Category Archives: alien encounter

Discovery Challenge 2017 and Tackling My TBR – April Roundup

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After reading Jo Hall’s post on the problems women authors have with getting discovered, I’ve been taking part in the challenge to read and review at least 24 books by female authors each year that were previously unknown to me for the last two years. During April, I read – six books towards my 2017 Discovery Challenge, which brings my annual number of books written by women writers I hadn’t read before to thirteen. They are:

Winter Tide – Book 1 of The Innesmouth Legacy by Ruthanna Emrys
After attacking Devil’s Reef in 1928, the U.S. Government rounded up the people of Innsmouth and took them to the desert, far from their ocean, their Deep One ancestors, and their sleeping god Cthulhu. Only Aphra and Caleb Marsh survived the camps, and they emerged without a past or a future. The government that stole Aphra’s life now needs her help. FBI agent Ron Spector believes that Communist spies have stolen dangerous magical secrets from Miskatonic University, secrets that could turn the Cold War hot in an instant, and hasten the end of the human race. Aphra must return to the ruins of her home, gather scraps of her stolen history, and assemble a new family to face the darkness of human nature.
For those of you who don’t recognise the references, Winter Tide is set in the world of H.P. Lovecraft, the famous horror and dark fantasy short story writer and novelist. The story, without any apparent headlong rush, nonetheless steadily unspools, gathering momentum as this odd, compulsive world continues to beguile. This is one of my outstanding books of the year so far – see my review here.

 

Magic in the City by Heather Dyer
Brothers Jake and Simon Grubb are not happy they have to leave their home in Canada to move in with their cousin Hannah and her family in England. But things get interesting for the boys when, on the way there, they encounter a retiring magician at a highway rest stop who presents them with three gifts he claims have magical properties: a carpet, a camera and a stopwatch. Unfortunately, the magician doesn’t provide them with any instructions. So when the boys and Hannah find themselves being swept away on a wild adventure fueled by the magic in these curious objects, they have to learn as they go. But who cares when it’s this exciting!
I found the three child protagonists all appealing and believable. The boys, in particular, I thought were done well. I also very much liked the way Dyer handled the major life event that brought the boys and their mother across to resettle in Britain – I had assumed one thing was the problem, but it turned out to be something quite different – see my review here.

 

Saven Deception – Book 1 of the Saven series by Siobhan Davis
Sadie Owens has been slowly dying inside. Bit by bit, piece by piece, day by day. Trapped in a life she hates, she relies on only one person—herself. Despised by her family and betrayed by an unscrupulous government, Sadie dreams of a different life. When she is chosen to participate in the government’s new social experiment, she is ecstatic at the prospect of spending six months in Thalassic City, the shiny new city under the sea. Sadie is captivated by Logan, the beautiful boy with the ocean-blue eyes, but he isn’t all he appears to be. When she finally uncovers the government’s real agenda, the truth is more shocking than anything she could ever have imagined.
I very much enjoyed Sadie’s character – she has clearly had a rough time at home with a hostile, unloving mother and siblings who took their cue from her. I like the way Davis fed us a continuous stream of information as the story progresses, so that our perceptions are continually changing throughout – see my review here.

 

Dancing with Death – Book 1 of the Nell Drury mysteries by Amy Myers
1925. The fashionable Bright Young Things from London have descended on Wychbourne Court, the Kentish stately home of Lord and Lady Ansley, for an extravagant fancy dress ball followed by a midnight Ghost Hunt – and Chef Nell Drury knows she’s in for a busy weekend. What she doesn’t expect to encounter is sudden, violent death.
This cosy mystery is a thoroughly enjoyable, engrossing read. Myers evokes the period well as steady, sensible and very ambitious Nell Drury, working at Wychbourne Hall as Chef, suddenly finds herself confronted with a violent murder of one of the guests – see my review here.

 

Fool’s Gold – Book 8 of the Liberty Lane series by Caro Peacock
September, 1841. A new arrival has taken London society by storm. Lord Byron’s handsome illegitimate son, George, recently arrived from the exotic island of Cephalonia in the company of his guardian, the mysterious Mr Vickery, has been setting female hearts aflutter. But not all the attention George attracts is welcome. Mr Vickery has been receiving disturbing letters from a woman who calls herself Helena, and he hires Liberty Lane to find out who Helena is and what she wants.
Of course, the catch is that it is the eighth book in the series, so would I find myself floundering at all? Nope, not for a second. Peacock is far too adroit and experienced a writer to fall into that pitfall and from the first page, I was pulled into this twisting story where the plot snaked in all sorts of unexpected avenues – see my review here.

 

The Sorcerer’s Garden by Wallace D. Peach
Recently fired and residing with her sweetly overbearing mother, Madlyn needs a job—bad. In a moment of desperation, she accepts a part-time position reading at the bedside of adventurer and amateur writer Cody Lofton. A near-drowning accident left the young man in a vegetative state, and his chances of recovery wane with each passing day. Cody’s older brother, Dustin, and eccentric grandmother aren’t prepared to give up on the youngest son of Portland, Oregon’s royalty. Dustin’s a personable guy, bordering on naïve, and overwhelmed by familial corporate duties and cutthroat partners. Grandmother Lillian’s a meddler with an eye for the esoteric, dabbling in Dustin’s life and dealing out wisdom like a card shark. One innocent conversation at a time, she sucks Madlyn into the Lofton story, dubbing her the princess and bestowing on her the responsibility of both grandsons’ destinies. And all Madlyn wanted was a simple reading job.
I really like Madlyn and her struggle to fit into modern life. When she gets the job, I also like the fact that she finds the setup in the Lofton household a bit weird, if not creepy. But it was a refreshing change to have an elderly woman at the helm of the household and keeping control by an unnerving knack of knowing what is happening before anyone else. Review not yet posted.

 

Because I spent most of one week confined to bed either sleeping or reading, I also managed to clear eight books from my TBR pile. They are:

How To Twist a Dragon’s Tale – Book 5 of How to Train a Dragon series by Cressida Cowell
The heat is on for Hiccup as he is called to save the day once again. Someone has stolen the Fire-Stone. Now that the volcano on Volcano Island has become active, the tremors are hatching the eggs of the Exterminator dragons! Can Hiccup return the Fire-Stone to the Volcano, stop it from erupting, and save the Tribes from being wiped out by the terrible sword-claws of the Exterminators?
After having thoroughly enjoyed the first four books in this funny, thrilling series, I was interested to see if Cowell could continue to provide yet another rip-roaring adventure full of intriguing twists. I’m delighted to report that she does – see my review here.

 

Saven Deception – Book 1 of the Saven series by Siobhan Davis
See above.

 

The Tropic of Serpents – Book 2 of A Natural History of Dragons by Marie Brennan
Attentive readers of Lady Trent’s earlier memoir, A Natural History of Dragons, are already familiar with how a bookish and determined young woman named Isabella first set out on the historic course that would one day lead her to becoming the world’s premier dragon naturalist. Now, in this remarkably candid second volume, Lady Trent looks back at the next stage of her illustrious (and occasionally scandalous) career.
This is, if anything, even better than the first book. I love the first person narrator – Lady Trent is a feisty, unconventional woman driven by an insatiable scientific curiosity and a real concern that dragons will shortly be driven to extinction. Review not yet posted.

 

Reaper – Book 1 of the End Game series by Janet Edwards
In the year 2519, people on Earth don’t grow old and die any longer, their bodies are frozen and they start a new life in the virtual reality of the Game. Jex is almost eighteen, working twelve hour shifts, and dreaming of when she’ll be legally adult and begin her long-planned idyllic life in Game. When a bomber attacks a Game server complex, one of the virtual worlds of Game crashes, and eleven thousand immortal players die during emergency defrost. Death has struck Game for the first time in centuries, and Jex is questioned as a suspect in the bombing.
I really enjoyed this one. Edwards has a knack for writing strong young characters with plenty of depth and suitable lack of experience, but who don’t come over as whiny and annoying. Review not yet posted.

 

Scavenger Alliance – Book 1 of the Exodus series by Janet Edwards
In the year 2408, a century after the invention of interstellar portals, seven hundred people scavenge a living in abandoned New York. The respectable citizens have either withdrawn to new settlements in the countryside, or joined the great exodus of humanity to new, unpolluted colony worlds, but eighteen-year-old Blaze is one of the undesirables that neither the citizen settlements nor the new colony worlds will accept. Blaze’s mother died six years ago. She thinks her father is Donnell, the leader of the uneasy alliance between the remnants of the Earth Resistance and the old criminal gangs. It’s less clear what Donnell thinks, since he barely speaks to her. The alliance is crumbling under the strain of its hardest winter ever, when an old enemy tries to use Blaze as a pawn in a power bid. She thinks her life can’t possibly get more difficult, but then an aircraft carrying three off-worlders arrives in New York.

I loved this one – I think it’s the best book she’s written to date. The sense of danger and tension with a likeable protagonist made this one difficult to put down – see my review here.

 

Cold Welcome – Book 1 of Vatta’s Peace by Elizabeth Moon
Summoned to the home planet of her family’s business empire, space-fleet commander Kylara Vatta is told to expect a hero’s welcome. But instead she is thrown into danger unlike any other she has faced and finds herself isolated, unable to communicate with the outside world, commanding a motley group of unfamiliar troops, and struggling day by day to survive in a deadly environment with sabotaged gear. Only her undeniable talent for command can give her ragtag band a fighting chance.
This is a full-on survival adventure which I loved. And even if you haven’t already had the pleasure, this is an ideal introduction to Moon’s world – see my review here.

 

Scarlet – Book 2 of the Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer
Cinder, the cyborg mechanic, is trying to break out of prison—even though if she succeeds, she’ll be the Commonwealth’s most wanted fugitive. Halfway around the world, Scarlet Benoit’s grandmother is missing. When Scarlet encounters Wolf, a street fighter who may have information as to her grandmother’s whereabouts, she is loath to trust this stranger, but is inexplicably drawn to him, and he to her.
This series niftily blends the current trend for fairytale retellings and rejigs it into a science fiction world where the terrifying Lunar Queen Levana is determined to bring Earth under her control. Review not yet posted.

 

The Sorcerer’s Garden by Wallace D. Peach
See above.

So that is my April roundup. Due to a rush of new releases at the start of May, a number of these reviews have not yet seen the light of day. What about you – have you read any of the above books? If so, what did you think of them?

Sunday Post – 21st May 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.

Last Sunday was another major gathering of the clan – my parents, both sisters, along with my brother in law and two nephews met up at The George pub at Burpham for a birthday meal to celebrate my sister’s birthday. It was an additional celebration – she is returning next month to England and will be settling in Littlehampton just up the road. We had a lovely time all catching up with each other with lots of laughter and good food.

This week has been a better one, in that I have started to catch up on my admin backlog from when I was ill and feel that at last I’m regaining my energy levels, although I did miss my Pilates session again this week, as I still felt less than my shiny best. This afternoon, we’ve been invited up to a BBQ at my daughter’s house – and I’m providing the vegan pudding… So I won’t be around to nteract though I’ll catch up later.

This week I have read:

The Ninth Rain – Book 1 of The Winnowing Flame by Jen Williams
The great city of Ebora once glittered with gold. Now its streets are stalked by wolves. Tormalin the Oathless has no taste for sitting around waiting to die while the realm of his storied ancestors falls to pieces – talk about a guilt trip. Better to be amongst the living, where there are taverns full of women and wine. When eccentric explorer, Lady Vincenza ‘Vintage’ de Grazon, offers him employment, he sees an easy way out. Even when they are joined by a fugitive witch with a tendency to set things on fire, the prospect of facing down monsters and retrieving ancient artefacts is preferable to the abomination he left behind. But not everyone is willing to let the Eboran empire collapse, and the adventurers are quickly drawn into a tangled conspiracy of magic and war.
Jen Williams’ first series, The Copper Cat – see my review of The Copper Promise made a great impression. She has an energy and buzz that has her writing crackling off the the page and this post-apocalytic sci-fi/fantasy swords and sorcery mashup ticks all the boxes for me. The worldbuilding, in particular, is outstanding…

Sweep in Peace – Book 2 of The Innkeeper Chronicles by Ilona Andrews
Dina DeMille doesn’t run your typical Bed and Breakfast. Her inn defies laws of physics, her fluffy dog is secretly a monster, and the only paying guest is a former Galactic tyrant with a price on her head. But the inn needs guests to thrive, and guests have been scarce, so when an Arbitrator shows up at Dina’s door and asks her to host a peace summit between three warring species, she jumps on the chance. Unfortunately, for Dina, keeping the peace between Space Vampires, the Hope-Crushing Horde, and the devious Merchants of Baha-char is much easier said than done. On top of keeping her guests from murdering each other, she must find a chef, remodel the inn…and risk everything, even her life, to save the man she might fall in love with. But then it’s all in the day’s work for an Innkeeper…
It’s been longer than I’d planned since I read the first book – see my review of Clean Sweep in this original, quirky fantasy/sci fi portal adventure and it was every bit as enjoyable as I’d hoped. It’s a really nifty trick to be able to effectively portray an multi-world epic from a normally quiet inn in a half-forgotten corner of America, but Andrews pulls it off.

Cold-Forged Flame – Book 1 of the Ree Varekai novella series by Marie Brennan
The sound of the horn pierces the apeiron, shattering the stillness of that realm. Its clarion call creates ripples, substance, something more. It is a summons, a command. There is will. There is need.
And so, in reply, there is a woman.
At the beginning—no—at the end—she appears, full of fury and bound by chains of prophecy. Setting off on an unexplained quest from which she is compelled to complete, and facing unnatural challenges in a land that doesn’t seem to exist, she will discover the secrets of herself, or die trying. But along the way, the obstacles will grow to a seemingly insurmountable point, and the final choice will be the biggest sacrifice yet.
This takes writing chops to effectively depict a woman warrior who knows nothing about who she is or where she came from, only that she is bound to complete a mysterious quest for the people who summoned her. Marie Brennan pulls it off and I’m really looking forward to reading the next instalment, Lightning in the Blood at the end of the month.

 

My posts last week:

Sunday Post – 14th May 2017

NEW RELEASE SPECIAL Review of Assassin’s Fate – Book 3 of The Fitz and the Fool trilogy – Book 16 of the Realm of the Elderlings by Robin Hobb

Teaser Tuesday featuring Cold-Forged Flame – Book 1 of the Ree Varekai novella series by Marie Brennan

Review of Goldfish from Beyond the Grave – Book 4 of the Undead Pets series by Sam Hay

Shoot for the Moon 2017 Challenge – April Roundup

Friday Face-off – Airplane travel is nature’s way of making you look like your passport photo – featuring No Highway by Nevil Shute

Review of The Ninth Rain – Book 1 of The Winnowing Flame by Jen Williams

 

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

John Fogerty, Johnny Winter & James Burton hit that Riff! : Susie Q! https://theimmortaljukebox.com/2017/05/20/john-fogerty-johnny-winter-james-burton-hit-that-riff-oh-susie-q-oh-susie-q-susie-q/  Thom’s wonderful, indepth articles about music are always worth reading. And this one is a delight – the Johnny Winter version is my favourite, for what it’s worth…

10 of the Best Poems About Gardens  https://interestingliterature.com/2017/05/19/10-of-the-best-poems-about-gardens/ The day when all the marvellous BBC coverage from Chelsea Flower Show starts seems apt to consider poems about the garden.

Thoughts on writing and publishing, from me and others  http://www.julietemckenna.com/?p=2586 Juliet McKenna’s blog is always worth reading, but this article also includes links to other interesting, articulate authors

Seven Steps to Honoring Your Reality  https://diymfa.com/writing/seven-steps-to-honoring-your-reality#disqus_thread This excellent article by Sara Letourneau certainly arrived at my Inbox in time to remind me not to panic as I’m trying to catch up after a spell of not feeling my best…

Oceans of Life? The Solar System and beyond  http://earthianhivemind.net/2017/05/17/oceans-life-solar-system-beyond/ Another superb roundup about what is going on in the scientific community – and it has never been more exciting…

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

Review of KINDLE Ebook The Ninth Rain – Book 1 of The Winnowing Flame by Jen Williams

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Williams is already a go-to author whom I love – her Copper Cat trilogy saw to that – see my review of The Copper Promise. But this time around, I think she’s excelled herself…

The great city of Ebora once glittered with gold. Now its streets are stalked by wolves. Tormalin the Oathless has no taste for sitting around waiting to die while the realm of his storied ancestors falls to pieces – talk about a guilt trip. Better to be amongst the living, where there are taverns full of women and wine. When eccentric explorer, Lady Vincenza ‘Vintage’ de Grazon, offers him employment, he sees an easy way out. Even when they are joined by a fugitive witch with a tendency to set things on fire, the prospect of facing down monsters and retrieving ancient artefacts is preferable to the abomination he left behind. But not everyone is willing to let the Eboran empire collapse, and the adventurers are quickly drawn into a tangled conspiracy of magic and war.

For starters, this isn’t a straight swords and sorcery. The city of Ebora might be a faded version of its former self, driving Tormalin to seek his fortune elsewhere, but it isn’t the only place enduring sustained and catastrophic deterioration. Sarn and the other surrounding countries are still suffering the ravages of the last invasion by the lethal aliens, the Jure’lia. Wildlife and vegetation have been mutated wherever the huge spaceships have crashed, which also attracts the very dangerous parasite spirits that turns their unfortunate victims inside out if they so much brush against them. Where the huge maggots crashed through, they excrete a thick transparent sludge that hardens to an impervious block of varnish, trapping people inside like flies in an amber. In short, the world is still reeling from an apocalyptic attack several generations earlier.

As you must have gathered, William’s depiction of her ruined world made a deep impression – I’ve even dreamed about it. This could have been a completely bleak tale, but it’s not because the main protagonists, particularly the wonderful Lady de Grazon, ping off the page with a fine disregard for local customs as she insists on investigating every aspect of the alien wreckage, instead of trying to ignore it like most of the population. There is a fair amount of humour scattered through this story, which makes it far easier to read, though that doesn’t mean it’s innately funny – it isn’t.

Tension winds through the story as we are pitchforked right in the middle of this fascinating wrecked world and then try to figure out exactly what is going on as slices of information is steadily fed our way. I also loved the young fell-witch, Noon, kept in a horrible prison called the Winnowry, where others like her who involuntarily summon fell-flame, are incarcerated – apparently so they can atone for their innate wickedness and to protect the rest of society from their fell-fire. Though the fact that their flaming energy is harvested and used to craft a number of exclusive, highly expensive artefacts is also a major factor.

Each one of the three protagonists have their own journey through the book which involves different aspects of this shattered place and unlike a number of epic fantasy tales, I didn’t find myself wanting to know more about one of them such that I skimmed through the others to get back to it. For this rich world sank its hooks into me and since I have finished reading it, I still find myself thinking of it. And I’ll be on the lookout for the sequel as I’m looking forward to revisiting this unusual world.

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

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of KINDLE Ebook Cold Welcome – Book 1 of the Vatta’s Peace series by Elizabeth Moon

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I loved Moon’s Vatta’s War and The Serrano Legacy series – see my review here. So when Himself picked this one up as an Easter pressie, I was thrilled.

Summoned to the home planet of her family’s business empire, space-fleet commander Kylara Vatta is told to expect a hero’s welcome. But instead she is thrown into danger unlike any other she has faced and finds herself isolated, unable to communicate with the outside world, commanding a motley group of unfamiliar troops, and struggling day by day to survive in a deadly environment with sabotaged gear. Only her undeniable talent for command can give her ragtag band a fighting chance.

This is a full-on survival adventure which I loved. And even if you haven’t already had the pleasure, this is an ideal introduction to Moon’s world. Kylara is a sympathetic protagonist, keenly aware of her responsibility in trying to keep the group alive. And as they are all plunged into one unpleasant experience after another in an inaccessible part of the planet, cut off from everywhere else due to the atrocious weather conditions, there are a steady stream of casualties. Moon’s smooth, unfussy prose and compelling plotting made it impossible to put this one down until it was over.

Accompanying Kylara is a cast of characters – and it soon becomes apparent that they aren’t all going to make it. So I found myself trying to work out who would survive and who wouldn’t, which all adds to the fun. It was also a pleasure to be reacquainted with other members of the Vatta family, particularly Aunt Gracie who is the formidable matriarch who currently heads up the family. It’s always enjoyable to find a book where it’s an older woman with all the power and still rare enough to be noteworthy. She has a fascinating backstory, which is hinted during the book and if you enjoy this one, then I recommend you track down the first book in the Vatta’s War series, Trading in Danger.

Alongside the gritted struggle for survival experienced by Kylara and the group of people caught up alongside her, there is also the question of exactly who is behind the plot. And who is once more targeting the Vatta merchanting family. Moon manages to give us all the necessary information connected with the politicking without losing momentum and pace – which is a lot trickier than she makes it look. It all adds up to a compelling page-turner.

But once the tension has been wound up to a desperate chase, then the climactic finale needs to deliver. And it certainly does – though there is one major dangling plotpoint to encourage Moon fans to look for the next book. I’ll be honest, I was disappointed when I realised there was such a big unanswered question at the end. I would have gone looking for the next one, anyway.
9/10

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of KINDLE Ebook Scavenger Alliance – Book 1 of the Exodus series by Janet Edwards

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I was a bit shaken to see that I’d let this one slip under my radar as I’m a real fan of Edwards’ writing. But fortunately Himself was on the ball and picked it up for me…

In the year 2408, a century after the invention of interstellar portals, seven hundred people scavenge a living in abandoned New York. The respectable citizens have either withdrawn to new settlements in the countryside, or joined the great exodus of humanity to new, unpolluted colony worlds, but eighteen-year-old Blaze is one of the undesirables that neither the citizen settlements nor the new colony worlds will accept. Blaze’s mother died six years ago. She thinks her father is Donnell, the leader of the uneasy alliance between the remnants of the Earth Resistance and the old criminal gangs. It’s less clear what Donnell thinks, since he barely speaks to her. The alliance is crumbling under the strain of its hardest winter ever, when an old enemy tries to use Blaze as a pawn in a power bid. She thinks her life can’t possibly get more difficult, but then an aircraft carrying three off-worlders arrives in New York.

This post-apocalyptic science fiction adventure is set in the same world as the popular Earthgirl series – see my review of Earthgirl here – but earlier when Earth is still reeling from the Exodus. There is still a group of people eking out a living in the ruins of New York and we follow the fortunes of one of the teenage girls, Blaze. Once again, Edwards has depicted a sympathetic, readable protagonist so we get a ringside seat in her gritted existence as the group battle horrible alien creatures, the constant threat of starvation and illness. However, most of the time Blaze is more taken up with the tensions within the group as some dangerous people are unwilling allies and want to take over the group. And right in the midst of this, three off-worlders turn up, completely ignorant of their way of life.

It’s a nifty plot device as Blaze is regularly having to explain to the clueless bunch what is going on, allowing the equally ignorant reader to glean important details about their everyday life without it turning into an info dump. Particularly as one of the group, Tad, is a real motor-mouth who seems to expect everyone else to wait with baited breath as he asks a constant stream of questions. And a fair number of them are really stupid – while others display a disquieting amount of knowledge about Earth that he shouldn’t have…

As a YA book there is a romance, but as ever with Edwards, it doesn’t hi-jack the story which suits me just fine. In fact, while I always enjoy Edwards’ books, this one nocked up the action and tension such that I didn’t put it down until I’d finished it. If you like your science fiction with a gritty edge, plenty of action and a readable protagonist then go searching for this one. It’s one of the best science fiction adventure tales I’ve read this year.
10/10

Friday Faceoff – It’s better to be a lion for a day than a sheep all your life…

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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 lions, so I’ve chosen an alien approximation to this subject by going for The Pride of Chanur by C.J. Cherryh.

 

This cover, produced by Daw in January 1982, shows a bunch of lion-like aliens. Unlike many covers of the time, it doesn’t have the ugly, intrusive banding to display the title and author. This is my favourite – it certainly has carried its age a lot better than many covers from that era.

 

This edition, produced by Phantasia Press in April 1987, is far less cosy. The backdrop is effective in establishing this as a science fiction novel, while the Chanur don’t look at all friendly. Eye-catching and dramatic, I really like this one.

 

Published by Mandarin in June 1989, this cover is also arresting and attractive. I love the detail in the backdrop and the fact that the leonine alien is looking off to the side, clearly hearing or seeing something of interest. However, we do have that ugly block at the top crunching through the artwork, carrying the title and author in an attempt to look cool and space-like, but actually simply looks awkward.

 

This Czech publication, produced in 1994 by Návrat, again has an interesting backdrop and attractive font and titling – but I do have a problem with that sultry-looking lion face simpering at me. It certainly looks oddly alien, but not in a good way…

 

This Croatian edition, published in May 2014 by Algoritam, is certainly more modern with a pleasingly streamlined title and author font. However, I get the sense that someone has simply grafted a lot of appropriate-looking images onto the rather lovely backdrop, giving it a rather generic, bland look – which whatever you say about the previous offerings, they certainly aren’t that. So which is your favourite?

Review of KINDLE Ebook Saven Deception – Book 1 of the Saven series by Siobhan Davis

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I have constantly seen positive reviews for this series and finally Lola persuaded me to give this one a go.

Sadie Owens has been slowly dying inside. Bit by bit, piece by piece, day by day. Trapped in a life she hates, she relies on only one person—herself. Despised by her family and betrayed by an unscrupulous government, Sadie dreams of a different life. When she is chosen to participate in the government’s new social experiment, she is ecstatic at the prospect of spending six months in Thalassic City, the shiny new city under the sea. Sadie is captivated by Logan, the beautiful boy with the ocean-blue eyes, but he isn’t all he appears to be. When she finally uncovers the government’s real agenda, the truth is more shocking than anything she could ever have imagined.

I very much enjoyed Sadie’s character – she has clearly had a rough time at home with a hostile, unloving mother and siblings who took their cue from her. It doesn’t help that the family are poverty-stricken with no opportunity of escaping dead-end, draining jobs, forcing them to take desperate measures. It is one of the reasons why Sadie applies for Thalassic City. Davis tucks in snippets regarding Sadie’s backstory in the first person (I) pov giving us a ringside seat to her thoughts and emotions – a staple in YA fiction.

There is an interesting cast of supporting characters – I particularly liked Jenna, the girl who rooms with Sadie and gets involved with Dante. I also like Jared. As for Logan, the handsome boy who Sadie falls for in the classic eyes-meeting-across-a-crowded-room way, he is clearly difficult to trust given his background which is gradually revealed as the story progresses. I liked the way Davis fed us a continuous stream of information as the story progresses, so that our perceptions are continually changing throughout. As for the courtship dance between them, that isn’t an aspect of the book that I found particularly interesting other than the way it contributes to the overall story arc of the Saven and their interest in humanity and what bargain they strike with a government fast running out of sufficient resources. However, I don’t have a particular problem with the insta-love – it’s the way I fell for my ex-husband… hook, line and sinker with the solid belief that we were intended to be together forever.

The scene-setting and worldbuilding also works very well. I found the underwater city believable as they journeyed down to it and again, while the setting seems well developed and convincing, it unfolds alongside the action. So given there is a lot of building tension throughout, when the climactic finale arrives, it needs to provide plenty of thrills and action – and it certainly does. I couldn’t break away during this section of the book, as I was desperate to know what happens next. I’ll warn you – while plenty of the issues that run throughout the book are addressed, it does finish on a cliffhanger, however that isn’t too much of a problem as Saven Disclosure, the next book in the series, is available.

While I obtained the arc of Saven Deception from the publisher via NetGalley, this has in no way influenced my unbiased review.
8/10

Friday Faceoff – Burning my bridges…

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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 bridges, I’ve chosen The Bridge by Janine Ellen Young.

 

This cover, produced by Aspect in September 2000 is rather gloomy, with its sepia tones and rather hefty medieval styling – which is odd, given this is supposed to be a bridge through space. Frankly, I think this one is underwhelming – even the font is boring. And it’s a real shame, because the book isn’t anything of the sort.

 

This UK edition, produced by the now defunct Earthlight, has a far better cover in every way. The bridge is a wonderful construction that also closely resembles our DNA, which is a clever double reference to the plague that sweeps through humanity in this apocalyptic science fiction adventure. Even the font pops and fizzles. Needless to say, this one is my favourite. What about you – which one do you like?

Review of Occupy Me by Tricia Sullivan

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I love Sullivan’s writing – read my review of Lightborn here – and it doesn’t hurt that she is a lovely person. I met her fleetingly at Eastercon a few years ago during a Kaffeeklatsch session (which is when you can sign up for a session where numbers are restricted so you get to have a chance to talk to your favourite author over coffee and biscuits) and she came across as charming, clever and very modest. So I was delighted when I came across this offering.

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. It starts 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.

Yes… I know it sounds mad and a complete mess. But Sullivan’s superpower is that her writing is so solid and strong, she immerses you in her worlds alongside her amazing characters doing amazing things and it seems utterly normal. Pearl is a fantastic character – it’s never easy to write from an alien or ‘other’ viewpoint, because if they are sufficiently different, it is often difficult to sufficiently care for them. But Sullivan manages to make Pearl vulnerable enough that we do bond with her.

Initially I thought she was some sort of fallen angel – but that is far too predictable for Sullivan’s fervid imagination. She writes the unusual brilliantly with wonderful descriptions that are punchy and to the point. Just as importantly, there is a strong structure and causality underpinning her original take on what powers the universe. Wild it may be, but there is nothing loose or wafty about the theory behind her worldbuilding.

As for the main players in this story – while Pearl, the main protagonist, was my favourite by a long country mile, the cast of supporting characters also leap off the page. There is Dr Sorle, conflicted and suffering, who is literally pulled in two directions; the corrupt dying plutocrat; and Alison, a stroppy vet. And in the midst of all this amazing story are regular shafts of humour – not jokes or comedy set pieces, but the kind of manic funniness that often occurs when we are pushed to our extreme.

This story grabbed me from the first page and wouldn’t get go – I was beguiled, challenged, amused and thoroughly entertained. Another outstanding read of 2017.
10/10

Top Ten Unique Reads…

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Once again those fine folks at The Broke and Bookish came up with a Top Ten Tuesday list I found irresistible, so I put my thinking cap on and came up with these – hopefully you’ll forgive the fact that it isn’t Tuesday…

Snowflake by Paul Gallico
A delightful story of the life of Snowflake, who was “all stars and arrows, squares and triangles of ice and light”. Through Snowflake’s special role in the pattern of creation and life, Paul Gallico has given us a simple allegory on the meaning of life, its oneness and ultimate safety.
A teacher read this one to us when I was in the equivalent of today’s Year Six and I was enchanted. I tracked down a lot more of Paul Gallico’s reads – and to be honest, many of them are unlike anything I’ve ever read, before or since. But they certainly fired up my taste for something different…

Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury
A carnival rolls in sometime after the midnight hour on a chill Midwestern October eve, ushering in Halloween a week before its time. A calliope’s shrill siren song beckons to all with a seductive promise of dreams and youth regained. In this season of dying, Cooger & Dark’s Pandemonium Shadow Show has come to Green Town, Illinois, to destroy every life touched by its strange and sinister mystery. And two inquisitive boys standing precariously on the brink of adulthood will soon discover the secret of the satanic raree-show’s smoke, mazes, and mirrors, as they learn all too well the heavy cost of wishes – and the stuff of nightmares.
We were on a caravan holiday in France and I’d scooped this one off the shelves to take with us. I read it one heavy, hot summer afternoon while nibbling on chocolate – suddenly very glad for blazing sunshine and comforting presence of family. And as soon as I got to the end, I started reading it all over again, wanting more of that alluring prose and dark ideas.

Occupy Me by Tricia Sullivan
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.
There is no one whose imagination works in quite the same way as Tricia Sullivan – and this amazing offering is certainly unique. I loved this quirky story and the directions in which it went, while following the fortunes of all the remarkable characters who seem perfectly reasonable – until you realise the prism through which you are looking at them has refracted into something different…

The Gone-Away World by Nick Harkaway
The Jorgmund Pipe is the backbone of the world, and it’s on fire. Gonzo Lubitsch, professional hero and troubleshooter, is hired to put it out – but there’s more to the fire, and the Pipe itself, than meets the eye. The job will take Gonzo and his best friend, our narrator, back to their own beginnings and into the dark heart of the Jorgmund Company itself.
Another extraordinary tale that swept me up, held me rapt and then – finally – released me with a doozy of a twist ending I certainly didn’t see coming. This roller-coaster read snaps off the page with memorable lines and exuberant characters – see my review here.

We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler
What if you grew up to realise that your father had used your childhood as an experiment? Rosemary doesn’t talk very much, and about certain things she’s silent. She had a sister, Fern, her whirlwind other half, who vanished from her life in circumstances she wishes she could forget. And it’s been ten years since she last saw her beloved older brother, Lowell. Now at college, Rosemary starts to see that she can’t go forward without going back to the time when, aged five, she was sent away from home to her grandparents and returned to find Fern gone.
This is a remarkable book – more so as it is based on a true event. And as we follow Rosemary when she goes on a quest to try and track down what happened to Fern, we discover a heartbreaking story of loss and abandonment that started with the best of intentions and ended up blighting the young lives of all the siblings in the family – see my review here.

Touchstone – Book 1 of the Glass Thorns series by Melanie Rawn
Cayden Silversun is part Elven, part Fae, part human Wizard—and all rebel. His aristocratic mother would have him follow his father to the Royal Court, to make a high society living off the scraps of kings. But Cade lives and breathes for the theater, and he’s good—very, very good. With his company, he’ll enter the highest reaches of society and power, as an honored artist—or die trying.
This remarkable series is a tour de force. I haven’t read anything quite like it and I don’t think I ever will… Cayden is a remarkable, spiky character cursed with genius and flashes of prescience. No one else has ever managed to depict the cost of this type of talent so thoroughly as Rawn in this magnificent series, which deserves to be a lot better known – see my review here.

Among Others by Jo Walton
When Mori discovers that her mother is using black magic, she decides to intervene. The ensuing clash between mother and daughter leaves Mori bereft of her twin sister, crippled for life and unable to return to the Welsh Valleys that were her own kingdom. Mori finds solace and strength in her beloved books. But her mother is bent on revenge, and nothing and no one – not even Tolkien – can save her from the final reckoning.
The writing is extraordinary in the pin-sharp description of the everyday, alongside the remarkable and Mori’s character is so compellingly realistic and nuanced, I’m undecided whether there is a large chunk of autobiographical detail wrapped up in this book. And I don’t really care – other than to fervently hope, for her sake, there isn’t too much that is borrowed from Walton’s own life. Memorable and remarkable art invariably is a fusion of imagination and reality – and this is both a memorable and remarkable book. See my review here.

A Kind of Vanishing by Lesley Thomson
Summer 1968: the day Senator Robert Kennedy is shot, two nine-year-old girls are playing hide and seek in the ruins of a deserted village. When it is Eleanor’s turn to hide, Alice disappears.
Thomson immediately plunges into the world of young girls, depicting first Eleanor’s rich interior landscape and then allowing us to access to Alice’s carefully modulated world, where her doting parents watch her every move. Thomson paints an exquisite picture of each girls’ fragilities, their aspirations and pin-sharp awareness of adult expectations. She beautifully inhabits the terrible, wonderful world of childhood – and the girls’ growing antipathy towards each other as they are forced to play together – until that disastrous game of hide and seek. This thriller/mystery is like nothing else I’ve read – see my review here.

Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel
This is the first of the acclaimed Man Booker prizewinning books about Henry VIII’s bully boy Thomas Cromwell, who oversaw the dissolution of the monasteries. Mantel instantly had me off-balance with her present tense, third person deep POV when we first meet Cromwell being beaten by Walter, his drunken father, and he is lying on the ground trying to summon up the will to move. So Mantel quickly gains our sympathy for her protagonist – but rather than chart his adventures in Europe where he spent time as a mercenary and scholar, we then jump to when he is in Cardinal Wolsey’s employ and establishing himself as a man of substance.
The biggest problem for Mantel in choosing this period of history, is that many of us know the progression of events all too well. But while that is the frame and backdrop in this compelling read – it is Cromwell’s intense presence throughout that had me turning the pages and mourning the fact when there were no more pages… See my review here.

Embassytown by China Miéville
Embassytown, a city of contradictions on the outskirts of the universe. On Arieka, Humans are not the only intelligent life. Only a tiny cadre of unique human Ambassadors can speak Language, and connect the two communities. But an unimaginable new arrival has come to Embassytown. And when this Ambassador speaks, everything changes.
Miéville’s brilliant imagination produces a truly unusual alien species with a Language where emotion and meaning are inextricably linked, requiring human identical twins raised to be able to think and talk in tandem in order to keep the isolated human enclave, Embassytown, supplied with food and resources. Until it all goes horribly wrong… A fabulous examination of what it means to communicate. This book should be required reading for all prospective diplomats, in my opinion… See my review here.