Category Archives: romance

Discovery Challenge 2017 and Tackling My TBR – January Roundup

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I know… it’s too far into February – but I got a tad carried away with my Netgalley requests so it’s been difficult to fit this post in. After reading Jo Hall’s post on the problems women authors have with getting discovered, I’ve been taking part in the challenge to read and review at least 24 books by female authors previously unknown to me during the last two years. So how did I do in January? I read four books towards the 2017 Discovery Challenge. They were:-

The Falconer – Book 1 of The Falconer Trilogy by Elizabeth May
She’s a stunner. Edinburgh, 1844. Eighteen-year-old Lady Aileana Kameron, the only daughter of the thefalconerMarquess of Douglas, has everything a girl could dream of: brains, charm, wealth, a title—and drop-dead beauty.
She’s a liar. But Aileana only looks the part of an aristocratic young lady. she’s leading a double life: She has a rare ability to sense the sìthíchean—the faery race obsessed with slaughtering humans—and, with the aid of a mysterious mentor, has spent the year since her mother died learning how to kill them.
She’s a murderer. Now Aileana is dedicated to slaying the fae before they take innocent lives. With her knack for inventing ingenious tools and weapons—from flying machines to detonators to lightning pistols—ruthless Aileana has one goal: Destroy the faery who destroyed her mother.
She’s a Falconer. The last in a line of female warriors born with a gift for hunting and killing the fae, Aileana is the sole hope of preventing a powerful faery population from massacring all of humanity. Suddenly, her quest is a lot more complicated. She still longs to avenge her mother’s murder—but she’ll have to save the world first.

Yes… the blurb does go on a bit, but it does effectively set the scene for this interesting foot-to-the floor adventure. I’ve loved the first two books in this edgy, apocalyptic fantasy – and each book takes the plot off in twisty directions I didn’t see coming. I can’t wait to see how May will end the series this summer…

Strangers by Rosie Thomas

strangersSometimes the victims of tragedy are the ones who survive. Annie and Steve are from different worlds. She is a wife and mother, he is a wealthy executive with a stream of broken relationships in his wake. They do not know each other exists until one morning, on a shopping expedition, they becomes victims of a bomb blast, thrown together in the debris to fight for their lives.

The beginning of the book where the two of them are buried in the bomb blast is amazing. I loved the description – so visceral. Thomas absolutely nailed it. However, I decided in the end not to review this one.

 

Terminal Regression by Mallory Hill

Laura Baily’s life is meaningless. In a world where purpose and passion are everything, Laura feels as terminalregressionthough she has no place and no business even existing. Her life is forfeit, and it would be better for everyone if she simply ended it, if she simply got a ticket for a train to oblivion and faded from memory. But what awaits her at the end of the line isn’t death…

Once more, I’ve edited the rather chatty blurb, but Hill has taken on depression and suicide in this gutsy YA read. I am very impressed at how she approached the subject and managed to make this a readable, thought provoking story. Definitely One to Watch.

 

Old Bones – A Detective Inspector Slider Mystery by Cynthia Harrod-Eagles

oldbonesA young couple discover human remains buried in the garden of their new house: could this be the resting place of 14-year-old Amanda Knight, who disappeared from the same garden two decades before, and was never seen again? The problem comes almost as a relief to DCI Slider, still suffering from the fallout of his previous case. He is not popular with the Powers That Be, and his immediate boss, Detective Superintendent Porson, reckons that at least this little puzzle will keep Slider out of trouble. After all, with a murder twenty years in the past, this is the coldest of cold cases. Most of the suspects and principal players are now dead too, and all passion is long spent … Or is it?

This is a gem if you like your police procedurals twisty, with a protagonist whose narrative voice is blessed with desert-dry humour that regularly had me sniggering aloud. Mum was right – this lady can certainly write…

 

Tackling my TBR pile – this month I only managed to read one book towards this Challenge:-

A Symphony of Echoes – Book 2 of The Chronicles of St Mary’s by Jodi Taylor

Follow the adventures of those tea-sodden historians at St Mary’s as once again they dance on the edge asymphonyofechoesof disaster.

And there you have it – the blurb certainly doesn’t venture anywhere near spoiler territory, does it? Once again, Taylor’s punchy prose scoops the reader up into Max’s world and catapults us into the middle of St Mary’s, where Max feels she belongs for the first time in her life. If she didn’t have such a strong sense of humour, this could be a very grim read as plenty goes wrong. I keep thinking, as I read all the sudden reverses and nasty surprises that constantly assail our adventurers, that this series would transfer very well to TV.

Sunday Post – 19th February 2017

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Sunday Post

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

Himself has had the week off work. We have mostly stayed at home, because my half term break is next week *sigh*… That said, we did manage to have a couple of days when we chilled together and had lunch at our favourite place.

The weather has been variable, starting cold and wet but steadily getting warmer and sunnier – yesterday was fabulous so we went for a walk over Kithurst Hill. The views were wonderful and for the first time this year, it felt more like spring than winter. I’m not kidding myself – I’m aware that next week it could quite easily snow, but still… there it was – a slice of sunshine! The bonus was during the walk I talked through my ideas for Miranda’s Tempest, as since Christmas I’ve felt like I was wading through concrete on the rewrite. J is a really good listener and together we discussed some of the issues that I’d got stuck on, so I’m hoping to make much better progress this coming week, when I can fully concentrate on it.

As you can see, I’ve had a great reading week with a tranche of entertaining and in one case, outstanding books to read – though it looks a tad more impressive than it is, given one was a novella and one was a children’s book.

This week I have read:

The Vanishing Throne – Book 2 of The Falconer series by Elizabeth May
Aileana took a stand against the Wild Hunt, and she lost everything: her home, her family and her thevanishingthronefriends. Held captive by her enemy, and tormenting herself over her failure, escape seems like only the faintest possibility.

I encountered the first book, The Falconer, at the beginning of the year and loved the intense, brutal writing style of this YA genre mash-up, so was delighted when this offering became available at the local library. There’s no second-book slump here – May continues where the first book leaves off in this adrenaline rush of an adventure. I will be reviewing it in due course.

Miranda and Caliban by Jacqueline Carey
mirandaandcalibanMiranda is a lonely child. For as long as she can remember, she and her father have lived in isolation in the abandoned Moorish palace. There are chickens and goats, and a terrible wailing spirit trapped in a pine tree, but the elusive wild boy who spies on her from the crumbling walls and leaves gifts on their doorstep is the isle’s only other human inhabitant. There are other memories, too: vague, dream-like memories of another time and another place. There are questions that Miranda dare not ask her stern and controlling father, who guards his secrets with zealous care: Who am I? Where did I come from?

This beautifully written love story is mostly the prequel to Shakespeare’s The Tempest though you don’t have to know a thing about the play to become engrossed in the events of the enchanted island. I loved this one – it is my favourite book of the year to date.

Slow Bullets by Alastair Reynolds
A vast conflict, one that has encompassed hundreds of worlds and solar systems, appears to be finally at slowbulletsan end. A conscripted soldier is beginning to consider her life after the war and the family she has left behind. But for Scur—and for humanity—peace is not to be.

This space opera novella offers a cracking adventure with plenty of twists and turns, along with some interesting concepts. The slow bullets of the title are identity chips buried deep within a person that record all their major life events. They are impossible to change or over-write. So what happens in a crisis when your life and who you are can be read for all to see?

Artie Conan Doyle and the Gravediggers’ Club – Book 1 of the Artie Conan Doyle Mysteries by Robert J. Harris
thegravediggersclubOne day Arthur Conan Doyle will create the greatest detective of all – Sherlock Holmes. But right now, Artie Conan Doyle is a twelve-year-old Edinburgh schoolboy with a mystery of his own to solve. While sneaking out to explore Greyfriars Kirkyard by night, Artie and his best friend Ham spot a ghostly lady in grey and discover the footprints of a gigantic hound. Could the two mysteries be connected?

This entertaining historical mystery adventure for children tripped along at a fair clip, with the main protagonist, Artie Conan Doyle, seeming very familiar with fans who have read any Sherlock Holmes stories.

 

My posts last week:

Sunday Post – 12th February 2017

Review of A Closed and Common Orbit – Book 2 of the Wayfarers’ series by Becky Chambers

Teaser Tuesday featuring Miranda and Caliban by Jacqueline Carey

NEW RELEASE SPECIAL – Miranda and Caliban by Jacqueline Carey

NEW RELEASE SPECIAL – Slow Bullets by Alastair Reynolds

Friday Face-off – Drivin’ Along in my Automobile… featuring Ill Wind – Book 1 of the Weather Warden series by Rachel Caine

NEW RELEASE SPECIAL – Review of Artie Conan Doyle and the Gravediggers’ Club – Book 1 of the Artie Conan Doyle mysteries by Robert J. Harris

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

10 of the Best Wendy Cope Poems Everyone Should Read https://interestingliterature.com/2017/02/17/10-of-the-best-wendy-cope-poems-everyone-should-read/ Once more this great blog has produced an entertaining informative article I really enjoyed.

Girl from Mars, on the telephone https://photolicioux.wordpress.com/2017/02/17/girl-from-mars-on-the-telephone/ I love the sheer quirkiness of this pic…

Take My Hand, We Will Walk https://bitesizedhamma.com/2017/02/14/take-my-hand-we-will-walk/ I love the simplicity of this short poem, which also has been very apt this week. Himself and I had a walk just like this one – something we should do more often.

When Dedications Leave Something To Be Desired https://kristentwardowski.wordpress.com/2017/02/16/when-dedications-leave-something-to-be-desired/ Oh, this is hilarious! I howled with laughter and then shared the fun with J…

Interview with Sir Kipling from the Lily Singer series by Lydia Sherrer http://lolasreviews.com/interview-with-sir-kipling-from-the-lily-springer-series-by-lydia-sherrer/ I’ve seen book characters interviewed before, but never with more entertaining snark than this gem…

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 Miranda and Caliban by Jacqueline Carey

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The minute I saw this one, I knew I would have to read it. I have to declare an interest here – I’m working on my own retelling of The Tempest, so I was very interested to read this one…

Miranda is a lonely child. For as long as she can remember, she and her father have lived in isolation in mirandaandcalibanthe abandoned Moorish palace. There are chickens and goats, and a terrible wailing spirit trapped in a pine tree, but the elusive wild boy who spies on her from the crumbling walls and leaves gifts on their doorstep is the isle’s only other human inhabitant. There are other memories, too: vague, dream-like memories of another time and another place. There are questions that Miranda dare not ask her stern and controlling father, who guards his secrets with zealous care: Who am I? Where did I come from?

This books is written as a dual narrative, with both Miranda and Caliban giving their different version of events from the time Caliban enters Miranda’s life when she is a six-year-old. If Shakespeare’s The Tempest is told from the viewpoint of Prospero, then this story is from the point of view of two of the characters who are most impacted by the events unfolding around them. Miranda and Caliban are in thrall to Prospero and suffer the consequences of his abusive, controlling behaviour.

Carey’s lyrical prose drew me into the closed world of the enchanted island and the deserted Moorish palace inhabited by Prospero, Miranda and Caliban. As the years roll past, Miranda and Caliban grow up, while Prospero grows older, always working away at his magical studies. The pacing works well, with the first half of the book moving relatively slowly – and then as we approach the more familiar events covered in Shakespeare’s play, the book’s momentum suddenly rockets forward.

Miranda and Caliban is more of a prequel to The Tempest, with Carey’s version of what happens once Prospero raises his magical storm and wrecks King Alonso’s ship, differing in major ways from Shakespeare’s version. Though the main events are still recognisable and I love the twists and variations which work very effectively, still keeping to the spirit and form of this, one of Shakespeare’s most lyrical plays. However, if you’ve never seen or read The Tempest and have absolutely no intention of doing so – there is nothing here that prevents you from appreciating this bittersweet story of young love, as Carey ensures the tale is completely standalone.

Both young people are utterly convincing in their desperate loneliness, while caught up in Prospero’s elaborate scheme to escape his island exile. Their feelings for each other are completely understandable and both struggle to do the right thing in difficult circumstances. As for the ending… oh my word. It blew me away, leaving me with tears in my eyes and a lump in my throat. Wonderful and memorable, this is my favourite book of the year so far. Very highly recommended.

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

Teaser Tuesday – 14th February, 2016

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tuesday

Teaser Tuesday is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by The Purple Booker.
Anyone can play along! Just do the following:
• Grab your current read
• Open to a random page
• Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
• BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
• Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

This is my choice of the day:
Miranda and Caliban by Jacqueline Carey

97% Oh, dear Lord God, I do not want to think about promises.mirandaandcaliban

I paint the fish that dangles from the man’s other hand, using subtle curves to suggest that the fish is yet alive and wriggling in his grasp, I take more time than I ought rendering its fins and gills and scales in exacting detail, for I do not want this moment to end.

When it does, my life as I have known it will be over.

BLURB: Miranda is a lonely child. For as long as she can remember, she and her father have lived in isolation in the abandoned Moorish palace. There are chickens and goats, and a terrible wailing spirit trapped in a pine tree, but the elusive wild boy who spies on her from the crumbling walls and leaves gifts on their doorstep is the isle’s only other human inhabitant. There are other memories, too: vague, dream-like memories of another time and another place. There are questions that Miranda dare not ask her stern and controlling father, who guards his secrets with zealous care: Who am I? Where did I come from?

This is a fitting tease for Valentine’s Day. For it is a love story – not a sweet, sentimental tale but the kind of love that rips into the lovers’ lives, plunging them down desperate paths. Based on Shakespeare’s play The Tempest, this alternative version is beautifully written and compelling. Not that you need to know the original in order to get thoroughly engrossed… I shall be reviewing it in due course.

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of KINDLE Ebook Heartless by Marissa Meyer

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When browsing NetGalley – which is becoming something of a vice – I noticed this offering and after thoroughly enjoying Cinders, I put in a request to read it.

Catherine may be one of the most desired girls in Wonderland, and a favorite of the unmarried King of heartlessHearts, but her interests lie elsewhere. A talented baker, all she wants is to open a shop with her best friend. But according to her mother, such a goal is unthinkable for the young woman who could be the next queen.

If you have read and enjoyed Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, then do consider tracking down this YA prequel to his madcap world. Catherine is a joy. I immediately bonded with her open-hearted approach to life and her interest in baking. Meyer has done an excellent job in depicting her privileged life that, nevertheless, is rather empty when it comes to close, loving relationships to the extent that her closest friend is her maid. This first person narrative is harder to pull off than Meyer makes it look, given that she also has to nail Carroll’s peculiar world.

For me, this is the book’s real strength – as a girl I loved the world Lewis presented and Meyer’s depiction of it is both clever and respectful. The kingdom of Hearts has its own quirky rules, which Meyer presents with minimum fuss or explanation so that we fully accept the idea of playing cards running around the place. Neither has she glossed or ignored any of that quirkiness – I enjoyed the Cheshire cat, whose sudden appearances and perceptive comments are entirely in keeping with Lewis’s world. While the account of the croquet game, complete with hedgehogs and flamingos, is funny and bizarre. This is a large part of the book’s charm – while there is a dark undertow, the amusing Lewis-inspired episodes throughout had me grinning, both at the humour and Meyer’s skill in weaving her own narrative within this complex and very odd world.

The catch with prequels is that you generally know the outcome, apart from some minor details, so there has to be something other than the plotline to keep you reading. The ongoing romance throughout this book was well handled – I cared for the couple and hoped they would prevail. Given I’m not a fan of lurve stories (yawn) the fact that I found myself rooting for this one is a testament to Meyer’s excellent writing. And part of the game in these retellings is recognising key characters that featured in the original classic and seeing what Meyer has done with them. Like the original, there is amongst the surreal oddity a sense of wrongness to this world which on occasions breaks into violence – the Jabberwock attacks are a shock in this mannered world where what you wear and how you wear it is the one of the yardsticks to social success. Meyer’s pacing, where she steadily increases the momentum of the story to that amazing climax, is pitch perfect, providing us with the world we now recognise from Alice’s own visit in Lewis’s classic. As you may have gathered, I loved this one and it comes highly recommended.

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

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of KINDLE Ebook Traitor to the Throne – Book 2 of the Rebel of the Sands series by Alwyn Hamilton

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I fell in love with reckless, danger-loving Amani in Rebel of the Sands when I seemed to be the last person on the planet to have read this highly praised book, so would I enjoy the sequel?

traitortothethroneMere months ago, gunslinger Amani al’Hiza fled her dead-end hometown on the back of a mythical horse with the mysterious foreigner Jin, seeking only her own freedom. Now she’s fighting to liberate the entire desert nation of Miraji from a bloodthirsty sultan who slew his own father to capture the throne. Forget everything you thought you knew about Miraji, about the rebellion, about djinni and Jin and the Blue-Eyed Bandit. In Traitor to the Throne, the only certainty is that everything will change.

Firstly, a huge thank you to NetGalley. I requested this one more in hope than expectation and was thrilled when I was granted permission to read it – only to discover that I wasn’t able to download it. The techs at NetGalley were on it, unfailingly helpful and persistent until they sorted out the problem and Traitor to the Throne duly turned up on my trusty Kindle.

And I was even more grateful once I tucked into this gem, for as much as I relished the first book, I loved this one even more. Hamilton has a very nifty trick for those who haven’t had the pleasure of reading the first book – she gets Amani to recite a tale about her exploits to date at the start of the story. While I would highly recommend those of you who may not have read Rebel of the Sands to do so, if you pick up Traitor to the Throne first, I can guarantee you won’t be adrift. And the abbreviated blurb is spot on – everything does change in this next slice of the adventure.

For starters, the rebels are having a tough time of it. Life is hard and dangerous as they are unceasingly harried and their comrades continually foray forth on life or death assignments and all too often don’t return. Until it is Amani’s turn to volunteer – and she finds herself in more trouble than she knows what to do with and one of the biggest mistakes she made in escaping her town now rebounds on her.

Amani is put in a position where she is forced to consider the consequences of her actions and question if what the rebels are doing is right for the inhabitants of Miraji. I really loved this aspect of the story. Firstly, considering her situation, I thought it psychologically was spot on and I also liked the extra spin it put on the worldbuilding, when we get a ringside seat as to the motivations of the antagonist. It raised the stakes, winding this adrenaline-fuelled adventure up another notch.

I thought I could see how this was going to end – until Hamilton suddenly threw a massive spanner in the works and pulled yet another game-changing plot twist right at the end. Marvellous stuff. While ending that particular storyline satisfactorily, once more everything has been thrown up in the air – and I will be fretting for another slice of this wonderful world for the rest of the year.

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

Sunday Post – 22nd January 2017

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

Another busy week, though I think I begin to see daylight and hope that Life is beginning to calm down, somewhat. Last week-end we had the pleasure of the grandchildren visiting – it was a joy catching up with them as we hadn’t seen them since Christmas, which now seems a very long time ago. Then on Sunday afternoon after we delivered them back to their parents, we had to rush back and get the spare room ready for an impromptu visit by my son who had a couple of audition tapes that needed doing. So Monday and Tuesday we were working on those between my teaching commitments – it is always a pleasure but as we had a very narrow timescale, it was also quite intense. However, lovely to catch up with Robbie before he flies out to LA on Monday. Unfortunately, my Wednesday evening session with my writing group was wiped out by a headache that threatened to turn into a migraine, but at least I sufficiently recovered to have my marvellous friend Mhairi come over for the day on Thursday. Friday saw us collecting the children for another session of grannying and on Saturday we went out for a meal to celebrate my father’s birthday at the fabulous George and Dragon at Burpham, where the food was delicious and the welcome warm despite the frosty weather. They went to a great deal of trouble to accommodate Oscar’s veganism.

This week I have read:
Terminal Regression by Mallory Hill
terminalregressionLaura Baily’s life is meaningless. In a world where purpose and passion are everything, Laura feels as though she has no place and no business even existing. Her life is forfeit, and it would be better for everyone if she simply ended it, if she simply got a ticket for a train to oblivion and faded from memory.

But what awaits her at the end of the line isn’t death but Terminal B a community of people more like her than she considered possible, including the beautiful, tormented Will Noble. Though Laura still thinks little of her own life, the lives of others begin to fascinate her as never before. And when those lives become imperiled, Laura discovers the last thing she ever expected to find on her way out of the world: a mission and a reason to live.

This is a brave book that confronts the tricky issue of a suicidal protagonist suffering from severe depression. Despite that, it is full of drama and tension, producing a strong story set in a dystopian world demonstrating a lot of skill by this young author.

 

NETGALLEY PREVIEW of Empire Games – Book 1 of the Empire Games series by Charles Stross
empiregamesTwo nuclear superpowers are set on a collision course. Two increasingly desperate paratime espionage agencies are fumbling around in the dark, trying to find a solution to the first contact problem that doesn’t result in a nuclear holocaust. And two women—a mother and her long-lost, adopted daughter—are about to find themselves on opposite sides of the confrontation.

This latest offering by Stross is a spin-off series from his successful portal world Merchant Princes adventures. I haven’t read them all, but those I did read were powerful and engrossing, so I was thrilled when it seemed I’d acquired Empire Games via NetGalley. Only I hadn’t. What I got was a slice of the story. So I cannot fully review the book – only report that it started with plenty of drama and quickly established what is at stake.

My posts last week:
Sunday Post – 15th January 2017

NEW RELEASE SPECIAL Review of Martians Abroad by Carrie Vaughn

Teaser Tuesday featuring Terminal Regression by Mallory Hill

NEW RELEASE SPECIAL Review of Terminal Regression by Mallory Hill

2016 Discovery Challenge – How Did I Do?

Friday Faceoff – Slipped the surly bonds of earth… featuring Abaddon’s Gate – Book 3 of The Expanse series by James S.A. Corey

Review of A Symphony of Echoes – Book 2 of The Chronicles of St Mary’s by Jodi Taylor

Interesting/outstanding blogs and articles that have caught my attention during the last week, in no particular order:
from the ‘Hjordis, I Miss You’ series https://photolicioux.wordpress.com/2017/01/20/from-the-hjordis-i-miss-you-series/ This intensely personal depiction brought tears to my eyes…

22 photos that will make you want to visit South America this winter https://roamwildandfree.com/2017/01/19/22-photos-that-will-make-you-want-to-visit-south-america-this-winter/ Another pictorial series – this time the scenery will take your breath away…

The Best Canterbury Tales Everyone Should Read https://interestingliterature.com/2017/01/18/the-best-canterbury-tales-everyone-should-read/
Once more this marvellous, informative site comes up with a cracking list…

God 1 https://zenandtheartoftightropewalking.wordpress.com/2017/01/16/god-1/ A wonderful poem by the talented Viv Tuffnell…

Inventing a Word For It – https://kristentwardowski.wordpress.com/2017/01/18/inventing-a-word-for-it/ Can you guess which is the right definition for this word?

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

Review of KINDLE Ebook of A Symphony of Echoes – Book 2 of The Chronicles of St Mary’s by Jodi Taylor

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We are back at St Mary’s, a top secret, government establishment where historians travel back in time to investigate what really happened. It’s an exciting and dangerous occupation that requires a certain attitude, which our protagonist Max has in spades…

asymphonyofechoesThe sequel to the hit book Just One Damned Thing After Another. Follow the adventures of those tea-sodden historians at St Mary’s as once again they dance on the edge of disaster.

And there you have it – the blurb certainly doesn’t venture anywhere near spoiler territory, does it? Once again, Taylor’s punchy prose scoops the reader up into Max’s world and catapults us into the middle of St Mary’s, where Max feels she belongs for the first time in her life. If she didn’t have such a desert-dry sense of humour, this could be a very grim read as plenty goes wrong. I keep thinking, as I read all the sudden reverses and nasty surprises that constantly assail our adventurers, that this series would transfer very well to TV. In the meantime, it’s a joy to read it as the rain lashes down outside and I feel comfortably happy I’m not in the middle of these disasters.

A routine journey to check out the Hanging Gardens of Babylon goes wrong to the extent that I realised why so many of the time-travelling historians die and then an antagonist from the first book pops up, causing yet more mayhem. Having said that – Taylor has written this one, so that if you did pick it up unaware it was part of a series, you wouldn’t flounder for long.

For all her snarky asides – which I love – Max has had a dire childhood which has left her with scars and vulnerabilities and it is this mix of gutsy derring-do and sudden, painfilled fury that makes her such an engrossing protagonist. She regularly gets things spectacularly wrong and never fails to come out swinging when her back is against the wall, being brave to the point of foolhardiness.

Taylor keeps the pace up, often skipping the preparation or lead-up to an expedition so one moment it is being proposed – and the next we are right in the middle of Babylon or at the court of Mary, Queen of Scots. I found myself at the end of the book with something of a jolt, wanting yet more and convinced the slight lull in between the action was merely a precursor to yet another hair-raising adventure. And it won’t be long before I return to this series, for it has wormed its way into my head so I often find myself thinking of Max, Leon and Peter and wondering what will next go wrong for them. If you enjoy time travelling tales with plenty of action, then don’t start here – go looking for Just One Damned Thing After Another, which is a quote about the way some historians view history, apparently. It certainly seems to be the case at St Mary’s.
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

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of KINDLE Ebook Terminal Regression by Mallory Hill

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I loved the look of the futuristic cover, so requested it from NetGalley…

Laura Baily’s life is meaningless. In a world where purpose and passion are everything, Laura feels as terminalregressionthough she has no place and no business even existing. Her life is forfeit, and it would be better for everyone if she simply ended it, if she simply got a ticket for a train to oblivion and faded from memory. But what awaits her at the end of the line isn’t death…

I’m reluctant to add the rest of the rather chatty blurb, because while you can gather Laura doesn’t die from the fact that this is at the start of the book and we have another two hundred or so pages to get through, I don’t like how many spoilers it contains. This YA offering has a really interesting protagonist. She is numb. Life washes around her and while her artistic, talented mother is endlessly encouraging and positive, Laura’s efforts to try and find her own enthusiasm and passion have all ended in failure. Wretched and discouraged, she decides to volunteer for the train to oblivion. Everyone knows about the train – it ships out criminals, misfits and those who can’t cope with living anymore and they never come back. There are also a handful of talented, effective people who are commandeered to board the train – like Laura’s dad eight years earlier – and they are never seen again, either.

It’s a tricky business writing a protagonist with severe depression. The classic symptoms – such as an inability to get out of bed, inability to communicate and prolonged fits of crying to name but a few – don’t generally make for the sort of character readers are going to warm to. But Hill manages to pull it off, which is a major achievement in this debut novel. She also tackles the issue of suicide head-on to the extent that it was causing me some concern, given the target audience are teens. I was uneasy with a protagonist who declared she’d rather be dead – and then acts on that impulse. However, by the end of the book I was far happier with her overall stance and felt that she handles the subject with sympathy and insight.

This is a brave book that wears its heart on its sleeve. The inevitable romantic element is very sweet, to the extent that this particular reader who is a dyed-in-the-wool cynic about such matters was won over by the love interest, who I initially was convinced would turn out to be some psychotic murderer. The sequence of events near the end of the book also had me wondering whether it was realistic to have such a seismic shift without any deaths, but then recalled the bloodless revolutions that have occurred throughout history. Overall, I think Hill has pulled off this one – an impressively ambitious book that marks Hill as One to Watch in the future. Receiving a copy of Terminal Regression from the publisher via NetGalley has in no way affected my honest opinion of this book.
8/10