Category Archives: Uncategorized

Teaser Tuesday – 7th February, 2016

Standard

tuesdayTeaser 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 Bear and the Serpent by Adrian Tchaikovksy
31% It had not Stepped, but it flew, wings shimmering from its back. It cursed Yellow Claw andthebearandtheserpent cursed all of them with nonsense sounds as it hovered up near the cave’s ceiling, before the horrified eyes of the priests. The gaping emptiness within it dragged at their souls, jealous for what it could not have.
Loud Thunder did not sleep that night, and he reckoned the rest wouldn’t either.

BLURB: Maniye, child of Wolf and Tiger, has a new soul and a new shape. But as Champion of the Crown of the World, does she represent an opportunity for the North – or a threat? Travelling as a bodyguard to the Southern prince, with her warband of outcasts, she hopes to finally discover her true place in the world, though she is quickly pitchforked in the middle of a crisis that puts her at the eye of a political storm.

Yet all the while, an enemy from the most ancient of times prepares for conquest, and could destroy everything in their path…

This is the sequel to Tchaikovsky’s impressive The Tiger and the Wolf , released last year. If you like epic fantasy and also enjoy shape-shifting protagonists, then  track down the first book in this excellent series. This sequel is shaping up to be every bit as enjoyable and full of incident as it takes our cast of characters onward through this adventure. I shall be reviewing this one in due course.

Creative Writing and Resources for Writers: An Interview with Teacher and Sci-Fi Author S. J. Higbee

Standard

Many thanks to Kristen for her interview and the chance to talk about my Creative Writing courses.

Kristen Twardowski

To add another wonderful addition to my series of interviews with editors, writers, and other book adjacent individuals, I am thrilled to present my conversation with Sarah J. Higbee, author and creative writing teacher extraordinaire. She provides great tips for new writers as well as insight into what makes people return to science fiction again and again.

You can also explore the other interviews in this series, including one with Editorial Director Alison Hennessey and another with author  E. Michael Helms.

Sarah Higbee.jpgBio:
Sarah J. Higbee is a science fiction author and creative writing teacher at Northbrook College in England. In addition to working on her full length novels, Sarah has published a variety of magazine articles, poems and short stories including “How Words Were Invented” from Abandoned Towers and “Picky Eaters” from Every Day Fiction. Her latest story “Miranda’s Tempest” was published in the anthology Eve of…

View original post 819 more words

Friday Faceoff – A Room Without Books Is Like a Body Without a Soul…

Standard

This meme was started by Books by Proxy, whose fabulous idea was to compare UK and US book covers and decide which is we prefer. This week the theme is books, so I’ve chosen The Physic Book of Deliverance Dane by Katherine Howe.

 

physicbookofdeliveranceThis is the offering produced by Hyperion Books in May 2009. It’s a beautiful, eye-catching cover, depicting the old fragile book that has been passed down through the family. This is my favourite cover.

 

physicbookofdeliverance1This cover produced by Voice in April 2010 takes several of the main elements from the original design, but has included the figure which I think makes it look rather cluttered and messy.

 

physicbookofdeliverance2This cover, produced by Penguin, also depicts a book with another title – I’m assuming it’s for the US market – but the tone is way off. The book isn’t horror, but it is certainly grittier and more hardhitting than this rather flowery, fanciful design conveys.

 

physicbookofdeliverance3Whereas this German edition, produced by Page & Turner in August 2009, has gone to the other extreme. This cover suggests severed goats heads and frantic virgins tethered to the altar, which isn’t what this book is about, either. If I’d picked it up thinking that’s what I was getting I’d be thoroughly fed up, so it isn’t doing its job.

2016 Discovery Challenge – How Did I Do?

Standard

After reading Jo Hall’s post here, I decided to join this challenge and set myself the target of reading and reviewing at least two books a month by women authors I’ve not previously encountered. For a variety of reasons, 2016 proved to be my best reading year, ever. So I actually read and reviewed 45 books by women I haven’t read before. There were so many great authors in that group and my top five are included in my outstanding books of 2016 – see here. So I want to feature my top five very near misses in no particular order:-

Radiance by Cathrynne M. Valente
radianceI enjoy being a Netgalley reader – it pushes me out of my comfort zone every so often. I’m not sure I would have picked up this offering if it hadn’t been on offer, given the description was a decopunk pulp SF alt-history space opera mystery set in a Hollywood-and solar system-very different from our own. Severin Unck’s father is a famous director of Gothic romances in an alternate 1986 in which talking movies are still a daring innovation due to the patent-hoarding Edison family. Rebelling against her father’s films of passion, intrigue, and spirits from beyond, Severin starts making documentaries, traveling through space and investigating the levitator cults of Neptune and the lawless saloons of Mars. For this is not our solar system, but one drawn from classic science fiction in which all the planets are inhabited and we travel through space on beautiful rockets. Severin is a realist in a fantastic universe.

For starters, this is a novel with a fractured timeline, so the story skips around and is told in a mixture of interviews, gossip and through extracts of old classic film, among other narrative modes. Therefore you need to pay attention. Initially I wondered what I was getting myself into – for the sheer oddness of the world wasn’t anything I was prepared for, given that I’m allergic to reading any kind of blurb. Was it worth the effort? Oh, yes.

 

Machinations – Book 1 of the Machinations series by Hayley Stone
The machines have risen, but not out of malice. They were simply following a command: to stop the machinationsendless wars that have plagued the world throughout history. Their solution was perfectly logical. To end the fighting, they decided to end the human race. A potent symbol of the resistance, Rhona Long has served on the front lines of the conflict since the first Machinations began—until she is killed during a rescue mission gone wrong. Now Rhona awakens to find herself transported to a new body, complete with her DNA, her personality, even her memories. She is a clone . . . of herself. Trapped in the shadow of the life she once knew, the reincarnated Rhona must find her place among old friends and newfound enemies—and quickly. For the machines are inching closer to exterminating humans for good. And only Rhona, whoever she is now, can save them.

I also read and reviewed the second book, Counterpart in this intriguing series. There are indications that Stone is still feeling her way – this is, after all, her debut novel and the machines weren’t particularly vividly drawn – but I have never read a book where the issue of cloning has been so thoroughly and emotionally examined. Despite its flaws, this one has stayed with me.

 

The Fettered Flame – Book 2 of the Shkode series by E.D.E. Bell
thefetteredflameThe Fettered Flame is a genre-bending fantasy novel that continues the saga of two dying worlds, plagued by their own unique struggles for power. Follow the journeys of Cor – a woman striving to understand her powers of magic and how the connect to her past, Atesh – her contemplative dragon companion, and Jwala – a dragon plunged into a rebirth of ancient ideals. The Fettered Flame is the second instalment in the Shkode trilogy: a quirky and modern take on dragons and wizards, exploring themes of identity, prejudice, violence, compassion, and the ways we are all connected.

I was sufficiently impressed to seek out the first book, The Banished Craft, in this science fiction/fantasy mashup. The blurb may sound a bit gushy, but it is spot on. This is epic fantasy with a sci fi twist and I’m looking forward to reading the next instalment when it is released as I love the characters and Bell’s quirky, insightful take on the world she has created.

 

Rosemary and Rue – Book 1 of the Toby Daye series by Seanan McGuire
October “Toby” Daye, a changeling who is half human and half fae, has been an outsider from birth. rosemaryandrueAfter getting burned by both sides of her heritage, Toby has denied the Faerie world, retreating to a “normal” life. Unfortunately for her, the Faerie world has other ideas…

I loved McGuire’s writing and went on to read her wonderful novella Every Heart a Doorway. One of my promises to myself is to continue reading more of the Toby Daye series in 2017.

 

Rebel of the Sands – Book 1 of the Rebel of the Sands series by Alywn Hamilton
rebelofthesandsMortals rule the desert nation of Miraji, but mystical beasts still roam the wild and barren wastes, and rumor has it that somewhere, djinni still practice their magic. But there’s nothing mystical or magical about Dustwalk, the dead-end town that Amani can’t wait to escape from. Destined to wind up “wed or dead,” Amani’s counting on her sharpshooting skills to get her out of Dustwalk, but things don’t go according to plan…

Hamilton’s punchy, accomplished writing grabbed me from the first page and didn’t let go until the end of this adrenaline-fuelled ride. Amani is a feisty heroine who attracts trouble like iron filings to a magnet and I found this one really hard to put down until it was finished and am very much looking forward to reading the sequel.

 

Given I nearly doubled the target number of women authors I read and reviewed, should I increase my goal for 2017? I’ve decided against doing so. One of the reasons why 2016 was such a bumper reading year was because I wasn’t writing. Editing and rewriting, yes – but I wrote nothing new. So reading became a refuge that I don’t normally crave so intensely as diving into a new world of my own for the first time tends to thoroughly tick that box. Therefore, I shall launch my 2017 Discovery Challenge with the target of reading and reviewing at least two books a month by women writers previously unknown to me. And if I have half as much joy in the coming year as I’ve had reading this year’s offerings, I shall be very happy, indeed.

What about you? Did you set yourself any reading challenges in 2016 – and if so, how have you got on? Do you intend to continue them into 2017?

Discovery Challenge Books I Read in 2016
1. The Puppet Boy of Warsaw by Eva Weaver
2. Truthwitch – Book 1 of the Witchlands series by Susan Dennard
3. Gold, Fame, Citrus by Claire Vaye Watkins
4. Daughter of Smoke and Bone – Book 1 of the Daughter of Smoke and Bone series by Laini Taylor
5. Heart of Obsidian – Book 12 of the Psy-Changeling series by Nalini Singh
6. Radiance by Catherynne M. Valente
7. Rosemary and Rue – Book 1 of the Toby Daye series by Seanan McGuire
8. Radio Silence by Alice Oseman
9. The Sector – Book 1 of the Non-Compliance series by Paige Daniels
10. Brink’s Unfortunate Escape from Hell – Prequel to the Skycastle series by Andy Mulberry
11. The Many Selves of Katherine North by Emma Geen
12. The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi
13. Cinder – Book 1 of the Luna Chronicles by Marissa Meyer
14. Bright Blaze of Magic – Book 3 of the Black Blade series by Jennifer Estep
15. A Rural Affair by Catherine Alliott
16. Queen of Hearts – Book 1 of the Queen of Hearts saga by Colleen Oakes
17. The Outliers – Book 1 of The Outliers trilogy by Kimberley McCreight
18. The Loneliness of Distant Beings by Kate Ling
19. Banished – Book 1 of the Blackhart trilogy by Liz de Jager
20. The Nothing Girl by Jodi Taylor
21. Change of Life – Book 2 of a Menopausal Superhero by Samantha Bryant
22. Magic Bitter, Magic Sweet by Charlie N. Holmberg
23. Speak by Louisa Hall
24. Inborn – Book 1 of The Birthright series by Amy Saunders
25. Machinations – Book 1 of The Machinations series by Hayley Stone
26. Woman of the Hour by Jane Lythell
27. Shift by Em Bailey
28. An Accident of Stars – Book 1 of The Manifold Worlds series by Foz Meadows
29. Across the Universe – Book 1 of the Across the Universe series by Beth Revis
30. The Thousandth Floor – Book 1 of The Thousandth Floor series by Katherine McGee
31. The Changeling by Christina Soontornvat
32. The Fettered Flame – Book 2 of the Shkode series by E.D.E. Bell
33. Aveline – Book 1 of The Lost Vegas series by Lizzy Ford
34. Escapology by Ren Warom
35. So Many Boots, So Little Time – Book 3 of the MisAdventures of Miss Lilly series by Kalan Chapman Lloyd
36. The Imlen Brat by Sarah Avery
37. Return to the Secret Garden by Holly Webb
38. A Darker Shade of Magic – Book 1 of the Shades of Magic series by V.E. Schwab
39. Synners by Pat Cadigan
40. Renting Silence – A Roaring Twenties Mystery by Mary Miley
41. Split the Sun – Book 2 of the Inherit the Stars duology by Tessa Elwood
42. Rebel of the Sands – Book 1 of the Rebel of the Sands series by Alwyn Hamilton
43. Ever the Hunted – Book 1 of the Clash of Kingdoms series by Erin Summerill
44. The City of Ice – Book 2 of the Gates of the World series by K.M. McKinley
45. Graveyard Shift – Book 10 of the Pepper Martin series by Casey Daniels

Sunday Post – 6th November 2016

Standard

 

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

bristolcon2016It’s been another hectic week. At the start of the week, I was still recovering from the awesome Bristolcon 2016. Mhairi and I travelled up on the train and once more were enveloped in the warmth of The Friendly Con. It was great to catch up with regulars, though there were far too many people I only got to exchange quick greetings with – the likes of Justin Newland, Sophie E. Tallis, Sammy Smith and Jo Hall. I’m sure there are others I’ve missed out, and apologies for the omission. I had the huge pleasure of meeting Rosie Oliver, who I regularly chat with on my blog. She was one of the participants in the excellent ‘Uncanny Valleys of the Mind’ panel about the possibility of sentient robots. The quality of this discussion was superb with moderator Pete Sutton, Rosie, Kevlin Henney, Claire Carter and guest of honour Ken MacLeod.

Other enjoyable panels included ‘SF & F on the Margins’, which discussed the joys of the small presses, bristolcon1who are providing an increasingly vital role during this time when the larger traditional publishers are finding it tough. ‘The Regiment of Monsters’ panel investigated the contention that too much fantasy lacks diversity and is still stuck in the ‘boys own’ adventures for and about white males. While the panel agreed there was still a preponderance of such fantasy around, there are increasing examples of alternatives to the staple of the plucky group battling overwhelming evil in a quasi-medieval setting. And there was also the delightfully whacky ‘Storming the Castle’ panel moderated by John Baverstock with tyrants (panellists) Ade Couper, Mhairi Simpson, Jacey Bedford and Dom Dulley sporting enough to provide daft ways in which to defend their castles from members of the audience on a dice throw… After that we had no option but to retreat to the bar, where I had one of the best evenings ever. Meeting another blogging friend, Leona was a delight, along with authors Mark Lawrence, R.B. Watkinson, T.O. Munro and G.R. Matthews and the awesome Kitvaria Sarene and Marielle (thank you for those yummy Dutch cookies, which had me falling off the sugar-free wagon – but I can’t be good ALL the time). By the time Mhairi and I staggered back to our hotel room around 2 am, my sides were aching with so much laughing. Thank you so much to everyone who contributed to a fabulous time – I’m grinning as I type at the memory…

Coming back to earth has been something of an effort, though I haven’t had too much time to sit around twiddling my fingers as I was back to teaching again on Monday and Tuesday and on Wednesday Mhairi and I got together for a writing day. On Thursday I was in London for a training day for the CoPE syllabus that Tim is starting to work towards with Sally. We’re now both excited and relieved that we finally have a clear path whereby his exceptional abilities can be formally recognised with qualifications that will help him become an independent adult with a fulfilling career. This week-end I’m grannying.

This week I have read:
Frontier – an Epsilon Sector novella by Janet Edwards
Life on a frontier farming planet in the twenty-eighth century has a few complications. The imported frontierEarth animals and plants don’t always interact well with the local ecology, and there’s a shortage of doctors and teachers. The biggest problem though is the fact there are always more male than female colonists arriving from other worlds. Single men outnumber single women by ten to one, and girls are expected to marry at seventeen. Amalie turned seventeen six months ago, and she’s had nineteen perfectly respectable offers of marriage. Everyone is pressuring her to choose a husband, or possibly two of them. When Amalie’s given an unexpected chance of a totally different future, she’s tempted to take it, but then she gets her twentieth offer of marriage and it’s one she can’t possibly refuse.

This is a characteristically engrossing read, full of Edwards’ bouncy prose that pulled me into the story which I read in one greedy gulp and surfaced feeling very happy… They ought to bottle her writing and make it available on the NHS.

Songs of Seraphina by Jude Houghton
songsofseraphineSome battles bleed so much, and for so long, that the earth never truly forgets their dead. Some battles are born of oppression, and some of greed, and some simply because it was written in the stars. Three sisters—Charlemagne, Cairo and Pendragon Agonistes—are sent from America to England to live with their eccentric grandparents after their mother disappears and their father falls to pieces. But before the girls have time to find their feet, Charlemagne is married off to a dead man, Penny takes a nap and wakes up as a boy, and Cairo is swept into a dangerous romance with a man who wants her for more than her considerable charm. With the girls wrapped up in a conflict they barely understand, they don’t notice that their grandmother is transforming, or that the two demigod assassins who took their mother are now coming for them—if one of them can get over his crisis of conscience.

I realised Jude Houghton was One to Watch when I read his stormingly good science fiction novel Autonomy earlier this year – but this amazing take on epic fantasy has very much confirmed his wonderful talent. I’m keeping my fingers crossed for a sequel – or I might stamp my feet and DEMAND one.

The Hanging Tree – Book 6 of The Rivers of London series by Ben Aaronovitch
The Hanging Tree was the Tyburn gallows which stood where Marble Arch stands today. Oxford Street thehangingtreewas the last trip of the condemned. Some things don’t change. The place has a bloody and haunted legacy and now blood has returned to the empty Mayfair mansions of the world’s super-rich. And blood mixed with magic is a job for Peter Grant, who is back as are Nightingale et al. at the Folly and the various river gods, ghosts and spirits who attach themselves to England’s last wizard and the Met’s reluctant investigator of all things supernatural.

This sparky, London-based urban fantasy has always had a special place in my heart since I read the first one – and like the rest of his fans, I’ve been waiting very patiently for this book.

My posts last week:
*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of The Imlen Brat by Sarah Avery

Teaser Tuesday – featuring Songs of Seraphina by Jude Houghton

Waiting on Wednesday – featuring The Hanging Tree by Ben Aaronovitch

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Return to the Secret Garden by Holly Webb

Friday Faceoff – Nomad is a wanderer… featuring The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August by Claire North

Shoot for the Moon Challenge 2016 – October roundup

Interesting/outstanding blogs and articles that have caught my attention during the last week, in no particular order:
#SPFBO Final Round https://lynns-books.com/2016/11/05/spfbo-final-round/ For those of you who don’t know the acronym stands for Self Published Fantasy Blog Off, which is organised by best-selling author Mark Lawrence, where a group of stalwart book bloggers volunteer to take a stack of self published fantasy novels – this year it was 30 each – and whittle it down to a single entry to be forwarded to this final list.

All My Halloweens http://melfka.com/archives/1994 A delightful article by Joanna Maciejewska on her recollections of Halloween celebrations throughout her life so far – and given she’s something of a traveller, it also takes us to a number of different countries…

The This Is My Genre Tell Me Yours Book Tag https://thetattooedbookgeek.wordpress.com/2016/10/30/the-this-is-my-genre-tell-me-yours-book-tag/ Many thanks to Drew for including me in this particular tag. I’m really looking forward to having a go – but as he threw it open to everyone who likes reading, I thought I’d let others have the pleasure of taking part, too.

9 Tips for Novice Spelunkers and Cave Exploration https://roamwildandfree.com/2016/11/01/9-tips-for-novice-spelunkers-and-cave-exploration/ And this, people, is one of the reasons I love the blogging community so much. I can sit at my computer and learn about places and situations I’ll never encounter from the wonderful people who do.

Many thanks for visiting and taking the time and trouble to comment – and may you have a wonderful reading and blogging week.

Review of KINDLE Ebook The Steerswoman – Book 1 of The Steerswoman series by Rosemary Kirstein

Standard

I read this book longer ago than I care to recall and when I discussed this with Himself, it transpired that somehow this one passed him by. On my recommendation, he bought the ebook which meant I could revisit it – yay!

thesteerwomanSteerswomen, and a very few Steersmen, are members of an order dedicated to discovering and disseminating knowledge. Although they are foremost navigators of the high seas, Steerswomen are also explorers and cartographers upon land as well as sea. With one exception, they are pledged to always answer any question put to them with as truthful a response as is possible within their own limitations. However, they also require anyone of whom they ask questions to respond in the same manner, upon penalty of the Steerswomen’s ban; those under the ban do not receive answers from the steerswomen.

This is a delight – an adult fantasy with a nuanced, capable heroine who is comfortable with who she is and commands respect without being a Mary Sue. The world is sharply depicted, mostly through Rowan’s viewpoint without any info dumps and I enjoyed the way the pace steadily picks up as her interest in the jewels begins to attract the wrong sort of attention. The supporting cast are also excellent – no one is depicted as being entirely evil and the gulf between wizards and the rest of the populace is well demonstrated. I love how Kirstein manages to portray the ‘magic’ so the reader is immediately aware of how it works, while it continues to flummox the characters within the story. It’s one of the many deft little touches that continued to please me throughout this well written and thoroughly enjoyable story.

Plenty occurs throughout and the pacing is beautifully judged as the consequences of Rowan’s initial curiosity about those gemstones continue to snowball. By the end, it became an effort to put the book down and I read far later than I should to discover the denouement. I’m aware this is part of a series and couldn’t quite recall how it ended, but was concerned that there might have been the dreaded cliffhanger.

However, the storyline running through the book is satisfactorily tied up, while leaving a couple of major plotpoints dangling for the next book. I’m delighted that Himself decided to buy the other books in the series, so I won’t have to wait before diving back into this enjoyable and fascinating world.
10/10

Friday Faceoff – The creation of a thousand forests is in one acorn

Standard

This meme was started by Books by Proxy, whose fabulous idea was to compare UK and US book covers and decide which is we prefer. This week we are looking at covers featuring trees and I have chosen We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler, which I read last year and blew me away – see my review here.

 

weareallcompletely

This hardcover edition was published in 2013 by G.P. Putnam’s Sons was the one I read, which might have influenced me as it’s my favourite. But I think it features the massive twist in the story very nicely without giving the game away – I’m not going to say more for fear of spoilers, but if you’ve read the book you know what I mean… I love the black tree against the bright yellow background – Gollancz knew what they were doing back when they made that colour scheme their signature look.

 

weareallcompletely1

This edition, published in 2014 by Serpent’s Tail takes the same main design elements – the tree, the swinging youngster, the colour palette and adds another character with a different font, giving it quite a different feel. My big problem with this cover is that I think it gives the impression this is a comedy – and while there are some amusing incidents, it’s nothing of the sort.

 

weareallcompletely2

This offering, published in 2014 by Serpent’s Tail, has moved away from the stark yellow and black, but still kept the tree and the small swinging figure. While I think it is attractive and eye-catching, I still prefer the first cover.

 

weareallcompletely4

This paperback edition has dispensed with the tree and gone for a plain red cover and used the marvellous title to the maximum effect – though my gripe about it appearing to be a comedy still stands…

 

weareallcompletely3

This cover for the audio book, produced by Penguin comes closest to spoiling the twist in the depiction of the family, which is my biggest reservation in what is, otherwise, a beautiful and haunting cover. A shame, therefore, about the boring title font. So which is your favourite?

The Versatile Blogger Award

Standard

This is disgracefully late. Very sorry Ana, of Ana’s Lair who kindly nominated me for this award longer ago than I care to think. Do swing by her blog, she writes insightful, articulate reviews with a cool cover gismo over the spoiler issues that you have the option to remove should you wish.

versitle-blogger1I’ve decided to get all rebellious in my old age and give seven facts about me and then nominate four other excellent bloggers. If you feel I should have also nominated you and I didn’t, then feel free to hop aboard – you’re fabulous anyway – you love books!

1. I’m a confirmed insomniac and often write and work until 3 am and gone. Fortunately, I don’t have to be up with the lark, but I can get by quite happily with 3-4 hours sleep a night and then every 10 days or so, will catch up with an unbroken block of sleep for about 8-9 hours.

2. When living in Somerset some thirty years ago, I learnt to ring church bells. I gave up when pregnant holytrinityls_11003_1304679121_498with my daughter and didn’t resume, but one magical New Year’s Eve (I think in 1982) I got the chance to ring out the old year and ring in the new. One of my most treasured memories.

3. I HATE wearing glasses – I became a specky four-eyes after spending far too long in front of a computer screen and carry glasses wipes everywhere so they stay as clean as possible.

4. I love the night. As a child, I used to retreat to the walk-in storeroom off the kitchen and sit amongst the sacks of potatoes and carrots without the light on, so it was absolutely dark and play in there. The pictures in my mind were so much more vivid…

northbrookcollege5. I’m just about to start my eighth year of teaching Creative Writing at Northbrook College – which I cannot quite believe… Where does the time go? It’s the best job in the world and I have the loveliest students – I’m missing them and looking forward to catching up with them all when we start back in a fortnight.

 

6. Favourite food – avocado pears. I recently became vegetarian and so have undergone major changes in my diet.

7. I was born on a Wednesday, both my children were born on Wednesdays and my granddaughter was also born on a Wednesday. The catch is that’s the child full of woe, according to the old nursery rhyme!

I’m nominating four people – but do feel free not to respond as I know they can stack up:-
Richard M Ankers – https://richardankers.com/
Richard is a writer who produces a stream of quirky, excellent micro fiction, as well as writing novels. If you haven’t already visited, check out his site.

Gods and Storytellers – http://mhairisimpson.com/
Yes, I know she’s a great friend, but I wouldn’t be nominating Mhairi if she wasn’t also a great writer of interesting articles on the difficult task of being highly creative.

Jo at Mychestnutreadingtree – https://mychestnutreadingtree.wordpress.com/
Jo produces a steady stream of reviews, all well written and intelligent. She particularly features women’s fiction and psychological thrillers and I’ve come to look forward to reading her articles even though I don’t often read the books she reviews.

DJ at Mylifemybooksmyescape – https://mylifemybooksmyescape.wordpress.com/
DJ’s blog features reviews and excellent author interviews, along with essays mainly about science fiction and fantasy. If you enjoy the genre, then drop by, it’s worth visiting.

Have a wonderful week-end and many thanks for dropping in:).

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of KINDLE Ebook Spiderlight by Adrian Tchaikovsky

Standard

Himself – a real fan of Tchaikovsky’s writing – had pre-ordered this one. I’m so very glad he did…

The Church of Armes of the Light has battled the forces of Darkness for as long as anyone can remember. The great prophecy has foretold that a band of misfits, led by a high priestess will defeat the Dark Lord Darvezian, armed with their wits, the blessing of the Light and an artefact stolen from the merciless Spider Queen. Their journey will be long, hard and fraught with danger. Allies will become enemies; enemies will become allies. And the Dark Lord will be waiting, always waiting…

spiderlightThis epic fantasy tale includes so many of the classic fantasy elements – a band of exceptional misfits, led by the chosen one fulfilling an ancient prophesy. There is said chosen one, a mage of great power, a couple of very capable guards – including the obligatory female warrior – and a thief for those sneaky chores that always need doing. Their quest to attempt to overthrow the Dark Lord is eventful and dangerous, including a violent encounter with a nest of huge spiders. And suddenly this classic fantasy lurches sideways and turns into something quite different.

Tchaikovsky once more takes a major genre, grasps it by the scruff of the neck and gives it thorough shaking, as in his excellent science fiction adventure, Children of Time – see my review here. However, this isn’t merely a parody. The story is too engrossing, the characters and adventure too gripping and genuinely engaging for this to be just used as a vehicle for ironic amusement. But there are some delicious moments that had me chuckling aloud – for instance when Penthos promises himself to magic the brave warrior, Harathes, another week of impotence for snapping at him.

He also thoroughly deconstructs the sexual politics underlying the inclusion of the mandatory female warrior by the inclusion of Cyrene – and her frustration at the way Harathes treats her. In a memorable scene, she rants at Dion that she is sick and tired of being treated as a sexual object by her male counterparts. Her bitter diatribe that she is always judged as a woman first and a warrior second is a scene that will stay with me for a long time. I’ve often thought the notion that fit young women can be given sufficient agency to overcome male dominance by dressing them in leggings and putting a weapon in their hands is far too simplistic a fix for the very complex dynamic that keeps women as second-class citizens around the world. Tchaikovsky rips away any fond illusions fantasy fans might have that bunging a handful of attractive sword-waving young women into the middle of an adventure successfully evens up the gender power imbalance.

But the book is transformed by the inclusion on this quest by the object the group brings away from the Spider Queen. We see the group reflected through an entirely alien, terrified viewpoint, which shifts the dynamic and provides a different, far less cosy viewpoint on our group of brave heroes. I am fond of spiders and thoroughly sympathised with the poor thing – but Himself admitted he also felt repulsed as he has an instinctive dislike of all things spidery. I’m guessing he won’t be the only one experiencing that uncomfortable mix of reactions to Nth’s plight. As a creature of the Dark, he is regarded by the righteous in the group as an abomination and it is interesting that the morally compromised Lief is the one to show Nth most empathy and compassion.

I’m conscious that discussing some of the underlying issues makes this book sound drearily earnest – and it’s nothing of the sort. It’s a rollicking adventure, full of incident and gory encounters to gladden the heart of any epic fantasy fan – and the climax with the Dark Lord will stay in my memory for a very long time.

If you enjoy this genre at any level, then I thoroughly recommend Spiderlight – it’s one of my outstanding novels of 2016 in a year marked by the general excellence of the books I’ve had the pleasure to read.
10/10

Friday Faceoff – Simply the Best

Standard

This meme was started by Books by Proxy, whose fabulous idea was to compare UK and US book covers and decide which is we prefer. This week we decided to give ourselves a treat and go for our favourite book. I don’t have an outright, alltime favourite – there are a cluster of outstanding reads that will tick that box, depending on my mood and circumstances – but this one would always made that final cut – and these covers are all beautiful. So here are a selection of covers for Jo Walton’s extraordinary, award-winning book Among Others.

amongothers4

This one was produced by Tor in 2011 and adorns the copy I’ve got. I love the colours and the otherworldly feel of it, which most of the other editions emulate.

 

amongothers3

This version was produced by Corsair in 2013 and is more than a nod to the original, though the focus on the foreground, blurring the figure of the girl gives a beautiful sense of loss and poignancy which runs through the book.

 

COUV_morwenna.indd

The French edition, published by Denoël in 2014 has changed the title to the protagonist’s name – I rather like it. It certainly reflects the intense first person narration. Again, there are strong echoes of the first cover in the design and use of colour.

 

amongothers1

This Turkish edition, produced by İthaki Yayınları, has quite a different take with a departure from the tones of yellow and orange and depiction of a girl on the cover – but there is still the same sense of otherness and beauty.

 

amongothers6

This Polish offering, published in 2013 by Akurat, is the most accurate reflection of Morwenna. She walks with a heavy limp and is in almost constant pain with her leg – I particularly like the way the colour changes throughout and the sense of longing as the girl gazes into a landscape she no longer is able to access.

I love them all – they’re all beautiful, every single one managing to evoke a sense of the book. And my favourite is the one I own. But that Polish cover comes a very, very close second. What do you think? Have you read the book?