Category Archives: family life

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!

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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
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…
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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
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.

Christmas Quiz 2017

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Christmas candles @ mum’s-2

When Gran was alive, during our family gatherings we used to play Christmas games. Gran particularly loved general knowledge quizzes, but with 5 generations ranging from the late nineties down to a three year old, it posed something of a challenge. So each year I devised multiple choice questions and everyone played in pairs, which gave even the youngest a chance of answering correctly. Gran is no longer with us, but if you happen to gather in a multi-generational mash-up to celebrate Christmas perhaps this will pass some time between opening presents and tucking into the seasonal feast.

1. What is another name for the alligator pear?
a) Kumquat                b) Avocado
c) Boysenberry          d) Pineapple

2. What did Marylebone, Ranleigh and Vauxhall have in common in the 18th century?
a) All were land owned by aristocratic families
b) All had churches on them
c) All were pleasure gardens
d) All were sites of gibbets for public hangings

3. Who taught Alice to dance the Lobster Quadrille?
a) The Lobster          b) The Walrus
c) The Carpenter      d) The Mock Turtle

4. Die/dice, man/men are examples of irregular plurals in English. Just how many of them are there?
a) 7                             b) 10
c) 13                           d) 18

5. Who is the heir apparent to the British throne?
a) Prince William    b) Prince Andrew
c) Prince Charles     c) Princess Anne

6. On which day did God make the sun, the moon and the stars?
a) The second day    b) The third day
c) The fourth day     d) The fifth day

7. Which artist expressed a wish to eat his wife when she died?
a) Pablo Picasso       b) Paul Gauguin
c) Paul Cézanne       d) Salvador Dali

8. What is blennophobia?
a) Fear of the colour white       b) Fear of slime
c) Fear of ice                                d) Fear of silence

9. Quarantine is isolation because of sickness. What else can it be?
a) A forty-day study sabbatical available to university dons
b) A small island in the Pacific, named by James Cooke
c) The name of the flag, warning of infection aboard, flown by the Royal Navy
d) A sort of red apple

10. Who cut off Samson’s hair?
a) Delilah                   b) Salome
c) Jezebel                   d) Naomi

11. Linnaeus gave the name “food of the gods” to which drink?
a) Brandy                   b) Coffee
c) Chocolate              d) Wine

12. Over how many days is the decathlon held?
a) 10                            b) 5
c) 4                              d) 2

13. Who claimed to be able to recognize 140 different forms of tobacco ash?
a) Dr. Watson                  b) Sherlock Holmes
c) Lord Peter Whimsey  d) Hercule Poirot

14. What is a group of swine called?
a) Herd                      b) Sounder
c) Drift                       d) Wallow

15. What does the name Thermopylae, the site of a famous battle, actually mean?
a) Hot waters           b) Red bush
c) Hot gates              d) Place of the Geysers

16. How many lines are there in a limerick?
a) 3                             b) 4
c) 5                             d) 14

17. Whose best friend is Barney Rubble?
a) Mickey Mouse     b) Buzz Lightyear
c) Scooby Doo          d) Fred Flintstone

18. How did the tank get its name?
a) When Lord Kitchener described it as looking “like a damnable tank.”
b) It is acronym for Terrestrial Automotive Navigable Kinesthesmobile
c) For security reasons they were sent to France in crates labelled WATER TANKS
d) It was a nickname coined by the troops that stuck

19. What is the value of the gold spot in the centre of an archery target?
a) 5                              b) 9
c) 10                            d) 25

20. What is added to gin and vermouth to make a drink called a Gibson?
a) Strawberry            b) Orange
c) Onion                     d) Cucumber

ANSWERS

1. What is another name for the alligator pear?
a) Kumquat              b) Avocado
c) Boysenberry         d) Pineapple

2. What did Marylebone, Ranleigh and Vauxhall have in common in the 18th century?
a) All were land owned by aristocratic families
b) All had churches on them
c) All were pleasure gardens
d) All were sites of gibbets for public hangings

3. Who taught Alice to dance the Lobster Quadrille?
a) The Lobster        b) The Walrus
c) The Carpenter    d) The Mock Turtle

4. Die/dice, man/men are examples of irregular plurals in English. Just how many of them are there?
a) 7                            b) 10
c) 13                          d) 18

5. Who is the heir apparent to the British throne?
a) Prince William   b) Prince Andrew
c) Prince Charles    d) Princess Anne

6. On which day did God make the sun, the moon and the stars?
a) The second day   b) The third day
c) The fourth day     d) The fifth day

7. Which artist expressed a wish to eat his wife when she died?
a) Pablo Picasso        b) Paul Gauguin
c) Paul Cézanne        d) Salvador Dali

8. What is blennophobia?
a) Fear of the colour white b) Fear of slime
c) Fear of ice                         d) Fear of silence

9. Quarantine is isolation because of sickness. What else can it be?
a) A forty-day study sabbatical available to university dons
b) A small island in the Pacific, named by James Cooke
c) The name of the flag, warning of infection aboard, flown by the Royal Navy
d) A sort of red apple

10. Who cut off Samson’s hair?
a) Delilah                 b) Salome
c) Jezebel                 d) Naomi

11. Linnaeus gave the name “food of the gods” to which drink?
a) Brandy                 b) Coffee
c) Chocolate            d) Wine

12. Over how many days is the decathlon held?
a) 10                           b) 5
c) 4                             d) 2

13. Who claimed to be able to recognize 140 different forms of tobacco ash?
a) Dr. Watson                  b) Sherlock Holmes
c) Lord Peter Whimsey d) Hercule Poirot

14. What is a group of swine called?
a) Herd                     b) Sounder
c) Drift                      d) Wallow

15. What does the name Thermopylae, the site of a famous battle, actually mean?
a) Hot waters           b) Red bush
c) Hot gates              d) Place of the Geysers

16. How many lines are there in a limerick?
a) 3                              b) 4
c) 5                              d) 14

17. Whose best friend is Barney Rubble?
a) Mickey Mouse      b) Buzz Lightyear
c) Scooby Doo           d) Fred Flintstone

18. How did the tank get its name?
a. When Lord Kitchener described it as looking “like a damnable tank.”
b. It is acronym for Terrestrial Automotive Navigable Kinesthesmobile
c. For security reasons they were sent to France in crates labelled WATER TANKS
d. It was a nickname coined by the troops that stuck

19. What is the value of the gold spot in the centre of an archery target?
a) 5                              b) 9
c) 10                            d) 25

20. What is added to gin and vermouth to make a drink called a Gibson?
a) Strawberry            b) Orange
c) Onion                     d) Cucumber

Wishing you a Happy Christmas and a healthy, successful 2018.

Review of KINDLE Ebook Falling Apart – Book 2 of the Otherworlders series by Jane Lovering

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I read and thoroughly enjoyed the first book in this delightful urban fantasy set in York, Vampire State of Mind – see my review here – so was delighted to see the sequel was languishing on my TBR pile.

Jessica Grant liaises with Otherworlders for York Council so she knows that falling in love with a vampire takes a leap of faith. But her lover Sil, the City Vampire in charge of Otherworld York, he wouldn’t run out on her, would he? He wouldn’t let his demon get the better of him. Or would he? Sil knows there s a reason for his bad haircut, worse clothes and the trail of bleeding humans in his wake. If only he could remember exactly what he did before someone finds him and shoots him on sight.

This is great fun, if decidedly darker than the first book. While the humour and gags are all still there, Jessica and her loyal underpaid and overworked assistant, Liam, are bantering with a slightly desperate edge. The situation has gone from difficult to grim and it doesn’t help that the local newspaper is definitely gunning for Jessica, while the Council are as much help to their put-upon staff as a lead balloon.

I really enjoyed the sense that things have moved on since the first adventure – and that has left its mark on Jessica. I get a tad fed up when protagonists in series deal with knee-buckling events only for them to spring back to action in the next book as if nothing has happened. While obviously, the author needs to take into account that some readers (like me) regularly crash midway into a series, there should also be a payoff for the loyal followers who read all the books in the correct order. Lovering achieves this. We also get an insight in Liam’s growing problems with the long hours and poor pay – he is frankly unable to afford to keep working in the job as he is now supporting a baby daughter. It is refreshing to have a shaft of realism penetrate this essentially escapist adventure – because far too many people in this country are in exactly the same situation.

As Sil struggles to put together the holes in his memory, I was completely caught up in the story and found the plot progression worked well – I certainly didn’t see the plot twist coming or the major change in their fortunes at the end.

I notice on Goodreads that these are the only two books in this series – a shame. I do hope Lovering considers writing more. Recommended for anyone who enjoys quirky urban fantasy with a Brit twist of humour.
9/10

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

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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

Friday Faceoff – Snap!

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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 a mirror image or reflection, so I’ve chosen The Dark Mirror – Book 1 of The Bridei Chronicles by Juliet Marillier.

 

This cover, produced by Tor Books in June 2006, is my least favourite. While the hint of a reflection and the gnarled tree behind the seated girl does give a sense of the otherworldly tone that pervades this outstanding historical fantasy series, it doesn’t do it justice. I also think the lettering is clunky and unsuited to the genre and content.

 

This edition was produced by Tor books in March 2006 and is far more appropriate. The lone tree, reflected in the water in a wild landscape beautifully evokes the mood of the book and would immediately have me wanting to pick it up. This one is my favourite.

 

Published in 2007 by Bertrand Editora, this Portuguese edition has also manages to capture the magical sense of the book, though I’m not quite sure what that fraying piece of lace at the top is all about… But those brooding trees reflected in the lake are very effective.

 

This Australian edition, published in November 2007 by Pan Australia, is also effective and haunting. I particularly like the title font, which fits the period without being too fussy or taking away from that stunning landscape – this is a very close second for me. Which is your favourite?

Sunday Post – 22nd October 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.

Life has been slowly getting back to normal after being laid low by flu. I resumed teaching my Creative Writing classes this week – it was lovely to see my students again. Though I didn’t make my Pilates and Fitstep classes on Wednesday because I was too wiped out – I’m still running out of energy far too quickly. On Friday, I was also teaching Tim and it was great to catch up on how the filming has been going of his comedy Robin Hood script. In the afternoon, we picked up the grandchildren, who will be staying until Tuesday evening as it is half term. Yesterday morning (Saturday) we took them shopping to spend their pocket money and in the afternoon, while J and Oscar stayed at home to play Bloodbowl together, I took Frances and Tim to the climbing walls at the Out of Bounds centre in Rustington. Both of them thoroughly enjoyed themselves while Storm Brian raged outside with gale-force winds and torrential downpours. There was a magnificent double rainbow stretching across the River Arun as we drove back into Littlehampton.

This afternoon we’re going to have a family readathon – I wasn’t able to take part in the Dewey 24-hour occasion on Saturday, so thought it would be lovely to run a mini-version for all of us to have a go… Wish us luck!

This week I have read:

The Mongrel Mage – Book 19 of The Saga of Recluce by L.E. Modesitt Jr
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 was thrilled to discover this on the Netgalley boards and immediately requested it – I love his writing and this one didn’t disappoint. I’ll be reviewing it in due course.

And that’s it… only one book. I’m currently a third of the way through a 700+ page beastie that is a dense demanding read – and I don’t want to rush it as it’s also a joy. Thank goodness it’s on the Kindle because if I was trying to hold up the physical version, I’d probably sprain something…

My posts last week:

Sunday Post – 15th October 2017

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

Teaser Tuesday featuring Gnomon by Nick Harkaway

Can’t-Wait Wednesday featuring The Mongrel Mage – Book 19 of The Sage of Recluce by L.E. Modesitt Jr

Reblog of Running Out of Space blog tour including Top Ten Character Names from Running Out of Space and how the author came up with them

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Austrel by Paul McAuley

Reblog of Running Out of Space blog tour including my article ‘It’s All About the Words…’

Friday Face-off – Me and My Shadow featuring A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

Review of Healer’s Touch by Deb E. Howell

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

Yellow https://richardankers.com/2017/10/21/yellow/ On Monday – apparently due to Ophelia causing a major disturbance – the UK was bathed in a sickly yellow light that caused the street lights to come on during the afternoon. This is Richard’s take on it…

Little Robin of Marlfield Lake https://inesemjphotography.com/2017/10/20/little-robin-of-marlfield-lake/ These lovely photos feature a cheeky little chap clearly not at his best – which makes him even more endearing…

…the most wonderful moment of my writing career… and it’s not what you may think… https://seumasgallacher.com/2017/10/20/the-most-wonderful-moment-of-my-writing-career-and-its-not-what-you-may-think/ Seumas always writes great blog articles and this is another classic.

Reading Goal Pressure http://chucklesbookcave.blogspot.co.uk/2017/10/chuckles-chat-39-reading-goal-pressure.html?spref=tw This is well-written post is about an ongoing problem for many book bloggers.

Conflict of Interest https://jeanleesworld.com/2017/10/19/conflict-of-interest/ Family life is so rarely the honeyed version we see portrayed all too often in adverts – and Jean’s honest and thought-provoking article depicts a situation every working mother has had to confront at one time or another…

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 NETGALLEY arc Select by Marit Wiesenberg

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I was caught by the intriguing premise and loved the cover, so requested this one as I’m always a sucker for science fiction scenarios.

Coming from a race of highly-evolved humans, Julia Jaynes has the perfect life. The perfect family. The perfect destiny. But there’s something rotten beneath the surface—dangerous secrets her father is keeping; abilities she was never meant to have; and an elite society of people determined to keep their talents hidden and who care nothing for the rest of humanity.

I really like Wiesenberg’s writing style – the punchy first person point of view drew me in and kept the pages turning as we see this mysterious mega-rich family from Julia’s perspective. I especially enjoyed the fact that as in the better first person narratives, Julia is busy telling us one thing, while something quite different is unfolding in front of our eyes. She tells us that those with the greatest abilities are especially valued in their community – and then we realise that she and a group of highly talented boys have been sidelined and more or less forbidden to use their prodigious skills. Julie emphasises and indeed, tries to carry out the firm instruction not to draw attention to herself. But we also learn that her father has achieved celebrity status by dint of having accrued huge wealth, having film-star looks and refusing to give any interviews to the press. As the charismatic leader of their community, he is very much about ‘do as I say, not as I do’.

I loved the incident at the swimming pool, which beautifully illustrated the tension between what Julia tries to do and the sheer impossibility of those instructions. Rich, beautiful and very entitled, Julia is nonetheless a highly sympathetic protagonist, who I cared about especially when it became obvious she is being set up to fail. While I wasn’t particularly invested in the romance, it felt convincing and I enjoyed the game-changing scene near the end that provided the final reveal. And the very final page has one more twist that leaves an interesting plot point dangling and ready for the next book.

Overall, this is a fast, enjoyable read with plenty of tension and an appealing protagonist. Recommended for fans of school-based stories with a strong romance. While I obtained the arc of Select from the publisher via NetGalley, this has in no way influenced my unbiased review.
8/10

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

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When I saw this one on Netgalley, I immediately requested it, having read the first book, The Thousandth Floor – see my review here – and really enjoying it.

New York City, 2118. A glittering vision of the future, where anything is possible – if you want it enough.

Manhattan is home to a thousand-story supertower, a beacon of futuristic glamour and high-tech luxury… and to millions of people living scandalous, secretive lives. Leda is haunted by nightmares of what happened on the worst night of her life. She’s afraid the truth will get out – which is why she hires Watt, her very own hacker, to keep an eye on all of the witnesses for her. But what happens when their business relationship turns personal? When Rylin receives a scholarship to an elite upper-floor school, her life transforms overnight. But being here also means seeing the boy she loves: the one whose heart she broke, and who broke hers in return. Avery is grappling with the reality of her forbidden romance – is there anywhere in the world that’s safe for them to be together? And then there’s Calliope, the mysterious, bohemian beauty who’s arrived in New York with a devious goal in mind – and too many secrets to count. Here in the Tower, no one is safe – because someone is watching their every move, someone with revenge in mind. After all, in a world of such dazzling heights, you’re always only one step away from a devastating fall…

This YA near-future thriller bristles with intrigue, including an intended con, a guilt-ridden girl desperate to cover her tracks and prepared to go to any lengths to do so and a young couple who have it all – except each other. Most of these characters are materially pampered, living as they do in the lap of luxury with all sorts of extra add-ons gifted by near-future technology that we don’t yet possess. I really like these futuristic nifty touches McGee includes throughout the story without impeding the pace in any way.

I also enjoyed the fact that McGee isn’t content to merely present us with an ensemble of privileged youngsters, who inevitably are saddled with entitled attitudes – she takes us into their lives to the extent that even if we don’t like them, we do understand what drives them. As it happens, there was no one among the cast who I didn’t like. While initially, it took me a little while to recall who was doing what to whom, once I rebonded with all the protagonists, I found myself caring about all of them. After that, the pages turned themselves as the storyline advances through the alternating viewpoints of each one of the characters trying to make their way in a glittering world where they are the object of a lot of jealous scrutiny.

There is a nice moral lurking within this story that McGee keeps downplayed, making it all the more effective. Happiness doesn’t equal the next designer dress, beautiful piece of jewellery or wonderful party – instead it is about friendship, trust and love, both within and outside families.

Any grizzles? Hm. There is a dramatic incident near the end of the story that radically shifts the dynamic and the person responsible apparently comes out of nowhere. Of course, if you have read the first book, you will instantly recognise the name and understand what is powering her actions. I did feel that it wouldn’t have unduly lengthened the book to have a couple of chapters featuring this particular character, giving us more of her backstory. Having said that, it certainly isn’t a dealbreaker and is more of an observation as someone who habitually picks up book series halfway through.

Once more, the story ends with a dramatic climax, so that I shall be eagerly looking out for the next slice of this adventure. Recommended for those who like their YA with plenty of tension in a very cool futuristic setting. While I obtained the arc of The Dazzling Heights from the publisher via NetGalley, this has in no way influenced my unbiased review.
8/10

Sunday Post – 20th August 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.

Thank you, everyone so much for your kind good wishes for my sister’s speedy recovery – I have always maintained that book lovers are the loveliest folks and this is yet more proof… Your wishes on her behalf have clearly had an impact because I cannot believe how quickly she is healing – the bruising, though still spectacular, is improving day on day. The hospital were delighted with her when we returned last Tuesday and today we are attending an eye appointment at the local hospital. We have been so impressed at the excellence and kindness of all the hospital staff we have encountered throughout this whole episode – from the ambulancemen who stopped by in A & E to wish her well during their break on that first traumatic day, to the lovely doctor who suggested we have a coffee while waiting for the blood test – and then phoned to give the results while we were sipping our beverages.

Other than that, this week I have managed to write the course notes for my Creative Writing classes and complete some editing tasks. My marvellous writing buddy Mhairi came over for the day on Thursday and we talked through writing stuff in general as well as catching up with each other’s lives. On Thursday evening Himself and I went out for a lovely Chinese meal with my sister and her younger son who was visiting. On Friday I received the exciting news that my short story ‘A Dire Emergency’ has been accepted for the anthology Holding on By Our Fingertips.

This week I have read:

The Voyage of the Basilisk – Book 3 of The Memoirs of Lady Trent by Marie Brennan
Devoted readers of Lady Trent’s earlier memoirs, A Natural History of Dragons and The Tropic of Serpents, may believe themselves already acquainted with the particulars of her historic voyage aboard the Royal Survey Ship Basilisk, but the true story of that illuminating, harrowing, and scandalous journey has never been revealed—until now. Six years after her perilous exploits in Eriga, Isabella embarks on her most ambitious expedition yet: a two-year trip around the world to study all manner of dragons in every place they might be found. From feathered serpents sunning themselves in the ruins of a fallen civilization to the mighty sea serpents of the tropics, these creatures are a source of both endless fascination and frequent peril. Accompanying her is not only her young son, Jake, but a chivalrous foreign archaeologist whose interests converge with Isabella’s in ways both professional and personal. Science is, of course, the primary objective of the voyage, but Isabella’s life is rarely so simple. She must cope with storms, shipwrecks, intrigue, and warfare, even as she makes a discovery that offers a revolutionary new insight into the ancient history of dragons.
This alternate history charting the life of renowned explorer and dragon expert, Isabella Trent is a joy. I was in dire need of excellent escapist fantasy fiction, preferably about dragons, and this offering was perfect.

 

Penric’s Fox – Book 3 of the Penric and Desdemona novella series by Lois McMaster Bujold
Some eight months after the events of Penric and the Shaman, Learned Penric, sorcerer and scholar, travels to Easthome, the capital of the Weald. There he again meets his friends Shaman Inglis and Locator Oswyl. When the body of a sorceress is found in the woods, Oswyl draws him into another investigation; they must all work together to uncover a mystery mixing magic, murder and the strange realities of Temple demons.
While this is actually the fifth book to be published in this series, chronologically the events occur after the second book, Penric and the Shaman. This intriguing murder mystery gives us yet another slice of this rich world as we get to see more of Penric’s gradual growth. An entertaining instalment in this impressive series that has become one of the few must-buy books Himself and I pre-order as soon as they come available.

 

The Real-Town Murders – Book 1 of The Real-Town Murders series by Adam Roberts
Alma is a private detective in a near-future England, a country desperately trying to tempt people away from the delights of Shine, the immersive successor to the internet. But most people are happy to spend their lives plugged in, and the country is decaying. Alma’s partner is ill, and has to be treated without fail every 4 hours, a task that only Alma can do. If she misses the 5 minute window her lover will die. She is one of the few not to access the Shine.
So when Alma is called to an automated car factory to be shown an impossible death and finds herself caught up in a political coup, she knows that getting too deep may leave her unable to get home.
Another storming read – a locked-room murder mystery that rapidly turns into a high-stakes conspiracy set in the near-future. I loved this one and am absolutely thrilled to note it is intended to be the first in a series.

My posts last week:

Sunday Post – 13th August

Review of The Last Straw – Book 3 of A Diary of a Wimpy Kid series by Jeff Kinney

Teaser Tuesday featuring The Real-Town Murders – Book 1 of The Real-Town Murders series by Adam Roberts

Review of The Masked City – Book 2 of The Invisible Book series by Genevieve Cogman

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Penric’s Fox – Book 3 of the Penric and Desdemona novella series by Lois McMaster Bujold

Friday Face-off – Silver apples of the moon… featuring Golden Apples of the Sun by Ray Bradbury

Discovery Challenge 2017 and Tackling my TBR – July roundup

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

The NHS saved me. As a scientist I must help to save it. https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/aug/18/nhs-scientist-stephen-hawking?CMP=share_btn_tw I don’t normally tweet or comment on issues outside the book world, but after my sister’s recent seizure, I strongly echo Stephen Hawking’s sentiments

Lola’s Ramblings: Do You Clean Out Your Pile of Review Books? http://lolasreviews.com/lolas-ramblings-do-you-clean-out-your-pile-of-review-books/
As a fellow reviewer, I was very interested to see how someone else keeps tabs on their review copies

Where’s Cassini now? Countdown has just started http://earthianhivemind.net/2017/08/17/wheres-cassini-now-countdown-just-started/
Another excellent, informative article from Steph about another exciting chapter in the exploration of our solar system

Tilted Poles https://photolicioux.wordpress.com/2017/08/09/tilted-poles/ I love this photo – I’m not sure why…

The Best Poems about Holidays https://interestingliterature.com/2017/08/16/the-best-poems-about-holidays/ As we are bang in the middle of the holiday season, this article seems particularly apt…

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.