Category Archives: child protagonist

Review of NETGALLEY arc The Cottingley Secret by Hazel Gaynor

Standard

I’m not normally a fan of long blurbs, but this one manages to neatly sum up a fairly complex story without giving away any major spoilers, so for once, I’m not going to prune it…

1917… It was inexplicable, impossible, but it had to be true—didn’t it? When two young cousins, Frances Griffiths and Elsie Wright from Cottingley, England, claim to have photographed fairies at the bottom of the garden, their parents are astonished. But when one of the great novelists of the time, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, becomes convinced of the photographs’ authenticity, the girls become a national sensation, their discovery offering hope to those longing for something to believe in amid a world ravaged by war. Frances and Elsie will hide their secret for many decades. But Frances longs for the truth to be told.

One hundred years later… When Olivia Kavanagh finds an old manuscript in her late grandfather’s bookshop she becomes fascinated by the story it tells of two young girls who mystified the world. But it is the discovery of an old photograph that leads her to realize how the fairy girls’ lives intertwine with hers, connecting past to present, and blurring her understanding of what is real and what is imagined. As she begins to understand why a nation once believed in fairies, can Olivia find a way to believe in herself?

And there you have it. Two timelines interweaving throughout the story with the major protagonists being young, dreamy Frances, displaced and pining for her father during the long war years. And dreamy, older Olivia, also somehow displaced from her own life after devastating news leaves her questioning everything and everyone in her life so far – and find it wanting.

The real challenge of writing such a book is to adequately balance both story strands so the reader isn’t rushing through one to get back to the other. And in this case, Gaynor has succeeded beautifully. At no stage did I find myself skim-reading through any section to get to another – despite skimming being one of my vices as a reader. So it is a tribute to the quality of Gaynor’s characterisation that both the lonely little girl and isolated twenty-something equally held me.

The other temptation in a story of this nature – particularly this specific story, given the scads that has already been written and said about it – is to either sensationalise or sentimentalise what occurred. Again, I admire Gaynor’s restraint – she could have revelled in the fuss and fame those photographs generated and allowed that to power the narrative. However, she also resisted that temptation, too. So what we have is a beautifully told tale of two hurt, sensitive people seeking refuge in something else outside their daily round. One of the joys of this book is that Gaynor’s writing has a lyrical quality that makes her descriptions of that small brook where Frances played alongside her fairies sing off the page. While her descriptions of the old, second-hand bookshop is equally vivid, so that I not only visualised the shop, I could smell the books, too.

When two narrative timelines run alongside each other, the other imperative is that the ending has to connect them to the readers’ satisfaction – and once again, Gaynor triumphantly succeeds in doing this. It isn’t a fantasy or paranormal tale, or a historical adventure – neither is it a contemporary romance, but it manages to interleave all these aspects into a wonderful, unusual story and is recommended for anyone who enjoys any of the above.
9/10

Advertisements

Sunday Post – 31st December 2017

Standard

This is part of the weekly meme over at the Caffeinated Reviewer, where book bloggers can share the books and blogs they have written.

I didn’t post last week as I simply didn’t get the time to write the post, with my son staying over and my sister also visiting overnight.

Christmas Day was lovely, if quiet, with Himself, my son and my sister joining us in a vegetarian meal of chestnut en croute with all the seasonal trimmings (except the sausagemeat stuffing, of course!). After a scrumptious meal, we opened up our presents and then spent the evening playing Game of Thrones monopoly… never mind about Winter coming – we were vanquished by Rob who ended up bankrupting the lot of us.

We had Boxing Day to slump and generally relax, before J returned to work and the following day, Rob made the journey back to Cambridge. As he is travelling to the States in January, I’m not sure when I’ll see him next, so I was sad to see him go. He always manages to fill the house with life and laughter… In contrast, my poor daughter and her family spent Christmas coping with the norovirus, so had to cancel their visitors – she was due to be cooking for 12 on Christmas Day – and declare their house off-limits. I’m hoping to catch up with the grandchildren tomorrow now that they have recovered.

On Friday, my writing buddy Mhairi came over for the day and we spent the time reflecting on our 2017 Shoot for the Moon goals, discussing our successes and failures, before setting the crazily ambitious targets for our 2018 Shoot for the Moon Challenge. Today I’m going to be busy organising our meal when we’ll be joined by the grandchildren who will spend New Year’s Eve with us, which is a lovely treat as I haven’t seen them since the first week in December.

This week I have read:

Shadow Weaver – Book 1 of the Shadow Weaver series by MarcyKate Connolly
Emmeline has grown up with a gift. Since the time she was a baby she has been able to control shadows. And her only friend and companion is her own shadow, Dar.

This was a dark-edged, surprisingly gritty read that I really enjoyed. Emmeline is a fascinating protagonist who spends her time listening to conversations she isn’t supposed to hear and playing tricks on the servants, who are afraid of her. But when everything changes, she is forced to go on the run where she meets people who seem to genuinely like her – and suddenly the things she used to do don’t seem so appropriate.

 

Alien Love Story by A.K. Dawson
Life is a headache for 15-year-old Dan. This isn’t some kind of metaphor. Dan suffers from migraines that make just about everything he does unbearable. Added to that he’s lost almost everyone he cares about. So he feels lonelier than the last puppy in a pet shop. But one day he sees a mysterious girl digging in the rubbish bins behind his house. Just by being near her, he finds that all his pain goes away. So he wants to see her again, of course. And get to know her. But she’s a bit strange. And her big eyes make her look, well, like an alien. Does she really exist? Or is she just a figment of an overactive, under-loved imagination?

This one started really strongly, but I was a bit taken aback at the sexual content in a book I thought initially was aimed at the tween/young teen market. There were some enjoyable scenes and I found Dan mostly likeable, though the relentless non-stop pace and Dan’s rather manic efforts to get closer to this girl had me wondering whether it was supposed to be a farce or a romance.

 

Killbox – Book 4 of the Sirantha Jax series by Ann Aguirre
Sirantha Jax is a “Jumper,” a woman who possesses the unique genetic makeup needed to navigate faster than light ships through grimspace. With no tolerance for political diplomacy, she quits her ambassador post so she can get back to saving the universe the way she does best—by mouthing off and kicking butt.

It’s been far too long since I read the third book in this entertaining space opera series, so I was delighted to be able to tuck into this next slice of the adventure. Sirantha Jax is every bit as enjoyable as I recalled, while facing some daunting odds – I won’t be leaving it so long before tracking down the next book, Aftermath.

 

My posts last week:

Christmas Quiz 2017

Teaser Tuesday featuring Killbox – Book 4 of the Sirantha Jax series by Ann Aguirre
AND
The Daily Waffle features an extract from Dying for Space where Elizabeth is out of her comfort zone…

Can’t-Wait Wednesday featuring WaR: Wizards and Robots by Will.i.am and Brian David Johnson
AND
A Bohemian Mind At Work features Dying for Space

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of The Frequency of Aliens – Book 2 of the Sorrow Falls series by Gene Doucette
AND
Just Books features an extract from Dying for Space as well as an article by yours truly about a very awkward conversation I had that led to my changing the setting of the Sunblinded trilogy just days before I released Running Out of Space
AND
Hywela Lyn features another excerpt from Dying for Space in which Elizabeth is on the wrong side of Sarge. Again…
AND
Comfy Chair Books has posted another slice of Dying for Space in which Elizabeth is finding it difficult to cope at one of her father’s fancy banquets – who can she trust? In addition, there is an article about how I used food and dining as part of the worldbuilding in this book.

Friday Face-off – If music be the food of love, play on – featuring The Future Falls – Book 3 of the Enchantment Emporium series by Tanya Huff
AND
La libreria di Beppe is featuring Dying for Space as part of the blog tour

Review of Year One – Book 1 of the Chronicles of The One by Nora Roberts
AND
The HufflepuffNerdette features an excerpt from Dying for Space, in addition to an article by me, listing my top ten favourite space heroines

 

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

Adventures in Science Fiction Cover Art: Philippe Curval’s 1950s Photo Collages, Part 1
https://sciencefictionruminations.com/2017/12/27/adventures-in-science-fiction-cover-art-philippe-curvals-1950s-photo-collages-part-i/ These are extraordinary and beautiful – do swing by and take a look…

This #NewYear Visit Old #Fiction To Renew Your #WritingLife https://jeanleesworld.com/2017/12/28/this-newyear-visit-old-fiction-to-renew-your-writing-life/ Jean always tells it like it is – and this is an insight into how she rediscovered a piece of work, sent it off and… read it. It’s worth it.

The Secret of Great Memoir: The Mature Self https://www.janefriedman.com/memoir-mature-self/ This excellent article gives some solid tips on how to convey deep emotion without getting caught up in the spray and flotsam

10 of the Best Poems about Walking https://interestingliterature.com/2017/12/27/10-of-the-best-poems-about-walking/ As we brave the stormy weather for a breath of fresh air during this seasonal holiday, here are some offerings from some poets on this most fundamental form of exercise.

Christmas Alphabet: T for Tom Waits – Christmas Card from a Hooker in Minneapolis https://theimmortaljukebox.com/2017/12/15/christmas-alphabet-t-for-tom-waits-christmas-card-from-a-hooker-in-minneapolis/ Thom spins tales when he tells us factoids about some of his favourite songs, providing shafts of poetry in his writing as he conveys his love and passion for the music he features…

Thank you very much for taking the time and trouble to visit, like and comment on my site. May you have a peaceful, healthy and successful 2018. And if, sadly, those aren’t options for you, may you have the courage and strength to prevail. Happy New Year.

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc The River Keepers by Michael F. Stewart

Standard

I saw the fabulous cover, read the blurb and immediately requested this one – shapeshifting and infused with magic? It sounded irresistible…

What would you do if your sister turned into a skunk? How about a mouse? Or a frog? Would you want to be a snake? Have you ever wished to swim like an actual fish? Wouldn’t you worry that a snapping turtle might take a bite out of you? In The River Keepers, two sisters must rise to meet an unexpected challenge. It’s a story infused with the magic and drama outside their backdoor — perhaps yours, too.

I have to say – this was something of a disappointment. The story is well-written, the characters are convincing, the sibling rivalry between the twins and the dynamic between them and their annoying little sister is realistic and believable. But. I was expecting a story infused with magic and anticipating the ordinary throughout would be backlit with a glow of otherness, thanks to that wonderful cover. While Stewart provides all sorts of solidly good things in this book, that magical dimension is limited to being used as a device to explain to children the importance of our environment.

Now there is absolutely nothing wrong with that approach – indeed, it could be argued it is far more vital to give children a sense of urgency about their immediate natural surroundings and how fragile they are, than some fey tale about gnomes. My grizzle is that I picked this book up expecting said fey tale and instead got something a lot more sensible and worthy, due to the blurb and the cover.

Onto the positives. I found the children pleasingly realistic and when they did encounter the magical element, it worked very well. The touches of humour were welcome and will be appreciated by the target age-group and in amongst this story is a wealth of information about the environment that is delivered with a nicely light touch. Overall, the story progression works well – until the ending which seemed very abrupt and consequently rather unsatisfying, especially as this doesn’t appear to be the first in a series.

However, if you are looking for an enjoyable tale for your eight to ten-year-old girls, who are interested in stories with a twist of magic, then this one would be a good stocking-filler.
7/10

Can’t-Wait Wednesday – 15th November, 2017

Standard

40276268 – vintage old pocket watch and book

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 – The River Keepers by Michael F. Stewart

#children #fantasy adventure #magic

What would you do if your sister turned into a skunk? How about a mouse? Or a frog? Would you want to be a snake? Have you ever wished to swim like an actual fish? Wouldn’t you worry that a snapping turtle might take a bite out of you?
In The River Keepers, two sisters must rise to meet an unexpected challenge. It’s a story infused with the magic and drama outside their backdoor — perhaps yours, too.

This one sounds entertaining. I’m always a sucker for shapeshifting tales – and isn’t that cover gorgeous? By the look of it, Stewart is an experienced author with a number of books to his name, so I’m looking forward to tucking into this one, which is due to be published on 1st December by The Publishing House.

Friday Faceoff – Me and my shadow…

Standard

This meme was started by Books by Proxy, whose fabulous idea was to compare UK and US book covers and decide which is the one we prefer. This week the theme is shadows, so I’ve chosen A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness.

 

This cover, produced by Walker Books in September 2011 is the one with the shadow. The dark figure striding across the newly ploughed field towards the house is certainly creepy – and initially I’d thought this was a horror book. But of course, it’s a lot more complicated than that. And the monster isn’t what you expect. I love this cover, but I do think it gives the wrong impression about the book.

 

This offering was produced by Candlewick in August 2016 and is one of the movie tie-in covers. That said, it is both beautiful and moving – I just wish they hadn’t seen fit to smother so much of it with details of the wretched film. I love the colours and the fingertips showing at the top of the cover as the boy sleeps.

 

This cover from Walker Books was published in May 2015. It’s okay, I suppose. But I find it rather generic with the tree branches and the moon shining through them. I’m not quite sure exactly why, except that the monster tends to visit Connor at night.

 

Produced in August 2011, this German edition by CBJ is haunting with the silhouette of the boy standing in front of the gravestones at the foot of the tree. The detail is beautiful – clever use of the foliage that looks like the profile of the monster. I really like this one – it’s my favourite. It’s beautiful and eye-catching, while still being relevant to the content.

 

This edition, published in October 2016 by Walker Books is another movie tie-in. Despite the sharpness of the illustration and beautiful colour of the sky, I think it is a poor imitation of the previous, more atmospheric German cover. And again, there is far too much chatter about the film plastered across it. Which one of these do you prefer?

 

 

AAAND… today the blog tour for Running Out of Space is being hosted by Crazy Beautiful Books.

Friday Faceoff – Then let the crabs be cursed by Odin…

Standard

This meme was started by Books by Proxy, whose fabulous idea was to compare UK and US book covers and decide which is the one we prefer. This week the theme is Vikings, so I’ve chosen How to Speak Dragonese – Book 3 of the How To Train Your Dragon series by Cressida Cowell.

 

This cover, produced by Hachette UK in 2010, is the main template for the other covers. It is illustrated by Cowell herself, in the guise of Hiccup Horrendous Haddock III, who is her chief protagonist and heir to the Hooligan tribe. He grows up to be the greatest of all Viking chieftains, and this is part of the ongoing story of how he survives to adulthood – a mighty achievement in itself. I very much like this cover. It is eye-catching and humorous, while promising a big dollop of exciting adventures in the book. This is my favourite.

 

This offering was produced by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers in February 2010. It has a slightly slicker feel, having replaced the page in Hiccup’s journal with a purple background, but still features Hiccup and Toothless drawn by Cowell – and still clearly in yet another scrape. Once more it ticks the boxes for me.

 

This cover from Scholastic published in December 2009 features Toothless sitting in Hiccup’s helmet. Once more the illustration is recognisably Cowell’s and you get the sense that Toothless is sniggering about something. Another attractive cover that effectively gives a sense of the book’s content.

 

Produced in September 2008, this Spanish edition by Ediciones Sm still features the original illustration, but has changed the background. It’s pleasant enough, but I far prefer the blotchy, scruffy effect of the original, which is specifically aimed at reluctant boy readers, who are far more likely to be attracted by the odd ink blot and jagged page.

 

This Kindle edition, published in June 2017 by Hodder Children’s Books gives the first cover a very, very close run for its money as my favourite. While the original image has Hiccup and Toothless arguing, with Hiccup clearly losing, there isn’t a whole lot going on. However this cover features on of the most dramatic events in the book ripping a tear in the binding as a huge dragon hunts down his prey…

Monday Post – 2nd October 2017

Standard

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.

It’s been a crazy week. My Creative Writing course at Northbrook is going well – everyone has settled in and our classroom is one of the nice big ones with plenty of windows. We started filming this week on Tim’s major project at the Bognor Museum on Wednesday evening, which was a wonderful surreal experience, though exhausting.

When my writing pal Mhairi came over for the day on Thursday, I discussed my increasing concerns regarding Running Out of Space hoping that she would wave her hand and tell me I was making a fuss about nothing. But she didn’t. She nodded and agreed with me. So I went back to the script and made a MAJOR change to the world with less than a fortnight to go before the launch. It took a huge amount of work, but I got the manuscript altered, the new review copies out, extracts and guest posts altered and my shiny new website and Goodreads all updated. Once the dust has settled and I have a chance to fully process exactly what happened, I will be blogging about it. And then fell ill on Friday night as we were picking up the grandchildren.

On top of that the clutch on the car died in the middle of the week and my lovely sister lent me hers while ours went into the garage to be fixed for a lot of money I hadn’t budgeted to go on car repairs. Thank goodness we took the decision not to go to Fantasycon this year, though I am sorry not to be able to catch up with all the lovely people I only get to see then – and huge congratulations to Grimbold Publishing for their Award for Best Independent Press.

I spent the week-end in bed enduring a really nasty cold that has also sideswiped my sister – which is why this is a Monday Post, instead of a Sunday Post…

This week I have read:

The Wizards of Once – Book 1 of The Wizards of Once series by Cressida Cowell
Once there was Magic, and the Magic lived in the dark forests. Wizard boy, Xar, should have come in to his magic by now, but he hasn’t, so he wants to find a witch and steal its magic for himself. But if he’s got any chance of finding one, he will have to travel into the forbidden Badwoods. Xar doesn’t realise he is about to capture an entirely different kind of enemy. A Warrior girl called Wish. And inside this book, at this very moment, two worlds collide and the fate of the land is changed forever.
This new series from the author of the fabulous How To Train Your Dragon series did not disappoint. With all the plot twists and engrossing storyline I have come to expect from this wonderful author, there is also a beautiful lyric quality to the prose and more nuanced characters.

 

Healer’s Touch by Deb E. Howell
Llew has a gift. Her body heals itself from any injury – but at a cost to anyone nearby. In a country fearful of magic, freeing yourself from the hangman’s noose by wielding forbidden power brings dangers of its own. After dying and coming back, Llew drops from the gallows into the hands of Jonas: the man carrying the knife with the power to kill her – permanently.
I really enjoyed this fantasy adventure which takes a classic trope – the youngster growing up on the streets who is singled out by a unique talent – and then gives that premise a thorough shaking. Llew is an interesting protagonist with some scary powers that nonetheless won my sympathy, even though the right thing might be to ensure she can’t cause any more havoc… This one hasn’t left my head since I stopped reading it.

 

Shadowblack – Book 2 of the Spellslinger series by Sebastien de Castell
It’s a few months since Kellen left his people behind. Now aged sixteen, Kellen is an outlaw, relying on his wits to keep him alive in the land of the Seven Sands. He misses home, he misses family and more than anything, he misses Nephenia, the girl he left behind. And when someone else turns up unexpectedly who carries a secret that’s all too familiar to Kellen. Kellen and Ferius resolve to help – but the stakes are far higher than they realise…
I thoroughly enjoyed the first book, Spellslinger, in this entertaining series – see my review here. The good news is that this offering is even better. More Kellen goodness along with the naughty squirrel cat who nearly manages to steal the show, despite a thumping good plot and a satisfyingly nasty antagonist – great stuff!

 

Austral by Paul McAuley
The great geoengineering projects have failed. The world is still warming, sea levels are still rising, and the Antarctic Peninsula is home to Earth’s newest nation, with life quickened by ecopoets spreading across valleys and fjords exposed by the retreat of the ice. Austral Morales Ferrado, a child of the last generation of ecopoets, is a husky: an edited person adapted to the unforgiving climate of the far south, feared and despised by most of its population. She’s been a convict, a corrections officer in a labour camp, and consort to a criminal, and now, out of desperation, she has committed the kidnapping of the century.
I love this one. The landscape, the situation and above all, Austral’s narration of the most turbulent, difficult time in her life to someone she cares about and wants to tell all to… This one held me until the last page and though not flawless, it is a gripping, moving book that will stay with me for a long time.

My posts last week:

Sunday Post – 24th September

Review of The Lost Steersman – Book 3 of The Steerswoman series by Rosemary Kirstein

Teaser Tuesday featuring Healer’s Touch by Deb E Howell

Can’t-Wait Wednesday featuring Select – by Marit Weisenberg

Friday Face-off – Faint heart never won fair lady featuring Heartless by Marissa Meyer

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of The Wizards of Once – Book 1 of The Wizards of Once series by Cressida Cowell

Apologies to those of you who have commented and are still waiting for a response. Hopefully normal service will be resumed next week… Thank you very much for taking the time and trouble to visit, like and comment on my site and may you have a great week.

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of The Wizards of Once – Book 1 of The Wizards of Once series by Cressida Cowell

Standard

Those of you who are regular visitors to this blog will know that I am continually banging on about how much I love the How To Train Your Dragon books – so when I saw Cowell had written a new series, it was a no-brainer that I would request it. It cheered me up no end when I was approved for this one…

Once there was Magic, and the Magic lived in the dark forests. Wizard boy, Xar, should have come in to his magic by now, but he hasn’t, so he wants to find a witch and steal its magic for himself. But if he’s got any chance of finding one, he will have to travel into the forbidden Badwoods. Xar doesn’t realise he is about to capture an entirely different kind of enemy. A Warrior girl called Wish. And inside this book, at this very moment, two worlds collide and the fate of the land is changed forever.

My rather elderly Kindle did not handle Cowell’s trademark illustrations very well and I needed to persevere to pick out the text within the rather hinky formatting. However, I refused to be put off though it took me a little longer to get into the story than I had expected, simply because Xar is fairly obnoxious at the beginning – though as the narrative progressed, it became increasingly obvious why he is such a pain and I grew to like and sympathise with him.

This book is clearly aimed at an older age-group than the How To Train Your Dragon series, and consequently lacks the can-do chirpiness that runs throughout HTTYD no matter what is going on. The language is also richer, full of poetic metaphors and although the adventure is full of incident and unexpected developments that are the hallmark of a Cowell story, the issues are more nuanced. Neither Wish or Xar are all bad or all good and I particularly liked the way the adults are portrayed. Very often in children’s literature, adults are either bullying buffoons or simply oblivious. It’s relatively rare to see an adult with a significant backstory and an interesting hidden agenda, yet both parents in this book first appear as typically black and white authority figures, only to later develop into something far more intriguing. I shall be very interested to see how they develop in due course.

All in all, this is a joy. I shall be reading it aloud to my granddaughter as a break from the Louis the Laugh series – after I’ve bought the print copy. And I have included the poem at the back of the book as something of a treat – I recommend you read it aloud…

Wandering Free
In the roads of sky and paths of sea
And in that timeless long-gone hour
Words of nonsense still had power
Doors still flew and birds still talked
Witches grinned and giants walked
We had Magic wands and Magic wings
And we lost our hearts to impossible things
Unbelievable thoughts! Unsensible ends!
For Wizards and Warriors might be friends.
In a world where impossible things are true
I don’t why we forgot the spell
When we lost the way, how the forests fell.
But now we are old, we can vanish too.
And I see once more the invisible track
That will lead us home and take us back…
So find your wands and spread your wings
I’ll sing our love of impossible things
And when you take my vanished hand
We’ll both go back to that Magic land
Where we lost our hearts…
Several lifetimes ago…
When we were Wizards
Once.

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

Review of Smoke by Dan Vyleta

Standard

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday Post – 17th September 2017

Standard

This is part of the weekly meme over at the Caffeinated Book Reviewer, where book bloggers can share the books and blogs they have written.

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

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

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

This week I have read:

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

 

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

 

 

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

My posts last week:

Sunday Post – 10th September

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

Teaser Tuesday featuring Smoke by Dan Vyleta

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

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

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

Shoot for the Moon – August roundup

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you very much for taking the time and trouble to visit, like and comment on my site and may you have a great week.