I absolutely loved Polansky’s Low Town trilogy, which even now I remember vividly as a thumping good read – see my reviews of The Straight Razor Cure, Tomorrow the Killing and She Who Waits, as well as the start of his next series Those Above – which wasn’t bad, but somehow lacked the magic of the Low Town novels. So when I came across this offering, I liked the sound of it and thought I’d give it a go.
BLURB: The Harrows are a typical suburban family who, since time immemorial, have borne a sacred and terrible charge. In the daylight they are teachers, doctors, bartenders and vagrants, but at night they are the rulers and protectors of the March, a fantastical secondary world populated with animate antiquated toys and sentient lichen, a panorama of the impossible where cities are carried on the backs of giant snails, and thunderstorms can be subdued with song.
But beneath this dreamlike exterior lie dark secrets, and for generation after generation the Harrows have defended the March from the perils that wait outside its borders – when they are not consumed in their own bitter internecine quarrels.
In the modern day the Harrow clan are composed of Sophia, the High Queen of the March, a brilliant, calculating matriarch, and her three children – noble Constance, visionary, rebellious Mary Ann, and clever, amoral Will. Moving back and forth between their youth, adolescence, and adulthood, we watch as this family fractures, then reconciles in the face of a conflict endangering not only the existence of the March, but of the ‘real world’ itself.
REVIEW: So… think of the Narnia books, but with a squabbling family in charge of keeping Mr Tumnus et al safe from all threats. It’s an intriguing premise. Polansky opts for a fractured narrative timeline, which means that we are constantly flipping from the current crisis, where everything is starting to fall apart, back to various scenes from the past, presumably to give us insights into why the current generation is in such a mess.
This approach gives us a front row seat into some of the faultlines that fracture the family. The terrible childhood accident that defines John’s behaviour and an ill-advised teenage romance by Mary Ann with shocking consequences drive home that the March isn’t some whimsical playground where youngsters can parade their fantastical alter egos. It’s a dangerous place peopled by a variety of entirely different creatures, with differing cultures and customs. What unites the majority is their allegiance to the Harrow family as their lords and protectors. I felt there were some high points where the family scenes worked really well in pinpointing those fracture lines. However, there are also quite a few – especially featuring Constance, Mary Ann and John as youngsters – where I didn’t feel we get as much insight as we really need to fully bond with the main characters. It’s always a tricky balance to snag the reader’s sympathy when protagonists are shown to be constantly battling each other – and I didn’t care for any of them. Which proved to be an ongoing problem, especially at the end.
Frustratingly, I also felt there are vital scenes missing. I wanted to see that scene between Sophie and Will, instead of hearing Sophie merely allude to it. Because it clearly changed everything. While we learn a great deal about John’s feelings about his scarring, there is nothing about how he gained his formidable powers.
What is undeniable is the vividness and sheer variety of the creatures within the March. Polansky’s writing pings off the page when he’s describing those scenes and I found I wanted more. Instead of merely being the backdrop to the Harrow’s family conflicts, I wished we spent more time there with at least one viewpoint character.
I’m aware this book can also be read as an uncomfortable allegory about the way we’re all being led over a cliff regarding the environmental timebomb now ticking. If you replace the Harrows with the inept politicians around the world taken up with concerns that will shortly fade into the furniture once climate change really gets going – and the rest of us throughout the world in all its variety as the March, then it’s clear Polansky doesn’t hold out much hope for our current leadership ultimately saving humanity from the threat facing us.
This is an unusual read that required constant concentration due to the fractured narrative – and ultimately, I felt that it somehow missed being a fantastic book by a frustratingly narrow margin. Recommended for fans of portal fantasy adventures with a difference. 7/10
This is my update on how I’m doing while coping with Long Covid now it’s been 11 months since I first got ill, which I’m adding to my Sunday Post blog, hosted by Kimberly at Caffeinated Reviewer.
Overall, it’s been a better week. That black anger that had lifted after my reflexology appointment had the good manners to stay away, which was a huge relief. If I’m battling a miserable mood, I don’t have the option to jump in the car, get lost in my writing, or walk it off along the beach so I was more than pleased to find that I was mostly reasonably upbeat throughout the week.
However, while I’m mentally and emotionally far more energetic, I have been struggling with feeling tired all the time. I wake up still feeling weary and often drop back off to sleep after breakfast. But even if I don’t, it has been a struggle to get out of bed much before mid-afternoon. Once in a while, that isn’t necessarily a bad thing – but I’ve been concerned that this is becoming a habit. Annoyingly, as the day wears on I tend to gradually feel more lively so that by the evening when I should be winding down again, I’m wide awake which makes going to sleep a real challenge. We had my grandson staying over from Tuesday through to Friday, which is always a treat, but even that didn’t shift my weariness. I had a chat with my reflexologist and we agreed that this coming week, I’ll make it a target to try to get out of bed before midday.
And there was another bit of progress. While I have at times felt well enough to drive short distances over the last 11 months, it’s been a while since I’ve been behind the wheel. So when Himself needed to visit his mother on Thursday, rather than rearrange my reflexology appointment, I decided to drive there. It isn’t very far and I felt well enough to have a go. What I hadn’t realised is that there are three lots of roadworks that have started up between her house and mine! Fortunately, I don’t find driving too draining – although I was very tired by the time I got home again.
So, it’s mostly been a good week. However, I’m no longer naive enough to think that being able to drive again is a major breakthough. I’ve been here before, several times in fact. So while I’m pleased that right now I can manage the occasional short journey, I’m not going to assume that it’s a major sign that I’m the road to recovery. Or start taking Twinkle out on daily runs. Not yet. In the meantime, I’m still pacing my daily activity levels, still keeping my activity journal, still meditating and trying very hard to live each moment with as much acceptance and contentment that I can muster. Thank goodness for books!
This week I’ve read:-
Magic Uncorked – Book 1 of the Midlife Magic Cocktail Club series by Annabel Chase The only magic word Libbie Stark seems to know these days is ‘ibuprofen’ thanks to a headache-inducing job, two teenagers, one ex-husband, and a deadbeat boyfriend—until the death of a friend brings unexpected consequences. Libbie and the other members of her weekly cocktail club are shocked to discover that their eccentric friend was a witch and that they are the recipients of her magical assets.
Libbie would’ve preferred to inherit an island beach house, especially when her life starts to unravel. With the help of the other Dread Pirate Witches and a handsome lawyer with a head of hair that Fabio would envy, Libbie strives to understand her gift and dig herself out of the hole she’s created, one cocktail at a time. The more her life changes, however, the more Libbie realizes that maybe the end of midlife as she knows it is exactly what she needs. This enjoyable contemporary read is more about the challenges of dealing with modern life as a woman no longer in the first flush of youth, with a paranormal splash thrown in to help. I enjoyed watching Libbie’s transformation. Although I’m a bit uncomfortable that cocktails seem to play such a key role in creating her new life, having seen at close quarters just what havoc alcoholism can cause. Overall, it’s a largely light-hearted, feel-good story featuring a likeable protagonist. 8/10
Bewitching Bitters – Book 2 of the Midlife Magic Cocktail Club series by Annabel Chase Kate Golden is living the dream in Lake Cloverleaf—a handsome husband, three wonderful kids, and a career she loves. As a motivational speaker, she devotes her time to helping people achieve their goals, to become the best versions of themselves. Apparently, the best version of Kate now includes being a witch.
Of course, it would be nice if she could actually do magic instead of being a witch in name only. Her best friend Libbie is mixing magical cocktails like she’s Tom Cruise in that bartender movie. So far, the only residual effect of Kate’s cocktail is a hangover. So Kate is thrilled when a magical cocktail recipe finally appears in her book—until she drinks it. Suddenly her run of good fortune takes a left turn and her life begins to spin out of control. As you can see, despite my misgivings, I immediately picked up the second book in this series as I’m struggling with a really bleak sci fi read. I don’t want to abandon it, so I’m fitting in more light-hearted books alongside. This was a more challenging story with a far less charming protagonist, though I grew to really like her. I found this story took some intriguing turns and I will probably be reading more of this series in due course. 8/10
Scot Mist – Book 4 of the Last Ditch Mystery series by Catriona McPherson March 2020 and Operation Cocker is a go! The owners of the Last Ditch Motel, with a little help from their friend Lexy Campbell, are preparing to support one another through the oncoming lockdown, offering the motel’s spare rooms to a select few from the local area in need of sanctuary.
While the newbies are settling in, an ambiguous banner appears demanding one of them return home. But who is it for? Lexy and her friends put a plan into action to ward off the perpetrator, but the very next night, a resident disappears and a message scrawled in human blood is found. As California shuts down, the Last Ditchers make another gruesome discovery. They tried to create a haven but now it seems as if everyone’s in danger. Is the motel under attack from someone on the outside? Scary as that is, the alternative is worse by far. This one was my reading highlight of the week. I loved it. The eccentric found family coping with the gathering catastrophe that is the pandemic makes a memorable backdrop to this quirky murder mystery. I loved the humour and warm-heartedness – though I hasten to add that the murder is treated with appropriate respect and shock, more so than many whodunits I read, these days. Full review to follow. 10/10
Shrill Dusk – Book 1 of the City of Magic series by Helen Harper Charley is a cleaner by day and a professional gambler by night. She might be haunted by her tragic past but she’s never thought of herself as anything or anyone special. Until, that is, things start to go terribly wrong all across the city of Manchester. Between plagues of rats, firestorms and the gleaming blue eyes of a sexy Scottish werewolf, she might just have landed herself in the middle of a magical apocalypse. She might also be the only person who has the ability to bring order to an utterly chaotic new world.
I’m a huge fan of this author and having just completed one of her fantasy series – I decided to dive into this one. It is certainly a really tense page-turner, with plenty of Harper’s hallmark humour – but watching Manchester becoming engulfed in a magical apocalypse, while still dealing with the fallout from the Covid-19 pandemic wasn’t quite the escapist fun I was looking for. So I’m probably going to continue with this series once my life gets easier. 8/10
Ouroboros Episode One– Book 1 of the Galactic Coalition Academy by Odette C. Bell Have you ever thought “just my luck!” after dropping your communication device for the third time in a week? Cadet Nida Harper, a recruit to the United Galactic Coalition Academy, has – and worse. So imagine her surprise when she is detailed for a mission to the dark and mysterious planet Remus 12. Strange things are afoot on Remus 12, a dust-bowl which according to legend bursts to life once every five thousand years – with deadly consequences for the galaxy.
So join Nida as she deals, using all her accustomed style and flair, with the presence of a strange and uninvited guest in her own head, a commander who is convinced she’s the Coalition’s worst recruit in one thousand years, and an uncomfortably handsome Lieutenant Carson Blake. There were some moments of real drama in this classic sci fi alien encounter story. However the protagonist is such a clumsy idiot, I cannot believe that she would have made it through a single term of a supposedly elite Academy. And as for her being allowed anywhere near a tricky and important investigation on an alien planet? Nope. Not happening. However, I did enjoy the gathering tension and the setting. 7/10
Black Hat, White Witch – Book 1 of the Black Hat Bureau series by Hailey Edwards Remember that old line about how the only way out of the organization is in a pine box? Well, Rue Hollis spent ten years thinking she had escaped the Black Hat Bureau, no coffin required. Then her former partner had to go and shatter the illusion by showing up on her doorstep with grim tidings. As much as Rue wants to kick him to the curb, she agrees to hear him out for old times’ sake, and what he says chills her to the bone.
The Silver Stag was the most notorious paranormal serial killer in modern history, and Rue brought him down. Now a copycat has picked up where the Stag left off, and the Bureau wants her on the case. She beat the Stag once. They think she can do it again. But they don’t know she’s given up black magic, and she’s not about to tell them. White witches are prey, and Rue is the hunter, not the hunted. Always. But can she take down the protégé of the man who almost beat her at her black witch best? If she wants to keep her new town, her new home, her new life, then she has no choice but to find out. I’m not a huge fan of murder mysteries featuring serial killers, especially those who prey on young girls. But the first person narrative hooked me in, as she’s a black witch trying to reform – and that was different enough to make me read on. And I grew to also appreciate the supporting cast, who are all quirky and eccentric enough to make me want to know more about them. Nicely done. 8/10
Black Arts, White Craft – Book 2 of the Black Hat Bureau series by Hailey Edwards After a black witch pitched a hissy fit in Hollis Apothecary, Rue got stuck cleaning up his mess. That was the easy part. Repairing the damage he inflicted on Camber and Arden? That makes Rue wish she could bring him back to life just to kill him again. Slower this time.
While Rue is setting her new life back to rights, Clay and Asa are off working a case, but it soon becomes clear that they’ll need her help to catch the vicious creature preying on locals in a small Tennessee town. She’s got her hands full at home, but Rue has no choice. She must report for duty to honor her agreement with the director. Or else. What she discovers leads her deeper down the rabbit hole of Black Hat Bureau corruption and promises that, no matter how grim the past few weeks have been, the worst is yet to come. Yes… this seems to be a new habit of mine – reading two books back-to-back by the same author. It’s something I hardly ever did before I was ill. But once I finished the first one, I discovered I wanted more of these entertaining characters. I love the slow burn romance as Edwards has managed to bring some unusual aspects into the quirky courtship that makes it both funny and slightly poignant. And sexy… It’s an interesting dynamic. And the ongoing criminal investigations into brutal monsters and their sadistic handlers get increasingly tricky. I thoroughly enjoyed this one. 9/10
AUDIOBOOK – Art of the Hunt – Book 2 of the Dragon Gate series by Lindsay Buroker Our heroes have escaped with the ancient dragon gate, rekindling their hope of finding allies on other worlds, but powerful enemies are right behind them. Unfortunately, Jak and Jadora must decipher the gate’s secrets before they can use it.
That’s a difficult task with mages from numerous kingdoms hunting them, Lord Malek stalking Jadora through magical dreams, and a new threat lurking deep within the jungle. Faced by overwhelming odds, Jak and Jadora may be forced to work with the only man who can keep them alive: Malek. But what price will they have to pay for his protection? This audiobook, at over 20 hours long, represents excellent value – but that didn’t stop me taking only a week to listen to it as I wanted to find out what was happening next. Buroker is a fabulous storyteller – her plots invariably providing plenty of surprising twists and changes of scene, which I love. And this one is no exception. I’m delighted that I’ve also got the next book in the series already lined up on my reading list. 9/10
Thank you so much for visiting and commenting. I’m very aware that right now, it’s a very one-sided relationship and I don’t know when I’ll be able to fully reciprocate. In the meantime, do take care and try to keep well.
This is my fortnightly update on how I’m doing while coping with Long Covid now it’s been 9 months since I first got ill, which I’m adding to my Sunday Post blog, hosted by Kimberly at Caffeinated Review.
Life has been very busy this last fortnight. The good news is that I’ve now recovered from the flu jab and am definitely feeling a lot better. However, on the same day both our washing machine and hairdryer died. This is a major problem as Himself immediately changes out of his uniform and puts it straight into the washing machine as soon as he comes home from work, to cut down the risk of infection. We were able to order one online that arrived two days after our defunct washing machine joined the great laundry in the sky. And now we’ve found the express programme, I’m a lot happier with it. But I wasn’t pleased when the wretched thing took over TWO HOURS to deal with a load of delicates on a cold-water wash.
As for the hair dryer, I went with Himself to get a new one at the local Tesco’s. It was the first time I’ve been inside a supermarket for months – and when Himself went off on a hair dryer hunt, I froze. Suddenly terrified by the onslaught of lights… noises… complete sensory overload. And then I was shaking with fury. I’ve battled so damn hard to get to this stage – how dare Long Covid take away my confidence to go wherever I need to! I managed to haul myself together, but I will confess to having a meltdown once we got home. Himself, as ever, was endlessly kind and patient and suggested that we get out of the house more often to do things other than attend medical appointments. Which seems like a solid plan. Although the reality is a bit more challenging…
On Monday, I had a hospital appointment for an ultrasound scan of my thyroid. And given my supermarket experience the day before – I was very focused on getting there and back without being overwhelmed. I wasn’t thinking at all about what they’d find on the scan – so I was rather blindsided to be told that I’ve nodules on my thyroid, one of which is pressing on my windpipe. The specialist is reasonably confident they are all benign and have been there a while. What has changed, courtesy of covid, is that my thyroid is quite swollen, which is why I’m now feeling the pressure in my throat. He was also concerned that one of my lymph glands is not just swollen but also misshapen, but I’m not surprised, given that it’s on the side where my ear is still constantly draining. He wants to see me in three months to monitor the situation and I need to discuss further options with my GP.
On Tuesday I was back at our local surgery for a chat about my blood pressure. The nurse was very reassuring that while my readings were a bit on the high side, they weren’t too bad given that I’m struggling with Long Covid which will be stressing my system anyway. I’m not keen for my BP medication to be increased, as the last time they did so I quickly felt very unwell. Right now, that isn’t a complication that I need. She also mentioned that I needed to make an appointment for another blood test, which I did. And then on Wednesday, I received a text from the surgery to say they want me to make another appointment to talk about my BP results with my GP. It seems like I’ve a bunch of outings ahead of me that will be allll about my health, given that I’ve also got to make an appointment tomorrow for a booster covid jab.
And on Wednesday, on the way back from seeing the reflexologist, we were involved in a minor accident. A lady parked on the left swung out as we were approaching a T-junction and the corner of her bumper scraped down my passenger door, leaving traces of red paint and several dents. Fortunately it all happened at very low speed and no one was hurt. But it’s a hassle we don’t need right now. And it didn’t exactly help my ongoing anxiety about going out and about…
This week, it was my eldest grandson’s birthday – I cannot believe he’s now turned 17, and today it’s my mother’s birthday. Right now, I’m not in a position to see either of them. But I’ve been thinking of them a lot. It’s months since I’ve seen Frank and the last time I saw Mum was on Mothering Sunday back in 2020. That’s one of the hardest things about this situation – it’s kept families apart at a time when we could all do with a hug from those we love.
In the meantime, I am focusing on changing my sleep patterns, continuing with my activity journal, meditations and taking supplements. It’s all low key and repetitive – but if it helps me stay well enough to avoid another major relapse, then that’s what I’ll do.
This week I’ve read:- The Alchemical Detective – Book 1 of the Riga Hayworth series by Kristen Weiss Her gargoyle’s got an attitude. Her magic’s on the blink. Alchemy might be the cure… if Riga can survive long enough to puzzle out its mysteries.
Someone’s killing psychics in bucolic Lake Tahoe, and the police think Riga may be connected to the crimes. They could be right. Riga recognizes the sinister hand of a long-dead enemy in the crime scene. Juggling demons, daimons, and a devilish casino owner, can this metaphysical detective catch a killer before she becomes the next target? I thoroughly enjoyed this twisty, urban fantasy whodunit. Riga is an experienced practitioner who has recently lost her magic, which gives the story an interesting dynamic – and I loved the French gargoyle. I’ll definitely be reading more about Riga’s adventures. 9/10
Dance of Hearts: A Cinderella Regency Romance Retelling by Byrd Nash In Regency England, 1816, it is not fashionable to display fairy blood.
Melinda Wychwood managed to stay at her family home after her father’s death by working as her cousin’s unpaid housekeeper. But when a childhood friend returns, playing a game of deception, will she be satisfied acting as the dowdy chaperone? Or will her wild fairy heritage and a magical dress finally win her true happiness?
A Cinderella retelling as a historical romance with a touch of fairytale magic and a happily ever after ending. I’d seen a book on Netgalley by this author and wanted to check out the writing, so downloaded this KU novella. And it’s exactly what it says on the cover – which is often a strength of indie authors. It is also well written and enjoyably paced, and was a welcome break from the gory intensity of the following book. 8/10
Firesky – Book 2 of The Chronicles of Stratus by Mark de Jager Relentless. Unstoppable. Dragon. Desire burns in Stratus’ soul, powerful like an inferno. With his memory returning, he finally knows who—and what—he is. His is a dragon, brought low by the hand of a dark magician known as the Worm King, separated from his true love, tortured for centuries and now trapped inside the body of a human.
But with the memories of his old life comes a return of his true magic, and with it, his true form is slowly returning. And Stratus wants revenge. Bloody and relentless, he slaughters his way through hordes of the undead to reach his archenemy, fighting not only for his own justice but for the whole of humanity… This is definitely on the darker end of epic fantasy with death magic and piles of bodies. But the characterisation of a cornered dragon, who is increasingly out of options in a hostile world, is spot on. Review to follow. 8/10
Magical Midway Paranormal Cozy Mysteries Box Set – Book 4 – Go For the Juggler by Leanne Leeds
A jarring homecoming. An uncertain fate. To save everyone, one witch must perform the juggling act of a lifetime When Charlotte returns home with Gunther, Devana, and Ethel Elkins in tow, she doesn’t think her life can get any more complicated. But when one of her parents’ Animal Shelter volunteers turns up dead, her control begins to slip as her old human life and her new paranormal life collide.
While racing to come up with a plan to defeat the Witches’ Council, Charlotte must defend her family against an intrusive police investigation that risks exposing their true nature to the human world—an act which will condemn them all. When I saw this Box Set on KU, I immediately snapped it up and have been spacing out this delightful magical circus series of murder mysteries amongst other books. There is a strong, overarching threat running through the series that works particularly well reading them close together. Peopled with a wonderful cast of eccentric, strong characters, this entertaining and poignant instalment was yet another reason why Leanne Leeds has become a solid favourite with me this year. 8/10
A Spell of Rowans by Byrd Nash Raised by a narcissistic mother, the Rowan children’s magical talents were twisted to fit her needs. When Rachel dies, her children must confront the past to have a future.
Victoria, whose empathic talent knows everyone’s hidden feelings; Philippa, whose glamour can bewitch; and Liam, the brother who touches objects to reveal their secrets, all find themselves in danger.
When her autistic brother is arrested, Vic needs to discover the truth to set him free. A successful art restorer in the big city, Vic’s made a career of ignoring her past and hiding her strange powers. But with Rachel’s death, she must gamble away her secrets to face down forces determined to destroy her and her siblings. And that hometown boy she dumped way back? He’s in Grimsby, and knows the truth about her. This is a gripping paranormal murder mystery where the family dynamic is at the heart of much unhappiness and lethal violence. It’s also very well done – and while it’s twisty and full of surprises, it isn’t too dark. I thoroughly enjoyed reading something so very different from the romance novella earlier in the week. Nash is clearly an accomplished and experienced author. Review to follow. 9/10
What the Lady’s Maid Knew – Book 1 of The Riftmagic Saga by E.E. Holmes Imagine a London where magic is real… real, but feared. This is Eliza Braxton’s London, and she has always accepted her place in it gladly. As one of the Riftborn, her magic has relegated her to the servant class, where she dutifully serves as the lady’s maid in one of the most powerful households in the country. There, she uses her remarkable powers of persuasion to keep Elder Hallewell’s rebellious daughter in the path to an arranged match of power and prosperity. Eliza has never questioned her loyalty… until now.
Currents of discontent are roiling beneath the city’s surface, and Eliza’s comfortable existence is about to be caught up in the tide. A resistance is building, a resistance that covets Eliza’s talents above all else. But can Eliza betray everything she’s ever known for things she never dared to dream? Think of the class struggle that emerged in the middle of the Industrial Revolution with a magical spin. It’sbeen done before, but I really enjoyed the below stairs perspective of this dystopian fantasy. A punchy, memorable read. Review to follow. 9/10
Thank you so much for visiting and commenting. I’m very aware that right now, it’s a very one-sided relationship and I don’t know when I’ll be able to fully reciprocate. In the meantime, do take care and try to keep well.
Can’t-Wait Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted at Wishful Endings, to spotlight and discuss the books we’re excited about that we have yet to read. Generally they’re books that have yet to be released. It’s based on Waiting on Wednesday, hosted by the fabulous Jill at Breaking the Spine.
This week’s Can’t-Wait offering – Dead Lies Dreaming – a Laundry Files novel by Charles Stross – release date 29th October 2020
BLURB: In a world where magic has gone mainstream, a policewoman and a group of petty criminals are pulled into a heist to find a forbidden book of spells that should never be opened.
A new adventure begins in the world of the Laundry Files.
Dead Lies Dreaming presents a nightmarish vision of a Britain sliding unknowingly towards occult cataclysm . . .
I am horribly behind with my arcs – and have only just finished the previous book in the Laundry Files adventures. It isn’t often in a long-running fantasy series that the hammer finally falls and the unthinkable comes to pass – but it has this time around. I’m fascinated to discover where Stross takes this next…If you are interested in reading more about The Laundry Files, which is truly a unique series unlike anything else I’ve read, here are my reviews of The Fuller Memorandum, The Apocalypse Codex,The Rhesus Chart, The Annihilation Score, and The Nightmare Stacks.
This meme was started by Books by Proxy, whose fabulous idea was to compare UK and US book covers and decide which is we prefer. This meme is being nurtured by Lynn’s Book Blog and this week we are featuring covers depicting TENTACLES. I’ve selected Kraken by China Miéville.
This offering was produced by Del Rey in June 2010 and is more effective than I had initially assumed. The more I see it, the more I like the simplicity and pared back effectiveness. The underwater backdrop works well and the title font, where a couple of the letters trail away to form tentacles works surprisingly well. Unexpectedly, as I’ve been writing this post, this cover has become a contender.
Published in May 2011 by Pan Books, this cover looks really cool in thumbnail, but once I enlarged it, I found I liked it less. I do have a bit of a problem with a cover where the author’s name is so MUCH larger and punchier than the book title. It’s almost as if the publishers don’t think this book is much of a read – other than it was written by someone already well known. That said, I do like the pink/rose red colour against the black, which I think works well.
This edition, published by Macmillan in 2010 is definitely a contender. In fact, this so very nearly is my favourite. I LOVE the gorgeous suckered red tentacle rippling out of the black cover – it’s so effective and eye-catching. However, my grizzle about the previous cover stands – once again, we have the author’s name emblazoned across the top, while the title is almost afterthought. And I don’t like the chatter plonked right in the middle, either, as it clutters the striking visual effect.
This edition, published in October 2010 by Subterranean Press is my favourite. I love the blue/green/yellow colour scheme and the image of those writhing tentacles in ink-patterned water is both visually beautiful and arresting. I also love the treatment of the title and the author font, as well as the fact that there isn’t any other chatter or nonsense on the cover. This is my favourite.
This German edition, published by Bastei Lübbe in 2011 is another strong design. I love that red eye glaring out at us, as well as those creepy looking tentacles. This is another one that is so very nearly my favourite – and what impressed me is the treatment of the title font, which I think is quirky and effective. This selection made it difficult to choose this week, so what about you – which one do you prefer?
This is part of the weekly meme over at the Caffeinated Reviewer, where book bloggers can share the books and blogs they have written.
Like most people, I’m staying at home, though Himself is still out driving trains. We’ve worked out a system whereby he puts his uniform into the washing machine before coming into the house and so far… so good.
Last Monday, on her second day in the new house, my daughter woke up with a temperature, joint and stomach pains and a cough. So she ended up being quarantined in the house without the children. She is now feeling a lot better, but it’s been a long week for her. Thank goodness she is recovering and the children don’t seem to have had any symptoms. Other than that, we keep in touch with family via Skype and Zoom. It was a huge relief to hear my brother-in-law caught one of the last flights from Melbourne and is now back home safely. And we go on praying none of the vulnerable members of the family go down with the illness…
Still enjoying Outlander – but mightily disappointed with that DREADFUL last episode of Picard, when it had been going so well. Thank goodness for marvellous books – I’m listening to Hilary Mantel’s The Mirror and the Light – so very, very good! And I’m working on my book on Characterisation, which is growing slowly but surely. It’s interesting how different my writing patterns are for non-fiction, as opposed to fiction.
Last week I read: The Raven Tower by Ann Leckie For centuries, the kingdom of Iraden has been protected by the god known as the Raven. He watches over his territory from atop a tower in the powerful port of Vastai. His will is enacted through the Raven’s Lease, a human ruler chosen by the god himself. His magic is sustained via the blood sacrifice that every Lease must offer. And under the Raven’s watch, the city flourishes. But the power of the Raven is weakening. A usurper has claimed the throne. The kingdom borders are tested by invaders who long for the prosperity that Vastai boasts. And they have made their own alliances with other gods. It is into this unrest that the warrior Eolo–aide to Mawat, the true Lease–arrives. And in seeking to help Mawat reclaim his city, Eolo discovers that the Raven’s Tower holds a secret. This fascinating story, told from an unusual viewpoint – using the second person (you) pov – caught me from the start. I loved the tension and Leckie’s handling of the perspective from a god who has lived a very long time.
The Clutter Corpse – Book 1 of the Decluttering Mysteries series by Simon Brett Introducing an engaging new amateur sleuth, declutterer Ellen Curtis, in the first of a brilliant new mystery series. That’s all the blurb there is – and this intriguing cosy mystery does just that – sets up Ellen as an engaging, competent protagonist with a doozy of a backstory. While I enjoyed the whodunit aspect, I was even more engrossed in Ellen as a fascinating protagonist and very much look forward to reading more about her. Review to follow.
Our Endless Numbered Days by Claire Fuller 1976: Peggy Hillcoat is eight. She spends her summer camping with her father, playing her beloved record of The Railway Children and listening to her mother’s grand piano, but her pretty life is about to change. Her survivalist father, who has been stockpiling provisions for the end which is surely coming soon, takes her from London to a cabin in a remote European forest. There he tells Peggy the rest of the world has disappeared. I burned through this one, finding it impossible to put down. It’s an amazing read in many ways. For starters, the prose is absolutely beautiful and I enjoyed so much about this one… But for me, the pacing and narrative stuttered in the final stages, leaving me unhappy with the ending, both with its execution and the outcome.
The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse by Charlie Macksey A book of hope for uncertain times. Enter the world of Charlie’s four unlikely friends, discover their story and their most important life lessons. The conversations of the boy, the mole, the fox and the horse have been shared thousands of times online, recreated in school art classes, hung on hospital walls and turned into tattoos. In Charlie’s first book, you will find his most-loved illustrations and some new ones too. My lovely sister-in-law sent this to me and I absolutely love it – the beautiful drawings and the messages of truth and hope that shone off the pages. It had me weeping and laughing at the same time. It isn’t long, but I shall be returning to it regularly. Especially in the coming days and weeks…
This is part of the weekly meme over at the Caffeinated Reviewer, where book bloggers can share the books and blogs they have written.
While it has been a lot less hectic, the fun hasn’t stopped. Last Sunday, I went for a spa evening with Sally – we didn’t talk about work, but relaxed in the sauna and the jacuzzi putting the world to rights. It was bliss. New Year’s Eve was lovely – just Himself and I spending it together, which is more special than it sounds, as he frequently has to work, or go to bed early because of his shift pattern. We had lunch together at Haskins on New Year’s Day and afterwards, I spotted a Kipling handbag on sale – irrestistible! We had a lovely lazy afternoon, lolling on the sofa watching films together, making the most of Himself’s last day of his winter leave.
My sister-in-law drove up to see me the following day – her birthday. So we had a walk along beach and then I took her for lunch at Haskins, which serves a baked potato with roasted vegetables as a tasty veggie lunch, plus cake of course. I hadn’t seen her since our writing retreat in Bexhill, so it was a wonderful treat. Yesterday, I met up with my sister and caught up on her life since Christmas Day when we last saw each other. Inevitably we went shopping together – I came away with two long-sleeved tops and a new pair of trousers in the sales and she got a lovely blouse.
Today is the last day of my Christmas break and we’re taking down the Christmas decorations – a chore I hate, as the house always looks so dreary afterwards. But all good things come to an end and I’ve had the best Christmas in years.
Last week I read:
AUDIOBOOK The Last Olympian – Book 5 of the Percy Jackson and the Olympian series by Rick Riordan
All year the half-bloods have been preparing for battle against the Titans, knowing the odds of victory are grim. Kronos’s army is stronger than ever, and with every god and half-blood he recruits, the evil Titan’s power only grows. While the Olympians struggle to contain the rampaging monster Typhon, Kronos begins his advance on New York City, where Mount Olympus stands virtually unguarded. Now it’s up to Percy Jackson and an army of young demigods to stop the Lord of Time.
I’ve enjoyed listening to this entertaining children’s series and was pleased that this concluding adventure wrapped up the narrative really successfully, as well as providing a cracking battle full of action and tension. Review to follow.
Witch – Book 2 of the Doppleganger duology by Marie Brennan
When a witch is born, a doppelganger is created. For the witch to master her powers, the twin must be killed. Until now…
Created by the merging of witch and doppelganger, Mirei is a unique being. Her extraordinary magic makes her the most poweful witch alive—and a notorious social outcast. While Satomi, the leader of the witches’ ruling Primes, hails Mirei as a miracle, rival Primes proclaim that Mirei is an evil abomination… and that those who champion her must be destroyed.
This has proved to be a delightful duology – I loved the first book and wanted to find out what would happen next. This offering wasn’t a disappointment as my first ebook read of the decade. Review to follow.
AUDIOBOOK The Rules of Magic – prequel to Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman Find your magic
For the Owens family, love is a curse that began in 1620, when Maria Owens was charged with witchery for loving the wrong man. Hundreds of years later, in New York City at the cusp of the sixties, when the whole world is about to change, Susanna Owens knows that her three children are dangerously unique. Difficult Franny, with skin as pale as milk and blood red hair, shy and beautiful Jet, who can read other people’s thoughts, and charismatic Vincent, who began looking for trouble on the day he could walk.
From the start Susanna sets down rules for her children: No walking in the moonlight, no red shoes, no wearing black, no cats, no crows, no candles, no books about magic. And most importantly, never, ever, fall in love. But when her children visit their Aunt Isabelle, in the small Massachusetts town where the Owens family has been blamed for everything that has ever gone wrong, they uncover family secrets and begin to understand the truth of who they are. Back in New York City each begins a risky journey as they try to escape the family curse.
I was expecting to be blown away by this one and I wasn’t. Nonetheless, the worldbuilding and atmospheric writing kept me listening to the excellent narration, despite my other issues with the book. Review to follow.
This meme was started by Books by Proxy, whose fabulous idea was to compare UK and US book covers and decide which is we prefer. This meme is currently being nurtured by Lynn’s Book Blog and the subject this week featuring on any of our covers is something STRIPED – and I officially declare myself beaten. The only cover I found I didn’t like all that much, anyway. So I decided to play a WILD CARD that Lynn has suggested we use – and I’ve featured a book that I loved – The Stone Sky – Book 3 of The Broken Earth series by the mighty N.K. Jemisin.
This edition was produced by Orbit in August 2017. I love this cover and it’s my favourite. The intense colours are beautiful and the artwork otherworldly and haunting. Small wonder this cover is the default with only a few exceptions. I even like the rather ordinary font, which this time around works well. Of course, it could just be that I was so blown away by the intense reading experience I encountered when diving into this book that I’m somewhat biased.
Published in September 2018 by J’ai Lu, I really like this French edition. The intense blue of the sky, the great orb hanging in the sky below and those stones breaking the soil at odd angles give this cover eye appeal and correlate with the book’s story. What absolutely doesn’t work are those ugly white textboxes bisecting the artwork. The effect looks like two strips of paper with the typewritten information have been stuck across the covers – what a shame!
This Hungarian edition, published by Agave Könyvek in August 2018 has gone back to the colours of the default cover, but taken a less abstract approach. The result is a really cool, very attractive cover. If this had been the cover of my reading copy, I think I would have been more torn, because I think it is very effective. As it is, it comes a close second.
Produced by Subterranean Press in September 2018, this is also a very attractive, powerful offering. I like the way it features the two main protagonists – the mother and her lost daughter and having that beautiful triangular text box slicing them apart works really well. The other thing I love about this cover – Jemisin has clearly written these characters as black and I’m delighted the publishers have featured them as such.
This Chinese edition, published by 天地出版社 in March 2018 is another strong offering. I love the image of the skyscape where it looks as though you could actually step on those clouds in shades of an attractive tangerine. The downside for me is that black textbox slammed across the bottom of the cover, cutting off the rest of the artwork. There also seems to be a great deal of chatter across the cover – but as my understanding of Chinese isn’t worth a nocked nail, it may well be the explanation might be necessary to an audience unused to the genre, so I’ll give them a pass on that. Which is your favourite?
This meme was started by Books by Proxy, whose fabulous idea was to compare UK and US book covers and decide which is we prefer. This meme is currently being nurtured by Lynn’s Book Blog and this week at least one of our covers has to be BLUE, so I’ve selected Daughter of Smoke and Bone – Book 1 of the Daughter of Smoke and Bone series by Laini Taylor.
This edition was produced by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers in September 2011. The monochrome face with that fantastic blue feathered mask is very eye-catching and I also really love the title font, which is both striking and effective. This one is so very nearly my favourite…
Published in August 2015 by Fischer Taschenbubh, this German cover is another strong contender. I love the shades of blue patterns backlighting the Prague cityscape. The girl looks otherworldly with the treatment to her eyes and the title font is also stylish and eye-catching. Yet another well designed and beautiful cover, wholly appropriate in tone and mood for this enjoyable fantasy adventure.
This edition, published by Hodder & Stoughton in September 2011, is my favourite. I love, love, LOVE those fabulous feathers with the iridescent sheen in all the shades of a sunlit starling. My choice might be influenced by the fact that this is the cover of the book that I read – I also think the title font is very well done.
Produced by De Boekerij in April 2013, this Dutch edition is yet another superb effort, being a variation on the design of the first cover. The mask is beautifully designed and the colours shading the title font replicate those colours, intensifying the lovely effect with the clever repetition. Another accomplished and appropriate cover for this book.
This Indonesian edition, published by Gramedia Pustaka Utama in September 2012, is yet another well-designed cover. If this had been a different book, I would be raving more about the restraint… the clever, subtle blue shading around the edge of the single feather… the way that colour is picked up and reflected in the stylish title font. But there are so many wonderful, classy covers for this particular book, it is just added to the list – lucky, lucky Laini Taylor! Which one is your favourite?
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:
The Poison Song – Book 3 of the Winnowing Flame trilogy by Jen Williams
42% The wine they’d found in an actual cellar, and it was very fine indeed. She watched her worm-brother’s face carefully as he sipped at it, trying to spot if he enjoyed the taste or note, but his face, as finely crafted as it was, was still difficult to read. Twice now she had taken him back to the pools and pushed her fingers back into his flesh, seeking to make him closer to the vision she had in her head.
BLURB: Jump on board a war beast or two with Vintage, Noon and Tor and return to Sarn for the last installment of this epic series where the trio must gather their forces and make a final stand against the invading Jure’lia.
I have thoroughly enjoyed the first two books in this sci fi/fantasy mash-up – The Ninth Rain and The Bitter Twins. There’s aliens… huge worm-like monsters… dragons… entertaining and feisty heroines – and did I mention the dragons? As well as a gripping tale. As you can see, I am just under halfway through and I can’t see how anyone other than those nasty old monsters are going to prevail. So I’m looking forward to finding out what happens next!