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 meme is being nurtured by Lynn’s Book Blog and this week we are featuring BROWN covers. I’ve selected The Naturalist series by Andrew Mayne. I haven’t yet read any of the books, though the first one is on my TBR…
The Naturalist was published by Thomas & Mercer in October 2017. It’s rare I want to reach out and STROKE a cover, but that is exactly what I want to do with this one. I also very much like that the font is given sufficient attention. It might be relatively white and plain – but just look at the way it pops against that rich brown. I get the sense the colour choice is deliberate rather than because nobody could be bothered to consider anything else. I love the way the title and author fonts appear to be sinking into that luxuriant coat. This is so nearly my favourite…
Published in March 2018 by Thomas & Mercer, they’ve nailed the cover of this second book in the series, too. It is apparently such a simple design, but I cannot take my eyes off it. The richness of the fallen leaves half covering bones… the fact we cannot quite make out exactly what they are is tantalising, adding to the sense of mystery. And again, the title and author fonts have been masterfully handled. I love the clean uncluttered look of this classy offering. This is how covers should look, people! Not that I’m ranting. At all. And in case you hadn’t already guessed – this one is my favourite.
Murder Theory, the third book in The Naturalist series, was published in February 2019 by Thomas & Mercer and once again, features an eye-catching natural scene that mesmerises. The fractured wood with the spatters of blood flicking across the title and author fonts is so very clever and telling. And no chatter or blurb to detract from the power of that design. Another lovely, well crafted cover that makes me want to pick this one up…
Thomas & Mercer published Dark Pattern in October 2019 – clearly going for a quick-release strategy to keep readers keen to continue to follow the story. It doesn’t hurt that they also have produced stormingly good covers to help with the marketing. I love that stick, which also looks a bit like a snake with an open mouth. The way the fern encroaches on the font adds to the pleasing detail. I really love all these covers – and just wish that more books had the same classy look. Thomas & Mercer rock! Which is your favourite?
I’ve enjoyed this cosy mystery series that deliberately harks back to the golden era of this genre – see my review of Murder Takes a Turn.
November, 1956. Lord Elsmere, an old friend of Donald Langham’s literary agent, Charles Elder, is in a pickle – his favourite painting, a Gainsborough, has been stolen from under his nose. What’s more, there’s no evidence of a break-in. The family heirloom was recently re-insured for a hefty price, and Elsmere is struggling financially. Could he have staged the theft, or was it taken by one of the guests? Old Major Rutherford, evasive beauty Rebecca Miles, Dutch war hero Patrick Verlinden, Elsmere’s son Dudley Mariner and his statuesque sculpture fiancée, Esmeralda Bellamy, are all guests at the manor. But who would steal the painting, and why? Private investigators Langham and Ralph Ryland take on the case and soon uncover seething animosities, jealousy, secrets and deception, before events take a shocking turn…
And if this setup seems as comfortingly familiar as a late-night cup of cocoa, then you’re right. This is the classic country-house murder mystery chock-full of likely suspects, with Donald and Ralph slogging through the forest of clues and red herrings to try and make sense of the puzzle, before tracking down the perpetrator. I really enjoyed this one. The murder mystery was intriguing, linked as it was to the theft of the Gainsborough and I particularly liked the denouement as it connected directly with the historical period when this story was set.
Brown’s writing superpower is depicting setting – the landscape he evokes in a future version of Paris in his science fiction adventure Engineman is outstanding and has seeped into my inscape. So having a thoroughly satisfying cosy mystery set in such a strong backdrop, where the social and political issues are taken into account is a real bonus. I’ve found myself thinking about this one several times since I finished it – always a sign of a successful book – and I highly recommend Murder Served Cold to fans of well-written country house murder mysteries.
I picked this one up because the author is one I enjoy – as well as writing this historical murder mystery series, he also has written a number of successful science fiction novels. Indeed, Engineman, has one of the most memorable backdrops I’ve encountered in science fiction, outside a C.J. Cherryh novel.
When Langham’s literary agent receives a cryptic letter inviting him to spend the weekend at the grand Cornish home of successful novelist Denbigh Connaught, Charles Elder seems reluctant to attend. What really happened between Elder and Connaught during the summer of 1917, nearly forty years before – and why has it had such a devastating effect on Charles? Accompanying his agent to Connaught House, Langham and his wife Maria discover that Charles is not the only one to have received a letter. But why has Denbigh Connaught gathered together a group of people who each bear him a grudge? When a body is discovered in Connaught’s study, the ensuing investigation uncovers dark secrets that haunt the past of each and every guest – including Charles Elder himself …
And if the cover and tone of the blurb remind you of an Agatha Christie novel, you’re absolutely right. The way the book unfolds is clearly a nod in the direction of the Grand Dame of Crime. I liked the main protagonists – it’s a refreshing change to have a dear old chap like Charles Elder right in the middle of things and his business partner Maria and her husband Donald are the couple who doing the sleuthing on this case. The location – a country house in an isolated part of Cornwall – is classically cosy mystery and the method in which the unfortunate victim dies is suitably macabre.
This is an ideal summer holiday read, which plenty of twists and turns and an entertaining variety of possible suspects. I did guess the identity of the murderer before the final big reveal – but only because I read all Agatha Christie’s novels longer ago than I care to think. That said, it didn’t put a huge dent in my enjoyment, because this was more about being bathed in the experience of revisiting an imagined past that I’m sure never existed – although I wished it had. Recommended for fans of well written historical cosy mysteries.
I happened to be in the library, browsing the shelves when this offering beckoned. I couldn’t resist, given that I enjoy Brown’s writing – see my review of Engineman, which has some of my favourite scene setting of any sci fi novel, ever…
Telepath Den Harper did the dirty work for the authoritarian Expansion, reading the minds of criminals, spies and undesirables. Unable to take the strain, he stole a starship and headed into the unknown, a sector of lawless space known as Satan’s Reach. For five years he worked as a trader among the stars; then discovered that the Expansion had set a bounty hunter on his trail. But what does the Expansion want with a lowly telepath like Harper? Is there validity in the rumours that human space is being invaded by aliens from another realm? Harper finds out the answer to both these questions when he rescues an orphan girl from certain death.
Den is a likeable chap in a tricky situation, which gets steadily trickier as this fast-paced, enjoyable space opera progresses. This is space opera where the universe is heaving with multitudes of aliens and faster-than-light travels occurs such that zipping between planets takes a matter of weeks. That’s okay – I can happily cope with that. Brown evokes a vivid range of worlds with differing climates, customs and lifestyles in amongst the mayhem, which I thoroughly enjoyed. I also liked the very efficient and adaptable spaceship Den has managed to snag for himself.
Initially, I thought it was all a bit too good to be true, but Brown manages to nicely weave into the storyline the reason why said ship is quite so nifty and needless to say, it all ends in tears… I liked the fact that Den’s gift of telepathy comes at a terrible price – he finds it painful to mindread, particularly alien minds so spends most of his time heavily shielded. He is also rather withdrawn, preferring his own company, which I found entirely plausible.
The story development is excellent – just when I thought it couldn’t get any worse, it did so that I read far later into the night when I should have put the book down and got some sleep. Any niggles – I could have done without the romantic element as I thought it out of character for both the protagonists concerned. But as there are two more books in this series, I’m guessing it isn’t all going to run smoothly from hereon in.
Overall, a cracking read from a writer who really knows his craft and if you like your space opera with plenty of excitement and enjoyable worlds, then this one is recommended.
I picked up the first book, Red Rising – see my review here – last month and was blown away by the full-on action, the twists and turns and the climactic ending. Yes… I’m aware that there is a Hunger Games vibe that runs through it, but given that I thoroughly enjoyed The Hunger Games trilogy anyway, and that Brown’s detailed worldbuilding had the savage winnowing embedded within the culture that Darrow is rebelling against, I didn’t have a problem with it. The second book, Golden Son – see my review here – was equally action-packed, with a similarly cataclysmic ending that had me longing to get hold of the third book.
Darrow would have lived in peace, but his enemies brought him war. The Gold overlords demanded his obedience, hanged his wife, and enslaved his people. But Darrow is determined to fight back. Risking everything to transform himself and breach Gold society, Darrow has battled to survive the cutthroat rivalries that breed Society’s mightiest warriors, climbed the ranks, and waited patiently to unleash the revolution that will tear the hierarchy apart from within.
As it happens, I didn’t have to wait too long, as it was released a few days ago – yippee! Would this final book continue to engross me? To be honest, it did have a slightly sticky start. Brown’s forthright pacey style stuttered, and I found the opening pages a bit of a trudge as it seems to backtrack, rather than plunge headlong into the galloping plot. However, I persevered as I had really enjoyed the first two slices of this adventure, and was very curious to see how it would all pan out. About a quarter of the way in, the book picked up pace as Darrow was busy trying to stay alive, lurching from crisis to crisis as the rebellion kicked off around him.
I like his character. Brown manages to provide the classic, driven alpha male who nonetheless is assailed by doubts and painfully aware of the consequences of some of his actions. I also enjoyed the fact that although there are regular outbreaks of bloody violence throughout the trilogy – this is not one for the squeamish – those deaths continue to impact on the action, both personally and politically. I like the fact that it mattered when some of the characters died – and went on mattering throughout the trilogy.
Once Morning Star found its feet, the plot barrelled forward with Brown’s usual explosive energy. There is also a fair amount of humour running through the story and some moving moments as Darrow strives to hold onto the group of people he has befriended during his roller-coaster progress, though those friendships are constantly threatened by the sense of betrayal they feel at his duplicity. I also enjoyed the dilemma Darrow faces as he becomes the poster boy for the rebellion due to a particular piece of film repeatedly shown to inspire the Reds to rise up for justice. How can he move on from his bereavement and invest in another relationship, when he is defined by his heartbreak and grief?
Not that Brown breaks his stride when presenting his character this particular problem – he is too busy creating yet another crushing problem for Darrow to endure. So, did he accomplish a suitably climactic and convincing ending? Yes, he did. It was a fitting conclusion to a really entertaining and enjoyable read – and if you haven’t yet had the pleasure, don’t start with Morning Star, get hold of Red Rising. Pierce Brown is One To Watch.
I was very impressed with the first book in this series, Red Rising – see my review here – which charts Darrow’s struggles to establish himself after tragedy strikes and he is left for dead. Would I enjoy this second book that takes the story further?
Darrow is a rebel forged by tragedy. For years he and his fellow Reds worked the mines, toiling to make the surface of Mars habitable. They were, they believed, mankind’s last hope. Until Darrow discovered that it was all a lie…
That is as much of the rather chatty blurb that I’m willing to share, given that you may be inspired to track down the first book. All I will add is that Brown writes with great intensity and pace, so that Darrow and his followers pack an awful lot into this engrossing dystopian, coming-of-age science fiction thriller. I very much like the way the society is structured – after civilisation crashes on Earth, the survivors aspire to rebuild humanity using the precepts of the ancients. So there is slavery with the Reds right down at the bottom of the heap – both literally and metaphorically, and the Golds are the ruling elite with all the genetic gifts, being waited on hand, foot and finger as all the advantages or wealth and power accrue to them.
There is a catch, however. In order to survive as a Gold, you have to fight among your peers to the death, as there is a savage winnowing to ensure the most dangerous and amoral survive. These ruthless killers are the future leaders of this dystopian society, where everyone is rigidly confined within their colour to serve in the capacity preordained by their birth. Moreover it matters little if they are not suited to that task, because if they aren’t, they simply will not live all that long… And if you’re thinking that this setup will inevitably mean this book will contain a degree of violence – you’re absolutely right. This offering is not for the faint-hearted. Limbs are lopped off and people are cut down in a range of savage fights and battles.
This is foot-to-the-floor, full-on adrenaline fuelled action more or less from the first page, right to the startling denouement at the end… Brown is an accomplished storyteller who navigates the twists and turns within this story with deftness and confidence.
Darrow experiences a roller-coaster ride in his fortunes among the Golds, with the tight-knit team he has acquired from his adventures in Red Rising. However, he is also horribly isolated and that loneliness is increasingly weighing heavily on him as he wonders about the point of his mission. I really enjoyed the way Darrow’s character continues to develop throughout this book – he is all the more human and sympathetic for it. And we also need these interludes, in amongst the killing and the mayhem, to allow the reader to rebond with this main protagonist.
For if we don’t care what happens to him, then the whole structure of the book is immediately undermined, as it is the classic embittered hero striving to bring the structure down on the heads of all those around him, while hoping to rebuild something better from the ashes. Brown doesn’t have him slavishly following this path, however. And it is his questioning and doubts that open up the story to a far more interesting set of questions about what he has turned into and whether unleashing this amount of violence upon a lot of innocents, including servants and children, can ever be justified.
And once more – the ending is a doozy. I certainly didn’t see that coming… This is a cracking addition to the trilogy – no middle book slump here. And if you are looking for a new science fiction adventure with plenty of action and excitement, then track down Red Rising.
I scooped this offering up from the shelves because it was labelled Science Fiction and I liked the cover. As you can see, I’ve all the depth of a pavement puddle when choosing my next read…
Darrow is a Helldiver, one of a hundred generations of people who live beneath the surface of Mars, spending their lives toiling to mine the precious elements that will allow the planet to be terraformed. Just knowing that once day, people will be able to walk the surface of the planet is enough to justify their sacrifice. The Earth is dying, and Darrow and his people are the only hope humanity has left. Until the day Darrow learns that it is all a lie.
This truncated version of the rather chatty blurb sets up the opening stages of this dystopian science fiction adventure with the strapline: Ender’s Game meets The Hunger Games. Hm. Not sure about that one. While there are definitely elements of The Hunger Games to this adventure, this is grittier.
I love the character of Darrow – his first person narration is punchy and memorable. He has a range of extraordinary talents, yet as he is constantly floundering in amongst a group who know far more about what is going on than he does, he doesn’t come off as too invulnerable. I have strict rules about not verging into spoiler territory, so discussing this particular dystopian fast-paced adventure in any depth immediately poses some challenges. However, I can assure you that one major difference between The Hunger Games and Red Rising is that Darrow isn’t in the middle of a love triangle.
In order for a dystopian science fiction adventure to work, the world has to be convincing; the faultlines within the society have to make sense and the progression into the sorry state the world finds itself also has to be plausible. There also needs to be sufficient complexity to provide plenty of realistic tension to continue giving the protagonist challenges as he struggles to change things in a believable manner. All in all, this is a hefty list – and it is the most common reason why a significant selection of dystopian science fiction offerings go flying across the room, no matter how personable the protagonist.
But Brown manages to tick all the boxes on that score – he has a detailed backstory, with a layered, unequal society and strong, plausible reasons for it to be that way. The description of Darrow’s daily life as a Helldiver in the mines of Mars is extremely well done, providing a vivid insight into what makes him tick, which is really important when he makes some daft decisions later on. But it also meant that I strongly bonded with him – also crucial further on in the book when he takes some dark decisions. All in all, this is a memorable, engrossing read and I’m in the process of tracking down the second book, Golden Son.
This Kindle edition of Eric Brown’s interesting offering caught my eye as I enjoyed Brown’s Bengal Station trilogy. The most professionally produced ebook I’ve read so far, I didn’t notice any typos or mistakes and the formatting was flawless. Once I finished the novel, there was an additional collection of short stories, all set in the same world.
Once the Enginemen pushed bigships through the cobalt glory of the nada-continuum. But faster than light isn’t fast enough anymore. The interfaces of the Keilor-Vincicoff Organisation bring planets light years distant a simple step away. Then a man with half a face offers ex-Engineman Ralph Mirren the chance to escape his ruined life and push a ship to an undisclosed destination. The nada-continuum holds the key to Ralph’s future. What he cannot anticipate is its universal importance – nor the mystery awaiting him on the distant colony world.
And there you have it. This isn’t full-on, action-stuffed adventure that whisks you up on page one and doesn’t let you catch your breath until the closing sentence. This is an adventure, alright and it steadily gains momentum as the book progresses, but this particular world is an intrinsic part of the story and as such, Brown is at pains to set the scene. Paris is vividly described as a fading city, overrun in parts with alien vegetation as the population continues to move away to more thriving places, both on and off Earth. The previously bustling port and centre of the bigship industry is sliding into inexorable decline – I felt there was a strong comparison to the Port of London after cargo containerisation became the norm. And just as parts of Paris are no longer vital, neither are the Enginemen – those once elite corps of men and women whose brainwaves ‘pushed’ the bigships into the nada-continuum while in a trance-like state called the flux, allowing the ships to travel thousands of light-years in a matter of weeks and months. However, once interfaces were invented so that people could actually walk or drive through to colony planets, the Enginemen were obsolete and unwanted…
The book explores the plight which echoes that of generations of men and women through the ages who have found their skills are suddenly redundant. Many of these highly skilled people, hungering for the neural high they can only achieve when pushing bigships, take refuge in the religion of the Enginemen – while others cannot manage to grasp at the comfort that this spirituality offers. This is science fiction at its best – looking at contemporary issues through a futuristic lens…
Brown’s world is so engrossing, the story running through it was almost a distraction and I wasn’t wholly convinced by the ending, which I felt was a bit too unconvincingly upbeat, given the gnarly issues that Brown addresses. However as it got going, it drew me in and I particularly became involved in Ellie’s plotline. I think that Brown’s female protagonists work better than his men – a tendency that is emphasised in the short stories. That said, the characters were all suitably complex and interesting and held my interest throughout.
Any grizzles? Well… it might be a picky point – but as the world is so carefully constructed, it did somewhat jar that as all this alien vegetation engulfed chunks of Paris, at no point did anyone mention any attempts to control or monitor what was growing. Even in a rundown area, I still think there would be – at sporadic intervals – fully overalled, masked teams stomping through, spraying various noxious substances around the place, probably with a glorious disregard for human health, this being a Brown novel. Even if it wasn’t effective, humanity’s hang-ups about the ‘other’ would not tolerate such a laissez-faire attitude to rampant creepers punching through buildings… In the scheme of things, though, this is a relatively minor point and despite my misgivings about the ending, I think Engineman is an excellent read, raising some pertinent questions about how technology is constantly stranding groups of people who strained to train to acquire a skill – only to find themselves on the scrapheap a few years further down the line.
Which brings me onto the short stories. As they were set in the same world, often addressing the same themes and echoing some of the plotpoints in the novel, I got the impression that a number of them were written alongside the book, helping Brown ‘write his way’ into the storyline. As a result, I found a number of them were so similar in tone and plot to aspects of the novel, I don’t think they offered very much in the way of extra insights into the world. This is particularly applicable to The Girl Who Died for Art and Lived and the award-winning The Time-Elapsed Man. Both were excellent stories, but I do question whether they should have been at the end of this particular book. However, a couple did break away from this tendency and I found Big Trouble Upstairs and The Pineal-Zen Equation really enjoyable reads.
Overall, I thoroughly recommend this ambitious book, which will leave me pondering some of the ideas it raises for a long time to come.
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 meme is being nurtured by Lynn’s Book Blog and this week we are featuring covers with lots of DETAIL. I’ve selected Just One Damned Thing After Another – Book 1 of the Chronicles of St Mary’s by Jodie Taylor, see my review.
This offering was produced by Night Shade in June 2016 and is one of the default covers for this quirky book. It certainly features some of the elements that pack the book, though my grizzle with it is that you don’t have a clue about the madcap humour running through the book by looking at this design. Though I really like the treatment of the font – I just wish the lower half of the cover wasn’t such a dreary brown, which makes it look far too dark and forbidding.
Published in September 2013 by Accent Press, this is the other default cover and the one that immediately sprang to mind when I thought of this week’s them. I know that it doesn’t look all that detailed initially, but if you look closely through the steam of that inviting cuppa, you’ll see glimpses of some of the time travel projects the St Mary’s team embark on. I love the bright colour that gives an indication of the comedy that runs through this book. Taylor is the only one of a handful of authors who I can rely on to make me both laugh and weep when reading her books. In case you didn’t already realise, this is my favourite.
This edition, published in November 2013 by Accent Press is another strong contender, even though I don’t like it quite as much as the previous design. The border in this instance works well. While the design is pared right back, there is still a lot going on in this cover, though it isn’t as busy as the previous offering. It is all held together by the clever use of the black and red shading, making it eye-catching and elegant.
This Kindle edition, published in November 2013 by Accent Press is another eye-catching effort. Using a blurry version of the teacup, the illustrations in the top half of the cover are more apparent in thumbnail – someone actually thought about how this one was going to look at a smaller scale, which is refreshing. And indeed, the design is far easier to decipher and stands out well. However, my preference is still for the second cover, though I think it comes down to the fact that I’ll always go for brighter colours, given a choice.
This Italian edition, published by Corbaccio in February 2020, has gone for a more pared back effect, with the designer using an art deco feel, clearly trying to evoke a classic British style, as there is something manically Brit about the way St Mary’s is run. But this version is far too elegant and crisply up together. For instance, Max is far more likely to be found wearing a boiler suit, than a smart skirt. And again, the subdued shades of garnet don’t give an indication of the sheer fun of this engaging series. Which is your favourite?
This is part of the weekly meme over at the Caffeinated Reviewer, where book bloggers can share the books and blogs they have written.
I’ve been very quiet over the last few days online, because we went away to celebrate our wedding anniversary, seeing as we’ve now been married 25 years. Which seems a ridiculous number of years on one level. Yet on another… I cannot conceive Life without Himself by my side. Last Sunday we went to a local Tai restaurant to celebrate Himself’s birthday and then on Monday, we sat down to plan our getaway to celebrate our Silver Wedding anniversary.
We stayed at the Ashdown Park Hotel and Spa, which is in the middle of Ashdown Forest of Winnie the Pooh fame, from Wednesday to Saturday. It’s an amazing place – this week’s pics are of the hotel and grounds. On Thursday, we visited Bateman’s, the National Trust property where Rudyard Kipling spent the last years of his life. Due to COVID-19, the house was closed, but the gardens were open and are lovely. The weather throughout our holiday was fabulous – bright sunshine which was warm enough for me, yet cool enough for Himself. We’d planned to visit Bodium Castle on Friday – but when it came around, we decided we’d rather spend the day in our gorgeous room. Later in the afternoon, we went for what was supposed to be a gentle walk in the extensive grounds – and got lost for about an hour in the forest, because the designated path had become impassable. We decided to push on, rather than turn off, as another path was clearly visible. Until it wasn’t… There was no phone signal worth the name and by half past five, we were still scrambling over fallen trees and through bracken. Fortunately, I listened to Himself, rather than follow my own wretched sense of direction and when we finally emerged from the forest onto a corner of the golf course, we were only a short walk from the actual hotel. During the walk we saw squirrels, a fox and deer.
We both were sorry to pack up and return home on Saturday, but were happy in the knowledge that we couldn’t have had a better time.
Last week I read:
Taken to Voraxia – Book 1 of the Xiveri Mates series by Elizabeth Stephens Miari Here’s what I know: aliens invade our colony every three years, hunt and claim the most beautiful of our women, then leave. Here’s what I don’t know: why the king of them is here this time, and why his black, glittering eyes are trained on me. A hybrid with red alien skin and brown human eyes, I’m not pretty. I’ve got no family and no plans to ever have one – least of all with this monster of a male. I’m an inventor, a mechanic, a tinkerer. The alien king wants me for reasons I can only guess at, but I’m not about to be taken for a slave and his response to me is something I know I can engineer my way out of.
He plans to come back for me when I’m of age, but he’ll have to find me first. Our little colony is a scary, desperate place and I’m less afraid to face it, than to face him or the strange, alien sensations he stirs…
Raku She is my Xiveri mate, yet she runs from me – straight into the horrors of her small, savage moon colony. Slaughtering in her defense is easy, while gaining her trust will be the true challenge. She fears my kind and the horrors my treacherous general has inflicted on her humans. Does she not know that it is my blood rite to keep her safe against him and his even more dangerous off-world allies? No, she thinks herself my slave and in place of acceptance, offers me only pacts and bargains. Shamed by her pacts, I still take them all gluttonously, because though she knows only hate, I know only need.
Eventually, we will need more than just these pacts between us if I am to convince her that she is my Xiveri mate and if she is to take her place at my side, not as my slave, but as Voraxia’s queen. I was a tad surprised at just how steamy this sci fi romance turned out to be. That said, the world and general premise behind the love story was well written and the characters were sympathetic with a strong backstory – which isn’t always the case with sexy stories. Mini-review to follow.
Earth Prime – Book 1 of the Earth Girl Aftermath stories by Janet Edwards Earth Prime is the first of two collections of aftermath stories set in the distant future of the Earth Girl trilogy (Earth Girl, Earth Star, and Earth Flight). This collection is set immediately after Earth Flight, and focuses on Jarra, Fian, and the other archaeologists before they head to excavate the alien ruins on Fortuna. I’m a real fan of Edwards’ writing and loved the Earth Girl series, so was delighted when Janet asked me if I was interested in reading an arc of her latest collection. In fact, it doesn’t read like a collection of stories – more like an extension of events surrounding Jarra’s class, before some of them head off to investigate the ruins on Fortuna. Review to follow.
AUDIOBOOK Magnus Chase and the Hammer of Thor – Book 2 of the Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard series by Rick Riordan It’s been six weeks since Magnus and his friends returned from defeating Fenris Wolf and the fire giants. Magnus has adjusted to life at the Hotel Valhalla—as much as a once-homeless and previously alive kid can. As a son of Frey, the god of summer, fertility, and health, Magnus doesn’t exactly fit in with the rest of Odin’s chosen warriors, but he has a few good peeps among his hallmates on floor nineteen, and he’s been dutifully training for Ragnarok along with everyone else. His days have settled into a new kind of normal.
But Magnus should have known there’s no such thing as normal in the Nine Worlds. His friends Hearthstone and Blitzen have disappeared. A new hallmate is creating chaos. According to a very nervous goat, a certain object belonging to Thor is still missing, and the thunder god’s enemies will stop at nothing to gain control of it. I really enjoy Riordan’s smart, contemporary take on the Norse pantheon, with Magnus as a sympathetic and funny narrator of his own adventures. In amongst all the fun, these books also spark an interest in ancient mythologies – my grandson is studying Classical History because of them. Mini-review to follow.
Kept From Cages – Book 1 of the Ikiri duology by Phil Williams Reece’s gang of criminal jazz musicians have taken shelter in the wrong house. There’s a girl with red eyes bound to a chair. The locals call her a devil – but Reece sees a kid that needs protecting. He’s more right than he knows. Chased by a shadowy swordsman and an unnatural beast, the gang flee across the Deep South with the kid in tow. She won’t say where she’s from or who exactly her scary father is, but she’s got powers they can’t understand. How much will Reece risk to save her?
On the other side of the world, Agent Sean Tasker’s asking similar questions. With an entire village massacred and no trace of the killers, he’s convinced Duvcorp’s esoteric experiments are responsible. His only ally is an unstable female assassin, and their only lead is Ikiri – a black-site in the Congo, which no one leaves alive. How far is Tasker prepared to go for answers? This headlong adventure is packed full of incident, and peopled by a cast of eccentric, memorable characters in vivid settings. A spinoff from Williams’ successful Ordshaw series, this enjoyable paranormal thriller is a real adrenaline ride. Review to follow.
Written in Red – Book 1 of The Others series by Anne Bishop As a cassandra sangue, or blood prophet, Meg Corbyn can see the future when her skin is cut—a gift that feels more like a curse. Meg’s Controller keeps her enslaved so he can have full access to her visions. But when she escapes, the only safe place Meg can hide is at the Lakeside Courtyard—a business district operated by the Others.
Shape-shifter Simon Wolfgard is reluctant to hire the stranger who inquires about the Human Liaison job. First, he senses she’s keeping a secret, and second, she doesn’t smell like human prey. Yet a stronger instinct propels him to give Meg the job. And when he learns the truth about Meg and that she’s wanted by the government, he’ll have to decide if she’s worth the fight between humans and the Others that will surely follow. Himself has been nagging me to read this series for a while – and when we were away, I decided to tuck into this first book. I loved the premise and the taut writing, so inhaled this one throughout a lazy afternoon on the terrace. Review to follow.
A Wizard’s Guide to Defensive Baking by T. Kingfisher Fourteen-year-old Mona isn’t like the wizards charged with defending the city. She can’t control lightning or speak to water. Her familiar is a sourdough starter and her magic only works on bread. She has a comfortable life in her aunt’s bakery making gingerbread men dance. But Mona’s life is turned upside down when she finds a dead body on the bakery floor. An assassin is stalking the streets of Mona’s city, preying on magic folk, and it appears that Mona is his next target. And in an embattled city suddenly bereft of wizards, the assassin may be the least of Mona’s worries… This is an utter joy. Mona is a delightful protagonist and I loved the world, where real danger is leavened by Mona’s tart take on the mess the adults are making of it. As for the magic, it’s a delight. Review to follow.
Murder of Crows – Book 2 of The Others series by Anne Bishop After winning the trust of the terra indigene residing in the Lakeside Courtyard, Meg Corbyn has had trouble figuring out what it means to live among them. As a human, Meg should be barely tolerated prey, but her abilities as a cassandra sangue make her something more. The appearance of two addictive drugs has sparked violence between the humans and the Others, resulting in the murder of both species in nearby cities. So when Meg has a dream about blood and black feathers in the snow, Simon Wolfgard – Lakeside’s shape-shifting leader – wonders if their blood prophet dreamed of a past attack or a future threat. I returned to this beguiling world, as I’d thoroughly enjoyed reading about Meg and her struggle to put the horrors of her previous life behind her. This adventure is every bit as addictively readable as the first. Mini-review to follow.