Tag Archives: Colleen Oakes

2016 Discovery Challenge – How Did I Do?

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After reading Jo Hall’s post here, I decided to join this challenge and set myself the target of reading and reviewing at least two books a month by women authors I’ve not previously encountered. For a variety of reasons, 2016 proved to be my best reading year, ever. So I actually read and reviewed 45 books by women I haven’t read before. There were so many great authors in that group and my top five are included in my outstanding books of 2016 – see here. So I want to feature my top five very near misses in no particular order:-

Radiance by Cathrynne M. Valente
radianceI enjoy being a Netgalley reader – it pushes me out of my comfort zone every so often. I’m not sure I would have picked up this offering if it hadn’t been on offer, given the description was a decopunk pulp SF alt-history space opera mystery set in a Hollywood-and solar system-very different from our own. Severin Unck’s father is a famous director of Gothic romances in an alternate 1986 in which talking movies are still a daring innovation due to the patent-hoarding Edison family. Rebelling against her father’s films of passion, intrigue, and spirits from beyond, Severin starts making documentaries, traveling through space and investigating the levitator cults of Neptune and the lawless saloons of Mars. For this is not our solar system, but one drawn from classic science fiction in which all the planets are inhabited and we travel through space on beautiful rockets. Severin is a realist in a fantastic universe.

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

 

Machinations – Book 1 of the Machinations series by Hayley Stone
The machines have risen, but not out of malice. They were simply following a command: to stop the machinationsendless wars that have plagued the world throughout history. Their solution was perfectly logical. To end the fighting, they decided to end the human race. A potent symbol of the resistance, Rhona Long has served on the front lines of the conflict since the first Machinations began—until she is killed during a rescue mission gone wrong. Now Rhona awakens to find herself transported to a new body, complete with her DNA, her personality, even her memories. She is a clone . . . of herself. Trapped in the shadow of the life she once knew, the reincarnated Rhona must find her place among old friends and newfound enemies—and quickly. For the machines are inching closer to exterminating humans for good. And only Rhona, whoever she is now, can save them.

I also read and reviewed the second book, Counterpart in this intriguing series. There are indications that Stone is still feeling her way – this is, after all, her debut novel and the machines weren’t particularly vividly drawn – but I have never read a book where the issue of cloning has been so thoroughly and emotionally examined. Despite its flaws, this one has stayed with me.

 

The Fettered Flame – Book 2 of the Shkode series by E.D.E. Bell
thefetteredflameThe Fettered Flame is a genre-bending fantasy novel that continues the saga of two dying worlds, plagued by their own unique struggles for power. Follow the journeys of Cor – a woman striving to understand her powers of magic and how the connect to her past, Atesh – her contemplative dragon companion, and Jwala – a dragon plunged into a rebirth of ancient ideals. The Fettered Flame is the second instalment in the Shkode trilogy: a quirky and modern take on dragons and wizards, exploring themes of identity, prejudice, violence, compassion, and the ways we are all connected.

I was sufficiently impressed to seek out the first book, The Banished Craft, in this science fiction/fantasy mashup. The blurb may sound a bit gushy, but it is spot on. This is epic fantasy with a sci fi twist and I’m looking forward to reading the next instalment when it is released as I love the characters and Bell’s quirky, insightful take on the world she has created.

 

Rosemary and Rue – Book 1 of the Toby Daye series by Seanan McGuire
October “Toby” Daye, a changeling who is half human and half fae, has been an outsider from birth. rosemaryandrueAfter getting burned by both sides of her heritage, Toby has denied the Faerie world, retreating to a “normal” life. Unfortunately for her, the Faerie world has other ideas…

I loved McGuire’s writing and went on to read her wonderful novella Every Heart a Doorway. One of my promises to myself is to continue reading more of the Toby Daye series in 2017.

 

Rebel of the Sands – Book 1 of the Rebel of the Sands series by Alywn Hamilton
rebelofthesandsMortals rule the desert nation of Miraji, but mystical beasts still roam the wild and barren wastes, and rumor has it that somewhere, djinni still practice their magic. But there’s nothing mystical or magical about Dustwalk, the dead-end town that Amani can’t wait to escape from. Destined to wind up “wed or dead,” Amani’s counting on her sharpshooting skills to get her out of Dustwalk, but things don’t go according to plan…

Hamilton’s punchy, accomplished writing grabbed me from the first page and didn’t let go until the end of this adrenaline-fuelled ride. Amani is a feisty heroine who attracts trouble like iron filings to a magnet and I found this one really hard to put down until it was finished and am very much looking forward to reading the sequel.

 

Given I nearly doubled the target number of women authors I read and reviewed, should I increase my goal for 2017? I’ve decided against doing so. One of the reasons why 2016 was such a bumper reading year was because I wasn’t writing. Editing and rewriting, yes – but I wrote nothing new. So reading became a refuge that I don’t normally crave so intensely as diving into a new world of my own for the first time tends to thoroughly tick that box. Therefore, I shall launch my 2017 Discovery Challenge with the target of reading and reviewing at least two books a month by women writers previously unknown to me. And if I have half as much joy in the coming year as I’ve had reading this year’s offerings, I shall be very happy, indeed.

What about you? Did you set yourself any reading challenges in 2016 – and if so, how have you got on? Do you intend to continue them into 2017?

Discovery Challenge Books I Read in 2016
1. The Puppet Boy of Warsaw by Eva Weaver
2. Truthwitch – Book 1 of the Witchlands series by Susan Dennard
3. Gold, Fame, Citrus by Claire Vaye Watkins
4. Daughter of Smoke and Bone – Book 1 of the Daughter of Smoke and Bone series by Laini Taylor
5. Heart of Obsidian – Book 12 of the Psy-Changeling series by Nalini Singh
6. Radiance by Catherynne M. Valente
7. Rosemary and Rue – Book 1 of the Toby Daye series by Seanan McGuire
8. Radio Silence by Alice Oseman
9. The Sector – Book 1 of the Non-Compliance series by Paige Daniels
10. Brink’s Unfortunate Escape from Hell – Prequel to the Skycastle series by Andy Mulberry
11. The Many Selves of Katherine North by Emma Geen
12. The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi
13. Cinder – Book 1 of the Luna Chronicles by Marissa Meyer
14. Bright Blaze of Magic – Book 3 of the Black Blade series by Jennifer Estep
15. A Rural Affair by Catherine Alliott
16. Queen of Hearts – Book 1 of the Queen of Hearts saga by Colleen Oakes
17. The Outliers – Book 1 of The Outliers trilogy by Kimberley McCreight
18. The Loneliness of Distant Beings by Kate Ling
19. Banished – Book 1 of the Blackhart trilogy by Liz de Jager
20. The Nothing Girl by Jodi Taylor
21. Change of Life – Book 2 of a Menopausal Superhero by Samantha Bryant
22. Magic Bitter, Magic Sweet by Charlie N. Holmberg
23. Speak by Louisa Hall
24. Inborn – Book 1 of The Birthright series by Amy Saunders
25. Machinations – Book 1 of The Machinations series by Hayley Stone
26. Woman of the Hour by Jane Lythell
27. Shift by Em Bailey
28. An Accident of Stars – Book 1 of The Manifold Worlds series by Foz Meadows
29. Across the Universe – Book 1 of the Across the Universe series by Beth Revis
30. The Thousandth Floor – Book 1 of The Thousandth Floor series by Katherine McGee
31. The Changeling by Christina Soontornvat
32. The Fettered Flame – Book 2 of the Shkode series by E.D.E. Bell
33. Aveline – Book 1 of The Lost Vegas series by Lizzy Ford
34. Escapology by Ren Warom
35. So Many Boots, So Little Time – Book 3 of the MisAdventures of Miss Lilly series by Kalan Chapman Lloyd
36. The Imlen Brat by Sarah Avery
37. Return to the Secret Garden by Holly Webb
38. A Darker Shade of Magic – Book 1 of the Shades of Magic series by V.E. Schwab
39. Synners by Pat Cadigan
40. Renting Silence – A Roaring Twenties Mystery by Mary Miley
41. Split the Sun – Book 2 of the Inherit the Stars duology by Tessa Elwood
42. Rebel of the Sands – Book 1 of the Rebel of the Sands series by Alwyn Hamilton
43. Ever the Hunted – Book 1 of the Clash of Kingdoms series by Erin Summerill
44. The City of Ice – Book 2 of the Gates of the World series by K.M. McKinley
45. Graveyard Shift – Book 10 of the Pepper Martin series by Casey Daniels

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2016 Discovery Challenge – April Roundup

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After reading Joanne Hall’s thought-provoking post, I decided to read and review at least two women authors unknown to me each month. How have I done in April?

Cinders – Book 1 of the Luna Chronicles by Marissa Meyer
cinderHumans and androids crowd the raucous streets of New Beijing. A deadly plague ravages the population. From space, a ruthless lunar people watch, waiting to make their move. Cinder, a gifted mechanic, is a cyborg. She’s a second-class citizen with a mysterious past, reviled by her stepmother and blamed for her stepsister’s illness. But when her life becomes intertwined with the handsome Prince Kai’s, she suddenly finds herself at the center of an intergalactic struggle.

I found the ways in which the story spun off from the original, playing against my expectations, added to my appreciation of the world – and I was hooked. Read the full review here.

 

Bright Blaze of Magic – Book 3 of the Black Blade series by Jennifer Estep
As a thief, I’m good at three things: hiding in the shadows, getting in and out unseen, and brightblazeofmagicuncovering secrets. I put these skills to work for the Sinclair Family, one of the magical mobs that run the tourist town of Cloudburst Falls. Everyone knows Victor Draconi wants to take over all the other Families – and kill every last Sinclair. What they don’t know is that I’m on to him, and no way will I let the man who murdered my mom get away with hurting all the other people I care about. Especially when I’ve got places to break into, stuff to steal, and Devon Sinclair fighting right by my side…

It wasn’t until I’d started the book that I realised I’d done it again… After all my best intentions – I’d crashed mid-way into a series as Bright Blaze of Magic is the third book in the Black Blades series. However, this wasn’t a problem as Estap is far too experienced and deft a writer to leave me adrift. Without going into long, involved explanations, I was provided with all the necessary backstory to be able to get up to speed for this slice of the narrative arc. The process was helped by the fact that our feisty heroine bounces off the page with loads of personality and charisma. This is an enjoyable, slick read from a writer clearly at the top of her game – read my full review here.

 

The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi
thestartouchedqueenMaya is cursed. With a horoscope that promises a marriage of Death and Destruction, she has earned only the scorn and fear of her father’s kingdom. Content to follow more scholarly pursuits, her whole world is torn apart when her father, the Raja, has other plans for her.

And that is ALL I’m prepared to reveal of the blurb, which then immediately lurches into major Spoiler territory, as it happily provides most of the main plotpoints of the book. Please take my firm advice and avoid it until you have had a chance to read the book, first. The prose is rich and lyrical, spinning a beautiful world with a brutal undertow. It reminded me, in parts, of N.K. Jemisin’s The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms. Read my full review here.

 

Queen of Hearts – Book 1 of the Queen of Hearts Saga by Colleen Oakes
The arresting black and white cover immediately snagged my attention and when I saw it was a queenofheartsdystopian take on Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, I immediately requested this NetGalley arc.
As Princess of Wonderland Palace and the future Queen of Hearts, Dinah’s days are an endless monotony of tea, tarts, and a stream of vicious humiliations at the hands of her father, the King of Hearts. The only highlight of her days is visiting Wardley, her childhood best friend, the future Knave of Hearts — and the love of her life. When an enchanting stranger arrives at the Palace, Dinah watches as everything she’s ever wanted threatens to crumble. As her coronation date approaches, a series of suspicious and bloody events suggests that something sinister stirs in the whimsical halls of Wonderland. It’s up to Dinah to unravel the mysteries that lurk both inside and under the Palace before she loses her own head to a clever and faceless foe.

This book is squarely in Dinah’s viewpoint throughout, which isn’t always completely comfortable. While there is much to sympathise with – she’s had a fairly wretched time of it, without a doubt – she is also spoiled, headstrong and bad tempered. I did spend a chunk of the book wishing I could shake some sense into her. However, what kept me caring is her undoubted courage and strong sense of loyalty to those she loves, as well as the fact that she is undoubtedly the underdog in the poisonous atmosphere of this palace. My review of this book is here.

Once more, I doubled my original target by reading four books by women authors I hadn’t previously encountered. Becoming a NetGalley reviewer has certainly helped me widen my reading range and the Discovery Challenge has further encouraged me to go on seeking books by women authors I haven’t yet encountered. So far 2016 has been a bumper reading year and while it can’t be sustainable, I’m thoroughly enjoying the experience.

Weekly Wrap-Up – 8th 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 and blogs they have written. It’s been another madly busy week. My mother and sister came down to visit on Thursday and I was out in the evening with my friend Paula – we’re starting to think about a new course we want to run together at Northbrook next year for anyone wanting to write a novel. Yesterday we were out in Brighton, celebrating my son’s 30th birthday. It was a lovely get-together, rounding off a great week when the sun finally started to shine.

Therefore I’ve only read two books this week:

Central Station by Lavie Tidharcentralstation
This hard sci fi book gives us a slice of far future life in Central Station. In multiple pov, Tidhar weaves a beautiful, imaginative tale of the concerns and passions of these posthumans. It is an accomplished, thought provoking read by a very talented writer. It is due to be released this coming week, so I will be reviewing it in due course.

 

theflooddragonThe Flood Dragon’s Sacrifice – Book 1 of the Tide Dragons series by Sarah Ash
I was a fan of Ash’s writing back in the 1990’s, so when I saw this offering on Amazon I snapped it up, hoping she was still as talented a storyteller. She is. This is a cracking tale, set in a version of Japan, when the country was at the height of its isolationist policy. I love the fact that the main protagonists are on both sides of the feud, giving us a ringside seat to the clan war that is tearing apart the ruling class. I will be shortly reviewing the book.

I have also started editing Breathing Space, though with it being another busy week, I haven’t got as far as I’d hoped.

My posts last week:
Weekly Wrap-Up – 1st May

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Outriders – Book 1 of the Outriders series by Jay Posey

Teaser Tuesday – Central Station by Lavie Tidhar

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of The End of the World Running Club by Adrian J. Walker

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Queen of Hearts – Book 1 of the Queen of Hearts series by Colleen Oakes

Friday Faceoff – You Got the Blues featuring Space Hostages by Sophia McDougall

Shoot for the Moon Challenge – April roundup

I hope everyone has a great reading and blogging week and you, too, are getting/enjoying the sudden burst of warm, sunny weather we are currently experiencing. Hard to believe that this time last week, we were enduring snow showers…

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of KINDLE Ebook Queen of Hearts – Book 1 of the Queen of Hearts Saga by Colleen Oakes

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The arresting black and white cover immediately snagged my attention and when I saw it was a dystopian take on Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, I immediately requested this NetGalley arc.

queenofheartsAs Princess of Wonderland Palace and the future Queen of Hearts, Dinah’s days are an endless monotony of tea, tarts, and a stream of vicious humiliations at the hands of her father, the King of Hearts. The only highlight of her days is visiting Wardley, her childhood best friend, the future Knave of Hearts — and the love of her life. When an enchanting stranger arrives at the Palace, Dinah watches as everything she’s ever wanted threatens to crumble. As her coronation date approaches, a series of suspicious and bloody events suggests that something sinister stirs in the whimsical halls of Wonderland. It’s up to Dinah to unravel the mysteries that lurk both inside and under the Palace before she loses her own head to a clever and faceless foe.

This book is squarely in Dinah’s viewpoint throughout, which isn’t always completely comfortable. While there is much to sympathise with – she’s had a fairly wretched time of it – she is also spoiled, headstrong and bad tempered. I did spend a chunk of the book wishing I could shake some sense into her. However, what kept me caring is her undoubted courage and strong sense of loyalty to those she loves, as well as the fact that she is undoubtedly the underdog in the poisonous atmosphere of this palace.

The King is a tyrant – think of the Red Queen in Carroll’s version, flip the gender and you more or less have Dinah’s father. He is deeply unpleasant and rules through fear with the twitchy paranoia many despots acquire. It doesn’t help that he has always disliked Dinah. It became something of a sport to try and spot some of the characters who inhabited the original story as they popped up in Oakes’ dystopian version of the book. My favourite characters were her kindly tutor, who is the White Rabbit, and Vittiore, Dinah’s half sister – who I’m guessing ends up as the White Queen.

The world is effectively depicted, with the palace bristling with gossip and intrigue. And for all her bluster, Dinah is clearly ill equipped to deal with any of it, as she longs for her coronation when she will rule alongside her father, the King, on the occasion of her eighteenth birthday. The narrative tension is effectively handled with the gathering sense of unease steadily increasing – until the shocking denouement, which I didn’t see coming. Though be warned – this book ends on an absolute cliffhanger.

That said, you won’t have to wait too long for the sequel, The Wonder, as this book was previously available under another imprint, so it is already written. Any grizzles? I would have liked a bit of the whimsy and playfulness of the original – this is all very gritted, serious stuff and I feel Oakes could have provided just a little more light relief as a nod to the original than she does. While I enjoyed the book, there were times when my exasperation with Dinah’s wilful behaviour impeded my ability to fully bond with her. Overall, though, I think the book is successful and an entertaining new version of Lewis Carroll’s famous book.

The ebook arc copy of Queen of Hearts was provided by the publisher through NetGalley in return for an honest opinion of the book.
8/10

Weekly Wrap-Up – 1st 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 and blogs they have written.

It’s been a really busy week. My course at Northbrook is now settling down, so the flurry of admin will now ease up, thankfully. I was also rushing around, getting organised in order to zip off for a few days to stay with my mother. It’s always lovely going to visit her, but the big bonus this time around is that my sister is over on one of her rare visits from the south of France, where she lives. We had a fantastic few days catching up together and nipping off to the shops. I needed to arrive back today in order to give Himself a lift to work. But all the packing (which I loathe!) was absolutely worth it!

I’ve read three books this week:
The Snare – Book 1 of Star Wars Adventures in Wild Space by Cavan Scottthesnare
This is a children’s book that Oscar chose for Book Week, attracted by the fact it is set in the Star Wars world, but features two children whose parents have fallen foul of the Empire. We zipped through it last week-end when he came to stay, as he was desperate to discover what happened next. I shall be reviewing it in due course.

 

 

 

 

A Rruralaffairural Affair by Catherine Alliott
This contemporary romance was a complete change of pace for me – and not an entirely successful one, so I will not be reviewing it. I thoroughly enjoyed the opening pages and, indeed, the first two-thirds was engrossing and took off in all sorts of unexpected directions. Then I realised who was going to end up with whom (it is, after all, a romance) and read on, hoping I was mistaken and I wasn’t. Not the author’s fault that I found the ending a tad flat – more mine for imagining these days that I’d enjoy a straight romance.

 

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Queen of Hearts – Book 1 of the Queen of Hearts Saga by Colleen Oakes
This dystopian, YA take on Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland is an intriguing, tension-filled read, which is due to be published later this week. So, I’ll be posting my review in a handful of days.

 

 

 

sjhigbeefinalWhile away, I’ve been reading through my own ebook Running Out of Space on the Kindle, checking the formatting and looking out for any more mistakes. It’s been really helpful looking at the text in another format and I’ve found a handful of niggling issues which I’m pleased to be able to fix before publication.

 

 

 

 

 

 

My posts last week:
Weekly Wrap-Up – 24th April

* NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Bright Blaze of Magic – Book 3 of the Black Blade series by Jennifer Estep

Teaser Tuesday – Queen of Hearts by Colleen Oakes

* NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* The Star-Touched Queen – by Roshani Chokshi

Review of The Executioner’s Heart – Book 4 of Newbury and Hobbes Investigations by George Mann

Friday Faceoff – Like One, That on a Lonesome Road featuring Midnight Crossroad by Charlaine Harris

Obviously being away has impacted on my blogging output and reading – but I’m hoping to catch up this week. The weather this week has slid into manic mode, with most days swinging from bright sunshine through to sudden and very cold flurries of hail, sleet and actual snow. Happy May Day everyone and many thanks for reading my blogs – and an especial Spring thank you for those of you who have gone to the trouble of commenting. Have a great week everyone, and let’s hope that sometime soon, we get to have the sunshine without the snow showers…