Category Archives: daily life

Teaser Tuesday – 18th July, 2017

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Teaser Tuesday is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by The Purple Booker.
Anyone can play along! Just do the following:
• Grab your current read
• Open to a random page
• Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
• BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
• Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

This is my choice of the day:

Chocolate Chocolate Moons by Jackie Kingon
45% When I look up my jaw drops. I think there is no ceiling, only infinite black sky. I think it’s more convincing than the real black sky that I saw when I first came to the Moon with Drew. My sweaty hand grabs Cortland’s sweaty hand.
A robotic porter approaches. “Happy anniversary, Mr and Mrs Summers. Welcome to Nirgal Palace.”

BLURB: If you struggle with your weight, and was offered an opportunity to become light, fit and have a wonderful life without dieting, would you accept?

Molly Marbles wins a scholarship to Armstrong University on the Moon, a haven for the plus sized set and is delighted to discover that 287 Earth pounds instantly become 47.6, without so much as passing up a piece of pie.

But when her boyfriend Drew Barron dumps her, then jumps at a job at Congress Drugs, a company that makes low calorie food supplements, Molly’s weight is the least of her woes especially when the popular candy, Chocolate Moons is found poisoned.

I recently read and reviewed Kingon’s quirky space-based cosy mystery Sherlock Mars – see my review here – and was delighted when author asked if I would like to read the prequel.

Ostensibly, this is a story about some nefarious double-dealing where unscrupulous characters try to get richer quicker at the expense of hapless chocolate lovers. In reality, it’s an examination of our relationship with food. Kingon’s bouncy prose and quickfire one-liners uncover our issues with what we love over what is good for us – or is it? I’m really enjoying the nonsense, along with the underlying message that many of us are really, really messed up now that food has become something more than mere fuel to keep us alive.

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of KINDLE Ebook How To Stop Time by Matt Haig

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I love Matt Haig’s writing – read my review of The Humans and The Radley’s. So I was delighted to encounter this offering on Netgalley and even more delighted when my request for an arc was accepted.

Tom Hazard has a dangerous secret. He may look like an ordinary 41-year-old, but owing to a rare condition, he’s been alive for centuries. From Elizabethan England to Jazz Age Paris, from New York to the South Seas, Tom has seen a lot, and now craves an ordinary life. Always changing his identity to stay alive, Tom has the perfect cover – working as a history teacher at a London comprehensive. Here he can teach the kids about wars and witch hunts as if he’d never witnessed them first-hand. He can try and tame the past that is fast catching up with him. The only thing Tom mustn’t do is fall in love.

I’m a sucker for any book dealing with time and I also have a real weakness for historical adventure, so this book was bound to be a hit with me. While Tom starts his teaching career in a tough London school, we also have regular flashbacks throughout his very long life which explain how he comes to be so burnt out and sad.

Haig clearly put in the legwork regarding his research. For me, this book really sprang to life during the flashbacks, which start during the reign of Elizabeth I and throughout we gain glimpses of Tom’s life around the world as he constantly is on the move to try and cover up the inconvenient fact that he doesn’t age at the same rate as everyone else around him. In order for this book to really work I had to believe in Tom’s longevity and weariness. Haig triumphantly pulls this off, to the extent that I found parts of this book quite hard to read. I really cared about him and hoped that he would be able to find some peace and comfort. In the supporting cast a couple of characters really stood out for me – Rose, Tom’s first love is beautifully depicted and completely convincing as an Elizabethan girl and Hendrich, who has formed a society to help the “albas” protect themselves from the “mayflies”, is also a convincing character in his desire to keep those who are long-lived, safe from suspicions and anger of the majority of humanity. However, the standout supporting character has to be Camille, the French teacher who is clearly attracted to Tom. She is written with such tenderness and sensitivity that I found myself really rooting for her, to the extent that I was unsure whether she should get tangled up with Tom, who has more emotional baggage than he knows what to do with.

The one thing you can never be sure with Haig is that his stories will end happily ever after. Obviously I am not going to provide any spoilers, but I will say that this one concludes satisfactorily with all the main characters completing a strong story arc. As ever, Haig’s writing lingers in my head and I find myself thinking about this one a lot now that I have finished reading it.
9/10

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of KINDLE Ebook Sherlock Mars by Jackie Kingon

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The quirky title and interesting premise caught my eye – I’m always a sucker for crime set in space, so I requested the arc.

Molly Marbles runs a successful bistro on terraformed Mars. But a virtual restaurant opens near her place, offering the experience of delicacies from across the Solar System with none of the calories. What will this do to her business? Then its owner is murdered in her kitchen. Molly, an amateur detective, springs into action to help the police solve the mystery, while also planning her pop-star daughter’s wedding, keeping her kitchen staff from feuding, and protecting her cyborg friend from the humans-only mob. Meanwhile, the infamous Cereal Serial Killer has escaped prison on Pluto and has everyone worried. Things are getting hectic, but Molly is a resilient and resourceful woman. And her knack for mysteries sees her nick-named ‘Sherlock Mars’.

This is basically a cosy mystery set in space. It has the classic ingredients – a victim that no one seems to care all that much about; a quirky, successful restaurant owner who inexplicably has sufficient time to shoot off here, there and everywhere to run down a number of clues; a friendly law enforcement officer who is happy to let Molly have crucial details of the ongoing case; lots of foodie details along the way.

I like Molly – the fact that she is happily married with adult children and is rushing around organising a wedding for one of them is a major plus point as far as I’m concerned. It’s nice to see women of a certain age confident in her ability and established in a stable relationship and career featuring as the main protagonist for a change. However, while she is crazily busy, I did feel her characterisation was a little thin – mostly because the continual stream of puns and gags around the future version of the past crowded out the opportunities for us to bond with her.

The worldbuilding is detailed and builds up a clear picture of exactly what life is like on Mars for Molly and her family. We get plenty of descriptions of the places they visit and in particular, the build-up to the wedding and the celebration, but again, the focus on the one-liners and wordplay inevitably skews some of the detail, as destinations and placenames are clearly only added for the sake of the gag. The situation regarding androids as political tensions rise around their status is nicely handled and I did enjoy Molly’s relationship with her friend Jersey, whose husband, Trenton, is an android. The only problem I did have, is that given the abilities Trenton displayed in manufacturing a range of goods for Jersey, it did occur to me that the fears of unmodified humans were very well founded – and that aspect simply wasn’t investigated. Perhaps it is being left for another book in the series, as although at no time is this book flagged as the second in a series, there is clearly a previous book somewhere about another case earlier in Molly’s life.

The solution to the case worked well, in that the murderer is someone who has a strong reason for killing the victim and is well placed to keep threatening Molly as she endeavours to track down the perpetrator. The various story arcs are nicely tied up and overall, it comes to a satisfactory conclusion – but I cannot help thinking that if there were a few less puns and wordplay jokes, the overall characterisation and scene setting could have been a lot stronger.
7/10

Friday Faceoff – I collect hats. That’s what you do when you’re bald. (James Taylor)

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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. This week the theme is hats, so I’ve taken the idea of hats into space by choosing The Martian by Andy Weir – see my review. After all, he is wearing his helmet on his head – it must count as a type of hat…

 

This is my personal favourite. I love the drama of the swirling red dust as poor old Mark is being swept away and think this is the cover that most effectively depicts the initial drama the starts the book. It was produced in February 2014 by Crown.

 

This edition, produced in February 2014 by Edbury Digital is produced as a movie tie-in cover. So it is Matt Damon suffering on the cover, with flashes of the faceplate hinting at the helmet as he considers his plight after being stranded on Mars. Again, the colour of the cover and his agonised expression captures the drama of the situation.

 

Published in February 2014 by Broadway Books, this is the ‘arrested’ version – we all have them. The photo of us that looks like it’s been taken at a police station after we’ve done something naughty… I’m quite comforted to see that even film stars endure such pics, as I thought it was only one’s children who specialised in taking these efforts. Suffice to say this isn’t a cover that would persuade me to rush out and buy this book.

 

This cover, produced by Autopublished in September 2012, is clearly a DIY effort. Having said that, I’ve seen worse – the biggest criticism of it being that it is very generic. However, that clearly didn’t stop people buying this book in droves, as it subsequently attracted a publishing deal based on its popularity.

 

This Russian cover is another strong contender. I like the drama and fact it depicts the full horror of Mark’s situation. Produced by ACT in September 2014, I like the fact we are seeing exactly what Mark sees – although I’m not sure there are quite so many clouds in a Martian sky. Which cover do you like best?

Shoot for the Moon 2017 Challenge – May Roundup

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How have I got on with my writing, reading and blogging targets I set back on New Year’s Eve?

• Rewrite Miranda’s Tempest
Complete my rewrite of Miranda’s Tempest in response to some very detailed advice on how to improve it by an agent during the submission process. I had intended to have it completed by now, but got seriously stalled halfway through December…
During May I went through Miranda’s Tempest and managed to complete the rewrite, despite still suffering the after-effects of my illness at Easter. I just need to finish my line edit and then resubmit it.

• Write at least 100 reviews for my blog during 2017
I hope to continue to read and review at least 100 books, with at least 24 being by women authors previously unknown to me as part of the Discovery Challenge, thanks to Joanne Hall’s post. I also would very much like to get more of my To Be Read pile read and reviewed, so will have another go at the Tackling my TBR Pile this year with the aim of reading at least 30 books during the year from this teetering stack.
During May, I read 17 books and reviewed 15 of them. This brought my yearly total of books read by the end of the month to 81. As for book of the month – Assassin’s Fate – Book 3 of the Fitz and the Fool trilogy by Robin Hobb, closely followed by The Outskirter’s Secret – Book 2 of The Steerswoman series by Rosemary Kirstein and The Ninth Rain – Book 1 of The Winnowing Flame by Jen Williams.

• Creative Writing courses
To continue to deliver my courses to the best of my ability.
We are now more than halfway through the term and the academic year is rapidly drawing to a close. This year has been a successful one – now Northbrook has joined with Brighton University to be reincarnated as the Greater Brighton Metropolitan College, it looks as though our Adult Learning and Community Department, which for so long as been steadily shrinking, is now getting a new lease of life.

• Continue teaching TW
Continue delivering the customised syllabus we have managed to find and devise in order to meet Tim’s specific learning requirements.
It has been another marvellous month with Tim continuing to develop and punch through barriers to his learning as we continue to prepare for his exam in June.

• Continue to improve my fitness
To continue to attend Fitstep and Pilates classes to improve my fitness and regain the strength and stamina I lost after a decade of chronic lower back pain.
Once again, this has been a month of missed classes and non-attendance. I’m hoping to resume my Fitstep and Pilates classes now in the latter half of June, but so far have not managed to do so. Fortunately, I have now resolved the problem that was causing me such an issue – I was suffering from a lack of vitamin B12. Now I have sorted this out, I am back to my normal levels of fitness.

May was another month where I struggled to fulfil my teaching and writing commitments due to constant attacks of exhaustion that left me wiped out. I am very relieved this has now been resolved. I now need to crack on and see if I can gain some ground on my editing and writing schedules which have badly slipped.

I wrote just under 32,000 words during May, mostly on my blog, which brings my yearly total to just over 174,000 words so far.

Review of KINDLE Ebook The Keeper of Lost Things by Ruth Hogan

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I had just completed reading A Monster Calls which is a wonderful book, but achingly sad so I needed something a bit more upbeat. Fortunately, Himself had just treated himself with this offering…

Once a celebrated author of short stories now in his twilight years, Anthony Peardew has spent half his life lovingly collecting lost objects, trying to atone for a promise broken many years before. Realising he is running out of time, he leaves his house and all its lost treasures to his assistant Laura, the one person he can trust to fulfil his legacy and reunite the thousands of objects with their rightful owners. But the final wishes of the Keeper of Lost Things have unforeseen repercussions which trigger a most serendipitous series of encounters…

This is an unusual and engaging read – but don’t be fooled by that beautiful, rose-decked cover into thinking this particularly cosy – it isn’t. After all, roses have thorns that dig in when you’re busy smelling the perfume. This isn’t a criticism, for I was a bit concerned about halfway through that this one was going to end with a nauseating side-order of treacle and I was delighted when it didn’t.

Anthony finds his way back into his life after a crippling loss by collecting and labelling hundreds, if not thousands, of lost items. His assistant and right-hand woman, Laura, has no idea of the enormity of his collecting habit until she assumes responsibility for it. This is one of the two storylines, as this book is structured as a dual narrative with Bomber, as a reasonably successful publisher and his young assistant, Eunice, being the other strand.

As their stories progress, this novel unflinchingly depicts some gnarly issues. Dementia afflicts one of the main characters and the main antagonist thrives at the expense of those a lot more deserving around her. We witness a girl with Downs syndrome who has been bullied at school find a refuge with an understanding, kindly neighbour, who even so at times hides in a cupboard when she cannot face Sunny’s constant questions. There is an angry ghost who haunts a house after dying far too soon.

So while Hogan’s smooth writing and quirky, charming style beguiles us, she gently yet firmly confronts us with a number of issues that won’t end happily ever after. I’m going to remember poor Bomber for a very long time… However, this isn’t all about plunging us into a maelstrom of misery, so there are characters we care about who do prevail. And in amongst the hard-hitting stuff, there is also an enjoyable romance and a fair dollop of humour. I thoroughly enjoyed it and I suspect I shall be thinking about this one for a while to come.
9/10

Review of KINDLE Ebook The Sorcerer’s Garden by D. Wallace Peach

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This is one of those quirky books that appears to be set entirely in this workaday world, before it then turns into some more fantastic.

Recently fired and residing with her sweetly overbearing mother, Madlyn needs a job—bad. In a moment of desperation, she accepts a part-time position reading at the bedside of adventurer and amateur writer Cody Lofton. A near-drowning accident left the young man in a vegetative state, and his chances of recovery wane with each passing day. Cody’s older brother, Dustin, and eccentric grandmother aren’t prepared to give up on the youngest son of Portland, Oregon’s royalty. Dustin’s a personable guy, bordering on naïve, and overwhelmed by familial corporate duties and cutthroat partners. Grandmother Lillian’s a meddler with an eye for the esoteric, dabbling in Dustin’s life and dealing out wisdom like a card shark. One innocent conversation at a time, she sucks Madlyn into the Lofton story, dubbing her the princess and bestowing on her the responsibility of both grandsons’ destinies. And all Madlyn wanted was a simple reading job.

I really like Madlyn and her struggle to fit into modern life. When she gets the job, I also like the fact that she finds the setup in the Lofton household a bit weird, if not creepy. But it was a refreshing change to have an elderly woman at the helm of the household and keeping control by an unnerving knack of knowing what is happening before anyone else. What kicks this story into the realm of fantasy is when Madlyn starts reading Cody’s unfinished fantasy novel to him.
We are then whisked away into a different world – or are we? At one point an event occurs and we have some kind of explanation for what happens as Madlyn, Dustin, Cody, Lillian and other members of the household find themselves running for their lives from bloated monsters intent on killing them. The captains of this terrifying army are none other than the greedy board members making Dustin’s life misery at the family firm where Madlyn once worked, before being unfairly fired.

So there are two main storylines running alongside each other – I liked them both and found the fantasy tale whipped along at a fair lick with plenty of danger and excitement to keep the pages turning. I also very much enjoyed the setup in the contemporary real world – Cody steadily fading away with the household and family mourning his loss and Dustin struggling to cope with the responsibility of running the company in the face of a hostile board.

However, right at the end where the two worlds came together, I was not wholly convinced that it was handled as effectively as it might be. If the writing or storytelling along the way had been less skilful, this would have been a dealbreaker, but I think this is a good read rather than the potentially great book it could have been.
7/10

Sunday Post – 4th June 2017

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

Last Sunday was a bit wet, but a perfect day for moving plants around and potting up. We’d visited the garden centre and spent the children’s inheritance on reed screens, pots and ivies to train along our low brick wall to discourage the local teenagers from using it as a smoking spot. So I hacked away at bindweed and transplanted some sulking lavenders and a bullied fuchsia before the rain stopped misting around and decided to get serious.

This week was half term, so I had a break from teaching – which was very welcome, given I’ve been struggling since Easter with regular bouts of exhaustion and faintness. I had to cry off a writing get-together with former students on Tuesday as I was suffering with yet another headache, but at least it didn’t linger through until Wednesday.

Meanwhile, I’ve managed to get plenty of editing down – one of my lovely beta readers had given me plenty of notes, so I went through Miranda’s Tempest fixing some issues. Himself is currently going through a line edit for me. And the big bonus – on Thursday I finally managed to get together with my marvellous writing partner Mhairi, who I haven’t seen in faaar too long! It was lovely to catch up and natter about all things writerly with her.

I also managed to finish and submit a short story for an anthology – what was special about this one, was that I was asked to contribute… So I’m now fretting by hoping it is suitable and ticks all the boxes – and taking my mind off it by plunging into the last major edit of Dying for Space, Book 2 of the Sunblinded Trilogy. This week-end we’ve been working in the garden again as the weather continues to be fabulous. The best spring I can recall for years…

This week I have read:
Less Than a Treason – Book 21 of the Kate Shugak series by Dana Stabenow
Kate Shugak is a native Aleut working as a private investigator in Alaska. She’s 5’1″ tall, carrires a scar that runs from ear to ear across her throat, and owns a half-wolf, half-husky dog named Mutt. Resourceful, strong-willed, defiant, Kate is tougher than your average heroine—and she needs to be, to survive the worst the Alaskan wilds can throw at her. And throw their worst the wilds have: Kate and Mutt have both been shot.
This book immediately picks up from the cliffhanger ending of the previous instalment. I loved this one – the dual narrative works really well and it is always a great bonus when a crime novel gives an insight into a corner of the world I’ll never know. Alaska is revealed as a relentless environment that is nonetheless undergoing massive change.

A Hero’s Guide to Deadly Dragons – Book 6 of the How To Train Your Dragon series by Cressida Cowell
It’s Hiccup’s birthday, but that’s not going to keep him from getting into trouble. To save his dragon, Toothless, from being banished, Hiccup must sneak into the Meathead Public Library and steal the Viking’s most sacred book. But the Vikings see books as a dangerous influence, and keep them locked up and under heavy guard. To save his friend, Hiccup must brave the Hairy Scary Librarian and his dreadful army of Meathead Warriors and face off against the formidable Driller-Dragons. Will he make it out and live to see his next birthday?
Thanks to Oscar coming to stay at the start of the half-term break, we managed to get this one completed. As ever, lots of danger, unexpected plot twists and a nice message about just how vital libraries and books are – without being remotely preachy. Another cracking story.

Silent City – Book 1 of the Corin Hayes series by G.R. Matthews
In the Corporation owned cities life is tough. All Hayes wants is money and a bar to spend it in. He is about to learn that some jobs in the abyss can be killers. For a man who has lost everything, is life even worth fighting for?
This enjoyable military science fiction underwater adventure is full of tension and action that doesn’t let up. Hayes is a nicely grumpy protagonist with a bleak backstory and there is clearly going to be plenty of other problems looming in the future for him to tackle.

A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness
The monster showed up after midnight. As they do. But it isn’t the monster Conor’s been expecting. He’s been expecting the one from his nightmare, the one he’s had nearly every night since his mother started her treatments, the one with the darkness and the wind and the screaming… This monster is something different, though. Something ancient, something wild. And it wants the most dangerous thing of all from Conor. It wants the truth.
I haven’t read Patrick Ness before – but I’ll certainly be reading him again. I found this beautiful, unexpected story a heartbreak. But I couldn’t put it down until I’d read it from cover to cover. Ness hooked me with his angry, conflicted boy and complicated monster and I wasn’t able to break away until I got to the marvellous end. One of my favourite books of the year to date.

The Keeper of Lost Things by Ruth Hogan
Once a celebrated author of short stories now in his twilight years, Anthony Peardew has spent half his life lovingly collecting lost objects, trying to atone for a promise broken many years before. Realising he is running out of time, he leaves his house and all its lost treasures to his assistant Laura, the one person he can trust to fulfil his legacy and reunite the thousands of objects with their rightful owners. But the final wishes of the Keeper of Lost Things have unforeseen repercussions which trigger a most serendipitous series of encounters…
This contemporary novel was a delight. Quirky and slightly fey, I was initially concerned that it would puddle down into sentimentality. Luckily Hogan is made of sterner stuff and this book tackles some gnarly subjects along the way, while delivering a lovely story. Recommended.

My posts last week:

Sunday Post – 28th May 2017

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL – Review of Less Than a Treason – Book 21 of the Kate Shugak series by Dana Stabenow

Teaser Tuesday featuring The Keeper of Lost Things by Ruth Hogan

Review of Saven Disclosure – Book 1 of The Saven series by Siobhan Davis

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of The Space Between the Stars by Anne Corlett

Friday Face-off – Shoot for the Moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land amongst the stars – featuring A Fall of Moondust by Arthur C. Clarke

Review of The Outskirter’s Secret – Book 2 of The Steerswoman series by Rosemary Kirstein

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

Italian Fantasy Names https://scflynn.com/2017/05/29/italian-fantasy-names/ This quirky article by fantasy writer S.C. Flynn had me grinning…

Broadside No. 14 – Rosemary Kirstein https://thecaptainsquartersblog.wordpress.com/2017/06/01/broadside-no-14-rosemary-kirstein/ It’s always a buzz when you’ve been banging on about an underappreciated author to then find a fellow fan – and so imagine my delight when I was pinged by the Cap in her feature of the awesome Rosemary Kirstein’s wonderful Steerswoman series.

Asteroid Collision May Have Tipped Saturn’s Moon Enceladus http://www.space.com/37034-saturn-moon-enceladus-tipped-over-by-asteroid.html?utm_source=twitter&utm_medium=social#?utm_source=twitter&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=2016twitterdlvrit An intriguing article for those of you who also enjoy space stuff…

A Summary and Analysis of Goldilocks and the Three Bears https://interestingliterature.com/2017/05/30/a-summary-and-analysis-of-goldilocks-and-the-three-bears/ I’ll guarantee you’ll discover something you didn’t know about this story, if you read it.

A Book Labyrinth in London https://kristentwardowski.wordpress.com/2017/05/30/a-book-labyrinth-in-london/ I’m sorrier than I can say that I managed to miss this one… It looks amazing!

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

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of KINDLE Ebook The Space Between the Stars by Anne Corlett

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All Jamie Allenby ever wanted was space. Even though she wasn’t forced to emigrate from Earth, she willingly left the overpopulated, claustrophobic planet. And when a long relationship devolved into silence and suffocating sadness, she found work on a frontier world on the edges of civilization. Then the virus hit… Now Jamie finds herself dreadfully alone, with all that’s left of the dead. Until a garbled message from Earth gives her hope that someone from her past might still be alive.

Yes, this is a post-apocalyptic novel following the adventures of one of the few survivors after a terrible virus burns through humanity. But it’s a lot more grown-up than just charting the gritted determination of Jamie to survive in a world where everything has been so very changed. It’s a book that examines what she was expecting from life and the world – and what happens to her when those expectations are smashed after she experiences a tragedy far more common than the end of the world – a miscarriage.

Written in third person, this book gets right under the skin of the main character, warts and all. I didn’t like her very much – she is often quiet when she should say something and is awkward around humans. While she initially trained as a doctor, she moved sideways and qualified as a vet because she was a loss to know what to say or do when people, scared and ill, would proffer intimate details of their life to her. When she meets up with other survivors, she is clearly socially inept. During an argument on board a ship in cramped conditions, she flares at one of the other passengers, who is clearly suffering with her own mental problems – to the extent that I wanted to slap her just to shut her up.

Did I care for her, though? Oh yes. Corlett has written a character who doesn’t feel she fits anywhere. Who wants to reach out to the only man she thinks she’ll ever love – but can’t deal with the crowding that brings. Or his own demand for her to open up and release her sense of grief for their lost baby – something she simply cannot do. By the end of the book, we get to understand exactly why Jamie is as she is, while she undertakes a long journey, both literally and also emotionally with a small group of survivors, who are also shattered at the profound loss they have endured.

What this isn’t, is a completely bleak read. There are times when the situation lurches into farce, for instance when they encounter a group of elderly folk living in a stately home acting as if they are in the middle of a Jane Austen novel. And there is some nicely edged banter with the grumpy space pilot, who is clearly more comfortable carrying crates of freight than the group of traumatised passengers he ends up ferrying.

Corlett brings this tale to a satisfactory conclusion, including solving the mystery of what caused the virus in the first place. I closed the book, musing on Jamie’s journey – and wondering if I was left standing with everyone I cared about gone, what I’d do next. This is one I shall be thinking about for a while, I suspect. If you enjoy unusual books that raise hard, pertinent questions about why we are here and what we are doing, then track this one down.
9/10

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of KINDLE Ebook Less Than a Treason – Book 21 of the Kate Shugak series by Dana Stabenow

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Himself is a solid fan of this series and I’ve also enjoyed dipping in and out of them – see my review of A Cold Day for Murder. He pre-ordered this offering a while ago, but I forgot all about it until this week, when I found it lurking in my TBR pile.

KATE SHUGAK is a native Aleut working as a private investigator in Alaska. She’s 5 foot 1 inch tall, carries a scar that runs from ear to ear across her throat and owns a half-wolf, half-husky dog named Mutt. Resourceful, strong-willed, defiant, Kate is tougher than your average heroine – and she needs to be to survive the worst the Alaskan wilds can throw at her. Two thousand people go missing in Alaska every year. They vanish in the middle of mountain footraces, on fishing boats in the Bering Sea, on small planes in the Bush. Now a geologist known for going walkabout with his rock hammer has disappeared from the Suulutaq Mine in the Park. Was it deliberate? An accident? Foul play? Kate Shugak may be the only person who can find out. But for the fact that Kate, too, is now among the missing…

I loved this one. Stabenow effectively takes us back to the dramatic events at the end of the previous book, Bad Blood, and then resumes the narrative as we witness the fallout after the shocking events that left the book on a major cliffhanger. Once the immediate danger is past, Kate does what she always does when confronted with a major setback – she retreats to the wilderness to lick her wounds and heal. It doesn’t help that her constant companion, Mutt, has gone missing. I very much like Kate’s character – her laconic manner belies the impact she makes whenever she walks into a room. Stabenow is very effective at depicting a protagonist who doesn’t say a lot, yet clearly engenders a strong response – for good or bad – on those around her.

Meanwhile we also follow Jim, Kate’s significant other, who was right in the middle of the drama and pain of the event that found Kate hospitalised, fighting for her life. After she disappears, he keeps waiting for her to get back in touch and in this dual narrative, we also discover what he does while waiting for her.

And in this almost incidental manner, Kate’s next case starts with a missing man as a dead body also turns up near her cabin. Meanwhile, Jim is increasingly concerned about another member of the Shugak family who goes missing – Martin, one of Kate’s cousins. Not that anyone is overly surprised if Martin comes to a sticky end, given some of the company he keeps. Though it is no longer Jim’s job, he starts to ask around for Martin, as well as trying to quietly discover where Kate has got to.

I loved the way that Stabenow dripfeeds all the small details that build up to this murder mystery, while giving us a ringside seat as to how Jim and Kate go about rebuilding their lives after a major trauma. In addition, we also get a real insight into how to live in a part of the world that is intrinsically hostile. Stabenow’s experience of being raised in Alaska plays a major part in the excellent worldbuilding that defines this series. I was particularly struck at how global warming is playing out in this fragile corner of the globe.

If you are looking for a murder mystery series with a difference, then you can jump right into the middle of this one without too much floundering – although you’ll miss a massive backstory. But this is one of my favourite murder mysteries of the year so far and comes very highly recommended.
10/10