Category Archives: S.J. Higbee

Teaser Tuesday – 15th August, 2017

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

This is my choice of the day:

The Real-Town Murders – Book 1 of The Real-Town Murders series by Adam Roberts

1% ‘Do you know of any way in which a human corpse could have gotten into the trunk of that automobile?’ Alma asked.
‘There is no way such a thing could happen,’ FAC-13 said.
‘And yet,’ Alma pointed out, ‘there it is. At the end of the process there it is. A corpse in the car.’

BLURB: Alma is a private detective in a near-future England, a country desperately trying to tempt people away from the delights of Shine, the immersive successor to the internet. But most people are happy to spend their lives plugged in, and the country is decaying. Alma’s partner is ill, and has to be treated without fail every 4 hours, a task that only Alma can do. If she misses the 5 minute window her lover will die. She is one of the few not to access the Shine. So when Alma is called to an automated car factory to be shown an impossible death and finds herself caught up in a political coup, she knows that getting too deep may leave her unable to get home.

What follows is a fast-paced Hitchcockian thriller as Alma evades arrest, digs into the conspiracy, and tries to work out how on earth a dead body appeared in the boot of a freshly-made car in a fully-automated factory.

When I saw the premise for this one, I immediately requested it from Netgalley. Adam Roberts writing a near-future murder mystery? I’m in. And looking forward to something quirky and different…

Sunday Post – 13th August 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.

Some of you may have noticed that last week there was no Sunday Post. This is because last Saturday, my sister had a seizure and badly damaged her face – I hadn’t heard from her the previous day and knowing she was unwell with a stomach bug, I went round to check up on her. It was one of the worst moments of my life when she opened the door and I saw the state of her. So it was dial 999 and straight to hospital. Fortunately – miraculously – she managed to avoid major longterm damage, though her tongue is badly bitten and her face is now one big bruise. On being released on Tuesday, she came to stay with us so we had a houseful as the grandchildren were also staying. As you can imagine, I have been somewhat busy – it hasn’t helped that the weather has reverted to April, with fine sunny mornings and then an absolute downpour from lunchtime onwards.

It could have been absolute Hell – but the children behaved brilliantly and my sister has been a wonderful patient, with Himself being utterly supportive. Mona returned to her flat on Friday and the children went home, though we are back to the hospital for a follow-up appointment on Tuesday.

This week I have read:

Eligible: A Modern Retelling of Pride and Prejudice – Book 4 of The Austen Project by Curtis Sittenfeld

This version of the Bennet family and Mr. Darcy is one that you have and haven’t met before: Liz is a magazine writer in her late thirties who, like her yoga instructor older sister, Jane, lives in New York City. When their father has a health scare, they return to their childhood home in Cincinnati to help and discover that the sprawling Tudor they grew up in is crumbling and the family is in disarray. Youngest sisters Kitty and Lydia are too busy with their CrossFit workouts and Paleo diets to get jobs. Mary, the middle sister, is earning her third online master’s degree and barely leaves her room, except for those mysterious Tuesday-night outings she won’t discuss. And Mrs. Bennet has one thing on her mind: how to marry off her daughters, especially as Jane’s fortieth birthday fast approaches.
Enter Chip Bingley, a handsome new-in-town doctor who recently appeared on the juggernaut reality TV dating show Eligible. At a Fourth of July barbecue, Chip takes an immediate interest in Jane, but Chip’s friend, neurosurgeon Fitzwilliam Darcy, reveals himself to Liz to be much less charming. . . . And yet, first impressions can be deceiving.
This is a smart, clever retelling of Jane Austen’s classic romantic comedy where the game is to spot the characters from Pride and Prejudice and how Sittenfeld has recast them in her modern version. It was just what I needed – a complete escape from everyday life and I’ll be reviewing it in due course.

My posts last week:

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of The Student Body – An E.J. Pugh Mystery by Susan Rogers Cooper

Teaser Tuesday featuring Eligible: A Modern Retelling of Pride and Prejudice – Book 4 of The Austen Project by Curtis Sittenfeld

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of The List by Patricia Forde

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of The Devil’s Cup – Book 17 of the Hawkenlye Mysteries by Alys Clare

Friday Face-off – No soldier outlives a thousand chances… featuring Starship Troopers by Robert Heinlein

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

Natura Insects: Delicate Floral Compositions https://alk3r.wordpress.com/2017/08/08/natura-insects-delicate-floral-compositions/ These beautiful flower pictures of insects caught my eye…

How To Turn a Microsoft Word Document into an Ebook (EPUB) https://janefriedman.com/word-epub/ The major surprise for me is the number of ways to do it

10 Reasons I Will Read a Book http://www.momwithareadingproblem.com/2017/08/ttt-119-ten-reasons-will-read-book/ This enjoyable article outlines Lilian’s favourite genres and why she loves them – and sums up the passion some of us have for books

August for Stargazers http://earthianhivemind.net/2017/08/04/august-for-stargazers/ Another excellent roundup of the highlights in the sky to look out for, should it stop raining for a bit…

In Any Other World https://richardankers.com/2017/08/11/in-any-other-world/ This talented, prolific author is always worth reading – but this poem produced a lump in my throat when I read this…

Thank you very much for taking the time and trouble to visit, like and comment on my site and may you have a great week.

Friday Faceoff – No soldier outlives a thousand chances…

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This meme was started by Books by Proxy, whose fabulous idea was to compare UK and US book covers and decide which is we prefer. This week the theme is soldiers, so I’ve chosen Starship Troopers by Robert Heinlein.

 

This is the cover produced by Ace in 1987. I really like the overall bright yellow/orange colour and the no-nonsense font. It’s a long time ago since I read this one, but I don’t recall that space ships roaring into the action was much of a thing. My recollection is that they are all about the bloody hand to hand combat with the insectoid aliens, but it does make for a dramatic cover.

 

This paperback edition by Ace, produced in May 1987 is far more in tune with the content, given it features a trooper in one of those awesome suits. They also have recreated Heinlein’s signature for some reason that escapes me, which rather spoils the balance and impact of the cover.

 

Published in July 1982 by Berkley, this is another cover featuring a trooper wearing one of these amazing suits – although this version manages to look rather alien. Even with the fame of this book, the publishers still decided the author’s name would sell more copies by emblazoning it across the top third of cover, rather than the title.

 

Produced in August 1997 by New English Library, this cover is clearly in response to the recently released film. These covers aren’t usually my favourites, but I really like this one – there is real sense of battle going on and I also think the styling of the title font is eye-catching and attractive.

 

This is another Berkley cover, this edition published in November 1977. The vivid turquoise and font, along with the artwork give this cover a retro feel. I want to like this one, but I don’t. The aliens look far too static to be the terrible threat described in the book and that harsh colour puts me in mind of 1950s bathroom suites… Which one do you like best?

Teaser Tuesday – 8th August, 2017

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

This is my choice of the day:

Eligible: A Modern Retelling of Pride and Prejudice – Book 4 of The Austen Project by Curtis Sittenfeld

15% At five-thirty in the morning, Liz awoke to the rustling of Jane slipping into the twin bed across from hers.
“Yikes,” Liz mumbled. “I guess it was a successful date.”
“Oh, Lizzy,” Jane said. “Chip’s amazing.”

BLURB: This version of the Bennet family and Mr. Darcy is one that you have and haven’t met before: Liz is a magazine writer in her late thirties who, like her yoga instructor older sister, Jane, lives in New York City. When their father has a health scare, they return to their childhood home in Cincinnati to help and discover that the sprawling Tudor they grew up in is crumbling and the family is in disarray.

Youngest sisters Kitty and Lydia are too busy with their CrossFit workouts and Paleo diets to get jobs. Mary, the middle sister, is earning her third online master’s degree and barely leaves her room, except for those mysterious Tuesday-night outings she won’t discuss. And Mrs. Bennet has one thing on her mind: how to marry off her daughters, especially as Jane’s fortieth birthday fast approaches.

Enter Chip Bingley, a handsome new-in-town doctor who recently appeared on the juggernaut reality TV dating show Eligible. At a Fourth of July barbecue, Chip takes an immediate interest in Jane, but Chip’s friend, neurosurgeon Fitzwilliam Darcy, reveals himself to Liz to be much less charming. . . . And yet, first impressions can be deceiving.

As you can see, I’m not all that far into this one. I badly needed a comfort read as the wheels of my life have fallen off – and this one seemed to provide what I was looking for. I am certainly enjoying the modern parallels – Mr Bennet’s wit is a joy. But I am slightly struggling with the large chunks of ‘tell’. Hopefully, I’ll either get more used to the rhythm of the writing or it will ease off a bit…

Shoot for the Moon 2017 Challenge – July Roundup

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How have I got on with my writing, reading and blogging targets?

• Rewrite Miranda’s Tempest
Complete my rewrite of Miranda’s Tempest in response to some very detailed advice on how to improve it by an agent during the submission process. I had intended to have it completed by now, but got seriously stalled halfway through December…
Done. I managed to complete the line edit of Miranda’s Tempest aided by my new purchase of Dragon Naturally, which now dictates my manuscript back to me in an English accent. This makes it far easier to listen and stay focused so I can line edit for longer. I have now sent my rewrite back to the agent who kindly provided me with such helpful advice and had an acknowledgement within the hour that she had safely received it.

 

• Edit Dying for Space
Edit Dying for Space after receiving advice from my beta readers on the second book of The Sunblinded Trilogy, in readiness for self-publishing the series.
I was able to power through this final edit of the second book in The Sunblinded Trilogy and make a good start on Breathing Space, the third and final book. At this rate, I should be able to get started on the first draft of Bloodless before the end of the summer.

 

 

• Write at least 100 reviews for my blog during 2017
I hope to continue to read and review at least 100 books, with at least 24 being by women authors previously unknown to me as part of the Discovery Challenge, thanks to Joanne Hall’s post. I also would very much like to get more of my To Be Read pile read and reviewed, so will have another go at the Tackling my TBR Pile this year with the aim of reading at least 30 books during the year from this teetering stack.
During July, I read 16 books and reviewed 15 of them. This brought my yearly total of books read by the end of the month to 106. As for book of the month – oh my word – this is a painful choice as there were so many marvellous books. I think it is a tie between Margaret Atwood’s Hag-Seed: The Tempest Retold and Artemis by Andy Weir.

 

• Creative Writing courses
To continue to deliver my courses to the best of my ability.
The One Day Summer Surgery writing course was a lovely day, though very hot. However, everyone took full part in all the writing exercises and contributed throughout the day, making it a delightful teaching experience. A fitting end to a wonderful year – and I am now starting to plan next term’s course notes.

 

• Continue teaching TW
Continue delivering the customised syllabus we have managed to find and devise in order to meet Tim’s specific learning requirements.
We received the marvellous news that Tim has passed his first external English exam with flying colours. The final weeks of the term were taken up with working on his film script in readiness for the cast to go away and learn their words over the summer. They also rehearsed and prepared all 13 songs and went into a professional recording studio to record them. The resultant CD of Tim’s own compositions and words is wonderful to hear. I am thrilled at the progress he has made this year – it has exceeded my wildest expectations.

 

• Continue to improve my fitness
To attend weekly Fitstep and Pilates classes to improve my fitness and regain the strength and stamina I lost after a decade of chronic lower back pain.
I have not been able to attend all the Wednesday morning sessions as I’m now in major granny mode. But I am thoroughly enjoying them and have one more class before the summer break.

July was a really productive month on the editing side and I am also a bit taken aback at just how many books I managed to read. Once I start writing again, I expect those stats to take a tumble. It’s been a month of extremes – very busy and successful on one hand – and yet, very stressful and difficult due to issues at J’s work. At last there looks to be some resolution ahead of us, which is a relief.

Friday Faceoff – Love is friendship set on fire…

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This meme was started by Books by Proxy, whose fabulous idea was to compare UK and US book covers and decide which is we prefer. This week the theme is fire, so I’ve chosen Burned – Book 7 of the Alex Verus series by Benedict Jacka.

 

This is the cover produced by Ace in April 2016 is certainly eye-catching. I love the view of the Shard from across the Thames bathed in the beautiful patterns of yellow, orange and red in an artist’s impression of fire. The darker cloud of sooty smooth behind the title font is both simple and effective. This is my favourite cover.

 

This UK offering, produced by Orbit in April 2016 is also well crafted and beautiful. The map of London is superimposed upon a red flame licking up the cover. However, I do find the blurb bang in the middle of the cover detracts from the drama and complexity of artwork.

 

Published in April 2016 by Tantor Audible, this cover is another compelling effort with the far more realistic flames engulfing the London cityscape with the Thames in the foreground. However, I think the title font is plain to the point of disappointing. What do you think and which is your favourite?

Teaser Tuesday – 1st August, 2017

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

This is my choice of the day:

The Devil’s Cup – Book 17 of the Hawkenlye Mysteries by Alys Clare
27% What was this danger to the Queen? Meggie guessed it must be something to do with the invading French prince and the rebel barons. Perhaps there was some plot to abduct Queen Isabella and use her to force the King’s hand.
If that were true, though, how had Faruq and his mother come to know about it? And how was it, moreover, that it had been left up to them to warn the Queen or, more probably, warn the captain of whatever bodyguard King John had detailed to keep her safe?
It all seemed very unlikely.

BLURB: September, 1216. A foreign army has invaded England. The country is divided. Some support the rebel barons and Prince Louis of France; others remain loyal to the king. His rule under threat, King John summons Sir Josse d’Acquin to support him. But can Sir Josse save the king from himself?
Meanwhile, Josse’s daughter Meggie is summoned to Hawkenlye Abbey to attend a sick patient in a very distressed state. The elderly woman is warning of terrible danger unless she can complete her mission. What she learns from her patient will set Meggie on a perilous journey. But will she be in time to prevent a tragedy?

Until I visited Goodreads to glean the details of this Netgalley arc, I hadn’t appreciated that it was the last in a very long-running series. However, I haven’t had any trouble working out who was whom and am now in the world and enjoying it. And wanting to know what is so urgent that a sick woman is willing to leave her bed and risk her life to warn the Queen…

Sunday Post – 30th July 2017

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

Now we are into the summer holidays, I am in major grannying mode as Oscar has spent the week with us. Last Monday morning I attended a meeting about Tim, so Oscar spent the morning with his aunty and we wandered down to the beach afterwards. In the afternoon, so we broke out the little plastic kite we found in the back of a cupboard and took it back down to the beach once John got back from work and went kite flying. Oscar loved it, so we were back there on Tuesday morning and phoned up to get my sister to join us – she’s now a firm favourite with Oscar. On Wednesday it poured with rain – but that was okay because Oscar, my sister and me went to watch Despicable Me III at Chichester. We all thoroughly enjoyed it – Oscar ticked us both off for laughing too loudly…

On Thursday, J’s parents came down for the day, so we all went out for lunch at the Harbour Lights café, where there are lovely views of the River Arun and during the meal Oscar was entertained watching children having yachting lessons on the river. In the afternoon, they took J’s new stunt kite out for a spin – but it broke, so the three boys, J, his father and Oscar spent the rest of the afternoon fixing it, which seemed to be almost as much fun as flying it, while his mother and I had a good old natter. On Friday, Oscar and I made his vegan pizza and a batch of banana bread in readiness for our trip to the Lego BrickLive exhibition yesterday at the ExCel exhibition centre. I was a bit worried about the journey – it took four changes of train/underground to get us there, so J came along, too. He carried all the food and took charge of the bags while Oscar and I roamed around the huge area, which helped enormously. Oscar loved it and we both had great fun – though he decided the brick pits full of Lego pieces were far too knobbly to sit in. Our favourite area was the Kingdom where we helped to build a huge castle and he also loved the Fan zone where there some fantastic models on display. Today we’re taking it easy…

This week I have read:

The Burning Page – Book 3 of The Invisible Library series by Genevieve Cogman

Librarian spy Irene has professional standards to maintain. Standards that absolutely do not include making hasty, unplanned escapes through a burning besieged building. But when the gateway back to your headquarters dramatically malfunctions, one must improvise. And after fleeing a version of Revolutionary France astride a dragon (also known as her assistant, Kai), Irene soon discovers she’s not the only one affected. Gates back to the Library are malfunctioning across a multitude of worlds, creating general havoc. She and Kai are tasked with a mission to St Petersburg’s Winter Palace, to retrieve a book which will help restore order.
Once again, Cogman whisks us up into her amazing worlds alongside Irene and Kai to face another full-on adventure where they get to save the world. Again. I loved it and am now very much looking forward to reading the next slice of the adventure – highly recommended.

The Cold – Book 5 of the Star Wars: Adventures in Wild Space series by Scott Cavan
Milo and Lina Graf have picked up the trail of their kidnapped parents–but an ambush in the depths of Wild Space leaves them stranded on a desolate ice planet. With an old enemy out for revenge, can they survive THE COLD?
Once again, I was impressed by just how well told this ongoing adventure is – and how genuinely exciting and scary the antagonists are. This time, they have to deal with the bitter cold and the prospect of a watery death. Review to follow.

 

 

Spoonbenders by Daryl Gregory
The Telemachus family is known for performing inexplicable feats on talk shows and late-night television. Teddy, a master conman, heads up a clan who possess gifts he only fakes: there’s Maureen, who can astral project; Irene, the human lie detector; Frankie, gifted with telekinesis; and Buddy, the clairvoyant. But when, one night, the magic fails to materialize, the family withdraws to Chicago where they live in shame for years. Until: As they find themselves facing a troika of threats (CIA, mafia, unrelenting skeptic), Matty, grandson of the family patriarch, discovers a bit of the old Telemachus magic in himself. Now, they must put past obstacles behind them and unite like never before.
A number of my fellow book bloggers were enthusiastic about this offering – so I was delighted when I saw it was still available on Netgalley. It took me a while to get into this one, but I was completely won over by the end, which was particularly impressive. Review to follow.

Crash Land on Kurai – Book 1 of the Hikoboshi series by S.J. Pajonas
Crash Land on Kurai is the first book in the Hikoboshi series, an action adventure, space opera series that explores the worlds settled by the Japanese who fled Earth a century ago. Culture, history, technology, and swords clash in a fast-paced future society on the brink of war.

Yumi Minamoto has the shortest fuse on the ship. She’s just whipped a bully and been confined to quarters, but she’s not staying there. A disgraced journalist trying to clear her name, her job is to document the mission to the Hikoboshi system, and she’s determined to get it right, despite all the trouble she causes. But when unknown vessels fire on their ship, and Yumi’s life pod crash lands on a dying moon, she’s separated from her family and friends, and her mission falls to pieces. Now she must navigate the unfamiliar and deadly terrain, deal with a society she doesn’t understand, and try to stay alive until rescue comes… if it ever does.
I read Lola’s fabulous review of this book and immediately zipped across to get hold of it. I really enjoyed reading this one – the way the culture has morphed under the pressures of a hostile environment and warring factions is both realistic and fascinating. Review to follow.

My posts last week:

Sunday Post – 23rd July 2017

Review of Chocolate Chocolate Moons by Jackie Kingon

Teaser Tuesday featuring Spoonbenders by Daryl Gregory

Review of Sweep in Peace – Book 2 of The Innkeeper Chronicles by Ilona Andrews

Review of Hag-Seed: The Tempest Retold by Margaret Atwood

Friday Face-off – The first cut is the deepest… featuring Beguilement – Book 1 of The Sharing Knife series by Lois McMaster Bujold

Series I Have Continued or Completed in 2017 – Part 1

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

10 of the Best Poems about Stars https://interestingliterature.com/2017/07/28/10-of-the-best-poems-about-stars/ A lovely selection here…

Adventures in Science Fiction Cover Art: Otherworldly Textures and the Patina of Decay (the SF art of Philippe Jean) https://sciencefictionruminations.com/2017/07/27/adventures-in-science-fiction-cover-art-otherworldly-textures-and-the-patina-of-decay-the-sf-art-of-philippe-jean/ Joachim always has something interesting to offer on this fascinating and information site – but I particularly enjoyed this article

Science Fiction, Horror & More – Why Speculative Fiction Matters http://authorkristenlamb.com/2017/07/science-fiction-horror-more-why-speculative-fiction-matters/ As a confirmed fan of speculative fiction, I was interested to see what Kristen Lamb had to say on the subject, as she’s always worth reading…

5 New Playscripts to Look Out For https://librarystaffpicks.wordpress.com/2017/07/26/5-new-playscripts-to-watch-out-for/ Yet another informative article by this award-winning library site.

Bladdered or Shitfaced? The gentle art of word choice and the bogglement of page-proofing https://jaceybedford.wordpress.com/2017/07/25/bladdered-or-shitfaced-the-gentle-art-of-word-choice-and-the-bogglement-of-page-proofing/ Talented author Jacey Bedford sets out the trials of editing in this entertaining article.

Thank you very much for taking the time and trouble to visit, like and comment on my site and may you have a great week.

Series I Have Continued or Completed in 2017 – Part 1

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Over the past year, I’ve becoming increasingly conscious that I’ve getting into the habit of plunging into a series with a book that has caught my eye and simply not getting any further. Given my go-to genres heavily feature series books, which are always part of a longer narrative, this is a habit I’d like to break. So this year, I’ve decided to make myself more accountable by recording my progress with series that I have either completed, or brought right up to date – hence this post now that we’re more than halfway through this year.

The Tide Dragons duology by Sarah Ash
The Flood Dragon’s Sacrifice and Emperor of the Fireflies
This delightful fantasy series is strongly influenced by Japanese mythology and culture, so as well as the wonderful dragons of the title, there are kitsume and demons, emperors and generals and a formidable goddess all weaving through this richly textured world. I loved it and Emperor of the Fireflies is one of my outstanding books of the year so far.

 

The Wayfarers by Becky Chambers
The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet and A Closed and Common Orbit
This science fiction space opera series made a big impact with the hit debut book which had a real vibe of the hit TV show Firefly as an ensemble piece, which I thoroughly enjoyed. The second book featured one of the ship’s crew and a waif who needed refuge and while it is set in the same world as the first book, you don’t need to have read it to appreciate what is going on. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed these two books and am keen to discover where Chambers next takes this series.

 

The Witchlands by Susan Dennard
Truthwitch and Windwitch
This epic fantasy initially features two young witches, Safi and Iseult, who manage to get themselves into an almighty scrape at the start of the first book, entangling them in a major plot. I like the fact that their friendship is one of the main emotional drivers throughout the story so far and that the magical system is structured with clear rules and involves a high price from magic-users. I’ll definitely be keeping an eye out for the third book, Bloodwitch, due to come out next year.

 

Rebel of the Sands by Alwyn Hamilton
Rebel of the Sands and Traitor to the Throne
I love this sand and sorcery adventure! Hamilton’s punchy writing style and vivid scene setting means both of these books have stayed with me as memorably enjoyable, exciting reads and I’m very much looking forward to the next book, which will hopefully arrive next year.

 

 

Echoes of the Fall by Adrian Tchaikovsky
The Tiger and the Wolf and The Bear and the Serpent
This epic fantasy adventure takes place in a pre-agrarian world where clans divide depending on what animal they shape-shift into. Both books are full of incident and tension, along with splashes of humour as Tchaikovsky’s vivid, three-dimensional characters leapt off the page and into my heart. I’m very much hoping there is going to be more of this amazing story…

 

The Falconer trilogy by Elizabeth May
The Falconer; The Vanishing Throne and The Fallen Kingdom
This riveting series features a young, well-bred woman, Lady Aileana, who leads a double life – by day she is the wealthy heiress in an alternate Victorian society, while by night she hunts and kills the fae after witnessing her mother’s brutal murder. Violent and enthralling, this trilogy is one of the reading highlights of the year so far.

 

 

The Song of the Shattered Sands by Bradley Beaulieu
Twelve Kings and Blood Upon the Sand
This sand and sorcery epic fantasy is set in a brutal world ruled by twelve kings possessing great magical power – and the efforts of one lowly-born girl to overturn their stranglehold on the desert city-state. I loved the story so far and will be looking out for the third book, A Veil of Spears, due to be published next year.

 

Planetfall by Emma Newman
Planetfall and After Atlas
This dystopian science fiction series is amazing. Both books are set in the same world, but on different planets and can be read as standalones – I loved each one, though the tone and mood were quite different. After Atlas is my book of the year so far and I will be pouncing on the next book, Before Mars, just as soon as I can get my hands on it.

 

 

Luna by Ian McDonald
New Moon and Wolf Moon
This duology envisages that the industrialisation of the Moon has been divided between five families, all ruthless entrepreneurs who have taken capitalism to the extreme as they continue vying for yet more power – with shocking consequences. McDonald has called this series ‘a game of domes’. I loved the brutal, detailed world and the charismatic characters.

 

Penric and Desdemona novella series by Lois McMaster Bujold
Penric and the Demon; Penric and the Shaman; Penric’s Mission; Mira’s Last Dance
This series is a joy. Each one of these engrossing, beautifully written stories gives us another slice of Penric’s adventures as he copes with the demon he accidentally acquired while helping an elderly woman at the side of the road. Fortunately, Himself is also a serious fan and immediately buys up these gems as soon as they published. Quite right, too.

 

 

Peri Reed Chronicles by Kim Harrison
The Drafter and The Operator
Harrison explores a fascinating premise in this military science fiction thriller, where black ops agents are able to shift small amounts of time to kill or dodge attacks. The snag is that as they alter the timeline, they forget chunks of their lives with the aid of a drafter who helps them avoid a catastrophic neural overload that occurs if they remember more than one version of reality. This is really well done and I thoroughly enjoyed this entertaining duology.

 

The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi
The Star-Touched Queen and A Crown of Wishes
This lush, eastern-influenced classic fantasy duology is another one of those which is set in the same world with a few linking characters, but follows different storylines. Each one is a delight, full of incident and beautiful descriptions that pinged off the page and lit up cold rainy days as I read.

 

 

The Manifold Worlds series by Foz Meadows
An Accident of Stars and A Tyranny of Queens
This delightful portal worlds adventure is gritty, wise and astonishing. It is one of my favourite series with its emphasis on a number of nuanced, feisty female characters of all ages. This one has lodged in my head and won’t leave – particularly the poignant ending…

 

There are more to come – but I’ll be rounding up the others in another article.

Friday Faceoff – The first cut is the deepest…

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This meme was started by Books by Proxy, whose fabulous idea was to compare UK and US book covers and decide which is we prefer. This week the theme is knives, so I’ve chosen Beguilement – Book 1 of The Sharing Knife series by Lois McMaster Bujold.

 

This is the cover produced by Harper Voyager in October 2006 is certainly pretty and eye-catching. I would definitely take another look even if it didn’t have the name of one of my very favourite authors plastered across the top – but it does make this book look a lot cosier than it actually is.

 

This French edition, produced by Bragelonne in 2008 is also beautiful – but shows Fawn injured and in a far darker landscape. As this is a science fiction adventure/fantasy mash-up, with a strong slice of romance, the curling font is entirely appropriate. I love this cover.

 

Published in October 2007 by Omicron, this Spanish cover is beautiful with the stylised forest and the female character wafting through it as if she is flying. Trouble is, it speaks to me more of existential angst in a literary offering, rather than a straightforward fantasy/romance adventure.

 

This cover, produced in July 2007 by Blackstone Audiobooks features the two main protagonists. But Dag in the book is a whole lot older and more grizzled and with Fawn sprawled across the grass looks like she’s been beguiled – and not in a good way. This may have romance but it isn’t a bodice-ripper.