Category Archives: Indie ebook

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of KINDLE Ebook Crash Land on Kurai – Book 1 of the Hikoboshi series by S.J. Pajonas

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One of my book blogging buddies, Lola, reviewed this book here and I was so intrigued by the premise, I got hold of it.

Crash Land on Kurai is the first book in the Hikoboshi series, an action adventure, space opera series that explores the worlds settled by the Japanese who fled Earth a century ago. Culture, history, technology, and swords clash in a fast-paced future society on the brink of war. Yumi Minamoto has the shortest fuse on the ship. She’s just whipped a bully and been confined to quarters, but she’s not staying there. A disgraced journalist trying to clear her name, her job is to document the mission to the Hikoboshi system, and she’s determined to get it right, despite all the trouble she causes. But when unknown vessels fire on their ship, and Yumi’s life pod crash lands on a dying moon, she’s separated from her family and friends, and her mission falls to pieces. Now she must navigate the unfamiliar and deadly terrain, deal with a society she doesn’t understand, and try to stay alive until rescue comes… if it ever does.

Yumi is an interesting protagonist – from a powerful and influential family, she is clearly the cuckoo in the nest. Constantly in trouble with the authorities, I liked the fact that when she says at the start of the story that she is a pain in the neck with an attitude and a knack for rubbing folks up the wrong way – she means it. Quite often we are told at the start of a story the heroine is a trouble-maker and rebel – only to find she is actually a pleaser who very much minds what everyone thinks of her, especially the male characters. I also like the fact that she claims to be plain – and judging by the responses she gets, that does appear to be the case. That said, I wanted at times to shake her until her teeth rattle, as she really does rub folks up the wrong – even those who are trying to keep her alive

What I particularly enjoyed was the depiction of how environmental pressures affect a culture, so the colony that only a few hundred years ago was identical with the same values as its Earth equivalent from whence it came, now has morphed into something quite different. The runaway capitalism, where the majority population are born indebted and have to work continually to keep alive, is both shocking and plausible, given the ongoing warfare between the factions. The way the visitors are treated is also depressingly realistic. I’m conscious that Crash Land on Kurai is a spin-off from a previous series, but I didn’t find myself floundering in any way.

Any niggles? While I liked the idea that Yumi suffers from migraines – it seems hardly any protagonists have to deal with such physical issues in books – maybe the reason is because when pickforked into the middle of an adventure, her recovery time slows the pace somewhat. And when I think of how disabling my migraines used to be – particularly when I was in hospital and didn’t receive any pain relief – it took me days to get over it, I did feel a bit annoyed at how quickly she bounces back. However, I did enjoy how adrift and traumatised Yumi feels when subjected to the violence of real combat, even though she has regularly sparred throughout her life.

All in all, this is a thoroughly engrossing adventure and a strong start to the series that I will be definitely following in future. Highly recommended.
8/10

Sunday Post – 16th 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 we had the pleasure of Oscar’s company for the week-end and on Sunday we went to the Look and Sea Centre for breakfast, before walking down to the beach and out onto the small pier where we could watch boats negotiate the entrance of the River Arun. It was another wonderful, sunny day and later we took my sister with us when driving Oscar home so she could visit Rebecca’s home and amazing garden.

I’ve been working hard on the line edit for Dying for Space and also treating myself to watching Wimbledon, which I love. On Friday evening we had a meal at my sister’s and played Nostalgia and Dobble after going through her photo album of us as girls and remembering family holidays another lifetime ago…

This week I have read:

Hag-Seed by Margaret Atwood
In Margaret Atwood’s ‘novel take’ on Shakespeare’s original, theatre director Felix has been unceremoniously ousted from his role as Artistic Director of the Makeshiweg Festival. When he lands a job teaching theatre in a prison, the possibility of revenge presents itself – and his cast find themselves taking part in an interactive and illusion-ridden version of The Tempest that will change their lives forever.
I loved this one – there are so many clever allusions and nods to Shakespeare’s play embedded in this entertaining story of revenge and redemption. But Atwood doesn’t allow them to hamper her narrative pace – great stuff! I’ll be reviewing this one in due course.

 

The Last Straw – Book 3 of the Diary of a Wimpey Kid series by Jeff Kinney
Let’s face it: Greg Heffley will never change his wimpy ways. Somebody just needs to explain that to Greg’s father. You see, Frank Heffley actually thinks he can get his son to toughen up, and he enlists Greg in organized sports and other “manly” endeavors. Of course, Greg is easily able to sidestep his father’s efforts to change him. But when Greg’s dad threatens to send him to military academy, Greg realizes he has to shape up . . . or get shipped out.
Oscar was keen to get this one out of the library when he came to stay last week-end and between us, we managed to finish reading the story before he went home on Sunday afternoon. I was impressed at the humour and strong narrative, as well as how accessible the vocabulary is for emerging young readers – no wonder these books are so popular. Review to follow.

 

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.
This is an interesting and unusual approach to this subject, where Julia’s fury at being constantly visited throughout her life has affected her, making her suspicious and hostile of humans and aliens alike.

 

 

Face the Change – Book 3 of the Menopausal Superheroes series by Samantha Bryant
The Menopausal Superheroes are coming out of the closet and the pressure is high, on the job and on the homefront. Now that he knows what it’s like to be a hero, Leonel “Fuerte” Alvarez can’t imagine going back to his former life as a grandmother and housewife. But putting his life on the line may cost him his husband even while he saves the city. Jessica “Flygirl” Roark is holding on to her second chance at love with both hands while learning to balance single parenthood with her new career in crime-fighting. Patricia “Lizard Woman” O’Neill is blindsided by an unexpected romance just as she signs on to join the team. Meanwhile enemies abound–old and new. When superpowers alone aren’t enough, what a woman really needs are her friends.
I jumped at the opportunity to review this entertaining and unusual take of the superhero genre and it didn’t disappoint. I shall be posting my review this coming week.

 

Star Witch – Book 2 of The Lazy Girl’s Guide to Magic series by Helen Harper
Ivy Wilde, the laziest witch in the West, is still entangled with the Hallowed Order of Magical Enlightenment. That’s not a bad thing, however, because it gives her plenty of excuses to spend more time with sapphire eyed Raphael Winter, her supposed nemesis. And when he comes knocking because he needs her to spy on the latest series of Enchantment, she jumps at the chance. Hanging around a film set can’t be hard … or dangerous … right?
I thoroughly enjoyed the smart snappy writing of the first book – and was delighted when Himself treated us to this second instalment. Another real delight to read and I shall be posting my review in due course.

 

My posts last week:

Sunday Post – 16th July 2017

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of How to Stop Time by Matt Haig

Teaser Tuesday featuring Face the Change – Book 3 of the Menopausal Superheroes series by Samantha Bryant

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Dichronauts by Greg Egan

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of The Stargazer’s Embassy by Eleanor Lerman

Friday Face-off – I must go down to the sea again…featuring Ship of Magic – Book 1 of the Liveship Traders series by Robin Hobb

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Slouch Witch – Book 1 of The Lazy Girl’s Guide to Magic series by Helen Harper

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

Peace Talks 101https://wandaluthman.wordpress.com/2017/07/10/peace-talks-101/ Now the children are at home for the summer break, World War 3 can break out between siblings – these top tips help you cope…

Anne Valley Walkhttps://inesemjphotography.com/2017/07/09/anne-valley-walk/ Inese talks us on a wonderful walk featuring the fauna and flora…

Proxima Centauri b keeps getting attention http://earthianhivemind.net/2017/07/12/proxima-centauri-b-keeps-getting-attention/ Another excellent article from Steph about some of the latest investigations on one of our near neighbours.

Six Word Stories: Wethttps://richardankers.com/2017/07/12/six-word-stories-wet/ Another snappy gem from Richard…

10 of the Best Plays by Women Dramatistshttps://interestingliterature.com/2017/07/12/10-of-the-best-plays-by-women-dramatists/ An interesting, informative article on some of the foremost women dramatists through the ages.

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 Slouch Witch – Book 1 of The Lazy Girl’s Guide to Magic by Helen Harper

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Himself had bought this book and when he finished it, he said ‘Read this – it’s really good!’ So I did – and he’s right…

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.

The blurb gives an indication of the sharp humour that runs throughout the book as Ivy is pitchforked into the middle of this entertaining mystery, where there is clearly a nefarious plot brewing at the Order. What made this book for me is Ivy’s first person narrative as she is reluctantly dragged into this investigation, when she would far rather curl up on her sofa and watch something good on the telly. It is such a refreshing change to find a protagonist who genuinely would rather be doing almost anything else other than getting involved that I was completely beguiled and found it very difficult to put this one down.

The fact she is partnered with the very focused and ambitious Winter – a complete opposite – heightened my enjoyment. It would have been only too easy for Harper to become so involved in the spiky dynamic of this partnership such that she didn’t pay sufficient attention to the investigation. This doesn’t happen. As events steadily stack up, the stakes continue to become ever higher so that despite the humour and interesting relationship, I was staying up waaay too late because I wanted to know what was going to happen next.

Of course along the way, Ivy discovers that she is quite enjoying herself – not that she is prepared to admit it, and certainly not to Winter. This entertaining investigation provides plenty of tension and action as well as a genuinely funny main protagonist with a strong voice that pings off the page. If you enjoy your urban fantasy with a feisty protagonist, strong supporting characters and an entertaining mystery, then I recommend you track down this enjoyable book by a talented indie author. I’m delighted to report that the next book in the series, Star Witch, has just been released and I will certainly be getting hold of it just as soon as I can.
9/10

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

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of KINDLE Ebook Scavenger Alliance – Book 1 of the Exodus series by Janet Edwards

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I was a bit shaken to see that I’d let this one slip under my radar as I’m a real fan of Edwards’ writing. But fortunately Himself was on the ball and picked it up for me…

In the year 2408, a century after the invention of interstellar portals, seven hundred people scavenge a living in abandoned New York. The respectable citizens have either withdrawn to new settlements in the countryside, or joined the great exodus of humanity to new, unpolluted colony worlds, but eighteen-year-old Blaze is one of the undesirables that neither the citizen settlements nor the new colony worlds will accept. Blaze’s mother died six years ago. She thinks her father is Donnell, the leader of the uneasy alliance between the remnants of the Earth Resistance and the old criminal gangs. It’s less clear what Donnell thinks, since he barely speaks to her. The alliance is crumbling under the strain of its hardest winter ever, when an old enemy tries to use Blaze as a pawn in a power bid. She thinks her life can’t possibly get more difficult, but then an aircraft carrying three off-worlders arrives in New York.

This post-apocalyptic science fiction adventure is set in the same world as the popular Earthgirl series – see my review of Earthgirl here – but earlier when Earth is still reeling from the Exodus. There is still a group of people eking out a living in the ruins of New York and we follow the fortunes of one of the teenage girls, Blaze. Once again, Edwards has depicted a sympathetic, readable protagonist so we get a ringside seat in her gritted existence as the group battle horrible alien creatures, the constant threat of starvation and illness. However, most of the time Blaze is more taken up with the tensions within the group as some dangerous people are unwilling allies and want to take over the group. And right in the midst of this, three off-worlders turn up, completely ignorant of their way of life.

It’s a nifty plot device as Blaze is regularly having to explain to the clueless bunch what is going on, allowing the equally ignorant reader to glean important details about their everyday life without it turning into an info dump. Particularly as one of the group, Tad, is a real motor-mouth who seems to expect everyone else to wait with baited breath as he asks a constant stream of questions. And a fair number of them are really stupid – while others display a disquieting amount of knowledge about Earth that he shouldn’t have…

As a YA book there is a romance, but as ever with Edwards, it doesn’t hi-jack the story which suits me just fine. In fact, while I always enjoy Edwards’ books, this one nocked up the action and tension such that I didn’t put it down until I’d finished it. If you like your science fiction with a gritty edge, plenty of action and a readable protagonist then go searching for this one. It’s one of the best science fiction adventure tales I’ve read this year.
10/10

Sunday Post – 19th March 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.

It’s been a great week. Last Monday I started back at Fitstep and Pilates after a couple of weeks’ break and thoroughly enjoyed getting back into the rhythm of exercising again. We had our Poetry Workshop during my Creative Writing sessions on Monday and Tuesday, which I hope the students found as enjoyable and stimulating as I did. Himself had a couple of days off midweek, so we took a bit of a break and went out for lunch at the Look and Sea restaurant, though the lovely river views were a tad murky on account of the fog.

It was also something of a celebration as Kristell Ink Publishing have now announced they have signed a contract with me to publish Netted, which they described as: a tale of family love, rivalry and cybernetic implants, with some kick-ass older women and a dark undertone of repression and obsession. It is scheduled to be released in 2019. As you can imagine, I’m delighted. They got back to me at the end of January to say they liked the rewrite and wanted to publish Netted. Once I signed the contract, Jo Hall introduced me to the rest of the Grimbold authors – Kristell Ink is one of their imprints. I have been bowled over by the warm welcome I’ve received by these talented folks. One of the main reasons why I submitted to them last year is that I’m enormously impressed by the consistently high quality of the books they publish. And I would also like to congratulate with my fellow author, Myfanwy Rodman, who has also been recently signed with Kristell Ink.

This week I have read:
Wolf Moon – Book 2 of The Luna duology by Ian McDonald

Corta Helio, one of the five family corporations that rule the Moon, has fallen. Its riches are divided up among its many enemies, its survivors scattered. Eighteen months have passed. The remaining Helio children, Lucasinho and Luna, are under the protection of the powerful Asamoahs, while Robson, still reeling from witnessing his parent’s violent deaths, is now a ward – virtually a hostage – of Mackenzie Metals. And the last appointed heir, Lucas, has vanished from the surface of the moon. Only Lady Sun, dowager of Taiyang, suspects that Lucas Corta is not dead, and – more to the point – that he is still a major player in the game. After all, Lucas always was a schemer, and even in death, he would go to any lengths to take back everything and build a new Corta Helio, more powerful than before. But Corta Helio needs allies, and to find them, the fleeing son undertakes an audacious, impossible journey – to Earth. In an unstable lunar environment, the shifting loyalties and political machinations of each family reach the zenith of their most fertile plots as outright war between the families erupts.

This is a gritty, action-packed sequel to the excellent Luna: New Moon released last year – see my review here. Now that everything has kicked off on the Moon and tipped into war, old scores are settled and revenge drives these ambitious, ruthless people whose energy and fire helped transform the Moon into the industrial powerhouse that now keeps the lights burning on Earth.

 

Mira’s Last Dance – Book 4 of the Penric and Desdemona novella series by Lois McMaster Bujold

In this sequel to the novella Penric’s Mission – see my review here – the injured Penric, a Temple sorcerer and learned divine, tries to guide the betrayed General Arisaydia and his widowed sister Nikys across the last hundred miles of hostile Cedonia to safety in the Duchy of Orbas.

This is another gem. I have loved the character progression Penric has undergone since becoming an accidental host to twelve demons when a young man setting out to become betrothed. But this adventure has definitely been his greatest challenge so far, though even daily life poses its own problems as a good man trying to accommodate a very powerful chaos demon.

 

My posts last week:

Sunday Post – 12th March 2017

Review of Amunet by Robert Harkess

Teaser Tuesday featuring Wolf Moon – Book 2 of the Luna series by Ian McDonald

Review of Satan’s Reach – Book 2 of the Weird Space series by Eric Brown

Top Ten Spring Reads

Friday Face-off – I know why the caged bird sings… featuring The Lies of Locke Lamora – Book 1 of the Gentleman Bastard Sequence by Scott Lynch

NEW RELEASE SPECIAL Review of Mira’s Last Dance – Book 4 of the Penric and Desdemona novella series by Lois McMaster Bujold

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

Kristell Ink Welcomes Two New Authors! http://kristell-ink.com/kristell-ink-welcomes-two-new-authors/ I couldn’t resist featuring this announcement…

From the ‘Arctic’ series https://photolicioux.wordpress.com/2017/03/11/from-the-arctic-series/ Once more this marvellous site has delivered an amazing pic.

Space Features of the Week http://earthianhivemind.net/2017/03/18/space-features-week-18-march/ Another excellent roundup from Steph of what is going on in space – and this week, you really shouldn’t miss this article.

50 Word Stories: The Robin https://richardankers.com/2017/03/18/50-word-stories-the-robin/ Another little treasure from this insanely prolific and talented author.

Three Years and Counting https://inesemjphotography.com/2017/03/17/three-years-and-counting/ In this outstanding article, Inese provides amazing photos of this year’s St Patrick’s Parade and some thoughtful insights into her three-year experience of blogging.

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

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of KINDLE novella Mira’s Last Dance Book 4 in the Penric and Desdemona series by Lois McMaster Bujold

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I’ve grown to really look forward to this novella series making a regular appearance from the talented author, Lois McMaster Bujold, whose Miles Vorkosigan series was a major gamechanger in the genre – see my review of Cryoburn.

In this sequel to the novella Penric’s Mission, the injured Penric, a Temple sorcerer and learned divine, tries to guide the betrayed General Arisaydia and his widowed sister Nikys across the last hundred miles of hostile Cedonia to safety in the Duchy of Orbas.

Though the blurb above makes it very clear, my firm advice would be to first read Penric’s Mission before plunging into this one. While Bujold’s deft writing won’t leave you floundering, you are coming in halfway through this particular story arc and as it is a novella, it necessarily is more compressed and faster-moving than a novel so there simply isn’t the time to compensate for the inevitable gaps in the backstory.

This is another gem. I have loved the character progression Penric has undergone since becoming an accidental host to a chaos demon with twelve previous riders when a young man setting out to become betrothed. But this adventure has definitely been his greatest challenge so far, though even daily life poses its own problems as a good man trying to accommodate a very powerful chaos demon. Bujold’s talent is to give us a ringside seat while Penric is constantly having to negotiate with the demons riding him, as well as react to a fast-changing and dangerous situation when his inclination is to pore through old manuscripts. I am every bit as entranced with Penric as that half-demented, adrenaline junkie, Miles Vorkosigan.

Penric is also accompanied by General Arisaydia and his sister, Nikys who are on the run from a despotic tyrant. Tension and danger tip into farce as Penric takes some extreme steps to keep the group safe – and in doing so, certainly sacrifices any trust and a fair degree of respect the General had for him. I sniggered throughout this episode, as Penric once more is dumped into the middle of a madcap situation courtesy of his demons that he couldn’t have imagined in his wildest dreams.

As with the other novellas in the series, this one has wormed its way into my head and won’t leave me alone – partly because there is no real closure on the main storyline. But the consolation is that Bujold is evidently on something of a roll with these books and I’m hoping another one is due out before the end of the year. In the meantime, if you haven’t yet had the pleasure, start at the beginning with Penric’s Demon – they are not long and reasonably priced – and if you enjoyed the Miles Vorkosigan series or appreciate intelligent, character-driven fantasy – you’ll thank me if you do.
9/10

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of KINDLE Indie Ebook Griffen: Shadows of the Mirror Realm by A.J. Blakemont

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I liked the sound of this one and requested it from NetGalley…

She has nothing—not even a roof above her head. She has unimaginable powers, but these griffenpowers come at a price: she has to feed on the mental energy of human beings, killing them in the process. Her name is Griffen and she is a newborn. She is a copy, a paranormal twin of a young woman, Letitia. Griffen is not the only one of her kind—there are others like her, living among humans or hiding underground. Romantics called them doppelgangers, ghostly twins, the harbingers of death. Scientists who know that they exist call them simulacra. They call themselves mirror souls. Who are they and what are their goals?

This feels like the start of a series about this group of superbeings who have existed in our world alongside us for millennia. We see this world through the viewpoint of this newly created being, who has the memories and emotions of Letitia – yet needs to kill in order to stay alive. Traumatised and loathing the need to kill in order to keep alive, Griffen attempts to learn more about who she is and what she is capable of, in order to continue to be able to cope with her abilities.

It is a nifty idea – provide someone right at the start of their journey and give the reader a front row seat as she begins to learn more about who she is and what she is capable of. I very much liked the idea of how the mirror world is created and the factions and politics of the power struggles between those factions is by far the strongest part of the book. Blakemont nicely blends parts of our history, such as the Knights Templar being one of the early powerbases of the mirror beings for instance. And there are pleasing echoes of the vampire legends embodied in some of their attributes that I enjoyed.

What hampered my full reading enjoyment was my inability to bond with the main protagonist, Griffen. Perhaps had I known a bit more about Letitia before Griffen’s creation, in order to get a real sense of what she feels she has lost, I would have found her more interesting. It wasn’t until well into the book, I really began to care more about her aims and goals and with many books that would have been a dealbreaker, but I found the alternate world Blakemont has created sufficiently engrossing that I was able to continue enjoying the read. For while I didn’t fully identify with Griffen, neither did I actively dislike her. Overall, this is a pleasing adventure about an interestingly original set of superbeings, whose opposing aims and cultures pulled me into this story.

While I obtained the arc of Griffen from the publisher via NetGalley, this has in no way influenced my unbiased review.
7/10

2016 Discovery Challenge – How Did I Do?

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After reading Jo Hall’s post here, I decided to join this challenge and set myself the target of reading and reviewing at least two books a month by women authors I’ve not previously encountered. For a variety of reasons, 2016 proved to be my best reading year, ever. So I actually read and reviewed 45 books by women I haven’t read before. There were so many great authors in that group and my top five are included in my outstanding books of 2016 – see here. So I want to feature my top five very near misses in no particular order:-

Radiance by Cathrynne M. Valente
radianceI enjoy being a Netgalley reader – it pushes me out of my comfort zone every so often. I’m not sure I would have picked up this offering if it hadn’t been on offer, given the description was a decopunk pulp SF alt-history space opera mystery set in a Hollywood-and solar system-very different from our own. Severin Unck’s father is a famous director of Gothic romances in an alternate 1986 in which talking movies are still a daring innovation due to the patent-hoarding Edison family. Rebelling against her father’s films of passion, intrigue, and spirits from beyond, Severin starts making documentaries, traveling through space and investigating the levitator cults of Neptune and the lawless saloons of Mars. For this is not our solar system, but one drawn from classic science fiction in which all the planets are inhabited and we travel through space on beautiful rockets. Severin is a realist in a fantastic universe.

For starters, this is a novel with a fractured timeline, so the story skips around and is told in a mixture of interviews, gossip and through extracts of old classic film, among other narrative modes. Therefore you need to pay attention. Initially I wondered what I was getting myself into – for the sheer oddness of the world wasn’t anything I was prepared for, given that I’m allergic to reading any kind of blurb. Was it worth the effort? Oh, yes.

 

Machinations – Book 1 of the Machinations series by Hayley Stone
The machines have risen, but not out of malice. They were simply following a command: to stop the machinationsendless wars that have plagued the world throughout history. Their solution was perfectly logical. To end the fighting, they decided to end the human race. A potent symbol of the resistance, Rhona Long has served on the front lines of the conflict since the first Machinations began—until she is killed during a rescue mission gone wrong. Now Rhona awakens to find herself transported to a new body, complete with her DNA, her personality, even her memories. She is a clone . . . of herself. Trapped in the shadow of the life she once knew, the reincarnated Rhona must find her place among old friends and newfound enemies—and quickly. For the machines are inching closer to exterminating humans for good. And only Rhona, whoever she is now, can save them.

I also read and reviewed the second book, Counterpart in this intriguing series. There are indications that Stone is still feeling her way – this is, after all, her debut novel and the machines weren’t particularly vividly drawn – but I have never read a book where the issue of cloning has been so thoroughly and emotionally examined. Despite its flaws, this one has stayed with me.

 

The Fettered Flame – Book 2 of the Shkode series by E.D.E. Bell
thefetteredflameThe Fettered Flame is a genre-bending fantasy novel that continues the saga of two dying worlds, plagued by their own unique struggles for power. Follow the journeys of Cor – a woman striving to understand her powers of magic and how the connect to her past, Atesh – her contemplative dragon companion, and Jwala – a dragon plunged into a rebirth of ancient ideals. The Fettered Flame is the second instalment in the Shkode trilogy: a quirky and modern take on dragons and wizards, exploring themes of identity, prejudice, violence, compassion, and the ways we are all connected.

I was sufficiently impressed to seek out the first book, The Banished Craft, in this science fiction/fantasy mashup. The blurb may sound a bit gushy, but it is spot on. This is epic fantasy with a sci fi twist and I’m looking forward to reading the next instalment when it is released as I love the characters and Bell’s quirky, insightful take on the world she has created.

 

Rosemary and Rue – Book 1 of the Toby Daye series by Seanan McGuire
October “Toby” Daye, a changeling who is half human and half fae, has been an outsider from birth. rosemaryandrueAfter getting burned by both sides of her heritage, Toby has denied the Faerie world, retreating to a “normal” life. Unfortunately for her, the Faerie world has other ideas…

I loved McGuire’s writing and went on to read her wonderful novella Every Heart a Doorway. One of my promises to myself is to continue reading more of the Toby Daye series in 2017.

 

Rebel of the Sands – Book 1 of the Rebel of the Sands series by Alywn Hamilton
rebelofthesandsMortals rule the desert nation of Miraji, but mystical beasts still roam the wild and barren wastes, and rumor has it that somewhere, djinni still practice their magic. But there’s nothing mystical or magical about Dustwalk, the dead-end town that Amani can’t wait to escape from. Destined to wind up “wed or dead,” Amani’s counting on her sharpshooting skills to get her out of Dustwalk, but things don’t go according to plan…

Hamilton’s punchy, accomplished writing grabbed me from the first page and didn’t let go until the end of this adrenaline-fuelled ride. Amani is a feisty heroine who attracts trouble like iron filings to a magnet and I found this one really hard to put down until it was finished and am very much looking forward to reading the sequel.

 

Given I nearly doubled the target number of women authors I read and reviewed, should I increase my goal for 2017? I’ve decided against doing so. One of the reasons why 2016 was such a bumper reading year was because I wasn’t writing. Editing and rewriting, yes – but I wrote nothing new. So reading became a refuge that I don’t normally crave so intensely as diving into a new world of my own for the first time tends to thoroughly tick that box. Therefore, I shall launch my 2017 Discovery Challenge with the target of reading and reviewing at least two books a month by women writers previously unknown to me. And if I have half as much joy in the coming year as I’ve had reading this year’s offerings, I shall be very happy, indeed.

What about you? Did you set yourself any reading challenges in 2016 – and if so, how have you got on? Do you intend to continue them into 2017?

Discovery Challenge Books I Read in 2016
1. The Puppet Boy of Warsaw by Eva Weaver
2. Truthwitch – Book 1 of the Witchlands series by Susan Dennard
3. Gold, Fame, Citrus by Claire Vaye Watkins
4. Daughter of Smoke and Bone – Book 1 of the Daughter of Smoke and Bone series by Laini Taylor
5. Heart of Obsidian – Book 12 of the Psy-Changeling series by Nalini Singh
6. Radiance by Catherynne M. Valente
7. Rosemary and Rue – Book 1 of the Toby Daye series by Seanan McGuire
8. Radio Silence by Alice Oseman
9. The Sector – Book 1 of the Non-Compliance series by Paige Daniels
10. Brink’s Unfortunate Escape from Hell – Prequel to the Skycastle series by Andy Mulberry
11. The Many Selves of Katherine North by Emma Geen
12. The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi
13. Cinder – Book 1 of the Luna Chronicles by Marissa Meyer
14. Bright Blaze of Magic – Book 3 of the Black Blade series by Jennifer Estep
15. A Rural Affair by Catherine Alliott
16. Queen of Hearts – Book 1 of the Queen of Hearts saga by Colleen Oakes
17. The Outliers – Book 1 of The Outliers trilogy by Kimberley McCreight
18. The Loneliness of Distant Beings by Kate Ling
19. Banished – Book 1 of the Blackhart trilogy by Liz de Jager
20. The Nothing Girl by Jodi Taylor
21. Change of Life – Book 2 of a Menopausal Superhero by Samantha Bryant
22. Magic Bitter, Magic Sweet by Charlie N. Holmberg
23. Speak by Louisa Hall
24. Inborn – Book 1 of The Birthright series by Amy Saunders
25. Machinations – Book 1 of The Machinations series by Hayley Stone
26. Woman of the Hour by Jane Lythell
27. Shift by Em Bailey
28. An Accident of Stars – Book 1 of The Manifold Worlds series by Foz Meadows
29. Across the Universe – Book 1 of the Across the Universe series by Beth Revis
30. The Thousandth Floor – Book 1 of The Thousandth Floor series by Katherine McGee
31. The Changeling by Christina Soontornvat
32. The Fettered Flame – Book 2 of the Shkode series by E.D.E. Bell
33. Aveline – Book 1 of The Lost Vegas series by Lizzy Ford
34. Escapology by Ren Warom
35. So Many Boots, So Little Time – Book 3 of the MisAdventures of Miss Lilly series by Kalan Chapman Lloyd
36. The Imlen Brat by Sarah Avery
37. Return to the Secret Garden by Holly Webb
38. A Darker Shade of Magic – Book 1 of the Shades of Magic series by V.E. Schwab
39. Synners by Pat Cadigan
40. Renting Silence – A Roaring Twenties Mystery by Mary Miley
41. Split the Sun – Book 2 of the Inherit the Stars duology by Tessa Elwood
42. Rebel of the Sands – Book 1 of the Rebel of the Sands series by Alwyn Hamilton
43. Ever the Hunted – Book 1 of the Clash of Kingdoms series by Erin Summerill
44. The City of Ice – Book 2 of the Gates of the World series by K.M. McKinley
45. Graveyard Shift – Book 10 of the Pepper Martin series by Casey Daniels

Review of Indie KINDLE Ebook Bloodrush – Book 1 of The Scarlet Star trilogy by Ben Galley

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Ben came to talk to West Sussex Writers’ last month about the ins and outs of self-publishing and how in just six years he has managed to establish himself as a successful indie author with a string of well regarded books. It was one of the best, most informative talks we’ve ever had. I’d downloaded one of his books a while ago and decided it was high time to read it.

bloodrush“Magick ain’t pretty, it ain’t stars and sparkles. Magick is dirty. It’s rough. Raw. It’s blood and guts and vomit. You hear me?”
When Prime Lord Hark is found in a pool of his own blood on the steps of his halls, Tonmerion Hark finds his world not only turned upside down, but inside out. His father’s last will and testament forces him west across the Iron Ocean, to the very brink of the Endless Land and all civilisation. They call it Wyoming.
This is a story of murder and family.
In the dusty frontier town of Fell Falls, there is no silverware, no servants, no plush velvet nor towering spires. Only dust, danger, and the railway. Tonmerion has only one friend to help him escape the torturous heat and unravel his father’s murder. A faerie named Rhin. A twelve-inch tall outcast of his own kind.
This is a story of blood and magick.
But there are darker things at work in Fell Falls, and not just the railwraiths or the savages. Secrets lurk in Tonmerion’s bloodline. Secrets that will redefine this young Hark.
This is a story of the edge of the world.

I immediately liked the premise of a fantasy set in the Wild West as the railroad is being built and very much hoped the book would live up to the punchy blurb. It does. Merion is a really appealing protagonist – a suddenly orphaned thirteen-year-old, who is uprooted from all he knows and shipped out to the wilds of the frontier to live with an aunt he’s never met. Galley manages to establish him as sympathetic and beleaguered without turning him into a passive victim – a tricky balancing act to pull off successfully. I also loved Rin – he’s probably my favourite character in the story – a fae rebel on the run who befriends the isolated boy struggling to live up to his father’s iron-bound expectations. However, these two protagonists both make disastrous mistakes and are often selfish and obstinate, which I enjoyed, as I find it easier to bond with main characters when they are flawed.

The story is fast-paced with plenty of action and the scene setting is wonderful, so close our Victorian era but with some significant differences. The blood magic works extremely well – to the extent that at the back of the book there is a glossary explaining the rules and attributes that drinking the blood of various animals will provide the rusher. This is a rigorous magic system where users pay a price and the costs of getting it wrong can be fatal.

The major surprise at the end of the book had my jaw dropping – looking back I should have guessed it, but I didn’t and I am definitely going to be getting hold of the next book in this series. I want to know what happens next to our intrepid duo. If you enjoy action-packed fantasy with a strong setting, good magic system and engaging characters, then go looking for this one. Highly recommended.
9/10