diminishing budgets and viewing figures – and absolutely loving it.

I haven’t read anything else quite like it, but I’ll definitely be on the lookout for the sequel and if you’re looking for an entertaining, holiday read this summer that will keep you captivated from the start to the finish, then consider this one. It’s great fun.
10/10

Sunday Post – 17th July

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Sunday Post

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.

I am delighted to report that I have FINALLY completed the line edit of Breathing Space! I am now turning my attention to writing the course notes for my one day Writing Surgery course that will be running next Friday, which I’m really looking forward to – it’ll be great to catch up with some of my students. I have also found out that my Creative Writing course next term is already full – which is great news and I’m only 3 more spaces away from having the minimum numbers to run my Monday evening course as well – a brilliant position to be in this early, given that the courses have only been available for three weeks.

janelythellbooklaunchOn Thursday, my writing buddy, Sarah Palmer and I were invited to another great book launch – this time at Waterstones in Brighton which is a fabulous shop over three storeys and walking through, I noticed at least two more books I’ll be shortly adding to my reading pile. Jane Lythell’s third book, Woman of the Hour, was released and I came away clutching a hardcover copy, which Jane signed for me. It was a lovely evening, where as well as meeting up with Jane again – a lovely person – I caught up with other writers such as Tracy Fells, Wendy Clarke and Phil Viner. As for Woman of the Hour, I started reading it yesterday morning and found it very difficult to stop, finishing it this morning. I’ll be reviewing it in due course.

 

 

This week I’ve managed to read:
Nice Dragons Finish Last – Book 1 of the Heartstriker series by Rachel Aaron
As the smallest dragon in the Heartstriker clan, Julius survives by a simple code: keep quiet, don’t cause nicedragonsfinishlasttrouble, and stay out of the way of bigger dragons. But this meek behavior doesn’t fly in a family of ambitious magical predators, and his mother, Bethesda the Heartstriker, has finally reached the end of her patience. Now, sealed in human form and banished to the DFZ–a vertical metropolis built on the ruins of Old Detroit–Julius has one month to prove that he can be a ruthless dragon or kiss his true shape goodbye forever. But in a city of modern mages and vengeful spirits where dragons are considered monsters to be exterminated, he’s going to need some serious help to survive this test. He only hopes humans are more trustworthy than dragons…
This science fiction/urban fantasy mash-up is a delightful read – full of incident in an enjoyably original world with likeable, surprising protagonists – great fun!

 

 

Machinations – Book 1 of the Machinations series by Hayley Stone
machinationsThe machines have risen, but not out of malice. They were simply following a command: to stop the endless wars that have plagued the world throughout history. Their solution was perfectly logical. To end the fighting, they decided to end the human race. A potent symbol of the resistance, Rhona Long has served on the front lines of the conflict since the first Machinations began—until she is killed during a rescue mission gone wrong. Now Rhona awakens to find herself transported to a new body, complete with her DNA, her personality, even her memories. She is a clone . . . of herself. Trapped in the shadow of the life she once knew, the reincarnated Rhona must find her place among old friends and newfound enemies—and quickly. For the machines are inching closer to exterminating humans for good. And only Rhona, whoever she is now, can save them.
I really loved the sense of displacement Rhona feels upon waking up as a clone – I’ve read a number of books where clones are featured and this is one of the best at depicting the fallout of trying to step back into a life only partially remembered. I will be reviewing it in due course.

 

 

Vowed – Book 2 of The Blackhart Legacy series by Liz de Jager
A Blackhart can see the supernatural behind everyday crimes. But some crimes hide even greater evils… vowedKit Blackhart must investigate why children are disappearing from a London estate. However, their parents, police and fae allies claim to know nothing. And as yet more children disappear, the pressure mounts. Luckily, or unluckily, government trainee Dante Alexander is helping Kit with the case. Yet just as her feelings towards him begin to thaw, his life falls apart. As Kit struggles to unravel his problems and dangerous secrets, she meets fae Prince Thorn in her dreams – but their relationship is utterly forbidden.Then Kit digs too deep, and uncovers a mystery that’s been hidden for one thousand years. It’s a secret that could just tear down our world.
I really enjoyed Bound, the first book in this series – see my review here, so was keen to catch up with Kit’s adventures in the sequel. It did not disappoint – and I’ll be reviewing it in due course.

 

 

The Woman of the House – Book 1 of the StoryWorld series by Jane Lythell
womanofthehourLiz Lyon is Head of Features at StoryWorld TV. It’s exhilarating and sometimes glamorous work, but as a single mother with a demanding career, her life is a constant balancing act.
Then simmering tensions erupt at the station, trapping Liz in a web of rivalry, manipulation and deceit. If she trusts the wrong person, she could lose her job. But with everything she thought she knew crumbling around her, can she even trust herself? A twisty drama of secrets and lies in a London TV station, this is the first book in the StoryWorld series from the acclaimed author of The Lie Of You.
I’d heard Jane’s excellent talk at West Sussex Writers where she had mentioned this book – and very kindly invited me along to the book launch – and was intrigued by the original premise. It’s a cracking read, funny, poignant and completely engrossing. I shall be posting a review of it this coming week.
As you can see, it’s been a brilliant reading week with a range of different books, all enjoyably good so I’ll be reviewing them all in due course.

My posts last week:
Sunday Post – 10th July

NEW RELEASE SPECIAL – Review of The Ghoul King – Book 2 of the Dreaming Cities series by Guy Haley

Teaser Tuesday – Machinations – Book 1 of the Machinations series by Hayley Stone

Review of Night Shift – Book 3 of the Midnight, Texas series by Charlaine Harris

2016 Discovery Challenge – June Roundup

Friday Faceoff – Lady in Red featuring Spy Night on Union Station – Book 4 of the EarthCent Ambassador series by E.M. Foner

Review of Nice Dragons Finish Last – Book 1 of the Heartstriker series by Rachel Aaron

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

The 2016 Discoverability Challenge – Kate Coe At the Half-Time Whistle –
https://hierath.wordpress.com/2016/06/21/the-2016-discoverability-challenge-kate-coe-at-the-half-time-whistle/
I’m taking part in this, so it was interesting to see how another participant was getting on…

High Summer Read-a-thon – https://onceuponalittlefield.wordpress.com/2016/07/16/high-summer-read-a-thon/
I love the idea of settling into a book, knowing others are doing the same around the blogosphere at exactly the same time – social media at its shiny best!

A Short Analysis of Philip Larkin’s ‘An Arundel Tomb’ – https://interestingliterature.com/2016/07/15/a-short-analysis-of-philip-larkins-an-arundel-tomb/
As ever, an excellent article on the finer details of this interesting poem – and my fascination is sharpened by the fact that Chichester Cathedral is only a short drive away and I’m a regular visitor, so I know this tomb.

I have one more week before the schools break up and I’m into major granny-mode, so I’m hoping to get some major chores on my To Do list tidied up this week. Many thanks for visiting and taking the time and trouble to comment – and may you have a wonderful reading and blogging week.

Review of KINDLE Edition Nice Dragons Finish Last – Book 1 of the Heartstriker series by Rachel Aaron

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For those of you who are interested in such things (and who isn’t?) Rachel Aaron has also written the very enjoyable Eli Monpress series – see my review of The Spirit Rebellion and as Rachel Bach is author of the cracking space opera Paradox series – see my review of Fortune’s Pawn. So given that so far her stock in trade are gutsy badass protagonists who veer regularly onto the wrong side, how does she fare with quite a different type of hero?

nicedragonsfinishlastAs the smallest dragon in the Heartstriker clan, Julius survives by a simple code: keep quiet, don’t cause trouble, and stay out of the way of bigger dragons. But this meek behavior doesn’t fly in a family of ambitious magical predators, and his mother, Bethesda the Heartstriker, has finally reached the end of her patience. Now, sealed in human form and banished to the DFZ–a vertical metropolis built on the ruins of Old Detroit–Julius has one month to prove that he can be a ruthless dragon or kiss his true shape goodbye forever. But in a city of modern mages and vengeful spirits where dragons are considered monsters to be exterminated, he’s going to need some serious help to survive this test. He only hopes humans are more trustworthy than dragons…

This is great fun. A science fiction/fantasy mash-up in a near future world where a huge meteor strike has released magic, complete with magical creatures, back into our world after it was sealed away, also setting free some vengeful spirits who don’t like what humans have done to the world. Julius isn’t just the runt of the clutch – he’s the runt of the whole clan, and hates the draconic way of doing things. But sealed into his human form, he doesn’t have much choice but to use the circumstances around him and reason his way out of his dilemma. There is a lovely slice of power politics that Aaron is nifty about slipping into the ongoing action, along with an engaging human heroine who is also on the run from a powerful enemy.

Himself recommended this one to me and it didn’t disappoint. The world is engaging and well depicted, the characters ping off the page with plenty of energy and the situations Julius finds himself dealing with grabbed me and wouldn’t let go. To the extent that I was reading this while watching Wimbledon…

Aaron’s writing is always infused with a manic energy that scoops me up, sucks me into her plots and dumps me at the end of the book feeling a tad winded, but with a grin on my face. And this one didn’t disappoint. I’ll be definitely tracking down the next one in the series – and soon.
9/10

Friday Faceoff – Lady in Red

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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 I have decided to go for a quirky science fiction series, EarthCent Ambassadors by E.M. Foner. The Spy on Union Station is the fourth in this series – see my review of Date Night on Union Station. There are two options of this cover, admittedly somewhat similar, but they are both eye-catching and rather fun.

 

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This offering was published by Paradis Pond Books in 2015. It is certainly eye-catching and gives a sense of being on a space station. The sexy siren at the bar does tend to give the impression that this book is a lot more explicit than it actually is – in fact although there is a love story running through it, the dating encounters tend to be an excuse for a series of farcical events which had me sniggering quietly throughout.

 

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I’m not sure when this version was produced, but this is definitely the current cover. The two figures have been flipped around, the font has been changed and the scene at the bar has been enlarged. I think I prefer the first one, but as they are quite similar anyway, there isn’t much in it. What about you – which is your favourite?