Tag Archives: Charles Stross

PREVIEW of Empire Games – Book 1 of the Empire Games series by Charles Stross

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I’ll be honest – this is a complete mistake. I was under the impression that I had got hold of this latest series from Stross, so was somewhat underwhelmed when I realised it was, instead, the opening chapters as a taster…

empiregamesThe year is 2020. It’s seventeen years since the Revolution overthrew the last king of the New British Empire, and the newly-reconstituted North American Commonwealth is developing rapidly, on course to defeat the French and bring democracy to a troubled world. Two nuclear superpowers are set on a collision course. Two increasingly desperate paratime espionage agencies are fumbling around in the dark, trying to find a solution to the first contact problem that doesn’t result in a nuclear holocaust. And two women—a mother and her long-lost, adopted daughter—are about to find themselves on opposite sides of the confrontation.

I have left a large chunk out of the very chatty blurb because if you haven’t read the Merchant Princes series then the names aren’t going to mean all that much, anyway and I think it’s far too much information that you’ll learn more effectively once you read the book. That said, this is a spin-off series from the Merchant Princes series, which is a portal worlds thriller. I’ve only read a couple of books in this series, but found them thoroughly enjoyable and engrossing which was why I requested Empire Games. This epic storyline is spread across multiple worlds, so it takes some concentration to work out what is happening to whom and sadly, the preview extract I received was a misery to read. It’s been a while since I’ve had to slog through anything so appallingly formatted, with a binary thingy of zeroes and ones randomly appearing throughout the text and words being split across lines numerous times – I don’t think there was a single page where the text was correctly formatted.

If it hadn’t been a NetGalley preview, it would have gone winging across the room. I had a pre-migraine headache blow up on me later during the day I’d been battling through this ‘mare of a read and I’m not sure the two aren’t connected. I’ve made a promise to myself that it’s the last time I trudge through anything so egregiously messed up, anyway.

There was a lot of information to impart and just as the story was starting to gather pace and I was beginning to care – it all came to an end. Obviously I cannot comment on the characterisation, the pacing, the plotting or how satisfactorily the story ends. But it’s out there and given that Stross is an able storyteller, it should be good.

Sunday Post – 22nd January 2017

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

Another busy week, though I think I begin to see daylight and hope that Life is beginning to calm down, somewhat. Last week-end we had the pleasure of the grandchildren visiting – it was a joy catching up with them as we hadn’t seen them since Christmas, which now seems a very long time ago. Then on Sunday afternoon after we delivered them back to their parents, we had to rush back and get the spare room ready for an impromptu visit by my son who had a couple of audition tapes that needed doing. So Monday and Tuesday we were working on those between my teaching commitments – it is always a pleasure but as we had a very narrow timescale, it was also quite intense. However, lovely to catch up with Robbie before he flies out to LA on Monday. Unfortunately, my Wednesday evening session with my writing group was wiped out by a headache that threatened to turn into a migraine, but at least I sufficiently recovered to have my marvellous friend Mhairi come over for the day on Thursday. Friday saw us collecting the children for another session of grannying and on Saturday we went out for a meal to celebrate my father’s birthday at the fabulous George and Dragon at Burpham, where the food was delicious and the welcome warm despite the frosty weather. They went to a great deal of trouble to accommodate Oscar’s veganism.

This week I have read:
Terminal Regression by Mallory Hill
terminalregressionLaura Baily’s life is meaningless. In a world where purpose and passion are everything, Laura feels as though she has no place and no business even existing. Her life is forfeit, and it would be better for everyone if she simply ended it, if she simply got a ticket for a train to oblivion and faded from memory.

But what awaits her at the end of the line isn’t death but Terminal B a community of people more like her than she considered possible, including the beautiful, tormented Will Noble. Though Laura still thinks little of her own life, the lives of others begin to fascinate her as never before. And when those lives become imperiled, Laura discovers the last thing she ever expected to find on her way out of the world: a mission and a reason to live.

This is a brave book that confronts the tricky issue of a suicidal protagonist suffering from severe depression. Despite that, it is full of drama and tension, producing a strong story set in a dystopian world demonstrating a lot of skill by this young author.

 

NETGALLEY PREVIEW of Empire Games – Book 1 of the Empire Games series by Charles Stross
empiregamesTwo nuclear superpowers are set on a collision course. Two increasingly desperate paratime espionage agencies are fumbling around in the dark, trying to find a solution to the first contact problem that doesn’t result in a nuclear holocaust. And two women—a mother and her long-lost, adopted daughter—are about to find themselves on opposite sides of the confrontation.

This latest offering by Stross is a spin-off series from his successful portal world Merchant Princes adventures. I haven’t read them all, but those I did read were powerful and engrossing, so I was thrilled when it seemed I’d acquired Empire Games via NetGalley. Only I hadn’t. What I got was a slice of the story. So I cannot fully review the book – only report that it started with plenty of drama and quickly established what is at stake.

My posts last week:
Sunday Post – 15th January 2017

NEW RELEASE SPECIAL Review of Martians Abroad by Carrie Vaughn

Teaser Tuesday featuring Terminal Regression by Mallory Hill

NEW RELEASE SPECIAL Review of Terminal Regression by Mallory Hill

2016 Discovery Challenge – How Did I Do?

Friday Faceoff – Slipped the surly bonds of earth… featuring Abaddon’s Gate – Book 3 of The Expanse series by James S.A. Corey

Review of A Symphony of Echoes – Book 2 of The Chronicles of St Mary’s by Jodi Taylor

Interesting/outstanding blogs and articles that have caught my attention during the last week, in no particular order:
from the ‘Hjordis, I Miss You’ series https://photolicioux.wordpress.com/2017/01/20/from-the-hjordis-i-miss-you-series/ This intensely personal depiction brought tears to my eyes…

22 photos that will make you want to visit South America this winter https://roamwildandfree.com/2017/01/19/22-photos-that-will-make-you-want-to-visit-south-america-this-winter/ Another pictorial series – this time the scenery will take your breath away…

The Best Canterbury Tales Everyone Should Read https://interestingliterature.com/2017/01/18/the-best-canterbury-tales-everyone-should-read/
Once more this marvellous, informative site comes up with a cracking list…

God 1 https://zenandtheartoftightropewalking.wordpress.com/2017/01/16/god-1/ A wonderful poem by the talented Viv Tuffnell…

Inventing a Word For It – https://kristentwardowski.wordpress.com/2017/01/18/inventing-a-word-for-it/ Can you guess which is the right definition for this word?

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

My Outstanding Books of 2016

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Last year was an amazing year for reading. I cannot recall when I last read so many exciting, engrossing and well crafted books. Below are the ones which have left a niche in my inscape so they may not have initially got a 10/10, but nevertheless these are the ones that have stayed with me…

The Just City – Book 1 of the Thessaly series by Jo Walton

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This amazing, thought provoking series is essentially examining Plato’s ideas for an ideal society striving towards excellence as propounded in The Republic. It’s quirky, imaginative and clever – vintage Walton in other words. She has to be one of the most exciting, talented writers of our age.

 

Uprooted by Naomi Novik

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This is a variation of the ‘Beauty and the Beast’ story that is filled with mystery, magic and a strong sense of place. The isolation and brooding sense of being at the whim of someone who is perhaps not wholly stable permeates the book.

 

The Many Selves of Katherine North by Emma Geen

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This hard science fiction tale of a shape-shifter is an extraordinary book, rich with techie detail and some of the most vivid sensory writing I’ve read. In addition, the story takes you in one direction – until you suddenly realise it is about something else altogether. Clever and original, this impressive debut novel marks Geen as One to Watch.

 

The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi

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The cover of this book is lushly beautiful – which is also an accurate description of the prose spinning this story into a classic tale that wouldn’t be out of place if it turned up as one of the tales of Scheherazade. What really sold it, though, was the carnivorous horse with smart mouth…

 

The Annihilation Score – Book 6 The Laundry Files by Charles Stross

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Unlike the rest of this clever, readable series, this book is told in the viewpoint of Bob Howard’s wife, Mo. She has a bone violin as a weapon to battle the Lovecraftian monsters emerging from another dimension and threatening life on Earth as we know it. You won’t be surprised to learn that wielding such an instrument exacts a heavy cost. Stross has depicted a heartbreaking heroine who leaves a lump in my throat.

 

The House with No Rooms – Book 4 of The Detective’s Daughter series
by Lesley Thomson

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I love Thomson’s clever, layered writing that assumes her readers are capable of joining the dots and her leisurely pacing that steadily builds a creeping sense of wrongness. Stella’s quirky world view prevails and in amongst the tragedy and pain, there are welcome shafts of humour. I’ve dreamt about this book…

 

Me Before You by JoJo Moyes

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This book, rightly, has garnered a huge amount of attention and I nearly didn’t read it because of the fuss. Which would have been a real shame, because the story is gripping, funny and painful and without an ounce of sentiment. I certainly didn’t think it would end the way it did.

 

An Accident of Stars – Book 1 of The Manifold Worlds series by Foz Meadows

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This portal fantasy gripped me from the first page and still hasn’t let go. I was completely caught up in the adventure, which quickly took me out of my comfort zone and captivated me. I still find myself wondering what I’d do if confronted with the same circumstances and hope that Meadows writes quickly, because I badly want to know what happens next.

 

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

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I love her Inheritance series, but blogging buddy Sara Letourneau kept banging on about this one, so I got hold of it. And I’m so very glad I did… The writing is extraordinary. Jemisin takes all the rules about writing by the scruff of the neck and gives them a thorough shaking. I stayed awake to read this one, caught up with Essun’s furious grief and felt bereft once I came to the end of it.

 

Spiderlight by Adrian Tchaikovsky

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This clever, unsettling adventure takes the classic fantasy trope of the band of heroes and bounces it off the walls. The result is funny, creepy and poignant by turns – and absolutely engrossing. It also raises some tricky moral questions.

 

Spellbreaker – Book 3 of the Spellwright Trilogy by Blake Charlton

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This fantasy adventure vividly depicts a family where every one of them is lethally powerful such that it seriously gets in the way of their love for each other. The result is riveting and original – it has lodged itself in my brain like a burr, because if you have the power to level cities or predict your father’s death, then it’s probably going to make the inevitable family tiff somewhat tricky.

 

The Summer Goddess by Joanne Hall

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I’ve always enjoyed Hall’s writing – but this particular tale of abduction and slavery tugged at my heart from the first chapter and kept on doing so throughout. Her heroine is painfully fallible and yet doggedly courageous – and the writing is always so well crafted. It’s another one that won’t leave me in peace…

 

Songs of Seraphina by Jude Houghton

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This disturbing portal novel is about revenge and bloodshed – and how those that pay the price often are innocent. It grabbed me from the beginning as we learn about the three sisters and I read through the night to learn what befalls them – and I’m really hoping that Houghton is busy writing a sequel, for I want more of this savage, magical world.

 

A Natural History of DragonsBook 1 of The Memoirs of Lady Trent series
by Marie Brennan

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What’s not to love? A dogged, adventuring Victorian lady who defies convention to go adventuring to learn more about dragons in their habitat. The book is written after the style of a 19th century novel and enchanted me – happily there are more in the series and I’m going to be plunging back into this world just as soon as I can.

 

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

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This time travelling novel is set in a Government-run establishment that has the same feel I imagine Bletchley would have done during WW2 – though the attrition rate is definitely higher at St Mary’s. The time-travelling historians – or ‘disaster-magnets’ as they are described in this punchy, amusing adventure – tend to die rather a lot.

So there they are – my outstanding reads of 2016. I highly recommend each and every one of them as offering something special and unique. And if you insist on forcing me to choose only one of them, then you’re a cruel, unfeeling monster – but if I HAD to, then it would have to be N.K. Jemisin’s The Fifth Season. The intensity of the writing, the cool premise and the way she builds on the characters has this one etched into my mind.

Sunday Post – 3rd July

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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.

It’s lovely getting a new desktop computer, of course it is. But… then comes the grotty bit – transferring all my files and software across from my elderly clapped-out model to this shiny new beast. I’d love to say it’s all gone smoothly, except it hasn’t. I endured the ‘blue screen of death’ on Friday when I messed up loading my anti-virus program and had to prevail on Number One Son to fix it for me via Instagram. At 3 am this morning I finally had the last of my files transferred AND on the right drive – which isn’t as straightforward as it should be, in my opinion.

As a result, I haven’t come within sniffing distance of Breathing Space and am looking forward to having a chance to getting down to resuming my line edit, ever conscious that the days are not so much ticking, as flying by…

This week I’ve managed to read:
thenightmarestacksThe Nightmare Stacks – Book 7 of The Laundry Files by Charles Stross
Alex Schwartz had a promising future – until he contracted an unfortunate bout of vampirism, and agreed (on pain of death) to join the Laundry, Britain’s only counter-occult secret agency.
His first assignment is in Leeds – his old hometown. The thought of telling his parents that he’s lost his old job, let alone them finding out about his ‘condition’, is causing Alex more anxiety than learning how to live as a vampire secret agent preparing to confront multiple apocalypses. His only saving grace is Cassie Brewer, a student appearing in the local Goth Festival, who flirts with him despite his awkward personality and massive amounts of sunblock. But Cassie has secrets of her own – secrets that make Alex’s night life seem positively normal . . .

This smart science fiction/fantasy mash-up goes on delivering cool new ideas and the whole series comes very highly recommended. I’ve already posted my review of this book.

 

Night Shift – Book 3 of the Midnight, Texas series by Charlaine Harris
At Midnight’s local pawnshop, weapons are flying off the shelves—only to be used in sudden and nightshiftdramatic suicides right at the main crossroads in town. Who better to figure out why blood is being spilled than the vampire Lemuel, who, while translating mysterious texts, discovers what makes Midnight the town it is. There’s a reason why witches and werewolves, killers and psychics, have been drawn to this place. And now they must come together to stop the bloodshed in the heart of Midnight. For if all hell breaks loose—which just might happen—it will put the secretive town on the map, where no one wants it to be…

I thoroughly enjoyed revisiting yet another favourite series and love the way Harris is quite content to leave us with a slew of unanswered questions about her community of paranormal oddballs, so they can unfold throughout this quirky series. I will be reviewing this book in due course.

 

The Ghoul King – Book 2 of The Dreaming Cities by Guy Haley
theghoulkingThe Knight, Quinn, is down on his luck, and he travels to the very edge of the civilized world – whatever that means, any more – to restock his small but essential inventory. After fighting a series of gladiatorial bouts against the dead, he finds himself in the employ of a woman on a quest to find the secret to repairing her semi-functional robot. But the technological secret it guards may be one truth too many…

I hadn’t appreciated when I requested this offering from NetGalley that this was a novella and part of a series. However, Haley’s far too fluent and experienced to leave his readers floundering. The adventure whisked me up and pulled me into this disturbing, violent world – the only snag is that it ended too soon. The review will be appearing on the release date.

 

The Nest – Book 3 of Star Wars Adventures in Wild Space by Tom Huddleston
In a galaxy far, far away… With their parents held captive by the evil empire, the Graf kids could use thenestsome help. They trace their latest clue to a remote jungle world where a terrifying adventure unfolds. What will Milo and Lina find in THE NEST?

I’ve been grannying this week-end and Oscar and I have plunged back into this nail-biter. It’s been a joy watching him read with increasing fluency in his quest to discover what will happen next. I’ve ordered the other available books in the series, to his delight when he found them stacked up on my teetering TBR pile.

 

My posts last week:
Sunday Post – 26th June

Teaser Tuesday – The Nightmare Stacks Book 7 of The Laundry Files by Charles Stross

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Magic Bitter Magic Sweet by Charlie N. Holmberg

The Real Neat Award

Friday Faceoff – Simply the Best featuring Among Others by the mighty Jo Walton

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of The Nightmare Stacks – Book 7 of The Laundry Files by Charles Stross

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

This moving tribute stopped me in my tracks… Somme by Jean Reinhardt –
https://jeanreinhardt.wordpress.com/2016/07/01/somme/

Steph produces yet another informative article on the latest happenings in Space – I really love this series… http://earthianhivemind.net/2016/06/29/waiting-for-juno/

As I’ve been grappling with my computer this week, this particular blog by Ana caught my attention. I knew some of these, but others… https://anaslair.wordpress.com/2016/06/29/the-mystery-words-on-your-screen-by-dictionary-com/

This hilarious article by Katherine had me laughing aloud during a week when the atmosphere at Higbee Towers has been somewhat fraught… http://iwishilivedinalibrary.blogspot.co.uk/2016/06/top-ten-tuesday-top-ten-signs-youre-in.html?spref=tw

This is the latest in Kristen Burns excellent discussion series – and should be required reading for all authors… http://blog.kristenburns.com/realism-in-books-big-things-vs-little-things/

Hopefully, I can put my computer tech hat back in the drawer this week and concentrate more on using the darn thing for writing and editing. In the meantime, the weather continues to be atrocious – thank goodness for that spiffy roof over the centre court at Wimbledon. I hope all of you across the pond have a lovely 4th July. Many thanks for visiting and taking the time and trouble to comment – and may you have a wonderful reading and blogging week.

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of KINDLE Ebook The Nightmare Stacks – Book 7 of The Laundry Files by Charles Stross

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I was delighted when I realised last month after reading the awesome The Annihilation Score – see my review here – that the next book in this outstanding series was due for release. And even more delighted when I managed to get hold of a NetGalley arc…

thenightmarestacksAlex Schwartz had a promising future – until he contracted an unfortunate bout of vampirism, and agreed (on pain of death) to join the Laundry, Britain’s only counter-occult secret agency. His first assignment is in Leeds – his old hometown. The thought of telling his parents that he’s lost his old job, let alone them finding out about his ‘condition’, is causing Alex more anxiety than learning how to live as a vampire secret agent preparing to confront multiple apocalypses. His only saving grace is Cassie Brewer, a student appearing in the local Goth Festival, who flirts with him despite his awkward personality and massive amounts of sunblock. But Cassie has secrets of her own – secrets that make Alex’s night life seem positively normal . . .

First, a warning. For fans of Bob and Mo Howard, who are keen to catch up on them after their roller-coaster journey during the last two books – you’ll have to wait a bit longer to discover how they’re doing. This instalment is all about Alex, who we first met in The Rhesus Chart – see my review here. While Alex doesn’t have the dry wit of Bob, the storyline soon whisked me up and held me as we have the Charles Stross version of elves making a dramatic appearance and like his version of vampires, they are far more lethally compelling and unpleasant than Tolkien suggests.

I really enjoyed this break with the normal London setting, as Leeds is where Alex finds himself entangled in the latest incursion from another dimension in this smart fantasy/science fiction mash-up. Although I did miss Bob’s dry, world-weary commentary, there are still some lovely touches of humour – particularly enjoyable is Alex’s meal with his parents as they reel under the combined onslaught of his apparent demotion, Cassie’s oddness and his sister’s bombshell.

But the tone is a lot darker and those odd splashes of humour were very welcome in the final act, where there is chaos and mayhem in full measure. The battle scenes are full of drama and I found myself unable to put the book down as I needed to know what would happen next – I wasn’t sure that Alex would survive, for starters, as Stross is perfectly capable of mowing down a major character.
I thoroughly enjoyed this one, though for me, it didn’t have the emotional punch of The Annihilation Score which is my all-time favourite in this series, so far. However, there is plenty of compelling action and those elven warriors rampaging across the English countryside on lethal battle steeds, wielding magical weaponry will stay with me for a while.
9/10

Teaser Tuesday – 28th June, 2016

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Teaser

Teaser Tuesday is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Books and a Beat.
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 Nightmare Stacks – Book 7 of The Laundry Files by Charles Stross
64%: “What if it isn’t? Suppose it’s a national security problem. Suppose those bodies, for the sake of thenightmarestacksargument, were Russian Spetsnaz special forces soldiers who were here as pathfinders for an invasion. Here to kill civil authorities, fuck stuff up, and raise hell right before a paratroop assault. Suppose also that they’ve had the supreme bad luck to try and break into a camouflaged Ministry of Defense installation with lethal countermeasures and got themselves killed. So it’s actually not a normal crime, but an act of war. What would your priorities be then?”
Sergeant Gracie stares at him in horror. “You’re kidding me.”

BLURB: Alex Schwartz had a promising future – until he contracted an unfortunate bout of vampirism, and agreed (on pain of death) to join the Laundry, Britain’s only counter-occult secret agency. His first assignment is in Leeds – his old hometown. The thought of telling his parents that he’s lost his old job, let alone them finding out about his ‘condition’, is causing Alex more anxiety than learning how to live as a vampire secret agent preparing to confront multiple apocalypses. His only saving grace is Cassie Brewer, a student appearing in the local Goth Festival, who flirts with him despite his awkward personality and massive amounts of sunblock.
But Cassie has secrets of her own – secrets that make Alex’s night life seem positively normal…

I was thrilled when I managed to get hold of a NetGalley arc of this book, as I’m a huge fan of The Laundry Files, which is one of the best urban fantasy thriller series I’ve read. Alex is a character we first encounter in The Rhesus Chart and I’m delighted to meet up with him, again. I’ll be posting the review of this one, hopefully, during the week.

Sunday Post – 12th June

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Sunday Post

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

My posts last week:
Sunday Post – 5th June

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

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

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

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

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

2016 Discovery Challenge – May Roundup

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Dr. Mo O’Brien is an intelligence agent at the top secret government agency known as ‘the Laundry’. When occult powers threaten the realm, they’ll be there to clean up the mess – and deal with the witnesses. But the Laundry is recovering from a devastating attack and when average citizens all over the country start to develop supernatural powers, the police are called in to help. theannihiliationscoreMo is appointed as official police liaison, but in between dealing with police bureaucracy, superpowered members of the public and disgruntled politicians, Mo discovers to her horror that she can no longer rely on her marriage, nor on the weapon that has been at her side for eight years of undercover work, the possessed violin known as ‘Lecter’. Also, a mysterious figure known as Dr Freudstein has started sending threatening messages to the police, but who is he and what is he planning?

I recently caught up with this excellent series when I got hold of The Rhesus Chart – see my review here – and this book is very much its companion piece. This extract from the Laundry Files is told in Mo’s viewpoint, rather than Bob’s, the usual protagonist who features in these adventures. Mo is Bob’s wife, who is sent out to regularly confront the grisly and terrible creatures with her bone violin. The sticker on the violin case THIS MACHINE KILLS DEMONS isn’t a joke… So it was treat to actually have her first person viewpoint.

I’ve read a few reviews complaining about what a bitch she is – but she’s teetering on the edge of full PTSD, while wrestling for control of her soul and psyche with the violin she uses as a weapon. If Stross had presented her as a softer-edged character, full of concerns about her husband’s woes while all this grief was piling up at her door, the book would have gone flying across the room. Of course, she’s taken up with her own concerns – I think Stross has done a first class job of writing her. The only grizzle I have is the rather constant harping on about middle-aged women turning invisible – given she’s beautiful (Bob has told us she is and I’ve no reason to doubt him) and only in her early forties, she shouldn’t be turning into wallpaper given the strength and charisma she displays in other situations. It grated because, while it can be a problem for women who have spent their vital years running around after spoilt children and a demanding spouse, Mo clearly doesn’t fall into that category so it struck a false note.

However, it’s a relatively minor niggle in a tour de force. Mo’s spiky tetchiness pings off the pages as she finds herself attending meetings and trying to defend her fledgling department’s performance. Being mired in office politics and powerpoint presentations while trying to save the world from the outbreak of superhero powers manifesting within the general population seems an all too realistic probability. I also really enjoyed the discussions about the uniforms they are supposed to be wearing. While Mo doesn’t have the sardonic, world-weary humour Bob regularly displays, there was plenty in this book that had me quietly grinning.

But her gritted desperation as she battles to hold it all together without Bob’s support is palpable. I found her timed crying jags very poignant – especially as there isn’t an ounce of self pity on display. The storyline worked well within the series, though I’m aware there is a steady heightening of the stakes and I do wonder how it plays out and whether they all survive intact. This particular crisis was brought to a satisfying end, though I have found myself pondering this book quite a bit since I finished reading it – always a strong sign I’ve read something special. This is a great addition and, for me, one of the best books in the series to date.
10/10

Sunday Post – 15th May

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Weekly Wrapup

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

This week, I still seem to be running to stay on the same spot… Monday was taken up with helping my son with an audition tape and teaching and I’ve been out every night this week, except Friday. Tuesday and Wednesday I was with a couple of writing groups – vital to get feedback and discuss various writing/editing problems as well as great fun. Friend and accomplished poet, Lyn Jennings helped me out with my poem ‘The Price of Breathing’ and on Wednesday evening Sarah Palmer set me on the right track with my woefully bad blurbs for Dying for Space and Breathing Space.

On Thursday evening, the West Sussex Writers monthly meeting had Sarah Lewis talking to us about using social media as authors. It was a really good evening, with plenty of useful information. And we’ve had the pleasure of Oscar’s company throughout the week-end, so fun things like trips to the beach and bowling have pushed editing and reading into the background.

I have managed to read four books this week, although one of those is a book Oscar and I have been reading together, so it would count as more of a novella, as it is the £1 book he bought for World Book Day. I completed:

theoutliersThe Outliers – Book 1 of The Outliers series by Kimberley McCreight
I was given the opportunity to read this YA mystery sci fi thriller via NetGalley and couldn’t resist. It is a taut, twisting plot full of surprises written in first person viewpoint. It definitely is a Marmite book that readers seem to either love or hate and I posted my review of it yesterday.

 

planetfallPlanetfall by Emma Newman
I bought this book in the early New Year, but wanted to wait until I felt the need for a bit of a pick-me-up before reading it. I’m glad I did. This book is a joy. It grabbed me by the throat from the first page and wouldn’t let go until the end. I still get a tingle every time I think about it… I’ll be reviewing it in due course.

 

The Annihilation Score – Book 6 of The Laundry Files by Charles Strossannihilationscore
This is the companion book to The Rhesus Chart and I’m very glad I managed to read the two books reasonably close together. Again, a roller-coaster ride through an everyday setting with recognisable people dealing with threats that are anything but mundane. Though the inter-departmental politics, office rivalries and budget constraints certainly are… Stross manages to weave a unique world that we all instantly can identify with – before throwing it into a tentacle-lined abyss. I’ll be reviewing this on or around 9th June when the paperback version is released.

 

theescapeEscape – Star Wars Adventures in Wild Space by Scott Cavan
This is a nifty idea – get a major film franchise agree to use their setting for a series of children’s books. Oscar was rather underwhelmed about the idea of going off to spend his £1 book voucher on anything other than the inevitable sticker book – until we happened upon this offering. And he was so excited, I bought the rest of the series. We completed this book on Friday night as soon as he walked through the door.

 

My editing schedule has lurched to a halt this week, but I’m hoping that as next week is considerably quieter, I’ll be able to really get cracking on Breathing Space.

My posts last week:
Weekly Wrap-Up – 8th May

Review of Date Night at Union Station – Book 1 of the EarthCent Ambassador series by E.M. Foner

Teaser Tuesday – Planetfall by Emma Newman

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Central Station by Lavie Tidhar

2016 Discovery Challenge – April Roundup

Friday Faceoff – Which Witch is Which? featuring Witch Week by Diana Wynne Jones

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* The Outliers – Book 1 of The Outliers series by Kimberley McCreight

It has been an enjoyably sociable week with lovely writing friends. I am also getting steadily fitter with my weekly sessions of Fitstep and Pilates – though I stupidly dropped my TENS machine while loading the washing and broke it, so need to order another as my hip is being a bit niggly.

May your books bring you entertainment and enjoyment, or profound insights and I hope everyone has a fulfilling, busy week.

Review of The Rhesus Chart – Book 5 of The Laundry Files by Charles Stross

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I have enjoyed Bob Howard’s adventures and was a bit shaken to realise that since I’d read The Apocalypse Codex, two more had been released in the series. Would this fifth book once more tick all the boxes?

therhesuschartBob Howard is an intelligence agent working his way through the ranks of the top secret government agency known as ‘the Laundry’. When occult powers threaten the realm, they’ll be there to clean up the mess – and deal with the witnesses. There’s one kind of threat that the Laundry has never come across in its many decades, and that’s vampires. Mention them to a seasoned agent and you’ll be laughed out of the room. But when a small team of investment bankers at one of Canary Wharf’s most distinguished financial institutions discovers an arcane algorithm that leaves them fearing daylight and craving O positive, someone doesn’t want the Laundry to know. And Bob gets caught right in the middle.

I really enjoy Bob’s snarky commentary on his job with The Laundry, a Government-backed agency created to deal with the more arcane threats facing the country. Stross has clearly worked in an office during a previous career – and he has nailed some of the dafter activities that go on in admin-heavy organisations. What sets these books apart is that Bob’s first person narration is juxtaposed with his encounters with Lovecraftian beings who are waiting to break into our dimension and turn us all into snackfood.

This latest adventure, however, features more familiar monsters – with a unique Stross spin on them, of course… I love the fact that the infection causing vampirism is a prion disease that infects the brain, similar to mad cow disease. If vampires don’t get regular amounts of human blood, the parasite in their blood that makes them long-lived, allergic to sunlight and very strong, will also attack their brain. However, the same disease also attacks their donors’ brains. Although it takes a while for anyone to take this seriously, after all, EVERYONE within The Laundry knows that vampires don’t exist.

Once more I was swept up in the Stross magic, as this fantasy adventure whipped along at a satisfying clip. I particularly like the fact that Bob isn’t ever some invulnerable magic-user, even though he can pack a punch, but instead comes across as a more than slightly burned-out operative, who manages to prevail due to out-thinking his enemies while sitting at a desk and painstakingly preparing in advance. Though the devastating climax at the end of the book may change that… It was certainly a jaw-dropper – and whatever you do, don’t start your Bob Howard experience with The Rhesus Chart, but instead, go back to the start of it all in The Atrocity Archives. This is a series that deserves to be read in order.
10/10