Category Archives: alternate history

Review of KINDLE Ebook Amunet by Robert Harkess

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I attended the launch of this book at Bristolcon – my favourite con of the year for its sheer friendliness – back in October and had always promised myself to get hold of it. And then saw it on Netgalley…

Amunet has a unique talent; she can talk to the dead. She had been told all her life that this is the key to rescuing her mother, who has been taken by mysterious and powerful forces. To unlock her mother’s prison, all she has to do is find the Locksmith. Posing as a Medium, she scours Europe for the one person who can help her. Harry and his father are investigators, employed by the Church to hunt down Mediums and hand them over to the mercies of the Inquisition. Harry has always believed he, and the Church, were doing the right thing. Until now.

This one immediately pulled me in – the writing style is punchy and readable and I really enjoyed Amunet. She is at once entitled and vulnerable, clever and very unworldly with an upbringing you wouldn’t wish on a dog, along with a burning drive to track down her mother, thanks to the person in her head guiding her. Harry has a parallel life in many ways, given he also lost his mother early in his life, but whereas Amunet’s guide and mentor is a voice in her head, Harry’s role model is his own father.

But what Harkess manages to do is depict two detailed, interesting characters while it is busy kicking off around them – because this book hits the ground running and wherever Amunet goes, violence and mayhem follows. But this book really bounces to life when she reaches London – a Victorian-type setting but with some important differences. There are all sorts of nice steampunk touches that garnish this adventure action novel.

Alongside Amunet and Harry, there is also a rich cast of characters who weave through the story – some of them unexpectedly popping up again when I had thought we’d seen the last of them. Harkess is clearly an experienced, able writer who manages to keep the momentum for this interesting alternate historical genre mash-up plunging forward without losing character focus or skimping on the vivid backdrop – which is a whole lot harder to achieve than Harkess makes it look.

While the book is concluded entirely satisfactorily, I got to the end and immediately looked around to see if there is likely to be a sequel as I would welcome the chance to revisit this beguiling world. This one comes recommended, particularly for steampunk/alternate history fans.
8/10

Review of The Vanishing Throne – Book 2 of The Falconer Trilogy by Elizabeth May

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I encountered the first book, The Falconer, at the beginning of the year and loved the intense, brutal writing style of this YA genre mash-up, so was delighted when this offering became available at the local library.

thevanishingthroneAileana took a stand against the Wild Hunt, and she lost everything: her home, her family and her friends. Held captive by her enemy, and tormenting herself over her failure, escape seems like only the faintest possibility.

Whatever you do – don’t start with this book. Go back to The Falconer, which ended on a devastating cliffhanger and pretty much picks up exactly where the first book left off. So if you start with this one, while you may not be floundering too much, you will definitely be missing an important chunk of the story. Having your main character being subjected to sustained torture can be tricky business, especially in a YA read, and needs careful handling. Fortunately May deals with it well and Aileana certainly is left with wounds that run deeper than the scars inflicted as the storyline progresses.

I was concerned that as the first book galloped towards an apocalyptic climax, the second book would necessarily be something of a let-down – and it proved to be nothing of the sort. May doesn’t ease up on the pace one iota and Aileana is immersed into another series of twists and turns that reveals yet more of the fae and their tortuous relationship with humanity reaching back millennia.

It was also a treat to meet up again with the strong supporting cast of characters who people The Falconer… I was very relieved that Derrick, the stroppy pixie, survives. Apart from anything else, the repartee between Aileana and Derrick provides some very welcome humour. Not that this is particularly downbeat – there is too much going on and too many issues for our protagonist to consider for the mood to become too gloomy. However, it is gritty – wounds cause scars. People sustain losses. And bear grudges…

Once more, I was swept up into this enticing, edgy world. Though as I approached the ending I became increasingly concerned that it could not compete with The Falconer’s shocking conclusion. But I need not have feared – as I got to the final page, I was scraping my jaw off the floor, while being very relieved that I shan’t have to wait too long for the final book, The Fallen Kingdom, in this exciting, entertaining series. Highly recommended.
9/10

Discovery Challenge 2017 and Tackling My TBR – January Roundup

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I know… it’s too far into February – but I got a tad carried away with my Netgalley requests so it’s been difficult to fit this post in. 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 previously unknown to me during the last two years. So how did I do in January? I read four books towards the 2017 Discovery Challenge. They were:-

The Falconer – Book 1 of The Falconer Trilogy by Elizabeth May
She’s a stunner. Edinburgh, 1844. Eighteen-year-old Lady Aileana Kameron, the only daughter of the thefalconerMarquess of Douglas, has everything a girl could dream of: brains, charm, wealth, a title—and drop-dead beauty.
She’s a liar. But Aileana only looks the part of an aristocratic young lady. she’s leading a double life: She has a rare ability to sense the sìthíchean—the faery race obsessed with slaughtering humans—and, with the aid of a mysterious mentor, has spent the year since her mother died learning how to kill them.
She’s a murderer. Now Aileana is dedicated to slaying the fae before they take innocent lives. With her knack for inventing ingenious tools and weapons—from flying machines to detonators to lightning pistols—ruthless Aileana has one goal: Destroy the faery who destroyed her mother.
She’s a Falconer. The last in a line of female warriors born with a gift for hunting and killing the fae, Aileana is the sole hope of preventing a powerful faery population from massacring all of humanity. Suddenly, her quest is a lot more complicated. She still longs to avenge her mother’s murder—but she’ll have to save the world first.

Yes… the blurb does go on a bit, but it does effectively set the scene for this interesting foot-to-the floor adventure. I’ve loved the first two books in this edgy, apocalyptic fantasy – and each book takes the plot off in twisty directions I didn’t see coming. I can’t wait to see how May will end the series this summer…

Strangers by Rosie Thomas

strangersSometimes the victims of tragedy are the ones who survive. Annie and Steve are from different worlds. She is a wife and mother, he is a wealthy executive with a stream of broken relationships in his wake. They do not know each other exists until one morning, on a shopping expedition, they becomes victims of a bomb blast, thrown together in the debris to fight for their lives.

The beginning of the book where the two of them are buried in the bomb blast is amazing. I loved the description – so visceral. Thomas absolutely nailed it. However, I decided in the end not to review this one.

 

Terminal Regression by Mallory Hill

Laura Baily’s life is meaningless. In a world where purpose and passion are everything, Laura feels as terminalregressionthough she has no place and no business even existing. Her life is forfeit, and it would be better for everyone if she simply ended it, if she simply got a ticket for a train to oblivion and faded from memory. But what awaits her at the end of the line isn’t death…

Once more, I’ve edited the rather chatty blurb, but Hill has taken on depression and suicide in this gutsy YA read. I am very impressed at how she approached the subject and managed to make this a readable, thought provoking story. Definitely One to Watch.

 

Old Bones – A Detective Inspector Slider Mystery by Cynthia Harrod-Eagles

oldbonesA young couple discover human remains buried in the garden of their new house: could this be the resting place of 14-year-old Amanda Knight, who disappeared from the same garden two decades before, and was never seen again? The problem comes almost as a relief to DCI Slider, still suffering from the fallout of his previous case. He is not popular with the Powers That Be, and his immediate boss, Detective Superintendent Porson, reckons that at least this little puzzle will keep Slider out of trouble. After all, with a murder twenty years in the past, this is the coldest of cold cases. Most of the suspects and principal players are now dead too, and all passion is long spent … Or is it?

This is a gem if you like your police procedurals twisty, with a protagonist whose narrative voice is blessed with desert-dry humour that regularly had me sniggering aloud. Mum was right – this lady can certainly write…

 

Tackling my TBR pile – this month I only managed to read one book towards this Challenge:-

A Symphony of Echoes – Book 2 of The Chronicles of St Mary’s by Jodi Taylor

Follow the adventures of those tea-sodden historians at St Mary’s as once again they dance on the edge asymphonyofechoesof disaster.

And there you have it – the blurb certainly doesn’t venture anywhere near spoiler territory, does it? Once again, Taylor’s punchy prose scoops the reader up into Max’s world and catapults us into the middle of St Mary’s, where Max feels she belongs for the first time in her life. If she didn’t have such a strong sense of humour, this could be a very grim read as plenty goes wrong. I keep thinking, as I read all the sudden reverses and nasty surprises that constantly assail our adventurers, that this series would transfer very well to TV.

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of KINDLE Ebook The Mercy of the Tide by Keith Rosson

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I requested this one from NetGalley as the description caught my attention and I was looking for something different…

themercyofthetideRiptide, Oregon, 1983. A sleepy coastal town, where crime usually consists of underage drinking down at a Wolf Point bonfire. But then strange things start happening—a human skeleton is unearthed in a local park and mutilated animals begin appearing, seemingly sacrificed, on the town’s beaches. The Mercy of the Tide follows four people drawn irrevocably together by a recent tragedy as they do their best to reclaim their lives—leading them all to a discovery that will change them and their town forever.

This book is definitely on the literary end of the speculative fiction spectrum, with a nod to alternative history and magic realism. It is a study of loss and grief. A car crash months before the story starts has killed two women and not only does their death massively impact the main protagonists in the story – it also appears to set off a chain of events that have recurred on this site before.

Often protagonists are faced with unexpected deaths of partners, parents or children – and while we are aware of the impact upon them, events generally move along so that we rapidly gain some distance from the bereavement tearing lumps out of their lives. Indeed, I am regularly exasperated at how quickly that aspect of the story is glossed and the implicit message is that the bereaved are allowed a few months’ grace, but then should be pulling themselves together, again. Unless the book is all about how their dead partner has arranged letters in bottles, or a series of tasks for them to undertake – then they’re allowed to continue to founder in a morass of grief.

Rosson hasn’t done either of these – his focus is firmly on the four characters devastated by the deaths of these two women. In beautiful, unsentimental prose that peels back any pretence or façade, he digs into his characters’ souls and shows the crippling extent of their loss. Alongside this, though, there are other events. Mutilated remains of animals start appearing along the beach of this off-season seaside town which has seen far better days, a body is discovered. Meanwhile the political temperature is steadily rising as Ronald Reagan is warning the world about Russia’s ‘evil Empire’ and fears about nuclear war abound as the cold war seems to be dangerously heating up.

There are all welded into an engrossing read that takes us into the rain-lashed streets of Riptide with a grieving Sheriff of Police, a teenage boy trying to also look out for his deaf nine-year-old sister as he comes to terms with the loss of their mother and a Deputy who was having an affair with one of the women. In order for this book to work, I needed to really care for all the characters – which I did. Even when they did stupid, silly things. Even when they were mean and angry. Rosson does a cracking job of giving his characters depth and vulnerabilities that certainly had me rooting all the way for them.

Any niggles? I’m aware this is more of a literary read than I generally do, these days – but I did feel that about two-thirds of the way through, the pace dipped slightly just at the point in the book when it should have picked up. That said, I was never at any stage tempted to put it down. I really enjoyed the wonderful piece of personification for all that terrible grief in amongst the story and found it a gripping, sobering read. Strongly recommended.

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

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of KINDLE Ebook The Massacre of Mankind by Stephen Baxter

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If you ever read and enjoyed H.G. Wells’ The War of the Worlds then this one might be for you, as this offering by established science fiction author, Stephen Baxter, is its sequel.

themassacreofmankindIt has been 14 years since the Martians invaded England. The world has moved on, always watching the skies but content that we know how to defeat the Martian menace. Machinery looted from the abandoned capsules and war-machines has led to technological leaps forward. The Martians are vulnerable to earth germs. The Army is prepared. So when the signs of launches on Mars are seen, there seems little reason to worry. Unless you listen to one man, Walter Jenkins, the narrator of Wells’ book. He is sure that the Martians have learned, adapted, understood their defeat.

He is right.

So has Baxter been successful in keeping the tone and feel of Wells’ book? Yes, I think he has. Walter who was the main protagonist in The War of the Worlds, has spent his time since then exhaustively researching the Martians and is convinced they will return. He’s not the only one. Britain is quite a different place as society is more militaristic, poverty is widespread and life is a lot more drab as everyone has been impacted by the damage inflicted by the Martians. Julie, our protagonist who also made an appearance in The War of the Worlds, is shocked at how much England has been affected on her return. I really enjoyed the fact that Baxter has not just reprised a Martian invasion – he has also constructed an alternate history for Europe and America in the aftermath of the initial invasion.

Once it all starts to kick off again, the feel of the action with the pace, the tone and some of the characters from Wells’ apocalyptic adventure returning makes Baxter’s tale feel very familiar, in particular the artilleryman’s appearance is every bit as disturbing as before. Although there are some important differences – the Martians have learnt some vital lessons after their first unsuccessful attempt to conquer Earth, which transformed the familiar into an engrossing page-turner. Initially, Baxter emulates Wells’ action-filled chaos as the British military are all set to engage the invasion force – it shouldn’t come as a huge shock if I reveal the carefully laid plans by the best military minds don’t go to plan. I really enjoyed Baxter’s trick of using historical figures in his catastrophic scenario, such as Winston Churchill.

Like Wells, Baxter regularly cuts away from his main protagonist to other characters in key positions as the Martians tighten their grip on Earth by targeting cities around the world. Will humanity survive, or is Mankind doomed to unremitting slavery for the rest of millennia? We learn of other humanoid races who accompany the invasion force – and there is a real sense of shock when we learn who they are and where they come from. For the purposes of this book, Baxter has continued using the version of the solar system provided by Wells. So not only is Mars inhabited, but also Venus and Jupiter. As for the final twist that brings the Martian advance to a halt – it certainly provides an interesting outcome. I really enjoyed the idea once I got used to the notion, particularly as Baxter then builds upon it and gives a fascinating scenario.

There is scope for another book in this series and I’m very much hoping Baxter writes it – I found The Massacre of Mankind as compelling as The War of the Worlds and would love to read more set in this traumatised, alternative world.
10/10

Teaser Tuesday – 24th January, 2017

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tuesdayTeaser 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:
The Massacre of Mankind by Stephen Baxter
49% These toiling others, the hair on their legs caked in mud, looked back at us with a kind of furtive themassacreofmankindboldness. And I thought I heard them mutter to each other in an odd, high-pitched, almost gurgling sing-song. It occurred to me that I had not heard the tall humanoids utter a word to each other, and did not even know if they were capable of it; perhaps language had been bred out of them too by their monstrous masters.
‘Then if not from Mars – where, Frank?’
‘They’re from Venus,’ Frank said flatly. ‘The Martians went to that planet, and brought them here to the earth. I think they’re from Venus, Julie. Here in England!’

BLURB:It has been 14 years since the Martians invaded England. The world has moved on, always watching the skies but content that we know how to defeat the Martian menace. Machinery looted from the abandoned capsules and war-machines has led to technological leaps forward. The Martians are vulnerable to earth germs. The Army is prepared. So when the signs of launches on Mars are seen, there seems little reason to worry. Unless you listen to one man, Walter Jenkins, the narrator of Wells’ book. He is sure that the Martians have learned, adapted, understood their defeat.

He is right.

This is the sequel of H.G. Wells’ War of the Worlds by one of the most established, respected science fiction authors writing today. Has Baxter managed to provide a suitably exciting story with sufficient references to the original book, yet respectful enough that this isn’t just some parody? Oh yes. I think he’s made a cracking job of it and I will be reviewing this book in due course.

Sunday Post – 15th January 2017

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Sunday Post

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.

This week was full throttle as I started back at Northbrook with the new term – the first session is my least favourite as we always have a mound of admin to wade through, but it was lovely to see everyone again. I also resumed my exercise classes – more fun and I wasn’t as stiff and sore as I thought I’d be, which was also a bonus! On Wednesday evening, I went to see a film of the live performance of The Tempest by the RSC at Stratford at the Connaught in Worthing. It was amazing – the special effects and the performances were stunning and filled me with the desire to see the real thing at The Barbican. I should have gone to the monthly West Sussex Writers’ meeting on Thursday night but the weather had other ideas. The rain turned to sleet with the forecast for snow later in the evening and I decided not venture out – I don’t do driving in snow if I can possibly avoid it. This week-end I’m grannying again, which is lovely as ever.

This week I have read:
A Symphony of Echoes – Book 2 of The Chronicles of St Mary’s by Jodi Taylor
In the second book in the Chronicles of St Mary’s series, Max and the team visit Victorian London in asymphonyofechoessearch of Jack the Ripper, witness the murder of Archbishop Thomas a Becket in Canterbury Cathedral, and discover that dodos make a grockling noise when eating cucumber sandwiches.

But they must also confront an enemy intent on destroying St Mary’s – an enemy willing, if necessary, to destroy History itself to do it.

This time-travelling adrenaline-filled adventure is every bit as foot to the floor as the first book, Just One Damned Thing After Another. I enjoyed following the exploits of Max and her fellow historians as they witness and chronicle some of the most famous events in History at great risk to their lives and look forward to continuing with this series.

Emperor of the Fireflies – Book 2 of the Tide Dragons series by Sarah Ash
emperorofthefirefliesKai and Masao, once enemies, are now condemned to the sea by the Tide Dragons Sacrifice. If Hotaru, the new emperor, is unable to summon the Tide Dragons of Ebb and Flood at the Autumn Moon Festival, he will forfeit the right to rule Cipangu. The two Sacrifices face a desperate race against time to free themselves from this ancient curse before Hotaru binds them with forbidden magic to obey his will – forever.

Sakami, Kai’s lover, has become a kitsune, a fox spirit. She is determined to do all in her power to save him – but is Hotaru, aided by his treacherous shikigami, Kurika, just too formidable an opponent to overcome?

This is a joy. I thoroughly enjoyed revisiting this vividly depicted Japanese world and quickly got swept back up into the story from where The Flood Dragon’s Sacrifice left off. I love the fact that we not only get a ringside seat at what is going on with the protagonists, but we also get to know what is driving the main antagonists, too. It makes for an enjoyably nuanced tale. I’ll be reviewing it in due course.

My posts last week:
Sunday Post – 8th January 2017

Review of The King’s Peace – Book 1 of the Tir Tanagiri series by Jo Walton

Teaser Tuesday featuring Emperor of the Fireflies – Book 2 of the Tide Dragons by Sarah Ash

Shoot for the Moon 2016 Challenge – How Did I Do?

My Outstanding Books of 2016

Friday Faceoff – Nobody likes a clown at midnight… featuring Chicot the Jester by Alexandre Dumas

Review of The Falconer – Book 1 of The Falconer series by Elizabeth May

Interesting/outstanding blogs and articles that have caught my attention during the last week, in no particular order:
50 Word Stories: Breakfast Memories https://richardankers.com/2017/01/14/50-word-stories-breakfast-memories/ Another quirky offering from the talented Richard Ankers

Inspirational F. Scott Fitzgerald quotes http://logicalquotes.com/f-scott-fitzgerald-quotes/
There are some really smart, enjoyably clever quotes in this post.

10 of the Best Short Literary Epitaphs https://interestingliterature.com/2017/01/13/10-of-the-best-short-literary-epitaphs/ …and this one does exactly what it says…

Most Requested #6 Jan 2017 https://librarystaffpicks.wordpress.com/2017/01/12/most-requested-6-jan-2017/ It always makes fascinating reading to discover what is the most requested book in the Ballyroan area

Thursday Doors https://jeanreinhardt.wordpress.com/2017/01/12/thursday-doors-74/ This popular weekly post looking at different doors takes a slightly grim turn…

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

My Outstanding Books of 2016

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Last year was an amazing year for reading. I cannot recall when I last read so many exciting, engrossing and well crafted books. Below are the ones which have left a niche in my inscape so they may not have initially got a 10/10, but nevertheless these are the ones that have stayed with me…

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

thejustcity

This amazing, thought provoking series is essentially examining Plato’s ideas for an ideal society striving towards excellence as propounded in The Republic. It’s quirky, imaginative and clever – vintage Walton in other words. She has to be one of the most exciting, talented writers of our age.

 

Uprooted by Naomi Novik

uprooted

This is a variation of the ‘Beauty and the Beast’ story that is filled with mystery, magic and a strong sense of place. The isolation and brooding sense of being at the whim of someone who is perhaps not wholly stable permeates the book.

 

The Many Selves of Katherine North by Emma Geen

manyselvesofkatherine

This hard science fiction tale of a shape-shifter is an extraordinary book, rich with techie detail and some of the most vivid sensory writing I’ve read. In addition, the story takes you in one direction – until you suddenly realise it is about something else altogether. Clever and original, this impressive debut novel marks Geen as One to Watch.

 

The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi

thestartouchedqueen

The cover of this book is lushly beautiful – which is also an accurate description of the prose spinning this story into a classic tale that wouldn’t be out of place if it turned up as one of the tales of Scheherazade. What really sold it, though, was the carnivorous horse with smart mouth…

 

The Annihilation Score – Book 6 The Laundry Files by Charles Stross

theannihiliationscore

Unlike the rest of this clever, readable series, this book is told in the viewpoint of Bob Howard’s wife, Mo. She has a bone violin as a weapon to battle the Lovecraftian monsters emerging from another dimension and threatening life on Earth as we know it. You won’t be surprised to learn that wielding such an instrument exacts a heavy cost. Stross has depicted a heartbreaking heroine who leaves a lump in my throat.

 

The House with No Rooms – Book 4 of The Detective’s Daughter series
by Lesley Thomson

thehousewithnorooms1

I love Thomson’s clever, layered writing that assumes her readers are capable of joining the dots and her leisurely pacing that steadily builds a creeping sense of wrongness. Stella’s quirky world view prevails and in amongst the tragedy and pain, there are welcome shafts of humour. I’ve dreamt about this book…

 

Me Before You by JoJo Moyes

mebeforeyou

This book, rightly, has garnered a huge amount of attention and I nearly didn’t read it because of the fuss. Which would have been a real shame, because the story is gripping, funny and painful and without an ounce of sentiment. I certainly didn’t think it would end the way it did.

 

An Accident of Stars – Book 1 of The Manifold Worlds series by Foz Meadows

anaccidentofstars

This portal fantasy gripped me from the first page and still hasn’t let go. I was completely caught up in the adventure, which quickly took me out of my comfort zone and captivated me. I still find myself wondering what I’d do if confronted with the same circumstances and hope that Meadows writes quickly, because I badly want to know what happens next.

 

The Fifth Season – Book 1 of the Broken Earth series by N.K. Jemisin

thefifthseason

I love her Inheritance series, but blogging buddy Sara Letourneau kept banging on about this one, so I got hold of it. And I’m so very glad I did… The writing is extraordinary. Jemisin takes all the rules about writing by the scruff of the neck and gives them a thorough shaking. I stayed awake to read this one, caught up with Essun’s furious grief and felt bereft once I came to the end of it.

 

Spiderlight by Adrian Tchaikovsky

spiderlight

This clever, unsettling adventure takes the classic fantasy trope of the band of heroes and bounces it off the walls. The result is funny, creepy and poignant by turns – and absolutely engrossing. It also raises some tricky moral questions.

 

Spellbreaker – Book 3 of the Spellwright Trilogy by Blake Charlton

spellbreaker

This fantasy adventure vividly depicts a family where every one of them is lethally powerful such that it seriously gets in the way of their love for each other. The result is riveting and original – it has lodged itself in my brain like a burr, because if you have the power to level cities or predict your father’s death, then it’s probably going to make the inevitable family tiff somewhat tricky.

 

The Summer Goddess by Joanne Hall

thesummergoddess

I’ve always enjoyed Hall’s writing – but this particular tale of abduction and slavery tugged at my heart from the first chapter and kept on doing so throughout. Her heroine is painfully fallible and yet doggedly courageous – and the writing is always so well crafted. It’s another one that won’t leave me in peace…

 

Songs of Seraphina by Jude Houghton

songsofseraphine

This disturbing portal novel is about revenge and bloodshed – and how those that pay the price often are innocent. It grabbed me from the beginning as we learn about the three sisters and I read through the night to learn what befalls them – and I’m really hoping that Houghton is busy writing a sequel, for I want more of this savage, magical world.

 

A Natural History of DragonsBook 1 of The Memoirs of Lady Trent series
by Marie Brennan

anaturalhistoryofdragons

What’s not to love? A dogged, adventuring Victorian lady who defies convention to go adventuring to learn more about dragons in their habitat. The book is written after the style of a 19th century novel and enchanted me – happily there are more in the series and I’m going to be plunging back into this world just as soon as I can.

 

Just One Damned Thing After Another – Book 1 of The Chronicles of St Mary’s
by Jodi Taylor

jsutonedamnedthing

This time travelling novel is set in a Government-run establishment that has the same feel I imagine Bletchley would have done during WW2 – though the attrition rate is definitely higher at St Mary’s. The time-travelling historians – or ‘disaster-magnets’ as they are described in this punchy, amusing adventure – tend to die rather a lot.

So there they are – my outstanding reads of 2016. I highly recommend each and every one of them as offering something special and unique. And if you insist on forcing me to choose only one of them, then you’re a cruel, unfeeling monster – but if I HAD to, then it would have to be N.K. Jemisin’s The Fifth Season. The intensity of the writing, the cool premise and the way she builds on the characters has this one etched into my mind.

Sunday Post – 27th November 2016

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Sunday Post

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 woke up last Sunday feeling absolutely dreadful – sneezing, aching joints, streaming nose and eyes… Fortunately, I had already posted my Sunday roundup so was able to spend most of the morning in bed drinking lots of water and sleeping. On Monday I cancelled my lesson with Tim and Fitstep session – a real shame, but by the evening I was feeling well enough to teach my usual Creative Writing evening class. By Tuesday, I was still feeling a bit headachy but the cold was gone with not so much as a sniffle – which I was delighted about as it was our Poetry Workshop, one of my favourite sessions of the term, but I need to be feeling reasonably sharp to run it successfully. By Wednesday I was able to attend my Pilates class and on Thursday Mhairi came round for the day and we got down to writing. Although my work on Miranda’s Tempest hasn’t been going so well this week, as there has been a lot of family stuff going on which is taking up a fair amount of headspace.

This week I have read:
The Ballad of Elva and Chester: Or: Mostly Their Fault by Adrian Archangelo
theballadofelvaElva & Chester are space aliens who appear to be human and have been here on earth since the year 1100, with the goal of helping humanity develop more empathy and compassion. (The rest of the beings in the galaxy don’t want us flying around out there until we do.) The pair have no human habits to contend with, but they are extraordinarily responsive to chocolate and hold it in special regard. Although they mean well for us, they find human behavior baffling, and continually see their plans twisted by human responses. Consequently, nearly everything wrong on this planet over the past thousand years was caused by one of their debacles.

A light-hearted romp through history with an unusual justification for all the many disasters…

 

Renting Silence – Book 3 of the Roaring Twenties Mysteries by Mary Miley
renting-silenceCan 1920s script girl Jessie do Mary Pickford’s bidding and uncover a real killer?
When Jessie is asked by her idol, the famous actress Mary Pickford, if she can do some private investigating for her, Jessie reluctantly accepts. A girl was found stabbed in her bedroom with another woman lying unconscious on the floor next to her, a bloody knife in her hand. With no police investigation into the murder, it’s up to Jessie to hone her amateur detective skills and prove the girl’s innocence before she hangs for murder. But as Jessie travels through the roaring twenties world of Hollywood and movies, surreptitiously interviewing fellow travelling performers, she struggles to find the connection she needs.

This is a delight. Miley has perfectly captured the sense of the time with all sorts of delightful details, in addition to highlighting some of the bleaker aspects such as the embedded racist and sexism of the time. And the denouement caught me completely by surprise – all in all a cracking read.

 

Bloodrush – Book 1 of The Scarlet Star trilogy by Ben Galley
“Magick ain’t pretty, it ain’t stars and sparkles. Magick is dirty. It’s rough. Raw. It’s blood and guts bloodrushand vomit. You hear me?”
When Prime Lord Hark is found in a pool of his own blood on the steps of his halls, Tonmerion Hark finds his world not only turned upside down, but inside out. His father’s last will and testament forces him west across the Iron Ocean, to the very brink of the Endless Land and all civilisation. They call it Wyoming.
This is a story of murder and family.
In the dusty frontier town of Fell Falls, there is no silverware, no servants, no plush velvet nor towering spires. Only dust, danger, and the railway. Tonmerion has only one friend to help him escape the torturous heat and unravel his father’s murder. A faerie named Rhin. A twelve-inch tall outcast of his own kind.
This is a story of blood and magick.
But there are darker things at work in Fell Falls, and not just the railwraiths or the savages. Secrets lurk in Tonmerion’s bloodline. Secrets that will redefine this young Hark.
This is a story of the edge of the world.

This fantasy adventure in a Wild West setting pings off the page as the vivid worldbuilding and detailed magickal rules pulled me in and wouldn’t let go until this coming-of-age page-turner was finally completed. I shall be reviewing it in due course.

My posts last week:

Sunday Post – 20th November 2016

Film review of Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them

Teaser Tuesday – featuring Bloodrush – Book 1 of The Scarlet Star trilogy by Ben Galley

Review of Synners by Pat Cadigan

Review of Clover Moon by Jacqueline Wilson

Friday Faceoff – As Old as the Hills… featuring Rider at the Gate – Book 1 of the Finisterre duology by C.J. Cherryh

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* The Ballad of Elva and Chester: Or: Mostly Their Fault by Adrian Archangelo

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

50 Word Stories: Licked https://richardankers.com/2016/11/25/50-word-stories-licked/
Richard specialises in writing a steady stream of very short, quirky fiction and this disturbing little gem nicely showcases his inventive, dark imagination.

Witness for the Prosecution (1982TVM) https://noirencyclopedia.wordpress.com/2016/11/16/witness-for-the-prosecution-1982-tvm/
John’s delightful blog features noir films, together with a detailed storyline and screenshots of the action. This film was particularly entertaining.

The Realities of Writing https://sophieetallis.wordpress.com/2016/11/24/the-realities-of-writing/ This thoughtful, well written article by Sophie is certainly worth reading.

Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. CLXV (Leiber + Haiblum + Scholz and Harcourt + Orbit Anthology) https://sciencefictionruminations.wordpress.com/2016/11/23/updates-recent-science-fiction-acquisitions-no-leiber-haiblum-scholz-and-harcourt-orbit-anthology/ Joachim presents his latest finds – all classic science fiction paperbacks with amazing covers.

5 New Poetry Collections https://librarystaffpicks.wordpress.com/2016/11/23/5-new-poetry-collections-2/ Those marvellous folks at Ballyroan library have given a potted review of these latest acquisitions – a must-read for those looking for presents for the poets in their lives.

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

Favourite Time Travelling Novel – Part 2

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Night Watch – Book 29 of the Discworld novels by Terry Pratchett
nightwatchFor a policeman, there can be few things worse than a serial killer at loose in your city. Except, perhaps, a serial killer who targets coppers, and a city on the brink of bloody revolution. The people have found their voice at last, the flags and barricades are rising…And the question for a policeman, an officer of the law, a defender of the peace, is: Are you with them, or are you against them?

Over this long-running quirky fantasy series, Pratchett adopted a number of other genres – and this was the one where he had a go at time travelling. Over his very prolific output, it is inevitable that the quality varies – but Night Watch is one I recall with great affection as a very moving read.

 

 

 

Time and Time Again by Ben Elton
It’s the 1st of June 1914 and Hugh Stanton, ex-soldier and celebrated adventurer is quite literally the timeandtimeagainloneliest man on earth. No one he has ever known or loved has been born yet. Perhaps now they never will be. Stanton knows that a great and terrible war is coming. A collective suicidal madness that will destroy European civilization and bring misery to millions in the century to come. He knows this because, for him, that century is already history. Somehow he must change that history. He must prevent the war. A war that will begin with a single bullet. But can a single bullet truly corrupt an entire century? And, if so, could another single bullet save it?

Another time-travelling book with a fascinating premise and a really cool twist, although I didn’t exactly warm to the protagonist – see my review here.

 

 

 

The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August by Claire North
first 15 lives of Harry AugustNo matter what he does or the decisions he makes, when death comes, Harry always returns to where he began, a child with all the knowledge of a life he has already lived a dozen times before. Nothing ever changes. Until now. As Harry nears the end of his eleventh life, a little girl appears at his bedside. ‘I nearly missed you, Doctor August,’ she says. ‘I need to send a message.’ This is the story of what Harry does next, and what he did before, and how he tries to save a past he cannot change and a future he cannot allow.

This is another plot-twister that takes the basic premise of time travelling and then plays games with it – and launches popular fantasy author Kate Griffin of the Matthew Swift series into her latest iteration as Claire North. See my review here.

 

 

 

In the Wet by Nevil Shute
in-the-wetIt is the rainy season. Drunk and delirious, an old man lies dying in the Queensland bush. In his opium-hazed last hours, a priest finds his deserted shack and listens to his last words. Half-awake and half-dreaming the old man tells the story of an adventure set decades in the future, in a very different world…

This is with a classic unreliable narrator – after all, a dying, drugged man is bound to be rather dodgy when recollecting his part – and it is left up to the reader to decide whether he really has travelled forward in time… I first devoured it as a teenager, rereading it again in my thirties, which confirmed the power of the writing. If you get a chance to read it, do so. The great news is that Shute’s books are now available on Kindle.

 

 

 

The Many-Colored Land – Book 1 of the Saga of the Pliocene Exile by Julian May
themanycoloredlandWhen a one-way time tunnel to Earth’s distant past, specifically six million B.C., was discovered by folks on the Galactic Milieu, every misfit for light-years around hurried to pass through it. Each sought his own brand of happiness. But none could have guessed what awaited them. Not even in a million years….

This amazing four book series takes epic science fiction/fantasy to a new level and plays all sorts of cool games with our history. I read this stunning series over twenty years ago and recall it with great affection. I also highly recommend the linked Galactic Milieu series, which is the prequel set in the future – I do love time travel books and the games they play with narrative chronology:)

 

 

 

 

Frozen in Time by Ali Sparkes
Ben and Rachel Corder are sure they’re in for the longest, dullest summer ever, until they discover an frozentimeunderground vault at the bottom of their garden with an amazing secret inside – two children from the 1950s who have been asleep for decades. But waking up Freddy and Polly Emerson means unearthing the secrets that were buried with them. Why would their father leave them frozen? How is cryonic suspension even possible? Why doesn’t the world know about the process fifty years later? How will the Emersons ever fit into the 21st century world of cell phones and microwave dinners? And why does it feel like they’re all suddenly being followed?

This is another offering that is too cool, funny and clever to leave to the children – see my review here. I particularly loved the cultural differences between the two pairs of children which Sparkes beautifully highlights during this gripping story.