Category Archives: coming-of-age

My Outstanding Books of 2017

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Last year was yet another bumper year for reading, particularly in the science fiction and fantasy genres. As usual, I’ll list the ones that stood out for me – and we’re not talking a top ten. I completed 174 books last year, but won’t go into too much detail in this article about my overall 2017 reading experience, as today it’s all about those that gave me the tingle factor. Most will have received a perfect ten on my scoring system, however there will be a couple that didn’t. The reason they are here is because that after I’d finished reading and writing about them, they didn’t go away, but continued to linger in my thoughts. So here they are, in no particular order:-

 

Emperor of the Fireflies – Book 2 of the Tide Dragons series by Sarah Ash

This godpunk duology set within the Japanese pantheon centres around a beautiful, dark-edged myth. Ash’s lyrical prose and deft handling of this tale has stayed with me throughout the year, despite having read it last January. See my review here.

 

Miranda and Caliban by Jacqueline Carey

I absolutely fell in love with this haunting retelling of Shakespeare’s The Tempest. While I enjoyed and admired Margaret Atwood’s Hag-Seed – another strong contender – this one stole my heart. The ending gave me goosebumps, while making me weep. That doesn’t happen very often. See my review here.

 

After Atlas – Book 2 of the Planetfall series by Emma Newman

While I thoroughly enjoyed the first book, Planetfall, this one blew me away. The characterisation, the horrible situation the protagonist finds himself in – it all got under my skin to the extent that I woke my husband up as I yelled in shock at a particular point in the book. I can’t wait to see where Newman goes next with this amazing series. See my review here.

 

Wolf Moon – Book 2 of the Luna duology by Ian McDonald

This depiction of an existence on the Moon where rampant capitalism holds sway hasn’t left me alone since I read this one. McDonald has called it ‘A game of domes’ and he certainly has nailed the deadly powerplays the main families indulge in with his reference to George R.R. Martin’s epic. I keep thinking about that ending… See my review here.

 

Winter Tide – Book 1 of the Innesmouth Legacy by Ruthanna Emrys

This book was a delightful surprise – I had no idea the writing would pull me into this version of Lovecraft’s monstrous world, with a strong, sympathetic protagonist who is one of the few survivors of the attack on Innesmouth years ago. I loved it and am very much looking forward to reading more in this fantastic series. See my review here.

 

The Forever Court – Book 2 of The Knights of the Borrowed Dark trilogy by Dave Rudden

I enjoyed the first book in this series, Knights of the Borrowed Dark, finding Rudden’s punchy prose style both enjoyable and memorable. But this sequel builds on the first with an engrossing adventure and some amazing characters. It’s far too good to leave just for the children. See my review here.

 

Scavenger Alliance – Book 1 of the Exodus series by Janet Edwards

I have thoroughly enjoyed all Edwards’ books – but this managed to nock up the stakes to a point I could not put it down until I’d finished reading it. I have rules about never reading or watching TV until after 5.30 pm – otherwise I’d never get anything done. I broke that rule for this book. See my review here.

 

Cold Welcome – Book 1 of Vatta’s Peace by Elizabeth Moon

This is a new spinoff series by a much-loved author which I was delighted to read – even better, it was a storming adventure that proved to be an engrossing page-turner. I remembered all over again why I love reading this author. See my review here.

 

Dichronauts by Greg Egan

No one writes different aliens as well as Greg Egan – and I loved this adventure. I’m very much hoping it turns into a series as I would love to spend more time following the fortunes of these amazing creatures. See my review here.

 

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

This is a series I read longer ago than I care to recall – and when I saw it had appeared in Kindle, I snapped it up and reread it, something I hardly ever do. My instincts were spot on – I have thoroughly enjoyed revisiting this engrossing world and following Rowena’s adventures in this smart, cleverly written fantasy/science fiction mashup. This is the particular story that has stayed with me, though the other books in the series are just as good. See my review here.

 

Heir to the North – Book 1 of Malessar’s Curse by Steven Poore

This epic fantasy got under my skin and into my heart in a way that doesn’t often happen with this genre. I loved the clever, clever twist at the end and one of the treats in 2018 is to tuck into the sequel, The High King’s Vengeance. See my review here.

 

Sea of Rust by Robert C. Cargill

This was another amazing book that came out of the blue – I’d not read anything by this author before and was delighted by this post-apocalyptic world peopled by robots who are starting to wear out and fail. With no factories or warehouses full of spare parts anymore, the only option is to harvest those parts from other robots. See my review here.

 

The Last Dog on Earth by Adrian J. Walker

I’ve read a number of apocalyptic tales during the year, however in this version Walker triumphantly succeeds in giving us a dog’s version of a complete collapse in law and order. And the chilling results of what happens when that order is reimposed by the wrong people. See my review here.

 

Empire of Dust – Book 1 of the Psi-Tech novels by Jacey Beford

This epic science fiction adventure stood out because of the flawed protagonist and the gritty depiction of establishing a colony. I really enjoyed the world and the fact that love clearly doesn’t cure all. I’m looking forward to reading more from this talented author. See my review here.

 

The Wizards of Once – Book 1 of The Wizards of Once by Cressida Cowell

After her marvellous series How To Train Your Dragon, I was interested to see how she would follow it up. The writing is more lyrical, the underlying poignancy is more pronounced. My elderly Kindle didn’t like the illustrations throughout this book and part of my Christmas money is going on buying a print version of this book. Not for the grandchildren – for me. See my review here.

 

Whirligig: Keeping the Promise – Book 1 of Shire’s Union by Richard Buxton

I have to declare an interest – Richard is a former student and I had read some extracts from a very early draft. However that did not prepare me for the excellence of the writing, where this historical adventure finds two young English people from the same small village ending up in America during the Civil War. They are both caught in quite different ways and this story just kept on delivering in terms of plot twists and tension. See my review here.

 

Gnomon by Nick Harkaway

This doorstopper is extraordinary. Don’t ask me what the storyline is – other than recalling there are five main protagonists with very different and vivid voices, it’s too complicated to recall. What I do remember is that very early on I took the decision to slow right down and savour this book as reads like this don’t come along all that often. It took me 10 days to get through this one and I recall feeling sad when it came to the end. See my review here.

To pare the list down to this required setting aside other books that still hurt to leave out – the likes of Mother of Eden by Chris Beckett, Spoonbenders by Daryl Gregory, The Real-Town Murders by Adam Roberts, The Invisible Library books by Genevieve Cogman and The Innkeeper Chronicles by Ilona Andrews all missed making this list by a whisker. If you force to me to choose just one of these books, I’ll probably never forgive you, but it would have to be After Atlas.

What were your outstanding reads of the year?

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Sunday Post – 7th January, 2018

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

And there it is – the Christmas celebrations all over. Was New Year’s Eve only last week? The grandchildren and my sister were all sleeping over and for the first time, the children stayed up with us to see the new year in. So we were very lazy on New Year’s Day. When we all eventually surfaced, I took my sister home and the children and I slumped on the sofa together and binge-watched Harry Potter films – I’d forgotten how good they were…

On Tuesday, I took them to the local leisure centre so they could have a go at Clip and Climb – there are a series of different climbing walls which they tackled. My granddaughter has been several times before, but it was the first time for my grandson. They both thoroughly enjoyed themselves and then we went shopping, despite the shocking weather. The following day, they returned home as they were due to start school again on Thursday.

I needed to get down to some serious work, but before I did, we took down the Christmas decorations and all the lights. It’s a chore I hate, as the house always looks sad and bare without all the tinsel and bright coloured lights banishing the gloom of the long nights and short, rainy days.

I was back teaching on Friday – it was lovely to see Tim and catch up on his Christmas. We had a great lesson – and then yesterday, I was busy finalising the paperwork and getting all my files organised for teaching my Creative Writing classes at Northbook. I’m delighted to be running three courses this term with only a few vacancies left on the Tuesday evening session.

Today, Mhairi is due to come round for the day and we’ll be working alongside each other and catching up with our writing.

This week I have read:

Subversive by Paul Grzegorzek
London, 2123. A century after ebola-bombs decimated the population, PC Sean Weaver of the Combined Police Force is a drone operative tasked with enforcing the Government’s dictatorial rule. Nearly anything and everything is considered Subversive and the people huddle behind ever-watched walls, under threat of forced labour on The Farms for the smallest infraction. Trust is nearly impossible to come by and terrorists could be anywhere. Trapped within this oppressive regime, Sean has to make do with small, secretive acts of rebellion lest he end up on The Farms himself. Until, that is, the day he witnesses the mass murder of hundreds of civilians. Events quickly spiral out of control, propelling him into a bloody and brutal conflict where he finds himself faced with the ultimate choice. Accept his fate and bury the truth, or fight back and become… Subversive.

This was a foot-to-the-floor sci fi adventure, with a twisting plot that kept producing yet another surprise just when I figured I knew what was going on. I thoroughly enjoyed this dystopian thriller that, in places, reminded me of Pierce Brown’s Red Rising series. I’ll be reviewing this one in due course.

 

The Cottingley Secret by Hazel Gaynor
1917: When two young cousins, Frances Griffiths and Elsie Wright from Cottingley, England, announce they have photographed fairies at the bottom of the garden, their parents are astonished. But when the great novelist, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, endorses the photographs’ authenticity, the girls become a sensation; their discovery offering something to believe in amid a world ravaged by war.
One hundred years later… When Olivia Kavanagh finds an old manuscript and a photograph in her late grandfather’s bookshop she becomes fascinated by the story of the two young girls who mystified the world. As Olivia is drawn into events a century ago, she becomes aware of the past and the present intertwining, blurring her understanding of what is real and what is imagined. As she begins to understand why a nation once believed in fairies, will Olivia find a way to believe in herself?

I loved this one. The novel is woven around an actual story about two young girls who took some pictures of fairies – for years they were deemed real and caused a sensation. I recall seeing the special programme that Nationwide ran in the 1970s about it. This version flips between the story told through the viewpoint of Frances, one of the girls, and Olivia, a young woman at a crucial point in her life. Gaynor is clearly a very able writer, with a strong lyrical style that worked with this delightful story.

My posts last week:

Sunday Post – 31st December 2017

Shoot for the Moon 2017 Challenge – How Did I Do?

Teaser Tuesday – 2nd January 2018 featuring Subversive by Paul Grzegorzek

Can’t-Wait-Wednesday featuring Keeper of the Watch – Book 1 of the Dimension 7 series by Kristen L. Jackson

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of The Liar in the Library – Book 18 of the Fethering Mysteries by Simon Brett

Friday Face-off – I must go down to the sea again… featuring Goddess of the Sea – Book 1 of the Goddess Summoning series by P.C. Cast

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Shadow Weaver – Book 1 of the Shadow Weaver series by MarcyKate Connolly

 

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

How to Self Publish; Or, We Should Be Writing https://fantasy-hive.co.uk/2017/11/we-should-be-writing/ This excellent article is a real help to those of us a bit overwhelmed with the business of trying to engage in all the marketing we indie authors have to get involved in

Have You Heard Of Libib? It’s the Online Book Cataloguing Website of my Dreams! http://booksbonesbuffy.com/2015/01/25/have-you-heard-of-libib-its-the-online-book-cataloging-website-of-my-dreams/ I really like the sound of this one – and as Tammy explains how it can help those of us whose books need sorting out

2018 – what to look forward to (space-wise) http://earthianhivemind.net/2018/01/04/2018-look-forward-space-wise/ An excellent round-up by Steph of a number of exciting developments that will continue to unfold during the coming year

2018 – Are You Happy? https://roamwildandfree.com/2018/01/02/2018-are-you-happy/ In the middle of all our resolutions and goal setting, Becca asks this important, fundamental question

A New Reading Challenge https://powerfulwomenreaders.wordpress.com/2018/01/04/a-new-reading-challenge/ In amongst all the reading challenges coming at readers and book bloggers, this one particularly caught my eye because it is just SO simple. Read books from your shelf…

Thank you very much for taking the time and trouble to visit, like and comment on my site and wishing you all a happy, successful 2018!

Sunday Post – 31st December 2017

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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
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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
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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
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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
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Hywela Lyn features another excerpt from Dying for Space in which Elizabeth is on the wrong side of Sarge. Again…
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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
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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
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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 Frequency of Aliens Book 2 of the Sorrow Falls series by Gene Doucette

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I really liked the cool cover and the blurb which sounds sharp and funny, if a tad chatty. I’ve only included part of it…

Becoming an overnight celebrity at age sixteen should have been a lot more fun. Yes, there were times when it was extremely cool, but when the newness of it all wore off, Annie Collins was left with a permanent security detail and the kind of constant scrutiny that makes the college experience especially awkward. Not helping matters: she’s the only kid in school with her own pet spaceship.

I found this one difficult to put down once I got used to the narrative. The story is pacey and due to the humour, feels quite different from, say, Fade Out, which I have also recently read and reviewed. This could so easily have been a grim tale of humanity facing a possible apocalyptic threat and while events are stacking up and there is a definite sense of unease, at no stage did the tone alter. I found it quite refreshing.

However, the catch with using any form of omniscient viewpoint – where the narrator is driving the story forward instead of the main characters – is the narrative can tip into being a mouthpiece for the author. So as I read on, I became aware that Doucette isn’t a fan of the military mindset, while feeling protectively admiring of isolated, rural settlements like Sorrow Falls.
Is this a major problem? It certainly wasn’t for hundreds of years, or for the likes of Charles Dickens and Jane Austen. However the current fashion is for our protagonists to tell the story from their viewpoints within the story, on the grounds that no one has an overarching, ultimate view of what is happening – and that is exactly what is going on throughout this book. If Doucette wasn’t so deft with his humour, I think I would have had more of a problem with the viewpoint but because his wry irreverence permeates the story, he manages to pull this one off.

Other than that, the writing is slick and effective, while he keeps the pace rolling forward. All the main characters were reasonably appealing, although I did find the bloodthirsty survivalists a little unnerving and wondered if Doucette is playing too much with stereotypes in his characterisations. However, the denouement and ending was well handled and I enjoyed reading this sufficiently that I will be looking out for the first book in the series, The Space Ship Next Door.

8/10

 

ANNDDD…

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.

Hywela Lyn features another excerpt from Dying for Space in which Elizabeth is on the wrong side of Sarge. Again…

Comfy Chair Books has posted another slice of Dying for Space in which Elizabeth is finding herself right out of her comfort zone at one of her father’s fancy banquets. In addition, there is an article about how I used food and dining as part of the worldbuilding in this book.

Can’t-Wait Wednesday – 27th December, 2017

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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 – WaR: Wizards and Robots by Will.i.am and Brian David Johnson

#young adult/children’s #science fiction #fantasy #adventure

When a young man breaks into her home claiming her life is in danger, Ada Luring’s world changes forever. Geller is a wizard, on the run from his father’s hidden clan who want to kill Ada and her mother. Sara Luring is the scientist who will create the first robot, the wizards’ age-old foes.

But a robot has travelled back in time to find Ada, and will lay everything on the line to protect her, as she may just be the key to preventing the earth’s destruction in the future.

Ada, Geller and the robots must learn to work together to change the past and secure the future. But they don’t have much time before a mysterious enemy launches its attack on Earth…

This sounds like a mash-up where Terminator meets Ursula LeGuin’s Left Hand of Darkness. To be honest, it was the sheer weirdness of the blurb that had me requesting the arc of this offering – that and the fabulous cover. As well as the fact that the authors clearly know their history – Ada Lovelace, notable mathematician and daughter of Lord Byron and Luring, which sounds very similar to Alan Turing, genius and credited with breaking the crucial code that helped to bring WWII to an end. I like those kinds of word associations and appreciate it when authors play those types of games. I’m looking forward to tucking into this offering in due course…

 

ANNDDD…

 

A Bohemian Mind at Work is featuring Dying for Space as part of the blog tour

Friday Faceoff – The Pen is Mightier than the Sword

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This meme was started by Books by Proxy, whose fabulous idea was to compare UK and US book covers and decide which is we prefer and is currently hosted by Lynn’s Book Blog. This week the theme is a cover featuring a fancy font, so I’ve chosen Assassin’s Apprentice – Book 1 of The Farseer Trilogy by Robin Hobb.

 

This cover, produced by Spectra in March 1996, is not my favourite, however I still like it. The content is directly applicable to the cover and I particularly like the shadowed stag and birds wheeling in the air. While my preference is not to have the main character featured on the cover – it always jars with my mental image – this depiction isn’t offensively different, other than being rather better fed and groomed than the scrawny, feral character I always imagined Fitz to be.

 

This edition was produced by Voyager in March 1996 and is far less eye-catching. The generic ship in a rough sea could be headed anywhere and the small inset headshots don’t really add very much. I do like the design around the title and author fonts, which are at least an improvement on the usual wretched rectangular blocks plonked in the middle of the artwork. However, the overall greyness wouldn’t encourage me to pluck this one off the shelves.

 

Published in November 2002 by Spectra, edition manages to evoke the sense of magic. The deep blue is attractive and I like the fact that Fitz is stroking a dog while Spymaster Chade has his hand upon the boy’s head in a somewhat threatening manner. The castle in the background emphasises the sense that Fitz isn’t free to come and go as he pleases. Overall, I think this cover works really well and is a close contender.

 

This edition, published in 2011 by Voyager fulfils the brief as far the fancy font is concerned and also happens to be my favourite. Given that Fitz is writing his memoirs throughout this trilogy, I really like the effect that this is an old parchment and the lovely flowing font is both beautiful and eye-catching.

 

This Spanish edition also caught my eye – and this time the fancy font is featuring Robin Hobb’s name, which seems a smart marketing move, given just how famous she is. Published in June 2014 by Plaza & Janés México, I love the layers of action fading into the sky as the boy on horseback trots through the landscape, looking rather lonely. Which one is your favourite?

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Netgalley arc Artemis by Andy Weir

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I loved The Martian and was delighted when I realised that Andy Weir had another book in the works and thrilled when I managed to obtain a Netgalley arc for it. Question is – does Artemis live up to Weir’s stunning debut?

Jazz Bashara is a criminal. Well, sort of. Life on Artemis, the first and only city on the moon, is tough if you’re not a rich tourist or an eccentric billionaire. So smuggling in the occasional harmless bit of contraband barely counts, right? Not when you’ve got debts to pay and your job as a porter barely covers the rent. Everything changes when Jazz sees the chance to commit the perfect crime, with a reward too lucrative to turn down. But pulling off the impossible is just the start of her problems, as she learns that she’s stepped square into a conspiracy for control of Artemis itself—and that now, her only chance at survival lies in a gambit even riskier than the first.

The short answer is yes. Oh yes – Artemis has yet another memorably enjoyable protagonist every bit as ingenious and determined as Mark Watney – Jazz is a street-wise moon-girl who plays the odds. She ekes out a precarious living by a series of shady deals under the cover of her lowly job as porter as she needs more money. Lots more money. And it is that need that drives her to make a deal against her better judgement… a deal that trips over into something a whole lot more serious. I’m aware some readers have had a problem with her lack of judgement and maturity, but I feel her poor impulse control is entirely realistic and when we learn the whole story of what went wrong between her and her father, there is also a valid explanation.

Like The Martian, we are charmed into really caring what happens to this lively, irreverent protagonist as she takes us into her confidence and tells us how the domes work, how the society is structured and about her tempestuous relationship with her father. So when it all goes really wrong, we are with her every step of the way, hoping she will prevail. As Weir steadily ups the stakes and increases the pressure – I found this one almost impossible to put down.

Despite the strong character-led nature of the story, there are still plenty of details about life on the Moon for hard science fiction fans. We learn about how the domes were constructed, who initially settled this first moon settlement and what currently powers the economy – all without compromising the pace or the narrative tension. It’s a neat trick to pull off and far harder to achieve than Weir makes it look. If all these geeky details tend to slide past you, my firm advice would be not to skim too much – because some of this stuff has a major impact on the story progression.

So after setting up a precarious situation where our plucky heroine finds herself on the sharp end of the trickiest conundrum – does Weir satisfactorily wrap up the story? Absolutely. We get a gripping conclusion to this plotline, while there are also some dangling tendrils that would give Weir the opportunity to revisit Artemis with the surviving characters. I would love to see him do so. Highly recommended.
10/10

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc The Mongrel Mage Book 19 in The Saga of Recluce series by L.E. Modesitt Jr

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The Saga of Recluce is a classic fantasy series often quoted for the masterly attention to detail to the worldbuilding and fine magical system – but the thought of ploughing through eighteen books is enough to make your knees buckle. You simply don’t have the time – or the stamina. What to do? Well, The Mongrel Mage not only will delight fans of this cracking series but also makes an excellent entry point into this world.

In the world of Recluce, powerful mages can wield two kinds of magic – the white of Chaos or the black of Order. Beltur, however, has talents no one dreamed of, talents not seen in hundreds of years that blend both magics. On the run from a power hungry white mage, Beltur is taken in by Order mages who set him on the path to discover and hone his own unique gifts and in the process find a home.

Regular visitors to this site will know that I am a fan of Modesitt. At his best, his writing is amazing – see my review of Ghosts of Columbia. But I haven’t read all the Recluce novels and when I was reading them, back in the Dawn of Time, it was way before I was writing reviews. So I was interested to see this one on Netgalley and give it whirl. I’m so glad I did.

Modesitt is a master at crafting a solid world. While there is mayhem and chaos unleashed in abundance, we generally also spend a fair amount of time alongside his protagonist as he goes about his daily life. We learn what he wears, who he chats to and his impressions about them and above all – we learn what he eats. Modesitt always tells you in some detail about what his character is eating. It’s a neat trick. Because you immediately learn how wealthy the food provider is, how effective they are at food preparation and at what level technically and culturally they are operating at.

Though none of this would matter if I didn’t care about Beltur. However, I do. His careful, wary attitude speaks of early loss and pain – and the fact he doesn’t take anything for granted. It doesn’t help that he is something of a failure and despite his uncle’s painstaking training, his mastery of white magic is rather poor, leading his uncle’s official apprentice, Sydon, to look down on him and bully him when his uncle isn’t there.

I thoroughly enjoyed the sortie into the countryside, when we learn a lot about the politics as the Prefect sends out Kaerylt with his two young charges to look into the matter of women fleeing from local towns and villages and making their way to Westwind. If you are looking for foot-to-the-floor constant action, then this isn’t the story for you. But it does mean that when the action suddenly roars in – it matters and is a shock. This pacing is particularly effective if said action comes out of apparently nowhere when treachery is involved – and my jaw dropped at a specific incident and I couldn’t then put the book down to save my life.

All in all, this is Modesitt doing what he does best – painstakingly constructing a world through the eyes of a sympathetic, slightly distanced protagonist and letting him loose in a politically complex world where a huge power struggle is going on. I loved it – it’s a worthy addition to the Saga of Recluce series and a very nifty introductory book for those who haven’t yet had the pleasure. Highly recommended for fans of epic fantasy.
9/10

Review of KINDLE Ebook Healer’s Touch by Deb E. Howell

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Looking for something enjoyable and interesting to read, I found this offering languishing in my TBR pile…

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.

Llew has had a hard time of it. Abandoned by her drunken father and swindled out of her rightful inheritance by the city authorities, she finds herself on the streets dressed as a boy and thieving to stay alive – until she steals the knife of a well-dressed stranger. And everything changes… Often protagonists appear to be able to cope with difficult conditions unrealistically – but Llew is able to soak up a huge amount of physical punishment by pulling life energy from her surroundings to heal herself. I really liked this character. She is genuinely tough, both physically and emotionally, so that when she hits hard times she tends to get on with it. Having spent six years on the streets, she is used to fending for herself and I liked the fact she is flummoxed by wearing a dress and suddenly very unsure of herself when mixing with other girls of her own age.

I also loved the premise – the healing power she generates has to come from somewhere and given she is totally untrained, it comes from any living thing within her orbit. Often in fantasy books, those objecting to magical powers seem simply prejudiced about something different. But I felt the folks that went around exterminating anyone with Llew’s powers had a point – in the wrong circumstances, she is simply lethal. Jonas is one such individual – but when their paths cross unexpectedly, he finds himself very reluctant to carry out his mission. The romance is well handled so that it doesn’t become the main issue, but acts as an engine to drive the plot forward as the classic fantasy theme – how do we treat someone with good intentions who nevertheless has the potential to be destructive – plays out.

And when someone with such a powerful gift pops up, you can bet there will be someone else all too happy to track them down and use said destructive gifts for their own ends. Sure enough, there is a powerful magic-user who is on Llew’s trail with a dark agenda of his own regarding her powers. I liked the backstory regarding Jonas and Braph’s past and how their own genetic heritage plays out in the world Howell has depicted.

I’m conscious this sounds like a purely classic fantasy tale – but Howell takes those genre tropes and gives them a spin. Llew isn’t some helpless female unable to cope without a man looking after her – indeed, she becomes part of a guard detail, herself. And while I liked and sympathised with her, I winced at the trail of damage she leaves in her wake and found it only too understandable why most of her kind have been killed. This is a well written, interesting tale that has stayed with me since I’ve read it and I highly recommend this one for any fantasy fan who enjoys a well-told adventure with some interesting twists.
9/10

Can’t-Wait Wednesday – 18th October, 2017

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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 Mongrel Mage – Book 19 The Saga of Recluce by L.E. Modesitt Jr

#epic fantasy #magic

The Saga of Recluce chronicles the history of this world with world-building detail and an ingenious and disciplined magic system. L. E. Modesitt, Jr. returns to his longest and bestselling fantasy series with volume nineteen, which marks the beginning of a new story arc.

In the world of Recluce, powerful mages can wield two kinds of magic the white of Chaos or the black of Order. Beltur, however, has talents no one dreamed of, talents not seen in hundreds of years that blend both magics. On the run from a power hungry white mage, Beltur is taken in by Order mages who set him on the path to discover and hone his own unique gifts and in the process find a home.

I’m really looking forward to this one as I’m a real fan of Modesitt’s writing. It is due to be released by Tor Books on the 31st October and I’ll be reviewing it in due course.

 

ANNDDD…

 

As part of the blog tour for Running Out of Space, I have posted my Top Ten List of favourite science fiction books set in space at Mel’s Shelves.