Category Archives: sea adventure

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc Deeplight by Frances Hardinge #Brainfluffbookreview #Deeplightbookreview

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Those of you know who know me won’t be shocked when I admit it was this lovely cover that prompted me to request this one – and that I’d heard a lot of good things about this author…

BLURB: For centuries the gods of the Undersea ruled the islands of the Myriad through awe and terror: they were very real, and very dangerous. Sacrifices were hurled into the waters to appease them, and every boat was painted with pleading eyes to entreat their mercy. They were served, feared and adored. Then, thirty years ago, the gods rose up in madness and tore each other apart. Now, none remain. The islands have recovered and the people have patched their battered ships and moved on. On one of these islands live Hark and his best friend Jelt. To them, the gods are nothing but a collection of valuable scraps to be scavenged from the ocean and sold. But now something is pulsing beneath the waves, calling to someone brave enough to retrieve it.

At long last – a really good blurb that gives a sense of the world and the stakes without deciding to spill all the major plotpoints in the first half of the book. And it would have been a crying shame if they had Spoiled this one, because it’s a real gem. I very quickly fell in love with dear little Hark, a streetkid who has been forced to live on his wits from a very early age. The main reason why he is still alive is because his bigger, smarter best friend Jelt has always looked out for him. Of course, nothing is for free and in return, Jelt expects him to fall in with his schemes to earn more. More money, more of a reputation… the kind of life that Jelt believes he should have – and Hark needs to be there alongside, whether he really wants to or not.

The story of these two boys unspools against the backdrop of a busy port, an increasingly profitable trading post now the savage sea gods who used to roam the Undersea are now all gone. Though there are still traces of them littering the seabed, or caught up in the barriers to keep out some of the more normal sea monsters, so there is a brisk trade in their remains littering the bed. As society is still adjusting to the apocalyptic changes caused by the death of the gods, more merchants arrive from other parts while there are factions still mourning the loss of the gods…

The depth of the worldbuilding is impressive and engrossing, given it is achieved without any holdup in the narrative, which gripped me throughout. I also loved the unpredictability, as just as I’d figured in which direction the story was going – it suddenly changed direction, dragging poor old Hark in its wake. The cast of supporting characters were all beautifully drawn, adding to the enjoyment and drama. I may have been initially attracted to this one because of the lovely cover, but it was the amazing writing that held me. I’ll definitely be tracking down more books by this talented author. Highly recommended for fantasy fans of wonderful worldbuilding and great storytelling.

The ebook arc copy of Deeplight was provided by the publisher through NetGalley in return for an honest opinion of the book.
10/10

Sunday Post – 29th September, 2019 #Brainfluffbookblog #SundayPost

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

It’s been the type of nose-to-the-grindstone, locked-onto-the-computer-screen sort of week, helped along by the company of a trusted friend. I attended the aerobics and Pilates sessions this week, resulting in my hobbling around like an old lady who hasn’t exercised enough over the summer… The pain was leavened by my lovely writing buddy, Mhairi coming to stay. And the wonderful news was that she was able to extend her visit so that she only went home today. We work so well together and she and I are very good at helping each other out with various writing problems, even though we write such different genres. I miss her so! I’m campaigning to have Lincolnshire towed southwards and tucked in behind Brighton… We have decided to Skype each other more often – and she is returning next month as we are going to Bristolcon together. Yippee!

As for that work I’ve been doing – I’d got to a point in Mantivore Warrior when I needed to firm up the narrative time in Mantivore Prey, so decided to produce my timeline edition at this stage, given that I’m now well along my edits for the book. I have also made a start on another paid editing project, as well as continuing my teaching duties. It seems odd to think that this time last year, I was up to my neck in Northbrook admin as I embarked on a new academic year with my Creative Writing students – where did I find the time?

Last week I read:
Lady of the Ravens by Joan Hickson
My baptismal name may be Giovanna but here in my mother’s adopted country I have become plain Joan; I am not pink-cheeked and golden-haired like the beauties they admire. I have olive skin and dark features – black brows over ebony eyes and hair the colour of a raven’s wing…

When Joan Vaux is sent to live in the shadow of the Tower of London, she must learn to navigate the treacherous waters of this new England under the Tudors. Like the ravens, Joan must use her eyes and her senses, if Henry and his new dynasty are to prosper and thrive.
I loved this one. The worldbuilding is detailed and entirely convincing and Joan was an engaging, intelligent protagonist who I gave my heart to in the opening pages. Review to follow.

 

Akin by Emma Donoghue
Noah Selvaggio is a retired chemistry professor and widower living on the Upper West Side, but born in the South of France. He is days away from his first visit back to Nice since he was a child, bringing with him a handful of puzzling photos he’s discovered from his mother’s wartime years. But he receives a call from social services: Noah is the closest available relative of an eleven-year-old great-nephew he’s never met, who urgently needs someone to look after him. Out of a feeling of obligation, Noah agrees to take Michael along on his trip.

Much has changed in this famously charming seaside mecca, still haunted by memories of the Nazi occupation. The unlikely duo, suffering from jet lag and culture shock, bicker about everything from steak frites to screen time. But Noah gradually comes to appreciate the boy’s truculent wit, and Michael’s ease with tech and sharp eye help Noah unearth troubling details about their family’s past. Both come to grasp the risks people in all eras have run for their loved ones, and find they are more akin than they knew.
Another stormingly good read – I’ve had an amazing reading week. I absolutely loved the spiky, unsentimental relationship between the elderly professor and the damaged boy. This one will stay with me. Review to follow.

 

Deeplight by Frances Hardinge
For centuries the gods of the Undersea ruled the islands of the Myriad through awe and terror: they were very real, and very dangerous. Sacrifices were hurled into the waters to appease them, and every boat was painted with pleading eyes to entreat their mercy. They were served, feared and adored. Then, thirty years ago, the gods rose up in madness and tore each other apart. Now, none remain. The islands have recovered and the people have patched their battered ships and moved on. On one of these islands live Hark and his best friend Jelt. To them, the gods are nothing but a collection of valuable scraps to be scavenged from the ocean and sold. But now something is pulsing beneath the waves, calling to someone brave enough to retrieve it.
And the joy goes on… This was another marvellous book with a story that swept me up and held me in its watery embrace until the very end. Review to follow.

My posts last week:

Review of Changeling – Book 1 of the Sorcery and Society series by Molly Harper

Friday Faceoff featuring The Speed of Dark by Elizabeth Moon

Review of AUDIOBOOK The Whispering Skull – Book 2 of the Lockwood & Co series by Jonathan Stroud

Teaser Tuesday featuring Deeplight by Frances Hardinge

Review of Queenslayer – Book 5 of the Spellslinger series by Sebastien de Castell

Sunday Post – 22nd September 2019

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

The Poorhouse (1) https://jeanreinhardt.wordpress.com/2019/09/25/thursday-doors-the-poorhouse-1/ Jean’s posts are deceptive – these apparently gentle photo-posts featuring doors around Ireland can pack a punch. Like this week’s…

10 of the Best Poems About Despair https://interestingliterature.com/2019/09/28/10-of-the-best-poems-about-despair/ I have always found poetry and prose about despair enormously comforting for two reasons. Firstly, they often sum up the enormity of my bleak feelings far better than I can; secondly, that terrible sense of isolation arising from those dark emotions is alleviated when I can read of someone else’s pain…

Space News – update https://earthianhivemind.net/2019/09/28/space-news-update/ It was a joy to see the resumption of the roundup by Steph…

Greta Thunberg to World Leaders… ‘How dare you? You have stolen my dreams and my childhood…!!’ https://hrexach.wordpress.com/2019/09/23/greta-thunberg-to-world-leaders-how-dare-you-you-have-stolen-my-dreams-and-my-childhood/ I generally don’t mention the current political situation. Mostly because it tends to have me heading towards those poems about despair I mentioned earlier – but this one caught my attention. I wrote a sci fi thriller, currently lining the loft, about catastrophic climate change back in 1995. So I’m aware of exactly what young Greta is talking about, sadly.

My Adventures – Pictorial Visit to Connecticut, Boston and Cape Cod #CapeCod #BostonRedSox http://www.fundinmental.com/my-adventures-pictorial-visit-to-connecticut-boston-and-cape-cod-capecod-bostonredsox/#.XZCRi2Z7nb1 And on a much lighter note, Sherry of Fundinmental posted these glorious photos of a holiday by the sea – and those sunsets are stunning…

Thank you for visiting, reading, liking and/or commenting on my blog – I hope you have a wonderful week…

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of A Jewel Bright Sea – Book 1 of the Mage and Empire series by Claire O’Dell #Brainfluffbookreview #AJewelBrightSeabookreview

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Yep – I’ve done it again… Seen a beautiful cover and scampered across to Netgalley to see if it’s available. And it was. Would my love of pretty cover art deliver yet another winner – or a dud?

BLURB: It was her talent for tracking magic that got Anna Zhdanov sent to catch a thief. A scholar’s daughter sold as a bond servant, she has no desire to recover the Emperor’s jewel for herself. But a chance to earn her freedom has driven her to the untamed Eddalyon province, awash with warm breezes, lapping waves, and more danger than she could possibly guess.

I’ll be honest – I did check a couple of times to make sure that I was reading the first book as O’Dell tips us in the middle of this adventure and for a variety of reasons, I do think this one would have been even more effective if we’d seen at first hand Anna’s life with the unpleasant man who she finds herself in bondage to. However, once I sorted out exactly who was doing what to whom, I thoroughly enjoyed being swept up into the swashbuckling adventure and various twists and turns of this story. It’s always a challenge to keep the characterisation suitably three-dimensional when so much is going on, but overall O’Dell rose to that challenge and I really liked Anna in all her guises.

O’Dell’s writing works particularly during the magical scenes where her prose nocks up a notch to vividly portray what is happening to Anna, so that we are kept in touch with her as she is confronted with a powerful magic capable of ripping her away from her soul and killing her. I also like the fact that we, the reader, realise the extent of her abuse in a way that Anna isn’t fully able to process – it’s nicely done. And while it arouses our sympathy, it means that our heroine doesn’t come across as too much of a victim.

I also liked the variety of people she met and in amongst the violence and double-dealing, I enjoyed the fact that she also met a number of kindly folks who are prepared to help her. Most of these characters worked well, but I have to say, this book would have had another mark if I had been wholly convinced by a certain captain. Sadly, I wasn’t. I’m not sure why – but I’ll admit to my heart sinking a bit when he and Anna became more than friends.

However there is so much going for this entertaining, action-packed fantasy sea adventure that it wasn’t the dealbreaker it could have been and I’ll happily read the next book to find out what happens next to Anna. With a bit of luck, a sea monster will make away with that wretched captain… Recommended for fans of sea-going fantasy adventure tales. The ebook arc copy of A Jewel Bright Sea was provided by the publisher through NetGalley in return for an honest opinion of the book.
8/10

Friday Faceoff – Yo ho ho and a bottle of rum… #Brainfluffbookblog #FridayFaceoffpiratecovers

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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 meme is currently being nurtured by Lynn’s Book Blog and the subject this week featuring on any of our covers is PIRATES. I’ve selected How to Be a Pirate – Book 2 of How To Train Your Dragon by Cressida Cowell, which is one of my favourite children’s series ever…

Yes, for the second week in a row I’m featuring a children’s book. This year I seem to be reading rather a lot of them – just as I’d given up on making children’s fiction part of my reading challenge as I’d failed to read a reasonable number for the past three years in a row…

 

This edition was produced by Brown, Little and Company in May 2005. It is suitably quirky with a Viking-cum-pirate character clearly somewhat intellectually challenged as the main image on the cover. I like the background of planked wood, the quirky font and – unusually for me – I love the textbox looking like a treasure chest’s key plate and the dagger for the author name. However, that main image is rather unwhelming, I feel.

 

Published in February 2010 by Brown, Little and Company, I think this cover is more visually appealing, while keeping a lot of the successful aspects of the previous cover. I love the more eye-catching teal background colour and the fact that the textboxes are still enjoyably part of the overall design. However that image in the middle actually features a boat, a worried-looking Hiccup and a threatening dragon emerging from the waves… We get a sense that this is a proper adventure as well as being very funny.

 

This edition, published by Hodder Children’s Books in June 2017 was all set to be my favourite. I love the scaled background, the way the Viking longship bursts from the middle of the cover on a surfing wave – so clever and eye-chatching. And then I paused to take in the actual wording of the quirky font. And changed my mind… I’ve been listening to the series recently and frankly, it’s doing my head in. There are twelve books – and not one of the modern covers sees fit to inform the reader where in the series they come. In fact, the actual title of the book is dwarfed by the series name emblazoned across the top – very annoying! It’s a dealbreaker for me – so this isn’t my favourite, after all.

 

This Spanish edition, produced by SM in August 2006, demonstrates what a huge impact changing the backdrop can have. This cover features the same main design of the first cover – but what a difference. I don’t much care for it – that interlinking pattern doesn’t shout Viking to me and tends to give the whole cover a rather cluttered feel, which isn’t a good look for a children’s cover.

 

This German edition, published in June 2014, has decided to feature the dragon – I love that fantastic image of those two dragon eyes, snout and fangs peering out at a small Viking boy, presumably Hiccup. BUT that large title across the top of the cover is the series title – and once again there is no indication that this is Book 2. Without these issues, this would be my favourite alongside the Hodder edition – but this is such a major omission, I am going to have to plump for that second cover, which gives all the necessary details for a reader. Which is your favourite? Do you mind if a cover doesn’t provide all these details, so long as it looks good? I’d love to get your opinion on this issue!

Teaser Tuesday – 30th July, 2019 #Brainfluffbookblog #TeaserTuesday

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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:

A Jewel Bright Sea – Book 1 of the Mage and Empire series by Claire O’Dell
86% A long and heavy silence, so long she felt her pulse beating like the waves upon the shore. She was on the point of speaking again when she felt a shift in the world, a sudden gap and a cold sensation, as though the void had opened to her touch. Anna uncurled her fingers. A small dark jewel lay in the palm of her hand. When she turned toward Andreas, it winked with a blood-red light, so dark and vivid it was as though it had absorbed all the light from the torches and campfire.

BLURB: It was her talent for tracking magic that got Anna Zhdanov sent to catch a thief. A scholar’s daughter sold as a bond servant, she has no desire to recover the Emperor’s jewel for herself. But a chance to earn her freedom has driven her to the untamed Eddalyon province, awash with warm breezes, lapping waves, and more danger than she could possibly guess.

This is a real swash-buckler, with pirates, spies and powerful creepy magic that Anna needs to continue to master if she is going to complete her quest and get back the jewel. I am enjoying all the action and keen to see just how this adventure is going to be tied up at the end of this first book. Fingers crossed it isn’t a cliffhanger…

Review of Ancell’s Quest by Tony Main #Brainfluffbookreview #Ancell’sQuestreview

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I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.

To his dismay, Ancell, a timid, dreaming hedgehog, is called to sail in search of someone in terrible trouble, who keeps calling to him in his dreams. Someone whose plight cannot wait – which leads him to the capable sea otter captain of the schooner, Misty Dawn – and a whole series of adventures. At first the frightened landlubber finds life upon the waves difficult, but he soon learns to trust the crew and face the various dangers alongside them…

I was a bit dubious initially, as there was very little preparation to this adventure – one minute we are told that Ancell is plagued by nightmares and the next, we are aboard Misty Dawn and getting to know the crew. It meant that I was bonding with the protagonist whilst in the middle of the adventures – however, despite the uneven pacing and faltering start, as soon as Ancell stepped onto the schooner, the story took off.

It’s apparent that Main has sailing experience as he writes with verve and confidence about life aboard the ship. I found I not only bonded with Ancell, but grew fond of the rest of the crew and enjoyed the humour that their bickering personalities generated. This is an ideal book for children, with lots of action – and consequences. I liked the fact that it didn’t all go smoothly and that one of the main characters suffers a major accident. By the time we hit the halfway stage, I was able to suspend my disbelief about how the adventure started in the first place as the eventful voyage and the interplay between the characters completely beguiled me.

There are plenty of setbacks and once the intrepid voyagers arrived in Australia, I was expecting the rest of the adventure to go like clockwork – but no, the stakes continued to rise and the tension grew. The pirate Laughing Jack and his evil sidekick (I was delighted it was a woman) were very unpleasant and had imprisoned a number of children – it wasn’t made clear what their intended fates were, but it clearly was nothing good. One of my favourite characters has to be Hector, the salt-water crocodile – whose intervention in the story created havoc.

Overall, this is a delightful tale that makes excellent bedtime reading for children – and their parents who probably, like me, stayed up just a bit later with the light on to discover how it all ends.
8/10

#Sunday Post – 10th June, 2018 #Brainfluffbookblog

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

Firstly, a profound apology for the lack of any interaction, but after struggling to stay in touch using my laptop and my sister’s rather slow broadband speeds when our own internet wasn’t working, I decided last week that Life was too short to take so long to achieve so little… The good news is that I am now connected! And feeling an idiot. The new router that arrived on Saturday of last week didn’t get connected up, as I’d inadvertently plugged in the old, lightning-struck router instead! No wonder it wasn’t working and no one could figure out why…

On Friday, after teaching Tim, Himself and I drove up to Oxford to Waterstones’ book store for the launch of not just one, but three anthologies from Grimbold Publishing. My story, ‘A Dire Emergency’, is in Holding On By Our Fingertips, an anthology of stories written just twenty-four hours before the apocalypse – mine features an angry alien who has gone native… We decided to stay over and found a lovely hotel just a mile away from the centre of the city. It was a warm, sunny evening, with a number of readings from each anthology and it was lovely to meet up with the folks from Grimbold and I was particularly delighted to get a chance to chat to Jessica Rydill, author of Children of the Strange. I also met Lucy Hounsom, who was reading an extract from Charlotte Bond’s gripping story ‘Retreat’. They both produce the podcast Breaking the Glass Slipper which particularly features women within the SFF genre. I’ll be tracking it down, as one of my targets for the latter half of the year is to make time for listening to audiobooks and podcasts.

On Saturday, we wandered around Oxford, enjoying the amazing architecture and spent a long time in Blackwells, the famous book store. I resisted buying any books, though Himself bought one…

During the rest of the week, I bought a new car on Tuesday as borrowing my sister’s made us realise just how much extra time Himself spends at work when the shift-end doesn’t coincide with a train home, so we found a little white Ka I’ve named Twinkle. On Wednesday, I went to Chichester Theatre with a lovely friend to see a performance of The Chalk Garden starring Penelope Keith. It was a wonderful production and we both thoroughly enjoyed it. It’s been Himself’s summer holiday, so we’ve also been working in the garden, hacking at the overgrown shrubbery and reclaiming the two main beds which are now looking colourful in shades of orange and bronze. Himself has been busy shredding some of the smaller branches from our severely pruned olive tree and we’re hoping to get the whole garden back into shape before the end of the summer.

This week I have read:

The Tethered Mage – Book 1 of the Swords and Fire series by Melissa Caruso
Zaira has lived her life on the streets to avoid this fate, hiding her mage-mark and thieving to survive. But hers is a rare and dangerous magic, one that threatens the entire empire.

Lady Amalia Cornaro was never meant to be a Falconer. Heiress and scholar, she was born into a treacherous world of political machinations. But fate has bound the heir and the mage.

This is one of the books I treated myself to when I had some Amazon vouchers to spend – and I’m so glad I did. I love the idea that powerful magic-users either become unpleasant tyrants or serve the interests of the state by being magically shackled and used as necessary… I’ll be reviewing this one in due course.

 

Windswept – Book 1 of the Windswept series Adam Rakunas
Labor organizer Padma Mehta is on the edge of space and the edge of burnout. All she wants is to buy out a little rum distillery and retire, but she’s supposed to recruit 500 people to the Union before she can. She’s only thirty-three short. So when a small-time con artist tells her about forty people ready to tumble down the space elevator to break free from her old bosses, she checks it out — against her better judgment. It turns out, of course, it was all lies.

This rollicking space colony adventure is packed with incident and punchy, enjoyable writing – I do enjoy Angry Robot’s books… I’ll be reviewing it in due course and hunting down the second book in the series

 

Time Was by Ian McDonald
Struggling second-hand book dealer, Emmet, is trying to survive in an increasingly difficult near future – and then comes across a small poetry collection called Time Was which includes a love letter from Tom to Ben, set in WWII. It sets him out on an astonishing search to discover who Tom and Ben are – a search that takes him to a tucked-away corner of England where odd stories abound about the seas catching fire…

This is a gem. I absolutely loved it. It’s one of my favourite reads of the year so far – I got to the end with tears in my eyes and a lump in my throat…

 

The Ice Dragon by George R.R. Martin
In the world of A Song of Ice and Fire the ice dragon was a creature of legend and fear, for no man had ever tamed one. When it flew overhead, it left in its wake desolate cold and frozen land. But Adara was not afraid. For Adara was a winter child, born during the worst freeze that anyone, even the Old Ones, could remember.

I didn’t initially realise that this novella tired in with Martin’s famous fantasy series until I read the blurb. It is an entertaining story, but as far as I’m concerned, it takes a while to get going and then the ending is far too abrupt. I do hate it when novellas end too suddenly…

 

Ancell’s Quest by Tony Main
To his dismay, Ancell, a timid, dreaming hedgehog, is called to sail in search of someone in terrible trouble, who keeps calling to him in his dreams. Someone whose plight cannot wait – which leads him to the capable sea otter captain of the schooner, ‘Misty Dawn’ – and a whole series of adventures. At first the frightened landlubber finds life upon the waves difficult, but he soon learns to trust the crew and face the various dangers alongside them…

This adventure-filled tale held my attention throughout and I was genuinely sorry when I reached the end. I’ll be reviewing it in due course…

And that’s it… I didn’t visit any blogs and other than last week’s Sunday Post, I haven’t produced anything else on my blog, this week. This week, normal service will be resumed. Thank you very much for taking the time and trouble to visit, like and comment on my site – and I promise to get back to you as soon as I can!

Friday Faceoff – I must go down to the sea, again…

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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 and is currently hosted by Lynn’s Book Blog. This week the theme is a cover featuring a scene under the sea, so this week I have selected Goddess of the Sea – Book 1 of The Goddess Summoning series by P.C. Cast.

 

This cover, produced by Berkley Sensation, was published in October 2003. This is a lovely design, with the murky image of the mermaid overlaid with the classy title font. It is the most straightforward of the covers, but I especially love the warm richness of the colouring.

 

This edition was produced by Berkley in October 2008. It is an interesting cover, with its green tint suggesting we are underwater, but there is no fish tail. Instead, the girl is wearing fishnet stockings, with a trident design shining on her shoulder and the suggestion of scales in the backdrop. I like the clever visual clues that the girl facing away from us is a mermaid. However, what lets down the cover for me is the drearily ordinary font which is at complete odds with the visual hide and seek going on.

 

Published in 2011 by Ediçoes Asa, this Portuguese edition suggests the girl is underwater. Again, there are a few visual games – the hair decorations that look like air bubbles. I like this one – the play of lighting across her face is beautiful.

 

This German edition, published by Fischer Taschenbuch Verlag in May 2012 is the worst effort, in my opinion. It looks as though the marketing intern has been let loose with Photoshop. The moody girl with the heavy, gothic makeup peers knowingly at us, looking as if she is setting off for a nightclub, rather than transforming into a mermaid. While the backdrop looks more like black flock wallpaper…

 

This Polish edition, produced by Książnica in June 2011, is the best cover in my opinion. The classic mermaid pose, leaning clear of the water, is given depth and interest by the play of light and scattered water droplets. The bodice, dripping with strings of pearls and in the process of falling from her body, adds movement and interest to the image. While I think the font is too large, at least an attempt has been made to soften it. Which one is your favourite?

Friday Faceoff – I must go down to the sea again…

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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 ships, so I’ve chosen Ship of Magic – Book 1 of the Liveship Traders series by Robin Hobb.

 

This is the cover produced by Voyager in 1999. I like this one – it has the now-familiar design of all Hobb’s UK covers, with the attractive font and styling. The ship’s bow gives a sense of movement with the dragonwing in the foreground giving a hint of something else going on. The detail and artwork is nicely done.

 

This edition, produced in February 1999 by Spectra features the protagonist, Althea in the foreground. While I normally am not a fan of characters appearing on covers, as it is rarely how I envisage them, the depiction here works well. This is another eye-catching, attractive cover.

 

Published in 2008 by HarperVoyager, this is my least favourite cover. I suppose it was a 10th anniversary edition – but there is no sense of magic or excitement about this design. It looks like the sort of drawing you might find on a copy of an 18th century sailing manual, rather than a tale of piracy and oppression.

 

This is the offering Spectra came up with in December 2003 – and once again, bristles with energy and danger as this time around, it is the pirate Kennit who features in the foreground. The desperate liveship, Vivacia, also featured plunging through the waves. Another great cover.

 

This cover, produced by Plaza Janés in July 2015, is my favourite. I love the dark background, giving a sense of menace and the wonderfully dramatic font and loops across the top of the book. And this ship truly looks as if it could be magical and driven to madness… But which one do you prefer?

Discovery Challenge 2017 and Tackling My TBR – May Roundup

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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 each year that were previously unknown to me for the last two years. During May, I read three books towards my 2017 Discovery Challenge, which brings my annual number of books written by women writers I hadn’t read before to sixteen. They are:

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.
This is an impressive debut novel that takes a familiar trope of the apocalyptic end of the world and makes it more about the protagonist’s internal, emotional journey than the gritted struggle of survival we normally get. I thoroughly enjoyed this offering and look forward to more from this author – see my review here.

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.
This gripping, emotional book charts the power struggle going on in the highest level of society. Those with the most magic are in control and treat everyone else with a chilling lack of compassion. It is all about getting more influence and control and no one is allowed to stand in the way – certainly not a young couple in love and afflicted with iron rot… I very much enjoyed this savage world and look forward to getting hold of more books in this series in due course – see my review here.

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 is a lovely story with a big heart – and no, that is not some coded warning that this is a saccharine read. For in amongst the quirky charm, Hogan tackles head-on issues such as dementia and features characters that fall outside society’s ideas of what is normal. I very much enjoyed this one and will be reviewing it in due course.

I also managed to clear eleven books from my TBR pile. They are:
Spellbound – Book 2 of the Spellwright series by Blake Charlton
Francesca DeVega is a healer in the city of Avel, composing magical sentences that close wounds and disspell curses. But when a newly dead patient sits up and tells her that she must flee the infirmary or face a fate worse than death, Francesca finds herself in the middle of a game she doesn’t understand—one that ties her to the notorious rogue wizard Nicodemus Weal and brings her face-to-face with demons, demigods, and a man she hoped never to see again. Ten years ago, Nico escaped Starhaven Academy, leaving behind his failed life, in which he was considered disabled and felt useless. Now, in Spellbound, he’s starting fresh, using his newfound gifts in the dark Chthonic languages to pursue the emerald that holds his birthright. Unfortunately, he can’t escape the chaos of his old life. His mentor suffers from an incurable curse, agents of the fabled Halcyon hunt him day and night, pieces of Francesca’s story don’t add up, and the prophesized War of Disjunction looms on the horizon.
This epic fantasy adventure is about magical systems and how those imbued with magic have to cope with the way it bends and warps their lives in unimaginable ways. I don’t think I’ve ever read a book or series where the rules of magic are so pervasive. This inventive, clever series deserves to be far better known – see my review here.

A Second Chance – Book 3 of The Chronicles of St. Mary’s by Jodi Taylor
St Mary’s is back and nothing is going right for Max. Once again, it’s just one damned thing after another. The action jumps from an encounter with a mirror-stealing Isaac Newton to the bloody battlefield at Agincourt. Discover how a simple fact-finding assignment to witness the ancient and murderous cheese- rolling ceremony in Gloucester can result in CBC – concussion by cheese. The long awaited jump to Bronze Age Troy ends in personal catastrophe for Max and just when it seems things couldn’t get any worse – it’s back to the Cretaceous Period again to confront an old enemy who has nothing to lose. So, make the tea, grab the chocolate biscuits, settle back and discover exactly why the entire history department has painted itself blue
As you may have gathered from the blurb, in parts this book is laugh-aloud hilarious – what isn’t quite so obvious is that in other places it is heart-breakingly sad. What it never does is stand still. I love the roller-coaster ride – even though I need some breathing space between books. See my review here.

The Outskirter’s Secret – Book 2 of The Steerswoman series by Rosemary Kirstein
Two shining lights hung above, motionless in the night sky as the constellations slowly passed behind them. The common folk knew them well, and used them to count the hours, mark the seasons. But when the steerswoman Rowan discovered a number of broken blue jewels of clearly magical origin, her investigations led to a startling discovery: a Guidestar had fallen. There were more than two; the others hung above the opposite side of the world; something had caused one of those to fall. But what? And what might it mean? Rowan had no answers… But she knew one thing: where the fallen Guidestar was located. To reach it, she must cross the Inner Lands and pass deep into the wild and deadly Outskirts. Rowan’s traveling companion, Bel, is an Outskirter herself. Together the steerswoman and the warrior-poet have a chance of surviving the cruel landscape, the barbarian tribes, and the bizarre native wildlife.
Another gem of a series that deserves to be read far more widely. This second book has provided plenty of twists and given the story a cool science fiction twist that has me longing to pick up the next book – see my review here.

Assassin’s Fate – Book 3 of the Fitz and the Fool series and Book 16 of The Realm of the Elderlings by Robin Hobb
Prince FitzChivalry Farseer’s daughter Bee was violently abducted from Withywoods by Servants of the Four in their search for the Unexpected Son, foretold to wield great power. With Fitz in pursuit, the Servants fled through a Skill-pillar, leaving no trace. It seems certain that they and their young hostage have perished in the Skill-river. Clerres, where White Prophets were trained by the Servants to set the world on a better path, has been corrupted by greed. Fitz is determined to reach the city and take vengeance on the Four, not only for the loss of Bee but also for their torture of the Fool. Accompanied by FitzVigilant, son of the assassin Chade, Chade’s protégé Spark and the stableboy Perseverance, Bee’s only friend, their journey will take them from the Elderling city of Kelsingra, down the perilous Rain Wild River, and on to the Pirate Isles.
This is the final book in this trilogy and for my money is her best book yet. Action-packed and full of emotion, with a real twist in the end, this is one of my favourite books of the year so far and is my book of the month. See my review here.

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.
Tension winds through the story as we are pitchforked right in the middle of this fascinating wrecked world and then try to figure out exactly what is going on as slices of information is steadily fed our way. Another cracking read – see my review here.

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…
I really enjoyed this unusual urban fantasy set in an inn with a difference. This particular peace conference certainly provides plenty of opportunity for mayhem and turmoil – review not yet posted.

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 novella certainly packs a punch with an impressive protagonist full of rage and power – and no recollection of who she is and where she came from. She just knows she has a quest and is bound to carry it out. Review not yet posted.

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?
Once more Oscar and I settled down together to enjoy this madcap adventure with all the unexpected plot twists, wondering how Hiccup is going to escape this next lethal threat. Great stuff!

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?
Lots of adventure and incident in this underwater, military science fiction offering, featuring a flawed protagonist with a dark backstory… Enjoyable and engrossing.

 

 

 

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 loved this one. It could so easily have descended into a sentimental mess and didn’t. I particularly enjoyed the unpredictable, dangerous nature of the monster… Review not yet posted.

The Keeper of Lost Things by Ruth Hogan
See above.

So that is my May roundup. Due to my illness back in April, I still have a backlog of reviews waiting to be posted, which is a nice position to be in – and a change for me! Have you read any of the above books? If so, what did you think of them?