Tag Archives: family based fantasy

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc The River Keepers by Michael F. Stewart

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I saw the fabulous cover, read the blurb and immediately requested this one – shapeshifting and infused with magic? It sounded irresistible…

What would you do if your sister turned into a skunk? How about a mouse? Or a frog? Would you want to be a snake? Have you ever wished to swim like an actual fish? Wouldn’t you worry that a snapping turtle might take a bite out of you? In The River Keepers, two sisters must rise to meet an unexpected challenge. It’s a story infused with the magic and drama outside their backdoor — perhaps yours, too.

I have to say – this was something of a disappointment. The story is well-written, the characters are convincing, the sibling rivalry between the twins and the dynamic between them and their annoying little sister is realistic and believable. But. I was expecting a story infused with magic and anticipating the ordinary throughout would be backlit with a glow of otherness, thanks to that wonderful cover. While Stewart provides all sorts of solidly good things in this book, that magical dimension is limited to being used as a device to explain to children the importance of our environment.

Now there is absolutely nothing wrong with that approach – indeed, it could be argued it is far more vital to give children a sense of urgency about their immediate natural surroundings and how fragile they are, than some fey tale about gnomes. My grizzle is that I picked this book up expecting said fey tale and instead got something a lot more sensible and worthy, due to the blurb and the cover.

Onto the positives. I found the children pleasingly realistic and when they did encounter the magical element, it worked very well. The touches of humour were welcome and will be appreciated by the target age-group and in amongst this story is a wealth of information about the environment that is delivered with a nicely light touch. Overall, the story progression works well – until the ending which seemed very abrupt and consequently rather unsatisfying, especially as this doesn’t appear to be the first in a series.

However, if you are looking for an enjoyable tale for your eight to ten-year-old girls, who are interested in stories with a twist of magic, then this one would be a good stocking-filler.
7/10

Sunday Post – 4th June 2017

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

Last Sunday was a bit wet, but a perfect day for moving plants around and potting up. We’d visited the garden centre and spent the children’s inheritance on reed screens, pots and ivies to train along our low brick wall to discourage the local teenagers from using it as a smoking spot. So I hacked away at bindweed and transplanted some sulking lavenders and a bullied fuchsia before the rain stopped misting around and decided to get serious.

This week was half term, so I had a break from teaching – which was very welcome, given I’ve been struggling since Easter with regular bouts of exhaustion and faintness. I had to cry off a writing get-together with former students on Tuesday as I was suffering with yet another headache, but at least it didn’t linger through until Wednesday.

Meanwhile, I’ve managed to get plenty of editing down – one of my lovely beta readers had given me plenty of notes, so I went through Miranda’s Tempest fixing some issues. Himself is currently going through a line edit for me. And the big bonus – on Thursday I finally managed to get together with my marvellous writing partner Mhairi, who I haven’t seen in faaar too long! It was lovely to catch up and natter about all things writerly with her.

I also managed to finish and submit a short story for an anthology – what was special about this one, was that I was asked to contribute… So I’m now fretting by hoping it is suitable and ticks all the boxes – and taking my mind off it by plunging into the last major edit of Dying for Space, Book 2 of the Sunblinded Trilogy. This week-end we’ve been working in the garden again as the weather continues to be fabulous. The best spring I can recall for years…

This week I have read:
Less Than a Treason – Book 21 of the Kate Shugak series by Dana Stabenow
Kate Shugak is a native Aleut working as a private investigator in Alaska. She’s 5’1″ tall, carrires a scar that runs from ear to ear across her throat, and owns a half-wolf, half-husky dog named Mutt. Resourceful, strong-willed, defiant, Kate is tougher than your average heroine—and she needs to be, to survive the worst the Alaskan wilds can throw at her. And throw their worst the wilds have: Kate and Mutt have both been shot.
This book immediately picks up from the cliffhanger ending of the previous instalment. I loved this one – the dual narrative works really well and it is always a great bonus when a crime novel gives an insight into a corner of the world I’ll never know. Alaska is revealed as a relentless environment that is nonetheless undergoing massive change.

A Hero’s Guide to Deadly Dragons – Book 6 of the How To Train Your Dragon series by Cressida Cowell
It’s Hiccup’s birthday, but that’s not going to keep him from getting into trouble. To save his dragon, Toothless, from being banished, Hiccup must sneak into the Meathead Public Library and steal the Viking’s most sacred book. But the Vikings see books as a dangerous influence, and keep them locked up and under heavy guard. To save his friend, Hiccup must brave the Hairy Scary Librarian and his dreadful army of Meathead Warriors and face off against the formidable Driller-Dragons. Will he make it out and live to see his next birthday?
Thanks to Oscar coming to stay at the start of the half-term break, we managed to get this one completed. As ever, lots of danger, unexpected plot twists and a nice message about just how vital libraries and books are – without being remotely preachy. Another cracking story.

Silent City – Book 1 of the Corin Hayes series by G.R. Matthews
In the Corporation owned cities life is tough. All Hayes wants is money and a bar to spend it in. He is about to learn that some jobs in the abyss can be killers. For a man who has lost everything, is life even worth fighting for?
This enjoyable military science fiction underwater adventure is full of tension and action that doesn’t let up. Hayes is a nicely grumpy protagonist with a bleak backstory and there is clearly going to be plenty of other problems looming in the future for him to tackle.

A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness
The monster showed up after midnight. As they do. But it isn’t the monster Conor’s been expecting. He’s been expecting the one from his nightmare, the one he’s had nearly every night since his mother started her treatments, the one with the darkness and the wind and the screaming… This monster is something different, though. Something ancient, something wild. And it wants the most dangerous thing of all from Conor. It wants the truth.
I haven’t read Patrick Ness before – but I’ll certainly be reading him again. I found this beautiful, unexpected story a heartbreak. But I couldn’t put it down until I’d read it from cover to cover. Ness hooked me with his angry, conflicted boy and complicated monster and I wasn’t able to break away until I got to the marvellous end. One of my favourite books of the year to date.

The Keeper of Lost Things by Ruth Hogan
Once a celebrated author of short stories now in his twilight years, Anthony Peardew has spent half his life lovingly collecting lost objects, trying to atone for a promise broken many years before. Realising he is running out of time, he leaves his house and all its lost treasures to his assistant Laura, the one person he can trust to fulfil his legacy and reunite the thousands of objects with their rightful owners. But the final wishes of the Keeper of Lost Things have unforeseen repercussions which trigger a most serendipitous series of encounters…
This contemporary novel was a delight. Quirky and slightly fey, I was initially concerned that it would puddle down into sentimentality. Luckily Hogan is made of sterner stuff and this book tackles some gnarly subjects along the way, while delivering a lovely story. Recommended.

My posts last week:

Sunday Post – 28th May 2017

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL – Review of Less Than a Treason – Book 21 of the Kate Shugak series by Dana Stabenow

Teaser Tuesday featuring The Keeper of Lost Things by Ruth Hogan

Review of Saven Disclosure – Book 1 of The Saven series by Siobhan Davis

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of The Space Between the Stars by Anne Corlett

Friday Face-off – Shoot for the Moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land amongst the stars – featuring A Fall of Moondust by Arthur C. Clarke

Review of The Outskirter’s Secret – Book 2 of The Steerswoman series by Rosemary Kirstein

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

Italian Fantasy Names https://scflynn.com/2017/05/29/italian-fantasy-names/ This quirky article by fantasy writer S.C. Flynn had me grinning…

Broadside No. 14 – Rosemary Kirstein https://thecaptainsquartersblog.wordpress.com/2017/06/01/broadside-no-14-rosemary-kirstein/ It’s always a buzz when you’ve been banging on about an underappreciated author to then find a fellow fan – and so imagine my delight when I was pinged by the Cap in her feature of the awesome Rosemary Kirstein’s wonderful Steerswoman series.

Asteroid Collision May Have Tipped Saturn’s Moon Enceladus http://www.space.com/37034-saturn-moon-enceladus-tipped-over-by-asteroid.html?utm_source=twitter&utm_medium=social#?utm_source=twitter&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=2016twitterdlvrit An intriguing article for those of you who also enjoy space stuff…

A Summary and Analysis of Goldilocks and the Three Bears https://interestingliterature.com/2017/05/30/a-summary-and-analysis-of-goldilocks-and-the-three-bears/ I’ll guarantee you’ll discover something you didn’t know about this story, if you read it.

A Book Labyrinth in London https://kristentwardowski.wordpress.com/2017/05/30/a-book-labyrinth-in-london/ I’m sorrier than I can say that I managed to miss this one… It looks amazing!

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

Review of The Wild Ways – Book 2 of The Enchantment Emporium by Tanya Huff

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I read the first book in this entertaining series – read my review here – and was delighted to see that the second book was already available. Would it be as enjoyable as The Enchantment Emporium?

the wild waysCharlotte Gale is a Wild Power – but there’s nothing wild about the life she is living. When her meddlesome aunts start interfering, Charlie ditches her cousin Allie and their grandmother’s Enchantment Emporium and joins a Celtic rock band on the summer festival circuit. All Charlie wants to do is to play some music and have a grand time, but she soon becomes embroiled in a fight between an extended family of Selkies and an unscrupulous oil company willing to employ the most horrific means possible to get what they want, including one of the Gale aunts…

Huff is an accomplished writer with a proven track record and it shows. Charlie is an enjoyable, sympathetic character whose musical talent and magical power are closely aligned, yet there is a sense that she is always slightly apart and underachieving – until the turning point in the book, when she is forced to make some big decisions without the Gale family there to shield her. So is this merely a reiteration of the first book, also about a member of the magical Gale family finding her feet? No – Allie and Charlie are quite different characters and if Charlie works at anything, it is trying to be as non-conformist as possible, while keeping within the bounds of what the Gale aunts stipulate. Only an idiot with a deathwish would completely range themselves against the aunts… Which I love – women of a certain age are all too often completely disregarded in genre fiction.

Not only is Charlie a strong, believable protagonist – there are also a number of entertaining characters surrounding her I really enjoyed. The sulky fourteen-year-old Dragon Prince sorcerer is up there, along with the sultry Selkie Charlie is more than half in love with – but my favourite character is the enigmatic Catherine Gale, the grandmother of the first book who ended up leaving the Enchantment Emporium to Allie before disappearing. I really enjoy those half-absent characters at the heart of stories, who often end up stealing the show despite – or because of – the fact they are always in the shadows instead of the limelight.

The other star of this book is the magical system running through it – urban fantasy is a well-established genre with plenty of interesting variations on this theme. The idea that it is all about bloodlines is a thoroughly familiar one – but I do enjoy Huff’s notion that means all the most powerful magic emanates from family groups, ranging from the dragons of the Under Realm, to the Selkies who come ashore in search of human lovers and husbands and, of course, the Gale family.

The magic works really well in this intriguing, highly readable addition to a solidly good series – and the upside is that Huff is a prolific author, so Book 3, The Future Falls, is due to be released in November.
9/10