I’d read and enjoyed the previous two books in this series, The Midnight Queen and Lady of Magick, so was pleased to see this third one was available – I love the depth of this enchanting world, where Christianity didn’t sweep through and wipe out all the pagan religions, which now exist in this Regency era alternate history.
BLURB: Three years after taking up residence at the University of Din Edin, Sophie and Gray return to London, escorting the heiress of Alba to meet the British prince to whom she is betrothed. Sparks fail to fly between the pragmatic Lucia of Alba and the romantic Prince Roland, and the marriage alliance is cast into further doubt when the men who tried to poison King Henry are discovered to have escaped from prison…
And that’s as much of the chatty blurb I’m prepared to include. I firmly advise you to read the previous two books in this series before attempting this one. The world where the UK and France are still fractured into a number of states, where the Roman and pagan gods exist side by side, which provides a complex backdrop to the action.
Things have moved on for Sophie and Gray and in this book, there is far more in the viewpoint of Joanna, Sophie’s feisty younger sister and her very close friend and the love of her life, Gwendolyn. I really liked their relationship, which is sparky as they also have to negotiate the social norms of the time, which does not approve of, or acknowledge their love.
What worked really well for me was how Lucia and Roland’s relationship had to unfold. It’s an arranged marriage, providing peace, stability and more prosperity for the population of two kingdoms and it’s unthinkable that it won’t go ahead. But when they meet, Roland in particular, is underwhelmed at Lucia’s attitude. Reading how they had to negotiate this issue, I was aware that it isn’t often an arranged union is looked upon as anything other than a bad thing in fantasy novels. I also was delighted just to once more sink into this unique world Hunter has created and which I really love, given the care and detail she provides in her magic-making and the political strains that a fractured kingdom causes – nicely done.
Any niggles? I’ll own to being a tad frustrated that poor old Gray and Sophie were once more wrenched apart – I do enjoy seeing them together. Though it did underline just what danger everyone is facing when the threat from the continent becomes clear, that he is sent on such a hazardous mission. I also found the pacing towards the end of the story a tad uneven, in that the build-up was brimful of tension and the denouement did wrap everything up rather rapidly. However, it wasn’t a dealbreaker. And if Hunter decides to turn this trilogy into a quartet, I’ll happily read the next one, too. I just love the world she has created. Recommended for those who enjoy interesting alternate historical settings with their fantasy adventures.
This is part of the weekly meme over at the Caffeinated Reviewer, where book bloggers can share the books and blogs they have written.
It’s been an up and down week. I’m still not fully recovered, so didn’t feel up to any fitness regime. We treated ourselves to a smart TV, so have been tucking into Picard, The Crossing, The Expanse and Outlander – all of which I’m loving. It seems a very good time to binge-watch escapist adventures, given how terrifyingly interesting Real Life is becoming. My thoughts go out to everyone, hoping you are all remaining safe and well…
On Wednesday, Himself and I went out for lunch at Haskins, enjoying the swathes of daffodils growing on the roadside and on Friday I drove to Brighton to spend the day with my daughter. It was a lovely sunny day and I thoroughly enjoyed watching my granddaughter having her swimming lesson – what a great age to become water confident. Only just walking, she is learning to enjoy putting her head under the water, splash about in the pool and hold onto the side. This morning, I met up with my sister and we had breakfast together at our favourite riverside café, putting the world to rights – which took some doing. I am making the most of getting out and about while I can and spending time with the people I love.
Last week I read:
AUDIOBOOK Longbourn by Jo Baker
In this irresistibly imagined belowstairs answer to Pride and Prejudice, the servants take center stage. Sarah, the orphaned housemaid, spends her days scrubbing the laundry, polishing the floors, and emptying the chamber pots for the Bennet household. But there is just as much romance, heartbreak, and intrigue downstairs at Longbourn as there is upstairs. When a mysterious new footman arrives, the orderly realm of the servants’ hall threatens to be completely, perhaps irrevocably, upended.
I’m a bit torn by this one. While the worldbuilding was brilliantly done and I very much appreciated seeing the Bennet family through the lens of the servants, the pacing was too slow in places – and that ending…! Review to follow.
On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King
Part memoir, part master class by one of the bestselling authors of all time, this superb volume is a revealing and practical view of the writer’s craft, comprising the basic tools of the trade every writer must have. King’s advice is grounded in his vivid memories from childhood through his emergence as a writer, from his struggling early career to his widely reported near-fatal accident in 1999 — and how the inextricable link between writing and living spurred his recovery. Brilliantly structured, friendly and inspiring, On Writing will empower and entertain everyone who reads it — fans, writers, and anyone who loves a great story well told.
This was a reread, given I’ve started writing my own How-To book on Characterisation. It was just as enjoyably chatty and informative as I recalled, though some of the advice on how to get your work noticed is outdated.
Minimum Wage Magic – Book 1 of the DFZ series by Rachel Aaron
My name is Opal Yong-ae, and I’m a Cleaner: a freelance mage with an art history degree who’s employed by the DFZ to sort through the mountains of magical junk people leave behind. It’s not a pretty job, or a safe one—there’s a reason I wear bite-proof gloves—but when you’re deep in debt in a lawless city where gods are real, dragons are traffic hazards, and buildings move around on their own, you don’t get to be picky about where your money comes from. You just have to make it work, even when the only thing of value in your latest repossessed apartment is the dead body of the mage who used to live there.
This is a spinoff from the amazing Heartstriker series – though you don’t need to read one to appreciate the other. Seeing as I’m loving the quirky world Aaron has forged, I was happy to dive into this offering. Review to follow.
By the Pricking of Her Thumb – Book 2 of the Real-Town Murders series by Adam Roberts
Private Investigator Alma is caught up in another impossible murder. One of the world’s four richest people may be dead – but nobody is sure which one. Hired to discover the truth behind the increasingly bizarre behaviour of the ultra-rich, Alma must juggle treating her terminally ill lover with a case which may not have a victim.
Another gnarly case for the amazing Alma, set in a dystopian world. I loved the character and the mystery – but Roberts does drift away from the main plot to eulogise about Stanley Kubrick’s films and discuss theories on the role of money in society…
The Case of the Missing Servant – Book 1 of the Vish Puri series by Tarquin Hall
The Case of the Missing Servant shows Puri (“Chubby” to his friends) and his wonderfully nicknamed employees (among them, Handbrake, Flush, and Handcream) hired for two investigations. The first is into the background of a man surprisingly willing to wed a woman her father considers unmarriageable, and the second is into the disappearance six months earlier of a servant to a prominent Punjabi lawyer, a young woman known only as Mary.
This book was part of my Valentine’s pressie from Himself – and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Hall’s depiction of contemporary India is vivid, unflinching, yet without being overly bleak or judgemental. I fell in love with Chubby when I read The Case of the Reincarnated Client and this book has cemented my affection for him.
My posts last week:
Friday Faceoff featuring WWW: Wake Book 1 of the WWW series by Robert Sawyer
February 2020 Roundup – Reading, Writing and Blogging…
*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Winterbourn Home for Vengeance and Valor by Ally Carter
*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Murder Your Darlings – Book 3 of the Francis Meadowes series by Mark McCrum
Sunday Post – 7th March 2020
Interesting/outstanding blogs and articles that have caught my attention during the last week, in no particular order:
How To Overcome Self Doubt as a Writer https://lorraineambers.com/2020/01/16/how-to-overcome-self-doubt-as-a-writer/ Having taught Creative Writing for 10 years, and written for more years than I care to recall – I’m aware just how crippling self doubt can be…
Women Building Art! https://platformnumber4.com/2020/03/07/women-building-art/ A lovely good news story about women achieving the highest accolade in a largely male-dominated industry…
Paul Brady, Arty McGlynn, Matt Molloy: Crazy Dreams (Hail St Patrick 2) https://theimmortaljukebox.com/2020/03/11/paul-brady-arty-mcglynn-matt-molloy-crazy-dreams-hail-st-patrick-2/ A fabulous article on Irish music from the awesome Thom Hickey
Thursday Doors – Cavan County Museum 5 https://jeanreinhardt.wordpress.com/2020/03/09/thursday-doors-cavan-county-museum-5/ Jean takes us back into the past…
Coronavirus and Parenting: What You Need to Know https://www.npr.org/2020/03/13/814615866/coronavirus-and-parenting-what-you-need-to-know-now?utm_campaign=storyshare&utm_source=twitter.com&utm_medium=social Given the nature of this unfolding emergency, arming our children with the knowledge to help them without overwhelming or terrifying them is a challenge. I thought this article was very helpful…
Thank you for visiting, reading, liking and/or commenting on my blog – I hope you have a peaceful, healthy week. Take care.
I found the premise rather haunting and clearly full of paranormal content, so I requested this one, looking for something a bit different – I certainly got that, alright…
BLURB: Everyone knew bestselling novelist Cassandra Tipp had twice got away with murder. Even her family were convinced of her guilt. So when she disappears, leaving only a long letter behind, they can but suspect that her conscience finally killed her. But the letter is not what anyone expected. It tells two chilling, darkly disturbing stories. One is a story of bloody nights and magical gifts, of children lost to the woods, of husbands made from twigs and leaves and feathers and bones . . . The other is the story of a little girl who was cruelly treated and grew up crooked in the shadows . . . But which story is true? And where is Cassie now?
Before I go any further – a trigger warning – this book deals with both emotional and sexual child abuse.
The story unfolds in the form of a manuscript, which Cassie has left as an extended letter to her two surviving relatives – her niece and nephew. She talks of her fractured relationship with her mother, who clearly doesn’t like or love her much – and how that washes across and poisons her relationship with her sister, while her big bear of a father watches from across the table and says nothing. Or… from the age of five, Cassie’s life is invaded by a large fae man – Pepper-Man, whom only she can see. Who feeds off her at night, in her bed. Who accompanies her during the day and forces her to break things to distract him from hurting the people around her. He takes her to the fae mound, where she meets more of his kind and she becomes more involved in their community, while her odd behaviour increasingly alienates her from her family.
So this is a story of an unreliable narrator, telling the story from her own viewpoint, directly addressing her readers as ‘you’. Which version do we believe? And yes… if you put yourself in the place of those relatives – that becomes crucially important, as Cassie leaves a doozy of a twist, right at the very end, thus really upping the stakes.
It’s beautifully written. The child is heartbreakingly realised, and whether she wandered into a fae trap and is caught in their wiles; or the victim of sustained abuse at the hands of both parents – it’s a tough place to be. And yet… it isn’t a miserable read. Cassie finds wonder and beauty in the fae world she’s caught up in.
I loved it. The pacing, writing and characterisation is masterful and beguiling. It could so easily have gone horribly wrong. And it didn’t – it’s pitch perfect. This book won’t leave me alone – a sure sign it has wriggled under my skin – and I’ll be looking out for more from this highly talented author. Though I’m not recommending it – because of the nature of the story, only you can decide whether you want to plunge into this world. But I would say, it’s been wonderfully depicted. The ebook arc copy of You Let Me In was provided by the publisher through NetGalley in return for an honest opinion of the book.
This is part of the weekly meme over at the Caffeinated Reviewer, where book bloggers can share the books and blogs they have written.
It was half term this week, so Monday was spent with Sally working on her book. We had a lot to get through so it was a long stint, though it’s great to know we’re making progress on such an important project. On Tuesday, the grandchildren came to stay for a few days and the children, my daughter and I braved the rain to visit the Wetland and Wildlife Trust. While it’s often a favourite venue, we were disappointed that the main lake was a drained, muddy mess and their website hadn’t warned us. The rain didn’t help, either – but it was still lovely to see Eliza’s excitement on seeing the ‘duckys’. And always a bonus to spend time with the family.
While the grandchildren were here, the weather continued to be atrocious with strong winds and rain almost constantly – until Friday when I was due to take them home! That didn’t stop us enjoying ourselves, though. Oscar had a game of Subbuteo Cricket with Himself, binge-watched Harry Potter films with us and helped sort out the foreign coins from a bucket full of change Rob had left behind when he headed off to L.A. Meanwhile, Frankie and I caught up with each other’s projects, went out for coffee together and he spent time working with a new box of watercolours. He also went out on Wednesday evening to catch up with Tim, while I was at Writing Group.
Yesterday, Himself and I went out for lunch together, before he returned to work, and I got back in touch with Mantivore Warrior. My sister has been recovering from last week’s mishap – many thanks for all your kind good wishes – and is now feeling a lot better. Today, I want to get more written on my novel, as I’m hoping to have the first draft completed by the end of the month – which is approaching far too fast!
Last week I read:
Skyward – Book 1 of the Skyward series by Brandon Sanderson
Spensa’s world has been under attack for decades. Now pilots are the heroes of what’s left of the human race, and becoming one has always been Spensa’s dream. Since she was a little girl, she has imagined soaring skyward and proving her bravery. But her fate is intertwined with that of her father’s—a pilot himself who was killed years ago when he abruptly deserted his team, leaving Spensa the daughter of a coward, her chances of attending Flight School slim to none. No one will let Spensa forget what her father did, yet fate works in mysterious ways. Flight school might be a long shot, but she is determined to fly. And an accidental discovery in a long-forgotten cavern might just provide her with a way to claim the stars.
I thoroughly enjoyed this coming of age, space opera adventure featuring Spensa, a feisty heroine determined not to give up. I’m delighted to realise I have the audiobook of the second book in this series.
The Doors of Eden by Adrian Tchaikovsky
Lee’s best friend went missing on Bodmin Moor, four years ago. She and Mal were chasing rumours of monsters when they found something all too real. Now Mal is back, but where has she been, and who is she working for? When government physicist Kay Amal Khan is attacked, the security services investigate. This leads MI5’s Julian Sabreur deep into terrifying new territory, where he clashes with mysterious agents of an unknown power ¬who may or may not be human. And Julian’s only clue is some grainy footage ¬– showing a woman who supposedly died on Bodmin Moor.
Tchaikovsky just goes from strength to strength – I loved this Netgalley arc, which is one of my favourite reads of the year so far. It’s a hefty read at just under 600 pages, but I tore through it as it includes all sorts of cool sci fi ideas, along with a cracking thriller. Review to follow.
My posts last week:
Interesting/outstanding blogs and articles that have caught my attention during the last couple of weeks, in no particular order:
What Genre Do You Love Most? (Reasons to Love Urban Fantasy) https://www.sunnybuzzybooks.co.uk/2020/02/what-genre-do-you-like-most-reasons-to.html?spref=tw I really enjoyed reading this one, while at the same time wondering how I’d answer these questions. Which is your favourite genre?
Jackson’s Letter and a Great Book https://jenniefitzkee.com/2020/02/17/jacksons-letter-and-a-great-book/ That Jennie is an inspired teacher is apparent from her blog – I just loved this article…
Farewell https://livinginthepagesz.wordpress.com/2020/02/10/farewell/ What a beautiful summing up of a stage in her life. Anushka’s article left me with a lump in my throat…
10 of the Best Poems by African-American Poets https://interestingliterature.com/2020/02/african-american-poems-poets/ There are quite a few here I don’t know and some I think that should be and aren’t. Do you agree with this list?
New Service at Heart of the Story: First 50 Pages Critiques! https://saraletourneauwriter.com/2020/02/21/first-50-pages-critiques/ I know from experience that Sara is an excellent editor, painstaking and skilled. So if you are looking for some advice to get your WIP on the right track, this might be of help…
Thank you for visiting, reading, liking and/or commenting on my blog – I hope you have a wonderful week.
Well this was a delightful surprise! Once again, I went looking for another interesting murder mystery after a heavy SFF diet – and came across this one…
BLURB: When a young woman comes forward claiming to be the reincarnation of Riya Kaur, a wife and mother who vanished during the bloody 1984 anti-Sikh riots, Puri is dismissive. He’s busy enough dealing with an irate matrimonial client whose daughter is complaining about her groom’s thunderous snoring. Puri’s indomitable Mummy-ji however is adamant the client is genuine. How else could she so accurately describe under hypnosis Riya Kaur’s life and final hours? Driven by a sense of duty – the original case was his late father’s – Puri manages to acquire the police file only to find that someone powerful has orchestrated a cover-up. Forced into an alliance with his mother that tests his beliefs and high blood pressure as never before, it’s only by delving into the past the help of his reincarnated client that Puri can hope to unlock the truth.
I loved this one. Puri is a very busy and increasingly successful private investigator. But this isn’t the usual setting of somewhere in the US or UK – this is bustling India. It would have been so easy to have got this disastrously wrong and it’s a credit to the author and his in-depth knowledge of Indian society and its faultlines that it worked so well. I didn’t always like Puri. He is often impatient, argumentative, and horribly dismissive of his clearly very clever mother, but he’s also loyal, essentially kind-hearted and tenacious in trying to unravel wrongdoing in a society where corruption is deep-seated and people in the highest places often look the other way.
Despite the fact I crashed midway into this series – this is Book Five and I hadn’t read any of the previous offerings in this series – I didn’t at any stage find myself floundering. Hall has a deft writing style that focused on the setting and mystery so that I was swiftly caught up in Puri’s world and didn’t want to put this one down until I had finished it.
The worldbuilding is exceptional. Not only could I clearly visualise it all – I could taste and hear Puri’s surroundings, the pollution, the constant traffic and ceaseless churn of people struggling to earn a living. While Puri’s love of food gave me an insight into its role in Indian society, as well as succeeding in making my mouth water. All this was achieved without holding up the pace or getting in the way of the narrative arc – which is a whole lot harder to pull off than Hall makes it look. As for the two crimes, running side by side, they were brought to a satisfactory enjoyable conclusion without being too tidy. I absolutely loved this one – to the extent that Himself has gone out and bought me the first four books in the series as an early Valentine’s present – no wonder I love the man so much! Highly recommended for fans of murder mysteries in enjoyable and different settings. The ebook arc copy of The Case of the Reincarnated Client was provided by the publisher through NetGalley in return for an honest opinion of the book.
I was feeling in the mood for a historical adventure, when this one caught my eye with that very pretty cover. So I was delighted when I was approved…
BLURB: My baptismal name may be Giovanna but here in my mother’s adopted country I have become plain Joan; I am not pink-cheeked and golden-haired like the beauties they admire. I have olive skin and dark features – black brows over ebony eyes and hair the colour of a raven’s wing…
When Joan Vaux is sent to live in the shadow of the Tower of London, she must learn to navigate the treacherous waters of this new England under the Tudors. Like the ravens, Joan must use her eyes and her senses, if Henry and his new dynasty are to prosper and thrive.
I very quickly bonded with this intelligent, sparky young woman, whose unfashionable looks didn’t bother her all that much, as she had developed a horror of marriage and childbirth. Through her eyes, in first person viewpoint, we get a real sense of her life as an attendant of Elizabeth of York, betrothed to Henry VII, the first Tudor king after years of savage fighting during the Wars of the Roses that tore apart the kingdom. I’d studied this period of history, so knew a lot about the events Hickson covers in the book – but it was a real joy having such a ringside seat to this fascinating time. Through Joan’s eyes, we see Elizabeth’s life unfold as the Yorkist princess, having to put aside her grief for her lost brothers (the princes in the Tower) and her dead father, as it is her place to found a new dynasty.
Hickson’s thorough research builds up a vivid sense of daily life, where Joan is at the beck and call of her royal mistress, learning of events that shake the kingdom through the people at the centre of it all. I knew that childbirth was a major issue for women up until medical advances made it safer, but this book brought home to me the sheer terror of facing such an ordeal with no effective painkillers and a high death toll from the likes of breech births and secondary infections. There was also the heartbreak of losing babies and children, who also were carried off by diseases and infections in very high numbers.
I’m aware that I’ve made this book sound a rather dreary round of catastrophes and death – and it’s nothing of the sort. Joan is a bright, engaging character with plenty of spirit and is strangely drawn to the ravens who roost around The Tower. She is aware of her good fortune, has a loving relationship with her mother and her benefactor, the Lady Margaret who looked after her while her mother was busy at court. It was interesting to see that Tudor working women had the same strains on their personal lives that we experience in modern life.
I’ve noticed that Hickson has written a number of other books centred on this period and I’m going to see if I can get my hands on them. Her deft, lively writing style and detailed knowledge that gave the book such a strong period feel without compromising the pace or narrative arc meant that I found this one difficult to put down. Highly recommended for those who enjoy historical adventures set around the Tudor period. The ebook arc copy of Lady of the Ravens was provided by the publisher through NetGalley in return for an honest opinion of the book.
This meme was started by Books by Proxy, whose fabulous idea was to compare UK and US book covers and decide which is we prefer. This meme is being nurtured by Lynn’s Book Blog and this week we are featuring covers with NEW BEGINNINGS. I’ve selected The Wee Free Men – Book 1 of the Tiffany Aching series and Book 30 of the Discworld series by Terry Pratchett – though it really is more of a spinoff series, you and don’t have to have read any of the other Discworld novels to thoroughly enjoy this one. Why this book? Because the Nac Mac Feegles provided all sorts of family catchwords for a while – ‘Crivens!’ being one – and this was the start of all that fun…
This edition was produced by HarperTrophy in 2004, featuring a stunned-looking sheep being swarmed by the Nac Mac Feegles. I really like this one, which earns a gold star from me for ensuring an incident from the book ends up on the cover. I am less thrilled with the very flat rendition of the artwork and rather blocky, charmless title and author font. However, overall I think this is an enjoyable cover that makes you stop and look twice at the book.
Published in April 2004 by Corgi Childrens, this one is my favourite. I love the overall effect of the massed Nac Mac Feegles and the beautiful purple tinge to the cover, along with all sorts of nice additional details that make sense to anyone who has read the book. I also like both fonts, which work really well with the artwork. It’s the most gloriously unfairylike cover of fairies I’ve ever seen.
This edition, published by Corgi Childrens in July 2010, is also a good effort. Again, we have the Nac Mac Feegles, but also Tiffany and Miss Tick. However, the way the artwork fades into the surrounding black makes this one feel a bit oppressive, rather than imbued with the marvellous energetic world created in this corner of the Discworld.
This edition, produced by HarperCollins in 2016 is, I think, the weakest of all the covers. I love that bright red – it really draws the eye and is a good strong colour for a strong, vivid story. But why, oh why did they just opt for a boringly generic shield and weapons, when they could have put a grumpy-looking Rob Anybody on the cover? Not even the addition of the blue butterflies can rescue it from looking far too ordinary.
This edition, published by Doubleday Childrens in July 2017 is a real contender. A fierce-looking Tiffany wielding her frying pan glowers out at us from the stark black background which is prevented from looking too gloomy by the really effective use of that lovely copper-coloured font, along with the stars sprinkling the corners. The contrast with the pale image of Tiffany against the black really pops – but the dealbreaker for me is that nasty round sticker announcing it has won the Carnegie medal. Which is your favourite?
These days I read two books simultaneously – one ebook and one audiobook. So the two books I’m starting this year with are both fantasy and both dealing with witchcraft, but so very different:-
KINDLE Ebook Witch – Book 2 of the Doppleganger series by Marie Brennan
Created by the merging of witch and doppelganger, Mirei is a unique being. Her extraordinary magic makes her the most poweful witch alive—and a notorious social outcast. While Satomi, the leader of the witches’ ruling Primes, hails Mirei as a miracle, rival Primes proclaim that Mirei is an evil abomination… and that those who champion her must be destroyed.
I thoroughly enjoyed Warrior, the first book in this duology – but I’m finding this one even more engrossing. The fallout as Mirei’s very existence upends hundreds of years of custom is predictably hostile by certain factions. This gives an inventive, skilled author like Brennan all sorts of places to take this story – great fun! I will be reviewing both books in this duology in due course.
AUDIOBOOK The Rules of Magic by Alice Hoffman
For the Owens family, love is a curse that began in 1620, when Maria Owens was charged with witchery for loving the wrong man. Hundreds of years later, in New York City at the cusp of the sixties, when the whole world is about to change, Susanna Owens knows that her three children are dangerously unique. Difficult Franny, with skin as pale as milk and blood red hair, shy and beautiful Jet, who can read other people’s thoughts, and charismatic Vincent, who began looking for trouble on the day he could walk.
From the start Susanna sets down rules for her children: No walking in the moonlight, no red shoes, no wearing black, no cats, no crows, no candles, no books about magic. And most importantly, never, ever, fall in love. But when her children visit their Aunt Isabelle, in the small Massachusetts town where the Owens family has been blamed for everything that has ever gone wrong, they uncover family secrets and begin to understand the truth of who they are. Back in New York City each begins a risky journey as they try to escape the family curse.
I’ll be honest – I don’t love this one as much as I thought I would. The prose is coolly elegant and each of the main protagonists are well drawn, but I feel rather distanced by the viewpoint and structure. There’s no risk of not finishing it, though – so hopefully I will reach a point when I suddenly find I’ve completely bonded with the world and the characters. Review to follow.
I have had another stormingly good reading year. The highlight being my immediate love affair with audiobooks, once I got hold of a Kindle Fire which could cope with the selection I’d already bought my dyslexic grandson to encourage him to keep reading. Needless to say, I’ve added to that list…
During 2019 I read 168 books and wrote 129 full reviews, with 26 still to be published. In no particular order, these are the books that have stood out for me. It might be that I didn’t originally give a 10 – but something about these books has stayed with me and won’t let go, which is why they have made the cut. And none of this top ten rubbish – I can’t possibly whittle down my list any further.
Oracle’s War – Book 2 of The Olympus series by David Hair and Cath Mayo
I loved the layered characterisation of Odysseus and his complex relationships in this intelligent and politically aware retelling of events leading up to the Trojan War. This one has stayed in my memory and I’ve found myself often thinking about it. See my review.
AUDIOBOOK The Dark Lord of Derkholm by Diana Wynne Jones
I’d read this book before – but listening to the excellent narration by Jonathan Broadbent brought home the darker side of the story. It certainly isn’t a children’s read – as the exploitation of the magic kingdom takes some shocking turns, and while Wynne Jones doesn’t go into graphic detail, they are still there. Riveting and thought provoking. See my review.
Atlas Alone – Book 4 of the Planetfall series by Emma Newman
This has been one of the outstanding science fiction series of the last few years for me and this latest slice in the adventure held me to the end. Dee’s driven, edgy character is so compelling – Newman writes these tricky protagonists with amazing skill. See my review.
Ascending – Book 1 of the Vardeshi Saga by Meg Pechenick
Alien first contact tales are a staple of science fiction, but rarely have they been covered with such skilled detail, featuring such a self-effacing protagonist as Avery. The second book is also an excellent read. See my review.
Rough Magic: Riding the World’s Wildest Horse Race by Lara Prior-Palmer
I picked up this true tale of adventure by accident – and I’m so pleased I did. The author opted to take part on a whim and even at the beginning, was clearly not really prepared for what followed. This fascinating account stayed with me throughout the year. See my review.
AUDIOBOOK Mythos: the Greek Myths retold, written and narrated by Stephen Fry
Listening to this offering while decorating the bathroom sweetened hours of tedious work as Fry’s smooth, chatty manner belied the scholarship and rigor that has gone into this retelling. See my review.
This is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone
This is probably the most quirky, extraordinary read of this year’s selection. A series of letters between two protagonists on either side of a savage war – think Romeo and Juliet with knobs on – drives the narrative in this beautiful, desperate book. See my review.
AUDIOBOOK A Room Full of Bones – Book 4 of the Ruth Galloway series by Elly Griffiths
This offering took me completely by surprise. In fact, I’d felt rather fed up with Ruth’s struggles in the previous book – but this story took all the ingredients and ramped up the tension to an unexpectedly heart-rending degree that I still think about… See my review.
Novacene: The Coming Age of Hyperintelligence by James Lovelock
The second non-fiction book in this list, I found Lovelock’s take on our future absolutely fascinating and unexpectedly uplifting. Given he is now over a hundred years old and has been working in a variety of scientific fields until very recently, his opinion is worth reading. See my review.
AUDIOBOOK The Empty Grave – Book 5 of the Lockwood & Co series by Jonathan Stroud
This was an unexpected treat. One of Frankie’s chosen series, I wasn’t prepared for the sheer quality of the characterisation and worldbuilding, although I should have been, after thoroughly enjoying the Bartimaeus Trilogy. This final book brought the outstanding series to a triumphant conclusion. It goes without saying that you MUST read the previous four books first. See my review.
Sweep of the Blade – Book 4 of the Innkeeper Chronicles by Ilona Andrews
I find this quirky science fiction/fantasy mash-up just goes on getting better and better. I really suffered a profound book hangover after I finished this one – and that doesn’t happen to me all that often. See my review.
Circe by Madeline Miller
I’m conscious there is rather a strong Greek myth theme running through this list – but that just goes to show how well-written these books are. And this one is a total joy. The protagonist isn’t pretty or charismatic, so finetunes her magical skills in an effort to prevail alongside sneering relations. And then it all goes wrong… Fabulous, layered characterisation of a powerful woman who has endured a shedload of suffering without it being bleak or self-pitying. See my mini-review.
Akin by Emma Donoghue
In these days of serial monogamy and blended families, this interesting, unsentimental book drills down into what – exactly – makes up family. Brilliantly executed and thought provoking. See my review.
Lent by Jo Walton
This author is one of the finest, most talented writers in the SFF genre today, so I was thrilled when this one came out. Settling in to read it, I was happily engrossed in 15th century Florence – until a THING happens that changes the whole dynamic. Brilliantly written and completely engrossing, if you were to force me to choose a single outstanding read this year – you’d be a cruel beast for doing so and I’d probably never speak to you again – it would be this one. See my review.
AUDIOBOOK How To Fight a Dragon’s Fury – Book 12 of the How To Train Your Dragon series by Cressida Cowell
While I’d read a number of these books to the grandchildren, for one reason or another, I’d never reached the end, so when I realised we had the complete series on Audible, I started listening to the wonderful David Tennant’s narration. And then came the end… I was listening to this one with tears pouring down my face, unable to complete my chores. Epic fantasy of this calibre, written for reluctant primary school readers, is a rarity. Review to follow.
AUDIOBOOK To Say Nothing of the Dog – Book 2 of the Oxford Time Travel series by Connie Willis
This quirky, humorous homage to Jerome K. Jerome’s Three Men in a Boat is funny and completely engrossing – a thumping good listen. I loved it and though it isn’t quite as spectacular as her classic, Doomsday Book, that doesn’t prevent it making this list. See my review.
Have you read any of these offerings? What did you think of them? I’d love to hear your thoughts on these books! Wishing everyone a very happy, book-filled 2020…
This is part of the weekly meme over at the Caffeinated Reviewer, where book bloggers can share the books and blogs they have written.
It’s been madly busy and great fun… We finally completed putting up the Christmas decorations on Monday and Mhairi and I went out for lunch together – I have missed her! It was lovely being able to catch up with each other as she stayed over for a few days, happy to spend evenings writing while I gadded about. On Tuesday evening, I picked up Sally and we went to a local pub for an excellent meal with some former teaching colleagues. While there, I ran into a couple of former students and caught up on what they are now doing, which was lovely. One works for the police and the other for the ambulance service… They were the hardest-working girls I’ve ever taught. On Wednesday evening, I was out with my writing group – we went to a tapas bar, which was a new gastronomic experience and one I’d like to repeat as it was absolutely delicious.
On Thursday, Himself and I drove to Ringwood to visit his parents and give his mother her birthday presents and drop off Christmas pressies. It started raining on the way there, and then properly set in, absolutely pouring throughout our visit, so we set off early as we didn’t fancy doing the journey back along the motorway in the torrential rain in the dark. It was a good call, as the rain was pelting down and fields either side of the road were flooding. On Friday morning, Sally and I had a meeting to determine the new direction that Tim’s syllabus should take now we have finished with external exams. It was very productive and we got a lot done.
We were due to spend Saturday and today at my daughter’s looking after the grandchildren as she and her partner had planned a night away to celebrate her birthday, but the flooding put paid to that. They decided not to go, as they didn’t want to get trapped away from the family. I felt so sorry for her… So I am popping up to see her tomorrow with her cards, presents and a cake I’ve iced for her. In the meantime, I’ve now sent out cards, bought nearly all the presents, wrapped most of them, and organised a couple of games for Boxing Day. I haven’t yet started on the cooking I want to get done in advance for Christmas Day, but hopefully I’ll manage to get most of that sorted out on Christmas Eve.
Last week I read:
AUDIOBOOK A Hat Full of Sky – Book 32 of the Discworld series by Terry Pratchett
No real witch would casually step out of their body, leaving it empty. Tiffany Aching does. And there’s something just waiting for a handy body to take over. Something ancient and horrible, which can’t die.
To deal with it, Tiffany has to go to the very heart of what makes her a witch . . .
This audio version is a delight. I’d read this one a couple of times – but still ended up laughing aloud at the humour. I just LOVE Granny Weatherwax, who is now definitely going to be my role model in dealing with people from now on. Though I may pass on the ratty hat, scruffy black dress and hobnail boots. Review to follow.
Lady Hotspur by Tessa Gratton
Inspired by Shakespeare’s Henry IV, Lady Hotspur continues the saga of Innis Lear, centuries later, as revolution, love, and a betrayal corrupt the descendants of two warring kingdoms.
Hal was once a knight, carefree and joyous, sworn to protect her future queen Banna Mora. But after a rebellion led by her own mother, Caleda, Hal is now the prince of Lionis, heir to the throne. The pressure of her crown and bloody memories of war plague her, as well as a need to shape her own destiny, no matter the cost.
Lady Hotspur, known as the Wolf of Aremoria for her temper and warcraft, never expected to be more than a weapon. She certainly never expected to fall in love with the fiery Hal or be blindsided by an angry Queen’s promise to remake the whole world in her own image—a plan Hotspur knows will lead to tragedy.
Banna Mora kept her life, but not her throne. Fleeing to Innis Lear to heal her heart and plot revenge, the stars and roots of Innis Lear will teach her that the only way to survive a burning world is to learn to breathe fire.
These three women, together or apart, are the ones who have the power to bring the once-powerful Aremoria back to life—or destroy it forever.
This brick of a book took a while to get through and I’m rather conflicted. Part of it was very well done. I liked the world and I loved the character interaction most of the way through – but I reckon Gratton messed up the ending… Review to follow.
My posts last week:
Huge apologies – with a visitor staying for a chunk of the week and being out and about the rest of the time, I simply haven’t been online enough to interact, comment or be able to recommend any articles. Thank you for visiting, reading, liking and/or commenting on my blog – I hope you have a wonderful week.