Category Archives: netgalley

Review of NETGALLEY arc The Cottingley Secret by Hazel Gaynor

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I’m not normally a fan of long blurbs, but this one manages to neatly sum up a fairly complex story without giving away any major spoilers, so for once, I’m not going to prune it…

1917… It was inexplicable, impossible, but it had to be true—didn’t it? When two young cousins, Frances Griffiths and Elsie Wright from Cottingley, England, claim to have photographed fairies at the bottom of the garden, their parents are astonished. But when one of the great novelists of the time, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, becomes convinced of the photographs’ authenticity, the girls become a national sensation, their discovery offering hope to those longing for something to believe in amid a world ravaged by war. Frances and Elsie will hide their secret for many decades. But Frances longs for the truth to be told.

One hundred years later… When Olivia Kavanagh finds an old manuscript in her late grandfather’s bookshop she becomes fascinated by the story it tells of two young girls who mystified the world. But it is the discovery of an old photograph that leads her to realize how the fairy girls’ lives intertwine with hers, connecting past to present, and blurring her understanding of what is real and what is imagined. As she begins to understand why a nation once believed in fairies, can Olivia find a way to believe in herself?

And there you have it. Two timelines interweaving throughout the story with the major protagonists being young, dreamy Frances, displaced and pining for her father during the long war years. And dreamy, older Olivia, also somehow displaced from her own life after devastating news leaves her questioning everything and everyone in her life so far – and find it wanting.

The real challenge of writing such a book is to adequately balance both story strands so the reader isn’t rushing through one to get back to the other. And in this case, Gaynor has succeeded beautifully. At no stage did I find myself skim-reading through any section to get to another – despite skimming being one of my vices as a reader. So it is a tribute to the quality of Gaynor’s characterisation that both the lonely little girl and isolated twenty-something equally held me.

The other temptation in a story of this nature – particularly this specific story, given the scads that has already been written and said about it – is to either sensationalise or sentimentalise what occurred. Again, I admire Gaynor’s restraint – she could have revelled in the fuss and fame those photographs generated and allowed that to power the narrative. However, she also resisted that temptation, too. So what we have is a beautifully told tale of two hurt, sensitive people seeking refuge in something else outside their daily round. One of the joys of this book is that Gaynor’s writing has a lyrical quality that makes her descriptions of that small brook where Frances played alongside her fairies sing off the page. While her descriptions of the old, second-hand bookshop is equally vivid, so that I not only visualised the shop, I could smell the books, too.

When two narrative timelines run alongside each other, the other imperative is that the ending has to connect them to the readers’ satisfaction – and once again, Gaynor triumphantly succeeds in doing this. It isn’t a fantasy or paranormal tale, or a historical adventure – neither is it a contemporary romance, but it manages to interleave all these aspects into a wonderful, unusual story and is recommended for anyone who enjoys any of the above.
9/10

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Can’t-Wait Wednesday –10th January, 2018

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40276268 – vintage old pocket watch and book

Can’t-Wait Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted at Wishful Endings, to spotlight and discuss the books we’re excited about that we have yet to read. Generally they’re books that have yet to be released. It’s based on Waiting on Wednesday, hosted by the fabulous Jill at Breaking the Spine.

This week’s Can’t-Wait offering – Shadow Play: A British Police Procedural – Book 20 of the Bill Slider series by Cynthia Harrod-Eagles

#murder mystery #police procedural #British setting

Bill Slider and his team investigate the murder of a victim with a decidedly shady past in this gripping contemporary mystery.

When the body of a smartly-dressed businessman turns up in the yard of Eli Simpson’s car workshop, DCI Bill Slider and his team soon surmise that the victim was someone’s ‘enforcer’.

So who was Mr King? Who was he the muscle for? And what did he know that made someone decide to terminate the terminator?

Once more, I find I’ve crashed midway into the middle of a well-established murder mystery series. However, I’m quite comfortable doing that as I know I’m in safe hands with this very experienced, classy author.

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc Shadow Weaver – Book 1 of the Shadow Weaver series by MarcyKate Connolly

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I was drawn to this one by the lovely cover and interesting premise. The idea of using shadows to weave magic intrigued me so I requested it from Netgalley.

Emmeline has grown up with a gift. Since the time she was a baby she has been able to control shadows. And her only friend and companion is her own shadow, Dar. Disaster strikes when a noble family visits their home and offers to take Emmeline away and cure her of magic. Desperate not to lose her shadows, she turns to Dar who proposes a deal…

I’m leaving it at that as far as the blurb is concerned as I think it gives rather too much away. However, I found this book far more of a nuanced read than I had been expecting. Emmeline is feared by the servants and barely tolerated by her parents, who are clearly at a loss to know what to do about her. Left to her own devices, she spends her time sneaking around the grounds and the house, eavesdropping on conversations and playing tricks on the servants, or playing with the shadows.

I very much liked the fact that as her circumstances change and she finds herself with other people, she slowly begins to question her own behaviour. This isn’t a quick transformation and the book is as much about Emmeline’s own self-realisation as it is about the story of her emerging magic. The worldbuilding is well handled. Initially we don’t know all that much about what is going on in the wider world, apart from the snippets that Emmeline gleans from her snitching expeditions. However, as she leaves the family home and encounters other people, she learns just how much people with her gifts are being hunted and what they have to do to evade capture and a terrible fate. I very much liked the idea that people are invested with magic if they are born when a particular comet passes over every twenty-five years.

Emmeline’s growth and increasing discomfort with her own behaviour is one of the main themes throughout the book, as is the comparison with dark and light. While the imagery is obvious, it works well and is well aimed at a young audience. There is plenty going on in this well-written, pleasingly plotted book to keep an independent reader between the ages of 9-12 engrossed and I thoroughly recommend it. While I obtained an arc of Shadow Weaver from Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own.
8/10

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc The Liar in the Library – Book 18 of the Fethering Mysteries by Simon Brett

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Simon Brett is patron of the West Sussex Writers club, so I have had the pleasure of hearing him speak a number of times. His witty take on the world pervades this pleasing cosy mystery.

When an author event at the local library ends in murder, Jude finds herself a suspect in the waspishly witty new Fethering mystery. Having been booked to give a talk at Fethering Library, successful author Burton St Clair invites his old friend Jude to come along. Although they haven’t met for twenty years, Jude is not surprised to find that St Clair hasn’t changed, with his towering ego and somewhat shaky relationship with the truth. What Jude hadn’t been suspecting however was that the evening would end in sudden, violent death. More worrying, from Jude’s point of view, is the fact that the investigating police officers seem to be convinced that she herself was responsible for the crime. With the evidence stacking up against her, Jude enlists the help of her neighbour Carole not just to solve the murder but to prevent herself from being arrested for committing it.

Set in a small village literally a stone’s throw from where we live in Littlehampton, which is mentioned several times in the book, I’ll freely admit that one of the attractions with this entertaining whodunit is the fact that I recognise the towns they visit. It is rather fun to so clearly visualise the setting during the investigation, even if the village of Fethering is a construct. Of course, the book would be a downright trudge if that was the only thing going for it, so the fact that I really like Jude and her relationship with her rather prickly neighbour, Carole. It’s a bonus they are both retired and of a certain age – while I haven’t yet retired, I’m also well into middle age and it’s a solid pleasure to read a book with two female protagonists who reflect my own age-group. It doesn’t happen all that often…

Jude is a thoroughly likeable protagonist, who during the story becomes the chief suspect in the murder. These days, with our overloaded justice system, it’s all too believable to see a scenario where she could be imprisoned for perpetrating a crime she didn’t commit, so the stakes in this case are far higher than terminal boredom. What turns this readable adventure into pure delight, however, are the acidic observations Jude and Carole both have on the world and the characters around them. Brett doesn’t hold back from having a pop at the state of the publishing industry and the struggles rural libraries are having to keep going, amongst other aspects of life in modern England – as well as the protagonists’ observations about the other characters they come into contact while on the case. Several times I giggled aloud at a nicely pithy phrase.

Any grizzles? Well, I was rather taken aback at having a crucial scene in the book where Jude is explaining the denouement glossed over in half a page, rather than being given the reactions of the characters involved. As the stakes were so high at this stage, I expected at least the first section to be fully depicted and the fact it wasn’t jarred with me. This is, after all, one of the planks of this particular genre and while Brett often successfully plays with readers’ expectations, this time it didn’t work. However, that is the only niggle and it certainly isn’t a dealbreaker. I found the ending not only satisfying, but unexpectedly poignant. If you are looking for an entertaining cosy mystery with a thoroughly modern take on the genre, then go looking for this offering – it reminded me all over again why I enjoy Brett’s writing so much. While I obtained an arc of The Liar in the Library from Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own.
8/10

Can’t-Wait Wednesday – 3rd January, 2018

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40276268 – vintage old pocket watch and book

Can’t-Wait Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted at Wishful Endings, to spotlight and discuss the books we’re excited about that we have yet to read. Generally they’re books that have yet to be released. It’s based on Waiting on Wednesday, hosted by the fabulous Jill at Breaking the Spine.

This week’s Can’t-Wait offering – Keeper of the Watch – Book 1 of the Dimension 7 series by Kristen L. Jackson

#young adult #science fiction #fantasy #adventure

Chase Walker is beginning to doubt his own sanity. From the moment he turned eighteen, a strange paranoia has taken over his mind. It all started the moment he discovered his uncle’s old watch…

The watch calls to him. Though it beckons, he resists. His body strains toward it, blood pulsing, heart pounding in a mysterious and primitive need to connect with his uncle’s old beat up watch. When sexy and mysterious Alyx saves his life, she promises answers. She talks of dimension travel, and wears a magical watch of her own…

Again, I fell for the cool-looking cover and liked the idea of the blurb, which seems to indicate some kind of time travel. I’m looking forward to starting this one as I’m still on a science fiction kick.

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc The Frequency of Aliens Book 2 of the Sorrow Falls series by Gene Doucette

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I really liked the cool cover and the blurb which sounds sharp and funny, if a tad chatty. I’ve only included part of it…

Becoming an overnight celebrity at age sixteen should have been a lot more fun. Yes, there were times when it was extremely cool, but when the newness of it all wore off, Annie Collins was left with a permanent security detail and the kind of constant scrutiny that makes the college experience especially awkward. Not helping matters: she’s the only kid in school with her own pet spaceship.

I found this one difficult to put down once I got used to the narrative. The story is pacey and due to the humour, feels quite different from, say, Fade Out, which I have also recently read and reviewed. This could so easily have been a grim tale of humanity facing a possible apocalyptic threat and while events are stacking up and there is a definite sense of unease, at no stage did the tone alter. I found it quite refreshing.

However, the catch with using any form of omniscient viewpoint – where the narrator is driving the story forward instead of the main characters – is the narrative can tip into being a mouthpiece for the author. So as I read on, I became aware that Doucette isn’t a fan of the military mindset, while feeling protectively admiring of isolated, rural settlements like Sorrow Falls.
Is this a major problem? It certainly wasn’t for hundreds of years, or for the likes of Charles Dickens and Jane Austen. However the current fashion is for our protagonists to tell the story from their viewpoints within the story, on the grounds that no one has an overarching, ultimate view of what is happening – and that is exactly what is going on throughout this book. If Doucette wasn’t so deft with his humour, I think I would have had more of a problem with the viewpoint but because his wry irreverence permeates the story, he manages to pull this one off.

Other than that, the writing is slick and effective, while he keeps the pace rolling forward. All the main characters were reasonably appealing, although I did find the bloodthirsty survivalists a little unnerving and wondered if Doucette is playing too much with stereotypes in his characterisations. However, the denouement and ending was well handled and I enjoyed reading this sufficiently that I will be looking out for the first book in the series, The Space Ship Next Door.

8/10

 

ANNDDD…

Just Books features an extract from Dying for Space as well as an article by yours truly about a very awkward conversation I had that led to my changing the setting of the Sunblinded trilogy just days before I released Running Out of Space.

Hywela Lyn features another excerpt from Dying for Space in which Elizabeth is on the wrong side of Sarge. Again…

Comfy Chair Books has posted another slice of Dying for Space in which Elizabeth is finding herself right out of her comfort zone at one of her father’s fancy banquets. In addition, there is an article about how I used food and dining as part of the worldbuilding in this book.

Can’t-Wait Wednesday – 27th December, 2017

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40276268 – vintage old pocket watch and book

Can’t-Wait Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted at Wishful Endings, to spotlight and discuss the books we’re excited about that we have yet to read. Generally they’re books that have yet to be released. It’s based on Waiting on Wednesday, hosted by the fabulous Jill at Breaking the Spine.

This week’s Can’t-Wait offering – WaR: Wizards and Robots by Will.i.am and Brian David Johnson

#young adult/children’s #science fiction #fantasy #adventure

When a young man breaks into her home claiming her life is in danger, Ada Luring’s world changes forever. Geller is a wizard, on the run from his father’s hidden clan who want to kill Ada and her mother. Sara Luring is the scientist who will create the first robot, the wizards’ age-old foes.

But a robot has travelled back in time to find Ada, and will lay everything on the line to protect her, as she may just be the key to preventing the earth’s destruction in the future.

Ada, Geller and the robots must learn to work together to change the past and secure the future. But they don’t have much time before a mysterious enemy launches its attack on Earth…

This sounds like a mash-up where Terminator meets Ursula LeGuin’s Left Hand of Darkness. To be honest, it was the sheer weirdness of the blurb that had me requesting the arc of this offering – that and the fabulous cover. As well as the fact that the authors clearly know their history – Ada Lovelace, notable mathematician and daughter of Lord Byron and Luring, which sounds very similar to Alan Turing, genius and credited with breaking the crucial code that helped to bring WWII to an end. I like those kinds of word associations and appreciate it when authors play those types of games. I’m looking forward to tucking into this offering in due course…

 

ANNDDD…

 

A Bohemian Mind at Work is featuring Dying for Space as part of the blog tour

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc Fade Out by Patrick Tilley

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I saw the funky cover and was hungry for some science fiction, so requested this one. It wasn’t until I featured it as a Tuesday Teaser, I realised it was a re-release of a book first published in 1977. So I was intrigued to know whether it would seem overly dated.

Patrick Tilley’s brilliant bestselling thriller of humanity’s first contact with advanced alien intelligence is a high-tension tour-de-force that will leave you thinking long after you have turned the last page.

While I don’t like overly chatty blurbs that give away a quarter of the main plotpoints before you’ve opened the first page, this one seems on the terse side – however, it does give you a very clear idea of the genre and what to expect.

The first thing to say is that if you have a major problem with limited omniscient viewpoint, then this one isn’t for you. While there are a number of main characters, Tilley regularly slides out of their heads and into neutral storytelling mode. As it is a classic narrative mode for this genre, I didn’t have a major problem with it and Tilley certainly couldn’t have covered all the angles he wanted to if he’d chosen any other viewpoint option. The next issue that struck me was how male and pale the cast were – no women or ethnic diversity within the higher government circles or the leading scientists brought in to examine what was going on. Given the book was apparently rewritten and updated, I think it is a shame this aspect was neglected.

So, the story. The way it builds up is excellently handled and I love the consequences and cost involved in the alien intrusion. I was also gratified that answers didn’t fall into anyone’s lap. The alien technology and motives are a genuine puzzle and folks are left guessing for a long way through the book. Other readers have mentioned how very America-centric the story is – but I do think that is probably a realistic take on the way things operate at the top in that government these days. What is intriguing is how that viewpoint genuinely hampers their ability to get to the truth of what is going on and the politicking and negotiating around the Russians is both funny and terrifying – as well as being spot on.

This tale is as much about our society and what we value as much as about the aliens. There is much to admire about this book and I thoroughly enjoyed most of it – however given the unhurried pace throughout most of it, I found the abrupt rush in the final pages rather jarring and wondered if this was the first in a series. It appears it isn’t. That said, it is still an interesting read and recommended for science fiction fans who enjoy reading the likes of Clarke and Heinlein. While I obtained an arc of Fade Out from Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own.

8/10

 

ANNDDD…

Bibliophile Ramblings has featured an excerpt from Dying for Space as part of the blog tour…

Teaser Tuesday – 12th December, 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 Frequency of Aliens – Book 2 of the Sorrow Falls series by Gene Doucette

58% The Groton naval base had the necessary security while the naval vessels mostly did not – the military still didn’t entirely trust wifi – so until Ed reached Groton, he was unable to retrieve what ended up being an absurdly massive number of messages.
The messages arrived in multiple ways: emails, voicemails, and text messages. They didn’t necessarily add up to anything individually, but taken as a whole it was clear a lot had gone wrong in the few weeks he’d been out of the country.

BLURB: Becoming an overnight celebrity at age sixteen should have been a lot more fun. Yes, there were times when it was extremely cool, but when the newness of it all wore off, Annie Collins was left with a permanent security detail and the kind of constant scrutiny that makes the college experience especially awkward.

Not helping matters: she’s the only kid in school with her own pet spaceship.

She would love it if things found some kind of normal, but as long as she has control of the most lethal—and only—interstellar vehicle in existence, that isn’t going to happen. Worse, things appear to be going in the other direction. Instead of everyone getting used to the idea of the ship, the complaints are getting louder. Public opinion is turning, and the demands that Annie turn over the ship are becoming more frequent. It doesn’t help that everyone seems to think Annie is giving them nightmares.

Nightmares aren’t the only weird things going on lately. A government telescope in California has been abandoned, and nobody seems to know why.

The man called on to investigate—Edgar Somerville—has become the go-to guy whenever there’s something odd going on, which has been pretty common lately. So far, nothing has panned out: no aliens or zombies or anything else that might be deemed legitimately peculiar… but now may be different, and not just because Ed can’t find an easy explanation. This isn’t the only telescope where people have gone missing, and the clues left behind lead back to Annie.

This week I’m reading another alien encounter quite different from last week’s offering. In amongst the paranoia and fear, there is also a humorous edge which I’m enjoying. However, I’m beginning to think there is something nasty OUT THERE and it has humanity in its sights…

Sunday Post – 10th December 2017

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This is part of the weekly meme over at the Caffeinated Reviewer, where book bloggers can share the books and blogs they have written.

I’m on the last lap of writing the notes for next term’s Creative Writing course and should be finished in time to take them into Northbrook and get them all photocopied on Tuesday, which is the day we break up for Christmas – if I can squeeze in the chore in amongst the Christmas cheer at the end of another successful term.

Last Sunday evening Frances and I attended the Wrap Party to celebrate making Tim’s film. It was boisterous and noisy, which was you’d expect with 20+ teenagers and it was lovely to see her joining in, being right in the thick of it. My amazing mother turned 82 on Tuesday, so my sister and I went down on Wednesday and took her out for lunch, stayed overnight and then had coffee with her before driving back on Thursday morning. On Wednesday evening, we popped round to see the new house my nephew and his girlfriend have recently bought and are doing up.

On Friday, Tim passed his Speaking and Listening exam with flying colours and Himself also got through a major milestone so will shortly be resuming his train driving duties – a huge relief. We celebrated by going out to lunch to The Arun View, which is right on the river and had a delicious meal as they had plenty of vegetarian options. Yesterday I worked most of the day and today will doing be the same, though we are popping out to do some shopping. I am horribly unprepared for Christmas, but to be honest until Friday was out of the way, Himself and I weren’t feeling very festive.

This week I have read:
Split Feather – Book 1 of the Daughter of the Midnight Sun by Deborah A. Wolf
Siggy Aleksov sees demons and talks with creatures she knows aren’t really there. Taken from her family as a child, she is dogged by memories of abandonment, abuse, and mental health issues. Siggy suffers from a hot temper, cluster headaches, caffeine addiction, and terminal foul language.
I really enjoyed this gritty, unusual urban fantasy that spends much of its time in one of my favourite settings – Alaska. Despite Siggy’s significant problems, she is portrayed without any self pity, yet also without dismissing the enormity of her issues, which is a difficult path to tread. A memorable, gutsy protagonist. I shall be reviewing this one in due course.

 

 

Fade Out by Patrick Tilley
Patrick Tilley’s brilliant bestselling thriller of humanity’s first contact with advanced alien intelligence is a high-tension tour-de-force that will leave you thinking long after you have turned the last page.
Hm. I enjoyed a lot of the story and the slow burn anticipation to discovering what the aliens are all about and what will happen next… Not sure about the ending. Review to follow.

 

My posts last week:

Sunday Post – 3rd December, 2017

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Deadly Dance – Book 1 of the D.I. David Vogel series by Hilary Bonner

Teaser Tuesday featuring Fade Out by Patrick Tilley

Review of Language of Power – Book 4 of The Steerswoman series by Rosemary Kirstein

Review of A Local Habitation – Book 2 of the October Daye series by Seanan McGuire

Friday Face-off – Do not go gentle…featuring Knights of the Borrowed Dark – Book 1 from the Knights of the Borrowed Dark trilogy by Dave Rudden

Review of Falling Apart – Book 2 of the Otherworlders series by Jane Lovering

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

Christmas Alphabet: R for Roy Orbison (Pretty Paper) https://theimmortaljukebox.com/2017/12/09/christmas-alphabet-r-for-roy-orbison-pretty-paper/ Thom delivers another classy article full of knowledge and passion about a wonderful track – this site is a gem…

The Best Villanelles in English Poetry https://interestingliterature.com/2017/12/06/the-best-villanelles-in-english-poetry/ By coincidence, we’ve been looking at villanelles in this term’s poetry workshop during my Creative Writing course, so I was delighted to see this excellent article – I think there is another one to add to this marvellous list, ‘Villanelle’ by Weldon Kees.

Hope https://inesemjphotography.com/2017/12/09/hope/ Inessa always takes amazing photos – but these are extraordinary. They brought tears to my eyes…

Gift Ideas for the Book Lover on your Holiday Shopping List https://thebookishlibra.com/2017/12/08/gift-ideas-for-the-book-lover-on-your-holiday-shopping-list/ Some fabulous ideas here for that special person in your life who also loves books.

Discussion: Fear of Reading Up All the Good Books http://avalinahsbooks.space/discussion-fear-good-books/ I think it’s one lots of passionate readers have after they have finished a wonderful book with a sigh of pleasure – and Evelina tackles it head-on😊

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.