Tag Archives: aliens

Review of KINDLE Ebook One Fell Sweep – Book 3 of The Innkeeper Chronicles by Ilona Andrews

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I have thoroughly enjoyed this series so far and decided to treat myself with this third slice in Dina’s adventures with Gertrude Hunt, her magical inn…

Gertrude Hunt, the nicest Bed and Breakfast in Red Deer, Texas, is glad to have you. We cater to particular kind of guests, the ones most people don’t know about. The older lady sipping her Mello Yello is called Caldenia, although she prefers Your Grace. She has a sizable bounty on her head, so if you hear kinetic or laser fire, try not to stand close to the target. Our chef is a Quillonian. The claws are a little unsettling, but he is a consummate professional and truly is the best chef in the Galaxy. If you see a dark shadow in the orchard late at night, don’t worry. Someone is patrolling the grounds. Do beware of our dog. Your safety and comfort is our first priority. The inn and your host, Dina Demille, will defend you at all costs. We ask only that you mind other guests and conduct yourself in a polite manner.

Dina has proved herself to be resourceful and powerful – particularly when in her magical inn, as evidenced by the last eventful adventure in Sweep in Peace – see my review here. So the trick is to produce a scenario where she is under threat right in the heart of her stronghold – what about when a smelly, ramshackle alien lurches onto the property pleading for sanctuary? What if this desperate creature is being pursued by a horde of fanatical aliens who believe their path to everlasting life and glory is to run down the first species, the Hiru, until they are extinct? And they will stop at nothing to get to them…

We also get to learn more about Dina’s background as another family member surfaces, bringing with her a familiar guest. I always enjoy it when characters we’ve known from previous adventures reappear – especially when we see another side to them, as is the case with a certain vampire who featured in the last book. Yet another favourite character who also heavily features in this book is the Alpha werewolf, Sean. Dina has been attracted to her neighbour for some time, but innkeeping has been rather hectic recently, so she hasn’t had much opportunity to give those feelings a chance. However, when desperately battling for her very existence, she and Sean find those feelings become intensified. This romance between the two of them is well handled, to the extent that even cynical old me felt an ‘ahh’ moment when they sorted out their feelings for one another.

Once again, I found it very difficult to put this one down before the end. I love this series – it goes on delivering one storming read after another. As for those smelly, downtrodden aliens – there was a wonderful moment of true poignancy near the end that was magical. Highly recommended for anyone who has ever enjoyed an urban fantasy or space opera adventure, given this is a glorious mash-up of the two. Now, I’m just waiting for the next book in the series…
10/10

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Discovery Challenge 2017 and Tackling My TBR – July Roundup

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After reading Jo Hall’s post on the problems women authors have with getting discovered, for the past two years I’ve been taking part in the challenge to read and review at least twenty-four books by female authors each year that were previously unknown to me. During July, I read three books towards my 2017 Discovery Challenge, which brings my annual number of books written by women writers I hadn’t read before to twenty-two. They are:

Slouch Witch – Book 1 of The Lazy Girl’s Guide to Magic series by Helen Harper
Let’s get one thing straight – Ivy Wilde is not a heroine. In fact, she’s probably the last witch in the world who you’d call if you needed a magical helping hand, regardless of her actual abilities. If it were down to Ivy, she’d spend all day every day on her sofa where she could watch TV, munch junk food and talk to her feline familiar to her heart’s content. However, when a bureaucratic disaster ends up with Ivy as the victim of a case of mistaken identity, she’s yanked very unwillingly into Arcane Branch, the investigative department of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn. Her problems are quadrupled when a valuable object is stolen right from under the Order’s noses. It doesn’t exactly help that she’s been magically bound to Adeptus Exemptus Raphael Winter. He might have piercing sapphire eyes and a body which a cover model would be proud of but, as far as Ivy’s concerned, he’s a walking advertisement for the joyless perils of too much witch-work. And if he makes her go to the gym again, she’s definitely going to turn him into a frog.
I loved this one – it’s such a refreshing change to meet a protagonist who would far rather slump on the sofa and watch something on the TV than run around getting involved in magical adventures. Sharp and funny, I found this one difficult to put down. See my review here.

 

The Stargazer’s Embassy by Eleanor Lerman
The Stargazer’s Embassy explores the frightening phenomenon of alien abduction from a different point of view: in this story, it is the aliens who seem fearful of Julia Glazer, the woman they are desperately trying to make contact with.
Julia is the edgy protagonist who immediately gripped me and pulled me into the start of this one, which pings off the page with tension as we begin to get to know her. The tale slowly unspools as we learn her backstory and why she is constantly alert. Lerman’s depiction of a damaged character whose trust was destroyed during her childhood is very effective. See my review here.

 

Crash Land on Kurai – Book 1 of The Hikoboshi series by S.J. Pajonas
Crash Land on Kurai is the first book in the Hikoboshi series, an action adventure, space opera series that explores the worlds settled by the Japanese who fled Earth a century ago. Culture, history, technology, and swords clash in a fast-paced future society on the brink of war. Yumi Minamoto has the shortest fuse on the ship. She’s just whipped a bully and been confined to quarters, but she’s not staying there. A disgraced journalist trying to clear her name, her job is to document the mission to the Hikoboshi system, and she’s determined to get it right, despite all the trouble she causes. But when unknown vessels fire on their ship, and Yumi’s life pod crash lands on a dying moon, she’s separated from her family and friends, and her mission falls to pieces. Now she must navigate the unfamiliar and deadly terrain, deal with a society she doesn’t understand, and try to stay alive until rescue comes… if it ever does.
Yumi is an interesting protagonist – from a powerful and influential family, she is clearly the cuckoo in the nest. Constantly in trouble with the authorities, I liked the fact that when she says at the start of the story that she is a pain in the neck with an attitude and a knack for rubbing folks up the wrong way – she means it. See my review here.

I also managed to clear two books from my TBR pile. They are:

One Fell Sweep – Book 3 of The Innkeeper Chronicles by Ilona Andrews
Gertrude Hunt, the nicest Bed and Breakfast in Red Deer, Texas, is glad to have you. We cater to particular kind of guests, the ones most people don’t know about. The older lady sipping her Mello Yello is called Caldenia, although she prefers Your Grace. She has a sizable bounty on her head, so if you hear kinetic or laser fire, try not to stand close to the target. Our chef is a Quillonian. The claws are a little unsettling, but he is a consummate professional and truly is the best chef in the Galaxy. If you see a dark shadow in the orchard late at night, don’t worry. Someone is patrolling the grounds. Do beware of our dog. Your safety and comfort is our first priority. The inn and your host, Dina Demille, will defend you at all costs. We ask only that you mind other guests and conduct yourself in a polite manner.
Dina has proved herself to be resourceful and powerful – particularly when in her magical inn, as evidenced by the last eventful adventure in Sweep in Peace – see my review here. So the trick is to produce a scenario where she is under threat right in the heart of her stronghold – what about when a smelly, ramshackle alien lurches onto the property pleading for sanctuary? What if this desperate creature is being pursued by a horde of fanatical aliens who believe their path to everlasting life and glory is to run down the first species, the Hiru, until they are extinct? And they will stop at nothing to get to them… Review to follow.

Slouch Witch – Book 1 of The Lazy Girl’s Guide to Magic series by Helen Harper
See above

This means I’ve managed to clear thirty-four books from my teetering TBR pile so far this year. Have you read any of the above books? If so, what did you think? Are there any challenges you are undertaking – I’d love to hear how it’s going.

Friday Faceoff – No soldier outlives a thousand chances…

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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 soldiers, so I’ve chosen Starship Troopers by Robert Heinlein.

 

This is the cover produced by Ace in 1987. I really like the overall bright yellow/orange colour and the no-nonsense font. It’s a long time ago since I read this one, but I don’t recall that space ships roaring into the action was much of a thing. My recollection is that they are all about the bloody hand to hand combat with the insectoid aliens, but it does make for a dramatic cover.

 

This paperback edition by Ace, produced in May 1987 is far more in tune with the content, given it features a trooper in one of those awesome suits. They also have recreated Heinlein’s signature for some reason that escapes me, which rather spoils the balance and impact of the cover.

 

Published in July 1982 by Berkley, this is another cover featuring a trooper wearing one of these amazing suits – although this version manages to look rather alien. Even with the fame of this book, the publishers still decided the author’s name would sell more copies by emblazoning it across the top third of cover, rather than the title.

 

Produced in August 1997 by New English Library, this cover is clearly in response to the recently released film. These covers aren’t usually my favourites, but I really like this one – there is real sense of battle going on and I also think the styling of the title font is eye-catching and attractive.

 

This is another Berkley cover, this edition published in November 1977. The vivid turquoise and font, along with the artwork give this cover a retro feel. I want to like this one, but I don’t. The aliens look far too static to be the terrible threat described in the book and that harsh colour puts me in mind of 1950s bathroom suites… Which one do you like best?

Review of KINDLE Ebook Sweep in Peace – Book 2 of the Innkeeper Chronicles by Ilona Andrews

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Back in February, I read the first book in this entertaining series, Clean Sweep – read my review here. At that point, Himself bought the other two books in the series so far and tucked into them, but I don’t like reading books from the same series back to back. However, I hadn’t planned on leaving it quite so long before returning to this world.

Dina DeMille doesn’t run your typical Bed and Breakfast. Her inn defies laws of physics, her fluffy dog is secretly a monster, and the only paying guest is a former Galactic tyrant with a price on her head. But the inn needs guests to thrive, and guests have been scarce, so when an Arbitrator shows up at Dina’s door and asks her to host a peace summit between three warring species, she jumps on the chance. Unfortunately, for Dina, keeping the peace between Space Vampires, the Hope-Crushing Horde, and the devious Merchants of Baha-char is much easier said than done. On top of keeping her guests from murdering each other, she must find a chef, remodel the inn…and risk everything, even her life, to save the man she might fall in love with. But then it’s all in the day’s work for an Innkeeper…

Dina is on a mission. Her parents, along with their magical inn, disappeared without trace some six years ago and despite an exhaustive search, no one has seen any hint of them. She has now decided to settle down and run her own inn – though she has also posted pictures of her missing family and watches every guest’s reaction as they walk through the door, hoping that one day someone will offer valuable information – or betray a shocked jolt of recognition. However taking on this particular mission is doing things the hard way.

I loved the sense that Dina is plunged into a situation well over her head and scrambling to keep up, often several steps behind. She is a likeable protagonist – steady and determined, particularly when under pressure, but with the ongoing vulnerability of constantly missing her parents.

Andrews is also good at writing animals – Dina’s little dog is suitably annoying and yappy, except when he… isn’t. And when a cat makes an appearance, I was also convinced – I get a bit fed up when pets are depicted with too much treacly sentimentality. But what sets this intriguing fantasy/science fiction mashup apart is the originality of the premise – and how effectively Andrews raises the stakes. We are left in no doubt as to the high cost of this terrible war raging between two warlike species – and the impact on everyone, those taking part as well as those caught between them.

In addition, Dina finds her own happiness held hostage as to the outcome of the peace conference. Andrews’ pacing and handling of the narrative tension is spot on as she steadily ramps up it up with a mixture of the domestic mundane with a twist of fantasy – the galactic superchef produces wonderful meals and Dina has to spend a lot of time and magic ensuring each delegation’s needs are fully met – with the crucial details we need to understand exactly how important it all is. This is all deftly done, producing a smooth, enjoyable read that covers all the epic consequences of this nasty war through the fallout in Dina’s magical inn.

I have the next book in this entertaining series – One Fell Sweep – and I won’t be waiting so long to get to it and if you are seeking an interesting fantasy with a sci fi twist, then this series comes highly recommended.
9/10

Sunday Post – 23rd July 2017

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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.

Last week was once again, a busy social one. On Tuesday I spent the morning with a good friend – we visited Highdown Gardens and had lunch there, before making our way to the pier at Littlehampton to enjoy the cooling sea breeze as it was a wonderfully hot day. In the afternoon Himself and I went to see Frances in her school play which was devised by the students about the difficult subject of bullying. It was a passionate and moving piece and we were very proud of her. I fitted in my Fitstep class on Wednesday morning and taught Tim in the afternoon. I was able to listen to the professional recording of the cast singing the songs that Tim wrote for the film – it was amazing to actually hear them being sung and a fitting end to a fantastically successful year.

On Friday I ran my one day Creative Writing course at Northbrook. Though it was rather hot, we had a very enjoyable day listening to students’ writing and working on exercises designed to spark creativity through the summer break. Both my classes for the autumn term are now full. In the evening I went out to celebrate Sally’s birthday with a meal at The Fish Factory. She had an extra present – the wonderful news that Tim has passed his first English external exam. Last night we went round to my sister’s for a lovely meal and played some games in what is fast-becoming a really enjoyable weekly routine.

This week I have read:
The Masked City – Book 2 of The Invisible Library series by Genevieve Cogman
Librarian-spy Irene is working undercover in an alternative London when her assistant Kai goes missing. She discovers he’s been kidnapped by the fae faction and the repercussions could be fatal. Not just for Kai, but for whole worlds.
This is a real treat. The spiky characters we met in the first book are now tested as they struggle in a very personal way with this latest threat to the fabric of the world. We also get to meet more of the Fae – and a thoroughly annoying, self-centred bunch they are. I loved the depiction of this fantastic version of Venice – highly recommended. Review to follow.

 

One Fell Sweep – Book 3 of The Innkeeper Chronicles by Ilona Andrews
Gertrude Hunt, the nicest Bed and Breakfast in Red Deer, Texas, is glad to have you. We cater to a particular kind of guests, the ones most people don’t know about. The older lady sipping her Mello Yello is called Caldenia, although she prefers Your Grace. She has a sizable bounty on her head, so if you hear kinetic or laser fire, try not to stand close to the target. Our chef is a Quillonian. The claws are a little unsettling, but he is a consummate professional and truly is the best chef in the Galaxy. If you see a dark shadow in the orchard late at night, don’t worry. Someone is patrolling the grounds. Do beware of our dog. Your safety and comfort is our first priority. The inn and your host, Dina Demille, will defend you at all costs. We ask only that you mind other guests and conduct yourself in a polite manner.
This series just goes on getting better and better. I love the steady character development and how we learn more about Dina and her family in each book. This time around, we discover a bit about her sister’s adventures in between another cracking adventure. This is one of my favourite series of the year. Review to follow.

 

Chocolate Chocolate Moons by Jackie Kingon
It is a novel set in the future that tells the story of plus-sized Molly Marbles, who wins a scholarship to Armstrong University on the Moon, a haven for the plus-sized set where her weight drops from 287 Earth pounds to 47.6 without so much as passing up a piece of pie. When boyfriend Drew Barron dumps her, then jumps at a job at Congress Drugs, a company that makes low calorie food supplements, Molly’s weight is the least of her woes. And when her favorite treats, Chocolate Moons are found poisoned, she finds she has bitten off more than she can chew.
When author Jackie Kingon read my review of Sherlock Mars, she got in touch and asked if I would like to read the prequel, which gave an account of how Molly got her nickname. I jumped at the chance, finding this quirky read had stuck in my head. I enjoyed this science fiction cosy mystery. Review to follow.

 

My posts last week:

Sunday Post – 16th July 2017

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Face the Change – Book 3 of the Menopausal Superheroes series by Samantha Bryant

Teaser Tuesday featuring Chocolate Chocolate Moons by Jackie Kingon

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Star Witch – Book 2 of The Lazy Girl’s Guide to Magic by Helen Harper

Discovery Challenge 2017 and Tackling my TBR – June Roundup

Friday Face-off – Any planet is ‘Earth’ to those who live on it… featuring The Empress of Mars by Kage Baker

Review of The Invisible Library – Book 1 of The Invisible Library series by Genevieve Cogman

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

50 Word Stories: The Catch https://richardankers.com/2017/07/21/50-word-stories-the-catch/
A nicely sharp story from talented wordsmith Richard Ankers.

Untitled https://photolicioux.wordpress.com/2017/07/17/untitled-110/ I love this rippling effect on the building, which turns it into something far more interesting…

…Istanbul is Constantinople… however many letters it takes to spell it… https://seumasgallacher.com/2017/07/20/istanbul-is-constantinople-is-istanbul-however-many-letters-it-takes-to-spell-it/ This recollection from best-selling indie author Seumas Gallacher reminded me of hours of fun playing similar word games when going away on holiday with my grandparents…

Reverse Bucket List https://dogdaysanddelights.wordpress.com/2017/07/18/reverse-bucket-list/ I really like this idea – as well as striving for more adventures, why not celebrate and recollect those we have already experienced?

British Fantasy Awards 2017 – Good News! https://hierath.wordpress.com/2017/07/14/british-fantasy-awards-2017-good-news/ Good news indeed! This is an impressive and astonishing number of nominations for a small indie press – and I’m honoured to be one of the authors they have signed up this year…

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.

Sunday Post – 5th March 2017

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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.

I’ve been back to teaching this week – although I went down with a cold last Sunday and was too ill to teach Tim on Monday morning. However lots of liquids, homeopathic remedies and vitamin C later, I was sufficiently recovered to go into Northbrook and take my Monday evening class. By Wednesday, it was almost completely gone. I’m currently reading and editing a manuscript for a good friend, which is also giving me a convenient break from Miranda’s Tempest, before I go back to check if the rewrite is successful.

We’ve the grandchildren staying again this week-end, which is always a delight, so I shan’t be around quite so much for commenting, etc. It’s lovely to see the daffodils starting to bloom, despite the damp chilly weather. At long last, I’m beginning to feel that winter’s grip is starting to loosen. Have a great reading and blogging week – I’m wishing you all a glimpse of Spring sunshine to go with it…

This week I have read:
Satan’s Reach – Book 2 of the Weird Space series by Eric Brown

Telepath Den Harper did the dirty work for the authoritarian Expansion, reading the minds of criminals,satansreach spies and undesirables. Unable to take the strain, he stole a starship and headed into the unknown, a sector of lawless space known as Satan’s Reach. For five years he worked as a trader among the stars; then discovered that the Expansion had set a bounty hunter on his trail. But what does the Expansion want with a lowly telepath like Harper? Is there validity in the rumours that human space is being invaded by aliens from another realm? Harper finds out the answer to both these questions when he rescues an orphan girl from certain death.

Den is a likeable chap in a tricky situation, which gets steadily tricker as this fast-paced, enjoyable space opera progresses. This is space opera where the universe is heaving with multitudes of aliens and faster-than-light travels occurs such that zipping between planets takes a matter of weeks. That’s okay – I can happily cope with that. This is great fun.

Twelve Kings – Book 1 of The Song of the Shattered Sands by Bradley Beaulieu

twelvekingsSharakhai, the great city of the desert, center of commerce and culture, has been ruled from time immemorial by twelve kings—cruel, ruthless, powerful, and immortal. With their army of Silver Spears, their elite company of Blade Maidens, and their holy defenders, the terrifying asirim, the Kings uphold their positions as undisputed, invincible lords of the desert. There is no hope of freedom for any under their rule. Or so it seems, until Çeda, a brave young woman from the west end slums, defies the Kings’ laws by going outside on the holy night of Beht Zha’ir. What she learns that night sets her on a path that winds through both the terrible truths of the Kings’ mysterious history and the hidden riddles of her own heritage. Together, these secrets could finally break the iron grip of the Kings’ power…if the nigh-omnipotent Kings don’t find her first.

Bradley’s world is intricate, vivid and engrossing. I love the layers of society and power he has built against this unforgiving backdrop – and the magical elements are woven in with skill to provide plenty of impact when we finally get to learn what exactly is going on during the holy night of Beht Zha’ir. While there are frequent flashbacks, I didn’t find them jarring, as they helped us to understand the motivation of our two main protagonists, who I became very fond of throughout the book and am looking forward to getting reacquainted with in With Blood upon the Sand.

After Atlas – Book 2 of the Planetfall series by Emma Newman

Govcorp detective Carlos Moreno was only a baby when Atlas left Earth to seek truth among afteratlasthe stars. But in that moment, the course of Carlos’s entire life changed. Atlas is what took his mother away; what made his father lose hope; what led Alejandro Casales, leader of the religious cult known as the Circle, to his door. And now, on the eve of the fortieth anniversary of Atlas’s departure, it’s got something to do with a brutal murder in a hotel room—and why Carlos is the man in charge of the investigation.

Those of you who know the first book in this series will realise that while set within the same world, this book does not immediately follow on from the events in Planetfall so you can enjoy this one without having read the first book. And enjoy it I did. This murder mystery absolutely gripped me in a near future world where most eat food provided by 3D printers and in England slavery is permitted for those unlucky enough to be stateless, such as Carlos Moreno. He is indentured to the Ministry of Justice as a top-grade investigator after a brutal hot-housing course and is one of their top investigators, having never failed in solving a crime.

My posts last week:
Sunday Post – 26th February 2017

Review of All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders

Teaser Tuesday featuring Twelve Kings – Book 1 of The Song of the Shattered Sands by Bradley Beaulieu

NEW RELEASE SPECIAL – Review of Very Important Corpses by Simon R. Green

Shoot for the Moon 2017 Challenge – February Roundup

Friday Face-off – Time Held Me Green and Dying… featuring Tom’s Midnight Garden by Philippa Pearce

Review of Demon Hunting in Dixie – Book 1 of the Demon Hunting series by Lexi George

Interesting/outstanding blogs and articles that have caught my attention during the last week, in no particular order:
What a Sensitivity Reader Is (And Isn’t) and How to Hire One http://writerunboxed.com/2017/03/03/what-a-sensitivity-reader-is-and-isnt-and-how-to-hire-one/ I have heard of this growing practice, but thought there might be a number of folks out there who haven’t…

No, I’m Not a Sexual Deviant… https://mistybooks.wordpress.com/2017/02/04/no-im-not-a-sexual-deviant/ This is an issue that children’s authors who want to give talks in schools and libraries where they come into direct contact with children and young people may need to consider…

A Magnificent Library Parking Garage https://kristentwardowski.wordpress.com/2017/03/02/a-magnificent-library-parking-garage/ In an ideal world, every single multi-storey car park throughout the world would feature famous books from their own country…

Photolicioux – Inner Earth https://photolicioux.wordpress.com/2017/03/01/inner-earth/
Regulars to this blog will know this is one of my favourite sites – and this week once more, it doesn’t disappoint…

If I’m Ever Stranded… https://themusingquill.com/2012/07/23/if-im-ever-stranded-2/
The quote says it all, really…

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

Friday Faceoff – Little green men…

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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 aliens, so I’ve chosen The Tar-Aiym Krang – Book 1 of the Pip and Flinx series by Alan Dean Foster.

 

pipflinx1This is the offering produced by Random Del Rey in November 1981. I like this cover, with its depiction of young Flinx and the scales of the little dragon as the backdrop for the font.

 

pipflinxThis cover produced by Del Rey in November 1981 shows its age with the bright colours and the comic-style depiction of the figures. I have a real soft spot for these types of covers – the science fiction I fell in love with was packaged in these covers. And this one, I think, shouts adventure and escape.

 

pipflinx3This cover, also produced in November 1981 by Ballantine Books is my favourite. I like the bright colour and the detail. The figure sitting on the throne-like chair facing away is intriguing – as it the disturbing link with the winged creature in the background. I also really love the quirky font.

 

pipflinx2This effort is produced by the New English Library Ltd in January 1979 with its depiction of a space shuttle landing about to land. The sky with its cloud cover and glimpses of the ground below is interesting. Again, this one is of its time – but is a tad generic.
Which one do you like best?

2016 Discovery Challenge – July 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. After a rather paltry effort last month, during July I read and reviewed 6 Discovery Challenge books. Four are science fiction reads, one is contemporary and another is a YA paranormal thriller. This takes my yearly total so far to 28 books read and reviewed by women I haven’t previously encountered – and so far this year has been a fantastic year for really good books.

Speak by Louisa Hall
speakIn a narrative that spans geography and time, from the Atlantic Ocean in the seventeenth century, to a correctional institute in Texas in the near future, and told from the perspectives of five very different characters, Speak considers what it means to be human, and what it means to be less than fully alive. A young Puritan woman travels to the New World with her unwanted new husband. Alan Turing, the renowned mathematician and code breaker, writes letters to his best friend’s mother. A Jewish refugee and professor of computer science struggles to reconnect with his increasingly detached wife. An isolated and traumatized young girl exchanges messages with an intelligent software program. A former Silicon Valley Wunderkind is imprisoned for creating illegal lifelike dolls.

It is a very neat idea – to bind up the voices and slices of people’s history inside a discarded AI, struggling to conserve her battery as she is stored in a warehouse with other bots for the crime of being too lifelike. I have a feeling this book is one that will stay with me for a long time.

 

 

Inborn – Book 1 of The Birthright series by Amy Saunders
InbornRosamund Brandt has had a semi normal life for sixteen years. Well, semi normal for a family descended from aliens. Sure, she could create portals and her family had a secret basement. But she went to school, had a best friend, and got her driving permit like every other teen. However, her definition of “normal” unravels when a killer with multiple powers and an agenda steps into town. When Rosamund herself becomes a target, she has a choice between playing the killer’s game and saving a few, or getting to the core of the murders and stopping them for good. Rosamund’s choice will save everyone she cares about–or unleash a new era for herself and her family, shattering whatever hope for going back to normal she had.

This story tips us right into the middle of the action at the beginning of the book, as Rosamund immediately is pitchforked into the initial action that triggers the cascade of events that then continually ricochet through the book. I would have enjoyed it more if there had been less foot-to-the-floor action and bit more of a chance to get to know all the characters better – particularly the antagonist. However the premise is intriguing and I think this series could settle down to be really strong.

 

 

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.

This book thoroughly and effectively explored what it means to be a clone, both for the cloned person and those around her. For all it being used as a regular plot device, I cannot recall another book that deals with the fallout of cloning better. While there are some issues around the worldbuilding and the depiction of the machines and Rhona’s role near the end of the book, I look forward to reading what happens next in this intriguing series.

 

 

Woman of the Hour by Jane Lythell
womanofthehourLiz Lyon is Head of Features at StoryWorld TV. It’s exhilarating and sometimes glamorous work, but as a single mother with a demanding career, her life is a constant balancing act. Then simmering tensions erupt at the station, trapping Liz in a web of rivalry, manipulation and deceit. If she trusts the wrong person, she could lose her job. But with everything she thought she knew crumbling around her, can she even trust herself?

Jane worked as a head researcher for breakfast TV for some fifteen years – and her wealth of experience bounces off the page in this original, thoroughly enjoyable story that wouldn’t let me go as I read it in one greedy gulp. I’m going to be tracking down the next instalment, too.

 

 

shiftShift by Em Bailey
Olive Corbett is not crazy. Not anymore.
She obediently takes her meds and stays under the radar at school. After “the incident,” Olive just wants to avoid any more trouble, so she knows the smartest thing is to stay clear of the new girl who is rumored to have quite the creepy past.
This YA psychological thriller with a paranormal twist started very strongly with laugh-aloud moments as Olive’s snarky commentary on her life pinged off the page. It slightly lost momentum in the middle, as Miranda’s unfortunate effect was far too clearly signposted so that I knew what was coming. However, the ending held a couple of further twists that I found enjoyable.

 

 

An Accident of Stars – Book 1 of The Manifold Worlds series by Foz Meadows
anaccidentofstarsWhen Saffron Coulter stumbles through a hole in reality, she finds herself trapped in Kena, a magical realm on the brink of civil war. There, her fate becomes intertwined with that of three very different women: Zech, the fast-thinking acolyte of a cunning, powerful exile; Viya, the spoiled consort of the empire-building ruler, Vex Leoden; and Gwen, an Earth-born worldwalker whose greatest regret is putting Leoden on the throne. But Leoden has allies, too, chief among them the Vex’Mara Kadeja, a dangerous ex-priestess who shares his dreams of conquest.

This portal fantasy adventure is a delight – it was great to read female characters who weren’t necessarily young, beautiful or ‘chosen’ who had risen within the society. Characters who despite being brave and prepared to die trying to do the right thing, are also manipulative and lethally sarcastic… This book is my favourite of my Discovery Challenge reads in July and I will now be on the lookout for other Foz Meadows’ offerings.

 

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!

Me Before You by JoJo Moyes
Lou Clark knows lots of things. She knows how many footsteps there are between the bus stop and mebeforeyouhome. She knows she likes working in The Buttered Bun tea shop and she knows she might not love her boyfriend Patrick. What Lou doesn’t know is she’s about to lose her job or that knowing what’s coming is what keeps her sane. Will Traynor knows his motorcycle accident took away his desire to live. He knows everything feels very small and rather joyless now and he knows exactly how he’s going to put a stop to that. What Will doesn’t know is that Lou is about to burst into his world in a riot of colour. And neither of them knows they’re going to change the other for all time.

This was one recommended by one of my Creative Writing students a while ago and I’m not sure why I didn’t immediately read it after having acquired it – but once I got hold of the sequel, it made sense to read it first. I’m very glad I did… It is an emotional, engrossing read that manages to deal with some very gnarly subjects without lapsing into sentimentality.

 

 

Nice Dragons Finish Last – Book 1 of the Heartstrikers series by Rachel Aaron
nicedragonsfinishlastAs the smallest dragon in the Heartstriker clan, Julius survives by a simple code: keep quiet, don’t cause trouble, and stay out of the way of bigger dragons. But this meek behavior doesn’t fly in a family of ambitious magical predators, and his mother, Bethesda the Heartstriker, has finally reached the end of her patience. Now, sealed in human form and banished to the DFZ–a vertical metropolis built on the ruins of Old Detroit–Julius has one month to prove that he can be a ruthless dragon or kiss his true shape goodbye forever. But in a city of modern mages and vengeful spirits where dragons are considered monsters to be exterminated, he’s going to need some serious help to survive this test. He only hopes humans are more trustworthy than dragons…

This draconic twist on the usual urban fantasy tropes is such fun – I thoroughly enjoyed this one and look forward to reading the next in the series. Happily, that is also stacked up on my teetering TBR pile…

 

 

The Fifth Season – Book 1 of the Broken Earth series by N.K. Jemisin
THIS IS THE WAY THE WORLD ENDS… FOR THE LAST TIME.thefifthseason
A season of endings has begun. It starts with the great red rift across the heart of the world’s sole continent, spewing ash that blots out the sun. It starts with death, with a murdered son and a missing daughter. It starts with betrayal, and long dormant wounds rising up to fester.
This is the Stillness, a land long familiar with catastrophe, where the power of the earth is wielded as a weapon. And where there is no mercy.

Yes… Essun starts out desperately trying to come to terms with an unthinkable family tragedy and the apocalyptic world is undeniably grim. But this is so much more than a retread of a nasty slide from civilisation into chaos – there is also a gripping backstory about a small group of people feared and harnessed for their vital skills. And the twist at the end is a doozy… I haven’t yet released my review of this book – but it was my favourite read in a month characterised by a slew of really good books. And I’m now eagerly awaiting the release of the sequel, which will NOT be languishing on my TBR pile for the same length of time.

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of KINDLE Edition of Inborn – Book 1 of The Birthright series by Amy Saunders

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My attention was caught by the cover and the intriguing blurb – would it live up to the premise?

Rosamund Brandt has had a semi normal life for sixteen years. Well, semi normal for a family descended from aliens. Sure, she could create portals and her family had a secret basement. But she went to school, had a best friend, and got her driving permit like every other teen. However, her definition of “normal” Inbornunravels when a killer with multiple powers and an agenda steps into town. When Rosamund herself becomes a target, she has a choice between playing the killer’s game and saving a few, or getting to the core of the murders and stopping them for good. Rosamund’s choice will save everyone she cares about–or unleash a new era for herself and her family, shattering whatever hope for going back to normal she had.

Saunders writes with fluidity and ease – her dialogue is punchy and the action scenes are well written, with plenty of description and I very much liked the premise and backstory that unfolds as the story progresses – and I certainly didn’t see the big twist coming, at all. It is a nicely cool notion and should provide plenty of material for a number of original, intriguing adventures. However, you’re probably sensing a ‘but’ here – and there is one.

This story tips us right into the middle of the action at the beginning of the book, as Rosamund immediately is pitchforked into the initial action that triggers the cascade of events that then continually ricochet through the book. And this is my main problem with this novel – the premise is interesting and I think Rosamund could be a satisfying protagonist. But the pacing compromises this book. We could have done with getting to know the family dynamic before it all kicks off. In order to really care for Ros and her family, we should have at least one scene when life is normal so we can see what she has lost. I turned back to see if this book came partway through the series – it certainly has that feel – but, no, it is the book that starts it all off and the basic groundwork is simply rushed.

The same issue applies with the antagonists – we hardly have time to get to know them, or who they, before it all starts kicking off again. There were a number of suspects introduced throughout this tale, which is essentially a murder mystery – but, again, Ros doesn’t have much time to ponder who is doing what to whom. And I became very fed up with the amount of lying she does to her concerned parents – she appears to take on board their worries and promptly takes off again on another harebrained adventure without telling anyone, including her exasperated, put-upon brother. I found it hard to warm to her, given her crazy impulsiveness.

Perhaps Saunders, full of the potential of this series, has rather rushed this first effort and the subsequent books will settle down. Because if only she could get the pacing right, this could be really, really good.
7/10

Books I Wish I’d Reviewed…

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I read a number of these a long time ago, before the internet existed or I even considered there’d be a time when I would share my love of books and reading with numbers of other people who also take part in this most solitary of hobbies. And the rest are books that I read before I really got bitten by the reviewing bug. Either way, I occasionally tell myself that I’ll go back and reread them some day to write the review. But if I’m honest – I probably won’t because I generally don’t reread books, in case the second time around they disappoint. In which case, I will have gained two miserable memories – the one of revisiting a favourite book and finding it isn’t that impressive after all, but even more devastatingly – it will also have smirched the lovely glow around my recollection of the delight when I read the book first time around.

In no particular order…

 

Cider With Rose by Laurie Lee
Cider with Rosie is a wonderfully vivid memoir of childhood in a remote Cotswold village, a villagecider with rosie before electricity or cars, a timeless place on the verge of change. Growing up amongst the fields and woods and characters of the place, Laurie Lee depicts a world that is both immediate and real and belongs to a now-distant past.

I read this when I was fourteen and immediately fell in love with the book and the depiction of a lost time in rural Gloucestershire. Much later, when pregnant with my daughter, I encountered Lee’s essay on when his daughter was born and cried as I read it. I was probably a tad hormonal, but it is beautifully written…

 

The Go-Between by L.P. Hartleythegobetween
“The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there.” Summering with a fellow schoolboy on a great English estate, Leo, the hero of L. P. Hartley’s finest novel, encounters a world of unimagined luxury. But when his friend’s beautiful older sister enlists him as the unwitting messenger in her illicit love affair, the aftershocks will be felt for years.

Another wonderfully written book – a real mixture of humour and bitter poignancy and the ending is a shock. The dialogue is a masterclass in writing subtext and if you haven’t ever read it, do so. Set before WWI, it is another lost world, where poor little Leo is adrift in a social shark tank and is shamefully exploited by people who should have known better.

 

requiemforawrenRequiem for a Wren by Neville Shute
Sidelined by a wartime injury, fighter pilot Alan Duncan reluctantly returns to his parents’ remote sheep station in Australia to take the place of his brother Bill, who died a hero in the war. But his homecoming is marred by the suicide of his parents’ parlormaid, of whom they were very fond. Alan soon realizes that the dead young woman is not the person she pretended to be…

I’d studied A Town Like Alice at school and loved it, so went looking for everything Shute wrote, which was a fair amount. I loved most of it – but Requiem for a Wren stole a particular portion of my heart, as the story depicted all too clearly the personal cost of war. If you ever encounter a battered Neville Shute novel in a second-hand shop – they occur with surprisingly regularity – scoop it up. There is a solid reason why he was such a popular author for thirty-odd years in the last century.

 

Chocky by John Wyndhamchocky
Matthew, they thought, was just going through a phase of talking to himself. And, like many parents, they waited for him to get over it, but it started to get worse. Mathew’s conversations with himself grew more and more intense – it was like listening to one end of a telephone conversation while someone argued, cajoled and reasoned with another person you couldn’t hear. Then Matthew started doing things he couldn’t do before, like counting in binary-code mathematics. So he told them about Chocky – the person who lived in his head.

Another wonderful author, who is famous for The Day of the Triffids, but wrote a number of other really enjoyable science fiction stories. Again, I loved them all – but Chocky was a particular favourite.

 

rideratthegateRider at the Gate – Book 1 of the Nighthorses duology by C.J. Cherryh
Stranded on a distant planet that abounds with fertile farmland, human colonists appear to be in paradise. But all the native animals communicate by telepathy, projecting images that drive humans mad. Only Nighthorses stand between civilization and madness. When a flare of human emotion spreads to all the horses, chaos erupts.

I fell in love with C.J. Cherryh’s writing from the first sentence – and this is her at her unbeatable best. I’d also include the sequel Cloud’s Rider, which is another gem.

 

Sundiver – Book 1 of the Uplift Saga by David Brinsundiver
No species has ever reached for the stars without the guidance of a patron–except perhaps mankind. Did some mysterious race begin the uplift of humanity aeons ago? Circling the sun, under the caverns of Mercury, Expedition Sundiver prepares for the most momentous voyage in history–a journey into the boiling inferno of the sun.

I loved this take on what might befall Earth creatures should we encounter alien cultures – and how terrestrial species other than humans might fare.

 

fallingfreeFalling Free – Book 4 of the Vorkosigan series by Lois McMaster Bujold
Leo Graf was an effective engineer…Safety Regs weren’t just the rule book he swore by; he’d helped write them. All that changed on his assignment to the Cay Habitat. Leo was profoundly uneasy with the corporate exploitation of his bright new students till that exploitation turned to something much worse. He hadn’t anticipated a situation where the right thing to do was neither save, nor in the rules… Leo Graf adopted 1000 quaddies now all he had to do was teach them to be free

Another talented speculative fiction author, whose groundbreaking writing has taken me to wonderful worlds. I have reviewed a number of the Miles Vorkosigan adventures – but this particular story featuring the quaddies has always had a special place in my heart…

What about you – have you any books that you wish you had reviewed? Or books you dare not reread in case they aren’t quite as wonderful as you recall?