Category Archives: troubled hero

Can’t-Wait Wednesday – 3rd January, 2018

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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 – Keeper of the Watch – Book 1 of the Dimension 7 series by Kristen L. Jackson

#young adult #science fiction #fantasy #adventure

Chase Walker is beginning to doubt his own sanity. From the moment he turned eighteen, a strange paranoia has taken over his mind. It all started the moment he discovered his uncle’s old watch…

The watch calls to him. Though it beckons, he resists. His body strains toward it, blood pulsing, heart pounding in a mysterious and primitive need to connect with his uncle’s old beat up watch. When sexy and mysterious Alyx saves his life, she promises answers. She talks of dimension travel, and wears a magical watch of her own…

Again, I fell for the cool-looking cover and liked the idea of the blurb, which seems to indicate some kind of time travel. I’m looking forward to starting this one as I’m still on a science fiction kick.

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Review of KINDLE Ebook Year One – Book 1 of the Chronicles of The One by Nora Roberts

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I’d seen this one around, before reading the glowing review by The Tattooed Book Geek which encouraged me to get hold of it. Would I enjoy it too?

It began on New Year’s Eve. The sickness came on suddenly, and spread quickly. The fear spread even faster. Within weeks, everything people counted on began to fail them. The electrical grid sputtered; law and government collapsed—and more than half of the world’s population was decimated. Where there had been order, there was now chaos. And as the power of science and technology receded, magic rose up in its place. Some of it is good, like the witchcraft worked by Lana Bingham, practicing in the loft apartment she shares with her lover, Max. Some of it is unimaginably evil, and it can lurk anywhere, around a corner, in fetid tunnels beneath the river—or in the ones you know and love the most.

My first piece of advice would be to avoid reading the rest of the blurb which is far too chatty and gives away more plot than necessary. That said, this one doesn’t hang about, though the first section is grim as the world we know and enjoy falls apart. Amongst the swathe of characters that we meet only to watch them die, are a handful that keep going despite the odds. While Roberts doesn’t indulge in any gratuitous violence, there are inevitably some scenes where horrible things happen and as has been noted in other reviews, she doesn’t flinch from those events, either.

I particularly enjoyed the twist where a proportion of the survivors find they have a magical ability awakening. Max and Lana both have this ability and though Max has possessed a magical talent before the Doom strikes, his power becomes stronger. The storyline involving these two is the engine that powers the narrative arc forward as they are essentially the principle protagonists, although there are a few other characters in a supporting role. There is a price to pay – normal survivors are starting to turn on the Uncanny, as they are termed, and not without reason. Though there are many like Max and Lana who use their powers only to defend themselves and help others, there are others whose magical abilities are far darker. And without any law and order, they are running amok.

As might be expected by a storyteller with Roberts’ experience, the pacing and narrative are ably handled – I had more or less expected certain events to unspool in a particular way. But just when I was settling into the rhythm of what I thought would happen – Roberts throws a massive wrench into the story and it suddenly takes a left turn into a very different direction that left me scrambling to catch up – I love it when that happens. The ending is strong with Roberts tying up all the plotlines so the story arc has a satisfying conclusion, yet leaving a couple of dangling plot points waving in the wind so we want to return to discover what happens next. Which I certainly want to do as this was a thoroughly enjoyable experience.
9/10

 

ANNDDD…

The HufflepuffNerdette features an excerpt from Dying for Space and an article from me on my favourite space opera heroines

Friday Faceoff – Hubble, Bubble, Toil and Trouble…

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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 potion or perfume bottle, so I’ve stretched the idea of a potion a little further and selected Strong Poison – Book 6 of the Lord Peter Wimsey series by Dorothy L. Sayers.

 

This cover, produced by HarperCollins Publishers in October 1987, is boring given the fabulous premise and what is at stake in this stunning book. Wimsey’s unexpected burst of passion for a desperate woman fighting for her life doesn’t remotely factor into this vanilla cover. There’s nothing innately wrong with it, other than its complete lack of excitement or connection with the gripping content.

 

This edition was produced by Open Road Media in July 2012 and looks as if it took all of 10 minutes using an off-the-shelf graphics program. This book deserves better.

 

Published in March 1995 by HarperTorch, this cover is deliberately harking back to the 1930s when this book first appeared. The large title font and relatively small area given over to the artwork may not be to my taste, but I can at least respect the care and attention that has gone into the drawing, which takes three crucial scenes from the book and illustrates them.

 

This HarperCollins offering, published in 1993, ticks all the boxes as far as I’m concerned. I love the punchy colours and strong art deco feel, along with the detailed depiction of the crucial medium scene in the book. This is my favourite – I even like the black edging, which is unusual for me. But this time around, it has the period styling and small details that turn it into part of the cover rather than a blank interruption of the artwork that so many of these solid blocks of colour and bordering tend to do.

 

Produced in October 2009, this pink and grey effort by Hodder & Stoughton will certainly draw the eye and is clearly designed to work as a thumbnail. The imagery is stark and crude in comparison to some of the earlier efforts and the colour garish, but I suppose it grabs the attention. However, it doesn’t do the book justice in my opinion. Which is your favourite?

ANNDDD…

Chuckles at Chuckles Book Cave is promoting both Running Out of Space and Dying for Space

ANNDDD…

Mello & June, It’s a Book Thang are featuring an except from Dying for Space

Teaser Tuesday – 12th December, 2017

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

This is my choice of the day:

The Frequency of Aliens – Book 2 of the Sorrow Falls series by Gene Doucette

58% The Groton naval base had the necessary security while the naval vessels mostly did not – the military still didn’t entirely trust wifi – so until Ed reached Groton, he was unable to retrieve what ended up being an absurdly massive number of messages.
The messages arrived in multiple ways: emails, voicemails, and text messages. They didn’t necessarily add up to anything individually, but taken as a whole it was clear a lot had gone wrong in the few weeks he’d been out of the country.

BLURB: Becoming an overnight celebrity at age sixteen should have been a lot more fun. Yes, there were times when it was extremely cool, but when the newness of it all wore off, Annie Collins was left with a permanent security detail and the kind of constant scrutiny that makes the college experience especially awkward.

Not helping matters: she’s the only kid in school with her own pet spaceship.

She would love it if things found some kind of normal, but as long as she has control of the most lethal—and only—interstellar vehicle in existence, that isn’t going to happen. Worse, things appear to be going in the other direction. Instead of everyone getting used to the idea of the ship, the complaints are getting louder. Public opinion is turning, and the demands that Annie turn over the ship are becoming more frequent. It doesn’t help that everyone seems to think Annie is giving them nightmares.

Nightmares aren’t the only weird things going on lately. A government telescope in California has been abandoned, and nobody seems to know why.

The man called on to investigate—Edgar Somerville—has become the go-to guy whenever there’s something odd going on, which has been pretty common lately. So far, nothing has panned out: no aliens or zombies or anything else that might be deemed legitimately peculiar… but now may be different, and not just because Ed can’t find an easy explanation. This isn’t the only telescope where people have gone missing, and the clues left behind lead back to Annie.

This week I’m reading another alien encounter quite different from last week’s offering. In amongst the paranoia and fear, there is also a humorous edge which I’m enjoying. However, I’m beginning to think there is something nasty OUT THERE and it has humanity in its sights…

Review of The Medusa’s Daughter – Book 1 of The Mask of Medusa series by T.O. Munro

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I met the author during a late-night session at the bar at Bristolcon 2016 – a marvellous evening and it ended up with him giving me a review copy. I’m ashamed it’s taken me so long to get around to reading it…

Haunted by very different pasts, three travellers journey together across a continent riven by clashes of faith and race. Odestus, the war criminal flees from justice. Persapha, new to all things human, yearns for a way and a place to belong. Marcus Fenwell, schooled in diverse talents, seeks a future beyond a wine bottle. But past and future entwine to snare them all, for the Medusa has not been forgotten nor her daughter forgiven.

As it happens, that very snappy, non-spoiler blurb neatly sums up the ongoing structure of the book. We follow the fortunes of all three of these interesting characters as events unspool around them. This is complicated by the fact that one of the characters is in a very tricky position in a timeline ahead of when the rest of the action takes place.

Munro certainly knows how to wind up the tension as we witness one of the protagonists being interrogated in fairly dire circumstances – before switching to one of the other characters. The focus of the book is the title heroine, Persapha, who has had a very peculiar start in life, having been hatched from an egg and raised by reptiles. We are alongside as she starts to pick her way through a busy city filled with humans, who she finds difficult to understand. I found myself genuinely concerned on her behalf as the dangerously innocent girl uses her mother’s mask to try and discover what happened to her.

The magic system is skilfully handled and I really enjoyed the world, which works well. There are some nice twists in the political landscape that I appreciated and the characterisation is convincing with plenty of depth. However, I was more distanced from the main protagonists than I would have liked as Munro tends to drift out of viewpoint and into a semi-omniscient point of view. While I am aware that plenty of readers still enjoy this story-telling structure, it gives the book a slightly old-fashioned feel and left me a little frustrated. Given the depth and complexity of the characters, I would have appreciated a more immersive approach to fully hook me into the story, though this is very much a personal preference.

That said, it is still very well written with plenty going on and a gathering momentum towards the end. Before it all comes to a juddering halt. Not a single storyline is resolved – every single one of the main plotlines is left on a cliffhanger after reading over 600 pages. I am aware that a second book is in the works, but I would have liked some payoff for getting to the end of the first volume in this series.
8/10

Friday Faceoff – Do not go gentle…

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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 night, or the dark, so I’ve chosen Knights of the Borrowed Dark – Book 1 of Knights of the Borrowed Dark trilogy by Dave Rudden.

 

This cover, produced by Puffin in April 2016, is not my favourite, but like all these covers it is a strong contender. I like the fact that Denizen looks the right age and as the light pours from his hands, the creatures lurking in the gloom are suitably menacing, thus accurately reflecting the content in this outstanding children’s fantasy series. I love the strapline, but I’m not a fan of the title font, which is rather boring.

 

This edition was produced by Puffin in January 2017 has a more grandiose backdrop, though the boy looks older which I think is a bit of a shame. That said, the excellent writing and great adventure ought to be enjoyed by anyone in their early teens, as well as younger children. The title font is still rather boring, but reasonably inoffensive and the cover still accurately reflects the content.

 

Published in August 2016 by Random House, I really like this cover. The sword wreathed in blue coruscating fire glows from the cover, as the dark roils in the background. As for the title font – that’s just what a cool title like this needs! The title now delivers depth and suitable awesomeness that promises – and delivers – a cracking adventure you won’t easily forget. This is my second favourite cover.

 

This German offering, published in April 2016 by Sauerländer ticks all the boxes as far as I’m concerned. I love the cover as it features the depth and breadth of the world, with Denizen standing in the middle. I also like the font, which is attractively displayed and again, reinforces the impression that this is a strong series with a gritted struggle between Light and Dark. This cover is my favourite. What about you – which of these is your favourite?

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc Deadly Dance – Book 1 of the D.I. David Vogel by Hilary Bonner

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I was drawn to this one because it is set in Bristol and the fact it is the first in a series, so I requested the arc.

The discovery of the partially-clothed body of a teenage girl in the heart of Bristol’s red light district indicates a tragic yet familiar scenario. But this marks the start of a baffling murder investigation where nothing is as it first appears. Fourteen-year-old Melanie Cooke told her mother she was visiting a school friend. Who was she really going to meet? Detective Inspector David Vogel is led towards three very different principal protagonists, each of whom grows increasingly chilling. But are they what they seem? And is any one of them capable of murder? A darkly complex secret lies behind Melanie’s death – and its ultimate revelation will shock Vogel and his team to the core.

I’ll be honest, I wasn’t sure whether I’d done the right thing in requesting this murder mystery thriller. There are four narrators throughout this tense thriller – D.I. Vogel’s point of view, which is in third person and three first-person viewpoints, who are three tormented young men who are struggling to fit into society – Leo, Al and Saul. As we keep returning to their ongoing battles to come to terms with their impulses, I found myself feeling some sympathy with the crippling loneliness that is evident within all three of them.

By comparison, I found David’s character rather pallid – he isn’t exactly Mr Charisma anyway, but while it becomes increasingly imperative that he solves the mystery, I was tempted to skim his scenes at home with his wife. The third person viewpoint simply doesn’t have the punch and immediacy of the three antagonists – I’m assuming this device is a deliberate ploy, but I don’t think it is wholly successful. It seems to me that one of the major tasks of a first book is to establish the protagonist as a strong, sympathetic character, even if he isn’t completely likeable and I’m not sure that Bonner has ticked that box with this book.

Where she triumphantly succeeds however, is in delivering a gripping page-turner. For as the story progresses, each of these three characters are increasingly mired in a mess of their own making. I was watching each of them begin to unravel and there was no question of my putting the book down until I discovered who did what to whom. The gathering tension as the stakes are steadily raised and the handling of the denouement and resulting fallout is beautifully handled. This book is recommended for those who like their police procedural thrillers tense and gritty. While I obtained the arc of Deadly Dance from the publisher via NetGalley, this has in no way influenced my unbiased review
8/10

Friday Faceoff – The Pen is Mightier than the Sword

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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 fancy font, so I’ve chosen Assassin’s Apprentice – Book 1 of The Farseer Trilogy by Robin Hobb.

 

This cover, produced by Spectra in March 1996, is not my favourite, however I still like it. The content is directly applicable to the cover and I particularly like the shadowed stag and birds wheeling in the air. While my preference is not to have the main character featured on the cover – it always jars with my mental image – this depiction isn’t offensively different, other than being rather better fed and groomed than the scrawny, feral character I always imagined Fitz to be.

 

This edition was produced by Voyager in March 1996 and is far less eye-catching. The generic ship in a rough sea could be headed anywhere and the small inset headshots don’t really add very much. I do like the design around the title and author fonts, which are at least an improvement on the usual wretched rectangular blocks plonked in the middle of the artwork. However, the overall greyness wouldn’t encourage me to pluck this one off the shelves.

 

Published in November 2002 by Spectra, edition manages to evoke the sense of magic. The deep blue is attractive and I like the fact that Fitz is stroking a dog while Spymaster Chade has his hand upon the boy’s head in a somewhat threatening manner. The castle in the background emphasises the sense that Fitz isn’t free to come and go as he pleases. Overall, I think this cover works really well and is a close contender.

 

This edition, published in 2011 by Voyager fulfils the brief as far the fancy font is concerned and also happens to be my favourite. Given that Fitz is writing his memoirs throughout this trilogy, I really like the effect that this is an old parchment and the lovely flowing font is both beautiful and eye-catching.

 

This Spanish edition also caught my eye – and this time the fancy font is featuring Robin Hobb’s name, which seems a smart marketing move, given just how famous she is. Published in June 2014 by Plaza & Janés México, I love the layers of action fading into the sky as the boy on horseback trots through the landscape, looking rather lonely. Which one is your favourite?

Teaser Tuesday – 28th November, 2017

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

This is my choice of the day:

Bound – Book 8 of the Alex Verus series by Benedict Jacka
p. 60 I started walking south, along the towpath and Talisid matched my pace. ‘I understand that your current situation is less than ideal,’ he offered when I didn’t speak.
‘That’s something of an understatement.’
‘We’d be willing to offer compensation.’
‘Do you know what Richard would do if he found out that I was spying on him?’
‘No.’
‘Nothing,’ I said. ‘Not personally. He’d give me to Morden instead. Or if he was feeling really sadistic, to Vihaela. Do you know what they would do?’

BLURB: Alex Verus can see the future. But he never thought he’d see this day. Manoeuvred by forces beyond his control, the probability mage has made a terrible choice: he’s agreed to work for his old master once more.
Richard Drakh, the sadistic dark mage Alex escaped as an apprentice, has him in his clutches again. And this time, he won’t let go so easily.

I love this series – see my review here of the first book Fated. Benedict’s depiction of a  mage with prescient abilities is outstanding. So when I saw this one on the library shelves, I had to have it. And it’s immediately pulled me into Alex’s dire situation… I’ll be reviewing this one in due course.

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of INDIE arc The Hidden Face – Book 1 of The Fifth Unmasking series by S.C. Flynn

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This puzzle-driven epic fantasy was offered to me by the author as I had read and reviewed his debut novel Children of the Different. Would this one impress me as much?

A face without a face – an unmasking that leaves the mask. Once every few hundred years the sun god, the Akhen, takes on human form and descends to earth. Each Unmasking of the Face of the Akhen ends one era and begins another; the last one created the Faustian Empire. Where and when will the Face next appear, and who will he – or she – be?

Dayraven, son of a great hero, returns to Faustia after years as a hostage of their rivals, the Magians. Those years have changed him, but Faustia has changed as well; the emperor Calvo now seems eccentric and is controlled by one of Dayraven’s old enemies. Following the brutal murder of his old teacher, Dayraven is drawn, together with a female warrior named Sunniva, into the search for an ancient secret that would change the fate of empires.

I liked both protagonists, Dayraven in particular. In common with a lot of high-born children, he has been sent to a neighbouring kingdom as surety for good behaviour and brought up in their court. But while he expected to return home within a handful of years, he has to wait a lot longer before returning home to discover all is changed – and not in a good way. Flynn’s unfussy writing style quickly drew me into the story as Dayraven finds out just who his enemies are, while he hurries to meet up with his former tutor and mentor.

And from then, the story nocks up another notch and we are whisked along with Dayraven, who begins to appreciate there is a lot more at stake than Emperor Calvo’s current mental confusion. Once he encounters Sunniva and they form a team, they begin to try to unpick the trail of clues left behind by the two guardians of these vital secrets. Together, they manage to uncover part of the mystery – but a number of formidable antagonists are in close pursuit.

I have seen this book rated as YA – do be aware that while the puzzle-solving aspect may appeal to teens, this one isn’t suitable for a younger age-group. I would not be happy to discover my thirteen-year-old granddaughter reading it as there is a fair amount of sexual content, including a rather explicit sex scene.

Other than that concern, I enjoyed this one. I particularly appreciated the depiction of the antagonists as we discover their motives and why they are trying to find out where the Fifth Unmasking will take place. This works well in powering the story forward as the reader is left in no doubt as to what will happen should the secrets fall into the wrong hands.

The storyline comes to a climactic denouement with plenty of action and drama that had the pages turning and bringing this particular slice of the adventure to a satisfactory close – though there are several major plotpoints left dangling as the story evidently will be continued in the next book. Recommended for epic fantasy fans with a taste for arcane mysteries embedded within the worldbuilding.
8/10