Category Archives: alternate history

Review of Smoke by Dan Vyleta

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I picked this one off the shelves because I loved the look of the cover and the idea that this book filled a gap left by J.K. Rowling and Phillip Pullman appealed.

England. A century ago, give or take a few years. An England where people who are wicked in thought or deed are marked by the Smoke that pours forth from their bodies, a sign of their fallen state. The aristocracy do not smoke, proof of their virtue and right to rule, while the lower classes are drenched in sin and soot. An England utterly strange and utterly real. An elite boarding school where the sons of the wealthy are groomed to take power as their birthright. Teachers with mysterious ties to warring political factions at the highest levels of government. Three young people who learn everything they’ve been taught is a lie – knowledge that could cost them their lives.

This book is set in a Dickensian England in an alternate time when any negative emotion appears as either soot or Smoke. The aristocracy and upper classes generally don’t show any signs of such debased behaviour, whereas the lower orders are steeped in it. London, with its factories and crowded living conditions, is a byword for degradation and filth as a perpetual cloud of Smoke infests its streets. We follow the fortunes of three youngsters – two boys who are pupils at the boarding school – Charlie and Thomas and a girl Livia.

I thoroughly enjoyed the way this book opened and found the initial tension and questions surrounding Smoke pulled me into the story. However, while it continued to be enjoyable and there was never any risk of my not finishing it, the readability factor that initially hooked me began to dissipate. Vyleta seemed to need to thoroughly explain his world and that was the factor that began to drive the story, rather than the other way around. It is, indeed, a fascinating premise. But I did find the continual addition of random characters who we never saw again giving us slices of their viewpoint rather jarring and it diluted the characterisation and strength of the initial protagonists, who became rather generic. The love triangle also seemed an oddity and didn’t sit at all well with me, given how it cuts right across the gothic atmosphere and managed to diminish the story into a will-they-won’t-they romance while also trying address some really big and interesting themes.

I’m conscious that it sounds as if I thought this was a bad book and it’s not. There premise is original – Vyleta handles the subsequent class divide really cleverly – and at times, the writing is wonderful. But I have a feeling that this book is trying to be a gothic, Dickensian read while having a wide YA appeal and in trying for both goals has managed to fall short of the original greatness this book promised. Having said that, I’m glad I’ve read it and would be interested in reading other works by this author – he certainly has a fertile, original imagination.
8/10

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Sunday Post – 17th September 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.

I started the week spending half the day in bed recovering from a virus. On Wednesday, I no longer felt like a piece of chewed string so drove over to Northbrook to photocopy all my course notes in readiness for my Creative Writing courses which start tomorrow. On the way home I popped in to see my sister and catch up. We ended up at the Harbour Lights café for a cuppa and a HUGE slab of lemon drizzle cake – yum! In the evening I attended Writing Group where the lovely Sarah Palmer gave me loads of useful advice regarding where to take Miranda’s Tempest.

On Thursday, Mhairi and I did our tax returns together, which worked really well. I always find this online business stressful, but going through the document with a buddy feels a whole lot less lonely. As a reward for having completed a really grotty job, we sat down to watch Sharknado 5 which had us howling with laughter.

I finally started teaching Tim a whole week later than I should on Friday. It was all about the film rehearsal which I attended most of Saturday. Frances accompanied me and I helped with the blocking and line rehearsal for several scenes. It’s lovely seeing Tim’s film script being acted by an enthusiastic, energetic cast. Today my sister is coming over for lunch and as the grandchildren are staying over this week-end, it should be a noisy, enjoyable affair. I love having plenty of folks sitting around our kitchen table talking and laughing as we eat. I hope you have a lovely week, hopefully with some of that fine September weather we’re owed.

This week I have read:

The Tiger’s Daughter – Book 1 of Their Bright Ascendency by K. Arsenault Rivera
The Hokkaran empire has conquered every land within their bold reach―but failed to notice a lurking darkness festering within the people. Now, their border walls begin to crumble, and villages fall to demons swarming out of the forests. Away on the silver steppes, the remaining tribes of nomadic Qorin retreat and protect their own, having bartered a treaty with the empire, exchanging inheritance through the dynasties. It is up to two young warriors, raised together across borders since their prophesied birth, to save the world from the encroaching demons. This is the story of an infamous Qorin warrior, Barsalayaa Shefali, a spoiled divine warrior empress, O-Shizuka, and a power that can reach through time and space to save a land from a truly insidious evil.
This Eastern epic fantasy tells the story of two young women and their adventures through the letter of one of them to the other. The language is lush and the story full of demons, magic and destiny…

 

The Paper Magician – Book 1 of The Paper Magician series by Charlie N. Holmberg
Ceony Twill arrives at the cottage of Magician Emery Thane with a broken heart. Having graduated at the top of her class from the Tagis Praff School for the Magically Inclined, Ceony is assigned an apprenticeship in paper magic despite her dreams of bespelling metal. And once she’s bonded to paper, that will be her only magic… forever.
An entertaining, smoothly written fantasy that I mostly enjoyed, though I did have a bit of an issue when the teacher and apprentice fall in love. Hm…

 

 

Smoke by Dan Vyleta
England. A century ago, give or take a few years. An England where people who are wicked in thought or deed are marked by the Smoke that pours forth from their bodies, a sign of their fallen state. The aristocracy do not smoke, proof of their virtue and right to rule, while the lower classes are drenched in sin and soot. An England utterly strange and utterly real.
An elite boarding school where the sons of the wealthy are groomed to take power as their birthright. Teachers with mysterious ties to warring political factions at the highest levels of government. Three young people who learn everything they’ve been taught is a lie – knowledge that could cost them their lives.
This world is fascinating, where the presence of Smoke defines and hardens class barriers. This alternate history is enjoyable and thought provoking.

My posts last week:

Sunday Post – 10th September

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of The Last Dog on Earth by Adrian J. Walker

Teaser Tuesday featuring Smoke by Dan Vyleta

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of The Dazzling Heights – Book 2 of The Thousandth Floor by Katherine McGee

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Taste of Marrow – Book 2 of River of Teeth series by Sarah Gailey

Friday Face-off – Checkmate… featuring Blackout – Book 1 of the All Clear series by Connie Willis

Shoot for the Moon – August roundup

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

Goodbye is not an Option https://ginnibites.wordpress.com/2017/09/10/goodbye-is-not-an-option/ Ginni is a talented poet and this moving poem written in collaboration with a grieving widow is beautiful and brave.

Generational Time Machine https://scvincent.com/2017/09/09/generational-time-machine/ This lovely article is about a first day at school and the memories it evokes…

Inspirational David Mitchell Quotes http://logicalquotes.com/david-mitchell-quotes/ David Mitchell is one of my favourite authors and this article reminded me why…

10 of the Best Poems about Friendship https://interestingliterature.com/2017/09/13/10-of-the-best-poems-about-friendship/ This is a lovely selection of poems about the positive relationships that enhance our lives.

Different Ways To Organise Your Bookshelves https://aspiringwriter22.wordpress.com/2017/09/13/different-ways-to-organize-your-bookshelves/ Half of these ways of classifying my book collection never occurred to me, what about you?

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 NOVELLA Taste of Marrow – Book 2 of River of Teeth series by Sarah Gailey

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After enjoying the hippo-related mayhem of River of Teeth and looking forward to reading what happens next as the first book left everything on something of a cliffhanger, I was delighted to spot this one on Netgalley.

A few months ago, Winslow Houndstooth put together the damnedest crew of outlaws, assassins, cons, and saboteurs on either side of the Harriet for a history-changing caper. Together they conspired to blow the damn that choked the Mississippi and funnel the hordes of feral hippos contained within downriver, to finally give America back its greatest waterway. Songs are sung of their exploits, many with a haunting refrain: “And not a soul escaped alive.” In the aftermath of the Harriet catastrophe, that crew has scattered to the winds. Some hunt the missing lovers they refuse to believe have died. Others band together to protect a precious infant and a peaceful future. All of them struggle with who they’ve become after a long life of theft, murder, deception, and general disinterest in the strictures of the law.

My first piece of advice would be – don’t start with this one, go back to River of Teeth as this novella picks up from where the first book left off and there isn’t anything in the way of ‘The Story So Far’. While there is a bit of explanation about what happened, it comes fairly late in the story and in the meantime, I think newcomers to this series could flounder.

As we plunge straight back into the action only a few weeks after the climactic events at the end of River of Teeth we meet up with all the protagonists once again as they start to count the cost of that dramatic day. It took me a while to get back into this, because not only wasn’t there much explanation, neither did we have any rebonding moments with the main characters. I did care about several of the gang members, but was rather detached from Winslow, whose behaviour wasn’t particularly pleasant. While I understood it, because the reason for it was in the previous book, we didn’t get a chance to see the justification and I think this hampered some of my enjoyment.

I do like the world very much and there was plenty going on – but I wanted more character development and longer to enjoy this interesting, vivid setting. There was a sense that this was a quart-sized story squeezed between pint-sized covers. That said, if I hadn’t liked it so much then clearly I wouldn’t have wanted more – this is really cool idea and was brought to a satisfactory conclusion this time around. I’d love to see a full-length novel set in this world, though… While I obtained the arc of Taste of Marrow from the publisher via NetGalley, this has in no way influenced my unbiased review.
8/10

Teaser Tuesday – 12th September, 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:
Smoke by Dan Vyleta

p. 286 ‘Our captain wants to be a gentleman,’ I say to Poppy, watching van Huysmans mince around the deck.
‘A gentleman!’ Poppy replies enthusiastically, not catching my tone. ‘Imagine it! Clean sheets, nobody cussing you out or even raising their voices. No pushing and shoving. A soft world.’

I snort. ‘Always thinking before you speak. Inspecting your bedding in the morning. Keeping your farts in, lest they trigger something. A life lived with your arsehole clamped. Never letting rip.’

But the boy is adamant, forgets for a moment that I am his senior and his prophet, his shipside god.
‘What’s so great about coarseness and dirt?’ he asks.

And when I don’t answer (for he’s hit upon a point, I suppose) he adds, now wet in his eye. ‘They’ll go to heaven, sir. And you and I shan’t.’

BLURB: Imagine a world in which every bad thought you had was made visible. Where anger, hatred and envy appeared as thick smoke pouring from your body and soot on your skin. With society controlled by an elite who have learned to tame their darkest desires. Thomas and Charlie are friends at a boarding school near Oxford, where the children of the rich and powerful are trained to be future leaders. Charlie is naturally good, but Thomas’s father was accused of murder and Thomas fears that the same evil lies coiled inside him. Then, on a trip to London – a forbidden city shrouded in darkness – they learn that all is not as it appears. So begins a quest to find the truth, and to learn what lies beneath this world of smoke, soot and ash…

I’m just over halfway through this intriguing book. The premise is a great one and I’ve really enjoyed the start – right now we’re enmeshed in the middle of the plot with it all going to hell in a handbasket. I’ll be reviewing it in due course.

Review of KINDLE Ebook The Voyage of the Basilisk – Book 3 of The Memoirs of Lady Trent series by Marie Brennan

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The discovery of this series has been one of my reading highlights – and the reason I haven’t powered through all the books is because they are too good. I want to savour each one after I’ve read it and reflect on it for a while, before once more diving back into this rich, beautifully evoked world. That said, the gap between The Tropic of Serpents and this one was longer than I’d planned.

Devoted readers of Lady Trent’s earlier memoirs, A Natural History of Dragons and The Tropic of Serpents, may believe themselves already acquainted with the particulars of her historic voyage aboard the Royal Survey Ship Basilisk, but the true story of that illuminating, harrowing, and scandalous journey has never been revealed—until now. Six years after her perilous exploits in Eriga, Isabella embarks on her most ambitious expedition yet: a two-year trip around the world to study all manner of dragons in every place they might be found. From feathered serpents sunning themselves in the ruins of a fallen civilization to the mighty sea serpents of the tropics, these creatures are a source of both endless fascination and frequent peril. Accompanying her is not only her young son, Jake, but a chivalrous foreign archaeologist whose interests converge with Isabella’s in ways both professional and personal.

The tone and writing is pitch perfect. Isabella Trent epitomises those gutsy Victorian lady explorers who endured hazardous journeys to distant corners of the world in primitive conditions – often still wearing corsets and long skirts. Although Isabella does adopt trousers for their practicality in scrambling over ruins and running away from enraged dragons. This time, most of the book is spent aboard the ship Basilisk as the expedition she is heading attempts to garner more information on sea dragons, amongst other breeds living inconveniently long distances away from Scirland.

The first third of the book is necessarily episodic as the expedition gets under way – but once events start to spin out of control, as they invariably do for Isabella and her companions, the pace picks up along with the stakes. While she would love to devote all her attention and resources on tracking down and learning more about dragons, the politics of the region has to be taken into account – particularly in relation to her own country’s ambitions and she has learnt the hard way that this is an aspect of her travels she cannot afford to disregard.

The long-running narrative arc regarding the issue of dragon bones being stabilised and used industrially continues to gain momentum through this book. While I think all the books can be easily read as a standalone, it is always gratifying to have at least one ongoing thread to reward readers who follow the series. The climax in this book kept me reading until the end – I simply couldn’t put it down. And while I am not going to dive straight into the next book – I want more time to fully absorb and appreciate Basilisk goodness – I certainly don’t want to leave it too long before I once again delight in revisiting this world with the next book in the series, In the Labyrinth of Drakes. Highly recommended.
9/10

Tough Travelling – Strongholds

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At the start of every month, Fantasy-Faction will lead you (yes, YOU!) on a tour of the fantasy genre. From high to low, from classics to new releases, from epic to urban; each month, we will guide you in search of a different trope, theme or cliché. Lest we become lost, we’ll be referring to The Tough Guide to Fantasyland by Diana Wynne Jones.

I’ve know I’ve left it right to the last minute to jump on board with this enjoyable meme – but after seeing what fun several of my blogging friends have had with this one, I wanted to join in.

My choice for a stronghold is Kallisti, known as The Just City, which is a thought experiment dreamed up by Athene in Jo Walton’s fascinating book. And yes… I’ve cheated just a weeee little bit in that it is something of a mash-up between fantasy AND science fiction – but those robots could be made out of chocolate by a witch, right? And then it’s pure fantasy… I love this book which takes an off-the-wall idea, gives it some intellectual heft – Kallisti is run along the precepts laid down in Plato’s The Republic – and in the subsequent two books, Jo Walton takes that idea and stretches it into yet another level see my review here.

However she has crafted this marvellous series, Kallisti has to be one of the coolest strongholds ever built as it is set in Atlantis before it is swallowed up by the sea and everyone in the city strives to be the best they can possibly be. While I may not want to live there for my entire life, I would LOVE to be able to visit for a year or so.

Here in the Just City you will become your best selves. You will learn and grow and strive to be excellent.
FACTS FOR TRAVELLERS
Name: Kallisti
Nickname: The Just City
Population: 10,520 children, 300 philosophers, Sokrates, Athene, An unknown number of robots
Languages: Classical Greek, Latin
Location: Thera (aka Atlantis)
Climate: Mediterranean
Government: Philosophical Monarchy
Religion: Hellenistic Pagan (with onsite gods)
Sports: Wrestling, Running in Armour, Archery
How to get there: Read Plato’s Republic and pray to Athene. Or be a ten-year-old. Or be a god.
How to leave: You can’t.

Sunday Post – 20th August 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.

Thank you, everyone so much for your kind good wishes for my sister’s speedy recovery – I have always maintained that book lovers are the loveliest folks and this is yet more proof… Your wishes on her behalf have clearly had an impact because I cannot believe how quickly she is healing – the bruising, though still spectacular, is improving day on day. The hospital were delighted with her when we returned last Tuesday and today we are attending an eye appointment at the local hospital. We have been so impressed at the excellence and kindness of all the hospital staff we have encountered throughout this whole episode – from the ambulancemen who stopped by in A & E to wish her well during their break on that first traumatic day, to the lovely doctor who suggested we have a coffee while waiting for the blood test – and then phoned to give the results while we were sipping our beverages.

Other than that, this week I have managed to write the course notes for my Creative Writing classes and complete some editing tasks. My marvellous writing buddy Mhairi came over for the day on Thursday and we talked through writing stuff in general as well as catching up with each other’s lives. On Thursday evening Himself and I went out for a lovely Chinese meal with my sister and her younger son who was visiting. On Friday I received the exciting news that my short story ‘A Dire Emergency’ has been accepted for the anthology Holding on By Our Fingertips.

This week I have read:

The Voyage of the Basilisk – Book 3 of The Memoirs of Lady Trent by Marie Brennan
Devoted readers of Lady Trent’s earlier memoirs, A Natural History of Dragons and The Tropic of Serpents, may believe themselves already acquainted with the particulars of her historic voyage aboard the Royal Survey Ship Basilisk, but the true story of that illuminating, harrowing, and scandalous journey has never been revealed—until now. Six years after her perilous exploits in Eriga, Isabella embarks on her most ambitious expedition yet: a two-year trip around the world to study all manner of dragons in every place they might be found. From feathered serpents sunning themselves in the ruins of a fallen civilization to the mighty sea serpents of the tropics, these creatures are a source of both endless fascination and frequent peril. Accompanying her is not only her young son, Jake, but a chivalrous foreign archaeologist whose interests converge with Isabella’s in ways both professional and personal. Science is, of course, the primary objective of the voyage, but Isabella’s life is rarely so simple. She must cope with storms, shipwrecks, intrigue, and warfare, even as she makes a discovery that offers a revolutionary new insight into the ancient history of dragons.
This alternate history charting the life of renowned explorer and dragon expert, Isabella Trent is a joy. I was in dire need of excellent escapist fantasy fiction, preferably about dragons, and this offering was perfect.

 

Penric’s Fox – Book 3 of the Penric and Desdemona novella series by Lois McMaster Bujold
Some eight months after the events of Penric and the Shaman, Learned Penric, sorcerer and scholar, travels to Easthome, the capital of the Weald. There he again meets his friends Shaman Inglis and Locator Oswyl. When the body of a sorceress is found in the woods, Oswyl draws him into another investigation; they must all work together to uncover a mystery mixing magic, murder and the strange realities of Temple demons.
While this is actually the fifth book to be published in this series, chronologically the events occur after the second book, Penric and the Shaman. This intriguing murder mystery gives us yet another slice of this rich world as we get to see more of Penric’s gradual growth. An entertaining instalment in this impressive series that has become one of the few must-buy books Himself and I pre-order as soon as they come available.

 

The Real-Town Murders – Book 1 of The Real-Town Murders series by Adam Roberts
Alma is a private detective in a near-future England, a country desperately trying to tempt people away from the delights of Shine, the immersive successor to the internet. But most people are happy to spend their lives plugged in, and the country is decaying. Alma’s partner is ill, and has to be treated without fail every 4 hours, a task that only Alma can do. If she misses the 5 minute window her lover will die. She is one of the few not to access the Shine.
So when Alma is called to an automated car factory to be shown an impossible death and finds herself caught up in a political coup, she knows that getting too deep may leave her unable to get home.
Another storming read – a locked-room murder mystery that rapidly turns into a high-stakes conspiracy set in the near-future. I loved this one and am absolutely thrilled to note it is intended to be the first in a series.

My posts last week:

Sunday Post – 13th August

Review of The Last Straw – Book 3 of A Diary of a Wimpy Kid series by Jeff Kinney

Teaser Tuesday featuring The Real-Town Murders – Book 1 of The Real-Town Murders series by Adam Roberts

Review of The Masked City – Book 2 of The Invisible Book series by Genevieve Cogman

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Penric’s Fox – Book 3 of the Penric and Desdemona novella series by Lois McMaster Bujold

Friday Face-off – Silver apples of the moon… featuring Golden Apples of the Sun by Ray Bradbury

Discovery Challenge 2017 and Tackling my TBR – July roundup

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

The NHS saved me. As a scientist I must help to save it. https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/aug/18/nhs-scientist-stephen-hawking?CMP=share_btn_tw I don’t normally tweet or comment on issues outside the book world, but after my sister’s recent seizure, I strongly echo Stephen Hawking’s sentiments

Lola’s Ramblings: Do You Clean Out Your Pile of Review Books? http://lolasreviews.com/lolas-ramblings-do-you-clean-out-your-pile-of-review-books/
As a fellow reviewer, I was very interested to see how someone else keeps tabs on their review copies

Where’s Cassini now? Countdown has just started http://earthianhivemind.net/2017/08/17/wheres-cassini-now-countdown-just-started/
Another excellent, informative article from Steph about another exciting chapter in the exploration of our solar system

Tilted Poles https://photolicioux.wordpress.com/2017/08/09/tilted-poles/ I love this photo – I’m not sure why…

The Best Poems about Holidays https://interestingliterature.com/2017/08/16/the-best-poems-about-holidays/ As we are bang in the middle of the holiday season, this article seems particularly apt…

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.

Review of KINDLE Ebook The Tropic of Serpents – Book 2 of The Memoirs of Lady Trent by Marie Brennan

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I started this delightful series last year – see my review of A Natural History of Dragons – and have left it far too long to dive back into Lady Trent goodness.

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. Three years after her fateful journeys through the forbidding mountains of Vystrana, Mrs. Camherst defies family and convention to embark on an expedition to the war-torn continent of Eriga, home of such exotic draconian species as the grass-dwelling snakes of the savannah, arboreal tree snakes, and, most elusive of all, the legendary swamp-wyrms of the tropics. The expedition is not an easy one. Accompanied by both an old associate and a runaway heiress, Isabella must brave oppressive heat, merciless fevers, palace intrigues, gossip, and other hazards in order to satisfy her boundless fascination with all things draconian, even if it means venturing deep into the forbidden jungle known as the Green Hell . . . where her courage, resourcefulness, and scientific curiosity will be tested as never before.

Lady Trent, now an elderly lady and a well-known authority on dragons, is writing her own memoirs, partly as companion pieces to the scholarly tomes she has produced on her beloved dragons – and partly to set the record straight, as she has been the object of much censure and gossip throughout her life. This is her account of the eventful second expedition she undertook. As the blurb already mentions, the jungle where the swamp-wyrms live is a political hotspot.

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. Brennan has effectively captured the persona of a number of intrepid Victorian ladies who sallied forth to some of the most inhospitable places in the world – like Marianne North, the noted artist, who has provided us with a record of beautiful oil paintings of rare and unusual plants in their natural habitat, for instance.

Brennan paints such a vivid picture of this world, there were times I had to remind myself it is entirely fictitious. The privations the expedition endure in the jungle are utterly engrossing and just as I thought I knew what was coming next – or settled into the rhythm of the daily routine, the plot would suddenly take off in a completely different direction. The pages seemed to turn themselves as I read waaay late into the night, unable to put this one down. I held my breath as she attempts a death-defying leap and felt suitably indignant when she turns up at the gates of a colonial outpost, underweight and wearing the rags of her former clothes – and is dismissed with derision.

I thoroughly enjoyed the way Brennan wraps this one up – and I completed the book with a sigh of satisfaction and a firm promise to myself that it won’t be so long before I revisit this world and track down The Voyage of the Basilisk.
9/10

Discovery Challenge 2017 and Tackling My TBR – June 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 June, I read three books towards my 2017 Discovery Challenge, which brings my annual number of books written by women writers I hadn’t read before to nineteen. They are:

River of Teeth – Book 1 of the River of Teeth novella series by Sarah Gailey
In the early 20th Century, the United States government concocted a plan to import hippopotamuses into the marshlands of Louisiana to be bred and slaughtered as an alternative meat source. This is true. Other true things about hippos: they are savage, they are fast, and their jaws can snap a man in two. This was a terrible plan. Contained within this volume is an 1890s America that might have been: a bayou overrun by feral hippos and mercenary hippo wranglers from around the globe. It is the story of Winslow Houndstooth and his crew. It is the story of their fortunes. It is the story of his revenge.
This is a real roller-coaster ride with plenty of mayhem and violence along the way. That said, there is also a large dollop of humour amid the tension – think of The Magnificent Seven set in a swamp with hippos. See my review here.

Sherlock Mars by Jackie Kingon
Molly Marbles runs a successful bistro on terraformed Mars. But a virtual restaurant opens near her place, offering the experience of delicacies from across the Solar System with none of the calories. What will this do to her business? Then its owner is murdered in her kitchen. Molly, an amateur detective, springs into action to help the police solve the mystery, while also planning her pop-star daughter’s wedding, keeping her kitchen staff from feuding, and protecting her cyborg friend from the humans-only mob. Meanwhile, the infamous Cereal Serial Killer has escaped prison on Pluto and has everyone worried. Things are getting hectic, but Molly is a resilient and resourceful woman. And her knack for mysteries sees her nick-named ‘Sherlock Mars’.
This is basically a cosy mystery set in space. It has the classic ingredients – a victim that no one seems to care all that much about; a quirky, successful restaurant owner who inexplicably has sufficient time to shoot off here, there and everywhere to run down a number of clues; a friendly law enforcement officer who is happy to let Molly have crucial details of the ongoing case; lots of foodie details along the way. See my review here.

The Invisible Library – Book 1 of The Invisible Library series by Genevieve Gogman
Irene is a professional spy for the mysterious Library, which harvests fiction from different realities. And along with her enigmatic assistant Kai, she’s posted to an alternative London. Their mission – to retrieve a dangerous book. But when they arrive, it’s already been stolen. London’s underground factions seem prepared to fight to the very death to find her book. Adding to the jeopardy, this world is chaos-infested – the laws of nature bent to allow supernatural creatures and unpredictable magic. Irene’s new assistant is also hiding secrets of his own. Soon, she’s up to her eyebrows in a heady mix of danger, clues and secret societies. Yet failure is not an option – the nature of reality itself is at stake.
I really enjoyed Irene’s character – brought up knowing that she would eventually always work for the Library as her parents were both Librarians, she is slightly apart from many of her colleagues. She is also cool-headed and used to keeping her own counsel – quite different from many of the rather emotional protagonists we are used to seeing in fantasy adventure. Review to follow.

I also managed to clear two books from my TBR pile. They are:

The Dog Walker – Book 5 of The Detective’s Daughter series by Lesley Thomson
January, 1987. In the depths of winter, only joggers and dog walkers brave the Thames towpath after dark. Helen Honeysett, a young newlywed, sets off for an evening run from her riverside cottage and disappears. Twenty-nine years later, Helen’s body has never been found. Her husband has asked Stella Darnell, a private detective, and her side-kick Jack Harmon, to find out what happened all those years ago. But when the five households on that desolate stretch of towpath refuse to give up their secrets, Stella and Jack find themselves hunting a killer whose trail has long gone cold.
I thoroughly enjoyed this one. Thomson’s atmospheric writing this time around has taken us to another obscure corner of London – she seems to specialise in those – where a crime was committed that shatters one family and blights the lives of others, including the husband of the victim. See my review here.

The Invisible Library – Book 1 of The Invisible Library series by Genevieve Cogman
See above

This means I’ve managed to clear thirty-two books from my teetering TBR pile so far this year – a lot better than last year so far. Have you read any of the above books? If so, what did you think?

Sunday Post – 16th July 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 we had the pleasure of Oscar’s company for the week-end and on Sunday we went to the Look and Sea Centre for breakfast, before walking down to the beach and out onto the small pier where we could watch boats negotiate the entrance of the River Arun. It was another wonderful, sunny day and later we took my sister with us when driving Oscar home so she could visit Rebecca’s home and amazing garden.

I’ve been working hard on the line edit for Dying for Space and also treating myself to watching Wimbledon, which I love. On Friday evening we had a meal at my sister’s and played Nostalgia and Dobble after going through her photo album of us as girls and remembering family holidays another lifetime ago…

This week I have read:

Hag-Seed by Margaret Atwood
In Margaret Atwood’s ‘novel take’ on Shakespeare’s original, theatre director Felix has been unceremoniously ousted from his role as Artistic Director of the Makeshiweg Festival. When he lands a job teaching theatre in a prison, the possibility of revenge presents itself – and his cast find themselves taking part in an interactive and illusion-ridden version of The Tempest that will change their lives forever.
I loved this one – there are so many clever allusions and nods to Shakespeare’s play embedded in this entertaining story of revenge and redemption. But Atwood doesn’t allow them to hamper her narrative pace – great stuff! I’ll be reviewing this one in due course.

 

The Last Straw – Book 3 of the Diary of a Wimpey Kid series by Jeff Kinney
Let’s face it: Greg Heffley will never change his wimpy ways. Somebody just needs to explain that to Greg’s father. You see, Frank Heffley actually thinks he can get his son to toughen up, and he enlists Greg in organized sports and other “manly” endeavors. Of course, Greg is easily able to sidestep his father’s efforts to change him. But when Greg’s dad threatens to send him to military academy, Greg realizes he has to shape up . . . or get shipped out.
Oscar was keen to get this one out of the library when he came to stay last week-end and between us, we managed to finish reading the story before he went home on Sunday afternoon. I was impressed at the humour and strong narrative, as well as how accessible the vocabulary is for emerging young readers – no wonder these books are so popular. Review to follow.

 

The Stargazer’s Embassy by Eleanor Lerman
The Stargazer’s Embassy explores the frightening phenomenon of alien abduction from a different point of view: in this story, it is the aliens who seem fearful of Julia Glazer, the woman they are desperately trying to make contact with.
This is an interesting and unusual approach to this subject, where Julia’s fury at being constantly visited throughout her life has affected her, making her suspicious and hostile of humans and aliens alike.

 

 

Face the Change – Book 3 of the Menopausal Superheroes series by Samantha Bryant
The Menopausal Superheroes are coming out of the closet and the pressure is high, on the job and on the homefront. Now that he knows what it’s like to be a hero, Leonel “Fuerte” Alvarez can’t imagine going back to his former life as a grandmother and housewife. But putting his life on the line may cost him his husband even while he saves the city. Jessica “Flygirl” Roark is holding on to her second chance at love with both hands while learning to balance single parenthood with her new career in crime-fighting. Patricia “Lizard Woman” O’Neill is blindsided by an unexpected romance just as she signs on to join the team. Meanwhile enemies abound–old and new. When superpowers alone aren’t enough, what a woman really needs are her friends.
I jumped at the opportunity to review this entertaining and unusual take of the superhero genre and it didn’t disappoint. I shall be posting my review this coming week.

 

Star Witch – Book 2 of The Lazy Girl’s Guide to Magic series by Helen Harper
Ivy Wilde, the laziest witch in the West, is still entangled with the Hallowed Order of Magical Enlightenment. That’s not a bad thing, however, because it gives her plenty of excuses to spend more time with sapphire eyed Raphael Winter, her supposed nemesis. And when he comes knocking because he needs her to spy on the latest series of Enchantment, she jumps at the chance. Hanging around a film set can’t be hard … or dangerous … right?
I thoroughly enjoyed the smart snappy writing of the first book – and was delighted when Himself treated us to this second instalment. Another real delight to read and I shall be posting my review in due course.

 

My posts last week:

Sunday Post – 16th July 2017

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of How to Stop Time by Matt Haig

Teaser Tuesday featuring Face the Change – Book 3 of the Menopausal Superheroes series by Samantha Bryant

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Dichronauts by Greg Egan

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of The Stargazer’s Embassy by Eleanor Lerman

Friday Face-off – I must go down to the sea again…featuring Ship of Magic – Book 1 of the Liveship Traders series by Robin Hobb

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Slouch Witch – Book 1 of The Lazy Girl’s Guide to Magic series by Helen Harper

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

Peace Talks 101https://wandaluthman.wordpress.com/2017/07/10/peace-talks-101/ Now the children are at home for the summer break, World War 3 can break out between siblings – these top tips help you cope…

Anne Valley Walkhttps://inesemjphotography.com/2017/07/09/anne-valley-walk/ Inese talks us on a wonderful walk featuring the fauna and flora…

Proxima Centauri b keeps getting attention http://earthianhivemind.net/2017/07/12/proxima-centauri-b-keeps-getting-attention/ Another excellent article from Steph about some of the latest investigations on one of our near neighbours.

Six Word Stories: Wethttps://richardankers.com/2017/07/12/six-word-stories-wet/ Another snappy gem from Richard…

10 of the Best Plays by Women Dramatistshttps://interestingliterature.com/2017/07/12/10-of-the-best-plays-by-women-dramatists/ An interesting, informative article on some of the foremost women dramatists through the ages.

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.