Monthly Archives: March 2017

Friday Faceoff – Without gambling, I would not exist…

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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 the theme is casinos and gambling, so I’ve chosen Player of Games – Book 2 of the Culture series by Iain M. Banks.

 

This is the offering produced by HarperPrism in February 1997. I really like the warm tones and the chequerboard effect with the detailed games. Unfortunately it is ruined by that block of black plonked right in the middle of the artwork that seems to have been the fashion for books of the time and now looks ugly and amateurish.

 

At least this doesn’t have the block of blugh, but that is all that can be said for this rather dreary generic offering produced in August 2008 by Orbit. The cold colours and blurry male figure does nothing to depict the vibrant Culture world crafted by Banks – and frankly this wonderful, genre-changing series deserves better.

 

This cover design produced in 1989 by Orbit is my favourite – perhaps influenced by the fact it is the cover of the book we owned and loved. I love the splashes of vivid pink, the clean font and the cool dude featured in amongst those intriguing playing pieces. This quirky cover manages to accurately reflect the tone of this wonderful book.

 

This offering is another intriguing effort, produced in August 1988 by Macmillan. I like the arresting image of the two players completely engrossed in the game – my gripe with it is the styling of the figures. This book is set in the far future and while post-humanity riffs with the past, using clothing and design we all equate with the distant past doesn’t reflect the flavour of this coolly futuristic story.

 

This Hungarian offering is another lacklustre affair, produced by Agave Könyvek in 2003, with a generic background and some blurred chess pieces in the foreground. All in all, I think poor Iain Banks was ill served by most of these efforts…

Which one is your favourite?

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*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of KINDLE Ebook A Crown of Wishes – Book 2 of The Star-Touched Queen series by Roshani Chokshi

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Last year I was blown away by The Star-Touched Queen, a YA fantasy with a strong eastern flavour that swept me away to another place and time. Indeed, it made my top twenty reads of the year – see here. So I was delighted when Netgalley approved my request to read and review the sequel.

Second books are often tricky to write – particularly if the first book is a runaway success. But if Chokshi was feeling the pressure, there is no hint of it in her confident prose. Perhaps there is not quite so much lush description of the fantastical magic landscapes she takes us to in her story of thwarted kings, slighted and angry princesses and tricky magical beings who enjoy playing with human desires.

Gauri, the princess of Bharata, has been taken as a prisoner of war by her kingdom’s enemies. Faced with a future of exile and scorn, Gauri has nothing left to lose. Hope unexpectedly comes in the form of Vikram, the cunning prince of a neighboring land and her sworn enemy kingdom. However – he is a very cunning prince of a sworn enemy kingdom…

Once more, I have given a potted version of the chatty blurb, but I will just mention that Gauri and Vikram end up taking part in The Tournament of Wishes together. This book is structured as mainly a dual narrative, with Gauri’s story told in first person (I) and Vikram’s narrative written in third person (he). Inevitably, this gives us a more intimate and immediate experience of Gauri’s character. She is a warrior princess, skilled in warfare and emotionally wounded by her abusive, tyrannical brother who has constantly managed to outwit her. As a result she finds herself at odds with those she cares most about – and when she tries to help or ameliorate her brother’s sadistic impulses, her interventions are frequently used against her. Small wonder she is a bundle of fury with absolutely no tolerance for Vikram’s wordplay.

While Vikram’s kindly, animal-loving father has been comprehensively outwitted by the ruling council who have essentially grabbed all the power and as Vikram attempts to impose some brakes on their corruption, he finds himself continually thwarted. He retreats into an academic persona, not remotely interested in the violence and warrior mentality that gives Gauri such comfort. They are truly an oil and water mix.

And that isn’t taking into account the fact that politically they have no business exchanging anything other than blows – their respective countries are long-time enemies. So they make an unlikely team. But teamwork is what they need as they are confronted with a series of tricky magical feats they have to overcome. Essentially this is a classic quest story.

What makes it such a rich, enjoyable feast is Chokshi’s engaging prose and vivid worldbuilding. She writes with such sensual conviction, we can taste and smell her magical landscapes and once more I was enchanted and beguiled. But there is no use spinning us a wonderful feast of delights unless the ending is equally satisfying – and there is no problem with that, either. Chokshi manages to bring this story to a triumphant conclusion that had me sighing with pleasure. If you haven’t encountered her writing, then give yourself a treat. Very highly recommended.
10/10

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of KINDLE Ebook From Ice to Ashes by Rhett C. Bruno

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Last year I read and reviewed Titanborn, a rollicking space opera set in the far reaches of the solar system, charting the adventures of Malcolm Graves, who is a fixer for the corporation controlling most of the major industry out there. And the reason why I give it a mention here, is that if you don’t know that nugget of information, the epilogue at the end of From Ice to Ashes – a standalone set in the same world – appears to be completely random.

Kale Drayton knows his place. As a Ringer, he’s used to keeping his head down and his mouth shut—no matter how much the Earthers abuse him or his own kind berate him. So when he’s caught stealing from a wealthy merchant, he’s lucky to be sentenced to low-paying maintenance work on a gas-harvesting ship instead of life in a cell . . . or worse. But when his mother is quarantined, Kale finds himself backed into a corner. To pay for her medicine, he needs money—the kind of money he’ll never make sweeping floors and cleaning ships. So when he receives a mysterious offer asking him to do a simple job in exchange for his mother’s treatment, Kale takes a chance once more.

Like all Ringers, Kale is completely downtrodden. His ancestors fled to Titan before a meteor hit Earth and this outpost of humanity had survived and thrived on this bleak colony – before Earthers, who hadn’t all been wiped out, finally make their way to Titan after 300 years to reunite humanity. Only it doesn’t go all that well for the fragile, thin-boned colonists who die in droves, wiped out by Earth-based germs for which they have no immunity. Now encased in suits and masks designed to protect them and too frail to fight, they have been reduced to serfs. Treated as sub-human, abused and enslaved, they eke a living performing all the menial, dirty and dangerous tasks.

It is a compelling scenario and one that seems all too probable. I kept hoping there would be one decent Earther, who might show a shred of compassion or empathy with the Ringers – but no one did. And then I thought back to the generations of slaves right up to modern times – and wondered how many people they would encounter in their daily lives who would give them more than a glancing thought. Not many, I’m guessing.

You’ll probably realise that Kale gets caught up in events that take him out of his downtrodden, miserable existence – and to be honest, there were times when the speed and effectiveness of the flurry of adventures he is involved in did sort of stretch my credibility. But I was prepared to go with the flow because it was enjoyable, full-on action and I read far later into the wee small hours than I’d intended to find out what happens next.

Bruno is an accomplished writer, who produces cracking action scenes, strong supporting characters and Kale was both appealing and convincing as a confused, angry protagonist. But he isn’t a Malcolm Graves, who for me ticked all the boxes as far as compelling protagonists go – and I’ll be snapping up the next book in this not-quite series to find out what is happening to Malcolm.
8/10

Teaser Tuesday – 28th March, 2017

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Teaser Tuesday is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by The Purple Booker.
Anyone can play along! Just do the following:
• Grab your current read
• Open to a random page
• Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
• BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
• Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

This is my choice of the day:

Occupy Me by Tricia Sullivan
p. 14 ‘I got this.’ Panting with effort, the old man lifts one Abercrombie & Fitch clad leg by six inches and, with shaky control, lets it down into the open space of the briefcase. The foot and then the leg disappear, and then he seems to fold like a paper airplane until he is holding the top edge of the briefcase and lowering himself in entire. It’s like a magic act where the girl disappears. The oxygen tank comes last; there is a burst of noise, a gout of smoke – and the case falls closed.

Your fingers snap the locks shut and seize the handle of the briefcase. You try to lift it, but it weights as though filled with rocks inside rocks, exponentially increasing functions of rocks all pressed inside like gravity trying to hide up its own back end.

BLURB: A woman with wings that exist in another dimension. A man trapped in his own body by a killer. A briefcase that is a door to hell. A conspiracy that reaches beyond our world. Breathtaking SF from a Clarke Award-winning author.

Tricia Sullivan has written an extraordinary, genre defining novel that begins with the mystery of a woman who barely knows herself and ends with a discovery that transcends space and time. On the way we follow our heroine as she attempts to track down a killer in the body of another man, and the man who has been taken over, his will trapped inside the mind of the being that has taken him over. And at the centre of it all a briefcase that contains countless possible realities.

As can be seen, I haven’t got all that far into this one, though Sullivan is always worth reading as she pushes at the boundaries of where the genre can go – and immediately the second person pov pulls me in. So far, gripping and unusual, though I’m not completely sure what is happening… But that’s okay. This is Sullivan. I’m humming with anticipation while on the edge of a completely different and exciting world – I LOVE this genre!

Review of My Parents Are Out of Control – Book 2 of the How to Train Your Parents series by Pete Johnson

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This is the second book in this entertaining series – see my review of How To Train Your Parents. After this one made my dyslexic granddaughter laugh as I read it to her, I went ahead and got hold of the rest of the series.

Louis doesn’t think much of it when his mum and dad ask him for tips on how to be cool. In fact, he thinks it’s pretty funny watching them bump fists and use words like ‘safe’, ‘sick’ and ‘wicked’. Until Dad turns up outside Louis’s new school dressed like a rapper, that is. . . Suddenly they’re trying to friend Louis and all his classmates on Facebook, and wearing baseball caps backwards – IN PUBLIC. Louis and his best friend Maddy are horrified. Mum and Dad have taken things too far . . . and immediate action is needed!

This book pretty much picks up where the first book left off in the ongoing story of Louis’s life as a 12-year-old trying to fit in at school and negotiate parental expectations, while furthering his career as a professional comedian. It isn’t absolutely necessary to have read the first book, but as events that occur in this slice of Louis’s adventures are impacted by what has gone on before, I recommend you do so to get the best of out of the book.

The strength in Johnson’s writing is that he addresses a lot of the major concerns most 12 year olds are experiencing – so this isn’t a children’s story where adults are somehow airbrushed out of the picture. Indeed, much of the humour and impetus in the story comes from Louis’s interaction with his parents. I love the fact that as Louis pours out his thoughts on their behaviour to his diary, we get to see their actions through his own take on the situation – while also understanding as adults what is going on in their lives and what is driving them to behave the way they do. So this is a book to be read on two levels, depending on which generation you are. It’s cleverly done and as a result is a funny, yet compassionate look at family life in the 21st century, as Johnson presents us with a father suddenly fragile as he is confronted with his own middle age at a time when his position at work comes under threat.

Louis’s take on his father’s attempts to stay young and cool goes from amused tolerance to utter horror, when his father starts using the latest phrases on Louis’s classmates and overhauls his wardrobe. Meanwhile, Louis is having problems of his own, as the new school doesn’t seem to be working out all that well – to the extent that his much-hated former school is starting to look like a cosy haven…

I thoroughly enjoyed this light-hearted look at what is actually a fairly gnarly subject and am looking forward to seeing what Frances makes of it. Very highly recommended.
10/10

Sunday Post – 26th March 2017

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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 momentous week for us. Himself has been going through a rough patch, recently with lapses of concentration at work. He often comes back from a shift very tired, though the good thing is that he never has any problem going to sleep, when his snoring is spectacular – the grandchildren call it, ‘Papa’s rumbles…’

I have often wondered just how refreshing his quality of sleep can be, especially as the snoring often suddenly stops, only to start up again with a gasp as he thrashes around, without waking. Good old Google told us it’s a condition called sleep apnea and can be very serious, leading to the increased risk of stroke or heart attack and the onset of type 2 diabetes. So a fortnight ago he made an appointment for the Dr and we went along together, which seemed a good idea as he has no idea what happens during these episodes, because he’s asleep. I cannot fault the NHS for the speed of their response and level of care – it’s been brilliant. Our Dr referred us to the Sleep Clinic at our local hospital and we were seen within a week when Himself came away with a monitor to measure his breathing, pulse rate and oxygen levels last week-end. On Thursday, he had a follow-up appointment back at the Sleep Clinic where he got the results. Five to ten episodes of interrupted breathing an hour is regarded as mild; between ten and thirty is regarded as moderate, needing some kind of intervention; while anything over thirty episodes of interrupted breathing is severe. Himself was averaging at fifty-one episodes of interrupted breathing an hour. She showed us the printout. I was staring at the jagged line in disbelief – and at the fact that it only calmed down during the periods when he woke up. She also explained that he was getting hardly any REM sleep. No wonder he’s making concentration errors! The blood test has also come back positive for pre-diabetes, so he’s also going to be attending a clinic for that, too.

And the reason why I’m telling you this? Because we’ve coped with his snoring for years – he’s repeatedly tried losing weight with limited success although he doesn’t drink or or smoke – but we’d no idea it could be part of such a serious underlying condition. If you or your partner are dealing with similar issues, please do get it checked out. We are both conscious that if this had been left much longer, as well having problems at work, Himself could have suffered a stroke or heart attack. He’s currently wearing a sleep mask and I keep jerking awake at night terrified because he’s so quiet beside me – though hopefully that will soon pass. It’s early days yet, but he already he feels better.

This week I have read:

Blood Upon the Sand – Book 2 of The Song of the Shattered Sands series by Bradley Beaulieu
Çeda, now a Blade Maiden in service to the kings of Sharakhai, trains as one of their elite warriors, gleaning secrets even as they send her on covert missions to further their rule. She knows the dark history of the asirim—that hundreds of years ago they were enslaved to the kings against their will—but when she bonds with them as a Maiden, chaining them to her, she feels their pain as if her own. They hunger for release, they demand it – will Çeda manage to keep their dark drives under control?
This sequel to the highly enjoyable sand and sorcery adventure Twelve Kings proved to be every bit as good as I’d hoped and I shall be posting my review here in due course. Great stuff!

 

From Ice to Ashes by Rhett C. Bruno

Kale Drayton knows his place. As a Ringer, he’s used to keeping his head down and his mouth shut—no matter how much the Earthers abuse him or his own kind berate him. So when he’s caught stealing from a wealthy merchant, he’s lucky to be sentenced to low-paying maintenance work on a gas-harvesting ship instead of life in a cell . . . or worse. But when his mother is quarantined, Kale finds himself backed into a corner. To pay for her medicine, he needs money—the kind of money he’ll never make sweeping floors and cleaning ships. So when he receives a mysterious offer asking him to do a simple job in exchange for his mother’s treatment, Kale takes a chance once more.
This space opera adventure is set in the same world as his excellent novel Titanborn – see my review here – and is due to be released this coming week, so I’ll be posting the review on Wednesday. Another really strong, thought-provoking story that I’ve been pondering about since I finished reading it.

 

My Parents Are Out of Control – Book 2 of the How To Train Your Parents series by Pete Johnson

Louis doesn’t think much of it when his mum and dad ask him for tips on how to be cool. In fact, he thinks it’s pretty funny watching them bump fists and use words like ‘safe’, ‘sick’ and ‘wicked’. Until Dad turns up outside Louis’s new school dressed like a rapper, that is . . . Suddenly they’re trying to friend Louis and all his classmates on Facebook, and wearing baseball caps backwards – IN PUBLIC. Louis and his best friend Maddy are horrified. Mum and Dad have taken things too far . . . and immediate action is needed!
I thoroughly enjoyed the first book in the series – see my review here – and so was delighted to be able to track down this next slice of Louis’s adventures. I find Johnson’s commentary on modern family life to be funny and perceptive.

 

The Operator – Book 2 of the Peri Reed Chronicles by Kim Harrison
Peri Reed’s job eats her mind, but for a special task agent in hiding, forgetting the past can be a blessing. Betrayed by the man she thought she loved and the agency who turned her into the very thing she fought against, Peri abandoned the wealth and privilege of Opti for anonymity riddled with memory gaps and self-doubt. But when a highly addictive drug promises to end her dependency on those who’d use her as a tool for their own success, she must choose to remain broken and vulnerable, or return to the above-the-law power and prestige she once left: strong but without will—for whoever holds her next fix, will hold her loyalty.
This is a cracking premise and Harrison doesn’t disappoint in delivering yet another twisting, action-packed plot underpinned by some interesting and disturbing moral questions. Read my review of the first book in the series, The Drafter.

 

My posts last week:

Sunday Post – 19th March 2017

Review of The Drafter by Kim Harrison

Teaser Tuesday featuring My Parents Are Out of Control by Pete Johnson

Tim Tag

NEW RELEASE SPECIAL Review of The Collapsing Empire – Book 1 of The Interdependency series by John Scalzi

Friday Face-off – Seems like, streets lights glowin… featuring The Cuckoo’s Calling – Book 1 of the Comoran Strike series by Robert Galbraith aka J.K. Rowling

NEW RELEASE SPECIAL Review of Wolf Moon – Book 2 of the Luna series by Ian McDonald

 

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

A typical day in the life of a #BookBlogger (in this instance ME!) https://mychestnutreadingtree.wordpress.com/2017/03/18/a-typical-day-in-the-life-of-a-bookblogger-in-this-instance-me/ This wonderful article is a response to some of the ill-founded allegations that book bloggers are somehow playing the system for financial gain, instead of being ‘real readers’.

Cover Characteristics: Book Covers Featuring New York City http://blog.kristenburns.com/book-covers-featuring-new-york-city/ Kristen regularly features a series of book covers on a particular subject and I particularly enjoyed this one.

10 of the best poems about Mothers https://interestingliterature.com/2017/03/22/10-of-the-best-poems-about-mothers/ In honour of Mothering Sunday today, I thought this enjoyable selection would be worth reading.

Useful Sites for the Novice Writer https://richardankers.com/2017/03/24/useful-sites-for-the-novice-writer/ This excellent article lists some of the databases where you can submit your written gems.

A Graphic Novel about the iTunes Terms and Conditions. Yes. Really. https://kristentwardowski.wordpress.com/2017/03/23/a-graphic-novel-about-the-itunes-terms-and-conditions-yes-really/ Kristen makes a point of unearthing the quirky and off the wall relating to books and writing. This is yet another great example of the interesting articles she posts.

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

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Wolf Moon – Book 2 of the Luna duology by Ian McDonald

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I thoroughly enjoyed McDonald’s depiction of this aggressively capitalist society in the first book, Luna: New Moon set in a near future where an exhausted Earth is relying on the Moon to keep the lights on. So it was a no-brainer that I was immediately going to request this sequel when it appeared on Netgalley.

Corta Helio, one of the five family corporations that rule the Moon, has fallen. Its riches are divided up among its many enemies, its survivors scattered. Eighteen months have passed. The remaining Helio children, Lucasinho and Luna, are under the protection of the powerful Asamoahs, while Robson, still reeling from witnessing his parent’s violent deaths, is now a ward – virtually a hostage – of Mackenzie Metals. And the last appointed heir, Lucas, has vanished from the surface of the moon. Only Lady Sun, dowager of Taiyang, suspects that Lucas Corta is not dead, and – more to the point – that he is still a major player in the game. In an unstable lunar environment, the shifting loyalties and political machinations of each family reach the zenith of their most fertile plots as outright war between the families erupts.

What the above blurb may not make clear is that Luna: New Moon left the story on a major cliffhanger – nothing at all was resolved. So if you haven’t read it, then my firm advice would be to go away and track down the first book before tucking into this one, because there is no ‘Story So Far’ and with the large cast of characters, multiple viewpoints and odd names, I think anyone coming cold to this world is going to flounder.

The gamechanger that flung everything up in the air at the end of the first book continues to have consequences. Major consequences. And as ever, when turmoil and catastrophe occurs, it is often surviving children who suffer more than anyone else. McDonald is very good at showing rather than telling and in this fast-moving, action-packed epic, he starkly portrays the ravages of war and violence. I could see this being made into a cracking film.

And there would be nothing wrong if he left it at that, but what elevates this book to something more than a slice of escapist enjoyment, is that he continues to show what happens after the initial violence dies down. Because the people involved don’t forgive and forget. That drive and aggression that drove them to forge industrial empires on the Moon morphs into something a lot darker and vengeful when their own families are attacked and their homes and businesses gutted.

Inevitably, in such a wide-ranging story with a scattered cast of characters, this is more of an action-driven story. However there are a handful of protagonists who have lodged in my head – Marina, a ‘Jo Moonbeam’ who came up from Earth in the first book to make her fortune gets pulled right into the heart of the conflict and then has to make an agonising decision. Does she stay on the Moon for the rest of her life, or return to Earth? There is a window in which she can return – but after then, her body will have adapted to the lighter gravity such that it will be impossible without massive and expensive medical intervention. Two children particularly tugged at my heart – Robson, who ends up living on the streets and Darius, another boy caught in the middle of the ruling family feuds, is manipulated into perpetuating their ongoing war…

Apparently McDonald has described this epic political power struggle set in space as the ‘Game of Domes. I’ve found myself often thinking about the first book and the brilliant, fragile infrastructure he wrought – and this book is every bit as thought-provoking and disturbing. Highly recommended.

While I obtained the arc of Wolf Moon from the publisher via NetGalley, this has in no way influenced my unbiased review.
9/10

Friday Faceoff – Seems like, street lights, glowin’…

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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 the theme is street light covers, so I’ve chosen The Cuckoo’s Calling – Book 1 of the Cormoran Strike series by Robert Galbraith aka J.K. Rowling – see my review here.

 

This offering, produced by Mulholland Books in April 2013, is an interesting one – giving us the back of a young starlet who is facing a barrage of press photographer flashlights. What spoils it for me is the white colour of the font against the white lights which makes it difficult to pick out the title. I do like the fact it is uncluttered.

 

This is the definitive cover for the book, produced in April 2013 by Sphere, and is the scene depicting Cormoran leaning into the wind under a street lamp – he looks utterly alone. This is my favourite. I love the street railings and the chilly turquoise sky that give it a sense of melancholy and threat – so much classier than many of the modern covers with weapons dripping blood… The title font is also nicely done – clear and easily readable without slashing through the artwork.

 

This cover design produced in June 2014 by Salani does what many Italian covers do so well – take the overriding theme of the original successful cover and then makes it their own. For me, this runs the original a very, very close second. I love the muted colours, the sense of solitude and the Thames running alongside the walkway with Westminster arising from the mist in the background.

 

This offering is another Italian effort, produced in July 2014 by La Biblioteca di Repubblica, which has gone for an art decco version of the previous cover. The pity of it is that this interesting design is only a small strip in the centre of the cover. While the large chunks of black bordering the scene certainly give it a sombre mood, they are also boring.

 

What a difference a shift in the coloration can make – giving that cold turquoise a reddish tint certainly warms the cover up. This is the Catalan edition, produced by Proa in November 2014 and I’m guessing they decided the initial colour palette wouldn’t appeal to their book-buying public.

Which one is your favourite?

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of KINDLE Ebook The Collapsing Empire – Book 1 of The Interdependency series by John Scalzi

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I mostly thoroughly enjoy Scalzi’s writing and was delighted when I saw this offering on Netgalley. Sadly though, it wasn’t much fun to read – and that was nothing to do with the author. The Kindle arc looked as though it had been mugged by a binary monster as every page was spattered with zeroes and ones amongst the prose – and if that wasn’t bad enough, the majority of the polysyllabic words were split up into their syll ab les. Fortunately, I very much liked the story, otherwise I wouldn’t have persevered – but I did end up with a thumping headache after a couple of reading sessions and I would plead with publishers to consider their hapless reviewers before letting arcs go out in that state.

Our universe is ruled by physics and faster than light travel is not possible — until the discovery of The Flow, an extra-dimensional field we can access at certain points in space-time that transport us to other worlds, around other stars. Humanity flows away from Earth, into space, and in time forgets our home world and creates a new empire, the Interdependency, whose ethos requires that no one human outpost can survive without the others. It’s a hedge against interstellar war — and a system of control for the rulers of the empire.

I loved the idea that dark matter includes The Flow which allows humanity to escape from Earth and colonise space. The Interdependency is a nifty idea that has managed to – more or less – keep the empire from fracturing and allows an elite to make a very, very good living, with the rest more or less managing. In other words, capitalism is alive and kicking…

And then there is a gamechanger and a new ruler all at the same time. Said gamechanger is going to shake everything up in such an extreme manner, the information isn’t even accepted without a lot of hard evidence – which means there isn’t a lot of time left to do anything about it…

I loved the premise – it was every bit as interesting as I had hoped. I particularly enjoyed the fact that not only did we get a ringside seat when the new emperox finds herself landed with a job she didn’t want, we also got to see exactly what motivates the main antagonist as they manoeuvre for more power and agency. The plotting and double-crossing going on results in plenty of action – some of it nicely unexpected, which is why I’m keeping my comments reasonably general.

Scalzi’s easy style keeps this book barrelling along at a fair pace, so that while the pages didn’t fly by quite at the speed I would have liked – it was taking too much effort to decode the abysmal formatting in my Netgalley arc – nevertheless the story unfolded with pleasing ease. The finale brought the main story arc to a satisfactory conclusion, though there are sufficient dangling plotpoints such that I will be looking out for the sequel in due course. After a number of great standalone reads, such as Lock In, I’m delighted Scalzi has now embarked upon another major series.

While I obtained the arc of The Collapsing Empire from the publisher via NetGalley, this has in no way influenced my unbiased review.

8/10

Time Tag

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Many thanks to Lynn from Lynn’s Book Blog for nominating me to take part in this lovely tag.

What is your favourite historical setting for a book?
I love the Tudor period – it’s the period I studied for my History degree so I know a reasonable amount about the history of this time. But I also enjoy the Victorian time – events moved so very quickly during that it was a period of great upheaval and yet isn’t all that long ago. So… both these periods tend to snag my interest.

 

What writer/s would you like to travel back in time to meet?
William Shakespeare. It’s a no-brainer. The genius that gave us a canon of marvellous plays and beautiful poetry must be worth sitting across the table and chatting to! Even if he only wants to grumble about the weather and the difficulties of finding a boy to adequately play Juliet – especially if he wants to grumble about that one, come to think of it…

 

What book/s would you travel back in time and give to your younger self?
It would have to be C.J. Cherryh’s Heavy Time. Her writing style and depiction of space just blew me away. My younger self would love to read this and derive a great sense of comfort to discover that books like that were in existence as I was getting increasingly disillusioned with many of the contemporary literary offerings I was ploughing through at the time.

 

What book/s would you travel forward in time and give to your older self?
I wouldn’t bother. My older self is going to be caught up with the books being published at the time, so my crashing into her reading patterns won’t probably be very welcome. I don’t take kindly to sudden surprises…

 

What is your favourite futuristic setting from a book?
I have three… two based on Earth and one that sees us out in the among the stars. One of the most poignant and effective settings is the depiction of a nearly empty Paris, overrun by alien vegetation from portals drawn by Eric Brown in his novel Engineman. To be honest, the story itself isn’t quite as effective as the setting in my opinion – but I’ve dreamed of this landscape many times. The other futuristic setting I particularly enjoy is that in the Earth Girl series by Janet Edwards, where Earth is largely uninhabited apart from those who are unable to leave due to a genetic quirk.

I also love the world that Lois McMaster Bujold has created in her Miles Vorkosigan series that sprawls across a chain of planets.

 

What is your favourite book that is set in a different time period (can be historical or futuristic)?
I love several – Doomsday is a classic time travel book by Connie Willis that goes back to the medieval period. It’s a wonderful book and rightly regarded as a classic. Another book that I particularly love is the above mentioned Heavy Time by C.J. Cherryh, but my favourite is Mendoza in Hollywood which is a dreadful title for an outstanding book by Kage Baker about a time-travelling biologist harvesting plants about to be pushed into the brink of extinction by the growth of the film industry. It is part of Baker’s amazing The Company series, which I think deserves to be known a lot better than it is.

 

Spoiler Time: Do you ever skip ahead to the end of a book just to see what happens?
Only if I don’t intend to finish the book – otherwise what is the point of bothering to read it?

 

If you had a Time Turner, where would you go and what would you do?
Oh yes please! And now I’m going to sound incredibly boring… I’d like to use one like Hermione Granger so I could fulfil my teaching commitments, keep the house reasonably clean and clutter-free, be a better wife, daughter, mother and grandmother, while also writing full-time.

 

Favourite book (if you have one) that includes time travel or takes place in multiple time periods?
I cannot possibly pinpoint a single book, so I’ll follow Lynn’s example and recommend four, other than the ones already mentioned above:-
Night Watch – Book 29 of the Discworld novels by the late, great Terry Pratchett

This is Pratchett’s time travel book – and one of his best, in my opinion, as Sam Vimes, the grumpy Commander of the Ankh-Morpork’s police force, is caught up in a magical storm and hauled back in time.

 

The Many-Colored Land – Book 1 of the Saga of the Exiles by Julian May

This first book in a remarkable, ground-breaking series features Elizabeth who travels back in time to escape the trauma of having lost her metaphysical abilities. Ironically, her journey – in which she encounters a humanoid alien race who have made Earth their home – causes her abilities to manifest themselves once more. Which draws down a lot of unwelcome attention upon Elizabeth…

Frozen in Time by Ali Sparkes

This standalone children’s book is a joy. A brother and sister cryonically suspended are accidentally woken up fifty years later by another brother and sister, while exploring an underground building at the bottom of the garden. The resulting adventure is both funny and very revealing about how customs have changed during the last fifty years – for both good and ill.

 

 

The Just City – Book 1 of the Thessaly trilogy by Jo Walton

This is a remarkable time travel experiment designed by the goddess Athene to test the principles set down by Plato in his book The Republic. I can guarantee you won’t have read anything quite like it.

 

What book/series do you wish you could go back and read again for the first time?
The Discworld novels! They define a part of my life and if I could bottle the sheer excitement of opening up a new one, laughing at the Pratchett jokes for the first time again, that would be a wonderful treat.

I’m not going to nominate anyone in particular – but do please have a go if this Time Tag appeals to you as a fan of historical settings or time travelling adventures. I’d love to hear your choices!