Monthly Archives: December 2016

Review of KINDLE Ebook Rebel of the Sands – Book 1 of the Rebel of the Sands series by Alwyn Hamilton

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I’ve seen this gorgeous cover and read enthusiastic reviews of it throughout second half of the year, so I thought it was high time I saw for myself what all the fuss was about…

rebelofthesandsShe’s more gunpowder than girl—and the fate of the desert lies in her hands. Mortals rule the desert nation of Miraji, but mystical beasts still roam the wild and barren wastes, and rumor has it that somewhere, djinni still practice their magic. But there’s nothing mystical or magical about Dustwalk, the dead-end town that Amani can’t wait to escape from, given she’s destined to wind up “wed or dead”…

That’s as much of the rather chatty blurb I’m prepared to share – the rest of the plot is unspooled with such skill and pace it would be shame to give you any spoilers that would interrupt your own enjoyment. The first person narrative sucked me in from the opening lines as this desert-based YA fantasy adventure starts with a bang and doesn’t let go. Amani, orphan and skilled shot, is desperate to leave the scruffy, dead-end town where she grew up in the desert.

As the consequences of her escape plan catch up with her, Hamilton takes us on a journey across a vividly depicted landscape peopled with ghouls and other monsters. This is a world of djinni, sand horses and half-breed godlings with forbidden magical powers. The desert is almost a character in this richly drawn world with a real otherworldly feel as Hamilton has heavily borrowed from Eastern myths and legends. As Amani careens through the parched landscape, constantly on the run, we learn more about her backstory, the current political situation and more details about her mysterious travelling companion also emerge.

There are major reveals along the way that continue to notch up the stakes and increase the tension, further locking me into the story until this one was a constant struggle to put down until I finished it in three greedy gulps. The climax is well handled with the ending leaving me wanting more of this world and to discover what happens next to Amani. Fortunately I don’t have to wait too much longer, as Traitor to the Throne is due to be released in February 2017. I look forward to tucking into the next slice of this excellent adventure, which comes highly recommended. Receiving a copy of Rebel of the Sands from the publisher via NetGalley has in no way affected my honest opinion of this book.
9/10

Sunday Post – 18th December 2016

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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.

It’s been another busy week. Last week-end it was lovely to be grannying again, especially as the children helped out with decorating the house and the Christmas tree. On Monday I was up to Coulsdon to stay with my sister and brother-in-law. As well as catching up with my lovely niece and firming up arrangements for Christmas – we are all meeting up at my mother and father-in-law’s house for the Christmas festivities – I also helped with a bit of editing on some work she is doing, returning home on Wednesday evening. We are still horribly behind with our Christmas preparations – I haven’t written my cards yet. However, I have managed to catch up with writing up book reviews and a couple of extra blogs, hopefully getting a few in hand for the holiday season when I’ll be doing something other than sitting at the computer.

I’m also delighted to report that my writing mojo has returned and I’ve managed to tuck into Miranda’s Tempest, continuing with the major rewrite I started and then got stalled on. While I think it’s unlikely I’ll get it completed before Christmas, if I can at least keep the handles wound on it, I’ll be very pleased.

This week I have read:

Rebel of the Sands – Book 1 of The Rebel of the Sands trilogy by Alwyn Hamilton
rebelofthesandsShe’s more gunpowder than girl—and the fate of the desert lies in her hands. Mortals rule the desert nation of Miraji, but mystical beasts still roam the wild and barren wastes, and rumor has it that somewhere, djinni still practice their magic. But there’s nothing mystical or magical about Dustwalk, the dead-end town that Amani can’t wait to escape from, as she’s destined to wind up “wed or dead”.

There has been a real buzz about this YA desert fantasy offering, and I can see why. Hamilton tips us right into the middle of the action from the first page as Amani’s spiky first person narrative pulled me into the story and didn’t let go. It is a foot to the floor, non-stop adventure where she careens through the vividly depicted landscape that borrows much from eastern influences. It’s a delight and I’m now hoping to be able to hunt down the sequel.

 

Ever the Hunted – Book 1 of Clash of Kingdoms series by Erin Summerill
everthehuntedSeventeen year-old Britta Flannery is at ease only in the woods with her dagger and bow. She spends her days tracking criminals alongside her father, the legendary bounty hunter for the King of Malam—that is, until her father is murdered. Now outcast and alone and having no rights to her father’s land or inheritance, she seeks refuge where she feels most safe: the Ever Woods. When Britta is caught poaching by the royal guard, instead of facing the noose she is offered a deal: her freedom in exchange for her father’s killer. However, it’s not so simple. The alleged killer is none other than Cohen McKay, her father’s former apprentice. The only friend she’s ever known. The boy she once loved who broke her heart.

It was pure chance that I read two YA fantasy adventures back to back. They both featured teenage female protagonists on the run, both had secrets and issues they knew nothing about at the start of the adventure. Both had a romantic sub-plot. Both are cracking reads.
However, Britta isn’t so carelessly, gloriously reckless as Amani – she is wary and untrusting of everyone. The pace in this one isn’t quite so full-on, either, but I thoroughly enjoyed this tale set in a more traditional medieval fantasy setting. There were some pleasing plot twists in this adventure I didn’t see coming – and I certainly didn’t guess who had murdered Britta’s father.

 

Just One Damned Thing After Another – Book 1 of The Chronicles of St Mary’s by Jodi Taylor
“History is just one damned thing after another.” Behind the seemingly innocuous façade of St Mary’s, a jsutonedamnedthingdifferent kind of historical research is taking place. They don’t do ‘time-travel’ – they ‘investigate major historical events in contemporary time’. Maintaining the appearance of harmless eccentrics is not always within their power – especially given their propensity for causing loud explosions when things get too quiet. Meet the disaster-magnets of St Mary’s Institute of Historical Research as they ricochet around History. Their aim is to observe and document – to try and find the answers to many of History’s unanswered questions…and not to die in the process. But one wrong move and History will fight back – to the death. And, as they soon discover – it’s not just History they’re fighting.

This is time-travelling adventure is a joy. Funny, anarchic with a reckless sense of derring-do, this tale is told in first person viewpoint by Max as we follow her initial introduction to St Mary’s, training and early adventures. That said, the attrition rate is high and a number of folks die in this – some of whom I was really sorry to see go… I think this would make a marvellous TV series, however – not yet. There are a raft of these books out there and I want to read them all, first.

My posts last week:
Sunday Post – 11th December 2016

Review of A Natural History of Dragons – Book 1 of The Memoirs of Lady Trent series by Marie Brennan

Review of How To Train Your Parents by Pete Johnson

Friday Faceoff – Give a girl the right shoes and she can conquer the world… featuring Undead and Unemployed – Book 2 of the Queen Betsy series by Mary Janice Davidson

2016 Discovery Challenge – November Roundup

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

A Short Analysis of T.S. Eliot’s ‘A Journey of the Magi https://interestingliterature.com/2016/12/15/a-short-analysis-of-t-s-eliots-journey-of-the-magi/ Once more this wonderful site comes up with a superb discussion about this beautiful, complicated poem on alienation and loss in amongst the Christmas story…

Great Gifts for Book Lovers https://kristentwardowski.wordpress.com/2016/12/14/gifts-for-book-lovers/ Kristen comes up with some timely ideas for the bookworm in your life…

500 Words You Should Know by Caroline Taggart https://librarystaffpicks.wordpress.com/2016/12/15/500-words-you-should-know-by-caroline-taggart/ Those lovely people at the awarding winning library site BallyroadReads have highlighted this entertaining book for the wordsmiths in your life…

The Character Evolution Files, No. 14: Aligning the Protagonist’s Character Arc with the Story’s Plot, Part 1 https://saraletourneauwriter.com/2016/12/15/plot-arc-alignment-part-1/ Sara Letourneau provides a thorough how-to article on how to ensure your character’s journey works within your plot.

Inspirational Bernard Williams’ Quotes http://logicalquotes.com/bernard-williams-quotes/ Some of these are gems – and if you enjoy reading strong, interesting quotes by a range of folks, then swing by this enjoyable site.

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

2016 Discovery Challenge – November Roundup

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After reading Joanne Hall’s thought-provoking post, I decided to read and review at least two women authors unknown to me each month. During November, I read two Discovery Challenge books, which takes my yearly total so far to thirty four books I’ve completed written by women authors I haven’t previously encountered.

Synners by Pat Cadigan

In Synners, the line between humanity and technology is hopelessly slim. The human mind and thesynners external landscape have fused to the point where any encounter with ‘reality’ is incidental. Now you can change yourself to suit the machines – and all it will cost you is your freedom. And your humanity.

This cyberpunk winner of the Arthur C. Clarke Award takes a while to get going as the group of disparate characters are established amongst a tech-heavy world in a near-future where everyone is increasingly reliant on their technology. Given that this was written and published back in 1992, before many of our current technological gismos were in current use, Cadigan’s world is eerily prescient. I felt very at home with much of her near-future predictions, which is a tad worrying when considering how it all ends.

 

Renting Silence – Book 3 of the Roaring Twenties Mysteries by Mary Miley
renting-silenceCan 1920 s script girl Jessie do Mary Pickford s bidding and uncover a real killer? When Jessie is asked by her idol, the famous actress Mary Pickford, if she can do some private investigating for her, Jessie reluctantly accepts. A girl was found stabbed in her bedroom with another woman lying unconscious on the floor next to her, a bloody knife in her hand. With no police investigation into the murder, it’s up to Jessie to hone her amateur detective skills and prove the girl’s innocence before she hangs for murder.

While I was aware that I’d once more crashed midway into a series, this isn’t a major deal as Miley is far too adept for keep her readers floundering. Instead I quickly bonded with Jessie, a sparky character with plenty of spirit who is embracing the opportunities Hollywood has presented for her. It is also the perfect setting for all sorts of mayhem and murder.

As with all the best historical whodunits, Miley uses the adventure to present us with a slice of Jessie’s life. While I cared about seeing the mystery solved, I was every bit as involved with Jessie’s ongoing concerns, such as her wardrobe choices, her problematic romance and interest in the Hollywood gossip. Miley vividly recreates the 1920s world for us, from the clothes and the Hollywood glamour and the thrill of drinking forbidden alcoholic drinks.

 

Tackling my TBR
In a bid to try and reduce the teetering pile by my bed, I’ve decided to report back on how I’m doing in the hope that it will nudge me to read more of them. Last month, I’m pleased to say, I managed to read four books languishing on my To Be Read pile:

Penric’s Mission – a Penric and Desdemona novella by Lois McMaster Bujold
Learned Penric, a sorcerer and divine of the Bastard’s Order, travels across the sea to sunlit Cedonia on penricsmissionhis first covert diplomatic mission, to attempt to secure the services of a disaffected Cedonian general for the Duke of Adria. However, nothing is as it seems and Penric is forced to use his own wits and resources. As well as those of the demon that lives alongside him in his body…
Firstly, avoid reading the blurb – it gives away far too much of the story and given this is a novella, there simply isn’t time for the narrative arc to recover from such a reveal. I’ve included a modified version that doesn’t contain any spoilers.

Fairly rapidly, Penric’s mission is in trouble and from then on, he is forced to think on his feet. I really like the way Bujold sets this up as one kind of story – and then suddenly changes everything around. I had intended to begin this book this morning and break off to complete it later tonight – except that once I started it, I couldn’t put it down until I’d reached the end. Once more, Penric’s wry humour, his self-effacing manner and the real danger he and his companions find themselves in hooked me in and wouldn’t let go.

 

Bloodrush – Book 1 of The Scarlet Star trilogy by Ben Galley
bloodrush“Magick ain’t pretty, it ain’t stars and sparkles. Magick is dirty. It’s rough. Raw. It’s blood and guts and vomit. You hear me?”
When Prime Lord Hark is found in a pool of his own blood on the steps of his halls, Tonmerion Hark finds his world not only turned upside down, but inside out. His father’s last will and testament forces him west across the Iron Ocean, to the very brink of the Endless Land and all civilisation. They call it Wyoming.
This is a story of murder and family.
In the dusty frontier town of Fell Falls, there is no silverware, no servants, no plush velvet nor towering spires. Only dust, danger, and the railway. Tonmerion has only one friend to help him escape the torturous heat and unravel his father’s murder. A faerie named Rhin. A twelve-inch tall outcast of his own kind.
This is a story of blood and magick.
But there are darker things at work in Fell Falls, and not just the railwraiths or the savages. Secrets lurk in Tonmerion’s bloodline. Secrets that will redefine this young Hark.
This is a story of the edge of the world.

I immediately liked the premise of a fantasy set in the Wild West as the railroad is being built and very much hoped the book would live up to the punchy blurb. It does. Merion is a really appealing protagonist – a suddenly orphaned thirteen-year-old, who is uprooted from all he knows and shipped out to the wilds of the frontier to live with an aunt he’s never met.

 

Synners by Pat Cadigan
See above – this offering also had languished on my TBR pile FAR too long…

 

The Banished Craft – Book 1 of The Shkode trilogy by E.D.E. Bell
Struggling to solve the mystery of her parents’ murder, Cor comes across a mystery much deeper—a thebanishedcraftsecret society who predicted that someday their world would be devastated. That time is now. In a world where women are not allowed to read, live alone, or pursue knowledge Cor presses forward, discovering a new magic and the power to wield it. A world away, Atesh works in the Imperial Labs, devoting his study to the turmoil destroying his home and endangering dragonkind. Instead he discovers a long-hidden truth. Humans are real.

One of the reasons why I wanted to return to this world is its richness and sheer quirky difference. I’m used to worlds being endangered by maniacal gods/powerful mages/artefacts – I can’t recall another world risking extinction because the child of a powerful being accidentally touched it… However, any impulse to burst out laughing is steadily eroded as we become engrossed in the lives of our protagonists on the sundered worlds. Bell handles the epic nature of her narrative really effectively, as both societies – stressed by the environmental upheaval – start to fall apart.

So that’s where I am so far on Tackling my TBR challenge. Once again, November was a far better reading month than I’d expected and my Discovery Challenge target, which was twelve books now looks stupidly unambitious, but then I’d expected to be doing a great deal more writing this year. How are you getting on with your reading challenges now the year is rapidly drawing to a close?

Friday Faceoff – Give a girl the right shoes and she can conquer the world…

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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’s theme is shoes, so I have chosen Undead and Unemployed – Book 2 of the Queen Betsy series by Mary Janice Davidson.

 

undeadandunemployedThis is the cover produced by Berkley in August 2004. It accurately reflects the light-hearted romantic content of this bubbly urban fantasy offering. As well as displaying Betsy’s obsession with shoes… I like it and as this is the cover of the book I read, I’ve a somewhat soft spot for it, though I don’t think it is the best cover here.

 

undeadandunemployed1This cover, published by Piatkus in February 2006, is more effective than the first in that it depicts Betsy’s immortality, clearly flagging that this story has a supernatural element. The colours work better with the night sky in the background and we still have the humour with Betsey looking for a job while surrounded by her beloved shoes.

 

undeadandunemployed2This French edition, published in March 2011 by Milady Poche, has Betsy a lot curvier and wearing significantly less. Though I do like the artwork in this one and the nod to her royal status. I’m also pleased that every cover has her hair colour correct.

 

undeadandunemployed3This German edition, produced in November 2007 by Egmont LYX Verlag, would be yet another enjoyable addition to these cartoon covers, except that the cover designer was clearly colour blind. Or on something. WHAT possessed them to think that a mustard yellow background would work well with her blonde hair, which now looks as if it is doing weird spiky things to the title font…

 

undeadandunemployed4This Italian edition, produced in May 2012 by Delos Books, is the snappiest cover and my favourite. I like the shades of red and pink, indicating that it is a funny chicklit book and the font clearly indicates it is paranormal. The red against the white background works well as does giving us a view of her legs and shopping bags.

 

undeadandunemployed5This is Berkley’s 2011 attempt to update their original cover. This time they have departed from the cartoon effect, by giving us a human version of Betsy. While I like the model’s stance and the backdrop – I think they have ruined it by that ghastly snot-green band running behind the font, which surely could have been made to stand out effectively against the nightscape without resorting to such a clunky solution. And I don’t think you would immediately look at the cover and know you’re getting a humorous read.

Review of How To Train Your Parents by Pete Johnson

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I acquired this one after seeing a recommendation from one of my book blogging buddies (sorry I cannot recall exactly who…) and this week tucked into it, thoroughly enjoying the humour.

howtotrainyourparentsMoving to a new area and a new school, Louis is horrified to discover his parents changing into ultra-competitive parents, wanting him and his younger brother to get straight As at school and join all sorts of after-school clubs and activities like the other kids in the area. Suddenly Louis’s life is no longer his own…

As you can see from the blurb, under Louis’ s jokey asides is an unfolding situation that is anything but funny. His parents are steadily being sucked into the competitive atmosphere around them, so both boys are being strongly encouraged to perform better at school and shine at extra-curricula activities. Which is fine if either of them are academic high-flyers – however Louis clearly isn’t, hating his new school where results and academic standards seem to matter far more than any pastoral concerns. You won’t be surprised to learn the situation doesn’t end well. However, what I really enjoyed was Johnson’s refusal to turn Louis’s parents into villains. As the relationship between them and Louis worsens, they are also clearly suffering and trying to find solutions to the problem.

The cast of supporting characters are well depicted through Johnson’s snappy, amusing descriptions via Louis’ first person point of view. I particularly liked Maddy who he befriends at a talent competition. One of the related plotlines does spiral off into something of a fantasy, providing a slightly unnecessarily idealised ending in my opinion. However, I’ll forgive that because without being remotely preachy, Johnson manages to impart some useful messages for pushy parents and their children.

I’m going to be introducing this one to my granddaughter to see if the humour works on her, too. In the meantime, if you are looking for an amusing book for the ten to twelve-year-olds in your life, this one is worth considering.
8/10

Review of KINDLE Ebook A Natural History of Dragons – Book 1 of The Memoirs of Lady Trent series by Marie Brennan

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Regular visitors to my blog will recall my attendance at Bristolcon this year, where I had one of the best evenings of my life, talking books with similarly passionate readers. One of these marvellous people – Kitvaria Sarene highly recommended this series as one of her favourite fantasy reads. When Himself hit a reading slump a few days later, I suggested he get hold of this one. Once he did so, he then bought the rest of the series. So would I also become a huge fan?

anaturalhistoryofdragonsEveryone knows Isabella, Lady Trent, to be the world’s preeminent dragon naturalist. Here, at last, in her own words, is the story of a pioneering spirit who risked her reputation, prospects, and her life to satisfy scientific curiosity; of how she sought true love despite her lamentable eccentricities; and of her thrilling expedition to the mountains of Vystrana, where she made discoveries that would change the world.

This is gem is a must-read for those smitten by dragons. It is set in the Victorian era in a parallel world where a high-spirited, intelligent girl makes a habit of sneaking into her father’s study to read his learned tomes deemed unsuitable for well born young ladies. And she encounters the book A Natural History of Dragons and falls in love with them. From then on, she is determined to try to learn more about them in any way and this story charts her efforts to do so.

What I would caution is that Brennan does couch the language in an approximation of 19th century prose – however, it is only an approximation. There is nothing like the pages of intense description or long, involved passages of exposition you’d find in a novel written by Dickens or Mrs Gaskell. Brennan takes the story forward in the form of a memoir written by Lady Trent as an elderly lady about the exploits that made her famous, which moves along at a fair clip.

I was utterly beguiled. This is a wonderful conceit brilliantly pulled off by Brennan. The plot rapidly corkscrews away in all sorts of directions I hadn’t anticipated and there is a really shocking outcome that left me winded at the ending, while leaving me keen to learn more.

I’m so glad Himself has bought the next three books in the series – and the great news for fans of this accomplished series is that the fifth and final book, Within the Sanctuary of Wings is due out in February 2017. I’m very much looking forward to reading it – which also gives me an excellent excuse to tuck into the other three in the meantime. Happy Christmas me – and many, many thanks to Kivaria for her recommendation. She is spot on – this is one of my outstanding reads of the year.
10/10

Sunday Post – 11th December 2016

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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.

Well, what a busy old week this has been! Last Sunday it was my mother’s birthday party and my lovely sister hosted the gathering of the clan. It was fun catching up with everyone and as ever, a shock at seeing how quickly my nephew is growing up… I completed this term’s course at Northbrook on Monday and Tuesday and we are now finished until the second week in January, which sounds like it’s a while away, though I know from experience it comes around very quickly. Which is just as well as I have the loveliest students, a number of whom have been coming to the classes since I started teaching 8 years ago and are also firm friends. On Wednesday evening, I went out with my marvellous writing group for a meal at a local restaurant – lovely food and great company. On Thursday evening I attended the December meeting of West Sussex Writers, where Many Pannett discussed writing novellas and in the second half of the meeting provided an excellent writing workshop, which I really enjoyed – I even managed to write a poem.

However Friday saw me laid low with the worst migraine I’ve had in years… nausea, temperature and terrible shooting pains in the head – which wasn’t good because I was also grannying. Fortunately Himself was home, so was able to drive us to and from Brighton to pick up the grandchildren in the evening and although very groggy and rather sorry for myself I managed to accompany him, though took myself off to bed for a couple of hours before starting the bedtime routine. They are going to be helping us decorate the house for Christmas throughout the week-end, as well as a bit of shopping and just chilling or playing with their toys. It’s been a while since we’ve seen them, so it’s great to catch up on their doings.

As for my rewrite – it won’t come as a shock when I declare I haven’t been near it this week… This coming week my blogging will also be interrupted as I’m away for a few days and simply haven’t had the time or space to organise myself to cover my absence (it was on the list for Friday…)

This week I have read:

A Natural History of Dragons – Book 1 of The Memoirs of Lady Trent by Marie Brennan
anaturalhistoryofdragonsEveryone knows Isabella, Lady Trent, to be the world’s preeminent dragon naturalist. Here, at last, in her own words, is the story of a pioneering spirit who risked her reputation, prospects, and her life to satisfy scientific curiosity; of how she sought true love despite her lamentable eccentricities; and of her thrilling expedition to the mountains of Vystrana, where she made discoveries that would change the world.

This was recommended to me by the wonderful Kitvaria Sarene during an intense evening at Bristolcon talking books, so I made it a top priority on my TBR list and decided to treat myself this week. And I’m delighted I did – it’s a gem. A review will be following shortly.

 

How to Train Your Parents by Pete Johnson
howtotrainyourparentsMoving to a new area and a new school, Louis is horrified to discover his parents changing into ultra-competitive parents, wanting him and his younger brother to get straight As at school and join all sorts of after-school clubs and activities like the other kids in the area. Suddenly Louis’s life is no longer his own…

This is sharp and funny – and very pertinent. I think a fair number of children could do with more benign neglect, or at least the time to just hang out in their bedrooms with sufficient free time to find out who they are and what they like doing when someone isn’t breathing down their necks.

 

Judged – Book 3 of the Blackhart Legacy by Liz de Jagar
Kit’s job description includes solving crimes – the supernatural kind . . .judged
Glow, a fae-created drug, is rapidly going viral and the suppliers have to be shut down. Teaming up with Aiden and Dante, Kit follows leads across London, tracking down dealers. They stir up trouble, making themselves a target for the gang they’re trying to stop.

In the Otherwhere, Thorn stumbles across a secret that could destroy both the human and Fae worlds. The Veil that separates our human world from the fae realms is weakening and the goddess is dying. And if she dies and the Veil fails, madness and chaos will wreak unstoppable havoc upon both lands.

 

My posts last week:
Sunday Post – 4th December 2016

Review of Thornyhold by Mary Stewart

Teaser Tuesday featuring Judged – Book 3 of the Blackhart Legacy by Liz de Jagar

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Split the Sun – Book 2 of the Inherit the Stars series by Tessa Elwood

Shoot for the Moon Challenge – November Roundup

Friday Faceoff – And Soul Meets Soul on Lovers’ Lips… featuring Living Dead in Dallas – Book 2 of the Sookie Stackhouse series by Charlaine Harris

Review of Penric and the Shaman – Book 2 of the Penric and Desdemona novella series by Lois McMaster Bujold

Interesting/outstanding blogs and articles that have caught my attention during the last week, in no particular order:
The Curious and Little-Known Slang Terms Found in Modern Britain https://interestingliterature.com/2016/12/09/the-curious-and-little-known-slang-terms-found-in-modern-britain/ If you’re hunting for pressies for the word-nerds in your life. Or want to drop a heavy hint to someone…

Lessons Learned from Agatha Christie: Have Mischievous Fun with Misdirection https://jeanleesworld.com/2016/12/08/lessons-learned-from-agatha-christie-have-mischievous-fun-with-misdirection/ An enjoyable and well written article on the craft of writing misdirection – and how an ill-considered cover can wreck it all…

Exoplanet animation – simply amazing http://earthianhivemind.net/2016/12/04/exoplanet-animation-simply-amazing/ Steph has provided this wonderful animation – and that’s not the half of it…

Only one among many https://photolicioux.wordpress.com/2016/12/05/only-among-many/
Another hauntingly good photo from this excellent site.

Fore-edge Painting: Images on Book Edges https://kristentwardowski.wordpress.com/2016/12/06/fore-edge-painting-images-on-book-edges/ I didn’t know what this was called before Kristen told me – although I have seen examples of it in old libraries of rare books. Just wish we could somehow resurrect it…

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 Ebook Penric and the Shaman – a World of Five Gods novella by Lois McMaster Bujold

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After recently reading Penric’s Demon I decided to treat myself to more Penric goodness and so plunged straight back into this world.

penricandtheshamanIn this novella set in The World of the Five Gods and four years after the events in Penric’s Demon, Penric is a divine of the Bastard’s Order as well as a sorcerer and scholar, living in the palace where the Princess-Archdivine holds court. His scholarly work is interrupted when the Archdivine agrees to send Penric, in his role as sorcerer, to accompany a “Locator” of the Father’s Order, assigned to capture Inglis, a runaway shaman charged with the murder of his best friend. However, the situation they discover in the mountains is far more complex than expected. Penric’s roles as sorcerer, strategist, and counselor are all called upon before the end.

Penric is now a noted scholar and has learnt to live alongside his demon he calls Desdemona. It is enjoyable to see his growth in confidence and how he is still having to negotiate the personalities within him as he deals with this ongoing crisis. Bujold’s deft characterisation comes into its own as we also see slices of this adventure in the viewpoint of Inglis and the locator sent to track him down. Given this is a novella in multiple viewpoint, the story needs to get cracking – and yet at no time does the pace seem rushed or the characterisation thin. As you’d expect with a story set in an established series, the worldbuilding is pinsharp with weather, landscape and settlements pinging off the page.
While this story is about death and possible murder, there is a lot of humour. Penric copes with his demon by use of snark – or maybe it is the demon’s preferred choice… it’s not always easy to tell. I thoroughly enjoyed seeing Penric through the eyes of those interacting with him, as well as getting the benefit of seeing his own point of view – which had rather more internal dialogue than is usual.

As ever with Bujold, no one is shown to be perfectly good or all bad. Her characters are always a blend with their own agendas and foibles, which makes for an intelligent, nuanced story. As for the ending – it wasn’t a huge surprise, but then it wasn’t supposed to be. Although I did hold my breath several times – you can never completely relax with this author as she is quite capable of taking a story on an unexpected left turn, leaving you scrabbling to catch up.

Himself, who is a solid fan of all things Bujold, informs me that she is in the process of writing another slice of Penric’s adventures. I’m delighted and if you’d like a taster of what this talented, multi-award author has to offer, then look out this novella, preferably after reading Penric’s Demon although you won’t flounder overly if you don’t. It comes highly recommended.
9/10

Friday Faceoff – And Soul Meets Soul on Lovers’ Lips…

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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’s theme is lips, so I have chosen Living Dead in Dallas – Book 2 of the Sookie Stackhouse series by Charlaine Harris.

 

livingdead1This is the cover produced by Orbit in April 2004. It is certainly has a very different feel to most of the subsequent covers, but I think – despite the rather crude depiction of Sookie – probably better captures the tone of the book. The rather random font gives the book a rather folksy ad hoc feel that is far closer to the actual content than some of the subsequent covers, though I don’t really like it all that much.

 

livingdead2This 2009 cover, published by Gollancz, directly refers to the very racy HBO TV series True Blood. While many of the storylines are reasonably close to the books, there was certainly a lot more sex and gore in the TV series which had a far darker, Southern noire vibe than the books, which are in Sookie’s homespun first person viewpoint. I do wonder how many people picked up the books expecting a whole lot more bedroom action than they actually got.

 

livingdead5This French edition, published in August 2009 by J’ai Lu, certainly doesn’t feel the need to hold back in emphasising the sexiness of the series. Notice the prominent name check for True Blood.

 

livingdead3This cover, produced in August 2009 by Ace again references the True Blood series, but has the actress playing Sookie superimposed over the Dallas cityscape and dark sky. As Anna Paquin was spot on as the beleaguered, telepathic waitress, this works well, I think. This is my favourite cover.

 

livingdead4This is another Gollancz offering, in October 2011. The purple cover with a splash of blood glistening across it certainly is eye-catching. There is an additional quote from a review in one of our more Conservative newspapers, which has me wondering whether the publishers felt the need to distance themselves from the previous raunchy cover, though they do mention ‘sultry scenes’…

Which is your favourite cover?

Shoot for the Moon Challenge 2016 – November Roundup

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After setting some crazy writing goals with my writing partner, Mhairi Simpson, moonway back in the dying throes of 2015, how am I doing?

Family issues rather ambushed me and I had little mental energy or necessary headspace required to cope with my demanding rewrite. On a more positive note, I gave a talk at West Sussex Writers on the joy of writing reviews and posting them online and my Creative Writing course gathered momentum, while Sally and I finally sorted out Tim’s syllabus and have drawn up a coherent schedule of work for him for the next two years.

• During November, I read eleven books. Again, it’s been a great reading month. I really enjoyed songsofseraphinethe wonderful the children’s book Clover Moon by Jacqueline Wilson, cyberpunk adventure Synners by Pat Cadigan, Bloodrush by Ben Galley and E.D.E. Bell’s penricsmissionThe Banished Craft – however Songs of Seraphina by Jude Houghton and Penric’s Mission by Lois McMaster Bujold are my standout reads for the month.
Challenge – To review a minimum of 100 books during 2016 and widen my reading to include more authors new to me. I fulfilled this challenge in August, but I am continuing to read and review more enjoyable, exciting books.

 

• I am currently stranded in the boggy mid-book bit of Miranda’s Tempest. Realistically, I don’t expect to get much further this side of Christmas, but there’s no point in getting in a spin about it. I’ll continue as and when I can manage it.
Challenge – To continue to submit my work.

 

• I’ve continued to improve my fitness with Pilates and Fitstep classes and we’re now learning extra steps for the jive and tango – so much fun … thanks to the marvellous Louisa Jones, an inspired and very patient teacher. I hadn’t quite reached my target weight during November, but it was very close and I am continuing to improve my fitness and stamina.
Challenge – To continue to improve my fitness.

Another month where nothing has gone to plan… Oh well, that’s Life I suppose. I wrote just under 17,000 words on my blog during November, nearly 6,000 words on my teaching admin and just over 10,00 words on my rewrite of Miranda’s Tempest, bringing my total for the month to just under 33,000 words.

How are you getting on with your targets now the year is drawing to an end? Are you anywhere close to fulfilling them?