Tag Archives: aliens

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?

Review of Space Hostages – Book 2 of the Mars Evacuees series by Sophia McDougall

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Mars Evacuees is a solid family favourite – not only loved by Himself and me, but also by the grandchildren, who loved listening to the story of Alice and her adventures on Mars. So we were all excited and looking forward to reading this next instalment. Did it live up to expectations?

spacehostagesYou can’t cry in Space, but I was giving it a good go. After all, I’d just been THROWN OUT OF AN AIRLOCK by a horde of ALIENS had about three minutes left to live. So you can’t blame me for trying. But as it turned out, that was just the start of my adventures… Because very soon it became clear that if I was ever going to get back home, not only would I have to NOT DIE, but me, my friends and our floating robot goldfish would have to SAVE THE WORLD. No, scrap that. THREE WORLDS. All at the same time. Easy, right?

Firstly, huge kudos to the blurb. Sharp and snappy, with just enough information to tempt without providing too many spoilers, it also exactly captures the flavour of Alice’s first person narrative. I love this character. Alice is a tween, one minute behaving like a snarky teenager, while the next seeming a whole lot younger which is spot one for the age-group. She also has the hard edge that comes with having to deal with the privation that comes with war and its subsequent hardship. While McDougall ensures there are plenty of laughs in both books, she never disguises the wrenching fear and grief that children caught up in war have to deal with.

In fact, the worldbuilding is brilliant. While the adventures Alice and her companions undergo are all out of this world – McDougall ensures that their progression through the alien space ship and experiences on the planet are plausible. There is none of the sloppy nonsense in the name of science fiction we endured in that dreadful film Home, I’m delighted to say. The planet is vividly evoked in delightful detail, without holding up the pace of the narrative, giving us a sense of wonder and difference the best science fiction provides. While there aren’t quite so many laugh-aloud moments in Space Hostages as occurred in Mars Evacuees, Frankie and I still found ourselves giggling at the antics of the goldfish and Alice’s dust-dry sarcasm.

Any niggles? Reading this aloud, meant I had to negotiate the strings of weird lettering representing the alien’s language and frankly, I could have done with less of it. Inevitably, it was translated anyway and trying to decode it convincingly was something of a pain, as well as holding up the narrative. However, set against all the fun, thrills and wonder this book creates, it is a minor grumble, though I do wonder how newly independent readers might cope.

The denouement was beautifully handled and the story wrapped up to our complete satisfaction – and given the desperate straits Alice and her friends were in, that is no mean feat. My mission is to continue to provide my very dyslexic granddaughter with strong reasons to continue battling with her disability in order to become sufficiently literate to cope in a modern world. I’m humbly grateful that gifted authors like Sophia McDougall make my task a whole lot easier.
9/10

Review of Kindle EBOOK Radiance by Catherynne M. Valente

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I enjoy being a Netgalley reader – it pushes me out of my comfort zone every so often. I’m not sure I would have picked up this offering if it hadn’t been on offer, given the description was a decopunk pulp SF alt-history space opera mystery set in a Hollywood-and solar system-very different from our own.

radianceSeverin Unck’s father is a famous director of Gothic romances in an alternate 1986 in which talking movies are still a daring innovation due to the patent-hoarding Edison family. Rebelling against her father’s films of passion, intrigue, and spirits from beyond, Severin starts making documentaries, traveling through space and investigating the levitator cults of Neptune and the lawless saloons of Mars. For this is not our solar system, but one drawn from classic science fiction in which all the planets are inhabited and we travel through space on beautiful rockets. Severin is a realist in a fantastic universe.

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

The story revolves around Severin Unck, whose peculiar upbringing on film sets while accompanying her father and a series of step-mothers, has left her with a desire to make her own films – this time the non-fiction type. This is a world where the Moon and all the planets in the solar system are inhabitable, just about… with the help of a substance secreted by the mysterious callowhales who live on Mars. So we’re also talking about a mysterious alien creature on top of everything else – though there are a plethora of those, which are often renamed for their Earth counterparts. In addition to being a whole lot busier than our solar system, there are some other oddities to this version of the 20th century. Films continue to be manufactured as silent, despite there being the technology to produce talkies, which are considered crass and generally rejected by the general populace. No… I didn’t get it, either. But Valente has a knack of announcing this is how it is and after an initial jolt of surprise, I found myself accepting it. But what this does, is overlay the whole book with the period feel of the early 1920’s – even when the date is later. Though the timeline jumps around like a flea on a hot brick…

There is a mystery surrounding Severin’s disappearance and this is the narrative engine for the book, as it circles around the characters who impacted on her life at various times and finally, the puzzle is fully explained. On the way, all sorts of ideas are examined, such as what makes art; how we define family; the nature of goodness, as opposed to badness; what makes us human… In less skilful hands this potpourri of a story could have rapidly descended into an unmanageable mess and it is a testament to Valente’s technical ability that it didn’t. Furthermore, she manages to produce an extraordinary novel bristling with life and vibrancy, peopled by an astonishing cast of eccentrics.

If you yearn to read something completely different – and even if you don’t – go and track this book down. It won’t be to everyone’s taste, but I’ll guarantee you won’t have read anything else quite like it.
10/10

Teaser Tuesday – 8th Dec

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Teaser Tuesday is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of A Daily Rhythm.TeaserTuesdays-ADailyRhythm3-300x203
Anyone can play along! Just do the following:
• Grab your current read
• Open to a random page
• Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
• BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
• Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

My book today is…

An Ancient Peace by Tanya Huff

anancientpeace‘Three years ago, Varga had been a less-than-successful actor who found his natural stage when he’d joined Human’s First. When he’d realized that true belief wasn’t as important as discontent and a willingness to blindly follow rhetoric, his rise to the top of the organization had turned a whiny fringe group with a misplaced apostrophe into an armed force.’

The blurb reads…

The centuries-long war between the Confederation and The Others, a group of violent alien species, is over. Intergalactic peace is finally restored. Torin Kerr and her crew of ex-Marine friends have gone freelance – using their military experience as guns for hire. But this calm equilibrium cannot last. Someone is searching for the lost weapons of the H’san: powerful tools capable of destroying entire planets. Though the H’san gave up fighting long ago, the reappearance of their weapons would no doubt lead to a devastating war. It’s up to Torin Kerr and her team to fix this problem before it explodes. But the more Torin learns about the relationship between the Elder and Younger races, the more she fears war might be unavoidable…