Category Archives: horror

Friday Faceoff – The grave’s a fine and private place… #Brainfluffbookblog

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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 meme is currently being nurtured by Lynn’s Book Blog and the subject this week featuring on any of our covers is A HORROR NOVEL, so I’ve selected The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman.

 

This edition was produced by HarperCollins in September 2008. I really like this one – the blue-black background is both effective and attractive and the gravestone is striking. But what stands out is the treatment of both the title and author fonts, which I love. And then they go and RUIN it by plastering that large gold blob right in the centre! Couldn’t it have gone in a corner? Just asking…

 

Published in December 2008 by Bloomsbury, this cover is the exact opposite of the above cover. Rather than going for the minimalist approach, this cover is full of wonderful detail, featuring the two main protagonists scowling out at prospective readers. I could have done without the endorsement by Diana Wynne Jones impinging onto that glorious artwork, but overall I like this one, including the funky title font. This is the cover of the copy we own. The big problem with it is that it doesn’t look good in thumbnail.

 

This Spanish edition, published by Roca Editorial in October 2010. I really like it – the design is  clever, featuring the blade of a knife with the cityscape running along its length and young Bod running along the edge of it. I think it’s attractive and eye-catching – and again the author and title fonts look fabulous. However, the snag for me is that there is no graveyard in this cover, which features so heavily in the book – and the title.

 

Produced by Polaris in September 2008, this Czech cover does feature a graveyard. I like the design and appreciate that the ghosts also feature. However, unfortunately the execution of the otherworldly characters lets down this cover – they look like they’ve been painted onto material and then photoshopped into the cover. It’s such a shame, because I think the idea and the rest of the image is really strong.

 

This French edition, published by J’ai lu in April 2012, is also set in a graveyard and I love it. I think it’s the strongest of all the designs. It sings off the page with the eerie lighting and the silhouetted figure of the small boy against the wrought iron gates of the graveyard looks fabulous. This is mine – but which is your favourite?

My Outstanding Books of 2016

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Last year was an amazing year for reading. I cannot recall when I last read so many exciting, engrossing and well crafted books. Below are the ones which have left a niche in my inscape so they may not have initially got a 10/10, but nevertheless these are the ones that have stayed with me…

The Just City – Book 1 of the Thessaly series by Jo Walton

thejustcity

This amazing, thought provoking series is essentially examining Plato’s ideas for an ideal society striving towards excellence as propounded in The Republic. It’s quirky, imaginative and clever – vintage Walton in other words. She has to be one of the most exciting, talented writers of our age.

 

Uprooted by Naomi Novik

uprooted

This is a variation of the ‘Beauty and the Beast’ story that is filled with mystery, magic and a strong sense of place. The isolation and brooding sense of being at the whim of someone who is perhaps not wholly stable permeates the book.

 

The Many Selves of Katherine North by Emma Geen

manyselvesofkatherine

This hard science fiction tale of a shape-shifter is an extraordinary book, rich with techie detail and some of the most vivid sensory writing I’ve read. In addition, the story takes you in one direction – until you suddenly realise it is about something else altogether. Clever and original, this impressive debut novel marks Geen as One to Watch.

 

The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi

thestartouchedqueen

The cover of this book is lushly beautiful – which is also an accurate description of the prose spinning this story into a classic tale that wouldn’t be out of place if it turned up as one of the tales of Scheherazade. What really sold it, though, was the carnivorous horse with smart mouth…

 

The Annihilation Score – Book 6 The Laundry Files by Charles Stross

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Unlike the rest of this clever, readable series, this book is told in the viewpoint of Bob Howard’s wife, Mo. She has a bone violin as a weapon to battle the Lovecraftian monsters emerging from another dimension and threatening life on Earth as we know it. You won’t be surprised to learn that wielding such an instrument exacts a heavy cost. Stross has depicted a heartbreaking heroine who leaves a lump in my throat.

 

The House with No Rooms – Book 4 of The Detective’s Daughter series
by Lesley Thomson

thehousewithnorooms1

I love Thomson’s clever, layered writing that assumes her readers are capable of joining the dots and her leisurely pacing that steadily builds a creeping sense of wrongness. Stella’s quirky world view prevails and in amongst the tragedy and pain, there are welcome shafts of humour. I’ve dreamt about this book…

 

Me Before You by JoJo Moyes

mebeforeyou

This book, rightly, has garnered a huge amount of attention and I nearly didn’t read it because of the fuss. Which would have been a real shame, because the story is gripping, funny and painful and without an ounce of sentiment. I certainly didn’t think it would end the way it did.

 

An Accident of Stars – Book 1 of The Manifold Worlds series by Foz Meadows

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This portal fantasy gripped me from the first page and still hasn’t let go. I was completely caught up in the adventure, which quickly took me out of my comfort zone and captivated me. I still find myself wondering what I’d do if confronted with the same circumstances and hope that Meadows writes quickly, because I badly want to know what happens next.

 

The Fifth Season – Book 1 of the Broken Earth series by N.K. Jemisin

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I love her Inheritance series, but blogging buddy Sara Letourneau kept banging on about this one, so I got hold of it. And I’m so very glad I did… The writing is extraordinary. Jemisin takes all the rules about writing by the scruff of the neck and gives them a thorough shaking. I stayed awake to read this one, caught up with Essun’s furious grief and felt bereft once I came to the end of it.

 

Spiderlight by Adrian Tchaikovsky

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This clever, unsettling adventure takes the classic fantasy trope of the band of heroes and bounces it off the walls. The result is funny, creepy and poignant by turns – and absolutely engrossing. It also raises some tricky moral questions.

 

Spellbreaker – Book 3 of the Spellwright Trilogy by Blake Charlton

spellbreaker

This fantasy adventure vividly depicts a family where every one of them is lethally powerful such that it seriously gets in the way of their love for each other. The result is riveting and original – it has lodged itself in my brain like a burr, because if you have the power to level cities or predict your father’s death, then it’s probably going to make the inevitable family tiff somewhat tricky.

 

The Summer Goddess by Joanne Hall

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I’ve always enjoyed Hall’s writing – but this particular tale of abduction and slavery tugged at my heart from the first chapter and kept on doing so throughout. Her heroine is painfully fallible and yet doggedly courageous – and the writing is always so well crafted. It’s another one that won’t leave me in peace…

 

Songs of Seraphina by Jude Houghton

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This disturbing portal novel is about revenge and bloodshed – and how those that pay the price often are innocent. It grabbed me from the beginning as we learn about the three sisters and I read through the night to learn what befalls them – and I’m really hoping that Houghton is busy writing a sequel, for I want more of this savage, magical world.

 

A Natural History of DragonsBook 1 of The Memoirs of Lady Trent series
by Marie Brennan

anaturalhistoryofdragons

What’s not to love? A dogged, adventuring Victorian lady who defies convention to go adventuring to learn more about dragons in their habitat. The book is written after the style of a 19th century novel and enchanted me – happily there are more in the series and I’m going to be plunging back into this world just as soon as I can.

 

Just One Damned Thing After Another – Book 1 of The Chronicles of St Mary’s
by Jodi Taylor

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This time travelling novel is set in a Government-run establishment that has the same feel I imagine Bletchley would have done during WW2 – though the attrition rate is definitely higher at St Mary’s. The time-travelling historians – or ‘disaster-magnets’ as they are described in this punchy, amusing adventure – tend to die rather a lot.

So there they are – my outstanding reads of 2016. I highly recommend each and every one of them as offering something special and unique. And if you insist on forcing me to choose only one of them, then you’re a cruel, unfeeling monster – but if I HAD to, then it would have to be N.K. Jemisin’s The Fifth Season. The intensity of the writing, the cool premise and the way she builds on the characters has this one etched into my mind.

Sunday Post – 28th August

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Sunday Post

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.

It’s been a vile week – a heartbreaking week. When a single issue pounced from the corner, ambushed and overwhelmed me. And just to crown it all – my writing, which is my refuge and defence when Life smacks me around, isn’t going all that well. I’m in the process of ripping apart one of my manuscripts and rewriting it. It’s not the first time I’ve done this, but cutting out a major character is a messy process. It might work but right now the remnants of the damn thing are lying in shards around my ankles and as I’m on the last stages and reaching the climactic final stage – it feels like I’ve ruined it. I’ve worked so very hard all through this year – putting in hours and hours. And for what? Right now, I don’t know. Nothing makes sense or feels worth it. Anyway – enough with the whining.

This week I’ve managed to read:

The Obelisk Gate – Book 1 of The Broken EarthTrilogy by N.K. Jemisin
theobeliskgateTHIS IS THE WAY THE WORLD ENDS… FOR THE LAST TIME.
The season of endings grows darker as civilization fades into the long cold night. Alabaster Tenring – madman, world-crusher, savior – has returned with a mission: to train his successor, Essun, and thus seal the fate of the Stillness forever. It continues with a lost daughter, found by the enemy. It continues with the obelisks, and an ancient mystery converging on answers at last. The Stillness is the wall which stands against the flow of tradition, the spark of hope long buried under the thickening ashfall. And it will not be broken.

I was delighted to learn that The Fifth Season won the Hugo Award for the best novel – and deservedly so. This sequel of an extraordinary novel whose world is an amazing feat of imagination, scoops the story up and takes it further. I’m still reeling and buzzed from it… Thank God for books like this, there’s times when they are lifesavers. Though DON’T pick it up until you’ve read The Fifth Season or you’ll flounder. I reviewed this gem yesterday.

 

American Monsters – Book 3 of The Demon Road trilogy by Derek Landy
americanmonstersBigger, meaner, stronger. Amber closes in on her murderous parents as they make one last desperate play for power. Her own last hopes of salvation, however, rest beyond vengeance, beyond the abominable killers – living and dead – that she and Milo will have to face. For Amber’s future lies in her family’s past, in the brother and sister she never knew, and the horrors beyond imagining that befell them.

The action and violence ramps up another notch in this last book with some truly creepy moments – and the climax holds a poignant sting in the tail that completely winded me. This YA offering should be vetted, as I wouldn’t be happy letting any of the younger teens in my life read it.

 

 

 

Unraveled – Book 15 of the Elmental Assassins series by Jennifer Estep
What could go wrong when you’re trying to unravel a decades-old conspiracy?unraveled
As the current queen of the Ashland underworld, you would think that I, Gin Blanco, would know all about some secret society controlling things from behind the scenes. I might be the Spider, the city’s most fearsome assassin, but all my Ice and Stone elemental magic hasn’t done me a lick of good in learning more about “the Circle”. Despite my continued investigations, the trail’s gone as cold as the coming winter. So when Finnegan Lane, my foster brother, gets word of a surprising inheritance, we figure why not skip town for someplace less dangerous for a few days? That place: Bullet Pointe, a fancy hotel resort complex plus Old West theme park that Finn now owns lock, stock, and barrel. At first, all the struttin’ cowboys and sassy saloon girls are just hokey fun. But add in some shady coincidences and Circle assassins lurking all around, and vacationing becomes wilder—and deadlier—than any of us expected. Good thing this assassin brought plenty of knives to the gunfight …

The perky first person viewpoint is accurately portrayed in the blurb. While this offering is full of death and mayhem, it is unabashedly classic urban fantasy with snarky dialogue, plenty of action and dollops of humour. Estep’s bouncy approach provided some much-needed solace and I’ll reviewing this book during the coming week.

 

The Thousandth Floor – Book 1 of The Thousandth Floor series by Katherine McGee
the1000thfloorWelcome to Manhattan, 2118.
A hundred years in the future, New York is a city of innovation and dreams. But people never change: everyone here wants something…and everyone has something to lose. Leda Cole’s flawless exterior belies a secret addiction—to a drug she never should have tried and a boy she never should have touched. Eris Dodd-Radson’s beautiful, carefree life falls to pieces when a heartbreaking betrayal tears her family apart. Rylin Myers’s job on one of the highest floors sweeps her into a world—and a romance—she never imagined…but will her new life cost Rylin her old one? Watt Bakradi is a tech genius with a secret: he knows everything about everyone. But when he’s hired to spy by an upper-floor girl, he finds himself caught up in a complicated web of lies. And living above everyone else on the thousandth floor is Avery Fuller, the girl genetically designed to be perfect. The girl who seems to have it all—yet is tormented by the one thing she can never have.

This intriguing book starts with one of the girls featured in this ensemble piece plummeting to her death – and then the narrative timeline jumps back two months to show why she ends up falling off the roof… This YA offering could have so easily descended into an angsty mess – but McGee’s slick handling makes this futuristic thriller a real page-turner that I thoroughly enjoyed and will be reviewing it in the coming week.

My posts last week:

Sunday Post – 21st August

Review of Across the Universe – Book 1 of Across the Universe series by Beth Revis

Teaser Tuesday – featuring Unraveled – Book 15 of the Elemental Assassins by Jennifer Estep

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Spellbreaker – Book 3 of The Spellwright Trilogy by Blake Charlton

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of American Monsters – Book 3 of The Demon Road Trilogy by Derek Landy

Friday Faceoff – Looking Out on All I Own featuring The Poison Throne – Book 1 of The Moorhawke Trilogy by Celine Kiernan

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of The Obelisk Gate – Book 2 of The Broken Earth series by N.K. Jemisin

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

I Went to a Funeral, and I Never Went Home https://mommyisawidow.com/2016/08/17/i-went-to-a-funeral-and-i-never-went-home/ A beautiful, heart-wrenching piece on bereavement

Tales of the Wellspring 5 – the White Spring of Glastonbury https://zenandtheartoftightropewalking.wordpress.com/2016/08/22/tales-of-the-wellspring-5-the-white-spring-of-glastonbury/ Another wonderful article from a gifted writer…

Day #15 – Doors closing, doors opening #30 Days Creative http://mhairisimpson.com/2016/08/day-15-doors-closing-doors-opening-30dayscreative/
A reminder that sometimes all you can do is just keep putting one foot in front of the other – and if you are lucky there are fab friends to help…

Saying Goodbye to the Sun https://richardankers.com/2016/08/24/saying-goodbye-to-the-sun/
A steady stream of short and micro fiction pours from the pen of this quirky, original author – the very hardest writing to get right. And this is a gem…

Writer’s Music: Ramin Djawadi https://jeanleesworld.com/2016/08/25/writers-music-ramin-djawadi/ Though you don’t HAVE to be a writer to want to get your hands on this music – I’m guessing one or three Game of Thrones fans might also like it…

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

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review KINDLE Ebook American Monsters – Book 3 of the Demon Road series by Derek Landy

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This is the final instalment of this YA horror series, featuring Amber, a demon who shape-shifts when the going gets tough – see my reviews of Demon Road and Desolation. And the going is continually tough…

americanmonstersBigger, meaner, stronger. Amber closes in on her murderous parents as they make one last desperate play for power. Her own last hopes of salvation, however, rest beyond vengeance, beyond the abominable killers – living and dead – that she and Milo will have to face. For Amber’s future lies in her family’s past, in the brother and sister she never knew, and the horrors beyond imagining that befell them.

Amber has teamed up with Milo and his magical car to fight a series of lethal opponents. However, they all rather pale against her struggle with her seriously unpleasant parents, who raised her for the sole purpose of eating her once she came into her demonic powers. I really like the fact that when she isn’t a tall, red-skinned demon she is a rather plump, nondescript-looking girl. And her prospective girlfriend is attracted to the human side of her, rather than her charismatically fearsome alter ego.

Once again, the story starts with a bang and doesn’t let up as we are whisked from one crisis to another. There are a range of unpleasant monsters and creeps in this story, the most memorable being the murderous clown fixated on killing sixteen-year-olds. The action is vividly portrayed, with plenty of gore and a number of key characters dying off – to an extent that I was a tad winded when one of them met his end…

I’ve enjoyed this series, but I’m not quite sure who it’s aimed at. There is an awful lot of violence and murder, with not quite enough emotional bonding for it to truly appeal to the teenage girls I know – and while the non-stop action would definitely tick the boys’ boxes, I can’t see them warming to a gay shape-shifting female who beats up several men who bad-mouth her in sexist terms. While it is marketed as YA, I’d recommend that you check it out before you allow your younger teens to read it. Many, no doubt, will be perfectly able to cope with the action, but it is very graphic and there are some horrific moments that could upset sensitive children with vivid imaginations.

I received the arc of American Monsters from the publishers via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
7/10

Teaser Tuesday – 7th June 2016

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Teaser

Teaser Tuesday is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Books and a Beat.
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 Passage – Book 1 of The Passage series by Justin Croninthepassage
page 346: He couldn’t have said how old she was. Thirteen? Sixteen? Her hair was long and dark, and thick with mats; she was wearing a pair of threadbare gaps cut off at the ankles and a T-shirt stiff with dirt, all of it too large on her boyish frame.

BLURB: Amy Harper Bellafonte is six years old and her mother thinks she’s the most important person in the whole world. She is.

Anthony Carter doesn’t think he could ever be in a worse place than Death Row. He’s wrong.

FBI agent Brad Wolgast thinks something beyond imagination is coming. It is.

Unaware of each other’s existence but bound together in ways none of them could have imagined, they are about to embark on a journey. An epic journey that will take them through a world transformed by man’s darkest dreams, to the very heart of what it means to be human. And beyond.

Because something is coming. A tidal wave of darkness ready to engulf the world. And Amy is the only person who can stop it.

I picked this one up at Fantasycon a couple of years ago and it’s been stacked in my TBR pile ever since. And if I hadn’t requested City of Mirrors from NetGalley, it would probably still be there, but I thought it might be a refreshing change to read a series in the right order… If your taste runs to apocalyptic science fiction, then this is the daddy, coming in at 766 pages and – as you might imagine – not brimful of fun. But the writing is spare, pacey and lyrically beautiful. It’s a book that’s going to stay with me for a long time.

Weekly Wrap-Up – 10th April 2016

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This is where I join in the weekly meme over at the Caffeinated Book Reviewer, where bloggers can share what they’re reading and what they’re writing about.

For the second week in a row I completed reading five books, and will be reviewing all of them, although I haven’t yet written them all, as my grannying duties this week have got in the way of my blogging. Again, a couple of these books I completed while reading them to the grandchildren. I have already posted a couple reviews as they were published this week, but the others are still waiting to see the light of day.

 

Desolation – Book 2 of The Demon Road trilogy by Derek LandyDesolation
This children’s horror is all about a couple on the run from a demon. I’m impressed at how well written and entertaining it is, with plenty of action and plot twists – and how it all kicks off when they end up in a town called Desolation… This review was posted on Thursday.

 

burnedBurned – Book 7 of the Alex Verus series by Benedict Jacka
This is the latest instalment in the adventures of the divination mage Alex Verus. A foot-to-the-floor, adrenaline-fuelled novel with a shocking conclusion. As this book was published on Thursday, I posted my review on Saturday.

 

The Witches Revenge – Book 2 of Beaver Towers by Nigel Hintonwitchesrevenge
The Easter holidays has given me the opportunity to continue reading this enjoyable children’s fantasy adventure to my grandson. This book is far scarier than the first in the series and enthralled us both, so I read far later into the night than I’d intended. The review will appear in due course.

 

therhesuschartThe Rhesus Chart – Book 5 of The Laundry Files by Charles Stross
Arcane British agent, Bob Howard, is confronted once more with beings with paranormal powers, meaning that the Government agency The Laundry has to swing into action. This supernatural whodunit is distinguished by the sharp, snarky first person commentary by Bob.

 

Space Hostages – Book 2 of the Mars Evacuees by Sophia McDougallspacehostages
This hugely enjoyable science fiction adventure is for children, apparently, but we were all giggling in some places and enthralled in others. I will be posting the review of this in due course.

 

My posts last week were:-
Weekly Wrap-Up – 3rd April
*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuirre
Teaser Tuesday – Desolation – Book 2 of The Demon Road by Derek Landy
*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of The Last Gasp by Trevor Hoyle
* NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Desolation – Book 2 of The Demon Road by Derek Landy
Friday Faceoff – UK vs US books covers of Stormdancer by Jay Kristoff
* NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Burned – Book 7 of the Alex Verus series by Benedict Jacka

It’s been a busy week with grannying, so the blog and writing have taken a back seat, somewhat. My most popular post was last Sunday’s Weekly Wrap Up, closely followed by my Tuesday Teaser.

I’d like to thank everyone who swung by, particularly those of you who went to the trouble of leaving a comment. Take care and have a great week, now that the trees are finally starting to burst into leaf – yay!

* NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of KINDLE Ebook Desolation – Book 2 of The Demon Road Trilogy by Derek Landy

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This was a sudden impulse – I’ve got Demon Road sitting on my Kindle, waiting to be read, and when I suddenly spotted this book was shortly due to come out and wanting a chance of pace, I decided to get hold of it. Was it a wise decision?

DesolationReeling from their bloody encounter in New York City at the end of Demon Road, Amber and Milo flee north. On their trail are the Hounds of Hell – five demonic bikers who will stop at nothing to drag their quarries back to their unholy master. Amber and Milo’s only hope lies within Desolation Hill – a small town with a big secret; a town with a darkness to it, where evil seeps through the very floorboards. Until, on one night every year, it spills over onto the streets and all hell breaks loose. And that night is coming…

When a book starts with such a bang, the action and pace need to be sustained or the subsequent chapters can feel like an anti-climax, which isn’t ideal in an action adventure novel. However, Landy is far too deft to allow Desolation to suffer such a slump – the narrative in this YA horror adventure continues to hurtle forward, providing plenty of twists and turns throughout. Despite not having read the first book, at no stage did I flounder – slices of necessary information were provided without any loss of momentum as the story rolled forward.

I quickly bonded with Amber and the team including Two, the dog, who also end up at Desolation to fight the forces of evil. Their resemblance to the Scooby Doo adventurers is a nice touch in a story where in amongst the murder and mayhem, there are plenty of humorous moments. I found myself chuckling aloud in several instances. That didn’t stop the action scenes being full of drama, with both Milo and Amber continually in all sorts of danger and regularly involved in lots of violent action.

Given this is a YA read, Landy is treading a tricky line, but he is clearly experienced at doing so, as I didn’t feel at any stage he stepped over it. The main antagonists are all suitably vile and pose a significant threat. We are also aware of their motivations and why they made the choices they did. One of the strengths of this book is that in amongst all the action, there is a thorough examination of good and evil – and how fine that distinction can be – without any moralising. While I wouldn’t necessarily be comfortable with my eleven-year-old granddaughter reading this, I’ll have no problem with her picking it up in a couple of years, should she wish to.

As for me, will I be backtracking and reading the first book, Demon Road, in this series? Oh yes – and I’m also looking forward to getting hold of American Monsters as soon as it becomes available in due course. I very much want to know how Amber and Milo cope after the big game-changing climax at the end of Desolation.

The ebook arc copy of Desolation was provided by NetGalley in return for an honest opinion of the book
8/10

Teaser Tuesday – 5th April 2016

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Teaser

Teaser Tuesday is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Books and a Beat.
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:
Desolation – Book 2 of The Demon Road trilogy by Derek Landy
1%: It was safe in here. None of these people wanted to kill her. She was getting good at spotting the Desolationtelltale signs.

BLURB: Reeling from their bloody encounter in New York City at the end of Demon Road, Amber and Milo flee north. On their trail are the Hounds of Hell – five demonic bikers who will stop at nothing to drag their quarries back to their unholy master.
Amber and Milo’s only hope lies within Desolation Hill – a small town with a big secret; a town with a darkness to it, where evil seeps through the very floorboards. Until, on one night every year, it spills over onto the streets and all hell breaks loose.
And that night is coming…

I hadn’t PLANNED on reviewing this book – but when those nice people at NetGalley told me I was auto-approved and I looked twice at the cover, I somehow couldn’t resist. Yes… I know, I know – I’ve cheated, I’ve posted THREE sentences instead of TWO. And? They’re short sentences. So, bite me. Um – erm – no… please don’t! What I meant to say was…

A review will be along shortly, given this book is due to be published on 7th April.

Review of Kindle EBOOK Annihilation – Book 1 of The Southern Reach Trilogy by Jeff VanderMeer

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For thirty years, Area X, monitored by the secret agency known as the Southern Reach, has remained mysterious and remote behind its intangible border– an environmental disaster zone, though to all appearances an abundant wilderness. Eleven expeditions have been sent in to investigate; even for those that have made it out alive, there have been terrible consequences. This is the story of the twelfth expedition, told by its nameless biologist. Introverted but highly intelligent, the biologist brings her own secrets with her. She is accompanied by a psychologist, an anthropologist and a surveyor, their stated mission: to chart the land, take samples and expand the Southern Reach’s understanding of Area X.

annhiliationAnd that’s most of the blurb. Which takes you straight into the middle of the action – from the first line we are pitchforked right into Area X as the biologist struggles to recover from the journey over the border. And is recording exactly what she sees around her. VanderMeer manages to have the prose pinging with tension right from the opening passage – and while this is definitely an adrenaline-filled exploration filled with incident and shocking occurrences, it is also so much more.

There is more than a touch of Margaret Atwood in the manner in which VanderMeer has the gruesome and shocking discoveries shake up our aloof, wary biologist to the extent that she confides her own story of exactly why she volunteered for Area X. And her own secret is both sad and harrowing. As events within Area X spiral out of control, the biologist is driven to tell her own tale in sections – leading to the climax.

VanderMeer is a highly skilled writer at the top of his game – this could so easily have turned into some spatterpunk gore-fest. But his control over the bizarre and creepy is pitch perfect, as is the pace at which this story unfolds. This isn’t my favourite sub-genre by a long country mile – I’m not a huge fan of creepy nastiness. But I was so hooked by the need to know what exactly would happen to the biologist, I couldn’t put the book down. And do I want to read Authority, the next in the series? Oh for sure. Since I completed the book, the beautiful, terrifying world of Area X keeps sliding back into my head every so often – reminding me of the heartbreak of human relationships. And what might happen to us, if our natural surroundings ever decide to fight back…
10/10

Review of The Apocalypse Codex – Book 4 of The Laundry Files by Charles Stross

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If you’ve spent any time rootling through these posts, you’ll know I’m a solid Charles Stross fan – last year I reviewed Glasshouse and his wonderful alternate historical science fiction book The Family Trade was one of my Outstanding Reads of 2011. I also reviewed The Fuller Memorandum, Book 3 of The Laundry Files – so was delighted when I came across the next slice of Bob’s adventures…

apocalypse codexFor outstanding heroism in the field (despite himself), computational demonologist Bob Howard is on a career fast-track within the Laundry, the branch of the Secret Service that fights otherworldly threats. But when he is called to investigate a miracle-working American televangelist who seems suspiciously interested in the Prime Minister, Bob finds an occult mess that even the Laundry may be unable to clean up.

That’s the blurb. For those of you who have not yet encountered the doings of Bob and the Laundry, my firm advice is not to start with The Apocalypse Codex – instead track down the first book in the series, The Atrocity Archives. Stross hasn’t written the books such that you would be completely adrift if you did start with The Apocalypse Codex, but this is such a solidly good reading experience it seems a real pity to compromise it by plunging in at the wrong point.

Bob is wholly believable as a slightly cynical, often bored administrator. His first person narrative is a joy, with the shafts of humour throughout. However, Bob’s career is progressing – and this time around, instead of being paired with his wife, Bob is sent on a fact-finding mission with two operatives to oversee, the gloriously named Persephone Hazard and Johnny McTavish.

This does mean that the book isn’t fully in first person narrative – there were times when we needed to know what Persephone and Johnny were up to, and the viewpoint lapses into third person, sometimes Persephone and sometimes Johnny. Stross, being Stross, makes this work – but I did at times miss Bob’s biting humour during some of these passages. I liked the fact that there is a definite story arc, so that there is a sense this series is moving towards a climax. The darker, Lovecraftian feel that helps make this series distinctive became a lot more to the fore in this book, where we are all headed hellwards towards a nasty end wherein a lot of tentacles and swivelling eye stalks will be involved…

Stross knows how to reel in his readers and keep them engrossed until the end – I thoroughly enjoyed the ride and although there is an occasional unevenness in the narrative that means this isn’t his best work – this talented author is always worth reading.
8/10