Monthly Archives: November 2017

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc The Curious Affair of the Witch at Wayside Cross – Book 2 of The Curious Affair series by Lisa Tuttle

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My attention was snagged by this title and Lisa Tuttle is an author who is been on my radar for a while, so I requested it.

“Witch!” cries the young man after stumbling unexpectedly into the London address of the consulting-detective partnership of Mr. Jasper Jesperson and Miss Lane. He makes the startling accusation while pointing toward Miss Lane . . . then he drops dead. Thus begins the strangest case yet to land—quite literally—on the doorstep of Jesperson and Lane. According to the coroner, Charles Manning died of a heart attack—despite being in perfect health. Could he have been struck down by a witch’s spell? The late Mr. Manning’s address book leads Jesperson and Lane to the shrieking pits of Aylmerton, an ancient archaeological site reputed to be haunted by a vengeful ghost. There they sift through the local characters, each more suspicious than the last: Manning’s associate, Felix Ott, an English folklore enthusiast; Reverend Ringer, a fierce opponent of superstition; and the Bulstrode sisters, a trio of beauties with a reputation for witchcraft. But when an innocent child goes missing, suddenly Jesperson and Lane aren’t merely trying to solve one murder—they’re racing to prevent another.

I haven’t read the first book in this series, but while I have clearly missed a slice of the adventure, that didn’t hamper my understanding or enjoyment of this story. Tuttle doesn’t hang about – she tips us straight into the case which I appreciated. While this series has been compared with the Sherlock Holmes adventures, I don’t think that Miss Lane, the narrator of this case, is all that much like John Watson. She isn’t overly gushing about Jasper Jesperson’s detecting skills, for starters – indeed, there are times when she is quite sharp about him, which I enjoyed.

The other aspect that I hadn’t expected and very much liked – while both Jesperson and Lane are middle-class and reasonably comfortably off, that doesn’t prevent Tuttle from lifting the façade on apparent Victorian respectability by depicting a young serving girl’s plight after suffering a rape. The detective duo also uncover a shocking lack of respect towards women who have the temerity to refuse or thwart a couple of apparently eligible men, who portray themselves as perfectly reasonable, educated gentlemen. Miss Lane isn’t particularly happy about the state of affairs, but isn’t overly surprised. What it reinforced for me is how much women were simply not regarded as on a par with men. Not only did they not have the same protection in law, they were not felt to be capable of the same understanding or intellect as a man – so when a woman demonstrated any independence of spirit, she frequently incurred anger at her temerity – how dare she defy him!

That said, I don’t want you to go away thinking this entertaining, engrossing whodunit is focusing on the gender inequality of the time – it is a mere side issue in this adventure. An adventure full of twists and turns as Lane and Jesperson then find themselves desperately looking for a baby. And the resolution to that puzzle had my jaw dropping…

All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed this one and will definitely be tracking down the first instalment in this series. Recommended for anyone who enjoys their historical crime series with a twist of fantasy.
9/10

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Can’t-Wait Wednesday – 29th November, 2017

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40276268 – vintage old pocket watch and book

Can’t-Wait Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted at Wishful Endings, to spotlight and discuss the books we’re excited about that we have yet to read. Generally they’re books that have yet to be released. It’s based on Waiting on Wednesday, hosted by the fabulous Jill at Breaking the Spine.

This week’s Can’t Wait offering – Fade Out by Patrick Tilley

#science fiction #first contact #historical

Patrick Tilley’s brilliant bestselling thriller of humanity’s first contact with advanced alien intelligence is a high-tension tour-de-force that will leave you thinking long after you have turned the last page.

This offering caught my eye on the Netgalley dashboard, chiefly because of the cool spacescape cover. But I was intrigued to see that a book first published in 1975 is being reissued now in 2017 – how will it stand up? Given the world was a very different place then, will it seem completely outdated? I’m fascinated to find out! I’ll be reading this one sometime next week and reviewing it in mid-December…

Teaser Tuesday – 28th November, 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:

Bound – Book 8 of the Alex Verus series by Benedict Jacka
p. 60 I started walking south, along the towpath and Talisid matched my pace. ‘I understand that your current situation is less than ideal,’ he offered when I didn’t speak.
‘That’s something of an understatement.’
‘We’d be willing to offer compensation.’
‘Do you know what Richard would do if he found out that I was spying on him?’
‘No.’
‘Nothing,’ I said. ‘Not personally. He’d give me to Morden instead. Or if he was feeling really sadistic, to Vihaela. Do you know what they would do?’

BLURB: Alex Verus can see the future. But he never thought he’d see this day. Manoeuvred by forces beyond his control, the probability mage has made a terrible choice: he’s agreed to work for his old master once more.
Richard Drakh, the sadistic dark mage Alex escaped as an apprentice, has him in his clutches again. And this time, he won’t let go so easily.

I love this series – see my review here of the first book Fated. Benedict’s depiction of a  mage with prescient abilities is outstanding. So when I saw this one on the library shelves, I had to have it. And it’s immediately pulled me into Alex’s dire situation… I’ll be reviewing this one in due course.

Review of Mother of Eden – Book 2 of the Dark Eden series by Chris Beckett

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I read Dark Eden a while ago – and the gritty, colony adventure deeply impressed me and has lingered in my memory when many other books have been forgotten. So when I encountered this one on the library shelves, I scooped it up.

Civilization has come to the alien, sunless planet its inhabitants call Eden. Just a few generations ago, the planet’s five hundred inhabitants huddled together in the light and warmth of the Forest’s lantern trees, afraid to venture out into the cold darkness around them.

Now, humanity has spread across Eden, and two kingdoms have emerged. Both are sustained by violence and dominated by men – and both claim to be the favored children of Gela, the woman who came to Eden long ago on a boat that could cross the stars, and became the mother of them all. When young Starlight Brooking meets a handsome and powerful man from across Worldpool, she has no idea what is in store for her…

If you have picked up this one without first reading Dark Eden – don’t. While Mother of Eden can be read as a standalone, there are numerous references to the fabled hero, John, and his followers. In order to appreciate the context and historical distortion around details of his life, I strongly recommend you track down the first book so you understand exactly how John’s life and adventures are being used.

I love the approach Beckett takes to the classic colonist adventure in Dark Eden where the small crew of a crashed ship settle in a nearby valley, eking out a rudimentary existence while waiting for rescue. As they have a lot of time on their hands, sex becomes a main pastime, which in turn leads to a lot of babies.

In this next slice of Eden’s story, humanity has now scattered and we are in the viewpoint of a beautiful young girl living on an isolated island with her sister and some seventy other people. Life is peaceful, if a little slow and limited – until she manages to persuade a small party to make an epic trip across the dark seas to a larger settlement, where she meets someone who will change her life forever. This is a book all about power – who has it, how they go about grasping it and what it takes to hang onto it. It is about the pull of stories and the past. Who gets to tell our history? How is that history fashioned to impact upon our present and future? Beckett gives us answers in this engrossing adventure story that nevertheless, also has some strong messages for us all – history is always fashioned by the victors to justify what happened to make them victorious.

Starlight encounters a culture very different from the peaceful egalitarian existence she has been brought up with on the island. She experiences wealth and luxury beyond her wildest expectations – but discovers the price is very high. The pages kept on turning as I followed her adventure, holding my breath as Beckett is capable of killing off some of his major characters.

Some of the events that unfolded, I could see coming – but there were also plenty of twists that surprised me right up to the end. And when this one finished, I found the characters had burrowed into my brain – the story keeps popping into my head when I’m supposed to be thinking about something else. I think it will continue to do so for quite a while – in just the same way as Dark Eden. The next book in the series, Daughter of Eden, is also available. I’ve promised myself to get hold of it early in the New Year – I want to know what happens next…
10/10

Sunday Post – 26th November 2017

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This is part of the weekly meme over at the Caffeinated Reviewer, where book bloggers can share the books and blogs they have written.

At last – a week that wasn’t quite so full-on. I’ve still been busy working towards the blog tour for Dying for Space and my teaching commitments have continued, but a break in the Fitstep and Pilates classes meant that I had a full day on Wednesday to work.

On Thursday my writing buddy came over and helped me sort out how to register an ISBN for Dying for Space and upload the ebook onto Amazon in readiness for the Publication Day on 14th December. I will get more technically proficient in due course, but I’m finding the world of self publishing a steep learning curve… On Friday evening, Himself and I were invited over to my sister’s for a meal and afterwards we played several hands of Dobble. It was a lovely, convivial evening – even though it got quite cutthroat by the end – that game takes no prisoners!

Yesterday, my sister and I went shopping as she wanted Christmas decorations for her flat. I’m going to have to curb these excursions with her – a short jaunt to get a bit of tinsel and a small tree somehow morphed into a major spree where I returned with jewellery, make-up and new pair of boots… I’d like to claim they were pressies for the long list of birthdays I have coming up (mother, daughter, granddaughter, mother-in-law) all before Christmas. But no… they were all for me!

While the weather has become distinctly chilly with frosts at night, the last few days have been beautifully sunny and bright.

This week I have read:

The River Keepers by Michael F. Stewart
What would you do if your sister turned into a skunk? How about a mouse? Or a frog? Would you want to be a snake? Have you ever wished to swim like an actual fish? Wouldn’t you worry that a snapping turtle might take a bite out of you? In The River Keepers, two sisters must rise to meet an unexpected challenge. It’s a story infused with the magic and drama outside their backdoor — perhaps yours, too.
This children’s story is enjoyable and well-written, although the blurb led me to expect something a bit different. I shall be reviewing this one during the coming week.

Mother of Eden – Book 2 of the Dark Eden series by Chris Beckett
Civilization has come to the alien, sunless planet its inhabitants call Eden. Just a few generations ago, the planet’s five hundred inhabitants huddled together in the light and warmth of the Forest’s lantern trees, afraid to venture out into the cold darkness around them. Now, humanity has spread across Eden, and two kingdoms have emerged. Both are sustained by violence and dominated by men – and both claim to be the favored children of Gela, the woman who came to Eden long ago on a boat that could cross the stars, and became the mother of them all.
When young Starlight Brooking meets a handsome and powerful man from across Worldpool, she believes he will offer an outlet for her ambition and energy. But she has no inkling what lies ahead of her…
I read Dark Eden a while ago and have never forgotten this disturbing, engrossing science fiction adventure set on a hostile planet. So when I spotted the sequel in the library, I immediately scooped it up – and I wasn’t disappointed… The review will be posted in due course.

My posts last week:

Sunday Post – 19th November, 2017

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of The Prisoner of Limnos – Book 6 of the Penric and Desdemona novella series by Lois McMaster Bujold

Teaser Tuesday featuring Dying for Space – Book 2 of the Sunblinded trilogy by S.J. Higbee (I was reading this one on my Kindle, looking for formatting errors, which is why it ended up as my TT…)

Can’t-Wait Wednesday featuring Deadly Dance – Book 1 of the D.I. David Vogel series by Hilary Bonner

Review of A Plague of Giants – Book 1 of the Seven Kennings series by Kevin Hearne

Friday Face-off – In the bleak midwinter – featuring Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of The Hidden Face – Book 1 of the Fifth Unmasking series by S.C. Flynn

 

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

Flashback Friday https://powerfulwomenreaders.wordpress.com/2017/11/24/flashback-friday-2/ This delightful article was written another world ago when Rae was a teenager keeping a journal – and charts an incident that makes me very glad I had two sisters instead of a brother!

16 Mottos Every Bookworm Can Live By https://mccullum001.wordpress.com/2017/11/20/16-motto-every-bookworm-can-live-by/ I loved these – how true!

The Book of Forgotten Authors: Forgotten Writers Who Are Worth Reading https://interestingliterature.com/2017/11/24/the-book-of-forgotten-authors-forgotten-writers-who-are-worth-reading/ Once more this gem of a site delivers the goods – I, for one, would LOVE to wake up on Christmas morning and find this in my stocking…

5 New Poetry Collections to Watch Out For https://librarystaffpicks.wordpress.com/2017/11/22/5-new-poetry-collections-to-watch-out-for/ And because Christmas is closing with the speed of a torpedo, this might be just the ticket for the poetry-lover in your life…

Thankful for Books? https://lynns-books.com/2017/11/21/ode-to-all-things-bookish/ This was the theme from the Broke and Bookish this week – but instead of listing her books, Lynn chose to list the reasons why she is thankful for having books in her life. Loved it!

Thank you very much for taking the time and trouble to visit, like and comment on my site and may you have a great week.

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of INDIE arc The Hidden Face – Book 1 of The Fifth Unmasking series by S.C. Flynn

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This puzzle-driven epic fantasy was offered to me by the author as I had read and reviewed his debut novel Children of the Different. Would this one impress me as much?

A face without a face – an unmasking that leaves the mask. Once every few hundred years the sun god, the Akhen, takes on human form and descends to earth. Each Unmasking of the Face of the Akhen ends one era and begins another; the last one created the Faustian Empire. Where and when will the Face next appear, and who will he – or she – be?

Dayraven, son of a great hero, returns to Faustia after years as a hostage of their rivals, the Magians. Those years have changed him, but Faustia has changed as well; the emperor Calvo now seems eccentric and is controlled by one of Dayraven’s old enemies. Following the brutal murder of his old teacher, Dayraven is drawn, together with a female warrior named Sunniva, into the search for an ancient secret that would change the fate of empires.

I liked both protagonists, Dayraven in particular. In common with a lot of high-born children, he has been sent to a neighbouring kingdom as surety for good behaviour and brought up in their court. But while he expected to return home within a handful of years, he has to wait a lot longer before returning home to discover all is changed – and not in a good way. Flynn’s unfussy writing style quickly drew me into the story as Dayraven finds out just who his enemies are, while he hurries to meet up with his former tutor and mentor.

And from then, the story nocks up another notch and we are whisked along with Dayraven, who begins to appreciate there is a lot more at stake than Emperor Calvo’s current mental confusion. Once he encounters Sunniva and they form a team, they begin to try to unpick the trail of clues left behind by the two guardians of these vital secrets. Together, they manage to uncover part of the mystery – but a number of formidable antagonists are in close pursuit.

I have seen this book rated as YA – do be aware that while the puzzle-solving aspect may appeal to teens, this one isn’t suitable for a younger age-group. I would not be happy to discover my thirteen-year-old granddaughter reading it as there is a fair amount of sexual content, including a rather explicit sex scene.

Other than that concern, I enjoyed this one. I particularly appreciated the depiction of the antagonists as we discover their motives and why they are trying to find out where the Fifth Unmasking will take place. This works well in powering the story forward as the reader is left in no doubt as to what will happen should the secrets fall into the wrong hands.

The storyline comes to a climactic denouement with plenty of action and drama that had the pages turning and bringing this particular slice of the adventure to a satisfactory close – though there are several major plotpoints left dangling as the story evidently will be continued in the next book. Recommended for epic fantasy fans with a taste for arcane mysteries embedded within the worldbuilding.
8/10

Friday Faceoff – In the bleak midwinter…

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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 a snowscape, so I’ve chosen Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey.

 

This is the cover produced by Reagan Arthur Books in February 2012 and frankly, I don’t know what they were thinking. It is pretty enough – indeed, looks appropriate for a cute childen’s tale. But this book is nothing of the sort – it is a wonderful portrait of survival in a hostile environment, of despair and gritted determination and a miracle. Or is it? So this cover is completely inappropriate.

 

This edition, produced by Headline Review in February 2012 is more like it. I love the simplicity of the deep blue with the outline of the girl and the fox in white. It is eye-catching and gives a far better sense of the book. While it isn’t my favourite, it is certainly a huge improvement on the previous effort.

 

Published in July 2012 by Polirom, this Romanian cover is an unfortunate throwback to the first cover. It looks far too juvenile for this remarkable book which covers very adult themes, even if the prose is at times ethereally beautiful.

 

Thank goodness this cover, produced in September 2014 by Tinder Press, is a much better effort. The snowscape is still beautiful. I love the looping font the footsteps leading away from it towards the smudge in the trees that may or may not be the child. Lovely and entirely in keeping with the content.

 

However my favourite is this Serbian edition by Laguna, published in January 2013. I love the cool blue of the cover and the delicacy and detail of the frosting around the edge of the cover – how beautiful! And it isn’t the snow child portrayed on the cover, it is the heavier figure of the woman, searching for her… As you may have gathered, I’ve become a tad overwrought about these covers – but which is your favourite?

Review of KINDLE Ebook A Plague of Giants – Book 1 of the Seven Kennings series by Kevin Hearne

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I loved Kevin Hearne’s Iron Druid series – you can check out my review of Hounded. So when I heard that he had embarked on an epic fantasy, I was intrigued.

In the city of Pelemyn, Fintan the bard takes to the stage to tell what really happened the night the giants came . . . From the east came the Bone Giants, from the south, the fire-wielding Hathrim – an invasion that sparked war across the six nations of Teldwen. The kingdom’s only hope is the discovery of a new form of magic that calls the world’s wondrous beasts to fight by the side of humankind.

What do you do if you wish to portray your epic world through the eyes of eleven protagonists? Well… there is always the George R.R. Martin option, I suppose. But Hearne has gone for a different approach – he has a bard with a magical ability to take the shape and persona of the characters, who then tells their slice of the adventure to a city of refugees caught up in the war. It’s a nifty device to sidestep the problem of trying to get the reader to keep track of exactly who is doing what to whom – especially as at the start of each performance, the bard tells the audience who will be introducing the character who will be taking the stage.

Does Hearne succeed? I’ll be honest – A Plague of Giants took some time to grow on me. Himself immediately was drawn into the world and kept imploring me to keep going, not that I was tempted to DNF it – the writing is too good, for starters. But I was about 20% into the story before the world seeped into my bones and I was reaching for my Kindle with eagerness. Once I was familiar with the cast of characters and the narrative had taken root, I was won over. Because of the structure, this epic fantasy is completely character-driven and I’m a real sucker for character-driven plots.

As we drew closer to the climax, I was holding my breath because we already knew that the giants had very little wriggle-room – they couldn’t return to their homeland due to the volcanic eruption devastating their island. And because a significant number of the giants also wielded fire as their kenning (read magical talent) they were lethal. I also have to warn you that not all the eleven protagonists survive to the end of the story – I was shocked to discover who doesn’t make it and the manner of their death. Inevitably, the story is somewhat fragmented, given it is told piecemeal by a variety of characters – some of them not human. But I grew to really enjoy this world and the diversity of species who are caught up in the conflict caused by the giants’ invasion.

The ending was suitably dramatic and despite the book being 600+ pages, when I got to the end I was genuinely sorry this instalment of the tale was over. While I’m aware that there has been a mixed reception to this one, if you enjoy well-written epic fantasy that gives an insight into the political machinations as well as plenty of action, both military and magical, then go looking for this one. While I can’t guarantee you’ll love it – if it does tick your box, you’ll really, really thank me.
9/10

Can’t-Wait Wednesday – 22nd November, 2017

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40276268 – vintage old pocket watch and book

Can’t-Wait Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted at Wishful Endings, to spotlight and discuss the books we’re excited about that we have yet to read. Generally they’re books that have yet to be released. It’s based on Waiting on Wednesday, hosted by the fabulous Jill at Breaking the Spine.

This week’s Can’t Wait offering – Deadly Dance – Book 1 of the D.I. David Vogel series by Hilary Bonner

#crime #police procedural #psychological thriller #murder mystery

This compelling novel of psychological suspense is the first in an intriguing new series featuring Bristol detective, DI David Vogel.

The discovery of the partially-clothed body of a teenage girl in the heart of Bristol’s red light district indicates a tragic yet familiar scenario. But this marks the start of a baffling murder investigation where nothing is as it first appears. Fourteen-year-old Melanie Cooke told her mother she was visiting a school friend. Who was she really going to meet?

Detective Inspector David Vogel is led towards three very different principal protagonists, each of whom grows increasingly chilling. But are they what they seem? And is any one of them capable of murder?

This offering caught my eye on the Netgalley dashboard – partly because it is the start of a new series and more crucially because the setting is Bristol, England and the author used to be a journalist. I have more than a soft spot for crime novels set outside London – and it promises to be an entertaining read. I’ll be reviewing this one in due course…

Teaser Tuesday – 21st November, 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!

Well… this slightly awkward – because right now, I’m rereading my own book on my Kindle to iron out any formatting glitches before uploading it to Amazon. I did consider turning to the next book on my reading pile, but that didn’t seem quite right, either. So I’ve chosen an extract from my upcoming book, anyway.

This is my choice of the day:

Dying for Space – Book 2 of the Sunblinded trilogy by S.J. Higbee

20% “So.” He eyed me up and down. “You’re Elsbeth’s replacement, eh? And where did the old man dig you up from, then?”

I blinked. Whatever they thought, people usually didn’t speak of Norman in such terms and certainly not when a guest at his table. My wariness of this man spiked into dislike. “I’m what is known in polite circles as a love-child.” I gave him my version of Norman’s lethal grin. “But doubtless, you’d call me a bastard.”

BLURB: Cadet Officer Elizabeth Wright just wants to make her father proud, while the mercenary warlord is looking for her to replace his dead family…

I finally get the opportunity to become a serving officer and fulfil my childhood dream, as well as get to know my biological father, General Norman. And when I first clap eyes on Restormel, the HQ of my father’s space mercenary outfit, it’s the most beautiful building I’ve ever seen.

But appearances can be deceptive. There are dark secrets hidden in the twisting corridors and blood-soaked cells beneath the training grounds and banqueting rooms. Secrets that seep out. Secrets that demand fresh victims, because whatever else happens, they can’t be allowed to see the light of day…