Category Archives: feisty heroine

Review of KINDLE Ebook The Dog Walker – Book 5 of The Detective’s Daughter by Lesley Thomson

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I was delighted to see this one on Kindle as I had wanted to attend the book launch, but simply been too ill. Now that I have got ahead with my Netgalley arcs, I could give sufficient time to properly savour this book as I love Thomson’s writing – see my review of The House With No Rooms.

January, 1987. In the depths of winter, only joggers and dog walkers brave the Thames towpath after dark. Helen Honeysett, a young newlywed, sets off for an evening run from her riverside cottage and disappears. Twenty-nine years later, Helen’s body has never been found. Her husband has asked Stella Darnell, a private detective, and her side-kick Jack Harmon, to find out what happened all those years ago. But when the five households on that desolate stretch of towpath refuse to give up their secrets, Stella and Jack find themselves hunting a killer whose trail has long gone cold.

I thoroughly enjoyed this one. Thomson’s atmospheric writing this time around has taken us to another obscure corner of London – she seems to specialise in those – where a crime was committed that shatters one family and blights the lives of others, including the husband of the victim. With two timelines running – one set around the time of the murder and afterwards as the consequences begin to stack up, while the other one is set here and now centred on the investigative efforts of Stella and Jack.

While there is not much in the way of gore in Thomson’s work, that doesn’t mean it is a particularly cosy read. Murder is not treated as an interesting puzzle here, but an act that has cut short a life and shattered the lives of others caught up in the investigation. Thomson writes particularly well from the pov of children who are involved, trying to make sense of what they see and hear. The sense of damage caused is reinforced by Jack’s own experiences as a child, which means he often imagines he is talking to his long-dead mother and goes on long, nocturnal walks as he has problems sleeping.

That said, this isn’t overall a gloomy read, either. While Thomson refuses to treat the crime with levity, Stella’s relationship with her mother, Suzie, is often amusing and her efforts to control Stanley, the little poodle she has acquired, are particularly funny if you have ever owned a dog. While Stanley is evidently fond of her, she clearly isn’t someone who is a natural around animals.

But for me, the reason why this is a standout read, is that in common with the rest of the series, the investigation into the crime slowly unravels. There are no speedy shortcuts. Between them, Stella and Jack piece together snippets of information to help discover who was doing what when the crime was committed. Some of those snippets prove to be wrong, or lead them astray – some we know from the start cannot be right, thanks to the flashbacks which give us, the reader, insights into aspects of the crime and its impact on the bystanders that Stella and Jack cannot have. Thomson’s thorough, precise approach means this book is a joy. In attempting to find out who killed Helen, Stella and Jack need to talk to all the residents in the row of cottages running alongside the towpath – in getting to meet all the potential suspects and witnesses, we also are introduced to a cast of characters who bounce off the page with their vividness.

One of the bonuses in having read the previous books – though it isn’t necessary to do so in order to enjoy The Dog Walker – is that we also have the pleasure of meeting up again with the likes of Suzie, Stella’s mother, and Lucie May, journalist and former lover of Terry Darnell, Stella’s father. I particularly enjoyed the role that Lucie played in this story and how it gave us a further insight into her character.

If you enjoy reading books more about the why than the gory deed itself – if you enjoy watching characters’ motivations and secrets unpeeled, then track this one down. While there are many cold case mysteries out there – books of this quality don’t come along all that often.

10/10

Sunday Post – 25th 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 sweltering, which I loved. But even I was glad of the air-con in the car as we drove to Ringwood to see my mother and father-in-law for Father’s Day. It was lovely to see them again – and admire their marvellous display of sweet peas they’ve grown.

This was another very hectic week – Monday we had the family coming to stay, so it was a case of ensuring bedrooms were all ready to go. I was teaching at Northbrook in the evening – we had two excellent sessions this week, with a great range of thought-provoking and well written pieces of work from the students. I cannot believe this coming week sees the final session of my Creative Writing classes for the year.

On Wednesday – the hottest day of the year so far – I decided to rejoin my Pilates and Fitstep group. I am once more the newbie, as the Littlehampton class has folded due to lack of numbers and the Middleton group is far more advanced. I muddled through and just jigged around in time to the music when I got hopelessly lost, but loved taking part once again. In the afternoon, I was teaching Tim – we were tweaking and rewriting song lyrics for the film as the cast will be in the studio recording the songs in just over a fortnight’s time. In the evening, it was writing group. There were only three of us, but we were able to sit out in the garden as it steadily grew darker – bliss!

On Thursday, writing buddy Mhairi came over for the day and my sister also popped in as she was waiting for her broadband to be connected. In the evening, I attended Tim’s show with the Chichester Free School – it was an entertaining evening as the standard was impressive. Tim performed ‘You Got to Pick a Pocket or Two’ as Fagin from Oliver and ‘Evermore’ from Sleeping Beauty, which he did beautifully and had me in tears… It is so wonderful to see him up on the stage performing so confidently and with such talent and passion.

On Friday morning, Tim reflected on his very positive experience of performing in this show during his lesson. He had composed a new tune – a lovely quirky number and after he performed it for me, I asked him if he could call it ‘Sarah’ and let me have a copy of it as a birthday present… He was delighted and was only too happy to do so. He also played me the finale for the film – and once more, I found myself filling up as I listened to it – such a hauntingly beautiful piece of music. In the afternoon – I went to the hairdresser and had my hair dyed purple…

Oscar stayed over on his own on Friday night, as Frances had a sleepover with a school friend before John picked her up from Brighton and we had both grandchildren last night. Sadly, the weather has been a whole lot cooler with spells of misty rain at times and while I know the garden and landscape could do with the moisture, I would have loved to have taken Oscar for a walk along the beach if the weather had been halfway decent.

As it has once more, been such a very busy week with the family staying over and so much going on, my reading and blogging has suffered. Apologies for not responding with my usual promptness.

This week I have read:
A Peace Divided – Book 2 of the Peacekeeper series by Tanya Huff
Gunnery Sergeant Torin Kerr had been the very model of a Confederation Marine. No one who’d ever served with her could imagine any circumstance that would see her walking away from the Corps. But that was before Torin learned the truth about the war the Confederation was fighting…before she’d been declared dead and had spent time in a prison that shouldn’t exist…before she’d learned about the “plastic” beings who were really behind the war between the Confederation and the Others. That was when Torin left the military for good. Yet she couldn’t walk away from preserving and protecting everything the Confederation represented. Instead, ex-Gunnery Sergeant Torin Kerr drew together an elite corps of friends and allies–some ex-Marines, some civilians with unique skills–and together they prepared to take on covert missions that the Justice Department and the Corps could not–or would not–officially touch. But after their first major mission, it became obvious that covert operations were not going to be enough. Although the war is over, the fight goes on and the Justice Department finds its regular Wardens unable to deal with violence and the people trained to use it. Ex-Gunnery Sergeant Torin Kerr has a solution: Strike Teams made up of ex-military personnel, small enough to maneuver quickly, able to work together if necessary. Justice has no choice but to implement her idea and Torin puts her team of independent contractors back into uniform. It isn’t war, it is policing, but it often looks much the same.
No… that wasn’t the book – it was only the blurb, honest. I really enjoyed this thoughtful, politically aware addition to this strong, well-written military science fiction adventure.

Sherlock Mars by Jackie Kingdon
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 science fiction cosy mystery is great fun – I’m a sucker for whodunit mysteries set in space and this is one of the cosy variety…

My posts last week:

Sunday Post – 18th June 2017

Shoot for the Moon Challenge 2017 – May Roundup

Teaser Tuesday featuring A Peace Divided – Book 2 of the Peacekeeper series by Tanya Huff

Review of Cold-Forged Flame – Book 1 of the Ree Varekai series by Marie Brennan

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of A Peace Divided – Book 2 of the Peacekeeper series by Tanya Huff

Friday Face-off – In ancient times cats were worshipped as gods… featuring Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats by T.S. Eliot

Review of A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

This week, I simply haven’t been spending sufficient time online to be able to compile a list of intriguing and entertaining blog posts. In the meantime, 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 KINDLE Ebook A Peace Divided – Book 2 of the Peacekeeper series by Tanya Huff.

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I thoroughly enjoy Tanya Huff’s writing, and this series started with a bang in An Ancient Peace. So does this second book sustain the momentum?

Gunnery Sergeant Torin Kerr had been the very model of a Confederation Marine. No one who’d ever served with her could imagine any circumstance that would see her walking away from the Corps. But that was before Torin learned the truth about the war the Confederation was fighting…before she’d been declared dead and had spent time in a prison that shouldn’t exist…before she’d learned about the “plastic” beings who were really behind the war between the Confederation and the Others. That was when Torin left the military for good. Yet she couldn’t walk away from preserving and protecting everything the Confederation represented. Instead, ex-Gunnery Sergeant Torin Kerr drew together an elite corps of friends and allies–some ex-Marines, some civilians with unique skills–and together they prepared to take on covert missions that the Justice Department and the Corps could not–or would not–officially touch. But after their first major mission, it became obvious that covert operations were not going to be enough.

I really like the premise of this book. In this slice of the campaign against the mysterious plastic beings who have created so much chaos, an archaeological team discover what they think might be traces of plastic in a pre-industrial society. And that is enough to draw down some very unwelcome attention. In multiple viewpoint, the story structure is interesting – we have a flurry of action as the hapless archaeologists are overrun and then we are inevitably drawn into the political aspects alongside witnessing how the scientists on the archaeological dig are being brutalised by some very unpleasant mercenaries.

At this point, before Torin’s team are engaged, what keeps the storyline humming is the interaction between them and the politicking around the very sensitive subject of the plastic beings. At no time did my attention wander despite the fact I went into this book expecting lots of fighting and mayhem. Indeed, while there is certainly shooting and violence, there wasn’t the set piece battle I was expecting. As ever, Huff serves up something a bit different.
I particularly appreciated that when the inevitable body count starts to rise, it matters. We care about the people who die because the characters in the middle of the violence also really care. Other than Torin, who I love, my favourite character has to be Arniz, the spiky elderly Niln archaeologist who refuses to be cowed by the bullying Martin – a really satisfactory antagonist I loved to hate. As is often the case in this genre, the blood and gore goes alongside plenty of snarky asides between the team which lightens up the mood, often causing me to grin.

I also liked the fact we also get a real insight into the motivations of the mercenaries, as well as the main antagonist. It gives the story more emotional heft and stops it being merely a fight between the goodies and the baddies. That said, we do have a satisfyingly nasty baddie who is clearly going to continue to be a threat for a while yet as his motivation and strategy puts him on a collision course with Torin’s group, the Wardens.

On a practical note, inevitably, there are a lot of characters from a number of species which means a fair number of difficult names are flying around. I did my usual trick of just plunging in without bothering to look at the contents page – this time around I wish I had. Huff has thoughtfully provided an extremely good Cast of Character list at the back of the book which I would have used and recommend to any other reader. As for the ending, Huff, manages to successfully up the stakes such that I very much wish the next book was already available – did I mention how much I enjoy Huff’s writing?
8/10

Review of KINDLE novella Cold-Forged Flame – Book 1 of the Ree Varekai series by Marie Brennan

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The sound of the horn pierces the apeiron, shattering the stillness of that realm. Its clarion call creates ripples, substance, something more. It is a summons, a command.

There is will. There is need.

And so, in reply, there is a woman.

At the beginning—no—at the end—she appears, full of fury and bound by chains of prophecy. Setting off on an unexplained quest from which she is compelled to complete, and facing unnatural challenges in a land that doesn’t seem to exist, she will discover the secrets of herself, or die trying. But along the way, the obstacles will grow to a seemingly insurmountable point, and the final choice will be the biggest sacrifice yet.

And this female warrior springs into life, full of fury, not knowing who she is or where she comes from – but bound by magic to the rather frightened mage who summons her. So… as a reader, do I care about her? After all, I haven’t a clue who she is or what she stands for – other than the fact that they are all very frightened of her and she would dearly like to do them bloody harm. What about learning of her backstory to pull me into her world and make me bond with her? Nope – that can’t happen. She doesn’t know so much as her name. But, yes – I care, alright.

As she struggles to make sense of what is going on, she quickly becomes subsumed with her quest. Which she only has the haziest notion about – and the mage warns her that she shouldn’t try to find out too much, or it will be used against her. Yet Brennan still managed to pull me into this violent, threat-filled world we see through the viewpoint of a magically bound warrior, who can’t even recall her name. It takes serious writing chops to pull off such a feat – so many of the usual techniques used to make readers bond with main characters are simply off the table with this scenario.

But what is in abundance is punchy, strong writing in this epic, classic warrior story. Brennan draws on all our memories of heroic warriors stretching back as far as Beowulf and King Arthur and evokes echoes of those stories with her elevated language. It’s nicely done – too much would have just come off as pretentious and annoying, while not enough would haven’t given this tale the gravitas necessary to keep the stakes so high and pull us in.

As it is, I was hooked right from the dramatic moment of her summoning as she struggles against the magical bindings while trying to work out who she is – and then manages to sustain that tension and threat throughout. As for me – I could no more put this one down until it was finished than flap my wings and fly around the room… I was caught up in the story, while also trying to figure exactly how Brennan sank her hooks so deeply into me with such a tricky, violent character.

I was also a tad concerned that by the end, I still would be as much in the dark as I was at the start – which would have probably had me hurling my Kindle across the room. But Brennan knows how to play fair with her readers and the quest was brought to a satisfactory ending, while also providing us with some information about our mysterious female warrior – which of course, I’m not going to divulge as it would be a spoiler. This one comes highly recommended.
9/10

Teaser Tuesday – 20th June, 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:

A Peace Divided – Book 2 of the Peacekeeper series by Tanya Huff
87% They rolled the commander carefully onto his back and, while Ressk secured Mirish, Werst retrieved the commander’s severed hand.
“Snack time?” Binti asked coming up the stairs behind Sareer.
“He’s Navy.” The wrist had been cauterized. Good. Well, good unless all the heat had cooked the interior. It didn’t smell cooked. West ran for the infirmary, tossed the hand into the empty stasis chamber and hit start. The things were supposed to be idiot proof.

BLURB: Gunnery Sergeant Torin Kerr had been the very model of a Confederation Marine. No one who’d ever served with her could imagine any circumstance that would see her walking away from the Corps.

But that was before Torin learned the truth about the war the Confederation was fighting…before she’d been declared dead and had spent time in a prison that shouldn’t exist…before she’d learned about the “plastic” beings who were really behind the war between the Confederation and the Others. That was when Torin left the military for good.

Yet she couldn’t walk away from preserving and protecting everything the Confederation represented. Instead, ex-Gunnery Sergeant Torin Kerr drew together an elite corps of friends and allies–some ex-Marines, some civilians with unique skills–and together they prepared to take on covert missions that the Justice Department and the Corps could not–or would not–officially touch.

Well, this is a first… I’m still reading the same book as last week. However, it’s been an extremely busy week – and this unusual heat means I’m sleeping a whole lot better, giving me less reading time. It isn’t an indication that I’m not enjoying the book as it’s great fun, full of action and tension with a standout protagonist in Gunny Torin Kerr. I’m sort of dreading coming to the end…

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of KINDLE Ebook Borne by Jeff VanderMeer

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I spotted this offering on Netgalley and really loved the sound of it, so requested it and was delighted to be approved, given that VanderMeer is a talented author with a gift for writing the disturbing – see my review of Annihilation.

Rachel survives as a scavenger in a ruined city half destroyed by drought and conflict. The city is dangerous, littered with discarded experiments from the Company—a biotech firm now derelict—and punished by the unpredictable predations of a giant bear. Rachel ekes out an existence in the shelter of a run-down sanctuary she shares with her partner, Wick, who deals his own homegrown psychoactive biotech. One day, Rachel finds Borne during a scavenging mission and takes him home. Borne as salvage is little more than a green lump—plant or animal?—but exudes a strange charisma. However, in a world where any kind of weakness is lethal, can Rachel afford to bond with this odd creature?

VanderMeer’s atmospheric writing spins a stunningly vivid evocation of this wrecked landscape where Mord, the gigantic bear, stalks through the city peopled by knots of scavengers – some of whom have been altered and twisted by the biotech that has escaped into the environment. The river is poisoned, the rain toxic and people eke out a subsistence existence.

Rachel’s story is one that is probably heartbreakingly familiar in any refugee camp throughout the world. She recalls a happy family life with her parents, both with solid jobs and plenty of love for their only daughter, but as the sea levels rose and law and order broke down, they ended up in camps. She is unsure how exactly she has arrived in the city, scavenging and teaming up with Wick, a former employee of the Company with dark secrets of his own, but they are holed up in a defensible apartment block and coping reasonably well.

It is into this scenario that Borne enters her life as a scrap of biotech she picks out of the fur of the sleeping Mord. There is something about this unusual thing that attracts her – for starters, it smells of her childhood – of the sea. It is always hungry and empties out their accommodation of lizards and insects – and is clearly intelligent. So she teaches it to speak…

This is a tale of loss and change. And of the resilience of the human spirit when confronted with terrible circumstances. Given the backdrop and context, it ought to be a completely bleak read – but although there is violence and death – how could there not be in such a hard-scrabbled environment? – there is also is a fair amount of humour and a lot of tenderness. I found it very moving that Rachel, alone and childless, nurtures this creature and calls it Borne. They play games, and tell each other jokes. But Borne isn’t human and was never intended to mix with humanity. Borne is something else…

Rachel is a striking protagonist. It is always a tricky business writing a character where a defining aspect of the protagonist is left to the climactic final scene of the book – and to be honest, about halfway through I was feeling a bit fed up that she didn’t ring completely true. By the end, the reason why becomes clear. VanderMeer’s writing always burrows beneath the surface and often finds the darkness lurking there – this time around, he has also celebrated what defines us as humans. If you are a fan of interesting, post-apocalyptic reads, then give this one go. I’ll guarantee it will stay with you.
9/10

Friday Faceoff – My guitar is not a thing. It is an extension of myself. (Joan Jet)

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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 guitars, so I’ve chosen Soul Music – Book 16 of the Discworld series by the late, great Terry Pratchett.

 

This is the go-to cover, as far as I’m concerned. Produced in September 1995 by Corgi, it is certainly the cover of my copy of Soul Music – funny, anarchic and brimful of movement and madcap detail, but with more than a hint of darkness. While I’m not a fan of solid panels of colour for the title and author name, this probably just about manages to get by without messing up the artwork too much.

 

 

This edition, produced in May 2003 by HarperTorch starts off well enough. I rather like the quirky font and eye-catching red background. I’m a tad more dubious about the record, but the depiction of Susan is when the cover becomes unacceptably inaccurate. Since when did Terry write her as some curvy bimbette who pouts at us over her shoulder?

 

 

Published in October 2009, this is okay, I suppose. I find the background and title font flat and uninspiring, while the skeleton guitar is too small and strangely unappealing. The only part of the cover that really works are those blue-edged notes which are the only clue we get about the fun and energy within the book.

 

 

This cover, produced by Gollancz in December 2013, is the only one that comes close to the original in effectively depicting the fun and quirkiness of the story. I love the sweeping lines and the clever addition of the title and flowing author signature. However, why, why, why are the colours so dreary? This is a story full of zest about what transformative magic is to be had in music – gloomy shades of brown with the occasional tasteful orange accent simply doesn’t reflect the verve of the content.

 

 

This dreary, generic effort was produced by Corgi in October 2005 – what a difference a decade makes! Given they also used that wonderful original cover, I’m wondering if in the interim to save a couple of quid they got rid of their cover design department and instead asked someone’s younger brother if he could rustle something up using Shutterstock for a bit of pocket money – it certainly looks like it. Which is your favourite?  Do you agree with my choice – or my rather grumpy opinion of the rest of the covers?

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

Teaser Tuesday – 13th June, 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:
A Peace Divided – Book 2 of the Peacekeeper series by Tanya Huff
1% “Hope they weren’t stupid enough to store their ordnance in the unstable corner,” Ressk muttered as his foot gripped her shoulder.

Torin hoped so too. The Justice Department insisted that property damage be kept to a minimum, and Torin didn’t want to spend another afternoon justifying an accidental explosion.

BLURB: Gunnery Sergeant Torin Kerr had been the very model of a Confederation Marine. No one who’d ever served with her could imagine any circumstance that would see her walking away from the Corps.

But that was before Torin learned the truth about the war the Confederation was fighting…before she’d been declared dead and had spent time in a prison that shouldn’t exist…before she’d learned about the “plastic” beings who were really behind the war between the Confederation and the Others. That was when Torin left the military for good.

Yet she couldn’t walk away from preserving and protecting everything the Confederation represented. Instead, ex-Gunnery Sergeant Torin Kerr drew together an elite corps of friends and allies–some ex-Marines, some civilians with unique skills–and together they prepared to take on covert missions that the Justice Department and the Corps could not–or would not–officially touch.

I thoroughly enjoyed the first book in this military science fiction tale – Torin is a great protagonist, full of courage and intelligence yet managing not to come across as someone with all the answers all the time. It’s a harder trick to pull off than Huff makes it look. As you can see, I’ve hardly started this one, but already I’m enjoying the smooth prose and the deft introduction of the character cast. No doubt about it – Huff is a class act.

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of KINDLE Ebook The Broken Ones – prequel to The Malediction Trilogy by Danielle L. Jensen

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If you’ve followed my blog at all, you’ll know I have a habit of falling into book series without meaning to – and this Netgalley offering is no exception. By pure luck, it happens to be a prequel to The Malediction Trilogy.

Below Forsaken Mountain, a plot is being hatched to overthrow the tyrant king of Trollus, and Marc is the right-hand man of its leader. His involvement is information more than one troll would kill to possess, which is why he must keep it a secret from everyone, even the girl he loves. After accidentally ruining her sister’s chance to become queen, Pénélope is given one last opportunity by her father, the Duke d’Angoulême, to make herself useful: she must find proof that the boy she’s in love with is conspiring against the crown. If she fails, her life will be forfeit.

This YA dystopian fantasy is set in a brutal world where those with the most magical ability are in charge – and if you don’t have any magic, or it has been blighted by iron rot, then you are treated as second-class citizens. If you have the ill luck to be born a cross-breed, then it doesn’t matter how powerful you are, you still will spend your life in servitude.

However, there are those at the highest levels of troll society who feel the draconian rules and constant blood-letting are not only wasteful, but also needlessly cruel. We are in the domain of desperate plotters trying to gain some kind of network of resistance against a scarily powerful monarch, along with courtiers scrabbling for more influence. And two young people are caught in the middle of these mincing machines – can they prevail? This is the question that had me turning the pages.

Jensen has effectively depicted the claustrophobic nature of the society, both literally and figuratively, as the trolls’ kingdom extends underground, with the highest echelons living in beautifully wrought buildings. It is the magical power of the highborn family, who have studied and shaped their abilities enabling them to construct this underworld and prevent it from caving in.

I really liked Marc, the disfigured young man so sharply aware of how the iron rot has scarred his face in a society where appearance is all. It is a nifty way to give one of the main protagonists with a lot of ability some valid vulnerability. Whereas poor, beautiful Pénélope is stunning and wellborn – as well as being compromised with the dreaded iron rot, which has been a closely guarded family secret. She also has the misfortunate to have one of the most truly horrible fathers I have ever encountered in fiction – indeed, the Duke d’Angoulême is a really satisfyingly nasty antagonist.

As for the outcome – well I didn’t see that coming! It left me feeling more than a tad winded and as soon as I’ve shaved off more books off my crazily teetering TBR pile, I shall be returning to this series. I want to know what happens next… And if your taste runs to dystopian fantasy brimful of emotion and unexpected plot twists, then this one comes recommended.

While I obtained the arc of The Broken Ones from the publisher via NetGalley, this has in no way influenced my unbiased review.
8/10