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 – March’s End by Daniel Polansky – release date 9th May, 2023
#portal fantasy adventure #family relationships #magic
BLURB: The Harrows are a typical suburban family who, since time immemorial, have borne a sacred and terrible charge. In the daylight they are teachers, doctors, bartenders and vagrants, but at night they are the rulers and protectors of the March, a fantastical secondary world populated with animate antiquated toys and sentient lichen, a panorama of the impossible where cities are carried on the backs of giant snails, and thunderstorms can be subdued with song.
But beneath this dreamlike exterior lie dark secrets, and for generation after generation the Harrows have defended the March from the perils that wait outside its borders – when they are not consumed in their own bitter internecine quarrels.
In the modern day the Harrow clan are composed of Sophia, the High Queen of the March, a brilliant, calculating matriarch, and her three children – noble Constance, visionary, rebellious Mary Ann, and clever, amoral Will. Moving back and forth between their youth, adolescence, and adulthood, we watch as this family fractures, then reconciles in the face of a conflict endangering not only the existence of the March, but of the ‘real world’ itself. I absolutely loved Polansky’s Low Town trilogy – see my reviews of The Straight Razor Cure, Tomorrow the Killing and She Who Waits. So when I saw this one appear on the Netgalley dashboard and read the blurb, I knew I wanted to read it.
BLURB: The Pandominion is a political and trading alliance consisting of roughly a million worlds.
But they’re really all the same world – Earth – in many different dimensions. And when an AI threat arises that could destroy everything the Pandominion has built, they’ll eradicate it by whatever means necessary—no matter the cost to human life.
REVIEW: I am aware that my huge excitement at getting hold of a copy of this one probably didn’t do me any favours – because I was initially somewhat disappointed. I’m not a fan of info-dumps – and when the book starts with an explanation of the world and the main characters and what their role is going to be, then my heart sinks. Particularly when the author is as accomplished as Carey. I’m not even sure it’s in the right place – for going back and rereading it, I think it would have made a better epilogue than prologue.
There is also a lot of foreshadowing throughout the story – and again, I didn’t feel that was necessary. It’s almost as though Carey didn’t quite trust that his story is capable of bringing the reader along without those extra assists, which is a bit annoying, because it clearly does. For example, one of the main protagonists has an unexpected transformation. At least – it would be unexpected, but for the fact that we’re told well in advance what has happened to her. This was irritating on two levels. For starters, I would quite like to have experienced the plot twist alongside the other characters involved, who were clearly upset and shocked. The other consequence is that because I already knew the important part of her fate – and therefore was able to put together exactly what has actually happened to her – I was ahead of the characters involved with her for quite a large part of the book. And that never helps with the pacing, because it meant that until they caught up with me, I felt that aspect was a bit draggy, even though all sorts of exciting things were going on.
That said, I’m aware that I’m in a minority as a number of my book blogging buddies have read this one and absolutely loved it. I wanted to – and indeed, there’s much in the story that I thoroughly enjoyed. I love the world and the premise, which is clearly highly relevant and Carey’s take on the parallel world theory is interesting and rich. The settings are vividly portrayed with economy and power – vital when there are a variety of places and part of the wonder is the sheer scale and difference. And Carey’s ability to produce nuanced and difficult characters that we nevertheless can care about – I’m looking at you, Essien Nkanik – is impressive. And I hasten to add that this isn’t a bad book by any means. If it had been written by another author, I’d probably be singing its praises – but I wasn’t expecting such technical glitches to interfere with my enjoyment in a story by M.R. Carey. While I obtained an arc of Infinity Gate from the publishers via Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own. 7/10
This is part of the weekly meme over at the Caffeinated Reviewer, where book bloggers can share the books they’ve read and share what they have got up to during the last week.
The weather has still been quite wet and chilly – I keep looking at the Spring blossoms with surprise as it doesn’t feel as if winter has really lifted. On the plus side, the flowers and blossoms are looking fabulous as they haven’t wilted and died too fast, which happens when we get an unseasonably hot spell at this time of the year.
Other than that, it’s been a normal week with nothing outstanding happening – and I’ll take that as a win. I have been contacted by the Long Covid clinic, who have given me suggestions as to how to move forward. I’m a bit stuck with being terribly out of condition and unfit, but afraid to do normal fitness activities in case I trigger another relapse. Let’s hope their solutions help. Talking things through with them made me realise that I’ve come a very long way in a relatively short space of time, given that this time last year, I was still spending most of my time in bed and hardly going anywhere. So I need to be patient and perhaps a bit kinder to myself. The photos are from yesterday – the boys were both away for the day, so Himself and I went for an afternoon treat to the Wetlands and Wildfowl Trust and were lucky to get there for a boat ride through the reed beds. It was a gloriously sunny day – the warmest of the year so far…
I’m now line editing Flame & Blame. It’s a slow business as I follow the manuscript while listening to Word’s text-to-speech option, but I pick up bloopers and awkward sentence constructions that I don’t see when just reading it through to myself. I also have completed my outline of the next book in the Picky Eaters series, Conclave of Dragons and I’ve now started writing an exclusive story for my newsletter followers – ‘Casta and the Giggling Knight’. It’s huge fun to be able to sit down and have the words just pour out of the ends of my fingers, again😊.
I just don’t seem to be reading all that much at present – by the time I get to bed, I’m so tired I fall asleep almost at once.
Last week I read:-
AUDIOBOOK – Lost Truth – Book 3 of the Truth series by Dawn Cook Alissa is steadily advancing in her magical studies with the last surviving Master at the legendary Hold. But she’s haunted by dreams—dreams revealing that other Masters have survived.
Alissa’s dreams lead her to a distant island where she and a rescue party discover countless Masters, alive and part of a flourishing magical society. But instead of being welcomed, Alissa finds that she herself may need to be rescued. The Masters’ leader, Keribdis, believes that she should be Alissa’s teacher, whether Alissa likes it or not. When Alissa rebels, she endangers not only her magic but also her life. I’ve been thoroughly enjoying this series. For those who are interested in such things, Dawn Cook is a pen name of Kim Harrison, who also writes successful urban fantasy adventures. I’ve grown very fond of impetuous, disaster-magnet Alissa, though I was increasingly fed up with the love triangle around her. And I’m glad that it’s been resolved in this book. Cook has created a vivid world where magic-users are all somewhat arrogant and short-fused. Which has interesting consequences… Marguerite Gavin does a wonderful job of the narration. 9/10
Infinity Gate – Book 1 of the Pandominion series by M.R. Carey The Pandominion is a political and trading alliance consisting of roughly a million worlds.
But they’re really all the same world – Earth – in many different dimensions. And when an AI threat arises that could destroy everything the Pandominion has built, they’ll eradicate it by whatever means necessary—no matter the cost to human life. I wasn’t as blown away by this one as I’d expected. Given this is the author who gave us The Girl With All the Gifts and the wonderful Rampart trilogy – see my review of The Book of Koli – I was rather disappointed at the info-dump prologue and the foreshadowing in places. That said, the world is vivid, the characters nuanced and the action well described. And I definitely want to know what will happen next. 7/10
AUDIOBOOK – Bleeding Heart Yard – Book 3 of the Harbinder Kaur series by Elly Griffiths Is it possible to forget that you’ve committed a murder?
When Cassie Fitzgerald was at school in the late 90s, she and her friends killed a fellow student. Almost twenty years later, Cassie is a happily married mother who loves her job–as a police officer. She closely guards the secret she has all but erased from her memory.
One day her husband finally persuades her to go to a school reunion. Cassie catches up with her high-achieving old friends from the Manor Park School–among them two politicians, a rock star, and a famous actress. But then, shockingly, one of them, Garfield Rice, is found dead in the school bathroom, supposedly from a drug overdose. As Garfield was an eminent–and controversial–MP and the investigation is high profile, it’s headed by Cassie’s new boss, DI Harbinder Kaur, freshly promoted and newly arrived in London. The trouble is, Cassie can’t shake the feeling that one of them has killed again. I’m a fan of Elly Griffiths writing – but although I’ve enjoyed the Ruth Galloway series, the Harbinder Kaur books are even better, in my opinion. And this latest offering hasn’t changed my view. Griffiths’ masterfully depicts the tensions within a group of eighteen-year-olds and how that impacts on their subsequent lives, for good and ill. And what happens when a shocking murder rakes up a tragedy all of them would rather forget. I thoroughly enjoy Kaur’s dry, slightly sarcastic take on the world – and seeing her get to grips with now living in London. All in all, a cracking whodunit. 10/10
BLURB: Harry Bodie has a famous grandmother, who wrote beloved children’s books set in the delightful world of Underhill. Harry himself is a failing kids’ TV presenter whose every attempt to advance his career ends in self-sabotage. His family history seems to be nothing but an impediment.
An impediment… or worse. What if Underhill is real? What if it has been waiting decades for a promised child to visit? What if it isn’t delightful at all? And what if its denizens have run out of patience and are taking matters into their own hands?
REVIEW: Let’s get this straight – Harry Bodie isn’t particularly nice. That said, I began to understand why he was quite so chippy about of the third of the way in. And given the set-up, I don’t think it would have worked so well if he had been entirely likeable right from the start. Because this book was an affectionate parody of all things Narnia – so our main protagonist, Bodie, also undergoes a transformation during the book that helps to give the ending such a very satisfying conclusion. It could have so easily descended into a parody of itself, or the dark humour could have tipped into something darker and a whole lot less amusing. To be honest, I slowed down near the end because I couldn’t bear to see all those poor suffering characters end up being annihilated. And I’m glad to say that doesn’t happen – because while it took me a while to bond with Harry, I immediately lost my heart to poor, bedraggled Timon, the rascally faun.
In common with better written parody, parts of this had me laughing aloud – while some of the later scenes in the Underhill were simply painful to read. In fact, given its length, I was a tad shocked at just how much I’d emotionally invested in this novella – but then, I was one of those children who yearned to find a hidden world at the back of my wardrobe and indeed, I went looking for it on more than one occasion… I appreciated that there wasn’t a scrap of sentimentality within this story and as ever, Tchaikovsky handles the narrative arc, the pacing – and above all that wonderful ending with the technical prowess I’ve come to expect in most of his writing. All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed this offering and if you ever read the Narnia series and loved it as a child – then, this one comes highly recommended. While I obtained an arc of And Put Away Childish Things from the publisher via Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own. 9/10
I always love feathers on book covers – and when I stopped to read the blurb, I thought this one sounded intriguing. So I was delighted to be approved.
BLURB: Twenty-two-year-old Cassia’s sister is dying, and she doesn’t know why. Soon after, Cassia wakes up in another realm, not only does she find her missing best friend, Lucas, but he knows how to save her sister.
Meanwhile Lucas is part of a community of Reborns, people who were born on earth and after death, were reborn in this realm with magical abilities. The original beings of the realm, the Firsts, rule over them.
But, to keep the Reborn numbers manageable, the king of the Firsts releases a curse to cull them and Cassia finds herself in the middle of it. She needs to break the curse before her time runs out, otherwise she will be trapped there forever.
REVIEW: Firstly, despite Cassia being twenty-two and having taken responsibility for caring for her ailing younger sister, she often behaves more like a mid-teen than a twenty-something. This sets the tone for the book, which reads like a YA adventure, with the emotions dialled high and many of the characters still unsure of who they are and their role in life. This isn’t in the way of a criticism – I regularly read and enjoy YA fantasy adventures, but it is important for other readers to know whether this is one they’d enjoy, or not.
I very much liked the poignancy of the separation between Lucas and Cassia at the beginning of the novel, which is powerfully written. So I assumed that the developing romance would feature the two of them – and it came a nice surprise when this wasn’t the case. Given that this is the relationship that drives the narrative throughout the book, I was delighted that it came from an enduring, close-knit bond that didn’t evolve into smouldering looks and all the sensations around physical attraction. Although there is all of that going on – it is far more confusing and difficult and fortunately for me, it didn’t upstage the ongoing issue of Cassia’s urgent task while in the magical realm.
Overall, I enjoyed the story. Plenty is going on throughout, with lots of action and drama and while at times I found Cassia annoyingly stubborn and self-centred – they were flaws I could live with. However there were aspects of the world that I did find irritating. Because of the ongoing pace of events, people need to be able to move around fast in a world where there is no mechanised transport. The author has decided to use a magical strain of wolf which are ridden and can travel very fast. Having chosen such a quirky form of transport, she then proceeds to treat these strong, powerful creatures like cars. They promptly bound up and allow anyone at all to clamber on board, they don’t appear to get tired, or ever act up. And once at the destination, everyone jumps down and they politely wait around for the return journey. Just like a car… I find it inconceivable that such apex predators would tamely submit to such treatment and it bugged me throughout the book.
That said, I did get caught up in the story and was sorry when it came to an end. There isn’t any mention on Goodreads or Amazon of a sequel – and there should be, because there are far too many dangling plotpoints waving in the wind. I, for one, want to know what happens next. Recommended for fans of YA portal fantasy adventures featuring a headstrong and plucky heroine. While I obtained an arc of The Last Feather from the publishers via Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own. 8/10
I was in the mood for something a bit draconic – I’m always a sucker for a good dragon story – and this cover caught my eye. I skimmed the blurb, thought it sounded intriguing and was pleased when I was approved.
BLURB: DANIEL HARCOURT GRANDSILL: The world enters a new age and Daniel splits into three versions of himself. The version that is most him is tasked with giving a dragon back his wings. But to do that he must become a Wizard…!
GANZL, one third of Daniel, is a great and powerful Wizard, and is the one who must make Daniel into a Wizard.
FFFF is a lowly snake in one age, but in the new age, he is a Messenger of the Gods. But what’s a messenger without wings? Daniel and Ganzl are willing to help him recover his wings…but can a snake trust a human?
NOT your basic find the magic sword/ring/whatever and save the world fantasy. This is humans at their best and worst, this is a philosophy of men and magic, this is a history of Dragons and Gods.
REVIEW: This is essentially a portal fantasy adventure, where poor old Daniel finds himself plonked in the middle of a medieval-type world with two companions who apparently don’t regard him all that highly. Indeed, throughout the story they continue to have conversations about whether they ought to get rid of him – but then decide to keep him along, anyway. Mostly for the amusement that he provides, as they scoff constantly at his ignorance and knack for saying the wrong thing at the wrong time.
While I’m not too sure that Case’s claim about this not being your average epic fantasy adventure completely holds up – this tale is filled with elements that are as cosily familiar as a cup of late-night cocoa – there is one major difference. Case’s main protagonist is one of the most passive heroes I’ve encountered in an epic fantasy. And that is, indeed, a striking difference. I did like the premise that someone dumped in the middle of a world he doesn’t know would struggle every bit as badly as Daniel. However, my problem was that in a relatively short time I loathed Ganzl and the dratted snake. As I tend to skim blurbs, due to their habit of being far too chatty about the plot – I hadn’t appreciated that the arrogant wizard and his sniggering snake were all aspects of Daniel’s personality. I suppose if I had grasped that fact, some of the snark might have come across as more amusing and less unpleasantly bullying.
I thought Daniel’s initial struggles to come to terms with the sudden shifting of the world around him was very well done. Indeed, I really liked the character and his persona within the contemporary world that he’d lost and one of the reasons why I kept turning the pages, was that I was hoping he’d get his feet under him sufficiently to regain some of that original personality. It was brave decision to make the main protagonist quite so adrift – however, I don’t think Case succeeded in giving us a core character the reader could adequately identify with throughout the various adventures. It seemed the trio were on some kind of quest that Ganzl and Ffff were aware of, but Daniel was clueless about. However, as I hadn’t formed any kind of bond whatsoever with the snake and the wizard, when the snake became dangerously ill – I simply didn’t care.
What did keep me turning the pages was the driving pace, vivid worldbuilding and quirky adventures – and maybe the hope that the wizard would come to a sticky end… While I’m not tempted to read the next book in the series, there is a strong conclusion to this slice of the adventure and this quirky, if rather flawed offering, could certainly appeal to fans of epic fantasy who enjoy something a bit different and appreciate the humour, which rather missed me. While I obtained an arc of Almost a Dragon from the publishers via Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own. 7/10
This is my update on how I’m coping with Long Covid now it’s been over sixteen months since I first got ill, which I’m adding to my Sunday Post blog, hosted by Kimberly at Caffeinated Reviewer.
I’m aware that it has been quite a while since I’ve touched base with everyone here. In the past, that generally meant I’d been enduring another prolonged spell in bed, utterly exhausted. And while I’ve had to spend the occasional day lying down – mostly this time around, there are other reasons.
Firstly, at the end of June I celebrated a significant birthday – not one I was particularly looking forward to, I have to add. The upside was that I shared my party with my youngest granddaughter, Eliza, who was very thrilled to turn four. The pics are of her side of the party – we adults generally just sat around and chatted, so were far less photogenic. Our boomerang boy is back with us again, as he enjoys our company and he lights up the house with his joking and fun. Thirdly, my lovely sister had a nasty car accident a couple of weeks ago. Fortunately she wasn’t seriously injured but she was bruised and shaken and her beloved car was written off. Her guardian angel was definitely sitting on her shoulder that day, as it so easily could have been so much worse. And we have just come to the end of Wimbledon fortnight. I’m not a huge sports fan, but I do love watching grass court tennis – and it’s been a joy being able to fully engage with the tournament. Last year while I went through the motions of watching, I really didn’t have the energy to care, and in 2020 it was cancelled due to the pandemic.
Before I was ill, I was able to cope with doing several things at once – that no longer is that case. I’m hoping this is temporary and there will come a time when I can once again keep up with writing, blogging, reading AND watching Wimbledon. But that isn’t happening, right now. Not that I’m too upset, as it isn’t all that long ago that I was regularly stuck in bed too tired to do much before 2 pm in the afternoon. Now, I’m getting up at 7 am on schooldays – sometimes I go back to bed once the school run is over, but often I stay up for the rest of the day. This is amazing progress, but I’m aware that I still have a mountain to climb. One of my current issues is how stiff and sore I am after spending over a year largely in bed. I will be adding exercises to get stronger and fitter in due course, but right now everything hurts too much! My electric massager has been a huge help to loosen sore muscles first thing in the morning, especially in my lower back, thighs and upper arms and if it gets too miserable, I take the occasional ibuprofen tablet.
We are enjoying a spell of really warm weather – we haven’t had any rain for over a week now and the temperature has been up in the 70s and it looks as though it’s set to stay that way for the coming week. I enjoy it, but Himself is suffering as he doesn’t get on with too much heat. What with everything that’s been going on, I haven’t been doing all that much reading recently, although I’m still listening to audiobooks as I drift off to sleep – they’re a lifesaver!
This past fortnight I’ve read:-
Stuck in Magic – Book 1 of the Stuck in Magic series by Christopher G. Nuttall Elliot Richardson thought he’d lost everything. He’d come home from deployment to find his wife cheating on him, his sons strangers and his life in tatters. Driving away, unsure where he was going, he fell through an interdimensional rift and found himself in a very different world, a city of magic and mystery and dangers beyond his comprehension, a land spinning out of control as innovations from the distant west unsettle the monarchy and challenge the position of the aristocrats and warlords that hold the kingdom in their grasp.
Powerless and alone, with no way home, Elliot struggles to survive long enough to make a new life. But as war looms on the horizon, he finds himself forced to use his skills to make a name for himself, all too aware that the slightest slip will mean instant death – or worse. This is a spinoff from the superb long-running Schooled in Magic series that has been one of my lifeline reads throughout the last year. I love the contrast between poor old Elliot and Emily, who are both refugees from Earth. Elliot is a vet from Afghanistan with no magical powers or powerful allies. I’m delighted to discover there is another book in the series. 9/10
AUDIOBOOK – Sherlock Holmes and the Shadwell Shadows – Book 1 of the James Lovegrove’s Sherlock Holmes series In the stews of London’s East End, an outbreak of insanity sees ordinary men and women reduced to gibbering, incoherent wrecks; a mysterious creeping fog hides terrifying apparitions within that rob the wits of all who see them and even inspire suicide.
Sherlock Holmes, in the infancy of his detecting career, deduces a connection between these sinister “shadows” and an Oriental drug lord who is bent on expanding his criminal empire. Yet there are even more sinister forces at work, as the great detective faces a challenge so fearsome and deadly that his career may be over almost as soon as it has begun. I am a solid fan of Lovegrove’s writing and his take on Sherlock Holmes’ adventures is a joy. It’s especially clever as there are two versions. One series of books are straightforward additions to the Conan Doyle canon, while the other puts a Lovecraftian spin on them… It’s done very cleverly and even uses Lovegrove’s name as part of the backstory. This is the first of the fantasy adventures that Holmes and Watson tackle. 9/10
AUDIOBOOK – Rotten to the Core – Book 8 of the Lady Hardcastle Mysteries by T.E. Kinsey Summer 1911. A scorching heatwave engulfs the quiet town of Littleton Cotterell and brings about an unusually early harvest. The villagers are thrilled, but events quickly turn sour when one of them turns up dead in an apple orchard, stabbed through the heart. Amateur sleuth Lady Hardcastle and her trusty lady’s maid, Flo, suddenly have a juicy case on their hands. Might the mysterious stranger they recently met in the village be to blame?
When a second cider-related murder takes place, it quickly becomes clear that there’s more to these mysterious deaths than meets the eye. The daring duo uncover whispers of an ancient order and moonlit rituals. And evidence points to a macabre secret in the village stretching back years. A secret someone will do anything―anything at all―to keep hidden. I’ve been pining for more Littleton Cotterell delight. And this one picks up just a day after The Fatal Flying Affair. While I do enjoy following the well crafted murder mysteries in this series – for me, it’s really about the delightful relationship between Lady H and Flo. And for a long-lost time before the horrors of WWI… This one is particularly good, with a lovely twisty plot and lots of enjoyable shafts of gentle humour throughout. 10/10
AUDIOBOOK – Deliverer – Book 9 (Sequence 3, Book 3) of the Foreigner series by C.J. Cherryh In the aftermath of civil war, the world of the atevi is still perilously unstable. Tabini-aiji, powerful ruler of the Western Association, along with his son and heir Cajeiri, and his human paidhi, Bren Cameron, have returned to the seat of power. The usurper, Murini, has escaped to the lands of his supporters, but the danger these rebels pose is far from over. Ilisidi, Tabini’s grandmother, the aiji-dowager, has returned to her ancient castle in the East, for she has powerful ties in the lands of the rebels, and she seeks to muster whatever support for her grandson that she can from among those enemy strongholds.
The long-running Foreigner series can also be enjoyed by more casual genre readers in sub-trilogy installments. Deliverer is the 9th Foreigner novel. It is also the 3rd book in the third subtrilogy. This is yet another excellent audiobook series I’m following that never disappoints. Daniel May has nailed bringing to life the various crises that come in the wake of the attempted rebellion, so that Cherryh’s wonderful aliens are solidly three-dimensional characters. As for Bren, he is once again plunged right in the middle of this latest emergency, as the only human translator and ambassador living on the mainland amongst this lethal and fascinating species. 9/10
Thank you so much for visiting and commenting. I’m aware that right now, it’s a very one-sided relationship and I don’t know when I’ll be able to fully reciprocate. In the meantime, do take care and try to keep well.
I liked the look of the cover and thought the premise sounded rather unusual – and I wasn’t wrong. This proved to be a story that took me on an unexpected and entertaining journey.
BLURB: Ollie’s only friend disappeared a few days ago, and now, he’s frantic to find her. But he doesn’t have much to go on until a mysterious note arrives which reads: “Still looking for your friend? I know where she is.” Unfortunately for Ollie, the trail leads to the last place he’d ever expect.
Somewhere dark. Somewhere deep. The kind of place where magic spills like blood, vengeance is merciless, and escape seems all but impossible.
Worse still, it soon becomes clear that someone-or something-was expecting him. Now, time is running out. If Ollie has any hope of ever seeing home again, he’s going to have to summon every last scrap of courage, smarts, and tenacity he can find. And none of it will matter if he can’t get some help. Fast.
REVIEW: This book is labelled on Goodreads as a YA read. Now I know that YA can be a bit tricky to exactly pin down – but I was a tad surprised, because this didn’t feel like a book particularly aimed at younger readers. Which isn’t to say that they wouldn’t enjoy it, but there are more mature readers who tend to avoid stories where emotions are dialled up high and the romance is the narrative engine that drives the action. This isn’t one of those.
Which begs the question as to exactly what it is… To be honest, it reminded me a bit of The Pilgrim’s Progress minus the religious component. There is a strong sense of morality running through the book – very bad things happen to those who set out to hurt others. And even those who don’t transgress, but simply are aware and do nothing – they don’t fare all that well, either. I rather enjoyed that aspect, particularly as it ends up being more nuanced and sophisticated as the story progresses. It took me a while to completely bond with Ollie. I suspect that’s because right now I’m significantly overweight after over a year of illness and I found his obsession with his weight rather annoying. However, once he’s up to his neck in all sorts of trouble, he turns out to be a thoroughly endearing hero.
Overall, this is a quirky read that starts off rather downbeat but ends up being inspirational with a strong message for all of us. Recommended for fantasy fans who appreciate something a bit different. While I obtained an arc of Herrick’s End from the publishers via Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own. 8/10
This is my update on how I’m coping with Long Covid now it’s been fourteen months since I first got ill, which I’m adding to my Sunday Post blog, hosted by Kimberly at Caffeinated Reviewer.
It’s been a bit of a torrid time for our family. Poor little Eliza when down with chicken pox so badly she ended up in A & E twice last week with complications. It doesn’t help that she also suffers with severe asthma and is only three years old. Huge kudos to the doctor at the A & E dept at Worthing Hospital who went the extra mile, ringing around the local pharmacies and tracking down the necessary medication to alleviate her pain and discomfort. After nursing Eliza through such a traumatic time my daughter, unsurprisingly, then went down with a kidney infection that needed yet another trip to hospital. Fortunately she didn’t need to stay, but ended up on a course of very strong antibiotics. The upshot was that we ended up looking after our middle grandchild, Oscar, for much longer than originally planned. He went home, then returned to us, Twice. So we called him our Boomerang Boy. In the middle of all this, he started a new school much closer to home, so we also ended up buying the new school uniform, which brought back all sorts of memories. And I saw him off on his first two days, setting the alarm to drag myself out of bed, then crawling back after the taxi came to take him to school.
It was lovely having him to stay. He is a superstar – unfailingly helpful and good tempered – he introduced me to Wordle and we played together most days he was with us. But it did take a bit of a toll on my energy. I unexpectedly hit a wall after climbing the stairs in M & S on our school-shoe buying expedition. No sweating, or being particularly breathless, I just felt that I was wading through treacle and got steadily slower. Then my legs folded under me and I ended up on the floor, after announcing that I needed to sit down. I felt a bit of a fool, but everyone was extremely kind. When Oscar finally went home on Wednesday, the house was sad and quiet without him.
I’ve been struggling with my sleep again and so I’m turning off the TV and computer at least 45 minutes before bedtime and doing a relaxing meditation. I have already noticed a difference to my Deep Sleep scores, which is important as that’s the healing sleep. If only I didn’t wake up in the middle of the night and then struggle to go back to sleep before dawn, I’d be golden😊.
On Friday, Himself met up with his sister and brother and visited his father’s grave, as it was the first year anniversary of my father-in-law’s death. It was a bright sunny day, however I wasn’t able to go as it’s too far away. But in the afternoon, after he returned home, I travelled with him and the children to meet up with my daughter’s former partner and do the handover for the two younger grandchildren. It was the first time since my relapse in August that I’ve managed such a long car journey. So I am making steady progress.
I didn’t read much during Oscar’s stay, so I haven’t managed to get through quite so many books.
This week I’ve read:-
AUDIOBOOK Alexander X – Book 1 of The Battle for Forever series by Edward Savio Alexander Grant is about to take his 3000th history test. You know how you feel like you’ve been going to school for a thousand years? Well, he actually has. Although he looks like a normal teenager, no one knows he’s actually 1500 years old. Not the girl he likes. Not his best friend. No one.
That is until someone tries to kidnap Alexander and use him as bait to catch his father, the only man capable of stopping a plan that would change humanity forever. And the start of an journey that will take him far from the sleepy town he’s been hiding out in. Ingenious storytelling. Screenwriter and novelist Edward Savio’s ongoing epic adventure is fresh, funny, and thought-provoking. This YA teen action adventure, narrated by Wil Wheaton was a welcome contrast to some of the tension-filled science fiction political thrillers I’ve been listening to recently. Lots of action and excitement! Full review to follow. 8/10
AUDIOBOOK Chosen For Power – Book 4 of the Dragon’s Gate series by Lindsay Buroker Jak and his allies venture through the portal in search of the longevity plant their king demands, but all Jak wants is to find the elder dragons. Some say they’re extinct. Some say they’re in hiding.
If he can’t locate them, there won’t be anyone to teach his hatchling how to fly. Or to protect the dragon eggs preserved within a glacier on another world. Or to help him free his people from the tyrannical rule of the wizards. Jak has no choice. He must find the dragons. But some ancient secrets were buried for a reason. What he discovers may jeopardize not only Jak and his allies—the survival of the entire species of dragons may be at stake. I love this adventure about Jak and his scientist mother, who put all these events in motion with their discovery of the portal way back in the first book. As ever, a detailed and interesting world and a plot full of unexpected twists and action, as well as dollops of humour in amongst the ever-present danger. Buroker also writes most satisfyingly nasty villains. The next book hasn’t yet been released as an audiobook – but these stories make such wonderful listening, they are worth the wait. 9/10
Eyes of the Void – Book 2 of The Final Architecture series by Adrian Tchaikovsky After eighty years of fragile peace, the Architects are back, wreaking havoc as they consume entire planets. In the past, Originator artefacts – vestiges of a long-vanished civilization – could save a world from annihilation. This time, the Architects have discovered a way to circumvent these protective relics. Suddenly, no planet is safe.
Facing impending extinction, the Human Colonies are in turmoil. While some believe a unified front is the only way to stop the Architects, others insist humanity should fight alone. And there are those who would seek to benefit from the fractured politics of war – even as the Architects loom ever closer.
Idris, who has spent decades running from the horrors of his past, finds himself thrust back onto the battlefront. As an Intermediary, he could be one of the few to turn the tide of war. With a handful of allies, he searches for a weapon that could push back the Architects and save the galaxy. But to do so, he must return to the nightmarish unspace, where his mind was broken and remade. What Idris discovers there will change everything. I loved the first book in this epic space opera series about a lethal, world-killing alien, Shards of Earth. So I was delighted when the arc for this one became available and thrilled to be approved to read it. Tchaikovsky brilliantly charts the ongoing reactions by various groups within humanity and some of the aliens to the dire threat posed by the Architects. I very much appreciated his list of characters and timeline leading up to the events covered by the story, which helped me keep tabs on who was doing what to whom. Full review to follow.
Miss Percy’s Pocket Guide to the Care and Feeding of British Dragons – Book 1 of A Miss Percy Guide seriesby Quenby Olsen Miss Mildred Percy inherits a dragon.
Ah, but we’ve already got ahead of ourselves…
Miss Mildred Percy is a spinster. She does not dance, she has long stopped dreaming, and she certainly does not have adventures. That is, until her great uncle has the audacity to leave her an inheritance, one that includes a dragon’s egg.
The egg – as eggs are wont to do – decides to hatch, and Miss Mildred Percy is suddenly thrust out of the role of “spinster and general wallflower” and into the unprecedented position of “spinster and keeper of dragons.” But England has not seen a dragon since… well, ever. And now Mildred must contend with raising a dragon (that should not exist), kindling a romance (with a humble vicar), and embarking on an adventure she never thought could be hers for the taking. I tucked into this one when the enormity of Tchaikovsky’s alien threat felt a bit overwhelming – which is all about my mindset and in no way a reflection on the writing. I was rooting for Mildred all the way. However, the reader starts this one knowing exactly what the peculiar rock is – there is a picture of him on the cover. So I found the pacing rather slow in places, as the protagonist evidently doesn’t have a clue as to what the peculiar rock is and takes a long time deciding what he is after the hatching. There are times when the author breaks the fourth wall, which I also found a bit jarring. However, overall it’s a charming, enjoyable read with nice shafts of humour throughout. 8/10
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I thoroughly enjoyed the first book in this entertaining duology – Doors of Sleep – see my review. So I was delighted when I spotted this offering and it’s been one I’ve been really looking forward to tucking into.
BLURB: Every time Zaxony Delatree falls asleep he wakes up on a new world. His life has turned into an endless series of brief encounters. But at least he and Minna, the one companion who has found a way of travelling with him, are no longer pursued by the psychotic and vengeful Lector.
But now Zax has been joined once again by Ana, a companion he thought left behind long ago. Ana is one of the Sleepers, a group of fellow travellers between worlds. Ana tells Zax that he is unknowingly host to a parasitic alien that exists partly in his blood and partly between dimensions. The chemical that the alien secretes is what allows Zax to travel. Every time he does, however, the parasite grows, damaging the fabric of the Universes. Anas is desperate to recruit Zax to her cause and stop the alien. But there are others who are using the parasite, such as the cult who serve the Prisoner – an entity trapped in the dimension between universes. Can Zax, Minna, Ana and the other Sleepers band together and stop them?
REVIEW: This book is the second in a duology set in a fast-paced multiverse adventure tale, so my firm recommendation is to head for Doors of Sleep, the first book in the series, before getting stuck into Prison of Sleep.
The first book features Zaxony’s adventures as he is catapulted into travelling to another world every time he falls asleep. Early in his journey, he meets and falls for Ana – and inadvertently yanks her along with him as they sleep together. The catch is that she hasn’t been infected with the parasite that allows him to hop from one world to another and she suffers a terrible mental breakdown travelling through the Void without that protection and runs off. Guilt-ridden and grieving, Zaxony has tried to find her. So I really appreciated that in this second book, I got to discover what has become of Ana and get to know her better. I loved this romantic thread that added to the emotional tenor of the story without in any way clogging up the pace or distracting from the main narrative.
This means that this book isn’t just from one viewpoint, which I enjoyed. Especially as I got to see what other characters think of Zaxony. As I’ve already mentioned, this story moves along at a brisk clip. Indeed, major events pile upon one another as we shuffle between the two main characters and I had to stay sharp to keep the narrative timelines straight. As with Doors of Sleep, the concept works really well. There is plenty of tension as Pratt isn’t afraid of killing off characters who have featured heavily in the storyline. So I was genuinely concerned for our plucky band of protagonists, throughout – and near the end of the story, I was more than a bit winded when one of the protagonists ended up being on the wrong side. I could appreciate all too well what powers his decision, even if it is a terrible one…
Pratt is very good at provided interesting, well-developed characters while mayhem continues to rain down upon them – which is technically far harder to achieve than he makes it look. But… I do have a frustration. A huge amount happens in this book and as I reached the end, I felt this series would have been improved if the events had unspooled over three books, instead of two. This particularly applies to the storyline featuring Lector, the primary antagonist in the first book. While the menace he poses is suitably sorted out – it did rather take back seat to the storyline featuring the Prisoner. And I would also have preferred seeing Pilgrim’s journey develop over a longer time, as it is another strand that feels a bit rushed. This is a wonderful bit of worldbuilding – and like other reviewers, I would appreciate reading other books in this series. Recommended for fans of multiverse adventures with strong protagonists and lots of action. While I obtained an arc of Prison of Sleep from the publishers via Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own. 8/10