Tag Archives: family relationships

Friday Faceoff – Faint Heart Never Won Fair Lady…

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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 the one we prefer. This week the theme is hearts, so I’ve chosen Heartless by Marissa Meyer.

 

This cover, produced by Feiwel & Friends in November 2016, is the hardcover version. I like the black and red combination, which runs through a number of the covers for this book. It accurately represents the tone of the book, which is a rather sad retelling of how the Queen of Hearts becomes quite so dreadful.

 

This offering was produced by Macmillan Children’s Books in February 2017. I really love this one. The portrait of the shy young girl is nicely depicted and I also very much like the title font and the strapline which gives effective information without too much cluttering. This one is my favourite.

 

This is another cover from Macmillan Children’s Books which was published in November 2016. This one is also enjoyable – even more so for its effective simplicity – a lipsticked heart across the mouth. I really like this one.

 

Produced in November 2016 by Blossom Books, this Dutch edition goes back to the original hardback cover for its inspiration. I prefer this tree, though with all the intriguing details and lovely artwork.

 

This Polish edition, published in June 2017 by Papierowy Księżyc, again gives more than a nod to the original red and black design. The heart shape in this one comes more from the twining rose stems, complete with thorns. Which one is your favourite?

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*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of KINDLE Ebook The Dazzling Heights Book 2 of The Thousandth Floor series by Katherine McGee

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When I saw this one on Netgalley, I immediately requested it, having read the first book, The Thousandth Floor – see my review here – and really enjoying it.

New York City, 2118. A glittering vision of the future, where anything is possible – if you want it enough.

Manhattan is home to a thousand-story supertower, a beacon of futuristic glamour and high-tech luxury… and to millions of people living scandalous, secretive lives. Leda is haunted by nightmares of what happened on the worst night of her life. She’s afraid the truth will get out – which is why she hires Watt, her very own hacker, to keep an eye on all of the witnesses for her. But what happens when their business relationship turns personal? When Rylin receives a scholarship to an elite upper-floor school, her life transforms overnight. But being here also means seeing the boy she loves: the one whose heart she broke, and who broke hers in return. Avery is grappling with the reality of her forbidden romance – is there anywhere in the world that’s safe for them to be together? And then there’s Calliope, the mysterious, bohemian beauty who’s arrived in New York with a devious goal in mind – and too many secrets to count. Here in the Tower, no one is safe – because someone is watching their every move, someone with revenge in mind. After all, in a world of such dazzling heights, you’re always only one step away from a devastating fall…

This YA near-future thriller bristles with intrigue, including an intended con, a guilt-ridden girl desperate to cover her tracks and prepared to go to any lengths to do so and a young couple who have it all – except each other. Most of these characters are materially pampered, living as they do in the lap of luxury with all sorts of extra add-ons gifted by near-future technology that we don’t yet possess. I really like these futuristic nifty touches McGee includes throughout the story without impeding the pace in any way.

I also enjoyed the fact that McGee isn’t content to merely present us with an ensemble of privileged youngsters, who inevitably are saddled with entitled attitudes – she takes us into their lives to the extent that even if we don’t like them, we do understand what drives them. As it happens, there was no one among the cast who I didn’t like. While initially, it took me a little while to recall who was doing what to whom, once I rebonded with all the protagonists, I found myself caring about all of them. After that, the pages turned themselves as the storyline advances through the alternating viewpoints of each one of the characters trying to make their way in a glittering world where they are the object of a lot of jealous scrutiny.

There is a nice moral lurking within this story that McGee keeps downplayed, making it all the more effective. Happiness doesn’t equal the next designer dress, beautiful piece of jewellery or wonderful party – instead it is about friendship, trust and love, both within and outside families.

Any grizzles? Hm. There is a dramatic incident near the end of the story that radically shifts the dynamic and the person responsible apparently comes out of nowhere. Of course, if you have read the first book, you will instantly recognise the name and understand what is powering her actions. I did feel that it wouldn’t have unduly lengthened the book to have a couple of chapters featuring this particular character, giving us more of her backstory. Having said that, it certainly isn’t a dealbreaker and is more of an observation as someone who habitually picks up book series halfway through.

Once more, the story ends with a dramatic climax, so that I shall be eagerly looking out for the next slice of this adventure. Recommended for those who like their YA with plenty of tension in a very cool futuristic setting. While I obtained the arc of The Dazzling Heights from the publisher via NetGalley, this has in no way influenced my unbiased review.
8/10

Review of The Last Straw – Book 3 of the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series by Jeff Kinney

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When Oscar came to stay, he was keen to go to the library and get hold of a book in this series as he’s been reading them at school and enjoying the fact that he was able to read a chapter book independently. He was delighted when we found this one on the shelves and between us, we were able to finish it before he returned home.

Let’s face it: Greg Heffley will never change his wimpy ways. Somebody just needs to explain that to Greg’s father. You see, Frank Heffley actually thinks he can get his son to toughen up, and he enlists Greg in organized sports and other “manly” endeavors. Of course, Greg is easily able to sidestep his father’s efforts to change him. But when Greg’s dad threatens to send him to military academy, Greg realizes he has to shape up . . . or get shipped out.

I can see why this series is so very enjoyable – hapless Greg gets himself into so many scrapes. Some explore fairly accurately the travails of school life that many children reading this book will be able to identify with – and some that tip into outright farce. Greg is an appealing protagonist, managing to be both inept during PE and clueless during lessons, when he regularly gets into trouble for daydreaming, or even falling asleep. What stops this becoming something much darker, is that Greg is perfectly happy being exactly who he is and feels the rest of the world ought consider changing around him. He lives with both parents and two brothers, one is older and the other a baby.

The humour is direct and helped along by the amusing cartoon drawings on each page that breaks up the text, giving new readers extra confidence and information. Kinney has a really good narrative flow – the diary format means that each couple of pages contains an event or happening that can be read as a standalone, while the main, overarching problem – that of Greg’s Dad being increasingly worried about Greg’s unmanly attitude to life – is the theme that underpins the story. Again, this makes the book very accessible for new readers still struggling with decoding words. There is a limited vocabulary with the occasional harder word added that is obvious in the context, again encouraging children to continue reading with a feeling of achievement.

I’m conscious that I’ve slipped into teacher-mode while reviewing this book and may have given the impression that it is one of those stories that children love and adults hate. But this isn’t the case. Oscar made a good start reading this one himself, but as he wanted to finish it before returning home, he asked me to read it to him during both days and as his bedtime story. I found it thoroughly enjoyable and although Greg is a Canadian kid in the state school system, the experience crosses over effectively so that my British grandson and I also giggled at his problems and could identify with him. Highly recommended for emerging and newly independent readers.
9/10

Sunday Post – 30th July 2017

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

Now we are into the summer holidays, I am in major grannying mode as Oscar has spent the week with us. Last Monday morning I attended a meeting about Tim, so Oscar spent the morning with his aunty and we wandered down to the beach afterwards. In the afternoon, so we broke out the little plastic kite we found in the back of a cupboard and took it back down to the beach once John got back from work and went kite flying. Oscar loved it, so we were back there on Tuesday morning and phoned up to get my sister to join us – she’s now a firm favourite with Oscar. On Wednesday it poured with rain – but that was okay because Oscar, my sister and me went to watch Despicable Me III at Chichester. We all thoroughly enjoyed it – Oscar ticked us both off for laughing too loudly…

On Thursday, J’s parents came down for the day, so we all went out for lunch at the Harbour Lights café, where there are lovely views of the River Arun and during the meal Oscar was entertained watching children having yachting lessons on the river. In the afternoon, they took J’s new stunt kite out for a spin – but it broke, so the three boys, J, his father and Oscar spent the rest of the afternoon fixing it, which seemed to be almost as much fun as flying it, while his mother and I had a good old natter. On Friday, Oscar and I made his vegan pizza and a batch of banana bread in readiness for our trip to the Lego BrickLive exhibition yesterday at the ExCel exhibition centre. I was a bit worried about the journey – it took four changes of train/underground to get us there, so J came along, too. He carried all the food and took charge of the bags while Oscar and I roamed around the huge area, which helped enormously. Oscar loved it and we both had great fun – though he decided the brick pits full of Lego pieces were far too knobbly to sit in. Our favourite area was the Kingdom where we helped to build a huge castle and he also loved the Fan zone where there some fantastic models on display. Today we’re taking it easy…

This week I have read:

The Burning Page – Book 3 of The Invisible Library series by Genevieve Cogman

Librarian spy Irene has professional standards to maintain. Standards that absolutely do not include making hasty, unplanned escapes through a burning besieged building. But when the gateway back to your headquarters dramatically malfunctions, one must improvise. And after fleeing a version of Revolutionary France astride a dragon (also known as her assistant, Kai), Irene soon discovers she’s not the only one affected. Gates back to the Library are malfunctioning across a multitude of worlds, creating general havoc. She and Kai are tasked with a mission to St Petersburg’s Winter Palace, to retrieve a book which will help restore order.
Once again, Cogman whisks us up into her amazing worlds alongside Irene and Kai to face another full-on adventure where they get to save the world. Again. I loved it and am now very much looking forward to reading the next slice of the adventure – highly recommended.

The Cold – Book 5 of the Star Wars: Adventures in Wild Space series by Scott Cavan
Milo and Lina Graf have picked up the trail of their kidnapped parents–but an ambush in the depths of Wild Space leaves them stranded on a desolate ice planet. With an old enemy out for revenge, can they survive THE COLD?
Once again, I was impressed by just how well told this ongoing adventure is – and how genuinely exciting and scary the antagonists are. This time, they have to deal with the bitter cold and the prospect of a watery death. Review to follow.

 

 

Spoonbenders by Daryl Gregory
The Telemachus family is known for performing inexplicable feats on talk shows and late-night television. Teddy, a master conman, heads up a clan who possess gifts he only fakes: there’s Maureen, who can astral project; Irene, the human lie detector; Frankie, gifted with telekinesis; and Buddy, the clairvoyant. But when, one night, the magic fails to materialize, the family withdraws to Chicago where they live in shame for years. Until: As they find themselves facing a troika of threats (CIA, mafia, unrelenting skeptic), Matty, grandson of the family patriarch, discovers a bit of the old Telemachus magic in himself. Now, they must put past obstacles behind them and unite like never before.
A number of my fellow book bloggers were enthusiastic about this offering – so I was delighted when I saw it was still available on Netgalley. It took me a while to get into this one, but I was completely won over by the end, which was particularly impressive. Review to follow.

Crash Land on Kurai – Book 1 of the Hikoboshi series by S.J. Pajonas
Crash Land on Kurai is the first book in the Hikoboshi series, an action adventure, space opera series that explores the worlds settled by the Japanese who fled Earth a century ago. Culture, history, technology, and swords clash in a fast-paced future society on the brink of war.

Yumi Minamoto has the shortest fuse on the ship. She’s just whipped a bully and been confined to quarters, but she’s not staying there. A disgraced journalist trying to clear her name, her job is to document the mission to the Hikoboshi system, and she’s determined to get it right, despite all the trouble she causes. But when unknown vessels fire on their ship, and Yumi’s life pod crash lands on a dying moon, she’s separated from her family and friends, and her mission falls to pieces. Now she must navigate the unfamiliar and deadly terrain, deal with a society she doesn’t understand, and try to stay alive until rescue comes… if it ever does.
I read Lola’s fabulous review of this book and immediately zipped across to get hold of it. I really enjoyed reading this one – the way the culture has morphed under the pressures of a hostile environment and warring factions is both realistic and fascinating. Review to follow.

My posts last week:

Sunday Post – 23rd July 2017

Review of Chocolate Chocolate Moons by Jackie Kingon

Teaser Tuesday featuring Spoonbenders by Daryl Gregory

Review of Sweep in Peace – Book 2 of The Innkeeper Chronicles by Ilona Andrews

Review of Hag-Seed: The Tempest Retold by Margaret Atwood

Friday Face-off – The first cut is the deepest… featuring Beguilement – Book 1 of The Sharing Knife series by Lois McMaster Bujold

Series I Have Continued or Completed in 2017 – Part 1

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

10 of the Best Poems about Stars https://interestingliterature.com/2017/07/28/10-of-the-best-poems-about-stars/ A lovely selection here…

Adventures in Science Fiction Cover Art: Otherworldly Textures and the Patina of Decay (the SF art of Philippe Jean) https://sciencefictionruminations.com/2017/07/27/adventures-in-science-fiction-cover-art-otherworldly-textures-and-the-patina-of-decay-the-sf-art-of-philippe-jean/ Joachim always has something interesting to offer on this fascinating and information site – but I particularly enjoyed this article

Science Fiction, Horror & More – Why Speculative Fiction Matters http://authorkristenlamb.com/2017/07/science-fiction-horror-more-why-speculative-fiction-matters/ As a confirmed fan of speculative fiction, I was interested to see what Kristen Lamb had to say on the subject, as she’s always worth reading…

5 New Playscripts to Look Out For https://librarystaffpicks.wordpress.com/2017/07/26/5-new-playscripts-to-watch-out-for/ Yet another informative article by this award-winning library site.

Bladdered or Shitfaced? The gentle art of word choice and the bogglement of page-proofing https://jaceybedford.wordpress.com/2017/07/25/bladdered-or-shitfaced-the-gentle-art-of-word-choice-and-the-bogglement-of-page-proofing/ Talented author Jacey Bedford sets out the trials of editing in this entertaining article.

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

Review of KINDLE Ebook Sweep in Peace – Book 2 of the Innkeeper Chronicles by Ilona Andrews

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Back in February, I read the first book in this entertaining series, Clean Sweep – read my review here. At that point, Himself bought the other two books in the series so far and tucked into them, but I don’t like reading books from the same series back to back. However, I hadn’t planned on leaving it quite so long before returning to this world.

Dina DeMille doesn’t run your typical Bed and Breakfast. Her inn defies laws of physics, her fluffy dog is secretly a monster, and the only paying guest is a former Galactic tyrant with a price on her head. But the inn needs guests to thrive, and guests have been scarce, so when an Arbitrator shows up at Dina’s door and asks her to host a peace summit between three warring species, she jumps on the chance. Unfortunately, for Dina, keeping the peace between Space Vampires, the Hope-Crushing Horde, and the devious Merchants of Baha-char is much easier said than done. On top of keeping her guests from murdering each other, she must find a chef, remodel the inn…and risk everything, even her life, to save the man she might fall in love with. But then it’s all in the day’s work for an Innkeeper…

Dina is on a mission. Her parents, along with their magical inn, disappeared without trace some six years ago and despite an exhaustive search, no one has seen any hint of them. She has now decided to settle down and run her own inn – though she has also posted pictures of her missing family and watches every guest’s reaction as they walk through the door, hoping that one day someone will offer valuable information – or betray a shocked jolt of recognition. However taking on this particular mission is doing things the hard way.

I loved the sense that Dina is plunged into a situation well over her head and scrambling to keep up, often several steps behind. She is a likeable protagonist – steady and determined, particularly when under pressure, but with the ongoing vulnerability of constantly missing her parents.

Andrews is also good at writing animals – Dina’s little dog is suitably annoying and yappy, except when he… isn’t. And when a cat makes an appearance, I was also convinced – I get a bit fed up when pets are depicted with too much treacly sentimentality. But what sets this intriguing fantasy/science fiction mashup apart is the originality of the premise – and how effectively Andrews raises the stakes. We are left in no doubt as to the high cost of this terrible war raging between two warlike species – and the impact on everyone, those taking part as well as those caught between them.

In addition, Dina finds her own happiness held hostage as to the outcome of the peace conference. Andrews’ pacing and handling of the narrative tension is spot on as she steadily ramps up it up with a mixture of the domestic mundane with a twist of fantasy – the galactic superchef produces wonderful meals and Dina has to spend a lot of time and magic ensuring each delegation’s needs are fully met – with the crucial details we need to understand exactly how important it all is. This is all deftly done, producing a smooth, enjoyable read that covers all the epic consequences of this nasty war through the fallout in Dina’s magical inn.

I have the next book in this entertaining series – One Fell Sweep – and I won’t be waiting so long to get to it and if you are seeking an interesting fantasy with a sci fi twist, then this series comes highly recommended.
9/10

Sunday Post – 23rd July 2017

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

Last week was once again, a busy social one. On Tuesday I spent the morning with a good friend – we visited Highdown Gardens and had lunch there, before making our way to the pier at Littlehampton to enjoy the cooling sea breeze as it was a wonderfully hot day. In the afternoon Himself and I went to see Frances in her school play which was devised by the students about the difficult subject of bullying. It was a passionate and moving piece and we were very proud of her. I fitted in my Fitstep class on Wednesday morning and taught Tim in the afternoon. I was able to listen to the professional recording of the cast singing the songs that Tim wrote for the film – it was amazing to actually hear them being sung and a fitting end to a fantastically successful year.

On Friday I ran my one day Creative Writing course at Northbrook. Though it was rather hot, we had a very enjoyable day listening to students’ writing and working on exercises designed to spark creativity through the summer break. Both my classes for the autumn term are now full. In the evening I went out to celebrate Sally’s birthday with a meal at The Fish Factory. She had an extra present – the wonderful news that Tim has passed his first English external exam. Last night we went round to my sister’s for a lovely meal and played some games in what is fast-becoming a really enjoyable weekly routine.

This week I have read:
The Masked City – Book 2 of The Invisible Library series by Genevieve Cogman
Librarian-spy Irene is working undercover in an alternative London when her assistant Kai goes missing. She discovers he’s been kidnapped by the fae faction and the repercussions could be fatal. Not just for Kai, but for whole worlds.
This is a real treat. The spiky characters we met in the first book are now tested as they struggle in a very personal way with this latest threat to the fabric of the world. We also get to meet more of the Fae – and a thoroughly annoying, self-centred bunch they are. I loved the depiction of this fantastic version of Venice – highly recommended. Review to follow.

 

One Fell Sweep – Book 3 of The Innkeeper Chronicles by Ilona Andrews
Gertrude Hunt, the nicest Bed and Breakfast in Red Deer, Texas, is glad to have you. We cater to a particular kind of guests, the ones most people don’t know about. The older lady sipping her Mello Yello is called Caldenia, although she prefers Your Grace. She has a sizable bounty on her head, so if you hear kinetic or laser fire, try not to stand close to the target. Our chef is a Quillonian. The claws are a little unsettling, but he is a consummate professional and truly is the best chef in the Galaxy. If you see a dark shadow in the orchard late at night, don’t worry. Someone is patrolling the grounds. Do beware of our dog. Your safety and comfort is our first priority. The inn and your host, Dina Demille, will defend you at all costs. We ask only that you mind other guests and conduct yourself in a polite manner.
This series just goes on getting better and better. I love the steady character development and how we learn more about Dina and her family in each book. This time around, we discover a bit about her sister’s adventures in between another cracking adventure. This is one of my favourite series of the year. Review to follow.

 

Chocolate Chocolate Moons by Jackie Kingon
It is a novel set in the future that tells the story of plus-sized Molly Marbles, who wins a scholarship to Armstrong University on the Moon, a haven for the plus-sized set where her weight drops from 287 Earth pounds to 47.6 without so much as passing up a piece of pie. When boyfriend Drew Barron dumps her, then jumps at a job at Congress Drugs, a company that makes low calorie food supplements, Molly’s weight is the least of her woes. And when her favorite treats, Chocolate Moons are found poisoned, she finds she has bitten off more than she can chew.
When author Jackie Kingon read my review of Sherlock Mars, she got in touch and asked if I would like to read the prequel, which gave an account of how Molly got her nickname. I jumped at the chance, finding this quirky read had stuck in my head. I enjoyed this science fiction cosy mystery. Review to follow.

 

My posts last week:

Sunday Post – 16th July 2017

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Face the Change – Book 3 of the Menopausal Superheroes series by Samantha Bryant

Teaser Tuesday featuring Chocolate Chocolate Moons by Jackie Kingon

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Star Witch – Book 2 of The Lazy Girl’s Guide to Magic by Helen Harper

Discovery Challenge 2017 and Tackling my TBR – June Roundup

Friday Face-off – Any planet is ‘Earth’ to those who live on it… featuring The Empress of Mars by Kage Baker

Review of The Invisible Library – Book 1 of The Invisible Library series by Genevieve Cogman

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

50 Word Stories: The Catch https://richardankers.com/2017/07/21/50-word-stories-the-catch/
A nicely sharp story from talented wordsmith Richard Ankers.

Untitled https://photolicioux.wordpress.com/2017/07/17/untitled-110/ I love this rippling effect on the building, which turns it into something far more interesting…

…Istanbul is Constantinople… however many letters it takes to spell it… https://seumasgallacher.com/2017/07/20/istanbul-is-constantinople-is-istanbul-however-many-letters-it-takes-to-spell-it/ This recollection from best-selling indie author Seumas Gallacher reminded me of hours of fun playing similar word games when going away on holiday with my grandparents…

Reverse Bucket List https://dogdaysanddelights.wordpress.com/2017/07/18/reverse-bucket-list/ I really like this idea – as well as striving for more adventures, why not celebrate and recollect those we have already experienced?

British Fantasy Awards 2017 – Good News! https://hierath.wordpress.com/2017/07/14/british-fantasy-awards-2017-good-news/ Good news indeed! This is an impressive and astonishing number of nominations for a small indie press – and I’m honoured to be one of the authors they have signed up this year…

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

Review of KINDLE Ebook The Sorcerer’s Garden by D. Wallace Peach

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This is one of those quirky books that appears to be set entirely in this workaday world, before it then turns into some more fantastic.

Recently fired and residing with her sweetly overbearing mother, Madlyn needs a job—bad. In a moment of desperation, she accepts a part-time position reading at the bedside of adventurer and amateur writer Cody Lofton. A near-drowning accident left the young man in a vegetative state, and his chances of recovery wane with each passing day. Cody’s older brother, Dustin, and eccentric grandmother aren’t prepared to give up on the youngest son of Portland, Oregon’s royalty. Dustin’s a personable guy, bordering on naïve, and overwhelmed by familial corporate duties and cutthroat partners. Grandmother Lillian’s a meddler with an eye for the esoteric, dabbling in Dustin’s life and dealing out wisdom like a card shark. One innocent conversation at a time, she sucks Madlyn into the Lofton story, dubbing her the princess and bestowing on her the responsibility of both grandsons’ destinies. And all Madlyn wanted was a simple reading job.

I really like Madlyn and her struggle to fit into modern life. When she gets the job, I also like the fact that she finds the setup in the Lofton household a bit weird, if not creepy. But it was a refreshing change to have an elderly woman at the helm of the household and keeping control by an unnerving knack of knowing what is happening before anyone else. What kicks this story into the realm of fantasy is when Madlyn starts reading Cody’s unfinished fantasy novel to him.
We are then whisked away into a different world – or are we? At one point an event occurs and we have some kind of explanation for what happens as Madlyn, Dustin, Cody, Lillian and other members of the household find themselves running for their lives from bloated monsters intent on killing them. The captains of this terrifying army are none other than the greedy board members making Dustin’s life misery at the family firm where Madlyn once worked, before being unfairly fired.

So there are two main storylines running alongside each other – I liked them both and found the fantasy tale whipped along at a fair lick with plenty of danger and excitement to keep the pages turning. I also very much enjoyed the setup in the contemporary real world – Cody steadily fading away with the household and family mourning his loss and Dustin struggling to cope with the responsibility of running the company in the face of a hostile board.

However, right at the end where the two worlds came together, I was not wholly convinced that it was handled as effectively as it might be. If the writing or storytelling along the way had been less skilful, this would have been a dealbreaker, but I think this is a good read rather than the potentially great book it could have been.
7/10

Discovery Challenge 2017 and Tackling My TBR – May Roundup

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After reading Jo Hall’s post on the problems women authors have with getting discovered, I’ve been taking part in the challenge to read and review at least 24 books by female authors each year that were previously unknown to me for the last two years. During May, I read three books towards my 2017 Discovery Challenge, which brings my annual number of books written by women writers I hadn’t read before to sixteen. They are:

The Space Between the Stars by Anne Corlett
All Jamie Allenby ever wanted was space. Even though she wasn’t forced to emigrate from Earth, she willingly left the overpopulated, claustrophobic planet. And when a long relationship devolved into silence and suffocating sadness, she found work on a frontier world on the edges of civilization. Then the virus hit… Now Jamie finds herself dreadfully alone, with all that’s left of the dead. Until a garbled message from Earth gives her hope that someone from her past might still be alive.
This is an impressive debut novel that takes a familiar trope of the apocalyptic end of the world and makes it more about the protagonist’s internal, emotional journey than the gritted struggle of survival we normally get. I thoroughly enjoyed this offering and look forward to more from this author – see my review here.

The Broken Ones – prequel to The Malediction Trilogy by Danielle L. Jensen
Below Forsaken Mountain, a plot is being hatched to overthrow the tyrant king of Trollus, and Marc is the right-hand man of its leader. His involvement is information more than one troll would kill to possess, which is why he must keep it a secret from everyone, even the girl he loves. After accidentally ruining her sister’s chance to become queen, Pénélope is given one last opportunity by her father, the Duke d’Angoulême, to make herself useful: she must find proof that the boy she’s in love with is conspiring against the crown. If she fails, her life will be forfeit.
This gripping, emotional book charts the power struggle going on in the highest level of society. Those with the most magic are in control and treat everyone else with a chilling lack of compassion. It is all about getting more influence and control and no one is allowed to stand in the way – certainly not a young couple in love and afflicted with iron rot… I very much enjoyed this savage world and look forward to getting hold of more books in this series in due course – see my review here.

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 is a lovely story with a big heart – and no, that is not some coded warning that this is a saccharine read. For in amongst the quirky charm, Hogan tackles head-on issues such as dementia and features characters that fall outside society’s ideas of what is normal. I very much enjoyed this one and will be reviewing it in due course.

I also managed to clear eleven books from my TBR pile. They are:
Spellbound – Book 2 of the Spellwright series by Blake Charlton
Francesca DeVega is a healer in the city of Avel, composing magical sentences that close wounds and disspell curses. But when a newly dead patient sits up and tells her that she must flee the infirmary or face a fate worse than death, Francesca finds herself in the middle of a game she doesn’t understand—one that ties her to the notorious rogue wizard Nicodemus Weal and brings her face-to-face with demons, demigods, and a man she hoped never to see again. Ten years ago, Nico escaped Starhaven Academy, leaving behind his failed life, in which he was considered disabled and felt useless. Now, in Spellbound, he’s starting fresh, using his newfound gifts in the dark Chthonic languages to pursue the emerald that holds his birthright. Unfortunately, he can’t escape the chaos of his old life. His mentor suffers from an incurable curse, agents of the fabled Halcyon hunt him day and night, pieces of Francesca’s story don’t add up, and the prophesized War of Disjunction looms on the horizon.
This epic fantasy adventure is about magical systems and how those imbued with magic have to cope with the way it bends and warps their lives in unimaginable ways. I don’t think I’ve ever read a book or series where the rules of magic are so pervasive. This inventive, clever series deserves to be far better known – see my review here.

A Second Chance – Book 3 of The Chronicles of St. Mary’s by Jodi Taylor
St Mary’s is back and nothing is going right for Max. Once again, it’s just one damned thing after another. The action jumps from an encounter with a mirror-stealing Isaac Newton to the bloody battlefield at Agincourt. Discover how a simple fact-finding assignment to witness the ancient and murderous cheese- rolling ceremony in Gloucester can result in CBC – concussion by cheese. The long awaited jump to Bronze Age Troy ends in personal catastrophe for Max and just when it seems things couldn’t get any worse – it’s back to the Cretaceous Period again to confront an old enemy who has nothing to lose. So, make the tea, grab the chocolate biscuits, settle back and discover exactly why the entire history department has painted itself blue
As you may have gathered from the blurb, in parts this book is laugh-aloud hilarious – what isn’t quite so obvious is that in other places it is heart-breakingly sad. What it never does is stand still. I love the roller-coaster ride – even though I need some breathing space between books. See my review here.

The Outskirter’s Secret – Book 2 of The Steerswoman series by Rosemary Kirstein
Two shining lights hung above, motionless in the night sky as the constellations slowly passed behind them. The common folk knew them well, and used them to count the hours, mark the seasons. But when the steerswoman Rowan discovered a number of broken blue jewels of clearly magical origin, her investigations led to a startling discovery: a Guidestar had fallen. There were more than two; the others hung above the opposite side of the world; something had caused one of those to fall. But what? And what might it mean? Rowan had no answers… But she knew one thing: where the fallen Guidestar was located. To reach it, she must cross the Inner Lands and pass deep into the wild and deadly Outskirts. Rowan’s traveling companion, Bel, is an Outskirter herself. Together the steerswoman and the warrior-poet have a chance of surviving the cruel landscape, the barbarian tribes, and the bizarre native wildlife.
Another gem of a series that deserves to be read far more widely. This second book has provided plenty of twists and given the story a cool science fiction twist that has me longing to pick up the next book – see my review here.

Assassin’s Fate – Book 3 of the Fitz and the Fool series and Book 16 of The Realm of the Elderlings by Robin Hobb
Prince FitzChivalry Farseer’s daughter Bee was violently abducted from Withywoods by Servants of the Four in their search for the Unexpected Son, foretold to wield great power. With Fitz in pursuit, the Servants fled through a Skill-pillar, leaving no trace. It seems certain that they and their young hostage have perished in the Skill-river. Clerres, where White Prophets were trained by the Servants to set the world on a better path, has been corrupted by greed. Fitz is determined to reach the city and take vengeance on the Four, not only for the loss of Bee but also for their torture of the Fool. Accompanied by FitzVigilant, son of the assassin Chade, Chade’s protégé Spark and the stableboy Perseverance, Bee’s only friend, their journey will take them from the Elderling city of Kelsingra, down the perilous Rain Wild River, and on to the Pirate Isles.
This is the final book in this trilogy and for my money is her best book yet. Action-packed and full of emotion, with a real twist in the end, this is one of my favourite books of the year so far and is my book of the month. See my review here.

The Ninth Rain – Book 1 of The Winnowing Flame by Jen Williams
The great city of Ebora once glittered with gold. Now its streets are stalked by wolves. Tormalin the Oathless has no taste for sitting around waiting to die while the realm of his storied ancestors falls to pieces – talk about a guilt trip. Better to be amongst the living, where there are taverns full of women and wine. When eccentric explorer, Lady Vincenza ‘Vintage’ de Grazon, offers him employment, he sees an easy way out. Even when they are joined by a fugitive witch with a tendency to set things on fire, the prospect of facing down monsters and retrieving ancient artefacts is preferable to the abomination he left behind. But not everyone is willing to let the Eboran empire collapse, and the adventurers are quickly drawn into a tangled conspiracy of magic and war.
Tension winds through the story as we are pitchforked right in the middle of this fascinating wrecked world and then try to figure out exactly what is going on as slices of information is steadily fed our way. Another cracking read – see my review here.

Sweep in Peace – Book 2 of the Innkeeper Chronicles by Ilona Andrews
Dina DeMille doesn’t run your typical Bed and Breakfast. Her inn defies laws of physics, her fluffy dog is secretly a monster, and the only paying guest is a former Galactic tyrant with a price on her head. But the inn needs guests to thrive, and guests have been scarce, so when an Arbitrator shows up at Dina’s door and asks her to host a peace summit between three warring species, she jumps on the chance. Unfortunately, for Dina, keeping the peace between Space Vampires, the Hope-Crushing Horde, and the devious Merchants of Baha-char is much easier said than done. On top of keeping her guests from murdering each other, she must find a chef, remodel the inn…and risk everything, even her life, to save the man she might fall in love with. But then it’s all in the day’s work for an Innkeeper…
I really enjoyed this unusual urban fantasy set in an inn with a difference. This particular peace conference certainly provides plenty of opportunity for mayhem and turmoil – review not yet posted.

Cold-Forged Flame – Book 1 of the Ree Varekai novella series by Marie Brennan
The sound of the horn pierces the apeiron, shattering the stillness of that realm. Its clarion call creates ripples, substance, something more. It is a summons, a command. There is will. There is need.
And so, in reply, there is a woman.
At the beginning—no—at the end—she appears, full of fury and bound by chains of prophecy. Setting off on an unexplained quest from which she is compelled to complete, and facing unnatural challenges in a land that doesn’t seem to exist, she will discover the secrets of herself, or die trying. But along the way, the obstacles will grow to a seemingly insurmountable point, and the final choice will be the biggest sacrifice yet.
This novella certainly packs a punch with an impressive protagonist full of rage and power – and no recollection of who she is and where she came from. She just knows she has a quest and is bound to carry it out. Review not yet posted.

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?
Once more Oscar and I settled down together to enjoy this madcap adventure with all the unexpected plot twists, wondering how Hiccup is going to escape this next lethal threat. Great stuff!

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?
Lots of adventure and incident in this underwater, military science fiction offering, featuring a flawed protagonist with a dark backstory… Enjoyable and engrossing.

 

 

 

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 loved this one. It could so easily have descended into a sentimental mess and didn’t. I particularly enjoyed the unpredictable, dangerous nature of the monster… Review not yet posted.

The Keeper of Lost Things by Ruth Hogan
See above.

So that is my May roundup. Due to my illness back in April, I still have a backlog of reviews waiting to be posted, which is a nice position to be in – and a change for me! Have you read any of the above books? If so, what did you think of them?

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of KINDLE Ebook The Scattering – Book 2 of The Outliers trilogy by Kimberley McCreight

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I enjoyed the first book, The Outliers – see my review here – and was pleased to see this offering on Netgalley so that I could find out what happens next…

Wylie may have escaped the camp in Maine, but she is far from safe. The best way for her to protect herself is to understand her ability, fast. But after spending a lifetime trying to ignore her own feelings, giving in to her ability to read other peoples’ emotions is as difficult as it is dangerous. And Wylie isn’t the only one at risk. Ever since they returned home, Jasper has been spiraling, wracked with guilt over what happened to Cassie. After all they’ve been through together, Wylie and Jasper would do anything for each other, but she doesn’t know if their bond is strong enough to overcome demons from the past. It is amid this uncertainty and fear that Wylie finds herself confronted with a choice. She was willing to do whatever it took to help Cassie, but is she prepared to go to the same extremes to help complete strangers . . . even if they are just like her?

This second slice of the adventure has the same tension surrounding the first book, but I did prefer the fact that this time around, McCreight put in the groundwork to establish what outliers are. There are flashbacks to key moments that have influenced Wylie’s life to date, which I really appreciated as the major quibble I had with the first book was the speed we were plunged into the adventure, leaving me at times a little unconvinced about the issue of Wylie being so special. While reading The Scattering, however, I didn’t have any doubt that she was both unusual and still surrounded by unanswered secrets. Indeed, McCreight has so effectively covered the backstory that if you wish to start with this book, you wouldn’t be floundering all that much. That said, if you enjoy a roller-coaster, adrenaline-filled adventure, then you may well wish to read The Outliers anyway.

I also appreciated the fact that Wylie didn’t make such a habit of immediately reacting in any tricky situation by doing the one thing that would put her in more danger – there were a couple of occasions where she pulled such a stunt, but I could see why. Once more, though, she is plunged right into the middle of a horrible situation and the stakes just continue getting higher as it all goes on getting worse. No wonder she’s becoming very fond of Jasper – almost everyone else in her life has some kind of hidden agenda.

As for the ending – McCreight leaves this one on a major cliffhanger. So I shall be looking forward to getting hold of the next book in due course. And if you’re looking for an enjoyable YA adventure with plenty of tension and double-dealing, then this one comes highly recommended.
9/10

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of KINDLE Ebook of Assassin’s Fate Book 3 of The Fitz and the Fool trilogy – Book 16 of Realm of the Elderlings by Robin Hobb

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Robin Hobb is one of my favourite authors – I’ve read all the books in the Realm of the Elderlings series. She has been clever with her series as her epic fantasy books are all set in the same world, but each trilogy or quartet deals with a particular storyline featuring a few of the characters and their adventures. Fitz and the Fool featured in the very first Farseer trilogy. If you are daunted at the thought of reading the whole world before plunging into this book, you don’t have to. My advice would be to read that first trilogy, starting with Assassin’s Apprentice if you haven’t yet had the pleasure of reading Hobb’s books as those first three books deal with Fitz’s eventful backstory.

Prince FitzChivalry Farseer’s daughter Bee was violently abducted from Withywoods by Servants of the Four in their search for the Unexpected Son, foretold to wield great power. With Fitz in pursuit, the Servants fled through a Skill-pillar, leaving no trace. It seems certain that they and their young hostage have perished in the Skill-river. Clerres, where White Prophets were trained by the Servants to set the world on a better path, has been corrupted by greed. Fitz is determined to reach the city and take vengeance on the Four, not only for the loss of Bee but also for their torture of the Fool. Accompanied by FitzVigilant, son of the assassin Chade, Chade’s protégé Spark and the stableboy Perseverance, Bee’s only friend, their journey will take them from the Elderling city of Kelsingra, down the perilous Rain Wild River, and on to the Pirate Isles.

This is the final book in this trilogy and while you can get away with plunging into this one, you would be better off to start with the first book, Fool’s Assassin – see my review here, followed by Fool’s Quest – see my review here.

The dual narrative alternates between kidnapped Bee, struggling to cope with her brutal captors and the grieving Fritz who believes that Bee is dead. Each of these protagonists is involved in a major adventure which draws in a lot of characters we’ve previously encountered throughout the series. As well as the Fool being completely involved in this storyline, we also revisit the dragon city of Kelsingra and discover the fate of some of the liveships and a number of the dragons and the characters caught up with them. I found this one unputdownable. Robin Hobb is one of the most successful fantasy authors on the planet and there’s a solid reason for that. Her characterisation is layered and sophisticated, the worldbuilding – as you might expect with sixteen books – is detailed and delightfully complex.

She has an original take on the dragons inhabiting her books – they hatch into serpents which spend a certain amount of time in the ocean, which then form up into a tangle and make their way up the acidic Rain Wilds river to transform into the dragons they are destined to be and the humans who are glamoured to spend time around them, grooming them and providing them with food also become scaled or changed to reflect the appearance of their particular dragon. But after a cataclysmic natural disaster a number of years previously, the serpents are trapped in the sea unchanged and unable to fully recall how to do so. I’ve always enjoyed this storyline and particularly appreciated that this aspect makes a reappearance in this book.

In addition, I’ve always loved Fitz, from the time he was an unwanted royal bastard and also found Bee a compelling, unusual child with an unlikely ally who helps to keep her alive in very difficult circumstance. This all adds up to an emotional and exciting conclusion to a great series. If your taste runs to quality epic fantasy, then give this series a go.
10/10