Category Archives: Time travel

Review of KINDLE Ebook A Pair of Docks – Book 1 of the Derivatives of Displacement by Jennifer Ellis

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I’ll be honest – I’m not quite sure how this book ended up on my Kindle. I have a hunch Himself bought it, but however it got there, I’m really pleased it did.

Fourteen-year-old Abbey Sinclair likes to spend her afternoons in the physics lab learning about momentum and gravitational pull. But her practical scientific mind is put to the test when her older brother, Simon, discovers a mysterious path of stones that allows them, along with Abbey’s twin, Caleb, to travel back and forth between their world and what appears to be…the future. Unfortunately, they’re not the only ones who know about the stones, and they soon realize their lives are in danger from a man known only as Mantis. Abbey, Caleb, and Simon must follow a twisting trail of clues that will lead them from their autistic neighbor, Mark, to a strange professor who claims to know the rules of the stones, and to multiple futures—some of whose inhabitants don’t want to stay put.

This book is categorised as a Children’s book, but please don’t let that put you off. Given the complexity of the story, the layering of the characters and the pacing, it feels far more like a YA offering to me. I thoroughly enjoyed this one. The time travel element has been done very well, with the initial hook pulling the reader into the story and then learning the very rich backstory as the adventure continues. The story progression and overall pacing are deftly handled.

Abbey is one of twins, and I enjoyed the fact that the siblings – along with their older brother – get together to try and sort out what is happening. Given they have very busy parents, they are quite a tight-knit unit, although that doesn’t prevent there being strains in their relationship. Ellis has provided a strong protagonist. Nerdy and very clever, Abbey is also observant and people-smart. I did enjoy her awareness, as I have become just a little tired of young protagonists who seem to do nothing but lurch from one major mistake to another.

There is an atmosphere of quiet menace pervading this book, which works very well and had me turning the pages long after I should have put the light out and gone to sleep. As for the antagonists, it was also refreshing to have nuanced, clever villains who are convinced they are doing nothing terribly wrong. In fact, it seemed to me that this book could quite as easily have been written from the viewpoint of at least one of them, desperately trying to search for a lost relative, and have us all terribly sympathetic with him.

The ending was suitably climactic, but left some important questions unanswered, and I am delighted that I have the sequel also on my Kindle as this is a world that won’t leave me alone. Highly recommended for fans of time travel adventures.
9/10

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Sunday Post – 20th May, 2018

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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.

My sister has moved back to her own flat, which is really good news as she is hopefully now on the road to recovery. Though I am missing her – if the road works would allow it, she is only ten minutes away.

On Thursday, Mhairi came over for the day and we spent some of the time poking the Marketing Monster with a big stick, which is both terrifying and enjoyable. Other than that, I’ve been busy line editing Breathing Space with the help of Dragon’s dictation tool, as I follow the manuscript with a cursor. It’s time-consuming, but I don’t know another way to do it, as my speed-reading habit isn’t conducive to weeding out those fiddley mistakes that dog my writing.

Yesterday, I went over to my sister’s and we watched the Royal Wedding together, having great fun critiquing the outfits while quaffing tea and jam doughnuts. It was a wonderful service and I wish the couple all the very best in their life together.

This week I have read:

Crimson Ash by Hayley Sulich
Solanine Lucille wants her little sister back. Eight years ago, the government kidnapped her sister Ember, stole her memories, and transformed her into a soldier. But Solanine refuses to give up. Now that she and her fiancé have located the leader of a rebel group, she believes she can finally bring Ember home. But then the soldiers raid the rebels, killing her fiancé and leaving Solanine alone with her demons and all the weapons needed for revenge.

After raiding a rebel camp, sixteen-year-old Ember doesn’t understand why killing some boy bothers her. She’s a soldier—she has killed hundreds of people without remorse. But after she fails a mission, the rebels hold her hostage and restore her memories. Ember recognizes her sister among the rebels and realizes the boy she killed was Solanine’s fiancé.

This was certainly a dystopian world, leaving a trail of devastated, broken people in its wake and the writing was intense and fast-paced.

A Trail Through Time – Book 4 of The Chronicles of St Mary’s by Jodi Taylor
At St Mary’s Institute of Historical Research, the historians don’t just study the past, they revisit it.

Behind the strait-laced façade of a conventional academic institution, the secret of time travel is being used for ground-breaking and daring historical research, taking the historians on a rollercoaster ride through history. Meanwhile, within St Mary’s itself, there are power struggles and intrigues worthy of a book in themselves.

Max and Leon are reunited and looking forward to a peaceful life together. Sadly, they don’t even make it to lunchtime.
From 17th-century London to Ancient Egypt and from Pompeii to 14th-century Southwark, Max and Leon are pursued up and down the timeline until, finally, they are forced to take refuge at St Mary’s – where a new set of dangers await them.

After the darkness of my previous read – I wanted something with humour, so I turned to this offering on my TBR pile. It didn’t disappoint. Packed with adventure that had me laughing aloud and nearly weeping, I finished this one buzzed and re-energised. Nobody does it like Jodi…

Scourged – Book 9 of the Iron Druid series by Kevin Hearne
Unchained from fate, the Norse gods Loki and Hel are ready to unleash Ragnarok, a.k.a. the Apocalypse, upon the earth. They’ve made allies on the darker side of many pantheons, and there’s a globe-spanning battle brewing that ancient Druid Atticus O’Sullivan will be hard-pressed to survive, much less win. Granuaile MacTiernan must join immortals Sun Wukong and Erlang Shen in a fight against the Yama Kings in Taiwan, but she discovers that the stakes are much higher than she thought.

Meanwhile, Archdruid Owen Kennedy must put out both literal and metaphorical fires from Bavaria to Peru to keep the world safe for his apprentices and the future of Druidry. And Atticus recruits the aid of a tyromancer, an Indian witch, and a trickster god in hopes that they’ll give him just enough leverage to both save Gaia and see another sunrise. There is a hound named Oberon who deserves a snack, after all.

I have read and enjoyed all the previous books in this series, so hoped that this one would bring all the plotlines to a satisfactory conclusion. It was a delight to plunge back into this world for ending to work so well.

The Flowers of Vashnoi – Book 14.1 of the Vorkosigan Saga by Lois McMaster Bujold
Still new to her duties as Lady Vorkosigan, Ekaterin is working together with expatriate scientist Enrique Borgos on a radical scheme to recover the lands of the Vashnoi exclusion zone, lingering radioactive legacy of the Cetagandan invasion of the planet Barrayar. When Enrique’s experimental bioengineered creatures go missing, the pair discover that the zone still conceals deadly old secrets.

This novella takes us back to the amazing world Bujold is rightly best known for writing – what a treat this little gem is. The only grumble I have is that it ended too soon.

My posts last week:

Sunday Post – 13th May 2018

Review of Talon – Book 1 of the Talon series by Julie Kagawa

Teaser Tuesday featuring Scourged – Book 9 of the Iron Druid series by Kevin Hearne

Can’t-Wait Wednesday featuring The Flowers of Vashnoi – Book 14.1 of the Vorkosigan Sage by Lois McMaster Bujold

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Crimson Ash by Haley Sulich

Friday Face-off – I’m freeee… featuring Traitor to the Throne – Book 2 of the Rebel of the Sands series by Alwyn Hamilton

Review of Scourged – Book 9 of the Iron Druid series by Kevin Hearne

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

5 ways you should not react when an annoying friend says they don’t read https://thisislitblog.com/2018/05/13/5-ways-you-should-not-react-when-that-annoying-friend-says-they-dont-read/ Yes… I’m aware this was published over a week ago – but I’ve only just caught up with it and figured you would still want a giggle over your Sunday cuppa…

Get Caught Reading https://charlesfrenchonwordsreadingandwriting.wordpress.com/2018/05/17/get-caught-reading/ I’m spreading appreciation for my favourite hobby – and this is a great scheme to promote a love of books…

A Summary and Analysis of the ‘Bluebeard’ Fairy Tale https://interestingliterature.com/2018/05/13/a-summary-and-analysis-of-the-bluebeard-fairy-tale/ I love the insights offered in the articles produced by this cracking site…

Thursday Doors – Jacobean https://jeanreinhardt.wordpress.com/2018/05/17/thursday-doors-jacobean/ This is another lovely set of doors, windows and graves… there isn’t anything more evocative than the ruins of a long-ago building.

Fabulous opportunity to get hold of over a 100 sci fi books featuring feisty females… https://claims.instafreebie.com/gg/rvyoTzZB9pvCEbrw2lN4 There is a wonderful spread of books featured for fans wanting more ebook goodness in their lives of the science fiction kind.

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

Sunday Post – 18th March, 2018

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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.

And here we are – with snow on the ground and an icy wind blowing. On Friday the temperature was in the mid-50s with bright sunshine and there were butterflies and bumblebees in the garden. I’m aware some of you are used to such temperature swings. We aren’t.

This week’s roundup is going to be short as I am in the throes of the final act of my rewrite of Miranda’s Tempest – so this morning that’s where I’m going. Back to their enchanted island and Miranda’s fury as she discovers the identity of the Black Magician who ensorcelled her into loving Ferdinand and deserting the true love of her life…

This week I have read:

Removed – Book 1 of the Nogiku series by S.J. Pajonas
It’s easy for Sanaa to ignore the first signs of trouble. After all, she’s living her dream with a job and life she loves. But when she’s reassigned as a data analyst for a mysterious, well-connected man, she starts to piece together the alarming reality. Corrupt clans vie for control of the city, desperate for a ticket off the dying planet.

I really enjoyed this slow-burn sci fi thriller and am delighted that I’ve got the next book in the series as I will definitely be reading it soon.

 

A Pair of Docks – Book 1 of The Derivatives of Displacement series by Jennifer Ellis
Fourteen-year-old Abbey Sinclair likes to spend her afternoons in the physics lab learning about momentum and gravitational pull. But her practical scientific mind is put to the test when her older brother, Simon, discovers a mysterious path of stones that allows them, along with Abbey’s twin, Caleb, to travel back and forth between their world and what appears to be…the future.

Unfortunately, they’re not the only ones who know about the stones, and they soon realize their lives are in danger from a man known only as Mantis. Abbey, Caleb, and Simon must follow a twisting trail of clues that will lead them from their autistic neighbor, Mark, to a strange professor who claims to know the rules of the stones, and to multiple futures—some of whose inhabitants don’t want to stay put.

Apparently, this is a children’s book – but don’t be put off by that. The protagonist might be a youngster, but this reads far more like YA without any romance. The characters are nuanced, the plotting sophisticated and the world delightfully complex. I’ve just discovered a cracking new series – yippee!

 

Willnot by James Sallis
In the woods outside the town of Willnot, the remains of several people have suddenly been discovered, unnerving the community and unsettling Hale, the town’s all-purpose general practitioner, surgeon, and town conscience. At the same time, Bobby Lowndes–his military records disappeared, being followed by the FBI–mysteriously reappears in his hometown, at Hale’s door.

I’ve just finished reading this one – a team read with my blogging friend, Emma at One Reader’s Thoughts. We were supposed to be discussing it as we went, but I’ve burned through it, so I’m not saying anymore until I’ve spoken to her about it…

 

My posts last week:

Sunday Post – 11th March 2018

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Reclaiming Shilo Snow – Book 2 of The Evaporation of Sofi Snow series by Mary Weber

Teaser Tuesday featuring A Pair of Docks – Book 1 of The Derivatives of Displacement series by Jennifer Ellis

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Escaping Firgo by Jason Whittle

Review of Blunt Force Magic – Book 1 of the Monsters and Men series by Lawrence Davis

Friday Face-off – Like a puppet on a string… featuring The Puppet Masters by Robert Heinlein

Review of Why We Sleep: Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dreams by Matthew P. Walker

 

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

The Why #amwriting https://didioviatt.wordpress.com/2018/03/15/the-why-amwriting/ Right now I need a reminder as to WHY I’m putting myself through this bleeping misery… And this sums it up quite neatly.

Are We Ready for Tiangong-1? http://earthianhivemind.net/2018/03/17/ready-tiangong-1/ Some of us might need to consider putting on hard hats before leaving the house…

So Bad It’s Good: The Best Bad Poets in English Literature https://interestingliterature.com/2018/03/16/so-bad-its-good-the-best-bad-poets-in-english-literature/ Probably not the book you’d want to find yourself featuring in…

Thursday Doors https://jeanreinhardt.wordpress.com/2018/03/15/thursday-doors-96/ It’s been a while since I’ve featured this site, but I regularly visit and fell in love with this GORGEOUS door…

Learning to Build my Writing “Cathedral” Again https://saraletourneauwriter.com/2018/03/14/building-writing-cathedral/ Yep. More about the writing – and this article explains a very personal journey for one talented writer I know…

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

Teaser Tuesday – 13th March, 2018

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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 Pair of Docks – Book 1 of the Derivatives of Displacement series by Jennifer Ellis

59% Mark sat with his hands placed on his legs to avoid germs. When the bus stopped, Simon didn’t reach out fast enough and Mark flew forward and hit the seat ahead of them. He attempted to get back up without touching anything, looking like an overweight seal that couldn’t quite get back on land.
“Are you okay?” Abbey asked.
Mark resumed looking at the red and blue map of the Coventry bus routes on one of the roof panels. “I am not thinking about my current situation. I have decided this is not happening.”

BLURB: Fourteen-year-old Abbey Sinclair likes to spend her afternoons in the physics lab learning about momentum and gravitational pull. But her practical scientific mind is put to the test when her older brother, Simon, discovers a mysterious path of stones that allows them, along with Abbey’s twin, Caleb, to travel back and forth between their world and what appears to be…the future.

Unfortunately, they’re not the only ones who know about the stones, and they soon realize their lives are in danger from a man known only as Mantis. Abbey, Caleb, and Simon must follow a twisting trail of clues that will lead them from their autistic neighbor, Mark, to a strange professor who claims to know the rules of the stones, and to multiple futures—some of whose inhabitants don’t want to stay put.

I found this on my Kindle – I don’t know how it got there as Himself can’t recall acquiring it… But I’m really glad he did. It is a wonderful read – although it is described as a children’s book, many readers have reclassified it as YA, which I think is more appropriate, despite the age of the protagonist. What I do know is that it has grabbed my attention and pulled me into the story and I’m mightily relieved that I have the rest of the series also on my Kindle – because this is a world that I dreamt about last night…

Sunday Post – 11th February, 2018

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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.

No… I haven’t been abducted by aliens two weekends in a row. Last weekend, Himself and I attended a conference on marketing indie books at Runneymede, which was marvellous fun and very intense – I haven’t yet had a chance to absorb all the information we received.

It was a busy week as I was teaching both Monday and Tuesday evening, spent Wednesday evening with the wonderful folks at my writing group, where I read a slice of my WIP and on Thursday, after catching up with my writing buddy, Mhairi, during the evening I attended the West Sussex Writers meeting, which this month was featuring a manuscript surgery. It was an excellent evening. I had the pleasure of acting as facilitator to a lovely writer in the process of writing a fantasy adventure for youngsters. When the winner and two runners-up were announced for the Poetry Competition, I was delighted that all three poets are students of mine – and to cap it all, I also won a book in the raffle. On Friday morning I was teaching and then in the afternoon I had a meeting with the very nice chap who looks after my website to discuss the changes I’m hoping to make throughout the year.

Yesterday, I drove to Ringwood to stay over with my parents, who then took me to a lovely restaurant, The Jetty, in Christchurch. Unfortunately, the rain swept in, so the views of the wonderful natural harbour at Christchurch were a tad murky, though the fabulous food more than made up for it. We had a lovely drive through the New Forest this morning in bright sunshine and a wonderful cooked breakfast, before a cosy chat with Mum – the time sped by and I drove home before it got dark. The only thing that spoilt the weekend was that my sister was due to come with me, but was ill so couldn’t make it.

This coming week is half term, so I am hoping to get through loads of work. Have a great week, everyone!

This week I have read:

Going Grey – Book 1 of the Ringer series by Karen Traviss
Who do you think you are? Ian Dunlap doesn’t know. When he looks in the mirror, he’s never sure if he’ll see a stranger. After years of isolation, thinking he’s crazy, he discovers he’s the product of an illegal fringe experiment in biotechnology that enables him to alter his appearance at will. And the only people he can trust to help him find out who and what he is are two former soldiers trying to make their way in the high-stakes world of private security. He’s got a unique and disturbing skill: they can help him to harness it—and maybe even learn to accept it. Set ten years from today, these three unlikely allies search for identity and loyalty in an uncertain world.

This is an entertaining, action-packed military sci fi adventure with some engaging characters and lots going on.

No Time Like the Past – Book 5 of The Chronicles of St Mary’s by Jodi Taylor
St Mary’s has been rebuilt and it’s business as usual for the History department. But first, there’s the little matter of a seventeenth-century ghost that only Mr Markham can see. Not to mention the minor inconvenience of being trapped in the Great Fire of London…and an unfortunately-timed comfort break at Thermopylae leaving the fate of the western world hanging in the balance.

Re-join Max’s madcap journey through time in Jodi Taylor’s fifth inter-dimensional instalment No Time Like the Past.

Jodi Taylor nails it again. I love this wonderfully chaotic series, packed full of action, humour and tragedy. There aren’t many books that have me laughing aloud and sniffling into a hanky within a handful of pages – but this series does it every time.

My posts last week:

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Shadow Play: A British Police Procedural – Book 20 of the Bill Slider series by Cynthia Harrod-Eagles

Teaser Tuesday featuring No Time Like the Past – Book 5 of The Chronicles of St Marys by Jodi Taylor

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Keeper of the Watch – Book 1 of the Dimension 7 series by Kristen L. Jackson

Friday Face-off – My, what big teeth you have… featuring Spellwright – Book 1 of the Spellwright trilogy by Blake Charlton

Reblog of Review of Running Out of Space (Sunblinded: 1) by S.J. Higbee

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

… what happens when there’s no bullet to bite on…
https://seumasgallacher.com/2018/02/09/what-happens-when-theres-no-bullet-to-bite-on/ This cautionary tale needs a strong stomach – be warned – DON’T click on this link if you have recently eaten.

Conquerors of the Useless – A Winter of Rock Climbing https://roamwildandfree.com/2018/02/08/conquerers-of-the-useless-a-winter-of-rock-climbing/ More stunning pictures that also left me a tad queasy, but for a completely different reason…

Senior Moments https://blogging807.wordpress.com/2018/02/06/senior-moments/ And a drop of humour…

10 of the Best Poems of Farewell https://interestingliterature.com/2018/02/07/10-of-the-best-poems-of-farewell/ Another excellent article from this site.

People are Making Books Out of Jellyfish Now https://kristentwardowski.wordpress.com/2018/02/06/people-are-making-books-out-of-jellyfish-now/ It is a really good post, but one of the reasons I included it was because of that amazing title.

Thank you very much for taking the time and trouble to visit, like and comment on my site.

Teaser Tuesday – 6th February, 2018

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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:

No Time Like the Past – Book 5 of The Chronicles of St Marys series by Jodi Taylor

49% Things were hotting up in the local farmers’ market where smelly cheese and oddly shaped sausages were being purchased with enthusiasm, especially after sampling thimblefuls of assorted murky and very sticky drinks, which invariably resulted in a sharp intake of breath, a momentary loss of vision, and utterances of ‘Wow! I’ll definitely have a bottle of that! No, make it two!’ People were staggering away with slightly less control over their limbs than they had previously enjoyed.

BLURB: St Mary’s has been rebuilt and it’s business as usual for the History department.
But first, there’s the little matter of a seventeenth-century ghost that only Mr Markham can see. Not to mention the minor inconvenience of being trapped in the Great Fire of London…and an unfortunately-timed comfort break at Thermopylae leaving the fate of the western world hanging in the balance.

I have had a very hectic week, followed by an intense week-end at the marvellous 20 Books 2018 Conference at Runneymede. So I wanted something both funny and action-packed to take me to somewhere completely different – and I don’t know anyone else who does it better than Jodi Taylor’s wonderful time travelling adventure series, which can have me laughing aloud and blinking back tears in the course of a handful of pages. Wonderful stuff!

Can’t-Wait Wednesday – 27th December, 2017

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40276268 – vintage old pocket watch and book

Can’t-Wait Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted at Wishful Endings, to spotlight and discuss the books we’re excited about that we have yet to read. Generally they’re books that have yet to be released. It’s based on Waiting on Wednesday, hosted by the fabulous Jill at Breaking the Spine.

This week’s Can’t-Wait offering – WaR: Wizards and Robots by Will.i.am and Brian David Johnson

#young adult/children’s #science fiction #fantasy #adventure

When a young man breaks into her home claiming her life is in danger, Ada Luring’s world changes forever. Geller is a wizard, on the run from his father’s hidden clan who want to kill Ada and her mother. Sara Luring is the scientist who will create the first robot, the wizards’ age-old foes.

But a robot has travelled back in time to find Ada, and will lay everything on the line to protect her, as she may just be the key to preventing the earth’s destruction in the future.

Ada, Geller and the robots must learn to work together to change the past and secure the future. But they don’t have much time before a mysterious enemy launches its attack on Earth…

This sounds like a mash-up where Terminator meets Ursula LeGuin’s Left Hand of Darkness. To be honest, it was the sheer weirdness of the blurb that had me requesting the arc of this offering – that and the fabulous cover. As well as the fact that the authors clearly know their history – Ada Lovelace, notable mathematician and daughter of Lord Byron and Luring, which sounds very similar to Alan Turing, genius and credited with breaking the crucial code that helped to bring WWII to an end. I like those kinds of word associations and appreciate it when authors play those types of games. I’m looking forward to tucking into this offering in due course…

 

ANNDDD…

 

A Bohemian Mind at Work is featuring Dying for Space as part of the blog tour

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc Gnomon by Nick Harkaway

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I enjoyed Angelmaker and loved The Gone-Away World, so when I saw this one on Netgalley, I immediately requested it.

Gnomon, which took Harkaway more than three years to complete, is set in a world of ubiquitous surveillance. Pitched as “a mind-bending Borgesian puzzle box of identity, meaning and reality in which the solution steps sideways as you approach it”, it features: a detective who finds herself investigating the very society she believes in, urged on by a suspect who may be an assassin or an ally, hunting through the dreams of a torture victim in search of the key to something she does not yet understand; a banker who is pursued by a shark that swallows Fortune 500 companies; Saint Augustine’s jilted mistress who reshapes the world with miracles; a refugee grandfather turned games designer who must remember how to walk through walls or be burned alive by fascists; and a sociopath who falls backwards through time in order to commit a murder.

I normally read quite quickly – I’ve read 157 books so far this year. But this one took me nearly two weeks to complete. Partly it’s the fact that it is something of a doorstopper at over 700 pages, but the main reason was that early on I took the decision that I wouldn’t speed-read through this one. The prose is too rich, too dense – there are too many allusions and clues scattered throughout and as you may have gathered from the blurb, the structure isn’t all that straightforward, either.

It might have been tempting to have accelerated through it if I hadn’t been enjoying the experience so much. Harkaway is a remarkable writer and this is him at the peak of his capabilities. For all the depth and complexity, I found the book highly readable and engrossing. It would have been a real shame to have thrown away the experience by trying to skim through it. The writing is immersive and each character has their own flavour so that after a while, it only took a couple of lines to realise whose head I was in. Essentially, it is a thriller. But the puzzle is far more of the slow-burn variety, which doesn’t stop there being some jaw-dropping twists near the end.

For all their quirkiness, I was fond of all the characters, though my favourites remained dogged, persistent Inspector Mielikki Neith whose investigation of the untimely death of Diana Hunter in custody triggers the whole chain of events – and fierce, beautiful Athenais, once-mistress to Saint Augustine, before he decided to become so saintly. The characterisation is masterly and as I’m a sucker for character-led stories, it was their vividness and sheer oddness that sucked me in and kept me reading.

I also feel a similar anger that sparks through the book – the apathy of too many of us, the blind belief that if we put in place a whole raft of cameras and electronic surveillance, it will somehow be alright, no matter who ends up at the helm and in charge. This is a remarkable, brave book, deliberately constructed and written on an epic scale. Does it work? Oh yes. I loved it, but my firm advice would be – don’t rush it. If you try reading this one in a hurry, you’ll end up throwing it out of the window – and given its size, it may cause serious injury if it hits someone…

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

Friday Faceoff – The Color Purple…

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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 the one we prefer. This week the theme is purple covers, so I’ve chosen Mendoza in Hollywood – Book 3 of The Company novels by Kage Baker, which happens to be one of my favourite books of all time.

 

This cover produced by Tor Books in April 2007 is the purple one and is definitely my favourite. Although I’m a tad allergic to having such a strong protagonist featured on the cover as my mental picture isn’t anything like this, I’ll forgive that as all the other main elements of the book are reasonably accurately represented here. I particularly like the depiction of the unspoilt countryside before Hollywood becomes established and so many plants are lost.

 

This offering was produced by Tor Books in May 2006 and is another strong contender. I do prefer this version of Mendoza, who I think did dress up as a saloon girl in some of their evening entertainments, if my memory serves me well.

 

This earlier edition, produced by Eos in July 2001, is where it all starts to go wrong. While the artwork and overall design is subtle and detailed with lots of allusions to the content, the whole effect is ruined when some bright spark decides to write the equivalent of chapter one across the top of the cover in white against the black background. Immediately this is where our gaze is drawn to, rather than the clever design.

 

Produced in March 2003 by Mondadori, this Italian edition is clearly going for a retro look harking back to the science fiction covers of the 1960s and 70s. I think it’s a shame the design only covers a relatively small circle in the middle of the white expanse, given the quirky subject matter and once again, the cover design is blighted by that ugly block splatted across the top. What about you – which is your favourite?

Friday Faceoff – Checkmate

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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 the one we prefer. This week the theme is black and white covers, so I’ve chosen Blackout – Book 1 of the All Clear series by Connie Willis.

 

This cover produced by Spectra Books in February 2010 is the original. I love the way we get small bubbles of action in amongst the shifting dark pattern – an attractive design that nicely echoes the content of this time-travelling adventure. This one is my favourite.

 

This offering was produced by Gollancz in June 2011 and is another strong contender. The cloud revealing the London skyline from the surrounding black cover is another strong, simple design that is both eye-catching and effective.

 

This French edition was published by J’ai lu in March 2014. The iconic view of Westminster surrounded by smoke smearing the sky would certainly make me look again and though I’m not a fan of solid blocks of colour as a backdrop for the title and author, this time the blue works very well.

 

Produced in September 2010 by Allen and Unwin, this Kindle edition is another successful effort. The greyscale shading works well as the girl is unmistakeably from the late 1930s/early 1940s. The red tinge near the top of the cover just behind the ruin gives a slight sense of menace – and a big clue as to the setting of the book.

 

Published in February 2010 by Spectra Books, this hardback edition is the most generic of the covers and my least favourite. It has clearly been taken from a photograph of the time and I think the overall design is further weakened by a rather limp title font. Which cover do you like best – and which is your least favourite?