Tag Archives: Alaska

My Outstanding Reads of the Year – 2018 #Brainfluffbookblogger #MyOutstandingReadsoftheYear2018

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It’s been another great reading year with loads of choice within my favourite genres, so I ended up reading 162 books with 125 reviews published and another 23 in hand. In no particular order, these are the books that have stood out from the rest in the best way. Some of them might not even have garnered a 10 from me at the time – but all those included have lodged in my head and won’t go away. And none of this nonsense about a top 10 – I can’t possibly cope with a limit like that.

The Stone Sky – Book 3 The Broken Earth trilogy by N.K. Jemisin
The whole trilogy is an extraordinary read – a mash-up between fantasy and science fiction and sections of it written in second person pov. It shouldn’t work, but it does because her imagination and prose fuses together to make this more than a sum of its parts. See my review.

 

Hyperspace Trap by Christopher G. Nuttall
I like this author’s writing anyway and I’m a sucker for a well-told space opera adventure, so I read a fair few. However, something about this one has stuck – I often find myself thinking about those passengers on the space liner and the crew looking after them, while marooned by a malign presence. See my review.

 

The Cold Between – A Central Corps novel by Elizabeth Bonesteel
This is the start of a gripping space opera adventure with interestingly nuanced characters, whose reactions to the unfolding situation around them just bounces off the page. I love it when space opera gets all intelligent and grown-up… See my review.

 

The Green Man’s Heir by Juliet E. McKenna
This fantasy adventure is set in contemporary Britain with the protagonist very much hampered by his fae ancestry and trying to discover more about that side of his family. It gripped me from the first page and wouldn’t let go until the end, when I sulked for days afterwards because I wanted more. See my review.

 

Head On – Book 2 of the Lock In series by John Scalzi
This is such a smart, clever premise. The paralysed young protagonist is able to live a nearly-normal life because his consciousness is uploaded into a robot, when he pursues a career fighting crime. Science fiction murder mysteries are one of my favourite genres, when it’s done well – and this is a great example. See my review.

 

Before Mars – Book 3 of the Planetfall series by Emma Newman
This has been an outstanding series – and this tight-wound thriller is no exception. I love the fact that Newman tackles the subject of motherhood, which isn’t a subject that comes up all that often in science fiction. See my review.

 

Child I by Steve Tasane
I’ve been haunted by this book ever since I read it. It’s not long and the language is very simple. The little boy telling the story is bright and funny and not remotely self pitying. When I started reading it, I assumed it was set in a post-apocalyptic future – and then discovered that it was set right now and is the distilled experience of children from all over the world. And I wept. See my review.

 

The Wild Dead – Book 2 of The Bannerless Saga by Carrie Vaughn
This was the most delightful surprise. This is another murder mystery set in the future – this time in post-apocalyptic America once law and order has been re-established. I loved the atmosphere, the society and the above all, I fell in love with Enid, the no-nonsense, practical lawgiver sent to sort out the puzzle of a body of a girl that nobody appears to know. See my review.

 

The Great Alone by Kristen Hannah
As well as being a story of a family, this is also a homage to Alaska and a time when it was a wilder, less organised place. It isn’t one of my normal reads, but my mother sent me this one as she thought I’d love it – and, being my mum, she was right. See my review.

 

Fallen Princeborn: Stolen by Jean Lee
I’ve come to know the author from her amazing blog and was happy to read a review copy of her book – what I wasn’t prepared for was the way her powerful, immersive style sucked me right into the skin of the main character. This contemporary fantasy is sharp-edged, punchy and very memorable. See my review.

 

Eye Can Write: a memoir of a child’s silent soul emerging by Jonathan Bryan
This is another amazing read, courtesy of my lovely mum. And again, she was right. This is a non-fiction book, partly written by Jonathan’s mother and partly written by Jonathan himself, whose severe cerebral palsy locked him into his body, until he found a way to communicate with the outside world using one letter at a time. See my review.

 

Windhaven by George R.R. Martin and Lisa Tuttle
This remarkable colony world adventure is about a girl yearning to break into the closed community of flyers – and what happens when she does. I love a book all about unintended consequences and this intelligent, thought-provoking read thoroughly explores the problems, as well as the advantages of throwing open this elite corps to others. See my review.

 

Strange the Dreamer – Book 1 of Strange the Dreamer duology by Laini Taylor
I loved her first trilogy – but this particular book has her writing coming of age. The lyrical quality of her prose and her amazing imagination has her odd protagonist pinging off the page. See my review.

 

Battle Cruiser – Book 1 of the Lost Colonies series by B.V. Larson
This is just such fun. William Sparhawk is a rigidly proper young captain trying to make his way in the face of enmity from his superiors due to his family connections, when he’s pitchforked right into the middle of a ‘situation’ and after that, the tale takes off and buckets along with all sorts of twists and turns that has William becoming less rigid and proper… See my review.

 

Certain Dark Things by Sylvia Moreno-Garcia
That this author is a huge talent is a given – and what she does with a tale about a vampire on the run in a city that has declared it is a no-go area for the destructive creatures is extraordinary. Review to follow.

 

The Psychology of Time Travel by Kate Mascarenhas
I’ll be honest – I liked and appreciated the skill of this book as I read it, but I didn’t love it. The characters were too flawed and unappealing. But it won’t leave me alone. I find myself thinking about the premise and the consequences – and just how right the setup is. And a book that goes on doing that has to make the list, because it doesn’t happen all that often. Review to follow.

Are there any books here that you’ve read? And if so, do you agree with me? What are your outstanding reads for last year?

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Review of The Great Alone by Kristen Hannah #Brainfluffbookreview #TheGreatAlonebookreview

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I have to thank my lovely mother for sending me the print copy of this amazing book – the cover is beautiful and so is the story…

Alaska, 1974. Unpredictable. Unforgiving. Untamed. For a family in crisis, the ultimate test of survival. Ernt Allbright, a former POW, comes home from the Vietnam war a changed and volatile man. When he loses yet another job, he makes an impulsive decision: he will move his family north, to Alaska, where they will live off the grid in America’s last true frontier.

Thirteen-year-old Leni, a girl coming of age in a tumultuous time, caught in the riptide of her parents’ passionate, stormy relationship, dares to hope that a new land will lead to a better future for her family. She is desperate for a place to belong. Her mother, Cora, will do anything and go anywhere for the man she loves, even if it means following him into the unknown.

We are mostly in Leni’s viewpoint throughout this book, which takes us through Leni’s growing up years until she is a woman. I loved her character. Hannah’s writing is lyrical, intense and passionate, allowing us to get right inside the character of this sensitive, observant child. And of course she is hyperaware of the adults around her – with such an unstable family dynamic, it’s the only way she can survive…

I also love Hannah’s depiction of Alaska, which is clearly a remarkable place that attracts remarkable people. And you need something about you that finds modern life in busy cities with all the trappings of civilisation inherently uncomfortable – or you wouldn’t be able to cope in such a challenging environment. The historical flavour of the time is also well captured – having lived through it, I do recall the sense that everything was sliding away. While we didn’t have the draft and a savage war to deal with in the UK, we did have strikes, the 3-day week and the oil crisis.

This one was impossible to put down, once I started to read. The way the family dynamic worked was very well portrayed – it would have been so easy to have depicted her parents as uncaring or complete monsters. But they were nothing of the sort – they were people caught up in events and dealing with the fallout without any support – it’s been well documented elsewhere just what disgraceful treatment the Vietnam veterans endured once they returned home, often traumatised and unable to work.

As for the climax of the novel – I wasn’t sure about the ultimate ending, to be honest. I think it was just a bit too upbeat, given what had happened. But overall, this is an amazing read that I will recall with great pleasure. Highly recommended for fans of books based on recent history and family-based adventure.
9/10

#Sunday Post – 29th July, 2018 #Brainfluffbookblog

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

It’s been the first full week of the school holidays – and we travelled back to Brighton to pick up Frances on Tuesday from her last day at school. She was thrilled with the prospect of the summer break and to celebrate we stopped off at the local Haskins for a round of hand-made pizzas, which were very yummy. On Wednesday, Frances joined in my Pilates and Fitstep lessons during the morning in the sweltering village hall and in the afternoon, we met up with my sister and had a long, leisurely lunch – it was too hot to do anything else. On Thursday, we needed to shop for a few bits and pieces, when I discovered the delights of iced coffee and Frances sampled a hot chocolate scone, thinking she was getting a cookie…

On Friday, my writing buddy Mhairi came over for the day and we spent some of the time formatting Running Out of Space in preparation for a paperback version – the rest of the time, we were busy closing down and unplugging the computers and router when several thunderstorms swept through. During the evening, we went beach to see if we could see the lunar eclipse but though we waited, hoping the cloud cover would thin, it didn’t. However, we were treated to an amazing display of blood-red lightning, presumably reflecting from the colour of the moon. It was supposed to be my friend’s birthday party on Saturday evening, but poor Sally was crippled with a bad back, so I helped her ring around the guests to postpone it until she feels better, while Frances walked to the beach with Tim. Today we are travelling to visit my mother and father who haven’t seen Frances since last year.

This week I have read:

White Silence – Book 1 of the Elizabeth Cage series by Jodi Taylor
Elizabeth Cage is a child when she discovers that there are things in this world that only she can see. But she doesn’t want to see them and she definitely doesn’t want them to see her.
What is a curse to Elizabeth is a gift to others – a very valuable gift they want to control.
This paranormal thriller has plenty of the energy and twists I’ve come to expect from Taylor’s writing in her very successful The Chronicles of St Mary’s series, though Elizabeth definitely isn’t the adrenaline-junkie that Max is… A highly entertaining roller-coaster read.

 

Like a Boss – Book 2 of thendswept series by Adam Rukunas
After buying her favourite rum distillery and settling down, she thought she’d heard the last of her arch nemesis, Evanrute Saarien. But Saarien, fresh out of prison for his misdeeds in Windswept, has just fabricated a new religion, positioning himself as its holy leader. He’s telling his congregation to go on strike, to fight the system. And unfortunately, they’re listening to him.
This sequel to the successful Windswept isn’t perhaps as sharp or well realised as the first book, but I was happy to go along with the adventure, given I’m very fond of Padma and love the world.

 

The Tea Master and the Detective – The Xuya Universe novella by Aliette de Bodard
Welcome to the Scattered Pearls Belt, a collection of ring habitats and orbitals ruled by exiled human scholars and powerful families, and held together by living mindships who carry people and freight between the stars. In this fluid society, human and mindship avatars mingle in corridors and in function rooms, and physical and virtual realities overlap, the appareance of environments easily modified and adapted to interlocutors or current mood.

A transport ship discharged from military service after a traumatic injury, The Shadow’s Child now ekes out a precarious living as a brewer of mind-altering drugs for the comfort of space-travellers. Meanwhile, abrasive and eccentric scholar Long Chau wants to find a corpse for a scientific study. When Long Chau walks into her office, The Shadow’s Child expects an unpleasant but easy assignment. When the corpse turns out to have been murdered, Long Chau feels compelled to investigate, dragging The Shadow’s Child with her.
This is space-based whodunit nods to the Sherlock Holmes series, while adding important ingredients that can only exist in the far future. An intriguing, entertaining read.

 

The Great Alone by Kristen Hannah
Alaska, 1974. Unpredictable. Unforgiving. Untamed. For a family in crisis, the ultimate test of survival. Ernt Allbright, a former POW, comes home from the Vietnam war a changed and volatile man. When he loses yet another job, he makes an impulsive decision: he will move his family north, to Alaska, where they will live off the grid in America’s last true frontier.

Thirteen-year-old Leni, a girl coming of age in a tumultuous time, caught in the riptide of her parents’ passionate, stormy relationship, dares to hope that a new land will lead to a better future for her family. She is desperate for a place to belong. Her mother, Cora, will do anything and go anywhere for the man she loves, even if it means following him into the unknown.
I loved this one. The writing is lyrical, the worldbuilding exceptional and the story full of unexpected twists. And that cover – ooo… Many thanks to my lovely mother for sending this one to me.

 

My posts last week:

Sunday Post – 22nd July 2018

Review of Removed – Book 1 of the Nogiku series by S.J. Pajonas

Teaser Tuesday featuring Like a Boss – Book 2 of the Windswept series by Adam Rakunas

Can’t-Wait Wednesday featuring Immortal Creators by Jill Bowers

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Redemption’s Blade : After the War by Adrian Tchaikovsky

Friday Face-off – Here we are trapped in the amber of the moment. There is no why… featuring The Affinity Bridge – Book 1 of the Newbury and Hobbes series by George Mann

Review of The Tethered Mage – Book 1 of the Swords and Fire series by Melissa Caruso

 

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

Follow the Vikings https://inesemjphotography.com/2018/07/28/follow-the-vikings/ This talented photographer has perfectly captured the flavour of this amazing Follow the Vikings Roadshow when it came to Waterford in Ireland

Untitled https://photolicioux.wordpress.com/2018/07/26/untitled-146/ I loved this one…

Jupiter’s New Moons https://earthianhivemind.net/2018/07/25/jupiters-new-moons/ I love the fact that we are constantly discovering new facts about our solar system – and this is one of those exciting facts.

Then and Now at RWA National Conferences http://writerunboxed.com/2018/07/25/all-the-things-at-rwa-national-in-denver/ Barbara O’Neal has written with affection and verve about her experiences with the Romance Writers’ Association. I loved this article…

10 of the best poems by English Romantic Poets https://interestingliterature.com/2018/07/25/10-of-the-best-poems-by-english-romantic-poets/ I may not wholly agree with all these choices – but that’s okay. There are a number here I love…

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

Sunday Post – 10th December 2017

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

I’m on the last lap of writing the notes for next term’s Creative Writing course and should be finished in time to take them into Northbrook and get them all photocopied on Tuesday, which is the day we break up for Christmas – if I can squeeze in the chore in amongst the Christmas cheer at the end of another successful term.

Last Sunday evening Frances and I attended the Wrap Party to celebrate making Tim’s film. It was boisterous and noisy, which was you’d expect with 20+ teenagers and it was lovely to see her joining in, being right in the thick of it. My amazing mother turned 82 on Tuesday, so my sister and I went down on Wednesday and took her out for lunch, stayed overnight and then had coffee with her before driving back on Thursday morning. On Wednesday evening, we popped round to see the new house my nephew and his girlfriend have recently bought and are doing up.

On Friday, Tim passed his Speaking and Listening exam with flying colours and Himself also got through a major milestone so will shortly be resuming his train driving duties – a huge relief. We celebrated by going out to lunch to The Arun View, which is right on the river and had a delicious meal as they had plenty of vegetarian options. Yesterday I worked most of the day and today will doing be the same, though we are popping out to do some shopping. I am horribly unprepared for Christmas, but to be honest until Friday was out of the way, Himself and I weren’t feeling very festive.

This week I have read:
Split Feather – Book 1 of the Daughter of the Midnight Sun by Deborah A. Wolf
Siggy Aleksov sees demons and talks with creatures she knows aren’t really there. Taken from her family as a child, she is dogged by memories of abandonment, abuse, and mental health issues. Siggy suffers from a hot temper, cluster headaches, caffeine addiction, and terminal foul language.
I really enjoyed this gritty, unusual urban fantasy that spends much of its time in one of my favourite settings – Alaska. Despite Siggy’s significant problems, she is portrayed without any self pity, yet also without dismissing the enormity of her issues, which is a difficult path to tread. A memorable, gutsy protagonist. I shall be reviewing this one in due course.

 

 

Fade Out by Patrick Tilley
Patrick Tilley’s brilliant bestselling thriller of humanity’s first contact with advanced alien intelligence is a high-tension tour-de-force that will leave you thinking long after you have turned the last page.
Hm. I enjoyed a lot of the story and the slow burn anticipation to discovering what the aliens are all about and what will happen next… Not sure about the ending. Review to follow.

 

My posts last week:

Sunday Post – 3rd December, 2017

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

Teaser Tuesday featuring Fade Out by Patrick Tilley

Review of Language of Power – Book 4 of The Steerswoman series by Rosemary Kirstein

Review of A Local Habitation – Book 2 of the October Daye series by Seanan McGuire

Friday Face-off – Do not go gentle…featuring Knights of the Borrowed Dark – Book 1 from the Knights of the Borrowed Dark trilogy by Dave Rudden

Review of Falling Apart – Book 2 of the Otherworlders series by Jane Lovering

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

Christmas Alphabet: R for Roy Orbison (Pretty Paper) https://theimmortaljukebox.com/2017/12/09/christmas-alphabet-r-for-roy-orbison-pretty-paper/ Thom delivers another classy article full of knowledge and passion about a wonderful track – this site is a gem…

The Best Villanelles in English Poetry https://interestingliterature.com/2017/12/06/the-best-villanelles-in-english-poetry/ By coincidence, we’ve been looking at villanelles in this term’s poetry workshop during my Creative Writing course, so I was delighted to see this excellent article – I think there is another one to add to this marvellous list, ‘Villanelle’ by Weldon Kees.

Hope https://inesemjphotography.com/2017/12/09/hope/ Inessa always takes amazing photos – but these are extraordinary. They brought tears to my eyes…

Gift Ideas for the Book Lover on your Holiday Shopping List https://thebookishlibra.com/2017/12/08/gift-ideas-for-the-book-lover-on-your-holiday-shopping-list/ Some fabulous ideas here for that special person in your life who also loves books.

Discussion: Fear of Reading Up All the Good Books http://avalinahsbooks.space/discussion-fear-good-books/ I think it’s one lots of passionate readers have after they have finished a wonderful book with a sigh of pleasure – and Evelina tackles it head-on😊

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

Friday Faceoff – In the bleak midwinter…

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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. This week the theme is a snowscape, so I’ve chosen Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey.

 

This is the cover produced by Reagan Arthur Books in February 2012 and frankly, I don’t know what they were thinking. It is pretty enough – indeed, looks appropriate for a cute childen’s tale. But this book is nothing of the sort – it is a wonderful portrait of survival in a hostile environment, of despair and gritted determination and a miracle. Or is it? So this cover is completely inappropriate.

 

This edition, produced by Headline Review in February 2012 is more like it. I love the simplicity of the deep blue with the outline of the girl and the fox in white. It is eye-catching and gives a far better sense of the book. While it isn’t my favourite, it is certainly a huge improvement on the previous effort.

 

Published in July 2012 by Polirom, this Romanian cover is an unfortunate throwback to the first cover. It looks far too juvenile for this remarkable book which covers very adult themes, even if the prose is at times ethereally beautiful.

 

Thank goodness this cover, produced in September 2014 by Tinder Press, is a much better effort. The snowscape is still beautiful. I love the looping font the footsteps leading away from it towards the smudge in the trees that may or may not be the child. Lovely and entirely in keeping with the content.

 

However my favourite is this Serbian edition by Laguna, published in January 2013. I love the cool blue of the cover and the delicacy and detail of the frosting around the edge of the cover – how beautiful! And it isn’t the snow child portrayed on the cover, it is the heavier figure of the woman, searching for her… As you may have gathered, I’ve become a tad overwrought about these covers – but which is your favourite?

Review of The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey

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This book was lent to me by one of my students with a strong recommendation – and she mentioned there was a slight fantasy spin on it, which piqued my interest. It’s ideal summer reading as a foil to the heatwave we’re experiencing right now…

the snow childAlaska, the 1920s. Jack and Mabel have staked everything on a fresh start in a remote homestead, but the wilderness is a stark place, and Mabel is haunted by the baby she lost many years before. When a little girl appears mysteriously on their land, each is filled with wonder, but also foreboding – is she what she seems?

I have to confess I was concerned this would be one of those books long on literary descriptions and agonised self-examination at the expense of plot and action. But I needn’t have worried. The main protagonist is Mabel, and as the story unfurls, it is far grittier than it first seems. The descriptions of Alaska are wonderful – but this isn’t some soft-focused, tender evocation of a lost wilderness, although that is part of the package. However, it also is a grinding struggle for survival in an environment that takes no prisoners – those living there cannot afford any squeamishness and need to be physically and mentally tough.

Mabel nearly buckles during their second winter, while Jack is bowed by the weight of trying to establish his smallholding when past his physical prime. And then, one snowy night they build a small girl snowman after Mabel reads the Russian tale – and in the morning find that the mittens and hat they’d decorated it with are gone. And a pale-haired child is wearing them…

Is this some fantastic fairy tale come true? Ivey takes some time to answer that question – in the meantime, the child’s appearance in their lives changes Jack and Mabel, as does their growing relationship with their nearest neighbours. It took a couple of chapters, but once I became used to the pacing and relaxed into Ivey’s polished, straightforward prose, this book grabbed me and wouldn’t let go until the last chapter – which was a bittersweet shock.

It’s one of those books where you are left to make up your mind as to exactly what happened – which left me with a lump in my throat… It certainly isn’t a book I’m going to forget in a hurry and if you like unusual, unsentimental books that give a pitch perfect evocation of time and place, then track this down. It is beautiful, engrossing and left me with a complicated range of feelings that I only normally experience when watching my grandchildren play.
9/10