Tag Archives: children’s fiction

Sunday Post – 18th August, 2019 #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.

On Monday, my daughter came over to pick up my grandson and take him back home – the house seemed a lot emptier without him, as it always does when the grandchildren first go home.

So I got down to work. It’s been a really good week. I’ve been sending out arc copies of Netted after revealing the wonderful cover that superfriend and fellow writer Mhairi designed. I then completed formatting the updated paperback version of Dying for Space, uploaded it and am currently waiting for the proof copy. Hopefully this time around the spacing on the spine will be perfect.

I then started work on the revisions for Mantivore Prey, bracing myself for all sorts of major plot anomalies… poor characterisation… clunky dialogue – and to my delighted surprise, apart from some small alterations necessary to ensure one of the main antagonists is already suitably sneaky right from the start of the book, it read quite smoothly. It took me two days to work through the manuscript, fixing any major problems and by then I was sufficiently fired up to start work on the plot outline for Mantivore Warrior. I’d known the character and some of the main plotpoints, as well as more or less where I wanted the book to end. Now I’ve worked out the whole narrative arc, who all the major characters are and the beginning, the middle and the end. It’s been wonderful to know that this creative upsurge is not going to be hampered by having to break off and produce Creative Writing handouts for the coming term. In fact, it’s going so well, I am seriously considering bringing forward my soft launch of Mantivore Dreams, the first book in the series, to the last week in August.

Yesterday, I took a break from all this work to meet up my sister and have a coffee together and a catchup. Though we didn’t go walking along the beach as it looked like rain – again… The long hot spell we’d enjoyed all through July is a distant memory. The wind and rain we’ve had throughout the week finally snapped off the top two feet of my tallest echium, though fortunately it has more or less finished flowering – I’m grateful that is the only damage we sustained!

Last week I read:

Bright Shards – Book 2 of the Vardeshi Saga by Meg Pechenick
Linguist Avery Alcott has spent three months proving herself to her Vardeshi companions and earning their respect. She arrives at Arkhati, the space station halfway between Earth and Vardesh Prime, eager to continue her adventure. But the next stage of her mission brings its own challenges. In the months to come, new alliances and old friendships will be tested. Avery will question her purpose and her place among the Vardeshi, and she will discover that the most memorable journeys are the ones we can’t predict.
I loved the first book in the series, which I’ve reviewed this week, and this sequel doesn’t disappoint.

 

The Empty Grave – Book 5 of the Lockwood & Co series by Jonathan Stroud
After the dramatic events of The Creeping Shadow, the Lockwood team (plus Quill Kipps) deserve some well-earned rest. So naturally they break into the Fittes Mausoleum, on a perilous mission to discover the truth about London’s top ghost-hunting agency, and its sinister leader. What they discover will change everything.

But there’s little time to ponder. A near-miss at a haunted fairground is only the start – as the Fittes agency closes in on the team, an epic struggle commences. With the help of some unexpected, and rather ghostly, allies, Lockwood & Co must battle their greatest enemy yet, as they move ever closer to the moment when the earth-shattering secret of ‘the problem’ will finally be revealed.
I’ve been putting this one off… Because once it’s over, I will have finished this cracking paranormal ghost-busting series which has been one of my listening highlights of the year.

 

Cage of Souls by Adrian Tchaikovsky
The Sun is bloated, diseased, dying perhaps. Beneath its baneful light, Shadrapur, last of all cities, harbours fewer than 100,000 human souls. Built on the ruins of countless civilisations, surviving on the debris of its long-dead progenitors, Shadrapur is a museum, a midden, an asylum, a prison on a world that is ever more alien to humanity.

Bearing witness to the desperate struggle for existence between life old and new, is Stefan Advani, rebel, outlaw, prisoner, survivor. This is his testament, an account of the journey that took him into the blazing desolation of the western deserts; that transported him east down the river and imprisoned him in verdant hell of the jungle’s darkest heart; that led him deep into the labyrinths and caverns of the underworld. He will treat with monsters, madman, mutants. The question is, which one of them will inherit this Earth?

As ever, the sheer versatility of this gifted author impresses as this grim, dystopian vision of a dying society struggles to come to terms with itself held me right to the end.

My posts last week:

Review of INDIE Ebook Ascending – Book 1 of the Vardeshi Saga series by Meg Pechenick

Friday Faceoff featuring The Devil’s Feathers by Minette Walters

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of The Warehouse by Rob Hart

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of The Heart of the Circle by Keren Landsman

Teaser Tuesday featuring Bright Shards by Meg Pechenick

Netted Cover Reveal & Extract

Sunday Post – 11th August 2019

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

What is a K-drama? https://perspectiveofawriter.com/2017/08/03/k-drama-primer/ Perhaps you already know what a K-drama is – I didn’t and this excellent, entertaining article told me all about it…

Top Ten Tuesday: Book characters I’d Befriend https://hamletsandhyperspace.wordpress.com/2019/08/13/top-ten-tuesday-characters-id-befriend/ I thoroughly enjoy reading the various TTT articles – but this one was particularly entertaining – though Sarah’s choice of Reichis, a certain squirrelcat had me scratching my head. And she wasn’t the only one to choose the ferocious little beast!

Favorite Books A-Z – Male Writers http://booksbonesbuffy.com/2019/08/13/favorite-books-a-z-male-writers/ A great list – and in the interests of fairness, I would add that at the top of the article, Tammy also adds the link to her list of Female Writers, too.

Short Story Review: THE DEAD, Michael Swanwick https://spaceandsorcery.wordpress.com/2019/08/13/short-story-review-the-dead-michael-swanwick/ And I make absolutely no apologies for including a link to this site two weeks running – for here is another marvellous, mind-bending short story to wrap your head around…

Frozen Wavelets – summary of July submissions https://earthianhivemind.net/2019/08/11/frozen-wavelets-summary-of-july-submissions/ For those of you who read and enjoy short stories and those of you who write them – spare a thought for the hapless editor who had to wade through all those submissions…

Thank you for visiting, reading, liking and/or commenting on my blog – I hope you have a wonderful week…

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Friday Faceoff – Yo ho ho and a bottle of rum… #Brainfluffbookblog #FridayFaceoffpiratecovers

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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 PIRATES. I’ve selected How to Be a Pirate – Book 2 of How To Train Your Dragon by Cressida Cowell, which is one of my favourite children’s series ever…

Yes, for the second week in a row I’m featuring a children’s book. This year I seem to be reading rather a lot of them – just as I’d given up on making children’s fiction part of my reading challenge as I’d failed to read a reasonable number for the past three years in a row…

 

This edition was produced by Brown, Little and Company in May 2005. It is suitably quirky with a Viking-cum-pirate character clearly somewhat intellectually challenged as the main image on the cover. I like the background of planked wood, the quirky font and – unusually for me – I love the textbox looking like a treasure chest’s key plate and the dagger for the author name. However, that main image is rather unwhelming, I feel.

 

Published in February 2010 by Brown, Little and Company, I think this cover is more visually appealing, while keeping a lot of the successful aspects of the previous cover. I love the more eye-catching teal background colour and the fact that the textboxes are still enjoyably part of the overall design. However that image in the middle actually features a boat, a worried-looking Hiccup and a threatening dragon emerging from the waves… We get a sense that this is a proper adventure as well as being very funny.

 

This edition, published by Hodder Children’s Books in June 2017 was all set to be my favourite. I love the scaled background, the way the Viking longship bursts from the middle of the cover on a surfing wave – so clever and eye-chatching. And then I paused to take in the actual wording of the quirky font. And changed my mind… I’ve been listening to the series recently and frankly, it’s doing my head in. There are twelve books – and not one of the modern covers sees fit to inform the reader where in the series they come. In fact, the actual title of the book is dwarfed by the series name emblazoned across the top – very annoying! It’s a dealbreaker for me – so this isn’t my favourite, after all.

 

This Spanish edition, produced by SM in August 2006, demonstrates what a huge impact changing the backdrop can have. This cover features the same main design of the first cover – but what a difference. I don’t much care for it – that interlinking pattern doesn’t shout Viking to me and tends to give the whole cover a rather cluttered feel, which isn’t a good look for a children’s cover.

 

This German edition, published in June 2014, has decided to feature the dragon – I love that fantastic image of those two dragon eyes, snout and fangs peering out at a small Viking boy, presumably Hiccup. BUT that large title across the top of the cover is the series title – and once again there is no indication that this is Book 2. Without these issues, this would be my favourite alongside the Hodder edition – but this is such a major omission, I am going to have to plump for that second cover, which gives all the necessary details for a reader. Which is your favourite? Do you mind if a cover doesn’t provide all these details, so long as it looks good? I’d love to get your opinion on this issue!

Sunday Post – 21st July, 2019 #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.

I feel like a cracked record – but this has been yet another really busy week. Last Monday I completed my Creative Writing course. It was a lovely way to end ten wonderful years of teaching with two beautiful bouquets of flowers and a voucher for dinner at my favourite vegan restaurant in Brighton. Being creative types, someone also sang a song they’d written for me and someone else recited a very funny poem about my teaching experiences with them… It’s been an emotional time, saying good-bye.

However, I didn’t have too much time to brood as Tuesday saw us sorting out three kitchen cupboards, me catching up with book reviews and and paperwork, then packing in readiness for my trip up to Lincolnshire to visit my friend Mhairi. On early Wednesday morning. Himself accompanied me as far as St Pancras station in London, and then I completed the rest of the journey on my own. Although I’d taken my Kindle, I spent most of my time looking out of the window at the lovely rural scenery. Mhairi was there to meet me after an uneventful journey that took some five and a half hours. We had a lovely time together catching up with Mhairi and her lovely mum and I was made to feel very welcome, especially by their gorgeous Alsatian, Jake, who very quickly was treating me like one of the family. In the middle of all the laughter and chatter – and one of the most delicious Indian dinners I’ve ever eaten at the local restaurant in Spilsby – we managed to complete our tax returns together. We’ve been doing this now for several years and it is so much better tackling such a horrible, stressful job alongside someone else. So I now feel very virtuous that I have that grotty chore out of the way for another year.

All too soon Friday morning came around and it was time to set off for home again – next time I visit Mhairi I will stay longer. Himself was waiting for me on the platform at King’s Cross and it was lovely to see him again, even though he’d scarcely had time to miss me… Yesterday we did an inventory of the freezer before going shopping, so this month we are going to be mostly eating frozen food (suitably defrosted, of course) to help eke out the pennies as tomorrow the builders arrive to start tackling the dangerous concrete canopy over the back door. Wish us luck!

Last week I read:

Witch-Hunt – Book 1 of Lodestone by Wendy Scott
Sabrina is thrust out of her sheltered life at Mistress Florisah’s healing school after the destruction of the witch-ancestor portraits and the appearance of Lauren the Destroyer’s ghost. An anti-witchcraft regime is poised on Karthalon’s borders threatening full scale genocide, unless Sabrina, the last of Lauren’s bloodline, can destroy the Lodestone and restore magic to Valloaria. Hundreds of years before Lauren had wrought the cataclysmic demise of the Council of Witches by unleashing the Lodestone and now Sabrina is the only one who can undo Lauren’s legacy.
This is a story about an act of desperate vengeance and the ongoing consequences that Sabrina is now trying to undo.

 

The Forbidden Wish by Jessica Khoury
When Aladdin discovers Zahra’s jinni lamp, Zahra is thrust back into a world she hasn’t seen in hundreds of years—a world where magic is forbidden and Zahra’s very existence is illegal. She must disguise herself to stay alive, using ancient shape-shifting magic, until her new master has selected his three wishes.
I recalled the buzz around this retelling of the Aladdin story from the viewpoint of the jinn when it first came out, but somehow hadn’t got around to reading it. I’m glad I did so now, as I’d hit something of a slump. This was so much more than a romance – and I will be reviewing this one in due course.

 

Changeling – Book 1 of the Sorcery and Society series by Molly Harper
If 14-year-old Cassandra Reed makes it through her first day at Miss Castwell’s Institute for the Magical Instruction of Young Ladies without anyone discovering her secret, maybe, just maybe, she’ll let herself believe that she really does belong at Miss Castwell’s. Except Cassandra Reed’s real name is Sarah Smith and up until now, she lived her whole life in the Warren, serving a magical family, the Winters, as all non-magical “Snipes” are bound by magical Guardian law to do. That is, until one day, Sarah accidentally levitates Mrs. Winter’s favorite vase in the parlor…
I enjoy magical school stories and this one is an engrossing read with a young, upbeat character who mostly prevails without becoming too smart or clever. Review to follow.

 

The House at Sea’s End – Book 3 of the Ruth Galloway series by Elly Griffiths
Ruth Galloway has just returned from maternity leave and is struggling to juggle work and motherhood. When a team from the University of North Norfolk, investigating coastal erosion, finds six bodies at the foot of the cliff, she is immediately put on the case.
This is a series I started a long time ago and am now catching up on. I mostly enjoyed this one, though there are times when Ruth’s hit and miss mothering annoys me. But it is a refreshing change to find a protagonist trying to juggle a working life with the role of a mother and having to make all those hard decisions that confront so many women caught in the same situation.

 

My posts last week:

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of This is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar & Max Gladstone

Friday Faceoff featuring Dichronauts by Greg Egan

Review of INDIE Ebook Ascending – Book 1 of the Vardeshi Saga by Meg Pechenick

Review of AUDIOBOOK Mythos – written and narrated by Stephen Fry

Teaser Tuesday featuring The Forbidden Wish by Jessica Khoury

Review of ARC Jack Jetstark’s Intergalactic Freak Show by Jennifer Lee Rossman

Sunday Post – 14th July 2019

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

Morningstar’s Thoughts on Reading https://literacyletters.wordpress.com/2019/07/18/morningstars-thoughts-on-reading/ What a fabulous definition of why we all read…

Down the Rabbit Hole… to a Book Cover! https://ailishsinclair.com/2019/07/book-cover/ These pics are so much fun – especially if you are a fan of Alice in Wonderland.

About that ‘Writing Vacation’ https://writerunboxed.com/2019/07/19/about-that-writing-vacation/ I read this feeling really nicely smug that I hadn’t fallen into these traps on my writing retreats – and managing to get a great deal written.

Is Our Company Enough for Pets? https://chechewinnie.com/is-our-company-enough-for-our-pets/ Cheche raises an uncomfortable question here for those of us who are or who have been pet owners…

5 oddly specific storylines I like in books https://thisislitblog.com/2019/07/16/5-oddly-specific-storylines-i-love-in-books/ Shruti shares with us her top five favourite storylines – which had me wondering about mine. What about you?

Thank you for visiting, reading, liking and/or commenting on my blog – I hope you have a wonderful week…

Friday Faceoff – A hero is somebody who voluntarily walks into the unknown… Brainfluffbookblog

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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 a HERO, so I’ve selected The Lost Hero – Book 1 of The Heroes of Olympus series by Rick Riodan.

 

This edition was produced by Disney-Hyperion Books in October 2012. I really like this cover featuring a wonderful steam-driven dragon, which rightly has pride of place in the middle of the cover. The green light suffusing the backdrop ensures the metallic colouring is nicely thrown into relief. The title and author fonts are clear and inoffensive, if a tad boring, but this cover is a strong contender – even if said hero doesn’t feature all that much.

 

Published in October 2011 by Puffin, this is a really dramatic offering. The steampunk dragon is still featuring – but the lower half of the cover is given over to the young hero plunging towards the ground. It is a startling, eye-catching image. Unusually, the series details are given more emphasis than the title or even the best-selling author. While this is unquestionably a dramatic cover, it doesn’t look so effective in thumbnail.

 

This Italian edition, published by Mondadori in September 2017 has featured the lost hero of the title. The silhouette of the slumped figure depicts utter despair. With the birds pouring out of him as he dissolves, it is an arresting image that snags attention. I would love it even more, but for the fact that it fades into black both top and bottom. This means the artwork only extends over half of the cover, which is a shame, given how brilliant it is.

 

Produced by Boekeri in September 2012, this Dutch edition is more successful. I love the dramatic colouring and the protagonists staring at the devastated cityscape while that amazing mechanical dragon is also nicely featured. Those flame colours in the backdrop really jump out. I also love that border edging the whole cover which gives it an extra dimension. This is my favourite, though it’s a close-run thing between this one and the cover below.

 

This Russian edition, published by Эксмо in October 2010 has us back in the air with that wonderful mechanical dragon again. This is another cover that tells a dramatic story, with the city in flames and that amazing building featuring behind the lovely red and white font. I really like the fact that we can see the characters so clearly on board the dragon. Which one is your favourite?

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc Unwritten by Tara Gilboy #Brainfluffbookreview #Unwrittenbookreview

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I liked the sound of this children’s adventure and, conscious that I hadn’t read many children’s books this year, I was delighted when I was approved to read and review it.

Twelve-year-old Gracie Freeman is living a normal life, but she is haunted by the fact that she is actually a character from a story, an unpublished fairy tale she’s never read. When she was a baby, her parents learned that she was supposed to die in the story, and with the help of a magic book, took her out of the story, and into the outside world, where she could be safe. But Gracie longs to know what the story says about her.

Once again, I’ve abbreviated the rather chatty blurb, but you’ll get the gist that this is about a girl who feels she doesn’t belong. Don’t take the tone of this book from the Disney-looking cover – this book is a lot grittier than the cover design suggests. Gracie’s flashbacks of being in a fire become increasingly upsetting, so when random chance gives her an opportunity to track down the author of the unpublished book containing her story, she takes it.

I like this treatment of the classic portal fantasy trope – it works well. The bewilderment of the well-known author at Gracie’s odd questions and keenness to distance herself from the intense, peculiar girl works really well. Gracie isn’t all that likeable at time – she’s prickly, secretive and prone to lying which is something of a risk, given that children generally prefer a nicer protagonist. However, this is one of the main themes of the book – who is the villain in this story?

There is a lot going on in this thoughtful, well-crafted story. The archetypal wicked queen isn’t as much of a pantomime villain as Gracie first thought. And what about her parents’ behaviour? Her mother’s stubborn refusal to discuss any of the weirdness poor Gracie keeps encountering is at worst selfishly stupid and at best short-sighted; while Gracie’s father opts to stay out of her life. Again, not exactly stepping up to the plate, is he? The adventure deals with some hefty issues with Gracie making an unpleasant discovery about her own role as the royal princess in the story.

As a children’s adventure tale, it has been brought to a satisfactory, reasonably upbeat conclusion. I have found myself thinking a lot about this thought-provoking and intelligently written story that I think would be an ideal book to be read and examined as a class project.

While I obtained an arc of Unwritten from the publisher via Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own.
9/10

Friday Faceoff – The grave’s a fine and private place… #Brainfluffbookblog

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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 A HORROR NOVEL, so I’ve selected The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman.

 

This edition was produced by HarperCollins in September 2008. I really like this one – the blue-black background is both effective and attractive and the gravestone is striking. But what stands out is the treatment of both the title and author fonts, which I love. And then they go and RUIN it by plastering that large gold blob right in the centre! Couldn’t it have gone in a corner? Just asking…

 

Published in December 2008 by Bloomsbury, this cover is the exact opposite of the above cover. Rather than going for the minimalist approach, this cover is full of wonderful detail, featuring the two main protagonists scowling out at prospective readers. I could have done without the endorsement by Diana Wynne Jones impinging onto that glorious artwork, but overall I like this one, including the funky title font. This is the cover of the copy we own. The big problem with it is that it doesn’t look good in thumbnail.

 

This Spanish edition, published by Roca Editorial in October 2010. I really like it – the design is  clever, featuring the blade of a knife with the cityscape running along its length and young Bod running along the edge of it. I think it’s attractive and eye-catching – and again the author and title fonts look fabulous. However, the snag for me is that there is no graveyard in this cover, which features so heavily in the book – and the title.

 

Produced by Polaris in September 2008, this Czech cover does feature a graveyard. I like the design and appreciate that the ghosts also feature. However, unfortunately the execution of the otherworldly characters lets down this cover – they look like they’ve been painted onto material and then photoshopped into the cover. It’s such a shame, because I think the idea and the rest of the image is really strong.

 

This French edition, published by J’ai lu in April 2012, is also set in a graveyard and I love it. I think it’s the strongest of all the designs. It sings off the page with the eerie lighting and the silhouetted figure of the small boy against the wrought iron gates of the graveyard looks fabulous. This is mine – but which is your favourite?

Friday Faceoff – When icicles hang by the wall… #Brainfluffbookblog

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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 theme this week featuring on any of our covers is ice and snow. I’ve selected The Ice Dragon by George R.R. Martin.

 

This edition was produced by Starscape Books in October 2017 has a great font and a lovely illustration of a dragon. So why they decided to squash that glorious artwork into a small box in the middle of the cover and surround it with a midnight blue block defeats me. What a shame.

 

Published in October 2014 by Tor Teen, this glorious cover doesn’t make such a fundamental mistake. A fabulous dragon, all ice and fury – it makes me shiver just looking at it. It is matched by that beautifully shaded font which perfectly captures the mood and content of the book, while also easy to read. This is my favourite cover today. In fact, this has to be right up there as one of my all-time favourite covers, along with that wonderful cover for Green Rider by Gollancz I discovered a few weeks ago…

 

This Spanish edition, published by Montena in October 2012, is another well crafted effort. The artwork makes this version more of a wyrm rather than the icicled, spiky creature of air and blizzard depicted on the previous Tor Teen cover. While I don’t like it as much, it is still a strong cover.

 

This German edition, produced by CBJ is another wonderful effort. I love the way we have the dragon in mid-wingbeat, so that the wingtips sweep across the top of the cover. And that wonderful font is also a joy. This week’s covers have set the bar very high!

 

This is another German cover published by CBJ in 2009. Again, the artwork and detail is beautiful with lovely shades of blue and the orange font is attractive and really pings against the icy artwork. The only thing against this one is that ugly gold blob in the middle, which rather spoils the effect. I’ll be fascinated to see what your favourite cover is this week – there are so many really strong contenders in this selection that I think it’s purely down to personal preference.

#Sunday Post – 10th June, 2018 #Brainfluffbookblog

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

Firstly, a profound apology for the lack of any interaction, but after struggling to stay in touch using my laptop and my sister’s rather slow broadband speeds when our own internet wasn’t working, I decided last week that Life was too short to take so long to achieve so little… The good news is that I am now connected! And feeling an idiot. The new router that arrived on Saturday of last week didn’t get connected up, as I’d inadvertently plugged in the old, lightning-struck router instead! No wonder it wasn’t working and no one could figure out why…

On Friday, after teaching Tim, Himself and I drove up to Oxford to Waterstones’ book store for the launch of not just one, but three anthologies from Grimbold Publishing. My story, ‘A Dire Emergency’, is in Holding On By Our Fingertips, an anthology of stories written just twenty-four hours before the apocalypse – mine features an angry alien who has gone native… We decided to stay over and found a lovely hotel just a mile away from the centre of the city. It was a warm, sunny evening, with a number of readings from each anthology and it was lovely to meet up with the folks from Grimbold and I was particularly delighted to get a chance to chat to Jessica Rydill, author of Children of the Strange. I also met Lucy Hounsom, who was reading an extract from Charlotte Bond’s gripping story ‘Retreat’. They both produce the podcast Breaking the Glass Slipper which particularly features women within the SFF genre. I’ll be tracking it down, as one of my targets for the latter half of the year is to make time for listening to audiobooks and podcasts.

On Saturday, we wandered around Oxford, enjoying the amazing architecture and spent a long time in Blackwells, the famous book store. I resisted buying any books, though Himself bought one…

During the rest of the week, I bought a new car on Tuesday as borrowing my sister’s made us realise just how much extra time Himself spends at work when the shift-end doesn’t coincide with a train home, so we found a little white Ka I’ve named Twinkle. On Wednesday, I went to Chichester Theatre with a lovely friend to see a performance of The Chalk Garden starring Penelope Keith. It was a wonderful production and we both thoroughly enjoyed it. It’s been Himself’s summer holiday, so we’ve also been working in the garden, hacking at the overgrown shrubbery and reclaiming the two main beds which are now looking colourful in shades of orange and bronze. Himself has been busy shredding some of the smaller branches from our severely pruned olive tree and we’re hoping to get the whole garden back into shape before the end of the summer.

This week I have read:

The Tethered Mage – Book 1 of the Swords and Fire series by Melissa Caruso
Zaira has lived her life on the streets to avoid this fate, hiding her mage-mark and thieving to survive. But hers is a rare and dangerous magic, one that threatens the entire empire.

Lady Amalia Cornaro was never meant to be a Falconer. Heiress and scholar, she was born into a treacherous world of political machinations. But fate has bound the heir and the mage.

This is one of the books I treated myself to when I had some Amazon vouchers to spend – and I’m so glad I did. I love the idea that powerful magic-users either become unpleasant tyrants or serve the interests of the state by being magically shackled and used as necessary… I’ll be reviewing this one in due course.

 

Windswept – Book 1 of the Windswept series Adam Rakunas
Labor organizer Padma Mehta is on the edge of space and the edge of burnout. All she wants is to buy out a little rum distillery and retire, but she’s supposed to recruit 500 people to the Union before she can. She’s only thirty-three short. So when a small-time con artist tells her about forty people ready to tumble down the space elevator to break free from her old bosses, she checks it out — against her better judgment. It turns out, of course, it was all lies.

This rollicking space colony adventure is packed with incident and punchy, enjoyable writing – I do enjoy Angry Robot’s books… I’ll be reviewing it in due course and hunting down the second book in the series

 

Time Was by Ian McDonald
Struggling second-hand book dealer, Emmet, is trying to survive in an increasingly difficult near future – and then comes across a small poetry collection called Time Was which includes a love letter from Tom to Ben, set in WWII. It sets him out on an astonishing search to discover who Tom and Ben are – a search that takes him to a tucked-away corner of England where odd stories abound about the seas catching fire…

This is a gem. I absolutely loved it. It’s one of my favourite reads of the year so far – I got to the end with tears in my eyes and a lump in my throat…

 

The Ice Dragon by George R.R. Martin
In the world of A Song of Ice and Fire the ice dragon was a creature of legend and fear, for no man had ever tamed one. When it flew overhead, it left in its wake desolate cold and frozen land. But Adara was not afraid. For Adara was a winter child, born during the worst freeze that anyone, even the Old Ones, could remember.

I didn’t initially realise that this novella tired in with Martin’s famous fantasy series until I read the blurb. It is an entertaining story, but as far as I’m concerned, it takes a while to get going and then the ending is far too abrupt. I do hate it when novellas end too suddenly…

 

Ancell’s Quest by Tony Main
To his dismay, Ancell, a timid, dreaming hedgehog, is called to sail in search of someone in terrible trouble, who keeps calling to him in his dreams. Someone whose plight cannot wait – which leads him to the capable sea otter captain of the schooner, ‘Misty Dawn’ – and a whole series of adventures. At first the frightened landlubber finds life upon the waves difficult, but he soon learns to trust the crew and face the various dangers alongside them…

This adventure-filled tale held my attention throughout and I was genuinely sorry when I reached the end. I’ll be reviewing it in due course…

And that’s it… I didn’t visit any blogs and other than last week’s Sunday Post, I haven’t produced anything else on my blog, this week. This week, normal service will be resumed. Thank you very much for taking the time and trouble to visit, like and comment on my site – and I promise to get back to you as soon as I can!

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of The Eye of the North by Sinéad O’Hart

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I wanted to read and review more YA and children’s books this year, so when this one caught my eye due to the interesting premise, I requested it and couldn’t be more pleased. It’s a delight…

When Emmeline’s scientist parents mysteriously disappear, she finds herself heading for a safe house, where allies have pledged to protect her. But along the way, things don’t go as planned…

This steampunk adventure is huge fun that hits the ground running and doesn’t let up until the end. Emmeline is brought up a solitary child in a creepy house infested with all sorts of dangerous creatures and is more or less left to get on with it as her scientist parents have to do a lot of travelling. Until a fateful day when everything goes wrong… Do try to avoid reading the blurb which is far too chatty and gives away more of the plot than is necessary. That said, there is plenty of plot in this action-packed story brimful of interesting, likeable characters. Generally I am not a huge fan of stories where yet another set of new characters pop up in each scene, but somehow O’Hart manages to pull it off. Other than Emmeline, whose gritty self-assurance gets her through all sorts of tight spots, my favourite character has to be Thing, the vagabond boy she encounters on the liner. But there are plenty of other enjoyable, strong-minded characters to choose from as steampunk tends to roll along with lots of action and relatively little angst. It was when Thing had a wobble about his grim childhood that I bonded with him and felt that vulnerability gave him more reader-appeal.

There is also a pleasing number of unpleasant villains ranged against Emmeline and the people trying to prevent the impending apocalypse – my favourite is Doctor Siegfried Bauer as he is so magnificently horrible, especially to poor Emmeline. But the North Witch is also a thoroughly nasty character who poses all sorts of problems. Once the action really takes off, we have the two main protagonists, Emmeline and Thing alternating in telling the story, occasionally interspersed by other members of the supporting cast. O’Hart’s strong writing and deft handling of the rising tension makes this a really gripping read that didn’t want to let me go when I should have been up and about instead of finishing the book.

The denouement has to deliver after so much energy and tension has been expended during the rising action and in this case, it does, while all the dangling plotpoints are satisfactorily tidied up. I’m very much hoping that this book does well, because although I cannot see any sign of this being the first in a series, I’d love to read more about Emmeline and her family in another madcap adventure. Recommended for precocious readers from 10/11 years old onwards.
9/10

My Outstanding Books of 2017

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Last year was yet another bumper year for reading, particularly in the science fiction and fantasy genres. As usual, I’ll list the ones that stood out for me – and we’re not talking a top ten. I completed 174 books last year, but won’t go into too much detail in this article about my overall 2017 reading experience, as today it’s all about those that gave me the tingle factor. Most will have received a perfect ten on my scoring system, however there will be a couple that didn’t. The reason they are here is because that after I’d finished reading and writing about them, they didn’t go away, but continued to linger in my thoughts. So here they are, in no particular order:-

 

Emperor of the Fireflies – Book 2 of the Tide Dragons series by Sarah Ash

This godpunk duology set within the Japanese pantheon centres around a beautiful, dark-edged myth. Ash’s lyrical prose and deft handling of this tale has stayed with me throughout the year, despite having read it last January. See my review here.

 

Miranda and Caliban by Jacqueline Carey

I absolutely fell in love with this haunting retelling of Shakespeare’s The Tempest. While I enjoyed and admired Margaret Atwood’s Hag-Seed – another strong contender – this one stole my heart. The ending gave me goosebumps, while making me weep. That doesn’t happen very often. See my review here.

 

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

While I thoroughly enjoyed the first book, Planetfall, this one blew me away. The characterisation, the horrible situation the protagonist finds himself in – it all got under my skin to the extent that I woke my husband up as I yelled in shock at a particular point in the book. I can’t wait to see where Newman goes next with this amazing series. See my review here.

 

Wolf Moon – Book 2 of the Luna duology by Ian McDonald

This depiction of an existence on the Moon where rampant capitalism holds sway hasn’t left me alone since I read this one. McDonald has called it ‘A game of domes’ and he certainly has nailed the deadly powerplays the main families indulge in with his reference to George R.R. Martin’s epic. I keep thinking about that ending… See my review here.

 

Winter Tide – Book 1 of the Innesmouth Legacy by Ruthanna Emrys

This book was a delightful surprise – I had no idea the writing would pull me into this version of Lovecraft’s monstrous world, with a strong, sympathetic protagonist who is one of the few survivors of the attack on Innesmouth years ago. I loved it and am very much looking forward to reading more in this fantastic series. See my review here.

 

The Forever Court – Book 2 of The Knights of the Borrowed Dark trilogy by Dave Rudden

I enjoyed the first book in this series, Knights of the Borrowed Dark, finding Rudden’s punchy prose style both enjoyable and memorable. But this sequel builds on the first with an engrossing adventure and some amazing characters. It’s far too good to leave just for the children. See my review here.

 

Scavenger Alliance – Book 1 of the Exodus series by Janet Edwards

I have thoroughly enjoyed all Edwards’ books – but this managed to nock up the stakes to a point I could not put it down until I’d finished reading it. I have rules about never reading or watching TV until after 5.30 pm – otherwise I’d never get anything done. I broke that rule for this book. See my review here.

 

Cold Welcome – Book 1 of Vatta’s Peace by Elizabeth Moon

This is a new spinoff series by a much-loved author which I was delighted to read – even better, it was a storming adventure that proved to be an engrossing page-turner. I remembered all over again why I love reading this author. See my review here.

 

Dichronauts by Greg Egan

No one writes different aliens as well as Greg Egan – and I loved this adventure. I’m very much hoping it turns into a series as I would love to spend more time following the fortunes of these amazing creatures. See my review here.

 

The Lost Steersman – Book 3 of The Steerswoman series by Rosemary Kirstein

This is a series I read longer ago than I care to recall – and when I saw it had appeared in Kindle, I snapped it up and reread it, something I hardly ever do. My instincts were spot on – I have thoroughly enjoyed revisiting this engrossing world and following Rowena’s adventures in this smart, cleverly written fantasy/science fiction mashup. This is the particular story that has stayed with me, though the other books in the series are just as good. See my review here.

 

Heir to the North – Book 1 of Malessar’s Curse by Steven Poore

This epic fantasy got under my skin and into my heart in a way that doesn’t often happen with this genre. I loved the clever, clever twist at the end and one of the treats in 2018 is to tuck into the sequel, The High King’s Vengeance. See my review here.

 

Sea of Rust by Robert C. Cargill

This was another amazing book that came out of the blue – I’d not read anything by this author before and was delighted by this post-apocalyptic world peopled by robots who are starting to wear out and fail. With no factories or warehouses full of spare parts anymore, the only option is to harvest those parts from other robots. See my review here.

 

The Last Dog on Earth by Adrian J. Walker

I’ve read a number of apocalyptic tales during the year, however in this version Walker triumphantly succeeds in giving us a dog’s version of a complete collapse in law and order. And the chilling results of what happens when that order is reimposed by the wrong people. See my review here.

 

Empire of Dust – Book 1 of the Psi-Tech novels by Jacey Beford

This epic science fiction adventure stood out because of the flawed protagonist and the gritty depiction of establishing a colony. I really enjoyed the world and the fact that love clearly doesn’t cure all. I’m looking forward to reading more from this talented author. See my review here.

 

The Wizards of Once – Book 1 of The Wizards of Once by Cressida Cowell

After her marvellous series How To Train Your Dragon, I was interested to see how she would follow it up. The writing is more lyrical, the underlying poignancy is more pronounced. My elderly Kindle didn’t like the illustrations throughout this book and part of my Christmas money is going on buying a print version of this book. Not for the grandchildren – for me. See my review here.

 

Whirligig: Keeping the Promise – Book 1 of Shire’s Union by Richard Buxton

I have to declare an interest – Richard is a former student and I had read some extracts from a very early draft. However that did not prepare me for the excellence of the writing, where this historical adventure finds two young English people from the same small village ending up in America during the Civil War. They are both caught in quite different ways and this story just kept on delivering in terms of plot twists and tension. See my review here.

 

Gnomon by Nick Harkaway

This doorstopper is extraordinary. Don’t ask me what the storyline is – other than recalling there are five main protagonists with very different and vivid voices, it’s too complicated to recall. What I do remember is that very early on I took the decision to slow right down and savour this book as reads like this don’t come along all that often. It took me 10 days to get through this one and I recall feeling sad when it came to the end. See my review here.

To pare the list down to this required setting aside other books that still hurt to leave out – the likes of Mother of Eden by Chris Beckett, Spoonbenders by Daryl Gregory, The Real-Town Murders by Adam Roberts, The Invisible Library books by Genevieve Cogman and The Innkeeper Chronicles by Ilona Andrews all missed making this list by a whisker. If you force to me to choose just one of these books, I’ll probably never forgive you, but it would have to be After Atlas.

What were your outstanding reads of the year?