Tag Archives: 2016 Discovery Challenge

2016 Discovery Challenge and Tackling my TBR – December Roundup

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I’m not quite sure how it happened, but despite December being a really busy month I managed to continue reading more than two books a week. As for my Discovery Challenge, which I undertook after reading this post by Jo Hall to read and review at least two books a month by women authors previously unknown to me – I managed to read and review five books during December, though one of those reviews hasn’t yet been published.

Split the Sun – Book 2 of the Inherit the World series by Tessa Elwood
splitthesunThe Ruling Lord of the House of Galton is dead, and the nation is in shock—or celebrating, depending on the district. Kit Franks would be more than happy to join him. Kit’s mother bombed the digital core of the House, killing several and upending the nation’s information structure. No one wants the daughter of a terrorist. Kit’s having dreams she can’t explain, remembering conversations that no longer seem innocent, understanding too much coded subtext in Mom’s universal feed messages. Everyone has a vision of Kit’s fate—locked, sealed, and ready to roll. The question is, does Kit have a vision for herself?
I really enjoyed this one. Foot-to-the-floor, action-packed dystopian sci fi adventure with an appealing spiky heroine, I was scooped up into the middle of this world and didn’t want to pull away until the last page. Great fun – see my review here.

Rebel of the Sands – Book 1 of The Rebel of the Sands trilogy by Alwyn Hamilton
rebelofthesandsShe’s more gunpowder than girl—and the fate of the desert lies in her hands. Mortals 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, as she’s destined to wind up “wed or dead”.
There has been a real buzz about this YA desert fantasy offering, and I can see why. Hamilton tips us right into the middle of the action from the first page as Amani’s spiky first person narrative pulled me into the story and didn’t let go. It is a foot to the floor, non-stop adventure where she careens through the vividly depicted landscape that borrows much from eastern influences. It’s a delight and I’m now hoping to be able to hunt down the sequel. See my review here.

Ever the Hunted – Book 1 of Clash of Kingdoms series by Erin Summerill
Seventeen year-old Britta Flannery is at ease only in the woods with her dagger and bow. She spends her everthehunteddays tracking criminals alongside her father, the legendary bounty hunter for the King of Malam—that is, until her father is murdered. Now outcast and alone and having no rights to her father’s land or inheritance, she seeks refuge where she feels most safe: the Ever Woods. When Britta is caught poaching by the royal guard, instead of facing the noose she is offered a deal: her freedom in exchange for her father’s killer. However, it’s not so simple. The alleged killer is none other than Cohen McKay, her father’s former apprentice. The only friend she’s ever known. The boy she once loved who broke her heart.
It was pure chance that I read two YA fantasy adventures back to back. They both featured teenage female protagonists on the run, both had secrets and issues they knew nothing about at the start of the adventure. Both had a romantic sub-plot. Both are cracking reads. However, Britta isn’t so carelessly, gloriously reckless as Amani – she is wary and untrusting of everyone. The pace in this one isn’t quite so full-on, either, but I thoroughly enjoyed this tale set in a more traditional medieval fantasy setting. There were some pleasing plot twists in this adventure I didn’t see coming – and I certainly didn’t guess who had murdered Britta’s father. See my review here.

The City of Ice – Book 2 of The Gates of the World series by K.M. McKinley
thecityoficeDeep in the polar south stands a city like no other, a city built aeons ago by a civilisation mighty and wise. The City of Ice promises the secrets of the ancients to whomever can reach it first. It may prove too little knowledge too late, for the closest approach of the Twin in 4000 years draws near, an event that has heralded terrible destruction in past ages. As the Kressind siblings pursue their fortunes, the world stands upon the dawn of a new era, but it may yet be consumed by a darkness from the past.
It took me a while to get into this genre mashup, where epic fantasy meets a steampunk-type world using magic to power machinery. However there are unforeseen consequences to harnessing such power in that particular way… I love the intricate, layered world with a number of interesting creatures including the tyn, powerful godlike rulers who nevertheless are somewhat down on their luck – and a number of ambitious humans trying to get what they can. Altogether, this becomes an engrossing world with a number of fascinating stories – I’m definitely going to be looking out for the sequel. See my review here.

It was also a good month for my other reading challenge of the year – Tackling my TBR as I read and reviewed five books from my teetering To Be Read pile, which were:-

Thornyhold by Mary Stewart
The story is about a lonely child who is made to see the world through her cousin’s unusual eyes. When thornyholdthe child becomes a young woman, she moves to Thornyhold where she is thought by the local community to be a witch. However, as she finds out, this is no normal community, and worries quickly present themselves. And not everyone who initially greets her is as friendly as they seem…
An enjoyable, initially slightly eerie read that becomes a more conventional romance – as ever Stewart’s writing is a joy. See my review here.

 

 

A Natural History of Dragons – Book 1 of The Memoirs of Lady Trent by Marie Brennan
Everyone knows Isabella, Lady Trent, to be the world’s preeminent dragon naturalist. Here, at last, in her own words, is the story of a pioneering spirit who risked her reputation, prospects, and her life to satisfy scientific curiosity; of how she sought true love despite her lamentable eccentricities; and of her thrilling expedition to the mountains of Vystrana, where she made discoveries that would change the world.
This was recommended to me by the wonderful Kitvaria Sarene during an intense evening at Bristolcon talking books, so I made it a top priority on my TBR list and decided to treat myself this week. And I’m delighted I did – it’s a gem and you can find review here.

Judged – Book 3 of the Blackhart Legacy by Liz de Jagar
judgedKit’s job description includes solving crimes – the supernatural kind . . . Glow, a fae-created drug, is rapidly going viral and the suppliers have to be shut down. Teaming up with Aiden and Dante, Kit follows leads across London, tracking down dealers. They stir up trouble, making themselves a target for the gang they’re trying to stop. In the Otherwhere, Thorn stumbles across a secret that could destroy both the human and Fae worlds. The Veil that separates our human world from the fae realms is weakening and the goddess is dying. And if she dies and the Veil fails, madness and chaos will wreak unstoppable havoc upon both lands.
I really enjoyed the previous two books in this series, Vowed and Banished so was pleased to be able to wrap up Kit’s adventure before the end of the year. Though whatever you do – don’t start with this book, go back to the start and experience this charming series in the right order. See my review here.

Just One Damned Thing After Another – Book 1 of The Chronicles of St Mary’s by Jodi Taylor

“History is just one damned thing after another.” Behind the seemingly innocuous façade of St Mary’s, a jsutonedamnedthingdifferent kind of historical research is taking place. They don’t do ‘time-travel’ – they ‘investigate major historical events in contemporary time’. Maintaining the appearance of harmless eccentrics is not always within their power – especially given their propensity for causing loud explosions when things get too quiet. Meet the disaster-magnets of St Mary’s Institute of Historical Research as they ricochet around History. Their aim is to observe and document – to try and find the answers to many of History’s unanswered questions…and not to die in the process. But one wrong move and History will fight back – to the death. And, as they soon discover – it’s not just History they’re fighting.
This is time-travelling adventure is a joy. Funny, anarchic with a reckless sense of derring-do, this tale is told in first person viewpoint by Max as we follow her initial introduction to St Mary’s, training and early adventures. That said, the attrition rate is high and a number of folks die in this – some of whom I was really sorry to see go… I think this would make a marvellous TV series, however – not yet. There are a raft of these books out there and I want to read them all, first.

The King’s Peace – Book 1 of the Tir Tanagiri series by Jo Walton
thekingspeaceSulien ap Gwien was seventeen when the Jarnish raiders came. Had she been armed when they found her, she could have taken them all. As it was, it took six of them to subdue her. She will never forgive them. Thus begins her story—a story that takes her back to her family, with its ancient ties to the Vincan empire that once ruled in Tir Tanagiri, and forward to Caer Tanaga, where the greatest man of his time, King Urdo, struggles to bind together the squabbling nobles and petty princes into a unified force that will drive out the barbarian invader and restore the King’s Peace. King Urdo will change Sulien’s life. She will see him for what he is: the greatest hope the country has. And he will see her for what she is: the greatest warrior of her day. Together they will fight and suffer for an age of the world, for the things that the world always needs and which never last.
I loved this version of the King Arthur story. As ever, Walton took me somewhere different and engrossed me in the life of someone with other values and ideas. Another great addition to a wonderful reading year…

What about you – how did your December reading targets go?

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*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of KINDLE ebook Split the Sun – Book 2 of the Inherit the Stars series by Tessa Elwood

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Yes, I managed to do it again – begin with the second book in the series… So has it impacted on my understanding and enjoyment of this fast-action, foot-to-the-floor adventure?

splitthesunThe Ruling Lord of the House of Galton is dead, and the nation is in shock—or celebrating, depending on the district. Kit Franks would be more than happy to join him.
Kit’s mother bombed the digital core of the House, killing several and upending the nation’s information structure. No one wants the daughter of a terrorist. Kit’s having dreams she can’t explain, remembering conversations that no longer seem innocent, understanding too much coded subtext in Mom’s universal feed messages. Everyone, from Mom to the rebels chasing her, has a vision of Kit’s fate—locked, sealed, and ready to roll. The question is, does Kit have a vision for herself?

As it happens, this time around I’ve got away with it as Elwood has shifted the action and focus on a completely different protagonist to those featuring in her first book Inherit the Stars. This book is all about Kit, who has had a hard time of it – the only person in her life who saw fit to spend time and energy on her upbringing has recently died. And on top of that, her mother has just been revealed as the perpetrator of a catastrophic attack on the city, killing dozens and inflicting ongoing damage on the systems used to run and control the administration necessary to run everything.

Kit finds herself the centre of attention – and not in a good way. The book starts with her attempting to fling herself off a building. Needless to say, that doesn’t happen. But the story then takes us on a roller-coaster ride as Kit is harried by events and folks who want information out of her – and in amongst all the fighting and fleeing, she has to discover who she is and what she wants.

Elwood’s writing is intense and Kit’s spiky persona pings off the page. I had originally intended to pick this one up, read a few pages and then settle down to sleep. Except I didn’t – the Kindle just wouldn’t leave my hands as I continued pressing the pages to discover what would happen next. Elwood’s ability to interweave Kit’s dysfunctional past amongst all the mayhem falling on her head is impressive and had me fiercely rooting for her. While romance isn’t normally my thing, Elwood handles the unfolding relationship between Kit and Niles really effectively so this doesn’t suddenly transition into a soft-focused lurve story after being a fairly gritty adventure – a transformation I personally hate. Kit’s growing attraction to Niles isn’t the centre of her existence, and something she tries to put into context, not surprising given everything else that’s going on around her. I was initially a bit concerned about Niles, but grew to like him more and more as the book progressed, which is a testament to Elwood’s writing skill. I’m generally immune to buff and endearing love interests…

My one grizzle – and it is normally a dealbreaker – is that the conclusion is slightly fumbled. The non-stop action needed to slow down just a tad more at the end in order to allow the reader to fully catch up with the events that wrapped up the storyline. However, I’ll even forgive Elwood this – she has written a cracking adventure tale set in the far future with an engaging enjoyable protagonist and took me with her on the action-packed journey. Great stuff!

Receiving a copy of Split the Sun from the publisher via NetGalley has in no way affected my honest opinion of this book.
8/10

Review of Synners by Pat Cadigan

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I’ve been reading a number of novellas and some children’s books, so suddenly felt like getting my teeth into something a bit more meaty and this alluring, dark cover beckoned to me from my teetering To Be Read pile. So I scooped it up and dived in…

synnersIn Synners, the line between humanity and technology is hopelessly slim. The human mind and the external landscape have fused to the point where any encounter with ‘reality’ is incidental. Now you can change yourself to suit the machines – and all it will cost you is your freedom. And your humanity.

This cyberpunk winner of the Arthur C. Clarke Award takes a while to get going as the group of disparate characters are established amongst a tech-heavy world in a near-future where everyone is increasingly reliant on their technology. Given that this was written and published back in 1992, before many of our current technological gismos were in current use, Cadigan’s world is eerily prescient. I felt very at home with much of her near-future predictions, which is a tad worrying when considering how it all ends.

When there is a number of main characters, there are always the one or two who particularly chime – for me, these were Gina, who hooked up with the video star Visual Mark twenty-something years ago and is still drifting in his wake as he becomes increasingly lost to his videos and drug-taking. Though she is still a name to contend with, as her daredevil stunts in Mark’s videos have earned her respect throughout the industry. She sings off the page with her cynical, acidic asides and her gritted passion for what she believes in. The other character I really loved is poor old Gabe, the typical artist-turned-corporate-wage-slave, who makes advertisements, while wishing he did almost anything else. To allay his boredom and sense of futility, he regularly escapes into a classic game using a hotsuit to enable him to virtually interact with the two main characters in the game.

This is one of the main attributes of cyberpunk – not only to pull the reader into a high-tech, near-future world, but also into cyberspace where reality exists in the interface between humanity and machines. And the best of this genre takes you there, immersing you into an altered landscape, where memes and symbols take on different meanings that the reader completely accepts.

Therefore when it all starts kicking off, two-thirds of the way through this one, Cadigan’s virtual world sings off the page in a blend of poetry and prose as she depicts her characters’ rich inscapes with complete conviction. This is why I am prepared to slow down my normal reading rate for this particular genre and pay attention – because the rewards are so very satisfying when it is done well. Needless to say, the climax is beautifully handled, and the final third of the book was difficult to put down as the plot continues gathering momentum during the ongoing crisis and humanity attempts to fight back. And in this genre, there is no guarantee of a ‘happy ever after’ ending.

I finally put the book down, aware of coming back to the present from a long way away – always the mark of a master worldbuilder. So while Synners takes time to get going, my advice with this one is to persevere – it’s worth it.
9/10

Sunday Post – 21st August

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Sunday Post

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

iphonestuckEarly in the week I had some tech issues when Apple finally managed to foist an unwanted update onto my phone when I was downloading some pics (note to self: that’s what my camera is for…) which jammed the wretched thing. Fraught hours I couldn’t afford later, I finally managed to it by restoring it to factory settings. The whole episode rankles, frankly. Just like the fact I can’t remove the Stocks and Shares and News links from my phone – since when do Apple get to mediate the priorities in my life?

The grandchildren returned unexpectedly for another stay on Tuesday through to Friday, which was a lovely surprise. The better weather meant we were able to go to the beach and visit the gorgeous Highdown Gardens, where my butterfly pic above was taken last year.

Other than that, we didn’t go out and about all that much – I have a fair amount of work on my plate and we also spent a significant slice of time watching the Olympic action in Rio. Oscar, in particular, was very keen to follow Team GB.

This week I’ve managed to read:
Spellbreaker – Book 3 of the Spellwright Trilogy by Blake Charltonspellbreaker
Leandra Weal has a bad habit of getting herself in dangerous situations. While hunting neodemons in her role as Warden of Ixos, Leandra obtains a prophetic spell that provides a glimpse one day into her future. She discovers that she is doomed to murder someone she loves, soon, but not who. That’s a pretty big problem for a woman who has a shark god for a lover, a hostile empress for an aunt, a rogue misspelling wizard for a father, and a mother who–especially when arguing with her daughter–can be a real dragon.
This intriguing offering can be characterised as hard fantasy, with a rigorous magical structure played out within a highly talented, touchy family. It makes for a fascinating, original dynamic in epic fantasy.

 

 

Autonomy by Jude Houghton
autonomyBalmoral Murraine works in a Battery, assembling devices she doesn’t understand for starvation pay. Pasco Eborgersen is the pampered son of an Elite, trying to navigate the temptations of the Pleasure Houses, the self-sacrifice of the Faith, and the high-octane excitement of Steel Ball. They never should have met, and now they will rip the world apart. What happens when ninety percent of the world lives on skaatch – a jellyfish and insect composite? What happens when mankind spends more time in alternative life sims instead of in the “real” world? What happens when economic interest is the sole determinant of global decision making? What happens when a single secret is discovered that calls into question everything we have ever believed? Welcome to the Autonomy. Welcome to your future.

This post-apocalyptic dystopian science fiction adventure is a cracking story, with some sharp things to say about the current inequality of resources and the damage caused by runaway capitalism embedded in amongst the entertaining action. A strong, thought-provoking read I reviewed yesterday.

 

My posts last week:
Sunday Post – 14th August

2016 Discovery Challenge – July Roundup

Teaser Tuesday – featuring Autonomy by Jude Houghton

Review of The Fifth Season – Book 1 of the Broken Earth series by N.K. Jemisin

Favourite London Spec Fic Tales – Part 2

Friday Faceoff – There’s Blood on Thy Face featuring The Radleys by Matt Haig

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Autonomy by Jude Houghton

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

Harry Potter Month (20) https://lynns-books.com/2016/08/20/harry-potter-month-20/ Lynn has been featuring all things Harry Potterish this month and I really enjoyed this selection of covers from Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.

A Weekly Ritual https://ginnibites.wordpress.com/2016/08/16/a-weekly-ritual/ This sharply clever little poem aptly sums up my own experiences on leaving the house…

Miss Majorie Fay https://readlorigreer.com/2016/08/15/miss-marjorie-fay/ Lori Greer pays a moving tribute to an inspirational teacher.

Introducing the Shadow Histories of the River Kingdom – coming this autumn from the Wizard’s Tower Press http://www.julietemckenna.com/?p=2223 Exciting news of a new collection for fans of quality fantasy from author Juliet E. McKenna

How to Panel Like a Pro http://writerunboxed.com/2016/08/20/how-to-panel-like-a-pro/ This funny article had me chuckling – I’ll be on the alert to see which panel members at the Cons I’ll be shortly attending will be taking these top tips to heart…

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

2016 Discovery Challenge – June Roundup

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After reading Joanne Hall’s thought-provoking post, I decided to read and review at least two women authors unknown to me each month. Did I succeed in achieving this target in June?

Magic Bitter, Magic Sweet by Charlie N. Holmberg
magicbitterMaire is a baker with an extraordinary gift: she can infuse her treats with emotions and abilities, which are then passed on to those who eat them. She doesn’t know why she can do this and remembers nothing of who she is or where she came from. And then this ghostly winged man starts to appear to her – and nothing is the same, again…

This intriguing novel in first person viewpoint tells of Maire’s struggle to regain something – only she isn’t sure what it is. Only that she can influence and help people with the magic she adds to her baking. Intertwined in the story of loss and longing, are a number of fairy tales in a slightly altered version, adding to the otherworldly tone of this lovely book. I read it a couple of weeks ago, but it won’t leave me alone – it’s definitely one of my favourite books of the year so far, see my review here.

And that’s it. A lot was going during June, and the majority of the books I requested from NetGalley this month happened to be written by men. However, if I look at the stats halfway through the year, I should have read 12 books written by women new to me, whereas I have actually read 21 books which I’ve reviewed and published on my blog, on Amazon UK and NetGalley, so I’m not going to get too concerned about this blip to my 2016 Discovery Challenge.

Tackling my TBR
This is in response to my habit of continually gathering up new books – and not reading them. I want try and reduce the teetering pile by my bed, so I’ve decided to report back on how I’m doing in the hope that it will nudge me to read more of them! I haven’t made a storming start to this challenge, unfortunately. In fact – I haven’t read a single book from my TBR pile this month. Hm… let’s hope July is better. In the meantime, have a great reading month, given that the weather isn’t enticing anyone outside for more than an hour or so before we all get drenched!

Sunday Post – 12th June

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Sunday Post

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

My editing marathon is grinding inexorably onward. I’m now line editing Breathing Space before letting it loose on my long-suffering beta-readers. Debbie has completed reading through Dying for Space for me and has handed it onto Sarah.

This week hasn’t been quite so frenetic. It was lovely to resume my Creative Writing classes on Monday and Tuesday and catch up with everyone after the half-term break. On Wednesday evening our writing group met up and discussed each others’ work amid tea and laughter. During Thursday evening I attended the monthly West Sussex Writers’ meeting to hear Jane Lythell, who has written the successful psychological thrillers The Lie of You and After the Storm. She talked to eve-of-war-sample-2-639x1024the group about her journey to being published and also discussed characterisation and how she crafted her protagonists. It is always fascinating to hear how different authors approach their work and Jane was a fluent, articulate speaker with plenty to say – including some intriguing details about her upcoming new release, Woman of the House, which is more of a contemporary novel about a woman coping with a demanding job and increasing commitments at home.

 

I’ve also now received a copy of the cover for the anthology Eve of War, in which my short story ‘Miranda’s Tempest’ will appear. Isn’t it gorgeous? The release date is 20th June.

 

As regards reading – I’m coming to the end of a hefty tome that almost stopped me in my tracks…

The Passage – Book 1 of The Passage trilogy by Justin Cronin
Amy Harper Bellafonte is six years old and her mother thinks she’s the most important person in thepassagethe whole world.
She is.
Anthony Carter doesn’t think he could ever be in a worse place than Death Row.
He’s wrong.
FBI agent Brad Wolgast thinks something beyond imagination is coming.
It is.
THE PASSAGE.
And there you have the blurb of this apocalyptic, science fiction vampire book that runs to 766 pages. The first section, where it all goes to hell in a handcart, was something of a slog – not because there was anything wrong with the book, indeed, the writing is remarkable and engrossing. However, I hadn’t appreciated that it starts in our world before it all slides away, which I always find a bit of a problem. Fortunately, just as I was on the verge of giving up, the section ended and we were plunged into the future, post-apocalyptic world. I will be reviewing it sometime in the next week.

My posts last week:
Sunday Post – 5th June

* NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Cursed – Book 2 of The Soulseer Chronicles by Sue Tingey

Teaser Tuesday – The Passage – Book 1 of The Passage trilogy by Justin Cronin

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Last Call at the Nightshade Lounge by Paul Krueger

* NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of The Annihiliation Score – Book 6 of The Laundry Files by Charles Stross

Friday Faceoff – All That is Gold Does Not Glitter featuring Empire of Black and Gold – Book 1 of The Shadow of the Apt series by Adrian Tchaikovsky

2016 Discovery Challenge – May Roundup

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

Juliet E. McKenna’s interesting article on the similarities between aikido and writing when breaking new ground – http://www.julietemckenna.com/?p=2172

Which Zodiac Sign Fits Your Protagonist Best? This is a really nifty getting-to-know your main character exercise by Sara Letourneau. https://saraletourneauwriter.com/2016/06/09/zodiac-signs-and-character-traits/

This is a lovely slice of photo journaling through India. The Road Goes Ever On… – https://indigodrift.wordpress.com/2016/06/08/the-road-goes-ever-on/

How realistic do you want injuries to be in books? Kristen Burns writes about this in her excellent article. http://blog.kristenburns.com/realism-in-books-injuries/

Lovely examples of space art, brought to us by Steph P. Bianchini – http://earthianhivemind.net/2016/06/08/space-art-nasa/

100_4927The weather has finally woken up to the fact it is nearly mid-June and we’ve had a lovely week of warm days and nights, so that suddenly everything in the garden is going mad. It’s frankly something of a jungle, but amongst the weeds and mayhem, my echium spires are taller than ever, this year, thanks to the mild winter. I’ve enclosed the pic to show the scale – those canes I’m holding are 6 ft long.

These foamy white bracts of flowers are on a spiky-leaved plant 100_4943I’ve owned for about a decade – and this is only the second time it’s flowered. The garden is full of the lily-like smell and it is crawling with bees – dozens of them. If I leave the back door open, the scent suffuses the kitchen, leaving me light-headed and happy. Summer… at last!
Once more, many thanks for taking the time to read and comment on my blog and I hope you can find the time and, maybe, a sunny nook where you can get lost in a book. Happy reading, everyone!