Tag Archives: family relationships

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of KINDLE Ebook The Mercy of the Tide by Keith Rosson

Standard

I requested this one from NetGalley as the description caught my attention and I was looking for something different…

themercyofthetideRiptide, Oregon, 1983. A sleepy coastal town, where crime usually consists of underage drinking down at a Wolf Point bonfire. But then strange things start happening—a human skeleton is unearthed in a local park and mutilated animals begin appearing, seemingly sacrificed, on the town’s beaches. The Mercy of the Tide follows four people drawn irrevocably together by a recent tragedy as they do their best to reclaim their lives—leading them all to a discovery that will change them and their town forever.

This book is definitely on the literary end of the speculative fiction spectrum, with a nod to alternative history and magic realism. It is a study of loss and grief. A car crash months before the story starts has killed two women and not only does their death massively impact the main protagonists in the story – it also appears to set off a chain of events that have recurred on this site before.

Often protagonists are faced with unexpected deaths of partners, parents or children – and while we are aware of the impact upon them, events generally move along so that we rapidly gain some distance from the bereavement tearing lumps out of their lives. Indeed, I am regularly exasperated at how quickly that aspect of the story is glossed and the implicit message is that the bereaved are allowed a few months’ grace, but then should be pulling themselves together, again. Unless the book is all about how their dead partner has arranged letters in bottles, or a series of tasks for them to undertake – then they’re allowed to continue to founder in a morass of grief.

Rosson hasn’t done either of these – his focus is firmly on the four characters devastated by the deaths of these two women. In beautiful, unsentimental prose that peels back any pretence or façade, he digs into his characters’ souls and shows the crippling extent of their loss. Alongside this, though, there are other events. Mutilated remains of animals start appearing along the beach of this off-season seaside town which has seen far better days, a body is discovered. Meanwhile the political temperature is steadily rising as Ronald Reagan is warning the world about Russia’s ‘evil Empire’ and fears about nuclear war abound as the cold war seems to be dangerously heating up.

There are all welded into an engrossing read that takes us into the rain-lashed streets of Riptide with a grieving Sheriff of Police, a teenage boy trying to also look out for his deaf nine-year-old sister as he comes to terms with the loss of their mother and a Deputy who was having an affair with one of the women. In order for this book to work, I needed to really care for all the characters – which I did. Even when they did stupid, silly things. Even when they were mean and angry. Rosson does a cracking job of giving his characters depth and vulnerabilities that certainly had me rooting all the way for them.

Any niggles? I’m aware this is more of a literary read than I generally do, these days – but I did feel that about two-thirds of the way through, the pace dipped slightly just at the point in the book when it should have picked up. That said, I was never at any stage tempted to put it down. I really enjoyed the wonderful piece of personification for all that terrible grief in amongst the story and found it a gripping, sobering read. Strongly recommended.

While I obtained the arc of The Mercy of the Tide from the publisher via NetGalley, this has in no way influenced my unbiased review.
9/10

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Windwitch – Book 2 of The Witchlands series by Susan Dennard

Standard

I really enjoyed reading the first YA, epic fantasy series, Truthwitch, last year and was delighted when Himself ordered the sequel from the library.

After an explosion destroys his ship, the world believes Prince Merik, Windwitch, is dead. Scarred yet alive, Merik is determined to prove his sister’s treachery. Upon reaching the royal capital, crowded with refugees, he haunts the streets, fighting for the weak—which leads to whispers of a disfigured demigod, the Fury, who brings justice to the oppressed.

When the Bloodwitch Aeduan discovers a bounty on Iseult, he makes sure to be the first to find her—yet in a surprise twist, Iseult offers him a deal. She will return money stolen from him, if he locates Safi. Now they must work together to cross the Witchlands, while constantly wondering, who will betray whom first?

After a surprise attack and shipwreck, Safi and the Empress of Mwindwitcharstok barely escape with their lives. Alone in a land of pirates, every moment balances on a knife’s edge—especially when the pirates’ next move could unleash war upon the Witchlands.

I would recommend that if you haven’t had the pleasure, go and track down Truthwitch and read it first. The above blurb gives the starting point of the main characters at the beginning of Windwitch, but as you can see each one is right in the middle of a major situation so you really are missing out on a chunk of the ongoing storyline if you try to start with this one.

As the title suggests, this book concentrates mostly on Prince Merik’s efforts to track down his murderous sister and gather evidence to prove her involvement in his attempted assassination. However the two witches, Safi and Iseult still feature as they are caught up in their own adventures and Dennard manages to keep their storylines plunging forward. I particularly liked the fact that each of them badly misses the other and part of each of their character progression is that Iseult tries to emulate Safi’s headlong impulsiveness when she needs to react swiftly. While Safi continually envisages what Iseult would say or do in a particular situation.

But for me, the character who really leaps off the page is Vivia, Merik’s sister who is in effect ruling as her father continues to decline from a mysterious wasting illness no one can cure. Haunted by her mother’s madness and subsequent suicide, Vivia struggles to cope with the ongoing crisis of food shortages and incipient warfare. We get a ringside seat at her continued resentment against her dead brother, who’d had such a easy life in comparison, which contrasts nicely with Merik’s gritted fury at her perfidy. This lethal sibling rivalry is in strong contrast to Safi and Iseult’s continuing bond, for despite being equally magically talented they manage to complement each other, where Merik and Vivia became increasingly distrustful of each other’s growing powers.

All in all, this entertaining, foot-to-the-floor adventure scooped me up and held me, even though this isn’t my favourite genre. While Dennard nicely wraps up this particular storyline in a series of twists – some I saw coming and some I didn’t – there are a host of ongoing plotlines that need a satisfactory outcome and I’ll be waiting not-so-patiently for the next slice of Witchlands goodness.
8/10

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of KINDLE Ebook Terminal Regression by Mallory Hill

Standard

I loved the look of the futuristic cover, so requested it from NetGalley…

Laura Baily’s life is meaningless. In a world where purpose and passion are everything, Laura feels as terminalregressionthough she has no place and no business even existing. Her life is forfeit, and it would be better for everyone if she simply ended it, if she simply got a ticket for a train to oblivion and faded from memory. But what awaits her at the end of the line isn’t death…

I’m reluctant to add the rest of the rather chatty blurb, because while you can gather Laura doesn’t die from the fact that this is at the start of the book and we have another two hundred or so pages to get through, I don’t like how many spoilers it contains. This YA offering has a really interesting protagonist. She is numb. Life washes around her and while her artistic, talented mother is endlessly encouraging and positive, Laura’s efforts to try and find her own enthusiasm and passion have all ended in failure. Wretched and discouraged, she decides to volunteer for the train to oblivion. Everyone knows about the train – it ships out criminals, misfits and those who can’t cope with living anymore and they never come back. There are also a handful of talented, effective people who are commandeered to board the train – like Laura’s dad eight years earlier – and they are never seen again, either.

It’s a tricky business writing a protagonist with severe depression. The classic symptoms – such as an inability to get out of bed, inability to communicate and prolonged fits of crying to name but a few – don’t generally make for the sort of character readers are going to warm to. But Hill manages to pull it off, which is a major achievement in this debut novel. She also tackles the issue of suicide head-on to the extent that it was causing me some concern, given the target audience are teens. I was uneasy with a protagonist who declared she’d rather be dead – and then acts on that impulse. However, by the end of the book I was far happier with her overall stance and felt that she handles the subject with sympathy and insight.

This is a brave book that wears its heart on its sleeve. The inevitable romantic element is very sweet, to the extent that this particular reader who is a dyed-in-the-wool cynic about such matters was won over by the love interest, who I initially was convinced would turn out to be some psychotic murderer. The sequence of events near the end of the book also had me wondering whether it was realistic to have such a seismic shift without any deaths, but then recalled the bloodless revolutions that have occurred throughout history. Overall, I think Hill has pulled off this one – an impressively ambitious book that marks Hill as One to Watch in the future. Receiving a copy of Terminal Regression from the publisher via NetGalley has in no way affected my honest opinion of this book.
8/10

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of KINDLE Ebook What Not To Do If You Turn Invisible by Ross Welford

Standard

When I saw the blurb for this one, I couldn’t resist pressing the Request button. Did it live up to my expectations?

whatnottodoTurning invisible at will: it’s one way of curing your acne. But far more drastic than 13 year-old Ethel Leatherhead intended when she tried a combination of untested medicines and a sunbed. It’s fun at first, being invisible. And aided by her friend Boydy, she manages to keep her extraordinary ability secret. Or does she…?

The abbreviated blurb makes the whole process of becoming invisible sound far more controlled and straightforward than it actually is – which for me was one of the main selling points of this beguiling, funny book. All too often fantasy or paranormal books for children tip them into situations that would have most of us hiding under the duvet armed with a strong glass of gin and prosac – only for said children to accept the whole process without so much as a blink. While children may well be a great deal more adaptable than we oldsters, I was far happier to witness Ethel’s real shock when she looks down to see her hands isn’t visible.

In fact, Ethel is a wonderful protagonist. At a spiky twelve years old with a bumpy background, she is as wary as you’d expect – yet also with the vulnerabilities that come with being twelve. Having a twelve year old granddaughter, it’s an age I’m very familiar with and Welford has absolutely nailed it. There are a whole host of complexities that come with finding herself invisible, as well as a handful of desperate, harebrained opportunities that seem like a good idea at the time. I sniggered in an appalled way all through the Talent Show, while catching myself muttering, ‘Oh no!’ a couple of times.

The trick of writing good farce is for the people in the middle of the mess to take the whole situation utterly seriously – and there’s no reason why Ethel would want to find any of this remotely funny, anyway. The book teetered between making me want to laugh and cry, as I found myself invested in her situation. I guessed one of the main reveals very early on, but I don’t think it matters that much – it certainly didn’t stop me enjoying her slowly discovering who exactly her parents are.

The other issue that makes this book stand out for me, is the way Welford depicts the adults in Ethel’s life. She lives with her grandmother and regularly visits her great-granny, now living in a residential home. Welford shows the adults as doing the best they can in some tricky situations – a refreshing change when all too often adults are shown to be bumbling idiots or unthinking tyrants in otherwise excellent children’s books. I liked the fact that Ethel frequently refers to her grandmother’s sayings and ways of doing things as she evidently is trying to work out which of her opinions and approaches to life are applicable to herself.

The ending was one of the strengths of this book – it takes the story onwards and wraps up the main problems without being unduly sentimental or too tidy. All in all, this is an enjoyable adventure that packs an emotional punch and one I shall be introducing to my granddaughter in due course.

Receiving a copy of What Not To Do If You Turn Invisible from the publisher via NetGalley has in no way affected my honest opinion of this book.
9/10

Review of How To Train Your Parents by Pete Johnson

Standard

I acquired this one after seeing a recommendation from one of my book blogging buddies (sorry I cannot recall exactly who…) and this week tucked into it, thoroughly enjoying the humour.

howtotrainyourparentsMoving to a new area and a new school, Louis is horrified to discover his parents changing into ultra-competitive parents, wanting him and his younger brother to get straight As at school and join all sorts of after-school clubs and activities like the other kids in the area. Suddenly Louis’s life is no longer his own…

As you can see from the blurb, under Louis’ s jokey asides is an unfolding situation that is anything but funny. His parents are steadily being sucked into the competitive atmosphere around them, so both boys are being strongly encouraged to perform better at school and shine at extra-curricula activities. Which is fine if either of them are academic high-flyers – however Louis clearly isn’t, hating his new school where results and academic standards seem to matter far more than any pastoral concerns. You won’t be surprised to learn the situation doesn’t end well. However, what I really enjoyed was Johnson’s refusal to turn Louis’s parents into villains. As the relationship between them and Louis worsens, they are also clearly suffering and trying to find solutions to the problem.

The cast of supporting characters are well depicted through Johnson’s snappy, amusing descriptions via Louis’ first person point of view. I particularly liked Maddy who he befriends at a talent competition. One of the related plotlines does spiral off into something of a fantasy, providing a slightly unnecessarily idealised ending in my opinion. However, I’ll forgive that because without being remotely preachy, Johnson manages to impart some useful messages for pushy parents and their children.

I’m going to be introducing this one to my granddaughter to see if the humour works on her, too. In the meantime, if you are looking for an amusing book for the ten to twelve-year-olds in your life, this one is worth considering.
8/10

Teaser Tuesday – 6th December, 2016

Standard

Teaser

Teaser Tuesday is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Books and a Beat.
Anyone can play along! Just do the following:
• Grab your current read
• Open to a random page
• Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
• BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
• Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

This is my choice of the day:
Judged – Book 3 of The Blackhart Legacy by Liz de Jager
13% ‘Bro, it’s a mess.’ One boy shakes his head. He’s got eyeliner smeared under his eyes and too judgedmuch glitter down the side of this face. He leans against a girl, her arms wrapped around his waist. Looking at the group, I realize they all look shell-shocked. ‘We got here about an hour before the police showed up. Everything was going so well and we were all just partying hard.’

BLURB

Kit’s job description includes solving crimes – the supernatural kind . . .

Glow, a fae-created drug, is rapidly going viral and the suppliers have to be shut down. Teaming up with Aiden and Dante, Kit follows leads across London, tracking down dealers. They stir up trouble, making themselves a target for the gang they’re trying to stop.

In the Otherwhere, Thorn stumbles across a secret that could destroy both the human and Fae worlds. The Veil that separates our human world from the fae realms is weakening and the goddess is dying. And if she dies and the Veil fails, madness and chaos will wreak unstoppable havoc upon both lands.

As you can see, it’s early days, but I really enjoyed the first two books in this series – Banished and Vowed. Right now Kit is on the ropes after the devastating outcome in Vowed, but I’m just beginning to see her get her mojo back as the pace is picking up and she is becoming involved in this investigation to get to the bottom of who is handing out quantities of illegal and highly addictive drug Glow at clubs, raves, universities and schools. Yes – it’s great to be once more immersed in de Jagar goodness…

Teaser Tuesday – 1st November, 2016

Standard

Teaser

Teaser Tuesday is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Books and a Beat.
Anyone can play along! Just do the following:
• Grab your current read
• Open to a random page
• Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
• BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
• Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

This is my choice of the day:
Songs of Seraphina by Jude Houghton
89% Saffron vaguely wondered why they were so aggressive. Mirages were usually a one trick act – songsofseraphineappear then disappear, forever disappointing.
“What do you seek?” the rider demanded, startling her with his material presence. The sun burned behind him and she couldn’t see his face, only a dark silhouetted outline.

BLURB: Some battles bleed so much, and for so long, that the earth never truly forgets their dead. Some battles are born of oppression, and some of greed, and some simply because it was written in the stars.

Three sisters—Charlemagne, Cairo and Pendragon Agonistes—are sent from America to England to live with their eccentric grandparents after their mother disappears and their father falls to pieces. But before the girls have time to find their feet, Charlemagne is married off to a dead man, Penny takes a nap and wakes up as a boy, and Cairo is swept into a dangerous romance with a man who wants her for more than her considerable charm. With the girls wrapped up in a conflict they barely understand, they don’t notice that their grandmother is transforming, or that the two demigod assassins who took their mother are now coming for them—if one of them can get over his crisis of conscience.

As you can see, I’m well into this one. Which by rights, I shouldn’t be. I’ve a stack of things to do a mile high. But from the moment I opened this up on my Kindle, I’ve found it very hard to put down. It’s an amazing, roller-coaster read which gives a completely different spin on epic Fantasy. Original, sharp-edged and engrossing…

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of KINDLE Ebook Spellbreaker – Book 3 of The Spellwright Trilogy by Blake Charlton

Standard

My attention was caught by the blurb when browsing NetGalley, as I recalled I’d read the first book in this interesting series and thoroughly enjoyed it – see my review of Spellwright here.

spellbreakerLeandra Weal has a bad habit of getting herself in dangerous situations. While hunting neodemons in her role as Warden of Ixos, Leandra obtains a prophetic spell that provides a glimpse one day into her future. She discovers that she is doomed to murder someone she loves, soon, but not who. That’s a pretty big problem for a woman who has a shark god for a lover, a hostile empress for an aunt, a rogue misspelling wizard for a father, and a mother who–especially when arguing with her daughter–can be a real dragon. Leandra’s quest to unravel the mystery of the murder-she-will-commit becomes more urgent when her chronic disease flares up and the Ixonian Archipelago is plagued by natural disasters, demon worshiping cults, and fierce political infighting. Everywhere she turns, Leandra finds herself amid intrigue and conflict. It seems her bad habit for getting into dangerous situations is turning into a full blown addiction. As chaos spreads across Ixos, Leandra and her troubled family must race to uncover the shocking truth about a prophesied demonic invasion, human language, and their own identities–if they don’t kill each other first.

I really enjoyed the start of this series, which charts the progress of Nicodemus Weal, a highly gifted but dyslexic spellwright, who alters crafted spells as he misspells them. The magic system in this world is highly complex and has far-reaching consequences. I love the fact that Charlton doesn’t just highlight some angst-ridden, highly gifted individual who is cursed with major abilities that stops her being a normal somebody doing normal things – he also investigates the effect on her equally angst-ridden, highly gifted parents, too… In short, this is a detailed look at a family dynamic complicated by a whole mess of magical ability which overlays the usual intergenerational resentments and marital tiffs.

The result is a mixture of full-blown adventure and major action interspersed with amusing and/or poignant interludes as the Weal family struggle to interact without killing each other. Leandra’s relationship with her draconic mother is particularly fraught. There is also a raft of other characters who leap off the page with their sheer imaginative complexity – I particularly enjoyed the four-armed neodemon with three aspects, as well as the shark god.

Charlton’s scene setting also is worth a mention – Spellwright is suffused by the atmosphere of the huge, stone buildings that were built by an ancient race and Spellbreaker is similarly influenced by the island archipelago of Ixos ruled by Leandra. However, what makes this book stand out for me, is the way the magic is defined and limited by the process and the spellcaster’s particular abilities. It is often mentioned or alluded to, but it is only the likes of Jim Butcher in his Harry Dresden series and Benedict Jacka in the Alex Verus books who demonstrate this kind of rigour. Charlton takes that to a new level in what I can only characterise as hard fantasy. This was an engrossing and interesting read that brings this intriguing series to a triumphant close and comes very highly recommended.

I received an arc of Spellbreaker from the publisher via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
9/10

Friday Faceoff – There’s blood on thy face…

Standard

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 week we are looking at covers featuring blood. I have gone for Matt Haig’s witty, clever book The Radleys.

 

theradleys

This offering was published by Canongate Books in 2010. I really like it – the white picket fence with a dribble of blood. Spare and effective, it captures the uncomfortable collision the Radley family encounter between their everyday suburban life – and their hidden vampire selves struggling to foreswear their blood addiction…

 

theradleys1

This version was produced by Free Press in 2011. It alludes to a particular event in the book. Another effective cover, with the young girl in the floating red party dress.

 

theradleys2

This edition was published in 2010 by the Free Press and closely follows the Canongate design, but the main difference is the more eye-catching font in blood-red.

 

theradleys3

This is the paperback edition produced by Canongate in 2010 and again, features a blood-red font that gives a sense of the comic content, yet still giving a sense that it isn’t a cosy read.

My personal favourite is the first cover. I really like the darker font, which allows that dribble of blood to really pop on the white fence. Do you agree?

Teaser Tuesday – 26th July, 2016

Standard

Teaser

Teaser Tuesday is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Books and a Beat.
Anyone can play along! Just do the following:
• Grab your current read
• Open to a random page
• Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
• BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
• Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

This is my choice of the day:
The Fifth Season – Book 1 of The Broken Earth trilogy by N.K. Jemisin
10% But it is not as hard to leave as you thought it would be. Not now, with your former neighbors’ stares sliding over your skin like rancid oil.

BLURB: Three terrible things happen in a single day. Essun, a woman living an ordinary life in a thefifthseasonsmall town, comes home to find that her husband has brutally murdered their son and kidnapped their daughter. Meanwhile, mighty Sanze — the world-spanning empire whose innovations have been civilization’s bedrock for a thousand years — collapses as most of its citizens are murdered to serve a madman’s vengeance. And worst of all, across the heart of the vast continent known as the Stillness, a great red rift has been torn into the heart of the earth, spewing ash enough to darken the sky for years. Or centuries.

Now Essun must pursue the wreckage of her family through a deadly, dying land. Without sunlight, clean water, or arable land, and with limited stockpiles of supplies, there will be war all across the Stillness: a battle royale of nations not for power or territory, but simply for the basic resources necessary to get through the long dark night. Essun does not care if the world falls apart around her. She’ll break it herself, if she must, to save her daughter.

Well this is different! As you can see, parts of this book are written in second person viewpoint – which is as rare as hens’ teeth… I can only recall a couple of other books I’ve read which used it. It’s early days and I found the omniscient Prologue a bit off-putting and the odd viewpoint is different – but the writing is strong and this is Jemisin, so I’m in for the duration. I’ll let you know how it goes in due course…