Category Archives: historical

Discovery Challenge 2017 and Tackling My TBR – June Roundup

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After reading Jo Hall’s post on the problems women authors have with getting discovered, I’ve been taking part in the challenge to read and review at least 24 books by female authors each year that were previously unknown to me for the last two years. During June, I read three books towards my 2017 Discovery Challenge, which brings my annual number of books written by women writers I hadn’t read before to nineteen. They are:

River of Teeth – Book 1 of the River of Teeth novella series by Sarah Gailey
In the early 20th Century, the United States government concocted a plan to import hippopotamuses into the marshlands of Louisiana to be bred and slaughtered as an alternative meat source. This is true. Other true things about hippos: they are savage, they are fast, and their jaws can snap a man in two. This was a terrible plan. Contained within this volume is an 1890s America that might have been: a bayou overrun by feral hippos and mercenary hippo wranglers from around the globe. It is the story of Winslow Houndstooth and his crew. It is the story of their fortunes. It is the story of his revenge.
This is a real roller-coaster ride with plenty of mayhem and violence along the way. That said, there is also a large dollop of humour amid the tension – think of The Magnificent Seven set in a swamp with hippos. See my review here.

Sherlock Mars by Jackie Kingon
Molly Marbles runs a successful bistro on terraformed Mars. But a virtual restaurant opens near her place, offering the experience of delicacies from across the Solar System with none of the calories. What will this do to her business? Then its owner is murdered in her kitchen. Molly, an amateur detective, springs into action to help the police solve the mystery, while also planning her pop-star daughter’s wedding, keeping her kitchen staff from feuding, and protecting her cyborg friend from the humans-only mob. Meanwhile, the infamous Cereal Serial Killer has escaped prison on Pluto and has everyone worried. Things are getting hectic, but Molly is a resilient and resourceful woman. And her knack for mysteries sees her nick-named ‘Sherlock Mars’.
This is basically a cosy mystery set in space. It has the classic ingredients – a victim that no one seems to care all that much about; a quirky, successful restaurant owner who inexplicably has sufficient time to shoot off here, there and everywhere to run down a number of clues; a friendly law enforcement officer who is happy to let Molly have crucial details of the ongoing case; lots of foodie details along the way. See my review here.

The Invisible Library – Book 1 of The Invisible Library series by Genevieve Gogman
Irene is a professional spy for the mysterious Library, which harvests fiction from different realities. And along with her enigmatic assistant Kai, she’s posted to an alternative London. Their mission – to retrieve a dangerous book. But when they arrive, it’s already been stolen. London’s underground factions seem prepared to fight to the very death to find her book. Adding to the jeopardy, this world is chaos-infested – the laws of nature bent to allow supernatural creatures and unpredictable magic. Irene’s new assistant is also hiding secrets of his own. Soon, she’s up to her eyebrows in a heady mix of danger, clues and secret societies. Yet failure is not an option – the nature of reality itself is at stake.
I really enjoyed Irene’s character – brought up knowing that she would eventually always work for the Library as her parents were both Librarians, she is slightly apart from many of her colleagues. She is also cool-headed and used to keeping her own counsel – quite different from many of the rather emotional protagonists we are used to seeing in fantasy adventure. Review to follow.

I also managed to clear two books from my TBR pile. They are:

The Dog Walker – Book 5 of The Detective’s Daughter series by Lesley Thomson
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. See my review here.

The Invisible Library – Book 1 of The Invisible Library series by Genevieve Cogman
See above

This means I’ve managed to clear thirty-two books from my teetering TBR pile so far this year – a lot better than last year so far. Have you read any of the above books? If so, what did you think?

Sunday Post – 9th July 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 my birthday party – held by my marvellous mother and it gave a great excuse to provide a gathering of the clan. It was a wonderful occasion with a purple theme (to match my new hair colour) and rounded off the now regular ritual of the family rounders game. Once again, we were very fortunate with the weather which was warm and sunny – ideal for a party in the garden.

During the week, I’ve been enjoying Wimbledon – I’ve loved watching it since I was a teenager who played tennis for the school – and found the current heatwave a joy. It has brought back so many happy memories of other hot summers years ago.

On Tuesday, my sister and I attended a talk on the history of watches at Worthing Library given by one of my writing group buddies, Geoff Alnutt – aka The Speechpainter. He covered the history of watchmaking in the last century by focusing on ten iconic wrist watches in a fascinating and informative presentation. On the way home, we stopped off to walk along the seafront and up the riverside walk in Littlehampton to admire the stunning sunset, reflected in the pond-smooth sea and river. A magical end to a lovely evening…

This week-end, Oscar is staying with us, after phoning me up to tell me that he had grade As for every subject in his report – including for trying, being polite and working hard, as well as for being academically clever. My sister came over for a meal last night and we plan to have breakfast together at a local café and then walk along the beach before it becomes too crowded.

This week I have read:
Dichronauts by Greg Egan
Seth is a surveyor, along with his friend Theo, a leech-like creature running through his skull who tells Seth what lies to his left and right. Theo, in turn, relies on Seth for mobility, and for ordinary vision looking forwards and backwards. Like everyone else in their world, they are symbionts, depending on each other to survive. In the universe containing Seth’s world, light cannot travel in all directions: there is a “dark cone” to the north and south. Seth can only face to the east (or the west, if he tips his head backwards). If he starts to turn to the north or south, his body stretches out across the landscape, and to rotate as far as north-north-east is every bit as impossible as accelerating to the speed of light. Every living thing in Seth’s world is in a state of perpetual migration as they follow the sun’s shifting orbit and the narrow habitable zone it creates. Cities are being constantly disassembled at one edge and rebuilt at the other, with surveyors mapping safe routes ahead. But when Seth and Theo join an expedition to the edge of the habitable zone, they discover a terrifying threat
This is another amazing hard science fiction offering from one of the most inventive, imaginative writers who has ever penned a futuristic story. But you really need to visit Greg Egan’s website to get a real sense of the rules that run this particular world.

The Fallen Kingdom – Book 3 of The Falconer series by Elizabeth May
Aileana Kameron, resurrected by ancient fae magic, returns to the world she once knew with no memory of her past and with dangerous powers she struggles to control. Desperate to break the curse that pits two factions of the fae against each other in a struggle that will decide the fate of the human and fae worlds, her only hope is hidden in an ancient book guarded by the legendary Morrigan, a faery of immense power and cruelty. To save the world and the people she loves, Aileana must learn to harness her dark new powers even as they are slowly destroying her.
A gripping read that brings this engrossing YA fantasy/steampunk mash-up series to a triumphantly successful conclusion. This series is one of my favourites of the year so far.

Slouch Witch – Book 1 of The Lazy Girl’s Guide to Magic series by Helen Harper
Let’s get one thing straight – Ivy Wilde is not a heroine. In fact, she’s probably the last witch in the world who you’d call if you needed a magical helping hand, regardless of her actual abilities. If it were down to Ivy, she’d spend all day every day on her sofa where she could watch TV, munch junk food and talk to her feline familiar to her heart’s content. However, when a bureaucratic disaster ends up with Ivy as the victim of a case of mistaken identity, she’s yanked very unwillingly into Arcane Branch, the investigative department of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn. Her problems are quadrupled when a valuable object is stolen right from under the Order’s noses. It doesn’t exactly help that she’s been magically bound to Adeptus Exemptus Raphael Winter. He might have piercing sapphire eyes and a body which a cover model would be proud of but, as far as Ivy’s concerned, he’s a walking advertisement for the joyless perils of too much witch-work. And if he makes her go to the gym again, she’s definitely going to turn him into a frog.
Himself tracked this one down – and once he’d read it, immediately commanded I do the same. He’s right. It’s sharp, funny and original with an excellent world and strong magic structure. I’m delighted to report that the sequel is being released any day now.

My posts last week:

Sunday Post – 2nd July 2017

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Eleventh Hour – Book 8 of the Kit Marlowe series by M.J. Trow

Teaser Tuesday featuring The Fallen Kingdom – Book 3 of The Falconer series by Elizabeth May

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Sungrazer – Book 2 of the Outriders series by Jay Posey

Shoot for the Moon Challenge 2017 – June Roundup

Friday Face-off – All that is gold does not glitter featuring Making Money – Book 36 of the Discworld series by Terry Pratchett

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of The Fallen Kingdom – Book 3 of The Falconer series by Elizabeth May

Interesting/outstanding blogs and articles that have caught my attention during the last week, in no particular order:
Happy Belated Birthday Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone https://coffeeandcatsblog.wordpress.com/2017/07/08/happy-belated-birthday-harry-potter-and-the-philosophers-stone/ This is a lovely article celebrates the publication of this genre-changing series – and charts the impact it had on one particular family

On the Science of Bibliosmia: That Enticing Book Smell https://interestingliterature.com/2017/07/07/on-the-science-of-bibliosmia-that-enticing-book-smell/ A fascinating look at the history of our relationship with books – other than reading them…

On Writing – food for thought http://earthianhivemind.net/2017/07/07/writing-food-thought/ There are lots of quotes on writing, but these two that Steph has selected are particularly apt and useful.

When Book Covers Fail Characters https://kristentwardowski.wordpress.com/2017/07/05/when-book-covers-fail-book-characters/ I’m fascinated by this subject – as anyone who has read my weekly Friday Face-off will know and Kristen has some interesting things to say about it.

3 Reasons Why I Love Doing Research http://melfka.com/archives/2353 An excellent article on one of the tasks all writers have to tackle – and Joanna’s love of it.

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* The Fallen Kingdom – Book 3 of The Falconer series by Elizabeth May

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I was delighted when I got notification from the local library that this book had come in. Having read the first two books in the trilogy – read my review of The Falconer here – I was more than keen to see where May would take this exciting story to its conclusion.

Aileana Kameron, resurrected by ancient fae magic, returns to the world she once knew with no memory of her past and with dangerous powers she struggles to control. Desperate to break the curse that pits two factions of the fae against each other in a struggle that will decide the fate of the human and fae worlds, her only hope is hidden in an ancient book guarded by the legendary Morrigan, a faery of immense power and cruelty. To save the world and the people she loves, Aileana must learn to harness her dark new powers even as they are slowly destroying her.

Firstly, my firm advice would be not to open this one if you have not yet had the pleasure of reading the previous two books, The Falconer and The Vanishing Throne. While you may well be able to pick up what is going on, there is so much backstory you’ll have missed, you will not be getting the best out of this climactic instalment if you do not know what has preceded this final adventure.

After all Aileana has been through during the first two books, we first meet up with her as she newly emerges after her death. She has no idea who she is or what has happened to her. This is more difficult to pull off than May makes it look. The concluding scene of the previous book, The Vanishing Throne, left our protagonist on a real cliffhanger – therefore, it would have been all too easy for the start of this one to have dropped the energy and tension so successfully built up. Fortunately, May is too canny for that to happen. Aileana’s plight immediately gripped me and despite several months elapsing since reading the previous book, I was at once transported back into this shattered, dying world.

As this is the last book, I am unable to comment much on the details of the storyline as I do not wish to provide any spoilers. However, readers who have already enjoyed this series so far, will be relieved to know that Aileana still possesses all her feisty aggression. One of the major causes of tension is the knowledge that her new formidable power comes at a very high price – every time she uses the deadly magic gifted to her, it continues to kill her. In short, she is little more than a primed weapon forged by one of the Fae desperate to avoid the inevitable apocalypse brought on by an ancient curse. May’s detailed world building and magical rules pass almost unnoticed as I grappled with Aileana’s impending doom. For nothing can be taken for granted as May has already shown us she is not afraid to kill off important characters.

The pages flew by as I followed Aileana’s desperate efforts to save the world. Indeed, it is such a struggle, she finds herself allied with characters I would have expected her to kill on sight. Would she prevail? Would she have to sacrifice those she loves most? And what would happen to her should she succeed? It is one thing to set up such a tense dynamic – it is something else to bring it to a fully satisfying conclusion. I can report that May triumphantly succeeds.
10/10

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of KINDLE Ebook Eleventh Hour – Book 8 of the Kit Marlowe series by M.J. Trow

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As anyone who has visited this site will know, in addition to my passion for science fiction and fantasy, I am also a real fan of historical murder mysteries. When I saw this offering on Netgalley, it was a no-brainer that I would request the arc and was delighted when I had the opportunity to read and review it.

April, 1590. The queen’s spymaster, Sir Francis Walsingham, is dead, leaving a dangerous power vacuum. His former right hand man, Nicholas Faunt, believes he was poisoned and has ordered Kit Marlowe to discover who killed him. To find the answers, Marlowe must consult the leading scientists and thinkers in the country. But as he questions the members of the so-called School of Night, the playwright-turned-spy becomes convinced that at least one of them is hiding a deadly secret. If he is to outwit the most inquiring minds in Europe and unmask the killer within, Marlowe must devise an impossibly ingenious plan.

Of course, what had escaped my notice was that this is the eighth book in this series. However, once again, I managed to land on my feet in that at no time was I floundering or adrift as Trow is far too an experienced and capable writer to let that happen. When Francis Walsingham dies, it falls to Kit Marlowe to try to discover who is the culprit. In this twisting Elizabethan plot there are no shortage of suspects and I really enjoyed reading about Marlowe’s investigations as characters I’ve known from history books leapt to vivid life in this Tudor whodunnit.

Trow clearly had a blast with some of these characters – his depiction of William Shakespeare is particularly amusing and somewhat controversial, given that in this incarnation, poor bumpkin Shakespeare is thoroughly adrift in the London theatrical scene and desperate for work. Though Marlowe is reluctant to employ him as a writer or an actor, given that he is not very good at either. I also enjoyed reading Trow’s version of Sir Walter Raleigh and Sir John Dee. However, the character at the centre of all of these shenanigans is Kit Marlowe himself. Written in third person viewpoint, Marlowe is a complicated, somewhat driven character who provides a series of masks depending on who he is with. I really liked Trow’s characterisation – his detached observation of the people around him and his unwillingness to wear his heart on his sleeve makes him an interesting, complex protagonist.

In order for this book to work, the world building also has to be believable and sharp without slowing down the pace by too much description. Trow has nailed this. We never forget that we are in Tudor England with people whose worries and concerns are so similar to ours – yet also so very different. The climax of this story, along with the denouement worked really well. I certainly didn’t see it coming. Yet there is also another surprise at the end of the book relating to the title which leaves this book on a doozy of a cliffhanger. I shall definitely be looking out for the next book in the series and have already ordered the first one from the local library.

This is highly recommended for anyone who enjoys good quality historical mysteries along the lines of C.J. Samson’s Matthew Shadlake series – see my review of his book Revelation.
8/10

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

TAGGED – I’m It…

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I saw this tag by Rae at PowerfulWomenReaders, on The Mid-Year Freakout Book Tag and couldn’t resist…

The Best Book You’ve Read So Far in 2017
Really? I’m supposed to pick JUST ONE out of allll the fabulous reads I’ve had? Fine! But this is a CRUEL question!
After Atlas – Book 2 in the Planetfall series by Emma Newman
Govcorp detective Carlos Moreno was only a baby when Atlas left Earth to seek truth among the stars. But in that moment, the course of Carlos’s entire life changed. Atlas is what took his mother away; what made his father lose hope; what led Alejandro Casales, leader of the religious cult known as the Circle, to his door. And now, on the eve of the fortieth anniversary of Atlas’s departure, it’s got something to do why Casales was found dead in his hotel room—and why Carlos is the man in charge of the investigation.
I loved the first book, but this one… it blew me away. Carlos is such a strong protagonist and a particular twist in this story had me gripped to the extent that I actually yelled. As for that ending – oh my goodness! No wonder it is a nominee for the Arthur C. Clarke Award.

Your Favourite Sequel So Far
I have two – and no… I simply CANNOT decide between them.
A Tyranny of Queens – Book 2 of the Manifold Worlds series by Foz Meadows
Saffron Coulter has returned from the fantasy kingdom of Kena. Threatened with a stay in psychiatric care, Saffron has to make a choice: to forget about Kena and fit back into the life she’s outgrown, or pit herself against everything she’s ever known and everyone she loves.
This classy portal fantasy won’t leave me alone, with the strong story and interesting characters.

Emperor of the Fireflies – Book 2 of the Tide Dragons series by Sarah Ash
Kai and Masao, once enemies, are now condemned to the sea by the Tide Dragons Sacrifice. If Hotaru, the new emperor, is unable to summon the Tide Dragons of Ebb and Flood at the Autumn Moon Festival, he will forfeit the right to rule Cipangu. The two Sacrifices face a desperate race against time to free themselves from this ancient curse before Hotaru binds them with forbidden magic to obey his will – forever.
I loved this beautiful fantasy duology with its strong Japanese influence and fascinating range of characters. If you are looking for a quality fantasy with a different twist, then this comes highly recommended.

A New Release That You Haven’t Read But You Really Want To
How to Stop Time by Matt Haig
Tom Hazard has a dangerous secret. He may look like an ordinary 41-year-old, but owing to a rare condition, he’s been alive for centuries. From Elizabethan England to Jazz Age Paris, from New York to the South Seas, Tom has seen a lot, and now craves an ordinary life. Always changing his identity to stay alive, Tom has the perfect cover – working as a history teacher at a London comprehensive. Here he can teach the kids about wars and witch hunts as if he’d never witnessed them first-hand. He can try and tame the past that is fast catching up with him. The only thing Tom mustn’t do is fall in love.
I love the sound of this one. The good news is that I have a Netgalley arc, so it is one I am going to enjoy reading next month – I love my life…

Most Anticipated Release of the Second Half of the Year
The Stargazer’s Embassy by Eleanor Lerman
The Stargazer’s Embassy explores the frightening phenomenon of alien abduction from a different point of view: in this story, it is the aliens who seem fearful of Julia Glazer, the woman they are desperately trying to make contact with. Violent and despairing after the murder of the one person she loved, a psychiatrist who was studying abductees, Julia continues to rebuff the aliens until her relationships with others who have met “the things,” as she calls them, including a tattoo artist, a strange man who can take photographs with the power of his mind, and an abductee locked up in a mental hospital, force Julia deeper into direct alien contact and a confrontation about what death means to humans and aliens alike.
I love the sound of this one! So, rightly or wrong, I am really, really looking forward to reading it.

Your Biggest Disappointment

I don’t finish books I dislike, so there’s nothing that’s a disappointment in my reading list so far this year. I have a policy that if I don’t complete a book, then I’m not qualified to discuss it.

Your Biggest Surprise
The Forever Court – Book 2 of the Knights of the Borrowed Dark series by Dave Rudden
Life is returning to normal for Denizen Hardwick. Well, the new normal, where he has to battle monsters in quiet Dublin bookshops and constantly struggle to contain the new powers he has been given by Mercy, the daughter of the Endless King. But Denizen may need those powers sooner than he thinks – not only are the Tenebrous stirring again but the Order of the Borrowed Dark face a new threat from much closer to home…
I had thoroughly enjoyed Knights of the Borrowed Dark – a surprisingly gritty and creepy fantasy adventure, but this sequel took the writing to a new, punchy level. Sharp, dryly funny and also full of violence, this one pinged off the page and into my inscape. Marvellous stuff…

 

Favourite New to You or Debut Author
The Winter Tide – Book 1 of the Innsmouth Legacy by Ruthanna Emrys
After attacking Devil’s Reef in 1928, the U.S. Government rounded up the people of Innsmouth and took them to the desert, far from their ocean, their Deep One ancestors, and their sleeping god Cthulhu. Only Aphra and Caleb Marsh survived the camps, and they emerged without a past or a future. The government that stole Aphra’s life now needs her help. FBI agent Ron Spector believes that Communist spies have stolen dangerous magical secrets from Miskatonic University, secrets that could turn the Cold War hot in an instant, and hasten the end of the human race.
This wonderful thriller set in H.P. Lovecraft’s world is amazingly good – I loved it. Full of atmosphere, Aphra is a wonderful protagonist.

My New Fictional Crush
It has to be poor Fitz from Assassin’s Fate the final book in Robin Hobb’s Fitz and Fool trilogy. Now he has reached a certain age and still grieving for his dead wife, I can admire him safely from afar – I am, after all, a happily married grandmother…

 

 

 

 

New Favourite Character
My favourite character is Dina Demille, who is the protagonist in Ilona Andrews’ charming and occasionally hilarious urban fantasy series who we first meet in Clean Sweep – Book 1 of the Innkeeper Chronicles. She is innkeeper to an enchanted inn, providing rest and refreshment to the magically talented. Dina is feisty and resourceful, but has a constant sadness that wears at her soul – her parents are missing, along with the inn where she grew up.

 

A Book That Made You Cry
A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness
The monster showed up after midnight. As they do. But it isn’t the monster Conor’s been expecting. He’s been expecting the one from his nightmare, the one he’s had nearly every night since his mother started her treatments, the one with the darkness and the wind and the screaming… This monster is something different, though. Something ancient, something wild. And it wants the most dangerous thing of all from Conor. It wants the truth.
Yes… this one made me weep. And that doesn’t happen all that often these days. But the ending was such a heartbreak, yet with also a sliver of hope that poor Conor would finally be free from the terrible dread that had consumed him. As for that monster – it was brilliant…

 

A Book That Made You Happy
A Hero’s Guide to Deadly Dragons – Book 6 of the How To Train Your Dragon series by Cressida Cowell
It’s Hiccup’s birthday, but that’s not going to keep him from getting into trouble. To save his dragon, Toothless, from being banished, Hiccup must sneak into the Meathead Public Library and steal the Viking’s most sacred book. But the Vikings see books as a dangerous influence, and keep them locked up and under heavy guard. To save his friend, Hiccup must brave the Hairy Scary Librarian and his dreadful army of Meathead Warriors and face off against the formidable Driller-Dragons. Will he make it out and live to see his next birthday?
It’s just the loveliest feeling… sharing a funny book with a grandchild and relishing his sniggers and hiccupping splutters of delight at the snarky humour, rude names and broad-humoured illustrations. If I could bottle that feeling, I would save it up for when I’m an old lady and my grandchildren are grown and gone…

Your Favourite Book to Movie Adaptation You’ve Seen This Year
I haven’t.

Favourite Book Post You’ve Published This Year
This has to be my monthly progress report on how I’m doing with my blogging, reading and writing targets for the year, Shoot for the Moon – March Roundup, when I was finally allowed to announce my publishing deal for Netted, my post-apocalyptic science fiction family adventure set in Maine with Kristell Ink Publishing.

The Most Beautiful Book You’ve Bought/Received This Year
Miranda and Caliban by Jacqueline Carey
Miranda is a lonely child. For as long as she can remember, she and her father have lived in isolation in the abandoned Moorish palace. There are chickens and goats, and a terrible wailing spirit trapped in a pine tree, but the elusive wild boy who spies on her from the crumbling walls and leaves gifts on their doorstep is the isle’s only other human inhabitant. There are other memories, too: vague, dream-like memories of another time and another place. There are questions that Miranda dare not ask her stern and controlling father, who guards his secrets with zealous care: Who am I? Where did I come from?
The wild boy Caliban is a lonely child, too; an orphan left to fend for himself at an early age, all language lost to him. When Caliban is summoned and bound into captivity by Miranda’s father as part of a grand experiment, he rages against his confinement; and yet he hungers for kindness and love.
This is a beautiful tale – shot through with lovely imagery and tinged with darkness. If you like retellings with some serious heft and respect for the original storyteller, then this comes very highly recommended.

And that’s my responses to the questions – though as I have now read 84 books so far this year, it was something of a struggle to actually choose. In the meantime, if you have looked at the questions and would like to share your reading highs and lows of 2017 to date – please join in.

Teaser Tuesday – 6th 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:

The Dog Walker – Book 5 of The Detective’s Daughter series by Lesley Thomson
30% Dad wasn’t a murderer!’. Suzie’s disparagements of Terry hadn’t lessened with his death, but she’d never gone this far. ‘He was a detective.’
‘Murderers and detectives are two sides of a coin,’ Suzie said sagely.
Stella felt, as she often did around her mum, overwhelmed by a rolling fog.

BLURB: 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.

About a third of the into this cold case murder mystery, once more I’m struck by the sheer class of Thomson’s writing. I love this atmospheric, quirky read with the dual timeline, giving us a present-day insight into Stella and Jack’s lives and the events that led to Helen’s disappearance. This is one I’m both trying to spin out because of the sheer reading pleasure – while wanting to keep turning the pages to find out what happens next…

Review of KINDLE Ebook A Second Chance – Book 3 of The Chronicles of St Mary’s by Jodi Taylor

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While still not feeling all that well, I dived into this one for a bit of fun and escapism…

St Mary’s is back and nothing is going right for Max. Once again, it’s just one damned thing after another. The action jumps from an encounter with a mirror-stealing Isaac Newton to the bloody battlefield at Agincourt. Discover how a simple fact-finding assignment to witness the ancient and murderous cheese- rolling ceremony in Gloucester can result in CBC – concussion by cheese. The long awaited jump to Bronze Age Troy ends in personal catastrophe for Max and just when it seems things couldn’t get any worse – it’s back to the Cretaceous Period again to confront an old enemy who has nothing to lose. So, make the tea, grab the chocolate biscuits, settle back and discover exactly why the entire history department has painted itself blue …

As you may have gathered from the blurb, in parts this book is laugh-aloud hilarious – what isn’t quite so obvious is that in other places it is heart-breakingly sad. What it never does is stand still. Taylor writes with a frenetic energy that pulls me into her story, holds me there – and when I’m finally flung out at the other side, I’m dizzily certain that I’ll never feel quite the same again. Even though this is the third time I’ve been smacked around the chops by Max and the St Mary’s gang, it is still an onslaught as much as an adventure.

As the blurb mentions, the historical trips are still going strong and Max, along with the rest of the disaster-magnets that make up St Mary’s history department, fling themselves into each time-travelling adventure with reckless enthusiasm. Taylor could have so easily opted to make these books straight comedic adventures – she certainly writes humour with verve and skill that has me sniggering aloud all the way through. But what, for me, elevates all these books, are the interludes where Max is dealt a lethal blow to prevent her from fully enjoying her life. Despite her love for the job and St Mary’s, she is to be denied personal happiness alongside a special someone. I know I was feeling poorly, but even if I’d been bouncing with health, I think I would have still wept.

I blew my nose, blinked away the tears so I could continue reading – it’s hard to focus on the print when you’re bawling like a fallen toddler – and just as I was settling down to rejig my expectations and read something instead a whole lot more sombre than I’d initially intended – a thing happens which once again transforms the mood and tenor of the story.

I’ve been reading avidly for over fifty years and during that time, I’ve learnt that the majority of books follow certain rhythms. But Jodi Taylor ignores those precepts and instead, mixes it all up quite outrageously. Furthermore, she gets away with it. I’ve been thinking about this one a lot since I read it. It won’t be long before the fourth book, A Trail Through Time, will be summoning me back to St. Mary’s. I just need another box of tissues, more emotional energy and then once more, I’ll be good to go. In the meantime, if you crave a real roller-coaster ride through Time, track down the first book in the series – Just One Damned Thing After Another – I can guarantee that you won’t have read anything else quite like it.
9/10

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of KINDLE Ebook Dancing With Death Book 1 of the Nell Drury series by Amy Myers

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This classic country house murder mystery from Severn House popped up at Netgalley and caught my eye…

1925. The fashionable Bright Young Things from London have descended on Wychbourne Court, the Kentish stately home of Lord and Lady Ansley, for an extravagant fancy dress ball followed by a midnight Ghost Hunt – and Chef Nell Drury knows she’s in for a busy weekend. What she doesn’t expect to encounter is sudden, violent death.

This cosy mystery is a thoroughly enjoyable, engrossing read. Myers evokes the period well as steady, sensible and very ambitious Nell Drury, working at Wychbourne Hall as Chef, suddenly finds herself confronted with a violent murder of one of the guests. While it might have seemed unlikely that a young woman would land a prize post like this, due to the shortage of young men after the ravages of WWI, this was a time when a generation of women had an opportunity for a career – so long as they didn’t want to get married. Nell is one of those women. Fans of Downton Abbey will recognise the strict hierarchy of below stairs as she regularly locks horns with housekeeper, Mrs Fielding, who is thoroughly disapproving of a female chef.

But Nell has other things to worry about other than whether her soufflés will rise, when Lady Ansley appeals to her to ensure none of the servants are caught up in the bloody murder. I like Nell’s character. Her cool-headed steadiness and self-confidence comes from having to fight for her place and growing up in the war years, which still casts a long shadow over most of the characters – and quite right, too. Myers has very much caught the flavour of the age, it seems to me, having grown up with stories of the time from my grandmother, who was a flapper.

In order to make this sort of book really work, we need a good spread of likely suspects amongst the supporting cast and Myers certainly provides plenty of memorable, strong contenders. We have the eccentric aunt who is convinced the house is crowded with a posse of ghosts, all keen to make contact with their living counterparts; the gang of bright young things, including the three Ansley youngsters who are caught up in the frantic round of parties and nightclubbing; two school friends who seem far too attracted to each other rather than their supposed partners; the vamp; the terrifying elderly female relative (think Maggie Smith); and her arch-enemy a sprightly avuncular gentleman. In the middle of this, you have poor, bewildered Lord and Lady Ansley… There is also a strong cast of below stairs characters and a rather forbidding detective from Scotland Yard who travels down to investigate the murders as the local bobbies are completely out of their depth.

This is all as cosily familiar as a late-night cup of cocoa – but there is a good reason why Agatha Christie-type murder mysteries work, demonstrated here by Myers’ well-written homage. The pages simply turned themselves as I dived into this one while struggling with a heavy cold. The denouement was also well handled – I hadn’t guessed whodunit or why and was also pleased that some of the red herrings cast around during the investigation weren’t necessarily as herring-like as I’d thought. It always slightly annoys me when an author provides a parade of suspects and a trail of clues – only to suddenly provide a completely different set of motives with a flourish at the end. Myers isn’t guilty of such a sleight of hand. My only niggle is the very, very abrupt ending – unless for some reason my arc is missing a final paragraph. But this one is recommended for fans of a classic cosy mystery set in a country house.

While I obtained the arc of Dancing with Death from the publisher via NetGalley, this has in no way influenced my unbiased review.

8/10

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of KINDLE Ebook Fool’s Gold – Book 8 of the Liberty Lane series by Caro Peacock

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I regularly look at the murder mystery offerings on Netgalley and this one caught my eye as something different and intriguing…

September, 1841. A new arrival has taken London society by storm. Lord Byron’s handsome illegitimate son, George, recently arrived from the exotic island of Cephalonia in the company of his guardian, the mysterious Mr Vickery, has been setting female hearts aflutter. But not all the attention George attracts is welcome. Mr Vickery has been receiving disturbing letters from a woman who calls herself Helena, and he hires Liberty Lane to find out who Helena is and what she wants.

Of course, the catch is that it is the eighth book in the series, so would I find myself floundering at all? Nope, not for a second. Peacock is far too adroit and experienced a writer to fall into that pitfall and from the first page, I was pulled into this twisting story where the plot snaked in all sorts of unexpected avenues. So I had to read it in one greedy gulp to find out exactly where it was going.

Liberty Lane is clearly a remarkable young woman as a female investigator at a time when her male counterparts were looked down upon with contempt and suspicion – obviously there is a hefty backstory here. But I certainly found myself believing in the 19th century London streets depicted by Peacock and as a historian, there were no glaring anomalies that yanked me out of the story. Without holding up the action or pace, all sorts of little details contributed to make the world vividly convincing – and I very much liked the fact that she does not expect her horses to go galloping or cantering everywhere, which they generally didn’t.

I also enjoyed her characterisation. Alongside Liberty, there is a supporting cast who leap off the page – the beautiful, blind George is suitably enigmatic and Mr Vickery is by turns exasperating and open-hearted. But Liberty’s small team help to bring this story alive – it seemed entirely plausible that she would be on good terms with an experienced horseman, Amos, running a livery stable, for she often needs sudden access to transport and the main mode of transport back then is horsepower. Young Tabby, a streetgirl part of a gang of children surviving on their wits, is also a regular gatherer of information for Liberty.

However, while the setting is vividly depicted and the characters believable and entertaining, what sets this murder mystery apart is the sheer skill and dexterity of Peacock’s plotting. Just when I thought the story was off in one direction, it snapped around and the momentum and stakes were cinched ever higher. Of course, this means the ultimate climactic denouement has to not only deliver in terms of plenty of action and high drama, but also resolve all that tension entirely satisfactorily. And yes, this one certainly did. I have not read any of these mysteries before, but I’ll certainly be looking out for more – if your taste runs to historical murder mysteries with plenty of tension and action, then this one comes very highly recommended.

While I obtained the arc of Fool’s Gold from the publisher via NetGalley, this has in no way influenced my unbiased review.
10/10