Tag Archives: apocalyptic science fiction/fantasy

Friday Faceoff – There is no friend as loyal as a book… #Brainfluffbookblog #FridayFaceoff

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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 meme is currently being nurtured by Lynn’s Book Blog and the subject this week featuring on any of our covers is something STRIPED – and I officially declare myself beaten. The only cover I found I didn’t like all that much, anyway. So I decided to play a WILD CARD that Lynn has suggested we use – and I’ve featured a book that I loved – The Stone Sky – Book 3 of The Broken Earth series by the mighty N.K. Jemisin.

 

This edition was produced by Orbit in August 2017. I love this cover and it’s my favourite. The intense colours are beautiful and the artwork otherworldly and haunting. Small wonder this cover is the default with only a few exceptions. I even like the rather ordinary font, which this time around works well. Of course, it could just be that I was so blown away by the intense reading experience I encountered when diving into this book that I’m somewhat biased.

 

Published in September 2018 by J’ai Lu, I really like this French edition. The intense blue of the sky, the great orb hanging in the sky below and those stones breaking the soil at odd angles give this cover eye appeal and correlate with the book’s story. What absolutely doesn’t work are those ugly white textboxes bisecting the artwork. The effect looks like two strips of paper with the typewritten information have been stuck across the covers – what a shame!

 

This Hungarian edition, published by Agave Könyvek in August 2018 has gone back to the colours of the default cover, but taken a less abstract approach. The result is a really cool, very attractive cover. If this had been the cover of my reading copy, I think I would have been more torn, because I think it is very effective. As it is, it comes a close second.

 

Produced by Subterranean Press in September 2018, this is also a very attractive, powerful offering. I like the way it features the two main protagonists – the mother and her lost daughter and having that beautiful triangular text box slicing them apart works really well. The other thing I love about this cover – Jemisin has clearly written these characters as black and I’m delighted the publishers have featured them as such.

 

This Chinese edition, published by 天地出版社 in March 2018 is another strong offering. I love the image of the skyscape where it looks as though you could actually step on those clouds in shades of an attractive tangerine. The downside for me is that black textbox slammed across the bottom of the cover, cutting off the rest of the artwork. There also seems to be a great deal of chatter across the cover – but as my understanding of Chinese isn’t worth a nocked nail, it may well be the explanation might be necessary to an audience unused to the genre, so I’ll give them a pass on that.
Which is your favourite?

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*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc The Poison Song – Book 3 of The Winnowing Flame Trilogy by Jen Williams #Brainfluffbookreview #ThePoisonSongbookreview

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I have thoroughly enjoyed the ongoing adventure in this excellent trilogy – read my reviews of The Ninth Rain and The Bitter Twins. The progression of this story, taking it from a straight epic fantasy adventure into a science fiction mash-up was masterfully handled, as are the steady revelations of new twists about aspects that we previously understood to be facts…

The very nature of the way Williams crafts her books makes it unlikely that you will be able to fully enjoy what is going on unless you read them in order – and as those of you who are regular visitors to my site know, I habitually crash midway into series without turning a hair. However, I wouldn’t want to make such a move with this series and strongly recommend that you don’t attempt it.

Jump on board a war beast or two with Vintage, Noon and Tor and return to Sarn for the last installment of this epic series where the trio must gather their forces and make a final stand against the invading Jure’lia.

And that’s the blurb. It won’t make much sense if you haven’t already read the previous books… I had thought that this final episode wouldn’t be able to deliver yet more surprises about the key figures in this full-on adventure – but I was wrong. We learn a lot more about the winnowing flame through Noon, the rebellious young fell-witch whose actions deeply affect those similarly cursed or gifted, depending on your viewpoint… And once more, Hestillion and the Queen of the Jure’lia manage to shock and repel me by their actions. I’ve grown very fond of all the characters in this adventure over the duration of this series – but for me, it’s Vintage who is my absolute favourite.

So… given that the first two books were so very good – has this finale lived up to expectations? Oh yes. Once more, we are immediately whisked right up into the middle of the action, so I’d also recommend that if you read The Bitter Twins a while ago and can’t quite recall exactly what is going on – flit back and remind yourself of who is doing what to whom – Williams doesn’t give you much breathing space before plunging you back into the thick of the plot.

In amongst all the mayhem, the recurring theme is about identity. Are we who we are because of what befalls us, or because of our genetic heritage? I was interested to note that Williams answers this question quite firmly by the end – and I was also interested to see which side of that discussion she favours. Not that the plot drifts off as this is discussed in any way – there simply isn’t room in amongst all the world-changing battles and soul-searing adventures.

As I don’t want to give away any spoilers, my comments regarding the unfolding story are necessarily vague, but I can report that the handling of the pacing, the conclusion of all the main character arcs and the climactic final battle is brilliantly done. I loved the bittersweet nature of the ending, though I was a tad devastated by the outcome regarding one of the main characters. And finished this one feeling a bit shattered, uplifted and with a lump in my throat. That doesn’t happen to me all that often, these days. But despite the fact that I have over half of 2019 still to run – I know I have just completed reading one of my outstanding reads of the year. While I obtained an arc of The Poison Song from Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own.
10/10

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?

Sunday Post – 28th October, 2018 #Brainfluffbookblog #SundayPost

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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.

Firstly, I want to thank everyone who responded during the week regarding my illness – your good wishes and hopes for a speedy recovery definitely helped. It was also very good news that this was half term week, so I was able to take it a bit easy and thankfully the giddiness and nausea has eased up and I’m trying a sticker system to help rejig my sleeping patterns.

On Tuesday I had a meeting regarding Tim and my in-laws stopped for a stay in the town, giving us the opportunity to spend the day with them on Wednesday. The weather was glorious and so we visited Highdown Gardens and later had lunch together at the local garden centre. It was lovely to catch up with them, before they left on Thursday morning.

Himself has been struggling with deafness as he has a build-up of earwax. For some reason, our local surgery no longer is prepared to remove it, so we are still using the drops and have gone online and ordered a syringe in order to be able to have a go ourselves. In the meantime, he is off work officially sick as he cannot safely do his job, being too deaf to use a phone. Oh for the good old days, when the practice nurse was prepared to perform this task! I’ll be very glad when he can hear again. Because everything is sounding loud in his head, he is now mumbling so I can’t hear him and he is unable to hear me unless I shout.

This weekend I’m off to Bristolcon with my lovely friend, Mhairi. We are catching a train tomorrow at stupid o’clock to get to the conference for around 10 am. We’re staying overnight and then returning home on Sunday. So bear with me if I don’t get around to responding to your comments for a few days.

Last week I read:

Muse of Nightmares – Book 2 of Strange the Dreamer series by Laini Taylor
Sarai has lived and breathed nightmares since she was six years old. She believed she knew every horror and was beyond surprise. She was wrong.
In the wake of tragedy, neither Lazlo nor Sarai are who they were before. One a god, the other a ghost, they struggle to grasp the new boundaries of their selves as dark-minded Minya holds them hostage, intent on vengeance against Weep.
I loved this book almost as much as Strange the Dreamer and given the complexity of the world-building and sheer oddness of the setup, I was impressed with the coherence and strength of the ending. This is an outstanding series.

 

The Consuming Fire – Book 2 of the Interdependency by John Scalzi
The Interdependency, humanity’s interstellar empire, is on the verge of collapse. The Flow, the extra-dimensional conduit that makes travel between the stars possible, is disappearing, leaving entire star systems stranded. When it goes, human civilization may go with it—unless desperate measures can be taken. Emperox Grayland II, the leader of the Interdependency, is ready to take those measures to help ensure the survival of billions. But nothing is ever that easy. Arrayed before her are those who believe the collapse of the Flow is a myth—or at the very least, an opportunity that can allow them to ascend to power.
This quirky, enjoyable epic science fiction adventure takes many of the main themes that power this sub-genre and gives them a Scalzi twist, making this a must-read series for me. Politically powerful women, outrageously greedy nobles and an approaching apocalyptic event… what’s not to love?

 

On Silver Wings – Book 1 of the Hayden War Cycle series by Evan Currie
In the future, mankind has colonized other worlds, mined asteroid belts, and sent ships so far into the blackness of space that light from their drives won’t reach Earth for centuries. Through it all, life has been found in almost every system we visited and yet we’ve never encountered another intelligent species.
Until now.
I enjoyed this colony world adventure where embattled humans are facing an alien species with far greater technology. Currie is one of my favourite indie authors and can be relied upon to produce plenty of foot-to-the-floor action and sympathetic characters.

My posts last week:

Sunday Post – 21st October 2018

Review of KINDLE Ebook Charmcaster – Book 3 of the Spellslinger series by Sebastien de Castell

Teaser Tuesday featuring On Silver Wings – Book 1 of the Hayden War Cycle series by Evan Currie

Can’t-Wait Wednesday featuring Murder in the Dark – Book 6 of the Ishmael Jones series by Simon R. Green

Review of PAPERBACK Strange the Dreamer – Book 1 of the Strange the Dreamer series by Laini Taylor

Friday Face-off featuring Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of KINDLE Ebook Soulbinder – Book 4 of the Spellslinger series by Sebastien de Castell

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

Best Villains in Science Fiction and Fantasy http://bookwyrmshoard.com/top-ten-tuesday/best-villains-in-fantasy-and-science-fiction/ Do you agree with the line-up? Who would you add to this list?

Letting Go of Perfectionism the DIY MFA Way https://diymfa.com/community/letting-go-perfectionism#disqus_thread Fantasy writer Sara Letourneau provides excellent advice for those whose writing slides to a halt over this issue

The Best Children’s Books to Read With KIDS https://paulspicks.blog/2018/09/23/best-childrens-books-to-read-with-kids/ This is a nifty list if you are lucky enough to be able to share your love of books with any smaller people…

Pride and Prejudice and Other Classics I Didn’t Read http://melfka.com/archives/2931 This thoughtful article addresses the dreary literary snobbery that can pervade our otherwise delightful community…

Sunday Post #268 https://gregsbookhaven.blogspot.com/2018/10/sunday-post-268.html?spref=tw Greg generally finishes his weekly roundup – which is always entertaining in itself – with a selection of fabulous images and this week he has surpassed himself… I love those cloud maidens!

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

Review of KINDLE Ebook Year One – Book 1 of the Chronicles of The One by Nora Roberts

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I’d seen this one around, before reading the glowing review by The Tattooed Book Geek which encouraged me to get hold of it. Would I enjoy it too?

It began on New Year’s Eve. The sickness came on suddenly, and spread quickly. The fear spread even faster. Within weeks, everything people counted on began to fail them. The electrical grid sputtered; law and government collapsed—and more than half of the world’s population was decimated. Where there had been order, there was now chaos. And as the power of science and technology receded, magic rose up in its place. Some of it is good, like the witchcraft worked by Lana Bingham, practicing in the loft apartment she shares with her lover, Max. Some of it is unimaginably evil, and it can lurk anywhere, around a corner, in fetid tunnels beneath the river—or in the ones you know and love the most.

My first piece of advice would be to avoid reading the rest of the blurb which is far too chatty and gives away more plot than necessary. That said, this one doesn’t hang about, though the first section is grim as the world we know and enjoy falls apart. Amongst the swathe of characters that we meet only to watch them die, are a handful that keep going despite the odds. While Roberts doesn’t indulge in any gratuitous violence, there are inevitably some scenes where horrible things happen and as has been noted in other reviews, she doesn’t flinch from those events, either.

I particularly enjoyed the twist where a proportion of the survivors find they have a magical ability awakening. Max and Lana both have this ability and though Max has possessed a magical talent before the Doom strikes, his power becomes stronger. The storyline involving these two is the engine that powers the narrative arc forward as they are essentially the principle protagonists, although there are a few other characters in a supporting role. There is a price to pay – normal survivors are starting to turn on the Uncanny, as they are termed, and not without reason. Though there are many like Max and Lana who use their powers only to defend themselves and help others, there are others whose magical abilities are far darker. And without any law and order, they are running amok.

As might be expected by a storyteller with Roberts’ experience, the pacing and narrative are ably handled – I had more or less expected certain events to unspool in a particular way. But just when I was settling into the rhythm of what I thought would happen – Roberts throws a massive wrench into the story and it suddenly takes a left turn into a very different direction that left me scrambling to catch up – I love it when that happens. The ending is strong with Roberts tying up all the plotlines so the story arc has a satisfying conclusion, yet leaving a couple of dangling plot points waving in the wind so we want to return to discover what happens next. Which I certainly want to do as this was a thoroughly enjoyable experience.
9/10

 

ANNDDD…

The HufflepuffNerdette features an excerpt from Dying for Space and an article from me on my favourite space opera heroines

Sunday Post – 9th 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 Sunday was my birthday party – held by my marvellous mother and it gave a great excuse to provide a gathering of the clan. It was a wonderful occasion with a purple theme (to match my new hair colour) and rounded off the now regular ritual of the family rounders game. Once again, we were very fortunate with the weather which was warm and sunny – ideal for a party in the garden.

During the week, I’ve been enjoying Wimbledon – I’ve loved watching it since I was a teenager who played tennis for the school – and found the current heatwave a joy. It has brought back so many happy memories of other hot summers years ago.

On Tuesday, my sister and I attended a talk on the history of watches at Worthing Library given by one of my writing group buddies, Geoff Alnutt – aka The Speechpainter. He covered the history of watchmaking in the last century by focusing on ten iconic wrist watches in a fascinating and informative presentation. On the way home, we stopped off to walk along the seafront and up the riverside walk in Littlehampton to admire the stunning sunset, reflected in the pond-smooth sea and river. A magical end to a lovely evening…

This week-end, Oscar is staying with us, after phoning me up to tell me that he had grade As for every subject in his report – including for trying, being polite and working hard, as well as for being academically clever. My sister came over for a meal last night and we plan to have breakfast together at a local café and then walk along the beach before it becomes too crowded.

This week I have read:
Dichronauts by Greg Egan
Seth is a surveyor, along with his friend Theo, a leech-like creature running through his skull who tells Seth what lies to his left and right. Theo, in turn, relies on Seth for mobility, and for ordinary vision looking forwards and backwards. Like everyone else in their world, they are symbionts, depending on each other to survive. In the universe containing Seth’s world, light cannot travel in all directions: there is a “dark cone” to the north and south. Seth can only face to the east (or the west, if he tips his head backwards). If he starts to turn to the north or south, his body stretches out across the landscape, and to rotate as far as north-north-east is every bit as impossible as accelerating to the speed of light. Every living thing in Seth’s world is in a state of perpetual migration as they follow the sun’s shifting orbit and the narrow habitable zone it creates. Cities are being constantly disassembled at one edge and rebuilt at the other, with surveyors mapping safe routes ahead. But when Seth and Theo join an expedition to the edge of the habitable zone, they discover a terrifying threat
This is another amazing hard science fiction offering from one of the most inventive, imaginative writers who has ever penned a futuristic story. But you really need to visit Greg Egan’s website to get a real sense of the rules that run this particular world.

The Fallen Kingdom – Book 3 of The Falconer series by Elizabeth May
Aileana Kameron, resurrected by ancient fae magic, returns to the world she once knew with no memory of her past and with dangerous powers she struggles to control. Desperate to break the curse that pits two factions of the fae against each other in a struggle that will decide the fate of the human and fae worlds, her only hope is hidden in an ancient book guarded by the legendary Morrigan, a faery of immense power and cruelty. To save the world and the people she loves, Aileana must learn to harness her dark new powers even as they are slowly destroying her.
A gripping read that brings this engrossing YA fantasy/steampunk mash-up series to a triumphantly successful conclusion. This series is one of my favourites of the year so far.

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.
Himself tracked this one down – and once he’d read it, immediately commanded I do the same. He’s right. It’s sharp, funny and original with an excellent world and strong magic structure. I’m delighted to report that the sequel is being released any day now.

My posts last week:

Sunday Post – 2nd July 2017

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Eleventh Hour – Book 8 of the Kit Marlowe series by M.J. Trow

Teaser Tuesday featuring The Fallen Kingdom – Book 3 of The Falconer series by Elizabeth May

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Sungrazer – Book 2 of the Outriders series by Jay Posey

Shoot for the Moon Challenge 2017 – June Roundup

Friday Face-off – All that is gold does not glitter featuring Making Money – Book 36 of the Discworld series by Terry Pratchett

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of The Fallen Kingdom – Book 3 of The Falconer series by Elizabeth May

Interesting/outstanding blogs and articles that have caught my attention during the last week, in no particular order:
Happy Belated Birthday Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone https://coffeeandcatsblog.wordpress.com/2017/07/08/happy-belated-birthday-harry-potter-and-the-philosophers-stone/ This is a lovely article celebrates the publication of this genre-changing series – and charts the impact it had on one particular family

On the Science of Bibliosmia: That Enticing Book Smell https://interestingliterature.com/2017/07/07/on-the-science-of-bibliosmia-that-enticing-book-smell/ A fascinating look at the history of our relationship with books – other than reading them…

On Writing – food for thought http://earthianhivemind.net/2017/07/07/writing-food-thought/ There are lots of quotes on writing, but these two that Steph has selected are particularly apt and useful.

When Book Covers Fail Characters https://kristentwardowski.wordpress.com/2017/07/05/when-book-covers-fail-book-characters/ I’m fascinated by this subject – as anyone who has read my weekly Friday Face-off will know and Kristen has some interesting things to say about it.

3 Reasons Why I Love Doing Research http://melfka.com/archives/2353 An excellent article on one of the tasks all writers have to tackle – and Joanna’s love of it.

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.

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* The Fallen Kingdom – Book 3 of The Falconer series by Elizabeth May

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I was delighted when I got notification from the local library that this book had come in. Having read the first two books in the trilogy – read my review of The Falconer here – I was more than keen to see where May would take this exciting story to its conclusion.

Aileana Kameron, resurrected by ancient fae magic, returns to the world she once knew with no memory of her past and with dangerous powers she struggles to control. Desperate to break the curse that pits two factions of the fae against each other in a struggle that will decide the fate of the human and fae worlds, her only hope is hidden in an ancient book guarded by the legendary Morrigan, a faery of immense power and cruelty. To save the world and the people she loves, Aileana must learn to harness her dark new powers even as they are slowly destroying her.

Firstly, my firm advice would be not to open this one if you have not yet had the pleasure of reading the previous two books, The Falconer and The Vanishing Throne. While you may well be able to pick up what is going on, there is so much backstory you’ll have missed, you will not be getting the best out of this climactic instalment if you do not know what has preceded this final adventure.

After all Aileana has been through during the first two books, we first meet up with her as she newly emerges after her death. She has no idea who she is or what has happened to her. This is more difficult to pull off than May makes it look. The concluding scene of the previous book, The Vanishing Throne, left our protagonist on a real cliffhanger – therefore, it would have been all too easy for the start of this one to have dropped the energy and tension so successfully built up. Fortunately, May is too canny for that to happen. Aileana’s plight immediately gripped me and despite several months elapsing since reading the previous book, I was at once transported back into this shattered, dying world.

As this is the last book, I am unable to comment much on the details of the storyline as I do not wish to provide any spoilers. However, readers who have already enjoyed this series so far, will be relieved to know that Aileana still possesses all her feisty aggression. One of the major causes of tension is the knowledge that her new formidable power comes at a very high price – every time she uses the deadly magic gifted to her, it continues to kill her. In short, she is little more than a primed weapon forged by one of the Fae desperate to avoid the inevitable apocalypse brought on by an ancient curse. May’s detailed world building and magical rules pass almost unnoticed as I grappled with Aileana’s impending doom. For nothing can be taken for granted as May has already shown us she is not afraid to kill off important characters.

The pages flew by as I followed Aileana’s desperate efforts to save the world. Indeed, it is such a struggle, she finds herself allied with characters I would have expected her to kill on sight. Would she prevail? Would she have to sacrifice those she loves most? And what would happen to her should she succeed? It is one thing to set up such a tense dynamic – it is something else to bring it to a fully satisfying conclusion. I can report that May triumphantly succeeds.
10/10

Teaser Tuesday – 4th July, 2017

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

This is my choice of the day:

The Fallen Kingdom – Book 3 of The Falconer series by Elizabeth May

p. 64 I turn, expecting to see the old crystal in the ruins of Derrick’s city, the crystal Lonnrach wanted so badly that he’d destroyed the pixie city to find it. What’s there instead makes me suck in a shocked breath.
Where the bloody hell did that come from?

BLURB: Aileana Kameron, resurrected by ancient fae magic, returns to the world she once knew with no memory of her past and with dangerous powers she struggles to control. Desperate to break the curse that pits two factions of the fae against each other in a struggle that will decide the fate of the human and fae worlds, her only hope is hidden in an ancient book guarded by the legendary Morrigan, a faery of immense power and cruelty. To save the world and the people she loves, Aileana must learn to harness her dark new powers even as they are slowly destroying her.

I loved the first two books in this gripping trilogy – see my review of The Falconer – and so have been waiting impatiently for this final slice of the adventure. And so far, it has started with a bang and continued building the tension. I have no idea where May is taking the story, but I’ve settled in for the ride…

Top Ten Unique Reads…

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Once again those fine folks at The Broke and Bookish came up with a Top Ten Tuesday list I found irresistible, so I put my thinking cap on and came up with these – hopefully you’ll forgive the fact that it isn’t Tuesday…

Snowflake by Paul Gallico
A delightful story of the life of Snowflake, who was “all stars and arrows, squares and triangles of ice and light”. Through Snowflake’s special role in the pattern of creation and life, Paul Gallico has given us a simple allegory on the meaning of life, its oneness and ultimate safety.
A teacher read this one to us when I was in the equivalent of today’s Year Six and I was enchanted. I tracked down a lot more of Paul Gallico’s reads – and to be honest, many of them are unlike anything I’ve ever read, before or since. But they certainly fired up my taste for something different…

Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury
A carnival rolls in sometime after the midnight hour on a chill Midwestern October eve, ushering in Halloween a week before its time. A calliope’s shrill siren song beckons to all with a seductive promise of dreams and youth regained. In this season of dying, Cooger & Dark’s Pandemonium Shadow Show has come to Green Town, Illinois, to destroy every life touched by its strange and sinister mystery. And two inquisitive boys standing precariously on the brink of adulthood will soon discover the secret of the satanic raree-show’s smoke, mazes, and mirrors, as they learn all too well the heavy cost of wishes – and the stuff of nightmares.
We were on a caravan holiday in France and I’d scooped this one off the shelves to take with us. I read it one heavy, hot summer afternoon while nibbling on chocolate – suddenly very glad for blazing sunshine and comforting presence of family. And as soon as I got to the end, I started reading it all over again, wanting more of that alluring prose and dark ideas.

Occupy Me by Tricia Sullivan
Tricia Sullivan has written an extraordinary, genre defining novel that begins with the mystery of a woman who barely knows herself and ends with a discovery that transcends space and time. On the way we follow our heroine as she attempts to track down a killer in the body of another man, and the man who has been taken over, his will trapped inside the mind of the being that has taken him over. And at the centre of it all a briefcase that contains countless possible realities.
There is no one whose imagination works in quite the same way as Tricia Sullivan – and this amazing offering is certainly unique. I loved this quirky story and the directions in which it went, while following the fortunes of all the remarkable characters who seem perfectly reasonable – until you realise the prism through which you are looking at them has refracted into something different…

The Gone-Away World by Nick Harkaway
The Jorgmund Pipe is the backbone of the world, and it’s on fire. Gonzo Lubitsch, professional hero and troubleshooter, is hired to put it out – but there’s more to the fire, and the Pipe itself, than meets the eye. The job will take Gonzo and his best friend, our narrator, back to their own beginnings and into the dark heart of the Jorgmund Company itself.
Another extraordinary tale that swept me up, held me rapt and then – finally – released me with a doozy of a twist ending I certainly didn’t see coming. This roller-coaster read snaps off the page with memorable lines and exuberant characters – see my review here.

We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler
What if you grew up to realise that your father had used your childhood as an experiment? Rosemary doesn’t talk very much, and about certain things she’s silent. She had a sister, Fern, her whirlwind other half, who vanished from her life in circumstances she wishes she could forget. And it’s been ten years since she last saw her beloved older brother, Lowell. Now at college, Rosemary starts to see that she can’t go forward without going back to the time when, aged five, she was sent away from home to her grandparents and returned to find Fern gone.
This is a remarkable book – more so as it is based on a true event. And as we follow Rosemary when she goes on a quest to try and track down what happened to Fern, we discover a heartbreaking story of loss and abandonment that started with the best of intentions and ended up blighting the young lives of all the siblings in the family – see my review here.

Touchstone – Book 1 of the Glass Thorns series by Melanie Rawn
Cayden Silversun is part Elven, part Fae, part human Wizard—and all rebel. His aristocratic mother would have him follow his father to the Royal Court, to make a high society living off the scraps of kings. But Cade lives and breathes for the theater, and he’s good—very, very good. With his company, he’ll enter the highest reaches of society and power, as an honored artist—or die trying.
This remarkable series is a tour de force. I haven’t read anything quite like it and I don’t think I ever will… Cayden is a remarkable, spiky character cursed with genius and flashes of prescience. No one else has ever managed to depict the cost of this type of talent so thoroughly as Rawn in this magnificent series, which deserves to be a lot better known – see my review here.

Among Others by Jo Walton
When Mori discovers that her mother is using black magic, she decides to intervene. The ensuing clash between mother and daughter leaves Mori bereft of her twin sister, crippled for life and unable to return to the Welsh Valleys that were her own kingdom. Mori finds solace and strength in her beloved books. But her mother is bent on revenge, and nothing and no one – not even Tolkien – can save her from the final reckoning.
The writing is extraordinary in the pin-sharp description of the everyday, alongside the remarkable and Mori’s character is so compellingly realistic and nuanced, I’m undecided whether there is a large chunk of autobiographical detail wrapped up in this book. And I don’t really care – other than to fervently hope, for her sake, there isn’t too much that is borrowed from Walton’s own life. Memorable and remarkable art invariably is a fusion of imagination and reality – and this is both a memorable and remarkable book. See my review here.

A Kind of Vanishing by Lesley Thomson
Summer 1968: the day Senator Robert Kennedy is shot, two nine-year-old girls are playing hide and seek in the ruins of a deserted village. When it is Eleanor’s turn to hide, Alice disappears.
Thomson immediately plunges into the world of young girls, depicting first Eleanor’s rich interior landscape and then allowing us to access to Alice’s carefully modulated world, where her doting parents watch her every move. Thomson paints an exquisite picture of each girls’ fragilities, their aspirations and pin-sharp awareness of adult expectations. She beautifully inhabits the terrible, wonderful world of childhood – and the girls’ growing antipathy towards each other as they are forced to play together – until that disastrous game of hide and seek. This thriller/mystery is like nothing else I’ve read – see my review here.

Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel
This is the first of the acclaimed Man Booker prizewinning books about Henry VIII’s bully boy Thomas Cromwell, who oversaw the dissolution of the monasteries. Mantel instantly had me off-balance with her present tense, third person deep POV when we first meet Cromwell being beaten by Walter, his drunken father, and he is lying on the ground trying to summon up the will to move. So Mantel quickly gains our sympathy for her protagonist – but rather than chart his adventures in Europe where he spent time as a mercenary and scholar, we then jump to when he is in Cardinal Wolsey’s employ and establishing himself as a man of substance.
The biggest problem for Mantel in choosing this period of history, is that many of us know the progression of events all too well. But while that is the frame and backdrop in this compelling read – it is Cromwell’s intense presence throughout that had me turning the pages and mourning the fact when there were no more pages… See my review here.

Embassytown by China Miéville
Embassytown, a city of contradictions on the outskirts of the universe. On Arieka, Humans are not the only intelligent life. Only a tiny cadre of unique human Ambassadors can speak Language, and connect the two communities. But an unimaginable new arrival has come to Embassytown. And when this Ambassador speaks, everything changes.
Miéville’s brilliant imagination produces a truly unusual alien species with a Language where emotion and meaning are inextricably linked, requiring human identical twins raised to be able to think and talk in tandem in order to keep the isolated human enclave, Embassytown, supplied with food and resources. Until it all goes horribly wrong… A fabulous examination of what it means to communicate. This book should be required reading for all prospective diplomats, in my opinion… See my review here.

Discovery Challenge 2017 and Tackling My TBR – February Roundup

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After reading Jo Hall’s post on the problems women authors have with getting discovered, I’ve been taking part in the challenge to read and review at least 24 books by female authors each year that were previously unknown to me for the last two years. During February I read three books towards my 2017 Discovery Challenge, making my yearly total seven books so far.

My February books are:-

Miranda and Caliban by Jacqueline Carey
Miranda is a lonely child. For as long as she can remember, she and her father have lived in isolation in the abandoned Moorish palace. There are chickens and goats, and a terrible wailing spirit trapped in a pine tree, but the elusive wild boy who spies on her from the crumbling walls and leaves gifts on their doorstep is the isle’s only other human inhabitant. There are other memories, too: vague, dream-like memories of another time and another place. There are questions that Miranda dare not ask her stern and controlling father, who guards his secrets with zealous care: Who am I? Where did I come from?

This book is written as a dual narrative, with both Miranda and Caliban giving their different version of events from the time Caliban enters Miranda’s life when she is a six-year-old. If Shakespeare’s The Tempest is told from the viewpoint of Prospero, then this story is from the point of view of two of the characters who are most impacted by the events unfolding around them.

 

Demon Hunting in Dixie – Book 1 of the Demon Hunting series by Lexi George
Addy Corwin is a florist with an attitude. A bad attitude, or so her mama says, ’cause she’s not looking for a man. Mama’s wrong. Addy has looked. There’s just not much to choose from in Hannah, her small Alabama hometown. Until Brand Dalvahni shows up, a supernaturally sexy, breathtakingly well-built hunk of a warrior from – well, not from around here, that’s for sure. Mama thinks he might be European or maybe even a Yankee. Brand says he’s from another dimension. Addy couldn’t care less where he’s from. He’s gorgeous. Serious muscles. Disturbing green eyes. Brand really gets her going. Too bad he’s a whack job. Says he’s come to rescue her from a demon. Puh-lease. But right after Brand shows up, strange things start to happen. Dogs talk and reanimated corpses stalk the quiet streets of Hannah. Her mortal enemy Meredith, otherwise known as the Death Starr, breaks out in a severe and inexplicable case of butt boils. Addy might not know what’s going on, but she definitely wants a certain sexy demon hunter by her side when it all goes down. . .

This is not my normal fare – I freely admit it. But this was just plain fun. While the insta-love was more about insta-lust, I was prepared to go with the flow as Addy is just so much fun. I enjoyed the fact that she was still concerned about what the neighbours thought and was very mindful of her mother’s opinion even after all the life-changing adventures. Meanwhile, she plays with the trope of the good Southern girl, looking for a husband, concerned with her appearance and intent on putting on a good front for the neighbours.

 

All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders
Patricia Delfine talks to trees and birds in the hope they will answer back, as they did one amazing day when she was little… Laurence Armstead invents a two-second time machine in his bedroom. Unsurprisingly, they are both targets for the bullies at school who make their lives hell. So under duress, they become unlikely friends. A friendship that is tested and often found wanting as their lives both spin off in amazing directions…

What I won’t be doing is telling you that this is a fantasy or science fiction book, because it’s a little bit of both. After all, one of the major protagonists is a nerdy scientist and the other is a witch. And what Anders is doing throughout this highly readable, roller-coaster adventure is exploring the space between the magical, natural world and the high-tech, scientific community.

 

This month I managed to clear five books from my teetering TBR pile – they are:-

Miranda and Caliban by Jacqueline Carey
See above.

Demon Hunting in Dixie – Book 1 of the Demon Hunting series by Lexi George
See above.

All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders
See above.

Clean Sweep – Book 1 of The Innkeeper Chronicles by Ilona Andrews
On the outside, Dina Demille is the epitome of normal. She runs a quaint Victorian Bed and Breakfast in a small Texas town, owns a Shih Tzu named Beast, and is a perfect neighbor, whose biggest problem should be what to serve her guests for breakfast. But Dina is…different: Her broom is a deadly weapon; her Inn is magic and thinks for itself. Meant to be a lodging for otherworldly visitors, the only permanent guest is a retired Galactic aristocrat who can’t leave the grounds because she’s responsible for the deaths of millions and someone might shoot her on sight. Under the circumstances, “normal” is a bit of a stretch for Dina. And now, something with wicked claws and deepwater teeth has begun to hunt at night… Feeling responsible for her neighbors, Dina decides to get involved.

Dina is a thoroughly engaging protagonist. Impulsive, brave and with an over-developed sense of responsibility, she immediately plunges into this adventure when she feels the caretaker of this territory is not doing enough. I really enjoyed her character, particularly as she also has a vulnerability that pulled me further onto her side. She has lost her parents, who disappeared from their thriving Inn and though she has spent years trying to track them down, all her efforts have ended in failure.

 

Twelve Kings – Book 1 of The Song of the Shattered Sands by Bradley Beaulieu
Sharakhai, 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 is clearly an experienced and capable writer. He introduces his main protagonist – an orphan with a terrible backstory – and little by little, we understand exactly who she is and why she is so driven.