Monthly Archives: July 2016

Sunday Post – 31st 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.

Me and my mouth… I should have kept quiet about the sudden appearance of sunshine, because during this week it has become steadily cooler, more overcast, windy and rainy. Of course it has – the schools have broken up and we have the grandchildren for an extended visit.

I’m still timelining The Sunblinded trilogy and am now three-quarters of the way through Breathing Space though inevitably progress is slower as I am in granny mode. And grannies get black marks for spending extended spells on their computers when those precious children want their attention.

This week I’ve managed to read:
An Accident of Stars – Book 1 of The Manifold Worlds series by Foz Meadows
When Saffron Coulter stumbles through a hole in reality, she finds herself trapped in Kena, a magical anaccidentofstarsrealm on the brink of civil war. There, her fate becomes intertwined with that of three very different women: Zech, the fast-thinking acolyte of a cunning, powerful exile; Viya, the spoiled, runaway consort of the empire-building ruler, Vex Leoden; and Gwen, an Earth-born worldwalker whose greatest regret is putting Leoden on the throne. But Leoden has allies, too, chief among them the Vex’Mara Kadeja, a dangerous ex-priestess who shares his dreams of conquest.

Once more NetGalley came through – I requested this intriguing book and I’m very glad I did – it’s a cracking adventure that manages to take some of the main tropes in portal world stories and thoroughly shake them up. I’ll be reviewing it at the beginning of August.

 

 

The Fifth Season – Book 1 of The Broken Earth series by N.K. Jemisin
thefifthseasonTHIS IS THE WAY THE WORLD ENDS… FOR THE LAST TIME.
A season of endings has begun. It starts with the great red rift across the heart of the world’s sole continent, spewing ash that blots out the sun. It starts with death, with a murdered son and a missing daughter. It starts with betrayal, and long dormant wounds rising up to fester.
This is the Stillness, a land long familiar with catastrophe, where the power of the earth is wielded as a weapon. And where there is no mercy.

I’ve had several people busy recommending this book for a while (yes, Sara Letourneau – I’m talking about you…) and now I know why. Though it sounds like it, this isn’t an account of some grim dismantling of the world after the style of The Passage or a bleak examination of what happens once the apocalypse has descended, as in The Road. It’s something else. With passages in omniscient viewpoint and one main character presented in second person pov, it’s a remarkable read. It has been nominated for a Hugo Award, Nebula Award and Locus Award, which should give you an idea of the quality of this book. It’s certainly one of my outstanding reads of the year, so far.

My posts last week:
Sunday Post – 24th July

NEW RELEASE SPECIAL – Review of Machinations – Book 1 of the Machinations series by Hayley Stone

Teaser Tuesday – featuring The Fifth Season – Book 1 of the Broken Earth trilogy by N.K. Jemisin

London-based Spec-Fic Tales – Part 1

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Shift by Em Bailey

Friday Faceoff – The Hooded One Featuring The Summoner – Book 1 of the Chronicles of the Necromancer by Gail Z. Martin

Review of Vowed – Book 2 of The Blackhart Legacy by Liz de Jager

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

How To Annoy a Reader https://livinginthepagesz.wordpress.com/2016/07/28/how-to-annoy-a-reader/ This hilarious rant from an avid reader on some of the things her non-reader friends sometimes say made me grin.

Fantasy: The (Not So) Easy Genre http://melfka.com/archives/1875 An excellent article debunking this myth by Joanne Maciejewska

I really enjoyed this intriguing photo… https://photolicioux.wordpress.com/2016/07/26/untitled-78/ by Photolicioux

Book Blogger Blind Date Presents: UK vs US Slangdown https://thetattooedbookgeek.wordpress.com/2016/07/26/book-blogger-blind-date-presents-uk-v-us-slangdown/ This is fun – and highlights why the Yanks and Brits so often get their wires crossed.

This coming week I’ll be entertaining my young grandson on his own, so we plan to do some swimming, crazy golf, lots of playing games and colouring. If it’s fine we’ll go to the beach, so the reading and blogging will be taking more of a back seat. Many thanks for visiting and taking the time and trouble to comment – and may you have a wonderful reading and blogging week.

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Review of Vowed – Book 2 of The Blackhart Legacy series by Liz de Jager

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I thoroughly enjoyed the first book in this urban fantasy series about a family with particular skills who have appointed themselves as guardians to protect humanity from the beings of the Otherworld who make their way into our dimension and cause havoc – see my review of Banished here. Would the second book manage to match the entertaining start to this series?

Kit 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.

vowedI immediately caught up with what was going on in Kit’s world, with the strong first person narrative that bounces off the page. Kit’s character is well portrayed and is completely convincing as a strong, opinionated teenager who has had a tough time. It’s a balancing act – too much misery and angst and the pacing would be compromised, while too much action without any consideration of what’s been going on would give Kit all the depth of a pavement puddle. It’s a trickier task to accomplish than de Jager makes it look, as I liked Kit’s moments of introspection.

There are a few scenes where the first person narration is interrupted by third-person viewpoint episodes featuring Thorn, the fae prince who featured in the first book. As Kit’s personality is so strongly established throughout the book, I didn’t find these sections jarring, and was interested to see what is going on with him. As in the first book, I had made some assumptions as to where the storyline would go – only to suddenly find it had peeled off into quite another direction. This certainly was the case with Kit’s investigative partner, Dante, who suddenly finds himself facing a sudden challenge while trying to track down the missing children, that is going to have some long-term ramifications. I am hoping that his relationship with Kit isn’t going to develop into the dreaded triangle, as so far I’ve enjoyed their partnership and would prefer it to stay platonic.

I also very much like the dynamic of Kit’s role within a large, extended family which she doesn’t know very well. While there are times when she enjoys being part of the Blackhart clan, it isn’t all hearts and flowers finding yourself in the middle of a large family. I also very much liked the fact that Kit at times really misses her nan. Far too often within this sub-genre, people die in one book where there is a short grieving section – and then for the rest of the series, the dead character is barely mentioned again.

As for the ending – well… I didn’t see that one coming! However, I thought the case was going to be resolved, the conclusion was quite unexpected and thought-provoking. This gives the series real impetus – and I’m now keen to get hold of the third book, Judged, and find out what happens next.
9/10

Friday Faceoff – The Hooded One

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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 find covers featuring a hooded character – and very frustratingly, I found myself staring at Insatiable, the first book in Meg Cabot’s series I highlighted last week! After a great deal more searching, however, I came up with this offering – The Summoner – Book 1 of the Chronicles of the Necromancer series by Gail Z. Martin.

 

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This cover was released by Solaris in April 2007 by Solaris. I really like the way that we only get half the hooded character, adding to the air of mystery. I also like the colour, which is a welcome change from all those dark, brooding covers that abound in this sub-genre.

 

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This French publication was released by Milady in 2014, and they clearly didn’t appreciate quite so much mystery as the hooded figure is now fully revealed, albeit still off-centre.

 

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This edition was published by Double Dragon in 2007. Not a hooded anybody in sight – but there is a real sense of menace as that doglike/demon face stares out at us over the luminescing ball of light. I really like this one – it’s certainly different as well as being beautiful.

 

thesummoner4

This Czech edition was produced by FANTOM PRINT in 2007. The hooded character is replaced by a grim-looking king that reminds me of the ringwraiths from Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings films. I think the effect is both beautiful and menacing with the fine detail on the armour and muted colour palette. However, my favourite is the previous cover – the Double Dragon edition. Which one do you prefer?

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Shift by Em Bailey

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Yes… I know this one has been around since 2012 and indeed, collected The Inky Awards for Gold in that year. But it turned up as a NetGalley arc and I opened up the first couple of pages and was lured by the smart, funny writing which had me laughing aloud.

shiftOlive Corbett is not crazy. Not anymore.
She 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.

That is part of the rather chatty blurb, which gives you an idea of the book. Olive is back at school after suffering a major, traumatic upheaval in her life – which means she is no longer best friends with Katie. Or even on reasonable terms with her… Instead, Ami features in her life and between them, they provide a lovely, snarky commentary on Olive’s current life. Until Miranda arrives…

I am aware that I am waaay outside the target age for this book, so Olive’s fluttery response to the new boy somewhat slid past me. Miranda’s appearance is far more intriguing – until the last third, when the plot seemed to slightly lose momentum, allowing me to guess the outcome of the main storyline.

That said, Olive’s character pings off the page, with an enjoyably grumpy take on the world around her – it was a delight to find so much wit alongside the teen whinge about school, erstwhile friends and family. I also thought the family worked well, too. It was refreshing change in a YA book not to have a monster for a mother, but a rather nice, if rather frazzled newly-divorced woman trying to hold down a job with two children. Her vegetarian recipes are hilarious – so long as you don’t have to eat them…

But this book is as much about the main antagonist as it is about Olive. Throughout the story, this character steadily gains in compelling menace – although I felt we knew far too much about their capabilities early on, which robbed the latter part of the book of some narrative tension. However, it is still an enjoyable adventure that I devoured in one sitting and would be an ideal beach read. I received this NetGalley arc from the publisher in return for an honest review
8/10

London-based Spec Fic Tales – Part 1

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I have the great good fortune to live within easy travelling distance of London. Its landmarks are famous around the world and while it is every bit as vibrantly modern as other capital cities, it also reeks of history with odd corners where you can close your eyes and almost hear Londoners from another age, as they go about their daily lives.

It is a fabulous backdrop for science fiction and fantasy tales – J.K. Rowling’s use of King’s Cross Station is just one of a long line of authors setting their stories in a familiar and much-loved public arena. Of course, not every setting then acknowledges that mention by putting up a sign for tourists pointing out where Platform 93/4 is positioned. Below, I have listed some of my favourite science fiction and fantasy reads that are set in London, drawing on the unique vibe of the place…

Rivers of London series by Ben Aaronovitch
My name is Peter Grant. Until January I was just another probationary constable in that mighty army forriversoflondon justice known to all right-thinking people as the Metropolitan Police Service, and to everyone else as the Filth. Then one night, in pursuance of a murder inquiry, I tried to take a witness statement from a man who was dead, but disturbingly voluble, and that brought me to the attention of Chief Inspector Nightingale, the last wizard in England. Now I’m a Detective Constable and a trainee wizard, the first apprentice in fifty years, and my world has become somewhat more complicated.

This introduces the first book in this delightful series where London’s rich backdrop is used very effectively as an appropriate setting for Grant’s fantastic adventures. The first book, Rivers of London, starts the series – see my review here.

 

 

The Alex Verus series by Benedict Jacka
fatedAlex Verus is part of a world hidden in plain sight, running a magic shop in London. And while Alex’s own powers aren’t as showy as some mages, he does have the advantage of foreseeing the possible future–allowing him to pull off operations that have a million-to-one-chance of success…

This excellent series, which starts with Fated – see my review here – is set in a grim world where mages predate on each other with some really scary skills, goes on getting better with each book. It’s currently one of my favourites.

 

 

 

The Shadow Police series by Paul Cornell
Detective Inspector James Quill is about to complete the drugs bust of his career. Then his prize suspect Rob Toshack is murdered in custody. Furious, Quill pursues the investigation, co-opting intelligence londonfallinganalyst Lisa Ross and undercover cops Costain and Sefton. But nothing about Toshack’s murder is normal. Toshack had struck a bargain with a vindictive entity, whose occult powers kept Toshack one step ahead of the law – until his luck ran out.

Now, the team must find a suspect who can bend space and time and alter memory itself. And they will kill again. As the group starts to see London’s sinister magic for themselves, they have two choices: panic or use their new abilities. Then they must hunt a terrifying supernatural force the only way they know how: using police methods, equipment and tactics. But they must all learn the rules of this new game – and quickly. More than their lives will depend on it.

This is a dark fantasy offering, full of angst and tricky magic – the first book in the series is London Falling – see my review here.

 

The Matthew Swift series by Kate Griffin
amadnessTwo years after his untimely death, Matthew Swift finds himself breathing once again, lying in bed in his London home. Except that it’s no longer his bed, or his home. And the last time this sorcerer was seen alive, an unknown assailant had gouged a hole so deep in his chest that his death was irrefutable…despite his body never being found. He doesn’t have long to mull over his resurrection though, or the changes that have been wrought upon him. His only concern now is vengeance. Vengeance upon his monstrous killer and vengeance upon the one who brought him back.
This is an amazing series – I love Griffin’s writing and the extraordinary start to this great adventure is A Madness of Angels, see my review here.

 

 

 

The Magicals Anonymous series by Kate Griffin
This is spin-off series is set in the same world as the Matthew Swift books. I love this one – and my straysoulsabiding regret is that there are only two books in this series. I’m hoping that Griffin might want to take a break from writing as Claire North and revisit Sharon and her self help group.

London’s soul has gone missing. Lost? Kidnapped? Murdered? Nobody knows – but when Sharon Li unexpectedly discovers she’s a shaman, she is immediately called upon to use her newfound powers of oneness with the City to rescue it from a slow but inevitable demise.
The problem is, while everyone expects Sharon to have all the answers – from the Midnight Mayor to Sharon’s magically-challenged self-help group – she doesn’t have a clue where to start. But with London’s soul missing and the Gate open, there are creatures loose that won’t wait for her to catch up before they go hunting.

The first book is Stray Souls – and the special extra with this series is the laugh-aloud humour, see my review here.

 

The Onyx Court series by Marie Brennan
midnightnevercomeEngland flourishes under the hand of its Virgin Queen: Elizabeth, Gloriana, last and most powerful of the Tudor monarchs. But a great light casts a great shadow. In hidden catacombs beneath London, a second Queen holds court: Invidiana, ruler of faerie England, and a dark mirror to the glory above. In the thirty years since Elizabeth ascended her throne, fae and mortal politics have become inextricably entwined, in secret alliances and ruthless betrayals whose existence is suspected only by a few.

As you can see from the blurb, this is a historical paranormal series – the first book is called Midnight Never Come, see my review here.

 

 

 

The Age of Aztec – Book 4 of the Pantheon series by James Lovegrove
This is the only book in this intriguing godpunk series that is set in London – and for my money, is my ageofaztecfavourite so far. I thoroughly enjoy Lovegrove’s smooth writing and this is one of my favourite books of 2012.

The date is 4 Jaguar 1 Monkey 1 House – November 25th 2012 by the old reckoning – and the Aztec Empire rules the world. In the jungle-infested city of London, one man defies them: the masked vigilante known as the Conquistador. He is recruited to spearhead an uprising, and discovers a terrible truth about the Aztec and thier gods, but a Detective, Mal Vaughan, has been put on his trail and the clock is ticking. The clock is ticking. Apocalypse looms, unless the Conquistador can help assassinate the mysterious, immortal Aztec emperor, the Great Speaker. But his mission is complicated by Mal Vaughn, a police detective who is on his trail, determined to bring him to justice. See my review here.

 

This is the first selection of my favourite London-based speculative fiction – have you read any of the books in these series? What did you think of them?

Teaser Tuesday – 26th 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:
The Fifth Season – Book 1 of The Broken Earth trilogy by N.K. Jemisin
10% But it is not as hard to leave as you thought it would be. Not now, with your former neighbors’ stares sliding over your skin like rancid oil.

BLURB: Three terrible things happen in a single day. Essun, a woman living an ordinary life in a thefifthseasonsmall town, comes home to find that her husband has brutally murdered their son and kidnapped their daughter. Meanwhile, mighty Sanze — the world-spanning empire whose innovations have been civilization’s bedrock for a thousand years — collapses as most of its citizens are murdered to serve a madman’s vengeance. And worst of all, across the heart of the vast continent known as the Stillness, a great red rift has been torn into the heart of the earth, spewing ash enough to darken the sky for years. Or centuries.

Now Essun must pursue the wreckage of her family through a deadly, dying land. Without sunlight, clean water, or arable land, and with limited stockpiles of supplies, there will be war all across the Stillness: a battle royale of nations not for power or territory, but simply for the basic resources necessary to get through the long dark night. Essun does not care if the world falls apart around her. She’ll break it herself, if she must, to save her daughter.

Well this is different! As you can see, parts of this book are written in second person viewpoint – which is as rare as hens’ teeth… I can only recall a couple of other books I’ve read which used it. It’s early days and I found the omniscient Prologue a bit off-putting and the odd viewpoint is different – but the writing is strong and this is Jemisin, so I’m in for the duration. I’ll let you know how it goes in due course…

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of KINDLE Edition Machinations – Book 1 of Machinations series by Hayley Stone

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The 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 machinationsrescue 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 loved the opening and thought the passage where she died was very strong. Stone has a memorable, effective writing style and especially in the earlier scenes, I felt her characterisation of Rhona was effectively layered – the dilemma of a clone with an impaired memory was movingly depicted. There was a strong supporting cast – Samuel and Camus both bounced off the page, although I did slightly wince at the love triangle aspect. Not only has it been done to death, it really jarred in the context of the story arc, I felt.

Given this was an apocalyptic scenario, the world had to be convincing and Stone’s description of a shattered landscape where people are holed up, eking out a minimal existence worked well. What was less successful was the depiction of the machines. While it is mentioned there are a variety of them, there only seemed to be one sort and they appeared to be very easy to disable. I also found it difficult to visualise what they looked like, apart from the red eyes and the whirring noise they made. While I didn’t expect huge swathes of information about the rise of the machines and the original premise made entire sense, there wasn’t a particularly strong sense of how they went about attacking or what the higher echelons consisted of, which I found slightly frustrating.

The other problem I had with the story in the latter stages was that Rhona became the poster girl for the human uprising on the strength of one inspirational speech. She didn’t quite tip into being a Mary Sue – the protagonist who can do it all perfectly – but it came uncomfortably close, which was a shame, given the nuanced, clever characterisation at the beginning of the book when she was coming to terms with being a clone.

However, both these issues were more irritations than dealbreaking flaws, and they don’t take away from the fact that this is an interesting beginning to the series, with a strong protagonist. I look forward to seeing what Stone does with this world in future books.
8/10

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?