Category Archives: strong heroines in science fiction

Six Favourite Heroines from my 2020 Reading List #Brainfluff6favouriteheroines

Standard

Now I’ve completed reading my 2020 Reading List, I’m a bit awed at the consistently high standard of the books I enjoyed throughout an otherwise catastrophic year. Thank goodness for reading! So who were my standout heroines of the year? In no particular order, here they are…

Emily Marshwic from Guns of the Dawn by Adrian Tchaikovsky
BLURB: The first casualty of war is truth . . .
First, Denland’s revolutionaries assassinated their king, launching a wave of bloodshed after generations of peace. Next they clashed with Lascanne, their royalist neighbour, pitching war-machines against warlocks in a fiercely fought conflict. Genteel Emily Marshwic watched as the hostilities stole her family’s young men. But then came the call for yet more Lascanne soldiers in a ravaged kingdom with none left to give. Emily must join the ranks of conscripted women and march toward the front lines…
I loved Emily’s gritted courage and gutsy attitude throughout. I really appreciated that she doesn’t come across as one of those Teflon-coated heroines who are simply too tough to really care about. This wonderful read had me rooting for her throughout – and I particularly loved the scene near the end of the adventure… Read my review.

Cassandra Tripp from You Let Me In by Camilla Bruce
BLURB: Everyone knew bestselling novelist Cassandra Tipp had twice got away with murder. Even her family were convinced of her guilt. So when she disappears, leaving only a long letter behind, they can but suspect that her conscience finally killed her. But the letter is not what anyone expected. It tells two chilling, darkly disturbing stories. One is a story of bloody nights and magical gifts, of children lost to the woods, of husbands made from twigs and leaves and feathers and bones . . . The other is the story of a little girl who was cruelly treated and grew up crooked in the shadows . . . But which story is true? And where is Cassie now?
This is one of my outstanding reads of the year – and though I read it relatively early in the year, it has haunted me ever since. Cassie both inspired me and broke my heart. This is a wrenching story on many levels, as it explores the very worst that family life has to offer – and yet it is also beautiful, full of magical, wonderful moments. Read my review.

Stella from Relatively Strange, Even Stranger and Stranger Still by Marilyn Messick
BLURB: “I was five when I discovered I could fly, sixteen when I killed a man.
Both events were unsettling in their own way.”
It’s hard to know what’s normal, if you’re not, and it takes Stella a while to realise she’s in the definitely ‘not’ drawer. But we are who we are and we make adjustments to fit in – most of the time – and it’s only when she finds she’s not quite as unique as she thought, that things begin to acquire a whole new dimension. Forced to call on resources she didn’t know she possessed and thrust headlong into the violence of a situation for which nothing could have prepared her, Stella is suddenly face to face with the stark reality of medical experimentation and its horrifying consequences.
This fabulous series has been one of my reading highlights of the year. In one review I announce that Stella is now my new best friend – and I mean it. I inhaled the trilogy, addicted to the terrifying adventures that she blunders into, both holding my breath and howling with laughter at the sharp, clever humour. The book hangover I suffered when I came to end of this reading delight was profound – and I still dream of her… Read my review of Relatively Strange.

Elma York from The Calculating Stars and The Fated Sky – Books 1 & 2 of The Lady Astronaut series by Mary Robinette Kowal
BLURB:
On a cold spring night in 1952, a huge meteorite fell to earth and obliterated much of the east coast of the United States, including Washington D.C. The ensuing climate cataclysm will soon render the earth inhospitable for humanity, as the last such meteorite did for the dinosaurs. This looming threat calls for a radically accelerated effort to colonize space, and requires a much larger share of humanity to take part in the process. Elma York’s experience as a WASP pilot and mathematician earns her a place in the International Aerospace Coalition’s attempts to put man on the moon, as a calculator. But with so many skilled and experienced women pilots and scientists involved with the program, it doesn’t take long before Elma begins to wonder why they can’t go into space, too. Elma’s drive to become the first Lady Astronaut is so strong that even the most dearly held conventions of society may not stand a chance against her.
This series has been another shining jewel that has shone out from the 184 books I read in 2020 – and I particularly loved Elma’s journey. She, amongst a group of highly talented female mathematicians, were part of the NASA team back in the day before they had computers to crunch the numbers. And Kowal has taken this historical fact and woven an alternate story featuring these women in a clever, moving way, as they battle against racism and sexism. Read my review of The Calculating Stars.

Charlotte Makepeace from Charlotte Sometimes – Book 3 of the Aviary Hall series by Penelope Farmer
BLURB:
It’s natural to feel a little out of place when you’re the new girl, but when Charlotte Makepeace wakes up after her first night at boarding school, she’s baffled: everyone thinks she’s a girl called Clare Mobley, and even more shockingly, it seems she has traveled forty years back in time to 1918. In the months to follow, Charlotte wakes alternately in her own time and in Clare’s. And instead of having only one new set of rules to learn, she also has to contend with the unprecedented strangeness of being an entirely new person in an era she knows nothing about. Her teachers think she’s slow, the other girls find her odd, and, as she spends more and more time in 1918, Charlotte starts to wonder if she remembers how to be Charlotte at all. If she doesn’t figure out some way to get back to the world she knows before the end of the term, she might never have another chance.
This is one of those unique, amazing reads that crawls under your skin and lodges within your head and heart. It is supposed to be a children’s book – but is written with sophistication and a depth of characterisation that many adult books don’t get close to. I still find myself pondering that bittersweet ending… Read my review.

Mahit Dzmare from A Memory Called Empire – Book 1 of the Teixcalaan series by Arkady Martine BLURB: Ambassador Mahit Dzmare arrives in the center of the multi-system Teixcalaanli Empire only to discover that her predecessor, the previous ambassador from their small but fiercely independent mining Station, has died. But no one will admit that his death wasn’t an accident—or that Mahit might be next to die, during a time of political instability in the highest echelons of the imperial court. Now, Mahit must discover the truth about her predecessor’s death, rescue herself, and save her Station from Teixcalaan’s unceasing expansion—all while navigating an alien culture that is all too seductive, engaging in intrigues of her own, and hiding a deadly technological secret—one that might spell the end of her Station and her way of life—or rescue it from annihilation.

I picked up this book when I heard comparisons to the mighty C.J. Cherryh and I wasn’t disappointed. From the opening lines, I was hooked into the story by the immersive, taut writing and Mahit’s dilemma. I’m very much looking forward to reading the sequel this year. Read my review.

Covet the Covers – 12 #Brainfluffcovetthecovers #CovetthecoversElizabethMoon #SciFiMonth2020

Standard

Welcome to another helping of Covet the Covers. This week I’m featuring Elizabeth Moon’s space opera Vatta’s War and Serrano Legacy covers in honour of #Sci Fi Month 2020, which I’m linking with this post. I have chosen to feature the Orbit publication of the Serrano Legacy series, as it’s my personal favourite…

I love her writing – check out my review of the Serrano Legacy. But this only represents some of her output – I haven’t included the two books in the Vatta’s Peace series, A Cold Welcome, which I think is one of the best books she has written, and the sequel, Into the Fire – or her superb Speed of Dark, which is an awesome standalone.

I think her books have helped to define the genre into what it is now and if you haven’t read either of these series and are looking for a gripping, exciting space opera adventure featuring brave, feisty women, then track down Trading into Danger.


Sunday Post – 22nd November, 2020 #Brainfluffbookblog #SundayPost

Standard

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

This was a much quieter week. I spent part of Thursday afternoon at my sister’s place, because she’d woken up in the morning to no heating or hot water – so I went along to let the heating engineer in, armed with my little plug-in heater as it was rather on the nippy side. Fortunately, it was a case of topping up the boiler with water, which was a huge relief – she doesn’t need the expense and upheaval of replacing the boiler in the runup to Christmas… So I popped back in yesterday, after she returned from work, to show her where the relevant taps are and for a natter. She is part of our bubble, as she lives alone. On Friday, I taught Tim. He’s working on a lovely project – making a song by using words from a variety of films. He’s already some 30 secs into it and having huge fun. My grandson is isolating, as one of the children in his class tested positive for COVID – I’m hoping that he will be fine, and that the school will find a way for him to resit the GCSE Drama exam that he and the rest of his class have now missed. Who’d be a teacher right now??

My big news this week – I’ve finally completed the first draft of Picky Eaters Part 2. I got a tad carried away, to I’ll need to split it. The manuscript has ended up at a monster of 115,500 words, which is far too long. But that will be a case of reorganising various narrative arcs and subplots so it all makes sense and hangs together. I will probably be writing an article about that in due course. In the meantime, I’m still thoroughly enjoying Sci Fi Month and topping up my wish list of authors I want to tuck into.

No photos this week, I’m afraid. Every time I looked up, intending to get out for a walk – it was raining!

Last week I read:

Nophek Gloss – Book 1 of The Graven series by Essa Hansen
When a young man’s planet is destroyed, he sets out on a single-minded quest for revenge across the galaxy in Nophek Gloss, the first book in this epic space opera trilogy by debut author Essa Hansen, for fans of Revenger and Children of Time.
Caiden’s planet is destroyed. His family gone. And, his only hope for survival is a crew of misfit aliens and a mysterious ship that seems to have a soul and a universe of its own. Together they will show him that the universe is much bigger, much more advanced, and much more mysterious than Caiden had ever imagined. But the universe hides dangers as well, and soon Caiden has his own plans.

He vows to do anything it takes to get revenge on the slavers who murdered his people and took away his home. To destroy their regime, he must infiltrate and dismantle them from the inside, or die trying.
I thoroughly enjoyed this full-on, action-packed space opera adventure. Not only does it deliver a great deal of enjoyable, nail-biting action, but also asks questions about the nature of revenge and coming to terms with the hand you’ve been given.


The Sculpted Ship by K.M. O’Brien
Starship engineer Anailu Xindar dreamed of owning her own ship, but she didn’t find the courage to actually go for it until she was forced out of her safe, comfortable job. She goes shopping for a cheap, practical freighter, but she ends up buying a rare, beautiful, but crippled luxury ship. Getting it into space will take more than her technical skills. She’ll have to go way outside her comfort zone to brave the dangers of safaris, formal dinners, a rude professor, and worst of all, a fashion designer. She may even have to make some friends… and enemies.
This gentle story about likeable young engineer, Anailu Xindar, was a complete contrast to the adrenaline ride I had with Nophek Gloss, but no less enjoyable or readable. At present, there isn’t another book – but I’ll be keeping an eye out. I had far too much fun with this one not to want to dive back into this world. Review to follow.

Aftermath – Book 5 of the Sirantha Jax series by Ann Aguirre
Sirantha Jax has the right genes—ones that enable her to “jump” faster-than-light ships through grimspace. But it’s also in her genetic makeup to go it alone. It’s a character trait that has gotten her into—and out of—hot water time and time again, but now she’s caused one of the most horrific events in military history…

During the war against murderous, flesh-eating aliens, Sirantha went AWOL and shifted grimspace beacons to keep the enemy from invading humanity’s homeworld. The cost of her actions: the destruction of modern interstellar travel—and the lives of six hundred Conglomerate soldiers.

Accused of dereliction of duty, desertion, mass murder, and high treason, Sirantha is on trial for her life. And only time will tell if she’s one of the Conglomerate’s greatest heroes—or most infamous criminals…
I let this series lapse for some reason – and I’m so glad that I got back in touch with it! This is a lovely episode, providing a poignant and moving time where Jax does her best to try and make amends for a terrible decision she was forced into during the heat of war. Review to follow.


My posts last week:

Castellan the Black and His Wise Draconic Sayings

Review of AUDIOBOOK Finder – Book 1 of the Finder series by Suzanne Palmer

Review of Perilous Hunt – Book 7 of the Fallen Empire series by Lindsay Buroker

Friday Face-off featuring Artemis by Andy Weir

Thursday Treasures

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Nophek Gloss – Book 1 of The Graven series by Essa Hansen

Can’t-Wait Wednesday featuring Doors of Sleep: Journals of Zaxony Delatree by Tim Pratt

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Angel Six Echo by Robert Appleton

Review of The Valhalla Call – Book 4 of The Hayden War Cycle by Evan Currie

Sunday Post – 15th November 2020


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

You Just Won a Giveaway – Now What? https://booksbonesbuffy.com/2013/10/04/you-just-won-a-giveaway-now-what/ Tammy raises the issue of what happens if your anticipated prize doesn’t materialise…

The World Is Still a Pretty Awesome Place Photos https://thestoryreadingapeblog.com/2016/03/15/the-world-is-still-a-pretty-awesome-place-photos/ It’s worth swinging by and taking a look at this post if you’re slightly in despair over the way things have panned out during this year…

November 19 – Children’s Grief Awareness Day https://wandaluthman.wordpress.com/2020/11/19/november-19-childrens-grief-awareness-day/ Wanda’s thoughtful post here highlights a hidden problem. And a statistic that I found horrifying…

Escape… https://cindyknoke.com/2020/11/14/escape/ If, like me, you love looking at wonderful photos of nature, then Cindy’s blog is always worth a visit…

The problem with (space) debris https://earthianhivemind.net/2020/11/08/the-problem-with-space-debris/ During Sci Fi Month, I thought this was a timely reminder of some of the issues we are stacking up for ourselves when we do want to make that big push out into the stars…

Thank you for visiting, reading, liking and/or commenting on my blog – I hope you and yours have a peaceful, healthy week. Take care.

Review of KINDLE Ebook The Fated Sky – Book 2 of the Lady Astronaut series by Mary Robinette Kowal #Brainfluffbookreview #TheFatedSkybookreview #SciFiMonth2020

Standard

I am linking this review to #Sci Fi Month 2020, as I absolutely loved the first book in this series, The Calculating Starssee my review – so was thrilled when Himself went and promptly bought the second book in this series. Would I enjoy it as much?

BLURB: It is 1961, and the International Aerospace Coalition has established a colony on the moon. Elma York, the noted Lady Astronaut, is working on rotation, flying shuttles on the moon and returning regularly to Earth. But humanity must get a foothold on Mars. The first exploratory mission is being planned, and none of the women astronauts is on the crew list. The international Aerospace Coalition has grave reservations about sending their “Lady Astronauts” on such a dangerous mission…

REVIEW: I loved this one. Though it is essentially a continuation of the story started in The Calculating Stars so don’t pick up this one first. Or you will spend too much time trying to figure out exactly who is doing what to whom to be able to fully appreciate the scope and stakes involved.

We continue to follow maths genius Elma Wexler, as she completes a three-month stint on the Moon and looking forward to seeing her husband, again. If I have a niggle, it’s that their relationship seems improbably idyllic, given the stresses put on it. Nathaniel is just so understanding, kind and appreciative of Elma’s drive to excel that I think a modern husband would struggle to be able to match up to his enlightened attitude. Given he is a product of a very different time, when it was tacitly agreed by many right-thinking men and a fair number of women, that it was a risky business giving a woman any kind of major responsibility, it does strain credulity. Especially as most of the other men Elma encounters have their macho insensitivity on display. However, I’m aware it’s a minor niggle in the scheme of things, when so much about this book is so good.

I think the handling of the alternate historical timeline throughout has been skilful and inspired. As someone who recalls the launch of Telstar and the Race to the Moon, Kowal manages to capture the feeling of the time, even allowing for her huge ‘what if’ of a major meteor strike that accelerates Humanity’s interest in establishing a colony elsewhere. I also enjoyed the adventure and tension with the two ships travelling to Mars and the ongoing tensions caused by the prevailing racist and sexist attitudes. The influence of the ongoing political situation, where hanging onto the funding as the life on Earth becomes increasingly difficult to sustain, is also a factor.

This all adds up to a cracking story, with plenty of adventure and some pause for thought about the ingrained attitudes that lead to people being overlooked because of what they represent, rather than being judged more fairly on their abilities and individual merits. I found the ongoing character arc of Parker to be an interesting progression – and while he was still fairly obnoxious, I appreciated learning more about him and what drove him. But one of the things I liked about Elma was her reaction to being attacked – she didn’t come out all guns blazing. She retreated behind a façade of politeness and tried to propitiate those around her whenever possible – which is what women of her generation, and my generation were raised to do. We were taught to be ‘good’. And I really, really liked that Kowal didn’t ignore that aspect, which I think has probably hindered gender equality far more than is appreciated.

An exceptionally good space travel adventure.
9/10


*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc Unconquerable Sun – Book 1 of The Sun Chronicles by Kate Elliott #BrainfluffNETGALLEYbookreview #UnconquerableSunbookreview

Standard

I have been a fan of Kate Elliott’s writing for a long time – see my reviews of the Crown of Stars series and Cold Magic. So when I heard that she was writing a space opera, reverse-gender version of Alexander the Great’s life – I was extremely excited.

BLURB: GENDER-SWAPPED ALEXANDER THE GREAT ON AN INTERSTELLAR SCALE
Princess Sun has finally come of age. Growing up in the shadow of her mother, Eirene, has been no easy task. The legendary queen-marshal did what everyone thought impossible: expel the invaders and build Chaonia into a magnificent republic, one to be respected—and feared. But the cutthroat ambassador corps and conniving noble houses have never ceased to scheme—and they have plans that need Sun to be removed as heir, or better yet, dead. To survive, the princess must rely on her wits and companions: her biggest rival, her secret lover, and a dangerous prisoner of war.

REVIEW: I don’t know all that much about Alexander the Great’s life, especially his upbringing. But if he had even half of the issues to deal with when growing up that poor Sun is confronted with, then it’s hardly surprising that he grew up to conquer a goodly chunk of the known world. After all, it would be the only way to keep himself and those he cared about safe.

This full-scale adventure set in space has a fairly complicated setup, and I needed to pay attention, as Elliott doesn’t do large info-dumps (yippee!). It is also in multiple point of view, though the first-person viewpoint is in Persephone Lee, who is trying to escape from a toxic upbringing, where love and approval are in short supply.

Sun, the fiery and charismatic heir of a charismatic and fiery ruler, isn’t in any danger of getting too much parental praise, either. Her mother, the legendary queen-marshal, who managed to stabilise Chaonia and turn it into a state to be reckoned with, tends to spectacularly butt heads with her daughter. And there are plenty around her who are only too willing to see Sun disinherited and disgraced for their own political ends. Initially, I had thought this was going to be one of those tense, court intrigues where a single misstep or unguarded remark can have dire consequences. I wasn’t unhappy with the prospect as I rather enjoy that dynamic – but when it all kicked off, the full-tilt forward momentum was breathless, sharpened when several of Sun’s beloved and trusted companions die.

I loved this one. It’s over 500 pages long, but it certainly didn’t feel like it and I reached the climactic and satisfying ending with a sense of loss. I wanted more, which is always a good sign. Elliott hits all the main tropes of space opera with panache, including a cracking space battle that had me holding my breath as I turned the pages – and I’m now really, really looking forward to the next book in the series.

Very highly recommended for fans of fast-moving space opera with dynamic characters and plenty of plot twists. While I obtained an arc of Unconquerable Sun from the publishers via Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own.
9/10

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc Seven Devils – Book 1 of the Seven Devils series by Laura Lam and Elizabeth May #BrinfluffNETGALLEYreview #SevenDevilsbookreview

Standard

I was thrilled to be approved for an arc for this book. However, when I started reading it, I had a massive struggle getting into the story – because throughout the text all through the book were the words NOT FOR SALE OR DISTRIBUTION randomly appearing in the middle of sentences. It made it very difficult to connect with the story. After appealing to Orion, they did send me a PDF which had watermarked pages, instead, making it much easier to read – but the catch was that I could only read that on my desktop. I spend HOURS in front of my computer every day – I read for fun and relaxation on my Kindle. I did try… but it wasn’t fun, so in the end I returned to the version with the phrase running through it and persevered. Though I won’t be using the word DISTRIBUTION in my own writing any time soon.

I know piracy is an ongoing issue for publishers and I am aware that a few reviewers abuse the privilege we’ve been given in being allowed to read advance copies, but I’m not sure this is the answer. It is a cracking story – but being constantly yanked out of the story really hampered my enjoyment. I have tried my best to not allow this issue to influence my honest opinion of the book, but I’m not sure if this would have been a solid 10 from me if I hadn’t had such a struggle. If that’s the case, what a shame…

BLURB: When Eris faked her death, she thought she had left her old life as the heir to the galaxy’s most ruthless empire behind. But her recruitment by the Novantaen Resistance, an organization opposed to the empire’s voracious expansion, throws her right back into the fray. Eris has been assigned a new mission: to infiltrate a spaceship ferrying deadly cargo and return the intelligence gathered to the Resistance. But her partner for the mission, mechanic and hotshot pilot Cloelia, bears an old grudge against Eris, making an already difficult infiltration even more complicated.

When they find the ship, they discover more than they bargained for: three fugitives with firsthand knowledge of the corrupt empire’s inner workings.

REVIEW: This is an ensemble narrative, as this group of desperate women of driven to face overwhelming odds to try and fight back a corrupt and inhuman system. I loved the dynamic and real danger posed by the deep programming inserted in every loyal Tholosian, who won’t hesitate to attack if they suspect they are facing a traitor. Life is both cheap and merciless – this dystopian society is rotten right to the top.

It would have been so easy for either author to have resorted to chunks of info-dumping. However, they manage to avoid such measures by giving us chapters in alternating viewpoints and also providing flashbacks to show how each character arrived at the stage where they’re prepared to risk all. It’s well done. Not only have May and Lam managed to keep the plot moving forward, those flashbacks heighten the stakes and strengthen readers’ bonding with the protagonists, which is always more of a challenge when there are more than one or two protagonists in the mix.

The gathering sense of drama as this book moved to the final denouement is what really sets it apart, however. I love May’s writing – it was the prospect of reading a space opera adventure written by her that prompted me to request this book, after her fabulous Falconer trilogy – see my review of The Falconer, The Vanishing Throne and The Fallen Kingdom. She writes with the brakes off – and this book is imbued with that madcap energy I have grown to associate with her style and works brilliantly during the closing climactic scenes. I couldn’t put this one down as that ending played out – and I do hope we don’t have to wait too long for the second book, because it ends on a real cliffhanger that had me dreaming of the world. Highly recommended for all space opera fans. The ebook arc copy of Seven Devils was provided by the publisher through NetGalley in return for an honest opinion of the book.

9/10

Kickass Divas in Sci Fi Book Funnel Promotion #Brainfluffbookblog

Standard

If you are hunting for some gripping sci fi featuring strong heroines in tricky situations, ready for November’s Sci Fi Month I’m taking part in the Kickass Divas in Sci Fi promotion running until 22nd October on Book Funnel. I’ve featured below a handful of books which have caught my eye. Click on the link to check them out in more detail…

Starfall – a Durga System novella by Jessie Kwak
“Have you been treated well here?”
Starla’s hands come up short — she was going to sign something rude, but she’s cuffed to the table. If these Alliance clowns want answers, they’re going to have to uncuff her to let her talk.
Because they seem to want to ask her plenty: What was her childhood like on Silk Station? Does she understand her parents are wanted? What does she know about OIC terrorists?
But Starla’s not saying a thing until she gets an answer to her own question:
What happened to my parents?
*
Starla Dusai is fifteen, deaf — and being held as an enemy combatant by the Indiran Alliance. Willem Jaantzen is a notorious crime lord about to end a fearsome vendetta — and most probably his life.
When he learns his goddaughter has been captured by the Alliance, he understands he’s her only hope. But saving a girl he barely knows means letting his wife’s murderer walk free. Will Jaantzen be able to put aside his anger before Starla’s time runs out?

 

The Warbirds of Absaroka – NOVELLA – File One of the Universal Star League series
by Debbie Mumford

Brenna Standing Bear has been given an impossible task by her dying grandfather: convince Absaroka’s Planetary Council to build a fleet to defend against the Bug-Eyes. The problem? The council believes the Bug-Eyes were defeated sixty-eight years ago. Why should they expend precious resources to defend against a non-existent threat?

 

The Enclave – Book 1 of The Verge series by H.M. Clarke
Federation officer Katherine Kirk, a survivor of the Alliance holding facility at Yunga, is now on the brink of capturing its infamous commander. But that joy gets ripped away from Kirk when her ship is abruptly pulled from the line and sent to ferry a Federation Ambassador to Junter 3. Once there, Kirk finds herself quickly embroiled in the bitter politics between the New Holland Government and the Val Myrain Refugees claiming asylum.

After an attack on the New Holland Government Center, Kirk and her team hunt the enemy across the planet and discover an Alliance facility hidden deep beneath one of the Val Myrain enclaves. And contains a secret too horrifying to believe possible.

 

Distant Horizon – Book One of the Distant Horizon series by Stephanie and Isaac Flint
The Community is safe…
Unless you have superpowers.

The Community is secure…
Until the rebels come to get you.

The Community is efficient…
At hiding deadly secrets.

Uncover the truth in this thrilling dystopian adventure!

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of KINDLE Ebook Slouch Witch – Book 1 of The Lazy Girl’s Guide to Magic by Helen Harper

Standard

Himself had bought this book and when he finished it, he said ‘Read this – it’s really good!’ So I did – and he’s right…

Let’s get one thing straight – Ivy Wilde is not a heroine. In fact, she’s probably the last witch in the world who you’d call if you needed a magical helping hand, regardless of her actual abilities. If it were down to Ivy, she’d spend all day every day on her sofa where she could watch TV, munch junk food and talk to her feline familiar to her heart’s content. However, when a bureaucratic disaster ends up with Ivy as the victim of a case of mistaken identity, she’s yanked very unwillingly into Arcane Branch, the investigative department of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn. Her problems are quadrupled when a valuable object is stolen right from under the Order’s noses. It doesn’t exactly help that she’s been magically bound to Adeptus Exemptus Raphael Winter. He might have piercing sapphire eyes and a body which a cover model would be proud of but, as far as Ivy’s concerned, he’s a walking advertisement for the joyless perils of too much witch-work. And if he makes her go to the gym again, she’s definitely going to turn him into a frog.

The blurb gives an indication of the sharp humour that runs throughout the book as Ivy is pitchforked into the middle of this entertaining mystery, where there is clearly a nefarious plot brewing at the Order. What made this book for me is Ivy’s first person narrative as she is reluctantly dragged into this investigation, when she would far rather curl up on her sofa and watch something good on the telly. It is such a refreshing change to find a protagonist who genuinely would rather be doing almost anything else other than getting involved that I was completely beguiled and found it very difficult to put this one down.

The fact she is partnered with the very focused and ambitious Winter – a complete opposite – heightened my enjoyment. It would have been only too easy for Harper to become so involved in the spiky dynamic of this partnership such that she didn’t pay sufficient attention to the investigation. This doesn’t happen. As events steadily stack up, the stakes continue to become ever higher so that despite the humour and interesting relationship, I was staying up waaay too late because I wanted to know what was going to happen next.

Of course along the way, Ivy discovers that she is quite enjoying herself – not that she is prepared to admit it, and certainly not to Winter. This entertaining investigation provides plenty of tension and action as well as a genuinely funny main protagonist with a strong voice that pings off the page. If you enjoy your urban fantasy with a feisty protagonist, strong supporting characters and an entertaining mystery, then I recommend you track down this enjoyable book by a talented indie author. I’m delighted to report that the next book in the series, Star Witch, has just been released and I will certainly be getting hold of it just as soon as I can.
9/10

The This is My Genre Tell Me Yours Book Tag

Standard

I was nominated for this lovely book tag by Drew from The Tattooed Book Geek, who writes wonderful, passionate reviews about his favourite genre, fantasy. Thank you, Drew! Do drop by and check out his site – it’s worth it.

thisismtgenrenrwlogo

1. What’s your favourite genre?
Science fiction, particularly at the more character-led end of the genre. Though it is a very broad church and that is part of the glory of it.

2. Who’s your favourite author?
Erg! Oh nooo… I hate having to choose ONLY one. Hm. I think it’s… Nope. Can’t do it, sorry. There cannot be only one! C.J. Cherryh – because she wrote the defining space opera adventure that blew me away. Kage Baker for her amazing Company novels and Lois McMaster Bujold for the Miles Vorkosigan series. There’s more… there’s so MANY more!

3. What is it about the genre that keeps pulling you back?
To be honest, I’m not really sure. I mostly read and enjoy fantasy, but when I do settle down with a thumping good science fiction read, it just has me buzzing with excitement in a way that nothing else does. There is the sense of adventure and excitement as I open the cover – it’s a genre that pushes ideas and concepts right to the limits with the likes of cyberpunk, so I never moonquite know where I’ll end up.

However, I also think it is the prospect of us leaving the planet and exploring space that really ticks all my boxes. As a young child, I grew up taking it for granted that by the time I was adult, we would already have a presence on the Moon and be working towards getting to Mars. So reading about a future where we have achieved these goals helps alleviate my sense of betrayal that humanity’s continuing nomadic quest was stifled thanks to politicians with the mental horizon of an ant.

4. What’s the book that started your love for your genre?
heavytimeC.J. Cherryh’s Heavy Time. It is an amazing read – about a couple of asteroid miners who discover a ship tumbling through space and secure it for salvage, when they find a half-mad crew member, Paul Dekker, tumbling about inside it. The only survivor… Her writing is years ahead of its time, with an immersive first person viewpoint that has the tension pinging off the page. I dreamt about that book and went looking for other reads like it. I don’t often find them, but when I do, I’m caught between wanting the book to last and last as it’s just SO MUCH FUN reading it. And needing to get to the end TO FIND OUT WHAT HAPPENS. And when I do finish such a book, I ache at having to leave the world… While this occasionally occurs with enjoyable fantasy reads, it happens far more frequently with science fiction books.

5. If you had to recommend at least one book from your favourite genre to a non-reader/someone looking to start reading that genre, what book would you choose and why?
There’s four books I’d like to recommend – all very different. The first would be Adrian childrenoftimeTchaikovsky’s award-winning Children of Time, which I loved. It takes the basic tropes around space opera and turns them on their head, while producing a page-turning story full of incident and unintended consequences.

Earthgirl

 

Another is far more a straightforward adventure tale – the excellent Earth Girl by Janet Edwards, which has Earth as a relative backwater where due to a genetic condition, a small number of people cannot emigrate off the planet and are stranded here.

 

The Many Selves of Katherine North by Emma Geen takes the idea of shape-manyselvesofkatherineshifting and turns it into a scientific breakthrough and this riveting, beautifully written book explores the consequences of what might happen to those who invade the consciousness of other animals.

The finthemartianal book would be The Martian by Andy Weir which is a near future adventure – think of Robinson Crusoe set in space and stranded on Mars and you have an idea of the book, which charts Mark’s constant struggle for survival as he battles against the odds to survive until help arrives.

 

 

 

6. Why do you read?
I can’t recall a time when I couldn’t read. I read hungrily all through my childhood which was at times very difficult and books provided my consolation and escape. Fortunately my grandparents were very encouraging and provided me with plenty of reading matter.

The only time I didn’t read was when my children were young – I didn’t dare pick up a book because I knew only too well that they could be screaming in the cot, or drowning in the bath and I simply wouldn’t hear them. So I didn’t read a single book for seven years, other than children’s books. It was the biggest sacrifice I made as a mother. Now, I live with another avid reader and we often have days when we turn off the TV, curl up in the lounge together and read, while our favourite music is playing… bliss!

My nominations for the This is My Genre  Tell Me Yours Book Tag

Sara Letourneau – Sara Letourneau’s Official Website and Blog

Wendy – Musings of a Bookish Kitty

Kristen Twardowski – A Writer’s Workshop

You may or may not choose to take part in this one. I’ve selected all three of you because you are interesting passionate bloggers with a keen interest in all things bookish and I’d love to hear your answers:). Anyone else out there who’d love to have a go – please join in!

Jezell Campo from Running Out of Space – to be released Summer 2015

Standard

My pal Sara Letourneau had blogged these answers for her character and mentioned they were part of the Beautiful People section of the Further Up and Further In blog, designed to help writers get to know their characters better. This is the July crop of answers and given that Jezell is going to see the light of day sometime this summer, I figured I’d give it a whirl… Thanks to Sky and Cait for taking the trouble to draft these monthly questions.

beautiful-people-11. What’s their favourite ice cream flavour?
Jezell likes the red wine and blueberry flavour as the alcoholic content helps to mask the blueberry, as she isn’t all that fond of fruit. Not that she often gets to taste this particular ice cream flavour at home – anything remotely tasting of wine disappears down her mother’s throat well before she gets so much as a sniff at it. So now she’s away on her father’s spaceship, she makes a point of ordering it. Because she can.

2. Your character is getting ready for a night out. Where are they going? What are they wearing? Who will they be with?
She’ll be out with her amigas – Donice, Alita and Efra. Left to herself, she’d probably set off wearing ship’s overalls, but the chicas won’t let that happen. They’ll take her in hand – she and Donice are more or less the same size, although Donice is more generously proportioned, so she’ll borrow one of Donice’s off the shoulder blouses and flared skirts. She will also wear a wig to hide her shaved head, part of ship’s regs for all serving crew. Wherever the ship docks, she and her amigas will end up at a bar or dancing venue previously approved by the shipboard chaperones and fiercely protected by the hombres from the ship.

3. Look at your character’s feet. Describe what you see there. Do they wear dress shoes, gym shoes, or none at all? Are they in socks that are ratty and full of holes? What do they consider comfortable and what do they consider agony?
When on duty, Jezell has to wear military grade boots. The Captain, who is her father, used to serve in a mercenary force and has a penchant for all things military, especially as surplus gear can be bought for a generous discount – something that appeals to his merchanting, cred-hugging instincts. When she is off duty she would wander around  barefoot if she could get away with it, but it’s against ship’s regs, so she wears non-slips. They are often odd colours as she tends to lose one of a pair, which has Alita rolling her eyes over her untidiness.

4. Do they have any birthmark or scars? Where are they and how did they get them?
She has a small mark on the pad of her left palm and a small star-shaped scar behind her ear which she only got to know about when undergoing the extensive physical before joining the merchanting space ship, Estrella Fugaz some 9 months earlier. She doesn’t know it, but both scars were inflicted by her brother Duardo when he was an 18-month-old infant, a long time ago, now. These days, any wounds going to be inflicted, it’ll be Jezell doing the deed, that’s for sure – especially where Duardo’s concerned…

5. What kind of music do they listen to? Does it change depending on their mood or is it always consistent? (Feel free to share samples!)
She loves music, particularly the Old World stuff from pre-Diasporan times. The modern multi-tonal bot-compositions leave her cold – apart from anything else, they are next to impossible to sing unless you have your voice artificially aug’d and she’s no intention of letting some bot-brain tinker with her voice, muchas gracias for asking…

6. Do they have any musical talent? Play an instrument? How’s their singing voice?
She sings a lot. Often at the end of an evening, when the wine is flowing and people want to hear the old songs from Homespace, she is asked to sing, which she enjoys doing. Although she gets very fed up when fast-talking hem-huggers overpraise her performance, just to get on her shiny side because she is The Cap’s daughter.

7. What kind of book would you catch them reading?
Ha! As if she’d ever be given any slack time to prone around with a book. Back home, she was always pressed into service to help out with her baby brothers, particularly when Mamá retreated to her room in a drink-sodden haze. And now on the ship, she is vaguely aware of the library but is more interested in delving into the musical archive.

8. How would they spend their summers (or their holidays)?
The Cap generally books them a hotel suite at his favourite tourist resort in the whole of Sector Two, Costa del Iberia, where there are sandy beaches and warm seas for a couple of weeks. Not that Jezell gets a whole lot of time to laze around on the sand – she’s too busy keeping tabs on her baby brothers. Though the last time, baby Orly was only a couple of months old, so she stayed at home with Mamá, who was still recovering from her confinement and helped with the night feeds, while The Cap took the boys away. It wasn’t a success. They came home early with The Cap tight-lipped and a face darker than a black hole, muttering about having to do something about the boy’s discipline – so Jezell figured it was probably Duardo messing things up. Again.

9. It’s Saturday at noon. What is your character doing? Give details. Ex. If they’re eating breakfast, what’s on the menu? Are they hiking, shopping, lazing around?
Now she’s on the ship, it majorly depends on which watch she’s on, given Estrella works a three-section dogged watch system. Being on Shift Segundo, she’s either still on the changeover and very much looking forward to brunch in the mess with her amigas in another hour, or standing by to take over. Or if she’s off-duty, she’ll have spent a morning lazing in her cribicle – if Donice will let her – and then have a big meal before getting ready to go on duty. If on shore leave, it’s all a question of when the chaperones feel inclined to escort the chicas to the approved shopping or trading areas.

10. Is there anything your character wants to be free of?
She is exasperated by the constant chaperoning because she is a fertile señorita. She wishes that she was one of the infertile chicas on board the ship who have a whole lot more freedom to spend time with whom they want. Apart from anything else, there are a bunch of hombres on the ship who have decided that paying court to her would be a zesting career move, so she is always having to flick away unwanted attention. Which gets to be sooo boring…