Category Archives: post-apocalyptic

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of KINDLE Ebook Borne by Jeff VanderMeer

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I spotted this offering on Netgalley and really loved the sound of it, so requested it and was delighted to be approved, given that VanderMeer is a talented author with a gift for writing the disturbing – see my review of Annihilation.

Rachel survives as a scavenger in a ruined city half destroyed by drought and conflict. The city is dangerous, littered with discarded experiments from the Company—a biotech firm now derelict—and punished by the unpredictable predations of a giant bear. Rachel ekes out an existence in the shelter of a run-down sanctuary she shares with her partner, Wick, who deals his own homegrown psychoactive biotech. One day, Rachel finds Borne during a scavenging mission and takes him home. Borne as salvage is little more than a green lump—plant or animal?—but exudes a strange charisma. However, in a world where any kind of weakness is lethal, can Rachel afford to bond with this odd creature?

VanderMeer’s atmospheric writing spins a stunningly vivid evocation of this wrecked landscape where Mord, the gigantic bear, stalks through the city peopled by knots of scavengers – some of whom have been altered and twisted by the biotech that has escaped into the environment. The river is poisoned, the rain toxic and people eke out a subsistence existence.

Rachel’s story is one that is probably heartbreakingly familiar in any refugee camp throughout the world. She recalls a happy family life with her parents, both with solid jobs and plenty of love for their only daughter, but as the sea levels rose and law and order broke down, they ended up in camps. She is unsure how exactly she has arrived in the city, scavenging and teaming up with Wick, a former employee of the Company with dark secrets of his own, but they are holed up in a defensible apartment block and coping reasonably well.

It is into this scenario that Borne enters her life as a scrap of biotech she picks out of the fur of the sleeping Mord. There is something about this unusual thing that attracts her – for starters, it smells of her childhood – of the sea. It is always hungry and empties out their accommodation of lizards and insects – and is clearly intelligent. So she teaches it to speak…

This is a tale of loss and change. And of the resilience of the human spirit when confronted with terrible circumstances. Given the backdrop and context, it ought to be a completely bleak read – but although there is violence and death – how could there not be in such a hard-scrabbled environment? – there is also is a fair amount of humour and a lot of tenderness. I found it very moving that Rachel, alone and childless, nurtures this creature and calls it Borne. They play games, and tell each other jokes. But Borne isn’t human and was never intended to mix with humanity. Borne is something else…

Rachel is a striking protagonist. It is always a tricky business writing a character where a defining aspect of the protagonist is left to the climactic final scene of the book – and to be honest, about halfway through I was feeling a bit fed up that she didn’t ring completely true. By the end, the reason why becomes clear. VanderMeer’s writing always burrows beneath the surface and often finds the darkness lurking there – this time around, he has also celebrated what defines us as humans. If you are a fan of interesting, post-apocalyptic reads, then give this one go. I’ll guarantee it will stay with you.
9/10

Sunday Post – 11th June 2017

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

Last Sunday was all about the garden – before it started raining… and until yesterday, it has rained every day, with gale-force winds for the first half of the week. My fault entirely, of course – that will teach me to boast about the wonderful weather we’ve been having.

This week, I was back to teaching – it was lovely to catch up again with my students, as well as going out on Wednesday evening to my writing group where we read our work aloud to each other and speculated on the up-coming election. On Thursday Mhairi came over and we were able to exchange writing ideas and in the evening, we attended West Sussex Writers to an excellent talk and workshop on travel writing by Janet Rogers. It was the first time I’d managed to go for several months, so it was lovely to catch up with several members and enjoy listening to an experienced and successful writer talk about a writing genre I know little about. When I got home, I flicked on the television, saw the exit polls and had to see more. Himself needed to go to bed – he still finds he has to have a solid 6-7 hours after years of sleep apnea – but my daughter and I spent the night texting and talking over the phone as the results first trickled and then poured in. It was a very exciting election night – and what a feast for writers as we watched politicians confronted with defeat and loss of career – or vibrating with joy as unexpected victory took them to a new, exciting opportunity.

On Friday afternoon, we picked up Frances from school because on Saturday, I had arranged to take her to the International Comic Expo held at the Hilton Metropole Hotel in Brighton. We had a great time. She loves drawing and is busy designing her own comics, so I wanted her to see a range of art styles and stories. Everyone was so very chatty and encouraging to her. She came away with a selection of comics, all with different story and artwork styles, and buzzing with new ideas.

Throughout all that, I haven’t experienced the now-familiar feeling of utter exhaustion and pounding headache so I’m profoundly hoping that by taking some supplements and ensuring I keep away from too much sugar – which always hoovers up my energy anyway – I have finally bounced back, healthwise. Yippee!

This week I have read:
Borne by Jeff VanderMeer
A young woman named Rachel survives as a scavenger in a ruined city half destroyed by drought and conflict. The city is dangerous, littered with discarded experiments from the Company—a biotech firm now derelict—and punished by the unpredictable predations of a giant bear. Rachel ekes out an existence in the shelter of a run-down sanctuary she shares with her partner, Wick, who deals his own homegrown psychoactive biotech. One day, Rachel finds Borne during a scavenging mission and takes him home. Borne as salvage is little more than a green lump—plant or animal?—but exudes a strange charisma. Borne reminds Rachel of the marine life from the island nation of her birth, now lost to rising seas. There is an attachment she resents: in this world any weakness can kill you. Yet, against her her wishes – and those of Wick, Rachel keeps Borne.
While VanderMeer gives us a vivid portrait of a ruined landscape, distorted by the trashed biotech the Company flung away, it is more of a love story between a young woman yearning for a lost world and an odd creature desperate to learn. The consequences are unexpected and disturbing… VanderMeer’s writing has a habit of getting under my skin and into my head – I really enjoyed this.

Lightning in the Blood – Book 2 of the Ree Varekai novella series by Marie Brennan
Once, there was a call–a binding–and so, a woman appeared, present in body but absent in knowledge of her past self. Making the ultimate journey of rediscovery was not without its own pitfalls–or rewards–and now Ree, a roaming Archeron, spirit of legend and time and physically now bound to her current form, has yet to fully uncover her true identity.
After reading the first book in this series, I was keen to discover what happens next. This enjoyable adventure gives us a few more clues about Ree and who she is.

River of Teeth – Book 1 of the River of Teeth novella series by Sarah Gailey
In the early 20th Century, the United States government concocted a plan to import hippopotamuses into the marshlands of Louisiana to be bred and slaughtered as an alternative meat source. This is true. Other true things about hippos: they are savage, they are fast, and their jaws can snap a man in two. This was a terrible plan.
Contained within this volume is an 1890s America that might have been: a bayou overrun by feral hippos and mercenary hippo wranglers from around the globe. It is the story of Winslow Houndstooth and his crew. It is the story of their fortunes. It is the story of his revenge.
With a premise like this, Himself and I found this offering irresistible – and it is certainly crammed full of bloodthirsty adventurers, unexpected betrayals and lots of bloody violence. Oh, and hippos… don’t forget the hippos. I thought this was great fun and will be reviewing it this coming week.

My posts last week:

Sunday Post – 4th June 2017

Review of Reaper – Book 1 of the End Game series by Janet Edwards

Teaser Tuesday featuring The Dog Walker by Lesley Thomson

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of The Broken Ones – prequel to The Malediction series by Danielle L. Jensen

Discovery Challenge 2017 and Tackling my TBR

Friday Face-off – It shuffles through the dry, dusty darkness – featuring The Osiris Ritual – Book 2 of the Newbury and Hobbs Investigations series by George Mann

TAGGED – I’m It

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

The Art of Voice Changery – Part 2  https://jeanleesworld.com/2017/06/08/the-art-of-voice-changery-part-2/ Jean always has something worthwhile and sparky to say about the process of writing – and this article is no exception.

A Guide to Hanging Out with Cloth Ears  https://justanotherblogfromawoman.blog/2017/05/18/a-guide-to-hanging-out-with-cloth-ears/ This useful article is recommended for EVERYBODY – we all encounter people hard of hearing in our daily lives and these tips can help make communicating easier.

What Are the Rules?  http://writerunboxed.com/2017/06/07/what-are-the-rules/ This is an outstanding article on a subject that all writers should pay attention to – and often don’t.

Dust Breeding  https://photolicioux.wordpress.com/2017/06/01/dust-breeding-elevage-de-poussiere/ I’ve always wondered how dust bunnies are made – and here is the photograph that telle me – I think…

How the Library of Congress is Trying to Archive Twitter https://kristentwardowski.wordpress.com/2017/06/07/how-the-library-of-congress-is-trying-to-archive-twitter/ Frankly, I’d have thought catch light in a sieve would be easier, but this is what they’re attempting to do.

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

Sunday Post – 4th June 2017

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

Last Sunday was a bit wet, but a perfect day for moving plants around and potting up. We’d visited the garden centre and spent the children’s inheritance on reed screens, pots and ivies to train along our low brick wall to discourage the local teenagers from using it as a smoking spot. So I hacked away at bindweed and transplanted some sulking lavenders and a bullied fuchsia before the rain stopped misting around and decided to get serious.

This week was half term, so I had a break from teaching – which was very welcome, given I’ve been struggling since Easter with regular bouts of exhaustion and faintness. I had to cry off a writing get-together with former students on Tuesday as I was suffering with yet another headache, but at least it didn’t linger through until Wednesday.

Meanwhile, I’ve managed to get plenty of editing down – one of my lovely beta readers had given me plenty of notes, so I went through Miranda’s Tempest fixing some issues. Himself is currently going through a line edit for me. And the big bonus – on Thursday I finally managed to get together with my marvellous writing partner Mhairi, who I haven’t seen in faaar too long! It was lovely to catch up and natter about all things writerly with her.

I also managed to finish and submit a short story for an anthology – what was special about this one, was that I was asked to contribute… So I’m now fretting by hoping it is suitable and ticks all the boxes – and taking my mind off it by plunging into the last major edit of Dying for Space, Book 2 of the Sunblinded Trilogy. This week-end we’ve been working in the garden again as the weather continues to be fabulous. The best spring I can recall for years…

This week I have read:
Less Than a Treason – Book 21 of the Kate Shugak series by Dana Stabenow
Kate Shugak is a native Aleut working as a private investigator in Alaska. She’s 5’1″ tall, carrires a scar that runs from ear to ear across her throat, and owns a half-wolf, half-husky dog named Mutt. Resourceful, strong-willed, defiant, Kate is tougher than your average heroine—and she needs to be, to survive the worst the Alaskan wilds can throw at her. And throw their worst the wilds have: Kate and Mutt have both been shot.
This book immediately picks up from the cliffhanger ending of the previous instalment. I loved this one – the dual narrative works really well and it is always a great bonus when a crime novel gives an insight into a corner of the world I’ll never know. Alaska is revealed as a relentless environment that is nonetheless undergoing massive change.

A Hero’s Guide to Deadly Dragons – Book 6 of the How To Train Your Dragon series by Cressida Cowell
It’s Hiccup’s birthday, but that’s not going to keep him from getting into trouble. To save his dragon, Toothless, from being banished, Hiccup must sneak into the Meathead Public Library and steal the Viking’s most sacred book. But the Vikings see books as a dangerous influence, and keep them locked up and under heavy guard. To save his friend, Hiccup must brave the Hairy Scary Librarian and his dreadful army of Meathead Warriors and face off against the formidable Driller-Dragons. Will he make it out and live to see his next birthday?
Thanks to Oscar coming to stay at the start of the half-term break, we managed to get this one completed. As ever, lots of danger, unexpected plot twists and a nice message about just how vital libraries and books are – without being remotely preachy. Another cracking story.

Silent City – Book 1 of the Corin Hayes series by G.R. Matthews
In the Corporation owned cities life is tough. All Hayes wants is money and a bar to spend it in. He is about to learn that some jobs in the abyss can be killers. For a man who has lost everything, is life even worth fighting for?
This enjoyable military science fiction underwater adventure is full of tension and action that doesn’t let up. Hayes is a nicely grumpy protagonist with a bleak backstory and there is clearly going to be plenty of other problems looming in the future for him to tackle.

A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness
The monster showed up after midnight. As they do. But it isn’t the monster Conor’s been expecting. He’s been expecting the one from his nightmare, the one he’s had nearly every night since his mother started her treatments, the one with the darkness and the wind and the screaming… This monster is something different, though. Something ancient, something wild. And it wants the most dangerous thing of all from Conor. It wants the truth.
I haven’t read Patrick Ness before – but I’ll certainly be reading him again. I found this beautiful, unexpected story a heartbreak. But I couldn’t put it down until I’d read it from cover to cover. Ness hooked me with his angry, conflicted boy and complicated monster and I wasn’t able to break away until I got to the marvellous end. One of my favourite books of the year to date.

The Keeper of Lost Things by Ruth Hogan
Once a celebrated author of short stories now in his twilight years, Anthony Peardew has spent half his life lovingly collecting lost objects, trying to atone for a promise broken many years before. Realising he is running out of time, he leaves his house and all its lost treasures to his assistant Laura, the one person he can trust to fulfil his legacy and reunite the thousands of objects with their rightful owners. But the final wishes of the Keeper of Lost Things have unforeseen repercussions which trigger a most serendipitous series of encounters…
This contemporary novel was a delight. Quirky and slightly fey, I was initially concerned that it would puddle down into sentimentality. Luckily Hogan is made of sterner stuff and this book tackles some gnarly subjects along the way, while delivering a lovely story. Recommended.

My posts last week:

Sunday Post – 28th May 2017

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL – Review of Less Than a Treason – Book 21 of the Kate Shugak series by Dana Stabenow

Teaser Tuesday featuring The Keeper of Lost Things by Ruth Hogan

Review of Saven Disclosure – Book 1 of The Saven series by Siobhan Davis

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of The Space Between the Stars by Anne Corlett

Friday Face-off – Shoot for the Moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land amongst the stars – featuring A Fall of Moondust by Arthur C. Clarke

Review of The Outskirter’s Secret – Book 2 of The Steerswoman series by Rosemary Kirstein

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

Italian Fantasy Names https://scflynn.com/2017/05/29/italian-fantasy-names/ This quirky article by fantasy writer S.C. Flynn had me grinning…

Broadside No. 14 – Rosemary Kirstein https://thecaptainsquartersblog.wordpress.com/2017/06/01/broadside-no-14-rosemary-kirstein/ It’s always a buzz when you’ve been banging on about an underappreciated author to then find a fellow fan – and so imagine my delight when I was pinged by the Cap in her feature of the awesome Rosemary Kirstein’s wonderful Steerswoman series.

Asteroid Collision May Have Tipped Saturn’s Moon Enceladus http://www.space.com/37034-saturn-moon-enceladus-tipped-over-by-asteroid.html?utm_source=twitter&utm_medium=social#?utm_source=twitter&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=2016twitterdlvrit An intriguing article for those of you who also enjoy space stuff…

A Summary and Analysis of Goldilocks and the Three Bears https://interestingliterature.com/2017/05/30/a-summary-and-analysis-of-goldilocks-and-the-three-bears/ I’ll guarantee you’ll discover something you didn’t know about this story, if you read it.

A Book Labyrinth in London https://kristentwardowski.wordpress.com/2017/05/30/a-book-labyrinth-in-london/ I’m sorrier than I can say that I managed to miss this one… It looks amazing!

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 Ebook The Space Between the Stars by Anne Corlett

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All Jamie Allenby ever wanted was space. Even though she wasn’t forced to emigrate from Earth, she willingly left the overpopulated, claustrophobic planet. And when a long relationship devolved into silence and suffocating sadness, she found work on a frontier world on the edges of civilization. Then the virus hit… Now Jamie finds herself dreadfully alone, with all that’s left of the dead. Until a garbled message from Earth gives her hope that someone from her past might still be alive.

Yes, this is a post-apocalyptic novel following the adventures of one of the few survivors after a terrible virus burns through humanity. But it’s a lot more grown-up than just charting the gritted determination of Jamie to survive in a world where everything has been so very changed. It’s a book that examines what she was expecting from life and the world – and what happens to her when those expectations are smashed after she experiences a tragedy far more common than the end of the world – a miscarriage.

Written in third person, this book gets right under the skin of the main character, warts and all. I didn’t like her very much – she is often quiet when she should say something and is awkward around humans. While she initially trained as a doctor, she moved sideways and qualified as a vet because she was a loss to know what to say or do when people, scared and ill, would proffer intimate details of their life to her. When she meets up with other survivors, she is clearly socially inept. During an argument on board a ship in cramped conditions, she flares at one of the other passengers, who is clearly suffering with her own mental problems – to the extent that I wanted to slap her just to shut her up.

Did I care for her, though? Oh yes. Corlett has written a character who doesn’t feel she fits anywhere. Who wants to reach out to the only man she thinks she’ll ever love – but can’t deal with the crowding that brings. Or his own demand for her to open up and release her sense of grief for their lost baby – something she simply cannot do. By the end of the book, we get to understand exactly why Jamie is as she is, while she undertakes a long journey, both literally and also emotionally with a small group of survivors, who are also shattered at the profound loss they have endured.

What this isn’t, is a completely bleak read. There are times when the situation lurches into farce, for instance when they encounter a group of elderly folk living in a stately home acting as if they are in the middle of a Jane Austen novel. And there is some nicely edged banter with the grumpy space pilot, who is clearly more comfortable carrying crates of freight than the group of traumatised passengers he ends up ferrying.

Corlett brings this tale to a satisfactory conclusion, including solving the mystery of what caused the virus in the first place. I closed the book, musing on Jamie’s journey – and wondering if I was left standing with everyone I cared about gone, what I’d do next. This is one I shall be thinking about for a while, I suspect. If you enjoy unusual books that raise hard, pertinent questions about why we are here and what we are doing, then track this one down.
9/10

Sunday Post – 28th May 2017

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

Last Sunday was a beautiful day – and Himself and I spent the sunny afternoon at my daughter and her partner’s home, which is wonderful Grade II listed building with a fascinating history and an overgrown garden with a wood at the back of the property. So the barbeque we had there was idyllic with the peace only broken by the laughter of Himself having a nerf gun fight with Oscar, while Frances was in charge of cooking the sausages, burgers and halloumi on the barbeque with the music from the record collection my own children grew up with drifting out of the house…

This week has been another mixed bag – I was feeling better until I woke up on Wednesday feeling dreadful again, once more missing my Pilates class and spending the afternoon in bed. So I’m looking forward to half term to get a chance to try and see if I can finally throw off this virus whatsit thingy. We started the holiday with the grandchildren staying over on Friday night – a lovely beginning to the half term break.

This week I have read:
Saven Disclosure – Book 2 of the Saven series by Siobhan Davis
Enemy alien ships crowd the skies over Earth while the world waits with bated breath. The Saven have been exposed, and where once they were abhorred, they are now championed as our greatest ally and our only possible savior. Logan and Sadie have been separated, and the longer he is gone, the more their love is tested by duty, doubts, and deception. Sadie and Jarod have infiltrated the highest levels of government, but they are playing a dangerous game. Surrounded by people with conflicting agendas—hell-bent on using her for their own aim—Sadie is confused when the lines between good and evil are blurred. It’s impossible to tell friend from foe, and no one can be trusted.
I thoroughly enjoyed the first book in this series and after reading my review, Siobhan Davis kindly sent me a review copy of the second book. The politics and tension surrounding the aliens now threatening humanity so the Saven are seen as friends rather than enemies. And then the plot gets delightfully complex, ever upping the stakes – I’m really looking forward to diving back into this world.

The Space Between the Stars by Anne Corlett
All Jamie Allenby ever wanted was space. Even though she wasn’t forced to emigrate from Earth, she willingly left the overpopulated, claustrophobic planet. And when a long relationship devolved into silence and suffocating sadness, she found work on a frontier world on the edges of civilization. Then the virus hit… Now Jamie finds herself dreadfully alone, with all that’s left of the dead. Until a garbled message from Earth gives her hope that someone from her past might still be alive.
Yes… I know – yet another post-apocalyptic disaster novel dealing with the gritted struggle of surviving after the unthinkable happens. Except this one is different, as it is as much an internal journey with Jamie forced to confront her painful past and her personal demons she had run from before the virus struck. Beautifully written and powerful.

Sungrazer – Book 2 of the Outriders trilogy by Jay Posey
In a new Cold War between Earth and the colonies on Mars, when devastating weapons go missing, there’s only one team you can call – the Outriders. A crack force of highly specialised super-soldiers, their clone bodies are near-immortal. When a fully-autonomous vessel with orbital strike capabilities goes missing, it’s up to the Outriders to track the untrackable. But when the trail leads them to the influential Martian People’s Collective Republic, the operation gets a lot more complicated…
This enjoyable military science fiction adventure about a crack black ops outfit that gets to do all the ‘mission impossible’ jobs, assisted by some scarily effective technical toys, is smoothly written with a nicely twisty plot. I’m keeping an eye on this series, as I want to read the next one.

The Broken Ones – prequel to The Malediction Trilogy by Danielle L. Jensen
Below Forsaken Mountain, a plot is being hatched to overthrow the tyrant king of Trollus, and Marc is the right-hand man of its leader. His involvement is information more than one troll would kill to possess, which is why he must keep it a secret from everyone, even the girl he loves. After accidentally ruining her sister’s chance to become queen, Pénélope is given one last opportunity by her father, the Duke d’Angoulême, to make herself useful: she must find proof that the boy she’s in love with is conspiring against the crown. If she fails, her life will be forfeit. Marc and Pénélope must navigate the complex politics of Trollus, where powers on all sides are intent on using them as pawns, forcing them to risk everything for a chance at a life together.
I haven’t read The Malediction Trilogy. Yet. After experiencing this brutal, magic-driven world where ruthless magic-users don’t scruple to use deadly force to safeguard their interest, I now want to know what happens next.

The Scattering – Book 2 of The Outliers Trilogy by Kimberley McCreight
Wylie may have escaped the camp in Maine, but she is far from safe. The best way for her to protect herself is to understand her ability, fast. But after spending a lifetime trying to ignore her own feelings, giving in to her ability to read other peoples’ emotions is as difficult as it is dangerous. And Wylie isn’t the only one at risk. Ever since they returned home, Jasper has been spiraling, wracked with guilt over what happened to Cassie. After all they’ve been through together, Wylie and Jasper would do anything for each other, but she doesn’t know if their bond is strong enough to overcome demons from the past. It is amid this uncertainty and fear that Wylie finds herself confronted with a choice. She was willing to do whatever it took to help Cassie, but is she prepared to go to the same extremes to help complete strangers . . . even if they are just like her?
This YA sci fi thriller was full of twists and turns and this time around, Wylie wasn’t so waywardly set on putting herself in danger and the mystery surrounding the outliers was even more compelling.

My posts last week:
Sunday Post – 21st May 2017

Review of Spellbound – Book 2 of the Spellwright trilogy by Blake Charlton

Teaser Tuesday featuring Sungrazer – Book 2 of the Outriders series by Jay Posey

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

Discovery Challenge 2017 and Tackling my TBR – April Roundup

Friday Face-off – Of all the words of mice and men, the saddest are ‘it might have been’ featuring Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of The Scattering – Book 2 of the Outliers Trilogy by Kimberley McCreight

Interesting/outstanding blogs and articles that have caught my attention during the last week, in no particular order:
Brilliant Book Titles #115  https://librarystaffpicks.wordpress.com/2017/05/26/brilliant-book-titles-115/ Those lovely folks at the award-winning Ballyroanreads library blog have excelled themselves with an intriguing book this time around…

…the day it rained money… and we couldn’t laugh…  https://seumasgallacher.com/2017/05/27/the-day-it-rained-money-and-we-couldnt-laugh/ That successful indie author Seumas Gallacher is a great storyteller is undeniable if you have the pleasure of reading his blog. I loved this particular anecdote…

10 of the Best Very Short Poems Ever Written  https://interestingliterature.com/2017/05/26/10-of-the-best-very-short-poems-ever-written/ If you love your poetry small and perfectly formed, then this article shouldn’t be missed.

On Visiting With Old Demons  https://zenandtheartoftightropewalking.wordpress.com/2017/05/22/on-visiting-with-old-demons/ Viv’s passionate and scaldingly honest blog posts are always required reading for me – and this one struck a real chord…

Jane Austen at Home by Lucy Worsley  https://onereadersthoughts.com/2017/05/24/jane-austen-at-home-by-lucy-worsley/ I don’t normally feature books reviews in this section – but the book that Emma is discussing is also linked to an excellent TV show which I highly recommend. I am certainly going to be tracking this book down.

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

Sunday Post – 21st May 2017

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

Last Sunday was another major gathering of the clan – my parents, both sisters, along with my brother in law and two nephews met up at The George pub at Burpham for a birthday meal to celebrate my sister’s birthday. It was an additional celebration – she is returning next month to England and will be settling in Littlehampton just up the road. We had a lovely time all catching up with each other with lots of laughter and good food.

This week has been a better one, in that I have started to catch up on my admin backlog from when I was ill and feel that at last I’m regaining my energy levels, although I did miss my Pilates session again this week, as I still felt less than my shiny best. This afternoon, we’ve been invited up to a BBQ at my daughter’s house – and I’m providing the vegan pudding… So I won’t be around to nteract though I’ll catch up later.

This week I have read:

The Ninth Rain – Book 1 of The Winnowing Flame by Jen Williams
The great city of Ebora once glittered with gold. Now its streets are stalked by wolves. Tormalin the Oathless has no taste for sitting around waiting to die while the realm of his storied ancestors falls to pieces – talk about a guilt trip. Better to be amongst the living, where there are taverns full of women and wine. When eccentric explorer, Lady Vincenza ‘Vintage’ de Grazon, offers him employment, he sees an easy way out. Even when they are joined by a fugitive witch with a tendency to set things on fire, the prospect of facing down monsters and retrieving ancient artefacts is preferable to the abomination he left behind. But not everyone is willing to let the Eboran empire collapse, and the adventurers are quickly drawn into a tangled conspiracy of magic and war.
Jen Williams’ first series, The Copper Cat – see my review of The Copper Promise made a great impression. She has an energy and buzz that has her writing crackling off the the page and this post-apocalytic sci-fi/fantasy swords and sorcery mashup ticks all the boxes for me. The worldbuilding, in particular, is outstanding…

Sweep in Peace – Book 2 of The Innkeeper Chronicles by Ilona Andrews
Dina DeMille doesn’t run your typical Bed and Breakfast. Her inn defies laws of physics, her fluffy dog is secretly a monster, and the only paying guest is a former Galactic tyrant with a price on her head. But the inn needs guests to thrive, and guests have been scarce, so when an Arbitrator shows up at Dina’s door and asks her to host a peace summit between three warring species, she jumps on the chance. Unfortunately, for Dina, keeping the peace between Space Vampires, the Hope-Crushing Horde, and the devious Merchants of Baha-char is much easier said than done. On top of keeping her guests from murdering each other, she must find a chef, remodel the inn…and risk everything, even her life, to save the man she might fall in love with. But then it’s all in the day’s work for an Innkeeper…
It’s been longer than I’d planned since I read the first book – see my review of Clean Sweep in this original, quirky fantasy/sci fi portal adventure and it was every bit as enjoyable as I’d hoped. It’s a really nifty trick to be able to effectively portray an multi-world epic from a normally quiet inn in a half-forgotten corner of America, but Andrews pulls it off.

Cold-Forged Flame – Book 1 of the Ree Varekai novella series by Marie Brennan
The sound of the horn pierces the apeiron, shattering the stillness of that realm. Its clarion call creates ripples, substance, something more. It is a summons, a command. There is will. There is need.
And so, in reply, there is a woman.
At the beginning—no—at the end—she appears, full of fury and bound by chains of prophecy. Setting off on an unexplained quest from which she is compelled to complete, and facing unnatural challenges in a land that doesn’t seem to exist, she will discover the secrets of herself, or die trying. But along the way, the obstacles will grow to a seemingly insurmountable point, and the final choice will be the biggest sacrifice yet.
This takes writing chops to effectively depict a woman warrior who knows nothing about who she is or where she came from, only that she is bound to complete a mysterious quest for the people who summoned her. Marie Brennan pulls it off and I’m really looking forward to reading the next instalment, Lightning in the Blood at the end of the month.

 

My posts last week:

Sunday Post – 14th May 2017

NEW RELEASE SPECIAL Review of Assassin’s Fate – Book 3 of The Fitz and the Fool trilogy – Book 16 of the Realm of the Elderlings by Robin Hobb

Teaser Tuesday featuring Cold-Forged Flame – Book 1 of the Ree Varekai novella series by Marie Brennan

Review of Goldfish from Beyond the Grave – Book 4 of the Undead Pets series by Sam Hay

Shoot for the Moon 2017 Challenge – April Roundup

Friday Face-off – Airplane travel is nature’s way of making you look like your passport photo – featuring No Highway by Nevil Shute

Review of The Ninth Rain – Book 1 of The Winnowing Flame by Jen Williams

 

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

John Fogerty, Johnny Winter & James Burton hit that Riff! : Susie Q! https://theimmortaljukebox.com/2017/05/20/john-fogerty-johnny-winter-james-burton-hit-that-riff-oh-susie-q-oh-susie-q-susie-q/  Thom’s wonderful, indepth articles about music are always worth reading. And this one is a delight – the Johnny Winter version is my favourite, for what it’s worth…

10 of the Best Poems About Gardens  https://interestingliterature.com/2017/05/19/10-of-the-best-poems-about-gardens/ The day when all the marvellous BBC coverage from Chelsea Flower Show starts seems apt to consider poems about the garden.

Thoughts on writing and publishing, from me and others  http://www.julietemckenna.com/?p=2586 Juliet McKenna’s blog is always worth reading, but this article also includes links to other interesting, articulate authors

Seven Steps to Honoring Your Reality  https://diymfa.com/writing/seven-steps-to-honoring-your-reality#disqus_thread This excellent article by Sara Letourneau certainly arrived at my Inbox in time to remind me not to panic as I’m trying to catch up after a spell of not feeling my best…

Oceans of Life? The Solar System and beyond  http://earthianhivemind.net/2017/05/17/oceans-life-solar-system-beyond/ Another superb roundup about what is going on in the scientific community – and it has never been more exciting…

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 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

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 KINDLE Ebook Songs of Seraphina by Jude Houghton

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Every so often you come across a book that takes an established genre, gives it a thorough shake and tips it on its head – and this is what Houghton has done to epic fantasy…

songsofseraphineSome battles bleed so much, and for so long, that the earth never truly forgets their dead. Some battles are born of oppression, and some of greed, and some simply because it was written in the stars. Three sisters—Charlemagne, Cairo and Pendragon Agonistes—are sent from America to England to live with their eccentric grandparents after their mother disappears and their father falls to pieces. But before the girls have time to find their feet, Charlemagne is married off to a dead man, Penny takes a nap and wakes up as a boy, and Cairo is swept into a dangerous romance with a man who wants her for more than her considerable charm. With the girls wrapped up in a conflict they barely understand, they don’t notice that their grandmother is transforming, or that the two demigod assassins who took their mother are now coming for them—if one of them can get over his crisis of conscience.

This is a portal world story where a deadly war on one world bleeds into the lives of a family struggling to rebuild their shattered existence on another world. We regularly read tales of dreadful battles where whole races are wiped out in epic fantasy tales, except for a desperate remnant. This story isn’t really about that – this is more about the aftermath, when those wars have slipped into history. Except in this case, the war isn’t done and forces beyond these three sisters are determined to shape their destinies.

I loved it. Family dynamics within speculative fiction always grabs me and when these three sisters go to live with their grandparents, I was completely hooked by the building sense of something radically wrong and getting worse. The flashbacks the girls experience are all very clear and deftly handled and Houghton’s depiction of the three very different characters all coping in their own way worked well. He doesn’t sentimentalise them – something that would have been easy to do – and while the writing is slightly heightened in the manner of epics, it works well. I also like the way the magical element works. In Houghton’s world, whenever power is wielded there is a price and all too often the price is far too high. There were moments when I was winded at who got damaged and who died… But that surely made me pay attention for the duration.

The only major concern I have is that this book has ended on something of a cliffhanger and I’m really, really hoping Houghton has plans to write a sequel. This disturbing, rich and original world is one I’m desperate to visit again.
10/10

2016 Discovery Challenge – September Roundup

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After reading Joanne Hall’s thought-provoking post, I decided to read and review at least two women authors unknown to me each month. During September, I managed to read two Discovery Challenge books, which takes my yearly total so far to twenty seven books read by women I haven’t previously encountered.

The Fettered Flame – Book 2 of the Shkode trilogy 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.

I really enjoyed the intriguing world Bell has set up. Two worlds have been accidentally sundered by one of Mother’s children while she was observing them. One is peopled by humans and the other by talking dragons who adorn themselves with jewellery and scarves, each believing the other a myth. Both societies are intolerant and prejudiced – the human society refuses women any agency other than staying at home and raising children, while the dragon society is ruled by the paranoid and aging Zee. As the two worlds become increasingly shaken by earthquakes and natural disasters, their societies are also churned up and Cor, a female scholar with an outlawed tattoo on her midriff teams up with Atesh, a dragon who manages to travel through a portal between the worlds.

Aveline – Book 1 of the Lost Vegas novella series by Lizzy Ford
avelineIn post-apocalyptic America, five hundred years in the future, famine, war, and chaos have created a hell on earth. Outside the isolated city of Lost Vegas, violent skirmishes among the Native Americans – who have retaken their ancestral homes – claim lives by day, while ancient predators awakened during the Age of Darkness hunt humans by night. Inside the city, criminals, the impoverished, and the deformed are burned at the stake weekly. Among those ruthless enough to survive is seventeen-year-old Aveline, a street rat skilled in fighting whose father runs the criminal underworld. On the night of her father’s unexpected death, a stranger offers to pay off her father’s debts, if she agrees to become the guardian of Tiana Hanover, the daughter of the most powerful man in Lost Vegas. Aveline’s skills as an assassin may have kept her alive to date – but she’ll need every ounce of ingenuity and grit to keep herself safe once she enters the household of the most powerful man in Lost Vegas…

Ignore the misleading cover – this is no soft-focused lurve story, this is a gritted battle for survival by a gutsy heroine who had me hooked from the first page.

Tackling my TBR
This is in response to my habit of continually gathering up new books and not reading them. I want try and reduce the teetering pile by my bed, so I’ve decided to report back on how I’m doing in the hope that it will nudge me to read more of them. Again, I’ve only managed one book during September that wasn’t a Netgalley arc:-
Necessity – Book 3 of the Thessaly trilogy by Jo Walton
The Cities, founded on the precepts laid down by in Plato’s The Republic by Pallas Athena, are necessityflourishing. Then, on the same day, two things happen. Pytheas dies as a human, returning immediately as Apollo in his full glory. And there’s suddenly a ship approaching, wanting to make contact…

I finished the book feeling enormously moved and excited. I can’t recall the last time I felt like that over any book. And all through the year, since reading The Just City I’ve found this series has stolen into my head and taken up thinking space, often when I should have been considering other things. That doesn’t happen all that often. It is the glory of reading – where marks on a page can transform, terrify or anger you. Or, in this case, have me pondering about why we are here, what is our purpose and what should we be striving for.